Recipes

Secret Apple Pie Recipe

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While my husband was in the military, we lived at Fort Riley, Kansas for a while. Each year they host an “Apple Days” festival where they open up the Army post and have a huge community event. Usually around 7,000 people show up and there are vendors, people dressed up in historic costumes, activities and games for kids, but the main draw is the fabulous apple pies that they sell to raise money for their Historical Society.  Now, I’m typically not big on apple pie, but I was there and thought I would see what all the hype was about and WOW, it really was amazing! There’s something about the crumbly topping that really takes it up a notch. Now, their recipe is top secret. They reportedly use a 150 year old recipe from Libby Custer, General Custer’s wife who lived at Fort Riley and used apples from apple trees on post to make pies for here husband and his soldiers.  Each year one or two “Pie Queens” are picked and they are the only ones allowed to see the full recipe. So, since there is no way to make know their exact recipe, I took to the interwebs to see if I could find something similar.  I came across this recipe on Pinterest, it looked similar and was also from a “secret recipe” so I thought I would give it a try.  Now, I’ve since moved a half dozen times and haven’t had one of the famous pies in a while but I have to say, this recipe is as good as I remember theirs being. I hope you guys love it as much as we do!

 

Recipe Adapted from “Mom’s Crazy Cooking” blog found here

You will need the following:

1 refrigerated pie crust (I used Pillsbury)

Filling
4 to 8 apples (I used 4 large Pink Ladies)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Crumble
1-1/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, melted

Roll out your refrigerated pie crust, adjust it to fit in your pie dish, pinch the edges to create a design if you like.

Peel and core the apples, cut into small slices. I used a handy dandy apple slicer I got from Amazon.  Place sliced apples in a mixing bowl or large ziplock bag and add the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt to the apples, stir or shake bag to coat the apples with the yummy mix and set aside.

 

 

Heat the 2 tbsp of butter in a large saucepan until bubbling. Add the apples and cook at medium high heat for about 10 minutes until they begin to soften (yet still hold some shape). Your kitchen will smell amazing! Then, using a colander over a bowl, drain all  the butter juice from the apples, transfer the apples and shake to drain the excess juices into the bowl.

Transfer the juices back into the sauce pan and add the heavy whipping cream. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally until it thickens, about 6 – 10 minutes.

While the sauce is cooking, add in the apples to the pie shell. When the sauce is finished, pour the hot syrup over the apples.

Lastly, combine all the crumble ingredients (the flour and both sugars). Drizzle your melted butter into the mixture and crumble with a fork until it’s well combined and the mixture resembles crumbs. Sprinkle this crumble over the apple mixture.

Cook at 375 degrees in pre-heated oven for about 40 minutes.  You want the apple pie to be hot and bubbly and the crumble mixture to be crispy on top.

Remove from the oven and cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Do not be impatient (like me) and dig in almost immediately.  The pie will not be set and all the juices will run out.  You can also cool completely and freeze.  If you plan on doing this, it’s best too cook it in an aluminum pie plate.

Why not make your own crust you say?  Well… I have done that in the past. The original pie recipe I found calls for it but honestly it is such a pain, and mine always shrinks or looks wonky.  Feel free to make your own pie crust if you wish, I prefer to use the refrigerated ones.

 

 

Pro tips:

Do not forget to buy the heavy cream at the store!  I forgot this time around and had to use a substitute that wasn’t very successful.

Really do let the pie cool completely before serving if you want it to slice properly and be pretty.

The pie crust I bought comes with two. While your making it anyway, why not double the recipe and make and extra to freeze and use later or give as gift.

If you’d like to buy the same apple slicer I have, you can find it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2hrms7R

* this is an affiliate link and I do receive a small commission (at no cost to you)

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This is what the pie looks like when you have to scoop it out instead of slicing it (oops!) I added French Vanilla ice cream on the side, yum!

 

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Disney

Great Gifts for Disney Loving Adults (All under 30 Dollars!)

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After researching and planning our family Disney trip last year, I realized, I seriously love Disney. I also realized, I’m not the only one. I’ve found out that I know a lot of other people just as Disney obsessed as I am. If you’re like me, when people ask what you want for Christmas, you’re answer is “I don’t know”.  Well, I’ve got you covered.  Here’s a list of items all under 30 dollars for the Disney obsessed.

 

Basin is a store in Disney Springs that carries the most amazing bath and beauty products. There are other locations and an online store, unfortunately they don’t have much Disney themed outside of their Orlando store but there are a couple of things online. Here are two I love:

Rose soap

 

Enchanted Rose Soap $5.99 This would be a perfectly pretty soap for any Beauty and the Beast fan.

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Villian Bath Bomb $4.99 With notes of vanilla, night musk and wild berries, your bath will be wickedly relaxing.

 

 

Here are a few of my favorites on Amazon, just add one of these to your cart when you need something else to get free shipping 🙂  Then you can give yourself a present you’ll actually like…

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Mickey Waffle Maker Currently $29.69. My family loves it when I pull out this cute little guy for weekend breakfasts!

Pancake & Waffle Flour mix

Waffle Mix Currently $10.78 on Amazon. This is the Waffle mix that Disney World reportedly uses to make their amazing Mickey Waffles!

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Haunted Mansion T-shirt Currently $19.99. One of my favorite characters definitely  has to be  “tight rope girl” from the stretching room of the Haunted Mansion.  I love this shirt that features her.

 

NBC book

Nightmare Before Christmas Book Currently $12.71 this is a great item for anyone who loves adult coloring books, although I found mine too pretty to color on and plan on using the prints to hang on the wall.

*These items from Amazon are affiliate links and I receive a teeny commission from them (at no cost to you).

 

These next items are from the official Disney site. Sometimes, like all things Disney, their items are overpriced but some things are really a pretty good deal.

castle bangle

Castle Bracelet I have this (in silver) and love it! Alex and Ani bangle Currently on sale for $27.97

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Ursula Tote Bag  They have several other villains available and they’re all as equally beautiful and all are $19.99

Poison mug

Poisoned Apple Mug While $14.95 is quite a bit more than I’d usually pay for a coffee mug, I think this one is worth the splurge!

Mickey baking set

Mickey and Friends Holiday Baking Set This baking set is perfect for any Disney foodie. I love that it comes with several items for the $19.95 price point!

 

 

 

 

 

Camping and Campers, Travel

6 Websites Every Camper Needs to Visit

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Being a newbie to owning a camper, I’ve been trying to find some great places to camp near me. At first, I had no idea where to start.  As a frequent traveler and planner of weekend “staycations” I’m pretty familiar with what to do when booking hotels but had no idea where to start when I wanted to research and book a good campsite. Where should I go? What kind of campgrounds are there? Where are places that would interest me? To help answer those questions, I joined a few camping Facebook groups and slowly started putting together a list of places to find and reserve campsites. I hope you find these as helpful as I have!

  1. FreeCampsites.net

Frequently used by “Boondockers” or anyone looking for a free place to stop for a night or two, this site is a map based search engine.  You simply zoom in on the area of the map you are interested in or use your phone’s GPS to find camping near you.  It’s community based so there are lots of contributors and it stays pretty up to date. Many of the campgrounds and sites have ratings and list a price if it is not free. This website also lists amenities, activities and even a 5 day forecast!

2. Hipcamp.com

Like an Airbnb for camping, HipCamp is your go to site to find unique spots to camp.  Imagine camping on a beautiful ranch, breathtaking vineyard or a picturesque organic farm, these are the types of places you can choose from on this site which boasts over 285,000 campsites!

3. Campendium.com

Created by campers for campers, this site helps you search, review and preview over 21,000 campgrounds around the United States. Ask any Facebook group camping page about a recommendation and odds are they’ll direct you to Campendium. It’s also a top rated App, so a good it’s a good one to add to your smart phone.

4. ReserveAmerica.com

This is the “largest provider of campsite reservations in North America”, and is your go to website to reserve private, state and federal campgrounds including campsites from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Army Corpse of Engineers.

5. Recreation.gov

Want to check out Federal lands for camping and recreation? This site will help you search the largest inventory of federal land in America. Here you can build a trip, make a reservation, schedule a tour or even enter a lottery for limited entry locations. Click on the “Find Places and Activities” link to search for parks and campgrounds to check availability and make reservations.

6. Allstays.com

This site lets you search by state in U.S. (also by Provinces and Territories in Canada). Click on the State and then search through the cities, from there you will be given a list of campgrounds in that city along with location about where the campground is located and given campground details like the number of sites available, what kind of amenities it has and their website or contact information. This one is also available as an App.

Camper and Camping, Travel

Take a Peek Inside my Camper Makeover!

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My husband and I recently purchased a 2013 Skyline Nomad. We decided to name her Norma since we were watching a lot of Bates Motel and “Norma the Nomad” seemed pretty fitting. Everything inside was like new (except the rotted out wall in the back that we weren’t aware of) and my husband didn’t want to change anything.  I on the other hand saw it as something to decorate and update :).  The “50 Shades of Brown” look isn’t really my thing so he begrudgingly went along with my re-decorating.  The first thing we did was rip down the corrugated wall to discover the extensive water damage (yikes). Then we had that repaired, placed down the small amount of vinyl flooring that we needed in the bathroom and started painting. I guess technically we painted the bathroom, then put down the flooring, then painted the rest of the camper but you get the picture.

 

Here’s the before and after and yes, that is carpet in the first picture (eww!).  I had a hard time deciding paint colors.  I went with a light gray and at first it looked white.  I had to go back and get the color adjusted.   I used a primer first and then used a paint with primer in it to make double sure my paint wasn’t going anywhere (there were a lot of complaints about paint not sticking properly on the RV interiors Facebook group I was following).

Here’s the bathroom all finished with a shower curtain (from TJ Maxx) and wall shelf (from Hobby Lobby). Here’s a link to the vinyl planks I used if you want to check them out: http://amzn.to/2xpxm0Limg_5087

Next, I bought some table cloths from Walmart and recovered the cushions with them (I used fabric glue because I may be good at a few things but sewing isn’t one of them). Then I used granite film I bought off Amazon to cover the table.  I think it brightened it up a lot, don’t you?

 

I also bought inexpensive foam mattresses for the 3 beds (for the bunks I bought a queen and cut it in half with an electric knife, it was much cheaper than buying 2!). Then new bedding for the big bed and a few rugs and little decor items. This is the mattress I bought, it actually sleeps really well: http://amzn.to/2gLzooL

 

I bought a new faucet that my sweet husband installed for me.  I initially bought one that didn’t fit from Walmart (oops!).  I ordered this one from Amazon and it’s held up pretty well so far. I love how it instantly updated the small “kitchen” area! Sorry it’s different angles but I had this picture on hand already. Find this faucet here: http://amzn.to/2gFtcv3

 

I also painted our little refrigerator with black chalkboard paint to break up all the brown.  Here’s a before and after view of the camper looking from the front to the back. Although I don’t “hate” the flooring, I think adding these cute little rugs breaks up all the brown.

 

We took Norma to a campground near Columbus, Georgia for her maiden voyage.  It was an adjustment to figure out how to make everything work and how to find a comfortable temperature between freezing with the A/C on full blast and sweltering when it wasn’t up high enough but it was lots of fun! Here’s a picture of the outside. I loved the little string lights!  They are plastic and made for outdoor use.  Get them here: http://amzn.to/2y7o51MIMG_5113

*Disclaimer* I do get a teeny tiny commission if you buy something from Amazon through a link on my site, but these are tried and tested products approved by me.  I would not recommend anything that I don’t personally love, although I can’t be held responsible if you don’t love it too Lol. If you need a little something extra to throw in your cart to get free shipping, I also love these nesting bowls: http://amzn.to/2iacMfn.

Thanks for checking out my camper makeover! Ya’ll let me know if there’s anything camper/ RV related you want me to talk about, maybe a packing list, essentials you should buy to stock or something similar? If you liked this, please take a sec to subscribe to my blog or check me out on my other Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

 

Southern Travel

Columbus Georgia

Columbus has to be one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities I’ve ever been to and as a military spouse I’ve traveled to a lot of places.  I fall in love with it a little bit more every time I go. There’s always a new place to visit, a new restaurant to try or improvements that have been made, but there’s also my old stand bys like my favorite coffee shop (in the country! And I’ve lived next to Seattle LOL)  and the coolest antique/upcycled shop I’ve ever seen.

From the charming and walkable downtown with beautiful river views to the amazing local restaurants, shopping, parks and museums it’s hard to experience everything. This list only scratches the surface. You’ll have to go explore for yourself to try to experience everything.

 

The Riverwalk: Take a stroll or bike ride, watch some paddle boarders, rent a kayak, cross the Chattahoochee on a zipline, the possibilities are almost endless.  If you have kiddos, don’t miss the park and spray ground!

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On Saturday mornings, you won’t want to miss the amazing market on Broadway.  Theres amazing produce, baked goods, jams, hand made items, local artists and more.

Iron Bank Coffee, located at 6W 11th Street, this is somewhere I make sure to stop  every time I visit Columbus.  I love their decor, fresh pastries and most of all, their iced coffees!  Farmer’s Tan and Monkey Business are two of my favorites.  I almost always  have to have one of their amazing chocolate chip cookies to go too.

Junque Yard Antiques at 513 14th Street is probably one of the coolest stores I’ve ever been to.  I try to  stop in every time I even get near the place and have an extra minute (or preferably an hour) to see what’s new.  I almost always come away with a few treasures.

The National Infantry Museum: Named by CNN as a museum that “every military enthusiast should visit” This free and interactive museum is a must see while your in Columbus. Reflect on wars of the past along with current conflicts while browsing artifacts, monuments, exhibits and videos including the new Global War on Terrorism Memorial, “honoring all who have served their country since 9/11”. NIM*photo courtesy of the National Infantry Museum Facebook Page

 

The Columbus Museum (of Art), is another amazing and free museum. This was one of my favorite places while living there. Their installations rival almost every museum of any major city I’ve been to. Their interactive children’s area is the best I’ve seen anywhere, ever, seriously I can’t say enough…. I still can’t believe it’s free! This is definitely a must do, especially on a rainy day. Don’t miss the small but fun “Bradley Olmsted Garden” beside the museum.

Museum-Front-768x437*photo Courtesy of The Columbus Museum website

 

In the area is Little Grand Canyon of Georgia aka Providence Canyon State Park. Located a short drive from Columbus, this natural wonder is something to behold.  Most people I’ve spoken to that lived in the area had no idea that this gem is nearby.  This is definitely a must for hikers but is easy enough terrain that my kids (and my out of shape self) fairly easily conquered the walk down into and subsequently back up from the canyon floor. It can also be viewed from above if you aren’t interested in the hike.  Check it out for a small $5 per car parking fee. img_5225

The food: It would take almost a whole book to talk about the amazing food and restaurants Columbus has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:

Epic: For a romantic dinner or for and upscale meal, you can’t beat the awesomeness that is Epic! It’s a true food experience.

For fried chicken and amazing Southern food done right, visit Minnie’s

If you’re looking to for some awesome Korean BBQ, check out Koreana

In the mood for a sandwich?  Stop in at Momma Goldberg’s (the location on Broadway is my favorite).

Let me know if you think I’ve missed anything.  If you’ve been to Columbus, GA, leave a comment with your favorite spot.

Disney

Disney World Cheat Sheet

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I watched hours of YouTube videos, researched countless Disney websites, combed through Pinterest and spent months researching my Disney trip.  Here are some of the tips that I found most helpful.

 

  1. Each Disney park has a first aid station. They have band aids, and medicine that they will give you for free.  We had to utilize the station at Epcot and I got headache medicine for both me and my daughter (they had liquid for the littles).  The employees are super friendly.
  2. Get to the parks before opening!  They will be at their least crowded so you’ll be sure to get to walk on a few rides, you’ll also get a fairly close parking space if you’re driving and it’s great for less crowded photos. We always get there early, leave around or right after lunch and return in the evening. We get a chance to rest during the busiest and hottest part of the day and come back when crowds are lower.
  3. Go to a Disney Outlet. If you want Disney souvenirs with a significant savings, check out the Disney Outlets aka Character Warehouses. There are 2 near Disney World, one is located right next to Disney Springs and one is a short ride down the highway next to Universal.                                                                                                                               They are located at: 8200 Vineland Ave. Orlando, FL (near Disney Springs) and 4969 International Dr. Orlando, FL (near Universal). I went to both, the one near Disney Springs, before we went to the parks (I wanted to get autograph books for the kids and they luckily they had some really cool ones for cheap) and I went to the one near Universal right before we left Orlando.  My tip is to go to the one near Universal if you only want to visit one.  It is easier to get in and out of because you can park in front of the store and walk right in (unlike the Vineland Ave one where you have to park in a lot and wander until you find it.)  and the one near Universal was much less crowded when we went.
  4. Bring Ponchos!  If you carry a backpack (which I highly recommend bringing one, you can take it on all the rides and it’s great to store your water bottles, snacks etc.) buy a few ponchos from the dollar store or Walmart before you go (I’ve heard you can even get Disney ponchos at Walmart near Disney World for pretty cheap) It almost always downpours at least once during a trip and you will be prepared and won’t have to spend $10 a piece for the ponchos at the park. It’s also a good idea to pack a plastic grocery bag to stuff all the rainy, wet ponchos in.
  5. Visit Disney Springs.  Especially if you have some non park days planned.  It’s beautiful and has so many great shops and activities.  You can go to the movies, go bowling at Splitsville, take a ride in a hot air balloon, create your own snack at Goofy’s Candy Co., dine at one of the amazing restaurants or just relax at a table and take in the beautiful scenery.  Here are the stores I put on my “Must go to” list: Basin (has bath bombs and soaps, similar to Lush but actually cheaper and they have Disney themed items!)                                                                                              Uniqlo (Similar to H&M, they have quality clothes for a great price include really nice Disney shirts for around $15 for adults and $10 for kids)                                   World of Disney (because who would want to miss out on the biggest Disney store?)                                                                                                                                 Goofy’s Candy Co.(here you can customize your own caramel apple or rice krispy treat, pick out a cute Disney themed cake pop or cupcake and spend your remaining dining plan snack credits on bags of treats to take home.
  6. Research Dining Options. Disney has some amazing food (and surprisingly some of it is very reasonably priced). Research what dining options there are in the park and see what you might be interested in trying.  I had several items on my “must try list” like the Carrot Cake Cookie at Hollywood Studios and “The Grey Stuff” at Be Our Guest in  Magic Kingdom . I also kept a list of potential restaurants for each park and would pick from the list depending on which restaurants we were close to when the kids got hungry.
  7. Hydrate! Disney will give you free ice water at any of their restaurants or snack stations as long as it isn’t one that only has bottled items.  Bring a reusable water bottle to fill in the morning as you go into the park and so you can save anything leftover after a food stop.
  8. Buy your own glowing items from the dollar store or other discount store.  When it gets dark in Disney, the very expensive glow things appear and everyone wants one.  The Dollar Store even has Disney brand glow wands/bracelets etc. that you can sometimes find.  Make sure to pack some to bring out for fireworks and night time fun.  Bonus, it helps you keep up with your kids or others in your party in the dark.
  9. Wear comfy broken in shoes. Bring and extra pair in case they get soggy and aren’t able to dry overnight (we learned this the hard way). It’s also helpful to “train” for Disney.  We averaged almost 10 miles a day so it’s good to be prepared by doing some walking with the family to prepare for your trip.
  10. Check the schedules. The first time we went to Disney World, I had no idea when the parade was, what time fireworks started or that certain night time shows were offered.  There’s all kinds of fun free shows that are put on in every park on a daily basis.  It’s impossible to make it to everything but it’s good to check the schedules for the park on the day you are going so you don’t miss out.
  11. Have fun but remember to relax! Make a plan but don’t be too rigid or no one will have fun. Schedule in time to go to the resort pool and time to just rest. We had park days every day we were there but I wish I had planned one down day to relax at the resort.

I hope these tips were helpful and maybe some are new and helpful to you.  Let me know if you have any tips I left out and have a magical day!

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Uncategorized

Georgia’s Secret Canyon

"How have I never been here?!" I asked myself when I finally made it to the breath taking Providence Canyon. I lived in Georgia growing up and even lived about 30 minutes from the canyon for a few years while my husband was stationed at Fort Benning and I had never even heard of it. It started popping up on different "top places to visit" lists on the internet and I knew I had to go see it in person! I definitely wasn't disappointed (except by the fact I hadn't visited sooner), even my usually unenthusiastic kids loved exploring the "caves" (crevices in the canyon) and climbing on some of the lower hills.

There's a pretty steep hike down and of course back up for about a quarter mile but it goes by pretty quickly and is completely worth it. We went during a rather hot part of Summer but it was the perfect temperature down in the canyon. The ground is sandy and wet so make sure to wear the right shoes (preferably ones you don't mind getting muddy).
There are canyons numbered 1 to 9 to hike to, we opted to go to 4 and 5 as recommended by the staff at the visitors center. These are said to be the best views with the least amount of hiking and since we had our kids with us, we opted for easy, although I'd love to go back and explore all 9. Make sure to bring along plenty of water maybe even pack a picnic to enjoy at their picnic tables (located at the top). There aren't many restaurants, or really anything, located in the general area with the exception of a pretty cool local brewery. Speaking of which, the Omaha Brewing Company is a good pit stop if you're a beer drinker, it's family and pet friendly and you can try out some of their tasty beverages on tap for a small fee. The beer is great and the employees are super friendly, they even offered gave the kiddos bottled water while they played board games.

They have plans to expand into a distillery, concert venue and more. They host live bands with food trucks on Saturday afternoons, and although we didn't get a chance to attend, I can tell by the atmosphere and people that it would be a lot of fun. Check out their Facebook page before you go to see what kind of events they have coming up.

While you're in the area, I highly recommend taking a good amount of time to spend in Columbus. Park downtown and visit some of the retail shops, restaurants and take a stroll on the beautiful Riverwalk. Stop by the riverfront playground and let the kids run through the free spray park if it's warm then hit up one of the ice cream or froyo spots within walking distance. There's lots to explore in beautiful Columbus but that's another post all together!

Happy travels!