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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A City Girl's Guide to Bug Out Bags - Part 1

You don’t have to be a Survivalist to want to be prepared for an emergency.  It can be as simple as wanting to be ready “just in case.” My grandparents would have been ready, in the car, and down the road in a heart beat. I don’t know how, and I never got the opportunity to ask. But being prepared was always in the background.

At the age of 11, I began my journey into the art of survivalism. One day in September, 1964, I sat in the backseat while my father drove, inching down a highway due to a very bad traffic accident. I recall looking out the window at a horrific scene and thinking “that would never happen to us because my Dad is a great driver.” Three weeks later it was our turn to be in a horrendous traffic accident, and I was the only one who walked out alive. Never say “never”, or that it can’t happen to you – it can.

At present, and in this political climate, there is nothing wrong with having a backup plan, to expect the unexpected, and to have extra supplies on hand. And there is nothing wrong with having a backpack ready to go in case of acts of war, an out of control society, or acts of God. If you leave your survival skills to the expertise of others, during true survival situations you may find yourself without support and used.

You see, under a true survival situation, compassion and welfare go right out the door! Do not expect that anyone is there to help you or you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is time to rely on your skills and knowledge. Should you feel that you are lacking in this area, it’s always wise to do some online studying when possible.

So, are you ready? Let’s get a bag together…just in case.

Get a backpack

It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be lightweight and comfortable. Walking with an uncomfortable pack that’s digging into your shoulders or throwing your back out is a detriment. I purchased a pack at Walmart for $59.99 (Outdoor Gama - 32 liters), walked 600 miles across Spain, and I’d buy it again – it was that great of a pack.

Choose a pack with padded shoulders, and a wide, nicely padded waist belt. Your pack is going to be resting more on your hips than your shoulders. At the end of a day, your shoulders, neck, and back will thank you for all the padding and support.

Do NOT pick out pretty colors. This is not a fashion show. You want something that blends in such as camo, greens, browns, or earth colors. Pink camo is not a consideration except when hiding from deer, so forget Pink, Muddy Girl, or Harvest Orange Camo. You do NOT want to stand out in the crowd.

A 32 liter pack is a good size and not overly large. Weight is everything, and this will give you more than enough room for what you NEED.

A Lesson In Need and Want

There are two things you need during survival – Food and Shelter. That’s it! The fewer things you can take, the better off you’ll be. Keep in mind that you might have to run with this pack on, and oh my! Is that a feat – even when you’re in shape.

When I walked the Camino, friends were trying to be helpful, so they brought me all sorts of items they thought would help my trip. Each of them was described as “Here’s [fill in the blank] and it doesn’t weigh anything!” After two days, I had 26 pounds of items that didn’t weigh anything.
EVERYTHING weighs something. A good rule of thumb is to not carry more than 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, figure 15 pounds and that includes the weight of the pack. Believe me, it’s difficult to accomplish.

This is not a holiday excursion, and so you’ll find a stripped down version predicated on need, not want. And except for item number 14, I have used all these items in various situations, and can attest to their usefulness.

What To Take In A Survival Pack

1. Two additional pair of Carhartt or Smart Wool Socks. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Do not use cotton socks as they will tear the skin off your feet. Cotton socks will also not last. Your feet are your number one priority as they will get you to your destination. Choose merino wool and you’ll be grateful you did. 
2. Two pair of wide-band, cotton boy-style underpants, or something similar. (Three pairs total – one to wear, two in the pack). Some would say that’s one pair too many, but I will allow for this splurge. You do not want nylon, and thongs are worthless. If you can’t stand the idea of cotton, don’t wear any – there’s a reason.
3. Packaged food that can be reconstituted with water – at least two meals per day for one week. That’s 14 packs, and it’s going to take up a lot of room. Do not pack any boxes; take packages out of their boxes. 14 packages of food at 6 ounces a piece, is already 5.25 pounds. This will decrease with each day, so you’ll just have to endure at the beginning. The more fit you are, the better you’ll be able to carry the additional weight for the first few days.
4. One spoon.
5. One folding survival knife with several functions. It does not have to be large, and the lighter, the better. It does not have to have the ability of a Swiss Army Knife, but it needs to be very sharp.
6. One small, super lightweight pot. You can cook and eat out of it. If you purchase a D ring, you can connect it to the outside of your pack, leaving room inside for other items. You do not need a lid.
7. A couple of larger D rings, and a extra pair of long shoe strings. You can use these for all sort of needs besides the obvious.
8. Two little packs of Compede (for your feet, but can be used for other things as well).
9. A water bottle and several water-filter straws. Be sure the straws filter out Giardia – very, very important.
10. 2-5 microfiber cloths. These are your washcloths, your toilet paper, your bandages, for some ages – your period pads, and many other uses. Keep them clean and wash the soiled ones each night.  They will come in extremely handy if supplies are not available. Clothing and cloths can be attached to the outside of your pack for drying during the day. Let the sun do its job while you’re walking.
11. Optional: For cycling women - I suppose I would splurge and fill one side pocket of my pack with a month’s supply of Tampax. Use only if you can’t get supplies from a charity source, or store along the way. This is also weight that will decrease.
12. One bar of soap. Go for a grapefruit, tea tree, or strong pleasant scent. It will be your body soap (grapefruit scent works as a deodorizer), your shampoo, and laundry/dish soap. Soap is soap. It’ll work.
13. Toothbrush and toothpaste.
14. One small bottle of aspirin or ibuprofen, if you can take it.
15. A few bandages with a Neosporin-type ointment. Don’t take the entire box of bandages and you don’t need an entire first-aid kit. That’s a lot of weight.
16. A bottle of Potassium Iodide. Potassium Iodide blocks the thyroid from absorbing potassium iodine that is found in nuclear explosions. Your thyroid will store the potassium iodine in a nuclear explosion, and ultimately destroy it. At the present time, there are only three brands FDA approved on the market – Iosat by Anbex, Thyrosafe by Recipharm AB, and Thyro Shield by Fleming and Co. You can Google CVS, Walgreens, and/or Walmart to find out the use and side effects of Potassium Iodide. This is not a prescription and can be found online from the companies mentioned. These should be ordered asap as they do run out and you can’t get them at the last minute.
17. Light-weight throw.  This is a tough one. Are you leaving in the summer or the winter? Will you be driving, or totally on foot? In the summer, I’d tie one of the lightweight fleece throws to the bottom of my pack - AGAIN, no bright colors. In the winter, I’m going to try for the lightest weight sleeping bag I can find. Naturally, I’ll use this over the thermal jacket I’m wearing. You don’t need a pillow; you can use your pack for that, and I have.

Around your neck, carry a waterproof pouch where you can store a passport (if you have one), your bank card (if you have one), and your cash. Check often to make sure it’s still around your neck and hasn’t fallen off.

What to do with a Smartphone? I’d use it for a few days, and then ditch it – depending on the event. Smartphones can be used to track you, and you don’t want to be tracked. There will be enough people still carrying theirs to hear the news, if you need it. Keep your wits about you - listen well. Trust your gut. Trust little in others.

A Bug-out Bag should be ready to go at all times, so that you’re not wasting valuable time searching for your items and packing. This is a grab and go situation and time could be of the essence. The only thing you should have to stop and fill is your water bottle.

In the days ahead, I will discuss these and additional aspects of surviving on a shoestring. In the meantime, your assignment is to collect the items above. And when you acquire each one, place them in your pack. Then, put your pack on, and adjust the straps so that it feels good while walking about your home.

In the next article, we’ll discuss adjusting your pack, items, and clothes for the journey. Even if you don’t read any further, this will supply you with a bag that works.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Simple Ways To Keep A House Clean As We Age

For those who enjoy a clean house, keeping it in that condition as we grow older becomes a feat. 

For many of us, knees will give out, backs won't allow us to lift heavy objects or move in repetitious movements, and our breathing will remind us how our energy level has been reduced. And for most, personal retirement funds will not cover the cost of a housekeeper.

Over the years, I've learned an incredible amount of tips and tricks from cleaning for women 80+ years old. They were my best teachers in this area. Therefore, I pass their wisdom onto you.

The Basket Method

 I love this one and therefore start with it. Once your home is cleaned to your satisfaction, purchase several small, wicker clothes baskets (or baskets of your choice). Place one in each room where you spend most of your time. Use these baskets for items you are currently using. If you're not using it, put it away or throw it out.

For example, if you're reading a paperback, keep it in the basket when you're not using it. When you move to your bedroom and wish to read it there in the evening, place it in the bedroom basket when finished. When you move back to the living room during the day and wish to read, take it with you and keep it in the living room basket when you're finished.

By utilizing The Basket Method, your rooms continue to remain picked up. The key to this method is to deal with the items away that you no longer use as opposed to filling up the basket to overflowing.

Black, Glass, and Stainless Steel

Do you decorate with these three items/colors? They are a housecleaner's nightmare. They take twice as long to clean and remain in great shape for about 30 seconds.

Cover your glass dining table with a table cloth. Cloths can be fun to change out and are far easier to place in the wash. There will come a day when turning into a pretzel to clean the fingerprints from glass just isn't possible.

It is the same with stainless steel - it shows every fingerprint and water drop. You can eliminate both by choosing not to decorate with stainless steel.

Black furniture and throw rugs will show every piece of dust floating in the air. We all live with the illusion that the air is clear in our homes. No. Dust and lint is constantly afloat throughout our rooms and if you decorate with black (or navy blue, maroon, forest green, etc.), it never looks good. Reconsider changing out dark colors.


Uggghhh. After a certain age (or at any age), you'll discover that tile is another nightmare. If you own 3,000sf of tile on your floors, you actually have a 6,000sf of cleaning to perform. First, you have to sweep it, and then you have to mop it. It is an absolute killer of housecleaners' knees and backs.

Tile becomes a liability with age. If you are prone to accidents, or dropping items, tile is relentless in making sure everything breaks. As we know, sweeping up glass so that it doesn't end up in our feet takes time.

It's also very cold in the winter time, not to mention just how slippery it can be when wet. For most seniors, these are not advantages.

If you are remaining in a tiled home, consider covering it with large area rugs. Even though the carpets need vacuuming, you only have to go over it once as opposed to twice. They are also a great insulation against the cold.

Sitting While Vacuuming

This can be a bit time consuming, depending on your energy level and size of house. But with a very lightweight vacuum (such as a vacuum stick), small jobs can still be accomplished. A well placed chair (or chairs) is utilized while you operate the vacuum. Naturally, you will only reach as far as the length of your arm plus vacuum, but it's still an option to keep your main walkways clean.

For those who live in a small home, this is actually ideal. You don't have to reach every corner, but you will be surprised how much you can accomplish.

Keep Cleaner in Each Room

What's the main cleaner(s) you use in any particular room? Keep an extra bottle/can there to make it easier on yourself.

One Day At A Time

Let's face it - this is a good one for people of all ages. Don't try to clean the whole house. Take one room a day, unless you wish to tackle more. Think of it as your morning exercise!

For example, Monday is Kitchen Day, Tuesday is Bathroom Day, Wednesday is Living Room Day, etc.

Have rooms you don't use? Clean them up and shut the door. This may seem obvious, but in some cases, it's not. If the door is closed, don't use it. Keep it for guests.

Throw It Away!

Let's get honest here - what the heck are you keeping it for, and just when do you expect to use it?

I no longer keep heavy items because I can't pick them up. If I can't operate it by myself, I don't own it. We don't physically improve with age, and most of us are not going to remodel the house at 85. Be realistic. Be honest with yourself. Are you REALLY going to use that again in your lifetime? And "I might" is not an answer. Get rid of it. Someone else can probably use it.

Less Is More

The less you have out, the less you have to clean, and the less you have to figure out where to store.

How many screwdrivers do you need? How many can you operate at the same time? Just how many cups/plates/glasses do you need in yfour house? When was the last time you had 300 people over for a meal? Will a set of 4 or 8 do the job?

I have seen people fill eight shelves in their cabinets with miscellaneous advertising mugs and cups - just in case. 

How many pots and pans do you use and how many people are you cooking for? If you're not entertaining on a large scale, chances are this is not a feature of your future. Eliminate the items you no longer use.

When was the last time you used "anything"? Five years ago? If it's broken, do you really believe it's going to have a resurrection there in the closet? And if you did need it, are you personally going to fix it? Can you afford to fix it? Get rid of it. 

Things are just that - things. They are not alive. They are not people with feelings. They are plastic and metal and will not come to your aid if you need help. Toss the junk and stuff. It'll make your cleaning job far easier.

Make It Fun!

I don't care how old you get - there's music you love! Blast that stereo while you're working on a room. Turn up the sound of a great movie, or TV program. Concentrate on something else while you're cleaning the room. Before you know it, it's done!

If you have cleaning tips/tricks for folks in their senior years, please feel free to share. We can all benefit from each others' knowledge.

And if you have found this article helpful, I'd really appreciate it if you'd share it - Thank you!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Hit Your Knees!

Ritual has been a part of daily life since the beginning of time and our grandparents were no different. We may believe that their lives reflected a series of  habits, but in actuality, they were daily rituals that gave meaning to their existence.

Take a look at the average American farmer in the early 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The simple act of rising each morning, and sharing a cup of coffee or breakfast before work was ritual.

The common act of where my great-grandfather, Arthur, hung his overalls, or taking a thermos to the tractor each day was ritual. It brought a sense of comfort and ease; it was a knowing habit.

The word "ritual" is most often associated with religion or spiritual practice, but my great-grandparents were not religious people. You would have never found a photo representing Christianity, or any other faith, in their home. And though my great-grandmother was a generous, loving woman, I do recall the day she said, "We don't believe in God."

My grandmother, who lived with them, found great comfort and amusement in entertaining the works of Edgar Cayce, the magic of nature, and other forms of divination. And the only time I ever saw her in a church was the day she buried her son, my father. It was she who passed on her belief system to me.

Yet, no matter our background, our personal philosophies, or spiritual beliefs, there comes a time when ritual is a necessary part of support. We reach out to those traditions that gave meaning to our lives from childhood. We may even choose a motion, a stance, or a group of words to bring new focus into the midst of our challenges.

In an act of telling the Divine that one does not always know the answers, that starting over is required, or help is needed with new possibilities, even my grandmother knelt to the Universe when she thought no one was watching. But I did.

And I use it myself. This morning, I shall enter that place I deem Sacred Space in the woods, and plunge my knees in the dirt, looking for divine inspiration. Trust me. I've never been disappointed, even in my impatience.

So if you're looking for a place to start over, a motivational nudge, or to relay the words, "Where Now?", find a place where Heaven meets Earth in your soul, and hit your knees. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ancestral Scents - What Were Yours?

How many of you remember the specific scents that told you, this is Grandma's house?

And they were the same ones all the time - did you notice that?

Just for the fun of it today, write below at least one scent that you will always remember. What fragrance from Grandma's house could always make you smile? And have you ever thought of recreating that scent in your own home when times are challenging? 

For me, it was the smell of lye soap curing. She always made lye soap every year and used it washing clothes, bathing, for doing the dishes - everything! And she did not use essential oils to change the fragrance. It smelled like ordinary lye soap. 

There was a distinct smell of cooking and I think it had to have been something like celery salt and chicken bouillon - a lot of it. She used them in everything and we use them in nothing - perhaps that is why I recognized them.

And holidays or family gatherings? The overpowering smell of Turkey. It could knock a person out of the door - not to mention the heat of the old fashioned kitchen. Was it 200 or 300 degrees in that kitchen?

Simple memories. Write them down. Tell your children. It will give them a glimpse into the lives and personalities of their ancestors. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Women In Flour Sacks - Bringing Color To Their Lives

My parents were born in 1923, and though my father was an only child, my mother was one of eight.

Heading into the Great Depression, she was never going to have the opportunities that my father had and my grandmother had to be overly creative just to put food on the table once or twice a day.

It was an incredible hardship, but then there was the additional challenge of keeping everyone clothed, particularly active children. In my mother's family, everything was used until it was deemed "thread bare." 

With little funds from my grandfather's carpentry, flour was purchased in bags of cloth. This fabric was heavy, durable, and built to last, as it first had to protect the food stuffs it carried. 

To prove this point, my mother made towels for drying dishes out of white flour sacks during the early 40s. I was still using those same towels in the 70s after years of washing and bleaching. 

As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s, I never wore a dress made of flour sacks. The stigma of having endured the Depression weighed heavily on most people who lived during that era. No child of theirs was going to live the same way.

In the Old Photo Archive at the link below, please enjoy the short history and photos regarding flour sack usage. This generation became the ultimate modern day recyclers, and flour sacks were just one way to bring color into a time of challenge.

(image above - I recall this pattern
as my mother made a tablecloth
from it.)

(The Fascinating History of Flour Sack Dresses, Old Photo Archive,, July 22, 2016)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cooking For A Depression

I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother and great-grandmother living in the same house - not my house, but they lived together. I got the best of two generations in one.

Looking back, I know my grandmother probably hated the fact that I loved her Depression era cooking. I never saw her eat it; she only fixed it for me. I'm sure she'd had her fill of it - sort of like me and beef stew. (God have mercy. I hate beef stew).

However, the concept of cooking during the Great Depression should be something we tuck away and use if the situation arises.

Below is a link to Clara's YouTube Channel on Cooking through the Great Depression. Clare has now left us, but what a fantastic gift she left behind!

And for those who would love to jump right into a recipe of Twice Baked Potatoes (Clare says, "They're Not Fancy"), here you go!

Are You Ready For Rationing?

For those of you who are too young to have had a mother or grandmother live through a World War, you may not have heard of "Rationing." You will also may not have heard it spoken with such incredible disdain. 

Throughout every war in the United States, rationing has been documented. Doing without items we deem as common purchases was suddenly a privilege to buy. And why? Because everything of value went to the war effort first. 

My mother could tell you how she carefully sewed up runners in her nylons because she was only allowed to purchase one pair every so many months.

Sugar, dairy, flour, meat, clothing, gasoline, and other simple items were rationed by stamps in a booklet. If you didn't have any more stamps, guess what? You did without until your next booklet.

How did they stretch the food stuffs they did get to purchase? By creating recipes that could handle the scarcity. These are people who went through the Great Depression so they already had a sense of survival. And they didn't eat all day as we have grown to accept. A size 8-10 dress was common.

In the link below, you will discover a fantastic blog entitled, "The 1940's Experiment - Cooking Up Wartime Recipes to Save Money." There, you will find 150 recipes for stretching your family dollar and food budget.

Walk through the pages for nostalgia or perhaps take a lesson from the past.