Quick, Healthy Breakfast

I’m always looking for quick, easy, meal-prep options that are also healthy. For a while, my go-to breakfast was some egg whites, salsa and cheese nuked for about a minute and a half in the microwave to cook the eggs. Then I discovered Green Giant’s veggie spirals, especially the zucchini spirals. The quick-cook package makes meal prepping for the week quick and easy. I can just throw the package in the microwave to cook the veggie spirals from frozen, then divide the package contents across a 12-cup muffin tray.  Drop in some onions, cheese, fill the cups about 2/3 of the way with egg whites, then top with salt, pepper and any herbs I want and it’s a quick cook in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees for a batch of yummy, healthy mini veggie frittatas.

Once the mini frittatas have cooled, you can drop two at a time into plastic bags and store in the freezer. It’s easy for my husband and I to each grab a bag of these to take to work and warm up in the microwave. Voila – the problem of how to enjoy a quick, healthy breakfast is solved!

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Family History Travel in Wytheville, Virginia

I caught the genealogy bug more than ten years ago, and as soon as I heard about Ancestry.com, I knew I wanted to create an account, upload the genealogy information I had and explore more about our family’s history. Over the years, I’ve discovered so many interesting stories about my ancestors and have learned that most of my family came to America in the 1600’s and early 1700’s, including some who arrived as early as 1619.

My maternal grandfather’s family, the Crowder’s, originally arrived in Virginia in the early 1600’s. After slowly migrating from Charles City County to Mecklenburg County, my grandfather’s great-grandfather and his family settled in Wytheville in the early 1800’s. As we learned from exploring census records, he partnered with his next-door neighbor to run a tailor and shoemaking shop. Today, the original building that housed his shop still stands and is a boutique and gift shop called The Farmer’s Daughter.

I had determined the location of several of my ancestors’ graves in a couple of Wytheville cemeteries, so we visited the cemeteries and located them.

On the Saturday we were in Wytheville, we decided to search for the site of a terrible event that happened to several of my ancestors, an Indian massacre. On our way, we went up Big Walker Mountain and visited the Big Walker Lookout and Store. For a small fee, we were able to walk across a suspension bridge to view an overlook, then climb to the top of a more than one hundred foot tall former fire tower. We also got to speak with a local author, Joe Tennis, who has written a number of books on the area, including books on hauntings.

 

We came down on the other side of the mountain near Sharon Springs and Ceres, locations mentioned in accounts of the Indian massacre that killed several of my ancestors. In the summer of 1774, my sixth great-grandfather, Jared Sluss, was working the land near his home. His wife, Christina, had just put their newborn baby, Mary, into a cradle and pushed it beneath a tall bed so the flies wouldn’t bother her. Ever since the European settlers had pushed into the region, various native tribes had taken exception to the treaties in place between the settlers and natives, and had carried out occasional massacres of area settlers.

On that morning in 1774, Jared Sluss had heard his neighbors warnings that marauding bands of Indians had been seen in the area. Needing to harvest his crops and work his fields, and not necessarily believing the rumors, he and his sons continued their work and didn’t even notice when a band of Shawnee or Cherokee Indians worked their way down the mountain and between Jared in the field and Christina in the house. Father and mother were both killed, as were all the children except two daughters who were in town at the time, one son who escaped the massacre to get help in the village and the baby daughter in her cradle, who was not discovered by the natives. This story is memorialized with a marker at the Lutheran church at Sharon Springs, and the graves are marked with stones from which the engravings have long since weathered away.

We also visited the Wytheville Farmer’s Market and had lunch at the Log House 1776 restaurant, both in downtown Wytheville. According to Mr. Tennis’ book on hauntings, the Log House 1776 is haunted, but it was also a great lunch spot with yummy sandwiches and a kids’ menu. For dinner, we enjoyed El Puerto Mexican restaurant. According to locals, this was the best Mexican place in town, and it did not disappoint.

We stayed at the Ramada Wytheville, which was a great choice for families. It had an outdoor pool and a delicious breakfast buffet, with affordable, clean rooms and a great staff. This was a great summer weekend getaway to explore our family history!

 

Beach Adventure

For a fun, off-the-beaten-path adventure, my husband and I reserved a night at False Cape State Park, Virginia’s southernmost state park. This rustic park offers primitive camping on a deserted, remote beach or inland. False Cape is on the southern edge of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and you have to hike or bike the 3.5 miles through the Refuge to get into the park. Campers need to bring in water as there is only potable water at the Visitor’s Center. You should also be aware of the various types of wildlife, including venomous snakes. Cottonmouths (also known as water moccasins) are abundant – we saw five on our hikes into and out of the park.

To get to our beachfront campsite, our full hike was about 7 miles each way. Despite the hazards and long hike, the experience of being the only ones camping on a deserted beach and watching the full moon rise from the ocean was truly unique.

Within the park, there are various hiking trails, including ones to a beachside shipwreck and an abandoned church from a small community that used to live on the land prior to the establishment of the park. There are also tram tours that depart from the Visitor’s Center of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge if you’d rather just visit the park for the day. It’s just south of Sandbridge and miles away from the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach.

The Spa Life in Baden-Baden, Germany

On the edge of the Black Forest just across the French border from Alsace, the spa town of Baden-Baden is a relaxing stop on a European road trip. My husband and I were headed to the tiny town of Ingolstadt to stay for a few days and visit the Audi Factory there, and we had pre-booked our spa treatments at the historic Friedrichsbad Spa, which dates from 1877 and offers a wide range of treatments, including the traditional 17-step circuit of showers, brushes and massages, baths of various temperatures and steam baths. Be sure to leave your modesty at the door, as the Friedrichsbad Spa, like many in Europe, requires full nudity. Men and women are separate for the treatments on certain days of the week, and can enjoy treatments together on other days. Check the Carasana website for a full schedule.

Since we only had a brief amount of time before getting back on the road, we didn’t do the full 17-step circuit. Instead, we each got a massage and shared a soak in the Emperor’s Bath. The massages were just what our road-tripping, tight muscles needed after sitting in a car most of each day. We got big, fluffy robes to wear between the massage area and the Emperor’s Bath, and we put our bags into a locker before entering the private room with a deep, soaking tub full of warm mineral water. Beneath a plaque of Kaiser Wilhelm, we soaked in the relaxing water, enjoying fruit juice, German wine and mineral water and some German-language magazines.

In the same historic bath area, you can also visit the Roman bath ruins, which lie beneath the main spa. Guided tours are available on some days, and self-guided tours on the remaining days. Just steps away is the newer Caracalla Spa, a large, modern European spa with outdoor and indoor pools and numerous wellness programs and treatments. From massages and body wraps to facials, couples massages and more, there are plenty of ways to treat yourself. Parking is available in an underground deck that connects to the Caracalla Spa. From there, the Friedrichsbad Spa is a short walk away.

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Summer Fun

School’s out and it’s time to explore. Living in Virginia, we’re lucky to have plenty to do in our home state – from beaches to mountains and from historic sites to theme parks to national parks. We also have Washington, DC on our doorstep, opening the door to plenty of cultural offerings. Want to do something this summer and need some ideas? Try these:

  • Napoleon: Power and Splendor exhibition, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond – This unique exhibition takes you inside the world of Napoleonic Europe, showing artifacts from Napoleon’s own daily life, as well as commissioned pieces and propaganda that helped legitimize his empire. Through Sept. 3.
  • “Body Worlds: Animals Inside and Out,” Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond – This Richmond museum offers a great day out for families. The animal exhibit teaches kids and adults alike about the biology of animals through plastination, a process that preserves blood vessels, muscular systems and more. Through Aug. 19.
  • Astronomy and Night Sky Summer Series, Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve/NASA’s Wallop’s Island Flight Facility, Chincoteague – Space lovers can explore the night sky at this evening lecture series that begins inside and concludes outdoors with telescope viewing of the night sky. July 13.
  • Tank Museum Vehicle Run Day, American Armoured Foundation Inc. Tank and Ordnance War Memorial Museum, Danville – One one special day this summer, this military museum fires up the engines of its tanks and runs them. Inside the museum itself, a wide variety of exhibits, such as “Black Panthers, African-American Tankers of WWII” and “Elvis – His Military Years” will please any military enthusiast. July 14.
  • “Wings and Wheels,” Ingalls Field, Hot Springs – Head out to Virginia’s western highlands to take in this event packed with cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and airplanes. A vintage car show, air shows, rides and plenty of family fun await. July 14.

Celebrate America on July 4

Virginia is a great place to celebrate Independence Day. We have authentic Americana and historic sites galore. Here are some of the best places to visit for July 4:

  • An American Celebration, Mount Vernon – Fireworks, military re-enactments, a naturalization ceremony, birthday cake and a visit from George and Martha Washington are highlights of July 4th at this American history museum.
  • Independence Day Celebration, Yorktown – Enjoy a 5k/8k run/walk, parade, U.S. Coast Guard band, concert and fireworks.
  • Independence Day at Patrick Henry’s Red Hill, Brookneal – Featuring a speech by Virginia’s first governor, Patrick Henry, and fireworks at dusk, this is a unique, family-friendly Fourth of July celebration.
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  • Fourth at the Fort, Fort Monroe – A flag ceremony, food, live music and a fireworks display mark the Fourth at this historic fort near Hampton.
  • Independence Day at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg – Readings of the Declaration of Independence take place throughout the day, alongside musical performances, hands-on activities for the kids and an evening fireworks display.
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  • Independence Day in Historic Port Royal, Port Royal – Special appearances by George Mason, Dolly Madison and Harriet Tubman, performances of period music from the Revolutionary and Civil War areas, pipes and drums and free surrey rides.
  • 4th of July Concert and Fireworks, Dogwood Dell, Richmond – Long-running local favorite featuring a patriotic performance by the Richmond Concert Band and a fireworks display at dusk.
  • Stars and Stripes Explosion, Virginia Beach – Enjoy live music performances throughout the day and end your evening with a bang at the massive fireworks display.

Homemade Pizzas

With five people in our house who all have different tastes, making a meal everyone can customize makes feeding a crowd easier. I use my bread machine to whip up a big batch of pizza dough and from there I can make large pizzas, individual-size pizzas and breadsticks. Everyone can pick their own toppings, from pizza sauce and plenty of cheese to meats, veggies and more.

Ingredients:

2 tsp. dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. warm water

Place ingredients into the bread machine in the order they’re listed above. Run them on the dough cycle. Remove dough and store in a bowl or plastic bag drizzled with olive oil. Stretch the dough out thin onto a baking sheet and top with sauce, cheese and your favorite toppings!

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