Friday, April 29, 2011

What to do, what to do...

The curtains I liked...Brown.
My front porch has 10 windows.  10!  They are all 32 by 38, which seems an odd size window to me.  The curtains, something left behind by the previous owners, are all white lace, some of them very ratty.  They need to be replaced.  I was trying to find curtains, something more my style, yesterday, and only found one pair I really liked, for 10.99 a pair.  Yikes!  I don't know if I really want to spend over a hundred dollars on curtains.

So I looked at some of the fabric and dye on Dharma Trading, and thought maybe I'd buy some muslin and dye it.  A lot cheaper, though a lot more work.  Problem is...I've never used a reactive dye, and the process freaked me out.  So now I'm back to square one.  I suppose I could get some fabric from JoAnn's too.  I haven't found any fabric I like yet.  I'd like something simple.

I supposed the other option is to go to somewhere like The Family Dollar and look for some blinds, or cheap curtains.  I would really like to spend less than $50, but I'm not sure that's possible.  Though now that I'm looking at the curtains I like, and thinking about going to JoAnn's, I'm thinking it could be possible to get some muslin in natural, and then find some brown fabric like the one above and make my own...still some work, so much cheaper.  I think a trip to JoAnn's is definitely in order, as well as an order from Dharma (the muslin is so cheap!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chicken Birds

All the chicks are still doing well.  They are so cute to watch- they love to chase each other, and jump on each other.  And it's absolutely adorable to watch them just randomly fall asleep.
Falling asleep

The kids love them.  Liam calls them "Chicken birds!" and tells me that they are "cute!".  He loves them so much that he snuck down into the basement this morning, and moved the heat lamp off them.  Yikes!  I didn't know it until the chicks started peeping very loudly an hour or so later.  Chicks don't like to be cold, and they were getting cold.  John promptly installed a hook and eye on the basement door.

Lilia finds them to be cute as well, telling me that they are her favorite pet, and asking if I'm the chickens' mommy, or is she.  I can tell she wants to hold them, but I tell her that they are still too little.  Hopefully next week, she can hold one when Liam isn't around.
Trying to avoid me :(
Tomorrow I want to introduce grit, and maybe some yogurt.  I've read that chicks love yogurt, and it's really good for them.  The grit is important when feeding anything other than chick feed, since it helps with digestion.  I look forward to giving them treats, since I think that's gonna bribe them to not be afraid of me. It's been hard not to just spend all day down in the basement, holding them.  I've limited myself to only a few times a day, and only for a few minutes, enough to pet them a little and check their little behinds for pasty butt.

I'm not as anxious as I thought I'd be.  For the most part, I go down and check on them 4-5 times a day, but that's about it.  In the morning, and before bed, I change the water and feed, and the bedding.  Nothing too big, nothing to make me thing OMG, I've added to my work load.  I thought that the chicks and brooder would smell a little, but so far they don't.  I don't even notice a smell, which is good, although I change the bedding once a day.  Maybe that helps.

So here's a video of the chicks falling asleep.
They don't do anything exciting, just fall asleep.  Before that, they were falling asleep, but the moment one of them would move, they'd all jump up and start peeping, and then try to go back to sleep.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not so wordless wednesday, peep peep.

You know I missed my one year anniversary for this blog?  Oops.  Bad girlfriend.

At 7 am this morning, I got a call from the post office.

Me: Hello?
PO: Hello!  You're chicks have arrived!
Me:  OMFG!
All five babies
I got myself out of bed, tossed on some clothes and drove to the post office.  It wasn't open, but they told me to go to the delivery dock and ring the door bell, which I did, and they brought me out this tiny peeping box.  I instantly felt guilty for having them shipped.  Drove home, took the cheeping box down into the basement, and opened the box with a little bit of anxiety.  How many of the five babies I ordered survived?

Happy little chicks
The box contained five adorable babys, less than 72 hours old, cheeping frantically, but all healthy looking, no pasty butts and did I mention adorable?  I picked each one up, checked for pasty butt, and put them in the brooder that has been waiting for them for a few days now.  After they were all checked, I physically showed them the water, dipping their little beaks in ever so slightly, and then put in the chick feed, sprinkling a little bit on the ground around the feeder.  They got it almost instantly.

Resisting the urge to pick them all up and squee over them all morning, I took some pictures, and watched them run around.  My Buff Orpington seems to be the bully.  Immediately she started pecking at the others, nipping their feet and feathers.  I hope this isn't a bad thing.  My Easter Egger is the cutest I think.  My Australorp is the loud one.  She was definitely the one making the most noise in the box, and she's the one who makes the loudest peep-peep.  My silver-laced Wyandotte and my gold-laced Wyandotte seem to be small and frail, but both are very pretty.
Buff Orpington, and the Wyandottes
All this chicks are amusing to watch.  They are still quite wobbly, so they fall a lot.  Pecking for food is the most adorable thing I've ever seen, as is pecking the brooder wall, and the waterer.  They are so soft too.  Lilia absolutely loved them, though she didn't hold any- I want to give them a few days to settle down.  Lilia was so excited though, which is good.

In a few days, I'll put down the pine shavings for the bedding.  Not sure if I'm supposed to wait, but like parenting, it seems the advice on chickens can be contradictory.  Don't use newspaper, use newspaper, don't use pine shavings for a week, that's nonsense- use it from the one ever seems to agree.  So I figured it can't hurt to wait a few days, so they learn what food is.  I will also add something for them to roost on in a few days.  I also need some grit, and something to put on top of the brooder.  Mainly for their own protection.  Right now I'm carefully watching the cat and the kids.  I haven't shown Liam the chicks, for fear he'll keep going down and let the cat down there too.  Hopefully we'll get a lock on the basement door soon.
Australorp, ake Loud Beak the Great

I'm so excited.  It was this time last year that I really thought about getting some chickens.  So it's something John and I have been talking about for a year, making plans and researching.  I've been reading, so I knew how to take care of them, and we'll hopefully have our coop done in the next few weeks.  That's probably the nerve-wrecking part- not getting that done.  At worst, we could go out and buy something, but in the long term, converting our garden shed will work for the best.  And it's probably the cheapest option, so long as we don't have to hire someone to do it, haha.  Which might happen...John and I aren't quite known for our skills in construction.  Even using a hammer and nail can be dangerous.  Alright, maybe we're not that bad.

Now we need names.  We have a Boco, and a Choco.  I guess I have to be a good parent and let the kids name at least one...though that's worked so well in the past.  Poor Guinea pig has gone from Winny, to Linny but is always called Guinea Pig.  Maybe I can convince them to pick Cheep-Cheep...

Super cool Easter Egger, AKA Choco

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wait, it's Spring?!

The weather hit 80 today.  Wait, what?

Daffodils, and a side of the garden I need to work on
It's been so wet and cold this April- I've barely been able to get out and clean my flower garden, and we won't even speak about my vegetable garden.  If it wasn't raining, it was cold.  If it wasn't cold, it was raining (or snowing...).  It wasn't fun at all!

So today, it was warm...and mostly sunny.  We were absolutely lucky since the surrounding areas were being hit with thunderstorms and tornado warnings, and literally, it was bright and sunny.  Giving that, when the kids were napping, I was able to get out and work on my garden a little.

One side done...
My yard is HUGE.  And quite frankly, when it comes to flowers, I have no clue what I'm doing.  Like seriously, I think I might be in over my head.  I have seven areas that I consider to be part of my flower garden. Six of them need clean up.  After today, I have about 45% done.  Luckily, that 45% was the hardest part.

Most of what I've done has been to remove all the dead (or dead looking) stuff, and try to remove some of the leaves just laying there.  No clue if it's right, no clue if its going to kill stuff or not.  I'm approaching the entire process in a "if I don't kill it, it's a success" frame of mind.
The side I did today...

I've slowly started to actually learn what each flower is.  So far my favorites are the Hyacinths.  So pretty, and man, they smell so awesome.  The previous owner was an award winning gardener.  A little intimidating...I wish I could've met her and made her write out care instructions, haha.

 Still, it's pretty cool to have my own gardens.  I was thinking while I relaxed outside with the kids that it was amazing how happy flowers made me, how pretty they looked, and how annoyed that ALL of my garden wasn't looking so pretty.  I have also become pretty awed by bulbs.  I planted nothing last year, and yet I have so much growing.  I've had to make sure to remove anything dead carefully, since a few times I've discovered things growing off the dead stuff.  (Can you tell I don't know what I'm doing yet?  I still lack the vocabulary!)
Probably my favorite flower area.

I'm hoping that I'll get a few more nice days this week so I can finish up the flower areas and get to my vegetables.  I haven't even started there, other than the occasional stray thought.  I wanted to go big, but I think I'm going to have to show self-restraint and stick with simple.  Maybe just a few basic vegetables, and a few basic herbs.

I did have a nice surprise though.  When we moved in last Fall, I planted my container Rhubarb in the ground, and covered in some mulch.  I figured if it grew, great!  And if didn't, that was fine too.  But it grew.  And it's growing nicely.  Every time I check on it, it's bigger.  I think that's pretty cool, and I'm looking forward to making some Rhubarb pie, either this year if I'm lucky, or next year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm saying no to chemicals...

I have a little confession.  I know, it's not Friday, so let's change that- I have a little admission.  I hate cleaning the bathroom.  So much, that since we've moved in, I have not given the bathroom a lot of attention, other than the quick wipe downs and washing the toilet.  Pretty gross, I know.

Baking soda is great stuff!
Part of the reason I've avoided it is because I haven't been doing too well with strongly chemical cleaners.  I love CLR, but the smell makes me beyond sick- giving me a headache that can last all day.  And though my sweet husband gladly volunteers to scrub it for me, there's a certain degree of guilt there, since he already does so much.

So today, I made my own scrubbing solution- completely free of chemicals.  And much to my surprise, it worked well.

Herby Soft Scrub
• 1/2 cup baking soda
• 1/2 cup castille soap (I used Dr. Bronner's- but was unable to get a hold of unscented, so I used almond)
• 15 drops of antimicrobial essential oils (I used Clary Sage and Thyme)

Mix well until you have a nice consistency like cake frosting. If you have leftovers, add 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin to keep the blend nice and moist.

Pretty good stuff too- smells yummy.
I whipped it up in a glass jar, and then used a microfiber cloth to apply it to the tub and counters.  I used more in the more grimy parts of the tub, and then used a scrubbing brush.  Without rinsing, I let it sit for 5-10 minutes, though I think next time I'll let it sit a bit longer.

The smell was great.  Because I used the almond, I think it worked out well.  The essential oils are strong smelling, and I think the almond gave it a more "sweet" smell.  Afterwards, the bathroom smelled delicious, and my hands didn't smell like chemicals.  I think next time I will use cleaning gloves though- my hands feel a little dried out.

I'll definitely be making some more of my own cleaning supplies.  Surface spray, Antibacterial spray, window/mirror cleaner, linen spray, carpet deodorizer, floor cleaner...

Though, I am contemplating a steam cleaner too.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The return of Me...and magical Lemon cakes!

Alright, I know- I haven't been keeping up the past few weeks.  Life got a little busy, but not in a way one would find interesting in a blog.  Unless people want to read about me doing a ton of laundry, vacuuming and wiping down counters constantly.  And I'm sure no one wants to hear about the nasty cold I caught last weekend.  So despite being busy, it was in a very boring way- almost anything "fun" in my life was on hold.

I have some fun stuff coming though- flower garden clean up, vegetable gardens, chicks (arrive after Easter!), and John is almost done with his semester which means we will be doing more wallpaper stripping, painting and bookshelf construction.  So hopefully I'll have things to actually blog about.

So a few weeks back, I made lemon cakes to celebrate HBO's new series, Game of Thrones.  HBO has done an excellent job promoting the series, and in fact, had food trucks in NYC and LA serving Westeros-inspired food, along with Lemon cakes.  The recipe was released too, and of course, I had to make some.

Official recipe
The recipe was really easy to follow- the hardest part was actually zesting the lemons, which wasn't hard, just time consuming.  I used my KitchenAid mixer, whipping the eggs until they had soft peaks.  While they were being whipped, I prepared the flour mixture, and the liquid mixture.  I mixed it all together, and put the mixture into the buttered ramekins.  Very carefully, I poured hot water into the dish that held all the ramekins.  I used my electric kettle to pour, which made it easier- I was a little worried that I'd spill water into the ramekins.  I then very carefully put the pan in the oven, tossed on some foil and baked.

Mine weren't as pretty...
When they were done, they came out of the ramekins easily, although the bottoms stuck a tiny bit.  I didn't want to waste it, so I used a spoon to put it back on, hence the lumpy look.

They tasted really good.  I mean REALLY good.  Very lemony- but not too sweet.  The recipe was for 6 cakes, but I only had four 4 oz ramekins, so I used a very large ramekin to make one big lemon cake.  I gave that one to Hodor...I mean my husband.  Actually we split it, and saved the remaining four for dessert that night.  Liam liked it, but Lilia didn't really like it that much.  I guess she really is like a certain tomboy character in the series.

I'm hoping to make more this weekend to enjoy on Sunday during the premier.  I can't believe it's less than 72 hours away.  I think it's been a really long time since I've looked forward to something on TV as much as I have with Game of Thrones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The ugliest bagel you'll ever see...

Well, I have no April Fool's jokes for you.  I think life has killed my imagination, as I cannot think of anything funny to fool people with.  But that's ok.  Because today I bring bagels!!

Ugly but tasty.
Fair warning...they are the ugliest bagels ever.  I love to cook, and I'm good at cooking, mostly.  I'm not that great of a baker.  On top of that, the recipe I used is a bit iffy.  It's from Joy of Baking, which I usually consider to be reliable.  But this recipe was just sort of off.  It seemed like far too much flour.  The dough didn't stick to itself, if that makes sense.  They were just awful to roll, and despite kneading and kneading and kneading (for the time it said to knead) it just looked awful.  Some even came apart after I added them to the boiling water.  However, looks don't count for much, as long as the taste is good, right?

Cut in half, ready for some cream cheese!
 They were definitely tasty.  Perfect with a little bit of butter (LOVE Brummel and Brown Yogurt spread), or some cream cheese.  I made four cinnamon and sugar bagels, and four poppy seed bagels.  The directions said to cook for 25-30 minutes, but after 20, I knew it was too long.  It was a perfect "crusty" outside, tender outside.  However, it was a bit more "bready" than I like, though it could because I waited until they were cool to enjoy one, and didn't toast it.

All in all, I don't think they were bad, but I would like to try a different recipe.  And maybe get a dough hook for my Kitchen Aid.  Kneading dough is a bummer!

1 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
2 ½ tsp plus 1 1/2 tsp plus 1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp melted butter
1 ¾ tsp plus ½ tsp salt
1 cup plus 3 to 3 ½ cups bread flour
4 quarts boiling water

1. Combine the water, yeast, and 2 1/2 tsp sugar. Let the yeast dissolve, about 5 minutes.

2. Add in butter, 1 3/4 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1 cup flour and knead for about 10 minutes. Gradually add in 3 cups flour. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each into a rope about 10 inches long. Pinch the ends together into a ring and wet to seal. Let rest for 15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring water to boil and add in remaining sugar and salt.

5. Boil each ring, about 4 at a time in the water for 45 seconds.

6. Sprinkle with choice toppings and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Cream cheese tasty