Critical Data Hack - Were You Exposed?

According to MSN's Money web site, over 770 million email accounts have been breached along with passwords.  I personally have followed the link to find that some of my information, was among some of the largest leaks and one was critical.

I am taking action and changing account information on those that have been compromised immediately.

I highly recommend using the insights they provided to find if your data was leaked and from where so you can also take corrective measures right away.  To find out if your email address and/or password were hacked, go to:  This page lets you check your email address first.  Next, you can select the tab "Passwords" to find out if your passwords were compromised.

If you find that your data was leaked, you can scroll down a bit and discover from where it was leaked and what level of information was included in the leak.  It could be simply an email address or worse, an email address with a password, or other more serious information like address, family information, and so forth.

To give you an idea of if you might been part of a leak, if you had any of the following types of accounts: Bitly, Disqus, Forbes, LinkedIn, and more.  However, the leak referred to in this instance with the 770 million plus accounts exposed is called Collection #1.  This leak is an compilation of over 2000 previous leaks.

What action can you take:
  • If your passwords were compromised, change them to very strong passwords immediately and don't reuse the compromised passwords for anything.  
  • If your email address was compromised, find a new one and treat it like you would if you had to change your phone number: Contact those people who need to contact you and give them your new information and omit the others.
  • Write your passwords for your accounts in a book that you keep in a safe or safe deposit box. This way you know what they are.  Paper in your home safe or in a bank's safe deposit box cannot be hacked.  (If someone did break in to either to steal information, you would also know right away unlike with hacked data.) Doing this is also important should anything happen and you were to die so that your family can get all your accounts squared away that need to be.
I cannot recommend the password managers recommended on this site as I do not have enough information about them.  Furthermore, Any online that can store your password can ultimately be hacked - and those that are known to store crucial information of that sort are the ones most likely to be targeted by hackers.

Why We Homeschool – A Reminder of Our Purpose and Calling

There are days when we, as homeschoolers, wonder if we are doing the right thing.  We each have a time when we re-evaluate this choice for any number of reasons.  Sometimes it’s just a hard day.  Sometimes it is a hard season in life.  I want to encourage you in this journey.

We do this because we love our children more than anyone else does and even though they push us, that “pushing” results in growth in us.  We grow in patience, kindness, meekness (strength under control – God’s control), mercy, forgiveness, and the ability to confess our failures and shortcomings as examples to our children when we do not exhibit these fruits.
Our children are God’s instruments to help us grow in knowledge, understanding and love for Him.  This is just what we do for our children.  Just as we "push" (challenge) them to try new things, not give up on hard things, be diligent, thorough, work on communication skills, learn life skills, do jobs completely rather than half-way, integrity, honesty, compassion - so much more than reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic.
We are creating people who will be kingdom people even as we strive for that goal ourselves each day. We fail, we confess, God picks us up, dusts us off - and sometimes dusts our pants because we need it, and loves us - and through watching us, our children learn these things.
It's not how many times they fail, or we fail, it's how many times we reach out to God for help and knowing we have a faithful, loving, Heavenly Father to help guide them and us to be the people he has in mind for us to be.
I'm sharing this as a print-out that you can put on your refrigerator, above your desk, or wherever you need this  to remind you - and for me to remind myself - of our higher purpose and calling in this adventure.  God bless you today and always! - Tammy

Are You Set for Emergencies?

In the past week, the Southeast has endured a hurricane - some people experiencing additional flooding while having not recovered from the previous hurricane.  Here in Central Texas, we are getting water logged with flooding and suddenly cold temperatures - from the mid-90's to mid-40's, while the northwestern part of Texas is already getting near-freezing temperatures for the highs.

We had a tornado near us on Tuesday of last week (10/9/18).  Unfortunately, the local emergency management system didn't work right that day.  Even though I have a land-line phone which should automatically receive a phone call for such an emergency, the call did not come through that day.  No cell phones that were signed up for EMS alerts received them.  An email was sent out - but most of us got it 2 hours after the fact.  (Thankfully, we were okay, but it is frightening to think that we had no way of getting an alert that day.  Living in the country, we can't hear tornado sirens.)

Nonetheless, we took inventory of bug-out-bags.  The girls have grown and the temperatures have dropped, so it was time to make sure we had clothes that fit for the right season,  We also checked key emergency supplies and verified that the snacks are still in good shape.

We did know more rain and much colder temperatures were coming before they hit Monday.  Hopefully everyone took note and got their firewood in.  The flooding was not quite expected, however.  We are on alert for roads and bridges to flood.  Many areas have low-water crossings that flood easily.  Even so, one of the main rivers through the county may crest at 30' today - which will close some major roads, limiting access to communities.

It is a good time to remember to have plenty of food on hand to last a couple of weeks or more for everyone - especially things that can be prepared without electricity should the power go out.  Also, check to make sure that everyone has enough medicine on hand should roads but cut off due to flooding or snow.

Some people also experienced phone and Internet outages with AT&T's outage on Monday.  If you are not currently signed up to get emergency alerts, do check with your local emergency management service to make sure you can receive alerts on your phone and emails.

Check your supplies and be safe.

Succeeding At Homeschooling

A couple of my friends shared this post today:

I wanted to applaud the author, Bethany Ishee, and add a couple of my own thoughts to hers:

One of the things I love most about homeschooling is re-learning the science or history I learned incorrectly in school. I knew in fifth grade that not everything they taught in school or that my teacher said was always the truth after Mt. St. Helens blew and there were several aspects of that eruption that did not match with what was taught. For example, that it took millions of years to petrify trees, and some other misinformation regarding mountain formation.

There were things I went to research to tell the girls for history that I had been taught - only to find those things totally untrue. If we are willing to learn, we continue to learn and grow, and sometimes have to unlearn. For example, not only did Marie Antoinette not say, "Let them eat cake," she was not referring to the first, burned loaf of bread from the oven, and she did not say, "Let them eat brioche." The phrase was one penned by Rousseau in Confessions when Marie Antoinnette was only nine and published later when she was twenty-six, eleven years before her demise.

There are things I teach my girls at young ages telling them, "I don't expect you to remember this exactly, but just to plant a seed so that when you are exposed to this later, you'll have some recollection of it so it is easier to grasp when you are older rather than it being a totally new concept." They appreciate that they get to learn some new things that they don't have to memorize or be tested on at the time, but that they get to experience and experiment with at a younger age for fun.

Some people struggle with spelling. I struggle with dates - especially battles in wars. As an adult, I had new books I could read that I didn't know about in school, new media available to help present the history in a new way, etc. These things gave me a fuller picture of history than I had in school. Textbooks can only teach so much, it takes experience and practice and immersion to learn many things. What things are most important depend on what one's goals are.

This cemetery in Georgia was important in the Civil War. I didn't know anything about it until my husband's uncle was interred there.

If we succeed in generating a love of learning, the learning won't end with us. If we succeed in teaching diligence and discipline, their continued ability to apply themselves to learn those things they need for their career or just for a hobby and enjoyment will propel their success. If we succeed in giving them a can-do attitude - or at least a willingness to try new things attitude - they will grow and have new experiences that add to their quality of life and to the depth of the person they are.

Woohoo! I'm a "North Country Farmer" Guest Tonight

I am honored to be a guest tonight at 7:00 pm CST on Scott M. Terry's "North Country Farmer" radio show, even though I am in the south. :-) To listen in tonight or listen later, go to: Country Farmer Radio Show.

My public speaking students get to do a little "turnabout is fair play" tonight and critique my speaking skills, including counting my ah's and um's. I better be on my toes tonight! :-)

The topics tonight will include:

  • "Homesteading mistakes: Yeah, we've made a few" a la Queen's "We Are the Champions" theme in my head as I write this.
  • Know what you and your spouse both can and are willing to do - and what you can't do or aren't willing to do
  • Gardening alternatives for bad or rocky soil
  • Preparing for spring storms or summer wildfires
I hope you join in - or listen later if you can't tonight.

Edit: I am terribly sorry about the feedback on the line. I have contacted my phone company today to get that issue resolved. 😓

Tammy's Ginger Tea

I loved reading the original Trim Healthy Mama book, even though it was a bit rambling. There was really good information in it regarding relationships, easy ways of incorporating exercise, and it addressed one concern I had about my children who did not need to lose any weight eating the same food we did - we give them milk with each meal. They sometimes get extra treats, too, but the biggest help was giving them milk.

I had a problem that I needed to address for my health. My parents ran concession stands when I was little and a restaurant when I was a teenager - free soda pop. That had no impact on a very active little girl, but as a young adult who was hooked on soda pop, working at a desk job 12 hours a day 5-7 days per week, it had a huge impact. I needed a way to break my addiction to sodas. Enter: Ginger Tea.

I knew the health benefits of ginger - stomach benefits, cinnamon - anti-microbial, helps with weight loss and insulin insensitivity, and turmeric - anti-inflammatory, natural blood thinner, etc., so after trying their Good Girl Moonshine, I modified the recipe and made my own Ginger Tea.

This broke my cravings for soda, and made me feel so much better overall. Less achy and less prone to illness. If I did catch something, it lasted for a much shorter time than I had experienced previously.

Ginger Tea Ingredients:
  • Ginger root, sliced in 1/8 inch rounds - fresh or frozen.* Powdered ginger works, as well.
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Turmeric root, sliced in 1/8 inch rounds or ground turmeric.

*Note on frozen ginger root: When I get ginger root at the store, I bring it home, slice it into 1/16" - 1/8" slices and put them into a freezer-safe baggy or another container in the freezer. This preserves the ginger and keeps it from going soft or moldy. It can be used for this recipe, put into hot oil for use with Asian-inspired dishes, etc. I have kept it in the freezer for 3 months with no issues.

Preparation Instructions:
Into a saucepan, I add 2 cinnamon sticks if I have them, 10-12 +/- slices of ginger root if I have it (if not, add 1 Tablespoon ground ginger into the muslin bag), 1 Tablespoon cinnamon into the muslin bag, and 1 Tablespoon turmeric to the muslin bag. I pull the ties on the bag and make sure it is submerged. If you would like to add 2-4 herbal tea bags you may, but I recommend trying it without first so you know what the basic beverage tastes like.

Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. If you do not wish to concentrate the beverage, go to the next step.

To concentrate the drink: bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to low once more for another 15 minutes. Let cool on the stove a bit (even if you will be drinking it hot, you only need it just above body temperature, not scalding hot.) Remove the muslin bag discarding the spice mixture and rinse out the bag. You can let it air dry once clean. (It will be stained.) You can save the ginger slices and cinnamon for one more use in the next 2-3 days if refrigerated in a container, otherwise, discard those. (After concentrating the beverage, I generally discard them.)

Pour into quart jars using a funnel.

You may want to drink some right away and refrigerate the rest. Put lids on what you want to refrigerate and let it rest on the counter until cool before refrigerating. You will likely hear the lids pop as they cool.

The picture below has NO traditional tea. It is only made with ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric. It is concentrated to reduce the space requirements in the refrigerator.

To prepare to drink:

  • Black pepper (recommended)
  • Honey or stevia
  • Optional: Ice (very refreshing cold drink in the summer, but soothing as a hot beverage in the winter or with sore throats)
  • Optional: Apple cider vinegar (to make it taste very much like apple cider)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon or less cayenne pepper (for fevers and sore throats)
To drink unconcentrated - hot: Pour the beverage into a tea or coffee cup, add 1/32 - 1/16 teaspoon Stevia** or 1-2 Tablespoons of honey. Add up to 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for health reasons or just to make it taste like drinking apple cider. Top with a sprinkling of black pepper to activate the benefits of the curcumin in the beverage from the turmeric. If running a fever or having a sore throat among other ailments, add no more than 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to help your body fight the infection.

To drink unconcentrated - cold: Pour into a pint or quart mason jar (especially one with a handle designed for drinking), add ice, 1/32 - 1/16 teaspoon Stevia** or 1-2 Tablespoons of honey. Add up to 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Top with black pepper to activate the benefits of the curcumin. Hot or cold can also help with stomach upsets if sipped slowly.

To drink from concentrate: If you will be pouring the drink over ice, add the ice, then add your sweetener. For Stevia** per pint, do not add more than 1/32 - 1/16 of a teaspoon of Stevia. For honey, 1 - 2 Tablespoons is usually about right. If desired, add up to 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with the mother) to the container. Pour half a container of the ginger tea mixture, then top off with cold filtered or tap water.

If you would like to drink it hot from refrigerated concentrate, using a microwave-safe cup, fill half with the ginger tea and half with filtered or tap water. Heat 1 cup for 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes depending on your microwave. (No need to heat if it just came off the stove unless the added water cooled it too much.) Add 1/32 - 1/16 teaspoon Stevia** or 1 - 2 Tablespoons of honey. Add up to 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar if desired. Top with a sprinkling of black pepper. You may add no more than 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper if needed for fever or sore throat.

**This is the only use I have found to enjoy Stevia and I use 1/32 of a teaspoon. I get mine from Trim Healthy Mama's website. 1/32 teaspoon is one "doonk" using the included spoon in their Stevia packets. It may seem expensive, but it is a high quality product and it lasts a LONG time. (Not an affiliate link.)

I have found this drink keeps me from craving soda pops (a real issue for me) and makes me feel much healthier. The recipe is my modification of Trim Healthy Mamas' "Good Girl Moonshine."

Tammy's Ranch Dressing Mix

When I first began making ranch dressing mix from scratch, I started with the ranch dressing recipe from Self-Reliance by Jamie:

I still LOVE her taco seasoning mix and onion soup mix recipes and use them regularly, although we personally find the sugar in the onion soup recipe unnecessary.

Unfortunately, while the ranch dressing recipe was one that others I knew used (because they would send me theirs and it was the same), I didn't care for it as much as the store bought because of the overpowering onion flavor it had.

I tried and experimented and came up with my own recipe which follows. (Please note: different brands of garlic powder have different strengths. You may prefer to start off with a tablespoon less garlic powder and increase by teaspoons as you make up the batches. And just add a bit more garlic if needed  to your prepared ranch dressing as needed.) We like it this way.

Following the recipe as is makes a great dip when refrigerated. If you are not using it right away and want to serve it as a dressing, add 1/2 cup of milk to the mix. If you are using some now and then refrigerating the rest for later, just add milk as needed to thin the dressing.

Without further ado, Tammy's Ranch Dressing:

In a 1/2 pint mason jar, measure the following ingredients:
6 Tablespoons Onion Powder
16 teaspoons Garlic Powder
14 teaspoons parsley (4 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons or 1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons)
8 tsp salt (2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
(Put a decorative lid, bowl, and instructions for a gift at this point if desired).
Put your seal and ring or mason jar screw-on lid on, then shake well to distribute the ingredients equally.

Here is the video for making the Ranch Dressing Mix, plus a bonus of my Season All mix for seasoning proteins such as fish, poultry, pork, and beef.

1) For immediate use on salad or for a dip if refrigerating for a few hours:
Use 2 Tablespoons of above mixture in 1 cup of mayonnaise and 1 cup of plain yogurt. Whisk together to mix well. Use immediately and refrigerate the rest.

2) For later use as a salad dressing after being refrigerated:
Use 2 Tablespoons of the ranch dressing mixture in 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 cup of yogurt, and 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together well. Refrigerate.

3) Use the dressing mix on it's own in ground meats for hamburgers.

4) Make your own version of ranch, cheese, and bacon coated meat by mixing the ranch dressing mix with shredded cheddar (or your favorite cheese), and either homemade bacon crumbles or store bought real bacon pieces. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients along with black pepper, a bit more salt and garlic powder, and turmeric if desired in a one gallon zip top bag. Put 1-2 pieces of raw meat in the bag. Shake to coat the meat. Put on a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silicon protector. Repeat for each piece. You can either put the remainder, if any, in the refrigerator to use within a week to two weeks, or just distribute the remainder on top of the meat. Bake thawed meat until it is at 160 - 165 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the type of meat. (Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the moistest meat that is done to the proper temperature.) This is great for boneless chicken, pork chops, etc.
Date: 11/20/2016 of recipe.
​Publish date: 8/21/2017