Peanut Butter Balls

Last night for our class we explored powdered milk.  I brought peanut butter balls – Here is the recipe

Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup oats

1/2 cup honey – I am going to try it with a little less

1/2 cup peanut butter – now I want to buy more crunchy

1 cup powdered milk – I don’t need my blender!

1/4 cup ground flax (optional) –

then add any yummy stuff you want – chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, raisins, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

roll them into little balls. refrigerate so they won’t be horribly sticky.

They seemed to be a hit! Several people asked for the recipe – that is always a good thing.  Enjoy!

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Organizing Food Storage

Alright, the second of our class was about organizing our food storage .  Vickie taught this portion.  There are a lot of great resources out there about preparedness but she recommended this one.  This site allows you to purchase the book or a digital copy.  I have not explored the book personally but Vickie used it back when she had kids at home and is using it now as she tries to get her household prepared.

Vickie also suggested using markers on everything.  She said any time she goes to the store, they come home, put everything on the counter and write expiration dates in permanent marker.  Her grandchildren love to help out.  If you have younger children she suggested a grease pen.

Be sure to rotate the food you buy.  Use the oldest products first.  Make a row on your shelves for the newest items and a row for the oldest – use up the oldest row and start on the next.

To make rotating easier you can purchase a can rotation system – here are some possibilities

One clever little tip for using these shelves – Vickie will use masking tape and tape three cans of tuna together so they will fit in one of the rotation systems.  Of course the nice plastic ones are adjustable but if you opt for the cardboard ones that might be helpful.

The remainder of the class was sharing ideas of places to put storage items.

Canned goods in the garage in Florida? – We live in Florida so we discussed whether or not canned goods will keep in the garage.  The best bet is to keep them inside the house and keep their nutritional value longer.  One thought though was to move paper products and cleaners out to the garage.  Put out the things you know will not go bad.

Laundry room – if you have extra shelves – use them for your food storage.  If you have dead space up top – put in additional shelving to hold more items.  Vickie put in two rows that will fit #10 cans on their side.  When she uses one she takes it down and then slides down the rest of the cans so she always uses the oldest first.

Closets – add additional shelves to the top of closets throughout the house that will fit #10 cans or other items to store.  My sister used one of the long walls in her house for food storage.  They filled the walls with shelves and then created a “fake” wall in front of it.  They created a major amount of storage without losing a whole lot of space.

Store items under beds, behind books on book shelves or anything other place that is not being used.  Vickie suggested covering boxes with contact paper and storing them on ledges found in your house – above cabinets.  She also uses large laundry bags to store paper towels and toilet paper in – then she puts the large bags where the counters in her laundry room overlap.

Another suggestion was moving the shelves in their walk in closet all to one side.  Then putting up shelves on the long wall for food storage.

Contact paper the outside of toilet paper packages or paper towels and let the kids use them as building blocks.

Or use plain boxes and let the kids decorate the box.  Then you can store it in their room without a fuss.

I have wheat in large frosting buckets – I put them under the sink in the kids bathroom so I do not find a whole bunch of random stuff under there.  Wheat stores for 30 years so even if I occasionally forget they are there I will eventually get back around to them.

Another great idea for using ledges in the home – get baskets with fabric lining – not only can you use it to store items but they are decorative.

Vickie’s biggest message was to re purpose things.  Think outside the box – find ways to use items you already have or space that you already have but could use more productively.

Someone else suggested using kleenex boxes once emptied to store things in the pantry – they are already decorated.

In a previous home we used a shoe organizer on the back of the pantry door to hold jello, pudding, kool aid, sauce packets and other small items that sometimes gets lost in the pantry.

I think I already mention pinterest.com – it is a visual bookmarking site.  I LOVE it.  It has a ton of ideas for organization and it is your own pin board – when you want to see all of the organization ideas you pinned you click on it and it shows you the pictures of everything you liked and pinned.  Great for a visual person!  But I have found several great organizational ideas just browsing around.  One idea that I mentioned during the class was someone used pvc pipes, attached them together and made it into shoe racks.  Very clever I thought.  Then someone else suggested using #10 cans to create a shoe organizer for kids.   What a great way to reuse cans.

The class was wonderful.  I learned so much – in fact, I have been putting some of the tips from both parts into practice over the last couple of days and that is why I have not gotten back to writing the rest of the post.

One more tip  from Vickie:

“When we were looking at model homes, we saw one which had additional storage doors on the walls above the closets. There is generally a lot of space in the top of the “in the wall ” type of closets but it is next to impossible to utilize.

What Tim did:

He cut a hole in the drywall above the closet doors.

Put a large piece of wood at the top of the closet as a ceiling to the existing closet and a bottom shelf for the one above.

Then he put doors for the new storage above the closet door.

There is an issue with a supporting piece of wood but we just built the storage door around it so we did not change anything structurally.

It’s great for bulky suitcases or linen etc which you only use occasionally. Or for long term food storage.”

Organization Class

Last night we had the BEST classes on organization.  The first one was household organization and the second was organizing food storage.  I will split the posts so the information is easier to find.

First off, Valerie told us that organization is a lifestyle NOT a one time event.  That was a bit of an eye opener.  I used to be organized but since we have seven kids and homeschool I can rarely even find my phone! Ah.

Now I will never be able to relay Valerie’s adorable personality and sense of humor but I hope I get the message across.  She told us that entropy is a natural progression from order to chaos.  Then she said “So, let’s fight back.”

The first tip – have a tray or a basket or some specific location for keys, wallets, cell phones, work badges or anything else that you need to grab as you head out the door.  It takes practice but eventually we will be trained to put the items in the proper place so we can find them again and again.

The next main idea is to have a control center – this should be in the hub of the house (usually the kitchen or close to it).   Here is what she recommends for the control center:

  •  one organized drawer (a lot of us said “Oh, you mean a junk drawer?”)  Yes, she has a very organized drawer complete with tape, scissors, paperclips and whatever else she feels she needs to have on hand to grab quickly.  (I did not mention that we have literally lost 10 pairs of scissors in the last year.  But with homeschooling and seven kids – there is just no way to stay ahead of them.)
  • a phone
  • a calendar or a planner – write all of the activities for each member of the family here
  • an expandable file folder to hold important documents, could remove the need for an family document binder.  Also in this is anything that needs to be saved – mortgage papers, life insurance documents, social security cards, etc.
  • ALL paper must go to the control center

OHIO – Only Handle It Once — once a paper makes its way to the control center you do whatever it is you need to do with it – does is need to be signed and returned to school – then sign it and put it in the child’s backpack RIGHT AWAY; does the paper need to be calendared – well, the calendar is right there – fill it in; does it need a phone call – the phone is right there – make the call; After you do what needs to be done with it – THROW IT AWAY.

If it is something that needs to be saved permanently then file it in the explandable file; if it is a coupon then put it in your purse or the glove box of the vehicle you drive the most.  If you have an item such as a doctor order for lab work – file it in the planner on the day of the appointment – when that day comes you will not be caught searching for the form.

Financial  organization – Valerie uses a wired notebook and on it she writes all of her bills, the dates due and the amount.  She has one from the mid 90s and can tell you how much they spent on electricity any month of their married life.  Impressive.  She also suggested that when the time comes and you have a paper bill – just stick it in the notebook on that page so you will not have to search for it when it comes time to pay it.

Art projects and collected papers – This is a big concern for a lot of people.  Here are some of the tips that were shared last night

  • take pictures of the project or picture and/or take a picture of it with your child holding it – then throw it away
  • create an art gallery – display the project for a period of time and then dispose of it – switch out the gallery frequently
  • give each child a box or expandable file – they can save whatever fits in the container – then every 6 months or year – have the child go through it and save only their favorites
  • one person suggested creating a “file” of papers and in 6 months throw it away.  she has used this with several bosses and NO one has ever asked for items from that file

Other great ideas shared:

Spend New Year’s Day cleaning out the house – get rid of the old and ready for the new

Use a glass door or white board with dry erase markers to create a week at a glance – you can include activities for each family member, meal ideas, who has the car, etc.  Then just wipe it clean and you are ready for next week. (The Mom that suggested that said it is also great for spelling word practice!)  You can even color code it so each person has their own special color for their items.

Spray on chalkboards – another great idea

Train yourself and then work on others.  We must take the steps to an organized lifestyle – then others might jump on the bandwagon just because they see what a difference it makes in our lives.

Ten Minute Evacuation

My friend told me about her family’s emergency drill.  It was awesome to hear.  I want to share some of their ideas and hopefully get a picture to post as well.

They created a card for each family member that listed the things each person was responsible for taking in case of an emergency.  Since several of their kids are quite young – they drew pictures. Then they laminated the cards so they will last.  What a super idea!

Another great tip – they have one gallon containers of water in their laundry room – so if they had to evacuate each family member just grabs a gallon of water.  Mom and Dad grab two.

Their plan was so simple and so effective. I am so glad she shared it with me.  To practice their plan they had their grandparents knock on the door and tell the family that there was a wild fire coming and they had 10 minutes to leave.  Their two year old was a little freaked out but what great practice.  Not only does it give the younger children a idea of what to expect but it also allows the older siblings and parents to anticipate the kind of reactions that are possible and help them prepare to pick up any slack.

One of the biggest challenges they faced was food.  So the Mom is thinking of a better system to make sure she could quickly grab food.  In her haste, she grabbed a loaf of bread and some peanut butter.  One suggestion was maybe having a box of food in the bottom of the pantry – that way it is very accessible but it is also handy to rotate the food items as well.  In fact, I think I am going to try that for our emergency kits.  We want to stick crackers in the emergency kits but they get crushed so easily. If we just have one box then it becomes one person’s job.

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me.  I hope it will inspire others to get prepared AND practice!!

Power Outages

As I researched power outages I came across some great sites to share.  Please comment as I learn so much from everyone.  Experience is the best teacher and it is great to share that knowledge with others.

The first site is from the Center for Disease Control.  I cannot help but think they must be an authority on the subject.

Here is the summary for food safety:

Food Safety

If the power is out for less than 2 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

If the power is out for longer than 2 hours, follow the guidelines below:

  • For the Freezer section: A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • For the Refrigerated section: Pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into a cooler surrounded by ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers are fine for this purpose.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

So a helpful tool to have on hand is a food thermometer.  The old adage is “If in doubt, throw it out.”  But maybe the new adage should read “Is it good? Use your thermometer for food!”  Okay, that wasn’t my best work.

Our class went great!!  First we discussed general tips – such as the food thing, lighting, generators, etc.

Lights and Power

Once upon a time a worker from an electric company told me that you MUST be very careful when hooking up a generator.  In fact, if you hook it back into your electric system you can actually shock any worker out working on the power lines.  So be sure to look that up BEFORE using a generator.

A fun tip for light is to use solar powered garden lights.  Bring them in at night and put them back out the next morning.

Be sure to have flashlights, lanterns, candles, glow sticks and any other source of light you can think of.  Be careful when using open flames – especially with children around.  Remember that any item powered by propane is ONLY to be used OUTSIDE.  There are some great lanterns to choose from – even crank lanterns.

I must get my hands on one of those.  I do however, have a shakeable flashlight though – that is pretty cool.

We even have a neat little thing my sister bought me for Christmas one year – a crank flashlight with adapters so we can charge cell phones!  Hopefully I will never need it but what a neat thing to have!

Additional things to think about:

— if you have small children think things through. Yes, it is a good idea to fill your tub with water but make sure the door is closed or that your young child has no access to the room to avoid drowning.

— be aware of open flames – this applies to people with and without children.  It is okay to use items with open flames but never leave them unattended.  If you have to leave the room blow it out – better safe than sorry.

Resume Class

This class was taught by Brian and he actually has taught resume classes at a college level. So we were so blessed to have him come share his knowledge with us.

Manage Your Expectations

First, he shared a quote from How to Write for the World of Work.  “You must enter the job market mentally prepared.  Seeking employment will thrust you into many competitive communication situations, both written and oral.”

For each job that you apply for there will always be other people also applying. So going into the process with proper expectations is important.  Otherwise, you might give up or become discouraged at the first hint of opposition.

 Imagine a triangle.  At the top point is your purpose – what you hope to accomplish.  On the bottom left angle is Information and the bottom right angle is Audience.  You need to tell the right information to the right audience in order to accomplish your purpose.

In order to do this – you must take some time to research the company – know the qualifications, know what the company does, and see if you can find someone who is already in the position for which you are applying.  Quite often people are willing to help and appreciate the opportunity to be the “expert” so don’t feel like you are pestering by asking for help.

Above all, remember that your audience is in a hurry – so accomplish your purpose quickly!

As you share information about you do it in terms of the audience – do not tell them about what you hope to accomplish – they want to hear what YOU can do for THEM.

Cover Letters

Cover letters are a great place to start.  The purpose of the cover letter is to get them to look at your resume.  Then your resume is to get them to schedule an interview and on from there.

What to include in the cover letter.   Look up a template online to get the proper spacing and then sit down and brainstorm what will best help impress the audience.

The cover letter should include:

  •  Tell what job you are applying for and how you heard about the job
  • Show that you know something about the company
  • Highlight the strengths that are on your resume that apply specifically to the job. Use the job description.
  • Request an audience
  • How to contact you

No two cover letters are the same – if you seek a position in education then the cover letter can be as long as you want. But for a lot of other jobs, you need to quickly highlight your strengths as the employer mostly likely will not have much time to spend on it.  This is another thing a mentor can assist you with – knowing what kind of cover letter is appropriate for the job you are seeking.

Another helpful hint – most industries have a website or two that everyone in the field goes to – for example – Brian was at a ball game and sat next to a man writing about the game for a local paper.  That man told Brian about journalism.com – one of those must know websites if working in that field.  Again, a mentor can help with this – or seek individuals who are already in your field of interest for inside information.

Resumes

There are two basic types of resumes – chronological and functional.  There is no magic formula to tell you which one would be best for you or for a particular job opening.  The United States Department of Labor has several examples of cover letters, applications and resumes.

Some general pointers though:

functional resume

  • might be more effective when switching fields – because it accentuates your strengths and skills versus your previous work history
  • template will cover areas of the job descriptions – so the skills listed down the left side of your page need to come directly from the job description.
  • as with all resumes – use numbers or percentages when possible – like suggested at the beginning of the post – back up what you say
  • still list the jobs you have had – make one section experience – you do not want to seem like you are hiding something

General Resume pointers:

  • Resume should only be ONE page
  • Begin each bullet with a verb. Do not use first person
  • Think of what the employer will care about for each section – what will benefit them the most
  • Use facts and numbers to back up what you say; and don’t be vague making them wonder what you meant – they will probably just disregard it
  • Have two formats – one to mail or attach by email and one without formatting when you need to copy and paste the resume into a text box
  • List most important information at the top!!!
  • Look for unexpected things that could apply – inventory everything you have done that might apply to the job

Brian shared a couple of experiences about cover letters that he wrote for previous job opportunities.  When applying for a job as a teacher one of the qualifications was to have experience with English as a second language – he listed that he had taught students from India, China, etc.

Another example of finding something unexpected – he applied for a job somewhere and part of the job dealt with Boy Scouts – he used his achievement of being an Eagle Scout as a strength.

At the end Brian shared his more personal feelings – God wants us to be happy.  He understands the great deal of stress that the provider of a family feels.  And because of that God wants  to help – even if just to lift you out of discouragement.

The class was well taught.  Thank you so much, Brian.  My husband might not jump up and down about me sharing more person information but isn’t that what blogging is all about?  I was really touched by Brian’s’ comments – especially at the end.  My sweet husband is a classic overachiever. He has a large family to provide for and he will do, do, do until he breaks.  After the class I shared some of my feelings with my husband again and finally he realized the point I have been trying to make.  So for my husband’s sake I will not go into more detail, but I know – God wants us to be happy.

Homemade Croutons

To start off, you will need a cutting board, a serrated knife and bread.  Long loaves of French bread or bagettes tend to get hard after a couple days and that is the perfect time to start making croutons or crackers.  But if you cannot get to it right away you can still use it – it just might take a little more work slicing it.

For croutons cut the bread into long strips and then smaller squares.  For the actual size – think about what you want to eat on a salad.  Granted, cutting up day old bread is not the most exciting thing you will do during the day, but you do not want to rush through it and end up with mouth-size croutons.

For crackers, slice the bread as thin as you can – or as thin as you want your crackers to be.

Next, arrange the croutons or crackers on a baking sheet.  This is the way to spread them out.

This picture is how NOT to do it.  You do not want the bread overlapping.  At this point, the bread still needs to dry out more so it really needs to be exposed to the air.

Leave the bread out until it is dry.