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VHALKYRIE's Recent Blog Entries

Settling In

Monday, February 25, 2013

As I mentioned in previous blogs, I ate fast food for a couple of weeks while we were preparing to move. My skin, hair and nails seem to be so much healthier since I've gone back to eating my homemade food. Tonight I had a grilled flank steak, rice, and salad for dinner.

I haven't been getting regular workouts. Not on a treadmill or elliptical, anyway. However, carrying boxes down 3 flights of stairs during the move was definitely cardio + strength training. Since we've moved, I've been taking care of most of the household stuff because DH is working so much. Unpacking where I can, and trying to clean up the yard. I raked the backyard yesterday, which seemed to be full of leaves from the fall. Ugh. Did you know that raking the lawn works the triceps muscle? It's true, so says my sore triceps. All this raking may very well help me complete my pull up goal! No, I haven't forgotten about it. Have you?

The neighborhood where we moved has a very nice cycle and walk path, which we haven't had a chance to explore yet. We've been so busy, but the weather has also been crap. When I first started my weight loss journey years ago, I rode my bike for a hour every day after work. I'm so looking forward to resuming that. My bike needs a little tune-up before it's road ready. I need to do that soon because spring is right around the corner. I'd rather be biking on the road then working out in a gym, but gyms do have their advantages - no bugs! I'll have to stock up on bug spray before the summer.

Couple of pictures of life in our new house, coming up.

I am planning on doing a little gardening in a few weeks. Mostly just planter vegetables to start. I'd really like to build a custom raised bed garden, but I've had no time to plan it out. This past weekend I quickly put some flowers in a pot, though, just so the patio doesn't look so empty.



The cats are settling in. They are loving the sunny windows! It's fun to watch them explore the rooms. Even with all the space where they can go, they want to be where ever we are. Especially Shadow, who wants to be inside any box that I happen to be trying to unpack. Maybe I would already be done with unpacking if I wasn't shooing her away every time I open a box!



This afternoon a couple of birds surprised me by taking refuge from the rain under our covered doorway.



Things haven't settled down to the point where things are routine, but they are getting there. I'm looking forward to March, and hope it will be more relaxed than February.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THINRONNA 2/26/2013 2:07PM

    Such cute pictures! Those cats look so cozy! I think it is great that you have a yard to garden in! I miss that. I am hoping that I can find a sunny spot here to do some...I think the weather will be milder here than in Oslo.

I love the pictures!

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CYND59 2/26/2013 8:50AM

    Nice planting pot! Seems like the cats and birds like your new place.
We are a military family so I know all about the ins and outs of moving. It does seem to change things and mess up your routine. Sounds like your new neighborhood will be nice for getting some outdoor exercise.


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BILL60 2/26/2013 8:20AM

    I don't envy your having to empty those boxes. Hang in there. Sounds like you're getting plenty of exercise.

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KAYOTIC 2/25/2013 11:47PM

    What fun! Glad you are settling in, and getting those triceps sore, bonus!

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FITGIRL15 2/25/2013 11:17PM

    Looks like a lovely home! Have fun with the gardening! (I miss that part of having a house! :(

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MYLADY4 2/25/2013 10:22PM

    emoticon emoticon hope you get to grow some real veggies. I am so jealous that you are able to do yard work, we have 2 feet of snow.

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2SNOWCRANES 2/25/2013 9:56PM

  I love the plant pots!!!

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Finally Home

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some people believe in a higher power that influences our lives. Some believe in karma. Some believe in random chance. I'm not sure what I believe some days, but I think things happen they way there are supposed to. I haven't always made the best choices in life, but all the ups and downs fell into place. If my life hadn't fallen apart at one point, I never would have moved to Seattle. If I hadn't moved to Seattle, I wouldn't have met my husband. If he hadn't lost his job, we wouldn't have moved to Savannah. If we didn't move to Savannah, we wouldn't have the house we do now.

How we found the house is even more boggling. When we decided to start house shopping, we drove through neighborhoods to see what was available. In one subdistrict, my husband spotted a house on a hill and said, "If I could choose any on this block, I'd pick that one. But there's no way it will go for sale." We looked at 5 or 6 houses with realtors, then narrowed our choices down to our top two. We were getting ready to make a bid on one, then something inexplicable happened. The house my husband spotted as the one he'd most want went up for sale. To be honest, I wasn't as keen on it as my husband, but we decided to set up an appointment to take a look.

We took a walk inside, and it was 'the one'. It had a lot of the features of other houses we liked, but it was all combined into one. We put a bid on it the same day it first went on sale. I got to learn about offers, counteroffers, loans, appraisers, and all the other fun stuff that goes with buying a house. We eventually came to an agreement on the offer, and we were on our way to home ownership.

We met the owners at the closing, and discovered the strangest twist to this whole saga. My husband is British from a very small town near Birmingham. When people ask where he is from, he usually just says Birmingham because few people would recognize his hometown. When we met the owners, though, the conversation went something like this:

Mr. Owner: "Hi, I'm P."
Husband: "Hello, I'm D." (Hand shaking goes on.)
Mr. Owner: "I detect a bit of an accent there. Are you from the UK?"
Husband: "Yes, I'm originally from Birmingham."
Mr. Owner: "I am from the UK, too, not too far from Birmingham. From Dudley."
Me (extremely surprised and blurt out): "Actually, D is also from Dudley! He just usually says Birmingham because that's most recognizable!"

Everyone in the room had dropped jaws. It was a stunning revelation. It might be a small world, but this was just the weirdest of coincidences. Everything seemed to line up as though we were supposed to have this.

When the cats moved in, the reaction was mixed. The black cat was scared and tried to hide. I think she was afraid that we were going to drop her off and disappear on vacation, like we usually did after a car ride. The fluffy one instantly loved it and purred from room to room. After we started moving stuff in, the black cat seemed to realize, "Oh...we're all staying! Ok, this sunny spot is mine. Purr, purr!" It's been a love affair with the windows ever since.

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We're still getting acquainted with our new home. Today we made our first home improvement, which was replacing incandescent bulbs with high efficiency CFCs and LEDs. The kitchen is my favorite room in the house. As I'm chopping vegetables, I think to myself, "Wow! I can't believe this is my kitchen!"

Some of you asked for photos. Here is one of the realtor's photos:



Hubs and I have both been so busy, we haven't had much time to relax or enjoy it, though. The kitchen and bathroom are the only rooms that are put together - all the others have boxes all over them in various levels of disarray. I don't have my clothes fully put away into drawers. We won't be able to replace furniture for a few months, so we'll continue to eat on our fancy fold up table and patio chairs. I won't be showcased in Martha Stewart Living anytime soon.

We exchanged phone numbers with the previous owners at closing. I hope that we'll meet up with them again - they seemed like nice people, and we had a lot of things in common. I told them they are welcome to come by at any time - they know where we live! I've already met a few of our new neighbors, welcoming us to the neighborhood. For the first time since my husband and I moved here almost 3 years ago, I feel like I'm finally home.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THINRONNA 2/25/2013 9:42AM

    What a terrific story and a fabulous kitchen!!!! Do I see marble counter tops? I am so very happy for you and your husband. I love that your cats are happy too!

I hope you post more pictures as yo uget settled in. I would love to see the outside if you are willing to share!

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SEDGEY 2/24/2013 6:50PM

    LOVE all that counterspace! Congrats again. :)

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CATLADY52 2/24/2013 5:47PM

    emoticon That kitchen looks fantastic. You really got the winner with it.

That the owner was from the same small town as your husband is really a coincidence. Small world. emoticon

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BALLOUZOO 2/24/2013 5:01PM

    Enjoy!

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SKIRNIR 2/24/2013 3:46PM

    Welcome to your new home. I hope it serves you well in the years to go. And try and take that moving in with some peace and calm. It can be a bit crazy. We just bought our condo in December and moved December 28th. Been a crazy few months, but things are quite liveable in our home now and I also love our kitchen. Doesn't look as big as yours appears in the photo, but do like ours.

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MYLADY4 2/24/2013 12:30PM

    Got to love home ownership. It feels like you have roots. Love the kitchen.

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BILL60 2/24/2013 10:37AM

    Very happy for you. Hang tough and go for a bike ride soon.

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WOUBBIE 2/24/2013 10:30AM

    Welcome home! I'm looking forward to hearing about and seeing the great recipes that come out of that kitchen!

I sometimes wonder if I didn't just marry my DH BECAUSE of his house, lol! It's still a rambling wreck, but it gets better every year and we love it here. I have a great karmic story about meeting DH too, I'll have to blog it someday.

Comment edited on: 2/24/2013 10:31:26 AM

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BTVMADS 2/24/2013 10:25AM

    Your cats did basically the same thing that my kitty did when we moved to our house. I'd never realized just how pent-up she was in our apartment until I saw her rolling around in sheer ecstasy in our living room. Are they enjoying all the boxes around the house?

I am so jealous of your kitchen! Not that my kitchen is bad or insufficient... it's just that yours is a space for a serious cook.

We're getting our garden set up, too. We just bought a big load of lumber for a second garden bed, a pea trellis, and a potato box. Are you planning on lots of gardening or are you going to take it easy since you just moved? And fyi... I wouldn't buy a special composter. It's so easy to build a bin out of boards or just stakes and chicken wire. You get a lot more worms and other decomposing critters in your compost that way (and it's cheap).

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VHALKYRIE 2/24/2013 8:12AM

    TRIANGLE-WOMAN: I did start looking at a composter yesterday! It's almost time to start gardening here in the South!

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 2/24/2013 7:56AM

    Lovely blog! Thanks for sharing. Your happiness and contentment shines through.

I moved MANY times in during 20+ years my husband was in the Army and I offered this blessing to each home we lived in. Each has it's share of love and light in my mind's eye!!

God bless the corners of this house,
And bless each door that opens wide
To stranger as to kin,
And bless each crystal window pane
That lets the starlight in,
And bless the rooftree overhead
And every sturdy wall.
The peace of man, the peace of God,
The peace of love on all

p.s. maybe you will have time for that worm bin now!!

Comment edited on: 2/24/2013 7:57:36 AM

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GETSTRONGRRR 2/24/2013 7:48AM

    Very nice...and congrats again on finding the place just right for you and DH.

There's no place like home!

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KICK-SS 2/24/2013 1:22AM

    I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason.

"Someday everything will make perfect sense.
So, for now, laugh at the confusion,
smile through the tears
and keep reminding yourself that
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON".

(got that off the internet, but certainly is fitting). I have it framed in a little frame here on my desk. It's amazing where our lives take us through the years.

Your story certainly showed that things happen for a reason, didn't it? And I love your kitchen in your new house too...

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A Well Stocked Kitchen is Key to My Weight Maintenance

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This move has been a good illustration of how dependent my weight loss maintenance is on a well organized and stocked kitchen. Before we moved, I cooked down 90% of our fridge/freezer and pantry so we would have less to carry. Kitchen cookware was packed away. Without cookware and a supply of food, I relied more heavily on fast food.

I knew going into it this it would be a short term thing, but I didn't like it. Some people use cheat days to eat fast food or junk food, but I don't. I maybe have a Chick-fil-A a couple of times a month, mostly because I like their Diet Lemonade. I honestly like my lifestyle of fresh produce and meats. Several burgers that were overcooked or sat too long under the heater at the franchises reminded me of how much I prefer my own food. Fortunately, I didn't suffer any bouts of food poisoning this time. Eating weeks of fast food bloated me with water retention because of the extraordinary amount of sodium in processed foods and soda.

I finished organizing my new kitchen yesterday. Pots, pans, plates, glasses, knives, and food were all put away into their new homes. Fridge and pantry haven't been fully restocked with my staples, but I put a few things in to make meals. Last night I baked my signature pastry-less breakfast quiche, which I enjoyed this morning. I made a quick cooking beef and broccoli stir fry for dinner. I packed my lunch for today, which consisted of a roast beef sandwich, soup in a thermos, string cheese, and fruit salad. My fruit salad was fresh grapefruit, pears, and apples.

As I sat on a campus bench eating my lunch, I reflected on how much I prefer having time to eat a home prepared meal in the sunshine over the hurried driving with burger wrappers strewn on the passenger seat.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CYND59 2/22/2013 11:28AM

    WOW! Sounds like you are a very organized person. I prefer foods that I have cooked also because I know what is in it. We use to eat out a few times a week but we have cut that back.


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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 2/21/2013 3:15PM

    Congrats on the new home Glad to hear things are settling down.

It has been years since I went thru a drive through or into a fast food restaurant.

Funny, I don't consider Subway fast food for some reason...but I do frequent them sometimes and my kids love them when we travel.

.*) ✫ .*)
(. . .`.✫
.*) ✫ .*)✫ Spread the Spark
(. . (..`.✫



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BILL60 2/21/2013 8:00AM

    Happy that you're able to better manage your nutrition.

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DESERTJULZ 2/20/2013 10:23PM

    Properly prepared food is such a key to health! Nothing is better than whole foods, made from scratch.

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GETSTRONGRRR 2/20/2013 9:00PM

    Hooray for brown bag lunches!

I'm real happy with my new routine of taking 2 salads to work. spinach, romaine, some ginger dressing (Makoto brand if you can find it!) some olive oil and 2-3 nice big fat gulf shrimp! Here's to coastal living!

Congrats again on the house and some new found stability!

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GIRANIMAL 2/20/2013 2:48PM

    Agreed! I was so surprised when I reached the point that fast food no longer tasted good. emoticon

I try to cook most of the time, but I am so lucky to have two go-to local restaurants for such "emergencies" that are of great quality. One is a Mediterranean place that makes the most amazing braised lamb and grilled veggies. More fat than there needs to be on the veggies, and the amount of basmati rice you get should be bankrupting the place emoticon but I'll take that over dressed-up cardboard any day! And I even verified personally with the owner that his wonderful falafel are not stretched with wheat flour, which is super important to me since I am gluten free. So awesome!

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ALLIEALLIE2 2/20/2013 12:40PM

    emoticon

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ARCHIMEDESII 2/20/2013 12:38PM

    Unless I'm eating at a fancy restaurant, I've found that fast food isn't that tasty. I used to be a big fan of KFC, but not anymore. it just doesn't taste the same since I've been doing more cooking of my own.

Once in a while, I like the Dunkin Donuts breakfast wrap. That's a flour tortilla with a small egg/cheese filling. it's less than 300 calories. From a nutritional standpoint, I consider it mostly harmless even though it's highly processed. Which is the problem with fast food these days, it's too processed.

I agree, real food tastes better unless it's served by a waiter wearing a tux. LOL !!!

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MIPALADY23 2/20/2013 12:22PM

    Exactly!!!! So much better! Enjoy!

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We Bought a House!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sorry I have been gone for so long, but the husband and I have bought a new house! Well, it's not "new" new, but it's new to us! I've been so busy juggling school and closing on the house that I haven't had much leisure time to write.

To be totally honest, I've been eating like crap for the past month. To save us time and money with the move, I cooked down almost all of our freezer and refrigerator, which was good. It was fun and interesting to come up with meals with only the things I had on hand - it was like a real life version of "Chopped". But the bad and ugly are my lunches have been mostly food on the go, which meant fast food. Darn it if those hamburger wrappers aren't designed for eating and driving. I hate being so busy that I've had to do this, and I'm really looking forward to things slowing down soon. Which won't be until March because we still have to clean our old apartment, unpack boxes in the new house, and I have end of the month exams.

Fortunately, it seems that my weight hasn't changed much. I'm only guessing because my clothes still fit. I haven't stepped on a scale since earlier in the month. But I really have to get off this fast food rush soon, or I know there will be consequences. There always are.

Despite the craziness with organizing the house closing and the move, I've managed to keep my grades up. I'm really glad that I took a light load this semester. We didn't anticipate buying a house, though we've been looking for a while. The right house popped up at the right price, and we jumped on it! I would have had a really tough time managing my school work plus all the details with the house if I had taken on more. I've taken advantage of opportunities to get work done ahead of time.

After next week, things should start settling down. Spring break will be coming soon, which will give me time to start work on my home gardening. I should also have my kitchen in order to cook healthy meals, instead of burgers in wax paper.

The owners did an almost complete remodel on the house, so there's very little left for us to do. We just had to buy a refrigerator. You all know that I love to cook, and I'm so excited about the new kitchen. It's got granite counter tops, built in stove, and stacking oven and microwave - I almost feel like I'm in a cooking show kitchen! There are a few spacial oddities about it that I probably would have done differently if I were designing it, but overall I'm thrilled about it. I can't wait to start cooking! Right now it's got boxes all over it, so we've been eating supermarket chicken.

I don't have internet hooked up at the house yet, so sorry if I don't get a chance to respond back to your messages right away. Hope you all had a great February!

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CYND59 2/23/2013 8:57AM

    Congrats on the new house. Once you get all settled in you can concentrate on eating healthy again.
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JUSTLYN1964 2/20/2013 1:20PM

  Congratulations on your "new" home!!! Exciting times!!!

Comment edited on: 2/20/2013 1:21:14 PM

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VHALKYRIE 2/20/2013 11:57AM

    Thank you all for the well wishes! My husband and I are very happy!

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BILL60 2/19/2013 8:08AM

    Congrats on your new home. Enjoy it!!

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KAYOTIC 2/18/2013 11:39PM

    Congrats! what a wonderful thing!

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CATLADY52 2/18/2013 9:20PM

    emoticon I know that it is a big step for you. Enjoy your time. emoticon

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IJUSTNEED10 2/18/2013 4:12PM

    congratulations on buying a home that is awesome! you'll get your diet back on track once you get settled

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THELILEA 2/18/2013 3:53PM

    Wooo! Congrats!! I think the fact your weight hasn't dramatically suffered despite your stress and the different eating you've been forced into says a lot about how healthy you have become! I can't wait to read about what you come up with once you are all settled into your new dream kitchen. :)

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KICK-SS 2/18/2013 3:41PM

    Congratulations on your new house! Your kitchen sounds wonderful....

Sounds like you've kept it all together during all this process tho, I know from past experiences there's a lot of stress involved..

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BTVMADS 2/18/2013 3:11PM

    Congratulations!! That's so exciting! I can't wait to see pictures of that gorgeous kitchen. I'm already pretty jealous just based on your description.

You know you'll get back on track with the food. You always do, because you're awesome like that.

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Comment edited on: 2/18/2013 3:12:27 PM

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GETSTRONGRRR 2/18/2013 2:41PM

    Very cool.....congrats, that's a huge step in anyone's life!

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WOUBBIE 2/18/2013 1:38PM

    Squeeee!! How exciting! Glad to hear that so many good things are right on track!

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SEDGEY 2/18/2013 1:27PM

    Oh and PICTURES! emoticon

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SEDGEY 2/18/2013 1:27PM

    Wow! How cool is that. :)

Definitely look into an armoire style fridge. I've had mine for years (bought it when they first came out) and it's had a few hiccups (all that stuff has been sorted these days), and there's still rarely a week that goes by when I don't say "I love this fridge!" It's worth it. It can be packed full and you can just rearrange things to fit a turkey. Really!

Congrats on the house although I guess I have to give up my secret fantasy that you'd move back to the PNW. ;)

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MYLADY4 2/18/2013 1:10PM

    emoticon

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ARCHIMEDESII 2/18/2013 1:06PM

    emoticon

How exciting !! Congratulations on owning your first house !! That's wonderful. I'm so thrilled for you.

Don't worry about the hamburger wrappers, I won't tell. ;) once you're settled into your new place, you can start cooking again. no worries about the last month. water under the bridge.

You'll have to take a couple of pictures when you have a chance. sounds fantastic.

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ZIGGY122 2/18/2013 1:00PM

    emoticon emoticon

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GUCCI9300 2/18/2013 12:54PM

    Congrats!!! :)

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Does Chicken Taste Like Chicken?

Friday, February 01, 2013

My husband and I recently got into a disagreement over the price of chicken. Was the $2.29/lb Coleman organic chicken we buy at Costco really better than the $.99/lb conventionally raised chicken? Was there a difference in taste, or were we just buying it for the ethical peace of mind?

My husband said there would be only a minor difference in taste. I asserted that chicken are what they eat, and if they eat better, they should taste better.

Interestingly, around the same time we had this dispute, America's Test Kitchen came out with a list of their favorite roasting chickens. Their recommended was a Bell and Evans air chilled brand. I never heard of this before, but I found it at Whole Foods in Charleston for a whopping $4.49/lb. Yikes!

I bought the cheapest supermarket chicken and the Bell and Evans for my own home taste test. I roasted and prepared them the exact them way, seasoned only with salt, pepper, and butter under the skin. I gave my husband a thigh piece (the most flavorful part) from each chicken and awaited the verdict.

The Bell and Evans chicken tasted like chicken. The $0.99/lb supermarket brand tasted like...well...flavorless chicken.

Reading more in the ATK chicken comparison revealed the reason why. It's not just the feed given to the chicken - which is most certainly a major factor - it also has to do with how the chicken is stored prior to packaging for sale.

The details are straight out of a PETA horror ad. Conventionally raised chicken are thrown into a big holding tank full of water after being de-feathered. This is part of the reason why salmonella contamination is so prevalent in chicken. They are all stewing together in a 'bath'. Being submerged also causes the chicken to become saturated with water, which dilutes the flavor.

Air chilled chicken, on the other hand, are tied and hung individually inside a giant refrigerator. They don't come into contact with each other, and they aren't over-saturated with water. Hence, they retain more chicken flavor.

The Costco Coleman organic chicken we buy isn't air chilled, but it had better flavor than the supermarket chicken. We couldn't tell a big difference between it and the Bell and Evans, so we're sticking with it for our regular shopping. After the taste test, my husband decided the organic chicken was better value after all.

This past holiday season, I found the same to be true with our turkey. My husband and I made an organic turkey for Thanksgiving. It was incredibly flavorful and juicy. The Butterball we had at Christmas tasted mostly of salt and water, and the turkey 'flavor' wasn't as intense.

Experts debate on whether organic is healthier than conventional. They say their nutritional analysis shows no difference. Maybe that is true, but when food tastes better, we are more likely to choose to eat healthy.

As for the ethics, I couldn't hope to broach the topic nearly as well as Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma". Knowing about the mistreatment and poor handling of chickens is enough to think twice about whether we should eat it. However, the reason it is a dilemma is because none of our choices come free. If we eat conventional battery raised chicken, we're supporting poor living conditions of animals. If we become vegetarians and eat large quantities of quinoa, the new 'superfood', we're contributing to rising prices of a staple grain for impoverished Peruvians who can no longer afford it. Organic undoubtedly costs more, is difficult to scale, and is inaccessible for millions of low wage Americans. Pollan also points out that the term organic doesn't necessarily mean natural.

The one thing we all have in common is we must eat. We don't have an option not to. If foods are compared to tasting like chicken, which chicken are we referring to? Water saturated and flavorless? Or real chicken, which many of us seem to have forgotten.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

2SNOWCRANES 2/25/2013 9:59PM

  I buy free range chickens that have been raised without antibiotics. The taste is better but also they are more healthy.

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BILL60 2/2/2013 7:47AM

    Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

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THINRONNA 2/2/2013 4:16AM

    Fantastic blog! To be reminded of all of the choices and brands there are in America is so interesting. Here, not every store even sells fresh meat and off the top of my head I can think of only 2 brands of fresh chicken and one brand is sometimes also sold frozen...same chicken just frozen. The difference in the two chicken brands is huge like you say. The less expensive one is uniform in size, small and has less flavor. The other, a free range chicken is lovely and plump...even different in color and of course more flavorful but yes, WAY more expensive!

We say the same thing over the holidays when it came to turkeys as well...but the price was so high for a "good" turkey was so high (like over 100 dollars UDS) we had to opt for the basic turkey which was about 40 dollars US).

Really great blog...everyone should read it! Thank you!

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KELPIE57 2/2/2013 3:56AM

    Interesting.

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SNOWSNAKE 2/2/2013 12:36AM

    Wow, I have to check into this "air chilled " thing, thank you for the info, I read it outloud to my hubby...and he is thinking we need to not go with the better deal.... facts are empowering! Good Blog! ***SNOW***

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KAYOTIC 2/1/2013 11:02PM

    I love ATK, good stuff there!

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GREENGENES 2/1/2013 9:50PM

    Interesting comparison.

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CATLADY52 2/1/2013 7:39PM

    We had the same dilemma for a while until we found a regioal brand that is "air chilled". Now I buy it if I am going to do anything but crockpot. For crockpot coooking I go with Schwan's unbreaded chicken breast filets.

It works for the two of us. emoticon

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