If it weren't for soccer I would have never discovered that Online Friday is the New Black Friday. For the past few years, my daughter has been invited to join and play in the Turkey tournament for her soccer league which conveniently takes place on Black Friday and the rest of the weekend. I admit the first year I was annoyed about missing black Friday great deals. It wasn't until halftime and my boredom took over with me pulling out my phone and checking the store hours at a particular retailer, that I discovered that one of my favorite stores had the exact same deals online as they did in-store without the hassle of traffic, lines, and rude people. The icing on the cake of free shipping and a better variety of sizes for clothes.
Although That year I did the rest of my Holiday shopping in the stores, the following year I decided to see just how much I could get away with by doing my Black Friday shopping online with other retailers. My daughter once again was invited to play in the turkey tournament and this time I was prepared. The possibilities were endless. There are even coupon sites like clothingric.com that you can get additional discounts and Black Friday deals. In fact, I rarely made a store appearance that holiday season. Many retailers such as Target will let you know what day you can order your items that will get to your doorstep or like my situation, on my eleven-year-old niece's doorstep in Bakersfield before the Holiday. Most of my family live in other cities and states and the fact that I will not have to ship gifts myself is another breath of fresh air with online shopping. Most retailers offer options for your items being shipped as gifts so that your purchase can go straight to the intended party.
Did I mention Cyber Monday? It's like having two black Fridays. I know many of us are skeptical about shopping online, I still personally have issues with purchasing clothing online for myself all the time! Would if it's not my size? Would if the material is different? Does it stretch? Does it have pockets? So many questions that cannot be answered when you buy online. All this may be true but there are so many retailers out there that have amazing return policies, some shops will allow you to return to the store in case you don't want to deal with the hassle of returning online. Most online retailers have size charts so you can make your decisions based on if a particular clothing item runs big or small if you are unfamiliar or they don't have a physical store.
One of the greatest things about the internet is that people tend to voice their opinions and experiences whether its good or bad. Online reviews definitely sway my decision making for online shopping. If the good outweighs the bad reviews, I will personally lean toward purchasing the item. But, if the bad outweighs the good reviews I more than likely steer clear. Sites like Amazon will allow customers to post pictures of the item you would like to purchase to assist with your decision making.
At some point in December, we have all said out loud or thought “I can't wait for the holidays to be over!”. For me, I say it in regards to the crowds and the traffic. Since utilizing online shopping, I have more joy and peace during the holidays. Don't get me wrong, I love the ambiance of the holidays. At times I love being out and about and want to physically do some shopping. Well, We can have both! Let's face it, as the holiday gets closer we are completely over the headache of shopping. I know so many people who are not open to the idea of shopping online but, We live in a digital age and online Black Friday shopping is just going to get more popular. Online shopping may be a bit frightening and even intimidating at times, but the option to minimize the frustration of finding parking at the mall, waiting in long lines, crowds, sitting in traffic and the headache of that store not having a size 8 long Levi jeans is something we can all live without.
So, Why not Joshua Tree is what I can honestly say now!
Are you like me, and is envious of your friends and other people seeing them go on these trips to god knows where and wonder how they can afford to do these things and still eat, pay bills, or just simply live? Even saving money to go on vacation is hard. There are so many of us that love the idea of traveling but don't possess the financial means to do so. Personally, I’ve always wanted to go to Tahiti in the French Polynesian for years. The crystal blue water, villa resorts over the clear blue water, and the island Locals look so inviting. But, after seeing airline ticket prices I realized that Tahiti will remain a distant dream for me for the time being. In the meantime, life will afford me the comfort of traveling locally.
Mini vacations or Mini-cations can be much more beneficial in so many other ways opposed to going away on a vacation. If you live in a state that is a vacation destination all in itself, you have many options available. Me living so close to the ocean, I decided to go to the desert to Joshua Tree with my bestie for his birthday, and before you turn your nose up at the idea of a hot dry desert in the middle of July here are some amazing reasons why everyone should go to Joshua Tree at least once just hear me out!
It's Cost Effective!
Depending on where you travel and what time of year, plane tickets with the associated fees can get really expensive. Don't let me get started with the airports and all the headaches affiliated with air travel. Joshua Tree is about a two and a half-hour drive from Southern California and all you need is an air-conditioned vehicle and some good music. Once you get out of the cities and into the rural areas the landscape is beautiful.
The Aesthetic Airbnb's
The low costing Airbnb we chose was perfect, it was genuinely an oasis in the desert. There were a few places we could have chosen, but our place had central air conditioning, fire pit out back and a killer album collection. We did not spend more than $150 each for the whole trip, with food included. During the day we explored the house and at night we sat out under the stars next to a fire pit while listening to Fleetwood mac, and old school albums and drinking cocktails. The place we stayed can be found on Airbnb's site Hi-fi homestead.
Silence and Nature
Whether you're like me and enjoy your silence or like my best friend who enjoys the noise, you will appreciate just getting away from the city, even if it's just for a day. With the noise of the city, I know at times life is so loud that we do not have time to think or be alone with our thoughts and nature. Once the sun begins to set, Joshua Tree is perfect for just getting away to mentally detox and enjoy the sounds of nature.
Starlit Night Sky
I was raised in a small city in Kern County and I definitely have had the pleasure of marveling at the beautiful night sky, I just forgot how the sky is supposed to look after living in the city. Everyone should have the pleasure of seeing a city-light free sky at least once in their lifetime to see the endless sky at night you can truly appreciate our world and place in the universe.
Joshua Tree’s Attractions
Although we did not do too much exploring during the day due to the 109-degree weather, the Joshua Tree National park is extraordinary once the sun began to set. The different types of cacti and wildflowers make the desert look majestic and not so bland and dry. The park is nothing short of empty, having hundreds of native animals it’s amazing how they have learned to adapt in such dry conditions. Because of the park’s beauty in the day as well as the night, visitors are allowed to stay all night if need be. You can find the visitor center hours at Joshua tree visiting hours.
Nearby Outdoor Attractions
Just a short 20 min drive away in Palm Springs is the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. This tramway is the world’s largest rotating tram car that travels two miles up to the top of Mount San Jacinto State Park. It is definitely something that everyone should experience at least once. I'm not going to lie when I tell you that I wasn't scared to death traveling two miles to the top of a mountain in a rotating glass tram, but when I saw that small kids and older people were going up I got the courage to do it sweaty palms and all. The views on the top of the mountain are indescribable. The experience can only be described as peaceful, especially once you see the breathtaking views of the world at the top. You see what seems hundreds of miles away and the sky is endless up there. Although at the bottom of the mountain it was a 111-degree desert, at the top there was a cool 84-degree forest which made our hike bearable.
I was actually surprised by the fun we had in those two days in the desert. Joshua Tree in July surpassed my expectations. We even stopped at a local casino for brunch. I have only driven through the desert cities never stopping to enjoy the view. Although Joshua Tree may look boring, I'm sure you can find your oasis in the desert.
On a Thursday morning in the middle of June, a good friend of mine Ronnie text me and asked if I was interested in going to a concert later that evening. The concert was featuring three of my favorite musicians Queen Naija, Multiple Grammy award winners H.E.R., and Mary J. Blige at Staples Center for the BET Experience. I was extremely reluctant to go because I did not have a great deal of money to spare. Embarrassed to broadcast my financial situation I hesitantly told her that I did not have hundreds of dollars to spend on concert tickets. Ronnie then text back that these tickets she scored were less than a burrito, drink, and tortilla chips at Chipotle. I was completely sold, and I jumped to this opportunity! There are many sites that claim they have the best discount on tickets for events but these same sites have so many fees that it does not seem like I am getting a great deal. I go on those sites expecting a fantastic deal and once I go to the checkout cart I feel as though I was just catfished by this website. In some cases, I am paying more in fees than the actual concert! In my experience, I have found the best deals on events at Goldstar, Groupon, and StubHub. These sites cater to everyone's budget, as a single Mom, I am always on the prowl for a good deal. Everyone should be able to experience the luxury of seeing their favorite artists no matter your budget.
I heard about Goldstar through a friend who goes to concerts what seems like every week. I and a few of my friends wanted to go to a Kevin Hart comedy show a few years ago. I decided to go online directly to the site to check out ticket prices and saw that the tickets were $75 after taxes and fees. The seats were towards the back in the nosebleed section, and that price did not seem like a good deal for my fixed income. Some friends still decided to go, so they went ahead a purchased their tickets. Upon telling my concert hopping friend about my dilemma she suggested Goldstar and it was not a disappointment. Not only did I find those Kevin Hart tickets, but I also found them at a discounted rate of $25 after taxes and fees! Granted, those tickets were still in the nosebleed section and were on the other side of the stadium just as the seventy-five dollar nose bleed tickets but at least I got my money’s worth. Every upcoming concert I hear about I always check on Goldstar first because why pay full price for tickets when there could be another option.
If you haven't used Groupon at this point in your life at least once, then you're doing something wrong or you have extra money laying around. Groupon is usually the first place I check for literally everything in my life; from oil change discounts to Great Wolf Lodge hotel discounts. I can usually find a discount on most things I need on there, the list is limitless. So of course, Groupon has amazing discounts on concert tickets. I landed a great deal on concert tickets to a show featuring seven popular artists for just $20 and the original price for the tickets started at $55. The only downside to using Groupon is that there are certain events and discounts that you need to wait 24 to 48 hours before using, but like everything else, I would recommend reading the fine print before purchasing.
Last but not least, there is StubHub. I’m fairly new to StubHub but so far that site has lived up to its reputation. I found the tickets to the concert I previously mentioned with my three favorite musicians at Staples Center through StubHub. A few weeks prior I saw this upcoming event but tickets ranged from $150 to $1000. We purchased the last-minute tickets for $16 with premium seating. Before purchasing these tickets, I saw the same concert tickets earlier that day for $55 on Groupon. I was extremely surprised that StubHub had those tickets for so low and a better deal than Groupon!
Now that you are armed with this information there is no excuse for you not to go see your favorite artists or go to an event despite your financial situation.
Being a broke single mom I am constantly looking for things to do for little to no money that will entertain not just myself but my child as well. I cannot speak on anyone else's financial situation, but I'm almost certain that most people like to save a buck or two. One of the things I love to do with and without my daughter is to be anywhere near the ocean. The ocean smells good, the air feels good and it’s so peaceful. A good friend of mine introduced me to the trails in Rancho Palos Verdes near Terranea Resort a few years ago for a workout. I was in complete dismay how beautiful this whole area was; it was like a scene from a travel magazine or like what non-Californians picture what California must look like in their minds. Living in the city makes you forget exactly how beautiful parts of Los Angeles can be, and that there is clear blue water in the ocean.
Terranea Resort is a beautiful hotel and spa by the sea with villas that don't quite match my paygrade. But, the resort does allow people to go and explore their trails attached to the hotel property. On one of the trails closer to the ocean, the trail ends in a beautiful mid-sized cave that you are able to climb down and walk around during the low tide. The cave is not a deep one, but it is large enough to hike down and explore. Occasionally I will pack a lunch for myself and my daughter and just go for the day. She can spend hours discovering all the small sea creatures in the tide pools. The upper section Pelican Cove Park offers free parking and the resort provides picnic tables and public restrooms for the general public.
That area also has a few walkable romantic trails. The sunsets are something out of a fairytale, and to add icing on the cake, there is an inaccessible lighthouse to go along with your beautiful scenery. On a clear day you can see Catalina Island off in the distance as well as the Whale migration, and dolphins jumping out of the water. I once went on a whale watching tour in the marina and saw maybe one or two whales and three days later went to Ranchos Palos Verdes and saw four times that amount of whales in the ocean for free. There is one particular trail that you can get a good workout in called the Toveemor trail that has two steep hills. At the bottom of the Toveemor trail, there is a park called Pelican Cove and its beauty is totally worth the struggle I endure walking back up these two hills. With all the tidepools and wonderful sounds of the rocks waves hitting the rocks I could spend hours in Pelican Cove alone.
Don't feel like going on trails and just want to relax at the beach? About a half a mile east of these trails is a beach called Abalone Cove. Granted, you may have to pay six to twelve dollars for all day parking, but if you want to avoid the beach crowds, and enjoy the beauty of this beach, Abalone Cove is perfect. This beach also has tidepools and trails to explore similar to the Pelican Cove area. This beach has actual sand to dig your toes in unlike Pelican Cove Park which consists of mostly Rocks.
If you are turned off at the fact that there are not any food places near, Rancho Palos Verdes is a short five to ten-minute drive to San Pedro and Torrance if you want to grab some food and make a day of it. So for a twelve dollar day (not including gas), you can enjoy Ranchos Palos Verdes trails and beaches for the day! You can find more information on the different trails that Rancho Palos Verdes has to offer on the Palos Verdes website at https://pvplc.org/_lands/trails.asp . I've only experienced a small part of what that area has to offer, I'm sure there is more than what I have seen. I am aware that you can go to any other beach in Los Angeles for free, and those beaches are amazing, but once you see what the big fuss is about Rancho Palos Verdes you will understand. I too was skeptical at first but now I'm completely sold!
I was working as a call center representative the first time I heard about a “potato ball”. My friend Regina had some on her desk and I asked what those were, she described it as a fried potato filled with meat. With that description alone I had my reservations about this “potato ball”. It wasn't until she offered me a ball to try that Porto’s had its hooks in me. Regina did not give this potato ball justice! It is like mashed potatoes dipped in crumbs cooked making it the perfect amount of crispy with minced ground beef, peppers and seasonings in the middle. Prior to that day, I lived here for 5 years and I had never heard of a potato ball or Porto’s. A few weeks later, there was a birthday in the office and our manager brought in a strawberry shortcake cake from Porto’s, and it was one of the best I have ever experienced.
There was a company volunteer event at Dodger Stadium which had ended early, so we decided to grab some lunch. The coworkers I rode with decided on Porto’s in Downey which was on the way home. I was able to look at the menu first hand and was completely in shock to see how inexpensive the menu was. Not to mention the wide variety of desserts to choose from is mind blowing. I ordered the spicy chicken milanesa sandwich, 2 potato balls and a cheese roll for all under $10, and still had leftovers to take home! It was at that moment I was in love with Porto’s Bakery.
This cafe is the total package. Porto’s food is amazing and it fits my budget! They have so much to offer for everyone. My picky 11 year old absolutely loves Porto’s which left me completely speechless; here is a child who orders pizza at Red Robin or chicken nuggets at Olive Garden and YES grilled cheese sandwich at In-n-out, and she is here at a Cuban restaurant Porto’s ordering Tamales and Guava rolls! From sandwiches to combination plates or soups, they have something for everyone. I have never went to Porto’s without the lines being long and sometimes out the door, but the wait isn't long because the lines move fast. Plus as you're waiting in the line you can look at all of their mouthwatering desserts so you can make your decision once its your turn, I still never know what I want because everything looks delicious!
They recently opened one near me in Buena Park the only bad thing I can honestly say about Porto’s is that on a weekend around lunchtime is that parking is a huge headache. Although parking was horrible, by the time I sat down to eat, the 45 minutes it took for me to find parking was totally worth that moment. There are Porto’s locations all over L.A. Buena Park, Downey, Glendale, West Covina, and Burbank so really there is no excuses for not going. Some food places make me regret and there are other food establishments I feel no regret, well Porto’s is a “No regret” establishment. If you are like me ballin’ on a small budget and still want great food without going to a fast food to feel guilty Porto’s Bakery is a guilt free pleasure.