Gluten Free on a Budget

I think the biggest challenge we face as a large gluten free family is BUDGET!!!!!  I’m constantly working to decrease our food costs.  Right now, my budget for food and  household items is $1500/mo… that’s more than our mortgage! This includes food and needs for the 9 people in our family plus my 6 daycare kiddos for 2 meals and 2 snacks/5 days a week. In reality, that’s only $100/mo per person but the total is gut wrenching! I’m on a mission to find tasty, healthy meals that everyone will eat that are affordable!  In January, I plan to implement $5 Dinners 21 gluten free Costco meals for $162 .  This will only do 10-11 meals for our family so I am on a mission to find a way to double the meals and stay within that budget… hmmmm… this could be interesting.  Also, there are a couple recipes in the plan that do not appeal to our family AT ALL… so I will take those ingredients and attempt to create something else.

Tonight, we are having a rare treat… hamburgers and oven baked fries.  Why is it so rare (other than not being very healthy)? The overall COST!  Meat- $11 (not grassfed or organic), gf buns- $14 (Franz this time because oh so yummy… could be as low as $10 if we use frozen Udi’s), Large bag of Ore-Ida fries (on sale) $5… we are already at $30  before adding veggies, cheese, and condiments.  Granted, that’s only a little over $3/per person to feed the 9 of us… which is 1/3 of the cost of going out for a burger and fries… but, my daily food budget goal is $35! I cringe at the prospect of spending $30 for a dinner at home!

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REAL Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls

photo 3Cinnamon rolls are one of the foods we’ve missed since our celiac diagnoses. That and doughnuts (but that’s another post).

This weekend, we celebrated my oldest daughters 14th (!!!!!!!!!!!!) birthday with a sleepover.  Breakfast for 10 hungry teen girls calls for big, gooey, soft, cinnamon rolls.  It’s like a gluten free Cinnabon around here. (Anyone else miss Cinnabon???). Oy!

We have a French exchange student coming in next week and these sticky buns will definitely be on the menu of traditional American foods to feed her!

I spotted Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend at Fred Meyer the other day and decided to recreate the buns that I’ve made using Pamela’s Bread and Baking Mix.   The bread mix contains inulin which I am highly sensitive to and I feel really ick after indulging in anything made with it.  The Artisan blend doesn’t contain inulin (yay!).

Here’s the recipe for my modified amazing gluten free cinnamon rolls:

Yeast mixture- 1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp sugar + 1 pkg active dry yeast

Filling- 1 cube soft butter + 4 tsp cinnamon + 1 cup brown sugar

Remainder Dough Ingredients- 1 cube soft butter + 1/2 cup room temp cottage cheese + 3 1/3 cups Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend + 1 tsp Xanthan gum + 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 tsp sea salt + 2/3 cup warm water

Icing- 1 1/2 cups powder sugar + 3 Tbs soft butter + 1-3 Tbs milk


(you can add raisins and/or nuts at the filling stage if desired)


An hour or more before baking time- soften 2 cubes butter and bring 1/2 cup cottage cheese to room temp (for each batch of 6-10 rolls).

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Now, place one cube of softened butter and 1/2 cup of cottage cheese into the mixer bowl and cream together.

Meanwhile, measure 1/2 cup of VERY warm water (110F or so) and add 1 tsp sugar + 1 pkg of active dry yeast.  Stir briefly and allow the yeast to bloom for 5-10 minutes.

While the yeast is doing it’s thing, take your other cube of softened butter and place into a bowl.  Add 4 tsp cinnamon and 1 cup brown sugar.  Mix well until you have a bowl of brown sugar buttery goodness (my kids like to steal tastes of this!).

Now, your yeast should be nice and frothy (my kids think it looks DISGUSTING).  Once it’s ready move on to the next step (one of our batches, we tossed out the yeast and repeated this process to get prefect, frothy yeast).

Add 3 1/2 level cups of Pamela’s Artisan Flour to your cream mixture in the mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt, 1 tsp Xanthan gum, 1/4 cup evaporated cane sugar, your yeast mixture, and an additional 2/3 cup warm water.  Mix until you have a nice dough but don’t over mix (no one wants tough buns!).

Now, the somewhat tricky part-

Tear off two sections (about 20-24 inches) of parchment paper.  Lay one piece on a flat surface. Place your dough on the parchment paper.  Shape your dough into a rectangle with your hands.  Place the 2nd piece of parchment on top and roll your dough out into a large rectangle that’s about 1/4 inch thick. Lift the parchment as needed and use your hands to manipulate the shape.  I like my rectangle to be as uniform as possible.

Remove the top layer of parchment once your dough has reached the shape you desire.  Spread the cinnamon/sugar/butter mixture all over the dough– be sure to go completely to the edges.

Now, use the parchment to help roll your dough into a log.  Move the parchment as you go to make sure it rolls up tight (no sloppy buns here!). Now, to cut your rolls– I like to use a long piece of dental floss to make the cuts… this keeps them clean and not squished up.  You can get anywhere from 6 (BIG) buns to 10 average sized per batch.  I usually make 9-10 because my kids really don’t need a cinnamon roll as big as their heads. 🙂

Place your buns flat in a baking dish leaving a little room between them to rise.  Allow to rest for about 90 minutes. Now, you can bake them or put in the refrigerator (and bake fresh in the morning– this is what I like to do!).  Bake at 350F for about 50minutes (they will get slightly browned.

I make an icing using 3 Tbs of soft butter, 1 1/2 cups of powder sugar, and a little milk or cream until it reaches the consistency I like.


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A Roadmap: Six Steps to Dietary Change- Part I

Image 3

I get a lot of questions about how to change your child’s (or your own) diet, so I decided it was time to put pen to paper and provide a road map for change.

I’ve broken our dietary change from S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to REAL food/low-no grain diet into six easy to implement steps.  These steps can move at whatever pace your family is comfortable with.  Generally speaking, step 1 should happen immediately.  Do not pass go… do not collect $200… just do it.  Then take your time. Our own dietary evolution occurred over a three year span.  If I had the information I have now- I would have moved through these steps much faster.  However, maybe three years is the right pace for you. . . if you are dealing with major issues (health, behavior, allergies) I’d recommended moving through these stages as quickly as you can.

So, what happens first?  The very first and most important step on this journey to REAL food is REMOVE ALL CHEMICALS FROM YOUR DIET.  This means anything with artificial dyes, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners… GONE.  Purge your pantry.  Put those foods into the trash where they belong.

At first glance, this may appear daunting.  Take a breath, grab a notebook, pen, and the trash can, and step into your pantry.  Pick up each item on the shelf- one at a time.  Read the ingredient list.  If there is any sign of an artificial additive (see list here), write it on your notepad and then toss it in the trash.  Once you’ve gone through your pantry, repeat the process with your fridge and any other food storage areas.  Now that you’ve completed the purge, take a look at your notepad and write down an alternative for each item.  If you don’t know what the more natural substitute is, make a note and plan to do a little research (sometimes the best research is done during an unhurried visit to the grocery store).  There is a more natural/less ingredient option out there for everything you currently eat.

Here’s a sample list:

Fruit Roll Ups – replace with Stretch Island Fruit Leather

Candy- replace with basic milk or dark chocolate and natural candy like Surf Sweets

Soda- replace with 100% juice cut with sparkling water

Breakfast cereals- go with oats or a natural cereal like Nature’s Path

Frozen “food”- replace with FREEZER MEALS

Chips- go basic, look for minimal ingredients (potato/corn, oil, salt) like Kettle Sea Salt

Jello- make gelatin with fruit juice

Cool Whip- real whip cream (heavy cream + a bit of maple/honey/sugar in the mixer)

Microwave popcorn- replace with a simple option like Costco’s brand (popcorn, oil, salt) or place 1/4 cup kernels into a brown paper bag, fold the top over 2-3x and pop like you would a microwave bag.

Margarine- REAL butter

Canola oil- olive oil

Shortening- coconut oil/butter/palm shortening

At this point you are eating a “natural” diet.  That’s a step in the right direction away from S.A.D.

Watch for Part II, coming soon. 🙂

Eat Well. Be Well.

*I have posted links for your reference.  I do not gain anything from your use of the links. I did not receive any compensation for this post.  Opinions expressed are my own.

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Our “Jewel” This is Your Story . . .

DSC_0517(34 weeks- prepping for surgery)

Mama was 33 weeks 5 days pregnant (33 +5) when we left for the family camping trip in Coos Bay.  Daddy’s family was meeting us there, it would be an annual reunion of sorts.  On Tuesday, Mama saw the OB and he gave his approval for us to go.  We’d be about two hours away and there were no signs that you’d arrive early.


On Wednesday and Thursday, Mama felt a little off.  Not in any specific way, but there were several periods of what is best described as vertigo or a dizzy feeling. Mama’s blood sugar was super (93 post meal) and blood pressure was also spectacular at 100/60.  So, no reason there for the weird feelings.  We put a call in to the OB Thursday morning before leaving just to run this feeling by them. . . they chalked it up to pregnancy and said have a good trip.

Image 10

Thursday arrived and it took us a little longer than planned to get out of the house.  That’s okay, and very typical for this family.  Mama was a bit irritable. . . but there were some behavior issues going on with the other kids and the stress of trying to get everything ready.  We had several stops as we headed out of town and Mama noted as she was walking into the bank that she had to move slower- there was just this feeling of heaviness. . . and we assumed it was because I was very pregnant and you were sitting on my bladder. 🙂  The two and half hour drive was uneventful. . . we made two stops on the way, once for the bathroom and once at the grocery store just before camp.


Upon arriving at camp, we got the RV hooked up and dinner going.  After dinner, your brothers and sisters were off playing with the cousins and then we all headed over to Papa and Nana’s camping site to make s’mores since Papa had the roaring fire going already.  Mama only had one s’more. . . she wanted more but just wasn’t feeling great.  Once again, that’s normal for being eight months pregnant.

Image 4

Sister Kelsey was being naughty so a little before 9pm, Daddy took her (kicking and screaming) back to our RV to get into bed.  The other kids and Mama stayed a bit longer playing “Beat The Parents” with the rest of the family.   Mama had a feeling of really needing to go the bathroom and so we cleaned up and headed back to our camp site.  As we were walking, Mama felt a gush of fluid and thought, “Oh, please tell me I just pee’d myself”.  But I knew. . . it was different. . . it just didn’t feel like a pee leak (which happens when you are pregnant).

Back at camp, I gathered my things for a quick shower and took the older girls with me to the bathroom.  While they were getting ready for bed, I decided a quick shower was a good idea because I was filthy from walking around the camp.  By the time I got in the shower, I was convinced my water had broken, it was pouring down my legs in small gushes and was obviously clear and didn’t smell like urine. I started crying for a moment as I toweled off because it was too soon and I was scared what this would mean for you.  I wrapped the towel around myself and went to the bathroom door to call your sisters from the other side (the toilets were on one side and the showers on the other).  Kaylee came over and I asked her to calmly go back to camp and get Daddy. . . that my water broke and I needed him.  I couldn’t even figure out how I was going to walk back to camp because your amniotic fluid kept running down my legs.  When Daddy arrived at the bathroom door I tried putting my bath towel between my legs but I couldn’t walk that way. . . so finally I folded my tank top and held it there while we wobbled back to camp. . . thankfully I had a night gown on so I was covered.


Once we got back to the RV I started trying to figure out what the plan was and Daddy ran over to get Papa and Nana from their RV so they could come stay with your brothers and sisters.  All the kids got a little scared, because this wasn’t the plan. . . you were suppose to arrive via planned c-section 5 1/2 weeks away.

Image 4We drove to the local hospital and they decided right away that yes, my water had broken and no, I wasn’t just peeing myself.  The decision was made to transport us to Eugene where we could be taken care of properly.  While waiting for the ambulance transport, Mama received a shot of steroids in my booty to help your lungs and an IV was started (yuck- they didn’t do a good job!) so that I could be given antibiotics to make sure we didn’t get an infection.  Daddy ran back to camp to let everyone know what was going on and trade cars so that Papa and Nana would have our big van to transport your brothers and sisters in.  You and I were taken with flashing lights and sirens. . . along with a special OB nurse and two paramedics.  They joked that Mama was to “keep your legs crossed the whole trip to Eugene” so that you wouldn’t be born on the drive.  I didn’t want you arriving on the trip anymore than they did.


Thankfully, we arrived in Eugene about 2:30 am on Friday morning, having made great time and Daddy arrived about 10 minutes after us.  We saw lots of people in those first few hours and we were monitored constantly.   Mama continued on antibiotics- oral and IV to help keep you safe.  The Dr on call did a quick ultrasound to make sure you were head down in case my labor progressed so we could try to deliver you via VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  You still had lots of water around you despite the on going gushing leaks.

We went into wait and watch mode.  We didn’t know if labor would start on its own or not, but we did know that your time left in the womb was limited because there was a very real danger of infection with each day you were inside with ruptured membranes.

On Friday, it was decided that we would deliver you on Saturday, if labor didn’t start that would mean a c-section around noon. (The decision for VBAC was only if I labored on my own, I didn’t want a Pitocin induction with VBAC because the risk of uterine rupture is higher).  Friday night at midnight, Mama got the second shot of steroids for your lungs.  At 12:30 PM on Saturday, August 3rd, you entered this world. . . thankfully with a feisty set of lungs.  Dr. C told Daddy to look and tell us what gender you were- Daddy looked over the sterile drape and said, “I can’t tell. . . wait, is that a girl?”  Your Apgar scores were 8 & 9 which was just lovely!  You appeared in great shape despite being a sprite at 4lbs 0oz (1820 grams) and 16 3/4 inches long. Mama even got to cuddle you on my chest for a moment in the OR before you were whisked off (you were doing some grunt breathing so the Neonatologist wanted to get you to the NICU and make sure you were stable). Daddy followed you off while Mama was closed up and rolled out of surgery. It was a couple hours before Mama was rolled into the NICU on the gurney to see you again.

Image 11

Our Julia Lynn, you didn’t enter this world as planned– throwing your OCD mama for a loop.  But I’m so glad you are here.  Now, I just need you to learn to breastfeed so you can come home!  Today marks your 7th day of life. What a joy and a blessing you are to us!  In your short time on earth, we’ve been blessed by receiving anointing of the sick prior to your birth with Fr. Ron, and then then after you arrived, Fr. Bryce came in and anointed you and Mommy.  We’ve had several Eucharistic ministers come in and pray with us as well!  And Daddy’s minister and friends from church have also come to pray with us.  You truly are a well loved and blessed baby girl!

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127: 3-5

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Julia Lynn

Welcome to the world baby girl!

Image 1Julia Lynn

August 3, 2013


4lbs 0oz

16 3/4 inches


Julia has quite the birth story! She arrived six weeks (to the day) before her due date. This feisty girl couldn’t wait to join her crazy family.  I will share the story in the days to come. 🙂


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13 Years. . .

My first born. . . my precious angel on earth-  Kaylee McKenna.

Your Baptism Day with Grandma Cheryl, Aunties Eden & Michelle, & Your Young Mommy!

Your Baptism Day with Grandma Cheryl, Aunties Eden & Michelle, & Your Young Mommy!

Kaylee00518 months!

First Communion

First Communion

DSCI1993Altar Serving at sisters First Communion!

Beautiful Dancer

Beautiful Dancer

You are growing into such an amazing young woman.  You love Jesus.  You serve God and others. You glow with joy. Every day, Mama is amazed to see what a delightful young woman you are becoming.  I love you, there are no words, no poems, no songs, or stories that can fully describe the love I have for you.  And God loves you even MORE!

Happy 13th Birthday Beautiful!

“I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well!” Psalm 139:14

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Slacker Photo Post

It’s been two months since I posted here, oops.  Here’s a photo catch up. 🙂  If you want to learn about what we are eating these days and how we are affording it, go check out our other blog: Groks Big Family.

DSCI1990 DSCI1993 IMG_1837 IMG_1836Kelsey Anne’s First Communion

Image 136 months in the belly!

IMG_8460Kaylee’s end of the year Ballet recital.  She’s graduated to prepointe in the Fall!

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First Communion Prep

Image 1Little Miss Kelsey Anne will be celebrating her First Communion on May 4th.  Mama is a little bummed that we can’t have the big party I had envisioned. . . turns out, most of the family on both sides won’t be able to attend due to a wedding on one side and an 80th Birthday on the other.  So, we will be attending First Communion Mass, doing quick group photos, maybe having a bite of cake in the church hall and then driving 3 hours to the 80th Birthday celebration (which we will be at least a couple hours late for).  It’s going to be insane and I’m worried that Kelsey won’t feel the importance of this day. . . which is a once in a lifetime event and sadly, is taking a backseat to everything else.

Anyway. . . we took beautiful photographs at the church last week and I used one of them for her invitations (I will post that later).  I figure we will play up all the details we can in order to make this day special. . . so I bought fancy invites from  and had them mailed out to lots of family and friends (even those we know cannot attend).  Having a photography session in advance also provided another opportunity for Kelsey to wear her gown and veil and feel special.

Since we are Celiac and therefore, gluten free, Kelsey will receive special “low gluten” communion made by the Benedictine Sisters.

Many people in our parish use this host without problems.  My other girls have been consuming it for years without any reaction and I myself also recently made the switch.  I was consuming regular communion without ANY ISSUES whatsoever, however with the ups and downs of this pregnancy I decided to opt out of any risk and start receiving the low gluten host.  I fully believe that since the bread becomes the body of Christ, we are not at risk when consuming it. And I’ve never had an issue, maybe that’s because of my faith as the tiniest bit of contamination at a restaurant sends me into a painful whirl.

Anyway, we place the wafers into a pyx (small container) and then the pyx is placed in the ciborium at the back of the church prior to Mass.  The host is then consecrated during the Mass with all the regular hosts and the Priest distributes the low gluten host to us directly from the pyx.

As we posed Miss Kelsey for various photographs, I joked that we’d have to repeat the poses for her wedding (or her vows, if I get my nun after all!).

I will either create a gluten free cake or cupcakes to take to the church hall for the post communion celebration so that Kelsey and her sisters can partake of a sweet treat with the rest of the class.

As for the dress and accessories, we got really lucky.  There is only one store in our town that carries First Communion gowns.  We had planned to drive two hours to Portland and shop at the larger stores.  If we’d gone to Portland, I knew I could purchase a gown for around $75.  However, we ended up not going to Portland so I decided I could justify the $179 price tag of the traditional (and beautiful) gown here. . . since I wasn’t paying for round trip gas (which would have been close to $100).  As we were shopping, we stumbled on the gown she chose and because she is a petite thing it fit (size 6x!).  It was on clearance for $53, SCORE!  I still was going to cough up the $$ to buy the Us Angels gown but Kelsey really wanted this one so I put my traditional self away and let her have her say.  Even with over jacket, shoes, socks, tiara, veil, gloves, and purse, we only spent about $150.

(The picture in this post is not one of our pro-quality shots, I actually took it on my iPhone but I like it because it shows the crucifix).

In the coming weeks we will make her First Communion Banner (since our church isn’t making them and her sisters have theirs displayed in our hallway).  I’m sure we will find a few more ways to make her day special, suggestions are welcome!

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Baby Ready

Image 5I’ve decided the trouble with not learning the gender of our little one is the shopping. . . I really want to shop.  Probably because retail therapy seems to help me and I’m still struggling with depression over losing two of our babes in utero.

I’m loving this Oregon onesie. . . it was made by a local lady who is part of my local Mama’s group.  We are a bit hippy around here. . . if you can’t tell by the items pictured.

On the diaper front- I’m using Bummi’s when baby is tiny (until the Flip fits well).  I have 12 tiny organic cotton prefolds and 4 covers.  I’m thinking we can get by with that amount, but I may get another dozen of the prefolds because we can use them as doublers later.  I have 5 Flips w/ 14 inserts at this point.  I also ordered three super cute snap one size diapers on Zulily last week.  I have a feeling I’m going to develop a diaper obsession. . . Realistically 5 or 6 Flip covers are plenty with maybe 20-24 inserts for an every other day wash cycle. . . the three I bought on Zulily are pocket diapers, so those will be more for outings/travel.

On the bottle front- I don’t plan to use bottles, I will be fully breastfeeding like I did with my other children.  But, it never hurts to have one on hand in the event I need to pump.  Plus Daddy really thinks he wants to help with feedings, so I may need to try to pump at times.  I received a pointer from a local mom, she said to pump one side while baby nurses the other. . . that makes absolute sense time wise and all my kiddos only nursed one side at each feed, so it could be the perfect solution. There are always moms looking for donated milk so if I end up with a surplus I can pass it on. Anyway, so I picked up a Klean Kanteen 5 ounce bottle (otherwise known as a Kid Kanteen).  When not used as a bottle, I can change the cap out and use it as a food travel jar.

Pacifiers/Binkys- I’m hoping our baby isn’t really into a binky, but just in case I have an all natural rubber pacifier on hand.

The Snappi is a life saver with diapers and helps contain poo leaks. . . it’s a nifty device to secure the prefold before you put a cover on.

The owl hat is another local find. . . it is super soft.  I found it adorable so I coughed up a ridiculous amount of green to bring it home.  I can already see our adorable newborn in the hat. . .

We have a couple of Eric Carle books as well. . . the nursery is going to be designed around Eric Carle’s art.  I have a beautiful handmade wool Hungry Caterpillar mobile on it’s way to me, I can’t wait to see it!

Now. . . I just keep getting fatter. . . and wait another, oh. . . 25 weeks for the baby to arrive!


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Spring is in the Air!

It is a beautiful, sunshiny day today!  I can’t wait for Spring!

Our yard is a MESS.  I’m sure that’s the case for just about everyone. . . but living in wet Oregon means MOSS.  Ugh.  We don’t have grass, we have mud and moss.  Our plan for Spring break is to till, kill, and re-seed the lawn.  We also have other projects to work on like removing sand from the sandbox then re-filling with clean sand, and adding wood chips to the play area.

Amidst all of that. . . I’m dreaming about my garden.  I want to head over to find some untreated wood and build 5- 4x4x12in raised garden beds.  I may only have room for four, guess I better go measure the area they need to be installed. 🙂

I’m dreaming of fresh peaches and berries. . . of canning jars and jelly making. And I’m hoping I won’t be so miserably pregnant that nothing gets done.

I also want to get a compost system set up. . . I’ve decided off to the side of the house near where I’m going to do the garden beds is a good plan. . . oh, and at least one rain collection barrel.

On the baby front- next week I get to visit the MFM (perinatologist). Wahoo!  I’m “advanced maternal age” at my ripe old age of 35, so it’s standard.  I will sit through an hour “chat” with the genetics counselor (ie, all the million things that can possibly go wrong and all the tests we could do), but then I get to see the baby again, so it’s worth it! We won’t proceed with any testing regardless of what they say could be wrong.  Life is life. . . and it’s precious no matter what.

In family news- I took little Kelsey Anne shopping for her First Communion dress today. We had success and it was affordable (amazing!).  Since our plans to travel to Portland for dress shopping fizzled, I was prepared to spend $179 on a local dress (no store choices here). . . I even convinced myself that since I was saving $100 in gas, it all evened out in the end.  Well, Kelsey found a dress on clearance for $53! Even with the requisite jacket to cover her shoulders, lacy socks, gloves, tiara, and purse, we came in under $100 today.  I still have to find a veil and shoes. . . but we have about 7 weeks so that’s manageable. We got lucky with the dress because Kelsey is tiny and this dress is a size 6, if she was a typical sized 8 year old we would have had to cough up $179 for one of the Us Angels gowns.

In sad news- we lost another chicken last weekend.  We aren’t sure why. . . she got droopy sick and just couldn’t rebound.  So, now we have 13 chickens.  To remind us Spring is close, we got 12 eggs from those chickens the other day!

*Just realized all of this garden dreaming has left me so distracted I haven’t begun next weeks meal plan.  Oops.*

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