The Perfect Gifts for Mamas with James Avery Jewelry

This blog post is sponsored by James Avery Jewelry. In exchange for this post, I may receive perks and/or compensation; however, all opinions are my own. Click here to view our disclosure policy.


 

While Mother’s Day has come and gone, it’s never too late to gift that mama in your life with something special. And with that something special, I am so excited to be partnering with James Avery Jewelry here on the blog. Check out the bottom of the post for a special offer, including a free bracelet or necklace!

 

James Avery Jewelry - Gifts for Mom

My story with James Avery Jewelry

One thing I love about James Avery jewelry is that each piece tells a story — everything in their collection is meant to represent your heart and to remind you of important moments, people and things in your life. James Avery Jewelry was kind enough to gift me with a few pieces to represent my story.

James Avery Jewelry - Gifts for Mom

Family trips to the beach

One of my favorite vacation spots is Rosemary Beach, Florida. My husband and I first visited when we were dating several years ago, and since then, it’s become a special place for our family. From a girls’ trip with my own mom to our babymoon last year, our trips to the little beach town on 30A signify such important seasons of my life with those that I love.

I chose a sand dollar charm to commemorate these trips to the beach, reminding me of those incredibly special memories with my favorites. In fact, each time we go to Rosemary Beach, we find at least one untouched, beautiful sand dollar. That’s a big deal for someone from landlocked Oklahoma, ha!

 

James Avery Jewelry - Gifts for Mom

Welcoming our baby into the world

Most importantly, this year I became a mama! With chronic illness, pregnancy was quite the journey, but in early March, it was well worth it and more when our son came into the world – a bit early and by surprise! – via c-section.

I chose his birth stone to mark the most wonderful moment in my life, which is also a moment shared with loved ones. His birth stone even matches his crystal baby blues, making the charm even more special.

Every time I wear my James Avery necklace with its sweet little charms, I think about the most important things in my life and it brings me such joy. I am genuinely so excited to continue to build this necklace – and my family’s story! – with each and every lovely milestone.

 

James Avery Jewelry - Gifts for Mom

Get a free bracelet or necklace from James Avery

Do the same thing for a mama in your life and help her start her story with James Avery Jewelry. It’s the perfect gift for your own mom, an expectant mother or even the mama to your cute little nieces and nephews! From simplistic styles to 18k gold and gemstones, there is something for every woman and every budget.

When you shop at James Avery through May 29, you can buy two charms and receive a charm necklace or bracelet for free, up to a $70 value. What charms will you choose to tell your story?

 

Shop the collection here!

 


*Charm promo details: *Purchase two James Avery charms* and/or pendants and an eligible charm bracelet, hook-on bracelet, ankle bracelet or charm necklace and receive up to $70 off the transaction. Customers purchasing eligible charm necklace (NK-207; $30), charm bracelets (BR-20; $40 or BR-599; $50) or ankle bracelet (BR-613; $40) will receive that item’s value only. Offer valid 04/16/18 through 05/29/18 while supplies last. Available atJamesAvery.com, James Avery retail stores, through James Avery Customer Service, at select Dillard’s Department Stores and at Dillards.com. May not be combined with any other offer or applied to previous purchases. We reserve the right to limit quantities. No cash/credit back. *Glass Enhancer Beads do not count as James Avery charms for this promotion.

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis 

This blog post is sponsored by Planet Fitness. In exchange for this post, I may receive perks and/or compensation; however, all opinions are my own. Click here to view our disclosure policy.

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis, Chronic Illness Autoimmune Disease - Sponsored by Planet Fitness - brendadalton.com

1) Get the go-ahead from your physician

First and foremost, if you have any sort of temporary or chronic health issue, always get the go-ahead from your doctor(s). They can recommend the best plan of action for your fitness plan, including how often, at what intensity and the types of exercises that will fit your body best now and in the future.

For someone dealing with arthritis, low-impact exercises like yoga, light weights and machines like the elliptical are perfect ways to get started in the gym.

2) Work with your physical therapist or personal trainer

Much like working with your doctor, if you have a physical therapist, they can recommend great exercises for you to take part in at the gym. They’ll also give you handy stretches that you can use before and after your workout!

It never, ever hurts to bring a personal trainer into the mix, either. They can help you learn the ropes if you’re new to the gym, the machines or even fitness classes, suggest workout plans that fit your medical team’s suggestions and your lifestyle. Plus, having a personal trainer is like having a personal cheerleader, pushing you and cheering you on along the way!

Planet Fitness gyms in the United States offer free fitness training with their memberships. It’s amazing, since working with certified trainers can get eeeeeexpensive! Learn more about their personal training here.

3) Take it one step at a time, don’t push it!

After working with your doctors, physical therapist and even a personal trainer, you should have a good idea of how often you should work out, the types of exercises you should do and at what intensity. Trust your team and stick to it! Pushing yourself further can bring upon injury – temporary or permanent – and with that, can ruin the fun of building up to your fitness goals.

Start with shorter, less intense sessions and work your way up with supervision from your medical and fitness team. Trust me, having patience in this area is well worth it when you meet your goals and stay healthy the entire time.

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis, Chronic Illness Autoimmune Disease - Sponsored by Planet Fitness - brendadalton.com

4) Find a time that works for you

Finding the time is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when trying to make it to the gym on a regular basis. Personally, I love Planet Fitness because of the number of locations across the United States and they’re staffed 24 hours a day.

I’ve been a member of 24/7 gyms before, but was always totally weary going in the early, early mornings or late evenings due to the fact they aren’t actually staffed. Planet Fitness is key on safety and makes sure they always have someone in the building at all times to keep you safe, answer questions and help you meet your goals.

And even better, if you’re a PF Black Card member, you can visit any Planet Fitness location in the United States – at any time! – which makes it a perfect little companion whether you’re traveling for work, visiting family in other states or want to get a little workout in on vacation. In the Tulsa-area alone, there are six Planet Fitness locations, which makes it easy to stop in for a workout when out and about or running errands.

Pssst, check out the bottom of this post for current Planet Fitness specials — you could save big right now on a membership!

5) Bring a workout buddy

You’ve probably heard this advice before, but I’ll add it because it’s true: Find a workout buddy. Not only will they help hold you accountable – and vice versa! – it’s nice to have someone to chat with while you’re working out. Plus, they can give you a few pointers on your form, right? And here’s something fun: If you’re a Planet Fitness Black Card member, you can bring a guest for free as many times as you want. Goodbye, gym boredom… hello, endless exercise pals!

6) Try a fitness class

I love fitness classes for the fact that I can find a time that works for me, pop it in my calendar and I am way more likely to show up than if I were just going to do a regular workout on my own. It’s like a little can’t-miss-date in my calendar!

For those of us with chronic pain, yoga classes are a great way to stretch out those muscles and loosen up those joints. Most places that offer yoga classes offer a variety of levels. Start with the beginning classes, let your instructor know of any injuries or pain you currently have, and they’ll help walk you through the rest!

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis, Chronic Illness Autoimmune Disease - Sponsored by Planet Fitness - brendadalton.com

7) Find a gym or facility that’s judgement-free

For those of us with chronic illnesses, especially those that can impede our physical capability, we can sometimes be a little self-conscious. Have you ever been to a gym where everyone looked like a supermodel and folks were lifting hundreds of pounds with muscles bulging? While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can be incredibly intimidating for those of us who are just getting back in the swing of things or aren’t there to win awards.

I’ve had memberships at many other gyms and frankly, Planet Fitness has been my favorite. They pride themselves on being a Judgement Free Zone® (no, really! It’s even their tagline!). You’ll find folks of all ages and abilities working out at any time with staff that is there to encourage and support your goals and success.

8) Take advantage of those end-of-year and new-year sales!

This is the time of year that people are making New Year’s resolutions to get fit. Why not join in at a great price?

Gym memberships can be expensive, but if you keep an eye out for special promotions and sales, you can join a gym that suits your needs best for a fraction of the cost. That means you can save a little (or a lot ofmoney and put it toward cute new exercise clothes and comfy tennis shoes, right?

Right now, Planet Fitness locations in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area are offering a year membership for new members for just $99 until Dec. 14 (when paid in full) and $0 enrollment fee and then $21.99 a month for Black Card membership through Dec. 31. Use code DaltonPF to activate your Black Card membership for 2018 with no enrollment fee when you sign up here!

Black Card memberships cover all of the basics, plus you’ll get access to more than 1,400+ clubs in the United States, guest (aka bring a friend!) privileges no matter what club you’re visiting, unlimited use of HydroMassage chairs, half-price cooler drinks and so much more. Learn more about Black Card perks at Tulsa Planet Fitness locations here.

8 Tips for Hitting the Gym with Arthritis, Chronic Illness Autoimmune Disease - Sponsored by Planet Fitness - brendadalton.com

This promotion is available for Tulsa, Oklahoma-area Planet Fitness locations only, including:

Broken Arrow | Claremore | South Tulsa | Tulsa (Admiral) | Tulsa (Riverside) | Tulsa (Memorial)

Click here or one of the locations above and use promo code DaltonPF to activate your Planet Fitness Black Card membership for 2018 with $0 enrollment fee!

How to Make Hosting Stress-Free & Easy During Holidays

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.

How to Make Hosting Stress Free This Holiday Season

As with most, the holidays often include hosting at least one event, whether it is at your house or helping others prepare a glorious meal or fun little event to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and everything in between.

Unfortunately, for those of us with chronic illnesses, hosting can be a daunting cloud, filled with worry as to how everything will actually get done.

Before I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses, I loooooooved hosting get togethers and entertaining friends and family. Whether it was a holiday, shower or just a fun little party, I loved every aspect: The planning, the mood boards, the shopping, the prepping, the celebrating – everything!

However, now that my energy levels have decreased and I have to choose wisely on how I expend energy, I’ve come up with lots of shortcuts to make hosting stress-free and easy during the holidays.

Make lists

I’m the over-preparer in my family and lists are an absolute lifesaver for me when I’m hosting any sort of get-together. For example, for Thanksgiving, I have several lists:

  • Menu
    • By appetizers, main dishes, sides and desserts and who is bringing
  • Shopping lists
    • Broken down by perishables, freezer items and non-perishables
    • Broken down by store, if applicable
    • This makes it easy to break shopping into several trips over the course of a month!
  • Preparation timelines
    • I make my timeline over the course of the week or two (see the next section on preparing in advance!)
    • Timelines include food prep and cooking, plus things that will need to be done around the house, like cleaning, organizing, pulling items from storage and so on

Prepare in advance

Just as I mentioned in my baby shower post: prepare, prepare, prepare! When you have limited energy, this is key. The week before, I start pulling out utensils, platters, crockpots and store them in a corner of my dining room. Wash table linens early and store in a clean area.

Take advantage of shortcuts

Over the years — and thanks to technology, too! — I’ve found a number of shortcuts that have saved my life:

You don’t have to make each dish from scratch. This is by far the easiest time saver. Pick up a frozen pie or two, add a can of whipped cream and I guarantee your guests will be just as happy as if it was homemade! Frozen vegetables can easily be put on the stove with your choice of seasonings. And of course, frozen rolls, biscuits or bread can be ready in the oven in a matter of minutes.

Try online grocery shopping or delivery. Our local (and my favorite) grocery store in northeast Oklahoma, Reasor’s, offers online shopping and pickup at the curb.

When I have an especially large load of groceries, heavy items or I’m short on time and energy, I take full advantage of placing my grocery order online or through their app. I pull up to a designated parking spot, call the store and they bring my groceries out and load them into the car. This is such an energy (and pain) saver, especially when my arthritis flares up.

Most services have a small fee per order (Reasor’s is $5 for orders under $100) or charge a monthly or annual fee. I just got started with Shipt, a grocery delivery service, and can’t wait to report back on the experience! And a bonus: you can get $10 off your first order with Shipt when you click this link.

Start cooking early

You would be surprised at how many things you can cook or prepare in advance and/or freeze! This is such a lifesaver, because who wants to be mashing potatoes and slaving over a stove over relaxing and enjoying time with guests?

For our family, we make the cranberry sauce and applesauce as far as two weeks in advance and both freeze beautifully. Pull them out 48 hours before guests arrive and it tastes like it was made that morning.

Many folks like the presentation of a beautifully cooked bird and carve right at the table. I like to make it a bit easier and cook and carve the turkey the day before. About 30-45 minutes before serving, pull the oven-safe platter with your turkey out, pour a little stock on top and reheat until warm. Place on a beautiful platter and you’re ready!

I also like to prepare any sides in advance, a day or two before, then place all of the ingredients in plastic bags. For example, the bacon is cooked a day or two early, placed in a large bag with green beans. I then place any seasonings in a smaller plastic bag and ta-da, everything is ready to be dumped into a Crockpot or slow cooker to cook the day of.

Slow cookers are a miracle!

Speaking of green beans in a slow cooker, this is a major thing for me for any gathering, holiday or not. From appetizers to reheating main dishes, slow cookers can save you time, hassle and space in the oven.

Slow cookers may technically take longer, but it cuts prep time and worrying in half when you don’t have to check on items in the oven or worry something might boil over on the stove.

All in all, thanks to my shortcuts I’ve mastered over the years, holiday dinner prep comes to about one hour per day the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas and with the help of guests, less than an hour of prep and active work the day of!

Tell me in the comments: How do you make hosting or preparing for the holidays easier?

A Rustic Farm Baby Shower

Please note: I received products or promotional items mentioned in this post for free as part of the HP Millennial Influencer Panel. Links in this post may be affiliate. All opinions are my own.


A Rustic Farm Baby Shower

A Rustic Farm Baby Shower, complete with bundt cakes, rustic decor, farm animals, baby shower games and popcorn bar.

Over the weekend, we hosted a co-ed baby shower (more appropriately, a sprinkle!) for my sister and their new arrival. Rustic farm and barnyard is the theme of his nursery, so I wanted to pull together a simple party that surrounded that theme.

We focused on farm-fresh vegetables, cheeses and meats for light snacks, “pigs in a blanket” as a cute nod to the theme, and more bundt cakes than you could shake a stick at! We also incorporated flavored popcorns from a local vendor in Tulsa, which was also a feature at their wedding three years ago. Everything comes full circle!

Typically, the guest lists for baby sprinkles are small, so we kept games to a minimum with baby Pictionary and little activities like writing a wish for the baby and guessing his due date.

I created all of the printed items from the baby shower like the food and drink cards, welcome sign and more with InDesign and printed with the HP AMP 100. It was my first test drive using this HP printer as part of the HP Millennial Influencer Panel for the next year.

And the AMP isn’t your everyday printer. Not only is the quality of printing perfect for at-home printing for things like parties, showers and other get-togethers, the printer has bluetooth capability and a speaker. Yes, a speaker!

I’ll be honest: I was a bit skeptical of a bluetooth speaker in a printer. I didn’t think I would ever find it useful; however, when testing the speaker out by launching Spotify on my iPhone and connecting effortlessly to the printer, I was blown away by the quality of sound. Even my husband walked into the office and asked, “Is that coming from the printer?!” 

It has much better sound than my MacBook Air, which is what I usually listen to music on while I’m working. The tones are great and unlike other Bluetooth speakers that are smaller and/or cheaper, it has a nice, full sound. I wouldn’t mind using the HP printer‘s speakers during a party!

Tips for hosting parties when your energy level is low

As a reader of this blog, you probably know I have autoimmune diseases, arthritis and I’m pregnant! So to say I had boundless energy was far from the truth.

Prep in advance. I began designing the printed materials weeks in advance. By the week of the party, they were ready to print and be cut! The day before the shower, we began setting up the tablescapes and decor and arranging the flowers so we weren’t rushing around the day of the event.

Enlist help. It’s okay to ask for help! Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you can’t have an army behind you making things a little easier and more organized. I sent my husband on errands, my mother to the grocery store and by the time everyone chipped in, it took a major load off my shoulders. All hands were on deck after the shower was over, too.

Have a seat. A good host greets their guests and makes sure they have a good time, but you, too, deserve a good time! Due to arthritis, it’s difficult for me to stand for too long, but I made sure there were plenty of places to sit and socialize during the shower. In fact, chairs are a top priority for any event I plan and host! Another tip: Make sure your seat is in a central location so you can keep an eye on things.

Who are your favorite people to enlist help from when it’s your time to host?

First Trimester Pregnancy Essentials

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.


First Trimester Pregnancy Essentials

First Trimester Pregnancy Essentials

Wait, why would I be an expert on first trimester goodies for pregnant women? That’s right: surprise! We’re expecting our first child in early 2018. We’re over the moon!

However, it didn’t matter how prepared I thought I was for pregnancy and all of its symptoms… It still surprised me the severity of some, especially while dealing with autoimmune disease like arthritis and thyroid disorder. Here are some of my favorite tips and items that made things go a little bit smoother those first 13 weeks!

Rest, nap, sleep, breathe… When you need it

The hardest thing for me to cope with during my first trimester was my guilt surrounding my need to nap… every single day. Even when my rheumatoid arthritis was at its worst, I had never felt more exhausted by simply waking up once I was pregnant.

It was a definite shock, but after I came to terms with the fact that is is more than okay to not only need a nap, but schedule one into each day, the easier things became. A sleep mask doesn’t hurt for those mid-day slumbers either.

Keep your doctors in the loop

If you’re like me and have chronic illnesses — most specifically autoimmune diseases — that you are currently on medication for, always make sure your doctors are in the loop. Personally, I have four specialist doctors who communicate between one another and decide the best treatment for my rheumatoid arthritis during my pregnancy.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the women who goes into remission during pregnancy, so I’ve remained on injections during pregnancy. In fact, my doctors were second to know (outside of my husband and I!) that I was pregnant so we could decide the best course of action. Always make sure your medications are approved by all your doctors, especially your obstetrician(s). And don’t be afraid to do your own research and ask questions. It’s now about you and your baby when it comes to your treatment!

A wedge pillow

You’ll see so many people tout how wonderful maternity pillows are, but if you’re early in your pregnancy, it may be a little too soon to jump into the full body pillow. I’m a lifelong stomach-sleeper, so to get myself prepared to sleep on my sides, I dipped my toe in the water: I bought a pregnancy wedge pillow.

And you guys, the hiccapop wedge has changed my life! Not only is it great for pregnancy, but it is awesome for arthritis, too. It’s primarily marketed mostly for sleeping at night, but I use it when driving as a back support (hello, tailbone pain), when I’m at my desk, on the couch… everywhere! There are so many ways to use it, too: between the legs, elevating your feet, behind your neck to sit up comfortably in bed. This is definitely my favorite first trimester purchase, hands down.

Belly band

I genuinely didn’t think I would need a belly band until well into my pregnancy. You can imagine my surprise when, at 11 weeks, I would pull on a pair of shorts or jeans like usual and when I would attempt to button them… no dice. Ingrid & Isabel belly bands have been my favorite so far and they come in a variety of colors.

Early in pregnancy, you can fold the band down (in half) for a little extra support for your tiny growing bump. As it gets bigger, simply unroll it to cover your whole stomach!

Pregnancy bath salts and thermometer

These two little babies go hand in hand. Experts say no hot tubs during pregnancy due to how hot the water can get, but I absolutely love taking baths, especially for my arthritis. I invested – ha! – in an incredibly affordable bath thermometer I found off Amazon. Works quickly, is accurate and gives me peace of mind when I take a bath.

My other favorite pregnancy bath product is Pink Stork Flakes. I originally picked these up because they claimed they could ease morning sickness… and it helps! Salts are a great way to relax your muscles and ease pain in your joints, whether you’re an arthritis warrior like me or dealing with regular pregnancy pains.

Preggie Pops

I admire and I’m a little jealous of women who go through pregnancy without any sort of morning sickness. Luckily for me, vomiting didn’t come around too often, but the nausea was almost debilitating for the first 10 weeks. While I was given prescription medication, I would still pop a Preggie Pop if I was having a particularly nauseating afternoon or driving somewhere… anywhere (oh yes, I had pregnancy car sickness!).

Now that I’m off the medication, I use these every now and then to combat the errant nausea. They last a long time and are easy to keep in your purse or pocket!


What are your favorite tips on getting through the first trimester of pregnancy?

In Health

It’s World Arthritis Day!

You guys, it’s World Arthritis Day! I’m currently part of the Cure Arthritis Crew, which helps bring awareness to and support research to help fight arthritis diseases. Check out the awesome resources from curearthritis.org to learn more about how you can make a big difference on World Arthritis Day.
 
Last year, I was finally diagnosed with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis after several years of mysterious pain and frankly, it has changed my entire life. Since then, I’ve learned a few things:

1) Invisible illness is real, y’all.

You may think the healthy-looking young man or woman taking up a seat on the bus, train or even a bench in the park is being selfish or parking in the handicap spot is wrong, but you may not know the pain they’re in. Someone may be super bubbly and seem totally physically capable out and about, but when they get home, they’re out of commission for an entire week because of pain. We’re good fakers.

2) It’s okay to be a “flake.”

I’ve lost touch with people because I either don’t have the energy to hang out, because of an arthritis flare or the activity is something I can no longer physically do. Some days are great days and some days are no-way-not-happening – you never know until it’s go-time. It’s also really difficult to see people you care about struggle – silence is sometimes how people cope with seeing others change with chronic illness.

3) Girl, you gotta rest.

Before my joint pain started, I used to do yoga, bike, run 5Ks and want to go-go-go on trips. I was even training for a half-marathon! Now, I’ve learned that I need to space out my physical activity (yes, even running errands, traveling, getting dressed up or social activities!). This was the hardest thing to learn and probably the most life-changing. I recommend looking up the spoon theory, if you’re interested in how this works!

4) Needles aren’t so scary anymore.

Now, I inject my arthritis medication myself on a weekly basis and have bloodwork done every 3-6 weeks. Even after several months of being on injections, sometimes when it’s time for me to inject, it’s almost impossible to find the courage to do it, but… it gets done. You can, too.

5) People with chronic illnesses of any kind are SO INCREDIBLY STRONG.

And when people reach out to others about how they’re physically feeling, it’s most likely because they can’t do it alone anymore. Finding the strength to reach out and ask for help is difficult, but makes you a total badass. For those of you with loved ones reaching out for help, lift those people up, support them. Everyone is fighting their own battle and we especially can’t compare our battles – physically or emotionally – with someone else’s. We all must speak up and support one another!
 
So, raise a glass to all of those folks battling arthritis diseases today – young and old! They’re some of the strongest people I know.

Fall Decor Finds on a Budget

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation if you choose to purchase any products linked below at no extra charge to you! Click here to view our disclosure policy.


Fall decor finds on a budget

The best fall decor on a budget

 

1 Round Metal Wire Storage Basket  | 2 Pumpkin Gourd Garland | 3 Distressed Wood Lantern | 4 Set of Six White Pumpkins | 5 Metal Filigree Pumpkin Tealight Holder | 6 Round Metal Filigree Pumpkin Tealight Holder | 7 Autumn Wooden Sign | 8 Harvest Candle | 9 Large Distressed Pumpkin | 10 Burlap Jute Acorns

While most people go all-out for their holiday decor in December, I’m a little partial to the warm tones and coziness of what autumn brings! Bright orange pumpkins don’t have to be the main event when decorating for fall on a budget.

Throw in some warm colors like deep oranges and reds for a traditional focus on the season. For more of a glam, or even relaxed farmhouse feel, add some distressed whites and grays to your mantle to showcase those gorgeous white and neutral pumpkins this time of year!

There is often a debate as to how early is too early to decorate for fall. For some, it’s when the air starts to chill and even when the leaves start to turn. Being in Oklahoma, my guideline is just after Labor Day, the official end of summer since it can still be relatively hot even in October.

The gorgeous natural tones and the thought of cooler weather makes me want to turn on the fireplace and curl up with a good book and a warm drink!

In Food, Recipe

Summer Gluten-Free Cake with Berries | Recipe

Gluten-Free Cake with Berries and no icing from BrendaDalton.com

Perfect gluten-free cake for summer!

Summer is all about spending time outdoors – or ya know, on patios – watermelon, cookouts, and hot weather. But why does that mean cake can’t come to the party?

This little cake is a subtle nod to that popular summer holiday in the states, whether you call it 4th of July, Independence Day, or Firecracker Day (really, I’ve heard it all!). With strawberries and blueberries baked within and topping the cake, it’s a nice little tribute to America.

I’m all about transparency, so the story behind this cake recipe is this: I thought this gluten-free cake was going straight to the trash. Really.

For the first time ever, my frosting failed, the cake fell in, it took way too long to bake, and I was ready to taste the cake and immediately dump it.

But I didn’t.

Because it turned out amazing.

If you’re someone who isn’t a fan of frosting, this is the cake for you. If you’re someone who loves frosting and can eat it right out of the bowl (hi, that’s me), this is the cake for you, too. If you want an excuse to eat cake in the summer, this is for you, too.

Gluten-Free Cake with Berries and no icing from BrendaDalton.com

I adapted this recipe from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring’s basic vanilla cake; however, I made some major modifications to this gluten-free cake recipe thanks to the berries, my desire to make it a little less sweet, and my genuine screw-ups along the way.

I have one major tip when baking, because I always wanted to make cute little 6″ cakes, but until recently, didn’t have the cute little pans:

Never make enough batter for an 8″ cake pan and pour it into 6″ cake pans. Just don’t do it! Even by accident! You’ll regret your whole life!

Okay, you won’t regret your whole life, but your cake will take forever to bake and will become slightly dry. And your husband or wife will be forced to eat an entire bowl-full of the extra gluten-free cake you had to slice off the top.

Gluten-Free Cake with Berries and no icing from BrendaDalton.com

This cake isn’t your super-sweet, give-you-a-headache, covered-in-frosting cake. It has a light, airy sweetness thanks to the dusting of powdered sugar and strawberry and blueberry puree within the cake.

It even tastes delicious warm, room temperature or cool.

When you top this cake with the berry purees, it gives it a slightly tangy and satisfying bite that’s unlike other cakes, making it perfect for late spring or the hot days of summer.


Ingredients:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 baking flour

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 egg whites + 1 whole egg at room temperature

1 1/4 cups buttermilk at room temperature*

*If you’re like me and always forget buttermilk, here’s an easy substitute: Add 1-1.5 tablespoons lemon juice to regular milk, stir and let rest for 5-10 minutes. You’ll see it slightly curdle – that’s good. Stir before mixing with other ingredients.

5-8 strawberries, depending on size

1 cup blueberries


Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease two 8″ or three 6″ baking pans and place parchment paper cut to fit in the bottom.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder. Add salt and whisk.

In a large bowl or bowl attached to a stand mixer, add butter, granulated sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium-high for 3 minutes until fluffy. You may need to scrape the mixture off the sides of the bowl halfway through.

Combine the egg whites, egg and buttermilk (or buttermilk substitute) into a bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the dry ingredients in 4 equal portions into the bowl with butter, sugar and vanilla, alternating with the milk and egg mixture. Mix between adding portions.

Continue to beat ingredients on medium speed until everything is fully combined and smooth.

Divide the batter into two (for 8″ pans) or three (for 6″ pans) and pour into medium-sized bowls.

In a food processor, chop up the strawberries until they’re mostly smooth – a few larger pieces are just fine. Pour half of the berry purée into one (for 8″ pans) or two (for 6″ pans) bowls of batter. Mix by hand to combine. Set the remaining berry purée aside for topping later.

Repeat the processing steps for the blueberries, adding a little less than half of the purée to the remaining pan(s). Set the remaining purée aside for topping.

Pour mix into pans until they’re filled evenly. Place the baking pans into preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick is clean and they are golden brown.

Remove the cakes from the oven and cool the cake in pans for 10-20 minutes before placing cakes onto a wire rack. Remove parchment paper and allow to cool completely.

To assemble the gluten-free cake, place on a stand, serving platter or plate. Place the first layer on the surface, then spread 1-2 tablespoons one of the berry purées on top until covered, but not dripping down the sides. Place the alternating flavor cake on top of the first layer. If using 3 6″ layers, spread the other berry purée and place the third layer on top.

If serving immediately, sift desired amount of powdered sugar on top and sides of cake. If serving later, wait until serving time to dust powdered sugar, since it will melt into the cake within a few hours.

Optional: Spread a tablespoon of each purée on center of cake, then top with berries or spread berry purée on individual pieces. Mix berry purée with cream cheese frosting and use between layers instead of puree-only.

Airplane Essentials | Travel Tips

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Airplane essentials for the modern woman. What to pack in your carry-on for easy and stylish traveling by air for arthritis and autoimmune disease. Read more from brendadalton.com!

For some people – like myself! – half the fun of traveling is packing and over the years, I’ve perfected my airplane essentials list. I’ve figured out the things I can’t live without while traveling by plane and the things that make my life with arthritis, a gluten-free diet, and autoimmune disease much easier. Most importantly, I’ve figured out the things that aren’t worth bringing because they never get used. I’ve even figured out the items that help me speed through security without an additional bag check, because that can slow down your race to the gate by a few minutes to half an hour!

First, it’s important to start with what’s on your body before you get out the door.

Things I never wear to the airport:

  • Statement jewelry
  • Dresses – especially maxi dresses – you’re more likely to be stopped by TSA for additional screening
  • Flip flops or strappy sandals – Mostly because you don’t want your bare feet touching the floor where thousands of others’ have, especially if you have autoimmune disease
  • Layers that are difficult to remove, like over-the-head sweatshirts and jackets
  • Belts
  • Hairstyles that require lots of bobby pins or metal hair accessories
  • Outfits that would work well in hot weather – because airplanes can be cold!

Things I do wear to the airport:

  • Sneakers, Sperrys or slip-on Keds
  • Socks (and if not, I have them ready to slip on at security/TSA Checkpoint)
  • Leggings or stretchy jeans
  • Tank top or plain tee
  • Oversized cardigan, preferably with pockets!
  • Simple necklace and earrings (these go in my carry-on until I’ve passed security)
  • Crossbody purse as a personal item

The number of items you may wear or pack depends on your ultimate destination, but here are my can’t-leave-home-without-’em airplane essentials that make traveling a breeze!

Travel Pillow & Blanket

This guy is a lifesaver. Not only is it easy to strap to your carry-on, but I also put some of the items that appear in this list in it: nose spray, facial spray, earbuds, a spare pen, Kindle, eye mask. What I love about this travel set is the pillow inflates when you take the blanket out, so you can control the firmness.

It works great as a lumbar pillow, regular pillow or just something to rest your hands on when tray tables are in their upright position. Shoutout to my arthritis friends! It’s also nice to have a little pillow and blanket in unfamiliar hotel rooms, too.

Lavender Mini Towelettes 

One time while traveling, I realized I was down to only one of these and still had a flight left before I was home. It was not pleasant. These delicious-smelling towelettes are a lifesaver on dirty planes, in not-so-clean hotel rooms and a great way to take makeup off or refresh your face at the end of a long travel day or a mid-flight nap. The lavender scent is also a great way to naturally ease any jitters before takeoff.

Since they’re antibacterial, I use these to wipe down the tray table, seat belt and everything around me when I board a plane. These are also great to do a little extra cleaning when you get to your hotel room, because trust me, it’s not as clean as you think!

Evian Mineral Water Facial Spray

My husband teases me about this one when I remember to bring it, but especially when we’re traveling early morning or late night, this is a lifesaver. It’s a great way to restore moisture to your face when you’re in a rush. And this spray lasts forever. Once you’ve stepped off the plane, spritz this facial spray under or over makeup. It’s especially lovely whether you’re on your way to your destination or back home to the real world.

Filtered Water Bottle

I do not travel anywhere without this thing. Seriously, it’s such a life saver. As someone with autoimmune issues, I’m not keen on drinking out of the tap or water fountains. I bring this empty water bottle through airport security and fill it up before I get on my flight.

This water bottle is also a big money saver! Ever notice how water bottles can get pretty expensive in hotels? The filter in this water bottle removes all the gunk and leaves you with delicious water even from your hotel bathroom. The ounces markings also make it easy for me to track how much water I’ve had for the day. Gotta stay hydrated!

Kindle & Kindle Unlimited

If I had the time, I would read three books a week, minimum. While I use my Kindle at home, it gets the most use when I’m traveling. I’m a fast reader and once I start a good book, it is impossible for me to put it down. This is especially true when on planes and in airports where the wifi is spotty, expensive or non-existent. Plus, it feels a little better to pass the time reading a book than it does to mindlessly play games on your phone or scroll through Facebook, right?

My favorite thing about my Kindle – besides the fact I got it half-price through a Black Friday sale – is Kindle Unlimited. For anyone who reads more than one book a month, it is 100% worth it. For $10 a month, you have access to over a million books on your Kindle.

Considering Kindle books can be anywhere from $5 to $15+, if you read one or two a month, you get your money’s worth. They even have super popular books, like the Harry Potter series and The Handmaid’s Tale.

With Kindle Unlimited, you also get access to thousands of audiobooks and magazines in addition to the massive library of regular e-books. Double win!

Portable Electronics Charger

It’s hard to imagine traveling without a smart phone, laptop, tablet, and ahem, Kindle! Even on short flights, I bring a portable charger. This thing has saved many a situation and is at the top of my airplane essentials list. You never know when you might have to bust out the navigation on your phone, which is a total battery suck, or research gluten-free restaurants near your hotel without access to an outlet.

This particular charger from Anker has been my favorite. I’ve gone through a few, but the Anker PowerCore has lasted me a few years. It holds a charge for a long time (fully charges an iPhone from 0%), is so small it can fit anywhere – even a pocket! – and recharges itself quickly. As of June 2017, it’s on sale for 50% off (under $20!).

Smith’s Rosebud Salve

I’ve mentioned this staple in blog posts before, but it bears repeating: This stuff is amazing. It’s on the list for airplane essentials and life essentials. This sweet little balm goes beyond a simple lip balm: Calm cuticles, patches of dry skin, smooth flyaways, keep brows in place, and even as an emergency makeup remover.  It’s perfect for ladies with psoriasis to help soothe skin! It’s soft, gentle, and the little tin gives it a luxurious feel and makes it incredibly durable for travel.

Saline Nose Spray

This is a pretty recent addition to the carry-on essentials list and not super glamorous. About two years ago, I started to get incredibly painful headaches and facial pain upon descent on airplanes, no matter what. My husband’s grandmother recommended a simple saline spray… and it works like a charm. About 30 minutes before landing, I pop this guy out, spray twice and relax.

I later learned this headache actually has a name: Aerosinusitis or an airplane headache, as it is commonly known. What happens is some folks are unable to equalize the change in barometric pressure when a plane begins to land, and that causes pain around the eyes and face. It typically clears up within 30 minutes of landing.

Snacks on Snacks on Snacks

Airplane snacks and meals can be expensive and if you have food allergies, finding gluten free or dairy free food can be a challenge! Some of my favorite travel snacks are nut mixes, oatmeal, popcorn, jerky and dried veggies and fruit. For morning flights, I love to bring a banana (or two!) from home with some of Justin’s individual nut butters; however, but bananas don’t always travel well in a purse or bag. Check out my full list of favorite traveling snacks and where to buy them in this blog post.

Overnight Essentials

Knock on wood, I’ve never had my checked luggage lost, delayed, or stolen, but I am always prepared just in case. In my carry-on, I pack the necessities that will last me overnight once I get to my destination. These overnight airplane essentials include: A comfortable tee (for pajamas or another outfit), linen shorts or leggings, underwear, bra, swimsuit, travel toothbrush, makeup and skincare basics, comb, hair ties, flip flops, mini first aid kit, and so on. And for my spoonies: Always, always, always carry all of your medications (even over-the-counter meds) in your carryon or personal item.

Backpack

For the longest time, I only traveled with “cute” or designer bags. After I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, my doctors suggested I stop carrying heavy bags on my shoulders. I love fashion, so I was devastated. …Until I realized the joy in traveling with an adorable backpack. Backpacks – or bookbags – are 100% in now. They make travel so. much. easier. And so much less painful!

I picked up a Herschel backpack in a gorgeous gray and can fit all of the airplane essentials on this list, plus a few other essentials like my laptop, notebooks, and more with room to spare. I typically check my larger luggage because arthritis can make it difficult for me to lift and carry for hours on end, so having an easy-to-transport piece of luggage as my carryon has changed airplane travel for me.

What are some of your favorite airplane essentials?

Home Office Inspiration

Home Office Inspiration for the modern woman from Brenda Dalton - brendadalton.com

When we were house hunting a year ago, the thing that sold me on our house we eventually bought was the little home office set away from all the action of the living areas. However, ten months later, I still haven’t done much in terms of decorating. Things are getting a little out of control, guys. I need some major home office inspiration.

I run my graphic design and digital marketing business, 835 Creative, out of my home office. Over the last year, it has grown (yay!) but the paperwork, inspiration pieces and more are piling up with nowhere to be stored. Plus, my office has no straight theme. Not even a hint of a vibe. I know, it’s sad, and most days I end up working in other parts of the house because of the disorganized mess.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting inspiration and all the steps I’m taking to give my home office a major makeover, making it a serene and beautiful place to work every day! I’m so excited to share this journey with you.

Before we can even dive into even thinking about buying furniture and decor though, home office inspiration is a must. Who better to gain home office inspiration from than my fellow bloggers and boss ladies?

Home office inspiration for the modern woman

Home Office Inspiration from Polished Habitat - polishedhabitat.com

Functional & Fabulous Office from Polished Habitat

Melissa from Polished Habitat transformed her shared office into a beautiful space for her to work, create and prepare orders for her Etsy shop. This classic, feminine design is beautiful, well-organized and functional! Check out more from her office reveal by visiting her website.

 

Craft Room and Office Space from Thrifty Decor Chick

Sarah’s craft room went through several transformations before turning into this farmhouse-inspired, cleanly decorated multi-purpose room. It features space to work, craft, wrap gifts with enough room for two people, plus a dreamy window seat to relax.

 

Meet Interior Designer Laura Burleson on SarahSarna.com | Photo by Alyssa Rosenheck

Light, Bright Office by Laura Burleson

This gorgeous, light-filled office was featured by Sarah Sarna. The light fixture reflects the gorgeous gold accents to give the room a pop of color. Having enough desk space to spread your work out is ideal for makers and creatives. And a cute little window doesn’t hurt either!

 

How to Make a Small Office Space Work from The Fashionista's Diary | thefashionistasdiary.com

How to Make a Small Office Space Work from The Fashionista’s Diary

Lauren from The Fashionista’s Diary nailed her small office space. Carved out of a corner of her bedroom, this airy, feminine space packs a punch in storage, yet still allows her personality to shine through.

 

Historic Ivy Flat Designed by Alice Lane Home

Show N’ Tell Historic Ivy Flat from Alice Lane Home

Despite working with a tiny area, this precious office from Alice Lane Home features the trending “millennial pink” on the walls, a vintage light fixture and a statement mirror to reflect light around the room. This gorgeous interior design proves that you can make even the smallest of office spaces glam and functional!