Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring 2015

CHICKS

Spring 2015
Spring 2015 finds us with room in the coop, and so last week I did something crazy. {Crazy for me.} I drove out to Elizabeth & Kiowa--just myself and the kids--and purchased five new baby chicks.
Spring 2015
It was a long drive home, and chicks need to be kept warm, so I cranked up the seat warmer for them. Our chickens live the life of luxury compared to other chickens, they don't even know it.
Spring 2015
This impertinent little thing hopped out of the box, I was quick to grab her before she fell between the seats, but I was driving and couldn't fuss with the box. So, naturally, I plopped her on the dash and took a quick photo. {I am a bad person.}{I promise I don't usually photograph chickens while driving.}{I mean, I have a perfect driving record.}
Spring 2015
She is a Blue Andalusian. She will be blue/gray and sleek as an adult, and she is the sweetest, friendliest chick I've encountered to date. I named her Grey Lady.
Spring 2015
This cutie is a White Australorp. The girls wanted to name her Big Betty II. So Big Betty II it is.
Spring 2015
{What happened to Big Betty the First? Long story I've yet to blog. Simply put, she met her early demise last October, after our dog--who is perfectly fine with the chickens 98% of the time--played too rough with her and scared the poor thing to death. It was pretty much the first and the last time we ever left home with the dog and chickens out together. We failed and had let our guard down. Needless to say, the dog and chickens are never allowed to play unattended together anymore. It was foolish of us to take the risk in the first place. Dogs will be dogs. Even good dogs can easily kill chickens. I cried, the kids cried, we almost disowned the dog, but we've made amends since.}

Aaaand this is Dorothy II. Sigh...Dorothy the First passed away for an unknown reason a couple months back, but I will say she never laid an egg, so we suspect some sort of defect. Dorothy II, like her predecessor, is a Barred Rock or Plymouth Rock, one of America's oldest chickens.
Spring 2015
This chick is quite unique! He/she is a White Frizzle Cochin {seriously, click the link, you want to see what these chickens grow up to look like}. I took a risk on this chick, because it's straight run--that means he/she could be a rooster or a hen--but you never see Frizzles and I wanted one. So fingers crossed it turns out to be a SHE. If not, we'll be posting an ad on Craigslist titled, 'Rooster free to good home'. I named it Henrietta. If it turns out to be a rooster, Henry. If it turns out to be a hen, Etta.
Spring 2015
Lastly, this is Amelia. She is going to grow up to be a gorgeous Silver Laced Wyandotte. She is also extremely skittish and FLIGHTY already, so we named her after Amelia Earhart.
Spring 2015
I'm not sure if I'll ever again be able to allow a springtime to come and go without buying some baby chicks. They're addictive little things.
Spring 2015

CHICKENS

Spring 2015
The big girl hens survived their first winter like pros, their laying didn't even slow down. We get 4-6 eggs a day right now. Unfortunately, they've also kept our lawn trimmed...a little too trimmed.
Spring 2015
So we barbecued them.
Spring 2015
Just teasing. No, we simply started Operation Lawn Rehab 2015, during which the chickens will spend their next few weeks locked up in their coop and pen while we wait for some grass seed to take. To be fair, our kids also took a toll on our lawn. An entire backyard and they chose the patch of dirt to play in every time. Above is Justin's spatchcocked barbecue chicken {storebought, not named}. Oh yes! We've already grilled THREE times this spring. It's glorious.

FAMILY & HOME

Justin turned 31 this month and we celebrated like people in their 30s would: we did next to nothing. I had planned to make corned beef and cabbage that evening {his favorite} but when he got home from work he decided to take us out for his birthday. So we went to India Oven.
Spring 2015
Showing up at 6 p.m. to an entirely empty Indian food hole-in-the-wall restaurant that was obviously previously an elaborately decorated Chinese food restaurant totally reminded me of something my family would have done. When my sister turned 20 or something, we went down to Mataam Fez on Colfax and ate Moroccan style Cornish game hens on the floor while a belly dancer sweated all over us--particularly my dad. I couldn't help but smile at the situation. We awkwardly hemmed and hawed over whether to do the buffet or menu, while two middle eastern men patiently waited in the corner...watching us...We finally decided on the buffet, and I'm really glad because I got to sample lots of cuisine that I'd usually decline. I'm one of those people who always orders the same thing, and at Indian food joints that is Chicken Tikka Masala. So I got to branch out while also eating my favorite. Also? Violet and Pax ate free, even though we loaded their plates up almost as much as ours, and I'm proud to say my kids love Indian food. {Also, they serve a hefty glass of wine at India Oven!} By the time we paid and made our way to the door, the restaurant had about 10 other tables filled. I'd go back.
Spring 2015
Props to Sander, too, for finally tackling that garage. We've been avoiding this for almost a YEAR now. That's right, since moving in, we only just now parked our car in the garage for the very first time. It still needs work, but we're getting there.
Spring 2015
To our credit, we have a very narrow, one-car 1950s sized garage. Plus, we have all this kid stuff to store. Like the bike trailer...
Spring 2015
The girls attended their final ballet class of the semester. Already?! I'm sad that we couldn't work the spring recital into the budget {it was another $300 after costumes and tickets! ballet is for rich people, it seems} but they do a Nutcracker thing in the winter so we have that to look forward to. Pax is going to miss flirting with those ballerinas the ballerinas' moms every week.
Spring 2015
We had the yard aerated. The kids now think it's covered in poop and can't understand why we paid for such a service.
Spring 2015
But after raking up twigs, hay, and misplaced mulch, then aerating and reseeding, Operation Lawn Rehab 2015 is underway.
Spring 2015
We might get the stink eye from the chickens as they are confined to their run most days, but I dream of a lush lawn this summer.
Spring 2015

Happy Spring!

Cheers,
Heather

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Curried Egg Salad

Curried Egg Salad
You guys, I feel like I'm getting to a point where I could start penning my own egg cookbook. I'm having a blast with all these fresh eggs around, in my face all the time. I have mastered the scrambled egg, and did my first successful poached eggs last month. Then, at a playdate with my friend, Jess, she supplied lunch in the form of curried turkey salad sandwiches. They were so delish, and I went home with a craving to try out the curried salad thing on our fresh eggs. I love curry. Who doesn't love curry?

So I'll show you what I whipped up, but first...
Curried Egg Salad
I would be remiss if I did not share my revelation in regards to hard boiling eggs. Because Martha, Alton, Paula, Christopher Kimball, and everyone else recommend starting hard boiled eggs in cold water, then bringing to boil with the eggs in the pan. The problem is, I have always had problems peeling eggs. Pieces of the egg break off, the shell doesn't want to come. The result is ugly, pockmarked eggs.

People have given me all sorts of tips {i.e. hard boil OLD eggs, hard boil with baking soda, etc.} but honestly none of that has ever worked. It's frustrating, especially for a chicken keeper, when half of the egg is being washed down the drain with the shell still attached. It was making me so angry.

So I did what any Millenial would do, I turned to Google to solve my problems. And here's what I found. It's a long read, but in short: Martha, Alton, Paula, and yes, EVEN AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN, are WRONG WRONG WRONG! This guy explains it so it makes sense. The truth is that eggs peel best when they're just immersed right into the boiling water. {This explains why I was so confused as to how I never had a problem peeling eggs until adulthood, my mom always just tossed them straight into a boiling pot too.} The idea, he explains, is similar to that of throwing meat into a skillet. If the skillet isn't hot enough, the meat sticks because of the way the protein behaves. When you put it in a super hot skillet to sear, however, the meat doesn't stick. So this is his theory with eggs: straight into boiling water, the egg white won't stick to the shell, whereas a slow heating of the water with the egg immersed will make it stick to the shell.

The dude has all these other amazing tips regarding baking eggs, how to get rid of the air dents, etc. If you have 15 free minutes, do read his entire article.

I know this much is true, Justin and I have had ZERO problems peeling eggs since starting this method of tossing them right into the water. The guy's article goes into what to do from there, but basically you want to bring a pot to boiling, gently lower eggs in and cook full boil for a couple minutes, then remove from heat with the lid on, and depending on egg size let it stay in the pot for 12-15 minutes, then transfer to ice water. Lowering the temp after the first initial minutes of cooking means that the outer white shouldn't become tough or rubbery--which is why all those famous cooks began recommending the cold-start method in the first place. Bah!
Curried Egg Salad
Moving onto my curried egg salad, I took about 6 boiled eggs {okay, I boiled 7, because some of our chickens lay super petite eggs, but if you have large size eggs then boil about 6} and peeled them.
Curried Egg Salad
{We were out of paper towels that day.}

Then I dumped the following in a mixing bowl:
Curried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg SaladCurried Egg Salad
That's mayo, curry powder, celery salt, sriracha, cumin, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and mixed it together. {Measurements below.}
Curried Egg Salad
Chopped up about 3 scallions.
Curried Egg Salad
Then, of course, the guests of honor, the eggs.
Curried Egg SaladCurried Egg Salad
Cutting up eggs can be tedious work, especially if they are slightly more toward the soft-boiled stage like mine were. Using a strawberry slicer helps make it quick and clean. Then, it's just a matter of mixing gently.
Curried Egg Salad
Ready to be refrigerated or consumed. This recipe made us about 4 sandwiches. With soft wheat bread and a bed of baby spinach, this sandwich was divine.
Curried Egg Salad

Curried Egg Salad

6 eggs, hard-boiled
1/4 cup mayo
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp cumin
2-5 drops of hot sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 scallions, chopped

In a small mixing bowl, combine mayo, curry, celery salt, cumin, hot sauce, mustard, and lemon juice. Stir until ingredients are well blended. Chop eggs coarsely, gently stir eggs and scallions into mayo mixture. Serve on soft sandwich bread with lettuce or baby spinach. Enjoy!


Cheers,
Heather

Monday, March 2, 2015

Violet's 4th Birthday ~ A Princess Party!

Violet's 4th Birthday Party
Violet turned 4 
on February 20th and she wanted to have a pink-plastered princess party. So that's what we did, even if we did have to delay it one week because of the snow storm! It worked out beautifully anyway.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
She started out just saying she wanted a pink princess party, but it turned into a little bit of a Frozen party after someone put it into her head that she might want an Elsa cake. That's okay, pink and turquoise go well together.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
Throw a little bit of gold in there for good measure...
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
I'm posting a separate thing on my Lark & Lola blog regarding the Elsa cake. Believe it or not, this is one of the easiest cakes I've made for my kid's birthdays! She's showing a little leg, you know, just like in the Frozen scene where she sings "Let It Go". Doll cakes have been around for forever {and I once said I'd never make one} but this "walking doll cake" is a newer concept to cake decorating.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
The truth is, I felt rather unprepared for this birthday. Violet's birthday always sneaks up on me too quickly just as I'm recovering from the holiday season. But I have enough pink and turquoise junk in my home, it pulled together nicely.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party

Violet's 4th Birthday Party
I made a bunch of paper crowns for the girls to decorate.
{I'm really loving this gold Duct Tape they have at Hobby Lobby. I used it to make the buntings too.}
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
So we got out the two round tables in the living room, surrounded them with cute IKEA chairs, and created crown-decorating stations for our guests.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
And just like that, we were ready to par-tay.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
Great Grandma Sander was among the first guests to arrive. She is about to turn 97! Now, I can't say I have a favorite in-law, but if I did... I'll just say I love how Grandma Sander tells it as it is. When Justin asked her if she'd ever been to such an over-the-top cute party, she shook her head and said, "When my kids had birthdays, we just took them to the park!" She cracks me up. I always invite her because it's good to get out of the retirement home...and she likes my cake. {I always send her home with some extra.} I barely remember meeting my great grandparents, so this is wonderful.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
We invited Grandma to make a crown too, but she preferred to watch.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
They had a great time decorating their crowns with rhinestones, feathers, and glitter. The mess was totally worth it.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
We have a small house, but we make it work.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
So we spent about 1/2 hour decorating crowns, until...
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
...the doorbell rang!
Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
Who could it be!?
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
You guys...this princess/"Snow Queen". This. I can't say enough about how wonderful it was to book the Snow Queen visit with Wands & Wishes. From the second she walked into our house, up until the time she left, she was all about the girls. I don't even think she made eye contact with the adults. She just waltzed in and took over and she held their attention for an hour. But this sweet moment was so precious.
As the little girls noticed her arrival and all crowded around, she presented Violet with an "enchanted snowflake", all the little girls put their hands on it, and she sang quietly to them--and something about it made a few of us adults {including my mom, myself, Justin(!), and a friend} tear up and get all emotional. I still don't know why exactly, it just did.
Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
Of course a party entertainer is always going to set you back a little $, but we agreed she was just so worth it. Worth every penny. The girls were entranced with her. The princess just kept it rolling the whole time, starting with "wishing stamps" on each girls hand, a glittered snowflake that they blew the pixie dust from while making a wish.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
She gave the girls a fun, entertaining etiquette lesson set to music. It was adorable.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party


She read a story...
Violet's 4th Birthday Party


I can't tell you how much fun this was to watch, and it certainly gave the party that special something that we will always look back on and remember just how fun and lovely the party was.
Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
Of course, we needed to take some pictures with the Snow Queen!
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
I just love these little girls!
Left to right: Jaina, Mara, Charlie, Eisley, Violet, cousin Moriah, Cameron, and Charlotte.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
One of the reasons we booked with Wands & Wishes was that their entertainers seem to have professional acting backgrounds, and the Snow Queen happened to have a beautiful singing voice.


Violet's 4th Birthday Party Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
She seemed to like the cake too!
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
And she insisted on singing 'Happy Birthday' to Violet with us.
Violet's 4th Birthday Party


A picture with each guest too!
Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
Even Paxton managed to get a photo-op with the Snow Queen!
Violet's 4th Birthday PartyViolet's 4th Birthday Party
What a special memory this is for Violet!
Violet's 4th Birthday Party
When it was time for the Snow Queen to leave, we had some pizza, cake, and a crack at the crown shaped piƱata in the basement. Thank you to all our friends and family who were able to join us and celebrate together! 
Violet's 4th Birthday Party

I still remember what it was like being 2 weeks and 2 days overdue with this little girl, it is hard to believe she is already four years old. 

Happy Birthday, Princess Violet!