Blog Posts

Give Me Some More S’mores Please…

We all love s’mores (At least I hope we all do!). There is nothing better than having your firepit going outside and roasting marshmallows on a summer night (or fall, winter, and spring night…). Not all of us have a firepit, or enjoy going out in the cold though, so how can you still taste those yummy s’mores??? You make s’mores dip! It is easy to make, and so yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a combo
  • 15 jumbo marshmallows, halved
  • Graham cracker squares

Directions:

  • Adjust rack to center position of oven and place 8-inch cast iron skillet on rack. Preheat oven to 450°F with skillet inside. Once oven is preheated, use a pot holder to remove hot skillet from the oven. Place pat of butter in the skillet and use a pot holder to hold the handle and swirl the skillet so that the melted butter coats the bottom and sides. Pour chocolate chips in an even layer into the bottom of the skillet. Taking care not to burn fingers on the sides of the skillet, arrange marshmallow halves over the surface of the chocolate chips, covering the chocolate completely. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows are toasted to your preference. Use an oven mitt to remove the skillet from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with graham cracker squares or sticks! (Be careful! The skillet will still be very hot!!)

You can use whatever flavored chips (butterscotch, peanut butter, etc.) you like, and can even mix it up! This treat will be sure to please all!

On the Road Again…

In a little over a month our family will be making a move almost a 1,000 miles away. We are excited, nervous, anxious, and a little overwhelmed. Change can be amazing, but it can also bring a flood of emotions. We are actually thinking of this time as our new adventure! It helps with coping with all the emotions, and helps us with all the ever changing feelings! My list of to-do is also growing everyday, so deep breathing is also on the agenda! Packing up a family of 7 takes some organization and patience. A lot of patience, lol. Here are some of the things that I (we) have been doing to get this adventure started!

Purging: We have been going through everything and really questioning if it is something we need. I think that is one of the hardest parts, especially items that hold certain memories. I was one of those moms who kept everything, and I mean everything. I actually did a purging a while back of all the things the kids have made us throughout the years. I kept a few things from each year and made a special folder for each of the children. It helped me clean, yet keep some beautiful memories of the children’s growing up years. We also have memory boxes for each of the kids. It holds things from when they were babies on up. They will take these boxes with them when they leave the nest. It’s just little pieces of them they can cherish and share with their own families. We also ask ourselves if we really need “that many” of one thing, or even something similar. Plates, cups, appliances, etc. Most of them just sit in the cabinets and drawers. We have boxes of items to be donated. and some set aside for the children.

Packing: The fun part, lol. We actually use bins to pack. We found them to be easier to move, and they are reusable afterwards. We keep all the packing that comes in shipments we get, and we also use old plastic tablecloths, pillow cases. towels, etc. that we aren’t using right away to pack any fragile items. We label, and then organize them by rooms. That way it’s easy to load in groups, and much easier when coming off the truck.

Moving Van: My husband and I have discussed this in length. We have gone back and forth with hiring a company, to driving ourselves. Having someone do it for us would be easier, but obviously way more expensive. Doing it ourselves would be a little more challenging, but would save us money. Of course, that would also be an adventure in itself! Right now we have decided to go that route, but I am sure we will change our minds a few more times…

Driving Plan: We are not going to be driving straight through to our new home. We have decided to map a plan of different places to stop, and sleepover in a hotel about half way. Some people are fine driving through, but for us it is the other way around. I think we would get too hangry and have a few mini breakdowns. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight. As for me, I have really bad anxiety/panic and I am going to need breaks, food, and a bit of meditation, lol!

Food and Drinks: A must have staple on any type of road trip! We usually drink water and Gatorade, and pack fruit, pretzels, goldfish, sunflower seeds (hubby loves them while driving), protein/granola bars, and of course some chocolate! I don’t know about your family, but we get whiny and hangry when we don’t eat every few hours, lol!

Unloading/Unpacking: I always pray this goes smoothly. We usually have a system. Someone on the truck, someone right outside the truck, etc. Everything goes straight to the room it needs to go. We set up the big things first (beds, etc.), and then we can take our time unpacking and figuring out where to put things (My favorite part!). The most important part is to keep your sense of humor! We tend to laugh a lot during this process!

Moving is stressful no matter if you are moving 5 minutes away, or across the country. I feel that being organized, having a sense of humor, and a little pre-planning can help! Sometimes it may have hiccups, and that is okay too! Go with the flow and enjoy the adventure!

Waffles…Da, Da, Da!

We love to make brunch every Sunday, and enjoy coming up with different items to make. One of our favorites is waffles! My son usually makes them, but I have gotten in on the action as well. As someone who loves to bake and cook, I had never made homemade waffles before, and I love it! You can top your waffles with fruit, chocolate, homemade whip cream, maple syrup, powdered sugar, fruit syrup, and so much more! We also serve it with either bacon or sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour 
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder plus a teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup Sugar 
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 Cups Milk 
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Directions:

  • Warm your waffle iron. I set mine to 350 degrees. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a small bowl. In a medium bowl whisk the milk, eggs and vanilla together. Stir in the melted butter.
  • Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix until combined.
  • Add about 1/3 cup of batter for each waffle. I also coat my iron with a bit of vegetable oil. It keeps the waffles from sticking and gives it a nice crisp!

Remember… waffles aren’t just for breakfast or brunch, they are also just as yummy for dinner!

There’s a Garden in My Bucket…

I have talked about planting your garden in the ground, or in garden beds, but what about buckets? This option is great if you live in a small place, rent, or just don’t have the right soil or conditions for growing in the ground. I actually use these to grow tomatoes and lettuce. It is easy to start, and is great if you are just starting out gardening! Just follow the steps below, and you will be on your way!

Steps:

  1. Buy your 5 gallon buckets. I get them from Lowe’s, but you can get them from Home Depot or anywhere else they sell them.
  2. You will need to drill some holes (I do about 10-12) in the bottom of the bucket. This helps with water drainage and moisture.
  3. Add small rocks to the bottom, as this will also help with drainage.
  4. Fill your bucket with a mix of peat moss, compost, and planting soil. Make sure it is well mixed, and that you leave a little room for planting.
  5. Add your established plants or seeds. Both will work with container gardening.
  6. Make sure to water daily and fertilize at least once a month.

The best vegetable to grow in buckets are:

🌱Tomatoes (1 per bucket) *remember to add a stake in the middle to support the plant

🌱Cucumbers (1 per bucket)

🌱Peppers (2 per bucket)

🌱Beans (3 per bucket)

🌱Lettuce (4 per bucket)

🌱Onions (4 per bucket)

🌱Carrots (10 per bucket)

You still get the joy of “regular” gardening, and all the fresh vegetables! If you don’t like the color of the buckets, you can paint them, or add burlap to them. As with any garden make sure they are getting the right amount of sun and water. As I said, it is easy to start, and is great for any type of environment! Now go get your gardening on!

Churn (Shake) That Butter…

We go through a lot of butter, and as most of you know, it is expensive. We love to bake, and we know how much butter that can take! If we can make it AND cut costs, well, I will take it! This is what our journey is about. Below is a recipe for homemade butter! (Make sure you do arm exercises if you decide to do the jar method, lol!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • Large bowl of ice water
  • Stand mixer, or a jar with a tight fitting lid

Directions:

Pour a pint of the cream into your mixer, or jar. If using a mixer, turn on low speed, then raise to medium speed. If you’re using a jar, start shaking! At first, the cream will turn into whipped cream with soft, then stiff peaks. Keep mixing until the cream breaks. If you’re shaking by hand, you’ll hear sloshing, then you’ll begin to feel something more solid. If you’re using a stand mixer, you’ll see the butter clinging to the beater. This usually takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, but if by hand may take longer. You are separating the butterfat from the liquid. 

Once the butter has solidified, pour off the buttermilk and save it for baking! Scoop the butter into a bowl. Rinse the butter by pouring ice water over it and pressing the remaining buttermilk out with a small spatula or a spoon. Pour off the water and repeat the process. Keep rinsing and squishing the butter with the ice water until the water runs clear. (You can also add a bit of salt at this point if you would like)

Enjoy on toast, crackers, or in your favorite thing to bake!

 

A PI a Day (keeps us happy)…

Who here celebrates PI Day? I will raise my hand (and my families hands, lol)! Every year we celebrate, and every year we try to make different pies. This year we made 3: Apple, chocolate cream, and key lime. They were all delicious, but the key lime hit different, so that one is the recipe I am posting. Plus, it is super easy to make… an added bonus!

Ingredients:

Graham cracker crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp. butter, melted

Key Lime Filling

  • 28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 3/4 cup key lime juice
  • zest from 2 limes

Whipped Cream Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Graham Cracker Crust

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press the crumb mixture into an 9″ pie pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Cool for about 30 minutes.

Key Lime Filling

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whisk together sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime zest in a medium bowl. Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Let pie cool slightly before chilling. Chill for about 3 hours.

Whipped Cream Topping

  • Beat heavy cream and sugar together in a mixer until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Pipe the whipped cream on top of the (chilled) pie. Top with additional lime zest if you would like!

Do you celebrate PI Day? What are your favorite types of pie? Is there a pie that you make that people may not be familiar with? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you!

Budget Don’t Fail Me Now…

We weren’t always on a budget, and it definitely caused us to fall behind on bills, as well as made our credit less than desirable. We were tired of living paycheck to paycheck, and having nothing left over. For most of our marriage, I have been a stay at home mom, so we do live on one paycheck. But you can still save if you know where to cut and budget. We had a wake up call years ago, and reworked how we were spending, what we were spending it on, and where all the extra money was going. We not only are saving, but our credit is repaired! It takes work, a few tears, some laughs, and a whole lot of determination, but you can do it!

Where did we start? Here is the list of some steps we took:

  1. We wrote down all our bills (including mortgage or rent), and looked at items we could either get rid of, or cut down on. One of the big things is the electric and water bill in our house. With the electric we make sure to unplug items when not in use, especially chargers. We keep lights turned off during the day and only put ones on if needed. We changed our light bulbs to more efficient ones, and use timers when needed. When it comes to the heat and air conditioning, we use the air the most because we live in the southeast. We keep it at a temperature that is comfortable enough and if we aren’t at home we turn it up higher. For the water, we use the dishwasher, and if washing by hand we turn off the water in between washing/rinsing. We do larger loads of laundry, and we are allotted a certain amount of time in the shower (if my kids had their way they would be signing happily in there for an hour). These small steps have saved us about $50-$75 a month.
  2. We were also out of control with our grocery bill, and easily spending $1,500 or more a month. This is where we saved the most money, and this is where we really revamped. We see where the best sales are (usually it is between Aldi’s and Walmart), and, if needed, shop between a couple of places. We started meal planning, meal prepping, and making a lot of things homemade (I feel this is where we really started our homesteading journey). We also shop for the month (this is especially handy if you have a stand alone freezer, or extra refrigerator), and use our rotating pantry. We have slashed our bill to about $450-$500 a month. We also have a budget of about $150 a month for toiletries/miscellaneous. In total for both is about $600-$650 a month. We have saved over $900 a month just on that alone.
  3. Envelopes. Yes, envelopes. We have a ledger sheet in each one stating how much we put in, and how much we take out. If you don’t feel comfortable with taking the cash out, or just don’t have the time, you can easily do this with a savings account attached to your checking, and keep track of it that way. We did it that way last year due to the pandemic, and we were still able to keep our goals. We don’t do it that way permanently, because we like to have it physically with us, and use cash whenever possible. This method works for us, but it may not work for everyone. Some tweaking may be involved! We have envelopes for the following:
  • Medical (co-pays, prescriptions, etc.)
  • Groceries
  • Toiletries
  • Eat Out (once a month)
  • Clothes/Shoes
  • Savings
  • Savings #2
  • Emergency Fund (3-6 months worth of expenses)
  • Birthdays
  • Christmas
  1. Credit cards… where do I begin? We need credit cards to help build our credit, but they can send us into debt. When we were struggling financially, it helped when we needed it, but it was a vicious cycle because we were only able to pay the minimum, if anything at all (we always contacted the credit card company if this was the case, and they were always helpful and willing to work with us). It took us years to pay down even the smallest amount. Do we still have credit cards? Absolutely, but we use them wisely. We use them for gas, and some bills (we use the rewards cards), but we pay off the full amount each month (we make sure we have the money already set aside). We don’t use them for large either. We always save in cash for those. Some people I know use their credit cards to pay for everything, even their mortgage, but always pay them off each month. They usually have rewards cards and use them for vacations, etc. Short story long, use them wisely and make sure you have the money to pay them off each month.
  2. Living simply. This has been our motto for a few years now. We used to think we needed every new thing that came out, new cars, new electronics, etc. We don’t. We are living within our means, and still enjoying life. We have a roof over our head, food on our table, clothes on our backs, heat when it’s cold, air when it’s hot, and plenty of laughter and love. We take joy in what life and nature has to offer. Hiking trails, beaches, lakes, mountains…We love to bargain hunt and thrift shop. We enjoy refurbishing our finds, and items we already have. We make old things new. We create. We enjoy.

Everyone is different. Everyone lives different lifestyles. This works for us and our lifestyle. If you are like us, it may work for you, If not, there may be parts that help, or parts you can tweak to fit your life…Just remember, whether you have a large family like ours, or a small one, having a budget is important. Life is expensive, but if you plan accordingly, you can still enjoy it!

Muffins Gonna Stop Us Now…

I love to prepare foods ahead of time. It helps on the mornings that are busy, or on the days you just want to stay curled up in bed. Muffins are my go to. They are easy to make, store well, and are great for not only breakfast, but a snack as well! One of our favorites is blueberry muffins. An added benefit is that blueberries are an antioxidant superfood, and packed with potassium and vitamin c! Why not put them in a yummy muffin? This is one of my favorite recipes. They come out moist and look like the ones you buy at a bakery, but they are even better because you can control what you are putting in it! I hope you give them a try!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the blueberries)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup plain sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (see Recipe Note)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F placing the rack in the lower middle. Using cooking spray, liners, or butter, prepare your muffin tins (makes 12 muffins).
  2. Place the blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over them and gently toss to coat. The flour helps the blueberries not to sink while baking.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients—the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, place the sour cream, sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk together until smooth.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture a third at a time, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to overmix. Gently fold the blueberries into the mixture.
  6. Distribute the dough equally in the muffin pan. Be sure to fill them up high. This is what makes the muffins so big!
  7. Place the muffin pan in the oven, and bake at 400°F until the muffins are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure the centers of the muffins are done.
  8. Let the muffins cool. Remove from muffin pan and place on a serving plate, or in an airtight container.

*The muffins will keep for about 3-4 days in a container, or you can freeze for up tp 3 months. Reheats well in the microwave.

Enjoy!

Ride Into the Garden Zone…

Before our homesteading journey, I had no idea there were even garden zones! I just figured you planted whenever, and everything would grow beautifully. As you know from a previous post, I was completely in outer space when it came to that, lol. I actually just realized about garden zones not too long ago! Right now we live in zone 8a, which is in the southeast. What does that exactly mean? Here is a bit of a breakdown of our frost times, and also some vegetables, plants, herbs, and trees you can plant in our climate:

First and last frost dates

Our last frost is between 3/15-4/15

Our first frost is between 11/1-11/30

Vegetables

🌱Carrots

🌱Peas

🌱Celery

🌱Broccoli

🌱Spinach

🌱Asparagus

Fruit Trees and Shrubs

🍃Apple

🍃Pear

🍃Apricot

🍃Fig

🍃Cherry

🍃Citrus

🍃Nuts

Herbs

🌿Chives

🌿Sorrel

🌿Thyme

🌿Marjoram

🌿Oregano

🌿Rosemary

🌿Sage

Flowering Plants

🌼Bottlebrush

🌼Hibiscus

🌼Christmas cactus

🌼Butterfly bush

🌼Indian hawthorn

We generally will have almost 8 months of frost-free growing time, plus you can start some crops earlier indoors. Some vegetables that you can start indoors in mid-February are:

🌱Beets

🌱Cabbage

🌱Carrots

🌱Kale

🌱Lettuce

🌱Peas

🌱Spinach

🌱Tomatoes

🌱Onions

*These seeds will turn into seedlings that you will transplant to the outdoors.

You can also do a second round of veggies for fall and winter crops. You can start seeds inside in August and September. Broccoli and cabbage can get started in early August. Beets, cauliflower, carrots, kale, and lettuce in mid-August, and peas and spinach in early September. All of these should go into their outdoor beds by the end of September. Broccoli and cabbage can go out early in the month, and the rest a couple of weeks later.

I am so glad I have smartened up (sort of, lol), and done my research. It makes for a much less stressful situation, and I am finding joy in planning and seeing my garden thrive! Do you know what zone you are in? What grows best where you live? What are your favorite things to grow! Let me know!

(A Little Bit of) Salsa in My Life…

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

If your family is anything like mine, you love to snack, especially on the weekends. One of the things we love to eat is nachos and salsa, but were never content with the store bought salsa. Since we are on our homesteading journey, and are trying to make a lot of things homemade and from scratch, we decided to give salsa a try! Let me tell you, we are never turning back! This is the recipe my son uses, and the great thing about it is that you can make it as hot, or as mild, as you want!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs. Roma tomatoes (about 5 – 6), cut into medium sized slices and then into quarters
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 green onions, ends trimmed, chopped into thirds
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion 
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro 
  • 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*You can omit certain spices, if you don’t like it too hot, and replace it with milder options.

Directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse in 1 second bursts until all ingredients are finely chopped. Make sure not to pulse it too much, because it will turn soupy. You want it crisp and thick!
  • Serve with tortilla chips. Chill for at least 2 hours. Always best served cold!
  • Store in refrigerator up to 1 week, or freeze in freezer bags up to 3 months.

This salsa has such a nice crunch to it, and the flavors, since you are using fresh vegetables, just make your mouth do a little dance! It is easy to make, and it stores well. Try it on your next family game or movie night!