Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mutt and Jeff Install a Dishwasher

Now this is Mutt's fourth dishwasher installation.  He did the first two totally on his own and the third with my assistance.  For the most part, other than accompanying him to Home Depot for hoses and hose clamps, I handed him screwdrivers and wrenches on demand, much like a scrub nurse for appliances.

This story wasn't funny earlier in the month, but now that the dishwasher is installed and functional and we have both had a couple of good night's sleep it is mildly amusing.  In a year it will be hilarious.

It all started when we bought our new house.  At the inspection we listened as the dishwasher ran, we looked inside to see if there was water, we checked to be sure that the water drained out.  It was after we moved in and put dishes into the racks that we noticed that several (many) of the "retainers" (that is what the little spikes that hold the dishes upright are apparently called) were GONE.  We checked the "new home owners insurance policy" - dishwasher racks were "not covered" and then we checked the manufacturer cost (about $350 not including tax and shipping).  We were bummed.  We decided to 'just live with it'.

As we lived with it more "retainers" were lost to rust.  There were places where the floor of the rack rusted through.  The Bearded One protected us from jagged rusty edges with shrink tube.  We continued to live with it.

Finally last month when yet another retainer bit the dust ("NO, don't pull it out of there, it still kind of works!") I decided that enough was enough and we were going dishwasher shopping.  The Bearded One very astutely suggested that new dishwashers make wonderful Christmas presents and that then we would be all done shopping for each other.

When we got to "major national appliance store" and began looking we were attracted by the "clearance models" which looked just fine and were half price.  We found one with a teeny tiny dent in the top edge that wouldn't even show when it was installed.  It looked fine there on the floor and so we bought it and took it home.

The next night the installation began.  The old unit came out easily enough and we leveled and adjusted the new unit and slid it into the cabinet.  I just looked crooked.  After much time adjusting legs and realigning  and removing and replacing and realigning yet again, it became apparent that the "little dent" in the dishwasher had actually been a possible forklift accident in the warehouse.  The entire unit had a bent frame that wasn't apparent until installation.

Back to "major national appliance store" we went and were very, very pleased with the service that we received.   The salesman who had sold us the clearance unit was quite upset that it had been placed for sale as "slightly damaged but workable" when it was actually unusable.  We could get a refund if we returned the dishwasher - except by now the old dishwasher was long gone.

We purchased a new dishwasher of the same model and color of the half price clearance unit and were given a discount to make up for our trouble which was very nice of them.

But now we have spent twice the money that we had intended.  And The Bearded One (I mean Mutt) has spent a total of three evenings "installing" a dishwasher.  The total number of installations for the defective unit (counting each time it was removed and replaced in the cabinet) is now up to a grand total of 6.

On the other hand, the new dishwasher is super quiet, does a great job on the dishes, and doesn't have any missing "retainers".

And now Mutt has completed his eleventh dishwasher installation.  It could be a second career when he retires so he won't have to be a "national big box store" greeter!

About That "Cell Phone Insurance"

Ms. Flippers loses cell phones.  She forgets to charge them regularly (ie each night), she sets them down somewhere, they lose charge and now they are "lost".  The are always found again at some point at which time MY cell phone gets upgraded.  The last time when her "lost" cell phone was replaced, The Bearded One bought cell phone insurance.  The policy that is supposed to replace your cell phone if it is lost or damaged in any way.  Well, of course it happened again.

Ms Flippers had to pay the $50 deductible herself which she did, spending 5 hours in the weekend heat trimming shrubbery.  But it wasn't just shrubbery that had to be quickly shortened.  It had to be shaped also.  She earned every penny of that deductible and so she and The Bearded One exercised the policy and ordered a replacement phone.

What arrived was not exactly what "we" expected.  It was a reconditioned phone.  And the back of the phone would not stay on.  Which caused the battery to fall out.  Stubble resourcefully taped the back of the cell phone in place with gaffer tape.  A new back to the phone was ordered.  And when it FINALLY arrived - we had been charged $4.00 for a back of a cell phone that actually stayed on the phone.

Buyer Beware!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting It Right (in spite of ourselves)

It came as a real surprise to me last night at dinner when Stubble announced, "I don't know anybody out there with 'good parents'.  At least not two good parents."

Ms. Flippers agreed and they proceded to run down a list of their friend's and aquaintance's parents:
  • A_____ his Mom is great, but his Dad?  Ick!
  • B_____ both his Mom and his Dad are awful.  That's why he lives with  his grandma.
  • C_____ Dad is such a loser.
  • D______ Dad is such a loser.
  • E______ Dad is such a loser.
The list went on and on for what seemed like forever.  Moms basically OK, Dads not so much.

I was stunned.  I know some of these people.  Of course, I've never stayed over night with any of them, or gone on camping trips with them, but I have worked with them at school functions, chatted while dropping off or picking up a much younger Stubble...

They all seemed like such normal, involved, invested parents...except for the one or two who were just plain absent.

I know that the young have a reputation for making harsh judgements, but they can't be ALL wrong.  There must be a lot of young people out there who are becoming upstanding, contributing members of society without the benefit of "two good parents".

What I hope for those young people is that they become the parents that they wish they'd had.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


just once.  Just once!  I would like to sit through a training session that doesn't involve somebody's administrative assistant reading the PowerPoint slides aloud to the room.  While trainees look on with photocopies.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chemical Warfare

No, not in a middle eastern hot zone - right in my side yard where nasty, awful, don't deserve to live beetles have killed one of my Agave.  For those of you who don't live in the southwest - an Agave looks like an overgrown Aloe vera - but meaner.

They are beautiful and as hardy as all get out - except when it comes to their one natural pest "the snout nosed beetle".  This little black hellion, seeks out agave and lays it's eggs deep in the leaves of the plant.

When the beetle and its larvae finish with your beautiful plant it looks like this:

And you can't save it because by the time you know anything is wrong - the roots are completely eaten...
The best you can do is to protect your other agave.

The above are all photos that I have found on other websites as I began my search for:
a)  What Happened?
b)  What caused it
c) What do I do about it?

The answer is pesticide.  One to kill the adult beetle, the other to kill the larvae.  Treatment must be ongoing as once the soil is infested things are hard to clear up.

I am so looking forward to this battle.

little of this...little of that


You know you're getting old when...
You start using those little pill sorters that your grandma used to have...

It didn't really start with us - it started with Ms. Flippers.  When they were trying to get rid of her chronic migraines they tried several different medications - to help her remember whether or not she had taken them on any given day we got a one week pill sorter.

EZY Dose Jumbo Weekly Pill Reminder
Just like Grandma used to have
 What finally worked was the headache diet and we were left with one unused pill sorter.

Since we never let anything go to waste in our family, The Bearded One began using it for the handfull of pills that he takes each morning.  To be sure, his pills started out as blood pressure and cholesterol meds but after dietary changes and exercise, he is now under doctors orders to cut one in half and discontinue the other and the pill taking has morphed into an handfull of vitamins and such that his physician recommends.

So The Bearded One saw a really cute multicolored stacking number at CVS and bought one - because it looked "neat". It worked so well that now we have two of them so that he can take them on his travels.
Stackable 7 Day Pill Organizers - Items 368-small, 369-medium, 370-large
NOT like Grandma's - and really cute!

He found it so helpful in the morning to just open a container and not have to open multiple bottles that I tried it also...guess what?  It is a real time saver.

These containers are so NOT elderly.  They are handy and stylish and don't really look like your health and mental faculties are fading.  They make them now for busy people who are in a hurry every morning.  For people who are into vitamin supplements. 

This is a grab-n-go

Multi-Day VitaCarry 8 Compartment Pill Box Holds Up To 60 Pills (Assorted color)
This is a Vita-Carry

Pill sorters.  They're not just for Grandma anymore!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pond -2- Go, Part 2

So I'm sure that there are many of you who wonder why, when I needed an instant pond, I didn't just use my assorted bricks and blocks and the pond liner that is in my garden shed already.

Well, I have an answer for that.  Several, actually:
  • The blocks and bricks are all mis-matched and the result would have been even more of an eyesore than the current rigid pond liner
  • I would have had to move all of the blocks myself (the bricks, I could handle)
  • There are a few small pieces of the liner missing.  I used them to line my mini-water gardens.
  • I didn't think about it until after I had purchased the rigid liner.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pond -2- Go

Our old house had a pond.  Our new house does not (yet).  I have a "goldfish emergency".

From time to time I  have custody of largeish numbers of feeder goldfish.  Now if I were a great disciple of "The Circle of Life" when I was done with the fish I would feed them to something. But I am not.  Once they have survived the feeder tank at the store I owe it to them to find them "forever homes".  I really can't just go to our renters and say, "By the way, could I please dump these fish into my (I mean YOUR) pond?  It will only take a few minutes."  I don't currently have any students willing to adopt the fish - one of my former students had a (large natural) pond at his Dad's house.  It could absorb any number of fish and did for over 3 years.  But he has moved on to other schools and greener pastures.

And now I am pondless.  Or at least I was until yesterday when I got the word that there were no potential adoptive families for about 20 goldfish.

I lept into action.  The fish MUST have a home.  I went to Home Depot and bought a pre-formed plastic pond. It is now on my patio, its plant shelves supported by cinderblocks and assorted bricks.

I dismantled my small water gardens with their tiny 60 GPH fountain pumps, moving the water lilies and marsh plants into the new "pond" and putting the way-too-small  fountain pumps into the 95 gallon mini-pond.  The Bearded One arrived home and immediately said, "What have we here?  And where is the aeration?"

 I told him that "it was a pond"  (actually, with apologies to humorist Dave  Barry, "our emergency back up pond, Zippy") and that there were 2 tiny pumps.  He sniffed and proved exactly why it is that our garage is filled with shelving lined with labelled plastic tubs.  You never know when the contents of one of the tubs will come in handy.  The Bearded One quickly emerged from said garage with one much larger 250 GPH fountain pump, along with its extensions and its nozzles, and proceeded to fix the problem- and quite attractively too.

In three more days, I should have the water conditioned and adjusted (pH, pond salt, etc.) and the fish can "come home to Momma".

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nook Tablet Charging Cord

To those of you considering a Nook Tablet purchase for yourself or a loved one:
Research the Charging Cord...

We bought a Nook Tablet for Ms. Flippers last weekend.  Yesterday, the charging cable failed.  She didn't stretch it to it's full length, twist or mangle it,or  misuse it in any way - it just failed.

To be absolutely frank, the Barnes and Noble store where we purchased the Nook Tablet was great about replacing the defective cable immediately.  They had one available and I showed them the damaged cable and the receipt and there was no problem with the exchange.

Before we bought, we researched the screen, casing, battery life, etc.  But who knew that we should have researched the USB charging cable?  It i, apparently, the weak link in the system and, as it turns out is NOT a standard USB/mini cable.  It is a SPECIAL cable specifically for the Nook Tablet and Nook Color and is PROPRIETARY. You cannot just go to your local electronics store to replace it.

Lesson Learned.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Luddite vs. well, The World

You know you're getting old when you can fill in the blanks in this sentence:
"It used to be that you could buy a __________(insert name of item here) for _______ (insert dollar amount) dollars."

Last night I got a catalog.  It seemed in answer to a prayer.  LAND'S END!  They'll have a handbag/satchel!  Their products provide quality at a reasonable price!

And I found the perfect one:  a Land's End shopper's tote that doubles as a handbag.  Congac leather, cotton linen lining.  Handy pockets for your "things".  Magnetic clasp.
Cost:  $198 plus shipping.

As I said to The Bearded One, "At least I don't have to pay a monthly fee to use it."

The search continues.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


So my "satchel" finally died.  My desk chair rolled over its leather sides one too many times, its lining was shredded so that change, credit cards and car keys found their way between the lining and the leather.  It was time to replace it.

Now given that I am a luddite (I still have a flip phone that only calls and texts) I was surprised to find that I have a real taste for Expensive Leather Bags.....None of which cost under $150 even when discounted.  That gives you a clue as to how old the previous satchel was - I bought it at JC Penney for $80.

I fell in love with as Fossil Explorer Tote ($248 - Macy's).  Very few bags suit my criteria:  large, not too fussy, not too youngish, not too oldish.  I had seen this one and was immediately captivated.  Then The Bearded One and I looked at the price tag.  After several minutes to recover we began babbling: "Two Hundred and Forty Eight Dollars!  For a Purse!"  I completely realize that for those who appear on the pages of US magazine, that is mere chicken feed - but to me it is half of a car payment.

After convincing myself that I didn't DESERVE a purse that expensive I began looking around:
JC Penney  :nothing that fit the criteria
Ross:  One Marc Ecko bag that was just a little too young at $150 (MSRP $300)
TJ Maxx:  One Donna Karan(Italian Leather) bag that was soft as a baby's butt, on sale for $200 (MSRP $450) One Ralph Lauren bag that was $250 but had a huge imprinted logo.  Another bag I loved except for the bright red lining and the $800 dollar price tag (who pays that kind of money at TJ Maxx?)

I am currently carrying a 20 year old purse that I rescued from my closet.  It is definately not stylish but it is leather and has an intact lining...

A new "satchel" -
The search continues...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Unsuccessfully Gifting

It is with great excitement that I watch the holiday season approach this year.  And it isn't just me - Ms. Flippers and Stubble and I have already been holding conferences on gifts and how to make sure that the gifts are still needed on Christmas Morning.  The Bearded One is notoriously difficult to buy for because he has the habit of just going and buying whatever he wants whenever he wants it.  This has held true for the entire 36 years of our marriage so it is not unexpected.

I have already issued the "Don't you DARE buy anything for yourself before Christmas" edict - "Even if you THINK you need it RIGHT NOW".

It will have little effect.

Yesterday I discussed with Stubble that my idea this year, rather than stressing over the situation, is to on December 24th  take whatever he has bought for himself between the present time and Christmas, wrap it and put it under the tree.  This goes for new socks and underwear as well as the new pair of boat shoes that we know he needs, the cell phone that he would like to update, and the new attachment for the lawn mower that he has been coveting.

This will also apply to books that he purchases (although how we are going to get the e-books off of his cell phone to wrap them eludes me) and music he has downloaded from Rhapsody (that is easier, we just burn his new music folder onto a CD).

Santa works hard each year to make sure that The Bearded One has at least ONE Christmas surprise.  Sometimes the only surprise is the color of the new toothbrush in his stocking.

The Nip Zip (How to make a Catnip Pencil Holder)

In an earlier post, I mentioned a 'catnip pencil holder'.  Yes we had one.

Now we have two.

Your normal capnip toy is small and hard.  What it lacks in imagination, it more than makes up for in its ability to be overlooked and under utilized.  It slides under couches and low to the floor tables.  It gets hidden in dark corners under the drapes.  All in all it is totally unsatisfactory for anyone, cat or owner.  The former feeling that what is being provided is substandard and the latter refusing to throw good money after bad.

Dogs get to carry around larger toys.  They get squeaky rubber things that rebound nicely when chomped on.  They get stuffed chew toys that have some heft to them and that can be torn apart in a satisfying manner.  Cats, by comparison, are poorly served.  I have always felt that if you give a cat a proper toy, they will play with it rather than just turning up their noses in distain.

Our cats LOVE rolled up plastic bags.  Tightly wound, the bag that serves to bring home the groceries of the ecologically challenged will also make a nice light brushing sound as it moves across a hard floor.  It squishes properly into something that a cat can carry should it choose to do so.  It is such an improvement on a little rubber ball with a bell.

On one of our trips to the local office supply, Ms Flippers found a zippered pencil case in the shape of a plush white sheep.  It was cute.  And we thought that it might make a good cat-sized toy if properly modified.  Inside it we placed one plastic grocery bag as "stuffing".  Then we added 3 large sprigs of (fresh) catnip from our herb garden.  That little white lamb is now brown. Its zipper has been opened to accept fresh catnip on more than one occasion.  It has been rubbed across the carpet by kitty cheeks.  It has been drooled on, slept on, and carried from room to room to hide it from other interested parties.

Which is why we now have a second catnip pencil case - this one a brown bear.

Eyeing little girls with Bad Intent...

I have come to wonder why we did not name our cat Rufus, "Aqualung"...(notice:  old Jethro Tull reference)
His sisters, Kimi and Katsu are much put upon.

Kimi, who is actually bigger and heavier than Rufus can hold her own.  He will pounce on her, sinking his teeth into her neck.  She will hiss and turn batting him square in the face with her paw.  He will sit back as she hisses a few warnings, tail twitching; then he will move away lest she do him some real harm.

Poor little Katsu is outweighed by half.  She is a dainty 8 pounder to his hefty 16.  Rufus will stalk her and pounce -also sinking in his teeth, but she doesn't have the heft to evade him.

We know that he just wants to play.

He will sit in front of Katsu, cocking his head in invitation.
He will "browwwwerrrrrrrr" encouragingly.  He will crouch down to her level.  Then, when she is more interested in her catnip pencil holder than she is in him, he will pounce.

This leads to anquished miaowing on her part, a "Rufus, STOP THAT!" from the Bearded One, and a skittering rush up the basement stairs to the kitchen on the part of the miscreant.

Poor misunderstood Rufus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Irrigation/Irritation - it's all the same thing

We have come to realize that the irrigation in our yard and vegetable garden was designed by someone who was very very drunk for a very long time - or else was just goofing on the people who paid him to design and install the system.

We were perplexed when the former owner told us that he really didn't use his fancy-dancy, practically scrambles your morning eggs for you, sprinkler timer.

"Well," said he,  "I water the first three zones using the timer, but for the others I just water by hand."  This for 7 sprinkler zones.

That seemed kind of silly in this dry, "water is to be conserved" part of Southern California.  Nonetheless when The Bearded One programmed the timer as it was meant to be programmed, we discovered that the fruit trees and the succulent garden were on the same zone - one needs water daily, the other needs water pretty much once a week during the dry season unless it is REALLY hot and then it needs water more often, but still not on a daily basis.  WHO DOES THIS?

We have now mapped the sprinkler system.  There seems to be no "plan" involved.  The yard, currently ringed with green and sporting a jaunty burned out patch in the center, is watered daily by "the incorrect sprinkler heads".  We know this because we wound up consulting an expert about "what the heck to do".

As soon as the weather cools, we will be digging up and replacing the majority of the sprinkler heads in the grass, capping a large number of risers (that are needed only because the current pop up heads do not give the proper coverage).  We have begun replacing the drench heads serving the fruit trees because they are watering the tree trunks and LOTS of surrounding dirt while generally missing the drip line of the trees where a deep soak should be the order of the day.

The flower beds, miraculously were properly irrigated, except for the roses which need "regular deep watering - as much as a couple of gallons a day in hot weather.  And don't forget to feed them every 4 to 6 weeks."  For the roses, the soaker hose (1/4 gallon per hour) was replaced by an adjustable (0 - 10 gph) dripper and they are looking much less wilted now.  I should be able to cut back on the dripper setting in another couple of weeks.

Apparently, the citrus trees need as much water as the roses.  Sigh.  And are also as "hungry" as the roses, needing food just as regularly.  "Those little citrus stakes in the stores?  They just don't do it."

I sincerely hope that we get all of this figured out sooner rather than later and do not have to resort to paying our college students to stand around and about the yard holding hoses when they are not in class.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Smell of Disinfectant in the Morning...

Gotta love it.  The smell inside the elevator as the doors closed was overwhelming.  Who does something in elevators that requires the entire thing to be sprayed down?  Ick!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Habit, Creature of

This describes The Bearded One.  His daily routines are the same - whether he begins them on time or 10 minutes late.  Yesterday morning began with, "Wake up - it is 4:20!"  The Bearded One is one of those people who, in general, wakes at the same time each morning without the aid of an alarm clock...
In spite of being 20 minutes late in beginning his day, the routine did not alter:
brush teeth (10 times on each tooth surface)
trim beard
give all 3 cats a "good morning hug"
collect clothes (steam if necessary)
litter box
breakfast (while reading)
collect lunch box and backpack
leave for work at 5 AM

Morning habits?  Me?  Not so much.
I will admit to ALWAYS beginning with a cup of coffee (generally left over from the day before and microwaved).
I make a new pot of coffee, get the newspaper and make The Bearded One's lunch (ALWAYS a tub of fruit, a cup of cottage cheese, two cartons of yogurt (one mango and one strawberry mango), and an apple).  After that, there really is no set routine.  I generally read the paper, exercise, shower and brush, make my own lunch, and make the bed (unless there is a cat sleeping on it).  But the routine varies.  I might intersperse the "usual" with: check email, start a load of wash, fold and put away dry clothes, check and adjust the swimming pool chemistry, or just read a book - whatever.  I leave between 6 AM and 6:15 -ish.

Stubble is just like his Dad.  After rolling out of bed his first stop is the shower.  ALWAYS!  Ms. Flippers is more like me - whatever.  whenever.

I like to think that we balance the yin and the yang in our household.  Our door hinges will never squeak because there is a set time and place for them to be attended to, but things that need doing that are not in the queue will still happen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


One of our family members has developed intractible headaches that arise at the most inopportune times.  The headaches last for hours and recurr again and again over days.

A primary care physician suspected migraine and every available "normal" treatment for migraine was tried with no good result.  A referral to a neurologist was made.

Following tests that showed an electrical abnormality in response to bright light (there goes the career involving microscopy) there were still headaches unaccounted for.

Enter The Headache Diet.  For the next three months the entire family will be joining the sufferer in a diet free of sugar, caffeine, chocolate, processed foods, preserved foods,  and anything and everything in the diet that is wonderful and indulgent.  No Chinese food - NO HOT DOGS!

We will survive this and will count ourselves lucky if the headaches are gone and no longer interfere with sailing or hiking or life in general.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Missing in Action (not a military reference)

I collect stuffed animals.  Always have.  Mostly they are just for display (I rotate them so that they do not overwhelm our surroundings).  They tend to be "unique" - who else has a stuffed meerkat on their night stand and a stuffed hedgehog on their book case?

As I have aged and hot flashes and insomnia have become a way of life, snuggling all night with The Bearded One has become a thing of the past and sleeping with "stuffeds" has been revisited - they are comforting and produce no body heat.

Last night one of my "specials" was missing.  Snuffles was not on the bed.  A hunt ensued.  One that was joined by The Bearded One who seemed just as concerned as I was that the precious Snuffles was missing.

Snuffles was the one stuffed animal that Stubble was never going to get his hands on.  He was the "forbidden" stuffed in a sea of, "Mommy can I sleep with X tonight?"  Then came the chicken pox and at age 3 Stubble said, "Mommy, I think I could remember not to scratch if I could just hold Snuffles."  I was a goner.  And so was Snuffles.

Many years later, Snuffles came back to me with matted fur that was permanently discolored and a nose rubbed clean of velvet.  Snuffles now lives in a place of honor on MY bed.

The missing member of the family was finally found wrapped in the changed out sheets on top of the dryer.

Ahhhhhhhhh!  All is well!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Picky McPickerson

The Fall school term begins in one week and my minions are back.  Once again I am asking them to go above and beyond - to actually work.

They are really good workers - they get to do things like clean aquariums and wash glassware and top off stain bottles.  They sort slides and clean the oil off of them. They clean microscopes and flush eyewashes.  They cart heavy bags of sand and soil to the second floor greenhouse when the elevators are being worked on.  They restock supply drawers, make media for the Micro labs and then get to wash more glassware.  They organize the (hot and muggy) greenhouse and work on its (recalcitrant) irrigation system...

Without them I would be dead in the water.

All I ask is that they get ALL of the algae out of the aquariums - that they autoclave the aquarium gravel before reassembling said aquariums - and that they do the jobs completely and SAFELY.

If they want to be Whiny McWhinersons while doing so - OK by me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Larry, Moe, and Curly Prune a Cactus

What kind of cactus?  I don't know.  The kind that is BIG with prickly stuff on it - but not too spiky or I wouldn't have dared.

On Saturday Stubble, one of his friends, and I took on a HUGE cactus.  Well, huge for us.  Judging by the 6 foot tall stockade fence on top of a 2 foot high retaining wall that it was leaning against, the cactus was at least 9 feet high.    And just guessing by the sound of gushing water that came from underneath it every time the sprinklers were turned on, it had grown through something important.

Earlier in the week I had watched a video on an Arizona landscaper's website that described how to cut back a large cactus.  The process involves a pruning saw, a large piece of carpet, leather gloves, and patience.

The Bearded One (always ready to improve on procedures) suggested that our sawsall might be of use (there goes the patience part).  As it turns out, what the sawsall does is to turn the cactus to mush while making no appreciable progress at severing the desired section.  Sadly, the boys put away the power tool and the "Diablo" blades - chosen for their name rather than their usefulness...  The non- corded, non-battery powered pruning saw cut through the cactus in no time flat.

Comedy ensued as the three of us tried to use the pruning saw, control the portion of the cactus being cut, and keep everyone safe from the visciously toothed (and hugely overgrown) Aloe adjacent to the cactus.  All while balancing on the retaining wall.

Surprisingly nobody fell of the wall or had cactus land on their heads, but both Stubble and I were greviously wounded by the Aloe.

In a remarkably short time the desisred portion of the cactus was removed and we started on the irrigation.  I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when we discovered that the damage was to a portion of drip line rather than to a sprinkler riser.  The cactus, not one to give up easily, held onto the drip line as we pulled and hauled at it.  After much sweating and cursing, we abandoned the drip line in place (under the cactus) and ran a new line which works just fine, thank you very much!

Our souveniers from the experience are about 300 pounds of cactus in the composting bin, a horrible sunburn on Stubble's shoulders ( I told him to use sunscreen), and battle scars from the aloe on all parts of our wrists and arms that weren't covered by leather.

I sincerely hope that every plant "downstream" from the cactus will be appropriately grateful for the repair when they are watered each month (during the summer -during the rainy season they are on their own).

For those of you who care about such things, from the internet search that I did after writing the major portion of this - the cactus is of the San Pedro variety - very fast growing and known for it's mescaline content.  (shhhhhhh!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

All Creatures Great and not-so-Great

"The birds are screaming," said Ms. Flippers on Friday morning.

We have a family of house sparrows nesting in a v-shaped support under the deck.  The Bearded One tried to evict them by removing the beginnings of their nest several weeks ago, but they were too fast for him in the end.  He went to work one day and by the time he got home, the nest was completed and they had already begun to live in it.

 It isn't that The Bearded One hates birds, although he would rather that they didn't make a terrible racket outside the bedroom window early in the morning, it is that they use things that he cares about as a bathroom - like his car and the deck furniture and the deck itself.

One thing that Bearded One would dearly love to do is to remove the old (and now useless) TV antenna from the chimney.  The house has been modified for both cable and dish, yet the old antenna is still there providing a handy perch for birds that want to foul the stairs and handrail leading from the patio to the deck.  Last weekend he got out the power washer.  He cleaned the stairs and after much intervention and much grumbling, agreed not to power wash the deck while the birds were in residence - the fact that there were eggs in the nest did a lot to dissuade him.

The nest was occupied, the eggs had hatched, and on Friday morning (following an unexpected summer rain on Thursday night) it was collapsing.  Ms. Flippers, an incipient wildlife biologist, was concerned.  We got gloves and tried to push the nest back together, but it was too far gone.  Deciding that if we did nothing the nestlings would die but if we did SOMETHING there was a chance - we got a 4 cup gladware bowl, slid the remains of the nest (and one of the nestlings) into it, retrieved the second nestling from the bare wood of the deck support and gaffer taped the entire thing in place.  Then we sat back to see whether or not the bird parents (who had been watching the entire enterprise from the back fence) would return.

Yes, with in about 10 minutes they were back and have seemed to be unaffected by the presence of  the plastic bowl.  We still hear cheeping from the nestlings and see them feeding every evening while we watch Jeopardy, so we know that all is well.

All being well - that brings us to the crows (again).  There is a HUGE flock of them in the neighborhood and they LOVE our yard - well, not so much the yard as the power line that runs across the back of the property.  It is the perfect vantage point for them to survey the "done-ness" of the produce.  They started with our peaches.  They have moved on to our tomatoes and our cucumbers.  At this point we are thankful that they seem not to care for the Persian Cucumbers... because that is all that we have left that has not been pecked to inedibility.  We have yet to get an undamaged tomato off of any of the myriad plants that we put in.  They have also started in on the green beans.  We tried the Trail of Tears beans that are green to purplish red with black bean centers.  They are a "dual use" bean - either as snap beans or as dry beans.  Very cool!  Except the dang birds eat the "outside" bean and then spit out the black inside bean, leaving quite a mess in the garden.

The Bearded One has installed an electronic scare crow - the same one that we used last summer as a "scare raccoon" by the pond:

(see this), (and this), and (this)

You just set the frequency differently and aim it at the garden.  Since its installation 4 days ago we have had no crows show up to feast.  Of course, we have had no mature edibles for them to attack either.  Time will tell as far as the crows go, but we do know that Stubble and  The Bearded One can no longer go into the back yard because the high frequency hurts their ears.  The "new" plan (should this prove to work long term) is to hardwire the Yard Sentinnel(s) - I figure I need two more of them - and install an off switch near the back door to allow for man-type back yard work.
Now for the majestic, non-garden eating part of the animal world:

Last weekend it was The Bearded One's birthday.  We celebrated by having good weather and going sailing.  While we were tooling along the coast with me reading a biography of Jimmy Stewart, Stubble handling the jib sheets, and Ms. Flippers fishing off the stern; the Bearded One suddenly ordered,

"Reel it in!  There are dolphins!"
And there certainly were dolphins.  Usually if we see them at all it is one or two playing in the breakers outside the harbor.  This time is was a pod (if that is the correct term) heading north along the same course we were following.  There were probably 20 of them - racing each other and dancing in the sunshine.  They were beside us for quite awhile and it was pretty spectacular.  I much prefer them to crows.

And the really whippy part of this display of nature is that the night before, Ms. Flippers had given him a dolphin sculpture as a birthday gift.

Happy Birthday Bearded One.  Isn't it nice that I was able to arrange for live dolphins at the last minute?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A savage horde of Crows

They are in the neighborhood.  They love sweet things.  Juicy things.  Soft things.

Like peaches.

Except for the first two pickings (My husband got about a dozen and I got about a dozen.  Ms. Flippers got 2 and Stubble got none) - the CROWS got ALL OF THEM.

Dang black winged vermin!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

And How Does Your Garden Grow?

So this was supposed to publish on June 14th...guess what didn't happen?

Very well, thank you.  The silver bells and cockleshells are doing just fine and the pretty maid (Ms. Flippers) just hand pollinated the corn last night.

I have learned lots and lots about vegetable gardening lately, my previous attempts at raising veggies being the type that occurr in pots on decks and patios.  Some of those were wildly successful, some not so much - like when a local wild animal got onto the deck and overturned pots of herbs (turned out all he really wanted was the cat nip)...or when I tried the much advertised Topsy-Turvy...

What I have learned, in general, is that it is all just one grand experiment.  I have been reading mini-farming books and following several Extension Services (did you know that there is one land grant college in each state that is required to maintain an Extension Service and that this is all part of the USDA's education program?).  Here is a summary of the knowledge that I have gleaned:

  1. Don't start out big.  That way lies disaster and/or insanity.  We currently have about 5 rows of our total garden space under cultivation.
  2. Every individual environment is different from the acidity of the soil to the clay content to its water retention properties.  This means that any given set of "soil additives" are not universal and although you can get information on what is known about "your general area" it won't apply to your own backyard.  You need to TEST and EXPERIMENT and PRAY.  I will be contacting my local extension service office (only about 5 miles away) to learn all about soil testing.
  3. A cucumber is not a cucumber is not a cucumber:  As you can tell from the dizzying array of choices at Home Depot, there are many species of tomato from which you can choose.  Guess What?  Not all of them will do equally well in every yard.  My reading instructed me to choose several varieties of each thing that I wanted to raise and plant them all to see which ones did best in my soil and which one(s) my family liked.  With luck they will like at least one variety of each thing that grows.
  4. In my area I should be able to garden year round.  We don't get hard frosts.  Or maybe only one a year.  On the plus side this means that I can use the garden space year round to raise broccoli.  On the negative side it means that I can't grow my favorite apples that require over 100 days of freezing temperatures to blossom and produce fruit.
  5. Just because you can grow from heirloom seeds and save them and replant next year doesn't mean that they will be disease reisitant. Oh NO. Some of them will be very tasty but extremely delicate...
  6. Tell your husband NOT TO KILL THE LADYBUGS!   Or the spiders.
What we are currently raising is one row of corn (30 seeds all of which germinated).  7 varieties of tomatoes.  Three varieties of green beans.  Cantalope, Watermelon, Broccoli and, get this:  5 varieties of cucumber.

The plan next year, after figuring out what went well and what didn't is to amend the soil as needed and to plant at least half of the available garden - starting in September with the cool weather root vegetables... in the spring around March/April we will start the melons and such...

Here's to my Mom, daughter of the soil (well, a dairy farmer), who always had fresh green beans in her garden - and tomatoes that we could just pick and eat whenever we felt like it.  Here's to Mom, from whom I inherited my love of dirty fingernails and my inability to keep garden gloves on when I'm weeding.  Here's to my Mom who would be as excited over my drip irrigation system as I am.

As the Bearded One said last weekend when we were changing out irrigation heads and replacing drip tubing and I was as filthy and muddy as  a kid in a puddle and had a grin to match, "You really love this, don't you?"


Friday, June 8, 2012

Forgotten Treasures

Apparently, I have been writing (seriously) for a long time.  How  this could have slipped my mind is beyond me.  I knew that there were many things out there that I had started but never finished.  As far as I know, the only things that I have finished literary wise are three song lyrics (only one with an accompanying melody) and two NaNoWriMo challenges.

As I dug through boxes that my Mom had sent from back East to California long, long ago I found  notebooks and folders and little pieces of paperclipped paper.  Most had in them at least the rough draft of a first chapter.  Some had only a first paragraph or a first sentence.  One had only a name on a piece of scrap paper - but what a name:  It is apparently the only female character in all of the writing that I have done who is not (at least initially) named "Sarah".  What I was going to DO with her I have no idea, but at least she wasn't "Sarah".  My mother's name wasn't Sarah, there really aren't any Sarah's in my family; maybe like Elwood P. Dowd, I always had such hopes for the name.

I consider these finds to be treasure of a sort. I surprise myself by how much I like what I have written.  I wind up thinking: "Well, that was certainly written by a 24 year old, but it is a fun story."  Or "What great characters! Instead of just following them through this little crisis in life, how much fun would it be to visit them 30 years later?"  Or "Oh crap! I've started this same story three different times in slightly different ways - maybe that means that I'm supposed to actually finish it!"

I am currently in the process of moving all of my writing from scraps of paper to a USB device so that all of the dusty, yellowing sheets of paper don't completely disintegrate on me.  Then I will do what mature adults do:  back it up and put a copy in the fireproof safe.  Because if I can lose all of this for 20 years by stuffing it into an old shoe box and stuffing THAT into the back of a dresser drawer and then "getting on with life", I could certainly lose my stories forever.  Already it has become apparent that using the turquoise felt tip pen to write deathless prose was somewhat less than a success - readability wise.

Do I believe that I will ever finish these stories?  Probably not the science fiction one that involves a version of the moonspinners of Greek legend, but I realize that I turned the main plotlines of it into a short story about my cat and fairies in the garden that was written for my great nephew..."Rufus and the Handmaidens of Time" (one of the finished NaNoWriMo projects).

Probably not the mystery about a library researcher in the days of InfoSearch Services (where college students were sent into the University stacks to copy chapters and articles and such for pay) - we all just google it now and nobody could relate to poor "Cassie" (original character name, "Sarah") these days.

But now I have hard evidence that all of my free time in earlier days was NOT spent shopping, watching TV or playing "Pong"...

so there, Stubble!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Precious Things

We first knew something was wrong when we opened her top dresser drawer and found it full of newspaper bags.  All carefully folded into 1" squares and neatly stacked.

My Mother in Law was a hoarder before there was a reality TV show for it.  The Bearded One thought nothing of it for a long time because he had always lived that way - with a Mom who paid the bills and then put them aside for further action (in their original envelopes with check numbers and notes written on them).

When I first knew him and went to visit his family, the house was cluttered but as I knew that my Mom was not normal (in a cleaning sense) I didn't think anything of it either.  After all, a cousin trying to comfort me over the state of my apartment had said, "You know that you shouldn't feel bad - you lived with someone that it is impossible to live up to." And I eventually came to accept the fact that not everybody lived in a home that looked like you had a live in maid and ate every night like you had a cook on staff...My Mother:  The original "Wonder Woman"!

When we visited  my MIL after having a child we noticed that the "stuff" had multiplied.  Every surface was piled with papers.  There were stacks of things in corners.  There were stacks of things under chairs.  There was a path from the living room to the kitchen.  A path from the bedroom to the bathroom.
I joke a lot about hoarding with respect to my family's life and we DO keep a lot of "stuff" but my late mother-in-law was a full on worthy-of-intervention-hoarder.  She has been gone for a number of years now, and at the time she passed, we didn't have a clinical term for what she did to her surroundings and her belongings.  As The Bearded One cleaned up her effects he found:
  • An entire bedroom closet full of paper towel and toilet paper
  • 12 medium sized moving boxes of unworn clothing - still with tags and/or in original wrappers
  • Paper bags full of chipped dishes (formerly good china) and mismatched silverware
  • BOXES full of financial records - back to the 1950's
  • Boxes and old suitcases full of family photos ( the people in which could no longer be identified because there was no longer anyone alive to do so).
And, actually useful:
  • Envelopes FULL of old postage stamps that were put away unused when postage increased.  The oldest was an entire roll of 8 cent stamps featuring Dwight Eisenhower.  I won't be purchasing stamps for years!
We also found the touching and poignant:
  • Letters written to her by The Bearded One's Dad when they were courting and lived in different states
  • Congratulatory telegrams that they had received on their wedding day
  • the cake topper from their wedding cake, carefully wrapped in tissue
  • The Bearded One's first pair of shoes - bronzed
We found the hilarious:
  • Old high school and college transcripts that gave the lie to everything she had told The Bearded One about her own academic career
  • Professionally taken portraits of The Bearded One and his mother, each holding a cat - looking cross-eyed and/or goofy (the people, not the cats)
  • Lovingly wrapped coffee mugs, ashtrays, memory books, knick knacks, what nots, and dust catchers - all featuring owls in some form
We found the just plain tragic:
  • TRUNKS of sheet music dating back into the 1920's that had belonged to The Bearded One's Dad (a professional musician) - the majority of it disintegrating and moldy
  • Cases of recordings made by The Bearded One's Dad and his students
  • Hand written sheet music given to The Bearded One's Dad - with copyrights and publishing  information gleefully written in
  • Personally inscribed photos of the Dad's former students who had "made it big"
  • A folded flag - having been used in a burial at sea way back in WW I - the name of the deceased having been lost in time
So much stuff.  So much of it rendered useless by time and storage conditions.  The old grade reports have been recycled.  The cake topper has been preserved.  The sheet music has been sorted and the still usable saved.  We are looking for a turntable that will play the old recordings so that we can get them into digital format.

It is so sad when everything in your life becomes so "precious" that at the end there is nothing much of value left.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

...and everything in its place

The Bearded One hit an impasse 2 weeks ago.  Organizing the garage had become an endless maze of moving boxes and piles.  Shifting steadily about on the concrete floor, the boxes did not decrease in number, neither did the tools magically appear on shelves and in drawers.

The garage cabinets were 6" less deep than the old ones rendering all of his storage bins useless.  Not only were they 6" less deep, the shelves were not nearly as adjustable height-wise and the cabinets themselves were a full foot shorter than what he was used to.  And this was a real problem.  Every time I needed a screw driver or a pliers I was referred to one of the cardboard boxes languishing on the garage floor:  "In one of THOSE," he intoned sadly, shaking his bent head.

He had begun muttering about pegboard and even though what was on his "list" for the weekend was bathtub caulk and kitchen veneer, it was decided that the pegboard needed to come first.

Two trips to Home Depot later (we were short of 75 pound drywall anchors),  two unsightly 2x4s had been removed and were awaiting disposal at the "hands" of the sawsall, the sprinkler timer had been moved 1 foot to the left, and pegboard was on the walls.  ANOTHER trip to Home Depot ensued when it was determined that the insulated staples with which the electrical cords attached to the sprinkler control would be controlled were nowhere to be found.

Pegboard installation complete, it became evident that we had the wrong kind of "pegboard storage devices" and yet another trip to Home Depot was undertaken.  Luckily, Home Depot is only 3 miles from the house and we returned in short order with hooks and brackets and baskets and other implements of storage and organization.

At this point, as The Bearded One had expected, boxes rapidlly emptied and were broken down and the garage began to take on a "lived in but well organized" look.

At the bottom of the last milk crate we found the box of insulated staples.

A Place For Everything...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

They're Not Going to Like You Anyway...

Middle school and high school were hard.  Not academically, but socially.  I wanted to be accepted, but I picked the exact wrong people to want to be accepted by...the "popular" people.  One of the popular students was G who did it by being the stooge.  Always willing to be the butt of  jokes, willing to poke fun at himself in a painful way, he was one of them.  And at the time, I was jealous.    Now I wonder why I could have been so stupid - equating popularity, even at the expense of humiliation, with something desirable.

The best piece of advice that I ever gave to Stubble (other than, "change your underwear regularly") was, "Don't waste your time.  Find people you like, who like you, and concentrate on them."

Trying to fit in, I did things that I am not particularly proud of 40 years later. What I didn't realize at the time was that the acceptance was a shifting thing..even for those who were a part of it.  It varied from year to year, depending on such things as whether or not your dad had been promoted (bad), your grades (good was bad), or your boyfriend/girlfriend.  It took me years (until right now, as I write this) to feel sorry for the girl who was one week a member in good standing of the popular crowd; but after being dumped by her boyfriend of two years, was suddenly 'out of favor'.
It was all based on whim and happenstance and fed by a sense on power on one side and of wistful longing on the other.

And it was enormously destructive.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Applying Pressure

Teachers have historically had a lot of latitude in testing and grading.  I am not referring to standardized, government mandated tests but the ones that they personally control.  Some of them preferr to test a lot, others little.

When I was just a wee college student, it was fashionable to allow the class to have a hand in determining the course testing schedule.  We would generally be allowed to vote on it (the instructor reserving the right to exercise a veto).  Final only?  Mid Term and Final?  Three Hourlies and a Final (non-cumulative)?

In one class we actually chose one test a week - it was a summer term and it meant "no studying over the weekend" if we did a test every Friday. It made the weeks fairly intense, but it turned out to be a wonderful system.  The instructor didn't want to grade over the weekend so after a review and a 45-60 minute test we would exchange papers, grade them, discuss them, and then turn them in for entry in the grade book.  Immediate feedback - everyone in the class wound up doing very well.  Nice.

Now, how about an instructor who does hourly tests, assigns graded homework and does pop quizzes.  His Final Exam is 80% of the grade - all the rest of the work only comprising 20% of the grade....seems like a real dismissal of the majority of the effort that is put forward in his class...

but  maybe that is just me.


When we first moved into our new house we were deluged (yes, I really meant to use that word) with offers.  Landscapers, just-plain-gardeners, tree trimmers, handymen, cleaning services...

Some of the offers came in the mail along with catalogs of (very expensive) outdoor furniture.  Many of the offers were in the form of business cards left under the front mat or in the driveway inside a ziplock of decorative rock.  Some of them were actually in person:  Ring of the doorbell, potential worker there to present in person.

We have had a cleaning service for 15 years.  When Stubble was 5 years old I was in the middle of a period of "when you need something done, ask a busy person".  The house was out of control, my asthma was very active - and The Bearded One said, "Why don't we get someone in to clean the house.  Just for the next 6 weeks."  A friend recommended a service that was willing to take on a "just for right now" job and abracadabra, presto-chango - the house was clean and I stopped wheezing.

At the end of 6 weeks, we had become so enamored of a sparkly clean house that we agreed to give up our big family splurge - breakfast out on the weekends - in return for keeping the cleaning service.  They have become like family.  One of the ladies attempted to neaten up Stubble by tossing everything on the floor of his bedroom into garbage bags - just as she did for her own son of the same age.  And I mean everything.  Homework, text books, Pokemon cards, scrap paper....
It didn't work for either son, but she gave it her all.

I had never met her before, but one day at school, Stubble and I bumped into a woman who took a look at us and said, "Oh, I know you!  I clean your house!"  I immediately said, "Thank you!  I couldn't get along without what you do!"  And I meant every word of it.  If more husbands realized that it isn't chocolate and a bottle of wine but the scent of windex that you didn't have to apply yourself that is the world's best aphrodisiac, we could cut the divorce rate!

We also had a yard service that would come in when a neighbor's tree needed trimming. We had no trees of our own, but the neighbor's trees hung over the yard and created much need for clean up.  We would get permission from the neighbor and call "Mr. Jones" and he would take care of the mess on our side of the fence and after the  neighbor came to "supervise" the job, often finished up in the neighbor's yard doing their side of the tree.  Mr. Jones knows his trees, how and when to trim them, and what we need to do in between his visits to keep the tree healthy.

So when we moved, we brought Mrs. Smith of the cleaning service and Mr. Jones of the lawn service "along with us".  Just like all the best rap stars...
except that we're middle aged, and don't have a recording contract - or our initials in diamonds hanging around our necks.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Black Hoodie

With all of the commentary regarding black hooded sweatshirts hitting the internet these days, I feel very contemporary and cutting edge.  Fashion Statement?  Political Statement?  How about "Expediency Statement".

I don't really care if Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie to exhibit his contempt for Wall Street, his independent Silicon Valley persona, or because he just is a slob with no fashion sense (as some would have it).  I do care very much about Trayvon Martin and his family, but I do not wear a black hoodie in symbolic support.

I have been wearing a black hoodie for about 15 years now.  It all started when my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  "Something warm that I can wear in the lab," I answered.  What I got was a large black hoodie that fit nicely under an extra large lab coat, the lab that I worked in at the time having no heat source except for an autoclave...
The hoodie was comfortable and had the advantage of being supremely washable and non- ruinable...or if it got ruined, I wouldn't cry about it.

Stubble wore a black hoodie because they were only $20 apiece and if he lost one I wouldn't kill him - the jacket that went missing several times and was always (miraculously) recovered cost well over $100 new and that was a source of great stress for me (what WAS his father thinking???).  Each time a black hoodie got too faded for him or developed a broken zipper or a paint splash I took it for my "new" lab hoodie.

Except I only needed one sweatshirt for the lab.

Being thrifty, I took to wearing them as jackets for regular wear: Hoodie under jean jacket = winter coat.  Hoodie unzipped = early summer morning cover up.  Zipped = spring or fall "intermediate wear".   It is an all purpose garment.

I love my black hoodie.  I wear it all the time.  Just don't read anything into it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fresh From Our Own Garden

I had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Ms. Flippers made a custom flower arrangement (she is a prize-winning floral arranger).  Stubble (a talented sketch artist) did a floral interp. The Bearded One made my favorite dinner: Garlic Mashed, Asparagus, and Silence of the Leg of Lamb (Alton Brown).
This lamb roast involves a boned leg of lamb (we learned the hard way to just let the butcher do it - it cost almost $200 in various knives and LOTS of practice lamb legs to reach this conclusion).  It is painted with a mixture of dijon mustard, brown sugar, garlic and fresh mint.  Then it is rolled and tied and cooked slowly over charcoal.  A truly yummy feast - but if you follow Alton's recipe, you might want to cut down on the rosemary...we don't use any at all (anymore).
This year, the mint could come right from the herb garden outside the back door.
The Bearded One:  "But is doesn't smell very minty." ( holding a sample of what he had picked under my nose)
Me:  "That would be because it is Catnip."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Round About and Back...

Once again we begin with backstory.  Friday night I attended a concert.  I went to support four of my comrades who were performing.  Most especially the tall redhead who gave me the flyer and who, unless she is out sick, has the voice that I listen to when I lose pitch in a particularly difficult passage...she never fails me.

The program was one of contatas and was held in a venue that is exceptional:  a modern church with good acoustics -most modern churches being either large halls with MUCH electronic sound reinforcement and AV equipment or full of acoustic tile and hard angles where sound goes to die in corners.

On the way back I chose to take "back roads".  My family asked "why".  I couldn't answer them at the time, but now I know.   I don't see at night as well as I used to and there was some little voice in my head saying, "don't take the freeway".  It said, "stick to slower back roads where you will get lost in the dark, but there won't be much oncoming traffic to blind you with their headlights."  I listened to that little voice and it took me almost an hour and a half to get home from a venue that was 20 minutes away.

I was within a mile of home when I took a wrong turn.  I tried to follow a "short cut" that The Bearded One usually takes - it avoids three busy intersections.  In the middle of an industrial park, confused by the many large containers parked along the roadside, I turned right when I should have turned left.

When I saw a street sign that I recognised I immediately turned left on on the road, not realizing that I was MUCH farther east than I thought.  Taking another (incorrect) turn, I wound up in the middle of a nature preserve that wound around hills and through
marshes with nowhere to turn around.  I was saved from complete panic by the fact that there were occasional lights from widely spaced homes that told me that I was not all that far from civilization.  Much time passed while I watched the gas gauge and wished that I had filled up that evening rather than waiting until my usual Sunday fill up...

Eventually, I saw lights (including a traffic light).  I kept going until I saw a sign for a fire station labelled with its municipality and realized that I had traveled over 20 miles toward the coast.  I eventually found my way home and told my family the story of my harrowing journey.

They were unimpressed.

It was a great concert.

Monday, April 30, 2012


This weekend we bought a little gift for the kitties.
Tuffets (def:  a low bench or stool).  We have two low windows in the living room that have no window sills to speak of.  The cats love to look out of them when there is a nearby box or other handy perch.  Which seemed a shame as summer approaches.

So we went tuffet shopping at one of my favorite places to find tables - World Market.  I have found a dining table and chairs, side tables and hall tables and a coffee table all of unique design, sturdy build, and reasonable cost - they arrive "some assembly required".

The slat benches that I found were so perfectly dimensioned for the windows as to have been made for them:  Two inches shorter than the bottom of the window and the exact width. I bought one for the window that seems to fascinate them most.
The Bearded One had it together within about 15 minutes and Ms. Flippers picked cushions from the selection that I had bought.  Yes, I am one of THOSE shoppers.  The ones that buy bags of _______________ (pillows, lamp shades, bath mats) (insert the word that best completes the sentence) and then returns what I don't want.

The littlest cat immediately took up a position on one of the cushions and refused to yield, even for her much bigger brother.  It is a red letter day when she gets assertive enough to send him on his way.

This brings us to the meat of the story.  The second bench:
Ms. Flippers and I agreed that a second bench would "balance the room" and so a second bench was purchased and the excess pillows exchanged for ones of the correct color.  Then The Bearded One left for a conference in Houston.

Because I have been married to a very handy man for a long time and because we have done much renovation together, I have acquired some tool skills (I can, for instance, refinish an entire kitchen full of cabinets, hang drywall, and I AM "the varnish queen")  so what trouble should one little bench be?

On Sunday morning before I left for choir I set out to assemble the bench.  An hour later I was still struggling with screw driver and allen wrench...

Tool wise, I have been raised by an engineer, whose motto is:  "Instructions?  We don't need no stinking instructions!" (disclaimer:  unless the item's pricetag is over $1,000,000).  So did I look at the handy instruction book complete with graphic illustrations of the order of assembly?  No I did not.

As a result I spent all of that hour attempting to put the 4 bolts into holes intended for screws - taking care to line up the pre-drilled holes using a turkey skewer (most of our tools are still in boxes).  Did it occurr to me to LOOK AT THE INSTRUCTIONS?


Not until I heard the kids stirring and thought, "Do I want Stubble to take over the job, thereby making me feel simultaneously old and useless?"

Looking at the instructions I discovered that the bolts were to go into the second hole in from the bench leg - at which point they dropped right in.  Within 10 minutes the rest of the screws were put in and the bench with its cushions was placed in front of the window.

Feeling pretty pleased with myself I began picking up the packing materials.

Then I found the little bag full of lock washers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


We had reached a point where nothing was going into the new house and nothing was leaving the old house...

I had always wondered why when we moved in to the new place that we had been left, in addition to 2 TV sets and a set of living room furniture; 10 citronella candles, a cupboard full of mismatched food storage containers, and another cupboard full of canning jars.  I hereby acknowledge that my punctuation in the last sentence leaves much to be desired.  I am just currently too tired to care.  Somebody, please correct it and just leave a grade.

At any rate, I now know how this happens.  After a month of moving bit by bit you realize that:
1)  That you have run out of space in your new place.
2)  That you really don't need the things that you haven't moved yet.

Now everything just stays in a steady state.

I did something about that yestereday.  I arranged to have a cleaning crew come to the old house to vacuum and dust the walls (particularly inside the closets) so that i can spend the weekend doing touch up painting.  I was at the old house until after 9 PM last night moving boxes.  The last little bits of what we have left behind.  I will be leaving 3 flower pots with dead plants in them (an aloe, some basil, and a cactus), a set of fireplace tools, several waste baskets, and an old but still really nice shower curtain.  I just don't need them anymore and don't have the energy to toss them out or send them to charity.

I did take the last of my mismatched food storage containers, though.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Must Haves

In  Real Estate, "must haves" are the things that are deal killers in your home search. For most people these days "must haves" seem to be a kitchen with granite countertops, open concept (ie missing support walls and larger beams), and a large master bath with two sinks.  For us it was a double oven and a house that "spoke" to us.  Well, this house spoke plenty loudly to us but it wasn't until after we made the offer that I discovered that there actually WAS a double oven.  Go figure.

After moving in we began to discover "sort of must haves" that were missing..things we didn't even think about until we were faced with not having them - like medicine cabinets. 

Case in point:  A Medicine Cabinet in the Master Bath.
As we were moving in, The Bearded One said in surprise, "Hey, there's no medicine cabinet in here!"  Because there were sconces on the wall we had both managed to miss the fact that there was no little wall cabinet in which to keep toothbrushes, toothpaste, pills and bandaids... You know, the essentials of daily living.  The Bearded One was all for rushing right to Home Depot.  Which we did.  Only the fact that anything suitable would mean either cutting a big hole in the wall or a special order kept us from purchasing something immediately.

After living without a medicine cabinet for two weeks certain things began to occurr to us: I keep my pills on a Rubbermaid  turntable in the kitchen (so that I pack them along with my lunch each morning).  I don't need a medicine cabinet for that.  We have NEVER put toothpaste in the medicine cabinet - not in all the years that we have been married!  We don't need a medicine cabinet for that. Toothbrushes have always gone into a toothbrush holder where they will dry completely so as not to breed more germs than necessary.  We don't need a medicine cabinet for that.  The ibuprofen bottle (without which no mature adult moves into a new home) fits just fine into the second drawer down on the right side of the vanity.  Now we don't need a medicine cabinet for that either.

In fact we don't need a medicine cabinet in the master bath at all...especially since our backup supply of medicine cabinet items (most of it shower gel and bandaids) takes up the top two shelves of the linen closet in the hallway where they are easily accessible.

At any rate, about 4 days ago we agreed that not only did we not need a medicine cabinet, we didn't need the double towel bars that we "had to have".  That we purchased and that sat on the bathroom floor in the corner for 3 weeks because we didn't have time to install them.  We figured that if we had lived without them this long we could return them.  Which we did.  And got our $60 back.

I leave  you with a bit of nostalgia concerning "must haves":

One of our favorite movies is "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" (Cary Grant and Myrna Loy - early 1950's?). 

Muriel Blandings: I refuse to endanger the lives of my children in a house with less than four bathrooms.

Jim Blandings: For 1,300 dollars they can live in a house with three bathrooms and ROUGH IT.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


TRUE Decadence is not chocolate (the darker the better because then it is "heart healthy").  It is also not a really good glass of Cabernet (the kind that costs more than $15 on sale at the grocery store).  It is not a warm fuzzy blanket fresh from the dryer or a warm fresh from the oven double chocolate chip cookie...

Decadence is REALLY being able to read the newspaper in the morning before leaving for work.  It is even more decadent to be able to do so with your significant other over a cup of coffee.

You can tell a bit about my age by the fact that I am even mentioning a "newspaper".  Yes, I do indeed read things online, but in the morning I love the feel of fresh newsprint.  It also makes a great dropcloth when I am painting and it is recyclable when plastic drop cloths are not.

We leave for work absurdly early.  The Bearded One leaves even more absurdly early than I do.  At our new house, the newspaper is in the driveway each weekday morning at about 4 AM...

We have decided that either the delivery person is an insomniac or works a late shift and delivers the paper on his or her way home.  Either/Or.  It doesn't matter.  We can sit and say things to each other like:  "I know you don't normally like Adam @Home, but read it today," or "Be sure to read about the first class trip that one of our appointed officials took on the taxpayer dime...it is disgusting...", or "There is this really neat article about solar litter boxes, we should look into it..."

These are the mundane little things in life that really mean so much to a relationship.  Just a simple sharing of the beginning of the day to come.

Love you, Bearded One.  Be sure to look at Bizarro today.  And drive Safely.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Settling In

You know that you are actually "there" when the night lights (without which a sleepwalking mommy would fall down the stairs) are finally properly positioned to provide a dim floor level glow throughout the house.

We are finally getting settled.  We now have three working, properly elevated shower heads (which means that our bathroom is no longer clogged with extra razors, makeup, hairdryers, and towels).  When we moved in, one shower was set up so that spray would hit a normally sized person somewhere around waist level; another released a stream of water designed to dampen the tile but incapable, for example, of rinsing soap off of a body... The only shower head capable of producing an acceptable shower was the one in the master bedroom. That is all fixed now and we are discovering more about the "new" house.

The most troublesome thing, the thing that we did not anticipate causing trouble, is that the kitchen is centrally located - surrounded by the bedrooms. This is only a problem if, as in our house, you have two people who arise at (the ungodly hour of) 4 AM each morning - showering, making lunches, slicing bananas and eating cereal; one who crawls from bed and begins to shower at 6 AM; and another who does not have classes before 2 PM. Yesterday's comment from Stubble was, "Oh, it's YOU making all the racket." I was, at the time, measuring coffee into the coffee pot. Not exactly a noisy activity. In our former house, the kitchen was well separated from all bedroom areas and morning activity or lack thereof was not an issue.

The other issue of gravity facing us is the garbage disposal. I completely understand that MOST people have one largish side of the sink in which to wash cooking pans and one smaller side of the sink that contains the garbage disposal. We have, for the last many years, had one HUGE sink with a garbage disposal right in the middle of it. Therefore, we must learn to rinse pots into the smaller disposal portion of the sink before washing them. Something that, for us apparently, is very difficult. I spent a great deal of time this morning bailing beans and carrots out of the large side of sink so that it would drain.

There are many excellent things about this new house:

  • The stars. That should probably be: STARS! We live on a small private drive that has no street lights and the improvement in star viewing is nothing short of amazing.  On the other hand, the lack of surrounding lights and the presence of coyotes can be un-nerving.
  • The garden. The previous owners left a partial row of onions in their vegetable garden, whether by accident or design. I have discovered that there is nothing better on a hamburger than an onion pulled from the garden, washed off, and immediately sliced.  On the other hand, there are seeds to be planted, soil to till, weeds to be pulled, shrubs to be trimmed.  Oh, and did I mention the weeds to be pulled?  And then there is the fact that one of the neighbors came by Sunday with a picture guide to local snakes to show us which ones to not kill.
  • The laundry room. Which is now separate from the cat's litter boxes. There was nothing quite like surprising a kitty in mid litter box activity with the buzzer of the dryer.  It accounted for some alarming noises issuing from the area behind the kitchen.  And some interesting clean ups.  On the other hand - there is no "other hand" here - we now also don't need to be concerned about clean sheets dropping onto scattered bits of clay.
  • The "Family Room". Or as my family chooses to call it, "The Living Room" because you can only "live" where there is TV. Right? At any rate, we now have one family/living room (the upstairs room with couches and chairs and side tables) where I can read unmolested by television programs about cars, airplanes, or large machines that 'make things'.  The "other" family/living room is downstairs and contains couches and chairs and side tables and is the room where I can watch Modern Family, Gray's Anatomy, The Good Wife, and (best of all) Blue Bloods (with Tom Selleck*). Those are the (few) hours of the week when I evict the rest of the family from the vicinity of the (large) television and take it over as they scatter to other areas of the house.  The exception would be Ms. Flippers, who occasionally watches Gray's Anatomy with me.
  • The Bonus Room.  AKA "The Gaming Room".  Originally a storage area off of the garage, it is now panelled, carpeted, and drop ceilinged.  It now houses all x-boxes, ps-whatevers, Wii's and gaming computers and their assorted monitors, speakers, 3 easy chairs and a couch.  The mini fridge left by the previous owners resides just a few steps away outside of the door.  I do not go there.  Ever.
  • The kitty tower.  It is now accessible to the kitties.  Formerly it was locked away in the Family/Gaming Room which had been taken over by people under the age of 30 who left lots of power cords lying around.  Power cords that would attract the teeth of kitties who were attracted to the bits of food stuck to them.  It became not so much a Family Room as a No Parent's and Kitties Land.
Combine the last three bullet points and you will know exactly what attracted us to this particular house...

* About Tom Selleck.  He was gorgeous years ago when I was first married and he has certainly aged well.  I do enjoy being able to look at him watch him in a weekly television show again.  Note:  The Bearded One has aged well also.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The fun of buying a new home certainly isn't in the looking.  EVERY home that the realtor finds is "perfect" and you have to sometimes work hard to come up with reasons not to like it...some of which sound really weak.
At one point we finally told our agent, "Yes, we really are looking to buy, but until a house "speaks" to us we won't make an offer."

It certainly isn't the coming to an agreement and the financial arrangements which seem calculated to employ as many people as possible for as long as possible.  When  we had to provide the THIRD copy of the appraiser's report (all 47 pages of it) our take on it was, "Don't you people all work IN THE SAME BUILDING?  Wouldn't it be easier to just run upstairs and make a photocopy?"  Well, they weren't all in the SAME building as it turns out.  Our agent and the mortgage broker were in the same building.  The seller's agent was across the parking lot...

It certainly isn't the final approval and closing which can, in our view, be described as:  "Well, you've got our money, now where are our keys!"  Any number of times  The Bearded One had to explain to one party or another, "This was an electronic transfer.  The money was one place and now 'poof' it is in another place.  There is NO CHECK to place a hold on..."

The fun part was falling asleep at night (after throwing up dinner because of a new email requesting yet more financial documents) planning which bathrooms would get which existing bathmats and which kitchen cabinets would get dishes and which would get baking supplies.  That was the fun of a new home purchase.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

One of Life's Unanswered Questions

Why do we have FIVE bottles of rubbing alcohol, all of them opened?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Limiting Space

If you build it they will fill it...

One of the reasons that we bought our current home was storage space.  LOTS of storage space.  Not only did it have an attic and a basement, it had TWO linen closets and (wonder of wonders) a real pantry.  A "step in" pantry - that means that it is definately a separate space rather than just an extra bunch of shelves hidden among the cabinet doors. It is really more of a large closet rather than another (small) bedroom.

And we have filled it.   When you have the extra space it is easy to purchase that box of 1000 plastic spoons - and there they sit even when nobody has used one in years.  The pantry contains two shelves of food (cans of vegetables, bags of pasta, packets of sauce mix) and one of baking supplies.  That is the sum total of edibles in the pantry.  The original idea was that there would always be stock in the house if I decided to cook something specific.  It would cut down on trips to the grocery store.  In fact, it hasn't.  I am ALWAYS one can of tomatoes short, or have cream of chicken soup but NOT cream of mushroom.  And who on earth thought that we needed 6 cans of clam chowder - all of them from diffferent manufacturers?  me.  I have elbow macaroni, but not penne pasta; rice but not spaghetti  - thus necessitating a change in the menu or run to the market before dinner can be constructed.

In our new home there is no pantry.  At first I looked on this with trepidation, but as I think about it I see that this is a chance to consolidate and stop the madness of the twice a year "clean out" of the pantry with the resultant donation to the local food bank.

And the attic?  And the basement?  And the (two) linen closets?  Just an exentsion of  the pantry.  Just a bunch of overstuffed storage spaces...we are in deep trouble with this upcoming move.

thwuup. thwuup. thwuup,thwuup,thwuup

Pay no mind.  It is just the sound of my rotors as I hover.

Those who rail against helicopter parents maybe just don't get it...

What normal 19 year old is savvy enough to stand up to a bureaucracy?  Not too darn many.  When most of them are told, "Oh, sorry.  There's nothing we can do."  or "I'll do it.  I haven't taken care of it YET, but I WILL," they  just walk away feeling used and disillusioned.  And they wait.  And wait.  And wait.

The very idea of an adult in a position of power making a mistake and then leaving the 19 year old victim of that mistake to clean up the mess herself just seems to me to be a bad idea all round...

Yes, there is a time to step back and let your child stand on their own two feet.  This was not one of them.  I hope that Ms. Flippers has now learned that there is a time for patience and a time to kick problems to "the next level".  I hope that if this ever happens in the future, she will now be able to take care of it herself and I can just stand back with my rotors at idle.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

and now my hairbrush is missing

Barring tsunami, tornado, or other disaster (like a run on the banks) we will be closing on our new property in 2 weeks.  We are ALL in various stages of advanced stress.  Some of us are not sleeping (The Bearded One).  Some of us (me) are clenching our teeth so that our jaw does not open to permit the entry of solid food.  SOME of us are phobic about the possibility of being "unconnected" to the internet during the 15 minute trip from our current house to our future one (Stubble).  I understand that there may be help for him in a thingie called "EasyTether".  Ms. Flippers (who found the new place) is floating above the fray except for losing (in the last week) her house keys (twice), her passport (once), and her cell phone (still not found).  Also missing are three of twelve salad forks, three cereal bowls, and four 12 ounce glasses, although Stubble and I must share the blame for these missing items.

Yesterday morning Ms. Flippers used our shower in the morning as Stubble was hogging their shared bathroom right when she needed it.  She left her shampoo and conditioner behind.  And now my hairbrush is missing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Katsu loves us and is always thinking of us...

Katsu may not be much of a lap cat, but she is "the smart one".  She is the one who will remove her furry butt from the counter when you give her a look and say, "Kaaatsuuuu" in a low menacing voice.  Her brother and sister just sit there looking at you until you physically remove them.  She is the cat who will look to see if her brother's fur and bits of clay are in the water before she drinks.  She is the one who will sniff something BEFORE she eats it...

Last night The Bearded One was topping off the litter in the cat boxes.  When he does this, he always closes the laundry room door so that he doesn't attract "helpers".  Last night, both Stubble and I opened the door to the laundry room while he was absorbed in the task at hand and he didn't notice when Katsu entered.  To be completely honest, Stubble and I didn't notice either until Katsu approached the pail of unused litter.  She daintily and delicately climbed into the pail, arranged herself appropriately, and peed.  Entirely within the pail.  After all, what is a little cat to do when a big person is completely blocking her access to the litter.  Then she daintily and delicately burried her business.  Stubble and I were laughing so hard that we couldn't do anything about it, not that we wanted to disturb her before she was completely finished.  The Bearded One was less amused, "Why didn't you keep the door closed?  Then this would never have happened!"

Stubble and I continued to laugh, using the door jamb and the walls respectively, to hold ourselves up.  The Bearded One just compressed his lips and continued with his task, replacing the covers on the litter boxes.

Time passed.  It was now bedtime.

Katsu is not known for her delicate tummy.  That honor would belong to her sister, Kimiko.  But last night, she felt a little disturbance and rather than messing up the carpet, she (daintily and delicately) climbed into the laundry basket full of the clean whites that I had just finished drying and folding.  Then she threw up more kibble that one could have expected to fit into a little cat stomach.  It was gross and disgusting.  On the other hand, it was not on the carpet and it is easier by far to dump a laundry basket full of socks and underwear back into the washing machine than it is to clean the carpet.

Katsu loves us and is always thinking of us...

Friday, January 20, 2012


We have been looking at real estate lately.  Considering the stellar trends in the stock market and the looming European debt crisis, property (of just the right sort) seems a sane investment.
We have seen many, many properties over the last months.  It is very much like HGTV when they are hunting houses and say things like, "We've seen almost 200 houses and nothing is just exactly right!"  And then on the show they highlight 3 of them, at least one of which it totally unrealistic for the buyers.
We have seen probably 225 houses, beating the HGTV record to flinders.  Some as "drive bys" where we are looking at the neighborhood and some as "open houses of opportunity" where we are just out running errands and spot the tell tale balloons on a Sunday afternoon.
We have seen everything from total wrecks; bathed in dog poo, pizza boxes and crumbling retaining walls to beautifuly maintained showplaces that are obviously very much loved.  We have bumped into the same selling agent numerous times to the point where she said, "You guys again!  Haven't you found anything yet?"
Our house hunt has covered everything from income property to McMansions to buildable lots.  Our criteria has shifted from "anything" to locations limited by freeway access and commuting times to a realistic assessment of renovation/repair costs.

We saw one very "special" property that I will describe:  It had excellent freeway access.  It was well within our price range.  The architecture was such that Stubble announced something to the effect of , "This is the kind of place the I would design for myself"..,.
3500 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, it was perched on a hillside in a lovely neighborhood of "custom" homes (not mansions, just really nice places) and it had views straight from postcards.

Walking the property we were impressed.  Very little other than adding grass seed and water and a new deck railing was needed...then we walked inside...

In the parts of the house where there was carpet it was pulled back to reveal a cracked slab that was settling ominously.  The three full bathrooms all featured standing water in the showers - and a hole where the toilet was supposed to be. We joked that the tiled tub in the master bedroom would make a good koi pond if we just added a liner and a pump.

The kitchen was missing built in appliances and an island.  The two feet of electrical conduit that was sticking up in the middle of the space was a dead give away.  Another special feature was the half bath with floor to ceiling windows with no window treatments overlooking the neighbor's driveway.

Even though nothing was turned on, you could hear the sounds of running water (under the slab?).

Even though we all "liked" the house, as a group we determined that we wouldn't take it even if somebody offered it to us for free like an abandoned kitten....."House.  Free to a Good Home".

House Hunting - The Saga Continues.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Would You Like Fries with That?

I try really hard not to eat too much fast food, but on certain days of the week when I am running from work to grocery store to home (to drop off the groceries) to meeting to rehearsal; I break down and grab a burger.  If I am really weak, I order "fries with that".  I long ago learned what a really good fry tastes like...and if I order them, my deal with myself is this:  If they don't taste excellent enough to risk losing 5 minutes of my life, I just won't eat them.

I used to work fast food.  That is how I earned my spending money in college - I night managed a place famous for it's specialty drinks that, unlike many of its counterparts, had a grill and deep frier.  I also had a boss who was very particular about his french fries.

To make a good fry:
1)  Do NOT use old grease.  Even STRAINED old grease.  The fries will get too brown before they are done cooking and people will complain that their fries are "burned".  Of course they will complain when their fries are perfect looking but not completely cooked; but if they are using a drive through, they are usually long gone when they figure this out, so what the heck.
2)  Get your grease HOT enough - otherwise the fries will be soggy and greasy beyond belief.
3)  DO NOT put fries and fish into the same oil.  JUST DON'T.
4)  Cook the fries LONG enough.  It takes around 5 minutes to cook a shoestring fry if you are using new grease that is the proper temperature...cutting down on the time to increase the volume of fries produced and served will not do anything for customer satisfaction.

To conclude: A Perfect Fry - one that makes me willing to take the risk of early death - is light golden brown.  Perfectly crisp on the outside and hot and soft of the inside, it stays hot until the end of the meal and tastes ONLY like potato without a hint of grease and with just a hint of sea or seasoned salt. Anything else just goes into the trash.

The fast food chain at which I "dined" last night - the same one that has been advertising their "new tastier fries" - completely missed the boat.  The "new tasty fries" were wrong on all counts - greasy, soggy, undercooked and within a minute, cold as well - all but two of them are now in the trash...