Sunday, April 3, 2011

72-hour kit, Part 1 of 2

It's an emergency!

Well, not yet it isn't. But the whole idea of emergency preparedness is to prepare BEFORE the emergency, right?

The American Red Cross, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Emergency Management Agency all recommend that everyone have an emergency kit
in their home. Why? Because even though all those agencies try to help when there's a disaster - like a hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, power outage, or, heaven forbid, some type of warfare - it can take days for help to arrive.

Disasters often shut down transportation routes, and even when government agencies and charitable organizations have all the supplies ready to go, it takes time to distribute everything to the people who need it. Think of Hurricane Katrina. Or, you may have to evacuate your home in a hurry, and if everyone else is doing that too, store shelves can empty fast. Think of the California wildfires. So it's just common sense to have some supplies of your own to last until the situation ends or help comes.

A standard recommendation is to have enough supplies to last for 72 hours, or 3 days. You need to think about what your family would need in the way of food, water, clothing, sanitation and bedding/shelter.

I've heard several people say that General Conference is a good time to work on your 72-hour kit because it comes around every 6 months, and that's a good time period for checking to see if any food is close to expiring, or if your kids have outgrown their emergency change of clothes. We've had some emergency-type supplies kicking around for the last few years, but it was never really organized and it was definitely never comprehensive, so I decided to get my act together this weekend!

My in-laws gave us this Red Cross emergency pack for Christmas, and it was a great starting point. It comes with water pouches, ration bars, 2 foil blankets, 2 warming pads, a little first aid kit, 2 ponchos, some Kleenex packs and feminine hygiene products, 2 whistles, a flashlight and a foldable 2 1/2-gallon water container. I added the baby wipes and TP you see below.

Since the Red Cross bag came with two blankets and we have a 4-person family, I put two fleece blankets in a water-tight bucket, along with 3 days worth of diapers, hand sanitizer and a bunch of garbage bags. If there's no plumbing available, you can line the bucket with a garbage bag and... PRESTO! You have a commode. I know, I know, I don't like to think about it either, but if you had no other choice it would be better than sitting on a sagebrush, right?

I have young kids, so I packed just a small backpack for each of them to carry: a complete change of clothes, a coloring book and crayons, a small toy, and a whistle in case they get separated from us. It seems funny to bring entertainment for the kids when you're trying to pack light, but it is important to keep morale high during a stressful situation, and if the kids are stressed out with nothing to distract them, everyone will be miserable!

My sister-in-law made these darling little drawstring bags and they are just perfect; the girls love them.

Read on for part 2!

72-hour kit: Part 2 of 2

All right now, on to the food! That's everyone's first thought when disaster strikes, right? There are lots of options. You can get ration bars, but I don't know what they taste like and I have doubts about whether my kids would eat them. You can get MREs or various dehydrated dinners you can get at camping supply stores where you pour boiling water into a pouch and wait a minute for them to cook.

I ended up deciding to only pack food that I knew Roy and the girls were familiar with and would eat, and that needed no cooking or preparation. I didn't think we would want to deal with the hassle of cooking equipment and fuel, especially if we had to leave the house. Here's one of the breakfasts I packed for the four of us. It all fit into a gallon-size Ziploc bag: eight granola or cereal bars, four fruit cups and four orange Crystal Light flavor packets that you can shake up in a bottle of water to make "orange juice."

I thought mini-cereal boxes for one breakfast would create some variety from all the granola bars I was packing, but they were bulky! Every meal I packed fit into a gallon-size bag except for this one; it took two bags to hold eight mini-cereal boxes and four Carnation instant breakfast drinks.

Here's one of the lunch bags I packed. A full-size can of ravioli for each of the adults, a mini-bowl for the girls, four pouches of real fruit bites, and four raspberry lemonade Crystal Light flavor packets. I also put a piece of candy for each person in each lunch and dinner bag. (Warning: chocolate and Jolly Ranchers will melt and make a big mess, and mint-flavored gum will make everything else in the bag taste like mint after a few months.) Don't forget the fork or spoon!

And here's a dinner bag. Again, a large-size bowl for the adults and small size for the kids, fruit cups, Crystal Light and candy. There are lots of different flavors of soup, stew and Chef Boyardee, and lots of different fruit cups or fruit leather you can buy, so the meals don't get boring. You can also use canned tuna or chicken, jerky, Vienna sausages, cheese or peanut butter cracker sandwiches, or anything that will last at least six months.

Here's what the food for all 72 hours looks like. The girls helped me bag it up while we listened to conference and we had a lot of fun! I fit all the food, clothes and various supplies into three backpacks, a bucket and the two mini-backpacks. I think it's best to store it in the house if you can, since the temperature changes in a garage can cause problems with the food. It could go in a closet or under a bed, out of the way, but where you can get it quickly if necessary.

I'm not done with my kit yet - I've still got to store water. The recommendation is for 1 gallon of water per person per day. You can buy bottled water, or rinse out apple juice bottles and fill them up with tap water. So that's my next goal! I may add other things to the kit as time and money allow, but hopefully I'm off to a good start now.

If anyone has suggestions for me or anyone else who wants to start working on their emergency kit, please leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Confession time: I'm an author... and a geek.

Well... I did it! I've completed my first novella and posted it online!

It's been a great learning experience for me because I haven't written fiction since I was assigned to do it for school. I did this purely for fun and believe me, it was.

In the process I also fulfilled another requirement toward earning my geek credentials (I won't get the badge unless I wear a Star Trek uniform to a sci-fi convention and - let's face it - I'm just not geeky enough to do THAT). You see, my story is a fan fiction, or fanfic. If you're not familiar with fanfic, it's where you write a story set in a world and based on characters that have already been created by a professional writer. In a nutshell, it's writing with training wheels. Probably the most popular kinds of fanfic right now are based on "Harry Potter," "Twilight" and "Star Wars."

In some ways, it's easier to write a fanfic than your own original work because you don't have the burden of creating all the characters from scratch, and you don't have to establish all the rules of the universe - for example, you don't have to stop and explain how Harry Potter's wand works or why Edward Cullen is a "vegetarian." That's because anyone reading your story is already a fan of the original book or movie and is familiar with that universe.

In other ways it can be more difficult, because you have to mimic the voice and behavior of the original characters well enough that it doesn't jar your readers with reactions like, "But Dumbledore would never do that!"

One benefit of writing fanfic is that your readers are already fans, so it's easy to get a lot of people enthusiastic about reading each update of your story and they will leave reviews and comments for you. When you go to the website and find a pile of comments waiting for you, it's like Christmas morning! The website also tracks the number of people who click on your story and their country of origin, so it's a lot of fun to see that people from as far away as Tanzania and Malaysia are enjoying your story.

How it started

Early this year, I was reading some fanfiction and I started to think," why don't I do this?" After all, I have always loved writing and I got my degree in journalism, but I hadn't written much in the last several years because I've been working as an editor rather than a writer. My high school English teacher once asked me, several years after I graduated from high school, if I was still writing and I had to tell her no. I realized that if I didn't keep writing, I would start to get rusty. So I wrote a short humorous story set in the "Star Wars" universe and got brave enough to post it online.

I got a lot of positive response to my story and... I was hooked! I wrote another short story and then I got the idea that ultimately turned into my novella. A novella is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel. Mine is about 26,000 words long, divided into 13 chapters. I wrote most of it at night after the girls were in bed. It is really difficult to concentrate well enough to write with all the noise and chaos two young children can create!

While I was working on the novella, Roy found an announcement on Orson Scott Card's website that he was teaching a two-day writer's workshop in Orem, Utah, in June. OSC is a prolific author who is probably best known for the novel "Ender's Game." He writes mostly science fiction and fantasy, and has also written Christian/LDS fiction, including a series on the lives of women in the Bible. I'm a big fan of his books, so Roy encouraged me to sign up and take the class, which I did. OSC worked us from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for two days, not only giving lectures but also giving us assignments to come up with story ideas and bring them to class to be shared and critiqued.

Me with Orson Scott Card!

It was a lot of work, but I learned a lot and it was well worth the time and effort. Roy really deserves the credit for entertaining the girls in an unfamiliar city for two days, and for convincing me to sign up in the first place. I am so blessed to have such a supportive husband.

For the last month or so, I've been polishing the novella based on what I learned from OSC's workshop and helpful comments I got from my readers online. Ironically, OSC doesn't really approve of fanfic - he told us to go out and write our own stuff already. I have every intention of doing that when the time is right, but I feel like fanfic is a good starting place for me. Part of the reason he says that, I think, is because you can't make money writing fanfic. Since the universe and characters are owned by professional writers, you could never sell a fanfic to a publisher. But he's a full time fiction writer, whereas I have no plans to quit my day job, so I am free to treat my writing like a hobby rather than a job.

Now that my novella is finished, I plan to complete one last fanfic I have started and then tackle writing my own original stories. Wish me luck!

If you're interested in reading the three stories I've posted online, here are the synopses and links. They are probably best enjoyed if you have at least a passing familiarity with the "Star Wars" movies:

My novella: "The Shaman of the Whills," a 13-chapter adventure/drama story about a teenage Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, searching for the Ancient Order of the Whills, keepers of the secret to immortality. Most of the story takes place before Episode 1, "The Phantom Menace," but the final chapters deal with the end of "Revenge of the Sith."

My first short story: "Celebrity is as celebrity does," a 6-chapter humor/romance story about an adult Obi-Wan Kenobi dealing with the pressures of being a celebrity during the Clone Wars. It takes place between Episode 2, "Attack of the Clones," and Episode 3, "Revenge of the Sith," and also features Siri Tachi, a character from Jude Watson's "Jedi Apprentice" books, as well as appearances by Yoda and Mace Windu. How can it be a romance story when Jedi are forbidden to love, you ask? You'll have to read to find out. Roy says this is my funniest story.

My second short story: "Breath of Heaven," a 5-chapter humor/lighthearted story about an adult Obi-Wan Kenobi inadvertently aggravating his friend Siri Tachi when he tries to do something nice for her during the Clone Wars - and a clone gets blamed for it. It also takes place between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith."

If you have trouble with the links, just go to and click "Search," "Find author" and type in "ForceforGood." All three stories will pop up. You're welcome to leave constructive comments about the stories here or on

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some more geek credential requirements to qualify for. Does anyone have a Star Trek uniform I can borrow?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Waffles: The Final Frontier

Who would be geeky enough to buy something like this??

She wanted the Chekov vaffle.

Almost too pretty to eat...

Chris Pine is even hot on a waffle! Well, after it's been in the toaster anyway.

Live long and prosper, baby. CHOMP!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Look at all the weeds I killed out of my landscaping! YEAH BABY YEAH!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My new(ish) home!

Behold! Our new house! Well, not entirely new anymore; I can't believe we've been living here for a full year now. We were a one-child family when we moved in!

Here is our dining room. The red wall was a pain to paint, but we love the results!

These two photos are of Katelyn's room. I am majorly impressed by Roy's mad skills in painting her room, with some help from his family!

And here is Sierra's room! She was so excited to move into her "green room."
Sierra hanging out in her room!

This is the view from the backyard. I love living in Utah - you can have a gorgeous mountain view almost anywhere!

Here's our living room, which is still a work in progress. We're hoping to rearrange the furniture, as soon as we figure out how to move a very heavy piano across the room.

Coming in my next post - all about my square foot garden!