Category Archives: Life Skills

Apocabox Special Offers From Creek Stewart June 2018

I recently found out that Creek Stewart from Apocabox was offering a few specials and I wanted to let you know about them right away.  I am not affiliated with Apocabox or Creek Stewart.  I simply believe in his mission to teach others about survival and life skills.  I believe in the idea that “if you give a man a fish then he will eat for a day, and if you teach a man to fish then he will eat for a lifetime”.  I want to encourage other families to check out the life skills and survival skills challenges that he teaches.  My family has been blessed to learn from him and all of these skills are useful and could help you in a survival situation someday.

Anyway, the free offer was for a folding survival saw that fits in your back pack.  I watched his video about the saw and ordered one to put into my husband’s Father’s Day gift.  The saw is FREE, but you do pay $3.95 for shipping and handling through the offer on his website, and he will send it out to you.  If the offer is not posted on the front page of his website, then it is over.

After placing that order, there was another notice for a Special Edition Apocabox ONE TIME OFFER. If you decide you want it too, then both orders will be billed and shipped together.  Creek Stewart has loaded a box with almost $200 worth of leftover gear from previous boxes and he will send it out for the standard $50 Apocabox price.  He is hoping that after folks get this and try out the gear, they will want to join.  But there is no commitment needed, it is a one time offer.  One other offer pops up after that for the entire collection of Creek’s pocket survival guides at a huge discount.

I watched two of his videos he made, one is about the knife and one is about the gear he included in the One Time Offer Special Edition Apocabox, and I thought both of these would make a nice addition to my husband’s Father’s Day gift.  He will have some really nice items to use for camping, hunting, fishing, and to keep some gear in his vehicle if he ever needs it.

I am waiting for my order to arrive and I am hoping it arrives today or tomorrow so the kids and I can give it to my husband for Father’s Day.  I was sent an email yesterday that it has shipped.

I wanted to get this note out to other homeschool families and other folks who might be interested.  Creek Stewart said this is a One Time Offer.  It won’t last long and supply will run out soon. It is a first come first serve basis.  So once the supplies are gone, the offer will be over.  I will post a story about the contents of this box after it arrives.

More about Apocabox:

Apocabox by survival instructor Creek Stewart, is a DIY Survival Skills or you could think of it as a Survival School In A Box.  It is shipped bimonthly to your door (Feb, April, June, Aug, Oct, and Dec) for a cost of $50.  Each box has a different theme for the skills being taught.

We joined the bimonthly subscription at the beginning of this year and have received the Feb 2018 Mass Exodus and April 2018 Silent Hunter boxes so far.  We are waiting for the June 2018 Flat Line box to arrive.  Flat Line is a first aid theme and we are looking forward to learning more.  I had researched the Apocabox service months before joining and watched several of Creek Stewart’s videos.  Then we joined when it fit best into our budget.

We are using Apocabox for a life skills curriculum with our kids.  There are 8 of us in the family, and we are all learning together.  All of us have enjoyed learning, and when you work on these projects together as a family, it draws you closer.  I would also say my husband and our teenage boys have been really challenged and motivated with this learning adventure.

Within the boxes we’ve received so far, there have been around 10-12 skills to learn in a pocket survival guide, one or two special skills that are sent with raw materials and templates and instructions in the main newsletter, plus links to exclusive training videos, and 5-10 survival gear items.  To do the other skills in the pocket guide you will need to source your own materials, or the skill being learned might involve practicing with one of the gear items in the box, or it might involve making something like a survival kit for your backpack or vehicle with the gear that is included.  For our family the cost equals out to be about $50 box / 10 lessons (average) = $5 per new skill lesson / 8 people = 0.625 per lesson per person every other month.  So it has been a very affordable learning program for us so far.  However, I don’t think his boxes always include the pocket survival guides and when they don’t, there is less instruction / guidance to learn from.  I do wish he would include a pocket guide in every box, but it is what it is.  It is possible to find enough instruction in other places to make up the difference.

Anyway, I have shared 3 stories about these boxes so far, and if you want to learn more about it, see these posts:

Apocabox: About & Forager

Apocabox: Mass Exodus

Apocabox: Silent Hunter

Creek Stewart has several services where he shares his knowledge and skills with others:

Outdoor Survival School called Willow Haven

Author of several books and survival guides available on his website and amazon.

Creator of numerous survival skills videos on Youtube

Host of S.O.S. How To Survive (on the weather channel)

Host of Fat Guys In The Woods (on the weather channel)

Apocabox bimonthly service

Wild Edible of the Month Club

Surivival Skill of the Month Club

And he has a couple of online stores where he sells various survival products from books to knives to camping and survival equipment and more.  You can find all of this information including the special offers on his main website for and also learn more about the Apocabox subscription membership on

Bottom line:  there is a special time limited opportunity to get a Free Folding Survival Saw offer and if you order the saw, there is an additional opportunity that will appear on your computer dashboard to get the One Time Offer Special Edition Apocabox from Creek Stewart if you are interested.  I want to encourage homeschool families to check out the services Creek Stewart has to offer and see if it might be a good fit for your family.

Be blessed!

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Apocabox Feburary 2018: DIY Survival Skills

February was our first box we received from our Apocabox subscription. Apocabox is a survival school in a box that teaches various survival skills and project challenges.  Apocabox is a bi-monthly subscription and is shipped six times a year: February, April, June, August, October, December.

Each shipment of Apocabox has a different theme.  The box contains a few survival gear items, has a main survival kill challenge kit, sometimes a second challenge kit, and also several additional skill challenges to master through various written challenges such as in the pocket field guides and exclusive subscriber videos.

To learn more about Apocabox and how it works, please check out my first story and review of Creek Stewart’s Apocabox where I went into more detail about Creek Stewart as a survival instructor and details about the Forager box from the 2017 themes.

Mass Exodus

The theme of the February 2018 box was “Mass Exodus”.  This box was all about learning skills that could help you survive in a mass evacuation situation.

A few questions to think through in a Mass Exodus situation:

  1. If you suddenly needed to evacuate from home, school, or you office, what have you prepared ahead of time (food, clothing, first aid, navigation and plans) and what skills have you mastered, that could help you in that situation?
  2. Also if everyone was leaving a specific area at the same time, and the roads were bogged down with traffic and wasn’t moving very fast (or at all), and your vehicle got stranded on the road, what skills do you have to get your car going again?
  3. If you had to live in your vehicle until you were rescued, what resources do you have with you to facilitate shelter, water, fire, and food?
  4. If you had to leave your vehicle and start walking, what skills have you learned that could help you stay alive?


  • Mora 511 Knife and Sheath (useful for multiple tasks and food prep).
  • Pocket Field Guide: How To Survive Being Stranded In Your Vehicle.  Includes 12 Vehicle Survival Skills
  • Exodus Stowaway Backpack (folding backpack). Easily pack food and a change of clothes or other gear in this light weight backpack.  Folds down small enough to fit into your glove compartment when not in use.  
  • Exodus Necker Wallet (wallet with a strap and is worn like a necklace under your clothes): store valuables, ID, money, etc inside your shirt.
  • Last Ditch Ankle Stash (wallet worn around your ankle): store valuables inside your pant leg on your ankle if you need to leave your vehicle.
  • Exodus Hammer (cuts seat belts, breaks glass, etc).
  • Go Cubes (chewable coffee cubes)
  • Apocabox Newsletter (large, high gloss pages, you can whole punch and put into a binder): with a complete contents list and full explanations, detailed skills challenges, pictures of other subscribers completed December Apocabox knife skills challenge, and more.

Mass Exodus Skill Challenges:

There were two specific skill challenges in the Mass Exodus Apocabox, and both of these skills were described in detail with great illustrations in the Pocket Field Guide.

  1. Make a Roycroft Pack: improvised Canadian military backpack made from three sticks, cordage, and a tarp to carry your belongings in if you had to take off on foot.
  2. Build Bug Out Gas Siphoning Kit

We completed both skill challenges.

Skill Challenge #1 We learned how to lash three poles or sticks together and attach the tarp and fold it with our belongings inside to create the Roycroft Pack style backpack.

Skill Challenge #2 We also made the gas siphoning kit.

  • Gas tank funnel
  • Siphon with tubing
  • 1 gallon gas can.
  • 36″ tubing
  • 72″ tubing

We purchased two different siphons with tubing for this kit.  One is a small squeeze ball siphon like Creek Stewart suggested in the field guide, and the other is a pump siphon similar to a bicycle pump.

Pocket Field Guide: How To Survive Being Stranded In Your Vehicle

This pocket guide contains 12 survival skills to master:

  1. Turn Your Vehicle Into A Super Shelter
  2. Start A Fire Using Battery and Pencil
  3. Get Unstuck With A Tank Tire: Make tracks for tires.
  4. Car Mat Muklucks: Upcycled Snow Boots
  5. Avoid Suffocation: Automotive CO
  6. A Modern Day Fire Horn: How to safely transport a burning coal to a new location to transfer fire.
  7. Improvised Signal Mirror
  8. Parabolic Fire Start: Using the bowls of headlamp reflectors (or a parabolic lens) to start a fire.
  9. Make a Roycroft Pack: improvised Canadian military backpack made from three sticks, cordage, and a tarp.
  10. Build Bug Out Gas Siphoning Kit
  11. Reflective Vehicle Dash Shade
  12. Two Pole Flip Wench
  13. Vehicle Emergency Kit

In addition to the two skill challenges mentioned earlier, we also completed some of the other skills from Pocket Field Guide:

  • Created a Vehicle Emergency Kit. All of the items in the Mass Exodus Apocabox can be added to the vehicle emergency kit, plus you will want to add many other items too.  Our kit contains gloves, hat, socks, blanket, water, food, cook stove, metal bowl to boil water, food prep knife and cutting board, tarp and plastic sheeting for super shelter, paracord, emergency whistle, first aid kit, lighter, fero rod and striker, candles, flash light, tow rope, duck tape, and the gas siphoning kit skills challenge we made.  There are several more items we still want to add such as back up charger for cell phones, portable toilet, flares, road cones, etc.
  • Purchased items to turn the vehicle into a super shelter if needed.  We haven’t yet completed the task of creating the actual super shelter in the vehicle.  But we have the resources on hand if needed. Essentially what we will do is use clear plastic sheeting, and a mylar blanket to create walls that capture the heat from a campfire outside on the ground and retain the heat inside the shelter.
  • practiced fire starting skills to make a campfire,
  • learned how to transport a fire tinder coal to move a campfire and start the next fire from the coal,
  • purchased a reflective dash shade and added it to the vehicle emergency kit for multiple uses: heat reflector, sleeping liner, ground pad, solar stove, signalling tool.

Final Thoughts:

I found the Mass Exodus theme to be very thought provoking.  Due to the condition of our world, mass exodus from various locations within the USA and around the world have become common place.  Fires, economic crisis, bad weather, flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, droughts, food shortages, unclean water, riots that block city streets, riots that block highways and interstate roads, and in many places around the world there is war and rumors of war.  I truly believe we are living in the latter days the bible mentioned.  Even now, many people have become homeless and displaced just in the past few years after these major events, and too many don’t survive mainly due to lack of safe shelter, clean water, fire, and food.  If you have to leave your house or office, and can’t go back to the house to get things you normally use in everyday life for a while, having a few survival items in your vehicle, and knowing a few basic survival skills could make a huge difference for many people in the days of tribulation that are soon coming upon the earth.

Mark 13: 5-8 “And Jesus answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.”

Mark 13:14-27  “But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house: And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment. But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”

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Building Beds

Well the big boys have outgrown everything, including their beds.  

They have asked for loft beds.  We searched everywhere for the right beds and couldn’t find an affordable option that could hold their “near adult” size.

So we set out to design and build our own loft beds custom made to fit each one.

Here are a few pictures of Daddy teaching the boys the beginning steps in how to build their beds.

Sanding boards smooth is a lot of work.  It took more time to sand than most of the other steps.

The boys are learning hands on carpentry skills from a master carpenter. These lessons will last a lifetime.

Be sure to check out the next story about DIY Loft Beds.


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Make Do

So what do you do when you don’t have XYZ?   You MAKE DO!  

Let’s face it, you can’t always get what you want when you want it.  Or haven’t you learned that yet? 

I learned this lesson at a very young age.  My dad used to frequently tell me “Don’t sweat the small stuff” meaning don’t worry about things I can’t change and things that in the bigger picture of life really are not that important.

I want my children to learn this lesson while they are young too. I hope that by teaching them while they are young, and leading by example, and as they watch me and my husband cope with difficult circumstances in our adult life where we have no choice but to go without the things we want, or making do with what we have (and do it with a joyful heart), will make a positive impact on them and give them coping skills to handle whatever situations they face in their life.

“It’s healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up”.
                                                                 Proverbs 14:30

Sometimes accepting that I will have to “make do” means saving my sanity too.  No point in throwing a fit about it.  Just accept it for the time being, “make do” or make the best of the situation and the resources I have, and go forward.  If I waste my energy on pouting or throwing a tantrum, I miss my blessing.  I tell myself that someday I will improve the circumstances if I am able, but until then, be happy.

Our current season of life finds us “making do” with what we have and living without what we don’t have.  I won’t mention all of the wants, but one want / need we have is a backyard grill for our large family of eight people.  We would love to have a grill to enjoy summer cooking outside. 

About two months ago, we moved from North Carolina to Indiana.  The old farmhouse in Indiana is hot this summer.  I leave the kitchen door open most of the time, because it is so hot in the kitchen.  The kitchen is small.  It was a porch at one time in history, before indoor plumbing, and then was enclosed and plumbed probably in the 1930’s or so to become an indoor kitchen.  It is somewhat frustrating for me to cook in it as I was used to a big modern kitchen, with nice appliances, and lots of counter space for food prep with room still leftover for several small appliances in my previous home.  I also had a separate but adjoining dining room so the food was prepared in one area, and eating could take place a few feet away.  We enjoyed this lifestyle as homeschoolers, because we use our table not only for eating, but also for school work too, so I could cook or prep food in one area and all six of the kids could study and or play at the table and we had plenty of room for everyone. 

I am not complaining, but just pointing out the facts as they are.  Being in the small kitchen cooking, or at the kitchen table, means we are all on top of each other.  Literally, we are elbow to elbow in the kitchen.   I find myself in a very old house with almost no electrical outlets, poor lighting, and the kitchen feels like a dungeon.  It is not convenient at all. 

I have two feet of counter space to the left and to the right of the sink, and I bump into the table behind me every at every turn.  And sitting at the table means your back is to the wall on one side, and bumping into the oven door or fridge door when they are opened on the other side.  I currently can’t even imagine how I am going to use the table for school work too.  I feel like I am in a camper with the burden of cooking for a large family and don’t have access to what I need.  By the time you have the coffee pot, a mixer or bowl, and if there are any dishes on the counter to be hand washed, there is no room left for food prep.  There is no dishwasher, microwave, or nice appliances, and gasp. . . no ice maker or water dispenser in the fridge door either.  Nope, NADA!  

And did I mention it is HOT!??   It makes more sense to cook outside than inside right now in the hot summer.  But we don’t have a grill and we don’t have the budget for one at this time either.   What little money we have had has gone to cover basic needs for food, gas, bills, and the garden seeds, and a few fruit trees / plants for the orchard.   In this season of our life, there are many needs and plenty of wants going unmet. 

One thing is for sure, when you accept your circumstances, you can deal with them better.  If you fight, pout, and are frustrated about your circumstances, it makes it all that much harder to live with.  

I am so thankful for my family, even with the demands of caring for a large family.  My kids can be a great source of encouragement in this whole thing, because they are resilient, and optimistic.  They may need a little “get over it” time too, but eventually they come around to the idea of let’s “make do”.  As long as you are together, and have each other to build one another up, you can get through it. 

It is tough!  I am not going to lie!  It is not easy to set aside your wants.  And it is hard to watch those you love suffer, struggle, or go without.

Evaluate What You Have On Hand To Use

So. . . what to do. . .what to do. . .?

First I need to look at the resources I have on hand, and then I can MAKE DO! 

If I want to cook outside, but don’t have a grill, why not cook on an open fire?  For thousand years my ancestors cooked on open fires.  They didn’t have grills, gas ovens, crock pots, or electric stoves.  Yet they succeeded in feeding large families with the resources they had.

Well, in theory that sounds good, but in practice cooking on an open fire presents some challenges: a steep learning curve if you have never cooked out in the open, safety for the cook, safety for the bystanders, keeping a constant source of heat or temperature, preventing food from burning, and food from falling into the fire and being covered in ashes, etc.  It is definitely challenging, but if I can manage those challenges then I can “make do”.

Resources I have on hand to cook a meal outside:

            -open space in the backyard
            -shovel to maneuver hot rocks, hot bricks, and charred wood that is on fire
            -tree limbs: maple, apple, mulberry, etc.
            -matches to start a fire
            -foil to provide some protection for food that can burn easily or food that
                 needs to steam in its own juice
            -a pocket knife to whittle wooden spears to hold food over the fire
            -fresh garden produce
            -bread and buns

With these resources we were able to build wonderful camp fires in the evenings when daddy got off work, and cook fresh food for several delicious and fun family dinners. 

In the meal pictured below, we roasted fresh corn on the cob, roasted fresh red potatoes with onions and zucchini that was just harvested from the garden before going on the fire, and uncured all natural beef hot dogs cooked by the kids skewered on our wooden spears.

Within a few weeks of learning to cook on the fire, we acquired a new resource: a grate to place over the open fire to cook on.  I was so excited about this “step up” !   I had looked and looked at newspapers, online sources, etc. to try to find a free grill someone was getting rid of, even if nothing on it could be used except the grate, or one that could be bought very cheap. But as the weeks went on through the summer, I could not find one, not even one to recycle.

After a few times of cooking on hot rocks and bricks and spears made of sticks, we finally acquired a grate we found on clearance while grocery shopping.  We now have a wonderful grate to put over the fire for under $10 and and a couple of metal
spear/forks for $2 to spear the food if desired, and this made cooking over the fire much easier.  Total investment was around $14.  We had the bricks already on hand from an old foundation we recycled that was under a shed we took down on the farm.  We made side walls with the bricks by stacking them two bricks high and the bricks helped to keep a hot fire going by retaining a lot of the heat and preventing the fire from spreading out to much, and also helped to hold the cooking grate.  I am very thankful for the upcycled bricks.


Cooking over a wood fire is lots of work!  It takes diligence to gather sticks to build the fire, and constant stoking the fire, and time to monitor the fire so it is just right to cook on.  About an hour or more of work goes into making the wood fire before we can place food on it.   And there are a few dangers to keep in mind at all times, especially with young kids around, and if the fire flairs up unexpectedly while you are leaning over it!

Though we have been “making do” without a modern grill this summer, we have a good attitude about it.  We are enjoying our time together, and enjoying learning the ongoing process of getting by and making the most of what we do have.  We are especially enjoying learning the delicious art of cooking over a wood fire outdoors.  No grilling we have ever done EVER, has tasted this good! 

The food is juicy and has a delicious flavor infused with the smoke from the apple, maple, and mulberry tree limbs we are burning.   If you enjoy apple wood smoked bacon, smoked meats like maple wood smoked turkey or smoked brisket, then you will enjoy the flavors of this style of cooking.  It is very exciting to the nose and the tastebuds.

All of the ingredients in this dinner (except the bun, hotdogs, and the beef), were picked fresh just a few minutes before grilling them. 

The fresh
veggies in our meal include:
            next to the bun (potatoes, greenbeans, Jalapeno, Cilantro, shallots, acorn
            inside the burger (Jalapeno, Cilantro, shallots)
            and on the burger (lettuce leaves, sliced radishes, yellow tomato, and onion), 

Though this dinner was cooked outside over an open fire, this meal was restaraunt quality, there is no doubt about it!  Pictured below here is garden fresh red potatoes and green beans, acorn squash, and a delicious garden fresh sirloin burger.

Our country has been so blessed to have easy access to so much modern technology and appliances.  These modern conveniences have made cooking easier for our generation.  Past generations had a much more challenging time preparing foods and cooking delicious meals for their families.  Yet they learned to master the art of cooking both outdoors and indoors (in fire places) over an open fire. 

I am excited to post some upcoming stories about outdoor cooking over the open fire that we have been enjoying this summer.  Stay tuned and I will share with you some delicious foods you can easily cook in your own backyard with your kids and you can make them on the grill, in an electric skillet, or on the campfire. 

Meanwhile, I encourage you to embrace the circumstances you find yourself in during different seasons of life.  Give “making do” a go and I am sure you will get through the toughest of times.  It will inspire you and your family to keep believing that one day the circumstances will change and they will be able to get the things that are needed and wanted, but for now we can and will endure with with a joyful heart what we have on hand.  We can “make do”.

What ways are you making do in your life?  Have you shared this experience with your children?  Please share your comments below.  Thank you.

This post will be linked up with:
Raising Homemakers
Sharing Time


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Good Eats

My kids and I love watching Good Eats on TV.

If you haven’t seen Good Eats, you don’t know what you are missing.  It is like watching a good comedy mixed with science, history, geography, common sense and food.   I love watching the host, Alton Brown, work his comedy style into learning where food comes from and how to prepare it.

Watching Good Eats is like going back in time to the best science show on TV called Beakman’s World, and putting his laboratory in today’s kitchen.   Alton is a wacky science teacher who is also a great chef!  Or he is a great chef who is also a wacky science teacher….anyway, he gets my kids, and myself, absolutely happy about cooking and food science.

How can you laugh while learning about lamb, chocolate, tea, cupcakes, etc?  Give Alton 30 minutes of your time and I am sure you will laugh and learn something new.  

Yes, we often learn about cooking and food sitting right in our living room, instead of the kitchen.  Later, in the kitchen, we talk about the things we learned through cooking programs and especially the fun learning we did with Good Eats.

Here my nine year old, and three year old, get ready for the Good Eats program to start.

Just before the episodes start, I serve the kids a yummy snack.  Then I call everyone to the living room to take a seat and get quiet. 

Here is my 11 year old, holding his baby brother, and sipping on a homemade glass of Mocha Frappe as he enjoys today’s episode of Good Eats.  He plugs away at his school work all morning to get it done in time to watch the show.  He really “gets” the comedy and science that Alton Brown teaches in his programs. 

Today we learned about lamb, its history, how it is raised, different cuts of lamb, and how to prepare the rack of ribs into the shape of a crown.   Alton took us to the farm, to the butcher, to the supermarket, and to his kitchen.

Alton is very funny.  In the next picture I’ve posted he is impersonating the food police.  He often disregards the USDA suggestions on cooking temps, eating things raw, culturing, etc.  I think that is one reason I like him so much.  He uses experience and common sense to guide him and doesn’t rely on everything the government says is right or wrong in preparing food; much like the Weston A Price foundation in many of his suggestions.  Though he does not totally live by the suggestions of Weston A Price either; and thats another reason I like him.  Though I love much of what the WAPF teaches, I don’t agree with everything, nor do I implement everything or live by a strict set of cooking rules as they do.  Many times when  I owned my healthy food store, folks who were devout followers in the WAPF movement would ask my opinion on things, and I would tell them that they needed to remain flexible and do what worked for their family and not get stressed out about eating everything 100%.  It can take an incredible amount of time to soak all the grain and nuts you use, or ferment, or only use organic, etc.  This is not always feasible.   Alton is flexible and he goes with what works, what is healthy in moderation, and makes life fun and interesting.  He is my kitchen hero!

In each episode, Alton takes us various places to learn amazing facts about food.  Sometimes we are in a foreign country, a super market, in his oven, microwave, cabinets, the sink, the freezer, and other obscure places, or we might even find ourself in a petri dish with other molecules.  He places the camera from different vantage points and you really feel as if you are right there in the refrigerator with him.  Some parts of his episodes are like being at a theater or in a play. Characters dress up and take you on an adventure.   I love his style of communicating and teaching. 

Today’s lesson on selecting, preparing, and cooking a Rack of Lamb, which is a very expensive dish at restaurants, became a simple process that you can easily make at home, and Alton showed us how.

Here are some short video clips of Good Eats that I found on YouTube.  These episodes will give you just a taste of what Alton’s “comedic science in the kitchen” is all about and how he takes something that seems complicated and makes it simple to understand and recreate in your own kitchen.

Learn History and Science About Brunch and Eggs Benedict. 
Part 1  Learn how to make English Muffins.

Learn History and Science About Brunch and Eggs Benedict
Part 2  Learn about eggs. 

Learn Science While Making A Pound Cake

Science of Fish and Eating Sustainably

Learn the Science and Method of making Banana Pudding

I am using this Good Eats program as part of our life skills training in our homeschool.  The program is only 30 minutes long and comes on TV Mon-Fri. on the Food Network at 11 am in our area. We try to watch the program two or three times a week.  

But if you don’t have this channel, or don’t have TV, check out the huge variety of FREE Good Eats videos on YouTube or on the Food Network online.  You can also find Alton Brown’s cookbooks in stores. 

Homeschooling in our living room with Good Eats is great!  Thank you Alton Brown for making food science entertaining and memorable.

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French Toast

                                French Toast with Kids In The Kitchen

This is a simple meal my son, age 9, and I prepare at least once a month, that the whole family enjoys.

He loves to flip french toast, pancakes, and just about anything in the skillet.  He really does enjoy cooking.   He cooks with me at least two or three times a week. He is learning to read recipes, measure ingredients, technique on mixing ingredients, opperating kitchen equipment, being careful, cleaning up the mess afterwards, and being a servant in cooking for his family.  His favorite cooking activity is baking and he can make a batch of cookies almost independantly now.  Though most of the recipes we still make together.  He especially loves making cookies, cakes, cheese cake, and more. 

Food science is so important to learn.  How do you pare up/combine nutrients to make a complete diet? How long do you cook an egg or heat milk before killing the nutritional enzymes, depleting vitamins, or changing protiens. What makes food fluff up? What gasses do foods give off? How high can oil “A” heat before it burns, how high can oil “B” heat before it burns? Which oil is the best choice for which recipe, etc.?

We are both really proud of his kitchen skills he has developed.  Teaching this life skill is such an important part of growing up because it teaches many skills and cognitive awareness.  It also teaches safety, food science, as well as planning, and nutritional awareness.  Plus he can have confidence that he is able to cook for himself and for his family.

French Toast

Any Sliced Bread.  (we use a variety of whatever we have on hand: Texas style, honey wheat, french, sourdough, cinnamon raisin, homemade, etc.)
Eggs (about two eggs for every 8 slices of bread you want to dip)
Milk (about 1/4 cup for every 8 slices of bread you want to dip)
Vanilla (about 1/8th tsp for every 8 slices you want to dip)
Cinnamon (about 1/8th tsp for every 8 slices you want to dip)

Heat skillet on medium heat.  Make dip for bread.  In a bowl or pan with low sides, with a fork or whisk, mix together eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Dip slices of bread in the bowl and gently place on a non stick or lightly greased pre-heated skillet.  Cook until lightly golden brown on one side.  Flip.  Cook until lightly golden brown on other side.  Remove from heat and serve.

Nutritional Data:
Per slice of cooked french toast: Calories 102 ; Fat .8 gm; Protein 5 gm; Fiber 1 gm; Calcium 24.1 mg; Iron 1.2 mg; Selenium 10.6 mcg; Folate 48.1 mcg; Niacin 1.5 mg;  Magnesium 10.7 mg;  and traces amounts of numerous vitamins and minerals.

Serving ideas to compliment the nutrional values:
Organic maple syrup, cooked fruit toppings like blueberries or apples, or raw fruit toppings like strawberries, powdered sugar, whip cream, chocolate syrup, etc.

My 4 year old daughter helped set the table.  She loves to have a job in the kitchen too.
Our French Toast Meal was served with organic maple syrup and whipped cream, turkey sausage links and turkey bacon, peeled oranges, blueberry pomegranate juice, and
homemade hot chocolate with more whipped cream on top.

We use a variety of things to give us the best possible nutrition in this meal including: raw milk, free range eggs, coconut oil or grape seed oil to grease the pan, Applegate Farms sausage and bacon, organic maple syrup, organic cocoa powder, organic evaporated cane juice or succanat sugar, organic vanilla, etc.

Nutrtional Data for a complete meal:
1 slice of french toast with organic maple syrup
2 turkey sausage links
1/2 fresh naval orange
1 cup homemade hot chocolate with whipped cream

Calories 307; Fat 6 gm; Fiber 4 gm; Protein 7.9 gm; Vitamin A 315 IU; Vit C 48.9 mg; Niacin 2.8 mg; B6 .1 mg; Folate 78.1 mg; Calcium 94.1 mg; Iron 2.5 mg; Mageisium 52 mg; Potasium 362 mg; Zinc 1.8 mg; Selenium 11.5 mcg; and many more nutrients. 

This meal cooks up in a SNAP! 
We can cook all of this up and serve it in about 15 minutes for everything, start to finish, for our large family.

Kids love to eat it. 
It is nutritious. 
And It Is Delicious!

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flashcards
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers

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How To Make Jerky

Making Jerky With Kids In The Kitchen.

Do you like Jerky? 

My husband and I have made jerky every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, for as long as I can remember.  I don’t think we are very traditional folks, or have many traditions, but this would have to be one.  Now we have passed this tradition on to our kids.  They enjoy making, eating, and gifting jerky as much as we do.

Jerky is basically dried and salted meat.  It can be seasoned with additional dried spices, or dried fruits to change the flavor or nutrient content.  A lot of water/moisture is removed in the drying process.  Drying the meat allows it to be stored or transported without refrigeration.  By removing the moisture, and salting it, you greatly reduce the possibility of mold or bacteria ruining the meat, resulting in a long storage life. 

The great thing about making it at home, in less than 24 hours, you have something delicious and nutritious you made yourself, and you can control the ingredients and the flavor too.  I personally like to make my jerky preservative free.  However, most jerky is made with preservatives to help prevent it from spoiling, and give it a longer shelf life. 

I have made jerky in a simple process from roasts I cut into very thin strips, soak in soy sauce, salt, and sugar, and then letting them dry in a warm oven overnight.  But by far, the jerky we like the best is made from meat we grind into burger before seasoning it, and dry with our dehydrator.  Either way, after seasoning it, let it marinate for about 4 hours in the fridge to distribute the flavors, before drying.

I usually get about 1/4 lb of jerky for a pound of meat.  Jerky in 1/4 lb to 1/2 lb packages makes a nice gift to give away at the holidays.  My dehydrator will hold about 4 lbs of fresh meat at a time.  But there are plenty of dehydrators on the market today that will hold a lot more.

History and Science:

This is a great learning opportunity to involve the kids.  There is so much to learn about the history and science of making jerky.  Questions to ask as you go along might include what is dehydration, why do we use salt to preserve food, what is the nutritional value of various kinds of jerky, etc.   The history of jerky and civilization is facinating.  Jerky is packed so full of nutrients, that many generations of humans survived on it. 

The Native American Indians would salt and dry the meat, then powder it, and add dried fruit and additional fat back into it, to make PEMMICAN.  It was a very nutritional source of proteins, fats, and vitamins, especially vitamin C which helped them stay healthy and strong through the long winter months.   You can read here and learn more about PEMMICAN.

Dried meat can be soaked in water for soups, stews, casseroles, and other recipes.  It is not just for Jerky. 

We have made jerky from:

Jerky can be made from a lot of other meats too, and in stores, I have purchased Turkey jerky as well.

Using Deer To Make Jerky

In the recipe below, I am using ground deer.  My husband is a hunter and we often have wonderful deer in the freezer.  But you can substitute beef, or other meat, for the recipe.

My family loves to use deer.  It is naturally lean, tender, and tastes great in everything I make with it.  We typically will use a doe or young buck for our food.  I usually have the whole deer ground into burger, but we also like to keep the tenderloin steaks and grill them up just like I would a beef fillet.  Besides eating them as steak, they are great for fahitas, or in any dish you would use with beef steak.

I usually use ground deer just like we would use ground beef or ground turkey:
            sausage for biscuits and gravy, 
            sausage for sausage, egg, and cheese burritos
            summer sausage,
            and of course JERKY

I do not like eating an older “trophy” buck.  Forget it.  The meat is rank with his scent.  However, you can still make jerky or sausage with an older buck, and it will taste good, as the spices hide the scent.

Kids In The Kitchen
How To Make Jerky:

Here are some recipes using different cuts of beef (you can substitute other meats) from around the web:

Flank Steak Jerky

Eye Of Round Jerky

Hamburger Jerky

Smoked Hamburger Jerky

Brisket Jerky


Pemmican with fruit

Here is the process my family uses to make our deer jerky

My family really enjoys the ground meat version of jerky better than using roasts or brisket.  Our next choice is to use a very tender and lean cut of steak, either sirloin or new york strip.  Most folks would think that is a waist of a good steak, but it really is up to you what cut of meat you want to make your jerky from.
To make the process easier, have your butcher grind or slice the meat for you.  Most butchers at the grocery counter will do this for you if you ask.  Or if you have an animal butchered at a butcher shop, they will process the meat however you request it.

Also, when making jerky, remember that each dehydrator, or oven, is
different and times needed to dry the meat can vary according to the appliance you are using.

For our jerky, we start with ground deer burger (you can use beef or whatever you choose).  We have our whole deer ground and packaged by the butcher shop.  He puts the meat in 1 lb packages for the freezer, and we just pull meat out of the freezer whenever we need it. 

Measure spices and salt according to how much meat you are preparing. 

Look around the web to find a recipe you would like to try.  Be sure to measure everything well.

Mix ingredients, according to your recipe, by hand to distribute everything evenly.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for about 4 hours if using ground meat, and longer according to recipe if using sliced meat.

When ready, if using ground meat, put ground mixture into jerky gun and fill your trays or cookie sheets. If you are using sliced meat, then lay the slices out flat on each tray or cookie sheet.  My dehydrator holds 1 lb of meat per tray.  Cookie sheets will hold more.

Put the cover on and set the timer on your dehydrator.  Or follow directions for using an oven.

For my dehydrator, I plan 6 hours, plus an additional 20 minutes for each additional tray.  So for four trays of ground meat, it takes approximately 7 hours and 20 minutes, or a little more.   Sliced meat takes longer, depending on how thick it is sliced, and the temperature you use to dry the meat.   If using an oven, follow directions in the recipe, as ovens usually take longer.  Dehydrators work faster because they are blowing hot air around the product they are drying, so it greatly reduces the drying time.

When done, remove the jerky from the trays and place between paper towels to absorb any fat or moisture that might remain on the outside of the strips of jerky.

Package in zip lock bags or in jars.  It will keep longer if packaged in air tight packages.  We store our jerky in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use. 

And there you have it. 
DEER JERKY ready to enjoy, take to a gathering, or give away as gifts.  And a great “tradition” to pass on to your kids!

This post will be linked up with
No Time For Flash Cards
Raising Homemakers
Science Sunday

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Build A Campfire

This is the third story, in a three part series from our Camping Workshop, promoting life skills and learning fun.  

The other stories are:

Build A Tent
Build A Camp Stove

Our guest speaker, Gary Eblen from Diamond Brand Outdoors, brought a portable campfire pit with him.  This was basically a large wash tub, with fine sand in the bottom.   

To the fire pit, he added a few pine cones.

Next, he added some dryer lint that he had saved.

Then he added some small twigs.  As he added each layer, they took on a pyramid shape.  This is the best shape for starting a fire.  I plan to do some fire science with my kids soon,  and we will study why this is the best way to build a fire.  Stay tuned for some more stories about fire science.

Next, he lit the dryer lint with a match.  At first it smoldered slowly and was hard to see the fire happening. 

But as he gently blew on the lint, and added more twigs, the fire quickly grew.   Now the fire was hot and was very easy to see.  

Knowing how to safely build a fire is a very important life skill to have.  It will be very useful for cooking food, staying warm, sterilizing things, during camping, power outages, natural disasters, and more.  It could very well save a life one day.

While the fire was maturing, we headed over to the tent building area.  You can read about building our tents at the workshop here.

Meridith, Gary’s assistant, stayed with the fire to continue to feed it firewood and get it ready for cooking smores later.  It was also important to convey to the children that you never leave a fire unattended. 

Finally, after we had tons of fun learning during our Camping Workshop about how to build a campstove, boil water on a campstove, build a homemade tent, build a backpackers tent, and learn what was in the backpack, and had some free time to play in the park, we were ready to enjoy making smores on the campfire.

More Smores Please!

The fire had died down and matured into hot, black, charred wood that barely danced with a flame. 

The kids took turns roasting their marshmallows, then adding it to a graham cracker square topped with a milk chocolate bar, and then another graham cracker square.   Some marshmallows got a little more toasted or charred than others.

Basically, a smore is a warm, toasty, marshmallow & chocolate sandwich.  Pure YUM!

The families continued to make smores until the fire had almost died out, and their tummies could hold no more.  I heard some of the kids excited to say they ate 4 smores.  Oh my!

Even parents enjoyed some smores.  I get so busy organizing the program and taking pictures that I often don’t indulge in the refreshments.   But one of the teen girls was very observant and considerate, and she offered to make me a smore.  How could I refuse?  She lightly toasted the marshmallow to a golden color.  Then instead of adding a milk chocolate bar, she added a dark chocolate bar before topping it with a graham cracker. 


Wow, I really enjoyed my dark chocolate smore.  I was a good girl and only ate one!  But next time, that is the way I want my smore.  There is something really special about the taste of dark chocolate on the smore! 

But don’t tell the kids, they are just as happy with milk chocolate, so save the dark chocolate for me

If you would like to read more about Take Action Tuesday and our fun learning adventures outdoors, please read here.

This post will be linked with
No Time For Flash Cards
Play Academy
Raising Homemakers
ABC and 123


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Build A Tent

This is the second story in our Camping Workshop we hosted in October. 

You can find out about the other Camping Workshop stories by clicking on these links:
            Build A Camp Stove
            Build A Campfire

Our guest speakers Gary Eblen, and Meridith McBride, did a great job conveying to the kids and parents how much fun camping can be.

When building tents, Gary discussed two kinds.  One was a pre-made hiking tent, that is easy to transport in your hiking and camping gear.  The other tent was homemade from a simple sheet of plastic.  If you don’t have a premade tent, you can still camp in a homemade one!  Who knew?

When packing your backpack, you need to keep it light weight, but still have the right essentials to protect you in the elements and meet your needs.  Gary unpacked his hiking backpack for the kids to investigate what he had inside.  Some of the items in it were a tent, a sleeping bag, a pad, a hat, gloves, a tarp, a jacket, and it would also contain some survival gear such as a first aid kit, small tools, matches, food, and water.  We hope to have Gary back again in the near future to do more hands on learning with backpacks, safety, and survival.

Gary shared some stories about sleeping in his homemade tents over the years, and says that they work great. 

First, he had the kids help him spread out his sheet of plastic.

Then he had the kids stretch some cord between two trees.

He tied the cord around the trees.  He called the knot he made around the tree a taught line hitch.

Then he had the kids place the plastic over the cord.

Next, he had the kids find six acorns.  He placed an acorn under the fold of plastic near the cord and tied more cord around it.  He called the knot he made around the plastic and the acorn a half hitch knot.  He repeated this at the other end of the plastic sheet too.

Next, he placed four tent stakes in the ground, and repeated the acorn and knot tie to hold the four corners of the plastic sheet.

All the kids took turns crawling through the tent.

And some climbed into the sleeping bag.

Next, he had the kids help him build a three person backpakers tent.

First, he laid out a tarp on the ground to protect the base of the tent.

Next, he laid out a tent on top of the tarp.

He attatched the tent poles into each corner of the tent.

Then raised the center of the tent and attatched the clips to the poles.

This tent went up in less than five minutes.  A very quick and easy tent for kids to set up and be ready to use instantly.

Gary really encouraged families to try this at home in their own backyard.  He shared stories about sleeping in the backyard, and enjoying some quality family time and nature, including observing the stars in the sky.

Learning how to set up a quick and easy shelter is a valuable life skill to have.  Besides needing a tent when you are out camping, there may be other times you need to know how to build a shelter, such as after a natural disaster.  

Thank you Gary and Meridith for these great hands on lessons in camping and life skills during our Camping Workshop.

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Build A Camp Stove

We hosted a Camping Workshop in the park today.  It was the most beautiful fall day, almost like an early summer day as the temperature was 70 degrees and sunny.  But is was definitely fall as the trees were all changing colors, leaves were falling and crunchy under our feet, and it was so pretty.

The Camping Workshop was a life skills program hosted by Take Action Tuesday. 

Take Action Tuesday is a free homeschool program that encourages outdoor activity, PE, socialization, and each month of Tuesdays hosts several learning programs that focus on science, life skills, sports and games, and community. 

We started off the day with some free time in the park, to get the “wiggles” out.  This is so good for the children to play, stretch, run, jump, and move.  Some use their imaginations and others make up games too and invite friends to play.

Some like to explore and make great discoveries.  There is so much to learn and do outdoors!

Camping Workshop

Our guest speaker for today’s workshop was Gary Eblen from Diamond Brand Outdoors, and his assistant was Meridith McBride from Frugal Backpackers.   

Gary especially wanted to convey to the children and parents how easy it can be to camp in your own backyard, and really enjoy the experience.  They did an awesome job, and I want to take a special moment here on the website to say thankyou!

We had 56 homeschoolers (42 kids, and 14 parents) attend.  It was a great turnout!

I took 117 pictures and there is no way I can convey it all to you in one story, so I am dividing the Camping Workshop and our time in the park today into three stories. 

                Camping Workshop:
                How To Build A Camp Stove.  And cook on it too!
                How To Build A Tent. One easy up, and one homemade.
                How To Build A Campfire. More Smores Please!

How To Build A Camp Stove

Start with an empty aluminum drink can, this one previously held lemonade.

Cut out the top with a can opener, and use pliers to mash down any sharp edges.

Fill with cooking water for cooking (or soup, broth, tea, etc.) to be heated.

Next, using a small can such as a single serving cat food can, punch two rows of holes with a hole punch near the top half of the can. 

Do not punch holes in the bottom half of the can.

Into the bottom can with holes, pour in methanol, a woodbase alcohol available in hardware stores.  Light the methanol with a match.

Place can of water on top of the bottom can of lit methanol.

It is boiling when you see bubbles in the bottom of the can of water.  It boils quicker if you use a lid.

Always use gloves to handle the hot camp stove.

Watch carefully, and you should have boiling water in two to three minutes.   A very handy skill to have to know how to boil water, and even more handy to know how to build your own stove that you could boil the water on. 

Great hands on knowledge for a power outage, natural disaster, as well as for camping, and this life skill could possibly save your life one day. 

If you would like to learn more about building homemade camp stoves, check out these links

More Homemade Camp Stoves

Hobo Campstove, by Instructables, using three cans.  Very involved project, but looks professional.  They used beer cans in the project but you can substitute soda cans.

Camp Oven, by ehow, using foil and a cardboard box.

Homemade Camping Gear, by   This is a great website with a plethora of do it yourself camping gear “how to’s”.  Over on the left side of the webpage, find “stoves” and there is so much great information including some with tests on which ones boil water more efficiently comparing fuel use, etc. (might make a fun science fair project too).

Camp Stove Videos

Penny Stove

Build a wood burning “Rocket Stove” out of coffee can.

Build an insulated Rocket Stove


Cooking Beans on an alcohol stove

Cooking Eggs on an alcohol stove

Cowboy Coffee Video

Wild Recipes

Fish Soup and a Berry Drink by Trapper Jack

This post will be linked up with
No TIme For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
ABC and 123
Raising Homemakers
Play Academy

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