Monday, February 27, 2012


I'm not ready! I'm not buckled in yet!

Monday: Eating at MIL's house--THANK the merciful Lord.

Tuesday: Spaghetti, salad and garlic bread. Cooking on the driveway again. Easy and everyone likes it.

Wednesday: Pizza Hut. Awana is back on after two missed weeks due to measles contamination. So we'll be hustling out the door.

Thursday: Handyman is in charge of dinner, because he was gone all week last week. And it's his turn.

Friday: Rueben casserole that I saw in the newspaper. Haven't figured out where I will bake it yet.

Sorry this isn't very helpful to you all. Can I just encourage you to put something down on paper. It makes all the difference in the world. Seriously. :)

Saturday, February 25, 2012


We love our chickens, and we love their eggs. They were our first farm animal. We bought an original flock of chicks about 6 years ago, with some friends. They raised that first group in two baby pools in their garage. They were suburbanites with 6 kids and wanted the experience. Once they were grown into pullets we moved them here, into the coop on wheels that Handyman had built.

They were a terrific flock, half Ameracauna (Easter-Eggers who lay green eggs), and half Rhode Island Reds, with a few unique specimens thrown in. We lost several to hawks, especially in the beginning. We had made them a wonderful aviary with pvc and poultry netting. It eventually got destroyed in a windstorm. Then for awhile they were free range in our orchard. It was absolutely delightful and hilarious to have chickens on the front sidewalk, looking in the sidelights at the front door!

Ameracaunas are wonderful, and they can vary greatly in coloration. We had one who was completely white, named Tweety. We knew she was an Ameracauna by her green legs. We also had one black hen. Her feathers are tipped with gold, and she has the puffy cheek feathers so common to EE's. Even as a chick, she was striking. Our friends named her Falco, because she looked like a falcon.

One spring early on, Falco went broody. This is when a hen decides she wants to hatch chicks. They refuse to get off the nest, no matter what. While they are resistant to getting off the nest, they also lose most of their fear of you in their zeal to sit. Usually hens raised without mothers (like ours), do not go broody.

Falco was a zealot. It went on for weeks. But we had no rooster, so there was no chance this was going to work out. I belonged to a great website called Backyard Chickens, and they have lots of bulletin boards for chicken lovers. I happened to see a post offering bantam hatching eggs, for a low paypal payment, including shipping. So I bought a dozen.

They arrived by Priority Mail the next day, wrapped in bubble wrap.

Bantams are small chickens, about half the normal size. I had had bantams as a teenager. They are terrific. More personality than 3 full-sized chickens. Beautiful colors, lots of fun. Since the eggs are tiny, we put all 12 under Falco.

She was unsure for the first day. Probably ready to give the whole thing up. I think she had already been broody for almost a month at this point! An entire sitting would only take 21 days, so I'm sure her hormones were ebbing. But she was swayed apparently, and commenced sitting. (I'm sure she was happy that I was no longer stealing her eggs.)

At about 2 weeks we candled them, and by golly--there were multiple ones that showed distinct promise. This being our first time to candle eggs, we were too unsure to take any away from her, even if they appeared empty. And on the night before day 21, we moved her and her nest, into a baby pool in our garage.

Sure enough, she hatched them! It was the most glorious, wonderful experience ever. Four fluffy little tiny chicks. We were enchanted. Then our stupid corgi decided he should catch one, and that was then end of that one. Kids learn about death...check that lesson off the list.

Fortunately we had 3 left. And spoiled they became. These were purebred bantam varieties. It turned out that we had a hen and rooster Buff Brahma Bantam and a Blue Cochin hen. They were tamed from birth, just about and became our favored pets. They grew up in our flower garden and we learned the vocalizations of the mother hen. The special sound that says, "DO NOT MOVE! EMMINENT DANGER!" and the one that says, "Come and get it!"

She was a wonderful mother. And she never went broody again. I have several scrapbook pages of "the chicks", and their miracle mother, Falco.

I tell you all this to say, that Falco is now the oldest and only hen left of our original flock of 28. I have one other hen, who I bought as an adult and several little bantam hens raised by their mothers, (who think I am Godzilla.) And Caesar, the little bantam rooster, is the only sibling remaining of his hatching. He is an older guy now, too.

So now we're having the urge to start a new flock. Little #3 doesn't remember raising chicks, so it's time to start thinking about another go-round. We've been through hawks, coyotes and even a loose dog massacre (someone else's dog). Having birds will definitely toughen your hide. But they are fun and the eggs just can't be beat. I purchased organic large eggs at the store, and my homegrown ones are still more orange and robust.

Another idea rattling around in my spring feverish mind...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Menu Plan Monday--on Tuesday, or Story of My Life

Yeah, yeah, it's Tuesday. So sue me! Just kidding...I can't remember what I was doing on Sunday afternoon. It might have had something to do with blowdrying a chicken, or cleaning up 3.5 gallons of dog barf underneath my office chair floor protector thingy. I am trying to blot out the entire evening really.

So here's my plan:

Monday: Ate at my MIL's. She roasted a giant chicken in the oven. We had salad, steamed baby carrots, (I added honey.) and baked potatoes. I haven't had a baked potato in about 6 months or more. (BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE AN OVEN.) I don't sound bitter, do I?

I did enter the Lowes Makeover $100,000 giveaway. The finalists will be announced on March 5--which isn't too far away. When I told Handyman, his first words were, "I wouldn't have to do the work." I am imagining what it would be like to go to Lowes with a gift card that has a $100,000 balance. I am sure I could apply some of that towards my favorite contractor...hmmmmm.

Oh! Back to: Menu Plan Monday

Tuesday: I will use some of the chicken meat sent home from MIL's, to make Chicken Taquitos (Whatever you do, don't skip the salt sprinkled on the taquitos before they're baked. Those bites were the very best!)

Wednesday: Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps, which I had posted last week and didn't use.

Thursday: Kung Pao chicken, which I added for last Sunday, but didn't use.

Friday: Spinach and Bacon Frittata and hash browns, which I made last week and enjoyed so much, we are having it again! Woot! Woot! The hens are laying.

Saturday: Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chili

Sunday: WHO KNOWS?!

Reviewing last week's recipes, I want to say that the Ravioli in Sage Cream Sauce was AWESOME! We all loved it. The pecans were the piece you shouldn't miss out on, although other nuts would probably do as well, if you have a preference. It was easy and quick and has already been added to our favorites folder!

Check out OrgJunkie today! She has a great post with linky for her favorite organizing links! It looks chock full of stuff we can all use. And, could I ask y'all to leave a comment? It is fun to write a blog, and more fun to see 50 views for the week; but a real bummer to get absolutely no comments...if you can't think of anything, just say hi! TYVM!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Story of Mr. Bingley

When we scouted this place out back in 2002, there was an orange cat hanging around outside. The house was vacant. We were told it had been vacant for a year. And prior to that, had been a rental for awhile.

We are all cat lovers. Handyman, like my dad, loves cats. Handyman could never have cats as a child, because his brother is allergic. He had to satisfy himself with the barn cats at his grandparents farm, when he visited them every summer.

When we married in 1991, I had two cats. The amazing Chelsea, best female cat ever; and her neurotic mother, Monet. Monet and Handyman bonded while we were still dating, when she jumped out my open apartment window and landed (much to her surprise), one-story below ground in the old coal dump area outside my ancient apartment building. She was stranded in the brick, room-size well when he showed up one day, and like the prince he still is, he rescued her.

I remember telling my vet that I was getting married and needed to change my name in their files. He said, "You are going to ruin a perfectly good relationship by getting married?!" I replied, "He likes cats." Dr. McCune said, "Oh, I understand."

But back to Mr. Bingley. There was never a doubt in anyone's mind that we would tame any cat on the premises, once we moved in. Each time we came to look at this place, and talk ourselves into the big plunge of remodeling it; he was here. Big, orange and quiet, skulking around.

When we finally took posession, we saw him still. Not skinny, but skittish. Soon enough, little #2, almost 4 at the time, sat on the sidewalk by the garage and up he came, to pet her! He rubbed on her immediately and that was all there was to be done. He sniffed noses with our big male cat through the cracked-open patio doors and soon came in to join our family.

We had named this place Netherfield, an homage to our obsession with Jane Austen literature. (We try not to call it Neverdone, but that does creep in occasionally.) So the only logical name for this feline was Mr. Bingley, the popular owner of Netherfield, in Pride & Prejudice. The moniker fit, as our Mr. Bingley possessed all the same characteristics of his namesake: good humor, gentlemanlike behavior and kindness.

We enjoyed his wonderful presence for over a year. He never wandered far, always coming in at night. We were sure he appreciated his home. Then one day, no Mr. B. The next day, no Mr. B. It was heart-breaking. We printed flyers, called our neighbors, drove around calling. Nothing. He was gone. There was only one logical conclusion to all this: coyotes.

No matter what Hank the Cowdog says, coyotes are NO fun, at all. They wake us at night with their infernal partying. They eat our pets, feline and avian. They creep us out at all hours of the day and night. They had to have eaten our big buddy and what a roast he would have made. We were heartbroken.

A year went by. I picked out another cat at the humane society, when I was there getting some free barn cats. Tony, all personality in a short-haired package. He fit right in.

Then one day, a friend mentioned that he had a big orange cat that had showed up in his barn and was scaring his half-grown kittens that lived there. These friends live about a mile away, straight west as the crow flies, but across a swift-flowing creek, and a lot of fields. He asked if we were missing any cats?!

"Well, we were, about a year ago," I told him. It was a big, orange male cat. He said this one was shy, and hard to catch. But, he said once he caught him, the cat was not agressive, seeming to like being petted. He said his neighbors had told him that the cat had been hanging out in their barn until they chased it off. I couldn't believe that it could be our guy. It'd been too long. But I agreed to come look at it, the next time he was able to catch it.

So, when he called early one morning, I went over. We had three cats in the house then, since we had acquired Tony. I did not need another cat. I knew better than to take #2 or #3. They would want to bring home any cat from anywhere. They didn't clean litter boxes. #1 wanted to go, and since she was beginning to show signs of adult behavior, I agreed.

When we got there, our friend Rob was standing at the far end of his barn holding this giant pumpkin-colored cat and I gasped. Mr. Bingley was a big bulky cat with very matte hair. It wasn't shiny or sleek. It was very unique, I thought. This guy had it. As I went closer, I didn't think it was Mr. B. The face seemed wider and the eyes were green. Mr. B. had gold eyes, almost exactly the color of his fur.

But everything else was the same. The size, the color, the hair. He was neutered. He was kind. He was heavy. We agreed to take him. Can eye color change? I didn't feel like I could say, "almost, but no." So home we came.

He never hissed at any of our other cats. They never hissed at him. He immediately took up residence on the foot of my bed, where he sleeps every single night. He goes out, wanders around and comes right in. He never skulked around the house. He was never intimidated by our tribe of very vocal dogs. But his eyes are definitely not gold.

We got out the scrapbook and looked at the old pictures of Mr. B. This guy has the same number of little stripes in the middle of his forehead. We couldn't bring ourselves to call him Mr. Bingley in the beginning. We were only about 85% sure it was him. But then, we couldn't not call him Mr. Bingley.

We avoided the issue for awhile and called him "the interloper", "the impostor", and "the stunt double". Then he just became Mr. Bingley again. If he is not the original, he is so precious a duplicate, that I feel blessed to know him. If he is the original, I am, of course, thankful that he was protected and generously returned to us.

And so to quote Spenser, through Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility: "For there is nothing lost, but may be found, if sought..."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Menu Plan Monday---I think I can, I think I can

(There is a new post, a few days prior to this one. Because I started it back in January, it posted it chronologically to its start date, not post date. )

Let it be known that menu-planning doesn't even take that long. If left to my own devices, I would plan the same 14 things over and over again. But Handyman does not go there. This is a man who eats catered food, routinely, on the job. Sometimes that is good. Sometimes it is evil. But it definitely puts a little pressure on me, in a good way.

For the first time in ages, I will be linking this post to org junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Mostly because that's what makes my menu planning faster, and more fun. I just troll through the linky and steal other people's work. It's not cheating anymore Ladies! It's support!

Monday: Today is Westminster Kennel Club dog show, on USA Network or something we don't get. So we are heading to Grandma's house, to watch. We will be having a stroganoff made with a pre-cooked pot roast from Costco. We have eaten these several times and been very impressed. They cost about $12, which ain't cheap, but they are done after 10 min. in the microwave and fall apart tender on the plate. If I can track the recipe down, I will link later. Basically sour cream and noodles, parsley flakes. Maybe some cream soup.

Tuesday: Also Westminster Kennel Club night. So back to Grandma's Spinach/bacon frittata is the plan. I stole it from HERE. My hens have started laying again, and even though they are little bantam eggs, they are bright orange and full of good stuff. Buy organic, it's worth it.

Wednesday: Is Awana night at our house, which usually means Pizza Hut, which usually means $20. I'd like to reduce that, so I'm going to try Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps. I have some of those great flatbreads from Costco, in my freezer that I will probably use instead of tortillas. They are a lot more filling. Again, I am springing for organic beef. Costco has organic beef patties for less than $4/lb. I just thaw them and chunk them up for whatever I need. Otherwise I am paying about $5/lb. for Laura's lean at Kroger. I do not buy store ground beef, ever. We just don't eat ground beef a lot. Not that we don't want to, but it's more than I can tolerate on several levels.

Thursday: Handyman is home all week, so this sounds sophisticated without being difficult or expensive. And #2 loves ravioli. Ravioli with Sage Cream Sauce

Friday: This recipe came from my BFF: Arni's salad with BBQ chicken. Fresh green salad with shredded BBQ chicken, black beans, corn, avocado, red onion, shredded cheese, and the tortilla strips you can get in the crouton section. I put a little ranch dressing mixed with Frank's on mine, as well. Awesome!

Saturday: LEFTOVERS, LEFTOVERS, or cold cereal.

Adding Sunday NOW: Kung Pao Chicken, only 500 calories, over brown rice. Yum!

There you have it: A week's menu for a home with little to no kitchen!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Yes, it is past Monday. Yes, I made a menu plan. Yes, it gave me peace of mind. Yes, it is buried in my daytimer and has not seen the light of day. In fact, I admit, I did not even prepare a dinner on multiple evenings this week. Those darn kids, they snack all the time. And when they start thinking about dinner, I have barn chores to do.

I made all the dishes on my menu last week. Actually I had to skip one, because I had three different, very edible leftovers in my refrig and I refused to cook something else. I even gave food away to the neighbors--(it was good soup). I'm just sayin' the effort was there. But this week, I have failed.

Handyman is on a major network show for Superbowl and he isn't home any night for supper. Kids eat without ceasing all day. I feel responsible to feed horses, they can't use the can opener or microwave. So I go to barn, kids fend for themselves.

Here is a good example: Hummus, crackers, organic turkey slices, 2 kinds of kefir, walnuts, craisins and almonds, pomegranate, honey bell oranges, tomato soup, cottage cheese, pickled beets, salsa, chips, chicken nuggets, nitrite-free hot dogs, salad with croutons. There are all kinds of great combos there, for a perfectly satisfying meal.

Staple of choice here: Popcorn. Go figure. No stove, no oven, no problem!

As a special reward for reading all the way to the end: GO HERE to get some FREE printable worksheets to help you get organized! I'm downloading them now! You should too. :)