Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Past & Present

Happy Halloween!

I can't rightfully say what I was dressing up as for this particular year... maybe a tourist? It looks to be when I was 18ish -- probably headed off to a Halloween party or dance. Oh, to be young again! I'm not one who loves to dress up as an adult, so these photos of when I was more festive, are a treasure. My family might even be tempted to think I've digitally put my head on someone else's costume. Not so. This is the real deal, as hard as it is to believe!

Though I don't participate in the costume part of Halloween, I do love seeing all the darling costumes of the kids in our neighborhood, and greeting each of them at the door. I love handing out the candy bars, and we usually all just gather in the living room so that we can all see the kids that come by. Sometimes neighbors filter in, so that by the end of the night, we have a fun gathering of people watching the parade of children coming up the front steps. It's a great evening! Tradition is that we have homemade chili in breadbowls and roasted pumpkin seeds, and this year looks to be no different than the rest.

Have a great Halloween with your friends and family!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Activity Days: Halloween Father-Daughter Minute To Win It Activity

We had such a fun father-daughter activity for Activity Days this past week. We did a Halloween Minute to Win It activity, and the girls and their dads really seemed to have a great time together. The dads were really great sports!

We played a game where the girls had to wrap their dads in a roll of toilet paper, like a mummy. The first one to finish her roll of tissue paper won that game.

My sweetie-pie is below, on the left, being wrapped up by a little girl whose father was out of town on a business trip. She "borrowed" him as a dad for the night!

There was also a game where they had to pick up spider rings with a straw held in their mouth. Easier said than done!

And a funny race where they had to hold a quarter between their knees. Oh, the girls loved seeing their dads looking a bit awkward and silly!

We also used the beanbag toss that we made last year. That was a pretty fierce competition. I'm not sure the beanbags were made to withstand that kind of throwing.

And of course, it wouldn't be a party without yummy treats. This photo was taken before half of the food was on the table, but you get the idea...

Rice Krispie treat pumpkins. I vary the recipe a bit from the standard recipe when I make Rice Krispie treats. Melt 6 T. butter in a large pot. When the butter is melted, add 16 oz. of mini marshmallows. Stir over medium heat til the mallows are melted. Then, if I'm adding food I add it now. Lots of orange, to make it nice and pumpkin-ish. Add in 8 cups of Rice Krispies and stir til they're all coatedd. Have a dab of butter on a little plate so it's handy to dip your fingers into, because you will need lots of butter on your hands -- the mixture is really sticky. Form pumpkin shapes, then make a little divot in the top, and place a tootsie roll in it. Couldn't be easier.

Monster Cookies. Really easy and yummy. The eyeballs are candy eyes from JoAnn. I use the recipe from for Gooey Monster Cookies. The only change I would make from their recipe, is I roll them in granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar. The powdered sugar gives them a white-ish covering on parts of the cookie, and takes away from the look I want. Suit yourself, though. Both are equally delish!

And this kindof cracks me up. I went to great lengths to create these witches brooms...

Notice anything? I practically had to drill a pilot hole in each one to keep from cracking the chocolate to bits. I finally got a tray of them done and ready for eating.

And then, just now, when I was looking at the photos, I realized they should be upside down. The chocolates would look much more like brooms if they were bottom side up, AND the pretzels would have gone through the bottom of the chocolates much easier than the top thicker chocolate layer. Why didn't I notice that as I was putting them together, and why didn't my kids or husband notice? They may have, but were too nice to say anything after they saw that I had already finished the tray. Oh well. They were all engulfed fast enough that I don't think anyone was noticing they were upside down.

It was a fun, simple activity, and all of the leaders did a game and a treat, so it wasn't really a burden on any single person. We decided to do it in my home so that we wouldn't have to do any extra decorating. Saved money and time by not having to try to decorate the cultural hall at the church!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October Week 4: Stay Warm and Dry!

Today's food storage/emergency prep items are:

October Week 4: Stay Warm and Dry! - Wool blankets, emergency reflective blankets, rain ponchos, hand warmers

These should be items that you won't have to replenish every year. All of these items can be purchased at an online store such as Emergency Essentials, or you can also find most of the items at stores like WalMart.

I like the wool-blend utility blankets I got from Emergency Essentials. They were somewhere around $15 and measure a good-sized 60X80 inches. I also have some wool Indian blankets that I will keep in the stack in my emergency supply room. This is what Emergency Essentials has to say about their wool blankets:

Stay toasty warm with this fire-retardant, economical wool blend blanket. Comfortable, soft, and breathable, this blanket will keep you warm without trapping condensation or sweat against your body in cold weather. It measures 60 x 80 inches, and is 65% wool and 35% polyester. A great addition to any emergency or car kit.

The rain ponchos are $3.50, so very affordable. I think I will add a few to my supply so that I have enough for each of my family members, regardless of whether they live here at home or not. Just in case...

The PVC Poncho with Hood is a full-size cut and is made out of waterproof PVC Material. Keep one in your car and in your emergency kit, so you won’t be caught unprepared in bad weather. Lightweight and reusable. Each emergency poncho includes an attached hood. One size fits most.

The reflective blankets are very affordable, too. They're under $2.00, and can be critical in keeping body heat in. This is what Emergency Essentials has in their description about them:

This lightweight and compact blanket fits in any emergency kit or bug out bag. The Emergency Blanket’s unique reflective material maintains up to 80% of your radiant body heat to help preserve crucial warmth. The emergency blanket is large enough to cover from head to toe (84" x 52") or to wrap around the upper body front to back. Small enough to fit in a pocket. It's lightweight and waterproof. Thicker material than other reflective blankets of this size and price range. With an Emergency Blanket you’ll have a powerful pocketful of warmth.

I think I'll get a few more of those, too. Can't hurt to have plenty of them on hand.

And of course, hand warmers. If you've ever used these beauties when your fingers feel like they are so cold they'll fall off your hand, then you know they can really come in handy. Here in Utah, we get cold winters, and I can imagine how useful handwarmers might be in some wintery situations:

These hand warmers provide up to 8 hours of continuous warmth—in any place, at any time. Keep several on hand in emergency kits, camping gear, and the trunk of your car. The Hand, Pocket & Glove Warmers heat up in minutes. Ideal for winter sporting events, outdoor activities, camping, fishing, and other outdoor situations. Invaluable as an instant heat source in emergency situations. Environmentally safe and disposable. Inner contents are biodegradable. 

Decide what you and your family might need in an emergency situation. This is aside from your 72 hour kit, remember. Just imagine that your family is without heat, or without shelter for some time. What can you provide, in your emergency supply, to help your family through a catastrophe? If you have extra blankets in your home, you can stack those on the shelves, too. Make sure they're plenty warm and optimally have at least some wool in them.

Once you have decided what you think you'll need, start collecting the items. Purchase what you need either online or at a store. Get the items on your shelves and update your inventory sheets, and feel at peace that you have provided warmth and comfort for your family for an emergency situation.

If your budget doesn't allow you to purchase all of the items at once, begin with one or two of the items, and get them on your shelves. As your finances allow, add to your storage, or next year, when this week comes up again, finish up the list. Just be sure to do something this week, even if its just putting a few blankets on the shelves, or buying a couple of reflective blankets for a couple of dollars each.

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, October 25, 2013

Recipe: Apple Crisp with Homemade Caramel Sauce

We had all of our kids and their spouses (and fiancee), and our grandbaby all over for dinner on Sunday. Can I mention how perfect the world seems when I'm with that group? I can't explain it, but somehow the stars all seem impeccably aligned, and both Bob and I feel like it can't possibly get any better than that feeling right there. I'm pretty sure that's how the family is designed to make us feel.

Well, since we had just come home from our New York trip the day before, I hadn't planned anything really crazy for dinner. We had lasagna, salad, homemade rolls, and then for dessert we had apple crisp with ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. And since this week is "Apple Week" in the Week-By-Week Food Storage Plan, I figured an apple recipe was more than appropriate to share!

I have always loved apple crisp, but as with most things I make, I like it my way. I don't like nuts in my apple crisp. No walnuts, PLEASE! (I know... lots of people love walnuts, but I do not) We grew up with my mom making the yummiest apple crisp. I've taken her recipe, tweaked it just a bit (because I'm an oatmeal lover), and this is what I've come up with...

Apple Crisp

8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/4" slices (I use 4 tart apples, like a Granny Smith, and 4 Fuji's)
1/4 c. sugar stirred with 1/4 c. water to make a syrup
1 cup butter, cut in 1/4 inch slabs
1-3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. flour
1 c. oats

1. Place apples in a 9 X 13 pan. Dribble your "syrup" over all of the apples. 
2. Sprinkle all over with cinnamon.
3. In a separate bowl, place the butter, 1-3/4 c. sugar, salt, flour and oats. Mix together with a pastry cutter til it resembles small pepples. Place the mixture over the apples, covering evenly and well.
4. Bake in a 325 oven for 45-60 minutes, until golden brown. 

Sometimes I like my apple crisp plain, with no toppings, but when we have company and I want to be fancy, I'll add a scoop of ice cream and sometimes even drizzle warm caramel sauce over the whole thing. Yum. I found a great caramel sauce recipe on I like it because it uses ingredients I have in my house all of the time. Plus, its soooo good!

Caramel Sauce

3/4 c. butter
1-1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. water
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. evaporated milk
1 t. vanilla extract

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, water, and salt in a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly.
2. Bring to boil for 3 to 5 minutes, depending upon thickness desired.
3. Remove from heat and stir in evaporated milk and vanilla. Serve warm. Keep any unused sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October Week 3: Apples

This week's food storage items are:

October Week 3: Apples -- applesauce, apple butter, dried apples, apple pie filling etc.

Couldn't be easier. If you and your family eat apple sauce, estimate how much you will eat in the coming year, and either buy it or can it. Same goes with the apple slices. I like to can the dried apple slices at the Family Home Storage Cannery. They last for 30+ years, so they seem like a good thing to have around for those long-term emergencies. And since I'm still experimenting with drying my own apple-pears, I should be able to have some of those on my shelf also. If you use any other apple product, think about how much of that item you may need in a year's time, and write it down.

Make your shopping list of what you will need to complete this week's items, and in the next couple of days, get to the store. Once you have the items on your shelves, update the inventory sheet, and voila! You've got another good week under your belt.

Now, you may be saying to yourself that you and your family wouldn't eat apple sauce or apples slices, or any other apple food. If that's the case, then you will have this week to catch up on any weeks you haven't quite finished.

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, October 18, 2013

The Real Deal: A happily imperfect life

Just in case you have found yourself reading blogs and thinking everyone in blogland is perfect, I've got some imperfection to throw at you today.

We have an organizing emergency around these parts. Just about every closet and drawer in my home need an organizing make-over in a big way. I'm looking for a good, solid whole-home organizing plan, and hope to come up with something that will work for me and my home. For all of our sake. My sweet, sweet husband never utters a word about how disheveled certain areas in our home are. He may be thinking a myriad of things as he opens a closet or drawer, but he is kind enough to just shut the door or drawer and move along. It could possibly have something to do with the fact that if he brings any of it out into the open, that will be "our" next, instantaneous project. No. It's better to keep one's thoughts to oneself in that case.

The odd thing is, I LOVE to organize. If I could have a day with nothing to do, I probably would choose to tear into my closet, or my food storage room, or anything else that needs some work. When I was a youngster, and my parents would go out on a date, I'd re-organize my mom's pantry, or move the furniture around in my room, or put all of my books in alphabetical order... the list goes neurotically on and on. Before I go too much further, my mom's pantry was never in need of reorganizing. She is a very organized gal herself. I just liked to stack and re-stack and put items in order of how a 12-year-old thinks pantry items should go in. Sorry mom. Truly I am sorry. Its a wonder you and Dad ever even wanted to leave the house.

Having said that, I think I put off organizing a room until I have the time to do it "right". I need to carve out a big chunk of time to go through everything and get things put where they belong. I also need to find a time when the piles of things won't be bothersome for a couple of days. So, it does take me a while to get to some of these larger organizing projects. But, I've dubbed 2014 as my year to get organized: "Get organized and clean in 2014" (or something along those lines).

This is my food storage/emergency supply room. (Please don't let there be any emergencies quite yet)

And my poor craft room. There is a circle of life in that room. I get it all spruced up and everything put away. And then a crazy week or month comes along, and I can't spare even a minute to put things away. It takes no time at all to turn it into a state of upheaval. So, another project awaits. Oh, but I need to get to it before the Christmas hurricane hits it.

So there you have it. I could show you many more photos of organizing catastrophes, but that just might make you feel out of sorts all day long.

I'll find a good solution, but in the meantime, I'll just shut a door or two and go along my merry way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October Week 2: Wraps and Bags

This week's food storage/emergency supply item(s) are:

October Week 2: Wraps and Bags - aluminum, saran wrap, wax paper, garbage bags, freezer bags, etc.

This week, you should decide on which items you use or might use in case of a long-term emergency. Aluminum foil has many uses in an emergency, so I keep a couple of rolls of that. I also keep plastic wrap, wax paper, garbage bags (kitchen bags and also a heavy-duty garbage bag), gallon size freezer bags, and baggies. All of these items, I keep on a non-rotating basis. So, I do my best not to delve into my supplies. But, I sometimes find myself without foil or baggies, or some-such thing, and I gratefully remember I've stowed some away for emergencies. 

Each year, on this week, I go down my inventory sheet and check that my supplies of wraps and bags are what they should be. If I have taken from my supplies sometime earlier in the year, this is the time to restock my shelves. I make a note of what I need and in the next couple of days, pick up the items at the grocery store. Then, I get the items on the shelves and update my inventory sheet. Yay! Another week of items on the shelves. It is SUCH a great feeling!

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.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fall - Halloween Decorating

Alrighty then. It's high-time for some Halloween decorating. I do mine very light... very light indeed. I like to start with the fall maple leaves that my husband cut for me up near our cabin. I bring them home and stick them here or there all around the house, and it is instantly "fall" inside of our home. I don't even mind that they dry up and shrivel just a bit. I LOVE seeing all of the hues of fall on the gorgeous leaves inside of my home. And the fall branches take up a lot of space in decorating, so I don't feel like I have to have tons of other decorations.

After placing the fall leaves where I want them, I get a few Halloween decorations out and put them in and amongst the leaf arrangements.

On my dining table, I have a branch strewn across the center of it, and then a couple of clear glass vases, adding more fall colors. This year I have one with pomegranates left over from our wedding luncheon decor last month. I also have one filled with little bits of dehydrated carrots.

The dried carrots had expired in my food storage, and they were the perfect color and texture for what I wanted on my table. Plus, then I don't feel like the carrots went to waste. I may add another vase or two with some other dried things (beans, unpopped popcorn, etc) for my Thanksgiving decor.

More dried leaves strewn around. And not to worry... the candle in the glass jar is a battery-powered one, so we won't be lighting any leaves on fire...

You may notice I don't get too goulish with my Halloween decorations. I've never been into that side of the holiday. I love seeing the little kids dressed up, and I love the fun of handing out the treats (and eating a few myself), but I don't love any of the "dark" things about the holiday.

The mantel gets the same treatment as everywhere else in the house. A few sprigs of dried leaves and some fun, non-scary decor.

I love the ease of being able to quickly take down the Halloween-ish decorations, and switch them with the Thanksgiving things, still leaving up all the leaves. Its a pretty easy way to decorate, and I do love ease these days.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October Week 1: 72 hour kits. Start them or update them.

This week's emergency preparation item is:

October Week 1: 72 hour kits. Start them or update them.

72-hour kits in back packs

72 hour kits
(includes the rolling cart under the backpacks)

So...... if you have a 72 hour kit, this is relatively easy. Just get your kit(s) out and go through them. Throw out the old, expired food, batteries, etc, that may need replacing. Then, write the items on a list and get to the grocery store in the next couple of days to purchase what you need. When you have the items back in your kit, and your kit back where it belongs, then check it off the list, and relax until next week.

I like to keep my 72 hour kits on the main floor, in a closet that is readily accessible. It's the closet on the way out to the garage, so it's pretty convenient. Everyone knows where the kits are, so we should be able to grab the kits and go quickly. If I kept the 72 hour kits in the basement with the rest of my emergency supply, they would take longer to grab (which may not be possible in the case of a house fire or earthquake), or they might get ruined in the case of a flood, etc.

Now, if you don't have a 72 hour kit yet, then you've got your work cut out for you. I've got a list for my 72 hour kits that has a place to write when items expire so that you can just look at the list (without even pulling your kits out) and purchase the items that have or will soon expire. Once you have acquired them, you can just switch the items in the kit out and update the list. I'm working on getting the list and system ready to share, and I'm thinking that we'll be doing that over several months starting in 2014. So if you can wait til 2014, that might work for you. If not, there are TONS of ideas on Pinterest and other places online for 72 hour kits. Check out the different lists and plans, and choose one that works best for your family.

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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Delicious Dehydrated Apple-Pears

As I've mentioned before, we have many an apple-pear tree in our backyard. Thirty-ish. We have taken really good care of them, pruning them every year. We LOVE the old orchard trees. They give an "oldness" to our yard, since the trees are 50 years old.

Last year I bought a dehydrator to try my hand at drying the apple-pears. We actually bought it a little late in the season, so I didn't get around to trying it out last year. Soooo, this year I dusted it off, and put it to use, and I'm in the apple-pear drying business! Actually, I'm definitely not going into business, but I've got it down to such a good system, that I fill the dehydrator almost daily.

The dehydrator I am using is the Cabela's Heavy Duty Dehydrator, 10 Tray Model No. 75-0401-C. I don't have anything to compare it to, but it works great for what I'm doing, and I haven't had any issues with it yet.

As I began to look online for fruit-drying instructions, I quickly realized I needed a mandoline. Up to this point, the only mandoline I knew of was the kind without the "e" on the end, which happens to be a musical instrument. After some investigating, I realized a mandoline is a food slicer, and I came to the conclusion that the cost was well worth the investment. Whitney and Mike dropped by the store on the way to our house one evening, and picked me up a OXO Good Grips Chef's Mandoline Slicer. Can I tell you how much I love that little device? It has saved hours and hours of work, and there is no way I would be able to slice each of my apple-pears to an exact 1/4" thickness without it.

To dry your own apple-pears, first place your fruit in a sink full of cold water to wash off any dirt. We don't spray our fruit with pesticides, so I don't need to really work too hard washing them. To fill my dehydrator, it takes 20-24 medium-sized apple-pears.

Next, peel your fruit. I started to do this the old fashioned way -- with a paring knife. That was resulting in getting me nowhere fast, so I went with my daughter's suggestion, and used my vegetable peeler. Slick.

Next, use an apple-corer to pull the core out of the apple-pear.

At this point, you will fill a large bowl with 8 cups of cool water and 2 T. Cabela's Dehydrator Flavor Guard or lemon juice or pineapple juice. I haven't tried using the lemon juice or pineapple juice yet, but it appears that many other people do it that way. The purpose of the Flavor Guard or lemon or pineapple juice is to keep the fruit from browning, and to preserve the freshness of the fruit.

After all that sweet-talking about the mandoline, you would think I would have photographed it in action. But the truth is, while you're using it, you have lots of fruit juice on your hands and cameras don't react well to having sticky fruit juice all over them. But, just so you can see what it is I'm referring to... here is a photo of the box!

Slice the peeled, cored fruit with your new favorite kitchen tool -- the mandoline. Slice them to 1/4" thick. After slicing, put them in the large bowl of water mixed with Flavor Guard or juice.

After you have filled the bowl with sliced fruit, scoop the fruit out and put it in a colander to drain the excess liquid. It will be important to have the fruit as dry as possible before placing them on the dehydrator trays. I placed a clean towel on a cookie sheet and laid out the fruit rings on the towel. Then, I took another clean towel and dabbed each fruit ring til the excess liquid could no longer be seen on the fruit.

At this point they are ready to go on the trays. Unless, of course, you would like to sprinkle cinnamon on some or all of the fruit. If so, then after dabbing the fruit with the towel, place the fruit in a bowl and sprinkle cinnamon to your desire all over the fruit, making sure the slices are evenly coated.

Place the fruit rings on the dehydrator trays. Be sure to not overlap the fruit.

I am still experimenting with how long I keep them in the dehydrator. It seems to work well at about 145 degrees for about 7-8 hours. Be sure to dry them til the moisture is gone, or they will spoil when they age. I like mine chewy... not crispy. Remember that all dehydrators are different, so you may want to check yours after 5 hours or so, and then every hour after that point. Sometimes I have a tray or two that seems to be a little slower than the rest, so I remove all the other pears and leave the others to cook for another hour or so.

Keep them in an airtight container. These are so, so yummy! I have enough fruit on my trees to feed a small army, so I think I'll just keep on drying til I'm out of fruit. By the way, for those who are reading this and are also on my fruit-picking list, I haven't gotten around to calling you all yet, but... The Fruit Is ON!!! Come on over and pick before it's all on the ground!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week by Week Food Storage Plan... Week off!

This is a odd calendar month. This first week of October began with September 30 being on the Monday. So, that means that for our Week By Week Food Storage Plan, we will take this week off. Its an extra week. Remember the plan uses four weeks from each month, so anytime there is an extra week in the month, there will be a week off. I LOVE the "weeks off", because it allows me to catch up on anything I previously have gotten behind with. If I am pretty much all caught up, then I spend some time organizing my food storage area (which it basically always is in need of).

If your food storage room is already all organized and clean, then lucky you. You can spend an entire week resting on your laurels.

Speaking of organizing, I am going through my clothes closet, finally! I have gone through the shoes (whew) and put a bunch of them in a box to give away to Deseret Industries. When my daughter was going through it, she exclaimed more than once "Mom, these are practically Grandma shoes". Two issues with that statement: 1) I AM a grandma; and 2) She did end up taking a few pairs home for herself, so they must not be all that "Grandma".

Now I'm going through each type of clothing: pants, sweaters, tops, skirts, dresses, purses, scarves, jackets, etc, etc. So today, I plan on going through just the pants. I will try on anything I need to just to be sure they haven't stealthily gone to the "out of style" side. Am I the only one who hangs on to things for a long time because I loved how they fit and looked when I bought them? And then down the line, after I haven't worn the pants for a while, I try them on thinking that they're going to look as cute as the day I bought them. There have been many a time that I've looked back in the mirror at myself wondering how that pair of pants went from darling (in my memories) to out of style (in my mirror) in about 10 seconds. Its astounding, but it also helps me jettison items from my closet, which is the whole point to this closet-organizing project!

So, I'll continue on. It may be several weeks til I'm actually through my whole closet, but that's okay with me. Already, just with the shoes being able to fit on my shelves, I feel like I can suddenly breathe better when I'm in my closet. And think better.