Camping at Disney World

hac-fort-wilderness-disney-world.jpg

A couple of weeks ago, we took our 2nd trip to Disney with the girls. Last time the girls were 4 & 5 and it was such a special trip! It came at a time when our family REALLY needed to get away and just enjoy each other, stress free, and it was pure magic for our girls. You could see it in their little faces when they stood next to Snow White that they were in complete awe that they were MEETING SNOW WHITE(!!!!). We meet all the characters, rode rides until they parks closed or the girls crashed out in the stroller, ate all the yummy food. We went all out and it was worth it.

This time however, we wanted to keep things as modest as possible. We’re hoping to go to Hawaii next year, so this wasn’t to be a huge, blow-out vacation. Our goal was to go to Disney, have a blast, but not go over-board. Along the way, I figured out a few tricks you might find useful.

Our family loves to camp, and we’d heard wonderful things about Fort Wilderness — evening campfires, s’mores & singing with Chip & Dale, a full pool with slide, movies outdoors — plus a $55/a night price tag (at least when we went). . . It was an easy decision.

hac-fort-wilderness-disney-world-chip-and-dale.jpg

Things we did not consider when deciding to camp at Disney in September in a tent is the heat and the likelihood of rain. Oops. We were just aiming for as low of crowds as possible! I think next time we’ll look at late January or February.

We got lucky with the rain and dealt with very little of it. However, before we even left TN we decided we were going in with a sense of humor, flexible attitudes, and ponchos. It rains in Florida and you just have to deal. Plus, most showers pop up and blow right back out, so it wasn’t likely to ruin a whole day.

hac-disney-ferry-magic-kingdom.jpg

The heat on the other hand was very much present. While settling into the tent, I began to realize what a problem this could be at night if we weren’t able to get air moving for everyone as I knew it wasn’t going to cool off too much.

Luckily, we had brought a basic box fan, but I was worried it would only reach 1 or 2 of us, not all 4 of us, wishing there were a way to hang it from the ceiling, and suddenly an idea formed. In out tent there is a loop to hang an electric lantern or something, so using zip ties & rope, I was able to make us a ceiling fan! With the zip ties, I made loops at each corner to feed the rope through, made an X with the rope and clipped the part that crossed into the ceiling hook. Believe me, that fan saved the day . . . er, night. . . and even succeeding in making us a little cold, which was a nice change.

hac-magic-kingdom-disney-stitch.jpg

For breakfast, we’d eat either bacon or sausage links & eggs, but found that the sausage links were the big winner for keeping things easy, quick, & with minimal clean up.

Since we eat Paleo — or as nearly as we can on the go — food took some planning. Nate & I knew from experience 2 years ago when we tried buy gluten free food at the park that options are limited, expensive, and honestly, left us feeling like crap most of the time. The menus have gotten better since then, and I did create a cheat sheet for each Park of which restaurants offered gluten free options just in case we found ourselves in a pinch, but fortunately, we did not have to use it.

hac-magic-kingdom-disney-dumbo-ride.jpg

I knew we’d need sustaining foods that were convenient, quick, and portable. Admittedly, this meant that not everything was true Paleo, but we did ok. Nate stuck to a stricter Paleo diet than the girls and I did, so he didn’t eat everything we packed. We also wound up snacking all day rather than really sitting down and having a true “meal.” That way we could eat in line if there was a long wait, or grab some shade and take a break wherever needed.

Every morning, I would repack the cooler and backpack with that days food:

  • 2 Boar’s Head dry sausage (cut up & divided into 4 baggies for convenience)

  • 2 bags of carrot sticks

  • raisins

  • almonds

  • chips/crackers

  • hummus single snack packs (not paleo, but filling and kept well)

  • gogo squeez applesauce

  • Lara bars

  • fruit leather

  • 2 1/2 gallon water jugs

I wish we had just packed more of the dry sausage for a quick, light dinner. We had planned on making sandwiches, but decided at the last minute not to. Gluten free bread isn’t the sturdiest & we weren’t confident they’d hold up. :) Instead, we just took the deli meat. I wished we had realized that stopping for dinner wasn’t going to be our main priority (a perk of going with older kids!), planned for the quick meal, and then made hot sandwiches back at the campsite.

TIPS FOR THE PARKS:

  • Bring a small cooler and water jugs. Though they do have size limitations, Disney does let you bring these into the parks, as well as backpacks. (Universal, however, does not let you bring in a cooler any bigger than a lunchbox.) Even if you plan to eat at the park, you can easily bring in snacks and no sense paying 3.50 for a water bottle every time someone is thirsty! Plus, you can refill water jugs at any water fountain or restaurant beverage station.

  • RENT THE STROLLER!!! This was huge. We had planned on bringing our wagon before realizing the night before that they’re not allowed. Instead we rented a double stroller at the Parks to carry all our stuff. Disney has such great stroller parking, etc. that it kept our load light, and we had everything we needed.

  • If going during a rainy season, bring ponchos or rain jackets, and maybe even consider sandals/shoes that won’t ruin your day if they get wet. I put my Chaco’s to work on our trip! I think I packed them even on days I didn’t wear them. Plus, changing shoes halfway through the day felt good on my insanely sore feet!

GENERAL TIPS:

  • Paper plates and plastic silverware. We don’t usually do this when we camp as we don’t like the waste, but no one wants to do the dishes when the park is about to open.

  • Sausage links over bacon for breakfast. Faster & less clean up.

  • Stick with quick, easy meals with little or no prep. We had planned hamburgers, hobos, and chicken thighs a few nights, but didn’t make any of them. The only hot dinners we did were bratwursts or chicken sausages a couple of nights and toasting the bread and heating up the sandwich meat in a skillet we had planned to eat in the park, at the campsite instead. Unless you have many down days planned, it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend your time cooking.

  • Pack a couple of long extension cords and a power strip. Even if you’re in a tent, the site has electricity. Run the extension cord into the tent to power fans, phone charges, etc.

Have any additional Disney camping tips for me? Questions? Let me know!!

xoxo Lori

March Desktop Download!

Home Again Creative Free Digital Wallpaper

I'm so sorry I missed February with the desktop wallpaper! The end of January/beginning of February was pretty heavy for me with the passing of my grandfather. It was a good time celebrating his life, sharing stories, and seeing my extended family, but a couple of things needed to slip.

I'm back again this month though & boy, am I ready for Spring!!! If you're ready for new growing things and color, this month's download is for you! 

As always, click the buttons below to download! 

xoxo, Lori Danelle

January Desktop Download!

Free January Desktop Wallpaper | Home Again Creative

HAPPY 2018!!!!!

I was able to ring in the New Year right with great friends, and spent the first day of 2018 celebrating Christmas with family, so I know I'm a day late with this, but I'm hoping you spent your day equally occupied and won't notice!

I love the start of a new year! I'm always shocked how much can, and often does(!!), change in a year, so January is like the first page of a brand new journal to me, and I just can't wait to see how it fills up! 

As for my desktop illustrations, I think I'm starting a Cute Animal menagerie. I am OK with this development and hope you are too! It got REALLY cold here in Tennessee for the first time this winter, so perhaps we can hold the temperature responsible for the appearance of this cute little polar bear. I hope he's good company this January!! 

Click the buttons below to download. 

xoxo Lori Danelle

Hot Cocoa from Mrs. Claus!!

My ADD brain cannot handle elaborate, perfectly orchestrated holidays full of crafts, baking, and other holiday cheer. 

When I naively suggested we "adopt" an Elf on the Shelf, I had a Pinterest board full of crazy cute ideas and visions of wonder and mirth on my kids faces. Fast-forward to the second week and I was already a pro at reasoning out why our elf, Peppermint, wasn't budging. Who knew that remembering to move a stuffed elf could be so hard! 

I want Christmas to be magical for my girls, but I'm a busy Momma and it cannot happen at the cost of my being stressed out! So while the Elf was a bust, I did create one tradition that I absolutely love because it has all the elements of holiday wonderment I'm going for, but is very, VERY easy! 

Years ago, I decided a fun stocking stuffer for the girls would be hot chocolate, and what would be better than if it came straight from the North Pole and Mrs. Claus's kitchen?? 

Some years the labels I created to re-cover my Private Selection hot cocoa canisters were a bit thrown together, last-minute, but my girls didn't notice. They thought Mrs. Claus's hot cocoa was THE BEST thing ever and looked forward to it every year.  

For a few years now, I've wanted to take some time, do the label up right, and put my lettering and lettering skills to work, creating the beautiful label I had always wanted it to be — and this year was the year! 

hot-cocoa-by-mrs-claus-label-front.jpg

And I'm so excited that now you can use it too!! The printable is only $3 and you can print as many as you need, year-after-year. It really is an easy & inexpensive way to add magic to your kid's Christmas morning & create fun memories! 

If you use it, please show me!!! I'd love to see it in action! Tag your photos #homeagaincreative

xoxo, 

Lori Danelle

December Desktop Download!

Free December Desktop Wallpaper | Home Again Creative

I'm not really a fan of Winter, but I LOOOVVE the Holiday Season. We've had our house decorated — including lights on the outside of our house — since the second week in November. Luckily, we have 2 other neighbors who joined us, so instead of seeming crazy, we all were collectively festive. 

In addition to having a new digital wall paper today, it is also the first day of our 1-week 30% off sale! In the shop I have Holiday greeting cards, gift tags, tea towels which make fun gifts, as well as art prints and cards. Now is a great time to replenish your card supply for the year! No code is needed, just head to the shop to see the prices already marked down!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new December wallpaper! I've been rocking it on my phone for a week now. Can you believe I held out that long??  :) 

Click the buttons below to download. 

xoxo Lori Danelle

Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey

Gluten Free and Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey | Home Again Creative

There's no doubt that cooking a Holiday Turkey can be a challenge, and I have definitely made several turkeys that were worthy of the trash! To cook a great turkey, there are many obstacles to overcome: the white meat needs to be cooked to 160° F, the dark meat needs to be cooked to 175° F, and all the while, you want to get the skin crisp without turning the breast meat to chalk.  

I have read a lot about roasting turkey and through trial-and-error, I've come up with a method that works for me, every time. 

 First, a few rules.

  1. Don't Stuff the bird. No doubt stuffing is awesome, but if you think about it, the thing that makes stuffing awesome is the bird's juices infusing it. However, those juices need to be cooked to 165° F and you can't achieve that without drying out the breast meat. Removing the stuffing to finish on the stove top isn't a good option, because when you remove it you will inevitably cross contaminate the meat. Also, stuffing isn't Paleo, and we're Paleo.

  2. Don't baste the bird. Basting the bird does nothing to moisten the meat and keeps the skin from crisping. Not to mention every time you open the oven to baste, you add to the overall cook time. Salt or brine instead.

  3. Don't rely on the pop-up timer — it will likely fail you. However, don't remove it — juices will flow from the gapping hole it leaves behind.

  4. Rest the turkey for 30 minutes. Resting the turkey will allow the fibers to reabsorb the juices. If you don't let it rest you'll wind up with a puddle to clean up on the counter.

turkey-divider.jpg

Home Again Creative's Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Turkey

This recipe is for a 12-14 pound turkey. If you have a bigger turkey, add additional herbs and roots accordingly. Total time for this recipe is 17-23 hours, so be sure to plan plenty of time.

Ingredients

(1) 12-14 pound turkey with neck, giblets, and tail piece
(6) sprigs of thyme
(2) onions, chopped coarse
(2) carrots, chopped coarse
(2) celery ribs, chopped coarse
(3) tablespoons ghee

Instructions

Trim any excess fat from the turkey and set aside the neck, giblets, and tail piece.

Salt or brine the turkey, though I recommend brining. For instructions, see our blog post How to Salt & Brine Poultry.  After brining, you will need to air dry the bird. Pat the turkey dry in the cavity and outside and place it on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Chop the thyme, onions, carrots, and celery; melt the ghee. Toss 1 tbsp of melted ghee with the herbs and vegetables, and place the mixture inside the turkey cavity, then trestle (tie the drumsticks together with string) the turkey.

 Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat to 400° F.  

Brush the turkey with the remaining ghee.

Place a cup of water into the roasting pan and start roasting the turkey breast side DOWN for 45 minutes. 

When the 45 minutes is completed pull the turkey from the oven and flip it, using paper towels. Then return it to the oven breast side UP for about an hour, or until the breast registers 160° F and the thighs read 175°F. 

Remove turkey from the oven & onto a carving board, tipping it cavity side down into your roasting pan, so any juices in the cavity run into the pan. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes, and finish the gravy.   

After that, carve, serve, and enjoy!! 

The Home Cook's Guide to Buying a Turkey

Turkey Buying Guide | Home Again Creative

Most of us purchase a turkey once or twice a year, usually for friends and loved ones on a special occasion, so it’s important to get it right. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and experimenting with these birds and have gotten results that range from a bird with the texture of chalk, all the way to really darn good.

With all the failures along the way, I have figured a few things out and would like to share what I have learned and continue to learn (this post will be updated and reposted annually). In the spirit of ongoing education, I invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

WHAT KIND OF BIRD TO BUY?

I’ve tried several types of turkeys and have classified them below. Statements are true for whole turkeys and breast a like.

Before we begin, a sidebar: I know there is a movement regarding ethically raised food that I do tend to prescribe to. However, I’m not a scientific researcher, so I have deemed that this forum is not the place for that discussion. Also, hunting — which I partake in — is mentioned in the post. I know many have huge opinions about hunting pros and cons. We could talk for days on the ethics regarding to-hunt or not-to-hunt, but again, I’m not a professor of ethics, so...not the place. My blog, so I get to delete comments that are not respectful or on topic.

Here we go! First thing that needs to be said is, you should buy the best quality bird YOUR money can buy. Everybody has a budget and I don't think anyone should be putting a feast on credit. Also, it's been my experience that the most expensive birds aren't necessarily the best birds.

First up are what I call "Supermarket Turkeys” and are what is most commonly available. The pros of these Toms is the price per pound, and I have had good results with them. They are a great choice for many families. The cons are that these birds are usually very lean as they are bred to be broad-breasted, which means they are dryer than other turkeys and are sometimes “pre-basted.” Personally, I have found that pre-basting causes the meat to be soggy, and washed out, so I typically skip the pre-basted guys.

If you choose this type of turkey be sure to check out our salting & brining method, in How to Salt & Brine Poultry,  if it ISN'T pre-basted. If it's pre-basted, skip the salt or brine, but be sure to air dry the bird as outlined at the end of the blog post.

turkey-divider.jpg

Supermarket Turkeys come with a lot of labels.
Below are some of the most common explanations, curtesy of the USDA.


FREE RANGE
or
FREE ROAMING

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

Key words here are "demonstrate" and "allowed access." Basically it means that the birds are allowed to roam around a warehouse and can go outside if wanted. It does not mean that they get to be natural birds foraging around for insects and such.


FRESH

"Fresh" means whole poultry and cuts have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes). This is consistent with consumer expectations of "fresh" poultry, i.e., not hard to the touch or frozen solid.


NATURAL

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.

Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").


NO HORMONES

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.


NO ANTIBIOTICS

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.


YOUNG

Turkeys of either sex that are less than 8 months of age according to present regulations.


KOSHER

"Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision. I won't expand on Kosher, because I'm not Jewish, would get it wrong, and possibly offend some people with my ignorance. For my purposes, Kosher means it's pre salted. Kosher birds are a good compromise between natural and self-basting birds.


I couldn't find an explanation on this from the USDA, but my research tells me it basically means they weren't fed slaughter house byproducts, or in other words...other chickens. This sounds horrifying, but in truth, chickens are omnivores, readily eating bugs and small animals when available, so I'm not sure a forced vegetarian diet is a good thing or even possible.

However, what I was able to find was vegetarian feed is becoming popular in industrial chicken farming because it reduces the risk of animal diseases being spread through poultry feed. This is a particular concern to industrial chicken farmers because the conditions in which animals are raised makes them more susceptible to disease. Thus, it's definitely bad for birds to eat sick birds that were used in the feed.

VEGETARIAN FED


USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC

To sell organic poultry meat, birds must be fed and managed organically from the second day after hatching. All agricultural components of the feed ration, including kelp and carriers in feed supplements, must be 100% organic. All poultry must have access to the outdoors. (There's that key word: ACCESS.)

Organic poultry producers must establish preventative livestock health management practices. Medical treatment cannot be withheld from sick animals or flocks to maintain the birds' organic status. The use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and animal cloning is prohibited, as is the feeding of slaughter byproducts. All organic poultry production and processing operations must be done by USDA-accredited certification agencies. Detailed records of all feeds, medications, and transactions must be maintained. Organic integrity must be protected by preventing organic birds and poultry products from coming in contact with prohibited substances or being commingled with non-organic products.


WATER CHILLED

This means the turkey is dunked in a clorine bath during processing causing it to retian moisture, this washes out the flavor of the turkey. Most turkey's in the supermarket are water chilled, so try to find an "Air-Chilled" Turkey.


PRE- or
SELF-BASTED

This pretty much means the bird was injected with a solution of one or more of salt, oils, broths, spices, sugars, preservatives. I have always found these birds to be spongey and washed of true turkey flavor.


turkey-divider.jpg

Beyond the adjectives that they can throw on the label of any bird, regardless of the variety, there are also some distinct types of turkey:


BONE-IN TURKEY
BREAST

Most groceries offer two types:

  • Regular / True Cut Breast will include the breast with ribs, a portion of the wing, and a portion of the back, and neck skin.

  • Hotel / Country Style Breast is the same as the True Cut, but also include the wings, neck, & giblets, all of which is essential to making gravy or sauce for the turkey.


WILD

Wild Turkeys are exactly that: you go out and hunt and harvest them yourself. You never know what you’ll get with these guys. Some are the best you’ll ever have; some are stringy & awful. Wild Turkeys are are nomadic animals, so you just never know where and what they’ve been eating. Due to the unpredictable flavor of wild turkeys, I don’t recommend them for dinner parties.


HERITAGE

Heritage Turkeys are direct descendants from wild turkeys, and bred to be...not wild, meaning farmers got tired of chasing them all over the woods, so they bred the nomadic characteristics out of them. They are typically treated like royalty; pampered, fed a very high quality all vegetarian diet, and are free to roam. While, I have certainly found some very tasty heritage birds...them birds are expensive and I mean expensive, and I’m not convinced they are worth the price. 


LOCAL

Local Turkeys are probably the best turkey you can buy. This is the type of turkey where you meet the people that raised the bird and they give you personal guarantees. These people make it or break it on their honesty, so they have an incentive to be straight forward about what they are raising. Not to mention the positives of spending money in your local community, etc.

 

turkey-divider.jpg

FRESH OR FROZEN?

Unless you are buying a turkey from a local farmer, fresh isn't best. As mentioned above, a "fresh" turkey can be chilled all the way to 27 degrees fahrenheit & still be considered fresh. Turkey's freezing point is 26 degrees, but the moisture, from processing, can still crystalize and damaged the meat. Then during transport the bird may be introduced to a higher temperature thawing the crystals, then be reintroduced to extreme cold and form again, and further damage the meat, resulting in the proteins not being able to retain moisture during cooking. When serving, the result will be tough, chalky meat.

Frozen turkeys on the other hand, are blast chilled, which eliminates crystals from forming, and is not introduced to temperature fluctuations. The least amount of damage to the poultry is done by blast freezing.  

SIZE OF TURKEYS

I don't recommend buying a turkey over 14 pounds, as I have had better results with smaller birds. Rule of thumb is you'll need 1 pound per person. If you're feeding more than 14 people, I would recommend getting or borrowing a portable roaster oven and cooking 2 smaller birds rather than 1 giant one. If this doesn't work for you, just go as small as you can.

turkey-divider.jpg

Now that I have bored you to tears with all the nuances, here's the quick and dirty of my experiences:

• I don't purchase pre-based / seasoned birds.
 

• If a knew someone who raised local Turkeys I'd go that route, but like most folks, I don't.
 

• First Pick for my budget is Organic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• If my budget is a bit tighter, and sometimes it is, I go with All Natural, VegEtarian Feed, No Hormone, No Antibiotic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• Finally, AS a compromise, I'd pick a Kosher bird.


I hope this helps clear the muddy waters when it comes to selecting a Turkey! Please let us know if you have something we missed — best way to learn is from each other. Be on the lookout for our upcoming posts on how to cook up that perfectly selected bird! 

November Desktop Download!

Free November Desktop Wallpaper | Home Again Creative

Happy November everyone! This past week or so here in Nashville have finally started feeling like Fall. The crisp weather is helping me to get into the mood for all the yummy soups, stews, and Thanksgiving on the the horizon. A holiday in which we gather around a table full of wonderful food with family and friends? Yes please!! 

So let's jump into November with this brand new — and oh-so-cute illustrated desktop and phone wallpaper! I hope you're a fan of cute, because this little guy is definitely adorable. :) 

Click the buttons below to download. 

xoxo Lori Danelle