The biggest summer holiday is almost here which means it’s time to for some amazing barbecue, patriotic clothing and lighting up the sky with fireworks. When I think of the Fourth of July I think of warm summer nights surrounded by friends and family, Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful and snacking on anything watermelon related. It’s what perfect summer nights are made of. This is the holiday that calls for being outside and channeling our inner patriotism, so lets do it right!
I’m a sucker for traditions and this summer holiday is no stranger to the classics that we all know and love. Here I wanted to give some of my ideas on how to celebrate this holiday and make the most of the together time we’re able to have with all of our loved ones.
1. Fourth of July parade
This is such a perfect and classic way to start your Fourth of July morning off right. Usually every town around the country has a parade to celebrate the holiday. Go check it out! The kids will love seeing all the floats and everyone dressed in their best patriotic attire. Growing up we always would bring a bag for all the candy that was thrown from all the floats and try to collect as much as we could. We still attend every year to help get pumped up for activities planned throughout the rest of the day.
2. Get that block party going
If you live in a neighborhood with close neighbors and cul de sacs then what an amazing opportunity to get everyone together for one big party. Block the street off and set up those tables with some amazing pot luck style foods and sparklers lit for all to enjoy. Music is a must here so once you set an awesome playlist then you’re really ready to have a great time.
3. Make it a lake day
A day at the lake is priceless and being there on Fourth of July makes it that much more special. You can spend the day out on the water while being secluded with your family and friends or check out the local happenings around the community.
4. Decorating the house
Not able to take a trip somewhere? That’s okay! Make the most of your time at home and put your best foot forward with the decorations. Nothing gets me more in the mood for a holiday then being surrounded by festive decor.
5. Holiday attire
How often do you get to wear tons of American flags on your pants while sporting a sequin covered shirt and a red, white and blue top hat? Probably once a year so let’s make that count. Getting into the spirit of the holiday is one of the greatest ways to get pumped up for activities throughout the day and will also help put smiles on everyone else’s face.
6. Themed Desserts
Is it even a holiday without some sweets involved? This is definitely one of my favorite ways to celebrate the summer holiday. You can get so creative with how you display the desserts or you can go super simple and just stick some American flags on top. Either way you go, it’ll be so much fun.
7. Fire up the grill
It’s always about food, isn’t it? But that’s because it always makes the party! Having a classic cookout is what my ideal Fourth of July includes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is usually a grill master somewhere in the vicinity and they will be more than happy to supply us the goods.
8. Dancing to the music
Every household has to experience a good ol fashioned kitchen dancing night. No time better than the Fourth of July! Get the speakers plugged in and play your favorites to set the festive mood. If your town has it, head down to the local festivities and listen to some live music and dance the night away!
9. Watch the fireworks!
It doesn’t get more 4th of July than this and is such a no brainer for how to celebrate. This really only happens once a year so make the most of it! Don’t feel like dealing with the crowds? Not a problem! Sparklers are perfect mini, personal fireworks that you can have a blast with in your very own yard. You could also get everyone together and do the release of sky lanterns.
10. Get to know the veterans in your area
We truly do owe it all to those who sacrifice their lives every day just so we have the ability to celebrate holidays like this. The United States of America is such a unique country and it is our freedom that we cannot take for granted. Talk to those who have served and hear their stories, say thank you and offer them a hot dog. No time better then now to all come together.
It’s road tripping season! With so many people often taking flights to their destinations, sometimes it’s so refreshing to take that old fashioned road trip and really spend that quality time together. If we don’t take the time to travel on the road, their could be so many beautiful things we would be missing if traveling any other way. There are so many wonderful things to be seen and learned from when hitting the road, especially in our very own southern backyard! In fact some of my greatest memories all started with packing everything into the car, leaving when the sun is still sleeping and taking in the views from the car window.
These memories with the family are so important, especially to the kids which means it’s best to have as little worries and stress as possible. To make the most of your time on the road, I have put together some of my best tips for making this the easiest and most enjoyable adventure.
1. Check your vehicle
I cannot stress how so incredibly important this is. Before you do anything, you must bring your car in and have everything checked to ensure your car is ready and safely prepared for a long journey ahead. Usually the most important things to double check on are your breaks, tires, having enough wiper fluid and if an oil change is needed. Make sure that spare tire is fully filled and you have all the other necessary emergency equipment on hand like jumper cables. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have everything get a quick run through!
2. Start packing a week before
I know, I know. I get strange looks when this is said to be on my list, but let me tell you, it seriously helps me SO much to stay organized. Right now I only have a dog and husband to worry about. But when kids get into the picture, this step will only become that much more important! I’m not talking about cramming everyone’s suitcase, but starting little baggies for the dog, or preparing some snack bags for the road can really help to not only stay organized but also (most importantly) making sure you don’t forget anything. If you start the dogs bag now or making sure there are enough blankets, etc., then you have all week to double check and make sure you have all the little things you need leaving only the big suitcase packing for later on.
3. Have the car be sparkling clean
It’s a known fact that cleanliness actually does create happiness. When spending long amounts of time in a confined space, having done a quick cleaning job really can make all the difference. Go ahead and clear out those scraps of paper or trash that you said you’d grab later. Well now it’s later and it’s time to make this car a happy space. Making sure the dash is dust free and the floors are nice and vacuumed are some of the lessons I learned from my dad right before taking a long road trip and it’s one I’ll definitely be continuing. It’s inevitable that over time the car will start to accumulate trash during your trip, which is fine! That’s part of a road trip. But have a spare bag available to put everything in.
4. Load up and get a full tank of gas the night before
There’s that old joke that goes “if we want to leave at 6:00 then let’s plan on leaving at 5:30”. It’s almost always a guarantee that we will be running late the morning we want to leave. No one likes to be rushing around last minute, especially if it’s super early in the morning! Pack everything into the car the night before, leaving out those little necessities like a tooth brush and PJ’s. Why leave it all for the last minute? (This would exclude an ice cooler for obvious reasons) Same thing goes for getting gas.I always want to hit the road quick without stopping immediately. So turn that half a tank to a full tank the night before and enjoy your open road.
5. Don’t always go with the flow of traffic
Unless your my father-in-law who always drives 10 mph under the speed limit, usually everyone tends to go a little over what the sign says when driving. No one EVER wants to get pulled over, but sometimes it just happens. During my most recent road trip I was unarguably going with the flow of traffic, when BAM! those blue and red lights start flashing behind me. My stomach sank onto the floor as I had to wake up my husband from his nap in the passengers seat to tell him I’m getting pulled over by the cop. Luckily I had all the documentation needed for me to just get the ticket and go. Even though I was super bitter about it because I literally was going the speed limit that everyone else was, it was still my fault for not just using the cruise control on our car. If your car has it, definitely use it. You won’t have to worry about inching faster and faster and you can drive worry free about speeding.
6. Get those music jams set and loaded
Next to getting the mechanics of your car all squared away, this is definitely the next most important thing for a great road trip!! It’s pretty much a rule of thumb that the one riding shot gun is usually the DJ, so get those playlists all ready to go so you can enjoy your time on the open road. I’ve been a CD kind of girl since, forever, and always had a great mix tape at the ready. Although that method of jamming out is great, the Bluetooth setting on my phone has also become one of my best friends… Spotify is SO great for choosing the music you love and you can easily hook it up to your Bluetooth setting in the car! They even have pre-made road trip playlists if you so choose. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth then stick to those mix tapes!
7. Know when to stop
Sometimes we can feel super ambitious and want to do the entire trip in one go. But one of the beautiful things about a road trip are the stops! You can hit up big cities or discover charming small towns and get to know more areas than just the destination that you’re trying to get to. See a billboard for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky? Ruby Falls in Tennessee? Stop and check it out! Not only discovering the unknown beauties of the area you’re in, but also it can be a really big safety check. Driving from 3AM to 11PM sounds daunting. So cut it in half. No sense in getting into an accident from tiredness when we’re all trying to have a fun vacation.
8. Have a plan but have it loosely
It can be a good idea to have goals, but a lot of times those goals can be changed due to delays, which is inevitable. Road construction is a constant when cruising down those big highways which usually consists of lots of merging, inching forward and taking detours. Plan for it! It’s okay if you didn’t make it to the halfway point because things change and we are ready to roll with it. Thanks to GPS systems, we are able to find quick routes that can help avoid the traffic and take lesser traveled roads to our destination. If you don’t have a GPS system and can read a paper map then put your skills to the test and find that unknown detour. (Also that is super impressive nowadays and you would deserve a major reward for that)
9. Take TONS of pictures
I don’t know where I would be without my camera. With smartphones at the ready, it is easier now more than ever to capture those precious memories. I’m talking more than just Instagram pics. I recently invested in a Polaroid camera and have never looked back. (Click here for the one I have). Getting that instant gratification along with some awesome vintage nostalgia is something that I cherish and will keep using forever. When heading on a long road trip, take the time to capture those giggles, smiles and unusual stops along the way. Looking back on these times of adventure will be so worth it.
10. Keep yourselves entertained!
People often find that road trips can have a certain lull at times, but let’s keep that from happening! Some of my favorite road trip games are Mad Libs. They are so much fun and keep us laughing for hours. You can also try to figure out some games that can correlate to your surroundings. Like how many times you can find a billboard that says Ruby Falls. (We did that and there were a LOT) Get creative with it.
11. Have a spare key
Could you imagine losing your only key to the car during your road trip? This would seriously put a damper on things. Better safe than sorry and grab that spare key!! No one wants to be stranded.
12. Leave some space for goodies
One of the best reasons for taking a road trip instead of flying is the chance to take some awesome treasures home! Who knows, you could come across something that you just cannot live without and luckily you’ll have plenty of room for it in the car. If I’m heading down to Savannah, GA then you best believe I’ll be browsing around some antiques that could NEVER make it on a plane.
Soon I’ll be constructing the perfect road trip around the South that will hopefully inspire you to get out and adventure around our great nation. So many great things to see, so little time!
This may be in fact the most simple recipe I have on hand, and it’s probably one of the most used! When it comes to desserts, it’s so easy to just grab a can of instant whipped cream. We all use it. It’s just one less step that you have to do. But let me tell you, having your own homemade whipped cream recipe can really come in handy to avoid an extra trip to the store. It also beats the taste of a can any day!
With this recipe I usually end up doubling it. I feel that it’s good to have it in this size though in case you really don’t need that much. But because this recipe is so tasty, the entire family will always end up sneaking a finger swipe in the bowl and before you know it, most of it is gone!
1 Cup cold heavy whipping cream
2-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Before starting, place mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill
In the bowl, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract
Start mixing on low speed, then increase the speed to a medium-high until stiff peaks form.
And that’s it! If you’re feeling fancy, this whipped cream recipe is so great for piping. It also could look really great just being used as a dollop on top of an already made dessert. Let your creativity shine!
People often think of Florida as this tropical beach oasis with palm trees and a warm summer breeze all year long. Which, they wouldn’t be wrong. But often times people can forget the metropolitan side of Florida. The skyscrapers, city buses and bustling financial districts are all a part of what makes Florida such a diverse state. Tampa is no substitute to the city/beach life. With the dolphin filled waterways laced with tall buildings along the coast, it’s Tampa that has developed to be the best of both worlds.
Nestled along the Hillsborough river and near the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay has began to create a magnificent name for itself as one of the best places to visit when heading down South. With St. Petersburg and Clearwater being home to some of the best beaches in the world, you really can get the best of both worlds when staying in Tampa Bay. As for me, becoming a local to this city has been one of the best experiences. With an abundance of places to eat, things to do, and festivals to attend, Tampa will without a doubt be the new “it” place to travel. In many cases, Tampa has even been put on the map as one of the greatest places to call home as well. The real estate market in the city has seen a significant boom within the last few years making it the second largest metropolitan area within the state.
Here I have come up with a list of some of the best ways to celebrate your time while in the Tampa Bay area. Their are so many different faces to this city and I feel it’s great to try and hit every single one of them.
1. Hillsborough River Walk
This is one of the best ways to really experience the city! The river walk can start from Sparkman Wharf all the way down to Armature Works. Along the way you can learn about the wildlife that resides inside and along the river. You also can get some of the greatest views, especially while stopping at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This is a great location to get your barrings because it’s right next all that’s happening in the downtown area.
2. Sparkman Wharf
Within the channel district of downtown, this is a modern waterfront hangout that is constantly being updated and made brand new. Here you can get an up close look at all of the cruise ships that park for vacationers while getting some magnificent views of the water. With its beautifully manicured lawn, here they have live music, street food stands, and some awesome bars and bowling.
3. Go To The Beach
Would it really be visiting Florida without a fun and relaxing beach day? Tampa Bay is a tri-city area that tag teams with St. Petersburg and Clearwater. The beaches here are voted the number one beach in the country and one of the top 20 beaches in the entire world. Along with it’s silky white sand in between your toes, the Gulf of Mexico has some of the warmest waters to venture into. Clearwater also is home to the famous boardwalk Pier 60 which is host to some of the greatest fishing spots on the Gulf. Once evening starts, it’s boardwalk is lined with live music and little pop up shops to enjoy.
4. Hyde Park Village
Hyde Park Village is where my daydreaming really kicks in. The houses down the streets of Bayshore are what dreams are made of and are just absolutely stunning and magical. Walking through the streets draped with old oak trees and around it’s outdoor shopping area early in the morning is one of the most relaxing ways to start a day. With the high end shops, dine-in movie theater and top rated restaurants, it’s deemed a must see around Tampa.
5. Walk the University of Tampa Campus
Dating back to the 1800’s, this private university (formerly a luxury hotel) is home to the Henry B. Plant Museum. This is one of my favorite places in the city to show visitors due to it’s jaw dropping architecture and beautifully manicured lawn. It’s dripping with incredible history about the city and explanations as to how this magnificent facility came to be. This is located just across the river from Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park which will give gorgeous views of the entire city.
6. Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park
I love this zoo so much I actually became a member! The zoo in Tampa was featured on National Geographic’s Secret Life of the Zoo during it’s third season which showcased just how well these animals are cared for and the level maintenance that goes into this facility . Here you can see all different kinds of animals from all around the world and even feed the giraffes for just a tiny additional charge. (I think it was around $5 with my membership pass). Visiting here can easily take up about half the day and it is totally worth it.
7. Gasparilla Festival
If you plan accordingly, you could be in Tampa during the biggest festival of the year, that being Gasparilla. This usually takes place at the end of January each year and is so huge, it’s known as Tampa’s Mardi Gras. Originating in 1904, this pirate themed invasion starts with the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship shooting canons off into the city and “taking over” Tampa Bay. Then starts the four mile parade followed by a night of festivities while everyone is in their full pirate garb.
8. Cross Bay Ferry
This is the most fun way, in my opinion, to get from St. Pete’s to Tampa. Enjoy a drink with the wind in your hair and the views of the bay while making the trek from the beach to the city. Currently the ferry is only running from November to the end of April but because of its growing popularity, the city is working on making it a year round means of transportation.
9. The Florida Aquarium
Right in the center of it all, the Florida aquarium in downtown Tampa is the perfect way to get educated on marine wildlife while still having fun! As a nonprofit organization, the aquarium does lots of coral research and does incredible work to restore the declining population of coral along with sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation work.
10. Visit the Hillsborough River State Park
Maybe it’s time to venture further out of the city and get a feel of what the true old, southern Florida used to look like before modernization. The park consists of almost 3,000 acres and within that, have just over seven miles worth of trails to explore. These old southern bayous, draped with vines and surrounded by wetlands and mangroves are home to so many varieties of animals. You can camp in the state park and go canoeing down the rivers, just be sure to watch for the occasional splashing of the alligators.
11. Tampa Theater
One of the greatest historic landmarks our city has. This gorgeous theater first opened in 1926 and hasn’t slowed down since. On occasion they host events that you can attend, but on a more daily basis the theater showcases a wide range of documentaries, foreign, and independent films. You can also catch a live show which feature comedians and musicians from all over!
12. Busch Gardens
When you want some more Adrenalin for your day! This African themed animal theme park has been a go-to spot for many years around Tampa. If terrifying and adventurous roller coasters aren’t your thing, theirs plenty of low key activities you can do like soaring on the Skyride, catching a show, or riding the famous train to get an awesome view of the exotic animals that are home to the park.
13. Ybor City
The place where the Cuban sandwhich calls home. Historic Ybor is certainly one of the most unique areas of the city with it’s cigar scented streets, historic architecture and vintage style boutiques. While honoring it’s Cuban and Latin American history, Ybor is most popular for it’s nightlife and is home to many very famous places to stop into such as Columbia Restaurant which dates back to 1905, and Tabanero Cigars where you can watch people hand roll each and every cigar made.
14. MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Going to an outdoor concert is probably one of the most fun things on my list of what to do. Luckily Tampa has an AMAZING outdoor amphitheater that hosts some of the biggest names from all over. Just a short 10-15 minutes from downtown, here you can enjoy the sunset, lay in the grass with a drink in your hand and listen to one of your favorite artists.
15. Florida Museum of Photographic Arts
Couldn’t resist putting this on the list! This museum is located in the center of it all, just next to Curtis Hixon Park. FMoPA showcases national and international photographic artists and can also offer lectures from notable experts on specific exhibits that may be currently showcased. This was one of the fist date nights my husband and I had when first moving to the city and it was one I’ll always remember. Visiting here is such a great way to experience different cultures and appreciate different genres of photography.
16. Catch a sports game
Tampa Bay isn’t a stranger from the professional sporting world. Amalie Arena is in the heart of downtown and is home to the Lightning hockey team. Here they also host many huge concerts which can be SO much fun. Along with hockey, we also have an awesome baseball team! The Tampa Bay Rays are a part of the American League East division and you can catch a game with them at Tropicana Field. This year the city is also very excited to welcome Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to The Buccaneers family. In the year 2021, Tampa will be host to the Superbowl!
17. Visit Park and Rec
Located near the Channel district downtown, this ‘adult playground’ is such a fun way to let loose and rediscover your inner child. You can really experience that college party vibe while stopping by their four bars, grabbing some awesome food and watching one of their 45 TV’s. Here they also feature retro arcade games, classic lawn games like giant beer pong out on the patio, and a dance floor with VIP booths.
With this just being a few of the fun things to do around the city of Tampa Bay, there is also an abundance of amazing culinary ventures to experience. To check out some of the amazing food options for all meals of the day, click here!
If you are interested in a super quick and easy recipe for your family that also is great for leftovers, then PLEASE look no further than this chili recipe. The first time I ever tried this was at my boyfriends house (now husband) and his mom made dinner for everybody. Before trying this, I have actually never tried chili before in my life, but let me tell you, my now mother-in-law totally changed my taste buds for I now LOVE chili!
This could possibly be the most simple way to make chili, but sometimes you really just need something quick and I feel like this is such a great way to do it.
1 to 1 1/2 lbs ground round beef
3 cans black beans, drained
1 large + 1 small can tomato sauce
1 package chili mix
For optional toppings:
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Fry beef in large pot and then drain the grease after fully cooked
Place beef back into the pot and add the drained black beans , tomato sauce and chili mix
Stir all together and bring to a boil
Put stove top on simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
Serve with raw diced onions, cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream on top of each bowl. These are optional toppings which means you can absolutely use whichever ingredients you like best.
When I think of summer, I think all things lemon! This super simple recipe is so perfect for your next summer time gathering and will be such a show stopper for everyone. Living here in Florida, I can testify that this has been such a great cold and refreshing treat to keep in the refrigerator. It’s cold and creamy texture will be perfectly created in just 5 minutes of combining ingredients, then it’s just a game of waiting in the refrigerator!
This recipe can be a bit versatile in the ways you want it constructed. For the crust, you can easily just pick up a pre-made version from the grocery store (which I have done here), or add a more personal touch and make your own graham cracker crust. You could also either do a dollop of Cool Whip on the top when it’s finished cooling, or go a little step further and add your own whipped cream. It really just depends on the time we have during the day, but in truth, either way you do it it’ll taste amazing!
1 (6 oz) Frozen Lemonade concentrate, thawed
2 (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding box
1 (8 oz) cool whip
1 3/4 cup milk
1 graham cracker crust
In a large bowl, mix together the two boxes of vanilla pudding and milk. Use a hand whisk to mix together.
Add the thawed lemonade and whisk together until pudding is thick. Should be about 2 minutes of time
Fold in the cool whip and then pour into crust
Cover the pie and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours
How easy is that?! For me, the fun part is always decorating your desserts to make the presentation just the way you want it. This is where your creativity can really shine! What I did here was used my homemade whipped cream recipe (you can find that recipe here) for the center, then used some berries that I thought could really pop with color. Since it’s a lemon pie, feel free to use some lemons to garnish with as well along with a sprig of mint for that pop of green for summertime.
If you’re like me, you usually pay so much attention to your main dish that you end up totally forgetting what to accompany your awesome meal with. It can be fun though trying to decide the perfect combination for you and your guests plate.
These potatoes are SO tasty and can pretty much go with any kind of dinner you have planned. I got this recipe from my mom and when I’ve made it for people, they say that these are called “funeral potatoes”. I never really cared for that name because (for obvious reasons) it’s kind of a downer! So since these are southern style potatoes, we’re changing the name.
What’s also so great about this dish is that it almost tastes even better the next day. My husband even says that he gets so full from these potatoes that he forgets to eat everything else on the plate!
2 lbs frozen southern style hash browns
1/2 Cup margarine (save 1/4 Cup for corn flakes
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
Dash of onion salt
10 oz can cream of chicken soup
1 Pint sour cream
1 Cup Corn Flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Mix in all the ingredients listed above except for the Corn Flakes and the 1/4 Cup balance of margarine
Melt 1/2 Cup Margarine and put into a large bowl (keeping 1/4 Cup for Corn Flakes)
Put mixed ingredients into a 9×13 baking dish that has been pre sprayed with a nonstick spray.
Crush corn flakes (try not to make it into a dust consistency) and mix with melted 1/4 cup margarine
Drizzle over top of the potato mixture
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (or until it starts to bubble)
Adding another recipe that can be used with a slow cooker is always so exciting for me. with this tomato soup recipe, you just throw everything together and leave it! I actually have never been a huge fan of tomato soup. That is, until I tried this recipe and boy have my tastes changed! This recipe is also great for those who are Gluten Free! (Just skip any sides of bread)
Usually this recipe is great for leftovers, but recently we haven’t had to much left due to everyone scarfing it down right away. I swear it’s that good. All you need is to whip up a side of grilled cheese and you have a perfect meal for the kids or light lunch with friends.
2- 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes, (56 oz total)
1 cup half & half
2 cups vegetable broth
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole bay leaf
Dice the yellow onion and carrots just a bit so you can evenly distribute it in the slow cooker
Add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker
Turn on the slow cooker and have it set on High for about 4 hours. if you are using the Low setting, cook for about 6-8 hours
When finished cooking, pour the ingredients into a blender to pulse into a smooth consistency, making sure there aren’t any chunks. You’ll most likely not fit it all in the blender, so do the first half and then the remaining that needs to be blended
Once all ingredients have been pulsed, place back into the slow cooker and serve right away, or keep warm for later.
I don’t know about you, but finding the most perfect recipe for cheesecake has been a little bit of a struggle for me. But this rich and velvety crowd pleaser has made entertaining SO much sweeter. The smooth and creamy filling with the classic buttery graham cracker crust is so completely mouth watering and so completely worth the work in the end! I know, sometimes it can look a little daunting when you read all the steps, but I promise you that it is so much easier to do once you give it a try and see for yourself.
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups honey graham crackers, pulsed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each), softened/ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 cup full fat sour cream
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
2 egg yolks AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit
Make sure that all ingredients that need to be at room temperature have done so.
Starting with the crust:
Spray a 9 inch springform pan with a non-stick spray, set aside for later
With a food processor, pulse the graham crackers into a crumb consistency, then adding sugar and salt to be combined.
Pour into a bowl and add melted butter. Stir well
Add to sprayed springform pan and firmly pat down to form a crust
wrap heavy duty tin foil underneath and around the sides of pan. Doing multiple layers in a crisscross formation will help keep moisture out. Set aside
With a mixer, beat together the sour cream and softened cream cheese. Make sure this is combined really well to ensure the silky smooth texture at the end
Add the vanilla and sugar and beat until smooth.
Add the 2 egg yolks and 3 full eggs and beat until smooth
Slowly pour in the flour and mix until just fully combined.
Stir in the heavy cream and mix until it is just incorporated into the batter. Be sure not to over mix or it will create to much air and cause deflation after baking
Pour the batter into your prepared springform pan
In a separate, large and deep pan (maybe a roasting pan), fill it with hot water to create a bath for the cheesecake. (fill about halfway or to where the top of the foil doesn’t become emerged) This will prevent any cracks from forming while it is baking in the oven
place your springform pan into the water bath and then put into the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
After the baking time has ended, turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit for an additional 45 minutes, untouched. There should be a slight wiggle to the cheesecake when finished
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let sit for an additional 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen from pan
cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours.
This is where you really can have fun! With my cheese cake, I used a butterfly stencil and piped the chocolate to create a 3D effect. You can purchase the chocolate piping kit that I used right here. When the chocolate is done hardening in the refrigerator, I gently pressed each side of the chocolate onto the side of the cake.
I also used the chocolate piping kit to help make the chocolate covered strawberries for the sides. You can use these chocolate melting packs to dip the strawberries in and then draw stripes with the piping kit.
Finally, add whichever and however many pieces of berries along the sides and top, which would then be lightly dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with sporadic pieces of mint. The berries I used were blue berries, and raspberries.
If any of you find some questions that haven’t been answered, please leave a comment or message me! I’d love to help anyone who may need it.
It’s no secret that that this year has been looking a little different then most. With stay at home orders, social distancing and restricted travel, it’s now so important that we find ways to satisfy our mental health and keep active during these most celebrated months. I wanted to list at least 15 different activities that anyone can do to have some fun this summer and make lasting memories along the way.
1. Picnic In The Park
This may be one of my all time favorite activities to do during the season. Pack your favorite foods, your coziest blanket and plant yourself in one of the best spots in town. Growing up, I remember our mom always taking us to the local park and picking up food for us to sit outdoors with while we watch the ducks treading down the stream and listened to the crickets sing beyond the trees. This summer past time can be done with your children, significant other, or the entire family to bring a little spontaneity to meal time.
2. Drive-In Movie
No, we can’t time travel. But we CAN hop in the car and head out to the local Drive-In movie theater which could be the next best thing. The nostalgia runs deep with this summer activity which I am always here for and ready to dive into. Check your area to find the nearest theater and see what shows they’re playing for the weekend. I personally love to visit during classic movie nights, but they also show today’s newest films that could be great for the family! Don’t forget to watch the dancing hot dogs and popcorn during intermission time.
Whether you have a boat, a local dock, or just a pond near the backyard, this relaxing summer venture is great for finding that peace and quiet we all need every now and again. Whats great with this is you could have a fishing buddy or go completely solo and still have a great time. I recommend going either really early in the morning or enjoying a nice evening break near the water.
4. Bonfire In The Backyard
Grab those graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars cause a bonfire is in the works! Find an awesome playlist that corresponds with the groups current vibe and enjoy the warmth, sounds and smells that an awesome backyard fire pit can give. No greater way to start some awesome conversation.
With my current downtown apartment living, this is a hobby that I cannot wait to establish once we make the transition to a house. I dream of the day that I can add all the color and smells to my backyard to get that beautiful private oasis. That being said, don’t let apartment living stop you! Grab some affordable pots and research plants that can thrive either indoors or on balconies with certain sunlight requirements.
6. Outdoor Yoga
Grab the mat and find a space of tranquility as you open your mind to the peace around you. Practicing yoga daily is on my to-do list because it has helped me tremendously with my flexibility and the silent nature of it really did help me relax. This can obviously be done indoors or outdoors, but why not add some sunshine and nature sounds to your experience?
7. Hosting a BBQ
Everyone knows the image of the backyard grilling station and the mouth watering smells that come with it. Discover your inner Grill Master and cook up those summer classics like burgers, hot dogs and chicken (among other favorites). Not into meat? No problem! Portobello mushrooms can be a great meat substitution that tastes great on the grill along with a side of grilled corn on the cob and a heaping side of pasta salad and watermelon
8. Star Gazing
Get out of the bustling city and head out to the country to find a night sky that’s not affected by light pollution. If driving a few hours for the complete darkness isn’t possible, look towards the south in an area with the least light and no major cities in that direction. With this tip, you’ll be able to possibly see a better view of the Milky Way.
Now more than ever, volunteers are being used to help communities around the country to help regrow and strengthen our small towns and big cities. Check out your local food bank. See if your local Habitat For Humanity needs a few more hands. Getting down and dirty isn’t really your scene? No worries! Help plan events within your town and give your creative skills or organization skills to those who could use the help. Your town doesn’t really do many events? Create them! Start a summer concert series or farmers market to get people together.
10. DIY Crafts
Impress everyone with how creative you can be with trying out a new hobby! Sometimes I can bite off more than I can chew with the crafts I attempt, but as long as you’re having fun and expanding your skill set, no hurt in trying! Some crafts that I have tried is painting furniture, knitting, embroidery, candle making and tie dying. All challenging in their own way, but totally worth it.
11. Baking New Recipes
Something about writing down a successful attempt at a new recipe and adding it to the recipe book is so satisfying. I’ve learned from experience that this activity is not only great for you, but totally yummy for the rest of the family as well! Nothing more classic then baking an awesome apple pie topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream to quench our cravings.
12. Themed Movie Marathons
Either cozy up on the couch, sprawl out with pillows on the floor, or even take this next option outside to create an awesome movie marathon night. Take your new baking skills and utilize it to create a yummy snack to make your marathon even better. Can’t forget the popcorn though. It’s essential!
13. Walk or Bike Ride Downtown
Take in your local towns history by going for a nice, relaxing stroll throughout the streets. Try and make note of the repeating architecture that is being displayed within your community or discover the beautiful trees that line the streets. Take a break at the local coffee shop and take a refreshing drink along with you for the rest of the way!
13. Water Fun In The Sun
The water balloons are getting filled and the teams are made. One team gets the front yard, the other gets the back. And so it begins! Running around in the sun getting soaked is always a fun way to make the day go by. Growing up we always had water gun fights and ran around trying to tag the other person. We also always hooked up the hose to a classic sip n’ slide which took hours of the day!
Usually this took place in the backyard for us kids growing up, which was always such a blast with friends! A few times we also took our camping to a more exciting level and stayed at a campground. Either way, it’s always an adventure sleeping under the stars and loading up the tent full of your favorite blankets and pillows.
15. Game Night
It’s a no-brainer that grabbing the board games such as monopoly, clue, scrabble, or anything else you find in the closet can fill in some of the boredom. Add a pizza into the works and you’re looking at an awesome night. You could also even leave the board games out of it and grab a bunch of the neighbors to play a good old fashioned event of NIGHT GAMES. Flashlight Tag, Kick the Can and Ghost in the Graveyard are just to name a few.
With this year being a bit different, these are just a few ideas of many that can be done to occupy your time during these summer months of social distancing. We may not be able to hit up that summer concert like normal, or head out to the weekly farmers market and shop. But hopefully we can all find something that we enjoy doing with our ourselves or families to make the joyful memories of a lifetime.