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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for June, 2012

Mister Rogers Remixed

This is just an amazing video.  My kids used to watch Mister Rogers.  I appreciated the slow, calm pace of his show, and all the interesting things he shared.

PBS had this video made, and it is just so neat.  The guy took Mister Rogers’ voice, and altered the tone up and down to make it sound like he was almost singing.  You must watch this! :)

Not enough information, Mom!

My son, Bunny-Wan Kenobi, came to me with his math worksheets.  “Mom, I don’t know how to solve this problem.”

Homeschooling mom that I am, I leaned over the bed with him to discuss the word problem that had him stumped:

On the surface, this seems to be a rather innocuous perimeter problem. Little did I know just how diabolically complex this was.

I suggested he draw a picture of the garden.  He laughed about it taking up the whole room, I rolled my eyes at him and laughed, and then I drew a rectangle on his paper, while he informed me he didn’t see how that was going to help him.

“Okay.  So this is the garden.  How long is this side?”

“Nine feet.”

“Right, so we’ll write 9 feet here.  Now what about this side?”

“Nine feet.”

“Okay, we’ll write that down.  This side?

“Seven feet.  And that side’s seven feet.”

“Good.  Now I want to put a fence all the way around this garden.  How much fence do I need to buy?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, you need to figure out the perimeter of the garden.  You remember what perimeter is?  (he nods)  Okay, what’s perimeter?”

“It’s when you add this side and this side and this side and this side.”

“Right.  You find out what it takes to go all the way around it.”

I could see he was still having some problem with it, so I approached it a little differently.  I took my pencil and put it at the corner of the rectangle garden I had drawn, and drew a little circle.

“Alright, so I’m building my fence.  Here’s my corner post.  Now I need to run my fence all along this side (drawing along one side).  Then I’ll put another corner post, and run some more fence along this side.  Another corner post here, and more fence along this side, then my last corner post and some more fence on this side.  Somewhere in there we’ll need to put a gate, so we can get in, right?”

He chuckled.  “Right.”

“Okay, let’s figure out how long that fence is.  Pretend I broke the fence right here (I drew a line through a corner post).  Now I take this fence and stretch it out into one long line, see?  Now I’ve got one long piece of fence, and you can see this section is 9 feet, this is 7, this is 9, and this is 7.  Now we just need to add it up to see how long it is.  See how it would be the same as the perimeter?  So what’s the perimeter of this garden?”

Bunny-Wan Kenobi dutifully added it up.  “18 + 14… equals 32 feet.”  I could tell he wasn’t satisfied.

“Well, there you go, that’s the perimeter of the garden.”

“But I still don’t know how to solve this problem.”

Now I was totally confused.  “Why is that?”

“Because they don’t tell me how far away from the garden they want the fence!”

I just about fell on the floor laughing!  The whole time, I’d been approaching the problem wrong!  I assumed the fence was supposed to be right around the perimeter of the garden, but my son never assumed such a thing.  Sometimes, I swear he’s smarter than I am.

I immediately snatched his paper from him and slapped it onto my scanner.  As I brought up my scanner software, he asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m scanning the problem.  You’re landing on my blog.  That was way too cute!”

So then he glared at me with his little smile and started pretending to reduce me to a crisp with his ray gun finger.

I love homeschooling.  :D

How I angered a Morton’s neuroma

As a little backstory here, I’ll tell you about my mom.  My mom has narrow feet, and wears about a 3A shoe width.  This makes it fun to find shoes that fit, as many stores carry shoes only as narrow as 2A.  Another problem comes with having very narrow feet:  an increased chance of Morton’s neuroma.

What’s Morton’s neuroma?  Well, simply, it is the body’s response to an irritated nerve.  It usually happens in the nerve that passes between the third and fourth toes.  The nerve gets rubbed or pinched, and becomes irritated and inflamed.  The inflammation causes the walls of the nerve to thicken, and begin to build scar tissue.  This, of course, takes up more room, and makes it easier for the nerve to continue to get rubbed or pinched.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Here’s a little more info and a graphic:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/medical/IM00333 .

Usually, Morton’s neuroma will develop as a result of wearing shoes that squeeze the toes together, often high heels.  Not always, though.  I don’t wear shoes like that.

What do narrow feet have to do with it?  Even less space in the foot than normal.  The bones are closer together than in regular width feet, have less fat padding, and therefore less room and less cushioning for those nerves.

So there’s my mom with narrow feet, walking like crazy for her job.  She was actually a computer programmer/analyst, but a couple of the clients she did work for were the Department of State and the Department of Defense.  (One time when she was at the DoD, she called me and told me that they’d all been evacuated for a bomb threat!  What fun!)  Anyway, she had to travel a lot and walk a lot for these contracts, and, in spite of wearing really good shoes for walking (Easy Spirit Motion), she got a Morton’s neuroma in her left foot.

She saw a podiatrist, who tried all kinds of things to help her foot get better and to avoid surgery.  After a year and a half, my mom was almost crippled, and had developed bursitis in her right knee because of the way she was walking to compensate for the neuroma in her left foot.  She had surgery.

The doctor said the neuroma had gotten so big, she didn’t have to find and pull it out.  As soon as she opened my mom’s foot, the neuroma popped out of the incision!  (That was probably a gross thought for some of you.  Sorry about that.  Before she went into programming, my mom worked for four surgeons.  About the only thing I cannot handle actually watching is eye surgery.  That just gives me the willies!)

After the surgery, what a difference!  She has partial numbness in both of the toes involved, which is expected since they remove nerve tissue in the surgery.  Other than that, no pain, no issues at all.

Fast forward to last year.  I noticed at some point that I felt like I had a pea in between the third and fourth toes on my left foot whenever I walked.  It didn’t hurt, but it felt odd and bothersome.  I talked to Mom, and, sure enough, that’s how her Morton’s neuroma started.  Oh, great.

My mom has narrow feet like I already told you, but my dad had them, too.  So what do I get?  SUPER-narrow feet.  Yes, I had loads of trouble finding shoes that fit, unless they were lace-ups that I could tighten to my heart’s content.  Finally, when I was going to be the maid of honor in a friend’s wedding, I had to get fitted for some nice pumps, because you can’t just wear anything in a wedding!

A young man sat in front of me and used his little foot-measuring gadget on me… you know, the ones that look like an overgrown slide rule.  He then disappeared, and, after several minutes, reappeared with a pair of black suede pumps (which was the choice of the bride).  When he opened the box, it was like looking at Cinderella’s slippers, they were so small!  He slipped them on my feet, and I almost cried, they felt so good!  I had never had a pair of shoes fit that well!

The size?  6 1/2 5A, with a 7A heel.  Yes, you read that right.  Like I said, SUPER-narrow feet.

(Then the bride changed her mind at the last minute, and decided she wanted us in white leather pumps rather than black suede.  So I ended up having to borrow a pair of shoes.  I could barely keep them from falling off, and my feet killed me.  Oh, well!)

I loved those black shoes, and wore the living daylights out of them.  I had the heel tips replaced, I had the suede on the heels repaired, I did everything I could to make those shoes last as long as possible.  They were good shoes, too — Easy Spirits.  And only an inch-and-a-half heel, because I don’t like high heels.  2″ is as high as I’ll go, and that’s rare.  I prefer 1 1/2″ at the most, lower if possible.  I also don’t get shoes that squeeze my toes or come down on top of my toes.  I’ve taken care of my feet.  My grandmother drove the importance of that home to me.

My grandmother confessed to me once that when she was younger, she didn’t care what size shoes were.  If she found a cute pair of heels, she just got them as close to her size as she could, and bought them.  And then she’d go dancing in them!  Sure, they killed her feet, but she had the cutest shoes in the room!  She paid for it, too, when she got much older, with bunions and hammer toes.  She told me exactly what had caused her problems, and warned me about wearing shoes just for their cuteness.  I have heeded her advice ever since.

Well, almost.

If you’ve read my blog for any real length of time, You already know how much I like shopping at garage sales and thrift stores.  It is absolutely imperative to our budget that I do.  We certainly aren’t burning up the world here!

It had been years since I had had a pair of nice pumps to wear to church and special occasions.  I just wore my sandals.  Unfortunately, you can dress those up only so far.  I really wanted a nice pair of low-heel pumps again, but shoes for me cost $80 – $100 or more, in spite of the fact that seven years of retail had made my feet wider — 3A instead of 5A!  Actually, probably more like 4A, because 3A is a little loose.

So I started looking at the thrift stores.  And I found a pair of low-heel black pumps that were 3A in width.  The only problem was, they were a half size too short.

I tried them on a couple of times, thinking.  I said to myself, “You know, I’m only going to be wearing these things a couple of hours a week.  And most of that time, I’m sitting.  All I have to do is walk to the car, walk from the car to the building, stand and chat a few minutes, sit down for an hour, and then do it all again in reverse.  So I’m actually wearing these shoes, standing and walking in them, for maybe 30 – 45 minutes a week.  I can take them off once I sit down anyway.”

So I bought them. $2.88, and then I paid for new heel tips. As you can see, Easy Spirit yet again.

Like I said, 3A is still a bit loose, so I used some heel cups to help keep them from slipping off or giving me blisters on my heels:

I found a bunch of these in my great-grandmother's things. They're great. You start to put your nylons on, then you put one of these on your heel (they are marked for right and left), then you pull the nylon over it. ILoveBunnies wears them barefooted in her shoes. Not sure how she does that, but her heel cups are cracking. Of course, it's better to just get shoes that are the right width, but these do help.

I wore them to church a couple of times with no problem save that they did make my feet hurt because they were a little too short.  It wasn’t bad, and I had them on for such a short time, I figured I could handle that.  I was forgetting the neuroma.  Either I had grown used to the thing, or it had gone down in size.

I found another pair of cream-colored leather low-heel pumps, again 3A, which are about a half size too long.  Again, I use the heel cups, and I get by with them just fine.  I wore those a few Sundays in a row.

Then two Sundays ago, I wore the black ones again, since they went with what I was wearing better than the cream ones.  Again, they made my feet hurt a little, but I had them on for just a short time.

The next day, my left foot was swollen around my toes and the whole front of my foot.  Oops.

What to do?  I can’t do surgery right now!  I’m trying to buy land and a house and move and… and… and…

Thankfully, while it was swollen, my foot still didn’t hurt.  My mom told me the only way to get it to improve was to stay off of it as much as possible.  Thankfully, I’ve got a great mom, kids, and hubby, and they’ve all made that easy. :)

Still, sometimes I have to get up and walk.  There are a few things that just can’t be done for you!  I was almost walking on the side of my foot, which was starting to get painful, so we went to Wal-Mart.  I got a scooter to zip around in, and went over to the shoe department to see if they had anything that was seriously cushy.

I ended up with plush flip-flop slippers with soles that are 1" thick foam! They're ugly as all getout, but I just want my foot to heal!

I paid $7-something for these things, and they have absolutely saved me this last week!  I put them on immediately whenever I get up.  I can walk almost normally in them.  As the swelling has subsided, I have occasionally had a little mild shooting pain, and some itching as the tissues heal.  Now I feel like I have a cotton ball stuffed between my toes, rather than a softball, but I’m not back down to that pea yet.

So my $2.88 black pumps, with $15 heel tips, and then $7+ cushy shoes to recover with… I have spent some $25+ on a pair of shoes I don’t dare wear ever again!!!

Sometimes a bargain just isn’t a bargain.

Will I still buy thrift-store shoes?  Yes.

Will I ever buy shoes again that are too short, even a little?  NO!

I feel like such a parasite, sitting here while everybody else does stuff I ought to be doing.  :(

A Review of Pixar’s “Brave”

As I said in my last post, once a year we splurge as a family, and go see the latest Pixar movie.  We don’t have a lot of money, so we don’t do expensive things very often.  This time, I was able to make our money work double-time, as I got the tickets free with the purchase of cereal I would have bought anyway.  See Making our money work twice for what that’s all about.

Last year, the movie was “Cars 2″.  I wrote a review of that, too.  It was cute, but disappointing.  We were afraid that it may signal the end of the golden age of Pixar.  When I initially saw the synopsis of “Brave”, I really thought Pixar was over.  I was wrong.

From what I read, it looked like it was going to be a rehash of “The Little Mermaid”.  Princess doesn’t want to do what her parents want.  Princess rebels, and goes to a witch for a spell that will change her destiny.  The spell comes with a string attached and an expiration date.  While the spell wasn’t exactly what she expected, Princess thinks maybe her problems are solved, but finds herself in more trouble that ends up threatening her family.  Princess comes through, saves her family, and is ultimately REWARDED FOR HER REBELLION!

This is what drives me nuts about these stories.  It isn’t so much the rebellion (we have all rebelled — against our parents, against our bosses, against God), it’s what the rebellion leads to.  Does the character own up to it, repent, and submit to the authority against which she rebelled?  Or are there no consequences, no repentance, no submission — essentially, a reward for rebellion?

You see, I was right.  “Brave” is essentially “The Little Mermaid”.

Except this time, she learns, she owns up to her wrongdoing, repents, and submits.

Merida, the main character, follows a Will o' the Wisp. "Brave" got 3 1/2 stars from the critics, because it was so similar to so many Disney stories. But "Brave" is different in a very important way.

With “Brave”, the heart that was missing in “Cars 2″ is back full-force.  I actually almost cried near the end of the movie.  It was very good.  Very well done.  The reproduction of the Scottish countryside is absolutely beautiful.  I nearly got motion sickness and had to close my eyes a few times as the camera rotated quickly around the impressive vistas.  And we saw it in 2D, not 3D!  Maybe it helps that part of my ancestry is Scottish and Irish, but I thought it was gorgeous.

Merida’s hair is captivating.  I had a friend in Bible college who had hair just like Merida’s and it was spellbinding.  No, seriously –  I loved watching my friend’s hair!  I read that Pixar wrote two new programs just to deal with her hair — one to keep track of the over 1,000 curls, and one to cause their movement to match what Merida was doing.  I guess I find this all interesting, because I was learning several computer languages and learning how to program, when I suddenly ended up at Bible college instead.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I was concerned about how much magic was going to be involved.  Because of the setting, and the circle of stone pillars I saw in the previews, I thought it might contain Druids, which would be far more serious than most fairytale witchcraft.  It doesn’t.  In fact, the witch involved in this movie is more similar to the Fairy Godmother from “Cinderella” than the witch in “The Little Mermaid”.  However, ultimately, the works of the witch in “Brave” are shown to be evil, and there is much less magic as a whole in “Brave” than in most fairytales.

Many parents do not permit their children to see movies that involve witches and such things at all.  I understand that and have no problem with that.  Every parent has the responsibility to raise their children in the way they see fit.  I did not allow my children to see movies like this for a long time because they are mildly autistic, and I waited for them to get to the point at which they could separate fact and fiction, and understand reality.

I did finally allow them to see “Cinderella”.  I consider things like that, if the children can handle them, to be part of them being culturally literate.  Cinderella story, Cinderella team, etc.  How do you know what these terms mean if you don’t know who Cinderella is?  A while later, I let them see the other fairytales, like “Sleeping Beauty”, “Beauty and the Beast”, etc.  But only once I knew they could handle it correctly.

There is one night scene in “Brave” which has all the men getting off of a tower by tying their kilts together into a rope, and you see their bare behinds as they walk away.  The scene is not sexualized or suggestive at all, and, like I said, it’s at night.  Just a bunch of Scotsmen who were trapped and had no other way of getting down.  They somehow end up dressed again after that.

I highly recommend “Brave”.  The story may not be very original, but it is dealt with much better than in the past.  Many funny points, too.  We all heartily enjoyed it, and I’m very glad it proved me wrong.

Oh — don’t forget to stay to the end.  The very end, as in, after the credits are over.  Pixar usually sticks a little something at the end, and this one is not an exception.

The animated short, “La Luna”, is very cute.  Now I know how we go from a full to a crescent moon and back again.  Okay, just kidding, but it is a very cute short.

We go to the movies one time a year.  It’s an annual family fun splurge.  We all go see the latest Pixar movie together.  Last year was a disappointment, but hopefully they’ll make up for it this time with “Brave”.

As my kids were chowing down on breakfast one morning, they saw this promotion on the cereal box.

Movie tickets? Hmmm... how convenient. "Brave" is just about to come out. Are these tickets only good for "Spiderman"?

No, they're good for any movie at participating theaters. Lemme guess... there is no participating theater around here. Actually, there are two -- including the Rave theater up the street.

To set up an account at Kellogg’s, they want your name, address, email address, birthdate, and a password.  I have a box for a mailing address so we don’t have to expose our home address, so I use that.  Your birthdate is telling them you are old enough to create an account.  Many people would not be willing to give this information, and I understand that.  It’s a choice.  Normally, I don’t participate in promotions like this, but every now and then, I will.

Any Kellogg's box with a Spiderman on the front bottom left corner will have a code inside. You type this code in at the website.

You get one point per code, for a maximum of 30 points.

So, each movie ticket takes 6 points/codes, which is 6 boxes of cereal.  30 points equals 5 movie tickets.  Since my uncle is otherwise occupied these days (he’s officially engaged now), 5 tickets are all we need.

I buy cereal anyway!  I don’t normally buy 30 boxes at a time, but I often buy 10 – 12 at a time.  Why not go ahead and buy 30 boxes, which I will eventually need anyway, and so essentially get 5 movie tickets for free?  Well, in exchange for some information.

I participated in the promotion they had last year for “Cars 2″, because my kids wanted translators.  They were really hoping the translators would come with Japanese loaded, especially since that was a large part of the setting of the movie, because they are learning Japanese (on their own, I might add).  No Japanese, but they still liked the translators.  I never received spam or junk mail as a result.

So I bought 30 boxes with Spiderman on them, and entered the codes.  You’re limited to entering 8 codes per day, so it took me four days to get all of them in.  Then I redeemed the points for certificates, which you present to the ticket office basically as payment for tickets.

So my money works twice.  I could have bought cereal, and bought tickets for the show.  Instead, I bought cereal, and the cereal got me tickets for the show.

I’m currently rotating the cereal through the deep freeze, because I’ve ended up with a few weevils in several boxes of Kellogg’s cereal in the past few months.

Some time back, we bought a bunch of rice and pasta at Sam’s Club to package up for long-term storage.  We got it all together and packaged it.  I then proceeded to lose my pictures!

I finally found them (in, of course, the very last place I looked — sorry, old joke), so here they are to chronicle our first experiences with Mylar foil and oxygen absorbers.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take as many pictures as I wish I had.

The primary enemies of food in long-term storage (aside from critters) are oxygen and light.  For dry goods, moisture also.  Oxygen will cause the oils in food to go rancid, and light just generally causes things to degrade.  The presence of oxygen will also allow eggs to hatch that are in grain, as well.  A friend of mine just lost a bunch of wheat, because she didn’t know how to prepare it for storage.

It is wise to put grains in deep freeze for a week or so to kill the bug eggs.  As far as I know, you cannot get grain that is free of bug eggs.  The stuff has been grown outside, after all.  All you can do is make sure the eggs don’t hatch.  Once you take the bags of grain out of the freezer, you let them come slowly back up to room temperature over the next several days.  Then you can package the grain.

In this case, I had white rice and pasta.  I’ve only had bugs in rice once, even having stored rice for several years.  When we packaged rice and beans in 2-liter bottles, I neither froze it nor used oxygen absorbers.  I may regret that someday.  I may yet freeze it after we move, just in case.  But for this day, I had Mylar foil bags and oxygen absorbers.

You probably know about Mylar balloons.  They’re the shiny, silvery foil-like ones that stay full of air or helium for a long time.  They work well, and the Mylar involved in those balloons is extremely thin (and you cannot use them for food storage).  But they give you a clue to the properties of really good Mylar foil.

The balloons are super-thin, with a positively microscopic layer of foil.  The other extreme you find in pouch-packed tuna fish.  Those pouches are high-quality, thick Mylar foil.

Mylar itself is essentially polyester sheeting.  It is stable, waterproof when sealed properly, and gas-impermeable.  It is clear in and of itself, and you see it in some foods that are packed in pouches that are similar to the tuna pouches, except they are clear.  It’s the same stuff — except the tuna pouch Mylar has an extra feature:  a thin layer of metal that makes the pouch opaque (hence, Mylar foil).  This blocks out light, helping prevent degradation of the food inside.

This is a six-pound bag of tri-color pasta, divided into six bowls of about a pound each. We just eyeballed it, since it doesn't need to be exact.

Once it was divided up, we poured a bowl into a Mylar bag, added an oxygen absorber, and then ironed it shut.

You can see I've got a board with a cloth, to give a good seal. I have the iron turned to its edge, one of several experiments I did.

Once all the bags were filled and sealed, we began placing them into these icing buckets we got from the bakery at Sam's Club. They were free, and came with seals (you have to clean them). The purpose of the bucket is actually to protect the Mylar from too much shifting, and from otherwise developing holes. Mylar does stretch well, but it is very susceptible to poking.

Overnight, the oxygen absorbers do their work.  They pull the oxygen out of the package, leaving the food packed in nitrogen, which does not react with food.  Some of the packages end up looking like bricks of vacuum-packed coffee, so you don’t want to squeeze all the air out of the package before you seal it.  …Especially with things with hard points, like pasta.  You cannot package spaghetti this way.

About 20% of the air we breathe is oxygen.  An oxygen absorber is activated as soon as it hits air.  When you seal one into a Mylar bag, its contents begin to react with the oxygen, pulling it out of the environment inside the bag.  The process is simply rust.  All rust is is the oxygen in the air reacting with iron in pipes, water, cars, etc.  This has been put to work for food storage.  Fine iron filings, packed in a way in which they can react with the oxygen around them without touching the food, rust and leave the nitrogen behind.

This is why you do not squeeze the air out of the package:  the volume of air inside will be reduced by 20%.  You need to make sure that as it contracts, the bag does not destroy itself by impaling itself with its contents.  Also, if there is not enough air in the bag to move around, it will be difficult for all the oxygen to get to the oxygen absorber.

You buy oxygen absorbers to match the size of the bag you are using, and the type of food you are packaging.  Oxygen absorbers for damp foods like jerky will be very slightly different from those for dry foods like rice.

I bought my Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from Advice & Beans.

There are directions online for making your own oxygen absorbers with coffee filters, steel wool, and salt, or with “hot hands”, those heat packs that they sell for hunters.  I’d be cautious about using the “hot hands”, since I don’t know if they contain other ingredients that may not be safe with food.

We love going to yard sales and thrift stores.  You never know what you’re going to find, and you can buy many things you need at prices that are much easier on the wallet than buying them new.  This, naturally, leaves more money in the budget for other things.

I remember going shopping for school clothes with my brother last summer.  He buys a lot of things new, so we went to the mall.  He checked out a pile of clothes, but I was the one with the sticker shock!  He bought a couple of nice shirts and shorts for Bunny-Wan Kenobi, too, at a time when I was having trouble finding shorts in his size, so I really did appreciate that.  I just felt terrible about how much they cost him.

I have been wanting to get a dehydrator, as part of my desire to store food away against hard times, and also to preserve the harvest through winter.  Finally, at one of the local thrift stores, I was jabbering a mile a minute to Shay about something, when it finally dawned on me what he was looking at.  I stopped cold, right in the middle of a sentence.

A dehydrator for $9.88! Five trays, instructions, and it works!

Of course, the Magic Chef dehydrator is not a really good quality one, but it has been used by plenty with good results, especially if you rotate the food.  This even came with a roll-up tray, which I understand is good also for dehydrating eggs.  This will at least get me started!

Then there was this big church yard sale, with the proceeds going toward a missions trip.  One of the first things I saw was this:

An unopened 50-lb box of parboiled rice -- for $2!!! We'll package it for storage after we move. Right now, it takes up less space.

Wow!  Why didn’t somebody with the church buy it and donate it to the church kitchen?

So, what is freezer soup?

Freezer soup is what you get when you take a look at what’s left over after dinner each night, and add whatever has just a little left (and would go well in soup) to a gallon freezer bag that you keep in the freezer.  One night, you have a few lima beans left, so you put that in a gallon bag and stick it in the freezer.  The next night, you have some gravy left over.  You pull out the bag and add the gravy, and put it back into the freezer.  You gather all your leftover portions of vegetables (and any of the juice left in the pot), broths, gravies, sauces, and meats.

We’ll often cook enough for two nights.  We’ll eat that meal two nights in a row, or cook something else to have before we eat it the second time.  After the second time, we usually add what’s left to the soup bag.  Sometimes we’ll have a leftover night, with leftovers from several different meals.  What’s left after that goes into the soup bag.

This freezer bag contains red kidney beans, squash, beef and beef gravy, and various other things. It will make a delicious soup!

Once we have two soup bags pretty full, it’s time to have freezer soup.  And it’s never the same soup twice!  We usually make rice to go with it, or cornbread.  It’s a way to get as much use as you can from the food you buy or raise.

One thing we keep out is tomato sauce.  We keep tomato sauces like freezer soup.  When we have enough sauce leftover from other nights, we put it all together and make another sauce.

So then you have dinner, whether soup or spaghetti sauce, made from little bits that might have been thrown out.  In this house, it’s usually dinner for two nights.  All from repurposed frozen leftovers.

Speaking of tomato sauce, I recently planned to make spaghetti for dinner one night.  I got home, and discovered I was completely out of tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato everything!  I don’t want to go back out to the store, and I don’t have time to thaw anything!  What to do?

That’s when Shay reminded me that we had an unopened jug of V8 juice.

Well, of course! It's tomatoes and other pureed vegetables, and it's even got some seasoning!

So we opened it and poured it into the pan.  How could it be anything but good?

It was absolutely delicious! Truthfully, it was one of the best spaghetti sauces we've ever made.

All that was added was some onion and garlic.

Amazing what can happen when you don’t look at things for what they are, but for what they can be.


You know how it is.  You try and try to find what kind of a particular product you really like.

You try different kinds, different brands… finally, you find it:  your favorite Whatever.  For a few months, or a few years, you buy it faithfully.  It’s just right.  You’ll never buy a different one.

And then they stop making it.

I already told you how it happened to the one antihistamine that really works for me.  Every time I have a bad allergy attack, I consider buying it from Canada, where it is still made.  Then I price it, and weigh that against the fact that I have really bad allergy attacks only a few times a year.  The rest of the time, I’m just fighting allergies.  So I don’t buy it.

Listerine toothpaste. It's excessively minty, but the single most effective toothpaste I've ever used.

No other toothpaste leaves my teeth feeling really, REALLY clean like Listerine toothpaste does.  I’ve had dentists tell me that it doesn’t matter what toothpaste you use, and it doesn’t matter what toothbrush you use, as long as it’s soft.  It’s the scrubbing action that cleans your teeth; the toothpaste doesn’t really matter.

Sorry, I don’t believe it.

Shay and I first tried this toothpaste shortly after we got married.  We were using Crest, but Shay had trouble with bleeding gums.  Listerine was not a pleasant toothpaste to use with bleeding gums, but it wasn’t long before his gums stopped bleeding.  He hasn’t had trouble with it since.

My daughter used to use Colgate fruity kids’ toothpaste.  I figured… Colgate, that’s an old, respected brand, they’ve got to be doing something right.  Their toothpaste has to do a good job, or they wouldn’t have such a good reputation.  She brushed her teeth in the morning, but an adult brushed them at night, ensuring that she could both learn how to brush her own teeth and actually have clean teeth at the same time.

One day, I bought slushies for the kids.  You know, those crushed-ice drinks with tons of food coloring.  Well, when we got home and got out of the car, ILoveBunnies was smiling, and I suddenly saw that her teeth were red!  She had a thick coating of sludge covering her teeth, and the slushie had dyed it.  Eeeeew!

I immediately switched her to this toothpaste, which she hated because it’s so very minty.  It took a few days, but we finally got all the sludge off.  I tossed the rest of the Colgate.  I don’t know what their regular toothpaste is like, but the kids’ paste didn’t impress me.

So, as long as they make it, I’ll keep buying Listerine toothpaste.  It is slightly more expensive than Crest, and you can’t find it everywhere.  I do buy it at WalMart, though.  It’s $3.97 for a 4.2-oz. tube.  Not cheap, but worth it.

New Books! …and some miscellaneous pics.

Before I even knew we were moving to the country (not long ago, this move has come about so quickly!), I finally bought a couple of books I had been wanting.  One I bought because I really want to start baking bread again, but wanted to try something less time-intensive that I had heard about.  The other I bought as part of a dream.  A dream to move back into the country.  But I figured maybe there was a little of it I could try out here.

Now, of course, I am moving to the country… so I’ll really be able to use it!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This book has rave reviews, and I can't wait to try it out! Basically, you make a big batch of dough (but wetter dough than normal bread recipes call for), stick it in the fridge, cut off a grapefruit-sized piece each day, and bake it. I have time for that!

The Encyclopedia of Country Living. One of the most-respected texts on how to do just about everything you might need to do in the country.

Okay, another book. I'm fond of books that show my kids the importance of proper grammar, especially in fun ways that they will remember. It's important where you stick those apostrophes! And where you don't.

Sorry for the low quality, but this is Bunny-Wan Kenobi's Lego Pearl he made. Pearl was really his bunny. He gentled her up and everything. It broke his heart when she died. He still puts a flower on her grave almost every morning.

What do you do when you don't have snow? You go sledding -- on the leaves! I think I took this in February. The previous year, we went with regular boxes. This time, I had gotten to the store right as they were unpacking fresh wreaths from WAXED cardboard boxes! Woohoo! Here, you see the kids sliding down, as my uncle gathers more leaves to transport to the top of the hill.

Probably the best fire picture I've ever taken. Makes me feel like winter just looking at it! Which is nice, since it was 97* today.

We took a day to put all of our rice and beans that we had set aside in more protective permanent storage. 2-liter bottles are very good for dry goods storage, as they shut out moisture. They are somewhat oxygen-permeable, but they can still keep things very well for a very long time, as long as they are stored away from light (or have a black shield over them). Here, Mom packages navy beans (I think). Each bottle holds about 4 pounds of either beans or rice.