The mornings are a little cooler and we’ve noticed a few leaves trying to change color as summer finally relinquishes her grasp on Central Texas.
And that is all that is required to make us crave pumpkin muffins. These are so easy and delicious. Natalie recently made a batch in 30 minutes and says she always keeps the ingredients on hand during the fall. This recipe make 48 mini muffins with a little batter left over for the cook.
1 box spiced cake mix
1 can pumpkin (straight up pumpkin, not pie filling)
3/4 C water
Butter to grease muffin tins
Preheat your oven to 350. Grease mini muffin tins. Mix all ingredients well with a little elbow grease. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven. Slide a dull butter knife around the edge of each muffin to pop them out and cool them on a cooling rack.
If you are making them in batches and reusing your muffin tins, be sure to grease them before each batch and to check to see if your muffins are done sooner since the muffin tin will already be warm.
This past week, Natalie found a new recipe online that she tweaked and keeps raving about and we had to share it. She said the recipe was very forgiving and the original idea came from Slow Cooker Central.
1.5-2 lbs chicken (boneless/skinless and cut into bite sized pieces)
Flour to coat
1/2 small onion – thinly sliced
¼ cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic (or 3-4 cloves)
3-4 cups chopped veggies. (carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and baby bok choy is what Natalie used)
12 oz of Lo Mein noodles
14 oz can of pinapple chunks in juice
Butter for browning chicken and to sauté veggies
Coat chicken in flour, lightly brown in the butter on the stove (use a large pan or skillet). Add the onion when halfway done. Do not cook the chicken all the way.
Mix the honey, soy sauce, garlic and sugar in your pressure cooker. Add the browned chicken and onion. Cook on high for 1.5-2.5 hours depending on your slow cooker, the chicken should be about done.
While the chicken is cooking:
Soak the noodles in warm water for about an hour (you want them pliable so you can stir them into the chicken but not all the way done).
Lightly sauté your chopped veggies and drain off the liquid.
Once the chicken is done (but not over cooked), gently stir the noodles, veggies and the can of pineapple (including half the liquid) into the chicken. Cook about 30 minutes longer till the veggies and noodles are done.
We were talking in the office about great vacation memories growing up. As kids, the expensive vacations were not always the favorite memories. For some of us, our favorite memories were camping several weekends each season which was more affordable with a large family. Here are some of our favorite camping spots.
McKinney Falls State Park- Not too far away and has beautiful wildflower displays in the spring and family friendly hiking with places to play and cool off in the river.
Lost Maples State Park - go in the fall to catch the gorgeous display of the Maple leaves changing from green to brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. Great hiking with scenic views. It’s also one of the best places to primitive camp in Texas!
Pedernales Falls State Park – As the name suggests, there are beautiful water falls to visit. Pedernales also has a great primitive camp area as well as plenty of regular camping, hiking and biking.
Have you ever had someone ask you a question that you know the answer to, but you can’t remember it in the moment? Several people asked us about fun summer activities in the area and we compiled a list to share. This includes music venues, hiking and water activities.
Lion’s Park has fun for families and friends with many great playgrounds for kids as well as picnic areas, a Frisbee golf course, playing fields and a dog park.
Are you a kid or kid at heart? Enjoy Movies in the Park with locations in both Temple and Belton.
BLORA (Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area)-Includes mountain biking, swim beach and picnic areas, paintball course and camping to name a few activities you can participate in. Don’t forget to visit BLORA over the holiday season with a car-full of friends for a wonderful holiday light experience.
Have you ever wanted to try kayaking or paddleboarding? Waterside Sports has equipment rentals to let you experience something new.
Food and Music/Dancing
Looking for dinner and music? Johnny’s in Salado has a Summer Concert Series that is worth checking out.
Oscar Store usually has live music on Thursday nights. Grab a dance partner or some friends and join the fun.
If you enjoy a beautiful view, head to Deadfish Grill and dine on the patio overlooking Lake Belton.
Schoepf’s Summer Concert Series is on Thursday nights. Those over 21 are usually free while there is a small cover for those under 21. You will see everyone there from kids on summer break to entire families enjoying the great music and dance floor.
Looking for some indoor summer activities? Check out Sparetime Fun Center with bowling, laser tag and more– Don’t forget to check out their specials!
Grab your picnic basket, lawn chairs and blankets for the FREE Hot Summer Sounds Concert Series presented by S&W Health Plan. Concerts are on Friday’s starting at 7:30. Click for more info and the lineup.
After asking everyone, the general consensus is that the best snow cones in town are Frosti Cones. So whether you are finishing a day in the sun or just getting started, be sure to try one.
We love our pets and if you are like us, you want to keep them safe this summer. With the weather warming up, it is important to take care of our furry friends. Some of our pets love to run errands with us (one gals dachshund knows exactly how a drive thru works and finds Walgreens to be very disappointing), and as the temperature rises be sure to never leave your furry family member in the car. Even a few minutes in a hot car can cause a dog (or child) to suffocate.
When you plan to workout or spend time in the heat, you make sure you are well hydrated before you start and can continue drinking water throughout the day. Your dog does not plan ahead and it is crucial to make sure your pet has water before, during and after spending time outside whether it is a leisurely walk or a rigorous run. It is also important to remember that older pets and the very young can be more easily stressed by the heat and prone to heat stroke so take extra care with your junior and senior citizens.
Most dogs and cats will have shed their winter coat by now. If yours has not, grab an appropriate brush or comb and give them a helping hand. It will reduce the hair in your home and make them more comfortable and less prone to hot spots as the weather heats up.
During the summer, it can be fun to take your pet to the lake. One of our employees has a dog that is a fetch-a-holic and loves the water. At the lake she must be careful the dog does not get too tired and drown or drink too much water while swimming as that can cause drowning too. To prevent either possibility, the dog is made to stay away from the water and rest for about 10 minutes periodically to make sure she recovers before going back to playing in the water. As always, if you pet seems distressed, talk to your vet.
The Fetch-a-holic with her ball.
If you are travelling and kenneling your pet, ask about sending an old shirt that you have recently worn and not washed to the kennel with your pet. Your scent on the shirt can provide comfort for your pet while you enjoy your vacation.
What tips do you have for keeping your pet safe and comfortable this summer?
We promised the reminder of our tips and here they are. What would you add?
M: Move. Set aside 10 minutes each day to incorporate movement into your routine from taking a walk in the evening, using our fitness center a few times a week or even taking the stairs and parking a little farther out at work. N: Notes. At the end of your day or work day, take 2 minutes to jot down a brief note or to do list to get you started the next morning. O: Organize any junk drawers or place you stash miscellaneous items.
P: Plan you meals for the next week to avoid multiple trips to the grocery store and reduce wasted food. Q: Quit. Is there a habit you really want to quit? Outline the steps you need to stop and seek help and support if needed. R: Request a lower interest rate on your credit card. It usually does not hurt to ask. S: Sweaters. Wash and store your sweaters and bulky winter items. Vacuum seal bags can help you maximize storage space for soft bulky items. T: Toilet. Take a few minutes to clean your toilets. Be sure to add any items to your grocery list that might make cleaning quick and easy. U: Underwear. Clean out your socks and underwear and any other unmentionables that might be a bit worse for the wear or you do not wear anymore. V: Vacuum and dust ceiling fans and baseboards to help reduce potential allergens. W: Wash your car. Be sure to detail the inside. X: Expiration dates. Go through your pantry and fridge and toss any expired items. Grab a box and donate any unopened non-perishables you don’t plan to eat. Y: You. Take some time each week to relax and do something you enjoy. It could be as simple as a bath or conversation with a friend. Z: Zzzzz. Take some time and catch a few more minutes of sleep. Whether that is going to bed earlier this weekend or catching a 15 minute nap while the kids do.
What are some tips or tricks you use as summer approaches?
It’s spring time which is a great time to start spring cleaning. Whether your home or life is immaculate or a mess, here are a few ideas to declutter you home, life, car and maybe even your stress level. If you have other ideas, we would love to hear from you in the comments.
A: Account for your money. Take a moment to look over your budget, bank account or credit card statement. If you see something you are spending money on but are not using (like the gym membership from January) then cancel it.
B: Be positive. Don’t let negative thoughts keep you down. If you are going through a tough time, post positive quotes or scriptures where you will see them throughout the day.
C: Clean out your closet. Anything you haven’t worn in a year or two should be evaluated. Salvation Army is not far-donate anything you aren’t wearing to help someone else.
D: Divide your home into zones. It can be overwhelming if things become a mess and get out of hand. Dividing your home into zones and tackling one at a time can really help you see progress. Zones can be a room or even part of a room. FlyLady has some more information and great ideas.
E: Eat right. Maybe you are discouraged by your health or eating habits. Choose 1-2 small changes you can stick with whether that is a salad once a week for lunch or getting rid of the candy bowl at your desk.
F: Fans. For the summer, make sure your ceiling fan is set to push air down in the middle of the room to create a breeze.
G: Get rid of clutter. Grab a laundry basket and a trash bag and spend 10-15 minutes decluttering your home (or 5 minutes on your car). Throw away trash like junk mail. Stick items to give away in your laundry basket. Promptly take them to a donation site.
H: Herbs. Plant a few herbs like basil, rosemary and mint and use them in your cooking.
I: Income taxes. Hopefully you already filed for 2014. Grab an envelope or folder and start collecting any information like receipts and medical bills in one place in preparation for 2015.
J: Join. If you are feeling alone, find a group of similarly minded people and join it. It could be a place of worship, place to volunteer, have fun or learn new skills.
K: Know important information. Write down credit card numbers, bank account information including the phone numbers need to cancel or report a stolen card. Keep the card in a safe place, not your wallet or purse.
L: Lights. Replace burned out light bulbs and dust light fixtures and lamps. Check lamp and electronic cords for frays.
Your Riverwood at Chappell Hill staff went to a cook off recently and Natalie brought this delicious fruit salad. It is originally from Basicallyvegan.com (at the time of writing, the website was down) and we wanted to share it with you. It was very refreshing especially after sampling our way through all the grills and smokers.
14 oz can pineapple chunks drained
10 oz can mandarin orange segments drained
2 bananas sliced
2-3 Cups of mixed fresh fruit of choice—we love grapes, sliced strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries
19-22 oz can peach pie filling
Drain canned pineapple and mandarin oranges.
Cut up fresh fruit into bit sized pieces.
Gently toss all ingredients in a serving bowl. Chill at least an hour before serving. Natalie actually made the salad the night before and the bananas still looked good the next day.
What is your favorite dish to bring to a cook off, BBQ or potluck? Share in the comments!
While apartment living has many perks, one of the most popular is not worrying about doing maintenance or repairs yourself. While we work to fix any issues as quickly as possible, we decided to ask several maintenance professionals about the most common maintenance issues they see and how they can be prevented with a little TLC.
The Garbage Disposal – Nobody likes a garbage disposal that is not working or working optimally. Be sure to run your garbage disposal frequently especially when you put any food down it and be sure the water is running in your sink the entire time the garbage disposal is on. Starchy foods like rice and potatoes and egg shells are some of the worst offender when it comes to clogging a garbage disposal. A few ice cubes (not eggshells) put down your garbage disposal can sharpen the blades. If your’s has a funky smell, a piece of lemon peel can freshen it up.
Dishwasher – Nobody wants a dishwasher that decides not to work especially after hosting a dinner in your home. Using your dishwasher on a consistent basis helps keep it working smoothly. Run your dishwasher monthly even if you don’t usually use your dishwasher to keep everything working well for future use.
Stopped up toilet – Another item most of us hate to face (especially if it is our own) is a stopped up toilet. Keeping a toilet plunger handy can be a lifesaver when it is after hours so you are not waiting on maintenance. Also remember to not flush paper towels, feminine products or diapers.
Air Conditioner – To save money on your electric bill, make sure your thermostat is set to “AUTO” and not “ON”. When set to “Auto”, your unit will automatically come on and blow air to reach your desired temperature when needed. If it is set to “ON”, it will blow air all the time because it recirculating the air in your apartment even when the temperature does not need adjusting. Running your AC on “ON” is more expensive than turning on a ceiling fan to increase circulation.
Smoke Detector – Doesn’t it seem like the smoke detector always starts to beep after hours or on a weekend? Having an extra 9V battery around will mean you can shut it up after hours while keeping it in working condition so it can keep you safe.
We take pride in maintaining both the outside and the inside of our beautiful community. As always, if you have a maintenance issue, please contact the office at 254-778-0822 or Riverwoodch@gmail.com so we can make sure we take care of you. Please remember, we cannot fix something we do not know about.
Do you know someone who is graduating high school or college? What about a friend in a life or career transition? Maybe that somebody is you. We came across a few tips and ideas that helped some of us and people we know going through transitions.
Find a good mentor. A good mentor may be someone who can help you in your career, or provide guidance or encouragement in an area you are pursuing and is willing to correct or point you in a different direction when needed. It could be a pastor, professor, boss, friend, colleague, or life coach. If you do not know someone who can mentor you, find a great resource like John Maxwell for leadership, Stephen Covey for time management or Dave Ramsey for finances. Pick up one of their books or look for free online resources through their websites or social media. Don’t forget that finding a mentor or accountability partner can help you pursue goals in other areas like finance and fitness.
Set realistic goals that include specific steps to reach that goal and start at reasonable intervals. One of our office staff wanted to make some weight changes and was struggling to stick with a program or exercise regime. After finding a mentor, she started by making a few small food changes and incorporating 5-10 minutes of exercise or stretching a day and some deep breathing activities at night. The small steps were much easier to follow than drastic changes and worked within her lifestyle and current activities and commitments. As her energy level increased from the small consistent changes, so did her motivation to pursue more changes.
Find balance. A great book especially if you are struggling to find balance in your life is Oola Find Balance in an Unbalanced World by David Braun and Troy Amdahl. It is an easy read with helpful suggestions and anecdotal stories from the authors own lives. While chapters of our lives may need great emphasis on a particular area, many people burn out if balance is not pursued. Balance is not just career vs personal life. It also involves finances, friends, and a sense of belonging.
Find a place to belong outside of your career whether that is a place of worship, a place to volunteer, professional organization, social clubs or intramural sports to name a few ideas. Going to events at your apartment community is a great way to meet new friends, get to know your neighbors and learn more about the area.
Feel free to ask our staff at Riverwood at Chappell Hill who may be aware of resources in the Temple/Belton area that you are seeking. Do you have any tips that have helped you? Share them in the comments.