Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Donuts

Ever since I had my gall bladder removed, I have had issues with gluten. I have no idea why, but I have. I also can't eat things that are high in fat without severe stomach issues. My diet is high in fat, but it's the good kinds of fats that you find in things like avocados or olive oil.
Even though I have these digestive issues, I haven't quite been able to quit bacon...because, well let's face it, bacon is DE-LUSH-US!
I miss being able to eat a good piece of bread, or cake, or a cookie, or a DONUT!
I truly miss donuts, friends. 
Being gluten free really has it's sad moments, but because it's become such an issue with so many people, there are tons of options out there for weirdos like me. Or as Jim Gaffigan refers to us: terrorists :-) (that guy is so funny!)
Recently, I started doing a good portion of our grocery shopping at Aldi.
I used to be really afraid of Aldi because their tomatoes used to last for 4 weeks, and their cucumbers can be the size of a small football at times, and that's just not natural.
But times are changing and they have started offering a large selection of organic items AND gluten free items.
Gluten free items are so expensive, but at Aldi, they are much cheaper.
Most of their gluten free items are the "live G free" brand.

 Most gluten free baking mixes are really grainy, and when you bake whatever it is you're baking, it always turns out dry and hard.
Friends, not this brand. It's almost like eating the real deal.

So, I decided to pull out my donut maker 
and see if this mix would make some good donuts.
I followed the waffle instructions and I also made substitutions.
For regular milk, I subbed with coconut milk, and for the oil I used coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil.
I made a few donuts for me that were plain because I can't eat chocolate. I developed a nice little allergy to chocolate (I have my father to thank for that one...he suffers from the same issue).
For the kids, I added a few
Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate chips

The mix worked perfectly in the donut maker and the kids thought they were delicious!
So we have a winner!
Now we have a nice go-to treat for special occasions.

*This post contains affiliate links.* 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend(Part 1) 10K Recap

 Hey Friends!
I am finally getting around to posting about my experience at my first runDisney event, the Princess Half Marathon weekend.
The Princess Half Marathon races had been on my bucket list for about 2 years, but I could never remember to register for them until 4 months after registration opened...which is too late because the whole weekend sells out in hours. Crazy, I know.
So, January of last year, I decided to start planning a surprise Disney vacation for the family with this particular race weekend in mind. 
I wanted to participate in the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K and Half Marathon), and I was so excited to see that the half was scheduled on my 35th birthday.
Happy Birthday to ME!
I was a nervous wreck on registration day because the runDisney site and Active.com froze 5 minutes before registration opened. 
Thankfully, I was part of a Facebook group that had the direct link posted immediately at 12 p.m. EST, and I was able to register in 2 minutes. 
After a near nervous break down, and $330 later (budget buster, I tell ya), I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.
I spent the rest of the year saving money towards the trip, and working on my training, making sure that my body was ready for the back to back races.
That was the easy part.
The part I wasn't ready for was the getting up 2 days in a row at 3:00 a.m. EST...which is 2 a.m. here.
B.R.U.T.A.L.
The picture below is me trying to act like I am happy, when really, I am questioning why on Earth did I sign up for this torture.
It was chilly and I was sleepy.


The 10K started at 5:30 a.m. 
RunDisney wanted all runners on the bus by 4 a.m. to ensure that everyone was at the start line on time. The bus ride was short for me because I was staying at Port Orleans Riverside, and Epcot was a quick 10 minute ride away. After arriving, you had to stop at the tables for bag check. I didn't have a bag, so I was good to walk on through.
I got my picture taken in front of the PHM flag, and made my way to where all the action was.
There was a fun little dance party near the start line, and there were several people dancing and having a good time. I didn't join in because I was alone, and I didn't have the courage to jump right in on my own. :-) 
We lined up in our corrals around 5:00'ish, waited a bit, and then we were moved to the start line. I was in corral A, so my group got to go first.
The start of the 10K was really underwhelming compared to the big production of the Half Marathon start line.
Fairy Godmother had a few words to say and then she counted down.
There were fireworks.
But the fireworks were kind of like a little baby sneeze. 
Just a spurt.
They do that for each corral, so that was pretty cool.
I will say I prefer the fireworks over the shot guns they use here in Alabama!


 The race went by fast, and there were just a few character stops. There are only 6 miles to fit characters in, so there isn't the ability to have that many.
This was the only stop I made. I figured I would never see these two in the parks, so I stopped for a quick pic and moved on. If I hadn't made this pit stop, I would have gotten a PR, but I wasn't there for PR's. I was there to have a good time!
 At the finish, we were handed our medals, and a box of goodies. Then you had the ability to take pictures with different princesses. I chose to take one with Aurora. She's one of S.R.'s favorites.


 And here's the box of goodies they give you along with a Mylar blanket to keep warm once you cool off.


 So...my thoughts on this race.
It was fun, and fast. I loved running through Epcot's World Showcase and the Boardwalk area. It was beautiful with all of the lights glowing, the fire blazing, and the Disney music blaring. 
But it was too quick.
If you are new to running, and all you can do is a 10K, then yes, you should do this race. 
However, if you think that you could possibly do more, I would go for the half. The experience is so much better!
And you have around 7 months to train once you secure your spot in the race.

If you would like help planning a race-cation at Disney and participate in the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend, contact me at crystalw@destinationsinflorida.com and I can help you plan a magical vacation!



Monday, April 25, 2016

Fairy Garden and it's Progress

A few weeks ago, Sister started begging me to help her make a fairy garden. One of her little friends had made one, and she loved the idea.
I ignored her pleas for a few days because we were about to dive deep into Memory Masters for school and I didn't want to add anything to my plate. Plus, I thought if I ignored her, she would soon forget.
But she was persistent, and she didn't forget.
So I started looking at Pinterest because that's where you go to find ALL inspiration for anything!
By the way, where did we go for ideas before Pinterest? 
I saw some really cute ideas, but those little stinkers can get expensive.
I decided on a budget for her. 
I told her she had $20 to spend on accessories and plants. We obviously went over budget, but not by much. I think we ended up spending around $30 total.
We started at Hobby Lobby. She picked out the arbor, fence, bridge, and bench from there. In case you go looking for fairy garden items from HL, it's in the wedding section...not the garden section where we first started our search.
After we left HL, we hit the Dollar Tree. We got the sand for the path, and the rocks for the "creek."
Our last stop led us to Lowes, where we purchased the plants. 
When I was searching online for ideas, I watched a video that talked about scale. It was really informative and something I would have never thought to consider. 
So as we were making all of our purchases, we tried to keep that in mind. 

We looked for a fairy house, but they were all so expensive. When we arrived home, we looked around for anything that we could use. We found this little bird house that Sister had painted for her Fairy Tea Party
It fit the space perfectly, and saved a few extra dollars.
Something to remember when planting a Fairy Garden, or any garden for that matter, make sure to pay attention to the sun exposure the plants need. 
We had the planter at our back door. There is plenty of morning sunlight, but as the day went by, the covered porch blocked the sun, and the plants weren't thriving.







I moved it to the flower bed just off of the patio, and after a good rain, and plenty of sunshine, the plants took off!
 There's a big difference, right?
I've kind of caught the fairy garden bug now. 
I really want one with a water feature, and I want a fairy house like the one pictured below. Isn't it so sweet?

 
(click the picture to see price)
 I can just picture a water fall behind it. I have lots of stones left over from Sister's fairy garden. I just need a water pump, like the one pictured.


 
(click picture to see price) 

So have you caught the Fairy Garden bug yet? I would love to see what you've come up with! Make sure to share your fairy garden pictures on my Facebook page.

*affiliate links in this post*

Free Dining is Available!!

You can now get a FREE Dining Plan when you buy a non-discounted 5-night/6-day package that includes a room at a select Walt Disney World® Resort hotel and ticket with the Park Hopper® or Water Park Fun & More Option for arrivals most nights Aug. 23-Oct. 1, 2016, Nov. 15-21, Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 10-Dec. 21, 2016 when you book by July 8, 2016.
When you stay at a select Disney Moderate Resort, Disney Deluxe Resort or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort, you get the Disney Dining Plan with a variety of delicious dining options! When you stay at a select Disney Value Resort, you get the Quick-Service Dining Plan that allows you to enjoy a quick bite!
The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Tickets and options must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Offer excludes the following room types: campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms and the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. Dining plan excludes gratuities and alcoholic beverages. Children ages 3-9 must order from children's menu, if available. Some Table-Service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase.
Booking Window:
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Arrival Window:
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Booking Information:
Contact me and I can help you add this to your package!
Length of Stay Requirements:
Minimum – 3 nights
Maximum – 14 nights
Full List of Offer Exclusions:
Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. Disney's Port Orleans – Riverside is excluded during the following dates: November 15 to 21, November 26 to 28 and December 10 to 21, 2016.

Contact me at crystalw@destinationsinflorida.com, and let me help you plan a magical vacation!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Growing a Vegetable Garden

 This time of year, everyone begins to think of planting. Whether it be flowers, vegetables, or both, we all long for something pretty to look at after the long, cold, grey winter.
I decided this year that I wanted another try at vegetable gardening. I am really good about starting a garden. I get excited about all of the vegetables that will be sitting on my table during the summer, and how proud I will be to serve my family foods that I have raised myself.
Then reality sets in.  
I forget about my garden. 
I forget that the plants get thirsty. I forget that the weeds need to be pulled. I forget that the ground needs fertilizer and that the plants need help keeping the bugs away. 
Another excuse I always use is it just gets plain hot here in Alabama. Nasty, humid hot, where you can almost cut the air with a knife.
I mean, who wants to go outside and sweat to death for a little ole tomato?
 Obviously not me.
 However, I am trying to turn over a new leaf. 
Plus, hubby said I wouldn't be able to keep it alive, so now it's personal. I refuse to be defeated.
This garden will survive and I will be eating vegetables from it in about 90 days, give or take.

 Hubby built these raised beds for me a few years ago. Every year I have the best intentions of growing food...but it hasn't really happened yet. I know for a fact that I can successfully grow weeds in it, though.
 It took me two hours of digging to clear out all of the weeds. I was so exhausted after that. I am so thankful for grocery stores!!

So what am I growing(besides weeds)?

-pickling cucumbers
-tomatoes
-squash
-zucchini
-cabbage
-lettuce
-carrots
-basil
-rosemary
-thyme
-jalapenos
-habeneros

There is no rhyme or reason to my selection. I ran to Lowes one day and that was what caught my eye. I normally buy all of my vegetables for canning from the Mennonites in Kentucky. So, these veggies are just to get a feel for gardening. That way, when the apocalypse hits, I will know how to keep us alive a little longer!!

I will post progress pictures as the garden gets bigger. Help me stay accountable, y'all! I can't let hubby be right on this one!!!










Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Laundry Room Renovation-Part 3

 I'm so glad you're back! 
In my last two posts, I shared with you our thought process in creating a more functional laundry area, and the beginning stages of building out the cabinetry.
Today, I am sharing the current progress of this space.
 The doors and hardware have been added to the enormous cabinets. (SOOOOOO much storage space!!!)
All of the cabinetry and trim have been painted and the counter top and bench have been stained.
And part of the crown molding has been added.
 Hubby installed a white subway tile back splash under the cabinets.  It's one of my favorite parts of the whole laundry room at this point. It offers absolutely no function other than being aesthetically pleasing, but sometimes that's ok, right?
You will have to forgive the over exposure of the back splash. The under cabinet lighting kind of washes it all out. 
Speaking of under cabinet lighting...we found an inexpensive light at Costco, and hubby installed it under the cabinets. I love how much it brightens up the room! It kind of makes folding laundry less depressing.



(click on the picture to find similar under cabinet lighting)

One of our concerns with the laundry room was I didn't have an area to stick ALL of the dirty laundry. This laundry tower solved those issues.
If you remember, I found my inspiration from this picture.
It is amazing to have so many baskets to sort all of my laundry in.
I really wanted to use wicker baskets, but it just wasn't in the budget, so we went with a Sterilite square laundry basket. Even though the wicker would have been much prettier, these baskets are clean and neat looking, and they definitely get the job done. They also fit the dimensions of our cubbies perfectly. 
Amazon had a great deal on the baskets, so we had them shipped in.

(click on the picture to get your own 6-pack of laundry baskets)

There are still soooo many things left to do in this room. Our list includes:

Adding wainscoting to match the Half Bath
Paint the walls a soft grey
Add crown molding and caulk
Add new light fixtures
Reconfigure the salon area
Add a little decor to finish it off

I'm sure that before it's over with, I will be adding to that list.
Everyone who has been in the laundry room lately has raved over it. Hubby and I are anxious for it to be complete. It seems like we have been working on it FOE-EV-UH!

I will keep you posted on any new updates we do to this room, so make sure to check back!


*This post contains affiliate links*

Monday, April 18, 2016

Laundry Room Renovation-Part 2


In my last post, I shared with you all the issues I had with the different layouts of our laundry room. In the course of 6 and a half years, our laundry room has gone through several different looks, but never meeting all of our needs.
After searching for inspiration for what seemed like weeks(which in all actuality was probably more like days...maybe even hours), I finally came up with a design plan. 
I felt like an HGTV designer with my own show. It was kind of cool.
My design addressed all of the issues we were having with the space. We have 9 foot ceilings, so by taking the cabinets all the way to the ceiling, it would create a ton of extra storage. Making the laundry tower for holding baskets would clear out the dirty laundry on the floor, with multiple slots for all of my sorting needs. We would also have a seating area where my clients would be able to sit, and the dogs' crate could be tucked away underneath. And, most importantly, it would be "purty."
 Problems solved.
I just needed someone to build it for me. Thankfully I have a handy dandy hubby.




We started out by completely deconstructing the laundry room...again.



Then hubby got to work making my dreams a reality. He began with the counter over the washer and dryer. He used oak plywood  for the counter top, and took it all the way to the back wall. It's massive and I love it, mu-wha-ha-ha! I wanted the counter to be stained, so that's why we went with a slightly more expensive plywood.
He tried to end all construction at this point, but obviously that was step 1 of 6,453.
Next, he made the tower. Now, wood only comes in 8 foot sheets at Lowes, and we have 9 foot ceilings, so he made the entire 8 foot tower, and later on added a box on top of the tower, so it would go all the way to the ceiling.
Now that the tower is beside the counter, there isn't any risk of laundry going MIA.



He then built the cabinets that go over the washer and dryer. This was something that truly tried his patience, and broke the tip of my finger, but they made it on the wall, so all is well.
The laundry room stayed in this state for a bit because we went on our amazing Disney vacation that I can't wait to tell you about!
 When we returned, hubby was back in the garage working his fingers to the bone to make Momma's dreams come true. 

Stayed tuned, and I will update you on the current progress. This room is still under construction, but it's starting to look beautiful!!