Beach Vacation…

I just returned from a fabulous vacation on Florida’s Emerald Coast in Destin. I was a little concerned about the weather due to the fact that Tropical Storm Cindy had just blown thru the area a few days before we arrived…my worries were in vain. We had a few rainy days, but overall the weather was great! 

We spent every day at the beach. Even on the days it rained, it didn’t last all day and we were able to go after it stopped. We spent our days floating in the Gulf, soaking up the sun, boogie boarding, and jumping waves! 

I got pretty good at jumping waves by the end of the trip. We’d go out just past where the waves broke, wait for the next one to come in, and jump into it and “ride” it just before it broke. Sometimes they fizzled out, other times we judged it wrong and got smacked in the face by the wave, but the times we got it right were awesome! 

We even saw a sea turtle swim past us while we were playing in the Gulf! That was exciting! We found out later from the lifeguard that the turtle was probably waiting for it to get dark so she could come ashore and lay her eggs. Fun sea turtle fact…the female sea turtle always returns to the beach where she hatched to lay her own eggs. Conservation officers keep watch at night during the months of June thru October and mark off the nests to be sure they aren’t disturbed by beach goers. It would be so exciting to watch those little turtles make the journey from their nest to the Gulf once they’ve hatched. A new bucket list entry perhaps?!?

We ate at a few restaurants while we were there. The Donut Hole has some of the best donuts for a quick and easy breakfast to take back to your condo or hotel. If you’re ever in Destin, try the peanut butter filled donut or the vanilla or chocolate filled powdered sugar angels. 

The Back Porch is a big tourist favorite with seating overlooking the beach and the Gulf. I had the steak and crab legs and it was very good. A bit pricey, but hey, I’m on vacation so I made an exception…plus the view and atmosphere were awesome!


Merlin’s Pizza is a great place if you want something quick and easy. Some of the best pizza I’ve had in a while and their cheese bread is amazing….a meal in itself! We had the chicken bacon ranch pizza.

Now for my favorite place…Bric a Brac restaurant. It’s a quirky, fun place. The decorations are a sight to behold, they have a dance floor and live music on certain nights of the week, the atmosphere is amazing and the food is out of this world! I had the manicotti which comes with a salad and roll and for dessert I had their bread pudding. Best. Manicotti. Ever!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Destin or the surrounding area, I hope you will. Get a little sand in your soul and have fun!!

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Pear, Walnut, and Blue Cheese Flatbread…

I had an amazing flatbread at The Cheesecake Factory not long ago and I recreated the recipe at home. The ingredients compliment the others so well and it’s very delicious. I’d love to share it with you and as always, please let me know what you think.

**note…I used pre packaged Naan bread for my crust. You can use pre packaged flatbreads as well and there are many brands to choose from. You could also make your own, but if  you’ve read my blog before regarding recipes, you know I like to keep it simple, quick, and easy. I love food, but I don’t like spending a lot of time in the kitchen! 

Ingredients:  recipe serves four


Naan or flatbread

8 oz. package shredded mozzarella cheese

1-2 ripe pears sliced and then slivered

1 oz. chopped walnuts

1/2 cups blue cheese

1/4 cups diced onions

1 tablespoon of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil to brush crust

Sprinkle of arugula 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange walnuts single layer on baking pan. Toast walnuts in oven about 5-10 minutes. 

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until carmelized, stirring occasionally…about 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Brush flatbreads with olive oil. Cover flatbreads in a layer of mozzarella cheese and distribute evenly using all of the cheese. Top each flatbread with blue cheese, pears, toasted almonds, and carmelized onions.

Transfer to baking pan. Cook until cheese melts and flatbreads are golden brown. 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them so they don’t burn! (I cooked two at a time) 

Cool for 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with arugula, cut and serve.  Enjoy!  (I paired mine with fried mozzarella sticks as an appetizer and a small garden salad)

My daughter loved it, but if you have a picky eater you can choose your own ingredients and make it with whatever you like!

Travel To Tennessee…

Hey y’all! It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’m back!

Things are going well. It’s summer and the ol’ wanderlust has kicked in. I recently returned from a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee….in particular, the Great Smoky Mountains and had an amazing time. 

As crazy as this will sound, I think the most exciting part of the trip was the night a bear ran across the highway in front of my car. We were heading to the ice cream parlor and as it turns out, so was he…in particular the dumpster behind the shop. Both the bear and the customers at the ice cream parlor are all ok and the folks that were there have a great story to tell!

Our first day there we took a drive through the park and just enjoyed the scenery. It’s absolutely beautiful! I’ve been there several times over the years and never tire of it!

On day two, we took another drive…this time to Cade’s Cove where we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, took in the history of the area, and enjoyed a picnic in the the picnic area by a mountain stream. We were fortunate enough to see two bears playing in a field as we drove through. They frolicked in the field for about ten minutes before running off. I got photos but they are of poor quality because we were so far away. Here are a few from Cades Cove for your viewing pleasure.

After spending several hours in Cades Cove, we decided to drive over the mountain to Cherokee, North Carolina. It’s about an hours drive. The Cherokee Indian Reservation is located there and the scenery is beautiful in this area as well! We were able to get some delicious Indian fry bread while we were there, browse souvenir shops, hike to a waterfall, and we even saw an elk on the side of the road. I had no idea how huge they are!

In the summer they have an outdoor drama…Unto These Hills and the performance is acted out in an amphitheater built into the side of a mountain. It’s depicts the life of the Cherokee in the region and their forced removal…the Trail of Tears. We missed opening day by one week, but I’ve seen it before and highly recommend it!

On site is The Eternal Flame. The Eternal Flame burns at the entrance to the Mountainside Theater. It was carried on the Trail Of Tears to Oklahoma and brought back to Cherokee from Oklahoma in 1951…it still burns.

Day three we attended the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s a Dolly Parton venture and there are many. She grew up in the area and has a very big presence there. We love Dolly and we loved the show! Included with the show is a four course meal and it was absolutely perfect…tasted great and the service is excellent! However, utensils not included. You eat everything with your hands. The show is a way to look back over the area for the last three hundred years or so and is very patriotic. Again, we loved it and highly recommend it. Definitely worth the money!

Since we were leaving the next morning, we decided to take one last drive through the mountains on a driveable trail called the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It can be reached by turning at traffic light six in Gatlinburg and follow the signs. In my opinion it has some of the best scenery in the National Park. There are some old, mountain homes to visit that were lived in by the early settlers to the area and there’s even a nice waterfall by the side of the road. No hiking required. Just park in the pull off area and walk right up to it. Again, some of the best scenery the park has to offer AND some of the best hiking trails…many with spectacular waterfalls at the end.

The ending of this post brings us back to the beginning…after exiting the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which brings you out on to the highway in Gatlinburg, we encountered the bear about five minutes later. He was leaving the same area we had just left…and had ice cream on his mind, too!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our little adventure and if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg/Great Smoky Mountains area, you won’t be disappointed! 

Stay tuned for our next adventure later this month and hope y’all have a great summer and safe travels!

K❤️

Five Years Later…

Five years ago today, I lost my mom. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. To be honest, there are still times when it’s a lonely world without her. However, life goes on and we’ve all learned to move on without her. 

I know I was blessed to have her as my mother. There are times I stop and think to myself…I sound just like my mom…something I swore I’d never do when I was younger by the way. Of course now that I’m older and have a child of my own, I get it. I’m thankful that she set such a great example for our family.

So even though today is a sad day, I choose to smile and look back on all the wonderful memories I have of her. My family and I will cherish those memories and continue to make new ones without her…all the while knowing, she continues to live on through us.

We were hers and she was ours. No passage of time will ever change that. 

We will see her again. She will be waiting on the other side of Heaven’s gates to welcome each and every one of us home!

Stuffed Pepper Casserole…

This casserole was a hit at my house tonight…and my daughter is a very picky eater. It’s even better than actual stuffed peppers in my opinion because it’s all mixed together in one dish! 

Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers 

1 red bell pepper

1 pound ground turkey or beef

1 bag of boil in a bag rice cooked on stove

1 can diced tomatos (any variety)

Onions (optional) I used dry minced

1 bag shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Italian seasoning

Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute (optional)

Directions:

Cook ground turkey or beef on stove and drain. Set aside. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Cut out the cores of the peppers. Slice into strips and dice. Put in greased dish. Put the remaining ingredients into the dish and mix well. (only use 1/2 bag of the shredded cheese at this time)

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, top with the rest of the shredded cheese, and put back in the oven. Broil for 5 minutes until cheese bubbles and browns. Remove. Let cool and enjoy. 

Please remember I don’t measure…I just add until I think it looks good…and I am of the opinion, the cheesier the better! You can add other ingredients or seasonings.  If you try it, be sure and let me know what you think.

K

Merry Christmas…

To all…I hope you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year! I hope you will dream dangerously and outrageously. The only failure is in not trying. Take risks. Be kind. Be wise. Show compassion. Help others. The world needs more of that right now. It always has. Love one another as God has commanded us to do. Don’t judge. Don’t hate. Be respectful of others even when you don’t agree. One person can make a difference. You might not change the world, but you can change the world for one person. 

For those of you who aren’t experiencing the “storybook” Christmas this year…Maybe you’re grieving a loss. Perhaps you’re lonely, discouraged, or worried about the challenges you’re facing. I assure you there is no one who hasn’t struggled through a holiday or two. Be gentle with yourself. Stay open to the kindness of others and stay open to some small, Christmas miracle. 

Merry Christmas to all!! I wish you all the best… today and always!!

Small Town Life…

I was born in a small town. Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world, waiting on a midnight train going anywhere. Just a few lines from songs by John Cougar and Journey to describe who I am. 

I had big dreams of catching that midnight train and going wherever it would take me, but only ended up settling an hour away from home in the “big city”. Of course if I could go back and do it all over again, I would. The world was a big ol’ place full of adventure. At the time I had no responsibility and yet no courage to venture out. Now that I have the courage to do so, time has also brought about too many responsibilities to just pick up and go. Someday I will!

I miss my hometown, but I’m lucky because it’s only a short drive anytime I get the urge to go for a visit. I find it hard to go back to visit since my mom passed away, but I do go back to visit my dad, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. 

This is one of my favorite photos from the small town I come from. It just reminds me of home:

There are many pros and cons for the small town life just as there are for life in the city. 

There’s never a lot to do. Not many places to shop or eat, but it has grown since I lived there. One of the greatest past times as a teen was to “cruise” Main Street in your car and then everyone ended up parking in the church parking lot and hanging out. A short honk as you passed a friend was a way to say “hi”. If you “layed” on the horn as you passed someone, it meant you wanted that person to pull over so you could chat awhile. Sometimes you’d park your car and get in with someone else and keep on cruisin’. A good part of my paycheck as a teen went towards gas money to accommodate all this cruisin’!

It was the kind of town that you waved at everyone you passed while driving because you knew everyone. BUT if it was one of your friends, you crazy waved  as you passed…I mean it was one of your best friends after all!

It was also the kind of town where everyone knew who everyone else was. There wasn’t a lot of privacy and you couldn’t get by with much…gossip or the truth, everyone knew what was going on with you. Sometimes they knew what I’d done before I did! I always knew to tell the truth when I got home if I was asked where I’d been or what I’d done because chances were my parents already knew.

The plus side to this was that if you had a crisis or a death in the family, everyone knew and the whole town was there for you at the drop of a hat. When you had a death in the family, people would come by from all over town and bring a casserole…dessert…tables and counters would be covered with dishes. They’d visit with you and pray with you and you knew you were not alone.

Where I live now people don’t do that. The city is too big. It’s not a close knit community. However, at least in my neighborhood, if something happens I make it a point to visit and do what I can to assist my neighbors.

Here in the city, no one pulls over for funeral processions except those of us who came from small towns. Back home everyone pulled over off the side of the road to show their respect. Men would even get out of their cars, take off their hats, and place them over their hearts. That’s respect! Not only for the person who passed away, but for their families as well.

I for one think the pros of living in a small town outweigh the cons. People always watched out for you and your kids. If you needed help with something, you didn’t even have to ask and no one expected anything in return.  It was a simple way of life and simple was good. 

We all have big dreams no matter where we live or where we come from. We’re always waiting on that midnight train to take us somewhere…”anywhere but here”. And once we get where we’re going and life happens, we usually long for those simpler times of our youth.

I can’t say I’d want to move back and live there, but I can say it’s always nice to “catch that train” and go back home once in awhile. 

No matter where I live, I’ll always be a small town girl at heart. Nothing will ever change that.