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!

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

Memories…

Do you remember the first time you stood on the beach and saw nothing but the ocean extending to the horizon and the waves crashing before you?

Do you remember the first time you saw the mountains rise from a distance and how they seemed to go on forever?

Do you remember your first day of school and not wanting to let go of your mother’s hand? Your last day of school and the excitement of going out into the world for the first time on your own?

Do you remember your first crush? Your first kiss? The first time you fell in love? The first time your heart was broken? The first time you broke someone else’s heart? 

Do you remember the first time you found out you were expecting a child? The first time you heard the baby’s heartbeat? The first ultrasound? The first kick? Seeing your baby for the first time and holding it? Hearing your child’s first cry? The first time they crawled and walked? Hearing their first word?

Do you remember your parents being your heros? Remember a time when they knew everything and then for a season they knew nothing at all? Do you remember the first time you realized how much they really loved you..unconditionally? How much they had done for you and sacrificed for you? Do you remember the first time you realized they wouldn’t be with you forever? Watching them get sick and weak? Watching them take their last breath?

There’s so much emphasis on memories, both good and bad that make us who we are. I love to remember and stay awhile inside my yesterdays. Of course it’s not good to stay there too long or we miss out on the present.

Everything and everyone in your life was once a “first time”.

Today I challenge you to appreciate and see everything and everyone you encounter as is it were the first time.

Really look at that sunrise or sunset. Listen to your children as if it were the first time you heard them speak. See the world around you as if it were the first time. Your home. Your neighborhood. The trees. The birds singing. Your pets. Your parents. Your friends. 

Oh, and don’t forget yourself! Really look at yourself and see who you are, inside and out. Forget the mistakes and heartache. The disappointments. Even the bad experiences and choices have made you who you are. Let it all go and see yourself… not only for who you are now, but for who you can become.

K❤

Christmas Memories…

There is nothing more magical than decorated trees, lights, Christmas music, presents, and family and friends to brighten up your life.

Christmas tree ornaments have meaning beyond decoration. Each one tells a story of a time, person, or place and marks years and decades of special memories. The ornaments I bought to mark something special for that particular year. The ornaments given to me as gifts. The ornaments that my daughter made thru the years. 

Every ornament hanging on the tree brings back a special memory, but the ones my daughter made throughout the years are my favorite. Those pieces of art are what make a Christmas tree perfect! 

… and since every ornament tells a story, it takes me forever to decorate my tree because I pause to remember each memory as I hang them. 

My daughter’s Elf On A Shelf Elmer “retired” a few years ago. He no longer moves from place to place in our home, but sits in the tree beside the elf ornament I had as a child. 

A few things before I sign off. Wear stretchy pants on Christmas Day. Do not forget the stretchy pants. (You know it’s good advice). Just wear the same ones you wore on Thanksgiving. If you’re traveling this Christmas season…be safe. If the pies burn or the tree tips over don’t let it get you down. Laugh at every given opportunity.

Remember the reason for the season…Jesus Christ our Savior. The true meaning of Christmas is truly what matters and the greatest gift to all mankind.

May the message of Christmas fill your lives with joy and peace and may God’s blessings shine down upon you and your families this Christmas season. Each of you are awesome in your own unique way. I’m glad to know you and have you along.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours! 

For Cindy…

I learned yesterday that a childhood friend passed away after several years of fighting breast cancer. I didn’t realize the extent of her illness because distance separated us and we didn’t check in with one another as often as we should have. If I’d only known then what I know now….

I didn’t cry until I sat down to write this and all the precious memories I have of my friend came flooding over me. 

After high school we grew apart as most of those friendships tend to do, however we did stay in touch with one another. She was a kind woman, a good wife, and amazing mother. She leaves behind a daughter the same age as my own. I know her well enough to know that she fought hard these past few years to enjoy every moment she could with her little girl. I’m sure her wish was to see her graduate and go out into the world on her own, but it wasn’t God’s plan….and that makes me sad because we can never understand “the why” and just have to accept it.

It’s times like these we wish we would have called to talk or made plans to get together. All the reasons or excuses we used to put it off come crashing down around us. We feel guilty and selfish. We thought we had time. We didn’t. Make time. That old saying “it’s never too late” isn’t true. 

I have no doubt she was a fighter and that she fought until the very end. When you see someone battle cancer remember, They. Are. A. Warrior. They find strength they didn’t even know they had and are an inspiration to all who know them. 

If there’s someone who’s been on your mind or an old friend you’ve wanted to reach out to…do it! Make the call. Make plans. Follow through. You don’t always have the time you think you do. 

**You can slow down now Mario…you made it home.

Life In The Single Lane (2)…

I’m single. Don’t pity me. I’m not lonely. I choose to be single for now. It’s what I want.

Chances are if you chose to read this, you are single too. I’m enjoying my life very much right now and I’m not looking for a relationship. That confuses some people and I can see the pity in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they ask if I’m seeing anyone and I say no. 

I’ve never understood why some people think that happiness equals being in a relationship. I was married for sixteen years and wasn’t happy. In all fairness we had a few good years, but overall they were few and far between. I may feel lonely at times now, but I felt lonelier when I was married. 

I know people who jump from one relationship to another because they don’t want to be alone. I don’t get it. I’m not judging them for it and I even understand to a certain point, but I’m not wired that way. I’m introverted and for me, being alone at times isn’t a negative thing….I need it.

Being single can get lonely sometimes. I don’t go out on dates often, but I will go if I find the guy interesting. I won’t go just for the sake of having a date. Dating isn’t a priority. I’d much rather spend time with my daughter and my friends anyway. We always have fun!

Being single doesn’t scare me. It’s my chance to explore, take on new adventures, try new things, and make new memories. A chance to find what it is that I like. I’m no expert, but here a few ideas I thought I’d share….

Catch a plane to anywhere or get in the car and just go!

If you don’t have a friend to go with you, don’t let it stop you. It’s exciting to travel alone. You learn so much about the world and yourself. 

Treat yourself to a gift once in a while.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Get the new dress or shoes you’ve been wanting and pack them when you go on those trips we were talking about. Find something you like and get it.

Take yourself out.

Go to a movie. Go to dinner. Go to a concert. Go for a walk on the beach. Go to a farmer’s market. Do whatever it is you like to do. I’m not intimidated to go out alone anymore. Give it a try. 

Talk to yourself.

Not in public, but when you’re alone. It’s not weird. You know you do it anyway and it’s perfectly ok to do so. Who knows better than you what you need to hear…so go ahead and give yourself a pep talk.

Flirt.

Go out there and be as flirty as you want. Bat your eyes. Bite your lip. Flip your hair. Strut. I’m not good at flirting. A friend tried to teach me once and gave up! I did master the hair flip though. Flirting may be one of those things you either have or ya don’t, but it never hurts to try. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone might just think your awkwardness is adorable!

Read a good book.

Escape reality for awhile. 

Start a journal.

…or a blog! 

Experiment.

Try new things. Explore new hobbies. Go to a painting workshop. Take a cooking class. Volunteer or do some charity work. The opportunities are endless.

Keep your head up and smile.

Being single isn’t something to be ashamed of or pitied for. It’s the perfect time to figure out who you are and what you want out of life. We are responsible for our own happiness and I’m working very hard to accomplish that. I don’t want to be alone forever, but right now it’s exactly what I need. 

To be continued…