Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tattler lid sale

I just noticed a post on SurvivalBlog that the fine folks at Pantry Paratus are having a Tattler canning lid sale.

The notice reads as follows: The discount $1.25 per box and you get free box of gaskets when you get 10 or more boxes of a single size. The discount and bonus shows up at checkout.

Pantry Paratus is one super-dooper cool website with a blog, radio interviews, homesteading advice, prepping advice, and everything else under the sun.... and incidentally run by one of the nicest couples you'll ever meet.

So if you've been wanting some Tattler lids, now may be an excellent time to stock up.

Patching pillows

Speaking of frugal living, I finally got around to doing something I've been meaning to do for months: patching my pillow.

When Don and I were married in 1990, we received a set of "feather-down" bed pillows which I absolutely loved. I don't know what happened to Don's pillow, but I've used mine for over two decades (and please spare me the lecture about how unhealthy this is; I love my pillow).

But it's finally starting to develop some holes, through which little downy feathers are forever poofing out. One big hole...

...and one smaller one.

Being too cheap frugal to buy a new pillow, I decided to patch it. I used the square of thin batting I used last week for a temporary tea bag. This material is more like thin interfacing than batting.

Since it doesn't fray along the edges (plus it's quite tough), I didn't have to hem it or fold over the edge; I just doubled it up and sewed it on.

I also noticed some additional small holes starting to form. I guess I have to face reality; it's time to sew a new pillow. I'll use a thrift-store sheet and cut it to size, then re-stuff it with the same feathery contents (a hint from my mother: do this outside, not in the house).

But until I get around to doing that, at least my pillow is patched and won't leak feathers. And since no one will ever see the patches, I didn't have to worry about neat picture-perfect stitching.

This is in contrast to a couch pillow that split a seam a couple months ago, and on which I did do neat stitching.

So what do new feather-down bed pillows cost these days? How much did I save?

At last, somebody's doing it right!

I confess I get sick and tired of news profiles of "frugal" people who do absurd things like going a week without shopping (oooh!) or (cough) going a month without spending (after being allowed to stock up in advance). There's even a book describing a year without (discretionary) shopping (be sure to read the reviews).

Well at last the news folks got it right. They profiled a young couple who is living -- very well -- on $14,000/year. Good for them!

These folks are doing it all right: cooking from scratch, paying everything with cash, buying bulk, etc. They also homeschool their two children (here's their blog).

I say, more power to 'em. At an age where most people spend themselves into debt, this couple is doing whatever it takes to stay out of debt and live richly. They're passing these skills on to their children. My gosh, we need more folks like them. They've got their heads screwed on straight.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cow kisses

Some quiet moments among the beasties.

Matilda and Thor.

Victoria and Atlas.

Monday, February 25, 2013

For ladies -- the beauty of a bra holster

This is my revolver.

It's a sweet little Rossi .38 which I've had for, oh, about fourteen years now. We bought it after I got my concealed carry permit back when we lived in Oregon. I wanted something good-quality but small, something I could slip inside my purse.

It's biggest drawback is its weight -- nearly two pounds.

After we moved to Idaho, naturally I got my concealed carry permit for here as well.

So here I have a nice purse-sized revolver, and my concealed carry permit. So what's the problem? The problem is how to carry, concealed.

Women have a lot of problems with concealed carry because there's hardly any place on our person to hide a weapon. Waistband holsters are immediately apparent on a woman (and I live eternally in sweatpants anyway, which doesn't have a sturdy waistband). Purses can either be made for, or adapted to, carrying a firearm, but it makes for a heavy purse...and purses can be stolen.

For a few years I solved the concealed carry issue by wearing a wrap-around-the-waist Neoprene holster which secured my revolver in the small of my back. It worked fairly well -- it was virtually invisible underneath a shirt -- but it had its drawbacks. I couldn't drive while wearing it, nor could I wear a backpack. Plus the Velcro band holding the revolver in the holster started to lose its "grip" over time, resulting in a loose firearm.

I thought about getting a Flashbang Bra Holster. However this consists of a specialized strap fastened to one's bra.

Frankly I'd need a nuclear bra to hold my two-pound Rossi. Plus I've read reviews on this type of holster that indicated the concealed firearm jostles and dangles too much, and its outline is apparent under certain conditions. For me, this wasn't an acceptable option.

So for a long time I simply didn't carry my revolver. Until recently.

A few years ago a friend started a cottage business making bra holsters. She calls her business Naturally Concealed.

"Bra holster" is something of a misnomer because the holster is a separate garment, not part of the bra. But what it does is nestle the firearm against the bust. The handle fits between one's cleavage (incidentally giving a bit of "lift" into the bargain, if you get my drift) while the body of the firearm is held securely under the bust.

The means the holster is virtually invisible under most garments.

The holsters are custom-made according to a woman's measurements, the type and caliber of firearm, and whether you draw right- or left-handed (I'm a leftie).

I've coveted one of these ever since my friend started her business. In fact, I ordered one almost two years ago -- and never got around to picking it up or paying for it until recently. So for the last couple of months, I've finally had a chance to try this gizmo out.

And oh my. I became an instant convert.

Here's my holster. The "dip" is where the barrel of the gun fits. This side faces outward. The fabric is thick and smooth, erasing any outline of the firearm under a shirt.

On the side facing my skin is the pouch (the revolver actually fits further down into the pouch than is shown). When worn, the exposed grip nestles into my cleavage, rendering it invisible under all but the tightest shirts (and I don't wear tight shirts).

The strap even has some sewn-in slots for additional ammo.

On the first day, I wore my revolver (empty) around the house and barn, doing ordinary things, just to get used to wearing it. I even drove into town to see how it feels driving (no problem!). I was astonished at how comfortable it is. My two-pound Rossi, which is normally pretty durn heavy when carried in my purse, feels feather-light while strapped to my chest.

I've taken to wearing my gun whenever I leave home (as long as I stay in Idaho, of course). No one is the wiser. I've even hugged friends and they don't suspect I'm carrying concealed. The only movement restriction I've found is I can't lean into something because I'll be leaning into the firearm.

I haven't yet worn the holster during hot weather, but another friend who's worn her holster for a couple years says that the bra holster is no warmer than wearing any other garment during hot weather. The fabric of the holster includes a waterproof barrier, so sweat won't harm the finish on the firearm.

In short, ladies, I can't recommend this holster highly enough. It fits both small- and large-framed women with the utmost discretion. In these lawless times, carrying a firearm is one of the smartest things you can do. Here's a way to do it while still dressing like a lady.

UPDATE: As of 4/19/14, Naturally Concealed has closed its doors for business due to too many outside commitments and projects. What a pity.

Chuckle du jour

A friend sent these photos. Good for a laugh.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's the little things in life

Our microwave is broken.

This is not a huge issue in our house. We have the smallest-sized microwave available, and use it solely for heating things up (rather than cooking). So while it's convenient, it's not essential.

However, there's one exception: heating my tea.

I'm an early riser, and over the course of my early-morning quiet hours before the family gets up (which is when I do a great deal of my writing), I have two mugs of tea. I use a thermal-style mug I bought at a thrift store, which helps keep the tea hot.

This mug holds a nice hearty 17 ounces or so. When I'm about halfway done, it starts to cool off, so I pop the mug in the microwave and heat it up again. About halfway through my second mug is about when it's time to release the chickens and feed the cows, so when I come back inside -- often chilled if the weather is cold -- then I re-heat my tea in the microwave and continue to enjoy my steaming beverage.

In short, I like my tea HOT. And the microwave sure was handy for that. No microwave, no hot tea.

I considered this problem quite awhile ago when thinking through what conveniences we take for granted, and decided the best option was to find carafes in thrift stores. I figured this would be the best way to keep things hot.

Coffee carafes were easy to find. Within a week or two, I found one for Don's coffee.

But I needed to find a carafe dedicated to tea. You see, I loathe coffee in any size, shape, or form. The taste makes me gag, and I can detect even the slightest flavor. I can't have coffee contaminating my tea mug, so I make sure it's never used for coffee. But I encountered a problem while searching for second-hand carafes -- they'd all been used for coffee, and the insides still reeked with the smell.

It took several months of diligent searching before I found a carafe that had never been used for coffee.

I snatched it up for the delicious price of $2.49.

Once purchased, these carafes sat on the shelf for well over a year, unused. This morning, with the microwave out of order, it was my first chance to test how well these carafes work.

The next problem to overcome was how to steep the tea. I use loose tea purchased in bulk from Upton Teas (a lot cheaper this way!)...

...and I use a tea ball.

But my tea ball wouldn't fit inside the mouth of the carafe.

So I cut a square of thin batting...

...and spooned my tea into that.

I secured it with a rubber band...

...then attached a string.

I hooked this over the handle of the carafe, and stuffed the tea bag inside. Once the boiling water was poured in, I just left the tea bag inside to steep since I like STRONG tea.

Rather than using my large mug, I used a small ceramic mug so I could pour smaller amounts. Worked beautifully! The tea in the carafe stayed nice and hot, even after I got in from feeding the critters.

Clearly this is just a temporary solution. If I start using the carafe on a regular basis, I'll sew a proper little bag and use it for a tea ball, but in the meanwhile this worked well.

See? It's the little things in life -- a nice cup of HOT tea -- that can make all the difference in attitude. When considering one's prepping inventory, sometimes it's important to think of small comforts in addition to big survival issues... especially when it's as simple as a carafe of hot tea.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Activist or freeloader?

Here's an interesting article which caught my eye this evening.

It seems a young German couple couple is managing to live without money. "A Berlin family of three has been living on practically nothing but love and the goodwill of others for more than two years and counting," says the article, "not as a victims of the rough economy, but as activists who are on a money strike to protest what they call our 'excess-consumption society.'"

I thought, "My goodness, how lofty and resourceful they must be." However upon further reading, it seems this "resourcefulness" largely depends "on the goodwill and excess resources of others."

In other words, mooching.

The profile of this couple blows hot and cold. On one hand, I certainly can't argue with many of their philosophic points about how wasteful, materialistic, and over-consumptive western society is. I have shelves full of books arguing that very point. And they are unquestionably doing odd jobs and freelance work to "pay" for living spaces and doctor bills. There's a certain attraction about being so free-spirited and unencumbered in a world where most people are laden down with possessions. And it's not like they're forcing anyone to barter with them or share their "excess resources" (except, arguably, government resources).

But at what point does this free-spirited lifestyle descend into mooching? How convenient that Germany offers "universal medical care" (paid for by...whom?) as well as "child support" received from the government (which, the article hastily adds, is "granted to all children" -- paid for by...whom?).

As one commenter posted at the end of the article, "This guy reminds me of someone who's trying to quit smoking - they still smoke, only they smoke other peoples cigarettes."

In fact, most of the comments were negative. "Who are these hippies?" someone posted. "Money is hampering our dreams? How do you think the people who show you goodwill and charity are ABLE to show you goodwill and charity? Though the money they earn at their jobs."

Am I misjudging these folks? Are they being truly resourceful or merely freeloading? Where's the dividing line?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ignoring reality doesn't make it go away

I have a dear friend whose mother died of skin cancer. Skin cancer, as you undoubtedly know, is one of the most curable cancers there is... if it’s caught early. Otherwise it’s nearly always fatal.

But this wonderful woman, who always had a smile for everyone and radiated sweetness wherever she went, ignored the nagging discolored and painful mole on her thigh. She had a huge – and I mean huge – family history of cancer, and so was naturally scared about developing it herself. What’s tragic is that she ended up acquiring the single most treatable and curable cancer there is.

But she ignored it, told herself it would go away, then (after about a year) determined she would treat it through alternative and unproven means. After a horrible and painful struggle, she finally passed away.

This is a classic case of ignoring something in the hopes it would go away. And here’s the thing:

It never works.

That cavity you’ve ignored won’t go away. Skin cancer won’t go away. The potential for natural or man-made disasters won’t go away. Since none of these things will go away, we need to be vigilant and prepared to handle them in calm, sensible ways.

Had my friend’s mother seen a dermatologist the moment she noticed the discolored mole on her thigh, she could have undergone a minor procedure to remove it, stayed vigilant about any additional moles, and lived for many more years bestowing her sweet smiles on her friends. Instead she lost her life decades earlier than she should have.

It was Ayn Rand who said, “You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” Think about it.

Those of us who have become Preppers in the last five years – and believe me, there are millions more now than there were five years go – are doing so because we recognize potential problems on the horizon, and we know ignoring them won’t make them go away. These potential problems can range from economic collapse to a massive solar flare taking down the power grid. Others worry about peak oil or terrorist attacks. Preppers come from all walks of life and embrace enormous numbers of concerns, but we all have one thing in common: we are not ignoring these problems in hopes they’ll go away. Instead we are trying to recognize what the potential ramifications might be, and prepare accordingly.

Ignoring – which remember, shares the same root as ignorance – a problem never makes it go away (duh). The problem persists and/or gets worse, whether we ignore it or not. It’s up to us as responsible individuals to do what we can to make sure our selves and our family will be as safe as possible when the problem comes to a head.

There are a number of factors that contribute to our certainty that something catastrophic is heading our way. The excessive personal debt many individuals labor under; the endless economic recession which may well have already tipped into an economic depression; the poor job market; the inflation affecting the value of our fiat currency; the socialistic big-brother direction our nation seems determined to follow; and most of all, the staggering, unpayable, hideous debt load of our federal and state governments… all contribute to a feeling that our economy isn’t far from a crash. The moral breakdown of society insures that any problems will be magnified by chaos and anarchy.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the chaos affecting other parts of the world that could involve us as well. A collapse of the Euro would not only affect our own financial markets; but if war were to break out in Europe following such a collapse, you can be sure we would be impacted somehow. And let’s not forget the seething hatred the Middle East holds for America.

But so many Americans prefer to sink themselves into the trivial and ignore the serious. We obsess about American Idol and think that because the Hollywood stars look sleek and sexy, all must be right with the world. We dimly note that the price of milk has doubled in the last few years but don’t think about the overall picture. After all, if we ignore such things, maybe the problems will go away.

And then something horrific happens – 9/11 or a stock market crash or a war – and we wonder where that came from and why didn’t we see it coming?

The fact is, very little happens that doesn’t give some sort of advanced warning (with the possible exception of certain natural disasters such as earthquakes). All it takes is vigilance and a determination not to depend wholly on the mainstream media (which tends to filter world and national events to support their agenda) for our news.

Becoming a Prepper means becoming more vigilant about world and national events, and projecting how those events might have a personal impact on our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we get bogged down with calamity to the point where we can’t function. Rather, I’m suggesting that Preppers can live with much more calmness and peace because they’ve prepared to the best of their ability to withstand chaos and disasters.

Ignorance never solved anything. Ignorance never caused problems to disappear. The only thing ignorance produces is surprise when a calamity hits – rapidly followed by dismay at how it affects us.

But action is the answer. If tracking the financial insecurity in Europe disturbs you, the solution is to take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard your own financial situation. If the potential for urban unrest in your city disturbs you, take steps to lessen your vulnerability. If your region is subject to hurricanes or other regular natural disasters, having the supplies on hand to withstand such disturbances will go a long way toward your piece of mind.

Ignorance can be described as sticking your head in the sand, ostrich-like. But you know what happens when your head is in the sand: your rump is in the air, exposed and vulnerable and waiting to be kicked.

Only when your head is where it should be and your vision is clear and focused do you have the possibility of kicking back at whatever fate brings your way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stressed out kids?

A reader named Kymber sent me a fascinating article from the UK Daily Mail on how one fifth of British children suffer from 'school phobia' but half of parents are unaware of the problem.

Here are the highlights:

• Children aged five to six and 10 to 11 most likely to suffer from the condition
• Results in children not wanting to attend school due to emotional distress
• Sufferers often fake illnesses on school mornings or suffer genuine stress
• Being bullied was the most common trigger of the phobia, claim parents

It's well-known that stress affects a child's ability to learn, so stress from whatever causes (whether it's bullying, family problems, physical appearance, school size) will impair academic advancement.

I doubt the problem is any better in the U.S. I clearly remember hating junior high school (as it was called at the time) due to the teasing and harassment I got. Things were better in high school because I became friends with the librarians and they used to let me work the counter as well as hide out in the librarian's workroom during my lunch hour. I knew I didn't have things too badly -- bullying wasn't tolerated then as it is today -- but the unpleasant memories still linger.

It's impossible to eliminate bullying or other school stresses. They're just part of the school culture. What's the solution, besides removing the child from school? I have no idea.

I just feel sorry for these poor children who must stress their childhoods away.

Monday, February 18, 2013


I confess, I'm a numbers watcher when it comes to my Google followers. This afternoon, reader Roxanne pushed me up to 900! Thank you, Roxanne!

I hadn't checked my Sitemeter stats in quite awhile, and was shocked to find I had 75,000 readers last month!!! Yikes!

Thank you all so very much for joining us in our humble lives.