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  • Trapped in Traffic: Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

    For Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, his wife, and a few cousins drove from Utah to California to visit family for the holiday. As they were driving back to Utah the following Sunday, the weather turned sour. It wasn’t snowing heavily – just light rain and sleet, according to my brother-in-law – but that didn’t stop a wreck from happening 80 miles away from their home.

    winter-traffic winter drivingFortunately they weren't involved, but traffic was at a standstill. They would later discover that a semi-truck had jackknifed on the freeway, blocking all lanes. My brother-in-law took a side road – along with everyone else on the freeway – in order to get around the accident. As it turned out, traffic slowed to a crawl – and then full on stop – on that road as well. They moved six miles in an hour and a half. It was 8:00 at night, and they had work and school the next day.

    Later, they learned what had caused the stoppage on the access road – another semi-truck had jackknifed.

    Such experiences can be very frustrating. Fortunately, they all made it back safe and sound. The only casualty was a bit of sanity and some much needed sleep. But they’re alright, and that’s what matters.

    Winter has arrived here in Utah, and if it hasn’t arrived for you yet, it could very soon.

    We talk a lot about preparing your home and food storage for emergencies and disasters (which also includes winter), but today we’d like to help you get your car ready for winter driving conditions.

    First off, how’s your car’s emergency kit? Just like in your home, your car should be prepared with the essentials, just in case you slide off the road or are otherwise stranded in the cold. Ready.gov has a list of necessary items for your car’s kit. Some of those include the following:

     

    • Shovel
    • Windshield scraper
    • Flashlight
    • Water
    • Snack food
    • Blankets and warm clothing
    • Road salt/sand
    • Booster cables

     

    These are some of the basic necessities that need to go with you wherever you travel throughout the winter. Of course, you may have special circumstances and needs which you should prepare for as well, such as medications, pet supplies, or other such items.

    Thinking back on the experience of my brother-in-law, what might have happened if they had things not worked out for them? My first thought is gas.

    What would their trip home have been like if their gas tank had been low going into that traffic jam? During a chilly winter night, they could have been stuck without heat. Blankets, hats, mittens, and other warm clothing would have been a very welcomed resource in that situation. Fortunately, their gas tank was full enough until they could reach the next town (the towns are spread out quite far in the area in which they were stuck, so things could have been a lot worse).

    winter driving

    If they had been stuck on the road, snacks and water would not only do wonders for their morale, but help keep them hydrated, alert, and functioning properly in the event they needed more than just corn ships. Flashlights would have been useful in checking under the hood in case of car trouble (or having light by which passengers could read while they wait). A traffic jam is one thing. Sliding off the road in the middle of nowhere and having to wait for help to arrive would certainly require an emergency stash of gear.

    And the list goes on.

    You see, we never can plan for disasters (including two jackknifed trucks blocking two roads on one trip). That’s why it’s so important to have emergency gear and supplies in your car. The example scenarios above are only meant to give a hint of what could have been – the possibilities of what could have happened are many.

     

    Winter_Storm_Blog_Image2 winter driving

  • Daylight Saving Time: A (Dark) Reminder to Prepare

    Smoke Detector Daylight SavingIn Norfolk, Va., less than two weeks ago, a fire gutted a home and killed two pets. Yet the four people in the home all survived. The home had working smoke detectors.

    In Spokane, Wash., at the end of last month, a fire killed a 3-year-old and the child’s dog. Parents and three other children got out. The home had smoke detectors, but the batteries weren’t working and had been removed.

    Daylight Saving time ended yesterday.  But you can still take a few minutes to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and do a few other semi-annual tasks to prepare for home evacuation emergencies like fires.

    In the United States, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), three out of five deaths from home fires occur in homes without smoke alarms or working smoke detectors.

    Synthetic materials now used in home construction and furniture catch fire at a lower temperature. Their smoke is also more toxic. While 30 years ago you had 14 to 17 minutes to evacuate from a house fire, you now have two to three minutes, Underwriters Laboratories Consumer Safety Director John Drengenberg told This Old House. (This Old House has a great piece that breaks down the steps a fire goes through from small grease fire on a stove to a home fully engulfed.)

    “If you wake up to a fire, you won't have time to grab valuables because fire spreads too quickly and the smoke is too thick. There is only time to escape,” according to ready.gov.

    Daylight Saving

    So, while you’re setting back those last few clocks you keep forgetting about, change smoke detector batteries, and do a few other things too.

    Count smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace any that are more than 10 years old, suggests the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). Also replace any that don’t go off when tested. Every level of your home should have at least one, and the USFA suggests putting a smoke alarm in every sleeping area.

    You should test detectors monthly, a brochure from Energizer and the IAFC says. But if you’re like most of us and forget, test them now. Same with cleaning dust and cobwebs off. Go ahead and do that now, too. Test them when family members are around so they can learn to recognize the sound.

    Twice per year – Daylight Saving time is a good way to remember – get with family members and review home evacuation plans.

    Ready.govFire Alarm Daylight Saving gives the following tips:

    • Find two ways to get out of each room. You’ll need a second way out if the primary route is blocked by smoke or fire.
    • Only purchase collapsible ladders evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
    • Make sure that windows are not stuck, screens can be taken out quickly, and that security bars can be properly opened. Make sure all family members old enough to do so can open locked or barred doors and windows.
    • Practice feeling your way out of the house in the dark or with your eyes closed.
    • Teach children not to hide from firefighters, and teach them to stay low when trying to evacuate.
    • Also, make sure you’ve got a family meeting place away from the home.

    Change batteries in other home safety and comfort devices, like thermostats and security systems. Many smart appliances use batteries.

    Keep flashlights by each bed, the brochure from the IAFC recommends, to help family members find the way out and signal for help. Change flashlight batteries around Daylight Saving time, too, since kids will have used them for reading, searching for lost items under the bed and playing flashlight tag.

    Get out 72-hour kits, and replace products that will expire in the next six months. Remember to check non-food items – batteries have an expiration date, too. Also, be sure to keep copies of important documents in a fireproof container or, even better, offsite or in cloud storage.

    Every year, home fires kill more than 2,500 people and injure 12,600 in the U.S, according to ready.gov. Whether you like Daylight Saving time or think it should be abolished, it can be a great reminder to protect your home and family from fire.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Daylight Saving

  • Mountain House Review (Part 1): 3 Meals from the Classic Assortment Bucket

    I’m not a chef. I’m more of a short-order cook. In my family of seven, six have dietary restriction. Food allergies include milk products, tree nuts, wheat, corn, eggs, and soy, in varying degrees of severity. I also have an autistic son who, until last year, ate fewer than 10 foods, and a special needs daughter with weak musculature who struggles with hard-to-chew foods.

    When I find a food that most family members like and can eat, it’s lovely.  It’s even better when it cooks in less than 30 minutes. And it’s a massive bonus when my kids can make it themselves. Meal pouches from the Mountain House® Classic Assortment (12 pouches) (SKU: FC B395) meet all three qualifications. We tried three of the six types of meals. I enthusiastically recommend all three.

     

    Lasagna with Meat Sauce

    mh-lasagna-pouch Mountain House ReviewMy kids first requested the Lasagna with Meat Sauce. We used two packages. Each package said it served 2.5 people. When we used it as a main dish, we found it served more. Six of us ate, and we had leftovers. Our side dish was Emergency Essentials® Freeze-Dried Sweet Corn with Butter and Salt (SKU: FN C101)

    “It tasted superb,” my 9-year-old said.

    I don’t have much experience with freeze-dried food, so I followed the package directions exactly. (We didn’t always do so; more on that later.) After I added two cups of boiling water to the pouch and stirred, I expected everything to mush together in a (flavorful) blob. It didn’t. The texture was reminiscent of skillet lasagna, and the ingredients were distinct.

    My 3-year-old, nicknamed “the little carnivore,” ate the meat and left the noodles. My special needs daughter ate the noodles and left the meat. Both requested multiple helpings.

    The meat sauce was thick with a cheesy, mildly spicy flavor. (If you like a strong flavor, you might want to add spices.)

    “I think it should have less sauce, because it got all over me,” my 9-year-old joked.

    It contains dairy and wheat products.

     

    Granola with Milk and Blueberries

    mh-granola-with-milk-and-blueberries-pouch Mountain House ReviewThe package says the Granola with Milk and Blueberries serves two. It depends on the two. My 9-year-old, who made it herself, ate the whole pouch.  And she doesn’t normally like fruit.

    The directions call for ½ cup of cold water. When my daughter made it, she said it was “too liquid-y.” The pouch says you can add less water for thicker granola. The second time we made it, we started with 1/3 cup of water and added a bit more as needed.

    The granola contains milk, soy, wheat and coconut.

    I also tried the granola pouch as a streusel topping for blueberry muffins, adapting a Betty Crocker recipe. It enhanced the muffins by adding a bit of crunch and cinnamon flavor.

     

    Streusel-topped Blueberry Muffins

    Ingredients:

    Streusel Topping

    One packet (two servings) Mountain House Granola with Milk and Blueberries, prepared.

     

    Muffins

    ¾ cup milk

    ¼ cup vegetable oil

    1 egg

    2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

    ½ cup granulated sugar

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    ½ teaspoon salt

    1 cup fresh, canned (drained) or frozen blueberries

     

    Directions

    Heat oven to 400°F. Line 12 regular-size muffin cups with paper baking cups, or spray bottoms of cups with cooking spray.

    In large bowl, beat milk, oil and egg with fork or wire whisk until blended. Add 2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder and salt all at once; stir just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Gently stir in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon streusel.

    Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. If muffins were baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove from pan to cooling rack. If muffins were baked in sprayed pan, leave in pan about 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm or cooled.

     

    Beef Stew

    mh-beef-stew-pouch Mountain House ReviewI was at the doctor and my 13-year-old was babysitting. My doctor appointment ran late, so my 9-year old decided to make dinner. She went to the Mountain House bucket, opened a package of Beef Stew and added 2 cups of water. Unfortunately, she didn’t read the directions to boil the water first. She put the mixture in a saucepan, and we heated it over the stove. It still came out great.

    At first glance, there didn’t seem to be that much beef in the stew. However, the beef flavor came through in every bite. It was thick enough that we served it with toast.

    Even though it tasted really good, it was not the most appetizing-looking food on the planet. So imagine my surprise when my picky, autistic, 5-year-old ate two full helpings and asked for more. This one’s a keeper.

    It contains soy and wheat.

     

    Other notes: The Mountain House packets contain my favorite “Best if used by” label: July 2046. Here’s one food storage item you won’t have to rotate.

    Make sure you store water as well as food. Ready.gov recommends storing a gallon per person per day for three days.

    I will review the other three meals in the Mountain House Classic Meal Assortment® in my next post.

    --Melissa

     

    Editor’s note: While the food in the Mountain House® Classic Assortment comes in pouches, these meals are also available in #10 cans.

     

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