Residential Water Interruption: Are You Ready?

It’s January 2, 2023, and large numbers of residents of Asheville, North Carolina have been without water at their homes since Christmas Eve, a little over a week ago. As a Communitarian Prepper, this unfortunate current event can provide a case study for all of us concerning the ways we need to prepare for temporary (or even long term) interruptions in municipal water service, as well as other life sustaining services and utilities. Whether or not you have a well on your property, have a nearby neighbor with a well, or start making plans to put in a well, making SOME plans and preparations for how your family can weather and sustain a temporary cutoff in access to purified drinking water through your household taps is important. That’s the focus of this post.

Water Purification System at Sawmill” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

How likely are you to lose water at your house? Hopefully not very likely, but if we consider our experiences living in Oklahoma City for 16 years, it’s a definite possibility. We lost water access a couple of times because of some slab leaks we had in our house, which required us to cut off our city water feed at the street. This was a big inconvenience, but thankfully just lasted a few days. I am in the habit of keeping about six, five gallon plastic water containers full in the garage, so at those times we had stored water to use in our toilets as well as for drinking and cooking needs. See the article, “Best emergency water storage containers for your home” from ThePrepared.com for more suggestions on water containers.

In the case of the current municipal water outage in Asheville, severely cold weather caused breaks in over 1700 miles of water lines, leaving over 38,000 people without residential water service. There are several threat vectors to consider when it comes to an interruption in water service at your house:

Regardless of the cause, when water stops flowing from the tap at your house, you need to figure out:

  1. How can I obtain and store water in containers that I can use at home?
  2. How can I purify water that I either obtain from a neighbor’s well or my own, or another source, that could include your own tap before municipal water purification systems are back online.

This latter situation is now affecting many residents of Asheville, North Carolina. Today, “Buncombe County schools” have switched to “remote learning” for several days because many families are either without water or without purified water, and “boil advisories” continue to be in effect. This means even though water is flowing out of taps at home, the water isn’t purified and can’t be consumed / used for drinking until is been treated with a filter and/or chemicals.

I’m a camper, backpacker, as well as a former Philmont Ranger (summers of 1991 and 1992) and USAF cadet survival instructor (summer of 1990), so I have some experiences with backcountry water purification. My experiences as an Eagle Scout on high adventure treks to Philmont as well as the Minnesota / Canadian boundary waters area on a summer canoe trek also inform my experiences and skills in this area. My former Scoutmaster, Ray Hightower (Troop 74, Manhattan, Kansas) was a fan of “Polar Pure” water purification, which uses super-saturated iodine water to purify (usually) quart sized water bottles. That is still my preferred method, and I keep a bottle of Polar Pure in our garage-stored camping gear. If you’re needing to purify larger amounts of water than quart water bottles, however, a different solution is needed.

In the past, I have kept a large bottle of bleach in our home emergency supply cache, since bleach can be used to purify water effectively. It’s recommended that you wait at least 60 minutes before drinking water purified with bleach. If you boil water to purify it, you also have to wait until it cools off.

One of the important things I learned in Scouting and various survival training lessons was that to be purified, water does NOT need to be kept at a “rolling boil” for 5 or 10 minutes. Once water has gotten to the boiling point, all the “bad stuff” which needs to be killed through the purification process (like the Giardia parasite, which we all DEFINITELY want to avoid, since it STAYS in your gut indefinitely after you’ve ingested it) will be killed.

The other water purification method which is on my “Communitarian Prepper Wish List” is a water filter. These can be drinking straws or larger capacity filters. It’s also possible to get a residential well installed, which has built-in water treatment, purification and treatment included. This latter solution is my “prepper dream,” but it’s not something we’re going to obtain in the near term.

As with all types of emergency preparedness, it’s vital to think about these issues and TAKE ACTION TO PREPARE for these possibilities well BEFORE a crisis starts. What would you do if your residential water supply was cut off today? What would you do if it remained cut off for three days? For a week? For a month?

Any preparation you can do now can pay dividends in case of an emergency. Remember, communitarian preppers are not just interested in taking care of themselves and their immediate family members, they are also interested in providing for neighbors and others in the community who many not be as well prepared for a crisis or disaster, or may not physically be able to provide for themselves and need assistance.

There are important lessons to learn from the recent and ongoing water crisis in Asheville, North Carolina. The question is: What are YOU going to do now to better prepare yourself and your family for an interruption in municipal water service?

Residential Water Interruption: Are You” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing

A 2X video of my flight this evening from Manhattan, Kansas to Dallas – Fort Worth, featuring the MHK takeoff sequence and the  DFW landing sequence just after sunset. This was American Airlines flight 3434 on December 26, 2022.

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing (26 Dec 2022)

Created with iMovie for iOS.

The following music was used for this media project:

  1. Music: Raving Energy by Kevin MacLeod
  2. Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/5029-raving-energy
  3. License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Links to follow and learn with me / Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after. Resources to support the creation of media projects like this are available on:

MHK Dusk Takeoff to DFW Sunset Landing” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Boots and Catalysts

I’m wearing the warmest boots I currently own, a pair of Thinsulate hunting boots I bought a few years ago at Academy Sports in Edmond, Oklahoma, in advance of a winter “Venture Scouts” camping trip I took with our oldest daughter. In this post I want to reflect a little on the severe blast of cold weather that is hitting the United States this week, and how this relates to the idea of being a “Communitarian Prepper.” For some reason, I also just want to reflect a little on these boots. So here we go…

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I’m enroute to visit my parents in Manhattan, Kansas, today, for a short visit. My dad told that later this week the wind chill is going to get down to something crazy like minus 30 or minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That is insane. I really don’t remember many times growing up in northeast Kansas, in the 1980s, when we had weather that cold. Checking out the forecast in the iOS Carrot weather app (my new fav, since “Dark Sky” is going offline in 2023) it looks like Thursday at 3 am the local temperature in Manhattan is supposed to be minus 13 degrees F. That’s WITHOUT wind chill, of course. During the day Thursday, it will warm up all the way to positive 4 degrees F. Yikes.

MHK Forecast” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I love the fact that we live in Charlotte, North Carolina, now, where the weather is generally milder than what I’ve experienced most of my life in the midwest. Charlotte rarely receives snow, although they did last winter. Apparently it was the first time in 4 years they had snow. In Oklahoma, we experienced some pretty brutal ice storms over the years, living there 16 years, from 2006 to 2022.

OKC Ice Storm Oct 2020” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

The worst was in January 2007, when I flew to MacWorld with my cousin, Devin Henley. It was amazing, but Oklahoma City received over a foot of ice and the OKC airport shut down for several days. Devin and I got stuck flying back in Denver, but made the best of it by staying with a family friend, purchasing some ski gear at REI, and taking the “ski train” to spend a day skiing at Winter Park! Stuck at home without power and three young children, Shelly was not super-happy with me.

Just the beginning!” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

When severe weather strikes, wherever you happen to be, you need to be PREPARED NOW. In the craziness of moving from Oklahoma to North Carolina last summer, we left a LOT of stuff behind. Apparently, those abandoned items included my winter ski gloves, because they are not in the large trunk of “stuff” we have in our new garage, where I did pull these winter hunting boots out last night.

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Incidentally, these boots are NOT the ideal footwear for passing through airport security checkpoints. At some point I’d like to pay and enroll in TSA Precheck, but at this point, I don’t have any special privileges when it comes to airport security.

I’m hoping to buy some new winter gloves at the Manhattan WalMart early in this visit. Literally the only gloves or mittens I have to use at this point are a pair of wool hiking socks, which I had to use for this purpose over Thanksgiving break when our Charlotte temperatures fell below freezing.

My level of winter preparedness, living now as a new resident of Charlotte, North Carolina, may be at an all-time lifetime low. I did find my thermal underwear to bring, and a fleece hat, but to not have any winter gloves to use? This is a sad level of preparedness indeed.

Mittens” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

So this brings me back to thinking about emergency preparedness, and living into this idea of being a “communitarian prepper.” We all need CATALYSTS which encourage (or in some cases, FORCE) us to change our thinking and behavior. Most people will not simply wake up one day, sans-catalyst, and decide to change their own mindset and ways.

Sometimes our CATALYST which pushes us to change our ways is traumatic. In the past six months, I’ve had opportunities to interact with different adults taking some self-defense / self-protection classes, and the stories some of them have told about “Why I’m here” have been heart wrenching. It’s always better to “find your why” to “change your ways” in a non-traumatic, more intellectual activity (like reading a blog post, for instance) rather than a life-threatening, “fight or flight” moment of true struggle and survival.

A Challenging Professional Mantra” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I’m not sure what the word for this is, but maybe I can suggest a few creative possibilities and others will chime in with other suggestions. Sometimes we change our ways because of:

  1. Externally imposed, traumatic life events (the death of a relative or a friend, becoming permanently disabled in an accident)
  2. An authority figure in our lives who demand changes (could be a parent or a spouse)
  3. New circumstances which require us to live differently (moving to the northern tier, for instance, which has harsher and more brutal winter weather requiring a different wardrobe and different routines through the winter months)

Maybe we can call those, “externally imposed life change catalysts.” These kinds of changes are unavoidable, given the facts of a new context. To survive, to live, or even to THRIVE (and isn’t that a lovely goal) we have to make important changes.

The other kind of thinking and behavior change catalysts are CHOICE CATALYSTS. These are events, ideas, conversations, or observations we experience which we CHOOSE to MAKE into catalysts. Examples could include:

  1. We don’t have to go on a diet and lose weight, but we notice undesirable changes in our weight, so we decide to make some dietary, lifestyle, exercise and/or routine changes.
  2. We recognize how our thinking and our interactions with others are affected by our use of mobile technologies, so we decide to make some screentime changes to address those unwanted dynamics.
  3. We have to get out all our cold winter clothing for an upcoming trip to the midwest, and realize we are not only poorly prepared for cold-weather activities, we’re also still pretty poorly prepared for a variety of potential emergencies or crises.

This, then, can be a defining characteristic of a “communitarian prepper,” as well as just an individual who wants to be better prepared for the potental (and often unforeseen) challenges of life: Seeking CHOICE CATALYSTS in life and then making an individual ACTION PLAN so those catalytic events / ideas / experiences propel us forward into our better prepared, aspirational future.

Today, I choose to make the four days this week when I’ll be wearing my Thinsulate hunting boots into a CHOICE CATALYSTS event as a “communitarian prepper,” I’ve got some brainstorming to do!

To be continued…

Thinsulate hunting boots” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

“The day after” (Thanksgiving)

“The day after.” (Thanksgiving)

Rain in our forecast all day long. It is lovely as it falls on the roof, especially on our back sunporch. The leaves we blew into tall piles on Wednesday have already started to “settle.” I am amazed how little wind there is here in North Carolina. In Oklahoma, all these leaves would’ve probably already blown away. Here, they patiently wait for us to bag them up and send them to the dump.

Our dogs love to look out the front storm door, and into the backyard through the sunporch glass. The continual activity of our neighborhood squirrels make the world outside our house seem like an amazing zoo of interesting activity.

We continue to recover from the trauma of our cross-country move last summer. I am thankful to be still, to not have anywhere to go today.(Except the gym with our USAFA-application motivated daughter!)

I am thankful to have a warm cup of coffee in my hand, a sleeping bag for my blanket, and my amazing life partner at my side. And two loving golden retrievers who lie, occasionally, at my feet.

Thanksgiving 2022 in North Carolina.

I’m a Communitarian Prepper

I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper,” and I’ve started a new website to share related resources. This aspirational journey started this past summer, but connects with different skills and dispositions I learned about in Boy Scouting as well as my brief years at the US Air Force Academy and in the USAF, and through my lifelong journey of faith following Jesus Christ. My introductory ideas about this, which I’ve added at the top of the website, are:

I have a “slow hunch” we are living in a season of life and history in which we are called to become “Communitarian Preppers.” While some preppers may “incline toward individualism and competition,” I believe we are called (for both practical and faith-based reasons) to prepare for emergencies and even catastrophes so that we can not only take care of our own families, but also help take care of our neighbors. For me, this is the essence of being a “communitarian prepper:” Building strong relationships among our neighbors and in our own community, and developing both our resource base and skill sets, so that we can better weather and survive the storms of life together through all the forms they might take.

We need to prepare to take care of ourselves, take care of our families, and take care of each other.

From commprep.wesfryer.com on 13 Nov 2022.

The backyard video on “Prepping and Preparation” (38 minutes) I recorded in Oklahoma City this past Fourth of July addressed many of these topics, themes, and underlying motivation. In our society and culture today in the United States, I believe we need to do a much better job “taking care of each other.” We need to prepare for emergencies of all types not only to care for ourselves and our families, but also to better position ourselves to care for others. This is the “slow hunch” which now has a clearer title which hopefully communicates the ethic of neighborly care I believe is simultaneously a self-interested requirement in a catastrophic emergence “at scale,” is a secular responsibly for our fellow human beings, and is also a theological mandate.

Back in 2016 I listened to Ted Koppel’s eye opening book, “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath”on Audible. The Amazon description explains:

Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

After that, I read “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen. The Amazon description is:

New York Times best selling author William R. Forstchen now brings us a story which can be all too terrifyingly real…a story in which one man struggles to save his family and his small North Carolina town after America loses a war, in one second, a war that will send America back to the Dark Ages…A war based upon a weapon, an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP). A weapon that may already be in the hands of our enemies.

Both of these books, paired with my experiences serving as the Director of Technology for a midwestern private school for 4 years, greatly increased my own awareness of the growing hostility of our cyber environment and the dangers those aggressions can pose in our kinetic, face-to-face world. The COVID-19 global pandemic revealed many things as well, including our universal vulnerability to supply-chain disruptions. The ongoing war in Ukraine with Russia seems like a surreal event at times, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s just a matter of time before that conflict is “brought home” to us in North America in very tangible, painful ways.

We live in extremely perilous times, and we take so much for granted. In addition to reliable electricity, cell phone tower connectivity, and clean flowing water, we assume our space-based GPS system and representative democracy are constants which will remain our “status quo” forever. We also may naively assume “that one password we’ve always used for everything online is secure. Alas, that may not be so.

“Technology Fear Therapy” by Wes Fryer at TEDxUCO (March 2022)

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed today by current events, political polarization, and just the deluge of information which washes over us in our polluted and fractured media environment. There are a great number of things I do not know, but here is something I’m confident about: I want to live in community with others who have both the motivation / desire to care for each other as neighbors, and (hopefully) are well-prepared to care for each other in the event we experience a catastrophe, either a natural disaster or a human-initiated debilitating event.

Those are some of the reasons I’ve decided I’m a “Communitarian Prepper.” I invite you to join me. Hopefully my website can provide you with some helpful resources and suggestions on your own journey of preparation and community care.

Remember the BEST TIME to prepare for an emergency is BEFORE anything bad happens!

Sign up for my free periodic newsletter, “Media Literacy with Wes,” to stay in touch and up to date on ideas about being a “Communitarian Prepper” and other related (mostly technology) topics.

Paprika App for Recipes

I love using the Paprika App (www.paprikaapp.com) for saving and using recipes! It’s available for iOS, MacOS, Android and Windows. For years my mom used the MacOS recipe program MasterCook, which became MacGourmet, but she’s had problems lately with it syncing to her phone and updating. Today I helped her export her 1200 recipes to Paprika, so everything is synced with her iMac, iPad and iPhone on Paprika on each device. The export/import process was simple, fast and slick!

Paprika lets you create ‘static HMTL’ versions of your recipes, so I uploaded and linked mom’s recipes to the “Paprika Recipes’ page of our family recipe website. This means anyone in our family (or you) can access and use those recipes if desired. Now that we have college grads in our immediate family and are contemplating the imminent reality “an empty nest” in about a year and a half, providing access to these recipes is a great thing!

I’m sure my mom spent HUNDREDS of hours getting all her recipes digitized over the years. I’ve had access to a small fraction of them via the recipe book she gave me after I graduated from college and started living on my own… and a few others in the intervening years. It’s a little overwhelming now to have access to ALL of her 1000+ library of recipes!

Mom (who is a huge foodie and a MUCH better cook / chef than I’ll ever be) also enjoys using the website Yummly. (These are her Yummly finds and collections.) One of the best things about Paprika is you can VERY easily copy the link to a food recipe online, and then import it into your own collection. I like how the exported versions include those original links for attribution.

Check out the Paprika App, unless you have another recipe app already that you uses and love. In that case, please let me know (via Twitter or my contact form) what you use instead!

Also remember to check out and subscribe to my cooking videos on YouTube!

Vision Questing for the Ultimate Backyard Steak

I love to cook and eat steak!

My favorite steak is ribeye, Shelly’s favorite is filet mignon, thanks to some good friends who introduced her to that delicacy shortly after we moved up to Oklahoma City from Lubbock, Texas. From time to time I’ll cook different cuts of steak, but normally that’s pretty standard fare like sirloins. Twice, now, however… we’ve had Brazilian style picanha on skewers, and Shelly thinks it may be her “new favorite” way to enjoy steak. The kids have really enjoyed skewer grilled picanha with chimichurri sauce too! I made a cooking tutorial video for cooking picanha back in January, and it’s my favorite cooking video (of 23 so far!) I’ve made and shared over the years. I also included the recipe I’ve used on our (relatively new) “Fryer and Ward Family Recipes” website.

I’ve been on a bit of a proverbial VISION QUEST to find and buy a new backyard smoker and grill, and in that process I’ve watched LOTS of YouTube videos about cooking generally and meat smoking and grilling specifically. (I have a public YouTube playlist of some of my favorites, if you’re interested.) I’ve been cooking steaks over charcoal on our Weber Kettle grill for almost 25 years now, both direct “hot and fast” cooking as well as indirect charcoal cooking. My main grill speciality has been “grilled chicken thighs,” which is also included on our family recipe website. I could eat those once a week (along with tacos) and be totally happy. I suppose this reveals the general LACK of sophistication of my culinary preferences, but I’m working on this… 🙂

There is a LOT more you can do on a Weber Kettle charcoal grill besides hot and fast and indirect cooking! In the last few months, I have tried techniques like “low and slow smoking” on the Kettle with the “charcoal snake method.” My first attempt at doing this with beef short ribs was NOT a resounding success, but I did learn a lot, and the results were still edible. I made a 9 minute video of those lessons learned, too.

Normally I have purchased our steaks from our local WalMart Neighborhood Market, which I’m sure will shock and disappoint some readers. We have, however, sometimes splurged and purchased grass fed steaks from B.F. Farms. They are based in Enid, Oklahoma, but have a retail outlet in north Edmond about a 30 minute drive from our house. Their beef is AMAZING, but it’s also expensive. I’ve also purchased picha steaks from “The Meat House” in Edmond and from Firebirds Meat Market in NW Oklahoma City. Firebirds is my new favorite butcher shop, but some of their cuts are $$$.

In addition to those meat sources, we’ve been happy “every other month” customers and subscribers to ButcherBox for two years now. Butcherbox sends you a box of high quality meats on the schedule you choose, and it’s EXCELLENT quality. Check them out and if you use this affiliate link, we’ll both get a $30 account credit.

Since becoming a huge fan of COSTCO about a year and a half ago, I’ve really enjoyed cooking and eating their different cuts of meat. Not only beef, but also pork, lamb, and salmon. Our New Year’s Prime Rib this year came from COSTCO. This year’s Prime Rib oven roasting recipe is on our family recipe website, previous years (and there have been several, it’s a HUGE favorite for obvious reasons) are archived here on our family learning blog. My first year to try was 2011, so I’ve been questing for the perfect Prime Rib for a decade now!

On my most recent visit to COSTCO last week, I picked up the thickest ribeyes I’ve ever purchased. They are “prime” and $16 per pound.

These are not inexpensive, but relative to what these steaks would cost commercially prepared at a local restaurant, I’m sure $45 is a bargain price.

With four of us at the dinner table, I figured we’d just need two of these THICK ribeyes to have a very satisfying entree for dinner. I’m trying several new techniques with these beauties, thanks to the “SnS Grills” video, “How to Perfectly Cook Steak. Reverse Seared Ribeye using Cold Grate Technique,” and those changes are what I’d like to document now.

For the first time, I’ve salted these ribeye steaks in advance the night before I plan to cook them. The video (above) explains that by adding ONLY salt, and doing it the night before, the salt is able to permeate into the meat and will actually help the interior stay more moist during the cooking process. Per the video’s recommendatiions, I’m leaving them UNCOVERED in our fridge overnight on a wire rack. I’m going to dry them off / use paper towels to absorb any moisture from the top before grilling them, and also let them warm to room temperature (about 30 minutes) before grilling them tomorrow night.

When cooking steaks in the past, I’d either season them with “McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning” about 30 minutes before putting them on the grill, or (in the case of sirloins) marinate them with Mccormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade. Results have been tasty, so I’m eager to see if this “salt with kosher salt the night before” step makes a noticeable difference.

Also following the advice of the video, I trimmed some of the excess fat from the edges of the ribeyes tonight. I have NEVER done this to a steak before, but it makes sense that the outer fat (as opposed to the inner, ‘marbled fat’) doesn’t render fully into the meat during cooking or add to the flavor. In fact, as I’ve learned watching videos about and smoking my own briskets and short ribs, exterior fat can prevent any applied rub or seasoning from penetrating the meat and therefore adding to the flavor of the final, cooked masterpiece. So, these are my first “trimmed ribeyes,” albeit very lightly trimmed.

Eventually I’d love to order a $100 “Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe” to cook on my Weber Kettle, but it’s not required to cook with two cooking zones. I’m going to try and follow the instructions of the SnS video as precisely as I can tomorrow, and expect to cook indirect for about 50 minutes and then sear at the end about 4 minutes.

With a side of cast iron skillet brussel sprouts and loaded baked potatoes, it just might turn out to be a meal to remember! We’ll see and I’ll add some details about the results here afterward!

What are your favorite backyard steak grilling tricks and tips I should try?

Oklahoma City Backyard BBQ Finds (March 2021)

It’s our Spring Break, and today I explored a couple local backyard barbecue stores in Oklahoma City and Moore. Here’s a summary of what I found for locally sourced brisket injection, BBQ sauces, rubs and seasonings. Many of these are also available for online purchase, and in those cases I’ve included links. For more of my food and cooking related recommendations and recipes, check out this playlist of my YouTube cooking videos, and our “Fryer and Ward Family Recipes” website on food.wesfryer.com. There are 11 older posts here about cooking, and I’ve also created a “cooking category” for even older posts (mostly) I shared on my primary professional blog (“Moving at The Speed of Creativity”) before I setup this family learning blog. Cooking is something I’m enjoying more after 5 decades of life on our planet, and I continue to enjoy documenting and sharing about my own journey as an aspiring home cook too. (Frequently now on Instagram too!)

One of the great things about living in Oklahoma and the midwest in the United States is we have a lot of great barbecue choices for both backyard enthusiasts and hungry eaters. Kosmo’s Q BBQ & Grilling Supply is located just north of I-40 west of downtown Oklahoma City a few miles, and has a variety of backyard smokers and grills in stock (including Kamado Joe, Traeger, and Masterbuilt models) as well as their own line of rubs, injection blends and seasonings.

I usually use a simple injection recipe for my Texas-style backyard smoked brisket, which includes about 40% apple juice or apple cider, 40% beef broth, and 10% Worcestershire sauce. I haven’t ever tried a different injection, so I picked up a 1 pound bag of Kosmos “Smoke House Reserve Blend” brisket injection today. To mix it, you combine 1/3 cup with 2 cups of liquid (beef broth, distilled water, or another liquid) and inject it into the meat before putting it on the smoker. The Kosmos employee who recommended it said all their brisket injections include “phosphates” which help keep the meat moist, and this particular injection will add a lot of additional smoke flavor to briskets cooked on a pellet smoker. I’m going to give this a try!

My second find and purchase from Kosmos today was their “Garlic Parm Wing Seasoning,” which is one choice in their “Wing Dust” lineup. I love eating and enjoying chicken wings, but I’m NOT a huge fan of spice heat. Wingstop has become my favorite fast food chicken wing place in the past few years, and I do enjoy garlic parmesan wings, so we’ll see how this “Wing Dust” compares next time I grill up or smoke some wings.

Our second stop on today’s OKC-area backyard barbecue store exploration outing was J. R.’s BBQ Supply Company in Moore. They are easy to get to just east of I-40, in Moore and will be relocating soon just down the road. They have a BIG selection of locally sourced, Oklahoma barbecue rubs and seasonings. They feature a large collection of “Butcher BBQ Stand” creations from Wellston, Oklahoma. I picked up their “Grilling Addiction Dry Rub Seasoning,” which I may try on some steaks or brisket. It does list ‘sugar’ as one of the ingredients, and I’ve heard it’s important to be very careful with rubs including sugar when you’re smoking low and slow. So I may try this on grilled steaks first, in lieu of “my usual” Mccormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning.

The last two items I picked up today at J.R.’s are sauces. Sweet Spirit Foods is a unique fundraising and outreach ministry of Christian Life Missionary Baptist Church on 23rd Street in downtown Oklahoma City. The byline on the label of their “Mild BBQ Sauce” is:

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good…”

Psalm 34:8a NKJV

I know that Scripture is true, we’ll see how applicable it is to this specific barbecue sauce soon at our house! 🙂

The last barbecue find and purchase today was “Payne County Hog’s Bane BBQ Sauce.” It’s a product of Big Rock Foods in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and sold online by Barn Door Gourmet. It’s described on the website as:

a sweet, smoky, Kansas-City-style sauce. It’s the perfect dipping sauce for bbq ribs or for smothering your favorite pulled-pork or brisket sandwich. Brush it on your shrimp, wings, grilled chicken or pork chops for a sticky charred crust, or finish your competition-style ribs in the smoker. Any way you use it, you’ll notice its unique background spices with every bite. Hog’s Bane BBQ Sauce has been praised by BBQ chains, butchers, packers and retailers across the country. 

via bigrockfoods.com

We’ll be trying this with the next pork shoulder I smoke.

Incidentally, www.barndoorgourmet.com has a variety of other Oklahoma and midwest region food items, including BBQ but also other things. As an example, they offer, “Okie Fish and Chips,” which look like seasoned oyster crackers, by a company called “Over the Fence Farms” based south of Enid in Waukomis, Oklahoma, on Highway 81. These are the kind of locally sourced products I really enjoy finding at local farmers markets. I think this kind of local entrepreneurism and small business food product production is great, and I love learning about (as well as trying) things like this.

Spring is coming and that means “Farmers Market Time” will be here again. I can’t wait!

Learning Signs Podcasts Migrated and Backed Up to Podiant

Over the past 10+ years our family members have recorded a lot of podcast episodes in different places using different apps and websites. My all-time favorite remains AudioBoom (previously AudioBoo) where we still have 227 episodes available online. Some of my favorites there include:

  1. “USS Arizona Impressions” (very touching spiritual insights from a 6 year old)
  2. “Flamingos at the zoo” (hilarious example of why we need to ask others to check their perceptions of reality, and why when audio recording with kids “the good stuff usually comes at the end”)
  3. “Why I am Mulan for Halloween” (just plain cute)
  4. “Hallelujah – I’m Ready! by The Soggy Bottom Boys of Edmond” (one of the best days of our Friday morning men’s group EVER!)

We also recorded a few podcasts over the years using the iPhone app Opinion, which (like AudioBoom) provided free podcast audio file hosting. As of November 1, 2017, however, Opinion is discontinuing its hosting. For that reason, I migrated our family podcasts on Opinion over to Podiant, so they are now accessible on learningsigns.podiant.co. This was a wonderfully easy (and FREE) process, since we could directly import all the audio files and meta info from the RSS feed. (Episode titles, episode art, podcast show art, etc.)

Just in case AudioBoom goes offline at some point, and to have a backup, I also imported all our AudioBoom podcasts over to Podiant, so those are now available on audioboom.podiant.co. I am OVER THE MOON with how easy this import and migration process was and is with Podiant! A thousand thank you’s to Joe Dale (@joedale) who alerted me to Podiant, and to Mark Steadman (@iamsteadman), the creator and developer of Podiant.

Another alternative platform with podcast import functionality (but not free) is Fireside. I’ve added both of these to the “Radio Shows” page of ShowWithMedia.com.

Tonight I’ve also migrated some other podcasts hosted by Opinion to Podiant, including:

  1. My wife’s (@sfryer) classroom podcast, “Casady News 12” (formerly the “Room 108 Podcast from Oklahoma City”
  2. The “Casady Voices” podcast channel I started last year, also linked from our “Casady Learning Showcase” website

Long live podcasting and Podiant!

* Cross-posted to “Learning Signs” (our family learning blog) as “Learning Signs Podcasts Migrated and Backed Up to Podiant.”
* Cross-posted to “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” as “Podiant: A Great Platform for Podcasting and Migrated Podcasts”

Waiting at the VA Clinic

Old men using love pheromones perfume.
Waiting for the doctor.
Telling stories.
Remembering Iraq.
Comparing experiences.
Comparing diagnoses.
Swapping acronyms.
Waiting.

High tech checkin.
Scan your ID card.
Verify your birthday.
All medical files have been digitized.
Waiting for benefits.
Smiling at the receptionist.
Appreciating kindness.
Thinking about military service.

Feeling less out of place today.
When you’re 23 at the VA and you’re surrounded by WWII and Vietnam veterans, you kind of stick out.
I’m older now.
I’m not skinny any more.
I need to reduce my cholesterol.
My vision isn’t what it used to be.

Listening to the stories.
The stories in the waiting room.
The tales of the dead.
Bodies in Iraq.
Severed limbs
Burned in a pile
Chemical defoliants
Dropped by aircraft flying high above
Designed to peel back the jungle canopy
Peeling back years of vitality and health now
The unintended consequences
The science of warfare
Manifested now in the clinic
Waiting.
Listening.
Remembering.
Thinking.

Waiting at the VA clinic.

This just came to me while waiting for my son to be called up to see the doctor, next time I´ll go to this pediatric dentist that’s great with kids and it´ll be much faster. Check out this CNA practice test, which allows those studying to become a CNA the chance to ace the real CNA test come exam time. When I was in medical training in the 1980s, physicians were taught that opiates were useful but dangerous drugs that should be used only for severe injuries, after surgery or in terminally ill patients. Since the 1990s, however, pharmaceutical companies have systematically distorted perceptions about opioids, through paid speakers, sponsored “education” and bought-off organizations. Opioid manufacturers are directly responsible for the current opioid addiction epidemic and continue spreading misinformation that will feed rather than stem this epidemic.

Best Christmas Dinner Ever: Prime Rib

If I’m counting correctly, Christmas 2016 marks the sixth time in my life I’ve been able to cook prime rib for our family for Christmas dinner. I love a good holiday turkey as much as anyone, but NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, can beat a perfectly cooked prime rib supper. I am extremely thankful our family is able to enjoy food like this together. This year perhaps more than ever before, I am extremely cognizant and appreciative of so many blessings in our lives. We are not millionaires, but sharing a prime rib dinner like this together makes us feel like we are. If you have a chance to eat a meal like this, and to share it with others, count your blessings. In this post I’ll share the few modifications I made to the preparation and cooking steps documented in my 2015 post. I’m sharing this both for my own future reference and to help out others. If this post inspires or helps you in your own prime rib cooking vision quests, please let me know via a comment or Twitter reply to @wfryer.

1- Prime Rib on Sale at Whole Foods

We’re not only fortunate to now live in a city with a Whole Foods grocery store, but also to have them significantly discount the per pound price of prime rib steak on Christmas Eve. We shop at Whole Foods only about four times all year, and always for special occasions and for limited items. (WalMart Neighborhood Market is my normal grocery store.) Whole Foods had prime rib discounted this year on Christmas Eve from about $17 per pound to $12 per pound. For 3 ribs, about 7.8 pounds, we paid $94. This is a $40 savings off the “normal” price. This is a huge amount of money to pay for a piece of meat, but this was for a very special occasion, and the taste in the end was worth every penny. I’m thankful for the sale price. Eating a great prime rib at home starts with buying top quality meat.

2- Digital Probe Thermometer

As I noted in my 2015 post about cooking prime rib, a digital probe thermometer is absolutely essential. This is the number one thing I’ve learned to use in the past three years which has helped me cook great tasting prime rib that is perfectly cooked, and not too rare. The $20 “Oneida Digital Probe Cooking Thermometer with Timer” from Bed, Bath and Beyond is my tool of choice in this category. I was lucky to have an extra AAA battery in my work backpack, since last year’s battery had gone dead. Like last year, my cooking procedure was:

  1. Cook uncovered 15 minutes at 450 degrees
  2. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees and keep cooking
  3. Remove prime rib when the interior temperature reaches 130 degrees (This year it took 1 hour and 40 minutes, about 15 minutes less than in 2015. I think that is because I got the prime rib out of the fridge about 4 hours before I cooked it, which let it more fully get to room temperature before starting cooking… which is also an essential.)
  4. Completely cover the prime rib with foil and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. This year we let ours rest about 30 minutes, until (as we did last year) the interior temperature reached 143 degrees.

We like our prime rib medium and medium rare, but not rare – and these cooking temperatures were absolutely PERFECT for those requirements.

3- Seasoning Salt Rub

2 years ago I used “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” as a prime rib rub from our Oklahoma City “Savory Spice” store. This year I used three tablespoons of “Mt. Evans Butcher’s Rub” from Savory Spice and three tablespoons of kosher salt as my rub. As recommended by my guiding Prime Steak House recipe, I made several cuts (about 1/4 of an inch deep) around the roast before applying the rub. I also rubbed about a 1/4 stick of soft butter on both ends. I did NOT open the oven to brush the drippings back onto the roast during cooking, as some recommend. It turned out great (again) not doing this. My custom spice rub worked well and tasted great this year, but I’ll probably go back to the “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” next time I cook a prime rib.

4- Carving Smaller Pieces

This year I served the plates in the kitchen and then brought them to the dining room, and carved smaller pieces for everyone than I have in the past. This worked well, and several folks opted for seconds. In the past it’s been a bit overwhelming to have such a huge piece of prime rib on the plates… and I definitely liked serving smaller pieces this year.

5- Creamy Horseradish

The creamy horseradish sauce this year also turned out really good. I mixed half sour cream and half “Bubbies Prepared Horseradish,” which we also bought at Whole Foods. It tasted amazing and I’d definitely get this brand again and make it the same way.

Bon Appétit!

German Oven Pancake Recipe: Breakfast Culinary Perfection

This morning I made German Oven Pancakes for our Saturday morning family breakfast. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, which I have in the cookbook my mom gave me after college when I started living and cooking on my own. (We didn’t have to cook our own food at the Air Force Academy as cadets!) This is the finished oven pancake, before cutting it in half and serving it with sausage patties and bacon. We have two of these oval glass pie plate dishes so I was able to cook two at once in the oven.

Here is the recipe. The only modification I made was also adding a dash of cinnamon in the blender in addition to the nutmeg. Yum!

My mom is an amazing cook and now shares a lot of the recipes she finds and uses on Yummly. Sharing this on our family learning blog makes me think I need to start on a cookbook to give Alex and our other kids once they’re cooking on their own, either in college or afterward. For now, the meal plan as a freshman at Colorado School Mines is pretty amazing, so I don’t think Alex is in need of any recipes from me. I’m betting in a few years he will be, however!

I like using the Paprika Recipe Manager currently, which my mom told me about a few years ago. It lets me copy the link to an online recipe and readily enter it into its database. It also syncs if you want to use it on a laptop or a mobile device. Paprika lets you easily double a recipe too, and you can create a shopping list. My favorite shopping app on my iPhone now is “Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists.” I don’t use it for work or other to-do lists, just for shopping.

If you use this blog post to make Sharol Metzler’s oven pancake recipe, please let me know by leaving a comment or reaching out on Twitter!

Addition: My friend Jason in Montana read this post this morning, thanks to Twitter, and gave the recipe a try successfully! Social media is amazing.

Homemade Potato Skins Recipe – Thanks Supercook.com

As our primary family chef, responsibility fell to me today to cook something yummy at home after church. We’d run through the meal plans I had for last week, but I knew we had a bunch of ingredients that could be used to make something yummy. I turned again to the free website Supercook.com to enter the ingredients we had available in our pantry, and then explore recipes which we could make based on those items. Out of over 2000 available recipe options, I opted for Grilled Potato Skins.

The only modifications I made to the original Food.com recipe were to use five slices of bacon instead of three, and to forgo the chopped green onions since ours turned out to be mushy and a little too old to use. This turned out great and is definitely something we’ll have again!

(Not shown: Sour cream which we used as another topping!)

If you haven’t already, give Supercook.com a try! I’ve used it several times now with great results. This is a FANTASTIC way to use an Internet website in a transformative way, providing a yummy meal for your family which you otherwise wouldn’t have thought to cook! Thanks to my mom who told me about Supercook awhile back.

Homemade Jalapeño Roasted Poppers (recipe)

Tonight I made a tray of homemade jalapeño roasted poppers, and they were yummy! I made my first batch over the Christmas holidays, and I modified the recipe a bit further and liked it even better. It was also popular with the rest of my family. Here’s what I did. I’m sharing this for my own future reference, as well as to possibly inspire you to try these. If you use this, please let me know by sharing a comment on this post or a tweet to @wfryer. I waited about a week after purchasing the jalapeños this time, and that made them ripen and taste a bit spicier. They were still pretty tame though, since I removed all the seeds. I used the “regular” jalapeños from our WalMart Neighborhood Market.

Ingredients:

  1. Two bars of cream cheese
  2. Four pieces of bacon
  3. 15 medium sized jalapeños
  4. 1 tablespoon minced onion flakes
  5. Half tablespoon dried cilantro
  6. One cup Mexican style shredded Kraft “Four Cheese”
  7. 2 tablespoons minced garlic (from a jar)

Directions:

  1. Fry bacon, set aside
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, if necessary microwave at 50% power one minute to soften cheese. (I did this twice, stirring in between)
  3. Cut up bacon and add to the mix
  4. Halve and seed jalapeños
  5. Use a knife to put the mix in the jalapeños
  6. Bake 15 minutes at 350°

Modified from this Rachel Ray recipe!

Perfect Holiday Prime Rib 4.0

This is the fourth time I’ve cooked prime rib for our family for Christmas dinner. My wife thinks tonight was the best meal we’ve ever had at home in almost 20 years of marriage, so whatever we did this time I want to remember and be able to repeat again! In this post I’ll recap what we did, the changes I made from previous times I’ve cooked prime rib, and what I want to do again if and when we have an opportunity to prepare another amazing meal like tonight.

I wrote two previous family learning blog posts about cooking prime rib, back in 2013 and in 2011. Like I did in 2013, I used this recipe from Prime Steak Houses as my primary guide. Here are the three things I did differently this year which helped make this a remarkable prime rib dinner.

1 – Digital Probe Thermometer

One of the Christmas gifts this year I am most excited about is a probe thermometer that shows the temperature inside meat when it is cooking in the oven. My wife and son bought me a Oneida Digital Probe Thermometer with Timer. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells it for $20. The oven thermometer I used previously had a minimum temperature of 140 degrees, but that’s a problem since the Prime Steak House recipe recommends removing the prime rib from your oven when the interior temperature reaches 120 degrees. So in past years, when I removed our prime rib from our oven, I was just guessing that the meat was ready based on recommended cooking times. Unfortunately, ovens can vary considerably in the cooking time they require, and the result in the past has been prime ribs which weren’t cooked long enough. This afternoon after putting a rub on the meat, I put the thermometer probe into the center of the prime rib. Instead of 120 degrees, which is the low end of rare meat, I set the target temperature for 130 degrees. Our prime rib tonight was 6 pounds, so I initially set the timer for an hour and a half of cooking time to follow the initial 15 minutes of cooking at 450 degrees.

This is the cooking procedure and times I ended up using tonight for our 6 pound prime rib:

  1. 15 minutes at 450 degrees (uncovered)
  2. 1 hour, 55 minutes at 325 degrees (uncovered, with no basting, till the internal temperature reached 130 degrees)
  3. Removed from the oven, about 15 minutes covered with foil, until the interior temperature reached 140 degrees. The top temperature it reached after removing the foil covering was 143 degrees, before we served dinner.

2 – Meat at Room temperature

The second thing I did differently this year when cooking prime rib was to get the meat out of our refrigerator about three hours before I started to cook it. This allowed the meat to warm up, closer to room temperature. This is something included in the Prime Steak House recipe, but a step I hadn’t taken the time or care to follow in the past. According to my thermometer, our prime rib started cooking this year at a temperature of 50 degrees.

This is the clear instruction given by the Prime Steak House chefs:

It is crucial that you allow the roast to come to room temperature to ensure even-cooking. This means leaving it out for up to two full hours right before roasting.

3 – Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt

The third main thing I did differently this year was use a new seasoning for the rub. We have a fantastic store in Oklahoma City called “Savory Spice.” One of the employees there recommended “Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt” to use as a rub with prime rib. This turned out to be a FANTASTIC idea.

Following the Prime Steak House recipe, I made a series of half-inch cuts in the meat, and rubbed the seasoning salt all over it. before putting it in the oven.

This resulted in some absolutely AMAZING prime rib!

 

That’s it! Those were the three critical things I did tonight which helped me our prime rib dinner a smashing success. If these tips prove useful to you, please leave a comment or contact me via Twitter @wfryer.

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