The Perfect Weekend Getaway in Charleston, SC

Charleston, South Carolina is a quaint southern city known for its history and beautiful scenery.  It also recently earned one of the top spots in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Cities List. From the amazing architecture to the ever-growing restaurant scene, it’d be easy to spend a week perusing the cobblestone streets and finding secret gardens.

However, if you only have a weekend to get away, don’t worry! Travel + Leisure put together the perfect itinerary to make sure you hit all the sweet spots of Charleston.

Day One

Start off with a horse drawn carriage ride and get a tour of this classic city from a unique perspective. On this ride, you can pick out all of your must-see spots so you can make the most of the 72 hours you’re there.

Then, you can feel the warm ocean breeze at the City Market as you make your way to Rainbow Row, which is a cluster of brightly painted homes that date back to the 18th century. Want to make the most of your visit? Check out Lowcountry Walking Tours for a guided tour!

After seeing the sights of the second largest collection of historic buildings on the world (#1 is Rome, Italy), head downtown for a bite to eat and to rest your feet.

Day Two

Start out with a filling Southern breakfast of chicken and waffles or shrimp and grits before heading out to see more sights. Then head out to see the city’s collection of restored mansions like The Wentworth Mansion, Joseph Aiken Mansion, Nathaniel Russell House, and Calhoun Mansion. Each home will need about an hour to be toured, so make sure to split your day accordingly.

For a delicious mid-day meal, check out a restaurant with one of the best seafood dishes in town – 167 Raw in the French Quarter. They’re best known for their scallop po’boy, which is Travel + Leisure’s recommendation.

After you’ve worked up an appetite from your second round of mansion tours, unwind at the Charleston Grill– a restaurant located in the freshly renovated Belmond Charleston Place. Rest your feet and your mind as you find yourself serenaded with smooth jazz as you stuff your growling stomachs and reflect about the views you saw.

Day Three

This being the last day in Charleston, mix things up by getting your sea legs with a boat tour around the harbor. Enjoy the views from a unique perspective with Adventure Harbor Tours, who offer a variety of family-friendly tours.

Once you’ve made it back to land, make sure to check off any last shopping on King Street or just grab a coffee and a snack at any one of the small boutiques and coffee shops.

Before you hit the road back home, make the most of your last meal in Charleston by stopping at FIG for a southern classic meal, like suckling pig or egg duck tartine.

Next time you’re in Charleston, check out this complete guide to exploring every inch of the city and ideas to fill up your itinerary!

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15 Crockpot Recipes Perfect for Winter

Between Christmas parties, parades, and family get-togethers, the holiday season can be insanely busy. Making a dinner that is filling, warm, and something everyone will love can often be the last thing on your mind. That’s why a good crockpot recipe is perfect for this time of year.  Luckily for you, Taste of Home created a list of 97 Slow Cooker Recipes to Warm Your Winter and we’ve brought you our top 15 from this list!

“Easy and the entire family loves this. Makes a perfect meal with some crusty bread and a green salad. I use frozen meatballs when I’m in a hurry.” – Carrie Carney

“This Lasagna turned out excellent. It was actually the best lasagna that I have made. Nice change from the old traditional lasagna that everyone makes. I will definitely make this recipe again.” – Marcie Banes

“Loved the flavor of this soup! My family loves General Tso’s chicken, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. Super easy. The hoisin sauce really makes this dish. Served with potstickers and rice. Everyone loved it!” – Deb Glass

“Made this last night, turned out so yummy. Added potatoes, onions and garlic on bottom, and used chicken thighs – turned out tender and flavorful. Perfect leftovers for sandwiches, tacos, or pasta dishes….Hubby really liked this!” – mmm92627

“Excellent! This recipe couldn’t be easier and it is delicious! Leftovers freeze well for an encore quick dinner.” – Vinnie's Mom

“I have made this recipe for my family MANY times since I found it! It’s economical to make with the chicken thighs – I had never cooked with them before and thought I might not like them, I was sooo wrong! It’s delicious and my boys (13 & 16) get excited when they come home from school and find this dish in the crockpot. It’s also diet-friendly, low-calorie and satisfying. We love this crock-pot meal!” – mmbpat

 

“This is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes! My family loves it! So glad I discovered this dish! Thank you!” – Lourena

“I’ve made this a number of times. I like to use leftover dark turkey meat and I add a can of corn (or a cup of frozen corn). I use just “chili beans” instead of turkey with beans. My whole family – including my 7 year old daughter – LOVES it.” – Sarah Newman

“These were so easy and delicious! I used venison instead of flank steak. After it was done cooking in the crock I shredded it and added some taco flavored rice (I pre-cooked it by Lipton) then graded some pepper-jack cheese in them before rolling them up. My husband takes them to work and warms them up for lunch. Thanks for the great recipe!” – AngelRyan75

“Loved this recipe, and I will definitely make it again. It lends itself well to substitutions; I didn’t have orange marmalade, so I used a sweet-hot onion relish, squeezed two oranges and threw in the pulp. I should have backed off on the crushed red pepper, due to the heat of the relish, but my bad. I might try throwing in some pineapple chunks and onion next time. This is a keeper.” – Hayseed39

“I have made this a few times and find it quick and easy. I add diced onion, dry mustard, and pepper. I also decrease the processed cheese while adding another kind of shredded cheese, whatever I have on hand. Making it again today!” – lisadritchie

“I have been making this dish just as the recipe states for years and it is one of my family’s favorites!” – KellyR007

“Very easy to make. It was also very tasty! The cream cheese made it so creamy and delicious! It would also be delicious to add chopped ham if you wanted to instead of topping with the bacon.” – gunslinger

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A Guide to Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights

Louisiana is known for its originality, so it only makes sense that the state would find ways to stand out even more during the holidays. Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights is nothing short of a festive way for everyone to get into the holiday spirit.

The Holiday Trail of Lights spans across eight cities, where you can find parades, visits from Santa, theatre performances, and live music from November to January. Embarking on this journey is sure to find you plenty of Christmas cheer and is filled with holiday fun for the whole family.

Follow Louisiana Travel’s guide to making the most of the Holiday Trail of Lights by following the guide below!

First, you’ll start in Alexandria and Pineville. Located in the “Heart of Louisiana”, you can get into the Christmas Spirit during the three day long Alex Winterfete, which is a winter festival filled with local choirs, performance groups, the arrival of Santa, cookie-decorating, ice-skating, music, food, and so much more! Then, head to the Alexandria Zoo for the Holiday Light safari to see thousands of twinkling lights in a winter wonderland. Alexandria and Pineville both have parade extravaganzas in early December, so make sure to keep that in mind!

Next, head to the sweet town of Minden and join the celebration at the Minden Christmas Parade. This parade features the lighting of the Christmas tree, life-size Nutcrackers, and fireworks. For some holiday shopping, make sure to head downtown for their Downtown Takeover, where their historic shops offer amazing holiday deals (and get that Christmas shopping out of the way!)

Then, make your way to Monroe and West Monroe. Once you’re here, make sure to check out Santa’s Christmas Village at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum, where there is make-and-take Christmas decorations, ice skating, and the Peppermint Post Office. Afterwards, drive through the mile-long lights display at Candy Cane Lane in Calhoun, and keep on driving to Christmas Evenings at the Biedenharn Museum, where you can see gorgeous Christmas decor, take a photo with Santa, and listen to local musicians.

Natchitoches is the second to last stop on the Holiday Trail of Lights. Here, you can take a Christmas Tour of Homes to see the deckedhalls of the historic homes and then head to the Annual Christmas Festival. There, you’ll be mesmerized by 300,000 lights that illuminate the town and 100 lighter set pieces on the Cane River. Natchitoches makes the perfect background for awe inducing fireworks, live music, arts, crafts, delicious southern food, and so much more. Love Christmas music? Head to the Northwestern Christmas Gala to hear carols and other performances by the NSU students.

And for your last stop, visit Shreveport-Bossier. You’ll find Christmas cheer a-plenty at the Christmas on Caddo Lake Fireworks Festival with pictures with Santa, fireworks, and awesome rock music. Christmas in Roseland has a lights display that transforms the gardens into a winter wonderland, complete with Santa’s Candy Shop. Afterwards, you can visit the KCS Holiday Express train!

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Nicholls State University Named a Top Regional University

In September 2019, Nicholls State University was named as one of the top regional universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report. This is the third year in a row the college has been named in the Best Colleges rankings.

According to the report, Nicholls ranks thirty-eighth among public regional universities in the South and the best in the state of Louisiana, and ranks eighty-fourth among southern regional universities including private schools – the third best in Louisiana State, the two preceding being Xavier University of Louisiana and the University of Holy Cross. In 2019, Nicholls ranked as No. 41 and No. 100.

“This is a direct reflection of the commitment our faculty and staff make every day to recruit, educate and graduate a better student for the Bayou Region,” said Dr. Jay Clune, Nicholls president.

U.S. News and World Report state they define a regional university as a school that offers several undergraduate degrees, a handful of master’s degrees, but a select few doctoral programs. A public university is defined as a school that functions under state government supervision and is partially funded by tax dollars.

In order to calculate each school’s ranking, U.S. News and World Report took into consideration graduation rates, retention rates, social mobility, academic reputation, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, and alumni contribution rate.

Once the data for each school is analyzed and studied, the schools were then broken into the categories of national university and regional university, then the top seventy-five percent of each category is published.

Nicholls ranked 103rd in social mobility among regional universities in the South and fourth among public universities in Louisiana. Social mobility is determined by comparing the school’s Pell Grant recipient graduation rate to the graduation rates of those who did not receive the grant.

Nicholls State University is a student-centered regional institution located in Thibodaux, Louisiana. They offer accredited degree programs and unique learning experiences with a goal to prepare their students for life beyond the classroom and to have a successful career. They are dedicated to the education of their diverse student body while also providing a rich cultural and educational environment.

“Nicholls supports the educational, cultural, and economic needs of its service region and cultivated productive, responsible, and engaged citizens.”

U.S. News and World Report is an online news and information organization that aims to empower their readers to make better, well informed choices that affect their day-to-day lives. They focus on education, health, personal finance, travel, cars, and news & opinion and aim to bring honest, fact-based information to their audience. U.S. News provides hospital and school rankings, consumer advice, and analysis in an effort to provide valuable information to people seeking to make complex decisions, regardless of their phase of life. U.S News is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and was founded in 1933, with an average of over 30 millions site visitors.

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Top 6 Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Recipes

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the real feast begins!  Thanksgiving leftovers are undoubtedly one of the best things about this festive holiday. It’s easy to keep it to the classics when reheating casseroles, turkey, and mashed potatoes, but to get the most out of your favorite dishes reinvent the wheel with these delish leftover recipes.  If you have tons of leftover turkey in your freezer, all of these recipes are perfect for a weeknight meal.

1.  Thanksgiving Sandwich

This tasty sandwich includes all of your Thanksgiving favorites – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing.

Ingredients

2 tbsp. mayo

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

4 slices toasted sourdough

2 cup leftover roasted turkey

1/2 cup leftover mashed potatoes

1/2 cup cranberry sauce

1/2 cup leftover stuffing

1/4 cup gravy, warmed

1/4 cup baby spinach, packed

Directions

In a small bowl, combine mayo and dijon mustard. Spread mixture on one side of the two pieces of bread. Then, top each of the slices with 1 cup of turkey, ¼ cup of mashed potatoes, 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce, ¼ cup of stuffing, and two tablespoons of gravy and spinach. Place second pieces of bread on top, slice in half, and enjoy!

2.  Thanksgiving Ring

This pull-apart crescent roll is everything.

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz. tube crescent rolls
  • 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup leftover stuffing
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded leftover turkey
  • 1 cup leftover cranberry sauce
  • 1 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Leftover warmed gravy (for a dip)

Directions

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Unroll the crescent roll and separate each triangle. Then, arrange the crescent roll on a baking sheet in a starburst pattern, with the pointy end of the triangles facing outward. Make sure the bases of the triangles are overlapping.

Then, spread the mashed potatoes over the triangle bases, creating a ring. Then add the stuffing, turkey, and cranberry sauce on top of the mashed potatoes. Fold the triangle tips over the filling. Gaps where the ingredients peak out between the triangles are okay.

Brush the melted butter over the crescent dough and sprinkle garlic powder over it. Place in oven and bake until golden, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Top with parsley and serve with warmed gravy as a dip.

3.  Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup

This simple and easy soup is everything your classic chicken noodle soup is – just with your leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped, whites and light green parts only
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups turkey stock(or low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 12-oz. package egg noodles
  • 3 cups cooked shredded turkey
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Small bunch thyme
  • Small bunch rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

First, using a large pot over medium heat, add and heat oil. Once oil is hot, add carrots, celery, onion, and leek and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add garlic and cook until fragrant.

Next, add broth, water, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, oregano, and pinch red pepper flakes into the pot. Bring mixture a boil, add egg noodles, and cover and cook until pasta is cooked through, approximately 7 minutes. Remove rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf and discard.

Add turkey and simmer until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper to taste, then sit back and relax with a bowl of soup.

4.  Friendsgiving Nachos

These Friendsgiving nachos are perfect for sharing and getting rid of the massive amounts of leftovers taking over your fridge.

 Ingredients

  • 1 bag Ruffles potato chips
  • 1 c. Gouda
  • 1 c. cooked, shredded turkey
  • 1 1/2 c. leftover stuffing
  • 1 can cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 c. turkey gravy

Directions

First, preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. As it heats, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread potato chips on it. Top the chips with half of the cheese, turkey, and stuffing, then add more chips and add remaining cheese, turkey, and stuffing. Bake until the cheese has melted, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Top with cranberry sauce and drizzle turkey gravy over it. Enjoy!

5.  Turkey-Bacon-Avocado Grilled Cheese

Because who doesn’t like turkey, bacon, and avocado together?

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 slices bread
  • 2 slices turkey
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • 2 slices cheddar

Directions

First, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, approximately 6 minutes. Drain the excess grease on a paper towel, then wipe the pan down and reduce stovetop heat to medium.

Next, spread butter on one side of each slice of bread. On the non-buttered side of one slice, layer turkey, bacon, avocado, and cheddar, then top the sandwich with the other slice of bread.

Place sandwich in the pan, cover, and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until cheese is melty and bread is golden brown, approximately 2 minutes more.

Slice in half and serve.

6.  Thanksgiving Leftover Pizza

This recipe combines two of America’s favorite things – pizza and Thanksgiving. It’s a win-win.

Ingredients

  • 1 puff pastry sheet (thawed according to the instructions on the package)
  • 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
  • 5 tbsp gravy, divided
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup green bean casserole
  • 1/2 cup chopped turkey
  • 1/2 cup stuffing
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup French fried onions
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Basil, parsley, or thyme for garnish

Directions

First, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, gently press puff pastry sheet into a greased 9-inch pie pan. Trim the corners of the puff pastry and use the trimmings to fill in any empty spaces along the sides of the pan.

Next, spread the mashed potatoes over the bottom and drizzle with two tablespoons of gravy, then top with corn and green bean casserole. Add the turkey, stuffing, and three tablespoons of gravy, and finally, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake the pizza at 400 degrees for about 18-20 minutes. Once finished, sprinkle with French fried onions and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes. Top with basil, parsley or thyme and freshly ground black pepper.

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Louisiana State’s Honor Roll Recognizes Early Learning Centers

On November 5, 2019, Louisiana Believes announced that the Louisiana Department of Education declared that nearly 400 early learning centers have earned a spot on the state’s “Honor Roll” as a result of their performance in 2018-2019. This announcement came the day before the state released its annual early childhood performance profiles and K-12 school report cards in the Louisiana School and Center Finder.

“Louisiana took a great step forward when it began publicly reporting the performance of early childhood centers alongside their counterparts in K-12 systems. The Honor Roll released today complements that effort by recognizing and rewarding the sites that achieved remarkable success this past year. We applaud these sites for providing families, particularly those who are economically disadvantaged, with access to high-quality care and for acting as models for excellence and growth.” said State Superintendent John White.

“These standout sites really highlight the great work being done throughout Louisiana in early education. We are caring for our earliest learners in safe, emotionally supportive, and educational environments, preparing them for success in school and life,” said Tony Davis, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Our state is being well served by its investment in early childhood education, and I proudly continue to advocate for additional funding to expand these kinds of gains.”

The early childhood programs, which include early childhood centers, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten, that were recognized were placed within three categories:

  • Excellent: the highest possible rating, the centers with this rating are among the best in the world.
  • Birth to Three: sites in this category provided high-quality instruction and care to the state’s youngest learners, children from ages birth to three.
  • Top Gains: centers within this category significantly improved their scores from the previous year.

In total, 363 sites made the Honor Roll, which is up fro 277 sites from 2017-2018. 113 of these were recognized in the “Excellence” category, 216 were in the “Birth to Three” category, and 57 were in the “Top Gains” category.

The sites and centers that were recognized on the Honor Roll span over 51 early childhood education community networks, many who oversee multiple sites on the list. For example, Rapids Parish oversees 63 sites that made it onto one or more of the lists. The network was one of the first early childhood education networks to establish a “Ready Start Community Network” and is one of the most improved in the state.

“The Ready Start Community Network” has steadily improved the quality of early care and education to our youngest children. In 2015-2016, Rapides has only 48 percent of our sites achieving Proficient. In 2018-2019, 95 percent of our early education sites are Proficient, and over 53 percent of those are High Proficient or Excellent. Our community network has much to celebrate because of the tireless work, energies, and single-purpose to provide excellent early childhood educational programs for Rapides children birth to age 5. We want every child in Rapides Parish to receive a high-quality learning experience that promotes student achievement and school readiness. These youngest citizens are our future and deserve our best efforts in creating quality classroom environments in which to reach their maximum potential.” said Cindy Rushing, early childhood coordinator for the Rapides Parish School District.

Each site and center on the Honor Roll will receive a special badge on their performance profiles on the Louisiana School and Center Finder and a state certificate.

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