Friday, June 27, 2014

Family Vacation to Gulf Shores Alabama

We had a wonderful family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama a few weeks ago. Oh, how I miss the beach!!! Even the kids say they want to go back! I wanted to share our trip with you and highly recommend the area for your next family vacation. If you follow on Instagram you saw me post daily how awesome it was.
Pre-planning was stressful for me but here are some tips to cut down on the stress:
1. Order the guide for the area. It's full of ads basically for all the rental agencies, local attractions, restaurants and such.
2. Make a list of your needs and wants. Beach front, beach view, lagoon? Condo or house? Pool on site? Kitchen? Washer and Dryer? Location to area attractions? Things like that. I decided we needed a beach front condo with a full kitchen and washer and dryer, a pool or kiddie pool would be nice. I found all of that!!!
3. Frequent all of the rental sites and get familiar with all of the amenities each complex offers. I was able to narrow it down to a few complexes that would affordably meet our needs. I suggest using each website search tool with your travel dates. That gave me a great idea on price ranges.
4. Once you've narrowed down what units are available and will accommodate your family- CALL!!! I was able to save a few hundred dollars by calling to book because I asked what units were available at the best rates.

We loved our little home away from home. We rented through Gulf Blue Vacations, they are on site in the complex which made check in and out very convenient.

We went with the intentions of spending all day everyday at the pool or the beach. For the most part we did exactly that but we did venture out and had fun without overspending. Here are our recommended must sees:
#1 Alligator Alley 
This place was just plain awesome. It wasn't too far of a drive from the beach. They have alligators of all ages and sizes. You can pay a little extra for a cup of food to feed the alligators, which I recommend for the kiddos. I tried to share a variety of photos from our visit that would show how nice this place is. Be sure to check either online or call to find out when feeding time is, you have to see these big monsters crawl out of the water and watch the crazy guy throw food in a gators mouth from very close distance. It's CRAZY!!! The best part to me was all of those monster gators were rescued from neighborhoods or places they were causing a problems for people. I think they are living the good life there at Alligator Alley.
2. The Hangout

The Hangout is a great place to, well, hangout. We stopped here a few times, but never ate a meal here together. Our first stop there was to just check it out and of course take pics and post on IG. They have bands playing almost every night, the night we planned to check it out a storm rolled in. Bummer! The sign out front says they have a dog show every day, so we decided to check that out on Wednesday, well Wednesday is zoo day at The Hangout so we got to see a few animals from the local zoo. We never made it back to the dog show but would have liked to. The Hangout also had a breakfast event for kiddos, er I mean for your pirates and princesses. Go hungry!!! It's all you can eat breakfast foods with lots of action while you eat and a treasure hunt with goodies around the property.
3. The Gulf Shores State Park Pier
I don't advise walking to the pier!!! At least not from where were staying, pushing a stroller and walking with a 3 year old. Never again!!! I believe admission just to walk out on the pier was $2 per person, a small fee for all there was to see and do. My husband and oldest son spent a few hours at the pier one evening fishing. They had to buy fishing licenses and rent poles and purchase bait. They caught a few cat fish like fish called "Hard heads." They both enjoyed it. When we all went to the pier just for sight seeing we took our time walking to the end watching all the fishermen and checking out their catches. We saw a few guys spend 20 minutes or more reeling in some pretty large fish.
This restaurant just happened to be next to our condo complex so we dined there twice. It is great for families with smaller kids and pickey eaters. The menu has everything from grilled cheese to seafood.
5. Lulu's
We dined at Lulu's for our one big meal out. The place was fun and had plenty to do while you waited for your table. It's a great location to check out some boats, we even saw a barge go by.
Here are a few more tips that made our vacation perfect:
1. Take the beach bypass!!! There are signs, just take it. Or stay in bumper to bumper traffic for another hour or more knowing the beach is just a few miles away but you can't get there for all the other cars.
2. Pack flashlights, nets or sand shovels and buckets. Every evening the beach was full of families out catching crabs. It is lots of fun!!!
3. We saved money by taking advantage of the kitchen in our unit and cooked most meals there. I pre-planned meals and finished up my shopping list on the drive. We brought along the crock-pot so I wasn't in the kitchen cooking and cleaning the whole week. I mean it was my vacation too.
4. Zip top baggies were a must. We each had our phone in a bag so sand and water wouldn't be a problem. You don't get great photos through the bag so take it out, snap the pic and put it back. We used the baggies for shell storage as well.
5. If you have room for sand and water toys I suggest taking them. I found them much cheaper at home. I even found boogie boards at Michael's for $5 each, way better that $10+ at the beach stores.
We like going to different places when we vacation so this was a first for all of us to visit Gulf Shores. We all said we would go back!!!
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Turn a metal planter into a kitchen caddy

Hey all! I have a little project to share today that brought some color to our kitchen and is functional.
I had been looking for something for awhile to help keep the area around the kitchen sink a bit tidier.  I considered baskets or bowls then came across this metal planter that was the perfect size.

I found it at Goodwill for $2. We actually used it just as I bought it for few months. After phase 1 of our kitchen update was done I decided it was time to pick some accent colors to use. I can't decide what to call this color but Krylon calls it Blue Ocean Breeze and I love it!!!
Our cabinets are now white and the floor is gray. Phase 2 should be new counter tops, backsplash and sink. We are leaning towards black countertops. I think this Blue Ocean Breeze will pop even more after that step.

So what's in my kitchen caddy? Dish soap, drain stoppers, Magic Eraser, scrubber, a Pampered Chef scraper, and dish towel. I found the dish towel at the Dollar Tree!!! The caddy has also been the home of hand soap too. Before I had a caddy for all of this, these items were tossed in the cabinet below the sink or behind the faucet. Now its all nice and tidy.
Blue Ocean Breeze found it's way onto the lid for a pickle jar that is the new home of our dishwasher tabs. Now that I have decided on some colors I am finding lots of things to add to our kitchen.
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T!

Linking up at these awesome parties:
The Dedicated House

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet T Saturdays

Grab a glass of sweet tea and join me for Sweet T Saturdays!!! I'd like to connect and learn about all of you!!!

Each Saturday I will post a topic on social media. Click on the links in the side bar if you're not already following me. Join in when you can, it's ok to comment even on a different day. And I guess it's ok if you drink something other than sweet tea, just know I'm sipping it. HA! Feel free to tag friends to get them involved in our conversations too. Everyone is WELCOME!!!
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T

Friday, June 20, 2014

1st Birthday Garden Party with Birds

I can't believe my baby is 1!!! Seriously, where did the time go?!?! We celebrated Sadie's birthday with a Birdie (because everything is birds for her-her room, her clothes...) garden party.
This was the 3rd party in our house in 2 weeks AND between parties phase 1 of our kitchen remodel which involved new tile floors, painting all the cabinets white, and converting the pantry to an office space. Hello!? Call me crazy!!!

The day was perfect!!! Since I kept calling it a garden party I expected it to rain and ruin any chance of setting up outside so I was so stoked when it was a gorgeous sunny day and all the plans I had of being outside worked.
Where to start?!?! I'll start with the order that I did the projects and prep work. Like I said I planned for this to be an outside garden party feel. We were borrowing my dad's white canopy to provide some shade so I knew I would a want to break up all the white and of course girlie it up. Flower garland totally screams garden party right?

Supplies all from our local Dollar Tree:
lots of fake flowers in party colors
grosgrain ribbon
Hot glue
Bad photo, just keeping it real!!!
To make:
Pull apart flowers so you're left with the fabric part, toss the stems and centers.
Lay out ribbon on a protected surface
Squirt hot glue on ribbon then press flower into glue.
For spacing I just guessed so that the petals would either touch or overlap some. I didn't worry too much about a pattern because I didn't want to take the time to count flowers and do the math. UGH!
To hang the flower garland backdrop I just looped the ribbon around the canopy support and secured with a safety pin that way I wasn't poking holes in the canopy fabric. The flower garland provided a beautiful backdrop for the table and then as you can see from the first photo we placed our birthday girl in front of it for cake time.
Now on to he fabric garland. Easy again just time consuming. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen when I was working on this.
Still keeping it real! This was the beginning of kitchen remodel too, this house was so trashed!
4 fabrics in party colors, 1/4 yards each

To make:
Cut fabric into 1/2 inch strips.
Loop or knot fabric around the twine in chosen pattern. From the photo on the left I placed the middle of a fabric strip under the twine bringing the two ends around the twine and through the fabrics middle and pulled.
Continue until you've reached your desired length. I had plenty of fabric to make the garland that was on the front of both the food table and the Sadie's high chair tray with strips leftover (I'll show you where else I used a few strips soon.)
For paper decorations I headed to Etsy and found a party package in the right colors and of course had birds! Yay!!! Thank you Studio DeLamour for the beautiful printables. Just a tip if you ever use party printables: Print almost everything on full sheet sticker/adhesive backed paper. You can do that if you print from home or at a copy center (what I did.)
You can see some of the party printables here in the set up of the food table. The menu was Salad with grilled chicken and fruit salad. Since it was a garden party I wanted to keep it light. The jars with the salads in them were a great find a few years ago at The Christmas Tree Store, they came with the chalkboard label.
There are various salad toppings in Ball jars and a selection of dressings in squeeze bottles with labels from the party printables.
It wouldn't be a party here if I didn't serve Sweet Tea!!! Pink lemonade sounds very refreshing for a garden party. See the straw flags-printed on sticky paper so they went on in a breeze!
How cute are these Birdie watermelon pops?!?! They are super easy too!!! I used a cookie cutter on slices of watermelon then inserted craft sticks. Cute!
Now here's were I used the left over fabric strips. I just folded a strip in half and glued it to the back of the cupcake toppers from the printables when I glued them to the sticks. Do you see more matching printables? on the kisses!
You know about my love of Marshmallow pops so it should be no surprise to see them on the sweets table. I used straw flags on the marshmallow pop stick to add a little pop, HA! I wish I had a better pic of the birds nest cookies but when I realized this was the best I had the cookies were all gone. These are similar to haystack cookies.
Birds Nest Cookies:
Chow mien noodles
White chocolate/almond bark
egg shaped candy (hoarded from Easter)
1. Melt Almond bark in large bowl in microwave following package directions.
2. stir in chow mien noodles
3 drop by spoonful onto cookie sheet or wax paper and shape into nests by pressing spoon into the middle slightly.
4. add egg

Whoa this is a super long post. Oh well, it was for a super sweet 1st birthday!!! One more thing before I go...This last photo is now a birthday tradition. We did this for Nolan's 1st birthday and I loved the photo that I have done it every year for him and now we will every year we celebrate Sadie's birthday.
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Make Dinosaur Footprint Marshmallow Pops

I've been on a marshmallow pop kick lately and really, can you blame me, they are easy and yummy. As I was planning Nolan's Dino Party I knew I would be making something fitting for the celebration but wanted to do a little more than just a marshmallow on a stick dunked in candy melts. I checked out Pinterest but didn't find anything that looked easy or that I could easily adapt for his party.
My first plan was to use a tulip shaped cookie cutter to cut the marshmallows before dipping in the chocolate. I think a tulip shape resembles a dinosaur footprint don't you? Well the marshmallows were too thick for my cookie cutter or the cookie cutter was too small, however you look at it-it didn't work. :(
After a few trys and full belly I finally got the shape that I wanted. Here's what I did:

I started with these Kraft Jet Puffed S'moremallows because they were flat and square.

Make cuts as shown. Cutting out two triangle shapes where the "toes" are. (Do dinosaurs have toes?) and cutting off the other two corners. The marshmallows are more rectangle-ish than square so I tried to lay each marshmallow down the same way before making any cuts so the footprints would look similar.
Insert a sucker stick as far as you can, aiming to go up that middle toe. Then dip in melted candy melts. Once I figured it out, it went quick. Lissy, my 12 year old, helped make these. I'd cut and she'd dip.
I hot-glued some foam into the bottom of 3 containers and then poked the marshmallow pops in the foam, which made a nice display.

There are some pretty elaborate marshmallow pops out there. For my little guys party these worked perfectly.

Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dino Party

I know it's been a long time since I have posted.... I'm back with a PARTY!!! We celebrated Nolan's 3rd birthday with a dinosaur theme recently. I wanted to share all the party details here with you all.

Let's start with one of my favorite parts of the party. Here's how I set up the table.
Those cool Dinosaur hats came from the Dollar Tree!! I don't remember what I was even shopping for when I spotted those babies but my daughter had to hold me back from buying all the hats they had. Of course she was right we didn't need 49 hats, 6 worked perfectly. Down the center of the table are more party favors with candy inside. Easy peasy baby food jars with spray painted lids, glued on dinosaurs, cute and fun! The green partyware is also from Dollar Tree. The dinosaur stickers throughout the party decorations were found on clearance at Michaels, I liked them because they were more kid friendly and not scary for our 3 year old.

Ok, so yeah I'm silly but my favorite thing from the party was this idea!!! See the T-Rex holding the fork. I think I'm pretty clever for that one, don't you agree?
What's a party with out lots of SUGAR!?!?  I mean seriously, sugar overload here at the dessert buffet/hutch. See those dinosaur footprint marshmallow pops on the top shelf? Come back later this week and I'll tell you how I created those.
The ladies at the Walmart bakery came through for me again. I ordered the icing to look like grass, then just stood some plastic dinosaurs in the icing.
These are my favorite favorite cookies ever ever!!! If you're from the Indy area do you remember Roselyn's bakeries? Their iced cookies they made for every season? Mine don't come out looking the same but the taste, mmmm takes me back, oh they are so good. Do you dare taking a Dino Bone cookie from the Dino plate?  Yes I really cut a dinosaur in half and glued the top to a plate. He's cute and scary at the same time.
Cricut + Cardstock + ribbon + dino stickers = A super festive birthday banner. I always hang the birthday banners from the balcony, this time we went a little higher to make it all fit but I'm not sure I like it. It wasn't as noticeable. We celebrated his birthday a little early so I left the banner up through his birthday.
About 2 weeks before the party Nolan and I made dinosaur eggs using the recipe I found here:
We used recipe 1. I didn't take any pictures of the making or the finished product, oops. Here are the kids digging them up out of the sand box. It was a fun activity that kept them busy between eating and dessert.
I made a quick Dino hair clip for Sadie. It's just an plain hair clip that I covered with a ribbon using hot glue then hot glued a small plastic dinosaur. I may have gone dino-crazy on that detail but a girl has to accessorize right?
Daddy did it again, I'd consider him an expert watermelon carver. hehe. 
Happy Birthday little buddy!!! Hope all your wishes come true.
Nolan used all the left over stickers and the stickers that I removed from the containers and things to make thank you cards.  He told me what to write then added some design of his own. Frugal yes, but a thoughtful and important lesson to teach him to say thank you!
The dinosaur theme was fun and overall the party came together well. I don't know how you all plan parties but I tend to come up with way more ideas than I have time to complete. I love planning and hosting parties. The clean up not so much.
Thanks for stopping by At Home with Sweet T