May 23, 2015

The Tale of Laptops, Authors and Healing

For Christmas last year, my husband gave me a laptop computer. Actually he bought me two laptops and told me to pick one, and he'd return the other. As much as I loved getting a new laptop, December was the month after Mom's death when I was still in a fog. You know when everything is a big blank inside, but you keep a smile on your face for everyone else. So the new laptops lay in their boxes for a very long time.

During January, I decided the laptop screens were too small for my aging eyes. I gave lots of excuses for not wanting to deal with laptops. And so I continued using my very heavy Toshiba laptop with the broken hinges.

January was the month I went into a mad frenzy where I gutted,

then organized my office for two weeks. A very therapeutic project I might add.

My inspiration picture.

Love this office! The Collie picture above the display case are darling. Love the desk lamp and the vintage pictures above the desk. A writer's home office. by Boho Chic Designer

A work in progress.

With an early spring in February, came motivation to write again. I watched the movie Miss Potter, about the life of author Beatrix Potter and I was inspired. I felt her pain. I saw the many wadded up papers on the floor.

I began researching other children's authors. I'm not a children's author, but these writers with real lives and real pain, helped me see writing as a way to heal. I watched a video with Kate DiCamillo, author of Because of Winn Dixie. She counseled me to get up early every day and write something. Anything. And so I did. I decided to work on the NeverEnding Story ... I mean my Food Storage Organizer book. I dutifully got up each morning and wrote before my household stirred.

In March, I took my daughter and her friend to a school-wide district literacy night. I listened to a lecture by Jessica Day George, author of Tuesdays at the Castle and Wednesdays in the Tower. She shared her pain when her style of writing was rejected by a professor. 

Then we listened to Brandon Mull, author of a gazillion books such as Fablehaven

You can get his dry sense of humor by these words on his Amazon page. "Brandon Mull no longer lives on the side of a mountain above a prison. He now resides in a happy little valley near the mouth of a canyon with his wife and three children. Since the arrival of his new daughter, he is more the golem of the household than ever, following whatever orders trickle down the chain of command." Amazon

I've never read one of his books. Sorry Brandon, but you inspired me with your sense of humor to write. Are we seeing a pattern here?

A few weeks later we made a trip to Park City where the hubs and a few kids went skiing. I hauled my broken laptop in a carry-on suitcase into the lodge, set it up on a table and typed for 4 or 5 hours. The lodge got loud with skiiers coming in and out, so I moved to a small room near a blazing fire. Loved it! The waiter even brought me a foam pad for my wooden chair. Yup! And I typed away.

A ski lodge is a glorious place to write. Except when you leave the solitude of the ski lodge and come home to the real world and lose motivation to write. Blah!

Lets get back to laptops. In April I was determined to write, so I told my husband he was going to give me a laptop, a desk monitor and a wireless keyboard for my birthday. Can someone give you the same gift twice?

So we headed to Best Buy and picked out those items with my 10 year-old in tow. Hooray! The whole set up sounded ideal. The desk monitor would be perfect for my old eyes.

But UGH! The new light-weight touch screen Lenovo Yoga 2 was not my Toshiba friend. I faced a huge learning curve. So the monitor and keyboard sat in their boxes by my desk while I tried for weeks to figure out my new laptop.

My husband kept telling me to use the tutorial videos, but I was stubborn. Surely I could figure this thing out by myself. Sometimes  I would sneak out my old crusty laptop and work on it and my husband would give me "the look."

Now that I made it through my first Mother's Day without Mom ... tears, tears ... I feel I can move forward and really write again. She looks over me each day from my desk. Encouraging me to be kind. To share my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. To take care of myself and my family. Perhaps in that order.

May 3, 2015

May Emergency Preparedness Goals - Condiments, Spices and Emergency Cooking

May is a busy month for many American families with Mother's Day, school testing, children's performances and graduations. I like to simplify my food storage stocking this month by gathering condiments and spices.

You've probably noticed summer displays in your grocery store now for Cinco de Mayo and soon Memorial Day. Let's take advantage of those sales and gather a few extra ketchup, mustard, mayo, relish, salsa, BBQ sauce, enchilada sauce and taco seasoning mix to name a few.

Let me caution you; don't go overboard when stocking up on condiments. You will be tempted to buy more than you should because they are so cheap. Be practical. How many bottles of ketchup do you REALLY need?

I like to stock up on a year's supply of condiments, but what is a year's supply? Two bottles of ketchup might be enough for me and one container of mustard. Take a look at my realistic amounts for a 3-month supply below. If you multiply the amounts by 4 and then multiply that number by the number of family members, you will come up with an amount that works for a year's supply. Or a 3-month supply is just fine if you are limited on space.

Also stock up on spices and dry onions. Go here to see how I store my spices. I like to buy a 2.4 lb. #10 can of dry onions from the LDS Home Storage Center because it's very affordable and they last forever. Or you can shop at a warehouse store like Sam's Club or Costco, but it will cost more per ounce. If you don't have much storage space, then buy a larger container at your local grocery store. Many of us use fresh onions in the summer, but dry onions store very well year-round. 

(You are free to print and share with others, but please mention my site.)

In regards to other spices, I buy some in bulk at a stored called Winco and put them in my own jars. Don't go overboard here either. Consider what you use the most. For me it's cinnamon, oregano and onions. I don't need a 15 oz. container of thyme. Be practical so you can spend money on something else you need in your emergency supply this month.

I like to keep a stock of paper goods on hand all the time for power outages or disasters. Paper plates, cups, foil, plastic utensils, etc. are extremely useful when you can't use your dishwasher or sink. Watch for sales closer to Memorial Day and stock up. I like to keep a 30 day supply always in a cupboard. With our large family gatherings, they always get used and I restock again.

Even though I don't focus on freezer foods for food storage, you may find good deals on meat this month. My butcher told me roasts go on sale in May because people are barbecuing smaller cuts of meat. 

May is also National Pet Month so put together a 72-hour kit for Fido or Fluffy this time each year. You may want to read "The Dogs of Hurricane Katrina" to motivate you.

Now is a good time to buy a Dutch oven and charcoal briquettes when they go on sale. They are great for emergencies. And the price of bottled water drops as we get closer to Memorial Day, so stock up.

Hopefully you've started your vegetable garden. I'm not a great gardener, so I plant a "salad" garden every year.

Last of all, if you get a nice tax refund, consider buying a wheat grinder, a worthwhile investment if you like to use whole grains. In 2009, my readers said their favorite grinders were the NutriMill and the Wonder Mill. I've actually been using my Blendtec blender to grind smaller amounts of wheat.

It's nice to hear the lawnmowers buzzing in our neighborhood again. This is great time of year. Good luck on your continual progress to becoming self-reliant. You CAN do it!

Best wishes,



“But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint"

Go here for my 12 monthly preparedness lists.

April 6, 2015

Teaching a 72-Hour Kit Class At A Relief Society Meeting

A reader sent me a question about planning a 72-hour kit activity for a Relief Society meeting. Many of you lovely Relief Society sisters with big hearts probably feel you can help your ward by doing gathering items for kits for your ladies. Take a look at her letter and my honest response. It may help you see things differently.

Dear Valerie: "I'm the Relief Society activity leader in our ward, and we're supposed to be having an activity next month doing 72 hour kits. The thing is...I'm overwhelmed! I don't have any idea how to pull this off. Everyone has different needs, tastes in foods, etc. Some already have supplies, others don't. Do you have a suggestion on how to go about organizing, determining needs, purchasing (so one person doesn't have to spend a ton of money and then get reimbursed)? Our president also wants the sisters to assemble a few extra that night to donate to the women's shelter. Is it reasonable for me to organize the purchase of backpacks, food, tools, etc. or should we focus on a partial 72 hour kit? I'm dying here! :) No clue how to make this work and hoping for some suggestions. Doing kits for your own family is challenging enough, but trying to do this for all the sisters at an activity night seems really hard. Any ideas and suggestions you can offer would be very appreciated. Thank you!"

Overwhelmed Relief Society Leader

Dear Reader: "First of all let me say I did this years ago in a ward, and it was a HUGE undertaking and was highly stressful for me. Second of all, It is better to teach a woman how to fish, than to fish for her. I don't think it is part of your calling to do the shopping for everyone. It takes months of planning to pull it off. You are right that every family is unique. Diets, finances and children's ages are unique. Some elderly women cannot carry a backpack. My items are in a carry-on suitcase with wheels. Love it! So here are my suggestions for you:

  1. Make your own kit.
  2. Have everything laid out on a table not in the kit.
  3. Pack your kit in front of them and discuss the items you are putting in it.
  4. Realize that everything cannot fit in a backpack. For instance a 3-day supply of water is 3 gallons, so put some bottles of water in your backpack and some on the table. Also a sleeping bag may not fit in the pack. Sure they could buy those super expensive compact ones, but most family budgets can't afford that. I keep our kits, sleeping bags and a few cases of bottled water in the front all emergency closet.
  5. Teach by showing and motivating. Be SUPER excited to tell them what you have learned. Be honest and tell them what you would have done differently.
  6. Print a list of items to go in a 72-Hour kit.
  7. Send around a list for them to sign up for a reminder call one month from today.

As far as a few kits for the women's shelter, if your ward can afford that (plan on $75 - $100 depending on what is put in the kits) that is up to your bishop. How about have the sisters donate toiletries, lotion, journal and pen, etc. or some items to add to a kit for the shelter."

Best wishes, Valerie

March 30, 2015

Smith's Food Storage Case Lot Sale Deals April 2015

Smith's grocery store is having a food storage case lot sale starting this Wednesday, April 1 for two weeks. For those of you out-of-staters coming to Utah for the LDS General Conference, pick up a case or two on Saturday to take back home.

Below is a list of items with prices, and I highlighted the super-duper bargains in green. I grouped things into the same categories I use for inventory taking. If you open my cupboards, this is about how you'll find items sorted on my shelves. And just so you know, I don't buy everything at case lot sales. I buy some things at Costco, and some just when I find them on sale.

I'll be focusing on gathering soup, fish and beans this month since that is my April food storage focus. But pick up whatever you need. If you can't buy a case, look down the regular store aisles since most items will be at the case lot price.

A few other great Smith's deals:
Strawberries 1 lb. for $1.25 per lb. A great price for freezer jam!
Barilla Pasta 12-16 oz. $.49 ea. in the Buy 10 sale
Land O'Lakes or Challenge Butter $1.99 in the Buy 10 sale


Kroger Water 16.9 oz. 24 pk. $2.50 (but have seen for $1.99)
Langer's 100% Apple Juice 64 oz. $1.50 8 for $12.00 (ok, but have seen for $1.25)

Kroger Broth 14 oz. .50 ea. or 24 for $12.00
Simple Truth Organic Broth 32 oz. $1.25 or 12 for $15.00
Campbell's Cream of Chicken or Mushroom Soup 10.5 oz. $.90 or 48 for $43.20
Campbell's Chicken Noodle or Tomato Soup 10.75 oz. $.55 or 48 for $26.40
Campbell's Chunky Soup various 18.6 - 19 oz. $1.00 or 12 for $12.00

Bumble Bee Tuna in water 5 oz. $.50 ea. or 48 for $24.00 (Great deal!)
Kroger Beans various 15 oz. $.55 ea. or 24 for $13.20
Simple Truth Organic Beans various 15 oz. $.79 ea. or 12 for $9.48
Hormel Chili w/beans 15 oz. $1.10 ea. or 12 for $13.20 (have seen $.88)
VanCamp's Pork & Beans 15 oz. $.50 ea. or 24 for $12.00
Kroger Breakfast Sausage Links (fresh) 12 oz. $1.99 ea. or 12 for $23.88
Jennie-O Ground Turkey 90% lean (fresh) 16 oz. $1.99 ea. or 12 for $23.88

Kroger Peanut Butter 28 oz. $1.25 ea. or 12 for $14.99 (Lowest I've ever seen! Can't pass it up.)
Kroger Vegetable Oil various $1.99 ea. or 9 for $19.91

Kroger Tomato Sauce 8 oz. $.20 ea. or 24 for $4.80
Kroger Tomatoes various $.50 ea. or 24 for $12.00
Hunt's Pasta Sauce 24 oz. $.80 ea. or 12 for $9.60
Prego Pasta Sauce 14.5-24 oz. $1.50 ea. or 12 for $18.00

Kroger Fruit pears, peaches, various 15-15.25 oz. $.75 or 24 for $18.00 (amazing!)
Kroger Mandarin Oranges 11 oz. $.50 or 24 for $12.00

Libby's Vegetables various 14.5-15 oz., $.50 or 12 for $5.99

Kroger Evaporated Milk 12 oz. $1.00 or 24 for $24.00 (Have seen for $.69)
Horizon Organic Chocolate or Vanilla Milk 8 oz. $.88 ea. or 12 for $10.56 (less at Costco)
Tillamook Shredded Cheese 5 lb. $12.99 or $2.60 per lb. (about Costco or Sam's)
Oakdell Medium Eggs 5 dozen $4.99

Maruchan Ramen Noodles 3 oz. $.14 ea. or 24 for $3.42
Hamburger Helper various $.88 ea. or 12 for $10.56
Chef Boyarde Pasta 14.5-12 oz. $.85 or 24 for $20.40 (have seen for $.79)
Annie's Macaroni & Cheese 5.25-6 oz. $.89 or 12 for $10.68

Botan Calrose Rice 20 lb. $12.99 (LDS, Costco, Sam's cheaper)

Betty Crocker Cake Mix or Brownies $1.00 ea. or 12 for $12.00
p$$t Sugar 4 lb. $1.79 or 10 for $17.90 (have seen for $1.59)
Kroger Flour 5 lb. $1.69 ea. or 8 for $13.52 (ok price for a small bag, but cheaper at Costco for large bag)
Krusteaz Pancake Mix 5 lb. $3.49 ea. or 6 for $20.94 (cheaper at Costco or Smith's)
Kroger Pancake Syrup 24 oz. $1.49 ea. or 12 for $17.88 (ok price, cheaper in 64 oz.)

Early this morning after a workout at the gym, I ran over to Smith's in Farmington and saw the grocers quickly finishing the case lot display. I bought a few cases of peanut butter, because at $1.25 ea., that's a steal of a deal. Don't pester me about not getting the healthy peanut butter.

I scurried down the baking aisle and grabbed two 48 oz. bottles of Kroger Canola oils for $1.99 each. I only grab a few oils every few months, because I don't to buy it by the case and then have it expire at the same time. 

With strawberries at $1.25 a lb., I picked up 6 of those to make some freezer jam with my daughter who is home for spring break. I know you expected me to buy more food at this case lot sale, but I'm pretty well stocked up especially after visiting the LDS Home Storage Center last week. I'll be checking out the Macey's sale in a few weeks. I sure hope you have success with your food storage. I know you CAN!


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