High of 75

What a pretty weekend it’s been.  The high today was 75 and I think yesterday we reached the 80’s, so it’s been the perfect temperature to play outside.  I normally love the cold weather, especially if there happens to be snow on the ground, but the warm weather and sunshine this weekend has done a good job of convincing me that I’m ready to say goodbye to winter (if we can even call it that) and hello to spring.  We ate dinner in the park on Saturday night (thank you, daylight savings time), and then came home to let Socrates play outside a little more.  He’s loving the warm weather and all the opportunities to go outside that it’s bringing him, and if his smell is telling us anything about how much he’s enjoying it, then I’d definitly say he is one happy puppy.

We had a nice and quiet St. Patrick’s Day night, no green beer for us!  We did make our way through almost an entire season of Friends, so there’s definitely some accomplishments being made in the Bentley household.  There was a thunderstorm a little later on, so it was a great night to snuggle up with a cute husband and stinky puppy, and Socrates could totally identify with Pheobe’s musical excellence of Smelly Cat .

On Sunday we got up and ready for round two at the park after a quick trip to Earthfare.  Steve took his rope stuff (I’m sure it has a fancy name, I just don’t know it) to set up a slackline.  Apparently the hippie past-time of slacklining isn’t very popular in Charlotte because we got a lot of strange looks and people stopping by to take a look.

I did overcome my girly instincts and actually try it a couple of times.  It didn’t work out so great, but I did (sort of) stand up once or twice.  Steve and Nick are both really good at it, I should have videoed all the walking, spinning, and crouching down moves they were cranking out.

The one time I did stand up it looked like this:

But most of the other times it looked like this:  (attractive, I know)

I mostly just watched the pros attempt different tricks while enjoying the pretty park view and making sure Socrates acted classy (aka – not sniffing the lady parts of other dogs).

The ground was still a little wet from last nights storm, so getting muddy and kicking up dirt on himself were both a big part of Socrates’ agenda on our day out.  In order to keep our house from smelling like wet dog, I (attempted) to give Socrates a bath when we got home.  I wish I had a picture of bath time, but between my soaking wet clothes and the piles of water that I was unsuccessfully trying to stop from being splashed on the floor and walls, I figured it wasn’t really a good environment to break out the camera.  I normally take Socrates to the groomer when it comes time for a bath, but I figured I’d give being economical a try, and I must say it was a little bit of a failure.  While I do have a semi-clean dog, I also have a massive amount of water to clean up and a pretty icky bathtub.  I don’t think Socrates minded the bath too much, however, he was very happy when it was over and went on a sprinting spree around the house before I could attack him with the evil blow dryer.  He even rolled around on the floor a bit, I guess he wanted to get some dirty back on him or something.

I do have a tasty egg recipe to share, but the weather is too nice to sit here any longer, and all the energy and effort it took to give the crazy dog a bath has left me a bit hungry.  Have a good rest of the weekend!

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The Chicken or the Egg

Work has been quite slow this week, so while my co-workers were playing online basketball and Facebook stalking, I was catching up on my not-so-guilty pleasure of blog reading (my guilty pleasure is spending hours upon hours on Pinterest, but unfortunately, the big bosses at my company got smart and blocked the site).  While perusing my RSS feed, I came across a post from one of my favorite blogs, Food Renegade, about marketing ploys that egg companies use to advertise their “free-range” and “cage-free” eggs and what those terms really mean.

Check out this awesome short video made by Douglas & Laura Gayeton.

Looking at myself as a consumer a few years ago, I would go to Walmart or Harris Teeter and buy eggs for about a dollar a dozen, never thinking about the alternatives of “cage-free” or “free-range” that were priced a tiny bit higher.  Eventually my husband talked me into buying these eggs that he viewed as “better,” and there are still many consumers today who (logically) assume that they are doing their bit to help animal welfare by buying these cage-free and free-range options.  Knowing what I know now, it really frustrates me that these big corporations are allowed to fool us into thinking that these eggs came from happy chickens hanging out with their other chicken friends while they all munch on plants and peck their way around a big lot of beautiful farmland.

Granted, these options are better than the other factory farming method of having multiple chickens living in a cage the size of a folded newspaper, with their beaks cut off, and being denied food and water for days so that their production will increase (hello, $1 a dozen eggs).  But should these “free-range” and “cage-free” egg companies be able to fill their cartons & advertisements with misleading pictures of healthy looking chickens grazing on farmland while in reality they live packed together in a warehouse so tightly that they can’t grow properly (don’t even get me started on the hormones that they are fed) and maybe have access to a closet sized outdoor area a couple times a week?

So, when you ask me the question of “the chicken or the egg?,” my answer will always be the chicken.

Does this mean that I don’t eat eggs?  No, it absolutely does not, I love eggs!  I’m fortunate to live in a city where CSA’s and food from sustainable and ethical farmers is pretty widely available, and I even posted last week about getting our eggs from Bell’s Best Berries where you can go visit their chickens to see the happy and comfortable environment they live in.  Of course, if you don’t want to make the trip, you can see sweet little Rhubarb and her friends below:

I’m sure an attempt to call up Eggland’s Best Egg Company and try to schedule an appointment to visit one of their farmers chicken houses would be a major fail.We purchase our eggs for $3 a dozen from Bell’s, they are $4.50 a dozen from some farmers at our market.  I’ll gladly pay the extra few cents to know the chickens are being treated well and fed a natural diet of plants, grains, and insects they find while out and about (factory farm chickens are fed a soy-rich diet with antibiotics, hormones, and recycled slaughtered animal meat and bones mixed in, yum).

Not only are pastured eggs more fresh tasting, but they are also a darker yellow, almost orange color, since the chickens were allowed to roam around and eat green grass and plants.

Science lesson: the darker color comes from the beta-carotene in the plants, which is also the same thing that makes carrots orange.

"One of these eggs is not like the other" - the lighter colored yolk is from an organic egg bought at the grocery store. Notice how much darker the farmer's market egg yolks are. Image courtesy of 100daysofrealfood.com

My only conundrum (fun word, right?) about eating eggs is when it comes to eating out.  I love my piece of chocolate cake just as much as the next girl, so it’s been hard weighing my desire to indulge in sweet treats versus being realistic about where the eggs in that cake came from.  Fortunately for me and my sweet tooth, Charlotte is home to one of the only bakeries in North Carolina, maybe even in the Southeast, that bakes with local eggs only (sourced from Cackelberry Farms in Concord).  So, if you’re ever in the Charlotte area, be sure to visit Sunflour Baking Company, where not only will you gain a few pounds before you leave, but you’ll also be able to enjoy treats made with local ingredients including honey, jam, eggs, butter, and flour.

While it’s not possible for me right now, having my own chickens is definitely an item on my bucket list.  I know that if my parents are reading this, they are probably snickering at the thought of me cleaning poop out of a chicken coop, but what can I say, I’ve evolved.  I’ve always loved dogs, but I’ve become more of an all-animal lover over the past couple of years, and I think it would be awesome to have my own hens (not to mention the tasty eggs they would provide).  I have a very silly picture in my head of my dog, Socrates, playing with his chicken sisters in our yard, which, by the way, I am aware is probably not realistic.

I even found the cutest chicken coop ideas for my future babies, who says hen houses can’t be stylish?

Since I don’t have a backyard right now, little Colleena and her friends will have to wait.  For those of you who watch Portlandia, my inspiration for Colleena’s name came from this clip.  For the longest time I told people I wanted to name my future chicken Collin, until someone told me that only girl chickens, or hens, lay eggs (yes, that was a sad day for my intelligence).  So anyway, naturally, Collin became Colleena.

My husband and I seem to be the go-to recipients when our friends have extra eggs from their CSA’s, so hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow to bring you a recipe that uses some of the eggs that we seem to have coming out of our ears.

In the meantime, what about you, do you choose the chicken or the egg?

And I Will Walk 500 Miles

Right now I’m sitting at my computer writing this while fighting the urge to moan and groan about my poor little legs that feel like they are about to fall off from walking 500 miles today (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little).  I spent the day hiking at Crowder’s Mountain, which is about an hour outside of Charlotte, with Steve and his friend, Nick.  I was, of course, the slow poke of the group, and it took us a little over an hour or so to get to the top of the mountain and enjoy the view.

It was a fun day and I think overall it was about a 4-mile journey.  I’ve been trying to venture out into the outdoors more since I married my husband, who I like to call “nature boy,” or as he prefers it, “nature man.”  We are quite literally the exact opposites when it comes to physical fitness.  I’m sure he could have ran up the mountain today in one go with no problems at all.  It was quite entertaining watching him and Nick do push ups and other fancy workout moves while waiting for me to catch my breath, stop being a whiny girl, and start moving again.  We took a lot of breaks on my account, so they were able to enjoy lots of extra manly activities while I focused on not dying.

Buddy push-ups

Figuring out how old the tree is

For the past couple of years I’ve been wanting to start up an exercise routine to get healthy (or just be able to simply walk up a couple flights of steps without getting lapped by 70-year olds in jogging-suits and fanny packs).  I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on eating healthy, so working out is the next logical step in making it to my life span goal of 103 (I’m totally serious).  I want to start the ever-so-popular Couch to 5K plan (and actually stick to it this time), as well as incorporate some yoga classes to work on my flexibility.  My lovely husband also made me a workout video where he shows me how to do different moves (burpees and mountain climbers anyone?) and guides me through a few different daily exercise routines.  I would love to share this with you all, as it’s probably one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen, but chances are you probably wouldn’t share my opinion about the cuteness (I’m pretty partial to him), and Steve probably wouldn’t want it floundering around the Internet.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress, in the meantime, enjoy some more pictures from our outing today!

View from the top!