Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of "all things calm & cozy home."

She shares "how-to" plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It's THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Posts by this author:

Pumpkin Muffins Recipe & 10 Fabulous Pumpkin Spice Desserts & Soups

You knew a pumpkin-crazed day with the best pumpkin muffins recipe and pumpkin spice everything dishes would be coming, now didn’t you?  I couldn’t resist.  You know I’m all about easy delicious recipes, so call me happy and let’s add these recipes to our arsenal, shall we?! I’m in heaven with these fast dessert and soup ideas and you will be too!

Pumpkin muffins recipe image with other pumpkin desserts too

Boom chocka locka!  Your mouth is watering already, isn’t it?  Yeah, mine too.  I have not one, not two, not four scrumptious pumpkin recipes for you.  Nope, I’ve got eleven!   You don’t have to thank me – just send gift cards.  (Wink)  In my humble opinion, here are the best pumpkin recipes around …..

Pumpkin Muffins Recipe + Pumpkin Soup Recipes + Pumpkin Spice Desserts

There’s not much better than the feeling you get when you know that fall is coming.  I don’t know about you, but just the thought of fall makes me want to bake in the kitchen all day!  The pumpkin muffins recipe below AND the other pumpkin recipes will literally knock your socks off.  Haven’t heard of them, that’s OK, you can live a little – I won’t tell!

Here’s a roundup of the best pumpkin and pumpkin spice recipes from blogger friends.  Enjoy!

Two pumpkin desserts pictured - Pumpkin Muffins recipe

Two pumpkin desserts pictured - pumpkin muffins recipe

Which are your favorites – the pumpkin muffins recipe, soups, or desserts?

Look, we can even get matching shirts….. 😉

Threadrock Women’s Pumpkin Spice Life Racerback Tank Top XL Black
—>Make sure that you are subscribed so that you won’t miss the challenge all the WifeLife encouragement (you’ll also automatically receive a short, helpful read about less chaos & more calm when you confirm your subscription!).  Follow along daily with The How-to Guru Facebook page, Twitter, and/or Instagram. <—


These scrumptious recipes were originally added to the delicious easy recipes series.  Here are all the recipes in entirety or you can see the post that includes them all HERE.


Day 1: Protein Energy Bites

Day 2: Baked Potato Bar

Day 3: Crockpot Chicken

Day 4: Stir Fry

Day 5: Slow Cooker Soups

Day 6: Quick Red Beans and Rice

Day 7: Jalapeno Cornbread

Day 8: Quick Meatloaf Recipe

Day 9: Homemade Hamburger Helper

Day 10: Best Lasagna Recipe

Day 11: Easiest Pound Cake Recipe

Day 12: Breakfast Burrito

Day 13: How to Make Popcorn

Day 14: Fluffy Pancake Recipe

Day 15: Best spaghetti Recipe

Day 16: How to Cook Asparagus that Tastes GREAT!

Day 17: Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

Day 18:  Chicken and Rice

Day 19:  Low Carb Cheeseburger Pie

Day 20:  5 Minute Fudge Secrets!

Day 21:  Smokey Tuna Dip

Day 22:  Pumpkin muffins recipe

Day 23:  How to cook rice

Day 24:  Wacky Cake

Day 25:  How to cook green beans 


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Best Halloween Movies: Ultimate Movie Night List With Mom Reviews & Previews

Y’all. I can’t get over that I couldn’t find a family-friendly Halloween movies list. Oh sure, there were lists alright, but not for this conservative Mama. Um, no. So I created an Ultimate family friendly Halloween movies list of a few that you won’t be scared to watch with your family (see what I did there?)!  Enjoy the movie trailers and my Mom reviews of each one of the movies below.

Halloween Movies scene of foggy wilderness person walking

Best Halloween Movies

These days, my family likes to be spooked a little – on the light side and it’s hard to find Halloween movies that aren’t gory or full of inappropriate nonsense. We love cool movies, so of course, I’ll be checking out the appropriate ones on the Official 31 Nights Of Halloween 2018 Schedule on ABC Family/Freeform like everyone else.  To be honest, the Halloween movies schedule is a little odd this year and there are only a few we’ll watch.


I’m sharing the best animated Halloween movies for the slightly older kids. I was very disappointed that the two new (to me) Halloween movies for kids that I was excited to check out for were not good choices at all.  A “groping” boyfriend on top of a young girl that he calls a prude when she pushes him off in one kid’s animated movie and homosexuality jokes in another is not something I’m going to support (Monster House and Paranorman), animated or not.  Everyone is different, so it’s up to you to know which Halloween movies are best suited for your family.

This is why I do what I do, friend, to save you the time, money, and headache if you care about these things as I do.

The Halloween Tree –  After digging very hard to find this one that I’d never heard of, it’s a book-to-movie Ray Bradbury classic adventure about four youths who try to save their friend from the ghosts of Halloween past. They take a journey that sweeps them back as far as 4,000 years and teaches them the meaning of Halloween and friendship.

The Halloween Tree movie trailer 
The opening credits and pretty much the whole The Halloween Tree movie’s style took me back to my childhood of watching Saturday morning cartoons.  That’s due to it being a Hannah Barbera film and great old-fashioned storytelling.  I loved this cute retelling of the original book and loved that it went through the history of Halloween in such an interesting way.  Don’t tell the kids that it’s slightly educational though and they won’t notice!

date: 2012

cast: Ray Bradbury, Leonard Nimoy, Annie Barker

runtime:  69 minutes

rating: NR

rating explanation: not rated

available to watch: DVD Amazon Prime Video

Hotel Transylvania 1 This movie is about a single Dad, Count Dracula, who does what he has to do to protect his only daughter from his most feared opponent… humans.  His solution is to build a hidden monstrous (get it?) castle hotel where all monsters and goblins can feel safe from the outside world.  His problems begin when a human young man accidentally walks through the door and catches the eye of his daughter.

Hotel Transylvania movie trailer
I know this is an old movie but I had not seen it.  Although not my favorite animated film, it’s a silly one to sit around and watch with the fam during the fall season.  It plays out similar to Scooby Doo cartoons with spooky but silly characters.  There’s also the gross stuff that’s supposed to be funny like bodily functions and bug-crawling sandwiches that aren’t awesome to me, but tolerable.

What I did love was the ‘human’ character, a millennial backpacker dude, that shows up with his hilarious dialogue.  That was my favorite part.  All in all, it’s super cute and a good way to bond with the fam.

date: 2012

cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez

runtime: 91 minutes

rating: PG

rating explanation: Parental Guidance Suggested

available to watch: DVD, Blu-ray & Amazon Prime Video


Halloween movies for tweens can be really fun to watch with them.  Because they are a little more mature, the topics don’t have to be kiddie.  Even still, this one choice, though outdated, can be a fun tradition they’ll look forward to when they are even older.

Double Double Toil and Trouble  – This cute little movie stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Owen, back in their little girl heyday.  They win a magic wand at a birthday party and then meet a goofy gravedigger who tells them that their grouchy, old Aunt Agatha is a bad witch. The girls, with friends in tow, try to save their own house and their Aunt Agatha’s sweet twin sister, Sophia, that Aunt Agatha has put under a wicked spell they race.  They also learn lessons about the importance of sisterly love that knows no bounds.

Double Double Toil and Trouble movie trailer
Ten minutes into the movie a nervous gravedigger tells the twins about the annual  “All Hallows Eve” gathering where witches summon ghosts and goblins to do their bidding and that the dead rise from their graves.  He goes on to tell them about a legend 200 years ago about a moonstone that belonged to a witch that was burned at the stake. The bad witch is pretty intense with her threats and meanness, but as a tween, teen or adult, she’s pretty ridiculous, not scary.

To be honest, I was pretty bored with this one midway through it, but my daughter seemed to enjoy it.  There’s a good message at the end about friends and family sticking together.  Even though it’s very outdated and a little slow, I have a feeling that this is one that we’ll be watching every year together from here on out!

date: 2009

cast: Mary-Kate Olsen, Ashley Olsen, Cloris Leachman, Meshach Taylor

runtime: 91 minutes

rating: NR

rating explanation: not rated

available to watch: DVD & Amazon Prime Video

Halloweentown – A single Mom and her kids are surprised when their unusual Grandma shows up to visit, and the kids are even more shocked when they follow Grandma home.  Halloweentown is a haven for ghosts, goblins, and witches to live a normal life in their own society.  They shortly realize that they have to help save the town from an evil one trying to take over the world.

Halloweentown movie trailer
This is one of my favorite Halloween movies to watch with the fam and I know it will be a tradition now.  The kids in this movie are very disrespectful at the start of the movie but have a change of heart at the end.  The fact that this film is outdated is part of its charm for me.  Tell the kids to hang in there and they’ll fall in love with it too.

There are four Halloween Town movies…

  • Halloweentown
  • Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge
  • Halloweentown High
  • Return to Halloweentown

I have only watched the first Halloweentown movie, but will give you reviews of the others when I watch them!

date: 1998

cast:   Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Judith Hoag

runtime: 84 minutes

rating: G

rating explanation: general audiences

available to watch: DVD & Amazon Prime Video


Here’s the deal:  your older kids/teens/grandkids have probably already watched the movies that I am listing below.

You could score major brownie points when you have a movie night and watch one of these cool Disney movies with that older kid!

Disney’s Channel’s Original movie, Girl vs. Monster – The main character is a confident girl who finds out that her parents have been leading a secret life of monster hunting.  When she realizes that she’s a 5th generation monster hunter, she fearlessly goes where she’s forbidden to deal with it with her friends in tow (including her fearful bestie).  There are pretty catchy tunes you’ll be singing for days after this cute film.

Disney Channel’s Girl vs. Monster
When the subject matter gets intense in this family-friendly Halloween movie, like the monsters coming to steal souls, it’s presented in a lighthearted way that’s not creepy or scary at all.

My least favorite part is when the mean girl and main boy appear possessed and have red eyes (it’s not bad though). It’s a good movie to watch with older ones because it’s refreshingly clean with no bad language, romance, or any other inappropriate stuff.  I think you’ll fall in love with it whether you want to or not. We’ll definitely have this clean one to watch every single year at Halloween time.  Hallelujah!

date: 2012

cast: Brendan Meyer, Luke Benward, Olivia Holt

runtime: 89 minutes

rating: G

rating explanation: general audiences

available to watch:  Amazon Prime Video

Disney Channel’s Zombies – This is another Disney Channel musical-style movie, but for Halloween.  In a perfect, cookie-cutter society of traditions and pep rallies, a chemical explosion causes one side of the town to be changed into zombies with the green haze.  Humans and zombies live separately in Seabrook, until this year, when the zombies are allowed into the human high school and two brave teens, a cheerleader and a zombie boy, form a special friendship.

Zombies movies trailer
When I first heard about this one, I fought the idea of watching a zombie movie.  I mean, yuck!  What I didn’t realize was this wasn’t a typical movie about gross zombie life, it was a silly, but fun musical by Disney Channel.  I dare you to watch and not fall in love with the characters and the catchy tunes!  You may even learn some new dance movies.  It’s actually a really good movie – I enjoyed it more than I’d like to admit to the kiddos!

date: 2018

cast: Milo Manheim, Meg Donnelly, Trevor Tordjman

runtime: 94 minutes

rating: NR

rating explanation: not rated

available to watch: DVD & Amazon Prime Video

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow –  You know that the short story published by Washington Irving in 1820, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, of a Hessian mercenary, wounded in the Revolutionary War that tormented the town of Sleepy Hollow, right?  Stoic Ichabod Crane arrives on the scene to become the new headmaster of the school and wants to court Katrina, who has another beau sweet on her as well, Brom Bones.  Ichabod faces the headless horseman on the trail – or was it Brom Bones in disguise?

a deleted scene from 1980 Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Since the latest movie starring Johnny Depp is rated R is not an option at my house, I started looking for other options.  Disney has an animated version HERE that I haven’t seen yet.  There are two other ‘real’ versions on YouTube, but this one is the shortest and best of the two.  While it’s grainy and displayed in black and white, it’s worth every second. Come on, live a little!

Here is the link to the actual movie.  You can watch on YouTube on any device and even stream through your TV by connecting your device to the TV with a hdmi cord or by doing what we do…streaming it through a YouTube app with our Roku device.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie
date: 1980

cast: Jeff Goldbloom, Paul Sand, Meg Foster

runtime: 104 minutes

rating: PG

rating explanation: parental guidance


I hope you enjoy these suggestions of super clean Halloween movies to watch with your family.  Apparently, Hulu heard that we watch everything including sports without cable and offered me a free trial link. I just signed up for a free month so I can check out the Season #1 Episode #1 S1 Pilot of the TV series of Sleepy Hollow.  It is different than the rated R movie and a modern tale full of incredible full of American history by the looks of the trailer.  Slightly scary + historical fiction = I’m all in.

Wish me luck because you know what a wimp I am with scary stuff.  Also, if I find that it has bad language or vulgar stuff as I’m screening it ahead of time for the fam, I’ll be gone.  Until next time, Happy Halloween, Y’all!




Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Oktoberfest 2018: Best Places To Go & Family Friendly Things To Do

Want to experience Oktoberfest 2018 in the states while enjoying these fall festivals for the family fun – not the beer?! Oktoberfest celebrations can be about so much more than filling those steins – the parades, music, dancing, beautiful outdoor surroundings, yummy food, corn mazes, and contests that the whole family can enjoy. Not all Oktoberfests are kid-friendly, so check out this Southern guide to the best Oktoberfest 2018 places and things to do with the fam in tow.

Oktoberfest 2018 Girls dressed in German traditional costumes

Best Oktoberfest 2018 festivals

The very first time we traveled to Helen, Georgia in the fall, our son was young and all about discovering the great outdoors. He’s married and in his twenties now, but the Oktoberfest festival that we stumbled upon in that quaint little town about twenty years ago is still one of my fondest family vacation memories of his childhood.  Even though we weren’t drinkers (and still aren’t), there are ways to make the most of the autumn season with the best fall festivals around.


Helen, Georgia is the alpine-style village that’s an adorable adaptation to Munich, Germany’s love for fun, music, and fall festivals with friends and family.  Here you can walk the quaint city streets, eating and shopping to your hearts desire while German music wafts in the background.  At this 48th Annual Oktoberfest, watch the parade, learn to polka, ride on a horse-drawn carriage, or visit the “Oompah-central,” a music and dancing hall with traditional German music and the most genuine German wursts and sausages you’ll ever put in your mouth.


Head on over to Cullman, Alabama for a free event for the whole family at their 37th Annual Cullman Oktoberfest 2018!  At this fall festival that celebrates their German heritage, you’ll find German music and food vendors, families can enjoy unique crafts, talented artisans, a car show, jumpy house, kid contests, dancing, a dog show, farmer’s market, and more.


Don’t miss Chattanooga, Tennessee’s two-day fall festival in its 14th year!  Enjoy the sounds, sights, and yummy smells of German fare.  There will be entertainment, shopping, dancing, culinary delights, Oompah bands and the crowning of Mr. and Ms. Chattanooga Oktoberfest.  This annual event is family-friendly fun for all.


One of the most unique Oktoberfest celebrations in the South, the 12th Annual Myrtle Beach Oktoberfest is sure to bring a smile to all family members.  With over 50 vendors, kid activities, pony rides, live music, face painting, inflatables, and a fabulous pumpkin patch.  So. much. fun.


The 28th Annual Oktoberfest at Sugar Mountain Resort is designed with bringing the whole family in mind.  As a matter of fact, the Valle Crucis Middle School band will remind you that you’re still in the good Ole USA.  On the schedule are arts and craft vendors, Bavarian food and drinks, costume contest, chairlift rides, a children’s fun center, and more.  Admission, parking, and even the shuttle service to and from the festival are all free.


Those in Celebration, Florida claim that their Oktoberfest 2018 is the coolest family-friendly Oktoberfest in the Southeast.  It’s no wonder, because the Celebration Town Center transforms into a fall festival to remember.  Hop on a hayride, stroll the grounds, listen to incredible live music like America’s Got Talent finalist, Carly Jo Jackson, and participate in the fun of yodeling and crowd sing-a-longs.

I bet you don’t know how Oktoberfest started – Watch this!
I hope this Oktoberfest 2018 celebrations list is helpful.  I’d love to hear from you about it.

Know before you go to Oktoberfest 2018

Helen Oktoberfest: Sep 9th – Oct 28th – 1074 Edelweiss St., Helen, GA

Cullman Oktoberfest:  Oct. 3rd – Oct. 6th – Festhalle Platz, 209 1st Ave. NE., Cullman, AL

Chattanooga Oktoberfest:  Oct. 13th – Oct. 14th – 1801 Carter Street, Chattanooga, TN

Myrtle Beach Oktoberfest:  Oct. 12th – 13th – 1150 Farrow Parkway, Myrtle Beach, SC

Sugar Mountain Oktoberfest:  Oct. 13th – Oct. 14th – 1009 Sugar Mountain Drive, Village of Sugar Mountain, NC

Oktoberfest Street Celebration:  Oct. 19th – 20th – 610-Sycamore St. Suite 220, Celebration, FL

Which of these Oktoberfest 2018 celebrations are you the most excited about?  Do you have any more in the South we should know about?  Tell us about it in the comments!


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Best East Coast Beaches: Our Pick For Florida’s Best Beach Sand + Water

You know that our family was on a quest for the best East Coast beaches for families this year and I promised that we’d share our results after our long Florida beaches tour.  We traveled from Northeast Florida all the way to Key West to compare beaches of Jensen, Jupiter, West Palm, Miami, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West, Florida beaches. Whew! Which do you think we chose as the best East Coast beaches???
Key West Beach with hammock and palm trees for best east coast beaches

Best East Coast beaches

We were curious to discover the differences between the beach sand, atmosphere, shells, and water from one end of Florida to the other (Florida Gulf beaches, we’re coming for you next)! Our judging scale took into consideration the seclusion, sand, atmosphere, water clarity, and water color to choose the best East Coast beaches in Florida.  More details about each beach will be at the very end!

After a couple family discussions, we’ve narrowed down the results of our best East Coast beaches contest:


It’s still incredibly surprising to us that Miami Beach was so unbelievably gorgeous and a place we are dying to revisit and spend more time.  Our Miami beach time was cut very short because we were on a mission to arrive at our first Florida Keys resort that day.  If we didn’t already have reservations further south, we could have definitely gotten lost on those white sandy beaches.  Don’t worry, we’ll return for a longer Miami family vacation and let you know why families should definitely take a vacation to Miami Beach with kids.

Miami beach with visitors, sand, and ocean for best East Coast beaches

Miami Beach

Miami Beach with Kids?!


I wasn’t sure Jensen Beach would be worth driving a few miles off the interstate to Hutchinson Island.  We’d left the Florida Keys bright and early and were desperately searching for a great beach for the day.

We had already tried two beaches that ended in disappointment.  Bahia Honda State Park (in between Key West and Marathon) had no beach access due to lingering hurricane damage.  Jupiter Beach was had a rocky coastline covered in algae.  Ewww!

Apparently it makes a huge difference which beach access you choose on Hutchinson Island.  We weren’t technically at Jensen Beach Park but were just South of it – which was perfect!  It was secluded, had a huge free parking lot, bathrooms, volleyball, picnic pavilions, and a lifeguard.  As you can see from the image below, the sand was gorgeous and the water was crystal clear and the prettiest shade of blue.  WooHoo! We parked at the Jensen Beach parking lot at about this address -> 4065 Ocean Blvd.

Girl in Jensen Beach - Hutchinson Island Florida ocean for best East Coast beaches

The crystal clear ocean of Jensen Beach and Hutchinson Island



Here’s the deal: one of the most amazing draws to the Florida Keys is the enormous coral reef that is world renown for diving and sportfishing.  This incredible barrier is also what protects the Keys but makes waves and the culmination of sand almost impossible.  It also creates a rocky bed along the seashore of the Keys and Key West.

I was determined to find white sandy beaches without a rocky seawall to access the beautiful turquoise waters of Key West.  Like I talked about in Key West Vacation Ideas, Higgs Beach and Fort Zachary have good beaches – they just may be different than what you are picturing.

However, Smathers Beach (public) and the private beach behind Casa Marina Resort, although manmade, had stunning white sand and beautiful turquoise waters.  We didn’t get to spend time at Smathers and I was so sad.  It was gorgeous.

The stunning, private beach behind the Casa Marina resort was the destination to begin the Barefoot Billy’s Jet Ski Adventure.  You’ll see in the footage below that the over 1,000 feet of private beach is full of swaying palm trees and luxury hammocks, as well as jet skis and other recreation.  Closer to the resort has quiet lounge chairs and massage opportunities – even for those that are not guests.

Key West beach with sign and jet skis for best East Coast beaches

Key West Private Beach at Casa Marina Resort

One of our favorite east coast beaches

It was a little hot and exhausting as we searched for the best beaches that Florida has to offer on the East Coast. It was all worth it though when we did find the white, fluffy sand and crystal blue waters. There’s nothing like a beautiful beach!

Which one of these on our family’s Best East Coast Beaches list will you visit first?  Share your experience with these beaches in the comments as well!

Know before you go

Miami Beach:  6261 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL

Jensen Beach:   4065 Ocean Blvd, Hutchinson Island, FL

Smathers Beach:  2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL

Casa Marina Beach:  1500 Reynolds St, Key West, FL


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Best Way To Clean Blinds Fast + Easy + Without Taking Them Down

The best way to clean blinds is what I wanted to figure out so that I could get it done fast and in the easiest way.  Amen?  I love sharing new cleaning hacks and easy recipes that I’m excited about with y’all so we can all get on to the fun stuff in life.  You may be surprised at what I found was the best way to clean blinds without taking them down.  I mean, who wants to take those suckers down? 

image of bedroom blinds and the best way to clean blinds

ordering plantation shutters

Best Way to Clean Blinds Fast & Easy

Overwhelmed women have asked me how to clean blinds without taking them down because nobody has time for that!  AmIright?  With the following cleaning blinds hack, you could literally learn how to clean blinds correctly and be done in seconds.  I break down ideas on the best way to clean blinds depending on what you are starting with – no matter whether they are fabric or not.  This includes:

  • how to clean aluminum blinds
  • how to clean vinyl blinds
  • the best way to clean wood blinds
  • the best way to clean plantation shutters


Part A:  Swiping across the blinds quickly with a dustbuster does the job the best to remove thick layers of dust so that it doesn’t fly everywhere or make a huge mess.  If you do not own one of those, use the upholstery tool of your vacuum cleaner to perform the same action.

My favorite quick dusting tool
Part B:  Then dip two long socks into a bowl of hot water soapy with Dawn detergent and them wring out the water. Put the damp socks on your hands and forearms and run your left thumb and pointer finger along the top blind, touching the top and bottom at the same time.  Do the same with your right hand on the second blind at the same time.  The idea is to act like you are performing a puppet show with those hands and clean two blinds at a time – top and bottom.


Take two dry socks on your arms and dip them in soapy (Dawn) water and then use one hand to lay blinds flat while the other hand swipes from left to right along the blinds or shutters.  Don’t forget to turn the blinds the opposite way and do the other side as well!


If there isn’t much dust on your blinds or you are performing maintenance on cleaning your blinds, then your method is simple.  Follow the direction given in Part B in the previous paragraph.  When you are done, simply wash the socks and save them for next time.

Socks as your dusting tool are the quick and cheap way to go.  If you prefer to have a real dusting tool, try the duster brush with microfiber sleeves. I also highly recommend having an air purifier or two in your home as I mentioned in my how to dust post.

brush with microfiber sleeves


Getting to the point where you are just “touching up” a couple times a month, as in example #2 above, is ideally where you want to be. Depending on whether you live in suburbia, a big city full of smog, or on a rural dirt road, your timetable will be different from other people.

My suggestion is to set a reminder on your phone (yes, I’m serious) for a week from now and see if your blinds need to be cleaned weekly.  If not, set it to every other week.

Don’t put it off – go set a timer and get it done, friend.  You’ll be amazed how quickly you can really know this cleaning hack out!

I’d love you to add to this with your best way to clean blinds tips below in the comments!


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes: Easy + Moist + Delicious + Dairy Free

My gluten free pumpkin cupcakes recipe began as a kitchen experiment for the season. My (VERY PICKY) family went so crazy over these sweet, light, and fluffy pumpkin spice cupcakes that I don’t have to add icing to them.  They’re just that good and they disappear fast – true story!  Yep, you’ll want to check out this super easy recipe with normal ingredients that results in moist and delicious gluten free pumpkin cupcakes (shhh – that no one will ever know are gluten free and dairy free too)!

Gluten-free Pumpkin Cupcakes on wood table


Best Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

That’s the way our easy, delicious recipes roll around here these days – without gluten or dairy, but trust me, no one will taste the difference! This recipe is so easy because you start with a cake mix, and a couple normal ingredients, and poof, you’ve got incredibly tasty cupcakes that would even be perfect for cozy fall mornings with a cup o’ joe.


1 (15 oz) Great Value Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (gluten, dairy, and soy free)
6 Tbsp. butter, soft (I use Smart Balance dairy free butter)
3 eggs (room temperature, if possible)
3/4 cup milk (I used Silk Almond Milk)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 heaping Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 Tbsp. maple syrup


There’s a printable recipe card below, but here’s the basic idea –>

After following instructions on the back of this specific gluten free cake mix, add pumpkin, syrup, and pumpkin pie spice, mix and pour into cupcake tins. Bake for about 25 minutes and you are done.

Easy Peasy!

Here’s your printable recipe card for my gluten free pumpkin cupcakes:

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cupcakes: Easy + Moist + Delicious + Dairy Free
  • 1 (15 oz) Great Value Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (gluten, dairy, and soy free)
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, soft (I use Smart Balance dairy free butter)
  • 3 eggs (room temperature, if possible)
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used Silk Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  1. Follow directions on the back of Gluten Free cake mix
  2. Add canned pumpkin.
  3. Add maple syrup.
  4. Add Pumpkin Pie Spice.
  5. Stir well until there aren't any lumps.
  6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Do not overcook.
  8. *optional - frost with your favorite icing.
  9. Our cupcakes never last long enough to get icing! 😉

Since this recipe turned out so moist and tasty, I plan to test out more gluten free, dairy free pumpkin recipes this season – and I’ll tell you all about it when I do!  Just so you know, these gluten free pumpkin spice cupcakes are addictive – proceed with caution!


I hope you trust me on this one, these babies are amazing! You might better plan to make two batches because the first one will be gone in a jiffy!




Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Best Fairs + Pumpkin Patches + Festivals Near Me & You Not To Miss This Fall

Fairs & festivals near me & you

Raise your hand if you are like me and asking, “Where are the best fairs, pumpkin patches, and festivals near me this year in October and November?”  Fall events get me all nostalgic and take me back to my childhood when our towns had more community and small-town feel. Can you relate? Ah, the warm fuzzy feelings of strolling through fall fairs, festivals, and pumpkin patches that smell of candied apples, hay, syrup, and pumpkin spice!  I’ve got a great list of fall family fun in the South that’ll bring all the feels.

BEST Pumpkin Patches, Fairs, & Festivals Near Me & You this Fall - details you really want to know about Things to do This October & November!

Best Fairs & festivals near me and you

You know I love sharing the best of the south!  Are you ready for some wholesome family fun where fall-focused festivities and family-friendly activities abound – especially outdoors.  Here are this year’s best festivities with the dates and links at the very end.

Unicoi County Apple Festival

Join in on the fun at the Unicoi County Apple Festival in Erwin, Tennessee where over 350 arts and craft vendors and three food courts of food vendors will be spread out along the festival grounds.  There will also be three live music stages where performances will enhance the festivities. Don’t miss the tournaments, the pageant, the apple dumpling contest, and the large kid’s area.

Georgia National Fair

There’s no excuse to not visit the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia, but this annual, family-friendly event goes on for 11 full days and nights.  It began in 1990 and has grown to thousands of visitors free concerts, adventure rides for young and old, agricultural exhibits, livestock, and so much free entertainment.  This video shows the enormity of this fun family event in Georgia!

watch Georgia National Fair video

Amelia Island Jazz Festival

Fernandina Beach, FL – Oct 7, 2018
A week long event with world-class jazz kicks off with a free concert and exposes thousands of people of all backgrounds to the excitement and life and wonderful jazz music.  It’s a diverse cultural offering to the Amelia Island, Florida area that brings the city together (with a purpose to fund college educations for aspiring jazz musicians) with many different jazz styles.  What’s fun is that the jazz performances are staged all around Amelia Island at different venues for everyone to find and enjoy.

Blairsville Sorghum Festival

Ask anyone that has ever attended the Blairsville Sorghum Festival and you’ll find out that these folks know how to have fascinating, down home fun.  A part of Blairsville’s heritage for almost 50 years, these two weekends of fun can’t be beat!  The list is long of family-friendly activities:

  • live entertainment
  • square dancing
  • Sorghum Festival Parade
  • Arts & crafts
  • Exhibits
  • Food vendors
  • “Biskit-eating” contest
  • Pole climbing
  • Log sawing
  • Horseshoe Pitching
  • Rock throwing
  • Working sorghum mill
  • rides
  • Lots to see, buy, eat, & do

North Carolina Seafood Festival

Talk about fall food festivals near me and you that are absolutely incredible!  This is so much more than a food festival, however.  In its 32nd year, the North Carolina Seafood Festival happens on the beautiful Morehead City waterfront and offers a variety of seafood, concerts, vendors, Chef’s talents, boat shows, exhibits, fireworks, and so much more.  There’s also free admission and parking at the port with shuttles that will transport folks to the fun.

Seafood Festival

Best pumpkin patches near me & you

The thing about pumpkin patches is that they get is outside to enjoy the crisp fall air, hayrides, and the rewards of country town harvests.  Adults become children again as we trudge through huge corn mazes without a thought – it’s just too fun to think being tired afterward.  It’s our responsibility also to make sure that kids in our life grown up making these fun, family-friendly memories outdoors.

Mitcham Farm

Fall is just more fun when you spend the day at Mitcham Farm!  Have you ever experienced a large corn maze with a game in the middle of it?  With a regular admission ticket, families can enjoy Colonel Cob’s corn maze, a mini corn maze, hay rides, a giant jumping pad, cow train, a corn cannon, super slide, and many picnic tables.  For an extra fee, you can enjoy a hayride out to bonfire pits, a helicopter ride, a bull ride, and of course, lots of concession food!

BEST Pumpkin Patches, Fairs, & Festivals Near Me & You this Fall of things to do this October and November! Pumpkins & Wagon

Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres

Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres is an adorable working farm with a family legacy that dates back to the Civil War.  This Christian family decided to go from strictly owning chicken houses to blessing an entire region with their

Your general admission ticket will include a fun wagon ride to and from the corn field maze, a trip through the corn maze, build-your-own-scarecrow area, tumble bug races, barnyard alley, corn box, corn hole, cow & horse trains, duck races, dirt hill, hay jump, Lincoln logs, spider web, the play set, teether ball, volleyball, see saws, pedal carts, and the pumpkin patch!  Wow!  For a little extra, your family can enjoy the corn cannon and horseback riding as well.

Little Cane Creek Farm Corn Maze

How does a themed 5-acre corn maze, hayride, straw bale maze, pyramid, slide, tunnel, spider web challenge, pumpkin patch, and sunflower patch sound?  These are just a few of the fun outdoor activities available at Little Cane Creek Farm Corn Maze in West Union, South Carolina. “Flashlight Nights” at the farm are a big hit too but be sure to bring a flashlight in case you “get lost!”

This list of the best fairs, pumpkin patches, and festivals near me and you this year in October and November is truly a love of mine to pull together for you every year.  Our family looks forward to running into you at these fabulous fall event venues.  Look for us and tell them that I sent you!

Tis the season for pumpkins and lots of family fun so enjoy yourself!

Info before you Go

Unicoi County Apple Festival:  Oct. 5th & 6th, 100 S. Main Street, Erwin, TN

North Carolina Seafood Festival:  Oct. 5th-7th, 412 D Evans Street, Morehead City, NC

Georgia National Fair:  Oct. 4th – Oct. 14th, 401 Larry Walker Pkwy. Perry, GA

Amelia Island Jazz Festival:  Oct. 7th – Oct. 14th, Amelia Island, FL

Blairsville Sorghum Festival:  2nd & 3rd weekends of October, 90 Meeks Park Rd, Blairsville, GA

Micham Farms:  Sept. 22nd – November 4th, 797 W Macedonia Church Rd, Oxford, GA

Conner’s A-Maize-Ing Acres:  Sept. 29th – October 27th., 19856 County Road 121, Hilliard, FL

Little Cane Creek Farm:  Sep. 21st – Nov. 4th, 2480 North Highway 11, West Union, SC

Meet the Conners & their Florida Pumpkin Patch

Which pumpkin patches, fairs, & fall festivals near me and you do you love the most?  Let me hear from you in the comments also with ones that I missed!


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

Disney World Tips And Secrets To Finally Book Your Disney Vacay!

I know that you’ve been wanting to visit Disney but you’re overwhelmed, so I have a few Disney World tips and secrets to help you finally plan a Disney vacation that’s just right for you (even if it’s way in advance). I’m just a Disney World blog Mom that’s learned a Disney tip or two about how to save money, the best time to visit Disney World and things to do at Disney, as well as a helpful Disney packing list. Let’s go?!

TOP Disney World tips and secrets to reduce Overwhelm - Rose Gold Disney Ears & Epcot

Disney World tips and secrets

I’m sharing with you exactly which Disney World tips and secrets I’m using to plan our own 2019 Disney World vacation! I’ve been to Disney many times and this year, we had an incredible time without extravagant choices and breaking the bank. We also learned how to make the best use of our time and improve the vacation quality for the whole family.

Crowd calendar

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is spend my valuable time at Disney World with 11 bazillion other people.  So the first thing I always want to know is the best time to visit Disney World.  Due to all of the events and the ever-changing holiday dates that change each year, it’s great to at least glance at the Disney World crowd calendar 2019 before buying any park tickets!

There are many overwhelming Disney World crowd calendar sites that report specifics of these dates each year, so I compared all of the advice and have saved you the time (you are welcome!). I’ve put together the best times to visit Disney World for 2019 in which the experts agree:

  • Last 2 weeks of January
  • First 2 weeks of February
  • All of September
  • Weekdays during October
  • The week before Thanksgiving
  • 2nd Week of December weekdays

Cheapest time to visit Disney

If you are like me, the cost is your #2 concern once the crowd situation is taken care of.  Plain and simple… Disney World tickets will be more expensive during certain time frames and holidays.  There are dozens of websites with specific dates, but essentially, you’ll see the largest increase on Disney hotels and resorts and tickets from Valentines Day until the end of May and Mid-November until New Year’s Day.  A smaller increase, but an increase just the same will be from Memorial Day until the end of August.  The cheapest time, according to research by Time + Leisure are the months of January and February.

Takeaway Secret:  If you plan ahead when it’s not peak season, Walt Disney World park tickets can be discounted tremendously.

Disney World resorts vs. off-property resorts

One of the biggest questions of this century is “to stay or not to stay on Walt Disney World property.”  There are definitely valid arguments on both sides of the aisle but it comes down to whether you are able and willing to pay for extra Disney magic and the conveniences of staying on property.  If you visit Disney World during a non-peak time, the value resorts could be $99 a night.  Alternatively, campsites at Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness start at $55 a night.

It is my humble opinion that it would be worth your weight in gold to stay at a Disney resort with young kids for this reason. -> You have the option to start early in the morning (to beat the crowds and heat in the summer) and then go back to the room for a nap and food, to return later when the crowds have dissipated and your kiddo is in a better mood!

The magic bands and magical express (airport transportation) luggage tags are a nice perk to have for those staying in Disney resorts.  The magic bands are your park ticket, room key, and payment (if you wish) for convenience and your luggage tags will keep you from having to go to baggage claim at the airport. Order bands and tags as soon as possible so they’ll have time to be sent to you before your vacation!

The My Disney Experience app is amazing.  Create a My Disney Experience on your computer and add the app to your phone.  Both places sync all of your information and let you check things like ride wait times and dinner reservations.

Also, “good neighbor” hotels in Orlando don’t seem to offer any guarantee of quality or bonuses for guests.  The only step up from a typical hotel is that you can buy park tickets on-site.

Takeaway Secret:  Several Walt Disney World resorts can be very affordable if they aren’t booked during peak seasons.

Walt Disney World freebies

Besides the cheaper ticket options and resort tips above, the freebies offered are incredible Disney World tips and secrets at Walt Disney World that many people don’t take advantage of.  Here are just a few of my favorite Disney World tips and secrets:

  1. Free WiFi
  2. Disney trading pins
  3. Kids under 3 eat free
  4. Disney Planning Videos
  5. My Disney Experience App
  6. Baby Care Centers at the 4 main parks
  7. Visit resorts around the property on the monorail
  8. Epcot’s Club Cool has free foundation drink samples.
  9. Most resorts have free balloons at the counters – just ask!
  10. Ghiradelli Chocolate Samples at Disney Spring’s Ghiradelli shop.
  11. Take a scenic, free boat ride to parks or for resort hopping if you need a break.
  12. Get a lei at the Polynesian Resort – even if you aren’t a resort guest there – just ask!
  13. Free signatures from characters for kiddos in an autograph book brought from home.
  14. Nightly events held at several WDW resorts like the Fort Wilderness campfire singalong.
  15. Disney resorts guests have free transportation around the property & to/from the airport.
  16. First Aid centers at each park have free supplies for common ailments needs like band-aids.
  17. Main Street, U.S.A., Confectionery gives free candy or pastry samples when they are available.
  18. Fastpass privileges are charged at Universal Studios/Six Flags theme parks but free at Disney Parks.
  19. Stickers and celebration buttons to match the occasion of your visit (1st timers, grads, etc) – ask resort staff.
  20. Walt Disney World offers free cups of water, hot or cold, for free all over the park in addition to water fountains.
  21. Merchandise purchased within parks can be delivered near the front entrance for convenient pick-up as you exit the park.

Takeaway secret:  Pick just a few and be diligent!

Top Disney World tips and secrets to plan that WDW Vacay - Main Street Dancers

Walt Disney World discounts & deals

If you know the time of year you’d like to visit Disney World in 2019 and are diligent in checking on the special offers, deals, and discounts on the Disney World site, you can save significant amounts. Unfortunately, the resort and vacation package discounts from Disney are somewhat unpredictable.

Did you know that you can attend one of Walt Disney World’s special night events by purchasing the event ticket only – it is not mandatory to buy a regular park ticket and spend the day.  You are welcome to show up at the time of your special events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  Keep in mind that special events typically bring larger crowds.

Don’t waste your time and money on any ‘discount’ book that you have to purchase for Walt Disney World.  You will fare better planning ahead and cutting corners where you can with the help of this article and others.

If you use our Disney World tips and secrets advice and book your hotel in advance as a “room-only” reservation (meaning that you aren’t getting a room + tickets package) in order to secure the best time for your family, the reservation can normally be changed later to reflect any discount codes or Annual Passholder discounts if the amount of them allotted is still available. If a discounted package is released later and you want to change your “room only” to a package – it’s totally doable.  You’ll just have to book the package and then cancel the “room only” reservation.  No worries, the Walt Disney World phone representatives are incredibly helpful when you call.

Takeaway secret:  Plan well in advance and put it on your calendar to check back for deals at certain times.

  • Top Disney World tips and secrets to help you finally plan that Disney World Vacay!

Walt Disney World dining tips

If you have your heart set on dining at a specific venue at Disney World, make reservations as soon as possible. All families are different, but for most, the following Disney World tips and secrets can save you gobs of money.

  1. Eat a big breakfast at your Disney resort or another breakfast joint
  2. Bring your own lunch (Disney allows this) or…
  3. Ride free transportation back to your Disney resort and have lunch (and a nap) or…
  4. If eating lunch in the parks, make it your main, large meal so that…
  5. You spend much less on lunch than dinner in the parks
  6. Try to only buy a large lunch meal & snacks in the parks
  7. Research the Disney dining plan and only use if it is a perfect fit for your family

Make sure that your Disney resort has a small refrigerator so that you can keep a few water bottles and snacks (and possibly breakfast items) in it for the “snacky” times when you aren’t at the parks.  Granola bars, yogurt, crackers, or any convenience foods will do.

Did you know that there is now mobile food ordering on your My Disney Experience app?  Simply make an order from the restaurants listed and pick it up at the specially-marked window when you get there.  No waiting in excessive food lines!!!

Takeaway secret:  Plan ahead and you can save a gazillion dollars on food at Disney!]

Other helpful content:


Disney restrooms

This may seem silly to some, but to others, it will be your favorite of my Disney World tips and secrets! When in the Magic Kingdom, do not try to find a bathroom in Liberty Square – there isn’t one.  The restrooms in Fantasyland at Rapunzel’s tower are the best ones in my opinion and the least crowded.  Be sure to locate the bathrooms on a map for the Disney park you will be visiting ahead of time – you’ll know exactly where to go – especially will small ones.

Takeaway secret:  Plan for potty breaks ahead of time.

Random Disney facts you’ll love

Did you know that you can request a Disney World Resort wake up call?  Let the kiddos answer and they’ll be shocked to know that the call is made by a Disney character!

Did you know that the Animal Kingdom has a lock on all the bathrooms?  Rumor is that they are for protection in case an animal were to ever get loose!

You can look up the average historical weather well in advance (from years past) to do your best in predicting your Disney World Weather?!

All in all, I hope these Disney World tips and secrets allow you to bite the bullet and plan that Disney family vacation that your whole family is wanting to take.  Make me a promise though, please tell me all about it!

Which Disney World tips and secrets surprised you the most?  Do you have any to add? Let me hear from you in the comments!


TOP Disney World Tips and Secrets - Image of Disney fireworks


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and Guru of “all things calm & cozy home.”

She shares “how-to” plan the best family vacations in the South with reviews & secrets that Women REALLY want to know. She also has quick home hacks to create a comfy space we all crave & easy recipes to knock your socks off!

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️