Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Birthdays: Evelyn Turns Seven

A little tribute to our favorite little girl in the whole world. Our Evelyn, smart, sweet, spunky, and adventurous.

She's got a style all her own. Born into a world of boy, she has paved her own path that has blended a world of knights and swords, and dragons and mud with the world of rainbows, and princess, and fairy, and glitter galore.

The fairytale story dynamic didn't change that much, she just added a whole new dimension to the story.

She still lives very much in the world of play hard and get dirty, just in beautiful dresses and the world of pink and purple. She is lively and loving, tough and tender.

Always ready for the next adventure and to explore.

She can run and dance and twirl with a ribbon and play with her babies and in one instant is ready for the world of swords and everything boy in the next.

She is the perfect mix of princess and tomboy. She might seem girly, but she will not be out done by the boys and will always fight to come out on top.

There is never a dull moment with our little girl. Full of adventure and mischief, a twinkle in her eye, and a smile that can melt your heart. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Farm and Garden: Bees

Bees bearding on the outside of the hive
The bees are doing great so far. We clearly have one really strong hive with an amazing queen. The other hive is growing although it is a whole lot slower than the other.
The stronger hive has grown so quickly. It has already filled out 9 frames on the bottom box and is quickly working on the final frame so I have added a new box of frames to the hive. I am really enjoying this hive so far. It is a very calm and gentle hive, after moving the hive around, I took off my veil so that I could see the frames better because I have a really difficult time seeing. I was able to lift the frames and look at how they were doing without them getting too upset. I was a little nervous, so I didn't play around for too long but they were making some beautiful frames of honey and capped brood. Right before we got the new box on, a bee got caught in my hair so I stepped away and had Matt look for it unfortunately it is difficult to find a bee when your hair is about the same color. Being tangled in my hair must of angered it because it climbed up and stung me in the head. It didn't bother me that much, but I have to say that when you hear a bee buzzing near your ear but can't see it and know what the inevitable out come will be; it is a little unnerving. I took a minute to calm down and finished closing the box and gently put the covers back on top.

The hive was growing so fast they created their own frame
on the side of a feeder box
I have to say I should not have tempted fate...the other hive was not nearly as gentle or forgiving. When I opened the smaller hive. I did not have the same experience. These guys seemed to be agitated already and did not like me messing with their frames. I pulled a couple just to see what was going on with them and although slow, they are building out comb and filling it with honey. So I checked the older frames and there was a decent amount of capped brood on the center of the frame so I figured that that was enough checking because they were beginning to crawl on my clothes and not just fly around curiously. I backed away to put the veil on in order to push the frames back together and realized that there was another one stuck in my hair. I was really hoping to get this one out without another sting, but with several crawling on my shirt and towards my head I didn't think it would end well. Matt searched for the stuck bee and tried to brush the other bees away and one got him too. At some point I took my gloves and protective shirt off so that I didn't mash one accidently. Luckily I did not get stung by the bees on my shirt or the one in my hair...I missed the one on my leg though. So as I am wrestling with the last few bees that are telling me to back off, Matt gets the frames back in order and I suited back up to help get to top and cover back on.

Two things came to mind this evening while looking in on the bees. "I think the bees s-u-s-p-e-c-t something...followed by an internal moment of panic that was screaming "THESE ARE THE WRONG SORTS OF BEES". Then I realized I was channeling my inner Pooh Bear.

In the end every thing turned out okay and the bees look great there were only two hive beetles that I could see, and between the two of us only four stings happened. I call that a good ending when you consider that there are several thousand bees in each box.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Our Travels: Nashville

This week we went to Nashville to play because Matt had to go to a conference. I've never been to Nashville, and always thought it would be a great place to go. I have to say that I really enjoyed the trip, but without being knowledgeable of the area and things to do, it was difficult to find things to do and places to go that fit all of our likes especially in such a short time. We were there for about two days.

Our first stop was at the Parthenon and Centennial Park. It had a few interesting art exhibits of oil paintings and photography, and I found the history of the building and restoration of the Parthenon to be fascinating. I've know it was there for many years, but I had no idea that it had so much history behind it. We toured the building and walked around the grounds for a while watched the fish and turtles and birds in the landscape and found a historic train engine and plane.

We headed out to find something for lunch and ended up at a great place called The Pharmacy(odd name, but the food was excellent). Although we didn't order any there was also an impressive list of Bier(beer) and there was also an old-school soda fountain. The food was great and, the service was too even though it was extremely busy. The kids had burgers and fries, and Matt and I split a Biergarten Platter; it was a sampling of Wurstchen. We had Jaugerwurst, Currywurst, and Kielbasa. It was served on a bed of sauerkraut, with a couple of mustards and we chose German Potato salad to go with it.

At this point we had to bring Matt to his first meeting and try to find something to do. We tried to find something and decided that driving aimlessly in that town was a little stressful. I did stop a couple of times to take a picture here and there, but we decided to check into the hotel and figure out what options there were.

We ended up waiting for Matt to get back from his tour/meeting and went out to the Chinese Lantern Festival that just happened to be there. I was really excited to see this. It was a really beautiful display of delicate frame structures covered in silk and lit from the inside making an amazing collection of lantern figures.

The next day, we started out and went to McKay's Book Store. This place was huge...we could have probably spent the rest of our time there and still not seen everything. But we had to get Matt to his next place and figure out our day. So we left with our stash of books and dropped Matt off at his trade show.

Then we went to Fort Negley and walked the grounds and got a nice view of the Nashville Skyline from the top of the fort. We learned a little about the Civil War and the fortification of Nashville when it was taken over by the Union soldiers.

The kids got tired and hungry and we left to go on our next place but we couldn't decide where so I picked the Opry Land Hotel. It was huge and unbelievably amazing. It ended up taking up a lot of our day. It has some of the most beautiful indoor gardens that I have ever seen.

There were 4 huge gardens with trails, canals, waterfalls, fountains, beautiful tropical plants, trees, and palms. It was a beautiful walk, and we only saw part of it we didn't make it through all of the gardens.

Overall, it was a fun little stay, I just wish we were better prepared with a plan and an idea of how to navigate the town...maybe on a return trip. It was only a 4 hour drive.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Low Carb Life: Progress Update

Low Carb Update:

To be honest, I am not positive what my actual weight change is as of yet. I do not and will not own a scale. I measure the progress I have been making by the clothes that I'm wearing. So here is a breakdown before I forget to document it.

End of March:
Told I had Diabetes began changing diet wearing a size 18 pants

End of April:
Appointment with an internal medicine doctor. Discussed options and he gave me 3 months to start diet and turn things around to keep off of medication. At this point I had lost about 5 lbs. size 18 was getting looser.

 Diet is still going well. By mid May size 18 is officially gone. End of May size 16 was replaced with size 14.

 Size 14 is getting loose. Yesterday June 6th I comfortably put on a pair of size 12 jeans.
So as of right now my end of June goal is to be near a size 10 pants.

This has been accomplished so far with minimal exercise because of time conflicts. I am really hoping to add consistent weekly exercise over the next couple of weeks to boost weight loss and build muscle.

August 10th: My ending goal is to be as near to the goal that the doctor see for me which was 30 lbs, lowering my A1c to a normal range which is under 5 and lower my cholesterol to a normal range(it was edging up to an unhealthy number).

Even though I do not know actual number progress I am very happy with what has been accomplished so far.

One of my favorite parts of the process is that hopefully we are instilling better habits for our kids because they have genetic history of diabetes from both my side and Matt's side.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Farm and Garden: Rabbits

We have rabbits added to our list of animals that we keep. We are hoping to eventually have them as a meat option in the future when we have the raising and taking care part figured out. We are trying to figure out the best option for keeping them. We do not like the idea of keeping them caged up, so we are trying to figure out how to create a space for them that will give them the opportunity to be on the ground without allowing them to tunnel out of the enclosure.

My hope is that it is a space that allows for rotation between enclosure spaces that have "green spaces" with fresh forage to eat. We have two "nursery pens" (small chicken coops that are for the pregnant does and babies, and would like to create grow-out pens for the weaned bunnies until they reach harvest age or selling age. Our journey began with two white(albino) New Zealand does and a male New Zealand that was white with cinnamon spots.
Our first litter was a surprise and literally scattered around the "rabbit yard". I went in and collected them warmed them put them into a large Rubbermaid type container and brought the babies and the mom inside. It was a mess. she didn't know to make a nest and she didn't know how to nurse so for the first couple of days we had to teach her; thankfully she got the idea and had a start in the right direction. She had a litter of 4 and only one survived. It was Sue(our present buck)who is now known as A Boy Named Sue...or Sue for short. He's white with black spots. Through the year we had a couple more litters, but the Winter showed us that we were not prepared and we lost many of the babies.
We now have three current litters and are now at a point where we have some at butchering age. The kids have decided that they want to keep and tan the skins. I am actually proud of them for wanting to do this because I really like the idea of respecting the animal and making use of as much of it as possible and honoring the animal and being a good steward.

It has been really fun to see what color rabbits come out of each litter. The genetics of rabbits is interesting and we plan to look into it because we have been getting some very interesting color patterns from these bunnies. We started out with two albino bunnies and one red and white bunny and now we have a beautiful mixture of albinos, greys, blacks, browns and variations of spotted.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Farm and Garden: Kittens

We added kittens to our home this week. One unfortunate side affect of living in the woods, having animals and several different kinds of feed means that there will be mice hanging about. Personally, I think they are kind of cute when I come across them in their natural nature...not within my living spaces. All of my kids have a soft spot for creatures big and small and I am very happy and supportive of that, but some boundaries have to be set. I am hoping that these guys will help keep the mouse population under control and out of our living space.
We are still working on names, but so far the cream one is Lily and the grey tabby is Storm.  We have introduced them to each of the animals and thankfully, they have been very good with the rabbits so far, hopefully we can keep a peaceful existence between them and they don't view them as future food and stick with mice.  We have really been enjoying them. Some of the kids enjoy them so much that they don't get much time on the ground.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Low Carb Life: Boudin

Being from South Louisiana, life isn't generally Low Carb. In fact, because of the hard working lifestyles of our ancestors and the need for frugality, many of the mealtime staples were potatoes, rice, corn, peas and beans. They were very creative in the way meals were prepared and served, many times turning what many people consider meager low country meals into fabulous dishes that are now saught after as a cuisine that is hard to beat. One such meal that we often had as a part of Saturday or Sunday brunch was boudin. It was either steamed, pan fried, or even grilled giving each a unique flavor and versatility. Boudin is basically a rice dressing (mixture of pork meat, vegetables and rice) that is stuffed into a casing(usually pork). In like other types of sausage boudin is fully cooked when stuffed and only needs to be heated to be eaten. It doesn't have the typical texture of sausage because of the rice content. It is soft and more likely to fall apart when the casing is opened. Many people eat it casing and all..I don't typically eat the casing, personally just never developed a taste for it.

So back to the topic. Making boudin low carb. For the past two months, I have been lamenting the thought of not having this lovely little meal and thinking there should be a way...and there is! I was thinking there are many people substituting cauliflower for rice so it should work...well a news feed popped up in my Facebook page almost like an answer. Someone in Louisiana tried it and it worked. I'm still skeptical after reading, but this week I tried it. It's not half bad. I still. Red to work on proportions and seasoning, but it is a start.

I made a small batch with cauliflower and made the kids and Matt the regular batch. I didn't bother stuffing this batch in a casing because it wasn't big and wasn't going to be kept for long.

I will continue to work on recipe proportions and eventually post a recipe.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Low-Carb Life: Cloud Bread

Cloud Bread has been around for many years. I have always found it interesting, but just never ventured into trying it, it just seemed a bit weird. Being that I have been mostly carb-less for about 6 weeks now there is a part of me that is really wanting to indulge in the "old ways".  I made my first batch and it seems like it came out pretty good.

It is not bread! It does not have the bread texture that I keep hearing claims of, but I think it will be a good vehicle for a sandwich substitute.

The recipe is not difficult, and doesn't take a whole lot of time. the next time I make it I will make several batches at once so that it can be frozen for future meals. There are claims that it works, so I will try with some of these and test the results.

Now to the Recipe in case anyone wants to try it out...

Cloud Bread
6 Eggs
4 ounces of cream cheese
1/2 Teaspoon cream of tarter
a little sugar or sugar substitute(this can be omitted)

Separate the egg whites and yolks into different bowls.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until very stiff peeks form.
Mix the yolks and cream cheese and sugar if you use it until the mixture is smooth and incorporated.
fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites stirring gently so that the mixture stays fluffy and doesn't go flat.
Scoop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully at the end of baking so that they don't get too brown.
Take out of the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

They can be put in the refrigerator...I will test the freezer theory and update.

Update: The "breads" hold up well in the refrigerator or freezer, and although not bread I have to admit that it has come in handy when I needed something quick or wanted something a little different from what I have been eating daily. It will not be something that will be an every day meal but will be great for an occasional change to add variety.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Low Carb Life: Chocolate Coconut Candy

Candy is of course one of those indulgent things that isn't at all good for anyone, and yet it is so very good. If you look at the ingredients on a bar of chocolate it is loaded with stuff that we shouldn't eat. When you begin a restricted diet, you start to want those things even more just because you have to avoid them...I began researching how to make chocolate and found it to be very easy and if you are on a paleo diet that isn't highly restrictive, making your own is actually okay in limited quantities and dark chocolate that isn't full of sugar and other additives has beneficial properties.

The recipe that I have come up with does have a small amount of maple sugar, to cut the bitterness of unsweetened chocolate, but not enough to make it sweet.

Chocolate Coconut Candy

Coconut Layer
2 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes chopped super fine
1/3 cup of coconut butter
2/3 cup of coconut oil
1-2tsp of maple syrup (if wanted not really necessary)

Melt the coconut oil and butter in a pot. Stir in the maple syrup if using. Add in chopped coconut. Stir until combined and pour into a parchment lined pan. 9x11 seems to work great. 9x13 will make a thinner candy, but you will get more pieces. Put coconut layer in the fridge to harden while you work on the chocolate.

2/3 cup cocoa butter
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup of high quality unsweetened cacao powder(cocoa powder can be used but it has less nutrients)
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup honey or other sweetener (more if you want it sweeter, but I don't recommend it if you are trying to get the sugar out of your diet)

Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil heating it to about 100 degrees. Stir in the maple syrup and unsweetened cacao powder. Stir the mixture until all of it is incorporated. The mixture will have to be tempered in order for it to work right. Personally I am still working on getting this right but there are many tutorials on the internet. Tempering the chocolate is a way of realigning the crystal structure of the cocoa butter so that it has the correct texture and feel.

When the chocolate is ready and the coconut layer is hardened, gently pour a layer of chocolate over the coconut and put back in the fridge until it is all solid an hour or two. I usually pour a thin layer of chocolate over the coconut and prepare another pan for the rest of the chocolate either to save for another batch of coconut, or to have on it's own.

After it is hardened use the parchment to remove it to a cutting board and break it into pieces. It needs to be kept in the fridge or freezer(if you find it difficult to resist).

Other things can be added to your chocolate, be creative...
If you can have nuts try different kinds depending on your mood.
Add a few drops of mint essential oil
Zest some orange and add it to the top
Dried fruit if you can eat it
Cayenne Pepper
Candied Ginger
Sea Salt
Caramel(if you are not diet restricted)
pumpkin seeds

What would you put in your chocolate?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Farm and Garden: Bees a new start

 These are our new nucs. Last year was our first year with bees and for the first few months everything was going great, then our hives were attacked by a huge hive of robber bees that eventually took every drop of honey and killed many of the bees. There were so few left in the fall that there was no way for them to we are trying again to make it work.

On the way home I joked and said keep an eye out for bees in the car. When we got to the street before our street Nathan said hmm, there is a bee on the ceiling...drove a little further and there were 2...turned onto our driveway and there were the time I parked and got out there were didn't bother me that much until I started to realize I still have to move the nucs from the car to the back yard.

One of the boxes was still sealed and easily moved. Then I stood and watched the growing swirl of bees trying to decide my next step. My first thought was to suit up and try to be quick...I knew this was not going to happen, at least it wasn't' going to happen safely , so I checked with the beekeeper that I bought them from and he said suit up and smoke the bees it should be I thought okay then here we go...

Then I decided to put the nuc in a plastic tub, cover it and have Nathan help me carry it down to the backyard. I suited up, smoked them and gently moved them to the tub and covered it. As we walked it to the back I couldn't help but think about the "can of worms" I was about to open. I made Nathan stand back, opened the box, picked up the nuc and put it in place.

We let them settle out a bit and I pulled back the screen to let them explore their new surroundings...

 Happily, no one got stung.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Low-Carb Life

Recently, I was diagnosed with Diabetes and slightly high cholesterol. The doctor I'm seeing has given me roughly 3 months to reverse some of the years I've abuse and damage that I have inflicted on my body over the first 40-ish years of my childhood. So I have now been sent on a new venture in my life these next few months I am ditching all sugar, and as many carbs as I can. Over the last 6 weeks, at least 10 pounds have come off, so some progress has been made in the right direction. My goal in this new adventure is to actually reverse and heal the damage created, but also to reset the way we all eat as a family and to teach better habits for our kids future's. There is a risk of diabetes on both my side of the family and Matt's side of the family and that is really bad for our children's future because it seems to be showing up younger and younger in our family line. The diet that we follow(SAD Standard American Diet) with all the pre-packaged sugar laden high carb, pasta based, rice and grain based convenience foods that we have been taught to love have to be replaced by wholesome fresh foods that will nourish us not just fill us up until the next meal. I really like the idea of going back to a more simple eating plan even though it is not the most convenient in our hectic overscheduled fast-pace lives.

Early on, when my symptoms were fitting in with thyroid problems, I began by following a strict paleo diet by removing all carbs, dairy, sugar, nuts and grains from what we are eating(mostly me, somewhat Matt; it is a little more difficult to wean the kids that will come in time.) I am not going to pretend...IT...IS...SO...hard to stop eating all the "good" stuff, but...when you are faced with the threat of being medicated for the rest of your life it gives you encouragement to do what needs to be done. I refuse to be diabetic. Being diabetic while pregnant has taught me that I do not want to live that way.

Recently we have been adding in some nuts and dairy, but still sticking to a strict no sugar, low-carb meal plan that is mostly vegetables and meats.

Changing eating habits has not been the most difficult part...that would have to be exercise...exercise has got to be the most difficult thing to do consistently especially when there is very little time to schedule it in, and very little energy to be motivated to do it. We will continue to try to make it a more normal part of our week though.

I will try to post some of the recipes we have begun using that we like and want to keep...

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Exploring the Zoo


 One of our favorite outings is the Zoo. We are really lucky to be close enough to the Memphis Zoo to explore it several times a year.
Today we took a spur of the moment trip hoping to get a glimpse of the new giraffe baby, but unfortunately it wasn't in the front for some reason. As usual, though the zoo never disappoints. 

We enjoyed seeing the Panda exhibit. One of the pandas was enjoying a lovely pile of bamboo out in the sunshine the other one was napping. In the panda habitat there are animals in the ponds that surround the entrance. We got to see an albino turtle.
This was truly a beautiful and unique animal.

The  polar bears, the sea lion show are always a favorite. There was only one polar bear in the viewing area today, and although it wasn't very active it is always amazing to see such an impressive and imposing animal. He was more in the mood for napping than playing in the water. The sea lions on the other hand were ready to put on a show, and there are now eight of them at the zoo four of them are 2-4 years old and in the process of being trained. We arrived in time to watch the show and then the kids went to a favorite spot and climbed into the bubble to watch the sea lions effortlessly glide through the water and near the glass as if teasing.

The penguins and pelicans hang out in the middle of the zoo and are always an entertaining break while running to try to see "everything" while we are there. It really never happens, but we always try.

The bears in the  Northwest Passage put on an show for us fighting over a toy in the water. One won and got the float, the other sulked of and found a tree to play with. It was quite entertaining.

We explored the Night Animals and saw bats, the anteater, porcupines, the sloth, binturong,  and little naked mole rats(they are one of my favorite).

Elephants, rhinos, ostrich are a usual stop for us also. Then we moved on to the Hippo exhibit. We saw the two huge crocodile, but no hippos were out at the time. We wound our way around the corridor and stopped in to say hi to the young vultures; they seem to almost be fully feathered and no longer have their baby fluff. They have grown quite a bit.

One of the odd things that we saw and just couldn't quite figure out was why the Zebra had a bright pink dart in its hind quarter.

Right now there is also a Lego exhibit that has some amazing sculptures creations, each on using thousands of pieces to create.

And the lions of course are in their usual spot sitting vigil and watching all the people watching them.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Market Season 2017

Spring is officially here and as usual I am my posting at least. We have had a lot of things going on in our household over the last few months that I will try to re-cap soon.
Today, though I am preparing for our first market of 2017. We will have our usual stuff displayed, but we are also adding art.

The kids love art and have wanted to be part of the market for years, so we are including some of the things they make.

So Today we will have some mini paintings that we turned into magnets. As we progress through our school year and forward we will be including bigger and varying types of art and craft work that they accomplish.