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Wins and Losses

You win some, you lose some. Here is an update from the Johnson household the last few days.

First, obviously bringing home baby Davis is a big one in the ‘Win’ Category. We did successfully name the child before leaving the hospital – Davis Charles Dale Johnson. (I’ll have to explain the name sometime soon!) Davis is a good sleeper, although he’s better at it in the day than during the night lately. He’s a cuddly little chunk, and I am perfectly content to sit with him sleeping on my shoulder all day long. He has one dimple and he flashes his sweet smile a lot. Sure, I know they aren’t “real” smiles but who cares?? 🙂

 
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On the other hand, I forgot that baby delivery actually does require some recuperation time. So although Davis is sleeping a lot and I theoretically have a lot of free time, I’m pretty much couch-bound. That’s maddening, because there is plenty to do. On the other hand, I guess my condition is pretty conducive to typing out long rambly blog posts.

Here’s a fun tale. Friday morning I went to fill up my giant thermos (must stay hydrated) at the fridge and the found the dispenser wasn’t working. Opening the freezer, it was noticeably too warm in there, and some items had already begun to thaw out. PANIC! Ransom had just returned from his grandparents, I was a little low on sleep and high on hormones, and now, the freezer full of food that I’d managed to put aside for post-baby meals was THAWING. This fridge was our one Mississippi craigslist purchase, a standard-grade 7-year-old Kenmore. So began deliberation about whether to try to fix it ourselves, call a repair man, or just buy a new one. My newborn-addled brain was no use. Meanwhile the food was THAWING. We found basically the exact same refrigerator for $800 at the nearest Lowe’s so we opted for replacement. My parents headed off to Lowe’s to pick it up for us. August and Ransom carted the whole contents of the old refrigerator over to his mom’s house. Then a couple of hours later, while everyone was still out of the house except for me and the babe, the darn thing cut right back on.

Clearly something was frozen up and now it had thawed out. I heard the compressor fire back up and the water dispenser started flowing again. Agh.. Now that fridge resides in our garage, colder than ever, while we figure out what to do with it. Sell it ‘as is’ on craigslist? So all this is a big ‘LOSE’. I mean, I’m glad the old fridge is gone. It had a squirrely ice maker and always made weird noises. Surely it was only a matter of time till it really broke down for good. But I could’ve done without the random $800 expenditure this week.

After all, this is the week taxes are due, speaking of losing.

Enough negativity. Here’s another one for the ‘win’ column. The day I went into labor, my parents and husband spent the whole day working in our garden – weeding, tilling, planting. It all looks fabulous, about 50 times better than what I was planning for our 2014 gardening effort. So far we have tomatoes, a variety of pepper plants, strawberries, several herbs, and at least three plants that came back from last year: leeks, asparagus, and cilantro. Who has ever eaten a leek? Not me, but I intend to get on that soon. There are also two more beds that need to be planted. I think my excitement over all the progress in the garden was what finally sent me into labor, and the rest is history. I’d love to be out there weeding right now, instead of gazing longingly from the couch.

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And yet, guess what the forecasted low temperature is for tonight? 29 measly degrees. The supposed frost date for our area is April 10th. So I guess we’ll try our hand at frost protection tonight. The actual time below freezing is just a few hours, and the garden can be fairly easily protected. But was about all the buds on our poor fruit trees? I can’t think of a way to protect them, so I guess we’ll just see what happens. I

 

**Update: the forecast is now 34! Fingers crossed!! We may just make it through with minimal damage. August is out covering stuff now.

Paleo Whole30 Italian Dressing

Well, after a couple of life and death posts this week, I think its high time we return to our usual blog fare.  (Also PS, no baby yet.) So here is one where I try to out-Paleo Bethany and her Paleo pot roast recipe.

Disclaimer: You should know that my household is absolutely not paleo or anything resembling paleo these days.  I bought a large size bottle of chocolate ice cream syrup last weekend, feeling very strongly that Baby Johnson #2 shouldn’t be born into a household without that staple.  But, when I saw her recipe calling for a packet of italian dressing mix, I thought it might be nice to try to paleo-ify that choice a little bit, you know, in the spirit of legalism.

Actually I’ve had good luck making spice mixes – taco seasoning, fajita seasoning – as well as several different vinaigrette type salad dressings.  They are so easy to whip up and we get more variety this way, compared to using store-bought bottles. If you have a well-stocked spice rack, you probably already have what you need.  And making this stuff from scratch, you can be {more} assured that there aren’t any weird fillers or preservatives or MSG that you don’t know about.  More importantly, you may be able to avoid a trip to the grocery store in a pinch, which is honestly a bigger motivator in my case than the clean eating stuff.

So, here is how I made up some paleo-friendly italian dressing mix.  This recipe is even Whole30 friendly (that 30-day cleanse thing I did for 25 days last year).  The actual Italian dressing from it is also approved on both diets.

italian_dressing

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried celery flakes

Before you proclaim me a genius, I should point out that I adapted this recipe from this Allrecipes version. By “adapted” I basically mean, “I left out the sugar”.

1 tablespoon of salt is plenty for if you are using this to cook with.  For the dressing, I’d start with 1 and increase to your taste.  2 tablespoons was a little too salty for us.

Use about 2 tablespoons of the mix to be equivalent to one store-bought packet – that’s what I put in the roast and still had plenty left to make salad dressing with.  I did it last week, worked out great.

If you are missing one or two of the minor ingredients (eg. celery flakes), I say go for it anyway.  These kinds of recipes are forgiving.

To make salad dressing, just combine the following ingredients in a container with a lid and shake well:

  • 2 tablespoons of the above mix
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

PS. I think the dressing would be awesome with a little honey mixed in but I didn’t try it.

 

Spring Chickens

I know we’ve had a lot of chicken posts recently, but I needed to add one more.   For those of you who have been tracking with the Saga of Sylvia the Sick Chicken, I have sad news….Sylvia went to that big chicken coop in the sky last Wednesday.  She’d rallied there for a little bit…and then just started getting, well, slower.  She’d stop in the middle of the yard to nap.  She stopped eating.  She wasn’t really pooping (sorry, but she wasn’t).  She stopped getting excited about seeing us.  And she barely weighed anything.  So Wednesday morning I decided to spend some quality time with her.  I wrapped her up in a towel and put her on my lap while I got some work done on my computer.  She napped most of the day.  She didn’t seem in pain, just content to sleep on my lap.

That afternoon I had to run to a meeting and about 10 minutes after I left Keith sent me a text message: “I think Sylvia just died.” it read.  Then, about 15 seconds later, “Yep.  She’s definitely dead.  She just laid over on her side and went to sleep.”  We were sad to see our girl go, but happy she went in peace.  If you’re wanting to reminisce her short life (like I did) then you can check out this video from last August when she laid her first egg.

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Sylvia snuggled up on my lap napping. She passed away about 30 minutes after this photo was taken.

 

Yesterday was nice weather and Spring seems to have finally sprung, well sort of…so Keith and I decided that it would be a good time to do a “Spring cleaning” in the coop and de-winterize all the little cold weather tweaks that we’d made.  You might remember that we added a heat lamp and a made a few other temporary changes.  So Sunday we shoveled out the pine shavings from the coop floor, removed the heated waterer, heat lamp and indoor roost, rehung the outdoor roosts and gave everything a good cleaning.  The girls seemed really happy with their tidy home and hopped around the backyard eating as many earthworms as they could find.

Although I’m super thankful that we brought Beverly Clucky home to replace our first chicken casualty, Gertude, (who had a brain tumor,) we’re not rushing into getting a new girl this time.  I know it’s Spring and all the co-ops are starting to put out all those cute little chicks and it’s so tempting to bring home a new little critter.  Please, before you do….read all about my experience adding a new girl to the flock.  It’s not all fun and games and cute little feathered friends.  It’s a slow and painstaking process, one that for us worked out well despite my doing everything wrong, but one that I’m not sure I’m up for repeating anytime soon.  So for now, we’re going to hang on to our three amigas and be thankful that everyone else is healthy and happy for the time being.

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L to R: Louisa, Jane and Beverly Clucky. Our little flock of remaining hens.

Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

I’ve actually been making this dish since before I even know what Paelo was.  In fact, it was the first “grown up” dish that I learned how to cook.  It’s a crock-pot recipe so that’s not exactly saying a whole lot, but it was a big deal to me to say that I could cook something.  It was also the first dinner I ever cooked for Keith, way back before we were even officially dating….and it’s been a staple for us since.

So as I was looking for a simple yet tasty dinner to put together for tonight, I remembered we hadn’t had this particular recipe in a while.  And then I realized that it was totally in line with the Paleo diet, so I immediately headed out to the grocery store.  And I thought you guys might like it too…it’s got a little bit of a kick.  So here ya go.  Pot roast anyone?

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Paleo Pepper Pot Roast

Ingredients
  1. 1 chuck roast (mine was about 2 pounds.)
  2. 1 jar peperoncini peppers
  3. celery – chopped
  4. diced or sliced white onion
  5. carrots -chopped into 1 inch chunks, or, 1 package baby carrots
  6. one packet Kroger brand (or comparable)  “Salad Magic Zesty Italian” salad dressing mix (**note….this is just a seasoning packet to make your own salad dressing….not actual liquid salad dressing.)
Instructions
  1. Put half the carrots, celery, onion and jar of peperoncini peppers into a crock pot.
  2. Pour half the salad dressing mix packet mix on top of the veggies and pour in half the pepper juice.
  3. Add the chuck roast, then add the rest of veggies on top along with the rest of the seasoning packet and pepper juice.
  4. Turn crock pot on low setting and cook for 8 hours.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

*Note:  Although it renders the recipe “non-paleo” it’s also really yummy to cook red new potatoes in with the roast.

 

Winner, Winner, Chicken….Winner.

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After having had a long week of hand-feeding Sylvia the chicken and freezing weather, we had a brief moment of beautiful sunshine and the girls were more than ready to run around the yard eating whatever they could find.  Booger the cat and I sat outside with them and as I fed them treats, they all started to congregate around me on the steps to our out-building.  Keith, ever-ready to grab a great photo op, snapped a photo and posted it on facebook where a friend mentioned we should enter it in the “Flaunt Your Flock” photo contest that Tractor Supply Co. was running.  We did.  And we voted and asked people to vote, but with so many entries, we didn’t hold our breath.

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Fast forward to this morning when I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing.  Since it was a number I didn’t recognize, I screened it….and then squealed with delight when I listed to the voicemail from Matt, from TSC, who was calling to find out what prize I would like to choose as I’d been selected as the week 2 winner!  What!?  Awesome.  Since our girls have been eating food like they were teenage boys, I chose the ten-pound bag of feed and container of dried meal-worm treats (the favorite delicacy to our feathered ladies) which they assured me would arrive in the mail in about a week.  I’m sporting my brand-new “Sriracha” rooster tee all day in celebration.

Here’s the thing though.  The weekly winners are based on the merit of the TSC judges.  The overall grandprize is based on popularity….so your vote counts….and there’s still time to vote for my photo.  Just CLICK ON THIS LINK (or on the photo below) and it will take you straight to the contest so you can vote for me.  And, you can vote for me once every 24-hour period if you feel super motivated/dedicated.

My photo as featured on the winners page!

My photo as featured on the winners page!

So excited that my sweet girls got some recognition…….and some yummy food coming their way!  THANK YOU Tractor Supply Co, for such a great competition and for supporting hobby farmers like myself.  We appreciate all you do!

Paleo Mashed Faux-tatoes

When we started on our Paleo adventure we certainly started branching out a bit, but there were some things we swore we’d never do.  Or at least, one thing we swore we’d never do…mashed cauliflower.  If you just gagged or said “ewwwww” out loud, I feel ya.  I did too.  All the way through about 5 Paleo cookbooks I gagged.

Then for some reason, I just decided what the heck.  Keith had planned Bison burgers one night and I thought mashed potatoes sounded amazing.  But potatoes aren’t on the diet.  (Well, sweet potatoes are in moderation….but that wasn’t what I was craving.  I was craving mashed potatoes like my grandma used to make.  White, fluffy, buttery, creamy mashed potatoes.  And that made me start thinking about all those recipes I’d seen in all those cookbooks claiming that mashed cauliflower was the perfect substitute for mashed potatoes.  I figured why not give it a whirl?  All I had to loose was the $2.50 for a head of cauliflower and the 20 minutes to make it.

I was shocked at not only how easy this recipe was, but how absolutely delicious they were.  They took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen and my cauliflower-hating husband not only ate a gigantic portion, he also declared they should become a “staple” in our household.  So without further ado, I bring you:

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Paleo Mashed Faux-tatoes

Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower (about 4 cups of cauliflower)
  2. 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary
  4. 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  5. pinch of onion powder
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop cauliflower (florets & top piece of main stem) into 2 inch pieces (I broke off the leaves, held the head over a bowl and just sort of hacked at it, then threw the bottom of the main stem away.)
  2. Steam the cauliflower until it’s tender (I think it was between 10 – 12 minutes for me).
  3. Once the cauliflower is steamed, dump it into a food processor.  Add coconut oil, rosemary, oregano, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Puree until creamy and smooth. Serve with steak, grilled chicken breast, etc.!

(if you don’t own a food processor, you can use a stand mixer, hand mixer and bowl, or possibly even a blender.)

Sylvia the Sick Chicken

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.

Sylvia the Chicken hangs out in the bathtub.

Sylvia the Chicken hangs out in the bathtub.

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).

Resting in her makeshift pen in the upstairs bathroom.

Resting in her makeshift pen in the upstairs bathroom.

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.

Birds of a feather......flocking together under a bush.

Birds of a feather……flocking together under a bush.

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….
Hanging out with mommy makes everything better.

Hanging out with mommy makes everything better.

Paleo Brownie Bites

Wednesday night I got the cooking bug, which is something that I need to get more often.  And although I might cheat on my healthy eating when I eat out (or am on the road), my Paleo experience did change one thing: the way I grocery shop, meaning that cooking at home is my best bet if I want to be healthy.  First, I whipped up a batch of my Squashed Banana Muffins, with two extra bananas instead of zucchini.  It was a delicious variation and I loved having a muffin for breakfast this morning with zero guilt!  Next, I made a beef stew that I’ll post next week.  And then….I made a tasty treat to satisfy my sweet cravings.

Keith had actually found this amazing recipe on the internet the night before and when I saw how simple it was, I decided I needed to give it a try, and was so glad I did.  Normally I alter recipes that I find online, but this one was just so good as it was that there was just no improving it, (although I did shorten the title a bit.)  So all the credit goes to Rebecca Bohl of (PaleoGrubs.com) for this recipe…I just bring you notes (italicized) and photos, and a high high recommendation that this is a recipe you need to make.  Now.  And while I don’t have kids, it’s for sure a kid-friendly recipe as it doesn’t involve knives or the oven!  Kids will love dumping all the ingredients into the food processor and watching it all whir around together and then what’s better than rolling things in little balls like play-dough?

Paleo Brownie Bites

Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  2. Pinch of salt
  3. 1 cup pitted dates
  4. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  5. 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Add walnuts and salt to a blender or food processor. (*I have a fantastic food processor, but I actually chose to use my Ninja blender for this recipe and it worked great!) Mix until the walnuts are finely ground.
  2. Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined. With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together. (*I did about 10 drops of water, and I think it could have used a little more.)
  3. Using a spatula, transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls, rolling in your palm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. (*I let the balls sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes before I ate one, and I’d recommend doing it as they taste really great lightly chilled.)
Rolling out brownie bites.  So so easy and yummy.

Rolling out brownie bites. So so easy and yummy.

Finished and ready to eat!  They may be called "Brownie" Bites, but they are almost more of a truffle!  Delicious!

Finished and ready to eat! They may be called “Brownie” Bites, but they are almost more of a truffle! Delicious!

Methuselah

In November of 2012, my dad turned 70.  Since it’s not often that one turns 70, I decided to throw him a big birthday bash and collect as many members of the family as I could.  About twenty of us gathered to eat and celebrate and generally have a good time.  Because my dad loves to fish, I decided I’d loosely theme the party around fishing.  For party snacks, I set out large bowls of Swedish fish candy and goldfish crackers and for the birthday cake, Elizabeth at the Puffy Muffin (who also did my wedding cake) did the most amazing fishing cake ever complete with realistic looking waves, fishing pole, bobber and lures.  We added a few extra guests at the last minute, so I grabbed a half dozen cupcakes while I was at the bakery and added Swedish fish as toppers.

Dad's fishing cake by Elizabeth at the Puffy Muffin.

Dad’s fishing cake by Elizabeth at the Puffy Muffin.  Call her for all your cake needs, big or small.  seriously.

However, finding fishing themed party items that didn’t revolve around Finding Nemo or other characters only suitable for preschoolers, proved to be quite a challenge. (side note, if you ARE planning a kid party, here’s a great party snack from Mary-Hall from our archives).  I ended up going simple and making a happy birthday banner out of burlap and aqua colored felt, serving drinks in Mason jars (my dad’s name is Mason…..clever, huh?) and making two giant fluffy blue tissue paper flowers/orbs/decorative things to put on the food table.

Dad surveys all his Birthday decor and treats.

Dad surveys all his Birthday decor and treats.

And THEN…..I took a cue from Mary-Hall, or actually from her mom, from long ago.  1996, to be exact. Remember our crazy high-school social club experience?  Well, since I wasn’t inducted as a member until 10th grade, but Mary-Hall had been “kidnapped” in 8th grade, she got to participate in the 9th grade “presentation” while I sat at her “table” as a guest.  The “tables” were a big deal and many a Mama spent hours (and no doubt serious dollars!) decorating their daughters’ tables.  Mary-Hall’s craftiness was directly inherited from her Mom, who had put together a lovely table for MH….complete with vases of water containing live goldfish.  Well, they were live when the program started, anyway.  Apparently the event was more than the poor fish could handle and by the time the program ended, a few of them had gone-belly up.  Sadly, I can’t find the glorious photo of us, at this blessed event, but here’s a photo of Mary-Hall for your viewing pleasure.  I was so sad I didn’t get one of those green dresses.  Seriously.  So sad.  Now…….notsomuch.

Mary-Hall looking classy.

Mary-Hall looking classy.

Fast-forward 16 years and the possibility of decor-going-dead-in-the-water did not deter me from copying this brilliant decoration at my dad’s party.  My friend Amy and I headed over to the “PetSupermarket” (not making that up) about 20 minutes away and for a grand total of $2.14, purchased 20 goldfish.  “Such a Deal!” as my Mom would say.  (In fact, I’m pretty sure she did actually say those very words in conjunction with said goldfish later on that afternoon.)  I filled up several jars with water and goldfish and arranged them festively on the table as centerpieces.  It looked adorable.  People loved it.  At the end of the day, the fish no longer had a purpose, but I didn’t have the heart to just flush them, so my niece’s then-boyfriend took half home in one of the mason jars, and I took the other half, fully expecting them to all be lifeless by the time we arrived home.

Over the next few days, they went on to that great goldfish-pond in the sky at the rate of about one every 12 hours until it was down to one, lone fish.  But he made it through a whole day alone, and then another and another….in fact he sat in the mason jar on the counter for about a week before I moved him to a larger vase.  And then after about two months, I figured I might as well buy him some goldfish flakes and a real bowl and those little rocks you put in the bottom of the bowl.  Keith laughed at my investment, but since the whole deal only cost $5 at WalMart, I figured might as well.  I gave the fishbowl a home on the piano in my office.  We went out of town for a week and I forgot to tell the housesitter to feed the fish.  To my amazement, he was still kicking, er, swimming when we came home.  I gave him a generous helping of flakes and promised to be a better fish mom.  Finally, on when he turned a year old, I decided to name the darn thing.  Since I’m pretty sure no 11 cent goldfish has EVER lasted this long, I dubbed him Methuselah, after all, I think a year and a half (his current age) is probably equal to 969 goldfish years.

The cat occasionally will hop up on the piano and sniff the bowl and Methuselah always swims over to check him out, as he does when anyone approaches him, but no incident has ever occurred.  I think I’m actually going to be sad when the little guy does pass on.  He brings a smile to my face every time I glance over and see him hanging out in his bowl.  Just taking it all in.

Methuselah, the world's oldest goldfish (maybenot, but close).

Methuselah, the world’s oldest goldfish (maybenot, but close).

January Goals and Eating Weird Vegetables

So, January 2014 is over and done with obviously.  I set three not-so-lofty goals for the month and here’s were we ended up.

  • Goal #1.  Don’t freeze.

Is this like the coldest winter on record or what?  Our huge propane tank is running low and we’re going to have to buy more in the next week or two.  {Sad face}.  Propane is not really a cheap heating fuel.  However, you know what is?  Fire wood.  We kept our home quite a bit toastier than usual during the January’s polar blasts by FINALLY firing up the wood burning stove.  I had been giving that thing the side eye ever since we moved in here because it takes up A LOT of floor space, and its just kinda ugly.  But you know what?  It works very very well.  Its easy to start and it can warm almost the entire house.

So I guess we have to keep it.  And purchase chain saw to replenish the wood pile.

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  • Goal #3.  Visit a foreign country.  Did that.  Disclaimer: obviously the trip was plan well in advance of the goal setting effort.
  • Goal #2.  Cook four new vegetables or vegetable recipes.

This needs to be a perma-goal for the Johnsons.  We’re forever stuck in a rut called ‘canned green beans’ and I’m determined to broaden our vegetable horizons.  So the four recipes I tried in January were:

Kenyan Collard Greens and Ground Beef This was really good and super easy. Will definitely make again.

Georgian Lobio This recipe is from Georgia the country (not the state).  I had it in Russia and it was wonderful.  Something in the vein of refried red beans with an interesting spice mix, and pomegranate seeds on top. However, my version did not turn out so well.  On the upside, I did get to use the morter and pestle my grandma gave me for Christmas.

photo 1(1)

  • Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan I definitely felt like a mad culinary scientist cooking this weird red-stemmed plant.  And shocker – it was really good.  Approved by husband and even somewhat approved by preschooler.

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  • Baked Kale Chips I majorly oversalted these, but there is hope here. I’ll have to give this one another go.

So all in all, 3 of the 4 were “greens”.  I guess I should switch to root vegetables or squashes for February.  You guys got any suggestions?  What’s the weirdest vegetable you cook these days?

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