Saturday, November 26, 2011

Failure to hatch

Well, the eggs I set that were my chickens' final eggs were due to hatch on Thursday.

When they were a day overdue, I candled them again, and I could tell that they were not viable.  Since I'm curious, I sealed them in a ziploc bag, and opened them all up.

1 egg stopped developing around day 13-14.

3 eggs stopped developing around day 10.

1 egg stopped developing around day 7

1 egg stopped around day 3-4.

I'll admit that I'm pretty upset about it.  I had an emotional attachment to the idea of hatching MY chickens' eggs. It would've been nice to have a legacy. I didn't cry when I found my chickens dead and had to bury them, though I wanted to.  I did cry a little when I realized the eggs weren't going to hatch.  I think that it was also for the loss of the hens as well- I'd pinned my hopes on these eggs.  Also, to see that they had started developing and died for some reason was difficult. I wonder if I'd done something wrong, and if it could have been prevented.

I mailed my incubator back to Brinsea today. The autoturn feature on it was broken, and they'd given me a return authorization so I could get it repaired. When the chicken tragedy struck, I wanted to try to hatch before I sent it back.  Hopefully I'll get it back in a month or so and I can try again.

Once it comes back, I will do a test incubation at home to make sure it's turning the eggs ok and will hatch successfully. Then, I'll do a couple incubations at my kids' schools. I mentioned it in casual conversation, and I have three teachers at three schools who are really excited at the idea of hatching chicks in class.

I'm embarrassed to admit I'm so broken up over some birds.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Conversations with Z

Conversation with Z today:

Z: Mommy, do you know why motorcycle riders wear black?

Me (sitting back and waiting for an awesome story): No, why?

Z: Because if they wear black, it will hide all the dirt they get on them that they get from driving all over the place.  It protects their skin from the dirt. And when bugs squish on them, it hides that too.

Me: Oh. Interesting. Why do motorcycle guys wear helmets?

Z: Because motorcycles are really loud and it helps keep the sound out. And the bugs from getting in their face.

Me: I thought it was to protect their heads in case they ever tipped over?

Z: No. If they are careful and they ride fast enough, they can't tip over (he then laughs hysterically at the idea of someone tipping over on a motorcycle)


Z: Mommy, I think I really am a superhero.  This (pointing to the green bridge piece he's been carrying around for a couple days) is my special super hero weapon.

(for reasons unknown to me, S wanted to hide behind him)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Great Chicken Tragedy

I've been working to get all caught up on my blog, and I have to admit this was a post that I was dreading.

On Thursday, November 3, my neighbor's daughter came over to my house, deeply upset. She is a senior in high school, and had just arrived home from school. She was going to collect eggs and discovered that 12 of their 18 chickens were dead, and 2-3 more were injured. She wanted to call her mother and share the news. She left her a voicemail. I said I'd come outside and help her.

As we walked outside, I thought I should check on my birds, just in case. I wasn't too worried, as our coop is totally enclosed. Then, I remembered, it's not. When we extended our run, we ran out of the wire fencing we were using over the top. There was a spot at the end on top, about 18" wide that didn't get covered. We'd tossed a big board over the top, but it had been a couple months. It was entirely possible that the board had fallen off.

As I got to my coop, I realized the worst had happened- seven of my hens were dead. The only survivor in the coop was Bow, my gift chicken from the neighbor. We hadn't had her very long, and I still hadn't quite thought of her as "ours".  There was no sign of Sue.  Then, I heard him crow. But, he wasn't in our yard- he was at a neighbor's, two doors down. As it turned out, he had a minor injury on his neck/throat area, but he was doing pretty well, other than being emotionally traumatized.

I went to the neighbor's house and saw 12 of their hens laying in their coop, mutilated. The most upsetting thing about finding them dead was that they just looked played with- they were pretty much intact, just dead. If it had been a starving animal who had eaten them, while upsetting, it would've been at least somewhat understandable. But these were just toyed with. She had a few remaining chickens who had survived, some injured, others ok.  To get into her chicken run, the critter would have had to jump a 6' fence to get into her backyard proper, then jump another 6' fence to get into the chicken run.  Given our somewhat-secure chicken runs, we knew this wasn't the work of a dog.

Our other neighbor, Dan, came over, and helped us bury all of the birds. He asked around, and a family of raccoons has been spotted in the area. We feel this is probably the culprit.

Jennie was very upset about the loss of her chickens. While she does love her chickens more than I do (I know, seems hard to believe, but it's absolutely true), they were also a money source to her- the money she made from selling eggs was paying for her horse AND chicken feed.  I gave her back Bow. I rehomed Sue to a family who has 13 hens. I got an update from the new owner this morning, saying that he is very gentle with his new girls, as well as the owner, and seems to be a very happy rooster.

So, at this point, I have no chickens.

Back in September, I hatched four chicks and gave them to my sister in law and her family. They have had so much fun with their new babies and have really gotten attached to them (at least, that's how it's appeared from the outside looking in). However, when they heard that I'd lost all of mine, they offered to give the chicks back. I was so touched by the gesture that I nearly cried.

The same day of the incident, while I was steeling myself to go clean up the carnage, I took my final dozen eggs out of the fridge.

I picked out the 7 that I thought were the prettiest, and set them to incubate.

After a few days, I decided to candle them. I realized that egg #3 had a small crack in it, and realized it probably wouldn't be able to hatch the chick, so I threw it out and put another egg in its' place. I've since heard success stories of hatching cracked eggs, so I worry that I made a mistake. However, Egg #3.1 is developing great.

At day 5, I candled again. Here's one of the eggs on day 5:

At this point, it is day 10 in the incubation.  It appears that six of the eggs are developing nicely. Egg #5 seems to be a quitter- I think it quit about 2-3 days into it. Eggs #1 and #2 are so dark that it's tough to tell, but I'm pretty sure I saw some veining.

This is egg #7 at day 10 of incubation:

Halloween 2011

I was a terrible mother this year- I was not good about getting a picture of K in her main Halloween costume.  She was supposed to have a role in the "doll room" of the spook alley at her school. We found a wedding dress, veil, and petticoat at a second hand store that fit her perfectly. We applied pale makeup to her skin and then put red lipstick and false eyelashes on. Scary! (especially the 13 year old in the wedding dress part!) However, wearing a wedding dress around isn't particularly comfortable- it's quite cumbersome, so she opted to just borrow a costume I had for a couple of the parties that we went to. S was a princess. I wanted to make her a beautiful dress, but she found that one in a store, and just had to have it. I twitched a little but agreed. Z was "Dark Mater".

After seeing my zombie makeup for the run, M really wanted to be a zombie as well. I made his wounds with liquid latex and toilet paper. This picture is actually my first attempt (I got to do the whole ensemble three times), and was the worst attempt, but I didn't get pictures of the best. So, use your imagination.

As for us, J was a missionary, and I was his constant companion, so long as he behaved. Can you guess who I was? My robe had holes all over it, so I was "hole-y". Got it? I was the Holy Ghost. ha ha ha

We went to a couple halloween parties, and I had fun with the food.  I made an eyeball cake using red velvet cake and cherry pie filling. I thought it looked pretty awesome.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Japan Part II

On Thursday, J took off to go work.  I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. He was going to finish before it was too late, and we had plans to meet with a bunch of his associates to have Yaki Niku for dinner. So, I didn't want to do anything that required hours and hours of train rides.

I finally decided to go to Mino-h or Minoh, which is located in the Osaka prefecture. The train going there was not part of the JR line, so I had to buy my train ticket. The JR ticket machines have a lovely button in the one corner that says "English". When you push it, everything is in English. This other train company had no English button.

After attempting to look lost and confused (wasn't a big challenge), nobody came to my aid. Weird. Having a bewildered look on my face had always prompted strangers stepping in to ask if I needed help in the past. Oh well. I found some schoolboys and asked them to help me buy my ticket. I watched what they did and was able to buy my ticket home without incident. I *think* I did it correctly- the little doors at the ticket station didn't slam shut, so I considered that good news. This was foreshadowing for the day though. Minoh is definitely not geared to the international tourist. Everything was extremely well marked. If you read Japanese. So, I found myself being pretty much illiterate the entire day.

Minoh, Osaka, Japan is known for being a small town with a beautiful wilderness area. The area has thousands of Japanese maple trees along a mountainous walk area.  There's a couple little shrines along the way, as well as a small cemetery.Oh, and guess what else is there?  MONKEYS!  Wild monkeys!  I only saw one, and unfortunately, it dashed off before I got a photo. There were warnings everywhere, telling us not to feed the monkeys. Words to live by, man.

 I think I was there about 3 weeks too early to get the full effect of how gorgeous this place can be. I saw a couple of trees that were starting to turn red, but I bet that early November is an incredible time to go with all of those trees appearing to be on fire.

At the end of the trail, there was a beautiful waterfall. There was quite a few benches for people to sit down and admire the view.

One of the things that Minoh is known for is their fried maple leaves. I had no idea they were edible, but since it wasn't fishy, I was game to try it. I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that it was pretty good. Admittedly, I couldn't actually taste the leaf. It just tasted like crispy, sweet, fried dough with a slight sesame taste.

That night, we went out to dinner with a bunch of people from the ISO group. J and I had gone on and on about how wonderful yaki niku is. When you go to a yakiniku restaurant, they bring you a plate of marinated meat that has been thinly sliced. You cook it at a little grill that is set into your table. It's really, really good. J got recommendations from the hotel.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be bad advice (in my opinion). I found the restaurant to be overpriced and not good. The plate we ordered had rib bones with it. What?! It was a little embarrassing to have all those people with us, and it ended up being the worst yakiniku experience either of us ever had.

The next day, we checked out of our hotel, and took a train to Yokohama. We went to lunch at the Ramen Museum, which was quite close to the hotel. There was an entrance fee, but the ramen was quite discounted, and available in smaller bowls so that you could try a couple different styles. I knew I liked some ramen more than others, but here I learned that the kind I really liked was called shoyu. The area was set up to mimic a portion of Tokyo in 1958. Why 1958? Because that's the year instant ramen was invented and package. There were lots of air raid sirens going off, which confused me a little- I thought it was a fairly peaceful time in Japanese history. I need to research this out.

That evening, we went out for (really excellent) yakiniku with one of my close friends- Tsubasa and her husband, Jun.

Saturday found J at a convention for prosthetics, and Tsubasa's husband giving a presentation. I also realized I had procrastinated enough, and I really HAD to pick up some souvineers. Tsubasa had thoroughly spoiled our children and bought them a ton of candy and treats, so that did take some pressure off.  She and I did a bit of shopping and girl talk, and generally had a wonderful time. I really wish I could see her more often.

Saturday night, J and I took the train to go meet an old friend of mine from school. His wife had a baby a couple days earlier, and I was dying to meet the newborn, as well as their toddler. We had a lovely evening visiting with their family.

Sunday we took our time getting to the airport. We had a final Japanese lunch at the airport, and I had an awesome bowl of shoyu ramen along with some gyoza (potstickers). It was so good, and I already miss it terribly.

It was a wonderful week. I had an amazing time, even if I was going through iPhone withdrawals. We didn't want to pay for international calling or web browsing, so we only had access to our phones in wifi hotspots (which I never did find any) or at our hotel, where we did have wifi. We were able to call home from our hotel using TextFree, our free texting app. They have a phone calling section, and it was a wonderful, very cheap way of calling home.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trip To Japan

J and I had the opportunity to go to Japan a couple weeks ago. Quite a few people from several companies in several countries have been working to establish some international standards with testing and prosthetics for a while, and they meet occasionally to work on that. The latest meeting was scheduled to be in Osaka, Japan. When I heard that, I was thrilled. I've been saving airline miles, hoping for an opportunity to return to Japan. I wasn't sure if I'd ever go back, and I have to admit I got a little teary when I got there.

We traveled there with Lonnie from OH and Mike from MI.  They were both a LOT of fun, and I was glad for extra company. They flew into Salt Lake on Friday, Oct 14. We all went out to dinner that evening. Saturday I did the zombie run, while they all slaved away at the lab (this became a common theme for the trip... well, them working, me playing. The zombie thing not so much).

Sunday morning, we got to the airport before it was even light. The flight over was very uneventful. The plane we were on had on demand movies, music and games for free, which was really, really nice. I'd been concerned I'd be bored on the plane, and I was thoroughly entertained.

We arrived in Japan in the late afternoon on Monday. (whoooa) We got everyone through customs and luggage claimed, then picked up our JR Rail Passes. If you are going to be traveling to Japan, I can't recommend these high enough. Because we flew into Narita, Osaka was a good 3 hours away by bullet train, and we didn't want to do that long of a train ride when we were that tired, so we just took the train to Ueno, where we had hotel reservations waiting for us at the Sutton Place Hotel. It was very small, but clean. Poor Lonnie had some sort of mistake made by, and they'd reserved 4 rooms for him instead of one. Not exactly the kind of issue you want to work out when you're bone tired and the other participant in the conversation speaks almost no English.

The next morning, J and the guys all hopped on a bullet train to Osaka so they could work. I headed north to Tsukuba, the town where we lived. I was going to meet my friend Shaney. Shaney is the principal at Tsukuba International School. TIS has grown SO much since K attended school there. When she went there, they had grades 1-6 and there was 18 students total. When I visited, they'd moved to a larger, nicer location, and have expanded significantly. They have a preschool program for ages 3-5, and then their school has grades 1-9.  85+ students now, but class sizes were very small. WOW!!

Our hotel in Osaka was a good 10-15 minute walk from the train station, and J was worried about me finding my way to the hotel in the dark. I told him which train I'd be on, and he said he'd find me.  I had never been to the Osaka station, so I wasn't sure if this was reasonable or not. I suspected it wasn't. As it turns out, the Osaka station is the third largest train station IN THE WORLD. Yeah, super easy to find someone "at the train station". After looking for him for a half hour or so (dragging my luggage, incidentally), I gave up and walked to the ANA Crowne Plaza, which was MUCH easier to find! This is the view out our hotel window:
The next day, the guys all hopped on a train to go work all day. I got on a train and went to Kyoto. Kyoto is an absolutely amazing, beautiful city. I spent one day there with J, but that was almost 10 years ago. I didn't have any particular plans there, other than to see the Golden Pavilion (aka Kinkakuji). I got a map from the tourist booth at the train station. Unfortunately, they didn't mention there is an awesome deal on a day pass for the bus. I really could've used that, so I would highly recommend that to other people.  So, I left the train station and walked to Kinkakuji (which is approximately 3-4 miles). I stopped a couple times at other shrines along the way, and had a lovely time looking at them.

Kinkakuji was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It was stunningly beautiful, and didn't even look real.

The upper two levels are actually covered in gold leaf. It was amazing to look at.

After that visual feast, I decided that I MUST go see the Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). It was all the way across the city. I got a couple miles in and was really tired. I finally started paying attention to the buses, and hopped a bus for a couple hundred yen. Boy, did I feel incredibly foolish! A very nice lady who spoke no English at all told me a couple temples I should definitely go see. She actually felt they were better to see than my planned destination.  Nobody bothered telling me that The Silver Pavilion wasn't ACTUALLY covered in silver, like the golden pavilion. I'm sure Mrs. Nice Japanese lady was trying to tell me that, but oh well.  It was still really beautiful to see, and the designs they made with sand were really pretty.
I explored the city a bit more, but I was pretty tired, and I was planning to meet up with the ISO standards group for dinner, so I got back on a bullet train and went back to Osaka.

That night, we had an extremely fancy, extremely traditional Japanese meal. It was served in a Tatami room, and had so many courses that I lost track. Here is just one:

(to be continued)

The Dirty Dash

Another fun race I recently did was The Dirty Dash. It was a 10k through lots of mud and water, and included a lot of obstacles. Costumes are encouraged. I can honestly say that it was one of the funnest Saturdays that I have ever spent.

Here's a picture of our group BEFORE.

And, our group after:

I am not sure what our finish time was. Frankly, I don't care. We had to cross some railroad tracks before and after going through about a quarter mile of waist deep water. Well, on the way back, there was a train stopped on the tracks, and it stayed there for a good 15 minutes. We had to wait until it moved on before we could go on.

Then, the very end of the race with this enormous inflatable slip and slide. By that time, our group had kind of separated into 2-3 groups. Those of us who were a little faster decided to go back and find the rest of the group. The up side to that was that we got to go down the slide again. Woohoo!!

We had an absolute ball with this "race". There will be another one in the Spring of 2012, as well as fall of 2012. I plan to do both.  If you want to join me, be sure to let me know.

Zombie Run

When I first heard about Night of the Running Dead, I was immediately intrigued. While I still hate running, I have noticed that it's a lot more palatable if there's a fun twist, like playing in mud, dressing in costume, etc. etc. Even better, the run benefited the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

I asked around, hoping to get a lot of friends to run with me. J had associates in town because we were leaving the next day for Japan, and they were traveling with us. He was busy in the lab doing some tests with them, so he wasn't available. My friend Alia was the only one available and willing. She was one of my very top picks, as she's an AMAZING makeup artist, and I knew I could hire her to do my zombie makeup. She absolutely lived up to all expectations I had of her- I thought my makeup looked INCREDIBLE.

We decided it would be fun to do a doctor/patient theme. I wore a hospital johnny, and she wore scrubs. We ended up placing in the top five for the costume contest that the race producers hosted.
We had agreed ahead of time that we didn't have to run with the other, so that way, if one of us was faster, we wouldn't hold the other person back. Imagine my shock when *I* was the quick one! Well, not QUICK, but not horribly slow.

When the official results came in, I finished the 5k in 30.11.  I was a little disappointed; my goal was to finish in under 30 minutes. But, it was a big improvement from the race I did over Memorial Day weekend.

I do plan to do it next year, so if you want to join in the fun, let me know.