Let them eat…Pie?

My Dad loved him some pie.  Any kind of pie…he was in. I worked in a Bakery all through high school, and they made some of the best pies ever! The bakery is owned by dear friends of mine, and I can assure you that each pie tastes just as awesome as the next.  They happened to be my Dad’s favorite pie bakery, and we even asked them to cater his 68th birthday party, which turned out to be his last birthday on earth.
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For all of my friends in South Florida, run, don’t walk, to The Upper Crust in Lake Worth.  They have SO many flavors, and are perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or just a random Tuesday.  It’s a tie between Raspberry and French Cream Cheese for my favorite – but no matter what, you can’t go wrong.

We’ve found a pie almost as delicious on the west coast of Florida, well, because that’s how we roll.  Pie everywhere. Yoders Restaurant is located in Sarasota, and serves delicious Peanut Butter pie.  Seriously, this pie weights about 15 pounds, which is probably what you gain when you can’t stop eating it all in one sitting.  Not that I know from experience or anything. I’m sure they have other pies, but people, don’t waste your time.  Their peanut butter pie is glorious.
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Now that you’re in the mood for pie, I have a fabulously easy pie recipe to share.  This pie is SO easy, but is a crowd pleaser every time.  The great thing about this pie, is you can change the flavor, based on your preferences.

Ingredients:
12 oz Cool Whip
8 oz Cream Cheese (softened for easy mixing)
Sleeve of fun size candy bars (any kind) – approximately 10 small bars
1 Graham Cracker ready made pie crust
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Mix together the cool whip and cream cheese
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Crush all candy bars – enough so they are broken up, but still somewhat chunky.  Pour approximately  3/4 of the candy bar mixture into the mixer, and mix.
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Once mixed, scoop into the pie crust.  Use the remaining crushed candy bar for topping.
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Seriously, good.  And easy.  Two things I really prefer in desserts. Enjoy!

 

A different kind of ladder…a blanket ladder!

I love blankets.  I love blankets because they are warm and cozy, but I also love blankets because my husband is always hot, and our house typically resembles the frozen tundra.  So not only do I love blankets, but I need blankets.

We have a few blankets hanging around our living room, and I am always folding them and trying to arrange them so they don’t look messy.  I also have a few blankets that are special to me, that have just been hanging out in a cabinet, because I don’t have anywhere to put them.  I started looking around for a remedy for this, and found a blanket ladder that I loved at Pottery Barn, but I did not love the $179 price tag.  I did some more research, and found there were plenty of tutorials. Colby and I looked at them, and decided to come up with our own version of a blanket ladder. Here we go!

Supply List:
2 Common Boards (ours were: 3 1/2 inch x 3/4 inch x 84 inches)
4 Dowels (ours were: 3/4 inch rounds)
Gorilla Glue
Stain (we used my favorite: Minwax PolyShades in Expresso Satin)

We bought our supplies and started on this project.  We did spend a little more on the common boards than we had to, because we wanted decent quality wood since it was going to be displayed in our living room.

To start, we decided how far apart we wanted to bars that hold the blanket.  I think you should base that on your blankets and your specific needs for the project. We chose to have 4 levels, so our ladder would be able to hold four blankets.  Once we marked where the dowels needed to be, drew a line across the board, and then measured to the middle, and that’s where we drilled our hole.
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We drilled a 3/4 inch width, so the dowels will fit exactly.

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Sanding is a very important piece of this process, as the final result will show any sanding indiscretions you leave.  Sanding around the hole, as well as inside the hole is important.  We found the easiest way was by taking a drill bit, wrapping a piece of sandpaper around it, and sand inside the hole.

Once the entire piece is sanded, it’s time to insert the dowels.  The dowels fit directly into the holes, but we reinforced the fit with gorilla glue.

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Again, be sure to sand everything, including the glue spots.

From here, comes the staining.  I don’t have any pictures of this, as it’s pretty standard.  I did, however, come across a tip that may be helpful when staining.  When I went to clean out my brush, I lost my mind for a moment, and tried to “wring” out my brush, like you would a regular paint brush.  It didn’t cross my mind that stain does not react the same way as paint.  Because of this, my hands looked like this:

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This was after using hand soap, and dish detergent, in and attempt to rinse them clean. My hands were very sticky, and this stuff wasn’t budging. After my super sympathetic husband stopped laughing at me, he googled the best way to remove stain from skin. Surprisingly enough, vegetable oil did the trick. It took it right off my hands, which made me a little nervous about what it does to my french fries, but that is neither here nor there.

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I LOVE the final product.

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It holds the blankets nicely, and looks nice when they are all hanging.  Our overall cost came to about $50, which is WAY better than the Pottery Barn price.  It was also nice to determine our own dimensions, color, etc.

Overall, a simple project that has a helpful purpose as well.  Enjoy!

Hope Chests and Family Heirlooms

After my Dad passed away, my mom went through his things and let the kids take items that were special to us, or held a specific memory for us.  We came upon this chest, and she mentioned if no one wanted it, she was probably going to add it to the donate items.  I didn’t have any particular attachment to the chest, but I figured I could find something for it, and decided to take it home.

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It was pretty beat up, as it used to sit in the “Den” of our house growing up, which was really the kid’s TV and Nintendo room. That glass ring on the lower right corner was probably formed during a super intense game of Super Mario Brothers. I decided to strip the cedar chest down, and refinish it.  As I started poking around inside, I found that the inside of the chest was in perfect condition, and even found a warranty tag, dating it back to at least 1935.

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It’s a Lane Cedar Chest, which I did some research on, and it’s a furniture company that started in 1912.  I asked my Aunt about this chest, and she was almost certain that my Grandmother was given this chest as a teenager, which would date it back to the early 1920’s. The more I discovered about this chest, the more interested I became.  I briefly thought about not stripping it down, as it may take away from some of the value – but then decided the monetary value wasn’t worth nearly the keepsake value, and that I would be keeping this chest in my home.

I started by sanding down the top few layers of the finish.  The top and sides were pretty easy, as they were flat surfaces.  The front of the chest was tough.  It has a lot of intricate detail, and sanding those tiny little spaces was about as fun as poking spoons in my eyes.

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I used Minwax PolyShades in Tudor.  I prefer the PolyShades, because they come with the Polyurethan mixed right in, so this is a one and done stain. It also goes on with a paint brush, versus a rag (wiping on, wiping off, etc.) – for which I just don’t have the patience. I did two coats of stain, as I wanted it to have a pretty dark finish.

Once it was done, the chest found a home in my craft room.  It’ll probably be moved 100 times before it finds its true home.  I do know, I will take much better care of it then I did when I was a kid.  Funny how age does that to you.  The older I get, the more important these family heirlooms become to me.

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Do you have any family heirlooms that are special to you?  I’d love to hear your story.

The best strawberry lemonade…ever!

A few years back, my husband took me to Boston (his mothership) for the first time – and I LOVED it.  It is a beautiful city with lots of culture, and we want to go back and spend as much time there as possible.  We toured Fenway Park, Harvard, Thaniel Hall, Gillette Stadium, Samuel Adams brewery (and saw Bob Cannon, the bearded guy on all of the Sam Adams commercials – he really works there!) and so much more.

See, Bob Cannon.
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During our tour of Massachusetts, we found a chain restaurants there called 99.  If you’re from the area, I’m sure you familiar.  If not, it’s a Chilis/Ale House/TGIFridays-ish restaurant.  The food was good, but we absolutely fell in love with their strawberry lemonade.  We were obsessed.  We scouted out a 99 restaurant wherever we went, and would stop in and get a strawberry lemonade to go. On what we knew would be our last visit, we asked our server for their strawberry lemonade recipe – and she gave it to us (cue angels singing.)

We tried the recipe when we got home, and it was pretty darn close to the real thing. Even better – it’s SO easy.  We have made it quite frequently since, and I wanted to pass along the goodness for all.

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1 packet (makes 2 quarts) Pink Lemonade (We use crystal light)
1 cup strawberry daiquiri mix
Ready for this super complicated recipe?

Mix the pink lemonade according to the package directions
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Add one cup of strawberry daiquiri mix, and mix well
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And…that’s it.  Trust me, it’s delicious. We have used fresh crushed strawberries as a additive before, and that was equally as yummy.

Warning: you may become addicted to this.  You’re welcome.

Westgate River Ranch – We visited a Dude Ranch!

We love to travel, and try to take (long) weekend trips as often as we can.  We usually head toward the beach, because it’s close, and there are many options with a coast being an hour in each direction.  We knew we wanted to go away for Colby’s birthday, but wanted somewhere other than the beach for my pale Irishman. He found Westgate River Ranch, and we immediately loved the look of it.  It’s showcased as an “Old Florida Dude Ranch”, and it doesn’t disappoint.  It’s about 70 minutes south of St. Cloud (between St. Cloud and Okeechobee), and in the middle of no where.  The closest grocery store or gas station is about 25 minutes away, so you most definitely get the feel of the “country” – for still being in Florida.

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We arrived, and were immediately taken with the “cowboy” theme – even the security guard letting us through the gate wore a cowboy hat and a badge. We went straight to the welcome center and checked in. Everyone was so nice. Since we travel quite a bit, my expectations of customer service is typically high, and sometimes disappointing.  Every single employee we came across as River Ranch was so friendly and helpful. We were meeting some friends there for the weekend, so the ladies at the front desk ensured our rooms were close, and easily accessible. The rooms were very cute, and also followed the western theme.  There was so much attention to detail, it was impressive. The rooms are spacious, and even though the resort is older, the obvious recent remodel made the rooms comfortable and modern.

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PicMonkey Collage

The property is huge, and to fully enjoy all it has to offer, we would recommend renting a golf cart.  My ONE complaint of this property, is the price of the golf cart rental.  $60 for 24 hours it pretty steep as far as I’m concerned, but we had a toddler and a very pregnant lady in our group, so we decided it was worth it.

The restaurant on property, Smokehouse Grill, has many options, a great view, and a very friendly staff.  Because we were there 4 days, they started to recognize us, and we had the same servers almost every day.  They were wonderful and took great care of us.  The food was delicious.  We were hesitant since there aren’t many options out there, but the burger and the chili were some favorites from our group. The prices are reasonable (especially for having a monopoly within 25 miles), and we never left disappointed.
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Behind the restaurant is a marina, where they have a boat ramp, as well as the option to rent boats directly from River Ranch.  They also offer Airboat rides for purchase, but we decided against that, as it’s a pretty common activity in our area.

The property offers a small “town” type area, with a General Store, a Western Wear store, a post office, a gym, and laundry center. The General Store offers many options, from snack foods, to meal options (mac and cheese, etc.), to bug spray and personal necessities.  Prices are a little steep, but it’s definitely convenient for an ice cream (especially when it’s HOT!), or a late night snack.  The general store also offers a little deli with sandwich and pizza options.
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There are so many activities, it’s hard to list them all! The kid’s pony rides (only $5!) and the petting farm were two of our favorites.  Our friend’s little girl loved this part! We were fortunate to go on a weekend where the property was practically empty, so many times it felt like we were the only ones there.
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The rodeo was awesome!  It’s only held on Saturday nights, and is a legitimate rodeo, with cash prizes for competitors.  People come from all over the state to compete, and the show doesn’t disappoint.  The rodeo has an “American Pride” focus with bull rides, barrel racing and novelty horseback riding – definitely worth the $15 admission fee (it’s only $1 to rent a seat cushion – do it!).  After the rodeo, there is a block party outside the arena, with a live DJ, dancing, mechanical bull rides, saloon specials and a campfire.
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We visited the pool as well, and while it’s not a spectacular pool area, it does its job and was perfectly fine.
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There are a few options to pick from when deciding where to stay at River Ranch.  We chose the resort area, but they also have glamping and Cabins.  Glamping is “glamorous camping” in enclosed tents with real beds and a portable AC unit.  We chatted with some guests who were glamping and they really enjoyed it, but recommended waiting until it was a little cooler to experience it fully.  The cabins looked beautiful, and looked to be perfect for those needing multiple rooms, etc.
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The property even has a beautiful little chapel, with Sunday morning services.
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Overall, we really enjoyed our time at River Ranch, and would like to try some of their different lodging options in cooler weather.  They should be proud of their staff for providing excellent customer service.  The property and the staff truly provided the “Dude Ranch” experience we were looking for.  Great job, River Ranch!

Chili’s (knock off) Ranch Dressing

I love ranch. Like, a whole lot. Sometimes, I base my like/dislike of a restaurant, specifically on their ranch dressing. When my niece was little, she would dip carrots in ranch, suck the ranch off the carrot, and then re-dip the same carrot.  If that wasn’t considered socially unacceptable for adults, I would consider doing it on a daily basis.  I have yet to find a bottled ranch that I really like, trying various recipes over the years in attempt to find the perfect homemade ranch.  I was starting to think that it would never happen, and I would have to live a life of sad ranch-less happiness (at least I’m not dramatic!)

I finally found a recipe that I really, really like, and it happens to be based off of one of my very favorite ranch dressings – Chili’s restaurant. I read about their “secret ingredient” (pickle juice), and thought that sounded pretty gross. I love pickles, but am not a big fan of pickle juice on its own.  I figured I owed this recipe a chance, and I’m really glad I did.  I did some tasting and tweaking as I went, in order to nail down the perfect recipe. Here it is, my ranch connoisseurs:

1 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s – lower carbs)
1 cup sour cream
8 tablespoons of pickle juice (I prefer dill)
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon parsley
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of pepper
4 tablespoons finely chopped green onions (optional, but I love the kick it gives)

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the mayo, sour cream and pickle juice.  Use a whisk to get all of the lumps out
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Add in the buttermilk, and whisk again
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Add the remainder of the ingredients and mix well
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For storage, I prefer a mason jar as it seals well – but any container with a tightly sealed lid will do
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As you can see, it makes a little over a pint.  This jar will usually last me a solid two weeks (I eat a salad every day for lunch, and on some other things along the way), and as long as it’s refrigerated, there shouldn’t be any issues keeping it that long.  It actually tastes better on day two, and even better on day three, and so on.  Hope you enjoy!