Thursday, March 28, 2013

Keeping It Real - Feeling Displaced

We are in literal upheaval around these parts. I am writing this post from my temporary station... in my bathroom.

And  you thought I was kidding. Nope. Not kidding. The guys are sanding our wood floors as I'm writing this. I've only got about an hour before I have to pack my bags and leave. Actually, I've already packed my bags. We have to be out for the night because of the fumes from the finish that they apply on the wood. Or we could sleep with gas masks on. By the time this is posted, we'll be allowed back in our home, so it's not too long of a time -- only one night. It's just a really inconvenient time for all of this to be happening. And no. I didn't plan it all for this week, of all weeks. This was supposed to happen two weeks ago, but there were some rough patches in the wood floor installers schedule, and they couldn't get to our job til this week.

Our family room is a literal gathering place for chairs...

My bedroom looks pretty much like this. Yes, that is a bicycle built for two... and yes, I have run into the handle bars in the middle of the night. Who runs into bicycle handle bars in their bedroom in the middle of the night?

And this is my kitchen. Ugh. I have too much to do for my kitchen to look like this.

I have had some practice this week in "letting the small stuff go". I just stroll through my house as if there isn't a thing out of place and as if I haven't got anything in the world to do but stroll through my house.

I'll be loitering around doing work in the garage and the backyard whilst the workers are in my house. I have plenty of outdoor work to do, so that should keep me busy while complete strangers are hanging out in my house.

And in a couple of days, when normalcy returns, I will get back to blogging about things that I find more useful.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Week 4: Rice -- white, brown, instant

This week's food storage item is a simple one:

March Week 4: Rice -- white, brown, instant

We eat mostly brown rice in our family, so I buy bags of brown rice and store them in a tub (just to keep them from slipping and sliding all over the shelf). I also buy a case of Minute Brown Rice whenever there is a case lot sale, just to have on hand. Sometimes I need to be quicker about cooking my rice, if you know what I mean, and then Minute Brown Rice is just the thing.

Now, one thing that I LOVE to do is go to the Family Home Storage dry-pack cannery and load up on things that I want to have on my shelf for a really long time. One of the items they offer is White Rice, as pictured above in the can. I canned the rice in March of 2011, and it will be good for 30+ years. Can't ask for much more than that!

This is a photo of our youth group working at the dry-pack cannery as part of our Amazing Race Youth Conference that Bob and I were in charge of. A whole other story for a whole other time... so, so much fun!

I printed the below form a year of two ago, and as you can see, they have quite an offering of goods for food storage.

The prices listed are the prices that the items cost after you have canned them yourself at their facility. Also, I might mention that in order to can the items, you will obviously need to live near a dry-pack facility.

You can find the form by going to and then down on the left-hand side of the main home page, you will see Provident Living. Click on that, and then click on Becoming Self-Reliant, then Food Storage. When you get there, there is a whole myriad of really useful information. You can get your own, updated order form, find a Home Storage Center, purchase items online, and get information on anything from storing drinking water, to finances, to short and long term food supply. It's definitely worth checking out, and the information is very useful!

Now, go and decide how much rice you and your family will need in the coming year (and way beyond, if you have access to longer-term food storage items), then add it to your grocery list. Next time you're at the grocery store, pick up the items, and get them on your shelves. Doesn't that feel great?

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

What do you do when you plan a "all-day" backyard workday and you wake up that day to find that this is what your backyard looks like?

I even had Bob and Robbie all set to come and help. I had such plans for last Saturday...

And to make things worse, this is what the inside of my house looks like...

We had wood delivered almost 3 weeks ago for wood floors in a dining room, and also to replace the damaged wood floor in our den. The thought was, to have the wood acclimate to the dryness and warmth of our home, and then install it a few days later. Well, two weeks after the pile was delivered (and sitting right outside my bedroom door at the perfect height to whack our shins with, I might add), I called the wood floor guys and asked when we might expect them to come. "Hmmmm? Well, I think we could make it there towards the end of the week. We'll install on Thursday and Friday, then refinish it the following Monday and Tuesday." Cutting it close for Easter, I'm thinking, but okay. I'm game. They did come on Thursday afternoon and part of Friday, but had to use today to finish it up. They have now installed it all, and I love it, but now we'll play the waiting game for the sanders and the finishers. Did I mention I have the annual family Easter-egg hunt and barbecue at my house on Saturday? I guess the good news is, the house is in such turmoil, it will be really easy to hide the eggs so that no one will ever find them. Actually, we will be doing it all outside, which is a real bonus, except that it may or may not be like a jungle out there. Hence the need for last Saturday's all day work day. Again, the good news is that it will be easy to hide the eggs, and the bad news is that there is a good chance the eggs might never be found.

There is still snow out there, but I'm on my way out to brave the cold and the snow. I've got to get some work done in the yard, even if just a good start. I'm planning on being outside every day this week, so I'm hoping that means I should be able to get most of it done.

For now, I will choose to ignore the furniture that is literally piled up inside the house, and the layer of sawdust that has settled over everything. I can't do much about that, and it will be better to be outside so I don't have to look at it and get that panicky feeling.

If you have been a reader long enough to have read last summer's posts, you'll know that I have a deathly fear of snakes, which is another reason I like to get out and work in the yard on days like today. I know that with snow on the ground, the snakes aren't coming out, so I'm safe and have no need to have my heart in my throat the whole time... just waiting for a snake to be underneath a pile of leaves I'm scooping up.

So, out I go. I'll be back tomorrow with our Week-by-Week Food Storage item of the week.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My favorite tool for spring yard clean-up

This little guy is my best friend this time of year. I use it SO much as I'm doing the spring yard clean-up. I'm not sure why I had to take the photo right next to a very sad looking euonymus. To be honest with you, all of my euonymus are looking sad, because the deer feast on them all winter. It takes a good couple of warm spring months for them to start looking normal again. Poor things.

Anyway, back to my tiny rake. It has a regular long handle -- almost as long as a regular rake, but the rake tines only span about 7-8 inches, so it fits just about anywhere I need it to.

I particularly like to use it when I'm cleaning up the dead, old growth from plants like the Sweet Woodruff below, or even Snow-In-Summer. I LOVE it for that.

After I've raked through it, and cleaned up all the dead leaves and vines, it looks like the photo below.

And now the ground is clean and debris-free so that the plants are able to see the sun and get growing!

Another use for my little red rake is to clean up the clematis. I just rake through the crazy vines and all the dead leaves from the previous year come loose and fall to the ground. The vines look so much better after I've taken the rake to them. All ready to start growing for the year!

I got my rake at Home Depot, but I'm sure they are at most home and garden centers. At this point, I wouldn't know how to do my spring clean-up without it. It makes such a difference when you have tools that actually make your job easier as you're working.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Ultimate in Repurposing

Bob and I pruned our 29 Asian pear trees (a cross between an apple and a pear -- a Nashi pear!). We spent all day long Saturday pruning, but we got the job done.

As we went along, we were delighted (okay... maybe it was me who was delighted) to find nests in most of the trees. We started noticing all of the different materials the little birds used while making their nests.

Next time you're asked whether you want paper or plastic at the grocery store, think about how practical this little guy was. Look closely at the bottom of the nest, and you'll see plastic grocery bags.

And here's another that used a plastic bag. If you look carefully, you can see the plastic on the inside of the nest and coming out of the side. Its all packed in with mud, so it's not going anywhere!

And this one was built using some green netting that could have been used to hold fruit in.

And this next one has some red stringy substance woven in with the little bits of straw.

Several of them were smart enough to snatch up some of our dog's fur when he shed his winter coat last year. I bet that was so cozy to nest in!

Now, this obviously isn't a nest in a tree, but this is one of four lanterns that are on our house over the deck. Three of the four lanterns routinely have occupants in them. The birds just seem to add a few more bits of this and that every year, and then settle in. I love when the little bird has laid her eggs, because then you can see her in the lantern looking out at you as you go about your business out on the deck. She keeps a pretty good eye on anyone out there, and if you get too close, she'll fly out of the nest, swooping down and very nearly giving the passer-by a heart attack. Two of the lanterns sit right outside my bedroom door, and I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I love to hear the birds singing to each other, but they do start their singing pretty darn early!

I have photo after photo of many more nests, but you get the idea. These little birds are so darn resourceful. I love that! Now, if only they could make nests out of the piles of branches we pruned from the trees...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Week 3: Spices, herbs, seasonings

This week's food storage items are:

March Week 3: spices, herbs, seasonings (salt, pepper, seasoning salt, taco seasoning, chili powder, etc.)

As with all of the other weeks, store what your family uses. The one exception to that is that everyone should have iodized salt on their food storage shelves. It doesn't expire, so you can buy a case (or more) and you won't have to worry about having to throw it out... ever! There are many, many uses for salt, whether it be used with food or for cleaning. I store quite a bit of salt, and I will only have to re-buy it once in a long while -- perhaps when I see a good deal in a case lot sale.

If you go through other seasonings or spices, it wouldn't hurt to add them to your list. I use quite a bit of cinnamon, taco seasoning, seasoning salt and pepper, so I like to have at least one large jar of each on my food storage shelf. When I run out in the kitchen, I take from the food storage so that I am naturally rotating through my storage. These other items do have an expiration date and will lose some of their flavor after time, so don't overbuy.

Decide what you and your family will need as far as spices, herbs and seasonings go, add it to your grocery list, and next time you're at the grocery store, buy what you need and get it on your shelves. Easy peasy and it takes literally 10 minutes of your time! ...And you don't have to think about any more food storage til next week!

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Grandparent Phenomenon

I know we're just brand new at this grand parenting thing, but I'm learning so many things I never knew. When Whitney was expecting, I experienced "Grandma Nesting". Who knew?! And now, Bob and I are both experiencing a phenomenon that I call "Not Now, I'm Holding The Baby".

On Monday, we were planning on having our Biggest Loser dinner and show. Bob came home from work with his arms full of things that he could work on while watching Biggest Loser with us. He took one look at me holding our grand baby, and immediately, the phenomenon took over, and he had the look. So, I handed the baby over to him, and sure enough....

Not Now, I'm Holding The Baby

He had a pile of paperwork next to him on the couch that all of a sudden didn't seem important at all. In fact, he was probably wondering why he had worried about bringing all of that work home in the first place.

He settled in and didn't move until we needed him to come for dinner. And I have to say, I have had encountered this phenomenon for myself over and over again. I can have a list of 40 things that I really need to get done, but if I'm holding the baby, who cares about an old "to do" list. It will still be there tomorrow.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Snowdrops in full bloom

A few years ago, when we were up in Logan visiting my Aunt Carol, she gave my mom and my sisters and I each a shovel-full of her Snowdrops. I love getting plant starts from people I know and love. Whenever I look at those plants in particular, I think about whoever it was that originally nurtured the plant along so that I, too, could enjoy it in my own yard. I planted my start from Aunt Carol along my front walk, so that they're easy to spot as they poke their heads through the snow and then bloom their sweet little white flowers. They, along with the crocus' are the very first every year to show their cheery little blooms. They are such a welcome sight after a long, cold winter.

Oh, and be sure to notice and love them while they're blooming, because you can blink, and they'll be gone until next year!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March Week 2: Mixes - pancake, cake, brownie, Bisquick, muffin

It's that time again! It seems like last week flew right by, but here we are again, talking about the Week-by-Week Food Storage Plan. This week's items are:

March Week 2: Mixes - pancake, cake, brownie, Bisquick, muffin, etc.

These items will vary widely from family to family. For instance, I can't remember the last time I used a cake mix to bake a cake. However, there are a few times a year I might need to make a batch of quick cupcakes or "cake mix cookies". So, for our family, we really only need a handful of cake mixes on the shelves. I use a pancake mix here and there, and I use Bisquick in a cookie recipe that I make fairly often, so I'll make sure I have enough of both of those items.

In an emergency, I could use the pancake mix and the Bisquick to go along with other things in our food storage, so they may come in handy that way, too.

Think about how much of each of these items you might use in the coming year, and try to buy and store those amounts. Be sure that you check the expiration dates of the items you're buying so that you can keep them on your shelves throughout the year. Remember, one of the things that makes this system work is that you will be rotating through and using much of the food. You shouldn't have to discard old, expired food, which is one thing I found myself doing quite a bit of before.

As mentioned in several of these posts, if you're looking at this plan for the first time, the beauty of it is that you can jump right in this week and have this be the start of your year. You don't need to go back and try to catch up on the earlier weeks of this year. Start now, and know that a year from now, you'll have your complete food storage system.

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pruning the Bartlett pear trees

Yesterday was the first day we've had a chance to get out and start our pruning. We pruned the two Bartlett pear trees in the front yard. It may sound strange to have fruit trees in the front yard, but not in our neighborhood. The land we built our home on used to be a big orchard. When we were building our home, we wanted to leave as many of the old fruit trees on our lot as we reasonably could. We ended up only leaving two Bartlett pear trees in the front yard, but we were able to leave 30+ Nashi pear (Asian pear) trees in the backyard. We were able to make a big lawn area in the center of the yard, with the trees surrounding it. We LOVE having those old trees. When they blossom, they put on an absolutely gorgeous show, and the fruit gets picked and eaten by many of our friends and family. In the fall, we start making calls when the fruit is ripe, and people bring their boxes and baskets and pick to their hearts' content for a few weeks.

In the early spring, right about now, it's pruning time. We have managed to keep the trees to a nice height so that for the most part, we can do the pruning from the ground. Once in a while we'll use a ladder or climb up the tree to get some of the branches in the tippy-tops. When our kids were younger, they each were in charge of several of the trees, and would have to keep the area underneath each tree weeded, and also pick up the fallen pears. We marked "their" trees by either tying a certain colored string around the trunks or putting a cute little metal stake at the base of each tree, marked with their names. They still come and help with pruning or yard work here and there. They are all great workers!

We don't spray the trees at all... too many chemicals and too many trees. We get some worms here and there, but for the most part, they don't do too much damage. And the fruit. Oh the fruit. If you're a pear eater, you will think this is the most amazing fruit you've ever eaten. I don't really love pears (go figure), but I do like these. They're a cross between an apple and a pear, so they look much like an apple, but are juicy like a pear. And I do mean juicy when they're really ripe. Like running down your elbows kind of juicy.

So, back to yesterday. We had about an hour, so we thought we'd run out in the front yard and get the two trees pruned out there, to get our feet wet in preparation for the backyard prunings. I remember picking up the sticks as my mom and dad pruned our trees back in the day, and then when we were teenagers, they taught us how to prune, and just where to make the cuts. We sortof took what we learned through the years and applied it to our little orchard here, and the trees seem to like whatever it is we do or don't do for them every year.

I so love this time of year!

How cute is this guy?
It turns out the strongest man
in the world also is an expert pruner.
Who knew?!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Original DIY Cake Stands

When we had the 50th birthday party, we re-used a project from our daughter's wedding. We had five different cake stands holding five different wedding cakes -- all on a pink dresser.

For the birthday party, I knew I was going to serve "Everything Bundt Cakes" for the dessert, and I wanted several different flavors, so I figured it would be so easy to re-use the wedding cake stands. To make the original cake stands, I simply found various glass vases at the thrift store. The vases with broad openings work best. I had Bob cut out some scalloped wood circles of different designs and sizes, and glued the bottom of the vase to the center of a scalloped circle. E-6000 works perfectly for this. Be sure to let it dry overnight.

After they were dry, I laid them on a drop-cloth in the garage, turned them all upside down, and spray painted with a gloss spray paint. These vases below are painted a cream color for the wedding.

After the surfaces are coated really well with the spray paint, and they have completely dried, turn them right side up and spray the top and edges of the scalloped circle. Let them dry well, and Voila! You have some darling, unique cake stands!

For our party, I wanted them all a glossy white, so I re-sprayed them. It started out to be such a quick project. I had them all re-painted and gleaming in no time at all. 


I left them in the garage on the tarp just drying their little hearts out, when Bob and I came thundering into the garage with our car. Oops. Actually, I was quite relieved to find that we had just run over a couple of cake stands When we first felt the car go over something, I had terrible thoughts that it might have been our old cat. Ugh.

So, I just had to re-make two of them. I had two old vases in my cupboards, and it didn't take very long to have those ones completely done and lined up with the others.

They are now put away on the shelves waiting for the next function, for which they might be a completely different color! That's what I love about these... they were so inexpensive and easy to make, that I don't feel bad just spraying coats of paint over and over, to match any decor for any event. I would never do that with the more expensive ones that I have.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Week-by-Week Food Storage Plan -- March Week 1: First-aid kit and supplies

This week's food storage item is the following:

March Week 1: First-aid kit, gauze, Q-tips, cotton balls, band-aids, Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc.

I like to do this one in two parts.

First, I have a first aid kit in our bathroom, and this week is the perfect opportunity to update it and replenish it. I have a list taped to the top of the lid (the whole thing is kept in a fishing tackle box, which I love!) and I'll go through and check the contents of the kit with the list, and write anything I need to purchase on my shopping list. By the way, you can get a Plano fishing tackle box on Amazon for about $15.00, and they're perfect for first-aid kits!

First-aid kit in a fishing tackle box

Second, in addition to my first-aid kit, I like to keep some extra things on hand in my emergency supply. I keep Q-tips, cotton balls, extra band-aids, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, various sizes of gauze pads, medical face masks, and rubber gloves. I keep most of these items (except the larger things) in a medium-sized container with a lid. It sits on the shelves next to the other items in my emergency supply. This year, when I checked my items for rotating, I noticed that my Neosporin was close to expiring, so I have written that on my shopping list and will get that back on the shelves. Everything else is on the shelf from a year ago, so we're good to go!

First-aid needs will vary from family to family, so as you look at my list, you may want to add or remove items. Store what your family will or may need for the year, as well as some extras that would be beneficial during a long-term emergency.

Let me reiterate that this is a weekly food storage plan that doesn't have any particular order. I like it that way so that I'm working on different things all the time, and building up different areas of my emergency supply. You can jump in on this plan at any given week, and have that be the start of your Week-by-Week Food Storage Plan. You don't need to go back to January and start at the beginning!

If you would like the full info on the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, just click on the tab at the top of the page. It also has the information as to how you can get a copy of the weekly schedule as well as the complete inventory sheets.

If you would like a copy of my first-aid kit list, just make the request as a Comment below. Be sure to leave your email address!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Vintage Market Place in Sunny California

We had a quick getaway last weekend. It all started with The Vintage Marketplace at the Oaks. I had been hearing about these "fairs" for about a year, and had secretly wished I could pop in on one. They happen every few months, and it seemed that every time one came around, there was something that conflicted. This time around, I couldn't see any reason that we couldn't slip away for a few days, sooooooo, I casually asked Bob if he thought there might be a need for him to go to California on business. He has a customer in Southern California (which is where The Vintage Marketplace is held). He replied that he always had a need to go there. So, when I wondered aloud whether a trip in the beginning of March might work, he knew that I must have something up my sleeve. I told him about the fair, and without even blinking, he said, "Let's go!". (I'm not one to love flying, so when a trip is something I actually suggest, he is all over it.) We flew to Orange County and then the next day we drove from our hotel to Rainbow, California, which was probably a little over an hour away. Oh, and just for the record... Bob did meet with his customer on Thursday afternoon, right after we got in to town. 

Friday was really warm. I mean really warm. We had left Utah where it was about 35 degrees, and there we were in Rainbow where it was 85 degrees. It was a gorgeous day!

This little seating area made from old doors was near the entry of The Vintage Marketplace. 

I didn't take very many photos. I was having too much fun looking around. As with the Country Living Fair that we went to a couple of years ago, it was torturous in some ways. There were lots of large furniture items that I would have bought in a second if we had a truck. As it was, I settled on some fun smaller things that we were able to ship home at the handy little postal center across the way from the fair. (Can't wait to get that box!)

Notice the man in the photo below. It is not Bob, but it is proof that there was at least one other man at this event.

What a great sport my sweetie-pie is! He didn't once complain or suggest that we move through the booths faster. If the booth was full of ladies with large purses, he just shimmied out and waited for me on the outskirts of the booth, and then we moved on. It was a perfect day! I could literally spend all day long doing just that, but we saw everything within a couple of hours, and drove back up to Huntington Beach (our old stomping grounds).

We had such a fun time getting away for a few days! There is nothing I would rather do than be on a trip with Bob. We both seem to take life at a pretty fast pace, so its nice to wind down together once in a while!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mountains to Climb - Video

I love the beautiful thoughts in this video. Do we not all have really hard things to go through in life? How amazing to know that even the trials can be blessings, and that through faith, we can make it through, having grown and having become better. What a great reminder to be grateful for the blessings that we do have, even amidst the tough times that naturally come to us in this life.