Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Groundhog Day Ideas

I went hunting today for ideas to celebrate Groundhog Day. It's something we started doing long ago when our oldest kids were preschoolers. It gives us a little fun after weeks of being cooped up inside. Last year, I made these tasty cupcakes. For the directions click here.

This year I think I want to try this adorable idea. It came from Gourmet Mom
If you scroll down to the bottom of her post, she has a couple of other ideas that are just as adorable. I think I will make some of the groundhog picks to include in the kids' lunch boxes.

Just a couple of ideas to add some fun to the week. Have fun!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Is Your Family Weather Ready?

I recently read this article on CNN about all the severe weather disasters that hit the US last year. It caused me to reflect on the preparations we have tried to make as a family for the weather challenges that may hit our region. I have included the link to the article below. In case it is not working, I actually pasted the article here on my blog as well.

In preparing for weather disasters, you really need to do some research to learn how likely certain disasters are to hit your area. We are inland enough here in Idaho that we never have to worry about hurricanes or tsunamis, for example. Severe winter storms are the most likely weather disaster to worry about here. Knowing what disasters to prepare for, helps you to focus your preparations. Over the next couple of weeks, I will focus my blog entries on areas to consider in your preparations. Hopefully, they can inspire you to review what you have done and set goals to finish the preparations that you still need to do.


Could you survive an extreme weather disaster?

By Katherine Dorsett Bennett, CNN
updated 5:28 PM EST, Fri January 27, 2012
<br/>Damaged buildings and cars litter Tuscaloosa, Alabama, following a deadly tornado in 2011.
Damaged buildings and cars litter Tuscaloosa, Alabama, following a deadly tornado in 2011.
NOAA: 2011 record year for weather disasters

  • NOAA: A record 14 climate disasters in 2011 caused $1 billion or more in damage
  • Official says conditions are prime for more extreme weather disasters
  • Weather Service director: Doubling efforts to be a "weather-ready nation"
Atlanta (CNN) -- Ranee Roberts feels lucky to have survived the impact of a tornado that hit her Alabama convenience store in April.
"Before the twister hit, I sent a last text to say 'I love you' to my best friend, and then the building began to come apart around me," said the 34-year-old from Henagar.
Roberts said she knew only about two minutes before impact that the twister was heading toward her store. The tornado was rated an EF-4, with estimated winds peaking at 175 mph.
"There was no time for preparations, only prayer," she said. "I felt utterly hopeless thinking I might be spending my last moments on Earth curled up on the stockroom floor."
Ranee Roberts, 34, survived a tornado that directly hit her Alabama business.
Ranee Roberts, 34, survived a tornado that directly hit her Alabama business.
Looking back, she was ill-prepared for the storm and its aftermath. She felt that she got off extremely lucky walking away with "just a few scratches" to her body.
She learned from her harrowing experience to keep a first-aid kit, flashlight, bicycle helmet, battery-powered radio, power generator and Meals Ready to Eat in her storm closet.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a record 14 weather and climate disasters in 2011 caused $1 billion or more in damage, including the Alabama tornado that Roberts survived. At least 669 people died in these storms and thousands were injured.

2011: How to prepare for a hurricane

2011: Tuscaloosa damage before and after

2011: Lee's remnants flood upstate NY

2011 aerials show Vermont's Irene damage
"In my four decades of tracking weather, I have never seen extreme weather like we had in 2011," said Jack Hayes, NOAA's assistant administrator for weather services and the National Weather Service director.
Although no two years are alike, Hayes said, it's important for Americans to be prepared for the worst.
"The U.S. population has almost doubled since 1954, and trends such as urban sprawl and conversion of rural land to suburban landscapes increase the likelihood a tornado will impact densely populated areas," he said. "We have also become more vulnerable to coastal storms and hurricanes as more people are living in coastal areas."
Hayes said the 2011 Southern drought and floods across the northern U.S. represent the extreme temperature and precipitation swings that climate scientists project will become more common amid a warming climate.
As a result of these conditions, Hayes' agency has redoubled its efforts to create a "Weather-Ready Nation."
"We want the nation's response to and the outcome from severe weather to be different in 2012 and in the future," he noted.
The devastating effects of extreme events can be reduced through improved readiness. Hayes said a "weather-ready nation" is one made up of people empowered to make life-saving decisions that also prevent devastating economic losses.
Roberts said that neither she nor her neighbors and friends in Alabama felt they were as prepared as they could have been for April's tornado. They lacked basic supplies and relied on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other community members and a local church to help them after the storm.
"That tornado was a clear reminder of our vulnerability," she said. "Your life can change in an instant."
One of the many lessons she learned from her experience was to create an emergency preparedness plan, something Hayes wants for all Americans.
In the end, emergency managers, first responders, government officials, businesses and the public need to be equipped with better weather information and a plan to make fast, smart decisions to save lives and livelihoods, Hayes said.
As part of creating a "weather-ready nation," Hayes' agency is launching pilot projects in the Gulf Coast, South and mid-Atlantic regions to increase "on the ground" capabilities.
In the north central Gulf region, for instance, a pilot team of meteorologists and hydrologists is developing methods to improve coordination to enhance preparedness and response efforts.

Family mourns teen killed in tornado

Deadly storms rip through Southeast

Family survives storm as house collapses
Hayes also wants Americans to understand that each type of weather condition deserves a specific type of preparedness. NOAA's website links to FEMA's ready.govsite, which offers detailed information on how to create a disaster plans for various conditions.
To prepare for tornadoes, for example, it's critical that families identify a "safe room" in their house to go to when they hear a tornado siren or learn that a tornado warning is in effect, Hayes said. If you are outside or away from your home, you should immediately get into the lowest level of a sturdy building. The safest type of room would be underground, such as a basement or cellar, he said
Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider, who appears on the various media platforms of CNN and HLN, has written a new book releasing January 31, called "Extreme Weather," which provides a guide to surviving all types of natural disasters. She notes the growing importance of technology and social media in becoming a "weather-ready nation."
"During natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes phone lines may go down so SMS and Twitter may be the only ways to communicate," she said. "It's important to have these types of accounts set up, and know how to use them, before an extreme weather event occurs."
Schneider recommends having a plan for pets too, including emergency food supplies and an accessible place to keep a picture of your pet and proof of ownership. This may be needed at a shelter, or if the pet is lost.
"You've got to be proactive in preparing for extreme weather," she said.
"An extreme weather condition, like the tornado I experienced, doesn't care if you are rich, poor, young or old," said Roberts. "What does matter is how prepared you are and how quickly you react when time is of the essence."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Craving Summer

As winter begins to drag on, I begin craving at least a taste of summer. I served hot dogs and potato salad the other night for dinner and we all loved it!

This potato salad is a bit unique - I always get requests for the recipe whenever I bring it to BBQs or potlucks. The secret is the sweet pickles and the tomatoes! I originally got this recipe from my sister years ago. It came from her mother-in-law. I started making it for my husband when we were first married and it fast became his favorite! He will eat it any time of year and loves the leftovers for lunch the next day. It is also a favorite of my kids - although my daughter, Sarah, has to pick out the tomatoes.

The recipe that follows does not share any amounts. There aren't many cooks that actually measure when they are making a salad anyway. You just learn how to mix things until they look about right. I always include potatoes, onions, tomatoes and sweet pickles - lots of sweet pickles. The other ingredients are optional. If I didn't have tomatoes, it would also be pretty good. My garden tomatoes last pretty long in the garage. This year we ate our last ones the week of Christmas which is when I had to start buying them at the grocery store. They never taste as good as garden tomatoes, but they help us pull through until we can plant a garden again. Potatoes also store a long time. I'm using ones we purchased in October and have just stored in a box in our garage.

The other ingredient that adds a lot of flavor to this salad is bacon bits. I love the precooked bacon bits you can purchase. They don't need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life.

Put everything in your bowl and add some mayonnaise and mustard. Stir to combine. Add a little more mayo if it appears too dry. Then salt and pepper to taste.

I mixed it up in this cute new bowl my husband and kids gave me for Christmas.

Doesn't it look tasty? It filled our heads with memories of summer which is what I needed for sure! I also love that I can make it ahead of time before all the kids get home and life gets a little crazy around here. You could make it even the night before if you needed to.

Potato Salad

Potatoes, cooked and diced
Hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Sweet pickles, chopped
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Onions, chopped
Celery, chopped
Tomatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper
Olives, sliced


Cook potatoes just until done.  You do not want them too mushy.  Allow potatoes to cool.  Add vegetables and bacon.  Stir in mayonnaise and mustard.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Make as much as you like.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

10 Grain Bread

I've been playing a little with one of my favorite bread recipes. You'll find the recipe for Fabulous Homemade Bread here. Before now I had only tried adding oatmeal or ground flax seed to the dough. This last week, I tried adding a 10 grain cereal mix I found in the bulk section of our local grocery store. If you don't have a bulk section, check in the hot cereal isle. I'm sure there is something similar - it may not be 10 grains, but perhaps 7 or 9. I just added the 10 grain cereal mix in place of the oatmeal called for in the recipe.
Here is the dough after it has risen a bit. You can see all the little grains of healthy goodness.

Here it is after baking - golden brown and delicious!

My husband couldn't wait for it to cool. We sliced it piping hot which sometimes doesn't give such good results. This loaf sliced up nice even when it was steaming. Many times it just mushes into hot bread goodness which still tastes divine, but doesn't make for a great presentation photo.

Go ahead - add the grain mix or seeds you're craving in place of the oatmeal in my recipe. I think you'll agree it's a little slice of heaven!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Obedience Brings Blessings

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have been counseled to prepare for future times of need by storing food and other essential items. This counsel has been repeated many times over the years. Here is a story of the blessings that came to one family as they were obedient to the counsel.

Sister Cherry Lee Davis and her family gained a testimony of home storage through experiencing an emergency firsthand. Brother and Sister Davis were converts to the Church and knew about home storage, but they did not intend to start their own program for a while. Because they planned to move a long distance to a new home, they felt it would be foolish to bother with home storage at that time. However, Sister Davis often fasted and prayed for guidance. Without realizing it, she began a food storage program. Each time she went to the store, she bought a little extra of some foods. Before long the kitchen cupboards were full, and she had to store foods in the bedroom. When her husband asked her what she was doing, she replied, “I guess I am storing food.” When he asked why, all she could reply was, “Because I have to.” She could not give any more reason for her actions than that. She said, “The more I prayed about it, the more of a compulsion I had to buy groceries. Deep inside me was the comfortable, rewarding feeling that I was being obedient.”

Sister Davis learned ways to prepare some of the foods she stored by attending demonstrations, by reading, and by practicing making various recipes. When at last she felt that these foods were well prepared, another impression came to her to buy more and more food. She described her reaction: “‘Why?’ I asked in prayer, but there was no answer. I just had to get more. So I did, confused and bewildered, but obedient. I could just see the space this food would take in the truck we intended to rent [to travel to our new home].”
When the Davis family finally moved to their new home, all their furniture and some 15 or 20 boxes of food just barely fit in the truck they rented. By the time they paid for the truck, rented a small home, and paid all their other expenses, they had very little money left. On top of all this Brother Davis had difficulty finding a job. When he did find one, it paid so little that after they paid the bills they had nothing left for food. Then Sister Davis knew the reason for all her food storage—it was actually their food supply for the roughest months of their marriage.

Looking back on those months of eating their stored food, she says: “I smile. I had fought so hard not to store food, and yet the Lord in his infinite wisdom and love had guided and taught me a very valuable lesson in this small miracle of being prepared” (“Our Small Miracle,” Ensign, Aug. 1978, 2)