Healthy Lifestyle Ideas

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Duck Finally Laid an Egg!

Oh yeah! I've been waiting and waiting for this day to come. My two Pekin ducks, Gertrude and Evie are now exactly 20 weeks old and yesterday I found 1 egg in the cage. Not sure who laid the egg, although over the last few weeks, Evie has been displaying male characteristics, such as mounting Gertrude.  I started joking that Evie was actually Evan, although his tail feather hasn't curled as of yet - which is the distinguishing mark of the male drake.  I was very surprised to go out to their cage this morning and find egg #2.  I didn't expect Gertrude (if she's the only female) to lay every day! I'd read somewhere on the web that they only lay every other day. Or maybe this one is from Evie and I have 2 females after all. This is so confusing, but I am so happy to have 2 duck eggs! My hubby said we should put a little webcam in the cage and see just who is laying the eggs. From what I've read, the drake (if Evie is really Evan) tail feather should curl by 6 months of age.

I collected these in the morning around 7:45am yesterday and today.
The photo above shows the 2 duck eggs.  The color is a very light brown, and they are about the same size as an extra large chicken egg. Below is a picture of the duck eggs compared to an extra large chicken egg, which is the one in the middle. The duck eggs are slightly more oblong which is hard to see in the photo.
Extra large chicken egg in between 2 duck eggs for comparison

Then, to crack the duck, what an experience. The shell was so much tougher than a chicken egg shell. I tried to crack it on the side of the pan and it didn't crack! Luckily I recently saw a chef on a TV program use a sharp knife to slightly crack a duck egg shell before opening the shell into the pan, and that worked.
Cooking on low heat
Now, I cooked one of the eggs slightly longer than the other. We were excited about tasting the difference because we'd heard that duck eggs taste a little 'richer' than chicken eggs.  My hubby proceeded to cover his cooked egg, the one below on the left, with pepper. " How are you going to taste the difference with all that pepper on it?" I asked.  He took a bite and said "I can't taste any difference".  So I gave him a bite of mine, which had no salt or pepper added, and he did say he tasted a slight difference. Very subtle and hard to describe. I guess I would agree that it taste a little richer - maybe slightly thicker of a yolk. But it's very subtle. They had more flavor than the chicken eggs we get at the grocery store, for sure.
I couldn't believe he covered his in pepper!
Isn't this a beautiful egg?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Like a Duck to Water?

My Pekin ducks won't get on the pond! They love water of course, but only the large plastic tub that I fill for them in the morning. They splash and wash and preen, usually twice a day but especially in the morning after I've let them out of their cage. They're now 4 1/2 months old and I'm finally seeing some behavior changes that make me think they're feeling more confident and mature.  For instance, they're now foraging at the back of my yard and they never did that before. From the age of 1 to 3 months, they would stay hidden unless I was out with them. So, for those first few months (April, May, June) I spent hours sitting outside with them so they'd go foraging, but they never really left my side. So, I'd walk them around the yard, offering them different varieties of plants and digging worms for them. But in July, when they were just turning 4 mo., it became too hot for me to stay out for long, but luckily they were beginning to come out of hiding and venture further into the yard on their one.  Their food and water bowls are under a shade tree and they would hang out there a lot, but they still wouldn't venture out far, so I started making my dog, who is usually an indoor dog, stay out with the ducks to keep an eye on them for me. She and the ducks have a trusting relationship so I knew she'd keep a good watch on them.  My backyard is fenced but I was worried about cats getting them.  We also have hawks and coyotes in the area. But soon it was even too hot for my dog to stay out. I left more containers (with low sides) of water for the ducks to get into when they got too hot. Now at 4 1/2 mo., the ducks seem more confident and I'm seeing them at the back of the yard foraging for bugs.

They definitely feel more self assured. The other day I was petting Gertrude while she was bathing and she pinched me so hard (bite me) that it bruised my arm. She's normally very tame, but I think she was showing just how mature she now is and I was interfering with her bath time. She and Evie can both flap their wing spans and it's pretty amazing to see how big they are. They can only get a few inches off the ground when they try to fly, but it is impressive to see. They are so beautiful with their all white feathers. A little girl was visiting one day and Gertrude, the more dominate female, made an aggressive move of running up on the girl. The little girl didn't realize what was happening, but I immediately grabbed Gertrude and held her back so she couldn't do it again. Luckily she didn't grab the little girl, or it would have traumatized her for sure. So, I'm thinking they both feel much more capable of taking care of themselves, at least with little kids. The ducks never do that to my kids (age 10 and 7). They allow us to pick them up and pet them all the time. They just didn't know this little girl.

Now, the problem is that I still can't get them to go on the pond. Since they were a month or so old, I'd walk them down to the pond and I'd sit nearby and let them explore around. But they would never go in the water. There are geese on the pond and I'd walk them near the geese to introduce them. At this young age, they wouldn't leave my side, but seemed curious about the geese. The geese seemed equally curious about my two ducklings. I just have a vision of my ducks living in peace with these geese at some point in the future so I wanted to introduce them early on. I've seen the fights these geese get into at nesting time when one pair dominates the pond and all others are chased off until the goslings hatch. I had a fear that the geese wouldn't co-exist with my ducks. But just the other day, I opened my gate so the ducks could go near the pond and they immediately made a bee-line for the group of geese sleeping nearby. I was very nervous as they walked right up to the geese, and then started foraging, not making eye contact. The geese totally accepted them. I was so excited. But still no movement to get on the pond.  I've tried putting them on the water, but they immediately and very frantically jump back out as if the water is electrified.  I assume it's their young age and the fact that I myself don't get into the water with them. I did put on my rubber boots one day and waded out a ways, but they didn't follow.  I'm guessing that they will get on the pond when they feel mature enough to handle it. They have such great instincts and I think they just don't feel ready for all the scary things that might come their way.  So, I'll continue to walk them down to the pond each day but  I'm a little nervous that one day they'll get on the pond and never come back. I want to be there for them if they do swim off, so I'll be sitting and waiting for them to come home by nightfall. I can just see me, sitting by the pond for hours, yelling at my kids to bring me some dinner, cause I'm not leaving until they come home. I really love my ducks.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Visiting NYC with My 10 Year Old Daughter

I took a trip this past April with my daughter who recently turned 10. She's had a fascination with NYC for some time and when she asked for the trip as a birthday gift I decided to make it a special trip for just the two of us. I'd been to NYC before and visited all the major attractions, but with just 4 days and traveling with a 10 year old, I decided to tailor the trip to her tastes. Back in April I posted some of the photos from our visit to a live TV show taping (which she loved).  Below are some of the other places we visited.  It included a trip to the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I'd like to spend a week there all by myself), a couple of toy stores, a Broadway Show,'War Horse' which was wonderful, eating NY cheesecake, walking around Times Square,  Central Park, looking at lots of sky scrapers, riding the subway and in yellow cabs, eating amazing food, and a visit to the Library.  If we'd had an extra day or two, I would have taken her to one of the beautiful churches,to Ellis Island on the ferry and to China Town. We simply ran out of time. Visiting the museums was high on my list and it took up a lot of time, but was well worth it. 

Incredible Lego statues at ToysRUs
Barbie house inside ToysRUs
Finally, real NY cheesecake!

Egyptian exhibit at Met. Museum of Art

She was exhausted every night!

The beautiful Library (love this library)
sky scrapers galore

Amazing candelabra inside the Library

Delicious food at Naples Restaurant
Fantastic diorama at Nat'l History Mus.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Are Movies, TV, & Videos too Violent?

I'm so sad about the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado today. My prayers are with the victims and their families. What a tragedy on so many levels. "What is going on?" is a question I'm hearing a lot of people asking. With terrorist, both homegrown and abroad to be concerned about - we also have to worry about violent young men who commit terrible crimes that impact so many. Is there a connection between this kind of violence and the violence portrayed in movies, TV, and videos? Is there a connection that we're missing? Are the ratings on movies, TV, and video games being ignored by parents who won't bother to do the necessary research before allowing their child to be negatively impacted by what they're seeing?  There is no undoing the effects once a young mind has seen trivialized violence. Seeing this horrible event unfold today is so disheartening and frustrating when nothing is being done to improve the mental health of our children. Please, parents, keep an eye on what your kids are exposed to. I don't think gun control is the solution when a disregard for human life is the problem. We have to ask "where did the child learn to have such little regard for others?"  They've learned it at a very early age. How can we get the word out to movie and TV producers to stop with the disturbing images that will be viewed by children in movie theaters, and then eventually in homes? How can we educate parents about the dangers of allowing their children to see violence at a young age? And most importantly perhaps, how can we help parents and educators teach children to respect and care for one another? Something's got to change. Please pray not only for the victims but also for the future of us all - especially our children. Together, let's figure out how to make some changes in our society.

Fun Things to Do During the Summer

There's just 3 weeks left before my kids go back to school, so I was checking my list of things I wanted to do with them over the summer and just one remains. Here's my list:

Fun Things to Do Over the 12 Weeks of Summer Break

1. Go horseback riding
2. Go canoeing

3. Visit a public garden
4. Visit a museum
5. Go camping
6. Go swimming
7. Let kids invite a friend over for a sleepover
8. Visit a petting zoo
9. Have some movie nights at home
10. Go to a movie in the park
11. Go mountain bike riding
12. Go hiking
13. Do an art project together
14. Go roller skating
Gibbs Garden, Ballground, GA
15. Let kids go to 2 camps
16. Take kids to vacation bible school
17. Give kids a cooking lesson
18. Give kids a sewing lesson
19. Go camping
20. Visit a petting zoo

Oriental Garden at Gibbs Garden

The only thing we didn't do was go camping. We waited too long and now its too hot, so we'll save that one for the Fall. The priciest thing we did was go horseback riding, but it was such a thrill for my kids and well worth the cost! One of the camps turned out to be free because we applied for scholarships for both kids and received them! Thanks so much to Quinlan Art Center for that!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ducks at 8 Wks

It's Gertrude and Evie and they're so beautiful. I'm pretty confident I have two females so I finally named them. They both quack really loud when they're calling me, and I've read that males are supposed to be quieter than the females. So hopefully I've got 2 future egg layers. Ducks can lay around 200 eggs a year.

I've spent a lot of time outside with the ducks over the past 2 months because they feel so vulnerable when they're alone. They can't fly and they don't have teeth so their predators include cats, raccoon, weasels, hawks, coyotes, fox, and snakes.  When I let them out of their cage in the morning to forage for vegetation, bugs and worms, they'll spend the entire day hiding under their cage if I'm not right there keeping an eye on them. So I've spent many hours outside, getting a good tan and reading. Like a long extended vacation!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stuffed Grape Leaves

I was trimming my grape vines this past weekend and my hubby suggested that I take the discarded leaves and make stuffed grape leaves. I'd never made them before and found a recipe on . It turned out delicious and wasn't too difficult to make.  Look how big the grape leaves were. This one's on a dinner size plate.

The recipe called for long grain rice so I used my rice cooker and cooked it with chicken broth. I then separately sauteed chopped onion, along with dill, lemon, mint leaves and olive oil and combined it with the jasmine rice.
Rolling the rice up in the grape leaf took a little practice. My main problem was putting too much rice in the grape leaf, so some of my first attempts are lose, but they held pretty well when I put them in the pan to cook. You just cover the rolled, stuffed leaves with chicken broth and simmer.  

They were so flavorful and my hubby and kids loved them. The leftovers were even better the next day.  I'll post the recipe under my recipe tab and I'll definitely be making these again.

The Ducklings Look Almost Full Grown at 5 Weeks

Wow they change quickly. Above is a picture of them at 4 weeks and then below where they're almost 5 weeks old.
They've still got a little duckling fuss on their backs so I know they're not full grown yet. I keep them in their cage when I can't be outside with them. I try to go out at least 3 times a day, starting with a morning visit to replenish their water and chick starter food and to clean out their cage. They follow me everywhere and are  very nervous about leaving to go forage on their own. If I sit down, they sit too, so I usually walk them around the yard, showing them what I want them to eat (lots of yummy weeds).  I can tell they still feel vulnerable and at this age I'm mainly concerned that a cat might get one of them so I never leave them unprotected.

Each day I walk them down to the pond at the back of our property, but so far they don't seem interested in getting in the water. So I fill up a large plastic container with water and let them swim and wash twice a day.

The smaller duck (the female I'm guessing) is very affectionate. If I sit on the ground, she'll eventually come over and let me pet her. She also likes to climb up in my lap. The larger one (male?) is not as affectionate, but he will climb in my lap too if he sees her do it.

 I'll have to decide on names soon. I thought I'd wait until I'm sure about the genders. I'll know if one's a drake if a tail feather curls. As soon as I know for sure, it's naming time!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Avocado Pie!

     My hubby and I were recently talking about our mutual love for PIE. All kids of pie! I said I believed there were probably about 25 types of pies, so being the kind of guy he is, he immediately went to prove me wrong. So we started listing all the fruits that pie could be made from and he said "what about avocado?" Well, sure enough, there's an avocado pie! Who knew! Certainly not me and I LOVE PIE. So, with Cinco de May coming up I decided to make it. The ingredients are simple:
Avocado Pie

2 ripe avocados, peeled and cored
1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 graham cracker crust

You mix the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend with a mixer. Pour into a prepared graham cracker crust and chill until set.

     That's it and it's really, really good. It's a no-bake or icebox style pie so it couldn't be easier. I chose not to blend it smoothly because I wanted to see the bits of avocado in it, but you could definitely blend it smoother. I made my own crust to save a little on sugar since the condensed milk is so sweet. I'm letting it set up overnight and hoping the avocado doesn't turn with so much lemon juice. If it starts to turn dark this evening, we'll just eat it. I licked the bowl and the lemon flavor was strong, but the avocado flavor came through in a nice, mild way. And let's face it, everything taste better with sweetened condensed milk. I'll definitely make this again, especially when I make Mexican food! It's a wonderful novelty and a great conversation started. "Want some avocado pie...?" Huh?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wear Proper Shoes To Garden In Woman! And Latest Duck Report

My garden buddies now at 2 weeks old
That's what my podiatrist wanted to say when I told him I often gardened in flip flops. But after the diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot - which is the one I use when I'm shoveling... in flip flops, I've promised myself that I'll now wear proper footwear. When the Dr. told me I had to take it easy for a while; no squatting, no walking up and down steep slopes, no climbing ladders (or shoveling), I could only think "how am I going to take care of my garden and new ducklings?"  But I've managed now for the last week by taking it easy and letting weeds take over my garden. My new garden buddies have been helping though and look how big they've gotten. They'll be 3 weeks old the end of this week and they're losing all the yellow fluff and turning white. They're Pekin Ducks, so they'll be a beautiful white when full grown (in a couple more weeks). I'm not sure yet whether I've got male or female, so I'm waiting to name them when I know for sure. I'd like eggs, but have heard the females are loud quackers. One is a little larger than the other so I may have one of each.

Still under construction - coop fits under our back deck stairs
Safe house inside coop
Here's what my wonderful hubby built for them this past weekend. It's not quite ready for them because we've decided to double up on the chicken wire so hopefully it'll keep out the raccoons. I've very afraid something will get my sweet little buddies so I watch them very carefully. The coop is built below our back deck stairs in a spot that was unused. I'll paint it the same color as the decking so it'll blend in. The ducks will be free roaming in a fenced backyard during the day, but will have this to go to at night or if they feel threatened during the day, or when I go leave during the day.

At 1 week old, enjoying water in tub
 The pond, shown in the background is the water that awaits the ducks when they're full grown. There are geese on the pond, so I'll be watching carefully to see how they interact. The geese can be vicious, especially when they're nesting. We normally have 20 or so geese on the pond, but when a pair is nesting, the male partner forces all other geese off the pond until the goslings hatch. Then all the other geese can return. Luckily the goslings should hatched and out on the pond any day now.  Then it'll be about time to see if my buddies want to venture out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes at Martha Stewart Show

I took my daughter to N.Y. on Spring break and we went to a Martha Stewart Show taping. It was fun to see behind the scenes. After the show, Martha takes a few questions from the audience...

After the show questions from the audience

The first person to raise their hand to ask a question was my daughter, asking her how long she's had the show...

My daughter asking Martha how long she's had the show.

After the show, we each got a goody bag. One of the goodies from the show was an 11" platter made by Juliska Company, which is very elegant.   Then we had lunch at Kobeyaki in Chelsea, which was right across the street from the studio. What a fantastic (and enormous) cup of Ramen Noodles!
Goody bag from Martha Show

Goody from the show: Juliska Platter
Lunch afterward at Kobeyaki. Yum! Ramen Noodles

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Great Homemade Bread Recipe

Who doesn't love fresh baked bread? I've been counting carbs for years and limiting my bread intake, however I finally decided to start eating whole grain bread because I enjoy it so much. I'd rather work out and still be able to enjoy a sandwich whenever I want. Life without a sandwich is sad :(.  I got the following bread recipe from a friend that mills her own wheat. I haven't committed to buying my own flour mill yet, but I found unbleached, organic and no preservative flour in the store and bought a  bread machine to help out. I've made several loaves now and my family and I are loving it! The only bad thing is that I love to spread Irish butter on my hot, fresh out of the oven slice.  Thanks for the recipe Mary!

Today I made the bread using 3 cups of white and 1 1/2 cups of wheat. I know I should use only whole wheat, but my kids love the taste of white bread.

I unplugged the machine after the dough cycle was done mixing and it continued to rise to the top in the warmth of the bread machine.

I took it out of the bread machine pan, lightly kneaded it and divided it into 2 loaf pans. I then cover the pans with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise an additional 20-30 minutes. Now they're ready for baking.

Here's the recipe:

Put ingredients into a bread maker in the following order and set on dough setting. After the dough mixing cycle is over, unplug the bread maker and let the dough continue to rise in the bread machine until it reaches the top of the pan. Remove and knead lightly. Divide dough into 2 loaves, cover and let rise 20 minutes. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 30 minutes or until done.

Basic Bread Recipe (Makes 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 cup oil (1/3 cup if you use an egg)
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. salt
Then add the following
4 1/2 cups freshly milled flour
1 tbsp. yeast

Here's how the loaf looked when it came out of the oven. It's a delicious basic bread recipe and the smell of it baking fills the house with the most wonderful aroma. It drives my kids crazy, waiting for it to be done. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Girlfriends Crafting Day

My friends Wendy, Mary and I recently had our 2nd 'Girls Night Out' get-together. It's more of a 'Girls Day In' because we have lunch and do a crafting project together. Wendy hosted the first one last February and she served a delicious quiche and had all the supplies ready for us to make these sweet valentines for our kids. Mary, who has boys (both now grown), gave hers to her little grand daughter.  They were a lot of fun to make.

Then in March, Mary hosted the lunch and had a no-sew scarf craft for us to learn. She served delicious sandwiches made with homemade bread (made with flour that she ground herself). Here's a picture of Mary, along with Wendy, standing by the flour mill. 
Here's a picture of the sack of wheat she orders online and the containers she keeps them in.
The bread she made from the freshly ground wheat was gorgeous and delicious. I'm thinking of buying a flour mill now!

The craft that Mary had for us to make was a no-sew scarf. Here's a picture of Wendy wearing the scarf she made. The scarf is made using lightweight t-shirt material (which curls on the edge when cut so you don't have to sew a hem or edge). We first doubled the fabric, then used a dinner plate to draw the initial circle. Mary had a swirl pattern for us to follow as a guide when we cut the fabric. You repeat the process several times so that you have several strips of fabric and then they are joined together to make the scarf. 

     I know I'm not explaining it well, but there's lots of info on the 'no-sew scarf' on websites, so I encourage you to look for them if you're interested. Here's a scarf Mary made: