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Gnocchi Shrimp Scampi & Giveaway

Gnocchi Shrimp Scampi - dinner is ready in less than 15 minutes, and tastes like it came from a restaurant.

Gnocchi Shrimp Scampi - dinner is ready in less than 15 minutes, and tastes like it came from a restaurant.

Let’s talk about dinner as a family today.  I have said it so many times on here, but I think it is so important to kids and families.  I know that people are busy, and kids are involved in so many different activities lately, and dinner seems to be one of the first things to go.  Grabbing take out, everyone eating at different times, using the drive thru, and who knows how many other things to try to get everyone fed and where the need to be.   I have a child involved in activities, my husband and I both work, I completely understand.  But I remember sitting down with my family as a kid, and that was when we all shared and learned so much about what was going on.  As a parent, I want to know what is happening in my kids life, and I want him to always be able to talk to me.

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Mini Caramel Apples

Mini Caramel Apples - so fun and great for fall!

Mini Caramel Apples - so fun and great for fall!

I am so excited that fall is finally here.  At least, I hope it is going to stick around.  We have had a very hot September, but this week things have cooled down and we are in the 70′s all week.  I am wearing jeans, because I can!  I feel soup weather, fresh bread, and sweaters are just around the corner.  I love fall, I just wish it stuck around longer before winter came.  The nice thing about living in Colorado as opposed to the Mid West, is it does stick around just a little bit longer.  Halloween is usually not crazy cold here, like I remember it being some years when I was a kid.  But all too soon there will be that dreaded white stuff on the ground, and we will all be complaining again.

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Peanut Chicken with Rice

Peanut Chicken with Rice - quick and easy dinner for any night of the week

Peanut Chicken with Rice - quick and easy dinner for any night of the week

This week is supposed to finally start cooling down here in Colorado.  Most of September was in the mid to upper 80′s around here.  We did have a few days where it got pretty chilly, but the last couple weeks we have had to turn our air conditioner back on.  I have to admit, I am ready for the cooler weather.  I want to make soup and fresh bread, and not have to sweat while I am eating it :)  And somehow is just feels a little wrong to be breaking out the pumpkin when it is 80 degrees.  I do not know how you warm weather year round people do it!  I love my seasons.

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Bourbon Apple Cider

Bourbon Apple Cider {Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts}

Bourbon Apple Cider - turn fresh apple cider into the perfect fall cocktail

Thank goodness the weekend is here!  It is suppose to be a gorgeous weekend here in Colorado.  Hopefully we will make it up into the mountains tomorrow to see the Aspens.   They turn a gorgeous bight yellow in the fall, and the mountains are just covered in them.  We have plans with friends on Saturday night too, so it should be a fun weekend!  Especially if this Bourbon Apple Cider happens again.

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Pasta Milano (Copycat Macaroni Grill)

Pasta Milano - a copycat of a Macaroni Grill favorite

Pasta Milano - a copycat of a Macaroni Grill favorite

Have any of your kids ever done Lego Robotics?  Can we just talk for a second about how crazy it is!  My son’s school has always had quite a few teams in the past.  This year they did not get a teacher willing to take on all the work (I honestly don’t blame them).  My son had been looking forward to it for forever, and so had one of his good friends.  So we got talking, and after a few meetings we started a team with our son’s friends.  We have eight 4th grade boys on our team.  Fortunately, we have been able to meet at the school and use their supplies, or it wouldn’t have happened.  But holy cow, is it a lot of work!  My husband is the techy guy, so he is helping the kids with the technical and building side of things.  We are meeting 3 times a week, and there is so much more involved than just building a robot.  This will be an amazing experience for the kids, but I am a little over whelmed with how much we have to accomplish in just 2 months.

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Apple Spice Cupcakes

Apple Spice Cupcakes {Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts}

Apple Spice Cupcakes - great for fall

Today I am here with a few other ladies to celebrate Lauren from Keep It Sweet Desserts.  Lauren is having a baby!!  A baby boy!  As a mom to a boy, I know how much fun little boys can be.  I am super happy for Lauren.  She is super sweet and always there to help.  A couple years ago Lauren quit her full time job and opened her own on-line bakery.  I have tasted a few of her cookies and brownies.  It is no wonder she is so successful, they were amazing!  So join me today as we have a virtual baby shower for Lauren.

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Italian Herb Dipping Sauce

Italian Herb Dipping Sauce - a great vinaigrette for salad or dipping bread

Italian Herb Dipping Sauce - a great vinaigrette for salad or dipping bread

I just realized that it is getting to be the end of September, and I have no idea what my son is going to be for Halloween.  It is just over a month away, and we haven’t even talked about it.  We don’t usually just go to the store and buy a costume, so I really need to get my act together and start working.  We have done Harry Potter before and last year he was a football player. So it is time to start brainstorming!  If anyone has any great ideas, I would love to hear them!

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Thursday Things – Costa Rica

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Last week I shared with you the week we spent in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica.  That part of the trip was the more relaxing, civilized portion of the trip.  After we left Manuel Antonio we spent some time in the jungle, really experiencing what Costa Rica was like.

Beach at Cocorvado National Park

We took a van from Manuel Antonio down to Sierpe where we had to catch a boat to Drake Bay.  Drake Bay has one road that goes into it, but depending on the season, the road can be washed out.  So the best way to get there is to take a small boat.  The boat ride starts by going up the river to where it meets the ocean.  Then you drive along the coast for a little while until you get to Drake Bay.  There are not any docks, so the boat turns around and uses the waves to push it into shore.  There are lots of helpers on the beach that “try” to hold the boat still enough for you to get out.  Then they hand you your luggage, and you carry it up to the dry part of the beach.  Quite the experience.

Pit Viper in Cocorvado National Park

Drake Bay has only 550 people and 1 gravel road that runs through town.  It is about 89 degrees with 98% humidity, 24 hours a day.  We stayed at a place called Finca Maresia.  The owner’s name is Juan, and he is from Spain.  The hotel is run like a European bed and breakfast.  Juan cooks dinner for everyone (there are only 9 cabins) each night.  The food was amazing, and it was great to sit around and talk to the other guests each night.  We got to hear about different tours people did and what people liked and didn’t.  When we first got there, we were the only people from America.  We were a little nervous what dinner would be like that first night, but we met this great couple from Switzerland that we got along with really well.  All of the cabins are down a trail from the main building leading into the jungle.  The cabins are open to the jungle, so when the sun comes up at 5:00 am every morning, you are up!  I was very nervous about bugs and spiders, but we didn’t not find ANY in our room.  I was shocked!!

Tapir in Corcorvado National Park

The whole reason we went to Drake Bay was because we wanted to visit Corcovado National Park.  It is one of the most undeveloped parks in the world.  There are no roads that lead to the park.  The only way you can get there is by hiking in, or taking a boat.  We went on a tour (booked for us by Juan) to Corcovado.  The tour consisted of our family of 3 and the couple from Switzerland.  We were able to see so much wild life, it was unbelieveable.  Costa Rica has 4 species of monkeys that live there.  We saw all 4 species of monkeys, lizards, caymans, crocodiles, coati (Costa Rican raccoons), tapirs, snakes, wild turkeys, a deer, and countless birds (Toucans, Scarlet Macaws and many more).  I am sure there was more that I am just not remember now.  Every time we turned around our guide was showing us a new animal.  Corcovado National Park was definitely a highlight of our entire trip.

Coati (Costa Rican Raccoon) Corcovado National Park

The next day in Drake Bay we decided to take an ATV tour to a beach, and then there was a trail you could walk along to get back to town.  First of all, the ATV was exactly what you think an ATV to be like.  Only there was a driver, and then he put the 3 of us across the back.  So there were 4 of us on this ATV, and we were going up and down these big hills, across streams, on a gravel road, all for about 25 minutes.  After he dropped us off at the beach we found the trail and started walking.  The trail is really only about 5 feet in from the beach.  I think I heard someone say there are 23 beaches between where we started and where we ended.  And the amazing thing was, there was no one around.  These were stunningly gorgeous beaches, and no one was on them.  The hike took us close to 6 hours, so we were starving when we got back to town.  We had read about Gringo Curt’s online ahead of time, and knew we wanted to eat there.  Seriously, if you are ever in Drake Bay, eat at Gringo Curt’s.  My husband and son ordered the catch of the day, and it was literally at least a 2 pound filet of fish.  I ordered the pasta, and it was so good and could have fed at least 2 people.  Plus the smoothie was amazing!

Ricon Beach Hike

Lots of places in Costa Rica offer night tours.  They take you on a walk through the jungle at dusk or right after dark, to see what wild life is out there.  I was not interested in this at all!  I do not like bugs, spiders, rodents…anything.  I just don’t need to know what is out there.  Somehow I let my husband and son talk me into going on one of these tours.  We waited until our last night in the jungle, so I wouldn’t have to lose sleep the whole trip.  Let’s just say that was a wise decision.  Most of it was just fine, because it is the wild life, in their habitat, doing what they do.  That I don’t mind, I just don’t want them in my living space!!  I only had one freak out, and that was when we saw a spider the size of my hand, walking on the water, only 2 feet from me.  The Brazilian Wandering Spider is one of the deadliest spiders in the world, is huge, walks on water, and is right next to me!!!  Then it disappeared!  The guide told me not to worry, it was active because this was the time it went out hunting.  Needless to say, that did not sit well with me until we were well past that area.  I did not need that giant spider crawling up my leg!

Ricon Beach Hike

We had other plans to go snorkeling in an place called Cano Island, right near Drake Bay.  But once we got there we saw how rough the water was, and didn’t feel comfortable doing this with our 9 year old, who had never been snorkeling before.  All the snorkeling is in open water, which may have been just a little too much for him.  They are known for amazing diving though, and everyone we talked to loved the diving tours they went on.  In the end we decided to change up our trip and go to an area up in the mountains, that was a cloud forest.  We found a hotel in an area called San Gerardo de Dota, which is also known for spotting the Quetzal.  Quetzals are a very rare bird.  They are rather large, this brilliant blue/aqua color with a bright red breast, and the males have super long tale feathers (like 12 inches long).  We went on a bird tour there, where we were able to spot 4 of these birds.  They are pretty amazing to see in real life.

Quetzel

Our final stop on the trip was back to San Jose for our flight out.  We spent a couple night in San Jose, and did a trip to see some other things in that area.  Unfortunately the Poas volcano was covered in clouds and raining when we were there, so we weren’t able to go up and see the crater.  We did get to see a few amazing waterfalls, go on a river boat ride to spot more wild life (monkeys, frogs, caymans, and lots of birds), and see more of the Caribbean side of the country.  We stopped at a few fruit stands and were even able to buy fresh strawberries.  It was a definite change from the other parts of the country we had visited.  Our guide was a little on the crazy side, but in the end I think we all had a good day.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

We absolutely loved our whole trip to Costa Rica.  It has been on our list of places to travel to for the last 8 years, I am so glad that we were finally able to go.  Our son was at a perfect age as well.  He was able to do everything we wanted to, and didn’t get bored with anything.  He says he might want to move there some day.

Squirrel Monkey Corcovado National Park

Greek Meatball Sandwiches

Greek Meatball Sandwiches - quick, easy, and so much flavor

 

Greek Meatball Sandwiches - quick, easy, and tons of flavor

I think I might finally be recovered from our hike this last weekend.  On Sunday we got up at 5:30 am and hiked about 11 miles to the top of 2 mountains; Flattop Mountain and Hallet Peak.  We climbed over 3,000 feet to almost 13,000 feet above sea level.  It was a steep hike up, and I didn’t eat enough, so by the end I was not feeling great.  Elevation, hard work, and not enough food = Erin feeling like she is ready to lose her lunch while trying to scramble up the last 500 feet of elevation.  My husband and I actually did this hike 8 years ago, and wanted to do it again with our 9 year old.  We finally did it this summer, and he did awesome!  Getting to the top of a mountain, and looking out over everything is just breath taking.  You seriously feel like you are on top of the world!  There are easier hikes to get to the top of mountains, but it is something I think everyone needs to see in their lifetime.

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Hot Caramel Apple Cider #IDelight

Hot Caramel Apple Cider - perfect for a cool fall day

Hot Caramel Apple Cider - perfect for a cool fall day

Fall is definitely in the air. The weather here has been up and down like crazy, but it seems like it is finally cooling off just a little bit. I love the fall season. All of the colors, the foods, and the cooler temps (hello jeans and comfy sweaters)! I am all about pumpkin, but let’s just give it a little more time before we break that out. Apples deserve their day too :)  After a day outside in the cooler weather, I love coming in to warm up with a hot drink.  And hot apple cider is one of my favorites!

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