Thursday, August 12, 2010


Until lately we've been using old fashioned ice trays to keep our Cuba Libres cold. We had some cheap plastic ones from Target, one of which cracked almost immediately, and the other had a couple little leaks that diminished the cubes to half size. Hence, I could only make about two cocktails (I'm passionate about my ice; it should fill the cup to the brim), a real bummer when we host dinner for friends. I finally got sick of it and headed to Lowes to get supplies to hook up the ice maker. Luckily there was a hookup behind the fridge already, and the previous owner had left behind a hose. The hose coupled to the back of the fridge no problem, but not to the wall, so that required standing aimlessly in the hardware/plumbing aisle with my hose and a fitting that was the same size as my wall hookup until someone useful enough to help came along (a non-employee usually). With a little phone tutorial from me dad I got it hooked up and turned on and now we're in all the ice we can handle.

I know this isn't that impressive, but I'm pretty stoked about it. Now we're in all the ice we can handle. With the hot weather there is nothing so refreshing at the end of my sweaty workday like a chilly gin and tonic, or vodka cranberry, or rum and Coke, or rum and ginger ale, or screwdriver (with fresh squeezed OJ), or mojito, or vodka tonic.

It's the little things.


Three big changes indoors:
1) A third cat
2) Paint on the walls
3) Deep freezer

For those of you who might think I've turned into a crazy cat lady (ok, maybe I already am, but that's beside the point), I have not adopted another cat. Instead, I've taken temporary custody of a cat that used to be mine. I'll explain. When I was still in high school, my parents allowed me to get a kitten after one of my favorite of our family cats died at the hands of an awful, awful veterinarian (that's another story for another day). Zoey, the new cat, obviously couldn't come with me when I left for college a few years later, so she became mom and dad's charge. Parents do that kind of thing a lot : )

Now I'm returning the favor. Mom and dad have retired and are off on a three - perhaps more like four - month road trip. I'm taking care of Zoey while they gallivant around the country (much deserved). Since Zoey remembered me even though I only spent three or four weekends a year at mom and dad's house, I figured her adjustment here would be alright. For the most part it has been, but Bug, another female, seems pretty threatened by Zoey. Don't say it! I know you're thinking "Oh, just like a woman." Even cats want to confirm traditional gender roles. Bah!

Anyway, here's Zoey. She's twelve years old and a little arthritic, but she still plays a good bit and doesn't back down from a hissing-fit with either Vasco or Bug (both of which are at least three pounds heavier). She is lovable and talkative and I like having her here.

2) Paint on the walls. Our living room is now a very pretty sage green and the kitchen is a great cross between tropical aqua and french country blue. The hallway is a slate gray, which isn't gloomy like it might sound. Because there are a lot of white doors and molding, the hallway is inviting and calming, instead.


Living Room (the picture quality isn't great but it gives the best idea of the color of all the pictures I took - you can sorta tell a difference when you compare it to the white in the vase)

Kitchen window with the new paint color and drying peppers from our garden

A wider-angle view of the kitchen color

3) Deep freezer. Josh's parents generously got us a deep freezer. Josh and I refuse to eat mediocre food on a daily basis, but we are seriously poor (I would make more money on welfare!). I'm not complaining - I have a great lifestyle - but it does mean that a lot of planning goes into our meals. A big part of that planning involves buying lots of whatever meat, veggies, bread, etc. is on sale and freezing the majority of it. The sorry little freezer in our refrigerator just wasn't up to the task. So Tim and Renay took pity on us and got us this shiny new one:

Chicken, ground beef, french onion soup, pesto, broccoli, pierogies - we've got it all and the freezer still looks pitifully empty. What a nice problem to have.


August in Florida is like February in Michigan. In other words, it's the time of year you put your outdoor hobbies on hold, hurry from your car into the nearest climate-controlled building, assume your clothes will be inadequate for keeping you comfortable outside (I don't care if it's North Face gear - it's still not gonna help), and just generally hunker down inside. Our neighbors even "warm up" their cars before leaving for work, only it's the AC instead of the heat that's blasting. We did, however, manage to get some plants in the garden before Tallahassee turned into Hades and we've been enjoying the benefits since.

We've harvested two eggplants already and have a few small ones (like this) coming along.

We've only gotten a handful
of green beans so far, but they seem to like this god-forsaken weather so I think there are many more on the way.

We can't eat the okra fast enough (and it doesn't help our waistlines that the only way we like to eat it is fried).

You can see
here how much our banana tree has grown since last fall. It struggled with our hard winter - we chalked it up for dead when it was still a brown husk in April. I don't even like bananas but I was pretty bummed thinking it had died. I think I just like the idea of a banana tree in my yard.

You'll see these hot peppers drying in our kitchen window in the next post. Last Christmas my Uncle Bill gave us dried hot pepper flakes in a shaker jar (the peppers were from grandpa's garden). We blew through that in no time, so we're planning on making more with our own peppers.

This is the first bloom on our mandevilla. It's a pretty, tropical-looking vine; we have it growing up the metal stand for our herb garden.

Finally, this is our butterfly garden. Black swallowtails are the most common, though we've had a few monarchs and a giant swallowtail, too. Earlier this year we had around 30 swallowtail caterpillars on our fennel. This is one of them:

A couple days after this picture was taken, all the caterpillars were gone. We think a bird ate them. You may think it's sad, but just think how happy those birdies were when mama or dadda brought back these juicy guys.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


So we've got a first coat up on the back of the house and this is what it looks like. After a lot of thought and no small amount of paint samples, we settled on a very light grey with dark purple trim. We think it looks pretty awesome. From the road it almost looks black and white, but when you get close enough you realize it's sort of an eggplant color. Doing the work isn't so bad but it's quickly getting warmer out and soon it'll be pretty miserable to work in the sun, so we better get the rest of it done soon.
We also finally got a fourth bed in the garden, today.

There's still a fair bit left over from the winter, like the salad greens (the best part of the winter garden), some peas, scallions, chard, and spinach. I just pulled up all the mustard greens and filled about three quarts for freezing. The spinach wasn't as productive as I'd like given the space it needs and how long it takes, so I'll probably skip it next year. Peas and carrots both went off well enough to justify doing again. Chard finally filled it, but I'm not sure we'll do it again either. Scallions definitely. So far for the spring/summer plants we've got about 22 peppers going, from bells to sweet to very hot. I'm hopeful that we'll get enough bells for eating fresh around here, sweets for eating fresh and pickling, and hots for pickling and drying for soups and other dishes. We've got two tomatoes in a bed, and a few more in a sunny spot in the front yard, so we'll see how they turn out. Otherwise there's one okra plant and some basil until the greens quit giving us all the salad we can eat. Then I'd like to get in some squash and eggplant and cukes. And there's probably space for some more herbs out there now too rather than keeping them all in pots on the slab. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plumbing and Snap Peas

Phlox blossoms in the front yard (totally unrelated to the rest of the post)

Plumbing and snap peas: improbable combination, I know, but that's what I want to write about this time. I'll do the not-so-pretty first (the plumbing), though I'm sure for our brothers and other schadenfreude-ists out there, it will be the more interesting of the two topics. After all, the subtitle of the blog is "misadventures in home maintenance" and so far it seems like we've only blogged about gardening. So, last month I noticed a black spot on the caulking around the base of the toilet that seemed new or at least bigger than I remembered. When I followed the bead of caulk around to the back of the toilet, I found a giganto black spot and squishy linoleum. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew it wasn't going to be good. Turned out to be a leaky wax ring, which, to repair, involved taking the toilet off the floor (bolts were rusty and one had to be broken off), dealing with the maggot-like squigglers throwing a party beneath the toilet (just under our feet! yay!), scraping the old squiggler-infested wax ring off, positioning the toilet juuusssst-right over the new bolts (had to buy a second set because the first set was too short), and then cutting the bolts off to make them short enough to fit the cap over (yes, you read that right: we had to buy long bolts just to go and cut them short). This whole process was made much more fun by virtue of the fact that the area we had to work in was maybe two feet wide between the tub and the sink. But, we got it done and it hasn't leaked since. I consider that a success.

On to snap peas: we got 'em. Lots of 'em. We're freezing some and eating the rest sauteed over high heat in soy sauce. Yum. Otherwise, the greens are getting big, the carrots are about as big around as my thumb, and we ate our first green top onion just the other day. We're thinking now is about the right time to put in a fourth bed for tomatoes and peppers.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The freezing temps are finally over - for two weeks it was no colder in Michigan than it was in Florida. We both got pretty sick of covering the plants every night, but it seems to have been worth it since most are alright. Not great, mind you. And the peas are in sad shape. But, all things considered, I think the garden weathered the worst winter in 25 years fairly well. Today was back to sunshine and 70 degrees. Next project - straightening the edgers (small job) and painting the house (huge job).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hard Freeze Warning

Bad news. The cold snap that's affecting 2/3 of the country reaches down to the Florida panhandle, too. So we've been covering the plants every night - amazing that a thin little tarp can make that much difference - and keeping our fingers crossed. We might have lost the banana tree entirely. It was so brown and withered we decided to hack it off and let the plant concentrate on generating new growth rather than trying to revive dying limbs. That's right, ladies and gentlemen, it's a war zone in our back yard and the fight is on for our winter garden.