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!

Crust, Crust Baby…

Like most families we love pizza, but when you have a large family, it can get rather expensive to get take-out, so we started making our own! The dough, besides all the gooey cheese and delicious toppings, is the most important part, and you know that making any kind of dough can be tricky. It took us a few hits and misses to find one that is easy and works well, but we did! If you are a pizza fanatic, it might work for you too!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lukewarm water (between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 1/4 cups bread flour (you can also use all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  • In your mixer (or in a large bowl if kneading by hand)) add warm water, then add the yeast and sugar, let it sit for 5 minutes, then stir to combine. 
  • Add the olive oil, flour and salt. Using the hook attachment, start to mix on low speed, and then raise to medium speed and knead for approximately 5 minutes or until you have a smooth elastic dough (scrape the hook halfway through kneading and the sides of bowl if needed).  
  • If mixing by hand add the olive oil, flour, and salt, and then mix with a fork until the dough comes together. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
  • Place in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Place a clean towel over it and put in a warm place to rise (about 2 hours)
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • After dough has risen, punch it down a few times.
  • Divide into 2 or 3 balls (depending on how big you want your pizza) and let rest for about 20 minutes.
  • Lightly oil pizza pans or cookie sheets and fit dough into shape using your clean hands.
  • Add your favorite cheese and toppings and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden.

The crust comes out thin and crispy (be on the lookout for another favorite dough recipe that comes out thicker)! It’s a great meal to have while playing games, watching movies, or just sitting and talking! Enjoy!