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Fresh Strawberry Pie

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A few months back I took the kids strawberry picking. This is an activity we do every year when the U-pick em’s open up. While we were picking Dakota was listing all the things we could make with our strawberries. Then I hear, “Momma, I want a strawberry pie. Can you make a strawberry pie?” So of course I say yes, because I can’t say no to him. And there began our strawberry pie challenge.

When I am making something new, I usually read several recipes and then mix and mingle them together to accommodate it to my family’s taste or to my pantry supply.

The original recipe is from 2006 Taste of Home Annual Recipes, but this is my version of it.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

1 pre-made pie crust, frozen or refrigerated. I used the refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust.

1 package of cream cheese, softened

2 tbs sugar

1 tbs milk

Fresh strawberries about a quart, sliced

1 container Sugar free Strawberry Glaze, my kids grabbed the sugar free when I sent them to get it. I couldn’t tell the difference.

1)Preheat oven to 450

2) Unroll your pie crust and place in your pan. Trim edge and flute. Line unpricked crust with heavy duty foil.

3) Bake for 8 minutes, remove foil and bake 7 minutes longer. Cool completely.

4) Beat cream cheese, sugar and milk in a small bowl until smooth.

5) Spread over the crust and arrange strawberries on top.

6) Spread Strawberry Glaze over the top and chill until serving.

Here comes the chicks…..

Now that our babies are getting bigger and have their feathers coming in, I am able to give them proper names to fit them and their personality.

Introducing our flock……

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This is Big Bertha. She is the oldest by a few days and the biggest of our chickens.

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This is Luna. It took me forever to come up with a name for her. She is starting to get more comfortable with me and will jump on me every once and a while.

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This is Precious. This one belongs to Brianna. Which is appropriate because she is the same age as Luna but so much smaller, just like her owner.

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Twinsies! They were easy to name because they are always into something. Thing 1 is at the top, she has a smaller and lighter colored beak. Thing 2 at the bottom, much larger beak and even has some black lines running through it.

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This is Speckles. This one belongs to Alissa. UMMM I am not sure what it is; girl or boy! But it’s pretty.

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This is Nutmeg. She has adopted herself as mine. When she sees me, she finds a way to jump on my back. She likes to look me eye to eye and talk to me. She is a gossiper.

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This is Midnight. She too has become a Momma’s girl. Her and Nutmeg like to fight over who sits where on Momma’s back.

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This is Ninja and in case you can’t tell; yup he’s a rooster. No eggs from this little fellow. He belongs to Cailin. And she changed his name from Fizzy to Ninja when he started running around and karate kicking the other chickens. Now before you say what happened to his feathers. It’s okay; He is a Frizzle chicken. Let me just say if anyone was going to pick the odd ball of the bunch it was going to be Cailin. And she is very proud of herself.

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Last but not least, Lil Baby. This one was named by Dakota. He took a liking to the youngest of the group. I am 95% sure Lil baby is a rooster. But he is so darn cute!

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Look at that he could be a chicken model! Adorable!

So here they are! We have had no health problems and they are the highlight of our day. Someone is always checking on them, feeding them snacks or thinking of something new to make for them. It really has been a fun family project.

 

 

 

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits!?

I was born and raised Southern. But no matter what I do, I can’t bake biscuits! I have tried! And I can’t!

Every Southern Gal or Guy should be able to whip up a batch of homemade biscuits. It is a staple at meals in every southern home. But I can’t! And it’s frustrating!

I don’t know if I knead the dough to much. Or roll it out too much. I don’t know if I am suppose to use a rolling pin or if I am suppose to pat it out with my hands.

WHY? you ask. Because my mom, grandma or grandmom should have taught me right. Because that is what all good Southerners do. WELL…..they ain’t southern. I am only second generation born and raised southerner. And I am only half at that because my Dad was born….somewhere not in the south….because I don’t remember right now. But I know it was not in the south.

Anyways. My grandparents on my Dad’s side is from Illinois and my grandparents on my Mom’s side is from Jersey. And before anyone ask no I can’t make pasta from scratch either (though I might be able to but never tried).

Back to biscuits, it is embarrassing to buy a bag of frozen premade biscuits when you want some because you can’t make them.

Look here is the list to qualify as Southern:

Sweet Tea~ check

Cornbread~ check

Grits~ check

Chicken and Dumplings~ check

Biscuits~ NO!!!

So if anyone can help me out with some tips or a recipe. I am determined to learn how to make biscuits this summer. Though after all my attempts, my family may never want to see a biscuit again. BUT BY GOLLY, I am going to do it!

Here is my last sad attempt.

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It was a Bobby Deen recipe.

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Decent Flavor. But not light and fluffy at all.

Help!!!

Desperately Seeking good biscuit making tips.

Building our coop deville

As my husband puts it, I put the cart before the horse. I bought the chickens and then looked for a coop only to realize that all of the reviews were awful. I wanted something nice that would hold up more than 6 months. And then when I bought 6 more chicks, well it sealed our fate. We were building a coop.

Before I even got home with our new babies, my hubby had already found and print out of one he liked and was making a material list. Luckily, he was between jobs and had the time or else I am not sure what we would have done. After that we were off to Lowes for one of our 2-3 hour shopping trips.  That place is the equivalent of a mall to my hubby.

By the time we got home, we only had enough time to get the outline laid out.

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Day 2: The girls and I dug out all of the grass and leveled the dirt while Hubby was working. When he got home, we laid some hardware netting and rocks under the timbers for support where the ground was uneven.

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Day 3: I didn’t get any pictures because I had a lunch date with some family from out of town and then we had a severe storm come through. But the kids basically painted all the roof support beams and hubby started cutting and assembling. All of this was done in the his workshop since we knew we had bad weather coming.

Day 4: After a very early morning run to Lowes for more material,  we finished painting all of the structure pieces and started assembling in the yard.

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Day 4 was Easter so I was busy in the kitchen and didn’t get pics. But all we got done was painting the coop.

Day 5: we were making doors and painting them and adding the trim around everything.

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Day 6: We added the hardware cloth around the outside except where we are putting the entrance door.

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We had to take a break because Hubby had an important job he needed to work on. But after a couple weeks off, we were back at it to finish it up. Which is good because my chicks weren’t so little anymore and were trying to fly the coop. (Haha)

 

Gravel in chicken coop

Finally, we were able to get some gravel to put on the bottom. It was more like dirt and some rocks but it works.

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Then we put in a top layer of sand to complete the run area.

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We also  finished up the ramp and added our roosting poles to the inside.

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Now to test it out…..

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Success! The chicks loved their new home. Of course right now, I only put them out in the daytime and then bring them in the house at night. I am still protective of my little babies.

 

 

 

Ford Funny Farm

 

 

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When we decided to move out to the country 7 years ago, my Grandpa and I always talked about having a garden and chickens. Grandpa passed a few years ago, but I feel like I am honoring him by enjoying the things he wanted us to do together.

 

I started a garden last year and it did okay. But this year, I expanded it and did A LOT more research to know what I am doing. I am really good at growing tomatoes until the plant all of a sudden dies on me. That’s okay. Learning is living. More on my garden in another post.

 

And a couple weeks ago, I decided that I needed some chickens. So the kids and I loaded up in the car and headed to Tractor Supply.

DSC_0237We got 6 to begin with.

 

DSC_0240Look at Justice, our cocker spaniel! Such a good momma, unfortunately someone forgot to tell him he is a boy. It drove him crazy not to be able to get to the chicks.

 

 

Then a few days later, I went back to get something else and instead got 6 more. I couldn’t resist! They were so cute!

DSC_0298 We did lose 2 of the smaller ones. But the rest are doing great.

 

I have a confession to make! I am not a bird person at all. I mean to the point where I fear when groups are flying over me that they are going to poop on me. Or attack and peck my eyes out. You know lovely thoughts like that. I have never owned chickens and neither has Hubby. So why would I decide to raise chickens?

The eggs, of course. I get about 3 dozen fresh eggs from my neighbor every 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. They only charge me a $1 a dozen. But there for a while, something was getting their chickens and they were running low. I felt bad asking for the eggs. And the farm fresh eggs in the store are outrageous in price.

Another reason was for my special needs daughter. I noticed that unless someone had a job for her or wanted to do the same things as her, she would just lay around and sleep all day. She had no initiative to get up and find something to do. She had no hobbies except watching TV. She wouldn’t play with any of the toys we got her. She just laid there on the couch and slept. So I thought by getting chickens it would give her some responsibilities. She is an animal lover so maybe this will be good for her.

 

I have to admit,  I do find their little chirps to be soothing and relaxing. It wasn’t as hard as training a dog and easier than a kitten because they stay contained in one area.

 

At first, Hubby acted like he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. It took me weeks of convincing before he said whatever you want.  But when I brought home the first 6, he was really interactive and interested. He likes to try to get them to stand on his hand. When I brought home the second bunch, he decided we were building a chicken coop. But that is another post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschooling after vacation

Apparently, my kids took our Spring Break as the beginning of summer. We have had a really, REALLY hard time getting back on a routine. The first week home we did some review because I knew we had testing coming up the following week. Plus an unexpected (but welcomed) house guest stayed with us for a few days. So after life got settled down, I thought it will be easy to knock out the next 2 months. We are refreshed and ready to go….or not. Everytime we sat at our table for school time, I dreaded it. I wanted to be doing other things, crafts, science projects and more, not sitting at the table giving another spelling test or reviewing the same concept of a sentence for my special needs child for the millionth time. I love homeschooling, it’s one of my passions, but I was hating it at the same time. Turns out I have Homeschool Burn Out. I don’t know how many times I threatened to send the kids back to school because I was over it. All I wanted to do was throw out our books!

Guess what? I did just that!

We are doing fun learning! Something I call school for Dakota because he “hates” school and it’s boring. I now do for all 3. We put all books away except for our Math. I sat down with my computer and tablet and made lessons plans based on what we are learning and using hands on activities, including lapbooking and notebooking.

Before this happened, I read a few articles online about Homeschool Burn Out, but never really took it seriously. Believe me, it is a serious condition! If I hadn’t taken action, I may have put my kids back in public school. For my kids (not all) that would have been very damaging. Plus I am not sure what I would have done with my day. I am glad something in my mind clicked and said research this. And when I read all the symptoms: depression, not wanting to do school, threatening to put kids in school, tired and irritability. I knew this is what I was fighting. Thankfully, I saw what me and the kids didn’t want to do and changed to the items we were craving, using our creativity!

It’s only been 3 days since I threw out the books, but it has felt so refreshing to be free. I am beginning to see that play really is the best education you can give a child. And I am focused more on doing than filling out a worksheet.

Being Frugal and still have fun!

Last month, my family went and bought Season passes to Walt Disney World.

WHOA! What! Wait a minute! I know I have been posting on being frugal and then I just went and dropped a ton of money on Disney passes! How can that be? Well let me tell ya!

Back in the good ol’ days I could swipe a credit card and buy our passes and not even blink about. No biggie right? I’ll just pay it later or should I say Hubby would. Well then the economy apocalypse came and I didn’t have credit cards to rely on. All I had was cash. I knew our Disney days were numbered. I had been a passholder religiously since I was 13 years old. What was I going to do?

I ran across this website called Couponing to Disney  and I started reading about her ways of saving for Disney vacations. I thought I can do this. So the year my son was born I started a Disney fund. I would put all of the change we got when we would pay for something in a container. I also would have yard sales and sell items on craigslist. When those items sold, it went into the Disney fund. It took me a year to save up for passes and a weekend getaway. As soon as I cashed in a bought the passes we would start our next fund. Now the following year we got lucky, one of hubby’s distributors real screwed up an order of cabinet doors. Hubby sold the customer on them anyway but complained to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then issued us a refund and it was just enough to cover Disney passes.

This pass year I started adding more ways to save. When I would get gift cards, instead of going on a shopping spree for more things I didn’t need I put them toward groceries and put cash to equal the same amount into the fund. I also started using paid email websites to earn a little here and there. Any mail in rebates went in along with any random cash settlement checks from a lawsuit here and there. You know $2-$3 will add up over time. By the time Christmas and my birthday came around, I was only $300 short so hubby said take the cash as you present.

We also went out on a limb and planned a 5 day vacation. The kids and I pulled all of our gift cards together and have saved about $900 towards it. That is just from Christmas, birthdays and an awesome site called Mypoints.

This website gives you points per dollar you spend at well know retailers when you shop online. I did most of my Christmas shopping online this year and was able to rake up 15,000 points. Enough for about a $100 Walmart gift card.

These are just a few ways to be frugal but still have fun.

Our vacation is coming up in a week and 2 days (but who’s counting?). If you want to follow our trip, you can follow me on twitter  or instagram.

Back to Basics~Grocery shopping

We covered how to make a menu. Now lets cover how to grocery shop cheaply.

Shopping List~
After you have a menu plan, you will want to make a list. Gather all of those recipes and make a list of every ingredient you would need. Even if you know you have it, write it down. If you need the same item for different recipes write down how many or how much. Nothing will throw you off your meal making stride like needing 2 eggs and only having 1. Now go through your kitchen and mark off all the items that you have already. While you are doing this, write down any items that are essentials that you might be getting low on. For us that would be flour, sugar, milk, eggs and Hubby’s coffee, just to name a few.
Now time for our sale ads. Go through and write down any deals you see that would be beneficial to your family. Maybe there is a deal on toilet paper or razors. Stock up!
Coupons~
I use to be one of those mom’s who couldn’t buy anything without coupons. This was before the TV show made us look like freaks. Why did we need 20 bags of dog food when I don’t have a dog?  BECAUSE IT’S FREE!!! Then I saw the show and thought WOW I am spending a lot of time on couponing and coming home with a lot of junk I didn’t need just because it was cheap or free. It can be a double edge sword. You want to save money but you don’t want it to take away from your family time or become an obsession.
I still stockpile certain items using coupons. But everything I buy in excessive amounts is things that we use. Razors, shaving cream, body wash, shampoo, toliet paper and toothpaste are just a few items I keep a look out for deals and coupons. But I have 3 teenage daughters. If it was just me and my hubby, probably not.
Also having 4 kids, I keep a lot of snacks in the home. I always look for Buy one Get one (BOGOS) deals and coupons to match. This keeps my grocery bill down significantly. Once you get familiar with you store of choices sales, clipping coupons will be easy. I can go through a coupon book and know which coupons are good to clip based on what my store puts on sale. I also only clip coupons I know I will use.
But if your not into couponing, I have gone weeks by just making a list of what I need and sticking to it and never touching a coupon. It works just as well, you just have to resist those extra deals you might see in the store.
Now if you like the idea of coupons but don’t have time, try looking for a blog specific to the store of your choice. There are tons of bloggers out there that are doing the work for you. Just do a search for <Insert store name here> ad match ups. They will have all the deals listed with coupons for that item listed as well. They also show you the best deals of the week with a special symbol.
Prices~
I have been doing this for a while, so I have gotten pretty good at knowing my prices at the stores I like to shop at. Like I know for $14 I am going to get a little over 3 pounds of hamburger. But if I go to BJs, I will get over 6 pounds for around $15! Having a large family of predominant meat eaters this can be our most expensive category on the shopping list. But knowing where to get the most bang for you buck is the key. For me that would be a warehouse store. Again if it was just me and the Hubby, most likely not. You have to go what works for your family. Now if we were vegetarians, I would shop mostly at our local farmers market.
Which is another option, for fruits and vegetables, shop locally. If you are lucky enough to have a local farmers market then take advantage of the straight from farm approach. I have gotten some amazing deals shopping here.
For me the key, is to stick to a few stores and get to know them like the back of your hand.

Back to Basics~ Menu Planning

This week I am starting our living frugally posts. I took this month to get back into a routine of school and normal life after the holidays. Now we are living on a budget and saving.

But before then there are a few things that  I have started doing just to get into the mind frame of saving.

Gather your family’s favorite recipes~

I have gone through countless cookbooks to make an easy to find list of our favorite recipes, where to find them and what page number. My list is broken down by Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Desserts. This is truly a life saver. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to sit and go through all 14 years worth of cookbooks to find what I am looking for. This is a time saver, but also gives you a starting point for menu planning.

Menu Planning~
Organization is the key to saving money especially at meal times. The best way to be organize is to menu plan. Pick a day, mine is usually Sunday, to make a menu for a week. Look at your families favorite recipes, what you have on hand and what is on sale at your local grocery stores. As a homeschooling mom, I have to serve 3 meals to at least 4 people (most days it is 6), but I try to at least have a solid plan for breakfast and dinner because those are our family meal times. Lunch I plan sometimes based on what leftovers I have, but mostly it’s a fly by the seat of your pants meal. If your kids are at school or you work out of the home then only menu plan for the meals ate at home as a family. I like to leave my weekends open for trying new recipes.
In the end, we are trying to eliminate the drive thru solution to dinner. So start small, look at what meals are ate most from fast food establishments and make that your meal goal. Plan a weeks worth of meals for that time. Then plan two weeks. Now I am not saying don’t treat yourself once in awhile or look at your menu as the bible. Life happens! But even if this helps you get dinner on the table easier 4 nights out of the week, then it’s a winner.