Monday, June 11, 2012


Our chickens are over a year old now, but I still worry about them.

It's not the same worries as when they were little chicks. I don't fear for their mobility like I did when their legs weren't working or their hardiness when they were croaking from the cold. I'm also fairly certain none of them are going to undergo any sort of sexual reassignment at this point.

But they still cause me concern. And yeah, at the risk of sounding dramatic, sometimes it has to do with life and death.

This is because we also have a dog.

Notice how Buddy's staring at them
About 4 or 5 months ago we decided to take the leap and let the girls wander around the yard during the day. That's right folks, our chickens became free-range sometime in February. Boy, was it satisfying. The rye grass had gotten nice and tall and thick, and they just pranced around the back making their super contented chicken clucks.

Laugh all you want, but chickens produce a variety of noises, and I have to say that I'm fairly good at interpreting them at this point.

And while I find them very endearing, I'm sad to report that none of them translate to, "I love you, dear owner, and I am grateful for all you do." That's the kind of affection you look for in a dog. Chickens are more like cats, but without the cute purring. "Where's my food, don't get too close to me, I don't really care whether you exist or not," is a better summation of their standoffish attitude.

But no matter. After a few days of letting them roam free all day I grow to really love how they'll come running toward me when I enter the back yard. And they'll follow me back to the coop for a fresh feeding in the evenings, sometimes even squatting down to let me pick them up (which I've mentioned is related to their wanting to mate, but I'll pretend it's affection). I pick them up and pet them, then shut the door and let them slowly and safely amble up to the roost for bedtime.

Well, all that ended the day Buddy decided they looked tasty. Or fun. Or like they had too many feathers.
Our party animal at New Year's, apparently resolving to change his diet for the year
I returned home from an errand late in the morning to find the coop door shut, all 4 chickens inside. Brilliant me, my thought was, "How did the wind shut the door and all the chickens manage to also be inside?" Then I got a good look at Gertie. Dude, she looked rough. She was totally soaked. I've never seen such a wet chicken, not even in a rain storm. They're somehow good at staying relatively dry even in a total deluge.

                                         This is Glennie in a rain storm, not half as bad as Gertie looked that day

So I just...let them out again. And I didn't think anything of it until later in the afternoon when I heard the unmistakable Chicken Distress Squawk through the thin pane of the bathroom window. I looked out and saw Buddy down in the grass, Glennie's fluffy yellow butt pinned between his paws.

That's an unmistakable fluffy butt
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I threw the window open and yelled as much from the house. He looked up at me in a flurry of feathers. I tore through the house, flung myself through the back door and toward the rear of the yard, visions of gory chicken remnants flashing before my eyes.

My killer dog trotted sweetly over to me, buttery golden feathers all over his face like a damn cartoon. He was wagging his tail and seemed super proud of himself. I gathered up my resolve and looked over toward the scene of the crime. Glennie was...standing up. She fluffed herself a few times and then walked away, nonchalantly.

Don't question me on this--chickens can do things nonchalantly.

I got a closer look at her and did not see the grisly punctures and damage I expected.

But I DID see the scene of the day's previous crime. Gertie's feathers had been scattered over about 10 square feet back by the coop. A huge swathe of the lovely rye grass had been rolled out and her little gray feathers lay among it. And later when my neighbor saw me walking Buddy down the block, she ran after me and asked, "Um, Shannon, is it normal for Buddy to, uh, play with the chickens?"

Oh lord. That's why Gertie had looked so wet. She'd been chewed on for awhile.

Apparently neighbor had been in her garden (which backs up to our rear fence) when she heard, "a terrible squawk," (see, I told you that sound was unmistakable) and she looked over the fence to see Buddy "tossing" one of the chickens around in the air.

God bless her, she ran all the way around the block to our back yard, put Buddy on a leash to restrain him, and ushered all the chickens in to their coop...a perfectly safe haven from which I promptly released them later that morning.

Of course it hadn't been wind and chance that had trapped all 4 of them in their coop. It was Buddy and instinct and a thoughtful neighbor.

Ugh, so now the chickens are not so free-range.

That's right, back into the coop you go
Thankfully they're all still alive, but we only let them out when we're home and can listen for them. Which is probably for the best, because they get sneaky when they're out all day and start hiding their eggs.

You heard me right. One day they just found a different spot in the yard and started laying there. It took 2 days of no eggs and plenty of worrying on my part before I told Husband that we ought to start looking around for their stash, because there wasn't any way they could go that long without getting sick from an infected stuck egg.

He found it after a careful walk around the yard's perimeter--it was under some pieces of wood leaning up against the fence. They'd made a new little nest and were laying their eggs there. Sneaky chickens.

And then recently the twins--that's Ruby and Lemon, now indistinguishable from one another--stopped laying, or at least stopped laying as much. There was a brown egg every other day or so, if that, and of course I started to worry again.

Did they have a stash? Where was it? Did they have an infected stuck egg? Was I going to have to get some latex gloves and play chicken butt proctologist?

Thankfully I didn't have to answer that question, (and I'm sure you're glad you didn't have to read about it) because I began to notice their black and brown feathers all over the yard. But not in scary dog crime scene situations--just a few feathers all over the yard.

Ah. Molting. This is what they do when it gets hot, and they don't lay as much when they're doing it.

Fabulous. We've learned so much. Now we can find their stash when they nest all over the yard and we can diagnose different feather-loss situations. Many feathers in a pile of messed-up grass=dog attack. A few feathers all over the place=no eggs right now. And no eggs at all means they're nesting somewhere secret.

Okay. It's not entirely straightforward, this chicken-raising. I mean, we can't even listen for the Chicken Distress Squawk as easily anymore, because Husband himself has been nesting. He's added insulation and double-pane windows to the whole back side of the house. This makes it blessedly cool and silent inside, but also makes it pretty doggone difficult to hear if Budbud's suddenly gotten a case of the munchies.
In nature a nesting husband will insulate his home before the arrival of offspring
So we open a window when we tempt fate in our little ecosystem out back, and it's come in handy, because I've had to rescue Glennie once again from Buddy's deadly jaws. Seriously, I don't understand why they don't stay away from him. He's killed a couple of doves out back in recent months, and he does a good job of doing that business right in front of the four of them.

They just stare at him with that uppity chicken attitude of theirs as he scatters unfortunate dove bits all over the place.

I tell them that they ought to learn from these situations, but they don't seem to pay attention. They're probably plotting where next to hide their eggs. Sneaky chickens.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It Becomes Normal

When husband leaves for work, he calls home to check in on all of us. How's wife, how's Buddy, how are the chickens? It's sweet, and I'm sure most spouses do as such when traveling.

There's a new set of questions now that the chickens are laying. Did you collect eggs? How many today, what color were they?

And then my favorite (careful, not exactly appropriate for young children):

Did you sex 'em up good?

Yes, husband asks me that about the chickens. Because now that they are of laying age, they are also of mating age, and they instinctively crouch down to "accept" a rooster when we come into the coop. Silly me, I had kinda thought that they were just being friendly and suddenly very generously allowing us to pet them, but no. They are just being proper hens looking for their male counterpart.

Glennie, um, offers herself
Brendon takes it upon himself to not only pet them, but to kinda grab them and wiggle them a bit. He thinks that this will trigger something in their chicken psyches equivalent to mating fulfillment and thereby translate to more regular (and perhaps satisfying?) eggs production.

Who am I to argue? Am I any more chicken expert than he? So yes, I do it too. I mean, good heavens, I don't want frustrated chickens! And I was the one who gave away both of their roosters.

Admittedly I never expected to be crouched down in a chicken coop, roughing up a little hen according to my husband's wish that I sex 'em up good. Once again I find that we are making up a very strange set of rules by which we make our lives in this house, in this neighborhood, with these animals.

Does she look irritated to you that I am not Brendon? I don't think I'm imagining this.

So not exactly the idyllic image I had of a little backyard mini country farm. Our hound doesn't herd the chickens but rather tries to eat their eggs (he can tell how much we like them, so he likes them too). Our chickens don't come to us to be petted because they adore us. And we shake their little chicken rumps because we think it will stimulate egg production.

He could at least not drool when he looks into the coop, come on now

Yeah. Disney's not going to adopt this as a script anytime soon.

And the thing is, it doesn't even phase me when he asks. I just reply yes or no, depending on whether any of the hens were feeling, um, frisky enough to let me. Like the rest of the things we've done with the animals and the house, it's been a combination of what we think we should do with them and what actually works in reality.

So. It's normal for us to ask this question. And when I'm actually doing it, I look up at their warming red light in the roost and think, at least that's appropriate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


It's finally happened.

After eight months of feathers and feeding and cleaning, after five months of searching the coop every day, we have been graced with some sort of tangible return.

An egg. A tiny, oval, brown egg.

I was just getting up to walk out of the coop this morning. I usually crouch down with the girls while they eat. Today, as the cold rain fell, I had picked up Lemon to pet her wet feathers. She has been wandering close to me lately, then crouching down like she's asking me to pick her up.

It's kind of a funny pattern: sidle up to me, stand very still, then squat until I pick her up. Not that the rest of the girls don't have their own patterns. Glennie still walks up behind me and pecks at my rear. Gertie still keeps her distance but talks up a storm. And Ruby just follows her twin and kinda does what she does.

Only now, there's a new element to the pattern. Lemon lays eggs.

Why do I think it was Lemon? Well, it was brown, so that means it was one of the twins. And I just think Lemon's putting back into the karma of our relationship. I propped her up and bandaged her legs for two weeks in an attempt to save her little chickie life, and now I'm certain she's giving us eggs and asking to be picked up in order to give us some sort of satisfaction in caring for her.

Or maybe chickens don't get karma and simply make eggs when they're good and ready. Due to, you know, nature and stuff. Less romantic reasoning, but perhaps more likely.

All I know is, I had a crazy dream two nights ago that our coop was teaming with eggs. Eggs AND chickens. In my dream, there were eggs of all colors everywhere and chickens were hatching from them and flying around.

Clearly some kind of omen. Because as I performed my daily peek into their little roosting box, there it was. The red light Brendon installed inside for these cold winter months illuminated it, like some kind of crimson spotlight. But there wasn't any other fanfare. I squealed at the girls, but none of them admitted ownership. Someone had just dropped that sucker and then walked down the gangplank for some breakfast.

I ran out of the coop, not too swiftly in my jammies, rubber boots, and rain jacket, and around to the outside of their roosting box. Brendon had built it especially for this function--so we could access eggs from the outside of the coop. Buddy could sense my excitement and jumped around. Probably because I was looking at him and shouting, "Budbud, we have AN EGG!"

I took it out and rushed it into the kitchen. I don't know why, but I was afraid it might break or just dissolve without my being able to document it. Buddy certainly tried to eat it. He was highly aware that there was something seriously awesome in my hand.

And now here it is. Our first egg. Oh man, I never thought it would be this exciting.

And yes, I know that sounds a little lame, and yes, I'm not ashamed at all. An egg just came out of our little Clark Ranch. This experiment with chicken ownership--heck, with home ownership--is not the utter epic failure I've been fearing. Perhaps we CAN raise critters. Perhaps we CAN make this funky little family and funky little home a functional one. I am renewed in my pioneering spirit! Brendon and I have made our mark upon this little chunk of earth we call ours, and in turn we have...ha ha, in turn we have THIS:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cleanup, Aisle 7

Shopping at Walmart is an experience. Shall we go on to describe that experience? Yes, oh please yes.

I should probably start with calling it normal. Who doesn't shop at Walmart? Even in crazy flaky more-typically-liberal Austin, there are Walmarts, and people shop there.

The Big W managed to open a location in our hippie/yuppie area of Allendale/Crestview, and did so with the grudgingly admirable adaptability and persistence that it's known for: it barely shows from the street, is nestled among many locally-owned storefronts, and has thoughtfully planted trees and paths throughout the parking lot.

So it's a normal experience. I know few people who have never shopped there. I know several who have claimed they never would, only to be ultimately faced with a situation where the convenience of everything in one place or the appeal of extreme cheapness lured them through a blue-aproned greeter's sliding doors.

It was in fact this very combination of reasons that brought me to our neighborhood Wally World this past week. The menu Kelly and I had concocted for the upcoming baby shower called for all sorts of ingredients I wasn't used to buying. Where does one go to buy every form of white spreadable condiment known to man, large food storage containers, cornstarch, etc? That's right: Walmart.

My list was long, and the items slightly foreign to me, at least where purchasing is concerned. Yes, I'm a lazy shopper. Husband is delightfully thorough about grocery shopping when he's home, and I just can't be bothered to go when he's gone. I kid you not--I am happy to eat beans out of cans in his absence. And if I do muster up the strength for a run to HEB, I often return with yet more canned beans, perhaps spiced up with--gasp--canned tuna. Frozen peas if I'm feeling particularly festive, and yes, always baby carrots.

People comment on my food at the office, often in critical tones about how healthy it is. I let them, figuring it is nice to let my shopping apathy translate to setting some sort of good nutritional example. How are they to know that I eat boiled eggs because it's the height of my cooking prowess? Nay, fellow cube-dwellers, I bring these hard-boiled lumps of pre-chicken to combat the daily worship of the office's golden calf, the vending machine. Tempting purveyor of Fritos and scary pre-packaged cinnamon buns; it's unholy how it makes its contents look delicious in the middle of a long workday afternoon.

Anyway, so I went to Walmart because I needed a lot of stuff that I wasn't used to buying. I knew Walmart could deliver, and I was right. Mayo, cream cheese, white bread, sour cream, peanut butter...

Wait a minute. I stood in front of the peanut butter, doing that thing that so often turns me off of shopping: reading the label.

Wait just a dang Walmart minute. I thought they weren't allowed to hydrogenate oils anymore. I picked up another jar and waded into its long list of ingredients. A man strolled by and dropped some Peter Pan into his basket, unruffled by partial hydrogenation and seemingly happier for it.

Why couldn't I be like him? I had accumulated my cart of white strangeness thus far without a glitch. I stared at the Helmann's. Perhaps because I hadn't bothered to read the ingredients of the mayonnaise? I had assumed it was frightening but knew that I needed it, so into the cart it had gone without a label glance at all. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is something very familiar and dear to me, so I had unwittingly turned it around for a quick perusal of its makeup.

Well. With the backdrop of a basket of sliced white bread and sour cream, getting choosy about peanut butter felt silly. I had a full cart of low priced-items, and I was being offered the chance to cross everything off my baby shower list. This is what shopping at the W-M is all about, Shannon. Put your Muffy loafers away and slip on your Crocs, you chose to come here. This is normal; you are not, you lazy label-reading canned-bean-eater.

With a sigh (or maybe a shudder) I dropped the peanut butter into the cart. Onward to the meat!

Ruh roh.

Why did I consume all that silly media? The Omnivore's Dilemma..."Food, Inc"...."Supersize Me"...curses. The shrink-wrapped blobs of chicken and big reminded me of the aerial shots of the huge cow factories in the movies and lines of the book, along with all their gross details.

Again, no one else looked upset. I was so close to crossing everything off the list, too. Ugh. And really, would anyone at the shower even eat a mini-quiche made with duck eggs and humanely euthanized venison? Probably not, Muffy my dear.

A pound of ham was tossed into the basket, and as much of my soul was left in exchange.

Oh, don't be so dramatic. Shopping at Walmart is a normal experience, we have established that. But still, I felt like I needed to page someone to bring a mop and bucket to wipe up the drips of my feelings of ick. Maybe that was the feeling of totally casting Muffy aside and embracing my creamy, gooey, casein-ridden cart. Or maybe the rbst hormone really does require a little bit of your soul.

Whatever the case, I accomplished my goal of buying everything I needed in one place without having to take out a loan, though I think I had to leave a little bit of Shannon (or was it Muffy) behind, and surely someone at Walmart had to mop it up.

Undoubtedly I am the oddball here. I picture myself in a huge kitchen with a crisp linen apron creating gourmet loveliness, but the reality is not so Summer Home in the Hamptons.

It's Shannon microwaving peas and carrots and feeling proud of the addition of dill as she eats standing up in a pair of sweat pants. Other people are out there raising kids by working long hours and grocery shopping and creatively making ends meet. Shopping at Walmart is a normal experience, and you with the beans and the stand-up dinners and the reading of labels are weird. You may think that other people desire the Muffy experience of hormone-free organics the way you do, but in reality everyone is just trying to do the best they can with what they have.

Oops, don't get too serious, Shannon, this is a blog for Pete's sake. Just go back to boiled eggs and calling the can opener a cooking utensil. Brendon will be home soon. I can always go to Central Market and just stand next to the $10 olives for a few minutes to recharge my fancy feelings of Muffydom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bye Bye, Birdie

Peepsie's gone.

Thanks to the amazing powers of Craigslist, we had no trouble finding "her" a new home. Is Craigslist not incredible? A very basic free forum exists, and now seemingly random needs of buyers and sellers can be met in one simple space. I've been floored before at the kinds of things available on this site; now we too have participated in the trade of something strange--a rooster.

It was like I'd put up the Bat Signal or something. Er, Rooster Signal? Within an hour I'd heard from a pecan ranch out in Hutto that had a great need for a crowing rooster. One post to that amazing buy/sell/trade site of endless stuff, and within a day our coop was free of testosterone.

Well, free except for that of the rancher and his eager dog.

Husband is an eager an adept rancher. He boldly works the land and tends to the critters with a fearless confidence that makes his ranchess wife quite pleased on a very deep, biological level.

He smokes green chiles and whole chickens on his grill out back--right by the coop--consequently not only making dinner but also forcing everyone to think really hard about the circle of life.

He runs water spigots to locations convenient to the morning critter/plant-watering routine of the ranchess, cleverly encasing exposed pipes in concrete to prevent freeze damage.

No longer does the ranchess have to drag the single hose all over the yard, and no longer does any hose get entangled in the stumps of the old trees the rancher felled earlier in the year. For the rancher also rented a stump grinder and ground those suckers up.

So yes, even though the coop is free of roosters, there is still testosterone in abundance around here. Power equipment usage, the outdoor cooking of animal flesh, and bonding time between Man and Critter all still occur here at the Clark Ranch.

And unfortunately, I find that my more feminine way of doing things is sometimes at odds with the tendencies of the boys.

Take the chickens. Both Brendon and Buddy like to approach the chickens head-on--kind of get in their little chickie faces. Granted they probably have different motivations for doing this; I know for sure that Brendon performs the chicken dance in order to hold them on a regular basis. He wants them to be tame like the other chickens we've seen around the neighborhood, to be used to being touched and handled.

Run, ladies, RUN!

I'm fairly certain that Buddy just wants to eat them.

Regardless of motive, both boys go after the girls every day, Buddy from the other side of the coop fence and Brendon from within. Both approach with a stealthy creep. And both leap in suddenly, causing birds to squawk, feathers to fly, and a variety of end results. Eventually Brendon ends up holding a bird and poor Buddy just stands opposite the chicken wire, watching the girls eye him with an overt irritation I thought only capable in cats.

This is not my method. While it is rewarding to eventually hold one of the girls, I dislike the chase. It actually hurts my feelings when they glare at me once I get them into my terrible grasp.

So when Hubby leaves to go offshore again, I slowly regain the girls' trust. The first couple of days they are notably suspicious. I enter the coop at least twice a day, and they stay well away.

But I fancy myself a Jane Goodall of this flock, so I just crouch down by the feed and remain still as their hunger eventually overrides their concern over what I might do with my hands.

Primates: perhaps slightly more endearing than fowl?

After a couple of days, we're back to our usual routine--chickens walking around me, under me, next to me. They brush up against me, peck at my freckles and my ring, and stand up really straight to look at me, clucking expressively. Lemon and Ruby resume eating from my hands again, and they tolerate the occasional petting. This is a coop situation I can love.

The thing is, I don't believe I have the heart to dissuade The Rancher from his chicken-chasing practice when he returns to our flock again. While I am skeptical as to its results, it makes him very happy to champion over the girls' amazing escape-artist skills and get to slowly pet the subdued bird. So while I love to hear the sweet sound of their trusting and contented clucking when I approach the coop, Rancher's contented clucking is ultimately a sweeter sound.

Plus I'm not entirely certain of my own skepticism. I'm not sure that chasing down the girls and holding them will ever override the antisocial tendencies of their breed, but then I wasn't exactly sure that Husband's recent endeavor in the kitchen was going to be successful, either.

How wrong I was.

Yes, he did it. That Which Is Most Amazing. That installation that has enabled me to break with a particularly overwhelming habit--the Topo Chico habit.

Thanks to the brilliant discovery by dear Nichole, Husband found the inspiration to install the apparatus that now gives us fizzy water on demand. With just a press of the valve and a good shaking, I suddenly have a liter of beautifully carbonated water. These tiny bubbles rival those of Topo Chico, and I can honestly say that I don't miss all those glass bottles one little bit.

And while I casually suggested to Brendon that he put together this ingenious system, ("This is what you should do if you're looking for a really great birthday present, dear!") I still didn't really believe it would be able to fully replace the perfection that is a Topo Chico. What other water achieves that level of carbonation?

I'll tell you--Clark Water does. He turned the pressure up, experimented for a few days, and then he just had it: perfect water. I was made to believe. I am a convert.

Yet again I am shown that he has a kind of handy prowess that surprises me. So while my method with the chickens is to go quietly out there and squat among them, perhaps I shouldn't question his big burly man ways.

I mean, I've been wrong before.

After all, quite recently I was expecting eggs...from a rooster.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ha. Not a Peep? Not Likely.


Why why why?

Little Peepsie, sweet Peepers, I nursed you back from what seemed like certain death. You grew and overcame and even assumed the role of apparent coop bully.

And then you woke me up this morning with your crowing.

I just don't think I can say anything more about this at the moment. Regress to 8-year-old Shannon: boys are dumb :(

Most Extreme Elimination Challenge

Oh how I enjoy this show. Not that I ever watched it with regularity, but the crazy game setups and silly dubbed commentary really get me giggling. Undoubtedly our TV programs also get folks in other cultures laughing; there is no pretense of pride or superiority when it comes to television programming.

Such extremes...and I come before you to offer my own laughable qualities of hyperbole. I tend to like thing in extremes, too. For example: carbonated water.

The Topo Chico trend in Austin is booming, so in my defense, I'm not the only one who seems to love it from the bottle. Those perfect bubbles, the strange attraction of the ice-cold glass vessel from whence it pours--it's the combination that seems to have me and a lot of the rest of Austin totally hooked. Oh, also the fact that it's just water seems to make it attractive. Yay, it's healthy!

Except for the results. Is this healthy? Really? Yes, we recycle those bottles. But last week I noted that our recycle bin probably exceeded the required 135 lbs weight limit.

And I felt forced to consider that thing, that Unknown Territory in personal improvement: Moderation.

My sweet niece sat at dinner the other night with a cup of chocolate mousse. As the only desert on the table, it was beeping loudly on my "YUMMY!" radar. She happily, slowly ate it, getting some on her face and rarely putting anything more than the tiniest lick in her 6-year-old mouth. Swinging her legs back and forth, she seemed to give that mousse the most cavalier of attitudes: I could take you or leave you, mousse, ha ha! And when she abruptly put her spoon down, barely a quarter of the desert gone, the rest of us Desert Vultures attacked.

She was ready to go back to doodling in her notebook. I was internally screaming for a chilled bite of creamy and crunchy chocolate and heath bar. No way I would have walked from that table with anything left in that cup.

What has become of me? Why do I want to drink 5 Topo Chicos when I get home from work? Why do I want a gallon at Amy's Ice Cream? Why do I choose to run a freakin' marathon when I decide to start running again?
Really? Did we have to order all of that at Junior's? Probably not.

Why always so extreme? Yes, I can go a year without buying new clothes, I can do a spin class, I can quit eating sugar.

But can I finally conquer that most elusive thing--the moderation? Can I really do smaller portions, less cups of coffee, just moderate exercise? Can I walk a little bit every day, can I read a little every day, can I do a few small kindnesses on a regular basis?

It would mean less waste for sure. Those piling bottles of Topo Chico in the recycle bin are just silly. It would probably mean better choices for the environment. Do I really need the water on in the shower when I shave my legs? Ugh. Probably not. And it would definitely mean better health. There's no reason I should get the gigantic ice cream at Amy's. Shorting myself on sleep during the week with the promise of catching up later isn't really a good plan.

Really? Every desert offered at Thanksgiving? Probably not necessary. Save some for the cute nieces.
I'd go so far as to say that this strange impulse--to want the whole bag of chips, to exercise for an hour and a half at a time--is part of my personality. It's a little of what makes Shannon the woman we all know as Shannon. And it probably doesn't have to be.

So for now, I'd like to see if I can identify the moments where I seem to be engaged in blind over-consumption. Um, the recycle bin is a pretty easy one. So is the empty little carton of Ben and Jerry's from last night.

I'm both embarrassed and intrigued. Husband is clearly quite good at it; moderation has helped him lose 30 lbs over 3 years and adjust his spending habits enough to be able to buy a house. What mental somersaults would I have to do to just stick with one beer, to always bring my own shopping bags to the store, to boil one egg and not two?

It's about time. Let's find out.