Tag Archives: outdoors

Life at the Middle: Opposites Attract

My husband and I are close, but we don’t always agree. The first four years of our marriage, we lived in a house with bare white walls, because we couldn’t settle on even one single picture. Over time our tastes have converged. We can now buy a couch or decorate a room without busting into an argument. But there is one thing about which we still disagree.

Despite my love of running, I am not an outdoorsy person, and I accept this about myself.  I’m a city girl, a New Yorker in fact. I moved there when I was 17, and it never occurred to me that I would live anywhere else.

I stay pale all summer. I love to walk too, but on city streets thank you, with shop windows, restaurants and street lights at night. I get nervous when the concrete ends. Plants are pretty (although don’t make the mistake of trusting me with yours); flowers are lovely, and I love trees. But I do not care for moving nature. What I’m trying to tell you, is that nature is fine with me, as long as it stays in place.

My husband, on the other hand, is a bona-fide nature boy. Having grown up a scholar, with most of his time spent reading and writing, he loves the outdoors.  He’s a self-declared friend of nature- and all those who live in it. He stops to admire frogs, or marvel at the geometric simplicity of certain bugs. And as often as the not too bright squirrels in our neighborhood fling themselves under the wheels of the car, he always swerves to avoid hitting them. 

His true weakness however, is turtles. My husband fancies himself a friend of the turtle, and like every nine year old boy, he loves to touch them. Driving with him is an adventure because whenever possible, he brakes for turtles.  If they’ve wandered into the street, he jumps out of the car and moves them to safety. And although I have tried to make my position on moving nature clear to him, this once almost became a problem.  

Out for a drive one day, my husband spied a turtle in distress. He put on his turtle saving super hero costume and leapt out of the car. But instead of delivering the turtle to safety, he decided to present it to me as a gift. As the turtle’s tiny head got closer and closer to mine, it’s wrinkled neck craning up to see me, I got more and more nervous, until I finally shouted, “I do not need to meet that tortoise!”

Seven years have passed since that near tete a tete encounter. While we now have clarity regarding what constitutes cute (puppies) versus gross (amphibians), my distaste for moving nature remains unchanged. I still do not appreciate turtles, frogs and the dreaded S creatures. On the issue of bugs, a division of labor has been arranged; I spot the nasty critters, and my husband disposes of them.

Beth Herman in an artist and essayist. She enjoys running the hills of Charlottesville and the city streets of Washington D.C., in almost equal measure.

Serve it up Sassy! ™: A Pond-side Picnic

RECIPE DEVELOPMENT, FOOD STYLING, PHOTOGRAPHY, and ARTICLE BY LIZ BUSHONG

In late afternoon, the sun begins to slowly melt into the horizon, like butter on a warm southern biscuit. That’s the time to grab a comfy old quilt, pack a picnic basket and head to the pond for a pond-side picnic.

Setting the tone for this spontaneous alfresco picnic begins with a vintage picnic basket and a red plaid thermos. The classic red, white, and navy, with a pinch of black creates the simple but sassy color scheme. Brightly colored boxes, take-out containers and buckets are filled with pre made picnic fare. This menu features a mouth-watering muffaletta that is packed with flavor. Tangy olive relish and layers of cold cuts are neatly stacked in a hollowed round loaf of crusty bread or as a wrap, tightly rolled in a flour tortilla. A plate of soft Brie with cracked pepper water -crackers are served with a cluster of green grapes that will refresh the palate from the tanginess of the sandwiches. In a star-studded navy cooler, soft drinks in small glass bottles are chilled to perfection. Last, but not least, is the dessert. Dark chocolate cupcakes with ‘ant’ candies remind us that summer will soon be arriving. These cute candy ants are made from plain and peanut M & M’s ® with chocolate frosting as legs and antenna. Kids of all ages will enjoy these cute cupcakes.

When planning your picnic think of foods that will travel and pack well. Avoiding foods prepared with cream sauces or egg based items will keep everyone safe from bad bugs, aka unwanted food borne illnesses. Here are a few helpful tips to keep bad bugs at bay:

  1. Avoid leaving prepared foods in the danger zone: 40-140 degrees F. more than two hours. You can expose them to 90 degree temperatures for one hour.
  2. Wash hands before and after handling food. Pack sanitized towelettes.
  3. Pack chilled food in an insulated cooler, with plenty of ice or ice packs to surround the food. Consider two coolers, one for food and for beverages.
  4. If you are serving chicken and meats, place in separate tightly sealed bags or containers at the bottom of your cooler.
  5. If grilling, designate separate plates for the raw meat and cooked foods.
  6. Keep grilling and eating utensils separate to avoid cross-contamination.
  7. While grilling, use a meat thermometer to make sure meats reach a safe internal temperature. That is 170-180 degrees for chicken. Beef, steaks and roasts should be 145-160 degrees F. Avoid partially cooking or grilling food with the intent of finishing the cooking later.

A little bit of common sense and planning ahead about picnic food safety will keep everyone healthy and allow you to create wonderful memories. Knowing you have prepared the best and safest menu for your family and friends will give you peace of mind.

When the sun has melted into the horizon and the orchestrated evening concert from the sounds of spring has begun, gather ’round to relax for one more moment at the pond, taking in all the delights of the afternoon and thinking about your next pond-side picnic.

 

Muffaletta-Sandwich or Wrap

 For Sandwich:
1 large round Italian loaf of bread or Hawaiian sweet bread round loaf
1 1/2 cups olive relish
10 thin provolone cheese slices
10 slices hard salami
10 thin Swiss cheese slices
1/2 pound black forest ham, sliced thin
1/2 pound peppered turkey, sliced thin 

Olive Relish
1 cup Spanish olives, drained and chopped
1 cup black olives, drained and chopped
1 cup pickled vegetables, drained and chopped coarsely
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions:
1. Cut upper third of round loaf in half. Hollow out top and bottom of loaves to make a pocket. Reserve bread pieces for other recipes
2. Spoon 1/4 cup of olive relish into bottom loaf, then 1/4 cup inside top loaf.
3. In bottom loaf, layer cheese and other ingredients in order listed above.
4. After turkey slice, repeat with provolone cheese, then go backwards with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and end with hard salami if desired.
5. Place lid of sandwich on top of round loaf.
6. Wrap entire sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
7. Slice into wedges to serve.

To make a wrap: Same ingredients, except for cheese and tortilla wrap. I used a cheddar/mozzarella cheese stick in the middle of the tortilla wrap for added presentation when sliced in half. Spread relish on wrap, then layer ingredients and roll up. Also refrigerate until ready to serve.

Yield: 4-6 slices

 


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Candy Ants
 

Ingredients:
1-18.25 ounce package dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1-3ounce package chocolate instant pudding and pie mix-dry
1 1/3 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
½ cup mini chocolate morsels
1-teaspoon vanilla
2 cups vanilla butter cream frosting
72 peanut M & M’s
1 cup dark chocolate frosting
½ cup white sprinkles or jimmies

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare cupcake pan with liners. Combine all ingredients except frosting. Beat batter for 2 minutes to blend.
  2. Fill plastic zip lock bag with batter, clip end of bag to ¼ “. Pipe batter into cupcake liners.
  3. Bake cakes 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla butter cream frosting.

To make candy ants: Place 2 peanut M &M’s in a row in center of cake, add regular sized M & M for head, and pipe legs using chocolate frosting on the center M. Then add eyes and feelers to head of ant.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

 

 

Liz Circle 2013 small - CopyMake 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. She makes elegance easy for her audience and encourages them to add their own Sassy touch to make it unique. Liz is famous for creating her own version of a beautifully presented tablescape – which she calls a

Sassyscape ™ -and she also creates magic beyond the dining experience. In 2009, 2010, and 13, she was selected from thousands nationwide to be part of an elite team of 100 professionals entrusted with decorating the White House for the Holiday. In 2011, she was part of seven-person team selected to decorate the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion for the holiday.

Liz has been featured as the monthly guest chef on Daytime Tri-Cities, television show on WJHL, the CBS Affiliate for the Tri- Cities Area of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Daytime Blue Ridge in Roanoke, Virginia and Daytime Tampa, Tampa Florida. She is also the creator and host of her own one-hour seasonal television show called “Serve it up Sassy!” for the same market, which aired in 2011. She is also a contributing writer for the regional magazine VIP Seen and Lovely Bella magazine in Roanoke, Virginia.
She has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Consumer and Family Sciences from Purdue University and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Fashion Design from The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is also certified in Decorative Finishes and has been trained as a volunteer Master Gardener.
Liz is the author of the Just Desserts and Sweets & Savories cookbook. Liz turns dessert into the fifth basic food group and features recipes for her signature specialty, delicious “mini-desserts and appetizers.”
Liz makes her home in Johnson City, Tennessee. She continues to perfect her sassy approach to turning simple dining occasions into beautiful and memorable moments. 

 Liz Bushong, Serve it up Sassy! ™

To purchase cookbooks, find recipes, cooking, and decorating demonstrations, go to www.lizbushong.com.

 

 

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.

Rock’n Women

We’ve all had some sort of meaningful connection to the outdoors-it’s part of our intrinsic makeup.  We are pulled to discover, explore, find and create relationships with the natural world.  Maybe it was making mud pies with the boys on the playground, searching the lawn for four-leafed clovers, attending camp in the summer. Through outdoor play, young girls begin to form a sense of wonder and the confdence they need to continue their personal and physical growth.

Written by Dustin Eshelman

To find out more about outdoor recreation in the Roanoke Valley and The River Rock Climbing Gym, pick up our latest issue, on stands now!