Monday, August 18, 2014

Charleston Trip - Day One

While we were in South Carolina last month, my parents kept Drew and Maddie for us so that Jim and I could take an overnight trip to Charleston for a belated anniversary celebration.  We left mid-morning on a very rainy day and made the three-ish hour drive to Charleston.  This was our view for much of the trip. 
 We got to Charleston around 1:00 in the afternoon, so we went straight to lunch.  Jim had done a little research and had found some Charleston restaurants that had been featured on the Food Network.  We ate lunch at Fuel Cantina.
The rain had slowed down some, so we decided to eat out back on the covered patio.  The patio had some fun paintings on the walls and lots of palm trees and other plants.

 My lunch date (and husband of 11 years!).
 We ordered some hoe cakes as an appetizer.
 Jim got the Caribbean Jerk sandwich,
 and I got the braised pork tacos.  We both enjoyed our food and we were stuffed when we left.
 After lunch, we drove to Mount Pleasant for a historical boat tour.
 Our tour boat was docked right next to the USS Yorktown, so we got to get a good look at that ship.



 We chose to sit on the top deck of our tour boat, but as soon as the tour began, it started pouring!  We were all getting wet, and we could hardly hear the tour guide.  We decided to move down to the enclosed lower deck, and we ended up staying there for the rest of the tour.  It was a little disappointing to be inside and for it to be so rainy during our tour.  We were able to see Fort Sumpter, and our guide (a retired history teacher) was very knowledgeable about the history of the city of Charleston and the Civil War.  I had hoped to see some dolphins - one lady on the tour said she did, but we did not.
After the tour, it was still raining, and since we were a little tired of being wet and rained on, we decided to go check into our hotel before dinner.  On our way to the hotel, we got a little turned around, and we saw a big thrift store.  Knowing my love of thrift store shopping, Jim suggested that we check it out.  We found several things for Drew and Maddie, and I found a vintage Pyrex mixing bowl for 99 cents.  I couldn't resist!
After thrifting and getting settled into our hotel, we drove back into Charleston for dinner.  We ate at Hominy Grill (another Food Network restaurant).  Hominy Grill was right across the street from Fuel Cantina, where we ate lunch.  We thought we had put the wrong address in the GPS when we first arrived, but we realized that the two restaurants were actually neighbors!
 I loved the little flower arrangements in the Mason jars on each table.
 Jim ordered the "Nasty Biscuit," a fried chicken and gravy biscuit sandwich, and he really liked it.
 I got the Shrimp and Grits.  The Food Network had listed this dish as the best shrimp and grits in Charleston.  It was absolutely delicious!
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel for the night.  We were tired and ready to relax and get out of the rain for a while.
I will be back later this week to share the second day of our Charleston trip.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer List - Library, Sonic Shakes, Metro Beach, and Choir Camp

We are still working our way through the summer list, and I have some pictures to share of some of our activities.

Visit the Library
Drew, Maddie, and I went to the library one afternoon.  The kids enjoyed trying out the different vehicles around the children's section.

They both played on the computers for a while before we went to pick out some books.  Our last stop was the movie section to choose a few DVD's to borrow, and while I was helping Drew, Maddie ran off.  After we finally found her at a drinking fountain outside the children's section, we went back into the children's section to check out our books.  I was having some trouble with my library card, so while I was trying to check out, Drew took Maddie over to another section to see a horse and cart.  I heard the librarian calling out, "No!  You shouldn't be up there!" and turned around to see that Maddie had climbed from the cart up on top of a book shelf.  I had to abandon my checking out to run across the children's section to pull Maddie down.  Needless to say, we will not be frequenting the library until Maddie learns to stay with me!
We stopped for 49 cent ice cream cones at McDonald's on our way home from the library.

Milkshakes from Sonic
We went to Sonic one Sunday night after church (on National Ice Cream Day) and got shakes for dinner. Since we were coming straight from church, we did not wear our jammies, as originally planned, but we did get our shakes.

Metro Beach
We picked Jim up from school one afternoon and drove over to spend a few hours at Metro Beach.  There is a Par 3 golf course in the park, and Jim and Drew played golf.  It was Drew's first time playing his own ball for an entire game!

Maddie and I spent some time on the playground.  She loves the slides, and she went up and down them again and again.

We also walked out to the beach to see the lake and then went over to the big outdoor pool to watch people go down the water slide and jump off the diving board.

It was a very hot afternoon, but we had a fun time!

Choir Camp
We had originally planned for Drew to go to our church's choir camp this summer, but we had to reschedule our family vacation, and the new dates fell during the camp.  Jim had a work commitment on the Monday of the choir camp, so since we were going to be in town for the first day of the camp, the camp directors told Drew he could come.
He went that morning and loved it.  He is already looking forward to going for a whole week of camp next summer!

Garden Box
Our garden is doing great, and we are almost ready to pick some tomatoes!

We also have several green peppers that are growing really well.

Hawkins Family Summer List
1.  Drew - Barnes and Noble summer reading program
2.  Make homemade ice cream
3.  Grill pizza and s'mores
4.  Go to the sprinkler park
5.  Have a garage sale
6.  Make a strawberry pie
7.  Go to the library
8.  Get Sonic shakes in our jammies (They are half-price after 8:00 pm!)
9.  Have a picnic
10.  Go putt-putting
11.  Go to Metro Beach
12.  Go to the Lego store
13.  Paint our bedroom
14.  Go to the dairy farm
15.  Drew - learn to ride a bike
16.  Drew - go to choir camp
17.  Drew and Jim - go to a Home Depot craft morning
18.  Make kabobs
19.  Keep up with our garden box - Tomatoes and peppers are growing, but nothing is ready to pick and eat quite yet!
20.  Go to the dentist - We have appointments for August and September!
21.  Organize the bedrooms - Drew, Maddie, Us
22.  Go to a baseball game
23.  Maddie - try potty training
24.  Go to Dress Like a Cow Day at Chick-Fil-a
25.  Go bowling

Friday, July 25, 2014

Our New Favorite Cookie Bars

We love chocolate chip cookies, but sometimes the prospect of scooping each cookie out individually, baking pan after pan of them, and then shifting them around during and after cooling seems like a lot of effort.  Cookie bars are a quick and easy way to get chocolate chip cookies without a lot of fuss.  My mom has a cookie bar recipe that uses a cake mix as the base, and it is very good and easy.  However, I recently found a really good scratch-made cookie bar recipe that we love!  I've made these cookie bars for several events when I was asked to bring a dessert, and people have really liked them.
Here's how I make them:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

2 1/8 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.  In the mixer bowl, mix melted butter and sugars until combined.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix on low, just until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
Transfer cookie dough to the prepared dish, smoothing the top with the spatula.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the bars are light golden brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Cool bars on a wire rack to room temperature.  Cut bars into squares and serve.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer List - Reading, Cows, and Grilled Pizza

We have made a little more progress on our summer list in the past couple of weeks!  Here's what we've been up to in the past couple of weeks.

Barnes and Noble Reading Program
Drew did the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program this summer.  He had to read eight books and then record the books' titles and authors.  Then he had to recommend each book to someone he knows and tell why that person would enjoy the book.
Once Drew finished his list, we took it to a Barnes and Noble store and turned it in.  He got to select a free book (there was an end cap of books for him to choose from).
 Drew and Maddie both enjoyed browsing through the children's section,
 and Maddie enjoyed the trains.
 Drew picked out a Lego Ninjago book.
Chick-fil-a Cow Appreciation Day
We had planned be in South Carolina, where there are Chick-fil-a's everywhere, for Cow Appreciation Day this year, but we ended up changing our vacation plans, so we had very few options if we still wanted to participate.  We could drive an hour to Toledo, or we could go about half an hour away to the Oakland University food court - Michigan's only Chick-fil-a, like we did last year.  We decided to go to Oakland University again.  I liked the idea of not fighting a crowd, and it was a shorter drive.
 There weren't any other cows again this year, and the workers were happy to see us.  Maddie started pulling off her spots as soon as we got in line, but they let us each get a full meal for free anyway.
 My little cows.
 Maddie loved the lemonade, and towards the end, she finally tried some nuggets.  Drew loved everything, and he was a great help as we navigated the line with a stroller and a tray.
Visit a Dairy Farm
We followed up our Chick-fil-a lunch with a trip to the dairy farm, to continue with the cow theme.  We started out by looking at the adult cows.
 Drew petted one, and it tried to lick him!
 We made a very quick stop at the pig pen.  The pigs smelled absolutely horrible!
Our favorites were the calves!
 Maddie kept going back and forth between calves, petting them and saying, "Cute, Mommy!"
 We walked back past the big cows on our way to the shop.

 We bought some ice cream and enjoyed it at a picnic table.
 Maddie got a chocolate mustache!
Grill Pizza and S'mores
We had a fun dinner one night last week - grilled pizza and s'mores.  We grilled the dough first, then added our sauce and toppings.
 After we ate our pizza, we went back outside and made s'mores.  We toasted our marshmallows over the grill.
 Drew convinced me to buy some giant marshmallows at Aldi a few weeks ago.  They made some very gooey s'mores!
 Maddie just ate her marshmallow plain.
Garden Box
We have some vegetables growing in our garden box now!  Our first jalapeno pepper is growing.
  Our tomato plants have gotten quite tall!
 We have some tomatoes growing too!
Here's how our summer list looks now.  We are starting to make a dent in it!  We rescheduled our vacation to South Carolina, and since we will now be out of town during choir camp, Drew will not be able to participate in that camp, so I've crossed it off our list.  I was able to make dental appointments for Jim, Drew, and me for August, so that project is scheduled, but not completed yet.

Hawkins Family Summer List
1.  Drew - Barnes and Noble summer reading program
2.  Make homemade ice cream
3.  Grill pizza and s'mores
4.  Go to the sprinkler park
5.  Have a garage sale
6.  Make a strawberry pie
7.  Go to the library
8.  Get Sonic shakes in our jammies (They are half-price after 8:00 pm!)
9.  Have a picnic
10.  Go putt-putting
11.  Go to Metro Beach
12.  Go to the Lego store
13.  Paint our bedroom
14.  Go to the dairy farm
15.  Drew - learn to ride a bike
16.  Drew - go to choir camp - We will be on vacation, so Drew will not be doing choir camp.
17.  Drew and Jim - go to a Home Depot craft morning
18.  Make kabobs
19.  Keep up with our garden box - so far, so good!
20.  Go to the dentist - We have appointments for August!
21.  Organize the bedrooms - Drew, Maddie, Us
22.  Go to a baseball game
23.  Maddie - try potty training
24.  Go to Dress Like a Cow Day at Chick-Fil-a
25.  Go bowling