Free Family Fun in Washington DC

Free Family Fun in Washington DC from TheHillHangout.com

A couple of years ago our family went on one of the best vacations of our lives. We traveled to Washington DC as a combination work/fun/educational trip, and we are still talking about how much we want to go back. One of the best surprises we discovered is that there is plenty of free family fun in Washington DC. My girls were 13 and 7 at the time, and there was so much to see and do that we had a hard time fitting it all into one trip. We were blessed to be able to stay six days, but there was still so much we didn’t get to that we want to make another trip soon.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

One tip that wasn’t free but made a world of difference for us is the DC Metro. We walked as much as we could, and DC is a terrific walking town, but when we got tired or it got to be too dark we rode the Metro. It was easy to navigate and we felt very safe the whole time. People were friendly and the Metro staff is very helpful.

Free Family Fun in Washington DC from TheHillHangout.com

We didn’t have clearance for a White House tour, but we did walk by it. It is just as moving as you’d think. It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that one of the most powerful men in the world is just inside that gate and that so many decisions are made there that influence the entire world. It really is breathtaking.

Free Family Fun in Washington DC from TheHillHangout.com

Just down the street from the White House is the White House Visitor Center. It is an information center that has tons of exhibits and displays about life in the White House. You can see a 15 minute film about life in the White House. It holds lots of artifacts and memorablila that we enjoyed seeing as much as we enjoyed the Smithsonians. They also have a shop that sells the official White House Christmas ornaments and lots of other fun souvenirs. Don’t miss it, even if you don’t go to the White House. Note that the hours are 7:30am-4:00pm, so this one closes a little earlier than other sites.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is tops on our list. It holds a historic collection of aircraft and spacecraft. My girls have always enjoyed studying about the solar system and space travel, so this was a fun tour for them. We spent about 3 hours in this museum, which was plenty of time for us to see it all.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

If you are an art lover, you will not want to miss out on the National Portrait Gallery. Honestly, this was one of my favorite of the Smithsonian museums. The NPG is home to portraits of our nation’s presidents, historical figures, and many notable Americans of modern times. You will see such famous and notable pieces as Alexander Gardner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln, John Trumbell’s portrait of Alexander Hamilton, John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Henry Cabot Lodge, self-portraits of Mary Cassatt and Paul Cezanne, and the Gilbert Stewart portraits of George and Martha Washington. If you are touring with kiddos ages 4-14, stop by the info desk and ask for a portrait discovery kit to make their trip more interactive. The NPG stays open the latest of all the Smithsonians, closing at 7:30 pm.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

We were pleasantly surprised by how much fun we had at the National Postal Museum. If you, like us, might be thinking, “How much fun can a museum dedicated to mail be?” you are in for a treat. It really is intriguing to see the history and development of our nation’s postal service. We were especially enthralled with the stamp collections and postal delivery vehicles. Until March 2018, they have a special exhibit entitled “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks.”

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

By far the most beautiful interior we saw in DC was at the Library of Congress. As a homeschooling family, we have long been fans of any library, but this one tops them all. I really wasn’t prepared for how breathtaking the architecture was.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

And of you don’t see anything else in the Library, you can’t miss the Thomas Jefferson collection of books. President Jefferson is said to have had one of the largest personal libraries in the entire country, and much of it is on display at the Library of Congress. It really is something to see!

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

The one place I wish we’d planned on spending more time was Arlington National Cemetery. To let the heaviness of the experience fall on you, you really need to spend several hours there. You will want to talk around and look at the grave sites, but also plan to do the tour at Arlington House. My only regret about Arlington is that we didn’t make time to attend a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That is tops on our list when we return to DC.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

No visit to our nation’s capital would be complete without seeing where our laws are made. If you want to see the US Capitol, I highly recommend booking a tour through your senator’s or representative’s office. These tours book up early, so you are really taking a risk by not booking ahead of time.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

The National Archives houses an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the US Constitution, as well as many other documents with national significance. While it is all interesting to see, you don’t want to miss the Rotundas for the Charters of Freedom.

Free Family Fun in DC from TheHillHangout.com

The monuments are among the most iconic sites in DC. Most of these are view-it-yourself type experiences, except for the Washington Monument, which is a guided tour. They are bigger and more grandiose than you can imagine. And though they look like they are really close together, it takes time to walk around to all of them. Like, half a day.

Free Family Fun in Washington DC from TheHillHangout.com

I saved the best for last… The National Museum of American History. This is where you will see Dorothy’s red ruby slippers, Julia Child’s kitchen, a fragment of Plymouth Rock, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, Archie Bunker’s chair, Kermit the Frog, Alexander Graham Bell’s big box telephone, and Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick. Plan to spend the better part of a day in this museum, as you will want plenty of time to see all of the fun artifacts.

If you are traveling to Washington DC soon, take a look at our list of Best Washington DC Restaurants for Foodies.

Best Washington DC Restaurants for Foodies

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

A couple of years ago, our family had the time of our lives in our nation’s capital. Seriously, it was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken, and we cannot wait to go back. Not only are the historical sites amazing (not to mention FREE), but the food scene was incredible. We thought you might enjoy a post about the best Washington DC Restaurants for foodies. It was super fun to eat our way through the district, and if you travel to DC you’ll see what we mean!

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies by TheHillHangout.com

We would be remiss if started a post about the best Washington DC restaurants for foodies at any place other than our family’s favorite – Founding Farmers. Founding Farmers is a restaurant owned by more than 40,000 of our nation’s farmers, and they do a beautiful job of farm-to-table dining. In fact, we loved Founding Farmers so much that we went twice while we were in DC. Everything was so fresh, and each dish was creative and yet classic.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

The best appetizer we had was the farm bread topped with brie, crisp apple, and onion jam. It was culinary perfection!

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

The tomato soup with house made chips and grilled cheese were some of the best we’ve ever eaten (and we’ve eaten this meal a LOT!). Even our picky eater LOVED it. We also enjoyed the slow-braised beef short ribs and the meatloaf and gravy. When we went back a second time, it was for brunch. We enjoyed the breakfast chicken and waffles, Uncle Buck’s beignets, and the eggs benedict with crab. It was even better than it sounds!

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

We are a sucker for a local place like one you’d see on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. That’s where we found Ben’s Chili Bowl. It’s the kind of place you have be all in on – no timidity here. Burgers, dogs, and chili is all they do, so dive right in with a chili dog. Take your Tums and enjoy having taken part of the local DC food scene.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

Probably one of the most historical DC restaurants is Old Ebbitt Grill. From their site, “The Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest saloon, was founded in 1856 when, according to legend, innkeeper William E. Ebbitt bought a boarding house. As a boarding house, the Ebbitt guest list read like a Who’s Who of American History. President McKinley is said to have lived there during his tenure in Congress, and Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Warren Harding supposedly refreshed themselves at its stand-around bar.” In fact, many of the animal heads hanging above the bar were killed by Teddy Roosevelt. It’s a fascinating place.

Old Ebbitt serves a variety of classic American dishes. We stuck to steaks – the filet for me and the dry aged ribeye for Jonathan. The girls had burgers, and we all enjoyed oysters (which are a specialty for them). They also have a selection of seafood, duck, pastas, and salads. It’s a bit pricy, but a very special place that’s definitely worth the treat.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

If you’re a fan of cooking shows, you might be familiar with DC Cupcakes on TLC. The actual cupcake bakery featured on the show is Georgetown Cupcakes. Of course, no trip to DC is complete without seeing it and having a few treats. I advise you to go early in the day, as we waited until just before closing time and there weren’t many cupcakes left. Duh! We should have thought about that. However, you can’t go wrong with any of the flavors. These are fantastic cupcakes! Georgetown Cupcakes is located in the Georgetown section of DC, which is full of shops and restaurants. It’s a terrific place to walk for dinner, and then hop over to Georgetown Cupcakes for dessert.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

We stayed in the Foggy Bottom section of DC, and everyday we walked past the coolest burger joint. We finally stopped in one day for lunch, and it was incredible. If you like a good burger, check out Burger Tap and Shake. It’s an orderr at the counter kind of place, and they have a terrific selection of specialty burgers. And as DC joints go, this one won’t break the bank.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

After a day of walking around and seeing sites, we found ourselves around the monuments at lunch time. We had a heck of a time finding something to eat around that area, so we made a long walk to District Taco. It’s a build-your-own taco place, and it was a crowd pleaser. We all liked the food, which was fresh and delicious. Now, don’t be from Texas thinking you’re going to get an authentic Mexican taco in DC. It ain’t gonna happen. But if you like a good, solid Tex-Mex, District Tacos is a fun place.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

The last time we were in NYC, Carmine’s was one of our favorite eateries. We were excited to see that DC has a Carmine’s as well. Carmine’s is a family-style Italian restaurant, and the food is comfy and superb. The one dish we wanted to be sure to eat again was the chicken scaloppine with lemon and butter. It was just as good as I remembered. The girls ordered spagheti ad meatballs, and everyone was happy for the long walk back to our hotel.

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

Shake Shack breaks our rule of eating at local places when we travel, but we don’t have one in our area so we made an exception. We walked over to Union Station to check it out, and took a mid-day break at Shake Shack. The burgers were awesome, but the thing we loved most was playing foosball while we waited for our food. It was a fun break in our day of site seeing and history learning.

I’d love to hear if you have favorite DC restaurants and consider yourself a foodie. I’d love to start making my list for the next time we are there!

Best DC Restaurants for Foodies from TheHillHangout.com

Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

One of the things we love to do when we travel is to eat all of the local food that we can. It really doesn’t matter to us if it’s a super fancy place or a hole in the wall, we just like to eat whatever the people who live there eat. A few months ago I had the opportunity to travel to Houston, which is a culinary delight. Houston has some FINE food! And the fact that they have many nationalities and ethnicities represented in their population lends to a wonderful variety of restaurants and styles of eating. And of course, their Tex-Mex is like no other! We ate at every Mexican joint we could find, and boy, was it ever incredible. One of the dishes we had that I came home wanting to try was Breakfast Tacos.

I’d heard about breakfast tacos before, but couldn’t really imagine that they would be good. I mean, Mexican food for breakfast just didn’t sound appetizing. But once I tried good, authentic breakfast tacos, I was hooked. Once I returned home, I couldn’t wait to make them for my family. But you know we couldn’t just make plain breakfast tacos, we had to make them ALABAMA STYLE.

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

The first step is to lay out your tortillas on individual pieces of aluminum foil because you will later wrap them to let them steam. This recipe is enough for 6-8- breakfast tacos.

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

For Alabama Style Breakfast Tacos, put about three tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium heat.

Dice a half pound of Conecuh sausage, hot or mild, and throw in a half of a diced onion. Let them cook until the potatoes are tender – about 20-25 minutes.

In a separate bowl, scramble five eggs. Pour over skillet and season with house seasoning. Scramble it all together until eggs are cooked – about three minutes.

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

Spoon enough egg mixture on tortilla to cover half. Top with grated cheese if desired. Fold tortilla in half.

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

Wrap breakfast tacos in foil and let sit about two minutes to steam.

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

Open foil and add fresh pico de gallo or salsa to tacos. I usually make my own, but this time I tried out a new brand we found at Cosco. It was delicious!

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

You are ready to devour!

Breakfast Tacos are very versatile, and you can use any combo of your favorite breakfast meats, veggies, and cheeses. You can also add sour cream or a favorite sauce like jalapeno dip. I give you permission to make the recipe your own! 🙂

Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style
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Ingredients
  1. 6-8 Flour Tortillas
  2. 1/2 lb Conecuh or other smoked sausage, diced
  3. 1 medium potato, diced into 1/2" pieces
  4. 1 small onion, diced
  5. 3 tablespoons butter
  6. 5 eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon House Seasoning (garlic, salt, pepper)
  8. 8 oz block of cheddar cheese, grated
  9. Pico de gallo or salsa
Instructions
  1. The first step is to lay out your tortillas on individual pieces of aluminum foil because you will later wrap them to let them steam. This recipe is enough for 6-8- breakfast tacos.
  2. For Alabama Style Breakfast Tacos, put about three tablespoons of butter in a skillet on medium heat.
  3. Dice a half pound of Conecuh sausage, hot or mild, and throw in a half of a diced onion. Let them cook until the potatoes are tender - about 20-25 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, scramble five eggs. Pour over skillet and season with house seasoning. Scramble it all together until eggs are cooked - about three minutes.
  5. Spoon enough egg mixture on tortilla to cover half. Top with grated cheese if desired. Fold tortilla in half.
  6. Wrap breakfast tacos in foil and let sit about two minutes to steam.
  7. Open foil and add fresh pico de gallo or salsa to tacos. I usually make my own, but this time I tried out a new brand we found at Cosco. It was delicious!
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/
Breakfast Tacos: Alabama Style from TheHillHangout.com

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole from TheHillHangout.com

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite dishes my mom made was Chicken and Broccoli Casserole. I’m sure that at the time I picked out all the broccoli, but even so I loved this casserole almost better than anything she cooked. It’s still one of my favorite dishes, though I’d kind of forgotten about it. I had some leftover boiled chicken and just bought a big bag of broccoli at Cosco this wek, so now seemed like a good time to revive this family favorite.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole from TheHillHangout.com

To make Chicken and Broccoli Casserole, you’ll need:

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced or shredded
  • 4 cups chopped broccoli
  • 8oz block of cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon house seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole from TheHillHangout.com

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together chicken soup, sour cream, and mayonnaise.
  3. Add house seasoning and lemon and mix well.
  4. Stir in diced or shredded chicken and mic well.
  5. Add broccoli and stir to incorporate.
  6. Pour into 9″x13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven.
  9. Bake another 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Serve and enjoy!

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
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To make Chicken and Broccoli Casserole, you'll need
    • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced or shredded
    • 4 cups chopped broccoli
    • 8oz block of cheddar cheese, grated
    • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
    • 1 can cream of chicken soup
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 tablespoon house seasoning (or 1 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together chicken soup, sour cream, and mayonnaise.
  3. Add house seasoning and lemon and mix well.
  4. Stir in diced or shredded chicken and mic well.
  5. Add broccoli and stir to incorporate.
  6. Pour into 9"x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs, and return to oven.
  9. Bake another 30 minutes or until bubbly.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Books I Want To Read in 2017

Books I Want to Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

Books I Want to Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

First up is Dispatches From Pluto. It’s about Mississippi, y’all. Why would I not want to read it??? Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.

On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters—blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta’s lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families—and good reasons for hope.

Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself.

Books I Want To Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

I’ve heard so much about Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but I haven’t had a chance to check it out… until now. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Books I Want to Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

I attend a Baptist church and work on a Baptist college campus, so it’s no surprise that I would be interested in a book like Baptists in America. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

The Puritans called Baptists “the troublers of churches in all places” and hounded them out of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four hundred years later, Baptists are the second-largest religious group in America, and their influence matches their numbers. They have built strong institutions, from megachurches to publishing houses to charities to mission organizations, and have firmly established themselves in the mainstream of American culture. Yet the historical legacy of outsider status lingers, and the inherently fractured nature of their faith makes Baptists ever wary of threats from within as well as without.

In Baptists in America, Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins explore the long-running tensions between church, state, and culture that Baptists have shaped and navigated. Despite the moment of unity that their early persecution provided, their history has been marked by internal battles and schisms that were microcosms of national events, from the conflict over slavery that divided North from South to the conservative revolution of the 1970s and 80s. Baptists have made an indelible impact on American religious and cultural history, from their early insistence that America should have no established church to their place in the modern-day culture wars, where they frequently advocate greater religious involvement in politics. Yet the more mainstream they have become, the more they have been pressured to conform to the mainstream, a paradox that defines–and is essential to understanding–the Baptist experience in America.

Kidd and Hankins, both practicing Baptists, weave the threads of Baptist history alongside those of American history. Baptists in America is a remarkable story of how one religious denomination was transformed from persecuted minority into a leading actor on the national stage, with profound implications for American society and culture.

Books I Want To Read in 2017 from THeHillHangout.com

The Martian is pretty far outside of my usual genres, but I have heard that the movie was fabulous but the book was better. Isn’t that always the case? Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Books I Want To Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

I know I”m late to the party with The Girl On the Train, but I still want to read it. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Books I Want To Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

I read 7 Women and the Story of Their Greatness last year, and it was superb. I’m a huge Eric Metaxas fan. I’m really looking forward to diving into 7 Men and the Story of Their Greatness this year. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Written in a beautiful and engaging style, Seven Men addresses what it means (or should mean) to be a man today, at a time when media and popular culture present images of masculinity that are not the picture presented in Scripture and historic civil life. What does it take to be a true exemplar as a father, brother, husband, leader, coach, counselor, change agent, and wise man? What does it mean to stand for honesty, courage, and charity, especially at times when the culture and the world run counter to those values?

Each of the seven biographies represents the life of a man who experienced the struggles and challenges to be strong in the face of forces and circumstances that would have destroyed the resolve of lesser men. Each of the seven men profiled—George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson—call the reader to a more elevated walk and lifestyle, one that embodies the gospel in the world around us.

Books I Want To Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

Since it’s a Pulitzer prize winner, All the Light We Cannot See is one I’ve been wanting to read since it came out in 2014. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Books I Want to Read in 2017 from TheHillHangout.com

The Fault In Our Stars was written by John Green, who once lived in our city. This is another one that has already been made into a movie, but I want to read the book before I see it. Here’s how Amazon describes it…

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

What’s on your reading list for 2017?

House Seasoning

House Seasoning from TheHillHangout.com

I came across Paula Deen’s recipe for house seasoning a few years ago, and I thought it looked like a mighty handy mixture to have on hand. While I have modified her original recipe to make it more to our liking, house seasoning has become a staple in my spice cabinet.

House Seasoning from TheHillHangout.com

I use house seasoning on everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I use it on pan-fried chicken, oven roasted turkey breast, garlic bread, spicy drip beef, chili, hamburgers, and just about anything we throw on the grill. We use it so much that I finally broke down and bought a large shaker since I kept running out!

I have no doubt that when you mix up a batch of house seasoning and keep it in your cabinet, you will find all sorts of things to use it on.

House Seasoning
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Ingredients
  1. 6 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  2. 6 Tablespoons Pink Himalayan Sea Salt or Your Favorite Salt
  3. 4 Tablespoons Ground Black Pepper
Instructions
  1. Mix together well and store in air tight container.
Notes
  1. House seasoning is very versatile. Use it on grilled or pan-fried chicken, pork chops, steaks, in stir-fry, or in soups.
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House Seasoning from TheHillHangout.com

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves

Welcome to a new edition of The Hill Hangout! The new year is off to a great start around here, and we have some exciting new content planned for 2017. And by “we” I really do mean “we!” Since most everything is a family affair at our home, we decided the blog should be, too. You’ve already heard from Mary Anneliese with her first couple of fashion posts, so you can look for more posts from her in the coming year. Together we will dive into a few new areas for us (fashion!!), as well as bringing you more posts about faith, travel and homeschooling. However, we will also continue to bring you the recipes and food posts you continue to come back for. Thank you for hanging out with us!

And now onto a new segment for us, Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves. The other day the girls and I were at Target, and they had a terrific sale going on scarves. We picked up 5(!!!) because they were so darn cute. Most were around the $19.99 price point originally, but they were marked down to $13.99. That’s a huge bargain for the quality of these beauties.

I picked up a new gray knit dress at Amazon the other day, and I needed a great scarf to go with it. This one from Target was perfect! (The dress is super comfy, inexpensive, and comes in a ton of colors.) This gold cuff is similar to the one I’m wearing.

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

Ever since I purchased this gray wool coat a few years back, I have needed a scarf to wear with it when the weather turns cold enough. I was pumped to find this one in such a subtle pattern. It’s so subtle, in fact, that it’s hard to photograph. However, it is just the right amount of pattern to look perfect with my coat.

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

This is one of my favorites! It would go with so many things, but I love it with dark jeans and a white Piko top. Throw on a cute pair of short boots, and you are ready to go! And since this is Fashion for the over forty crowd, you can get the reading glasses here.

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

I love to wear neutral colors with just a pop of color. This mustard scarf was the perfect punch of color when I paired it with gray on gray. The top is from Old Navy, and the pants are from Target. Boots are TOMS Desert wedges in desert taupe suede. If you need a good versatile pair of short boots, I can highly recommend these. Super comfy and will go with anything.

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

This is another one that photos don’t do justice. It’s a terrific thick wool-like feel, which is lovely paired with a green Piko top. I also threw on a pair of black pants I got in my last Stitch-Fix box, and a pair of tall black heeled boots. I am so into cuff bracelets right now. I found this one at a local market, but I also LOVE this one. How many cuffs can one person buy before admitting it is an addiction?

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves, Scarves, and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

The blanket scarves above are all a nice large size, which means they can all be used as a wrap as well as a scarf. I think you will be well pleased with the style and the quality of them. And if you use your Target debit card, you will get an additional 5% off!

Want to pin this post for later? I have it on my winter fashion board, or you can pin it here:

Fashion Over Forty: Scarves Scarves and More Scarves from TheHillHangout.com

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Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

We recently became friends with a young lady from India. She came to the US just a few months ago to attend graduate school, and we have really enjoyed introducing her to many American traditions, sites, and foods for the first time. Our cultures are vastly different, and yet we have been able to find many commonalities as well. Isn’t that the way when you open yourself up to people who are different than you? She is from a family very similar to ours, she loves adventure, and is very studious. She fits in well with our crew. One of the biggest differences we have found, however, is in our diets. While we love classic southern food, our friend is a vegetarian who likes everything maxed out on spice. In an attempt to have her over for dinner, I have tried my hand at a few Indian dishes. The adventure has been fun, and we have found a couple of new dishes we will be adding in to our rotation. One of our favorites is Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup.

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup is thick and creamy, yet it is also quite spicy and full of flavor. You can definitely adjust the spiciness to your level of preference, but to have an authentic Indian flavor, it’s traditional to turn up the heat. There is no hint of meat or animal fat, so our vegetarian friends will be able to enjoy this one.

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup uses an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one you can use a good stand blender.

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons diced garlic
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 5-6 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground sweet curry (I bought mine at Penzey’s Spices.)
Salt and pepper
2 cans coconut milk
1 tablespoon sriracha (This amount is for a nice, spicy soup. Adjust to suit your preference.)

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until tender (about 5 minutes). Add diced sweet potatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add ginger, curry, salt, and pepper. Mix to coat sweet potatoes well. Add coconut milk and sriracha. Lower heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. When sweet potatoes are tender, blend with immersion blender until smooth. Serve warm.

Do you have neighbors you need to invite over so that you can get to know them better? Do it before this year is over! You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you have in common!

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup
Traditional Indian flavor abounds in this creamy, spicy soup!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  2. 1 small onion, diced
  3. 2 tablespoons diced garlic
  4. 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 5-6 cups)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  6. 1 teaspoon ground sweet curry (I bought mine at Penzey's Spices.)
  7. Salt and pepper
  8. 2 cans coconut milk
  9. 1 tablespoon sriracha (This amount is for a nice, spicy soup. Adjust to suit your preference.)
Instructions
  1. Heat coconut oil over medium heat in dutch oven. Saute onions and garlic until tender (about 5 minutes). Add diced sweet potatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add ginger, curry, salt, and pepper. Mix to coat sweet potatoes well. Add coconut milk and sriracha. Lower heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. When sweet potatoes are tender, blend with immersion blender until smooth. Serve warm.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup from TheHillHangout.com

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The Importance of Active Play Time

The Importance of Active Play by TheHillHangout.com

Fall and Spring are busy times of the year around the Hill Hangout. Our homeschool year kicks off, and so do all of our extra-curricular activities. I don’t know about you, but it is easy for me during those super busy times to focus on what “needs” to be done and neglect active play time for my kids.The importance of active play time really can’t be minimized. Kids need to get moving in order to stay healthy. One of my favorite Mr. Rogers quotes is, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” Children need time to play. They need time to create and imagine and move their bodies. They need time with friends to run and kick a ball and talk about silly things. We would all do well to remember the importance of active play time.

Why is it so important to build in active play time? Take a look at this from LetsMove.gov: “Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don’t solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.”

Yikes! Those stats are startling!

How did we get here? Read on: “Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.” Play is disappearing at home, in school, and in communities.  70% of moms played outside when they were kids; 31% of their kids play outside today.

I’m convinced. We gotta get our kiddos moving.

The Importance of Active Play

Your family may have its own favorite play activity, but ours is soccer. My girls LOVE some soccer! And I’m happy for them to play because it gets their activity level up (way up!!), teaches them to work with a team, helps with critical thinking and strategy, and gives them a terrific community of girls. Soccer certainly isn’t the only sport that gets kids moving. Maybe your kids are into basketball, volleyball, football, lacrosse, gymnastics, or cheerleading. All excellent options. Not a sports lover? Try one of these:

  • Walking around the neighborhood after dinner.
  • Have a family dance party.
  • Play a game of freeze tag.
  • Go on a nature hike.
  • Find a new workout video on Youtube.
  • Get the neighborhood kids together for a game of kickball.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Learn yoga.

Need a little motivation? Why not make it a family competition? Give each family member a pedometer or Fitbit and compete for the highest number of steps daily. Instead of video games or movies, give gifts that encourage physical activity like balls, jump ropes, or gymnastics mats.

Importance of Active Play Time by THeHillHangout.com

And while you’re encouraging your kiddos to move, don’t forget to properly fuel them up. As my girls get more active, they really do prefer healthier meals that give them the energy to play hard. They DESPISE being sluggish from too much sugar and starch. So we eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies and try to stay away from too many fried or sugary foods. And they require lots of healthy snacks between meals to keep their energy level up. My girls love CLIF Kid® snacks, especially a CLIF Kid Zbar®. CLIF Kid® makes nutritious snacks from organic ingredients that are specially-crafted for kids’ developing taste buds and active lives. Whether on the run from soccer practice, or in between homework sessions, CLIF Kid Zbars are perfect for growing kids (and busy parents!).

The Importance of Active Play

It’s difficult to fit playtime in around all the other activities back-to-school brings, but by getting creative and establishing a routine, you’ll be sure your kids are healthy and thriving all year long.

The Importance Of Active Play

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Vidalia Onion Dip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AD #Tailgreatness #CollectiveBias

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

A couple of weeks ago, my team played my husband’s team in our annual college rivalry. It’s always a fun game because he and I celebrate our “house divided” with great food and great friends. When we are watching our favorite game of the year, the last thing we want is to be sidelined with heartburn from the rich and spicy food. Thankfully, I have Nexium 24HR so I’m always ready for Tailgreatness! Nexium 24HR is for the treatment of frequent heartburn. Since it can take 1-4 days for full effect, I take just one pill a day and I’m covered for whatever kind of spiciness I get into. For this week’s game, that spiciness included my Vidalia Onion Dip.

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Vidalia Onion Dip super simple to make, and it only includes five ingredients. You’ll need two vidalia onions, an 8 oz block of cream cheese softened to room temperature, half a cup of mayonnaise, half a cup of grated parmesan cheese, and 3 cups of shredded cheddar.

The first step in making Vidalia Onion Dip is to chop the onions in a food processor or blender.

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Pour the onions into a mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar, and mayonnaise. Mix until well blended.

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Pour into a greased baking dish.

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges.

Vidalia Onion Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Serve with Fritos Scoops, pita chips, toast rounds, or your favorite cracker.

If you need to stock up on Nexium® 24HR Capsules 42 count before your next tailgate, head on over to Walmart and look for the antacid and heartburn aisle in the pharmacy.

Vidalia Onion Dip

Get all-day, all-night protection from frequent heartburn with Nexium® 24HR. Use as directed. May take 1-4 days for full effect.

Vidalia Onion Dip
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Ingredients
  1. Two vidalia onions
  2. 8 oz block of cream cheese softened to room temperature
  3. 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  4. 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  5. 3 cups of shredded cheddar.
Instructions
  1. The first step in making Vidalia Onion Dip is to chop the onions in a food processor or blender.
  2. Pour the onions into a mixing bowl. Add the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, cheddar, and mayonnaise. Mix until well blended.
  3. Pour into a greased baking dish.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges.
Notes
  1. Serve with Fritos Scoops, pita chips, toast rounds, or your favorite cracker.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/