Friday, August 23, 2013

Be Prepared...more than just the Scout motto!

Be prepared.  When I hear that, I do think of scouting and I also think of being prepared for emergencies.  Like having an emergency box with flashlights, water, copies of important documents and whatnot in case of a tornado.  Or carrying auto insurance in case of an accident.  Or keeping blankets in the car in the winter.

What about if someone has an unexpected illness or hospitalization?  Are you prepared for the little things that are involved in all of that?  What about meals?  What about the kids?  What about phone calls?  There are so many little details.  

It's easy enough to keep a few "quick" meals on hand whether that is simply pasta and pasta sauce or meals in the freezer.  It's really important that your family knows what your emergency meal is and where it is.  It might be YOU who is hospitalized.

Years ago, I had a job where I was stepping in after a long term employee had done some questionable things and when called out on it, left abruptly.  In doing so, there were things that were little things that my boss had no idea what was done where.  He asked me if I could create a type of handbook for them.  He jokingly called it the "If you get hit by a bus" book.  He had an odd sense of humor.  But it was meant to be so user friendly that anyone could pick up the book and know how where to order supplies or who our contact was at a certain customer's place of business, that type of information.

I've been dealing with a lot of health stuff here lately and I am thankful that my husband and I put together our own "If you get hit by a bus" book.  Thankfully, we just call it the emergency book.  In it, we've broken things down where we have a list of family contacts and numbers, those non-family members who we trust to keep our kids and phone numbers, school numbers, doctors and numbers.  There is a list of medicines that we take and our pharmacy contact.  There is also a list of utility companies and phone and account numbers.  In the case of an emergency, either one of us can grab the book and have all the household information one might need.

We also keep a fire safe.  It's not just for fires.  We live in Indiana and have tornadoes here, a small fire safe that is like a small suitcase is great because if we have to go to the basement, it's easy to grab.  In it, we keep copies of birth certificates, marriage license, shot records, and social security cards.  We also have photo copies of driver's licenses and credit cards.  I have all our pictures backed up on a flash drive that is in there as well.  We also have our wills, living wills, advanced directives and Power of Attorney papers.  We even keep a little bit of cash for emergencies.  My home was hit by a tornado years ago and we lost everything.  Imagine how hard it is to get a replacement debit card if you can't prove who you are to the bank without your driver's license.  Or how you would get a driver's license without documents to prove you are who you say you are.  If you don't have a fire safe, you can either give copies of the documents to someone who doesn't live in your area for safekeeping or even scan them into your computer and save to a flash drive to keep somewhere other than your home.

It will take a little time to get everything together but being prepared in case of an emergency will give you peace of mind should something happen.  Knowing that when I went to the hospital that my husband had everything he needed at his fingertips was reassuring.  

Start now, a little at a time and get things ready.  Be prepared!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The past teaches the future...if we'll learn!

Something that is always a "must-see" for my family at the Indiana State Fair is Pioneer Village.  Pioneer Village is an entire section of the fair that shows us how our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents lived and worked.  For those who have never been, everyone in Pioneer Village must dress like they lived in the past and must complete whatever task they're doing as it was done back them.  

There are steam tractors that do the farm chores such as threshing grains, getting the dried corn off the cob, cutting lumber and making shingles.  My husband and son could spend the entire fair just in the antique steam tractor area.  Well, ok, my husband could.  My son, spends so much time at the blacksmith shop that they now recognize him (for the second year) and have given him information on going to blacksmith classes once he is 11 or 12 years old.  He can't wait!  I was slightly embarrassed when Devon told the Coppersmith that the Blacksmith was better to watch.  

I'm sure it is no surprise that I love watching the women cook the meals with cast iron pots and pans over the fire with their garden nearby where they can literally pick it just before they throw it in the pot!  It was funny to me to hear the kids and teens reactions to hear the family who does the fresh cracklin's when they find out what "cracklin's" are made of!  LOL  

As I was walking around the steam engine area looking for my husband and son, I looked up on one of the big barns and saw this sign:

I thought about this quite a bit after I took the picture.  I decided that this statement can take on several different areas, both individually and as a society.  I know this may not seem to be a direct link in thinking but it is how my mind wrapped around this.  (As my husband says "work with me here"..LOL)

So many of the things that our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents did were considered to be craftsmanship that was being lost over time.  10-15 years ago, far fewer people had gardens, most of those who did lived in more rural settings.  Even fewer people "put up" the garden.  Rarely did anyone sew or do mending, everything was so disposable.  "Just go buy a new...fill in the blank with whatever was broken" was the norm.  Being frugal was almost unheard of and when it was was highly likely to be viewed as for those who were poor or odd.

Then, the economy tanked.  Many families were now struggling.  Not that they were necessarily poor but pretty much everyone I knew was affected in one way or another by it.  Some lost their homes, some lost their jobs and some just were hit so hard by gas prices that belts had to be tightened, budgets adjusted.  People had to figure out how to live on less.  

It didn't take long for people to realize that we could take the lessons of our collective past and apply it to today to stretch budgets and make money go just a little bit farther.  

Gardening was making a huge comeback.  So was canning, freezing and drying the produce that was being grown.  I remember a reporter contacting me to provide the "home canner's" take on things for a piece that she wrote about a professional chef who was canning things.  Until that time, I hadn't realized that so many people were interested in canning again.  I hate that it took such a turn in the economy to bring gardening back.  There is nothing that can compare to the taste and health benefits of fresh produce.

As the sign says "When a man loses sight of his past, He loses his ability to look forward intelligently".  If we are to move forward from an economic set-back in an intelligent way, it is in our best interest to look to the past at how our Grandparents did things.  Whether it was the depression, one of the World Wars, unemployment or any other economical set-back, they always looked at ways to not buy things.  If that meant, gardening or mending that ripped seam or sewing a new button on, or cooking at home, it always started with those crafts that we were losing in today's world.  

So take a minute and think about it.  What craft or skill will you learn that your Grandparents did?  What craft or skill will you pass on to your children?  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Warehouse Clubs

The Mom's group that I am a part of had a discussion a little while ago about warehouse clubs like Sam's and Costco.  We have a membership at Sam's club but until this discussion, I've only used it to buy sugar for my small jam business.  Shameless plug here, Gram's Jams is just getting started on Facebook.  Back on topic...LOL.  

So the discussion was what do you buy at the Warehouse clubs.  A lot of people pointed out that diapers, baby formula and baby wipes were cheaper there.  Some also talked about peanut butter and cheese being a better deal as well.  They also talked about some items that were not a good deal there, like cereal.  That surprised me.

I was surprised at the different reasons that people shopped at the warehouse clubs as much as the items that they purchased.  Shopping there wasn't always about saving money.  Some shop there because they could get their children's lunch items there prepackaged for individual use.  Some shopped there because they were able to get things like toilet paper and paper towels in larger packages.

I decided that I needed to do some comparisons.  While I was on my big monthly trip to the grocery, I made notes of the items that I regularly purchase that I know I'd seen at Sam's.  Then I went to Sam's and compared things.  I was surprised.  Shocked on a couple of things!

I compared some random things that I normally buy:

We keep the Fiber One bars (Oatmeal & chocolate) on hand and at the grocery they were $6.98 for 10 bars, at Sam's club they were $6.98 for 20.  Twice as much for the same price!

Pop Tarts (my little guy likes them for after school snacks) at the grocery they are $1.99 for a box of 8 which is $.25 each.  At Sam's, they were $6.87 for a box of 36 which is $.19 each.

Being diabetic, I use Splenda at home and Splenda was on sale at the grocery for $7.98 for the bag that equaled 5 pounds of sugar and at Sam's club was $9.98 for the bag that equaled 10 pounds of sugar.  Two dollars more for twice as much!

Cheese was a huge difference.  The 8 ounce package of sharp cheddar was on sale at the grocery for 2 packs (one pound) for $4.00.  At Sam's, it was $5.98 for TWO pounds or $2.99 per pound.

String cheese at the grocery was $7.98 for 12 or $.67 each.  At Sam's, they were $8.78 for 48 or $.18 each.  

I need to do some more comparisons but I found that I need to use my Sam's club membership to my advantage a bit more.  I can't see us buying a gallon of pickles or 96 candy bars but I do see where there can be a huge savings there now.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I've been asked about my recipes on a couple of different occasions.  I will always share my recipes, I have none that I hide.  Now with some of my Gram's recipes, unless you know the secret and can accept her way of measuring, you'll never duplicate her recipes.  When Gram's recipes say add 3 Tablespoons of flour, that means you put as much flour on each of those tablespoons as possible.  Don't level it off.  Don't put it in the spoons so that it's still fluffy.  You put that measuring spoon in the flour and use it like a shovel, filling it as heaping as you can get it!  LOL.  I never use a recipe that isn't mine without giving credit where credit is due, that's the right thing to do.  

I was asked to share some of my planned over recipes.  As for the planned over recipes, well, I don't actually use recipes most of the time.  This is pretty much because when I started doing this was way before the internet and I couldn't check out Food Network or Allrecipes so I was winging it.  That's a hint in itself...don't be afraid to experiment.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  You never know until you try.

Take my jams for instance.  When I get an idea or a suggestion for a new flavor, I'll look at recipes to get an idea of what people put into them or how others mix ingredients and then I will play around with it to make it mine.  Sometimes it works and sometimes I've thrown out a batch of jam.  It happens.

Back to planned overs.  When talking about chicken, I mentioned chicken a la king.  My friend, Sue, shared an easy one.  I melt butter in a pan about 6 tablespoons, add the same amount of flour, cook slightly but do not brown it.  I add a cup of milk and then 2-3 cups of chicken broth until it is slightly thicker than gravy.  I add some white pepper and then add the chicken, about 2 cups of shredded.  My family prefers when I serve this over those Puff Pastry cups.  If I can't find those on sale with a coupon, I serve it over toast.  Hey, Peppridge Farms Puff Pastry cups are expensive!  LOL!

When we have chicken & dumplings, we like them made with Spaetzle.  I think that is spelled right.  I just use some chicken broth that I generally have in the freezer (or you can use a carton from the store), some shredded chicken and the spaetzle.  To make spaetzle, use a fork to blend one egg and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir in one cup of water and then slowly work in 2 1/4 cups of flour.  I usually mix it in 1/2 cup at a time.  I just dip a spoon into the hot broth and then scoop up some spaetzle and put it in the broth.  The dough won't stick to the spoon this way.

For chicken salad, I just mix chicken, mayo, diced celery, cut grapes, nuts (usually walnuts or pecans), some seasoning...sometimes I use Old Bay, sometimes poultry seasoning...just whatever I am in the mood for.

With beef, I do so much with the extra meat.  Beef Manhattans are so easy, left over beef, I make some mashed potatoes and some gravy.  You can use a gravy packet if you want.  I would never recommend using instant mashed potatoes, but you can if you want...LOL

For vegetable soup, I just literally mix the bits and pieces of beef, if you have no saved veggies in the freezer, you can use a package of mixed vegetables, some beef broth (again, from the freezer or a carton).  I like to add barley to my veggie soup and sometimes alphabet noodles.  It really is a "whatever I have on hand" kind of soup.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The State Fair

Before I moved to Indianapolis, I had never been to the State Fair.  Now we go every year.  We love the State Fair!  Probably the only thing about it that I do not like is the midway.  Of course, the kids love it.  The biggest problem that most people find with it is the cost.  It can get pricey, really pricey.  

With some careful planning, even the State Fair can be affordable.  It's gotten a little trickier since you now have to pay for parking in the fairgrounds, but at least it is only $5.  

The entry fee is $10 per person.  If you buy your tickets early, you can get them for $7 at CVS or Walmart.  I got ours at CVS and found that I can use my Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) to buy them.  If you're not familiar with ECB's, CVS will offer deals where if you buy certain items or certain quantities of items, you get ECB's back.  I had earned enough ECB's that I used them to pay for our tickets today, $28 savings.

In the Indianapolis Star, there are days when you get the paper and it will have a coupon in it for the next day to get into the fair free.  So, $1 or $1.50 per person...I honestly don't remember how much a single copy of the paper costs.  It beats $10.  Before you say free days are always packed...the State Fair is ALWAYS packed.

We went today because Lucas Oil Tractor Pulls were there.  Hubby and the kids love this event and at the fair, it's only $5 per person to go to the pulls.  I love them because the time they are at the tractor pulls, I get to go do the stuff that generally causes my children to repeatedly say "Are we done here yet?", "Can we go to something else now", "Do we really need to see the home ec building?".  They aren't rude about it, it just makes me feel rushed.

Most times we go, we spend very little after admission.  On the first day, we buy a lemon shake-up.  We keep the cup and wash it and as long as you have the cup, lid and straw, refills are $3 anywhere in the fair.  We generally share two because they're big.  I'll wash the cup and take it back throughout the entire fair.  FYI, it's not cheating, they'll tell you to do it.  This year, we were told if we keep all three pieces they're good every year, who knew?

Most of the time, I will take a tote instead of my purse and take snacks and bottled water.  Most times, I will even pack our lunch.  Today we ate lunch at the Dairy Bar. My son has declared them to have the best chocolate milk in town!  Grilled cheese sandwiches are good too.  The milks are only $.50 each and $.25 to refill.  The "milkshake" is really just a big cup of ice cream, you're not drinking these with a straw, is only $3.  We share those too.

There are so many free things to do at the fair too.  My husband and son LOVE Pioneer Village.  My husband loves all the steam engine demonstrations, it doesn't matter if they're cutting wood, removing corn off the cob, pressing brass medallions, he's just highly fascinated with the tractors and the ingenuity that they had way back when to make these machines do the jobs they do.  My son, Devon, would be at the Blacksmith stand every day if I'd take him there.  He loves watching them create things.  He's talked extensively with one particular Blacksmith about how to take up the hobby.  He's a little upset that he is still not old enough to go to the classes to learn how.  It was funny, when we got to the Blacksmith's spot, they remembered him and how often he was there last year.  That made his day.  

The teenager, of course, loves to find out which of her friends are there and she generally takes off and keeps in touch via the phone.  Some days she stays with us, depends on who's there and what's going on.

They have a free stage in the back of the fairgrounds and today, there was some wonderful Spanish music going on.  Each day is something different back there.

The snacks which range from fried cookie dough (Kate's favorite) to fried butter (I don't even understand that one) to fried well, fried everything it seems.  If you like that sort of thing, they have what's called $2 Tuesday where vendors will offer sample sizes of things for, you guessed it, $2.  I'm going with a friend on a $2 Tuesday this year and I might have to try the bacon glazed doughnuts.  I'm diabetic, so maybe I'll split them with Julie but they have me intrigued!

As much as I dislike the midway, the kids do love it so they know that we'll do one day of letting them ride rides.  The wristbands are $25 but you can get them at Walmart for $20.  

I really don't have anything against rides, but I think you can do rides at Holiday World or other amusement parks, the fair is about the animals, the competitions with veggies and baked goods, the demonstrations, learning about our state and the things we have here.  I learn something new every year.  Today, I learned that on average a home that has a garden and rain barrels saves 1300 gallons of water each summer.  That's average.  I have a large garden.  I have my barrels, I need to get hubby to install them.  I truly dislike paying for water in the city, rain water is free.

I would highly encourage everyone to experience their State Fair.  Here's the link for ours.  Look around for discounts and free days.  Put on some good walking shoes and go explore.  Take your time and enjoy and who knows, you just might learn something too!