Jul 22

Recipe for an Emergency Kit

by Hannah Holt »


Six backpacks hang in our garage. They have food, water, clothing, and other supplies so our family could make it through 72-hours. You know….in case stores are closed and we need to leave fast and the earth is falling down all around us.

Most of the time the packs just sit there, but every six months, I rotate the water/food/etc. I was going through the packs last week and in a moment of laziness decided we didn’t need them anymore. Then media outlets exploded with this news: the entire Pacific Northwest is going to suffer a devastating earthquake ANY FREAKING DAY.

The hype is a little overrated. I’ve lived in the northwest for almost 30 years, and I remember them predicting the same thing about 25 years ago. We’ll have a huge earthquake some day. There’s no doubt about that, but “any freaking day” could be tomorrow or–300 years from now.

In any case, I decided I’d at least keep the backpacks in rotation.

Here’s what makes up a typical 72-hour “go bag”:

  • a change of clothes
    • my kids are growing so this needs to be updated annually
  • personal hygiene items
    • toothpaste, contact solution, and medicines will expire, so check the dates
  • matches and a fuel source for cooking
  • a mess kit and/or a container for boiling water
  • an emergency blanket
  • a rain poncho
  • a flashlight
    • make sure the batteries aren’t connected to avoid slow drain
  • cash
    • we keep about $20
  • a first aid kit
  • a sharp knife
  • water
  • food

Rotating the food takes the most time for me. I’m slowly working in a rotation of longer term storage (freeze dried meals). But prepackaged emergency meals are pricey, so I also make some of my own.

Three days of food for one family


{Enough food to feed a family of six for three days. FYI, the fruit in the background isn’t part of the plan.}

Every six months, I have my family eat the food from their packs. This is because I don’t want to waste food and also the food needs to be something they’d actually eat. So before I planned a menu, I let my family sample a variety of different meal options.



{Re-hydrated Pad Thai, right. Pho rice, left.}

Then everyone voted for their favorite meals.



For each homemade recipe you’ll need a quart sized freezer bag. You can add boiling water right into freezer bags. Then stir and let rest until finished cooking.



Here are three of our favorite home-prepared emergency meals.


Rice Porridge

  • 1 cup minute rice
  • 1 Tb powdered milk
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup boiling water
  • optional: add raisins, nuts, and/or dehydrated apple slices



Mexi Rice

  • 1 cup minute rice
  • ½ cup tortilla soup mix
  • 1 ¼ cups boiling water



Sweet and Sour Rice

  • 1 cup rice
  • 1 ½ Tb sweet and sour seasoning
  • ½ cup peanuts
  • 1 ¼ cups boiling water

You’ll notice my kids seemed to prefer the minute rice meals, but other good options for a starch base could be: couscous, instant oats, or potato flakes.

When I was making these meals, I went through the bulk foods aisle of my local grocery store and mixed and matched food that I thought might blend well together. My kids also liked instant potatoes with ranch dressing mix, and anything with cheese powder.

I was looking for high calorie/low cost options. Each meal I created averaged about 400-500 calories. At three meals a day or 1,200 calories, that’s enough to keep an adult going but probably not satisfied. Still, for an kit that needs to fit in a backpack, it’s just perfect.

Here’s what three days of food looks like for one person:

Three days of food for one person


Jun 20

DIY Magnetic Whiteboard

by Hannah Holt »


music whiteboard

Last week I was giving my older children their piano lesson, and I thought, “I need a dedicated music whiteboard.”

So we all took a trip to the local music store, and I found what I was looking for. Unfortunately they wanted $56 dollars for the musical whiteboard. $56! That just seemed like a ridiculous number to me.

I didn’t buy it. Instead I stopped by a thrift shop on the way home and picked up a cookie sheet to make my own white board. My total cost of materials was around $6.

What you’ll need:

  • a thrift store cookie sheet
  • white contact paper
  • clear cellophane
  • school glue
  • a foam brush
  • a plastic card (like a credit card)

First I cut the contact paper down to the size of my cookie sheet. This was fairly easy as most contact paper has guidelines on the back. Then I placed my contact paper on the cookie sheet and smoothed out any bubbles with the plastic card. (You can also get rid of bubbles by popping the center with a needle).

DIY whiteboard instructions

After I had the contact paper in place, I drew a musical staff with a permanent pen. If you want a regular board, skip this step.

While I let my marker dry, I cut my cellophane to size. I used the left over plastic from the contact paper to match sizes. Then I painted the top of the contact paper with a thin layer of the school glue.

The cellophane went over the top of the glue (again smoothing out any bubbles with the plastic card).

I let the board dry overnight, and it was ready to use by morning.

music whiteboard2


Jan 05

Pirate Party, Aaarg!

by Hannah Holt »


My oldest recently celebrated his golden birthday. He was really excited about the “golden” part. Perhaps I let him get a little too carried away with birthday madness, or maybe I got carried away myself.

But whatever the case, I helped him plan a pirate themed birthday, and it was a lot of fun. Maybe every other year I’ll let him do something like this.

First I let him design his own invitations:

I helped him pick out fonts and colors, but not bad for a seven-year-old, eh?

Then we went to the party supply store, where I accidentally left my budget in the car.

But our games were cheap. We had a pirate obstacle course that included walking the plank [couch], climbing up the crows nest [stairs], going under a pirate cave [the table], and hopping across rocks.

We also had a treasure hunt leading to gold [of the chocolate variety].

We topped off the evening with a pirate ship cake:

Here’s how I made it:

1) A few days before the party, I preprepared two 9×13 inch cakes, wrapped the cooled cakes in plastic wrap, and placed them in the freezer. Freezing cakes doesn’t affect the texture, and it makes them easier to carve. I used this recipe for chocolate cake.

2) The day of the party I placed one of the unwrapped but frozen cakes on a bread board lined with aluminum foil. Then I frosted the top of that cake with butter cream frosting, and topped it with the remaining cake.

3) I used a cardboard cut out as a guide for cutting the boat shape.

4) I used some of the extra pieces of cake to build up the front and back of the ship, like this:

5) Next I tapered the sides of the cake to more resemble a boat.

6) I frosted the outside of the cake in no-cook fudge frosting, added dried butter cream details*, and topped it with a pirate action figure. Fondant would have made a more elegant finish, but I can’t stand the taste of fondant.

7) Finally I rammed three small dowels through the cake and prayed that they would stay up. They did. So I made a few black sails out of construction paper and called it good. {I removed the sails and masts before lighting the candles.}

*This is how you can make dried butter cream details. In hind site, royal icing details would have been easier to work with, but my butter cream details held up.
1) Draw the designs you want {I made porthole windows}, on wax paper. Then make a batch of butter cream frosting.
2) Pipe the frosting onto the designs and let it set for at least a day but preferably two.

3) Using a knife, carefully transfer the dried butter cream details onto the freshly frosted cake.

Oct 09

No-Sew Animal Costumes

by Hannah Holt »


An old pair of sweats, a little fabric paint, a cheap mask… One awesome costume!

What you’ll need:

  • Sweatshirt and pants
  • Fabric paint ($3-$5)
  • A paint brush
  • Cardboard
  • A mask or face paint (optional)

Step1: If the sweats aren’t solid in color, turn them inside out and remove the tags. Like so…

Step 2: Look up pictures of the desired animal print. It’s a good idea to make a practice sketch before painting.

Step 3: Insert cardboard between the layers of fabric in the sweats. (I used an old cereal box.)

Step 4: Paint the design on the fabric. If the sweats are new, they should be washed and dried (without fabric softener) before painting.

Step 5: Because I was painting light on dark, I painted a second coat after two hours. When finished painting, dry on a flat surface for 24 hours.

Left: One coat, Right: Two coats

Step 6: After the sweats have dried, iron over the pattern (inside and out) on low heat. This helps the paint bond with the fabric.

Other considerations:

-I found our giraffe mask at our local zoo, but a quick google search showed a variety of animal masks available for $5 and under. You could also make one out of a paper plate.

-One bottle of fabric paint (4 oz) is enough to complete one coat of the above pattern on an extra small (four-year-old) sized sweatsuit. A less paint intensive pattern will require less paint. Larger sized sweats might require more paint.

Other costume ideas: