Pumpkin is Done, Check These New Fall Flavors

fall recipes

No pumpkin here!

The cooler weather makes outdoor spaces perfect extensions to your home entertaining area. Yes, the sun sets a little earlier, but this means you have unique lighting options to create a stunning al fresco retreat.

Of course along with the cooler weather and a chance to spend some more time outside (without little ones getting fidgety in the heat or having sunscreen sting their eyes), fall also brings a bevy of opportunities to get together with friends and family. While every season has birthdays, the widely celebrated holidays in the fall, including Thanksgiving, offer prime times for all ages to get together.

The market is already saturated with pumpkin-flavored treats every fall. While everyone loves a pumpkin spiced latte, the infiltration of this specific member of the gourd family into everyday foods may be a bit typical and boring. If you’re hosting this season, instead of infusing all your foods with a can of Libby’s, try another classic fall flavor, like apple. Instead of a pumpkin pie, baked apples with a crumble topping can be a delicious option that will give you that same autumnal feel.

The idea doesn’t just apply to desserts. You can incorporate the same apple flavors into main dishes, like chicken apple sausage skewers—aromatic pieces of sausage and tangy apples grilled to perfection. Even your kids are sure to like this sweet and savory combination—and it’s a great way to get them to eat their fruit!

For other fall dishes, while summer sees a lot of the lighter herbs like dill, basil, and mint, this time of year the more woodsy varieties become popular, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme. Instead of the summer’s spices of lemon pepper, saffron, and cumin, the spices more popular in the fall include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.

You can incorporate these herbs and spices into your main dishes, but they’re also great for your drinks. For added flair this fall, opt for drink recipes that allow you to incorporate the unique ingredients for stirring that the season has to offer. A cinnamon stick can perfectly accent a warm cup of apple cider, and a sprig of rosemary or thyme can beautifully accompanying a unique cocktail, like the gin and tonic infused “Thyme to Kill.”

herb infused drinks

Rosemary is not just for your roast!

The other nice thing about apples and fall herbs? Not only are they edible, but they make great decorations. Plus, a pre-party apple-picking adventure with kids is another fun, family benefit!

Beach Trips With Toddlers Guest Post

beach tripsIf you are a mom or dad in North Carolina you have likely heard of or referenced Carolina Parent at some point. In addition to their beautiful glossy magazine, they run a fantastic parenting blog on every topic under the sun. I recently contributed to Carolina Parent‘s blog with a post on ways to simplify beach days with toddlers. After a busy summer at Florida beaches in Naples and Key West, we are back in Raleigh and happy to share insight from our experiences in the surf.

carolina parent

I’m including the beginning, then click the link to read the full post:

Family trips to the beach should be memorable for all the right reasons. The work to calm a cranky toddler who misses nap time is magnified at the beach. Sunscreen stings eyes, direct sun exposure exhausts little ones faster than adults, and picky eaters may not find something they like from concessions at the beach—if there even are any. North Carolina beaches are diverse. Some offer a variety of food services and modern conveniences, while others let you truly get away and you need to be self-sustained. With the right planning you can make a trip with a toddler to any beach more enjoyable.

Sun protection at the beach makes for a more comfortable experience, prevents your toddler from days or weeks of painful sunburn recovery, and avoids the permanent long-term damage a sunburn causes. Some toddlers do not care for sun block…

Read the rest of “How to Make Beach Trips With Toddlers Easy.”

Triathlons in the Triangle!

Five Female Runners Training For Race

Dust off those running shoes and break out your swimsuit. It’s time to leave the indoor rowing classes behind and take your workouts outside. Summer is always the most popular time of the year for those looking to push themselves to the physical limit during the heated competition of triathlons. Not only are triathlons a great way to stay in shape, but participants can also help support some great causes. Luckily for all those interested, the Triangle has some amazing races scheduled this season.

Smile Train Sprint Triathlon
Wake Forest
Sunday, June 22nd
Since 2008, SmilesTrainTri has helped raise over $188,000 to support local charitable organizations including food drives, as well as several local children’s organizations. The race includes a 250-meter swim, 12-mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run.

Rex Wellness Sprint Triathlon
Garner, North Carolina
Sunday, July 13th
This triathlon is open to participants of all ages and proceeds benefit the Rex Healthcare Foundation – a nonprofit organization that promotes community health awareness programs. The race includes a 250-yard pool swim, 10-mile bike ride, and 2-mile run. (Don’t forget my guest post about outdoor toddler activities on Rex’s blog.)

UNC Wellness Super Sprint Triathlon
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Sunday, August 10th
The UNC Wellness Triathlon benefits the UNC Wellness Medical Fitness Scholarship Fund – a group that provides local healthcare services to those in medical and financial need. The race includes a 250-yard swim, 9-mile bike ride, and 5K run.

running

Get the right gear, check with your doc, and pace yourself.

If it’s been awhile since the last time you’ve participated in a triathlon—or if you are a first-timer!—remember the importance of preparing for any strenuous exercise that might be unusual for your body. You should always check with a physician before taking part in any new physical conditioning. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether your body is able to compensate for the added strain on your joints, muscles, and heart. Sadly, earlier in 2014 two young participants died while running in Raleigh’s Rock-n-Roll Marathon.

For those that haven’t trained as much leading up to the event, even if it might be difficult in the heat of the moment, you should pace yourself. Take the thrill of competition as motivation to finish – not as a push to come in first.

What are your experiences with marathons and triathlons?

Al Fresco Entertaining

garlic decoration

Try decorating with your ingredients.

Now that the weather is warming up it’s the perfect time to start using your outdoor spaces. Even if your patio or deck hasn’t seen a lot of action in the last few months, a quick sweep or morning of power washing can ready your backyard for dining al fresco.

Most people assume planning a meal outside means plastic lawn chairs and paper plates, but just because you’re not equipped with a dimmer switch to set the mood doesn’t mean you can’t make your meal an elegant affair.

When considering lighting, make sure it matches the mood you’re trying to set. Floodlights can be harsh, and tiki torches (although fun!) are typically used for very casual events. Instead, opt for outdoor string lights. Available in different shapes and brightness, you can string them from tree branches, wrap them around your deck railing, or wind them up your outdoor umbrella. They’ll keep your backyard bright with a soft, complementing glow. Don’t worry about having an electrical outlet—it’s relatively the same cost to buy solar-powered outdoor lights.

string light garland

Many outdoor string lights are now solar-powered, so you can put them anywhere.

Keep your tablescape congruent with your upscale-casual feel. No need to iron linens, but a thick solid-colored tablecloth will give your decorations a base for continuity by providing a main color or accent color to work with.

For the menu, make a seasonal favorite by incorporating ingredients from your own garden or the local farmer’s market. You’ll be able to ensure what you’re making is fresh, and it can help you keep the cost down. Try some simple chicken breasts marinated in fresh rosemary, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Grill at medium-high heat until no longer pink in the middle. The simple, herb-infused taste pairs perfectly with any fresh garden veggies and a crisp local white wine.

herb decoration

Use herbs from your own garden both in dishes and for decoration.

If nothing in your garden fits with your menu plan, consider some of your herbs or flowers to make a rustic-chic centerpiece. Complementing aromatic herbs or colorful flowers will enhance your table’s look.

To give the setting a final detailed touch, play music through some wireless speakers. Place them strategically so that you can hear them no matter where you stand in the yard. If you don’t have wireless speakers, an iHome or any speaker system will work just fine when set with some of your guests’ favorite tunes.

I can empathize that after a long week you might not feel up for entertaining at home. Instead of dealing with the dishes you can try a few al fresco dining options in downtown Raleigh. Located in the heart of the city, Jimmy V’s Osteria & Bar has the largest outdoor patio in the Triangle – an impressive arrangement anywhere, but appreciated even more so by those who want to people-watch downtown. The restaurant supports the Jimmy V Foundation and donated $40,000 to the cancer research fund early this year. If you’re going out, at least you’ll know your money will be going to help a good cause!

driftwood restaurant raleigh

Driftwood Restaurant’s ‘Picnic Basket’

We recently dined al fresco at Driftwood Restaurant in North Raleigh’s Lafayette Village. Their picnic basket menu option was great to enjoy outside.

Toddler Activities Guest Post

Rex Healthcare is a big medical network here in the Triangle and their blog is Rex Connects, which focuses on wellness and healthy living. I was invited to contribute a guest post to Rex Connects that would offer ways to be active with a toddler.

The repeated snows in Raleigh made spring seem so far away. Now that spring is finally here, I decided to write about several low budget springtime activities that are perfect for toddlers and that offer a way to enjoy the outdoors.

toddler activities

Leave traditional paintbrushes behind and find new tools in nature.

I’m including the beginning of the post below, then click the link to read the complete post:

Finding outdoor activities for toddlers in Raleigh can sometimes present a challenge. How can you keep curious little minds occupied in a safe environment while on a budget? As a mom here in the Triangle, I have found many answers to this question. Instead of leaving home, I created a list of affordable and fun things to do with young children right in your own backyard:

  1. Paint With Plants: Use finger paint and “paint” with natural things you find. Instead of brushes, grass is fun to make whisker marks, and leaves make great stamps.

Read the rest of “10 Springtime Outdoor Activities for Toddlers.”