Thursday, August 29, 2013

The weather, it is a-changing!

We had an end-of-the summer cabin getaway last weekend, from Thursday to Saturday. Some of the family weren't able to come because of work schedules and such, but we had a great time with those that were there!

We went on a few Mule rides...

We saw some incredible wildlife. This enormous bull moose was just hanging around as we rounded a corner on the road. Wilson got out of the Mule to get a closer look, which makes his mother a little nervous, but he was careful, and ended up getting some great shots of the big fella.

We also happened upon a small herd of elk, which is a rare occasion. We are lucky to see even one elk once a year, but to see several together is a great event! We stopped the Mule and watched them for a while.

After everyone left to go home, Bob and I stayed around to do a bit of cleaning. While we were eating lunch, we had a crazy hailstorm! It was as if we were being reminded that summer is over, and the white stuff is on its way!

And then, to put an exclamation point on the thought, we saw these beautiful fall leaves on the way home. Can you believe it?!  It IS still August, right?

This made me excited for when Bob and I go on our annual cabin trip to cut down some of the gorgeous fall foliage to use in decorating our house and cabin. It looks we better be making that trip sooner than later!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Week 4: Canned or Bottled Fruits

This week's food storage items are: 

August Week 4: Canned or bottled fruits - mandarin oranges, pineapple, peaches, pears, etc.

This could be a fairly easy week or not, depending on how much canned fruit your family consumes in a year. If you bottle your own fruit, then obviously you will bottle this week's items whenever the fruit is ready to bottle. Either way, you will need to decide how much canned fruit your family consumes in a year's time. If you are buying the cans (as opposed to bottling your own), write those amounts and items on your grocery list, and in the next couple of days, go to the grocery store and pick up the items. When you bring them home, update your list and get the cans on your shelves. Done. Easy as that. It literally could take you a matter of a few minutes time to get this week's food storage items completed. Unless of course you are bottling your own, and then it definitely will not take a few minutes time.

I'm working on making links back to the original posts from the list under the tab "Week-By-Week Food Storage" above. Soon you'll be able to go to that list, click on whatever week you need more information on, and it will take you to the original posting date. Give me a few days to get 'er done...

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.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Recipe: Summer Chicken Salad

Since summer is just about over, I thought I'd share one of my favorite summer salad recipes. It just happens to be named Summer Chicken Salad, and tastes suspiciously similar to one served at a favorite soup/salad/sandwich joint around these parts. This salad is sooooo yummy and refreshing!

Summer Chicken Salad
Serves 4

Salad Ingredients:
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 head of red leaf lettuce, chopped
2 c. cooked chicken, diced (I like it cooked ahead of time, and served cold)
a bunch of red grapes, rinsed
10 strawberries, sliced
craisins (dried cranberries)
1/4 c. of cashews, chopped (easiest done in a food processor)

Dressing Ingredients:
6 ripe strawberries
3/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. (or more) cup of sugar (to taste)
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. canola oil
water (to add in at the end if too strong)

In a blender, mix up the strawberries, vinegar, sugar and salt. Blend well. With the blender on, slowly add in all of the oil, blending until smooth. Taste. If it seems too strong, add a little water.

To arrange the salads, begin with the lettuce on the plates. Add chicken, grapes, strawberries, craisins, and then the cashews over the whole salad at the end. Serve the dressing separately so that people can add it on their own, as much or as little as they want.

Note: I usually go really heavy on the salad ingredients, and we make this a complete dinner, along with some yummy bread.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness (video)

I saw this short video this morning... I love that there are good people in the world looking out for others, and taking every opportunity to help. Sometimes we just "don't want to get involved", but we should! How wonderful it would be if we all moved around the earth with our eyes wide open so that we are able to find people along our way that could use our help!

I am going to try to make an effort to be more aware of those around me, and to reach out and help if I can -- even if it means turning the car around, or taking a few minutes out of my scheduled day.

Click to see video:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August Week 3: Tomato Products

This week's food storage items are:

August Week 3: Tomatoes - salsa, sauce, whole, diced, paste, pizza, spaghetti sauce

It's amazing how often I use some sort of canned or bottled tomato product. We love Mexican food and also some Italian food, so it's important for me to always have some on hand. 

For the most part, these are the items (from the list) that I keep in my food storage:

As with most of the other weekly items, I try to estimate what I might use of each of the items in a year's time. And then I pad my numbers. At the end of the year, I want to still have a few on my shelves that I can rotate through. I really try to plan it so that I never truly run all the way out.

After deciding how many of each of the tomato items I will use this year, I update the totals on my inventory sheet, then check that against how many I actually have on my shelves. The difference is what I will go shopping for.

Now, case lot sales are a good place to pick up many of these items. Whenever our grocery store has a case lot sale, I check my shelves to see what items I might need a whole case of, and then buy the case and keep it in the rotation. You can decide which you would like to do -- wait for a sale, or buy the items you need now and move on. The problem with putting too many items on the "waiting for a sale" list, is that that list can get pretty long, and your shelves can stay empty for a while.

After I pick up my items for my food storage, I'll update my inventory list with the new totals, and I will be done for the week.

Remember, this is a rotating food storage plan, which means you will actually be using many of your food storage items so that there is very little wasted, expired food. I used to keep cases of cans on the shelves, never rotating through and using them, and every time I would clean out my shelves, I would end up throwing a lot of old food away. This plan should resolve that problem.

I've had a few people email me with questions this week, and I thought I'd share the questions and answers here so that maybe some of your questions will be answered also.

Q: I would be curious to know how much you budget for each week, how much are you spending to create this supply?

A: Since each week will be varied as to how much you will spend, I would recommend implementing a budget in which you set aside a certain amount from each paycheck for all food storage and emergency supplies. Then, when you go to purchase items, you can take from the money you have budgeted for it. As you get established, you’ll notice that some weeks you literally won’t have to spend anything, while other weeks will still require purchasing items. The money you set aside will also depend on how many you have in your family. Look at the monthly lists and estimate what a month might require as far as budgeting, and begin setting that aside. You may have to adjust that as time goes on.

Q: I have a couple of follow-up questions, if you don't mind. I recognize that this plan is to build a food storage and emergency supply. I have never really had the time or extra money to do such a thing and have always shopped week to week for the things we need right then. That being said, my first question is for each week's list do you intend to purchase enough of that item(s) to last until the following year's shopping? My second question is, how often do you shop for fresh items? Thanks again!

A: To answer your first question, when I first started out, I was not able to purchase an entire year's supply of every item. Sometimes (depending on the item) I would purchase only 3 or 6 months worth. After a while, I was able to get my storage to a year's worth of the items, so now I do try to purchase an entire year's worth of what I might use of each item; and, for your second question, I'll answer it two ways, since I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "fresh items". If you mean fresh produce, I usually pick those items up twice a week, or whenever I need them. I don't include any fresh produce in my food supply. If you mean items to refresh my food storage shelves, I am generally successful in only having to shop for them once a year, whenever they come up on my list.

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.

Oh, and we were featured on today for one of our previous blogposts... the "dresser drawer turned into shelf" post!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Eradicate the Infiltrators!

Much of what I have learned about gardening is from my mom. The rest of what I've learned is from the "live and learn" category. This year I've been trying to simplify my flower beds. I am trying to achieve a balance of loveliness and ease. It's not the easiest balance, I'm finding.

One of the goals I have is to eradicate the plants that have to constantly be "kept at bay". My list of plants that I have had at one time or another, but vow to never have again, is as follows:

Daylilies. Never. Plant. Daylilies. Again. Never. We've spent two years digging them out, and they are still popping up willy-nilly wherever they please. I think we'll be digging them up for another two years, at least. My son dug up thousands of those little tubers this year, and I'm sure he'll never have Daylilies in his gardens when he gets his own home. True, there are different types of Daylilies and some don't spread as much as others do, but I'm telling you, after all the trouble I've had with them, I don't want to take the chance.

Bishop's Weed. There is a reason it has "Weed" in the name. Bishop's Weed will spread fast and furiously. I actually love the look of it in the spring. It has variegated leaves and always looks so healthy in the beginning of the year. We dug all of ours up years ago, and I still see bits of it coming up in the middle of other plants here and there. I can't just let it go, or I'll be back at square one.

Obedient Plant. Really? Who was the jokester that came up with that name? This, too, is a really nice and healthy plant. When you first plant it, it comes in a gallon container, and you think to yourself, "This is a really nice little addition to my flower beds".

Obedient Plant

And then the next year, it gets a little larger. Its the year after that, and beyond, that gets out of hand. It seems like I blinked and this is what I have on my hands... Lovely, but it is vigorous enough that it really will take over and push everything else out.

It even jumped the stream and planted itself on the other side. Truly. It comes up in the strangest places.

Last year I had Bob fashion me some Obedient Plant edging out of metal. It worked great, but it couldn't stop them from crossing the stream and infiltrating other areas. Yikes. The other problem with it, is when it's done blooming, the stalks become brown and scraggly, and you have to cut them all down to the ground. If it was just a small, gallon-sized plant, this wouldn't pose a problem. As it is, it covers a lot of ground in my gardens, so it is quite a bit of work to cut them all back and clean them up. I believe this is my last year of Obedient Plant.

Ivy. Never plant Ivy. It doesn't ever want to die, and comes back over and over and over again.

Trumpet Vine. Never plant Trumpet Vine. It doesn't ever want to die, and comes back over and over and over again. We planted trumpet vine along our dog run (which spans all along the back of our property) many years ago. I thought it would look so nice to have a vine climbing all along that fence. Within a year's time, I realized that the trumpet vine wanted to take over the world, let alone our backyard. So, we dug it all out and figured we would never see it again. I planted lovely clematis all along the fence in its place, and we love the clematis. Problem is, the trumpet vine still comes back all over the place back there, and even mixes in with the clematis. Ugh. What a mistake that was!

Ornamental Strawberries. Wow! These are very vigorous and healthy little beasts. Even as I am writing this, I know they are stretching their little runners across the earth and expanding their clumps. We (when I say we, I mean Robbie) dug those out this year, and there is still a small area that needs digging.

Mexican Primrose. Be careful where you plant them, that's for sure! I have them all along my back dog run fence.

I still love them there, but they only work there because I have given them the entire flower bed to grow in. They spread like crazy, but where I have them, it works. I've had them in other areas of my yard, and had to get rid of them because they infiltrated e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

I'm sure I will add more to this list as time goes on, but I have made a solemn vow to myself to never purchase a plant on this list ever again. It is crucial to my sanity.

At another time, in the near future, I will write a post about my favorite, go-to, tried and true plants!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August Week 2: Baking and Cooking

This week's food storage items are:

August Week 2: Baking and Cooking - baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, vanilla, bouillon, chicken broth, beef broth

I know this looks like a conglomeration of items, but these are just a few miscellaneous things you may need in your kitchen for baking and cooking. (More baking items will come up in a future week)

For the all of the items, decide what you will go through in a year's time, and write the amounts and the items on a shopping list. I try to store a bit more than a year's worth of supply, so that in a year's time, I'm not completely out. Remember that everything on this list has an expiration date, so check the dates of the items you may already have on your shelves, and also the dates of the items you are buying. It does no good to have something sit on your shelf for a year, only to be thrown out later on. This system is made to rotate through, so you should have very little or no waste. It feels much better to have food storage that you actually use and rotate through. Every year, your needs may change a little, and in that case, you can change your list to accommodate your family's needs.

So, for this week, decide your needs, buy the items, get them on your shelves, and update your inventory sheet. Nice. Done for the week. It feels so good to know you're providing security for your family.

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.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hornets' Nest

I have a long, long list of things I need to do around the house to get ready for our upcoming wedding luncheon. Have I mentioned that my son is getting married? Well, he is. To a wonderful girl! We love her and are so excited to have her be an official part of our family. Since we're having the wedding luncheon in our yard, we need to get it spruced up. We have about a month to get 'er done, so I'm on the countdown. As it is, it doesn't look terrible, but there are a few details to get nailed down, for sure. Aside from the yard, there are a few other things on the list of "To Do's". Hopefully I can stay on top of it all.

Way in the back of our yard, we have an old dog run that spans the whole back fence. Since we don't have dogs anymore, the weeds are hard to keep at bay. We decided to rototil it, which looked great when it was done, but after about two weeks, the bull-head weeds had come back a hundred fold. Come to find out, tilling is the worst thing you can do for that type of weed. Somehow it gives it energy to come back even more vigorously. After looking into it, we came to the conclusion that spraying them might be our only chance.

So, last week, we decided to spray. As we were working, we almost literally bumped into a hornets nest as big as my head. We have these every couple of years or so. They love the apple-pear trees, so they make their home there among the maturing fruit.

And the hornets very large and very busy. They were flying in and out and buzzing all around.

They are a different breed of hornets than we've seen in the past. They're a white-tailed (or bald-faced) hornet, and (we later found out) they are said to be pretty aggressive and mean.

We were in a rush to get our weed-spraying done, so we skirted around the hornets' nest, and went on our merry way.

A few days later, we had a family work day. The kids came and helped weed and clean up in the scorching hot sun. What in the heck would I do without my amazing family!?

Bob was using the torch to kill the bullhead seeds (oh, why do we have to have bullhead weeds and morning glory?). And he, along with our daughter and son-in-law, thought this would be the perfect way to get rid of the hornets' nest. When we were all standing around, oooing and ahhing over the hornets and their incredible creation, we didn't have the following information in our toolbelt...


 Dolichovespula maculata
Color:Black with a white pattern on most of the face
Shape:Long, wasp-like
Size:1/2 – 5/8” (12-15mm); queen ¾” (18-20mm)
Region:Found throughout U.S.
Download the Bald-faced Hornet Pest I.D. Card
This atypically large black-and-white relative of the yellow jacket gets its common name from its largely black color but mostly white face. It is named a hornet because of its large size and aerial nest. 


Bald-faced hornets are social insects, although not true hornets. They live in colonies that may contain between 100-400 members at their peak. They usually appear in late summer. 


Bald-faced hornets build paper nests at least three or more feet off of the ground, usually in trees, shrubs, on overhangs, utility poles, houses, sheds or other structures. They are found throughout the United States, Canada and north into Alaska. 


Bald-faced hornets are aggressive and will attack anyone or anything that invades their space. This makes bald-faced hornet removal somewhat difficult. They have smooth stingers, so they can sting over and over again. Their stings also carry venom that makes the stings hurt, itch, or swell for about 24 hours. Humans are at the same risk of allergic reactions from a Bald-faced hornet stings as with other insect stings

So, torch it, he did. Hundreds of hornets came out, and they weren't exactly happy about the situation. But, I am happy to report that none of us got stung. I didn't stick around to see what would happen. I ran to a good, safe viewing distance.

See that apple-pear in the above photo? They seem to always have a live fruit or two built right into their nest.

And that is the end of the hornets. For now. Something tells me they'll be back, and this time, since I'm armed with more information, I will be sure to steer clear of wherever they make their home.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A New Cookie Recipe and A Few Things Crossed Off the List

Whew. Busy, busy. I feel like this has been the busiest summer ever! I've woken up each morning with a long list of to-do's, and by the evening, if I've accomplished half of them, I'm feeling pretty good about myself. Don't get me wrong. It has been a wonderful summer, and we've done lots of things, but it hasn't really been one of those long, lazy summers we used to have when we were kids.

The past few days, I've found a new recipe for cookies that is a definite "keeper", dry-packed a bunch of food storage items with my daughter, made a bunch of Activity Days pool party invitations, shopped for some wedding shower gifts, tended my sweet grand baby (6 months old now!) and tried to get my house ready for some guests this weekend.

First things first. The cookie recipe...

Frosted Banana Cookies (adapted from Sixsistersstuff)
Makes 56 cookies

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1 c. smashed ripe bananas (I used 3 bananas)
1/2 c. milk + 1 t. lemon juice (mix together before adding, or use 1/2 c. buttermilk)
1-1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3-1/4 c. flour
semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream sugar, butter, shortening and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add bananas and then mix in the eggs.
Blend in the milk/lemon mixture (or buttermilk). Add the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over-beat. Stir in as much of a bag of chocolate chips as suits your fancy. (The original recipe didn't include chocolate chips, but I think it adds just the right flavor to the cookie when you bit into it. Plus, chocolate makes everything just a little bit better, doesn't it?)
It will be a sticky batter. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes, until slightly golden. Cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(one recipe frosts all of the banana cookies)

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla extract
3 to 4 c. powdered sugar (more or less until it's the consistency you like)

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over cookies. Store covered in the fridge. Yummo.


We have an Activity Days pool party coming up next week, and we thought it would be fun to do a cute, girly invitation. When I saw the pink strawberry soda cans in the grocery store, I thought they'd be just the perfect thing. I made a quick invitation that says "Pop on over", along with all the basics. So easy to throw together with some purple and pink baker's twine to finish them off. 

And this is the season for weddings and showers, isn't it? We've got them lined up for the next month or so, and sometimes it's hard to think of something different to give for a shower gift. This particular one that I'm going to tonight is a "Grocery" shower, which is a really great idea. I decided to give this little conglomeration below..

You can see it all there... a case of cream of chicken soup, a casserole dish, a spatula, dishtowels and dish cloths, and a recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole, which includes cream of chicken soup as one of the ingredients.

And lastly, the food storage dry-pack canning. Linds and I went over to the dry-pack and canned the following:

3 cans  of dry pinto beans
2 cans of dry white beans
5 cans of dehydrated apple slices
1 can of dehydrated carrots
1 can of dry onions
4 cans of spaghetti
3 cans of dehydrated refried beans
3 cans of cocoa mix
6 cans of white flour
1 can of red wheat

To be precise, we didn't end up having to can each and every item. They had a few of them on the shelves, so we ended up having to can much less than we expected. It only took us about an hour or so. We actually had a great time and decided we need to have it be a family activity in the near future!

Now, I better get going. Those cans aren't going to get themselves on the food storage shelves. (oh, but wouldn't that be such a nice surprise?)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August Week 1: Canned Meats

This week's food storage items are:

Canned meat: tuna, chicken, clams, shrimp, turkey, etc.

This is another straight-forward week. If your family eats any canned meat at all, then decide how much you might consume in the coming year, and get it on the shelves. We have a few recipes that include canned meat here and there, so I like to try to take all of those into consideration when I'm making up my list.

Also, in a long-term emergency, canned meat may be the only meat your family can get their hands on, so you really want to be sure you have at least something from the canned meat category. Oftentimes we don't go through all of the tuna I store, but I have no problem donating the cans somewhere along the line to a food bank (as long as they haven't passed their expiration dates).

So, come up with a list of what your family will eat in a year's time, and add a few extras, and then in the next couple of days when you are at the grocery store, pick the items up. Then stack the items on your shelves and get your lists updated. And finally, sit back and feel good about what you have done for your family this week. Yay!

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, August 4, 2013

Family Reunion

My husband and I were in charge of a family reunion on Saturday at our cabin. It was so nice to get together -- even for just a few hours -- and catch up on everyone's lives. 

The boys played football. And yes, that's my son... the tall one in the center.

I love how intent they all are on watching that ball.

In this family reunion (for my husband's paternal grandparents, who are no longer living), there are only two siblings who lived long enough to have their own families. We had the families of each of the two siblings wear a "family color", hence the green and blue shirts. We played a game where we had all of the first cousins have to put together a descendant chart for all of the descendants from the union of those grandparents. There are almost 100 descendants from the two, so its amazing how the numbers fan out and grow!

Of course Kerplunk was played!

And how cute is that man at the grill? Seriously. And the kids behind him? Couldn't be any better!

The crowds sitting down to a great burger!

We can't have an open fire pit in our cabin area (cuts down on forest fires, so we're actually grateful for the rules!). To compensate, we have a gas version that works perfectly for marshmallows and even popcorn poppers! It does the job!

All in all, it was a success, I think! We had the opportunity to renew family acquaintances, and also to learn a bit about those who have gone before us.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dresser Drawers Repurposed into Shelves

Have you ever had an old dresser that just didn't function well as a dresser any more? We had one where the drawers wouldn't slide well, and it looked a bit disheveled even with the drawers in a closed position. At the same time, I needed some shelves in two of the bedrooms in our cabin. I didn't want them to be just ordinary shelves -- something different. So, one day as I was gazing at that old dresser (that was being used as a TV stand in our exercise room), I had a crazy idea. What if I took those drawers out, painted them, and used them as shelves at the cabin? 

It was the perfect fix, and so easy!  I just painted them with one coat of Kilz (love, love, love), and then painted them in the final colors that I wanted. I distressed them a bit with my sander to finish them off and help them look "cabin-y". They are plenty deep, and not too large, and you can put things both inside and on top. Plus I love the little dresser knobs at the bottom. Its like they were built just for this purpose!

And I even have some ideas for the old skeleton of a dresser that is left. Its still proudly acting as a TV stand in our exercise room, but wait until I get my hands on it... and when I say "my hands", I really mean "Bob's and my hands".