Posts by Erica Mueller

Erica owns and enjoys helping women learn to prepare for life. From emergency preparedness to food preservation, Mom Prepares covers it all! Erica is married to Ryan and is the mother of their two little boys.
Win Cutter Insect Repellents

Cutter Insect Repellent Giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by Cutter. They provided a bundle of products for us to use and review and are providing one of our readers with a fabulous bundle too!

Win Cutter Insect RepellentsAre you ready to go camping? Grab your tent and food. We’ll supply the bug spray.

Thanks to Cutter, we’re giving away $55 worth of bug repellents that will help you enjoy summer bite-free. You’ll get citronella candles, a yard fogger, backyard spray, personal repellents and more. These items will cover your backyard, your patio and your next camping or hiking trip!

See How We Used Our Cutter Products!

Earlier this week we had a backyard party… just our family and my little sister. We made chili dogs and s’mores and had a blast! Read about it: Summer Protection from Cutter Insect Repellants

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Enter to Win this Huge Bundle of Cutter Products!

This giveaway will include:

  • Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent Pump Spray, 6 oz.
  • Cutter Dry Insect Repellent Aerosol, 4 oz.
  • Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent Aerosol, 4 oz.
  • Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray Concentrate, 32 fl. oz.
  • Cutter Backyard Bug Control Outdoor Fogger, 16 oz.
  • Cutter CitroGuard™ Triple Wick Candle, 20 oz.
  • Cutter CitroGuard™ Bucket Candle, 17 oz.
  • Cutter CitroGuard™ Candle, 11 oz. red
  • Cutter Scented Citronella Outdoor Candle, 11 oz. Vanilla & Lavender
  • Cutter Natural Insect Repellent Pump Spray, 6 fl. oz.

How to Win

Use the Rafflecopter form below to earn up to 10 entries in this giveaway.
Giveaway ends June 7th at 12:am and a winner will be randomly chosen and contacted. The winner will have 24 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond another name will be drawn.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Summer Protection from Cutter Insect Repellants

This giveaway is sponsored by Cutter. They provided a bundle of products for us to use and review and are providing one of our readers with a fabulous bundle too!

bite-freeEverything is bigger in Texas. Really. Even the bugs.

And, every year I spend most of the summer covered in itchy welts thanks to blood thirsty mosquitoes and chiggers. But, not this year!

Cutter insect repellants to the rescue!

Thanks to Cutter I got a huge box of insect repellants to try out. There are sprays for the lawn, candles for the patio and picnic table, a backwoods spray for those tick infested woods we like to camp and hike in, an all natural spray for the kids and anywhere we need to spray directly on our skin and even a tiny to-go spray I can toss in my purse for when we go to the park.

Cutter Natural Insect Repellant
I’m most excited about the Natural spray. We’re pretty cautious about what goes into our bodies and this includes the products we may put on our skin and absorb through our bloodstream. I’ve never been a fan of deet, and while I have no problem spraying some heavy duty chemicals on my boots and pant legs before a hike in the woods, I won’t spray that stuff on my little ones’ skin, or my own skin for that matter.


Since Cutter not only supplied us with a generous sampling of their products, but also a stipend to create a fun outdoor experience, I thought we’d all go camping. Thanks to four graduations and two weddings over the past couple of weekends that just didn’t happen. So, we had a great cookout in the backyard! I grabbed everything we needed for chili dogs and s’mores, we built a fire in the fire pit and set out our lawn chairs just like we would have done at the campground. The kids loved it. Oh, who am I kidding? We all enjoyed it! And, we did it bug-free thanks to Cutter. I burnt our Cutter Scented Citronella Vanilla & Lavender candle on the little table and sprayed the kids and I with the Natural Insect Repellant. Even tho the grass was wet from a recent rain and there were bugs everywhere we remained bite-free. For me and the baby that is almost a miracle… we’re both mosquito magnets.

The natural repellants contain no deet and use the following ingredients to repel nasty biting insects:

  • Lemon Eucalyptus: Plant-based protection with natural active ingredient
  • Oil derived from Geraniums

Cutter Insect Repellants for Camping
backwoodsSince I’m still eager to pack everyone up and go camping before the summer gets too hot, I’ve got a little pile of Cutter goods set aside to take with us:

  • Cutter CitroGuard Candles – three-wick candles in metal pails with handles, perfect for on the picnic table or beside the campfire.
  • Cutter Unscented Backwoods – Extra strong, deet based spray we can put on our pant legs and boots before hiking through the woods.
  • Cutter Natural Personal Insect Repellent – Great for the kids and direct spray-on-skin.

Mosquitoes Are More than Just Annoying
Last year’s West Nile outbreaks had everyone a little scared. This year the city is already driving by at night and spraying our lawns to help keep the virus from becoming an issue again. West Nile is often spread by infected mosquitoes biting humans, so taking measures to protect yourself does more than save you from some itchy welts… it could keep you from getting sick.

Cutter Insect Repellent: Useful Tips & Facts
The CDC cites PERSONAL REPELLENT USE as the single most effective way to reduce your risk. And, most people don’t used one.

Useful tips on how to best protect yourself from insects:
• Spray repellent on exposed skin, spreading the product with your hand to improve protection (mosquitoes can detect an unprotected area the size of a dime!).
• Pay special attention to protection during prime mosquito-biting hours (usually dusk to dawn).
• Eliminate standing water around your home/in outdoor areas you are spending time in. It is a huge attractor for mosquitoes! Get rid of containers that aren’t being used, empty water from flower pots, change water in bird baths and maintain clean gutters.
• Make sure window and door screens are in good condition — install or repair where necessary.


Want to learn more about Cutter products?
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Win some Cutter Products This Weekend!
In case you hadn’t noticed, this post is sponsored by Cutter. We’re grateful for their support of our site and we’re excited to tell you we’ll be posting again on Friday with a great giveaway where you can win some Cutter products of your own!

Cast Iron Cookware Care - Image Credit: Erica Mueller

Cast Iron Cookware Care

Cast Iron Cookware Care - Image Credit: Erica MuellerUnless you’re hiking to your campsite and need lightweight cookware, cast iron is the best option for cooking over an open fire. It’s heavy and heats evenly and if properly seasoned, is also easy to clean and care for.

Our first camping cookware was this Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker, 10.25″ that I continue to use almost daily in my own kitchen. And of course we toss it in the car when we head out to the lake every spring and fall! (some yummy campfire recipes here)

I was raised cooking with cast iron and my mother taught me how to properly care for my cookware so that I can enjoy mine daily, year after year.

Caring for Your Cast Iron Pans

Besides seasoning and cleaning, there are a few things you can do to ensure your cast iron cookware is ready for your camping trips and that food doesn’t stick.

  • Use wooden utensils. My favorites are wood or bamboo. Metal utensils can scratch the surface, cutting through the seasoning and sometimes leaving micro scratches in the iron itself. Soon your pans will rust and food will stick.
  • During the off-season, when you’re huddled inside cause it’s too cold to camp, store your cast iron with a few pieces of newspaper or paper towel between the pans. This keeps them from scratching one another as they shift and will also absorb moisture and prevent your cookware from rusting.
  • After cooking acidic foods like chili, spaghetti sauce, etc, rinse the pot out quickly. The acid in tomatoes can eat away at the seasoning in your pans! When we go camping we love to cook things like chili, but we make sure to bring a plastic storage container or mason jar to store any leftovers and we get that pan cleaned up fast!

Learn how to clean and season cast iron cookware!

Let’s dispel a few cast iron cookware myths…

  • Food sticks to cast iron. Not if it’s been properly seasoned.
  • Once cast iron is rusted, it’s ruined. Not if you know how to clean it!

I’ve written an extensive article on How to Care for Cast Iron Cookware on where I cover the best ways to clean cast iron and how to season new cast iron cookware.

And, here’s a video I shot of me cleaning my favorite skillet:

Do you cook with cast iron on your camping trips?

I’d love to hear about your favorite pieces for camping, whether you’ve tried dutch oven cooking, and about the most callenging dishes you’ve cooked in your cast iron cookware!

Best Android Apps for Campers

5 Best Android Apps for Camping

Best Android Apps for CampersCamping under the stars may seem a bit primitive, and while we try to leave behind more of the electronics and luxuries at home when we’re roughing it, smartphones can actually bring a lot of fun to a camping trip and with the right apps, could help save a life. We all know about the compass apps and flashlight apps. They’re pretty cool. But what about a directory of first aid help or a map of the stars? These camping apps for Android have been rated some of the best available.

Location, location and safety – The Best Camping Apps for Android

Camp Finder – Campgrounds by
Touted as the #1 app for campers and RV’ers this app will help you locate campgrounds and RV resorts across the USA. With great search capabilities and info on each campground, park and resort this app will make choosing a campsite fun and easy

My Tracks by Google Inc.
Knowing where you’ve been sure makes it easier to find your way home! But no one needs to know that’s why you’re using this app. My Tracks is a great way to show off where you’ve gone and how far you’ve hiked. This app using location based services to track your moves on the go, creating a map of your hike.

First aid by British Red Cross
Created by the British Red Cross, this app covers basic first aid. All the information is stored in the app itself meaning you don’t need cell service or an internet connection to access it. And, it’s free!

Android Apps and Games for Family Camping Trips

Sky Map – Sky Map Devs
Turn your smartphone into a star map with this app then lay down under the night sky and be amazed at all the constellations and planets and learn the names of the stars. Even the kids will enjoy this app!

Campfire Games by brew82
Once the sun has set and you’re all seated around the campfire you can pretty much count to ten and the small children will be bored. This app is full of rules to fun campfire games you can all play. Then rate the games you’ve tried and see what everyone else is playing and what their favorites are!

Not an Android user?

Fear not! We have a great post on camping apps for iPhones too!

Best iPhone Apps for Campers

The Top 5 IOS Apps for the Modern Camper

Best iPhone Apps for CampersWhen it comes to smartphones, we’re a house divided. My husband loves his Android and I love my iPhone. So, when he asked me to write about the best camping apps for smartphones I had to start with iPhone apps for campers.

From survival to entertainment, apps can make camping trips enjoyable. Just remember to charge your iPhone’s battery and always have a backup plan for when that battery dies.

Survival and First Aid iPhone Apps for Campers

Survival Guide By Max Soderstrom
Based on the U.S. Military Survival Manual FM 21-76 and featured in PRIME living’s July/August issue 2012, the Survival Guide iPhone app is a guide book of sorts that covers everything from basic survival medicine to water purification, types of shelters and how to build them, building a fire and identifying dangerous plants. If there is anything you’d like to learn about surviving outdoors, this app will have you covered. Of course learning before you pitch your tent is advised, but I’d recommend even experienced campers keep this app handy.

St John Ambulance First Aid By St John Ambulance
While this app is based on UK protocols, I found it highly recommended as a first aid app. With instructions and illustrations for assisting people with allergic reactions, bites and stings, hyperventilation, diabetes and more this app could help you save a life.

An iPhone App to Help You Find Your Way

Spyglass By Pavel Ahafonau
Quite possibly the coolest compass app I’ve seen, Spyglass projects a compass over the image seen through your iPhone’s video camera so that you get a real sense of direction while using it. I’m terrible about finding my bearings, even when the sun is clearly rising in the east and I’m so excited to have found this app!

Entertaining iPhone Apps for Family Camping Trips

MyNature Animal Tracks By MyNature Inc.
Our oldest son’s favorite part of camping near the lake is waking up in the morning to discover all the tracks the nocturnal creatures have left on the beach and around the campsite. Having grown up in the country, I too enjoy trying to identify the footprints and track the creatures or speculate with my six year old about what they may have been doing while we were sleeping. MyNature Animal Tracks is sure to become a favorite app at our next camping trip.

GoSkyWatch Planetarium – the astronomy star guide By GoSoftWorks
Many of us camp to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and one of the best perks of a quite night away from it all is the view of the night sky… something we don’t see in our lit neighborhoods. Even if you’re not crazy about astronomy like my husband, you look up in wonder at the millions of tiny lights flickering above you. Next time you’re under the stars, try this app and see how many constellations you can find with it’s location based overlays of the night sky. Just lay down, point your iPhone at the sky and be amazed!

Make Your Own Jerky for Camping Trips

make your own jerkySince reading the The Hungry Hiker’s Book of Good Cooking by Gretchen McHugh I’ve been wanting to try to make jerky. I’d always assumed it was hard to make, but it’s not! With Gretchen’s instructions and recipes for marinade you can make your own jerky in your dehydrator or even your oven.

Tip: When making jerky, freeze the meat before slicing!
Following the instructions in the book I froze the steak I bought. Then I let it defrost just enough to slice with a heavy meat cleaver. Having the meat still firm and icy made cutting it in very thin strips really easy. After I got it all sliced I put the meat in a Ziploc bag with the marinade and put it in the refrigerator for about 48 hours.

How to dry jerky in the dehydrator:
I have a Ronco dehydrator so I turned that on and laid the strips of meat on the racks. Normally I’d keep adding racks and fill the dehydrator with as much produce as I can, but I was afraid the meat might flavor my fruits and vegetables so I decided to just do the jerky this time around. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can lay your strips of meat on a greased baking sheet and place in an oven at about 140 degrees. The Hungry Hiker’s Book of Good Cooking says the jerky is ready when cracks in two when you break it.

How long should jerky dry?
Our jerky took about 20 hours in the dehydrator to dry completely. Some of the thinner slices were ready within hours, but I went ahead and left it all in there overnight. This morning it was all perfectly done. My husband took it to work and all the guys are raving about it.

Make Your Own Jerky

Making your own jerky is easy and affordable.
I was really surprised at how simple it was to make and at how much jerky one steak made. We spent about $9 to make a quart sized bag full of jerky that is not only tastier but also healthier than the store bought jerky which is full of preservatives. I’m going to stop by the local meat market this afternoon and see if I can pick up some more steaks. I’m hoping they’ll be fresher and cheaper than the ones in the grocery store.

Have you ever made your own jerky?