Apr 22, 2013


It's been fun, but I've decided I'm done with blogging, at least for now.


-I originally started blogging to keep in touch with friends and family. We lived far away from most of our loved ones, and I was really lonely. After moving in November, we are just minutes away from Marshall's family and an hour away from mine. We are blessed to see them on a regular basis, and I no longer feel the need to keep them updated on our lives via blogging.

-In 10 months, I've had over 31,000 views but very few comments on blog posts. Even if we hadn't moved closer to friends and family, blogging wasn't really helping me connect to anyone. It was as if I was putting all kinds of time into posts that were being sent out into a void. The comments I do receive are usually from spammers... major letdown!

-After posting a few DIY projects, I could see that those posts were getting a lot more attention. I changed my focus from keeping up with family to putting out content that people wanted to see. I would have been doing these projects anyway, but it takes hours to take pictures along the way, edit them, write up a post, etc. That results in keeping up with all kinds of people who I don't know and not having the time to keep up with my family. Sounds kind of backwards, right?

-I don't want to go through life always on the hunt for new blog post material. While we were on vacation, I found myself thinking about what my next post would be or which pictures would be blog worthy. And then I thought, "What is wrong with me? I should just be enjoying this for what it is right now!"

I will not be shutting down the blog. I realize that there are a lot of tutorials that have gone crazy on pinterest, and I want to keep the blog up so that people can always find the information they need. At the moment, I'm not planning to post anything new. But who knows, maybe I'll get the itch someday.

Thank you to everyone who subscribed and for those who did leave comments! It always put a smile on my face to see that we had a new follower or someone who was interested in a project. I'll still be able to receive e-mails and comments, so if you have a question about an old project, don't be afraid to ask away!

Apr 15, 2013

IKEA Magazine File Knock Off

Do you ever refrain from buying something that you don't need and then end up needing it almost as soon as you walk out of the store? That seems to be the story of my life.

I spotted some fabric covered magazine files last year at IKEA that I really liked, but I didn't need them at the time. I do get a few magazines in the mail, but I don't hang onto them for long and didn't need the extra storage.

About two weeks after that trip to IKEA, Marshall accepted his position here as a pastor, and we moved to our current home. Do you know how much mail a pastor gets?! And how many magazines?! I kept thinking to myself that I wished I would have bought those magazine files when I had the chance.

We don't have an IKEA nearby, and even if I did, the magazine files I had my eye on have been discontinued. I was able to find a picture of them on the internet, though, so I decided to make my own.

The inspiration:
IKEA's Kvarnvik Magazine File

We recently ordered some photobooks from MyPublisher (I highly recommend them- much better quality than other photobooks we've ordered!), and the boxes they came in were the perfect size.

I started by cutting the boxes to the shape I wanted.

Then, I laid the box down over some burlap. I cut out around the outline of the box, leaving about an inch extra all the way around.

I hot glued the burlap to the sides of the box and then doubled the edge over and hot glued it to the inside of the box. That gave it a nice, finished look.

And the final product:

So much for discontinued!

Apr 12, 2013

Kefir Mint Julep

Ok, so we are those people...

... you know...

...the kind that soak their grains, drink non-dairy milk, avoid the "dirty dozen," and have water kefir culturing on the kitchen counter.

Yes, we thought only weird people did those things, but after doing lots of research, well.... We think it's weirder not to at least try to eat the healthiest food possible. Bring on the kefir!

Confession: Water kefir does not have a pleasant taste.

Marshall likes it, but I have to disguise it to make it palatable. We make water kefir by the quart, and I like to make mine into Kefir Mint Julep. I've never actually tasted alcoholic Mint Julep before, so I'm using my imagination here. Humor me.

Kefir Mint Julep
1 quart finished kefir water
1 mint tea bag
1/4 C bottled lemon juice
1/4 C stevia

Place tea bag in a coffee mug and add just enough boiling water to cover it (about 1/3 C). Steep for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add lemon juice and stevia to the kefir water.

Add the concentrated tea, and mix well.

Sometimes we skip the mint tea and just make kefir "lemonade." It's pretty tasty, too. If you have any kefir recipes, I'd love for you to share them in the comment section below!

Apr 10, 2013

Strawberry Lemonade Cake

Do you remember my Key Lime Cupcakes? They were a party in my mouth.

As I was enjoying one of my cupcakes, the thought occurred to me that I could try it with lemon.

And strawberry filling.

And Strawberry Lemonade Cake was born. Mmmmmmm! I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate finishing up my spring cleaning.

Strawberry Lemonade Cake
{click to print}

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup bottled lemon juice
3/4 cup Greek yogurt

strawberry jam (for filling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch cake pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Add the eggs, oil, lime juice, and yogurt. Mix until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool on wire racks. Using a rubber spatula, remove cakes carefully from the pans. Set the bottom cake layer on your cake plate or stand. Spread half of the jam evenly over the cake. Add another layer of cake, and spread the remaining jam on top. Add the top cake layer, and frost.

Lemonade Frosting
1 C butter, softened
4 C powdered sugar
2 t vanilla extract
4 T bottled lemon juice
yellow food coloring, optional

Cream the butter until smooth.

Add one cup of powdered sugar and mix well.

Mix in vanilla, lemon juice, and food coloring.

Add remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Beat until smooth.

Apr 8, 2013

Singin' in the Rain Printables

I noticed quite a bit of rain when I checked the forecast last week, and do you know what? After all the snow we got this winter, it's kind of a relief. Here is a fun, free printable that just might give you a lift on a rainy day.

{click to print}
And here's another one, because you can never have too many matching printables!

{click to print}
Let's just hope all this rain brings May flowers...

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Apr 5, 2013

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Four: Dining

This is the last part of our series, How to Plan the Perfect trip to Disney World. We've busted common Disney myths, talked about money, and shared resort options. Now it's time to talk about food!

In part three, we discussed the resort dining options. One thing we didn't mention is that there is no such thing as free continental breakfast at Disney resorts. They offer breakfast foods in the food courts, but you have to pay for it. Since so many breakfast items travel well, we just take our own. This year, I'm taking homemade granola and banana bread. The rooms have mini-fridges in them, so we'll probably buy some milk at the food court and keep it in our room. You might also find muffins, cinnamon rolls, coffee, etc. at some of the parks. Which brings us to park dining options.

Theme Park Dining Options
Each of the parks has a variety of dining options including snacks, fast food type meals (Disney calls it "quick service"), and fine dining (which Disney calls "table service"). You'll want to make reservations for table service restaurants, and than can be done 180 days prior to your arrival either by phone or at https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/#/reservations-accepted. Also on their website, you'll find detailed menus and price lists for almost every restaurant. I don't eat meat, so I like to look at the menus ahead of time and make a list of restaurants with vegetarian options. Rest assured, there are plenty of meatless options available! There are also a lot of healthy options, such as fruit instead of fries or bottled water instead of pop. Whatever your tastes are, I recommend checking out the menus ahead of time.

Cupcake from EPCOT

Dining Plans
The first three trips I took to Disney World, I paid cash for my meals and spent approximately $30 per day, not including breakfast items I purchased ahead of time. Keep in mind that I don't eat meat, and meat entrees are usually a little pricier. That figure doesn't factor in snacks, extra drinks, or any table service meals. If you want to know how much you would spend per day, you can look up some price lists and figure out what your average meal would cost you.

Our resort reservation for the fourth trip came with either a discounted room or a free dining plan (a deal Disney usually offers in the autumn value season). We chose the dining plan, and now I can't imagine traveling without it. If you purchase a dining plan, they will load your dining credits onto your room key, which is also your park ticket. It's so much easier to swipe your room key, and you don't have to worry about cash getting lost or stolen or try to keep track of how much you've spent on a debit or credit card.

Ice cream brownie sundae from The Plaza at Magic Kingdom

Quick Service Dining Plan
In a value or regular season, the Quick Service Dining Plan is $37.58/night ages 10+. You receive two quick service meals (with a dessert and a drink), a snack (bottled drinks, ice cream, fruit, pastries, etc.), and a refillable mug (which can be filled with any drink of your choice at your resort for free) for each night of your stay. This is slightly more food than I was buying at $30/day. I don't think they've overcharged for the dining plan, and if you eat more expensive entrees, you may even be saving quite a bit of money. For example, if you spent one day in Magic Kingdom and bought food with cash, this is what you might expect to spend.

Lunch at Be Our Guest: Grilled Steak Sandwich (with a side), strawberry cream cheese cupcake, and iced tea: $17.77
Snack at Aloha Isle: Dole Whip Float (a must-have!): $4.99
Dinner at The Diamond Horseshoe: BBQ Turkey Sandwich (with a side), carrot cake, and smartwater: $16.28

Total: $39.04 (saved $1.46)

Magic Your Way Plus Dining
This is the plan we had for the last trip, and this is the plan we purchased for our upcoming stay. In a value or regular season, the Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan costs $55.59/night ages 10+. You receive one quick service meal (with a dessert and a drink), one table service meal (with a dessert and a drink), and one snack per person per night. We like this plan for its table service meals. It's like going on a date 6 nights in a row, and that is something we'd never get to do at home! Some of our favorite table service restaurants are Boma- Flavors of Africa (at Animal Kingdom Lodge), Tutto Italia Ristorante (at EPCOT), and The Plaza (at Magic Kingdom).

Lunch at Electric Umbrella: Angus Mushroom and Swiss Cheeseburger (with a side), strawberry cheesecake, and pop: $17.07
Snack at Sunshine Seasons: fruit cup: $3.59
Dinner at Tutto Italia Ristorante: Bistecca del Macellaio, Torta di Nocciole "Cortemilia," and tea: $46.00

Total: $66.66 (saved $11.07)

Tutto Italia Ristorante at EPCOT
Disney also offers Deluxe, Premium, and Platinum plans, but I think you get the idea. The more you spend on a plan, the more food you get. I can hardly eat everything that comes with the Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan; I can't imagine eating more (or spending more)! If you are interested in a larger plan, WDW Info has the cost breakdown here.

That wraps up our series, How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World. I really hope you've enjoyed it, and we can't wait to share pictures with you after our next trip! Below is a list of sites that that have a lot of helpful information as well.

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part One: Myths Busted
How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Two: Money Talk
How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Three: Where to Stay

More resources:

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Apr 3, 2013

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Three: Where to Stay

For those who have been following our series, welcome back! If you're new here, we hope you'll have time to catch up on parts one and two.

Monday, we established our opinion on staying on Disney property, so today we'll take a look at Disney World Resort options. They have three categories of resorts: deluxe, moderate, and value. What's the difference?

The colorful sign and entrance to Disney's Pop Century Resort
Value: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation, and Pop Century Resorts ($85- $176/night)

The value resorts are very large and have hundreds of rooms. The rooms are split up into different buildings, each with its own themed decor. The Art of Animation Resort is the newest of the value resorts, and it offers many family suites (Disney does not allow more than four people per standard room). Art of Animation and Pop Century have their own bus lines, while the other three value resorts share a bus. Each resort has several shaped pools but no water slides. They also each have a food court, a pizza delivery service, and onsite childcare.

A tree-lined lane lit with antique-style street lamps
Moderate: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside Resorts and the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and Fort Wilderness Cabins ($162- $253/night)

The moderate resorts are a little bit smaller than the value resorts, so you may not have to walk as far to get from the lobby to your room. They also share buses, but the buses run more frequently to these resorts. Some also have water transportation available. They all have hot tubs as well as pools with smaller water slides.Of the moderate resorts, Port Orleans French Quarter is the only one that does not have a full-service restaurant. All have a food court, pizza delivery service, onsite childcare, and limited room service.

Disney's Polynesian Resort seen from the blue waters of Seven Seas Lagoon
Deluxe: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness, and Yacht Club Resorts ($279- $748/night)

The value resorts are incredible. They have interesting architecture and beautifully themed lobbies and landscaping. These resorts are close enough to the theme parks that you may be able to enjoy fireworks from the pool or the resort's beach. They offer a variety of transportation options. Depending on the resort, you can travel by bus, boat, or monorail, and many of the resorts are within walking distance of one of the parks. They have great hot tubs and pools with big water slides, and most have beach access and a marina with water sport options. They have food courts as well as full-service restaurants and room service. The deluxe resorts have childcare service available as well as valet parking and a concierge.

Our Pick
For us, our resort room is just a place to rest our head at night. We rarely eat at the resort, and since we go to the water parks, we don't often use the resort pools. Regardless of where you are staying, you can make reservations and dine in the other resorts' full-service restaurants. You can also visit their beaches and marinas. When I go to Disney, I go to see the parks. Your resort choice will depend on where you spend the majority of your time and what your priorities and preferences are.

In my opinion, the extra amenities at the fancier resorts are not worth the extra cost. I could go to Disney World one time and stay at a deluxe resort, or I could take the same money and take THREE trips if I stayed at a value resort. If you have the money to do it, go for it. Maybe someday we'll splurge and spend a week at the Polynesian, but for now, a value resort is our top pick.

Of the value resorts, Pop Century is our favorite. It is a little closer to the parks, and it has its own bus line. If you go with a moderate resort, I highly recommend Port Orleans French Quarter. It's very compact, so you don't have to walk very far to get from the lobby or bus stop to your room. There is no way I could pick a favorite deluxe resort; they all look incredible!

We hope this series is answering some questions you may have had about planning a Disney trip. We'll be back Friday with our final part of the series!

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part One: Myths Busted
How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Two: Money Talk

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Apr 1, 2013

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Two: Money Talk

We're back with part two of our series, and today we're discussing finances. It's a subject many people don't feel comfortable talking about, but we hope you'll find some ideas here for ways to save on a Disney vacation.

No matter how many times I've been to Disney World, I always do research to see if there are new ways to save money on an upcoming trip. The advice I see most often is that you should stay at a hotel off-site and bring your own food and pack lunches.

Let me show you a realistic price comparison.

Off-site hotel (very basic): $350
Car rental: $100
Fuel: $60
Parking fees: $85
Groceries and eating out (lunch and dinner for 2 adults over 7 days): $300
     TOTAL: $895

Keep in mind that if you stay at a hotel in Orlando and the surrounding communities, you'll have a 20-mile drive each day to get to the parks. Fuel isn't cheap, and time is money.

When I went to Disney in 2008, I tried to spend as little as possible. I packed boxes of Cheerios and granola bars to eat for breakfast and lunch and only purchased dinner in the parks. I was miserable. I walked around with my ziploc bag of Cheerios while everyone else was enjoying burgers, burritos, fresh fruit, and ice cream sundaes. Towards the end of the trip, I tossed the Cheerios and bought park food.

Disney Value Resort: $595
Transportation: FREE
Quick Service Dining Plan: $490
     TOTAL: $1,085.00

Disney resort guests have access to programs and amenities that off-site hotels can't offer. For example, if you fly into Orlando International Airport on select airlines, Disney will pick up your checked bags and deliver them to your room. You simply hop on the Disney bus when your plane lands and don't have to worry about a thing! When your trip is over, Disney will take care of checking you in for your flight, picking up your checked bags, and dropping you off at the airport.

In addition, you'll receive complimentary Disney luggage tags, a miniature golf voucher for each guest, arcade points for DisneyQuest, a water sport voucher, and discounts for spa treatments, childcare, and Planet Hollywood. If you buy the dining plan, each guest will also receive a refillable mug that you can fill at your resort's food court for free for the duration of your stay.

If that isn't enough to convince you, one park each day has Extra Magic Hours and either opens early or closes late. Only resort guests are invited to take advantage of those extra hours.

I think it's worth the $190.

I believe that the biggest factors that will affect the overall price of your trip are what you spend on airfare, the time of year you travel, how long you stay, and the type of park tickets you purchase.

I've flown to Orlando three times, and the average I paid for airfare was $220. Not terrible, but not great. This time, I plugged our home airport and destination airport into airfare-compair.com and airfarewatchdog.com. Both sites sent me daily e-mails with price updates and deals. We scored roundtrip tickets for $107 each plus taxes! There may be a big difference in what kind of price you find depending on where you live and which airport you fly out of. I'd say our airport is small-ish with a slim selection of airlines, so we were delighted to find inexpensive tickets.

When to Go
Disney, like many other travel destinations, has some seasons when prices are low and some when prices are high. If you have the flexibility to travel anytime during the year, I highly recommend going when school is in session. Not only are the prices lower, but the crowds are much lighter. It's a win-win! Don't forget about school vacations, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, and Spring Break. Even though they occur during the school year, they are busy times for Disney World. I like to refer to this site when checking for value seasons.

How Long to Stay
As I mentioned in part one of the series, it could take you two weeks or more to see everything at Disney World. Unfortunately, a lot of people, ourselves included, can't afford to be gone that long. The length of your trip will vary greatly by the ages and interests of the guests in your group.

For example, Marshall and I are fairly young and both love roller coasters. We'll save time by skipping the more child-friendly rides like Dumbo and The Teacups. We are both physically able to walk long distances without needing breaks and will be fine even on hotter days. I like to plan a minimum of one day per park. We are planning on spending some time at one of the water parks, golfing, and DisneyQuest, so we've added a couple days to allow for those activities.

Keep in mind that elderly people and children may walk slowly and need more breaks. They also may not be able or want to go on the more thrilling rides with the teens and adults. If there will be anyone in your group who fits that description, you may want to stay longer.

Ticket Prices
I have always built our package and made our reservations online at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com and have been very pleased with it. The packages I put together include our resort room, park tickets, and dining plan.

The cheapest ticket option is to just buy basic park tickets. Beware that if you choose the basic tickets, you'll need to carefully plan out your days. If you don't add the Park Hopper option to your tickets, you will be limited to one park per day. But it's cheaper. We like having the extra flexibility and have done plenty of "hopping," so the Park Hopper option is a must for us.

This time, we also added the Water Park Fun & More option for $47. This option will give each guest one pass per day to use at one of the two water parks, one of the two miniature golf courses, ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney's Oak Trail Golf Course, or DisneyQuest. We were primarily interested in going to the water parks, and it would have cost $52 each at the gate. For less than the price of one water park ticket, we are getting access to a whole lot more! Sometimes buying everything as a package gives you better deals. Do your research before you buy!

If you book your vacation and a better offer is made available, don't despair! Simply call Disney, and they will apply the new offer to your existing reservation. The customer service representatives are super friendly and helpful.

We hope you're enjoying our series on How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World. Come back Wednesday for part three in this series!

How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part One: Myths Busted
How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Disney World, Part Three: Where to Stay

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