DIY Vertical Layer Cake


Inspired by I Am Baker, I decided to try her tutorial for a vertically layered cake. Her site is full of great ideas and the tutorials are super easy to follow. I’m not much of a baker but found her tips super helpful. She recommends freezing your cakes before working with them. I made my cakes from a gluten-free cake mix, and there’s no way I could have man-handled them if I hadn’t frozen them. Another tip she gave was to use a simply syrup to hold layers together in order to avoid icing seems between layers. I made my simple syrup with honey and water, my preferred sweetener of choice.


I ended up with a checkered cake because you either end up with two separate cakes or you can just add the two layers. Although there’s kits to make such cakes, I loved that I could just grab some round bowls and plates, set them on my cake layers, and take a sharp carving knife around the bowl to cut my vertical rings.

Be sure to check out her blog for other creative ideas!


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Atlanta and Nashville


It’s hard to believe that Sunday we woke up on a 10,000 acre ranch in Florida with the windows open, birds chirping, and a gentle warm wind to bid us good morning. Seems like a dream, especially in January! We wanted to make good time while heading back to Indiana, so I didn’t plan many stopping places–only one special place, really. But that was enough. Lance thought the above car was cool because it had his full name on it.


We stopped for dinner in Atlanta, Georgia at YEAH! Burger and IT. WAS. FABULOUS. The interior of the restaurant was awesome –I love their branding and graphics. The place was packed on a Sunday night. And the menu was even better, featuring organic or natural ingredients. You start by picking out your patty from a selection of natural meats, sourced right on the menu!

Next comes the buns, which you’ll quickly see why I chose this place. Sometimes it comes down to the bread, right? Well they offer gluten-free buns!! YEAH! They use all organic flours, even source it to H&F Bread Co. So cool. Then things get real fun with sauces, another offering that sets YEAH! Burger apart. The sauces menu includes fun creations like Hot Alabama Relish and the one I had, Bacon Jam, a combo of crumbled bacon and molasses. The cherry on the cake was the gluten-free onion rings and fries. Then you choose a sauce for dipping. My gluten-free onion rings were beyond delish dipped in the Bacon Jam. YUM-O! My final burger: all-natural chicken breast on a gluten-free white bun with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and turkey bacon, smothered with Bacon Jam. I ate myself sick after adding the onion rings. We will ALWAYS stop at this place each time in Atlanta, and you should too. Just a warning though that it was a little pricey but definitely worth it.


We stopped across the Tennesse border to stay the night. It was a mean joke to wake up to 16 degrees when just the day before we woke up to 75 degrees in a quiet country bedroom with the windows open. At least we had a fabulous breakfast. The last leg of our trip spared no quality in the restaurant department. We stopped at a quaint bakery and coffee house in Nashville, Tennessee called FiddleCakes. Cute name, huh?


FiddleCakes was located in a business-turned house very close to the interstate. They make fresh baked goods each day, with a small selection of gluten-free yummies (holla!). I grabbed two pastries–a GF chocolate chip muffin and a brownie. I drank a soy latte with a pump of mocha and it was the best one I’ve had in a very long time. My husband had a cup of locally roasted coffee with a chocolate chip scone. He said it was the best scone he’s ever had.


To top it off, the barista was super personable; they had the neatest hand-stamped jewelry ($40 necklace that said “Will trade husband in for cupcakes”); and one room featured tables and chairs made from recycled shutters and doors. AWESOME. It was a fun end to our trip home.


Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: St. Cloud, Florida


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: Partin Cattle Ranch, St. Cloud, Florida


Words can’t even describe how peaceful it was to stay on our friend’s family ranch for their wedding. Located in St. Cloud, Florida, the ranch we stayed on was 10,000 acres yet part of the bigger Partin Cattle Ranch. Our friends, Anna and Jarrod Cowell, live on the ranch, which is home to multiple houses of their families.


I’ve never spent time in Florida’s “country”, and it’s a little different than the country scene I’m used to at home. Their “forest” includes tropical ground cover and the occasional palm tree. It also includes critters like armadillos, deer, gators, bald eagles, and they’ve even spotted the occasional bears and a panther. Anna also kept talking about some “skunkape” but I’m not so sure about that one.


We spent our New Year’s Eve here with our friends around a campfire after taking a late night drive around the ranch spottin’ gators. Except each time we spotted eyes they belonged to cows. Bummer. As the ball dropped at midnight, our friend Nick popped the big question to his girlfriend Stacy, so that was really exciting. Hopefully another fun wedding around the corner?


We stayed in “Pa’s House” and it was like a dream to stay in a country ranch home overlooking pastures of cattle with the windows open and the breeze a blowin’. By the way, on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch, I guess you fence your houses in and let the cows roam free. Our favorite afternoon was the day of the wedding, because the groom’s party was spread out through the house chilling out. We had cooked a big breakfast together, ate it on the front porch while soaking up the rays of the 78 degree sun. This made us all sleepy, so some of us took naps. It delighted me to lay down in Pa’s room atop a hand-sewn quilt, windows open, reading a book until I fell asleep.


It was tough leaving this place, but the good news is that we can always go back to visit our friends. Jarrod kept saying that we all needed to go get a cabin somewhere together  like the movie “Grown Ups,” but I was like “What the heck do you think we’re doing now?” Haha. We grabbed a few ripe oranges off a tree for the road and reluctantly began our journey back to Indiana.


Congrats to the newly weds, Anna and Jarrod Cowell. Ain’t she purdy?


Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Nashville and Atlanta


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines


Once we drove into the Florida state lines, I was insistent that we stop at a beach before spending the rest of our trip land-locked. So we stopped by St. Augustine beach for a few minutes. The town looked pretty cute and plenty crowded. There’s a historical fort as well as a cute downtown and plenty of beaches. It was only 54 degrees but I promised my momma that I’d put my big toe in the ocean, no matter how cold. But man was it cold.



I was happy to get to Orlando because there are several vegan and vegetarian restaurants. The only issue is that my husband (who likes more meat and less veggies) wasn’t seeing much he could enjoy for dinner, so we only made it to one of the restaurants I had mapped out. But, you can see where else we had looked up here.



I stopped at the Dandelion Communitea Cafe in Winter Park when we arrived in Orlando that evening. It was incredibly healthy and incredibly yummy (a great last meal before arriving on the ranch). My favorite was their teas. I love my teas iced though, and they were willing to ice any. But I just got their prepared iced pick of the day, a strawberry black tea. I also got the spring rolls with a thai nut dipping sauce and chips with very garlicky hummus. Not only did it make me happy, but I kept the hummus, chips, and dipping veggies and snacked on them over the next few days.

Orlando also has tons of farmers markets. I didn’t make it to any, but it would be so easy for someone who likes the organic, vegan, or vegetarian seen to visit Orlando. Be sure to check out some of the other places I found here on our travel Google map.

Now onward to the Partin Cattle Ranch for our southern weddin’! (And yes, we’ve been talking with our southern accents this whooole time!)


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah


We made our way to Savannah, Georgia for the night and stayed in the Historical Downtown District. Although we were only there less than 24 hours, I had a blast shopping. There are blocks upon blocks of shopping downtown. I’m really picky about my “downtowns” and always have high hopes, and Savannah certainly delivered. Besides shopping, there’s some serious historical sites in Savannah. Many of the buildings date back to the 1700s, including the brick-paved roads that were reused from ships from all over the world. We didn’t make time for any historical tours but heard high reviews of the “hearse ghost tours” and Paula Deen’s historical tours.


And of course we stopped by her restaurant, Lady and Sons. We didn’t eat there (I obviously would be allergic to everything they serve) though we wouldn’t have made it through the line anyway. Looks like they’ve redone the setup a bit because it appeared to be by reservation only, filtering through their gift shop.


There were several boutiques I would recommend–so many that I can’t write about them all. I was good and didn’t buy much, but our favorite place was the Savannah Bee Company. Seriously, it was like we were in a trance from the moment we walked it. The store was setup to make it simple for you to choose some honey of your liking. They had a bar featuring sample honeys, beverages like a honey latte, and best of all a cool dude that was talking about the honey. It was weird because such a large group had gathered watching him talk and move around, and everyone was silent and glued to him like under some spell. He broke out a honey comb, sliced up a fresh green apple, and explained how traditionally the honey comb is best-eaten sandwiched between two apple slices. Then we got to taste. Yummy! Everyone was buying honey combs, including us, and after we walked out of the store I asked my husband how much it cost. When he told me $23 I couldn’t believe that he did it, and neither could he! I guess we were under some kind of honey spell.


Our Savannah fun didn’t end there. Although we went to healthier places to eat, they were still our favorite meals from our whole trip. We drove a little ways to Kasey’s Gourmet Grille, where I had read that they’re friendly to us folks with allergies. They didn’t really have many items clearly labeled as gluten-free, but all we had to do was ask our waiter. He went above and beyond helping me to eat dairy-free and gluten free, but it was because the chef was whipping up special concoctions based on menu items. I felt bad but the waiter simply said, “He’s got nothing better to do.” Ha ha, I guess a true chef enjoys creating a special masterpiece for his guests.


I had the almond-crusted goat cheese served with a cranberry chutney and garlic aioli. I ate the plate clean. Then I had some chipotle shrimp that was the best in my whole life. Wish I could remake it! I also had a salad, but it didn’t compare to the other plates.


We also went to Kayak Kafe for lunch the next day. Again, they’re menu isn’t clearly labeled for food allergies but it was easy to avoid them. I order the tilapia tacos and could’t believe how good they were. They were made with fresh masa corn tortillas and yummy veggies. I tried to remake them our first night home, and didn’t do to bad. I followed this recipe for the tilapia, threw in some fresh veggies and avocado, steamed some corn tortillas and called it a night.