Monday, August 2, 2010

Miracle

We've named our last-remaining chicken. She is the only one, besides Roo of course, that has been privileged to have a name. I'm not sure why I didn't get into naming them, other than that they all look the same and I can't tell them apart, plus chicken-naming is just hard!

Anyways. RNH and I have the privileged to work with some of the country's finest citizens who often live in city-housing, or in Section 8 housing... I often find that when I meet some of these outstanding people, they change the proper way their names are said. For instance, the other day I am speaking with a woman, and I ask her her name. She smacks her lips and says "Murrrr-acle." Meaning, the commonly known name of, Miracle.

When I returned home that evening to check on my little survivor, it dawned on me... she shall be named "Miracle." But not the proper way of saying the name. She will be called "::lip smack:: Muuuuur-acle." Because she is just that, a miracle!

People at work find this very entertaining.

On another note, I'm heading to Pittsburgh tomorrow with RNH to go to my grandfather's Memorial Service. We're flying, whoopee!

(I took this picture on our last trip, a few weeks ago. This is taken on top of Mount Washington!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I've Been Pooped On

Yes, but not literally.

My life has sucked lately. I guess my last post was all about the 4th of July party that we were going to have. It was freaking awesome. I never lit the luminaries that I made, mostly because I had one too many from the keg, (which was placed in a wheel barrow, redneck style!) and I completely forgot to take pictures of everything. It doesn't really matter- we had an awesome turn out (I was getting upset at first because it seemed like everyone was cancelling... then everyone and their mother's cousin ended up showing up and we almost ran out of food!) and we all had a blast!
Anyways. For the "lately" stuff. Here is what is happening:

My grandfather walked me down the aisle at my wedding last May. Once he returned to his hometown in Pennsylvania, he found out that the cancer he was battling, had taken a turn for the worse and was beginning to spread. It started out as prostate, and then moved into his bones. The past 2 weeks he has gotten extremely worse. My mom flew up immediately to be with him and called me telling me that she did not feel he was going to make it past August. Getting that kind of news, RNH and I grabbed a rental car and drove up to PA. I got to spend a ton of time with "Poppy," and tell him how much he means to me. The worst part was having to officially say goodbye for the last time. It was terrible.

On a less-personal note, but tragic all the same, I've lost all but one of my first flock of chickens. The first one was taken by a fox. I saw the fox with my own bare-eyes, but it was in the middle of the night and I didn't have a gun ready. It ran off. The others began to mysteriously disappear. There weren't really any signs of entry to the coop, other than feathers where an obvious struggle had taken place. This past weekend I go out and find Roo, my beloved- yet hated rooster, bloody. His eye was badly damaged, his comb was bleeding, and he appeared to be in a lot of pain. His head would slowly droop as I tried to talk to him. RNH and I were faced with a very tough decision. I wanted very badly to try and nurse him back to health, but he looked pretty bad. After a long, long time of weighing all of our options, we decided to put Roo down. I cried. Once the worst of it was over, we examined him a bit further. He was way worse than we thought he was. Under his feathers he had a lot of bleeding and probably a lot of internal damage. I knew immediately that we had made the right decision. It hur though, and I couldn't get past the fact that he fought, almost to the death, inside his coop. It almost seemed as if he didn't need to fight the fight, but just stand back off the fencing so the animal could not get at him. It was all very strange and didn't make sense to me at the time...
Did I mention that all of this tragedy with Roo was happening right as I was leaving to go say goodbye to my grandfather for the last time in PA? I had a 9 hour drive ahead of me, and I was faced with all of this. Not good. While that happened, one of the girls got out. I spent almost 2 hours trying to coax her back in, no luck. I left her food and water and headed to PA. Worst road trip .ever.

I came home tonight. Only one chicken left in the pen. The craziest thing about all of this, even the whole Roo story, there didn't seem to be any place where the fox had gotten in. I was baffled, but so upset over the loss of many chickens, that I did my best to "patch up" places where I thought the fox may have entered. When I came home after my PA trip, it dawned on me... this was no fox. This had to be a skunk (which I smell ALL the time at night when I let the dog out!) or a possum. My belief is furthered by the fact that I found one of my chickens with its head cut off. I heard that skunks do this? Chop off their heads and suck their blood?

So anyways, I got my last hen and put her in a large rabbit cage. The poor thing has been in a struggle and seen a lot, but she appears to not be injured at all. She is in the rabbit cage and the rabbit cage is inside the dog's pen. There is also a wild life camera facing the pen to try and catch whatever is terrorizing my poor babies. Needless to say, I've had a lot of tragedy with my chickens lately, and it doesn't help with family matters.

THEN, when I get home from the PA trip, take care of my last baby, I get a phone call from my mother-in-law, telling me that my niece on my husband's side, had a blood sugar level of 500+ she is 9 years old... Diabetes is genetic on her mother's side, and her father probably has diabetes because he is over weight. Apparently she is doing fine now, but she had to be transported to UNC's Children's Hospital. Poor thing. I hope we get to see her tomorrow.

This has been a week of me getting pooped on! :(

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cholesterol Anyone?

I just made three dishes for our late-4th of July party tomorrow. In those three dishes, I used 20 eggs. YIKES!!!

One was a Pillsbury strawberry cake mix. It only used 3 eggs. I'm going to make a flag cake with it- strawberry cake, vanilla frosting and strawberries and blueberries to decorate the top

(This is not my cake, but hopefully it will look somewhat like this!!!)

The second was my mom's recipe for "Black Berry Dreamsquares." I'm not sure where she got the recipe from. They were originally "Cherry Dreamsquares" but once I found the canned pie filling section in the grocery store, I considered my options. (For a long time I did not know that they make and can pie fillings commercially. Maybe I'm stupid.) So I tried apple and now blackberry pie fillings in the recipe. Apple was good. Blackberry is awesome. I'm having a hard time trying any other filling because I love blackberries so much. It seems everyone else does too. Its been a big hit-dessert at cookouts. Its so simple, I'll post the recipe at the end of the post!

The third dish I made for the party was "Berries and Cream" from Pioneer Women. I don't know where this lady came from, but she's awesome. She lives on a ranch, takes awesome photos, makes incredibly awesome food, and shares all of her knowledge with everyone. She even breaks down the photography stuff for smart* people like me.

*I am being sarcastic.

Anyways, the recipe called for 10 eggs yolks. Yiikes! All I gotta say is thank God my eggs are free!!! Actually, if they weren't free, I probably would have never attempted the recipe. Eggs aren't expensive, I just wouldn't have bothered with it. Either way, the Berries and Cream are to die for. They are a must have. Especially if you have an abundance of berries on hand!

Okay. Now for the Dreamsquares recipe:
1 Box of Pillsbury white cake (make sure it has pudding in the mix!)
Rolled Oats
Butter
Brown Sugar
1 Egg

Mix the cake mix, 6 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of oats until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of crumbs for topping.
To remaining crumbs, add 1 egg and mix thoroughly. Press mixture into bottom of 13x9 pan.
Pour 2 cans (21oz each) of whatever pie filling you'd like on top of the mixture. Try the blackberries!!!
To the reserved crumbs, add 1/4 cup of oats, 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Mix well and sprinkle over the pie filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

VOILA! The best dessert EVER!

Hopefully at the party this weekend I'll remember to take pictures of it and post. Right now it is baking in the oven! :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rug Dr.

Our puppy ruined our carpet. I've tried to be the best doggy-mommy a dog can have, but I just couldn't keep him from messing on the carpet sometimes. Even after he became potty trained, he would wait too long to let us know he had to go out and would end up "sprinkling" on the carpet.

My gracious mother gave us her Bissell steam cleaner that she can no longer use on her new carpet she has. Unbeknownst to her, the steam cleaner's tubes were clogged and it no longer worked. RNH and I took it to a vacuum shop to get it fixed. That cost $100. We got it home and cleaned half of our carpets before the dang thing broke again. Pissed, I decided it was nto worth trying to take back to the shop (it was under warranty, but I'm sure it broke for some other reason than why he had to fix it the first time.) So we've lived with nasty, nasty carpets for months.

Since we are having people come up to the house, RNH decided he wanted to try the "Rug Doctor" machine that you always see in the front of grocery stores. He came home with teh machine and a jug of cleaner for $38. I think the rental was for 24 hours.

That thing saved our lives. I highly recommend it! Our carpets look brand new. It was very easy to do, and no matter what kind of home steam cleaner you may have, this thing will do it better. Trust.

So now we can live our lives a bit better just because we don't have to see how nasty our carpets are on a regular basis. And our guests this weekend actually might not run back out the front door once they arrive!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Post-Holiday Party

We had to work the entire July 4th weekend. Once it was over, I pretty much felt like I had been hit by a mack truck. I never think it's fair when we have to work holidays, so to fix it, we decided to celebrate July 4th a little later this year. We're going to have a big late-July 4th cookout and bonfire at the house this weekend. I am beyond excited. I love to entertain and this will be the first time we've had an actual party at the house. I love to have people come out to the country and enjoy what we have been blessed with. Most of my city friends can't even burn something in their backyards if they wanted to. We plan on throwing down redneck-style with a small keg, bonfire, tons of food, corn hole, and other things.

So far the menu includes: a keg of beer, orange mint juleps, mint mojitos (with fresh mint from the garden of course!), italian chicken, hot dogs, chips and garden fresh salsa, italian pretzels, black berry dream squares (like a cobbler- BEST. THING. EVER!), a flag cake, and a pound cake. There is more, I just can't think of it all at the moment. And obviously the most important stuff was listed first!

We will have tiny flags lining the walkway, mason jar luminaries with red, white and blue ribbon tied around the tops lining the path to the pond, fun star-shaped platters, star-shaped ice cubes, and everything red, white and blue. I can't wait!

I'm making an attempt to "fog" the yard because I know a lot of people aren't used to the amount of bugs we have (we live right above a swamp!) I bought a $9 bottle of this bug spray stuff that attaches to the end of your hose. I'm thinking I should have bought 2 bottles. Last time we had some people up, one of the girls got chiggers. I don't think she actually got them from my house (she went strawberry picking the next day), since I was sitting across the table from her, also wearing flip flops, and never got them. But either way, I don't want it to be a possibility. If everyone gets eaten up, I'm not gonna have any friends left! Haha!

I hope its fun, and I hope people actually show up! Otherwise it will be up to RNH and I to float the keg ourselves!!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

We Went Swimming

RNH and I wanted to go on an adventure. We decided to grab the boat and head down to the river. I ended up bringing a long a wet suit, some neoprene booties, and my bathing suit. Why? you ask? Because we decided we'd try swimming in the river!!!
We found a relatively clear spot in the water and decided to try it out. I got nekkid in the woods, (yes it was fun!) to change into my bathing suit and wet suit. I decided if there were any sort of leaches or anything yucky like that, they'd have to get through my wet suit first! Thankfully that didn't happen. RNH plunged in, in a pair of BDU pants and some neoprene shoes he bought on our honeymoon in Mexico. It was tons of fun until RNH started talking about a boy who developed a flesh-eating bacteria by swimming in a nearby lake. Then I started itching when I really didn't have an itch. Thankfully that didn't happen either!
The water cooled us down and we didn't even get bit by a fish! I'll go back, but I'll still probably be wearing that silly wet suit!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garbage Can Drake

These are the following things that my dog has eaten: (yes, I know I'm a bad doggy parent!)

Entire family-sized bag of Skittles

Large bag of Sweedish Fish

Two whole pound cakes, including plastic bag they were kept in

Two iPod car transmitters and chargers

Phone charger

3 pairs of slippers

Several pounds of meat, raw and cooked (we now have to keep our left-over meat in the microwave during dinners)

Countless plastic baggies

A dead turtle

An entire box of Cheerios

M&Ms

Lots of kitty cat poo and litter

Strawberries and blackberries right off the bushes

One Adidas sandal

A few cat toys that I don't know he's gotten until I see them laying in the grass outside... stuck in his poo...

Countless paper towels, rolls of toilet paper and used Kleenex.


(There are a million other things I can't think of right now...)

Have you ever seen that TV show on Animal Planet where they talk about terrible animal problems and surgeries? There was a dog on there that ate an entire broom stick. That will be Drake one day... I'm still learning how to live a normal life and keep valuable things away from him. I guess it will always be a work in progress!


Here he is with his pack on, ready to go for a hike!

MIA

Pretty much since the spring hit, I've been MIA. Winter time is for sitting in front of a computer and typing things that pretty much my mom only cares to read!

Things are in complete and full swing. An update on the garden: we left for the beach for a week long vacation (which was FABULOUS) and while we were gone we got a much-needed week-long rain. By the time we came back, the grass had taken over everything. So pretty much I've been trying to play "catch-up" ever since. I've weeded and weeded, and not had any luck taking back over my garden. So that being said, we have zero harvest. I'm bummed but hopeful. We've got the rest of the summer to get some veggies, so we'll see.

Since there is too much to try and re-cap on, I'll just look forward to the rest of summer. I'll probably try to do several short posts, just for you Mom! Haha!

Last night was awesome. We finally had a break from the 100+ degree weather, so RNH and I sat out on the deck. Summer is great, but not when its so hot outside you can't even enjoy the evenings! So we had fish and chips for dinner. Not fish out of the pond or river, but it was delish! We drug out the deep-fryer for that, and it was perfect since it was nice outside and we didn't stink up the house! We also enjoyed a little bit of vino, Polka Dot's Riesling, which was on sale. It was delish!
That's my boy!!! Isn't he getting big!??!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Trip Back Home

RNH and I took an unexpected trip back to his hometown, Aberdeen, NC. While there we spent the majority of our time with his grandparents in Whispering Pines, NC. It was a wonderful time. We sat with them for hours listening to tales of the old and compared chicken stories. I love these people and could hang out with them for days. Its so funny how much a late 20-something girl, and early 30-something guy can have with a couple in their late 80's!!!
While there, we checked out RNH's grandma's biddies. I'm not sure what kind they are, but of course they're adorable! She has about 15 of them, to add to her 15 or so other grown chickens. Grandma's youngest son lives next door and just ordered 30 biddies! Their chickens are getting older and it is time for them to get young ones again! They have a rooster that is the oldest thing I've ever seen. Its hilarious. He gets around just fine but he is old!!!


We also hung out in the fields Grandpa had plowed. We admired all of the work he's done at such an old age! He doesn't do near as much as he used to, but it is still impressive!

RNH and I hung out with him around the grape vines he has growing. He has had Concord and Scuppernong grapes for decades now. He is rooting one of the vines for us to be able to plant at our home. I can't wait for that! I love having something that is meaningful and historic to the family.


Speaking of that, RNH's grandma will be giving us a sprig of a rosebush that has been in the family for over 90 years! Her father gave it to her mother when they moved into their first home. They took the rose bush with them when they moved, and it has been with them ever since. I can't wait to plant it at our house!


Our trip was short, but it was very nice. RNH's grandpa means a lot to him and he seems to be deteriorating very quickly. I think he made some nice memories with this grandpa that he'll have with him the rest of his life. (It also helps when you have a crazy-picture-taker for a wife! I got a ton of good pictures of the two men-being-men. They'll look great as black & whites.) These will be memories to tresure!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cukes and Cuke Trellis

We planted Marketmore 76 Cucumbers for making dill pickles, and Burpee's Hybrid II for eating, all over Easter weekend. This year we did not try planting them in hills because last year it didn't seem to make a difference at all. We just used flat ground and put about 4 seeds every 36 inches. Now that they are growing tall, I know I need to thin them out, but I have no clue how far apart each plant should be. I wrote down in my gardening journal that they need at least 10" between each plant. I'm not sure where I got that information, but I guess I'll follow it! It seems like everything I read talks about the hills, and how many plants per hill. But this is all too much to try and convert it to flat ground. I guess I'll try the 10 inches this year and see if it works!
I'll probably thin out the plants after the next rain. I'm not sure if this is bad to do or not, since you're not supposed to work a garden when its wet. I guess as long as I just thin out the cucumbers and nothing else, it will be okay and disease will (hopefully!) not be spread! We'll see!

Since I knew I'd be busy with other things, I decided to go ahead and build a cucumber trellis. My rows are 10 feet long, but I could not find a piece of wood that would be long enough to cover a row. I brought home a few 8x2x1 pieces (I think these measurements are right... sorry if they're not!) Anyways- I figured the plants at the end of the trellis will be able to grow on the ground since the other plants will hopefully be climbing the trellis!
I created an 8 foot long rectangle and put a few center pieces in for support. I then staple-gunned garden netting to the huge rectangle. I thought about using wire or something a bit more heavy-duty than garden netting, but I kept imagining the cucumbers having a "grilled" look on them, as if the wire will cut into the fruit or something. I'm hoping the garden netting will be sturdy enough.
The trellis will be placed outside the garden. One row of cucumbers is on the outer-most row in the garden. These fruits will be able to climb up and out of the garden on the trellis. The next row in, is another set of cucumbers. These cucumbers don't get a trellis, but I'm hoping they'll have double the room to grow since the outer-most row will be growing outside the garden. We'll see if it works!

The Little Vineyard

I went to Lowes to return something and as I walked in the door, I noticed several bins outside the front door. They were small burlap sacks of grapes, usually $10, marked down to $1. For a dollar, you got two grape plants. Y'all know I can't pass up that kind of deal! I purchased 6 Niagra grape plants and brought them home. They weren't our beloved muscadine variteties, but I figured this would do just fine to start us off.

With that, RNH and I built a little "vineyard." I'm using the term "vineyard" very, very loosely. But its fun and I'm excited!

The dog ended up chewing up one of the plants, so we really only planted 5 grapes. They're not looking all that well, but they had to have been marked down for a reason! Whatever plants don't grow, we'll just replace with a muscadine vine. No biggie!
We planted them 8 feet apart with 6.5x3.5 round posts in between the plants. We ran a sturdy wire between each post along the bottom and top of the posts for support as they grow. We also decided put the posts along the natural curve of our yard for maximum use of the space, and to ensure the grapes get as much sunlight as possible. I like the way it looks, instead of being a straight row. We're already talking about putting in another row, and extending the row we just created! I can't wait til they start producing!!! While we were putting up the posts, our neighbor came over on his tractor and we got to talking. Which eventually led to me filling up a cooler full of beer, ordering pizza, and starting a bonfire. My neighbor was joking about how redneck we were- but there is nothing like hanging out around a bonfire on an almost-summer night!!!


(My neighbor leaving on his tractor.)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Garden Update

I've been pretty absent from hanging out on the internet, well, actually pretty absent from being indoors. Spring has come on full-swing and I'm loving spending every minute outside. If I'm not playing with my puppy, I'm doing something in the garden.

The broccoli we have is doing very well. We had a few days of unusual 90 degree weather for April, so I was worried that this would cause it some stress. We're back to normal temperatures, around the 70's and 40's at night. It is thriving.
The red potatoes we planted are coming up. I've never grown potatoes so it was really exciting to see them sprout with their velvet-y looking foliage. I can't wait to see them continue growing!



We planted 2 rows of Silver Queen corn, RNH's favorite. We will plant two more rows, 2 weeks from then in order to get a decent crop all summer.








We finally planted cucumbers. Marketmore 76, and a pickling cucumber that I can't remember the name of right now. We planted one row on the very edge of the garden. We will build a trellis that extends off the garden for the cucumbers to grow on. That way the next row of cucumbers in the garden will have double the space they normally would to grow. We have not built the cucumber trellis yet, but I've got a while until it will be needed. I've read that you can grow things like lettuce, under the trellis, however I'm not really interested in that this year. Maybe next!
The garlic and onion are doing wonderfully.
The next days I have off I will be planting squash, zucchini, and okra! Can't wait!

*I wrote this post at the beginng of March. I kept forgetting to upload pictures! Hopefully I'll update the garden's current condition with pictures, its gotten pretty far along!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hilariousness in Free Ranging

Even if you don't own chickens or livestock of any sort, you've got to check out this blog! New Life On A Homestead The article is titled "Free Ranging Advice." The pictures are HILARIOUS!!!


RNH and only have chickens to let free range- maybe one day we'll have goats and pigs (if I could only talk him into it!!!) I don't have too many problems with the chickens standing on the hood of my car, but they do cause a bit of trouble...


My next door neighbor's grandson came to live with them for a bit. He is what some would call a thug-wannabe. He is about 14 years old and dresses with his pants down around his ankles. Anyways. He went complaining to his grandma one day about how Roo chased him. I will tell you, I would pay money to have seen that. Its not that I don't like the kid or anything- I've never spoken to him, but it is FUNNY!


She also told me that one day she heard some noise on her front stoop and opened up the front door to see all six chickens hanging out on her front door step. She told them to shoo and they did.


The chickens are also crossing the street. This makes me nervous because we live on a busy road and they're likely to get hit by car. I guess they've heard the joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" and they're trying to find the answer for themselves! Hardy har har!


Like I mentioned before, the chickens have found our newly planted apple trees to be a perfect spot for dust bathing. I'm afraid before too long they are going to expose the young plant's root ball and kill the tree. I'm going to need to monitor the situation. They also kick out all of the nicely placed mulch in the front beds that run along the front of our home. Not cool.


Roo has also found his favorite spot where he likes to crow. My deck. Right in front of my bedroom door. Of course, in the early morning. He also likes to leave huge globs of chicken poo on my deck, which then my Labrador likes to gobble up as soon as he walks out the door. And he'll surprise me with a huge, wet, sloppy kiss... and, well, you know where his mouth has been. YUCK!

Anyways- we're going to have to stop the free-ranging very soon. We're working on coop and run plans. We've finally got the miter saw that RNH was coveting... now we just need the money for all of the wood! No more scrap-coop for these chickens, we're going to make a nice home for them to live in 24-7. I'll miss having them run after me when its feeding time, but I know they'll be much safer that way!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Much Needed Home Improvement

May is a huge month for our little family. Not only will this upcoming month mark our first year of marriage, but it will mark our second year in our little home. The best thing about it all- we've been loving every second of it!

Over these past two years we've tried to make our home, "ours." The house was built in 1999 and had plain white walls with gold accents. RNH and I hate plain, and we hate gold. The plain part was easy to fix- I painted our entire house. The first half-year in our home RNH and I worked exact opposite shifts. That meant a ton of time by myself painting. I actually like painting interior walls and such, so it was fun. Now that 90% of our rooms have paint on the walls, I began tackling the gold accents. I hate them. This isn't like an antique gold or anything like that. It is straight gold. I started with the smallest room in our house, the master bath and began painting the trim, replacing the blinds and eventually the door knobs, with brushed nickle. I love it. The only problem with tackling the gold accents is that there are several door knobs in our house, and door knobs are surprisingly not cheap! I'm determined to do it, however. It just may take some time. So if you ever visit me and notice the mis-matched accents, just ignore them!

Anyways- short story made long... RNH and I had a huge gold chandelier in our living room. The room that we spend the most time in. The room that you first walk into when you enter our home. When I say huge, I mean HUGE. And its gold. You might see a chandelier like this in a million dollar home, however the home was probably built in the 1980's and the glass crystal parts are actually glass, instead of plastic like ours- and our home was nowhere near a million dollars. Oh, and the owners of such a chandelier would probably have paid to have someone clean the dang light piece over the past 12 years. Unlike our previous home owners. And of course I wasn't going to clean the nasty thing!

So our tax money arrived and RNH and I excitedly purchased a new ceiling fan to replace the ugly gaudy chandelier!!! I don't know if anyone can truly understand how great it felt to get rid of that ugly accent. It feels as good as buying a new car or something. It is absolutely WONDERFUL!
So we've lived in our home for 2 years now and we're finally getting things the way we want them. I guess they say that owning a home is always a work in progress and you'll never be done. At least we're one step closer! :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dandelion Wine

I mentioned a while ago that I got this book and recommended it for everyone. One of the chapters inside is on foraging off the land. The book has several suggestions for what you can do with dandelions. I had no idea that the plant was so useful! From roasted roots to make coffee, to the leaves for a salad, this plant is so versatile! I am going to try and use the flowers for dandelion wine! Not only is it fun and easy to make, but its almost free! Y'all know I love free!!!
I started off by picking about 3 and a half quarts of dandelion flowers. Then I sat out on the deck for hours (it was a beautiful, relaxing day!) and I took out the center of the flower. The books says that the more of the green you remove, the less bitter-tasting the wine will be. I don't like bitter, so I took the time and took off 99% of the green stuff. When I ended up doing more research online for other recipes and such, I saw that most people leave the green bottoms on. This process was pretty time-consuming, so next year I might leave the green on!

Dandelions are such a beautiful flower! Our yard is FULL of them! Its almost embarrassing, but whatever! We were told by our neighbor that the previous home-owner had turned over the entire yard three different times in the 10 years that they had lived in the home. Each time they tried different grass seed. Each time, the dandelions came back. Instead of trying to kill them, I guess we decided to live with them- and use them!

As you can see, I took the time and took off a majority of the green leaves and flower bottoms.

I then placed all of the flower pieces into a plastic bucket. RNH had previously used this bucket to make wine with scuppernong grapes last year. Unfortunately we put it in the garage with the grape juice in it last year and completely forgot about it until it was too late. We ended up having a really nasty smelling grape vinegar on our hands instead... Yuck! I am keeping the bucket in the kitchen this time so I will constantly be reminded that it is there every time I trip on it!

I then poured 2 gallons of boiling water over the petals and let it soak for three days. Because of my work schedule, the petals soaked for about 4 days, but I think it will be okay- especially since I took the greens off. If the greens had been on, I'm assuming the bitterness will really have seeped out.
After 3 (or 4!) days, I put the petals and water back on the stove and let it boil again. I stirred in a bunch of sugar, I think 3 or so cups? It was sweet to taste. Almost too sweet. I hope I didn't ruin it!

After the sugar was dissolved, I took the rinds of two oranges and two lemons and put them in to simmer along with the rest of the mixture for an hour. After the hour was up, I poured the mixture back into the plastic bucket. I had to monitor the liquid until it cooled to 70-75F degrees, which took about an hour or so. Once it had cooled to that temperature, I poured active yeast over a piece of bread and laid the bread on top of the mixture and covered the bucket with the lid.

That sat for three days (actually I think 4!). After this I took wine bottles and put several golden raisins in the bottom of each one. I then strained out the bread and fruit and poured the wine over the raisins into the bottles. I made 4 bottles of wine. On the top of each bottle, I placed a balloon with a tiny hole. This will allow the gases to escape out of the bottle, without letting a lot of air into the wine. I didn't take pictures of this.

The bottles are now sitting in my closet going through their processes. I check on them every once and again. Once the balloons are mostly deflated, I will strain the liquid through a cheese cloth and it will go back into the wine bottles with a balloon on top until the yeast finishes. I will have to do this about 3 or 4 times I think. (I'm not to that point just yet!) Once the balloons don't inflate any more, I will cork the bottles and leave them in a cool dark place for a year before I can taste it. I'm not sure I'll be able to wait that long...!!!

In the meantime, I made a Boston Creme pie from scratch. It was in a Hershey's recipe book. I was disappointed at first because it wasn't that great. The recipe says to let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. But who can resist tasting it right after its put together?!?! The next day, once the entire pie had cooled.... SHOOO-WEEE! I can't tell you how good this thing was! It looks pretty and tastes even better! YUM!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dust Bath?

My chickens have decided that the best place to have their dust bath is in the newly planted apple tree. Which of course, its not going to be good for the tree. I'm thinking about making a dust box for them. I've read blogs about quite a few people making them. They seem to be pretty successful with their chickens actually using the box. We'll see.

RNH finally got his miter saw that he has been dreaming about for forever. I'm thinking he might have to make the chickens a box!
The indoor kitty, Chloe, decided that she wanted to see what all the fuss was about with these chickens. They all hung out together for about 15 minutes! Chloe just sniffed around them, and Roo, the guardian rooster, didn't seem to mind her hanging out!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Found: Tort!

RNH and I were walking out the door to try out a 4-mile run on the road in front of the house (it was bad!) and almost stepped on a baby turtle!!!
He was about the size of a quarter.So cute!
I was tempted to keep him, but we released him. Hopefully he'll make it!

I named him Tort, in the few moments that we had with him. As I was running I almost stepped on another one the same size as Tort. I put him back in the grass. Hopefully he'll make it too! I love spring when all of the baby animals come out!!!
Mom is coming up this weekend. With the Umstead Coalition Run and possibly a Durham Bulls game, we've got a full weekend planned. I'll be MIA, but I'll be having fun!!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spark People!

My sister graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Health and Fitness, and for years now she has worked as an athletic instructor/coordinator, etc. She now has two children and looks absolutely fabulous. I'm jealous of her now, and can only hope after I have kids I look the way she does. Anyways- I can always go to her for health and fitness, as well as nutrition advice.

A few days ago she e-mailed me a link to SparkPeople. Spark People is a FREE website where people can track their caloric intake, fitness, weight, and all sorts of other goals. It was created not to help people loose weight, but to change people's life style for the better. Most websites like ediets.com and weightwatchers.com cost, but this one doesn't. It works by word-of-mouth. So I'm doing my part because I love this site!
Nutrition:
I really like this part. I exercise on a pretty regular basis, but the eating part is what gets me. I love to shove all sorts of stuff in my mouth without thinking. Especially at work. I'm not bored by any means at work, but its like no-thinking eating. My office is a car. It is super easy for me to stop in at the local Quickie Mart and grab a candy bar, chips or slurpee. Thankfully I also have the internet in my car, so I have been keeping this website up at all times while at work. This has REALLY helped me curb my mindless eating. I really like the website because it has "real" food. Spark People have added popular foods so when you eat a Fiber One Oats and Chocolate Chewy Bar, you add this to your daily foods and the calories, fat, carbs, vitamins, etc are specific for that food. You don't have to "guess" on how many calories you're adding. It also breaks down each meal for you, so you know if you ate too much for breakfast, you better slow down for lunch! The best part is it does a report for you at the end of every day. It breaks down your food for the day and tells you if the majority of your calories have come from Carbs, Fat or Protein and breaks it down. It then gives you suggestions for ways to improve your diet.

Water:
This is just an extra on the website, but you can track your water intake for the day. There is a fun little glass on the front page where you can push the "up" button for each cup of water you drink. I am not a water drinker. I could go the whole day and forget that I haven't drank anything. Its not that I drink a ton of soda or any other drink, I just don't drink. This has to be bad for my body! But now that I've been using this website, I have been drinking the 8 cups of water a day. And peeing... a lot!

Fitness:
This part is pretty cool too. They can hook you up with a workout program and even suggest different strength training exercises with instructions and everything. Since my work schedule is crazy, I can't really get on a regular exercise "program" but I'm using it to track what I do the days I can. It also shows you how many calories you burn doing the exercise. Very cool.

Weigh-In:
You track your weight, as well as any measurements that you'd like. I haven't measured anything yet because I should probably do that in the privacy of my own home, not at work while I'm driving around in my "office." :)

My Goals:
Hopefully the more-public I make these, the more I'll be likely to follow through! I'll keep you updated. I am 5'8 with, what I would call, an athletic build. I've always played sports, and up until I graduated college, played some sort of "sport" on a regular basis. Since college, I've been stuck to "gyming-it" for any sort of exercise. I'm not fat, but I've got some chunk in places I'd rather not have it- including my stomach, arms, and back of my thighs. Yuck! I also have none, as in zero muscle definition, despite how much I lift weights. I think it may be a genetic thing, but also because the amount of body fat I'm carrying. Anyways- I'm heading to the beach the last week of May. I'd like to go from 154lbs to 145lbs. I have not weighed 145 since high school. I'm not that far from my goal, but since I haven't been under 150 about 6 years, the goal is sort of hard for me to get to. Thanks to Spark People, the website has created a "diet" for me to follow- as in, my caloric intake should be between 1,300-1,500 a day to drop the weight by the last week of May. Simple enough, but I had no clue how many calories I was really putting in my body. With all of the "dieting" I will continue to exercise as I am currently, including strength training. Hopefully by following the structured caloric intake they've set for me, as well as my regular exercise, I'll get to my goal by beach time. If not, I won't be disappointed. I'll probably try to keep this up until I reach my goal. Maybe even after!

Fun Stuff:
I love when the warmer weather comes and every "cause" is holding some sort of walk or run. I've signed up for two already, the most important one to me, The Run For Our Heroes, as well as the Umstead Coalition run. The first is a 5k, and the second is a 4-mile run. I run a 5k on a treadmill about 2 times a week. I've been running consistently at a 26 to 27 minute rate for 3.1 miles. I would love to get that time down to around the 24 or 25 minute mark. I'm working hard to get it down but I'm not sure it will be possible. Whenever I push myself to run faster, I end up having to walk in order to get the "stitch" out of my side, or to get my breath back. The last time I ran, I ran at an 8:40 minute mile pace, and that was even with about a minute of walking to get my breath back. If I can go without that walking, I'd be down to an 8:30 minute mile. Sweet! The runs are coming up this month, so I doubt I'll make my goal, but it might be something I continue to try for throughout the summer. Plus- this is on a treadmill. Who knows if it is actually accurate, and if I'll run slower when outside on the pavement. We'll see. Can't wait though!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Locks of Love

I wanted to donate my hair so bad. But I'm just not gonna be able to do it.

A minimum donation to Locks of Love is 10 inches. I'm at 8. That is just two measly inches!!! But in hair-growing time, that is forever! If I was to take all 10 inches off my head right now, my hair would be right at my chin. That is way too short for my type of face, and I have to be able to pull it into a pony tail for work.

In April, it will have been a year since I've cut my hair. Its getting very raggedy and gross. If I'm going to wear it down, I have to straighten it with a hot iron. That is not a very "me" thing to do (because it takes way too much time and effort!). When I have it pulled back in a pony tail at the gym, the ends of it stick to the back of my neck and get all sweaty (GROSS!) so I think its about time to chop it all off.

I'm going to do it Thursday before work. Yes!

My mom used to cut me and my sister's hair. We had long straight, red hair. Everyone. And it was very long. My mom's used to be down to her butt before she chopped it all off and gave it to Locks of Love! But people used to think we were Amish because we had such long hair. My mom would give it a trim every now and then. Nothing special, just a straight-across the bottom trim.

When I moved away to college is when I finally went to a hair salon for a haircut. I actually really enjoyed it because I love to have people brush my hair. It was like going to a spa for me! And I went to Great Clips. Paying $12 for something I used to get for free (and they actually gave me layers and style to my hair!) didn't seem unreasonable.
Then, I upgraded. When I was a Senior in college, I found a "NY Styles" near the campus that would cut my hair for $20. Yiikes, thats $8 more than Great Clips!!! But they did really nice work and told me why they were better than Great Clips. I've been going there ever since. They are now 45 minutes from where I live, so I have to plan my hair cuts according to my work schedule.
I'm a grown adult, who can afford a nice salon, but I'm scared to "upgrade" once again. I'm afraid that I'll get "sucked in" to the more expensive places because they'll do that much better with my hair. I like the way NY Styles cuts my hair, and its relatively inexpensive. Also- when I go in they always ask who did my highlights (because they're fabulous!) and I tell them that they're natural! I have friends that pay big bucks for this stuff! But anyways- I'm sure if I get sucked in someday, its going to be because of my sister's influence. She's new to my area, and I'm sure she's going to convince me to trade in my NY Styles for a Salon Blu, or whatever. We'll see!
RNH is going to the beach with his BFF for the next two days, so he'll have a surprise (if he even notices!) when he gets home!
Me with my hair the shortest its ever been, 2007.

Me about 3 months ago. My hair doesn't look that long because its pulled around and over my shoulders. Its much longer than this now. And stringy/wavy/gross. I can't wait to get rid of it all! :)