Thursday, December 12, 2013


An easy way to make your holiday brews a bit more festive!

All you need is:

Brown black or grey pipe cleaners

Stick on googly eyes

Mini red pom poms

Hot glue gun

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies


2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses (or use crumbled candy canes)
2 ounces white chocolate


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan.
2. Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
3. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into prepared baking pan, spacing evenly. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.
4. Bake cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes. Place pan on rack; immediately sprinkle bittersweet chocolate over. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Using small offset spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate over top of cookie in thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped candy cane kisses over (or candy canes).
5. Stir white chocolate in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. If it's too tough and thick to stir, add a tiny drizzle of vegetable oil or 1/2 teaspoon of shortening to thin it out. Remove from over water. Using fork, drizzle white chocolate all over cookies. Chill until white chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
6. Using paper overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan and transfer to work surface. Using large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Firearms Safety from Instructor Joshua Hicks

Photography by Ben Roberts
Firearms have been getting a great deal of media attention lately, both positive and negative. As a result there has been an increase in the number of firearms being purchased, and consequently a shortage on ammunition has occurred. Many firearms enthusiasts and avid shooters have been asking, “When are we going to be able to buy ammo again?” and some have even begun to reload their own cartridges, however even the components needed to reload have become scarce.
                  In addition to firearm and ammunition sales increasing, so have the number of citizens taking basic firearms training. Traditionally in the South, fathers teaching their sons firearms safety and fundamentals supplanted the need of firearms training.  However in recent years, due to more of an industrial influx, the need for hunting food for dinner has ceased and that tradition is disappearing. Also, firearms have become infinitely more complex. That’s where the Firearms Instructor comes in. Firearms Instructors are civilians and law enforcement officers who have undergone specific training and passed a series of written and practical tests to be certified to teach within certain disciplines. Firearms Instructors are professionals dedicated to teaching civilians to be informed when it comes to firearms safety and the fundamentals of shooting. 
                  No matter which side of the political coin you find yourself everyone should support Firearms Instructors because they are traditionally unbiased when it comes to firearm safety and the responsibility that comes with owning a firearm.
What are the four cardinal rules of firearms safety?
1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
3. Keep the firearm unloaded until you are ready to shoot.
4. Know your target and beyond. 
Every shooter should know these rules before stepping foot on a range or handling a firearm.
                  What are some of the deterrents for people when it comes to firearms training?
1. Finding the time to take a class.
 2. The cost involved with taking a class.
3. Arranging childcare.
4. Gender stereotypes.
5. False confidence.
                  The above-mentioned are among the most common reasons why people avoid firearms training. Firearms classes take approximately eight hours plus range time. Most instructors try to schedule classes on the weekend to accommodate work schedules. Even so, some people find eight hours to be a hefty commitment. And though the cost may seem steep, most instructors have a very narrow profit margin.  It costs instructors time and money to become certified, plus the cost of materials per student. Then there are gender stereotypes. Women are equally competent as men. But some men seem to think that women don’t belong on the range, and unfortunately too many women agree. Lastly and most common is false confidence. Many boast“ I’ve been shooting since I was a kid, I know how to shoot”. But if you ask, “What are cardinal rules of firearms safety” and 9 times out of 10 they don’t know. They have experience, but they lack training.
                  Although the likelihood of seeing ammo on the shelves anytime soon is slim, don’t lose hope. Once the supply can match the demand those shelves will fill up and prices will go down. If you are interested in firearms training please contact your local firearms instructors and register for a class today. It’s never too late to become an informed citizen, which is just as much a part of the Second Amendment as the right to bare arms. 


Friday, May 17, 2013

Sweet Summer Drinks

Whenever you are sitting outside in the sunshine, a nice refreshing drink should accompany you.  Ranging from fruity to sweet to whatever your taste buds can handle.  Here are some alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks with the recipes to help.


  • 2 slices of cucumber
  • 1 spear cucumber for garnish
  • 8 leaves of mint
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 ounce Basic Simple Syrup
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces Blanco Tequila
  • 3/4 ounce yellow chartreuse
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber slices with 7 of the mint leaves, the salt and the simple syrup.  Add ice and the tequila, chartreuse, and lime juice and shake well.  Fine-strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the cucumber spear and remaining mint leaf.


  • 2 ounces of gin
  • ounce of maraschino liqueur
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ounce of violet liqueur
  • 1 marasca cherry, for garnish
Fill cocktail shaker with ice.  Add all of the ingredients, except the cherry, and shake until chilled.  Strain the drink into a coupe glass and garnish with a marasca cherry.



  • 1 1/2 pound sliced seedless watermelon, rind removed
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mild honey (such as orange blossom)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
In the bowl of a food processor, place watermelon and process until very smooth.  Strain through a coarse sieve set over a bowl, stirring to push through any pulp.  Pour juice into a large pitcher.  Add lemon zest.
 In a bowl, whisk lemon juice and honey until honey dissolves; stir into watermelon juice.  Stir 1 1/2 cups cold water; cover and refrigerate until very cold.  Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices


  • 2 cups seltzer
  • 2/3 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • 3 ounces raspberry-flavored syrup, or Chambord
  • ice cubes
Combine seltzer, raspberries, mint and raspberry-flavored syrup (or  Chambord) in a small pitcher.  Pour over ice.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Slice of Heaven: Banana Split Pie

When it comes to baking, there is nothing more satisfying than biting into a piece of sweet and savory pie especially the kind that melts in your mouth and leaves you speechless. One of those types of pies is the banana split pie. Filled to the brim with fresh bananas, grated semi-sweet chocolate, powdered sugar, and an entire stick of butter, the banana split pie will remind you of the comforts of home and sweet childhood memories. Nostalgia comes naturally as the process to prepare this pie comes to fruition. Before adding the prescribed whipped cream topping, you should think about this tasty alternative: whipped egg whites, a tablespoon of vanilla, and half a cup of sugar. It takes about 10-15 minutes to get the egg whites whipped enough that it forms stiff peaks, but the result is more satisfying. Once stiff peaks have formed, stuff the topping into a small plastic Ziploc bag and cut a hole in the corner to squeeze out onto the pie filling.

Once the filling and topping are finished, be sure to garnish the pie with walnut pieces. It adds a wonderful crunch and flavor burst to the predominately banana flavor. Happy baking!

1.     1/2 cup butter
2.     1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3.     3 eggs
4.     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5.     2 bananas
6.     1 tablespoon lemon juice
7.     1 (1 ounce) square semi-sweet chocolate, grated
8.     1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked

  1. Cream together butter or margarine and confectioner's sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time; beat for 3 minutes after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Slice 2 bananas, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Fold grated chocolate and bananas into sugar mixture. Turn filling into cooled pie shell. Garnish with walnuts, banana slices, and whipped cream.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day or Night Tips to Hike!

Everyone knows the weather in North Carolina is unpredictable especially in the mountains.  When there is a day that cooperates with you, hiking is definitely an activity  to partake in.  Everyone from amateurs to wilderness junkies can enjoy the health and mental benefits of hiking.  During the day is usually an optimal time to go hiking , but if you are a night owl, night hiking can be interesting as well.  There are a few tips to use for this activity during either the day or night.

DAY HIKING trips can provide a welcome dose of wilderness in your weekend.  They also help you prepare and train for longer hikes.

These guidelines will enhance your day hiking journeys:
  • Start early.  You'll enjoy cooler weather and better odds of spotting wildlife if you begin your hike before dawn.
  • Avoid the crowds by hiking in a designated wilderness or road-less area.
  • The right hiking gear - particularly shoes - is essential.

HIKING AT NIGHT will open your eyes and ears to a whole new world of wilderness.  Many designated wilderness and camping areas permit night hiking, but be sure to check before you visit.

Here's some great ideas on how to hike in the dark outdoors:
  • Bring a small but powerful LED flashlight
  • Travel in a group or consider taking a guided night hike
  • Take water and simple snacks without strong odors to avoid attracting wildlife.

And most importantly enjoy and experience all the beautiful nature there is, because in the mountains there is A LOT!!!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Year, Get Organized!

So it's the beginning of another new year. It seems like we always start off the year with our typical resolutions. We vow to exercise more often, eat healthier foods, or pick up a new hobby. As soon that clock strikes midnight on New Years, we are absolutely dedicated to achieving our new goals...until February comes along. I don't know about you, but I find it relatively difficult to keep the same drive towards a goal for an entire 365 days, or longer. Sometimes when the new year comes around, it may be more beneficial to create small goals that we can accomplish quickly, without feeling completely burned out. I believe one of the best tasks to put at the top of that list is re-organizing your home. It may sound like a daunting task at first, but use some of these quick and easy tips to help. Sometimes just doing a little can do A LOT!

The Kitchen:
The kitchen is typically the "heart" of the home. A lot of time is spent in this space, therefore, it can quickly become overly cluttered. Use some of these quick tips to clear some of that clutter out of the kitchen!
1. De-clutter your utensil drawer. Digging through a pile of spoons and spatulas can be extremely frustrating. Check out your local home or hardware store to find a compartmentalized organizer to keep everything visible and easy to locate.
2. Stop buying so many plastic containers! Although their ultimate purpose is great, having too many can result in a crowded, unorganized cabinet or drawer. It becomes frustrating to find the correct lid, or to maintain a neat stack of containers. Invest in a simpler form of Tupperware  such as the GladWare's interlocking lids, where each container fits inside one another, leaving much more space for organization.
3. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but is often put off because it requires too much time. It may take a while to sort through everything, but in the end, you will end up with much more space to store food, and avoid any smelly expired food down the road.

The Bathroom: 
Bathrooms can sometimes be the hardest to organize, because it's often difficult to find a place for everything. However, by organizing your bathroom, it typically makes it much easier to maintain cleanliness.
1. Organize your medicine cabinet or drawers. Take out all of the items you do not need, or will not use and throw them away. Sometimes it may actually be easier to use the medicine cabinet for everyday grooming items, since it is easily accessible. Take out items that are alike and store them in linen containers underneath your sink. By leaving only the necessary items in the cabinet and creating "active storage," you will ultimately minimize time spent in the bathroom, and less time searching for items in different places.
2.Give your makeup some space! Drawers and counter space can quickly become cluttered with cosmetic bags or stray makeup items. Avoid this by purchasing an expandable cosmetic organizer that easily fits into one of your drawers.
3. Pick up some apothecary jars! If you have the luxury of a large counter space in your bathroom, buy a few small and stylish apothecary jars to store little things such as cotton swabs, Q-tips, or bath salts. This makes it quick and easy to find when you're in a hurry!

The Laundry Room: 
The laundry is room is notorious for being unorganized, but you can change that!
1. Organized your cleaning supplies. Gather all of the cleaning supplies, detergents, or soaps that you have lying around your laundry room and store them in a carry-all caddy. This way you will always know where to find them, and they will be stored out of the way.
2. Get some hampers! To cut down on laundry time, invest in three different laundry hampers, for whites, darks, and colors. When the hamper is full, you know it's time to wash them. This not only cuts down on the number of cycles you have to run, but it also helps de-clutter the number of random hampers lying around in the laundry room.

Hope you found these tips helpful! Get Organized this year!