Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year / Glückliches Neues Jahr


It'd be damn near impossible to "catch-up" on what-all has been going on in my life since I last posted anything of importance.

But that's the beauty of "My Blog!" I can write whatever the hell I want to write, whenever the hell I feel like it, right?!

So today I'll blather a bit about the highlights of the Holly-Daze and maybe post a recipe or two...

Christmas was good. Rog and I got smart this year and completed our Annual "Big-Date" ritual early. We went to Christmas in the Park early, and mid-week. Last year, we totally screwed up and went the weekend before Christmas. What a freaking ZOO!

Anyway, our "Big-Date" generally involves a ride on Light-Rail (Eek! Public Transportation?!). We get off the train at Saint James park, then hoof-it over to Teske's Germania - a simply outstanding German restaurant (confirmed by a bona-fide Berliner - the food is definitely authentic!).

I've always kind of associated Germany with Christmas ever since my mom, sis and I went to Munich in early-November 1989 (we were there when The Wall came down - BTW). We visited the Christkindl Markt and, well, that's stuck with me ever since! All the Tyrolean architecture and whatnot just kinda reminds me of Christmas.

So, once a year, Rog and I hop on VTA, stop off for German Food (und gut bier!), then hop back on the train and head to Cezar Chavez park to experience the Christmas displays at CITP... (From Deutschland to Cesar Chavez - Gotta just love that Diversity, eh?!)

Christmas in the Park is cool. It's way more enjoyable when you can actually walk in a straight line and *see* the displays (without having to wear shin-guards to protect yourself from being rammed by a double-wide baby stroller). There're hundreds of "Community Trees" decorated in various themes, and lots of big Animatronic-type Christmas displays. If I weren't feeling so lazy, I could probably post some pictures to the blog - but you'll just have to click on the link above to check it out! Here it is again if you're also feeling too lazy to scroll up! Christmas in the Park

* * * * *
Now, for Christmas and Birthdays and whatnot, Rog and I have gotten into the habit of maintaining our "Wish-Lists" on They've even got a gadget/gizmo/widget (or whatever) that you can install on your browser toolbar so you can add non-Amazon stuff to your list.

My latest "Wild Hair" (and upcoming "Project") is that I want to have another shed built in the backyard which will serve as my Ceramics Studio. This past summer, I'd set-up an ersatz studio under the gazebo - in front of the hot tub. I found that I was *much* more productive with my ceramic-stuff output - when I had a work-space in the backyard. Unfortunately, sometimes in the summer it's just too damned hot to work out there (and the clay dries super-duper quickly and is prone to cracking). And, of course, in the winter it is just too damned wet and cold (b*tch-b*tch-b*tch)!

So, with mom's recent "departure" and the fact that I will be coming into a bit of an inheritance, I've decided that mom would be more-than-happy to see me with my own studio - because she knows how creative I am, and how happy that would make me. So her gift to me will be: My very own studio!

During this past summer, I was pretty content with hand-building my wares in the backyard and taking them up to The Studio to have my stuff fired. But in the meantime, my good friend Priscilla received a most generous gift: The entire inventory of a woman who used to teach ceramics to young children. Priscilla is Good People and she shared some of her good fortune with me (banding wheels, assorted tools, work-boards, and a tiny "Test Kiln"). But she had also acquired a very nice electric high-fire kiln as well.

...And I was suffering greatly from "Kiln Envy!"

Now, I'd been making plans to have a "real" Backyard Studio built, and I'd pretty-much determined that I would end up buying a used kiln on craigslist whenever I finished with the Studio Build (slated for early 2011 - I hope!). In the meantime, I was trying to figure out how to get an electronic controller for the baby kiln so I could do some glasswork. I tried putting the "controller" on my Wish-List - but I wanted to make sure it would be up-grade-able for use on bigger kilns and, well, long-story-short (famous last words!), it just got waaaaay more complicated than it should have.

Rog finally got frustrated and said "Why don't you just put what you *really* want on your Wish-List?"

"Well, because what I *really* want is too expensive!" (A new high-fire kiln - similar to Priscilla's - would run appx $2,800.00! And require a 240v electrical circuit - which we don't happen to have readily available).


"Okay, okay... Let me look some more..."

And I did look some more. And I stopped to consider the size of most of the things that I make in ceramics and I realized that I really didn't *need* a full-sized kiln to meet my needs. Most of what I make is less than 12" tall/wide/deep. On the rare occasion that I might make something larger, I could always bring it up to The Studio to have it fired - since I do intend to retain my membership there. I found a smaller kiln (13.5" x 13.5" 7-sided kiln) that runs off of 2 x 110v circuits (which we have aplenty!). ANNND only cost about 1/3 of what I originally thought I wanted! So *that's* what ended up on my Wish-List. That, and a pair of raku mitts, dark-green protective eyewear, and a pyrometer (so I can do Raku up at The Studio).

Well, now that I'd "upped-the-ante" in the Christmas Gift Realm, I determined that Santa had to be Extra-Nice to Rog this year. So Santa got Rog a Super-Duper GPS-enabled/knows where all the red-light-cameras are/knows ALL the different bands/yada-yada Radar Detector; and a James-Bond-esque scuba mask with integrated Hi-Def Video Camera (and assorted other Gee-Gaws) but those were the Big-Ticket items! Oh, and I found a pony-keg of Warsteiner Beer (from Berlin) at BevMo. I simply *couldn't* pass that up!

So, a week-or-so before Christmas, Rog comes home at lunchtime and announces that I need to help unload a very large, heavy box from the back of the truck. He kvetched (a bit) about how he was forced to "spoil the surprise" when I saw the return-address from a kiln manufacturer.

FWIW, the same thing happened when Mr. UPS Man showed up (a few years ago) with a monstrously large, heavy box that said "SONY 52" LCD TV."

Ya know, sometimes you can't help BUT spoil the surprise. And that's OKAY!

Anyway, Santa brought me my kiln (Yay!). I still haven't tested it out - but I will soon! (just as soon as the friggin' rain eases up!). I also got my raku-mitts and glasses (Double-Yay!)

And Rog was very happy with his goodies!

I'd also gotten a Way-Cool Tiki Lamp Potpourri Warmer from Priscilla and a most-thoughtful (and unexpected) gift from my cousin, LeAnn. LeAnn sent me a stuffed elephant made by "Shining Stars" - in conjunction with the International Star Registry. With the stuffed elephant, there is a code that will allow me to name a star! Uncle Gene (LeAnn's dad/Mom's brother) passed away a couple months before mom, and LeAnn found the "Shining Stars" toys for the grandkids. They've named a star for Uncle Gene. I thought that was the coolest, most-thoughtful gift ever (and I bawled my eyes out when I read the card she'd sent me).

Anyway, it was an awesome Christmas!

* * * * *
Now it is New Years Eve (and we still have the pony-keg of Warsteiner in the garage fridge!). And I am, once again, jonesin' for German Food. This is a problem since we won't be hitting Teske's again until December of next year!!! Now I don't recall if I had a Blog the last time I attempted to cook German food (I suspect not), but I *do* recall that it was a memorable occasion because the kitchen ended up looking like the remnants of an atomic blast when it was all said-and-done (Rotkohl: Not something you want to make at home - trust me!).

On the Plus Side: Our local Safeway has a very good "ethnic food" aisle - so I've found decent rotkohl in jars (Yay)! On the Down-side: Veal cutlets seem to be hard to come by around here. I ended up going to three different grocery stores, but I did find veal for scallopini which will work just fine for wienerschnitzel. And I Googled 'til I found a couple of halfway decent-sounding recipes for "German-Style Scalloped Potatoes" and/or "Warm German Potato Salad."

This is the part where the Blog-Post comes full-circle!

Tonight's Menu:
Warm Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)
Wienerschnitzel (fried veal cutlet)
Rotkohl (Sweet red cabbage - from a jar!)
Apple Turnovers (because I'm too lazy to make streudel!)
And, of course, Warsteiner Bier!

And the recipes:

Warm German Potato Salad / German Style Scalloped Potatoes
(Lazy Crock-pot method)

I adapted this from several different recipes I found on the 'net

8-10 slices of thick-cut bacon.
1/2 chopped medium-sized fresh onion
2 pkgs dried scalloped potatoes (plain kind)
2 (+ 1/2) cups water (might wait to see if it needs more - it did!)
1 can cream of celery soup (condensed)
1 5oz can evaporated milk
4 (+2) Tbs white vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard (I just used plain ol' French's)
1/2 tsp celery seed
4 Tbs bacon grease
4 (+2) tsp Splenda (or sugar, or whatever)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c heavy whipping cream

Fry up bacon and tamp grease out w/paper towels - reserve bacon grease
Chop onion and fry until light golden and limp (not crispy) - in the bacon grease
Dump the dried potato chunks into the crock pot, add the sauteed onions
Mix the seasoning packet (that came w/the scalloped potatoes) w/2 cups water, dump that on top of the potatoes
Add the can of crm of celery soup and evaporated milk. Add 4T vinegar, 4t Splenda, and mustard. Mix it in
Crumble the bacon and add it in, along w/bacon grease and celery seed.
Mix and add salt/pepper to taste

Cook in crock-pot on low for 4-5 hours.

After about the 3rd hour, I'd determined that it needed more liquid so - at that point - I stirred in 1/2c water + 1/2c heavy whipping cream. I'd tasted it again and decided it needed more vinegar (+ 2T) and sweetener (+2t Splenda). You might be okay with just adding these in at the beginning - but I am documenting as I do it!

Let it simmer for another hour, then serve warm.

*Okay, I ended up "getting creative" and added about a cup of shredded mozzarella in the last half-hour of cooking. Maybe not very authentic - but it was Super-Duper Delicious!

Austrian Wienerschnitzel (borrowed directly from

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 4 veal cutlets (traditional) pounded to 1/4 inch thickness (about 5 oz. each) (you may use chicken or pork, as well)
  • 1/4 c. flour (all purpose or brown rice)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Oil or lard for frying (lard is traditional)


  • To pound meat thin you may want to place the cutlet between sheets of plastic wrap for easier washing up. Use a heavy, flat-surface pan to pound if you don’t have a meat mallet.
  • Pound the meat evenly to 1/4 inch thickness for best results.
  • Do not press the bread crumbs into the meat. The crust should not adhere completely, but form a loose shell around the schnitzel.
  • Make sure the breaded meat “swims” in fat. Contrary to instinct, the breading will take on less oil than if the meat is sticking to the pan. Also, the breadcrumb topping has a chance to puff up a little, and your clean up is easier! Wiener Schnitzel in pan.

Set up 3 shallow dishes. Place the flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in one and breadcrumbs in another. Beat eggs well and place in the third dish.

Heat at least 1/4 inch of oil in the pan to 350°F.

Working one at a time, dredge cutlets first in flour until the surface is completely dry. Dip in egg to coat, allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds and then roll quickly in the breadcrumbs until coated. Do not press breadcrumbs into the meat. Place meat immediately in the pan with the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Cook the schnitzel in batches, if necessary.

Fry the schnitzel for 3-4 minutes on one side. You may want to swish them around a little with your fork to make sure they are not sticking to the pan. Turn them over once and fry until both sides are golden brown. Remove from pan, allow the oil to drain off, place on a plate with lemon slices and potato salad or green salad and serve.

Also good with Wiener Schnitzel: cucumber salad and french fries.

And the Rotkohl (sweet red cabbage) came in a jar manufactured by Hainich

I'll be nuking that :-)

And the Apple Turnovers are courtesy of Pepperidge Farm...

* * * * *
I might try to edit and post pictures later - but that's my post, for now!

Happy New Year (or Glückliches Neues Jahr - for any German-speakers!)

* * * * *

Double-Bonus (but not for tonight's menu): I also found beef tongue at the grocery store again - so I'll be cooking that up in the next day or two :-)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Farewell to Mom... Or "It's been a helluva year!"

Well, it's probably a good thing I don't have "a following." I'd hate to disappoint anyone with my sparse posting habits!

I've been a tad preoccupied these past several months and just haven't felt the inclination to sit down and blather at the intertubes.

See, we lost Mom in June. In some ways, I'm actually kinda sorry I didn't blog my way through that Drama. To be honest, I really admire those folks who can bare their souls via blog-post (although some go way over the line of "TMI!"). And I can see how that could be very cathartic. I am not one of those people - fortunately or unfortunately!

Mom - on the pool deck of Monarch of the Seas - 2007

Mom had fallen ill toward the end of last year. She spent, essentially, the last quarter of '09 in-and-out of hospitals and SNF's. She did go home the-day-after-Christmas-2009 and for the first couple of months of this year, she lived in a hospital bed in the living room of her house. She had a wonderful caregiver staying with her during the days - and visiting nurses and physical therapists coming by to tend to her medical needs.

Somewhere during all of that, I took over handling her finances and paying her bills (basically by getting my signature added to her accounts). And THAT was probably the smartest thing she ever did because the rampant spending habits came to a screeching halt!

There were good days and bad days, but overall she seemed to be making progress.

Then in February, she made a dramatic recovery. She was able to climb the stairs to sleep in her own bed. Back down the stairs to eat and watch TV with the dogs. We started making big plans to go to Fish Market for a Crab Louie salad and - who knows? - Maybe we can even make it back to K-Mart one day!

Sure enough! We DID go to Fish Market and ate Crab Louies! And, around mid-May, we even made it to K-Mart for a major shopping spree (she seemed to thoroughly enjoy watching ME spend all of my money!). We even came down to San Jose and toured a couple of Retirement Communities - where the lifestyle would be like living on a Cruise Ship (minus the seasickness!). I had her CONVINCED that it was time to sell her house and move into a small 1-floor apartment where all of her needs would be taken care of. Plus, living closer to me meant we could go to lunch more frequently AND go to - Can you believe it? - WAL-MART!!!

Mom's needs were pretty simple!

Anyway, we hatched a plan to break the news to my sister - and even found a way to "finance" her move so that she could get settled into her new place before her house got sold... All we had to do was Break The News and, well, Make It Happen (Bigger feat than one might imagine - given that my sister and B-I-L were living at mom's house - along with 40+ years' worth of accumulated "stuff") (But I was up for the challenge, dammit!)

Well, long story short: It just wasn't meant to be.

I think our last trip to K-Mart was the week before Mother's Day. On Mother's Day, DH and I took mom out for brunch - and talked excitedly about her plans to move - ANNNNND her upcoming Mexican Riviera cruise with Aunt Marjie. Everything seemed perfectly fine.

But then, a few days after that, my sister called and asked about how mom was - during Mother's Day Brunch. I'd indicated that she seemed fine - but Sis told me otherwise. Mom was being combative and not making any sense - crying "Help me! Help me!" all the time. We figured it was another UTI, so they took her to the ER and mom was admitted to the hospital - again. Thankfully, enough time had elapsed since her last hospitalization, that MediCare kicked in again (whew!).

Unfortunately, things just started to take a tumble from there. Mom was 86 years old, diabetic, hypertensive, yada-yada, yada-yada. She managed to get a staph infection, and some kinda blood-clot something-or-other, and emergency-surgery (which necessitated reversing her "No-Code Status" DNR/DNI thingie temporarily), followed by an inability to swallow, followed by aspiration pneumonia, then an NG tube, and Gawd-knows what else...

Basically, it was a sh*t-storm.

Urgent phone calls from doctors, nurses and social-workers. "We need to meet with the family this afternoon" calls - with me driving madly up and down the Peninsula.

Super-Low-Lows, followed by Super-High-Highs...

Doctors calling me on the weekend "You're mother has contracted pneumonia again - do you want us to treat it?" "Well, she's surprised us before. Let's give her one more chance..." (Followed by "Did I do The Right Thing, or am I just prolonging her suffering?")

Later that afternoon I went up to see her and I was actually able to make her laugh - so I felt good about my decision.

A couple days later - a call from the case-worker: "Your mom says she is ready to die."

Me calling my sister out of work and racing up the Peninsula - yet again. Thoughts of hospice running through my head. Walking into mom's room to have her proclaim - quite fervently - "I want to LIVE!"

Well, gee. What do you say to THAT?!

Come to find out, Mom was being "difficult" with the P.T. and didn't want to do her walking exercises that day (Gee, THAT'S a shocker!) (You'd have to know me, and my mom, to truly grasp the irony) and she basically told the P.T. to go pound sand and she'd rather DIE than be subjected to more of that torture!

An abridged version of that exchange got communicated back to the doctor, then down to the social worker, and so we got called in for another Family Meeting.

That also resulted in me scolding my mother (after everyone left) "Ma! You gotta be careful what you SAY to people around here! You told 'em you wanted to die and they BELIEVED you! DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!"

Drama continues... Mom's still on an NG feeding tube, and then there was talk of a PEG tube... And telling mother that she, most likely, will never get to eat food again. She was lucid and agreed to it...

Then I'm looking into Nursing Homes and trying to figure out how we're gonna pay for it...

Then another Family Meeting. The doctor is saying, basically, that there's nothing more they can do for her. PEG tube really won't gain her anything because she'll most-likely aspirate and contract pneumonia again...

Conversations with God, in the meantime. Yeah - I'm pretty much a heathen for the most part - but I basically asked God to let Mom go on one last cruise with Marjie. "And if you're not gonna let her do that, then just take her already! Quit f**king around!!!" (Yep, I'm a heathen!)

Another Family Meeting - this time with Mom. Trying to explain how we're switching to "Keeping her Comfortable." (Ohhhh, so euphemistic!)

It was weird though. Toward the end there - after the Big Meeting with Mom - she waited 'til everyone left the room so she could talk to me.

What followed was, quite possibly, *the* most difficult interaction in my life. I mean, through all of the bullsh*t leading to this point, I managed to hold it together surprisingly well. Somehow-or-other, I found it in me to be The Strong One. Logic was My Friend (shudder!).

So mom waits 'til everyone leaves the room...

"I know YOU'LL tell me the truth" she said. "I'm not going home, am I?"

"No, mom. You're going someplace even better..."

"But! I did what you said! I didn't tell them I wanted to die!"

(GULP!) "Well mom... They gave it all they've got. And YOU gave it all you've got. But the fact of the matter is: You've just got too many miles on you and, well, you're out of warranty!"

Even though that sounds like I was being glib - I was really quite serious (and bawling my eyes out) when I delivered the message. And mom "got it."

Shortly thereafter, after my BFF, Sharon, returned, Mom switched gears and started giving us her Final Wishes which Sharon, dutifully wrote down. I'll skip the details of all that because it's kind of esoteric - although "No Red Coffin" is kind of noteworthy. Mom always said that she wanted to be buried in a metallic red coffin - to match her fingernails (and the color she WANTED her car to be!). I'd found a fire-engine red coffin on the internet - and sis had found a auto-body shop that was willing to custom-paint a coffin, but mom was adamant at the end. "No Red Coffin."

Okay then! (Her coffin was deep metallic-blue)

Then, after that, mom and I spent hours talking about everyone she was gonna get to see again: Dad, Uncle Gene, Uncle Sharp, Grandma and Grandpa, and HOW MANY DOGS? "Ohhhh, Heidi will be SO thrilled to see you again! You'd better watch your step up in heaven so you don't step on any of those dogs!" and so on and so forth... So we had a good (albeit difficult) several hours together...

They did refrain from medicating her too heavily until after Aunt Marjie arrived from Washington DC. So she got to see Marjie one last time (even if they didn't get to go on a cruise) - so that's good.

Then they put her on morphine and... Well, I really don't want to relive that last couple of days (that felt like a lifetime).

Mom passed away peacefully at 12:30am on Saturday June 12.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets. We said all that needed to be said and I supported her to the very end.

I still can't decide whether it was a Blessing or a Curse that I was the one she turned to - at the end - to "get the truth." I guess it's a mixture of both...

I got to deliver part of her eulogy and maybe I'll post that later. Or maybe I won't. I dunno. I did print-out the 3-page version (with EVERYTHING) as well as a 1-page outline (Mom would've been SO PROUD!). I did manage to share The Fun Side of Mom with everyone - and even elicited a couple of laughs from the congregation. Not disrespectful - mind you. Just some fond, funny memories of Mom...

And though it all - I discovered that I really do have some VERY GOOD FRIENDS/Loved Ones who were extremely supportive of me. This was an extraordinarily difficult time and it's always nice to know that you've got people who've "got your back" - no matter what!

One more note: My cell-phone is with Verizon, right? And, if I'm not mistaken, Verizon only stores "saved" messages for 21 days... Well, well-over a month after mom had passed, I decided to go through and delete my old messages. Well, the first (oldest) saved message was from back in February! It was my mom calling to tell me she was doing much better, that she'd made it upstairs to sleep in her own bed and that "things are looking up - we're gonna go have that Louie in no time!" Needless to say, I bawled my eyes out when I heard it - but I took it as a message that she'd made it "upstairs" and all was well...

I *do* believe in getting messages from "the other side" (I got a clear one from my dad - after he'd passed). So I do take comfort in that.

I did have DH (the Electronics Wizard) figure out a way to capture the file from my phone and save it to an .mp3 file (Thanks Honey!) - so I'll have my mom's voice "forever." Although - even today - that message is STILL on my phone. In fact, I just listened to it and I am crying - yet again!

Wow. I really didn't intend to go on like this. Yeah, I guess this blogging thing *is* pretty cathartic!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Coolest Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Okay, I'll admit to being a bit of a Geek. Far from a Super-Geek - but hell, I live in the Silicon Valley (to say nothing of being married to an Electronics Engineer!) - so it's kind of a pre-requisite, right?

At the same time, I was still toting around (and relying quite heavily on) my old Palm IIIxe (10 years old with a monochromatic screen!!!). Yes, I got ribbed for that but I was staunch in my defense of the device: "It has my Outlook/Work Calendar on it and squawks at me when I have a meeting; It has this really cool [no-longer-supported] Diet Program on it (Complete with the USDA Nutritional Database!); and it's got about fifty-bazillion different Solitaire Games on it! It has *exactly* what I need!"

Nevertheless, I was suffering (more than a tad) from iPhone Envy :::sigh:::

Something about having the Internet at your fingertips 24/7 was stirring a lust, deep in my soul, that I simply couldn't deny! (No, I'm not addicted! Really!)

Of course, I wasn't jealous enough to fork-over a freaking fortune for a new phone! And certainly not envious enough to switch cellular providers! (*gasp!*)

Well, my Contract was nearly due for renewal and - lucky me - they were offering a pre-renewal Upgrade Special thingie-doo on new 3G Smart Phones, so I started surfing for more info - on my laptop, of course, because my antiquated Palm does NOT have internet access ("Oh the HUMANITY!!!"). I was pretty-much 99.9999% convinced that I wanted a Motorola Droid.

So then I toddled off to the local Verizon Store to take a look. I was a little apprehensive, at first because the place looks like it's *always* jam-packed with people - and I was expecting to get the Hard-Sell and/or Brush-Off if I wasn't prepared to purchase That. Very. Minute.

Fortunately, my fears proved to be (largely) un-founded. Well, I did get the Sales Pitch and Brush-off, but not in a Bad Way.

Yeah, I spoke to a Sales Rep for a few minutes - but no High-Pressure-Sales-Pitch. And yes, the Sales Rep vanished - almost instantly - when I indicated that I wasn't going to be making a purchase that day. But I did get the opportunity to play with the phone and they did answer my questions.

I did manage to Make an Adventure out of it, though!

Here's a little PSA for ya'all:

If you go into any phone store to "play" with a SmartPhone - DON'T log into email (or whatever) using a "real" personal account. Use one of your Garbage/Spam accounts!

So if you - like me - find that you accidentally left the "Remember Me" box checked, you won't leave ALL your personal (and potentially financial) information wide-open for the next schmoe who might want to play with the very same phone!

Yes, I stupidly logged into my gmail email using my "real" email address. The one that's linked to my online banking, all of my credit cards, most of my shopping sites (eBay, PayPay, countless others...), and also has a Google Checkout Account (with a Credit Card) linked to it. "D'oh!"

Yes, I logged out. But I didn't realize (at the time) that even when you close the browser, it still remains (logged-on) in the background. So even though I kept signing out and closing the Browser App - every time I brought it back up, it went back to my current emails and kept me logged in! AAAACK!!!

And, of course, since I'd already dispatched the Sales Guy when I said I wasn't buying today, it was damn-near impossible to flag anyone down to learn how to clear the cache!

I did drag someone over who hit some buttons and claimed that everything was clear. But then I pulled up the browser and - again - all of "my" stuff still popped up - as logged-in - on the phone.

Quite frustrating! And actually really unnerving - I DON'T want my credit card info out there for all the world to see!

I ended up coming straight home and re-setting my passwords. But I *still* wasn't comfortable that I'd rendered "my stuff" inaccessible through the "C'mon and play with me" Slut-of-a-SmartPhone at the Verizon Store!

So "Quick Study Time!" I pulled up the pdf of the Droid User-Manual and read-up on how to clear the browser, cache, cookies and passwords.

I hurried back to the Verizon Store and went back the same Demo-phone. I used my newfound knowledge to clear the cache, browser and cookies and double-checked to make sure that nobody could access my account which, unfortunately, became the default sign-in acct on the Google screen! But at least I confirmed that you *couldn't* get into it without the password :::Whew!:::

So there you have it! If you're gonna play with a Smart-Phone at the Cellular Store and want to play around with the browser and read your email - USE A GARBAGE ACCOUNT! And WATCH-OUT for that "Remember Me" box! Jeez!

That was a real Bone-head move on my part! D'oh! For a minute there, I was afraid that I was gonna have to BUY the phone that day. No - not just a new Droid - but THAT VERY PHONE!

So then I went home and surfed some more. Read lots of reviews. Read about ALL THE APPS you can get. No, not as many as Apple - but I like that it's Open Source and you aren't limited to Proprietary-stuff - like the Apple.

Side-Note: I really hate iTunes. Made the mistake of downloading it and bought a few songs - only to discover that I can't play them on any of my mp3 players - unless I burn 'em to CD/AVI/whatever first - then convert them back to non-proprietary mp3 format - what a PITA!

That was the point where I decided I really didn't care for Apple - for me personally (I know there are lots of BigTime Apple i-whatever fans out there and I am not dissing them, by any means! It's just not "my personal preference!") I'm fine with letting Apple forge into new territory and introduce New Fantastic Can't-Live-Without-It Technology. I'll also let 'em work the bugs out and wait patiently for the i-whatever Ripoff to come out, and buy it then!

And yes, I'll silently lust after it, in the meantime!

Anyhoooooooo... I did all my research and crunched some numbers. I figured I'd wait 'til my Contract was truly up (in 3 weeks) and save an add'l $50.00. But then it got all dreary and rained all weekend. And I got terribly bored. Couldn't go out and play in the garden. Nothing on TV. And every time I surfed the 'net, I kept coming back to the Droid-related sites.

Oh to hell with it! I transferred some $$ from my savings and headed out to the Verizon Store - AGAIN.

Meet Rosie:


I LOVE her!!! (But I'm still carrying my Palm Pilot!)

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Well, I fubar'd - badly!

Remember that pic of the melons and squash babies? Well, the soil that I used to pot them up in the Peat Pots was some kinda Super-Duper "Top-dress-your-lawn" kinda stuff that was infused with some sorta (undoubtedly SUPER-HIGH-NITROGEN) fertilizer.

I burned the babies and, well, they've all died. Booooo!

And I've run out of seeds!!!

I did ask my friend, P, if she had any leftovers (since we divvied up the seeds we bought last year). So if she does, I'll try again. But they'll have to be direct sown, I think.

I do still have several babies - still in the original Peat Pellets - Jelly Melons, Tomatoes, and a couple-three other things. But no honeydews, squash or pumpkins. Bummer!

Sadly, none of my gourds have sprouted either. Not really sure what I'm gonna do with gourds anyway - but it seemed like a cool thing to grow, out near the pergola.

So I'm still not sure what-all I'm gonna end up growing this year. I really would like to try Honeydew again, though. The first year we had the pool, I planted a honeydew vine next to the trellis that hides the pool equipment. We got melons GALORE that year. I mean, it was INSANE how many melons we got - and they were sooooo sweet and delicious! Ever since then, I've tried Honeydews again-and-again - and haven't gotten diddly-squat!

I've also tried cantaloupe several times and never got anything bigger than a softball (and just as hard!). So I've officially given up on cantaloupes. Watermelons - I've had weird luck with those. Invariably, the plants that survive end up trailing BEHIND some other, larger plant - and I don't discover the melons until long after they're no longer edible! So I've decided I'm not destined to be a watermelon farmer!

Pumpkins - never had any luck. But haven't tried all THAT hard. I hope to try again and maybe experience *some* success.

Pretty much, I stick with the Tried and True: Tomatoes, Yellow Crook-neck Squash, Cukes and Zucch's. I did grow some peppers last year, too. But I don't really like peppers - to be honest. So I pick them, say "Oooh, that's pretty!" then it sits on the kitchen counter 'til it gets mushy and ultimately ends up in the compost bin!

Anyhooooo... Suffice it to say, I *will* have a garden this year. I just don't know what-all will be in it!

I went out this morning and dumped a bag of Home Depot Steer Manure on the raised bed (after I yanked out the cool-season veggies and weeds). I need to work it into the soil tomorrow - and maybe dump a second bag - or dump a top-dressing of soil on top of that.

Next weekend is the Big Plant Sale!!! Santa Clara Master Gardeners has a big annual sale and P and I will show up, bright and early, with a flatbed cart even! I think it's a safe bet that tomatoes will be purchased. This year they've added other stuff (gourds!) as well. And I think I'll revive my Not-An-EarthBox Planter (referenced here)and try corn again. In fact, this year I think I'll even harvest it in time so we can actually EAT it (the planter worked great - I was just too dumb to know when to harvest!).

Anyhoooo... I'm really looking forward to the sale!

In other Yard News: Last weekend, Rog and I were down in San Diego. We sat outside, enjoying cocktails, one evening when Rog noticed they had Patio Heaters in the outdoor seating area. They weren't "on" (not needed!), but Rog opined that they were pretty cool. Particularly since summer evenings are pretty chilly here (avg mid-50's). I agreed and noted that they were "Very Expensive!"

Well, since I renewed my Costco Membership, I'm on their email list and - how fortuitous!! - it just so happened that they had outdoor Patio Heaters on sale for <$150.00 - delivered!!

I double-checked the price on these bad boys and found that Home Depot carries 'em for $399.00 (Ouch!!!). So I quickly logged on to Costco's site and ordered one!

$147.48 and less than a week later, we have an outdoor patio heater! I still had to buy a 20# propane cylinder (and gas), so tag another $50 onto that. But still - a helluva lot better than $399!

We put it together and fired it up. Works like a charm! Yup. Definitely a good investment, I think!

So here's my one photo for this post.......

Annnnd... Now we're talking about opening up the pool in the coming weeks. Yayyy!!!

Stay tuned for more Garden Updates!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ahhh... Springtime!

Yeah, we already know I'm a lousy blogger.

Deal with it!

So the Big Fish Tank Project turned out to be less of a project than originally anticipated. I've got it up and running and only experienced one significant loss (A baby black [waaaahhhh $35.00] Clown Fish). All the corals are fine and it's really just a matter of "maintaining" the tank now (testing and doing water changes). And waiting for the "stuff" to grow.

It did it's job and kept me occupied thru the darkest days of winter. And yes, I'm still maintaining it! But it's definitely not a huge time-suck.

So it's Springtime already (Yay!!!) and here in Sunny California - well - it's SUNNY! (Double-Yay!). In fact, I am sitting at the Tiki Bar, with Sugar-Free Margarita in-hand, while I update this sorry excuse for a blog!

Plum Blossoms

Sooooo... What's New and Exciting?!

Thank God the Tiki Bar is Open (well, partly anyway!)

Well - aside from the fact that I have revived the Tiki Bar (mostly, anyway - it's not completely festooned with tiki-krep yet since I'm sure we'll get more rain the coming weeks) - I did manage to pull out all of the Summer Furniture! Single-handedly even! Last fall, I decided I was too lazy to re-jigger the storage shed in the backyard and opted for the "Easy-Out" and rented a 5x5 storage locker around the corner from our house. I tallied it up today: I figure I spent just over $250 to store $200 worth of K-Mart Lawn Furniture! "D'oh!"

Oh well, at least I got it cleared out before another month's rent was due!!!

Annnnnd... One thing I've been *wanting* to do for the past several years is "claim a space" in the backyard that I could dedicate to Artsy-Fartsy Ceramics Crafty sh*t. I do belong to a "real" studio, but somehow the muses seem to strike me more when I'm here - in Tiki Central - than when I'm up at the studio. I want to be able to create stuff HERE, then bring them up to the studio for firing/glazing/yada-yada...

So anyway, the storage shed is far too small (10x12 - but it's divided in the middle so it's got two 6x10 rooms). I did attempt to do some sculpting under the gazebo one summer, but it was too bloody hot on the patio. The gazebo roof just doesn't provide enough shade. Soooooo... I stumbled onto the Most Brilliant Idea of buying some El Cheapo Plastic Blinds from Home Depot. I've hung them along the sides of the gazebo and now I can create shade "at will!"

My Summertime Studio

Yay! I've set-up a sturdy folding table in there, and I've got a slab roller buried in the shed, so I hope to get my ersatz backyard studio set-up in the coming weeks...

Let's see, what else?! Ohhh... Was it last weekend? Or maybe the weekend before? Hell, I can't remember! Anyway, I cleared out a pretty big planter bed (Yay me!). See, there was this long bed - I wanna say 20' x 2' - that ran along the fence-line in front of the shed. It was supposed to be an ornamental bed and, the first year, I threw a bunch of bulbs and rhizomes and whatevers in there - all Willy Nilly - and hoped for the best.

Well, that method worked very well in other parts of the yard (ergo, I think we have about 800-million cannas now!), but this one particular bed always looked like sh*t. I've tried different things through the years. One year, I did a buttload of annuals - with lots of coleus sprinkled in. It still looked like sh*t. Now I've got Morning Glory Vines planning a coup, and weeds galore, and the bed ended up becoming a dumping spot for whatever potted plants I couldn't find homes for (because it became so overgrown - you couldn't see the pots!). And what's this?! Two potted orchid plants? And they're still alive?! Oh - and what the hell?! Two freaking Washingtonia filiferas have infiltrated a 2' wide bed?! (Uhh, that would be those GINORMOUS California Fan Palms - à la L.A. - for those who may not be hip on Latin-speak).

Much grunting, digging and cursing transpired. Blood was shed - even! (Yes, those palm trees have SHARP edges and SPIKES! They're like Ninja Trees!). So I ripped out the fan palms and EVERYTHING else.

Oh, this particular bed was *quite* moist owing to the fact that Princess Annie likes to chew through drip-lines. And I have yellow irises that LOVE soggy soil. I think I had about 200,000 of those when it was all said and done (and I pawned EVERY LAST ONE OF 'EM off on neighbors and friends!). Basically, I ripped EVERY DAMNED THING out!

And since, ummm, I'm - ahem - over 40. And - cough-cough - let's say a tad overweight. Well, I've discovered that kneeling and digging for extended periods of time doesn't exactly agree with me. Well, it's not the kneeling so much as it is the getting back up again. "WTF?!"

So - during this whole ordeal - I had to run to the drugstore for something. And while I was there - even though I SWORE I wouldn't wander through the Garden Section because there isn't a damn thing I need - well, I happened upon one of these! And it was only $19.99. Ahhh what the hell, right?

Let me tell you... This thing is the Coolest Thing since Sliced Bread! It looks goofy as hell, I know - but it is comfy, and it let's you maneuver around and lean this way and that (with minimal grunting and cursing) and, honestly, I don't think I would've finished the job without it!

So I managed to clear out the ENTIRE bed in ONE afternoon! Yayyy Me!

Annnnd I completely replaced the drip-lines! Annnnnd I added a fence to deter Princess Sprinkler Eater (and Digger Extraordinaire!) from claiming MY fresh new fluffy planter bed!

I have since spread a layer of newspapers on the dug-out bed, and added a thick layer of compost and fresh planting mix. I'm letting it "rest" for a week or two now, then I'll probably use some kinda weed barrier (much as I hate the stuff) and start re-planting the bed.

Fresh, fluffy new garden bed - and my Garden Rocker!
And Tazz (the Spazz), my Secondary Sprinkler-Eater (though she much prefers her tire!)

So what are ya gonna plant?!

Welllllll... The yard "theme" is tropical - and I am still very-much undecided about what I *ultimately* want to do with the bed. So I think - given my lack of veggie-growing space in the back garden (and my love of home-grown tomatoes - which will take up every last inch of space!) - I'm probably gonna grow big-leaf viney plants like melons and squash in the new bed. I'm curious to see how it looks and I'm only committed for one season that way. We'll see what happens!

Hopefully this year's garden will be more - umm - "fruitful" than last year. Last year kinda sucked eggs - to be honest. But I took solace in the fact that it was almost universally bad for everyone in San Jose - even the Santa Clara Master Gardeners agreed when we went to the Harvest Festival last year...

Anyhoooo... What else-what else?! Ohhh, I've started seedlings in the bathroom window again. No funky planter experiments this year. I pretty much started the seeds in Jiffy Peat Pellet thingies which - once the seedlings start to show roots - get transplanted into slightly-larger Jiffy Peat Pots which - ultimately - will get buried in the ground someplace. Still a little too soon for that. I figure I'll start working on "hardening off" in the greenhouse in the next week (after I eradicate the bug population - sheesh!). I'll start misting the babies with chamomile tea tonight (don't ask me why - but ever since I started doing that I have had far fewer fatalities w/my seedlings)

Ooh, that reminds me, I think it's time to unplug the heater out in the greenhouse. I think the "marginals" need to get acclimated to colder nights now that the danger of "freeze" has passed...

:::trudge trudge trudge::: Done!

Mmmm - Ate pea while I was back there and discovered that my broccoli has bolted. Ooops!

Hint: If you plant cool-season veggies, you really oughtta go out and check 'em every once in awhile!

Soooo, the plants I have started so far include: Melons - Normal stuff like Honeydews and Casabas, and not-so-normal stuff like Jelly Melons, inspired by Finny Knits (I like to place blame where it's deserved!). And I've started some funky pumpkins (Lumina and Jarrahdale) and a "normal" orange one. And squashes: Zuch's, Yellow crook-neck and Spaghetti. And, of course, 'maters (I forgot which varieties I started this year). I also bought a pre-grown Beefsteak of some sort at Home Depot (don't wanna hedge my bets!)...

Jelly melon babies - looking eagerly out the window!

Squashes and Pumpkins

As usual, I'm sure I'll have FAR more plants than I have space for. And that's why my Gardening Friends love me (or - at least put up with me!).

Okay, that's the latest! Spring has officially sprung and I am looking forward to another (hopefully awesome) growing season!.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Okay, better coral pictures are needed

I wish I could figure out how to re-size 'em when I do the copy/paste thing. There's probably some html code I could insert, but screw it!

Kenya Tree Coral:

Green Star Polyps:

These are rampant growers - from the sounds of it - so they've since been moved to their own isolated rock.

Purple Mushroom and an unknown hitchhiker coral - below the shroom. The unknown coral fluouresces a cool neon green under the blue LED night lights!

Aqua Coral. It, too, kind of fluoresces under the night light...

Teeny-Tiny Zoanthids - Two different types on one rock.

Aquarium - Chapter V: I've got Coral!

Amazingly, this brings us up-to-date on The Great Reef Tank Project. I've been tweaking around a little - moving corals around in the tank (i.e. I was warned that the Green Star Polyp would likely take-over). But, pretty-much, this is where we stand today. Yay!

Chapter V: I've got Coral!!

This time, I was smart enough to bring a water sample. Although I have started testing with more reliable, individual test kits - Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate and pH. I don't have test kits for Phosphate, Magnesium or Alkalinity - yet. Anyway, I figured I'd let The Experts test my water before I started plunking any critters in there. It passed - with flying colors (they recommended that I start using B-Ionic to raise the calcium a notch).

So annnnnywaaaaaayyyy... "Whad'ja get? Whad'ja get?!" "Where are the PICTURES???"

Okay Okay!!!

I got two different kinds of zoanthids on one rock:


My camera didn't capture the color real well, but the one on the upper left is super-neon green.

Annnnnd... I got an Aqua-colored Mushroom:


Annnnnd... I got some Free Kenya Trees (which I may end up regretting later - from the sounds of it!):


This was before they opened. I'll post more pics later, after they've settled in.

Annnnd... I got some Green Star Polyps:


Again, they're feeling a little shy after the ride home. More pics later....

Annnnd... Last, but not least, I got a Purple Mushroom:


There's a second hitch-hiker coral on the same rock (below the 'shroom). They told me what it was, but I forgot! Anybody recognize it?

Here's a full-tank shot - with my shiny new corals!


Oooh, it's Official! I have a Reef Tank!

Me = Happy Camper! :eclap

Aquarium - Chapter IV: Goodbye Diatoms, Hello Algae!

Holy Cow! I may take the entire Blogger Network down at this rate!!!

Chapter IV: Goodbye Diatoms, Hello Algae!

So I'm pretty happy with my Clean-up Crew. It's only been a few days and the brown gooze has receded significantly!


This is the same angle as the shot posted above - so it's pretty clear that the Janitors are doing their jobs!

But today I noticed I'm starting to get green hairy algae. Some on the "glass" (which I scrubbed off with my handy-dandy don't-get-your-hands-wet algae brush). But it's also starting to appear on some of my rocks (/dead coral fragments).

Difficult to photograph, but it's on the Coral rock on the left

I know that this, too, is a normal part of cycling. I'm not sure how long it's supposed to last and/or when I should be alarmed. I've read "horror stories" on various sites about hair algae completely taking over and destroying ppl's tanks (I don't wanna go there!).

Here's what I've done, so far:

20% water change last night (using Seawater from Neptune's). I've got GFO in there to keep the phosphates down. I've cut my lights back to 8 hours/day - as of today - when I first noticed the algae.

I've ordered proper Salifert Test Kits (off the internet 'cuz I'm cheap - err - frugal!), but they haven't arrived yet. For now, according to my Crappy Test Strips, Nitrite, Ammonia and Nitrate are all at zero. pH is at appx 8.2-8.4 and salinity (using my accurate refractometer) is at 1.022.

So - any thoughts on when I should panic? What more should I be doing (if anything)?


(I'm anxious for Chapter TBD: My First Cool Coral)

Aquarium - Chapter III: Things are Happening!

Since I'm on a roll... Let's copy/paste some more! This post dates back to Jan 11...

Chapter III: Things are Happening (and No, I didn't panic!)

So the tank's been up since Monday afternoon (Jan 4 '10). I've pretty much left it alone other than setting up the light timer and checking the salinity, pH, Nitrites, Ammonia and Nitrates every couple of days or so. So far nothing too dramatic has happened, numbers-wise (although I think I need to upgrade from these cheesy 5:1 test-trips I was using on my FW tank).

On Saturday, I'd planned on going out to buy my chaeto and set-up the tank rack/refugium. Well, Saturday morning, I noticed that my beauteous rock-work was covered in brown gooze!

"Ahhhh, Diatoms" I exclaimed "Perfectly normal!"
(Well, those might not have been my *exact* words. I think it might've sounded more like "Oh sh*t - That looks AWFUL!").

So, off to Neptune's we went...

It didn't even occur to me to bring a water sample ("D'oh!" Newbie Mistake #2). But I did bring my refractometer which they graciously calibrated for me. I whined (ever-so-slightly) about my diatom woes and they suggested shortening the light cycle. They also noted that I could get a clean-up crew started in there.

"So soon?!"


Soooo... "I've got crabs!!!"

They immediately set to work, gobbling up the brown gooze. Yay Hermit Crabs!

I like this shot:
They look like they're all bellied-up to the bar! "Tres mas cervesas por favor!!!"

So yeah, I got 5 blue-legged hermit crabs; 2 Trochus snails and 2 Cerith snails. And, like I say, they're munching furiously on the diatoms. I also picked up some GFO pellets as a pro-active measure against phosphates (which I can't test for - yet!). So far, the critters are "almost" keeping up with the diatom bloom. But I've cut back the lights to 10.5 hrs/day - hoping that will help.

But I am NOT panicking, okay?!

In fact, when I saw a hermit crab "body" on the bottom of the tank - I didn't panic THEN either. I think he just molted (I couldn't get a clear pic of that, unfortunately). His front end was dark, but where his body would have been was all clear-lookin' so I think that's some kind of exoskeleton or something, right?

Oh, but I've gotten ahead of myself! I forgot to illustrate "The Build" of the refugium!

Okay okay okay: Here's the tank rack, empty - save for the u/w pond light (both from InTank):

Here's the rack with Chemi-pure Elite on the bottom and chaeto in the middle (I moved the lights up one level):

I also added 2 TBS of GFO (tied up in panty-hose) to the bottom shelf, and some filter floss on the top shelf. The whole things slides neatly into chamber 2 of the BC.

Soooooo... That's where I'm at now! And now I don't feel so weird when I sit and stare at the tank because at least there are "critters" moving around in there. Okay, maybe I'm a little touched because I find myself cheering-on the hermit crabs as they scale "Everest!" (But then, I don't get out much!)

Okay, stay tuned for Chapter IV: TBD....................

Let's try to post a better shot of the Tank, Shall we?

Much better!

Aquarium - Chapter II: Live Rock

Ahhh... More Copy/Paste Action. This post dates back to January 10. I think that makes me a lazy procrastinator!

Chapter II: Live Rock

My Inspiration:
Neptune Aquatics BC14. The first "populated" BC14 I ever saw - and boy is it GORGEOUS!

So I forgot to mention that a colleague of mine, up in Washington State, is also a Reef-Nut (BC8 and 29) and he somehow, inadvertently, kinda became my short-term "Mentor." I suspect he was starting to get a little annoyed with my badgering non-stop questions and he provided the URLs for a few good online resources and also mentioned that there might be some "local" reef-clubs I might want to look into. So that's how I found NCRC ;)

Well, I also yammered on about how I had my live sand and water in the tank, and how I was getting ready to go buy some live-rock. But @ over $6/lb, I was kinda "ouching" over it. Well, bless his heart, he checked our local Craigslist and found a guy in the South-East Bay who was selling his rock for $2/lb. Now, I got to badger someone else via email and, long-story-short, I drove up on Monday and picked it up. $40 got me 22# of rock - Yay!

This is, essentially, what it looked like - only there was more of it:

This is actually what's left over now (and I'll be bringing it to the swap).

Well, since it was mostly rubble, I decided to stop at Neptune's on my way home and pick up a couple of big chunks of their Marco rock to form an arch.

Then, the minute I got home, I started plunking rocks into my tank:

Not bad for a first attempt, if I do say so myself!

So now we play the game of "Sit and Wait." Wait for the live rock to seed the Marco rock; Wait for microorganisms to start doing whatever they do; Test every 2-3 days to make sure "things are happening;" Wait for my add'l Gee-Gaws to arrive..........

At this point, I think it's kinda like watching paint dry. But at least there were no Newbie Mistakes/Panic Attacks for this particular installment! :eclap

Soon, I hope to post Chapter III: Things are Happening!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aquarium - Chapter I: Initial Set-Up and Newbie Mistakes

All right, I warned ya that there might be some Copy/Paste action going on ;-)

I'm actually posting the progress of my tank on one of the Reef Message Boards and, well, I'm too lazy to re-type it all. So here goes:

(Note: I'm also too lazy to try to figure out how to re-size the jpgs, so things might look weird!)
* * * * *
Okay, I'm gonna attempt to document the creation/progression of my Nano Tank here - complete with Newbie Mistakes and Panic Attacks! (Oh, and pictures, too!) :D

So grab yourself a cold one and enjoy.............

Chapter I: Initial set-up and Newbie Mistakes

I must've been a good girl last year because Santa brought me a BioCube14 for Christmas.

Here it is - fresh out of the box:

(Excuse the mess - it was the day after Christmas, after all!)

I got lucky in that we still had an old TV stand (albeit a dusty old TV stand) that ended up being the perfect size for the tank. Okay, maybe I'd like it to be about 3-4" taller - but it's an "okay" height for viewing when you're sitting on the sofas. I asked DH to cut a beefier backer-board for the stand and I spray painted all of the exposed particle-board with black semi-gloss spray paint (thinking that the likelihood of me dripping on it, and turning it to mush, was pretty high!). The beefing-up of the stand took about a week and, in the meantime, I started ordering more gee-gaws for the tank.

Off the top of my head I'd ordered a Refractometer (eBay); Media Rack and Fish-Saver (InTank); Chemi-Pure; underwater LED pond lights; Koralia Nano Pump; and probably some other stuff I can't remember right now!

I also went to the LPS and picked up a bag of Instant Ocean and Live Sand. Then off to the local water-store where I bought 10 gallons of R/O filtered water (BTW - that's exactly what the BC14 holds: 10 gallons!).


I then proceeded to make Newbie Mistake #1: The sand goes in the tank BEFORE the water ("D'oh!").


Now mind you, I had been reading numerous Reef-Tank Message Boards, and absorbing information like a sponge, but somehow I still managed to miss "The Basics!" Hint for other Newbies: Put the sand in first. Mix your water/salt in a separate container to the correct SG. Then put a small bowl on the sand; pour the water into the bowl and let it slowly overflow. That way you'll minimize the whole Sand-Storm Effect (or so I've read).

Of course, there really wasn't anything in the tank at this point - so the sand-storm shouldn't have mattered - and would have cleared up on it's own, I'm sure. EXCEPT: I'd already contacted a guy thru Craigslist who was selling appx 20# of live rock (from a 4-y/o established tank) for $2.00/lb. And I had already arranged to drive up and get it the very next day! Oooooops!

Soooo... What-to-do? What-to-do?!! (Newbie Panic Attack #1). Well, the BC had come with a filter pad/cartridge thingie - that looked pretty cheesy to me. LPS (that SELLS BioCubes) *doesn't* sell BioCube Filters (Hmph!). I'd already ditched the BioBalls (b/c I planned to run a refugium) so the center back chamber was clear. I ended up stuffing a bunch of filter-floss into a media bag and wedging it, crossways, into the center chamber thusly:


That didn't do a very good job of filtering out the clouds, unfortunately. So I pulled out some polyfiber filter "sheet" material (that I was using on my FW tank):


I cut a slice roughly the same size as the media bag and wedged it on top:


Better. But still not as good as I'd like (Yes, I know: "Patience!!!").

So I pulled out a 100 GPH power-head and stuck that on the side of the tank.


Left that running overnight and by morning, the tank looked like this:


Yaaayyyyy!!! Crisis Averted!

Okay, that about covers the tank set-up thru last weekend. Stay tuned for Chapter II: Live Rock

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