Bird and Belle's Adventures in Marriage

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Day 4


Currently blooming in my garden: Checkered Lilies (Fritillaria meleagris)

I have not blogged in years and sworn off airing my deep emotions on the internet, but then a pandemic hit and I find myself isolated, scared and turning to the only way I know how to really process dark times – the written word.

This blog was started YEARS ago to keep my family updated on the adventures young Bird (my husband) and Belle (me) were having in marriage. Now it will pick back up, about 10 years later, with our adventures in trying to survive a pandemic.

That word gives me chills.

Pandemic: noun
Definition: An outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

Today is March 19, 2020, day 4 of Social Isolation for my family, which now includes a 1st grader we lovingly call “Bean,” an old crabby cat named Fermi, and a young zoomy cat named Newman. Together we are learning to live in a new and terrifying reality as the novel CoVid-19 virus spreads across the globe. Modeling disease outbreaks is incredibly hard, but from what I can tell, by the time this outbreak is under control millions will have died.


My emotions shift wildly throughout the day. One minute I feel grounded, together and ready to tackle this and the next I am fighting off tears. School is canceled for the foreseeable future leaving me scrambling to figure out how to homeschool our daughter. The gym where I had just started working is closed. Bird is working his two jobs from our tiny upstairs attic room.

We don’t leave our neighborhood unless it is for food or medical reason. We don’t have playdates with other kids. We don’t have mom’s nights out. My card group no longer plays. We cook basic food with very basic pantry staples. We take our temperatures daily to monitor for illness. We obsessively sterilize all surfaces each day. We work in the garden sowing seeds in hopes of fresh produce in the coming months. I look to my plants for inspiration, hope, and joy.



Is Chicken a Rooster or a Hen?

During the course of this pregnancy I have had 11 ultrasounds – thanks IVF, placenta complications and breech positioning! For the first five little Chicken was too tiny for anyone to determine gender. During the other 7, though, parts were clearly visible.

Jay and I agreed from the get-go that we would not find out baby’s gender. After a very planned and scientific conception, the gender was really the only surprise. There were times that I struggled with our choice, like when we were arguing over names or the when I was having a  hard time bonding with the creature flogging my internal organs. There were several ultrasounds that I was dead set on asking for the gender when I walked in, but as soon as that tiny little beating heart and those long, long legs popped up on the screen I was ok waiting.

At 39 weeks pregnant I can say that not finding out the gender was the BEST decision for us. Chicken is still breech meaning even his/her birth date will not be a surprise so the gender is really and truly the only surprise we have coming and I. Can’t. Wait!

Jay and I have been going back and forth with our gender guesses the entire pregnancy and it seems the general population all has an opinion, too. Friends, family and complete strangers ask if we know the gender then scrutinize my bump and SWEAR I’m having a _____. So far these guesses are a pretty even girl/boy split – which only makes sense seeing as how it can only go one way or the other!

I thought it would be fun to let our readers play along, too, but since most of you are very far away and have not gotten to experience my pregnancy in real life, let me answer some gender prediction myths to help guide your decision:

  1. Carrying low or high? This Chicken has been high for the entire pregnancy. My right lung will attest.
    This means: Chicken is A GIRL
  2. Is the weight all out front or is it evenly distributed around the sides? Mostly out in the front (and in the butt!).
    This means: Chicken is A BOY
  3. Is your face round and full? Not really.
    This means: Chicken is A BOY
  4. Have I had issues with acne during pregnancy? Nope. Actually, my skin has looked better than ever during pregnancy.
    This means: Chicken is A BOY
  5. Did I have any morning sickness? Not a single drop of vomit and very, very little nausea – THANK GOODNESS!
    This means: Chicken is A BOY
  6. Is Dad gaining weight too? Nope!
    This means: Chicken is A GIRL
  7. Are you especially moody? Well, I would say no but…. I think Jay and others would disagree 🙂
    This means: Chicken is A GIRL
  8. Are you clumsy or graceful?  I have been surprisingly graceful and agile despite the large belly.
    This means: Chicken is A GIRL
  9. Is baby’s heartbeat averaging over 140 beats per minute or under 130? Thanks to the pocket fetal doppler a friend loaned me, I can say that Chicken’s heart rate is consistently clocking in the 120’s.
    This means: Chicken is A GIRL
  10. And finally, according to one study the mother of the baby is right about 71% of the time when she just guesses her baby’s sex. In which case, I’m absolutely certain this little Chicken is a A BOY

See that? A 50/50 split! I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: Chicken is NOT another cat and really, that is ALL that matters to us 🙂

What do you think? Is Chicken a Rooster or a Hen?


Eviction Date

Baby Chicken is scheduled to be evicted on July 1 at 40 weeks, 3 days via Cesarean Section.

Baby has been breech since 34 weeks. Actually much longer now that I know that giant hard lump under my right lung was not, in fact, buns of steel like I had hoped. Nope, that big hard lump would be Brains from Jay and the squishy round mass in my lower pelvis would be Buns from Belle – also known as a soft rump that might require daily lunges should Chicken be a girl 🙂

Today I’m 38 weeks pregnant and have spent the past four weeks desperately trying to turn baby. I’ve done inversions on a board. I’ve burned moxa on my little toes. I’ve gone to a chiropractor for the Webster Technique. I’ve had a breech massage. I’ve done crazy arm stands off my couch, stairs and office chair. I’ve put ice on the top of my belly and heat on the lower belly. I’ve offered up the Alabama Shakes to my lower belly and when it occurred to me that baby might have more Jay’s music taste, switched over to Daft Punk. I’ve visualized baby turning. I’ve listened to a daily breech hypnosis CD. I’ve even ventured to a public pool full of strange children, at least one of whom discussed peeing in the water, to try and get baby to flip.

On Monday we went for the mother of all breech interventions and spent 8 hours in Labor & Delivery for an ECV, a medical procedure where a trained doctor tries to manually turn the baby through your belly. We never even go to the trying part, though, thanks to low fluid level and my oddly shaped placenta.

I been dreaming of my natural birth experience since way before I got pregnant, and even before I started infertility treatments.  A natural, unmediated childbirth was going to renew my faith in this body. It was going to be the empowerment that helped me start healing the wounds left from infertility and loss. The past few weeks have been tearful as I come to terms with the new way our child will enter this world. As my friend eloquently put it, Chicken will make his or her grand entrance by “coming out the sunroof instead of the driver side door.”

I spent a lot of time researching options and new cesarean techniques and decided that if surgical extraction is what it was going to take to get baby here safely, than so be it, but first I’d fight like hell to get a gentler kind of Cesarean that is not often practiced in the U.S.

The video above is a new take on elective cesareans that allows the family to be the focus of the procedure. Operating room chatter is directed at Mom and doctors don’t discuss what they had for dinner or how the Wildcats did. Mom is lucid and aware of what is happening. Baby is removed slowly from the uterus to help with acclimation and cord clamping is delayed. Mom gets to watch as her baby is born and then has baby placed on her chest immediately where all pediatric care is conducted. Baby stays with mom the entire time she is sewn up and then goes with her to recovery where she will receive breast feeding support right away.

I am so, so thankful that the first surgeon I met with has actually watched this video and done his own research on this new method. His eyes lit up when I said this is what I wanted and he was instantly on board, planning out the team that he will assemble to help make my first, and only, birth experience as gentle and special as possible. Within 24 hours he had contacted my family medicine doctor, who has been caring for me during pregnancy and had planned to attend my Natural Birth, to arrange for her to be present and handle pediatrics at my Cesarean Birth. He is recruiting his best nurse and hand selecting which resident will assist. He is excited to have Jay and I help him lead the way to bettering birth at UK.

While I’m still mourning the loss of my natural birth, I am extremely thankful to have found a place where everyone is willing and able to help make Plan B the best experience possible and bring our child into the world safely. Just 17 more sleeps until we find out if Baby Chicken is a Rooster or a Hen!


More Adventures in Marriage: Moving to NYC

Anyone who knows Jay and I will tell you that we both love a challenge. Perhaps that is why we got married… we each saw a tremendous challenge in the other?!  What ever the reason we ended up together, it’s just not in our nature to do things the practical, simple or sane way.

Pregnancy anxiety is only part of the reason there has been a lot of radio silence on this blog. There has also been career anxiety. Jay’s contract at UK is up in May and without a solid job offer on the table we were really struggling with how to proceed when our family grows from six to seven (that would be three humans and four cats for those who are scratching their heads). Then in February things started to look up – Jay had two interviews at two of his top choices for future employment! We sat, with bated breath, for the next month wondering what our future held. Finally, last week he received an official offer for a 2-4 year post doctoral position at a very awesome university in New York City!

We were overjoyed! Job! Employment! Baby will have diapers and the cats will continue to have kibble aplenty!

After the initial elation settled in, we started to realize what a monumental task was ahead of us… we were moving to NYC from Kentucky… from a nice big house to 1,000 square foot apartment… right after having a baby… without a support network of friends and family… with four cats? What? Are we insane?

Clearly we are because Jay formally accepted the offer on Monday and I alerted my boss to the changes this morning. Currently, Jay will finish teaching the spring semester, and then teach another class at UK during the summer so we can stash away some more cash. I’ll work up until I go into labor, which will allow me to work with my current employer in finding and training my replacement and making sure all ducks are left in neat, tidy rows. Hopefully baby will be punctual (ahahahahaha, I so know better than this) and come at the end of June as expected. We’ll then load up what remains of the Hineman Household the first week in August and set out to start our new life in one of the last places on earth I expected us to end up.

Whew, I’m so glad to have this out in the open! (This post has been taunting me from my drafts folder for two weeks.)  I’m also beyond excited to share our insanity adventure with you all in the coming months and to hopefully arrange some visits with friends and family within driving distance of Kentucky. And now I’m off to continue lining up some ducks (and cats). Cheers to new cities, new jobs, new babies and new adventures!



Halfway there – 20 weeks pregnant

Bon Jovi seems appropriate right about now:

“Wooo, we’re halfway there, wooo, livin’ on a prayer.
Take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear.
Wooo, livin’ on a prayer.”

I cannot believe we are halfway through this pregnancy. It was never my intention to post our “yay! We are making a baby” story and then leave you hanging for the next seven weeks. Seems life does not slow down even though you are gestating, though.

This week Jay and I went in for the big 20 week ultrasound where they make sure our little baby, who we fondly call the Chicken, has all of his or her important body parts and is growing on schedule. Little Chicken passed all tests with flying colors.

At the 20 week scan we had the option to learn our baby’s gender. Jay and I went round and round about this – to find out would cut the stress of picking names in half. It would also help us plan and might help with bonding. On the flip side, finding out would take all the surprise out of having our doctor proudly hold up the baby all Lion King style while proclaiming “It’s a INSERT GENDER HERE!”


I get all squishy inside when I think about being surprised on our kid’s birthday. Let’s face it – going through infertility and in vitro fertilization takes ALL the surprise out of reproduction. I can tell you that on Feb. 11, 2012, 27 eggs were sucked out of my ovaries at about 8:30 in the morning. Within the hour those 27 eggs met MILLIONS of little spermies in a petri dish. Five days later 6 high quality blastocysts were frozen using cryogenic technologies – one of which became is the baby I’m currently housing.

Blah blah blah. You see, there is no mystery here. There is no trying to calculate the day I ovulated. There is no giddy recollection of one passionate night. Nope. Instead it was one stressful morning when I was wheeled into surgery and poor Jay had a date with a plastic cup. With this in mind, Jay and I went into the ultrasound this week with a renewed determination – we are going to wait and find out whenever the Chicken chooses to join us!

Pregnancy-wise, I’ve been blessed with an easy time. I had almost no morning sickness, have barfed exactly zero times and have been able to remain active. I walk, strength train or practice yoga every other day to stay in shape. I have very few aches and pains and I’m sleeping well since adding a ridiculous life-raft sized pregnancy pillow to the bed. Seriously, this pillow is huge and caused a good deal of grumbling from both my husband and cat. In time, though, everyone adjusted and the other night I found Jay snuggling one side of the pillow and Yum Yum curled up on the other. My loves were cuddling me through my pregnancy pillow! Awwwww!

Mentally I’m doing as well as can be expected after all we have been through. 75% of the time I’m certain that this little babe is the one and that sometime in June or July we’ll be able to call our family complete. The other 25% of the time, though, I find myself terrified by all the what-ifs. I’m not daft – I know there are still risks. These days are hard and leave me kind of numb for a while afterwards. I think this is why I’ve not written since our last post. As soon as I feel ready to share some news, a wave of worry washes over me and I decide it is better to keep quiet.

But then I have a good day and I just want to shout our news from the rooftops! Today was one of those good days when, after my morning workout, I checked on the Chicken with our home doppler unit (a device I can use to listen to baby’s heart beat in utero – it gives me immense peace during the hard days). I hiked up my shirt, squirted some gel onto my growing belly and turned on the machine. After a little hunting I found the Chicken thumping away and started to close my eyes and relish in 30 seconds of blissful baby spying.

Evidently the Chicken was not in the mood, though, because he or she KICKED the spot where the probe was with such force that it made me jump. It was such a strong kick that I could feel it in the hand that was holding the probe! At first I thought it was a massive pregnancy fart brewing (I could write 1,000 words on pregnancy gas) so I put the probe back onto my belly to continue listening and WHAM another big kick! It was CRAZY and filled me with so much happiness and hope that I wanted to call my Mom. (But I realize I’m a 32 year-old woman and can’t be calling my Mommy at 6 a.m. all happy and gushy because “ma baybee kicked meeeee!”)

So that is a little update on progress so far. I could write more, but I’m not sure how many folks are really interested in a play-by-play of my baby baking! Instead I’ll leave you all with a belly photo, taken after our successful ultrasound! It’s really hard to believe how much more this little babe is going to grow in the next 4.5 months. Yikes!

20weeks color


Two years coming

70 daily progesterone injections in the bum were taken to support this IVF pregnancy.

12 weeks and 70 injections later.

On December 31, 2010 Jay and I sat in a hotel room in Seattle with take-out and a cheap bottle of champagne. Together we toasted away a year of awesome adventures and challenges. We also toasted away my birth control. As 2011 dawned we eagerly planned our new life as parents and prepared to get serious about baby-making.

By May my cycle had not returned and I was getting the uneasy feeling that something was wrong. We met with multiple doctors, eventually learned I had PCOS and were welcomed to the world of infertility treatment.

Since my diagnosis we have endured:

  • Countless tests
  • 1 failed round of Clomid (a mild ovulation inducing drug) and rare drug reaction
  • 2 failed rounds of ovarian super stimulation with IUI (a more intense ovulation induction using injectable medications)
  • 1 hospitalization due to Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome
  • 1 IVF (in vitro fertilization) egg retrieval
  • 3 frozen embryo transfers
  • 1 miscarriage just shy of 7 weeks
  • 1 D&C surgery to end that pregnancy

The day we lost our pregnancy was by far the hardest day of my life and has forever changed us as individuals and as a couple. Infertility robbed us of so much: trips to see the world and family, joyful holidays, romantic get-a-ways, peaceful time together and the chance to build a family naturally.

On October 10 of this year, my 32 birthday, I drove to my specialist in Ohio to have a final frozen embryo transfer. If this transfer failed we would be facing another full IVF cycle, adoption or living child-free. Five days later I saw a positive pregnancy test. Knowing how quickly this could be taken away, we were simultaneously overjoyed and terrified.

At six weeks an ultrasound revealed a beautiful little blob with tiny heart pounding away. At 10 weeks we saw our 1.5 inch baby moving. We saw him/her stretch up a tiny arm and rub an eye. We saw his/her long legs kick. It was absolutely amazing and incredibly humbling.

I have been dreaming of announcing our first pregnancy via blog post for years. Now that I’m here, though, I’m not sure how to proceed. Today we are 13 weeks pregnant and everything looks good. Unfortunately my journey through infertility has taught me that no one is guaranteed a child; just because today’s pregnancy test is positive does not mean you will bring home a baby in nine months.

Infertility has taught me just how hard “another pregnancy announcement” can be when you are struggling yourself. With one in eight couples suffering from infertility and one in four clinically recognized pregnancies ending in miscarriage or stillbirth there is no good way to share this news, no matter how hard you fought for it. To those still in the infertility trenches or mourning a lost child, my heart and prayers are with you. This is a devastating journey that too often is ignored and looked upon lightly.

Infertility has also taught me that at some point you need to embrace the possibilities. I could spend the next 6 months silently quaking, hiding behind baggy clothing and over-sized coats, or I could step up and share our joy regardless of the risk. I could hang my head in infertile shame for “making it to the other side” or I could stand tall and speak out about infertility and what modern science has helped us achieve – the chance at a family.

So it is with great joy and hope for the future that Jay and I make it official blog news that we are expecting a baby in June 2013. I’ll occasionally share updates here and in time I will open up more about our journey through infertility. As I have said before: I am always happy to chat about our journey or your story off-line –


Izy Kitty

Enjoying the warm sun on an afternoon garden stroll.

Twenty years ago my little family of four became a family of five. One summer afternoon Mom loaded Ian and I into the family’s signature blue and tan “house van” and drove us to the Humane Society. Sufficient time had passed since the family cat “Pip” had passed and we were all feeling the familiar need for four furry feet in the house.

Since it was prime siesta time all the kittens were dozing peacefully. All of them except for one – a wiry and rambunctious gray and white kitten with pink ears, pink pads on her feet and the most adorable pink nose that looked an awful lot like an eraser.

This kitten tore around the metal cage, dove into the stinky litter box and did everything in her power to get our attention. She had chosen us.

I think we held several kittens that afternoon but this little gray and white cat with ears much too big for her head was the one. Papers were signed, a check was written and our newest family member was christened “Izy Magargee,” with one ‘z’ because our family likes three letter cat names.

Tiny pink eraser nose.

In the Magargee household all pets are valued members of the family and are treated with love and respect. A holiday never passed where the family cat did not get a tiny stocking filled with fresh toy mice and tasty nibbles.  Just like humans get regular checkups at the doctor, so did our pet. Friends always inquire on the family pet because they know they are just that – family.

Izy was a part of our family for 20 years. She was mom’s best little fuzzy friend who was often found dozing in her lap and “assisting” while she worked on crafts and sewing. She was my dad’s back yard adventuring pal who insisted on daily walks in the garden. She was my brother’s “head bonking buddy” who was so intent on being close to him that she would drape herself over the computer monitor while he played War Craft. She loved to stalk and attack my skinny legs sending me bouncing away.

A “head bonk” given to Dad’s knee.

Izy brimmed with personality and light. She had many facial expressions, a vast vocabulary and body language that always conveyed what she wanted. She was feisty and sassy and never one to be ignored.  Even in her aged years she would demand attention, play, snacks and snuggles and did not like when these demands were not met swiftly.

Izy loved stinky wet food. She had an affinity for Publix deli meet and once hauled off with a bag of it and gorged. She enjoyed my mom’s peppery tomato sauce and licking the final drops of ice cream from our bowls. She was a messy little eater who required trays and paper towels under her food bowls.

For years Izy’s favorite toys were the plastic rings that came on gallon milk jugs. She adored toy furry mice, which she gnawed on with primal glee leaving behind gross piles of wet mangled mouse for naked feet to find at night.

Even at the ripe old age of 20, the shed was still an exciting place to explore.

Izy was always curious, even in her final days. She loved to explore, poke around in bags and sniff new people. Despite her age and arthritis, she would still rocket out of the cat box some days and zoom through the living room with reckless abandon, surprising everyone with her sudden athleticism.

She had a howl that could, and often did, wake the entire house. Later in life her howl changed to an old lady screech that still commanded the same respect and prompt attention. Her purr was warm and rumbling and could easily be started with a simple caress of her cheek.

Last week our family had to say goodbye to sweet Izy Kitty. I am so sad I could not have been there, but am glad that she was with those she loved most – my parents. To the little cat that tortured my legs for years and filled my adolescence with fun and sass: I hope your next life brings endless bags of lunch meat, a plentiful supply of furry mice to gnaw and a garden that is always filled with new adventure. You are greatly missed.

*Photos by my Dad during a summer stroll though the garden in August of this year.



What’s harder on a marriage then finishing a Ph.D. while job hunting and struggling with infertility? Remodeling your kitchen WHILE dealing with all three!

We started this project almost exactly a year ago. Since then we have spent weekends gutting, repairing, rewiring, plumbing, fixing broken floors, tiling, sewing and more trying to take what used to be an out-dated nightmare of a kitchen into something of this decade where we actually enjoy preparing meals. I’m very pleased to report that we are still married after all of this, and have the kitchen of our dreams to boot. We learned a whole lot while doing this project. Let me share some of our major lessons and then we’ll get to the fun before & after shots.

Lesson 1: DON’T remodel your kitchen while you are finishing a Ph.D., job hunting and dealing with infertility!

Lesson 2: Take the time you originally estimated to complete the project and multiply it by 10.

Lesson 3: Factor “burnout” and “I no longer give-a-shit” periods into your time calculation. Multiply those by 3.

Lesson 4: Obsessive women who are overly hormonal thanks to science make for challenging renovation partners.

Lesson 5: Obsessive women CAN repair the heck out of some walls and are CHAMPS at building Ikea cabinets.

Lesson 6: A “quick” plumbing project is never quick.

Lesson 7: There is no such thing as “one trip” to the home repair store.

Lesson 8: Laying tile on a floor with squeak and bounce is not possible. Fixing the floor so it does not have squeak or bounce is a nightmare of epic proportions. Lay wood instead.

Lesson 9: Cats don’t make renovations any easier.

Lesson 10: Cheap ceiling paint is exactly what the name says: cheap. Spend the money on good paint.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. We learned a lot from this project. We know that if the next house needs a new kitchen we will do the remodel before we move in. We also know our marriage is frighteningly strong – renovations are taxing enough. Toss in all our madness and you get a true test. I’m pleased we made it and that we are both still sleeping in the same room (well, except for the night’s I’m too crazy and want the window unit set at 65 degrees… but that is a blog post for another day!)


Old cabinets, gross counter, creepy red floor and crayon-yellow walls = one dated disaster.


The cabinets are all Ikea. We made multiple trips to Cincinnati to collect them in our little Ford Taurus. The sink and counter tops came from Lowe’s. The faucet was on clearance at Home Depot. I made the curtains with outdoor fabric from Hancock’s that was on clearance. That really big plant was a wedding gift from my sweet cousin. It must be the hardiest thing ever because it has survived me for more than two years. It has even produced a baby plant.  Tile flooring is clearance from Home Depot. The tile was so cheap that we built the entire kitchen around it.

The paint color is “Stone Brown” by Benjamin Moore.


The rickety butcher block was a HAIY (Half-Ass It Yourself) project by the previous owners. If you wiggled it while cutting on it the top would collapse. The creepy knife collection is what happens when two grownups marry and combine two cheaply stocked kitchens. The upper glass cabinets were the only redeeming quality in the kitchen. Despite our best efforts, though, they could not be salvaged.


New cabinets with Ikea lighting mounted for illumination. I both store and display our inexpensive Bed Bath & Beyond serving dishes on top. The teal bowl is a $1 find from the thrift store purchased to give the space a pop of color. Due to all the doors leading into the kitchen (3) we had to do a little creative engineering. By using a low profile cabinet here and having the granite cut special we were able to maximize our space and create a “coffee bar.” Small PP Make Muji boxes contain things like tea, bag clips, wine openers, etc. The switches and outlets here still need updated. The new dishwasher is a Bosch we paid $75 for at the thrift store. With a lot of cleaning and a little engineering it now serves us VERY well.


A small, non-energy efficient fridge covered in crap. This side of the kitchen did not have any cabinetry originally. Jay added this huge wire rack. Again you’ll see what happens when two people marry and combine two cheap kitchens – lots of cheap stuff! Last year I spent several months eBay’ing all of this and made enough money to purchase minimal high-quality pieces that should last us for many, many years.


Again we had to use a little creativity with this space. The kitchen is narrow and would have been absolutely claustrophobic had we used full depth cabinets. Instead we opted for low-profile drawers and then open shelving above. This creates a small work-space and maximum storage. A small PP Make box holds our most frequently used items – olive oils, pepper and hot sauce. All the clear storage containers were gifts when we got married and now hold my baking supplies, grains and dried beans. The “spice file” saves space by keeping all our spices tidy and alphabetized. Still waiting on some electrical work over here, too. Oh, and my Vitamix. (LOVE)


The old fridge was old and cramped and sounded like it might launch from the house when it kicked on. It was also covered in crap.


The new fridge is a little larger, silent and energy efficient. A white box on-top holds appliance manuals and warranty information. A two-tiered basket holds produce.


I hated this stove. The oven burned everything. The stove burners were weak. All the utensils hanging on the wall were a mess and the zillion spice jars on the shelf collected a ton of grease.


New cabinets provide utensil storage. An old clear vase has new purpose holding my bamboo and silicone pieces. We purchased the Ikea microwave and mounted it above the stove to save space and double as a vent. I’m so pleased with this Ikea appliance. Next time we’ll skip the fancy Frigidaire brand and go for Ikea. (Buyer beware: We have already had repairs done to the stove and the fridge.) Cat potholders take up a prominent residence on the side of the stove. Two small prints of a rooster and an owl from a gallery in Cincinnati wait to be hung.

We sold the huge pile of cookware and used all the money made to replace it with 3 leCreuset pieces, one non-stick wok and one non-stick egg pan. I love this teal color and look forward to spending the rest of my life making nourishing meals in it.

This wall is right by the door to the basement. It was largely unused so we added an Ikea rail and now hang our lunch boxes in a prominent location, encouraging us to pack lunches! The “Beat It” print is from a seller on Etsy. She customized it so the colors would match our kitchen.


Meat Jello

Beans beans they’re good for the heart,
The more you eat the more you fart,
The more you fart the better you feel,
So eat your beans AT EVERY MEAL!

I remember singing this with my Dad and feeling like SUCH a rebel. Why? Because FART was one of the naughtiest words I knew but if Daddy was singing them with me it was both ok and hilarious.

Nearly 30 years later I still hum this little ditty while cooking beans and it always makes me smile. The difference between then and now, aside from the expansion of my naughty word vocabulary, is that I like beans. Actually, I love beans.

I could fill this entire post about the wonderful world of legumes, their nutritional benefits and the varying flavors between varieties, but I’m pretty sure our small readership would plummet.

Over the years I have become proficient at taking a bag of dry beans and turning it into a dish that even the most diehard carnivore would enjoy. It seemed logical when we started cooking chicken to apply many of the same beany principles.

For example, the broth left after cooking garbanzo beans (or chickpeas if you prefer) is a culinary delicacy. I use this garbanzo bean broth in soups and sauces and even blend it in my hummus as a way to reduce the fat without sacrificing flavor.

When Bird went to whip up a giant Crockpot of chicken stock I figured the end liquid would be similar to that of garbanzo bean broth.

Note: Bird has pointed out that while this is a syllogism, it is not “true.” It is, however, how my thought process went, which is often quite incorrect, therefore it is “true enough” to go on our Adventures of Marriage blog.

Last weekend Bird plopped the chicken carcass in the Crockpot with water, veggie scraps and fresh herbs from the garden and let it do its thing for the day.

The broth hung out in the fridge for several days until we had time to make our first chicken soup. While Bird prepared the butternut squash and onions, I pulled out the big container of broth.

“Um, let me do that…” Bird said.

“I can do it. It’s just broth and cooked chicken. I think I can handle it.”

And then I opened the lid and holy crap, what the hell was this gelatinous muck?

“Something is wrong!” I yelped. “Look at all this disgusting fat! Wait, this is not fat. What on earth is it?”

“RELAX,” Bird said. “It’s just gelatin from the bones. It will liquefy again when we heat it up.”

Cue dry heaves.

“I don’t believe you. Broth does not look like this when cold. BEAN BROTH DOES NOT LOOK LIKE THIS WHEN COLD!”

I grabbed a lone can of chicken broth and I shoved it in his ear and shook.

“See! Liquid! Something is totally wrong. This meat Jello cannot be good for us.”

Bird told me to relax and retreat while he dealt with the  muck broth.


What popped up shocked me. Post after post of people lamenting at how hard it is to get their chicken broth to gel,while others boasted of the perfect recipe to achieve gelatinous broth.

Why on earth would people want this?


I was shocked at what I learned. Basically bone broth is full of really good stuff including:

  • Cartilage which includes glycosaminoglycans, chondroitin sulfate, keratin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. Cartilage may be useful in the treatment of ailments like arthritis, degenerative joint disease, inflammatory bowel disease and lowered immune function.
  • Red bone marrow which is an important source of nutritional and immune support factors. It contains myeloid and lymphoid stem cells.
  • Glycine and proline which are important amino acids important in the manufacturing of glucose, enhancing gastric acid secretion, supporting soft and connective tissue and the production of plasma.
  • Collagen which aides in soft tissue and wound healing, formation and repair of cartilage and bone, healing and coating the mucus membranes of the gastrointestinal tract and facilitating the digestion and assimilation of proteins.
  • A whole bunch of minerals*

This is a lot of stuff that seems important for people with connective tissue disease, digestive problems and joint problems – all things that I deal with. This is also a lot of stuff that I currently take in supplement form and pay a lot of money for.

I think the most amazing thing is that all this goodness comes from the part of the chicken that most modern American families throw away. It took one Crockpot, the carcass of our Good Life Ranch chicken, some veggie scraps and a day of unattended simmering to create this nutritional powerhouse. This is the frugal gal and health nut’s dream all simmered into one pot of gross looking meat Jello.

I rushed back to the chicken to inform Bird of all my new-found knowledge.

“Did you know BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH?” I trumpeted.

“Yeah… chicken broth is really good for you. This is why we are eating it,” Bird said while rolling his eyes.

“Correction – meat Jello. Seriously, you could spread this on toast. I bet that would be super nutritious!” I said.

“That’s disgusting. Don’t do that to toast. The soup’s ready now. Let’s eat.”

I’m pleased to report that I have had three bowls of this soup since we made it on Monday. While it’s not my favorite thing (I’d take lentil soup over chicken soup any day) I very much appreciate the nutritional value and the fact that we have used every scrap of this little chicken up. Tell me, do you make stock with the bones from your meats? If so, do you have any tips or tricks to share with us? 

* All nuritional information in this post came from The Jade Institute.


Bird and Belle’s Gluten-Free Chicken Soup

This is a rough guide to our soup since I did not take any notes while cooking. I sort of feel you can’t mess up soup, even when you use meat Jello as the base!

First: Make your stock following this Crockpot stock recipe. Note: the vinegar is key in this and really helps with drawing the nutrients from the bones.

Second: Chop your veggies. We used the following:

1/2 a large butternut squash peeled, seeded and chopped

1 chopped sweet onion

several cloves of the freshest garlic you can find (Farmers’ Market garlic is the absolute best)

some chopped celery and chopped baby carrots

A couple of cups of garbanzo beans because beans are both musical and good for your heart 😉 AND bump up the protein and healthy carbohydrates in your soup

Season to your liking

Simmer until the veggies are tender

Enjoy and know you are doing something good for both your body and the environment.