Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Bacon

I don't know about you, but I love bacon. The only problem is that it is really expensive for a food that isn't terribly healthy and mostly adds flavor and fat. For us bacon is a "sometimes food". Most of the time I keep an eye on the sales and look for coupons, but sometimes I really luck out. You see, I don't care if my bacon is pretty, or uniform, I just like the flavor so I keep my eyes out for "bacon ends and pieces". Not every store carries them, but if the store you go to cuts their own bacon keep an eye out for it. The ends and pieces are the slices that are too short, too thick or thin, the ends from pieces that are too long, etc. The are whatever is leftover that isn't perfect, but they are still bacon and generally cost half as much as the normal kind. Sometimes you'll get bits that are mostly fat and other times you'll get big hearty bits that are more like ham than bacon. You can either eat them as is and enjoy the variety (which is my favorite way) or chop up the bits you don't like and use them on salad, in omelets, on pizza, etc.

The other tip I have is to save the bacon grease after you cook bacon. All you need is a glass jar that you can keep in the fridge. After you cook your bacon pour off the grease into the jar and save it in the fridge for later. By saving it you are saving it instead of pouring it down the drain you are saving money and your drain at the same time. This may sound silly and a little overly frugal, but bacon grease has a great flavor and can really enhance a lot of dishes and the bacon grease is free (once you've already bought the bacon) while butter, margarine and oil have to be purchased. Instead of scrambling or frying your eggs with a little bit of butter try bacon grease. Then you can get the flavor of bacon without actually making fresh bacon (or eating all those extra calories). It is also great for frying greens, the flavor of the bacon really pairs well with the more bitter greens and can help take the bite out of them. Next time you want an interesting, and cheap, side dish try using some of that bacon grease to fry up potatoes, add a little garlic powder or season salt for a dish that really says "comfort food". There are so many places that using bacon grease in place of butter or oil can enhance the flavor of the meal while cutting the cost just a bit (especially if you use real butter).

How about you? Have you heard of bacon ends and pieces? Do you save your bacon grease for use in later meals? If so what is your favorite use for bacon grease?

Friday, February 18, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Be or Not To Be a Princess?

A couple of days ago a friend linked to this article about how the "princess" culture is taking over for little girls. I shared the link and the dichotomy of the responses was interesting. I have to say, as the mother of a little girl, I feel princesses and pink really are overdone. While I think that the author goes overboard on keeping princesses totally out of her daughter's life I can see where she's coming from. When you find out you are having a little girl you can pretty safely assume that you will be given a plethora of pink clothes unless you specifically request otherwise (and sometimes even then). Your daughter will be called a "princess" by pretty much everyone.
If someone sees her digging in the dirt without a bow in her hair it will be assumed that she is a boy, even if she has pink flowers in her shirt. Random strangers (like the UPS guy) and friends alike will question why you painted the nursery blue if you are expecting a girl. This has caused many of us mothers of daughters to rebel. A part of me honestly wants to say "no pink, no princesses, and no dresses". That said, I then think back to my own childhood and I realize I could never be quite that strict. My bedroom was painted pink, at my insistence, from the time I was 8 until I was 15 or 16 when I decided to repaint it. I loved Cinderella and even dressed as her one year (though I made my own costume out of a junior bridesmaid dress I had, I didn't buy one of the premade Disney ones). While I don't wear dresses often, I will sometimes and they make me feel pretty.

This begs the question of where to draw the line. This is a line that will be different for each family, but one that should be drawn none the less. The easiest place to start drawing the line is with colors. Pink is a great color, especially on a girl like A. who has blond hair, blue eyes and a rosy complection. However, she also looks smashing in blue (to match her eyes), brown, green and even gray. In many ways these colors look even better on her than pink, but pink is the color that most little girls clothes come in. My goal with pink is not to exclude it, but to keep it equal with all the rest of the colors. With the nursery we painted the walls sky blue and did a jungle theme because we knew we were planning on keeping the theme for the next kid and switching A. to a "big girl room" when the time came. After much debate we've decided to paint the room green and have a mix of white and light wood furniture. There will be some pink and brown accents and we are really excited. (I'm hoping to make A. a quilt for her bed that will go with the floral/woodland/garden theme we are choosing, but we'll see how that goes.) Her room will have some pink, but also lots of other colors. The same goes for her clothes, some are pink, some are purple, but some are blue and brown and white too. I don't wear the same color every day so why should she? Pink can be a good color, I'd rather we not all get tired of it before her second birthday.

The next question, in order of ease to answer, is dresses. Dresses are pretty, but they are rarely practical. This is especially true when you are a toddler. I will let A. wear dresses when she wants, but right now she climbs so much that they would be a hindrance (hmm, maybe I should encourage more dresses to make chasing her easier). Right now she likes to run and climb and dig. Dresses are great for more formal occasions, church or other places where she will be sitting still and we have a few just for that, but mostly she wears clothes that she can move and get dirty in.

Now it's time for the hard question, princesses. As a kid I loved the Disney princess movies. I watched Cinderella so many times that I could sing the whole soundtrack and quote most of the words. I loved Beauty and the Beast and wished I was a brunette so I could look like Belle (sometimes I still do). However, this was all when I was older, I was old enough to understand the difference between real life and storybooks. Many of the "princess" themed things on the market today are aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. Little girls that are just beginning to figure out who they are and how the world works. They are just learning how imagination works and pretending to be a character in a story can stifle that. After all, which is more open ended, pretending you are the fairy princess trapped in a tower and playing through the act to see what happens or pretending you are Cinderella going to the ball to find your "happily ever after"? In the first example the prince might rescue the princess, or the princess might get bored waiting and slay the dragon herself, or maybe even rescue the prince. In the second you are pretty much following along with what happened in the movie, sure you might embellish some, but the main plot is already established. The second issue I have with the Disney princesses in particular is the assumption that "happily ever after" is automatic just because you met your prince. In the movies the princes are all one dimensional creatures that have little more than a title and looks to recommend them. Is this the kind of man you want your daughter to marry? Do you want her to assume that simply because she is married that she will never have to work on her relationship, that they will live "happily ever after" no matter what? Should she assume that her "prince" will take care of everything and she'll never have to lift a finger or do her share in the relationship? That's a good way to wind up unhappy and divorced. If you want to point your daughter towards a princess to emulate, why not point her to some of the real life princesses? Many of them have been very strong women who have put duty, honor and country ahead of themselves. They have had their share of sorrow and tragedy along with the pretty dresses and giant parties. They have worked and sacrificed and been strong for themselves and others. Their stories might not be all glitter and gowns, but many of them are wonderful role models for older girls. While we are at it, why not teach our daughters about the many other strong, intelligent women in the world. The women mathematicians during WWII that spent their days calculating the ballistics tables for the army or working on the Manhattan Project. How about the women who were off flying planes or working in factories so that the men could be freed up to fight. Or the many brave women, even today, who keep the home fires burning and the children safe, fed and well mannered while their men are off serving in the military. Why not teach our daughters about Marie Curie, Jane Goodall or the women's rights movement? Princesses are alright in their place (once girls are old enough to understand what that place is), but why should they displace so many better things? I love escaping into a good, fun or just plain fluffy story as much as the next person, but that doesn't change the fact that at the end of the book I have to be fit to return to real life.

I want my daughter to be an intelligent, strong, well rounded, insightful, honest, hardworking, loving women. I want her to be able to earn her daily bread, care for children if she chooses to have them, support herself and her family as needed or be content in the knowledge that staying home can be just as important. I want her to be able to find a good man, or to be able to live life contently on her own if she can't find one that meets her high standards. I want her to be able to act like a lady, while still retaining her own strength. Most importantly, I want her to figure out who she is, not who someone else thinks she should be. Princesses and playing dress-up can help her in this, but I am not convinced that blindly following the princess trend will.

My goal is to push off her exposure to Disney princesses, Dora the Explorer, Barney and Friends, Lightning McQueen, Thomas the Tank Engine, or any other "licensed" characters as long as I can. This isn't to say that I think that these shows and movies are bad (many of them a lot of fun), just that I don't like the idol worship that goes along with them. I hate that toys are sold to the kids instead of the adults. I hate that the goal of marketing is to convince children to pester their parents until the parents give in and buy the latest "it" toy. I also hate the peer pressure that is associated with this. The idea that you are somehow not as good as the next kid if your parents don't buy you a certain thing. This is not what I want to teach my daughter. I don't want her to value things more than people or good character. At some point we will watch Thomas and Friends (assuming I can get over the fact that Ringo Star isn't Mr. Conductor anymore). We will also sit down together and watch Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. But I'd rather wait until she's old enough to understand that it can be just a story on the screen and doesn't need to be a way of life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Tip: A Place For Everything

A few weeks ago I realized that my living room was never clean. It felt like every time I would pick up the toys A would throw them all over the place again and I'd be back where I had been. Before long I stopped being as careful about picking up my things and putting them away so shoes, water glasses, books, etc were added to the toys. Before long I was overwhelmed and in many ways gave up on a clean living room. I was always stressed and A wasn't terribly happy about it either because with toys all over the floor there wasn't room to play. Finally I realized what was going on and that I needed to get her toys under control. I got DH to help me and right before she went to bed one night we grabbed all of the toys and books out of her room and put them in the living room along with all the toys, books, etc that were out there.

Once A. was safely sleeping we piled up all of her books in one place and all of her toys in another and started sorting. We started with the books because they were the easiest. She has a ton of wonderful books, but many of them have paper pages and she's already torn a couple while looking at the pictures. We sorted out the books that she might hurt from the board books. The books with paper pages we set aside for times that we are reading with her and stacked the board books on the coffee table to be put back in her room so that she could look at them on her own. We then started in on the toys. The toys were harder and really overwhelming. We have always tried to follow the idea of just having a few nice toys instead of a bunch of junk, but the pile was huge. It took up half the free space in the living room!?! We started sorting, first we put all the toys that she had outgrown in a box to save for the baby. At first I worried about this because I hold regular playdates and some of the kids that come are much younger. However, I realized that some of the toys like the felt balls are fun for kids of all ages so the tiny ones would still have something to play with (I was right, at the next playdate the babies loved playing with the balls almost as much as the toddlers). We then set aside the toys that I know A will love when she's a little older, but shows no interest in yet. Every month or so I'll get that box out and see if her tastes have changed, but in the meantime those toys aren't acting as clutter. Also, because they won't have been out the whole time, when she is ready to play with them they will be new and novel so I know she'll love them all the more for it. At that point, with a pile we still felt was giant DH and I went to bed. I figured we'd finish the next day after we'd had a chance to sleep on it.

The next morning A woke up in a great mood and was having a great time playing in her crib so I ran to the living room and started grabbing toys. I started with the books followed by the toys I knew were her favorites and started putting them away in her room. When I was done I pulled her out of her crib and she was enthralled. She would pull toys off the shelves and then put them back!!! I was in shock, I was also surprised how much smaller the pile in the living room looked so I set to finding places for those things as well. In the end we didn't really have to get rid of anything, we just had to set aside the toys she isn't playing with. After we are sure we are done having kids we will obviously give away the toys that our children have outgrown, but right now we know that they will be used again in a few months. In the meantime, one evening of organizing has made a world of difference in our lives. Now that everything has a place A. can help me put away her toys before her nap and before bed. She likes helping us do it and our living room looks a lot nicer now too. The nicest thing though, is that now that all of her toys are accessible and most of the floor is clear at any given time A is happier to play by herself which give me more time to get stuff done. As new toys come into the house old ones will have to be put away or given away so that there is always space, but in the meantime we are all happier and didn't have to make any of the hard decisions I was fearing.

How about you, do you organize your toys or let them take over? I used to let them take over figuring that it would help A find what she was looking for easier if she could see them all. Now I know that, for her at least, it is easier to find something if it is where it belongs. I never expected that of so young a toddler.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Unconditional Love

I know that for Valentine's Day everyone has love on the mind. I had been thinking about what I wanted to write about, but couldn't think of anything that was really different. I can say "I have the best husband", but I think that most women would say the same of their hubby (at least today). I can tell about how much I love A and the love I have already for the tiny being growing inside me, but those emotions come standard with being a mom. I could even talk about how much I love my pets, how nice it is on a cold night when the dog moves down from the warms spot he's created on the bed next to my pillows to the foot of the bed and then snuggles my feet keeping them warm. I could talk about how our younger cat used to snuggle against my belly when I was pregnant with A. and how he has been enamored with her ever since. But instead of any of those ramblings, I'll tell you about yesterday and thereby get a chance to brag on my little girl. :)

Yesterday afternoon I was tired so I laid down for a nap. My DH, knowing how exhausted I've been lately did a great job of playing quietly with A so I could get some sleep. That was until, about an hour into my nap, A. realized that I wasn't around and after checking the house reasoned that I must be in my room. She ran to the baby gate yelling "Mommy, Mommy", and DH explained that "Mommy is sleeping, let's let her sleep and go play over here." (The yells of "Mommy" had woken me up so I got to hear the whole thing.) A. turned around and went into the kitchen where DH was doing some dishes and started pulling things out of one of the cabinets she's allowed to play in while I rolled over to go back to sleep. Suddenly I heard a squeal of joy and renewed shouts of "Mommy". I cracked an eyelid to see A. running across the living room with a pizza pan which she then proceeded to bang against the medal baby gate in an effort to make as much noise as possible. At that point I couldn't hold back the laugh and she realized that her plan had worked. I got up and came out to pick her up amid squeals of joy. I have to admit that part of me was a little sad to have my nap cut short, but the look of pure joy on her face at seeing me was so amazing it made up for a lot. So did the giant hug and wet kisses I received upon picking up my girl.

To me, moments like that are love personified. They make all the work and frustration that comes with parenting a headstrong toddler worth it. They show just how deep love can be. There was absolutely nothing that A. needed me for at that moment. DH is more than capable of taking care of her. She had a clean diaper, she'd just had a snack and DH plays lots of games with her that I never do. But, all that being said, she wanted me. Not because something was wrong, but because she was having such a great time she wanted to share it with me. Now is that heart melting or what?

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I'll never forget the first time I had Indian food. I was home from college and my sister decided to drag me out for a girls night with her friends. I was a little worried because Indian food seemed so strange, but I'd had a roommate who'd loved it and my sister tends to have good taste so I figured it was worth a shot. The place we went had two menus, the one in English with descriptions of what each dish was and prices in the $6-$10 range and the one that wasn't in English with prices in the $4-$6 range. I ordered off the second menu and loved the food (though I still don't know exactly what it was I got), especially the naan that came with it.

I always figured naan was one of those specialty breads that was just too hard to make at home and would occasionally buy some from Trader Joe's. Then, while mindlessly watching PBS while attempting to knit a lace shawl Baking With Julia came on and the episode was all about how to make naan. I grabbed the post-it notes and pen from by the phone and wrote frantically. Now when I want Indian food and am feeling kinda lazy on the cooking front I'll make up a batch of naan along with the premade entrees from Trader Joe's and some rice. I rarely remember to do this, but on Friday my sister mentioned that she was making Indian food, but that she'd yet to find a good naan recipe so I emailed her this one. She agreed, it's perfect. Since that conversation I have been craving some myself so today I made a batch. If you want to make a batch too I've included the recipe below.

2T. Active Dry Yeast
2 1/2c. Warm Water
Flour, lots of it

Put yeast in a large bowl, add the warm water and stir them together. Slowly add flour (first stirring and then kneading) until it forms a soft, slightly sticky dough. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let it rise until it has doubled in size. Put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat it to 500F*. Punch it down, knead it a bit on a heavily floured counter and divide into 4 pieces. Divide each quarter into 4 pieces and knead them a bit more and then roll them into flat, rounds about 1/4" thick. Stab it all over with a fork to keep it from rising up in the oven (this is the main difference between naan and pita bread), sprinkle with water and then add toppings. The original recipe called for salt, green onion and caraway seed. I like garlic salt or onion salt, I'm told that traditionally ghee (or clarified butter) is used too. Put the rounds on your preheated pizza stone and bake for 6 minutes. Enjoy!

I generally do 2-4 at a time because that is what fits on my stone. There is then plenty of time to prep the next ones while those bake.

*Make sure your pizza stone is rated to at least 500F, many are only rated to 400 or 450 and may explode when you put wet dough on them. I think that this is the one I have after I exploded the last one.

ETA: This is now linked to the Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Check it out for lots of tasty recipes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Now that the cat is out of the bag I can talk freely here about the whole pregnancy thing (yay for me, I'm sorry for you guys especially since "pregnancy brain" makes me ramble more than normal). Right after I found out I was pregnant I joined a bulletin board for women who are due around the same time I am because I couldn't remember what to expect and figured "why not". I try not to spend too much time over there as it can be a real time suck, but it has been really interesting to see what 7,000 odd women have to say about pregnancy. The biggest thing I've noticed is how much everyone (or at least those posting) tends to worry about every little thing. I understand watching what you eat and being cautious about food safety. There are certain types of food poisoning that won't hurt you much, but can harm your unborn child. Pregnancy also lowers your immune system so you are more likely to get sick and being sick and pregnant at the same time is just miserable. I also get not wanting to drink, smoke or put yourself in a dangerous situation, that makes total sense. I even understand the debates over whether or not to get various prenatal testing and the chance that there might be something wrong with the baby. I admit, I worried a ton when I was pregnant with A. and called my midwives at least once a week with questions. (They always reassured me and gave me the "why" behind every recommendation so I could make informed decisions. Midwives rock, or at least these ones do!)

What I don't get are the women worrying because they picked up their toddler before they remembered that someone on the internet told them they shouldn't life more than 20lbs. Toddlers don't stop needing to be held just because you are pregnant and throughout history women have been having more children as soon as their monthly cycle returns during or after weaning their toddler. I don't get the women who are worried because a pot boiled over on the stove and the burner started smoking and they might have breathed some smoke in. It wasn't that long ago that all cooking was done over some sort of fire and in many places it still is. These women continue to have healthy children as long as they can get enough good food themselves. I don't get worrying because you might have to buy some of your child's clothing second hand, honestly a lot of clothing I find at consignment stores and sales is cuter than what I find new. I don't get worrying about stocking up on diapers when you are 2 months pregnant, if money is that much of a concern use cloth or save the money you would spend on diapers now to spend once your baby is here and you know what works for them. I don't get worrying because the ultrasound picture they printed off looks a little strange to you, even though your doctor and the tech said everything is fine. I just don't get it...

I know more deeply than I'd like that stuff can go wrong. I know that losses happen, that babies are born early, that sometimes they aren't perfect. However, I also know that it is very rare that there is any action on my part that can change that. I know that all the bed rest and prayer in the world cannot save a pregnancy doomed to miscarriage. I know that even at 37 weeks a baby can be born still (thankfully I have not had to deal with this one personally, but I have watched a friend go through it). I know that sometimes even the healthiest pregnancy and the most promising labor can end with a seemingly sudden c-section. I know that even a healthy baby can get very sick. I also know that the stuff I worry about probably isn't going to be the thing that goes wrong. Some worry is a good thing. When A. was tiny I was worried that she wasn't gaining weight as well as she should, that worry was justified and thankfully I eventually found doctors who could help me get her back on track. Some worry can help you prepare mentally for the idea that stuff may not go perfectly. But since when has any part of life gone perfectly? I don't know anyone with a "perfect" life once you get below the surface. If you do I'd love to meet them. I do know a ton of families that have happily imperfect lives and love each other and the world right through the hard times.

In the end I feel like we have to let go and have faith that we will be able to handle whatever happens. Sometimes this is really hard. Sometimes talking, praying and meditation are the only things that can get us through when life gets overwhelming. Sometimes even those may not seem to be enough, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing your best to get through whatever it is you will reach the other end (wherever that end may be). I understand how pregnancy and motherhood bring out the worry. I worry every day that I might not be doing the best for A, for this little one, for my family. But if I spend too much time worrying I won't have time to do my best for them. And in the end, that's all that really matters. As Anne in Anne of Green Gables used to say "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So Excited!

I'm sure some of you have noticed that I have been rather bad about posting since December. The honest truth is that I got busy prepping for Christmas and then I didn't have the energy. Those of you who are related to me or are friends with me on Facebook have already heard the news, but for those of you who haven't we are expecting our second child!!! We found out right before Christmas, but kept it quiet due to a previous loss. At this point though, everything looks great. I had an ultrasound a few weeks ago to double check the date (good thing we did as I ovulated later than I thought and this bought me an extra week) and then on Monday we were able to hear the heartbeat. I'm going to try to be better about blogging now that I'm getting some energy back, but expect some more blog silence around the end of August ;)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday Tip

Over the last year or so I have learned so many wonderful tips and tricks that have made my journey as a mom easier. I don't remember where I got them all, but moms that I have never met have made my life easier and more enjoyable in so many ways. I can't really pay them back, but I want to share some of the little tips I've picked up in hopes of passing on the favor. One of my favorite tips this flu season is for those of us who still have little ones in cribs (though it would work as well on bigger beds too). I don't know about you, but I have a hard time reaching down in the crib to change the bedding, it's especially hard for me because I'm short and we use a wedge under the sheet because A. had reflux as a baby and now has the occasional allergies. The wedge, while useful for her, makes changing the sheets a royal pain for me. I actually will generally pull the mattress out, change the sheets on the floor and then put the whole thing back. While this is a mild annoyance on wash day, it becomes a major pain in the middle off the night if A manages to get her diaper off, throws up or does any of those other things that toddlers are prone to do that requires a quick change of bedding before anyone can go back to sleep. In the middle of A's last bout of sickness I came across the suggestion to sandwich the bedding. What you do is you get several waterproof mattress pads (they make some for cribs that are soft and kinda like thick flannel or felt) and several sheets. You layer them so that there are several sheets on the mattress each separated by a waterproof layer. Then instead of stripping the whole bed at 3am (turning on the lights and swearing under your breath the whole time, or is that just me?) you just have to pull off the top layer and throw it in the wash so you only have to worry about the sick kid, not the clean-up. It's brilliant, I wish I'd thought of it myself.

Friday, February 4, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

(And a bonus!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be Prepared

We are lucky to live in an area that doesn't really see many natural disasters. During the summer there are wild fires, but those happen in rural and wilderness areas so those of us in the city don't really have to worry about them. We get the occasional flash flood, but again, in the city it isn't much of an issue. We don't have blizzards, or tornadoes or earthquakes. We don't have hurricanes or mass riots. In the summer it gets hot, but that happens every year and we all have swamp coolers or A/C and swimming pools and shorts. We know how to deal with heat. What we don't know how to deal with is cold...We may have a few days each year that dip below freezing, but when I say "below freezing" I mean that it may get down to 30 at 5am and then warm back up as soon as the sun comes out. What we aren't used to is the weather we've had the last few days. Last night it got down to 18 degrees (-4 after the wind chill was added), pipes burst, the water company's computers shut down in some areas and the gas company RAN OUT (at least in some areas). As of noon today it wasn't quite back up to freezing, though by 4pm it had made it all the way up to 38 before heading back down. Tonight they are estimating that it will get down to 15 degrees and as of the last report I read 1500 homes are still without water and homes in other areas are still without gas to run furnaces and water heaters. This probably sounds crazy to anyone who is from somewhere colder, after all 18 degrees is warmer than many places have been all week. However, the people here aren't used to it. Our pipes aren't insulated against it. Our plants aren't meant for it. Our infrastructure isn't designed for it. Most importantly, our citizens aren't prepared for it. Today I happened to be near the local high school as they were getting out at 2:00pm. It was maybe 35 degrees outside and windy, but most of the students were walking home in nothing more than hooded sweatshirts because that is what they had. Families with young children and babies in our neighborhood woke up with no water because their pipes had frozen or burst. They didn't have bottled water anywhere because why would they? In other areas the water company's computer went haywire because of the cold and stopped delivering water. And I don't know how many people are stuck inside with their children because they don't have warm enough clothes to go outside to play. Tonight some people in our city will have to sleep in shelters, not because they don't have homes, but because they cannot warm their homes. They don't have gas for their furnaces and there are no space heaters to be had because everywhere has sold out.

This brings me to my main point. No matter where you live you should be prepared for at least basic emergencies. Electricity can fail because a construction worker accidentally cuts a wire which causes a transformer to blow which messes up the entire power substation and causes rolling blackouts for a whole city for a while. (This happened here a few years ago.) A water or gas line can burst leaving one or more neighborhoods without the clean, hot water we have grown accustomed to. On a smaller scale, the hot water heater can die on Thanksgiving day when you have family visiting and a giant pile of dishes which may only affect your family, but makes the rest of the weekend a pain unless you can find a plumber willing to come out and fix it for you. Then there are the bigger emergencies like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc that actually make the news...But no matter what it is that happens, some basic preparation can make life a lot easier, happier and less stressful for everyone. You don't have to be prepared for everything or run out today and buy a special prepackaged kit so you'll be "ready", but it does make sense to at least have a few basics on hand just in case. If you camp and/or spend a lot of time outdoors you may well be most of the way there already. What you need will vary based on your family, but if you think of it in terms of "food, clothing, shelter and water" you'll be pretty close.

Here are some of the things that week keep on hand:

-Water - Normally only a couple of gallons because this takes a lot of space, but if there is anything that might cause a shortage we fill up our camping jugs. If you are worried about a longer term shortage due to something easily predictable like a flood or a hurricane you can scrub and bleach the bathtub, give it a good rinse and then fill it up with water too which will get you a lot. Maybe not the tastiest water, but it will keep you hydrated and healthy.

-Food - This is a hard one because while you probably have plenty of food at a given time if you have an electrical outage your refrigerator won't work and it will spoil after a few days (if your electricity does go out don't open the refrigerator unless you absolutely have to and if it will be more than a few hours throw some ice in there to help keep it cool). The other problem that you run into is that you may or may not have a way to cook any food you have. This is where a BBQ and/or a camp stove can come in handy. Dry goods and canned goods will probably do you the most good. Also, things like instant rice will be better than normal rice because it has a much shorter cooking time which will help you conserve fuel. What kind of food you keep on hand will depend on what your family likes and how you might be able to cook it if your stove didn't work. No matter what you choose, make sure that you have enough for any foreseeable emergency in your area and that you rotate through it so that it doesn't spoil/expire/get weevils before you need it. One thing you might also consider is keeping a larger food store (3-6 months or even longer) that you rotate which can help even out high grocery prices or give you something to eat if you have to cut your spending suddenly due to job loss, unexpected medical bills, etc.

-Stove or BBQ - If you were to lose electricity or gas how would you cook your food. We used to camp a lot (and still do occasionally) so we have camp stoves and propane to run them. If you don't camp do you have a gas BBQ? You can put pots and pans on your grill or grill meat normally. It is especially good to cook up any meat you had in the fridge that is starting to get too warm.

-Warm Clothes and Cool ones - Do you have clothing for yourself and your family that will keep you warm if you have to go outside on a cold day? In most places the answer would be yes, but in those places with a warmer climate the answer may be no. Many people may only own a sweatshirt if it almost never gets below freezing. If that is the case I would strongly suggest at least adding a hat, mittens/gloves, warm socks and a windbreaker for each person. A sweatshirt doesn't do much if it is windy, the wind cuts straight through you and you get cold really fast. By adding a windbreaker you will keep the wind at bay. A hat will help keep heat from escaping from your head and mittens and socks will help keep your hands and feet warm when there isn't enough warmth to go around. My favorite material for warm clothing is wool because it stays warm even when it is wet, but there are a lot of other good options out there. The big thing is to have some set of layers so that you can go outside if you have to. Murphy's law says that the kids will all get sick on the coldest day of the year and the only appointments open will be first thing in the morning when it's freezing. As for cool clothes, on a hot day if you loose your A/C or even your fans you will be much happier if you can walk around in shorts and flip flops. Be sure you have cool, cotton or linen clothing for those hot days. Don't wear man made fibers when it's hot because they will just make you hotter.

This brings us to shelter. This sounds like a silly thing to have because after all, if you are reading this I bet you have a house or an apartment. Shelter should be covered, but what you really need is to make sure that your shelter can keep you comfortable if the lights/heater/air conditioner goes out. Do you have flashlights? Do those flashlights have working batteries? What about candles or lanterns? Some sort of light will make life a lot easier. If you don't have electricity it is generally better to just go to bed early, but if it goes out after dark you may still need light to check on children, prepare dinner or get everyone calmed down and in bed. Do you have an alternate heat source? Today, in my city, a lot of people's furnaces stopped working due to a gas shortage (I'm told the gas company bought plenty of gas, but the distribution computer failed or some such). There was a run on space heaters and now all the stores are out. If you live some place cold a space heater or some other sort of back-up heat source is not a bad idea. If you live some place like here and have plenty of warm clothes you may be fine with lots of blankets. Whatever you decide, make sure that you have a plan in place if you have young children. Young babies can suffocate with thick blankets and toddlers and space heaters can be a bad combination. In both cases you might be better off with warm clothes or use one solution in one part of the house and another elsewhere. The key is to think ahead and have some option in place. We have plenty of warm clothes because we visit colder climates so we just go the blanket route. We also have dogs and cats that will curl up in bed with us if it gets too cold and they keep the place pretty warm too...

There are a ton of other things that may or may not be appropriate for your family. If you have some sort of medical device that requires electricity or live in an area where the electricity goes out frequently you may want to consider a generator. If you have pets you should always make sure that you have enough food and water for them as well. Whatever you need will depend on what is most likely to happen where you live. The key is to think about it. Even if no major disaster happens it is nice to know that when lightning knocks down your power lines for a few hours you can still feed your family or if the lights go out during story time you can simply light a lantern or some candles and continue reading to your family. The best part about being prepared is that when you start hearing about rolling blackouts or water or gas shortages in your hometown you have the peace of mind to know that you and your family will be okay. You can relax and enjoy the adventure instead of worrying.

Which reminds me, the most important thing to have in any emergency situation is a calm demeanor, a sense of humor and the knowledge that this will make for a great story later. (And with that I should return to knitting more stuff for my family, hopefully I can get stuff done before it warms up too much to wear it.)