Disney World Day 4: Hollywood Studios = Terror & Delight!

Before I tell you about our day at Hollywood Studios, I HAVE to tell you about something I forgot in the post about our day in Animal Kingdom.  It was our magical dinner at Boma ~ Flavors of Africa! I only made reservations at three table service restaurants, and this was one of them.  They were all really wonderful (Raglan Road, La Hacienda del San Angel, and Boma), but this was probably our favorite.  It is located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  An all-you-can-eat African buffet, we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw its sheer length!  Because our reservation was flagged for a “special diet”, the assistant chef appeared at our table and invited us to go on a tour of the buffet with him.  He explained each dish, and carefully told us what items were safe to eat (most of them), and which ones to avoid (very few). When we got to the dessert portion of the buffet (oh my!) he let us know that all but one were gluten free, but that he would rather us not eat off the dessert buffet.  Instead, he promised to bring us a personalized platter of desserts that were straight from the kitchen and not in any danger of cross-contamination from being on the buffet! We were in gluten free, culinary, customer service bliss!
OK ~ now onto day 4 at Hollywood Studios. We got Fast Passes for Toy Story Mania immediately upon entering the park, and then went to ride the Rock ‘N Roller Coaster.  It was a very rainy day, and we were there when the park opened, so there was hardly a line at all for this ride.  I think the Rock ‘N Roller Coaster may be my all-time favorite coaster ~ not that I’m very much of a connoisseur, but I have always enjoyed a thrilling roller coaster ride when I’ve had the chance.  Like giddy kids, we got off and ran back to get in the short line again, riding it twice in a row in less than thirty minutes!  Loved the theme of it being a stretch limo and backstage passes to an Aerosmith concert.  Loved the music, the darkness, the neon road signs, and concert spotlights, and the speeeeeeeeeed!  So much fun.

I waited with Kayla and Cooper while Robert and Kory rode the Tower of Terror, because I can really do without free falls, and thought I had “been there, done that” at Six Flags in my younger years.  Silly me.  This IS Disney World after all.  More on that later.

Next we rode the Great Movie Ride, which was a tour through classic movie sets with animatronic versions of Gene Kelly, Julie Andrews, Clint Eastwood, and James Cagney.  Just when we thought that was the extent of the ride, some actual humans entered the scene, and became involved in some live action.  It was a bit more intense than one of our kids bargained for, but everyone came out unscathed, and sans any gunshot wounds, thankfully.

Despite the wind and rain, we really enjoyed the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.  Full of car chases, motorcycle jumps, and even jet ski escapades, the secrets behind the stunts were revealed after each stunt performance.  I had no idea that the car going in reverse was made just for that purpose, with the interior of the car and steering wheel facing the rear window. Cameras were rolling during the stunts, and it was explained and demonstrated on a giant screen how all of that footage gets turned into the most exciting parts of action films.  Pretty interesting.  As you can see even Lightning McQueen and Mater made a special appearance to everyone’s delight.  
This poor guy was involved in a fire fight, and eventually shot on the rooftop of a French antique store, falling to his untimely “death” on a gigantic mattress pad of some sort.
After lunch (I packed a picnic for this day), we headed over to watch a 30 minute version of the musical Beauty and the Beast.  I’ve already told you about my poor Disney-movie-deprived children, so you know now that they didn’t really know the story before we sat down in the covered amphitheater ~ well, all except for Kory who saw it on stage two years ago with his Classical Conversations class.  I’m glad that the other two got a wonderful, albeit shortened version of the tale during this really wonderful performance.  Even Kory said it was amazing, and made him want to see the full length performance again.

Right next door to the Beauty and the Beast stage stood the Tower of Terror.  You know, the ride I skipped earlier in the day, because I don’t really love free falls. (You can hear the screams coming from the Tower from near and far all day long.) Throughout the day, Robert kept talking about how well done the props and story line were for that particular ride ~ a Twilight Zone theme.  Well, I watched a fair amount of Twilight Zone growing up, so I began to get interested in seeing it all for myself ~ even if it meant enduring a free fall.

Oh, it was so worth it!  The theme is that of touring an old haunted Hollywood hotel, and entering the Twilight Zone once inside the hotel’s elevator and reaching about the fifth floor of the thirteen story building.  The special effects were simply incredible (IF you could keep your eyes open to see them, that is), and the free fall was not a singular fall, but rather a series of faster-than-free-fall drops at very unexpected times after the initial “snapping” of the elevator cord at floor thirteen.  Wow. I don’t know if it gets any more “thrilling” than that!?!  (The seat belt is an absolute necessity on this one!) We also learned that Disney programs the ride with random drop sequences, so you really can’t know exactly what to expect if you ride multiple times.  Robert appreciated it even more the second time around, as he could keep his eyes open, and refrain from grabbing the leg of the guy sitting next to him.  (True story.)  So glad I took the plunge, literally. ☺

Toy Story Midway Mania is the pure delight part of this post!  We rode it once first thing in the morning and once in the afternoon via a Fast Pass. I think many people agree that it is one of the most fun and entertaining rides in all of Disney World. A series of virtual midway games, it allows you to compete for high scores in a 3-D shooting gallery of many variations as you ride and twirl around in your car/booth.  I’m so glad we rode it twice, because my score greatly improved the second time around.  ☺ Difficult to explain how wonderful this ride is with words or the few photos I got while we waited to get on, but trust me ~ you wouldn’t want to miss it!  If you don’t want to wait in line for an hour or two though, then riding it or getting a Fast Pass first thing in the morning is the ONLY way to go! Fortunately, we got to do both!

We had to get this umbrella photo, because it just really never stopped raining ALL DAY.  (There are definitely pros and cons to rain at Disney!) We left in the late afternoon, after our Fast Pass time for Toy Story and after taking in the museum and movie about Walt Disney himself.  What an amazing man he was.

Disney World was not something I had ever really desired to do with my kids, since we live in a part of the country that is so rich with history, landscape, and adventure, but now I’m really thankful we got to experience it.  It was a really wonderful way to bring our sabbatical to an end,  full of laughter and new experiences, and we have our wonderful church family near and far to thank.  It was their sacrificial giving  ~ financially and otherwise ~ that enabled this extended time of rest and refreshment for us.  We will never forget it, and will forever be blessed by it.  Feeling extremely grateful tonight.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Homemade Chicken Broth

“Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including hyperacidity, colitis, and Crohn’s disease.  Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in.” 
~ Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Well, if that quote doesn’t get you excited regarding the benefits of homemade stocks and broths where gelatin abounds, (see some benefits of it here) then maybe the fact that they also contain beneficial sodium, chloride, iodine,  magnesium, potassium, and lots of natural flavor!

I don’t usually make my broth intentionally, as in boiling a whole chicken for the purpose of broth-making, but I do try and make it each time we roast a whole chicken for dinner, using whatever is left over of the meat, fat, and bones.

Here’s my usual method, inspired by the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions:

1.  Place chicken carcass in crock pot with whatever meat, and skin are remaining.

2. Add 2-3 carrots, 1 onion, 2-3 stalks of celery, 6-8 garlic cloves to crock pot.

3. Fill the crock pot with cold water. The slow warm up of the bones and veggies is a good way to impart as many vitamins and minerals as possible.

4. Set crock pot on low and cook for 18-24 hours.  The longer the better for a more flavorful, gelatin-full broth.  Nourishing Traditions recommends adding a bunch of parsley for the last 10 minutes of cooking, to “impart additional mineral ions to the broth.”

 5.  Scoop out the large pieces of bone and veggies after the long cooking hours, and then strain the remaining broth to remove the smaller particles.

6.  Place strained broth in a bowl and chill overnight or for several hours until the fat congeals at the surface.

 7.  Remove the fat from the surface of the broth with a slotted spoon.  The thicker, more jelly-like the broth is after being chilled, the more gelatin you’ve got.

8. Ladle into small glass jars or other containers.  Leave a half inch or more of headroom in the jars before screwing lids on, and freeze for future use.  It will keep for several months in the freezer. (Using smaller jars is beneficial because of different serving sizes needed in the future.)

Now, you’re well on your way to chicken noodle soup, tortilla soup, savory wild rice dishes, delicious gravies, and more, and you won’t have to settle for the thin, pale, broths you can buy in a can or carton at your local grocery store. They just don’t seem to compare to this beautiful, brown, full of natural nutrient, healthful, homemade broth! 

Here’s the list of ingredients:

whole chicken or leftover chicken carcass from a meal
2 – 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 – 3 celery stalks, washed and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion
6 – 8 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
cold water to fill crockpot

“Magical” Day 3: Animal Kingdom & A Priceless Photo

 I’m calling it “magical” day 3 for several reasons.  Maybe I should call it “miraculous” day 3, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to drag myself out of bed after two grueling days at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, but miraculously, I was.  I even got up early, and roused my troops for an early arrival at Animal Kingdom.  We arrived, as is recommended, about half an hour before the park opened ~ so, around 8:30am.  The parking lots are very large, though, so just parking and walking or riding a transport train to the gate can take a while.  The magical part was that we didn’t have to park a long way off OR ride the train to the entrance that day, because of the “magical moment” we received.
When we drove into the parking lot entrance, and pulled up to the booth to pay the parking fee, the attendant handed us the above pictured certificate for “Dream Parking”  ~ i.e. FRONT ROW PARKING!  He instructed us to follow the blue line painted on the road all the way up to the first row of parking right in front of the park entrance!  These “surprise” moments are called “magical moments” at Disney World, and we felt very fortunate to receive one.  What a special start to our day! For a while, I thought it might have been arranged by my friend, Anne, who had helped me so much with planning for our trip, and was pulling for us as we fought fatigue and visited four parks in four days, but it was simply a “random” gift from Walt Disney World.  Actually, I prefer to acknowledge it as a grace gift from God.  It really got our day off to a fabulous start, and we all agree that Animal Kingdom day was our best park day of all.

 The crowd looks huge here, but that’s only because the gates had just opened, and everyone was headed in the same direction.  Even though we were in sort of a hurry to get a Fast Pass for Expedition Everest, I made everyone stop for a quick photo in front the beautifully carved Tree of Life.

After getting our Fast Passes for Everest, we headed to DinoLand to ride Dinosaur.  The theme of this incredible ride was to go back in time on a very scary rover expedition through a jungle of sorts in search of the Igunadon.  Our mission was to bring the Iguanadon back to the present day lab of Dr. Grant Seeker before the dinosaur-killing meteor crashed to the earth.  (We BARELY made it ~ whew!) Because of its “intense” warning, Coop and Kayla opted out of this one, and as you can see, Cooper had his own encounter with an intense-looking dino outside as he awaited our return.
Now, many of you probably know that at the scariest moment of every Disney ride, a perfectly positioned camera takes your picture in order to catch your ridiculously goofy and embarrassing facial expressions. I’m certain I am breaking some sort of copyright law by taking a close up photo of the photo that we bought after this ride, but I’m taking my chances, because it’s just too good not to share.  I’m also risking the possibility of my near 17-year old never speaking to me again, but even that might be worth it.  (KIDDING.) 

 I laugh until I cry almost every time I look at this photo.

Robert walked straight to the counter to buy the thing when we saw it on the TV monitors after getting off the ride.

Kory:  “Dad!  You can’t buy that!  It costs like twenty dollars!!”

Robert:  “I don’t care if it costs fifty dollars, son.  We are buying it.  It’s just too good.”

Yes, Kory is such a thoughtful teenager ~ always concerned about our family’s budget, as my friend Cindy pointed out yesterday. 

I was thinking he could make it his Facebook profile pic. What do you think?

The ride WAS quite intense, in my opinion, but you would never know it from my very serene posture and smile in this photo.  Really, I don’t know how I was caught in this peaceful gaze at just one of MANY very scary animatronic dinosaurs (they seemed SO realistic!), because I’m pretty sure that most of the time I looked like Kory, except with my eyes closed.

 We absolutely loved the Flights of Wonder show!  The birds were really beautiful and trained to do some really impressive things.  Lots of cute humor, too.

Then we made our way over to ride Expedition Everest, which was just so great.  Fortunately, Robert and Kory were not among those snatched up by the Yeti in one of the mountain’s caves, and were able to go back and ride it two other times before the day was over.
While they rode the “intense” coaster, Kayla, Cooper, and I hung out near the dino-rama riding the Primeval Whirl coaster and the Triceratop Spin multiple times!  Coop even won a prize in the midway area when he hooped a basketball.

 Lunch was an order of really delicious gluten free pizza and salad combos at Pizzafari ~ hurray!

 And then we were off on African safaris, treks, and trails… (good thing we had gotten our “trail legs” by this third day of park hopping!)

We really marveled at all of the different animals we were able to see in these exhibits ~ elephants, lions, gorillas, hippos, rhinoceros, chimpanzees, flamingos, giraffes, and lots of alligators.  I think the animals were Kayla’s favorite part of this all-around magical day.

Last day coming up…Hollywood Studios!

Disney World Day 2 ~ Magic Kingdom

After 12 hours at Epcot Center the day before, it was difficult to pull ourselves out of bed and arrive at Magic Kingdom as the gates opened at 9am, but we managed to accomplish it, even with puffy eyes and very sore legs. I think the fatigue factor made this our most difficult day, and we missed several rides that I really wanted to do, but we still ended up seeing a lot of the park.
I think the first thing we did was get our Fast Pass for Space Mountain.  My friend, Anne, “preached the gospel of Fast Pass” to me via email before we left for Disney World, and then our touring plan told us exactly what Fast Passes to get first, second, etc.  If you don’t want to wait in hour-plus lines, then you’ve got to get on board with the Fast Pass system.  I don’t think we ever waited more than 20 minutes to ride the most popular rides because of this, and oftentimes it was much less. So, while we waited for our assigned Space Mountain time, we enjoyed some fun on the  Tomorrowland Speedway.

 After riding the People Mover, The Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and Stitch’s Great Escape, we made our way to Space Mountain.  It was Kory’s first-ever roller coaster ride, and just take a look at the seat he got! I was a little worried for him, but he absolutely loved it.

 Then it was on to a much less intense ride ~ the Mad Tea Party.  Kayla and I did not do much “spinning” in our tea cup, so I was able to get a few shots of my boys spinning as fast as they could.  The touring plan suggested that adults could really refrain from this ride, but none of us would have missed it! (Well, except for Robert, who was off getting a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain!)
After a lunch of more gluten free cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, we headed to Fantasyland to ride Peter Pan’s Flight, which we did NOT have a Fast Pass for.  Oh my.  The hour-plus wait may have contributed to my impending demise, but it was a FABULOUS ride ~ even if it lasted only about 2 minutes! I didn’t get any photos of it, as it was very dark inside, but imagine sailing high above the world of Wendy and Peter in your own fully rigged ship, soaring over the Darling children’s bedroom, watching Wendy walk the plank and Captain Hook dangle closely to the crocodile’s mouth in Never Land ~ really fantastic!
Next, we headed to It’s a Small World.  We teased Kayla that it was an “intense ride,” but everyone knows it’s the “happiest cruise that ever sailed.”

The boys headed over to ride Splash Mountain, while Kayla and I walked around in Adventureland.  We climbed up through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, which was fun for us, because it’s one Disney movie we’ve actually seen! I did not allow the kids to watch any of the cartoon Disney movies when they were toddlers or even during their early elementary years.  It wasn’t necessarily Disney or cartoons that I was staying away from on their behalf, it was TV and movies in general.  I wanted their days to be filled with books, and blocks, and outside play, and imagination, and so we just didn’t watch a lot of TV at all.  But somehow, I failed to introduce these things later.  So, Kayla was walking around Magic Kingdom reminding me that she had never even SEEN Cinderella or Snow White or The Little Mermaid, and had no idea what the story lines were!   (She HAS seen Mary Poppins on Broadway, though.  Surely, I win some points for that one!?!)

You’ll be happy to know that my poor, little, deprived-of-Disney, 11 year old girl did get to watch The Little Mermaid on our way back to Massachusetts, so she’s well on her way to being cultured ~ finally.

We ended our day a bit early at the Main Street Bakery where they happen to have pre-packaged gluten free brownies, cookies, and rice krispie treats. Because of fatigue, impending melt-downs, and pouring rain, we regretfully (but probably necessarily!), skipped the Electrical Parade and Fireworks for a “home”-cooked meal of fried egg sandwiches back in our hotel room, and a 9pm bedtime.  We also missed The Haunted Mansion, which was one of my favorites as a child, The Jungle Cruise, and The Hall of Presidents.  Maybe next time…

Day Three at Animal Kingdom proved to include renewed energy and lots of fun…

Gluten Free Friday ~ 7 Day Dinner Plan

Photo by Derf @ Food.com

Still settling in here after our return from sabbatical.  Only three containers left to unpack!  This afternoon, as I was preparing pizza and salad for dinner, I was dismayed to discover that I left my Pampered Chef pizza stone in the kitchen of our sabbatical rent house in Austin.  Boo Hoo!  No one is renting the house yet, so I think we can still have someone retrieve it for us before long.

I will still post about the rest of our trip to Disney World soon, but thought I would give you the rest of the 7 day meal plan from Health magazine tonight, which are the dinners. Again, these are good-for-the-gut-bloat-reducing meals, with things like parsley which is a natural diuretic. Oh, and these are one serving meals, so if you’re serving a family, you’ll need to multiply.

Day 1: Arugula Salad Pizza
1 GF brown rice wrap
2 tsp pesto (homemade or bottled)
2 cups arugula (or spinach, or a combo of both)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1/4 cup navy beans
1 tsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 tsp red wine vinegar

Toast or broil the wrap, spread with pesto. Toss together arugula, tomatoes, pine nuts, navy beans, olive oil, and lemon juice/vinegar.  Top the toasted wrap and pesto with the salad.

Day 2: Broiled Salmon, Asparagus, and Quinoa
10 asparagus spears
1 4 oz salmon filet
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Brush salmon and asparagus with olive oil, and broil for 15-20 minutes. Rinse quinoa, and cook in water for 10-15 minutes. Drizzle everything with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Day 3: Grilled Veggie & Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwich
3 slices eggplant
1/2 red bell pepper
1 tsp olive oil
4 Tbsp herbed goat cheese
1 GF roll, or 2 pieces GF sandwich bread

Brush eggplant slices and red pepper with olive oil.  Place on a hot grill pan, skillet, or panini grill, and  cook until tender. Spread goat cheese on GF roll or bread slices, add grilled veggies to make a sandwich.

Day 4: Pesto Pasta
1/2 cup dry GF penne pasta
1 small zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 cup baby spinach
1/4 cup canned chickpeas
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp pesto, bottled or homemade
1 Tbsp pine nuts
3 Tbsp parsley, chopped

Cook pasta according to directions.  Sauté zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and chickpeas in olive oil until zucchini is crisp-tender. Toss cooked pasta with pesto, and then toss in the veggies.

Day 5: Chicken with Broccoli & Nutty Brown Rice
1 small chicken breast, chopped or sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 garlic clove
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp chopped almonds
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté chicken and garlic in olive oil for 8-10 minutes.  Add broccoli, and sauté 5-10 minutes more.  Toss rice with parsley and almonds.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Day 6: Steak Salad with Feta & Yogurt Dressing
4 oz grilled sirloin, cut in strips
4 oz plain yogurt
3 Tbsp Feta
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes

Grill steak, and cut in strips.  Whisk together yogurt, feta, and pepper.  Toss together lettuce and tomatoes, pour dressing over, and top with grilled steak.

Day 7: Chicken Fettuccine with Lemon Butter & Peas
3/4 cup dry GF fettuccine
4 oz chicken breast, chopped or sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup frozen peas
juice from 1 lemon

Cook fettuccine according to instructions.  Sauté chicken breast in 2 Tbsp butter until cooked through.  Add  peas and lemon juice.  Cook until peas are thawed.  Serve chicken mixture over pasta.

Now, you can put these dinners together with the breakfast and lunch plans for a whole week of fresh, nutritious, and simple meals.  (I will give you the snack plan soon!) You may lose a few pounds if you stick to the small portion size, and leave out most of your usual sugar intake, and you will almost definitely see an improvement in after meal bloating and indigestion.  Hope you enjoy the plan as much as I have!

Goodbye Texas, Hello Florida!

Eleven hours after saying goodbye to Texas and the first sighting of the beautiful Texas wildflowers, we arrived in Mobile, Alabama.  Mobile seemed like such a nice place to visit, but our mission was Orlando, so I think we actually spent less time in our hotel room overnight than we had driving there that day, and began the second leg of our journey first thing the next morning.

We arrived at our beautiful resort hotel ~ the Sheraton Vistana Villages ~ around 6pm that evening.  I have to mention here how much I love Facebook.  Really, it has become far more than a fun way to stay connected with friends and family near and far.  It is also my main source of news and pertinent information.  I say all of this, because I found out about the Sheraton resort when a friend from high school posted a photo of her room there while on vacation with her family.  She also mentioned a few of the room’s amazing amenities in her Facebook post, and just a few clicks later, I had reservations!  There are many fabulous places to stay in and around Disney World, of course, but this one perfectly suited us with its full kitchen, laundry room, 2 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, living/dining room, screened-in patio, and flat screen TVs in every room.  Also, there were 2 gigantic swimming pools, a small market/grocery store, several restaurants, many on-site activities, really wonderful customer service, and all for a very reasonable price.
It was good that we got there by 6pm, because it gave us time to settle in, freshen up, and still make our dinner reservations in Downtown Disney at 7:30 with this lovely lady:

Our friend Romy… from Switzerland! Many of you may know her personally, but if not, you may have met her here or here.  In a very “it’s a small world after all” kind of way, and again, because of Facebook, we discovered that we would all be in Disney World at the same time.  Romy was there for a conference, and we enjoyed meeting her at the end of one of her work days at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney.  Raglan Road is an Irish Pub, and we all enjoyed fish and chips or burgers together in a very lively atmosphere.  Later, we strolled around through the shops, stopping for some gluten free cupcakes and coffee to end our evening.  (The REALLY “small world” thing is, that Romy will actually be at my house tomorrow evening and through the weekend for a wedding!  Poor girl.  Can’t imagine the jet lag from making two trips to the States in two weeks!)

Epcot was the first park we visited, due to some very scientific research my friend, Anne, told me about via this website. The advice and information there is very valuable, and made our trip as smooth and enjoyable as it could have possible been, I believe. (Well, that and Anne’s wisdom from personal experience and her list of favorite restaurants!)

We had a sighting of Mary Poppins, who was asking this woman if her husband was as much of a handyman as “Burt.”  We visited the English tea and toy shops nearby, posed in an iconic British phone booth, and walked passed people eating fish and chips at the Rose and Crown Pub, where I developed a crush on my waiter and his authentic accent when I was about 15 years old, i.e. the last time I was at Epcot.

We ate cheeseburgers on gluten free buns with french fries from a dedicated fryer in America at Liberty Inn…

…and got hugs from Tigger and Poo.

We hung out in France for a while, watching a sidewalk performance by a French waiter who stacked restaurant chairs about 6 high and did a balancing act on top…

…and ate a delicious Mexican meal at La Hacienda del San Angel (everything on the menu gluten free except flour tortillas and salsa, which was just sad.) while overlooking Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon where the fireworks show would soon start.

And that all happened the second half of the day!

Earlier in the day we made it to all of this:

Soarin’ (wow!)
Test Track (Cooper and Kayla considered this their roller coaster!)
The Seas with Nemo
Spaceship Earth (a trip through history, and seemingly our Veritas Press timeline cards!)
Mission Space
Journey Into Imagination with Figment (same as what I remembered ~ ha!)
Living the Land (boat ride through amazing innovations in food growth)
O’ Canada movie
Impressions of France movie
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth light and fireworks show

And if you tune into Facebook at all, you might know that I was completely exhausted after all of this, wondering how I would make it through four more days.  Well, I did (barely!), so stay tuned, and I’ll tell you about our next day in Magic Kingdom soon!

Springtime In Her Spirit

 We’ve only been home for 4 days, and there are still suitcases and Rubbermaid containers exploding throughout the house, (it’s mostly MY stuff) but my little gardener, and lover of all things spring, has found the time and resources to start her seeds for the season, and label them with a very cute flair, I must say.

 This was accomplished mainly by mentioning, way back in Texas, her desire to plant a garden this year.  (We skipped last year.)  Then, it was brought up on the drive home a few times.  And then, on Sunday, while out taking Kory to baseball practice in the afternoon, asking to go and buy seeds.  The girl is tenacious about such desires of her heart.  (She still hasn’t gotten the puppy that gets mentioned at least every day, and miraculously appears as a line item on all of my grocery lists, though.)  She talked her daddy into helping her plant them immediately, and he even rigged up a lighting system in our basement for her. (That’s love!)

 Well, after the seeds were planted, she began to talk about getting chickens.  I mean, it’s really not spring around here anymore unless baby chicks are involved.  So, Kory found the still packed printer, located all necessary cords, hooked it all up for us, and we printed out the order form from the local farm supple website.  After researching ALL of the listed varieties, she chose 8 that we’ve never really had before ~ 2 of each variety.  Graciously, she allowed me to choose the final two.  (We decided 10 was a good number for this year.) I have to say that the cuteness of the baby chicks (pics of chicks and adult stage were shown), their cold hardiness, and egg production were our priorities ~ in that order.

Later, this was heard in my kitchen:

“Ok, so I will help take care of them while they’re chicks, and you guys can take over when they are all grown up.”

I’m pretty sure the same thing goes for weeding the soon-to-be-adult plants in the future garden.

There will most likely be some negotiations going on around here regarding these springtime chores, but her giddy, eager, spring spirit is pretty hard to resist.  It was all cartwheels, handstands, and back bend-walkovers in the sunny yard today ~ delighting in all that is to come!

Saying Goodbye to Sabbatical

 There were countless wonderful moments with dear old friends.
 The highlight of Kayla’s week ~ gymnastics and a new friend!
And the highlight of Cooper’s week ~ basketball with a homeschool team and with GRANDAD!
 Goodbyes to our Austin Classical Conversations Community ~ so thankful for them and how they so warmly included us. 
(Oh ~ and school done on the back patio in the warmth and sunshine of February!)
Sweet times with my side of the family…
…and fun times with Robert’s side.
 Visiting several scenic Austin spots in our last few days…
 … and eating one last Tex-Mex meal while watching the sunset.
 Then we loaded up, packing every square inch of two vehicles…
 …and headed northeast to Massachusetts with a side trip to Disney World.
 But, thankfully, not without missing the sight of these on the Texas highway ~ BLUEBONNETS!

Other special opportunities included living on a quiet cul-de-sac, worshiping with other congregations, attending in person a women’s Bible study that I’ve listened to via cassette tape and CD for years, being in a small group there with a dear friend from college (Hi Yvette!), having breakfast with another dear friend from college (Hi Sara!) having slow mornings, and most all of our evenings free, eating at Austin’s amazing restaurants, getting away for some overnights with Robert, having time to read, and so much more.

At first, we wondered if we were really resting, because it still takes quite a bit of effort to feed, clothe, and educate your children (How did we ever manage to fit in a ministry/job on top of those things?), and also because parental and marital things we needed to work on surfaced when the daily and weekly needs of our church were left behind. But after those things tempered and healed, we then became aware of the quiet we were experiencing, and the things that we all of the sudden were NOT doing (potlucks, preaching, Bible study prep, counseling….) and knew that our souls were experiencing a sort of rest that they hadn’t before.  It was truly refreshing, and we are so grateful to the MANY people who made it possible.

Stay tuned for the report from Disney World!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Magical Edition

We arrived in Orlando and Disney World on Wednesday evening, which is a stop “on our way” back home to Massachusetts after a wonderful three-month sabbatical there.  And we’ve had so much fun here in this sunny, magical place, but I think we may need another three-month sabbatical to recover from the grueling task it is to visit the Disney World parks.  Oh my!  I am totally exhausted, and planning an early bedtime ~ which means we were too tired to stay for fireworks and the parade in Magic Kingdom tonight.  (It was raining, too.)
I’m even too tired to even post the follow-up to the 7 day meal plans with the dinners and snacks, (will resume ASAP, though!) but I thought I would just post a few photos from our trip, especially the ones that include some of the wonderful food we’ve been able to enjoy!

 Just an hour after we checked in to our hotel room, we got to have dinner with our dear friend from Switzerland, Romy!  (It’s a small world after all…)  She was in town for a conference, and so we met her for dinner at an Irish Pub in Downtown Disney called Raglan Road.  It was quite loud (true to form, I suppose), and had a very lively atmosphere ~ music, dancing, the works.

It was the gluten free fish and chips that sold me, though, and they did not disappoint!  Raglan Road makes their GF batter out of garbanzo bean flour and club soda.  It was very crispy and had a great taste.  Can’t remember the last time I had fish and chips at a restaurant, so this was a fun treat.

 After dinner, we all walked through some of the shops, but were really on the lookout for the NYC bakery called Babycakes, which now has a location in Downtown Disney.  It’s a bit difficult to find if you don’t know your way around, and it isn’t on the Downtown Directory, but one trip to the info desk solved the mystery, and soon we were all sitting at an outdoor table eating GF cupcakes and drinking coffee and tea.

 We even decided to take these back to our hotel for breakfast…

I wish I could share another picture with you of Cooper and Kory enjoying a hamburger WITH the BUN at Epcot Center, but I had left my camera memory card at the hotel that day, and so all of the Epcot pictures are stored in the camera’s limited memory storage and I don’t have the cord that would transfer them to my computer!  Anyway, picture two very happy teenage boys holding up their cheeseburgers and smiling. It was in “America” at a restaurant called Liberty Inn which offers gluten free buns for hamburgers and cheeseburgers.  They, along with all of the other restaurants/food stands that offer GF buns, will also cook the french fries in a dedicated fryer, avoiding any cross-contamination.  Happy Mouseketeers all around, I tell ya!
Oh!  And did you know that Disney World will allow you to bring outside food into their parks? I assumed they would be strict about this as are other parks like Sea World and Six Flags, but they aren’t.  So, that means I didn’t have to try and smuggle in my trail mix today (I get panicky when I’m hungry, fearing there will be no GF options), or go into a long explanation about gluten intolerances and ask for an exception to the rule.
OK ~ my eyes are getting droopy and my feet and legs are crying out to be propped UP. This theme park stuff is a quite a test of strength and stamina, which I thought I had, but evidently not. Even running two half-marathons in two weeks is not sufficient training for this kind of a work out!
So, if I haven’t scared you off from visiting the World of Disney with my complaints of fatigue, then please rest assured that if you have Celiac Disease, or any other food allergy for that matter, this will be a very food-friendly place for you!  We are basking in a magical world of those who know exactly what we’re talking about when we say “gluten free, please!”

Gluten Free Friday ~ A 7 Day Lunch Plan

Wow!  Turns out that many of you are like me, in that you are in need of new meal ideas for yourself or your family.  Last week I posted a meal plan for breakfast that was created by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD.  I thought I would post the snacks she suggests this week, but I think I’ll go right to the lunches, since we all seem to be at a loss for new and healthy meal options. 

Remember, these are 300-400 calorie meals, so if you are not trying to lose weight, then you don’t need to adhere to the portion size.  I just happen to love all of the different foods she includes ~ beans, avocados, goat cheese, hummus, granola, yogurt, tomatoes ~ so, these meals are particularly appealing to me.  I hope they will be to you also. Remember also, that these are low sodium, so low water retention, and bloat banishing as well!

I’ll try and post the snacks and dinners next Friday, but if I don’t get to it, it will be because I’m in the Magic Kingdom or traveling the world via Epcot.  That’s right, our sabbatical is ending with a trip to Disney World, which may call for a Friday food post all by itself!  It’s been such a relief to discover that so many places in all of the parks cater to a gluten free diet.

OK ~ on to the lunches!

7 Day Lunch Plan

Day 1: Yogurt Parfait with Granola & Fruit (yes, for lunch!)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup granola with nuts and dried fruit

Top yogurt with granola or vice versa and eat!

Day 2: Mediterranean Plate
1/2 cup hummus
1 GF brown rice wrap/tortilla
1/2 cup cucumbers, sliced
1/2 cup red bell peppers, sliced
1/2 cup fresh, raw sugar snap peas (or fresh, raw green beans)

I cut the GF brown rice wrap/tortilla into wedges and bake them until they are crispy to resemble pita bread wedges.  Dip the “pitas” and veggies into the hummus.

Day 3: Spinach & Avocado Salad with Almonds
4 cups baby spinach
1/2 avocado (save other half for tomorrow!)
3-4 Tbsp slivered almonds (I like them lightly toasted)
olive oil & balsamic vinegar for dressing

Day 4: Avocado, Bean & Tomato Sandwich
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup white beans (cannelini or great northern)
lemon juice
salt and pepper
4 slices tomato
1/4 cup arugula (or spinach)
2 slices GF sandwich bread, toasted

Mash together beans, avocado, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Spread onto toasted GF bread slice. Top with arugula, tomato, and 2nd slice of bread to form a sandwich.

Day 5: Honey Dijon Turkey Wrap & Grapes
1 GF brown rice wrap/tortilla
1.5 oz turkey breast
1/2 cup spinach
2 tsp honey Dijon dressing or spread
1/2 cup grapes

Spread honey Dijon on GF wrap. Place turkey and spinach on wrap and roll it up.  Enjoy 1/2 cup grapes as a side to the wrap sandwich.

Day 6: Carrot Ginger Soup with Walnuts
Either: 2 cups of store bought ginger carrot cashew soup ~ Pacific makes a GF version.

OR make it yourself:
1 lb carrots, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, grated
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp walnuts
1 Tbsp parsley

Saute carrots, onion, garlic, ginger in olive oil for about 8 minutes.  Add water and salt and boil for 15 minutes.  Puree this mixture in a blender along with walnuts and parsley.

Day 7:  Quinoa Salad
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
1 cup parsley
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber (with seeds and skin)
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa in water for 12 minutes.  Toss with veggies, pine nuts, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Shopping list for the 7 day lunch plan:
(many of these items overlap to the dinners as well!)

Greek yogurt                                                     arugula
granola (with fruit and nuts)                           parsley
hummus                                                             quinoa
cucumber                                                           GF sandwich bread
red bell pepper                                                  GF brown rice wraps/tortillas
sugar snap peas (or green beans)                    turkey breast
baby spinach                                                      honey dijon spread
avocado                                                                grapes
slivered almonds                                                Pacific brand carrot ginger cashew soup
olive oil                                                                (or carrots, ginger, garlic, walnuts, onion)                        
lemon                                                                   tomato
can of cannelini/great northern beans             pine nuts

Needless to say, I will probably not be eating anything like this next week when I’ll have the option of GF fish and chips made with a champagne and chickpea batter at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney!  YUM!  ☺