Red, White, & Blue Snack Mix

It seems no matter how large our Independence Day cookouts might be,  the insatiable teenagers in this house always want snacks on hand.  Chips and dip is always an easy option for quick snacking, but sometimes it’s fun to change up the ordinary and make snacking a little more unique.

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This easy-peasy sweet and salty Patriotic themed snack mix is just perfect for the holiday as they can grab a handful while playing Bocce or Corn-Hole and keep moving.

Check it out for your own family!

red white and blue snack mix

INGREDIENTS:

15 cups Popcorn (I used pre-popped by Cape Cod), divided into 1/3’s

1/2 bag of red Wilton candy melts

1/2 bag of blue Wilton candy melts

White Candy Sprinkles

Salted Almonds

Mini Pretzels (I used Snack Factory Mini’s)

1 Bag Red, White & Blue plain M&M’s (available only in May, June & July)

ASSEMBLING THE SNACK MIX:

Using your preferred method of melting candy, melt the red and blue Wilton candy melts.   Divide your popcorn into thirds; coat 1/3 with the red candy coating, and 1/3 with blue candy coating.  Leave the other 1/3 plain.  Lay out on wax paper and sprinkle with the white candy sprinkles and almonds.  Let candy coating harden.

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Break apart the popcorn mixture and mix in a large bowl with the reamining plain popcorn, mini pretzels and the M&M’s.

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Serve up in a colorful holiday bowl… and that’s it.

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I think the thing I love about this easy snack mis is that it can be easily adjusted for other holidays just by changing the color of the candy melts and M & M’s (think Christmas parties here).

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Give it a whirl for your next holiday celebration!

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Honor Memorial Day

I don’t get all political or step up on a soapbox hardly, if ever, but briefly bear with me just a few minutes today.

As I scrolled through Facebook all weekend I found so many posts filled with party plans, celebrations for summer and the like for this weekend, but realized that it seems so many of our country have forgotten the solemn holiday that Memorial Day really is, and should truly be.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
~Arthur Ashe

Memorial Day is a “holiday” that has been set aside to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty while serving and protecting our country.  It was first recognized as Memorial Day as women from southern states began decorating graves of the dead while mourning and recognizing the sacrifices they made for their cause beginning in about 1865.  It wasn’t too much later that women in the northern states began a similar practice in the form of a Decoration Day.

Confederate dead

Thomas D. Watkins…. My ancestor killed in Chattanooga during the Civil War and buried in the Confederate Cemetery there.  I imagine many years after the war he was remembered along with the others in this cemetery in a Memorial Day ceremony honoring the Confederate dead.

Memorial Day became a common term used by everyone in the 1880s and after World War II the informal day became a national holiday where the service dead could all be honored and remembered. Now, 70 years later, instead of honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who have served and protected our nation, it has become a day of partying BBQ’s, days on the lake and generally the kick-off of summer break.

From a young age, Audley and I have always taught our children the meaning of this day, and we have never really celebrated it.  In fact, there have been many years we have put flags on graves of family members who lost their lives in wartime and that is our Memorial Day.

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Placing a flag at the Confederate Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2010. The kids were so little here!

There is a day for celebrating our nation (July 4), and honestly,  today is not it.

Revolutionary War

Putting a flag out for my 5x’s great-grandfather (a Revolutionary War soldier); buried in Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina

In honor of Memorial Day, I have put together a list of movies (some fictional tales of actual events and some based on true stories) that are great reminders of why we should say, “Honor” Memorial Day instead of Happy Memorial Day.  Maybe you can watch a few with your family as a way to instill the true meaning of this most solemn day.

7 films for memorial day

1) The Patriot (2000).  Starring Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger; Set in the Revolutionary War and telling the story of the sacrifices men (and even women) made so that our country could even exist!

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2) Gettysburg (1993).  With Tom Berenger and Martin Sheen this movie depicts one of the biggest battles of the Civil War.  Coincidently, Gettysburg is where some of the original Memorial Day services took place after the war.

3) Sergeant York (1941).  This movie starring Gary Cooper tells the story of Alvin York, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War I.

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4) Pearl Harbor (2001).  Starring Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett as fictional characters in the very real story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941; Pearl Harbor is still fresh in many Americans minds.

Pearl Harbor Memorial

5) Saving Private Ryan (1998). With Tom Hanks and Matt Damon the story of the invasion on Normandy Beaches and war throughout France leaves no secrecy to the loss of life for our nation.

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6) We Were Soldiers (2002).  Based on the true story and book by Lt. General Harold G. Moore, this movies depicts the first battle of US Forces with the North Vietnamese in November 1965.  The movies stars Mel Gibson as Hal Moore along with Greg Kinner and Sam Elliott.

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Reflection by Lee Teter

7) Lone Survivor (2013).  Starring Mark Wahlburg, Lone Survivor tells the true story of a group of Navy Seals deployed to take out a Taliban leader in 2007 and the one man who survived the mission.  It’s a vivid reminder that we are still fighting and men are still putting their lives on the line for us each and every day.

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A Nacho Buffet & Fiesta Steak

Cinco de Mayo is upon us which means every Mexican restaurant in the US will be packed to the brim with people indulging in Mexican food and drinking margaritas.  They may not be sure of the reason they are celebrating, but we all enjoy an ethnic dinner every now and then.

Cinco de Mayo is actually a date observed to mark the surprise defeat of French forces by the Mexican army in the battle of Peubla, in 1862.  For all of you who use this day to celebrate Mexico’s independence, you will want to mark your calendars for September 16 and plan another celebration!

I’m not one to fight crowds in restaurants in order to celebrate holidays.  Creating themed meals at home is so much more fun and memorable for everyone!  For this Cinco De Mayo holiday put together a Nacho buffet for your family and friends, pleasing everyone’s appetites with your creativity!

Easy Nacho Buffet

Here are some ideas of what to add to your buffet:

Ground Beef

Chili-Lime Grilled Chicken (you can find my favorite seasoning here)

Fiesta Steak (recipe to follow)

Tortilla chips

Salsa (Check out my easy-peasy version here)

Fruit Salsa

Guacamole (Here’s my tasty recipe for you to try)

Black Beans

Corn Salad

Queso Cheese dip

Sliced Avocado

Onion

Fresh Cilantro

Limes

Jalapeno

Cucumber

Shredded Lettuce

Sour Cream

Honestly, it’s a simple menu to plan and assemble, especially when enlist the help of your family to pull it all together!

So now that you have the menu plan and a few recipe links to get you started, I thought  I would share the fabulous Fiesta Lime Steak recipe that’s included in the list.

Fiesta Steak

INGREDIENTS:

4 pounds Flank steak

3 Cloves Minced Garlic

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice

1/4 cup Fresh squeezed Orange Juice + 1 Tablespoon Orange Zest

1/4 Cup Chopped Cilantro

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 Large Jalapeno pepper

1 Teaspoon Ground Coriander

1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin

1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano

Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Juicing Limes

PREPARING THE DISH

** Place your flank steak in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag.

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Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over the steak.  Seal the bag  and refrigerate 4-6 hours; turning occasionally to fully coat and marinade the meat.

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**Preheat your grill to 500º, then lower the temperature to low.  Place your meat on the grill, turning once as it cooks.  When the temperature of the meat reaches 135° – 145°, medium-rare to medium (honestly, you don’t want it cooked any more), pull it and allow to rest on a platter.

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**Carve with an electric knife and serve as an option for your nacho bar, steak tacos, or on top of a taco salad.

Nacho Buffet

And there you have an easy-peasy Cinco De Mayo Buffet laid out for you!

Ole′!

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Christmas Home Tour

Merry Christmas my friends!  I hope your holiday season has been all you could have possibly imagined!  This is such a busy time of year for all of us, and as I have discovered, working full-time (after being very part-time) can present so many challenges of its own.  As crazy as it has been, I’ve been determined not to let those challenges steal my joy, which in turn could affect my entire family.

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“Christmas now surrounds us,
Happiness is everywhere
Our hands are busy with many tasks
As carols fill the air.”

~ Shirley Sallay

I took a different approach in decorating this year; instead of stressing myself (and my litle family) out to create a house over-filled with Christmas, I focused on only two rooms, settling for two themed trees with a touch of garland on my banister & a little whimsy to remind us of the innocence of Christmas.  It was simple, but very effective.  It’s also what worked best for us with an overwhelming schedule.  There is no need to add chaos in decorating for the holidays when you already have so much going on!

And believe me, a little can go an awful long way.

Although I’m way behind & “late to the party”, I wanted to share our living room with you, so please accept this late invitation to take a peak into our home!

Home Tour

As Audley and I spent several days putting everything together I kept thinking of the words “warm”, “cozy”, and “peaceful”.  While these are words that are definitely associated with this beautiful season, they are also words I have tried to focus on each and every day lately as I try to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to both my husband and children, as well as all who enter our home at any time of the year.

“For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”

~ W. J. Tucker

  Without a doubt the living room is definitely the most common room in the house, so I put a lot of thought into how I wanted it to look.

Living room tree

For the most part I am such a traditionalist when I decorate for Christmas.  I love red and green sprinkled all around accented with Santas I have collected over the years.  Our living room tree this year was filled with vintage and rustic touches combined with  Santas and fairies for a touch of whimsy.

A little fun repping our daughter's college of choice ... It's a Carolina Christmas

A little fun repping our daughter’s college of choice … It’s a Carolina Christmas

In our tree I used plaid ribbon (purchased at Costco), deer antlers, pine cones, evergreen filler, and berries to create the rustic feel; then added a combination of ornaments from old-fashioned red and green balls to mercury bulbs to complete the look.

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Detail of my natural, traditional, and vintage style ornaments

There is something about those vintage-looking ornaments that make my heart feel warm and happy as I long for the simplicity of days gone by.

I used some of the same elements for garland around the fireplace screen (it’s been as high as 70° around here, so it wasn’t needed!), and on the wreath above.

Fireplace

Fireplace Hearth

I picked up the red lanterns at a yard sale several years ago. They fit perfectly with the theme I was trying to convey in the living room.

I created two small vignettes in the living room: one using Bradley’s “Thomas the Tank engine” from his days as a little boy (I was feeling nostalgic), and another scene using a porcelain Santa and reindeer we received as a gift our first year of marriage.

True story, while wandering through a local toy store I found this Gamecock engine which was the entire inspiration for putting out the train.

True story, while wandering through a local toy store I found this Gamecock engine which was the entire inspiration for putting out the train.

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We’ve displayed these beautiful pieces every year for 21 years now!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions!

We ran garland intertwined with lights down our banister from the loft.  Our garlands have become thin from the years of use, so we filled them with fresh cedar branches to give them a fuller look.

Banisters

The stockings were hung on the banister with care … in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.

Tying in the banister to our tree with a Mark Roberts fairy

Tying in the banister to our tree with a Mark Roberts fairy

A few throw pillows and I had a space that didn’t feel overdone or over-the-top, a little nostalgic, as well as cozy, warm, and peaceful which has been most needed and appreciated by all of us this season.

I found this pillow (and another made in the same way, at Dollar General.

I found this pillow (and another made in the same way), at Dollar General.

Thanks for visiting our home today.   I do hope you found a little bit of holiday joy as well as felt the mood I was trying to create.  As I leave you today, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you!  Thank you so much for stopping by!

And a Merry Christmas to all!

I would love to hear from you and how you are spending this blessed season.  Feel free to share in the comments if you would like, or check in with me on Facebook.  I often post there when my days are too short for blogging.

Merry Christmas Eve, Eve!

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