10 Hacks for Family Fun at the Beach

A trip to the beach should be tons of fun, but the reality is that going to the beach with kids is a lot of work! You have to pack a ton of gear to be comfortable, snacks and drinks are a must, and then there’s the sand, which gets on everything and is impossible to remove. Luckily for you, I have some great beach hacks that will make your next family trip a breeze! (more…)

The Best Florida Vacations Hidden Off the Beaten Path

When you tell your friends that you are headed to Florida for a vacation, the first question to pop up maybe are you going to the “most magical place on earth?” That is because Florida is often associated with only the mouse with the ears. Well, let me be the first to tell you, that Florida has so many different spots to vacation, that does not include being in a big tourist trap. Let’s go over some of the best Florida Vacations that not only have historical value to the state but are also off the beaten path.

Best Florida Vacations

St. Augustine

While St. Augustine is no longer a quiet and quaint town, there are so many different historical sites to visit. I love incorporating history into our vacations, so St. Augustine is the first on our list. There is so much to do in this town for family members of all ages. (more…)

Georgia History Spots That Kids Will Absolutely Love On Summer Vacation

Popular Georgia History Spots

When we think of vacation, we often think of fun in the sun and theme parks. There is no reason why parents cannot include some history in the summer vacation plans too. The key is, to make the history fun and not make kids feel like their summer vacation is a full-blown history lesson. Let’s explore Georgia history spots that kids will love.

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

It is no hidden fact that kids love trains. On the Blue Ridge, Scenic Railway families will be able to enjoy a 4-hour train ride through the Chattahoochee Forest and next to the Toccoa River. The family adventure will start at the Blue Ridge historical depot which was built in 1905. There will also be additional stops on your trip. McCaysville/Copperhill is going to be the highlight of your train ride. Located at the Georgia-Tennessee state line, families will have a two-hour layover to explore the city.  Families will be able to eat, shop, and even walk across the bridge to enjoy refreshing views of the river.

While this is not a significant history hot-spot, kids are sure to love the train and the 26-mile ride. Boarding starts 45 minutes before taking off time, and they do not hold the train for late entries.

Stone Mountain Park

Stone Mountain Park will give you the feeling of a theme park. They provide many attractions such as Dinosaurus Explore, Dinotorium, Farmyard, Stone Mountain Museum at Memorial Hall. Families can camp here and explore Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is famous for its monolith of Civil War Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Also included is President Jefferson Davis. At night families can purchase tickets to see the laser light show, and even get preferred seating on the Memorial Lawn.

Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout House

The Girls Scouts were founded in 1912, by Juliette Gordon Low. When visiting this house, families will learn about Juliette Gordon Low and the history of how the Girl Scouts of America came to be. Here families will also be able to see the original uniforms, paintings, statues, and even the diary of Juliette Gordon Low.

Savannah Trolley Tour

Savannah is a premier location to visit favorite Georgia history spots. By taking the Old Town Trolley tours, families will be able to hop on and off the trolley and see 15 different historical locations in Savannah. Just a few of the stops offered are the Ships of the Sea Museum, Pirates House, Cathedral of St. John Baptist, and the Massie Heritage Museum. The history that surrounds Savannah Georgia is so rich that families will be able to learn while having fun.

Forts

Georgia is full of different military forts. Families can explore Old Fort Jackson that is outside of Savannah, where they can witness daily cannon firings, and participate in programs that are interactive for the entire family. There is also the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Here families can enjoy a picnic lunch while talking about what they have learned from the indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Civil War Naval Museum

If your kids are interested in the Navy and boats, then the Civil War Naval Museum needs to be on your Georgia History spots to visit. The Civil War Naval Museum has navy ships like the CSS Jackson, and the remaining pieces of wreckage of the CSS Chattahoochee on display. They also have replicas of other vital boats in Georgia’s history. Families can also see the most extensive collection of authentic Civil War Naval flags too. While here, families can participate in self-tours, or have guided tours.

See, all these locations are perfect to include into your family vacation. You still can enjoy all the fun in the sun, as well as add some Georgia history spots that kids will love too.

Have you been to any of these Georgia history spots? If so, what was your favorite? If not, which of these will you include in your itinerary for Georgia History spots?

The Top Five Benefits of Going Gluten-Free (For the Modern Family)

One of the most popular areas of contemporary interest for modern family health surrounds the benefice of a gluten-free diet. I first discovered the health benefits of a gluten-free diet after the birth of my daughter. According to Forbes, over 3.1 million people were on a gluten-free diet in the USA in 2009. However, just over 70% of these people did not have celiac disease but instead chose a gluten-free diet for the additional health benefits.

Gluten is a protein that occurs in grains such as wheat and barley. Some people have celiac disease. This means that their body has an autoimmune response to these proteins which is not normal and can cause serious illness. It is also possible that rather than having celiac disease you are have what is called a gluten sensitivity. This means that gluten may cause your digestive system to become irritated or inflamed. Either way, consuming gluten causes sickness and/or discomfort.

Every sensation in our body, whether we are aware of it or not, has the capacity to affect our day to day life. For example, an irritated gut has the capacity to trick our brain into thinking we are anxious, thus, causing stress. This is because anxiety’s effect is also largely felt in the gut and is commonly known as the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. My test for celiac disease came back “borderline”. My doctor erred on the side of a “positive” which is why I simply choose not to consume gluten. Here are some other benefits of eliminating gluten from you diet:

1-Going Gluten-Free Improves Gut Health

Modern families are increasingly adopting a gluten-free diet to improve their collective health. But are there real benefits to going gluten-free if you do not have celiac disease, or is it all just a fad? Should you eliminate gluten from your family’s diet?
Gluten can cause inflammation in the gut lining, especially in those who are sensitive to gluten. Inflammation itself is a sign of a problem. However, inflammation in the gut also means that the proper absorption of nutrients from our food cannot take place.
Going gluten-free can help to reduce inflammation and improve the overall health of the gut. The health of the gut can also be improved by taking probiotic products.

2- Going Gluten-Free Can Aid Weight Loss or Gain

Ok, so largely this benefit isn’t directly a result of going gluten-free! It’s a by-product. Most foods that contain gluten are processed foods that contain a lot of fats and sugars that cause us to put on weight. So, put down your cookies and your cupcakes – it will be kinder to your gut and your waistline!
For some, going gluten-free can help with gain and/or maintenance. Leaky gut syndrome (intestinal permeability) can cause essential nutrients to “leak” out and cause some to become undernourished.

3- Going Gluten-Free Can Improve Our Energy Levels

Opting for a gluten-free diet can reduce fatigue and improve energy levels. Studies conducted by The University of Aberdeen also found that adopting a gluten-free diet also improved concentration in its participants and found that they were able to think more clearly.
Gluten-free diets have been popular in celebrity culture for a long time now. Gwyneth Paltrow and Novak Djokovic are among stars who have gone gluten-free as a means of improving their physical and mental health.
Why does it lead to higher energy levels? Because going gluten-free reduces inflammation and bloating. This, in turn, improves the bodies capability to absorb the nutrients we need from the food we take in.

4- Going Gluten-Free Is Essential for Treating Auto-Immune Disorders

There is a major link between gluten and auto-immune disorders. In fact, to adequately treat an auto-immune disease it is imperative that you cut gluten from your diet.
If you have an auto-immune disease your body is trying to protect itself from toxins or even foods, it considers being harmful. However, your body fails to differentiate between your own body cells and the substance it is trying to defend you from.
So where does gluten come into it? The gluten we eat today is not the same gluten consumed by our grandparents. Wheat has been modified over the years to create fluffier bread, cakes, and pantries. It has also been altered to give it a more uniform structure and color.
We are being increasingly exposed to more gluten that our bodies are not naturally programmed to process. Our bodies can not tolerate this. Therefore, we experience more inflammation and poorer health of the gut along with auto-immune disorders.

5- Going Gluten-Free Helps Kids Who Are on The Autistic Spectrum

Research has found substantial evidence for a link between the brain and gut. Both adults and children who suffer from autism are much more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal problems. The Autism Research Institute has found that as many as 70% of children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder also suffer from gastrointestinal distress.
These gastrointestinal problems cause the gut’s lining to become more permeable. Partly digested gluten and protein particles pass more easily through the more permeable membrane. The then travel to the brain and bind to opioid receptors. This affects the neurochemistry of the brain and causes symptoms of autism to worsen. For example, mood swings can become more frequent or intense.

A Few Extra Tips for Going Gluten-Free

  • Firstly, concentrate on what you can eat. Not what you can’t eat! Habit is a tricky thing to break. Everyone who goes on a gluten-free diet finds it challenging to begin with.
  • Buy a gluten-free cookbook.There are so many grain-free cookbooks that we love! Cookbook’s showing mouth watering pictures have the amazing ability to get us excited about food. They will also present you with ideas on how to create interesting meals that you will love on a gluten-free diet.
  • Don’t cheat! Little bits of gluten here and there might not seem like much, however, they can cause your body distress and make you feel worse. If you are trying to change a habit you want to see progress. But progress is hard to see when improved health is clouded by little bits of distress due to cheating.
  • Make connections. Join Facebook groups dedicated to sharing gluten free recipes and motivating each other to maintain the change of diet. Follow inspiring Instagrammers and / or create a Pinterest board to fill with new meals to try.
  • Check labels on food packets and tins. The easiest way to break a gluten-free diet is accidentally! Check whether food contains gluten before consuming it.
  • Reflect on how far you have come. Reflection and taking time to notice a difference will make it easier to maintain a gluten-free diet.
  • Praise yourself. Rewarding positive actions is used in psychology to reinforce a desired behavior. Eventually, reinforcing a desired behavior creates a habit.

So, after reading this post how do you feel about glutens place in the modern family diet? Do you think you will be adopting a gluten-free diet in the future? Do you feel able to implements a family gluten free diet? If not, then why? Let us know, you might get your questions answered in a future blog post!

 

Make Your Own Sauerkraut With These 4 Simple Steps

Add cranberry for a great holiday twist!

Sauerkraut is one of our super foods! Fermented foods contain beneficial probiotics which help with digestion, and overall immune support.

Unfortunately, you don’t get the same benefits from sauerkraut that you buy at the grocery store; it just doesn’t have time to ferment properly before being packaged and sold, and the fermenting process is what creates all those good-for-you probiotics!

Making sauerkraut is simple and easy and is one of the best recipes to start with if you are new to fermenting foods. I’ll tell you how I got started fermenting foods. Years ago, I read the book Nourishing Traditions and began learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. The first thing I tried to ferment was shredded carrots in a mason jar, covered with cheesecloth. I followed all the steps and watched my carrots religiously, however, nothing really seemed to happen. I tried making kimchi once after that and that, too, was a disappointment.

Fast forward a few years to the day I went to a fermenting class with a friend. It was an “aha!” moment for me when they showed us a tiny little gadget called an airlock. Where had this been al my life? This simple gadget is the key to making safe, delicious fermented foods.

This tiny gadget is the key to making safe fermented foods

You can purchase a pre-made five-gallon bucket (or larger!) that will come with the grommet and the airlock, or you can make your own. Simply drill a hole, place the grommet inside, but be certain it is tight-fitting, and insert the airlock. Voila’! You are ready to make sauerkraut.

Now it’s time to get to work. Gather the following items and sanitize everything before you begin:

  • food-grade five-gallon bucket with lid, grommet and airlock
  • about 5-7 pounds of shredded cabbage
  • non-iodized salt (2 teaspoons per pound of veggies)
  • water
  • spoon, stamper or something else to submerge the cabbage (or use your hands!)

Step 1. Shred your cabbage. Use green or red cabbage or a mixture of both, add shredded carrots, shredded apple, or whatever your heart desires. Toss in some aromatics like juniper berries, or even cranberries for the holidays. Mix it up. You can’t go wrong!

Step 2. Transfer cabbage (and other veggies or aromatics) into your bucket, add salt, add enough water to cover the vegetables and mix well. I put rubber gloves on and get right in there with my hands. It is very important to use non-iodized salt. sometimes known as “cheese salt”. Iodized salt does not allow fermentation to occur.

Step 3: Weight your veggies. I place a medium-sized ceramic bowl in a ziplock bag and place this over the vegetables to keep them submerged in the brine. You can also purchase weights for this purpose, but I have never found them necessary.

Step 4: Place the cover on the bucket and let the magic happen!

Check every other day or so to make sure your vegetables are submerged in the brine. Active fermentation will cause them to rise up. Be sure to check for mold. You cannot see or smell mold, but you will feel it, and it means that oxygen got in. If you feel a slimy film over your vegetables, throw it out. It is okay to see a film over your veggies, but that film should not be slimy! Remember: when in doubt, throw it out!

The longer your sauerkraut ferments, the stronger the flavor will be. Test it every day and remove it when it is perfect for you. We like our sauerkraut fairly mild, so we usually remove ours after about 7-10 days, but you can leave yours fermenting for up to 30 days.

After you transfer your sauerkraut to mason jars or containers, if you have leftover juice, be sure to save it! This juice is wonderful for gargling with if you have a sore throat.

Strain and save your leftover juice!

Store your sauerkraut in the refrigerator or water-bath can, which is what we do!

 

 

The Best Reason to Visit Kentucky

This past July we took a trip to Kentucky, fueled by our eleven-year old’s enthusiasm for all things Breyer. She had wanted to go to the Breyer Horse Festival for years. We figured, why not? We left in July, during the worst heat-wave of the year, and headed north. Our trip consisted of stopping to see the girls’ aunt and uncle in Atlanta on the way, and seeing The Ark Encounter.  On the way back we made a stop in Asheville, and, finally back home again. But this post will be about the Kentucky Horse Park and Old Friends Farm.

We knew we’d have an amazing trip, because this is what we saw before we left.

We left early on Thursday en route to Atlanta to see Aunt M and Uncle B along the way. We stayed the night in Atlanta and left the next morning, headed for Georgetown, KY!

Seeing this sign brought back so many memories for me! I went to college and graduate school not far from Saratoga Raceway, and lived there for ten years before moving to Florida. Every summer you’d find me standing by the rail, watching the horses race. I didn’t bet much, (what college student can afford it?) but I absolutely loved  going up to the track at dawn and having breakfast while watching the exercise jockeys work the horses. I can’t even say how many famous horses I saw run there.

Here we are at the Kentucky Horse Park!

We made it to the Kentucky Horse Park and the Breyer Festival 2016. We followed many cars and minivans in decorated with “Breyer Fest or Bust”. We were excited!

The Breyer Fest was a bit of a disappointment for us. I guess we were expecting more activities, and less spending opportunities, especially since the tickets to get in were not cheap. To this practical-minded mom, I saw it as a big outdoor Breyer store. My girls enjoyed browsing the shopping area, but we could have done that anywhere (or at home online!) The part that we enjoyed most was seeing the retired racehorses. And this led us to visit Old Friends Farm, which, lucky for us, was right down the road!

The sweet boy, Silver Charm

Old Friends Farm is a thoroughbred retirement home and is a beautiful place with a serene and happy energy. We called ahead to book our tour and when we arrived found that our group was very small (they keep them small so that visitors have an intimate experience with the horses). Our tour guide, Laura, was terrific and to our surprise we were joined by Michael, the owner and founder of the farm. The tour took about an hour and a half and we didn’t want it to end (even though we were in a once-in-every-few-decades-heat wave!)

Please read more about Michael Blowen here. If you ever wanted to support an organization, this would be the one!  The information we learned about each horse was incredible and I wish I had kept better records of who we saw, who we got to pet and love and feed. I know I saw some of these guys race at Saratoga years before.

I tried to keep up by making notes on my phone about each horse, but being the horse lover that I am, that quickly feel by the wayside; I didn’t want to miss a moment with these amazing animals, and I was right up front ready to stroke and feed and whisper sweet-nothings to these beauties.

Genuine Reward

Wallenda

Michael and Silver Charm

It was really fun for us to hear Michael’s story about how he got started rescuing these horses, and his love for them was palpable. I think if we lived in Kentucky, we’d definitely volunteer here!

We loved this farm and can’t wait to go back again.

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