“Excuse me, What is that in your cup?!”


Chia Seeds

I drink a LOT of water. I’m not a big fan of soda and I water down juice because I think it’s too sweet. My best friend (The Bestie) laughs at me for drinking juice like a kid, but my mom always watered it down when I was a kid and I guess I just never really got the taste of it full strength. When you drink as much water as I do, you tend to start adding things to the water to make it more interesting. I used to add lemon, then when I was pregnant the acid would make me sick. The memory of the taste and the feeling still lingers for some odd reason so now I can’t drink lemon in water.

When I was pregnant, I found out about Barefoot Running and Chia Seeds through Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run. He explained that one of the secrets of the Tarahumara’s endurance was Chia Seeds. I am definitely someone that will try anything. So, I searched on the internet and ordered a bag online. (Of course now they’re in the Natural/Organic section of just about any supermarket so it makes it easier to pick up.) I decided to be careful and wait until after I was pregnant to try the Chia Seeds since I just didn’t want to take any chances with The Kid. Instead, I started researching it and used The Hubs as the test subject. The Hubs said he definitely felt a difference on days he had Chia before a run vs. days he didn’t. He just had more gas in the tank. I was amazed that there was so much information out there on this little seed and I’d never heard of it before.

Chia Seeds in Water

The most interesting claim I found was flax seeds which everyone was eating whole weren’t in a form that the body could break down. Seriously? Do you know how much flax I ate? The antioxidants and nutrients in the Chia Seeds was easily available since the seed coat breaks down when you soak them in water. Once you see the gel come out (and they look like alien eggs) you can get all the nutrients without having to grind them. And considering the flax seeds had to take up residence in the refrigerator because they could go bad and lose their nutritive value, I jumped on the Chia Bandwagon quickly because space is always at a premium in my fridge.

Now I put chia in my water daily partly because I know it’s good for me and partly because I like the texture. Okay… it’s mostly because I like the texture. I usually have water in my cup so I have to find ways to keep it interesting. You can make the gel and add a few tablespoons of gel to your water, but I just shortcut it and put about a 1/8 – 1/4 cup of the Chia seeds in my 24 oz water cup in the morning let it sit for while I’m drinking my coffee so the seeds release the gel then keep refilling it with water as needed until I get home. There’s enough Chia to last all day and FYI, it looks crazy. I have had people stop me in the hall at work and ask what is in my cup. People who like bubble tea with the tapioca balls in the bottom say the texture is close to that. Of course I drink it with a straw which helps. If you’re really not into the whole texture thing, then Chia seeds are perfect in smoothies. That way you get all the nutritional benefits and no seeds. Oh… and no people looking at you sideways when they see you walking by with your cup in hand.

Meat Sauce and Not so Meaty Sauce… Whatever I’m in the mood for

I have a huge pet peeve with the marketing of Vegetarian Food.  The idea that a vegetable tastes just like meat is ludicrous.  Meat tastes good.  Vegetables taste good.  Vegetables don’t taste like meat.  They’re not supposed to!  I tend to believe that you would have a much easier time convincing people to give vegetarian food a chance if you didn’t set them up with incorrect expectations.  There are tons of meat substitutes on the market and some of them are good.  I think it’s amusing that they have options like steak and chicken and bacon, and I get that they’re just explaining the gradient of flavor.  But, if you know that it’s not really supposed to taste like meat and take it for what it is, you can find some that you like.  I was vegetarian for about 6 months my senior year of high school.  I didn’t do it for any reason other than I figured I wanted to eat something else for a while.  My dad is an amazing cook and he just alternated.  Some nights everyone would eat vegetarian and some nights I would break out my frozen veggie patties and have that with the vegetable sides.  They didn’t taste like meat, but they were good.  Now that I think of it, I should find out what brand they were and see if they still sell them.

I realize that I am lucky that The Hubs is open minded about going along with my nutty ideas about what we should eat, but I think a lot of people think of vegetarian food and expect a weak attempt at making meat.  That’s just not how I look at our meatless days.  I figure if I just work out how to make something that tastes good then we’ll all be happy.  I try to stick with buying  organic meat which is more expensive so I just buy less of it and sub in meatless options to balance out the budget.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m very grateful that I have a Hubs who is willing to at least give it a try.  Which is how I came up with this recipe which I think is pretty cool if you just accept the fact that it’s not meat, that’s it’s actually quinoa and it tastes good in it’s own right.

The Hubs LOVES meat sauce.  I love it too, but I usually find it way too heavy and end up feeling like a sack of potatoes when i’m done eating it so I’ve always lightened it up by using half veggies and half meat in order for us to meet in the middle.  Thanks to the food processor it doesn’t take much time to make.  Using the same basic premise you can make this with meat or without.  The kid likes Quinoa so he loved this and we were still able to get the classic picture of the kid covered in red sauce.

 

Meaty/Not so Meaty Sauce

1 cup black quinoa, uncooked OR 1 pound ground meat (beef/meatloaf mix [whatever you’re in the mood for])

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned with damp cloth
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 red pepper, seeds removed, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 spanish onions, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large garlic cloves
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp italian seasoning
pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper  to taste
3 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup liquid of choice (red wine, dry vermouth, vodka, water [whatever you have])
Any Good Red Pasta Sauce 36 oz (or more as needed)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Meaty: Add salt and pepper to the meat.  Brown the meat on medium high heat in a wide pan.  Do this in batches so the meat has room to spread and gets nicely browned.  When all the meat is browned set aside in a bowl.

Not so Meaty: Make quinoa according to package instructions.  (If you buy it in bulk, then rinse it first until the water runs clear to make sure you get rid of the soapy coating.) If you expect to be short on time, make the quinoa a day ahead.

While the food processor is running, add the garlic so it gets chopped up pretty fine.  Turn off the food processor and add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, red pepper, and onions.  Pulse the veggies until they are finely chopped.  You do not want to puree them.  Add olive oil to the pan on medium-high heat and add all the veggies.  Add a pinch of salt.  You’re going to cook them for a while so the idea here is to get most of their liquid to evaporate.  Don’t rush it.  It will happen, just move them around the pan occassionally and let them brown.  When you start to see them sticking to the pan, add your herbs & spices.

This part is important.  Depending on how long your herbs have been around they may have varying intensities.  Smell the veggies.  Taste them too.  If it tastes like you need more herbs, add them.  Remember that you haven’t added your “meat” yet so if it seems too intense you still have a chance to even it out.  If it’s not intense enough, add more herbs.

Then add the tomato paste.  Clear out a spot in the middle, and put it in the pan for a minute and leave it to caramelize.  Then start moving it around.  Add a pinch of salt.  Now that everything is sticking to the pan (but not burning), add 1/4 cup of the liquid of your choosing to deglaze the pan.  The idea is to use your wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all of the stuck on bits off the bottom of the pan.  This is where your flavor is and you want to get it in the sauce and not leave it for the dishwasher.  Once the liquid has evaporated, add your black quinoa or browned meat and stir to combine everything.  Then add your red pasta sauce of choice.  Bring it up to a simmer and leave it to cook through.  Before you serve it, check it for herbs, salt and pepper.  Add more of whatever is needed.

Serve over the pasta of your choice with Parmesan Cheese if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Barefoot Running? Who could have predicted?

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with running.  The Hubs has been trying to get me to run with him so we could become a running couple, but every time I tried it, I hated it.  Then, when I was pregnant, I was listening to NPR.  They did an interview with Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.  There was something about the way he talked about barefoot running and the  Tarahumara Indians and Chia Seeds that was truly captivating.  I called The Hubs immediately and told him to buy the book and download the podcast and listen to it! Of course he didn’t… As we all know, life gets in the way of good intentions and I forgot to remind him and he forgot to download the podcast. (In his defense, his slightly nutty pregnant wife called him in the middle of the work day raving about something while he was trying to finish a project.)  At the time, the hubs was trying to get his running mojo back.  He snapped his Achilles tendon at the height of his running prowess and had been working his way back (clawing his way back) to that mile time.  Christopher McDougall spoke about how he too had almost given up on running because of an injury no one but a podiatrist could have diagnosed until he found out about barefoot running.  It just seemed like a story the Hubs could vibe with.

The Hubs' Vibrams

Eventually, worlds collided and the Hubs heard about Born to Run from another source.  He bought the book and was as captivated as I was by Christopher McDougall.  He found out that McDougall was giving a speech at a Penn State Campus not too far from us and we decided to go.  Despite the fact that I was pregnant, feeling huge and ran the chance of falling asleep in the middle of the lecture hall.  (I had a hilariously early unintentional bedtime when I was pregnant.  I would think I was going to stay up, but I’d just pass out.) McDougall was wearing Vibrams and no one even noticed until he pointed them out.  The black ones can go completely unnoticed.  That night, The Hubs went home and tried barefoot running and LOVED IT!  He ordered a pair of Vibrams and after an appropriate transition period, started  running “barefoot” and even got me to do it once I had my body to myself again.  The Vibrams give you more protection that you would have if the skin on your foot was actually coming into contact with the pebbles and what not you run over.  They are by the way also great for hiking.  We wore them when we went to Torrey Pines with Buff in San Diego and they made going over the terrain and walking back through the sand MUCH easier!  We even convinced Buff to get a pair!

My Vibrams


Barefoot Running is not something you just jump into.  It requires a transition period if you’ve been running in padded sneakers.  When I used to run, it sounded like Godzilla coming to wreck the town.  The Hubs used to marvel that if he put his hand on my head, he could actually feel the rumble of the impact of my steps as I walked.  One of the many things you have to learn in your transition to Barefoot Running is how to land on the balls of your feet so that you don’t rocket the impact of your entire weight coming down on your heel and straight back up your through your joints.  It takes time to learn how to do that instead of just coming down on your heels like you can in sneakers.  I used to have TERRIBLE shin splints, hurt knees and you name it when I ran in sneakers.  I all but gave up on the idea of me ever running.  Thanks to Barefoot Running in Vibrams it hurts much less to run.  I’m actually finding that I LIKE running…. okay, I love it now.  I guarantee I would have never gotten here without barefoot running.  And it looks like The Hubs may get his dream of us being a running couple afterall.

Iced Coffee… The Next Level

I am a complete coffee addict.  I can function without coffee, but I shouldn’t.  I managed to avoid coffee at all costs when I was pregnant, but now I’m free to return to my glorious addiction.  This love does cause some problems in the summer though.  Hot brewed coffee is best when it’s hot, but during a heat wave it’s just not a good idea.  I heard about cold brewed iced coffee and read a comment from someone who asks places that sell Iced Coffee how they brew it before ordering it.  He said if it’s not cold brewed, he just has the hot coffee.  It seemed a bit ridiculous, but when there’s someone passionate about something, it’ s at least worth checking out.  I figured a Saturday would be the best time to try it out since if it wasn’t good, I’d still have time to make a cup of hot coffee or start over with hot coffee and then add ice.  These sort of tests are not appropriate for weekdays when I need to rush off to work.

I looked all over and found tons of iced coffee making systems.  They ranged in price, but in the end, I chose to do it without the added expense of a “system” and just went with a glass pitcher and some stretch-tite.  I don’t have a coffee maker for my hot coffee (I just use a simple manual drip funnel and a filter), so it seemed silly to buy a whole system for the iced coffee since I was just testing it out.  So, on a Thursday morning while I was setting up my hot coffee, I started the Iced Coffee Test Run:

 

Cold Brewed Coffee

1 Big Pitcher
3 mounding 1/4 cup scoops Coarse Ground coffee
1 generous quart water.

 

The general recommendation I found was to brew the coffee for 12-48 hours (depending on how strong you want it) and it was extremely important to get coarse ground coffee.  Most places that sell coffee beans have a grinder with a coarse setting so that was simple enough.  The other option was to take beans and grind them in a coffee grinder for a short period of time so it was ground, but the store machine was easier.  So, Friday morning, I made my hot coffee and went to sit in my air conditioned work building.

Then, it was Saturday morning (48 hours later)!  Time to test Cold Brewed Iced Coffee!!!…. I made some for the hubs too since I need an impartial (non-addict’s) opinion.  I strained the coffee with the same filter and manual drip funnel I use for my hot coffee.  Then filled up our cups with ice, poured iced coffee in, and added the half & half.  The hubs likes sugar in his coffee (I disagree completely but I try not to judge) so I added some agave syrup to his. …And we tried it.  It was magical!!!  There was all the coffee flavor, plus some other amazing layer of flavor that is usually covered up by the bitterness that I love in hot coffee.  It was so good, I haven’t been able to even consider going back to my usual coffee spot and getting their iced coffee because I know it won’t have all that extra flavor.

 

So now, I’m a well-rounded coffee addict (The Hubs says snob, but we’ll just ignore that).  Hot brewed for winter (or air conditioning) and cold brewed for summer.  Although since I’m a firm believer in hot coffee staying super hot, doing the cold brewed on a workday does save me a ton of time since I can just make it ahead of time and pour it straight out of the fridge.  And I save 30 seconds from heating up the cream in the microwave.  Cold cream is not meant for hot coffee.  It’s just not.  But it is fantastic in cold brewed iced coffee!!

Condiments to the Rescue — Mustard

Some eating establishments cook vegetables as though they are punishing them for existing and punishing you for selecting them despite all the other available menu options.  I usually pick the veggies from the menu, but have lived to regret it on occasion.  Sometimes I think they cook the veggies without even the suggestion of salt just to say they are healthy even though they taste so bad they might as well have left them off the menu.  My restaurant cheat is an odd one I know, but it works in a pinch.  If I get veggies that taste horrible, but I know I need to eat them to stay on my calorie goal for the day, I break out the condiments.  Although ketchup is supposed to be the catch-all condiment, it’s constant companion, spicy mustard is actually my veggie saver.  It has acid (a flavor which is often overlooked in cooking) and just enough salt to give the flavor punch to veggies that are sorely lacking.

Mustard is one of my favorite flavor cheats.  I always have a few bottles of different types of mustard in the pantry because it’s useful for more than just hot dogs.  Just a tablespoon or two give that added kick to sausage and peppers.  And seriously… who can deny the greatness of “real” Honey Mustard?  I love using whole mustard seeds to my spice mixes.  It’s great as a part of dry spice mixes.  When I need a quick side, I find that potatoes roasted with a good spice mix is always a crowd favorite.

 

Potatoes Roasted with Mustard Spice Mix

5 pounds potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground sumac

Preheat oven to 400F.  Slice potatoes  into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.  On a large sheet pan (or two), spread out potato slices.  Drizzle oil and spice mix over the potatoes.  Mix the potatoes and spices around until all the potatoes are coated with oil and spices (hands are easiest for this).  Roast in oven for about an hour.  Check to make sure the potatoes are as crispy as you like them before you remove them from the oven.

 

Fruit as Decoration… or a useful approximation

I love throwing parties.  I tend to put out too much food (though I am getting better) and need fairly large platters to hold all the food.  As a result, I have more platters than any one person should have.  I have a clear and obvious problem since I had to dedicate a “room” in my basement just to storage of my party supplies.  I get the platters at a really good price which simply adds to the problem of the addiction.  But having so many platters and so little storage space has presented an interesting solution (yes I have that many platters).  When I’m not having a party, I have to put the platters somewhere so I had to come up with a solution to store them. I also have a problem with the house looking exactly the same all the time.  If I buy some kind of decoration for one room, chances are, it will end up in another room or put away for a season or in a Good Will pile because I just don’t want to see the room look the same for too long.  Constantly changing decorations can get expensive, but as it turns out these two wrongs can make a right.

 

Since I have been known to buy entirely too many fruits and vegetables and the fridge is usually beyond capacity, I use the fruit as my decorations.  I have the platters carefully placed all over the house to accent the shape of various tables.  And these usually get moved around as I get sick of seeing the same platter in the same location and they get switched out for other platters hidden away in the pantry throughout the year.   So, when I come home with my load of fruits and veggies, and The Hubs gives me the “Where exactly do you think that’s going to go?” look I just load up my platters and walk away.

The other benefit to this system is I know which platter I loaded first/last so all the older fruit can be used at once for juice if I come home with another batch of veggies and need extra space.  Now that I’ve instituted the same weekday breakfast of a bowl of fruit from my childhood for The Kid, it’s much easier to look at the platters and see what I have available.  And even though The Hubs may be intimidated by the fridge crammed to the top with veggies, he can browse the platters and grab a healthy snack.  And… I don’t have to go buy another figurine or decorative ball or whatever to decorate the house.  I may still be buying another platter…  No promises on stopping that addiction.

 

Potsticker-Style Veggies

There are some things that are just irresistible. For me, good potstickers fall in that category. There’s something about the combination of caramelization and soft steamed interior that I just can’t turn down. The method actually works for veggies too. My favorite veggie to do Potsticker-style is Brussels Sprouts.

Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. They have the same built in pop up timer as the other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage that can leave a house smelling like rot if they are cooked too long. If you are steaming them, then timing is critical. The Potsticker method works really well when there are distractions. And because of the caramelization, it changes the flavor profile and makes them a bit sweet and a little soft. I did this recipe with baby Brussels sprouts that were small enough for the kid to pick up and paired it with pasta which he loves and they were a big hit.  The hubs loves brussels sprouts this way too although he eats most veggies.

 

Potsticker-Style Brussels Sprouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (whichever you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water

Toss the Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper. In a medium hot skillet (select one that has a cover or use a cover from another pan), add 1 tablespoon oil and spread out the Brussels sprouts so that it forms an even layer. After about 5 minutes, turn over a couple pieces and look for some browning. If it is brown, toss in the water and cover the pan. The water will steam the Brussels sprouts. After about 8 minutes try and stick the brussels sprouts with a fork. If it is still hard add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover again. Check again in a few minutes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the finished Brussels Sprouts and serve.

Coconut Water… The good old days

When I spent summers in Jamaica as a kid, my cousins and I would start our mornings by filling our little bowls with fruit we picked off the trees in the yard. We would each present our bowls to my aunt and she would peel and cut the fruit as needed and that would be our weekday breakfast. So, the other day I was eating my fruit salad drizzled with local honey (Yes I know it’s overkill to put sweet on fruit, but if I’m going to have a spoonful of honey at some point in the day then why not.) Anyways, I was thinking back to some of the other great things about those summers in Jamaica and I started to think about coconut water. There is absolutely nothing quite like quenching your thirst on a hot day with coconut water. We would play in the hot humid sun all day long riding big wheels, crashing big wheels, chasing each other, playing tag, walking on fields of Shame-Old-Lady Plants (we’ll discuss this awesome plant shortly) and any other game we could make up and all agree on the rules. (Most of the time establishing the game rules would dissolve into an argument, but it was all in fun.)

When it was super hot, there was nothing like going to the guy who sold coconuts in an iced cart and getting a “water coconut.” Water coconuts are mostly water inside. There are also Jelly Coconuts that have more meat (the white part you see when you crack open a coconut) than water. If you were hoping for a water coconut and crack it open and there’s mostly meat you got a dud.  Nuff said.

There is a fine art to cutting coconut and if you’ve gone on vacation or lived in the Caribbean, you’ve seen it done. There is a way to cut the coconut with a machete so there is one fine point at the top that is cut off so it’s just small enough to either put a straw into it (if you’re wearing clothes you’re not supposed to get covered in coconut water) or just put straight to your head to drink from the “spout”. I say it’s a fine art because if you don’t know what you are doing, you can either chop off your entire hand or mangle the coconut and lose all the water.  It was just the biggest treat to get a coconut water (ice cold makes a difference) because nothing quenched thirst like it.  When you’re finished with drinking the coconut, you hand the coconut back to “the guy” and he cuts it in half and makes a spoon out of a piece of the coconut shell and you eat the meat.  The “meat” can fall on a continuum of softness and different people like different consistencies so my cousins and I would often check each other’s coconuts and trade for the one we wanted if possible.

So, in a return to my youth, my new favorite summer drink is coconut water. Thankfully I can get it in easily in cartons without the danger to life and limbs associated with the machete. I know there is a debate of sorts going on about whether it’s appropriate as a replacement for sports drinks since it has a lot of electrolytes and it’s high in potassium. The sports drink people point out it’s not high in sodium so it shouldn’t qualify as an electrolyte replacement. But none of that matters to me. Maybe it’s the countless number of “Water Coconuts” that I consumed as a kid, but there is nothing more refreshing than an ice cold coconut water on a super hot summer day.

I Can Be A Couponer Too!!!

The Hubs and I have decided to embark on a Money Saving Summer. We figured the summer was the best time to test it since we can find more free activities if we get too bored. And if it works we may extend it even longer. So, we cancelled cable and bought an HDTV tuner for the laptop. We hooked up the laptop to the TV and now we have HDTV shows recorded. We rarely watched live tv before other than the news so now instead of random tv in the background we just play music.

I was inspired by all the Extreme Couponing shows and decided to see it I could at least get deals on toiletries to make more room in my budget for the organic stuff and veggies. In the process I found that my hope had actually come true. There are, in fact, coupons for produce. There are even coupons for organic products. And even better there are actually blogs that have tracked down all the sales and can tell you how to use the coupons so you can get products free or even make money using the coupons. I always used coupons and tried not to buy things unless I had a coupon, but there are true money saving/making lessons to be learned from these blogs. I had no idea Target had coupons online. And that you could use the coupons along with a manufacturer coupon on the same item! Same thing with those coupon books at Walgreens. For those in the know, that’s referred to as “stacking” and they are not the only stores that practice it. The thing you do have to check is the coupon policy at the stores and some of the blogs have it there for you. It is not consistent and it’s important to know before you get there. Thanks to following the method I managed to pay $0.03 for more than $40 worth of stuff. So, I am now a believer.

My Savings Receipt -- It's really possible

I usually start my research with three sites: CouponMom.com, CouponDivas.com and LivingRichWithCoupons.com. They have all the sales listed and links to print at home coupons to help you save even more. And they will even give a calculation of your final price. I don’t see myself ever doing a $400 or more trip like the people featured on the show, but it is definitely possible to do it on the small scale and I didn’t even have to give up 60 hours of my week to do it.

 

 

Empty Nesters

For all the years we’ve lived in our house, there has been a duck couple that visits the yard to splash around in our pool in the month before we open it. Every year, they splash around early in the morning for about a month, then we open the pool for the season and we don’t see them any more.  This year, they decided to stick around longer than usual, then a couple weeks ago we saw the male duck alone and thought there may have been a divorce, but it seems we were in for a surprise.  Ever since I learned that ducks eat slugs, I have wanted to have some as pets.  I hate slugs!  They reproduce at a ridiculous rate and leave ugly trails on my veggies… and they’re slugs.  I’ve tried all the usual methods to get rid of them, beer traps (who has the time to refill and empty them daily), copper strips (way too expensive) and have settled on slug bait which is supposed to work even after it rains.  I’d still prefer a much more satisfying method of removing them from the yard than just having the slugs stop eating and disappear.  Every year when the ducks showed up, I would hope that they’d stick around for a while to help whittle down the slug population, but every year, they flew away and I was left on my own to deal with the slugs.

Ducks

Recently, The Hubs joined a running club that runs super early on the weekends.  So, while he was doing one of their runs, I took The Kid for a 3-mile walk around the neighborhood to keep him entertained.  It was supposed to be just 2 miles, but then I realized I forgot to ask The Hubs to buy a paper on his way and he’s usually way too sweaty for stores after running.  It felt like a big hassle to take The Kid out of the stroller and get the pocketbook then load up the car so we just walked to the store to get the paper too.  When I got back to the house the first time to get change out of my car for the paper, I leaned down to straighten some fava bean plants that fell over.  All of a sudden there was flapping about a foot away from my face and a blur flew by me.  I screamed way too loud for 8am on a weekend morning and backed up with The Kid.  I saw a lady duck flying away and looked down to see a nice collection of eggs where she was sitting.  It took me a minute to figure out how I missed her, then it seemed really obvious why the female birds all look like dirt and the male birds who don’t have to hide with the eggs have the bright colors.

I was so happy about my new little duck family and checked on them (from afar) almost daily. Unfortunately, about a week later, I went to check on my little friend and she was gone and so were her eggs.  I’m guessing the eggs became dinner for one of the neighborhood animals.  The good and bad thing about our neighborhood is that there is a diversity of wildlife.  There’s never a dull moment with the hawks, cranes, blue jays,  outdoor cats, etc.  preying on the ducks, frogs, woodpeckers, finches, hummingbirds, etc.  I won’t even get into the madness of the insect populations.  I was at least fortunate that I have been spared explaining the nature cycle to The Kid, but I’m going to have to come up with something better than, “Well, birds eat birds.”  That’s probably not going to cut it.  Well, it looks like I won’t be growing my duck family this year as I hoped, but hopefully my duck familly will return again next year and chose a better hiding spot for their babies so we can try this again.  I need a duck army to defeat the empire the slugs are trying to build in my yard.