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Christmas Vacation! No School! Panic! Mayhem! Depression! Tears!

  • December 19, 2011 5:42 pm

Jonas' Christmas Piano Recital

 

Actually, total stress and unhappiness is what I am trying to avoid over the next two weeks.  Sixteen days, to be precise. So I have made a list of things to do.  In case you need ideas, I’m sharing them with you.

1- Bake.  Then bake some more.  We will be making lots of Christmas goodies.

2- Deliver said baked goods to friends.

3- Visit the Jolly Lane Greenhouse and use their free Christmas photo backdrop and snap some shots of the kids.

4- Waste all the copy paper in the house making snowflakes- then hang them all over.

5- Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  And “White Christmas”.  And “Rudolph”. And “Charlie Brown”.

6- Take the dog for walks.

7- Bundle up and go to the park.

8- Teach the kids how to make Magic Boxes.

9- Design Thank You cards for after gifts are opened.

10- Shop for Angel tree kids.

11- Pray for snow.

12- Read the Christmas Story.  Act it out with the Nativity Sets.

13- Watch the Living Scriptures Christmas Story (they are giving away free copies on their Facebook page).

14- Think of something nice we can do for someone else.

15- Wrap the Sibling Gifts.

16- Clean and de-junk bedrooms.

17- Open the gifts and play with them!

18- Play games.

19- Read all the books in our Christmas book collection (all 47).

20- Finish reading the Book of Mormon as a family so we can start fresh in 2012!

That’s all I have on the list so far.

Christmas Baking With Augason Farms

  • December 13, 2011 7:00 pm

 

It is Christmas baking time here at my house, and the goodies just keep coming! I decided to learn how to better use some of my Augason Farm’s food storage to help with the holidays.  Sometimes people look at a food storage list and can’t fathom why there would be cookie mix and brownies and hot cocoa.  These, while not nutritionally sound, are actually important parts of a food storage because of the psychological benefits that are had by having access to comfort foods during times of turmoil.  Everything might be falling apart around you, but eating a brownie usually makes a person feel like she can carry on.  It is also important to keep these items on hand to help you celebrate birthdays and holidays with a feeling of normalcy.  This isn’t just me talking- there is actual scientific proof behind that!

So, without further ado, bring on the sweeties!

Today we have thumbprint cookies, brownie mix cookies and mint brownies!  The base of each of these recipes is an Augason Farms mix, either the gluten free cookie mix (yum!) or the fudge brownie mix (also, yum).

Brownie Cookies

1 pkg. Augason Farms fudge brownie mix
1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. water
2 eggs

optional add ins:
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 c. chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips or M&M’S®

Combine all ingredients. Bake until just set at 350 degrees about 9-10 minutes. Let cool and then ice with your favorite icing.  Sprinkles are a MUST!

Thumbprint Cookies

These are usually called raspberry thumbprint cookies or apricot or strawberry.  The thing is, you can use any type of jam or fruit you have on hand.

1 pkg Augason Farms gluten free cookie mix

1 cup of flour (gluten free works)

chopped pecans

1/2 tsp almond extract

jam

or

Augason Farms fruit of your choice plus 1 cup sugar.

Mix up your cookie mix per directions on the can, add the flour and extract, then roll into balls.  They should be sticky, but not gloopy.  If you need to add a bit more flour based on altitude, go ahead.

Once your balls are made, lay them on a cookie sheet and firmly press your thumb into the center of each cookie.

Here is the tricky part.  If you have jam, you can scoop it into the indentations you have made.  If you have fruit and sugar, boil it down in a pot, stirring continually until it is runny.  I use a table spoon to scoop the mixture into the prints.  Hint: even if you are using pre-made jam, heating it up so it is runny makes it ten times easier to put it into the thumbprints.

I love these with chopped pecans, my kids don’t.  So I make a few of both.  Sometimes you feel like a nut.  Sometimes you don’t.  You can have it both ways with these.

These need to bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes or until a light golden brown.

Layered Mint Brownies

Brownie layer

Prep brownie mix and bake as directed on your package.

Let it cool then make the rest of the layers

Mint layer

2 tbsp softened butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1-1/2 tbsp heavy cream

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

green food coloring optional (I opt out because I don’t think we need any more food coloring than we are already ingesting, but that’s just me being a killjoy).

Frost the brownies with this layer and let it set for about a half an hour.

Chocolate Layer

semisweet chcolate chips or baking bar (about 3 oz)

1 tbsp butter

Melt these ingredients in a double boiler and pour over the top.  You can drizzle or make a complete chocolatey layer.  I do both.  If you are loathe to double boil, you may also skip the butter and chop the chocolate as fine as you are able and just put it right on the top. All three ways are excellent- we are talking about chocolate here.

Now you are ready to take a beautiful basket of treats to your friends and neighbors!

Augason Farms is also a great Christmas gift option, and can provide security for college students, newlyweds, aging parents and families who need a jump start on stocking their pantries and becoming more secure.  This year I am giving Augason Farms cocoa as well as some of their great kits and packs.  Chris and I love trying out new cocoas and the large variety of flavors Augason farms offers is great!  Chris fancies the hazelnut best, and I love the mint and the cinnamon.  There are also orange, raspberry, candy can, marshmallow and plain varieties.  Snag yourself a few to keep you warm this winter and a few more to keep that pantry stocked!

Merry Christmas and Happy Baking to all!

 

Rice Is Nice- Food Storage With Augason Farms!

  • November 3, 2011 7:08 am

maggierice

Let’s talk rice.

Not only is it the staple food for a huge portion of the seven billion of us now occupying planet Earth, and the grain with the third highest level of production in the world, it is super filling and can be served in more ways than I could ever feature in one rice post. It took me awhile to trim down my list of recipes, but these are some that I make frequently and that every seems to like (I like complaint-free meals, don’t you?) So- from my kitchen to yours, let’s talk rice.

Augason Farms has a few different ways to purchase rice. They offer both brown and white rice in number ten cans, six and four gallon buckets and in bags. Sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming, especially with food storage. The only two real concerns when it comes to food storage (after the all important “do I have any idea how to cook this if I need to” query) are:

A. How long will it keep?
B. How much do I need?

No one wants to buy food storage to have it go to waste. With rice there are some factors that need to be taken into consideration. The good news is, white rice has a shelf life of a whopping thirty years when the container is sealed. This is a store it and forget it food. Brown rice is better for you, contains more life sustaining nutrients and will keep you healthier. It will also prevent beriberi because it is loaded with vitamin B1 aka Thiamine. You needed to know that right? But brown rice only stores for seven years. Seven years may seem like a long time, but if you are like me and have a marriage children older than that, it starts looking pretty short. Once containers are opened, they all store for a year. You will need to look at your family’s rice consumption habits to determine what system works best for you. We use more white rice than brown, so I tend to buy my white rice in the gallon buckets and my brown rice in number ten cans, just so I know we will get through it. In case of emergency, rice is quick and easy to cook and can stand alone as a meal or be dressed up into something really tasty. Because of those factors, I keep a lot of rice in our pantry.

Now that I have all that rice, I better cook it. Let’s start with a sweet treat!

rice pudding

Rice Pudding

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of whole milk- or if you are feeling naughty- half whole milk and half cream
1/3 cup of uncooked rice (you can use white or wheat, white is traditional, but wheat works)
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
raisins to taste

1 Bring the milk, rice and salt to a boil over high heat. Simmer on low heat until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Make sure you stir it so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

2 Whisk egg and brown sugar in a small dish. You can take the next step two ways, either stir rice mix into the egg mix, just a bit at a time stirring quickly, or very carefully and rapidly whisk the egg mixture into the rice mixture making sure it blends together as fast as possible. If you don’t stir as it goes in, you will end up with scrambled eggs in your rice, rather than rice pudding. The same thing happens when you make a lemon meringue pie, so if you can make that filling, you can make this. If you are nervous, do it the long way, or throw caution to the wind and do it my way.

3 Once you’ve incorporated the ingredients into the pan stir, on low heat, for 10 minutes or so, until thickened. Do not let the mixture come to a boil at this point. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from heat and stir in the raisins and cinnamon.

Serve warm or cold. I like it hot.

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Garlic Lime Chicken and Rice

Of course rice can stand alone as a side dish. I like to make this quickie meal with steamed veggies. It is very easy.

1-Make rice
2-Steam veggies
2-Cut up 3 chicken breasts and sauté in olive oil, two cloves of pressed garlic and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 cup of lime juice until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve it all up for a flavorful, healthy twenty minute meal.

The next two meals are great for using up left over rice and chicken. These are what you turn to when you need to get the fridge cleaned out.

Flied Lice! Or Fried Rice, for all you normal people out there.

Ingredients

chicken-canned, leftovers, rotisserie-what ever you have on hand works.
2 cups cooked rice
olive oil
veggies (think onions, red or green peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery, broccoli, peas)
egg
chicken (left overs, canned, breasts, vegetarian meat substitute, meat picked off the bones- doesn’t matter)

'shrooms

Put olive oil in a large frying pan. Scramble an egg super thin and cut it up into small slivers. Set aside.
Add more oil to pan and sauté your veggies. I use what I have…the more the merrier. Try to chop them all about the same size.
Chicken sliced thin and sautéd in olive oil until cooked through. If we’re talking canned or left overs, just pop it in whenever.
Add soy sauce to taste, then the eggs, veggies and rice.

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Mix together and heat it all up. Then more soy sauce and sprinkle ginger over it.

The great thing about this recipe is that it is very easy to make as a pantry only recipe. Use your dehydrated veggies, canned chicken or vegetarian chicken substitute, scrambled egg mix and rice, and pretty much the only other things you need are oil and soy sauce. As you can see from the pic of Maggie at the beginning of this post, it is a big hit.

Greek Lemon Chicken Soup

This recipe is a staple at my house. We eat it at least twice a month. It is super yummy, pantry only recipe, great for using up left over chicken- and the best thing? It both freezes and stores well in the fridge, so sometimes I make a big pot of this while I make another meal and pop it in the fridge for later.

Ingredients

chicken-left overs, canned, diced breasts, whatever you’ve got!
olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup onions
4 cups cream of chicken soup (two cans)
4 cups chicken stock (or water w/ boullion if you are in a pinch)
1/2 cup rice (brown or white)
1/3 -1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup water
4 tbs basil
4 cloves pressed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
optional- lemon zest

Put a little olive oil in your pot and saute your onions, carrots and chicken until warm through. Salt and pepper and add lemon juice and zest.
soup start

Then add in your soups and broth. If you are using canned soup, don’t add water. If you are using Augason Farm’s Cream of Chicken Soup Mix prepare with half the water. Add basil and garlic.

Add in rice and simmer until rice is soft.

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If you prefer a runnier soup, add extra broth or an extra cup of water. I prefer it thicker, more stew-like and served with a dark rye bread.

cans

Until next time, Happy Cooking! We’re onto holiday sweet treats in the next food storage post, so get ready by stocking your kitchen with bakery staples! Keep an eye on the great deal of the day on the Augason Farm’s home page and take advantage of the super low shipping rates!]]>

Soups On! Cookin’ With Augason Farms

  • October 4, 2011 8:29 am

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The arrival of autumn always makes me want pumpkins, sweaters and soup. Lots and lots of soup! There is something very comforting about that kind of food, so October’s theme is all about soups and stews, working in the many wonderful Augason Farm’s soups and other ingredients to make a yummy autumn feast! Soup has traditionally been a low cost meal; not only are the ingredients usually very basic and healthy, but it is easy to sneak in a little of whatever happens to be left over. Waste not, want not. Right?

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Since we know the harvest isn’t always plentiful, it is a good idea to do some stocking up to prepare for times of lesser abundance. It is also wise to learn how to use your food storage so you aren’t at a loss of what to do when hard times hit.

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Augason Farm’s is great because they have both premade, just add water, instant soup mixes- ideal in an extreme emergency scenario and in the daily emergency of “Oh no! What’s for dinner!” I keep cans of their Chicken Noodle Soup mix stocked for that very reason. It is yummy on its own and even better with a few add ins.

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Bottom of the Vegetable Drawer Chicken Soup

1 everyday sized can of Chicken Noodle Soup Mix
1-2 cups of diced chicken (fresh or canned)

Now- here’s where this becomes unique to you. You can stop with just these ingredients and you will have a lovely dinner. I often do. Or you can open your veggie drawer and take a quick inventory of what needs to be eaten. Baby carrots? Into the kettle! Zucchini? Sliced, diced and steaming in the soup! Half an onion? Adds flavor! Celery? YUM!

This is a great way to put those almost bad veggies to good use, and the more you add in, the farther the soup stretches.

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You’ll need to try their other mixes as well. The vegetable stew mix is a great base for almost any soup, the creamy potato is an instant family favorite and the cream soup mixes are perfect for cooking with! Unlike canned or boxed soup, these won’t expire quickly- Augason Farm’s sealed cans have a shelf life of between 10 and 30 years, so you can rotate them as needed or use them for your every day menus.

Minestrone Soup is a meal that gets rave reviews at our house. It is an awesome pantry only meal that can be pulled out for any occasion with twenty minutes notice. It is also very easy to make substitutions, so it is a very forgiving meal when you are working solely with your food storage.

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Minestrone Soup

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans or appx 2 cups cooked beans
1 can navy beans or appx 2 cups cooked
1 can tomato soup or Augason Farm’s Tomato Powder plus 1 1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup Augason Farm’s Spinach leaves
3 Tbs chicken bouillon
3 Tbs dried basil
2 tsp dried parsley
3 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves diced garlic
1/2 cup onions (or more if you love them)
2 cups water
1 cup pasta- I like the traditional shell pasta.

Now, this is easy to adjust for what the season has to offer; you can toss in potato dices, carrots, zucchini. Whether you are hoping to stretch the soup to make more meals or just use up the half a zucchini you have threatening to rot in the crisper, adding extras can go along way toward saving your food budget. If you are rotating your storage, the potatoes are a great addition; just add the beans after the taters are ready.

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The cooking directions can’t get much simpler, dump it in a pan, simmer and let the noodles cook until they are soft. This soup makes for great left overs, so I usually double my recipe.

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Soup needs bread like flowers need rain, so I like to make dinner rolls to go along with these. The Augason Farm’s Bread Mixes are quick and easy. Prepare your dough, roll into balls and bake until toasty. They are the perfect side!

I also use a lot of soup in cooking. One of my favorite non-soup soup recipes (did you follow that? Haha) is a wonderful taco dish I’ve loved since I was a little kid. I get rave reviews when i serve it to company, so I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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Oven Tacos

10 flour tortillas
1 1/2 lb ground beef or Vegetarian Beef Substitute
3 cups cream of chicken soup
4 cups Monterrey jack cheese
2 tbs cumin
1 tbs rubbed sage
1 taco seasoning packet
2 tbs southwestern seasoning
1/2 cup onions (optional)

Heat ground beef, taco seasoning and onions in a skillet until cooked through.

Mix soups and seasonings with 2-3 cups of water. Set half of mixture aside and combine the remaining half with your meat.

Divide your meat mixture into 10 portions, and scoop into 10 tortillas. Sprinkle each tortilla generously with cheese, roll up and lay into a 9×13 baking pan.

Once the pan is full, pour the remaining soup mixture over the top and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until it is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

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Once it is out of the over, top with your favorite Mexican food embellishments like sour cream, guacamole, black olives and salsa and serve.

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I hope you will enjoy trying out these recipes, and that you will try a few Augason Farm’s products. They really do make life easier and keep your family well set for a rainy day. You may notice that I used the onions in most of the recipes I shared today. These are, by far, my favorite convenience food! They save so much prep time and clean up in the kitchen, and they are on sale right now along with several other items featured in the Harvest Sale that runs for the next few days. It is a great time to get an order in!

Precious

  • September 8, 2011 6:07 am

 

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A new layout using Crate Paper.

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See? I still scrapbook sometimes.

This post is sponsored by Mixbook- try their Custom Calendar!

Food Storage Staple: Mouthwatering Oats!

  • August 31, 2011 12:23 pm

ag4

There are certain basic, life sustaining foods that are key in any food storage. Today, we’re talking oats. Personally, I think oats are one of the easiest staples to incorporate into your food routine. They can be eaten straight or used to add texture, flavor or nutrients to a number of yummy dishes. They are also one of the very most economical items to add to your long term pantry- strive to put more oats into your diet and not only will you be choosing a more heart healthy diet, but your grocery budget will stretch farther. When I got to thinking about what I wanted to focus on for my September Augason Farm’s food storage article, I couldn’t get good old fashioned oats off my mind, so I started cooking up a storm, and this post is the result. Today, I’m sharing four of my favorite oat recipes with you-and covering every meal of the day!

oats from augason farms

Now, since oats are such a versatile grain and so good for you- oats have low calories as well as unique antioxidants and high quantities of B1, manganese, protein and lots more benefits- I buy in bulk. Feeding a family of five means I can go through quite a lot. I get my oats in six gallon buckets from Augason Farms. I have a special seal for my bucket called a gamma seal that re-seals a bucket so tightly that the original shelf life of 30 years still applies. If you keep oats in a regular container in your pantry, they should be consumed within a year; technically within about three months for optimal nutritional value. But enough about oats! Oats are awesome! Enough said. Let’s get cooking!

Breakfast at our house is often a bowl of oatmeal (or a plastic cup of oatmeal as my kids run for the bus, depends on how crazy the morning is). My kids love flavored oatmeal. They will, under no circumstances, eat oatmeal straight and I can’t blame them. The flavor packets you can buy aren’t very economically friendly; you can make your own for much less. We usually make strawberry oatmeal.

ag3

Leah’s Strawberry Oatmeal

(makes 30 servings)

8 cups quick oats
2 cups strawberrieschopped
1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup morning moos or powdered milk

If you like it extra creamy, replace half the moos with Augason Farm’s sour cream powder. It adds a richer flavor.

Put 1/3 cup of this mixture into a bowl, add 1/2 cup boiling water and serve. You can also dump the water straight in the bowl with the oats and microwave it for about a minute and a half; that is usually what we do.

If you want to mix it up a little, you can replace the strawberries with apples and cinnamon, blueberries, peaches, etc. If you are feeling especially daring, use chocolate morning moos and throw in a handful of chocolate chips. It’s delicious!

I love oatmeal for breakfast. It is so low calorie, but still so filling. About a year ago I lost thirty pounds- and a big part of that was having a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning. It kept me full and going strong. I also love that when I make this myself, I leave out all the preservatives, unpronounceable ingredients and the red dye #40 that my son can’t tolerate. Jonas rarely gets to eat anything strawberry flavored, but when I make this from scratch, he can have all he likes. Real strawberries are plenty red without adding in unhealthy color!

ag5

ABC Meatball Soup

2 cups Augason Farm’s Alphabet Soup Mix
3 cups chicken stock
1 can tomato soup
1 can diced tomatoes
4 tbs basil
1 tbs coriander
2 cups water (more if you like a runnier soup, less if you like a stew)

Bring to a boil then simmer low for 60 to 90 minutes (until the rice and split peas are soft)

Then add meatballs and serve.

To make the meatballs I grab a pan or sheet of tinfoil and prepare to make a mess. You can make them with whatever blend you like, but for mine, I used 1lb of ground beef and 2 cups TVP (prepared according to directions) as my base. If you want to use ground turkey or change up the ratios, that is totally your call. While you can make meatballs with straight TVP, it is a lot harder to get them to “ball” properly without a little real meat in there.

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I mash this up together, then I add a major squirt of ketchup (probably a little over half a cup) as well as 2 cups of oats and a half cup of onions. I mix those items all together, then roll out meatballs, plop them on a baking sheet and broil them on high for about six minutes, stopping to turn them midway so they cook evenly.

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I always make an extra large batch- they freeze well, and we love meatballs on our spaghetti or with mashed potatoes.

Now onto the junk food! Who can hear the words oats without thinking about oatmeal cookies? Not me!

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These are so chewy and wonderful. I made a double batch two days ago and I am actually eating the very last cookie while typing this.

1/2 cup (1 stick) + 6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chunks

Bake at 350°F.

Ok, now, that is the recipe. Before you go any farther, I want you to go back up there and double it. Trust me, they’re that good. Bake these cookies and husbands will fall at your feet, children will do extra chores happily and if everyone in the whole world had one in each fist- we’d have world peace.

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My last recipe today is for Oatmeal Bread. I absolutely adore this bread. It is amazing toast, wonderful with jams and butter and heavenly with cinnamon and raisins baked into it.

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I used to be seriously bread challenged until my good friend Darcy (who is amazing and beautiful in every way possible) took me under her wing and gave me bread lessons. Out of the many incredible breads we made, this one had my heart. Here are the ingredients so you can give it a go!

Oatmeal Bread

10 cups white flour
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup oat bran
3 T yeast
4 cups hot water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
2 T salt

Mix your dry ingredients and add in yeast and water. Let it sit and mellow for about 10 minutes. Knead it, form loaves, let is rise and then bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

If you want to make it really special, roll the dough into a rectangle, liberally sprinkle it with cinnamon and raisins and roll it up and form a loaf. Eat it warm with butter and prepare to swoon.

I hope you enjoyed these oat ideas for September! Remember to check back monthly for new preparedness motivation and ideas for rotating your food storage. Don’t forget to “like” Augason Farms on Facebook to see all the current specials and contests!

An Unexpected Luxury

  • August 9, 2011 7:30 pm

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Normalcy. That is the common goal of every military family I know, probably because it is one of the hardest things to achieve when you are tied to a person who is essentially owned by the government.

We shoot for normal bedtimes and ordinary anniversary celebrations. We crave the boring routine of waking up next to the same person in our bed day in and day out, snuggling on the same old couch, watching the same corny television show together in the evening, fighting over the same old nit-picky topics. So many couples blame complete monotony for the demise of their marriage; military couples pray they get enough humdrum days to save their marriage.

We hope our children have the typical growing pains and stages, hoping to smooth over the anger about losing friends, insecurity from moving yet again and downright confusion when mom or dad disappears for months on end. When our kids get in fights or bring home a low grade, we want it to be because they’re learning self control or they just haven’t grasped a concept yet, but ask any school counselor and he’ll blame it on bruised psyches caused by the constant adjustments and paradigm shifts we force on them.

We hope that when they do have a normal growing pain, they will be allowed to do so as an average kid, and not be so psycho-analyzed by their teachers and other leaders that every single quirk gets blamed on their association with the military, thereby robbing them of the normalcy of just being allowed to be a screwy kid from time to time.

With schedules in constant flux, and people and places changing frequently, personal routine is about the only coping skill I’ve found that really brings any feeling of normalcy. There is comfort in predictability, and so when we find that, our family latches on tight. I’m not talking about an hourly schedule, or whip-cracking rigidity. It is the little things, the tiny traditions that remind us of who we are. We are people who go to piano lessons every week, and who like to watch movies on Friday nights, eat out at the same restaurants and indulge in lollipops on the ride home from church. We rock out to the same songs, singing along as loudly as we can and cozy up with the same old cup of cocoa year round-simply because it feels good. We are people who kneel to pray together at night and who have the same argument over who gets to sleep in Mommy’s bed tonight. We are, in many ways, predictable.

I get asked often how in the world I cope with the never ending inconsistencies and stresses that are unique to military life. Well, you just do. You cope with what comes with whatever attitude you choose to face life with. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got cancer, a winning lottery ticket or a perpetually absent spouse and three demanding children to raise-you choose how things are going to be. Regardless of where you are and which family members you get to spend time with, you have to live the life in front of you. Most people want to know how I deal with my husband’s deployments and I tell them that we make the best of it when he’s home and we make the best of it when he’s gone. Perhaps that seems overly simplistic, particularly when you add up your current list of challenges, but more often than not, I think we complicate things more than we need to. I choose if it is going to be a bad day or a good day, and I choose that when my husband is home and when he is away. I find the good in either situation (because there is always good to be found).

And yet, I am by no means a cock-eyed optimist. I am decidedly a realist, not down on life, but keenly aware of life’s expectations and curve balls, always trying to keep a pragmatic but positive grip on where I stand in all of that.

At about one thirty this morning, I had some time to think about missing my husband. Gabe has a tummy bug, and so I was up washing sheets, changing pajamas and trying to soothe a very sad baby back to sleep. After that was accomplished, it was just me and the night-time silence, and I lay awake for quite some time, unable to sleep, which has been happening a lot lately. I missed Chris, but not in a boo-hoo, poor me kind of way. I was content to be missing him.

You see, I have never had the luxury of missing my husband before. Oh, he’s been gone plenty, both when deployed and working at home. I’ve been annoyed. I’ve been completely exhausted. I’ve been the martyr. I’ve felt treated unfairly and I’ve definitely been handed the short end of the stick more times than I can remember. But since moving to South Dakota, we have enjoyed a very reasonable schedule. Our lives, although not perfect, are a lot closer to “normal”. We have had a whole year of this, and it feels like a privilege.

Chris works hard, but the hours are more fair. He is gone a lot when he isn’t working because he has time to serve in church, and he is often helping someone out. He is very busy furthering his education as well. But for all that busyness, he’s been present. Before, I didn’t have a husband present enough to go help a neighbor move or to attend church meetings with his family. He certainly wasn’t present enough to work on any of his own goals like education or to have friends over for dinner. When he left on deployments before, it kind of seemed like he had already been gone.

I felt very blessed last night, despite the throw up and the lack of sleep. Chris has only been gone a week, but I get to miss him.

Life is good.]]>

Making Home A Heaven In 2011: Rest And Routine In August

  • August 1, 2011 6:57 pm

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Yippee! It’s August!

I love the back to school season. The nearer it gets the more eager I am to jump back in to the steady, dependable routine we enjoy when school is in session. Perhaps I just don’t manage things very well in the summer, but I never feel that I am accomplishing quite as much in the summer chaos. I always feel derailed and disarmed.

There is so much peace of mind in a predictable routine. Studies show that babies and children do better with a schedule- so do adults!

The theme for August is Rest and Routine. With all of the business of back to school, the mad shopping trips and orientations, (usually coming right after an energy draining vacation) it is a great month to make goals in these areas. I am hoping to enjoy the final lazy days of summer, while easing into the upcoming school and work schedule.

This week I am working on my sleep. Summer always throws me for a loop, and boy am I off track! The sun is out and it doesn’t matter if it is five in the morning or ten at night, the kids are up and wearing me out. I’ve had too many late nights (which result in too many early mornings) and too many sleepless nights on vacation with a toddler who doesn’t like sleeping away from home. Over the next three weeks, I plan to gradually move my morning and night to 9pm and 5am, so I am bright eyed and bushy tailed come the start of school.

On top of that, I am working on getting the kids back into school mode! Their sleeping hours are being more carefully watched, and we are beginning to focus more on things like laying clothes out the night before, and prioritizing getting dressed and ready as soon as they are awake.

I am hoping to get some mental rest as well, but this week is a marathon of obligations and things on my to do list, so I am not sure how well that is going to go. Next week should be much more relaxed, provided I keep up with my to do list this week. Right now, that’s my motivation. Yesterday I kicked to do list butt, today. . .not so much. Only eight out of thirteen. I’m hoping a good night’s sleep will get me back in the game tomorrow!

Next week: How this military spouse deals with an AWOL husband- and yes- it is all about the routine! Brought to you by a woman who’s airman is headed out on another adventure in a few days!]]>

Gourmet Camping

  • July 31, 2011 4:26 pm

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We are at the height of summer. It is 103 degrees here today, and I am grateful to be inside enjoying the air conditioning. A few weeks ago we took a trip to Manti, Utah. This is a small town nestled in between two mountain ranges. There are lakes, deer, sagebrush, cliffs, breathtaking views, mud and poison oak. Before we were married, my husband went on several camping trips in this untamed wilderness. Now, there is a small plot of tamed land way up high where our family has a cabin. While I can (and have) roughed it, I really do prefer the cabin. All the wild you want plus running water and a bed does it for me.

Don’t think this is wild enough? A mere fifteen feet from the cabin I actually caressed a wild rattlesnake about two years ago. No joke. Its head was down its hole and it was young enough to be greenish and not have a well distinguished diamondback pattern yet. I stroked it’s scales, muscles rippling under my fingers as it slithered into its cave; then the rattles passed, shaking tiny maracas of death, and I scrambled back to the safety of the cabin in record time. Then Chris took a shovel and ended that problem. People, that’s plenty wild for me.

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Well, whether camping in a pup tent or in the luxury of a cabin, either way you need to eat! I had a big plan for our little trip up the mountain. I had with me an Augason Farms’ Breakfast Pack. Six number ten cans containing scrambled eggs, hash browns, creamy wheat cereal, sliced strawberries, buttermilk pancake mix and vegetarian bacon. You can make an awful lot with this combination of foods, and so I had some great ideas for dinner.

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This pack is perfect for camping, particularly if you are roughing it because everything included only requires water and a little heat to make it perfect. You can make a very quick breakfast over a fire and never have to worry about refrigeration or about food attracting critters when you’re storing it. The last thing you need is a hungry bear hanging around because he can smell your grub. If you are backpacking, you can get these in smaller cans, easy to tuck into a pack and with a pull top lid for tool-less opening.

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Anyway, back to my big plan. We had several fishing trips in the previous week, so we all had sunburns and a freezer loaded with delicious rainbow trout. We were going to take the trout up to the cabin, and enjoy a breakfast fish fry with some hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, sweet strawberries and more. It was going to be delicious! Before we left I made sure I grabbed a few extra tidbits to help the trout along. A bag of flour, butter, a little lemon. . .visions of perfect fish were dancing in my head as I packed up all those little food accessories.

We loaded into our vehicle and started up the mountain. We were nearly to the cabin when it dawned on me that I hadn’t packed the trout. Turns out, no one else had either. So much for trout dinner!

This presented a few other problems. Here we were, seven hungry people up a mountain and dinner was missing the main event. I looked at my breakfast pack and looked through a few cupboards. There wasn’t much. Aside from a few old sodas, the fridge and freezer were completely empty. And to make matters worse, I had promised to cook a great dinner, not just for my family, but for my in-laws. No pressure there, right? Ugh.

Now, this is life, folks. I know most of you considering food storage and preparedness probably wonder if what you are doing is enough. Everyone has gaps in their preparedness- it’s human nature. Whether the cause is a lack of funds, lack of understanding or sheer forgetfulness- we will all forget the trout at some point. The trick is to not let it get you down, and to use what you do have and your know how to get you by!

I still had the entire breakfast pack. I got the eggs and hash browns going and then tried to figure out what to do with the rest. The strawberries caught my eye and I decided to wing some strawberry muffins. Seeing as how I was short most of the usual ingredients, this was going to take some thought. I needed the basics like oil and baking soda, and I didn’t have them. I looked over my six cans and grabbed the pancake mix. There’s baking soda in there, oil too. So I put some of that in my bowl. I used a few tablespoons of my dehydrated scrambled eggs so these muffins would get nice and fluffy. I wanted this to have a little more nutritional value, so I added some creamy wheat cereal for some whole wheat goodness. A little of the flour I had brought for the salmon made the whole wheat a little milder. I had almost no sugar, so I added what little I had and hoped it worked. There was also no milk, but I knew some of that was in the pancake mix, so I just needed something wet. Since I was low on sugar, I used a soda to mix it all together. The cabin didn’t have muffin pans, but it did have an old cake pan, so I improvised with that, added in sliced strawberries and threw it in the oven at 375 degrees. Then I just hoped it would turn out!

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I made a few flapjacks. (Yea! There was syrup in the cabin)! I also took a few tablespoons of sugar and the dehydrated strawberries and combined them with a little water to make a delicious strawberry compote for those of us who preferred that over syrup.

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The eggs were perfect. You would think eggs would go weird when they are dehydrated and then reconstituted, but these were lighter than air and so, so good. The hash browns were also super yummy, and super easy.

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My “muffins” came out very well too! The kids were happy! Our tummies were full! Dinner was saved!

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We had a nice, lazy afternoon at the cabin. Later on, the kids went out to play snacking on trail-worthy honey coated banana slices and the rest of the strawberry slices.

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If you’re going camping in the next few weeks, you should try the breakfast pack for your on the trail morning meal. Grab a can of your favorite Augason Farms soup or stew for dinner, and some dried fruit to help keep your energy up during a hike! It doesn’t get any easier (or better) than this!

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All of the basic recipes are on the cans, but if you would like to try the muffins, here is the recipe. I did just a little tweaking of the recipe once I was home, but remember that you can use substitutions- do the best you can with what you have on hand, use your baking knowledge and give it a try!

Leah’s No Trout Strawberry Muffins

2 cups buttermilk pancake mix
1/2 cup creamy wheat cereal
1 1/2 cup strawberries
1/3 cup dried scrambled eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup milk

Mix well, bake at 375 degrees until muffins are golden brown, and enjoy!

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Making Home A Heaven In 2011: July Theme

  • July 25, 2011 1:55 pm

July's Theme is Heritage.

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I chose this theme for many reasons. The USA celebrates its heritage every July fourth, and I think that our citizens remember a little more about that in July. Also, families tend to reconnect over the summer, and with so many older generations passing, some of these precious interactions may likely be the last. We make a lot of time for BBQ, water play and sparklers, but sometimes we forget to sit a spell with these grandparents and great aunts and uncles. Frequently, people don’t recognize the unique opportunity they have to learn at the knee of someone who’s life experience is a fascinating blend of history and your personal family values. That isn’t a chance you get twice.

A few years ago, I felt impressed to start gathering some genealogical information about my mother’s side of the family. I dug through photo albums, made contact with my relatives in Norway, and drove a few of my favorite octogenarians a bit crazy with all the phone calls and pressing questions about long forgotten details. I became The Family Historian. I loved it! I have as far back as eight generations on a few family lines and lots more to work on in the future. I felt such a strong connection to these great-great-great grandparents. No one wants to be forgotten when she’s gone, and yet, that is what happens. I was very pleased to tell their stories and get some information down for my children and my children’s children. I’m glad to know them.

I have already lost most of my grandparents and members of that “greatest generation”. I miss them. I know so many of their stories, but I wish I knew more. I wish I understood better what it was like for them to be born to parents who had just immigrated to America. I wonder how those great grandparents felt leaving loved ones in Norway and ending up in the middle of North Dakota. It is a mystery. Shortly after I gathered the information that I have now, all of my cherished sources died, and a lot went with them.

My husband is lucky to have his grandparents still living and actively participating in our lives. I am lucky too. I have had a different perspective coming into these grandparents a little later in life. Through their stories I have learned more about history as well as about them. I never took anything as usual, because to me, it was all unusually new and wonderful. I haven’t heard all of grandpa’s stories yet like the rest of his family, so I am an easy captive audience, perfectly content to learn all that I can. I don’t mind hearing these tales a second or third time, because if I don’t learn them- how will I tell my children? Every moment with them is precious.

I have always been impressed with our grandparents generation. Their childhoods were during the Great Depression and their young adult years had them serving in a horrific world war. If they survived all of that, they had to raise teenagers during the sixties, which undoubtedly required every bit of moral fortitude they had gained in their youths! This generation has character that we are sorely lacking. Principles of thrift, family values, sacrifice, hard work and delayed gratification have become endangered species these days, dying out just as quickly as this greatest generation.

There is no need to work hard and be thrifty if you can get everything you want with a credit card. There is no reason to care if your country is at war if it requires no sacrifice from you, and so we borrow to fund wars and tut-tut-tut when we think about the mess we are leaving our children, but do nothing. Education isn’t a privilege as it was back then; it has become an entitlement. And if the kids aren’t learning we would never think to look within our own homes when we can conveniently blame teachers and demand more government intervention.

Yes, I will miss that generation.

While I was in Manti I had the opportunity to read a manuscript that was written about the experiences a dear family friend during his time as a Prisoner of War during World War 2. It was gut wrenching account of the brutality that those men suffered during their years of captivity. It needs to be published, because so many of us have no idea what that meant.

I got good marks in school and in college. I took history and literature classes that covered this war, but somehow I missed a lot of the details, particularly where our fight in the Pacific was concerned. It was dramatically overshadowed by endless stories of the Holocaust- histories that are imperative for us to learn- but where was the rest? Nearly every class I took had the issues on the home front and the conflict with the Japanese summarized into less than a paragraph. We didn’t hear about the Bataan Death March, the treatment of POWs, and how it all worked together. Sure, there were glimpses, sentences, names and dates dropped- but we didn’t truly learn any of this. It wasn’t told with true stories, first person accounts and perspective. In a mere two generations, much has been glossed over, meeting the textbook company’s standards of just how much ink and paper they can use and still turn a profit.

Everyone has heard the from George Santayana that says: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Our collective history is quickly on its way to being forgotten. This is astoundingly disrespectful, ungrateful and a damn shame. Spend a little time with your living past this summer. Learn something. Write it down. Tell your children. This isn’t a trivial matter; it is a stewardship that should not be neglected.

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