Friday, May 25, 2007

72-hour kits . . . finally rotated

Don't look now, but our family's emergency 72-hour kits are nicely loaded and now sitting down in our cold storage room.

That's a minor miracle, because since the first of April, they've been on the bar in the kitchen, on the floor by the half wall, and most recently out on the back patio waiting for the "emergency food" that needed to be loaded into them.

Hubby thought it would be great to have the entire family go shopping for the emergency food and then all help to load the back packs. Well, I finally pointed out that his plan wasn't working. It had been close to two months, and there was no food to put in the packs. So I finally up and went shopping. And after the emergency food sat for another week or so on our kitchen counter, today I finally just loaded them all up by myself.

We're somewhat new to rotating 72-hour kits. We only just put ours together this past fall. Our plan is to rotate the food, clothing and anything else that needs swapping out during our church's semi-annual General Conferences. (Note: This is also the time we change the batteries in the smoke detectors. Or at least think about changing them.)

If anyone is interested in a list of what we put in our 72-hour kits, drop me a line. ( I also made and laminated cards for each back pack that has 1) the person's name, 2) a list of what is (or should be) in the pack, 3) a menu for 3 days, and 4) a copy of our family's emergency plan which lists such things as our out-of-state contact, a meeting point should it be impossible to return back to our house and other handy information.

I must say that despite the planning, shopping, nagging and effort that went into organizing our family's emergency kits, it feels great to have them finished.

Now I'm crossing my fingers we won't need them -- ever!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Microwave Smores Kids Will Love . . .

Loula Belle’s friend next door introduced her to a new treat – microwave smores. The neighbors make them by putting marshmallows on chocolate graham crackers and warming them in the microwave. But I’ve developed a different twist.

This week I read in my Martha Stewart Living magazine about Nutella – the hazelnut and milk chocolate spread that was invented in 1946. Apparently it came about because of the chocolate rationing that took place during World War II. Its inventor was trying to stretch his chocolate a but further and added hazelnuts. Nutella spread was born.

(Note: I’m not guaranteeing the facts in the above paragraph. I went back through my Martha Stewart magazine looking for the Nutella ad, but then remembered that I’m obsessive about tearing out advertisements/cards from new magazines. So the facts are probably at the recycling center by now.)

But back to smores. When I bought Nutella with the handy coupon from the magazine, I also had graham crackers and marshmallows on my shopping list. Ding! That's when I came up my my own version of microwave smores.

Using honey graham crackers, break two graham cracker rectangles into squares. Spread each with a light amount of Nutella spread. Place on a microwave safe plate and top each of the squares with a large marshmallow. Microwave on high for approximately 12 seconds. (Watch closely! The marshmallows balloon to amazing proportions if left too long.)

You can top each square with another graham cracker square . . . or for extra chocolatey smores, spread the top crackers with Nutella before placing them on the marshmallows.

Keep a napkin handy. This treat is both delicious and messy! Enjoy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

No more to-do lists

I don't know about you, but sometimes I hate to-do lists. They just remind me of what I'm not getting done. After a week of seeing "clean toilets" on my job list, I could about puke. (Okay, so maybe it's not the list that's causing me to wretch.)

Today there was no more putting it off. The house (and toilets) needed immediate attention. But instead of making a to-do list, I just dug in and got started. I put my favorite classic rock CDs in the stereo and turned up the volumn. In about an hour and a half the house was sparkling.

Feeling great about what I'd accomplished, I decided to write an "it's-done" list -- an inventory of all the tasks I accomplished. It went something like this:

unloaded/loaded the dishwasher

emptied and re-lined the kitchen, bathroom, office and laundry room garbages

cleaned both upstairs toilets

cleaned both bathroom sinks and countertops

scrubbed the master bathroom shower

scoured the kitchen sink

polished all the upstairs mirrors

cleaned both sides of the window on the patio door

shook all the upstairs rugs (6) -- vacuumed them too

swept the hardwood and bathroom tile

vacuumed the stairs

vacuumed all the upstairs carpet (including my closet)

Whew! Now when my kids complain about the jobs they have to do I can pull out my "it's done" list and say, "Oh yeah! Well look at all the work I did. Quit your bellyaching!" And when my husband asks me what I did today, I'll actually have an answer.

And hey, who knows what tomorrow's "it's-done" list will say. Maybe something like:

read 100 pages in Gone with the Wind

took the dog on a looooong walk

visited with my grandma

filed some magazine clippings

took a little nap

thought about making supper

decided to let everyone forage for themselves.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How to be comfortable in your own skin

Isn't that a great title for a blog entry? Have you ever felt a bit uncomfortable in your own skin? (Have you noticed that I like to ask questions? The delivery nurse when I was born said of me, "She looks like she wants to ask a question.") I wish that I had all the answers instead of constantly coming up with all the questions. But hey, maybe then I wouldn't be me.

Anyway, today I found day-changing encouragement in the waiting room of a local oil lube / state inspection place. I picked up the February 2007 issue of Real Simple even though I'd brought Gone with the Wind for my reading material and came across an article entitled, "Dare to be different," by Gail Blanke. She's the life coach for Real Simple magazine, and while I've been ambivalent about life coaches in the past, Gail had great advice on staying true to yourself.

Gail writes, "Most of us are afraid to be controversial, or even too intensely who we are. We're like lemonade with too much water in it and too few lemons. We dilute our 'flavor' so we won't offend anyone. And, in the process, we give away our power, the essence of who we are that makes us unique and unforgettable."

A few paragraphs later I got the extra encouragement that I needed. She said, "Truth is, the world belongs not to the one who fits in but to the one who stands out. In music, art, architecture, entertainment, literature, politics, and business, it's the maverick, the one who gets 'carried away,' who wins the day. OK, so you may not want to rule the world or win public office or even be the next American Idol. But to get whatever is it you do want, the principle is the same: Be unabashedly yourself."

Gail Blanke maintains that, "... if enough people love you, the one's who don't, don't matter." While that's a nice sentiment, I'm not sure I subscribe to it. I'm still affected by loved ones opinions of me.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Favorite Family Author -- Richard Peck

I just finished a great book that my Mom loaned to me, On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck. It chronicles the life of young Davy Boman, his friend Scooter and the Boman family before and during World War II. I was sad to reach the final page and have the story end. In fact, that’s how I gauge all the books I read. If I’ve loved the book so much that I don’t want it to end, it goes into my list of all-time favorites.

Looking back through my book journal recently, I noticed that Richard Peck books are almost always part of my all-time favorites. And the fun part is, they are books our whole family enjoys reading.

When our children were a bit younger we used to choose a book to read aloud as a family before bedtime. Even though there weren’t pictures to look at, we found that our kids rarely wanted to stop at just one chapter. It could be that they wanted to extend their bedtime, but mostly I think they were drawn into great stories. If you’ve been looking for some books that are great to read aloud to your kids, here are some great ones by Richard Peck.

A Long Way from Chicago: Readers of all ages can relate to this book. Our kids were aghast at the antics of the grandma in this story. I also loaned it to my own grandmother, and she found it to be deliciously funny. A neighbor of mine used to work for an adult daycare center. She read it to the folks there. They couldn’t get enough of it! It really is a must-not-miss book!

A Year Down Yonder: This is the follow up book to A Long Way from Chicago. Same great characters but with a year’s worth of antics. We read it as a family and loved it so much that most of us re-read it on our own.

Fair Weather: The story of a farm family during the Depression and their trip to the World’s Fair. (The grandpa in this tale is a scream!)

The Teacher’s Funeral: Russell Culver, a young farm boy living in the early 1900s, goes to a one-room school with the rest of his community. When their old teacher dies, he’s mortified to find that his sister, Tansy, takes her place. This book even adds a little romance and kept me guessing as to which suitor Tansy would end up with. A great read to get a taste of what school and life were like near the turn of the last century.

Here Lies the Librarian: Jake and PeeWee run a small garage in a small town at the start of the automobile age. This tale chronicles how the town library is brought back to life by four college educated librarians from Indianapolis. I can’t give it away, but there’s a big community stock car race and Jake and PeeWee enter a car. Let me just say that you’ll be surprised by the outcome.

So there you have it – five great reads for families. If you have other stories that your family enjoys reading, I’d love to hear about them.