Friday, January 30, 2015

Trying out an Emergency Essentials dinner meal

What a day I had yesterday.  I started off the day by forgetting to say good morning to Boy before I left the house.  I said good morning to Girl then got distracted.  Then I almost hit a fox that was drinking water out of a puddle on the side of the road.  The car scared it and it ran right in front of me.  I was able to slow down and missed it.  Got to work and had a good, smooth day, until almost time to go home. 

Army daughter, her husband, and cute little granddaughter moved to Houston in October.  On my way home AD called to say that they may move back within the next six months or so.  What? They are making rash decision after rash decision and losing a bunch of money each time they do.  I told her if they aren’t going to stay in Houston then think big.  Why come back to the Great Central Valley?  Didn’t you want to leave because of the bad air quality?  Now is the time to really plan something.  You can choose anywhere in this country.  Anywhere!  And I’m not promising that I’m going to stay here so don’t come because I’m here.  AD said that I’m here now, so they may move back just for that.  Stupid decision.  On the other hand I’d love to have them back.  I could use someone to watch Boy and Girl when I travel.  And I miss cute little granddaughter, oh, and AD and son-in-law too.

AD will want to talk about it more later.  As I was sitting at my desk with my mind wandering…sorry about that great employer of mine… I got a phone call.  The person asked for me.  They said I didn’t know them but they had a report I wrote back in 1996 and the regulators are asking that someone updates the report since it’s so old.  This person wanted to know if I would be interested in updating the report.   A day in the field and a day on the computer:  Two days work for about a week of pay.   I may just say yes, other than I’m not sure if I want to give up a weekend.

I won a contest! Luck of the draw.  I won the book  A Time to Endure by Kyle Pratt.  Looking forward to reading it and I’ll give you my thoughts on it when I finish.  Thanks!  (And my name isn't Dee.  Dee didn't respond to the email that she won, so they picked again!)

Last week I bought Emergency Essentials Dinner Bucket One Month Supply for $119 less a $10 off coupon plus free shipping from  It sounded interesting because it had 126 individually packaged single servings.  That’s a little less than $1.00 per item.  Sounds good until you realize that 62 of them are individual drink servings.  That’s ok, it still means about $2.00 per serving for a meal or meal portion.  I thought it would be good to keep the bucket at work or even in the trailer and car.  We were very excited when the bucket came in a plain brown box.  No screaming FOOD PREP here!  While I’d rather buy from a small prepping company, I’m not always thrilled when the boxes have their name splashed all over. 

We opened the bucket and each meal was individually packaged in heavy white plastic. (*note -Tonight I used the potato soup mix and noted that they are in Mylar pouches not plastic.  But the Mylar is covered with a white layer.) The air wasn’t removed.   It was not easy to tear open the packages so I cut them open.   While it said a month of dinners, not including the drinks there are 64 packages.  Some items used two packages (noodles and sauce) and some of the items you were instructed to open use more than one package for your meal.  There was also a menu sheet that told you how many of each item to use per meal.  It included two drink packages per meal.  All you do is add water.  Easy.

We only made three drink packages, with each making 8 ounces.  I looked at the nutrition label for it and although it had some vitamins and minerals in it there was no vitamin C.  I thought that was odd.  You’d just sort of expect fake orange drink to have vitamin C.   The drink tasted like orange Koolaid.  The grandkids said it was better than orange Koolaid.  I’m not getting into a Koolaid debate.  It was flavored sugar water.

I don’t remember it explaining in the ad that each item needed to be cooked for 10-20 minutes.  It says to boil the water, stir in the food, then simmer for that amount of time.  That would be a lot if you were concerned about cooking fuel. I could boil up the water and then use much less of the water and mix it together and put it into my ice chest slow cooker and leave it there all day.  It would probably cook up that way.  I will have to try it.  For last night’s dinner we just used two pots on the stove.

Boy and I had the Chicken Teriyaki.  Girl had the Beef Stew.  We had some left over spaghetti noodles from a couple days ago that Girl had smothered with peanut oil.  I figured that would be good to go with the dinner, especially since I didn’t know how large or small the portions would be.  For the chicken teriyaki, the picture on the label shows nice chunks of chicken on top of rice.  Boy opened the package and asked where the chicken was.  See these little specks of white that aren’t the pieces of rice?  That’s the chicken.  You were expecting large pieces?  The final product was a little runny.  I could have cooked it more but since we were putting this over the noodles I figured a little sauce would be good.  And it was.   

Girl loves DInty Moore beef stew and will eat an entire can for a meal.  This smelled like Dinty Moore so I thought she would like it. It didn’t look like Dinty Moore.  There were no chunks, just small pieces.  The peas were probably the largest pieces of food or vegetable.  Even the potato pieces were half the size of the peas.  And meat?  I think it was all TVP with beef flavor.  As I said, it smelled good.  Girl took a taste and said she couldn’t eat it.  Too salty.  She passed her bowl on to me.  I took a taste.  It tasted like stew flavored salt.  Even the bottomless pit Boy took a taste and said no!  What to do with the stew?  I tried to feed it to the dogs and cats.  They eat anything…except the Emergency Essentials Beef Stew. 

The bucket suggested that you should use more than one package for your meal.  Most meals use two or even three packages.  One package did make enough for one person, if they were not a big eater.  If we didn’t have the noodles we would have walked away hungry.   

I will also use my slow cooker method to see if cooking them that way will work.  The texture doesn’t compare to Mountain House, or even the bucket that I bought previously from Costco.  I am hoping that the beef stew package had an accidental double helping of salt and the rest of the beef stew packs will be alright.  I won’t plan a dinner around it though!  We will try the other dishes soon. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Just a typical day off

I had a Friday off and was home to see the grandkids off to school - they were both in good moods this morning!  That started the day off right.  Army daughter is in town for a few days.  She has Boy and Girl for the evening and will bring them home after they see a movie.  So what did I do today  other than writing this post?  Odds and ends chores.  What else?  I do like puttering around the property so it seems logical that I would be doing chores. 

After I saw them onto the bus, I met with a window contractor and we headed up to the bug-out place.  While I could replace the broken windows myself, there's still so much that I need to do up there and I don't have unlimited spare time, I figured I'll see what the estimate for someone else doing the work would be.  I may end up doing them myself if he wants to charge more than what I think he should.  The entire bug-out house is cleared out.  The walls all have a first coat of paint.  I still need to remodel both bathrooms and the kitchen but first things first are the doors!  There are only two interior doors left in the house.  Son punched holes in them and removed the rest (and probably sold them).  Both bathrooms still have doors.  Unfortunately the hall bathroom door doesn't close because he "rebuilt" the door frame.  So while I was there I took the measurements of all the door openings.  Maybe this weekend I'll purchase them and bring them up there.  After that I will repair the bathrooms, then put in the new flooring, then the kitchen. 

It takes three trips to the bug-out place to fill up the truck and trailer before I make the dump run.  I still have several more trips to go to get the stove, dishwasher, sink, and heater out of there.  It could all be completed in a week or two of solid working on the place but I don't want to take vacation time to work on it.  This means that we get up there on average about two times per month.  It makes the process go very slow! 

With my schedule this week I left each day before the sun came up and got home after dark.  Today I had a day off so it was a good day to check on everything.  I figured I'd better bring out the bowl of food scraps for the chickens that's been on the kitchen counter all week.  I got out to the chicken coop.  One chicken was dead.  The rest were doing fine and none were pecking on the dead one.  Most of my  chickens are on the old side and they are just dying off one by one.  I have one young hen that is broody all the time.  This spring I will put a bunch of eggs in her nest and we will hopefully have a fresh crop of chicks.  I have incubators to raise the eggs inside but since we have the broody hen I may as well try to get some chicks the natural way! 

We lost a goat last weekend.  The goats were all fine in the morning.  We left for a few hours and when I pulled back into the yard I noticed her sleeping in the goat shed.  That was just odd for the middle of the afternoon so I stopped the car and got out only to find her dead.  I don't know what happened.  She was pregnant but not due for another month. 

I think blind cat may be getting some vision back.  Either that or he's just getting more confident in his ability to get around.  He climbed a few feet up a tree the other day.  He's also jumping up and down on furniture, and although I'm not crazy about him getting on the furniture, I'm pleased that he's getting around.  I'm still heating his dry food in the microwave twice a day.  It's a trick the vet taught me.  When you heat dry dog or cat food for about 15 seconds the fats in the food heat up and liquefy.  It makes the food smell really good (at least if you are an animal).   

I fired Pest Control a few months ago.  We just kept getting bugs and moths in the kitchen and home store.  I figured I couldn't do any worse than them at keeping the house bug free.  I had been keeping track of what they were using both inside and outside.  I was able to buy the same exact products on Amazon and have them shipped to the house.  I bought a sprayer dedicated for the pest control.  The house has been pretty much pest free since I took over the task!  I 've bought moth traps, bug spray, sticky pads for catching mice, etc. It's costing me a lot less than the $35 a month that they were charging as well.  I just have to make sure that I schedule the time to do it.  If I don't schedule it on the calendar I tend to forget!  Now Girl is complaining because she needs to feed her pet newts some bugs and there aren't any in the house.  Poor Girl has to dig some up in the yard!

I also cleaned out two shelves which hold all the medications.  When Mrs. Bug-out renter used to visit she'd clean me out of Tylenol, Excedrin, Advil, as such.  So I kept way more on hand than we'd ever need.  But she doesn't come around as much so now we have lots of stuff that's outdated.  I don't know how long that stuff all lasts so it's probably time to get some more.  How much of that is enough anyway?  We hardly ever get sick but one thing that the doctor did tell me to do was when I come in from a day of  heavy lifting or yard work to take a Tylenol and Advil as preventative measures for aching muscles in the evening.  I do this one or two times per month and it works well.
I got a sweet tooth craving while I was kneading the dough for our weekend loaves of bread.  Instead of the normal loaves we now have a pan of cinnamon raisin sweet rolls and a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.  Well, we did have a pan of sweet rolls.  There's a few missing!  I put the rest into a plastic container.  No one will be the wiser! 

The weeds are taking over the garden walkways.  I go out each weekend to pull weeds and the next weekend they are all back again!  The chickens enjoy it and it also means they eat less of the store bought grain, so I'll just keep on pulling weeds.  There aren't too many in front and I can usually keep up with them each time I go out front to check on the goats.  There's a good outdoor light in that area so I can pull up a few weeds each day even when it's dark outside. 

It's almost time to trim the fruit trees.  Boy is still too small to do the task.  Girl can do it but she doesn't quite get how to do it right.  I had the older grandsons do it for me a few years ago but they aren't around here anymore.  So I guess it is my turn.  There's about 25 that need to be trimmed while they are dormant.  There are a few citrus that need some trimming but that can be done at any time.  These dormant ones need to be trimmed first.  I just keep waiting for it to get cold and rainy.  It's not doing either. 

I also keep going on-line to check out some property locations in different states.  I'm still not sure if I want to take the leap and move but it's fun to look.  At some point I'm going to have to go see these areas in person as looking at pictures and actually seeing the places aren't the same.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cleaning and cooking

This weekend I was in a spring cleaning mood.  Yes, I know it is not spring.  Tell that to the weatherman.  We had a high of 65 today.  Our low will be in the mid-40s.  There is no rain in sight.  So today I tackled a closet.  Not just any closet, but the junk closet.  This closet is 6x7.  It held a lot of stuff.  It does have cases of Gatorade and water along the back wall.  Wow, so much stuff in front of it that we haven’t been rotating those bottles.  Some of the water was dated 2010.  Not that water goes bad but the plastic bottles start to denigrate.  Some of the Gatorade was dated 2011.  Need to get those out and rotated. 

What was piled in front of the drinks?  Buckets of rice and wheat.  No wonder I wasn’t rotating the drinks.  It’s a pain to move those buckets!  What was in front of the buckets? Papers, clothes, and just stuff that got thrown into the closet to get it out of the way.  It started filling up the closet so much that there wasn’t much room to walk in anymore. 

This closet has a double rack for clothing along one of the side walls.  There’s nothing in that closet that I wear.  What was in there?  Cute dresses that Girl wore when she was little.  Old uniforms of mine when I worked for the government.  Lots of uniforms.  There were two different unions: one just gave people money for uniforms and hoped they spent the money on uniforms, while the other reimbursed you up to a certain amount each year.  If you didn’t buy uniforms you didn’t get a check.  Those who were just handed a check wore crappy looking uniforms and those who got reimbursed always looked good.  And the public expected us to look good.  I was in the group that got reimbursed, so I always bought new stuff each year. 

I didn’t get rid of the old stuff because we were always supposed to have a bag on us that included two weeks worth of clothes.  My bag always included seven pairs of pants and 14 or 15 t-shirts plus a couple of uniform shirts.  That’s in addition to my closet full of daily uniforms that I would wear.  So in total, I always rotated about 20 sets of clothes.  We really got so filthy that we had to change every day.  By the end of the second day the pants would be standing stiff without me in them!  

Now that I don’t work for the government I have all these clothes taking up almost five feet of space between what’s hanging and the stacks of folded t-shirts.  I retired from there two years ago already.  So I put them all up for sale.  Pants, t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, sweaters, you name it, it’s for sale.  Boy was pissed off.  He wants them.  I do let him wear some of the t-shirts.  In fact, all the grandkids have been given old t-shirts to wear.  The kids at school think the grandkids are cool when they wear them!  Don’t worry Boy, there will still be plenty for you.  There are some of them that I can’t sell because they have special designations on them.  Only the generic shirts can go for sale. 

There were three huge stacks of papers and books.  Some of the papers dated back to when I was in college.  Not only were there reports that I wrote but also class notes and articles.  Who needs that?  Not I.  OK, maybe the really cool A++ paper from when I was in 8th grade.  It was a history report and I interviewed my grandfather, who came across the US in a covered wagon…they were really poor because it was in 1904!  He told me about them living in Utah on 1/3 acre and had 100 chickens in the yard.  He was also the oldest of 5 kids and they lived in a three room (two bedrooms and a main room) log cabin.  The four girls were in one room.  His parents in the other.  His bed was the kitchen table.  So I still have that paper.  I’ve kept it over 40 years, so why not keep it longer?  But, really, class notes and articles for The Evolutionary Development of Homo Sapien. Cognitive Brain Development.  and Applied Statistics.  Those all went into the recycle bin.  So did the papers I wrote for those classes.   I filled the entire recycle trash can.

I was pleasantly surprised that there were no mouse droppings to be found in the entire closet.  I don’t know how that could have happened but I’m sure glad it was clean.  I’ve had so many problems with moths and there weren’t any moths trying to attack the buckets of rice or wheat.  Yes, they are in mylar bags and then in five gallon buckets but those moths are amazing in what they can get into. 

The kids start back to school tomorrow.  Finally.  Three weeks of Christmas vacation is a week too long.  Boy did ask to do some chores for money today.  He got all his regular things done so I put him on a task that I said I’d pay by the t-post (every 8 feet).  I had him clearing brush.  It was a miserable job and I was happy that he wanted to take it on.  He cleared 9 posts for 72 feet.  8 posts to go if he wants to earn more money.  

During their vacation I had each of them cooking dinner for us.  I didn’t want them to use the stove while I wasn’t home but microwaving was fine as was getting all the ingredients together and then cooking them when I got home.  Some of the dinners were easy, like chili-mac.  Boil noodles, open a can of chili, and top with grated cheese.  On Friday, Girl decided to make a broccoli/cauliflower casserole.  She made a white sauce, added seasonings and cheese, reduced it in the oven, poured it over the steamed vegetables, then baked it in the oven.  It sounded good and looked good.  It was awful.  I guess we should have determined if we all liked that much turmeric before she made it!  I told her to write directly into her cookbook the date she made it and what she liked and didn’t like about it.  She also put a note in there that if someone doesn’t like turmeric they won’t like that recipe.  Boy made meatballs in a broth over egg noodles for dinner tonight.  The meatballs were mushy but had good flavor.  I had seconds.  Girl hated it.  I want them to get used to reading and understanding cookbooks.   It certainly brings meaning to using fractions and measurements.  I’d like to say it gives me a break but it doesn’t yet.  I still supervise and remind them to go in order and not accidently leave out main ingredients, or in boy’s case today one teaspoon of salt, not one tablespoon!  But sometime in the future I will be able to come home from work to a piping hot, tasty dinner made by two very talented young teens.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My birthday present

I am not in a good mood at the moment.  We have been dealing with a cat issue, but that’s for the end of today’s story.  That isn’t what put me into a bad mood.  No, it’s what I bought myself for a birthday present.  I decided to buy a Walther P22 hand gun for my birthday.  I just wanted something inexpensive to shoot and 22s are as cheap as you can get.  This isn’t one of those teeny tiny little things that you can’t aim, it’s about the same size as my S&W 9c.
Here in California they have some really stupid gun laws.  There are people trying to change some of them but things are still hung up in court.  If you have a CCW, obviously you are able to carry.  You’ve passed the background checks.  All is good.  It doesn’t make sense that the state should make people who have CCWs wait a 10-day waiting period from the time they buy the weapon until the time they can pick it up.  And I mean 10 days!  If you purchased it at 3:54 pm then you’d better not show up to pick it up until 10 days later at 3:55 pm.  You show up at 3:50, you wait.  This waiting period was challenged.  If the reason to wait 10 days is to do a background check and you already have a background check and additional checks due to the CCW process, then you shouldn’t have to wait.  The courts agreed.  Unfortunately, it is being appealed so I still have to wait. 

I was supposed to pick up my gift to myself yesterday.  I was in town but a little too early.  I didn’t want to hang around.  I decided to pick it up on Friday instead.  Today I got a phone call from the gun store.  The person told me they got a letter from the Department of Justice citing regulation 2822.0.  They are taking an additional up to 30 days to finish the background check because there may be an issue.  What?!?!
There aren’t any issues.  The person said it could be as simple as an unpaid ticket.  I don’t have an unpaid ticket.  The letter didn’t say what the issue is and the DOJ doesn’t have to justify the delay.  I concluded that since it was during the holiday season that the DOJ just didn’t have enough staff on duty to conduct their review…which shouldn’t be conducted anyway.  So now, I have to wait for possibly another month. 
Sometimes I hate California regulations and think it's a great reason to leave the state.   I have a friend that wants me to move to Colorado.  Another wants me to move to Oklahoma.  Both are preparedness folks and I would fit in to either group. Then I compare other places with the weather and growing season here and wonder if I'd be leaving just be leaving one set of idiotic regulations for another and a good growing season for one that isn't.  Any thoughts?
The cat.  We have four cats.  One is old.  One is borrowed (actually we are cat sitting for 8-10 months while the owner is out of the country).  One was given to us by a neighbor’s daughter…and it was a cute little orange cat so I just couldn’t resist.  One just showed up a few months ago.  All are good hunters, the one that just showed up a few months ago is great. 
A few weeks ago orange cat had swelling on his ear, which meant a trip to the vet.  He had surgery on the ear.  He came home a little groggy but after being knocked out it was expected.  The next morning there was just something about his behavior.  It wasn’t right.  He was still acting groggy.  I locked him in my room and went to work.  When I got home he had put himself in a corner and was just staring at the corner.  I picked him up and he was acting like he couldn’t see me or hear me.  Not a good sign.  I called the vet who said to bring him in first thing in the morning.    The vet is assuming that it was part of the same problem that he had with the ear.  Diagnosis: a blood clot in the brain, a stroke.
The cat stayed at the vet for two weeks.  Orange cat is now home.  His hearing is back but his vision is very limited.  There is nothing wrong with his vision.  What is wrong is the brain isn’t telling him that he can see.   We are hoping his brain changes and tells his eyes to work once again.  Orange cat gets around the house just fine, even without seeing.  He is more and more active each day.  His latest trick is the ability to not only climb onto a bed but to jump down.  Blind cat isn’t an issue right now because the house stays closed up.  From about March or April through October or November we keep a door open for the animals to go in and out.  If blind cat can’t see and he goes outside he may be short lived. 
Note about the vet.  While he is normally on the expensive side when compared to other local vets for routine office visits, he didn’t charge anything for the two weeks he had orange cat.  If he charged what any other vet would have charged orange cat would have been put down.  I don’t have any real strong feelings for any of the cats so it wouldn’t matter to me if we lost him or any of the others (other than the one that doesn’t belong to us).  I think the grandkids would be sad for a short time but since a cat would be replaced quickly it wouldn’t be an issue for them to lose a cat.  On the other hand, I still haven’t replaced big dog.  I haven’t found “the dog” so no replacement yet.   I’ve been looking: put an ad on Craigslist, and even looked at the pound.  There was one person who had what looked like a good dog.  Then they told me how much they wanted to sell her for.  Absolutely no way!