Valentine’s Day, early edition

Jesse and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early this year because I have to work on the actual day.  We went out to Sakana Sushi (always fantastic food) and then we saw John Wick: Chapter Two.  I really liked the movie though it was super loud.  I mused to Jesse after it was over that I never realized how many assassins were in New York.  It felt like every extra on the scene was an assassin.  The body count was much higher than the first film.

It’s been warmer the past couple days and the boys have been outside to jump on the trampoline several times now.  Ezra in particular is loving it.

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We’ve had more contractors over to bid on landscaping and hopefully we will pick a cheap but competent company.  The most difficult part for me is that we don’t really have a set design for the front yard so it can be hard for me to articulate specifically what we’re looking for.  I’ll try to remember to take before and after photos.  The bummer is we got less back on our tax returns than I was hoping for so some of it will have to go on the credit card.  The good news is we have plenty of room on the card, the bad news is the card was so close to being paid off and I wanted to keep it that way.

I actually cleaned the bathrooms on my weekend!  It’s really amazing because I HATE cleaning bathrooms, especially the toilets, and that lack of love definitely showed.  They were pretty gross but now they are gleaming and I’m not *quite* so freaked out when Leo touches the toilet.

I was in a minor accident on my way home from work on Wednesday evening.

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As a result I had to bring my van into a collision repair shop and am now riding a rental until the van gets fixed.  Which apparently is going to be about 11 days because they had to order in some part.  Trying to wrestle the car seats into a sedan was a trip.  I’d honestly never had to move/install Leo’s car seat before, even when it belonged to Ezra.  Jesse has always handled that.  So I moved Ezra’s seat first and got that installed, put Leo in Ezra’s seat and had Ezra sit in the front seat while I tried to install Leo’s seat.  It took me forever!  I was all sweaty and probably swearing and these guys are just standing around and no one offers to help.  I ended up getting the seat installed ok but then I wasn’t able to tighten it much.  Jesse finished off the job when he got home.  Thanks, honey!

We have someone coming to get the chickens and the coop.  One of the contractors, actually.  I mentioned we were looking to get rid of the hens and he said he’d take them and now he’s planning on coming out tomorrow and that will be the end of our chicken saga.  For now, anyway.  Maybe if we get a house on a plot of land we’ll look into it again.  For now my mini homesteading dream is done.  Well, apart from some garden boxes we’ll put in.

I was cleaning out the fridge and we’ve had these bottles of fermented drinks in the fridge door for probably about seven months now and I decided it was time to get rid of them.  They were taking up valuable real estate!  I had grabbed a couple out of the door but then I remembered the hard work fermenting them was and didn’t want to waste it.  I hadn’t been drinking them because I’m not sure what the sugar content is and I’ve been trying to stay low carb lately but the past few days had not been low carb so I thought I’d crack a bottle open.  That particular bottle happened to be our homemade ginger ale.  It was so tasty!  Super bubbly and EXTREMELY ginger-y.  I guess I’ll keep the bottles awhile longer yet.

Leo has been super cute thinking he’s hiding from us.

He’s very stealthy, right?!

Maternity leave, redux

eBay has done a very cool thing starting this January 2016.  They have really beefed up their maternity leave/family leave policies.  Last year, the policy was you could get up to 12 weeks maternity leave, but only six weeks were paid by short-term disability and it was at 80% of your base pay.  Starting in January, you can now get up to 24 weeks PAID leave (at 100% base pay!), 12 for disability and 12 for bonding time.  I was kind of miffed that I had missed this new policy, being that I had had Leo back in May.  But then! I heard some other girls in a different department talking about how they were taking advantage of the new policy, and one of the women had had her baby last March!

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I asked my manager if it was something I could take advantage of and to my surprise, eBay is allowing the new policy for anyone provided the baby is not yet a year old.  You can believe I snapped up that opportunity!  So starting on Monday, I will have the next 12 weeks off work (I already used my short-term disability when I actually gave birth to Leo)!  How cool is that?!  And eBay gives this benefit to fathers as well.  I told one of my teammates about it and he’s taking off the next 12 weeks as well.  Kind of leaves our team a bit short staffed, but I don’t feel bad about taking up this extended leave time.  Baby months are short, you know?  Leo is already on the cusp of crawling and I want to physically be there to get in on that action.  Sometimes I get irritated having to be on the phone with members who are surly, but I definitely appreciate eBay’s employee benefits.

This past month has had ups and downs.  In December I came down with a cold and had to miss the company holiday party.  I hear it was really good this year, both the food and the entertainment.

Velvet and the girls celebrated the new year with us at our house and we ate tons of junk food and watched silly movies before ringing in the new years with the folks on tv.

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On New Years morning we got the word that Velvet’s husband had passed away early that morning in a car accident.  Talk about a shock.  Not the best way to start the year.  Family and friends have been so generous with their outpouring of support, it’s been amazing.  She has some really solid people in her corner and I’m grateful for that.

Dad and Dani came for about a week after we got the news and helped Velvet with some stuff around the house and filing paperwork, that kind of thing.  It was sad circumstances but great to see them.  Dad hadn’t shaved since his foot surgery last summer so he was rocking a full-on beard, it was great!  And he and Dani had new tattoos they didn’t tell us about.  They are getting to be rebels in their old age.  (Yeah, I said old age, Dad, deal with it!)

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Jesse has started his final semester of school.  It seems like a light at the end of a loooooooong tunnel.  If it seems long to me, it probably feels longer to him.  Hopefully he can get a job straight out of graduation.  We’d like to get a job back in the Pacific NW, but I have a feeling he may get something closer to here.  Just in case, I’ve been looking up acreage in Washington.  You never know.

The whole family was hit with a stomach bug earlier this month.  I called out a couple days for myself and then Ezra was ill and then Jesse.  Leo was sick a couple times but I couldn’t tell if it was the bug or just normal baby pukes.  I’m thinking probably it was the bug because Leo is not one for just randomly spitting up.

In the past month we cleared out the junk room upstairs and moved Ezra into that room then moved Leo into Ezra’s old room.  (For those keeping track, we recently swapped rooms with Ezra, so there has been a LOT of room changing lately).  After Ezra was all moved in it still took us awhile to get the rest of our stuff out of the room.  But, now it’s all his and just has mainly his stuff in it.  It looks like a bedroom again, completely different than from the past four years.

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It’s been a little difficult for me having Leopold in his own room.  I have to check on him at night before I go to bed to make sure he’s still breathing or to rearrange him so he’s covered by blankets.  That kind of thing.

Ezra finished his skating lessons.  Or rather I should say, we went to maybe three lessons and he just didn’t want to go to more.  So that was the end of that.  Maybe he’ll be more interested next year.  However, he did just start swimming lessons and though we’ve only gone the one time, he was VERY excited about it, both before and after.  He got water in his eyes at one point and completely freaked out about that so we need to remember to bring his goggles next time.

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There is this book I’ve read several times, a romance novel if you must know, and in it they talk about chicken marsala a lot and the lead in the books tries her hand at making it.  I’ve always wanted to try it so finally purchased all the ingredients and here is the first result:

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It was good but slightly bland, so the next time I made it I about quadrupled the amount of wine and chicken stock (because the first time I had doubled it) and I also added shallots and garlic.  It was fantastic!  We are going to put this in the rotation for dinners.

I’m still debating between raised garden beds and hay bale gardening.  I think the raised garden beds look more neat but I like that after a season or two we could use the spent hay bales as mulch.  I really want to ramp up our efforts this season.  We are going to do the tomatoes and peppers, but I’d like to also do spaghetti squash again (and actually eat it this time) and maybe a bed for lettuces and one for onions and garlic.

I decided to give up on the milk kefir.  While I do think I was getting good probiotics, I am inherently lazy and I didn’t want to have to tend to something daily.  I’d go a week before switching the grains to new milk and I didn’t want to deal with it anymore so I fed the rest of the kefir, milk grains and all, to Benny and that is the end of that.

We did just start a ginger bug again, though.  Jesse has taken it on because we are both really into ginger ale right now and would like to make our own.  A ginger bug is the basis of this.  Right now it’s happily bubbling away with wild yeast colonizing the jar and eating the sugar.  In about a week we can take some of that liquid and make a ginger ale with it.  Exciting!  Probiotic ginger ale, yeah!

I also purchased a 2.5 gallon dispenser to brew kombucha.  Right now I have a 1-gallon container and it’s a pain trying to bottle up the brew.  This new dispenser has a spigot in it so bottling the drink should be much easier, and I won’t have to remove the scoby when making the new batch.

Over the course of the next 12 weeks I will attempt to be more active and to eat better.  Fingers crossed for me!

Elderberry syrup is delicious!

I finally got the main ingredients to make some elderberry syrup.  The recipe I used called for some items I didn’t have, like cloves (note to self: buy cloves), so I substituted with a star anise.  I also used a whole cinnamon stick and I used fresh sliced ginger.  The process was pretty simple, but I think I had the burner turned on too high because what should have taken 45 minutes only took 20 and I couldn’t let it go longer or the liquid would have boiled out.  I’ll know better next time.

After I let the mixture cool down a little, I used a potato masher and mashed the berry mixture.  I wanted to get out all the goodness I could!  I then strained the mix through a fine-mesh metal strainer and let the liquid cool some more…except I let it cool a bit too long so when it came time to mix in the raw honey (which was a creamy, crystallized product) I had to work it into tepid liquid.  That was a challenge.  The final result, however, was worth it.  It was very sweet, and very berry-ish, and it will not at all be a hardship to take a tablespoon a day.  I think I may make a larger batch next time if we decide this is a supplement we want on a regular basis.  I would say the main cost factor would be the raw honey, which Jesse tells me we don’t actually have to use raw honey, we can use the processed kind.  But I feel like if I’m trying to get the most nutrients into us as possible, we should shell out some higher moola for the good stuff.

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We received our activated charcoal as well, so I gave it a try brushing my teeth with the powder.  I can’t say I noticed a huge whitening effect but I do notice a little one, and my teeth felt very clean afterward.  It did make a bit of a mess like folks said it would, but I was fairly careful and it was easily cleaned up.  I also took two of the pill capsules and I may get into a routine with those as well to clean out toxins from my body.  Of course, activated charcoal doesn’t differentiate the good from the bad, it just sucks everything out, so I don’t want to overdo it.

I have been keeping an eye on my ginger bug and it appeared ready for use, so I mixed the starter liquid with some coconut/pineapple juice and let it meld together overnight in a pitcher.  Last time when my bug didn’t work out, someone suggested that I should have let it hang out overnight to get the process started with the new juice sugars.  I poured the mixture into my flip-top bottles when I got home from work and let me tell you, that was a thick juice!  Perhaps I should have thinned it with water first?  I will let it hang out a couple days and give it a try.

Jesse showed me his plans to increase the chicken coop run, and it’s MUCH larger than I had anticipated.  It basically spans the entire length of our backyard, like a long rectangle, but really we aren’t using that particular area for anything anyway.  It will be nice for the girls when the time comes that we cannot let them roam the entire yard because of garden items sprouting.

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I mentioned that we bought six new baby chicks, didn’t I?  Well, we did, and we have lost one so far, but the other five seem to be doing well.  Then my sister let me know her friends are getting out of the chicken business and did we want seven adult layers?   Decisions, decisions!  We are still deciding because if none of the other chicks die we would have 19 chickens in our backyard, and even I think that is a bit much.  Jesse says we’d probably process a couple of the poorer layers, but that would still leave us with a bunch of hens.  We’ll see, but we need to decide quickly because they need them gone.  But we will need the new run in place if we do take them.  So much to do!  (Which, I’ll be honest, will all be on Jesse as I don’t build things.)

We purchased a pear tree at Costco a couple days ago to replace the one the voles had eaten.  It was only $12 for a good-size pear tree!  They had apple, pear, plum, and cherry trees available, so go get some while you can!  I cannot wait for our trees to start producing!

Poo on the carpet, what a lovely surprise!

For whatever reason, some of Ezra’s diapers have not been very absorbent lately.  Probably just means I need to strip them again.  A few days ago, this happened and Ez started crying because he felt pee rolling down his legs.  I got him into the bath and then my phone went off and it was a question about an eBay item!  Not one to lose out on a potential sale, I asked Ezra if he’d be ok for a few minutes and he indicated that he would be.

I don’t like leaving him alone in the bath for any length of time (we’ve all seen the videos on what can happen to an unattended child in water) so I ran downstairs, rattled off an answer to the eBay question, then ran back upstairs.  Ezra was not in the bathtub, and the upstairs was suddenly smelling very flowery.  I found him in the soap room, where we keep all the finished soap along with all the raw materials.  He had found some fragrance oil bottles and dumped them together into a cup as well as spilled some on the floor.  He had also shat on the carpet.  How the heck did he have the time to do all that?!  I tell you, I was not gone more than a couple minutes, if that!  And usually I can hear him when he gets out of the tub.  This kid is getting sneaky!  The poo on the carpet didn’t bother me that much because it was solid and didn’t leave a mess, but the fragrance oils?  That stuff is expensive!  And not only had he poured them out, he had mixed them together!  Luckily he had chosen two scents that worked well together, but still!  I made him get back in the bath and I tried cleaning things up, but you really cannot get oil out of carpet and the washcloth I used still smells like fragrance oils.  I was a mad mama that day.

We have since purchased some of those doorknob child locks and will putting them to use once Amazon drops them off.

We’ve also decided to make Ezra’s room more Ezra friendly.  Right now there is a bunch of items in there that I don’t want him getting into, like some body butters and other soap stuff, along with my dresser.  We’re going to have to move the dresser into the downstairs living room I think, because it definitely won’t fit in our room.  We’re also thinking of breaking down the crib and just putting the mattress on the floor, because Ez has climbed out/fallen out of his crib a time or two, so it’s probably that time.  He’s getting so big!  It’s amazing to see how much he changes and picks up day by day.  It’s also extremely frustrating at times, because mama just needs some time to herself!  And I’m sure daddy does, too.  And we want to do this again eventually?!

The chickens are all doing well.  They like that the snow has been melting and freeing up more foraging ground. The other day Mister had caught a mouse but didn’t appear to be eating it any time soon, so I caught our black chicken and brought her over to where the mouse was.  Took her awhile to figure out what I was pointing at, but once she saw the mouse she picked it up and pecked at it until it was dead.  The other girls figured out she had something tasty and chased her around for awhile but eventually she got away and ate the mouse all up.  I’m trying to teach them to be good hunters.  It helps us out by decreasing rodent population and it helps them out by increasing their protein here and there.

The rabbit kits are growing, though not as fast as I would like.  One of the kits has a gunky eye, so we are cleaning it off and putting antibiotics on it.  I think it’s just “nest box eye” that they sometimes get.  Usually is not indicative of anything more suspicious.

We were planning on keeping on of the female kits to bring our breeders back up to three females, but now I’m thinking maybe we will just stay with the two breeders.  We’ll still have to see about that one.  I know most folks who breed rabbit may eventually switch out all chicken in favor of rabbit, but I don’t know we’ll want to do that yet.  I also worry about being overrun with rabbit meat.  While there are many ways to prepare it, I guess I get worried that we’ll get tired of it but still have a couple hundred pounds of it in the freezer.

My ginger bug failed.  I noticed mold on it last night so had to toss it.  To be fair, I wasn’t taking great care of it.  I’ll need to start another one soon and try again.  On another note, our fermented garlic is coming along nicely!  The last couple nights we’ve been eating one clove apiece, just for general good health.  Also, Jesse is getting over a cold and garlic is great for colds.  As we were eating our garlic cloves, Ezra decided he wanted one, too, so I opened my mouth and breathed on his face.  He quickly ducked his head into my shoulder and decided he didn’t want one, after all.  I’m thinking I will start another batch of fermented garlic soon, because they take a few months to come to fruition.  Also, I may try a batch of honey fermented garlic, where you just put peeled garlic cloves into raw honey and let it do it’s work. The honey thins out from the garlic juices and microbes and apparently is very tasty in marinades and dressings.  Fermenting food is fun!

What does the fox say?

Two days ago I was preparing food in the kitchen.  I heated up some oil in a pan to sear off a pork roast, and had put the roast in the pot (fat side down, of course).  Washing my hands after, I happened to look out our kitchen window that overlooks the backyard and I saw an plump orange kitty coming over the train tracks behind our fence.  At least, I thought it was an orange cat from the neighborhood, but it just didn’t look right.  Really staring at it showed that it was not, in fact, a well-fed orange kitty but instead a well-fed fox!  It was so pretty and I never see foxes that close so I took a minute to watch it but then it dawned on me that our chickens were out of the coop and the fox was now skulking our fence line!  Honestly, I don’t know if foxes can scale fences or if it even saw our chickens, but I tell you I probably looked kind of foolish in my kitchen for a moment because here’s what happened:

– Shit!  I need to get the chickens in the coop!
– Shit!  I just put the pork roast on!  Should I take it off the heat or can I do this fast enough to get back up here so it doesn’t burn?
– Shit!  Why am I taking so long to decide what to do?  That fox is probably in our backyard eating my chickens by now!

This was accompanied by me running a couple steps in each direction while I tried to figure out what to do.  Eventually I decided to take the roast off the heat and ran downstairs, threw on my boots, and headed outside.

I hate herding chickens.  While most of them were happy to see me because they thought I may have food for them, they did not want to go into the coop.  I wrangled five of them inside but meanwhile two of them had run the other way and any time I got close they just kept going.  I finally had to circle around them far enough ahead to get them to go back to the coop.  Next the trick was opening the coop door to let the two in while preventing the other five from escaping.  Good times were had by all, I tell you.  In the end all seven were shut up safely in the coop, although unhappy about having their foraging time cut short.  I did not see the fox again but we decided to keep the birds locked up the next day as well, just as a precaution.

Makes me think, once again, about getting a dog.  Of course, if we lived on a farm situation we’d probably have these run-ins more often.  But again, we’d probably have a dog to do a perimeter line and keep the predators in check.

It also makes me wish I had the ability to take photos with my eyes, because I see a bunch of neat things that are typically gone by the time I’m able to get a camera set up.  not that I want to go full cyborg, but an eye photo cam could be cool.  Or, you know, a contact lense could work as well.

I remade the leftover rabbit meat into a taco soup yesterday.  Turned out pretty well if I do say so myself.  I added a quart of homemade chicken stock for the base, added in the rabbit meat, frozen corn, black beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and then the taco seasoning and let it simmer for awhile.  I sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and a dollop of sour cream and it’s perfect!  Of course, typically you’d eat it with a side of tortilla chips but usually I just eat the soup on its own.

I started another ginger bug and am hoping these results will be better than last time.  Someone on a forum told me I should have combined the ginger bug starter with the juice and then let it breath for a day or so instead of bottling immediately, so I will give that a go in a couple days when the starter is ready.

The kombucha is always rolling along.  I ordered a different variety of black tea this time and I don’t like it as well.  The leaves are more finely cut and therefore harder to strain when it comes time to pour the tea liquid into the sugar to create the sweet tea portion of the process.  I will most definitely try a different variety next time.

I’m a bit nervous to try our sauerkraut.  I’m pretty sure I could eat it now, but I kind of worry that I’m going to kill myself because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.  Usually I just throw stuff together and I’m not sure if that’s all right with fermenting or if it is a precise process like baking.  Maybe I will try it later tonight and if I’m still alive in a couple days I’ll post to let you all know how it went.