Tuesday, May 31, 2011

7 Amazing Things

Lots of bloggers are talking about their bucket lists right now. And what's funny is that I had just recently started one on paper just befor this took off again.  I find reading about what others want to do really interesting.


even more interesting is what people HAVE done. And that is exactly what Cassie over at This Journey Through Life wrote about last week.

So, what I'd really like to know is 7 Amazing things you have already done.  Tell me your great stories. Like, I have one friend that was a missionary in Africa.  And I know another that was a missionary in South America.  I have a great Aunt that helped deliver Bibles to countries in Asia.  Another great aunt puts on real plays and performances...she's like a director and is very talented.  My mother worked in a funeral home when she was very young doing the hair of the deceased....and it sounds like she did Juliette Gordon Lowes hair. I have a cousin that travels all over in search of great wines. This same cousin lived in Alaska and has some great snow stories.  My sister goes on great girls vacations with her buds to exciting places.

I love hearing about this stuff.....so pony-up!

And here is my top 7 Amazing Things:

1. Gone on trips over glaciers with a 4-wheel drive club while living in Iceland. Hit the rivers going fast and flew through. Slid into Glacier Bay and had to be pulled out.  Wow. The memories - and the Northern Lights.

2. Spent over two weeks in China for an amazing Adoption trip. What a friendly country. Can't wait to go back.

3. Took a helicopter ride over Iceland and was given a good look at the island by a Rescue Team.

4.  Stayed for a week in a castle in Germany when I was in 5th grade.  This was for German class and we had to go into stores and try to buy things using German and we ate foods I was unfamiliar with. I remember loving the long walks through the country side and HATING the coffee's they served us for breakfast (!!).

5. Camping in Holland for a week.  Talk about a blast.  And the Dutch boys would try to talk to us...but their English was pretty much related to current pop music and cuss words.

6.  A week long vacation in England with just the Hubs and I.  We got a book and rented a car and went to see many sites and castles and the cliffs of Dover.  I did miss London though as I came down super sick. I thought I was dying. Worst two days of my life.  But still one of the most amazing trips.

7.   An ultra cool girls weekend to a town somewhere in Texas where they have miles and miles of barns and places full of antiques. A whole weekend picking through history. And we stayed at the first Bed and Breakfast I have ever stayed at. I'd like to do that one again!

So go ahead and tell me what cool things you have done. As you can see I love to travel so mine are mostly about places I've gone.

And you?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Simple Joys

Wendy over at Adoption and Fire did a post on Simple Joys yesterday and asked what our simple joys are. I'd say mine are very similar to hers.... its the little things with family.

So Wendy....here are my simple joys...

Spending Memorial Day with one of my favorite Veterans.....and going to the National Cemetery to place flags on the graves of the men and women that died for our country.
Fresh simple foods grown in my backyard.
Watching my youngest come out of her shell and join in life.....even being in the school play with no coercion needed!
A trip out to the local dairy complete with their home made ice cream!

So what about you?  What are some of your simple joys lately?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Autumn Asks: Are You Prepared? Part II

Besides a 72 hour kit, there are alot of little things we can all do around the house to help us for the times we lose power or water. Most of it is common sense and I'm sure you already know.

So we are assuming we already have shelter so we just need food, water and light.

When the storms come and the lights start flickering the first thing we do is light candles in every room...including the bathrooms.  This is for the girls peace of mind. They feel better knowing that if the lights go out they can see.  Its a little thing.

I also have two oil lamps -- which I need more fuel for this year. I picked them up at antique malls but you can buy cheap ones at most all purpose stores. These are my favorite light sources as they give a nice glow and I don't have to worry about battery power. As long as I have fuel, we are fine. They do not consume the fuel very quickly. We also have replacement wicks.

Our camping lanterns have an indoor storage spot since we use them any time we lose the lights also. Usually we get them out but don't actually use them.  But, if the house was compromised or we needed to take light outside, these are what you need - not a flame.
Most of our candle holders are made of substances that will not break from heat and I don't worry about having in the girls rooms. I recommend something that is not easily knocked over.
I pick up candles on clearance. I'm not real interested in the smells as much as in keeping the candle drawer stocked cheaply. My favorite are the plumbers candles...but they are hard to find now. These ones burn for days.
We have flashlights placed strategically all over the house. This one is by the back door.  Most of them are mag lights as they double as a weapon (not kidding).  When the newer led lights came out and we got those, we purchased the tiny ones that fit in our pockets and now we all have one on our person when its storming. I didn't want to get rid of the mag lights so they are stationed by doors, on the main computer desk, on night stands and in the garage and dining room.  I still take my mag with me camping as I like that it is big enough to swing at something should I feel the need.

Of course I have my backup battery for the phones and ipad and video games.  I recently discovered they make wind-up, solar powered ones so I will be in the market for one of those come Christmas time.  We don't actually have a home phone (Magic Jack) so if the power is out we need the cells.  And this is one case where your kids having cells also is a plus. You just have to confiscate them so they don't run the batteries down texting.  While we were holed up in the hall the other day my teen was furiously texting back and forth with her buds.  And by the way, the phone uses less energy to text than to call so keep that in mind if you are in an emergency situation and are low on cell phone battery power.

Now lets talk water.  Normally we fill our 5 gallon jug with water when the weather moves in.  We also have a smaller collapsible one but I rarely get it out. It rolls and is a pain. We will also make sure there is water in the fridge.  I do not fill up the bath tubs with water.  They usually aren't clean enough! LOL!

Do you have a chest freezer? If you are lucky enough to own one you have more water storage at hand.  See, a chest freezer works better when its full. Its uses less energy that way.  So, if you are like we are at the time, your chest freezer is half empty.  Since we don't know when orders will drop, we don't want to keep it full. I can combat that problem by filling the freezer with....
frozen 2 liter bottles of water.  This keeps the freezer full to run more efficiently. It also will keep your frozen food longer should the electricity fail...because its full of ice.  And when it melts...you have more drinking water.  And if you don't drink soda or anything in those bottles, no worries.  I promise your neighbor probably does.  Just ask for the empties, clean with a little bleach water, drain good and air out a day or two and then fill with water. Just remember to leave some room for expansion -- which is why I don't recommend already bottled water...it doesn't have enough expansion room unless you want to crack the seal and pour some out.

Food and cooking is where it can get tricky.  We have a gas grill and a smoker and a bunch of wood. We keep an extra full bottle of propane for the grill so at any given time we have a minimum of one full bottle.  One of the next things on my list is a fire pit as I can cook over it. We already have wood, and in the area we are in we can glean more if necessary.  We have a wagon and a wheelbarrow we can use to gather should we need them.    We also have one burner we can use in the camping gear....but I just got rid of the two butane stoves as we want to update to the newer propane ones (or do I have that backwards?). So right now I do not have a camp stove.  But again, if we did have them and ran out of fuel, they would be useless.  What I need is a place I can have a wood fire.  One day when we have a permanent place of our own I would like a new wood burning stove inside and a fire ring/pit outside.

All these precautions, coupled with our camping gear should keep us comfortable should we experience a time of no electricity and limited mobility.  Assuming there is no house damage, the pantry is usually stocked...although not with enough to hold us over long -- we just don't have the room at the moment.

So tell me what you do different. Is there something I could add?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Autumn Asks: How Prepared Are You? Part I

We have all been watching in complete heartbreak the crazy weather catastrophes all over the world the last few years. It defies words.

The last two days we have had our share of alarms and warnings and sirens, etc. Luckily (??????) my kids are well rounded on the disaster front.

In Iceland it was volcano's and white-outs.  We had to even keep packed suitcases under all of our beds for immediate evac.....and had exercises to practice exactly how it would happen. It was a huge ordeal.

Texas and Nebraska had the tornado's. In Nebraska we had a pretty good plan and safe place in the basement...in Texas we did not. That house was not meant to keep you safe in a tornado-- which is really stupid when you consider the number they get a year.

Florida we had hurricanes.  One was coming in as I gave birth to Songbird. Another chased us out of the state when she was a month old. We lived right on the water and were never sure if the house would be standing when we returned. Thankfully it always was.

So now we are back in tornado country again. Heck, right now it looks like the whole country is tornado country. Very scary stuff.

And last night we had all the sirens going off and we had to "seek shelter immediately".  I'm happy to announce that my children handle this so very well.  And it all starts with....

The 72-hour kit.  Its an obnoxious orange backpack that hangs on the wall in the garage. You can't miss it. But this time it so happened to already be on the couch because this is the time of year I pull it out and replace all batteries and expired stuff, etc.  And the Hubs and I had been talking about beefing it up a bit with some more things.  So I had just inventoried and made a new shopping list.  As a matter of fact we are going to add another backpack to hang beside it with some more food stuffs and clothing and such.

So the orange backpack was placed in the hall and the girls know to grab their stuff also. MM brings a laundry basket that she fills with books and stuffed ladybugs. Everyone grabs a pillow and blanket. The Rat is placed in his crate and put in there. We grabbed Cinders bed but not her crate as it was too big. I think we need to rectify that somehow as she walked all over us. Its a very very small hall. I imagine she could have hurt one of us if we were actually hit. She would be safer contained I think.

Since we have been having these storms....with more to come today...I thought I'd talk a little bit about being prepared.  I'm not talking about "end of the world" stuff....just storms and such.  Most of us will not be hit catastrophically -- and if we are, no amount of prep work is going to really help that much.  But many of us can experience electric and water outages for days - serious but not un-livable home damage and be stuck living in an area where there is no gas for the gas stations because of damage and everything could be rather serious, with the shelves of the stores stripped bare. That is not the time to begin thinking about this.

So lets start with a 72 hour kit.  For us this is just a backpack.  In it you will find enough food to keep us in sufficient calories for 3 days.  Without added water or electricity.

We also like to toss the extra's from MRE packs in. My kids think its a treat when daddy brings home MRE's and we have an MRE dinner night. (No this does not happen often as they are made with a gazillion calories to keep warriors in the field fed and ready to fight.) Anyways, you will also find bagged water and the drops to purify water.  This is emergency rations, so we are not worried about taste and such...its all about survival.

You will also find a small bag of toiletries.
This needs to be supplemented some more right now. Currently it has two travel size "girl stuff", 5 toothbrush/paste, a couple of shampoos, a couple travel sewing kits, a disposable razor, a travel comb/mirror combo and two bars of soap.  As you can see most of this is hotel fodder. The other are from the travel sized stuff.  As long as your house is still standing you will have most of this.  But if you run to a shelter its good to have the things for a couple of nights...until the donations are set in motion or you are allowed to return home.

A word on the soaps -- remember, in an emergency situation that soap can be used as shampoo, to wash clothes and to wash dishes.  This is not optimum for dishes but it is better than nothing.  So I will be adding a few more bars of soap.

The first aide portion of the backpack is where we are sorely under prepared.  Now, we do have kits in both cars and an extra in the garage and one in the camping gear.  This is one reason I have waited until last to beef it up.  Currently it has one mask, disposable gloves (need several pairs to add), a small first aid kit, biohazardous waste bags -- oh, and the can opener that should be with the food. NEVER go without a can opener. There is nothing crazier than having canned food at hand...and no way to get into it without compromising the food inside.

Lastly, we have some basics: duct tape, a utility wrench, lighter, multi-purpose tool, an emergency whistle, plastic sheeting to seal off doors and windows, a weather radio and earphones and a flashlight.  Batteries will need to be replaced yearly  (in my opinion) and the lighter swapped out with a fresh one.  I also want to add a magnesium fire starter and some of the cheap fire starters you can buy at the store.  Remember, we are talking about no electricity.  How are you going to cook?  Also, I need to get a roll of toilet paper in the bag.

We should have a stash of cash in the bag also, but we have that under lock and key in a safe instead. Just not comfortable otherwise.

Remember - no electricity means you cannot pump gas.  You cannot go out to eat unless you find a place with electricity.  You cannot use ATM's.  Many stores will not accept credit/debit if there is no power - its cash only.  You will NEED some cash.   If you have ever survived a nasty hurricane evac you are well aware of these situations.  Also, the sewage seems to get backed up easy so you might be going in the bushes. Not kidding. Been there, done that.

So that is our current kit -- it is no where near complete but we add to it each year.

How about you? Do you have a 3 day kit? What do you have that I am missing?

In part two I will show you more of what is done around the house at all times to be prepared. It's the little things that make such a big difference when that snow storm knocks out the power for days....or whatever the situation.  

Are you prepared?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Autumn Asks: What Did You Plant This Year?

Now that we have passed May 15th, we are out of frost danger.  We can now plant.

We did fairly well with our container tomatoes last year so we thought we would try again. We did not like how small the tomatoes stayed so we looked around at other possibilities.  And this year I found Straw Bale Gardening.  Looked worth giving a try since its a larger medium and still keeps the plants out of the poisoned soil. We even went so far as to cover the bottoms with an old shower curtain (so they are diapered!) to ensure there is no contamination.

Mouse did talk me into a couple of flowers also. I find this a waste of time because you can't eat them. Why do I want to use water and time and energy on something I can't eat?  (You must understand I am highly allergic to just about everything that grows so flowers only hold pain...no pleasure.)
So I actually planted out these tomatoes a week ago. They came a little early....and I didn't read the directions that said to baby them indoors and then harden them off. Last years instructions didn't say that so I just planted them.  Plus it turned out that they sent me 2 orders of the yellow/orange tomatoes and left out the bush/container tomatoes. So I called them and they sent the others - leaving me with 3 extra tomato plants I wasn't planning on -- not that I'm complaining.
I did lose one, but a week later they have doubled in size. I'll let you know how this experiment goes as the season progresses.  They are supposed to need more water than a normal container. Also I will need to fertilize/feed them once a week.
And the cool thing? Living in military housing you have people moving out all the time and throwing things away.  The day I was outside planting a neighbor across the street set all 7 of these planters out in the trash by the road.  Score!! And they are the expensive ones! The couple bought a house so I have no idea why they would leave such nice planters behind....but I sure grabbed them and ran!!

And so my garden has enlarged even more.
The rest of the tomatoes are now in and line one side of the fence. I didn't plan to have this many...that's what the straw bales were supposed to be for...but hey, its all good! I can't believe how fast they are growing.
We also have several different pots/planters of lettuce. This is the most mature (bought that way) and others are started from seed.
There is also spinach....
and bib lettuce....

And yes we have already eaten many salads with fresh greens to round out the iceberg.
We also have cucumbers to trail on the fence...

Red and yellow bell peppers and even some jalapeƱo

Throw in some mint for my tea and some other cooking herbs and I'm calling it done.

Hope it all works out. Its always a risk when you know you are taking a family vacation during the hot part of summer and will have to find someone to take care of it all for you.  As a matter of fact I'm hoping to find a college student that would come in and stay at our place while we are gone to take care of the monster dog and the plants.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Let's Go Treehouse Camping!

I survived.  And the cold weather didn't hit until about two hours before we left the campsite on Sunday! That's all I asked for.  The rain we had....but the cold held out.  God is good.

So.  First camp out of the year. And if it is any indication on how the rest of the camp outs will go this year...its going to be a fantastic year.  Have I mentioned before how much I love these girls???

We left early so we could make dinner at the site. The girls love to do a canned food night...where they each bring a can of something and we stick it over the fire right in the can and then they eat out of the can. That is my Progresso soup night. LOL. This trip we had 10 girls and two adults with another girl and her mom joining us the next day.
Our lodgings for the night were treehouses.  They had a real roof so we didn't have to worry about the rain. The only hard part was hauling all your gear up into them. They had ladders or stairs -- of course I used the stairs. Hauling my 200lb body up on its own would kill me....can't imagine adding all the baggage too.

 The weather was in the lower 70's, high 60's and the place was rather damp from the rains. We saw lots of interesting fungi all over.  These white ones looked like sea anemones.  I was sad all I had was my phone camera. I do believe its time to get my lense cap ring fixed on my camera so I can start taking real pictures again.
   Snails were everywhere....
The girls spent over an hour playing with snails. They built teepee's and corrals and such for them. At one point I think they had almost 20. When they wanted to know if they could keep them we said no...but I did suggest we could eat them.  Escargot or snail soup for dinner??  They were not very amused.

Saturday was a full, fun day.  We went on a hike in the morning.  We found a creek which pretty much ends a hike and starts a wet fest with our girls.  Most were completely drenched by the time we were done. We always have them pack extra shoes since they are such water bugs. And you see that bank behind them? Its a clay bank.  Not much longer after this shot some of the girls had completely covered their faces and arms in clay. Wish I had a shot of that.  Then they happily sat in the creek and had a bath.  Crazy.

After lunch they practiced making temporary shelters with just tarps and rope.  The top one was so good it was even dry the next morning after a night of thunderstorms.  But the time-out teepee was my favorite! LOL.

Then came the rain. So we loaded the girls up in the cars and drove about 20 miles to a local underground cavern.  That was fun.  I was shocked at the number of girls that forgot their coats at home or decided to leave them in camp. I did warn them! But they survived.
On the way out we found a great climbing tree.  Our top climbers are 3/4 the way up the tree. We have alot of tree climbing girls.  I can't even look when some of them climb they go so high.
A little mining for rocks afterwards completed our trip.  The girls spent over an hour just doing this. I suggested the caverns because my girls needed to finish up their hiking badge and it seemed a neat place to do it....but I had no idea they would have as much fun as they did. Love it when that happens. It became the highlight of the trip for most of them.  (Plus I had never been so BONUS!) This particular cavern is one of the most colorful in the states and even has some types of formations that are not found anywhere else in our country.  And guess what? We missed all the rain while we were underground. Could not have planned that better.

Most of our girls went to bed early that night.  Even the ones that requested a night hike disappeared to their tents earlier than normal. And the rains/thunder started about 10pm and thats when the last called it quit. We did have two girls that were not feeling real well and were homesick so the boss had her hands full reading them to sleep.
The next morning was not only colder...the whole site was covered in boot sucking mud.  By lunch the girls were all ready to go home.  And I was cringing because I was putting 5 mud covered girls in my 2 month old van.  You see, the Mr. is rather picky about his cars.  Makes being a Girl Scout leader a challenge for sure...because they are some messy, trash leaving, kind of girls.  So I pulled out my sheet and towel and threw them on the carpet to try damage control. Worked pretty well.

And the temp just kept dropping so by the time we got home we were all very tired and very cold and everyone was so glad to see their parents.

It was a great first camping trip for the year.

Looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Camping Year Begins

I grew up camping. My father was one of those crazy "Bass Fishermen".  There were tournaments a couple of times a month....and we went.  We saw some pretty cool parts of the state (Arizona) and even visited the Grand Canyon once...but I really don't remember much of that.
I remember camping got REALLY fun once dad bought an RV.  LOL. Who doesn't want air conditioning and a bathroom???

Hubs and I haven't really camped together much...unless it was scout related.  As an adult most of my camping is a direct result of Girl Scouts.  And we have a blast.  And just to add...a much SAFER blast than my son had as a Boy Scout.  His stories give me chills.  Boys like fire.  And bug spray makes a great flame thrower.  I could go on.

Anyways.  Camping here in Ohio is fantastic.  Nebraska was great also -- but there are so many free programs in this state that it even beats Nebraska.  The weather doesn't get as hot as Texas/Arizona/New Mexico and there are no fire ants.  That last part cannot be over stated.  But I do have to give kudo's to one camping trip in Texas because I discovered soap that I now order for bugs and other good smelling stuff that does not bother my skin! 

In our very very active scout troop, there is alot of camping.  I want to say I went like 7 times last year.

And they begin in May.

And let me tell you, last week was still frosting in the mornings.  I was getting very very nervous.  I can take the rain....just don't give me the cold.

But this week is actually hot and the mornings are in the 50's so I'm feeling a little better about this! Plus its an older girls trip so Mouse will be staying home and I don't have to worry about her.  We are doing "tree house camping".  Not sure exactly what that means but that's what the girls wanted so I'm going along.

One thing I did find last year is that my beloved enamel ware cups heat up too fast.  Mouse ended up with burned fingers a few times trying to carry her hot cocoa.  I am not willing to give up the enamel ware as it is safer (health wise) than plastic, doesn't break like ceramic and are pretty much tough as nails. Easy to throw in a dunk bag with everything else and hand off a line to drip dry.

So what did I figure out for this year......

  I found a free tutorial online on how to custom make a cozie for a cup with a handle.  It was written for those great coffee travel cups but the directions tell you how to custom fit so I knew it would work.  I found this tutorial at Polka Dot Cottage.

So yesterday I sat down and dug out some fabric scraps and made one of these cozies for each of our enamelware cups.
I had some insulating batting to go in the middle left over from the coffee cup cozies I made my friends. The buttons were dug out of the button jar.  The elastics were stolen from the hair supply bin.  Did not have to purchase a single thing to make them.

You know, with the sleeping bag backpack and the water bottle carriers I think I've actually sewn more for camping than I have for my home? Hah. Kinda crazy.

So wish me luck. I'm off tomorrow with one other adult and 12 girls. We having a hiking trip planned through some of the caverns in the area also - we could really use some dry weather for that.  The menu the girls came up with is awesome....and since its Juniors and Caddettes we do NONE of the cooking or cleaning....we are just there to provide rides and opportunities.  LOVE IT!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Autumn Survives Her Daughters First Prom

I bought 3 dresses this year. Three.
First it was homecoming.
Then it was the military ball.
Prom was on the horizon.
And I did a stupid.
I stated that I WOULD NOT buy three dresses in one year.
Besides, prom is for Juniors and Seniors.
Which my child is not.
No worries.
Until I go to pick up the girl from practice.
And she gets into the car with an armful of roses.
And a crazy story....
Of a guy with a guitar...
and a song written especially for her....
to ask her to prom.
And I knew I was buying another dress.

I am so NOT your typical mom.  Of course not.  But then again I was so NOT the typical teenager either.  You couldn't get me to a dance with bribes even.  And there was no way I was going to burden my parents with the cost of a dress.  They are expensive. And on a military salary there wasn't much to go around. Besides. I just don't like dancing because I am no good at it.  And it required a dress. No way.

So how did this happen? How did I end up with the kid that gets asked to all the dances?  Is it some kind of cosmic karma/payback????  

I guess most moms would be thrilled to see their teenage daughter being asked to the dances. I watch the other parents get all excited and make a fun day of shopping for the perfect dress.  I give my daughter a price limit and cringe because I know we have just taken a chunk of our summer clothing allowance to pay for a dress she will only wear once.  You don't really think I could talk her into wearing one of the other dresses do you??? I did try. And as I pay for the pretty I think of all the summer clothes her sister needs...and I now cannot buy. 

And of course she wanted shoes. Which I wouldn't buy. Thank goodness for friends. Because I already bought shoes she could have used...but she didn't think they were the right color.  Whatever.

And then there was the mani/pedi.  Which I wouldn't pay for. So she saved her money and paid for it herself. 
Hey - I won't blow what little money I have on one for myself...think I'm going to do it for anyone else????

And nowadays? They have prom after parties at the schools.  At Songbirds school it lasts until 3am.  Hah. No.  The mean parents came out.  15 year olds have no business out until 3 am with a guy. Sorry. I don't care if they are just friends.  15 + 3 am = bad parenting. Now, if she was a senior it would be different.  

So while I am very glad that Songbird had a great time....I am more glad that it is over. And we managed to survive our first prom.  And on FB I saw a guy call "dibs" on taking her next year....and then get shot down when she told him someone else already beat him to it.

I think its time to start a dress fund....

Or the rest of us will be going naked the next two years.