Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Emergency Kit for Kids Traveling This Summer

My teenagers are going on a mission trip this summer with our church.  Along with the required items that the church organization asks them to bring (raincoat, water bottle, sun screen, etc), I want to send them with a small first aid kit personalized for them.  I want it small enough for them to toss in their backpacks, not take up too much room, and not add too much weight or bulk.


Here is a list of items I will be including in their kits.
  • Band-aids of different sizes
  • Neosporin Spray
  • Nail file, nail clippers, tweezers
  • Bandana and safety pin (clean cloth for wound care or as a sling if needed)
  • Advil
  • Allergy medication (for my daughter)

It is not much but it will all fit nicely in a small bag (you can put it all in a ziploc bag if you want).

I am also sending the following with them:
  • flash light (a small one with a wrist handle)
  • Hand sanitizer (this won't go in their first aid kit but will float in their backpack as they will need it available more often than their first aid kit)
  • a few snacks (my daughter is a picky eater so she wants to pack some pop-tarts, breakfast bars, and cheese crackers with her)
They are flying so the first aid kit will be in their backpacks while they fly.  The snacks and sunscreen will be packed in their suitcases which will be checked at the airport.  Nothing will be more than an ounce so they shouldn't have any trouble getting it through security.

My son has a small bag of bandaids and antiseptic spray in his baseball bag and  a larger kit in his car.  While his baseball team coaches have a kit they keep with them, my son tends to use his own band-aids from his bag and his friends have from time to time asked him for stuff too.  He likes the independence he has with his own stuff.  He knows his band-aids are the kind he likes and will work for him.  Again, this truly is about independence and lack of worry.  They know that in that bag is a little bit of love that mom packed and when they need a bandaid they might feel a bit of comfort from home.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How To Survive a Trip to the Store with Little Kids

Let me first add this disclaimer:  I am a mom of 3 teenagers.  From the oldest to the youngest they are 3 years apart.  I had three kids in three years.  I am not a mom of toddlers or young kids anymore.  This is my story, my observations, my opinions, and my methods from when my kids were little.  I think these are timeless and can enhance family time and/or your personal survival. I share these as my own ideas for surviving and enjoying multiple children.

Let's go to the grocery store!  I hear so often from moms of little ones that they HATE taking their kids to the grocery store with them or a run to Target/Walmart, etc.  When my kids were little there were a few times where a trip to the grocery store was without any little ones.  Those times were heaven!  I could stroll through the aisles, check out all the new end-caps, look for sales on things not on the list, etc.  However, note that I said few, because that is all I got.  Most often I had two or even three little ones tagging along with me.  I survived, and you can too!!

Wherever we were going, I started preparing the kids on that way there.  Telling them where we were going, why, what we would be looking for or purchasing, and how I expected them to behave.  There were no rewards dangled if they were good, no prizes at the end of the rainbow (check out line), none of that.  I didn't have the extra money to fork out prizes or treats if they were good.  Goodness was expected and they would receive my praise when they behaved.  That was all.  So we would start out similar to this:

 Me - "We are going to the grocery store and I will need everyone to listen to me and to pay attention to where we are going.  I will need my good helpers to help me find the things on the list. We are only getting the things on the list but we will see lots of other things we might want but we can't get them today. Who would like to help me by holding my list for me today?" (that person would get the prize of sitting in the cart seat)  Sometimes I would let them volunteer and other times I would select that person myself.  Then I would move on.  "The other two will have to help me find the things we are looking for on the shelves. Remember that your job is to help me by staying close to the cart with your hand on the cart while we are in the store." (this person or people had a rule that they had to keep their hand on the cart while we walked in the store and in the parking lot.  I didn't have enough hands to hold them all so that was the rule, period.  Even today with my teens I find them unconsciously putting their hand on the cart when we are in a parking lot - they still do it. :) )  Sometimes I would ask for a person to help organize the groceries - if we were only getting a few things and a kid could sit in the big part of the cart with the food while we rolled.  That way only one was out of the cart. When I had a baby who couldn't walk with us (under 3 years old) then that person always got the cart seat. The others were relegated to the basket or walking. Sometimes we would "ride" and I would let the walkers "hop on" the front of the cart and hold on while we moved through the store.  This was a fun treat for them.

When we arrived at the store, before we got out of the car, I reminded them again, "you all are such great listeners I know we will be so quick and can get home soon.  If we don't behave in the store then we will have to go home right away and not have the things we need to make dinner (or breakfast or whatever we were there for). Don't forget to put your hand on the cart when we are walking in the parking lot.  Cars can't see you but they can see me.  You are short right now and they can't see you so well.  They can see me because I am tall. Stick close and keep your hand on the cart."  I always tried to park close to a cart corral so I could grab one before getting in the store.  On the occasion when I couldn't grab a cart right away then they had to hold on to my purse or hold my arm or hold each other's hands.  No one was ever walking freely. The threat was always the same.  The people driving the cars can't see you and might run over you by accident.  That would hurt badly and we don't want that to happen.  The cars can see me because I am tall.  Stick close to me and hold on to me and the cars won't hit you. This was said over and over again every time we were in a parking lot.  Over time it all becomes habit; habit to say it, habit for the kids to hold on to me or hold the cart or hold someone who was holding me. It became their job to hold not my job to grab them.  Usually I was carrying someone in my arm and someone else was holding a hand.  The third would either grab my purse straps or hold my arm holding a kid or hold their sibling's other hand (as they were holding on to me).

As we moved through the store, the list keeper would help me by marking off the things we found, even if they couldn't read it was great practice for them to look for the first letter of the item and good practice for just marking things out.  The other two "finders" would help me look for their brand of cereal or the bacon or the "blue topped milk" etc.  I always praised them for finding it with their good eyes.  They know what the box of cereal looks like and the brand of milk we use, etc.  They are so observant even at a young age, say 3 or 4 years old.  We would mark everything off the list and move to the check out where they would be able to watch the bagger bag up our groceries or help me by putting the items on the conveyor belt.  It kept them busy and if they asked for things not on the list I would remind them that it wasn't on the list and we couldn't get it today, but when we got home we could put it on the list for next time. Usually they had forgotten all about whatever it was and never had to make a new list when we got home.  They were too busy helping me put it all away at that point.

As the kids grew older and learning to read, the list keeper became more important as they had to read what was on the list to us.  And even older (like 7, 8, 9 years old) we began looking for sales and comparing unit prices.  Sometimes if we had time one would use my calculator in my purse to add things up or help compare prices and quantities in the package.  Even at that age they can learn so much.

I know I have blogged about this before because I remember writing it, but when we were in the stores and saw a child who was misbehaving I would quietly point them out to my kids and tell them to look at how that child looked while he was screaming.  I would ask them to look at the mom and see how frustrated and upset she is that her child is misbehaving.  I would tell them that others see you when you misbehave just like we see this child.  I would thank them for behaving well and how proud I am that they don't misbehave in the store.

Now, my kids were not perfect and there were a few (only a few) times when someone would pitch a fit that couldn't be quickly extinguished and we would have to leave.  In those times, I would quickly try to find a worker who I could pass my partially filled cart to and tell them I was sorry but we had to leave right away.  I would grab the kids and out to the car we would go.  Buckle them all in and head straight home.  This only happened a couple times. But enough that they remembered and didn't want that to happen again.  No praise.  The idea is that I say what I am going to do and do it when it happens.

Before:
The idea here is to prepare them for what behavior you expect.  Kids are not mind-readers and they learn best when they know what is expected ahead of time.  Kids will learn from punishment of when they do something wrong but many times we can prevent the "wrongs" when we teach them how to do it "right".   The reminders in the car and telling them what they can expect helped so much.  They knew what we were getting and they knew where we were going and they knew how I wanted them to behave because I told them.

During:
In the store I gave them all important jobs.  Everyone always had a job, even if sometimes it was to "stand there and look pretty" (yes, that was sometimes a job). They were praised when they did their job and told how much they helped.  This made them feel good about themselves and they learned to function as a team.  Jobs ranged from "hold on to the cart and make sure it doesn't roll away" to "find the ketchup" to "help me push the cart" to "mark the items off the list" to "help me put the items on the check out counter".  It can be anything that will make them feel important.  Praise comes during our trip as well as after.

After:
Once in the car, I praise them again for doing such a great job in the store.  For helping me find all that we were looking for and for behaving so nicely.  If someone complimented my kids in the store I would remind them of that compliment and tell them that they should feel proud that they received a compliment, because I was!

I can't tell you how many times I was stopped by other people in the store after observing me with my kids.  They would say, "you are doing a great jog with those kids" or "I see you are teaching them money management early" or "your kids are so well behaved, a rare thing these days".  Ha ha.  For me I was just trying to survive.  I never thought about how it looked to others.  I just needed to get through the store with my kids and my sanity.  Ha ha ha.  Seriously, I was sleep deprived, never without a kid or three, and had to shop when I could and that meant bringing my brood along.  So in order to survive the trip we HAD to work together, help each other, behave the best we all could (including me) and return home with our groceries and everyone in one piece.  I do appreciate those compliments and often needed them when they came to continue to encourage me.

Kids love a job.  They love helping and they love feeling important.  That is what I tapped into so that our grocery trip or Target trip or whatever shopping trip we took was successful.

So, what happens when your child does act up in the grocery store?  Well, for me getting down on their level, eye to eye with them, holding their hands in mine and reminding them of their job during this trip and how important it was for us to work together to help each other and me usually straightened them up.  As I said before, there were times when I abandoned my cart and out the door we went, to the car and home.  This upset everyone but needed to be done so they learned that their poor choice in behavior hurt everyone including me, their siblings, and them. That fast response will teach them that you will do what you say.  As a side note here, most often poor behavior for my kids meant that they were tired and most of the time this occured when I was trying to push nap time and they really just needed a rest.  So when we got home to bed they went for a while.  Usually they fell right to sleep.

In short:
1. Prepare them for the trip.
2. Give them jobs to focus on while shopping
3. Praise during the trip and at the end.

I hope this is helpful.  Have a great day! :)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

First Aid Kits - Home and Car Kits

I think I have posted a blog about this years ago but I am too lazy to go searching for it. Okay, I went searching for it and I did find this:

A Prepared Mom Purse

Our First Aid Kit

Both are exactly what I thought I had posted. Both were written 6 years ago and a lot has happened since then.

With three kids in their late teens we are pretty active and are in our first aid kit often.  Having also moved four times in the past four years I am so thankful that we started using a tool box for our first aid kit.  It was so easy to pack it up and take it with us wherever we were going.  Sometimes it was in the car, sometimes in our travel trailer (where we lived for a bit) and then it was always the first thing we moved into our new houses. And, boy, did we USE it!!!

I am currently restocking my big first aid "Tool Box" kit.  It is a true tool box.  Well, it is more like an art kit tool box.  It has a pull out shelf and it is translucent.  It's big enough to hold a full box of meds, bandaids, etc. It looks similar to this-------------------------->

 In it I keep:

  • A tube of Advil (our go-to pain reliever) This is the small tube that you can get at the check out line section at the grocery store.  I restock it when it gets low from a larger more economical bottle of Advil.  This is the kind that has the twist off top and is a little larger than a chapstick tube.
  • Chapstick - plain flavor not extra medicated.
  • Spray neosporin - small, portable and easy to use.
  • Tube of neosporin - because the spray isn't for everything. (like eyes or wounds where you don't want to be spraying something on it)
  • portable thermometer - we have a regular old school mercury one in a protective case.
  • gauze pads
  • first aid tape
  • ACE bandage
  • pair of scissors
  • lots of band-aids in different sizes, shapes, and materials.  Some are water proof, some are not.  Some are fabric, some are not.  Some even have cartoon characters on them.
  • a clean, large, all cotton cloth (to be used as a sling, large wrap, tourniquet, etc.)
  • fingernail clippers, toenail clippers, tweezers
  • Allergy meds like Benadryl (we have a couple kids who have allergies and Benadryl works pretty effectively for them)
  • Benadryl "after bite" itch cream.
  • Small trial size of hand lotion.

There are a few things that I have found that over the years we have no longer use or that I feel like I can leave out of the first aid kit now.
  • An extra pair of contact lens.  When we were living in our trailer in between homes, I kept an extra pair of contact lenses in there.  I also had an extra pair in my purse first aid kit and an extra pair in our bug out bag. It was redundant.  In a pinch we would grab our BOB and my purse before we would grab our big first aid kit.  So the contact lenses have come out of our big first aid kit.
  • Bactine Spray - if it came in a smaller size I would keep it but I have found that Bactine over time will start to make everything stink like alcohol as the alcohol in the Bactine evaporates.  So I replaced it with Neosporin spray. 
********************
Car Kits:

In the car we keep a smaller first aid kit.  In my son's car he has the basics (bandaids in different sizes, neosporin spray, gauze and gauze tape, ACE bandage, tweezers, Advil, sun screen, chapstick, hand lotion)  He plays sports so I figure sports injuries will prevail, like cuts, scrapes, etc from sliding into bases and colliding with cleats.  I have a feeling his first aid kit will probably end up in his baseball bag and go with him into the dugout.

My daughter's car kit has pretty much the same stuff including a clean cloth and allergy meds.  

Our family car kits again, have pretty much the same stuff.  It also includes allergy meds and contact solution.

As you can see I have tailored the kits to what they will most likely need for whom will be in the car with them.


*******************
Purse Kit:

In my purse I carry a small make up bag that I have filled with all the things we most likely will need.  I always have my purse with me so over the years the contents have become more tailored to exactly what we need.  Ready for this??? 
  • bandaids - few in each size, one pretty large one (I replace these as we use them)
  • Advil - a tube of Advil
  • Benadryl tablets
  • Dental Floss
  • Eye rewetting drops
  • Chapstick
  • Cough drops
  • Tampons
  • A sanitary pad
  • Hair rubber band
  • Eyeglasses repair kit
In my purse I already carry a whistle on my keychain, a small flashlight (you can get these for a dollar or so in grocery stores or at Walmart.) so I don't need these items in my first aid kit.
********************
Travel packs:

My kids are going away this summer on a mission trip.  While there will be a guide and chaperones each will still take a small first aid kit in their luggage.  They will be flying so some of the items will probably have to be packed in their suitcases until they get to their destination.  Then they can move those items to their backpacks. 

In their kits they will each have:
  • bandaids of different sizes and types
  • neosporin spray and cream
  • sunscreen
  • chapstick
  • a bandana
  • nail file, nail clippers, tweezers (probably these will need to be packed in their suitcase while flying)
  • Advil (travel size)
  • Benadryl Tablets (for my allergy girl)
  • small flashlight
They will be carrying a backpack each day with them while on their trip.  They will have extra socks (they will be hiking), flip flops, a sweatshirt, a rain jacket, water bottle, first aid kit, a bit of money, camera.... oh you get the idea.

Basically, think about where you need a first aid kit and then the items that you think you will need on a regular basis as well as on rare occurrences.   Find a bag or box to contain all the items in.  If it is for your car, do you need a soft pack or a hard case?  Does it need to contain a lot of items or can it be small enough to fit in your glove compartment?  Will you be using it to carry your other emergency gear like flashlight, jumper cables, rags or towel?  Personally, I like to keep these things separate from my first aid kit.  Often my first aid kit floats around in the far back of the car or in the trunk.

Everyone is different and everyone's needs are different.  Assess your family's needs and adjust the contents of your kit accordingly.  Think about these main ideas though: small cuts, bites/stings, pain reliever, allergy meds, larger wounds needing wraps (like gauze or cloth), more serious injury like broken bones or sprains.  

Another option is to buy a premade first aid kit rather than make your own.  A good kit has everything that you would need for general first aid events.  Then over time you can tailor it to your own needs.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - Homeschool Literature Unit

Let me first say..... WE LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

It takes a couple chapters to get into it but once you do, if you like a good mystery, then you are hooked!

I borrowed three of the same books (same publisher, same publishing date) from our local library.  I chose this book because my kids love to watch mystery-type shows and thought they would enjoy a good mystery.   I also chose this book because I already had a workbook to do while reading the book.  You can buy it here: The Westing Game .  There are sales throughout the year and I think I bought it on one of the "pay what you want" sales they have every  couple months.

I printed out the workbook pages for the kids and put it in a folder with those three prongs in it.  This way it wasn't in their regular English notebook.  It was special.  I also created bookmarks for the kids with their name on the top of it so we could see whose book was whose from the bookmark.  The bookmark also had a picture of the book and on the back had special vocabulary.  Actually if I were to do this again I would have put the list of characters on the back. Throughout the book it can be a bit confusing who is who.  It would have been helpful to have a basic character sketch on the back of the bookmark. (I hadn't read the book when I created the bookmark).

We cruised right along with reading the introduction and about the author prior to beginning the novel.  We talked about the time period and that they didn't have ready access to computers, no internet, and no cell phones.

As we read we discussed the clues and discussed the characters.  The kids were assigned the workbook work as they read as well.  After a while we gave up on the "before you read" pages and focused on the while you read and after you read pages. By the end, we gave up on the questions all together and just discussed the questions together aloud.  We did focus on vocabulary though (as this was what my kids needed) and created a "murder board" on our white board. (read below for why)

With a bit more research on the book since we finished it, I found this awesome document that gives great study questions and chapter vocabulary.  Beware, it automatically downloads to your computer and takes Microsoft Word to open.  It is worth the download.

Here is another one that gives space for answers but has no vocabulary.  It is all short answer questions.

There are so many characters and clues that it can be hard to keep up with.  We ended up creating a "murder board" on our white board with the clues, characters, etc.  The kids created what they needed to keep track.  However, I found this great graphic for organizing all the information,

I also found an excellent, inciteful character list (don't read it if you don't want to know who wins until you read the book).

Let me know how you all like this book.  :)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tom Sawyer ..... Homeschool Literature Unit

It's been a while since I posted a unit that we were working on.  This one is on Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  It is geared for Middle School but you can use it with elementary school and even high school.  We are high schoolers here and I adapted the sources I found to my kids and their learning styles.
The front etching found on the first edition.

Tom Sawyer is an American Classic.  Mark Twain wrote in the preface that he wanted to write a Tom Sawyer as a satire against the other children's books where the main character was always good, helpful, honest, and warm-hearted.  He knew this was not always a reality. He wanted to write a 'real' story about childhood.  He based his characters off people he knew including himself and told stories in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that really happened to both himself and some other boys he knew.
book.
which kids will enjoy and adults will find themselves reminiscing about their 'good ole days' (my term not his).  When it was written, cities were booming with buildings and hustle and bustle of people everywhere.  Life was busy and people dreamed of simpler times; times when they were younger, without a care in the world.  They dreamed of moving out of the city and into smaller towns.  Twain wrote

In it he describes the scenes so clearly that you can picture them in your mind as they are playing out in the book.  He uses dialogue in real dialect for the times and from his childhood days living in Hannibal, Missouri.

This story is a great 'read aloud'.  It lends itself well in both narration and in dialogue to reading out loud.  With a bit of practice you can get the cadence and dialect of the language.  While reading aloud you may even find yourself reading faster and faster as the action climaxes.  After a few pages the characters begin to come alive and for me, they take on voices of their own.  As a family, we find ourselves laughing at the events in this book, particularly the church scene in chapter 5.

When choosing this novel, I researched online for a study guide or a literature unit that was already done.  I found these:

This one from Scholastic - 4 printables
And this one from Glencoe -this one is a whole workbook that you can print and complete.


Here is a great source for character studies:

Character List
Character Map
Character Analysis - look on the left hand side and scroll down to find the names of the main characters.

Here are some sites for quizzes to take online:

Interactive Quiz
Another Quiz - this one has several kinds of quizzes.
Another one - look on the left column and find the second quiz on this site too.  Submit your answers for grading.
Essay Questions

We borrowed our last novel we read together from the local library, but this time I didn't have time to make a request to the library to gather enough books for us.  So I just went to the book store and bought four.  It is not the most cost effective, but I wanted everyone to have their own book and I needed one too.  The bookstore didn't have four of the exact same book from the same publishing company.  I bought two of the same and one of another and one of yet another publisher.  All books had the same words and didn't paraphrase or rewrite the book in a different way.  So while we weren't all on the "same page" we were all reading the exact same story with the exact same words.  A bonus from getting three different book publishers was that we had a couple different introductions that we read to prepare us for the book.  One book had footnotes that gave additional background information.  One book had pictures throughout.  That was encouraging to one of my kids as they enjoyed seeing the pictures of the scenes while reading.



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Flashlights, Batteries, Weather Radio..... Oh MY!!!

We are in the midst of a "severe" storm.  It is a severe thunderstorm with the possibility of a tornado or two.  No big deal, right???  Right....

Yesterday morning my husband suggested we get our weather radio set-up, finally, here in our house.  We just hadn't done it yet since we moved in a little over a year ago.  Why a weather radio you ask???  I mean we have our cell phones and weather alerts are transmitted through them too.  Why duplicity???  Well, I am notorious for letting my cell phone die completely and not charge it.  My husband swears his phone doesn't hold a charge for as long as he would like, but he does charge it often and has a second, always charged, battery for his phone. A weather radio works on electricity AND battery power.  It is loud and can be heard all over our house when it sounds off.  I pulled the radio out of our closet where it has sat for the past year and my husband started setting it up for our locality (it is different from the locality where we used to live).  While setting it up last night he realized that the transmitter didn't work anymore.  It may not be the transmitter, it might be another part, but in the end, it didn't work.  We need a new one.  So that won't help us for this storm.

We moved on to flashlights and lanterns and batteries.  Our lanterns use the BIG batteries.  The D kind.  One lantern still worked with the existing batteries and the other one didn't.  We went to change the batteries and found corrosion in the battery cavity along with the fact that we had no more D batteries. {sigh} We move on to flashlights.  Why do I give flashlights almost every single year in my kids' stockings but when I ask if they know where they are, they can't seem to find them.  {double sigh}.  We found three flashlights for 5 people.  Luckily, we had new batteries for these flashlights and were able to replace the batteries and have extra for them if we need them.

It is the little things like these that I just assume that we are covered when this is the very things we are so not covered on.

Now in the midst of the beginning of the storm we still have power but if it does go out the house will be quite dark even though it is well into the morning.  We will need light sources if the power goes out.  We do have candles and will use them when we need them.

So while I finish this blog post, I encourage you to check your supplies now, don't wait until the night before when all the stores are closed.  Check them now.

Do you have a flashlight for each person in your household?

Do you have a larger light source like a lantern for larger areas like the kitchen table?

Do you have batteries, oil, or extra fuel for the light sources you plan to use?

Think about the rooms that have no window or are extra dark because of a little window, like a bathroom, and think about how you will light that area.

While you are thinking about it, do you have a flashlight in your purse?  A small flashlight can help in many situations.  Is there a flashlight in your car?  Extra batteries?

I am chalking this event as an emergency preparedness FAIL.  Batteries, a weather radio, and extra flashlights are being ordered today from Amazon!!

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.