So we’ve been slacking a little bit on the blog this week. Mary-Hall, as you all know, has been busy with her first week of being a mom of TWO sweet boys, (if you missed the big news, check it out here!) and I don’t really have an excuse. I’ve just been lazy. So today I’m doing something that we never really do….I’m re-posting a blog that was originally posted on my music website, www.bethanybordeaux.com. But I really love this particular post because my mom has some great words of wisdom. So here you go! I hope you enjoy the read….and the bonus picture of me playing the violin as a tiny munchkin.
I love getting to meet people on the road and talk and hear their stories and questions. Often times I get asked how I started playing violin as a career, my stance on music education, etc. But then sometimes I meet moms of tiny violinists and the question comes up…“If my child isn’t as excited about lessons as they used to be, do I make them keep going? Do I let them quit?” I always share my experience as best I can to encourage them.
Then a few weeks ago, a mom sent me a message on Facebook. I’d met them at an event a few years ago and we had talked…I’d encouraged her that violin could be a great thing for her then 6 year old daughter and she and her husband had felt that it might be exactly what the Lord had for them and their little girl. And apparently the little girl had the same idea. Lessons were begun with a beloved teacher and it was a great experience all around. Well, for a while. Then she’d been moved to write me a letter. Her daughter is now on the verge of turning 12 and they feel at a crossroads. To quote her letter, “She has a natural gifting so there’s not that desire to practice, which I’m sure that’s totally normal for her age. But we aren’t going to let her quit because at this point we feel like we’d be letting her out of what we know God spoke. But I don’t want it to be miserable for her!!! My question is, did you ever go through that? How did your parents encourage you to stay the course? What could I be doing to really make the violin something she loves?”
Now, believe me, I’m not claiming to possess the wisdom of the ages, just a little bit that comes from experience. Here are some things I’d consider, although you may already be aware of all these:
- Is your daughter actually asking to quit, or is she just at the stage where the novelty of playing violin has worn a little thin? Maybe her playing needs a little “new life” breathed into it through attendance at a special workshop or a few lessons into a different genre of music – some bluegrass or Celtic fiddle (which is usually pretty lively, fun stuff that can expand a player’s overall ability). If she is actually asking to quit, find out why. Sometimes at that age, kids get teased about their activity, if it isn’t the “cool” activity of the day. Also, that is the age at which girls’ lives are really beginning to open up and they see other activities and opportunities that compete with their music. Bethany primarily took violin and piano up until age 11, at which point her schedule began to truly burst with other interests (horseback riding, 4-H, a theater group for children that she founded, show choir, jazz ensemble, etc. etc.). These all had merit and gave her great experiences. There were many times all the way through high school when she barely had time to practice violin, but we plugged away at lessons from week to week. After all, a girl may play soccer for a season in her life, but music can be taken THROUGH LIFE. If she wants to “try other things,” allow it, if you can possibly afford the time and money for it all. Not having to choose between violin and another activity may make it easier to stick with her music, even if her progress plateaus for a while.
- I’m assuming she takes not just private lessons, but has the opportunity to play [music] with other kids? If she’s not in a group class of some sort, playing violin can be an “isolating” experience, and I’d recommend a class, workshop, etc. so she can develop camaraderie with other young musicians. Also, help her find ways to use her violin playing as a ministry – at church, at nursing homes, etc. (Bethany even “sold songs” at a church bazaar to help with the fundraiser.) Using her talent may be key to maintaining interest.
- It’s difficult to think of an 11-year-old going through hormonal changes, but the fact of the matter is, a girl that age is changing internally, and whether or not you can see the transformation just yet, her endocrine system is cranking up and can cause mood swings that may make her act like she’s “miserable” one minute and perfectly chipper the next.
- It’s difficult to know whether God was speaking about your daughter’s entire life, but she’s now had 5 or 6 years to gain a valuable musical education and all that goes with that (fine motor skills, listening skills, brain development, poise, etc.). Just like riding a bicycle, IF she did take a break from violin, she has already benefited from the training and she could pick it up again without having lost too much – although again, sometimes we just have to plug away and maintain.
I sure hope your daughter will hang in there – not necessarily to become a professional (that was not our goal with Bethany – just that music would be beneficial to her overall development) – but to have a skill she can enjoy throughout her whole life – and use to the Glory of God on many occasions.
Best wishes to you both!
I first discovered the joys of coconut oil when Keith and I started our journey into the Paleo eating plan. It was a recommended alternative in cooking to butter or other fats and so we bought a jar and started using it in our cooking. Then my mother-in-law mentioned that not only did she use it in her cooking, but she often used it as a makeup-remover or in place of facial lotions. My love for the stuff was cemented when I got a painful sunburn on our trip to Mexico last year. I rubbed coconut oil into the burn, went to bed, and it was almost completely gone the next morning!
But then I started to see things online about a mysterious thing called “oil pulling” that was being credited for solving just about everything except world peace. What could this magical cure-all possibly be? So the other day armed with some spare time and intrigue, I did some research. Since the list of potential benefits is high and the cost is low, I decided it was worth giving it a try so this past Friday night I purchased a gigantic tub of coconut oil from CostCo for $14 and Saturday morning I started my regimen. But I’m getting ahead of myself and you’re probably thinking, what the heck IS it? I’ll give you a brief run down.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is a practice supposedly rooted in some ancient medicinal practice from Asia. You swish the oil around in your mouth and it supposedly absorbs or “pulls” all the toxins from your mouth into the oil, then you spit it out. You’ll want to use the highest quality oil you can find, of course as it is the purest and has the most benefits. And just what benefits does this practice have? Well, here’s a list of what I’ve found online:
* Helping to strengthen the gums, jaws and teeth.
* Helping to prevent gum disease, cavities and even gingivitis
* Helping to prevent bad breath
* Provide a holistic method and remedy for dealing with bleeding gums
* Helping to prevent dryness of the mouth, throat and the lips
* Helping to prevent general soreness around the area of the jaw (such as TMJ sufferers)
* Relief for migraines and headaches
* Reducing arthritic inflammation
* Helping to reduce the signs of eczema
* Helping to reduce insomnia
* Reducing the effects of a hangover after consuming too much alcohol
* Helping to support the normal function of the kidneys
* Helping to reduce the symptoms of bronchitis
* May help to reduce pain
* Some oil pullers have even reported that it helped to improve their vision
- Oil pulling is apparently most effective when you do it first thing in the morning before you eat, drink or brush your teeth.
- Take a teaspoon (approx) of coconut oil and stick it in your mouth. (I stick it in there in its room temperature state and it quickly melts in your mouth. However, it does make me gag a little at first, so if you have serious texture issues, you might want to melt it for about 10 seconds in the microwave.)
- Set a timer for 20 minutes (no more, no less) and swish the oil around in your mouth. (This would be a great time to take a shower, read your morning devotional, cook breakfast check your email, whatever. Doing an activity makes the time pass quickly!)
- At the end of 20 minutes, spit it into the trash can. DO NOT SWALLOW (remember, it’s got all those toxins in it!). DO NOT SPIT DOWN THE DRAIN (or your drains will quickly clog.)
- Brush your teeth and go about your day.
- Repeat each morning.
Opposition and Disclaimers
Because I do my research carefully, I checked out both sides of the story before trying it, or bringing this blog to my readers. And just as there are millions who claim it heals everything from acne to cancer, there are an equal number of folks who say it’s total malarkey. I checked out what Snopes.com had to say (they think it’s neither helpful nor harmful) and also found this blog of a girl who had a crazy-bad reaction after “pulling” for 2 days with coconut oil (she had done 2 treatments a day, so 4 treatments). Other folks have said that while they had a reaction to or couldn’t handle the texture of coconut oil pulling but have had positive results with safflower, sunflower or olive oil (the blog author referenced above switched oils and did fine!). However, a note of caution, the Paleo guidelines recommend you avoid safflower and sunflower oils at all costs, so there’s that to consider too.
Granted I’m only a few days in and I don’t have any particular horrible maladies. I’m not sure that it will really affect the dry scalp that I battle in the winter (although I certainly hope so) and while I do think that my teeth look a tiny bit whiter, that could really honestly be the power of suggestion. But here’s what I DO know. My mouth feels cleaner than it’s ever felt. Like straight-from-the-dentist clean. And it lasts most of the day even after I’ve eaten. And it’s amazingly relaxing. I’ve been using the time spent oil-pulling to read my Lenten devotional and pray and that combined with the swishing is such an amazing way to start my morning. So if I have a super clean mouth and a relaxed mindset going into my day, that’s enough reason for me to keep doing it.
I guess the bottom line is that oil-pulling, like ANY out-of-the-ordinary health practice, probably isn’t for everybody. Listen to YOUR body! If you have a particular health condition you might want to check with your doctor (or dentist as well in this case) to make sure they don’t know of anything that might conflict or react with your medicines or illness. And know that results can vary….something that cures one person might not cure another, etc. But so far…my experiences have been positive. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you tried it? Liked it? Heard of it? Hated it?
This is a post that I was hoping I would get to write with a happy ending…and even though we’re not totally out of the woods yet, I’m going to go ahead and publish this in faith that all is, in fact, well.
One of our hens, Sylvia, hasn’t laid an egg in a really long time, but we weren’t too concerned because it’s pretty normal for hens to stop or slow down their egg production in cold weather, and lets face it….even with our fancy heat lamp and all that, it’s been a brutal winter. But then last week, we noticed something was a little bit off with our beloved black australorp. She was wandering off by herself alot and instead of dashing across the yard chasing bugs and pecking around for treats she seemed to prefer napping under a bush. She wasn’t really eating or drinking much and one night, the other hens flat out refused to sleep on the perch with her. When I went to pick her up, I noticed she was gasping for breath and her poor little body was really really hot. No thermometer needed to know our girl was running a really high fever. So we made the executive decision to bring her in for the night and start her on some antibiotics.
The first night was the toughest. She was clearly dehydrated, but was too weak to drink on her own, so I fed her with a syringe (no needle, of course) and she gobbled down dose after dose of medicated water and some “sav-a-chick” electrolyte water (who knew they made gatorade for chickens!?) and then I put her in a pet crate with a cozy nest of hay for the night. The next few days were a routine of mixing up antibiotic twice a day, coaxing her to nibble on dried mealworms out of my hands and researching poultry maladies on Google. After several missed diagnoses, we decided that she most likely was suffering from egg yolk peritonitis, an uncomfortable sounding genetic disorder that typically results in a dead chicken. Our girl however continued to rally through the weekend (our house sitter Ellen was a champ on Sunday and Monday when we were both gone for work….mixing up bowls of medicine and patiently monitoring how much Sylvia drank).
Why the quarantine you ask? A couple of reasons. First, because she was showing some fairly serious respiratory distress we were afraid it was some sort of airborne pathogen and the last thing we wanted was to loose our entire precious flock. Second, the temperatures in Nashville were reaching the teens and single digits at night and we figured that just couldn’t be good for a sick chicken. Third, as her condition was deteriorating quickly, we realized we were going to need to put her on antibiotics if we wanted to try to save her. But, since you can’t eat eggs from a chicken who has been on antibiotics, we couldn’t let any of our other girls drink the medicated water, and clearly there is no explaining to a chicken which water bowl is theirs, so the only way was to make sure the other girls didn’t have access to her “special” water.
Once we were confident that it wasn’t something that was contagious (we didn’t want our other girls getting sick!), we started letting Sylvia out to play during the day so she wouldn’t loose her place in the flock and so she wouldn’t get lonely. Louisa, Jane and Beverly Clucky were all thrilled to see their sister again and instead of bullying her like I was afraid they might (we had a tough time integrating Beverly Clucky when we got her, so this was a justified concern), they took her “under their wing” and followed her around, curled up next to her when she needed a nap break, etc.
I think tonight will be Sylvia’s last night in the bathroom as she seems to be almost completely healthy again. I’m not sure if she’ll ever lay eggs again (and of course, even if she does we’ll discard them for the next few weeks since she’s been on antibiotics so they wouldn’t be safe to eat), but we’re thrilled that she’s on the mend. She’s also mellowed out a bit which is fun…she used to be a little bit difficult and now she seems to genuinely like being held. Her whole body relaxes and she snuggles up to me. So sweet. I guess she knows I saved her little chicken life. I’ll leave you with some tips on what to do if you have a sick chicken, and one more sweet photo from this week. Fingers crossed our girl will be completely recovered in no time!
Sick Chicken Tips
- Watch for any birds that might keep to themselves, seem lethargic, stop laying, or exhibit other behavioral or physical changes.
- Isolate the sick bird to prevent the rest of the flock from falling ill. Even “non-contagious” things like injuries should be isolated as healthy chickens tend to pick on injured birds, resulting in the death or further injury of the ill hen.
- Research online….there are lots of excellent poultry owner forums online or in chicken raising handbooks that can help you diagnose possible diseases based on symptoms.
- If you feel like your bird needs medicine, consider a poultry antibiotic power mixed in the sick chickens water. Remember not to eat their eggs for several weeks afterwards and that healthy birds should not have access to the medicated water.
- If you need to get serious medical attention, consider finding a vet in your area that specializes in poultry, or at least birds. Remember though that vet bills can be expensive and won’t always end well (one of our original flock, Gertrude, saw a vet for what ended up being a brain tumor and then had to be put to sleep. It was a sad and expensive day.)
- A great alternative to a vet would be your local farm co-op or TSC. They often carry basic medicines and their staff are typically pretty knowledgeable. And they won’t think it’s weird that you love your chickens as much as you do. And speaking of loving your chickens….
As you can tell by the fact that we have an entire post category devoted to it, Mary Hall and I both love to travel. Alot. Of course, there was the epic United Kingdom trip that we took together as teenagers, but we’ve both made our way around the world and the country individually on many occasions. Since I currently work as a road manager and freelance musician, I’m on the road almost every weekend and even though my destinations aren’t always exotic, I’ve discovered that there is certainly an art to traveling no matter if you are going across town or across the world. While I know that there are plenty of folks that travel way more than I do, I thought I’d bring you what wisdom I do have to you kind folks. I hope to see you on the road.
1. Loyalty Isn’t Just For The Dogs. – The most important thing I can think of in travel is to choose a chain and stick with it. It doesn’t so much matter which brand you choose, only that you choose one! Most programs are created fairly equal, so pick whichever one is most convenient for you based on places you travel frequently. Choose what program works for you, and then stick with it. Besides earning points or miles for free travel, most programs have different tiers that provide different benefits such as free upgrades or waived luggage fees that you can qualify for based on your amount of travel, and if you travel alot, those perks can make an exhausting day a little bit better.
2. Join The Club: ALL of Them. – I know, you’re thinking, “but you just gave us this sermon on brand loyalty!” I know, I did. And I’m not being a hypocrite. See here’s the deal. Sometimes you can’t control every aspect of your travel. Maybe your boss is in charge of booking rooms or your favorite airline doesn’t fly to the airport where that big meeting is. But this doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Not only are most loyalty programs free to join with no annual fee so you can join them all with no worries, but most programs have partnerships with other programs. Simply log on to your online account and set your earning preference to earn what you want. I have about 8 hotel loyalty memberships….I’ve chosen one as my “main” hotel chain and that account is set to earn hotel points. All the other ones are set to earn airline miles on my “main” airline chain. If I only stay at a specific type of hotel once a year, it would take forever to earn a free night. But having a few extra airline miles on my favorite airline will go much further to earning a free ticket!
3. Be A Card-Carrying Promotion Hunter. – Another great way to earn free travel or perks for more comfortable travel is to get the credit card. I have a major credit card (one Visa and one AmEx) for my favorite hotel brand and favorite airline. Not only do I get bonus points on purchases made at those chains, but I get luggage and onboard discounts as well as enough bonus nights to almost have status right off the bat with my hotel card. If credit cards aren’t your thing, that’s ok. There are still lots of promotions out there that you can take advantage of that won’t affect your credit score. Many programs will send out emails advertising promotions, and if you don’t want any more traffic flooding your inbox, then you can still take advantage of most of these by just logging on to your online account and checking the “promotions” tab. Marriott for example has a particularly awesome promotion that they have been running 2 or 3 times a year called the “MegaBonus.” Just register and then for every two nights you stay within a certain period of time, you get one free night. Pretty awesome deal.
4. Attitude Is Everything: The Golden Rule Still Counts. – If you’re a frequent traveler it’s not so much a question of IF something will go wrong, it’s more like WHEN. Flights will be delayed, or cancelled. You’ll get to the rental car place only to find out that they JUST gave away that SUV you’d reserved. Your hotel room won’t be ready at check in, and when it is, you’ll quickly realize that someone smoked in the non-smoking room or that your towels aren’t exactly what you’d call clean. But here’s the thing. You’re not the first person this has happened to that day and you won’t be the last. But you can be the NICEST. Think about it. If you are a customer service rep and you have a line of angry people with messed up travel plans, and in the middle of it all, up steps a kind, even-tempered person who treats you with respect and understanding, who are you most going to want to help?
Ashamedly, I’ve not always been kind in every single situation of travel-gone wrong, so I understand that sometimes its hard to keep it together. But I’ve also noticed that the times I have been patient and kind, the folks behind the counter have, in turn, been nicer to me, and I’ve walked away having been helped, but also feeling like a decent human. Winning, all around.
5. The Only Dumb Question Is One You Don’t Ask. – Some situations are how they are, and you won’t be able to change them. But sometimes, customer service reps are able to help you out in ways you wouldn’t have thought of if you didn’t ask.Just today, this particular rule proved itself again. I’d paid for Early Bird boarding on Southwest for two people, roundtrip which totals $50….and is a fee that Southwest advertises as being “un-refundable” no matter the circumstances. However, in between the time I purchased the early bird and the actual flight, both passengers earned “A-List” status on Southwest thus getting free-early bird. So I called Southwest and asked about a refund even though I was aware of their advertised policy. And you know what? The customer service rep was super nice and told me that she couldn’t refund my $50, but she COULD send me a $50 Southwest voucher valid on any future Southwest travel and transferable to anyone I chose to use it on.
6. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Then Call, Call Again. – This one is one that I learned from watching my husband, and I’ve used it to my own advantage on a few occasions. For some reason, not all phone customer service reps will tell you the same thing. I don’t know why this is, but I know it’s true. So what do you do when the first customer service rep you get isn’t helpful or doesn’t tell you what you want to hear? You politely thank them and you hang up. And then you call back. And you repeat this until you find someone who gives you then answer you want (or realize that your request is unreasonable….you be the judge.) This usually works the best if you’re trying to change a flight or get a seat upgrade. And rule #3 totally applies here too. The nicer you are, the more likely you are to get what you want.
On Friday afternoon I ran into a friend in the grocery store and she said she was doing her Thanksgiving meal shopping. First I was stunned at her organizational skills that she would shop that far out. But then I was shocked by the fact that she really isn’t shopping that far out!
Public Service Announcement: THANKSGIVING IS THIS THURSDAY, PEOPLE!
The past few years we’ve headed to Bladenborough, North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with Keith’s grandma and extended family. It’s quite a huge crowd and so we do things pot-luck style, so I come out easy in the cooking department. But I know that some of you out there are feverishly trying to figure out how to cook that turkey before the in-laws and various extended family members start dropping in, so I thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers. And by “thought I’d give ya’ll some pointers” I mean, “I called my dad and my brother and they had some great tips to pass along.” Full disclosure: I’ve never actually cooked a turkey. But when I do….I will absolutely follow this primer that I’ve put together for you below. I’ve eaten plenty of them cooked by the dynamic duo of Mason Daniel and Mason Daniel Jr. and I can attest to the fact that they are mmm, mmm, goooood. “Cooking a turkey” in our house means we fry it or we smoke it….and I’ve given you instructions for both below. If you’re wanting to do something that involved the oven…well…..I’m sure there are plenty of instructions out there for you….just not on this blog.
How to Cook The Perfect Turkey According to The Mason(s) Daniel
Part One: How to Fry a Turkey
Frying a turkey is great if you’re having to cook for a crowd or don’t have a whole lot of time. It can also be a super risky way to go though if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips for staying safe and turning out a tasty bird.
- Turkey Fryer – Make sure you use a turkey fryer such as this one. You can easily find them on Amazon.com, at Home Deport or Walmart or at an outdoor store.
- Peanut Oil – Use 100% peanut oil. Other oils, even blends, have a much lower flash point or ignition temperature and will catch fire.
- Thaw Your Bird -MAKE SURE THE BIRD IS COMPLETELY THAWED OUT AND YOU HAVE DRYED THE BIRD OF ALL WATER! Sorry for yelling but we don’t want oil boiling over and catching the whole fryer on fire. Turkeys not thawed all the way through can explode!
- Cook Outdoors – Set your fryer outside away from the house, preferably out of the wind. DO NOT set up in your kitchen or your garage. A driveway or similar away-from-the-house location is ideal.(My brother is a firefighter, so he’s very serious about this one. He’s seen lots of turkey-frying-gone-bad scenarios.
- Save the Neck Tag & Empty Out Your Bird- Be sure to take out all contents from the bird such as giblets, neck etc. and save the tag from your bird, it has the weight of the bird.
- 4 Minutes Per Pound – is the magic number. Be sure to cook your bird to that weight. ex. turkey weighs 18 lbs. 18 lbs x 4 minutes per =72 minutes. no more or less for a perfect bird that is done down to the bone.
- Cook at 325 degrees – it’s the magic number when frying. Most every restaurant (ie. a famous fast-food-chicken place) cooks their chicken at 325.
- Babysit Your Bird – Frying turkeys is like babysitting except you are also babysitting a stopwatch. You need to keep a constant watch on your temperature and your time.One common mistake people make when frying a turkey is in the initial dipping their turkey into the fryer, and that is they have the temp of the oil right at 325 degrees. well the problem is even though the turkey is thawed and dried it is still cold and when dipped will drop your oil temp too low to cook the you spend all this time ramping up your oil to compensate. The better solution is to INITIALLY get your temp up to about 400 degrees. Then set your turkey down in the oil,it will usually drop your temp down to guess what… 325 degrees…perfect! When removing the turkey let it drain over the oil pot until you see no more oil dripping, then carve and enjoy.
- Turn Off The Gas – Unless you have additional birds to fry….turn that gas off! My brother and his firefighters answer alot of calls for cooker fires because people go inside to eat and forget to turn the fryer off!
Part Two: How to Smoke a Turkey
Smoking a turkey is a whole different animal all together because with smoking, your pretty much duplicating what your doing in the oven but with smoke. The steps outlined below also work really well for chickens, so you can smoke poultry all year long!
- Outdoor Smoker – All the men in my family (dad, both brothers, husband) have some version of this outdoor smoker and it’s served them well. In fact, my dad has two of them so he can do multiple birds at one time.
- Beer Can Stand– Something like one of these.…or my brother says you can find them at Publix next the tongs/grill brushes etc.
- Use 1 CAN of beer – Cut the top of a beer can out with can opener and pour out 1/2 of the beer, add whatever spices you would like to use (ie. minced garlic onions etc.) into the beer can. Put it in the beer can stand and set the turkey on top of it.
- Set the smoker to 225 degrees! – Smoke at 225degrees until the internal temp is at least a 175 to 180 degrees. Keith uses this great remote controlled grill thermometer that might be something you’d want to consider.
- Cook for 6 to 7 hours – smokers differ, and temperature is important, but this is a good estimation.
- Babysit Your Bird – Just like with frying, you’ll want to babysit closely to keep an eye on temperature, fire, amount of water in the pan, etc. Smoking takes a lot longer and has to be babysat to ensure you keep that 225 degree temp 6 to 7 hours should do it but smokers differ.
The great part about smoking or frying a bird is that they keep well. Growing up my dad would smoke several chickens at once…he’d spend all Saturday in the driveway cooking. We’d eat one for dinner and nibble off the leftovers all week. But the others would go in the freezer and we’d take them out as we needed them. Also, further proof that smoking poultry runs in the family….here is my other brother and his son making a beer-can chicken.
And if cooking a turkey isn’t in your plans…well…..maybe a little re-run of “The One With All The Thanksgivings” is. You’re welcome.
Don’t you just LOVE classic Friends?
I know we’ve had sort of a pumpkin theme going on the blog here lately with Mary-Hall’s “How To Eat Your Jack-O-Lantern series (Part 1 and Part 2) and of course the ever-popular (and recently controversial) Paleo Pumpkin Scone post from last year. But I just had to bring you one more pumpkin related post before letting the topic rest for a bit.
I found out very early on in my relationship with Keith that he was the pumpkin master. The man in known for turning out incredibly artistic pumpkins each year and thus when we became family, he imparted all his pumpkin carving secrets to me and it’s become quite the family tradition now. This past Saturday night we headed over to visit with our friends David and Amanda for their annual “Pumpkin Carv-inival.” We’ve had some fairly epic (in my opinion) pumpkins in the past so we knew we had to bring it this year. Before I show you our creations from this year, lets take a stroll down Bordeaux-Pumpkin memory lane, shall we?
Sadly, 2012 was a pumpkin-less year. So much going on. No time to carve the pumpkins.
I’m not a good decision maker when it comes to stuff like this…choosing a pumpkin pattern was eclipsed only by the difficulty of choosing a costume for tonight’s costume party (I’ll bring you photos from that later on this week)…but after much deliberation, I settled on keeping with the cartoon character theme I began in 2011 with my Angry Birds pumpkin and chose Mario from the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game. I’m a child of the 80s. What can I say? Keith decided to go with the main character from one of his favorite shows…
In case you want to get all fancy-town with your pumpkins this year, I’ll leave you with a few tips.
1. Choose a pattern to sketch onto your pumpkin first. We have had great success with the Zombie Pumpkin website. You have to pay to download them, but the rates are pretty reasonable. $2 for 2 patterns, or $5 for 25 patterns. They also have them ranked by difficulty level so if you’re just starting out, you can choose a simple one, or get all crazy with it if you’re feeling up to the challenge. Just tape the pattern on the the pumpkin, use a toothpick to punch small holes to make a dotted “outline” of the pattern on the pumpkin, then remove the pattern and use it as a guide as you cut. MAKE SURE YOU DOUBLE CHECK WHICH AREAS STAY AND WHICH ARE CUT OUT! (Our friend Blake had his daughter draw a picture and used that as the pattern for the pumpkin. It turned out super cute and is a great way to have a cheap pattern as well as getting your kids involved without handing them a knife.)
2. Instead of cutting out the top of the pumpkin to make a lid, cut out the bottom of the pumpkin and throw it away. This way the stem of the pumpkin is the “handle.” Simply light a candle (or place a flashlight or other electric light) on your front step or wherever you choose to display your pumpkin, and then use the stem as a handle to set the pumpkin on top of the light source. So easy.
3. Scoop out as much as you can to make carving simple. Obviously you’ll want to scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff. But if you keep on going and remove some of the meat as well, then it makes carving a whole lot easier since you don’t have as much to cut through. Also, if your pattern calls for shading, making the wall thinner will help the light shine through and show more detail.
4. Make sure you use the tools of the trade. Surprisingly enough, I really love those little $4 pumpkin carving kits you get at the grocery store. We have always had great success with them. They are easier to maneuver than large knives and you’re less likely to get hurt with the mini saw than a meat cleaver anyway. You can also find a step up kit for about $15 and they even make little battery-powered saws (although poor Blake was accused of cheating when he whipped one of those out the other night.) I’ve also heard that tools used in pottery and clay making (Those little wooden and metal-tipped tools) are great for pumpkin carving although I’ve not tried it.
5. Pumpkins don’t last forever. Just like my beloved Pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, pumpkins don’t stick around forever. At best, you’ll get a few days out of your creation. So. Figure out when to carve your pumpkin depending on when you want it to be displayed. And, take lots of photos of it while it still looks good!
Best wishes in all your pumpkin carving endeavors. I’d love to see what you guys come up with!
And in totally unrelated news…..my nieces and my brother-in-law Mark went camping this past weekend with friends, and the following music video was born. We basically can’t stop watching it. The “breakdown” that occurs at 2:02 by my niece Abigail is, well, just watch for yourself. (And don’t forget, if you want to be a fox this year for Halloween, you could totally modify Mary-Hall’s DIY costume pattern.)
I love it whenever I run into someone I know and the conversation turns to my chickens. Since there are a few questions that always seem to get asked, I thought I’d just do a whole blog post and answer them since I’m sure that there are others of you out there that are curious as well. Folks always start with:
“So are they high-maintenance?” – The answer is no, not really. At least no more work than your average pet. If you’re down with walking a dog, scooping cat litter box, cleaning out a hamster cage or buying food for your fish, you can probably handle chickens. We have an automatic food dispenser that we fill about once a week, and an automatic waterer that we fill every 3 days or so. In addition, we collect eggs once a day, and I take a shovel and remove any large piles of poop from under their roost branch every 3 days or so. (The girls apparently go potty like crazy while the snooze at night.) All that takes about 15 minutes. The most time-consuming part is the set up process….choosing/building a coop, and the first few days of making sure everyone is ok. Then it’s pretty easy going unless you have a sick chicken, etc. But again, that’s with any pet.
“So are you doing this just for the eggs?” – I like to call the chickens our “pets with benefits.” Because the start up costs even for a small flock of 2-6 birds are more than a goldfish or hamster, or even a cat or dog sometimes (a good coop will cost you anywhere from $500-$1000 to buy or build), you can’t go into it thinking that you’ll save money on eggs. Plus, our family usually eats about a dozen and a half eggs a week, more if I’m baking or cooking something, and a chicken only lays an average of 4-6 eggs a week, so between our three laying girls, there are still days that we have to supplement with a dozen or so from the farmer’s market or grocery. Plus, “pullet eggs” which is what they lay up to the first year, are about the size of the “medium” or “large” eggs at the Kroger. So if you’re used to purchasing the “Extra large” or “jumbo” eggs, you’ll need about two backyard-hen eggs for every one egg. All that being said, our eggs are for certain way more delicious. We look at the chickens as a hobby, and the fresh eggs as a yummy return on our investment.
Bottom line: if you’re looking to save money, this isn’t the way to go. But if you’re looking for super yummy eggs, a fun hobby, and a great way to teach kids responsibility, then chicken farming might be for you!
And then after that, there’s always one person that lingers a little and pulls me aside, casually, of course, and says something to the gist of…..
“So how do you get all these eggs if you don’t have a rooster?” Um, err….well…..so……I’ll try to do this to where things won’t get awkward for either of us. Once a hen reaches maturity (read “goes through puberty”), her body produces (on average) one egg a day. (If you missed 8th grade biology, this happens to female humans too….just….thank goodness…..not once a day.) If there’s a rooster around….and, um, “the daddy chicken loves the mommy chicken VERY MUCH,” then the egg that the hen lays might have a baby chicken in it. There are methods of finding out called “candling” that show if there is an embryo (chick) inside the egg or not. However, if you don’t have a rooster around, that doesn’t mean that the hen doesn’t lay the egg. Her body still makes it, and she still lays it….there’s just no way for the egg to have a baby chicken in it. An unfertilized egg is what we enjoy making into breakfast and there’s no chance that you just prevented a chicken from being born.
Whew. I’m sweating. And for any of you trying to figure out how to have “the talk” with your kids, do not send them my way….unless you wanted to read this blog together…but that just seems weird.
Anyway. For any of you contemplating chickens, I hope this helped just a little. And I say go for it!
One of my favorite childhood summer memories is picking blueberries with my Mom in New Jersey when we would go to visit my grandparents. We’d go to one of two of our favorite spots, both parks not far from my grandparents’ house and pick the little ripe berries off the bush. But those berries never lasted long. We’d pick them and eat them mostly…or bring home a small bucket of them that would be gone in a few brief days…eaten in tiny bowls with cool whip….or just stuffed inside hungry mouths. My mom tells stories of blueberry picking when she was about my age with her irish-wolfhound who apparently would eat the berries right out of the bucket if Mom wasn’t watching.
The last time I went New-Jersey-blueberry picking, I was about 14…and it wasn’t until last summer that I got the opportunity to go again, this time in South Carolina with Keith and his family. But they didn’t just pick a few to snack on during the ride home. Nope…they came with their game faces on…and in a few hours we walked away with about 20 pounds of blueberries to freeze and enjoy throughout the year. I couldn’t imagine what in the world we would do with the coolers of tasty berries we drove home in my car, but a cobbler, some muffins, and lots of bowls of plain berries later, our seemingly endless stockpile only got us through about 6 months. So this year, Keith and I decided to double our efforts, found a local spot this time, and set to work. On our first trip, we brought home about 30 pounds and made our first deposit into our deep freezer. The second time, we brought backup…our friends Blake and Rebecca and their two little girls who turned out to be expert pickers. (“Look at THIS berry! It’s so tiny and cute!” or “Come down THIS aisle! I found the best bush of them all!”) At the end of the day, each family took home about 15 pounds.
As we carried our bounty to the cars, Rebecca and I chatted about the best way to freeze all that we had picked. So today, I bring you my “recipe” of what’s worked for us….a method passed along by Keith’s mom and step-dad last year. And no worries…there are still blueberries to be picked this year, at least in Tennessee….although the clock is ticking, so you’ll want to get them this week!
How to Freeze Blueberries
What You’ll Need:
*1 gallon freezer bags & a drinking straw OR the new vacuum seal bag sets.
*cookie sheets with a rim
What to Do Pictorial Guide:
1. Pick your blueberries.
2. Spread the berries out in a single layer on the cookie sheets. DO NOT WASH THEM**. Make sure you pick off any stems and weed out any smushed berries, unripe berries, leaves or other non-tasty tidbits that might have gotten in your bucket.
**The bluish dusty stuff that you find on your berries is actually nutritious….plus washing then freezing them can make the skin tough. You might want to check with your berry farm to make sure they don’t use any pesticides that could be harmful. That could be a game-changer.
3. Lay the sheets of berries out in front of the box fan and turn it on high.
4. When the berries are dry, put the pans in the freezer for at least an hour to overnight, or as long as it takes for the berries to feel frozen. (This way the berries freeze evenly and won’t stick together.)
5. Pack the frozen berries into gallon ziplock bags, about 3/4 full so they lie flat well. Close the bags most of the way and use the straw (or vaccum sealer) to suck out any extra air. This helps reduce the buildup of frost on the inside and helps reduce freezer burn.
6. Take a handful out of the freezer when you need em. I did some research that said that blueberries will last over a year frozen this way….but I can’t imagine you letting them last that long. They are just too delicious!