Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

As October comes to a close, I just wanted to remind everyone to stay safe and warm tonight!  Also, if the porch light is off (and all the rest of the lights too), just leave that house alone and keep walking.  We leave the light off for a few reasons, first, all those scary kids drive our dog absolutely bonkers and scare her to death...nothing worse than trying to calm down a 75-pound dog after one too many ghouls (or pretty princesses)!  Also, we don't have any tricks or treats for you.  As a low-carber, I choose to not have that sort of thing in the house and really don't want to make your kids fat(ter) either.

I apologize in advance to the little girl and her Mommy that I know will be on my doorstep between 3:30 and 4 this afternoon, but after 4 years, you should just know I still don't have any candy!

Now on to the "normal" stuff...

I found a crochet pattern a few weeks ago that I have been dying to try out.  Okay, I found two patterns, but after starting the first one (which I found two versions of for starting this one), I decided I really didn't like the pattern.  The second one, the one I settled on and decided I liked it enough to make 4 of them (long story there) is titled "Crochet One-Skein Lap Throw", one skein?  Say it isn't so!  That is my kind of project!  So, after healing enough to be able to leave the house and ride in the car relatively pain to Wal-Mart I went !  (They have Red Heart Super Saver skeins for $2.33, awesome price!)  I picked out some variegated shades in "Watercolor", "Chery Chip", and "Purple Tones".  Basically, the first one is a mix of purples, blues, greens, and a little yellowy cream color...very pretty!  Cherry Chip is a Maroon-y red, pinks, light and dark browns...another pretty one, but the color change is so frequent that I think I'm going to have to use it in a different project, it was way too "busy" for this one.  The purple tones is just that, two to three shades of purple!  Now remember, I did say 4 projects up there...since the other half was with me and generously letting me paw through the yarn section (with absolutely no complaining about it!), I asked him if he saw one that he liked enough for me to make him something with.  To my shock, he picked out a color for himself!  He started looking at the different shades of blue...but ended up settling on Pumkpin!  Yep, bright Orange is the color he picked out! 

I laugh a little every time I glance at this skein of yarn, now sitting next to my right arm as I type...when I was little, my Mother sewed a giant quilt for my had cars and trucks (I think) in large quilt squares (which if my memory serves, she also painted using Tri-Chem paints) and then she sewed little squares al around them to make it large enough to fit their bed.  That's not what makes me laugh though...the backing she used was a giant piece (or pieces) of a bright Orange fleece (or similar fabric)!  Over the years, it yellowed a lot, but it was bright Orange at one point.  Every time I see this yard, I think of that blanket and it makes me smile.

Back to the project I'm now working on (in multiples of three currently) though.  I should have known something was "up" when it called for one skein of Super Saver yarn...especially in the varieagteds, those are kind of small!  Looking closer at the pattern (and it's 49 rows), I realized that it was, in deed, one skein....a Jumbo skein!  (Oops!)  With my first throw going, I got 12.5 rows in before my skein ran was back to the store to purchase 3 more skeins (I should have read the pattern better, they were out of the dye lot I used in the first skein, but the other three all match now) along with a fourth skein to use on the edging rounds (it's only two rounds of basically single crochet)...for this and the variegated purple, I got a skein of "Orchid", which is a lighter purple, it matches a shade in the purple variegated and is "close enough" for the Watercolor one to look decent.  I still need to get three more skeins if the Purple Tones and at least two of the Pumkpin (solid color skeins are a few ounces larger than variegated ones), but will wait on those until after another payday.

The other day I also talked a little about a cooking project I had decided I wanted to try...I did it too!  After a week and a half or so of being unable to really function, my pain has subsided enough for me to be almost back to my "regular activities"...although I have been avoiding driving the Automatic like the plague and so haven't done any actual driving still.  At any rate, while we were out getting yarn the other day, I also picked up a smallish head of Green Cabbage to go with the head of Red Cabbage (another small head) I had hiding in the back of the fridge (uncut, this stuff keeps for what seems like forever, but use it quick once you cut into it!).  Now, the recipe I linked the other day says to "grate" the cabbage...yuck!  I quartered my heads, removed the core, and got to slicing!  I did keep the sliced "ribbons" under about 4 inches in length, but this was all by eye, so use your best judgement.  If you like the store-bought Sauerkraut, everyone raves you'll like this even better!  We shall see come New Year's!

I can remember seeing jars of Red 'Kraut as a kid, when my relatives (Aunts, Great-Aunt's, Grandmother, and even my Mother) were canning...back then it looked like a purple jar of "yuck"....but being older and now knowing that those jars held the hard work of the women (and men) who made them really makes home-canned goods taste even better!  Not to mention the fact that you can control the amount of Sugar and other ingredients that go into your food better if you "put it in the jar yourself".  When I first started looking for Sauerkraut recipes, the first few I found all called for Sugar, the more I looked though, I found that the sugar was optional and you can, in deed, make it without any sugar at all!  So after slicing all my cabbage (we'll pretend here, I really did it in little batches and filled one jar at a time), I packed my jars with the "slaw" like mix.  I am seriously running low on glass jars!  Again, this recipe called for Quart canning jars...I have one of those left out of a 12-pack!  Most of these have been given away over the years full of Pear and Apple Butter I made...homemade jams and jellies make awesome gifts!  So, I took my one quart jar, paired it with a Large glass jar (and lid) that I purchased from a store full of Sauerkraut many months ago, and then added two pint canning jars and two empty (glass) pickle jars.  If it comes in a glass it!  These can be reused many, many, many times!

When it says to pack the jars tight...they mean it too!  I started by making a quart jar of "regular" 'Kraut (all green cabbage), but I apparently did not get it packed tight enough!  After adding the brine, it was painfully obvious I didn't put enough in the jar, but was too late to add anymore.  See all that empty space at the bottom of the jar?  That's about three inches of brine!  I'm hoping that as it ferments, the cabbage will sink to the bottom...but only time will tell.

The red cabbage was really fun to work with and experiment with.  The other quart-sized jar was filled with just the red stuff.  Since this whole batch is my "test batch" for presents for next year (when I can get the really good cabbages at a farmer's market and have these actually ready to eat when they're given), I played with the cabbage combos a little in two of the four smaller jars.  The third and fourth I did straight green cabbage and straight red cabbage.  In this first photo of the smaller jars, the canning jar on the left is straight red cabbage, on the right was evenly layered red and green cabbage.  The natural color of the red cabbage quickly overwhelmed the jar as I poured in the (near) boiling brine!  I suspect that this jar will be indistinguishable from the full-on red cabbage jar when they are ready to eat.

The last jar I put together, I used a very small amount of red cabbage at the bottom of the jar, about 3 Tablespoons maybe (it was the leftovers from what I had cut for the previous jar).  Then, I filled the  jar with Green Cabbage and ended the jar by putting another small amount of Red on top, however much it took to fill the jar to the top, maybe 1/4 cup.  In this one, you can really see how the color seeps out of the red cabbage!  I expect this jar to come out in the end a mild pinkish-purple far, it is my favorite jar!

Now for the's an easy one, but the amounts in the recipe are way off!  Hopefully you're a good judge of what you need to fill your jars, luckily, I am.  After starting off with a batch using exactly what the recipe called for (1 pint Vinegar [I used White], 1 quart water, 1 cup Salt [I used Coarse Kosher Salt, it comes in a large box on the shelf above the normal salt]), I ended up with a quart and a pint jar left with no brine!  So, I quickly made another half of a brine batch.  Everything goes on the stove in a pot (use a big one), bring it to a simmer (a few bubbles forming) and pour in (use a funnel!), it's really that easy! 

As for the lids...take a pot big enough to simmer water in and fill it with your lids.  Then, add enough water to cover all your lids!  Set this on the back burner of your stove and let it come to a gentle boil (small bubbles here, not a rolling boil!), leave it steaming on low while you cut your cabbage, pack your jars, and pour the brine into the first jar.  A canning lid magnet is an awesome tool to have at this's a magnet on a long plastic handle made so you can fish your canning lids out of the near boiling water without getting hurt!  For the canning jars, proceed as you would normally do...put the flat cover on and then semi-tightly screw on the ring.  For the saved jars bought from the store with food stuffs in them in the center lid here, just screw the lids on tight, but not so tight you'll need a body builder to remove them later in life!

Now we play the "I hope they seal" game!  If you have ever canned anything in your life, you know this game...if you haven't, Welcome to Round One!  In this game, you patiently wait for the "pop" sound as the "norm", but since there's no boiling of the filled jars here...we won't be playing by the audio-rules.  As you fill and seal your jars, put them on a tray with at least some sort of lip (I used my big roasting has handles) after lining it with paper towels or newspaper (I went with paper towels, they were closer to me).  Now go empty out space in a closet somewhere!  (What, you did that before you started cooking?  Show off.)  Once you have the space you need for your tray, pop it in the closet, close the door and forget about it for a few days!  Now go check your "win" if all the centers are sucked down (like when you bought them with food in them last time)!  Don't worry if they didn't seal in this recipe though...I read a note somewhere that said to simply "eat those jars first"!  This recipe is all about the fermentation of the really won't "go bad" over the course of the few months they sit in the closet, but don't plan on giving those jars away or keeping them in your cupboard for years on end!  I checked on my jars last night and all six sealed!  So now, we wait....and wait....and wait...until December 28th (two months) before we can crack a jar open and see how successful this attempt really was.  Remember when eating your homemade 'Kraut to rinse it in a strainer under some cool tap water before cooking!  It's been sitting in a salt bath for 2 months!

I bought a bottle of White Vinegar in the pint size specifically to use in this recipe because I wanted to re-purpose the bottle when I was done.  Do you remember back when my Mother was here and we made all those chicken dishes?  One of the dishes we made was Chicken in Raspberry Cream sauce.  Well, we had a chance to try it out of the freezer a week or so ago and it's really good!  So, I wanted to have a batch of Raspberry Vinegar on hand for this recipe (which takes an entire batch of the Vinegar) as well as trying my hand at a Raspberry Vinaigrette with it.  This is another super simple recipe...White Vinegar, Splenda, and Raspberry DaVinci's (my own modifications here because the original recipe called for Raspberry cake flavoring which I don't have).  I made a double batch (next time I'll quadruple the batch and use a brand-new bottle of Vinegar), started by pouring vinegar from another bottle I had in the cupboard into the freshly emptied bottle (see where starting with a fresh bottle would be handy?), added my Splenda via funnel, and followed that with the Coffee Flavoring.  Shake to mix and store in the cupboard!

Let's see...what else is new?  I changed cell phones (again).  With the release of the Iphone 4s at Sprint, my other half upgraded his phone from the Android he had (the Samsung Google phone), leaving it sitting around the house looking lonely.  After a recent system "upgrade" on my HTC Arrive, I could no longer receive photos via text message!  No amount of research and trying all the different suggestions helped...I spent a week getting "Get Media Content Now" messages that would never download.  So, yesterday, we took both phones in and had them "flip-flop" the numbers (we currently have a fourth number that no one is using, but we can't do anything with it until the contract expires in a few months, it is cheaper to just keep it around at this point anyway).  The gal at the Sprint store couldn't get the phones working, so she sent us away telling us it could take up to 4 hours for the swap to go through, leaving me with two "bricks".  Five hours later...we went back to the Sprint store and another employee got the phones working, but somehow my Data stopped working (on my number)!  My other half turned around and took the phone back to the store where they finally got everything working on my line.  (Sounds a little reminiscent of last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas where I went through 5 phone replacements because each replacement had a new "something" wrong with it, huh?) 

So now, I have the Google phone up and running and am finding all sorts of things to do with it.  First, there's a Blogger app!  I need to figure out how to get that working (it needs a code or something I haven't figured out yet), but that means I can still blog when I'm not at home (like Christmas and again in January when we go to Vegas)!  My new favorite app though has got to be the Starbucks one.  Have I mentioned I really like the way their gift cards work?  You can reload them, add to them if you get a second, third, fourth, fifteenth card, whatever!  Not only that, but they have a reward program attached to the buy "x" number of coffees and they give you free coffee!  They also give you a  free cup of joe on your birthday (or rather within a few weeks of it)!  Yup, I said coffee!!!  But, back to the out your card number in your connects to your account...and then, whether you have your card with you or not, you have your card with you!  You push the button to "pay", it pops up with a bar code, you hand your phone to the cashier, and they scan the bar just paid for your coffee (or tea) with your cell phone!  I haven't tested this app yet...but I am so jazzed!  It also gives you your card balance at a need to find the website, log in, yada, yada, yada....or do what I usually do and say "I don't know how much is here, but let's start with this"!  I have enough left on my card for one cup of coffee (Sugar Free Vanilla Breve with a splash of Heavy Cream, if you want to get all technical about it) before I will be down to cents only and need to refill my card.  I found recently (several month ago) that I really like Starbucks over other coffee shops, even if their sugar free flavorings are boring and very few, first, they make all their whipped cream with heavy cream, so I can ask for it in my coffee.  Also, they have no problem with my ordering a Latte made with half and half (that makes it a Breve by the way)...if they aren't super busy, I ask for just a splash of the heavy cream...I find this is easiest and actually gets done if you go to one that does not have a busy drive-through.  The one at the Safeway near my house is awesome at following the request perfectly!  You also get to chat with the person making your coffee!  Last time I made a trip out of town I had a chat about keeping chickens inside city limits with my barista (whose boss is also low-carbing life and raised chickens, but did not live in the city)!  Because her boss (I believe it was a previous boss) low-carbed life, she understood the order and was fascinated that I had chickens as pets. 

The "bookshelf" app will come in handy in a few weeks when my sister has nephew #4, I have pre-loaded Sherlock Holmes and Grimm's fairy tales on it so that I have something other than movies the other three have seen hundreds of times to keep them occupied.  I'm hoping to wind down their evenings with a half hour (45 minutes) of reading to them rather than the standard half hour of watching a movie.  Here's hoping she puts off "popping" until her due date and then I won't have to really worry so much about bed times since the boys will be out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday!

Also over the weekend, I finally got lights hung up in the Chicken coop!  A little late though it seems...the girls have been on an "egg strike" for well over 3 weeks now.  AT first I was getting one or two eggs a day, which seemed about right since Henri decided she really wanted to be a Momma in November!  She went broody and spent about 4 days insisting on sitting on the fake egg in her nest box.  We finally broke her broodiness by pulling the fake eggs out of both nest boxes (she tried swapping nests one day).  With the fake eggs back in the boxes (no fake egg confused the hell out of the other two), we still aren't getting any eggs!  To make matters worse, we are now getting zero eggs each day.  So, the theory of the Christmas lights in the coop was put to the test.  Several years ago we were given two 18-foot strands of white rope lights, but we really have never had a good place to use them.  We do now!  I loosely strung one set up inside the coop, over the nest boxes, to simulate is no where near as bright, but it does wake the girls up a while before sunrise as was evident by the fact that they were up before we were this morning, even if it was still too dark in the run for them to leave the coop!  They paced back and forth at the door until sunrise, it was amusing to watch!  The second strand of lights, when I relocate them, will go out into the run to provide them with enough light to get to the feed and water...not enough water could also be an issue in the slowed egg production.

On my "to-do's" this week....cook up the two pie pumpkins I bought, fresh pumpkin just tastes better than the canned stuff!  That being said, I may try my hand at Pumpkin Butter again...low-carbed, of course!  Cooking up Pumpkins means I'll also have Pumpkin seeds to roast!  I really enjoyed the sweet batch I made several weeks ago...tossed in EVOO, Splenda, and Pumpkin Pie Spice...then roasted in the toaster oven (my new favorite kitchen appliance) at 350 for about an hour, they were so yummy I ate the whole batch the night I made them!  Good thing it was a batch for a tiny "decorative" pumpkin!  Find the rope lights that are "lost" in the garage somewhere!  Then, of course, get them hung in the run and attached to the light timer.  Which leads me to "fix the light timer" so that it turns the lights off a while earlier, but also turns back on a few hours before it is set to now.  Also for the chickens, we need to purchase a "Pail and Bird Bath De-Icer" unit, $34 at Aslin-Finch, but $40 if I order it online!  Guess where I'm going to get it from?  I also need to purchase a beefier chain for the water/nipple system...the plant chain I have it on now isn't strong enough to hold a full 5-gallons of water, but once I get the de-icer unit, I'll need to keep the bucket fuller as to not burn out the unit!  I also need to clean out the coop again.  It would seem that the older the girls get, the more "full of it" they are too!  We bought a big bag of "Western Orchard Grass" to put in the nest boxes to replace the Alfalfa Hay that is in there now, it's getting a bit "dirty" looking, so fresh boxed are in order!  I also need to get some plastic (in the form of an old shower liner) tacked up near the large air vent (big hole in the side of the coop) before the snow flies, according to the weatherman (Dave Law), we have a good chance of that "four-letter word" flying this week, yuck!  Winterizing of the coop needs to be done ASAP!

We bought the girls some Suet cakes while at Aslin-Finch yesterday too...they're on sale right now for $0.87 each, but check your dates!  It wasn't until I got home that I noticed it, but one of the cakes I bought expired over a year ago!  Rather than making another trip out, I just fed that one to the girls yesterday was a chilly day so I figured the cracked corn and beef fat were a good treat to help them stay warm.  The current "favorite treat" though is a simple dish of water...they go bonkers over a coffee can of straight water!  Clyde dips her entire head under the water!  I guess they really aren't as fond of the nipple system as I am, but since I'm working with the "cheapest possible way to keep them fed and watered", they won't be changing back to a watering dish this year!  The heated poultry watering fount is nearly $50!  I'll give them the warm water after I boil up a package of Spinach for them..."Chicken Tea"!  That way I can also sneak in some "good for them" Apple Cider Vinegar too.  Speaking of giving them treats...I think they have seen the last Cantaloupe from me!  The other day I gave them the rinds, with lots of flesh still on them, of two slices of the melon.  Last time I did this, they left the outer rind behind and I picked it up and tossed it away (behind the shed in our pseudo-compost heap)...this time around though, they ate the whole darned thing!  And then proceeded to have bright blue-green poos for two or threes days after the fact!  Other than the brightly colored poo piles everywhere, they are all behaving as normal, it was just a real shock to see it!

Up there a few paragraphs, I mentioned cleaning out the a general rule, we have one closet (a coat closet that is nowhere near a door) that we don't use for much.  I do however use it for boxes when I start collecting them around September for wrapping Christmas gifts in.  This means that at the moment, my "normally near empty" closet is packed to the brim!  Not only do I stash my boxes in there, but gifts I buy throughout the year (I love clearance sales!) also get stuffed in there!  As does the "junk" I don't want to deal with or am not sure where to put it just yet (this includes a table leaf to a big table that we are currently not using, the ironing board, and three, count 'em three, mirrors that need to find places to hang on the wall still!)  The ironing board actually goes in this closet, as does the iron if I could ever find a good spot for it to sit.  What also "lives" in this closet are my arts & crafts supplies specifically for when our nephews are around (once a year)...foam craft pieces, a weaving loom, glitter paint pens, construction paper, a drawing "kit" that has markers, crayons, and colored pencils in it as well as a set of water color paints, and a 4-pack of Play-Dough and set of small cookie cutters to go with the Play-Dough!  When there is room, the set of "small" Lego's also goes in here, but at the moment they are downstairs with the rest of the toys in the toy box.  I did say this is a mostly unused closet didn't I...I think I lied!  At any rate, I got my empty boxes "neatly" stacked on one side of the closet now with the fermenting "Kraut on the other side.  At some point in the near future, I need to condense all my craft supplies into a single box and get the whole thing moved into the closet in my "office", where my yarn and fabric crafts now reside (with the expectation of the office part being moved to the planned spot in the basement and this room actually becoming a "craft/guest room" full-time).  At the moment though, a large portion of that closet is occupied by crocheted and knitted gifts awaiting the proper gift-giving occasion (mostly Christmas).

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