Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Semi-Productive Holiday Weekend!

Twice-Stabbed Ladybird Beetle
I already posted about the work on the chicken's run...and we did get a little more done on that.  We got the backside (under the staircase) done yesterday, but after several issues, we weren't able to finish it.  We actually only got it tacked up, I have to go back out and add more staple/nail things (which I'm told are referred to as "steepels" in parts of the country).  We dug out both hammers for yesterday, the "other" hammer is a "wimpy 'girl' hammer" as my other half put it!  Where my hammer is a good 16 ounce construction style hammer, his is a dinky one that someone else bought him just so that he would have a "hammer".  It worked, but took a lot more effort than the regular hammer did!  While outside working on that, I discovered a black ladybug!  I know there's a way to tell species based on color and number of spots, but I forget what it is exactly (some ladybugs are poisonous and you can tell them by number of spots and maybe the location of them).  Anywho, this little guy just chilled out above my head while I hammered away.  We have a huge population of Ladybugs this year!  I like having them around to keep the aphids off my herbs and veggies (which were a bane for me last year)!  The photo is a little fuzzy, but he has three little red spots on that pristine black shell, very pretty.  As far as I can tell, this is a"Twice-stabbed Ladybird Beetle", they are the only species (that I could find in a quick Internet search) that are colored opposite the typical black on red pattern of all "ladybugs".  I found the best description here.  These are handy little guys to have around (the entire beetle species) as they are a great form of natural pesticide!  I even noticed at Fred Meyer a while back that they are selling bags of live ladybugs and Praying Mantis as pest control.  However, I would not pay the $8 for a single Praying Mantis just to turn it loose in my yard!  The ladybugs though, there was well over 100 of them in the bag!  I don't need to add more though, my own "natural crop" is huge this year!

I also deemed my "old" stock of Rhubarb "ready to harvest" yesterday.  At least, "big enough" for me to pull a few stalks off of!  The bags in the freezer really need to be used (I still have 4 gallon-sized bags from last year), but I really want some fresh stuff!  I only pulled the largest of the stalks, which aren't all that big, and they're all about as big around as the tip of my pinkie.  The bright color really pepped up my mood though!  I threw the leaves away (you can't eat that part and they are poisonous to dogs!), it seems like such a waste when those leaves are so big!  I believe I read somewhere that I have to keep the chickens out of the leaves as well...maybe it was the stalks, I'll have to go bone up on my Rhubarb knowledge!  I got about a cup of chopped stalk from this batch, I plan on cooking it into a nice sauce to top a Brownie with for an after-dinner treat tonight!  These are really red and juicy!  Most of the interior of the stalks was also red (I find those to taste a lot sweeter)!
And the brownies!  I have really been craving something "chewy" and "chocolaty", so I broke into my saved files of all the low carb recipes from other people.  I found this Brownie recipe in a file labeled "Jell's Cookbook" that I found when looking for all the great recipes that once lived on the "Sommersizing" forums.  I don't know the exact carb count, but it should be really low.  I modified the recipe slightly, so I used:

2 Eggs
1 stick Butter (1/2 cup) - I used a stick that had sat out in my butter dish over night in my 70 degree house, it was very soft!
3/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup Stevia in the Raw (the recipe said to use 1/2 cup Fructose or 1 cup Splenda)
1/4 cup Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder (they sell this at WalMart!) (original called for 1/2 cup Dutch Process)
1/2 cup Chocolate Protein Powder (I use About Time brand*, 0 carbs!) (Original called for Vanilla)
The recipe also said to "pour" the batter into a greased 8x8 pan, mine was way too thick to pour, so I scooped it out and then used my finger and the spatula to smooth it into the corners.  Into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes (said 15-20 minutes) and then to sit on the counter a few minutes!  There was a thick layer of butter on top when they came out of the oven, so I dabbed it off with a paper towel (only because I didn't want to deal with a "greasy" snack).  I cut this test batch into 16 squares, but next time I'll cut it into 8 rectangles (we end up eating these two at a time anyway).  While they were still warm, they had more of a cake texture, but after they chilled out in the fridge over night, they had a nice chewy texture!  I think with a batch of low carb chocolate frosting (I'm still experimenting here, but the general idea is softened cream cheese, Splendalol.

So that was basically the last half of my 4-day weekend.  We spent the first half (my other half also had Friday off) playing Dragon Age and Dragon Age: Awakenings.  I was near the end of the original game, so I finished it, imported my character into the expansion and swiftly ran through that as well.  I was a little disappointed at how short the expansion was since it has taken me months of playing through (again) to reach the end of the game and it only took me a few hours (okay, 8 hours) to get to through the entire expansion!  Maybe we'll get Dragon Age 2, but I'm still resisting the urge to spend $80 on yet another video game!

Oh!  We also finally found my "something pretty" for loosing the first 25 pounds!  Bed, Bath, & Beyond had a lounge set on sale (front cover of the ad in Sunday's paper)!  We had to have it special ordered (as did three other couples who showed up after we did) because the store ran out of them!  This is a 5-piece set for $80 (we paid $70 after using the 20% off coupon also in the ad, after tax)!  The chairs adjust like old style recliners (like the kind they had at the swimming pool when I was a kid...a bar in the back with little hooky things to adjust it with) and it's two chairs, two ottomans, and a side table!  For the price of the whole set, we were considering getting a single lounger!  Of course, when the store employee put my email address in, he typo'd it...but I can still track it online by imputing the bogus address in with the order #...I just can't get the tracking emails!  I plan on calling today to see if someone can fix that.

*I have talked at length about this brand of Whey protein before, here, I still can't say enough nice things about it!  This was the first chance I've had to crack open my brand new jar of Chocolate flavor!  I love it!  I did "taste test" it a little as I was cooking (licked the powder off my finger) and it is really tasty!  They have four new flavors as well; Banana, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Unflavored!  I can see many a "biscuit" being made from the unflavored one, as well as more savory dishes!  Also, I can nearly taste Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies (using either the plain PB or Chocolate PB)!  And we can't forget Banana "Nut" Muffins!  Oh how I wish they had smaller containers for a lesser price!  Say, $25 for a one pound container?  I can't afford to stock up on all the flavors at $40 for each 2 pound container!  I still haven't opened my container of Cinnamon Swirl or any of my single serve bottles that I got in the last order (Mocha Mint, Peaches & Cream, Strawberry, Vanilla, Birthday Cake, and Cinnamon Swirl).  I got in on an awesome sale that was buy one, get one 50% off and they threw in a 6-pack of "toss 'n go" bottles for free!  I have had the Vanilla and Birthday Cake flavors before, both are excellent, I especially like making protein shakes with the Vanilla, with cream and water, and adding in a little Da Vinci's sugar free syrup to make it whatever flavor I feel like having!  I used these a lot when I was having lots of lows to help stabilize my blood sugars again after a low (much easier on the body than those yucky carbs).

I'll say it again just in case it's been overlooked before...this is the least expensive whey isolate protein powder I have found with zero carbs!  There are others, but they are twice the price or have 1-3 grams of net carbs per serving!  If you haven't tried them, go over to their site (linked above) and spend the $2.99 to try it!

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