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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Lyme disease is no fun.

Some 20 years or so ago, Shay and I went camping for a week.  When we returned, we went back to work.  I can’t remember how long it was after that… days?  a week?  two weeks?  Anyway, at some point, while I was working, my right foot swelled.  At break time, I removed my shoe, uncovering a tell-tale bullseye on my foot.  I was barely able to put my shoe back on, but Shay and I went immediately to a local doctor who took walk-ins.

Sure enough, I had Lyme disease.

I was put on 30 days of doxycycline, which made me sensitive to sunlight.  Riding to work, I had to cover my arms, or contort them out of the sun.  Anytime sunshine hit my skin, it felt immediately like that part of my skin had been stuck into a hot skillet.

At the end of 30 days, I had to go back for a follow-up visit.  I got 14 more days of antibiotics.  Oh, joy.  The sun sensitivity lasts for a week or so after you are off of it.

During this time, I made a $100 error making change for a customer — I gave her a hundred too much.  I found out after that that Lyme disease can cause confusion and problems in concentration if it is not treated quickly enough.  It isn’t a terribly common symptom… and, at the time, central nervous system symptoms of Lyme disease were not widely recognized.

But I found myself having trouble counting money.  I would lose my place and start over, again and again.  It would take me 3 – 4 tries to count someone’s change.  I asked to be taken off of the service desk, since I had no confidence in my ability to count money anymore.  They didn’t take me off, saying they were confident in me, so I lived in fear that I would make another big mistake for the next several months, while the symptoms resolved.

So now here we are with this raw land that has up to now enjoyed a quiet existence as a tick and chigger heaven.

It has been a very busy couple of weeks!  We had the area for the house cleared, we laid out the location for the house, we went back and moved the location 10 feet forward, the pad was laid, and the house is set.  It isn’t finished yet, but it is certainly getting there!  I will be posting lots more pictures, maybe tomorrow, so you can see!

All this time, we’ve been pretty faithful with our measures to keep chiggers and ticks from biting.  The sulphur we’ve mostly replaced with Coleman Botanical insect repellant, made with lemon eucalyptus oil.  It seems tests have shown it to be as effective as lower concentrations of DEET.  Tests or no, the stuff works!  I have had no bites of any kind while wearing it, and I don’t think anybody else has, either.

Wednesday, August 1st, the day that Shay and I went to move the stakes for the location of the house 10 feet forward, we didn’t take any precautions.  No sulphur, no pantyhose, no repellent, no shirt tucked in.  I figured, this won’t take long, and the bugs have probably all moved to the trees anyway.

That night, I went to scratch my back, and found a rough bump right in the center.  I went immediately to Shay, who removed a tick about 4mm in diameter.  It hadn’t been attached more than the few hours that had elapsed, so I figured I was safe.  20 years ago, they were saying a tick had to be attached at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.  I didn’t think that made a whole lot of sense, but I also didn’t know that the study of Lyme disease was in its infancy then.

Yesterday (Friday), we went to watch the house setup be completed.  As the day wore on, I experienced more and more pain.  This is not unusual for me, as I have benign hypermobility syndrome.  This is often referred to as “loose joints”, and just means that the joints have more movement in them than they should.  I have a regular level of achiness because of this, and I became my own chiropractor in my teens.  I have to adjust various joints several times a day to stay somewhat aligned and at as low a level of pain as possible.

My uncle is envious of me, because when something is out on him, he has to pay a chiropractor to fix it.  I just have to work at popping the joint.  It may take a few hours for it to get to the point that it will pop, or I may have to take ibuprofen to lessen the irritation for it to do it, but I can do it myself.  I told him that yes, I may be able to pop them back into place myself, but the thing that gives me the ability to do so also is what makes it so that I don’t stay aligned in the first place.  He doesn’t have to go get realigned several times a day, just a few times a year.

It is funny, though, as we’ll be doing something like standing and talking, or sitting and watching a movie, and he’ll suddenly say, “I heard that!” — feigning jealousy at my being able to pop my own joints.  Most of the time, I don’t even realize that I popped something until he says that… it’s just that natural for me to work to alleviate the discomfort of something being misaligned.

I do have days, though, in which the pain will increase and increase, until I can barely walk.  This is normally on errand days, when I do a lot of walking on hard floors.  I try to remember to take ibuprofen before I leave on days like that, but I’m not always successful.

So as the pain increased Friday, I didn’t think a lot of it, just figuring it was my usual pain.  I was nearly crippled by the end of the day, and took some ibuprofen when we reached the car.  When we got home, I curled up on the sofa.  I hurt so bad, I couldn’t bring myself to get up and take a shower.

After a while, I took my temperature.  It was 101.2*, in spite of the fact that I had taken ibuprofen two hours earlier.  Shay took me to an after-hours clinic.

After considering my vitals, my symptoms, and my previous history, the doctor decided it was probably Lyme disease again.  So now I’m back on doxycycline (thank goodness the stuff is cheap!), and taking Tylenol and ibuprofen to keep the pain and fever down.

I am in less pain now than I was in last night, but I still don’t feel very good.  Everybody is making sure that I pretty much don’t have to do anything, because it drains your energy as well.  I am so sapped.

Learned my lesson, though!  I don’t care if the neighbor’s kids think we’re paranoid, I am not interested in doing this again!  And I’m even less interested in one of my kids, my beloved husband, or my mom doing it either. :)

Little beastie had terrible timing… I’m too busy for this!  The Lord is carrying me through, though.  :)

Warning: Sporadic Posting Ahead

I’m sure pretty much everybody has moved at least once, so the craziness associated with it should be well understood!

Our moving day should be sometime in the next 2 – 3 weeks.  As you know, the actual moving day occurs in the middle of the move as a whole event.  Before moving day, there’s the packing, readying the new home, packing, getting permits, meeting contractors, packing, cleaning, contacting utilities, and packing.  After moving day, that’s a whole ‘nother level of craziness as you UNpack (and realize that somehow, even though you have all your boxes, you’ve lost half of your stuff!).

Then there’s the fact that I haven’t learned what sort of internet access there is out there.  I think there’s no broadband… at least, that’s what I heard a lady at permitting tell someone else.  When it was my turn, the poor gentleman who was helping me with my permits was having such a time spelling our name correctly (it’s Amish and a bit unique), that I forgot to ask specifically about internet access.

So anyhow, please bear with me as my posting will probably be a bit irregular for the next month or so.  Not that it’s ever been really regular, but I’ve been getting better.  :)

I will try very hard to keep y’all up on all the exciting things going on at our new little homestead!  My next post, which I will start working on as soon as I click the “Publish” button on this one, will fill you in on what has happened so far.

My last post, on hand-feeding baby bunnies, took me a week to complete!  :o  That’s how little we’ve been here lately.

Random pix…

Here are some pictures I’ve taken, but hadn’t gotten them into posts yet.  So here they are!

The kids alerted me one day to a baby blue jay inside the rabbitry. No idea how he got inside the screen, but he was trying very hard to get out through it. I figured he was probably trying to get to where he was supposed to be.

I picked up the wayward little bird and looked him over for injuries. Then, we looked under the edge of the fig tree, right next to where he was in the rabbitry. Sure enough, there was his brother, patiently waiting for Mom to come back with some munchies. I placed the baby close to his brother, but he was scared and promptly hopped back out. So I caught him and put him under there again, and he stayed.

The Near East crepe myrtle right outside the rabbitry. These are my favorite crepe myrtles, because their blooms are big and loose, rather than tight clusters. The color is light pink.

This is a pitcher and basin inside a 200+ year old house on the grounds of the museum for which we volunteer. This shot was not planned or set up. I walked into the house, and the sun was peeking through the corner of the window and falling on the table, illuminating the pitcher and basin. I pulled out my LG enV3 cellphone and took the picture.

ILoveBunnies, tending the fire in the open hearth, as she helps cook in the mid-1800s detached kitchen at the museum.

A scruffy-looking broken red baby bunny, exploring the patio table.

Bunny-Wan Kenobi holds the one and only broken black we've ever had.

A stained-glass window at a church we visited.

A bird's nest we removed from the screen over the garden.

NOT TO BE SOLD UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES... but it can be yours for 99 cents at a local thrift store!

We are all doing well since the accident.  Thank you all so much for your prayers!  I and my mom had a little soreness, the kids had none at all.  We sold the car to a scrapper, because it didn’t have collision coverage.

Today, we bought a 2000 Mercury Villager Sport.  It has good pick-up, and handles right well.  With room for 7, it should handle the 5 of us plus lots of groceries or whatever.  We really needed a minivan, but hadn’t planned to go about getting one quite this way!


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

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.