Friday, April 29, 2011

Almost Done...!

After I had to re-cut the pop door (the little door for the chickens to use) today, I decided to add a little trim around it too.  The trim serves two purposes though, it looks nicer than what I had done using a hand saw (same $10 one I bought last summer to cut the Sumac's down that were in my yard) and a large caliber drill bit, and secondly, it gives me a much more solid base in which to attach the actual door to!  I still need to cut a door, but the space for the door has an interior size of 12" wide by 14" tall, perfect for when the girls are all grown up!  I will attach the door to the "trim" with a set of hinges, a hook & eye, as well as a bolt action (same as the people door), but hopefully hung a little straighter!  The whole coop is very "Seuss-like" though...
Before trim...
After trim!
I still need to finish up painting the outside of the coop (and start the inside) before I can get the run up, I'm hoping to have good enough weather this weekend to get the outside finished!  I want to get the run up the following weekend (the 8th, my sewing party is on the 7th) while I have help here!  The girls are in desperate need of somewhere larger to go!  I really thought they'd be okay until I got this project done!  However, they got bigger faster than I expected and it has taken me 10 times longer to get this done than I had anticipated originally!  I thought I'd have this done by March!  I'd really like to get them outside by mid-May...I feel bad leaving them in that brooder all day, but don't have anywhere secure enough to put them!

I thought I'd share how my Avocados are doing too, my 11 month old tree really needs a new place!  I need to get the starts planted outside (still at least 2 weeks away for that) so I can move the tree out of the kitchen window and into the window down there (or rather near the window down there...)!  The seed on the left (next to the tree) has split and has a small root forming and the other seed is just starting to split!  I hope that by this time next year I will again be complaining about the little trees that are "too big" for my kitchen window!  I started the tree around mid-June to mid-July, I can't remember if it was just before or just after our oldest nephew was here!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Status of My "Garden"...

Morning Glory
Everything is still growing away on a dining table next to the window in my Family room for the next few weeks, when most of my plants will be moved outside...if the mother nature ever decides that Spring has in deed "sprung"!  Our overnight lows are still a bit too cold to move anything outside just yet...

My Morning Glories are doing okay...not great, but better than the rest of the flowers I attempted this year!  The planter I have pictured is doing twice as good as the other Morning Glory planter though, this one had a vine on all three chains as well as two more hanging over the basket edges!  This will look so good when it starts blooming those pale blue flowers!

Top Hat Blueberry bushes & Salad Mix
Next up, going down the length of my window, is the Blueberry bushes!  My Grandfather had award-winning Blueberries when I was a kid...not this variety, mine are Top Hats and should stay fairly boxy at 18" tall and wide.  My Grandfather's were gigantic bushes that had to be nearly as tall as he was!  Of course, he passed when I was 8, so maybe they were a lot smaller and I was just that much smaller too, lol.  He had the best blueberries I have ever tasted though, big, juicy berries...  Every time I eat blueberries I am transported back in time to wandering through his bushes, picking them and popping them in my mouth with a burst of flavor!  He had several bushes, one just never did very well, that was the bush the grand kids were aloud to pick from...he let me pick from where ever I wanted to because I was always so careful and didn't hurt the plants.  I wish I could have gotten to know him better, the few memories I have of him are all so good!  My Blueberries look a bit weak to me at the moment, but they have pretty bell shaped flowers on them already!  To the right of the Blueberries, is my little "salad" bucket!  The container I used is leftovers from last year...Winco sold Salt Water Taffy in those last year (I'm sure they'll do the same this year) for less than $3.50, I think I ended up going through 3 tubs!  I really like Salt Water Taffy (I picked up a bag of Sugar free Taffy today...7 pieces has 1g Net carb)!  I just sprinkled part of the Musclan Mix pack of seed in there and placed the lid on top until they sprouted...I need to find room for this one in the kitchen window before the dog realizes what's in there!  She ate half of my lettuce plants last year before I got them out of the pony pack!
Next up along the window ledge are my Sunflowers...  I now know why they say to wait and plant these directly in the ground!  The stalks have split, they are all sorts of bent, but they keep surviving!  I thought for sure I had killed each and every one of them last week after they went several days without water and were wilted, droopy, and brown!  After a good soak in water though, they are back and stronger looking than ever!  I actually need to raise the blind several more inches to keep the plants from getting tangled in them again...

The rest of my starts are all up on the table in seed starting trays still, some due to lack of space, others because they appear too small to move just yet.

Chinese White and Cherry Belle Radishes & Peas
Eggplant & Cabbage
Peas and Radishes in this tray!  All three are doing really well, I am shocked at how well the vegetables are doing, I have really been struggling with my herbs and flowers, but most of my vegetables are growing like weeds!  (I know I can grow weeds that's a good thing, right?)

The Eggplant and Cabbage are looking as good, but the Cabbage is really starting to take off now too.
Sweet Peas

One of my cats ate my Sweet Peas when they were just starting to grow!  They are slowly recovering from being eaten as sprouts...  I'm not so sure they'll survive the move outside, but it isn't a huge loss of they don't.  The white on the dirt id a mold of some sort, I think it's from the bag of planting soil...most of my starter cells have it, the ones that I didn't use that particular bag of dirt for aren't molding like that!

Herbs & Mystery Tomato!
I decided not to grow tomatoes this year after last year's poor seems someone else has different plans for me!  I noticed this seedling almost as soon as it sprouted as "not an Oregano" seedling!  However, until today, it had remained a mystery.  While watering and rotating the cells in the tray I got a familiar odor wafting around.  Upon closer inspection of this plant, I realized I have some sort of Tomato plant!  I have no idea what variety, since it came in a packet of Oregano seeds!  It is kind of exciting!  If nothing else, I want to see what color/shape they are and try to guess the variety!  I actually really like the smell that Tomato plants give off too, it is a sweet, earthy smell...

My flowers are sharing the large starter cell container with my herbs...they don't seem to be doing very well at all though...I'll just keep waiting to see what happens with them!  The Assylum

Jalapenos & Grand Bell Peppers
Peppers!  I got this little starter kit at Winco, it came with Jalapeno and Grand Bell Pepper mix seeds!  I forget which side has which (the contain is marked though), but one side is the Jalapenos and the other is the Bell Pepper mix.  I really hope I got some of the "Chocolate" or purple colored bells!  I'm not a huge fan of peppers, but the satisfaction of growing your own is worth growing them!  And you never know, maybe I'll find I actually like these peppers!  Home grown almost always tastes better!

Rutabaga, Beans, etc...
The last starter cells I have going contain the true "stars" of my little tabletop garden!   The smallest plants down front are my Rutabaga, I really hope these do well!  I just spent $1.75 on one Baga that weighed 0.80 pounds!  The tallest are my Bean plants!  I have Green Bush Beans and Golden Wax varieties going!  I am so jazzed for these to start producing!  Behind the beans, I have Cucumbers and Squash (Patty Pan & Yellow Crookneck) going full bore!
Cucumbers, Patty Pan, & Yellow Crookneck

Stuff I'd love to Have...

I went to Home Depot to get the touch up roller and sandpaper this afternoon.  I came home with the roller, the sandpaper, and a quart of paint that I got for free!  I have no idea what color it is since the can isn't marked, but if I go by the tiny paint mark on the outer edge of the can's is just eggshell base #1.  Whatever color it is, I'm sure I can find somewhere to use it!

While I was at Home Depot though, I did a little browsing in the Garden Center....why not?  It isn't like I had to be anywhere or anyone would miss me if I spent an hour or two in the store...  Okay, maybe the dog would miss me, she was waiting for me in the car!  Rosie loves car rides and takes every opportunity to "go for a ride" that she can!  I don't take her during really cold or hot weather though, so she gets Fall and Spring car rides, unless we are traveling as a family somewhere...then she gets her food, water, and dog bed laid out in the back seat!  But, back to the stuff I found at Home Depot!

First, I found this really cool watering "can" has a 50 foot (I could be wrong on the length though) hose inside!  You just hook it up to a faucet and go about watering as you normally would with a can, but no stopping to refill it every other plant!  At $20, I really want one of these!

This next item I found is more of a necessity than a "want"...the only wheel barrow we own is older than both us us!  It was my parent's and when my mother got the chance to get rid of it, she took it!  The bottom has really rusted out these last few years though and large holes are now very evident!  This wheelbarrow is nice and deep, but has a plastic tub that I'm not totally thrilled about.  I don't know how clear the picture in the red dot is, but it has big round handles to make controlling the thing while dumping easier...something that will come in very handy when it's full of chicken poo and "used" pine shavings, I'm sure!  At $70, it isn't the most expensive one they have, but not the cheapest either, for $40 I could get a newer version of the one I have now...with a 3" deep bucket!

And then there's the perfect gift for me...I'm not even sure I'd need a wheelbarrow if I had this bad boy!  Again, it's a plastic bucket portion...but I'm okay with that here!  The bucket portion is hinged to dump away from the handle!  You just pull a little handle/pin (4-5" wide D-shaped piece of rod) and lift it!  I can think of so many things I could do with this!  Not to mention that it is the perfect all terrain wagon for the boys!  Okay, maybe not after it's been filled with chicken poo...
The second photo of the box shows it "dumping" on the right side...  This "toy" is also $ I would hazard a guess that I will eventually have to choose between it and the wheelbarrow...both are so handy for different reasons!  My birthday is coming up in a 3 or so months

There is a ton of stuff I could blow money on at Home Depot...but I limited my drooling to one section of the garden center today, lol.  I also looked at trim and borders today.  Our lawn guy came by yesterday and cut the tops off my two "volunteer" mystery flowers!  I hadn't got them moved yet, I'm a little mad at myself for not doing it earlier and really mad at him for cutting my flowers in half!

My New Food Obsession and the Coop!

I've been a member of Cooking Club of America since 1999 and occasionally get "picked" to do product testing before it hits the market.  Of course, in the 12-ish years I've been doing this, I can still tell you everything I've gotten to test (because there really aren't that many)!  I got a stoneware baking set that was heart shaped (1 large casserole and 2 ramekins), my sister's cat jumped on the box while we were on vacation and broke the casserole dish and one of the ramekins and I had only used them once!  The other ramekin was lost in a move, but they were really cute and worked great!  I've got two or three food items, Magic Chef seasonings (a sugar blend and a seafood blend), a bag of Croutons, and there may or may not be another...I'm never very impressed with the food items.  I got a fridge freshener thingy, oddly enough called "Refrigerator Fresh"!  I have had this thing for somewhere between 8 and 10 years and it is still going strong in my fridge!  Of course, I generally tend to forget it's there so it doesn't get rinsed every 6 months like it is supposed to...but it is an awesome product that's fairly cheap too!  I have to admit I had to google it to find the name...I found them for sale on Amazon for $3.50!  What a deal!  I have also gotten an adjustable measure set, one is round and perfect for measurements from 1 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons of wet or dry items and the other looks a little like the Pampered Chef adjustable teaspoon/Tablespoon measures, but mine is double sided and measures from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 1/4 Tablespoons...a very handy kitchen gadget!  I use the measures any time I need to measure more than one item, no dirtying half the measuring spoons!

My latest "test product" though, I was less than thrilled with...I was selected to test a new online cooking school.  I kept putting it off, but I finally went an started my 2 week trial.  While I really don't think it is worth the proposed price of $400 (I'm rounding), I was actually happy with the videos!  I don't think they did the "how to make stock" ones very well...I think they could have been more specific with them.  The egg videos though, oh my!  I have found a new love for eggs!  Big shocker there...I started a flock of three hens just get their eggs!  I discovered I've been frying my eggs "wrong", but won't be changing my habits...I really should call them Basted eggs though, lol. 
I watched every one of the egg videos the other day (there were 6 of them) and learned how to Poach eggs too!  My other half won't go near a poached egg though.  I may have been the reason for this, about 5 years ago I was making an Easter Breakfast for the whole family and decided on an Eggs Benedict recipe I found in one of my cookbooks.  I had never in my life poached an egg or made Hollandaise sauce!  The meal was horrible!  The poached eggs were more like hard boiled eggs that just happened to be boiled sans the shell...yuck!  And my Hollandaise sauce separated and was just gross!  Well, after watching the video (twice), I decided to give poaching one more shot!  It also helps that I have found a new love of soft- and medium-cooked eggs, hard-cooked poached eggs are just wrong!  So, yesterday during Lunch I tried my hand at poaching.  The first egg (top left of the photo) was the first egg, the water was boiling too hard when I put the egg in and the white turned out "funky" because of that!  I cooked the first egg to Medium.  The second egg, the water wasn't boiling quite so hard, so it formed perfectly in the pot!  I cooked the second egg to Soft, so I could test and see what I preferred.  I did the same "doneness" test on some Fried/Basted Eggs on Easter...I now prefer my Fried/Basted eggs at soft-cooked, but I actually preferred the medium-cooked poached egg!  Six months ago I wouldn't go near an egg that wasn't hard-cooked!  They say your tastes change when you reach 30...I guess mine just needed a little extra time to catch up, lol.  My lunch eggs were served atop a bed of sauteed Mushrooms and Onions, and I actually used Chicken Broth instead of plain water for poaching, yum!

I even made poached eggs again this morning for breakfast!  This time I cooked them all to medium, had the water at just the right temp, and every one of the eggs came out beautiful!  I sauteed up the last of my mushrooms, along with a few thin slices of Tofu (one serving) in a little Bacon fat, everything tastes better with Bacon!  I will probably skip the poached eggs for the rest of the day...but I will more than likely have them for breakfast again tomorrow!

Hopefully I'll get an actual product to test soon!  I also recently joined the National Home Gardening Club.  It was $12 and they are basically run by the same magazine though as far as I can tell they also have a magazine, I just haven't ever gotten one!  They promise product testing as well, but so far all I have gotten is a few seed packets (Baby's Breath and Cosmos), which they have now sent me 3 times and a small packet of "Timed Release" a plant food, but it isn't a large enough sample for anyish) or spend my time to send back!  They sent me an email saying they received the book, then a snail mail letter telling me I either had to pay for the book (by some date that was a day or two after I got the letter) or send it back to them...I ignored that letter since they had notified me that they had the book at that point for 2 weeks prior to getting the letter!  Besides that book, the only correspondence I get from them is emails and snail mail trying to convince me to "take this once in a long time" opportunity and become a Life Member!  (This is a limited offer not given to just anyone...yeah right!)  I am starting to regret sending them my $12...but we'll see what happens in the future.

I got busy again today on the coop (and really need to charge the batteries for my drill now)!  The girls officially have a pop door hole now!  Of course, I didn't think to measure the space before I cut it the hole is only 8.5" by 9"!  Or at least the piece of wood I cut out is those dimensions...I still need to do a large amount of sanding on the actual opening to smooth out all the large caliber drill holes!  I may need to cut through the crossbar at the top of the current hole to make it large enough for the girls when they are full-size, it would be great for right now as is, lol.  Just means a bit more nailing/screwing so that cutting that board doesn't effect the rest of the coop!  I'm done with it for today though, I need to go buy a new paint brush and some sand paper to finish the coop with (the brush I used the other day went in the trash, there was no saving it for another day).  I may pick up a "touch up" roller to do the inside with, the whole roller is only about 4 inches wide, but they work great, we used one when we patched holes in the master bathroom when we took out the old towel rod and such, the plastic of the packaging plays double duty as a small paint tray too!

Next stop, finishing up the painting so I can get the run up before the girls take over the house!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I made dinner for myself last night, not something I normally do when my other half is not around (easier to cook for two).  But, while I was out yesterday, I ran across a good deal on little Zucchinis (38 cents a pound) and knew I had a package of Mushrooms that needed to be used very soon already at home.  I also got a bag of cut up Asparagus spears from the freezer section (at a maximum allowance for the day of 6 spears, a bunch of fresh would spoil on me before I could use them).  I tend to wander a bit more than usual when I'm shopping alone...I needed to get a Rutabaga for tonight's dinner (yup, coking 2 nights in a row!) and right above it was a box of Sugar Snap Peas!  I love these little pods, fresh or cooked!

So, armed with enough veggies to make my other half have a panic attack, I started getting "dinner for 1" started!  I started by blanching the Sugar Snap Peas (I just brought the water to a boil in the skillet I was going to use for the whole meal), got the Asparagus into a glass dish along with a handful of frozen Green Beans, and into the microwave they went.  While everything cooked, I got a semi-dirty pan cleaned up and filled with cool water.  I used the pan I had boiled eggs in earlier...  To the cool water, I tossed in a large handful of ice cubes (mine are plastic reusable ones).  When the microwave veggies had cooked for about 1 minute, I drained them and tossed them in the ice bath so they didn't over cook and get mushy.  I gave the peas a little longer, but not enough to have them loose their "crunch"!  Then, they were drained and added to the ice bath as well.  Next in the pan was a little butter and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, followed closely by a sliced Zucchini and a good handful of sliced Mushrooms so they could get a little saute action going!  Once they had browned up to where I thought they looked good, I dumped in all the other Veggies and let everything work together for a few minutes.  Off to a bowl they went while I got my protein source cooking!   Last night's protein was a serving of Extra Firm Tofu, diced into little bites.  I got my package of Tofu at Huckleberry's (the local version of a whole foods store) for $1.70 on sale last week and hadn't had a chance to try it out yet (new brand).  I forget the name and, of course, the box is now in a city dump truck heading for the incinerator!  Anyway, it has 2g Net carbs per serving!  A little more butter in the pan for flavor and to prevent sticking...a few tosses of the pan...and voila!  A lightly sauteed serving of Tofu!  Veggies went back in the pan to reheat and get all happy with the Tofu while I made up a batch of Sweet and Sour Sauce (from 24/7 Low Carb Diner), which I might add is way too much sauce for a one person serving!  We shall see if it refrigerates well prior to cooking it, lol.  I added enough sauce to coat and leave a little "soupy sauce" around the edges for extra dipping of my bites, which was about half the sauce batch.

It was so good!  I have fallen in love with Chinese 5 Spice!  I did find it was excellent in Rhubarb sauce straight off the stove, but a little too "peppery" if you let it cool off for 15 minutes or so!

I mentioned earlier that I had made hard boiled eggs.  This is something I find myself doing every couple of weeks or so, I tend to go through spurts of eating a ton of hard cooked eggs followed by weeks/months of not even wanting to think about them!  For me, I have found the "perfect" technique!  First, I start with warm tap water...I "dye" my hard cooked eggs to tell them apart from the raw ones (a great "project" if you have kids running around).  I have tried it with cold water and the color just doesn't stick well!  I add enough eggs to the pot to form a single layer (this time I didn't add enough eggs and one got broken during cooking because it hit another egg).  Then, I get out my trusty box of "food coloring"!  I am nearly out of Red, my favorite to cook eggs in, it creates a wonderful pink egg!, after my nephew helped me make "Sunrise Orange" eggs the week he was here (it's on the box in the color chart...3 drops of yellow & 2 drops of red).  I always double the amount of drops it requires from the side of "this many drops" that has fewer drops, I forget what it says that many drops are for, but it's not the column for Easter Eggs!  I also know from past experience that the blue dye just sort of washes out, leaving the faintest hint of blue behind, making them hard tell distinguish from the white, raw, eggs.  I wasn't feeling like trying green eggs, so I took the recipe for "teal" off the box, which is a combination of blue and green.  It looked great in the pan, but again the eggs came out with not a lot of color.

How I actually cook the eggs...
  • After loading the pot with water, eggs, and dye:
  1. Bring pot to a boil
  2. Boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes
  3. Cover, remove from heat, let sit for another 10 minutes
  4. Remove eggs to a strainer
  5. Run under cold water until cooled
  • Load your pot with water and eggs (don't bother with the dye)
  1. Bring pot to a boil
  2. Boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes
  3. Cover, remove from heat, let sit for another 10 minutes
  4. Remove eggs to a strainer
  5. Run under water until cool enough to handle
  6. Peel
  7. Place in a container
  8. Fill with cool water to cover peeled eggs
  9. Store in fridge, ready to eat
  10. Change water daily or every other day, depending on Sulfur levels in your eggs
For the peel and store method, I use an old Best Foods (Hellman's for any East coasters) Mayo jar (plastic, but jar shaped).  I can get a full dozen eggs in one of those!  Of course, since we buy our eggs in packages of 5 dozen...we get Medium sized eggs, larger eggs would require a bit more space.  I really like this method, because I can have an egg quickly and don't have to mess with peeling them!  I find I eat more of them if I do it this way.  I can grab a few and make a quick Egg Salad for lunch, slice one on top of a salad, grab one and add a little salt...the possibilities are endless!  No more having to sit and peel an egg just for the pleasure of eating them, lol!  But, do remember to change the water...I change mine once a day or every time I get an egg out.  The Sulfur naturally found in eggs leeches out into the water and it can start smelling pretty bad quickly!  But, the eggs are still perfectly fine to eat...they may even taste better with some of that Sulfur out!

A story that may only interest me about chemistry...

I took Organic Chemistry several years ago (about 5 years ago now) and one of our labs was to create a pure Vanilla scent.  It is a memorable lab because the entire class failed!  We all made wonderfully Vanilla scented yellow/white powders, but every lab group failed to create the proper chemical compound as the melting point of everyone's powders was nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit above the correct melting point!  Once we took a full class period (2 hours) to discuss the steps we all took (working in groups of 2), the instructor was talking in a following class about the importance of using fresh chemicals.  After that class, she did the experiment herself, using the same materials we had all used and realized the Bleach in the lab was stale!  It completely changed the chemical composition of our experiment's end result!

That, of course, has nothing to do with eggs...just a funny story from my "college days"!  The "learning experience" my lab partner and I had though has everything to do with eggs!  Or the Sulfur smells given off by eggs anyway...  When we got down to putting our experiment into a flask to go in the large piece of equipment we were using that day (I forget what it was called, but it was huge and the instructor was running it for us), we failed to wash our flask prior to using it for our experiment!  It was a mistake I'll never make again!  Once it went into the big machine, the combination of heating and spinning released the chemical residue that was still in the flask from someone else's previous experiment!  Our sweet smelling Vanilla scent quickly filled the room with the smell of rotten eggs!  In the end, after multiple passes through filter paper, we were able to clear the Sulfur from our experiment and came up with the same result as everyone else in the class...even if ours was distinctly yellow to everyone else's pale yellow or white powders!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunny and Warm for a Change!

With temps in the mid-60's today and only a light wind, I decided today was the day the girls would get to experience the great outdoors!  So, I went outside and set up an old wire panel of training kennel thing that became ours when we bought the house.  It has 8 panels that are roughly 18-24 inches across.  I set it up with 1 panel wide short sides and 3 panel wide long sides, because that way I could cover the top with an old baby gate and the plastic lid to their brooder.  The cover was a good idea too, since Gerty tried to make a vertical escape when she first hit the grass!

I also got the chance to chat with our next door neighbors for a little bit.  They are close to our age, but we don't actually talk with our neighbors much...not like my Mother does with her neighbors anyway!  Their dog is the one that used to dig under the fence and play with Rosie, so we got to know them pretty well our second summer here!  It was nice and I may have drummed up a little more business for our lawn guy...they were out working on cleaning up their yard, which makes our yard look super ragged!

I put the panels together backwards and didn't realize my mistake until I went to put the girls in, so once I got them in and out of the crate, I took the crate out and sprayed it down with the hose (they left a mess).  They were having so much fun that nobody wanted to come back inside!  Gerty got away when I was putting them back in the carrier and that was a little mini adventure!  She didn't stray too far away from me though as we had dogs in two of the three yards that border our fence line and a group of crows and hawks over head!  They are currently all safe and sound in the brooder "cooling off"!  They got so warm that they started to pant, the real reason I decided to bring them in after an hour!

Happy Easter!

Nephew #3 found an egg!

While Easter at my house this year is consisting of a "normal" breakfast of Fried Eggs and Sausage links, others in my family are fully enjoying another sugar-filled holiday!  Our contribution to that celebration was a ball shaped "magic" towel (one for each nephew; Baseball, Football, & Basketball), and a "hatching egg" that hatches out some small creature/toy (again, one for each boy; Duckling, Chick, & Tortoise).  I also made some chalkboard picture frames for each of our nephews (on my side anyway, I was told it wasn't a great idea for the other side), each of the three boys got a square frame painted with Green chalkboard paint on the front and the outside and inside of the frame painted in his favorite color (Yellow for the oldest, Blue for the middle, and Red for the Youngest)! 

The official word on baby #4 is that he/she will be making their arrival on Thanksgiving (November 24th) this year!  Here's hoping for a late delivery! Nephew #2's birthday is 7 days before Thanksgiving and my Grandmother's birthday is two days before Thanksgiving this year (she hates the year's that it falls on the holiday)!  Looks like we'll be adding to the November/December birthday "clump" (Nephew #2 and #4 in the last half of November, Sister and other half's Mom in the first half of December)!
By 10am they had already been out to see what the Bunny left!
While looking for a good "happy Easter" photo for this, I ran across this picture of an Easter Bunny Cake.  Somewhere, I have a picture of myself and one of my cousins (who is 4 years older than me) holding one that looks exactly like this!  I believe I have a picture of myself at a birthday (mine) with a cake like this wouldn't surprise me though, I have always loved the way this cake looks!  Super simple to make make two round cakes (three of you want really big ears) and cut one of them for the ears and bow tie (or one for a bow tie and the third for ears).  Frost with White frosting, licorice whips for whiskers & mouth, and Jelly Beans for nose and eyes!  For the ears, toss some coconut with Red food coloring to make pink, Green for the grass, and get creative with the bow tie!  Any color would do, or make several colors, mix them together and give him a "polka dot" or "tie dyed" tie!  Also, you can cover the white areas with coconut or leave them simply frosted...I love coconut, so I suggest covering it!  With the right low carb cake and frosting recipes...this could even work!  I will have to make an effort to find unsweetened coconut before next year...

Candy Dish I gave my Mom.
I did get one of several baskets I had planned on making before Easter completed "on time"...I sent my Mother home with a "Candy Dish"!  The basket ended up being 5 inches square at the base (was supposed to be 4 inches) and at the top, it was 6.5 inches by 7 inches (also supposed to be 4 inches square...)!  While not "perfect" by any means (the stakes are completely backwards), I like the shape of the basket and may try it again some day.  For now though, I'm sticking to round baskets!  I made a small basket for my other half yesterday to hold the many remotes we now have in the bedroom (after the new TV, which is hooked up to the DirectTV box, we also got an AppleTV, and then a new to us Blue Ray player)...each new device has come with its own remote that has to stay out (unlike the TV remote now that we got the satellite remote programmed correctly).  I tried doing a rectangular basket for him...what a mess that turned out to be!  I'll be making some sort of hanging or round basket soon to replace that little misshapen nightmare!
Clyde, Henri, & Gerty
The girls get bigger by the day and are nearly too big for their little brooder now!  I need to get the run up so they have space to run around, even if I still need to bring them inside at night for a while!  Being "cooped up" is starting to show...
Henri getting up close and personal w/ Clyde watching.

Gerty eyeing the flash again!
The bigger they get though, and as their feathers come in and their color patterns change, it is really fun to see how they are turning out!  I think I ended up with only one true Silver Laced Wyandotte (Henri) though...Clyde looks to be turning out to being a Silver Penciled Wyandotte.  That is awesome in my opinion!  I have read so many "I had a favorite hen but can't tell which one she is now" stories over at BYC that I have been really nervous about being able to tell them apart!  Of course, I have been able to tell my girls apart since day 1 (in most pictures) and now that they are starting to really pattern out, I can see why!

And just to see how many more photos I can cram into one post...

I have a "photo Enhancer" program on my cell phone that I have been playing with.  Basically, it has 8-10 "finishes" that it applies to photos, you can only do one at a time and there's no cropping or anything, but I kinda like the way it looks on some photos.

I posted the original of this first photo a few days ago.  There isn't a whole lot going on in the photo, color wise

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Outside and the Girls...

Yeah for warm, sunny weather!!!  With a high in the mid-50's today and the sun shining down, I got to work on the first coat of exterior paint on the coop!  The color is from the "mis tinted" paint discount section in Lowe's ($5 for a gallon), it worked out near perfect for me though, it almost matches the green on our house perfectly!  It is a Commercial grade Semi-Gloss Exterior paint in Hunter Green (ish).  I should have taken a few paint brush choices outside with me, but all I took was the big 3" bristle style brush, I knew I had a lot of surface to cover and didn't want to even think about doing it with a 1" foam brush!  As it turned out, I should have taken one out with me...the big brush did not work for over the hardware cloth!  I will have to go out there again and get that part covered in a layer of paint.  I did leave an unpainted space on the front side, I had come down to needing to settle on where the pop door was going to go.  While I was taking a break, sitting inside the coop through the people door, I noticed that on the back of that piece of OSB (like all OSB) there were straight black lines drawn/painted on.  I'm hoping they are wide enough apart that it will work for the pop door (where the chickens come and go all day from)!  So, I left that part unpainted, no use painting an area I'm just going to chew up with a saw and drill, right?  That'll be after this layer of paint dries and before I get going on a second coat though...tomorrow maybe?  I am really liking the color of the exterior!  It is just slightly darker than the green on the house (it's on the window frames as the trim back here, but covers a large portion of the front of the house), it is really helping to camouflage the coop, not that too many people can actually see it anyway!

While I was out enjoying some sun and taking photo updates of all my "chicken stuff", I decided to get up to date photos of my Rhubarb too.  I have a group of 6 plants that I have been growing for roughly 7 years.  These were the ones I brought with me from Bend, OR when we moved (they spent 3 summers in large planters before and after the move).  They didn't do very well here to begin with, they were after all living in planters!  Even after going in the ground two summers ago, they never really did much more than survive!  Last year showed real potential, but they never got more than about 4 inch tall stalks.  This year though...I have even higher hopes for them!  I thought there wasn't any growth and was considering them dead or mostly dead, so my Mother offered to bring more up with her for her visit last week, hers needed to be separated anyway.  She brought me 8 cuttings!  Which turned into 9 new hills after we chose to plant the small pieces that broke off as well.  All of the new plants seem to be doing well today as they enjoyed some 10am-1pm sun!  I may need to give these little guys a sun shield during the hot months...  The only issue I saw today was were I believe my dog ran the one at the bottom of the photo over chasing something.
The girls have gotten really good at knocking over their food and water dishes making it an adventure to keep their brooder clean.  So yesterday, armed with a roll of twine and the left over wire that came wrapped around the hardware cloth, as well as a few S-hooks and a carabineer.  I started working on the feeder with twine, a mistake that I realized this morning after they had pecked enough at the twine to tip over ans empty the feed all over the brooder!  The water though is held up by the hardware cloth wire wrapped in several places around the jar, so that it can not tip.  I attached the carabineer to make filling easier and then a loop of twine because it was a little too tall for the girls to reach.  Henri is the smallest of the girls and she has to stand on the limb that they use as a roost to reach the water, but the other two are at just the right height to reach the water without an issue.  As of this morning, no more water spills!  I need to go redo the feeder using the wire today still.  With the dishes suspended, I don't have any more poop in everything and they aren't scratching all the feed out!  Why, oh why, didn't I do this sooner?!?  It does take a little more effort to get the lid off now that the food and water are hanging from it, but I don't mind and I doubt the girls mind either.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Adventures in Clothes Shopping...

While my Mother was visiting, I took the opportunity to go clothes shopping, not a hobby my other half is fond of...  I first went to Ross, what's better than cheaper clothes?  I was really on a mission to get a pair of shorts for this summer...we had some 60+ degree weather a few weeks ago (it's currently snowing at my house!) and I had to wear my jeans because every pair of shorts and capri's I own are too big!  Well, that shopping trip was a bust as far as pants/shorts/anything below the waist is concerned, I did however, find two new shirts in the next size down (2x)!  One is just a simple grey with a sweetheart type neckline and the other is a slightly more "dressy" shirt that looks like a shirt and short sleeved jacket combo.  The shirt/jacket one also has a "necklace" that attaches on either side of the shirt to create a very finished look!  It is still a little clingy around my middle, but it does look good and should fit me for a while, while I continue to lose more weight!  I also got a new pair of sunglasses and a new blanket for our bed while I was there.  The blanket we use during the colder months is a down alternative comforter that is an over sized King (fits our King sized bed with about 6 inches hanging on either side), it is too warm for my other half in the hottest months though.  We have fought over the other blanket options for as long as I can remember, I need the weight of a blanket to be able to sleep and he finds anything I put on the bed too warm.  We have two of the woven "hotel blankets" that are cotton,,,I forget what they're called, but both have huge holes in them from years and years of use and "someone" pulling the weaving so that he could read a book in bed while still mostly under the blankets when he was younger.  I found a light green woven blanket at Ross for $15!  It's some off brand, but when the choices are $15 for that one or $40 for one that says "Tommy Hilfiger" on it, I'll go cheap!  The shirt/jacket didn't have a tag and apparently Ross has a book of "charge this price" for items with no ripping tags off if you think it's too much, you may end up paying more for it!  I liked the shirt enough that I was willing to pay the $9.99 for it (I would bet I could have got it for less if I had grabbed one of the "too small" ones I took it up there with me).  We had joked while shopping that it was "free" because it had no tag...turns out we were right in the end.  The sunglasses I picked out were also $9.99 and had two different security tags on them.  The big plastic one the cashier took off, but she left the paper tag that held two magnets attached.  On the way out the door, I set off the anti-theft system!  So, with the guard at the door rushing me (general rule is if you get out the door, they can't chase you down), we stopped...I knew I had paid for everything.  I handed over my bag and the receipt so he could double check and make sure I didn't throw things in the bag.  I will never again do that at the Shopko near my house, the guy there when my mother set it off because they didn't demagnetize something ripped the bag out of her hand  and took the bag into a locked room to inspect it...her wallet was in the bag because she had tossed it in and he ran off with the bag with us hollering for him to wait up!  Back to Ross though...he glanced at the receipt and started through the bag, I asked if the metal things in the paper tag were a second device and he said "oh, yeah...can I remove it for you?"...yep, I don't want to set it off again.  So after he ripped it off, and double checked to see if the bag would set it off or not, he handed me back my receipt and bag and sent us on our merry way.  It wasn't until several hours later at home that I was looking at the receipt and realized that the cashier never rang up the sunglasses!   I even pointed them out to the guy that is supposed to make sure things don't walk out of the store!  So, in the end, I guess I did in deed get my no-tag shirt for free.

A couple of days later, we were out doing other shopping and I happened to notice that Fashion Bug was/is having a 25% off sale (on nearly everything in the store)!  I like the pricing they have on pants, so we stopped in to look for shorts.   After an hour and a half of trying things on and entertaining a 5 year old boy, I walked away with 2 pairs of "skinny" jeans, one pair of shorts, and one pair of capri's!  The best part is that all of them are smaller than the jeans I had on when I went in the store!  The capri's are one size down and the rest are two sizes smaller!  I was in a 26 in December when I bought my newest jeans (that was one size down then) and this week's pants are 22's!  I am so happy!  Give me another 6 months and I'll be down to shopping in the "plus size" departments of regular stores!  I really do have an issue with calling a pair of size 22 pants skinny jeans though...there is nothing skinny about that much material!  Here is a link to the skinny pants I got, they are on clearance in the store for $5 less than online!  The shorts are part of the "Secret Slimmer" line...basically there is spandex in them, the sales gal told me to try on a size down from what I normally wear because they stretch that much.  I got 22's because I really don't think I could have zipped a 20!

Now that I'm down a few sizes...I think it might be time for an updated photo of me...maybe.

A Post from Someone Else...

Part of my morning routine is to surf the web for tasty tidbits of information.  This morning, I ran across an actual tasty tidbit!  Following a link from my Facebook to the Atkins Facebook page, I found yet another link from a forum page discussing Low Carb Easter Dinner options.  A few in particular I think I will be trying (though not on Easter) in the very near future!  Diet Dr Pepper & Diet Coke Glazed Ham, doesn't that sound yummy?  But, back to the link I followed from that site.  The link was for a recipe called "Mashed Brussels Sprouts", though they aren't really mashed, just cooked until they fall apart with butter!  This gal's blog is now on my list of "morning links" though!

She made a post regarding The Biggest Loser and what it is doing to how we "normal" folk are starting to view weight loss.  I personally hate the show...but to each their own, I find the general audience is either extremely overweight people (I fit into this category, in my BMI is still sitting around 44, but that's down from the 48 I started at!) or the "skinny people" that believe us "fatties" are just too lazy to get out there and lose the weight.  For the latter, I can see how a show with two (or more, don't they have 4 trainers now?) super skinny exercise freaks screaming at big blubber balls (something I call myself on occasion) in the gym "making them exercise" could be fun...while the "larger" crowd watches for inspiration, I get that too.  Anyway, back to the blog post I'm trying to talk about! 

This post, Biggest Loser Damage..., is excellent!  I would tell the poster that, but I can't remember the login info for my Wordpress account!  My own personal experience in the stall vs. losing cycle is a long one.  I have weeks where I lose 4-5 pounds, but they are generally followed by a week of gaining most, if not all, of it back.  I've cycled like this since October, I know what is causing it and is getting better.  Because I'm a Diabetic ("person with Diabetes" if you want to get all PC about it...), I need to treat low blood sugars as they arise, so I keep small cans of soda (regular, full of sugar kind) on hand as well as fruit juice.  I use these to treat lows, an 8 ounce can of Sam's Choice (Wal Mart brand) Root Beer has 33 grams of carbs, all sugar!  If you know a doctor anything like my doctor...they'll tell you to drink half of one of those cans of Tree Top Apple Juice and that is more than enough to treat a low...I have never in my life been able to do that, I just keep dropping until I get a large enough "sugar dump" to stop the crash and reverse it.  So, on weeks when I need to readjust my insulin because of the healing my body is doing from 30-ish years of carb overload, I end up needing more sugar than I'm getting from my low carb foods.  Those weeks I gain...then with my insulin readjusted, I lose the next week! 

Pre-low carbing, I was taking, on average, 180 units of fast acting insulin every day (I take Humalog, Novalog works just as well)!  That worked out to 4 boxes of insulin pens each month (each pen holds 300 units, each box holds 5 pens)!  I refilled my prescription on January 15, 2011 for my normal 1-month of today, April 21, 2011, I still have 13 of the 20 pens I got that day!  So, I went from 6,000 units a month to having used approximately 2,100 units in 3 months!  This is also not counting the open pen I have been using for about 2 weeks now!  As a type 1 Diabetic, I'll never be "off" own body doesn't produce any, until a cure is found, I'm stuck playing the insulin game (I don't believe there will be a cure in my lifetime).  But, I love seeing my insulin needs drop like that!  My doctors just kept raising the amount I was getting telling me I was developing "insulin resistance" because of my weight, and not really helping when I asked for help or suggestions on what I could do to help reduce the weight!  I asked if a portion of the weight gain could be due to my medications (I take Blood Pressure meds as well as meds for High Cholesterol) to which I was told "no".  Please remember to do your own research before you believe what a doctor tells my experience they are wrong on average as much as the rest of us!  It turned out that both of my medications had a side effect of weight gain!  Gee, that might explain a 100 pound gain over a year...maybe!  Not that some of the gain wasn't my own fault...but just remember to "google" any new medications and judge for yourself if the side effects are worth it for you, there are usually other medication options.  I should mention that I still take a very high dose of long-acting insulin twice a day, but even those amounts have dropped in the past 6 months!  I take Lantus (it's supposed to be a once a day, 24-hour long-acting insulin), it was marketed as a once-a-day injection, but everyone I know has to take it twice a day.  Either all of my friends are as "weird" as me...or someone in the R&D department was a little off in their calculations...

Okay, enough of my "soapboxing"...but please read her post, she says it much better than I do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!

Cliff got adopted (or so thinks the volunteer I spoke with)!  WOOT!!!

Another adoptable kitty!  This is "Dibby", she has some specifics that are probably making her harder to get adopted, but I know there's a home out there for her somewhere!  First off, she's an older gal...11 years old.  Not that 11 year old cats are less active...our Dark Brown kitty, "Frappy", is nearly 12 years old!  And she is still a very active cat, she actually moves around more than our 5-6 year old cat does!  "Dibby" likes kids, or she tolerates them at any rate, but I would bring any child that would be living in the house to meet the cat prior to adopting it (sometimes they just don't like someone)!  According to the paperwork, she needs to be in a home without any other pets (I'm talking dogs and cats here) if you have these, keep looking!  She's also declawed.  Up onto my soapbox...  This is not something I ever suggest doing to a cat!  If you truly think they "need" to be declawed, go have the procedure done to yourself don't "need" your finger above the center bone in each one...  But, "Dibby" has already been put through the she may be a good fit if someone cares more about a piece of furniture...  Off my soapbox now...  One thing that's a little "off" about "Dibby"...she has a cloudy eye that the volunteer I spoke with believed was a cataract.  She may not see out that eye very well, but she still gets around.

I really like her coloring...but then again, I have a grey and white kitty at home, so maybe I'm just a sucker for the pattern, lol!

Speaking of my kitty..."Baby" finally decided he could chill out with my nephew and not need to worry so much about getting pounced on by him!  Of course, he decided this halfway through the day before they had to go home...  I went into my bedroom to find them sitting together with my nephew "petting" him with his foot while he played with the Nintendo DS!  My nephew was so happy that the cat "wasn't afraid of him" anymore!  "Baby" just has enough experience with kids that aren't so nice to run and hide from all of them...he has just recently stopped hiding under the bed every time the doorbell rings or someone knocks on the door!

"Spring" Stuff...

My Mom brought me more Rhubarb plants this trip!  Hers are ginormous (and have been since I was a kid...over 20 yeas ago) and she split one or two with me!  I have 6 little Rhubarb plants that I've been nursing back to health since we moved here in August of 2007, they were huge when we moved and were also part of a divided plant from my mother when we moved into our first house (a rental) in 2004.  This year, it looks like two of my original six might produce stalks big enough to pick!  But, she brought me eight new plant starts too!  So, a few days ago we got busy weeding the spot I wanted them in and got them in the ground (about 5 minutes before it started snowing).  They take up the entire flower bed on the side of my house now (which is about half the length of the house)!  All of them are showing new growth since they hit dirt again, after only two days!  That is a really good sign!  It is a good thing I like Rhubarb...I now have 12-13 (there are actually nine bunches in the new area) of Rhubarb and my other half hates it!  They are so pretty when they get big though!

I'm still working on weeding the rest of that bed, it wraps around the corner of the house.  I need to finish digging up an old sprinkler system that doesn't work (hasn't since before we moved in) as well as dig through tree roots that extend under the foundation of our house as well.  I hope to get the two Blueberry bushes I bought planted in the corner and maybe the Green Bean Bushes and Wax Beans planted around the corner facing the back yard.  I may put the sunflowers there though and find a better spot for the beans.  I also need to get the electric company called to have them remove some old Sumac's that are tangled in the power lines that run down the fence line behind our house...they've had crew out working on the tree/power lines, but they haven't contacted us about our trees (they have talked to almost all of the neighbors I've heard from though).  After those two things are done, we want to hire someone to come clean up the yards and get them ready for the mowing season (which we hire someone to do so we can enjoy our weekends rather than spend them fighting our cheap lawn mower)!  Our front lawn already looks like we need to have it mowed soon, darn rain! 

With the help of my Mom (finding boards in the pile that would fit and helping hold while I nailed), I was able to finish the roof on my coop!  All that's left is a paint job and getting the hardware cloth up!  This is a good thing, my girls are getting big, fast!  I think I need to figure out a way to rig my chick feed and water dishes so that they hang, the newest "hobby" they have picked up is dumping one or the other and making a huge mess inside the brooder!  I have about a week and a half to get the exterior walls that will be hard to reach with the run up done, then my other half will be home for a weekend before I have to go out of town for a few days.  We need to get the run built that weekend because after that I have more company coming over (my Mom again) and the girls will be big enough for the move to outside!

After the coop and run are built, my next "big" project for the back yard is going to be getting the large mound cleaned out (right side of the photo).  I need to fill in a large hole made for a water feature that I removed after a small bird fell in and drowned a few years ago, remove several dozen large, decorative, rocks, and a load or three of river rock that coats the entire thing.  I may or may not deal with the stumps that are still there (we had 8 trees removed from the mound a little under 2 years ago), but the plan (for me at least) is to turn that mound into a garden by next summer.  This summer will still be mostly in containers on my deck.  I will also leave some of the largest rocks (boulders) and the tree that is still there...the Arborist that we had remove the trees says it should "fluff" back out now that the trees that were hindering its growth are gone...still looks spindly to me though.  Eventually, I'd like to get rid of all of the River Rocks that are everywhere in the back yard...someone spent a ton of money on them and I think they are just in the way!  All of the flower beds around the yard are full of them, as is the walking paths!  The other thing that needs "dealt with" are the railroad ties that are all over, used as path markers, bed walls, and even as a retaining wall in front of the house!  But, that will have to wait until another year...I don't have any idea what to replace them with!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Crochet and Peeps!

With my sister 1/9th of the way into Baby #4, and my other half being out of town for all last week and all of next week, I have started working on a baby afghan.  It's slow going because it's all single crochet and the design is little "baubles" (or so the pattern calls them).  I got the first set of squares done in about a day and a half while no one but me was home (my house guests got here 4 days into my other half being out of town) and since then I have about half of the next set.  When I'm done, it will be 30 squares (5 wide and 6 tall) that are all divided by a line of "baubles", the four corners are solid and the rest is the Alphabet!  The original pattern is done in all white, but I'm using a baby variegated that is pink, blue, yellow, and green.  She's due near Thanksgiving, so we obviously don't know if she's having another boy or a girl...but either way, this will work and I have the time to get it done (hopefully)!

My Mom was showing me a pattern for towel hangers in the kitchen the other day too, I have the stuff to make a matching one for my kitchen...they are made using the rings from around a 6-pack of Soda (Pop for the rest of you) and are super simple to do.  I may or may not get this done next week, it depends on if I fizzle out on the baby blanket and need a break!  Buttons are expensive!  I haven't had to buy any in several years and was shocked at the prices at Joann's!  Some of them were $6.50 each!  We found these and another set of three buttons on clearance for $0.97 a card...I bought both so I could do this set for me and another set as a gift.  I really like the other set, they have a leaf pattern on two of the three.

I love Peeps...the little marshmallows dipped in sugar have always been a love of mine (so long as they packaging has been punctured and they've been allowed to "dry out" for a few weeks prior to eating)!  It's one of those "foods" that you either love or hate...I love them, my other half hates them (more for me).  I was really going into craving mode this year since we are seriously loosing weight and I wasn't going to cheat just for a mouthful (or package full) of the sugar coated goodness.  On another blog I read/follow, I saw a mention of Sugar Free Peeps!  Really?!?  How can I go on without at least trying these little gems?  I found them online for $1.69 (or something) plus shipping for each package of 3 Peeps!  That was too expensive for me, so I started my search locally.  Fred Meyer didn't have them, neither did World Market or any of my "usual" stores.  But, on the way to Ross' (I needed new shorts, that adventure in a post soon, I promise), I decided to poke my head in Rite Aid.  They had them!  They were marked $1.50 a package though, so I decided I could spend the $3 and get two to try.  When I got to the counter though, the gal told me I couldn't have the sales price without their "savings card", I got yet another stores card (it's free and I gave one of the key tags to my Mom to use as well) and got them at the sale price of $0.88 each!  I grabbed four more and bought 6 packages that day!  They are really good, better than the sugar coated ones!  If you ignore Sugar Alcohols (which I do/can), they are zero carbs (counted as 1 carb for the sweetener) per chick (maybe per package, I really didn't read the serving size)!  One chick is more than enough to curb my sweet tooth too, two is too much "food" of that variety for my system.  I also went back again today and bought 12 more packages!  Like I said, I like them dried out a bit anyway...and this way I get them at the cheap price before they realize they put them in the system wrong.  The sale tag says they are on sale 2 for $3...and I'm a big enough deal hunter that I'm not really willing to point out a mistake in my favor, whether I should or not is another story.

With help from my Mom, I have polished off three packages in as many days.  These are really yummy...the yellow "sugar" is crunchy and everything!  Excellent sugar free substitute of the "real" thing, even better in my opinion!