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.  

Ingredients:
  • 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 
Topping:
  • 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, then spread evenly over the top of the coffee cake.

Bake at 350 for 35 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 so 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

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!

Recipe:
  • 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

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.

Enjoy!


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!

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! 







Sunday, May 26, 2019

Luray Caverns, VA


My brother invited us to go with him to visit Luray Caverns.  We're both sure we went as kids but neither of us can remember it.  Our dad used to take us on lots of road trips so we remember the places we went regularly but memories are starting to fade.

One of the reasons I blog is for my kids to have a road map of their childhood - "Hi kids!", if you are reading this one day! 

Luray Caverns is quite a vacation destination for the area, they have several free museums and a really fun rope park.  Thankfully they have free parking and plenty of it!  We brought lunch and ate at the picnic tables before going in.  













We walked 3 miles!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Downtown House - Garden

Our backyard is a small square lot and I don't think it's been domesticated in many years, there was a path but it had overgrown so badly it needs reset in most places.  While digging up the mess of weeds that served as grass we found a toilet brush, bricks, glass, rebar, and tons of small bits of trash.  These photos are after a few weeks of clean up, I look forward to sharing photos after the grass comes in, fence rebuilt, and plants have grown more.

Our canoe is in the process of being patched, this area still has some home improvement supplies that need to be brought into the house, there is a dog house and a board covering holes in fence.  Once this area is cleaned up, husband plans to put in a shed in this back corner.


In this area, we've added 4 tomato plants along the fence, lettuce next to the gnome and there are ferns behind the mushroom ready to come up.  I'm not fond of the tire with pot in the middle so this will be removed soon.  


This area is our stairs to the basement so we need to get this cleaned up so we can actually use the stairs, but there is no shed to put the lawn equipment, and basement is full so hard to imagine putting things down there.  Most of this will go into the shed once it's built.


This is the area in front of the porch, we put stumps from mom's house to serve as shelves for my amaryllises.  We plan to plant grass in the dirt area.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Strawberry Picking

I have fond memories of picking strawberries with my mom and brothers when I was a kid, so when my cousin invited us to go with her, we jumped at the chance.  I pulled out the kids giant Easter buckets and a few ice cream containers.  The patch was surprisingly full, sometimes they only have very small hard to find berries.  I tried to educate 4 kids on what to pick but they were dazzled by the biggest berries regardless of bad spots so we ended up with some not so great berries but overall they did pretty good. 

I was astonished at the amount we all picked in 30 minutes - 22lbs!  At $3.00 per pound it was $67.89!  Egads.  Next year we're taking smaller containers!!

We cut up enough to take to a church evening picnic and froze the rest because we were going away for Memorial Day weekend.  I kinda wish I would have had time for one fresh strawberry pie!


Cousin with my youngest

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Downtown House - Entrance 2

Our front door is a mess.  The only logical solution would be to replace the door and framework to match the rest of the house, but we've already used up our house improvement budget for this month, and the backyard fence is more urgent due to holes and that it's a big summer job, so I decided to patch and paint.  Some holes can be filled with wood putty, small nail holes with spackle - I'm so confused at the number of nail holes in this door.  There have been several different locks installed over the years, each with a different hole made.  There is some serious wood damage in some areas but the overall door is solid and secure, so here goes my attempt to make it better for the interim.  


This small wedge was placed here when the wall next to it was fixed.  I used putty to smooth the two pieces of wood together.


For this hole, I couldn't think of a way to fit putty into it as there was no base, so I elected to just paint over it.


The large hole at the top of this photo was filled with putty, each nail hole filled with spackle and additional hardware removed.

Extra nail removed, nail holes filled and extra hardware removed.


This is where you can see prior lock systems and severely damaged wood, I can't fill all of this in, but I'll do my best to make it look better.


Extra hardware.

 

This is the entire door which taken in normal lighting doesn't show all the damage seen in close up photos.


Here is the door after I've painted the trim with three coats of white and filled the hole at the top window, painted the door one coat and added a curtain.  


There is a 1" hole where I removed some old hardware, we plan to fill it with a cut dial rod.  The hole below the handle is filled with putty and will take a week to dry then I can paint it.  The door needs about 2 more coats of paint and I plan to remove it from the hinges and paint it really well.  I hope when I'm done it looks nice enough to not see the damaged parts easily.