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Friday, October 29, 2010

Food Storage Friday: Chicken Vegetable Chowder

There are six basic staples of long term food storage: rice, wheat, oats, pasta, beans, and potatoes. Potatoes are pretty darn easy to incorporate into your diet. To quote my friend Liesa "Mashed potatoes are the fast food of food storage." Anyone can add them as a side to a meal with very little effort. Mashed potato flakes can be stored for approximately 30 years. I am not a big potato person, however growing up my mom made this chicken vegetable chowder that I loved. Getting the recipe out of her is easier said than done, because she doesn't cook by recipe, more by taste and eyeballing it. So here is my version. To me, this is comfort food. :) If you wanted to, you could use fresh baked potatoes or even just mashed potato flakes. The point is to get your family used to eating these staples on a fairly regular basis.

Chicken Vegetable Chowder
Food Storage Ingredients:
1 (15oz) can of potatoes, drained
1/4 cup mashed potato flakes (or more if you need them)
3 cups chicken broth
1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk

Fresh Ingredients:
6 cups of finely chopped vegetables
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon prepared honey mustard
1 cup cooked chopped chicken (I've done this many times with canned chicken too)
1 cup shredded cheddar
pepper to taste

1. Put vegetables, canned potatoes, onion, garlic and chicken broth in crock pot. Simmer for 2-4 hours on low. 2. Mash everything with a potato masher until potato chunks pea sized or smaller. 3. Add evaporated milk. 4. Add potato flakes to thicken to desired consistency. 5. Add remaining ingredients and cook on low until heated through (30 minutes or so)

Notes: I served these in soup rolls, but you can do as you please. For vegetables I generally use carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, but this time I used parsnips instead of cauliflower because I had them from my Bountiful Basket and didn't have a clue what else to do with them. My mom always used half and half for this recipe. I don't like purchasing half and half. The remainder of the container always expires before I get around to using, besides you can get the same creaminess from evaporated milk with fewer calories and less saturated fat. She also uses bacon grease mixed with flour to thicken her soup instead of potato flakes. Yes, I know it taste better, but I detest working with bacon. Period. Yesterday when my husband heated some of these leftovers for lunch he accidentally put a dash of balsamic vinegar in it. It made it better. When I got home from work he fixed some for me that I way and I agreed. Give it a try.


CityDeals - Discounts Savings and Gift CardsHave you guys heard of or seen CityDeals before? It's kind of like Groupon in that you can get a really great discount, but instead have a 24 hour window to snag the deal, there are just a limited number of each deal to snag. I have seen discounts upwards of 80%. There are deals on restaurants, recreational activities, services, spas and more. Sometimes you snag multiples of the deal and other times they are limited to one per person. There are a whole range of deals, many for places to that are a little far to be convenient for me, but there are several that will save me quite a bit. Here are some of the deals that I have grabbed in the past couple months.
  • Giftcard to Subway for 50% off
  • Gift Certificates to Gandolfo's for 60% off and again for 70%
  • Walmart giftcard at 20% off (that one went super-fast)
Gift cards and gift certificates make great Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. Plus they're just a handy way to save money on traveling or otherwise eating out. I always like to put one or two in my husband's stocking. (Giving him a gift certificate is a simple way to guarantee me a date, and we both really like Gandolfo's sandwiches.) The deals available depend on what area you live and the deals are always changing, but it is definitely worth checking out.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    Guest Post: The Mom Blog

    Hey guys! I'm guest posting on The Mom Blog today. Same info that I put on my site last week, but with better pictures. I'm so excited that my soap-boxing is being heard, shared and maybe, just maybe helping someone somewhere. Go check it out.

    What to do should you spill water on your laptop

    So last weekend I was writing my book review post and the book wouldn't stay open. There was a glass of water handy on the table so I sat in on the page of my book that I wanted to see. (Yes, I know not my most brilliant move.) It wasn't long before said glass of water was knocked onto my laptop (and no I can't even blame the kids.) And my husband the computer genius wasn't even there at the moment to fix it. Once upon a time he taught me to build a PC from parts, and from this experience I learned that anything with any significant power is going to have at least one fan, sometimes multiple fans. So I wiped it off and let it continue running and twitching hoping that the fan would be able to dry it off. (This is not what I'm recommending that you do, it's just what I did first. I'm not claiming that I'm the computer genius.) My poor little netbook kept shutting itself off. Even after I pulled out my blow-dryer. Eventually my knight in shining armor did come home and without any promises showed me what to do.

    1. Remove the battery. Don't even bother to shut it down, just remove the battery.
    2. Wipe off any excess water. (Already done)
    3. Using a cool setting blow dry the battery and the computer from all angles.
    4. Leave it alone for awhile.
    If the computer is running the water can cause it to make connections between circuits that should not be connected. And of course how successful this method is depends on how much water was spilled on your laptop in the first place. Even though it was several hours before he pulled the battery out and I blow-dried the inside of the computer, when I put it together the next day it worked just fine and I haven't had any problems since. That's a relief. This may not work in every case, but it is certainly worth a shot and can't make the situation any worse.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Book Review: Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me

    Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me I wish I had discovered Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me by Joni Hilton when I was a newlywed. A clean house can save you time, money, improve your health and make you feel better about yourself. This book is a good guide to cleaning your house and is full of tips and pointers. (Although many of the decorating ideas are questionable or at least dated. But then I can't say that I'm a decorating expert either.) I also liked her statement "The easiest way to keep a house clean is to keep a clean house." So true! Here are some things that I learned from reading this book.
    • To whiten grout make a paste of baking soda, water and a few drops of bleach.
    • When moving nightstands, tables and other furniture, put orphan socks on the furniture legs to protects them and the floor from scratches.
    • A good way to hang pictures and avoid hitting your thumb with a hammer is to hold the nail in place with an old fork.
    • Most pillows can be washed on a gentle cycle.  Wash two at once, and put a clean tennis shoe with them in the dryer to help them stay fluffy.
    • To keep colored clothes from fading, before wearing for the first time, soak in salt water overnight, wash as usual.
    • When sewing a button onto white items use dental floss, it lasts much longer than regular thread.
    • Dabbing clear nail polish over the threads on the top of the button will make it last even longer.
    • Use ketchup to clean copper, or anything else with tomato acid in it.
    • The easiest way to clean mini-blinds is to put on clean cotton work gloves, get them sudsy and then wipe the blinds with your hands.
    • Used fabric softener sheets are great for shining chrome surfaces.
    • To cut down on squeaking in hardwood floors, rub talcum powder into the cracks.
    • Freezing candles before lighting makes the wicks last longer and the candle drip less.
    • Stickers can be removed with vinegar.
    • Shaving cream makes a great upholstery cleaner.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Food Storage Friday: Apple & Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes with Cider Sauce

    I find that breakfast is the easiest meal to incorporate food storage into and it's a good way to use your food storage on a regular basis. Awhile ago I tried a recipe for Blender Wheat Pancakes that I found in I Dare You To Eat It. It was good, but I couldn't get my kids to try it. Recently I tried another recipe for Spicy Apple Pancakes with Cider Sauce from Skinny Bovine's Kitchen. My kids would eat them, but they left me thinking that there must be a healthier way to make these pancakes. Last week I had the epiphany to combine the recipes. Voila! A simple delicious food storage recipe that my family is willing to eat. I love that it's a way to use your wheat without any advance preparation. Enjoy.

    Apple Wheat Pancakes
    Food Storage Ingredients
    1 cup raw wheat kernels
    1 Tablespoon cornmeal
    1 Tablespoon of brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
    2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon cloves

    Fresh Ingredients
    1 1/2 cup buttermilk
    2 eggs
    1 Tablespoon butter
    1 1/2 cups large apple chunks (cored, but not peeled)

    1. Pour buttermilk and wheat into a blender. Blend until mixture smooth. (About 10 minutes.) 2. Add apple chunks and blend again. 3. Stir remaining ingredients into wheat mixture and make into pancakes over medium/ medium low heat. Makes about one dozen medium pancakes.

    The cider sauce is the best part, and I love that everything except the butter are things that I keep in my food storage.

    Cider Sauce
    1 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp cloves
    2 cups apple cider or apple juice
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    2 Tablespoons butter 
    1.Put in dry ingredients then add lemon juice & apple cider/juice. 2 Stir on medium/hot, boiling for one minute while stirring. 3.Take off the stove and add butter. Stir until melted.

    My kids actually don't like this syrup, they prefer the ordinary pancake variety. I think it is FANTASTIC. It also makes enough for two batches of pancakes.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Getting Ready for Christmas & October Giveaway

    Yes, yes I know it is not even Halloween yet. However my kids' birthdays are in November and December and if I don't start planning for the holidays way in advance, the holidays aren't fun. They're busy, stressful and more expensive.
     Here are some of the things that I've been stowing away over the past few months:
    • a couple Littlest Pet Shops from Target (used a B1G1 coupon combined with a sale) 
    • eight books (including some activity books) gathered from various sales (I generally only spend $4 or less on children's books)
    • a wooden alphabet abacus from ($7)
    • a few Tag reader books from Walmart clearance & (used my coupons and the sale is still going through the end October)
    • a couple movies (great deals + coupons)
    • a few Melissa and Doug puzzles from B& (@ 70% off)
    • a couple M&D magnifying glasses from B& (same sale)
    • coloring books and new crayons (at $1 each or less)
    • a Toy Story Lego set from B& (that sale is still going through 10/24)
    • multiple small items for stocking stuffers and "shoe gifts" (In my husband's family they have a tradition that on the 12 Days of Christmas, an elf left a tiny present in one of their shoes. It's one that we continued.) 
    • plus I found a really great idea to make for the extended family (I'd share here, but once in awhile my family does read my blog and that would ruin the surprise.)
    And this is the one that I am really excited about.
     One day my super cute friend sent me a text asking if my daughter like Disney Princesses. Of course. She collected porcelain dolls when she was young, was getting rid of stuff and was wondering if I would be interested in taking them off her hands. There were these, plus two others that aren't in the boxes. It is going to make a fantastic set-up for Christmas morning. My husband  plans on making her a cabinet to keep them safe from her little brother. I'm so excited for how excited she's going to be! I'm done with my shopping for her and some for my son and I've spent about $120. I'm pretty happy thus far, some items they have requested, a few they wouldn't have thought of, and several 'learning toys'.

    Now for the October giveaway: Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo pack plus Disney Princess soundtrack, to take one more item off your Christmas shopping list.  (Were you as excited as I was, to hear that this one was finally coming to DVD again?)

    Here's how you can win it: 1. (Required) Be a follower and leave a comment stating your interest. 2. (Extra) Share one way you get ready for the holidays without losing your sanity. Be specific, not just 'I shop early', for example 'I hit x sale at y store', or 'I make z dish and freeze it' 3. (Extra) Share a deal you have found on one of your Christmas gifts for this year. 4. (Extra) 'Like' this post on Facebook (Button at bottom of post) and leave a comment here. 5. (Extra) Read one of these these posts Be A Hero, Be the Match or Folic Acid- A Key To Healthy Babies, share the info with someone and leave a comment here. (Because these are issues I care about, and I want people to be aware of how simple actions can make a huge difference.) Giveaway runs through October 31, 2010 at 23:59. The winner will be announced on November 1, 2010. The winner be selected using a random number generator. Only residents of the United States are eligible. Good Luck.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Folic Acid A Key To Healthy Babies

    When I saw this headline on the cover of yesterday's paper (sorry I was going to link to the article, but for some reason the Sunday cover story isn't listed on the Salt Lake Trib's website, weird I know), I was a little surprised, I mean research proved this in the 1980's. The problem is that health care officials and educators assume that people know this and they stop harping on the matter, but every year a new group of women enter their child bearing years and need to hear this information. And even though I have gotten on this soapbox before, I am going to share a few important facts about folic acid and urge moms everywhere to share this with their friends and with their daughters.
    • Folic acid occurs naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables, but our bodies absorb it best in it's synthetic form. To get your daily RDA of folic acid from your diet you would have to eat 200 red apples.
    • Insufficient folic acid can lead to birth defects (or defects that result in miscarriage) including defects of the brain, skull, spine, heart, arms, legs, face, hard palate (cleft lip and/or palate) and urinary tract. A mother can reduce the risk of her child having these defects by 50-70% by taking 400 micrograms of folic acid a day.
    • The most crucial time for you to be getting folic acid is in the first 28 days of pregnancy. Most women don't even know that they're pregnant in the first 28 days. 
    • Hince why, EVERY woman in her child bearing years should take a folic acid supplement.
    • Folic acid is used to create and repair DNA (necessary for cell production), which is why it is so vital during early pregnancy. The first 28 days are when your little bundle of joy goes from 2 microscopic cells to a something with a heart beat. Isn't that just phenomenal to think about?
    • Folic acid is crucial not just for the growing baby, but mom too. During pregnancy folic acid demands increase because it is needed to produce the new cells that are making up the increased blood volume, and general increased everything that come with pregnancy.
    • According to a March of Dimes survey in 2009, only 11% of women took folic acid before pregnancy.
    • Apparently there is a myth going around that multi-vitamins will make you fat. This is false. However, if your multi-vitamin has iron in it and you're not drinking enough water, it can make you constipated which can lead to bloating and discomfort. Stay well hydrated and you should be fine. 
    • Since 1998 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated that folic acid be added to white flour, bread and pasta, which has resulted in about 1000 fewer children born with neural tube defects each year. 
    • Many Hispanic women have genetic deficiency that interferes with the metabolism of folic acid. Which means that they should be taking even more folic acid.
    • The average life-time cost of spina bifida per person in the United States is $532,000. 
    • Currently the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the March of Dimes, and the Spina Bifida Association along with corn and flour tortilla manufacturers are working with the FDA to supplement corn tortillas, a staple for many Hispanic diets. It is estimated to cost $3 million per year, but will save $145 million in direct medical costs for defects.
    • If you are a woman living in Utah you can sign up for free vitamins at 

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Food Storage Friday: Lentil Soup

    So this week I tried something different, lentils. Lentils are high in protein, iron, fiber and folic acid. They cook faster than beans and when stored in #10 cans have a shelf life of approximately 30 years. Not to mention super cheap, I bought a pound bag for 98 cents. They're pretty much a super food, and a great way to add protein to your long-term food storage. Why is it that I've never had these things before? This recipe seemed like a good one to try because it includes so many food storage ingredients and it cooks in the crock pot.

    French Lentil Rice Soup
    Food Storage Ingredients
    6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
    1 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed
    3 Tablespoons uncooked rice
    1/3 cup dried onions
    1 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/3 cup dried carrots
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    dash of pepper

    Fresh Ingredients
    1/2 green bell pepper, diced
    2 Tablespoons minced garlic
    3/4 cup water
    sour cream (optional)
    pesto (optional)
    parsley (optional)
    dried Italian seasoning (optional)

    1. Stir all but optional ingredients together in crockpot. 2. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. 3. Remove 1 1/2 cups of soup and puree until almost smooth. Stir back into soup. (Make sure that the blender is vented when pureeing hot liquids.) 4. Garnish as desired.

    I will be the first to admit that this is not something that I'm going to crave in the middle of the night. I felt the fresh pesto improved it, as did the dried Italian seasoning. My husband likes it and has even chose it over leftover pizza for lunch one day. Sometimes you cook with food storage not because it tastes better than your alternatives (and sometimes it does) but because you're just getting comfortable with your options so if it comes down to "We are eating only food storage" you know what to do. I feel like this is one of those meals, but at least it's packed with lots of nutrients which makes me feel a little better about it.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

    Recently I discovered a large bag of stale pretzels in my pantry. Not being one to waste food this is what I made with it and it was sooo yummy. I combined a recipe for a pie that I made in high school for a girl's choice dance (which pie came out of my date's nose when he started laughing uncontrollably, yeah haven't made it since) and one I found in The Essential Mormon Cookbook.

    Strawberry Pretzel Dessert 
    2/3 cup butter, melted
    2 1/2 cups thin pretzel sticks
    1 package (8 oz) neufchatel
    1 tub (8 oz) whipped topping
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1 Tablespoon vanilla
    3/4 cup white sugar
    2 cup water
    1 large package of strawberry-flavored gelatin
    3 cups of frozen strawberries or raspberries
    1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple, undrained

    1. Crush pretzels and mix with butter into a crust in a 9x13 pan. 2. Bake for 10 minutes @ 400. 3. Remove and cool. 4. Combine neufchatel, whipped topping, lemon juice, vanilla and sugar. Spread over pretzel crust. Make sure that all parts of the crust are covered and there are no gaps between the edge of the pan and the whipped topping mixture.  5. Bring water to a boil. Dissolve gelatin in water and cool until syrupy. 6. Puree strawberries in the blender. 7. Mix strawberries and pineapple into gelatin. 8. Pour over top of whipped topping mixture. Refrigerate several hours until firm.
    It doesn't plate fantastic, but I would have to say this is pretty darn amazing for something that I threw together using just what I had in my freezer and pantry.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Home Remedy for Sore Throats: Apple Cider with Mulling Spices

    Friday morning I woke up with a sore throat and thought "Why did I agree to come into work today?" After hitting the snooze alarm I remembered something about bills, my unit needing me and it only being a couple hours, then dragged my tired booty out of bed. I work in Pediatrics and I generally don't get sick, because I am exposed to a wide variety of nasty bugs in many forms on a regular basis and after a year or so that builds up a super immune system. That is I don't get sick as long as I get enough sleep and keep the stress down. (Unfortunately neither Wednesday or Thursday were low stress days.) If I don't keep the stress down there are any number of nasty bugs just waiting to make themselves at home. Solution: Treat symptoms while they are mild.

    Growing up, whenever we had sore throats or various upper respiratory illnesses my mom would make hot lemonade or hot apple cider for us. (My grandma was a firm believer that if you added a teaspoon of Everclear alcohol to some hot lemonade and gargled it, it would kill anything that was lurking in your throat. It probably does, but I can't say that I have ever tried it.) So I filled my thermos with hot apple juice, lemon and mulling spices and I was good to go. I didn't realize how much my throat hurt until the apple cider was there to sooth it.

    Now some of you may be asking, 'what are mulling spices?' Mulling spices turn ordinary hot apple juice into spicy yummy goodness. If you purchase them they are generally overpriced, but they are very easy to make. (Another trick I learned from my mom.) Plus when you make them yourself you have an excuse to smash things with a hammer, which can also help with stress. (Helpful Hint: I found that the cheapest place to buy spices is in the little bulk baggies at the health food store. The last time I bought them they were about 25% of the cost at the grocery store.)

    Mulling Spices
    6 cinnamon sticks
    1 small whole nutmeg
    1/2 cup of whole cloves
    1/2 cup whole allspice
    1 whole orange peel, cut into little pieces and dried
    1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
    1/4 cup thinly slice dried pears (optional)

    1. Smash cinnamon sticks and nutmeg with a hammer. (Preferably with spices in a bag.) 2. Mix ingredients together. 3. Mix one heaping teaspoon of spices per cup of beverage. (Some people tie their spices into little cheesecloth bags before soaking them. I am way too lazy for that.) The longer the spices have to soak in the juice the better the flavor. If you are going to make big batch, a crock pot is a good option. You don't have to limit yourself to mulling in apple juice. Most clear fruit juices will work.

    I've been drinking a lot of this stuff over the past four days. (I use the same spices a few times and keep refilling my thermos with hot juice.) My throat feels so much better. I like to add a tablespoon of lemon or orange juice to it as well (I had a voice teacher in college who swore by putting lemon juice in her water to ward off sore throats). I'm not saying that apple cider is a replacement for medicine when necessary, but there is a great deal to be said about getting plenty of fluids and Vitamin C. Both of which are necessary for healing. Plus the spices do great things for you too. Cinnamon helps with circulation, digestion, anxiety, stress, diabetes, menstrual cycles and is a mild natural antibiotic (which is why it is found in some toothpaste.) Cloves also improves digestion, eases throat irritation and coughing, and is another natural antiseptic. (I read in a few places that it has officially been endorsed by the FDA as a stopgap measure for tooth pain.) Allspice has pain relief and antiseptic properties. Nutmeg aids with digestion, but it's thrown in this mix for flavor. I think it's pretty awesome that all of these spices that I'm using to help things taste better are actually helping my body heal at the same time.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Food Storage Friday: Apple Almond Oatmeal

    Before making this breakfast I had never actually made oatmeal other than of the instant variety. I like that this recipe uses a crock pot, has few ingredients and they are all ingredients that I have on hand anyway. I liked that it has almonds in it because a breakfast of just oatmeal doesn't have enough protein to get you through the morning. I also like that the apples make it so there isn't much sugar required. Plus you wake up to your house smelling like cooked apples.

    Apple Almond Oatmeal
    Food Storage Ingredients
    1 cup steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
    1 cup apple juice
    1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp brown sugar

    Fresh Ingredients
    1 & 2/3 cup of apples, peeled and chopped
    1 cup water

    1. Combine ingredients in a small slow cooker. Cook for 8 hours on low. Makes 3 servings.

    A few notes: Yes, I realize that the picture looks just like ordinary oatmeal, which is less than appealing, but I promise the cooked apples very much improve it. I'm sure that I could have very easily used dried apples instead of fresh and just added more water, but we have lots of fresh apples here so that's what I used. If you are making for more than 3-4, this recipe can be doubled or tripled. I could have easily doubled it in my small $5 slow-cooker. I really liked the almonds, my daughter didn't. Perhaps next time we will try it without and I can just sprinkle them on afterward.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    So what is in the Healthcare Reform Act anyway?

    Last week I attended a nursing education conference. One of the speakers talked about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act gave a descent summary of the changes that it will make on health care in the United States. I've heard a lot about what is and isn't in the PPACA, but I've heard conflicting things. There's a reason for the that. The PPACA is almost 2,400 pages long and it is very complex. 2,400 pages, that's massive. I like to read, but I don't think I have ever sat down and read anything that long. (The KJV of the Bible is only 1590 pages and I think that's the longest book I have ever read in its entirety.) I think that I can safely assume that most people aren't reading that document in its entirety, making it difficult to know what it actually says. So I thought I would sum up what I have learned and share it with all of those moms out there who are wondering how this is going to effect them and their families.
    Here are some of the big changes that it includes:
    • Individual Mandate
    • Premium and Cost-sharing Subsidies
    • Employer Responsibility
    • Guaranteed Issue
    • Insurance Exchange
    • Medicaid/CHIP Expansion
    • Wellness Programs
    • Payment Reform
     Ok, I work in health care and I still didn't know what half of those things meant until someone explained it to me, so I'm going to try to explain them so my readers can also know what's going on with their health care.
    Individual Mandate- This means that the government requires that every individual has some kind of health insurance coverage. If they don't have coverage they have to pay fines. (This doesn't begin until 2014.) Right now there are a lot of young healthy people who don't have insurance because they don't utilize health care often enough to make health insurance coverage cost effective for them. One of the principles of individual mandate is to spread the risk (cost) of insuring older sick people over a larger group of people.
    Premium and Cost-sharing Subsidies- This means that there are limits on how much a person should be expected to pay for health insurance. And there are subsidies to assist people with their health insurance premiums up to 400% of the national poverty level. For example let's say you have a family of 4 and you make $42K annually. That puts you in the 150-200% of the national poverty level range. The most that you are allowed to pay for your health insurance is 6.5% of your income. This is good news for a lot of people. There are so many people that I know who make too much money to qualify for Medicare, but are fairly crippled by their health insurance premiums, especially if they are not able to get them through an employer. To see where you would fall on the  subsidy chart go here. This one also starts in January, 2014.
    Employer Responsibility- This means that all companies that have at least 50 employees are required to offer some kind of health insurance to them, or pay fines. Companies with at least 200 employees must automatically enroll all of their  full-time employees in health insurance, although employees can opt out and receive vouchers that they can use for a health insurance plan of their choosing. Coming January, 2014.
    Guaranteed Issue- This is a big one. This means that insurance companies can not deny you coverage for a preexisting condition, and they have to renew your policy also. I can think of dozen people that I personally know who this will help. My best friend's mom with cancer, my neighbor with diabetes, my father-in-law with a rare genetic disorder, a former co-worker whose husband has sleep apnea, a friend's son with cerebral palsy are just a few. Everyone of these people are hard-working, tax-paying Americans who because of they have "preexisting conditions" and are unable to get insurance through their employers, do not have health insurance. Some have been lucky so far, others have been almost crippled by medical bills. For children, guaranteed issue started September 23, 2010 (Hooray!) and will start January 1, 2014 for adults.
    Insurance Exchange- By January, 2014 states will be required to set up health insurance exchanges, which are like marketplaces. It's a place where people can compare rates and programs, and hopefully factoring in some competition will improve the available product. But they won't be available for everyone.
    Medicaid/CHIP Expansion- This means that more of those people who right now make "too much" money to qualify for Medicaid/CHIP will be eligible. And even if states have budget short-falls they will not be able to cut funding here until 2019.
    Wellness Programs- All qualifying insurance companies will have to provide preventative wellness programs to infants, children and adolescents, such as well-child checks and immunizations. This is effective September 23, 2010. (I love this, because I believe that preventative medicine is more cost-effective. And I think that it is sad that some people who do have insurance still don't get these things done because it costs them too much money.)
    Payment Reform- Medical billing, murg. I know that for me at my job I now have more paper work. (Although compared to some I have nothing to complain about.) I know that Medicare payments are being modified drastically. And Medicare will increase their payments to primary care providers by 10%, because they want to encourage more good doctors to be primary care providers. Having quality primary care will save everyone money. But the bottom line for most Americans is that will taxes will go up to fund these changes.
    A few other interesting points- There are now no lifetime limits. So my chronic pediatric patient who burned through more than one million in health care dollars in his first year of life can actually have health insurance as an adult. There are no annual limits. So if you have something catastrophic like a mangling car accident your insurance company can't say "Sorry we won't pay for your prosthetic leg because you've already cost us too much money this year." Dependents must be eligible for coverage until the age of 26. (And if you're married and under 26 you still qualify to be on your parents insurance.) This will make getting through college and graduate school so much easier for a lot of people. When I was in college I knew a guy who only went to school one semester a year because he had to spend the rest of the year working full-time to afford the insurance that was available (and required) from the university. This would be huge for people like him. Goodness it would have made my life a lot easier going through college too. And there will also be limits on how much profit insurance company administrators can make. It's about time.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Halloween Costumes on the Cheap

    I am ready for Halloween!
    I bought a Groupon ($30 for $15) last weekend which I used to buy this for Thing One.
    Out of pocket, including shipping, the Groupon and star wand=$21 (Normally $47 + tax). Another thing about BuyCostumes is that every day they have a couple of costumes that are ridiculously marked down. Today there are a cute mermaid and a little red riding hood costume normally $50 each down to $3.99.  They also have several cute Animal Planet infant/toddler costumes for $10 each (every day). Economy shipping is 4.99. You can get 20% off with code "creepy20" Definitely worth looking at. (Oh and they participates in Ebates too.)

    For Thing Two we decided on a dragon costume from Old Navy.

    Online they are $20, but there is a code for 30% off ( SAVEBIG today only), bringing it down to $14, but then you have to pay for shipping unless you spend $100 or more. (One perk of buying online, besides the convenience, is that you can get a Upromise or Ebates kick-back.) At my local Old Navy all of the costumes were marked down to $16. On Tuesdays if you use your Old Navy card you can get an additional 10% off or you can use your bucks back like I did to get it for FREE. (You can't use a percent off discount and bucks back in the same transaction at Old Navy stores.) I have bought Old Navy Halloween costumes in the past and have always been happy with them. The fleece ones are really great if you live somewhere that has snow at Halloween. (This year we will probably be at Grandma's for Halloween, so that means us too.) It has been my experience that as the month of October rolls on there are more sales and discounts available at Old Navy. If you wait until the last Friday of October, that is when they usually have their big 50% off everything sale (for the first 50 customers). And by then the costumes will be marked down to only a few dollars each. The problem is that if you wait that long the selection diminishes. As it was today I grabbed one of only 2 dragons and the only one in his size. But the hamburgers are cute too and there were plenty of those.

    This morning while we were at Target (picking up Beauty and the Beast!) we checked out their costumes too. They also had several good options ranging from $12-$40. They seemed to have more of the "St George weather" variety of costumes.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Things to Do in Southern Utah: Coral Pink Sand Dunes

    I have reached that stage in my life where my children are not interested in watching anything that isn't a cartoon. Nor are they very cooperative in letting my husband and I watch non-cartoons. Let's just say that watching General Conference on Saturday is a joke. (Not to mention that I can not watch that much TV without falling asleep.) The solution: strap the kids in the car and drive for two hours. Driving for two hours took us to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. (Ok, it's not quite two hours from us, but after stopping at the bank, getting gas, and getting a late start it was about that.) Admission to the park (without camping) is $6 per vehicle. I recently got some sand buckets in the summer clearance section at Walgreens that were 75% off and then free with my Register Rewards. I used them to bribe the kids to be quiet on the way there. The fastest way to get there (from St George) is to drive through Apple Valley, down through part of Arizona and back up into Southern Utah.
    I had heard many people talk about how great this place is and once we arrived I thought "Am I missing something? It's not even pink." Regardless my kids thought it was greatest thing and want us to come back "at least six times". They had a terrific time playing in the sand.
    Whose definition of pink is that?

    Still a fairly impressive sight. (My pics really don't do it justice.)

    The view of the other direction.
    The place is pretty much an enormous sand box.
    Even though it is October, it was still about 95 degrees there. We're thinking that we'll have to come in January when it is much cooler. The bathroom and picnic facilities are descent. I liked that there are a couple of spigots with cold water to rinse off most of the sand before heading back. Bring sunscreen, a lunch and plenty of water. And towels for sand removal. We took the long way back through Zion's. A nice drive, but if you don't have a Zion's or National Park Pass it is $25, and yes they do take credit.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Food Storage Friday: Wheatberry Salsa

    I think that one of the biggest hurdles that people have with using their food storage is wheat. I know that when I was growing up we ate many forms of food storage on a regular basis, except the wheat. We never touched the wheat.Yet wheat is so good for you! It gives you fiber, folic acid and protein. Not to mention that it is cheap, versatile and retains its nutrients for decades! If you grind it into flour the possibilities are endless, but there are many options even without grinding it into flour.
    I was first introduced to this salsa/salad by my mother-in-law. She calls it Confetti Salad. Since then I have also seen it called Cowboy Caviar. A little over a year ago I went to a class taught by Liesa Card, where she served Fiesta Wheat and Bean Salad. It was similar to the other two, but added wheat. (Which is really an inspired idea.) Mine is mixture of the three. I have made and shared this many times with a bag of tortilla chips. At first people are skeptical, but they don’t stop eating until it’s all gone. I brought it to work once and a nursing student that I was mentoring insisted that I give her the recipe so she could serve it at her wedding reception.True story. It is one of our favorite ways to use wheat and it doesn't even require a wheat grinder. It's delicious and very healthy too.

    Wheatberry Salsa

    Food storage ingredients
    3 cups of cooked wheatberries
    1 can of diced tomatoes /c green chiles, drained
    1 can corn, drained
    1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
    1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    1 cup Italian salad dressing (or a packet of dry Italian dressing mix and the ingredients to prepare it)
    1 teaspoon of white sugar

    Fresh ingredients
    1 green bell pepper, diced
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    6 small green onions, diced
    1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves chopped
    1 small jalapeno pepper, cored and diced
    1 Anaheim pepper, cored and diced
    1 Tablespoon lime juice

    1. Mix it all together and keep refrigerated.  Serve with chips.

    A few notes: Let refrigerate for at least 3 hours before eating to allow the wheat to absorb the other flavors, otherwise it will taste strongly of wheat. My mother-in-law uses shoe-peg corn in hers. The day I see a good price on that stuff by the case I will probably start using that instead. Leisa makes her own dressing for the salad, I use Italian because its faster. If you want to mix it up you can add an extra jalapeno or use different colored bell peppers.This salad makes A LOT. I always mix in my big Halloween candy bowl. If you have been my neighbor, visiting teacher, visiting teachee, co-worker, or relative in the past year, you have probably had this stuff. When I make a batch, it's almost impossible for my small family to eat it all before it loses it's freshness, so I share and let it be known that 'yes, I am that crazy lady who uses her food storage'.
    One batch
      My husband discovered another great use for the stuff- Wheatberry Salsa Chicken
    1. Take four boneless skinless chicken breast. 2. Rub chicken with enchilada seasoning. 3. Smother with wheatberry salsa. 4. Sprinkle with pepperjack cheese and bake until chicken is cooked through. Enjoy!