Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm so behind!

Okay - real quick.Two upcoming blog posts I hope for you all to see very soon:

1) N.C. State fair (and Raleigh weekend in general)
2) Pumpkin Party

I've gotten way behind in my blogging and I'm sure there will be much more soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Travel Tips to Have Your Cake and Eat it too

Everyone loves a vacation, but I don't know anyone who likes to go broke because of it. Tomorrow, Ash and I are getting ready to take an extended weekend trip from Philadelphia to Raleigh. While I know we'll be eating many of our meals out, I also know we won't break the bank, thanks to a few good food-related, money-saving tips.

I booked our hotel using Priceline. It's the first time I've used their hotel service, but I'm pretty happy with what was available! Our hotel is brand new, super close to the main place we'll be going over the weekend, and top top it off, it had some of the best reviews.

The first money-saver is that our hotel offers a free continental breakfast, but not just the cereal and fruit spread you typically find. The breakfast features a little more, such as scrambled eggs and a few other hot options. It'll be a great chance to get our day started with a hearty meal, and even pick up an extra piece of fruit for a snack later in the day. The next time you are preparing to book a hotel for a trip, check for free continental breakfast.

Another bonus is that our room (and all of them in our hotel, for that matter) has a mini-fridge, microwave and coffee maker. The mini-fridge is great for stocking a few extras like juice, soda, yogurt, cold cuts, fruits and veggies, etc. Lunch time is usually when you're on the go, so it's extra convenient to be able to make yourself a sandwich to bring along for your day, and supplying the ingredients yourself will certainly be cheaper than picking up something while you're out.

I love when hotels have a microwave in the room. It's perfect for heating up dinner leftovers for a late night snack, making popcorn before bed, heating up water for tea, etc. And of course the coffee maker automatically saves you a couple dollars each morning. Rather than run out to a local coffee shop, you can make it yourself and have a cup while you're getting ready. Most hotels even supply the coffee for you, or you can bring your own. And with the mini-fridge, you can even bring your own cream so you aren't stuck using the non-dairy, powdered creamer (ew).

Finally, the best places to eat out when you go on vacation are the locals' favorite spots. Think about your own habits at home - do you go out to tourist-trap or similarly pricey restaurants on a regular basis? Doubtful. I've never been a fan of chain restaurants - imagine what they have to do in order for the food to be the same at every location across the country. Not something I want to eat, that's for sure. Since I lived in Raleigh for a few years, I already know some of the best spots in town, and I can't wait to get my grub on!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sunday Funday: Apples and Pumpkins

True to Sunday Funday tradition, Ash and I set off on an adventure this past Sunday. Our intended destinations were in central-ish PA - Hawk Mountain (to go hiking and watch for migrating raptors) and Cabela's. Bonus points if we came across a pumpkin patch on the way.

A hellish traffic jam led us to take a different route, which just so happened to dump us out on a corner where Ash saw the sign for pick-your-own pumpkins, apples and raspberries. Jackpot. Down some winding farm roads we went until we came across a few more signs, pointing us in the direction of the farm. Back up a winding gravel road and over hills we went until we arrived at the top. Totally. Amazing. The views were gorgeous and they did indeed have pick-your-own apples (four varieties) and pumpkins.

When we got home, I checked out Ontelaunee Orchards online, and found out that it began in the 1920s and the fruits are still harvested by hand, rather than machines. So cool.

The pumpkins growing in the field were fairly small, but who cares! We both whipped out our knives and cut our chosen beauties right from the vines. It's not like we settled...there are definitely more pumpkin patches in our future. 

We ended up spending so much time wandering around the fields and picking plenty of Golden Delicious and Jonagold apples, that we decided to save Hawk Mountain for another day and head straight to Cabela's. Holy sensory overload. That is a pretty awesome store.

So hawks or no hawks, we certainly made an adventure. I can't say we were prepared to be sweating our butts off in 80 degree temperatures on an October afternoon, but at least we had a good snack.

Next weekend, it's off to Raleigh to visit some of my favorite haunts and go to the N.C. State Fair!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Last minute things

Some weekends, you're just having too much fun to bother with silly little tasks like grocery shopping. Some mornings, even though you wake up to the entire block lined with idling utility trucks, chainsaws buzzing and wood chippers grinding tree limbs, you try with desperate futility to sleep 20 more minutes. Then you remember that silly little task you forgot to do. Cuss. That's when you have to get ready at lightning speed, thank your lucky stars that the dogs already woke up up pre-dawn to go outside to tend to business, and you get your butt quickly out the door.

On the rare (cough, cough) occasion something like this happens, I'm glad the grocery store is only a mile away, and I just have to loop back toward my apartment - on the same street, no less - to get to work. So, having neglected grocery shopping and desperately needing something for lunch, I buzzed through the grocery store in just a couple minutes and then was on my way.

Straight to the bagel bins - good, lots left. Grab a toasted onion bagel. Across the produce section to grab a bag of baby spinach. Oh - on sale. Holla! Down the aisle and around the corner to the pre-sliced/pre-packaged deli meats. Turkey. Also on sale. Double score. Back up the aisle to self check-out and out the door. And this is what I end up with:

Not too shabby. And now I have enough spinach and turkey for a few more sandwiches this week, too.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Well, because it's Friday...

I almost made it, but not quite. The last meal I had planned for this week was one of my favorites, but a favorite I haven't made in several months: falafel (sorry, I'm not quite sure what happened to the pictures from this post!).

I've been up way too last the past few nights, and especially last night. Around 1:30, just as I was about to doze off, I heard the snap of the mouse trap I have set up behind the refrigerator. Ugh. When you live in a house that was built in the late 1800s, you get a few uninvited guests as the weather starts to get cold. By the way, no harm done - when I check it this morning it was just tripped and flipped over - no critter. In any case, I yawned my way through the work day (I think they're brewing half-caff...agh!), and when it was time to go home, I couldn't bear the thought of going to the grocery store during the mad pre-dinner rush (it seems no one in my neighborhood plans dinners and shops ahead...ever), and then spending another 30-40 minutes preparing the meal. Because it's Friday, and because I was hanging out with puppies, and because I'm a big girl and can do what I want, I ordered a pizza. I have to remind myself periodically that my body is not built to eat garbage. My tummy would have been much happier with falafel.

In other news, Ash has taken to home-brewing beer, and I want to tell you all about it, but it's really late and I have horse stalls to clean bright and early tomorrow. So...I'll save it for later.