Blog, Travel Blog

Charlotte Courthouse, Virginia

This week for #traveltuesday I’m writing about a place I ended up in unexpectedly. My grandfather (John) has been sick for a bit and while we were hoping he would hang on until the spring and keep telling us all the stories of his 87 years, unfortunately that just wasn’t the greater plan. After his passing last week our family gathered round to support my Gram and help her through this difficult time, and our gathering place was the southern town of Charlotte Courthouse, Virginia — my Gram and John’s home together for just over ten years.

Charlotte Courthouse is a small lumber town in south-central Virginia, not far from the North Carolina border. This is where I could insert countless paragraphs of local history if John were still around to help me sort out details. Instead I’m left with some beautiful photos and memories of John that I hope will last a lifetime.

Charlotte Courthouse really isn’t close to anything — it’s about two hours from Richmond and Raleigh — but it does sit in the outer (outer, outer) suburbs of Farmville, home to Longwood University. Somewhere in the middle sits the Fishin’ Pig restaurant, and it’s a must-stop kind of place for down-home southern cooking. Their BBQ — from chicken to pork to brisket — comes piled high on a bun, the fried green tomatoes are to die for with just a bit of cream cheese inside the batter served alongside a citrus-dill remoulade, and the fried catfish is lightly breaded, and fried to perfection.

I would say one of the main attractions in this part of the country is the outdoors. What my mom called “desolate” I would call “remote,” and remote makes for some of the best hunting, fishing, camping, hiking and general outdoor activity areas. I don’t hunt, but if you do you should check out Fur Fins and Feathers, a beautiful hunting lodge featuring fishing, deer and fowl-hunting right out the front door. You’ll have to call to find out more information, but if you do let them know “Nancy’s grandaughter” sent you, and June and David will treat you like family at their beautiful retreat.

Check out a few photos below from my trip — the weather truly was gorgeous this time of year, and if it weren’t for the sad circumstances it would have been such a lovely family trip. Shout out to my mom for helping get me across the country at this time when I so needed to be near my Gram.

Drop me a line below about a time you turned an unfortunate trip into a time to explore someplace new! I would love to hear about your favorite unexpected travels.

I’ve finished life’s chores assigned to me,
So put me on a boat headed out to sea.
Please send along my fishing pole
For I’ve been invited to the fishin’ hole.

Where every day is a day to fish,
To fill your heart with every wish.
Don’t worry, or feel sad for me,
I’m fishin’ with the Master of the sea.

We will miss each other for awhile,
But you will come and bring your smile.
That won’t be long you will see,
Till we’re together you and me.

To all of those that think of me,
Be happy as I go out to sea.
If others wonder why I’m missin’
Just tell ’em I’ve gone fishin’ 

-Delmar Pepper

Rest in Peace, John William Tharpe, 1931-2018

Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Thai Sweet Potato Soup

This week my food inspiration came from the New York Times. I’m an avid fan of the publication, particularly their puzzles, and while I’ve seen their recipes from time to time on Facebook I have never made one. While that still remains true — I have never tried a recipe recommended by the NY Times — I definitely gathered some good intel from them this week. The original recipe I looked at was for this Slow Cooker Coconut Curry Soup, however I have a stipulation that if I make something in the crockpot it should be a full meal. I’m cooking for myself, and to have a whole crockpot full of soup 20181112_103315.jpgbut to still need a sandwich or something on the side seems silly; a crockpot full of soup can easily feed me for four nights so instead of making this soup I took the thai/crockpot/sweet potato inspiration and headed in the direction of a more hearty soup that would be a full meal in a bowl.

What I came up with was this Thai Sweet Potato Soup, which left everything in chunks and added in more veggies to round things out for a more filling soup. I chose to add 20181112_103016.jpgmushrooms the the recipe also, because they’re delicious and why not? I did add those at the end so they would just cook a bit, not get soggy cooking over the course of a full day.

I have to be honest about this one — while it was tasty and filling it wasn’t as delicious as my soup last week, nor was it quite as tasty as I was hoping for. It was, however, warm and filling, and paired with an egg-roll on the side it was nourishing and got the job done.

In our household growing up we would say a recipe was “company food” if we really like a meal — meaning that the food was good enough to

20181112_194203.jpg
It sure looked like company food..

serve to friends at one of my parents many dinner parties growing up. Things on the list include cold sesame peanut noodles, artichoke chicken, my dad’s famous spaghetti sauce, among others. I would most definitely not qualify this soup as company food. It wouldn’t be bad for a family of four to finish up in a night or two, but it certainly wasn’t worth eating four days in a row. I did end up freezing half as I got called unexpectedly out of town this week, so I imagine by the time I eat it again it’ll be plenty tasty to enjoy for two more nights.

 

I’ll be back next week with some tips on how to re-purpose your Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. Until then, I’m wishing you a very happy holiday for you and yours, may your week, and your year, be filled with thanks, gratitude, peace and love. ❤

 

Blog, Travel Blog, Uncategorized

A Faux Pas I’m sure..

Today’s #traveltuesday is running late and once again talking about Vail, Colorado!

I’m sure this is a faux pas, to post about the same town twice in a row when there is a whole world to travel, but for the first time in over ten years both Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts are opening earlier than scheduled due to the massive amounts of SNOW we already have!!!!

I’m sorry for the exclamation but if you know anything about Colorado wildfires this season, or drove I-70 near Lake Dillon this year you’ll know how very very important snow is this season to help turn around our drought stricken predicament.

Last season at this time we didn’t have any significant snowfall and had to delay openings across the state. This year couldn’t be more different, or more of a miracle for this mountain town.

So here’s my plug for Vail, Colorado: come see us! Last season was rough but this one might be epic. Don’t miss out on your “experience of a lifetime” 😛❤

Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Loaded Potato Soup + bonus recipe!

I promised to bring you another delicious recipe today, so I’m glad I’ve found the time to follow through. I realized over last weekend that it would be easy for me to talk about recipes I’m actually making during my own week. I have plenty of recipe ideas stored in my head, and in my family’s archival cook book, but they say “you write what you know.” and what better way to get to know the food I’m selling you than to prepare it myself?

For me food is very sensory. It’s not just the act of consuming a meal that delights, but also the smells that fill the house and the warmth of a bowl in your hands. Last week in Colorado it started to get cold! Folks, this was not a test run — it snowed a few feet and then dropped into the teens at night. And what goes better with a snowy evening than a hot bowl of soup, the smells of which have been filling the house for hours?

This week I decided to use that elusive ingredient that I talked about most of us lacking in our cooking repertoire: time. You can’t keep a bottle of it on the shelf to season your foods to perfection, you truly have to let things sit and simmer and unfold in their own beautiful way in a pot. For this reason, I love the crockpot. It is so easy to dump everything in and come back hours later to a complete meal. When the cold weather crept in I thought of an old family favorite — potato soup. I believe our family recipe for this one resides in my mom’s head, not written down anywhere, but I figured I could google a recipe and find nearly what I was looking for. It’s also always fun to make a new take on a tried and true recipe, and that is what I chose to do this time.

I’ll caution that the crockpot recipe I made this week did involve more than just dumping each ingredient in a pot, but each extra step was worth it to me, and there are easier ways to complete this meal than I did.

I loosely followed this recipe on Sweet & Savory Meals, with a few tweaks.

When I found this recipe and saw that it called for bacon, I was adamant I was going to get the deli-cut bacon from the meat department, rather than buy the pre-packaged stuff. It was my day off and I knew I had *time* so I wanted to spend the day in the kitchen like my dad used to do, chopping and simmering and sauteing until things were just Fotoram.io (2)right. I also knew that the deli counter is intimidating for me. Some of you may have heard of the “impossible task” for people who are anxious. Interactions like those that occur at a deli counter, or a bank teller, or any other place where I have to interact with strangers in ways that are new or unusual for me, can easily be classified as my “impossible task”. My dad would certainly scoff at this — he was a frequent meat counter user, always trying to get the freshest and the best cuts, or asking the manager at the counter to separate these porkchops from those, because he only need this many, etc. I grew up watching him do this as a child, spending lots of time grocery shopping, so it should be easier, but alas, it is not and I frequently avoid it despite the better quality. As stupid as it sounds, this time I walked right up and had a pleasant exchange with the man behind the counter, and he helped me grab 15 slices of this amazing Jalapeno Applewood Smoked Bacon, and that was it. It was that easy to avail myself of this service that’s always available to me. It was great!. And if you know me at all you’ll know that’s basically all the important food groups to me in one slice of heaven!

Fotoram.io (1)I bought my own cheddar cheese instead of the store bought stuff, I substituted greek yogurt for sour cream, and I also substituted fresh parsley for dry. After this last substitution was made I honestly thought the meal could have done without any parsley at all. I don’t know what flavor I believed parsley to have, but the smoky flavor it added to my dish was a bit deeper than I was looking for. That’s not to say it wasn’t for everyone, but I enjoyed the milder flavors before the parsley unleashed it’s flavors.

Fotoram.io (3)The happiest substitution I made was on the final night I ate my potato soup. I had run out of chopped bacon and I saw my jar of pickled onions sitting in the fridge. Their Fotoram.io (4)homemade and I love vinegar so I put them on a lot of things and the brightness seemed kind of necessary after the parsley added that smoky flavor. Let me tell you this was the best decision I made. I pickle my own onions (white vinegar, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar) and I think everyone should keep a jar around for times like this to brighten or lighten up a meal. They can go well on so many soups, salads, burgers, tacos.. just yum.

Overall, the soup was absolutely delicious. It satisfied the need I had for something warm and cozy to enjoy at the end of these frigid days, and as I was cooking only for myself it provided dinner for most of the week. I enjoyed it every night and would definitely make again, if I wasn’t trying out new recipes to bring to you each week!

Also see my bonus recipe below!

 

 

Microwave Scrambled Eggs

This is the easiest breakfast I have ever made, and I am certainly a happy camper when I eat this to start my day.

Fotoram.io (6)I prefer to use a silicone cup for ease of cleaning: crack two eggs into the cup, scramble with salt and pepper to taste. Microwave on high for 1:20 on edge of rotating microwave Fotoram.ioplate. After they are done, take them out and add toppings as you please, mix well — I like a tablespoon of bacon bits and a tablespoon of cheese, then microwave for another 30 seconds with the toppings, mix again and you’re all done! Pictured here is a tablespoon of cheese with a spoonful of my favorite bbq sauce from back home (thanks Mom, and Moonswiners).

 

 

Blog, Travel Blog

A Snowy Retreat to Vail, Colorado

Today I’m launching my very own #traveltuesday compilation, where every Tuesday I’ll offer up a new destination, piece of travel advice or the latest deals to you, my readers, and I’ll start with my beautiful current-home-town of Vail, Colorado, and the reason I am starting here is because ski season is upon us, even arriving early this year!

While Vail and Beaver Creek Ski Resorts are not open just yet, their sister resorts Keystone and Breckenridge located just on the eastern side of the Vail Pass (elevation 10,662′) will be opening their lifts tomorrow, after receiving nearly 5′ through yesterday afternoon.

With ski lifts running just 45 minutes away, Vail is still the perfect place for a quiet retreat with views of snow-capped peaks, while still being able to capitalize on some of the off-season deals that abound in the valley.

Grouse Mountain Grill continues to offer an Autumnal Chef’s Tasting Menu, with three courses for $39, among other restaurant deals to be had, and hotels & ground transportation companies, such as B-line Xpress Limo Service, are still offering their off-peak rates for travelers looking for luxury on a budget.

In just a few weeks we’ll be celebrating the official “Opening of Winter” at Beaver Creek, with the Birds of Prey downhill and slalom ski races, Beers of Prey Colorado beer-tasting and live music, which leads us into further live music mid-December as Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats take the stage at Vail’s Snow Days.

Winter is a magical, action packed time around the Rocky Mountains, and I’m proud to be a part of a community that remains so vibrant, even covered in feet of snow.

Come send it with us this winter and see what the mountain life is all about!

Blog, Household Blog, Recipes

Quinoa with Arugula and Lemon Vinaigrette

I love to cook but it takes up SO MUCH time. According to the Netflix show Cooked, Americans currently spend only 27 minutes per day preparing food, down from nearly an hour when our parents were growing up, and as the show also points out, those of us who don’t devote time to cooking lose out on developing flavors in our veggies, meats and stocks.

If I’m honest, even during a good, healthy week of cooking at home, I still might not average 27 minutes of cooking time per day in the kitchen. It’s difficult to find the time to cook around my collaborative efforts with families, my steady jobs and what little gym and recreation time I manage to fit in around my very busy schedule.

Despite the lack of time in my life, I not only love to cook but I love to eat food. It’s probably my first favorite activity in life; going out for or cooking and savoring a delicious meal is truly one of the finest pleasures in life, and I try to find ways to incorporate tasty flavors every day. Some days that means something frozen dipped in ranch (don’t judge!) but these days I’m going for healthier and more wholesome flavors that anyone can cook, and I want to share those ideas with you!

Join me every Friday for the release of a delicious new recipe that’s full of fresh flavors that you can get on your weekly run to the grocery store over the weekend, to prepare a fresh and easy meal that might even leave you with some tasty leftovers to pack for lunch on Monday.

Fotoram.io (7)Today I want to start with a very easy recipe that I’ve made multiple times with multiple different proteins: Quinoa and Arugula Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I can’t speak highly enough of this recipe. I have made it separately with poached salmon, baked chicken and roasted veggies as a protein on top. The quinoa is earthy, the arugula is peppery and the lemon vinaigrette is oh-so bright. The three main ingredients are also great to keep around the house for throwing together a quick salad any time. Arugula and quinoa come in large quantities, so save the rest for throwing together another meal if you don’t want to mix everything together at once. However — my mom swears by quinoa that’s been soaking in the delicious dressing overnight. The dressing really tones down those earthy flavors to make a delightful leftover lunch.

Happy cooking and I’ll be back next Friday with another piece of love — I mean recipe — to share with you!

Blog, Crafts, Household Blog

Christina Collaborates Does Crafts

One of the things that I have the most fun doing with the children I nanny are fun crafts. Kids in the 2-4 year old range are still learning so much about different colors, textures and tactile feelings, and it’s always fun to find a craft that changes things up.

Most of you parents are probably familiar with slime, a phenomenon of scientific proportions that seems to be sweeping the nation. I’ve heard talk of 13 year olds making businesses out of selling slime to their friends. Who knew the entrepreneurial spirit could hit so young! The version linked to above is a traditional recipe, one that I actually followed myself about 15 years ago when I was in middle school myself. I would like to tell you about another kind of slime, fluffy slime, that I learned about this week. This one is so much fun!

what-youll-need-1.pngIt took a little while to perfect the recipe, which involved adding way more glue than they said so it wouldn’t stick to your hands, but when your final result is big globs of purple and pink foam, who wouldn’t be happy?

 

leavesI also truly enjoy when I can bring a craft from my childhood into the lives of the kids I watch. I hope that they’ll remember the time we shared working on these crafts as fondly as I remember them from when I was a little one. My favorite fall craft that I remember from being a kid is wax paper place mats. My mom and I would collect all the pretty leaves on the ground and then stack them between wax paper. With the help of an iron to melt the paper together you can make a really neat craft that doubles as place settings on Thanksgiving! This is an easy activity that you can do with children of all ages. For kids who are a bit older consider adding chopped up crayons in fall colors and making fun patterns between the layers ofWhat You'll Need paper. You can even add more than one layer if you’d like! Check out what The Seasoned Mom had to say on the topic here, and leave me a comment about your favorite fall crafts!