Wednesday, January 23, 2013

That Was the Best Vacation Ever! I Love Our Family

When I was in High School, My sister, my mom, and a friend of mine took a trip to another state to visit a college campus. I don't remember a whole lot about the college campus part, but I do remember hanging out by the indoor pool in the hotel, playing games with Starbursts and soaking in the hot tub.

The experience stood out to me because it was so relaxing. High school can be very stressful and it was amazing to just relax and do nothing. I've never had another vacation like that.

I'm actually not very good at relaxing. For Vacations and Holidays it's all about efficiency! Must ride maximum number of rides! Must see maximum number of sites! Must play maximum number of games! I love to have fun, and it seems my version of having fun isn't very relaxing.

Present day story: Back in December Drek casually mentioned he had a business trip in Virginia and did Ash and I want to come along? Um...sure. Why not? I've never been to Virginia. I've never heard of Fredericsburg. Let's go!

I hope you rolled you eyes at the "I've never heard of Fredericsburg" sentence. As it turns out, after I did some googeling, it's a very famous city. It's played an enormous roll in American History. I should have heard of it. After reading all about the town, I made a list of sites to see and places to visit. I even prioritized the list so we could get to the most important ones first.

We left last Monday. The day before, Sunday, I nearly jumped off the bench when the speaker in church told a story that happened in Fredericsburg, Virginia during the Civil War. He told the story of Richard Kirkland, which is an amazing story. Not having run across that story in my search, I quickly moved the Statue to the top of my list, gleefully thinking I would see it in just two days!

It was eleven at night before we got to our hotel. The next day it rained. Drek was at work of course, and Ash and I didn't have a car. I had looked up public transportation before we left, but didn't really want to find the bus stop in the rain with a toddler. So we stayed in our hotel all day. We played little toddler games. We read little toddler books. We went swimming in the indoor pool. We took a nap to recover from Jetlag. It was...relaxing.

The next day it was still raining. I asked Drek to drop us off at the bus stop on his way to work, but just as we turned the corner, the bus was pulling away. Drek dropped us off anyway, because I assumed the next bus would be there in fifteen minutes. Once Drek drove away, I checked the schedule and realized the next bus wouldn't be there for an hour. It was very cold. And wet. This was not Sunland weather. I didn't want to wait.

So we walked back to the hotel with intention of walking back in thirty minutes. But the walk was long. And wet. And cold. And Ash was cold and wet and wanted to be carried. And I am thirty weeks pregnant. So we got back to the hotel and spent another day taking naps, playing games, reading books and going swimming. I didn't have dinner to make or laundry to do. I didn't have errands to run or people to call. It was amazing. It was relaxing. It was the best two days of vacation I have had since that trip in High school.

Friday the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was still very cold, but Ash and I spent the day visiting the sites: a trolley tour of the historic town, a living history apothecary and tavern, the oldest pharmacy in the United States, it was awesome. I LOVED the history. When Drek came home I talked his ear off, retelling all the stories. Ask me about the history of bowling. It is an awesome story.

Saturday Drek didn't have to work, so as a family we visited the Statue of Richard Kirkland, along with a few other civil war sites. It was wonderful!

And now I think I need to find more of a balance: Yes, efficiency is wonderful, and I have a blast doing fun things on vacation, but maybe I should make more of an effort to just relax.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm Not Going to Stand Here While You Rationalize Yet Another Brush With Death

And just because I'm sure all the readers of this blog are eager to hear my medical updates, I thought I'd share this little story:

In August I went in for my thank-goodness-this-is-only-once-a-year physical. Being a female, my check-ups consist of female tests. You know what I'm talking about. Anyway, it was a very short, very easy doctors appointment. The only thing unexpected was the doctor sort of insisted I pee in a cup so they could test to see if I was pregnant.

Me: But I am pregnant.
Doctor: That's why I need you to take the test.
Me: But...I already know. I promise, I'm pregnant. I can throw up in front of you to prove it, if you want.
Doctor: Cup. Bathroom. Go.

So I did. Guess what? The test was positive! Wow! What a shock!

So when I got the bills I was suspicious. The appointment was scheduled as preventative care. I went for my one a year preventative care check-up. I was given a preventative care check-up, and two preventative care tests. This is important because once a year preventative care check-ups and preventative care tests are all covered one hundred percent by my insurance.

But the bill from the laboratory came back as three tests, not two. Two were covered by my insurance, one was not. The extra test was not, as I originally suspected, a pregnancy test. As it turns out, they didn't bill me for that test.

I called my insurance and asked why the extra test wasn't covered. The answer was it wasn't preventative. I asked what test was performed. After looking up the number, double checking, and asking a supervisor, the answer came back: it was a test for the Adenovirus. I had never heard of the Adenovirus before. Neither had the guy on the phone. Huh. Why they test me for a virus without asking me first? Am I a guenie pig? Has the CDC ordered everyone to take this test? Is this some horrible epidemic authorities are keeping mum about to the population doesn't panic? Is This the Zombie outbreak we've all been waiting for?

Naturally,  I Googled Adendovirus. I became even more confused. It's a kids disease? It's no big deal? I have no symptoms? I have no reason to have symptoms? What?

My next step was to call my doctor and ask why I was given a test I didn't ask for, without my knowledge, without informed consent, and without ever telling me it was done. She was even more confused. My medical records show no such test was ever requested or given.

Her conclusion was it was a mistake on the lab's part. I called the lab, told them it was a mistake, and they informed me that my doctor would have to call in and tell them it was a mistake. I called the doctor back, this time talking to "Pat" at the front desk. She asked that I bring in the bill so she could fax it over. I drove down there, handed her the bill, thanked her and left.

That was in October.  I kept getting bills. I kept calling Pat. I kept emailing pat. She kept saying she was taking care of it, and she would keep me updated.

The first of December I received a "PAST DUE LAST NOTICE" bill. I called the lab and explained the situation. Once again they said only the doctor could call in, and that they could not do anything to stop the bill from going to collections. I called the doctor, this time demanding to speak to the actual doctor, instead of Pat. I explained what was going on. She asked me to bring in that bill so they could take care of it. I drove down there, handed the doctor the bill and said "Please, PLEASE take care of this today."

Last week I got another bill. This time from collections. I was so angry. I took the bill down to the doctor's office, walked in, and told them I wasn't leaving until they cleared this up. They had five months. Ridiculous.

So a nurse called and was told it was my co payment. I'm afraid this is where I got a little forceful. "Have you not listened to anything I've said? That is not the the problem. The doctor knows the the problem, she confirmed it back in October. Call again."  But Pat came into work and took over. She insisted she had to call a specific rep, not just anyone at the lab. She called and left a message. I wouldn't leave until the situation was resolved, so we sat there. For  four hours. Finally Pat called back, and the rep answered the phone. I insisted on listening to the phone conversation. Because I seriously could not understand why she didn't do this five months ago.

The rep put a hold on the bill, and filled out the form to have the adenovirus test marked as a bogus charge. I was informed I would get a revised bill in thirty days.

Le't hope that revised bill is for zero dollars, since that is what it is supposed to be.

If it takes six months, four trips to the doctors, dozens of phone calls and emails, and a wasted morning sitting in a doctors office with a bored three year old to clear up the billing problems from a yearly physical I think I might switch to once a decade physicals.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah. - EZRA TAFT BENSON: Prepare for the Days of Tribulation

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a Relief Society activity lesson on Long Term Food Storage.  It came as a surprise. Sure, I have long term food storage, and sure, I'm probably an expert on which TVP tastes good and which ones to avoid, but a whole lesson? I'm no expert. I don't have an entire year's supply of food storage for my family.

So I started by doing research. One night I was on several different sites, clicking on links, scanning articles and helpful hints, browsing forums, while in one of my many tabs a Youtube video played. Suddenly, stopped. I gasped. Could it really be this easy? I clicked on the youtube tab to actually watch. This was it! This was my lesson! Not only that, but this was what I needed to get my food storage ready!

Much more preparation was needed. I typed up a copy of my lesson and read it to Drek. His reaction: "Wow. You really need to slow down and breathe while talking." He also gave some valuable edits. I did a second draft and practiced on Jenny. Her reaction: "Wow. You really need to slow down and breathe while talking." She also edited a huge chunk out of my lesson. Draft three was presented to Anna. This was the reaction I was hoping for! She was just as excited as I was about this system! She also edited my lesson, and told me to slow down when I talk.

Yesterday was my big presentation. I was scared to death. I got up and started talking, and only a few minutes into it I got a lot of "Whoa! Slow down! I can't take notes that fast!" comments. So I took a deep breathe and tried my best to slow down.

I think it went well overall. I got a lot of comments on how overwhelming all the information was, which I suppose means I did my research well enough, but that my presentation was more of an information dump. It's better in written form:

Long Term Food Storage

How do we do a year’s supply of food storage?
Start by picking 7 dinners your family likes. Look up the ingredients.  These are meals the whole family likes to eat. Soups, stews, chilis = cheap, tasty, easy to make, easy to cook, one pot to clean. These meals can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make them. Don’t exclude favorite recipes just because you think you can’t have one of the ingredients in long term food storage. We’ll get to all that in a minute.
1 lb of spaghetti + 1 can of ragu
There are 52 weeks in a year, so if you are eating it once a week, times by 52.  
1 lb of spaghetti * 52 = 52 lbs of spaghetti
1 can of ragu * 52 = 52 cans of ragu

Now add 7 breakfasts. You can do 14 meals instead of 7 if you don’t like repeating. You can add in lunches. You can add a bread a day, either in addition to or to replace lunches. You can add desserts! Dessert are SO EASY with food storage! In fact! I encourage you, if you’re new to making meals with powdered milk or dehydrated butter, start with a dessert! Don’t try to healthy it up. Sometimes people have a stigma about food storage because people will put pinto beans in fudge. Guess what? You can make fudge from food storage without pinto beans. Just go with basic dessert goodness. It’s easy, Your family will want to try it, and it has a very high success rate. Everyone likes it, you get more confidence and try something else!

Now that you have your recipes in front of you. go through them one by one. and list all the ingredients timesed by 52. I did mine on an excel spreadsheet, (Column A = all the ingredients needed in all recipes, Row 1 = The different recipes) but whatever works for you!  Basically, it should look something like this: Salt:  52 tsp, 104 tsp... Keep a running tally. When you are done with all your recipes, add up all the salt you will need: For an entire year's supply of delicious food for my family, I need 512 tsps of salt. 1 ½ tbsp of salt = 1 ounce. 1 container of salt = 26 oz = 39 tbsp or 117 tsp. So I need 5 containers of salt.  5 containers! at 70 cents each, That’s only $3.50. For a year’s supply of salt! I can totally afford that!

Great! We have a plan! We know what to buy! Take your shopping list with you everytime you go shopping; When ragu or salt  goes on sale, you’ll know how much to buy!

Set a goal: You don’t have to buy everything tomorrow. It’s totally fair to take a year to build up a year’s supply food (but try hard not to take more than a year!) Count up your items, and say you’ll buy 2 a month, or 1 a week. Or set a budget.; $60 on food storage per month. Once you have everything on your shopping list stored, you just rotate through as part of your grocery list.

How do we store  a year’s supply of food?
There are a million ways to store food storage. You can have a 1 year supply of food storage for 1 person in 10 boxes. 10 boxes fit under a twin size bed. An entire year’s supply of food for 1 person, under 1 bed.

Ideally, store in 75 degrees or cooler, hidden from light, an inch off the ground. It’s not hard! store #10 cans in boxes (no light) on a wire rack, under a bed. Your house usually stays that cool. Those conditions will get you maximum shelf life. if not stored in those conditions, it’s okay, just don’t leave it for 30 years. that problem is solved by rotating your food storage.

Label! Always label! Bought on this date, expires on this date. With your booklet of recipes that you’ve printed off, keep a list of the items you have: year’s supply of pinto beans bought on _____ expires_____ under Little Tommy’s bed.  So you’ll know. Now, since pinto beans last 30 years, and since you already love a recipe where you use pinto beans all you have to do is use them! Use your long term food storage in everyday cooking! It will SAVE YOU MONEY. Just rotate it; buy an extra can of pinto beans, or container of salt, or 5 gallon bucket of sugar, and keep it in your pantry/cupboard. Once it’s gone, get another one out from under Tommy’s bed and make a note to by another container to put under there. Voila! Rotating food storage where nothing goes bad and you never have to throw anything away!

When you open a can that is 12 years old, it might smell bad. Especially oats. It’s okay! it’s simply taken on the smell of the can. Put it in a bucket, let it air for 24  hours.

How to get the ingredients for our meals into long term food storage?
Here’s the deal: Long term food storage is a booming industry. You can buy almost anything in #10 cans. Cheese, hashbrowns, cornmeal, strawberries and on and on. it’s amazing. But, those are not your only options. Usually it’s cheaper to can your own food.  I’m not just talking about peaches or pickles, I’m talking about any ingredients you have in your meals.  Go to google. There are endless forums and how-tos on how to store (almost) anything. You need to figure out which ones work best for your tastebuds and your budget.  

Let’s talk about just a few options for a few ingredients that are the majority of lists.
Wheat: From the standpoint of food production, storage, handling, and the Lord’s counsel, wheat should have high priority. “There is more salvation and security in wheat,” said Orson Hyde years ago, “than in all the political schemes of the world” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:207).
Don’t let wheat scare you! It’s so easy! If you are unfamiliar with wheat, go hard white wheat. It’s just better all around. Storing wheat is easy, it can be stored anywhere and has a shelf life of 30+ years. 30+, meaning, it will outlast you.  If opened will last about 3 years. However, once ground into flour, wheat loses most of its nutrients within a few days so only grind small amounts at a time.
You probably want a wheat grinder to go with your wheat. But, no grinder? No problem!

Wheat Without a Wheat Grinder

1. Crock Pot Wheat
Bring 1 c. of wheat kernels, 2 c. water, and 1 t. salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour into a Crockpot, turn on “warm”.  In the morning, pour off any additional water, add butter and honey, and serve hot.

2. Wheat Berries
Add some of your plain dry wheat kernels to a pot of water. Bring it to a boil and cook for a few minutes. Let simmer for about 45 minutes. Drain the wheat berries and stick them in a container in the fridge. These are delicious to add to yogurt or to use to replace some meat in recipes. You can also use it in place of brown rice in recipes.

3. Popped Wheat
Take 1 cup of your cooked wheat berries (see above) and add to a frying pan or pot with two tablespoons of oil. Cover with a lid and cook over a hot stove shaking the pan while it cooks. After about 4-5 minutes the kernels will be nice and toasted. Put the popped wheat on a paper towel to get the extra oil off, and sprinkle with your choice of seasonings. Try it with salt, seasoned salt, garlic, barbecue salt, onion salt, cinnamon and sugar or any combination you desire. These are delicious on salads as a topping, mixed with trail mix, or as toppings for a desserts or just as a healthy snack.

4. Wheat Sprouts
You can sprout wheat just like any other vegetable seeds, legumes, or other grains. Most people like wheat sprouts to be very small, just barely sprouted. These are delicious to throw on salads or to add into your whole wheat bread for a little extra texture and flavor.

5. Wheat Grass
It’s so healthy! Just sprout your wheat and let it keep growing until the grass grows! Snip off the grass and add them to fruit smoothies or juice it (in a special wheat grass juicer) for healthy wheat grass juice.

6. Cracked Wheat
Put in about 1/4-1/3 cups of wheat in a blender and pulse it until it looks like little cracked kernels. These kernels will cook much faster than regular wheat, and cook up in the same way that you cook rice on the stove or in the microwave. You can use cracked wheat to make hot cereal, add it into bread, or cook it up and use as a meat filler.

7. Blender Wheat Flour Waffles or Pancakes
Add liquids for your waffle or pancake batter recipe in your blender. Blend. Add wheat kernels instead of flour. Add in your wheat kernels and blend for about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients from your recipe. Blend and Pour onto a griddle or waffle-maker.

To store anything in  #10 cans or in 5 gallon bucket with an oxygen absorber, it must be less than 10% moisture, or it will cause botulism. so how do you store things with higher oils or moisture content? Things like Chocolate chips, nuts, peanut butter, raisins, cornmeal, brown rice, sesame seeds:  Food saver, jar sealer. Deni JarVac Vacuum Sealer. Put food in glass jars, seal them = 10 year shelf life. open the jar, take out what you want and vacuum it again; same lid.  You can buy Halloween candy or Christmas candy the day after the holiday, when all the candy goes on sale. Can it using your Deni JarVac and next holiday it is fresh!

You can can muffins and brownies, and cakes, and breads and corn breads. It’s crazy. Look up jar bread recipes. The trick is there are no eggs, it’s usually a product called Knox gelatin or mashed beans or applesauce. Those three things are a fantastic substitute for eggs in recipes, by the way.   You bake it in a jelly jar, add the ring and the lid, and it will seal itself. Delicious, moist, amazing. Shelf life 2 years.

Fruits and vegetables: There are three different options: Purchase #10 cans. FYI: Freeze dried usually has a better taste, higher nutritional content, and a  longer shelf life than dehydrated.  It’s also more expensive.
Second option is to can or dehydrate your own. You can grow and can them or buy in bulk and can them. Canning them means in glass jars, dehydrating them means cutting them up into pieces, drying them out in a dehydrator and canning them in #10 cans with an oxygen absorber.
Or you can Grow your own (best option). A huge part of self reliance is having your own garden. We have been urged over and over again to grow a garden. Your recipe will taste so much better and be so much healthier if you grow your own produce. You don’t have to have a backyard to grow a garden. Two years ago, before we moved into our house in this ward, we lived in a 900 SF apartment with a teeny tiny balcony. How teeny tiny? It fit two playpens, side by side. I found this thing called global buckets, where you can grow a produce garden in an urban setting. Basically it’s cheap, it only requires a rooftop or a balcony or even a ledge, and you get amazing results. When we moved into the house in the ward, the first thing we did was plant a huge garden in the backyard. We did not get as much produce from our giant garden, as we did from our tiny balcony. A lot of that is because I’m new to gardening, and global buckets are basically idiot-proof, but, that just goes to show that where you live doesn’t matter, we should all have a garden.  
Also, consider storing seeds in your food storage so you can plant them to grow food.
From your food storage, you can sprout dried beans, lentils and wheat. Sprouting anything is amazingly healthy and very simple.  These are considered vegetables.

Cooking your food:
Solar oven is best long term, as propane and butane is best for your 3 month supply. As long as the sun is shining, a solar oven will heat up to 350 degrees. If it’s hot, it will heat up faster, so in cold weather just give yourself longer to cook.

non food items:  Paper Towels, Toilet Paper, Feminine Products, Bleach, Dog/Cat Food. How much do I need? Easy! When you go to the store to buy because you are out, buy 3 times what you would normally and store 2 of them. When you need it again, repeat. After 6 months you’ve stored a year’s supply (twice what you used in 6 months!) Works for anything. You can shorten or lengthen the time it takes as your budget dictates by changing the multiple you buy. Twice as much as usual will take a year, 4 times as much will take 4 months, etc.
Also in your food storage you need medical supplies. Stock up on: First Aid Kits, Hand Sanitizers, gauze, Face Masks, Cold medicine...

You can also make your own household cleaners, laundry detergent, and dishwashing soap.   It’s cheaper, and doesn’t use all those terrible toxins. Learning how now will prepare you for when you can’t buy lysol in the store. and the ingredients to make these things are easily kept in long term storage.

Same goes for Toothpaste, Shampoo/Conditioner, Deodorant, Facewash/Bodywash/Soap

Here is more information than you ever wanted to know about me: I haven’t used store bought shampoo or conditioner in over three years. cheaper, healthier, greener.

In conclusion! You don’t know what type of disaster you are planning for. You don’t know if you are building up this year’s supply to feed your family after your husband loses his job, or to feed your neighborhood in the week it takes help to arrive after a major disaster. You don’t know if you are preparing for a total economic collapse and the end of civilization as we know it, or if all your preparations will be washed away in a tsunami. The bottom line is: It doesn’t matter.  D&C 38:30
“If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” If you do what is asked of you and have your long term food storage, no matter disaster happens, god will take care of you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Everything I Said. It's Not Real. I Was Just Playing the Game. I Know. And This is Just Losing

For New Year's Eve we had a little party. It was scheduled 4pm-7pm. Because, you know, kids.

It went great! First off, we had it at the church, so we would have enough room for STUFFED ANIMAL DODGEBALL!

But that wasn't the first game we played. First, we played a game I made up:

At the party, have everyone write down their resolution on a piece of paper. Make sure no one writes their name.Add the papers to a hat and pass it around; everyone picks one. One at a time, each person reads their paper as if it were their resolution. The idea of the game is to make people think you drew your own paper (Embellishing, storytelling, explaining are all encouraged!). Everyone then makes a guess as to whom they think that resolution belongs.
If you successfully match up the resolution to the correct owner, +1 point to you.
If you read a resolution and someone votes (incorrectly) that it is yours, +1 point to you per vote
If you guess the reader has his own resolution and you are correct +3 points to you!
If everyone guesses your resolution belongs to you -1 point to you.
If no one guesses your resolution belongs to you -1 point to you.

I think this would work better with a small group of people. We had eleven people playing, and it went a little on the long side. But it was still fun. We did this right after a delicious dinner and snacked on dessert while we were playing. I think that timing was perfect.

Stuffed animal dodge ball was a huge success. Of course. After several rounds it was time for the kids to break the balloon pinata!

I made it by stuffing balloons full of confetti and a few pieces of candy per balloon:. The kids each got to pop one balloon. I brought along a safety pin for the occasion, but it got lost, so we gave the kids a knife. That's not really recommended.

And finally it was time for our countdown! Everyone wore a New Year's hat and got a little plastic champagne cup filled with sparkling cider.  We had those New Year's Eve horn/noisemaker things and the poppers that send streamers flying out. It was great! 

And with our countdown over, it was time to clean-up and get the kids in bed by their 7:30 curfew. What can I say? We party hard over here.