Thursday, February 28, 2013

I'm going to raise chickens!

It started as planning for Easter baskets.  I was trying to think of what I could put in the kids' baskets.  I thought about how much fun a real bunny would be, but I can't keep it in the house with Abby and I don't want to keep it in a hutch outside.  I got ducklings one year and my mom got a chick...a chick!  I could get chicks and keep THEM outside....and then I started doing some research online and my hairbrained idea took flight (unlike the chickens I'm going to raise will be able to do!)
I know this is just a crazy idea, but I'm going to indulge for awhile.  I'm going to research, and price and try to think, realistically, is this something that I can and really WANT to do.  The start-up cost is kind of steep.  While the chicks are mostly only a few dollars each, the chicken coop is a few hundred.  I have my fenced yard, but that doesn't really protect the birds for hawks and other predators (those !#$%& skunks can get in so other predators might be able to also!).  It will allow us to let them out to roam a little though.  I also know that I want a moveable coop  because I want to birds to be able to have full access to the yard, or rather eat bugs from the whole yard.  That's one of the great things about keeping chickens--pest control.  Another reason I want to raise chickens is also the biggest reason I'm hesitant to raise chickens---poop.  Chicken manure is an AWESOME organic fertlizer for my garden!  It also smells really bad and it's poop-therefor gross.  There's also the obvious, eggs.  From what I read, homegrown eggs are WAY better to store bough, both in nutritional value and taste.  The one thing that I kept finding over and over again in my research (I really like the site was what great pets chickens make.  I hadn't really thought of them as pets, but chicken owner after chicken owner said how personalable and even cuddly some breeds can be.  There's a forum for posting your top 3 reasons for owning chickens and lots of people said they're so entertaining that they could watch them for hours.  While I don't really see myself absorbed in the antics of my pet chickens, if it gets the kids outside more, I'm all for that! 
I'm continuing to do some more research.  I need to figure out how productive I want my chickens to be, how ornamental I want them to be, their temperment so they'll be willing to interact with the kids,  and most importantly, how to house the to keep them safe. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Manga Manga!

Saturday Olivia will be 7 months old.  As much as I'd like to continue nursing her every three hours, snuggling up with her in my bed while I read my Kindle, I need to start giving her some real food.  She's getting some teeth, and losing her toothless baby grin, and growing up.  So I reluctantly got a few jars of baby food.  With the last two I made all of their baby food, but I knew that she wsa going to  be trying such a small amount of each food at first that I didn't want to make a lot and freeze it for fear it would go bad before she could get around to eating it.  We've tried carrots, sweet potatoes, squash and pears so far (oatmeal and brown rice cereal as well).  Not a one had been a hit.  I think I know why.  It tastes like canned food.  The butternut squash, which is so sweet when roasted in my oven, had a bitter aftertaste as did the carrots.  This is NOT what I want to teach her that food is like.  So even though it's going to be small portions, I'm going to make her babyfood.  Or I was until I read an article on Baby Led Weaning.  What's BLW you ask?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

No 'Poo: Too Green Even for Me!

I was reading my Kiwi Magazine last night (ahh, a chance to sit down and relax!) and came across an article about an increasingly popular movement called No 'Poo.  It's not what it sounds like.  By "poo" they're talking about shampoo.  It's a movement in which you stop washing your hair. I tried something similar a few Christmases ago.  My brother-in-law didn't believe me when I said my hair would look disgusting if I washed it every other day.  Because I see him about every day for a week during the Christmas season because of all of our family gatherings, I was able to to a day without washing and show it.  I pulled out the ponytail holder, showed him my hair and was immediatly asked to put it back up in the pony tail.  He agreed.  My hair was disgusting when I skip a day of shampooing.  So the idea that people have totally given up shampooing their hair altogether was intriguing. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Apple Recycling

Ugg.  I haven't blogged in a few days mostly because it's been a little crazy here.  This past weekend we had 4 birthday parties to go to.  My birthday was last week, Ellie's was the week before, Caden's is coming up in a few weeks....I've been a little overwhelmed.  So to REALLY put me over the edge, Caden was messing with the computer Saturday.  I'm not sure what he was doing, playing minecraft, or something.  I did hear him say he was waiting for the computer to reset, which I took to mean reboot, but I didn't really think anything of it.  But he meant reset.  He reset the computer to factory settings.  Wiped the whole thing clean.  All my word documents (resumes, address labels, Thirty-One documents, templates I've created) gone.  All my pictures...gone.  Microsoft Office-gone.  Everything on iTunes-gone.  I lost it.  I screamed. I sobbed.  I kicked myself for uploading the last two months of pictures, deleting them from the camera and then not uploading them to Shutterfly.  I have one picture of Ellie's 6th birthday (the one I posted on here.)  I have nothing from Olivia's 5th and 6th month.  I have a call into a computer guy to see if he'll be able to recover any of the pictures (that's my main concern), but I'm not super hopeful.  The Geek Squad already told us there was nothing THEY could do. 

The good part is that this comes right when our tax refund does.  Our computer isn't really running all that well, the  memory (was) almost full.  It looks like it might be a good time to shop for something new.  Evan has been thinking about getting a Mac for awhile.  So we checked out the website to look at some options.  I'm not real knowledgeable about TB and how much memory we need, I leave that up to Evan.  What attracted my attention was the word "recycle" on their website. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Girl Power!

I've been obsessively reading a few of Lisa See's books, Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy.  Both are VERY good books about China, starting in 1936 and going through the communist 60s.  (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is also SUPER good--foot binding, arranged marriages, womens' chamber.  I also read Peony in Love, not my favorite but also a good look into women in Chinese culture after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.)  

I'm currently rereading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  I liked it the first time I read it, the summer after my freshman year in college, but now I find it surprisingly trivial.  These women!  What they think is important, how they spend their time, choose their husbands--it's almost as foreign to me as what I read about in Lisa See's books. 
It made me realize how lucky I was to be born in the US in the 70s.  My mom was THRILLED I was a girl.  I got to pick who I married.  I'm allowed to choose any profession that interests me (OK WNBA might be out of the question).  I'm allowed to go where I please.  Mostly I'm glad that my feet were never bound.
Today, I'm not expected to obey my husband.  I'm not judged by how well I embroider.  My skills on the piano-forte don't determine my marriageability.  Today, as a women in the US, I have a lot of power.  I've mentioned this before, but I don't think I've ever put given the stats
Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases including everything from autos to health care:
  • 91% of New Homes
  • 66% PCs
  • 92% Vacations
  • 80% Healthcare
  • 65% New Cars
  • 89% Bank Accounts
  • 93% Food
  • 93 % OTC PharmaceuticalsAmerican women spend about $5 trillion annually…
    Over half the U.S. GDP

  • Also interesting:
    Women process information and make purchasing decisions differently than men:

  • 59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers;
  • 66% feel misunderstood by health care marketers;
  • 74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers;
  • 84% feel misunderstood by investment marketers
  • 91% of women in one survey said that advertisers don’t understand them
  • Nearly 50% of women say they want more green choices
  • 37% are more likely to pay attention to brands that are committed to environmental causes.
  • 25% of all products in a woman’s shopping cart nowadays are environmentally friendly.When women are aware you support women owned businesses
  • Women make more than 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions
  • 57% of women gardened within the last year

  • When I feel like there's not much I can do to help the causes that I'm passionate about.  I read these stats and realize, I can.  I can vote with my dollars. 

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Recipe Friday: Eat your Veggies!

    Last weekend we celebrated Ellie's birthday with family.   My stepmom brought a veggie tray  to the party and when it was over, almost everything was gone.  Except the cauliflower.  It's not the favorite in my house.  (I found out later Ellie wasn't eating it because she didn't think she was allowed to dip it in the veggie did because there wasn't a picture of cauliflower on the tub.) So I had a lot of leftover cauliflower. 

    I've been trying REALLY hard to decrease our grocery bill.  I've read a few articles online giving tips to help stretch your grocery budget and the best advice I've found is "Don't Throw Out Food."  This may seem obvious, but really, I was throwing out a lot of food.  I may need celery for a recipe, but then it just sits in the fridge until it goes all wilty and gross. Now I make a point to send ants-on-a-log (NOT the recipe of the day!) with the kids for lunch.  Or parsley.  I needed 2 TBPS for a recipe, but then the rest sat in the bag and got slimey.  Now I mince it all, use what I need and freeze the rest to use in soups or other recipes that call for parsley that's going to be cooked.

    So these two problems collide--lots of cauliflower--don't throw out food.  I need to find something do do with the cauliflower.  Of course you can always steam it and dump a whole bunch of Velveeta on it, but I'm trying to do a more whole food approach.  I decided to roast it.  I could have gone the other route and steamed it, pureed it and added salt pepper and a little butter, but that seemed like too much work for a weekday afternoon.

    Roasted Cauliflower

    Olive oil
    leftover cauliflower florets

    Preheat oven to 425.  Spread florets on a baking sheet lined with foil and spray lightly with olive oil.  Sprinkle with seasoning (I used Penzey's Turkish Seasoning, but anything will work.)  Roast for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender, tossing occasionally.  Throw some shredded cheese on there if you really want to.  Relish in the fact that you just ate a serving of veggies, and didn't waste a bit of that veggie tray!

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    I'm not usually really big on Valentine's Day.  It's too close to the biggest event of the year to get psyched up about.  I just finished celebrating Ellie's birthday, I've started planning Caden's birthday and as I said, the Big Day is only 4 days away.  (You know the one.  The schools are closed.  Banks and government offices shut down.  You don't get mail.  EVERYONE is celebrating February 18th--my birthday!)   For some reason, this year I feel a little more in the Valentine Spirit.  It might have to do with the fact that I had to plan a Valentine's Day party for Ellie's kindergarten class, but I decided to buy a Valentine for my husband and small boxes of candy for my kids with teeth.  I dressed every in red, got up early and made pink pancakes (with pink food coloring, not the good ones that I make with beets) and for dinner I'm making a special meal with each family member's favorite food.  Evan get's the main course (grilled chicken marinated in Italian dressing) Caden chose the vegetable (carrot sticks)  Ellie gets her favorite rolls (crescents) and Vince told me he wanted to eat the TV when I asked him what he wanted, so I chose baked sweet potatoes.  Just doing those few little things really has made the day more of a holiday.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    The Caden Diet

    As I've said before, Caden is now on Vyvanse for his ADHD.  One of the side effects is decreased appetite.  I noticed a little more left on his plate at dinner, he seemed to be bringing more home in his lunch box and breakfast was a little harder to get him to eat some days, but overall, I thought we were doing OK.  Last Friday I took the kids to the doctor.  Ellie had her 6 year check-up, Olivia had her 6 month check-up, Caden had his 1 month on meds check and Vince got to be stuck in a small room for with 4 other people (which, if I remember my high school French correctly, was Sartre's description of Hell in Huis Clos).  At weigh-in Caden was down 4 lbs.  He had lost 4 lbs in a month.  At the office I didn't think much of it.  4 lbs isn't much.  I've gained and lost that in a week before. But I'm not 7 1/2.  I didn't start at 62 lbs.   The doctor told me to just keep an eye on him to make sure he's not losing any more.  The more I think about it, the more worried I become. 

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Happy Birthday Ellie!

    Six years ago Ellie woke me up with sharp pains. Two hours later she was born.  This morning  Ellie woke me up watching My Little Ponies on the iPod, in my bed, with the volume turned all the way up.  Two hours later she was sitting in Kindergarten.
    Ella Katherine 9lbs 21 inches

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Big Success!

    I feel like I whine a lot on here.  I complain about how I should be doing something that I'm not, point out how the conventional way is bad and the road less traveled is better.  I think it can be kind of negative.  But not today!  Today it's all positive!

    A few weeks ago I blogged about what I called The Christine Project.  It's my one-woman movement to decrease my family's electricity consumption by not using my clothes dryer as much.  (Named after a friend of mine who line dries most of her clothes.) I decided to try it for one month and see how it went.  Well, ladies and gentlemen (most likely, gentleman--I'm pretty sure my male reader ship is low) that month is up and the results are in!

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Meat:My Nemesis

    I hate meat.  I hate touching raw meat, I had cooking meat, I don't eat meat and now, I hate buying it.  As I said before, I'm trying to slash or grocery bill so I've been really looking at prices carefully.  I was buying organic, grass-fed ground beef at the Raisin Rack.  It was Organic Prairie, so not locally raised, but still better, I think, than conventional meat.  Two weeks ago I was REALLY being cheap so I just bought regular beef from Walmart.  One pound of ground beef.  It was a little under $4.  When I bought ground beef this week at the Raisin Rack, again, organic, still only a pound, it was $10.  This is just too big of a price difference for me to just write off as organic being, "a little more."  So I decided to look into it.  The teacher in me wants to make a KWL chart, but the mom in me is trying to get this blog published before Olivia wakes up because she does NOT want to be out of my arms today so you're going to get the abridged version.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Magel's Freezer Meals:Food Swap

    A few days ago my friend Magel (it's her last name.  There are a lot of us Melissas out there and we need a way to determine exactly which one you're talking about.  Jennifers understand.) asked me to do a blog post on freezer meals.  It sounded odd.  You make an extra lasagna and put it in the freezer.  Voila!  Blog post on freezer meals!  However, when I asked her more about it, there's more involved.  I guess people get together and swap meals to keep in the freezer.  Being that she's in her second trimester with her second child, I can see that the idea of stockpiling homemade food would be appealing to her.  But since I'd never heard of it and I wasn't really sure where to find out more about it, I just kind of filed it away in my brain.

    Yesterday I got my order email from Breezy Hill Farm.  They're still growing fresh, local greens if you're interested in ordering from their online store.  I've blogged about them before and I'm always interested to hear what's going on on their farm, even if I'm not currently ordering from them.  This week, I clicked on the link to order, which I haven't done in awhile, and I was looking at their other venues.  I saw that they were going to be at the Haymaker Winter Farmers' Market in Kent!  I had totally forgotten about this winter market that I wanted to get to last year, but never made it!  Of course this Saturday is Ellie's birthday party, so I can't go, but I do really want to get there.  So I clicked on the link to check out the venders and the dates and times.  What's the first thing I see when I get to the site?!?  "Winter Market and Food Swap" Food Swap?  This sounds familiar! It turns out, Magel ISN'T crazy!  While not all of them are freezer meals, there is a whole food swap movement.  They even have a website.  So if you're thinking, "What the Heck is a Food Swap?"  They you're in luck.  Here's the lowdown from the Haymaker Market:

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Recipe Friday: Penne A La Broccoli

    I just finished reading a how-to book on organic vegetable gardening.  I'm so excited to get my garden going again this spring!  I thought I should give you a garden-fresh recipe for today in honor of my gardening mood.  This recipe is from Dr Weil's website a LONG time ago!  I made this all the time when Evan and I lived in the apartment.  It's really fast and easy and not all that creative, but it tastes so good!  The real tip I want to give you here is about peeling the broccoli stems.  I know most people only eat the crowns, but the stems are actually REALLY tender and good, IF you peel them.  Just cut off all your florets then take a vegetable peeler and peel the hard, woody stuff off the stalk.  What you will have left is a tender, bright green stalk.  Just slice them and cook them with the florets.  We call them broccoli butts in our house. Can you tell we have little boys?  The recipe includes the pasta, but we make just the broccoli as a side dish too.  We don't add the pepper flakes for the kids.