Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring Projects and Planting

I know I'm not the only one who thinks time seems to be racing by. How is it almost June already? I really can't fathom that.

Since the hot, summer weather (I know... it's not officially summer yet, but it sure feels like it around these parts) has hit, I thought it was high-time to get my canvas outdoor curtains hung again. I admit, I put it off for a week or two, thinking it would be a bigger project than it really was. But it took all of 15 minutes, if that. Last year, I took them down, leaving the rod and clips up in place. They sortof blend in with the wood, and aren't noticeable. 

As I was taking the curtains down, I marked them with a permanent marker as to which panel went where, and I also marked a tiny mark where each clip was attached. 

my code here is, west side of the house,
south curtain :)

marking where clips should
be attached

Then, I washed the panels and folded them and put them away for the winter.

This year, I pulled them out, and because I had sortof draped them instead of folding them, there weren't even any fold lines. I got out the ladder, and clipped those babies right back up into place, and it honestly didn't take more than 15 minutes. Sooooo easy!

I love when projects are fast, and go just as planned. We've had a few sprinkler issues this year that haven't been quite that way. We had a garage build in the backyard, and when the workers were putting the foundation and driveway in, they cut into sprinkler lines, not bothering to mark where those occurances took place. So, we have had a few issues there. Like yesterday, when I was checking to see if my grass seed was getting enough water from the sprinklers, I noticed bubbling coming up from the side of the driveway. That meant that there was a cut sprinkler line underneath the driveway. When Bob got home from his meetings that night, we went out there and he started digging under the driveway. Long story short, he stopped at about 30" under the driveway, and thought up a better plan and circumvented the cut sprinkler line. We are back in shape now, but crossing our fingers that we don't have any more surprises left over from our garage project.

There is one project that I never seem to get to. Every year, I think we need to fix the old birdhouse we made years ago. And every spring, it becomes inhabited by a new little family of finches. And when they move out, another family moves in. There is no time for sprucing up the place.

If you look closely, you can see the momma bird coming out of the bottom hole. She flies in and out all day long keeping those babies fed. Maybe this fall, after the finch families have moved on, I can get to fixing the birdhouse. It's in dire need of a new roof that keeps the rain out.

Another project I have been able to get moving along, is planting and filling in space after our paver patio project left a blank canvas (and I do mean blank). It's been fun to slowly fill up some of the areas. I still have much to do, but I don't mind ambling along a bit. It gives me time to think about what I want, and where I want it.

I LOVE a trip to the garden center. Last week, my mom and I drove down to a nursery in Springville. We had taken our pots there in March, and they fill the pots, and keep them in their nurseries to grow until we pick them up in May.

We always end up packing the car (with all the seats down, or removed) to the gills. And this year was no exception. My mom had to pack a few plants in around her feet on the way home. Fun, happy day!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May Week 4: Portable Toilet and Supplies, feminine hygiene products

This week's food storage/emergency prep items are:

May Week 4: Portable toilet and supplies, cloth or disposable diapers and/or Depends undergarments (if needed), feminine products

I love the idea of this little portable toilet. It is basically a five gallon bucket -- but the lid, (as you can see in the photo) is a little toilet seat with a lid. It all snaps right into place and would provide the perfect little emergency toilet.

You can also buy these little toilet waste bags, which are brilliant. You fit them right around the bucket and under the seat, which makes it easy to dispose of the waste. Love it! The bags have a waste bio-gel in them, which makes the whole clean-up process easier and neater.

The toilets come with emergency hygiene items (toilet paper, wipes, toothbrushes and paste, soap, etc) stored right inside of them, so there is a compete kit that is easily carried out when needed. I bought my toilet and supplies from Emergency Essentials, but they are surely available through other stores.

This is also the week to buy some extra diapers and/or adult disposable undergarments. For whatever reason, I thought it a good idea to have a package of adult disposable undergarments on our emergency shelves. It seems like a good thing to have in case of illness during an emergency situation.

And lastly, store whatever feminine hygiene items your family might need for the year.

The great thing about this week's items is that from year to year, I shouldn't really have to re-stock (unless there is an emergency and we have used some of the items).

If you are not in a position to spring for one of these little toilets, I would get a 5 gallon bucket, find some bags that will fit over the edge of it, and store the bags and some toilet paper in the bucket. Also include some sort of hand sanitizer or soap. That would definitely work for an emergency!

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. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the most up-to-date post that featured that week's items. 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, May 22, 2014

Young Women New Beginnings

Bob and I had the privilege of attending the Young Women New Beginnings program in our ward a couple of months ago. It is always such a great evening, and the Young Women leaders do an incredible job with everything they do. This was definitely no exception. The theme was based on Dr. Seuss's "Oh The Places You'll Go". One of the leaders, Lori (a truly gifted and creative kind of a gal), changed the words to Dr. Seuss's writings, and adapted it to the New Beginnings theme. She did an amazing job...

They also had a display of each of the values, with a Dr. Seuss-ical quote that went along with it. And they made these cute pom flowers in the colors of the values, to go along with them. Perfectly Dr. Seuss-ish!

It was a really great evening. How blessed these young women are to have such wonderful leaders, and to be a part of such an incredible organization. They have the opportunity through things like this New Beginnings program (and all of the other activities and lessons) to continually add layers and strength to their armor. Who wouldn't want that for their daughters? I'm so grateful for the leaders and teachers my daughters had when they were in those teenage years. They both LOVE their Young Women years, and have the fondest feelings and memories of their experiences at that time. So, if you're a Young Women leader, recognize that what you are doing will impact those girls for the rest of their lives. Literally. And thank you for all you do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May Week 3: Jello and Pudding Mixes

This week's food storage items are:

May Week 3: Jello and pudding mixes

Now, if you don't eat or cook with any jello and/or pudding mixes at all, then you have a week off! I have a few recipes that we use that use jello or pudding mixes in one way or another. So, I will decide how many times I think I'll make my salads and desserts that involve using a jello or pudding. Then, I'll check my inventory and see what I already have on my shelves, and add whatever I still need to my shopping list. Next time I'm at the grocery store, I can pick up a few boxes of jello and pudding, then update my inventory, and get the boxes on the shelves where they belong.

There you have it. Another week's food storage items are easily inventoried and added to the shelves. It truly should only take 5 minutes to decide how much and what you need. And then you just add that in to your next grocery trip. So, so easy, and so, so do-able! Remember... if you are just now starting this plan, not to worry. You don't need to make up the previous months of the year. You just start with this week, and move through the plan. A year from now, you will have gone through all of the weeks and should have a wonderful storage of food and emergency supplies. And since you'll continue your weekly checks and updates to your supplies, the plan really doesn't have an end. Just take that first step and start today!

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. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the most up-to-date post that featured that week's items. 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, May 15, 2014

Activity Days: Article of Faith Frame

One of the things that the girls in Activity Days are supposed to be working on, is the memorization of the Articles of Faith. We have the younger group of girls (8-9 year olds), so we take it somewhat slowly. We try to take some time at least once a month to work on memorization. When pretty much all of the girls have memorized one, we move on to the next.

We decided they needed to have a way to keep the Articles of Faith fresh in their minds. So, we came up with the idea to help them make a frame with a clothespin on it. The frame is simple. We bought frames at WalMart, and then covered the inside cardboard with burlap. Then, we put the frame all back together with the glass in place, fronting the burlap. They hot-glued the clothespin to the frame and then decorated their clothespin with washi tape in whatever way they wanted to. Every time we start on a new Article of Faith, we give them the corresponding card, and they can clothespin it to the frame, and put it out on their dresser where they see it all the time.

They can keep the whole set of cards in the clothespin, with whichever one they are working on, on the top of the set. They love getting the new card, and they've really been working hard on the memorization. We got the Article of Faith download from It's Always Autumn. To see their post and get the free downloads, click here.

It was an easy project for them to make, and it is a fun way to display their Article of Faith. And if their moms get really creative, they can paint the frame in a color to coordinate with their rooms!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May Week 2: Dry soups, ramen, canned soups / Boxes of crackers: saltines, grahams, etc.

This week's food items are:

May Week 2: Dry soups, ramen, canned soups / Boxes of crackers: saltines, grahams, etc.

Pretty cut and dried. If you use dry soup in any way (as soup or in other recipes), decide how much you use in a year. Does your family eat ramen noodles? If so, add a year's supply of those to your list. Canned soups include all canned soups you eat, which also means any cream of chicken, cream of potato, cream of mushroom, etc. Estimate what you will use as far as all of those items go, and add the items to your grocery list.

As far as crackers go, I don't really keep crackers on my food storage shelf, because their expiration dates just seem to come too quickly. But, I do use this week as a time to go through my crackers -- saltines, grahams, Wheat Thins, etc. I toss out the old half-eaten boxes and add to my grocery list whatever it is that I need to replenish so that we have some on the shelves. There is nothing worse than making a pot of soup and not having the right crackers to go along with it. I also make sure I have enough grahams to get us through grandbabies' needs and also several s'more nights during the summer.

Next time you go to the grocery store, buy the items you have just put on your shopping list, and then get them on your shelves. Update your inventory sheets, and sit back until next week! Yippee! Another week completed!

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. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the most up-to-date post that featured that week's items. 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, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

I think you all know how I feel about my mother. She was and is the best. Last year, I wrote a post about her (click here to read) and the many amazing things she does. Since I was just tiny, I watched her loving being a wife and mother, and I wanted that more than anything when I was a grown-up. And now that I'm an adult, I do thoroughly love being a wife and mother, and grandmother. It all feels so natural to me -- like I was made solely to do these things. And I love it all. Still, so very many years later, as I'm doing laundry and folding and sorting, I sometimes have flashbacks to when I played "house" for hours and hours with my friends and sisters. Strangely enough, I even like things like doing the laundry and the dishes, and cooking. I know, I know... that sounds like nothing but crazy talk.

Can I tell you about something that I never even considered in all of those years growing up, and even in my adult years... until just recently: my daughters are incredible mothers! I mean, I always knew they both had the same desire to be mommies all through the years. They played dolls and house and loved those "babies" as if they were their own flesh and blood. There is something about watching a little child be so gentle and nurturing to a doll... it gives a little glimpse into what they might be like as real mothers. Just look at these two darling sisters, a few years back...

And now... I LOVE watching them as mothers. They are sweet and patient and oh-so-loving to their little ones. They ooo and ahhh over them and it is plain to see that they are certain they have been blessed with the most perfect children in the world (and they have!). I never worried about what kind of mothers they would be, but I just never really pictured the reality of it. It is a lovely thing to see. Truly. (And.... I am absolutely sure of the fact that when my daughters-in-law become mommies, they will be equally as amazing!)

And so, my girls, celebrate this Mother's Day knowing you have been blessed with wonderful, sweet babies. And through this, you are blessed to experience the best of all callings in life: Motherhood. Love every minute of it. As my mom used to tell me: "They grow up so fast... you'll blink and then realize they have all grown up". Don't shy away from enjoying Mother's Day. Use the day to reflect on how blessed you are because of your husband and children. Without them, you wouldn't be what you are today. It is the perfect day to celebrate for you and your family.

Thank you both for being truly beautiful mothers. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies

Its high-time to share my favorite brownie recipe ever. Hands down. And it's pretty easy to make, too, which is always a plus.

Marshmallow Brownies

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
4 eggs
1-1/2 c. flour
1 t. salt
2 t. vanilla

1 (10 oz) pkg mini marshmallows

Soften the butter. I usually get the butter out an hour or so before I make the brownies. I chop the butter up in cubes, and let it sit in the mixing bowl until it's soft enough to use. After the butter is soft, add the sugar and cocoa, and mix until all blended in. While mixing, beat in the eggs, adding just one at a time. Add the flour, salt and vanilla.

Spread on a greased cookie sheet (10 X 15 is perfect!). Now, since this batter has a habit of growing up the edges as it cooks, I purposely spread it only til about 1" away from the edges. Then it has room to grow to the edge without making too big of a ridge there. Bake for 25 minutes at 350. Remove from oven.

While still hot, cover the entire top with a package of miniature marshmallows. Return to oven for 3 minutes, until soft and puffy. Cool.

One time, in a pinch, I had to use large marshmallows. I cut them all in half with a kitchen scissor, and laid them all side by side with the cut side down. It worked just fine, so if that's all you have, go ahead and do it that way.

This is what the marshmallow-covered brownies look like when they come out. While it's still screaming hot, I like to take the back of a spoon and push down the high spots and nudge the mallows away from the sides and get it all tidied up and ready for frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:

1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
3 T. cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Spread on top of bars.

This makes just enough frosting to cover the bars sparingly, which turns out to be the perfect amount. There is plenty of gooey, sweet goodness with all of the layers, and any more frosting might just be too much. (If there is such a thing)

Yum. Enjoy.
(Recipe adapted from Six Sisters Stuff)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Week 1: Flour, Whole Wheat, and a Wheat Grinder

This week's food storage items are:

May Week 1: Flour - white, wheat, etc. Whole Wheat: white or hard red wheat, Wheat Grinder

First of all, notice that the highlight color is now green. That will be the color all month long, and will coordinate with colors on the Food Storage Inventory list. For the month of May, we'll concentrate on all the items that are highlighted in green on that Inventory. So, to begin with, this week is flour and wheat.

Flour includes white and wheat, and any other types of flour that you use. For instance, I use both white and wheat, and I also use Gold Medal Wondra, a super-fine flour used for thickening.

As far as wheat goes, I have my buckets of wheat that I bought several years ago.

Those should be good for 30+ years as long as they were packaged correctly. If you have whole wheat stored, you should really think about having a wheat grinder. Having said that, I'm going to go one step further and say that if the only wheat grinder you have is one that needs electricity, you might want to think about getting a hand grinder. If the power goes out for a prolonged period of time, and you are left with whole wheat and an electric wheat grinder, you might starve. Just saying. If you don't really use your whole wheat, so you don't have an electric grinder, just skip that and buy a hand grinder that you keep somewhere very near your whole wheat containers.

As with some of the other food storage items, I also have wheat and flour that I've canned at the Dry Pack Cannery. To read details and information about the Dry Pack Cannery, click here.

Whole wheat can keep for 30+ years, if it is stored correctly. Flour that is packaged with oxygen absorber packets can keep for 10+ years. And flour that you buy in the grocery store has an expiration date on the bag, and I stick pretty close to that. I remember years ago that I dipped into an older bag of flour that had weevils in it. Never again. Trust you me. I don't want to go into the sordid details, but suffice it to say, I had to throw out that batch of cinnamon roll dough. Ugh.

So, there you have it. Decide what your family's needs are for flour and wheat, both long term and short term. If it isn't really feasible to try to store the really long term stuff, then just think about this year and what your family might use for the year. Add it to your shopping list, and in the next couple of days, buy the items and get them on your shelves. Done. You can rest for a 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. You can then click on any single week and it will take you to the most up-to-date post that featured that week's items. 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, May 4, 2014

How To Fix a Stove-Top Vent: Prune the Wisteria

Wisteria is a lovely thing. In the spring, when it blooms, it nearly takes my breath away. It really is one of my favorites. But, it is an interesting plant. It needs to be trained, or it will ramble wildly about the garden.

I have a three wisteria vines in my yard, and all three are very vigorous and healthy. They certainly do not have to be babied. In fact, we found out several years ago that in order to get your vine to bloom at it's best, you need to beat up the main trunk a bit. As in take the claw of a hammer and whack it til you have opened the bark in several areas. We also learned that you should not fertilize your lawn anywhere near the vine, because that will also inhibit blooming. So, in a nutshell... beat 'er up and don't feed 'er. Sounds like abuse, but it works!

Moving along... a year ago, my stove-top vent stopped working. I have one of those that rises up from the back of the stove top and sucks the air away from the cooking area and drafts the air down and out of the house (instead of up, like usual). After it stopped working, the vent would still rise up, but the fan wouldn't engage. It happened to be a bit down on my list of "to-do's", so I didn't think about it for a good long time. And then, earlier this year, somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if my wisteria vine had found it's way into the vent from the outside.

On Friday, when I was trimming back the wisteria, I came to the vent on the outside of the house, and this is what I found:

One little vine had found it's way into the vent right into the fan area. I pulled it out and cut it way back from that area, and crossed my fingers when I went into the house to turn the fan on. And voila! It worked like a charm!

In this photo of the wisteria, you can see the air vent in the upper right-hand corner... freed from the wisteria vine, and in great working order. It's funny how sometimes small victories like that make me want to celebrate. I mean, I avoided having to call in a repairman, and paying who knows how much to have him take a look and finally come to the same conclusion as I did. It would have been so painful to see him dislodge that little vine and hand me a bill for his services. So, if your down-draft vent stops working, check to make sure nothing has found it's way into the outside venting area.... you never do know.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy May Day!

I have lots of fun memories associated with May Day. We would get up early in the morning and take bouquets of hand-picked, home-grown flowers to our friends. My mom did this for years and years to her friends... always with a See's chocolate treat tucked along with it. So naturally, her six daughters did the same to their friends. I still wonder what they thought when they opened their door to see a little bouquet of flowers at their doorstep. What a sweet tradition, that sadly, I haven't done in many years. I think that if I my mom and sis's were just around the corner, it would be fun to carry that on and leave a little something on their doorsteps bright and early in the morning. Or, if I was really on the ball, I would drive the 30-40 minutes to their homes and do it anyway. Ahhh well. Happy May Day!