May 30, 2013

They Won't Suspect A Thing...Summer Learning for Kids

It's the first full week of summer, and with five kids at home, you know we are working on finding things that keep them entertained that don't involve the words "X-box" "wii" or "Playstation."  While these activities are okay, the teacher inside of me wants to make sure that when they start school in the fall, they are just as ready for learning then as they are now.  And since we live in Arizona, where it's so hot outside that sending them out to play isn't always an option - fun activities that can be done inside the house are always in high demand.

So the question is, how do we make the activities educational, and yet fun enough that they still want to do them?  Here's a collection of a few of the things we do every summer, and so far, they've been kiddo pleasers.

1.) Summer Bridge Workbooks.
Admittedly, these aren't the funnest, or the first choice for the kids.  However, with a great reward program in place, they do them happily, and in most cases with little complaining.  Rewards we have in our house...a few pages will earn them 30 minutes worth of gaming system time.  A whole section and maybe we go out for ice cream or to a movie.  Giving them something to work toward gives them enough motivation to actually learn something while at home on their summer vacation.

2.) Writing letters and numbers in salt (or sugar).
This one is great for pre-k and Kindergarten to first grade students who are still working on writing their letters and numbers properly and clearly.  The kids think this is great fun, because you are letting them play in their food (and make a mess).  What they don't know is that this type of learning, kinesthetic learning, is making a connection in their brain between the tactile feeling of the salt on their fingers and actually seeing the numbers being drawn.  At first you can have a paper guide for them to follow and trace but as they get better at it, they can form the letters on their own.
3.) Tying a rag quilt.

At first glance, this may not seem like anything but an activity to keep little hands super busy (and out of trouble), and while that might actually be true, it's just a handy side effect.  While your youngster is working on this quilt, they are learning fine motor skills, patterns, reading directions, and in some cases, sharing.  Additionally, when the fine motor skills are fine tuned, it helps handwriting.

4.) Alphabet Cookies
I remember as a little kid, my mom used to make these from scratch out of sugar cookie dough.  While I did inherit the cookie cutters, I also found some pre-made cookies at my local grocery store.  We put them in a bowl and the kids pick out letters and spell words.  When they spell the word correctly, they can eat it.  They also have speed spelling competition games, poem and story competitions, and vowels vs consonants games.

5.) Kitchen sink science.
If you have a budding Bill Nye at home like I do, kitchen sink science projects are perfect for them.  There are a plethora of experiments that can be found on Youtube, Pinterest, and through a simple Google search.  As your child does the experiment, they can research why it happens the way it does.  The egg drop experiment - pictured to the left - demonstrates Newton's law of Inertia.  I'd explain it to you, but honestly, my 8 year old son understands it more than I do.

6.) Summer Reading Lists
If you ever watched Gilmore Girls in the 90's and early 2000's, you know who Rory Gilmore is, and you know of her love of reading.  Some super fan of the show has compiled the Rory Gilmore Reading List - a list of all the books she read or mentioned reading during the series.  It's a great place for any avid reader to start, and it definitely does not include anything that has to do with sparkling vampires or shirtless werewolves 

7.) As long as we are talking movies....

My oldest daughter (14) and I are actually doing this one now.  We read a book that is currently coming out in theatres as a movie.  Book first, then movie.  After watching it, we have a discussion - what was the same? What was different?  If you were making the movie, what would you have done differently? Currently we are reading The Great Gatsby.  Last winter it was Beautiful Creatures.  You can even do this with movies and books that have been done previously - The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, Ramona and Beezus, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess....And if your child is too young to read on their own - read it to them!  Tons of memories can be made this way.

That's just a few of the things we do around here.  What do you do at your house to keep your kiddos interested in learning during the summer?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

April 25, 2013

Stamping on Metal Jewelry - Part One

So you've seen those really neat necklaces and bracelets and rings on etsy, right?  The ones that are personalized and stamped in sterling silver and cost lots and lots of dollars?

Yea, those.

I LOVED the idea of making my own mother's bracelet that fit my style, and I knew this is exactly how I wanted to do it so I started researching.  Stamping on Silver isn't that difficult, really, once you get the hang of it and once you know where to by the right supplies.  Here's a breakdown.

You will need:
1. Stamping block.  This is a small piece of steel that is approximately 1 inch thick and serves and a flat surface to lay your project on while you stamp.

2. Metal stamps.  You can buy these at any craft store, I've found anyway, but there are endless options online.  My favorite place to purchase them right now is  She has a great supply, tons of things to choose from, and her silver blanks are of very high quality.

Stamping Blank
3. Stamping blanks. These are blank surfaces on which to stamp.  You can get rings, discs, bracelets, whatever your heart desires.  These can be found at every craft store, however, the only store I've found STERLING stamping supplies at is Hobby Lobby.  Even better when you can get them with your 40% off coupon.

4. Patina.  This is what colors the indentations so you can see them on your finished project.  Sharpie makes a permanent metal marker that works great on bracelet and necklace rounds.  For rings, you'll want to buy something like Silver Black or Liver of Sulpher- or Vintaj makes a patina that also works nicely. You rub it on and then polish off the excess.
Brass Hammer, 2 Pounds||HAM-456.205. A jewelry hammer. These have a fairly large head and smaller handles.  They are great for small hands.  The hammer I have been using is 8 oz.  For bigger stamps, you'll want to use a 2lb hammer for optimal results.

6. Patience. Seriously, the first few times I stamped, I couldn't get it straight or deep enough.

7. Anything you want to finish it off with.   I use Swarovski crystals, headpins, and other embellishments.

I am headed now to film a how-to on this topic, and will post pictures and video as soon as they are done. Check back soon for more details!

April 16, 2013

Painting with Chalk Paint

There's been a lot of buzz on the interwebs lately about "ChalkPaint".  Annie Sloan makes a brand that is supposedly this great wonderment of all wonders for furniture makeovers - no need to prime, or sand, or - anything!  Since I"m not a big fan of prep-work, I wanted to give it a try.  Only problem was - I couldn't find any Annie Sloan chalk paint anywhere locally and to buy it online and ship it...and well, I'm way too cheap and impatient thrifty for that.  So I went to the trusty interwebs to find a recipe.

I love Pinterest.

I found several recipes online for chalk paint, but the one I ended up using is this:

4 Tablespoons of Plaster of Paris (available at craft and home improvement stores)
2 1/2 tablespoons of water
2 cups (give or take a little) paint of your choosing.

1,) Mix the Plaster of Paris until smooth - it should have the consistency of yogurt- the regular American kind, not the Greek kind....(mmmmmm....Greek Yogurt....ahem, sorry.)

2.) Add the smooth Plaster of Paris to the paint and mix well. There should be no chunks in the plaster or you will end up with chunks in your will look like cottage cheese...this does not spread well. *go ahead, ask me how I know this...I dare you.*

You have to work QUICKLY.  The paint/Plaster mixture dries very fast.  Which is great for someone like me whom we have already decided is impatient. :)

Once I found a lovely recipe, I needed to find a small project I could try it out on - and not be disappointed if it didn't work.  This is a first time around thing, after all, and I did NOT want to do it on a big piece of furniture that I'd have to look at every day if I did a bad job.

You understand, don't you?

This is the piece I chose:
It is just screaming "PAINT ME!" isn't it?

The colors I chose are called "Mayonnaise" and "Stunning".  Both are Benjamin Moore colors, and fit the decor in my house PERFECTLY.  (Come to think of it, I now have a piece that one could be described as "Stunning mayonnaise....")

I started by cleaning the piece.  I used vinegar and water in a spray bottle and a soft rag.  You want to remove all of the dust particles so that they don't get caught in your paint and give you a bubbly surface.
Next, since the paint supposedly needs no extra refinishing-I took my accent color and applied it anywhere I was going to want to distress the piece.  In this case, it was "Stunning" - which in this picture looks more purple, but I swear, it's navy blue.

 Next I worked on applying the "Mayonnaise" - wow, that sounds weird.   I really didn't take any pictures of this part...should have, but didn't.   One thing though...I started with a brush.  The paint was so thick that it left brush lines.  I hated that.  I went and got a sponge roller to finish the job.  That went much better.

 I then added these cute little handles I found at Target on Clearance.  I love when I find things on Clearance!  These things were marked down from 12.00 to 2.98 - And I think they are perfect.  Finally, I distressed the areas I wanted distressed, to give it a little bit of a cozy farmy look.

Finally, you need to put a coat of wax on the surface. As my sister in law pointed out - it's a MATTE finish, which means all the fun sticky little hand prints will stick to it - and stay.

Voila!!!  A new entry table/storage cabinet painted with Chalk Paint!
I love how it turned out, and am super excited to see if my husband notices AND if he likes it too.  Next project?  That would be THIS thing...

 I, KNOW....RIGHT???

Happy Crafting!

March 11, 2013


I am not a puzzle-framin' person.  Don't get me wrong, I like puzzles, I like them a lot, they are fun and relaxing, and when you are done with them you can put them back in the box to do another day....and even if you've done them before, the second time they are just as challenging. It's great, cheap, non-electronic, family entertainment.

Our whole family likes puzzles.

Whenever we go visit my husband's parents for a day, the kids immediately go to the puzzle closet.  They have their favorites that they do with grandpa, and their favorites that they build on their own.  The sense of pride and accomplishment that these kids feel when they move up the puzzle chain and on to harder, more difficult puzzles - and complete them - is fun to watch.

Two years ago, my parents came and visited us for Christmas.  We must have done six puzzles during that visit. Yes, I said six.  And they weren't the small, easy kind either.  We like complicated puzzles.  The kind with lots of green or blue or small flowers. We like the ones that take hours and hours, prime time for talking and enjoying each other's company. Ask my kids what they remember most about that visit with Grandma and Grandpa, they'll tell you.  Puzzles.

I think puzzling might be an inherited trait.

I'm pretty sure it is.

Puzzling has been passed from generation to generation.  Great grandparents to grandparents to parents to kids.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that we actually enjoy being together as a family. Maybe it's because a puzzle challenges your mind.  Maybe it's because puzzles can be both quiet and rowdy - depending on the crowd. Maybe it's because we are nerds. I don't know.

This weekend we were cleaning out our garage.  Another puzzle if you think about it- stacking and putting things away in a proper order.  Anyway, while going through many multiples of boxes and Rubbermaid tote bins, we came across an old puzzle.  Instantly my husband and I remembered it, and I went to dig through old photos just to be sure. This particular puzzle is one that he, his grandpa, and two of our daughters put together while visiting his grandparent's years ago.  We were there for three days, and it took all three days to complete.  It was one of those 1000 piece puzzles where 800 of them were green, leafy trees and flowers. Over those three days they talked about school (my husband was getting his Masters degree), family history, Grandpa told stories about Daddy as a little boy (and about daddy's dad...), we learned about the history of the cabin itself - how Grandpa and his siblings and Great Grandpa built it with their own hands, and we played outside and watched the various wildlife that came and roamed freely around the cabin.  All in all, it was a great trip.

Anyway, once the puzzle was complete, they were so proud of it, they made me take this picture:

As we were getting ready to leave, Grandpa carefully folded the puzzle and put it into the box.  He then handed it to our oldest daughter and told her to go home and re-do it - see if she could beat the three days it took the five us us together to complete it. We took the box and put it in with our things, and headed for home.

The puzzle must have ended up in the Rubbermaid bin shortly there after.  I'm not sure how it got there, or when we put it there, but we never did unfold the puzzle, or re-do it.

And the Rubbermaid bin is where we found it this weekend while cleaning the garage.

Still put together by Grandpa's hands.

We gingerly removed the puzzle from the box and laid it flat on our table, as if we were unrolling an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.  I've started the process of gluing the pieces together, and as it cures, sending this photo to be printed.  The puzzle and the photo will be framed together and hung in a place of honor in our home.

Like I said, I'm not a puzzle-framin' person.  But this puzzle, this one is special. 

Grandpa passed away last November from an accidental fall that nobody was expecting, and nobody was ready for.  We went to Utah for the funeral, spent time with family and loved ones, and reminisced about cherished memories of this great man.  Everyone talked about the cabin - one of his favorite places - and immediately my girls remembered their time there seven years ago.

I love puzzles and I love family.  Both are similar in a lot of ways.  Every person is unique and fits perfectly in their place.  If just one person is missing, a hole is left behind.  Each person interlocks with one another to form a tightly woven landscape, but yet must be treated gingerly and with love to keep it all together.  If one person is lost, you don't give up the search until you find them - because the picture isn't complete until you do.  Most importantly, puzzles, like families, can be sealed together, forever.

Puzzles are a lot like families, and I am eternally grateful for that truth.

March 07, 2013

The Pinterest "Sharpie Glass Art" Project

Everyone on Pinterest has seen it at least once. According to the pin, you go to the dollar store, buy some one dollar glassware, take a plain old regular Sharpie, write or decorate to your little heart's content, bake it in the oven, and Voila! Magically, the design is permanently set.

While it is pretty close to the truth (Sharpie DOES make glass markers) it isn't entirely true.

I decided to figure this out once and for all, and here's what I found... You can indeed create unique art projects on glassware and bake to set it for a one of a kind dinner service.  You cannot use a plain old Sharpie marker.

What you will need:

1) Glass markers.  Sharpie does make these, however, you need to make sure they are the markers intended for glass.  A plain Sharpie will not work (Have I said this before?  I feel like I am repeating myself...)  They are also available from other brands.

2) Glass items.  I find them everywhere, at the dollar store, Target, Flea Markets, Goodwill, Deseret Industries...wherever you can find glass or glazed stoneware - what you pay for it is up to you.  I prefer the cheap er--- inexpensive kind.

3) An idea. Unless you are fabulous at creating on the fly...I can't do that.  I need a plan.

4) A clean dry area to work...and to lay out the projects while they dry.

5) An oven.  Just your regular oven that you occasionally bake cookies in will do nicely.


1) Clean and dry the glassware.

2) Write on or draw your design on the pieces.  We created mugs with each family member's name on them...

3) Let dry according to the marker directions. The ones we used required a 4 hour dry time before baking.

4) Place items in a COLD oven.  Heat to temperature per the pen instructions.  The ones we used required 350 degrees.

5) Start a timer (ours needed 30 minutes).  Let items bake in the oven until the timer goes off.  Once cycle is complete, turn off the oven but DO NOT REMOVE THE GLASSWARE.

6) Allow painted glass to set in oven until cool enough to touch.

7) Remove and enjoy!  All of your artwork should now be permanently set and dishwasher safe!

I used mugs and put each family member's name (in their color, of course) on them. I then found a really cool hanging rack and hooks at IKEA for under 15 dollars.  These mugs are used by each family member to get drinks through the day.  It's great for me because the kids can reach their own mug, AND there aren't a million cups all over the house because so and so forgot where they put their cup and then got out a new one ... times seven.  (Yes,I'm totally guilty too.)  It has helped cut down on the top rack dishwasher clutter, and keeps the counter tops somewhat free of mess too.  We take them down at the end of the night and wash them so they are ready for use the next day.

(I do have to say, as much as I wish I could claim this idea as my own, it isn't. I learned this handy trick from my amazing mother in law - only, she used cup hooks drilled directly into the cabinet - which also works really well.)

Happy Craftng!

In case you missed it, here I am on Arizona Midday discussing this craft with Jan d'Atri:

January 31, 2013

Canning Basics

It recently occurred to me that I have not yet written up a post on the basics of canning.  So, since I'm preparing to teach a class tonight, as well as a few other things, I figure now is the perfect time.   Some of this is repeat information from other posts, some is new - so, forgive me if you've seen it before.

Why Canning?

There used to be a time, way back when, when canning was done for basic survival.  Families would bring in the harvest from their fields, and then using glass jars, food dehydration, freezing, and salt curing, they'd prepare the bounty so that it would last them through the long winter months.  With the more widely available commercially produced foods, and with the slow demise of the family substance farm, canning has become more of a memory of distant past.  In recent years with the shift in the diets of many Americans, canning has come back as an essential part of food preparation simply because of the health benefits associated with the removal of commercially processed foods from your diet. With home canning, you control the ingredients, therefore you control what you are eating to a much higher degree. In addition, canning can be a much more economical way to feed your family as you are able to purchase foods at the height of the season, typically on sale, and preserve them for use much later in the year.  For our family, we started canning for a combination of both reasons.

What can I can?

Almost every food available can be canned or preserved in some way, as long as you follow the proper methods. There are some exceptions to this rule, for example, butter, dairy and cheese based sauces should never be home-canned.  While these may be commercially available, the home canner simply cannot reach the temperatures needed for long enough periods of time to ensure that the bacteria growth is stopped inside the jar.  You simply do not want to take chances with these foods, especially when considering that you are canning to feed your family.

So, What Methods are Available?

There are three basic types of home food preservation and storage.  1) Canning in glass jars. 2) Dehydrating and storing in an air-tight container. and 3) Freezing.

Most Americans are very familiar with the third type, freezing.  In fact, I'm sure you have several pounds of meat, cheese, fruits,vegetables, and sometimes even milk stored in your freezer right now for safe keeping.  Freezing is a very common method of food preservation and storage, but it isn't fool proof.  Should you have a power outage, or should your freezer go bad, most of that food will not be salvageable.

That brings me to the second type of food preservation and storage - dehydration.  Commercially available food dehydrators can be purchased for home food dehydration.  Many people use this method to make banana chips, apple chips, fruit leather, and even beef jerky.  I personally had a very bad experience with a home food dehydrator and do not dehydrate any food at home anymore, but rather purchase it in #10 cans from a local distributor.  This is just my own preference, however, as I know many do have their own food dehydrators at home and love them.

So, finally, we are left with canning food in glass jars, which as you may suspect is my favorite method of canning. To can (or preserve) food in glass jars, you will need some equipment namely, the jars, two piece lid and ring assembly, jar lifters, a lid lifter (or fork), small sauce pan, and then either a boiling water bath canner fitted with a jar rack or a pressure canner fitted with a jar rack or a steam canner, kitchen timer, and a cooling rack.

Doesn't it Cost A lot to Do This?

I have to be honest, when you first start cannning there is an upfront investment of the supplies such as the canners themselves and the jars.  However, each subsequent time you use them, you start saving money because you are canning meats and produce you find on sale, and you never have to invest in purchasing the canner again.  Jars can be found relatively inexpensively at many grocery stores and big box discount stores such as Wal-mart and Target.  I do not recommend using jars you find at thrift stores or garage sales, however, because you want a jar that is free of chips and nicks, especially in the rim.  A jar that has chips or nicks in the glass should not ever be used again in canning for a few reasons: 1) the lid may not be able to get a firm seal and 2) with the integrity of the glass compromised if used in a pressure or steam situation it could burst (much like a cracked windshield in the summer).

So What is the Equipment Again?

  • Jars
  • Two Piece rings and lids
  • Jar lifter
  • Canner of choice
  • Vacuum sealer (if you want to do dry pack canning)
  • Oxygen Absorbers (if you want to do dry pack canning)
  • Lid lifter
  • small saucepan
  • kitchen timer
  • cooling rack

So What Method is Best for Me?

That all depends on what you want to preserve, and what you feel most comfortable with.

  • Dry Vacuum Canning
    • Good for dehydrated, freeze dried, or powdered foods such as flour and sugar.  
    • Has a shelf life of typically 5 to 7 years, depending on what you have stored in your jar.
    • Can be used to create just-add-water dinner mixes for food storage or emergency preparedness
    • does NOT need to be done in a jar, but can be done using a Mylar bag or food-saver bag and the appropriate setting for powdered items. (not available on all food savers)

  • Boiling Water Canning
    • Good for fruits, salsa, pickles, jams and jellies, and applesauce.
    • Has a shelf life of up to 2 years, if stored properly.
    • Does not require a pressure regulator.
    • Typically shorter processing times.

  • Pressure Canning
    • Good for meats, low acidic vegetables, soups, stews, and legumes.
    • Has a shelf life of up to 2 years, if stored properly.
    • Reaches very high temperatures for long periods of time to properly kill all bacteria.
    • Can also double as a boiling water bath.
    • You can stack smaller jars inside, doubling the capacity (in some canners, read the manufacturer's directions).

My Grandmother/Mother/Aunt Used To...

I often hear stories from people who are attending my classes that their "insert matriarch of importance to them here" used to "insert canning method" all the time without incident.  Unfortunately, canning methods that used to be considered safe are not considered so anymore.  While my mother and grandmother used to can their tomato based sauces in a boiling water bath when I was younger, the new recommendation is to use a pressure canner today.  


With advances in technology not only in the testing of preserved foods after time but also in the farming industry, science has taught us much about how to can and preserve foods to keep them safe for consumption.  One major difference in canning today and canning of the past is the introduction of genetically modified organic produce that has become the normal standard for fruits and vegetables produced in the United States.  Tomatoes, for example, have been genetically modified to contain less acid in them.  As a result, when canning tomatoes you need to either heighten the acidic content by adding acidic foods or additives (such as jalapenos when making salsa), or you must can them using a method that will kill all the bacteria formerly taken care of by the acid in the fruit.  It is for this reason that old, family tested recipes are not ideal for canning anymore.  The recipe hasn't changed, the ingredients have.

In order to stay on top of current canning best practices, I follow the following websites:

USDA Guidelines for Canning and Preservation

I will follow up this post with detailed instructions on each type of canning, but these are the basics, and enough to get you thinking about your next canning project, I'm sure!

Happy Canning!

January 24, 2013

72 Hour Kits/Bug Out Bags

I have got to admit something - I am most likely the LEAST prepared person on the planet when it comes to emergency evacuation plans. I never really wanted to think about the impossible, especially in terms of my family.  For me, it was more of a doomsday scenario, and not something I was willing to face - not yet anyway.  Despite the constant urging from church leaders I still was not in a place where I felt that would ever apply to me.  I live in a desert, sheltered from earth quakes, floods, ice and snow storms; despite the occasional heat wave, I am in a pretty safe place, right?  Of course I am, however, so were the people in Ireland in the 1860's when famine struck and they had to leave their homes...

Okay, so we aren't exactly in 1860 Ireland.  BUT, studying historical disasters has been to my detriment lately - that and the fact that the Relief Society thought it in their best interest to ask me to prepare and teach a class on 72 hour kits...(I'm the canning and food storage lady, remember?  You want me to teach....well, okay...)

So here I am, preparing a lesson on 72 hour kits, and we don't have a single 72 hour kit in the house. Well, not one that's put together anyway.

At least I didn't.

So why 72 hours?
Should a disaster strike, it could take emergency departments up to 72 hours to get to you and your family.  If you are in your own home, and it isn't compromised by flood or fire, being prepared means accounting for situations such as loss of power (is all your backup food storage in your freezer?), loss of clean water (do you know how to purify and use the water that is in your hot water heater's tank?), and loss of heat. If you cannot stay in your own home, you need to have a means to evacuate and take only what you need with you to survive.

After hours of research on the internet (By the way, blogs written in cold climate states like UTAH aren't the best place to start searching for information on what to put into your kits if you live in say, PHOENIX. Just an observation anyway.) I've come up with what I feel are some pretty darn good kits for my family of 7.

Here's a break down:

In EVERY Kit...
A means to carry the kit.  (I purchased these backpacks at Goodwill for $2.00 each. THREE of them still had the tags on them and had never been used.  I highly recommend looking at local thrift stores before purchasing brand new items.)
3 1 day packages of food amounting to 1000 calories each (yes, I know this isn't enough, keep reading.)
1 gallon of water per person (the recommendation varies, but generally speaking you should have 1 gallon per person, per day. keep reading, more info below.)
1 Personal Hygiene kit.
Rain Poncho
Powdered drink mix with electrolytes - such as Propel Zero
A water-tight bag with clothing in it
1 utensil kit (I bought these at Old Navy, but I'm sure they have them at and also at the Container Store.  They contain a fork, knife, spoon, and chopsticks (for that emergency dumpling craving, I guess :) and are fairly inexpensive.  In fact, my kids also carry them in their lunchboxes. Utensils are important to carry for those meals that require them, such as Ramen or pre-packaged dehydrated meals.)
Replacement meal bars (Why?  If you have food?  Read below.)
Glow sticks

Items distributed between kits:

Metal Kettle for boiling water (I found these at Target, and they are amazing. Small and compact, and light weight!)
Camp stove (This is a similar one, found on Deluxe Butane Burner Stove & Free Case )
Butane canisters (for the stove)
Coffee Filters (for cleaning water)
Water purification drops
Playing cards
First Aid Kit
Essential Oils (I include 8 essential oils in small 15 dram vials. We use these for everything from bug bites to nausea, and would be included as part of my first aid kit.)
Nail hygiene kit
Copies of important documents such as birth certificates  marriage license  shot records, passports, and recent photos of everyone in the family for identification purposes.  All of mine reside in a Life.doc folder which is easily accessible.
A solar charger for small electronics
A hand cranked flashlight and radio
Boy Scouts of America Handbook (contains a lot of valuable information about would care, first aid, living  in the wilderness, and other survival tips. They are available online, and at your local scout shop.)

How many calories per day?
Now, as far as the meals go, here's the skinny.  Every person should be consuming between 2400 and 3600 calories each day, especially when doing strenuous activity.  Commercially packaged 72 hour kits typically contain around 600 to 1200 calories each, but lay heavy on starch content to give you energy.  The kits I have prepared are meant for "bug out" purposes, should we have to LEAVE our home. That being said, food is heavy, difficult to pack into compact places, and when considering the little ones and what they can carry, all of this had to factor in.  It is for this reason that I purchased, in addition to the food that I'm putting into a menu below, meal replacement bars. They are light weight, contain enough calories per person per day, and can be used to supplement the meals we've placed in the kits, or alone should there not be a water source available for cooking.  They cost about $5.00 per person per 72 hours, and will last up to 7 years packaged away.  I bought mine at a local food storage store, but they are also available on the internet for minimal cost.

There are other options for food on the go such as MRE's (Meals ready to eat) and dehydrated packaged foods such as Mountain House, or even home made dehydrated kits.  These can be cost effective if you have a small family or if it is simply two people.  I've selected items that I can readily find at the grocery store that are inexpensive, and easily replaceable.

Here's our Menu:

Day OneDay TwoDay Three
Individual Serve CerealIndividual Serve CerealMini Muffins
Ramen SoupRamen SoupRamen Soup
Chicken Salad on CrackersTuna Salad on CrackersChicken Soup
Fruit SnacksAlmondsCrackers with Cheese
Crackers with Peanut butterGranola barsFruit Snacks
Assorted hard candyAssorted hard candyAssorted hard candy

One thing to keep in mind with your food supplies in your kits - they do NOT have an infinite shelf life.  Some MRE's can last up to 20 years, when stored properly and with dehydrated kits you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations (for Mountain House Pouches, it's 10 years IF stored properly.  Here in the desert, you can expect to cut that shelf life in half if stored in a garage or outdoor shed.)  Our plan is to cycle the food every six months during General Conference.   Anything that needs to be used or eaten, we will do so that weekend and then purchase new items for the kits.  (This also keeps mom from having to provide snacks every few minutes during conference, I think it's a win-win scenario.)

Our Hygiene kits contain the following:

1 Wash rag
1 Hand towel
1 travel shampoo
1 travel hand sanitizer
1 travel deodorant
1 toothbrush
1 travel toothpaste
1 comb
2 hair ties (obviously not for the boys)
1 bottle travel sunscreen
1 package wet wipes/antibacterial wipes

In the first aid kit:
Band aids of all sizes
Gauze squares (med and large)
1 ace bandage
2 finger splints
1 pair tweezers
10 pairs disposable gloves
10 packages alcohol wipes
5 antibacterial ointment
Antacid tablets
Acetaminophen tablets
Ibuprofen tablets
Safety scissors
Essential Oils (Frankincense, Lavender, Maleleuca, Lemon, Peppermint, OnGuard, DigestZen (fennel), Deep Blue) (I use doTERRA oils)

Nail Hygiene kit
nail file
small scissors

Clothing Kit (ours are packaged in water tight bags.)
1 Pair of pants
2 pairs of socks
2 shirts
1 pair of underwear

A Note on Water:

The typical recommendation is 1 gallon of water, per person, per day.  Unfortunately, 1 gallon of water weighs in at about 8 pounds.  Giving my 5 year old 24 pounds of water (without the other supplies in her backpack!) to carry is not possible. I've included in the older children's pack a bit more water, keeping in mind the weight restriction, but this still will not give us the required 1 gallon per person, per day.  The other issue - we live in a desert, and the likelihood of finding clean water sources is minimal.  This is where we get creative.  We DO have here a series of man-made lakes (you know the ones, they are in the neighborhoods and look pretty when the fountains are on) - but I wouldn't say the water is clean enough to drink.  To overcome this issue, I've included in our packs coffee filters (to filter out sediment and other particulates), a means to boil water (portable camp stove and metal kettles), and water purification drops.  We hope to be able to evacuate by car.  If that is the possibility, then yes, indeed I do have enough water for our family, not a problem.  If we need to evacuate by bike, I can also carry more water by pulling a bike trailer behind me.  If we need to evacuate on foot, however, that's where we'll have to conserve our water, and plan on purifying what we can - even if that means we go to homes and take it out of their hot water tanks.

So, that's it.  Our kits are built and ready to go.  I do honestly hope we never have to use them, but I have to admit, just having them here and ready gives me enormous peace of mind.  We will store them near our back door inside the house in order to keep them from being pelted with heat (our garage reaches up to 130 degrees in the summer time).  These are, of course, a work in progress, and I'm sure there will be adding to them as I learn more.  For now, however, I feel confident that we would be able to exit quickly, safely, and survive until we reached shelter, and that is what is most important.

Additional 72 Hour Kit Resources:

January 12, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's been a very busy year at our house, and in our business.  Funny how doing one thing can totally make you forget about another - you know, like this poor little ignored blog.

2012 was big for us.  I went back to school to finally get my degree in Secondary Education,  started our long awaited cupcake business with my best friend ( and all five kids are now in school leaving me to my own devices during the day...which is both blissful and lonely.

As I sit here thinking about 2013 and the journey it plans to lead my family on, I can't help but be both apprehensive and excited.  On the one hand, my own business is growing and the "Master of Mom"persona is completely taking on a life of it's own.  In fact, I have 12 appearances scheduled for Midday this year, possibly more, and another project in the works that I can't quite reveal...yet.  The family has many exciting ventures to consider too - for one, the oldest is starting high school.  And. Now. I. Feel. Old.

The husband and I, in addition, have taken on some home improvement projects and are loving the exhilaration we get when a project comes together.  I'll post the bathroom remodel soon, and of course will document the installation of the hardwood floors --- just as soon as we get the time and funds together to do it.  We did take some major steps toward the install at Christmas with the purchase of a circular saw. I won't tell you if that was his gift or mine...

So, anyway, I'm not going to start this year promising a bunch of posts.  I will, however, promise to keep you up to date as I can - and you are always welcome to join us on facebook at  I am excited, overwhelmed, but mostly happy. I think 2013 is going to be the best year yet...considering that according to the Mayans, we weren't supposed to see it at all.


August 08, 2012

Crock Pot Breakfast Bread Pudding

I found this one in a crock pot cook book, and modified it to fit our family taste buds. 

6 cups cubed sour dough bread (I bought a sliced loaf, and cubed it.)
6 eggs, beaten.
1 3/4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp (heaping!) cinnamon
1 cup raisins
1  cup fresh blueberries
1 cup pecan pieces ( the original recipe called for almonds.)
1 tsp vanilla

1) combine the eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl.
2) Spray the inside of the crock with non-stick cooking spray
3) add the cubed bread to the crock, along with the fruit and nuts.  Toss to mix well.
4) pour milk mixture over the cubed bread (It will not cover the bread, nor do you want it to, I think.)
5) Toss to coat.
6) Set the timer to allow for four hours of cooking time, plus one hour of resting time after cooking. (Five hours total)
7) Go To bed.
8) Wake up and eat!   The original recipe also suggests you serve the bread pudding with fresh fruit.  I'm thinking strawberries.

August 07, 2012

Crock Pot Stone Cut Oatmeal

2 Cups stone cut oats
3 cups milk
3 cups water
1 egg
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup raspberries (I used fresh)
1 cup blueberries (I used fresh)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

1) crack egg and slightly beat
2) combine egg, milk, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.
3) pour all remaining ingredients into the crock pot then cover with milk mixture.  (will be VERY watery)
4) Set the timer for 7 hours on low, to be ready just as you wake up.  (So if you plan to wake up at 6 AM, set the timer to start cooking on low at 11 PM.)
5) go to bed
6) Wake up to a fresh breakfast.

All of the family liked this one, in fact, I had very little left over.  This recipe filled about half of my 6 quart crock, I have no idea how many cups that is, but I'd wager it was approximately 8 standard servings.

Again, no photo.  Sorry.  I honestly didn't think about blogging these until after I made tomorrows breakfast tonight. There will be one tomorrow, promise.

Baked Oatmeal Breakfast

This year I'm trying to be a good mom and make sure the kids have a good breakfast each morning, and by good, I mean something other than a bowl of sugar cereal or a piece of toast...not that anything is wrong with that, mind you - but we all know that cereal and toast are a midnight snack food, not a breakfast staple...


Anyway, I found a few recipes on pinterest a while back that made me think about using my crock pot for breakfast.  Why not?  I use my dutch oven all the time, and it's basically the same principle, right?  And since the recipes have been a big hit, I'm going to blog them so I know where to find the darn things later when I want to make them again.

So - here we go.

Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
8 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups cubed apples

1) Spray your crock pot with non-stick cooking spray (Do NOT forget this part, trust me.)
2) Combine all of the above in the crock pot and give it a good stir.  I think if I make this again, I'd add raisins, or maybe some nutmeg.  (mmmmmm....nutmeg.)
3) Set the timer so that your crock  pot will cook on low for 7 hours.
4) Go to bed.
5) Wake up to a crock full of oatmeal fresh and hot and ready.

You may want to serve the oatmeal with extra brown sugar on top.  My oldest didn't think it had enough flavor, where my son said, "It's like the spices are dancing in my mouth!"  I liked it just as it was, so did the husband.  Maybe the teenager is just being picky.

I didn't take pictures, because,well, I didn't think about it at the time.  Sorry  I'll promise to do better.

June 24, 2012

My Pinterest Addiction

I have had a pinterest account for a long time. At first, I really didn't know what to do with it, I mean, it was a great way to waste time between Facebook posts, and an even greater way to pass the time between appointments (with the handy app on my phone) but the only thing I was really succeeding in doing with it was making myself realize just how unorganized and anti-crafty I really was. Pinterest was a total Jill-of-all-trades downer as far as I was concerned. But then, inspiration struck, as it often does in the middle of the night when sleep is coming less than quickly as I would like it to, and I realized that I can use pinterest to my advantage. They are not just ideas that cannot ever be achieved, but some of these things are actually feasible. Maybe.

So, I found a pin that didn't look too daunting and took it on. Measuring cups on the inside of my cabinet for organization and storage. I can do THAT! Off to the store for supplies. Four dollars later and....

Original Pin from Pinterest
My Measuring Cups.

It is not pretty and is not exactly like the one I saw on pinterest, but it will do, and does do quite nicely.

This has spawned a whole new interest in pinterest for me. I have already completed two more pins and have a whole list ready to go. My next project is a hanging spice rack. After that, towel storage for the bathrooms. I plan to use pinterest for its second intended purpose...actually organizing my home. (the first purpose is of course to give me house wife guilt).

I will of course post my completed projects here, successful or not, and hopefully this will be a much better use of my blogging time than a wasted 365 project ;)

See ya soon!