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Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas Cookies

Here is a list of the Christmas desserts I like to make each year (reminder to self for following years as I seem to be more forgetful with age):

* Mocha Sandwich Cookies - Fine Cooking, these are a bit of work, but so worth it, I try to make them first so I don't get burned out with too much to do
* Fudge 
* Chunky Hazelnut Toffee Cookies
* M&M cookies
* Peppermint bark

Next Christmas I want to try Chocolate Crinkle Mint cookies.  I kept seeing them on Twitter and they look awesome.

Most of these make great gifts!  

Cherry Winks

I know this is a very common recipe, but my mom made a few minor changes that make this a family favorite so I need to document it here.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons cherry juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup diced maraschino cherries
Mix the first two ingredients with a kitchen mixer until well blended.  Add cherry juice, vanilla and eggs until well mixed.  Add remaining ingredients until well blended.

  • 1 1/2 cup smashed cornflakes
  • 14 maraschino cherries, cut into quarters
Create cookie balls and roll in the corn flake mix, then add one quarter cherry on top, continue until all dough is finished.

The beauty of this recipe is the cookie turns pink with the juice and makes a really pretty cookie.  We've omitted nuts due to personal preference.  

Set over to 375 and bake for 13-15 minutes.  Mine seemed done at 13 minutes but it's a very soft cookie due to the shortening so it may seem like it needs longer, but it seems to stiffen up after cooling down.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Cards

Every year that I sit down to do Christmas cards, I start by updating the address labels list.  Who has moved, died, divorced, etc.  It always surprises me at how much can change in one year, then I go back to past years to make sure I didn't miss anyone and I see more major changes.  I must have missed updating our list for a couple of years as I had to start with 2017 and that made the changes even more drastic:

* Husband's uncle/aunt moved due to tornado that completely destroyed their home
* Death of my mom's 2nd husband
* Aunt moved back in with her elderly father, don't need prior apartment address
* Death of husband's great aunt
* Death of husband's step-uncle
* Friends in Dallas moved in the last couple of years, need to recheck their address
* Death of husband's cousin
* Why is my Great Aunt Millie still on there??  She died in 2013! 
* Found friend Bob from a really old address page, he might have moved in the last 5 years, I can't remember, but he deleted his facebook page so hoping this reaches him.

For one year I'd like things to stay the same, no deaths, no forced moves, but that's not realistic now is it. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

1st Snow of the Season

I was really hoping the kids would get a day off, but sadly all they got was a 2 hour delay.  It really derailed my morning because I lost all focus.  I slept in till 7am, then sat for 40 minutes drinking coffee and reading news.  I then wandered upstairs and reorganized Violette's clothing bin so we could find her school clothes, got two girls dressed for school and by this time the youngest was pushing quit urgently to go outside and play in the snow.  I pushed back more insistently that she must eat breakfast first, get her hair done, then go outside and that took until 9am.  I don't know how it took that long, I spent time in the basement looking for boots, then again for gloves which I thought had already been placed into the snowsuit bin.  In between jumping up to look for things I ate bites of butternut squash bread.  By 9:15 three girls had made it outside, I still hadn't finished breakfast or made lunches!  I was exhausted, still hadn't showered, and it's a work day!  See this is why I wanted a "snow day" and not a delay because the delay just delays the kids leaving for school and letting me get on with my day!  At least they had fun making snowmen and various other things.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

I'd like to give a shout out to our favorite seed company, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  We first discovered them when looking for Purple Sweet Potato plants and we've had great success with everything we've bought from them.  I think next year we will expand our Tex Mex plants to the following:

  • Anaheim peppers
  • Poblano Peppers
  • Tomatillos 

The Poblano's are impossible to find after the season is over so I'd like to stock up on these for our Salsa Verde Pork.  With the Anaheims I'd like to can as green chili's in small jelly jars!  I think that would be about the same size as green chili cans from the store, not that we care if it's an ounce more.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Blueberry Streusel Recipe

I love blueberry streusel pie, but some days I don't have time for a homemade crust so this makes a perfect, quick dessert without the fuss.

It's winter, so I went with frozen blueberries but this can work just as well with fresh in the summer.


  • 2lbs of frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix by hand, if the berries look a bit whitish, bake in the oven for about 10 minutes and stir again, then add the streusel.

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces so it blends better
Pulse all topping ingredients in a food processor until chunky and then spread evenly over the blueberry mix.

Total baking time - 30 minutes at 350.  Best served while warm.

Use 8 x 8 glass or metal pan, or double the recipe to use a full size cake pan.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Fiesta Corn and Jalapeno Dip ~ Slow Cooker

This dip has become my favorite side with almost anything!  I even made it on Thanksgiving, and it was happily consumed all afternoon while we played board games.

  • 1 can corn, drained (white frozen corn works just fine)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced (retain some seeds depending on how hot you want the dip)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese or Monterey jack 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Homemade Taco Spice
Optional - 4 slices of cooked, diced bacon

Throw everything into a small slow cooker for 1-2 hours, stir before serving.

Roasted red pepper also works really well in this dip, both with or without corn.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Salsa Verde Carnitas

My husband's from West Texas, so my cooking style has been Tex-Mex for 20 years, we make all the basics like Taco's, Beef Enchiladas, Chicken Quesadillas, etc., but lately I've wanted to branch out and master the art of braising meat.  We've been practicing with this recipe and I think it's finally time to post it here! 

Pork 2-3lbs - using 2 tablespoons of oil, brown in a dutch oven until all sides are browned.

  • 1-2 Poblano Chili's, I find Green Bell Peppers work fine in the winter when you can't get Poblano's.  Cut into 1-2" wide strips and remove stems, seeds, etc.
  • 1 yellow onion - remove skin, cut in half, then slices
Spread peppers and onions on the bottom of the dutch oven, placing the browned pork on top of these veggies.


  • 5 tomatillos, hulls removed and cut in half (remove the small circle where stem was attached)
  • 2 jalapeno's, remove stems, cut in half, keep some of the seeds for heat
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
Boil on stove for 10 minutes, then strain water from the veggies and add the following:
  • 2 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Puree in a food processor.  Pour over the meat.  Add one cup of water to the dutch oven so nothing burns to the bottom.  Place in oven for 5-6 hours at 300.  

Around the 4 hour mark, begin to pull pork apart and mix with the veggies and sauce, add more water if necessary so nothing burns to the bottom.

We like to serve this with Corn Jalapeno Dip, corn tortillas and chips.  

Snakes, Snickerdoodles and Santa 2019

Our local Museum of Fine Arts hosts a show called Snakes, Snickerdoodles and Santa, this will be our third year attending.  The snakes are part of a presentation put on with Reptile World by Michael Shwedick.  He presents a wide variety of snakes and other reptiles in a very interesting and scientific way.  Even after three years of seeing the same animals I still learn something new.  This has become a highlight of things to do in the Christmas season.  

This last photo is very special because it's the first year that Evie has agreed to sit with Santa, she is still very nervous.  Santa spoke very quietly to her and let he know there was nothing to be afraid of.  He then read through her wish list which includes a blue dolphin named Rainbow and a white kitty with pink eyes.  It was truly a special moment to witness.

Friday, December 06, 2019

2019 Christmas Tree

Originally I had hoped to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend, but we spent Friday doing yard work at mom's house, I can't remember what happened on Saturday.  Sunday was the day we noticed Princess's health was failing in a big way so no one wanted to celebrate, instead we got the kids caught up on their homework and spent time with her.  Fast forward to Friday and I was determined to celebrate in a big way starting with chocolate scones, Mandalorian episode 5 and setting up the Christmas tree! 

We got all the way to pulling out the decorations when suddenly a call came through that Mike's grandfather had broken his leg, the femur bone was shattered.  While I spent a few minutes calling my mom to ask for prayer and writing to the church prayer chain, the kids managed to cover the entire tree with ornaments.  That's okay, they enjoy it so much and I'm glad they had fun.  As for husband and I, we're sad and having a tough time getting into the spirit of things.  I think it might be one of those years where we do Christmas for the kids because I can't even bring myself to write out a list of things I might want for presents. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

My first day without a cat in 20 years

Oh what a strange feeling to wake up without a feline family member in the household. 

Our first cat, Zorak, came into our lives in 1999.  He was a tiny kitten full of spunk and vigor.  He was probably too wild to contain inside a house and his lack of affection is probably what led us to get Princess and Rumble in 2001, but he certainly made up for the love factor in his later years. 

We lost Zorak at the end of 2012, right before Christmas, two days before if memory serves correct.  It was, like this year, a struggle to get into the holiday spirit.  His passing was sudden and unexpected.  With three little children under the age of 5, our attention span was just enough to keep the pets watered and fed.  We didn't notice any changes in his behavior until it was too late so we took this one quite hard.

Princess was our second cat.  We got her from my friend Jill.  She was a tiny terrified puff ball who wouldn't have anything to do with us at first.  It wasn't until we took a week vacation and left her with my friend Carol that she decided we might be acceptable humans. 

Princess was the smallest of the three cats and the most agile, I suppose she had to be to stay out of the boy cats way.  Ours were never a pile of happy cuddly cats that you see in meme's.  They were a prickly bunch, staying out of each other's way as best possible in a two bedroom condo.  I think their lives improved drastically with the move to Maryland.  We didn't have any windows that got sun in Florida, not like the huge bay window in Maryland anyway!  Princess and Rumble seemed to agree that their retirement home was exceptionally nice.  

Rumble was our third cat, we got him a few months after Princess.  At the time, my husband was a security guard and where he worked this young cat, a few months old, had been wandering around the premises for a few days.  He jumped up to the side of our pick up truck and hung onto the window seal while meowing at me.  I took him home on a Saturday thinking I'd take him to a shelter by Monday but by then he had sat in my lap all weekend so we decided to keep him as the other two cats were not nearly as cuddly.  Rumble loved sleeping in my house plants and he was terrified of all of my children.  He moved with us to Maryland in 2013 where he lived in the basement for his last year, coming up only when the kids had gone to bed or school where he would sit on the back of the couch soaking up the sun, while watching birds and squirrels.  We lost Rumble in 2014, he was 13 years old, I was pregnant with Evie at the time and life was less hectic so we were more aware of his
failing health. 

So here today I suddenly find myself in a cat free home for the first time in 20 years.  No litter boxes to clean, no cat hairballs to swoop up before the dog gets there, no accidental kitty turds for the dog to snack on (disgusting, but it happens). 

Regardless of how sad I feel about having no cats, I'm ready to take a break.  I've started planning how our next house must have a cat room, with floors that are easy to sterilize, and windows with plenty of sun.  It will happen when it's meant to happen.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Princess 2001 ~ 2019

This is Princess in June, she enjoyed the summer, spending much of it outside in the sun.  This was unusual because for her entire life, until her very last year, she had been an indoor cat.  Then in late 2018, we moved to a duplex with a tiny back yard.  The backdoor is mostly glass making it so easy to see outside and follow the dog.  It became her thing, spending days in the sun, and I think it may have helped extend her life because she was dealing with extensive arthritis in her back legs which got significantly worse once winter set in.  We will always remember her as a loving family member who stayed underfoot to remind us of her love, and her need for love from us.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Turkey Salad Sandwiches

I have a new favorite way to use up turkey left-overs and it's so simple to make.  We normally do this with chicken, but white turkey meat is a lovely alternative.

  • 2 cups of pulled turkey (white meat)
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, smashed
Mix all together and serve on buns, so easy and delicious!  It's a little plain, but most of my family likes plain, I personally like to sprinkle some curry powder and add sliced purple grapes to mine.  These are also excellent on croissants if you are feeling extra fancy! 

Thanksgiving 2019 Menu and Game Plan

Recap so that next year we have notes to reference! 

Turkey - This year we opted for a fresh turkey, not because of preference, but because Aldi had run out of Butterballs by the Monday before Thanksgiving!  I'd say it was a success in that we didn't have to stress about the turkey being thawed in time, the taste was very good, and the leftovers were very tender. 

Gravy - we are terrible at making gravy, there is so much to do right before we eat and the few times we've tried the process was too long, delayed dinner, etc. so I've started buying packets.  Note to self for next year - buy them several weeks in advance as they are not in stock the week of Thanksgiving and we used Chicken gravy this year.

Cornbread Stuffing - I dream of this days before Thanksgiving, it's truly a favorite but for the love all all that is great and wonderful in this world, stop making a double batch!  It doesn't get eaten, doesn't taste as good as leftovers so just stop doubling it!!!

Mashed Potatoes - I added one potato per adult and it was enough for one day of leftovers. 

Green bean casserole - we followed the recipe on the back of the crispy onions, it was wonderful.

Butternut Squash Casserole - I made a double recipe and due to it's popularity with my kids, this definitely gets eaten by the weekend.

Corn and Jalapeno Dip - this was a hit throughout the afternoon.

Pies - made Pumpkin and Strawberry Cream, neither got completely eaten but both were delicious and gone by the weekend. 

Cookies - we had Mint Chocolate Cookies from a few days prior, they seemed quite popular.

We forgot to serve the Cranberry Sauce!

Might consider shells and cheese for the kids next year.

I made a lasagna several days in advance and popped that in the oven right around 5pm, it was delightful.  I've always wanted to have a lasagna in the evening and this year I finally pulled it off.  My cousin called me an over-achiever.  Ha, you have no idea!

I used cardboard to lay over casserole dishes, right on top of the foil, this helped me to stack items that had no lids all the way to the top of the next shelf.

It is also critical to clean out the fridge first, it's quite a massive amount of food that needs to fit in there right before Thanksgiving day! 

Practical suggestions for next year:

  • Paper plates for dessert
  • Need more glasses for adults (labeled with names would be helpful)
  • Try pizza rolls for kids in the evening, sadly they do not like lasagna
  • Buy a 6' table to extend our dining room table - we keep using the 8' table from game room and I'd rather leave that alone for games and not have to shuffle tables.
Pre-cooking plan:
  • I made the butternut squash 3 weeks in advance and froze it
  • I made the cornbread about 2 weeks in advance, the meat was cooked several days prior along with the veggie mix separately and each saved in separate containers to be combined the morning of Thanksgiving so nothing would get soggy
  • Pies and Cookies were made 2-3 days in advance
  • Lasagna was made a week in advance and froze

It's our biggest guest day of the year so we like to go all-out!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Purple Sweet Potato Cheesecake Recipe

I searched the internet for recipes but found options that required coconut milk, which I'm not fond of so I decided to make up my own recipe.  I don't normally post the first attempt, so this is more of a work in progress with notes so that the next time I make one, I can start here and improve upon the recipe.

The first step is to steam the purple sweet potatoes for 1.5 hours at 350 in a glass container with lid, this helps steam the skin off easily and brings the potato to a nice soft but dense texture that's easy to work with.


  • 11 oz. purple sweet potato, skin removed and steamed
  • 3 - 8 oz blocks cream cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 - 1 cup crushed graham crackers
Let me start by saying the crust was a disaster, it took more than 10 minutes to bake solid enough, it had way too much butter and in summary needs to be completely re-worked.

The cheesecake was very good, my brother said best I've ever made, that's a wow compliment, but to my taste it was a little bland.  With this much purple sweet potato you have to really love the taste and while I do love it, the total flavor was not quite as dessert like as I'd prefer, might need more sugar or maybe it needs another complementary flavor?  Or maybe it just needs a better crust!  I've watched other recipes for a no-bake version but I just don't think that's cheesecake - to me.  I want a proper baked cheesecake that is solid gorgeous purple.  I think next time I'll try it with a chocolate crust, and white chocolate topping.  Sorry no photos until I get this right and as I said earlier, these notes are for my benefit and I'll totally update the recipe once I'm happy with it.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Strawberry Coffee Cake

This is a family favorite that I created in high school.  Mom always had frozen strawberries in the freezer for winter fruit pies so occasionally I'd snag a bag and make this recipe.  

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup strawberries, cut in quarters, thawed if frozen, also works great with fresh 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix flour through butter with a mixer or fork until it is crumbly.  Mix milk, vanilla and egg in a separate bowl and then add to the mixer for 1-2 minutes until well blended.  Add strawberries and mix with a spoon, very gently so they do not break down.  I've tried using the mixer and it turns the entire dough pink and you don't get chunks of strawberry which I think are important to the taste.

Prepare coffee cake pan with shortening and add the mixture.

Put all topping ingredients into a food processor and pulse until crumbly, or use a fork to crumble, then spread evenly over the top of the coffee cake.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Loan Refinance and when it's a bad idea

Earlier in the summer I started getting calls from our mortgage regarding loan refinance.  We hadn't even had our loan for a year yet!  I grew suspicious when they tried to increase the pressure, and they kept calling at weird hours, or when I was on a business call, so after 7 or 8 missed calls they finally stopped pestering me.  Curious though, I contacted the mortgage broker who set up our original loan, which differs from our actual loan company.  I trust this guy as he's always been straight forward with us.  We started by saying we want to sell in 2-3 years.  He immediately said have a nice day!  He said it was useless to continue because we'd spend more by adding 4K to the back end of our loan and the $100 or $150 savings per month on loan rate reduction would not pan out. 

I've learned this in business - ask questions, especially when you don't understand something and if someone won't answer the questions find someone who will.  The lady from my loan company wanted to make it sound like we needed this, when in the end, we didn't.  I'm glad I never returned her calls! 

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

This last trip just about killed us

I have a terrible tendency to "bite off far more than I can chew", as the saying goes, and that'as all fine, until I bring others into the mix. 

In the first week of July, our church has a Convention, where many related churches of similar beliefs come together for a week of services.  It's an exciting time, and easy to get caught up in the energy of attending other churches revivals.  We met some folks from the Mississippi church and casually mentioned we were thinking of visiting them for their Labor Day weekend revival.  They got super excited and introduced us to someone who had camper hook ups on his property so by the time last weekend rolled around we were committed.  Even though we'd barely finished school shopping, left all of it on a table to be divided up the first morning of school, and got back at 11:30pm to put the kids in bed at midnight! 

It was an ambitious trip, with very little pre-planning and lots of wrong turns that had us driving late into the night for half the trip!  Regardless, the services were outstanding,

Chocolate Chip Scones

Or I should say Chocolate Bit Scones, because I put the chips in a food process and blend them to tiny bits!

  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup non-salted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or just buy mini-chocolate chips)

Use a food processor to chop the chocolate chips until they are tiny (or buy mini chocolate chips). Next, put one cup of flour into the same food processor with butter and pulse until combined.  I then move the mixture into a Kitchen Aid mixer and add remaining dry ingredients.  

Mix egg, vanilla, and buttermilk in a 1 cup container and add to the dry ingredients.

Add all ingredients together and mix on high until well blended.  It will be very thick, you may need to dig the mixture off the whip and then continue mixing to get everything blended.

On a floured surface, roll the dough 3/4" - 1" thick.  I used a 1.5" circle cutter for each scone.  I continue rolling until all dough is used up; there is no such thing as wasted dough in this house.  The last scone is usually hand balled and flattened into a scone patty, much like you would make a hamburger.

Place the cut scones onto a cookie sheet and bake for 14 minutes at 325.    Recipe makes around 18 scones.


Monday, August 19, 2019

School Shopping

Every year I wait for Maryland Tax Free week to buy the kids school clothes and for some reason, I waited until the last day to buy everything!  I'd like to remind myself, if reading this in the future, to please go out on the first day because Target was out of all but 2 pairs of pants for Sam and one had to be stripped off the mannequin!  The sad thing is, I update the school's blog so I knew about the tax free week well in advance, blogged about it twice, and still managed to go on the last day!

Also, a note about Target Ads, just because something is advertised doesn't mean you will get it taken off at the check out counter.  You need to have the Cartwheel app on your phone, select the item, and scan the bar code when checking out.  I had to return the set of pants and re-buy them to get the discount.  On the website, the discount is automatically applied. Sigh, still love ya Target!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Trip to Texas 2019 - Day 4 Odessa, TX

We limped into town with our sad travel trailer in tow, sad because it was only used one night.  We had such high expectations.  Thankfully Mike was able to get it fixed in town for considerably less than what Camping World had quoted us.

This is our favorite DQ, just outside of Dallas.  

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Trip to Texas 2019 - Day 3 Texarkana, TX

It took half a day to finish at Camping World, so we only made it to Texarkana, TX but at least we made it to Texas at the of day 3.  We had planned to go to a really exciting water park in Texas but by this point we just wanted to be done with the trip.

We stayed in another hotel for the night.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Trip to Texas 2019 - Day 2 Memphis, TN

We made it to Memphis, TN around dark, it was incredibly hot outside with about one million mosquitoes that descended upon Sam with a furious vengeance.  Just as we got the electric on and door firmly shut, we realized the air conditioner was broken!  The heat was so bad we immediately packed up everything and went straight to a nearby hotel.  This is one reason I'm glad we didn't have the dog as it can be been hard to find a place that allows dogs.

We were near Camping World, so the next day we went over to see if they could fix it.  The cost and time was greater than what we wanted to deal with, so we decided to get it fixed at our final destination. 

Here's photos of the kids enjoying the hotel and lounge at Camping World.

Evie adopted this towel as her new best friend.

We let them swim in their pajamas the next morning.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Trip to Texas 2019 - first stop West Virginia

* this post is back dated for those getting email blast

This is our first trip with the travel trailer and we were a bit nervous about so many details.  We knew it would take longer to get places from pulling the extra weight, more gas stops, considerably slower in the mountains so hard to predict our stopping point.  We didn't know how long it would take to set up the travel trailer each night, how long to pack up the next day, so we planned to take an entire leisurely week to get to Texas.

Our first major stop was middle of West Virginia, about a five hour drive, to drop our dog Bitzer at a dog kennel for the duration of our trip.  He's stayed with this family before and they are friends of ours. 

Our stop for the night was Wytheville, KOA.  It was a really nice spot and I'd like to return when we have more time to enjoy.  I like KOA's because there's an app where you can schedule a site and it was all very easy to navigate and get same day service.

We had electric, water and internet but we couldn't figure out how to get hot water flowing so I took my morning shower at the KOA bathrooms.

Panning the water for gold.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Downtown House - Garden One Month Update

It's been one month since we laid grass seed, the cheapest way to get a green lawn.  I couldn't see buying sod for a small back yard.  We had to dig out all the concrete, sand and rock that was in there from past walk ways that extended far beyond what we wanted.  We are trying to put as little money into the yard as possible because there are other more priority items needed inside the house and elsewhere so we've re-used found stone, brought over stumps and white fence from my mom's house, painted an old ladder and bought a few select plants that we wanted.  The prior owner left 6 bags of mulch that we've used throughout.  We've spent a little more than $100 on plants and seeds.

I know we've bought at least 10 bags of dirt for approximately $1.80 per bag for 40lbs:
$1.80 x 10 = $18

The plants were 3 for $10 and we bought these:
* 2 Jalapeno's
* 3 Bell Peppers
* 2 Tomatoes
* 1 Acorn Squash
* 2 purple flowers
10 total = $33.3

2 bags of grass seed at $8.88 each = $17.76

3 hanging plants for $2.00 each = $6.00 (they were originally $24.95!!  We brought them back to full flowering within a few weeks of watering every day.)

3 packets of seeds = $10

1 fancy plant that's missing from the photos below = $16.85

3 mums = $5.00

1 lavender = $3.33 (it died already)

1 hanging plant = $3.33

1 violet plant = $3.33

2 free plants for doing work on the church property!

Lettuce - free from mom's garden

Total spent = $116.90

I've been working since March to get seedlings to take off but I've had very little luck, which is surprising because last year I used the same grow light and had great success with butternut squash, but it was in the basement of my mom's house and more humid so maybe that helped.

Here is a link to how the garden looked on May 25th. 

And now for current photos!

We've had the flamingo's and aloe plant since Florida and rubber tree and amaryllis for many years as well.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

1st Adventure in Travel Trailer

Having no prior experience with a camper, and it's been years since we've done any sort of camping, my criteria was just find a place and park it.  I probably picked the most difficult state park possible for our first outing.  We had to back the travel trailer up a slight incline hill and angle it to fit into the assigned space, along with adding various objects to level the trailer.  It may or may have not taken an hour to set up!  Good thing I had supper made in a crock pot that was already finished and ready to eat!!  I also picked a site with no water hook ups, we learned later that more educated campers fill up before parking.  We were not going to re-park as it was a one night camping experience so we just made it work with repeated trips to the bathroom, which is what we'd have done if we were tent camping!  No big deal.  

Kids reading on the top bunk.  
They waged an endless campaign for top bunk privileges that went on all summer.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Downtown House - Garden

I needed something for my acorn squash to climb because I don't want it traveling all over the yard.  Pinterest suggested ladders, so I found an old rickety one that my dad used for years and repainted it!

This is how small the plant was when I finished the ladder end of May.

Now check out my acorn squash!  I've added a hanging plant for color until the acorn is ready to travel over the ladder.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Frugal Living - May Edition 2019

We really blew our budget in May!  Too many trips to Farm and Family along with Lowes for home improvement supplies.  I tell myself it's an investment into the resale of our home so chill out on the budget for a bit.  In all actuality it was more the trip to Luray that squeezed us tight but I don't care, we've worked very hard in other months to budget so it's fine to miss the mark on savings for one month.  We still follow our rule of paying all bills within the month so as long as that's followed I can rest easy at night.

One thing we'd like to look into is a pull along camper that sleeps six.  We've been talking about it for several years and we finally have a vehicle that can pull one.  We're getting tired of expensive hotels and still not having enough room to sleep six and with growing kids we are having a harder time finding rooms big enough; many hotels will advertise a suite but it's still too small for three beds.  I told husband whatever is not invested is free to use for a camper so he's on the hunt.  Let's see if he can manage to find something before our trip to Texas!

We think it will save us in the following areas:

  • Food - eating out is expensive and I can only pack so much in a cooler, which is cumbersome to drag into a hotel and ice down every morning which gets many foods soggy.  We are up to $60 at Cracker Barrel and $35 at most fast food places.  With three days on the road, we can easily spend several hundred dollars on food before we reach Texas.  
  • Hotel rooms are costing us over $100 per night, many campsites are half this price or less.
We think these areas might cost us more:

  • More gas in pulling a camper
  • It will probably take an extra day to reach Texas because we can't go as fast
  • We will probably need to fix up a used camper, hopefully not too much
  • There are always unseen costs with a new to us purchase
In addition I'm looking for more than savings.  I find it very stressful to take 4 kids into a hotel room after a full day of driving and expect them to stay quiet.  Hopefully they can let loose a little more with a camper, at least we're not sharing walls with another family.  We are also tired of taking a huge pile of stuff into a hotel, unloading, reloading the next day and doing it three days in a row.  

Not sure what stress may come with a camper but right now it sounds like a good transition for us.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Natural Bridge, VA

The Natural Bridge does not involve much walking to get to the bridge, it's about a hundred stairs to get to the bottom and then a short walk to the bridge which you walk under.  I think for the cost it's worthwhile to take the entire hike to the end waterfall, even though it's very far away and not easy to see.  There is the Monacan Indian village along the way that has people doing various jobs who teach their craft.  We found that very interesting.  In total we walked 3.7 miles!