A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: fun

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Resources

Indoor Seed Starting Time   It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our friends she was quite the center of attention. It was quite a shock for me just how many presents one child could receive and how insistent people would be that they buy her something every time she sneezed. Things got worse once we started having a “family” party separate from the “kid” party and we suddenly had twice the presents, many of which were small plastic pieces that soon got lost. Once we had a second, and then third child the gifting got completely out of control. Suddenly everyone needed a present at everyone else’s birthday even though my kids are not upset by others getting presents and everyone started getting gifts randomly even though there was no actual reason. It was a waterfall of gifts people. Many more than my kids ever needed and these same people that were giving all of these gifts, sometimes one a month, were very critical of how many things we had for the kids.  My constant pointing out of the excess that others had bought them fell on deaf ears and I began to get really frustrated. A solution had to be found!


Cake from our daughter’s third birthday.


I have spent many years trying to reign people in and insisting that we did not need more clothes, toys or whatever random things were suggested and I was largely ignored. Family members “needed” to buy the kids many things and parents of friends would tell me their kid really wanted to buy something.  We tried small wish lists on Amazon. That resulted in gifts cards of various degrees of usefulness. We tried explaining about how we were cutting back and didn’t need any more stuff. This sort of worked but mostly resulted in a smaller number of gifts at holidays and then random giving all year round. We also tried doing a white elephant party at one of our daughter’s birthdays but the kids had such a diverse set of interests it didn’t really work.


This year I decided we have had enough. We are trying to cut back on our “stuff” and reduce our waste and all of this random gift giving was not helping. We started the seeds of change early, at our youngest’s first birthday with a very firm we prefer no gifts but if you insist on buying something stick to the wishlist (which mostly contained diapers and a couple of toys both kids could share). It worked out pretty well. He still got a lot of gifts, but nowhere near the amount the first two kids did and we had more people at the party since we invited a bunch of friends too. I also took every opportunity I could to point out cute clothing items the kids were wearing that we had received from our Buy Nothing group and to firmly state that the children did not need clothes. Thankfully people started asking me if the kids needed anything and actually listening and the number of random gifts started to slowly decline.


The best part of my son’s first birthday party was the car wash we created in the hallway out of leftover streamers from previous parties.


The true test of our reduced gift receiving strategy was the middle child’s 4th birthday. She has a lot of friends and started at a new school this year so I wanted to invite everybody in her class.  We ended up doing separate family and kid parties since there would be so many kids invited. For the family party I set up a small wish list on Amazon with things she actually wanted (mostly Legos) and a couple of clothing items to satisfy those that always buy clothes for her.  I made sure to tell everybody that we really wanted to see everyone but to keep the gift giving to a minimum since our kids have way too much stuff and you know what? It actually worked this time! Our daughter got presents, but this was the first year that she didn’t seem to get way too many. People only bought her one or two items instead of four or five and about half of the items were Lego sets which took us a whole month to put together so she didn’t experience present burnout after a few days. I am really glad we stuck to our guns!


Lately our kids have been into making hybrid lego/block trains.


The kid party was a little trickier since we didn’t know a lot of the families as well.  We invited about 25 kids plus their siblings and had it at a local gymnastics place where the kids got to run around for an hour then have cake.  Since I haven’t had luck telling friends not to buy gifts I decided to see if people were willing to donate a gift to a local charity called Holly House for Kids instead. We asked our daughter’s friends to make her a card or draw her a picture since she loves receiving art from her friends and to donate a gift to a charity in our area that buys Christmas gifts for kids instead of buying her a present. It worked out really well! A few parents didn’t read the part on the invitation about gifts but almost everyone else brought her a piece of artwork and many people donated gifts to our charity. Holly House for Kids has an Amazon wishlist where all gifts can be sent directly to the charity so I didn’t even have to drop donations off afterwards! It was an amazing experience to have most of the families donate to kids that may go without.  We also took the opportunity to talk with our 4yo about how some kids don’t get presents at Christmas time and that she had gotten lots of gifts at her family party and didn’t need anything else.  Honestly though, she was so busy having fun with her friends that she didn’t really notice that she didn’t have a bunch of presents until we got home. She really enjoyed reading her cards and looking over her art work over the next few days.  It was really cool to see what the other kids had made and our daughter loves art. She was very excited that the kids had made something for her which was really sweet to see.


My daughter drew this for a family member as a gift.


We will definitely do the donation instead of a present idea at the next birthday party.  I am really glad our kids are young enough that they won’t remember getting tons of presents at every birthday party and hopefully they will grow up with the expectation that spending time with friends is more important than receiving a large number of presents.


What have you done to reduce the amount of presents given to your household?






A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]

Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we had only one kid we made our own gluten free flour mixtures tailored to whatever we were making but now that we have three kids and our time is in very short supply I have been buying an all-purpose gluten-free flour. We found it at Costco for a decent price. It works pretty well for generic recipes and I use it in my Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Banana Bread and it tastes very similar to regular flour.



Gather your ingredients. We buy most of our items from Costco as you can see!



Cream your coconut oil and sugar in a bowl.



Add your eggs and vanilla and mix until blended.



Now add your baking soda, salt and flour. I like to split the flour in two to cut down on the mess. Purists will mix their dry ingredients in a separate bowl before mixing in with the wet ingredients but I like to avoid washing more dishes if at all possible so I have always done it this way.




Next add your chocolate chips.  The recipe calls for 2 cups but honestly I just dump what I think is a good amount in and call it good. I like the dough to be full of chocolate chips so I probably add more like 2.5 cups but it really is a personal preference.



Once you are done mixing place the dough in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.



I usually freeze at least half of it by double wrapping it in plastic wrap.  It is really convenient to have a little bit of cookie dough in the fridge for those days that you need to whip some dessert up in a hurry. Sometimes we will portion it out ahead of time and freeze on cookie trays so we can bake individual cookies which is great for when the grownups want an after bedtime treat!



Once chilled, set the dough out on the counter for 20-30 min and then used a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon to divide up the dough. Place it on a cookie sheet with a Silpat, ball it up a bit and then squash the tops so that they are a little flat.



Bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees or until done. Leave on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them too a cooling rack and let cool.


And that my friends is how we make our easy Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies! They are great with milk (both soy and regular). At some point I might get ambitious and try making dairy-free ice cream sandwiches with them.


What is your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?


Mini Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 27, 2017
: 45
: 2 hr 50 min
: 6 min
: 26 min
: Easy

These easy to make dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are delicious! They are perfect for parties, events and for making with the kids.


  • 3/4 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free flour
  • 2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips
  • Step 1 Cream your coconut oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl.
  • Step 2 Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low.
  • Step 3 Add your baking soda, salt and 1/2 of the flour and mix. Once mixed add the remaining flour and mix until smooth.
  • Step 4 Add your chocolate chips and stir until combined.
  • Step 5 Chill your dough for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Step 6 Remove dough from the fridge and let sit out at room temperature for 30 min.
  • Step 7 Set oven to 350 degrees while you measure out your dough with a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon. When you measure pack the dough into the 1 Tbsp measuring spoon and flip onto the cookie sheet. Mold into balls and flatten slightly.
  • Step 8 Bake for 5-7 min on the middle rack or until done.
  • Step 9 Remove from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack.
  • Step 10 Enjoy!
  • Step 11 If you decide not to bake all it at once you can double wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before removing it to bake.


Blueberry Picking 2017

Blueberry Picking 2017

We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every […]

Garden Update July 28, 2017

Garden Update July 28, 2017

Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it.  The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day.  I have […]

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Banana Bread

Banana bread was one of those things I always meant to make but never got around to. We would put bananas in the freezer and inevitably forget about them. I have tossed so many bananas into the yard waste I can’t even remember. Part of our plan to be more frugal is to waste less food. Food waste is a huge problem, especially in America with up to 40% of all food produced wasted according to the National Resources Defense Council.  Many people buy more than they need and a lot of it gets tossed out.  We have always gone through the pantry a couple of times a year and donated what we are not eating but that is harder to do with the lettuce you fully intended to eat but has now formed a mushy mess in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. I have been really working hard at lowering our produce waste lately and only buying enough fruits and vegetables for us to actually eat.


Our efforts have been working and we no longer have several bananas in the freezer or mushy lettuce in the fridge but we do run out of fresh fruit and vegetables sometimes but you know what? It is completely fine. I keep frozen fruit and vegetables in the freezer and when we run out I make sure to go to the store the next possible day.  We have gotten much better about buying only what we need and now that our berries and squash are beginning to ripen I don’t really have to worry about running out.  We just head out to the garden and see what we can find.  Right now we have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries ripe and my kids have been out there daily munching away.


Hickies - No Tie Elastic Shoelaces


Finding a good banana bread recipe was a difficult task.  We don’t like it very sweet and it needed to be easy enough for me to put together with the kids running around.  I found this one at Mr.Breakfast.com several months ago that I absolutely love.  We have since gone gluten and diary-free and I have been able to adapt it easily with pre-made gluten-free flour and coconut oil. I also cut the sugar in half because we are trying to reduce our sugar intake in our house.



I found some gluten-free flour at Costco that I thought I would try it with this banana bread and so far I have been really pleased with it. I can’t taste any garbanzo beans and unsuspecting family members haven’t been able to tell the difference so I may branch out to something else.  I have been hearing about this butter flavored coconut oil for months in my mom’s group and I used it with the banana bread. I am not sure if it is worth the extra cost yet.  The container is not very big and using 8 tablespoons for the banana bread recipe made a huge dent in it so I might just reserve it for recipes where it really matters. Ha ha don’t look at the salt I used.  We have been out of Kosher salt the last couple of weeks and my husband and I kept forgetting to buy it. He is a huge salt lover though so we have many different kinds stashed away in the cupboard and the sea salt made the cut as our temporary substitute.  Do you guys ever do that? A box of Kosher salt lasts us many months and we never remember to buy it when we are out. Somehow since we rarely need salt it slips our minds every time we are at the store. I should probably start buying two so we have an extra for our emergency kit.



First things first measure out your coconut oil and your sugar.



Cream them in a bowl. I am fond of the hand mixer for smaller jobs but you could use a stand mixer as well.



Beat 2 eggs into a bowl.



Mash up your bananas. I did them one by one in the egg bowl to save on dishes.



Add your flour slowly.  I split it into 2 1/2 cups and 1/4 cup and slowly mixed them in.



Yum! If you like nuts or chocolate chips in your banana bread you can add them here. My son is too young for nuts so I leave them out.  We also don’t eat a lot of sugar so I leave out the chocolate chips.



Pour your mixture into a greased loaf pan and tamp it down. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.



There you have it! Yummy banana bread fresh out of the oven. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool!


Gluten-free Dairy-free Banana Bread

July 15, 2017
: 8-10
: 10 min
: 60 min
: Easy

Quick and easy banana bread easily made gluten and dairy-free.


  • 8 Tablespoons Coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 3 bananas
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour mix
  • Optional 1/3 cups Walnuts
  • Step 1 Grease a standard loaf pan and set oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  • Step 2 Cream the coconut oil and sugar together in a large bowl.
  • Step 3 Beat two eggs together and add them as well as two mashed bananas to the bowl.
  • Step 4 Mix in salt and baking soda. Add flour, mixing slowly.
  • Step 5 Bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean in the center of the loaf.



Garden Update July 10th 2017

Garden Update July 10th 2017

We have had a busy week in the garden! Lots of flowers are in bloom and we spent many hours pulling ivy along the property lines in anticipation of our fence measure this week. We are very close to being done with the fence line […]