I thought I was over last year’s trauma, but the one-year anniversary of the Napa earthquake this week has stirred up repressed memories, and my body has pushed the alert level into the red zone. I’ve been jumping at loud noises and having trouble sleeping.
Intellectually, I know the next big shake is likely to be centered somewhere else, on a different fault and at a different time of year, and probably won’t happen in the middle of the night. But try telling that to my flashbacks.
As I was lying wide awake at 3:20 last night, waiting for another shoe to drop, I decided that the best way to assuage my fears would be to feel fully prepared for the next time the earth decides to move under me.
So this morning I have a mission: to beef up my earthquake kit.
In the 17 years I’ve lived in Napa, we’ve experienced two unpleasant little shakes with epicenters that were practically on the next block. So naturally, being a responsible adult, I have an emergency kit at the ready. I store it under my bed.
Actually, calling it a “kit” might be a slight exaggeration. It’s probably not comprehensive enough and could use a little augmentation.
Well, it might need a bit more than that.
OK, OK. I admit it. It’s a pathetic excuse for an emergency kit. Basically, it’s a wind-up flashlight, a 1-gallon jug of water and a pair of slippers (when I remember to leave them there). I am totally unprepared for the Big One. No wonder I can’t sleep.
I’ve suffered through enough public radio fund drives to be aware that a true kit includes a lot more cool stuff than I have amassed. There are companies that make for-real ones chock-full of all kinds of necessities packed into a handy bucket that doubles as a personal Porta-Potty. KQED would happily bestow one on me if I will only triple my current pledge.
Unfortunately, the station is currently in its five-minute pause between fund drives, and I desperately need a good night’s sleep now. So for more immediate gratification, I checked out the kits on Amazon, thinking maybe I’d buy one directly. But the consumer reviews gave me pause. They universally panned the 2,400-calorie nut-free, gluten-free food bars the kits feature to get you through the first 72 hours.
Even in a dire emergency, I have standards to maintain — and inedible and disgusting food substitutes simply do not meet them. I didn’t want to pay expedited shipping to bring that stuff into my house. Plus I already have a nifty wind-up flashlight (another featured item). And I’d rather hold it in for three days than pee in a bucket. So instead of investing in an expensive ready-made kit of items that I don’t want or need, I thought I’d go the DIY route and just buy a few essentials to add to my stash.
I did a little Googling to find out what the experts recommend.
Oh dear. Big mistake from an insomnia perspective.
The experts apparently are better than I am at envisioning a postapocalyptic world. In theirs, zombies roam the earth and we’re huddling in the rubble, fighting them off with slingshots. At least, that’s the impression I get from the stuff they think I need to be truly prepared.
Here’s a partial list of items the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thinks we should have at the ready in case of earthquake:
An ax, a shovel, a broom, rope, plastic sheeting and a full tool kit. Also a first-aid kit that, besides the usual bandages and ointments, includes tweezers, eye drops, diarrhea medicine, splints, instant cold packs, a thermometer and a bar of soap. A tent, sleeping bags, a garden hose and a fire extinguisher should also be on hand.
And lots more besides. It’s not so much a kit as a caboodle.
I measured the space under the bed, and I just don’t think it is big enough. Apparently, the CDC thinks that in the event my house falls down, to survive I should plan to have another miraculously intact house nearby, filled with even more stuff than I have in this one.
That may be a good long-term plan (though if I had that earthquake-proof house, why wouldn’t I be living in it in the first place?), but in the short-term, I decided to use common sense.
I ditched the CDC list and narrowed down my list to the one item I desperately wished I had after the last quake.
A solar-powered cellphone charger.
And for good measure, I added a dozen granola bars.
That way, if I can’t sleep worrying that I don’t have an ax within reach, I’ll at least be able to reach under the bed and enjoy a midnight snack.
Chewy Granola Bars
I was still in a DIY mood, so I decided to attempt making the granola bars myself. I settled on this recipe from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog, which in turn she adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.
I love recipes like this, because they free you to be creative. The “fruit and nut” portion of the bars is completely flexible — you can use whatever you imagine will taste good, in just about any combination.
I have a hard time restraining myself in the bulk food section at Whole Foods, so my version had a lot of different items in the mix. But you could just as easily limit yourself to only a couple and hit a home run. I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with any combination. For example, an additional option Deb offers is to add 1/4 cup of peanut or almond butter along with the other wet ingredients. That, along with some chocolate chips, would take this in a different, but equally delicious direction.
2 cups rolled oats, divided
1/2 cup sugar (I used Turbinado, but ordinary white sugar is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)*
3 cups of dried nuts and fruits, lightly chopped*
6 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or corn syrup)
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
*Use whatever combination of nuts and fruit you like. I used 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup dried coconut chips, a scant 1/4 cup of finely chopped candied ginger, 1/4 cup dried cherries and a mixture of apricots, prunes and dates that I chopped up together. Because I was using the candied ginger, I substituted dried ginger for the cinnamon.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch pan with a piece of parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray or rub it with butter to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Take 1/3 cup of the rolled oats and whirl it in a blender or food processor until it turns into fine flour. Then add it back to the remaining 1-2/3 cups of oats, along with the salt, cinnamon, sugar and your selection of fruits and nuts. Mix thoroughly. (Depending on what fruits you use, and how much you chopped them, you may need to use your hands to make sure all the pieces are broken up and distributed in the mix.)
In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, honey, corn syrup, water and vanilla extract. Add this to the oat mixture and stir until completely combined.
Pack the final crumbly mixture into the prepared pan, pushing it down with a spoon or your hands to level it and make sure it reaches all the corners.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the edges (and possibly the top) start to brown.
Cool completely to room temperature in the pan, then use the parchment to lift it out of the pan and cool it even further in the refrigerator for an hour or so before you cut it into squares or bars.