Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter Preps

Not sure if I've done this or not but I figured I post about it anyway.  This is an email that I wrote to a group of people that are actively preparing and learning new skills.

I encourage you ALL to think about preparing for the winter months.  I think ice may be a part of our experience this year.  Make sure you have at least one alternate source of heat and light.  It's my understanding from reading a few accounts of people caught in an ice storm that IF you have an alternate source of heat, you will not be made to leave you home for a shelter for an undetermined amount of time.  I may not be 100% on target with that statement but I've read a number of experiences and this seems to be the norm.  

Our new house does have a fireplace but before that we only had forced heat which of course requires electricity.  So we bought a couple of the Big Buddy heaters that run off of propane. You can use the little propane tanks or get the adapter to use the bigger tanks.  This is what they look like.   You can do a google search to find a good price but this one is actually pretty good.  There are a couple of different sizes.  We chose the bigger ones because I wanna be really warm. :)  We did practice with it.  The Big Buddy used one small propane tank running on the highest setting for one hour.  It wouldn't have needed to be run like that especially if the room had be closed off to the rest of the house.  

Also, make a plan on how you'll close off your house and "live" in one or two rooms together as a family.  Have sheets or blankets ready to block of other rooms or hallways.  

Think about your sources of cooking as well.  You should still be somewhat prepared for that from your experiences prepping for the hurricane.  Do you have a camp stove?  And fuel? Do you have a regular gas stove that you can light manually?  Do you have enough water stored?  Especially those of us on wells?  If you don't have electricity, you don't get water.  You'll need to be able to flush potties.  

Sources of light.  You should have those from your hurricane preps too.  If not, run out to the Walmart and for about $11 you can buy a hurricane lamp and a quart of lamp oil.  If you have those solar lights out in your yard, use those as indoor lights during the nights.  Set them inside a mason jar or something similar and they'll be a bit more sturdy that way.  Then in the morning, put them back outside.

Have a few large tarps on hand too in case you have a tree fall on your house.  At least you'll be able to prevent precipitation from coming into the house to make matters worse.  

Chainsaws are always nice to have.  If you have one, make sure it's working properly and you have an extra chain or two.  

Have some games to play and books to read.  Crossword puzzle, word search and sudoko books are nice to have on hand.

You can charge your phones in the car.  I bought a bunch of those wind up cell phone chargers when Emergency Essentials had them for sale last year.  They did NOT work for our iPhones at all. I haven't found another option for charging yet.

Don't forget to have your car prepared as well.  Charger cables at a minimum.  You'll need at least one blanket, flashlight, food etc.  Think about giving those as gifts this year especially to your teenagers that have their own cars.   

I know it's not any fun to think about these things, but we have to.  It's so much easier to think about them now and prepare for them in the comfort and warmth of our homes than when we lose electricity and it's flipping cold outside.  Please get your houses in order this way.  Know where your blankets are.  Are there ready-to-eat foods that your family will eat if you don't have a way to cook?  We've been so blessed in our area that we've not had major natural disasters occur in a widespread way.  Let's take that as a blessing and do what we can with the resources we have to prepare.  Let's be strong and organized.  This is the only way we can confidently serve others as well.  If you're too worried about you own family and existence because you didn't prepare, you'll never be able to serve anyone else.  And we're here on earth to serve others and lift their burdens.  Many of you have lifted my burdens and that of my family with our recent move.  I'm so humbly thankful for your hard work, food and good cheer.  I struggled to muster it myself.  Continue to be that for others.  

Try to be one of the people that doesn't need to go out to the grocery store or Home Depot when there's the threat of a big snowstorm.  That's a great goal to have.  Figure out what you need to do so you don't have to be one of those little grasshoppers. :)  If you need any help or ideas, I'm always here to help and encourage.  But, remember there is One with way more creativity and help than I could ever give.  Rely on Him.

IF you have any other ideas or suggestions, please email them to me so I can share with others.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Facebook Posts

While in the midst of preparing for Hurricane Irene, I would get these ideas about prepping and randomly post them to FaceBook.  I had a number of people comment on how helpful the ideas were.  I thought I'd combine a list of my posts to have in one handy place.  I did "steal" a couple of ideas from other people who had been through this before.

  • We took the enclosure off and flipped our trampoline over. Hope that works.
  • Cook up some pasta and either freeze or keep in fridge in gallon size ziploc bag. Rather than waste water and fuel to boil the water if power is out, you'll be able to simply heat up some spaghetti sauce and add to the pasta. The kids will appreciate comfort food.
  • Double check flashlights and batteries. Make sure flashlights aren't corroded. How many batteries for each light. Do you have candles and matches? Hurricane lamps? Extra oil?
  • Check your yard for anything that can fly away. Secure trash cans, take down bird feeders. If you have rental properties, please ask your tenants to prepare their yards as well. The loose things may not effect your house but could effect others. Ask your neighbors to do the same.
  • The recommended generator time is 30-60 minutes every 4 hours for a refrigerator and 30-60 minutes twice a day for a freezer.
  • If you have a pool, you can submerge your outdoor furniture in it. It'll keep it from blowing around.
  • Get some cleaning supplies including bleach for the clean up too. It may not be your home that needs the help. Be prepared to help others.
  • Make sure you have a few pair of work gloves for all the clean up after she hits.
  • More ideas for prepping: get all your laundry done and dishes washed. If the power goes out you'll want clean clothes and dishes. Buy paper plates and plasticware so you don't have to dirty any dishes.
  • Please prepare! Lots of fresh water. Baby stuff--diapers, wipes, formula, lots of water

Hurricane Irene Lessons and Observations

Holes in my Preps:

Lighting sources
  • I need more oil and wicks for my hurricane lamps
  • I have two lamps but one doesn't have a chimney--need to get one
  • I did go out and buy some little votive candle holders--didn't have any of those

  • I'm a little concerned about my food in the freezer but I have a plan if things start to go bad.  
  • I didn't have a cooler, so I went out and bought one.
  • Ice or frozen things.  I didn't get any bags of ice.  Instead I put cases of bottles of water in the freezer and moved to the cooler.
  • I wish I would've cooked more-- like a roast or whole chicken to have quickie foods to eat.
  • Water-- we didn't have the water storage we usually do because we've been using it a lot recently. Left that to the last minute but thankfully we were able to find plenty.  I think we were able to get 17 cases of 24 bottles.  I hate that I was unprepared for that.  I did have 14 cases in the food room but that's not enough if the water isn't potable.
  • I wish the house was cleaner.
  • I wish ALL the laundry was done including sheets.
  • I'm not convinced that we shouldn't have boarded up our windows.
  • I'm annoyed that my neighbors aren't taking care to clean up their yards. Don't know what I could've done about that.
  • We didn't take good care of our generators.  One of them wouldn't start so thankfully we were able to sell it for $300 the morning of the hurricane.  Thank goodness for Craigslist.
  • We need to run the generators once every couple of months. We started with three.  One didn't work and we lent one to Sam's mom and kept the biggest and newest for us.  Who would've thought we'd be down to one.  Crazy!

What I've done right:

  • Have and found my hurricane lamp and oil.
  • Had all my flashlights and lanterns in one place.  Checked them all to make sure there were no corroded batteries.
  • Pulled out one of my crank flashlights that is supposed to also charge a cell phone.  The charger part did not work.  Good to know so I don't have to worry about making that work. But, need to find out if there is a device that would work.
  • I do have solar yard lights that we can use also.

  • Taking the advice from a good friend and mentor in preparedness, Cheryl Driggs (, I bought some pudding cups and fruit cups for the kids as something fun to eat.  I never buy those and they've been begging me to eat them ever since I brought them home.
  • I also bought some Reese's Peanut Butter cups (lots of those) mostly for Sam but the kids will beg for those as well.
  • Other fun food I bought:  sugar wafers, strawberry frosted Pop Tarts (for me), cookies, cake mixes (to use in the dutch oven or solar oven), other various crackers and cookies.
  • We cooked 11 lbs of pasta and put them in gallon sized bags in the fridge and freezer.  My thought is that we're not going to want to use the fuel or the water to cook it when we want it.  This way we'll be able to add a little pasta sauce or butter and have some comfort food.  You may think that's a lot, but trust me--for this family it'll be gone in a couple of days.  We eat a lot of pasta anyway and if we need to share, that'll help too.

  • We cleaned up the backyard spic and span.  Flipped over the trampoline.  
  • Got all the laundry done...almost (at this writing just before the winds are about to hit)
  • The house is fairly clean.  
  • Flashlights are loaded with fresh batteries, oil lamp is trimmed and ready, other candles on the counter ready to be used if needed.
  • I have plenty of ways to cook without power.
  • Purchased fresh bleach and disinfectant wipes.
  • Have plenty of wipes and diapers for the baby.  Wipes for us to use too.
  • I got a great deal on propane tanks fro Craigslist a few weeks ago.  6 tanks for $80.  We had all of those filled.  Plus we have about 4 more that were partially filled.  I feel comfortable that we'd be able to cook on my Camp Chef stoves if we lose power.
  • My dad gave us a butane stove a few months ago with a set of 4 butane fuel canisters.  This will allow us to cook indoors if necessary.  The stoves cost around $20 on Amazon.  That's a very inexpensive investment in prepping.

The strong part of the storm hasn't hit yet as of 9pm on Saturday August 27.  We've had one little blip of a power outage.  Hardly lasted a second.  I've heard that surrounding areas are losing power.  That stinks.

I have one more load in the washer to go into the dryer.  I'm hoping for just a little more time.  Fingers crossed.  

I'm anxious for this next phase.  I've heard reports from friends down in Virginia how horrible the winds are.  Lots of trees are falling.  I do worry a bit about our house.  Sam and I toured our yard.  He thinks we'll be alright.  I'm kinda wishing we had boarded up the windows.  I'll know on the other side of this storm if that was a mistake.

I can say that I'm worried.  I wish the hard part of this storm would've hit during the day instead of the middle of the night.  Oh well.  I'm concerned about potential flooding in the house.  My neighbors didn't clean up their yards.  Even when we asked if we could help them move their outside furniture, they just said they'd turn it over.  They've got bird feeders and bird baths and all sorts of other crap all around their house.  It's rude to not take care.  Their stuff isn't just going to stay in their yard and only effect them.  Their carelessness will potential effect this entire neighborhood.  That angers me too.

I am SO tired.  I haven't slept well in the last three nights and I've been working so hard to get the house and family ready for the storm.  Will I sleep tonight with the storm raging?  I don't know.  I'm finding myself extremely apprehensive.  

I was originally going to leave and take the kids to Virginia.  That may have been the better choice but I would've been sick with worry to be away from Sam.


I praise God that this storm was not nearly as bad as it could've been for our area here in NJ.  We did take in a little bit of water in the basement but not bad at all.  Our electricity stayed on throughout the storm and we were able to receive statellite tv transmission for most of the night.  We did lost internet and cable.  Sam had a wireless "hot spot" device that allowed us to maintain access to the internet.  That was a blessing as well.

The kids slept out in the living room together.  I went to bed still a bit nervous of the forthcoming high winds and the repeated tornado warnings.  I would say that we were not prepared for the potential of tornadoes.  I've got to mull that one over a bit.  Our basement is full of moving boxes that have been packed, so it would've been a very uncomfortable night if we would've had to stay down there all night.  In our new house, I'll make sure we have a room that is finished and comfortable for hunkering down there in case of a tornado.

Other things on our "would've done" list are:
  • clean out the refrigerator and freezer as one of the first things to do to accommodate ice and other extra foods such as milk and water bottles
  • have some "blue ice" frozen and ready for the cooler
  • Sam wishes he would've had a good trailer with a flip down tailgate for moving the generators and other opportunities of service.  We'll work on getting one of those.
  • lighting--as mentioned above
  • more practice with my alternate sources of cooking in case the power would've gone out - solar oven, volcano stove with the dutch ovens
  • general organization - just being able to find what I need when I need it.  I did pretty well with that, but there is WAY more organizing that could've been in place.  In my own defense, I am in the process of packing and moving my house.  BUT, because of a great iPhone app, I was able to find a couple of the things I needed in boxes that had been packed.  The app is call "Box It Up".  I highly recommend it.
  • One of the things I did in anticipation of being without power for a while is to print math worksheets for the kids.  My friend Cheryl Driggs advised others to get back to a sense of normalcy after the storm regardless of the power.  So, I made plans to school the kids throughout the upcoming weeks.  I'm glad for that counsel, but glad that we get to maintain our current lifestyle.
  • I did get all the laundry done - in fact, as I pulled the last load out of the dryer, I thanked God and told him it was ok if the power went out now, but quickly relayed that I'd appreciate it if it never went off. :)  Ha!  
  • I'm glad I stayed with the family as a whole.  I'm glad I got to practice preparing.  Glad I didn't have to use them, though.
  • Funny story:  I bought the pudding cups for the kids to have something fun to eat.  Leah, my five year old, kept begging to have on all day Saturday.  I kept telling her they were for later when the power went out.  Sunday morning she asked for one.  I told her that because the power never went out, no pudding cup.  Poor thing. :)  Actually after I giggled for a bit, I told her to enjoy one for breakfast.  So cute.
Most of all I am thankful for God's merciful hand during this storm.  I'm so grateful for the lessening of the storm.  Most look at it as the weather people and media hyping this storm to be worse that it was.  I know in my heart and soul that it was the good Lord and His mercy that prevented a major catastrophe.  Say what you will, I know He lives and He loves us.  I know He answers prayers and is kind and loving.  I'm thankful that I was able to see where my preparations were lacking without experiencing the consequences of them.  I'm thankful for the sudden thought of inspiration that would come to me during the preps.  I'm thankful for others' experiences and their words of wisdom that helped guide me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


So....I've decided to move my blog over to a wordpress format.  Please join me at:

Things are still being created and I'm happy for any suggestions.  Should be a little easier to move around in the different areas like canning and cooking and such.

See ya on the flipside!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inspired Preparation

I feel the need to write something quickly about keeping your efforts in prepping as a matter of prayer and allowing God to inspire you in the decisions you make.

I'm not sure how many of you that stumble upon my blog believe in God, that's fine if you don't.  I do.  I believe that He lives and loves us and wants us to be successful in all things.  

I'm convinced because of my own experiences that if you listen to your heart, gut, name it, you'll be led to opportunities that will allow you to prepare even during difficult times.  It's my personal belief that this is God communicating with you through subtle thoughts and ideas.

A couple of recent examples in my life:
1.  I've been feeling VERY impressed to buy and save anything made from cotton.  So, for about two months now I'm picking up socks, t-shirts, underwear, towels and sheets.  No big deal.  However, I was actually kidded/mocked by people--who keep food storage-- for my new focus.  I was a bit offended but just kept on doing my thing.  Not a couple of days later, an email came through on a yahoogroup to which I belong from a lady that is a seamstress.  She talked about the prices of fabric climbing quickly just in a couple of weeks.  At the end of her post, she made the suggestion to get out and start putting away anything made from cotton because the prices on fabric would rise to 150-200% by this summer and commercial ready-to-wear clothing would shortly follow.  HELLO!  I felt so very grateful that I had been listening to my "inner voice".  

2.  Right after this email came in from this seamstress, I got a flyer in the mail from Joann's Fabric announcing a great big sale.  I emailed the seamstress and she put together that great document about what types of fabric, notions and patterns to stock.  Again, a great blessing for me and for you because she allowed me to post it on my blog.

3.  At the end of last week, I offered up a silent and silly prayer that I'd be ok if God let me rest a week from buying anything major for preps.  He laughed, actually it was more of a chuckle really. :)  I felt impressed to stock up on soap.  Different types of soap.  Laundry detergent as well as the type of soaps one can use to make homemade laundry detergent, and of course, body soap.  Lo and behold--sale big sale on laundry detergent at the local grocery store this week.  So, needless to say, I'm stocking up.  

Everyone's circumstances are different.  I encourage you to listen to your own "inner voice".  You'll hear the whisperings.  Act on them.  It may be an idea from someone else.  It may be that you just happen to run into an unadvertised sale or a store is clearancing out winter items or something like that.  I've had that happen to me a lot recently as well.  Stay within your budget.  But I can guarantee you that if you're purposeful and grateful, your blessings will increase and you'll be astonished at your abundance.  That I know for a fact because I'm living it.  Oh, you'll still have trials....that's the fun part. Maintaining your purpose and dealing with a few challenges.  God's got your back though.  Believe it!

Oh and it doesn't always have to be about buying something.  Could be you find some canning jars for free on Craigslist or Freecycle--that's happened to me a bunch of times.  Could be some fine and dandy person teaches you how to can or garden or sew or knit or make soap.  Keep your options open.  And always remember to be grateful and pay it forward.  We're all here to love and help one another.  You just might be the answer to someone's prayer.

Good luck.  I'd love to hear your experiences with inspiration when it comes to prepping.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Essential Sewing and Clothing Repair Supplies

This is a guest post by a friend of mine from a yahoo group to which we belong.  She's fluent in all things sewing and fabric.  This is a SPECTACULAR post about what basics one should have on hand to be self-reliant in providing clothing and mending for your family.  Thank you so much Anne!

Essential Sewing and Clothing Repair Supplies
By Anne Lawver

            When we hear the term ‘home storage,’ our minds automatically go to neatly arranged rows of edible commodities lovingly stored. However, being truly prepared and living providently should include the ability to not only feed, but also to meet our family’s basic human needs including clothing and shelter.
            For centuries, the great bulk of human clothing was produced within the home. If not in the home, then by skilled craftsman who lived and worked nearby. Garments were made to order and, until the invention of the sewing machine, sewn completely by hand. Today, most clothing is purchased from a retail outlet that acquires the clothing from any number of sources. If that supply source were cut short, or if your ability to purchase new clothing were curtailed, you would need to prolong the life of existing clothing by making appropriate repairs and/or create new clothing and household wares yourself. Additionally, a few basic sewing supplies and a dose of knowledge will allow you to make simple repairs, small alterations and even produce clothing, useful items and decorative touches for your home.
            Regardless of your desire, or lack of desire, to sew, everyone should stock and maintain an adequate sewing storage. If you take a few moments to hunt for sales, your sewing home storage can be purchased at less than half retail price. Your sewing storage should ideally include at least the following:

  1. A good pair of sewing scissors that are used ONLY for fabric. An 8 to 11 inch pair of shears is a good purchase. Mark them clearly FOR FABRIC ONLY and store with sewing supplies.
  2. A small pair of pointed sharp scissors sometimes referred to as embroidery scissors.
  3. Good quality sewing machine needles that come packaged in a hard plastic case. Needles packaged in paper or thin plastic are often bent during shipment and selling. Even minor bends & chips can cause problems with the stitches and your machine. Schmetz is a widely available and reliable brand of needles. Choose needles that are sizes 10, 12 and at least one package of denim needles. Even if you do not have a sewing machine, store one package of each. Sewing machine needles are very sharp and strong. They can be used to hang signs, framed art work, remove stubborn splinters and even pierce a nail that has blood building up under it (of course, the needle would need to be sterilized and you should understand how to perform such a procedure before attempting.
  4. Hand sewing needles. Again, it pays to buy quality needles in a variety of sizes. Be certain to purchase short and long needles as well as one leather needle.
  5. Closures such as buttons, snaps, zippers, hook & eyes, etc. If you are disposing of clothing with buttons, clip the buttons off and store. Learn how to properly sew on a button!
  6. Elastic in ¼”, ½” and 1” widths. Clear elastic is a good additional choice as it can be sewn through and is very strong.
  7. Safety pins in a variety of sizes.
  8. Straight pins
  9. Measuring tape
  10. 24” ruler or yardstick
  11. Iron on patch material. This is sold with the notions and is fabric with an adhesive on the back that is activated by an iron. You can mend clothing, re-enforce wear spots. Etc. with this type of patch.
  12. Heat activated adhesives. Stitch witchery’ and/or ‘steam-a-seam’ as well as ‘wonder under’. These heat- activated adhesives are sold on rolls or by the yard and allow you to hem clothing, make small repairs, make your patches or embellishments, etc.
  13. A variety of 22” zippers. You can always shorten a zipper, but it is impossible to make one longer.
  14. Ribbons designed for sewing, which can be used to strengthen seams, create drawstrings, add embellishments and tie back hair.
  15. Velcro (hook and loop tape). Do not purchase sticky back Velcro as it will be nearly impossible to sew through by hand or machine. The sticky substance does not stand up well to the pressure of the Velcro being pulled apart. If you need to attach the Velcro to a hard surface, gorilla glue or a similar substance works better than the adhesive supplied on the sticky back Velcro.
  16. Thread—again, don’t buy the cheapest you can find. Forget the thread in small packaged sewing kits. You want a thread that is tightly wound and never appears ‘fuzzy’ or frayed. If in doubt, run your fingernail over the thread on the spool and see if little ‘fuzzs’ appear. Stick with Gutterman, the newer Coats & Clark or Mettler, which are all readily available. At a minimum, store white, beige, light grey and black in all-purpose thread. Many hand quilters sew all of their patchwork using only those colors as they blend in easily. Also store several spools of white hand quilting thread, which should NOT be used in a sewing machine. Hand quilting thread is sturdier than regular thread and can even be used to suture wounds – again only if you know what you are doing!
  17. A rotary cutter can make cutting fabric faster. If you purchase a rotary cutter, you will need a sturdy ruler and a cutting mat. Consider purchasing a cut resistant glove (Fons & Porter sells a great one) to protect the hand that is holding the ruler. Rotary cutting blades are incredible sharp and can cause serious injury.
  18. A good quality seam ripper. Two of my favorite ones are either a curved blade seam ripper or one that has a metal handle with replaceable blades. If you cannot find either of those, or wish to purchase a less expensive one, Dritz makes a small seam ripper that usually has a blue handle. It is one of the best inexpensive seam rippers. A good seam ripper is very sharp, so use caution and store away from children.
  19. Sewing patterns to include: (Look for patterns without button-down fronts, complicated seaming or set – in sleeves. A raglan sleeve is the easiest sleeve to put in)
  • A general women’s wardrobe pattern to include at least a simple skirt, elastic waist pants, simple blouse and jacket
  • PJ, scrub or other pattern for men, children and women
  • Simple dress for women and children. Some nightgown patterns can be adapted to make simple dresses, especially for children. As you look at patterns, remember you are not looking for your favorite fabric, just the basic line of the pattern.
  • T-shirt for children and adults. Again, check the sleepwear section as many pj tops are simple t-shirts
  • Basic butcher-style apron. Wearing an apron when you cook and clean is the best way to preserve your clothing.
  • Baby layette pattern—multi-sized and including at least a day gown, t-shirt, pants, bib and diaper cover
  • Loose fitting jackets for children and adults.

  1. Fabric! Even if you never intend to sew, a small stash of basic fabrics is an essential ingredient in a prepared home. Consider purchasing on sale, at garage sales, through freecycle or donations the following:
    • Flannel. Look for tightly woven 100% cotton that is at least 43” wide. White is your best choice if you are simply going to store it. Flannel can be used for diapering, blankets, lining jackets for warmth, pillowcases and nightware. Flannel sheets purchased on the clearance rack can be a great source of extra wide flannel at a very reasonable price. Be certain to check after-Christmas clearances. I was able to find a set of king-sized flannel sheets for 95% off—the set cost me $2.
    • White cotton lawn, batiste, broadcloth, shirting and/or ‘bottom weight’. These fabrics can be used for nearly all clothing needs, including baptisms, blessings and burials. Again, cotton flat sheets, if new or nearly new, are another good source of wide cottons. I would not rely on worn sheets for new garments, as sheets wear very unevenly. You do not want to spend valuable time and resources creating a garment that may wear out in one spot and be perfectly fine in another.
    • Denim. Recycle old jeans as well as buying yardage when you can find a great deal. Denim comes in many weights and should be 100% cotton.
    • Wool sold by the yard as well as re-purposed wool sweaters and garments. Wool is naturally flame retardant, can shed water (depending on weave), breathes and if felted (which merely means shrinking it excessively) will not ravel. Felting old wool pieces and then sewing with the newly created fabric is quite ‘in’. Felted wool makes wonderful hats, slippers, baby booties, jackets, quilts and decorative items. There are multiple websites with excellent free tutorials on felting.
    • Polar fleece—though many new sewing enthusiasts gravitate to fleece for its comfort and ease of sewing, please note that it is HIGHLY flammable. Not only will it burst into flames, it will explode into blobs of molten synthetic. 

           21. A basic sewing ‘how to’ book. If you can find a copy of the book “Let’s Sew” by Nancy Zieman, it is a great basic guide to the beginnings of sewing. Originally written for 4-H children, it is a good reference source.  You may also find classes and willing tutors through the American Sewing Guild, which has groups throughout the country:
           Always watch for sales and coupons to acquire fabrics at discount prices. All fibers, but most significantly cotton, are rapidly increasing in price. There are several good online sources for fabric, including (always check their clearance section, especially the ‘everything’s a $1.95 section) and (they carry many high end fabrics, but also have closeouts). Both of these sites will get designer bolt ends of better quality cottons and wools, then discount them sharply. One way to identify a fabric intended for use in the production of retail clothing, especially higher end retail lines such as Ralph Lauren, is the width of the cotton. Cottons sold in stores such as Wal-Mart and JoAnn’s are usually 45” wide. Many of the shirtings, silks and cotton/polyester blends at & will be 54” to 60” wide, which is the ‘normal’ for commercial bolts.
            Other good sources for fabric include garage sales, thrift shops and freecycle. Be certain you learn a little bit about fabric quality and pricing before paying too much for fabric!
            Finally, acquire a few basic sewing skills. Sewing isn’t hard and is actually good for you! At least learn the basics of hand stitching, such as sewing on a button, a snap, hemming a skirt and sewing a running stitch. It takes only a few dollars and a bit of time to create simple and fun children’s clothing. One of the easiest dresses to make is to simply add a skirt to a little girl’s t-shirt.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Ultimate Way to Season Cast Iron

I found this in the January 2011 issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine and thought I'd pass it on.

For years we've seasoned cast-iron in the test kitchen by placing it over medium heat and wiping out the pan with coats of vegetable oil until its surface turns dark and shiny.  

When a pan starts to look patchy, we simply repeat the process.  But when we heard about a new method that creates a slick surface so indestructible that touch-ups are almost never necessary, we were intrigued.  Developed by blogger Sheryl Canter, the approach calls for treating the pan with multiple coats of flaxseed oil between hour-long stints in the oven.

We carried out Canter's approach on new, unseasoned cast-iron skillets and compared them with pans treated with vegetable oil--and the results amazed us.  The flaxseed oil so effectively bonded to the skillets, forming a sheer, stick-resistant veneer, that even a run through our commercial dishwasher with a squirt of degreaser left them totally unscathed.  But the vegetable oil-treasted skillets showed rusty spots and patchiness when they emerged from the dishwasher, required reseasoning before use.

Why did the new treatment work so well?  Flaxseed oil is the food-grade equivalent of linseed oil, used by artists to give their paintings a hard, polished finish, and it boasts six time the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as vegetable oil.  Over prolonged exposure to high heat, these fatty acids combine to form a strong, solid matrix that polymerizes to the pan's surface.

Although length, seasoning with flaxseed oil is a mainly hands-off undertaking.  We highly recommend the treatment:

1.  Warm and unseasoned pan (either new or stripped of seasoning*) for 15 minutes in a 200-degree oven to open its pores.
2.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Place 1 TB flaxseed oil in the pan and, using tongs, rub the oil into the surface with paper towels.  With fresh paper towels, thoroughly wipe out the pan to remove excess oil.
3.  Place the oiled pan upside down in a cold oven, then set the oven to its maximum baking temperature.  Once the oven reaches is maximum temperature, heat the pan for one hour.  Turn off the oven; cool the pan in the oven for at least two hours.
4.  Repeat the process five more times, or until the pan develops a dark, semi-matte surface.

* To strips a cast-iron pan of seasoning, spray it with oven cleaner, wait 30 minutes, wash with soapy water, and thoroughly wipe with paper towels.