Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Trip to Disney on a Fishstick Budget

There is one little phrase that makes my heart skip a beat... Vacation to Walt Disney World! What child or adult for that matter, does not Fantasize of a trip to Disney?! This ultimate family vacation spot is expensive. Crazy expensive. Even for an ex-Cast Member like myself. You would think I would know how to keep it under $500 bucks but that’s laughable. When a single day ticket is now $105 per adult (in Disney, an “adult” is anyone over 10). For a family, these costs get ridiculous and this is not even considering hotel or travel expenses. Luckily, Disney has discounts for Military personnel and their families. This does help two ex-Cast Members come to terms with buying park ticket. Let me tell you it’s hard to pay $100 a ticket for one day when you use to get into the parks for free whenever you wanted!!! Thank you Disney for offering discounts for the Military and their families! We truly appreciate it! By the way if you go the military route DO NOT FORGET to have your tickets exchanged at Guest relations!! Believe me we missed a whole rope drop because we also had to go back to the resort to get Miltary IDs. 

Then there is food, a family of four can easily spend upwards of $200 per day on food and water alone. And treats are EVERYWHERE at Disney! 

When you first come into the Magic Kingdom and walk down Main Street towards the castle, they have blowers pushing the smells of cookies and confections out the stores to you in the street! So if you are going to bring your own food, it needs to satisfy despite that onslaught of temptation.

This year, Ryan and I decided to go visit Disney in the fall to celebrate Halloween. But in order to be able to go, we needed it as cost effectively as we could. There are plenty of ways to save at Disney, and there are whole websites dedicated to this subject. But I wanted to share how I pack food enough so that we only have to purchase dinners in the parks (sometimes not even dinner). Because one other great thing about Disney theme parks is you can bring in your own food. We are honestly perfectly content with this idea.

First, I have to admit most people going to Disney are traveling from elsewhere. So my advice is useful for those who are driving to Disney or have access to transportation because a trip to the grocery store is required or a well stocked five day cooler. In Florida, they are blessed with a very decent grocery chain called Publix. They are easy to find around Orlando, and a quick search on Google Maps shows 3 locations just minutes from Disney. 
So second, I pack a small cooler and bring it as a backpack (see my ryan in the photo below, blue hat. cooler is in the back). 

Third – nutrition. I will give Disney this, they really have made progress in offering some healthier options at concessions. One evening, I ordered a child’s dinner consisted of chicken with grapes, yogurt, and milk. Then one meal I had a sandwich with hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw on multigrain bread. Not too bad at all for amusement park food. So, it is good to see Disney improving there. Except for our cheat meal!! I just love Casey’s on Mainstreet at MK.

On the other hand, I have seen articles on packed lunch ideas listing out all sorts of organic foods to pack. I get irritated when I read these articles because with all that ‘organic’ food, I would save no money. I flirted with organic in the past and saw my grocery bill shoot up $50-60 as a result. I can’t justify that, especially when organic food is not automatically healthier. And we do not eat enough red meat to justify buying half a cow.
What I do believe in is eating REAL food. I usually cook from scratch. I go to the farmer’s market. I have a small vegetable garden. I avoid artificial sweeteners. So with the majority of our diet coming that way, it does not bother me to allow some crackers (love my goldfish crackers!) and occasional treats. To me, this is balance. …And I recycle.
Ok, onto the food….
This photo is a sample of what I packed for our days at the parks.

Even more important than food is water! It is as hot as the sun at Disney in the summer – only more humid. Figure on a bottle per person per hour if it’s Africa hot, which adds up to a lot of water quickly. And they charge $2.50 per 16.9 oz bottle of water in the parks. Honestly, it’s not possible to avoid buying water, but I highly recommend at least bringing in some to get you through part of the day. You can get free ice water at any quick serve stand that serves drinks in cups at Disney! All you need to do is ask for one. We’d often just ask for a cup of ice

Breakfast in the Hotel.
If you stay in a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast – great! Good luck finding that around Disney though. Also, the way we operate, we just want to get up and get to the rides! So, when staying in a hotel, I pack bananas, cereal, and milk. Bananas are filling and come pre-wrapped as a perfect to-go food and cereal can be quickly made in a hotel cup. Instant oatmeal works too using hot water from the coffee machine. Just remember to bring plastic spoons. We love bringing Fiberone Bars and we even brought the Keurig this time with Starbucks Holiday Blend K-cups and mini moos.

Lunch Prepared in the Hotel Room.
I like freshly made sandwiches, so I make our sammies the day of. If staying in a hotel, we bring everything needed and store it in the hotel room fridge. I also bring plastic wrap or foil, utensils, and some paper towels to lay down on the hotel desk to make a “clean” surface for putting the sandwiches together. Although once, I completely forgot to bring all this stuff, so I just assembled the sandwiches quickly in the park when we were ready to eat. This was still easier and cheaper than buying food in the park.

Lunch Idea 1:  Chicken Salad Sammies
  • Use deli meats and cheeses or make some yummy chicken salad.
  • serve on Hawaiian sweet sandwich buns
  • Chicken Salad Combine all ingredients  in a bowl. Serve on the sandwich buns. Yields: 4 servings.
    • 2 c cooked chicken, chopped
    • ⅓-½ c light mayonnaise
    • ½ c pineapple tidbits
    • ¼ c dried cranberries
    • good pinch kosher salt
    • pinch fresh cracked pepper
    • 1 large celery rib, diced
    • 4 Hawaiian sweet sandwich buns

You can even use the leftover cranberries with some cereal and nuts to make a trail mix.

Lunch Idea 2:  Mediterranean Chicken Salad Subs
  • 2 c cooked, chicken breast, chopped 
  • ¼ c light mayonnaise
  • ¼ c onion, finely diced
  • 4 bakery sub rolls
  • additional toppings: kalamata olives (pitted), sliced pepperoncini peppers, fresh spinach
Mediterranean Marinade
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic, rough chop
1 T fresh thyme leaves
1 T fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper
Just combine in a large ziploc bag and add your meat of choice. If marinating steak, do so overnight in the fridge. If using chicken, marinate 6-8 hours in the fridge. Then grill! (We bring the George Foreman grill)

Lunch Idea 3:  Deli Subs!
  • ¾ lb deli meat (we like Boar’s Head Buffalo Chicken, Virginia Ham, and Roast Beef)
  • light mayonnaise to spread
  • sliced cheeses (we like Publix-brand pepper jack and sharp cheddar)
  • fresh spinach
  • 4 bakery sub rolls or 8 slices sandwich bread
With the sandwiches, I always have some chopped fruit or veggies (such as single serving carrots and ranch packs), cheesesticks (if there is not cheese in the sandwich), and juice boxes. Publix sells pre-chopped fruit in convenient packaging, and I usually grab some watermelon or cantaloupe since they are so refreshing on hot days.

    (Sorry thought I should show some of the yummies)

Snack Ideas:
hummus, pretzel chips – (single packs with pretzel chips are available in the deli section)
pre-sliced apples with single serve peanut butter packs (such as Jiff natural – they come with 6 servings)

When you order food in a Disney park, there’s a certain chaos involved. Lines, indecision, keeping track of the kids, noise. So in addition to the cost savings, we like keeping at least that chaos to a minimum. You deal with enough crowds on the rides. Instead of having that at lunch too, we relax. Then of course we cave and get some ice cream at some point.

After all, it is Disney!

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Heart is Thankful

My heart is so thankful on this Monday large in part due to the fact that my beau will be starting Honor Guard. Why we were on vacation this past week he got a call that he had been chosen to be in Air Force Honor Guard. He will literally be the public face of the Air Force. We were told that his duty for Honor Guard could last for the next six months. It will give him a chance to try something new and it’s a big honor. But, there will be times when he will be gone and it will be just me and our fur babies. 😭  It’s never fun when he has to leave, especially for weeks at a time, and it’s not like he’s gone far away or that he even has to travel for work that often. And I know, there has been times in our relationship that we have been apart for many months but it was the hardest part of our lives and we have pledged to never let it happen again. Now, I say that and I know being in the Military means he will be gone sometimes for long periods of time if he is deployed and such but it’s different for at least us. I know many would argue with me that it is not different. Of course every situation is different and your heart breaks either way to be apart. With either situation no matter the circumstances (being apart due to military, school, a job, or whatever the reason) it may be one of the hardest things you ever have to do in your relationship. However, during this time apart I reflect on all the ways in which I am grateful to have this man.

So, for today I am scribbling down my thoughts and would like to share about my beau and how a little bit of distance can make you grow in your relationship with your partner.

You’re lying if you say that you want to spend every waking moment with your partner. It just does not happen. Once you are living with this person it is both the greatest feeling ever to share your lives together and at the same time the worst simply because there are times when you want privacy or just a little time for yourself separate from your partner. This does not mean you do not love your significant other and I am not trying to convey that message. It just means that everyone deserves some me time and there is nothing wrong with that.

For example...

We live in a good sized apartment but there are not too many places to hide and get away. I love taking bubble baths. Ryan knows that once I am in the bathtub with the door shut, candles lit, and my book or iPad to binge on Netflix that is my cue for privacy and time for me to relax. No interruptions. But with our busy lifestyle this mostly never happens anymore!! It’s jump in the shower as fast as possible so the next person can take one and get ready for work.

This means that I need to find privacy in a different way, especially when I need and want time for blogging. Again, without any interruptions. This we’re still working on.. I would love just even a quiet walk on the beach. But we live to far from the beach haha I just love this photo I took a couple days ago on our Florida vacation.

As much as I want time for myself and wish that he would just leave me alone for a moment, I am constantly reminded that in times when he does have to be away, such as in the very near future with Honor Guard, I miss him. And my heart will ache till he is in my arms and trying to tickle me😉

  1. I miss waking up next to him in the morning.
  2. I miss giving him a kiss before leaving for work.
  3. I miss him making coffee or my lunch for me in the morning even if he doesn’t have to wake up when I do.
  4. I miss that he wakes up at 3am to take the dogs out to pee.
  5. I miss having dinner and having him to come home to.
  6. I miss the smile on his face when I walk through the door as if I had been gone for longer than a few hours.
  7. I miss cuddling up and watching t.v. with him.
  8. I miss sleeping next to him at night and feeling safe.

I am grateful that I have such a loving man to call my own. And in times when I feel like I just want to be alone I will try to remember these moments of being without him. The old saying is true...absence does make the heart grow fonder and it makes me realize each time that when he is not with me I feel as though a true piece of me is missing.

Having some distance can be good for your relationship every so often because it forces you to see what life would truly be like if you were apart from the one you love. It does not matter if it is for a few days, a week, or longer. You will find gratitude in your relationship during the periods of distance and pure joy and happiness when they finally return.

So enjoy every moment even the little moments you have together even if it’s just snuggling in front of the TV.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Easy Naan Pizza

It's summertime where everything is just crazy but lots of fun. We have so much going on. The last thing I want is to be stressed out at dinner time. So I like to find these quick and easy meals that I can make when I get off work to help me make our lives easier. What's better than a yummy cheesy pizza? Pizza is the icon for comfort food and my favorite quick meal.


All of the ingredients that you will need can be found at your local grocery store.

What you need.

Naan Bread

Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese


Canadian and Bacon

Pizza Sauce

And any other toppings you like on your 🍕 

I like to first add a teaspoon of olive oil to my naan 
then spoon a layer of sauce on top of the naan


Next add your choice of toppings 


 Then place on pizza pan and bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 6 minutes 


Last step is to carefully take out your naan pizza from the oven, let cool on counter for about a minute or two, and enjoy! Easy right? The kids can whip these up in no time or they would be great for a quick party snack. Try different toppings and create all new flavors.



Sunday, January 8, 2017

Easy Sew Modern Day Rag Doll

Hello lovelies! Its Candace and Mandy from Twigs & Teas again.  Its been a couple of weeks since our last post due to all the holiday festivities. This tutorial was recently featured on Creatively Homespun's blog. Danielle is the owner of creativelyhomespun.com and old dear friend of ours so we were honored to be guest blogging for her as she was preparing for her new bundle of joy. Danielle and her husband Jon were blessed with a beautiful baby girl with that in mind we felt this post was just what every little girl needed..  In honor of Lillian Elizabeth, we shared one of our oldest family traditions, "Ragdolls". Since, we can remember there has always been some type of ragdoll in our bedrooms as small children. But living in a new age of 2017 we thought we would put a modern twist on the old ragdoll. Hope you enjoy our little tutorial.

Fabric Choices

For the face, we used muslin or tan cotton fabric for skin tone. For the body, we used pre-washed cotton. One fabric for the skin(upperarms, face, and legs(muslin), another for her lower legs, tights, and a different one for the body/skirt and upper arms/sleeves.
  • For her shoes and hair we use wool felt due to she is going to receive lots of hugs and love.

Supplies for the Doll

Wool Felt: 8.5x11 sheets (1 for hair, 1 for shirt, and 1 sheet for shoes)
1/2 yard of Pre-washed cotton fabric for Doll
Paper Pattern (at bottom of post)
Fabric pen or pencil
Cutting surface
Stuffing(Polly Fill)
Thick Thread
2 Large buttons (2 hole ones are the best)
Doll Making Needle (Its a very long needle)
Lots of Ribbon and Lace Scraps (for Décor and Detail)
sewing machine( your can do this by hand but who wants to)
stick pens
Pinking Shears

  1. Using the paper pattern, cut out your pre-washed/ironed fabric and felt. Make sure you allow 1/4 inch seam allowance which is already added on the pattern.

Pig Tail Construction

2.  Place one tail over the other and sew together finishing off both ends.

3.  Repeat with the other tail making sure you create a mirror image of the first one.

Face Construction

4.  Take your face pattern and place your fabric over it. Place your felt bangs/hair using your template as a guide. Then pin and sew around the face opening with your sewing machine (1/8 inch from the edge) make sure to finish off both ends.

5.  With the face over the pattern piece, using your fabric pen or pencil draw on your eyes, mouth, and nose ( your can embroider them on its up to you)

Limb Construction

6.  Cut the "cut out" of your paper pattern and pin it to your felt and cut around making sure to have two shoe fronts and two sold shoe backs.

7.  Pin the upper leg to the top of the lower leg and the shoe to the bottom of the lower leg.

8.  Next sew together finishing off both ends.  Iron the upper and lower leg seam down.  Repeat with the other three legs.

9.  With the right side of the fabric facing inwards pin and sew the legs together making sure to leave the tops open for stuffing. Then finish off both ends with a backstitch to keep your seams from unraveling. Then re-inforce with fraycheck.

10. Then clip the curved edges of the foot (make sure you do not cut into your stitch). This ensures when you turn them right side out the curves pop out. (if not its a mess)
11.  Firmly stuff the legs up to 1/2 inch from the opening. The gap allows you to sew them to body easily. We used a wooden stick as a stuffing tool.

12.  Pin the ends of the legs shut and sew them together 1/8 of an inch from the edge.

13.  Repeat with the arms remembering to leave the back sides of them open when sewing together.

14.  Firmly stuff the arms all the way up to your opening. Pin the opening closed and sew up using a ladder stitch to close. 

15.  We then like to add lace or ribbon scraps to the upper and lower arms to create a sleeve. Cut it to length and hand stitch it to place (hot glue)

Adding the Shirt Applique or Collar

16.  Pinking shear around the applique for detail or cut out a collar for around the neck) be creative!
17.  Pin the shirt to the center of the front body and sew 1/8 from the edge make sure to finish off both ends.

18.  Then use detail around the applique/collar and sew into place.

Body Construction

19.  Pin the bottom of the back of the head to the top of the body with the right sides of the fabric facing each other and sew together along the neck.

20.  Repeat with the face and the front body piece.

21.  Position the legs just before the body begins to curve.

22.  Once you like the placement flip them up so the edges are 1/4 of an inch over the side of the body fabric and then pin.

23.  Sew two lines of stitches finishing off both ends on each leg. With one that is 1/8 of an inch from the edge of the body, and a second that is 1/4 inch from the edge (seam allowance).

24.  Now flip your legs down out of the way.

Place the pigtails either side of the head and flip them over. Position them so that the edges are 1/8 over the side of the head. Pin in place to keep them from wiggling around.
25.  Place the back of the body right side facing inwards over the front creating a sandwich. Then make sure that both body pieces are right side facing inwards and match up at the neck seam.

26.  Then sew all the way around the outside of your doll sandwich starting next to one leg and finishing next to the other leg. Make sure you leave an opening at the bottom of the doll on either side of the legs. (Whatever you do..DO NOT SEW OVER THE LEGS!)

27.  When sewing over the pigtails let the machine go at its own rate.

28.  Clip the curved edges of the head, neck, and bottom of the body so your curves will pop (do not cut through your stitches!)

29.  Pull the head through the hole in the bottom of the doll and remove any loose pins.  Then pull the head gently out, slowly pull the entire doll right side out.

30.  Now stuff that dolly up!  It is so neat to watch her come to life as you stuff from the head to the bottom. Use a wooden stick to get the tight areas if needed. Make sure you stuff very firmly. You will know when your done when there are no bumps and lumps.

31.  When stuffing the head and neck you need to keep stuffing till there are no creases. Believe me you need to use more stuffing then you think!!!

Closing the Doll

32.  Flip your doll over the back. You should be able to see how the leg seams make the front body piece naturally flip up and under.  This is the 1/4 seam allowance.

33.  Mirror the seam allowance on the back body piece and pinning the front and back pieces together.  This to me is the hardest part of the doll but you can do it!!

34.  Sew up using the ladder stitch.

35.  Then work the stuffing in the top of the legs so you can not see any gaps.

Adding the Arms

36. Thread the doll needle with double embroidery thread. Pin the arms where you want them and make sure they are level. 

37.  Insert the needle into one side of the doll where the arm will be. Pull through to otherside. Thread it through one button hole and return through the other. Insert it back through the arm and back through the body to the other arm and through the other button and back through. Continuing this step several times till secure then tie it off double knotting.

38. Embellishments!! Add ribbons in her hair, add an elastic skirt, or ruffles on her bottom, etc!

39.  Make sure whatever you add to remember to secure it to the doll to eliminate choking for children under 3

40. HOORAY!!! Your dolly is complete!

*Patterns to Print out and cut

Get creative and you can change it up! There is so many different possibilities!

Hope this tutorial was helpful in making your little love-ones new best friend! You can give them as gifts or sale them in a craft fair like we did!