Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting back on the fitness wagon

I work out!

I began thinking last week that I wasn’t exactly sure why I fell off the wagon to begin with. Ironically, I fell off the wagon the week before I started my new job. I got two hours of my life back with my new commute, yet somehow I couldn’t find the time to exercise.

I could blame it on having all of that free time and working on the house more… I could say that my exercise buddy was out of commission with a knee injury, so I couldn’t go… I could come up with any number of reasons that culminated in me not making the effort.

The real problem?

I did not make exercise my priority.

It was as simple as that!

I’m gradually easing myself back into a fitness regimen because an injury would really set me back. I got on the scale last Thursday and it read about what I thought it would. I’ve gained 8 pounds in the past 5 months of not going to the gym. You know what? It’s not such a big deal. I can gain that by taking in an extra 200 calories a day, or by not working out. That’s about one Blue Moon (which unfortunately, I LOVE to drink). Sure, it sucks that I lost my initial momentum, but in time I will lose what I gained. It could be worse – I’m still 2 pounds less than I was when I started getting serious about my fitness last November.

Slow and steady wins the race. I went to pilates last Tuesday, then got up early and did 25 minutes on the elliptical last Thursday. Friday evening I certainly consumed too many calories in the form of fried foods and adult beverages, but I did have a late night swim, plus the walk to the swimming places and back to my vehicle. So I walked for about 1.5 miles in addition to probably half an hour or so of doggie paddling and a few ungraceful dives. I think that counts as three days of working out.

I went to pilates last night, then got up early this morning and did another 25 minutes on the elliptical before work. I may get to the gym on Thursday, but we’ll see. Friday morning I’m planning to get up early again and do the elliptical before work.

My goal is to make it to the gym or be active three times a week, preferably for 45 minutes to an hour each time. Hopefully I will go more, but if I don’t, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. At least three times a week, the gym is my priority. Ideally, I will go early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with a few pilates or other classes once my fitness level starts to improve. I used to get my heart rate up in the 160 to 170 range, and now I can’t push myself much past 140-145.

I know how out of shape I am and I don’t want to push myself too hard right now and get discouraged, hence why I am only doing 25 minutes on the elliptical. I can push myself in a few weeks, but not now.

My main goal this go-around is to make physical activity a habit and to keep up with it. I want to be healthy, but I don’t want to become so focused on the weight loss aspect that I lose sight of the ultimate goal – being healthy. I’d like to get my BMI to within the normal range, and that is my main goal. If I lose more, that would be great.

I’m not going to obsess over the scale. The next time I’m planning to weigh myself will be September 23rd. Hopefully by then, there will be a downward trend. I said before that I wasn't going to go crazy over tracking my food and exercise, but I changed my mind. I had a lot of success last time using Lose It, so I think it will be a helpful tool to keep me on track. It's also nice to have a good idea of how many calories are in whatever I'm about to shove down my gullet. Some foods can be deceivingly filled with sugar or fat. I'll be getting an iPhone soon as well (so happy about that, my BlackBerry is literally taped together and no one makes apps for it anymore), so it will be nice to have the Lose It application on my phone.

That's it for now. I'm hoping to get some photos posted of our work in the kitchen this weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our kitchen is coming along!

We are getting close on the kitchen. The hand-me-down cabinets from Airslie have been installed, and things look a bit hodge-podge at the moment. We had to install the cabinets wherever they fit, since they were originally in someone else's kitchen. There are two different cabinet variations, but I think it will end up looking okay, as they are a pretty close color match. As time goes on, we may refinish the doors and cabinet fronts for a more uniform look.

Originally, we planned to use tile over plywood for our countertops. We debated the merits of using smaller tiles (mosaic to 4") or using 12" square tiles. Then we considered butcher block countertops... we have a friend who has a great connection in Baltimore for inexpensive butcher block. Then Jay talked to one of his DCFD buddies. It turns out that said friend used to install laminate countertops, and that it is quite simple. This new stuff ain't your grandma's laminate. Gone are the old blah plasticky countertops with sparkles and weirdness on them.

I give you Formica's Golden Mascarello!

Once you touch it, I'm certain you're going to know that it's plastic. However, it's durable, stain-resistant, looks great and best of all it is CHEAP! Golden Mascarello is the color that we ordered.

We estimate that we'll spend about $400 on the countertops including all of the materials we need. I'm not sure how many square feet that will end up being, but I know that it is far less per square foot than granite would cost! One day we will have a dream kitchen with granite countertops and cabinets designed specifically for our kitchen. For now, I will be thrilled to have a functioning kitchen! I don't need a designer kitchen to bake bread or make other delicious creations.

Hopefully all will go well with the installation and we will have a finished kitchen by next week.

After that, it's on to cleaning out my dad's old workroom, then getting the drywall up in there and get that room completed with flooring and whatnot. I placed an ad on Craigslist in hopes that someone would come clean it out for me, but haven't had any takers yet.

Of course there are lots of other projects that need to be completed, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oblong eggs, rowdy roos and getting fit

I’m sure that this one wasn’t much fun to lay!

In other news, I found a new home for Dresden. Last week, I contacted the people at Cedar Run Cattle to place an order for the meat for our party in October. On a whim, I asked if they knew anyone in the area who might be interested in a rooster. Their response:  “We will be happy to take your rooster, we have done this for others who could not keep a rooster & wanted a good home.”

Woohoo! So that problem was solved. It’s a win-win and I'm so happy that I asked them. I’m buying meat from a local farmer who raises happy and healthy animals without antibiotics and steroids, and Dresden gets a happy home full of new hens to chase. 

It was all just going entirely too well. When I got home from work yesterday, I quickly changed into my workout clothes for my Pilates date with HotFrugal Angela at the Y. I ran out to the coop to check for eggs (where I found the behemoth egg that begins this post). I’d just gathered all of the eggs when Dresden ran up to me. His head was COVERED in blood. Great. After some panicked moments, I hunted down Mouse, whose head was also covered in blood. Well, at least I figured out that they were fighting with each other instead of being attacked by another animal.

When I got back from the gym, I got a better look at both of them. Their wounds looked to be just from their combs and wattles… apparently those bleed a lot, so the blood made things look worse than they really were. But seriously, what are the people at Cedar Run going to think when I bring them a bloody rooster? One of my girlfriends already joked about me running a cockfighting ring in Hobbs. :-P 

So now I’m likely going to have to give Dresden yet another bath before we take him to his new home. I’m hoping that some peroxide will work for getting the blood out (I poured tonic water over their heads last night, but it just got them wet and pissed them off). It wouldn’t be so bad except that he’s white and has those furry feathers, so it looks really gross.

My next planned post will be about meeting our dinner (tomorrow night when we drop off Dresden). We’re ordering beef, pork and chicken from Cedar Run, and I get to meet some of their animals tomorrow. I don’t want to feel as disconnected from my food… meat doesn’t come from the grocery store, it comes from real animals. If I’m going to be eating them, I should at least have the courage to meet my dinner and say, “Yup, you’re cute, but you’re also delicious.” I want to see that they’re being treated humanely and not living in cramped quarters. I want them to have access to plenty of fresh air and pasture with room to run. When I talked to the owner, they said that they’re thinking of adding some ducks to the mix. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they do! I’ve wanted to find a good source of fresh duck for about a year now.

I'm also hoping to blog more about getting back into an exercise routine. I slacked off after I started the new job, but I'm getting back to it. Although getting through Pilates yesterday was brutal, I felt great afterwards. I also felt great this morning. My plan is to get to the gym tomorrow morning before work. We'll see if I can drag my sorry ass out of bed at 6 a.m. I have no excuses now - somehow I managed to get to the gym 3-6 times a week when I worked in Baltimore. Now that I'm local, I get two hours of my day back. I can use the Y in Easton (in walking distance of the hospital) or I can use the Y in Denton. No more excuses not to be fit and healthy.

This time I'm going to get in shape without obsessing over the scale or tracking my exercise and calorie intake. The best shape I've been in over the past ten years was when Jay and I first started dating. I didn't even watch what I was eating all that much. I exercised nearly every day. Back then I was running, but I don't know if I really want to get back into it. I found that I was more likely to hurt myself, plus I don't have the great trails like I had when I lived in Piney Orchard. For the first year that Jay and I were dating, both of us lived in the city and we walked everywhere. I figure that I'll walk a few times a week at work, take some classes at the gym and use the elliptical machines. I am also not going to weigh myself more than once a month (if at all). The scale is going to fluctuate every day, sometimes by multiple pounds up or down. Getting on the scale makes me crazy and discouraged. I'm not going to do it.

That's it for now. Hopefully when I get home, the blood will have mysteriously vanished and I'll have a coop full of normal sized eggs.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

More photos from this summer

Here are some more photos from this summer

 Peeps on the way out to their coop. I can't get over how tiny they were... I could probably only fit one or two chickens in the same tub now

Out in the coop for the first time

Proof that I actually have done work on the house... I'm putting in laminate flooring

Alpaca from our outing... I think this one looks like an Ewok

My sister in law Colleen, Jay & me at the Southern Summer Cocktail party 

Staining the foyer floor

Foyer floor staining project

Inaugural High Heel Race

Jay never actually got to race :(

More high heel race

Installing the siding

Tiling the kitchen, take two

Winery stop the day before Ben & Caroline's wedding - the one I hauled kegs for :-P

Even though it was a lot of work for the wedding party and their spouses, the setting was gorgeous

Sheehan and Priscilla before the ceremony

We spent the day with Laura, Jared & munchkin Lincoln on their boat a few weekends ago... Jay tried waterskiing for the first time. I was too much of a wuss to try

This was us at Jay's cousin's wedding in the Berkshires

Another photo of us at the wedding

Siding 95% complete... we still have to get the dormers done, but apart from that, it's done! :)

Mouse and Ginger

Took some photos with a real camera today instead of my cell phone... I downloaded a ton of photos from this spring and summer that I'm hoping to update my blog with sometime this week.

I love the way that Mouse's comb falls to the side

A handsome boy

 Oh hai

Ginger, our first layer

Mouse running off to check on his girls

I finally mounted the shutters and window box on the coop. I think it's freaking adorable... just wish that the petunias were doing better

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mouse is a big chicken, bad hens, more eggs, and happy birthday to Julia!

For starters, we are finally getting the egg production ramped up, hurray!

We got 4 eggs on Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, and yesterday we had 2 eggs. I've heard that production can be a little spotty until it gets going. So far, everyone has been laying in the boxes, except for one sans-shell egg that I found outside. It's kinda gross, but I have to show you what it looks like:

It looks like it's actually two eggs, one with a yolk and one with just the egg white. Pretty nasty. Hopefully that will be the only one!

This was the collection from Tuesday. It looks like one of the girls (I think it's the black stars) is laying an egg that is almost a pinkish hue. That is going to be awesome once I get some Easter Eggers (Americauna or Araucana chickens)... I will have quite the lovely assortment of eggs. The other eggs are a light, creamy brown color. Ginger's eggs continue to get larger. They're about medium sized now. She's continued to lay almost every day since she began. I think she's only missed a few days. 

So far, we've collected nearly two dozen eggs in the past week. I hard boiled some last night and had them for breakfast today... they were delicious, but nearly impossible to peel. I've decided to put aside our pullet eggs to make deviled eggs for our party in October. I think they'll be a great conversation piece. And yes, they will still be good in October... eggs are good up to three months! The eggs that you buy in the grocery store are often already a month old. Older eggs are also better for boiling; they're easier to peel. 

Why are fresh eggs better?

Well, the naughty chickens that get into your garden and destroy your tomatoes! That is Queen Mab, perched on top of a tomato cage. We've probably lost a quarter of our crop to the chickens... not to mention that they've also eaten the tops off of the onions and garlic, destroyed the cucumbers and green beans and are now hard at work flattening my eggplant and zucchini. Naughty girls!!! I really need to find a way to keep them contained. We have a 4' high poultry fence AND we've clipped one of their wings. They can still fly. Ninja chickens.

I love them though... when I get home from work, they run up to greet me and they'll follow me around the yard. Of course, I always reward them with scratch or some kind of treat. They're oddly a lot like dogs, except that they don't sit and stay very well.

On to our handsome rooster Mouse... protector of the flock. We still have Dresden, but I can't wait for someone to respond to my ads. Dresden and Mouse both try to mate with the same hens at the same time, and I'm afraid my girls are going to get hurt. :(

He is definitely a gorgeous bird.

However, when it came to protecting the flock from a stray neighborhood kitten....

He was a big old CHICKEN!!!

This kitten was about 8 weeks old and a third of Mouse's size. First he puffed up and flapped his wings... then (above) he turned around and RAN! Of course the kitten gave chase, all he wanted to do was play with the feathery things! It was hysterical... I could not stop laughing. I wish that I'd had the chance to grab a real camera instead of using the camera on my cell phone.

And last but not least, I celebrated Julia Childs's 100th birthday by making Connecticut-Style Lobster Rolls for dinner. Simple and delicious!

Anytime I travel to CT or MA, I simply cannot leave until I've had a lobster roll... either Connecticut style (hot, with melted butter) or New England style (cold, mayo salad type).

Jay and I attended a wedding in the Berkshires last weekend, and I was determined to find a lobster roll while we were there. We arrived Friday night and by Sunday morning, I had resigned myself to not getting a lobster roll. So, thinking that it would at least be cheaper to buy lobster up there, we stopped at the local grocery store, first stopping at the deli counter to see if they sold cold lobster salad. They did not, so I proceeded to their seafood counter and bought 2 frozen whole lobsters (already cooked) for $20. Good deal accomplished. If I couldn't find the lobster rolls there, I would make them myself once I got home. We went over to the Great Barrington Bagel Co. for breakfast before we got on the road. I ordered an everything bagel with lox and red onion & chive cream cheese. We sat down to enjoy our bagels when I saw a huge sign:  LOBSTER ROLL SPECIAL.  You have got to be freaking KIDDING me. They sold them as a sandwich and also sold the filling by the pound. So I ordered a pound of New England lobster salad. 

I'm happy to report that all were delicious, although I think I'm going to have to give the edge to the CT style lobster roll. There is just something that makes me happy about hot buttered lobster, fresh, with nothing but chives and basic seasoning. Fresh food doesn't need a lot of other flavors to mask it... seasoning should enhance a dish, not overwhelm it.

To make 4 CT style lobster rolls, I did the following:

Clean meat out of two 1 1/4 lb lobsters, claw, knuckle, tail & whatever you can squeeze out of the legs
Roughly chop meat
Throw lobster in saucepan over low-medium heat (if cold - if hot lobster, melt butter first)
Butter 4 hot dog buns (I like using potato rolls) with 2-4T of butter
Lightly toast buttered buns under low broiler or in a toaster oven
Melt 4-6T butter in saucepan with lobster
Once heated through, toss with 1/2-1 T freshly snipped chives
Salt & pepper to taste

Throw it on a bun and ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is it me, or do Americans hold no value for vacation?

What is wrong with more than half of my fellow Americans?

According to a study performed by Harris Interactive, About 57% of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of 2011, and most of them left an average of 11 days on the table - or nearly 70 percent of their allotted time off.”

Seriously? Are we so narcissistic that we believe we’re too important to take time off? Do we honestly think that our employers would fall apart without us there?

At my previous employer, when someone responsible for something important (let's call her "Jane") was out sick or on vacation, my boss would say, “If Jane dropped dead tomorrow, who would I call?”  Unfortunately, that saying turned out to be a little too close for comfort one day, as the head of one of our banking units was involved in a horrific accident and passed away. She’d been with the company for over 20 years and was my go-to gal for many questions. Everyone relied on her. Her loss was a huge blow to the organization, but it turned out that my boss was right. Despite the devastating loss, business somehow kept on moving forward.

Remember this story - it's all going to tie together, I swear.

My nickname at the bank was "OB" - short for Office B*tch. If all of the admin staff decided to be sick, go on vacation, couldn’t make it through the snow, or needed a mental health day, I was there to pick up the slack. At one time or another, I’d had pretty much every administrative job there (we grew from 5 people to about 35 in my 7 years there), so I did it all. I trained every single administrative person who began working there after me. You know what? When I gave notice at my old job earlier this year, the world kept turning. Somehow things still got done. The bank didn't implode (depending on who you ask). I’d like to believe that they built a shrine to my awesomeness in my old cube… but somehow, I doubt it.

The one thing that I’ve had difficulty adjusting to with my new job has been the time off – or should I say, the lack thereof. I know that banking is an industry whose benefits typically include more holidays and vacation time, so perhaps it’s unfair to compare the medical field to banking. Now I get awesome medical benefits and mediocre time off. At my previous employer, I received 20 vacation days (available on the first of the year) along with 11 paid holidays. Here, I accrue time at the blinding speed of .538 days per pay period (26 pays in a year, which equals 14 days) and have 7 paid holidays. I lost 10 days off by taking this job. 

Granted, I should probably also mention that when I first started at my old job, I only received 15 vacation days, and at the time we were owned by a different bank, so we only had 7 paid holidays (the same I have now). Once I’ve been here for 5 years, my time accrued will go up.
And yes, once I factor in the time that I’m saving with my decreased commute, getting 2 hours of driving time back every day, I’m actually gaining nearly 20 full days (that’s 24 hour days, not 8 hour work days) of my life back each year. I guess looking at it that way, I shouldn’t be complaining.

My whole reason for making this post (okay, I'm whining a little)– is that I’ve been trying to go to Australia for several years now. One thing or another has always held this trip up, and I am determined to make it next year, come hell or high water. I knew when I took this job that I would have fewer vacation days, however, I wasn’t expecting a trip like this to be a problem given plenty of advance notice and the willingness to take unpaid time.

Let’s just say that I’m very glad that I asked about it early. Yesterday I sent an email to my supervisors at the Mothership, copying my boss here. I said that I wanted to take 3 weeks off, possibly with one of them unpaid (if I hadn’t accrued enough vacation time). Their reply was that they had to look into it, and that no administrative staff member had ever asked for three weeks off and that it would have to be discussed with senior management. I was totally taken aback! The only thing I read in the handbook regarding time off was that you were unable to take 5 days of leave in a row until you’d been working for 6 months. By then, I will have been with the group for a little over a year. Yes, a three week vacation is a long time, but administrative staff members have gone out on maternity leave, haven’t they? If I (God forbid) got pregnant now, I would be having a baby at about the same time I’m requesting the time off.

My local boss replied to my email that he was perfectly fine with me taking off (I even offered to let them select which weeks I’d be gone). They said that they’d take his input to the higher ups.

So what exactly is the problem? Do they think I'm lazy because I want to take vacation time instead of leaving it to roll over unused? Do they think that my job is far too important for me to leave it for so long? Do they think that because they would never consider taking a trip like this, that no one else is entitled to do so? Do they think that only physicians should be able to take a three week trip, while lowly administrative types toil away in front of our computer screens and dream about an exotic getaway?

Or maybe the horror is that I would *gasp* take a week off unpaid. I'm thinking that this is in all likelihood half of the problem.

 This story confirms some of my beliefs about American attitudes

Why do Americans work so hard? In the eyes of Rita Gorby, a visiting Irishwoman, it’s all about “the almighty dollar.”
Even some Americans agreed. “We’re a very materialistic society,” says Brad Johnston, a salesman for a tech start-up. “We find happiness in wealth.”

Sure, it’s nice to have money. According to a study cited by this Time Article, Money can buy happiness:

According to a new study from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, it sort of does — up to about $75,000 a year. The lower a person's annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don't report any greater degree of happiness.
Maybe making $75,000 a year buys happiness. It sure makes living much more comfortable! So I suppose that according to this study, money can buy happiness.

However – you can’t take it with you. 

I went through a phase where I bought an insane number of Coach purses and even some expensive jewelry. After a few years, I realized that none of those things made me happy. When I looked at my life, the happiest I'd been was when I was with friends and family who I enjoyed spending time with. My dad wasn't big on traveling and we didn't have much money, but we enjoyed many camping trips together. I enjoyed the adventures of traveling in France with my aunt Nancy and uncle Darryl. I'll never forget the day I got lost in Paris and wandered the streets for hours looking for my hotel.Or the day that Jay and I were engaged, tractor accident and all. Hanging out with Jay and Colleen at Greens Pub in Kinvara with the locals we met at the  Dunguaire Castle Banquet. Nights out in Key West and Orlando with my girlfriends at Tu Tu Tango and the Cricketer's Arm. Friends that Jay and I met in the Dominican Republic, smoking at a hookah lounge. The hike up Thunderbird Mountain to watch the Lunar Eclipse in Arizona. Ghost hunting on Rose Island in Rhode Island, where we had to take a ferry several miles across a foggy harbor into the Narragansett Bay.

These are the things that I'll remember for a lifetime.

I recently read Josh Gates's book, Destination Truth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter, and it really made me want to get out and travel more. It's not just the destination - it's the journey. Sometimes the journey takes you on a train meandering through the French countryside and sometimes you end up colliding with a tractor. What you walk away with is an experience uniquely yours. I was horrified when I read that only 10% of Americans have passports. While Googling for this blog post, I found that the number is now at an all-time high - one third of all Americans now have passports. This number is still astonishingly low to me when compared to most other countries in the world. Sure, the U.S. is big... but, it's the U.S. Do me a favor, fellow Americans - go SEE other countries. You may think that we're the center of the universe here, but trust me, we're not. Get your passport and go see the world. Provided, of course, that your employer actually allows you to take your vacation.

According to an article referenced earlier in my post:

The accounting firm Ernst & Young has found that people are actually more productive if they get more time off. That made sense to a lot of the people we talked to. “When you work all day you have family issues, household issues,” says Audrey Harrington, an administrative assistant. “You’re running around all day. We’re busier than we ever have been before. If people have more time to pay their bills, do their food shopping, take their kids to sporting events, they will be more productive.”
Americans put in more hours than any other workers in the industrialized world, even more than the hard-working Japanese, who get around 25 days of paid vacation. 

According to most sources that I've read, Germans get six weeks of paid time off.

Germany is the eighth most productive country in the OECD (as defined by gross domestic product divided by the number of workers), while Greece is the 24th. But taking time off also doesn't make that much of difference in the overall picture. Employees usually end up paying for their time off because employers factor the cost of that lost productivity into a pay package. (That's one reason why Europeans earn less than Americans on average per year, even if the pay per hour is the same.) Then there's the growing body of research showing that time off can actually help workers get more done. A 2009 study in Harvard Business Review, for example, showed that requiring business consultants to take time off every week actually boosted their productivity.

I wish that the U.S. would get with the times and put some paid time off rules in place. I think that we would all be happier and healthier for it. I know that I would.

So the moral of the story is... all you have in life are your experiences. No one can take those away from you. Do what makes you happy, whether it's taking vacations or spending time with friends. You can't replace time with your family or friends with money or objects. 

I'm hoping that the higher-ups at work are travel lovers who will understand. If not, I suppose that I'll have to take whatever time they allow me for my trip, but I sure as hell won't be happy about it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can't make eggs without a kitchen!

Our cabinets have been sitting on the porch for the past month, while the house was being sided. We also had to rip out the old tile, which was a DIY disaster that was installed last year. It turns out that you can't expect thinset to bond tile to plywood. Who knew? So our tiles kept popping up and breaking. We of course spent a large amount of money on said tiles (not to mention the time and back-breaking work). Sadly, our beautiful Canyon Slate tiles couldn't be reused. We had to buy all new tile for the kitchen.

This time, we used tile adhesive when installing the tile. Another problem that we came across was the quality of the tile. It turns out that our tile was on sale for a reason - they weren't perfectly square. Yes, it's an old house and there were imperfections in the floor and walls... however, we found while using the spacers that things weren't lining up quite right. We did the best we could, and the tile actually turned out pretty well this time around. The grout also seemed like it was in more firmly this time and we finished sealing the grout this week.

The tiling job took forever because we had to do it around mine and Jay's work schedule, as well as a friend's wedding. Had we had those 3 free days to work on the kitchen, it would've been done already.

Jay practicing safe swimming in Strasburg, VA

However, Jay did enjoy his time as a Groomsman, even though he was used and abused. One day I'd like to make a post about how NOT to treat your wedding party. Part of my problem - I'm still bitter since this friend was too busy making mojitos to come to our 30 minute rehearsal the day before our wedding. His wedding was of course a huge production; wedding party dance (in hope of becoming a viral YouTube hit) and everything. A short rant:  If you can afford two wedding coordinators and a white horsedrawn carriage to deliver you to the aisle, you should not treat your wedding party like slaves. They should not be hauling around hay bales and helping set up for 4 hours in the heat on the day of the wedding. Nor should their wives have to run errands for you like picking up beer kegs (and carrying them - I'm strong, but dear GOD those things are heavy!!!) the day before the wedding, or picking up ice and find trash cans and horse troughs to put the kegs in. Nor should you act like a total @ss the night before your wedding and nearly get your friends kicked out of their hotel room. After all of this, you should not give your Groomsman a tie with a giant stain on it as his gift. Another complaint - I was sitting in the dark on some hay bales nursing my migraine which developed during the rather unfortunate salty dinner, trying not to puke. They walked over, "Hey Lauren, we're trying to get a hold of the wedding coordinator to contact the shuttle buses, sorry you're not feeling well. Now, do you mind moving? We want a picture sitting here." In hindsight, I should have not suppressed my horrendous dinner. I should have decorated their wedding shoes. No, I just mumbled my congratulations and was helped over to some other hay bales by my husband.Your one special day is not worth your friends despising you - you're going to need them after you're married!


So anyway, we got back to working on the kitchen tile. It took us much longer than I would have liked, but it finally got done and Jay wired up the new outlet for the stove.

We could finally have our eggs! By this time, we had 3 eggs to eat, so at least we didn't have to split them.

These are the eggs compared to a regular large storebought egg. Each day the eggs get a little bit bigger. Ginger is still the only one laying, but our Black Stars should lay any day now... they will be 18 weeks old on Sunday. Time for them to step it up!

This is Ginger, the only one currently feeding us.

These are Ginger's beautiful eggs in the pan. We cooked them over-easy and had them on buttered toast. It tasted like sunshine. The yolks were so creamy and rich!

This is our entire flock... one other important update that I forgot:  it turns out that Dresdy is a ROOSTER. I was so mad!! I saw "her" trying to mount the hens and thought maybe she was gay or just confused about what she was supposed to do, but then I heard her crow. :(  I was pretty sure that Mouse was a Roo, and he started crowing a few weeks ago. I was fine with having one Rooster... but TWO? All after I nursed sweet little Dresdy back to health, thinking that eventually "she" would pay me back in eggs and maybe hatch me out some babies (I've heard that silkies get broody, so they're good for hatching eggs). 
So I was willing to give a Rooster a try, but I can't have two roos for 9 hens. Deciding which roo to give away was kind of tough, because Mouse was so friendly early on and Dresdy has always been a little standoffish... but then I also nursed Dresdy back to health and took care of him inside for two weeks. Ultimately, I decided that Mouse is the alpha and is the best protector of the flock, so I posted Dresdy on the Backyard Poultry site. I could probably give him away faster on Craigslist, but I want someone who needs a rooster for their flock, not someone who is going to eat him. Silkies are unfortunately an Asian delicacy, so I'm especially wary of someone who might want him for nefarious purposes. Yes, I know that it is hypocritical to say, since I eat chicken. However, Dresdy is my pet, so it's different!

We are starting to move the cabinets inside and arrange where we want them. Jay's aunt and uncle graciously gave us their kitchen cabinets, since they were remodeling their mansion. So we now will have "Airslie" cabinets. I think just having their cabinets in our house has to increase our home's value by a million dollars or so. Here is a photo of their home:

There is a great butcher's block counter on one of the cabinets (which we're putting by the stove), however, that is the only existing counter at the moment. We are debating over what to do about the countertops. We are pricing countertops now and debating what to do. The least expensive route to go at the moment is to install tile counters ourselves. Then later on, we can upgrade everything to granite or something else nice. We will also be updating the current hardware on the cabinets, as the brass isn't quite our style. Eventually we may refinish the front of the cabinets, but that will be down the road when we have more time and after Jay builds his shed/work area/thing.

After the kitchen is done, we only have one room left to complete!! Hurray!!! :):)

I'm probably most excited that we've decided that once we're done, we're going to have a professional cleaning crew come through and do a thorough construction cleaning. I'm trying to convince Jay that it will be worth the money to pay someone to clean once or twice a month. It's a huge house and it takes a lot of work to keep clean. The cats certainly don't help - I wish I could shave them! No matter how many times I brush them, they still leave hair everywhere. :( 

Well that's it for now. We're off to another wedding this weekend (one we get to enjoy instead of participate in!)... it's in the Berkshires for Jay's cousin Keith. His parents are the ones who own Airslie. Should be a great time - I've never been to the Berkshires! 

After that, we have no plans outside the area for the foreseeable future and I am so glad. I want to be able to  actually enjoy our house that we've worked so hard on.