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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Homemade Gluten Free Vegan Custard or Jelly Donuts Recipe- With No Weird Ingredients




I have made donuts in the past. I've even made gluten free donuts in the past, and have three different recipes on my blog, but all of them were for round donuts with a hole in the middle, not ones that really work well being stuffed with things like jelly or custard. I've tried stuffing them but when made just round, without the whole, the inside still felt doughy when fully cooked.
I was looking for a recipe for donuts that could be filled and were gluten free, and I came across this recipe for jelly donuts, and though the author of that recipe called them paczki, there are so many names for these types of filled donuts, from sufganyot to Berliners, bomboloni to ponchiki, and pampushky to munkki, depending on which parts of the world you hail from.

Let me tell you- right now, my prime goal in life is sanity, and my way to do that is via putting an emphasis on simplicity. Ok, my kids asked me to make donuts, but I wanted as easy as possible. In my cabinet right now I have currently white rice flour. And corn starch. And a drop of potato starch. And that's the extent of the variety of my gluten free flours, and I don't have the energy or mental head space to be grinding more flours now, so all my other donut recipes were out for that reason too, and the list of flours for this recipe was far too extensive. It called for 5 different types of flours. Who has energy for that? I certainly don't now... So I just added up how many cups total of flour there were- 2 and 1/6, and just split that, half white rice flour, half corn starch, and that was all. I'm sure you can do this recipe with any other flour mix you like for gluten free baking, or store bought all purpose flour mix.
I also made the recipe vegan (added bonus of being cheaper and not bothering my stomach).
While I used white sugar in mine, I'm sure it would work with any other type of sweetener, from jaggery syrup to brown sugar to coconut sugar to honey. But honestly, this was 2 tablespoons for the whole recipe, I wasn't too bothered.

How Single Parents Can Financially Meet the Needs of Their Children

This post was written by freelance writer, Nancy Evans.

Being a single parent is not for the faint of heart. You become solely responsible for your kids' day-to-day needs, including making all the meals, doing all the laundry, fixing all the boo-boos, and doing all the bed-time fighting. You also become solely responsible for everything they need financially, from their food and medicine to their toys and school supplies.

Being a parent to a child with special needs is not for the faint of heart either, and when you are a single parent to a child with special needs, the job becomes even harder. You love your child and don't consider anything you are doing to be a burden, but that doesn't make the job any easier.

Make What You Can at Home

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Super Frugal Trip to Belgium- My Day Trip To Bruges



Just letting you know in advance that this is a very, very, very picture heavy post...

When I wrote that I was going to Belgium, specifically to Brussels, many people told me that if I was going all the way there, I shouldn't just stay in Brussels, but also should go to Bruges, called the "Venice of the North". Upon looking into it, it did seem a really wonderful place to visit, and I decided to pay a visit there, even if it cost more money. I wasn't planning on spending much money on nearly anything this trip, but decided my splurge would be the trip to Bruges. And splurge it was, but very worth it. My trip to Bruges cost me more than my flight to Belgium!

Ok, let me also mention that Bruges is spelled Brugge in Dutch, and is pronounced Broozh, so you know how to read this post properly.

My trip to Bruges was by train, something that I'd booked in advance not long after I booked my flight. On the way to the AirBnB from the airport, extremely exhausted, I thought I'd have to leave early in the morning to catch my train, but fortunately someone in the car with me pointed out to me that my ticket was open ended for that day, that it didn't matter what time I left. I enjoyed myself so much more by sleeping in and going to that city well rested.

My train ticket that I bought in advance cost 31 Euros round trip. As I said, a splurge, since my airfare to Belgium itself cost only 20 Euros. I only learned about the option of taking a ride with Blabacar after I'd already purchased my tickets, and if I had, I could have done the ride for 8.5 euros each way, which would have saved me 14 Euros. Oh well, live and learn.

I took the Metro to the train station, so that was 2.1 Euros, the first expense of my day. While at the train station, I learned that my ticket was open ended, meaning that I could get on and off the train anywhere between Brussels and Bruges, and then get back on and continue the rest of the way (and the same on the return). Another city that was along the train route was Ghent, a city that I heard a lot about and was also highly recommended to visit. I was torn whether I should cut my trip to Bruges short and go to both in one day, or stick just to Bruges, and in the end decided to fully experience Bruges instead of seeing both cities in a rush.



The train ride, admittedly, wasn't the funnest, as it was very packed, and I got the pleasure of listening to a five year old kid whine and fight most of the ride. But hey, at least I got a selfie in.  This is in the second class car. Honestly, I walked through the first class cars and they didn't look much nicer, if at all, so I'm not sure why people spend more money on first class.



When I arrived in Bruges at the train station, it was a bit of a walk to the city center, where I was planning on going on a tour, and I could have taken the city bus there, but to save money I decided to walk instead, with the added benefit of being able to see and enjoy the city more via walking anyhow. I probably would have walked even if I wasn't looking to save money.

It was pretty cold, so I bundled up in layers (a long sleeve shirt, two sweaters, and a coat, plus tights, thermal leggings, regular leggings, thermal socks and a skirt) so I ended up looking much plumper in the pictures than I actually am. Oh well.

I took this picture a very short walk from the train station- this river or canal goes in a ring around the city of Bruges.



Once I was past that river or canal, I was in the cutest looking city ever. Seriously cute and quaint.


I'm not exactly sure what I can compare this city's looks to, but it was cute and adorable.


I had planned on joining an organized tour at 1 pm, and arrived in the city at 11:30, so had plenty of time to explore the areas leading to the city center... Here's some of what I saw.


Lots and lots of cobblestones... 


And cute brick houses...


And more buildings...


Sorry to overload you with pictures, I just want to show you what it really looks and feels like.


Lots of cute buildings....



People walking and bike riding...


Barely any cars... 



People could walk in the middle of the roads, not on the sidewalk, it was that quiet.


The thing I didn't see, that I was hoping to see, was canals.


I saw one canal at the very entrance to the city, and then I saw something tiny behind a house, and then nothing more....


So much for a canal city, I was thinking to myself...


Cute and pretty city, but where's all the canals that I came here for?


After a while of walking through an area that seemed more residential, I found a modern looking area with lots of shops...



 ...Including many chocolate shops, some even giving demonstrations on how chocolate is made...


 ...and clothing shops...


And even a shop dedicated to homemade soaps, which, as a soap maker myself, I found intriguing...


...Churches.... 


And more churches...


And more views of the same church.

And the Christmas markets...


Though I learned later that in Belgium they aren't called Christmas markets, they're officially called "Holiday markets" to be more inclusive, but quite frankly, I didn't really see anything being sold that wasn't specifically Christmasy...


Eventually I made my way to the city center square...


In the center of the city square, they had a giant ice skating rink set up...



The amount of bicycles parked in the center square was astonishing to me, especially since I don't come from a bike heavy culture...


You might notice my outfit changing in the pictures... the weather was fluctuating a lot, and my energy output was adjusting a lot, so I kept on putting on layers and taking them off....



Before I went to Bruges, I did some research about free tours there, and found 3 different companies that provide these free tours. One was Viva Tours, one was Sandeman, and one was Legends of Bruges. Sandeman and Viva also do tours in Brussels, so I arranged/planned tours with them for the days I was in Brussels, and decided to go with Legends of Bruges (who had good reviews on Tripadvisor, etc...)

I looked for the guy with the red umbrella....


And when I got there, 15 minutes before the tour was scheduled to start, the amount of time beforehand it says to get there if you want to join the tour, I was the only one there... I inquired how many people need to show up for a tour, and I was told there needs to be a decently sized crowd, and I got nervous that the tour wouldn't take place...




Eventually, though, more and more people showed up, enough to have a group.


But as I was waiting for the people to show up, I took some more pictures of the city center.


Quite a large and pretty square!


I forget the name of our tour guide, but he's one of only two people that run tours for Legends of Bruges, and he was really great. Funny, informative, interesting to listen to, engaging, etc...

He started the tour with a history of Bruges, how it used to be a place of commerce, the center of commerce in the area, and it got so rich. Bruges is a Flemish city, and apparently there was a lot of tension between the Flemish and the French. He told us stories about how the people in Bruges went to war with the French and won in the Battle of Golden Spurs, which is now commemorated by the Flemish community each year in a special holiday. He also told us how they captured Emperor Maxmilian of Austria, tortured and and then beheaded his friend, Peter "Long Neck" in front of him.... and how as a result of what they did to the Emperor, the commerce center was moved away from Bruges...

He then took us to a really old brewery, called a turned castle, and told us a story about it...



I don't remember the details of the brewery so much, other than it being really old, being called the gruuthuse and having been run by some very powerful people, who were part of the Order of the Golden Fleece... 


And this golden fleece was depicted on the gate outside the brewery. 


We learned about and visited the really old hospital in Bruges, where nuns took care of sick visitors... and that the word hospital and hospitality were interconnected, because hospitals also hosted non sick visitors. 


We saw part of an old walkway that led directly from where the nuns lived to the hospital- the part with the two turrets in the middle....


Our lovely tour guide... 


Finally we started to see some water, some canals...


Lovely beautiful canals!!!


Gorgeous buildings and gorgeous water! (And why did no one tell me this sticker came off my bag and was stuck onto my coat before they snapped this picture?)


And swans!! There were swans everywhere!


Remember what I mentioned earlier about the people in Bruges killing someone named Peter Longneck?


According to legend, the punishment for killing this long neck guy, among other things, was to be tasked with taking care of these long necked birds... and to this day, the city feeds and takes care of these swans that you find all over, but mainly in this specific location.


Right near this swan central, was the beguinage (I had to look up how to spell that), pronounced beh-gin-azh, the place where the nuns who worked in the hospital lived.

In the beguinage, there were different laws than in the city of Bruges, and there was this stone thing...


...That as soon as you passed that, you weren't in the jurisdiction of the city of Bruges anymore, but under the jurisdiction and laws of the beguinage, and were "safe", so people accused of breaking laws would escape there. 


At that time, and still to this day, the only people who were allowed to live in the beguinage were unmarried women, so the nuns lived there, as well as widows and other husbandless women, which really helped them because at that time, unmarried women weren't given any rights...


To this day the gates of the beguinage get locked for the night, I think at 6:30 pm, and only get opened up at 6:30 am, so you're stuck in there if you stay past a certain time...


There was this little lake, and our tour guide said that drivers of the horse drawn carriages have named this the "Lake of Love" because then you could bring more tourists there, but it isn't its official name...


But either way, absolutely gorgeous.


Wouldn't you just love to live in this cute little house?



Speaking of horse drawn carriages, there were so many of them, absolutely everywhere...


And these little drinking fountains, I assume for the horses.


We learned about this clock tower, which supposedly has the heaviest clock in the world on it...


Some random other pictures from Bruges that I took on the tour... 



And more...

This cute little bridge that they supposedly named "Bridge of Love" because, again, tourism...


And the most photographed place in Bruges...


So why not include a few photographs of the same place...




It is quite picturesque, I can see why its the most photographed place there...

Sorry, couldn't decide which of these two pictures to share- so why not both? 

And one more for good measure... 


They don't say it's the most photographed place for nothing, eh?

Apparently that picture and the building right next to it...


...were in the movie "In Bruges" which I still haven't watched... but plan to, since I was, you know, in Bruges....

I took some more pictures on the tour, but I don't remember if or what the tour guide shared about these places...




Such as this...

''
Or this...


I think these were so gorgeous....


For the life of me, I can't remember what this place is.... only that we saw it on the tour, and I think it was important...


The last two things I remembered hearing on the tour were that there is a lot of hostility between the cities of Ghent and Bruges, historically, the apparently the people in Ghent stole a golden dragon from the roof of one of the churches in Bruges, and put it in Ghent. But someone from the tour was from Ghent, and he said that according to Ghent history, Bruges originally stole it from Ghent or Constantinople or something, I don't remember. It was amusing seeing the rivalry.


We also learned about an underground beer tunnel from one brewery to its packaging plant, that apparently has been patented and therefore other companies aren't allowed to use that method... 
And that was the end of our tour. 

I asked the other people on the tour what the standard decent but still frugal tip to leave the tour guide, and was suggested 5 Euros, so that's what I gave him. These tours you're supposed to pay what you think they're worth, and 5 Euros was something I could afford while still remaining frugal on my trip, and since it was standard, I didn't think it was a problem. 

While in Bruges, I saw a lot of these boats going through the canals, and decided that if I'm splurging on my trip to Bruges anyhow, I'm going to splurge on one of these boat rides, since the canals were the whole purpose of my trip to Bruges, and I wanted to experience them fully...


I paid 8 Euros for my boat ride and got in line...


The boat tour covered many of the same places on the walking tour...


Such as the "Bridge of Love" that we went under...

We went under a lot of really low tunnels and bridges... Some buildings were built over the canals, that was fun to go under...


My one attempt of a selfie on the boat wasn't so successful...


It was really fun to zip through the canals on the boat...


At certain points on the canal ride, you smelled the really strong smell of beer making...


My father used to brew beer, so I was familiar with the smell, but on the canals the smell was stronger than any smell I ever remember smelling...


 It was interesting to admire the architecture you could see from the canals...


We learned that this house, apparently with 5 different styles of architecture in one building, has been deemed a landmark by the city, and the people aren't allowed to change what the house looks like even if they wanted to.


I also learned that the canals in Bruges, unlike Venice, are not just "free for alls", people aren't allowed to put boats in them for personal use, not even if you live on the canals. No goldolas and gondoleirs- only a few specific companies are allowed to run boat rides in the canals and that's it.



I also learned that the canals go all the way to the Netherlands, if I'm not mistaken, and one year they froze over and they had an ice skating race all the way there.


The sun was starting to go down by the time our boat ride was over.


It was starting to get cold, and the speed at which the boat was traveling didn't help things.


I had heard about the night tour in Bruges, given by the same company, and apparently it involved ghost stories and other spooky legends...


But as I was getting cold, and I wanted to be able to stop at a grocery store on the way back, and they didn't stay open late, I decided to ditch the night tour, and just go back by train to Brussels.

Instead of taking the bus back to the train station, again I decided to walk. Google maps was supposed to give me directions, but I kept on getting confused with their directions since it was so hard to see street signs. Eventually though, after lots of mistakes, I neared my destination. I wasn't able to see much on the way back because of the darkness, so thought that maybe I made a mistake by walking (other than the money saving) but eventually I came to this spot that was so gorgeous and romantic and just special, that it made it worth the walk...


At that point, I sent my husband pictures and told him that I wished he were there, because come on, just how romantic is this?


I'm not sure what this area is, but it was just perfect, the perfect way to sum up and end my trip to Bruges. 


Eventually I made it to the train station.

While in the city of Bruges, I purchased a souveneir for myself- a Belgium mug, with pictures of various Belgian landmarks in various cities, for 5.9 Euros. I made a decision that each trip I'd buy myself a mug to use to remember my trip- I bought a mug on my trip to Poland and each time I use it it brings me joy, remembering the trip, so I decided even before I left home that I'd be buying a mug.

But in the train station, I remembered also that I wanted to buy some Belgian chocolate. Everyone recommended Leonidas chocolates, and I chose these chocolates of theirs that were gluten free (all except the Fueilletine... I couldn't find any packages without them, so I bought the whole thing). This was another splurge- 10.5 Euros, highway robbery, I know, and I'm eating these slowly and savoring them...


The train station was nice and bustling and modern...



And I had to pay half a Euro to use the bathroom there...

Then I went on the train back to Brussels, and made it to the grocery in time to go shopping- but just barely (but that I'll cover in another post about what I ate on my trip)...

It was a really great day. The highlight of my trip.

Downside being that this was the most perfect part of my trip and I did it the first of three days, so the next two days, even though they were great, were a little bit of a "let down" after this phenomenal trip... Oh well...

Total cost of that day?

2.1 Euros to the train station, and 2.1 Euros when I got back. 31 Euros for the train. 5 Euros for the tour. 8 Euros for the boat ride. 10.5 Euros for the chocolate, and 6.9 Euros for the mug. Plus .5 Euros for the bathroom. 66.1 Euros, or 77.64 dollars.

Expensive, but not too expensive. This was the most expensive day of my trip, by far. But as I said, I knew that in advance.
And every cent I spent in Bruges was worth it!

Have you ever been to Bruges? After seeing these pictures, would you want to? When you travel, do you usually have a set budget per day? Per trip? Do you try to always do as cheap as possible or do you plan some splurges in advance, and if so, what do those tend to be?
If any of you know more about Bruges than I do and can correct any mistakes I made in my descriptions, I'm happy to be corrected and learn more!

Thanks for reading!

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