Monday, October 5, 2015

A Soggy Mess - What to do When it Floods.

This weekend turned out to be a soggy mess.  The hurricane never made it to us.  It turned out to sea before reaching the coast.  The nor'easter we got though dumped a bunch of rain on us but not near as much as South Carolina got.  South Carolina has received 10-15 inches of rain and it is still raining.  They are getting a ton of flooding and this morning all of the highways are closed around Columbia, SC and parts of I-95 are also closed.  This will cause all sorts of issues.  Large trucks with supplies will have a difficult time getting in.  Emergency vehicles can't get around quickly.

We tend to take transportation for granted.  We expect to be able to get in our car and go.  But sometimes we can't.  It drives my husband crazy when he doesn't have the luxury of being able to go where he wants to go.  Even this weekend with the soggy rain he still found a reason to get out and go somewhere at least once each day, even though we had already decided to stay home.

We go to the grocery store or the drug store and expect products to be there.  We expect the shelves to be stocked and if they are empty we just wait a few days and they will be stocked again.  We expect hospitals to have the supplies they need.  When highways are closed supplies can't get to where they need to be.  Food doesn't get restocked at the grocery. Hospitals don't get their regular deliveries.

In an emergency situation, it is so important that we stay put.  Even if we can get out on the roads around our town we shouldn't.  If we were to be injured by rushing floodwaters, an accident, or by a falling tree, it would be difficult for emergency workers to get to us.  This is why it is so important that we do stay put.

It also proves the point that we need to prepare prior to the weather event.

Back to Columbia.  Did they prepare?  Did those who aren't in the flooding zone get enough food and supplies?  Did they think to pack an emergency bag just in case they needed to leave their home?  When the floods began, did they think to go ahead and leave the area for higher ground?

When we thought we might get the hurricane, my husband came to me and asked if we should discuss leaving the area.  We discussed it and decided to wait until the next morning to make a final decision.  At that point forecasters were saying that if the hurricane came on land pretty much all of our state would be affected.  Most of the states above and below us would be affected as well.  It would be difficult for us to go somewhere where the storm wouldn't affect the area.  That still didn't mean we wouldn't make the decision to go somewhere else.  Our current home is pretty much all glass on the back side.  We back up to a thickly wooded area.  It is plausible that trees could fall and hit our home causing much damage. Thankfully we did have the luxury of time to make a final decision.  The next morning forecasters announced that the path the hurricane would most likely take would be out to sea.  So we decided to stay put.

Flooding can be one of the most devastating things that can happen to a home (along with fires).  The damage is so extensive and even though things dry out they still might be damaged.  Their integrity and strength might be compromised.  Flood insurance is difficult to get and can be so expensive.  It is often not recommended for those homes where they are not prone to flooding.  I wonder how many homes in Columbia were flooded and didn't have flood insurance.  Probably most of them.

So what can we do to prepare for a flooding emergency?

1. Protect your belongings.  Check to see if you can get flood insurance.  If not, your savings will be important.  Save a little each month or each paycheck for these type of emergencies.  It may take a long time to get back to where you were but having at least a little something to get you by at first will help.

2. Protect your memories.  Regularly back up your electronics. Your pictures, your videos.  If flooding seems eminent, put the albums and important memories in the highest part of your house.  Keep a copy of your back up files off site and a copy with you in  your "bug out" bag.

3.  Pack a bug out bag with a change or two of clothes, basic toiletries, and important papers. Speaking of important papers, take a picture or scan them to create a digital file.  Then keep them in a safe place and keep a copy with you.  This would include birth certificates, social security cards, insurance documents, medical records, deeds, and other documents.

4.  Have a backup plan.  Don't wait until it is too late.  Get out while you can.  Flooding is no joke.  It can sweep away cars, houses, and people.  Flooding can make the ground unstable can cause sinkholes.  Decide before the storm where you will go and prepare for possible travel to that place. Go when you can.  Don't wait until it is too late.

5. Stock up on the basics.  Food, water, lots of water.  Water may be contaminated for weeks on end after a flooding event.  Cleaning supplies, bleach, basic yard tools, batteries, lighting devices, pet needs, etc.  You may be stuck for a while and even when you can get out of your house stores may not be stocked of the things you need.

6.  Get some cash.  Not a lot but some.  ATMs don't work unless you have power.  Credit and debit card machines use electricity.  After the flooding starts to go down and you can get out again.  Stores may still not have power.  They won't be able to accept your credit cards or debit cards.  Cash will be your main way to purchase the things you need.

7.  Remember it is just stuff.  Yes, it is your stuff.  Yes, you liked it a LOT!  Yes, you will miss it and it will be emotional.  But in the end it is just stuff.  Let it go.  Save yourself, save your family.  Leave the stuff.

Back to Columbia.  Newscasters and weather people are saying that this catastrophic flooding that is happening is a "once in a THOUSAND years flood".  It is not normal.  Therefore the aftermath is unpredictable.  Those who live there will need lots of help rebuilding and getting their lives back to something that resembles "normal".

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Possible Tropical Storm .....

Image from
I heard on the news today that we have a possible tropical storm coming to our area this weekend.  While I had just gone to the grocery store on Sunday, there are a few things that I still need off our weekly grocery list.  I had hoped to wait until later in the week but I think I will go today or tomorrow and get the rest of the groceries on our list.

Where we live now I don't worry so much about flooding or having to leave our home in case of emergency, but I do worry about power outages.  We just got a stand alone freezer set up in our basement and I have started to fill it.  I also worry about having batteries and candles ready.  We have a wood burning fireplace and firewood so we don't have to worry about warmth if needed.  Right now, though it is still warm enough outside even at night that we won't have to do much more than throw another blanket on the beds if we need it.

So here is my checklist for this possible emergency:
____ Check lanterns and batteries.
____ Charge all electronics and spare battery chargers.
____ Back up computer files (just in case.... and is good to do it periodically anyway)
____ Restack firewood on the porch so it is further out of the rain and possibly tarp it to keep it dry.
____ Check deck furniture and put away any outside toys, furniture, equipment.
____ Pull out and check candles, globes, and candle holders.
____ Straighten and clean the house.  Pick up things off the floor, clear the steps of items. (No one wants to trip over something left on the ground at night with the power out.)
____ Check pantry for needed items and add to the grocery list.
____ Make last trip to the grocery store.

While it may seem counterintuitive to add more groceries (particularly refrigerated items) but I truly don't think we will lose electricity. If we do, it won't be for long.  I do know that I will have three teens home all day long and they like to eat.
We are currently out of bread, only have a half gallon of milk, and I like to keep stocked up on eggs.  All three of those will be on the list.  I also will pick up a case of water. One can never have too much water.

We have only one dog and I just bought her dog food recently so she has enough for several weeks at this point.  The only other thing she needs is water and to be taken out from time to time, even in a storm.  The only things I need to prep for her is to make sure my rain coat or poncho is ready for rainy/windy walks.  But I still like to remember pets when prepping for an emergency.  Her leash is hanging by the door and her shots are up to date.

Even though this might turn out to be nothing more than rain, I do still want to be prepared.  It also gives me an excuse to clean the house, straighten things up and begin to think about winter storms and supplies.

It began raining today.  Not thunderstorms but just episodes of torrential downpours!  The lights began to flicker so the kids and I pulled out the camping lanterns and a few candles and a flashlight.  Boy do we need to replace some of our stuff.  Both camping lanterns are so weak in light.  Not even enough to read with.  I will be replacing these both tomorrow.  We also need size D batteries as well as AA and AAA.

So check out your equipment prior to the emergency.  Don't just wait until you need to use them.  Test them out and make sure everything is in working order.  Replace them periodically.  Our lanterns still work but the lightbulbs are low which means that it is probably on its last legs.  Mind you, we will still use these until they completely die but I do want to get some more lanterns that will give us enough light to work by.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Shamelessly eating out. Budget style!

We LOVE to eat out.  I mean L.O.V.E. it!  So last night we went to Olive Garden.  We love their salads. We love their breadsticks. We love their soups. We love their pastas.

Right now they are having my favorite sale.  It is the buy a pasta get a pasta to take home deal.  So we went.

Each of the 5 of us got pasta.  One of us doesn't like salad so she gets the soup.  The rest of us get the salad.

At the end of the meal the waitress brings out the big bag with our pastas that we get to take home.  We box up our leftovers.  This includes a few leftovers from our meals and leftover salad and leftover soup. Did you know that the salads are unlimited?  If you want to bring some home for leftovers just ask for another salad and ask that they put the dressing on the side for this one.  Each what you want and then bring home the rest.  Also the soup is unlimited too. Again just ask for another bowl and bring home the leftovers.

Tonight we had our pasta meals we brought home and salad.
Tomorrow we will have leftovers for lunch.  These are leftovers from last night in the restaurant and leftovers from tonight.

That makes three meals for us from one.  We virtually "ate out" three times!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What a difference a year makes...

Last year in August we moved back to our hometown, feeling beaten.  We had just a little money to live on.  My husband began working immediately for a friend of his working in his mulch yard. He was selling mulch, loading it for customers, etc.  It was a little money.  He also started his own lawn care business.  He got a little business throughout the fall, aerations, leaf work, etc.  I was working at Michaels as much as I could.

Money dwindled fast.  We were rubbing pennies together.

In December, a friend of my husband asked if he could help him out for a bit of time. His father was ill and he needed to go tend to him out of state.  He asked if my husband would run his lawn care business while he was away. He didn't know when he would return.  Of course, my husband said yes.  He worked hard all through December which helped us get through Christmas.  The winter was tough but my husband continued to help out his friend when he needed help. We scraped together pennies from here and there.

In February we instituted a "no spend month".  While it was consciously hard to not spend money at all, it wasn't as hard as we thought because we really didn't have much money to spend anyway.  It also snowed in February, twice!  That meant that my husband was able to shovel snow and make some money.

March came and we were given the news that my husband's friend's father had passed away. My husband again came to the aide of his friend and helped out with his business, all the while working his jobs on the side.

In April, my husband's friend announced that he was going to move out of state and asked my husband if he wanted to buy his lawn care business.  They drew up papers and by the end of the month we were running a fully operating lawn care service again.  We merged his business into my husband's existing small business.

From there we have been cruising.  This summer we have been able to go out to eat more, pay off a ton of bills (more money than I want to think about) and over Labor Day weekend we actually went on VACATION!

Now instead of wondering where the money will come from (well we still worry), we have employee issues.  It is pretty sad that our best employee is our 16 year old son.  We have one other guy who works for us now, since my son is focusing on his schoolwork now. He is a great employee and had worked for my husband on a very part time basis for years.  Now he is fulltime and filling in the gap that our son left.

Each September seems to be the start of a new year in my eyes.   I am excited about this year and the possibilities it holds.  The bills are getting paid and slowly we are starting get the kids back into the activities they enjoyed years ago.  It is comforting to know that we can pay the bills!

Looking back on this past year I am reconfirmed in my marriage.  I have chosen my best partner. He is such a hard worker.  He is positive, loving, and supportive.  He will do anything for us!  He is adventurous and willing to consider pretty much anything, crazy or not.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How I do laundry.

I know you have been wondering....... so today I will tell you how I do laundry.  Ha ha ha.

I have learned a lot over the past 20 years on what works and what doesn't work for us as a family.  We are a family of 5, with 3 teenagers.  We have big clothes.  Oh to have the days of tiny clothes again when you can do all your kids clothes in one or two loads.  Now we average about 10 loads a week and that doesn't include sheets or towels.  Towels will often take 3 loads a week.  So if we are doing sheets and towels (we do towels every week) it is a total of 15-17 loads a week!  That is a lot of laundry.

I am a bit of the busy type of mom. I work, I teach the kids, and I do housework.  I do get help from the kids.  That is a bonus.  My son actually likes doing laundry!  I tend to save laundry and do it all in one or two days.

In the past, I would wash and dry the clothes and then dump them on the couch to fold.  The folding never got done and the kids would push the clothes off the couch so they could sit.  The clean clothes would end up on the floor.  That method didn't work for us.

I eventually moved to putting the clean clothes back in the laundry baskets straight from the dryer.  The baskets never got folded and we would just root through the baskets to find the clothes we wanted to wear.  The clothes were wrinkled and not very attractive.  This method didn't work for us.

Then I would fold the clothes straight from the dryer and put the folded clothes back in the baskets to take up to the bedrooms to put away.  Inevitably the clothes never got put away.  They just stayed in the baskets and we rooted through the basket to find the clothes we wanted to wear, wrinkling all the others in the process. {sigh} This method didn't work for us.

Finally, I figured I would fold the laundry right out of the dryer and by this time the kids were old enough to put their own clothes away (5-8 years old in my house).  I would sort the clothes in piles of whose items it was along with sorting for the type of clothing it was.  All the pants went together, all the shirts together, all the underwear together, etc.  I would stack the piles in order of their drawers too.  Then the kids would get their piles (the 5 year old would get two types of items at a time) and take them up to put them away.  I would hang any hanging items and take them up myself. (we don't hang much of the kids items).  Finally a method that works!

This method allows us to have folded clothes that are put away.  If we don't get to the "put away" part, the pile sits neatly folded on top of the dryer.  All our socks go in a "sock bin" and I sort and match the socks while doing laundry but the singles go in the bin until a match can be found.  With socks I try to make it as easy as possible.  Most all socks are white and all the girls including me share socks.  All the boys also share socks.  Since we are all in "adult" sized shoes we all use the same sized socks.  There are a few fashion socks for the girls but not many.

Currently, we are living in a rental.  It is a "townhouse" style home and the laundry is in the basement.  We collect dirty clothes in laundry baskets in the bathrooms and in the bedrooms.  On laundry day we gather all the baskets and take them down to the laundry room to wash.  We have only one washer and one dryer.  Laundry never gets completely done.  When we were living in our own home with a large laundry room we had one washer and two dryers.  This was ideal on laundry day.  I could plow through the laundry quickly.  It takes twice as long to dry as it does to wash so the two dryers were so helpful!  I long for a second dryer now.  When the baskets are emptied they go back to the bedrooms and bathrooms empty. We have a hanging rack down in the laundry room too where we hang the hang up items immediately after drying to eliminate as much ironing as possible.

I would love to hang my laundry outside to air dry and get that fresh smells but we have allergies in the family and particularly during the spring and fall this would "kill" some of the members of our family if pollens and other allergens got into our clothes. So we don't hang outside.

When we traveled I loved using the laundromat when the clothes piled up.  While it was expensive, I could get 10 loads of laundry done in just a few hours!   So efficient having so many washers and dryers at once!  We did have a small washer/dryer unit in our travel trailer but it only took small loads and took 2 1/2 hours to wash and dry small loads.  It was great for underwear and socks and light weight items but not for jeans and towels.

I don't love laundry.  I save mine up for a marathon day or two.  I had a friend who did laundry every day of the week for her family.  She had three children as I do and she assigned each child a day.  On their assigned day she did their laundry and sheets.  At the end of 5 days she have everyone's laundry done and on Saturdays she did the towels and extras.  This method worked for her.  When she pulled the laundry out of the dryer she folded it and it went back in the baskets and back up to that person's room.  Done.  I can't get into that method because I don't want to be doing laundry everyday.  But this worked for her.

Everyone has a different method of tackling the neverending piles.  Each person will find their own way that works for them.  When tackling your piles look at what you have been doing and identify what works and what doesn't.  Then change the parts that don't work for you.  Keep the parts that do.

Friday, April 10, 2015

This teacher teaches fundraising to her kids.

This is an awesome blog by an awesome teacher.  She taught her students how to fundraise.  One of the ways she taught was through  I was so impressed by her students' projects.

Please take a look at the videos that the kids made and consider making a donation!  I was really impressed!

On her blog, you will find the links to her students' fundraising projects.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A New Job!

I am still working at Michaels.  Don't worry.  I am still getting my "employee discount".  That is the important part, right???  {giggles}

Yesterday I was offered a job with a merchandising company.  It places magazines and books in local storefronts.  I go in and set up the books, move books around, and straighten the shelves.  I am really excited about this position because it allows me a bit more flexibility, and for right now I work for both Michaels and this merchandising company too!  Double bonus!

I don't know when I start right now but I will post how it is going once I start! ~~~~ excited!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Planned Grocery Shopping

I have shopped for groceries in many ways.  I have shopped weekly. I have shopped every other week.  I have shopped twice a month, and I have shopped once a month.  I have also shopped every couple days when we need something.

Over the many years usually my shopping habits change when my income changes.  If we only get paid once a month then I do a big shopping trip when I get paid and then just a few little ones to pick up fresh produce, milk, eggs, and bread later in the month when we need them.  If we are getting paid every week then I find I shop just for that week until the next payday.  If I am getting paid twice a month ..... well you get the idea.

Over the many years I have found that I can save money if I shop sales and stock up. This is the most ideal way to shop for our family.  This also requires a nice sized storage area for dry foods as well as a large freezer to stock up on freezer foods.  When I have to shop weekly it becomes harder to shop the sales, particularly if the weekly ad for the grocery stores don't coincide with my shopping day.  For example the grocery store I shop mostly in runs their sales Wednesday through the following Tuesday.  If I am shopping on Wednesday I can't get a flyer until Wednesday making my planning hard.

Recently with our diminished income and extremely tight budget we have found ourselves in need of financial assistance.  This is temporary, but necessary for us.  We applied and have been receiving assistance from our state in the form of "food stamps".  It is a debit card nowadays and easy to use.  I was extremely embarrassed about it in the beginning because we had never accepted or applied for assistance in the past even though I am pretty sure we qualified for it.  I look at it as an "insurance" that I paid into for years and years through my taxes and now am in need and using it. When we are no longer in need we won't use it any longer. Anyway, this benefit comes once a month.  My card gets loaded with our food benefits on the 5th of every month.  The first couple months we continued to shop weekly as we had in months before but I found that I wasn't saving as much money that way.  I then switched to making a couple bigger trips to the grocery store when they had a sale but I would run out of things we needed later.

Last month I set out to make our benefits stretch as far as I could.  March would be a long month so I needed it to go further.  I was also getting bored with our regular meals.  I wanted to get creative again.

In the days leading up to my big shopping trip I planned out menus for the next three weeks.  The kids helped add their favorite dishes to our meal plan.  I began making a list of the things we would need to make the meals on the plan.  The list became longer and longer. I scanned the ads at two major grocery stores and split my list up between the stores to maximize our savings.  I clipped a few coupons, but not many.  I am not a coupon clipper as we tend to not eat what the coupons are.

On the day of our big shopping trip I did the unthinkable!  I cancelled school for that day.  We all went out shopping!  Armed with three kids to help with the shopping, lists for three places, and our grocery bags we were off.

The first stop was Sam's Club.  I find that they have the best, freshest meats for the most reasonable prices.  The hamburger is fresher. The chicken I can get in bulk already frozen, and this time I picked up a pork shoulder.  BBQ was on our menu.  The pork shoulder came in a "two pack" and was the same price as what I would have spent in the regular grocery store buying only one shoulder.  We also bought produce, butter, cheese, and some frozen foods there.  A big bag of pancake mix will last us the month as well as a two pack of syrup.  Actually a majority of our shopping was done at Sam's Club.

Next stops were at the regular grocery stores buying their sales items, deli meats, and other produce.  We eat mainly frozen veggies so we stocked up on those as well.

When the day was all said and done, I had spent nearly all but about $65 of our benefits. Scary.  Now to see how long it would all last.  With three teenagers in the house all the time eating three meals a day, food can disappear in a flash!

Each day we would look at our menu and choose what we would make for dinner.  It was fun making new and different meals.  Some we will have again.  Others we will wait a while.  I also got creative with our leftovers. Our menu was not set in stone.  It was more a list of meals that we had all the ingredients for.  We crossed off the ones we made and chose from those left of the menu.

Yesterday, I scanned our freezer.  I still have half a pork shoulder, three chicken breasts, some chicken patties, and some pork chops left.  This will actually make 4 hearty meals with left overs for lunches the next day.  I have spaghetti sauce and pasta in the pantry for a meat-free meal and we can always do "breakfast for dinner" (or as we call it in our house, backwards night).  This will make 6 more meals.

We did eat out once or twice this month but most all our meals came from this big shopping trip.  Throughout the month we ran to the grocery for this or that, mainly eggs, breads, milk, etc.  No more big shopping trips though.

A few things I learned this month:
1.  While we have always meal planned in the past, making a list of dinners and creating variety has helped us stay excited to eat at home.

2.  I am so glad I planned a couple crock pot meals.  These are so easy to throw in the crock pot in the morning and not think about it again until dinner.

3.  I hit some good sales this month and felt excited that I could stock up on some things for later.  (I have 10 cans of chicken stock and beef stock that I grabbed for 29 cents last week!)

4.  Getting the meats bought early in the month helped tremendously in my budget.  I didn't have to buy them later in the month when we didn't have as much money.

5.  We need to budget for more fresh produce as the summer arrives.  We love fresh veggies in our house and I will need to work on setting aside more money to buy fresh produce throughout the month.

6.  Big box Warehouses like Sam's Club and Costco will save you money if you know what to buy and how to store it before it goes bad.  I stick with items I know we will eat within its freshness time.  But honestly, rarely anything goes bad in this house!

7. I shopped the sales in the grocery stores and did well.  I also held back a bit of money for staples that need replenishing during the month and when a great sale pops up.

For April, I am already compiling a list of meals for our menu and adding items that we have run out of.  Next I will go back through the list of meals and add ingredients for those meals to our list.  I will then use the weekly flyers from our grocery stores to begin to sort out the list, add sale items and organize our shopping trip. I may not cancel school again, but do the shopping over two days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Herb Stuffing/Dressing

This is one of my dad's recipes.  He was famous for his "secret ingredient".  It was always something that put the recipe over the edge.  It would be good without it but GREAT with it. This recipe also has a  "secret ingredient".

1 lb pork sausage
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 can chicken stock
2 (8 oz) packages of herb seasoned stuffing mix
1 (8 oz) can of water chestnuts, drained
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1; Brown sausage, stirring to crumble, drain.
2: Add celery, mushrooms, and onion.  Cook over low heat until tender.
3: Add chicken stock -combine rest of ingredients - spoon into baking dish.
4: Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min.

Yield - 9 cups.

So what is the secret ingredient???  Can you find it?  Dad was nice enough to always include it in his recipes that he wrote down.  Thank goodness or we would never have been able to replicate his recipes.

This recipe starts out innocent enough until you get to the water chestnuts.  That is the secret ingredient.  It is a great item in stuffing because it gives you a little crunch.  Not a hard crunch like a nut, but an easy crunch.  The water chestnuts hold up to cooking and don't get soggy in the moistness of the stuffing.  It is there but you really can't quite place what it is.  That is what makes it the secret ingredient. See?

You can leave the water chestnuts out and the stuffing will be fine, but with them it is GREAT!

Monday, February 23, 2015

You hear it on the news but never think it will happen to you....right???

It has been cold here the past few weeks.  We have had some days that don't get out of the 20's.  Every night we are below freezing and most days it rises up to the high 30's or low 40's.  Last week schools were out all week because of 8 inches of snow that fell on President's Day.

I have heard several times on the news that a water main has broken.  They close streets to repair these breaks.  Sometimes some houses have no water for several hours.

Yesterday our church had a pipe burst in the ceiling of one of the Sunday School classrooms.  We heard about it right after it happened on Facebook.  Church wasn't cancelled though. They stopped the leak and repaired the pipe and all was well this morning.

This afternoon we heard heavy trucks come down our street and stop at the bottom of the hill.  They had taped off a section of the road and my husband walked down to see what was going on.  A water main broke.  They had turned off the water just up the hill above our house.  We had no water.

Then they brought in a big back hoe to tear up the road and find the water main break.  While digging up the road they accidentally hit our natural gas line. We went out to pick our kids up from youth group right after they hit the gas line. But at that time we didn't know for sure if they did or not.  We had just been speculating.  When we returned from picking up the kids we were met with a road block, a fire truck and a police officer.  They were evacuating our neighbors.  We were not allowed in to get anything from our home, not even our dog.  The nice fireman said it would be a couple hours before we could possibly return to our homes and at that time they would be able to tell us more and we might be able to get our dog then.  We may be evacuated for the night while they fixed the problem.

We went out to dinner (since we couldn't cook at home) and stayed out for a couple hours.  By the time we got home the fire engines were gone, the police were gone, but the repair people were still here.  They told us it was okay for all of us to return to our homes but we had no water or gas at this point. They also said that when the gas got turned back on they would go door to door and relight pilot lights, etc.  If no one was home they had locksmiths ready on call to come pick the locks and they would just go in and turn the pilot lights back on and leave.  We considered spending the night away but we realized we still had the dog to tend to.  We could leave her home alone but if they came in to our house there may be an issue. She has never bitten anyone before but we also haven't had a stranger come in our house without us here.  So we decided to stay home.

After an hour or so they turned on our gas again as we weren't on the same line as the busted gas line.  They helped us light our pilot lights again and we have heat and can cook again. No water yet.

This got me thinking. When we returned home from picking up our kids and were met with an evacuation notice, we had no clothes, no toiletries, no nothing with us.  Most of us didn't have winter coats either as it had been a rather warm (considering) day.  What if they hadn't let us back in the house after we returned from our dinner out?  What if we had to evacuate from our home?  What would we grab?

In our car I have our winter car bag.  It contained extra gloves, scarves and hats, blankets and a few bottles of water.  We have our first aid kit but that wouldn't really help us today.  What do I need for an emergency evacuation?  What do I need in the car if we drive up to an evacuated block again?

Here is my thoughts, off the top of my head tonight:

In the house: A back pack to grab and go if we have no time.  It will include a pair of underwear for each child, a stick of deodorant, a small tube of toothpaste, toothbrushes for each of us, a small bag of sanitary napkins and other feminine products we use, a puzzle book or deck of cards to keep us busy, and an extra charger cord for an iphone and one for an android phone.  Also copies of our important papers until we can get a safe deposit box.

In the car: A backpack with similar stuff in it except our important documents. (I don't want them in the car all the time)

This list of things will become longer the more I think about it, but this will give me a start.

In our old house I did have a backpack filled with these things.  I had it in our closet ready to grab in a moment's notice.  I never had to pick up that bag.  When we moved into our trailer I had that bag in our car for a long time, until we needed extra space.  The backpack got tossed into the trailer, then unpacked and used for something else for a while.  At that point all the clothing items in it were way too small for the kids anyway.  Since we moved into this new house I haven't repacked this backpack.  It is now time.  Unfortunately, I had this little emergency to remind me that we needed this.

PS: because our water hasn't been turned back on, I asked the kids to go ahead and pack an overnight bag anyway just in case we need to bug out of here some time tonight.  They haven't found the water main break yet and they are still digging.  You never know if they will hit another gas line or need to evacuate us again.

On a good note: We do have plenty of water.  They turned the water back on for a few minutes and we filled both bathtubs with water so we can flush toilets now when they turn it back off again.  The water looks dirty and filled with granules of black.  We will not be drinking it for a while.  We will use bottled water for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth.

I have rambled enough.....

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Better Homes and Gardens Red Checkered Cookbook

I was flipping through my Better Homes And Gardens New Cook Book today, you know, the red checkered one that all our parents had.  I have one too.  I was so excited to get it when I did.  It was expensive but I bought it anyway.  I knew I needed it.

That was back in 1992.  It was copyright dated 1989.  Back then I could just imagine me cooking or baking all the recipes.  Back then the pages were crisp and new. It wasn't like my dad's copy which was slightly yellowed on the pages and had recipe clippings all stuffed in the front and back of the book.  There were pages that had a paper clip on it and some that were dog-eared. I thought to myself. I will keep this nice and new looking.  I will make sure I didn't spill anything on it.  I will not stuff clippings in it.  It was a prize possession.

When we moved last year I packed it up in a box, just stuck the whole thing in the box.  I knew we would be living in the trailer and I just couldn't take a cookbook with me when I had my computer to use if I needed a recipe.  I didn't really miss it.  I looked up recipes on the computer when I wanted something.  It was no big deal.

While we were unpacking in our house now, I found the box with my cookbook.  It was like finding an old friend again.  I took it out of the box, stuffed to the gills with recipe clippings (the cookbook that is) and placed it in a place of honor on the counter.  I can't tell you how many times I have used that book since I unpacked it. I have to be careful when opening it because there are slips of paper stuffed in the front and back and the pages are a bit dog-eared and some of the pages have crusty stuff on it from me turning the page with yucky hands while cooking.


Today I was flipping through my copy of this old friend looking for a recipe for pork and while reading it I found that it called for "fines herbs".  I don't know what that is.  So I had to go to my computer and look it up.  (If my dad was still alive I would have called him.)

 Fines herbes is a combination of herbs that forms a mainstay of French cuisine. The ingredients of fines herbes are fresh parsley, chives, tarragon and chervil.

Chervil is a parsley that has a bit of anise taste to it.  

This got me thinking, how old is this book?  It was copyrighted in 1989 and it was the 10th publishing of this fine cookbook.  As I read the introduction it said that the editors struggled with keeping the classic recipes we grew up with like pot roast and chicken and dumplings but added many new tastes like taco salad.  Ha ha ha.... those were new tastes and new dishes in 1989.  Now 25 years later, I think it might be time to update my copy......

Monday, February 16, 2015

Left Handed Crochet Tutorial

Want to learn to crochet?  Are you left handed like me and don't know where to start?  I have begun making a few video tutorials for my other blog.

Check them out here!

Have a great day!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

President's Day Snow Storm

A huge cold front is coming from the south west.  This is our best chance for snow.  The only time we get snow with accumulations is if the storm comes from the south/southwest and the cold comes from Canada at the same time.

Last night we had a huge wind storm and some snow which melted pretty much on impact. We had a little bit of it stay with us on mulchy areas but no real accumulation.  However, the wind made our electricity flicker so much that we got out our emergency lighting sources and prepared for a long night stoking the fire to keep us all warm. The lights didn't go out but according to our news this morning more than 23,000 people ARE without power.  The temps aren't supposed to rise above 26 today and the temps will be this way for most of the week coming up.

In my last post about winter storms, I mentioned that we were pretty much set on supplies except for firewood (our only alternative heating source in this house).  Yesterday, right on time, my husband picked up a load of firewood for us.  We don't have a large storage space for firewood so we could only get a little bit, but if the power goes out we are good for a couple days, and that was our goal.

Predictions say that we will get anything from 1 inch to 10 inches of snow on Monday into Tuesday.  I will venture out and grab a gallon of milk and a couple loaves of bread (truly because we are running low and need it, and my kids LOVE French Toast.)

More importantly, besides milk, eggs, bread, cheese, hot chocolate, and toilet paper, here are a few things to think about when preparing for a winter storm.

1. Alternative Heating Source:  in this house for us it is our fireplace.  We have a fresh load of firewood.  We have plenty of blankets, socks, mittens, hats, sweaters. Our floors get cold so it is important that we keep our feet warm.

2.  Food that you can cook without power.  We are lucky in this house that our stove will still work (a gas stove) with a power outage.  We can't use our oven but we can use our stove top.

3.   Alternative Lighting Sources: Flashlights with a good supply of extra batteries, candles with safe ways to burn them, lanterns (battery or oil).

4.  Water: Bottles are great, otherwise fill many large cisterns with water prior to a storm so you have it. We need stored water in case the power goes out and you live on property with a well and electric pump. Also important in case the water source becomes contaminated somehow or you lose water pressure due to a water main break or frozen pipes.

5. Entertainment: If you have little kids or get bored easily, prepare for some light entertainment to keep everyone busy during the time you will be spending indoors.  Also prepare for entertainment that doesn't need electricity. This can include a deck of cards, board games, hobbies, movies (if you have electricity), etc.  When my kids were younger in preparing for winter storms I gathered together some activities and tucked them away for a snow day.  These activities included a craft, some games, new crayons and coloring books, a book to read together, and other small fun things.  I packed them in a bag and kept it in my closet until a snow day came.  This was often a day saver for us.  As soon as the kids began to get bored I pulled out new things they hadn't seen before.

Today I will be spending most of the day working on laundry (just in case) and straightening the house.  This will help us in case we lose power.  We don't want to trip over things on the floor in the dark.  Then I will venture out to get the last few things we need from the store.

Winter storms remind us to think about four things; warmth, food, lighting, water. Preparing for entertainment is a bonus and often a sanity saver.  Make sure you think about these things in preparing for a winter storm.

Have a great day!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Update on "no spend" month! - Harder than it seems.

I can't tell you how many times I think to myself, "oh, I need to get some __________". Then I remember, "oh yeah, I can't this month.  How many more days of this???" Ha!

The month started off rough.  The first couple days were hard.  I wanted to start new projects but didn't have what I needed.  So I had to remind myself that it would have to wait. Now thinking back on it, I can't remember what it was I wanted, which goes to show me that I probably didn't need it anyway.

I worked on my walker bags that I sell at a local pharmacy.  I used what I had to finish up 10 bags.  I took them up last Thursday and sold them.  They handed me $125 in cash.  Now the rules were that I couldn't spend any money in our household budget for any crafty stuff.  BUT if I sold crafty stuff then I could use that money to buy more.

Immediately I knew I had a workshop coming up which would take at least $30 out of my paycheck.  That left me with $95.  I spent $20 on a new sturdy desk for my craft room. While this is technically not a crafty item, it was purchased for my craft room so I will count it. Now I am left with $75.  Then I spent an additional $21.75 on scrapbook paper. Now I am left with $53.25.  Then I went to a consignment sale and found a bold of awesome fabric to make walker bags with for $7.90.  I bought that. It was 5 yards of upholstery fabric.  I couldn't pass that up. Now I am left with $45.35.  I put that in my pocket for later.  I made a donation to the local library of $5 but I am not counting that. Included in the donation was a bag of books that I could choose from an array of books.  I chose some great novels for myself and my family but also included some crafty books and magazines that were there too.  I am not counting this because I didn't buy the books. It was a donation and the books were a "gift" because of the donation.

I still need some thread and some lining.  I will wait on that for a bit because I don't need it right now.

What I have learned.....

  • I am an impulse shopper. (when I see a great sale or a great deal I buy it)
  • I am an impulse creator.  I have a terrible habit of seeing a new project on line and want to try it out.  I start the project to see what the pattern looks like, feels like, etc. Then I put it down partly done and go on to the next one.
  • I thrive on creativity and I really do need a budget.  I lucked out this month because I could sell some of my items to get a budget for the month. But the reality of it is that I don't sell my walker bags each month.  I sell them once every couple months.  So I can't rely on an $125 monthly budget.  I need to figure something else out. 
Plans for the rest of the month:
  • I want to create some things for Easter.
  • I want to finish up the knitted blanket that I started. 
  • I want to reorganize my yarn stash.  Currently it is in piles and in plastic bins all over my room.
I will post again in a week or so and let you know how I continue to fair.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A No Spend Month

For a few years I have been seeing this trend and I have been trying to wrap my head around how it would work for us. People will choose a month and then declare it a "no spend" month.  They do it for many reasons; save money, learn lessons about their spending, clean out the pantry, test their food/supply storage, or desire to spend more time with family.

The basic premise:
A no spend month is a month where you do not spend any money. It can be as drastic as not spending any money on anything including food, clothing, necessities, and even on gas.  It can be a month where there is no spending money that is not accounted for.  So budgetary items like food and gas can be budgeted and spent during the month, but there has to be a plan.

I have read where families will gather and buy all the items including food that they need for the month prior to the month beginning and then not spending anything during that month.  To me, this just doesn't make any sense.  If I am spending a ton of money before the month begins then how am I accomplishing my goal?

Speaking of which......what IS the goal here?

  • saving money?
  • figuring out where our money goes?
  • looking at impulse buying?
  • learning to appreciate what we have?
  • stop wanting everything we see?
  • learning to have patience?

If we are saving money then how is spending a ton of money prior to the month saving it?  If we are saving money and then using up what we have during the no spend month and then buying a ton of stuff the next month saving it?

Currently, we don't shop much. We don't eat out much. Our food budget is pretty low. We are slowly building up a food storage so we don't need to test that yet.  We have a monthly budget.  Food, gas, bills, etc.  This stays the same most months.  We budget for upcoming things like kids activities, birthdays, holidays, etc.

For our family, we have settled on a happy medium. Part of this decision comes from that fact that we have already been not spending for the past several months anyway. Part of this decision comes from necessity. Most of this decision comes from looking at our spending the past month.  We have spent nickels and dimes in two specific areas that we could take a vacation from this month.

This month (February) we are having a No Spend month for crafty stuff, home decor, and bikes.  Yes, bikes.  My son and husband have a small bike hobby.  Right now they have about 40 bikes that they are working on fixing up and selling them.  It is the middle of winter.  We don't need any more bikes. So this month there is no money for bikes in our budget.  There is also no money in the budget for my hobbies either. A quick look at our checking account shows approximately $260 in spending in these two areas. This does not include when we used cash to pay for items.  My goal is to save approximately $250 this month.

Of course there are rules!
1. No spending any money from our budget on these items.
2. If you sell one of your items you may use that money on purchasing other items from the list.  For example, if my son and husband sell a bike then they can use that money they earned from the sale to purchase another bike.  If I sell something "crafty" then I can use that money to purchase other crafty stuff.

Already two days into this month we have a bit of "jockeying" money to get what we want/need.

I have a scrapbooking workshop that I attend once every other month. When we imposed this spending ban I didn't think about my workshop.  It is next week.  It will cost me a minimum of $30. Luckily, I have a solution.  I make walker bags (tote bags that attach to walkers).  I sell them to a local, neighborhood pharmacy.  They are in need of some more now and I will take up 8 or 10 of them and they will write me a check.  I will use this money to go to my workshop and pay for my supplies.

My son and husband also have a bit of a problem.  They need to fix a bike.  They need an inner tube for it.  They will need to sell a bike to purchase this inner tube to fix this bike.

Did you know that I work at a national chain craft store?  Yes, I do.  This morning I was working and one of my jobs was to price all the clearance items.  Some of them were strings of beads.  They were on clearance for only $0.49! I was dying because it was a great price and I couldn't buy them, because we are on this no spend month. Sigh......I have to look on the bright side.  I saved some money today, right?

This month might be harder than we expect!Off to go make some more walker bags! :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Snow-magedon 2015

Did you prepare?  What did you do?

Where we live the forecast was nothing but rain and a bit of flurries that wouldn't amount to much.  I didn't do much to prepare, however, I really was already prepared.

The kids got flashlights for Christmas and we bought a huge supply of batteries for them.  Firewood was delivered just after Christmas and we still had about a day's worth of firewood should the electricity go out.  I had just shopped at the grocery store and we were pretty well stocked, AND I had just purchased a bunch of toilet paper and paper towels at Sam's Club (because we were starting to run low).

We ended up getting 2 inches of snow overnight but by mid-day the roads were clear and safe for travel.

Honestly, we could have been snowed in for days and been okay.  It is the electricity thing that concerns me the most.  Our only alternate source of heat is the fireplace and we are low on wood.  We would have survived about a day maybe a day and a half at most before we would really get chilly here.  I need to work on this for the future.