Saturday, May 15, 2010


As I have mentioned on more than one occasion I LOVE, absolutely LOVE having meals prepared in advanced, especially when we are busy on the road. So while home I once again hit the kitchen hard. I roasted a turkey, made a roast and all the general things of that nature. When I wasn’t cooking Gary was, have I mentioned before both he and Sean are excellent cooks? If not, let me put it on the record right now that they both are. It’s a good thing too because if they weren’t often we’d go hungry due to my lack of organization on certain days.

Gary made up the Moo Gurgle recipe, which after all was originally his, and Sean made up individual meals while we were home. We alternate cooking and cleaning and the system works well for us.

On my cooking days I also made up some Master Mixes both to take along in the camper and to leave at home for Sean to use. This round I made Cream Cheese Crust Mix, Lemon Pie Filling and Shortcake Master Mix.

I made lemon tarts one night with the first two and strawberry shortcake with the third another night.

So here are the recipes to share:

Cream Cheese Crust Mix

2 8 oz pkgs of cream cheese (I used 1 lowfat and 1 regular to help cut calories)

5 sticks butter

6 cups flour

Bring the cream cheese and butter to room temperature so they soften. Then blend the two well together. Add the flour and cut in until well mixed. Divide it into 9-10 balls. Individually wrap, label and freeze. This will keep about 6 months easily in the freezer. Each ball equals one pie crust.

To make it into a crust you thaw the dough then row it out as you normally would for a pie crust. If it’s a little dry you can add a small amount of water, but it generally is not needed.


Tarts of all types

To make individual tarts of any type I mash the dough into muffin tins and then fill and bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes or until light brown.

Pie Crusts both single and double layer

Layered cookie bases, just add your favorite topping to a layer of this crust for bar cookies and bake.


2 ½ C presweetened with sugar lemonade mix,

1 C cornstarch

1 ¼ C sugar, more or less for sweeter/tarter flavor

1 tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together well and store in a labeled airtight container in a cool dark place. Shelf life is about 6 months.


Use any presweetened drink mix, limeade, koolade, whatever for unusual tarts, pies and sauces.


Lemon Pie or tarts

1 ¼ c pie filling

2 ½ c water

3 egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs if you don’t mind the strings from the whites in your pie)

2 tbl butter

In a large saucepan combine the pie filling mix, ½ c water and the eggs. Mix until smooth and the slowly stir in the remaining water as you cook the mixture over a medium heat. Stir constantly for about 4-5 minutes or until it is thickens and is bubbling.

Pour into prepared and baked pie crust or several baked tart shells. Top with whipped cream or meringue if desired.


1 c water

¼ c pie filling mix

2 tbl butter

In a small saucepan stir the water into the pie filling mix as you heat it to boiling. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter is melted.

This sauce is good over a variety of desserts it and variations there of can be used for a sweet/sour sauce on just about anything you can think of.

Now on to the Shortcake Master Mix recipe…

I adapted this recipe from my old Betty Crocker cookbook (circa 1969 publication) for a single recipe of shortcake to be a master mix that calls for just adding water. It’s great to take along in the camper for quick desserts, especially when we find great produce at road side stands as we go. I like it as a master mix because I can make just the amount we need when we need it by adjusting the pan size. I’ve even done it in muffin tins to make individual ones.

Shortcake Master Mix

Makes 48 servings—with recipe for 6-8 serving usage to follow

12 c flour

¾ c sugar

6 tbl baking powder

2 tbl salt

2 c powdered milk

2 c shortening.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a 20 c capacity bowl (pan, roaster whatever—I use a big metal popcorn bowl).

Cut the shortening in well, until it looks almost like cornmeal.

Store in a labeled and dated airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 6 months, longer if you want to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.

TO USE: makes 6-8 servings

Mix roughly 2 ½ cups of the mix with approximately 1 c of water, using more or less of either to achieve the consistency of a sticky drop biscuit dough. Spray one or two 8 inch layer pans with cooking spray. Use one pan for a thick less crusty shortcake, use two for more crust the choice is yours. We prefer the lightness of the thicker one. Dot with butter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 450 for 12-15 minutes for the thinner layers approximately 20 for the thick one. You want a golden brown crust (like biscuits).

Serve warm topped with sweetened fruit and a dollop of whipped cream.

To use it for cobblers simply drop the dough on top of the hot fruit filling and cook as you normally would. I sometimes will add a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or other fruit type spices to the dry ingredients before adding the water for a bit of variety.

Jan who has a goal to simplify her cooking life by having all her master mixes made up at once and doesn’t see it happening for a long, long time in OK

Friday, May 14, 2010

PART 2—Includes a Blast from the Past Story—“It’s not Charlie.”

Now about the potatoes and tomatoes. This late in the season it’s often hard to find tomato and pepper plants, or seed potatoes available here in OK. So I was concerned I’d have none of the above available for my garden this year. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

At first when I was checking Wal-Mart for the desired plants all I found were tomato and pepper plants starting at $3.50 each. Way too expensive for my shoestring budget.

Sean and I kept looking, finally pushed to the back we found some 9 packs of Beefsteak tomatoes. They had been marked down to $3 a 9 pack. They were tiny plants, but we kept digging around until we found the healthiest of the plants, PLUS many of the sections had two tomato plants in each one. So we purchased two 9 packs. I ended up with 25 plants to plant for $6. A great deal as far as we were concerned. Beefsteak is not normally what I raise for canning, but I could go $6 far easier than I could go the $3.50 PER PLANT!

Further digging around found some $3 bell pepper plants (when all others were around $3.50-$4 each) again there were 2 plants in each of the three pots we purchased.

So those went in the ground the next day and were companion planted with basil and carrots. The cages are already set around them and they are growing quickly, much to our delight.

The following week Sean dropped Gary and I off at Lowe’s while he went to do a mystery shop that demanded he do so alone. I decided to look for seed potatoes.

I found a location that had a sign that said the burlap bags of seed potatoes were marked down to $2 each. Unfortunately there were no burlap bags of potatoes in the bin. Instead there were 20# paper bags of red seed potatoes marked at $19.95 each—WAAAY too expensive and definitely more seed potatoes than I had planned on. In the same bin were peck baskets that contained mixtures that had potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb for $9.95 each.

Knowing that in the past I have on numerous occasions asked for and received discounts on items that are similar to items they have on closeout or the damage bin I decided to see if they would at least discount these items . So I approached the cashier and inquired about the burlap potatoes and the remaining products in the $2 priced bin. She told me they were out of the burlap bag ones, but since the others were now in the bin I could purchase those items at $2 each as well. So I did. I happily left with 2 peck baskets and a 20# bag for a total of $6.

Sean and I planted all the items the next couple of days. It was far more potatoes than we’d planned on and I had not planned on many of the other items, so we had to snug up the garden a bit, but I just couldn’t resist the bargain.

We already had asparagus and garlic growing in the garden, but we figured we could always use more. LOL!

While we were home we had a few visitors of the unwelcomed type. SNAKES! The first one was a king snake that Sean promptly removed from the area and re-homed far away from our bird eggs.

The presence of the second snake became well known when our best broody Banty hen started screaming bloody murder as she fled her nest under the front porch. Just as soon as he heard the screams Sean knew what was going on and ran out front to see if he was right. The water moccasin was just starting to swallow the first of her nearly hatched eggs when Sean spotted him.

We spent the next minutes scaring the snake away from the nest, first by waving things at it through the gaps on the porch to then spraying it with a jet from the water hose, then with a long pole we have for just such a purpose. This one was a fighter, and it soon became apparent rehoming was not an option with this snake. It had to be dealt with as it climbed a cedar that was taller than our two story Dutch colonial home. He ended up in the maggot bucket. Little Speck returned to her nest and all was well until…

Two days later we heard our favorite little wild bird that builds a nest every year on our back deck hollering like crazy. You guessed it a third snake—a rat snake this time. This too got rehomed.

All of these snakes made remember a blast from the past story I wrote about Sean being snake bit when he was much younger. If you don’t like snake stories just move on to part three of this long missive that contains some recipes to add to your Master Mixes stash.

So for your enjoyment here is “It’s NOT Charlie”


Again, if you don't want to read snake stories move on to part three. I do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.

When I was growing up my grandparents always kept a king snake around for mouse and rat control. Whether they lived in the city or in the country. So having a king snake in your garage was nothing unusual to me. My husband had agreed it was fine and we released one we called Charlie in the garage one late summer day. On and off we saw Charlie and he grew plump with the field mice that tried to find their way into our home.

The next summer my two children Sam and Sean came into the bedroom of our home. Sam was carrying a beautiful speckled king snake. "Look Mom I found Charlie!" I said, yes it was another king snake, but it was not Charlie, who was used to be handled, and this one needed to be let go outside. Being a stubborn child Sam argued with me that she was certain this snake was Charlie despite it being smaller than the snake we had released the year before. All this time the snake is becoming more and more agitated. Doing as all snakes do, rattling its tail and hissing. Unfortunately at the height of its anxiety Sean, the younger super allergic to everything child, happened to walk by.

Charlie took the opportunity to strike, nailing Sean firmly on the thumb joint of his right hand. Dadburn it! Now we had to hang onto the snake instead of letting it go. I sent Sam to put the snake in something it couldn't get out of, and Sean to wash his hand and then to the living room to sit down while I called ER. Like I said, Sean is my allergic child. When the tested him for allergies for 103 known allergens he reacted to 98 of them. I could see what was coming, an allergic reaction for certain. This is basically how the ER phone call went.

"St. John's Emergency Medical, How may I help you?"

"I'd like to speak to someone who is knowledgeable about snake bites."

"One moment please"

"May I help you?"

" Yes, my son is very prone to allergies and he was just bitten by a non poisonous speckled king snake and I was wondering...."

"Are you certain the child was bit?"

"Yes, I saw it happen."

"Then you've killed the snake?"

"No, it's very much alive and in my ....just a minute" (at this point I realized the snake was crawling out the holes of the cat carrier and I had to shoo it back in with a pair of scissors they were the closest thing handy). "Sorry, it was escaping the cat carrier."

"Let me get this straight, you saw your son bit by a snake and it's now alive and living in your cat carrier?"


"Can you describe the snake?"

"It's a non poisonous speckled king snake."

"You said you saw it bite your son, how and where did it bite him?"

Folks I am sorry to say, but this is where I made my BIG mistake...

"My oldest child Sam, was holding what she thought was Charlie, the snake, we were arguing about it being Charlie or not and just as Sean, my son walked by the snake RATTLED it's tail and struck Sean on his thumb."

"RATTLED IT'S TAIL!? Mam, can you describe the snake?"

"It's a non poisonous speckled king snake, I just need to know if Sean could have an allergic reaction and if so how I should treat it"

"Where's your son now? Rattle snake venom needs to be counter treated immediately."

"Sean is in the living room watching cartoons and it NOT a rattle snake, it's a non poisonous speckled king snake."

"You need to get here immediately so we can give him anti venom."

"I'll bring him, but you can't give him anti venom, he's allergic to horses and that is made with horse serum. Besides it's a non poisonous snake!"

After that frustrating call I told Sam to put Not Charlie in a more secure container and Sean to get in the van. Sam did as she was told and also brought out her favorite reptile book with a very good picture of a non poisonous speckled king snake in it. Telling me to make sure they don't kill the snake just because it was stupid enough to bite her dumb brother.

On the way into Tulsa I observed Sean carefully, as he was trying to look at Not Charlie through the opaque 1/2 gallon ice cream container Sam had put him in. The thumb was starting to swell so I enquired about how he was feeling. His response was he was worried about what they would do at the hospital. I told him they'd probably look at the snake, wash his thumb and give him a tetanus shot then say "That will be $50 please." Sean started to protest he had just gotten a tetanus shot the month before when he had reached for something as Sam was cutting with a pair of scissors, accidentally cutting Sean. I promised I wouldn't let them give him another one.

When we got to ER I groaned, the parking lot was full, the waiting room was full and I knew this was a nonsensical trip. Now folks, I'm going to tell you right now how to move to the front of the line in a packed ER. Here's what happened:

They were, as I said, backed up. An ambulance driver had just brought a man in on a gurney and they were busy admitting him when someone asked if they could help us. I said I had called earlier about how to treat an allergic reaction to a non poisonous snake bite. They asked if I had killed and brought the snake. I said we hadn't killed it, Sean had Charlie in that container. Right on cue Not Charlie rattled his tail in that hard plastic container sounding like the granddaddy of all rattle snakes. Like something out of a cartoon all of the sudden the only thing left in the area with us was a few papers fluttering to the ground and the poor guy trying to get off the gurney. Staff, nurses, patients and their families had all scattered to the four winds. I'm sorry, but it was hilarious! Sean and I started laughing, and the more we'd laugh the harder that snake would rattle its tail. We were totally alone with the man on the gurney and the snake. I assured the man it was a non poisonous snake and it could not get out of the container.

After awhile one little nurse peeked around the edge of the door and timidly said "I got the short straw. Which one is Sean and which one is Charlie." I told her which one and she told Sean to bring Charlie and come to the back. Instantly the back emptied and I had all the out front help I could handle.

As I filled out paper work I heard a high pitched female scream and then Sean's throaty laughter. I could guess what had happened. That is the fastest I have ever been able to get paper work filled out at a hospital. They quickly led me back to my son who was standing at a sink washing his own thumb with betadiene. No staff was to be seen anywhere in that back area. I asked Sean what had happened.

Because the snake was in an opaque container it had to be put into something clear for them to see it clearly. Just as the nurse had poured the very angry snake into one of the clear canisters for the respiratory machine an orderly had poked her in the sides hissing. He later asked me for the snake, as he knew what type it was and he wanted it to eat mice at his house. Not Charlie went to live under a trailer house. So the scream had been her, and Sean had laughed at the whole situation.

We waited around for the "Snake Expert" for goodness knows how long. Everyone and his dog kept wanting to give Sean anti venom and I kept saying no. Finally the snake expert showed up. Took one look at it and said "It's a non poisonous speckled king snake, wash the boy's thumb good, give him a tetanus shot and send him home."

As Sean started to protest I said, "he was in here last month when his sister accidentally cut him with a pair of scissors and we got a tetanus shot then." The doctor looked square at Sean and said "Let's see, last month you had to have stitches, this month you get snake bit what do you have planned for next month?" "Going back to school" Sean solemnly told him. Everyone laughed.

The doctor grinned and said. "So I guess you can go home now as your thumb looks very clean, I guess this was the most exciting part of your summer wasn't it?"

Sean looked at me and grinned wickedly, taking my hand and pulling me toward the exit he said "No sir, them catching an alligator under our camper at Walt Disney World was!"

I was wrong about one thing, it wasn't $50, it was $54.

Jan who wonders how she survived raising her kids in OK


April 26-May 12, 2010

After leaving Branson, MO we spent a few days in northeast Oklahoma doing a series of mystery shops and visiting with friends and relatives in the area. We pulled back into our own driveway on April 26, 2010 and immediately started in working at a fevered pitch.

Sean had been so busy getting other things done while we were gone he had done far less in the garden than we’d hoped he’d get completed so the three of us hit the garden area hard and furious.

Gary spent any spare time he had sealing up holes in the fencing and the chickwire roof. HUH?

Yes, I said roof on the garden. I’ve mentioned this before in so many other places it may actually be in my blog somewhere, but if it is I’m going to revisit the basics of my garden area again for those of you who have not heard about the garden set-up. Before I continue on with this two, nearly three weeks at home.

My garden area is currently actually three gardens and a series of flower pots, trash barrels and planters. All of which is planted in the Lasagna Gardening style.

No I’m not planting pasta, although the pasta sauce ingredients are in there. It is a method very well described by Patricia Lanza in her series of books on Lasagna Gardening. Basically it is a cold compost garden that produces rich friable soil that is no till and if done completely right never needs weeding or if it does need weeding it all pulls out with such ease you won’t believe it. Even Bermuda grass pulls out with no problem.

Whether you want to garden in a raised bed or a flower pot I highly recommend you go to your local library and check out her books. They are well written and even include some on Companion Planting.

Companion Planting is organic pest control by planting things that help/protect each other next to each other. Another great series of books that cover companion planting and lasagna gardening (although she doesn’t call it that) are the books by Louise Riotte. Again visit your local library. You will be glad you did. I will admit I do OWN several of the books by both ladies and they are a valued part of my personal gardening library. They are on the shelves with my “Four Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman, “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew, “The After-Dinner Gardening Book” by Richard W. Langer (this is an excellent book that tells you what you can grow from the “scraps” of cooking dinner—did you know you can plant the root end of an onion and grow another onion?) and numerous other gardening books my journey into trying to be as self efficient as possible have became my guides along the way.

Anyway, back to the garden description. Because my 200 plus birds all free range my garden is caged to protect it from my feathered friends. When I am gardening on a regular annual basis the birds are allowed into the garden area from late fall until spring planting time to weed, de-bug and fertilize to their heart’s content. However, when it’s gardening season we lock them out.

It’s been nearly three years since we had a garden of any true sort so the weeds had the upper hand and the winter storms had done a number on the fences and chickwire (poultry netting) roof. As I mentioned before, the guys had been working hard on getting that back in good condition prior to our leaving. Sean had done more, but not completed it while we were gone. The 90 acre poultry ranch, job hunting and mystery shopping had all kept him busy full time. So he had little time to get the garden protection finished and without it there was absolutely no sense in putting seeds in the ground. Trust me chickens and guinea fowl can take them out far faster than you can put them in.

So as Gary tightened up the last of the gaps in the roof and fence Sean and I started actually prepping the garden and planting. By the time Gary and I left for our next round of on the road mystery shopping we had completely weeded and planted all three of the gardens and the potato barrels—more on this shortly.

The garden area currently has three gardens in it. The big garden is a 24’ X 24’ garden. In it we planted all of the following: sweet peas, broccoli, a salad mixture of lettuces, bush beans, spinach, 25 tomato plants, 6 bell pepper plants, asparagus, carrots, micro salad greens, radishes, okra, zucchini, crookneck squash, rhubarb and…I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

The 8’X24’ “Three Sisters Garden” is currently planted with sweet corn, watermelons , red, white and yellow onions and red potatoes. Once the corn is up Sean will add pole green beans and once they are started he will add pumpkins.

The “Little Garden”, which is 8’ X 8, ’ has a few white potatoes as well as sunflowers and cantaloupes already planted. Once the sunflowers are up Sean will add pole beans to this garden as well.

We have plans to add a fourth garden that will be 8’ X 24’ into this there will be grapes, blueberries and greens planted—Sean is hoping to get this built soon.

Inside the fenced and roofed area along one section we have placed four 20 gallon trash barrels that have drain holes drilled in them. These are for the main potato crop because we have such a gopher/mole problem in our area.

Planting potatoes in a barrel, or in a stack of old tires, is a simple tried and true method that gives you a lot of potatoes in the least amount of space. The concept is simple. The tires are done the same way as I am about to describe, but for my purposes I will use the trash barrels.

First you put drain holes in the bottom of your barrel. Then a shallow layer of whatever potato growing material you plan on using. Because I use the Lasagna Gardening method in all of my gardening I put a shallow layer of a mixture of straw, leaves, dirt and compost. Onto this you lay your seed potatoes (a story on these and some other purchases will be in part 2). I put them about 2-4 inches apart all over the bottom of the barrel. They can be a lot closer than if you were planting them in the ground.

Now add a 1-2 inch layer of your favorite potato growing medium. I add a layer to the lasagna garden per Ms. Lanza’s method. As the potatoes start to sprout through the growing medium you add another layer that goes 1-2 inches above the sprouted potatoes. Repeat this method to the top of the barrel as the potato plants grow. I personally add the next layer to the lasagana (ie: first layer straw/hay, second layer, peat moss, third layer, aged manure, fourth layer, peat moss, fifth layer dirt from my woods etc.)

Once you reach the top of your barrel you let the plant grow on past the dirt and out the top. Potatoes will grow all up and down that long stem that has grown from the bottom of the barrel in its journey toward daylight.

I personally cover the top of the barrel with tulle which can be purchased at any place that sells fabric for under a quarter a 72-90 inch wide yard. I tie it in place with a piece or rope. This keeps the potato bugs from being able to get to my plants. It’s not mandatory you do this, but potato bugs are a big problem in my area. So rather than fight the bugs I block them out.

When it comes time to harvest new potatoes you just dig down in the growing medium until you find the potatoes that have formed along that stem and pick to your heart’s content. When it’s the end of the growing seasons for the potatoes I simply dump the barrels over either on a tarp or into the garden and pick my potatoes out. No digging required.

By using this method you can literally grow potatoes year round if you have the seed potatoes and a sheltered place that gets sunlight in the winter. Simply insulate the barrels with black trash bags filled with leaves, weeds, grass clippings, straw or hay. WORD OF CAUTION do not put GREEN of any of these in sealed bags in the sunlight. Spontaneous combustion can happen. I don’t want you baking your potatoes (or burning down your house) instead of simple insulating the potatoes.

We did not get much planted in the flower pots or planters, other than shallots and garlic, that line my fence on the inside, so that is Sean’s next project. Unless he starts the Grape Garden first. The flower pots and planters will contain herbs and vining fruits and vegetables that will be trained to grow up the fence, but behind the bill guard.

The bill guard is simply chick wire that is attached to the welded wire that is the fencing for the garden on the outside of the fencing. We have placed a spacer between the two types of fencing made out of fallen limbs. This is to do just what it sounds like. Guard my things at the fence from tasting bird beaks and bills.

So that’s part one of what we did while we were home. The next sections will be about recipes and snakes.

Jan who can’t wait to eat the organically grown produce from her garden this year in OK


April 23, 2010

As many of you already know I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey. While I am, what Dave calls, a math nerd I can see the logic in his system and truly feel that we will be totally debt free in six years or less, even with our current state of income.

That being said it needs to also stated that sometimes that means giving a whole new meaning to Dave’s statement of living on“rice and beans, beans and rice.” When people make that much desired phone call to Dave’s radio talk show to shout ‘WE’RE DEBT FREE!” he often asks them what was the hardest thing for them about getting debt free.

For many it’s giving up vacations, or a favorite vehicle or something similar. Up until recently I would have said it was not being able to run into the grocery store and just shop to my heart’s content. This last three weeks have changed my feelings on the hard to give up however. Now I would have to say it is not using the internet any time I please.

We aren’t sure exactly what is going on that suddenly we went from having plenty room on our 5G broadband card with Sprint to constantly worrying about every time we turn the internet on , but we are finding ourselves going over the 5 g limit with amazing speed on our Sprint card. This month Gary realized we were down to one G just one week into the month. That was nearly 3 weeks ago and life without my immediate access to the internet has been very frustrating and eye opening.

Before the sudden spike in our usage we did our mystery shops, read email, played Farm Town, Farmville, Barn Buddy and Country Life (cj’s farm) on facebook and NEVER went over. Now things have changed. Again I’m not sure why. But the internet is MANDATORY for mystery shopping so everything other than mystery shops and even most of that needs to be done another way, other than the air card. Even Sean, our son, has found that while job hunting at home he went hugely over this month to the tune of $125 extra on his monthly bill—and the month isn’t over yet! How he used over 7 G by himself when he’s been out doing yard work we’ve not figured out yet. Luckily his card is separate from ours.

To figure out what was happening we started monitoring everything VERY closely and what we found was surprising. None of were the least bit surprised the facebook games and streaming videos were mb eaters. So we cut them out on the computer, but still our 1 g started going down quickly. More cuts needed made and fast!

We both trimmed the number of emails we were receiving daily by going “no mail” on most of our yahoogroups. These first three steps slowed the downward spiral, but with three weeks to go it wasn’t going to be enough. Especially not when the majority of the jobs we had required mega photo uploads.

Next went leaving webpages open in the background. All those flashing designs, music and such are mb eaters as well. Even the rolling total of my mypoints tool bar was now considered costly. Weatherbug bit the dust as well. We now checked it twice a day. Once with breakfast and once before retiring for the evening. The rest of the time it is disabled.

Our news side bars were trimmed, as well as the automatic opening to webpages when we first started internet explorer. Updates were taken off of automatic and placed on manual. MORE needed to go, the usage was still too high.

We then started watching how many mb were used when a webpage loads. Some companies we work for require a four webpage load to get logged in. Each webpage is numerous kbs that add up to mb quickly. MORE needed to go. We put direct links to the log in screen for our main employers websites on our icon screens. We now only check for new jobs twice a day instead of repeatedly throughout the day.

What emails we answered get trimmed of every excess thing in them. Friends and family were told to not sent cutesy photos and definitely not videos any more. Links were great(we’d view them at a later time when we had room on the card to use the space), but attachments were no longer welcome.

We started reading as many work related emails as possible on Gary’s phone.

The usage slowed down finally, but there was now less than half a gig and we had 40+ of those big photo shops to deal with.

HELLO MCDONALD’S, Panera, Burger King, Taco Bell and anywhere else we can get free wi-fi! We have worked out a system that while Gary is doing his shops, I am at a place that offers free wi-fi for our use and while I’m shopping he’s reporting. It’s really made for some VERY long days. We have gotten spoiled to me entering jobs as we fly down the highway, which means only Gary needs to use it at the camper.

We have found some very negative things out. While McDonald’s is now offering their wi-fi for free it is iffy at best and they seem to have either done completely away with all electrical outlets OR the outlets don’t work. That’s so TACKY McDonald’s. Yes, your corporate headquarters will be receiving a letter from me about it. Yes, you have lost numerous sales over it this last three weeks, and you will continue to lose them as I take my single item purchase to another establishment that does offer not only free wi-fi, but also the ability to plug in our laptops. Panera is the big winner in this game.

On the other hand KUDOS to Branson, MO where on their Country Music Blvd (or whatever that street is named) they have if4e which equals free wi-fi for everyone. We have found wonderful connections at numerous places all up and down that main street.

Another thing we have learned is you can google (or search engine of your choice) the words “free wi-fi” along with the city and state you are in and find various places to get the service for free.

For the last 2.5 weeks we have uploaded all we can at these free locations. We also download anything we need/want there whenever possible. It’s four more days until our next month rollover and our5 g starts again

After all the long hours I have spent in fast food joints or the front seat of the truck in their parking lots I can guarantee you we will be still very much the tightwad with our usage once we are back up to 5 g. Sean says he won’t be using his again for quite awhile with that whopping bill he now has to pay.

So if you email me, be aware that I download my emails while at a free wi-fi place, then read them when I don’t have wi-fi, type the replies and queue them to send the next time I’m at free wi-fi. So it might take a day or two for you to hear back from me.

As for my farms and critters on facebook. I’m getting pretty good at working my way around with those too. I plant 3 day or longer crops, put as much as I can on auto pilot and only play when I’m at a free wi-fi location and AFTER all my work is done. I can still use neighbors on all my games and I do gift well when I get to play. So those of you that aren’t already my neighbor feel free to put in a neighbor request. LOL!

Jan who admits she’s hooked on the facebook games in and away from OK


April 14-20, 2010

From Arkansas we traveled to Branson, MO to do numerous shops in the area and to maybe get a little R&R while there. Worldfest was going on at Silver Dollar City and we had agreed if we did a certain amount of jobs we would go ahead and purchase annual passes for SDC to use throughout the year.

Once again Gary’s age was a benefit for us. His senior pass was lower than mine by a few dollars. Some may say it’s not very Total Money Makeover to purchase and amusement park annual pass, but I disagree.

First of all Dave Ramsey says to include some blow money in your zero based budget. We choose to put ours for the last few months into these tickets. For less than the price of two one day admission tickets we will be able to visit as much as we like throughout the year. Considering how much we like the Blue Grass and BBQ festival in May, the Harvest Festival in October and the Old Time Christmas during the holidays that money was well spent as long as we can tie days of profitable mystery shopping to them.

Second the annual passes also get you discounts on meals, and other parks around the nation. Because of the way we travel we are hoping to take advantage of the other parks part this year. We’ll see. It all depends on the work. The meals part is not that big a deal with us since we tend to take in food from our camper at any amusement park we visit. In the days we went in this trip we purchased one BBQ sandwich and split it. We had taken our refillable Silver Dollar City mugs in full of a beverage from the camper, but by the time we had that sandwich we purchased refills as well. The total meal for two with the refills and the annual pass discount came to slightly over $6 for the dinner. We sat and watched a good show as we ate. Not often you can do a dinner show for $6 bucks for two now is it.

Third this was a pleasant way to get exercise. Some of you may go HUH? Others, those of you who have been to Silver Dollar City are nodding in agreement. Everything in SDC is up a steep hill both ways no matter where you go or what you do while there. You definitely get your walking in there.

If you have never been to SDC it is not your major thrill ride type park. It’s a slow paced enjoyable family theme park, where the staff is not afraid to say “God bless you” and who salute the American veterans and mean it. There are arts and crafts abound, good clean kid fun, great shows and of course rides.

The rides tend to be country theme based. The giant barn swing is just that a huge swing that sways you back and forth higher and higher. Much like the Viking ship rides at the fair. There is a water rapid ride or two, roller coasters, slow moving boat rides and much more. If you want your true thrill ride you would want to get the dual park pass and go to their other theme park that conveniently opens just as Silver Dollar City closes for the evening.

Once the park is closed there is a free music show each night in Echo Hollow that is included in the price of your ticket. It lasts nearly two hours and is generally fairly good. It is sponsored by GAC network.

Worldfest is one of the several festivals they have at the park each year. It has entertainers from all over the world performing for a few weeks each spring. While all the shows were good we really enjoyed the Firey Fiddles, the Footprints-t Trinidad Stilt Walkers (and very good musicians and limbo dancers) and the Irish harp player. All the shows, about 9 or 10 are included in your ticket. There are other shows and demonstrations spread throughout the park as well.

This time we took advantage of Gary’s national parks senior pass to camp for $9.50 per night at Indian Point Corps of Engineers just two miles past Silver Dollar City on Table Rock Lake.

We’ve camped at this campground on and off our entire married life. It has definitely changed over the years. When we first started going there it was mainly a few picnic tables and a water spigot here and there, with a single bath house that had solar showers.

It is now more than 100 paved semi-level campsites, with two dump stations and several restrooms with flush toilets. We still only located one shower house, but it’s been greatly remodeled from when we first started coming there 35 years ago.

To my knowledge none of the campsites there have sewer hook-ups. Some have just water and others have water and electric. Our site had both, it would normally rent at $19.00 per night. The campground is clean and well maintained. It also has a HUGE marina area.

If you want to camp there during major festival times at the city you better make your reservations now. There is a fee to make a reservation with the corps of engineers campground and it is non-refundable. They have a cancelation policy you can read about online at

Because we need a large enough space for a 30 ft travel trailer and we have plans to be back there in about four weeks we made our reservation for that week we want to be there during the kids blue grass competition. Which just happens to be Memorial weekend. Even this early we had to change our arrival date from Saturday the weekend before to Sunday. We also had to take a site that is BARELY big enough for our camper. There was nothing else available for the amount of time we wanted and the dates we wanted. We also had to pre-pay. OUCH!

Whether you stay at the corps of engineers campground or any of the other numerous ones (Compton Ridge and the Wilderness give discounts to annual passholders) you will want to make your reservations soon because they all fill up fast. We have gone in the past and managed to find a site at the last minute, but it’s been due to sheer luck.