Friday, March 29, 2013

A dose of cute for your Friday

Easter egger baby... I think she looks like a chipmunk with those fluffy cheeks!

Easter Egger will grow up to look something like this... I love the muffs, so cute!

Drive chickie, DRIVE!! Couldn't resist.

Chick-sitting for my boss. These babies hatched last Friday and are a mix of offspring from his and our chickens. We're keeping three of them.

One of our three chicks from the "Rare Marans" collecton.

We think our rare marans chicks will grow up to be White Marans

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some pics from my new toy

Here are some photos that I took with my new toy... none of them have been edited.

I have a lot of learning to do, but they're not bad for my first batch of photos.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My new family member is here

I love it!

Now I don't have to write as much on here... Instead, I can just show you my life.

Now she just needs a name. What shall I call her (besides my Preciousssss)?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

25 Things - Update on Progress

At the beginning of the year, I posted my goals/quasi-resolutions... here is an update on how I'm doing:

  1. Be more positive
    I think that I'm getting there. Honestly, therapy has helped me a lot... I do what I can, try to understand others and their motivations, then let the rest of it go.
  2. Lose ~13% of body weight (or eat healthier and exercise at least 3x a week)
    I'm at 5.11% of my body weight. That's progress! I've also exercised at least 3 times a week for the last few weeks. I'll take it.
  3. Start a few plants from seed for the garden
    I have the starter seed kit, I just need to figure out when to start the stuff. 
  4. Come up with a new budget and stick to it
    I've figured out the budget - next update will tell you if I stuck to it. :)
  5. Get rid of the red couch and chair that I freaking HATE
    Ugh, not yet.
  6. Purchase new furniture and decorate downstairs
    Also not yet. I have to make sure that it fits with #4.
  7. Put together a time capsule for our house
    I have it, but it's sitting downstairs on my kitchen counter. It doesn't need to go in until we finish the drywall in my old bedroom's closet.
  8. Blog at least twice a week
    Failing that one. Oops.
  9. Get organized - important documents, books, seasonal items, etc.
    Maybe later this year. I'm just happy to have my house mostly in one piece!
  10. Be in good enough shape to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (aka Mount Doom) in New Zealand
    Definitely not yet. We leave in 50 days, so I think that should be enough time as long as I stick with those 3x a week workouts.
  11. Raise a small flock of chickens for meat (at least six)
    This is gonna be a tough one. Not sure if I'll ever be able to do this.
  12. Sell some eggs, otherwise we'll be overrun when the new chickens start laying
    Later this year... probably August or September when the new girls start laying.
  13. Snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, even though I'm scared of being eaten by a shark
    Oh it's gonna happen! Flights are booked, baby!
  14. Snuggle a koala
    Also going to happen at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in less than 2 months!
  15. Install the heat pump downstairs
    This is finally happening tomorrow! I can't wait to have whole house HVAC!!
  16. Make room in the budget for a cleaning service
    Not sure about this... I'm thinking that now that the house is completed, it's a lot easier to keep clean. Also, if we get a normal driveway and make some landscaping improvements, it will be much easier to keep our floors clean.
  17. Get the crawl space insulated
    Yeah, yeah. It'll happen one day. Maybe soon. Maybe later. But someday this year.
  18. Have photos done and send Christmas cards out this year
    Maybe I should make my appointment with Laura Dye  now so that I don't slack on this one. I want the cats and chickens in our "family" photo. I think that would be awesome! Maybe an American Gothic kinda thing in front of the house. But with Jay in his turnout gear (shirtless with suspenders would be HILARIOUS) and me with a chicken under one arm and a cat under the other. 
  19. Fence in yard
    This is going to happen, although not sure if it will happen before or after the trip
  20. Hatch out some silkie and black/red star mixes
    They're hatching tomorrow! Squee! :)
  21. Say no and not feel guilty afterwards
    I've been doing that more often. Really.
  22. Have an awesome time at the Mardi Gras Ball
    I did have an awesome time, although I must say that I was quite happy and relieved when it was all over. I was even happy to clean up the next day!
  23. Can tomatoes from our garden
    Gotta plant them first. And put up a fence so that the chickiepoos don't eat them.
  24. Print "before" collages to frame and hang in the house
    I started to get some of these together. I need to make this happen.
  25. Use at least one week of our time share
    We are planning to take a group vacation to the Dominican at the end of the year, but when I wrote to the timeshare people, they told me that they couldn't confirm a villa for us until a month out. GRRR. So in all likelihood, we will be using another person's timeshare to make sure that we get what we want. I'm quite irked by the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Another fabulous day

Today, Jay and I are consumer-debt free. Jay is also an official home-owner. I figured that he deserved it after all of his hard work on "my" house.

Tonight we are booking our flights to Australia and New Zealand. We depart for our trip in just 51 days! The itinerary has changed somewhat, as we begin making actual inquiries and plans.

My aunt and uncle will be picking us up in Brisbane and taking us to her home in Surfer's Paradise. We'll stay with her for two days, then the four of us will go down to Coolangatta and stay at the Sebel for three days in a lovely 2 BR apartment. There is a place called Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where we can cuddle koalas on the way to Coolangatta, so there is no need to visit the place in Brisbane when we arrive jet-lagged. Another thing that we're planning to do in Coolangatta is try out diving . I'd rather realize that I hate diving early in our trip rather than dive for my first time at the Great Barrier Reef, have a panic attack and then be eaten by sharks. We'll then travel back to Surfer's with Nancy & Darryl for our final night. The next morning (Sunday May 19th), we'll be at the airport early for our flight to Airlie Beach and our Whitsunday Cruise.

So that is the trip update!

I've thought a lot over the past year (especially with having a blog) that I would like to get back into photography. It kinda runs in the family. My dad was an excellent photographer, my cousin is an incredible photographer... my mom is an avid photographer,  so hey, it's in my blood. I was into photography in my youth and even won a few prizes entering my photos in the county fair. Back then we shot with film, of course. A month ago I asked my photographer friend Laura for advice on  buying an inexpensive but decent DSLR. After considering her advice, I've decided to go with a refurbished Nikon D80 from B&H photo with a 18-55mm zoom lens.  My new toy should arrive before the weekend! So hopefully my next posts will have some REAL photos in them.

On to the diet... I am down a total of 9 pounds. I think that I'm actually down 10, but the scale wasn't as friendly to me today.

I'm debating whether I should go to the next step down in Atkins - the OWL stage. In OWL, you gradually increase your net carb intake to 25 grams of net carbs the first week. The next week, you increase the net carbs to 30, and so on until you find the right amount without gaining weight.

I'm 22 pounds from my ultimate goal weight, but only 11 pounds from no longer being considered overweight.

I'm happy to report that I've been consistent about exercise as well. I've been to the gym or exercised every other day for at least the past two weeks. My exercise buddy has an injured knee and can't do the regular machines or classes, so tomorrow we are going to attempt to swim laps at the Y. And hoping to not look like complete fools. The doggie paddle is my best stroke, so I might be in trouble!

Oh and I almost forgot - we will have new babies coming next week! My boss is hatching out some of our eggs, so we will have silkie and gold/black star crosses hatching around Friday. Should be some interesting looking chicks. Those are on top of the 15 chicks that I ordered back in November. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time! I'm thinking of giving away or selling 5 or 6 of them, plus a few of my girls that are already laying. A few people I've talked to were interested in trying out chickens. I told them that they could borrow some of mine and if they discovered it wasn't for them that they could give them back.

That's it for now. Fingers crossed for some decent photos to appear next week!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Today is a fabulous day

After several setbacks in our refinancing saga, we closed on our loan today - at 3.75% fixed for 30 years. AWESOME. I've never been so excited to pay off bills. As of next Wednesday, Jay and I will have $0 in consumer debt, have the funds available to finish our house (HVAC, crawlspace insulation, new shed/shop, privacy fence), have 4 months worth of emergency savings, and last but not least will have our Australia/New Zealand trip paid for. Oh, and did I mention that the refinance will also be saving us $500 a month? So with our new savings plan, we will be socking away 10% of our income, which we should really be doing anyway. We had been doing a great job with our savings, but car repairs or other unexpected expenses would always chip away at the account. My 401k is also quite happy these days. Financial stability is feeling mighty great.

To save even more, we've been thinking of getting rid of DirecTV, but our favorite shows are on SyFy, which doesn't work well with Hulu Plus or Netflix. Rather annoying. In three more years, we will also have paid off our DR timeshare (although I expect that we'll get suckered into the next level when we go back) and Jay's student loan will also be paid off, saving us even more money each month. We're keeping his student loan since the interest rate is so low.

I'm also getting a massage after work (a gift from one of my coworkers that I finally booked - great timing!)... plus Jay and I are going out to dinner to celebrate our loan closing! 

I've lost 8 pounds so far on Atkins. Not as much weight as I was hoping to lose in a month, but it's progress. I'm hoping to lose at least 16 pounds before our trip. However, as long as I lose at least 12 pounds before May, I will be back within "normal" limits. To weigh what I did when Jay and I started dating, I will need to lose about 25 more pounds. However, I would be happy with a 23.1 BMI (losing an additional 18 lbs or total weight loss of 26 lbs).

That's it for now! Hope to post about some of our New Zealand activities over the weekend. :)


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I haven’t had a slice of bread in three weeks

It’s probably the longest I’ve gone without having bread, rice, or pasta in my life. What I wouldn’t give for a fresh crusty piece of French bread slathered in mashed potatoes and angel hair pasta. Mmmm.

In reality, Atkins is not that bad. The first week was the worst for sure… I felt so bad on the fifth day that I had a PA at work check my blood sugar because I thought I was dying. Turned out that I just needed some delicious salty chicken broth. Your electrolytes can get all out of whack on Atkins, especially during that first week.

There have been some other discoveries, like when I realized that this delicious Caffe Breve that I’m drinking is full of carbs. Crap. I looked at a carton of half & half and assumed that they don’t put that much in the drink. Well… yeah. This drink has at least 16 grams of carbs in it. Crap. Crap. Crap. I decided to search the interwebs about the amount of carbs in a Caffe Breve and it was bad news. So no more lattes, breves or anything. From now on, I’m sticking to brewed coffee with heavy cream and sugar free sweetener.

The other discovery I’ve made is that the Atkins bars and shakes have made me stall. I bought them probably a week or week & a half into the diet when I thought I was going to die. I needed something crunchy and sweet, and they fit the bill. Depending on my cravings, I’ve been eating anywhere from 1 and 3 of those Atkins shakes/bars/treats. Well, the last week hasn’t been good. I drank too many sprite zero & vodkas at a party over the weekend and have probably not been counting carbs as well as I should. This weekend will be another challenge – a one year old’s birthday party and a fun night out with my girlfriends in Baltimore. I think that I’ll choose a drink like vodka and club soda so that I can pace myself better. Those Bacardi & diet cokes and sprite zero & vodkas just go down entirely too smoothly.

My results? The first two weeks were great! The first week I lost 4 lbs and the second week I lost 3 lbs. Week 3 = 0 pounds. In all fairness, I haven’t been great about going to the gym. I’ve only been going about once a week. Starting today, I’m going to be more disciplined. No more Atkins shakes/bars/treats or fancy coffee drinks. Gym no less than three times a week. No alcohol other than vodka & club soda – and those sparingly.

So last weekend I faced a dilemma… what to make for a party. I googled “low carb appetizers” and came up with a bunch of different recipes for stuffed mushrooms. Most of them called for mayo mixed with cheese and artichokes. YUCK. Straight mayo? No thanks, I’ll make my own concoction.

I ended up making shrimp cocktail and my own version of artichoke dip stuffed mushrooms. Both were gone in fifteen minutes… so I’d say that people liked them!

Here is the recipe… it was incredibly simple!

Artichoke Dip Stuffed Mushrooms

 8 oz softened cream cheese
1 cup Italian blend cheese – parmesan, romano & asiago
14 oz. can of artichoke hearts
2 lbs baby bella mushrooms, cleaned & stems removed

This made about 40 stuffed mushrooms with 1/4 cup of dip leftover.

Drain and finely chop artichoke hearts. I removed a few of the outer leaves if they were too fibrous.

Mix cream cheese, artichokes & cheese.

Stuff mixture into mushroom caps.

Bake on foil-lined tray at 425 for 25-30 minutes, until tops begin to brown.