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Meet Dogbeard the Rescue Pug

I know I’ve been quiet for a few weeks, and it’s time now to show you all why. I’ve been really busy!


I’d like to introduce y’all to the newest member of our family: Dogbeard Cooper Mad Eye Moody Pugsley Surles the 23rd. He was found living in an alleyway garbage pile, emaciated and starving for affection, by Jeane, the founder of Birmingham Scrollworks , who promptly decided that his career in waste management was over. Jeane rescues strays in her neighborhood and has them vetted and rehomed. Dogbeard was special to me from the moment I saw him.


After spending over a week with the vet, it was determined that he is blind in one eye, has damage to the other eye, has some scarring that may indicate abuse, has a nasal condition called Stenotic Nares, and has a liver condition called Portosystemic Shunt, which can result in impaired cognitive function and even death. The liver shunt can also be partially managed with diet but for quality of life reasons, needs to be treated with a very expensive, but life changing, surgery. For this, we have decided to take him to a veterinary school but we will have to crowdfund the costs. Since I gave my heart to this little guy the minute I saw him, I’ve decided that I’m up to the challenge. He needs a family, ours, in fact.


Before he came to our home, I obsessively researched pug specific care, general dog care, hotels that allow dogs, various canine medical conditions and their special dietary restrictions, poisonous foods, hatmaking, and methods of training. I also spent this time making sure the boys understand my expectations in regards to him. I’m not sure they heard me over their excitement. Still, I know, the bulk of his care will be my responsibility, and that’s ok. Special needs are nothing new to me.

We don’t know how long he lived on the street. We do know that he’s young, that he was living in a trash pile, and that as soon as he was given a small kindness, he followed Jeane home, walked right past her motley crew, and tried to become her instant lap dog.

Currently, i have started crowdfunding his surgery while we work to get him healthy enough to withstand it. This is going to require a special diet, medication, lots of cuddles, and kisses on his little forehead. Please do not use this as an opportunity to go on about how he should be put down. Value is relevant, even for a trash pile dog, and the amount of people who have told me that I should have had Baby Cat (who has spent 15 years living like a king!) euthanized for his diabetes is mind boggling. It’s easy enough to manage.

Today is his one week doggiversary. In the past week, I’ve learned many things. He’s silly, funny, and clever. He loves to cuddle and eat sliced carrots. He has learned to pee outside, walks easily enough on a leash, and has determined that I’m the pack leader. I am, but don’t tell Mr. Incredible!  He’s a very opinionated little guy who doesn’t like to be very far from me. I really want to make his surgery happen. He deserves a chance to know what a great life is.


So say hello to Dogbeard! DB for short. Once we get him fattened up and healthy he will be embarking on an exciting new career! He will finally get to realize his lifelong dream of being a hat model.

if you would like to contribute to DB’s surgery costs, please DO! You can see it right here.  Every little bit helps!

It would also be a huge help to get shares! Every share has the potential to get us one step closer to  success!  So please help this sweet dog by sharing him everywhere!

I’ve also set up a Facebook page where I’ve been posting progress updates and random comments about dogrearing. Feel free to like it!

My regular Facebook page Is here, and I’ll be back to posting deals, recipes, and menus soon so you can follow me there as well if you want.

Thanks for helping me save this sweet little dog! He’s really a great pup and I can’t wait to see him transform with love and medical care.


Low Carb Ranch Dressing: Tina’s Homemade Ranch


Several months ago, my friend, Tina, shared this recipe with me for sugar-free ranch dressing. I had been searching for a replacement for commercially bottled ranch, because they generally have sugar, preservatives, and chemicals. My husband loves to drench his salads in ranch, bottled salad dressing has a couple of carbs per tablespoon and he eats half the bottle, so I realized one day that we needed a lower carb version. Salad is one of his favorite foods so of course, I aimed to deliver.

This recipe for low carb, sugar free salad dressing is simple to make, it uses very basic ingredients, and is customizable in many ways. It’s really tasty, makes a great dipper for things like nuggets and veggies, and lasts in the fridge for 2 weeks or so. Tina is a great cook, so I knew when she shared it, that it would be a keeper, and I was right.


This homemade ranch recipe can be made in just a few minutes. Give it a try and see how you like it.

Tina’s Homemade Ranch

1 cup of Mayo
1/2 cup of Sour Cream
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Mix this together

*My notes: This is really thick, which is great! I like to stir in about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out. It’s purely a personal preference. Plus, if it sits in the fridge, it continues to thicken because the dried herbs soak up some of that water. Sometimes, I add a packet of sweetener, too. It depends on my mood and what I’m using it for.

That’s it!

Spicy ranch: Add cayenne pepper to taste. I’d start with 1/4 teaspoon, plus it depends on how old your cayenne is.

Buttermilk ranch: Stir in about a tablespoon of powdered buttermilk

This is a great salad dressing to keep in your fridge, or to quickly mix up. I store it in a mason jar so I can make a quick grab when I need it.


Cooking from scratch is the most budget friendly,  Over time, it saves not just money, but your health. and you really can’t put a price on that.

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Let’s Talk About: Baby Corn!


Occasionally, a certain ingredient shows itself in the LC world and there are often people who have no idea about it. Today, that ingredient is baby corn. That delicious, saucy little bite from stir fries of your carby days is actually very low in carbohydrate and high in fiber and deserving of your recognition, provided you aren’t trying to live a grain free lifestyle. You know, because corn is a grain.

Baby corn is exactly that. It is the immature ear of corn. It is picked before the kernels mature, and before they develop their sugars, so it’s carb content is really low and it shouldn’t affect blood sugars. It is also mostly cob, thus the high fiber content. Here is a pic I took of the cans in the $1 section of one of my local grocery stores. This is one of those items I keep in my pantry.


As you can see, it’s $1 per can and each 1/2 cup serving has 4 carbs and 2 fiber. There are more expensive brands out there and always check your labels. The pickled stuff that comes in the jar often has added sugar. Always check your labels on everything, actually.

Anyway, back to the baby corn. Regular, canned or frozen corn (or corn on the cob, sorry, folks!)  is not low carb, but baby corn is different. Over time, I’ve come to include it in soups, stews, stir fries, salads, and casseroles. It is a great way to add some variety to your recipes without adding a lot of carb. So, try some out for yourself, and remember, if you have diabetes, eat to your meter.


I just wanted to take a minute and talk about blogging. I’ve had this site up for a while, and write something here and there, but lately, it just seems like I’ve lost my muse. One thing, though, that I am always, always, passionate about, is eating well for less. See, I love good food. I love budget ideas, I love helping people, and I really love grocery stores and ads. It is really pretty easy to eat well on a tight budget and still eat for your health.

My last post blew this blog up!

Honestly, I knew it would be popular, but I had no idea just HOW popular. That’s where you guys all come in. I had such a fun weekend over the Dollar Tree post that I made up a whole new seven-day menu and that’s what I’m eating this week on the test run. So, that will go up, probably Sunday night. In the meantime, I’m learning a little more about blogging.

For example, I ran out of server space and had to call my host to buy more. That was TOTALLY unexpected! Now I have multiple people who care for me and my family insisting that I look into methods of monetizing. I feel a little overwhelmed, but I love learning new things, and that’s what I’m doing.

Up until this point, blogging has been kind of boring. I’m sure that’s why so many bow out over time, and why I’ve been sporadic about it. But for me, knowing that there are people out there who are reading my material and being helped by it(!!!) is huge and an incredible motivator. I have SO many things I want to share about eating well for less that I can’t even get all the words out at once.

So, maybe I’ve found my muse.
It’s you people.

My Dreams of Christmas Morning

It’s 8:30 AM on Christmas morning and my kids aren’t awake. Neither is Mr. Incredible, for that matter. He learned early on not to expect 5 AM excitement over presents and stockings and Santa. It’s just me and the cats.

When Superman was little, I didn’t think much of it. I liked sleeping in. He loved opening a gift or two but was mostly indifferent, enough that I wondered if maybe I was Christmassing wrong. Here’s a thing, though…if you are a special needs parent and you are not riddled with questions and insecurity sometimes, then you should be. I can’t count the times I’ve found myself thinking “I’m not doing X right.”

Anyway, back to Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. The sights, smells, music, decorations, the bell ringing, people in Santa hats asking for dollars for this and that, the way everyone seems to love each other just a little bit more, the FOOD! There is not a drop of Christmas that I don’t soak up like a sponge. Mr. Incredible even gave me, one year, a Crosby record player so I could listen to my 70s era thrift store Christmas albums. Therefore, my Xmas excitement when I had an Autie child was tempered some by his indifference. He couldn’t have given any less of a crap about staying up late to try and catch Santa, in fact, he found Santa to be unnatural. The gifts he loved were sensory-rich. He didn’t love the unpredictability of wrapped gifts and stockings and people coming and going. Oh, and just TRY to get him to eat ham. No, really. TRY IT. He might do it for you.

I always wanted that picture-perfect Christmas morning, when my kids would swarm the tree and be all “SANTA! SANTA was here! Even though we’re naughty children!” OK, maybe not that last bit, but we all know Santa comes to see the naughty children, too. Then, we would all sit around, drinking hot cocoa and loving each other.

Sometimes, Superman has a meltdown while we are opening gifts. It’s usually because I made a poor choice buying something fabulous that he thinks doesn’t make a good present. Other times, it’s just overstimulation. I try to keep it simple, but they don’t really get new things often, so at times, maybe I get a little carried away.

Nobody gets up early except me, and we don’t get to open gifts before you know who has eaten.
He checks our Gamestop account to see if I’ve bought video games.
We must have Shells and Cheese on the table. If we have turkey, it has to have gravy and if I don’t get the gravy spot on, he won’t eat it OR the turkey.
I remind myself often that he’s not trying to be difficult, he has Autism.

Still, I make sure to mix it up a bit. I finally got him to stop rejecting awesome T-shirts as gifts. It took years. This year, we are having a rib roast instead of turkey. Instead of the cheese sticks he asked for, I am making my mom’s sausage balls. And so it goes.

What I’ve learned from our journey has been this.
I changed my dreams.
Now, my perfect Christmas morning means a quiet house while I sip my coffee. Santa comes while the kids are still awake, rings jingle bells around the house, and they come out and are all “WOOOOOW!” and then after the excitement has died down, we all go to bed. We open stockings, then patiently wait for gifts while YKW has breakfast.

We do have all day, after all.

Transition Issues 101: Teaching an Autistic Child How To Use the Pharmacy

One of the things our kids need to know in order to have a normal adulthood is how to make the pharmacy work for them. So, today, I’m making this helpful guide.

How to teach a typical child how to pharmacy: Take them with you to the pharmacy over the years. They will observe and pick it up on their own.

How to teach an Autie child how to pharmacy: Take them with you over the years, then when they are 18, realize they haven’t paid any attention all that time because it’s boring and the store is overwhelming. Instead of panicking, follow these simple steps.

Some time ahead of the planned day, find out from the pharmacist when the slow time is and explain your goals. Use the same pharmacy for many years. This is important.
Explain to your child a day in advance that you will be learning the pharmacy the next day and ask if they have any questions. Ignore the only question they ask, which is “Isn’t that YOUR job? Pharmacies are boring.”
Tell them about the prescription you will be picking up and make a short social story about it. Ignore the eyerolling. Regardless of your status as an Autism Superparent, you are still LAME lamey lame lame.
The next day, remind your child of your plans. Give them a specific time you will be visiting the pharmacy. Ignore the complaints.
Drive to the pharmacy, reminding your child of which prescription you will be ordering and why. Ignore the fact that you are met with silence.
Upon your arrival, you will see a substitute pharmacist and a tech you are used to. Approach the counter and explain your goals, then step back and let your child order his prescription. Ignore the stink eye.
Expect the reasons why you are getting that particular prescription filled to be forgotten. The blank may or may not be filled in with some random nonsense.
Don’t say anything and don’t help. Your child will be focused on the task at hand. It’s new, and there will likely be some anxiety.
While they are getting the prescription ready, walk around and shop. A small pharmacy works better for us, one with few lines and little waits. They will call you over the intercom.
When you get there to pay, make sure he has money for the copay already. You belong in the background. A good pharmacist will be able to manage this without your help.
He will ring out and pay. As you go to the car, talk about the fact that he should always fill his scripts a week or so before he runs out of meds in case there is a paperwork issue that needs sorting or an item that needs to be ordered. Other things that need addressed, pharmacists and techs sometimes change locations. Sometimes there are substitutes, you may need to get a fill at a different location, at times there are lines. They should always use the same pharmacy so they have a regular relationship with their pharmacists and techs. These facts don’t come naturally to them, especially the fact that they need the relationship with the pharmacist.

From here on out, do these things with every prescription. Also make sure your child knows how to use the automated phone service and is familiar with the website. Ignore the complaints and ignore the question that is bound to be asked …

“Now that I know this, can we go back to it being your job?”

Cathedral Caverns in Woodville, AL gets FIVE stars in my book

Sometimes, I think maybe this blog should be “52 Weeks of Bama” because, well, we like to go, and we don’t always stay close to home. See, I grew up in the country and sometimes, I have to get out in the hills just to re-center myself. This week was one of those weeks.

Last week, a dear friend surprised me with a gift of some cash and said “Do something for the boys.”
I narrowed it down to two things. A trip 2 hours north to Cathedral Caverns or a membership to the Birmingham Zoo. The zoo membership would give us unlimited visits for a year, but I picked a day trip to Cathedral Caverns, instead. I used to go caving back when I was 18 or so, and have been on commercial cave tours, too. I called them ahead of time to find out about how easy the tour is because we occasionally have some mobility issues and some irrational fears. On the phone, the young lady I spoke with said they have golf carts that a person can ride on if they are unable to tolerate the actual walk in the cave, which is paved throughout and has handrails, too.


Here we are, starting out. Mr. Incredible passed on the day trip in favor of a quiet day, napping and watching whatever he wanted on the tv, uninterrupted. So, before we left, I set the crock pot with some supper for him, because when the boys and I go on a jaunt, who knows when we will actually be home? Not us…and you can bank on us getting food out as our way of finishing off the day. It’s just how we roll.

About 10 miles from the house, I saw something on the roadside and turned around to go back and get it. I had to exit the interstate, get back on, etc. I don’t normally stop to pick up roadside treasures, but did it for these. Check it out!


They must have fallen off a work truck. These things are like gold for kids with Autism and were well worth the extra ten mins it took to go back for them. I’ll clean them up and will find them a home.
If you have a few cases of these or a source for them, feel free to give me a holler. I’ll hand them out to kids at an event. You’d be surprised at what a set of these things can do for an Autie kid to be able to handle crowds.

My mom used to always pick up stuff off the road. Her favorite thing? Milk crates and 5 gallon buckets!  It’s interesting to me, the things that remind me of her now that she’s gone.

We got back on the road and kept going until we got to Steele, where we exited for bathroom breaks and because there is a Loves there. Why Loves? Because I have a weakness for truck stop tchotchkes! I have never bought any, but do love to look.




While I’m on the subject of bathroom breaks, I want to add something.
A lot of kids with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder really hate public toilets. Those sensors on the back? The damn things go off at unpredictable moments and the toilets are already so loud they hurt sensitive ears and They.Scare.Our.Kids.
OK, they don’t scare Superman anymore (though he still hates the unpredictability of it) but little kids, yes! So, here’s what we learned to do. Cover it up with a piece of TP. Simple.


It will not go off until you remove the TP, which means it can at least take the unpredictability out of the whole thing. It will still be loud, and parents, PLEASE make sure your kids know that when they go by themselves, they need to let the toilet flush by removing the TP. Please don’t make me regret sharing this tip with you or some engineer, somewhere, will be paid to find a way to work around our workaround.

I’m sure I didn’t invent this. I did, however, figure it out on my own when my little one was actually little and he asked me about the sensor. Instead of telling him the truth, I told him that when you stand up, it takes a picture of your butt to make sure you wiped good. Oh boy, I am STILL regretting that one but it doesn’t make it any less hilarious!

We got off at Gadsden and headed north. There were some interesting things along that highway. There’s a drive in theater in Boaz, lots of interesting looking, locally owned restaurants, a car lot (Boaz area again) that sells cars for inexpensive cash prices, and also a place that has vintage cars, including what looked like an old ambulance. It was a good drive, one we had never made before.

Right before we got to the park, there was an overlook area with parking.


The park has a good sized pavilion with lots of picnic tables, enough to accommodate large groups. We set up a picnic with some junk food, but I, at least, ate LC junk food…


According to Superman, picnics are relaxing. I think that means we will go on more of them.

We moseyed down to the shop to see when the next tour was, and we had about an hour. We walked around, looking at rocks and gift shop jewelery and I sent the boys back to the van to get a couple of pennies for the penny press. Any time there is a penny press, we press a penny. I got the one with the bat on it. There was a man who was very interested in the press machine, so I had the oldest show him his when it was finished. He sounded like he might have been French. We saw him when he pulled in to the parking lot, he got out of a car with New York license plate and a Yakima roof rack. He got out and went straight to a sunny place and lay down in it before he did anything else.


You can’t really tell how steep the incline was from this image, but it was steep enough that I knew we wouldn’t be able to manage without a little support. While the boys were getting pennies, I approached the guy in the shop and told him that my son has Autism and with that, some depth perception issues. He immediately volunteered a seat on the golf cart. I didn’t even have to ask.
When they got back from the van, I introduced them and made sure that my son knew there would be no worries.


Meet Alex, our tour guide. This young man is 16. He loves Auburn and wants to be a park ranger.  He plays football and baseball and goes to work at the park almost every day. His voice booms across the crowd so nobody misses a thing while they are on their tour. Alex was the tour guide recently for a blogger at but I didn’t know that before we went. The above write up covers aspects of the tour that I won’t be. I look at almost everything we do from a different perspective, that of a parent with an adult son with a disability.

Now, back to Alex. You know I like to people watch and one of the things I noticed about him was how he interacted with my son. Even while I write this, it makes me tear up. I don’t know if he has any experience with Autie kids, but if he was acting instinctively, then he was spot on. He gave him ample warning when there were steep areas, when he should hold on tight, and at one point even asked him to sit in the front with him so he could see certain areas and also make sure he didn’t knock his head on the wall. What he did NOT do is treat him like he didn’t think he could understand, like he was any different,  he didn’t insist that he interact with him, and he didn’t talk to me instead of him. He did, at one point, ask me if there were any seizure issues because he played a strobe light show at the end. I wish there were more Alexes in the world. Lots more.


The only part of the cave that is not wheelchair accessible is a staired portion with 43 steps. It leads up to a hole in the wall where the ceiling is low and well-lit. They have this area set up so that you can see fossils in the ceiling. It’s covered in fossilized fish bones! Very, very cool and interesting enough that Superman climbed those stairs in spite of his fears just so he could check it out.





The cave itself is beautiful and rich with history. There has been a lot of love invested into it over the years in order to make it a place for people from all over to be able to enjoy.  It’s worth the drive for any day trip and it’s one we will make again.  I hope every park is as easy to navigate with Autism as this one was, and I hope every park has someone there who has the kind of compassion and character that I found at this one.

Go here to check out Cathedral Caverns on the Alabama State parks website.


52 Weeks of Birmingham, Take two

Hands on learning has its advantages and its disadvantages. One disadvantage is that, maybe sometime you are working on your website settings as your own webmaster and you click something that ends up irreversibly deleting your entire, unbacked up, site.

I’ve learned many things from this.

Backing up the website is something that I am supposed to do independently. It is NOT backed up automatically and hosted online.

If you have to cllick a box that says “I understand the repercussions of doing what I am about to do” Then maybe, just maybe, that is not the action you have envisioned as your end result.

Google is your friend.