Tuesday, December 29, 2015

No Room at the Inn; Storage Space Part Two

When we left off last, we had covered a couple of ideas for adding storage to your home. Shall we look at more? There are many more, I assure you.

I think we should start with the kitchen. Tell me about your cabinets. Are they organized and alphabetized? All containers facing the exact same direction(out), like good little soldiers? No? Why not? Just kidding! Well, just a little. If you are one of those that comes home from the grocery store and just shoves what you bought in the cabinets, please rethink that. First of all, it is very hard to inventory when you don't have things together. Second, how do you ever find anything? You don't have to be as anal about it as I am, but do put some order to it. Rotation is key to food storage. ( I will cover this in another post right around the corner.) Also, look in that cabinet that you store all your gadgets. Do you use all of them? If not, donate them. Just keep the ones you actually use. If you really want to go hog wild with purging gadgets, consider the space the microwave takes up. I went a long time without one. Believe it or not, you can live without one. If you can live without a microwave, you can live without most kitchen gadgets. If you can't, no problem, I am not here to judge you! We have one on our counter now.

Look around your kitchen and see where you can add storage. Can you add a shelf anywhere just under the ceiling? Think those handy little containers again. Can you add a bookcase or any kind of cabinet with doors somewhere in a corner? Do you have that cabinet that has wasted space because the shelves inside are so far apart? Any big box store has these handy little wire shelved that stack together to create more space. They are relatively cheap as well.

Don't forget wall space. Years ago, I put rings on all my regularly used cooking utensils and hung them above the stove. All I had to do was grab them while I was cooking. Can you put up one of those magnetic strips to hang your knives? What about your pots and pans? Do you have nice ones, like cast iron? Instead of taking up cabinet space, show them off. Hang them from the ceiling if you are able or have a space you can, or hang them on the wall over the stove. Just make sure they are anchored well, you are not after ripping a hole in the wall if they fall. I have an enamel covered cast iron dutch oven that I love. I keep it out on the stove all the time. It adds a nice splash of color and shows it off at the same time. And if my husband misbehaves, I can simply grab it and smack him upside the head with it! I love double duty items, especially when they double as an attitude adjuster!

We also have a large spice rack that my grandpa made. We hung it on the wall above the window. Displays my spice rack, keeps the spices easy to grab and use and frees up that valuable real estate in those cabinets. Don't let those vertical spaces go to waste!

Do you have hard to reach cabinets or spaces in your cabinets? Who doesn't? I think that the folks that put cabinets in think that everyone is either 7 feet tall or 2 feet tall. Anyway, that space is a wonderful place to store those items that you want to keep for long term.

Now on to the living room. But my wife/husband would never let me store things in there! Oh, but you can. Be creative. Look around and see what you have in there. I am not suggesting that you just put in a bookcase and start filling it up for everyone to see and look at. But what about the end tables? What could you fit under them? Then all you have to do is cover them with a table cloth, of which you can find many styles to suit your living room colors. You can do the same with a coffee table. Replace the footstool with an ottoman. Is your couch and chairs flat against the floor? If not, next time you buy some canned goods, keep one of the boxes they stack them in and slide it right under there. Is your couch flush against the wall? Put some items back there. Is it out in the middle of the room as a divider? Buy or build a table to stand behind the couch. Put some pretties on top of it and either cover it or add cabinets and doors under to store more items. Also consider freeing up closet space by using your couch and chairs to store your extra blankets. Especially in the winter time, or in my case all year! Fold the blankets and put them on the back of the couch or chair. If you are not overly fussy about these things, let everyone pick their favorite and mark their spot. You do have favorite or usual places where you all sit, right?

Again, look at the walls. Do you have a corner you could build a set of shelves? You may need to take a chance and see what's behind a wall. We found a marvelous amount of space on one side of our fireplace. We took a chance and ripped part of the wall down to see what was behind it. Loads of room! We put in a bookcase. Of course with my love of books, we filled it up immediately...But doing that allowed us to free up another moveable bookcase for other uses. And by using as much scrap lumber and pieces from other projects as we could, we didn't really spend any money on it. What we did buy was red cedar to frame it with. It smells wonderful and looks good too.

Be critical. What can you get rid of? What do see when you look around your house? Where can you "add" more storage? It's there, all you have to do now is find it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

No Room at the Inn; Storage Space Part One

We have not done a lot for stocking the past few weeks. We have picked up a few extra things at the store since this time of year there are a lot of baking and food items that go on sale for the holidays. We always buy water when we go to the store. We originally were buying water a gallon at a time. Then we found the 2 1/2 gallon containers. That is what we buy now. They definitely stack better.

But where to store all this water? The past couple of days I have been trying to tackle that problem. Most folks do not have any where near enough storage space to store all the things that they want to stock up on. Especially water. It is bulky, heavy and just plain hard to store out of the way. Should you skip it and look at things you can store more easily? ABSOLUTLY NOT! It should be a priority. So let's look at all the places you have and never thought about. Of course, this may mean it's time to purge your home. This is a good time of year for it anyway, what with the new gifts that you have.

My first suggestion is to think in 3-D. Don't look at the floor in a room and say that you have no space. You have walls, too, don't you? You do have a least one or two closets in your home, right? Now is the time to think outside the box, so to speak. Let's look at all the ways you can add storage in your home for all the things that you are going to start stocking up on.

Let's start with your closet, or your children's or spare room closet (if you have a spare room closet, you are already ahead of the game). What do you have in the closet and how much can you get rid of? Take a good long look at the clothes and shoes in there. Decide what you can purge. If it's in good shape, send it off to your favorite charity. Did that clear up some space? Next, think of the ways you can take advantage of that space. How much space do you have under the clothes hanging in there and the stuff you have stored under it? Could you add a small shelf under there? Put some items for storing underneath and shoes on top. If your wife doesn't like the way that looks, put it in a box or tub, closed up and put your shoes on top of that. Need to sell the idea? Look Honey, now you don't have crawl around on the floor looking for your shoes, here they are all set up together nice and neat. Now keep them that way so the idea doesn't get taken away, lol.

Let's move on to the width of your closet. When you got done purging, do you now have extra space at the end of your closet vertically? Can you stack some items in there? How about enough space to actually put some shelves? If you are going to take over a woman's closet space, I would recommend that you make this as nice and neat as possible! If you can add some shelves, put water in the back and other items in front. This way you can still see what you have stored in there. You can even take some material or an old sheet and hang on the front of it to cover it up and keep the illusion of neatness.

Now, move on to the bathroom. But the bathroom is small, I hear you now. So is ours. We have no hall closet or bathroom closet. So how to solve that problem? Shelves. Last year when we redid our bathroom, we added shelves on the wall. I put a small wooden crate on the shelves to hold washcloths and hand towels. As long as you keep your towels folded, it will look much neater that you think. If you do have a closet that you put all of your bathroom necessities, you can still add shelves. We also added shelves around the bathroom about a foot down from the ceiling. We have added baskets to the shelves to hold extra storage items. Baskets are a great way to store bandages and other medical or miscellaneous supplies. They keep everything neat and organized and look nice (have you noticed the theme of keeping it all organized and neat yet?). It doesn't have to be baskets if you or yours don't really care for baskets. Any container that will hold the items is going to work. Maybe you like old cigar boxes or pretty bowls. Although if you go with bowls, I would suggest not getting clear ones. you aren't trying to advertise here. One thing to keep in mind when adding storage to the bathroom is to keep to items that will not be harmed by the humidity in the bathroom.

Do you have a laundry room? Or just a laundry area? If you have a laundry room, lucky you. If not, I am right there with you. Again, what can you purge? Do you have 10,000 bottles of different cleaners? Why? Get rid of them or use them up and don't replace them. There is virtually nothing that you cannot clean with plain old vinegar and baking soda. And bonus, you can show your kids a science project when you mix them together! Just use common sense with that. :) Now that you have room by eliminating all those extra bottles, you can store useful items there. Think extra vinegar and baking soda, think toilet paper, paper towels, etc.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As I will show you in future posts, you have even more space than this. Stay tuned for more ideas. If you have an idea that I didn't cover, send it along and share. Everyone could use more ideas. Who doesn't need more space?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas is Coming, Christmas is Coming!

We are just a couple of days from Christmas. Do you have your shopping done, or are you a last minute shopper like we are? If you are done shopping, do you have all your presents wrapped up and under the tree?

What are your traditions for the holiday? Do you gather with your entire family? Or do you stay at home with your spouse and children? Do you have any special food that you eat every year for Christmas dinner? I will not be traveling to see my family this year. Not working has it's ups and downs. On one hand, I am off so I don't have to fight to get the time off, but on the other hand, I am off and that means travel is not in the budget this year. Catch 22, I guess.

Of course, every family's traditions are different. Every family celebrates Christmas just a little bit differently than the next. Or a lot different, I guess. :)

Regardless of how you and yours celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a wonderful time. This time of year, there are many people that get depressed or sad. They do not have any family left to celebrate with. Keep these people in your thoughts and prayers. Invite them over for dinner. Do you have a neighbor with no family left? Consider them and include them. Remember what the holiday is about. Remember that it is about giving, not receiving. Give your time to someone who may need it.

Maybe you are not looking forward to spending time with your family. Maybe you have a strained relationship. Think long and hard about that this year. What if this is the last Christmas that you see your family? As we look at the way the world is heading, it seems like every one could be the last. Obviously, a lot of people thought there was no way we would make it through 2015, yet here we are at the end of the year again. But I am not willing to take that chance. I want to see family and friends. Of course I want to see them other than just Christmas as well, but more especially at Christmas.

Through all the hustle and bustle of these next few days, please keep vigilant. As you are out and about, or traveling, please keep an eye on what you see others doing. Might be that it is a situation that you can help in some way. Be the generous stranger and ask them to pay it forward. Maybe it is a situation that you can prevent something bad from happening. The attack on Paris and the attack in San Bernadino were almost three weeks apart to the day. Please keep in mind that this weekend is three weeks. I am sure it was coincidence, but please just keep an eye on what going on around you.

But above all of this, remember to live. Don't hunker down in fear. Get up and live every day with happiness and enjoyment. Prepare for the future, but don't forget that you are alive and well today. And don't forget the reason for this season, in particular. Give your time and attention to someone. More importantly, give your love to someone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Getting Started

No one can tell you exactly how to prepare. I can give you examples, advice and the like, but how you go about it is ultimately up to you.

A good way to start learning what you need to do to balance a budget is to keep a notebook of all the things you spend money on. Then at the end of a specified time, usually a month, you know how much you spent and where you can/should cut back.

You can apply this same principle to preparing. Keep a log for one month. You can go all out and record everything in great detail as to exactly how much you used (how many squares of toilet paper!) or you can be a whole lot more general (approx. two rolls a week for your family for toilet paper). Or you can focus on one group of items. Like what your family uses in the bathroom, what your family ate for meals for the month. A breakdown of exact amounts or estimates. Either way will get you started.

If you are going to keep track of all the food that your family eats for one month, don't forget meals that you eat out or that the kids eat at school.

If you are going to keep track of what your family uses in the bathroom, write down preferred brands and acceptable alternatives.

If you are going to keep track of disposables, don't forget to include things like toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, disposable utensils, pads, tissues, coffee filters, etc.

If you are going to track cleaning supplies, don't forget to include items like dish soap, laundry detergent or the items used to make your own, bleach, vinegar, baking soda, etc.

The variations for this are endless. There is no hard and fast rule for preparing for anything. Well, except one. Do it. Other than that, there are some guidelines, advice, suggestions. But what it boils down to is you stepping up and getting started in whatever way you can.

Speaking of suggestions, I do have a suggestion. This is one that my family follows. Buy water every time you go to the store. Not everyone has a way to store the 50-55 gallon drums for water, but nearly everyone can find a way to store jugs of water. There are many many hiding places to stash water. Consider investing or making a rain barrel. As long as it doesn't freeze, that is another option for water storage. Outside, yes, but still useable even if not drinkable.

So how are you deciding what to start storing? How much have you paid attention to all the items that you and your family members use each day? Where have you decided to start? Let me know.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What did you do?

Ok. The weekend is over. It's back to the grind for everyone. Well, most everyone.

So, did you get anything done? Did you get some chores done? Shopping? Did you pick up a few extra items at the store?

We did pick up a few things at the store this weekend. We found some mushrooms on clearance at the grocery store so we bought what they had. Even better was the fact that they were organic. The price we paid for three containers of organic mushrooms was the same as one of just regular mushrooms. So we got what they had. I will dehydrate them today.

We also bought our tree for Christmas. Not what you consider getting prepared? Well keeping life as normal and comfortable as you can is also part of it. Just because you realize that you need to start getting prepared does not mean that you stop living life and be afraid of everything. That is part of being mentally prepared.

We bought more water this weekend. I cannot stress how important water is to stock up on. I have potable and non-potable water stored. Even if it's not the end of the world, water is still valuable to have on hand. We have twice now needed to shut the water off to our house while doing repairs and having this water was great.

We also did a little bit of research on pressure canners. I would absolutely love to have and All American Canner. With the price though, I cannot see that happening any time soon. I learned this weekend that the Presto Canner is safe to use on a glass top stove. That is what we have, and being able to use the Presto now is wonderful. I was worried that we would have to buy a propane burner in order to start pressure canning. Now I won't have to. And at around $70, it is definitely more in my price range.

My husband made chili yesterday. We make a big pot and usually have plenty for leftovers and to stick in the freezer for later.

We made our meal plan for the week based on the sales that we found at the grocery store.

In general, it was a rather slow, laid back weekend. We got out and enjoyed the weather as we all know 70 degrees in December will not last.

So, tell me, what did you do this weekend?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Love, But Not the T.V.

We do not watch much tv. We do not even have cable. WHAT?!? GASP! SPUTTER, CHOKE, COUGH! How can you possibly live without cable you ask. In short, easy. We do have an antenna that picks up local channels and PBS. That's good enough for us. Even with a teenager in the house, we have managed just fine without it.

That doesn't mean that we never watch any tv. My son watches tv virtually every day. My husband and I can go days, even weeks without ever turning the tv on. But then there will be something that caught our attention and that we would like to watch.

Last night, that was The Coat of Many Colors. It was based on the true story of Dolly Parton. I admire Dolly Parton a lot. She is a classy lady. You do not hear scandals about her. You don't hear stories or gossip about the "Latest Stupid Thing She Did" like so many other celebrities. She knows how to behave.

The movie was really good. As I told my husband last night, my eyes sure leaked a lot, lol. There were tears from joy and tears from sadness. If you have the opportunity to see the movie at some point, I would recommend it.

I will not be a spoiler for it in case you have the chance to see it. I do want to say something about it though.

The message of love and family was huge. And I believe it. Love and family can get you through anything, as long as you stay together. It does not have to be physically. My family lives quite a distance from me. I still talk to them and know that I can count on their love and support in anything in my life. The same as I would give them.

What about your family? Do you have that love? Do you have any connection with your family? When life gets hard and tough, and it does without fail at some point, do you have the love of your family to fall back on? Please note, family can also mean the ones that you choose to be your family. We are all born with a family of some sort. We all also have the option of expanding that family with love and friendship in our hearts. Just like in the movie we watched last night.

Be willing to open your heart and forgive when necessary. Be willing to be forgiven when you need it. Greif and guilt can do a lot to tear a family apart. Love is what continues to hold it together. Don't give that love up. Don't let it fade. Show your spouse you still care just as much now as you did when you first got together. Hopefully you know your spouse. What small treasure can you give to them to tell them you love them? And if your first thought is to go out and buy something, well, you have it all wrong. I mean a true treasure. You put the kids to bed tonight so she can enjoy a bubble bath. You take the trash out so he can have a few extra minutes with the kids. You do the dishes so he or she can have a break from it. Give a back rub. Give a foot rub. Hold hands. Kiss. The ideas can be endless.

When times get tough, understand just how much that love will help you and yours. Make sure you have that strong foundation in place now. It will be hard to build a foundation like that in stressful times. Build it now so you have something firm to stand on later.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beans and Rice? Maybe Neither.

One thing that is said over and over with trying to get prepared is "there is no money". There is almost always a way to find the money to prepare. If preparing is something that you actually want to do, you will find a way. Kind of like if your kid needs braces and you weren't planning on that. You will find a way to come up with the money. Think about your wants versus needs. Do you need to have steak for dinner? Do you need to go out to the restaurant? Do you need that new (fill in the blank here)?

We all seem to think that, well, we deserve it. We had a rough week at work. The kids were awful this week. My boss is an idiot. Well, of course your boss is an idiot. That goes without saying. I don't care where you work, that is likely the case. Bad week at work? What if you had no job? What if you were not able to get to that job? On and on it can go.

Start today. Don't put it off any longer. Take a look at what you can pick up today. Or maybe this weekend if running to the store or library is not an option during the week. When you make out your grocery list, add a few extra items that you already buy. Look for sales and stock up on something. It doesn't need to be double what you normally buy. Just one or two extra every single week will add up before you realize it.

Let me give a little advice, though. Do NOT stock up on beans and rice. Unless of course they are already part of your diet. If you don't like beans or rice now, why would you think that you would like them when you are under a whole lot of stress? Do not think that you can suddenly change your diet to something that you don't like when things go bad. You will simply not eat. Stock up the foods that you and your family already eat on a regular basis. Do not underestimate the value of having normal-for-you foods on hand. Just think about that. When you have a rough time of something now, what do you reach for? Ice cream? Cookies? Chips? Some of these items may not be something you can keep on hand all the time. In my house, if I buy chips of any kind, I have two options. I can put them in the kitchen where my son will have them devoured in about 30 seconds. Or I can hide them. He can't eat what he doesn't know is there. I do have to make sure to get them out of hiding before they go stale though or I have wasted my money. (Not an issue here, my son would eat junk food over any other single option.)

If you do eat beans and rice, as we do, then by all means stock up on them. Find new and creative ways to cook with them. The same old boring stand-by's will be just that. After how many meals will you decide that you simply do not want to see another bean or grain of rice? This is called appetite fatigue. You can starve to death if appetite fatigue sets in. Even with piles of food around you. I know you say that won't happen to me! Well it can. Think about it this way. Make a big pot of soup. Or chili, or whatever. Now, that is all you can eat for the next seven days. Every meal, same thing, over and over. How many meals will go by before you simply cannot eat another bite? That would be a good thing to know. I have tried it. I can go about three days, max. Sometimes, less.

If you have kids, think about some of their favorite foods. These items are some of the first thing you should stock up on. It can be a great comfort for your children to have a meal of their favorites. If you can keep your children calm in an emergency situation, even if it's just a power outage, that leaves you free to deal with things.

Another thing to keep in mind when starting your stocking: think about items that do not need to be cooked. Some of these things would be canned soups, canned meats, etc. May not be the tastiest cold out of the can, but would sure beat going hungry.

One more thing. Rotate. Rotate. Oh yeah, one more thing. Rotate. It does you absolutely no good to stock up on anything if you put it on the shelf and it goes bad before you ever open it up to eat. (See why stocking up on what you already use is a good idea?) Think FIFO. First in, First out. That will save many dollars that you don't have to waste on lost stocks.

Get started today. Or this weekend if you must wait. But do not put this off. Get to the store. Get to the library. There is all kinds of info out there to learn. Find it.

Hard times are coming our way and we all need to get ready. Be vigilant.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Of Garlic and Government

Just like many other people we have had a whole lotta rain. I dumped our rain gauge out on Saturday when we were out working in the yard. This is the picture I took yesterday when I ventured outside again.
That is a five inch rain gauge. It was overflowing. It was on the five in mark on Tuesday afternoon when I noticed it. And it just kept raining. I am not sure how much we actually got at my house as I was lazy and did not want to go out into the rain to dump it before it got full and overflowing.

I planted garlic in our garden this fall. It is doing well. I planted nine cloves so that I could hopefully have nine bulbs. With many cloves. We really love garlic. It is good for so many things, both culinary and medicinal. We use a LOT of garlic.

Since I do not have any garlic from the garden yet, we bought some. I decided to try my hand at dehydrating it. So, here I have my garlic:
Then I peeled it:
You get very sticky peeling that much garlic.
Wow, they kind of look like lumpy potatoes that close up.

Then I chopped them up. The book said to cut them in half, but I figured they might dry faster if they were cut up a little smaller.

They are still in the dehydrator and will be for several hours. They are still very flexible. I need them to be crisp. I can use them by chopping them up and have garlic pieces. Or I can put them in my mortar and pestle and grind them up for powder. Or I can just throw them in as is into soups or any other dish I would add garlic. Wait, is there anything I don't add garlic to?? Maybe some desserts, that's about it.

I was not going to put anything on this blog about politics, but it seems I can't help myself right now.

I have been following the terrorist attack in California just as everyone else has. This is unacceptable for our country. When did we allow ourselves to turn into such a place? How did we let our country turn into such a politically correct pansy state that we refuse to call a spade a spade?

It appalls me that there were people that saw these people coming and going into the house of one of the shooters that was involved in this. And didn't report it. Why? They didn't want to get into trouble for "racial profiling". Are you kidding me? What difference does that make? I feel like they are also responsible for this attack. All they had to do was call the cops and report suspicious behavior.

I want to know why it's acceptable to keep bringing these "refugees" to our country. We have seen firsthand what happened when these so called refugees were allowed into France. I also want to know why most if not all the pictures of these so called refugees are men. If they are truly seeking safety, why are there not more women and children?

I just heard on the news this afternoon that ISIS is expected to claim credit for this attack in California. This piece of news today, when yesterday TPTB (the powers that be) said there was not enough evidence to call this a terrorist attack. This is where we should be calling a spade a spade. These shooters were terrorists, plain and simple. Should we also be calling our government terrorists for allowing these terrorists into our country? For allowing them in our country to kill our citizens, we should all be shouting to our government. Even if they stopping bringing in "refugees" right now, it's too late. They are already here. They are crossing our borders in the southwest at an alarming rate as well.

We should all be paying very close attention to what is going on around us. Please watch closely the things going on in your neck of the woods. And for Pete's sake, if you see something report it. Do not run the risk that another attack can happen because we didn't want to hurt someone's feelings. I would rather hurt someone's feelings and no one die, than to spare a few people getting feelings hurt and many people die. I won't have that on my conscious.

Please be careful and be safe.