Gardening: Growing Lettuce

Lettuce has quickly become my favorite thing to grow in the garden. It’s easy, it’s practical, it’s beautiful, it’s delicious, and there’s something totally satisfying about going to the garden and just picking your own salad for dinner (especially when you remember the price tag at the store for that same amount of produce!). I’d say that, by far, we’ve gotten the most bang for our buck with our lettuce crops. We put it to use much more than any other crop we’ve planted so far, which saves us a lot on our produce bill at the store! (Gotta love that!) So I guess it’s easy to see why this is one of my favorite things to see popping up in the garden each year (and no… that is not my garden pictured below–I WISH!). πŸ˜€

Lettuce is mainly a cool weather crop–which I find interesting since I usually crave it most during the hot summer months when I want something light and refreshing to eat. But regardless, you want to plant it when your temperatures will be mild (generally between 45 to 75 degrees F, and most lettuce can even survive a light freeze). During the hot weather, lettuce tends to turn bitter and bolt (which means it sends up a flower stalk at the top, and basically it’s done growing). This happened to us this past summer, and the lettuce isn’t really salvageable at that point (unless you like eating bitter lettuce), so your best option is to just pull it up and replant when temperatures are cooler, or to plant in a location that receives more shade (particularly afternoon shade). You can also find lettuce varieties that are more resilient to heat and don’t bolt as quickly. {I’m thinking I’m definitely going to have to look into that this year!}

Planting: When planting lettuce, it’s fun to choose a variety. {Right now we’ve got about three different kinds growing, and the mix makes for a beautiful salad. I especially like the small amount of red romaine we’ve got included.} Prepare your soil by loosening the top 10 inches or so, and mix in some compost to the top layer.
You can plant lettuce by either broadcasting the seeds (which means you basically just sprinkle them all over your prepared garden soil area), or you can plant them in rows to a depth of about 1/4″ and spaced about 1″ apart. I like to plant in rows, but the seeds are so tiny that I don’t worry about how far apart they are spaced within that row. I just sprinkle them down the row and then, when they start growing, you can thin the plants out, if needed.

Tending: Lettuce does best when the soil is kept cool and moist. Water in the early mornings so that the leaves have time to dry during the day and you can avoid mildew and fungal problems that can come if the leaves are continually wet overnight.

Harvesting: One way to “thin” out your lettuce is to just start eating it! As the plants start growing and getting crowded together, just pick the outer leaves (new ones grow from the middle of the plant) and throw them into a salad and leave the rest to continue growing. There’s no need to let the whole plant grow to a certain point and then pull it out or cut it all together. Just harvesting the outer leaves allows for a continued growing process and you will enjoy your lettuce for a long, long time (or at least until the end of the growing season). Also note, that it’s often best to harvest in the mornings. This is especially true if your days get pretty warm as they move to the afternoons. The hotter temperatures will make the lettuce wilt in the afternoon hours and then it’s hard to get your lettuce to be crisp (even if you stick it in the fridge). However, if your temperatures are mild all day long, you can really harvest at any time during the day.

We’ve got a good amount of lettuce growing right now in our winter garden and it is doing pretty well (yes, that is lettuce from my garden pictured above). Granted… Houston’s “winter” isn’t exactly the same as the majority of the country. We don’t usually get to freezing temperatures until sometime in January/February, and even then, the periods of freeze are so short (generally only a few overnight hours) that crops can often make it through unharmed. {You hate me now, but trust me… you’ll be the one with the last laugh when I’m suffering through the miserable, humid, Houston summer heat with withered vegetables! :)}
We lost a fair amount of the crop over the Christmas holidays when we were on a 3-week vacation right during the time the lettuce was sprouting up and needing to be thinned… so we came home to a fairly tangled mess of mixed up and strangled lettuce leaves (not to mention the weeds!), but I was just impressed any survived at all! πŸ™‚ We were able to revive quite a bit of it by getting rid of the bad parts and giving the rest room to thrive and grow.
So anyway, we’ve been enjoying having a healthy salad dinner at least one or two times a week without having to buy any lettuce at the grocery store! It. is. SO. cool! I absolutely love it. If you’ve never planted lettuce, you have seriously GOT to try this. πŸ˜€ You will not regret that you did!
(And P.S. If you don’t have any garden space at your home, lettuce would do awesome in a small or decorative pot as well!)
Happy Gardening!

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Food Storage Christmas Gifts for Friends and Neighbors

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas season is here!! I just LOVE this season. The cool air, the loving hearts, friends and family… I simply love the feelings of peace and happiness that abound.

However, this season also brings with it its share of stress as we run from here to there, thinking up the perfect gifts, holiday parties to attend, and a million other things to do. All while trying to keep that ‘special feeling’ from slipping away in the hustle and bustle.

Well, to help with that, here’s some quick and easy food storage gift ideas that would be fun to give to your friends and neighbors (common… who doesn’t want a little more food in their pantry??) πŸ™‚ You can use #10 cans of food, or use regular sized products from the store. Whatever floats your boat. And each card comes with a recipe to use the related food you’re giving away, so at least they’ll have something they know they can make with the item. πŸ™‚ Enjoy!

POPCORN

Use a #10 can, or those cute Orville Redenbacher containers would be awesome with a bow, and attach the following card:

POWDERED MILK

Use a #10 can of powdered milk, or a container of powdered milk from the store. Attach a pretty bow and the following card:

WHEAT

And here’s one for wheat! If you happen to live where you can buy wheat at a local store, that would be an option, otherwise use a #10 can, or put some wheat berries in a mason jar to give away. Attach a cute ribbon and the following card:

I hope you enjoy your holiday season! May your days be merry and bright!
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Food Storage: Make and Can Homemade Applesauce

Ooohhhh… the smell of baked apples and homemade applesauce has been filling my home for the past couple of days and it smells like Fall Heaven on Earth. πŸ™‚ My initial applesauce drama tempered the enjoyment a tad at the beginning (you can read all about that fun HERE), but on Saturday I finished my fourth day of working with apples in the kitchen, and let me tell you… the pain of the first two days was worth it for the enjoyment of the last two days! Days 1 and 2 were definitely my learning days. Having never really attempted homemade applesauce (especially in this quantity), it was a bit overwhelming. I stuck to strictly using apples in my applesauce, no futzing with anything fancy, and just tried to survive! πŸ™‚ Day 3, I took a break from applesauce and treated myself and my family to a heavenly apple crisp, which perked up the apple enjoyment level (yes, I’ll share that recipe soon!), and Day 4 I did one last round of applesauce making. But with all benefits of learning from the first two days behind me, I enjoyed smooth sailing and some wonderful success! So buckle up and I’ll take you on my applesauce making ride (with all the tips and tricks I learned along the way!) πŸ™‚ Β  {P.S. I will add more pictures to this post as I find the time, but I wanted to at least get the process and what I’ve got done so far up and posted before Fall is actually over.} πŸ˜€

How To Make/Can Homemade Applesauce

Okay, well if you read my drama story, you know that I tried making applesauce two different ways*. I will only show you the second method I used, because the first is still too traumatic for me to re-live. πŸ˜€

Get Your Apples: What Kind and How Much

So alright. First things first. Clearly, you’re going to need a bunch of apples. Experts suggest using a variety of apple types. This will apparently produce a better applesauce flavor in the end. Well, I didn’t have a variety. I had two big boxes of Golden Delicious, but they worked wonderfully for me. (Although in the future I think it would be fun to try different apple blends as well.)

Obviously, you can use as many or as few apples as you would like and that will just determine the total amount of finished product you get. My two boxes produced 17 quarts and 12 pints of applesauce, two apple crisps, and two apple pies. (I wish I knew how much those boxes weighed so I could give you a better accounting. I’ll see if I can find that out.) From what I can gather from online resources, though, a bushel of apples (which is estimated roughly to 42-45 lbs) will produce in the ballpark of 15 quarts of applesauce. On a smaller scale, 3 lbs of apples should make about 1 quart of applesauce. So I’m guessing each of my boxes was about a bushel. Okay. Moving on…

Check and Prepare Your Equipment

Make sure you’ve got clean, warm jars (I like to run them through the dishwasher, or if they’re already sparkling clean, just have them soaking in hot water in the sink to keep them warm) and check them for any nicks or cracks. Check your canner to make sure it’s in good working order; new lids; good rings that are rust free; pots to cook the apples in; a large bowl for working in, something to mash with, and that should about do it!

Prep The Apples For Cooking

Once you have your apples, you need to prep them for cooking. For me this meant using my cool new apple peeler/corer/slicer. But even without a cool gadget, you’re going to need your apples peeled, cored, and then sliced into small sections.

{Helpful Tip: What I actually found that I really liked was that on the end of Day 2 (when I still had almost a whole box of apples staring at me), I sat there and just peeled/cored/sliced all the remaining apples, stuck them into gallon size ziploc baggies, and then stuck them in the fridge. This meant they were ready for use whenever I was ready to tackle the rest of my applesauce project. I did most of the remaining applesauce two days later, but five days later I still have some sitting in baggies in my fridge to make an apple crisp with and they are still doing great. So this gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of being able to work around your own schedule. It also creates a whole lot less stress in the kitchen when you’re actually making the applesauce: less mess, less things to worry about… it made my last day of applesauce making really nice!! So I plan to prep my apples a day or two in advance every year from now on!} But I digress.

Cook Your Apples

This is super easy and makes your house smell appley wonderful!! I used a steamer for this step and it was perfect, but you can also just use a big stock pot as well.

For the steamer, I added filtered water to the bottom part and then filled the steamer basket full of my prepped apples. For a stockpot, you basically do the same thing: add your apples till it’s full and then put some water in the bottom to keep the apples from burning. {Tip: It took about 1Β½ of my gallon sized bags to fill the steamer (which is about an 8-qt pot), and doing this twice made enough applesauce to fill 6-7 quarts… which is just the right amount to process one batch in the canner. So 3 gallon size baggies will do one batch for me.} You’ll want to cook your apples until they’re soft and start to break down (this will be roughly 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat). And don’t forget to give your apples a stir occasionally to keep them circulated through the pot and cooking evenly.

{Another helpful hint: Get your water heating up in your canner at this point so it will be ready for you when you’re done filling jars. Also get your lids boiling in a small pot of water.}

Mash, Mush, Blend

Now it’s time to turn those apples into applesauce! {Helpful Hint: So here’s the trick with this part… You need to keep your applesauce warm right up to the time you’re going to process it in your canner (otherwise you end up with spillage in your jars… yes, I learned this the hard way). This can be difficult if you aren’t able to cook enough apples all at the same time to fill your jars and process right away. So what I found to work well is that I’ve got a large bowl with a lid, and when my first batch of apples was done cooking, I tossed them in the bowl, covered them, and then cooked my second batch of apples. The apples in the bowl stayed warm enough till the second batch was done, and then adding the second batch on top of them heated the first ones right back up. Was that confusing?! You could also keep the first batch of apples in another pot over low heat on the stove, but I don’t have that many big pots and I don’t have that much room on my stove!) Well, however you do it, with all your warm apples in a large bowl, choose your favorite way* to mush those apples down. It can be as simple as using a potato masher (this will give you a chunkier sauce), or you can use something like a food processor or blender to get a smoother texture. I used an immersion blender, which I loved for a few reasons: 1) It meant I could leave all the apples in my big bowl and not dirty up any more items, and 2) I had good control over the texture this way– some batches I made ultra smooth, and some I left a little more chunky. (BTW… if you just wanted to make applesauce to eat right away this is where you’d stop. Just stick the applesauce in an airtight container and keep it stored in the fridge. It will probably be good for a week or two. Otherwise, continue on…)

Fill The Jars

Simple, easy peasy. Using a wide-mouth funnel for less mess, fill your warm canning jars near to the top, leaving at least a 1/2-inch headspace. Give the jars a little jiggle to help the contents settle, wipe the rims, and then place a hot lid on top. Secure a ring on it (just till tight… don’t crank it on or anything!) and it’s ready to go!

Process The Applesauce

There are two ways to process applesauce: a hot water bath, or pressure can it.
For the hot water bath, simply place your jars in your canner (preferably with already warm/almost boiling water in it), and then make sure the water level rises enough to cover your jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil (checking every now and then to make sure the water level has remained at an inch above the jars), and once the water is boiling, you can start your timing. Quarts will process for 20 minutes; Pints will process for 15 minutes.
For pressure canning your applesauce (which is the method I ended up preferring), follow the directions on your pressure canner… but it will likely go something like this (or at least these are the directions for my Presto pressure canner): fill your canner to the 3-qt line with water (and add 2 Tbsp of vinegar to prevent hard water on your jars) and bring that water up to a boil. Add your jars. Seal the lid on the pressure canner and continue to boil until the steam starts to vent out the top. Time 10 minutes and allow the steam to vent the entire time. At the end of 10 minutes, apply the pressure regulator (use 5 lbs of pressure for applesauce). Wait until the pressure regulator starts rocking and then start your processing time. Quarts will process for 10 minutes; Pints will process for 8 minutes. At the end of the processing time, turn the heat off and let the pressure come down of its own accord. (Do NOT attempt to speed the pressure release by removing the regulator or by trying to open the lid!)

Whichever way you process the applesauce, once they are done take the jars out and place them on a towel to continue cooling. Check the lids to make sure all have sealed (they should not ‘pop’ when you press on the top but should be sucked down). It may take several hours for this to happen. (Note: If after 24 hours, there are any jars that have not sealed, stick them in the fridge and use them within a few days. Or you could re-process them with a new lid. Your choice.) After 24 hours, remove the rings and wipe down the jars. Label, store, and you’re done!! Woohoo!!! Now you can just enjoy your delicious homemade applesauce.

Getting Fancy

Depending on the kind of apples you used, or the kind of applesauce you like, you may want to add some stuff to your applesauce. For my first two days of applesauce making I used straight apples, and although I enjoyed the taste I wasn’t “wowed” by it. On my last day, I knew I wanted to make some jars to give away, so I thought I’d start getting a little fancy. The first thing I did was to add a little bit of lemon juice to my prepped apples in the ziploc baggies. (I used maybe 2-3 Tbsp in each baggie and tried to spread it throughout the apples.) This really helped zest up the flavor a bit. Then, when it was time to mash into applesauce, I added some cinnamon and sugar. For my whole batch (which was 3 of the gallon bags cooked down) I added a tad over 1 cup of sugar and about 3/4 Tbsp of cinnamon. This was absolutely delicious but almost made it more like a dessert! (Next time I’ll maybe try a 1/2 cup of sugar (and maybe the same amount of cinnamon) so it’s not quite as sweet.) But I really liked the additions and will definitely be using them again!

Wanna know a ton of fun facts about apples? Check ’em out HERE. πŸ™‚

*I also know of/have learned of several different gadgets available for use in making applesauce (or other such things). If you happen to own a KitchenAid mixer, they have an attachment called the ‘Fruit/Vegetable Strainer and Food Grinder’ that does the same thing my friends gadget does (it strains out the applesauce part and discards the skin, stems, and seeds for you) but without having to manually crank anything! It’s all done by machine. I could see that being a super quick and convenient method, although the attachment is quite pricey (in the $100 range). Ya… that goes on my ‘someday when I’m rich and famous’ list. πŸ™‚ You can also use a food mill, a food processor (you’d need to peel, core, slice first), or even a blender (again, peel/core/slice first) to get the job done.There are tons of possibilities. πŸ™‚

Making Applesauce: The Saucy Drama

So, I’m working on making applesauce for the first time and thought I’d share my fun story with you… if for no other reason than to just keep me motivated and laughing at my food storage adventures! πŸ™‚ Hopefully you’ll get a good laugh too. πŸ™‚ Here’s the background story:

A good friend of mine sends me an email letting me know that a big truck is headed our way with tons of boxes of apples from Utah (a big treat for us Texan gals) and do I want to get in on the action? She entices me with stories of her homemade applesauce, baked apple pies, and so of COURSE I say YES! (Who says no to homemade apple pie?!) Then I realize I have a few obstacles in the way between me and applesauce greatness.

Hurdle #1: Budget. We’re on a tight one. Let’s just say we’re in the “We’re thankful we already have our food storage supply because we’re frequently relying on it to save our grocery bills” phase of life and not the “stocking/re-stocking” phase of life. But we manage to overcome this hurdle and move on to…

Hurdle #2: I have never made homemade applesauce before, I have never had an entire box of apples staring at me in the kitchen before, and the thought of watching them sit on my counter and rot because I’m too scared to do this on my own has me terrified. (Can you tell I’m not much of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ and ‘just wing it’ type of gal??) But after watching some online how-to videos and reassurances from friends that they will hold my hand, I overcome this fear, get TWO boxes of apples (I’m feeling brave), and then discover…

Hurdle #3: The applesauce DRAMA! So okay. My good friend has a super cool little applesauce making gadget she let me borrow (see above) that is supposed to save you the trouble of having to peel, core, and slice all your apples. Instead, you just cut your apples into ΒΌths, cook them until soft, and then process them through this gadget, which pushes the pulp of the apples through the holes in the strainer type funnel and moves the seeds, stems, and skin through to the end to be dumped out. Super cool gadget… if I could get it to work right. Oh my heavens. You would not believe the amount of issues I had. The gizzmo has a clamp on the bottom of it that will only screw in so far, so you have to make sure your work surface is thick enough to get a tight fit. Well, my table wasn’t thick enough, my counter didn’t have a wide enough lip, which left me the breakfast bar counter… which was barely thick enough, but it’s tall and I’m short. Ugh. So now a chair enters the picture, and I’m getting up and down off this chair (did I mention I’m pregnant?), going back and forth between trying to add apples to the funnel area, then back up onto the chair to push them down, then down off the chair to get a good crank on the processor, back up to push the apples down some more, oh wait… they’re getting jammed… I need to plunge the stick through there to get the peels moving again, back down to crank again… all the while, I’m battling trying to keep the thing from sliding around on the countertop and trying keep the collecting tray in place (I couldn’t get it screwed on tight enough for it to stay on its own)… and four hours later I have a whopping 5 quart jars processed. If I were the swearing type, there would have been a string from here to Japan that would have made a sailor blush. Okay, okay… maybe not THAT bad. But I was worn out, on the verge of tears (again… pregnant), still had 1 and 2/3 boxes of apples staring at me, and I had already sent a text to Hubby telling him to hide the guns. πŸ™‚ I was done. {In fairness to my friend’s gizzmo, had I been strong enough to secure it in place properly, it probably would have worked pretty darn well. So all this pain and suffering was due to user error. Just so ya know. :)}

Saving Grace #1: Then I remember a gadget I had seen in one of the how-to videos that does the peeling/coring/slicing of apples for you. (I had done an internet search at the time and new they carried these peelers online in several locations but that they actually had them in the store at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So that’s in the back of my head.) I realize that if I get that peeler, I can just peel/slice/core all my apples, then cook them, and then they’re all ready to be mashed/pureed into applesauce. And then I wouldn’t have to fight with the applesauce maker!!

Saving Grace #2: So Hubby comes home from work, sees me in my pitiful plight, (and no… no dinner is made), makes dinner without complaint, and then takes our girls to his scouting activity with him (he’s a scoutmaster) so that I can go to the store and purchase my peeler tool without dealing with children. Did I mention that I love this man??!

So with apple peeler/corer/slicer in hand, I come home, give it a test run, do a little adjusting to get the right peeling depth, and Ta-Da!! Within about 5 minutes, I have 10 apples cored, peeled, and sliced!! (*The heavens open and angels are singing!*)Β Of course, there was no way I was starting up more batches that late at night, so I simply zipped those apples up in a baggie and saved them for today to start another applesauce making adventure.

Well, Day 2 has been a better adventure for me. There has not been any real drama to speak of, no tears, no swearing, but the time intensity is still definitely a factor. This time the work is on the front end of the cooking as opposed to the back end, and occasionally the peeler thingamajigger has difficulty with an apple (usually the ones where the core is caddywhampus) and I have had to break out the parring knife to manually peel a few apples, but it’s easy, manageable, and I am having fun doing it. I feel like I’m back in the 50’s when people spent all day in the kitchen canning their produce to put up for the winter. πŸ™‚
And just for the record, I did two batches today and the first batch took a lot longer than the second batch did. There was definitely a learning curve factor. I have a feeling next time I attempt something like this, I’ll be even faster and more effecient. πŸ™‚Β But I do have to say, this re-enforces to me why meat is one of my favorite things to can. It is SO much easier than this! πŸ™‚ But I’ve snuck a taste of the applesauce every here and there and am thoroughly enjoying the taste of this homemade treat, which, again, reminds me why we go to all this work in the first place. πŸ™‚ Yea for homemade applesauce! πŸ™‚

So anyway, stay tuned for the step by step ‘how to’ for canning applesauce, and good luck in all your preparedness efforts!

Food Storage: My Storage Space Solutions

One of the common battles with small spaces and food storage is “Where do I put it all?!” Back when I wrote my ‘Steps To Success‘ and talked about where to store the food, I gave a list of a bunch of ideas for places in your home that could be a possible home to your food storage. However, sometimes reading a suggestion and seeing a suggestion have two totally different effects on how well they inspire you. I recently did a food storage presentation for a friend’s ward and one of their requests was for pictures of ideas/examples for how and where to put their food. So I thought I’d share those pictures with all of you as well. So allow me to welcome you to my home (please forgive any messes :)), and my solutions to storing my everyday food supply, along with my long-term food storage. {And on a side note: I do not have a large home. It is roughly 1750 sq ft. Larger than an apartment, true, but still small enough to put a premium on storage space. :)}

Alright… first stop is my little girls’ room for some long-term food storage. Notice any food storage hanging around? Any guesses where it could be? No… it’s not IN the armoire…

…it’s BEHIND it! πŸ™‚ TWELVE buckets fit behind that armoire! Can you believe it??

In the same room, here’s one of my little girls’ bed…

…with our year supply of milk stored underneath (roughly 20 #10 cans)!

In the master bedroom, an unassuming tv stand…

…with a whole lot of food storage behind it! {Note, we simply added a piece of black fabric to the back of the tv stand to prevent being able to see the buckets through the open back of the shelves. We also have about 40-50 #10 cans of long-term food storage underneath our master bed.}

And that about does it for the long-term food storage that we keep basically hidden away (although we do have a few more buckets stashed here and there in some small spaces).
And now on to the everyday food supply! In keeping with the suggestions mentioned in our Steps To Success, we keep our everyday food supply in easily accessible locations so that our system is functional and our supply is easily rotated through. We also tried to keep it in as few locations as possible and we try to logically organize what is in each location.

Our office/craft room also became home to all of our canned goods in our everyday food supply…

And here’s another wall in our office…

{As you can see, the cans here aren’t as nice and orderly as the other bookshelves. That’s because my little girls like to play with these cans and build towers with them and then knock them over. πŸ™‚ One of these days I’ll order more of those can organizers to get these shelves organized too. :)}

We keep just about all the rest of our everyday food supply in our master walk-in closet…

{The lower shelf was already part of the closet (and goes all the way around to the other side of the closet as well), but we realized we could just about double our space by adding a second level shelf. So Handy Hubby built one in. It’s not as strong of a wood as the lower level, so we try to keep lighter things on it. Looking back, I probably would have gone to the extra expense to use a solid wood. And yes, there are a few #10 cans in here as well, but they are ones that will need to be used within 10 years or so.}

These cupboards were already a part of our master closet when we moved in, and they immediately became home to food storage. πŸ™‚

{spices, herbs, seasonings, baking supplies on top; prepared foods such as peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, sauces, etc. on bottom}

And that’s about it! We also have a small space in our laundry closet where I keep our pasta noodles and oils, and the tiny pantry in our kitchen actually has food it in it as well :D, but for the most part, this is how our system functions! And every time I get new items, I label them with the expiration date and put them at the back of the appropriate shelves and bring everything else forward so I’m always using the items closest to expiration first. I occasionally reorganize the shelves when things start getting tight in an area or perhaps even just because I’m bored and want to change things up πŸ˜€ but more or less I keep our areas consistent so that I always know where things are and I don’t throw Hubby off and frustrate the system. πŸ˜‰

Well, I sure hope this helps to spark some ideas of how a system may work in your home! Remember, in order to have a functional food storage, you are going to have to sacrifice time, money, and SPACE. It’s too important not to.
Good luck and best wishes!

Water Storage To The Rescue!

So, the last two months have been a fun challenge in our home. It seemed to me like the planets must have aligned themselves and targeted their craziness directly at our home. We have had a series of circumstances occur over the period of a few weeks that would generally spread themselves out over a few years (or months at least!). From a leaking pipe in our ceiling, to the A/C needing repairs (not once, not twice, but three times), car issues (with both of our cars), to a leak in one of our water pipes in the yard… add to that some personal/family health situations and this crazy drought threatening the foundation of our home, and you’re looking at a perfect storm for insanity. Talk about a strain on already tight finances and a test on the strength of a family bond.

I’m happy to say we were able to come through it all with only minor aches and pains and we still have a smile on our faces. πŸ˜€ BUT I wanted to share with y’all some of the reasons we were able to get through this Bermuda Triangle with our sanity intact.

Two of the key components to our sanity survival were our food storage supply and our financial savings supply. Without boring you with a lot details, I’ll just say that Hubby and I were fortunate enough to both come into our marriage with a strong belief of living within our means and preparing for a rainy day. And from that, a strong food supply was built up in times of surplus and a healthy savings has always been maintained. So despite the fact that in a regular month without catastrophes our income is just enough to meet our needs, and now in the face of some crazy circumstances to come our way (each of which required a fair amount of money to repair) we were able to use the majority of our grocery money to pay for some of these expenses and still eat really well from just our food supply (supplemented to a small degree with some fresh items from the store), and what our income couldn’t cover, we were at peace knowing there was money set aside for circumstances just such as this. So there’s my plug for getting your food storage and savings!

But the other component that saved my sanity was something really minor, but that I found myself truly grateful for. It was our water supply. After all the events that had happened, the leaking water pipe out in our front yard was the last to occur, and I had about had it with all the ‘things that could go wrong’. We found ourselves without water for a period of 24 hours. No big deal, right? I can go without a shower for 24 hours, and we also have some amazing neighbors who opened their home to us for anything we needed during that time (we love our neighbors!), but it’s always easier to manage a hard time in the comfort of your own home. That being said, no water in the home definitely takes out a bit of the ‘comfort’ factor. πŸ™‚ Enter our water supply.

You may remember back when we talked about storing water and I mentioned a storage container I had come across and purchased called the Aquatainer. It’s a 7-gallon container that has a water spigot stored on the inside of the cap, so when you need your water, you simply take the spigot out and turn it around and then you’ve got your own little water dispenser. Well, we’ve got about 6 or 7 of these containers and when our water was turned off, we finally had a perfect excuse to put them to use. We placed one at our kitchen sink and one at each bathroom sink as well. This way, whenever we needed to wash hands, or rinse off a dish, water was still right where we expected it to be… with the convenience of turning it off and on like a regular faucet and everything. Like I said, it’s a small thing, but the small amount of ‘normalcy’ it brought to our minorly uncomfortable situation reminded me that in a major crisis, normalcy plays a HUGE factor in how well we manage that crisis. Just the fact of being able to turn water on and off at a sink, helped me to feel like the situation was not bad at all. Yes, we still had to lug pitchers of water into the house (again, thanks to our wonderful neighbors letting us use their water hoses) any time we needed to flush a toilet, and yes, life was still a little inconvenienced. But really, I was grateful for the small things that helped to keep us sane and see us through. {Other small tips: We also kept hand sanitizer and baby wipes by each water dispenser to help conserve the water. And we could have set up a portable potty, but knowing this was only a short term problem, I definitely preferred NOT to do that. :)}

I won’t lie and say the past two months haven’t been stressful, because let’s face it… when it feels like the forces of evil have combined against you, it can be a little stressful. πŸ™‚ But because we had taken the time and made the effort to prepare in advance, it has definitely been manageable. And we probably came out of it all a little stronger as well. πŸ™‚

SO! Who wants to get prepared?!?! (I do. I do!) πŸ™‚ Well get to it!
{Oh, and on a side note about those water containers… when I bought them, I got them at Walmart for around $7, but later when I looked online they were like $18 or something (?!?!?!). (Same story at other places that carried them online. ) Well anyway, I was at Walmart again just the other day and happened to be in the camping section and saw the containers there again, and they were at the $7 price again. I don’t know if that price is only in the stores or maybe an off-season price or something (??) but may I suggest that you check into those containers. They really are super handy, so if you can find them at a good price I highly recommend them. Like I said, we had one at each sink, which was really nice, so I’d recommend getting at least enough to cover those bases. Hubby also likes to take them on scouting campouts because, again, they’re very convenient.}

Anyway, good luck in all your preparedness efforts!! Loves!

More Fun In The Sun: Peanut Butter Cookies

So I happened to have a ready to go bag of peanut butter cookie mix in my cupboard (not a common occurrence in my house) and thought it would be fun to having a baking day with my girls. So we set the SUN OVEN out in the sun for some preheating and then got to work in the kitchen.

{Note to self: Ready made cookie mixes are food storage friendly.} πŸ™‚

The girls had such fun adding in the ingredients (they love to crack the eggs… and then I get to pick out any shells from said eggs :)), mixing the dough, tasting… I mean testing… the dough to make sure it was just right, forming the balls (although I had to help with this part) and then smooshing the cookies to make the pretty (or not-so-pretty) crisscross pattern in the tops.

Then it was into the SUN OVEN for some cooking.

I wasn’t quite sure how long the cookies would need (the package said about 12 minutes) and after 15, I wasn’t thinking they were quite done yet. So I left them for a bit longer… lost a little track of time… and kinda sorta overcooked the first batch. Whoops. But the second batch was a much better success. I went ahead and took them out after 15 minutes regardless of the fact that they still looked a little soft and they set up nicely as they cooled. Perfect.

Can you tell which ones I overcooked? My bad. πŸ˜€