Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Life can now resume as normal; a food storage tale of happiness.

We are used to using almost all 100% whole wheat in our house. But a few months ago when I ran out of wheat to grind, I didn't buy any more....until today! Life has just not been the same without wheat. I haven't cooked as much and we haven't been eating as healthy in general. For me, doing something proactive like grinding my own wheat flour and using it in almost everything I make helps me to be more proactive in other areas of my life and inspires me to eat healthier in general. After years and years of grinding my own wheat, the past few months without it as just not been the same.

In the past, we ordered 25 pound bags of organic wheat from Whole Foods at about $20 a bag...that is NOT cheap. This time around I decided to care less about the organic aspect and went to our church's Home Storage Center (see for more info on home storage and where the nearest Home Storage Center is to you) and bought 25 pound bags for $5.80!! What a great deal! I only have enough storage buckets for about 75 pounds of wheat. This fall I am going to do a big beef up of our home food storage and buy another 100 pounds or so of wheat, 100 pounds of oats, 100 pounds of beans and assorted canned foods that we use on a regular basis as well as salt, spices, oil and other cooking needs.

A family's food storage is about having a store of food to be used and rotated and there for you when you need it; a lay-off or a natural disaster for example. Only store the foods you and your family will and do use in your everyday lives. Only acquire your store of food as you can afford it. For most people, that means buying a few extra items each time you go the store, and hopefully sale items. We use this method, and then a few times a year (usually coinciding with tax return season, etc) we stock up a bit more fully. We buy flats of canned goods and bags of dry goods that we store in food grade 5 gallon buckets with tight fitting lids.

Our food storage is very helpful to us. I usually have all the regular ingredients on hand that I need for every day cooking and baking. During months when our food budget might be a bit tighter than usual due to some unexpected expense, we can use our food storage for most of our needs and supplement with fresh fruits and veggies on sale at the store. I have had friends who had suddenly lost jobs and used their food storage almost exclusively for 4-8 months! You could use it completely exclusively if you had canned fruits and veggies and stored dry milk.

When you are just starting out, aim for reaching a 3-month supply of food, water and other neccesities. Then work ip to a 6-month supply. Ideally, you work your store of food up to about a years supply. We have not ever reached that (maybe 6-8 months), but that is one of our goals for the year.

In considering what to have on hand in your family's year supply, remember to include essential non-food items. We have sturdy metal shelving in our garage that I keep our food storage on, but in our crawl space I keep our non-food items. We have stores of toilet paper, paper towels, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, ziploc baggies, cleaning supplies and any other items that we use on a regular basis. You should also store water both to drink and to use for washing should your water supply go out for a few days or longer. It's also wise to have a camp stove (or outdoor grill) and a few extra propane tanks.

Every year, there are always sections of the country affected by power outages or water issues. Having a year supply would be the difference between possibly going hungry for a few uncomfortable days or weeks and being well fed and having the things you're used to having on hand. During an emergency, being able to cook foods your family finds comforting and being well prepared in general will make the emergency, whether it is a power outage or a job loss, much less stressful and much easier to get through!

Today, with my freshly ground wheat, I made some delicious black berry muffins. We had the black berries frozen in the freezer from a few months ago when they were on a killer sale! I use a wonderful, awesome and great all-purpose muffin recipe I learned from my friend, Jenny Hatch.

4 c whole wheat flour
2 c brown sugar
1/2 t each b. powder and b. soda
2 tsp salt
2-3 eggs
14 oz apple sauce (or other fruit sauce/puree)
1/4 oil
Bake at 350 until a tooth pick comes out clean (usually around 20 minutes, give or take)

It is a very versatile recipe; feel free to substitute some honey for the sugar, add more or less liquid depending on your preferences, add nuts and fruit (dried or fresh) or anything else you think might be yummy! They always turn out great! I usually do two batches of this recipe and add freshly ground (in the blender) flax seed meal to both and then add nuts and fruit to one batch (this would be the "adult" batch since my kids don't like to eat things with junks) and they get eaten up very quickly!

I will add a "Food storage resources" section to the right very soon, look for it!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Haven's Actual 5th Birthday!

I decided, very last minute of course, that it would be fun for Haven to have a friend's birthday party on her actual birthday. I didn't want her actual big day to be a let down since we had already celebrated it as a family, plus she really wanted a friend party! Not everyone we invited could come (it was VERY last minute!), but we are so grateful to the ones who could!! We invited older siblings and parents to hang out too. It was a fun party, thanks for coming! :)
I thought it would be fun to have a pool party in the back yard. Now that the deck is done, we can finally entertain out there! YAY! :) We had just purchased some kiddie pools to make the last few hot weeks we've had more bearable, so we just picked up a few decorations and we were in business! The party was a sort of lunch/pool party...hence the above spread of food that included home made cheese pizza, strawberries, carrots, cookies, chips and lemonade. YUM!
Our lawn is not very lawn-ish at the moment. It's way better than it was last year at this time (when we moved in, it was mostly just sand/dirt), but there are still huge patches of ground with no grass covering. I wasn't sure how we were going to have a pool party without also having mud pits (something I was NOT aiming for!) Then I spotted the foam floor blocks we had stored up in the attic. I had Sebastian crawl up there and get them all down and the other kids helped him set them up over the dirt. There were still some spots of exposed ground, but not too bad and no one made any mud holes out of them! :) The older kids had a really great time playing with water guns (and a HUGE thank you to one of the kids' Dad's for playing with them!) and the younger ones went from pool to pool to trampoline to pool again.
Before the party, Sebastian and I had talked about him giving a pet demonstration for all the kids. About an hour into it, he and Elijah went down and gathered up a few pets into containers. We had the kids all sit down and Sebastian started out with Eon, our Russian tortoise. He placed her on the deck in front of the kids and everyone got to pet her while he told a bit about Russian tortoises. Then he moved onto the remaining pets he was going to show; Packer, the Pac-man toad, Zappy the leopard gecko, and Millie the giant African millipede. The kids all huddled in close to see and pet these animals. It was fun and I think we will have the boys do pet demonstrations more often!

Here is Haven opening some presents. She got some really fun stuff! Thanks everyone! :)

Happy 5th Birthday, Haven!

Wow, a big 5 year old! Haven is growing up so fast! We celebrated her birthday a few days early, while my mom was still visiting. We had a yummy homemade cake (cake mixes have soy) that I tented purple with frosting to match. She was very excited about the pink sprinkles! :)
Haven is a really fun girl. She loves to tell funny jokes and giggle and laugh and have fun. She pulls the funniest faces, as well! She is a very helpful and loving big sister to both Scarlett and Brighton. She is very sweet and loving with Brighton and really knows how to care for him. One of her aspirations for when she is "grown-up" is to be a babysitter. :) She says she will be a very good babysitter. :) She loves to draw, color and play dress-up. She loves princess things; frilly dresses, tiaras, rings, necklaces, shoes, etc. Haven's big, dimpled smile and sweet, uncontrollable giggle are infectious! She is a bright, happy spot in our family and we are so happy to have her in our family! :)
Singing "Happy Birthday" and ready to blow out the candles!
Grandma enjoying some cake!
The gang enjoying cake!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Longhorn Cattle!

To promote a large, local rodeo event, there was a longhorn cattle drive down the streets of Colorado Springs last Friday. The term "cattle drive" invoked mental images of large amounts of cattle and lots of mooing and tail swishing. I am a rancher (or farmer) at heart, as is my mom, so we were excited to wait along the street to get a glimpse of the cattle drive. The kids eagerly watched and waited for signs of cows and cow boys.
We waited for about 15 minutes or so. We took pictures. Hung out. Chatted. Snuggled with Grandma. Wanted to climb trees but I said no. (They were smallish trees....didn't want to ruin them with my brood climbing them!) Then we spotted them coming! Well, first we spotted some policemen clearing the path of on-coming traffic, then we saw the rumps of cattle!
There were several babies, even!! :) So cute! The herd, however, was only about 20 head....much smaller than I had anticipated. They were surrounded by about 20 cowboys/cowgirls to keep the crowd and parked cars safe from those long, pointy horns. It was over almost as soon as it had started.
Even though their numbers were small and their appearance brief, we all really enjoyed seeing the annual Longhorn cattle drive downtown! Well worth it! :)
The street we were on had lots of cool little shops. One was a bike shop where a guy refurbished old bikes (I am guessing?) and fixed them up really cool and sold them. I loved the colors!! I love cruiser bikes, anyway...need to get one! :) My mom loved them too and wanted to go into the store to get a better look. Tip for those of you who may want to follow suit: don't! She quickly came out after swiftly ushering any children who wanted to follow her out. She said there were very unsavory pictures of women hanging on the walls. Not sure how that would relate to bikes...very disappointing!

Our first visit to Woodland Park

I LOVE MOUNTAINS!!!!! I love the fresh, mountain air. I love the trees and foliage. I love the smell. I love the skyline. I love the weather. I LOVE MOUNTAINS!!!
The Colorado mountains are so green and lush this year!
My mom got camera happy in the car, waiting to depart for Woodland Park. :)
We didn't have any particular destination or plan in mind. We packed a picnic lunch and extra snacks and took off! Once we got to Woodland Park, Elijah kept asking "where is the big park?"...He was thinking about the "Park" part of Woodland PARK. I told him it was not named after an enormous play ground or anything. He was bummed.
We drove around the small town, admiring the trees and some cute houses and yards before finding the city's large ball fields...and a play ground! The kids all LOVE to swing and this was Brighton's first time! He thought it was very fun and funny and giggled a lot. Have and Scarlett took turns pushing him and just thought he was too adorable in a swing! :)
Sebastian and Elijah LOVE to swing. (My mom walking in the background) They were trying to go so high they would flip over the bar. Those of you who watch Mythbusters, however, know that they would've needed a jet pack to actually propel them over...and then they would probably end up shooting off and breaking every bone in their body. Glad there were no jet packs laying around! :)

Sweet Brighton swinging!!
They had some really unique playground equipment. They had the usual play structure with slides and a little climbing wall and monkey bars, then they had this thing that Fiona is on where a kid stands on each side and they bounce...sort a teeter-totter idea. Then the blue thing in the back left was this cool thing where 4 kids each sat on a side and tried to roll a little ball into their "goal". The ball and goals were under plastic. It was pretty cool.
Ultimately, I was a bit disappointed in Woodland Park. I expected more, I guess. I expected it to be either more like Sandpoint, Idaho or more like Manitou was neither. After we left this play ground, the kids really wanted to go back to the main park in downtown Woodland Park. It had a small pond, some picnic tables and a wood play ground. There were some seedy locals there, and not enough pretty scenery. But we had our picnic and played a little bit more before heading out. The drive their and back is a very easy one. I expected more of an incline, but it hardly seemed like we were changing elevation at all. On the way home we drove through Manitou Springs so I could show it to my mom. I LOVE this little town! It is so adorable and they have done such a good job of maintaining it's charm and appeal and character. I'm not completely writing off Woodland Park; we will go back to check out the surrounding mountains and kayak in the lakes, but the town itself doesn't hold much appeal for me. It was a fun trip, none the less, and an exciting adventure! :) Pikes Peak looks prettier from Colorado Springs, though!

Old Farm Park

There are so many awesome parks in Colorado Springs! And so many hidden gems amongst seemingly innocent, normal looking neighborhoods! Old Farm Park is one of those hidden gems. There is your normal play ground, then follow the trail around a bend and BAM: there is a cool jumble of rocks to climb and explore surrounded by wild grasses and flowers and native plants and animals!

The prickly pear cactus were in bloom and oh so gorgeous! They were EVERYWHERE! I was so tempted to pick some and bring it home to our tortoise, Eon. Prickly pear cactus (once you burn off the prickilies) is a perfect tortoise food. I wasn't sure if it was okay to pick, and plan on calling the extension office to see if it is allowed before going back to bring some home!
The Yucca were also in full bloom. I don't know that I have ever seen prettier Yucca flowers! We were blessed with a cool, wet spring that nurtured a lot of wild flowers and plants! It was just gorgeous!
Sebastian, Elijah, Fiona and some of their friends took a less used path to the rocks. Our friends' older kids took Haven and Scarlett up to the top of the rock, while Brighton and I followed on at a slower pace. The sky was just gorgeous that day! It finally started sprinkling after a few hours, but before that it was just gorgeously dark and we frequently heard rumbles of distant thunder. On their way back down, the boys found a lizard that they tried to catch, but he got away. We all had such a great time!
Once it started sprinkling, and Scarlett needed to find a restroom (which the park did not have), we reluctantly left. We will definitely return and explore the trails even more!

Good-bye to a good friend.

We only got to have him in our lives for a little less than a year, but we are so glad he was a part of our family!
We adopted Damon at the end of last summer. He was about 10 years old at the time. We wanted an older, mellow dog since we were about to have our 6th child and didn't want to house-train a puppy nor deal with puppy antics. We adopted him from a very nice family who had given him lots of love and he fit into our family perfectly. The kids all adored him and gave him lots of hugs and were constantly telling him what a good dog he was.
He had a very sweet, mild disposition and was so great with the kids! He never really cared for our other dog, Sequoia, and mainly ignored her. He barked at the cats at first (and tried to chase them for some doggy entertainment) but soon learned that was not the thing to do. He swam with the turtles in our little pond a few times. I'm sure the turtles were more than a bit surprised to have a 90 pound Golden Retriever suddenly in their pond, but we all thought it was fun and got a big kick out of it! :)
About 3 weeks before he died, we noticed he was having a very hard time getting up the stairs in our house. He still acted happy, but just couldn't seem to make it up the last few steps. We also noticed that he was not eating as much as he used to and seemed to suddenly loose a lot of weight. We took him into the vet, they did some tests and determined that he had liver cancer and such severe arthritis that his spine was beginning to fuse. Poor guy! They prescribed a good pain killer and told us he probably had 3-4 months left to live.

About 5 days later, we realized he didn't have that much time left. He was not wanting to come into the house much at all. He wouldn't eat the super yummy wet food we bought for him. He slept more and more and more. Then one night, he didn't ask to come into the house at all. When we woke up in the morning, we saw Damon sleeping in the same place he had been sleeping the day before. He got up, walked a few steps to the turtle pond for a drink, then immediately lay back down. He didn't move when the sun started to shine on him and make him hot. Dave picked him up and lay him down in some shade. I checked his gums and they were white. We knew he was dying and that it would be less painful for him to be euthanized, rather than slowly die. Poor guy. We told the kids and gathered them around to tell Damon good-bye. They all gave him hugs and kisses and told him what a terrific dog he was and how much they loved him. Sebastian cried really hard and held Damon for a very long hug. Once the other kids saw their big brother crying, they all broke down too, as did Dave and I. After we said our good-byes, Dave carried him gently to the car and stayed with him until the end.

Damon was a great dog! He was greatly loved and has been greatly missed! We are so blessed to have had him in our family for a time! :)

Through this experience, we have come to LOVE the vets at Dublin Animal Hospital. They were so caring and compassionate and fair and sweet. We used to go to Banfield, but never will again. The caring staff at Dublin Animal Hospital made an impression of Damon's paw for us and sent us a sweet card a few days later. They helped to make this painful passing a bit easier.

If you are reading this with Windows...

...the formatting you are viewing may be "off". It all looks normal using Firefox, though. I'm not sure why and I'm not sure how to solve the problem. Firefox is a GREAT browser, though. If you don't already have it and use it, you should!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Going to play catch-up!

Sweet Scarlett, the hair twirler. :)
Haven pulling a face. Cutie! :)

Sweet Brighton, first time wearing a baseball cap! Couldn't be cuter!

Hanging out in hammock world with the two little girls and Brighton (below). Brighton loves to swing in the hammocks! So does his dad and mom...and siblings. Most mornings, the three oldest kids can be found out in hammock world...swinging to and fro and chatting up a storm. Hammock world was Dave's brilliant solution to the awkward space below the addition that was made to the house decades ago. It left an area not high enough for an adult to stand up in, and sand not suitable for growing anything in. Last Father's Day of '08 (just a few weeks after we purchased and moved into this house,) Dave bought himself a nice hammock and set it up under the addition. It looked so great and finally gave this potential dark, useless "cave" a wonderful purpose, so I suggested we buy a few more and hang them up as well! And, VIOLA! Hammock world! :) In the future, the floor will be a thick layer of mulch and the ceiling will be painted a more endearing, relaxing color...I may even keep shade plants in the window boxes ALIVE this year! :)

So I have been noticeably neglectful of my poor blog. Expect rapid fire posts over the next few days as I play catch-up! :)