Sunday, April 17, 2011

We Can Do Hard Things

The gathering and dinner the night after the walk.
We can do hard things. That was the theme of the Craig Ranch Relief Society for the first quarter of this year. They set a goal of walking from their church building to the temple which is 12.66 miles.  They also read the first 3 books of the New Testament and memorized The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.  Many set their own personal goals of learning, working, and growing.  It was definitely inspiring to hear their testimonies last night after their walk to the temple.  Most were sore, but all smiled as they talked amongst each other during the dinner and then when bearing testimonies.  It was great to see the sisterhood amongst these women!

As I sat and watched them, I thought about the importance of friendship in our lives.  These ladies trained for the last four months to prepare them for their long walk.  They met together and walked and talked together and helped each other get stronger and stronger as they prepared for the long walk.  Many suffered blisters, a few suffered injuries, and all grew stronger in health and testimony.

Many ladies trained together every Saturday to prepare.
I was in this ward about 5 years ago and so I knew many of these ladies and I joined them for the walk.  Because of physical restrictions, I chose to walk from my house to the temple, which is 4.5 miles.  As the time came closer and closer, I had an internal debate about whether it was a good idea to make the walk or not.  But I committed when they first started this challenge that I would do it, so I was up at 4:30 am and at the church at 6:00 am to support them and join in on the journey.

After seeing them off from the church building, I got into my car and drove home.  I parked, grabbed my cane (I don't use it often, but thought it would be good to have extra support) and headed out.  I found that I made much better time than I had when walking with my children and the dog.  I listened to conference talks as I walked.  I had to laugh out loud as I noticed pain starting to set in at about 2 miles and one of the talks was all about pain and how it helps us to be humbled and also teaches patience.  Yep.  God is still trying to teach me patience and humility.  The talk was given by Kent F. Richards of the Seventy.  He quoted:

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.  - Elder Orson F. Whitney

I also learned from him:
Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experience. Additionally, we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others. Lehi noted that Jacob had “suffered … much sorrow, because of the rudeness of [his] brethren.” Opposition is part of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help. - Kent F. Richards of the Seventy

At 3 miles, I started looking behind me to see if any of the fast ladies had caught up with me yet.  I was surprised that they hadn't.  But looking at my watch, I could see that I had gone much faster than expected. I'm not used to being ahead of the pack.  Usually, I'm far behind everyone else.  I was always the one with the shortest legs and had been left behind on many hikes as a young woman and young adult.  I now have a bad ankle that I injured long ago and didn't heal properly at the end of one of my short legs.  I considered going on ahead and waiting at the temple, but I decided that I needed to stop and wait for my friend to catch up.  I wasn't sure where she was, but I felt it was important to wait for her since she had encouraged me to make the walk.

So I found a shady spot and waited.  My family drove by to check on me and say hello.  I was grateful to see them and have their support.  One of my former bishops stopped by too.  The lady who put together the support stopped too.  It was nice to have the support.  I learned later that there were quite a few support vehicles driving around checking on the women, giving snacks and water, and offering rides if anyone needed one (I think only 3 ladies did not finish - one diabetic and 2 younger women who decided not to finish the last mile).

Everyone had someone to walk with.
I finally saw white dots moving towards me.  At first, I wasn't sure it was them.  But soon I realized they were getting closer and closer.  They were on the other side of the road.  As they got closer, I moved to the other side too.  I hoped my friend would be in their group.  Just as I got to the other side, a bunch of them crossed the road to where I had been.  I started to cross the road again when I saw my friend waving at me.  I smiled and waited for her to come.  She walked confidently and quickly towards me  (They had been walking for 10 or 11 miles, I was surprised at how strong she looked and how fast she moved!).  I knew I was going to slow her down.

When she got to me, we started walking.  It was nice to have a friend to walk with and someone to talk to.  It definitely made the walking easier and more fun.  I fully expected her to go ahead.  I have to admit I'm a bit embarrassed by how slow I am.  After walking for a while, I thought she should go ahead with the faster walkers, but she insisted on staying with me.  I was appreciative of that.

The last hill.
Having someone to walk with is very unusual for me.  I've been left behind so often, that walking alone is something I tend to expect and am used to. I'll never forget getting lost on a hike once. I fell behind the group and they kept on going. I came to a fork in the road and took the wrong turn. I walked for about 30 minutes before I was sure I was going the wrong way. I said a prayer and sang some hymns to help me not be afraid and began walking back. The thing was that I was not alone. I felt comfort and safety because I knew that we are never left alone.

I thought of this memory as we continued to walk.  My friend at one point asked me what I had learned during the walk.  I can't say as I had any major epiphanies.  I'd done hard things like this many times before.  My main thought was just putting one foot in front of the other and a huge hope that I'd be able to walk the next day.  So I was trying to listen to what she had to say.

Physical limitations being overcome!

As we rounded the corner, she asked me to not use my cane.  I think of my cane more as of a walking stick.  It makes walking just a little easier and keeps my balance as I get more and more tired.  I don't use it very often and felt that it was entirely appropriate to use it for this walk.  She told me the story of the Eye of the Needle.
In ancient times there was a small gate cut inside the larger gate of the city through which one might enter after nightfall, when the city was closed. Although this small gate—termed the “eye of the needle”—could readily admit a man, a camel could enter only by first being relieved of its burden and then by walking through on its knees.
She compared this to getting rid of all aids and crutches in life and doing the hard part on our own.  I walked up the hill without my cane.  It slowed me down even more, but I made it.  As we walked up the hill I focused on the temple. That was my goal, and I was almost there.  We made it to the fence that surrounds the temple and I stopped.  I didn't stop because I was tired or because I had given up.  I stopped because the difference in what I felt inside was incredible.  I can't even describe it really.  It was just a peaceful feeling.  It was a feeling of energy and light.  It was a feeling of everlasting love.  And it started at the gate and it was a deliberate feeling that I felt right as the fence began.
Las Vegas, NV Temple

I knew that I would not have felt it if I had not walked up that hill.   It was just one more witness to me that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live!  The Holy Ghost truly did testify to my heart that They are as real as the large, beautiful temple that stood before me.  And the temple is a holy, sacred place where I want to serve often.

Friends and family waiting.
Being one of the first to arrive gave me the opportunity to experience something I had not before.  Waiting.  Waiting for others to arrive.  But I thought about it much like those on the other side of the veil waiting for us to return.  I wanted to stand up and have a personal party for each person who made it up the hill and reached their goal.  Instead, I called out that they made it and clapped with the others who were there with me.  The wonderful thing is that as each person arrived, the group grew bigger and bigger and the applause continued to grow.  Many families came to greet their moms/grandmas who were walking.  When it was reported that the last group was nearing the end, a truckload of women went back and encircled them and walked with them to help them make the last of their journey. 

When all were gathered, the bishop took some time to talk to us all and congratulate us for putting our very best and doing something so difficult.  Even he had found it to be a challenging task and he runs all the time.  

The bishop talking to everyone.
As I peered around at the sisters listening to the bishop and then again that night at the gathering and dinner,  I saw was true sisterhood.  Women supporting each other completely and fully.  While they were accomplishing their personal goals, they were also celebrating the accomplishments of others.   When gathered together, these women laughed easily.  They have seen each other's weaknesses and strengths and they have pulled together to make something hard easier because they worked together.  I was reminded of one of the messages from the April Ensign that I read while waiting in my shady spot.  It was called "The Purpose of Relief Society" by Julie B. Beck.  She wrote:

Relief Society Logo
We learned that the purpose of Relief Society as established by the Lord is to organize, teach, and inspire His daughters to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life.
To fulfill this purpose of Relief Society, the Lord has commissioned each sister and the organization as a whole to:
  1. Increase in faith and personal righteousness.
  2. Strengthen families and homes.
  3. Provide relief by serving the Lord and His children.
As I listened to the women bear testimonies at the dinner, I saw that this project fulfilled all of this and more.  Women had worked together and with their families to accomplish this goal.  Their homes had been strengthened.  They had helped one another.  Their relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ was stronger.  It was an amazing experience.  I look forward to what these women do as they continue to grow and learn together.  I hope that I will soon be able to join them full-time instead of on occasion.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Free CPR Class

Free is always good!  This class normally costs about $40.  They are trying to get 1000 people there to learn  CPR.   Definitely a great thing to know and be prepared with. 

The Most Delicious Brownies!

I love making mixes as you might soon guess.  It was my favorite thing to learn about using food storage.  Today I used my brownie mix.  I've altered this mix a little from Make a Mix Cookbook to work better for my needs and tastes.  Here is the recipe:

Brownie Mix
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp salt
8 cups sugar
1 (8 oz) can unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix in a large bowl.  If you don't have a large bowl, use a big pot.  Make sure it is completely mixed and pour into an airtight container.  I like to separate mine out into small plastic baggies premeasured so I can just dump it into the bowl and make brownies quick and easy.

2 1/2 c. Brownie Mix
2 eggs
1/4 c. Vegetable Oil or melted butter
1/2 c. chopped nuts, chocolate chips, etc...
1/4 c. Water

These are cakey brownies, but they are delicious!  They are best when you make them thick, so put them in a square 9 x 9 pan.  Cook them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes.  Your whole family will be so happy with you and you have used your food storage once again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sewing is a Great Skill!

Practice and experience make sewing so much easier!  I used to groan and struggle with everything I chose to make for my children.  Sewing was truly a chore.  But I kept at it making an outfit here and there and apparently learning a lot along the way.  It paid to have all of that experience this spring when my daughter's birthday came around.  She has been in need of clothes.  We work hard to find things that are of good quality, long enough for her height, and modest.  Not to mention, affordable.  So for her birthday, I found some fabric on sale and I made her 3 outfits for her and 3 matching outfits for her doll.  And they were surprisingly easy to make! Following are some sewing tips and websites for you.

Local Sewing Businesses

Hancock Fabrics- Often has 99 cent sales on patterns on 3 day weekends.  You can sign up for their e-mail and they send coupons and a sales flier to your e-mail.   Also, if you are a teacher or homeschooler, they have a discount card.  Some locations are not as friendly to homeschoolers as others.

JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts - They also have 99 cent sales on patterns on 3 day weekends.  They also have a place to sign up for e-mails where you can get coupons and sale fliers.  Also, if you are a teacher or homeschooler, they will give you a card for a 15% discount.  You need to have a teacher ID.  Talk to your church school about obtaining one if you don't have one, or talk to me about other options.  I like that they have some children's sewing crafts to choose from.

Hobby Lobby - I have not shopped here yet, but I've heard good things.  Definitely a good local place to check out.

Walmart - Some Walmart stores have fabric and craft items.  While convenient, they have a very minute selection.  It is better to go to a fabric store and buy their items on sale.  On occasion, Walmart will have something that they have at a better price than the fabric stores.

Never buy patterns at full price unless you absolutely have to!  Most stores have them at least at 40% off, but it is even better to wait for the patterns to go on sale for 99 cents or $1.99.

Learn to Sew Websites

I am sure there are others, but here are a few to look at.  You can also type in different things into YouTube and get all kinds of great how to videos. That's how I learned to darn a sock.  This skill will work for sweaters too.
You Can Make It
Craft and Fabric Links
Cyber Seams

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Strawberry Pancakes

One of my favorite ways to make pancakes!  I like to take my extra strawberries and cut them up and put the pieces in my pancakes.  Then I use my strawberry freezer jam instead of syrup on top.  I make my own pancake mix.  Here is the recipe:

  • 8 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups shortening powder (one of my favorite food storage items!)
  • 3/4 cups powdered milk
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cups dehydrated whole eggs
  • 1/3 cups baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
Making the Pancakes:
  • 2 cups Pancake Mix
  • 2 cups water (I often add a little more to get the consistency I like)
Stir together.  Cook on a hot griddle.  This usually makes about 4 8-inch pancakes.  Our family has different tastes for pancakes, so here are some of the kinds we like:

  • Plain pancakes with peanut butter spread on top and syrup poured over
  • Add a small handful of chocolate chips sprinkled over the top after pouring on the griddle and then we push them down in with a fork so the batter covers the chips.  We then eat them plain or add a little bit of syrup.
  • Add cut up strawberries and like the chocolate chips, push it down in so the batter covers the strawberries.  We like strawberry jam on top of this.
Obviously the possibilities are endless.  I've also made blueberry pancakes and used blueberry jam on them as well.  They were yummy!  When you fresh fruits start to get a little old, it is easy to store them in the freezer and use them later in things like pancakes and muffins.  You can also use freeze-dried fruits in them which is yummy too!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Last year, the first thing I taught myself before learning to actually can was how to make freezer jam.  There are no words to express how delicious Strawberry Freezer Jam is.  Not to mention how easy it is to make!  I did not make nearly enough last year.  What you see in the picture is two recipes.  Don't try to double the recipe.  It does not work right.  I have no idea why. 

Here is the recipe from the Sure-Jell Pectin box:

  • 2 cups mashed Strawberries (They say it takes 2 pints, but I used 3 pints because my daughter snacked as we cut and mashed)
  • 4 cups Sugar
  • 1 box of Sure-Jell Pectin

Mash the strawberries in one bowl.  Measure the sugar in another bowl.  Be very accurate with your measuring as jam recipes are particular in how they work.  Measure out 2 cups of mashed strawberries into the sugar and mix thoroughly.  Let it sit for 10 minutes. 

Then make the pectin.  In a pan, mix together 3/4 cup water and one box pectin.  Bring the water and pectin to a boil and then boil for 1 minute. 

Add the boiling pectin to the strawberry/sugar mixture and mix together completely.  The directions say to stir for about 3 minutes until the graininess goes away.  I have yet to figure out what they mean about the graininess going away.  I just stir for 3 minutes. 

Next, put it into the containers.  You can choose anything with a tight fitting lid.  They make freezer jam containers, but any containers will do.  It is suggested to use 1 or 2 cup containers.  I usually use 2 cup containers because it goes fast!  One recipe makes about 2 2/3 pints (5 cups, plus a little).

Let the containers sit on the counter for 24 hours to set up.  Then put them in your freezer. They will last up to a year in the freezer. Good luck letting it last that long! You have to try this if you like strawberry jam.  I think it is better tasting than canned strawberry jam.  It tastes fresher and has less sugar.  The store bought will never be good enough again!

If you want to use less sugar, do not use the regular pectin.  You can use the reduced sugar pectin for this, but I do not know how it will turn out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

72 Hour Kits

The first 72 hours after an emergency are the most critical.  When disaster strikes, whether it be a major earthquake, hurricane, flood, wildfire, tornado or even terror attack ... communication lines are often overloaded or down, electricity is typically out, food in the fridge/freezer goes bad, water may be unavailable or undrinkable and emergency responders often need days to locate people in distress. If you have 3 days worth of survival supplies, you increase your chances of staying alive not to mention, you have peace of mind because you are prepared. 

You can buy premade 72 hour kits, or you can make your own. 

Here is a checklist of things you may want include in your 72 hour kit.  Don't forget to rotate food and medications at least every 6 months, if not more often.  A good time to check your 72 hour kit is when you change your clocks.

Food and Water
(A three day supply of food and water, per person, when no refrigeration or cooking is available)
  • Protein/Granola Bars
  • Trail Mix/Dried Fruit
  • Crackers/Cereals (for munching)
  • Canned Tuna, Beans, Turkey, Beef, Vienna Sausages, etc
  • Canned Juice
  • Candy/Gum 
  • Water (1 Gallon/4 Liters Per Person per day - a case of bottled water for each person is great to have)
Bedding and Clothing
  • Change of Clothing (short and long sleeved shirts, pants, jackets, socks, etc.)
  • Undergarments
  • Rain Coat/Poncho
  • Blankets and Emergency Heat Blanks (that keep in warmth)
  • Cloth Sheet
  • Plastic Sheet
Fuel and Light
  • Flashlight
  • Extra Batteries
  • Flares
  • Candles
  • Lighter
  • Water-Proof Matches
  • Can Opener
  • Dishes/Utensils
  • Shovel
  • Radio (wind-able, solar, or battery operated)
  • Pen and Paper
  • Axe
  • Pocket Knife
  • Rope
  • Duct Tape
Personal Supplies and Medication
  • First Aid Kit and Supplies
  • Roll of toilet paper- remove the center tube to easily flatten 
  • Feminine hygiene
  • Folding brush
  • Soap
  • Shampoo Sample
  • Mini Hand Sanitizer
  • Immunizations Up-to Date
  • Medication (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Children's medication etc.)
  • Prescription Medication (for 3 days)
Personal Documents and Money
(Make a binder for all your important paperwork)
  • Scriptures
  • Genealogy Records
  • Legal Documents
  • Insurance Policies
  • Cash
  • Credit Card
  • Pre-Paid Phone Cards
  • Bags to keep supplies in.  I read once about getting a trash can on wheels to keep everything in and that it would be easy to store and easy to move in an emergency.
  • Infant Needs (if applicable)
Additional Information:
  1. Update your 72 Hour Kit every six months (Daylight Savings Time) to make sure that all food, water, and medication is fresh and has not expired
  2. Every 6 months check clothing sizes and types. 
  3. Small toys/games are important too as they will provide some comfort and entertainment during a stressful time.  Coloring books and crayons are good in children's kits.
  4. Older children can be responsible for their own pack of items/clothes too.
  5. You can include any other items in your 72 Hour Kit that you feel are necessary for your family's survival.
  6. Some items and/or flavors might leak, melt, "flavor" other items, or break open. Mint gum flavors everything, Jolly Ranchers and chocolate melt, pop top lids occasionally burst.  
  7. Put everything in plastic Ziploc bags to protect against leaky items and also to protect everything if there is a flood.

Don't Forget Your Pets

Our daughter says that we cannot forget to do a page about our pets!  Who can forget man's best friend?  Remember Katrina?  We heard over and over about the pets who had been separated from their owners.  It is important that as responsible pet owners, we should prepare for taking care of our pets in an emergency.  If it isn't safe for you to stay, it isn't safe for your pet to stay either.

Making up a simple 72 hour kit for our pets  is a very good idea.  The following things could be included for your pet's kit.
  • Dishes for the pet to drink or eat out of
  • 3-7 days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
  • Disposable litter trays 
  • Litter or paper toweling
  • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
  • Disposable plastic bag
  • Extra harness and leash
  • Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires
  • Bottled water, at least 7 days' worth
  • Blanket (for scooping up a fearful pet)
  • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters)
(Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless.)

It is also important to put a sticker on your window letting emergency workers know that there are pets in your home.  You can get a free one here.   If you have to evacuate your home, take your pets with you and write "Evacuated" on the sticker so emergency teams won't waste time looking for your pets.

Another good thing to do is find out what locations in your area and just outside your area allow pets in case you need a place to stay while waiting to get back in your home.  Some hotels allow pets, certain campsites allow pets, or family or friends may allow you to bring your pets to stay at their home.  A plan is always important.

Are You Prepared?

My family has been on a journey for the last four years.  It started out just gathering food storage to help us be prepared if there was an emergency.  But it didn't take us long to figure out that gathering food storage was only a very small part of being prepared.  So as we continue to learn, we wanted to start sharing some of the things that we have been able to use for our own family.

We know that preparedness can be viewed in many ways by many different people.  Often people laugh when you ask if they are prepared and say they will just go and visit those who are prepared.  But from what I can tell, those who are prepared are definitely in the minority and their storage is not going to take care of everyone.  Also, many are not going to be willing to take food from their children's mouths that they had the forsight to save when you were busy playing and going on vacations.  It reminds me of the story of the ant and the grasshopper:

Once there lived an ant and a grasshopper in a grassy meadow.  All day long the ant would work hard, collecting grains of wheat from the farmer's field far away. She would hurry to the field every morning, as soon as it was light enough to see by, and toil back with a heavy grain of wheat balanced on her head. She would put the grain of wheat carefully away in her larder, and then hurry back to the field for another one. All day long she would work, without stop or rest, scurrying back and forth from the field, collecting the grains of wheat and storing them carefully in her larder. 

The grasshopper would look at her and laugh. 'Why do you work so hard, dear ant?' he would say. 'Come, rest awhile, listen to my song. Summer is here, the days are long and bright. Why waste the sunshine in labor and toil?'

The ant would ignore him, and head bent, would just hurry to the field a little faster. This would make the grasshopper laugh even louder. 'What a silly little ant you are!' he would call after her. 'Come, come and dance with me! Forget about work! Enjoy the summer! Live a little!' And the grasshopper would hop away across the meadow, singing and dancing merrily. 

Summer faded into autumn, and autumn turned into winter. The sun was hardly seen, and the days were short and gray, the nights long and dark. It became freezing cold, and snow began to fall.

The grasshopper didn't feel like singing any more. He was cold and hungry. He had nowhere to shelter from the snow, and nothing to eat. The meadow and the farmer's field were covered in snow, and there was no food to be had. 'Oh what shall I do? Where shall I go?' wailed the grasshopper. Suddenly he remembered the ant. 'Ah - I shall go to the ant and ask her for food and shelter!' declared the grasshopper, perking up. So off he went to the ant's house and knocked at her door. 'Hello ant!' he cried cheerfully. 'Here I am, to sing for you, as I warm myself by your fire, while you get me some food from that larder of yours!' 

The ant looked at the grasshopper and said, 'All summer long I worked hard while you made fun of me, and sang and danced. You should have thought of winter then! Find somewhere else to sing, grasshopper! There is no warmth or food for you here!' And the ant shut the door in the grasshopper's face. 

It is wise to worry about tomorrow today.
So, are you worrying about tomorrow today?  Have you stopped to look at your pantry to see if you have enough food to sustain your family for a week, a month, 3 months, a year?  What about water?  You may wonder what you should be preparing for.  Well, it depends on where you are.  There are some disasters that could happen almost anywhere.  Those include:
  • loss of employment
  • flooding
  • terrorist attack
  • loss of electricity
  • government shutdown
  • earthquake
And there are some disasters that are found in only certain places such as:
  • tornados
  • hurricanes
  • tsunamis
  • volcanos
  • extreme cold
  • extreme heat
Disasters may only last for a couple of hours such as the electricity going out.  They could last for a couple of days or months.  Or the disaster may only last for a short period but cause long term damage.  It is important for us to know what kinds of disasters threaten you in your area along with those that could happen anywhere.  Are you prepared?  If not, now is the time to prepare.