Emergency Sack Lunches (for grown ups, too!)

When lunch plans take last minute or unexpected turns, you can be ready to throw together a kid-friendly or sophisticated sack lunch. Maybe your kid needs a quick lunch to take to the zoo with his class. Perhaps you need a grab and go lunch for a last minute bike ride with friends. Or your friends just invited you to a picnic dinner and outdoor theater. Selecting delicious and favorite foods ensures everyone enjoys a filling meal. Choosing the right food items and storage protects everyone from serious food borne illnesses. Stocking the right foods in your pantry can turn a dilemma into a dream. Here are a few suggestions for stocking up this fall:

Meal Planning in Its Simplest Form

While the East Coast danced with Irene, my family attended a splendid birthday bash for a friend turning 30!  While snagging a piece of homemade blackberry cobbler from her kitchen, I smiled as I glanced at a note on the fridge.  She had quickly scratched out a simple meal plan for a few days of the week.  As a working mom with two active elementary aged kids, she has clearly learned the benefits of a plan.  At my house, we began weekly meal planning about the time homework and after school activities kicked in, but you can benefit from it right now, whatever your situation.

Just How Safe is a Safe Room?

Strength test of prefab safe room.
Some storms can crush a home like a gingerbread house and blow the crumbs away.  A safe room can keep people from being injured when these storms blow through.  Scientists study the power and effects of storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes.  Mathematical models easily predict the strong forces and severe damage of debris that high winds cause.  Engineers have designed and tested a variety of plans for safe rooms that can be built in new construction, added to existing homes, or dropped in to either as prefabricated shelters.  Designed to withstand the effects of wind speed up to 250 mph, these rooms can be completes with simple supplies from your local lumberyard or professionally assembled from high-tech materials like concrete filled foam.  Either way, falling branches, flying debris, and sheer winds will not penetrate a properly planned and prepared safe room.

 Safe room from www.familyhandyman.com
Starting around $1500-3000,

If my house is on fire, someone will come to put it out, right?

Not necessarily! Every year hundreds of thousands of homes are affected by a house fire or wildfire. Most of us believe that when we call 9-1-1 that the closest fire department will come running. But many are surprised to learn that that's not always true. There are many different types of local fire services and you need to know exactly how the fire service responds for your home.

This news story brought to light that some areas are covered by a fee based fire service. If you pay the  fee to join, the department will fight a fire on your property. If you don't pay, they won't respond. Other departments may require you to pay the full cost of fire services received when you have a fire.  You need to know exactly what your situation is.

This discussion thread reveals a new home owner that needs to mail a check in ASAP:
  • Question:
  • After a year of waiting to sell our Florida house, we are finally living in Knoxville! We recently got a letter from Rural/Metro asking for $400 a year for fire protection. Are they for real? I thought it was a sales letter that could be discarded & almost tossed it. We've never lived anywhere where you have to pay separately for protection. Interesting that they refer to it as protection rather than department or some other less mob-sounding words. Thanks for any insight!
  • Answers:
  • Your insurance company will usually require it or your rates are astronomical. But yes, there is no "public provided" fire service in most of Knox county and surrounding. Bottom line, if you want fire protection you must pay Rural Metro their outlandish fees.
  • If you live in the county, then your taxes are about half of the City. So, if you live in the county, you have to pay for your own trash pick up, and Rural Metro for fire protection. Even after paying those fees, you are still probably less that City taxes. Rural Metro and those fire stations/trucks/people have a cost associated to keep them running. You either pay thru your taxes, or pay direct. The only difference is the name on the check.
Fire is the most common disaster that American families will face. US fire departments responded to 377,000 home fires in 2009, make sure you are as protected as possible. 
  • Make certain you have working smoke detectors with fresh batteries (replace batteries every 6 months.)
  • Check out your home with a fire safety checklist each time you change the smoke alarm batteries.
  • Have a fire escape plan and actually practice your plan at least twice a year. Don't forget to crawl to safety.
  • Make certain everyone in the household knows the outdoor meeting spot.
  • Take special precautions with smoking, cooking, matches and lighters, candles, children, seniors and pets to prevent fires and fire related injury.
  • And call your local fire department today to be certain of their terms of service for your home!

Back to School Tips

You may be saying a tear-filled goodbye as your oldest trots off to preschool (She'll be ok, even in you're not.), or perhaps the youngest is finally off to college and you have the house to yourself (Although you may not be home much anymore.), perhaps a friend has taken the plunge back into academia (Plan to treat them to homemade goodies soon.), and maybe it's YOU that's heading back to those hallowed halls (Way to go!).  Use these helpful tips to get everyone's  school year started off right.
  • Get plenty of sleep. New people, new routines, and new ideas use up lots of energy.  Our brains and our bodies need a little extra down time about now. 

Are you backing up your home computer?

I've owned a computer longer than most people, and I've never lost a large amount of data.  Certainly, I've misplaced files, hit the power button before saving was complete, or forgotten to click "Save As" a few times, but I've never faced the total loss and devastation of viruses, lightning strike or hard drive failure... until now!  This week I said a sad farewell to my long-lived desktop computer.  This PC was ancient as computers go these days, but it plugged along just fine.  I was about to hand it over as "the kids' computer" when POW! Blue screen. Diagnosis - hard drive failure.