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Aerial View as Superstorm Sandy strikes NJ and NY. Photo credit: www.csmonitor.com

     Dear Friends and Readers, I write this having just been through the now infamous Superstorm Sandy and, at least for myself, having been caught surprised and unprepared.  Fortunately for my family, my husband had the sense to make certain necessary preparations while I was running around making light of the situation and complaining that he was being too dramatic.  I had other things to worry about.  As we know now, I was so wrong and I am grateful that he did not listen to me. (Not that he ever does anyway!!)   With that in mind, I've come up with a few ideas that helped us through the storm and the week of no power that followed.  We were lucky that no one was hurt and we sustained no damage - none except to my pride that is!!!  I did, however, learn lots of new ways to cook anything on a grill and toast bread on a gas stove. 

What You Need Before The Storm

Photo credit www.ezgrill.com

Battery Powered Fluorescent Lanterns with fresh batteries (1 for each bedroom and 1 for the bathroom & Extra Batteries).  A Flashlight.  Candles - the kind in glass jars are best for general light and safety (like Yankee Candle). 

A Gas Grill (even if its portable).  If you are in an area that prohibits propane, stock up on charcoal, newspaper and matches (nothing wrong with doing it the old fashioned way).

Gas - Fill up your Cars. Propane - for your Grill, an Old-Fashioned or camping style Perk Coffee Pot and a sturdy pot to boil water or heat food, a cast iron pan.

Bread, Water, Drinks that do not require refrigeration, Non-Perishable Foods and a Manual Can Opener, Instant Coffee or Tea Bags.  Do not buy milk.*

Ice - as much as you can keep in your freezer and refrigerator. Pack it until its full.

*Unless you have a baby, you do not need milk.  It takes up space in your fridge or cooler and it will be the first thing to spoil.  If you must, you can buy powdered milk or coffeemate. 

What To Do: Cook!!!

Grilled Chicken; Sausage, Peppers & Onions; Mac & Cheese baked on the grill; Grilled Shrimp

First things first: 

If its cold, keep your house as warm as possible prior to the storm, and keep doors and windows closed.  If you have gas, it is not advised to warm your house with gas burners.  You don't want to die from c/o poisoning. However, inevitably, you will be cold enough that you turn on those burners.  If you do, crack open the windows!!  Do the same if you are cooking on a gas stove.  This shouldn't need to be said, but, under no circumstances should you ever use a gas grill inside.  Put on a coat and go outside.  

If its hot, keep your air conditioners on and keep your house as cold as possible until the storm passes or you lose power.  Then keep your windows, shades and doors closed until you become too warm.  Only at that point should you open all windows and get as much cross-ventilation as possible.  Battery operated fans will help.

     Food and Refrigeration:  By now you should have been prepared and filled your fridge and freezer(s) with as much ice as they can hold.  Do not open them unless absolutely necessary.  You can drink your water or other drinks at room temperature, so don't waste space or cold air keeping them refrigerated or opening and closing the fridge to get them.  Keep your freezer closed and use up what's most perishable in your refrigerator.  You can cook or reheat anything on the stove or grill.  If you don't have a grillpan for small items, you can use your cast iron, Le Cruset, or any heavy bottom pan.  Next, (you're probably at day 2 here) check your freezer and start cooking anything that has begun to defrost, including any chicken, meat or fish.  Your frozen convenience foods (waffles, veggies, fries) will defrost quickly.  My husband cooked waffles on the grill for 2 days in a row and they were damned good!  Then we had Breakfast Hot Pockets on the grill.  Who would have guessed.  If you have eggs, meat and bread, you can bake a breakfast casserole on the grill.  Cook everything you can, and if you have to cook it all at once, do it.  It doesn't matter if its too much, because you can then eat what you want, and put it back in the fridge-which should still be cold from the ice.  If items are still frozen, don't cook them until they begin to defrost. Do the same on day 2, and so on.  If you have run out of enough ice to keep your fridge cold, put your cooked food in the freezer.

     Of course, the less you open the freezer, the longer your food will stay frozen.  If you can replenish the ice, even better.  Once your food is cooked, you don't need a freezing temperature to keep it edible, so you can keep your perishable food even longer by keeping it in the freezer, used as a cooler.  When you have bread or rolls, anything you cooked can be a sandwich for lunch the next day.  Use your cream cheese first.  Butter will keep fine even at room temperature, as is mustard, olive oil, and even mayo.  You can use up your jellies and hummus as spreads also.  If you have as much food as we did, consider donating some, or invite the neighbors.  No sense wasting it. 

     As for dinner, there is nothing that will bring a family closer than dinner by candlelight.  Cook while its still light, and involve the kids.  Keep a few of those jarred candles (like the ones from Yankee Candle) in and around the house, because the glass helps cast a wider glow and they last forever.  Then you can cover them tight to keep them away from tiny hands.  Tall taper candles are great on the table because they illuminate everything below them.  You will see how we even managed Halloween by candlelight in the photos below.  Bedtimes are naturally early when the lights go down, but somewhere in your houses you must have real books, magazines, a deck of cards, puzzles, a board game?  Brush off the dust because this is a great time to get the family together.

     We managed to eat like this for an entire week without power.  We were lucky compared to so many, because we were able to stay in our home and did not sustain any severe damage.  But we do have 3 children with autism, 1 of whom does not like the dark.  3 kids, no lights, power, tv, cable or heat.  And still, we were lucky compared to so many.  My mom is 83 and we needed to keep her warm.  The ability to boil water is essential, whether you are lucky and have a gas stove, or you have to go outside and do it on a gas grill, do not make light of this particular issue.  Not only will you need it for soup, tea or coffee, but you may also need it to wash and keep clean.  *Note: Another lesson - Do not feed 83 year old moms soup made out of boullion cubes no matter how much they complain. Its too salty!!  For us, to top it off, we suffered the death of a much loved family member right in the middle of the storm (for reasons unrelated to the storm) - a loss we will deal with as a family for a long time to come.  Yet, still we were lucky compared to so many.  So, with that in perspective, I share those tips I learned this past month.  I would have been totally unprepared because I wouldn't have heeded the warnings and I didn't get gas or ice.  I would have been stranded were it not for my husband who was neurotically out getting gas and ice and bread (yes, and milk), days ahead of the storm.  Thanks Dear.  For those of you, my readers, who were not so lucky, our hearts and are home remain open to you.

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