An Apple for the Teacher

Happy First Day of Autumn!

I like to move into the season a bit more slowly than most. I don’t pull out the pumpkins until October. Usually, I start with apple decorations and save the yellow, orange, and brown decorations for later. Last year, it was all about fruit, see here.

My granddaughter, Olivia, started first grade this year and as I decorated, I thought about what you would see in a classroom. I had David pull out the apple decorations from my Rustic Christmas Decorations box. I used them on my wreath with a flag from the July 4th box, two pencils, and a yellow ribbon.

School Wreath "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

You may recognize the globe in my kitchen from my Christmas decorating last year. It represents geography in my decorating this month. The paints and crayons are for art and the apples are salt and pepper shakers!

Globe, Crayons, and Paint in kitchen "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

Apples fill the trifle dish and another bowl in my china cabinet.

Apples in the China Cabinet "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

There is more art downstairs in my dining room. I framed four more pieces of priceless art my children made in school. I used the frames from pictures I bought at Goodwill.

Framed Children's Artwork "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

The theme for the dining room table downstairs is music. As you can tell, I collect small rhythm instruments.

Music in the Dining Room "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

I was not sure how to decorate my glass block until I remembered most elementary classrooms have a fish or other small animal. I made it a fake fishbowl with a fish-shaped candle resting in a sea of blue glass marbles. Every fake fish needs fake fish food. I just turned the carton of popcorn salt around. The Liberty Bell from my July 4th box represents history.Fake Fish Tank "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

My son offered to loan me his calculator to represent math but that is a class most people want to forget! I didn’t accept his offer.

I used primary colored towels in the bathroom and pinned a bicycle pin on them. Above it is a printable saying I saw from theinspiredroom.net. She has a link to get a free one!

Fall Printable "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.org

My Frugalfish tip for this week is to personalize your printable sayings. I used markers on mine to match my decor. (I think I will use watercolors on a spring printable.) I got the frame at Goodwill for less than $3.00!

Personalized Fall Printable "An Apple for the Teacher" frugalfish.orgNext week I will show you how I store produce now that works better than just using Green Bags.

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An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa

My plan was to swim in Clear Lake and have a picnic on the beach. I imagined a game of Laser Tag or going through the Clear Lake Fire Museum, which is in walking distance to the 9/11 Steel Memorial crafted from an artifact salvaged from the World Trade Center after September 11, 2001. I thought we would cruise the lake on the Lady of the Lake, a picturesque paddlewheel.

David planned on sleeping in!

He may or may not have dreaded our last stop in Clear Lake, Iowa. He compromised by taking me shopping in Mason City and eating lunch at Pasta Bella. You can tell I am all about the bread!

Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

I learned a painful lesson at Pasta Bella. When the waitress asks you if you want a few minutes, take her up on it! They had 2 specials and David ordered one of them but I am a salad girl. I ordered the salad that had artichoke hearts and other ingredients I don’t normally have at home.

The waitress asked if I wanted to add meat to my salad: chicken, salmon, or shrimp. I cook with chicken all the time and I do not care for salmon. I ordered the shrimp. It cost $8.00 extra. Yikes! I regretted spending that much money on 6 grilled, jumbo shrimp! It was very good. (After lunch we went back to the hotel and relaxed.)

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Our first destination in Clear Lake was “The Landing.” It was on the lake next to the pier where the boats dock. You could eat outside or in the shade.

The Landing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.orgClear Lake Pier "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

David ordered the “Fish and Chips” and I ordered the “Hawaiian Chicken with Parsnip and Carrot Fries.” I love trying new foods when I eat out. (Now I know, I am not a fan of parsnips.) The food was excellent and they have live music on Friday nights.

Fish and Chips "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

While we waited for our food I took a picture of my jewelry. I was wearing a ring that was a copy of Princess Diana’s wedding ring. I remember that royal wedding. I was jealous of all the pretty things but she died so young and so tragically 20 years ago. I am glad I did not have her life.

Memory Jewelry "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The bracelet was a gift from David’s cousin. His wife died from cancer and he shared all of her jewelry. I may not have a lot of money, but I have my health and that is everything!

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

After dinner, we went to the beach and took pictures. We enjoyed watching the antics of the kids who were there.

Clear Lake Beach "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Then we headed to the highlight of our trip –

The Surf Ballroom!

This is where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” sang their last concert. There was a marquee that had autographed guitars all along the top of it. I took several pictures and sent them to the guitar players in our worship band – just to make them jealous.

Memorial at the Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Surf Ballroom "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The pictures don’t do justice to all the posters, memorabilia, instruments, and autographed photographs of all the musicians who played there over the years. You just have to go see it for yourself! Don’t miss the outside display where you can hear Buddy, Richie, and The Big Bopper each singing their top hit. (Note: these were all before my time.)

Ready for Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

The Jan Graber Orchestra was there that night for ballroom dancing. David and I don’t dance. We shuffled through our first son’s wedding and I wanted to do better at our second son’s wedding next year. I figured in 4 hours we would figure out how to get around the dance floor without going in opposite directions!

David was not enthusiastic. We sat through the “Rumba,” the “Samba,” and the “Two-step.” (I posted updates on Facebook for my friend Paula who does know how to dance.)

When they played the song, “New York, New York,” they called for everybody to dance. We got halfway around the room when David said, “Oh, I twisted my knee!” We sat back down. He rested it for a little while and I did get to dance four more times. I think we only made it around the room once!Ballroom Dancing "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

There were couples the age of our parents and three couples in their twenties. They knew what they were doing and it was fun to watch them. We found our own rhythm and enjoyed ourselves in spite of our lack of lessons.

The couples in the booth next to us were from Ottumwa, Iowa which is about 30 miles from our home. We talked with them most of the evening. One lady was the first bookkeeper for the Area 15 AEA. We told her our daughter-in-law worked for AEA when they first married and I was a bookkeeper at a local preschool and daycare for 18 years.

At 8:30 p.m. some of the older couples started going home. That was all the excuse David needed. It was starting to feel like Saturday night at Mom’s watching Lawrence Welk. (Who also played at the Surf Ballroom.) We snuck out because I had a cannoli calling my name. We bought desserts at Pasta Bella and saved them for after the dance.

Cannoli and Italian Cake from Pasta Bella "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Monday, on the way home, we filled up the van and used our reward money from our BP Credit Card, 20 gallons for $2.18. That made up for the shrimp!

Thanks BP Rewards Card "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Of course, if you make your husband go ballroom dancing, you will have to make one more stop before going home – “Guitar Center.”

David in Guitar Center "An Evening in Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

My Frugalfish tips are:

  1. Be flexible with your plans; you might miss a few attractions.
  2. Take your time ordering. That last-minute addition could really cost you.
  3. Schedule in times of rest. It is a vacation, not a marathon.
  4. Enjoy what you do have and don’t compare yourself to others.
  5. Cherish your good health.
  6. Dance to your own steps and enjoy the music.
  7. Take time to get to know the people around you.
  8. Always get dessert!
  9. Save your rewards for your vacation.
  10. Be sure to stop at places your spouse would enjoy.

I was lucky, my husband made the weekend all about me! He’s a keeper.

Next week, on the first day of fall, I will give you a “Frugalfish Fall Home Tour.”

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Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa

My husband and I ran away for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We chose Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa as our destination.

Top 10 Reasons for a Mason City/Clear Lake, Iowa Trip

  1. The former “Country Mission Camp” I attended as a teen was near it, outside of Swaledale, Iowa.
  2. They took the campers to swim in Clear Lake one year.
  3. The “Surf Ballroom,” where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” held their last concert is in Clear Lake, Iowa.
  4. In Mason City, the puppets from the film, “Sound of Music” are in the Charles H. MacNider Museum.
  5. The Historic Walking Tour that goes by 71 historical buildings of significant architectural styles.
  6. “The Music Man Square” complete with the “River City Streetscape” inspired by the movie set of “The Music Man.”
  7. The boyhood home of Meredith Willson, the well-known composer of “The Music Man.”
  8. The Prairie School Architectural Tour where you can view several homes designed by students of Frank Lloyd Wright.
  9. A completely restored house, “Stockman House,” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
  10. The only Frank Lloyd Wright designed hotel, “Park Inn Hotel,” that is not only still standing but also restored, updated, and fully functioning. (There’s a TV in the bathroom mirror!)

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

We started our trip down memory lane by taking the highway David went on when traveling to Camp Dodge while he was in the Iowa National Guard. We noticed Highway #117, which merged with Highway #65 were a straight drive to Mason City. (Love our paper map of Iowa!) We turned on to it. Later we learned we were traveling the historic “Jefferson Highway” that went from Canada to Mexico!

We were getting hungry when I saw a sign that said, “Lincoln Highway.” I remembered reading about a café on the Lincoln Highway in “Our Iowa Magazine.” We turned on it and ate lunch at “Niland’s Cafe,” in Colo, Iowa.

Niland's Cafe, "Weekend in Mason City Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Everything is homemade! The raspberry pie tasted just like my Grandma Marie’s pie. The Formica tables made me feel like I was sitting at Grandma’s again.

Pie just like Grandma's "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

After lunch, we drove through, what I called, “Iowa’s Petrified Forest.” There are miles and miles of wind farms and at least a thousand wind energy turbines.

Wind Energy Farms, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

“Country Mission Camp,” where I attended as a teenager, is now a private residence. I could see from the road the brick dining hall and one corner of the white church. It is completely overgrown by trees.

Country Mission Camp, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Our first stop in Mason City was the Charles H. MacNider Museum. We walked through and purchased a Frank Lloyd Wright coloring book and the “Walking Tour Guide Book.”

There was a guided walking tour for $10.00 each that had not started, but we decided to buy the book for $5.00 and go at our own pace. After walking a block, it started to sprinkle and we finished the tour from the comfort of our van.

When we reached the footbridge featured in the “Music Man,” we jumped out and took a selfie. The clouds parted and the sun shone long enough for three poses.

The Music Man footbridge, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

There are 40 “River City Sculptures on Parade” on the walking tour. This one was my favorite!

River City Sculpture, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

We finished our architectural tour at 9:54 a.m. and parked at the “Architectural Interpretive Center” which is right next door to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed “Stockman House.” We took the 10 a.m. tour and learned some history about Mason City before viewing the house.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the “Stockman House” but when you go, I challenge you to find the ribbon windows that are not windows, what the wing wall is hiding, the “fumed” wood, the closet with a view, and the working phone! We saw a few ideas we plan to use in our home. The $20.00 was money well spent.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

We drove to the “Park Inn Hotel” for their tour, see restoration hereFrank Lloyd Wright designed it as a hotel on one end and a bank on the other end with lawyer’s offices between them. This tour was also $10.00 each but we resolved an issue with which we have wrestled for years about a dream addition to our home and that made it a good investment.

They allowed pictures for personal use only. When you take this tour, you will hear “The Spirit of Frank,” experience compression and release, learn of clutter-free conference rooms, and see glimpses of gold in the bank. I promise you will not fall, even though some second story walls are barely 30″ high and open to the lobby and dining hall below! Everything is meticulously restored or a reproduction: windows, light fixtures, carpets, walls, doors, built-in cabinets, urns, furniture, and even the bronze statues of Mercury in the bank.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

By the time we reached, “The Music Man Square,” David didn’t want to go on another tour. I asked the attendant if we could buy some ice cream in the Soda Shop. The “Bear Claw” ice cream was delicious, and with permission, we took a picture there.

The Music Man Soda Shop, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" fruglafish.org

We had eaten an extra-large breakfast at the hotel and I figured the ice cream would suffice for lunch because we planned on eating an early dinner. I was wrong. This was my view at 2:42 p.m.

Afternoon View, "Weekend at Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

I learned my man needs his 3 square meals a day! He got a headache from skipping lunch!

We made up for it by being one of the first ones seated at the best restaurant in Iowa. The “Northwestern Steak House,” surrounded by 7 ball fields, is on the north side of Mason City. Its reputation is well deserved.

Me in front of the Northwestern Steak House, "Weekend in Mason City and Clear Lake, Iowa" frugalfish.org

Next week, I will share our adventures in Clear Lake, Iowa!

My frugalfish tips:

  • Get off of the interstate!
  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Retrace your steps to a place from your youth.
  • You can learn a lot from history.
  • Only take 1 or 2 historic tours a day.
  • Set your own pace and take a nap, if needed!

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JOY Candlesticks

I bought these candlesticks at Goodwill.
Unpainted Christmas Candlesticks, "Christmas Projects" frugalfish.org

I love painting figurines and decided to paint them.

JOY Christmas Candlesticks "Christmas Projects" frugalfish.org

It took three years! (This is why the stores have Christmas Craft projects in July. These things take time!) Now I have one-of-a-kind Christmas Candlesticks painted in colors that match my decor.

Take advantage of the Labor Day weekend to look through your projects. Your favorite, new Christmas decoration may already be there! (Yes, I have my Christmas decorating theme already!)

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Ottoman Rescue

I chose this ottoman with my granddaughter in mind. I used it to store her toys. But it became a problem when all the family was here. She would want to get in the ottoman to get her toys and someone would be using it! I moved her toys to bookshelves hidden behind a curtain under the TV, see here. Now I store my quilts in it.

This ottoman fits perfectly between the two reclining seats on my couch. If not in the center, it gets bumped when someone reclines. It has serviced us well for a few years and started showing its age.

I didn’t want to replace it yet and decided to do a little cosmetic surgery. You can see where the vinyl has worn away on some of the corners.

Damaged Ottoman "Ottoman Rescue" frugalfish.org

I have a love/hate relationship with the secret weapon I used. I love it for repairs and labeling but hated it when my kids got a hold of it. I still have dressers with autographs and pictures on the backs. (Like I would never see them!)

My secret weapon worked perfectly. It looks like new again!

Repaired Ottoman "Ottoman Rescue" frugalfish.org

Here’s my weapon – a Red Sharpie Pen! It “stained” the white material where the vinyl had rubbed off. I colored the worn spots and wiped off the excess with a paper towel as I went along. I let it dry a day before using it.  (Hint: you can use “Armorall” to extend the life of your vinyl furniture.)Red Sharpie Pen "Ottoman Rescue" frugalfish.org

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Coping with Allergies

Ragweed pollen reached Iowa last week. When I got the pollen alert from the weather.com allergy tracker, I went right to the library and stuffed a grocery bag full of books. I won’t go back for two months. In fact, I will limit the times I leave the house until we have a killing frost.

The local Ragweed plants do not have to bloom for me to have problems. The pollen can blow in from Missouri and leave me in misery.

After I double the dose of my antihistamine, I made changes in three areas:

My bed. 

I spend one-third of my day in bed. I cannot afford to have any dust or pollen in the bed. On the days I venture out, I shower and wash my hair before going to bed. I sanitize all the bedding in hot water once a week and I use allergy covers. I also air the sheets for an hour each day, see “Allergies? Wait to Make Your Bed.”

Remove any gunk.

An effective way to remove the pollen is with a sinus rinse or Neti pot. I use “Johnson’s Baby Soothing Vapor Bath,” “Vicks Vapor Rub,” and a “Vicks Vapor Inhaler” to keep the air moving in my nose and sinuses. I gargle hot, salted water, take a tablespoon of locally grown honey, and use “Halls Menthol Cough Drops” to soothe my irritated throat. When it affects my lungs, I rely on prescription inhalers and a nebulizer. I found a neat trick a few years ago to remove the buildup in my eyes and eyelashes, see “This is Not a Shot Glass.”

Clean Everything.

Each day I spend a few minutes cleaning one room with a damp washcloth. I don’t want to move dust to the floor, I want to remove it. It’s amazing how much dust is lurking in corners and behind things. When I have an allergy flare, I have to play detective and go down the list of triggers until I find the culprit, see “Christmas Eyes.”

So…how does coping with my allergies save me money? If I let a flare go, I develop sinusitis, then bronchitis, and eventually pneumonia. I want to stop it in its tracks before it stops me in mine!

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Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast

We pay the same price for our pork roasts as we do for our boneless pork chops. We pay the same price for 1/4″ chops as we do for 1/2″ chops and we get all of them for under $2.00 a pound!

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. We wait until a pork loin is on sale. We have paid from $1.59 a pound to $1.99 a pound. (Lower food costs is a benefit of living in Iowa.) They weigh around 10 pounds. When we get it home, David gets to work.

Using our meat/cheese slicer, see here, he cuts boneless pork chops off and puts 4 to a package. He cuts up to the last third of the pork loin. That leaves about 3 pounds and makes a nice sized pork roast. Sometimes, he cuts two roasts and not as many pork chops. He can cut them whatever width he likes.

David Cutting up a Pork Loin "Same Price for Pork Chops or Roast" frugalfish.org

You don’t need a meat/cheese slicer to do this. All you need is a sharp knife! You can even cut thicker pork chops and stuff them! Keep your eyes out for a sale on pork loin!

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Ocean in the Middle of Iowa

“This post brought to you by Derek!”

Derek got out the boxes of summer decorations and cobalt blue glassware that the doctor ordered me not to move! One was on the bottom of a stack of boxes.

Decorating this month reminded me of two things:

  1. Buying out of season makes it feel like Christmas all year-long, and
  2. I’m an Iowa girl.

Last week, I shared my inspiration for my August decorating. I talked about the “whale lights” I purchased earlier. Only, they aren’t whales, they’re dolphins! I also bought a glass dolphin, not a glass whale!

I unpacked my box of summer decorations and found a candle embedded with shells! Surprise! I purchased it last fall on a clearance rack and packed it in my summer box right away. Finding it was like opening a Christmas present!

It became the centerpiece for my kitchen table. I put my clear glass dolphin on one side of it and my new cobalt blue, glass dolphin in a vase on the other side. I didn’t have a cobalt blue table runner and pulled a scarf from my closet to use instead.Glass Dolphins and Seashell Candle "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgOverturned vases are the platforms for my glass fish and a crystal oyster. My china cabinet is on a side wall. I try to have two layers of decorations in it because you are not looking at it from the front. I put a large starfish in front of my cobalt blue plate for that reason. The plate with a beach scene was a gift from Aunt Lesta! The candle in front of the plate is fish-shaped.Glass Fish and Crystal Oyster in China Cabinet "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgI hung “dolphin lights” in my front window and put my three largest shells on the windowsill. I used shells everywhere!Dolphin Lights in Window "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgShells fill my blue vases and I put a layer of small shells in the bottom of my glass block. On top, I put cobalt blue marbles and a few blue glass stones.Shells, Marbles, and Glass Rocks in Glass Block "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgEven my wreath has shells on it. I opened up the blue bandana bow and wrapped it around the base of my wreath as an ocean. I added two white bandanas for the sea-foam on each side. I reused the material I used on last year’s wreath for the sky, see here. The rest of my seashells are in a net that I tied and wired to the bottom of the wreath.Ocean Themed Wreath "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.org

The best way to shop is at the end of the season or in the opposite season. I buy summer clothes in July and winter clothes in January. The stores are trying to make room for fall clothes in July and drastically mark the spring and summer clothes down.

My next shopping trip I will be looking for patriotic and beach decor. I will pack them up and surprise myself again next summer. Of course, that means I have to pass on the items I no longer love to make room. It’s how you survive living in a small house.

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Towel Animals, Not Just For Cruises

When I took this picture, I thought it would be a sneak peek to my summer decorating. But then I helped my husband move a china cabinet and when he told me to let go – I didn’t. :(

China Cabinet: 1,  Frugalfish: 0

The doctor told me not to exercise for 3 weeks and to limit physical activity for 6 weeks. (Wait. Exercise isn’t physical activity?) He was trying to tell me to take it easy. I figure moving boxes of decorations and dishes would be considered physical activity.

$ $ $ $ $ $ $

Participating in a “Coffee and Canvas” with my mother and sisters inspired my August decorating theme. When they gave us the paint I thought, “I would never put those colors together!” But the beach scene turned out better than I expected – after I painted over the mossy green in the ocean. ;)

In my summer decorations box, there is a glass dolphin, crystal oyster (complete with a pearl), and a cobalt blue, glass fish. I decided to pull out my cobalt blue dishes and use them in my summer decorating.

I found some cobalt blue whale lights at “Joanne’s” and a cobalt blue, glass whale at “Hobby Lobby.” I had my theme and colors chosen. (Then I moved the china cabinet.)

Looking at suggested pins from Pinterest while eating breakfast one morning, I saw directions to make a swan out of hand towels. I folded two white hand towels into a swan and secured the two towels together with white, bead head pins. I found two black, bead head pins and used them for eyes. They also keep the head of my swan at the correct angle.

Layering several shades of blue towels on a towel rack, I placed the swan on top. The fish pin is now swimming underneath the swan on the blue towels. I added the picture I painted at the “Coffee and Canvas” to the wall.

Towel animals are not just for cruise ships!

Swan Made out of Towels "Towlel Animals, Not Just For Cruise Ships" frugalfish.org

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No Oven April to October

Tomorrow is a big family reunion. David’s mother had 9 brothers and sisters, who married and had a few kids, and those kids are now grandparents. It’s a pretty big reunion! One cousin always brings homemade berry pie. (I try to get a piece every year.)

Since he has the pie covered, I bring a different dessert. One of my favorites is “Cherry Delight.” The only problem is, you bake the crust in the oven and I don’t like to use the oven from April to October. The last time I made it, I experimented baking the crust in the microwave.

Normally, I cook it 20 minutes in a 350° oven. This time I cooked it, on high, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave for a minute and a half. It didn’t get brown but the flavor was the same.

Cherry Delight Crust "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

Cherry Delight

1 Cup Flour

1 Teaspoon Sugar

1 Stick Butter, cut up

1 – 8 Ounce Cream Cheese

1 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

1 Can Cherry or Blueberry Pie Filling

Stir flour and sugar together. Cut butter into mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives. Press firmly into 9 x 13 glass pan. (I used and 7 x 11 pan because my microwave is smaller.) Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or 30 seconds at a time in a microwave on high for a minute and a half.

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped topping together. Spread over cooled crust. Spread pie filling on top of cheese mixture. Chill and serve later. It is best made a day ahead.

Cherry Delight "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

I may try lemon bars in the microwave next. Has anyone else used the microwave for their baking?

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