Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day Tripping, Apple Picking

We woke up on Sunday with the realization that we didn't have plans. No errands that needed to be run. No birthday parties that needed to be attended. No work related travel plans. No yard work. No house chores. Nothing. 

That is a rare occurrence in this house. Very rare. 

So, inspired by the gorgeous Fall weather we were having this weekend, we decided to hop in the car and do something fun outside to celebrate our free day. After a quick family debate, we decided to do some apple picking. 

We had heard about a few local orchards, but ultimately decided on heading to Mercier Orchards in Blueridge, GA. We had been there a few years ago with some of our good friends and remembered loving it. 


With a relatively quick drive north, we arrived at the orchard just after it opened and were delighted to see that it was just as beautiful as we remembered. 

The moment we stepped out of the car you were hit with cool crisp Fall air, and the most delicious apple smell ever. Seriously, I almost forewent the apple picking right then and there in search of whatever apple baked goods I was smelling. 

Almost. 

Sometimes I can exude willpower. 

It's rare. Even more rare than a free day. 

Once I was able to shake myself from the tempting aromas of baked apple goods, we headed out for our original mission...apple picking!


First headed to a pavilion to pay for our apple bag and catch a tractor ride out to the right part of the orchards. We learned that Mercier's is the largest orchard in Georgia with over 350 acres, and over 50 varieties of apples available.



The tractor ride not only allowed you to enjoy some spectacular views of the orchard, but you were able to learn a little bit about the history of the orchard, what other fruits and vegetables the orchard has to offer, and how to pick the perfect apple. It was very informative, and we are already making plans to visit another one of their harvest seasons.


Cute had listened intently though out the whole ride, and definitely picked up quick on how to pick the perfect apple. He wasted no time in filling up his bag. 


One fun thing about the orchard is that you are able to test and eat the apples right off the trees. Once Hubby showed this to the Cutes, they were so in awe. I think the taste testing was probably their favorite part. 




I think group consensus was that the Cameo apple was our favorite with Granny Apple right behind it. We filled our bag (and our bellies) up before even reaching the third row of apples though, so I am sure out of the 50 plus varieties available opinions will vary.


It was so well organized, and we loved just walking around and enjoying everything. 

After doing a bit of hiking around the orchard, we hopped back on a tractor at one of the check in points to take us back to the restaurant/store area. 

Trust me. Even amongst all that fresh mountain air, long hike, and apple tasting I had not forgotten about the baked apple goods awaiting me by the parking lot.



After we exited the tractor, we decided to grab a quick light lunch at the restaurant before checking out the bakery and store. The restaurant we had been to before with our friends for breakfast and it was delicious. For lunch they serve yummy sandwiches, burgers, and paninis. My sandwich was so yummy that I forgot to take a pic. 

The store and bakery were so fun as well. There was definitely a lot to see and you could find anything and everything made from apples.

 Mercier's also harvests their own pumpkins, blueberries and cherries so you are able to find products made from that produce as well. Just based off my daily Facebook feed, I know the following product will excite a large number of you...


 The bakery did not disappoint. There was yumminess everywhere.


By far their most popular product was their fried pies. The line for these was super long and they flew off the shelves in cases. Yum!

If you can divert your eyes and taste buds away from all the delicious apple products you are surrounded some fun farm history and activities. While a large operation, they do a great job of it feeling not too commercial, which we loved. They had a small petting zoo and pony ride to support charity, but Cute was fascinated with the antique tractor you could play with inside the store. He would have played on it all day if we let him, but our cart was full and our pants weren't stretchy enough to stay much longer.


We had a wonderful time, and it was the perfect way to spend a Fall day. We can't wait to visit Mercier's again soon!
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Monday, September 29, 2014

Boo Y'all {Footprint Ghosts Kids Craft}

Good morning!  I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend!  We had family in town visiting, which was so much fun and it really had cooled off and started feeling like Fall, so we spent lots of time outdoors this weekend.  Now that it is feeling a little cooler, I spent some time getting the indoor Halloween and Fall decorations up in my house.  I'll share all of them later this week, but today I have a fun project to share.  I wanted a little canvas to use on one of my cabinets and loved this idea I came across to make footprint ghosts.  


It was such a quick and simple little project.  I picked up the canvas and acrylic paint supplies at Michael's last week.  




Next I let the kids help me paint the entire thing black.  It took a few coats to keep from seeing any streaks in the paint.  After that dried overnight I then I had the kids sit down and one at a time I painted one of their feet to make a footprint on the canvas.



I had baby wipes and paper towels right beside me so that I could quickly clean the paint off their feet before there were any accidents with the paint.

Lastly, I just used a black paint pen to make the eyes and mouth for each ghost and added lettering and a little boarder with my white paint pen.



Seriously the easiest project ever and I think it turned out so cute!  The kids love seeing it and show it off to everyone who comes over. :-)  I know I'll love pulling this out year after year to use as part of my decorations, especially when those cute little feet aren't so little anymore.


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Friday, September 26, 2014

Let's Kick Off Snack


While school was taking a Fall Break last week, so were our extra circulars. Tomorrow marks the restart of our soccer season. I could not be more excited! It is so fun to see Cute and his teammates run around in their tiny shin guards and t-shirt jerseys that are way too big for them. Adorable!

This morning I decided to put together a fun snack for Cute and some of his teammate friends in prep for tomorrow's practice and mini game. 

First I mixed together some of his favorite snacks to make a mix (Chex cereal mix, Goldfish, animal crackers, and pretzels). 


Then I put the mixture in a cellophane treat bag, and stapled it closed with a fun printable I created.


It would probably be a lot cuter to hole punch and attach with ribbon, but I was already committed. 

And, I apparently, need to learn how to staple in a straight line.




Pair this with an ice cold Gatorade and we are all set for tomorrow's game! 


And just for fun, I made some snack tags for some other Fall sports. I plan on adding some for Winter and Spring sports as well, so stay tuned. 


Click here for soccer.
Click here for cheerleading.
Click here for football.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Burlap Pumpkin Door Hangers

I ran into Michael's today to grab a few things and somehow ended up at home with this...


... lots and lots of fun Halloween themed ribbon (and this isn't even all of it!).  Did I need more Halloween ribbon... um, no.  Do I already have a lot of orange and black ribbons in my stash...yes.  After getting all of this home I came to the swift realization that I might just be obsessed with ribbon.  I will totally own it though and while I might return some tomorrow, I put a lot of it to work today.  First up was my new front door decor.


I know some people have had their fall decor up since Sept. 1, but I like to wait until the official start of fall to start putting mine out.  I have been working on my new burlap pumpkin hangers for a week or so and was determined to get them completed today.

I followed the same tutorial directions I used for my footballs (click HERE to read how to make them) and just changed up the shape/design to fit for fall.   I knew I wanted pumpkins, but went back and forth on the wording to put on the pumpkins. I was debating between a few, but ultimately ended up going with a simple single monogram so that I could use these pumpkins through Thanksgiving.


Note - One thing I did differently this time was that I spray painted the base coat instead of brushing it on.  It was definitely quicker to do it this way, but I think I like the coverage and finish better when I brushed on the base coat of the footballs.

For now I'm using Halloween themed ribbons, but I'm planning to switch them out after Trick-or-Treating so these pumpkins can carry me all the way through November.  


Along with my front door pumpkins I also put out my new Halloween mini-flag that, along with all of that ribbon, mysteriously found its way into my cart at Michael's today.  I accented it with some fun coordinating ribbons.


I switched out my UGA red pillows for orange ones I scored on clearance at Michael's a few months ago, but left the black swirls. I was worried the patterns together might be a bit much, but ultimately decided to leave it.  After all,  it's the front porch bench and not the living room.  They are fun, bold, bright and just perfect for out there.



Lastly, I added some trick-or-treat ribbon to my pumpkin stakes that I have had for years to make them a little more festive.  The kids helped me find the perfect spot for these right by our front steps and  exclaimed that they looked "SO cute!!!" after stepping back to take it all in.


I'm still planning to add some fall flowers, real pumpkins and some other fun goodies to our porch before the season really gets into full swing, but we are off to a good start after today and it is certainly looking (and feeling) a lot like fall around here!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kitchen Confessions {Coconut Pecan Pralines}



Last week, on Instagram, some of you might have seen me post this photo with the hopes that what I was baking would turn out. 

There might have been mention of spoon licking as well. 

Well, let me just tell you they most definitely turned out. They are delicious!!! So much so that we are at the point that while my mouth screams, "Yes! Yes!" every time my hand reaches for the Pyrex container they are in, my butt, hips, and thighs are simultaneously screaming, "No, don't do it!" in fear that they won't be contained in next weeks line up of yoga pants. 

Some things are worth it though. 

And yoga pants are stretchy. 

While browsing Pinterest I kept seeing pins for coconut recipes pop up in my feed. Along with the many other things I am addicted too, coconut is among my favorite. One pin that caught my attention was for Coconut Pecan Pralines. Instantly my mouth watered. After scanning the recipe, and seeing the words "no bake" pop out at me I was sold. 

Here is the original recipe. I tweaked a few things just for my own personal preference. Also, I will disclose as you read the ingredients, that you will not want to feed these to small children if you wish for them to sleep anytime soon. Read: tons of sugar!

COCONUT PECAN PRALINES

Ingredients
- 2 1/2 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup of maple syrup
- 1/2 cup of butter
- 1 tsp of vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups of chopped pecans
- 2 21/2  to 3 cups of grated coconut

Directions
1: Mix pecans and coconut in large bowl and set aside.
2: Mix sugar, evaporate milk, syrup, and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
3: Bring to a rolling boil and stir for about 3-4 minutes.
4: Remove from heat and add pecan coconut mixture.
5: Add vanilla.
6: Stir until it thickens. Approximately 4 minutes.
7: Take a spoonful of mixture and place on wax paper. 
8: Let cool for approximately one hour. 

And to be honest, my attempt at getting the mixture was a little tricky. My first batch off the spoon was a little runny. They should not look like this...


Some of you professionals out there might cringe at my next move, but remember I am new to the game and this recipe didn't involve my crockpot. 

Once I saw that the mixture wasn't standing up on its own off the spoon, I added some coconut to thicken it and then returned it to the heat source for another minute or so. Once I did that, the mixture did exactly as it was supposed to and ended up being the right texture as it hardened. 


Trust me, I've had no problem eating them.


Enjoy!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Key West Getaway

This past week I enjoyed spending the first part of the week at home with my kids for fall break and the second half on a little getaway with my man!  I had really been looking forward to our long weekend away.  It was going to be a chance for us to reconnect, relax, and just have some fun.  While we were there we slept in, ate wonderful food, spent time on the water on an amazing boat, indulged in Key Lime Pie, shopped and went out dancing.  It was really an amazing trip!

I flew out Wednesday afternoon to meet him in south Florida and after arriving at the gate and realizing my flight was delayed I was actually kind of excited.  Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but I had an EXCELLENT BOOK I borrowed from Jen (more to come on that book later this week) and to just have an hour or more to sit and read, uninterrupted, by myself, without anyone needing anything from me was the perfect way to start my little mini-vacation.

Thursday morning we woke up early and started our drive to the Keys.  I had never been to any of the Keys before, but certainly had images in my mind as to what it would be like.  I will say, the 3 or so hour drive was interesting and most of the Keys were not what I had expected.  It was still a fun drive with lots of sights to see.  When we arrived in Key West though, it was definitely more of what I was picturing.  Tropical island feel, bright colored houses, people walking around everywhere, and humid beyond belief.





We met some friends there and were staying at a really fun house.  It was actually made up of several houses with a common kitchen/living area and a beautiful tropical pool area in the center.  It was also within walking distance to the docks and lots of shops and restaurants so it was the perfect spot.


My husband was really excited to go snorkeling and diving for lobster.  He had so much fun and I loved seeing their catch.


He had so much fun doing it on day one, that on day two he and the captain when back out to check some other spots and ended up staying out practically the entire day!


I didn't mind one bit because the other girls and I went to lunch and spent our day shopping.  I got souvenirs for the kids and one little treat for me. :-)


That evening we had an amazing dinner at a local pasta cafe, Mangia Mangia, that I would definitely recommend to anyone.  The food was wonderful and the outdoor seating area was so quaint with lighting in all of the trees around us.  It was a little off the beaten path and if it weren't for a Key West regular I don't think we would have found it on our own.

We ended the night walking around the docks and then made one last stop by Duval Street to take in some of the sights.  It happened to be bike weekend while we were there and oh my goodness.  There were motorcycles everywhere lining the streets.  Let's just say it was some awesome people watching.  At one point I looked around and just had to laugh. It was an eclectic mix of bikers, locals and us in our tropical "resort wear."  Needless to say we stuck out, but the crazy thing about Key West is no one cares.  Everyone is there to have a good time and everyone is so laid back.



The last day we spent the majority of the day on the boat.  Seeing sights, more lobstering, and more fun in the sun.  That night we took one last stroll on Duval Street to grab dinner, a few drinks, and then dance the night away.


We all turned in early that night because we all had to get up early for our flights home, but in my opinion the trip was the perfect length.  Long enough to relax and have plenty of fun, but I think we were all excited to get back home and see our kids.  I know our kids were thrilled to see us, too!

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