Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas: 2013

We've been back from our trip to the States for just over a week now.

I promise you, I have a few blog entries started on my tablet (yes! I got a tablet! Mostly so I COULD blog while my hubby has the computer). Unfortunately, we don't have wireless, so I have to upload them later... and finish them... but I couldn't wait on this one, because it's Christmas (Simon's first!).

And I managed to do my annual gingerbread house. Somehow. With being remarkably tired from traveling and a sick and cranky baby who refuses to sleep for longer than 3 hour-increments at night. And just a long long first week back in Tassie.

But baking is therapy sometimes. And I so badly wanted to make this gingerbread house! I didn't care if anyone in Phillip's family recognized it, or thought it was as awesome as we did, or lame, I just needed to make it.

So I did.

And it is glorious. Or at least I think so, anyway.

Anyone who doesn't recognize it, this is the TARDIS. From Dr. Who. Specifically, for a seasonally appropriate TARDIS, a bit of inspiration from "The Snowmen" episode.

I am a rather recent initiate into the Dr. Who universe, thanks to my cousin. Though I have to say, things I'd seen from the fandom made me rather interested in the show before that, as well.

So in honor of 50 years of Dr. Who, and my lovely cousin, who I'm really really sad I couldn't be with for Christmas (along with the rest of my family), comes the gingerbread TARDIS.

Interestingly enough, Phillip's uncle is a big Dr. Who fan, which we did not know until I walked in with my TARDIS. So there were fun jokes about breaking it open to see if it was bigger on the inside. And it was fun to have something I did just for myself for fun be fun for others as well.

And, for Simon's first Christmas, we kept it low-key. He got some clothes we got in the States for him, and some Duplos for when he's a bit older. I mean, honestly, he's super happy playing with bits of paper he finds on the floor at the moment, and gets enough toys from other people, that we felt no need to spoil him more. Lots of love, and hugs is about all he needs and want from us anyway.

 Poor baby is still rather sick and cranky most of the time. On the left we have happy baby after playing with wrapping paper. On the right, we have a child who just got clothes for Christmas...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Heading Home!

Ah, my poor, dear, neglected blog...

I always MEAN to write, but, alas, other things take precedence and I never seem to get around to it. Sad, since I have a list a mile long of things to write about.

But between having a child who only very recently decided that he liked to nap longer than 20-30 minutes three to four times a day after being rocked for an hour (now 45 minutes-1.5 hours, two to three times a day), trying to maintain a certain level of cleanliness in the house, painting projects and sewing projects, my poor little blog has gotten shoved to the bottom of my "to do" list.

It makes me constantly reflect on what I now think is some of the best parenting advice a friend gave me: Don't make plans. I'm not sure she was referring to parenting 6 months in, but I like to think she was, or at least still think it's relevant at this point. Because some days, it might take an hour to put my little tatter-tot down for a nap and he'll only nap for 30 minutes, giving me enough time to... eat a meal (of sorts) and check emails. Other days he might nap an hour or more and I get two loads of laundry folded, the kitchen cleaned up, vacuuming done, toilet cleaned, and maybe even some painting done or some yoga (it's amazing what you can accomplish in an hour, really). I can't really plan on much of ME things getting done during the day. Or night. Because I want to sleep. Or spend time vegging/talking with my husband because we're BOTH exhausted from work, or crying baby, or just overly energetic and angry child who doesn't have the gross motor skills to do what he really really wants yet (though I am convinced his most natural state is happy boy, but even an hour of angry baby can be draining).

I'll not give up this blog, it's just unfortunately had to take a back seat to... everything else. Since I'm not going to be one of those mom's who manages to be a great mom AND blog about it, along with random crafty or foody things. I'm not capable of it. Not all the time. Not HALF the time. Go them. I... can't.

Especially since I've gotten even BUSIER in the last few weeks preparing for....


After two and a half (nearly) years!

Yes, we'll be making the journey home (my home) November-December. Four weeks of being around my family and friends! The excitement is hard to contain, and half the time I just feel like crying because I can't wait to be back and see people I haven't seen in so so long.

So the last few weeks have been full of all my normal things, plus trying to scour together enough clothes for Simon to wear on planes and at least one day in the states before I can just shop for him (or, thankfully, Grandma bought him plenty of things to wear too!), figure out how many diapers we'll need on the plane (we usually use cloth, so disposables are a new thing for us to be buying), sewing projects like high chairs, toys and diaper pockets to make traveling easier, going through my clothes to figure out what fits enough for me to wear around people again, and praying praying PRAYING Simon will do well on the big 15 hour flight. And all the smaller flights. And with the massive time change (he's such a little creature of habit and routine!). And that I can cope with massive amounts of sleep deprivation and still enjoy my visit. And, you know, be able to comprehend what is going on around me.

And while I might have joked over the last two-plus years that I just want to go back home for a good hot dog and some real pizza (Chicago deep-dish, baby!), I can hardly wait to see all my family and friends again!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Visit from Home

It has been just over two years since I got married and moved to Tasmania.

And we HAD been planning a trip back home for my cousins wedding (where we would be able to meet up with lots of family all at once, as well as partake in the lovely event) that just didn't work out.

Now that we're fully immersed in parenthood,  it's kind of hard to say "yes we will travel 27 hours worth of flights with a small baby", and stick to a date. I mean, Simon is exhausting at the best of times, let alone being stuck on a plane for 13 straight hours and undergoing major time zone changes. So we haven't exactly been able to make rock solid plans about trips (though we have had tentative ones about visiting in the next 6 months or less).

So instead, my parents decided to come to us.

I mean, two years is a long LONG time. And of course they needed to meet their first grandchild (I joke that he was probably the main reason the came... and it's only a half joke. I'm still pretty sure he's the main reason they came, and I don't blame them. He is an adorable child, even when he's exhausting).

I kind of tentatively looked forward to their visit at first, just because the more contact with home and people back there that I have, the harder it is to be here and not want to curl up in a ball of sadness over missing my family and friends. And the occasional hot dog. So the thought of my parents coming and spending two whole weeks with me, of actually getting to HUG them again, made my heart hurt. Because I miss them so so much. The closer their day of arrival came though, the more excited I got to see them, hug them, talk face to face with them, and show off my boy and finally share him with some of the most important people in my life (and the grandfather he's somewhat named after).

I sobbed like a baby when I first saw and hugged them.

Sadly, their visit was only two weeks, which really isn't a lot of time when you take into consideration you loose an ENTIRE day to travel, jet lag, a small baby, sick parents and travelers, and a mamma who still isn't too great at driving all over Tasmania. We did manage to do the important things 'round here though on their visit.

Popop (my dad) showing Simon some birds
Of course we managed a visit to Wings Wildlife Park, the MOST important thing to do, since when you come to Australia, you of course want to see the bizarre wildlife. And pat it. And listen to some pretty cool employees give talks about the animals. And Wings is, I have heard, the better of the two wildlife parks close to us. Having only been to Wings, I'll just continue to say they totally rock and we'll probably only ever take visitors here.
Mom patting a wombat
(This was my personal second favorite thing!)

Mom joining the mob of female kangaroos

Dad being overtaken by mammas and joeys

Oh hi der! We'll be friendz, right?

There was eating fish 'n' chips on the beach. Sadly, we got there at the end of high tide, so we couldn't look in many tide pools. And the wind was pretty chilly. But not so bad that we couldn't fully enjoy our delicious fish 'n' chips and then do a little beach combing.

First trip to the ocean!
Well, second if you count that time we had to pull over for a feeding.

The Honey Farm, of course, for some of our favorite ice cream, tasting of some unique Tasmanian honey, and the drive there, which takes you down some twisty roads that are... interesting for tourists to drive on. Narrow, curvy, LOTS of blind corners, and, you know, the whole driving on the left side of the road instead of the right.

Sleepy boy, still likes playing with... anything.

We made two stops at my favorite place in Sheffield,
Fudge 'n' Good Coffee, for the obvious. Our last visit there was Mom and Dad's last day, so Simon and I picked out a box of fudge to send home as a very late graduation gift to my brother. Sadly, he had a cold when he got his gift, and hasn't indulged in the deliciousness yet, saying he doesn't want to miss out on anything because of congestion, so he has yet to tell me how fantastic it all tastes.

"Our" backyard

Mom and Dad rented a car while they were here because Dad thought it would be fun to learn to drive on the other side of the road. And something about not wanting to inconvenience us. So for a few mornings, while I was still dragging myself out of bed after only four hours of sleep (Simon went through a growth spurt and a "thing" during the visit and did. not. sleep.) and trying to not look and feel like I'd only gotten four hours of sleep, Dad would take off for a few hours and do some trout fishing. He bought a seven day licence, had Phillip tell him a few places to go, and caught nothing. But did, I believe, manage to see some pretty scenery and startle some wallabies.

Then, of course, there was visiting friends and my in-laws, letting my parents get to see what our life consists of, and then lots and lots of just hanging out around the house, letting Simon get to know his grandparents, And me, just soaking in as much of their company as I could.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Missing A Lot

Last weekend I had to miss my cousin's wedding.

One of the many joys of living so far away from home. Not only did I have to miss the wedding, but the months before of helping plan, make things, and just sitting around talking about the wedding and marriage in general.

I'm pretty close to my cousins.

So missing the wedding last week was... hard to say the least. And we had originally planned on going, since Simon was meant to be three months old by that time (travel at that age meant we didn't have to pack any food for him, since I carry it all all the time anyway! And he's still fairly travel-sized, too). Unfortunately, our little monster child decided to come two weeks late, which meant applying for his passport two weeks later, and all other government paperwork was put in two weeks later than we'd "planned" on.

(Side note, who knew you couldn't really plan with babies, hu? Note my sarcasm, I was/am well aware of how little you can fully plan on with children)

So, instead of being able to watch my cousin walk down the isle and celebrate with family I haven't seen in two years (nearly to the day, actually), I looked at pictures of a princess-like bride on Facebook and cried with Simon (though Simon was crying because he was over-tired, not because of the wedding).

It just drove further home the fact that living so far from family and loved ones means that I will miss out on a lot of big and important moments, both happy and sad. And that they have to miss out on a lot of mine, too. As well as the fact that it has now been two years since I have been home.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Celebrating Simply

Being that Phillip and I are still learning to care for an infant, our birthdays and 2 year anniversary passed with very little celebration.

Not that either of us are really into celebrating our birthdays anyway, it's just nice to give/get a little gift(s), and do something out of the ordinary.

Phillip's parent's did throw us a family get-together at their house. It's Phillip's family's tradition to get together at the birthday person's house for a meal, which we did last year (combining our birthdays so as to not have to do it twice). Because Simon was only one month and a bit for both our birthdays, we just plain didn't want to have people over for more than an hour. So the in-laws having the meal for us was pretty nice.

For our ACTUAL birthdays, Phillip and I have decided we won't do much in our household. Whoever's birthday it is gets to pick a nice meal for dinner (nearly no limits on what you can choose), and the other person makes it. Phillip chose chili and cornbread (though he bought corn FLOUR instead of corn MEAL and so cornbread was out), and I was able to, over the course of two days, make mini sour cream apple pies for him to enjoy over a few days. I got salmon and veggies (which Phillip did an admirable job cooking!). Gifts were, well, again with the not getting out much or having much time, I never got to shop. Phillip gets to spend money on ministry books he wants instead, and he got me a mini trampoline (which turns out is nice to bounce on and put the baby to sleep. Exercise+baby sleeping= happy mamma).

Our anniversary, well, we had no idea what to do this year. Last year, I made a really really nice meal and we just had a nice time at home. This year, I'm too worn out most days still to do the same. And the fact that I am exclusively breastfeeding means getting a babysitter is out of the question. So, we agreed to just go out for a treat of coffee and fudge at a nice gallery/coffee house in Sheffield, Fudge 'n' Good Coffee.

Red-topped fudge was the Drunken Chocoholic.
We dove right in.
Close fudge is "Moreish Mocha"
It's a classy, comfy, little place, that kind of reminds me of the nice non-Starbucks coffee places back home. You know, the family owned places that make really good coffee, and are just warm and homey and make you want to sit back and really enjoy your coffee that comes in a real mug (rather than a cardboard cup) and relax. The fact that it also doubles as an art gallery that features local artists is really nice too.

Our anniversary treats were Vienna coffees (delicious coffee topped with slightly sweetened whipped cream), and two marvelous blocks of fudge. The new one made just the day before kind, was "The Drunken Chocoholic", made with Cabernet Sauvignon and spiced chocolate. SO GOOD! The perfect fudge to celebrate an anniversary with, in my opinion.

Going out on a date like this with a baby was relatively stress-free. We got to sit at a cozy corner table with Simon in his stroller while we enjoyed our coffee and fudge and each others company (with the occasional peak at Simon to laugh at his "surprised and attentive" face). And he was content enough with half sleeping and listening to new noises like coffee grinders, milk steamers, and ladies laughing.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Last Fling and Wallabies

In February (I know, this is RIDICULOUSLY late in coming!) Phillip and I went out for a sort of "last fling" kind of meal, to enjoy a nice night out to dinner while it was just the two of us, one last time.

We ate at the country club in Launceston at the Terrace Restaurant.

But rather than regale you with stories and photos of what food we ate (I didn't take any, nor do I particularly remember what the food was like other than really good), I thought my non-Australian viewers would at least find the photos I DID take interesting.

Well, not all of them. Sometimes I get tired of playing tourist and taking lots of bad photos, so I stop after only a few bad ones instead. And give you, lovely readers, the cream of the crop (they're still somewhat bad though this time, but I thought someone could enjoy them. Maybe.).

Mamma and her joey (click to view larger image)
Mayhaps you remember in other blog entries I said something about wallabies being a pest around Tasmania, nearly as bad as rabbits? This was the first time I saw them in near-plague proportions. And only JUST outside the city. My photos poorly portray this viewing. They were everywhere around the country club. Just not close enough for nice photos in low light with a point-and-shoot camera.

But really. LOTS of wallabies.

I seeeee you!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Accidents Happen

We heat our house with a wood fire.

Like most of Tasmania.

This is our first year supplying our own wood. The last two winters we've gotten wood from Phillip's parents.  We figured it was about time we become real grown-up married people and buy our own. Also, we don't like to mooch (though I guess we did work for at least some of the wood we were given, helping split wood at his parents).

Load of wood being delivered
The cheapest way to get wood turns out to be just buying it as logs. Massive logs that you cut and split yourself. Which meant that Phillip got to buy himself a few new toys so he could accomplish this task (being that I was super pregnant, I was not going to help cut and split wood).

So, this past summer, not only did we buy about 15 cubic meters of wood, but Phillip got himself a sweet deal on an Echo chainsaw, and a beautiful splitting ax from Fiskars. He liked his new toys.

All summer, on days that weren't blisteringly hot, Phillip would use bits of spare time to cut through logs with his chainsaw, and then split them into manageable pieces for our fireplace. The wood was then to sit out in the sun and rain for a few weeks so that the sap could be washed out, then put in the shed to dry out so and we could have nice dry wood to burn this winter, unlike the past two winters where most of our wood has either been somewhat green or wet. Our (well, Phillip's) goal was to have it all done by the time the baby came. He came fairly close to accomplishing this goal, too.

Testing out his new chainsaw!
Nearly ALL the logs are cut and half of it split!
Unfortunately, things don't always work as we plan, and, on May 4th, while I was inside cleaning like the crazy pregnant woman I was, hoping I would go into labor at any moment, Phillip was outside splitting wood. Fifteen minutes in, Phillip walks into the house with a funny smile on his face.

"Boy, that was a short time splitting" I said. To which Phillip replied, "I cut myself." very calmly, and then showed me his thumb.

Apparently, while trying to dislodge the ax from a block, he managed to run the VERY sharp blade along the back of his right thumb. And, if you know Fiskars products, they're amazingly sharp (which you want. I love Fiskars. Really, I do).

Into the bathroom I dragged poor bleeding Phillip to clean and look at his thumb. It didn't stop bleeding. The second pressure was off it, it started to pour out blood again (maybe I'm being a bit dramatic with the pouring bit, but it was bleeding a LOT). So we decided to drive up town to get some more bandaids and MAYBE go to the hospital.

In the middle of this trip, my midwife, Jenny, called, to see how I was doing. I said something along the lines of, "Well, I'M fine, but we're trying to decide if we should take Phillip to the ER for some stitches..." Jenny also happens to be a nurse at a clinic, which she told us to come down to so she could take a look at Phillip, give him stitches if necessary, then take a look at me. (See why I love my midwife? And that's only one of many reasons...)

Turns out, Phillip needed three stitches. And a tetanus booster. And a note for a week off work. Thankfully, though, no tendons were cut.

At the clinic, waiting for his DPT shot post sutures

And by the time I went into labor his thumb was mostly healed so I didn't have to worry too much about busting open his stitches or hurting him more while I squeezed his hand.
Nearly all healed up, one more week to go with stitches in
(also, the least bad part of the cut goes nearly to the last thumb joint)
Unfortunately, the time Phillip had to rest his thumb to properly heal, which turned out to be about 4 weeks, and then taking on a lot of the household responsibilities because I had to sit for hours nursing a very hungry baby, as well as recover, has left us with wet wood again this year. We have a system of bringing wood in to dry by the fire so it isn't as sodden as it could be, but it still means that our fire isn't burning as hot as we'd like. Alas, not much we can do about it, and at least we've figured out ways of keeping warm without having the fire going hot. Things like, wool socks, and lots of blankets. Or, my dad's favorite, vacuuming (well, when one doesn't have to carry a baby around). 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bouncing Baby Home Birth

I would like to (proudly) announce that my most recent absence from blogging was due to the fact that I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on May 16th.

Simon David, born at 2:45AM at home, and weighed 10lbs 7ozs, and was 55cm long.

He's my monster baby.

When we first found out I was pregnant, we did a lot of praying about what we were going to do throughout the pregnancy and with the birth. Neither of us were really wanting to become entrenched in the medical system and the way it treats birth, but honestly, I wasn't too gung-ho about doing a home birth for my first baby. Though, from the age of about 17, I've been very interested in doing home birth (for possible subsequent children), and water birth (I just love water). So, after one visit to the midwife clinic (most births are handled by midwives here in Tasmania, unless it is a high risk pregnancy or a doctor is requested), one to a doctor, and MUCH prayer, we managed to contact and book the only midwife in the area who does home births.

And she was a God-send.

Jenny was immensely comforting and supportive the entire pregnancy, even going so far as to take me into the hospital for a check-up when I could no longer fit behind the wheel of the car and Phillip couldn't get home in time to take me. She had us come in to the clinic she works at as a nurse when Phillip needed stitches on Saturday afternoon (that's another story though). She did home visits during and after my pregnancy, and would call occasionally, just to check up on me (still does!), Phillip, and Simon. She wasn't just here to look after me and the baby and make sure we were healthy physically, but actually became involved in our lives and made sure that we were and are healthy all around, mentally, physically, emotionally. It was much more... personable... than I have ever experienced or expected.

Giving birth was, well, amazing. Absolutely and utterly amazing.

At two weeks overdue, after an attempt at using castor oil and acupressure, I officially went in to labor at 11:30AM (contractions were a steady 5 min. apart), both Phillip and I had been awake at 3:30AM when contractions actually started. Jenny came over and notified another midwife she was having assist her that she would need to come over some time that day. It was all remarkably relaxed and, well, nice. I wanted to snack on some crackers and peanut butter? I got to snack. I wanted to make cake? I made cake. I wanted to walk around the house doing things? I walked. I wanted to be in the birthing pool? Well, you get the idea. Being at home meant I was free to do pretty much anything I wanted, go about my normal day, while still laboring. Making it seem less... intense. More like life.
Birthing pool, set up in our living room
Phillip, exhausted and "sleeping" on the floor while holding my hands

We covered up or hid clocks in the house because I had no desire to know how long anything was going on, so I don't really know how long I did what. I know that at some point, even being in the birthing pool was taking a toll on my back (I had problems with my lower back the entire pregnancy), and Phillip walked me to our bedroom where he laid down with me and I half napped for, he says, three hours. Don't ask me how I managed to sleep, but I was absolutely exhausted at that point, and somehow fell asleep in between contractions.

What did seem odd to me was that the contractions never got closer together than 5 minutes. Regardless of what I did; walking, sitting on my Fit ball, squatting, "dancing", nothing seemed to help anything progress. After hours and hours, Jenny asked if she could check dilation, and, turns out, baby was all ready to go. After a few more hours of nothing happening, we decided to see if breaking my water would help things. Again, nothing happened. I could feel the little guy descending and all that during the last few hours, but my body didn't seem to want to speed up the labor. My back started giving out in the pool again and I ended up on our bed, where, we just decided I should try pushing.

Pushing was probably the best part of the labor. It was ACCOMPLISHING something. I was WORKING (wow was I working!) and getting something done, not just waiting around for things to progress.

Honestly, it was HARD. One of the hardest things I will probably ever have to do, but it was also one of the most invigorating, wonderful, amazing things I have ever done. I felt... like a warrior woman. Powerful, like, as exhausted as I was after all those hours of contractions having gotten only three hours of sleep the night before, I could DO this. I was MADE for this. I was going to get this done and birth this baby no mater what.

It didn't happen the exact way I wanted, really. I wanted to give birth in the birthing pool (I love love love water, and being in that pool, most of the time, just relieved a lot of pressure). I didn't want to be on my back on our bed. In possibly one of the most difficult positions to give birth in.

Being on my back rather than squatting or kneeling in the pool (which allows for somewhat quicker birth), slowed things down so that my body could really adjust to what turned out to be a BIG baby. We had no idea Simon was going to be as big as he was (we chose to do as few scans as possible and asked to not be told anything unless absolutely necessary). And big babies come with the risk of dislocating little baby shoulders or breaking collar bones during birth, as well as lots of tearing for the mother. We think that God allowed my back pain and the slowness of the birth so that both our bodies could adjust and deliver safely (or at least we allow that God was in control the whole time anyway, and allowed what he allowed for a reason, good or bad in our eyes).

First time holding our little boy
And, I can't say it enough, it was truly amazing. The whole process of Simon being born, and of being able to do it at home. And when his little body was laid on mine.... I have no words. It was just shock, awe, and love. Phillip was able to cut the cord (after it stopped pulsing), and I was able to hold my beautiful (well, at that point he was still rather squashed and a little funny looking) little boy.

AND, (score!) being that we were at home, I got to take a nice hot shower right after and sleep in my own bed for what was left of the night. And my wonderful wonderful midwives helped with, well, everything, afterwords. Jenny even stayed the night to make sure we were ok and help us a bit in the morning.

Phillip, wonderful, amazing, brilliant man that he is, was with me the entire time. He helped me breath through contractions, held my hand, rubbed my back, told me I was amazing, doing well, and, what amazes me the most maybe, watched the entire birth and was amazed and awed by it.

Even now, a month later, Phillip and I are still kind of in awe of it all. The whole process and what God allowed, and what we allowed by following what we truly felt was God's will for this birth.

Simon, one day old, not enjoying having this photo taken at all
(he had just been changed and oiled, so it was all a little much)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Circle of LIfe

Last week, Phillip had a few days off work in which he borrowed a DVD from friends on how to humanely kill and dress chickens. And, after watching it and taking notes, he did it with our extra roosters.

Yes, this may sound a bit harsh to some. Why would we raise, care for, and then kill what is sometimes a bit like a pet? Well, that was part of the deal we made with ourselves when we decided to get chickens and a rooster.

There isn't much of a point in owning a rooster unless you want chicks (though ours does have a wonderful personality and roosters in general can make great "guard dogs"). And, when allowing your hens to hatch chicks, there isn't really any way to guarantee that they're only hatching females, and not males. And, when you have too many mature roosters in your flock, the hens start to go off laying eggs. Which is the MAIN reason we have our hens to begin with.

(Why do hens go off laying eggs with too many roosters around? Mostly because the roosters try to mate with mature, laying hens, not hens who aren't laying eggs. If they're being "jumped on" too much, they'll stop laying so that the roosters leave them alone. We can tell when our young hens are going to start laying eggs because the rooster starts doing his funny mating dance for them.)

Anyway, when we got our chickens the "deal" was that, if we allowed hatchings, we would build up the flock with hens so we could have plenty of eggs for ourselves and to share with a few people, and extra roosters would be for meat.

The past year gave us two extra roosters that just entered their mature stage of life and needed either a new home, or to go in the freezer.

We found no homes for them, so, as said earlier, Phillip killed and dressed them. And, as someone who has only had experience with people either shooting or axing chickens up to this point, I was quite impressed with the gentle way that Phillip found to have them killed. It involves "hypnotizing" them by holding them upside down (this works great with fussy hens too, or just any chicken, and is kind of funny), and gently breaking their necks. This also leaves the meat in much better condition than shooting or axing them.

De-feathering was probably the easiest part of the job, since, being the first time we've had to kill chickens, and these being chickens we've helped raise and nurture, it was a bit hard emotionally (also, I'm flooded with pregnancy hormones at the moment and cried when Phillip brought the carcasses in the house).
Chilling out before we put them in the fridge so the meat
can relax before cooking or freezing.

But Phillip did a wonderful job, and I roasted one the other night with some carrots from our garden, potatoes and onion. After only 2.5 hours in the oven, he was really really tender and delicious. Is there a difference in taste with a fairly fresh, free-range, you-know-what-it's-been-eating rooster and one from the store? Not really. Fresher maybe, and, well, it was a bit tastier than store-bought. But honestly not much different.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We're Off To See The Tiddly Peeps

Chickens really are not the smartest of creatures.

This summer (the hottest on record here, though they've only been recording for the past 100 years), one of our chickens decided she wanted to be a mamma again. I guess she got jealous of the other hen who'd recently hatched a brood (you can see her baby photos here).

But, the hottest summer on record, our little yellow half-silky hen decided she wanted babies.

We did not. We had enough hens (5, though 2 were/are still too young to lay eggs just yet) and two extra roosters was more than we wanted (we'll be <gulp> killing and dressing them this weekend). So we tried to make her NOT broody (broody meaning, for those of you who don't talk about chickens, sitting on eggs and trying to hatch babies).

We took the eggs she managed to steal every day. This did not stop her, and she ended up, some days, just sitting on a nest of chicken turds. Gross. And dumb, as she wasn't even laying her own eggs, just stealing everyone elses.

Phillip, at one point, spun her around in a circle, to mimic one way we'd heard about to make chickens go off being broody. You put the hen in a bag, hang the bag on the clothes line, and spin it around, making them dizzy and they supposedly forget that they were broody. Phillip only spun her around in a circle while holding her (not in a bag), so he probably got more dizzy than she did. This did not work.

We tried shutting the chicken coop door during the day to keep her off her nest of turds, but she just found a place in the hay cock to sit instead. Also, we had to remember to go up in the early evening to open the door again so the chickens could go in to roost, so that when we went up to shut them in for the night, we didn't have to carry each chicken into the coop. Chickens, by the way, get remarkably dopey at night when they go to roost. It's kind of funny to see.

We tried dunking her belly and backside in water twice a day, which is supposed to make sitting on a nest really uncomfortable. I think this didn't work because it was so ridiculously hot, and the dip probably felt more revealing than uncomfortable to the stupid chicken.

For two months, I debated with Philip about just putting eggs under her, since she wasn't giving up. No, we didn't need or want more chickens, but we had friends that did. And more roosters would just mean more chicken in the freezer at some point, and we could sell or give away hens to, well, anyone. And I had to go up to the coop twice a day to give this idiotic hen water and food so she didn't cook herself to death in the heat anyway. Might as well get something out of her sitting and my having to do more than sit in the ridiculous heat.

I ended up talking to our friends up the hill (the family of 11), and they gave us some eggs to put under our determined hen for them. And yes, she sat, like a good little mother, and hatched five of the eight eggs we were given.

We're calling this batch the Tiddly Peeps. Phillip assures me it comes from some song or another from some children's show (British, of course), but we can't find it. I still love to say Tiddly Peeps though (try it, it's fun).
Chicks pretending to be ducklings.
One day old.

At two months, we're pretty sure at least two of them are hens, which is good for the family we hatched them for. Hopefully a third is a hen. It's a bit hard to tell until the combs start developing more.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pintrest Challenge Wrap-Up

So... I finished my Pintrest challenge.


A little late.

But in my defense  nesting kicked in SUPER hard this last month, and I wanted to get the house clean before I got too big (or too encumbered with a newborn) to clean.

I hate excuses though, so I did actually finish my chosen projects, even when I got somewhat fed up with them. Well, one of them.

My original pins:
1. DIY Modern Nursing Shawl: I blogged about it here, if you so desire to read about it. Mostly the mix of my frustrations with reading/looking at tutorials and prego brain made this not as easy as it should have been. But I'm still super hapy with it, think it's adorable, and can't wait to use it as a nursing shawl instead of just a regular shawl
2. Blackberry Peach Cobler: I also blogged about it here. Oh my goodness, I wish we had more blackberries so I could make more. It's DELICIOUS. I at least froze a good three pounds of apricots (no, not peaches) to use later. Maybe with apples....
3. DVD Coloring Case: This. This is the pin that almost had me done, and ran me a bit late in completion of the 6 week time frame. I'll have a more in-depth explanation at the bottom of the post, as this is the first time I've been able to blog about it.

4. Fishing Net Decorated Jar: Cute and EASY. And I linked to the tutorial on this blog entry, if you want to check it out.
5. "Got Milk" Baby Hat: Phillip chose the colors for this one, so we have what I call "Alien Boob" hat. I still love it and think the hat is adorable and hilarious. I might have to make another one with different colors, just because I love a laugh.
6. Kanoko Baby Cardigan: I saved doing this 'til almost last, since I have never knitted a garment of any sort before. Oh. My. Goodness. It was SO easy! Once, you know, I figured out that I started out using the wrong sized needles, unraveled half a finished cardigan (so so tiny) and started over on larger needles. I love it! It's cute, and will be able to fit newborn (sleeves roll up SO easily) and a bit older. 

These DVD cases... oh my goodness. Maybe making one or two at a time would have been a better idea, but doing 6 (nearly done with a 7th, making it a velcro checker board. It's a project that contains a lot of variables. Too many, I'm thinking, when you're making this many. DVD cases aren't as big as you'd think, when you want them to contain a fabric pocket (that ends up bunching a bit in the corners, even when you're super careful about folding and gluing), even SMALL colored pencils, and a bit of paper. They close, but... not as well as I would have hoped. They should at least make fun little things for the kiddos to use once on the plane, or at least around home. 
And I do kind of like the random DVD cases with handles we found at a garage sale. We bought a bag of random DVD cases for a dollar, otherwise, I would go with just sewing little bags with pads of paper or something for kids to carry around and draw. Cute idea, maybe works for some, but not as practical and awesome as I thought it would be.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pintrest Challenge Catch-Up

Time for a catch-up on my Pintrest Challenge!

I actually finished my nursing cover using the DIY Modern Nursing Shawl tutorial a few weeks ago, but had to wait for hubby to be home to take some photos, as well as my prego brain to remember to take said photos WHILE hubby was home.

It was just as easy to make as the tutorial proclaimed... if you read through the instructions and comments very VERY carefully. And aren't pregnant and fuzzy brained or maybe a little better at sewing than I am. Fortunately  I wasn't the only one to make the mistake of sewing up more than what was needed. But, comments clarified and it really was a super easy thing to sew. (Yes, it says sew one line, but I managed that while still sewing up an extra side).

Sewing mistakes aside (really, all I did was sew up an extra side. Easily undone.), this is both a very pretty, stylish, practical, and CHEAP nursing cover.

I have to admit though, trying to find fabric here in Tasmania made me LONG for home and Hobby Lobby. Or JoAnnes. Or Hancock Fabrics. Heck, even Walmart. There just isn't nearly as much of a selection anywhere here as there is back home. Especially if you're on a budget. But I did find a cute black with small polka-dots knit fabric for $7 a meter (which was a little more than needed), and it turned out nicely.

Also, yay for finally getting a much-needed haircut!

I also managed to spruce up my Epsom salt jar in the bathroom using this as inspiration. And then I found a great tutorial on how to actually MAKE the fishnet around a jar at Craftberry Bush.

A jumbling of junk as well as bath things.
A prettier jumbling of junk and bath things.

Epsom Salt jar now all prettified, and my home made
sugar scrub. Oooohhh it's nice on my feet!
I'm constantly changing what is in the jumble of junk on the tub "shelf". At least for now, until it gets taken up with baby things. And I found four glasses to use as candle holders (unless that was their original purpose, then I found four candle holders) for $0.10 at a second-hand shop to put around the tub. In keeping with my "I love shells and love to stuff them in glass jars and show them off" theme, I did just that and added a tea light. It makes for some nice relaxing baths, though maybe not quite enough light to read by. And what is a relaxing bath without a good book?
I love love love broken shells.

And, bonus, it's actually raining again. which means we have enough water in our tank to enjoy a bath now and then. After experiencing a real Australian summer (the hottest on record), and having only half a day maybe of real rain in four months, I actually find myself looking forward to long rainy days.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blackberry Peach Cobbler, and my inability to stick to a recipe

Being blackberry season again, and given my near annoyance for making blackberry jam, I am somewhat at a loss on what to do with the massive amounts of blackberries that Phillip and I manage to pick. Other than, you know, eat them.

Phillip claims he can eat the many pounds we collect in one evening in that same amount of time.

Me? I want to bake, and preserve and bake some more. Mostly, bake. So when I stumbled across the Sugar and Spice recipe for a blackberry and peach cobbler via Pintrest, I had to try it.

Of course, I am terrible at simply following a recipe most of the time. So, apricots are close enough to peaches, right? And we had nearly a full case (5 kilos) left in the fridge, ready to be made into jam... it'll do, right?

Blackberries fresh and drying,
apricots waiting to be sliced and diced
In one evening, Phillip and I managed to pick four-ish pounds of blackberries. Four-ish pounds of beautiful, sweet, just ripe blackberries. A quick rinse in some vinegar water (a whole lot of water with just a splash of vinegar, really does help clean the fruit better than plain old water, and it has lasted me longer since I started doing it), then some plain water, and they sat to drip-dry until they were ready to be made into deliciousness.

Since I was making this for a Sunday afternoon lunch after meeting, I mixed up all the dry ingredients Saturday night so I could throw in the wet and bake on Sunday morning so the cobbler would be nice and fresh. 

And, again, to confess my horribleness at actually fully following a recipe, it called to have the peaches stoned and peeled. I have never peeled a peach, or an apricot. And I really didn't want to. So I just cut up my little apricots and left the skins on. Also, rather than mix 1 1/2 cups of sugar with the fruit (which I did the next morning), I used only one cup. It's fruit, and very ripe, very fresh fruit at that. And was intended to be consumed by children not used to eating sugar. So... why a whole cup and a half when it's sweet and juicy to begin with? And I used whole wheat flour when making the biscuits. We mill our own, so it's cheaper and healthier (though not nearly as fluffy or smooth as white or even store-bought whole wheat flour).

Mixing everything together in the morning and plopping it into the baking dish was super easy. And baking... oh how delicious it smelled! I set aside an extra, small, dish so Phillip and I could taste test some for breakfast.

And it. Was. GOOD. We drizzled a little cream on top of the hot cobbler and dug in. With hot coffee, it was a most delectable breakfast. WITHOUT coffee, it would be delectable. It was just... GOOD. The tartness of the berries, the near buttery sweetness of the apricots, and the savory plain-ness of the biscuits ... ohhhh.... it was so yummy. Most definitely a keeper! Even re-heated in the oven a few hours later as dessert for lunch (we ended up just sharing it with Phillip's family, as no one else made it to fellowship lunch that day), it was still just as good! 

Fresh out of the oven, the fruit still bubbles and steams
Along with the wonderful taste and aroma, I LOVE the colors of the fruit together

As it turned out, I don't think my little deviations from the original recipe made a real difference in how good this was. Maybe it's a little less juicy than the original (if you look at her pictures), but, no one who ate complained. 

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