Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Last minute Halloween Goodness!

This is Halloween!
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

These two tutorials are a repeat from 2005, however they are pretty fun so here we go!

O.k. So this is the first run of cupcakes! I wasn't prepared for the decorations with special candies or frostings, but went ahead and came up with these little beauties with what we had on hand:

Dunked in Jelly Bellies, You're Bugging Me!, Spike, & Don't Forget to Floss.

Jack Skelington, Oogie Boogie, Sally, & Stock

High Anxiety, Buck, I only have eyes for you, & Miss Spider.

All cupcakes were chocolate with vanilla or chocolate frostings. I used Mega M&Ms, tiny M&Ms, Jelly Bellies, Life Savers, Sour Patch Strips, Green Apple Gum, Eclipse Gum, Jolly Rancher Rocks, and black Jimmies.

Frosting was applied via a zip lock bag snipped at one corner or with a butter knife. I also used a bamboo skewer to aid in the placement of many Jimmies! I am sure when I actually get out the cake gear and use the pro stuff they will come out even better. In the mean time, we're eatin' cupcakes for dessert tonight!

To view cupcake details more closely, click on the photo above. This will take you to my photo page at Flicker! Find the photo stream st the top right of the page and click the "next" photo, it should be titled: "I'm ready for my close up!" double click. It will come up full screen and with much better detail.

For an older tutorial on making CHEAP and easy tombstones click: Tombstones. Scroll down to the tombstone photos and follow the instruction beginning with "a" and finishing up with "g".

"Fred's Dead, Baby"
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

In the "spirit" of Halloween, I spent the afternoon in quiet solitude and carved up some fun! The undertaking? Tombstones!

This is the first of the new tombstones for this year. (2005) This one is 24" wide by 16" high and is made from 1" thick foam board insulation that comes in a variety of sizes. I chose the 4'x8' sheets. About $12.00 out the door and into the minivan.

tombstone tutorial
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

If you are like S'mee, you will need to have the guys on the floor cut it into 2 pieces for you (so it can fit in your vehicle). As you can see in the photo, there are indeed "lines" that one could follow -if they wished to do so- the guys I was working with at the time were less than cooperative and decided to "freehand" it on the totally white side without marks and guidelines. UGH! and GRRR!

Make sure you stress the first cut along the lines, otherwise, like S'mee, you will lose one inch, or more, when they cut it diagonally. again UGH!

O.k. so click on that Flickr! link and get started, seriously, if you work in assembly line fashion, this only takes a few hours and you can whip out an entire graveyard!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

emergency preparedness how to

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Tutorial Tuesdays! Being Prepared

Hitting close to home, disasters that occur miles away can and will make our own lives and comforts displaced. In order for our family to feel secure, safe, and self reliant we need to become prepared.

Insurance companies can and will 'put you up' in a motel for an average of three weeks. (If your home burnt down would it be rebuilt in three weeks?) Not the four seasons, a motel... the cheapest motel they can find in your area, meaning within a half hour of your home. After three weeks it gets sketchy. FEMA; well just think Katrina and understand that they too try hard, but fall short of being a real help to 99% of people in a disaster. Recent studies tell us that scientists, fire fighters, and government agencies believe that 99% of major earthquake victims will be doctoring/rescuing each other rather than official agencies do to their limited resources. Do you know how to rescue yourself and others?

The following is a 12 week program that can help us begin to store and build a 72 hour emergency kit for each member of our family. Thor and I were able to gather all these supplies (and even more!) with little or no money, just squirreling away items we were able to find in the house already and setting them aside. (at the very bottom of the page is a list of items for a very BASIC 72 hour survival kit in a #10 can... think survival kit.)

We each used a back pack, and then combined some items in a new large paint barrel with a sealed lid that we purchased for $3.00 from our local paint store. In addition to these 72 hour kits, we also made minimal basic 72 hour kits in a #10 can to be stored in the car and office in case there is a situation that causes us to live in on of those for a few days.

Twelve weeks to a full kit:

Week 1: BACKPACK - a duffel bag, rolling suitcase, bucket, whatever! Some form of storage for each member of the family.

Week 2: WATER: One gallon per person per day, plus water purification tablets. (think about the water in Louisiana after Katrina, plenty of water, just none you want to drink - also make sure to calculate and provide enough formula and water for the baby and or pets)

Week 3: FOOD & MESS KIT: Cereal, peanut butter, oatmeal, dry soup mixes, MREs, jam, juices, fruit cups, energy bars, dried fruit, nut crackers, PLUS a mess kit or utensils to cook with, manual can opener, ziploc bags. (Again, remember the baby/pets/special diets and provide whatever those may require.)

You should store with meals in mind, however, BASIC meals for survival, not 'company/sit down' feasts. Store extra water if you are storing meals that need water in a recipe, such as soup. Store only those things you currently eat. If you don't eat MREs on a weekly basis don't store them. Also if you can find canned goods with the pop tops, that illuminates the need for can openers.

Week 4: FIRST AID KIT: alcohol, wipes, band aids, neosporin, moleskin, tweezers, nail clippers, medications, Rx meds. if you can, flashlight with batteries, sunscreen, bug repellent, sunglasses, etc. (Talk with your health care provider about storing one prescription ahead and rotate that out so that you always have a fresh dose. Special needs diets also will need consideration. Are there appropriate substitutes that you can store for an immergency?)

Week 5: CLOTHES & COMFORTS: 2-3 socks, underwear, change of clothes, t-shirt, pants, windbreaker, hat , sturdy shoes, (Thor and I packed all these plus sweat pants/shirt for layering. I put in our old used shoes that were still in good condition. They're broke in already and won't cause blisters.) , Comfort items: Scriptures, books, games, favorite toys, paper, pens/pencils/ crayons, music, etc. (um, I packed M&Ms and tootsie pops!)

Week 6: SNACKS: Cookies, crackers, hot cocoa, gum, hard candy, granola bars, fruit snacks. (maybe cheerios or other baby snacks)

Week 7: PERSONAL SANITATION: Soap, toothbrush, wash cloth, comb, hand towel, mirror, feminine products, toilet paper, hand wipes, shampoo, lotion, razors (I think if you have a baby you may want diapers and trash bags to keep the soiled ones in.)

Week 8: TOOLS: gloves, crescent wrench, ax, shovel, 1/2in coil rope, hammer, pliers, screw drivers, duct tape, pocket knife, sewing kit, etc. (Thor and I also have the instructions for shutting off the utilities..he may know, I may know, but whoever else is there may need the info., also a scout handbook comes in handy! Small camp tools are great and much easier to store than regular sized tools. Don't stress, just do what you can.)

Week 9: PERSONAL ITEMS: Copies of important papers (download to a thumb/zip drive), including i.d. cards, insurance papers, birth certs. passports, photos of the family, phone numbers, cd. of genealogy. You will also want cash in coin and bills (at least $20.00, but having as much as $500.00 will make you feel much more secure. No ATM machines? You'll need bills under twenty, and coin change.), a cd player with batteries or tape player. (a few years ago I video taped each room in the house, garage, and shed for insurance purposes. I opened closets, drawers and doors, to expose exactly what would need to be replaced in case of fire etc. I put that on a dvd and keep it with the kit. Keep your laptop charged and ready to go every night if you have to run out without notice.)

Week 10: WARMTH & SHELTER: waterproof matches (you can make your own by dipping regular wood matched into melted wax and allowing them to dry), tent/tarp (a plastic shower curtain can even be used as a ground cover), emergency reflective blanket (you can get these at camping stores), wool blanket/sleeping bag, poncho camp stove, fuel, pan/spoon, industrial strength garbage bags (these can be used as ponchos, potties, trash, or insulation among other uses. ) Buddy burners. (Odd to think about, however a fresh unused cotton tampon is a great fire starter; wrapped, small, contained and flamable!)

Week 11: COMMUNICATION: battery operated radio, whistle, maps (gps if you have one, and also a permanent black marker. This is creepy, but writing your ssi# name and other info on your arm is a good idea for i.d.-ing in the event of disorientation, being lost, or even death. Write this info on the backs of small children, just below their neck.)

Week 12: PET SUPPLIES: food, water, feeding bowls, leash, etc.

Like I said, most of these items we were able to just pick out of the cupboards. Others we had to go out and purchase. I decided not to take the entire 12 weeks to compile all of this stuff, but just get it over with! Even at that, it took a couple of days. So prepare!

Below are several websites that dedicate themselves to helping us prepare and get self reliant. PLEASE check them out and find out what is best for you and your family.

Provident Living The church website with great ideas and information.

Get Prepared The Red Cross website.

Plan Ahead The FEMA website, that yes, they weren't as prepared as they could have been during the whole Katrina disaster, however, they DO have great information that YOU can prepare with.

Project Noah This is a website developed to help a family prepare and store a year of supplies for under $5.00 a week over a years time. If you begin now, by next year this time you will have a YEAR of supplies!


Prepared items that can be stored in a #10 aluminum can, sealed, and set aside in a car or office, etc.. The items would provide sufficient nutrients and calories to sustain life over a three day period, minus fresh water. Sorry, couldn't find a way to get enough water in that can. All in all the items were gathered, and for $8.00, one could have a minimal survival kit of food. We're not talking luxury dining, but the very basic necessary for survival.

You can use a large coffee can, or any #10 can with a rubber or plastic lid. You can use packing tape to seal the seam and it should be "safe", if not the most fresh without a professional form of sealing.

Here's a list of what went inside:

Day one:
Morning: 1 hot cocoa, 1 bag of trail mix
Noon: 1 small can of tuna, 1 apple sauce
Evening: 1 granola bar, 1 cracker snack pack
Snack as needed: 3-5 pieces of hard candy

Day two:
Morning: 1 instant oatmeal, 1 apple cider drink
Noon: 1 dry fruit roll, 1 can Vienna sausages, 1 lemonade drink
Night: 1 granola bar, 1 beef jerky log
Snack as needed: 3-5 pieces of hard candy

Day three:
Morning: 1 bag of trail mix, 1 hot cocoa
Noon: 1 cracker snack pack, 1 nut mix pack, 1 beef jerky roll
Evening: 1 granola bar, 1 apple sauce
Snack as needed: 3-5 pieces of hard candy.

This menu requires four cups of water, and provides vitamin C, fiber, carbs, fats, and sugars. We also strongly urged the families to have water stored, enough for each family member's daily requirements.

We also suggested adding a pack of chewing gum to the outside of the can for tiding hunger pangs. We secured a small can opener to the top of the can, and added the menu and expiration dates of food items on the side of the can.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Holiday Chair Scarf Tutorial

Here's the drill for today:

2 yards of 56 inch wide material, preferably to match your holiday table.
matching thread
sewing machine
measuring tools (stick or tape)

This make four (4) chair scarves

You will be straight seam sewing, beginning and ending each seam with a back stitch. A back stitch is made by starting the machine slowly, making a few stitches and then using the reverse button on your machine going directly back over those same stitches, stopping at the end and then sewing forward, again directly over those same stitches. This secures the thread and keep your seam from unraveling.

There are two ways to do this:
Option one:
Cut four strips of fabric into 14 inches wide by 72 inches in length. set aside.
Option two:
Fold the fabric lengthwise in half, cut on the fold. You now have two 28 inch wide pieces by 72 inches long. Fold those two pieces of fabric in half lengthwise again, and again cut on the fold which will give you four pieces of fabric, each measuring 14 inches wide by 72 inches long. set them aside.

Step One: Sewing
Fold each single piece lengthwise, right sides together, matching edges. Pin if it makes you feel more efficient. Do this with each piece of fabric.

Beginning at the corner, ( remember to backstitch as you start and finish each seam) start at the folded edge and sew a straight seam towards the opposite corner, the corner with the raw edge. Stop before you go all the way to the edge, making your stopping point equal to the size of your seam. (you should be equally as far from each edge) Slowly rotate the hand wheel of your machine to drop the needle half way into the fabric and then stop.

Lift the presser foot, then turn and rotate the fabric to allow you to sew down the length of the fabric. Lower the pressure foot and begin sewing again. Sew down the edge to just about the half way mark. Don't panic if you are short or longer form the middle, just make sure you have plenty of length on either end when you stop sewing. Back stitch.

Leave a space in the middle of the edge large enough to put your fist through, about seven inches or so.

Back stitch and then sew to the corner. Do the same procedure you did before to turn the corner easily and sew to the last corner. Back stitch.

Repeat with each of your four scarves.

Step Two: Turning the fabric.

Now that you have finished all the sewing, place your entire hand in the open part of the seam. Grab the end of the fabric and pull it through, turning the fabric inside out and right side out. Use your fingers to pull out the tight corners of the corners and make them as square as possible.

Repeat with each scarf.

Step Three: Ironing
Carefully steam iron the scarf flat. Pay special attention to the corners. When you iron over the open seam, use the iron to make the seam turn in as if it were sewn, making the seam allowance the same width as your sewn seams. Steam press.

Step Four: Back to Sewing.

Go back to the machine and, remembering to backstitch beginning and ending, sew as close to the edge as you can while closing the opening. You will be sewing on the right side of the fabric. The closer to the edge you can make that seam the less visible it will be and the more secure.

Step Five: Square Knot

A square knot is made by wrapping the scarf around the inside of the chair, near the seat, at the base of the back. Take the left part of the scarf and wrap it over and through the right side of the scarf, pulling tight at the center back of the chair. Take the right end of the scarf and go over and through the left end of the scarf and pull the square knot tight. Fuss with it a bit to make sure all the edges are like you want them and make it pretty.

Remember the old saying for a square knot: Left over right, right over left. That's just about it!

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