Where To Eat & Party On Cinco De Mayo – Houston

Here in Houston, Cinco de Mayo means all-you-can-eat fajitas, the best margaritas in town and of course, queso. For my non-Houstonians: no, queso is not JUST melted cheese. There’s an art to it. You better believe us Houstonian’s take our queso, margaritas and fajitas very seriously.

For that reason, I rounded up the best places to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Go ahead and indulge – it’s only one day right?

WHERE TO EAT

cinco de mayo houston events

Photo courtesy of Anejo


Anejo
May 5 – 8, 11 a.m. to close
Those lucky enough to live at Camden Post Oak, it’s just a short walk over to Anejo to partake in its Cinco De Mayo celebrations with live music, taco and cocktail specials.

cinco de mayo houston events 2016

Photo courtesy of Lupe Tortilla


Lupe Tortilla Celebration
All Day Thursday, May 5
Happy hour here goes from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. so you have all day to enjoy margaritas, wines, wells, pints, beer buckets and live music!

 

WHERE TO PARTY

DOWNTOWN

cinco de mayo houston events 2016

Photo courtesy of El Big Bad


El Big Bad
May 5, 11 a.m. – May 8, 6 p.m.
Boasting the “Coldest Frozen Margaritas On The Plant,” because of their liquid Nitrogen Margarita Performance, you’re not going to want to miss this! With 12 DJs and musical acts, Tequila sampling, giveaways and live music,  El Big Bad has activities all weekend long.

 

cinco de mayo houston events 2016

Photo courtesy of Main Street


Main Street Block Party
Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 2 p.m. – Friday, May 6, 2016 at 2 a.m.
5 venues all connected by their love of tequila and fun! Participating venues include Capitol Bar, Leon’s Lounge, Mongoose versus Cobra, Traffic Lounge, Cle Day & Nightclub.

  • Free admission from 2-4 p.m.
  • Free Tacos for the first 100 who order
  • Free Mexican Beer for the first 100 people
  • Live music, DJ’s, traveling Mariachi band, food and retail vendors, doc costume contest and so much more

 

cinco de mayo houston events 2016

Photo courtesy of Anheuser-Busch Brewery


Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tasting Room
Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
RSVP Required! This event is co-sponsored by T1 Texas an dYour LifeStyle Elevated.  Complimentary beverages by Anheuser-Busch. Purchase great tasting food from Wiley’s Food Truck.  

MIDTOWN

cinco de mayo houston events 2016

Photo courtesy of Pubcrawls.com


Cinco De Mayo Bar Crawl
Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 5 p.m. – Friday, May 6, 2016 at 2 a.m.
This year, get ready to enjoy your favorite Mexican-style drinks at your favorite Midtown Houston bars. Margaritas, Sangrias, and of course Tequila Shots. Featuring some of the best bars that Midtown Houston has to offer, you’ll meet new friends and be able to hop around town with all of them.

Getting to these events from your Inner Loop Camden apartments is also incredibly easy. Just hop on the METRORail, grab an Uber, or drive yourself – either way you’ll definitely get there before your friends in the ‘burbs!

 

5 Chic Ways to Instantly Improve your Patio

5 Chic Ways to Instantly Update your Patio

 

The goals are simple. Keep off the leasing staff’s radar and show off your decorating know-how to make all neighboring patios jealous. There are already quite a few at Camden Sierra at Otay Ranch that make me want to update my decor ASAP.

Walking my dog every morning around these apartments, I get to see some unique ideas which I’ve made a mental note about these past few weeks. Here are some of those chic and cheap ways to instantly improve your patio.

  1. Use decorative string lights for that mediterranean vibe.
    Patio String Lights
    Not only are they energy saving because they are battery-operated and LED but you can hang them without causing a fire hazard. We are in San Diego, after all, so if you are missing that relaxing beachy vibe, this will make your patio feel warmer and cozier. You can find some stylish options at the local Pier1 Imports in Eastlake. Hurry, there is one on sale right now for $18.95!


  2. Cheap crates make for cozy seating.
    You can find them at any hardware store like the local Home Depot or Lowes. If you can make the trek, I found some at IKEA for only $9.99! You can paint them any color you choose to go with your patio theme or leave them unfinished.Set an outdoor cushion on top of two or three crates and decorate with a plush throw and a mash of  your fave decorative pillows. Click here for an idea.You can also set one on its side for use as a cheap alternative for an end table! Click here for an example.


  3. Flip over a tomato cage for a space-saving plant holder.
    These usually cost less than $7 a piece and may come in a variety of colors already! Sometimes, all you need are pops of color to add some personality to your patio. These run tall so you have to cut off the legs >>  Get the easy instructions here. You can also check out other planter box ideas here.


  4. Add a mini garden.Create a mini garden
    How about building your own garden in that urban jungle? This always adds an instant update to your patio. Go with all greens because flowers tend to be short-lived. You can choose a pair of small palms, or get a wide aluminum planter to grow tall lemongrass (It’s a great mosquito repellant and chic way to grow some privacy like this.) You can always go with fake flowers and fill a colored mason jar with a few blossoms from the local Dollar Tree as well.


  5. Spray paint an outdoor rug.
    Oh the things you can do with a can of paint and masking tape! Start simple and do stripes or angled lines. Get two of your favorite colors (complimentary or contrasting) of Rustoleum paint and you’ll be ready. Click here for the insanely easy instructions.You can also transform any table cloth into an outdoor rug by doing this neat trick – which consequently, also makes it pet proof for those outdoor oopsies.If you want that backyard feel, add some grassy green turf as a rug instead!

Thank you to the residents who inspired my patio envy with their beautiful designs. If you need more patio inspiration, check out how to build an urban jungle for your apartment here.

Until next time,

Wena

5 Ways to Save on Road Trips You Probably Aren’t Using

Sometimes you just want to get away and scratch off something from the bucket list. With 76 percent of travelers still choosing to road travel over air (USA Today), it is still one of the more popular vacation ideas to take with family and friends. With road trip season coming up, there are absolutely no excuses to stay home.

 

 

  1. Choose a destination no more than 8 hours away.
    Anything more than that and you are going to be adding a one night stay in a roadside inn or hotel. Avoid the cost and keep it pushing. Living in San Diego, I have planned weekend road trips to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and most recently the Grand Canyon.
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  2. Bring your own food.
    Need I say more? Even as the driver, you are expending energy and as your body uses it up, it wants to eat and drink to replenish itself. Load up a small cooler with ice or chillers and drop in some water bottles, energy drinks, cut up fruits and even veggies. Don’t forget to eat a meal in town before hitting the road so you don’t end up getting the hunger pains and spending unnecessarily on fast food.
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  3. Depart at off peak times.
    Recently, my family and I headed to the Grand Canyon and we left on a Saturday evening around 8 pm. What was the advantage? Not only was there no traffic, but we also avoided pit stops like outlet malls that are tourist traps for more spending!
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  4. Don’t buy it, borrow it! 
    I spent countless hours online trying to find the perfect tent for our camping trip, but  realized that I didn’t know one iota about what to expect at the Grand Canyon. Instead, my cousin let me borrow hers. All it took was a post on Facebook and a phone call. The power of social media is unbelievable. So believe in it.
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  5. Don’t go it alone – go in a group – or quid pro quo.
    It’s the same concept that a business like Groupon thrives on. The idea is to limit costs be splitting it within members of the group. The larger the group, the cheaper the cost. In my case, planning the Grand Canyon meant reserving a camping spot early. I could not wait for others to confirm and pay beforehand, so I decided to delegate duties! In lieu of paying for the reservation, my friends and family could bring a meal for everyone to share. This took meal planning off my shoulders and it gave us all one less expense to worry about.
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There are even more specific ways to travel without emptying your wallet, although, admittedly, nothing is quite free. Whether it be an app on your phone, a work perk you never knew about, a Groupon deal, a great vacation rental, or just keeping an eye out on travel sites like TripAdvisor, the cost of the adventure doesn’t have to outweigh the fun you’re supposed to have.

That last shot was all of us at the South Rim in the Grand Canyon. Which reminds me, don’t forget to take great photos! Here are some tips for taking photos like a pro.

Until the next adventure,

 

Wena

 

 

Finding and Joining Your Local Food Co-op

Do you know what a food co-op is? I’d heard of them for a while but hadn’t really looked into what it was until this past week. A coworker told me about Rawfully Organic– a local food co-op here in Houston that has pick up sites less than a mile from my apartment. Their site states that “a food co-operative is a community of individuals and families that come together to share in seasonal foods and to work together to create a better balance of peace and harmony for all. It’s for everyone, and it is helped run by everyone.” (rawfulllyorganic.com) In my terms, a food co-op is a community where you can purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, become a part of the farm to table process, and really connect with where your food comes from.

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Considering they offered this HUGE box of local, fresh produce for $25, I couldn’t help but check it out! (The juice was an additional purchase- SO TASTY! I did my research first of course, reading through their volunteer opportunities, FAQ, pick up locations, and finally heading over to order a share online. The process was incredibly easy. I ordered online Thursday afternoon, and Saturday, on my lunch break from work, I headed over to pick it up.

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I just want to reiterate- I got this entire box for only $25! It included an abundance of spinach, kale, celeriac, pinto beans, beets, dinosaur kale, red cabbage, arugula, parsnips, chard, fennel, and fresh dill! Eating healthy on a budget never looked so good!

I was greeted with warm smiles and hugs! I got to speak with Kristina, the founder and chief-operator of Rawfully Organic about how the process works. They work closely with Gundermann Acres, a local farm in Wharton, TX. They purchase only what is needed based on the orders they receive, as not to be wasteful. EVERYTHING that they offer is organic! It’s an incredible deal.

I love this bit from her site about why organic is so wonderful:

WHY IS ORGANIC IMPORTANT?!

There are SEVERAL reasons to buy organic, many having to do with not depleting our nature’s soil. Organic produce has 3x the amount of nutrients contained in non-organic produce. One person must eat 21 conventionally-grown oranges to get the same amount of nutrition contained in 7 organic oranges. Not to mention, they ALWAYS taste better! After a while, you will be able to even taste the difference in non-organic bananas and ours. YES! We also want to support sustainable practices, and when we put our dollars toward sustainable, that is exactly what we will create more of in the world! Lettuce create abundance!

 

 

I probably seemed a little overexcited while I was there, but I really enjoyed every part of this process and hope to get more involved soon. If you’re looking for a local food co-op to join in the Houston area, I’d definitely encourage you to check out Rawfully Organic. If you’re not in Houston, you can use this great Food Co-op search through Local Harvest to find what’s available to you locally.

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Cheers to happy, healthy living!

-Cali Hix

Live at Camden. Work at CamdenLife at Camden.

Transplant yourself to Paradise in Ballantyne

 

In the leasing industry, we meet about 60 new people in a week. The one question we all ask, “Are you originally from Charlotte?” About 98% of new Camden Ballantyne residents say “No”. Next question: “So what brought you to Charlotte?”  “Looking for a change,” is the most common answer.

Charlotte has many different areas with their own “swag” and style. But why Ballantyne? As a “Transplant” myself I can tell you why.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

         “Archway into Ballantyne” Photo   courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

From the familiar, family friendly cuisine to the more sophisticated and elegant, Ballantyne has it all. Here are just a few of my favorites all located around the Ballantyne country club:

  • Brooklyn Water bagels for breakfast
  • Midwood Smokehouse for lunch
  • GUSTO! For dinner and cocktails

If you need to do a little shopping you’re in luck! Straight down Ballantyne Commons Parkway you will find Stonecrest and Blakeney shopping centers. There is even a Regal Movie Theatre!

“Blakeney Shopping Center” Photo courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

  “Blakeney Shopping Center” courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

Coming from a large city, the Ballantyne area was a perfect area for me to move my family. With Uptown Charlotte just being a short 20 minute drive down I485, the things I love about the town where I grew up are close enough for us to feel right at home here:

  • The Charlotte Ballet
  • Panthers Stadium
  • Charlotte Knights
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • The Checkers
  • NASCAR hall of fame

These are just a few things that keep this city full of activities year round. The native Charlotte residents give you that wonderful “southern hospitality” that living in the south boasts about.

"Uptown Charlotte"  Photo Courtesy of wsotv.com

  “Uptown Charlotte” courtesy of wsoctv.com

 

Charlotte is not just a home away from home. It is a place you can live, work and enjoy life. If you don’t believe me, come experience it for yourself. Follow our blog or come  tour with us!

 

 

Long Beach Grand Prix – April 15-17, 2016

The 42nd Long Beach Grand Prix will be racing through the streets of Downtown Long Beach this April 15-17, 2016.  Our Downtown Long Beach apartment community, Camden Harbor View, has close seats to the race!

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Photo from www.roadandtrack.com

The Long Beach Grand Prix in April is the single largest event in the city of Long Beach. Attendance for the weekend regularly reaches 200,000 people.  Also, it is the longest running major “street” race held on the North American continent.

The scenic waterfront race circuit is nearly 2 miles and passes The Long Beach Convention Center, The Long Beach Ice Arena, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.  Behind the circuit, you can catch a gorgeous view of the Queen Mary.

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Photo from thesoundla.com

Grand Prix Highlights:

Pro/Celebrity Race

This fun and popular race features sport and entertainment celebrities racing against professional drivers. Celebrities include Frankie Muniz, Brian Austin Green, Jimmy Vasser, Adam Carolla, Al Unser Jr., Ricky Schroder, Eddie Lawson, Alfonso Ribeiro, Rod Millen, Sean Patrick Flanery, Dara Torres, Max Papis, Chris McDonald, Mike Skinner, Doug Fregin, Ken Gushi, William Fichtner, Rutledge Wood, Brett Davern, Dave Pasant and Bob Carter. The race will take place at 11:40am-12:40pm on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

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 (Mark McGrath from the 2015 Long Beach Grand Prix celebrity race)

Photo from www.axs.com

Rock-n-Roar Concert

Cheap Trick (soon to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) will headline the Rock-n-Roar Concert at the Long Beach Grand Prix on Saturday night. Cheap Trick has produced hits like “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” “Surrender” and “The Flame.” The concert will take place on an outdoor stage in front of the Convention Center.  This rock concert will start after the race events end for the day, at approximately 6:45pm on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

Cheap-Trick-2012

Photo from www.rockfordbuzz.com

Lifestyle Expo

The Lifestyle Expo takes place throughout the weekend and will feature energy-efficient vehicles and building materials. There will be more than 130 exhibitors offering the latest products and services in automotive, travel, home improvement, fitness and recreation, as well as exhibits celebrating the Grand Prix’s history in Long Beach. The expo is free to ticket holders and will be open Friday and Saturday from 8am-6pm and Sunday from 8am-5pm.  

 

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts if you will be attending the race:

Racing fans are allowed to bring food, plastic bottles and ice chests smaller than 14 inches wide to the event. DON’TS:

The following items are not permitted:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Glass bottles and cans
  • Stadium seats
  • Bikes and skateboards
  • Skates and rollerblades
  • Fireworks
  • Pets (except service animals)
  • Ladders and step stools
  • Large umbrellas
  • Lawn furniture
  • Banners/signs

 

DO’S:

  • Sunscreen
  • Hats
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Earplugs (unless you enjoy the vrooming sound!)
  • A backpack to carry all your goodies
  • Light jacket or sweater for the evening

 

The weather forecast for the weekend is expected to be in the mid 70’s. It’s going to be a great day at the Grand Prix!  Have fun and enjoy your time at The 2016 Long Beach Grand Prix from your Camden Team.

                       

In the leasing industry, we meet about 60 new people in a week. The one question we all ask, “Are you originally from Charlotte?” About 98% of new Camden Ballantyne residents say “No”. Next question: “So what brought you to Charlotte?”  “Looking for a change,” is the most common answer.

Charlotte has many different areas with their own “swag” and style. But why Ballantyne? As a “Transplant” myself I can tell you why.

Archway into Ballantyne, NC                          “Archway into Ballantyne” Photo courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

From the familiar, family friendly cuisine to the more sophisticated and elegant, Ballantyne has it all. Here are just a few of my favorites all located around the Ballantyne country club:

  • Brooklyn Water bagels for breakfast
  • Midwood Smokehouse for lunch
  • GUSTO! For dinner and cocktails

If you need to do a little shopping you’re in luck! Straight down Ballantyne Commons Parkway you will find Stonecrest and Blakeney shopping centers. There is even a Regal Movie Theatre!

Blakeney mixed-use retail center

                     “Blakeney Shopping Center” Photo courtesy of Patrick Schneider Photography

Coming from a large city, the Ballantyne area was a perfect area for me to move my family. With Uptown Charlotte just being a short 20 minute drive down I485, the things I love about the town where I grew up are close enough for us to feel right at home here:

  • The Charlotte Ballet
  • Panthers Stadium
  • Charlotte Knights
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • The Checkers
  • NASCAR hall of fame

These are just a few things that keep this city full of activities year round. The native Charlotte residents give you that wonderful “southern hospitality” that living in the south boasts about.

Uptown Charlotte

Charlotte is not just a home away from home. It is a place you can live, work and enjoy life. If you don’t believe me, come experience it for yourself. Follow our blog or come  tour with us!

 

 

                                         

 

 

 

Photograph Like a Pro Using Your iPhone

ACORN

 

First off, I am an Apple girl. I will always be an Apple girl, cross my heart and hope to die. But even if you do not have an iPhone or are just totally anti-Apple (we can never be friends if that is the case), these tips and apps are still for you.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way,  I have become obsessed with using my iPhone 6 Plus (shameless plug) for photography purposes. I see the world through my camera lens. I am pretty sure what I have is a camera with the ability to call and text whenever I like and not the other way around. Do I have a super nice and super expensive camera? Yep. It’s what I use when I am shooting my own photography sessions on the side. Do I use it more than my phone? Nope. I still have much love for my Canon but let’s be honest. Those cameras have their time and place and they are not practical for every day use.

So let us start with the basics first. The key ingredients to an amazing photo on a smartphone camera are pretty much the same as with a standard camera. The perfect combination has the following five elements.

Lighting (1)

Lighting
I cannot stress how important lighting is. Whether it is the sun or artificial, lighting is crucial. Natural lighting is always best in my opinion. You can use the sun in so many different ways. Even the moon. One of my favorite things is capturing sun rays in a photo. And you don’t have to take a photo in broad daylight. Lots of amazing photos are taken at all different times of day, even when the sun is hiding. It’s all about just using the light you have been afforded the right way.

Background
Always, always, always check your background. You want to make sure you don’t have random people in the background of a portrait shot in the middle of a field. That sort of thing. Backgrounds can go very wrong. All you have to do is Google this sort of thing and have nightmares for life. You want to make sure it makes sense to whatever your subject matter is (we will get to composition shortly).

Content
This may sound like a huge duh, but think about it. You don’t take photos of nothing right? You need to know  your subject matter. Know what you want to be taking a photograph of.  Then you want to decide how you want it to be photographed. Do you want it to be the focal point, part of the background or do you want a wide shot of everything in view?

Color
The right lighting will certainly impact your color. Vibrant, colorful things lead to some of the most beautiful photos yet so do muted, rustic things. It’s all about ensuring the primary colors are balanced within the photograph.

Composition
This is your photograph in its entirety. The big picture (no pun intended). It is every element working in harmony and their placement within the photograph. Think of every piece of the photograph as a puzzle. They all need to fit together.

Now that you know what you need in a photo to make it awesome, let’s talk about some of the functions and features on an iPhone (please note some are not present on all iPhone models).

Burst – Take up to 10 photos per second. Boom. This so comes in handy when photographing little ones. I cannot even tell you.
Focal – This is the AE/AF Lock functionality. Basically this is how you control the focus and exposure. Focus making the object or the background blurred and exposure being the light coming into the lens coupled with other factors. This is an awesome feature that is very similar to how a DSLR camera operates.
Crop – Crop out what you don’t want. However, be careful. If you crop too much, it lowers the resolution on  your photo. This is handy to know in case you ever want to print that photo.
Zoom – Although it is there, I have literally never used it. It distorts the photo too much. I will take the photo from a far and crop in a bit but this is also where a certain gadget below will come in handy (cough cough, tele lens, cough cough).
Filter – There are quite a few filters pre-installed on the iPhone. They range from very mono to processed.
Flash – You can set it to auto, on or off. I usually do off. I am not a fan of the flash. That is a preference however. Sometimes the flash is definitely necessary.
Pano – This is awesome. Pan an entire skyline. Pan an audience. Pan the beach. Pan anything. Just keep a steady hand! Once you are done panning, you will have an incredible panoramic photograph.
Square – This is what you would use for a frame already in line with the Instagram size.
HDR – This is quite a nifty little treat on an iPhone. In short it means that when a shot goes into this mode, it takes those very to somewhat bright and dark areas in the photo and gets as much detail out of them as possible.

There are also edit features to change contrast, brightness, degree, color, shadows and the list goes on.

Now let’s get to gadgets. They make super cool camera accessories for smartphone cameras these days. Here are just a few of the most amazing ones.

Wide Angle Lens and Tele Lens – Swoon. You can get them from a company called Moment.  The wide angle lens is in my top three favorite lens in the history of ever. The fact that they made a teeny tiny one for my smartphone? No thanks in all the world in any language will suffice.
Mini Tripods – Want stability? There are tons of companies that make a tripod for the smartphone. One of the best ones is the Joby. You can grip it to a rock. I’m not even kidding.
Lighting Case  – Yes. There is a case for lighting. It’s called the LuMee. It exists.

Last but not least, the photo-enhancing apps. Here are the ones I have on my iPhone. I cannot express how many times I use these over the regular camera option. When I do use the regular camera, I often times will do post-editing in the app itself. Why you ask? Because filters. I L-O-V-E a great filter. If I find that the photo is awesome on it’s own, then no tampering necessary, but a lot of the time I feel as though tampering adds a certain something. Especially if something was a bit off with the lighting or background, etc.

Instagram (free) – L-O-V-E. In love is more like it. They have amazing filters and you can post in a community for your friends to follow.
Boomerang (free) – Hilarious. Take photos in a burst setting and it creates a live motion photo if you will. You can get some crazy cool looking stuff with this. It links back to Instagram.
Instant ($1.99) – This is a Polaroid camera at its little app finest. It was worth every penny to me.  It even makes the proper sound and you shake and blow it to process – ha! Lots of different filters in this app as well, ability to change border colors, add text. All of that and so much more.
Photoshopmix and Lightroom (free) – Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom in an app form. You need to have or get an Adobe ID and you can then participate in a free trial for 30 days. After that expires, you can then elect to sign up for the monthly fee to have both. It is part of the Creative Cloud. This will also make it accessible from your computer or iPad or whatever it is you are editing on by entering your ID and password. These were freebies for me because I have both programs already for when I photograph on the side. I do however feel that if you are serious about photography in the slightest, the Adobe programs are next to none.
Pro Camera 8 ($4.99) – Uh huh. $5. BUT again, worth it. It allows you to pick shutter speeds, get the most out of the HDR setting – ok  in simple terms – have the full functionality more or less as a DSLR camera. It’s amazing.
Pocketbooth ($0.99) – I would scream from mountain tops if there were mountains around me. This is so awesome. It has some filters (you can purchase other ones in the app) and it comes out in photo strip form. Here is an example with me and my little:

IMG_8291You can also purchase the photo strip from the company and they ship them right to you. La la la la love that option.
Camu (free) – One of my all time favorites. The filters are in spades. You get a handful to start out with and you can purchase other filter packs. I did. I again say well worth it. You can also put text over your photos like this (yes I photo my pretty food at times. don’t judge me):

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So even though you just read about how to stage a proper photo, absolutely none of this is to say that you can’t get some pretty great spontaneous photos. That is the best part of having these great cameras in phones these days. Life is happening all of the time and sometimes you don’t have the minutes to sit and think about the background or where the sun is or which app to use. Just take the photo. Some of my best photos are the unplanned ones. You can always post-edit them if you need to. That is the awesomeness of those apps and many others out there.

They make smartphone cameras with up to 41 megapixels. That is insane. That is higher than most professionally used cameras for things like wedding and portrait photography. Just imagine the detail you can get out of these smartphones. With all of this glorious technology, we have the ability to capture moments in the blink of an eye without lugging around a huge camera bag and extra lighting and battery packs and that is a beautiful thing.

Now you’re camera ready. 

Volunteering in Phoenix

I’ve always loved animals and I currently am a proud cat mom, my cat was adopted through the Houston SPCA so I knew I wanted to give back to a similar organization. That’s how I found the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA! It’s so close to my home at Camden San Paloma and very central to any of our Arizona communities.

canva quote

I first went to a volunteer orientation where you get to learn all the things  AAWL does and what it takes to keep everything going, about three weeks later my ‘Buddy Day’ (training day) was finally here and I was so excited to be able to start working. I was able to learn about what a typical day/visit is like for the volunteers and how we can help the staff that works so hard to keep everything running.

Each week I get up bright and early and spend my mornings walking the dogs. I try to go three mornings a week and once on the weekends. There are different events I can volunteer for through the organization, and I am never in search of something to do or someway to help!

Mazda

Mazda at an event for AAWL

I love volunteering I would spend every moment doing it if I could. I can never have a bad day after spending my mornings with the dogs.

There are so many ways to volunteer or give back! Somewhere like AAWL you can volunteer, foster, donate, or ADOPT and help amazing animals find their furever homes!

Buckle

Buckle and I at an event for AAWL. Buckle is currently looking for his furever family!

Volunteering has always been a major part of my life. Growing up my parents were, and still are, very active volunteers for our church and schools, and starting in High School I served on my church’s Outreach Board.

When I moved to Arizona I knew I wanted to start volunteering but I wasn’t sure where to begin. I started by looking on Volunteer Match which helped me to narrow down what type of organization I wanted to work with.

Check out Camden Cares – Team Arizona Walks for a Worthy Cause to learn about how Camden gets involved with Camden Cares in Arizona! What ways have you found to get involved with your community?

What Exactly Does A ________ Do? Part II

In the first piece of the “What Exactly Does A _______ Do?” series,  told you what your community Leasing Consultant does. In part II of this informative, fun installment, I will focus on your Community Maintenance Technician/Groundskeeper!

I am sure that if asked, most residents would immediately assume that all maintenance/grounds employees do work orders and pick up grounds. This is a fair assumption which is why this where I will start:

They complete work orders!

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Richard, Camden Gallery, perfecting the community one window at a time!

When your toilet is clogged, your light bulb goes out or your garbage disposal ceases to dispose of garbage, who you gonna call? Your Maintenance Technician! The Fairy Godmother does not repair your apartment home – your Maintenance Technician does.

They run grounds!

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Bill, Camden Ballantyne, doing his part to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of the community no matter rain or shine!

Your Maintenance Technicians/Groundskeepers are always making sure that your property looks up to standard. Loos trash, spills and other visual obstruction to the community are handled on an every day, sometimes more than once, basis. No one wants to live on a nasty looking, unsanitary property.

They “Lend A Hand”!

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Lend-A-Hand in full swing at Camden South End!

Teamwork is everything at Camden! When a larger project needs to be done or a community is understaffed, the Camden Maintenance Technicians will gather, from near and far, to make sure the job gets done! Maintenance Technicians need to be selfless in order to make sure that Camden properties continue to remain a great place to live.

They take part in resident events!

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Who does not love breakfast handouts at Camden Touchstone? Rick and Brad sure do!

Your technicians do their best to take part in resident events. It is equally as important to get to know your onsite technician as it is to get to know your office staff!

They take call!

When you forget your keys or get locked out of your apartment after hours, who comes to the rescue? What about that maintenance emergency you might have experienced? Yep! Your Maintenance Technician. Every week, these team members sacrifice their weekends, days with their families and general free time to make sure you know how much they care. They run grounds on weekends and are available to take care of your emergencies.

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Joe, Camden Southline, handing out breakfast and having fun doing it!

Sometimes your maintenance technician is quiet. Sometimes outgoing. They ask for no limelight, attention, reward. They just do what is asked of them in a timely fashion. Regardless of whether you see them, hear them or even know them at all, always remember that your community still stands because of the work that these silent heroes do on a daily basis.

Next time you see your onsite Maintenance Technician, give them a big hug and say “Thank You”!

Focus on Your Future

5 Tips to Save for Retirement

Now, more than ever before, saving for retirement is all in our hands. Long gone are the days of corporate pension plans. It’s time for each of us to take charge of planning for our golden years no matter how young or old we are. Here are 5 tips that will jump-start your savings and investment process.

 

Rainy Day Umbrellas

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Saving for a rainy day!

I was fortunate that at a very young age, my parents encouraged me to set up a basic savings account at the local bank. It is a practice that I have kept up throughout the years and it is paying off! Although interest rates are at an all-time low, setting aside $25 to $100 or more from each paycheck really adds up. Each year you should re-evaluate your financial situation and consider increasing the amount of money you are contributing to your savings account. Financial experts agree that you should have a three to six month reserve of money that you can easily access in case of emergency.

If a savings account is not for you, consider a money market account.

 

Game Plan

Photo courtesy of realtrends.com

Develop a Game Plan                                                                       

Take time to visualize what you want your retirement years to look like, then make a plan for how much you will need to live the lifestyle you envision. Your plan may include short and long term goals. Now turn your goals into SMART goals. When you put your plan in writing, make sure it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. Review your game plan every year and make adjustments as necessary.  Remember to always keep the end in mind.

 

Clock

Photo courtesy of wealthartisan

The time to start is now!

Whether you’re in your early 20’s or approaching 50, it’s never too late to start investing. Consider an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), Roth IRA, or your company’s 401(k) plan.

Traditional IRA: You make contributions with money you may be able to deduct on your tax return. Any earnings potentially grow tax-referred until you withdraw them during  your retirement years.

Roth IRA: You make contributions with money you have already paid taxes on.

401(k)Camden offers a 401(k) plan through Fidelity Investments to all employees.

Employee contributions are on a pretax basis. Camden matches 100% of the first 2% of compensation contributed to the Plan and 50% of the next 5% of compensation contributed to the plan. Any time a company matches your contribution, that’s free money!  If possible contribute at least enough to take full advantage of the company’s match.

The best words of advice I ever received from a financial advisor is to diversify your investments in your 401(k). If you are a conservative risk taker, like I am, invest in some low risk funds, add in a few moderate risk funds, and if you can stand it, add in one or two higher risk funds.

 

$ Sign

Photo courtesy of cliparthut.com

Every time you get a raise, increase your savings and investments

The old saying “Every little bit helps.” is so true when it comes to saving and investing.Start small and try to increase the amount you save or invest on a regular basis throughout the year (every month, every other month, etc.). When you get a raise, consider increasing your savings and upping your contributions to your investment accounts.

 

Learn

Photo courtesy of bing.com

Never stop learning

There are numerous seminars, workshops, and classes to attend as well as books to read on saving and investing your money wisely. Check your local community college and university for credit and non-credit classes. Check the website of your IRA or 401(k) administrator for a listing of seminars that may be available at no cost to you. Take a look at books written by financial authors Suze Orman, Jean Chatzky, and Dave Ramsey. Additional resources to consider are your local libraries and AARP. You’re never too old (or young) to learn.

Whatever your age, start planning for your future.

Please consult a financial advisor for guidance on how to meet your short and long-term financial savings and investment goals.

8 Ways to Have Fun Outdoors In Denver

You might have read my recent post on fun indoor things to do in Denver, so of course I have to follow with Denver’s outdoor options!  You can’t visit or live in Denver and not do something outdoors, it’s just  too pretty and fun here for that!

Here are 8 fun outdoor things to do in Denver and its surrounding areas

  1. Sports.  Just like for the indoor options, sports is another great way to get your friends together!  You can head to Coors Field to watch the Rockies play while enjoying some peanuts and a cold drink.  Or, watch the Broncos score some touchdowns at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, but don’t forget your orange and blue!
  1. Park Activities.  There’s a few different types of parks you can have fun at.  You can stay cool in the hot summers at water parks like the fun filled Water World north of Denver.  Or, you can get your scream on at Elitch Gardens Theme Park (which also has a water park).  Another park that’s popular in Denver is the beautiful Washington (or Wash) Park which includes 2 small lakes, walking/jogging and biking trails, tennis courts, benches, relaxation areas, and much more.  The best part about Wash Park is that you can go any time of year and it doesn’t cost a dime to enjoy.
  1. Hiking.  Now I could have included our national and state parks in with the last category, but they deserve their own spot with the amazing views and hikes that come with them.  Of course Colorado’s most famous Rocky Mountain National Park is a must for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.  There’s an abundance of trails ranging difficulty levels from beginners to advanced but they all come with the most rewarding views.  If you’re hoping to stay closer to the Denver area, Red Rocks Park in Morrison and the Flatirons in Boulder are also beautiful and rewarding hikes to check out.

Rocky Mountains

Viewing spot off the Emerald Lake Trail at Rocky Mountain National Park

  1. Lake and River Fun. There are many lakes in Denver and its surrounding areas that you can rent a boat, jet skis, kayaks, etc.  Check out nearby bodies of water like the Chatfield Lake or go farther out into the wilderness to find lakes like the Dillon Reservoir or Grand Lake.  If rivers are more your style head down south to the Platte River, which actually connects to Chatfield.

Lake Pueblo

Lake Pueblo

  1. Festivals and Concerts. Red Rocks isn’t just for pretty views and trails, it’s actually well known for being one of Colorado’s most popular outdoor concert venues.  Denver has many venues and locations for concerts, festivals, and other fun events which always seem to be taking place in Denver.  I like to visit Denver’s 365 Day Calendar to browse events going on in the city and its surrounding areas.  You can also search for events by specific categories like art, music, etc.
  1. Marathons, Volunteer work, and Charity Events. If you enjoy helping the community and doing your part in contributing to a good cause, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities and charity events in the area.  Take part in a charity marathon or volunteer with organizations like the Dumb Friends League and Denver Rescue Mission.

 Camden Cares

Some of the Camden Team Volunteering at the Denver Rescue Mission

  1. Explore Downtown. There’s a lot of options when it comes to downtown.  Head to the pedestrian friendly 16th Street Mall to explore over a mile of shops, bars, restaurants, and other popular attractions.  Some of my 16th Street Mall favorites include IT’SUGAR for giant sized candy and the Hard Rock Café.

16th Street Mall

16th Street Mall

  1. For the Animal Lover. Of course you can’t forget the Denver Zoo, right next to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  At the zoo you can hand feed the giraffes at the Giraffe Encounter exhibit as well as other up close animal encounters like rhinos, penguins, and many more!

 

To save money on parking fees and gas, I always recommend utilizing Denver’s wonderful transportation system.  Many of these places are walking distance from a light rail station; check out the RTD Rail System Map to locate the nearest station to you.  Our residents at Camden Belleview Station love being walking distance from the Belleview light rail and our newest community coming Fall 2016, Camden Lincoln Station, will also be walking distance from a light rail station.

Now go out and enjoy your fun-filled day!  If you missed my post earlier this week about fun indoor things to do in Denver, you can check it out here.