Nov 28, 2018

A Southerner's Guide to Holiday Etiquette































The holidays can be a joyous but stressful time. Endless dinner parties and functions. Gifts and thank you notes. Growin' up in The South I like to think I've perfected bein' a perfect hostess or attendee. So, I got together with a few of my favorite Southern Ladies and made this guide: A Southerner's Guide to Holiday Etiquette.

Let's start from the beginnin', shall we?

RSVP:

In the world of online datin' and social media sites like Facebook, it can often be hard to remember things. Waitn' untill the day to RSVP for somethin' is still not ok.  Think of it this way: If dinner will be served the hostess needs to know how much food to prepare or cater and no one wants to be makin' changes at the last minute. You may read this rule and laugh thinkin' it's a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised. I can't tell you how many ladies in my Junior League Brunch group forget to update their RSVP on a monthly basis.

It isn't rare to be invited to more than one function around the holidays. Here in The South, it's common. Just let your hostess know ahead of time if you'll need to duck out early enough where it'll go noticed. But, just remember duckin' out from a dinner party isn't the same as leavin' a gift exchange early. And just as leavin' a dinner party is never ok unless lettin' the hostess know, arrivin' late is never ok. Be mindful and respectful of others time.

PLUS 1

The perfect guest never brings an uninvited guest. If your hostess didn't include them on the invite, there is bound to be a reason. And don't be offended when Aunt Sally doesn't invite the new beau when you can't even keep them straight.

Dietary Restrictions:

Never wait until the last minute to let your hostess know of any dietary accommodations that may be needed. This doesn't mean you don't like turkey.

Distractions at the Dinner table:

A few years ago we had a dinner party at my best friends parents house to celebrate her then engagement to her now husband. I'll never forget one of the boys lookin' shocked when we asked everyone to not only dress like they came from somewhere but to leave their phones away from the dinner table. I later found out his family wasn't very traditional.

Traditional or not there are specific rules of etiquette one must follow at the table no matter how silly they may seem and electronics at the table is a big one. To this day if we are on our phones at the table not engaging with family Grandma Johnnie will reach over and take your phone from your hand. "It just plain rude," she always says. And you should wait to be excused from the table. I'll never forget bein' a kid, and we went to someones house for dinner. Not only did I get up from the table without permission but I took my shoes off and put my feet in the seat. I've never seen my dad madder or embarrassed as he was at that moment. Never again did I do that.

Always offer to help clean and clear dishes even though a gracious hostess will deny the offer.

Side note: Get the Hen recipe HERE

Dinner Talk

It is never ok to bring up politics or religion. I know we all have that one Uncle, but that doesn't make it right. It is, however, acceptable to politely change the conservation when there is an awkward lull. For example, a few years back at a family reunion, we had a BBQ. Even I have that Uncle. I found myself cornered and didn't know what to do or say. My cousin immediately saw and came to my rescue. Some of the younger cousins had started a game of frisbee and, he wanted to know if I wanted to join. A polite way of endin' the political conservation no one wanted to engage in without bein' rude.

Overstayin' your Welcome:

It is never ok to be that person that doesn't know when to go home. My Mother made a joke after Thanksgiving dinner as I helped her wash dishes that she was thankful one of our family friends always knew when it was time to go and put her kids to bed. I marveled at how pleased she was for this.
Thank you notes and Hostess Gifts:

Never be the person that shows up empty handed or doesn't say thank you. While the world has moved digital thank you notes should still be analog, send a thank you note or card within a week of attendin' a dinner party or function.

And always remember to bring somethin' for the hostess. It is still polite to ask if you can do anythin' to help if the invite doesn't say to bring a dish. A great hostess will always refuse your offer, but you always ask anyway.

Personally, I like to bring a bottle of wine as a thank you gift when bein' invited over. I know some of these unwritten rules may sound silly, but you never know who doesn't know. A few years back I had a friend look at me appalled as we stopped at a local wine store before goin' to a Junior League Dinner Party. He didn't realize it was customary to bring such things.

Wine for the holidays is always the answer and If you need a good wine may I suggest Wente Wine? The 2017 Rivera Chardonnay is my favorite. Founded in the 1800's I love how Wente is not only celebratin' 135 years but prides itself on creatin' great memories with those we want to make time with most.  So, you better get to stockin' up cause the holidays are in full swing and I know you'll need a great hostess gift.

What did I miss? What's one etiquette tip you think everyone should follow?

Nov 21, 2018

Cranberry Cheesecake

Sponsored by The Cheesecake Factory At Home
Cheesecake has become my obsession as of late. As a little one, my dad would always fuss at me for stickin' spoon after spoon in the cream cheese and eatin' it for a snack leavin' none for our morning bagels. Many a Sunday after church we'd eat lunch at the famed Cheesecake Factory; classic cheesecake with extra strawberry toppin' was always my order of choice. Momma would scoff when I beggged to eat dessert before the main course.


In Hs, my best friends worked at a local cafe, and we'd always show right before closin' after the Friday Night Football game and use their discount order a strawberry cheesecake. I know the waitress probably had a chuckle or two when she would see us comin'.


In College, I won the campus Iron Chef with a good friend for our White Chocolate Cheesecake.






I once heard my Grandma say, " in the south food is our love language. It’s how we show our love." I find that statement to be right during the holidays. Days on end spent in the kitchen learnin' to bake from my grandma.  As the days move faster and age slowly creeps upon I have fond memories of many a time spent in the kitchen masterin' a new skill.


Cheesecake and The Cheesecake Factory have become a staple in my life, and it's only fittin' that I share a recipe with y'all that’s perfect for the holidays. Times are busy durin' the holiday season, and I'm always lookin' for a leg up. The Cheesecake Factory At Home premium Cheesecake Mixes are the perfect way to get that ideal cheesecake with a homemade flavor. You can check out all of the blends and have them shipped right to your door





Ingredients for my personalized recipe:
One box of The Cheesecake Factory At Home Classic premium Cheesecake Mix
One bag of fresh cranberries
1 cup of sugar
Four tablespoons of lemon juice
Two tablespoons of powdered sugar
¼ cup of Milk
3 Eggs
3 TBSP Butter
16 ounces of Cream Cheese


Directions:
1.  Make Cheesecake filling and cook according to The Cheesecake Factory At Home mix directions
2. For the Cranberry topping:
·         Heat the package of cranberries with the lemon juice and sugar
·         Bring to a boil and allow the cranberries to begin to burst.
·         Remove from heat and strain the Cranberry sauce.
·         Once the cheesecake has cooled top with your Cranberry sauce.
·        Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy.


What's your favorite way to enjoy cheesecake?

Oct 12, 2018

Ten Best Biking Trials in DFW

Schwinn sponsors this post.



I can still remember the first time I rode that Schwinn bike without trainin' wheels. I was 10 and it was the Fall of 5th grade. I decided I'd no longer be the only one in class who couldn't ride a bike. We lived in the city then and I marched my pink and purple bike from our second story apartment down to the empty parkin' lot next door and rode until I no longer fell.


We eventually moved to the suburbs, and that pink and purple bike was traded for a shiny Schwinn Mountain Bike. I still remember openin' the box at Christmas pretendin' Daddy didn't let me already have a sneak peak without Momma knowin'.


The days since those younger years have since passed but the memories still ever present and the love of the outdoors grows evermore. As we train to hike the 92 mile Lone Star Trial we've takin' to any functional fitness that gets us outdoors and tickin' off the miles.


Just because you live in the city doesn't mean you can find adventure in your backyard. Let me present: 10 best Biking Trails in DFW.

LB Houston Nature Trail:

The LB Houston Nature Trail is in California Crossing Park. The trail sits in Dallas just off of W Northwest Hwy and boasts a 7.6-mile loop just off the lake.

Sansom Park:
Sanson Park is in Fort Worth Texas; you know the FW in DFW that everyone forgets. Sansom Park not to be confused with the town of Sansom Park in Tarrant County. Sanon Park is a member of the Fort Worth Mountain Bikers Association. The trial is several connecting loops that overlook Lake Worth. The trail is separated by white and red trails with Red bein' more advanced.

Oak Cliff Nature Preserve:
Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, originally a scout camp is 121-acre wooded local in the city of Dallas that is preserved by the Texas Land Conservancy. The southern end of the Preserve borders File Mile Creek and at present-day Oak Cliff Nature Preserve has 8-miles of trail shaded by pecan trees.

Rowlett Nature Preserve:
Growin' up in Rowlett, Rowlett Creek Nature Preserve is in my backyard and the trail I ride my bike most to. 1.6- miles of the rarely trafficked trial along the creek.






Trinity River

When it comes to the Trinity River, there is not just one trail. The Trinity River spans 710 miles, and you'll often hear jokes like, "These are the best side of the Trinity River." Notable trails within the Trinity River are Bluebonnet Trail, Blue Ridge Park Trail and Big Bear Creek Greenbelt. You can see all of the trails at Trinity River.


White Rock Lake:
White rock lake is one of the premier parks in Dallas that connects to Flag Pole Hill just East of North Park Mall. As a kid, everyone has a story of summer camps spent at White Rock Lake. All 10 miles of trail connects to the lake, and it is not uncommon when the water is beautiful to see boats and paddle boarders on the lake enjoy the Texas warmth we have year round.


Cedar Ridge Nature Center:


CRNTC has 600 acres of premier park and one of the only places in Dallas that sits a little taller and reminds one of  The Texas Hill Country. Cedar Ridge Offers over 9-miles of trails.


Horseshoe Trail:


Horseshoe Trail is in Grapevine off of Grapevine Lake just minutes from the airport. At 4.5-miles the trail is one of the easier in DFW and well managed year round.


Ray Roberts Lake State Park:
Ray Roberts has over 24 miles of bike trails that sit off the lake. Trails are color coded by difficulty, and the State Park Maps offer topographic maps so that historical parts of the park can be visited.

Dinosaur Valley State Park:
DVSTP is in Glenn Rose Texas just past Fort Worth and has over 12-miles of trail. After you've biked around the park make sure to cool off in the swimming hole that connects to the Paluxy River. On a hot day, the swimming hole is one of my favorites. DVSTP gets its name from the Dinosaurs that roamed the park at one time. Sections of the park have hikin' trails where you can roam and shee the footprints of the dinosaurs that once lived in Texas.



Oct 9, 2018

How to Train For Your Next Camping or Backpacking Trip


This post is sponsored ad content by McDonald's but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Back and bright-eyed from the last campin' trip, I'm itchin' for another. The Texas mountain, the Pineywoods, the colorful canyons always callin' my name. I often get asked how I'm always prepared for my next trip; how I train.

Want to take your next hikin' trip but need some help? Read more for the four steps: cardio, strength training, snacks at McDonald’s during the Trick. Treat. Win! Game at McDonald’s And addin’ a pack that helps me prepare.

1)  Cardio.

Cardio doesn't have to be scary. Cardio means gettin' your heart rate up. We are buildin' endurance and your aerobic capacity so you can hike once a day. Slowly increase your workouts so that you can handle an hour-long session a few times a week. Cardio can be walkin' stairs, findin' a local trail or hill near you.

If you start 8-12 weeks before your next big trip that is ideal. The more you prepare, not only will you be better conditioned but you will enjoy your hike more. Remember, we all start somewhere. Progression takes time. No one starts off doin' long hikes overnight even when trainin'.

2) Strength Training

Havin' a strong and stable core is the key to doin' most physical activity in life. A stronger core allows you to have better stability and balance and that is key when hikin' difficult terrain.' You can do these exercises at home in just a few minutes before you start your day. Because of my back, I modify my core exercises, and I prefer things like planks and squats. Start by holidn' a plan for a few seconds a few times a day. As the days increase so should the amount of second that you can hold a plank. My sister always laughs at me because sometimes I'll be in front of the microwave doin' squats as the microwave runs. Five minutes of squats a day helps.



3) Snacks

This is where McDonalds comes into my trainin'. When I spent part of this past summer in TN helpin' to take care of my Grandmas, I didn't have time or access to much. Walkin' around the neighborhood when one of my Grandmas went for her daily walk was the extent of the "trainin'" I was able to get. I was also so busy helpin' to take care of them I didn't always have time to cook. Both of my Grandmas swear by the McMuffin and we ate them for breakfast on many a mornin'. Ever since I have become a massive fan of the new McCafé drinks as well as the Filet-O-Fish. I spend many a mornin' drinkin' the McCafe Strawberry Banana Smoothie and a McCafé Coffee. I hear the McCafe Mango Pineapple is delicious but Y'all know I'm allergic so I'll take my Grandmas word.

But, Y'all want to know the best part of addin' the smoothies to my routine: McDonald's has a new Trick. Treat. Win! game that will run from October 5th to October 31st! All you have to do is order select items that are part of the new Trick. Treat. Win! game and you will be able to peel off a game piece or two! You have a 1 in 4 chance of winning great prizes by playing the game.

I’m excited for the Trick. Treat. Win! game to begin at McDonald’s. Delicious items like the McCafé Coffee and Smoothies will be on the Trick. Treat. Win! game and I cannot wait to see if I am an instant winner. Who doesn’t want to win prizes because I know I sure do.

Legal: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Only open to 50 US/DC, 13+.  Subject to Rules at www.TrickTreatWin.com which include no purchase instructions.


4) Backpack

You've started walking around your neighborhood. You've added a few core exercises to your day, and you've added some tremendously yummy McDonald’s smoothies; now you are ready to add your pack. When trainin' you want to do your best to mimic your actual trip like wearin the shoes and socks you plan to hike in to lessen the risk of blisters when you are on the trail.

If you are not able to walk around your neighborhood or a local park wearin' the pack, you will be campin' in find a daypack or a backpack. Fill the backpack with weight and walk. Once you have done this for a bit, you are ready to add more extended weekend walks into the mix.

Follow these tips to prepare you for your next hike.
What's your favorite type of smoothie or coffee?

Oct 5, 2018

Jack-O-Lantern Calzone


This post has been sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc. All opinions are my own.

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I don't know if is the cooler weather, the state fair or that Texas finally gets or the fact that my birthday falls durin' this time, but it is just somethin' about this soothin' seasonin'. Down here in Texas Fall means tailgates and parties galore. Whether it be parties for your favorite sports team or parties for your next holiday, we love to do it all.

This Fall I'm consumed with trainin' to hike the Lone Star Trail in the Sam Houston National Park. If you missed me talkin' about the trail ( how could you) it is a 92 miles footpath that boasts bein' the longest in Texas. 

This good Jack-O-Lantern Calzone that I made are not only high protein as I train but fun and perfect for your next holiday party like Halloween.

The best part about this recipe is it is only five ingredients:  Hillshire Farm® Lit’l Smokies Smoked Sausage, cheese, pizza sauce, pizza dough, Italian Seasoning. You can find all your Tyson® needs at your local Walmart.
Wrap your Pizza dough in a greased cast iron or round bakin' dish. Fill the dough with pizza sauce, cheese, Italian seasoning and Hillshire Farm® Lit’l Smokies Smoked Sausage chopped into smaller bits. Bring the ends of the dough to meet each other and so that they form a round shape like a pumpkin. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and orange food coloring. Bake the calzone until the dough is firm. Once baked take the calzone out of the oven and make little eyes and a mouth with the extra dough. The perfect Halloween snack. I'll also be enjoyin' this bad boy with some State Fair® Corn Dogs as they are my favorite. Did you know that the Corn Dog was invented at the state fair of Texas? My family spent the entire time standin' over my shoulder tellin' me to hurry with the pictures cause they couldn't wait to dig in.



As they say: Everythin' is better in Texas. How are Y'all celebratin' this Halloween and what's your favorite Tyson snack?

Oct 1, 2018

10 tips for camping in the rain.

This post is sponsored by Totes Cirrus but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.




Texans love to say, "If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes (and it will change)." While Mark Twain originally uttered the words about New England, no more exact words have ever been said about Texas and its weather. I always joke with Non- Texans that in no other states can you see all of the wonders of the world. I live in North Texas: land of the Prairies and Lakes also known as the Blacklands. Head just a little east, and you'll find forest upon forest littered with piney woods. Head further south, and we have beaches till your heart's content. Head to the Texas Panhandle, and you'll be greeted by the most beautiful canyons you've ever seen. Head west and southwest you've entered the land of deserts, sand dunes, and mountains. Yes, Yes Texas has mountains. I could continue, but you get the point. So, if you don't like the weather, wait as it's bound to change.
In Texas, if we let the weather dictate what we did outside, we'd spend half the year shut up in the house hidin' form the unbearable heat and the random rain storms.
Let's be honest: I prefer the heat. Anythin' under 80 heck under 90 and I'm bundled to the high heavens wishin' for the sun to come. But life is about learnin' to dance in the rain or so say they. Well, I think I'll camp in the rain instead.
Camping 101: 10 Tips for Camping in the Rain.

---Rain Pants
Rain pants are worn over your hikin' pants and meant to keep you dry. I am not much a fan of rain pants, so I always wear a pair of hikin' pants that are made for inclement weather but If that is not your style pack your rain pants near the outside of your pack so that they are easily accessible.


----Rain Jacket
A proper rain jack can make or break an outdoor trip quick fast and in a hurry. Outdoor experts will tell you that orange is great in inclement weather as well as fall, but Y'all know pink in my color. When lookin' for a good rain jacket, a functional hood is a must. Heat escapes your body from your head and your feet.
---Pack clothes on the outside of your pack
You should always have an extra pair of clothes when campin' and especially in the rain. Stay away from items like cotton that tend to hold in water. Opt for fabrics that are synthetic and lightweight like nylon. Wool socks are great for keepin' your feet dry and warm. When packin' your backpack pack extra close closest to the outside, so they are quickly accessible. The less you have to remove your rain cover and open your pack the better chance you stand of keepin' your items dry and have fun campin' in the rain.
---Rain cover for your backpack
If your pack is not already waterproof rain covers for your bag are the perfect way to make sure all the items inside of your pack stay dry. Find a cover that matches how many liters your pack will hold.





--- Rain shoes
When campin' havin' what I call base shoes is important. No one wants to walk around camp in clunky hikin' shoes. This is where Totes Cirrus Rainboot (will be linked) come in. Not only are these rain shoes "Made with Totes' proprietary Everywear™ technology, they are 60% lighter than other boots and every bit as strong. They are tough as boots, light as clouds." Let's be honest: the less weight in my pack the more room for snacks and camera gear. The best part of the Totes Cirrus Rainboot are not only are they easy to fold up but they have loops in the back that make them easy to hook to any pack inside or under your rain cover. Wear a pair of wool socks and you are sure to be able to walk around camp while your feet stay dry as a whistle. No one wants blisters now do they?
---Check your trail
You should always check where you will be campin' before you camp. What are the conditions of the trail? Is the trail you wanted to hike washed out? Is there higher ground just off the trail to make camp?


---Warm and quick meals
We on the trail quick and hearty meals are ideal because no one wants to be trying to cook in the middle of the day on a wet trail. Remember that not only do you burn more calories in outdoor activities, but you also burn more calories in the rain outside. Pack to have a warm meal at dinner if weather permits. Don't forget waterproof matches. Nothin' worse than preparin' for dinner only to find you have no matches that will work. Ask me about my trip to Enchanted Rock. I'm still bitter about the spoiled meat and my hungry belly.
I make oat protein meals a lot when I am on the trail; no cookin' needed. In my snack pack, I pack a ziplock that contains a scoop of protein powder, 1/4 a cup of oats, two scoops of peanut butter powder, and two scoops of instant coffee. When you are ready for a quick meal, pour in your water bottle, shake and enjoy. You can even drink while you are hikin'. Not only is it an excellent meal for dreary weather but it makes for a great way to get in calories.

---extra tent footprint
Footprints for your tent are placed under your tent to help keep the bottom of your tent dry. You can also use your additional footprint to make a vestibule around your tent and store your went items such as hikin' or rain shoes. Wet items should say out of your tent as much as possible to keep your pack and ' back dry and save you from a further headache later in the trip. Always remember to pitch your tent on higher ground so as not to wake up in a basin of water.


---Use Dry Sacks
Dry sacks are bought at any local outdoor store and are great for not only keepin' things dry but makin' them easily accessible. When I camp, I generally carry four dry sack that ranges from 5 liters to 10 liters. I keep all of my camera gear in my 10-liter sack. I roll my clothes into a 5-liter sack, and my food goes into the remainin' sacks. Make sure to weatherproof your maps as well. That can be done by simply placing them in ziplock bags.
-- -Have an emergency plan
When camping' or hikin', you should always let someone know where you are and have a backup plan. Campin' in inclement weather can be fun when proper precautions are taken but even if you have to abandon camp and leave you'll still have a story to tell.

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