Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Cozy Fall Dinner

Now that fall is here and the days are a bit cooler, I'm enjoying using the oven more and serving more comforting baked meals!

We had this cozy baked meal of Israeli Spice Chicken and Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale one night last week. It was delicious!

For the chicken, I rubbed the Israeli Spice blend on some drumsticks and baked them alongside the squash.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale
Adapted from Taste of Home

4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
1 medium onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp.crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 cups chopped kale
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine squash and onion in a  15 x 10x 1 baking pan coated with pan spray. Combine oil, pepper flakes, salt, pepper and sage; drizzle over vegetables and toss to coat.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add kale and bake for about 5 more minutes or until done.

We really liked this dish. Andy thought it tasted like stuffing. It would make a nice addition to Thanksgiving dinner!

Fabric Pumpkins

I've been wanting to do a little crafting so today I made a little time to sit down and make these cute little fabric pumpkins!

I chose a brown/tan/cream theme instead of the traditional orange since I didn't have any in my stash. Also left off the leaves since I thought mine looked better without.

This was an easy and quick craft and would be great to do with older children!

And if you have lots of scraps to use up, these Scrappy Pumpkins are cute too!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

$4 Off Vick's Nature Fusion

Head on over to Vocalpoint and reserve your $4 Vick's Nature Fusion coupon! You will receive this coupon by mail.

This is a high dollar coupon that should make for a really good deal combined with a sale!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vietnam Veterans Reunion Banquet

When Andy's parents were here a few weekends ago, they attended Andy's dad's Vietnam reunion which was held in Charlotte this year.

Because we live so close, they invited us to join them for the banquet on Saturday night. As a family, we were honored to perform the Missing Man Table Ceremony remembering those who were either prisoners of war, missing or killed in action as well as members of the association who have passed on since the last reunion. The men did the narration and my mother-in-law and I set the table as they read. You can view something similar here.

It was quite an honor!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Frugal Eating On Vacation

We were able to save a good bit of cash by taking  a lot of our own food on our recent vacation. This also enabled us to eat more healthfully as well.

Andy doesn't like for me to work too much if we're supposed to be on vacation so I promised him that I would plan only easy things to take along. :-) I find it fun and relaxing to cook on vacation and the little kitchen makes me feel like I'm playing house! I know that to some people, cooking while on vacation sounds absurd, but I don't mind it one bit!

The month before our trip, I began planning by listing the meals we would be eating away from home and then started making a list of food ideas. Over that month, I started buying things we wanted to take and putting them away.

Friday-- lunch while traveling, supper at cabin
Saturday--breakfast at cabin, lunch out at Folk School Festival, supper at cabin
Sunday--breakfast at cabin, lunch out for anniversary, supper at cabin
Monday--breakfast at cabin, lunch while traveling

This helped me to know exactly what I was working with. And also since we had been to the cabin a couple of times before, I knew we had a full-size refrigerator with small freezer on top(not those little hotel fridges!), an oven and stove top and a grill to use.

We packed our cooler full and also made a small grocery store trip once we reached our destination.

Our menu:

Lunch: Bag of beef jerky, cheese slices, veggies, hard-boiled eggs, apples
Supper: Grilled steaks, salad (used FREE coupon), mashed butternut squash(prepared ahead and frozen), olives

Breakfast: Egg and sausage casserole (made ahead and frozen), bananas
Lunch: Bought lunch at Festival. Decided on BBQ plates as the most for our money and the best option for our eating style.
Supper: BBQ meatballs (frozen ahead and cooked in my tiny crockpot), brown rice(bought  microwaveable Minute Ready Rice on sale with coupon), salad

Breakfast: Egg and sausage casserole, bananas
Lunch: Ate at Rib Country.
Supper: Snacky-type foods: leftover meatballs served as an appetizer, cheese, rice chips(a good compromise food), veggies and dip(veggies cut and dip prepared at home)

Breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, sauteed peppers and onions (brought these to serve with scrambled eggs but forgot to buy eggs but had extra boiled eggs along so it worked out well!)
Lunch: Snacky-type foods: whatever was left-- veggies, cheese slices, hard-boiled eggs, some smoked turkey slices leftover from our restaurant meal the day before.

We also took snacks: dark chocolate, cashews, dried fruit, rice chips, apples, peanut butter, bananas, extra hard-boiled eggs, veggies and dip. 

What we liked:
*Meals were super easy to prepare with minimal clean-up!
*Egg casserole was a very good idea. I popped it into the oven in the morning (took it frozen and let it thaw somewhat in the fridge overnight) and it baked while I showered and got ready. Super easy!
*We felt better eating reasonably healthy foods compared to eating a lot of restaurant food.
*Taking several frozen items from the freezer kept everything nice and cold on the way. An organic frozen chicken bought on markdown(yes, I bargain shopped while on vacation!) at the only grocery store in town helped keep things cold on the way home.
*We saved  a lot of time and gasoline by eating most of our meals at the cabin. The cabin is a little drive from town/restaurants.
*I took some of my own basic cooking tools--can opener, paring knife, peeler, kitchen scissors. They have some things there but I like using my own. And you have them just in case...
*Loved using the little crockpot.
*Other than too many snacks, we ate most of what we'd brought so packing up again was easy and lighter(except for that chicken!).

What we may tweak in the future:
*Grilling the first night was a bit much. By the time we got there and then got back from the grocery store, it was starting to get dark. We discovered the grill didn't cook as fast as we expected so the steaks took a long time to cook!
*We ate  a lot of BBQ! While it all tasted good and we certainly didn't mind it, I think I'd shoot for a bit more variety next time.
*Way too many snacks! We hardly ate any of them as we weren't hungry in between meals much. But that's kinda hard to judge as next time we could eat all the same things and be starving!:-)
*Remember to take paper plates, ziploc bags and plastic wrap, if needed.
*The only grocery store in town has a terrible produce section. Bring produce from home next time!
*Bring our own sparkling cider from home. Grocery store had a very limited selection and nothing without HFCS.
*Plan for a picnic next time!

This worked out really well for us and helped us to stay within our cash budget. Of course, I love to cook, but really if things are kept simple, it's still possible to have a relaxing vacation while doing a lot of your own cooking.

Do you like to cook or eat out on vacation or do you do a combination?

**This post is part of Frugal Fridays over at Life As Mom! Where ironically, she's also talking about taking food with you to beat vacation costs!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NASCAR Hall Of Fame

 Andy's parents were in town a couple of weekends ago and they took us to the NASCAR Hall Of Fame in Charlotte one day.

Since I've learned everything I know about racing from the movie Cars, this was a very educational experience for me!

It's a very nicely done museum with lots of history, memorabilia, a short IMAX presentation and lots of interactive activities including a race car simulator. Which was scary. But fun. For me. Evidently I screamed a lot. And had a lot of wrecks and was out of the race before I could complete even one lap! But my father-in-law and husband came in 2nd and 3rd of 9!

We really enjoyed ourselves. And now I want to go to a race!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Beauty

 A pretty tree.

We have this yellow rose bush vine in our yard winding its way up behind some bushes. One day late last week, I noticed a bud and then Sunday saw this huge yellow rose! I picked it right away to enjoy since they don't last long. It seemed fitting to display it beside a wedding picture in the vase we bought on our honeymoon since our anniversary is in October and we had yellow roses at our wedding. The yellow rose, I've found out since, stands for bitterness. Supposedly they also stand for joy and friendship so we'll go with those instead! Whatever. I think they are so pretty and it doesn't matter what it means!

It's such a pretty season, isn't it?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weekend In The Mountains: Fields Of The Wood

Yet another post on our weekend getaway! "Will she ever stop?"you wonder. :-)

Fields Of The Wood was mentioned as a place of interest on the cottage's website. The idea of God's Word written and displayed on the mountainside and all through the park seemed really neat to me and I wanted to check it out!

 The Ten Commandments. 
Click to enlarge so you can read it. 

 Pretty scenery. 

 I will admit that Fields Of The Wood wasn't quite as charming as I thought it would be. I was expecting something more like this, I guess! But it was an interesting stop, nonetheless, and the drive to the park  is gorgeous. Besides, God's Word being displayed for all to see is a good thing too!

 Spotted these barns on the way to the park and loved it! Andy was kind enough to stop on the way out so I could get a picture.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Toddler Activity: Bean Bags

Playing with beanbags is a favorite activity at my house and one that can be adapted so that it's enjoyable for all ages.

What you need:

*bucket or basket
*beanbags-- I made some of ours and others were given to me. 

Beanbags are super simple to make:

  • Cut a rectangle of fabric.
  • Sew the sides to create a bag.
  • Fill with beans or rice.
  • Sew the top edge closed.
  • That's it!

Younger toddlers enjoy dropping the beanbags in the bucket and then dumping them out to start all over again.  Older toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy actually throwing the beanbags to the bucket and may like a little more challenge. Older children often require a few more boundaries and guidelines as they can easily become more carried away! There are so many ways you can add variation to this game.

I keep the beanbags in the bucket and pull this out for a fun activity every so often. It's always a hit!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weekend In The Mountains: Folk School Festival

We were so excited to discover that the John C. Campbell Folk School Festival was the same weekend that we were in the mountains. This was our 2nd time attending and it was as enjoyable as we remembered!

Many many vendors were set up showing and selling their handmade wares as well as quite a few demonstrations of traditional  arts and crafts.

The Folk School is in a beautiful mountain location so some of these pictures were taken on the way to and from. I just couldn't resist!

We sampled and bought some delicious homemade fudge and also purchased BBQ plates for lunch. Sadly, we hadn't budgeted for purchasing anything extra from vendors although I saw many handmade items that I loved! One of the jewelry vendors had amazing pieces that I loved and I saw many lovely scarves as well! But it was just as fun to look!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Weekend In The Mountains: Fernwood Cottage

Continuing on my recap of our anniversary weekend--

We've been to Fernwood Cottage several times now and we love it! It's a beautiful location, quiet and affordable, especially if you stay several nights. In addition, there is lots to see and do within a reasonable driving distance. We also appreciate the fact that there is a kitchen in the suite because we like to do a lot of our own cooking while there.



I love the coziness of the cabin. We estimate the suite to be about 400-500 square feet. During this visit, I wondered if we could actually live in such a small space. I think I might like it; it always feels like playing house! But I'm pretty sure we still have way too much stuff to pull it off!

 The landscaping and gardens are lovely!
 It's nice to sit down by the lake too! Although we haven't fished here, they say there are a lot of fish.

Fernwood Cottage is such a great place to relax!

**Hope you don't get tired of pictures from our weekend away... camera-happy me took quite a few pictures! So several more posts!