Christmas gifts under tree - Wonderful World of Bree

2018 Christmas Gift Guide Preview

The holiday season has begun and so have the Black Friday previews! I’m subscribed to both Target and Amazon and my inbox has been blowing up! I even received the Christmas toy guide in the mail before Halloween! There are literally SO many gifts to choose from, even if you’re on a budget.

To make shopping easier for you, and me, I’m starting this 2018 gift giving guide to find the perfect item for everyone on your list. Here’s what you can look forward to:

My goal is to post at least one list a week to make sure we’re in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Keep an eye on my Instagram for limited time items and I share about at they come. I’m still kicking myself for not grabbing these wireless Beats headphones that were marked down over 50%.

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My Favorite Christmas Traditions

Wonderful World of BreeI wait all year for the Christmas season. It’s not just everything that happens the day of, but it’s every special tradition leading up to it. Every year, my family has held tight to fun traditions and introduced new ones as more members joined the pack. Of all the fun things we do, these are my favorite.

Watching Classic Christmas Movies

The Grinch, Frosty, Rudolph and Santa Clause is Coming to Town are Christmas staples in my family. My mom even has the collectible characters and houses from the movies! Every year since I can remember, my mom and I have broken out those Christmas movies and binged on popcorn and hot chocolate. My sister and I event like to throw Elf in the mix (although my mom will object every time). It’s the memories of watching movies we may know every line to that make the Christmas season so special.

Breakfast on Christmas Morning

With so much family living in our city, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day can be busy. When I was little, my family and I would go to a big Puerto Rican party every Christmas Eve. Sometime, it would even be at our house. Now a days, my husband and I spend Christmas Eve with his family playing games, opening Secret Santa gifts and eating tamales. Christmas Day has always been reserved for my family. But my favorite tradition about Christmas Day was breakfast in the morning,

My siblings and I would wake up extra early and wait at the top of the staircase. We couldn’t go down stairs until Dad went first. My mom always had a delicious breakfast waiting for us on the counter when we finally made it. We’d sip orang juice and eat donuts as my dad set up his old school video camera. Then, someone was elected “Santa” and passed out the presents. All the unwrapped stuff was actually from Santa and we’d lose our minds waiting to open those gifts. But those few hours of bed head and pajamas are the biggest Christmas memories I have. That short time when my siblings and parents were celebrating with just each other will always be my favorite.

Now that we’re all grown and have our own little ones, each of us does a Christmas morning at our own houses. But, we always meet at Mom and Dad’s at night to celebrate as one big family.

Jesus’ Birthday Cake

Now this tradition has only been around my family for a few years. In honor of the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus Christ’s birth, my sister has begun making a Jesus cake. Every Christmas, we all gather around a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus. All the little kids love it because of the candles, but I really think one day they’ll understand how important it is.

Seeing Christmas Lights

Las Vegas has so many wonderful lighting displays around town. When I was younger, my family used to hop in the car and drive around the neighborhoods together. Although we do still admire individual workmanship, we’re moved on to the big displays. We’ve visited Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, Ethel and M’s Chocolate Factory and of course the Motor Speedway’s Glittering Lights. Visiting these places really makes Christmas come to life; especially with the oversized inflatable characters and hot chocolate.

Decorating the House

IMG_2502I can’t waiting until Thanksgiving night or the day after to start transforming my house into a winter wonderland. I’d start decorating sooner, but my husband wants to appreciate Thanksgiving first.

Every year, my parents broke out the big decor. We’d spend hours decorating the front yard with lights, putting candy canes on the walkway, setting Frosty up at the front door and trimming the house with icicles. Inside, snowmen were everywhere – on the stairs, fireplaces, kitchen and front door. The Staircase was even lined with lit garland. And of course, a huge tree (most of the time real) sat in the living waiting for use to decorate.

My mom always liked to pick themes for our tree. Some years it was blue and silver. Others, it was red and green. No matter what color, we always had an angel at the top.

In my own house, I also like to do themes each year. I started with Lakers, then went to Star Wars and now we have the Grinch. However, I am incorporating the tradition of adding a custom ornament each year. So far, I have ones for our new home, our pets and our wedding date. Next year, I’ll add one for our baby’s first Christmas.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Healthy Easter Snacks to Try

In my previous post, I shared how much it really takes to work off those delicious Easter candies. Here are some alternatives that still fit the holiday theme.

Fruit and Veggie Bunny

Pre-cut your favorite fruits and vegetables and build into the shape of a rabbit. Try grapes or blueberries for eyes, apples for ears and of course, carrots for whiskers.

Fruit and Veggie Egg Hunt

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Instead of filling those plastic eggs with jelly beans and candy, sneak in almonds, strawberry, raisins and apples instead.

Peep Fruit Kabobs

If you must have a peep, throw your favorite fruits in the mix.

Deviled Egg Chicks

What recipes and snacks have you Eastered out?

Wonderful World of Bree

The Cost of Easter Candy

Easter candy has filled all of my surrounding stores and the temptation to indulge is unbearable. Staying on track with my health goals has got me looking for any excuse to say no. Pop Sugar recently ran a detailed  article on how many jumping jacks it take to work off the top-selling Easter candy. Check it out.

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So before you dive into a bowl of goodies, is 49 minutes of a vigorous workout worth it for one item?

Find out healthy alternative to these treats here on my post “Healthy Easter Snacks To Try.”

Wonderful World of Bree

Opportunity Village for the Holidays

Glittering lights, singing Santa and his elves, slides, trains and hot cocoa…What do all of these have in common? You can find all of these at Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest.

Thanks to helping out with the Santa Run, I was able to bring my whole family for FREE. Here are my favorite highlights of the trip.

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Magical Forest

As we walked through the weaving candy cane forest, we saw dozens of trees decorated and sponsored by companies all across the city.

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Aloha Orthodontics was a cozy stop during our exploration.

Endless Photo Opps.

Every corner we turned, there was a spot to jump in and take a photo. Houses, castles, trains, etc.

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My Dad at the grand kids discovered the elves houses.

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Our favorite two-year-olds boarded the Coca-Cola train.

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The Jolly Jailhouse was a perfect photo opportunity for the kids.

Lights on Lights on Lights

It wouldn’t be the Magical Forest without lights around every corner. There was even a castle that lit up to the beat of the music.

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My parents captured the dazzling lights set to Frozen Music!

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A lighted archway guided our walk around the park.

Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest is open from 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. daily November  – January 1.Tickets start at $10, but kids 3 and under can experience all of the rides for free. There is even an opportunity to see Santa.

There are a few days left of this holiday season and all proceeds earned at the event benefit Opportunity Village. So, grab your coats and gloves, pack the family in the car and get ready for a magical night.

Wonderful World of Bree

Reason for the Season

The holiday season is upon us and 2016 is wrapping up. With a tree filled with presents and a fridge filled with desserts, I’ve begun reflecting on what this time of my life really means.

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2016 has been filled with blessings and heart ache. God has been molding me into a wife and stronger disciple. But this season isn’t just about me. As the famous phrase goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Many many years ago, a child that would save the world was born to an average couple. God chose Mary and Joseph to help raise the Messiah that would one day be our king.

This season celebrates so much of what God has taught us through his son. We give more. We love more. We forgive quicker and we smile bigger.

God is teaching me patience and to follow the path He has chosen for me. I’m learning to let go of where I think I should be in my career. Instead, I’m allowing God to guide me, even if it’s to a future I’ve never dreamed of.

“When one door closes another one opens.” I am a firm believer that when God closes a door on what seems to be a perfect opportunity, He is opening one that is even great than I can imagine.

What is God teaching you that will shape you in the year to come?

Neon Musuem FREE Nevada Tour

In honor of Nevada Day, the Neon Museum offered FREE tours to their north lot! Being a Vegas local and a native Nevadan, I signed up right away for my complimentary tickets.

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My husband and I headed to good old downtown Las Vegas and we’re amazed at the collection of signs. This special tour was held in an exclusive side lot with volunteers explaining each signs history along the way.

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We even found our initials!

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For those of you unfamiliar with the Neon Museum, it’s basically a neon sign boneyard. All of the old amazing Vegas signs end up here! From the old Horseshoe to the Riviera, there are endless amounts of LED bliss to find. Book your tour here!

DIY Fall On a Budget

Fall is right around the corner and stores are lining their shelves with everything from pumpkins to turkeys. It’s easy to go overboard when wanting to decorate my home. Here’s how I welcomed fall on a budget.

Recycle

I had a few colorful vases around the house that were perfect for my fall display. I stopped by Wal-Mart and picked up a few dollar floral items and put together this perfect table center piece.

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Shop Thrifty

The Dollar Store is one of my favorite places to shop for holiday decor. They carry all the cutesy decor I find for twice the price at a regular store. I found these festive reversible place mats for dirt cheap.

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Find the Sale

Hobby Lobby and Michael’s are the MVP of DIY and holiday decorating. Every season, they put out a ton of decor for the holidays. Since these items get shelved a month before the season, I wait until they have their close out sale. Several times, I’ve gotten items more than 50% off. I found a fall wreath for the door and a few nick knacks to ignite the fall season.

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How do you DIY your home for the fall? I’d love to hear about your awesome tips.

5 Things I Learned From My Daddy

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Although it may be odd to admit, I am so much like my father. Don’t get me wrong. My mom put her fair share of input on my development. I learned how to be kind, forgiving and just plain happy from her. But the older I get, the more traits I notice I’ve picked up from my dad.

1 . Being a nerd is AWESOME.

Education means everything to my dad. When he grew up, higher education wasn’t just handed to you nor was it easy to be a minority. Plenty of people had not idea what a Puerto Rican was.Throughout my childhood, my dad made education and school the highest priority. As I later found out, he purposely bought a collection of encyclopedias hoping my siblings and I would want to read them. (Of course I did.) It was my dad’s push that made me addicted to learning.

2. Never Give Up.

Growing up in the “projects” in New York, my dad learned to overcome every obstacle he was given. He studied hard, got scholarships, graduated college with several masters, served in the Marine Corp. despite having virtually no money as a child. Even as an adult, he hasn’t let life’s issues cripple him but instead found a way to keep moving forward. My dad taught me that when life throws you down and beats you up, rub some dirt on it and walk it off.

3. Work Hard.

As my siblings and I have all learned, life isn’t handed to you on a silver platter. It requires blood, sweat and tears to achieve your goals.Throughout my life, my dad has always challenged me to do better. To have the highest grades, to be the best player on my team, to be the most devoted worker. He’s worked for everything he has and created a life for his family where anything is possible. As he’s ingrained into my mind, taking a shortcut is never an option.

4. Follow Your Passion.

Although he can fool outsiders with his hard exterior, my dad has a huge heart. For years, he’s chosen to get up every morning at the crack of down to teach in one of the most difficult school systems in the country. He chooses not to spend his time with privileged rich kids, but to instead connect with those students who are expected to fail. He’s worked at some of the most difficult schools in Las Vegas – Mojave, Rancho, Western – and managers to turn even the most disrespectful students into successful men. He’s made his passion his career. His devotion encourages me to really do something with my life.

5. Baseball is Life.

Baseball isn’t just a nightly hangout when the Yankees are playing. For my dad, baseball really is life. When he was younger, this was his outlet for hardship. As an adult, this is his way to reach the youth. For years, my dad has worked late into the night running drill after drill with his high school students. He sacrificed his free time to be on the field every game, rain or shine. Baseball and teaching are his passion. It’s never been about the paycheck. It’s about meeting that player years later and hearing “Thanks for believing in me Coach.”

I’m sure everyone believes that their dad is the best. The truth is, my dad really is #1. We may butt heads, disagree and sometimes just can’t get along. But, I would never replace him and will always love him.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Easy Tomato Soup Recipe

tomoto bisqueCold weather calls for homemade soups. Here’s an easy recipe I discovered for tomato soup!

What You’ll Need: 

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • *Optional*1 tsp. lemon pepper

Preparation:

  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium.
  • Add onion; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until onion is soft constantly stirring.
  •  Add tomatoes; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft constantly stirring.
  • Add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and gently boil for 15 minutes.
  • Place soup and lemon pepper (if desired) in a blender or food processor; in 2 or more batches, if necessary; cover with lid and kitchen towel, blend until smooth.
  • Serve warm and add your favorite toppings!

Recipe provided by Beach Body.