What Frugal Lancaster Is All About — A Vision For the Future and the Passions In My Heart

I was talking with a friend recently about my blog and they asked why I keep it local. Their question has been resonating in my mind the past few days. After much thought, I’ve realized that I should share my intentions and vision for the blog, Frugal Lancaster.

I do write a lot of local posts, but I also have a bigger vision.

A vision to reach parents where they are at, inspiring them (sometimes secretly, as you’ll see below) and challenging them to be intentional. A vision to motivate others to try new things and step out of their comfort zones. A vision to create more free printables helping others to make their house a home. A vision to urge readers to consider wisdom in their frugality – not just being frugal, but I also intend to share when I’ve mistakenly been too frugal, too! And maybe even a vision to help direct others on how to start a blog of their own!

Basically its a vision to do life with you, sharing in this journey — our faith, our family, our food, and our frugal life in Lancaster County, PA.

1. I absolutely love writing local posts.

It motivates me when I see helpful information being shared on social media throughout the county. I was so excited this summer to see my FREE Splash Pads in and around Lancaster County, Pick  Your Own Strawberries: A Lancaster County Map and Pricing Guide, and Lancaster County Playground Map posts do so well. In my heart, my reason for writing each of those, is to help other families be intentional with their time and their money.

2. I have a vision and passion for inspiring others to be intentional.

I try to slip some of these tips and ideas secretly into my posts, like when I shared about how my kids know things will go well for children who behave properly in the grocery store. It is possible these little tidbits are being missed, but its still my hope that I am reaching parents directly and indirectly.

3. I love to try new things and create FREE printables.

God has blessed me with a gift of creativity, and the training to put it to use. I love finding quotes and verses that inspire me and my family. I brainstorm ways I can use them in the home and where they would be most helpful. Designing them comes pretty simple for me, so I want to share them with you. Whether you use them to hang in your home or print on a notecard. I’ve had many requests to show people how to create their own chalkboard art, so I have plans to create quick tutorials for that too!

4. I want moms to see that their struggle in this motherhood journey is real, and they are not alone.

I’m not a perfect mom. I do post things on facebook when I’m having a rough day that might make me look good, but that’s because I am having a rough day and I am desperate for encouragement (or I’m just incredibly proud of these little blessings God has given me!).

I make mistakes. I get discouraged, just like everyone else.

5. I want to share with families the real parts of the journey, and not sugar-coat it.

Whether you are a newlywed considering starting a family, a parent-to-be or a seasoned parent, I want to encourage you with the reality of parenthood.

I want to be real.

It is messy.

It is tough.

It demands perseverance and humility.

Today, we made chocolate chip zucchini muffins. I captured a photo of our time together and shared it on instagram. (My kids are 2, 4 and 6 years old.) I made it a point to share the reality of the experience—it wasn’t completely pretty, there was a mess, there was a lot going on, and I made mistakes and yelled. I wasn’t happy about it, but I recognized my wrong doing and I asked my kids for forgiveness.

I try not to be too hard on myself, because I think its pretty normal that kids in the kitchen exasperate many adults, no matter how hard we try! (How coincidental that Bonni then shared about guilt this afternoon on her live video!)

I did not share this photo to brag about the yummy muffins we made and that I’m ALL THAT because I spend time in the kitchen with my kids.

I shared it to encourage and inspire others.

Let’s keep it real,
be honest with each other,
and grow together.

We are making chocolate chip zucchini muffins today. I’m posting this photo, to keep it real. You see, its not a very pretty thing. Its messy (I’m letting my 4 year old scoop the batter into the muffin cups). Its loud (my 6 year old is emptying the dishwasher and drums everything he puts away). Its chaotic (my 2 year old is ‘washing’ the dishes). Its frustrating (kids can be exasperating in the kitchen, can’t they?) But its life. Its family. Its love in action. Yes, I did get stressed and I yelled. Just like any other mom I was disappointed in myself. But I knew what to do next. I’ve made this mistake many times. I asked my kids to forgive me. And you know what? They did. And it all turned around. So as you’re using up that zucchini STILL growing in your garden, remember to keep it real. 😉 If you’re a parent with little kids, you’re not in this alone. We all have the same struggles. Let’s be honest, and grow together! #survivingmotherhood #keepitreal #surprisedbymotherhood #beintentional #easierwaybook #mommylife #turntodayaround

A photo posted by Kathy McClure (@kathy_frugallancaster) on

What To Expect To See On This Blog In The Future

With all that said, I wanted to post this quick little note before I leave for South Africa, to show you my heart for how I want to obedient to God in using this blog. I love writing local posts and Facebook has been a growing outlet for me to do that—largely because you all take the time to share my posts. Thank you for that!

But as I’m writing local posts about fun, free things to do in the area and how to save money, I’m also going to continue sharing my passions. How I’ve been challenged to try new things and how it is impacting my life whether it is in the books I’m reading, the DIY projects I’m trying, or the recipes I attempt (like making my own yogurt!).

I’m going to continue writing inspirational posts, motivating others to be intentional in owning their lives, no matter what area of their life it is in.

And I’m going to continue to write to several audiences, whether you live in Lancaster County, Texas or South Africa. I know many readers enjoy my DIY posts, or even enjoy reading my Lancaster County posts because it gives them ideas to find similar things to do in their areas of the world—whether its finding free splash pads or visiting with dementia patients or riding bicycle on rails to trails as a family!

Just in case you missed them, here are my top 10 most popular posts this year.

1. How To Print Your Own Wall Art for Less Than $2
2. FREE Printable: You Are Loved Chalkboard Wall Art
3. FREE Printable: Chalkboard World Map Wall Art

(and the Lancaster County based posts):

4. FREE Splash Pads in and around Lancaster County
5. Pick  Your Own Strawberries: A Lancaster County Map and Pricing Guide
6. 23 Unique Things to Do with Your Family for Father’s Day in and around Lancaster County
7. 15 Before-Naptime Trips You May Not Have Known About
8. Lancaster County Playground Map
9. Kids Eat FREE in Lancaster County
10. Lancaster County Farmer’s Markets


Schoola 50% off Coupon – Womens Clothing and Shoes Deals

 schoola womens clothing coupon deal savings

Did you sign up for Schoola when I shared about it a few weeks ago? I usually get such great deals on clothing at yard sales that I honestly have not looked into online options much. I was so glad I did though, as I was able to get $97.80 worth of clothing for my kids (5 items) for only $1.60!

If you have not used your $20 credit yet from a few weeks ago, now would be a good time to use it. They have a lot of items priced down to $5 and they are offering a 50% off coupon.

If you haven’t signed up you can sign up for Schoola right now and earn a $10 credit. Remember, you might also be able to earn an additional $10 credit for creating a new collection.

schoola $10 credit

Use the code SUMMER50 (on purchases of $50 or more) to get 50% off your order. (Or use SUMMER30 to get 30% off your order of $30 or more.

schoola code 50% off

The deal is not as great this time around, but it is still decent. When you calculate your order now, the credit is applied BEFORE the coupon. 🙁 So you can’t pay little out of pocket, but you can get a lot of high value items at more than 50% off.

Here is the best deal I came up with:

Fill your cart to $80 (that could easily be over $200 worth of items!)
Apply your $30 credit discount.
Your total is now $50, making FREE shipping.
Use your 50% off coupon.
Your final total is $25 for over $200 worth of items!

schoola savings deal coupon

If you are like me and prefer to touch and feel your clothes when you are shopping, you might find the tips that I shared on how I Searched for my Schoola clothing helpful.

schoola womens clothing deals

Plus, you are not limited to kids clothing – they have an entire selection of clothing for men, women and even shoes. (Although I can never find the shoes unless I search for them – just a tip for you there to find something that otherwise seems hidden!)

womens shoes schoola

Happy shopping!

I am Going to South Africa!!

I am so excited to announce some very exciting news!!!! When Bonni Greiner and I released our book a few months ago, I hinted that I would have some big announcements soon, and that God was doing some crazy awesome things in my life. I have been waiting patiently to share with you, and now the time has finally come.

First, I want to throw a plea out to you. I know this post is long, so please feel free to skim down through. But I do need to tell you something. In order to understand the complete story behind this adventure, you’ll want to know the fine details. They are unique and exciting, I promise!

It All Started Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago I was about ready to leave for a medical missions trip to North Africa, when I received a call from a guy and was asked out on my first date. I was thrilled! But the night before I was heading out of the country? I thought to myself, what timing is this? I had to regretfully decline, but expressed interest for when I returned.

I left the next morning and prayed that I could remain focused on the purpose of my trip. God was faithful, and I was so thankful for it. I loved the opportunities I had in North Africa to use the gifts God has given me. I helped in the medical team’s pharmacy, taught children, and was a friend to the people I met. My heart is always changed when I experience other cultures and lands.

What does this have to do with today? Well, now nine years later, I have the opportunity to go back to Africa. This time though, it will be South Africa! Let me tell you more.

What I Never Expected

A couple of months ago Crystal Paine shared on her blog, MoneySavingMom.com that she was returning to South Africa in the fall, but this time was inviting ten of her readers to go with her. What an opportunity, I thought to myself. I set the idea aside for a week but felt in my heart it was something I wanted to consider.

I finally got up the courage to mention it to my husband and he said I should definitely apply.

Folks, I’m going to be honest here. I do not doubt God, and I have a lot of faith in many circumstances, but the reality was that Crystal was taking ONLY TEN readers with her and she has a MILLION+ followers! The statistics were not good. It seemed like a needle in a haystack. But why not apply, and let God do the work? If it was His will, He would make it happen! And I knew I’ve always had a heart for Africa.

So in April I applied. The questions on the application really made me think and deeply consider the intention and purpose of the trip.

Fast forward about six weeks, and I was in one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my life launching There’s An Easier Way. The first day of the launch week I woke up early in the morning to get some extra time in responding to facebook posts and guiding our launch team. I quickly checked my emails and one caught my eye.

Please accept this email as a formal invitation to JOIN US on the South Africa Advocacy Trip w/ Crystal Paine. Welcome to the team!!! We are so pumped to meet you and begin this journey of advocacy, relationship, and impact.

What?! I didn’t even read the rest of the email. I was partly in shock and partly had so much else on my mind with the book release, I couldn’t think. So I forwarded the email to my husband, and said “Wow. God’s adding something else to our list of things to pray about!”

I was downstairs in the kitchen, and not more than 5 seconds later I heard the bed creak and feet come running down the stairs. My husband had read the email and came rushing to give me a huge hug.

Isn’t one of the wonderful things about marriage having someone to get excited with you?!

I think I probably disappointed him in my reaction, as my excitement still couldn’t be adequately expressed.

What I Am Most Excited About

It didn’t take long for reality and excitement to settle in. I told a few family and friends (which held me over for a little), but I was so excited to tell all of you that I could hardly contain myself! The details are now finally set and I leave in only a few weeks!!!!

I cannot begin to tell you how eager I am to see God’s hand at work in South Africa. How eager I am to see how God will use this in my life, and how He will do great and mighty things through those of us participating in the trip. I know I will never be the same person again.

I also look forward to meeting the other South Africa advocates—team members are from all over the United States!

In our most recent team meeting, Crystal shared with us her goals for us as advocates on this trip. They resonated with me and I want to share them with you too!

  1. Catch a Vision for What God is Doing Around the World. It is so easy to place ourselves in a bubble – the way we parent, the way we do church, the way we think about things, the way we do school, the way we do politics, the way we are a mom.

    I want to be intentional about seeing God in a bigger way on this trip.

  2. Determine How We Can Use Our Gifts and Talents for God’s Glory. Families all over the world are giving their lives away for the kingdom of God. It is true that to whom much is given, much will be required. As Americans, no matter what ‘class’ we are in, we fall into the category of much is given.

    I want to be intentional about discerning how I can use what God has given me.

  3. Build Relationships with South Africans. I loved how Crystal shared that she will never be the same again after visiting South Africa. We need them and they need our friendship and support. Moms in South Africa are saying yes to God, and with having so little they are doing so much. They don’t have the same fears that we do.

    I want to be intentional about asking God to open my eyes to new relationships and ways of thinking.

Follow Me in South Africa

I will have internet access on the trip. I plan to regularly update my instagram and I will also be sharing some small snippets with you on the blog. Who knows, I might even try a facebook live or periscope.

You can also stay up to date on my trip by subscribing to my South Africa Advocacy Trip Email Newsletter. I plan to keep you updated on my thoughts and experiences, share what God is doing and challenge and inspire advocacy in your own life.

south africa trip newsletter

If you do not follow Crystal’s blog already, you can follow her on the trip as well. I am sure she will be updating on instagram and her blog – maybe facebook live too!

And yes, just in case you are wondering about that guy nine years ago. I did marry him! 🙂

Frugal Family Date Night Idea: Bowling, Pizza and Drink for only $22.50

family bowling night coupon deal savings 222 dutch lanes

Here is a great deal that 222 Dutch Lanes in Ephrata is offering on Local Flavor this week! A perfect frugal family date night idea. I still can’t believe food is included in the deal!

For only $22.50 you get a complete fun night for a family of four:

  • one game of bowling for 4 people
  • one shoe rental for 4 people
  • a large 16″ pizza
  • 2 large (20oz) sodas

No matter how old you get, the satisfaction of heaving round objects and knocking things over never really goes away. Channel your destructive tendencies into constructive entertainment with this offer from 222 Dutch Lanes, good for a bowling package for 4 for only $22.50, a $45.68 value.

With 40 lanes of pin-crashing excitement, 222 Dutch Lanes has plenty of room for you and your family and friends to roll up some fun. A well-stocked snack bar to satisfy your hot dog, nacho and pretzel cravings is available, plus there’s a great arcade to enjoy between games.

Other Local Flavor deals in Lancaster worth considering:

20 Things We Did To Make Our First Camping Trip With Kids a Success

20 things we did to make our first camping trip with kids a success

I don’t “mind’ tent camping necessarily, but ask me to do it with little kids and my head gets overwhelmed with stress. Up until this point (our kids are 2, 4 and 6), I have kindly said no. However, I know my husband likes it, I see the positives and fun points in it, and I can get excited about it more now that the kids are a little older.

A couple of months ago, I felt compelled to give it a try. When I mentioned it to my husband he was thrilled. Well, that was after he just about fainted in shock, but needless to say, he said yes right away!

We found a deal on Local Flavor to Mill Bridge Camping Resort for only $20/night. I had no clue what it cost to go camping, but I thought that was a pretty frugal rate for our first time trying camping out together as a family! I loved that it had a pool (we love to swim!), was near a creek and there were other tourist activities to do in the area, like the Toy Train Museum, if we wanted to. Plus, we weren’t too far from home if things did go really wrong and we had to cut our trip short.

Being that this was our first time camping, I immediately started a pin board with ideas. Folks, I had so much fun planning for this! There are some really creative and unique things you can do. The first thing on my mind was food – which I guess is ok because everything I read said campfire food is just the best around.

Needless to say, we had a great trip, of course with both ups and downs, but most importantly, we added tons of great family memories.

Here are 20 things we did to make our first family camping trip a success! (Starting with food first, of course!)

1. We Saved on Food Costs by Meal Planning A Week In Advance

To save on food costs I started planning my menu early. I made a list of what we had and what we needed a week before we left. We were planning to leave on a Friday so that week I went to the best places to buy the items needed at the best prices. I mostly used Glennwood Foods, Sharp Shopper and the local circulars for that week to find the best priced items.

Since we decided to have a lot of fun with food and be quite creative in what we ate, I will admit we did spend a little more on food than I was thinking. But we still spent way less than if we would have eaten at restaurants for every meal!


Here is our meal plan. We kept the meals kind of simple, but then in between meals we had fun trying new types of snacks and desserts. I figured we’d need to eat a lot more than normal since the kids would likely not be able to fall asleep before it got dark, and food would help them make it through.

Snack (while we are setting up camp and getting dinner ready) – smores
Dinner – foil meals in pie pans, cantaloupe
Snack – cinnamon rollups

Breakfast – sausage, eggs, kale, left over potatoes
Snack – campfire donuts
Lunch – foil packet kielbasa
Snack – banana boats
Dinner – pizza nachos
Snack – cobbler in the dutch oven

Breakfast – pancakes, eggs, bacon, cantaloupe, toasted cinnamon rolls
Lunch – ham and cheese foil croissants, baked beans

2. We Prepared Foods Before We Left

On Friday afternoon before my husband got home from work, I chopped all the veggies for the meals. My son scrambled the eggs and put them in a container, and also pre-made the pancake mix (in retrospect, we should have mixed all of it and then added the wet ingredients when we were ready to make them!) Having this work done ahead of time was a huge blessing! We didn’t need to spend time doing it there or take extra cutting boards and knives, etc.

While I was chopping the vegetables, I actually just completely made the foil meals in pie pans for that evening. When we arrived at our campsite then, all we needed to do was start a campfire and throw the pie pans on. The kids were so excited and well-rested (because they were at home for afternoon naps) that waiting for a later dinner was no issue.

3. We Tried New and Exciting Recipes

campfire donuts

Planning for the food was the most exciting part. We found so many unique ideas we wanted to try – and we tried a lot of them! Including campfire donuts, cinnamon twists on kabob sticks, campfire pizza nachos and banana boats. We recommend them all!

banana boats

What I also loved about our opportunity to try new foods and cooking styles, was we weren’t afraid of having a flop. Toasting cinnamon rolls on a stick is just not as easy as it looks on pinterest! 🙂

campfire cinnamon roll flop

By the way, if you need easily transportable retracting roasting sticks, these are awesome! We keep them in the car so we always have them wherever we go. You never know when you might need them at a campout or get-together.

4. We Made Foil Pack Meals

For most of our meals, we cooked them in foil packs over the campfire. Yes, we did use the campfire for every meal! Hey, why not – we were camping right?! We made foil meals in pie pans, foil packet kielbasa, ham and cheese foil croissants.

Why was this wonderful? Because it gave us an opportunity to spend more time with our kids or just enjoy nature while our food was cooking. So simple!

5. We Kept Packages of Wipes in Multiple Places

On the Giant gas deals last week, I bought several packages of wipes to earn free gas. These came in very useful on the camping trip. We kept a package in the diaper bag, at the picnic table near the campfire, and in the van for outings. They made cleaning up sticky fingers or dirty faces quick and easy.

6. We Had the Kids Draw Maps of the Campground

kids draw campground maps

There were a few times while we were waiting for meals to finish cooking or kids were a little too cranky to play nicely with each other. When these times came up, I got out my activity bag. We had them each draw a map of the playground, including the pool, our tent, the roads and the office. We talked about a key and how they could use symbols to identify areas.

7. We Played Family Campfire Charades

A few weeks before we left our friends gave us Charades for Kids and our family just loved it! I couldn’t believe how even our 2 year old participated in the game and did well. One evening around the campfire we needed a filler activity.

I had come prepared with some campfire charade ideas. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out as well because I would have to read them what they had to act out. (I like the actual game better because they had pictures on the charades cards and the kids could ‘read’ their own cards. That way everyone could be guessing!) But it worked out well. And really, the kids just love acting things out.

We acted out things like chopping firewood, setting up a tent, making smores, rolling up a sleeping bag, flying a kite, catching butterflies and swatting mosquitos.

8. We Gave the Kids Opportunities To Use Their Imagination

This was a completely unexpected lifesaver! One of our first snacks over the fire were cinnamon twists. To make these we used large wooden kabob sticks. The next day the kids used them to build little structures, poke in the ground, and even play ring toss.

kid play kabob sticks

On the last day, one of our camping neighbors left us a box of unused wood scraps as fire starter. The kids loved playing blocks with these to build anything and everything they could imagine.

wood scraps kid play

9. We Let Our Kids Play in the Dirt

There were many very peaceful moments on our camping trip, of silence and peaceful play while I set around the campfire talking with my husband and the kids played in the dirt. We had brought two tractors along for our youngest – who just LOVES anything about tractors, so playing in the dirt with them is definitely something he started. The other two joined in as they made fields, barns, plows and ponds.

tractor play in dirt

The unexpected advantage to this was when we returned home, I walked in the front door and immediately appreciated how clean our house was! (And considering how I hate cleaning and don’t think I do a wonderful job at it, I think from now on I will appreciate my efforts with new eyes.)

10. I Asked My Facebook Friends for Advice

A few days before we left, I asked my facebook friends what some of their favorite camping secrets were. I loved getting this feedback from experienced campers who could help me think ahead and plan accordingly. I did not use all of their tips, so I am saving those for next time!

11. We Made a Simple “Packing-Up To Leave” Meal

One of my favorite pieces of advice from those facebook friends was to plan a simple meal for when we are packing up to leave. This is right up my alley! I absolutely love simplicity. We of course didn’t want to have a huge campfire lit when we left and I didn’t want to clean a bunch of pans. I was really looking forward to these ham and cheese foil sandwiches for Saturday lunch, but I decided to switch them to Sunday lunch and simplify them a bit.

ham and cheese campfire sliders

I made the sandwiches while waiting for breakfast Sunday morning, added a slice of pineapple to the middle, and then wrapped them in tin foil. As we started packing up the fire was almost out so I just set the sandwiches on the hot coals for a few minutes to melt the cheese. It didn’t take long! They were delicious and there was NO clean up!

12. We Made Popcorn Over the Fire

Have you seen these JiffyPop campfire popcorn packs? They really are as much fun to watch as they are to make — especially for the kids! We found ours for 99 cents at Sharp Shopper, but I am sure you can find them many places for just as cheap.

jiffy pop campfire popcorn

13. We Had “Snack-tivities”

I had packed little trail mixes as extra snacks. I found them 5/$1 at Sharp Shopper!! In our house we often do snacktivities, which is basically when I give the kids a variety of little foods and they build with them or make funny looking faces on their plates.

I should have expected if I emptied these trail mix packs on their plate they would have done something similar, but I can’t take credit for this one. Soon after I gave them the snack I heard the kids say, “look mom! We made smiley faces!”

smiley face camping kids snacks

14. We Had Family Reading Time in the Tent

The first night we stayed up late around the campfire. It was fun, but it was harder for the kids to settle down. The second night, we decided to clean up while it was still somewhat light and head to the tent early. We all huddled in a pile and daddy read books to us as it got dark. I was so glad I thought to bring The Gruffalo along, it was one of our favorites and seemed to be a perfect camping story!

family reading in tent gruffalo book

I’m happy to report that this bedtime strategy worked perfectly. When we turned the lights out, it was pitch dark and the kids were so relaxed it didn’t take long at all for them to fall asleep.

15. We Went on a Naptime Drive (and had a mini date!)

We weren’t expecting to do this either, but we could tell on Saturday afternoon that the kids were very tired. Plus, it probably didn’t help that we were all awakened at 5am by a calf mooing right outside our tent! We decided to go for a drive to try to simplify taking a nap (are our kids the only ones who often will fall asleep easier in a car, strapped in their seats?)

I talked to them calmly as we were strapping them in their seats, explained what we were doing, and asked all of them (even our six year old) to show me how they were going to close their eyes. My daughter asked me to sing, so we sang a few songs for them as we drove. It wasn’t even five minutes down the road that we looked back and saw this.

16. We Packed Like Items Together

I love to organize, so packing things for the trip was a highlight. I started packing these boxes at the beginning of the week and added to them as I thought of other things I would need. In a big box I included all the canned goods, seasonings, breads and anything that didn’t need kept cold.

camping packing dry goods

I found the perfect size crate for our plates, utensils, napkins, wipes, and ziploc baggies (I thought these would come in handy for left overs or emergencies, but we never actually needed them.)

first camping trip with kids packing supplies in crate

I packed the cooler just before we left on Friday afternoon, and I tried to put the things we would use first on the top.

first camping trip with kids in cooler

17. We Got the Kids Involved

first camping trip with kids getting them involved pouring drink

We made helping an activity or a game, just like we do household chores. The kids helped us gather sticks, build log cabin or tepee fires before we lit them, set the table, poured drinks, and even use small plastic knives to cut simple pre-cooked sausages for our foil pack meals.

first camping trip with kids success getting kids involved using plastic knife

Sometimes they would help for only a few minutes and then play quietly until we finished, other times they would help until the job was done. We were flexible!

camping trip kids helping to pick up sticks for fire starter

18. We Used the Campgrounds Tent and Took an Easy Pop-Up Tent

The Local Favor Deal we used included a tent. It was suppose to rain the last day of our trip, so we figured we would use their tent instead of possibly adding to the stress of trying to pack up a wet tent at the end of our trip. The tent the campground gave us was a Coleman Sundome 4-person tent and was very simple to set up – I highly recommend it for first time campers! Very affordable too.

I am also blessed that my husband is a professional influencer and reviews products for fun. He recently received this awesome tent that you can set up in lightning speed with just one person. I highly recommend it for anyone who doesn’t want to mess with the hassle of putting up a tent.

19. We Treated Our Kids with Respect

We find that when we speak kindly to our children and give them age-appropriate responsibilities, they respond quite positively. They are a pleasure to be with and things go well for them and for us.

We will be the first to admit that there were a few stressful moments on the trip when we were not careful with our words and things did not go well for any of us. In those times, asking for forgiveness turns the situation around very quickly.

Teaching them to use phrases like the “I Statement” is also very helpful.

20. We Chose a Family Campground and Utilized Their Activities

I saved this for last, because it was a huge factor in the success of our first camping trip with kids. We decided to camp at the Mill Bridge Campground because it was near to home and we had a Local Flavor deal, making it only $20/night.

We loved that it had a pool (we love to swim!), a creek and a playground. There was also a game room, badmitton, basketball, and even hayrides on the weekend and although we didn’t know it ahead of time, all campers received FREE admission to the old mill museum on the property. We love history and I plan to share about everything we saw inside in another post – admission is only $3 for non-campers and it is a self-guided tour.

mill bridge strasburg campsite perfect for family with kids

We were thrilled when we saw our camp site upon arrival. Check out this view of horses and cows in the pasture and we even had an end of the row lot so we weren’t surrounded by campers or other campsites. I really do think we got the best lot on the campground! (Ask for #95 if you go!)

first camping trip with kids success hot air balloon over campsite mill bridge

Another unexpected surprise was seeing hot air balloons in the morning and evening. Because we were near Bird-In-Hand where most flights take off, they flew right over top of us regularly. The kids loved to see them and get excited that they were going to land near us!


So there you have it. Our first tent camping trip with kids was a success! We had a great time, made memories and learned a lot for our next trip. I’m really glad we kept this trip short. The kids were so tired by the end of the trip and we were only there two nights. I highly recommend keeping them short when you have young kids.

I would love to hear about your camping trips and secrets in the comments below.

How We Take Our Family to The Pool for Only $15

woodcrest retreat

With all this hot weather lately, we’ve had a lot of unique opportunities to head outside. Once a summer we usually like to take our kids to the public pool, since we don’t get an annual membership. Frugal as we are, we typically go after 5pm to get discounted admission. But even with that, it costs about $25 to take our family!

We were thrilled this weekend to try out a new public pool. It offers discounted rates after 3:30pm (even earlier and better!) and the price is less. There are less pools and less fancy things like slides, but it is perfect for our kids who just love to swim and be with us!

Get this, it cost our family only $15 to swim for 3 hours (from 3:30pm to 6:30pm). Yes, it does close earlier than other pools, but that’s still a great deal!

Where did we go? Woodcrest Retreat in Ephrata. The pool is located next to the Mountain View snack bar and restroom facility and within walking distance of the waterslide and playground areas. The photo below shows three pool areas, and to the right is the diving board area, that you cannot see. There are geysers for the kids to enjoy at the far left end of the pool in the zero-entry wading area too!

woodcrest retreat pool

Pool Features

  • Main Pool Area – 2-1/2 – 5′. depth, large walkout steps
  • Children’s Area – Spacious area with a gradual depth from 0 – 2-1/2′., peninsula seating for parents
  • Underwater Lighting
  • Cascade Waterfall – 8′ high with 3 sprays to play under
  • 10′ Diving Well
  • Zero Degree Entry – Water entry is gradual to allow access to all persons.
  • 5 Geysers
  • Large Grass Area – with lounge chairs
  • Snack Bar – featuring variety of treats including root beer floats, slushies, ice cream, soda and candy
  • Showers and Restrooms – tile floor and walls; handicap accessible

Pool Rates

You can view a PDF of the pool rates and open hours here.

woodcrest retreat pool rates

Bonus Slide

As an added bonus you get free admission to the 225 foot waterslide when you pay for the pool!!


A summer day is not complete unless a thrilling ride down the 225 ft. waterslide is experienced. Young and old will cool off with a refreshing splash at the bottom of the slide. Please note the slide is only open until 4pm, but if you get there right at 3:30pm, you can enjoy it for at least a little!


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You have until tomorrow (Wednesday, August 17) to enter to win a $20 gift card to Oregon Dairy. Just tag at least five friends in this facebook post.

5 reasons to shop at oregon dairy especially with kids

5 Compelling Reasons to Shop at Oregon Dairy (especially if shopping with kids!)

5 reasons to shop at oregon dairy especially with kids

1. FREE Produce Samples

I always love it when stores have samples of produce—it is a perfect distraction and break for any kids shopping with you!

oregon dairy lancaster pa

Also, I did not double-check on this, but usually Family Owned Markets offer a free slice of cheese to kids at the deli counter and a free cookie in the bakery.

2. Daily Market Specials

For the month of August 2016, Oregon Dairy is offering 1/2 gallon white milk on Tuesdays for only $.99. This includes all Oregon Dairy milk, whether its lowfat or Vitamin D. Isn’t that an extraordinary price?! I was super-excited to see it!!


If you live close to Oregon Dairy you might be interested in visiting two days a week after you see the rest of their daily market specials in August! On Wednesdays, you can get $3 off a $10 produce purchase! (Last week a dozen ears of corn were only $2.88, so that’s like getting your corn for FREE!)


3. Kids Shopping Carts and The Choo Choo Train

My kids love to stand in awe and watch the train above the checkout area. And I love that it is an excellent distraction and entertainment to keep them occupied near the end of our shopping trip!

Kids can also push their own mini shopping cart. I like how they conveniently have them parked off to the side, so if you don’t want your kid to use one they aren’t right in front and tempting them!


4. Discount Grocery Bins

Oregon Dairy does not offer discounted produce, dairy or meat items like many other grocery stores do. When I was looking for the discount bins, I found a manager who explained to me that Oregon Dairy desires to sell only the best of products to its customers. In lieu of offering discount items for sale, they have chosen to donate all soon to be outdated food items to Blessings of Hope.

blessings of hope

Blessings of Hope is a food distribution warehouse that was setup to allow large food distributors to efficiently donate their excess product to be distributed to food banks, ministries, churches and families in the community. In 2015 Blessings of Hope distributed over 5.2 million pounds of food (approximately 175 semi truck loads!)

The manager’s response to my question about discount bins was so genuine.

You could tell that the store, from the bottom of their hearts, has researched and put deep thought into where the extra food will go and where it will be used best.

In the past, the manager said food had been donated to the Bowery Mission in NYC, but currently it is all going to Blessings of Hope.

5. The Jump Pad, Playground and Baby Deer

I use the Jump Pad as a reward, and it works great for us. The kids are in love with the Jump Pad (located on the Oregon Dairy playground in summer months), and are always talking about it. They know that things will go well for children who obey and behave properly in the grocery store.

oregon dairy jump pad free

Ever since we saw the baby fawns born during our visit to Oregon Dairy in June, we have a deep connection with the deer family on the property, and we have to check on them each time we visit. 🙂


If you want to watch the video of the fawns just as they were born, you can find it here!

$20 Gift Card Giveaway

Oregon Dairy has generously offered a $20 gift card to one of my readers! I would love for it to be you who wins!! Head over to facebook and find this post. Tag at least three friends who shop at Oregon Dairy or who would be blessed by a $20 gift card and you’ll be entered to win!!


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Splash Pads and wading pools summer water fun free in lancaster county

A Hidden Playground at Historic Pool Forge Park in Narvon, PA

This week we visited the Historic Pool Forge Playground. If you haven’t checked out this playground and creek area, I highly recommend doing so. Whether its just for a short visit or spending all day there, you will fall in love with this place and certainly not run out of things to do. Let me show you why.

The Location

Historic Pool Forge is located along Route 23 between Goodville and Churchtown. It’s not far from Shady Maple, so you can plan your visit to these two places together.

poole forge playground covered bridge

As you enter the Pool Forge property you won’t see the playground. You’ll need to turn left and go down the narrow driveway towards the back of the property (unless you enter through the covered bridge, then it will be a right turn).

The playground sits back in a wooded area beside the Conestoga Creek. As you visit the park, you hear magnificent natural sounds of chirping birds, crickets, cicadas, water flowing over rocks and the occasional great blue heron call. If you hear the heron, don’t freak out! They can sound awful, but they won’t hurt you. My family refers to them as dinosaur birds because of the sounds they make.

The sounds were just so beautiful during our visit that I had to record this short video to give you an idea of the serenity and peace. I took a few moments while my kids played on the playground to just sit and enjoy the sounds and the view while I recorded this.

The Playground

The playground itself was designed for all ages of children.



There is a little tot area, complete with a pretend serving window and a telescope perfect for child’s imagination.


The riding animals and truck are good for toddlers as well as older children.


The “playground telephone” (what are these called anyway?), works perfectly and even carries a whisper. I had the cutest conversation with my son, whispering to him about a “snake” hole I found.



The main playground structure has large slides, and a rope with a climbing wall perfect for ages 4-10 I would say. Although I’m sure children older than that could make great use of it too.


Speaking of climbing walls, we loved this two sided climbing wall. One kid can climb up each side and then meet at the top for victory! Younger children (my 4 year old) needed help with this, but there were definitely easier sections than others. I would guess that kids up to 16 (even adults) could be challenged on this wall.


The moving balance beam is definitely unique. I actually had to try it out myself to see what it was like!



Another positive thing about this playground is that there are normal swings, a swing for children with disabilities and baby swings, so all your children, toddlers and infants can be swinging at the same time if they so desire!

The Pavilion

Next to the playground is a beautiful pavilion with many picnic tables, perfect for eating a snack or your lunch.

poole forge pavilion

The Creek

The playground sits on a hill next to the creek. The creek itself is only ankle deep at most places, but occasionally you will see spots that are up to thigh deep.

There are several different places to enter the creek easily if you would like to get wet or even just get down closer to the water.

poole forge creek play

Most people tend to enter the water in this big area that I call the wading pool of the creek. Its pretty shallow for the most part. My 2-year-old walked out to the little island very easily on his own, but he is a brave little guy too. The water does move pretty fast on the far left but it is not deep. Right after the mini water rapids however, there is a really deep spot. It was probably about 3-4 feet deep when we were there. Its not a large spot, and my kids easily stayed away from it, but it is a place to be careful. You wouldn’t expect it to be that deep there, until you take a step towards it.

poole forge steep muddy entrance

The downside of playing here is the entrance is very steep and muddy. Unless you don’t mind messes, then it won’t bother you.

poole forge creek play tree

We also enjoyed climbing on this large sycamore tree, and admired the beauty of it. Isn’t it amazing how the roots formed these natural steps? We were in awe exploring God’s nature.

poole forge fish

You’ll even see little fish, although I wasn’t able to capture a good photo of them. I think the water is so clear that not only can we see them but they can see us. Every time I got my camera out they swam away!

Overall Thoughts

This would be a great place to meet a group of moms or friends for a morning playtime and picnic lunch. You would not have a hard time spending hours here as your kids switch back and forth between the playground, the creek, and eating snacks/lunch. There are porta-potties that are kept pretty nice for you and your kids to use.

poole forge trash carry out policy

Please note the park has a carry your trash out policy, so there are no trash cans. Plan on bringing plastic bags for your trash if you need them.

When you leave, plan to exit through the covered bridge. Your kids will love it!

poole forge covered bridge

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15 Before Naptime Trips You May Not Have Known About in Lancaster County, PA

Flower & Craft Marketplace Kids Party this Saturday, August 13, 2016

I looked at the forecast yesterday and was shocked to see rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for the next week or so. Since Saturday could be rainy, this event at the Flower Warehouse might be a good option for you!

flower and craft warehouse august 13

From 10am to 2pm, there will be free activities for kids at the Flower & Craft Marketplace in Blue Ball, PA. Activities include a treasure hunt, cupcake decorating, bean bag toss, put put golf and coloring pages. There will be FREE ice cream for completing the treasure hunt and FREE coupons for the parents!

Flower & Home Marketplace is located at 196 Broad Street, Blue Ball, PA (near Shady Maple).


Simply Heavenly Pineapple Zucchini Pancakes

Simply Heaveny Pineapple Zucchini Pancakes

This past weekend I started making pancakes for breakfast and thought about the extra shredded zucchini I had in the fridge. Hmmm, I thought to myself, what would it be like to add zucchini to pancakes? And then I remembered the zucchini cake I make from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets and how it calls for crushed pineapple. Oh how I love that recipe!

Why not mix the sweet pineapple taste with the zucchini in the pancakes?

Folks, I had no idea how heavenly this would taste until I tried it! I’m thinking it was the perfect combination (although we talked about trying to add coconut yet too). The pineapple kept the pancakes sweet and moist and the zucchini added texture, flavor and nutrition.

I don’t usually describe recipes as heavenly, but this was just so delicious!

I experimented with the recipe for the past three days. Yes, we’ve had pineapple zucchini pancakes for three breakfasts in a row and we are still not tired of them! That’s just how good they are.

Simply Heavenly Zucchini Pineapple Pancakes

Simply Heavenly Zucchini Pineapple Pancakes


  • pancake batter for about 12 pancakes
  • 1/2 - 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 4 TBSP drained crushed pineapple


  1. Make your pancake batter. You can use any plain pancake batter or buttermilk pancakes. I used a box of Hungry Jack mix because I had it on hand from a recent Giant gas deal. I made enough for 12-20 pancakes.
  2. After you make the mix, let it set for a few minutes so it thickens and raises a little.
  3. Stir in 1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded zucchini depending on your preference. My family was pleased with either amount.
  4. Add 4 TBSP pineapple. I felt this was a good amount because it added flavor and moisture. You can do less but too much more would affect the balance of fruit and batter, and the pancakes wouldn't fry up or flip right.
  5. Wait til you see bubbles on the top of the pancake, then flip until both sides are lightly browned.
  6. Serve with fresh maple syrup.

After I made the pineapple zucchini pancakes, I realized how much of an experimenter I am in the kitchen. I remembered the Pumpkin Hungry Jack Pancakes that I made last fall. I’m thinking you can pretty much add any add-in you’d like to these Hungry Jack Pancakes and achieve scrumptious results!