that chick(en) tho.

chickens apple

Just a few days ago, I was surprised with an email from WordPress saying I had a spike in amount of visits that day. Oh! I was then reminded I had a blog to maintain that apparently people were still reading!

My last post was nine months ago, and of course that’s way too long. At the suggestion of my hubby, who is way more versed in social media than I am, I agreed I would try and post daily, no matter how insignificant or wayward my thoughts would be that day. So here we are!

We are just returning from the Big Apple in Colborne, Ontario, located off Highway 401. We had passed the gigantic smiling red apple monument on numerous occasions throughout our travels to beaches or campgrounds, but never actually stopped to go in. Today, a very warm and sunny Sunday in May, quite a change from the chilly and rainy almost daily weather, we had gotten out of bed and wondered what to do. I suggested going to the Big Apple and then seeing where we would end up after.

It turned out to be a very interesting and quaint shop. Inside were several food offerings including apple pies, sandwiches, soup, hot meals, ice cream, fudge, and lots of other chocolates, honey and maple treats, as well as cute souvenirs and knickknacks. Had I been Dianne of just a few weeks ago, I’d have probably walked out with bags of fudge, maple candies and pies, but I recently cut processed sugar out of my diet (another blog post, perhaps).

So now we arrive at the real subject of this post: chicken. In the front of the Red Apple store is a mini-putt course and small petting zoo, where you can put a $0.25 or $1.00 coin in a machine to get a capsule of animal feed for the ducks, goats, and chickens. While John and Dani fed animals, I followed Stella as she wandered past the animals’ cages. There was one coop housing several chickens and hens. In their cage were bowls of feed and fresh water. The chickens themselves were sunning, grazing, snoozing, perched in their little house laying eggs. I thought, what a peaceful little abode they had.

Backtracking to six months ago, as some of my friends and family are aware, I had given up eating meat, so beef, pork, poultry, etc., the exception being seafood (which I doubt I will ever give up).  The reason for this was because back in December, I had an “incident.” Yes, another of my infamous food-related incidents. Basically, my in-laws were over one night to watch the kids while I did some editing work due that evening.  I had been slow-cooking chicken quarters since that morning, and some six hours later, I figured they were done cooking, turned off the power, and dunked in a fork for a taste. I ate some of the skin and a few pieces of meat, which had completely fallen off the bone. They didn’t taste particularly unpleasant, but did give off a slight flavour of liver and were way too mushy, so I plunked the fork into the sink and went back to work. I had given Dani a small piece to try, but she didn’t like it either.
About an hour later while sitting at the computer, I started to feel hot and sweaty and my stomach began to tighten. It was around 9:00 p.m. and time to put Dani to bed, so I sent the in-laws home for the evening and did just that. Soon afterwards, I felt queasy and my stomach swelled to four months pregnant size. I called John and asked him to come home from work immediately. My own work would have to wait. Shortly after he arrived, I ran to the bathroom, stuck my head into the toilet bowl, and vomited violently. I vomited so long and so hard my jaws locked and my neck and shoulders tensed and cramped. Exhausted, I just fell to the side and started weeping. I needed help getting up and laid down on the couch.

I had never had the vomity kind of food poisoning, but there’s a first time for everything. I managed to finish off the last of my work and lie back down again. For the next three days, I was stuck on the couch, unable to eat anything but crackers with a few sips of water and Advil. Lots of Advil. I lost four pounds. Eventually, the headaches and nausea subsided and my appetite returned (as did the four pounds — boo).  I could and would never forget what a painful and traumatizing experience it was. I thought back to what the cause could be and it didn’t take long to figure out it was the chicken. I suspect I had it defrosting in the fridge just a few hours too long. Because we’re a busy household and I was bedridden for those few days, I eventually remembered to clean out the slow cooker with the chicken still in it. Just having to open it, see that mess of bones and chicken bits and the smell — ugh — I knew I just couldn’t eat animal flesh any longer.

I had given up meat the year before, which lasted about four months. Now it has been half a year since I’ve stopped. Back to the present day, as we observed the peaceful chickens in their coop, I thought of snippets of a documentary John had showed me about chickens who are raised solely for human consumption in unspeakable living conditions. I was immediately saddened. In just researching an online article by PETA, I could barely finish reading and felt like crying a little, thinking about how happy Dani was to just feed these innocent little animals. I’m not advocating for vegetarianism or veganism or even pescatarianism by any means, but I just thought I’d share the article I read, in case it would appease your curiosity or tug at your heartstrings as it did mine. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Chickens raised for their flesh—called “broiler” chickens by the meat industry—are typically confined to massive, windowless sheds that hold tens of thousands of birds each. While chickens can function well in small groups, where each bird is able to find his or her spot in the pecking order, it’s virtually impossible for them to establish a social structure in such large numbers. Because of this, the frustrated birds often peck at one another relentlessly, causing injury and even death.  Such intensive confinement also breeds filth and disease. A Washington Post writer who visited a chicken shed said that “dust, feathers and ammonia choke the air in the chicken house and fans turn it into airborne sandpaper, rubbing skin raw.”

I didn’t want to get into more detail than that, so follow the link below if you’d like to read the rest of the article:

https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/chicken-industry/

I never stopped eating meat as a result of inhumane treatment to animals, but now that I’ve already stopped, there’s just more fuel to the fire to stay away for good (let’s hope).

Boston-a-thon… Bidding adieu.

salem_tree

Time that drags is ample time to commit to El Bloggo!

And here we are, with the 3rd and final installment of the Boston Road Trip Extraordinaire.  That Saturday was supposed to be spent waking up leisurely, having breakfast, and heading to the nearby Mashpee Commons Mall to visit Cupcake Charlies and grab a dozen (YES – certain allowances are made for dessert!), before heading to Salem, Massachusetts, for the Bewitched After Dark walking tour.

We had just finished our leftover Halal Guys for breakfast when hubby plugged the address of the tour into his phone. Alas, it was 2.5 hours away, not 1 hour like I had thought (I was referencing the point from Boston to Salem, and we were situated 1 hour away from Boston as it was).

It was already 10:30 am, so we hauled asses to the Red Van and, after grabbing the requisite Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (it doesn’t come CLOSE to Timmy’s, in my opinion), sped off towards Salem. We arrived at nearly 1:00 pm on the dot, at the door of the Bewitched store, where we met our tour guide.

If you’re looking for spooky stories and haunted houses, this is not your tour! Though not scary by any means, it was fascinating and informative.  We started off viewing houses in which murders had occurred, and then walked through a graveyard where victims of the Salem Witch Trials were buried.  Sadly, the majority of women died because of false accusations.  I won’t ruin the experience with too many details, but I think it’s a fascinating look back in history and highly recommend it.  Also, there’s a tree that apparently gets struck by lightning every few decades.  Exciting!

Salem is a beautiful town. We smelled some heavenly food and longed to stay a while longer to dine, but were to head immediately to Fenway Park for our 2nd tour of the day.  We zip back onto the road and towards the big city of Boston, park, and get all excited for the tour, until….

…we see the sign that says…

Tours are fully booked today. Please come back tomorrow morning.  We try instead to find something good to eat near Fenway, and end up walking for an hour unsuccessfully.  Bo-ring and unexciting food options (not to mention the surplus of green- and scantily-clad youth in celebration of St. Patty’s Day which was also that weekend)!  Instead, we drive nearby in search of P.F. Chang’s, which is located inside the Prudential Building in (downtown?) Boston.  After discovering the 1+hour wait time for both P.F. Chang’s and the Cheesecake factory, we settle for pizza and other food-court delicacies, Crumbs cupcakes, and frozen yogurt/ smoothies instead.

And it all worked out, because the next day we were up bright and early, one of the first groups in line to get tickets, to behold the wonders of ‘ole Fenway and its rich, deeply-rooted history.

I loved Boston. I will be back.  And next time, I won’t be leaving without a lobster dinner (or three)!

Concrete Junglists

imageWith cheesy pasta up to her elbows, eyes fixated on the Robots Blu-Ray playing in front of her, I steal another moment for part two of our Boston Road Extravaganza: NYC!

This was my 3rd time in the Big Apple, and I can say I’ve experienced the city in 3 of 4 seasons, fall being the only exclusion. My first experience was in the heat of late April, and I can say it was my least favourite time due to the warm garbage smells and abundance of Splinter-sized rats running the city. I’m Canadian.. I’m all for recycling.. and I guess it was a bit of a shock to not find the same resources in such a large city. My second visit was in the dead of winter, and I found it the most beautiful and exciting time of the year. Again, I’m Calgarian, so I guess I’m going to favour any sights of sparkling white snow. I’m a helpless romantic, what can I say? (Fine, that might be a lie.)

Back to the present day and our enormously fun family road trip. We had awoken at 7ish in order to hit the road at 8 am. After smoothing over a small hiccup with the front desk (they didn’t have our reservation properly on file due to some computer malfunction), off we were on the road again. It was a painless 4-hour drive, and noon by the time we arrived. Thanks to Kate’s handy pre-planning, we were able to find parking for the day, even saving upwards of $30 due to the coupon she printed out beforehand. I don’t know if it’s every parking lot that does this, but twice when I’d been, an attendant had taken our keys and parked the vehicle for us. All parked, kids snugly tucked into their strollers, peepee breaks accomplished, we are famished, and head towards the famous Shake Shack for some grub. It would’ve been cool had the lineups not been monstrously long :(. Mind you, it was Friday at lunch hour, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. Instead, we turn back the other way, excited to try the Guy Fieri restaurant, Guy’s, which we’d passed along the way.

It was fairly empty, a little strange for such a big-name personality in a metropolitan city, but perhaps I know why. We had some of the snottiest hosts/servers I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting on vacation, even worse than the rude waiters at the Chinese restaurant in Paris. I had sensed we were being frowned upon the moment we walked in and had parked our strollers on the lower level. Our waiter was cold and unsmiling, looking annoyed about our small children, and even having an irritated reaction when one of us asked for a takeout container to bring the meal home. All was not lost, however, because the food was very tasty. I had a shrimp po’ boy sandwich with chicken noodle soup to start, with others having the pulled pork and/or beef au jus sandwiches and rosemary quarter chicken. They were mainly on the lunch menu and not pricey at all – in between $10-15 per entree if I were to remember correctly. Tummies happy and ready to put the nasty experience behind us, we head to Times Square: the gigantic Toys ‘R Us, Footlocker, the Disney store. The NBA store where I picked up a Celtics t-shirt (of course) and a freezable NBA mug that looks like a basketball, which John thinks is so ugly and I am super fond of. Lol. We visit the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, GAP, another sports store, and Uniqlo, and by this time it’s dark outside. Before we head Mashpee-ward, we stop by for some Halal Guys, the famously delicious chicken and rice with their fantastic hot and white sauce. Oh dear. I wanted to enjoy it in the comfort of our kitchen, so I held off on eating mine the entire 4-hour ride home, running in to put it on a plate and devour it in comfort. And for breakfast the next day. Some could not wait, devoured it in the van, and slept peacefully the rest of the ride home. Cannot blame them. The remainder of us stayed awake, telling ghost stories and getting ready for the next day’s adventures, including the Bewitched After Dark tour in Salem, Massachusetts. Exciting!

As Easter Sunday quickly approaches, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for great friends, happiness, and our safe return. In 4 days I can finally enjoy meat again… It’s been a long 36 days!

Beantown post is next!

Hot Chocolate and CHOWDA

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As I sit on my cold, hard floor at the insistence of, and beside, my new potty-training-in-training toddler, I seize the opportunity to write of a recent trip I took to Boston and New York with a great group of friends (and family).

It all began with softball (and what doesn’t nowadays, apparently) and the dream of two like-minded, separated-at-birth friends who longed to see a ball game at the legendary Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. A “Green” fan ever since the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008, I was very excited at the prospect. That, and any place oozing seafood is enough to get me anywhere. So after a few late nights checking timeshare accommodations, calling many car rental places to compare quotes, and numerous vacation requests later, we arrive at departure day on a Thursday in the middle of March.

Our happy band of travelers consists of myself, hubby John, daughter Dani, married friends Mark and Kate, their daughter Audrey, also 2.5 years old, and faithful shotgun companion Aaron (who is a bigger person than I, managing to stay awake the entire time).

After collecting the big “Red Car” as the little ones called it (aka the Dodge Grand Caravan) and all of its passengers, we hit the road by 9 am. This in itself was not a seamless process… a chilly morning characteristic of the larger-than-life winter we have had this year resulted in two cranky, wailing toddlers, all within 15 minutes of being on the road. Bless their little souls, because that was the beginning and end of the crying fits for the rest of the trip. Yay, girls!

I shall take a minute to digress and do a little review of the Dodge Grand Caravan. My sister owns a Honda Odyssey, which I always found quite roomy and comfortable. This was not quite the case with the Caravan. Its ease in getting in and out of the middle and last rows via collapsible seats was offset by the cramped accommodations in the back. We had known to pack “lightly” (in either duffels or other soft-shelled packs) so we had enough cargo space, but literally just enough. Don’t plan on packing 4 regular-sized luggages in there. We kept a small cooler with water, juice and snacks in the middle row of the van, headed to Timmy’s for coffee and breakfast (of course), and arrived at our first stop, Walden Galleria, in Buffalo New York, before 11 am. After a visit to Dick’s for softball gear (obvi) and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (even more obvi), we headed back on the road. With the occasional pit stop for gas and meals (we can also name this getaway the Great McDonald’s and Pizza Feast, because guess what we usually ate roadside), we finally arrived at the Cape Cod Holiday Estates in Mashpee, Massachusetts, about 1.5 hours driving distance to Boston, a little after 1:00 am. After searching through the desk in the entry hall, not finding our package of keys, and instead taking the “Backup Set,” we unload, do a little happy dance at our arrival, toss a softball around, etc. and then head to bed to rest up for the excitement of the next day in NYC.

…to be continued. Dani wants more chicken! 🙂