Easy Weeknight Marinara Recipe

To me, nothing tastes as delicious as homemade marinara. Trust me, I won’t ever turn down a jar of Ragu, but sometimes it doesn’t hit the spot like fresh spaghetti sauce. However, I always thought marinara was complicated to assemble and had to spend an entire day simmering on the stove to turn out delicious. How wrong I was! My sweet friend Anne shared this delicious recipe with me, and I’ve since shared it with my mom and sister…we all love it! With only 5 ingredients and 30 minutes cook time, it really couldn’t be easier!

Ingredients

  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I always check to see if these are from Italy…no clue if that makes a difference, but it can’t hurt, right? 😂)
  • 8 garlic cloves diced (I typically use an entire head because you can’t ever have too much garlic, right?)
  • 1 TBS Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp Salt (or more to taste)
  • Basil (1 spring of fresh basil or 1/4 tsp of dried basil)

Directions

  • Crush up the tomatoes with your hands.
  • Heat 1/4 cup of Olive Oil over medium heat in a large pot
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant (just about a minute)
  • Add in tomatoes with their juice
  • Add salt, Italian seasoning, and basil
  • Simmer covered for 30 minutes
  • Serve over your favorite pasta!

You can also add in ground beef, Italian sausage, or ground turkey (yuck.) if preferred. Note that you may need to adjust the salt or spices. I love to serve this marinara with homemade pasta, and I’m sure it would work wonderfully in baked ziti or lasagna as well!

Are there any recipes you thought would need tons of time and effort that turned out to be easy and quick? Let me know below! Also, it’s definitely not as quick and easy, but would you like a post all about my homemade pasta? It’s pictured above, and IT. IS. DIVINE.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on these links or make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small percentage of the profit at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Hoots of a Night Al!

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Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom Review

Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom…is it worth it? What is it? Is it right for my group? In this review, I’ll attempt to answer your questions while sharing the experience Louis and I had at the event. Read on to hear my thoughts!

Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom is a ticketed event that happens on select nights at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom (duh.). It costs $129 per person ($125 per person if purchased in advance), and allows you access to the park at 7:00 PM. The special event is from 8:30-11:30 PM when the park is only open to event ticket holders. Guests will receive unlimited popcorn, ice cream and bottled drinks and be able to enjoy the attractions listed below.

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • Pandora Drummers — Swotu Wayä
  • Expedition Everest — Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • DINOSAUR
  • Rivers of Light
  • Tree of Life Awakenings
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • And more!

Louis and I purchased tickets and attended Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom on December 12, 2018, and *spoiler alert* WE LOVED IT. It may not be appropriate for everyone’s group, but it was perfect for us and we had an incredible time. We were already in the park before the event began, so we picked up our wristbands as soon as they were available near Discovery Trading Company. Disney cast members checked for these bands throughout the night to ensure only guests that had purchased tickets were enjoying the event.

Our main goal of the evening was to ride our favorite, popular rides as many times as possible since every ride had little-to-no wait time. We knocked out It’s Tough to be a Bug! and DINOSAUR first, since we wanted to spend most of our evening in Asia and Pandora. After DINOSAUR, we stopped for our first “complimentary” snacks in Dinoland U.S.A. We were happy to find popcorn, Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars, Mickey Ice Cream Sandwiches, Strawberry Fruit Bars and bottled drinks. We grabbed a little bit of everything and set off to find the Yeti on Expedition Everest.

We were able to hop on and off Expedition Everest TEN times breaking occasionally for more free snacks (and/or to keep from barfing) and there was NEVER a wait. On a few expeditions, we were on an almost empty train! Expedition Everest is always one of our favorite rides, but it takes on a special quality at nighttime with the uplighting on the mountain and the extra dark interior sequences. We even caught part of a Rivers of Light performance from the mountain at one point! When we finally had our fill of Everest, we headed over to Pandora — The World of Avatar.

We had been in Pandora earlier in the day when it was swarming with guests, and it was amazing to see the land almost entirely empty. The lighting is beautiful and the atmosphere of the area is much easier to appreciate when you are some of the only people present. Our first stop was the Na’vi River Journey. Throughout our trip, the wait for this ride never dropped below 60 minutes, but at Disney After Hours we were able to walk on the ride, and ride it back-to-back in our own private boat! While the Na’vi River Journey is relaxing and beautiful, I wouldn’t want to wait an hour for it, so riding it during this event was the perfect solution.

Finally, we set our sights on Avatar Flight of Passage. This ride is INCREDIBLE and unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. If you’ve ridden it, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t, you simply have to try it! Since Pandora is still a new land (and this ride is so amazing), the wait times are always astronomical and Fastpass+ reservations are hard to come by. We snagged two Fastpass+ reservations for our trip, but we knew we would want to ride it much more. Multiple banshee flights during After Hours was the perfect solution! We squeezed in FIVE flights in around an hour, and it really sealed the deal that the Disney After Hours event was worth the money to us! The cast members even let us loop right around back into the pre-show, so we didn’t have to traverse the massive queue each time. Once we had our fill of Flight of Passage, the After Hours event was almost over. We grabbed as many free bottled drinks as we could carry, sprinted back for one last Expedition Everest ride, and then the event ended! Louis obliged my desire for some empty park pictures in front of the Tree of Life, and we caught the last bus back to our resort.

As you may have gathered, we LOVED our Disney After Hours experience. I wanted to share some tips in case you are considering if it’s a good addition for your trip!

Eat dinner before the event begins. Since you only get three hours in the park without other guests, you don’t want to waste prime ride time eating (unless it’s free snacks as you run between attractions!). I’d recommend our forever favorite Flame Tree Barbecue or the new, yummy Satu’li Canteen (pictured below!).

Enjoy any attractions or shows that won’t be open during the event between 7:00 PM and Animal Kingdom closure. Everything we were looking forward to was open during After Hours, but this is something to be aware of!

Consider the heights of everyone in your group before deciding if this is a good value for you. DINOSAUR, Flight of Passage, and Expedition Everest all have height requirements between 40-44″, so if everyone in your party isn’t tall enough to ride, it may not be worth your money to attend Disney After Hours in Animal Kingdom.

Stock up on those “free” snacks! We ate and drank occasionally throughout the evening, but before leaving we grabbed as many bottled drinks as we could carry. Literally. They’re unlimited, so it’s best to get your money’s worth! We loaded up our backpack, threw them all in our mini fridge at the resort, and drank them the rest of our trip instead of buying them in the parks! At Disney, a bottled soda is $4.50 and a bottled water is $3.50, so we “saved” quite a bit by stocking up when these were unlimited.

Make sure to soak up the ambiance as you walk throughout the park. Animal Kingdom is possibly the most beautiful park at Walt Disney World and the lighting and music really make it extra magical in the evening. One of my favorite parts of the night was walking hand-in-hand with Louis through the empty walkways in each area of the park. It was beautiful!

When all was said and done, we calculated that Disney After Hours in Animal Kingdom cost us under $5 a ride. Considering the cost of a Walt Disney World trip, we figured that was a great value for our time. Granted, we are only a couple, and this event would cost much more for a family. If you’re interested in Disney After Hours, but don’t love Animal Kingdom as much as we do, you may want to consider the events at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios (there isn’t one at Epcot yet!).

Have you attended a Disney After Hours event? Let me know what you thought, and which event we should try on our next trip!

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Christmas Gift Idea: Fully Customizable PurpleTrail Planners

This post was sponsored by PurpleTrail, and I am thrilled to share their amazing products with you!

Christmas is just over a month away, and do you know what comes a week after Christmas? A NEW YEAR! That means new goals, new routines, and new dreams, and you know what goes perfectly with those? A new planner! A customized planner would make the perfect gift for anyone this Christmas, and PurpleTrail recently reached out to me to tell me all about their amazing planner selection

First of all, PurpleTrail planners are TOTALLY customizable. I don’t mean that in the way other brands do like you can add your name or pick between three preselected colors. I mean it in the TOTALLY customizable sense. Initially, you can select between their coil bound planners or their gorgeous, new library-quality, lay-flat sewn planners! I personally haven’t seen any other customizable hardback planners like these, and I think they add such a beautiful, professional touch.

In addition to various styles of planners, they also offer various layouts. For example, if you’re a big picture kind of planner, opt for the monthly planner style (hello, wedding planner!). If you like to list out every detail, maybe the daily planner is better for you. Somewhere in between? Go for the weekly planner! If you want to get even more specific, Purple Trail also offers specialty layouts. These are great if you’re gifting a planner to someone because you can shop by categories including: Mom/Parent Planners, Teacher Planners, Student Planners, Meal Planning, and more! They have truly put thought into each planner style to ensure the user gets the most value out of it.

Once you have decided on the perfect planner style and layout, the fun part begins…choosing the cover! PurpleTrail offers a plethora of gorgeous options from simple and chic to fun and artistic. However, if you don’t see anything that suits your vibe, you can totally customize your own cover! They have easy-to-use templates, where you can select everything from colors to fonts and even add your own photos. I love how much you can edit and personalize their templates to really capture your own style. If you get a coil bound planner you can even select between a hard book cover, laminated cover or sturdy synthetic cover. Each variety adds a different look to your planner

Does this all sound so awesome that you can’t even wait until January to start using one? No worries! You can order it right now and have it start in December! The great thing about PurpleTrail planners is that you can select any month for the start! I’m totally eyeing the planner below, and I can’t wait to customize it, so I can organize and plan my entire life! How beautiful is that pink ombre?

If you’re worried a planner is something too personal to order for someone, PurpleTrail also offers gorgeous journals, fun notebooks, beautiful stationary sets, and much, much more! Take a look around their site, and comment below telling me what you plan to purchase! 

Happy shopping! 

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Create Unique, Beautiful, Victorian Christmas Cards (and more!) with Basic Invite

This post was sponsored by Basic Invite, and I am thrilled to share their beautiful products with you!

Every year growing up, I can remember my dad setting up his tripod, my mom perfectly styling (and often sewing!) our outfits, and our whole family coming together take annual Christmas Card photos. Once I got married, I continued the annual tradition making sure to mail out cards to our loved ones each December. I think it’s such a special way to check in with everyone, reflect on the year, and spread holiday cheer. With Christmas just around the corner (yes! Only 83 days! 😯), it’s time to start planning our annual cards! It’s never too early to start planning, right? 😂 Below are some of my tips for picking the perfect card to represent you and your family!

Customize Your Color Scheme
In the past, I’ve selected the perfect picture for our Christmas card, only to realize all of the pre-made designs clash with my image. At that point I have to settle with weird, mixed colors, change to a worse picture, or try and design my own card. It’s so frustrating. Good news! With Basic Invite, you can select the color of EACH element to make sure your card perfectly matches your favorite family picture! How amazing is that?! With 180 colors to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect match. Plus, I love that you get an instant preview instead of imagining how it will turn out. If the online preview isn’t enough, you can order a printed sample to see a tangible version of the colors and quality of your custom Basic Invite product.

Share Your Year Creatively
Each year, I include a poem with our Christmas card summarizing our year. It’s a fun way to recap our year, and it’s something I enjoy writing! I’ll include our card from last year to give you an example. If poetry isn’t your forte, you could use an acrostic with your family’s last name, share a blurb under a picture of each family member, or make a Top 10 list for the year! I always love reading our friends’ annual highlights when I receive their cards, so I put a lot of effort into how I share ours.

Add Special Details
I think it’s always fun to add special extras whenever you can! One easy way to do that is with your envelope color. Basic Invites has over 40 colors of peel and seal envelopes that can perfectly coordinate with your card. Wouldn’t it be fun to open your mailbox and find a shimmering red envelope holding your friend’s Christmas card? Sign me up! The shimmer doesn’t have to stop with your envelope either. Basic Invite has an entire line of holiday cards with foil, and (no surprise here!) they can be customized to be silver, gold, or rose gold! Perfect for reflecting the magic of the holiday season.

Don’t Forget Anyone
The first year I sent out cards, I compiled a spreadsheet of names and addresses to make sure I didn’t leave anyone out. Each year, I refer back to my list to add and edit as needed. It’s a great way to make sure I don’t forget to send a card to someone special in my life. An even more convenient solution is the Address Capturing Service that Basic Invite offers. All you do is share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media to request addresses, which will be stored in your account and can then be selected during the design process. Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all Christmas card orders. Since addressing each envelope is the most tedious part of sending out cards, I think that’s a service everyone can appreciate!

Whether you also send out Christmas cards, love beautiful stationery, or create personalized invitations for every event, this post is for you! Basic Invite has a product for almost every major life moment with everything from personalized Halloween party invitations to Thanksgiving Dinner invitations. No need to wait for December…you can enjoy their beautiful designs year-round!

As you can see, they have something for everyone, and I can’t wait to explore their designs even more to find the perfect card to send out this year! I already have my eye on some of their stunning victorian Christmas cards. If you’re currently planning your cards too, Basic Invite is offering 30% off holiday cards with coupon code: holi3. That can add up to some major savings, so hurry and place your orders! With over 500 completely customizable holiday card designs, you’re bound to find something perfect. Happy shopping!

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Best BeautyBlender Makeup Sponge Dupe! Sonia Kashuk Makeup Blender

Lately, I’ve been on the hunt to find a replacement for my BeautyBlender. While I love that makeup sponge, it’s hard for me to spend $20 every time I need to replace it (which means I usually end up using it for MUCH longer than you’re supposed to… 🙈). Thankfully, I stumbled upon these Sonia Kashuk Makeup Blender sponges, and they’re only $7! I loved the idea of saving 65%, but only if the quality didn’t suffer.

My first thought was that I loved the chic design. It’s a black and white marble pattern, and I actually loved it so much I resisted using it for almost a month! I didn’t want my makeup to dirty it up.😂 It has a flat base perfect for applying foundation and a pointed tip great for areas like under the eyes and around the nose. If you remember, the Flower Beauty sponge didn’t have a tapered enough tip for me to apply makeup to those areas well, so I was hoping this sponge performed better.

As you can see, this thing is HUGE. Like, comically huge. I included my (quite dirty) BeautyBlender for comparison, and I’d estimate the Sonia Kashuk sponge is almost twice as large. On the left is the sponge dry, and on the right is the sponge after I dampened it. If you aren’t familiar with beauty sponges, most of them are recommended to be used when damp. When wet, they absorb less product and allow for a more even, sheer application.

I ended up loving how huge the sponge was, since it cut down my application time by almost half! My foundation and concealer went on smoothly, and the sponge worked great with my setting powder as well. I pumped my favorite foundation  directly on the sponge, and I used less product than usual but got wonderful results. Even though the tapered side was large, the shape was still perfect for using under my eyes and around my nose.

No exaggeration here, people. This is my favorite makeup sponge I have ever tried…BeautyBlender included. As far as I can tell, it’s only sold at Target, which is an added perk as I’ll take any excuse to go there! For a fraction of the cost, perfectly applied makeup, a quicker application time, and a beautiful design, I couldn’t ask for anything better! This will definitely be my new go to makeup sponge!🙌🏻 Do you have any other BeautyBlender dupes I need to try out? Comment below and let me know!

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on these links or make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small percentage of the profit at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Hoots of a Night Al!

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