Posted in Mississippi Things to Do and Food to Try, Travel, Uncategorized

3 Things To Do Near Ridgeland/Jackson Mississippi For Under $10 Per Person

1. Mississippi Agricultural Museum: Jackson, MS

Cost: $10 per person or $4 for children, seniors, and military

Tip: Consider visiting the town first thing in the morning or evening and then enjoying the air conditioning in the museum. We struggled to walk around the town in the heat of the day in August..

This museum was extremely informative. The museum explains the progression of several major industries in Mississippi including timber, cotton, catfish, and aerial crop dusting. There are artifacts, exhibits depicting the industries mentioned above, model trains, videos, and restored airplanes. The information in each exhibit was extensive and interesting.

There is also a small town built around the museum which depicts what life would have been like in Mississippi in the 1920’s.  The town has a quaint general store with old-fashioned Coca Cola and other sodas, toys, and candy. The town also has an old church, a barn, a lumber mill, a doctor’s office, a blacksmith shop, and a cotton gin, among other buildings. We visited in August and not everything was open in the town, but during certain times it looks like they have more people doing demonstrations and manning stations within the town. They also have animals too, but we didn’t see any while we were visiting.

This was one of my favorite places to visit in the area. You could easy spend up to 2-3 hours here reading all of the information at each exhibit and exploring the town. Kids will love watching the model trains in the museum and walking through the 1920’s town.

2. Natchez Trace Parkway trails  Ridgeland, MS

Cost: Free!

Tip: Wear plenty of bug spray and pants because some of the trails are overgrown.

There are several trails but I tried the paved walking path just off of the Natchez Trace Parkway near Highway 51 and Rice Road. The path was paved and would be perfect for a quick walk or bike ride. There are parts of the trail under construction so to get a long walk or ride in could be a little bit tough, without having to cross several busy roads to do so.

The Yockanookany trail/Cyprus Swamp Trailhead is the starting point to several trails, but there is a short loop you can take if you just want to take a quick hike. The trail winds through trees and while mostly clear, has some long grass on each side of the trail. I saw and heard several birds, frogs, bugs, and butterflies. I went in August, in the evening, but didn’t see anyone else on the trail.

3. Mississippi Petrified Forest- Flora, MS

Cost- $10 a person or We found a Groupon that admitted two people for $8.25

Tip: If you can go in the fall it is less busy

The visit begins with a trail that is about 6 blocks in length, which winds through the trees and takes you past a series of petrified logs. Petrified wood is wood that has completely been replaced by different types of minerals, changing the log’s appearance and composition. The logs in this forest weigh hundreds to thousands of pounds and were formed millions of years ago from different types of trees.

While the path was nice, and the information written about the wood was interesting, I think my husband and I’s favorite part of the forest was the museum which features gems, fossils, and petrified samples from all over the world. Above are a few pictures of some of my favorite samples.

Kids under 8 probably wouldn’t appreciate the forest and museum much, unless of course they have a special interest in geology. However, the collection inside the museum was awesome to look at and while quite small, has impressive specimens.

If you’re not in this part of Mississippi, check out fun things to do in the Greenville, Mississippi area

Do you know of other fun things to do in this area? Please share some below in the comments section.

Posted in Mississippi Things to Do and Food to Try, Saving Green, Travel

5 Fun Thing to Do Near Greenville Mississippi For Under $20

Check out what the Northwestern side of Mississipi has to offer!

1. Jim Henson Exhibit in Leland, MS

Cost- Free!

Tip: Don’t visit too close to the time they open or they may not be open quite yet. We went by during the first hour of their normal business hours and the doors were locked and the building empty.  Things move at a slower pace in this sleepy town of Leland so wait until they’ve been open an hour or so to go by and visit.

This fun little exhibit focuses on the life of Jim Henson and is a nod to his Mississippi roots. The exhibit is all in a small room and features pictures, anecdotes, and newspaper clippings about Jim and his family. There are also a few muppet displays, a short video, and a small gift shop. I found it fascinating and very well-run for such a small exhibit. The woman running the shop is friendly and helpful. They do accept donations, but for being free it is pretty awesome.

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2. GreenVille Cyprus Preserve- 

Cost- Free!

Tip- Wear bugspray!

This lovely preserve taught us about the Cyprus trees responsible for turning the Greenville water brown. Yes, the water coming out of the fossits is brown and perfectly safe to drink–just a bit unnerving when you first see it leave the faucet.

This preserve features a well-kept walking path, brideges, and platforms built right over the water. The trail also has signs describing the names of the plants and wildlife of the area.

3. A Southern Bazaar LLC

Cost- Free!

I don’t usually like to put stores on lists like this, but this charming antique shop was full of fun items both old and new at reasonable prices. We bought some historical items for Matt’s mom who teaches history and I purchased a few home decor items. Give yourself at least 20 minutes to browse and appreciate all of the interesting items this shop has to offer.

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4. Lakeport Plantation

Cost- $10 cash or check only

Tip: Bring cash, the nearest working ATM is a few miles away.

According to their website, Lakeport Plantation is “the only remaining Arkansas plantation home on the Mississippi River.” Yeah it’s technically in Arkansas, but it is about 30 minutes away from Greenville, Mississippi and worth every minute of the drive.

The house is focused on the history of the home, the families who lived within it, and the rich history of the area. It doesn’t contain very much furniture inside, but the information provided was fascinating and enlightening. Features of the house reveal so much about what everyday life was like for the people living there. A blog that recommended I visit here suggested listening to the podcast, “The History of American Slavery” on the drive to the plantation. It helped me think more deeply about the implicatications of this lifestyle on the hundreds of slaves who lived here.

You can go on a self-guided tour and read mounds of information off of signs near items in the house, or you can have a guided tour. I would recommend the guided tour. It takes anywhere from 30 min to 1 hour and really made the house and it’s history come alive, after all in my opinion it’s people and their life challenges which make history interesting and I felt I got more from someone telling me about it, than I would have just reading snippets of information from the signs.

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5. The Belmont Plantation

Cost- $10 per person

This plantation was exquisit. It was decorated with period furniture, paintings, books, statues, and even some musical instruments. The manager graciously agreed to take us on a tour and told us a little bit about the history of the house and the uses of each of the many rooms. She even told us a few ghost stories about the property.

The home and the grounds were lovely and well worth the drive. This house was the perfect follow up to the Lakeport Plantation which focuses more on history, while Belmont is more about ambiance. This charming bed and breakfast gives you a small taste of the decadence plantation homes once enjoyed. I wish I would’ve know about it earlier so that we could’ve stayed there. The rooms seemed fairly priced and each was ornately decorated. At least we got to enjoy an impromptu tea party in the parlor before leaving!

Belmont Plantation
Tea Party at the Belmont Plantation





Why You Should Give Catfish a Try

The south is known for their fried food. My first week in Ridgeland, Mississippi we went out to eat at a local southern buffet called, Mamma Hamil’s  which includes almost all of the quintessential southern dishes you could ever imagine including fried chicken, green beans (which are flavored with bacon by the way), mac n’ cheese, banana pudding etc. As I went through the buffet line putting a little bit of everything on my plate I asked a local what the fried green things in the buffet were. The woman seemed surprised and said it’s oakra. I guess I made it pretty obvious I wasn’t from around here.  I’d heard of it, but never actually seen or eaten it. It tasted great fried but then again what doesn’t?

Okra: courtesy of Prathyush Thomas via Wikipedia

I have to admit one fried food I didn’t expect to enjoy was catfish. It has a very light texture and is way milder in taste than I expected.

So on my way home from Greenville, Mississippi after passing a sign about a Catfish museum in Belzoni I decided to stop and take a look.

Here are a few things I learned about Catfish:

  • Farm-raised Catfish are mild in flavor because unlike their bottom feeding relatives these fish have been conditioned to be top dwellers through floating feed. Now instead of feeding in the murky depths and taking on a “slightly muddy” flavor, farm-raised catfish have a mild taste often described as being similar to tilapia or cod.
  • Catfish are one of the most environmentally friendly forms of protein because they require much less feed pound for pound than any other animal. See the chart below shown in Kilograms:

  • One 3 oz. filet of catfish contains 104% of the B12 you need per day, which contributes to your neurological health.

So if you’ve been holding off on trying catfish give this mild-flavored, southern delight a try. But when you do try it take the advice of the locals, if the restaurant didn’t get their catfish from a fish farm in the south, it won’t taste as good and they probably don’t know how to prepare it.

When are you going to give catfish a try? Or if you already have what did you think?

Posted in Deals, Extended Stays, Travel

Making Your Home Away Feel Like Home: Extended Stay Hotel Cooking

Extended stay hotels can vary greatly in their offerings. I have now stayed in two different extended-stay hotels in the last four months. The first had a beautiful kitchenette that due to the circumstances, I didn’t need or use much. The second was very minimal, in that it only had a microwave, a fridge, a sink, and some paper plates and plastic utensils. Since my stay there was short and I wasn’t feeling very proactive we ate out and had left overs.

However, as those who’ve spent time living away from a convenient cooking space know, eating out can seem quite glamorous and convenient at first, but the excitement quickly dims as you realize how much you are spending between meals and tips and how much weight you are gaining. So if you know you will be traveling for over a week I would highly recommend finding accommodations with the best kitchen you can get for your money.

I am currently staying at the Home 2Suites by Hilton. It is comfortable and clean, but I have to admit I had assumed it would be more well-stocked with kitchen appliances and cookware.

When I arrived my cookware included:

  • a set of small, medium, and large corning ware bowls and lids
  • a glass cutting board
  • a serrated knife
  • A slotted spoon
  • A large plastic spoon
  • A spatula (yes!)
  • plates, cups, and utensils


  • Medium sized fridge
  • Microwave

I also found out I could check out the following items:

  • an induction stove top hot plate
  • a small 4-6” frying pan and lid

Not bad, but in order to be able to cook a variety of food I would need some spices and more cooking utensils. Thanks to globalization nearly every store I am used to frequenting in Utah is also here in Ridgeland so I decided to invest in a few things.

At Dollar Tree I purchased:

  • foil and plastic wrap
  • an italian seasoning spice mix with four different kinds of spices in one container
  • ground salt shaker
  • ground pepper shaker (way to be posh dollar store!)
  • a chef’s knife (it hasn’t been great, but it gets the job done)
  • cheap tupperware bowls for left-overs and to use as mixing bowls

All for less than $10!

Since the Dollar Tree didn’t have everything I needed I also purchased these items at Wal-Mart:

  • A pasta strainer for .98
  • A small laundry basket for $1 (There is a coin operated laundry here too)
  • Diced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Other groceries including pasta, flour, sugar, canned goods, fresh and frozen fruit and veggies, meat, etc.

I was elated with how much I could cook with a few staple ingredients and seasonings. I made the following meals with just a small frying pan and the microwave:

  • Sloppy Joes with ground turkey, zucchini, Ragu sauce and italian seasonings and a spinach and strawberry salad with raspberry vinaigrette.
  • Penne with parmesan cheese, minced garlic, zucchini, onions, and kale. (I’m trying to learn to like such a healthy veggie.)
  • Red Potato Salad with carrots and pickles in it. Cooking the potatoes and boiling the eggs in the microwave was an educational experience. Did you know boiling potatoes in the microwave actually takes longer than boiling them on the stove? I didn’t! My eggs were not quite all the way boiled through in the microwave, but they were close enough that I made the salad with the parts of the egg that came out completely cooked through.
  • Brown rice  with sweet chili sauce purchased from the store (with such few spices I thought I better purchase some sauce for more variety!).

Cooking this way for a week helped me appreciate what students trying to cook in dorm rooms must feel like. It was challenging enough that I decided to buy an Instant Pot and that has been a life saver.  I’ll keep you updated on how my Instant Pot adventures go but at least with some cooking supplies our extended stay hotel is feeling more like home.

Staying in a long-term stay hotel?

  • Buy a few things to make cooking and laundry easier including: spices, a few cooking utensils, and a laundry basket.
  • Don’t have a stove or oven in your room? Order an Instant Pot (we ordered ours using Amazon Prime) or pack a small one with you in your suitcase as you travel. You can cook healthy and inxpensive foods like brown rice, lentils, beans, eggs, and use it like you would a stove to saute veggies. You could purchase a 3 quart Instant Pot which weighs 12 pounds. Mine is the 6 quart instant pot and weighs 15 pounds, but it is larger than two people need. I know it seems like a heavy thing to pack around but isn’t packing a useful  12-15 pound gadget better than packing on an extra 12-15 pounds around your waist during your stay? I’ve used mine almost daily since I bought it a month ago. I was leary at first, but now I really do love it. It does things a microwave can’t like working as a stove to saute and boiling eggs perfectly without the dangers of explosion.

I freely admit there is a bit of a learning curve when using the Instant Pot but you can invest in learning how to cook healthy foods with the Instant Pot instead of watching hours of free cable tv. It’s an investment that will pay dividends as you save money and eat healthier while you’re traveling.

Do you have any tips for people traveling and living in extended-stay hotels? Please leave a comment below!

I participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Posted in Extended Stays, Travel

Living in a Hotel

I live in an extended stay hotel. There are quite a few perks to this way of life but there are some interesting challenges as well.  I know what you must be thinking, #firstworld problems but consider that for someone who loves cooking and crafting this new minimalistic way of life has been a huge change.

Why do I live in a hotel?

My husband works for Fast Enterprises a computer software company that designs software for government entities. So, since Mississippi badly needed to update their Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) software here we are! I quit my job as a high school Biology teacher in Salt Lake City for a chance to travel across the United States and possibly abroad. Because the project in Mississipi is coming to a close we’re only here for 2 1/2 months while my husband helps with roll out of the software. Then we’ll be moving to Salem, Oregon where they will begin to assist with the development and implementation of new software in counties throughout the state.

Do I like living in a hotel?

Yes and no.

Perks of Living in a Hotel:

  • Cleaning- Not having to clean my own bathroom is pretty heavenly
  • Free breakfast
  • Free cable and WiFi
  • A comfy king-sized bed our last bed was a queen
  • It is a suite, so it feels more like a traditional apartment
  • Free use of exercise equipment
  • Free newspapers to read

Challenges of Living in a Hotel:

No access to most of your stuff– Things like cooking ingredients and tools, clothes, documents, etc. Need scissors to open your frozen broccoli? Better go get some but don’t pay too much for them because you’ll only be using them for two months!

Cleaning- While the occasional clean-up from housekeeping is great,  if you forget to put the do not disturb sign on your door hotel workers are in your home within seconds. I live in a little bit of fear that I’ll step out of the shower and run into a maid coming in to remove the towels from our bathroom.Yikes!

Free Breakfast- Being a frugal person I feel like I should take advantage of it every day, but when much of the food is not healthy I can be tempted to make poor food choices, like choosing the Texas-shaped belgium waffles (delicious) or the powdered donuts for breakfast.

Free Cable– I get addicted to HGTV shows or occasionally get sucked in by horrendous reality shows like Below Deck and waste valuable time.

Lack of Space- We can only take so much with us when we move to Oregon at the end of October. We only brought two bags and a carry on and with the accumulation of a 15 pound instant pot we bought for cooking in our room, we’ll be a lot closer to approaching our weight limits.

Plus, with stores like Dirt Cheap around, it can be tempting to want to stock up on more clothes or shoes. For those of you who love the NPS stores you understand the allure of Dirt Cheap. It is a little junky and you have to do some digging, but when you find a diamond among the piles of junk you are hooked. Like these brand new Cherokee boat shoes I found for $5:

$5 brand new shoes!

They look a bit worn now that I’ve been wearing them almost daily, but they were new when I bought them.

But between being a teacher and being sentimental it may be good for me to take a more minimalistic approach to living for a while . . .

No stove or oven- Honestly, the hardest thing for me about not having a traditional living space is not having a stove or oven. Eating out sounds glamorous at first, until you eat a lot of fried food and start to put on the pounds.

But in case you are curious here are some pictures of the hotel we are staying in:

Home 2Suites Hotel in Ridgeland Mississippi 


Hotel living has a few down sides, but for the time being I am enjoying this temporary adventure! After all, it sure beats our last basement apartment. Although I confess I do miss the chickens sometimes . . .

chickens crowded in a window
The view from the first basement apartment Matt and I rented after marriage to save money.