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Monday, August 31, 2009

Half the Mantis He Used to Be

I still get a bit gaggy looking at this.

I came home and found this spectacle on the wall INSIDE my house.

If your mama hasn't yet told you about the birds and the bees, you're in for a treat. Not only were these two foolin' around (even after I told her NO BOYS ALLOWED while I'm gone), but Girly Mantis then decided she had enough of her boy and chewed his head off.

Yes, in nature, the Girl Mantis finishes off her mate while they're... uh... talking about the weather.


We relocated her and her buddy outside, and she has since finished her snack. For two days now though, she has been hanging out on our kitchen window, and Dave swears she is looking at him while he fattens himself up at meals. I told him he'll be fine as long as he doesn't step out in our marriage for the younger, slimmer mantis.

[Posted song: "She's a Man Eater" by Hall & Oates]

Friday, August 28, 2009

Water Logged

From the Fast Life (19 July)
I recently got serious about the water portion of our preparedness and self-reliance plans and thought this information may be helpful to someone else working on this part of their own plans.

We have one small "fruit room" in the basement reserved for food storage. (I am not sure why it's called a fruit room. That's what it said on the blueprints. Every time I call it a fruit room, I picture the Fruit of the Loom guys hanging out in it. Even though I know better, I always semi-expect to find them there, and my body fills with suspense right before I turn on the light in the room. Every time.) I realized I could make more room for food if I moved the toiletries and stored drinking water out of there. So was born, The Water Storage Room.

Currently, it holds a few months of water for our little family, with space to add more! This 5x8 room was originally designed to be a bathroom in the basement but we decided against finishing it as such at this time.

We bought the 55-gallon, 30-gal and 15-gall through a lady in the classifieds. The 5-gallon containers we bought at Macey's. The one-gallon containers and 16oz bottles we buy at whatever grocery store we're shopping.

I will focus in this post on the large barrels.

We sanitized them, rinsed them, and filled them. Wish I had photos of the process? That day, I just wanted to get'erdone. We scoured neighboring construction sites for wood to line the floor. (And found some other cool stuff, too!)

The project went off without a hitch. Almost.

We ran a drink-safe hose from the spigot outside, down into a window through the basement. David needed to run an errand and seemed worried that I might flood the basement. "Don't go online leaving the water running. Stay here." He used his serious voice to stress, "If the barrel overfilled it would be a really bad thing."

I can't say I blame him for being overly cautious. During the first 3 years of our marriage, I burned beyond use 3 or 4 VERY EXPENSIVE saucepans and skillets because I went surfing online while something cooked, and I totally forgot.

So, off he went. I was very diligent and stayed at my post. I filled 3 barrels (although maybe too full) without making a mess. (Don't leave your barrel unattended; it doesn't take as long as you might think to fill.)

Dave came home, and it was my turn to run errands. I was halfway to my destination when Dave called my cell phone asking where our extra towels were. Huh.

He had put the hose into a barrel, went outside and turned the spigot on. Apparently, while he was outside, the pressure of the water shot the hose out of the barrel and it began hosing down his office in the basement. He didn't know this of course until he was back in the house, walking down the basement steps. Then there were the few seconds of pause as his brain tried to register why there were puddles of water in his office. I'd like to say that I was the bigger person and didn't mention the irony of the basement being flooded by NOT ME. Maybe next time.


Here, I've addressed some common questions and concerns regarding water storage. ALSO, I've linked at the bottom to the challenge that the gals at FoodStorageMadeEasy just announced!

How much water does the LDS Church recommend?
They recommend a 2-week supply per household. That's a minimum of 1 gallon a day per person per week or 14 gallons per person. Keep in mind that this water is to drink, to wash, and to cook with. I decided to store more because we have dried foods that require water for reconstitution. I don't want to stress over rationing too much water for bathing and rinsing. Plus, not everyone will have enough or safe water stored and this will give me enough to share.

Big water barrels are hard to move in case of evacuation.
True! Each barrel weighs 440 lbs when filled (and I can only carry one of those at a time. Barum-pah!) For this reason, we also store 5-gallon barrels, 1-gallon containers, and 16oz bottles. The larger containers are ideal when you are stuck at home (blizzard, quarantine, minimal earthquake damage, etc.)

Isn't it better to buy new barrels instead of used?
Whether you buy them new or used, they still need to be washed and sanitized. If you buy them used, make sure they were only used for food-grade materials. Ours were used for soda syrup, molasses, and vinegar. Buying used barrels will save you 40-60% in cost of a new one. That's "Buy one, get one free," baby!

How do you clean and sanitize them?
(These instructions are from another used water barrel supplier.)
  1. Rinse out barrel.
  2. Pour into barrel 1/2 cup of bleach and some water.
  3. If there's a strong concentrate smell from previous contents, add 10 tsp of baking soda. Vinegar can also be added.
  4. Recap barrel and roll around, getting solution everywhere. You may leave it overnight.
  5. Dump out solution and rinse again with plain water.
  6. Fill barrel leaving a 6" gap for freeze expansion.
  7. If you stack barrels, put plywood between barrels. (Put rope or strap across the lip on the top portion of the barrel and secure to wall.)
  8. Place a pallet or 2x4's under the barrels.
To treat the actual drinking water:
Use chlorine bleach, approx 10 TB per 55 gallons.

My neighbor Brooke said she had her kids sanitize her barrels for her. They'd roll them up her sloped driveway, let go, and then pretend they were Indiana Jones running from the rolling boulder.

How do I fill them?
I was surprised to find one couldn't use any new garden hose to do the job!
I was pretty impressed with these instructions until Step 6. That's just not how my water barrels roll.

How do I store them?
Make sure they are sitting on wood. Otherwise, chemicals and taste from the concrete will leach into your water. If you're in my neighborhood, this is a good time to lay the foundation for your water barrels as there is plenty of scrap wood and pallets over in the new neighborhood going up next door. Make sure to pull from their scraps and not their supplies!

How often do I need to rotate them?
Every 6-12 months. Think this is a pain? IT IS, which is why I never stored this size container before. BUT, I bought this which makes it so I don't have to rotate the water for at least 5 years! It's basically bleach, but pre-measured for this size supply. (I wouldn't be surprised if it's the 10 tablespoons of bleach per 55 gallons posted above.)

How do I empty the gallons for use or when I move?
Sell your house and let the new owners deal with them. HAHAHAHA
Ok, the real way... here! Cool, huh??

Are there any other supplies I need?
A bung wrench (to open the barrels)

I still feel uncomfortable saying bung wrench. A cap on one of our barrels was damaged so we went to Emergency Essentials to get a replacement. When the sales associates approached and asked how he might assist me, I may have too loudly answered with, "I need a bung!"

He corrected me. "You mean a bung nut."
Yes, that sounds so much better. Thanks.

So, that's our Water Room! All that's left to do is throw some rope or bungy cords across the front of the containers for earthquake-proofing, add some water filtering alternatives, and we're set!

Now, it's your turn.

CHALLENGE! CHALLENGE! CHALLENGE! is hosting an annual 7-day preparedness challenge. Wanna find out how prepared you are? Wonder what holes need plugging in your plan? Join the challenge! It's fun, challenging, and eye-opening! And you might win something!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Cake

I asked for "whatever" and "autumny." Did she deliver or what??
(Yes, the flowers and leaves are edible.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creepy Caller

My husband was setting up my new Google Voice number for work and decided to test it out. He left me a sweet message. Press play, and listen to it. What do you hear him say?

In case you can't understand the message. GoogleVoice conveniently provides a transcript of each call. Imagine my shock and confusion when I logged into my account and saw this note in my call log:

Hi Kurt, you're really sexy. I love you i want to give you two sons. Bye.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Here We Go Again...

Posted by Picasa

What the ...?

I went to my physical therapy appointment this morning. Therapist Stephen and I have been working on pin-pointing the exact cause of my body aches. Wouldn't you know it, it's my butt. Technically, my SI joint. But at this appointment, we also find that my piriformis has been tightening up due to this SI joint business. That's my butt cheek, folks.

So, today, we focus on just that: my buttcheek.

Instead of the usual stim treatment, we had to do what he called AStim. Guess what the A stands for.

No, not THAT. It's Advance.

So, Stephen tells me to lie on my stomach. He pulls my pants and underwear down to uncover the injury site and says while he does this, "I'm just uncovering to the point of exposure," and I say, "You think??"

We both laugh. He runs some aluminum torture disk across my buttocks hoping to tear the muscle. He then attaches some electrodes to me, turns the machine on and leaves the room.

Partway through the treatment, something is stinging and burning, and I think "ooh, that burns a little" but I decide to buck up and endure the discomfort through the 15 minutes.

I get home, and show Dave what Stephen and I worked. Dave looks at me weird and asks "did he bite you?" I look and see a welt, like an allergic reaction to a gigantic mosquito sting. In my rump. I am confused. And then vanity strikes and I wonder if it was there earlier and what kind of hygiene did Stephen think I practice or not practice.

Hours later, I check to see if I'm still at risk for West Nile Virus and find this:

This is on my butt! (Actually, not too far from the Grand Canyon.) It's a flat red burn about an inch and a half long. I got my butt burned. So, this week, you have your opportunity to use any array of butt puns:

"Ooooh! He burnt yo' butt!"
"Know any good butt-burning exercises?"
"I like my buns toasted, too."
"Do you smell fat burning?"
"What herd did you wander away from?"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Living in a Box of Packing Peanuts

From the Fast Life (23 July)

In second grade, I was excited about a new book I had gotten and was reading it to an adult. Partway through, the adult sighed in exasperation and said, "Your voice is SO BORING. Hurry up!" I didn't feel like reading anymore. I felt like crying. Obediently, I finished the book, but my chest and throat hurt for a long time.

Around the same age, I was at a store and caught a relative shoplifting. I pointed out that this was wrong. The relative tried rationalizing it with the cheap price of the item. I again pointed out that it was wrong and God did not want us to steal. The relative put the item back but not before huffing in annoyance and saying, "Why do you have to be such a goodie-goodie?" The words made me feel singled out and alone.

As a teenager, I was sent to a government state leadership event to represent my county. In one of the meetings, I misunderstood an assignment and began delivering the wrong type of message to a group of a hundred people or so. I only got through about a minute when an older woman sitting among the panel angrily interrupted me with "That's enough, young lady!" I was extremely embarrassed and then realized she thought I was mocking the organization's agenda. Regardless of the abrupt end to my part, I still had to stay up on the stage through the other participants' performances. After the segment was over, I returned to my seat in the audience humiliated. I stayed quiet for the rest of the weekend's events and relegated myself to a quieter role as a reporter.

There are countless times when I was either chastised for talking or scared into silence. Maybe it was due to the impressionable age I was when these types of experiences began or maybe it was due to the personality I came to earth with, but all my life, I've unconsciously gathered experiences to fortify the thesis that I am a burden to people when I speak. I am boring. I am self-righteous. I am a threat. So, I tend to clam up about things that matter to me. Silly, huh? And yet, there it is. (Is this surprising considering how much I jabber on and on sometimes?)

As a result, I have a hard time gauging when is an appropriate time to speak up (I'm sure this doesn't surprise you), and it leaves me open to experiencing negative feedback resulting in -yep- me shrinking back into my shell.

Only recently, did I realize how much this "burden" belief has affected my ability to make and keep friendships thus far. You know the feeling you get when you bottle things inside for a long time? Can you imagine what it feels like to keep it inside for... ever? The result would be that no one really knows you, and truly, they wouldn't because you wouldn't have given them the chance. It doesn't matter that really you were doing others a favor by trying to not be a burden.

That I rarely open up probably comes as no surprise. Sometimes, I make a joke, share an embarrassing story, or offer some insight (really, there is very little I wouldn't do for a laugh or a really interesting conversation), but my real thoughts, the ones that matter, are like the random bobby pins lost underneath the fluffy scrunchies and hair-tangled brushes of my mental caboodle, hidden in corners and camouflaged against the black and purple plastic. When someone gets too close to a bobby pin, I pull out a banana comb and yell, "Look! My boobs are sagging!" to distract them. (I'll drop the caboodles analogy now, but you know what I mean.)

When I do momentarily open up, it is because I either feel like I am going to explode or I am testing out the theory that "I might be an ok person after all." A lot of times, this backfires. Maybe I choose the wrong people to share with or the wrong time to share or even the wrong thing to share. Intellectually, there are a lot of sensible explanations, nevertheless, it is my emotions that tend to win with "you should keep quiet, especially about things that matter to you."

So, if you've ever found me "intimidating," "unapproachable," or "nice, but hard to figure out," now you know why. In a nutshell, I'm just protecting myself.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rags to Bags

From the Fast Life (20 July)

Despite all the random things I seem to try, this project surprised even me. It's a little out of character for me.

I took three of David's old T-shirts (with his permission), cut off the sleeves, cut the collar wider, then sewed up the bottoms of the shirts closed.

TAH-DAH! Reusable shopping bags!
(Re-use before you recycle!)

Of course, since Dave wears size XL, these are XL shopping bags, great for carrying 24-count packs of toilet paper and a dozen loaves of French bread. A size "Medium" is probably the best size for my shopping.

I stamped these shirts with the word "green." When the buzzword falls out of favor, then I will cut up a blue shirt and stamp it with the word "blue", and no one will be the wiser. ;)

I cut the neck on this yellow shirt a lot deeper than I would prefer because I couldn't bear to cut through the beloved phrase printed on the shirt. I then sewed the phrase onto the finished bag.

So as not to waste, you can use the sleeves to deck out your little elves.

I DID take the bags with me on my next shopping trip and -- heck yes-- I used them (to the confusion and inconvenience of my cashier) but --heck yeah-- I did it and --heck yeah-- I'll do it again. I found a surprise benefit to using these new old bags: They are really comfy to sling on my shoulder. I carried the groceries inside my house with comfort and ease.

Had I a group of tree-hugging, organic-shopping fashionistas for friends, I'd totally be cool. If only I hadn't stamped these bags with the paint made from dolphins...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Am I evil?

Is it bad that I saw this:

And thought to "accidentally" leave one next to this critter's bed?

Somewhere out there, PETA has a wire-tap on my house.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bringing Sexy Back

It has been a year since I bought clothes to wear, and that was for maternity/post-maternity purposes. Before that, Clinton was president.

In trying to decide what to add to my closet, I realized I am in serious need of reconsidering the types of shoes I wear. All of my around-the-house shoes, with the exception of two, are heels. While this used to work out when it was just me and the dog, it has become quite the challenge to carry a babe in one arm, a basket of laundry in the other while trying to stay atop strappy sandals and kicking the dog out of the way. Also, my laundry room is at the top of the stairs on the second floor, and I don't want to die. ("She died so young! At least, she went out smelling like fresh linens hung out in a lavender field.")

I know it sounds unreasonable, but a change in footwear feels... scary... sorta... to me. As a result, I have been delaying clothes-shopping and alternating between heels and bare feet throughout the day. What the heck should I wear? What's feminine but not "cute"? I cannot keep procrastinating; if my clothes get any holier, they will be translated into the heavens. I am so open to suggestions! (As long as they are not these suggestions.)

This "change of life" has lead me to think about other ways my life has transformed since I pushed 6lbs and 9oz through my vagina:
  • The $100 per month we never had for fun things suddenly appeared for baby non-fun things. (Maybe the baby brought her own wallet?)
  • I often find I have to talk myself into getting dressed before noon.
  • There have been several days in a row lately where I have not put on one iota of makeup! (You may have heard neighborhood children screaming when I went to check the mailbox.)
  • I have found my hair in knots when I comb it before getting into bed at night, realizing it is the first time I've combed it all day.
  • I've "simplified" by wearing two pairs of pants for the week and am too tired to care a flicker if the neighbors think "hasn't she been wearing those pants since last Tuesday?" (However, please host an intervention for me if I start wearing sweats or pj's out-of-doors.)

It's not all bad though. Parenthood makes some things sexier:
  • Freshly de-crusted eyes is the new come-hither look.
  • An accidental sinus twitch becomes a wink.
  • Congestion produces a throaty voice.
  • Emptying the dishwasher, a love note.
  • Folding the laundry AND putting it away, Hot. Guy. Central.

We also have special code language:
  • "The baby finally fell asleep." -----> "Take me, and take me quickly."
  • "Babe, I'm gonna empty the baby's diaper pail." -----> "I love you."
  • "I just brushed my teeth." -----> "So... can we make out?"

Yes, the stage for a romantic night is no longer set by cologne and candlelight but by the lingering mint-scent of longing. And, sure, the courtship dates that used to run into the wee hours of the morning have been replaced by outings that cannot go past the yawn-inducing 9pm. But I hold out hope that somehow we will regain a sexy new definition of our relationship despite the patter of tiny little feet.

But mostly, I want to be HOT again!

How do you bring sexy back now that you are a parent?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jeneze Cake Design

Former neighbor (here and in Orem) Jenny Bingham and her partner Kat Newman
design cakes. If you're looking for a special occasion cake or a yummy treat
to celebrate the kids going back to school, take advantage of this August coupon:

Visit their blog:

I think they are too beautiful to eat! But I'm sure I can overcome that hurdle.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wickety Wax

From the Fast Life (15 July)

With Doomsday coming soon, I thought it a good idea to get cracking on my emergency preparedness plans. Naturally, that means acquiring cheese. When the aliens descend and you are forced to hide in your home and are eating out of a 5-gallon bucket of grain, wouldn't some cheddar melted on your gruel provide a little more yumminess to the chaos? I think so, too.

I'm aware that there is such thing as canned cheese, however, we're talking about the ability to store real cheese! Here's how I prepped some REAL cheese to be stored indefinitely. HALLELUJAH!

1) I ordered 5lbs of cheesewax from They were the least expensive, but only have three colors. (This place has 10 colors to distinguish all your cheese varieties.)

2) I scoured the dusty shelves of the local thrift store to make a double boiler out of some cooking components.

3) I bought 5lbs of mild cheddar and 2 lbs of mozzarella. (Cheese becomes sharper in taste as it ages, so always choose the mildest variety available.)

4) I dreamt about the gorgeous day when the process would take place.

Oh- happy day when my slab of wax and natural bristle brushes arrived from New England! (It's like England but without the flats and fish and chips.)

Isn't it beautiful? I couldn't help but hug my red waxy slab.

So, next:
5) I cut the cheese. (Insert your own sophomoric joke here.) I chose 1/2lb-size blocks.

6) I started to cut a pound of wax of to fit in the double boiler.
The wax was so pretty I underestimated its toughness. (Kinda like me. Ho!)
Tip: Heat the knife with hot water before attempting to slice cheesewax. Also, remember to take the wrapper off. You'd think one wouldn't need to be reminded. I guess I was just really excited.

7- option A)
I had done a lot of research on the best way to wax cheese and found that the traditional way was by brushing which keeps the contact between your hand oils and the cheese at minimum. I began by dipping the brush into the wax and brushing the cheese. It seemed to be going well... for a minute. After a few strokes, the wax begin getting clumpy on my brush and on the cheese.

7- option B)
On the second batch of cheddar, I decided to try the hand-dipping method. That went by quicker, cleaner and funner. For the price of the brushes, I could have gotten 5lbs of cheesewax in another color.

Here are the two batches at the end. I'm not going to tell you how to vote, but which method do you think you'd prefer? (on the left: dipped; on the right: slaughtered by a man in a hockey mask)

The dipping process went by so quickly that I decided to go ahead and wax the mozzarella even though my baby was stirring from her nap. Cheese waxing works best with hard cheeses, of which, mozzarella is NOT, but I stubbornly decided to try it out. I did notice the corners of the mozzarella were still showing through the wax. Maybe the wax level was too low, and I was touching the wax to the bottom of the pan, causing it to melt.

In hindsight, I wish I would have ordered two or three colors of cheesewax because the mozzarella and the cheddar look exactly the same after being covered in red wax. (Update: I found a solution to this and mentioned it at the end of this video.)(What video?)

Oh, so a neighbor suggested I show how to wax cheese via video. It's 12 minutes long because you know, I talk a lot, but hey- I know you can't get enough of me as it is.


So, waxing is fine and great but does it work? What's the verdict on taste?
Seventeen days after sitting on a shelf in my basement, I opened a block of cheddar and...

The cheese is good!

When I peeled the wax off, the cheese seemed slightly greasy, but the consistency was good as was the taste. Dave shredded some for a meal and said it performed well there. The grease may have been from the cheese still being at room temperature. I refrigerated half of the block and there was no grease when I used it later on.

Waxing cheese is a really easy and fun process, and the injuries are minimal. I came out of my first session with only a gash in my left hand. (I touched something hot, jerked my hand away and slammed it on the underside of the upper cabinets.) The overall moral of the story here, folks, is hot things burn and sharp things cut. Oh, but it will be so worth it when our society collapses, and I trade my cheese for guns.