Thursday, September 21, 2017

Awesome Life Friday #130

Welcome to Awesome Life Friday!

We're so looking forward to seeing what you've been cooking, creating, growing, decorating, reviewing, giving away, and thinking about this week!

While you're here, leave your posts at the other link up we co-host here - Party in Your PJs!  It starts on Tuesday evenings, and runs through Sunday.  I hope you'll join us there as well!

Here's what we've been up to this past week:

So, now our favorite part - the FEATURES !  If you're one of our featured posts, we'd love it if you'd grab a button, and thanks to all of you who shared with us last week!

Three Tier Stand For Fall Decor // The Country Chic Cottage
"I am adding a few touches of autumn to a few rooms and couldn’t wait to add a centerpiece to my table.  I ordered this three tier stand and it was the perfect rustic farmhouse style accent."

10 Ways to Save Money Without Really Trying // Pretty Extraordinary
"Does the phrase “saving money” make you cringe? I promise that doesn’t need to be the case. There are tons of ways you can save some money without a lot of effort."

How I Recovered the Seat on My Lane Cedar Chest // Petticoat Junktion
"Today I’m sharing how to recover a Lane cedar chest…and the cedar chest is mine. It was a birthday gift from the hubby and kids a long time ago." 

12 Recipe Ideas for Oktoberfest (Sauerbraten) // The Bearded Hiker
"I made sauerbraten – sour roast.... Basically, it’s a German pot roast.  But it sits for four days in a lovely marinade of wine, vinegar, and earthy things like juniper berries and clove.  The end result is amazing!" 

Dos and Don'ts of Donating After Disasters // Of the Hearth
"Aftermaths like this are faced each year in various locations around the world after earthquakes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and other disasters. Many of us want to give to the relief and rebuilding efforts after these disasters. What things should we keep in mind when doing this?"

Gluten-Free Maple Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal // Strength & Sunshine
"Bake up this quick & cozy Gluten-Free Maple Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal recipe for a delicious autumn breakfast! Vegan, top-8 allergy-free, & baked right in a cast iron skillet with a crisp maple sugar top!"

If you are one of our FEATURED bloggers, this button is for you!

Thank you all so much for sharing your awesomeness!

Are you all ready to party?  If you like, we'd love it you'd help spread the word by grabbing our button:

Here we go!

Southern Chili Spaghetti #foodbloggers4fl


As I am sure everyone is aware, the Caribbean islands and our Southern states have been rattled by not just 1 but 2 very powerful hurricanes (and now a third)! This is looking to be a very active hurricane season and it's not even close to over.

Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma made their way through the South with no holding back.

There was so much devastating destruction caused by these two storms that we all need to be thinking of our neighbors to the South until they can get back to rebuilding and back to normal again.

95% of the Miami area sustained building damage with the winds and flooding. It is so scary to think of what those people had to go through and are still dealing with.

So little time to get the things that matter most to you and get out of there before they were trapped. I know a few people who live in Florida and made it through unharmed but what a scary thing to have to endure.

Irma made its way to affecting 5 states. One of the states affected was Georgia, where I have an extensive group of family located. They were without power for days with no end in sight.

The rain and storms pounded them for days and schools were closed.

I lived in Georgia for 2 years and while we had a few scares when it came to tornadoes, the storms out there are no joke. I was raised in California where you are lucky to get a little rain throughout the year. Meanwhile, the southern states spend a majority of their time wet and under a cover of clouds.

As intense as it was for them, the islands to the south of the continental US and Florida itself are experiencing real devastation - so just as we did last week for Hurricane Harvey and Texas, today we are collaborating with several bloggers to highlight a few ways to help out.  The following are a list of places to donate:

We also want to share a really good article on what sort of help to offer and when:  So You Want to Go Help After a Major Disaster.  It goes a long way to making the really overwhelming question of how to help a bit more manageable.

One thing I learned from living in Georgia was that they have an amazing knack for comfort food and family. This is something that our southern neighbors need right now - comfort and family.

When you think Southern cooking, what do you think of? Fried Chicken, collard greens, Mac and Cheese? Yum, I am making myself hungry now!!

Like all the regions in the South, they have so many  unique foods out there in Georgia. Everywhere I went, they had offerings of corn bread, biscuits, banana cream pie pudding, and so much more.

One thing stuck out to me more than anything because it was so unexpected: Chili Spaghetti! Excuse me, what?! Chili Spaghetti, what the heck is that?

Well it is exactly just that... Chili poured on top of spaghetti noodles. It was everywhere that they sold burgers. One place that I tried it was Steak and Shake. It was delicious.

I understand that this is also what "Cincinnati Chili" is - but from what I can tell, that is layered rather than combined and their chili is sweeter.

But chili spaghetti? That's a Georgia specialty! After we moved, I had to learn to make it for myself with my own twists.

So, I have a prize winning Chili recipe. I earned a prize for this at an American Legion Chili Cookoff!

But first, the eternal fight with chili is - Beans or No Beans? Well, Georgia uses Beans! We use beans and love it! So with this recipe, I suggest you follow true to it and embrace the beans or it just will not taste as good as it should!

Georgia Chili Spaghetti
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 hours

1 pound ground sirloin, uncooked
1 can dark red Kidney Beans, not drained
1 can diced tomatoes (Italian style), not drained
1/2 a can of Tomato Paste
1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce (yes, 1/4 cup - don't skip this!)
1 tablespoon of ketchup
A dash of Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp of Red Chili Flakes
1 box Spaghetti Noodles, cooked to your liking

Add everything to  a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. The longer you let it cook, the thicker it will get.

You want it to be semi-thin when you pour it on top of the noodles so if it gets too thick, add a bit of water when you start cooking your noodles, and stir.

Once it is all cooked up and  smelling amazing, you want to cook up your noodles. Once those are done and strained, put them on your plate and pour the chili right on top as you would a marinara sauce!

I dice up some green onions and put on top. You can also sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on there if you like. Mix it all in and take a bite!


A couple of comments - you may use any sort of hamburger, but it won't have the same taste as the sirloin does.

I add this into my crock pot frozen.

You can cook first if it feels better to you. But, I find that when I add it in uncooked, it breaks up to the really small consistency that you get with a good chili.

If you do it like I do, make sure that half way through your cook time you break up the hamburger, as it should be cooked by then. It may stay a patty at the bottom if you don't.

Also, I add in my beans and tomatoes without draining. The juice from the kidney beans acts as a thickening agent!

This is my comfort food and I cannot wait to dig in every time I make it!!

I hope you'll take some time to check out what other bloggers are doing  for this collaboration:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Honey Harvest Popcorn Clusters


This month's Fantastical Foodfight celebrates National Honey Month!  With so many wonderful foods coming to harvest at this time of year, doesn't it make good sense to feast a bit on the delightful honey produced by the lovely little pollinators that make everything else possible?

Of course it does!  So this month, I made an indulgent little snack full of autumn flavors that showcases the delicious taste of honey - choose local if you can and support our beekeepers.

As you'll see in the recipe, this includes a little maple syrup along with the honey - this was a matter of necessity being the mother of invention, because I didn't have quite enough honey left for the recipe. I'm leaving it in the instructions, though, because the maple syrup added a nice rich bit of depth to these clusters that really played well with the ingredients.

The trail mix I used was a store brand blend that consisted of cranberries and dried cherries along with pumpkin seeds, pecans, cashews and pistachios.  You can select your own favorite trail mix blend, but do avoid those that have chocolate bits or other meltable additions - they'll just melt all over the place when you bake it and burn.

Honey Harvest Popcorn Clusters
Makes about 10 cups (accounting for the bits you'll nibble while you make this)

10 cups popped popcorn
12 oz. trail mix
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine popcorn and trail mix in a large bowl (you'll want enough room to toss honey coating in with the popcorn).  Set aside.

Prepare a large sheetpan by covering with a layer of parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 325F.

In a saucepan, combine butter, honey, syrup and salt.  Cook on medium low until butter has melted, stirring constantly.  Then raise heat and boil for one minute, stirring.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour honey mixture over the popcorn blend, and toss to combine. All popcorn should be coated and there shouldn't be any unincorporated honey in the bowl.

Turn popcorn onto parchment papered sheet pan and spread out.

Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and toasty.  Every 10 minutes, stir and turn over so that it browns evenly and doesn't burn.

Remove from oven.  Prepare a 2nd pan with parchment paper and divide popcorn clusters between the two pans so that they can cool and dry out without sticking together too much.

Once completely cooled and set, store in an airtight dry  container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Riiiiight - this is no way going to last two weeks.

Take a peek at what other honey-based recipes bloggers are sharing! Sweet!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Party in Your PJs #175

Happy Tuesday!

Welcome to the Party in Your PJs Link Party, where your posts will be seen on four different blogs each week.

You'll also find the Awesome Life Friday link-up here at RCHReviews, every Thursday evening at 8pm ET so we hope to see you there as well.

Here we are, right on the cusp of Autumn already.  I've so enjoyed being able to throw open our windows for at least a portion of every day and the leaves are starting to turn in earnest now.

I'm not quite ready to put away summer clothes yet but I am ready to set up some Fall decor, and we are catching ourselves choosing soups instead of salads when we're throwing together a simple meal.

I have a growing list of things I need to do - both around our home and here with the blog - over the next month.  Some seasonal cleaning, and trying to get in front of tasks due before the year's end.

In October we are headed to Germany for two weeks to visit family and to see as much of the local area as we can.

This is my husband's first time in Europe and I'm so excited to see it for the first time again through his eyes, and to share some of my old favorite places.

And then, almost the minute we return in early November, I begin a series of medical appointments in preparation for a surgical reconstruction of my left hand (both of my hands are severely deformed from rheumatoid arthritis degeneration).

This is going to leave me unable to do much for a good while, so I am trying to figure out what I can do in advance and what I need to let go of.

I'm excited for  the surgery and terrified of the recovery. hah!

I'll be writing more about all that later - my wonderful co-writers here at RCH will help take on some of my editorial and web maintenance stuff, and otherwise we'll go with the flow and it will all be good.

Sorting out how to brush my hair and feed myself with my non-dominant hand? Those are the scary parts! ~ Lynda

Are you ready to party? I can't wait to see what you've brought to share!

 Meet the Co-Hosts

Nina @ Grandma Ideas 

Lynda @ Reviews, Chews & How-Tos 

Facebook // Pinterest // Twitter // Instagram

Donna @ Aging Like a Fine Wine

Facebook // Pinterest // Twitter // Instagram

The rules for the group board include:
1. Limit of one pin a day.
2. Just like the party anything goes, but clear wonderful pictures with great descriptions are most successful.
3. Please no Spam ( Spammers will be deleted without warning)
4.  If you pin to the Pinterest Board, please link to the Party in Your PJs Party also, the party runs from 7 pm Tuesdays-Midnight Saturday (Central Time)
5.  Finally have fun and share this group board  with blog friends and followers!  The more success the group board is the more success you will see from your pins.

Lynda's Features!

 Make sure you head over to the other member of Party in Your PJs
 to see their features - we each pick our own!

All links are pinned to a Party can follow the board on Pinterest...feel free to follow the board, there is lots of inspiratioPn to be found there.

Ok...let's party!

Rules -Link to post, not your home page
-Link to something YOU made, wrote or thought
-No Etsy or Business Pages
-Link Parties, Roundups and Giveaways welcome
- Don't Link and Run! Please visit other links, make friends, learn something new, leave a comment.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Santorini, Greece - Oia and a Wine Tasting


The other day, I shared with you the first couple of days of my weeklong trip to Santorini, Greece with my friend, Stes.

Day four, we finally got to enjoy transportation freedom!

We took a breathtaking coastal drive to Oia. Oia is totally the 'Hollywood' picture postcard Greece everyone expects (at least in terms of Santorini). We blasted our music with our windows down while our tiny smart car took every cliff side twist and turn with ease.

Unfortunately, once we got within a mile or so, it was a complete cluster of traffic. The roads are so narrow and there was someone poorly conducting traffic, as large buses tried to make it down.

Over the course of 30 minutes we pulled forward and backed up so many times I think we ended further than our original stop.

Finally we asked someone and they said it would easily be a few hours before we were getting through.

Many people were turning around, most of which were having a lot of trouble and causing more traffic.

Go Go Gadget Smart Car! We whipped around and found a pull off, gathered our day packs, and walked the mile or so into Oia.

Shortly into town, we stopped for drinks and a snack at a cafe with an amazing view.

I imagine I'll say that as I talk about anywhere here... there just ISNT a bad view!

I tried a uniquely Grecian cocktail – Santorinian Sparkling White Sangria, which was Assyrtiko Wine, Vodka, Orange Couracao, Lime, Cucumber, Flower Water, and Sage Leaves.

It was so refreshing!

In Oia, we saw beautiful temples, super unique shops, breathtaking views, couples taking to die for wedding photos, and an over abundance of places to stop and eat and drink.

I'm becoming predictable as my favorite spot, just like in Paris, was a famous bookstore - Atlantis Books.

You almost wouldn't notice it if you weren't paying attention as It's small, and tucked below ground. Steep concrete steps lead you into this magical land of literature with books in at least 5 different languages.

Once inside, small alcoves wind in and out of different sections, all with humorous commentary written on the shelves or post it notes by the staff.

One of my favorite parts was the wall of first additions!

Later that night we dolled up and headed to Santo Wines for a tour of their winery and a 4 flight tasting.

The grounds were just beautiful and we learned a lot about their very unique practices. For example, due to the high winds, the grape vines are manipulated by wrapping them around themselves forming a basket or nest like structure, helping it withstand the elements.

We got to see their full facility and where everything was made, all the machinery and even the cellar where the barrels are kept for many years.

After the tour, we were taken to their gorgeous dining area and were brought our wines to taste.

I appreciated the nice heavy pours. They had the option of tasting up to 18 glasses! We opted for a more conservative flight of 4.

I know there were two whites - Assyrtiko and Nykteri, I believe. There was also a red called Kameni, that was a bit too grown up for me.

The last one was also technically a white, however it was brown! It was called Vinsanto (not to be confused with Tuscan Vin Santo), and it is a prized ancient tradition on the island.

It gets its color from sun drying the grapes after harvest. There is very strict rules on the type and ratio of grapes, as well as a minimum of 2 years in an aging barrel to be allowed to use the name Vinsanto on the bottle.

It is a dessert wine and was way too sweet for my taste, but I really loved the story behind it. In the end I bought 3 bottles of wine from their shop to bring home to my husband.

With nothing planned or scheduled for our fifth day on Santorini, we headed back to the Perissa Beach area!

We went straight to the Magic Bus to see our lovely new friend Christos and hoped he could hook us up with one of his awesome cabanas. Once again, he recognized us right away.

We were in luck- he still had a handful of cabanas left. One was a front row view of the ocean and currently had a perfect ratio of sun and shade.

We ordered a few beachy drinks and sliced fruit and basked in the glory of our vacation.

We napped, we ordered lunch, we dozed some more, and after 5 hours of pure relaxation and phenomenal shore-side service from The Magic Bus, we decided to move on.

As soon as we started packing up I realized something was not right. Ow! What is this? What's happening? AM I DYING?!

And that was the day I experienced my first sunburn.

And it was a bad one! Mostly just upper thigh but very swollen and felt like 100 bee stings.

I had been very lax with my sun protection and was looking forward to a glorious tan.

Bad decisions were made and I have very much learned my lesson. Ow.

Nonetheless, we persisted. From Perissa we went to Kamari beach. It wasn't nearly as nice and instead of beautiful sand, it was small pebbles. We didn't stay too long. We wanted to check out a restaurant called Mama Mia's but it was closed. We settled for some really tasty pasta across the street before heading back to the hotel, exhausted and full.

In a few days, I'll tell you what we did and saw on our last couple days in glorious Santorini - stay tuned for a tour of some ancient ruins!