Thursday, November 23, 2017

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  This stuffing is my favorite part of Thanksgiving.  Well, aside from spending time with family, watching football, and watching the fam play ultimate Frisbee during halftime.  I got the recipe from my mother in law, but I've tweaked it a little to make it slightly healthier and less likely to cause food poisoning.  This year I'm doubling the recipe, since everybody seems to like this (and our turkey is huge).

Bluefield Sausage Stuffing
(click here to print)
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces (we like to let it stale a bit so it can soak up all those yummy juices, so we tear it the night before and let it sit overnight)
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground black pepper
  • 1 t. poultry seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb. pork breakfast sausage, cooked, crumbled, and cooled
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 c. milk
Instructions
  1. Mix together first seven ingredients.
  2. Combine butter and milk, and heat until butter is melted and the milk is warm (we use the microwave, but you could do this on the stove)
  3. Gradually add the milk mixture to the bread mixture and mix until combined.
  4. Stuff mixture into your turkey and cook turkey according to instructions.
  5. Extra stuffing that doesn't fit in the bird can be placed in a covered casserole dish in a 325-350° oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Menu plan for the week of {Thanksgiving} November 20

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., friends.  Thanksgiving is the holiday where we give thanks by making a huge meal and eating until we can't eat anymore.  Seems like it might be more effective to eat less and give away more.  Thanksgiving is, of course, AKD's favorite holiday, because of the food.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends what their favorite vegetable Thanksgiving side-dish was.  In response, I got a redskin potato dish and a "spinach and cheese casserole" that looked suspiciously like quiche.  And stuffing, because there are veggies in that, right?

A couple of days ago, I asked the same people what their favorite Thanksgiving side dish was, and I got all kinds of answers, including corn casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberries, green bean casserole, rolls, wine, and German potato salad, served warm.  The overwhelming response, given by almost everyone who answered, was stuffing.  Stuffing is my favorite, too.  In fact, I would be perfectly happy, thankful, even, to just have stuffing for my Thanksgiving meal.  After all, there are veggies in that.

This week's menu was easy to plan, since I've been working on it for weeks.  As I've mentioned, we'll have guests this week. so I've tried to plan meals that are easy to get on the table, and I've done a lot of prep work ahead of time.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:


Breakfast:



Lunch:



Monday, November 13, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 13

This week, I'm continuing to prepare for guests.  Luckily, the children have an aversion to getting anything out of or putting anything into the freezer in the basement, so I can hide the things that I'm making ahead down there.  Like cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmm.  Also luckily, there's an almost-twenty-two pound turkey in the downstairs freezer, which means once I take it out to thaw, I'll have plenty of room for cinnamon rolls.  And, you know.  Other things.  But, cinnamon rolls.  Mmmmm.

Here's what's on the menu this week.

Supper:

Other:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Six Month Chicken Update

You read that right, friends.  Today is the girls' half-birthday, and tomorrow they will have been with us for six months.  Wowza, y'all.  Some days I feel like they've always been with us, and others, it seems like the blink of an eye.

The girls are doing well with the cold so far, although I can tell you they really don't like snow all that much.  The waterer is not doing as well with the cold--the nipples freeze whenever temps drop below freezing.  This is disappointing, since when I was researching watering options, I read that horizontal nipples are less likely to freeze than vertical nipples.  Hopefully a water heater will solve the problem (as soon as we get electricity out to the coop), but in the meantime, I'm swapping out waterers each morning.

Toasty continues to lay about an egg a day.  I can't really remember when she last skipped a day.  Her eggs are getting bigger, too.  They're just a skosh smaller than the typical large eggs from the grocery store.  Toasty is the most verbal of the girls--she's always squawking about something.  Toasty Crunch is Bubby's favorite chicken to pick up.

 Rocky's egg production has slowed to about one every other day.  The other day we were out in the yard when all of a sudden Rocky took off toward the coop.  Looked like she was on a mission.  Turns out she was--when I got over there, she was ensconced in the nest box, awaiting the arrival of an egg.

 Still no eggs from Esther.  I have theories, but no conclusive, evidence-based reasons for the continued drought .  That's all right.  We will continue waiting, with varying degrees of patience.  Esther is the smallest of the girls and really likes to be up high--the other day, she flew up on to the outside roof of the nest box.  She also seems like the most nervous of the girls.  If the rest of us happen to wander away from her, when she notices, she flies and runs over to join us.

Speaking of wandering, I like to take the girls on walks around the perimeter of the yard.  Bubby says we need to get leashes (yes, there actually is such a thing) so we can walk them, but I've found leashes are not necessary.  They follow me.  I am amazed and amused by this behavior.  The girls dictate the schedule, but I'm definitely in charge of the route.

I never get tired of looking at those fluffy chicken butts.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Progress on goals: Homemade reusable cleaning wipes

Hi everyone.  You've grown so used to me reporting on my Trader Joe's goal that you probably forgot I had other goals for 2017.  Yup, I did/do.  My first 2017 goal was to make reusable cleaning wipes.  Well, I'm pleased to report that I succeeded, and I'm ready to share my recipe? method? how I did it.

They're not pretty, but they work!
My first order of business was to figure out what I wanted to use for the wipe itself.  I considered using cut up t-shirts or towels, and you may remember that I actually "bought" (they were free, but "bought" is still the best verb I can conjure right at this moment) some washcloths to use.

I did use the washcloths for the first couple of attempts, but they were too big and fluffy (I could barely fit the six of them in my container), and actually didn't work very well for what I wanted to do with them. 

So then I grabbed some microfiber washcloths from The Dollar Tree, and I've been very happy with both the number I can fit in my container and the way they clean.

The next order of business was to find a cleaning solution that I liked.  I tried 4 or 5 different recipes, but settled on this simple but effective combination:

Combine 1 cup water, 1/2 c. rubbing alcohol, and 1/2-1 T dawn dish washing liquid.

That's it.  Mix it up and throw your cloths in there.  You can scale up or down based on how many cloths you have (I have 8).

Now I will say that this mixture can get quite sudsy during use, so if I'm cleaning something shiny, I add the extra step of buffing/drying it off, but for the most part, I just let the things I clean dry on their own.  I will also warn you that rubbing alcohol can have a drying effect on skin. so you might want to wear gloves (which you might be doing anyway) when you use these, or just make sure to moisturize.

I mostly clean bathrooms with these wipes, but they work really well for general cleaning, too (pro tip: to avoid cross-contamination, use one color of cloths for the bathroom, another color for the kitchen, and a third for general cleaning (here's a set of 24 microfiber cloths: eight in each of three colors)).

How are you doing on your 2017 goals?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Menu plan for the week of November 6

Welcome back to standard time!  Yesterday, I managed to remain sleeping until 5 a.m., and didn't see any children until 6:11 a.m.  Well, actually, I didn't see him then; I heard him.  I remember the first time we made the switch back to standard time after AKD was born.  I got together with some women from my Baby and Me exercise class a few days later, and one of them asked if daylight savings had messed up our babies.  Nope, not really.  He woke up at the same time, it was just that we were calling it something different.

This week, I'm continuing to prepare for our guests, who will be arriving in a couple of weeks.  I'll be making a couple of varieties of muffins to stick in the freezer for quick and easy fend-for-yourself breakfasts, and I might get the sausage, that I planned to prep last week, cooked.  The warehouse store was completely out of stock when I was there last week.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I washed the windows: a cleaning hack

I washed the windows last week.

I need to tell you this for a few reasons.

First, I need to tell you because I don't think you would notice if I didn't tell you.  You know, considering y'all aren't here in my house and all.

Second, I need to tell you because it's a rare occurrence.  It's a lot of work to wash windows.  And it's frustrating because they always end up streaky.  Urgh.  It's true that something is better than nothing, but as a perfectionist*, I'd rather not do it at all if it's not going to be perfect.  This is also why I don't like sweeping, by the way.  I can never do it perfectly.  There's also the matter of TPAD, which makes me think that cleaning the windows is going to take a really long time.

And finally, I need to tell you because my windows are so sparkly.  No streaking!  I just keep staring at them, mesmerized by their clarity.  And I need to tell you how that happened.

So for the outside of the windows, I use the Windex All-In-One Window Cleaning Tool.  I bought it years ago on clearance, and this summer I found the refill pads on clearance, too.  I bought four, which at my current rate of window cleaning is about a 15 year supply.  I'm happy with how it works, and I'm ecstatic that I don't have to make a difficult job even difficult-er by having to haul out the ladder and carry it around with me.

On the inside of the windows I used a recipe I found online.  Unfortunately, I did not write down quantities, nor do I remember where I stumbled upon this window cleaning recipe, so y'all are going to have to wing it, like I did.

I wrote down:

windows


wipe; buff dry

Yeah.  Good luck, friends!

OK, if you insist on more specific quantities and instructions, I'd say I used about one tablespoon of concentrated dish soap, about one cup white vinegar, and about two quarts of water in a bucket.  I soaped up the windows using a microfiber cloth, and then I dried the windows using a dry microfiber cloth.  Yes, it smelled like vinegar while I was washing, but the smell dissipated quickly.  I'll link to some microfiber cloths here, but I bought mine from The Dollar Tree.

I'm genuinely surprised by how well this worked.  Yippee for clean windows!  Let me know if you try it.

*******

* It's true.  I'm a perfectionist, and it can be paralyzing.  I bet you didn't know that about me.  I'm much more of a don't bother if you can't do it perfectly perfectionist, though, as opposed to a get all things perfect at all costs perfectionist, so that's probably why you didn't realize.  Now that I know this about myself, I'm learning to be OK with something, even if it's imperfect, being better than nothing.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Whatever We Are by Leigh Fleming: A Review

I was thrilled to receive a pre-release copy of Leigh Fleming's new book: Whatever We Are: A Highland Springs Romance.


Liza Fisk is cursed. The holidays often mean disaster for her, including a car accident ten years ago that put her in a coma. She’s learned to forsake the holiday spirit due to continued calamity…but her luck is about to change. The Highland Springs city council is accepting secret bids on the abandoned “castle” her great-grandfather built and Liza is finally going to realize her dream of opening an art gallery. Until her arch nemesis rolls back into town with plans to ruin her Christmas. Again.


This time, Liza is taking preemptive measures and, in a moment of insanity, announces that she and her brother’s best friend, Tucker, are playing the town’s Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Brewery-owner Tucker Callum knows he’s going to win the castle with his proposal for a proper English pub. He’s so sure, in fact, that he’s already sold his house and moved into a camper behind the brewery. But his buddy Liza is afraid he’ll freeze to death in the West Virginia winter and insists he move into her spare bedroom. She’s made it crystal clear in the past that they could never be more than friends, but now that Tucker’s living in her house and playing the role of her holiday husband, he’s secretly hoping their ruse will turn to reality.


Liza slowly opens her heart to Tucker and the holiday spirit…until she learns that he is bidding against her for the castle and deliberately keeping it a secret. Will Liza be able to trust Tucker in the end or will the Christmas curse strike again?


*******
It's Christmas time in Highland Springs, West Virginia, and love is in the air...maybe.  

Once again, Mrs. Fleming has taken peripheral characters from a previous book, and told their story.  This is the third installment in Leigh's Whatever series, but the story definitely stands on its own. You've read the description, so I won't repeat it, but I loved this book.  



The story is well told and engrossing.  The setting is vividly described. The characters are real and relatable--I love that Mrs. Fleming's protagonists are likable, but flawed.  It's a quick, easy, hard-to-put-down, uplifting read, perfect to read on vacation, or when you *need* a quick vacation from reality.  

For a limited time, the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99.


Also check out the first and second books in this series, Whatever You Call Me, and Whatever You Say (read my review).



Menu plan for the week of October 30

This week, we're having an eat-the-random-things-in-the-freezer week.  Not because we necessarily need the space, but the other day I found some things I had forgotten about, and I will surely forget about them again if I don't get them on the menu.

This week, I'm also doing some prep work ahead of time for when we have guests near the end of next month.  I'll be cooking some chicken and browning sausage and ground beef, and then storing it in the freezer, to make putting casseroles and soups together fast and easy.  I am so on board for fast and easy.  So I guess we do need room in our freezer.

Anyway, here's what's on the menu for this week.

Supper:
  • Beef & potato casserole (aka the stuff with the soy sauce--similar to this), green beans, applesauce
  • Pulled pork (from the freezer), tator tots and oven fries, broccoli/cauliflower/carrots
  • Wildtree bruschetta chicken pasta, garlic toast
  • Brats or hot dogs, buns, chips, mandarin oranges, cooked carrots
  • Pizza, salad
  • Chicken burgers, buns, grilled asparagus
  • Nachos, guacamole
  • Hot beef sandwiches, green beans, applesauce

Other:


Friday, October 27, 2017

I {don't really} hate shopping

As I was driving home from a mystery shopping assignment last Friday, the irony struck me, for the first time.  I really dislike shopping.  One might even go so far as to say I hate shopping.  I have never understood recreational shopping.  And yet, here I am, shopping professionally.  When I thought about it further, though, I realized that it is rare for me to actually go to a store for a mystery shop.  My very favorite mystery shop does not involve actual shopping, and the mystery shop I do most often is online, with no actual shopping, so I don't have to go anywhere or even get dressed.

Maybe it's not so strange, after all.

On Monday I had a whole lot of errands to run.  I listed them, and counted ten different stops that I needed to make, eight of which were at stores.  You know, stores, where shopping occurs.  Ugh.

First of all, I stay home on Mondays, so that was one whole big heap of wrong right there.  But ten stops!  In one day!  For a shopping-hater.

Why?
(say it again, with feeling)

And that's when I realized that it's not shopping that I hate, not really.  It's spending money that I'm averse to.  That's why the eight shopping stops.  I probably could have taken care of everything on my list with one stop; for sure two stops would have sufficed.  But I had a free gift card for this store, and that store had an awesome rebate on batteries, and the other store has Cartwheel, and I had to return the thing that I bought at that other store because it had the best price.  And everything's a dollar (Even though most of it's crap)!  And while those stores have food, they don't really have groceries.

I hate spending more money than I have to, which is why, all these years, I've thought that I hate shopping.  Huh.  And because I hate spending more money than I have to, I go to a lot of different stores to make lots of little purchases.

While it's always gratifying to learn something about oneself, I'm not sure what to do with this one.  It's kind of a problem for the household's procurement officer to not want to spend money.

I still don't understand recreational shopping.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The 24 week chicken update

Yes, Toasty Crunch and Rocky are still laying about a dozen eggs a week collectively.
No, Esther isn't laying yet (although Bubby thinks she might have done a halfhearted submissive squat the other day).
Yes, I am still buying eggs at the grocery store (but it's definitely fewer than before).

In other news, I thought that the shredded paper bedding wasn't working for the deep litter method, so I cleaned it out and put pine shavings in the hen house. 

I guess what this means is that easy wins out over inexpensive.  Good to know. 

But while I was cleaning out the paper, I realized it had composted more than I had thought.  I still think cross-cut shredded paper would work better, but perhaps my strips are adequate.  The strips of paper are just so fluffy, which in a chicken is a desirable trait, but in chicken bedding, not so much--the fluffy makes it difficult to cover and turn.  In any case, I'm committed to using pine shavings for the next 5.7 cubic feet, at least.  Maybe I'll switch back, or maybe not.

And now for the pictures!

Whatchu lookin' at?
Rocky, preparing to lay.  It was surprising to me how long the girls hang out in the nest box before the egg arrives.  I kind of thought they went in, laid an egg, and came out.  Nope.  We're not sure of the exact timing, but we do know it's at least an hour.

Esther, in the morning sun

Toasty, heading into the hen house
You done yet?!
Chickens like to lay their eggs all in the same nest box, so there is sometimes competition for the favorite.

Lately, Esther's been perching on my boot or arm.  It warms my heart.
Flying down.
I'm trying to get a video of Esther flying for y'all.  It's pretty impressive.
That's all for this week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Being a grown-up stinks

Being a grown-up kinda stinks sometimes.  After a rough night of little sleep, I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning.  Unfortunately, as the grown-up, it's up to me to get the little person up and out the door in the morning.  And yes, I could get him up, ready, and out, and then go back to bed, but another part of being a grown-up that stinks is it doesn't work to go back to bed.  Humph.

It's on days like this that I wish I liked coffee.  It's sunny, but cold and blustery today, and this morning, when I needed to get out of bed, it was dark, cold, and windy.  What a lovely thing it would be to wrap hands around a hot cup of coffee, and breathe in warm coffee-steam to ease the transition from my warm bed to the cold, cruel world.

Speaking of coffee, I kind of want a coffee station.
From {in pursuit}
So cozy.
Yeah, I know, it is really strange for someone who doesn't like coffee, and someone who doesn't like having stuff on her kitchen counters, to want to have a coffee station (and a single-cup brewer), but you guys!  That would just be so homey and cozy, and what a lovely thing for guests to be able to fix themselves a cup to ease their transition into the day.

Well, I made it out of bed, without benefit of coffee or coffee station, and I am pleased to report that I am still out of bed.  Yay, me.  I'm still not too happy about the adult part, but I guess we can't have everything.

I will tell you, I was really happy that my past-self, my last-night-self, was kind to her future-self and washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen before she went to bed.  The clean kitchen made a rough morning a little more palatable.  Thank you, past-self.  I appreciate you.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 23

I washed the dishes yesterday.  I usually wash the dishes that don't fit or shouldn't go in the dishwasher every day, but I skipped Friday, and then I skipped Saturday, and on Sunday morning, we had an impressive example of dishes math.  They multiply, y'all.  If it takes five minutes to wash one days' worth of dirty dishes, it takes 20 minutes to wash two days' worth.  I don't know how that's even possible, but that's how it is.

AKD walked over while I was draining the sink for the first time.  That's right, my friends: there were so many dirty dishes that one sink full of soapy water wasn't going to cut it.  Oh, you're done, he said.  Nope, I informed him, it was only half-time.  He asked me if I was winning.  I told him I wasn't sure.

I am happy to report that I conquered the dishes...this time.  Rematch scheduled for tonight.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:
  • Ice cream cake (something like this)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Progress on 2017 Goals: August & September TJs purchases

As y'all know, one of my 2017 goals is to try something new from Trader Joe's each month this year.  Click here to read all of my TJs posts.

Knowing that the summer was going to be crazy and compressed, when I was at TJs in June, buying my chocolate (mmmm...chocolate), I picked up what I thought would be my July and August purchases: fire roasted vegetables with balsamic butter sauce, and zucchini fries.  I figured I might not get over to TJs during the summer, but with school starting up halfway through August, I'd have plenty of time to get there in September.

I ended up actually trying the veggies in August and the fries in September, and I was going to lie to you and tell you it was July and August, and then buy something else for September, but eh.  I did warn y'all that I might take the summer off.  So...it's all good.

I didn't like either of them.  I really wanted to, but...I didn't.  The veggies were a bit spongy and the balsamic overpowered.  The fries were soggy and I didn't like the flavor of the breading.  Hubby liked the zucchini fries, but otherwise these two were duds.

Only a few more months!  Any suggestions for me?


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Taco Bean Soup {Updated}

Hi everybody.

I'm making taco bean soup today, so I thought I'd finally update y'all on how I make it now.

It all started years ago, when a dear friend gave me her recipe for taco bean soup.  We were in a Bible study together, and the group decided to share our favorite soup recipes.  At the time, Minestrone was my favorite, but I didn't make it often because it's a lot of work.  Taco bean soup quickly became my new favorite soup, and continues to be my favorite because it is so tasty and, most importantly, easy.

Through the years I've made modifications, so I thought I'd share the recipe as it stands now.  I make this just about every week and freeze it in individual portions.  I heat it up for lunch or supper or even sometimes, breakfast, if I don't feel like putting any effort into breakfast that day.

Taco Bean Soup
(click here to print this recipe)


Ingredients (serves 14)
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (or ground turkey or shredded, cooked chicken)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
  • 1 10-15 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel or similar)
  • 1 quart home-canned pinto beans (or two 15 oz cans)
  • 1 quart home-canned black beans (or two 15 oz cans)
  • 2 15 oz cans no-salt diced petite tomatoes (or one quart home-canned)
  • 1 15 oz can yellow hominy (or white if you can't find yellow)
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz package (about 2 cups) frozen corn
  • 2 T homemade taco seasoning mix (or 1 packet taco seasoning mix)
  • 3 T homemade ranch seasoning mix (or 1 packet ranch seasoning mix)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1/2 t celery seeds
  • 1/2 t. truvia
Instructions

  1. Brown meat and add onion.
  2. Add remaining ingredients (do not drain vegetables--just open and dump).
  3. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (I set my kitchen timer for 10 minute intervals so I don't forget).
Optional: serve this soup with crushed tortilla chips (or you can make some baked tortilla strips) and shredded cheddar cheese. So yummy!

Note: be sure to adjust the salt level based on your ingredients. I use no salt added beans and tomatoes, and my homemade seasoning mixes have less salt than their comercial counterparts.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Mountain Between Us

I borrowed this book from the library:


Because I saw this movie trailer:



And I knew I had to watch the movie, but I wanted to read the book first.

I should have known better.

Hubby was out of town, and I stay up too late when he's gone anyway, but I stayed up until 2 in the morning reading the book, until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  Then I woke up the next morning and finished reading before I got out of bed.  I spent the whole next day feeling groggy and out of sorts, but it was worth it.

I had to keep reading, because I knew the secret.  I just knew it, and I had to keep reading to find out if I was right (I was).  That is absolutely the best kind of book.

It's an amazing story of strength and courage, from where one would expect in a story of this sort, but also from a surprising direction that took my breath away.  I devoured the book.  I am so glad I read it: that I felt the things I felt and thought the things I thought.  I'll carry it with me.

But now, I don't know if I can see the movie.  Because there is no way to do justice to this story in a movie, and I don't think I can bear to watch a movie that doesn't. 

So read this book.  Or watch the movie.  But probably not both.

P.S. I probably will watch the movie, number 1 because I think Hubby will want to watch it, and number 2, for the same reason I had to keep reading--I need to know if I'm right.  And if I'm not right, if the movie is amazing and gives all the feels and all the chills, I can't bear to miss that, either.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 16

Hey y'all.  MC is done(ish.  He had his last game and last practice, but for some reason they need to have equipment hand-in a week and a half after the last practice.  I feel like that could have been easily accomplished the day after or even the day of the last practice), Bubby has one more week of football, and AKD has two of biking.  It's been a long couple of super-busy months, and I am so looking forward to menu planning being difficult only because I don't know what to serve, instead of it being difficult because I don't know what to serve and I don't have time to prepare it and we have to eat in shifts.  I can almost taste it y'all (and yes, I punned on purpose).

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

No other this week, not because I won't make anything else, but because I used up all of my menu planning energy on supper...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chickens: 22 weeks


I don't have much to report on the chickens, but I know y'all wait anxiously for these updates, so... here ya go.
Esther
Rocky and Toasty Crunch continue to lay approximately one egg each per day.  Approximately, because every so often, they don't.  Esther is not laying yet.  She's not doing the submissive squat, but her comb is pretty red.  The thing is, Easter Eggers aren't a breed--they're mutts, and the hatchery mine came from uses different crosses to produce a variety of colors, patterns, and egg colors--so there really isn't a "typical" age for their Easter Eggers begin laying.

I'm still waiting patiently.  Sort of.  Really looking forward to discovering what color her eggs are.
Rocky
Rocky has taken to pecking Esther.  For no apparent reason.  Esther has taken to avoiding Rocky.  For good reason.  So I guess Rocky's at the top of the pecking order, and Esther is at the bottom, and Toasty stays out of it.

Toasty Crunch

Monday, October 9, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 9

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Power of the Timer (aka Just Start)

For the past several weeks, ok, months, every time I've looked at our front garden area, which is every day, I've thought to myself, ugh.  I really need to clean that out.  That being the weeds and dead flowers and spent vegetation. 

But, I think next, it will take for-ev-er

For-ev-er is a tad bit longer than I have to spend on a weeding/deadheading/preparing an outdoor space for winter project.  So I don't do anything.  And then the next day, I see the space again, and I think the thoughts again.  And, entropy being entropy, not only does the space not improve, it actually gets worse.

The other day I was watching a video. 

Oh my, y'all, I have fallen down theYouTube rabbit hole.  Did you know that there are things called "haul" videos, in which people who have gone shopping show and talk about everything that they bought?  I'm serious.  It's a thing.  Also a thing is cleaning videos.  How to clean, clean with me (wherein someone videos herself cleaning...and people watch!  Power hours are viewer favorites), favorite cleaning hacks, favorite cleaning equipment, (by the way, I need a Dyson V8 Animal Cordless Vacuum now, because that's what Love Meg uses on her hardwood floors), hoarder to minimalist.  And don't even get me started on the DIYs.

Anyway, I was watching a YouTube video, and the YouTuber told me that I should set a timer and clean for 15 minutes a day.  That something is better than nothing, and when the 15 minute timer rings, I can walk away.

I know this, of course, and even use it from time to time when I'm feeling overwhelmed by a cleaning task (Bubby's bedroom comes to mind.  I tell ya, I can completely understand why he gets anxious just thinking about cleaning his room, because it makes me, the equivocal adult, anxious).  But until that moment, I had never thought of weeding as a cleaning task.

Weeding is totally a cleaning task, y'all!

So yesterday, even though I just knew I wasn't going to be able to get very far in 15 minutes, I set a timer.  Trusting that something is better than nothing and nothing was ever going to happen if I didn't get started.  Know what happened?  I got through more than half of the flower bed.  What?! 

It didn't take half of for-ev-er to clean half of the flower bed.  It took 15 minutes.  And it looks so much better.  If I keep working on that flower bed for 15 minutes a day, it will take me one more day.  One.

So here's the take-away, and you can apply this to just about anything friends: just start. 

Just. Start.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Making apple pie (in three easy steps)

I'm making apple pies today.  Step one: pick the apples.  Oh, you're wondering how we have any apples left after the whole making gallons of applesauce thing?  We made applesauce with the apples on our "little" tree, which had more, but smaller, apples on it this year.  We did nothing with the apples on the "big" tree, probably because it didn't seem worthwhile to harvest apples that were so far apart.  Yeah, set up the ladder, pick one apple, move the ladder, pick 2, move the ladder, pick one and have another one fall off, precariously close to your head...

Gallons of applesauce.  It's so yum this year.  Sweet and a little tart.
And, randomly, an iron. 
Lest you think I was actually ironing clothes, not to worry--
our iron is for crafting purposes only
Kind of like the coffee filters.
Anyway, I had to pick the apples.  But before that, I brought the chickens some fermented food.  Since I'm so efficient (not really, but go with me here), I approached the chicken coop carrying the ladder.  True to form, the chickens freaked out.  Toasty even went into the hen house until the other girls told her it was OK, it was just that crazy chicken lady who brings the food, and I had put the ladder down

I wasn't really expecting any eggs this early in the morning.  As I explained, it takes more than 24 hours for an egg to develop, so the egg appears later each day, until the day there isn't one, and the next day, an egg will show up early in the morning again.  So I wasn't expecting any eggs, but I checked the nest box anyway, and found another rubber egg under the roost.  Does this mean Esther is laying and the first one surprised her?  Or does this mean that Toasty Crunch was so freaked out by her human carrying a ladder, that she just had to let that egg go before it was ready?  Let us hope it was the former, 'cause I can't handle never carrying a ladder or rake or shovel in the vicinity of the chicken coop.  I'm kind of waiting patiently for Esther to begin laying, but I really would like to know what color her eggs will be.

I'm using frozen crust for the pies, because they need to be in disposable pans, and why buy disposable pans and then put your own crust in, when for less than a dollar more, you can buy disposable pans pre-filled with crust (this reminds me of the egg carton thing)?  As I went through the checkout lane with my turnips, potatoes, and pie crust, the cashier queried, "making pumpkin pie?"  No.  I am not making anything at this time.  I am, however, buying pie crust, turnips, and potatoes, lady (oh, I guess that means I'm making a purchase).  What's it to you?

Why?  Why would you go there first?  Pumpkin?  Apples are in season, too.  If anything, she should have been wondering if I was making turnip or potato pie.  Of course, based on the number of apples I was able to get (possibly not enough), I might be making pumpkin pie, too.  But that is most definitely beside the point.

Maybe.  The answer is maybe, lady, ok?   And yes, friends, I know the cashier was just making conversation.  Whatever. 

I'm using my friend's apple pie recipe.  I asked her for it last year, when she mentioned making pies (using free apples and store-bought pie crust) and selling them.  She texted me a picture of a recipe card: "Grandma Opal's Apple Pie," it said.  Oh, how sweet, I thought.  KT's making apple pie from the recipe handed down from her grandma.  I wish I had my grandma's apple pie recipe.  Well, actually, maybe I don't.  I don't remember my grandma ever making a pie.

But no.  In the next text message, KT shattered my fantasy, "truth be told, I don't have a Grandma Opal.  It was the recipe on allrecipes.com that had the most reviews."

Alrighty then.  At least now I don't have to feel bad about not having my Grandma's pie recipe.  And actually, the recipe card KT sent me bears only a passing resemblance to the recipe posted on allrecipes. 

Apparently, step 2 in the apple pie making process is blogging about it.  Blogging is, after all, one of my favorite chore avoidance techniques.  Not that making apple pie is a chore, but peeling, coring, and chopping apples for the pie is.  I'm trying to decide if I think it's worthwhile to get out our peeler/corer/slicer for 12 apples.  And, you know, writing about it helps.  Or at least delays the decision.
The boys, peeling, coring, and slicing apples. 
Wish they were here now...
But, I think I need to get going, because my feet are cold.  And it's not like I can close the window or put socks or slippers on.  I need to get away from the open window so my feet will not be cold.

Step 3: make the pies.  Just Grandma Opal and me.  In the kitchen.  Here I go.

Maybe.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Menu plan for the week of October 2

Y'all, this is seriously the longest September ever.  Know why?  Even though I spent half of August thinking it was September, and since September has 30 days, I should think it's halfway into October already, I still think it's September.  As I was typing that title up there, I was kind of squinting at the September section of my little year at a glance calendar, thinking, ok, what's the date?  September 11?  Yeah.  That sounds about right.  So weird, y'all.  You would think I really like September or something.  I mean, it's alright, but not 8 weeks-worth!

We canned applesauce this weekend.  I'm so glad.  We were running out, and the apples were ripe, and we've got stuff going on every weekend for the rest of September October (see?  I did it again), and making applesauce is not really something I want to do on my own.  So yay.  We had a smaller than usual harvest this year, so we only made 6.25 gallons.  Yeah, I know.  Only.

Speaking of only, we only have two more weeks of crazy, crazy, crazy busy.  Only two more weeks of needing to leave the house to pick up a kid every day right at supper-making time--MC's football season is almost over.  Then it'll just be crazy, crazy busy.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Girls: 20 weeks (aka the Toasty Crunch show)

Love those fluffy chicken butts!
Esther, Rocky, Toasty Crunch

So.  For those of you who found this post by googling something like:
     how long will my pullet/hen/chicken
          just coming into lay/beginning to lay
               continue to lay rubber eggs/shell-less eggs/thin shelled eggs,
let me just get this out of the way right now.

As you know, if you have googled such a thing, the usual, and perhaps only, answer out there is: a little while.  Every hen is different.  Just be patient.  The girls are working out the kinks in their egg-laying systems.

Ha.  Easy for them to say, when we are waiting on pins and needles for those perfect eggs.

Here's my answer.  My hen (and I'm not sure whether it was the cinnamon queen or the barred rock--I used to think it was the cinnamon queen, but now I'm leaning toward the rock, based on other clues that have come to light), laid rubber/shell-less/thin shelled eggs every day, sometimes multiple per day, for 9 days, then started laying regular hard-shelled eggs.  Again, every hen is different, but perhaps that will give you a little peace of mind in the midst of what seems like a never-ending string of weird rubber-like eggs.

I need to be straight with you here and let you know that during that string of weird eggs, the temperature was warmer than usual, which might have been a contributing factor in the longevity of the rubber egg run.  But there it is.  Nine days, and probably 20 eggs.  I'm pretty sure we didn't even find all of them.

All right, so, back to the update, for those of you who are not compulsively googling about thin-shelled eggs (those of you who are, are welcome to stay for the update, too).

The girls have been with us for 20 weeks, which is about 4 1/2 months.  We've been getting 1 or 2 cute little eggs a day pretty consistently for about a week, which is fun.  It's a little like a treasure hunt.  I mean, when you have 2 dozen laying hens, pretty much anytime you decide to go check the nest boxes, you're going to find eggs, but not when you only have two.

A lot of people assume that chickens lay their eggs at the same time every day, but that's not true.  It takes more than 24 hours for an egg to form, so the girls lay the eggs more than 24 hours apart.  We haven't quite figured out the girls' laying schedule yet, so we just go when the mood strikes us, and sometimes we find an egg or two.

Speaking of having two laying hens, on Sunday morning, we found another two shell-less eggs.  So it's possible Esther is getting close to laying, or it's possible that Rocky succumbed to the heat and wasn't able to keep those eggs in long enough for the shells to deposit (one was perfect except for the lack of shell; the other was pretty much a yolk in a membrane. We know it wasn't Toasty Crunch, because she laid an egg later in the day, and there's no way she would have had time to form a third, perfect egg in that amount of time).  My gracious, y'all.  It was so hot.  And those poor chickens are wearing down coats.  It's ok if it gets hot during the summer, 'cause they're acclimmated to it, but this time of year?  Nope.  Not a good situation.

I helped the girls cool down a little bit using a three pronged aproach.  First, I gave them strawberries frozen in water, to cool them from the inside out.  Second, I put ice in their waterer.  Third, I made a little icewater bath that they could stand in, if they chose.  I don't think it helped a whole lot, but they did seem to appreciate my efforts.  And now, it's cool again, and we're all much happier and less pant-y.

And now for the Toasty Crunch show (she was exceptionally photogenic these past two weeks, I guess)!
Climbing the tractor trailer to get a better view.  After this, she flew onto the arm of my chair and then tried to fly up to my shoulder or head (not sure which, because she didn't make it that far, what with the flailing human-arms in her way)
Peeking out of the nest box

Just a boy and his chicken.
This was the best I could do between the uncooperative chicken and the boy who kept making weird expressions.

Esther, panting in the heat (just making sure you're paying attention)

Dust bathing.  Look how fluffy!

Fresh eggs
Top row from Toasty Crunch, bottom row from Rocky, along with a store-bought egg for size comparison
For those of you who are wondering, yes, I am still buying eggs, although I only bought one dozen yesterday, rather than my usual 2 or 3.  Like I said, we've been getting one or two eggs a day, and I'd estimate they add up to about a dozen a week.  The eggs we're getting from our girls are about half size, which is actually kind of nice--there have been many times when I've wanted half an egg for various reasons--now I've got some.

I guess that's all for now.  I don't know if you've noticed this, but I love those silly birds.  They're more than just chickens; maybe I'll explain someday.  I miss Austro and Red, and I often think about how it would be if they were still with us.  My sis said they're probably out in the world having a grand adventure.  That's a much better way to picture them.  <3
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