Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tacos on the Grill AND a Lovely Surprise!!

Tonight we cooked tacos and quesadillas on the grill.  Remember??? Our stove and oven are broken.  The repair man comes on Tuesday so we are cooking on the grill.




Our grill came with a cast iron griddle and that is on the left.  On the right of the grill I used my cast iron pan for the taco meat.  There is a burner far on the right where I made the Mexican rice for dinner.


The quesadillas were really good. This was the first time we had used the griddle on this grill and it worked beautifully.  I also used the griddle to heat up the tortillas.  Yum.









It was sort of chilly outside so I used the grill top to keep the heat in while the food cooked.


All in all the only thing I can think of that we need in an emergency situation is a tray with high sides to carry things from the kitchen to the grill area.  I had a folding table behind me as a prep station.  I should have taken a picture of the whole set up for you but ..... well while I was out there cooking we had a bit of excitement .......





One of our cows had a baby!!!














Isn't it cute????  It must have happened sometime today when we weren't looking.  Mom and baby seem to be doing well.


It's the little things.......coffee

In an emergency situation sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

My husband and I awake every morning to a nice hot cup of coffee.  We have been having our morning cup of coffee for years.  It is hot, caffeinated, and looked forward to every morning.  I wake up with coffee on my mind.

So when we wake up and have no power it poses a slight problem to our coffee routine.  We can't use the coffee maker to make our pot of steaming hot goodness.  We could do without - just this once - but why deprive ourselves.

Back about 12 years ago we had a huge, and I mean HUGE, hurricane come through our area and it knocked out our power for 14 days.  We thought we had prepared for everything.  We thought we were ready for whatever emergency came our way.  But in the first couple days we quickly realized, particularly with 3 little kids, that it was the little things that made all the difference.  We could handle not having power as long as we had a few little creature comforts to keep our spirits up.  Coffee was one of those things that could make or break our spirits.

We were prepared to cook on our grill.  We had cast iron pots and pans and a griddle.  We also had a steamer pan on the side of our grill where we could boil water.  We quickly figured out that if we could boil water then we could make coffee, through our electric coffee maker.  And so we did.

We brought our coffee maker out to the porch where our grill was and we boiled the water, then ladled it into our coffee maker.  We just opened up the top where you put the filter and the coffee grounds and slowly added the boiling hot water.  It steeped and poured down into the coffee pot and in a few minutes we had piping hot coffee.  Voila!

After the hurricane disaster was over I began to stock up on a few things that we could use in the future for emergencies such as the one we had just lived through.  One item I found was this one cup coffee steeper.

You can find and read about it here on Amazon.com.  (No, I am not an affiliate, nor do I get money when you buy it. No I am not advertising.  I am just showing you what I have.)

It is a manual coffee brewing system.  You also have to buy the paper filters that goes in it (cone shaped) and then add your coffee grounds.  Place it on top of your coffee mug. Then simply pour water over the grounds and it will steep into your coffee mug that is sitting below. I like this method a lot better than pouring water through my electric coffee maker because I don't always need or want a whole pot.  Plus if we brew a whole pot of coffee at once it will cool down before we can drink it all unless we put it in a thermos to keep hot.  That creates a bunch of dirty items that I will then have to manually wash (remember no power here).  So this item will brew one or two cups of coffee at a time and I only have to wash my mug and this plastic brewing cup.  I also get a hot cup of coffee each time I make one.  No pot getting cold waiting for me to come back for a refill.

Again, it is the little things.  I keep this in my pantry and keep the box of filters that goes with it next to it.  It doesn't take up much room at all and I never have to resort to instant coffee in an emergency situation.  I just use the coffee we normally have in the house.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prepping for Emergencies.......Stove/Oven Failure

I just went grocery shopping on Thursday.  I spent $161 on groceries for the next week.  We had made a menu for meals and I shopped from that menu list.  We have a food budget and I need to stick to it this month.

Here is our menu for this coming week:

Friday: St. Patrick's Day
Corned Beef  - Reuben sandwiches/french fries

Saturday:
Tacos/Dad's salsa/Mexican Rice/Green Beans

Sunday:
Spaghetti/Salad

Monday:
Fried Chicken/Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Okay, you get the idea.  Again, I shopped using this menu.

Friday morning I woke up and went to make some eggs and sausage for breakfast.  I turned on the stove and lo and behold, NOTHING.  It flashed a bunch of codes on the digital screen and then nothing.  Blank.  I tried again.  Nothing.  I called my husband in to look at it.  Nothing.  I tried to turn on the oven. Nothing.

We called the warranty people (the oven/stove has an extended warranty on it) and they scheduled their first available appointment for next Tuesday.  That was the earliest they had.  We sweet talked them and still that was the earliest they had, but they moved us to the first appointment that day.  No squeezing us in on an earlier day.

So, from Thursday morning until Tuesday we have no oven and no stove.  Let me remind you that I have three teenagers in the house and they like to eat.  They also don't leave the house for school as we homeschool.  So three meals a day are expected.  I cook all. the. time!  I use our oven/stove all. the. time!  So now what???

I took stock of what we had.  I have a crock pot.  I have a toaster oven.  I have a grill outside.  I have a panini maker.  I have a waffle maker.  I have a microwave (that we hardly ever use for cooking).

Friday night's meal consisted of using the crock pot to cook the corned beef, the toaster oven to cook the fries, and the panini maker to make the reubens. Okay, We had that covered.  But tacos? Spaghetti?  Those might be a bit harder.

This is where a little preparation for emergencies come in handy.  Thankfully this emergency I have electricity.  That helps a ton!

I pretty much don't need to rework my menu at all.  I have a grill and that will be a main source for cooking.  I also have cast iron pans and pots.  That is a huge help.  I can put my cast iron on my grill and cook from there.  It takes a while to boil water and it isn't great to boil in a seasoned cast iron but I can use my crockpot for the spaghetti.  A cup or so of water in my sauce and adding the noodles in can make a great "baked" spaghetti in the crockpot.  The tacos can be made on the grill, even better if I pull out a couple steaks and use the cast iron griddle and make fajitas or "street tacos" instead.  I might try to cook the rice in the microwave (always a first for everything).  My fried chicken will become grilled chicken and the roasted brussels sprouts can be done in the toaster oven or even on the grill in my cast iron.  I will have to cook them in batches but that is okay.

For breakfasts I, luckily, just bought a couple boxes of cereal, but we also have regular breakfast items also.  I can grill the sausage patties, cook bacon on the grill in the cast iron if needed and I can make grits in the microwave if wanted, as well as instant oatmeal. Waffles on the waffle iron will be a nice treat as I haven't done them in a while anyway.  This morning we had sausage "biscuits" on English muffins with cheese.  Sausage was cooked using the cast iron pan on the grill and the muffins were toasted in our toaster oven.  I melted the cheese right on the muffins in the toaster oven.  Perfect breakfast.

Lunches can consist of chicken nuggets, corn dogs, fries, and other frozen fast foods in the toaster oven.  The kids can also "resort" to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or ham sandwich or even do grilled ham and cheese paninis or whatever they want using our panini maker. They love a hot meal.

The long and short of it:

I used to use my cast iron cookware all the time when we had a gas stove.  Now we have this "fancy" electric/glass top range and oven.  I don't use them much anymore but I kept them (just in case).  I now can use them on the grill in my "emergency".  I also have a variety of other cooking methods that I have available to use.

Meal planning is great and effective in keeping costs down but keeping a few things on hand just in case is always helpful.  I didn't need to do too much adjusting to our menu by using the equipment we had.

It is easy to declare, "well I guess we will be eating out for the next 4 days!"  But I hadn't budgeted for eating out.  I had just spent our money on groceries that we need to eat.  These are the little emergencies we have happen all the time in our house.  Things break and what we had planned can't be done, hence and "emergency".  This is the type of "emergency" I like to be prepared for.  These are the kinds of emergencies that throw us into a tizzy and bust our budget for the month if we don't have a back up plan in place.

How we can plan:

1. Alternative Cooking Methods: Take stock of what you have.  Think about if your stove/oven goes out.  What can you use for cooking?  Perhaps an easy solution is to have a small savings of cash so you can just go out to eat 3 meals a day for a week.  But we need an alternative to shelter at home not busting our savings until the emergency passes.  That money could be better spent, like fixing the stove or buying a new one.  So look at the appliances you have.  Consider all scenarios: have electricity, no electricity, etc.

2.  Try it: Consider how these alternative appliances will help you or hinder you from regular meal preparations.  Can you quickly adjust to not having your stove/oven to cook on?  Perhaps even try a couple days to not use your stove/oven and see how you do and where you fall short.  Practicing for an emergency, even a specific one like this type is effective in showing you what you need and how you need to prepare.

3.  If you meal plan: look at your existing plan and think about suddenly not having your stove/oven.  Can you adjust your existing plan to accommodate not having that appliance?  How will you adjust it?  Do you need to scrap your plan altogether and replan?

Our grill with my cast iron pan and 2 qt. pot on the side burner.
4.  Stock up:  If you have alternative cooking methods, start to stock up on a week's worth of meals that will use only those alternative cooking methods.  I try to keep several meals in the freezer that we can just thaw and throw on the grill if we lose electricity.  I keep an alternative plan for when the electricity goes out and we only can use our grill.  I keep extra aluminum foil for this emergency so I can cook veggies easily wrapped in aluminum foil or be able to put a "top" on my cast iron pans that don't have a top and continue to grill.  Plastic handles melt on the grill so pans with plastic parts can't be used.  Consider everything when you are stocking up.  It doesn't help to use your grill if your existing pots and pans can't be used on the grill.  Or better yet, if your utensils can't be used over an open flame.  You need metal utensils with handles that don't get hot or pots and pans with metal handles, not plastic.  Stocking up doesn't have to be expensive.  You can typically pick up cast iron pots and pans in thrift stores.  They may look ugly but can be cleaned and reseasoned with a little elbow grease.  There are great tutorials online for doing this. Practicing your plan will also help you with creating a list of things you will need.  Everyone is different so by practicing you will find what your individual family will need.

5.  Additional resources:  If you own and can use your grill, make sure you keep a full tank of propane or a few bags of charcoal.  If our grill isn't available to us we can always start cooking over an open flame in our firepit.  We have a grill rack that we can put over a fire using bricks or rocks to prop it up and use our cast iron pots and pans, but hopefully it won't come to that. We always have a pile of firewood stacked for our fire pit, mostly for enjoyment in seasonable weather but if we had to we could cook on it.  You can even use your oven rack over an open fire if you had to in a true emergency.

Most emergency prepping discusses major events and natural disasters and they are great things to prep for but typically those events are rare.  It is these smaller emergencies that we have occur more often.  If you prepare for these little things along with the bigger events then you won't find you have an emergency when these little events happen.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

State Archery Tournament

Our middle daughter is the archery "pro" in our family.  The other two kids can't let her do this alone so they participate as well.  Our son is pretty good but archery isn't his favorite sport; baseball is.  Our other daughter loves to shoot for fun.

Archery is a "team" sport in that you will often practice with a team and in some tournaments your team gets points or "credit" for your wins.  Other than that it is very much an individual sport.

Only girl on the line. Respect the pony tail!


We got involved in competitive archery last fall when our middle daughter wanted to shoot competitively.  We got her on a JOAD team in the area.  JOAD is part of USA Archery and is the team that goes to the Olympics.  JOAD stands for Junior Olympic Archery Development.  Basically, the JOAD teams are made up of kids under 20 years old and USA Archery look at these teams as a development program to feed into the Olympic teams.  We have met several kids who go a couple times a year to work with the Olympic trainers.  These kids are being groomed to be on the USA Olympic team eventually.  We aren't there yet.  :)

Anyway, our middle daughter started working with the JOAD team here in town last fall.  Her second practice was a "pin shoot" where they shoot in tournament style for points and they earn pins for progression.  These scores are saved for the team as a way to strive for higher scores.  At this pin shoot, our daughter broke a team record.  A few more practices in and I had a conversation with her coach.  The coach said that she couldn't help our daughter progress any further and that we should look for another coach to help her move further.  After that we began to use the team practices as an other time for practice only.  Her coach there didn't assist our daughter and frankly, ignored her for the most part.

Moving on, we found an awesome coach for her and they began working together in November.  They hit it off well and our daughter has progressed along quite well.  Her first tournament in December, she came in second.

At Christmas the other two wanted bows.  Santa obliged and they all began working with our private coach. (who also happens to have been homeschooled)

Last weekend was the Virginia State Indoor Championships.  It happened to be held not too far from us.  Of course the middle daughter wanted to compete as well as our son.  This would be his first tournament.

Waiting for the tournament to begin.
It was a two day tournament.  Our shoot time was the second day.  Our daughter was pretty confident she would do well.  Our son was out for the fun of it.  Our motto, "Every one (arrow) counts!"

It was a good shoot and both did very, very well.  Our daughter shot the best she has ever shot and our son, as we figured, survived the shoot and didn't quit.  He had fun.

When it came time for the awards, our son's division came first.  We were surprised to hear his name called for 2nd runner up! (That is third place)


And our daughter took 1st runner up! (Second place)

So now you know!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Living among boxes

We are moved into our  new home.  We love our surroundings and our views all around our house.


We love our "neighbors".

Our dog meeting one of our new neighbors.
We are excited to get settled.  The kids have pretty much unpacked most of their things already and are enjoying the space.  The furniture is placed as best as it can for right now.  And we have a TON of boxes to unpack still.

Thankfully, we have a two car garage where we have most of the boxes.  We bring in a box or two at a time and unpack.  It is nice because it doesn't crowd up the house with boxes and we are able to organize and plan where things will go.

We have also been shopping for furniture.  We NEEEEEED new furniture.  Ours is so old and yucky that it just doesn't "deserve" to be in this house.  I want to throw it all out and start over again.  But furniture is so super expensive and we can't afford to buy new all at one time.  It is a lesson in patience.

Oh, and tonight we are supposed to get 3-5 inches of snow.  Tomorrow looks to be a great day to unpack more boxes.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Moving Week! How to Move and Homeschool at the Same Time.... Aaaak!

Wow.  Moving week has come quickly. We have been moving boxes since last Wednesday but we still have a lot to tackle! My husband will be working some this week and he won't be able to help pack the rest of the house and get everything ready for our big move on Friday. We intended to do this move on our own but when it came down to it, my husband didn't want to have to worry about lifting all the heavy furniture and such so we hired a moving company to help out.  They come on Friday.  We want to have it all packed by Friday to save a bit of money and not have the moving company have to help pack.

We also have some other things on our plate.  Monday evening we are having dinner with family.  Sunday, two of the kids have the State Championships for Indoor Archery.  That is an all day event and we are missing church and the kids are missing confirmation class.  Because they have an upcoming competition, they need some good practice time.  We are hoping for at least 4 days of practice at least 1 1/2 hours long.  The closest indoor range is about 30 minutes away.  This means with travel that is a 2 1/2 hour ordeal and really it is more like a 3 hour ordeal 4 times this week. Wednesday, they will practice with their coach and that will most likely be a 2 hour practice.  I am exhausted just thinking about this all.

Practice, dinner out with family, make up for confirmation class, and packing the rest of the house doesn't leave a whole lot of time for school this week.  Instead of declaring it a week long holiday I created a packet of review work for each of them.  They can work on it in the car to and from practice as well as work on it in the evenings or any time they have a few moments.  The work is all review so they won't need much help from me and they can do it independently.  This way I can focus on our business work, shuttling them to and from the archery range and finish packing the house.

I know next week will be a week of searching for every single thing that I need in boxes at the new house so we might need another week of review too.  I am packing the materials I need readily in one box.  Hopefully it won't get lost and we can quickly get organized for next week too.  Thinking about it now, I think I will just plan next week now and get the materials together for their second week of "review" just in case we need it.

Sometimes I amaze myself at how "smart" I am!  Ha ha ha.   Wish me luck!  :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fat Tuesday

Or in some churches Shrove Tuesday.  Or in other churches (or even the same churches), Pancake Tuesday.

In our church we "celebrate" with a Pancake Dinner.  Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  So today is the day to pack ourselves stuffed with, well, uh, pancakes before we do something serious tomorrow.

I usually give something up.  I don't always make it all the way through Lent though.  Some years I don't give anything up.  Some years I add something instead of give something up.

This year I am giving up sodas.  I have wanted to kick the Diet Coke habit for a while.  I don't necessarily call it a habit though.  I only have one or two a day and I can live without them.  I just really like the taste and particularly when I am eating certain foods, like pancakes (no, I am not kidding). So this year I decided to give it up.  We will see how well I do but I am not sweating it.  According to me, Jesus would like to see me happy and healthy.  I am that.

I am giving up Diet Cokes mainly because I want to begin to cut my daily caffeine down.  I am hoping it will help with sleep and actually give me more natural energy.  Again, we will see.  I also don't like reading about how diet sodas actually make you more hungry, mess with your sugar and insulin levels, and eat your stomach lining.  I don't have problems with the last two but would like to see about the first one.

I actually stopped drinking sodas on Sunday so I am already two days into my "no soda" experiment.