Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mushroom hunting and Foraging Late Summer

 As a novice mushroom hunter, my mushroom hunting has been limited mostly to the spring when the morels are popping. Although i've been learning to identify other varieties, i haven't been brave enough to eat them. Although most wild mushroom are edible, there are several varieties that are extremely poisonous and can cause death if consumed. So i've been more interested in gaining knowledge, than eating mushrooms. The more i learn though, the more i recognize safe varieties with 100% confidence.

This summer has been so wet with rain, that the wild mushrooms are popping everywhere! Each day i take a quick walk through the woods and spot something i've never seen before. When i happened upon this gorgeous patch of chanterelles, i couldn't pass them up.

Chanterelles are easily identified by their shape, color and lack of gills.

Chanterelles have what are called false gills. They are folds in the mushrooms flesh that resemble gills, but run down the stem and can not be easily picked off. Chanterelles do have a few lookalikes, including the bright orange jack o lanterns. So it's important to not only know how to identify the edible mushrooms, but also know their look a like and how to identify them as well. 

We harvested around 40 lbs of chanterelles. We preserved them using the dry cool and freeze method.

Another new variety for me this year is the cinnabar chanterelle (Cantharellus cinnabarinus). These are coming up everywhere in the woods behind my house. Their false gills are a bit more defined than the smooth chanterelle, so it's good to familiarize yourself with their look a likes.  

Even after our huge chanterelle harvest i've been going out each day and gathering enough chanterelles for our meal.  They are literally everywhere this year. The coral mushrooms are also prevalent right now. They crown tipped coral are easy to identify, by their distinctive look. Their most common look alike is a false coral jelly mushroom. The false corals grow straight out of the ground, while the true coral is always found growing on wood.

One of my most exciting finds this year is the Chicken of the Woods. (Laetiporus sulphureus). This was my first time finding one, and it was super fresh. Chicken of the woods gets it's name because of it's similarity to chicken meat, both in flavor and texture. i cut it into strips and breaded & fried it and it was absolutely delicious! 

Now that i'm starting to lose my fear of wild mushrooms and feel confident in my identifications, i'm really excited by the variety of wild mushrooms in this area. It's amazing to me the amount of wild/free food that is available to us in our own backyard.

 *disclaimer- i am NOT a mushroom expert. Do not send me pictures of mushrooms asking if i can identify them or if you can eat them. Do your own research, only eat wild mushrooms you can 100% identify. This post was meant to show the edibles i found in my backyard, it is not intended to be used to identity mushrooms you found in your backyard- do your own research! Eat at your risk. *wild mushrooms always need to be cooked and should not be consumed with alcohol.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

#SunRype Family Sweepstakes & Disney's Christopher Robin movie.

Who doesn't love Winnie the pooh?  SunRype is partnering with Disney to promote the new Christopher Robin film.  Check out the teaser trailer below. Winnie the pooh brings back so much childhood nostalgia.  i grew up reading and watching Winnie the pooh, and so did my children. The characters are so quirky and lovable and always focus on the importance of friendship, working together and being yourself.

Disney’s  new film Christopher Robin came out in theaters August 3.  We went opening night to watch it! Both my kids (16 & 12) were excited to see it.  It was fun to take a trip back to the 100 acre wood, and 

We are all about healthy snacks! i keep fresh fruit in the house at all times. With our busy schedule sometimes we want a quick healthy snack to take with us and it's impracticable to carry around fresh fruit in our pocket/purse. Sunrype Fruitsource bars are perfect for those occasions! They are 100% dried fruit! They are a little high in sugar, but all the sugar in these comes naturally from the fruit and juices. i  LOVE that they contain so much fruit and are gluten-free, peanut-free and vegan. We tried out the Mangosteen flavor and my kids devoured them!  So many schools are peanut free these days, that it's really nice to find healthy snacks that are peanut free and won't get soft and squishy if left in a backpack for days.

You can find out where to buy them near you here OR you can buy them on Amazon.  Use coupon code: SNACKS10 for a 10% Off discount on amazon! 

So now onto the Sweepstakes and movie details. SunRype is doing a sweepstakes to help promote the movie. 

Weekly Disney’s Christopher Robin prize packages, movie tickets & SunRype snacks; entrants will have a chance to win prizes like...

  • Petunia Pickle Bottom Winnie the Pooh and Friends backpack
  • 4 Fandango movie admission codes to see Disney’s Christopher Robin
  • A digital code to download the Picture’s soundtrack
  • A picnic blanket
  • A honey pot mug and a variety of SunRype snacks

So yeah, LOTS of great prizes to be won! Here are the details and you can enter here. There are new winners each week!

 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The sweepstakes begins on July 30th at 8:00am PT and ends on August 24, 2018, at midnight PT. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. or D.C. who are 18 years of age or older. The sweepstakes can be entered ONCE PER DAY. Find a full list of the prizes available to be won, approximate retail values, how to enter, odds of winning and weekly drawing dates along with the full rules and regulations at Void where prohibited. Sponsor: Sun-Rype Products Ltd.

Disney's Christopher Robin is wonderful movie for the whole family. Take a trip back to the 100 acre wood and follow the adventures of a grown up Christopher Robin and everyone's favorite bear.  

Between July 30 – August 24 you can enter the #SunRypeFamilySweepstakes Celebrating the Release of Disney’s  Christopher Robin In Theaters. Enter daily for a chance to win!

i received a sample of Sunrype products  in exchange for my review. My opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Summer Break Fun- Appalachian Caverns

Last month we took a weekend trip to Tennessee to check out the Kingsport Funfest (Avett Brothers concert) and made a few stops along the way. Our first stop was at the Appalachian Caverns in Bloutville, TN.

 When we arrived all of the tour guides were on tours, so we had to wait a bit for a tour guide to become available. Typically tours run about every 30 min. The dude hanging out in the giftshop was a bit of character and kept us entertained while we waited for a guide.

He said he didn't actually work there, and was just helping the owner out and couldn't get his phone working to notify the guides that we were there waiting. He was a lot more stressed out about it than we were.  The gift shop at the caverns was filled with all kinds of pretty things to keep us entertained until a guide was available. The prices were all really reasonable as well. The do have a pressed machine, so i was happy. i love collecting pressed pennies from all of our ventures.

We really enjoyed the cavern tour.  Our tour guide, Stephanie (i believe) was very informative and a great guide. She grew up right across the street from the caverns and spent her childhood playing in them. It wasn't until the 90's that the property was purchased and opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The caverns are huge. It's the largest show cave in East Tennessee. We did the regular tour and the path was easy to follow. The tour typically lasts 60-75 minutes and is approximately a mile in length. The pathways are a combination of concrete and gravel and there are 27 stair-steps to reach the lower regions and 26 on the way back up.  i had a hard time getting good pictures in the cavern because of the lighting, i had it set to auto and it wanted to take night shots instead of using the flash and so most of them came out blurry. 

One of the neatest things about the cavern was the underground lake and river flowing into it. We even saw a snapping turtle that lives inside the cave lake and a bat sleeping on the rocks.  

Appalachian Caverns offers several different tours including  The Explorer Tour, which takes you off the beaten path, through undeveloped areas of the caverns. Guides will lead you through an alternate entrance/exit of the cave and through more advanced crawling areas. You will be able to try the "7.5 inch" crawl, "Basketball Crawl", "Rocking Chair" crawl, and discover the "Echo Chambers". You are guaranteed to get wet and muddy. There is also a Wild Tour, where in addition to the features of the Regular Tour, you will be guided through some of the undeveloped areas of the caverns. You will be able to explore the "Hum", slide across the well, and try the "Test Crawl". 

You will get wet and muddy on these extended tours, but they sell/rent orange jumpsuits in the giftshop if you don't want to get your clothes dirty. 

We really enjoyed our tour, both kids want to go back and do one of the more extensive crawling tours. They also offer gem mining and have a campground, so i'm sure we'll be back to check that out as well.  Around Halloween time they offer Haunted Cave tours . Definitely not something i would want to do but i'm sure some of you might be interested in that, i know my daughter would love it. 

The formations in this cavern are not spectacular, but i still enjoyed it. i actually liked it better than Luray caverns, because it was just a little different and the tour guide was knowledgeable about the cave, but didn't sound rehearsed.  The pricing at Appalachian caverns was reasonable, we recommend checking it out if it if you are in the area! 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Christmas in July- Presto Photo giveaway!

Last year i  ordered a custom canvas print from Presto Photo. You can read more about my experience with them  here.  The photo canvas print turned out wonderful and we really love it!  

Presto Photo, Previously known as VioVio, Inc., is the place where you can share your life and the wonderful journeys that color your living. They are an online community designed for photographers (professional and novice), scrapbookers, teachers, moms, dads, travel enthusiasts and designers. They offer a variety of products including photo books, calendars, wall art, greeting cards and more! There are lots of sizes and styles, as well as different options for customizing your photo to make it extra special.

i recently had the opportunity to create some holiday cards (x-mas in July!) through Presto Photo. Creating custom cards is easy! You can browse through the different templates and then upload your photos. You can upload  photos from your PC,  Facebook or Instagram. Once uploaded you can place it on your card and crop if the image doesn't fit. The website is very easy to navigate, and there is an option for live help if you run into trouble.

Presto Photo offers a nice variety of holiday card templates. They also offer a nice variety of custom wall art and photobooks.  i found the process of designing the card very easy. Upload the photo, drag it to where you want it and hover your mouse over it to edit or crop the image. Click on the words and it brings up the option to customize the text. You can change the size, font and message.

Presto photo allows you to make your own customized photo products at an affordable price (especially their shipping prices!)! They make it so easy to turn your photos into precious keepsakes including photo books, cards, calendars and more!

You can check out all of their different photo products on
You can also connect with them on social media!

Follow Presto Photo on Twitter 
Like Presto Photo on Facebook
Follow Presto Photo on Instagram


The generous folks at Presto Photo were kind enough to offer a set of 20 custom holiday cards to 3 winners!!   Please enter below using the rafflecopter form, you may have to wait a minutes for it to load! This giveaway is open to US only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

i received a set of cards in exchange for trying out the service and sharing my honest review. My opinions are my own. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Garden Harvest - June

Despite some wacky weather this year (snow in April, non-stop rain in May, July temps and drought in June)  i'm still getting a pretty good harvest. The cold in April and heat in June caused a few things to get a late start and then bolt early, but other things are doing just fine.

End of May-beginning of June. We've been enjoying a few mushrooms from the logs we plugged last year. Oyster mushrooms, Shiitake and Dryad's saddle. Asparagus, garlic scapes and lettuce.  

First week of June we were harvesting oysters mushrooms, shiitake and garlic scapes.

June 10. Second week i started to get a few peas. Broccoli was ready to pick and berries were just getting started.

June 19. Peas and berries are really starting to produce. Garlic scapes are almost done and we are still getting a few pyster mushrooms.

June 25th. Peas and berries are producing well. Starting to get some summer squash, pulled a few root veggies just to check them.  This is the last of my garlic scapes.

We love the sugar snap and snow peas. i never grow english garden peas. These are the Purple tendril, sugar magnolia tendril pea, golden snow pea and sugar snaps.

of course berry season is in full swing! i've already made a few batches of jam and the canes are still loaded! Blueberries, raspberries and black raspberries are especially prolific this year and blackberries are just getting started. So far my tomatoes are doing great and beans are almost ready to pick. Everything is a little behind, but still doing great. Hopefully july brings a little rain.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Bee inspection- replacing a queen and starting a nuc colony

About 2 weeks ago, we did a bee inspection and noticed that the bees in hive 2 (Slytherin) were bearding on the front of the hive and sounded really agitated. Sometimes they do this if it's really hot inside the hive, but once we opened up the hive we realized something else was going on. 

Once we started the inspection we understood why they were so agitated. We didn't find any eggs or larvae, which means their queen was most likely dead. 

This spotty broad pattern is another sign that things in the hive are not okay. Sometimes an unusual broad pattern can indicates a bad queen, but in our case it indicated that their was no queen. 

We checked all frames, but could not locate a queen, but we did find what we believe to be an emergency queen cell. We could have left the emergency queen cell and allowed the bees to raise a new queen, however we decided to move the queen cell into a 5 frame nucleus hive and requeen hive 2 with a local queen we were able to get from the bee association. This way they would have a new queen right away and be able to get back to maintaining the hive much quicker.

The new queen was introduced in a special queen cage (to keep the hive from killing her) and within a few days they had released and accepted her.  She is a marked queen and much easier to find than the unmarked ones. This week we'll be finding and marking all our queens. 

The emergency queen cell was moved to a nucleus hive with some frames of brood, larvae and worker bees. We are hoping to establish a nuc colony.  

Kenan has been building and painting more nuc boxes so that we can create more nucs. 'The term “nuc” is short for nucleus colony. A nucleus colony is just a very small colony of a few thousand bees and a queen. Reasons for maintaining a nuc: If one of your hives goes queenless, you have another queen ready to go. If you wait for your colony to re-queen itself, the population will drop such that you won’t get any surplus honey for that year. You can re-queen at times of the year when queens are unavailable to purchase. You can use the bees in a nuc to boost populations of a weak hive. If you don’t want to re-queen, you can just transfer some of the frames from your nuc into the weak hive. In addition, having an empty nuc box on hand is useful for catching swarms or removing extra bees from an overcrowded colony.' info taken from 

We are hoping to start raising our own queens and have several nucs on hand. We'll be able to sell these or keep them to create more hives.  This has been such a good learning experience and we are constantly learning! Hoping we'll be able to pull a little honey this year, although you don't typically get a lot the first year. This year is more about learning, growing  and maintaining our hives.

We'll be doing another inspection in about a week and i'm hoping to have nothing but good news to report!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Unicorn Party-in-a-box! My baby girl is 12!! #sponsored

Happy Birthday to my baby girl!! i can't believe she is 12 years old!  What better way to celebrate than a rainbow unicorn party??

We were super excited to check out this Party in a box by Partypros!  This 100-piece kit contains all the supplies you will need to throw a magical unicorn themed birthday party, all neatly packaged in one box!

The kit contains 2 large unicorn foil balloons (32”), 4 heart shaped foil balloons (18”), 6 purple latex balloons, 6 pink latex balloons, 6 white latex balloons, 14 pc Happy Birthday foil banner (ribbon included), 1 air pump (for inflating balloons), 1 unicorn headband, 24 cupcake wrappers, 24 cupcake toppers, and 12 piece set of unicorn photo props.

The cupcake wrappers are absolutely adorable! i had to put a piece of tape on each one to keep them from unfolding, but they were easy to fold and really make the cupcakes extra adorable! 

My girl helped blow up all the balloons and decorate. We couldn't believe how big the unicorn balloons are. She loves them and is planning to keep them in her room after the party. 

All ready for our guests to arrive!  This turned out great and we still have more balloons to blow up! 

The photo props are adorable. i decorated this little unicorn jar with my silhouette to hold them. 

They really are too much fun. They are good quality and she'll be able to keep them after the party and pull them out on days when friends come over. 

i impressed myself with the unicorn cake i made. TYpically my cakes look like something you'd see on cake wrecks, but this one actually looks pretty good!  i used fondant to make the horn and ears and cheeks. The horn is colored with a gold glimmer dust. It looks yellow in the photo, but it was shimmery gold. 

As a special surprise my daughters grandpa and almost all of her uncles arrived on her birthday!! They are here for the weekend for a brothers retreat, but showed up in time for the party!  i totally meant to have everyone use a photo prop in this photo, and then spaced it and forgot! Ah well, it was still super fun! i still can't believe my baby is 12!!! 

 You can check out the Party-in--box kit here ->  It made decorating so much easier having everything we needed right in the box! This is definitely the way to go! We were super pleased with everything and my girl is planning to reuse all the unicorn decorations to decorate her room.

i received this party in a box kit at no cost in exchange for my honest review.  My opinions are my own.  The amazon link is a referral, and i may earn a small commision if you click on it and order. #sponsored #freeforreview #referral

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Floyd Friday Artisan Market- things to do in Floyd, VA

It's market season! 
Every Friday night from 5pm-9pm in downtown Floyd, VA is the Artisan Market.  

It is held under the Community Market Pavilion. Featuring local and regional artisans, selling handmade arts and crafts!  There is live music and sometimes food vendors as well. 

 This is the first year i'll be setting up at the Floyd Artisan Market every Friday selling my lampwork glass pendants, beaded jewelry, hand woven dishcloths and more. i also plan to bring any extra farm fresh eggs i have at the end of each week. . 

My glass pendants range in price from $10- $20. i also usually have a few seconds available for $5 each.  i have turtles, mermaids, goddess, dragonflies, hearts, leaves and more!

i also have beadwork and hand woven dish cloths available. i plan to offer my crocheted goods, batik bags and possibly waldorf dolls in the future. i'm still kind of feeling out the market crowd to know what items would sell best.  

There have only been two markets so far this season, and the vendors have changed a bit with each one. You can find a nice variety of products though. Concrete planters and plants, tie dyes, crocheted squid, paintings, batik work and gorgeous hand carved bowls.

Just a few of the things you may see for sale.

You can find original watercolor batik art by Deborah Carrino and original paintings and prints by Starroot. 

The Artisan Market is located across from The Floyd Country store, in the pavillion next to The Station. If you are coming out to enjoy the Friday night Jamboree  stop by and check out the beautiful work of Floyd's local artists and crafters.