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Monday, September 1, 2014

5 Reasons Why I am Shopping Local This September

My family is trying a little experiment for the month of September. We are committing this month to only buy locally. We are hoping to be able to spend nearly 100% locally this month, but really, we don't know if that is possible. We are going to try it though and see how it goes!

I will be posting updates throughout the month including where we've shopped, where we haven't shopped--like Costco {tear}--and the things we've learned. 

This post is the why to this experiment. Check back for more shop local posts throughout the month including tips for shopping local on a budget, our favorite local places, and more. 

Written by Marily
Why Shop Local?

1. Character.  
Local businesses are what give our cities and towns their distinct appeal and authenticity. They are the unique and interesting parts of a city, the places you seek out when you've been away for a while. It is important for cities and towns to maintain their unique flavor. 

Does it matter that Glendale and Gilbert and Tucson and Tolleson have different things to offer? Of course it matters. Those things that make them different are in a large part related to local businesses.

2. People.
There is meaning in actually being able to meet the people who own the business that is serving you. These people are our neighbors. They are business owners, shoppers, home owners, and Arizona voters too. This entrepreneurial spirit has value where we live and it deserves my support. 

3. The Economy.
The studies show that when we spend money at a locally owned business compared to a larger chain, more of our money stays in our local economy. What does this mean? When local businesses get your money they spend more of it on supporting other local businesses, and so on.  This means more jobs for Arizonans, more tax dollars that stay here to better our communuties, and a better economic base for Arizona. 

4. Fewer choices.
But, do you ever feel like having too many choices is stifling? My brain seems to function much better when the amount of choices I have is not so overwhelming. Think of the difference between how you feel when you shop at a farmers market compared to shopping at a big box store. Can you understand how limiting your choices to fewer, higher quality options can benefit you? Do you really need 30 different options for buying peanut butter?

5. Quality.
I love the idea of buying produce that was just picked that morning. Generally, buying locally means buying food that is more fresh and more natural. I also believe local businesses add quality to our communities. I believe in the inherent value in farms in our neighborhoods and craftsmen that make their living by word-of-mouth, neighbor to neighbor referrals. 


So far, this is what I plan to do: I will shop at farmers markets, through local co-ops, or online yard sale pages first. Household items (toilet paper, soap, etc) I plan to purchase at local grocery stores (Bashas, Pro's Ranch Market, etc). 

Where I am NOT shopping this month:

My typical stores: Costco, Target, or Frys. I will have to figure out how to feed and provide for six people at local stores and without buying giganto boxes of goldfish crackers and cereal.

Toys R Us: September is a big birthday month for us with two of my kids' birthdays and my husband Mark's birthday as well. I will need to find local stores to buy birthday presents at and local restaurants for celebration dinners. The restaurants is the easy part for us as we usually eat at local restaurants anyway. Anyone know a local bike shop in the East Valley that has great prices and service ? And don't tell my son he's getting one.

Any ideas for us or recommendations?

What do you do to keep some of your dollars here in Arizona?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

15 Things to Do for Labor Day Weekend

Still looking for something fun to do this long weekend?   

It's going to be a HOT Labor Day weekend in the Valley with highs over 100 degrees. Of course, there is still some fun to be had. Here are a few ideas:

Greater Arizona: 

1. Snowbowl Scenic Chairlift

The ski resort is open for the summer. Take a ride up the mountain and see the beautiful views over Arizona. There is even a Groupon and 15% off that with promo code FUN15. Super deal. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Make Chips and Salsa Like a Boss

Writing and images by Marily

 "Mexican food is a popular word in our house."

That's what my son said as we laid out four different types of homemade salsa the other day for a salsa-tasting dinner.  And why not have chips and salsa for dinner? When there are four different types who needs anything else? 

If I was to claim myself an expert on anything, it would be chips and salsa. I don't know if that means I have had a successful life thus far or not. Really, that depends on how much you like Mexican food. If you really knew me, you'd know that I have been waiting my whole life to write this post about chips and salsa. In addition to some great recipes for salsa, there are even tips for buying the very best tortilla chips and a list of some great salsa festivals in Arizona.

I have tried probably 100 salsa recipes myself and have narrowed it down to three great recipes to share with you. The fourth recipe we made the other night was this recipe for Roasted Red Salsa. The roasted red salsa was yummy, and very spicy even after I reduced the amount of serranos. Just so ya know. 

A picture from my trip to Pro's Ranch Market for salsa ingredients.
Each of these recipes has its own unique flavor. At my house, everyone had a different favorite. We served our salsa bar with this delicious Brazilian Lemonade. It was a pretty fun night.

The ingredients. 
And on to the recipes:

This is a favorite recipe that people love. It is a mild salsa, but of course you can add more jalapenos if you'd like to kick up the heat. The recipe makes a lot and can be halved for a smaller batch.

Traditional Red Table Salsa

4 cans stewed tomatoes (regular or Mexican style), drain most of the juice
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 can diced green chilies
1 can diced jalapeno peppers (or fresh peppers,diced if you choose)
2 bunches of green onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
salt and pepper, to taste
1 medium sized fresh tomato, diced small

Start by chopping your stewed tomatoes and cilantro. I like to put these together in a food processor and pulse a few times until they are to my desired consistency. Add remaining ingredients. Done.

This recipe is a family favorite from my mother-in-law. Kids tend to love this salsa because it is fairly sweet.  Canned tomatillos can be found in the Mexican food section of your store. You can definitely find them at Mexican grocery stores but they are pretty widely available in Arizona even at many other stores (I get them at Fry's generally). I've also used fresh tomatillos and cooked them myself to make the salsa.

Green Salsa

1 (28 oz) can tomatillos
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1/4 cup sugar, or more, to taste
5-10 slices of nacho jalapenos, to taste

Put everything in a blender and blend thoroughly. Add additional sugar and more jalapenos to taste. I like it sweet so I always add more sugar. 

This is one of my favorite new salsa recipes because it is so simple to make and very easy to keep the ingredients on hand. Although I call it a taco sauce, it is very good just with chips too. This is something my husband will whip up after the kids go to bed and we eat with some homemade tortilla chips. Yum.

Quick and Easy 3-Ingredient Taco Sauce

2 medium jalapenos, washed
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
garlic salt, to taste

Heat a small skillet on the stove. Place your jalapenos and cook for a few minutes, turning a bit to cook all all sides. You want to get the peppers charred and cooked a bit all the way around. Cool slightly, then trim the stem off and remove the seeds and veins. Chop roughly and place jalapenos, canned tomatoes, and a little garlic salt in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust flavors as needed, adding more garlic salt or adding some of the jalapeno seeds in to add more heat. I find it's always easier to leave the veins and seeds out and then add back in what I want til it's the perfect temperature.

Click here for a printable version of all three salsa recipes.

Keep reading for:

  • Where to buy the BEST tortilla chips
  • Best Arizona restaurants for chips and salsa
  • A list of SALSA FESTIVALS in Arizona. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Donate Your Hair! Plus a Reader Spotlight

I've never been much of a fancy gal.  In fact, I only had a brief stint of highlighting my hair and paying for haircuts before I just went back to my natural boring ways.

Then I had four girls.  And as my oldest set of twins got to be about 7, they started noticing salons.  They started asking to go to salons.  I started having to tell my girls that we can not afford to go to said salons.  Then one of my oldest girls (technically THE oldest by 40 minutes) was ready to cut off her long hair to donate it.  And the rest of us, including myself, were ready for shorter, easier, healthier hair.  Now that I'm a mother to 5, I REALLY needed to simplify somewhere and hair was it.  I knew it was time to treat this occasion as special and this was no time to mess with my old DIY ways.  It was time to go to the professionals.

Thankfully on our I Heart AZ Friends Facebook page a dear reader of ours, Megan, posted about her haircut specials at her own private salon.  We love supporting our readers and this was a deal so good that I could afford.  Megan specializes in women's cuts, but was running a children's back to school special and was kind enough to extend her specials to all 4 of my girls.

All five of us headed to Megan's salon on a Saturday morning for our new look.    

Megan cuts hair at a location called Signature Salon Studios near Higley and Southern in Mesa.  It is a large building with several small salons that each beautician can privately rent.  This set up was perfect for my crew.  Salon enough, but more private for our crazy bunch.  And I loved that Megan is able to set her own hours.  If she needs to start a color at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night she can.  This is perfect for women who work or can only sneak away from the kiddos in the evenings.
I loved how Megan knew how to work with my Elsa's natural soft curls.
Lucy watching Megan cut it off!
Read more about Megan and places to donate hair after the jump.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exploring Arizona: Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater

Writing and Photos by Kathryn.
Arizona is full of history and places to explore.  Today I want to introduce you to Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater.  These are places that I remember going to as a little girl and now I get to take my little girls there as well.  If you are headed to Flagstaff, these national parks are just a short distance away and worth the 30 mile drive.  Entrance to the two parks is available for one fee.  Individuals 15 years and younger are FREE.  Those 16 years and older are $5.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Arizona Good Neighbor Project

Being a good neighbor has been on my mind a lot lately.
Photo and words by Kathryn

I didn't grow up in a typical neighborhood.  About 75% of my neighbors were one, two, or three generations older than me.  There were not a lot of kids for me to play with.  I'm pretty sure the house across the street was a drug house and my closest neighbor was a bull that lived in the field my great uncle owned.  My sister and I named him Cupcake. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Children's Museum of Phoenix

This. This is the place to take kids in Phoenix. Last week we got the opportunity to take our little people to the Children's Museum of Phoenix. Can you think of a place more fun than this? 

Images by Kathryn
Hopefully, if you have kids you have been to this award-winning museum. First of all, an air-conditioned, three-story, steampunk treehouse climber complete with a flying bathtub? Yeah. It's got that.  

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