Game Day Fruit Salsa

It’s football season which means our Saturdays are filled with the sounds of game day as Audley and Bradley {and yes, me too} flip channels and cheer loudly for all of our favorite teams.

I don’t know about you and I have no idea why, but something about watching football makes me want to snack! With all the lifestyle changes we have made around her over the last several years, I am picky about the kinds of snacks that I keep in the house. You might think this would be a challenge.  But, really it isn’t.

 One fairly healthy treat that has been a favorite of ours is a sweet and spicy fruit salsa served up with cinnamon sugar pita chips.  It fits the rules of Jones family snacking… Sweet with a kick, crunchy, fairly healthy, fresh and totally easy!

Check it out.  It might become a game day favorite for you as well!

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup diced pineapple

1 cup diced watermelon

1/2 cup peeled cucumber, chopped

1/2 cup diced mango

1/2 cup diced papaya

1/2 cup red bell pepper

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 small red onion, diced

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ASSEMBLE:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, stir gently to mix together and rest for 30 minutes, to allow flavors to mesh.

This serves 4-6 people, so I usually double my recipe.

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Serve with anything that crunches, although we love Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita chips with our salsa, you can use plain tortilla chips as well.

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If you have any left over I highly recommend using it for a topping on a chicken taco salad. It is so delicious, and much healthier than sour cream or dressing!

Just in case you’re actually heading out to the big game, or just watching your own athlete play, this fruit salsa is great to make ahead and is easily portable.

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What are your favorite game day snacks?  Inquiring minds want to know!

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“What Happens in Vegas”

Each year my hubby slips away for a safety professionals conference in Las Vegas. Tired of him having all the fun, this year I made arrangements for the kiddos and slipped away with him for a much needed get-away.  I was told by several people before we left that I would either love Vegas or absolutely hate it; there was no in-between.

Me?

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I fell in love with Las Vegas.

Now you know I am not a wild and crazy girl, but guess what?!  You don’t have to be to have fun in Vegas, and “what happens in Vegas” doesn’t necessarily have to “stay in Vegas”

And I had a blast the four and a half days we were there!

So what can you do in Las Vegas if you are not a huge gambler or a late night partier?  Here are seven fun things you can do and still get a Vegas experience!

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1. Take in a show.  As cliche as it seems, you can’t go to Vegas without seeing at least one live show.  There is something from everyone from impersonators to live concerts.  The week we were in town Brittany Spears performed twice and we had an option of no less than FIVE Cirque du Soleil shows!  We opted for a musical and watched Jersey Boys  (the Frankie Valli & Four Seasons story), which was playing nightly at the Paris hotel theater.   The music was fabulous, making it an awesome choice and a show we enjoyed very much!

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2. Enjoy dinner at a high end restaurant!  Enjoy yourself and splurge.  We chose to have dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant at the Paris hotel as part of a package that included dinner and the Jersey Boys performance.

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Our reservations were early so that we had prime seating for the sunset and a view of the strip as it lit up for the evening.

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We could also watch the fountains at the Belliago from our table.  Another good reason for dining early was to keep us from being absolutely stuffed while watching our show later in the evening!

Service at the Eiffel Tower was impeccable.  The sommelier was extremely knowledgeable and took his time going over the wine list with us.  The waitress was very friendly, yet professional and efficient.

Our filet medallions were cooked perfectly and dessert…. let’s just say I was very thankful for gym access!

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My Creme Brûlée was sheer perfection.

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Dinner at the Paris

3. Spend a day at Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Fitness Center.  Located in the Venetian Hotel this spa club has everything you could imagine to spoil yourself … which is exactly what I did.

Because I have fitness goals I am still striving to reach, I took advantage of the personal trainers on staff and had my booty handed to me.  It was a humbling experience as a licensed trainer to have another trainer whip you and nearly have you crawling out of the gym.  I told them what I was looking for and for two days got it.  I will definitely use the facility and the trainers again!  The fitness club has every kind of equipment you could possibly want or need for a workout, as well as cardio equipment and a climbing wall!  Fitness classes like spin, yoga, and zumba are available as well.

The ladies locker room is peaceful and calm which really encourages you to focus on the workouts to come!

While at the spa-club I spent the money and took advantage of one of the hairstylists, to “fix” me up for our  evening out on the town as well as a cosmetologist for a dramatic makeover that I’ll never be able to recreate!

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I’m not a “selfie” person …

It was so much fun and extremely relaxing.  Something every wife and momma needs from time to time.

While time didn’t allow for me to enjoy all the activities at the spa, with a spa passport you can use the steam rooms, rainforest aquavana, the sauna, and a hydrospa.  For extra you can schedule a variety of massages, manis/pedis, body wraps and even a couples mud bath!

4. Walk through the many themed hotels and take in the architecture and decor.

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I know, you’re thinking “how boring!”, but I promise you it’s not!  Our trip corresponded with Chinese New Year, so a walk through the Belliago was unique, colorful and so enjoyable!

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During the afternoon at the Venetian you may find a carnival atmosphere taking place right in the Canal Shoppes!

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With live music and colorful costumes, it’s worth taking a break from your day to sit and take in a little Italian culture.

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Stop by Buddy’s bakery or Godiva while hitting the Canal Shoppes in the Venetian. Just be sure to do a few extra reps when you hit the gym!

An if you want a bit of Egyptian culture, step into the Luxor.  You feel like you’ve traveled the world with just a little walking!

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5. Step back in time to the day of gangsters in Vegas with a stroll through The Mob Museum.   Located in old Vegas the Mob Museum housed in the old US Post Office and courthouse built in 1933, the museum shares the history of the mob from it’s beginnings in the United States to its rise in Vegas and the end of several prominent mobsters.  There are many interactive exhibits and plenty of history for you to soak in.  “The Godfather” just doesn’t tell all of the story!

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Another great exhibit in Las Vegas is the Titanic display at the Luxor.  Cameras are forbidden in the tour, but the images will be forever etched in your mind.  With actual artifacts from the shipwreck, paired with carefully reconstructed displays of various rooms on the ship and stories of the passengers you will need a box of kleenex.  Very touching indeed.

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6. Take a hike into Red Rock Canyon.  While the Grand Canyon is drivable from Las Vegas (3.5-4 hours), Red Rock Canyon is just an hour out and a day you will find most enjoyable.

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 Start in the visitors center where you will get an idea of the history of the area as well as the wildlife and variety of native plants you will see while you are out and about.

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 Talk with one of the Rangers and pick up a guide showing you the many hikes you can take.  It’s a stunningly beautiful area.  Take a picnic, enjoy a hike, take in the wildlife and soak in God’s amazing creation.

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7. Hit up a gun range for a military experience!  We discovered Battlefield Vegas by accident as I was trying to do something fun for Audley since he had been a good sport by hiking and dressing up for dinner.  Battlefield Vegas is owned and operated by US Veterans which made it even more appealing to us.

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The experience begins when you are picked up at your hotel in a military vehicle and taken to their location.  You can tour around outside and look at old military vehicles which made my veteran hubby quite happy.

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Once you go inside, you have several packages to choose from for your shooting experience.  We choose the Navy Seal package, plus added and extra gun.

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Apparently Audley has missed shooting an AK-47.

We just paid for one package and split it.

Audley had a blast…. and so did I.

The “instructor” assigned to help us with the guns was really great and I think shocked that I knew what I was doing.  You don’t have to regularly shoot to do this shooting experience; you will have plenty of help.  They guys are really awesome and were great for answering any questions you might have.  When you are finished shooting, shopping and touring, the guys will carry you back to your hotel or even a restaurant if you are going to eat.   There are other shooting experiences available in the area, but we really had fun at Battlefield Vegas and will definitely do this again!

For reference, hotels for every budget are available in Las Vegas.  You can stay in the Best Western or in Caesar’s Palace.  We chose a Hilton property (always our preference), using the Elara Grand Vacations for our stay.

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The pulled “shade” over the window was a screen for a TV projection!  We watched the Super Bowl in high definition comfort of our suite.

With a jacuzzi and full-sized living room and kitchen it was like we were in our own apartment instead of a hotel!  I’m not a gambler at all, but for the Vegas experience I did play a couple of slot machines.

With only four days for our trip, as you can imagined we in no way saw all there is to see.  I’m already planning to accompany Audley next year to his conference … I told you I loved it!

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Cheesy Pound Cake for the Fourth

Some of my favorite recipes are the ones that are written down.

You know the ones I am talking about; those that you found in a magazine in the days before blogs and Pinterest; copied in your very own handwriting and saved in a 3-ring binder.   I have some amazing recipes from back in the day when I was building my recipe collection.

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One of my very favorites was one that I found in Southern Living magazine just over 20 years ago while Audley and I were dating.  I couldn’t wait to make this fabulous Cheesy Pound Cake for him {you  know the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach}, and it was truly a treasured recipe for the first 16 years of our marriage.  Then, I put away those handwritten recipes as it was easier to open a browser on my phone and our eating habits changed just a little a lot.  But, for the Fourth this year I thought it would be fun to pull out my little 3-ring binder and make our cherished pound cake as a treat.

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And because it is so good I wanted to share it with you, too!

Besides we all deserve a “cheat” every now and again.

Cheesy Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

1 (8 oz) package softened cream cheese

3 Cups Sugar 

6 Large eggs

3 cups cake flour

dash of salt

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded (do this yourself, don’t buy it in a bag)

1 TBSP vanilla

Cheesy Pound Cake Ingredients

For the best results, use the freshest and best ingredients.

Assembling your Cake:

1.  Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed for two minutes or until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating 5-7 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating just until yellow disappears.

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2.  Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture.  Beat at low speed just until blended after each mixture addition.  Stir in cheddar cheese and vanilla.

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3.  Pour into greased and floured 10-inch bundt pan.  Bake a 375 for an hour and fifteen minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean.

Cool in the pan 15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to continue cooling.

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The addition of cheese to this recipe makes the pound cake so rich and flavorful. Adding mixed berries completely compliments the flavors, plus gives it a little patriotic look for the Fourth.

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I also whipped up a batch of homemade whipping cream to complete our perfectly delicious dessert.

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And there you have my easy-peasy, old-fashioned pound cake for our nations birthday this Fourth of July.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.

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Olive & Then Some

Who would’ve ever thought that mixing fruit infused balsamic vinegar and vanilla ice cream would be such a treat?!  The little note on this sign totally intrigued me to the point I just had to find out!

The little sign that peaked my curiosity outside of Olive & Then Some

The little sign that peaked my curiosity outside of Olive & Then Some

Last week while stepping out for a lunch date, Audley and I discovered the neatest little shop in downtown Spartanburg, “Olive & Then Some.”  

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While we initially headed out for sushi, we spent so much time exploring this little shop on Magnolia, that we ended up rushing to eat salads from Jason’s Deli instead!

Just a glimpse of the Olive oil Bar

Just a glimpse of the Olive oil Bar

Owned and operated by Sandy Burn, Olive and Then Some is a fairly new and different twist to Spartanburg’s small downtown district that has been in the midst of revitalization for the two and a half years we have lived here.  Several new restaurants and shops have opened that are making the downtown area just a little more appealing.  Audley and I have gotten to where we enjoy going downtown and checking out some of the places.

This unique shop offers a selection of over 50 varieties of olive oils imported from all over the world as well as a few gourmet oils (like a delicate truffle oil and a rich walnut oil), and wonderful range of balsamic vinegar produced in Italy & Spain.

At the olive oil bar

With such an array of  olive oils from around the world, they keep a very fresh as well as seasonal supply on hand for enhancing numerous dishes in your kitchen.

The set-up is simple; a tasting bar where you can sample the oils using french bread chunks (actually VERY good).

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Each oil and vinegar is labeled and also offers suggestions on how you can use it.

Mushroom Sage Olive oil

Olive oil pairings

The day we visited, the owners had used the Blood Orange infused olive oil to make brownies……

Oh MY!

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I love the taste-first concept of purchasing items to prepare food with in my kitchen.

Audley and I each sampled several flavors of olive oils.  We have different tastes, so he chose the bolder and spicier flavors while I stuck to the mild and delicate flavors.

We saved the balsamic vinegar tasting until the end (a wonderful way to cleanse your palette) and that is where we discovered the wonderful combination of balsamic with vanilla ice cream!

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Very simply, a Balsamic Sundae is Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, drizzled with a dab of balsamic vinegar.  It’s that simple and absolutely ah-mazing!!

Audley tried more flavors than I did, from peach to blackberry to pomegranate.  Me?

I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the fabulous Strawberry balsamic.

In fact I was so attached to it that I had to purchase my own bottle.

We also purchased a mushroom and sage infused olive oil (which is absolutely divine over roasted red potatoes) and a peach white balsamic vinegar (which is delicious on a spinach salad).

Each jar of oil or vinegar is bottled and sealed at the store.  You can wash and return your bottles for a discount on your next purchase…. Don’t you love to recycle?

filling our olive oils

Olive & Then Some also carries a wonderful selection of culinary as well as locally themed gifts.  It was a perfect place to pick up a wedding gift for a shower over the weekend.

culinary offerings at Olive & Then Some

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I know Spartanburg is not a premiere vacation destination, but if you are passing through between Atlanta and Charlotte sometime, think of taking a little detour and checking out our growing downtown.

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With a Lily Pulitzer store, a small book cafe, Pure Barre (wonderful exercise classes), historic and beautiful Morgan Square, several local restaurants (including the amazing sushi from Miyako) and a wine bar as well a few brewery there is a little something for everyone to explore!

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