Happy Thanksgiving

olly and hue are wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.  Cheers to eating  too much, taking a nap and remembering at least one thing you are thankful for this holiday season!

Kids Giving Back Month 2 – Christmas Boxes

In lieu of the crazy election year we had, we decided to make Election Day our “Be Kind Day.”  It seemed like a good way to counteract all of the negativity in the media and it worked great.  We started the day by donating the $6.36 that my daughter collected for the local animal shelter.  We dropped off the money and said hello to the many animals waiting for a good home.  It was hard not to take each one with us, but our work and travel schedule just doesn’t lend itself well to having a pet.

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After lunch, we started decorating our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  I found this organization when I was researching what ways we could volunteer our time and give back to the community (there will be a post later of different kids volunteer ideas).  I have to credit the website, simplyshoeboxes.com, for the idea and inspiration of the shoeboxes.  Operation Christmas Child donates shoeboxes filled with toys, schools supplies and toiletries to children all around the world who would otherwise not receive anything for Christmas.  The kids loved the idea and were excited to work on this project.

 

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We made a special trip to Target so the kids could pick out the items they wanted to include in the shoeboxes.  My son packed a box for a boy age 5 – 9 and my daughter selected a girl with the age range of 8 -11.  Here is what they selected for their boxes:

Girl Box

  • Giraffe Stuffed Animal
  • Littlest Pet Shop
  • School supplies (notebook, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and crayons)
  • Pair of socks
  • Headband

Boy Box

  • Dinosaur
  • Goofy Stuffed Animal
  • Hot Wheel car
  • Hat
  • School supplies (notebook, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and crayons)

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The kids had a blast.  It was a great time and a great cause.  We also opted to donate $7.00 per box and we will get notified where our boxes end up.  The kids are excited to see where it goes.  You can either mail your box directly to Samaritan Purse or you can hold onto your boxes for drop off week (mid November).

What you need to know:

  • Details about Operation Christmas Child can be found directly on the Samaritan Purse website
  • Check out this site for more information on things that can go into your box and how you can make this a project for the entire year.
  • Boxes can be mailed directly or dropped off at locations across the country during their drop off week (exact dates may change each year).
  • You can follow your box through an online donation that is tax deductible.

 

Top 3 Wineries and Restaurants in Niagara-on-the-Lake

In celebration of my 5th decade, we went on an adult only vacation to Niagara-On-The-Lake (NOTL) in Ontario, Canada.  Six friends drinking wine, laughing and having adult conversations (well, not necessarily by the end of the night); it was a great weekend getaway.

This is our second time to NOTL, but it’s been about 8 years and the wine was just as great as I remembered it.  The town is quaint with plenty of great restaurants and shops to keep you busy.  Below are just a few of our favorite wineries and restaurants:

 

  1. Pellar Estates
    This is the most popular winery in the area, but it is good. There is a beautiful tasting room overlooking the vineyard and a wonderful restaurant on-site.  The restaurant has won numerous awards and reservations are highly recommended.
    What we Bought: 2014 Vintage Gamay Noir

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  1. Konzelmann Estates Winery

The view at this winery can’t be beaten.  As you stare out over the vineyards you can see Lake Ontario in the distance.  There is a lovely tasting room with knowledgeable and helpful staff teaching you about their wine and what pairs best with each bottle.
What we bought: Peach Dessert Wine

  1. Between The Lines Winery

This is a relatively new winery for the area and was started by two German brothers who came to Canada in search of land.  The Red Barn Tasting room is not as fancy as the others listed above, but the conversation directly with the winemaker’s wife made the visit well worth it.
What we bought: Meritage Reserve and Izumi Wine (Yes, that is named after famed Canadian Outdoorsman, Bob Izumi)

Restaurants

Olde Angel Inn Pub & Restaurant

Good food and less formal than many restaurants.  The only place we could find that had live music on the weekends.

Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine
Great dinner and recommended by many locals in the area.  We sat outside and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and great wine.  This is on the pricier side, but worth it.

 

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Bar inside Queens Landing Hotel, courtesy of their website

Bar inside Queens Landing Hotel
This was our favorite place for evening cocktails.  Large, sink-right-in chairs, hospitable bartenders, and great drinks.  This is also the hotel we wanted to stay at, but unfortunately, it was not available.  We stayed at the Moffett Inn instead.  It was nice but preferred the Queens Landing.

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Silversmith Brewing Company

Need a break from wine?  Check out this old church converted into a brewery.  Good food and good beer.

 

The region is known for ice wine, a sweet dessert wine.  My husband and I tend more on the side of a dry, red wine, which thankfully, the region has plenty of.  We are not wine connoisseurs, but enjoy a glass (or two) with friends.  This trip delivered!

What you need to know:

  • Niagara-on-the-Lake is approximately 30 minutes from Niagara Falls (which is a must see)
  • Most wines cannot be bought outside of Canada and smaller wineries only sell at the winery.
  • Most wineries offer public and private tours for a fee. These require reservations and more information can be found on each winery’s website.  We just bounced from winery to winery and enjoyed a tasting at each one without an appointment.

Visit Niagara-on-the-Lake tourism website for all things Niagara

4 Days of Vegetarian Meals

mealsweek2It’s a record high of 70 degrees in late November in Michigan as I write this, but reality sets in tomorrow with our temperature diving to a high of 45 degrees and it only gets colder.  So, I am planning my week with soups and comfort food.  Especially knowing that next week is Thanksgiving and I’ll be eating my weeks worth in one day!

Curried Butternut Squash from Minimalist Baker

Lotsa Vegetable Chowder from Forks Over Knives

Sweet Potato Coconut Milk Ravioli by Reclaiming Provincial

I have never made this, but I am thinking I might substitute egg roll wrappers for the dough…depends on how much time I have.

Sheet Pan Winter Vegetable Budha Bowl by Yummy Mummy Kitchen

Sunday Prep:

  • Almond Coconut Granola Bars
  • Peanut Butter Energy Balls – There are tons of recipes for different energy balls/bites, but this is our family’s favorite so it’s what we make each week.
  • Wash any greens that I purchased
  • Prepare Butternut Squash for recipes above

 

There are 7 days in a week, what gives?  True, but life gets in the way.  We have PB&J for dinner, leftovers or say screw it and go out.

Vegetarian Meal Planner Week 1

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To stay on track, every week I search and select recipes from some of my favorite food blogs (links and credits below) and plan my dinners for at least 4 days of the week.

Since I’m already doing the leg work, I thought I would share and hopefully you will find these recipes delicious and helpful too.

Slow Cooker Chickpea Barley Risotto from Foxes Love Lemons
http://foxeslovelemons.com/slow-cooker-barley-and-chickpea-risotto/

Crockpot Quinoa Lentil Tacos from Beginwithinnutrition
http://www.beginwithinnutrition.com/2014/09/15/crockpot-quinoa-lentil-tacos-vegan-gluten-free/

Mediterranean Roasted Sweet Potato & Farro Salad from Cookie and Kate
http://cookieandkate.com/2016/mediterranean-sweet-potato-farro-salad-recipe/

Lentil Mushroom Cabbage Rolls from Oh My Veggies
http://ohmyveggies.com/slow-cooker-mushrooom-lentil-stuffed-cabbage-rolls/

*Note:  this one takes a bit of prep, so I usually make on the weekend when I have more time.  It makes a lot though, so you will definitely get some lunches out of it.

My Sunday Prep:

  • Muffins for the week
  • Peanut Butter Energy Balls
  • Wash any greens that I purchased
  • Cook Farro for salad above

There are 7 days in a week, what gives?  True, but life gets in the way.  We have PB&J for dinner, leftovers or say screw it and go out.

 

 

12 Months of Kids Giving Back – Month 1

In an effort to make my little human beings nice, big human beings, I have decided to institute a monthly giveback program in our house.  We are not church goers or belong to any organized group, but I am firm believer in giving to the community and charities.  It is very easy to get caught up in our own lives and on the latest gadget or gift we need that we forget how great we got it.  So, I’m consciously trying to fix this.

So, for our first month, October, the kids are donating some of their Halloween candy to our troops.  This idea was presented prior to Halloween and of course the kids met this idea with mixed emotions.  They want to help our troops, but they don’t want to give away “the good stuff” as they say.  So our first month is already met with a few challenges.  But, hey, what’s life without challenges?

Fast forward to Halloween night….my little goblins gained plastic pumpkins full of treats. Once we made it back home they went on to do the all important ritual — sorting of the candy.

 

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After the candy was correctly categorized in piles:  chocolate, chips, money and “sucky things, ”  I asked the question, what are you going to give to the troops?

 

With surprisingly little hesitation, my daughter began creating a pile of chocolate and hard candy.  Wow, I am feeling pretty proud right now.  That was a lot easier than I thought.  My five year old was a little less quick to offer it up, but he too, added to the pile.

When it was all said and done, we ended up with this mound on the carpet.

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Candy donation pile

That night, as I put my 8 year old daughter to bed, she was excited at the thought of the troops receiving her candy.  She even asked if they would write to tell us what they liked most.  I tried to explain they are a little busy right now and we probably won’t be hear back, but know that they are lovin’ their treats!

Over the course of the next few days, we (really me), added a few more pieces to the pile and dropped it off at a local drop off.  All in all, I would say this was   OPERATION:  SUCCESSFUL MONTH 1

If you are interested in donating items to the troops, you can find out more information at the Operation Gratitude Blog.  Donating candy not your thing?  No problem, there are lots of ways to give back.