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25 Things to do This Fall

The fall season is officially here!  Fall is always extremely busy with our families.  The kids are getting into the swing of the school year, sports teams are starting up, and we are starting to prep for the holidays. Which means it can be hard to fit in quality time with each other.  We have compiled a list of fun, family-friendly activities to help us enjoy the season TOGETHER!  Even if you don’t have any kiddos yet, many of the items on this list can still be fun with friends or a significant other.  We can’t wait to check everything off this list, and share it with you as we go on Instagram!  We challenge you to try to fit in as many of these fun activities too – just click here to print a copy of this fun fall bucket list.

  • Visit a pumpkin patch – This might be our all-time favorite fall activity! Live in the Charlotte area?  Below are some pumpkin patches that have great reviews! 
    • Bush-N-Vine – We have raved about Bush-N-Vine’s fresh produce and berry picking on our blog before, but we also have to brag about their fall festivities!  This is your perfect spot for a fall day excursion!  Enjoy hay rides, pick-your-own pumpkin patches, fresh seasonal produce, food trucks, and a bouncy house!  Check out their calendar here for these festivities!   
    • Hall Family Farm
    • Wise Acres Organic Farm
    • Hodges Family Farm
  • Apple picking – We eat a lot of apples – especially during this time of year when we are making  yummy baked goods!  There is no better way to enjoy the apple season than to go and pick your own!  Check out these two orchards that are close to Charlotte – you will not be disappointed!

  • Fall themed scavenger hunt – Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt?  This is a great way to get the kids up and moving outside.  If you’re up to making the hunt educational, include a science lesson about the changing seasons and why the leaves fall!  We have included a PDF that you can download and print, then just attach it to a brown paper bag and see if they can find everything on the list!  After they fill their bags, have them create a craft with their fall items!  Click here to download your own scavenger hunt document!
  • Paint a pumpkin 
  • Carve a pumpkin – Carving a pumpkin can sometimes be a little intimidating, but we found this amazing site that takes all of the scare out of this activity!  The Pumpkin Lady has over a hundred different carving templates as well as videos teaching you everything you need to know about pumpkin carving. She picks up from the beginning with how to pick the perfect pumpkin!

  • Drink apple cider – If you live in the Charlotte area, our favorite place to indulge in some cider is Windy Hill Cider and Orchards.  During the fall, they always have fun weekend activities ranging from riding in a tractor-pulled wagon, live music, and apple picking!  Not to mention their fresh apple donuts!  Yummm!  Check out their calendar of events here, and pick a fun weekend to visit!
  • Movie night – It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! – This can be done with any fall movie, but Charlie Brown is always a favorite!  We cannot wait for cooler weather so we can host a movie night for our families and friends!  We are going put up a screen and projector in the yard, spread out some blankets, grab some snacks, and welcome in the season!
  • Make smore’s
  • Have a weenie roast
  • Make a pine cone bird feeder – We have been seeing a lot of cardinals around the house in the past two weeks and Emma loves to watch them! So much so, that we decided to make these adorable (and easy to make!) bird feeders and tie them in a tree outside the window in the hopes that they will stick around!  The adorable blog, Happiness is Homemade, offers an easy to follow tutorial.  Click here to get instructions on how to make your own!
  • Hay ride/corn maze – Ok, so we know that nothing can compete with Stars Hollow’s hay maze (Gilmore Girl fans, you get me!), but who doesn’t love a good hay ride or corn maze?  If you are in the Charlotte area, check out this list of places close by that offer one of these fun fall activities!
  • Go on a hike – What better way to get outside, get some exercise, and enjoy the amazing scenery and weather?  We came across the blog, Primally Inspired, that has a recipe for natural tick repellant!  We haven’t tried it yet, but we are definitely going use this on our families when we go for a hike!  Get the recipe here.
  • Tailgate for a football game

  • Make your home smell like fall – There is something that is so homey about the smell of cloves and cinnamon!  Try this easy recipe on your stovetop to fill your home with the scent of fall.
    • one orange, sliced
    • one apple, sliced
    • one lemon, sliced
    • 2 Tbs of whole cloves
    • 4 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 cups of water
    • Combine ingredients in a pot, and bring to a boil.  Once the liquid reaches a boil, adjust the temperature to simmer.  You can simmer this for several hours, just make sure you check the liquid level (I usually check in every 30 minutes) and add another cup of water when needed.
  • Make a pot of chili
  • Create a wreath for front door (with the kids!) – Raise your hand if your grandparents told you to go pick up sticks out of the yard when you were a kid?  (Ok, just curious, if this was you, did you actually raise your hand?!)  Ours definitely did, and we aren’t sure if it was that they actually wanted the sticks out of the yard, or if it was because they wanted to keep us busy!  Well, for this craft, you can keep your kids busy picking up sticks AND come away with a really cute door wreath!  We came across an adorable wreath on the blog Yellow Mums, and knew instantly that we had to try to make one!  Click here for the tutorial.  Check back with us on Instagram to see how our own version of this wreath turns out!
  • Tell ghost stories
  • Go on a picnic

Wishing everyone a very happy fall season!

 

Craft Beer: What to Know When New to The Scene

Spending your spare moments at a local brewery leisurely sipping craft beer is a trending pastime around the Charlotte area and other cities across the country. Heck, there is an entire demographic that is highly likely to schedule an amazing vacation around drinking craft beer.  We can confidently say Charlotte and surrounding areas are doing a great job creating their own craft beer scene and is home to 20 plus breweries, each unique enough to meet the needs of your whim at hand.  Whether it’s popularity or curiosity nudging us in the direction of our local brewery, what happens if you don’t drink beer or just can’t tell the difference between a craft beer and say a Budweiser? Well, we hope after reading this article, you will at least have a better understanding of this brewed beverage and can come to the table with a bit more knowledge than you had before you started reading.

To equip you with the information to confidently order that beer, we needed to do our own research. Let us introduce our new friend and local beer expert and blogger, Bryan Richards @brichwrites. Initially, blogging started as a creative outlet for Bryan, but with his passion for writing, a background in Communications and Marketing, and love for beer a new career evolved for him. It wasn’t long before he became a commissioned journalist who has been featured in Men’s Journal, Beer Advocate, and Charlotte Parent, to name a few. Bryan keeps busy writing for his food, travel and beer blog, The Wandering Gourmand, and projects that come his way. When he isn’t writing, he is spending time with his wife and two-and-half-year-old son.  We met Bryan at the Carolina Beer Temple in downtown Matthews, NC.  Carolina Beer Temple was a perfect place to study our subject. The walls are lined with locally brewed and imported craft beer and you can find a draft list with 18 rotating taps. You can even taste a beer with locally grown strawberries from Bush-n-Vine, which we featured in a previous blog post here.  We never remember Chemistry lab being this much fun! Here we go!

We thought we would start off with the basics, what is craft beer?

Bryan laughingly explained this could be a whole conversation by itself, and was kind enough to keep it high level for us novices. As larger companies like Anheuser buy up smaller craft breweries such as Goose Island or Devils Backbone, it’s hard to define craft as ‘craft’.  So, I lean more to independent breweries, that are individually-owned, privately-owned or owned by families. Locally-owned are smaller in what they produce and you find that their beer tends to be more ‘artisanal’. This is the term we are using to define beer these days. Independent brewers have more creativity and freedom in brewing which will get you more flavor profiles that are a bit more challenging than the Bud Lights of the world.

Look at what I call ‘big beer’—I don’t like to call them ‘domestics’, because they aren’t—none of the ‘big beer’ companies are domestically owned, they are all owned by foreign entities.  So, when you talk about craft or independent, you are talking about American owned breweries.  They are owned by the family down the road.  They are employing people that you know.  Bryan laughs a little, but that’s more along the lines of a political conversation on the subject.

But back to these beers here, Bryan gestures to some beers he selected from the diversely stocked shelves at the Beer Temple.  There are several creative beers produced right here in Charlotte. You have the Bourbon Barrel Aged triple by Triple Brewing Co., Sycamore’s Mountain Candy which goes away from the citrus forward IPAs you get from most independent breweries and delivers notes of fruit punch almost. You also have something like Birdsong’s Lazy Bird Brown Ale.

What seemed like a simple question, wasn’t so simple. Sorry, Bryan.

How do we choose the brewery if we are asked to provide a recommendation?

Think about breweries like restaurants, ranging from a casual setting to a more sophisticated setting. Bryan advised us to first think about the type of occasion before selecting a brewery.  If you are going out with the family, look for a more family-friendly brewery. For example, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has a giant beer garden that is just a ton of fun, and the kids can run and play. Free Range Brewery actually has a cool kid’s corner in the back with games, books, and puzzles.  These will be more of your family friendly types of places.

For the day date or if you want to walk the ale trail with your husband or significant other, I would suggest the Wooden Robot. It’s a little more intimate, you’re not going to find kids, but you could bring the dog! Which sometimes is easier to handle, Bryan laughs, and let’s face it – we agree!

For date-night options to enjoy craft beer, I would recommend Divine Barrel Brewing in NoDa. It is a newer brewery in Charlotte with chandelier lighting and hanging greenery, and it offers a unique atmosphere. The Carolina Beer Temple in Matthews is an excellent option as it offers an intimate environment with a higher-end selection of beer from Belgium to local brews. Heist Brewery would be a great date night spot that has a very creative kitchen.  Lastly, The Cellar at Duckworth’s.  They have a nice food selection, but what is cool about The Cellar is they age vintage beer. They have a special menu where you can pick out Belgiams that have been aged four or five years. As Bryan is talking, we are making mental notes to set up sitters, because these suggestions sound fantastic!

Depending on the brewery, you will have a selection of brews to choose from. How do you decide?

This is where it may get a little overwhelming for us. However, Bryan is so energetic and knowledgeable when he discusses craft beer, that he has a way of encouraging us to get out of our box and try some new brews.  Again, think about the occasion and maybe the weather. If it’s a hot afternoon, I probably wouldn’t recommend a double IPA or brown. Maybe a pale ale, session IPA, or one of the lighter farmhouse ales. If the sun is going down, you can bring in a more flavorful, heavier bodied beer. If you like a lighter beer stick with kölsch, wheat, pilsner, session beers.  That didn’t seem so bad. And don’t be scared to ask for recommendations at the counter. 

Now we feel like we already know the answer to this question, but we are fans of ciders.  Are ciders considered to be a craft beer?

Bryan gives us a good-natured chuckle (thanks Bryan for being so patient with us)!  No, but there are some good ciders here in Charlotte.

Ok, you can’t possibly leave out food. Are there rules to follow when pairing craft beer with food?

Unfortunately, pairing beer with food isn’t quite as easy as pairing wine with food.  It doesn’t follow the same rule of thumb that wine does. You need to think about the heft of beer and the flavors of the beer. From there you want to think how the flavors are going to contrast each other or complement each other. We need a few examples to get that one to sink in!  Let’s talk about several pairing examples: Sycamore Mountain Candy has soft fruit notes that pair nicely and compliment the richness of a New York cheesecake – creating cherry like topping effect. In this example, it acts as complementary and contrasting flavors that pair nicely together. A New England IPA pairs nicely with a slice of mango. Contrast wise, pair this with smoked gouda as it would wash down the fattiness. Malted Double IPA pairs well with ribeye steak. The beer will complement the flavor, not overpower it.

Several Adverse Pairings Are: Pair Oktoberfest with a dill pickle and you will bring out the garlic taste.  Pair a Bourbon Stout with ribeye steak and they will overpower each other and lose the flavor of both.

Any last words of wisdom for us, Bryan?

Shop beyond the grocery store or Costco when it comes to beer. At a place like Carolina Beer Temple, you will have a better selection of choices, and access to a knowledgeable staff member to help you select a beer suitable for your occasion.  AND, the beer will be FRESH! If you see an IPA on sale, run away from it! Beer should be drank fresh.  Beer is not like wine, my friends, it has an expiration date!  Who knew?  We are such bargain shoppers; we typically would have gladly picked up the reduced-price case for our hubbies and friends – whoops! 

We hope that you have at least come away with a bit more knowledge of craft beer. Since our time with Bryan, we’ve already visited a local brewery and give him full credit for taking away the “deer in headlights” look!

We are so appreciative that Bryan took time out if his very busy schedule to answer some of our questions.  Make sure you follow Bryan on Instagram at @brichwrites and be enlightened by his writing on The Wandering Gourmand. Also, a big thanks to Carolina Beer Temple located in Matthews, NC for your hospitality.  Stop in and speak with their very knowledgeable and accommodating staff – they are wonderful at helping you find an amazing brew!

Thank you for stopping by! We appreciate you!

Karrie and Maribeth

About Town: Bush-N-Vine

Fresh fruits and vegetables, OH MY!

Finding local activities that get the kids off the couch and us out of the house is always a win for us.  We love to visit places around the Charlotte area and we’re excited to share one of our favorite places to frequent with the littles.  Bush-N-Vine is a local farm located in York, SC.  Trust us, it is so worth the drive and would be a great family adventure where you’ll come away with as many fresh food options as you can carry.

Bush-N-Vine has been in the Hall family for over 150 years and started as a peach orchard. Boy has it grown! Get it – grown!  You can choose from a variety of vegetables and fruits in the shop and they even offer a CSA program and USDA approved and inspected Angus Beef. We haven’t personally tried the beef but we’ve been told it is GREAT! 

Why do WE love Bush-N-Vine? Here are our top 3 reasons:

1 – Picking! What kid doesn’t like to pick things! Depending on the season, visitors can pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches and pumpkins. At some point over the last few years, we’ve picked everything at the farm except blueberries. The strawberries and blackberries are some of the biggest we’ve seen and they are some of the best tasting. It does tend to take us a bit longer to pick because the kids put equal amounts in their mouth as they do in the basket! But hey, this counts as a snack and an activity!  Another bonus for us moms is the farm is well maintained so the kids are able to pick the gardens without wading through tall grass. That’s huge for us mommas who need to keep an eye out for snakes! 

2 – Activities! The kids love the play area that includes swings, a playhouse, a wagon and a farm built slide. They even have a large bee hive for the kids to look at (don’t worry – it is safely tucked into it’s own little house). Depending on the time of year, Bush-N-Vine will host different activities. Right now, guests can check out “Slices of Summer” on Saturdays from 10-3. You can sample some of the farm’s melons and fruits before picking your own goodies, or just exploring. During the fall on noted Saturdays, you can attend the Fall Farm Fun. We have gone in years past and it includes bands, hay rides to the pumpkin patch, and more for a small fee. Check the back later for more details on the 2018 Fall Farm Fun schedule. Hopefully, this year we won’t have 80+ degree weather when we are trying to pick our pumpkins!

3 – Ice cream! Bush-N-Vine has amazing soft serve ice cream. You can always count on the traditional vanilla served along with a seasonal fruit flavor made with fruit right off the farm. Our personal favorite – STRAWBERRY! If they are feeling adventurous, get it swirled! Guess what? it’s affordable! No $5 cones there!

Every time we visit Bush-n-Vine we come away with bags of fresh produce! Oh, I forgot one of our favorites, the tomatoes! Grab them while there, they make a mean BLT or a simple tomato sandwich. To learn more about Bush-n-Vine, visit their website here.

If you’ve been to Bush-N-Vine, what was your favorite thing about the farm? 

Thank you for stopping by!