Tag Archives: family activities

Serve It Up Sassy!: Berry Delicious Summer

Summer means flip-flops, fireflies, and fresh ripe berries!  When you pick the first ripe berry and the sweetened juice pops in your mouth, it’s time to make your favorite summer berry delicious desserts. Blueberry Swirl Pound Cake and a Strawberry Tart are two simple desserts to have on hand for all of your summer entertaining. These berry-inspired desserts are bursting with the sun-kissed flavors of the season.

Swing open the French door to your patio and layer your picnic table with vibrant summer colors and delicious berry desserts.  We kept our seasonal table casual with red and white checked napkins, bright yellow sunflowers, and mason jars wrapped with twine.  The desserts and sunflower arrangement take a stand as the table centerpiece. Repeating the checkered napkins and single sunflower stem at each place-setting, as well as the white dinner plate emphasizes the easy-to-create table color scheme and décor.  Two white ruffled cake pedestals display the Blueberry Swirl Pound Cake and the Strawberry Tart.

table to benchEven more fun with function, we turned our seasonal bench into our picnic table. Our outdoor bench turns into a half-sized picnic table when the bench back becomes the table top. Every back yard, park and grill master should own one or more of these benches-to-table.  If two tables are put together it creates one regular sized picnic table.  These tables are build to last and can be used for all of your seasonal entertaining, not just for summer. Where do you get one of these bench-to-tables?  Glad you asked.  Boy scouts from troop #135  Sulphur Springs, Tennessee are building these bench/tables to raise money for a once in a lifetime high adventure camp called Florida Sea Base.  The bench/tables are available for purchase with 100% of the proceeds going to the boys attending the High Adventure Camp.  You can contact Doug Bushong, my husband and scout master* for troop #135 to order your very own bench turned table or any boy scout from the troop will be happy to assist you.

Your guests will enjoy the taste bud-tingling blend of blueberries and cream in the baked blueberry swirl pound cake.  The pound cake features a delectable golden crust with a moist tender center that will make this cake your new- go-to dessert for any season. A lightly sweetened blueberry puree is layered in the cake batter and gently swirled before baking.  This pound cake is perfectly wonderful all on its own, but when topped with a handful of fresh picked-ripe berries it becomes a sensational taste of summer.

The Strawberry Tart is a chilled summer pie with show-stopping presentation.  Fresh whole strawberries are de-stemmed and sit pretty with pointed ends up on top of a lemon and whipped cream filling.  The prebaked sweet pastry crust is made with real butter and confectioner’s sugar making every bite of this tart one to remember.  Both desserts are make-ahead with the Strawberry Tart being refrigerated for a few hours.

blueberry pound cake slice with watermarkBaking with berries can be a bit tricky. Blueberries can make your muffins and cake batter turn purple if you don’t coat them in flour first before baking. Coating in flour will prevent the berry juice from spreading into the batter.  Strawberries are almost 90% water and dark fuller berries have a higher concentration of water inside.   This leads to a sticky unexpected soggy baked dish. To prevent a soggy baked dish select berries that are just slightly under ripe, having passed the stage of development where a white ring appears around the hull.  For more information about strawberries and blueberries, how to grow, where to pick and health benefits, check with your local county extension agent or office.  For more entertaining ideas and recipes go to www.lizbushong.com.

Berries are beautiful!  Whether you are picnicking at the beach or in your own backyard go out and play; put on your flip-flops, watch the flickering lights of the fireflies and eat all the fresh berries you can.  This is going to be a berry delicious summer!

blueberry swirl pound cake with watermarkBlueberry Swirl Pound Cake

The Swirl:
1-1/2 cups fresh pureed blueberries
2 tablespoons cold water
1-tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
3-tablespoons granulated sugar

Cake Batter:
1-cup butter, softened and no substitutions
3-cups granulated sugar
1-(8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
6 large eggs
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
1-tablespoon crème bouquet* extract
1-tablespoon grated orange zest
3 ½- cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking powder
1-teaspoon salt
1-cup heavy whipping cream

Buttercream Orange Glaze
Fresh strawberries, blueberries, & mint

Preheat oven to 325. Coat 12-15 cup Bundt pan with shortening and coat with flour.
Blueberry Swirl: In small mixing bowl, whisk together cold water and cornstarch until smooth. In small saucepan, stir together blueberry puree, 3 tablespoons sugar and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil over medium high heat stirring constantly. Boil blueberry mixture until thickened, set aside and let cool.
Cake:  Measure flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add softened cream cheese and beat until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beat well after each addition. Add extracts and zest, beat to combine. Gradually add flour and cream, alternating with cream, beginning and ending with flour, beat just until combined.
Spoon 1/3 batter into prepared pan, spoon 1/3 blueberry swirl over batter, repeat layers ending with batter. Using a knife, swirl batter, but not too much. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert cake on cooling rack cool completely before glazing.
Buttercream Orange Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1-tablespoon heavy cream, 1 teaspoon orange extract. Drizzle over cake. Garnish with individual blueberries on top of cake. Serve with fresh strawberries, blueberries and mint sprig per serving.
Yield:  8-10 servings.  *Crème bouquet can be found at the Gazebo in Kingsport, TN or online.

Berry Delcious! (1)Strawberry Tart

1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2-teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, shredded and chilled
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon chilled water
2 tablespoons strawberry jam- melted

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
1-3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest
¾ cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream + 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 ½ pounds fresh strawberries, stemmed
¼ cup current jelly
1 tablespoon orange juice

Prepare crust:  Sift flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Grate butter and place on parchment then pop into freezer for 20 minutes. Add chilled butter to flour mixture, combine with hands or forks until crumbs resemble breadcrumbs. Mix egg yolks and water together, sprinkle over flour mixture to make soft dough. Knead a few seconds, flatten dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

On floured surface, roll dough to ¼” thickness. Press dough into bottom and sides of an 8-inch tart pan. Line crust with aluminum foil and add pie weights or dried beans to foil. Chill another 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400. Bake tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights and bake additional 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and brush baked shell with melted strawberry jam. Set aside to cool.  (Crust recipe will make two-8-inch tart shells).

Filling: In food processor, process cream cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar. Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl. In medium bowl, whip cream to soft peaks, add confectioner’s sugar, beat to firm peaks. Fold cream cheese mixture into whipped cream. Spoon filling into one tart shell. (Double filling ingredients recipe if making two tarts.) Cover filling with plastic wrap and chill 3 hours. Just before serving, arrange whole strawberries, pointed ends up, over the entire chilled tart in concentric circles. In microwave proof glass, add currant jelly and heat 12-15 seconds until melted, stir in orange juice. Remove from heat and let cool about 2 minutes. Stir jelly occasionally to prevent film from foaming. Spoon or brush warmed jelly mixture over berries and serve immediately.
Yield:  8-9 servings

Liz Circle 2013 smallHelping you Make a Statement, Make it Sassy and Make it Yours!®
Liz Bushong is an expert in the three-dimensional art of entertaining. She transforms simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments by adding a touch of her own “sassy” style. For the past several years Liz been entrusted to decorate the White House for several Holidays. She is a featured monthly guest chef/designer on Daytime Tricities, Daytime Blue Ridge and other television shows. Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook as well as a contributing writer for VIP SEEN and Bella Magazine. For more information about Liz go to www.lizbushong.com/www.serveitupsassy.com.

*Bench/table: Doug Bushong-Scout Master-Troop #135 –Sulphur Springs, Tn.  E-Mail: dbushong17@gmail.com 

A Staycation You Won’t Forget

If you love music, fun, and meeting great new people—FloydFest is the place for you! This weekend, from July 23-27, an 80-acre plateau right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia will come alive for a summer celebration. Attendees will experiences a 5-day staycation with a new “Revolutionary” theme. With performances from Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, Lauryn Hill, Ziggy Marley, Buddy Guy, Madrone, Lettuce, and many more, there is something for every taste in music. Visitors will also enjoy healing arts, sustainable workshops and panel discussions, safe and fun activities for young children and teens, and other functions throughout the festival grounds.

Since its inception, FloydFest has placed a strong emphasis on promoting sustainability and green initiatives. The FloydFest family has gone through great lengths to ensure that the festival area they love stays as unspoiled as possible. In 2011, FloydFest partnered with Klean Kanteen to provide free drinking water to all patrons and re-usable, stainless steel cups are available for festival-goers to purchase. The festival also hosts a multitude of sustainability panels and discussions ranging from composting workshops to water quality information sessions. Each year during the festival, a volunteer “Green Team,” monitors recycling stations, compost piles, and water bottle refill stations that are easily accessible to festival patrons throughout the entire venue.

FloydFest’s unique location opens the door for a wide range of easily accessible outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, disc golf, and more. Back at the festival site, the Healing Arts Village offers massages, yoga classes, meditation sessions and sustainability workshops. FloydFest’s strategically built concert stages, such as the Virginia Folklife Workshop Porch, provide a sweet concoction of picturesque views and intimate mountain sound that you can’t find anywhere else.

Go to www.floydfest.com for more information and a complete line-up of performers. You can even build your own custom schedule to ensure you don’t miss performances from your favorite artists. Spend a couple of days (or the entire weekend) enjoying the scenery, the people, and the music of FloydFest. We will see you there!

Fall Bike Ride for a Great Cause

Virginia Tech is hosting a Veterans@VT Combat Cancer Bike Ride on October 12! The ride is fun activity for families and friends to participate in together as an effort to get outside and enjoy some beautiful fall weather.

In addition, proceeds from registration and donations will benefit the Blue Ridge affiliate of Susan G. Komen and student veterans at Virginia Tech.

Unlike most rides where riders choose one of several distances, this height-of-foliage season ride will feature a 20 mile loop that individuals or teams are invited to ride as many times as they like. This allows the ride to cater to all ability levels and ages, and makes it a fantastic family activity.

The ride will begin at 8am, rain or shine, and will remain open until 4pm. There will be bike shows, food stands, and a live band at the finish for your entertainment. So grab a bike and a friend and head to the Veterans@VT Combat Cancer Bike Ride on October 12 at Floyd Eco Village in Floyd, VA!

Register for the ride now at www.veteranscombatcancer.org. Registration is only $45, and it includes a long sleeve technical tee and a ticket for the chance to win some great prizes (including a bike)! You can also like them on Facebook by following this link.


Written by Eleanor Haeg.

Get to Know Your Neighborhood

The Old Southwest Enchanted Garden Tour

Summer is right around the corner, and that means a lot of plants in our area are in full bloom. For garden lovers, it is the perfect time to get outside, explore different garden techniques, and maybe learn something new from your neighbors. On Saturday, June 14, several gardeners in Roanoke will be available to share their knowledge and expertise during The Old Southwest Enchanted Garden Tour.

New Image123Participating property owners were chosen because of the unique and eclectic aspects of their outdoor sanctuaries. One of the first community gardens in Roanoke will be part of this tour, and the landscape is one that you will not want to miss. Owned by artist, Elaine Fleck, “Rabbit Hill” contains multiple plots that her neighbors rent to grow their desired vegetation. The area is also bursting with color from Elaine’s array of flowers that she uses for weddings and special occasions.

The event is self-guided, but gardeners will be available to answer questions regarding landscaping and the plants in their gardens from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Your ticket will also serve as a map–showcasing the tour itself on the front and the property addresses on the back.

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit The Community Outreach program, a local nonprofit organization that takes care of feeding youth from all over the city three nights a week during the school year. Additionally, they offer assistance in school subjects such as math, spelling and reading. For additional information, visit www.oldsouthwest.org.


Floyd Artisan Tour

The Floyd Artisan Tour, from June 14-16, is the perfect place to take your bridal party for a weekend long excursion. The three day tour features over 50 locations across Floyd County with activities at artisan home studios; galleries and shops; wineries, farms and farm markets; and restaurant and lodging sites. Some of these stops will offer specials, discounts, or complimentary items to tour visitors. Many of them will offer educational demonstrations. You will have the opportunity to learn the art behind paper-making, pottery, woodworking, coffee roasting, and much more!

Go to www.floydartisantrail.org for a complete list of participating artists and businesses. Plan out your trip with your friends beforehand, or let the staffed information table at the downtown Community Market Pavilion provide you with information throughout the tour. They will have brochures, maps, and updated daily schedules on hand.

Melanoma Awareness Month

One in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime. Think of 50 people you know. Now, ask yourself if those 50 people wear sunscreen every time they go out in the sun. We are all human, and it is easy to forget sometimes. Buying additional bottles of suncreen for your car and workplace can help you get into the routine– but first you need to know why that routine is important.
Life is about time. Everyone wants just a little more. However, we are often rushing to get to the next enjoyable moment, and sometimes we forget to prepare for preventable catastrophe. According to the American Cancer Society, one person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes. It takes about five minutes to apply sunscreen on yourself and one very active child. In those five minutes, you could be adding years to your life.
woman-putting-sunscreen-on-child-300x199It is almost bikini season, and that means millions of people are flocking to tanning salons. A startling number of those individuals are teenagers. Do not let your insecurities be your death sentence. Before you get back in the tanning bed this year, consider this: people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for skin cancer by 75 percent. Take it from someone who is pale, with a history of cancer in her family. Those who love you would rather see your pale skin than visit you in the hospital because you wanted a tan for the summer.
My father has battled potentially cancerous moles for years. Up until recently, he often “forgot” to wear sunscreen, despite numerous warnings from his doctor. One such incident resulted in a sunburn on his legs that sent him to the emergency room. Last summer, I asked my 8-year-old sister to remind him to use sunscreen when he went outside. I even went so far as to say, “If daddy doesn’t wear sunscreen he could end up very sick and back in the hospital.”
A few weeks passed, and one day I received a phone call from my dad. He said, with a little sarcasm, “I just wanted to thank you for what you said to your sister. She will not let me leave the house without sunscreen now.”
It doesn’t matter how annoyed you feel by those five minutes you spend putting on sunscreen. What matters is that someone cares enough about you to remind you to do it. So, do us a favor. Grab a piece of paper and write, “sunscreen” on it. Tape it next to your door, and place the bottle of sunscreen somewhere nearby. We care about you, and we hope you will do your best to protect yourself from harmful UV rays this summer.

P.S. You can add additional protection with clothing that carries a UPF rating of 50+. We love products from UV Skinz, and this month they are offering a free baby sunshirt with every order! You should also check out the gorgeous scarves and gloves from Bloxsun for fashionable accessories that offer amazing coverage and protection.