Monday, April 30, 2012

I want a Tiki Hut!

Plain and simple!

First, a little rambling ('cuz that's what I do!!!)

We are situated on a quarter-acre (!! Huge by California standards !!) pie-shaped corner lot where the front yard is fairly small and pretty-much nondescript:  It's an "inside" corner (meaning parking is tight!), with a raised front lawn, a driveway, and a MASSIVE poopy pepper-tree out front (No.  Sorry.  No Bee-Saga Updates at the present time!).  The house itself is also pretty "modest:" 2BR/1BA 1200SF.  Your basic "California Ranch" style house, built in the early 70's (with a *few* updates, through the years, but we *still* have brown shag carpeting - YUK!!!)...

But the backyard?  Oh my goodness, in the summer, it TRULY takes your breath away!  Stunning "Tropical Resort!"  Seriously (and yes - most of that is *my* doing!).  We do have a sizable pool, and a modest-sized lawn (probably about equivalent to most "normal" backyards), a cabana/storage shed, and a Tiki Bar (complete with palm-thatch umbrella!)  (and that's not including *my* side-yard with the veggie-beds and Art Studio!)

Wintertime? Not-so-much (we stow most of the "Resort-Stuff" during the winter months).  And, right now, we are in that awkward "Between Stage" where you can definitely see the "potential!"  But I've got some work ahead of me to drag all the summer furniture out and clean-up much of the landscaping. (And, from the looks of it, find cheap replacement palm-trees for my large patio pots).

Thankfully, most of the ornamental plantings we have done are "perennials" and almost-all of them seem suitable for our climate (Cannas, bananas, queen palms, birds of paradise, hibiscus flowers, dwarf phoenix/date palms, agapanthus, honeysuckles, morning glories, etc.).  And most of them are "tropical" in appearance - which is super-nice!  Some of them are actually "marginal" for our climate and get overwintered in the greenhouse (Plumerias). Or under bed-sheets when they get too big for the greenhouse doorway (Plumies again!)

Annnnnd...  Just outside out back-door, we've got the hot tub and a 10x15 steel gazebo with canvas top:

Now, one winter we left it outside with the canvas roof attached.  We got hit with a severe windstorm (not entirely unusual for our area) and the thing *tried* to take-flight and ended up in a twisted-heap, leaning against our neighbor's fenceline!

We twisted it (mostly) back into shape and added these cheap Home Depot plastic roll-up blinds.  For one summer, it acted as my "Backyard Studio" (before I built the "real" Tiki Shack/Studio), and we have determined that - if we leave the blinds on it - it CAN survive winter, outdoors - even with the canvas roof on it (which - BTW - is a MAJOR pain to remove and re-install!).  Added bonus:  It doubles as "Mostly dry" storage for summer furniture!!!

Well, over time, the gazebo is *really* starting to show it's age.  It's starting to rust-out (and stain the concrete).  The cheesy plastic blinds are getting all torn-up (but they're cheap enough to replace).

This spring, the gazebo looks like this:

You can't fully grasp how "tired" it looks from this picture but - trust me! - it is TIRED!  The rust is dripping down, over toward the left-hand-side, and the blinds are hopelessly tattered on the edges (and don't go up-and-down without a LOT of assistance), and the formerly-green canvas top is now a dull shade of greige...

And, I'm not sure, but I think the original manufacturer of this gazebo *may* have gone out of business (Google finds "zilch!"), so I may not even be able to replace the canvas top anymore (It used to run me appx $150/yr to keep us in canvas tops).  I shudder to think what a "custom" cover would cost!!!

Sooo..  Fast forward to last year's San Francisco Garden Show:  I saw a display for Tropical Garden Furniture, a local company.  They had THE most AWESOME looking Tiki-Huts EVAR!!!  That link takes you to their Tiki Huts, specifically.  And the hut that I really-really-really want is this one:

I wish the picture was a little better, but - Trust Me - based on what I saw on display, this hut looks FREAKING AWESOME!!!  I suspect *this* hut is the 8x8.  I want the 12x12 - and it comes with support posts made of carved palm-tree-trunks with TIKI FACES.  


Upside:  The thing, fully assembled, weighs close to 1100#, so I don't think we need to worry about it blowing away!  I'll probably still add cheesy plastic blinds to the sides (so we can use it as winter storage).  The thatch roof is reputedly "waterproof" and is supposed to last 8-10 years (which is certainly longer than the steel gazebo has lasted - and the canvas roof for that is only good for 1-2 years).

Downside:  It is several thousand dollars (but the $$ *includes* installation!).  Haven't quite run the numbers yet, but it'll definitely be An Investment!

Nevertheless...  I WANT ONE!!!

Currently, they don't have any in-stock - and their next "container" isn't scheduled to arrive until July.  So I've got a few months to "play with the numbers" and start working on Hubs to convince him that WE NEED THIS GAZEBO!!

I just hope I am successful in getting someone, on Freecycle, to come to disassemble and take the old gazebo away!

Anyhooooo...  I am hopeful that, by summer's end, we'll have a Brandy New TIKI HUT Gazebo in our yard!!!

P.S.  One Gripe with Blogger's new GUI:  Spacing between paragraphs seems kinda "whacked" and needs constant re-adjustment.  And "Getting to" Old posts for editing is not entirely intuitive...  Nevertheless, I *do* like the "stick a photo where you want it" option!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's this?! A GARDEN update?!!

No effin' way!!!

Yup!  It's TRUE!  

I am still limping along, IRL - both figuratively and literally - but I AM gonna plant my garden this year.  Hell, I'd better!  Otherwise I'm gonna need a machete to get into the greenhouse!

Jayzus!!!  Plant us already!
Or at least give us some water!!!

It's kinda hard to tell from my crappy Droid pics, but these shelves are fairly tall - with lots of clearance between them - and the friggin' Garden Center is starting to grow up THROUGH the shelves.  Oooops!

And - with daytime temps in the mid-80's - the greenhouse gets pretty damned hot during the day - in spite of the fact that I have removed one side-panel at the rear, I leave the door open, and the solar-fan kicks in whenever the temps rise above 75* (in other words - PLENTY of ventilation!).  Oh, and I have shade-cloth over the south-side and roof!

So yeah, the Summer Veggies *want* to get Super-Happy (including the Finny Farm Fam - all of the maters are doing quite well, but I did kill Cassandra Cuke - Booo!).  I'm sure they'd be a helluva lot happier in something bigger than their original mini-pots!  Like, say, a Raised Bed???

But FIRST:  Winter veggies have GOT to go!

Oh, that!

So I'd never really had much success with cool-season veggies in years' past.  I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about this year's attempt either...

Boy was *I* surprised!

Couple of heads of broccoli, three carrots, a buttload of beets and some cabbage!

And that's not counting the stuff that I'd been harvesting, one-at-a-time, over the past several weeks (a beet here, a radish there, ad nauseum)!

You don't suppose that whole Testing and Amending Ritual might have anything to do with it, do ya?!  Nahhh!!!

Anyway, I never really considered the "logistics" that go along with maintaining a Year-Round-Garden.  Namely, that the winter veggies would be occupying my "very limited" gardening-real-estate when it was time to plunk the summer stuff in the ground!

Now I *could* plant maters toward the backs of the beds but A) I really don't want to plant the tomatoes in the  "exact same spot" as last year (I'm trying to "rotate" crops - as much as my limited space will allow) and B) I've already got, like, 3-4 "Volunteer" tomatoes, back there, that seem to be fairly well established.  No clue what they are - but I only planted heirlooms last year - so they should come back "true" (to whatever they are!) this year...

Anyway, I slathered myself up with moisturizers galore (still have my skin condition to deal with - sh**!), and pulled on TWO pairs of gloves.  Then I harvested all that I could find; yanked out (and composted) most of the plants; and I am *almost* good-to-go for summer-veggie planting!

I did leave the onions, garlic and artichokes - along with a couple of cabbages that look like they *might* form heads (but I doubt it!).  I also caged one of the Volunteer 'Maters (in the back of the left-hand bed).

What I *really* need is for Rent-A-Son-Services to come back (hopefully next weekend???) and build a third raised bed over next to the greenhouse (where the Straw-Bale Experiment used to live).  I plan to use the NEW bed for most of my 'maters - with the "overflow" getting planted in these older beds...

I've lost count of how many tomato plants I have (WAAAAAY more than I need - that's for sure!).  I've also got squashes, and melons, and pumpkins, and strawberries (destined for a strawberry planter), and herbs, and Gawd-only-knows what else!!!

I know I've got WAY more plants than my raised beds can accommodate, but I do have another quasi-garden bed out in the "main yard."  I figure - since that part of the yard is mostly Ornamental/Tropical-esque - I'll probably put the vining stuff (squashes, melons) out there.  The large-leaved vines should look fine out there.

Annnnnywaaaaaaayyyy...  My "hope" is to get the new raised bed completed next weekend and, with any luck, I'll get ALL of my summer veggies planted next weekend, as well!

Oh, and I might even get all A/R and "write down what gets planted where!" Duhhhhh!!!

Wouldn't THAT be awesome?!

Okay then - methinks it's Cocktail Hour....................................................

Monday, April 23, 2012

Recipe: QT's Quick 'n Easy Crock-Pot Bottom Round Roast

So a few weeks (or maybe several months!) ago, we bought a new Fancy Shmantzy Kenmore Nuker/Convection oven monstrosity with Auto-Cook Features that did everything except provide sexual favors...

And, at that time, I decided I wanted to tackle an oven-roastable beef-roast that wasn't gonna require a second mortgage on the house to purchase (IOW: Standing Rib Roast was out of the question!).  So, while I was shopping at our local "Low Price Leader" I happened upon Bottom Round Roast on a BOGO special...

My attempt at Auto-Roasting was "okay" (but not noteworthy enough for a blog-post!), and the second roast ended up in the freezer...

So LAST WEEK I decided I'd thaw it out in the fridge and do something with it...

One week later, I was starting to worry that - maybe it's gone bad and maybe I'd better sniff it!  

I pulled it out of the fridge only to discover that it was still partially-frozen!  Ahhh, but it's "mostly thawed" and didn't have any questionable odors so I think I'll do something with it TODAY!

Something that doesn't require a lot of effort or standing! (my footsies are still ouchy!)

Ohhhhh Goooooogle?!!  What do you suggest??? So I queried: "Bottom Round Roast Slow Cooker"

I found a couple of recipes: Here and here. They both sounded delicious, actually.

But in true QT Fashion, I smooshed 'em together.  This seems like it would be a SUPER easy meal to throw together in the morning, toss in the crock-pot, and have dinner (almost) waiting for you when you got home! 

This is what I came up with:

QT's Quick 'n Easy Crock-Pot Bottom Round Roast

  • 3-4 lb Bottom Round Beef Roast
Crock-pot veggie saucy stuff:
  • 1 large onion, chopped into largish chunks (I chopped mine into 8-12 pieces)
  • 3 carrots, chopped into 1" chunks
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 6 fingerling (or whatever smallish) potatoes, cut in half
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (appx 4-6" long)
  • 1/2 of a mini-bottle of red wine (I used 187ml Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Several TBS Worchestershire Sauce (to your taste - I like Worchestershire sauce b/c it's an excellent tenderizer and tastes "damn good!")
  • Envelope of whatever-brand of "Beef Stew" seasoning stuff (Mine was the store's generic-brand)
  • 1 cup of water (Beef-Stew package actually called for 3 cups water - but I didn't want that much liquid)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp dried, rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • Seasoning salt (your choice - I used "Prime Rib" Seasoning - but any "steak" type of seasoning would work)
Toward the end of cooking (Final Ingredients/Last Hour):
  • Frozen veggies, "Stew mix" (full bag) and/or "Country Blend" (appx 1/2 bag)
  • The other half of mini-bottle of red wine
  • 1 can of condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • You might need to add a tsp of sweetener (I chose Splenda, but sugar would work) if the sauce seems too salty
  1. Start by tossing coarsely chopped veggies in the bottom of your crock pot.  Mix up the Beef-Stew Seasoning with 1 cup of water and dump it in along with half of the wine.
  2. Rinse the roast in water and tamp 'til mostly-dry with paper towels.  Poke thru the "fatty" side of the meat, several times, with a fork.  Sprinkle flour and dry-rub ingredients on a plate and mix together with a fork.  Roll the roast in the dry-rub ingredients until well-coated.
  3. Plunk the roast on top of the veggie/stew-seasoning gloop, fat-side up.  Then drizzle Worchestershire sauce on top the roast.
  4. Plop the lid on, and set the crock-pot to "Low."  Let it roast for appx 8 hours.
  5. Appx 30-60mins before completion, pull the roast out of the veggie/seasoning gloop.  Remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves, then add the "final" ingredients:  Canned mushroom soup, red wine, frozen veggies ("Stew mix" is pearl onions, carrots, celery and potatoes.  "Country Blend" is corn, carrots, green beans and lima beans - but use whatever makes you happy!), and salt/pepper/sweetener to taste. I prefer to add the froz-vegs at the end so they retain their original flavor, color and shape - and the whole thing ends up tasting less "Crock-Potty!"  Put the roast back in the crock pot, fat-side down, and continue cooking for an add'l 30-60 minutes...
  6. You may, or may not, want to remove the roast toward the very end of cooking, then skim off the fat from the cooking sauce and/or attempt to make gravy.  In my case, the cooking sauce ended up 'Perfectomundo' for serving "As-Is."

Honestly, I think the "prep-time" for this meal is probably only about 15-20 mins at the beginning, and maybe another 10 minutes at the end (unless you want to skim-fat and make gravy - in which case, it'd probably be closer to 20-30 mins).

Serves 6 (I'm guessing) and you'll still have leftovers!

I'll attempt to post pictures when I'm done.  But what I'm seeing (smelling!) so far seems extremely deeeeee-licious!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oncoming Train? Or Light at the End of the Tunnel... the form of narrow-band UVB phototherapy... Well, I *think* I'm starting to pull out of my funk. Too soon to say for sure, but I remain "guardedly optimistic."

Not gonna be much excitement in this post, so if you're easily bored - just move along! (Although... There is a "plea" at the Very End of this post - so skip-ahead if you're a nerdy gadget-geek and want to help!)

I rambled, earlier, about my psoriasis flare and the doctors thinking, maybe, I was getting burnt by my home phototherapy unit. I won't bore you with the play-by-play, but I did rent a calibration meter and, on Friday, a tech from the manufacturer walked-me-through the whole calibration procedure...

Unfortunately, I didn't write any of it down, but I am *pretty* sure that my unit was out of calibration by a "fairly big amount." Too lazy to do the math, but my unit "thought" it was delivering 10.xx millijoules, but the meter said it was actually 12.xx millijoules. When we were done with calibrating, we'd gotten the unit to within .02 which, according to the tech, was "pretty darn close."

What-EVER - bottom line is: The unit is back in calibration and I have emailed the doc to confirm I can go back to using it (at much "lighter" doses). Haven't heard back yet but decided "WTF - I'm doing it at low-doses!" ("Anything!  Please, Dear Gawd, ANYTHING to make this better!!!")

I also researched the medication she is thinking of adding to my "daily pharmacological stew" and - after reading all the warnings and side-effects (which are plentiful and not entirely rare!), I have decided I want to hold-off on that unless it's absolutely necessary.  I'll probably still have her write the scrip, but I will almost-definitely hold-off on taking it until I've *confirmed* that the UVB isn't working (and that will take several weeks to confirm).

In the meantime (and I think this may be one of the primary reasons for the improvement in my mood), I've been managing to spend a fair amount of time OUTSIDE. I've read, many places, that good old-fashioned sunshine is GOOD for skin conditions like mine (and the nurses had concurred - back when I was doing thrice-weekly treatments). So every day, after work, I try to spend about an hour sitting out at the Tiki Bar with my feet propped-up, resting IN THE SUN... 
Today was a particularly splendiferous day, with temps in the mid-90's in the shade!  I ended up bailing on the Clay Carnival (Major "Boo!"), but I think the alternative wasn't too terribly awful...

Hubs fired-up the gas pool-heater so we could swim (pool has had the solar-cover on it for the last coupla weeks, and the solar heater has been on every day since...).  I did manage to swim a few laps, then immediately slathered myself, again, with Burt's Bees Salve (LOL - I'm surprised the pool didn't end-up with a greasy film after I swam in it!)

I also contracted "Rent-A-Son-Services" (P's son, C!) and had him install the [extremely large, heavy and generally unwieldy] thatch umbrellas on the tiki bar and al fresco dining table. 

Blurry Droid Pic of Tiki Bar
While he was here, I also had him remove the straw bale bed (FAIL!!!)  Although I did snag ONE head of broccoli before the bed was torn to pieces.  Unfortunately it was completely overrun with some kind of unidentifiable insects - Ooops! "Compost!" (along with 4 barely-intact bales of straw!).

We've still got a ways to go - to get the yard back into full-on summertime mode.  But we're definitely making progress...

And the garden?  Good GAWD I've got tons to do!  I really don't want to plant tomatoes in the same spots in last year's beds (and I'm waiting for the root-crops to finish doing their business).  I have asked C to come back - when he's got time and needs $$ - so he can build me another raised bed (or two!) in the straw-bale-bed location.

Hopefully, we can tackle that next weekend and maybe - just maybe! - I'll be able to walk by then!

I'll bust-out the gardening stuff into a separate post when I have more time.  For now I'll just file this under "Rambling" (If I can figure out how to update tags.  Blogger's new GUI really kinda sucks!)



P.S. One bona-fide improvement in Blogger: You can actually "insert" a photo where you want it to appear.  So maybe I'll hold-off on b*tching too much - yet!

Geeky Plea--> P.P.S. I'm curious to know if any of my "silent followers" (I know you're out there, there is NO way that just hubs and me can generate 10K+ "hits!") has any knowledge of digital cameras with WiFi capability - to upload jpgs directly to the 'net (either onto PicasaWeb, or Facebook, or Twitter, or whereEVER).  I'd really like to be able to have better quality photos on my blog, but don't want to deal with plugging in cables and downloading and editing and such.  Post a comment or email me directly if you have any suggestions! Thx muchly! :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pity Party Continues...

Yep. More rambling/whining... Move along! Nothing to see here!

My hands and feet are still all f**ked-up and I fear I am becoming a bona-fide invalid. Srsly - I am actually considering asking the doc for a note for a "Handicap Placard" for my car. How freakin' sad is that?!!

Today, I had to run to CVS to pick-up a prescription and I wanted to stop at the grocery store on my way back. I lucked-out and found a parking space right in front of the pharmacy, but had to walk a ways to get a shopping cart (to lean on - I wasn't planning on buying anything substantial). It was all I could do to make it to the back of the store for my prescription, then hobble back to the car (leaning on the cart the whole way).

Grocery Shopping was truly out of the question!

Without being too graphic, my particular case of psoriasis attacks the palms of my hands and soles of my feet. Hands: I can kind of "get around" by wearing nitrile medical gloves. Feet: OTOH (har-har - ahem!) are a different story. You know what it's like when, say, you buy a new pair of cheap shoes and they irritate you 'til you've got a blister? Then when the blister bursts, you've got that raw, bright-pink, incredibly painful spot underneath it? Well, that pretty-much describes the condition of BOTH of the soles of my feet. I literally cannot walk right now. And that sucks more than you can possibly imagine!

For awhile there, I was getting phototherapy (Narrow-band UVB) treatments at Stanford Dermatology in Redwood City (appx 30 miles from home - which might as well be 400 miles when you factor-in Bay Area traffic!). It actually worked *quite* well and - after much wrestling with my insurance company - I actually got approved for my very own home unit.

I've been using that, successfully, since around December. But this latest "flare" has been really bad. I think I yammered in my last post about the home-unit possibly being out-of-calibration, and how I Must Stop Phototherapy Immediately. End result: I needed to contact the manufacturer to get a Tech out to look at it...

Well, long story short (Too Late!), it's gonna cost me $500.00 to have a Tech come out and LOOK at it. Oh, and I have to pay to FLY THE TECH OUT HERE from Bumf**k, Ohio, or wherevers... Are you effing kidding me??? I mean, my CO-PAY for the entire machine was less than that! (To be fair, the machine cost several thousand dollars, but still!!!!).

Well, I called the manufacturer back and asked about other alternatives (whilst cursing myself for throwing the shipping box away) "Would it be cheaper for me to ship the unit back to you?"

Turns out, they can rent a meter to me - along with instructions for re-calibrating the unit myself. So that's what I'm gonna do. Well, that's what *we're* gonna do. The gal asked if I was "mechanically inclined" and I replied that I was "somewhat mechanically-inclined, but I'm married to an Engineer." She assured me that, between us, we were certainly going to be capable of calibrating the machine ourselves. :::whew:::

In the meantime, I am still in excruciating pain. All of the Rx unguents that have been prescribed to me don't seem to be doing "squat" so I'm switching over to "Natural" remedies for the time-being. Burt's Bees Hand-Salve actually *does* seem to relieve some of the pain (as opposed to the chemical-goops that actually feel like they're *burning* me). The downside of going the "Natural" route is that I have to keep re-applying every half-an-hour (but that beats the hell out of feeling like I'm administering "chemical burns" to myself!)

Now this weekend, P and I are supposed to be attending a "Clay Carnival" over at Clay Planet (More "Learning" and "Inspiration" kinda stuff - put on by the local Ceramic Artists' Guild). Not sure if I'm gonna be able to attend, unfortunately.... Fingers/Toes are crossed!

In the meantime, I am kind-of in a "Sucktastic Place." I *did* kinda toy-around with the "Alternative Medicine" route - based on some of the Netflix Videos I'd watched. Most of those seemed to center around doing a plant-based "Juice-Fast." Well, being diabetic, FRUIT-juices really don't "play well" with me or my metabolism. But I figured I'd give it a try while concentrating mostly on "Veggie" type juices (with just enough fruit thrown-in to keep it palatable). And don't get me started on the "Gerson Therapy" videos I'd watched (which include multiple "organic coffee enemas" per day - EWWWW!!!!).

Anyway, I *did* just attempt a 36-hour "Juice-Fast" (along with a veritable boatload of water). Now, maybe 36-hours wasn't long enough - but I *really* don't think I could tolerate it much longer than that. Bottom line: I ended up GAINING 2 lbs, overnight.

Yes, I am the ONLY person I know who could "fast" for 36-hours and end-up GAINING weight!!!

But then again, I do tend to shun carbs, as a rule. And the keyword in carboHYDRATE is, in fact HYDRATE. So I am reasonably sure that the weight I gained was water-weight due to the increased carbs...

Nevertheless.... I am taking-in info from all over the 'net, and wherevers... I absolutely DO believe that America's "Obesity-Epidemic" and "Diabetes-Epidemic" and a whole host of other ills is directly-related to "Environmental Factors" and the whole "Factory-Farming" reality that we are dealing with, today. I think that a whole host of "ills" can be cured by "Going Back to Basics" and eating locally-produced, minimally processed - ideally "organic" - foods. I just don't think I can buy-into the whole "Vegan-Mindset" (which seems to be what our "Juice-Fast Friends" seem to espouse). I think humans *are* omnivores, and there has to be a comfortable "middle-ground" where ppl can eat and be "healthy!"

I haven't found MY solution yet. I haven't ruled-out "Juice-Fasts" just yet - and may try to give it another whirl at some point in the future (but it'd have to be a lower-carb variant). There is definitely something to be said for "de-toxifying" - but I think it needs to be a bit less "radical" and allow for the omnivorous quality of Human Existence...

Anyhoooooo... No real "conclusions" to be drawn from this post. Really just a lot of questions (and whining, and ranting, and rambling!). If you made it this far - Congrats! - you must be *really* bored! Thanks for hanging in there! I hope to have more "informative" - or at least ENTERTAINING posts in the future!!!



Saturday, April 14, 2012

I'm having a Pity Party - And no one's invited! :-P

(Warning: Whining and Rambling and Ranting ahead!)

I'm prob'ly gonna lay low for a few days b/c I feel like sh*t again...

Hubs and I took Friday off because we were supposed to go to Strictly Sail - a sailboat show up at Jack London Square up in Oakland (the part of town where, hopefully, people *don't* get murdered regularly!).

I've always enjoyed the show because *I* think it's FUN to crawl around on boats that we could never, EVER afford! (Hubs doesn't share my enthusiasm for multi-hulls - but he *would* like, someday, to buy an offshore-suitable monohull boat, in the 30-35-foot range).

And, afterwards, we always make our annual side-trip to Forbidden Island - only THE coolest Retro-Style Tiki Bar EVAR!!!

Welllll... The rainy-monsoony weather on Friday postponed our Strictly-Sail Adventure 'til Sunday. But in the meantime, my freakin' reptilian psoriasis decided to flare-up again - in a BIG way! So bad, I decided to contact my dermatologist, and ask for direction on what to to to prevent it from getting any worse...

Now, I absolutely do NOT want this blog to become a place where I piss and moan about health issues. Hell's Bells! I'm only in my 40's - but I feel like a friggin' octogenarian sometimes!

Nevertheless... I feel compelled to rant just a *teeny* bit!

Doc was so concerned that she scheduled me for a follow-up app't ASAP. So I spent a couple of hours - on my Day Off - at the Stanford Dermatology Clinic. In an Exam room with not one - but TWO nurses and... Not one... Not two... But THREE doctors all looking at my hands and feet and scratching their heads simultaneously while (quietly) muttering acronyms amongst themselves.

GAWD I hate that!!!

The long-and-the-short-of-it is: They think, maybe, my home phototherapy unit (Narrow-band UVB) might be "out of calibration" and maybe, just maybe, this isn't a psoriasis-flare. It *might* be that I am badly sunburned. In other words: 1) No immediate relief in sight. 2) I need to get ahold of the manufacturer of the phototherapy unit and make arrangements for a Tech to come out and re-calibrate the machine. 3) I need to stop phototherapy IMMEDIATELY (which was the ONLY thing that *had* been working - prior to this) and 4) I need to go get a bunch of blood-tests to rule-out anything more insidious and they *might* consider changing my treatment plan...


Bottom Line: Doc says "Stay off your feet" and "No Boat Show for you." Also: (it goes without saying) "No Gardening," since I can't stand - let alone walk. And she'd already told me "No Clay-Play" a few weeks back (nevermind that it hurts my feet, too much, to even walk out to The Shack in the backyard!)...

I am bummed in a Big-Time, Major-League way....

Today was PERFECT weather for garden chores. Sunny, kinda breezy, but definitely NOT too hot. Hubs did the whole Mow-and-Blow thing, then he headed up to the boat to tackle a few "Prepare for Launching" chores. I spent the day in the recliner (buried under weenie dogs), watching Netflix and generally feeling sorry for myself.

I broke, briefly, when P stopped by to drop off my birdhouses from the workshop a coupla weeks ago. Then we wandered out to the studio so I could give her bisqueware from my last firing.

Birdhouses - complete!
I'm happy with them (In spite of my Pity-Party Mindset :-)

I whined and moaned to her about my "Pity Party" and she tried to be reassuring, giving me a hug and saying "This will pass" (and that's true). But, really, I am pretty p*ssed-off at LIFE at the moment. I mean, ever since my Diabetes Diagnosis, I've given up a WHOLE lot of stuff that was Very Important to me - PERMANENTLY.

I gave up my horse - because I just didn't have the energy to care for him anymore. I've given up SCUBA diving because, quite frankly, after my last black-out (WHILE diving!) I just don't think I want to drown to death. I've given up motorcycling because I've lost my edge (but I'm still clinging to hope that maybe, someday, I'll be able to do it again. MAYBE. So I have kept my bike!). And now? Friggin' psoriasis is preventing me from pursuing my ceramic "art" (Okay, probably more "therapy" than art - but still!). Yeah, I *could* wear gloves - but the whole thing about Clay-Play is the "tactile" experience, right???

Anyway... I'm kind of in a semi-dark place right now. No, I'm not going to get sucked into full-on depression... I'm actually more "Pissed Off" than "Bummed" at the moment (and that's probably healthy) (I guess!).

And hubs - bless his heart - is *trying* to be understanding and I have to give him credit for that. But he's got that whole "Engineer-Mindset" and still seems to think that there *must* be a solution ("No, dear. There isn't! Believe me - if there was, I'd be pursuing it! Psoriasis is a chronic condition FOR WHICH THERE IS NO CURE!"). I had warned him, early on in our Dating Career, that I rarely get sick - but when I do, it is generally something "out of the ballpark!" (and he is finally starting to believe me!)

Diabetes isn't rare, but the case *I've* got requires insulin at levels that would KILL any other diabetic (and I had to go thru NUMEROUS doctors before they figured that out!). Psoriasis isn't rare, either. But the case I've got has the staff at Stanford University puzzled...

And the beat goes on..................................................

Anyway - I "entertained" myself today by watching documentaries and yada-yada on Netflix about "Alternative Medicine." A couple of the shows I watched talked about Juice-Fasts so maybe, just for sh*ts and grins (:::eye-roll::: at my sick pun), I might give that a try. I get a refrigerator-full of fresh, organic veggies delivered every-other-week - and I *do* have a juicer, so maybe I'll give that a "go." (Yes, another sick pun!)

Can't hurt, right? Quite honestly, I DON'T want to add more pharmaceuticals to my Daily Diet if I can possibly help it (and the drugs that the Doc is suggesting have a veritable boatload of side-effects that probably won't "play well" with my current "conditions")...

We'll see. In the meantime, I am just "hanging in there" and trying to make the best of an otherwise miserable situation. :::sigh:::


P.S. Bee-Trapper didn't make it out on Friday - but he should make an appearance next week. So, hopefully, the Bee-Saga posts (infinitely more entertaining) will return soon!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Finny Farm!

I actually "stalk" lots of bloggers. In fact my Google-Reader is embarrassingly lengthy (as are my posts, but we already *knew* that!) - but I tend to *really* enjoy Finnyknits posts the best (although she's pretty-much-tied with TheBloggess and Eggton - to be honest!). Prob'ly because she's a Foodie, and a Gardener (also a Beekeeper and all-around Crafty-b*tch!), and she's "local!" Oh, and she says swears a lot, too!

Anyway, I've met Finny a couple of times IRL, and she is equally-cool, in person. Annnnnd... In addition to posting her annual rituals for Soil-Testing and Amending (which - ahem - "You're LATE, Finny!"), and her annual "Adopt-A-Crop" (which - ahem - still hasn't happened!), well, *this* year she went out and took at class from Love Apple Farm and learned how to Grow Veggies From Seed, SUCCESSFULLY (that last word is the Key-Word, BTW).

...And so this LAST item kind-of "excuses her" for the aforementioned "shortcomings" (ahem!). She ended up growing 99 (mostly 'mater) seedlings which she is *giving away* (well - giving, "but it'd sure be nice if you donated to Bubba's AIDS ride" which, natch, I did!).

So annnnnywaaaaaaaayyyyy... I swung by Ms. Finny's place this past weekend and picked up 3 'mater plants. Then went back on Sunday and got a cuke.

Finny Farm Seedlings:

Finny's 'Maters

Colin Copia, Stephanie Stupice, and Brandy the Yellow Brandywine. Helping me enjoy a margarita at the Tiki Bar (before I moved them into the greenhouse for a few more weeks of "acclimation").

Kindly make note of the *laminated* plant tags. Ummm... COMPLETE with QR codes so you can scan 'em with your SmartPhone and get pointed to the FinnyFarm Website. Über-Geeky!

Now I am *not* so crazy that I intend to name ALL of my plants (Good Gawd - Lock me up in a rubber-room already!), but since Finny's Plants are special, I shall treat them thusly.

Cassandra Cuke, re-uniting with her Finny-Siblings in the greenhouse.
It was *quite* tearful!

Well, I wandered out there today and Cassandra Cuke isn't looking so good. I am pretty-bummed about that, but maybe she'll bounce back!

Anywaaaaaayyyyy... The Finny-Farm Plants will be taking Center Stage in my raised beds (whenever I get around to planting them!). And I, too, shall channel my inner Über-Geek and rig-up the Time-Lapse Video Plant-Cam on the garden, again, this year...

I am pretty excited to see how it goes! Now that Testing and Amending is done, I'm rather hoping this will be another Banner Year for veggie harvests!

Let's keep our fingers crossed, shall we?!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bee Saga: Chapter VI - The Tree Man Cometh (or which came first, the chicken or the egg???)

The fun starts here: Bee Saga: Chapter I.

So during the last chapter, I yammered endlessly about our Monster Tree.

It's big. It's poopy. And it's got bees.

See? I can be concise?!

But story-telling is so much more fun! And with that thought... Onward:

I took the Bee-Trapper's advice and had hubbie contact a Certified Arborist. A Britishy-Scottishy-Irish-y fellow by the name of Simon (complete with unidentified not-quite-Geico-Gecko-accent - but close!) came out to give our Pepper-Tree a look-see. Unfortunately, he didn't seem terribly eager to get "up-close-and-personal" with the tree - because of the bee-situation - but the UP-side is: He didn't think the tree was facing imminent-death, nor did it pose an immediate threat to our house.

I mentioned my conversation - with the Bee-Dude - about the fact that there *had* to be a fairly-large cavity *inside* of the tree, and he agreed that the presence of said cavity probably wasn't a good thing (and certainly wouldn't "correct itself"), but he did emphasize that he didn't feel that the tree would come crashing thru our roof, anytime soon!

When I pressed him for further clarification "Okay, well, roughly how long do we have? Are we talking 5 years? 10? 20????" he couldn't really give me a definitive answer. Although - to be fair - he might've been concerned about Liability issues. Like, if he said "roughly 10 years" and the tree keeled over in 9-1/2 years, we might sue him or something (NOTTT!). Nevertheless....

He basically said that he couldn't tell without knowing how big the cavity was - and referred us back to a Bee-Trapper.

Oh Jeezus! I call an Apiarist, he refers me to an Arborist. I call an Arborist, and he refers me back to an Apiarist. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Srsly: "WTF!"

The arborist suggested that a Bee Removal Expert could get *inside* pictures of the tree and assess just how big the cavity is. I'm envisioning something-like-a colonoscopy camera ("Ew!" but you get the idea, right?!). Evidently, if the apiarist can share inside-of-the-tree pictures with the arborist, then he can give us a better assessment of the health of the tree. And, hopefully, pinpoint, with greater accuracy, *when* the tree needs to "go!"

Greaaaaat... Well, why doesn't the Arborist have access to such high-tech wizardry, I wonder? :::sigh:::

Another thing that he pointed out was: Our tree has *lots* of openings that could offer-up nesting/hiving opportunities for other bee colonies. It seems our pepper-tree could, potentially, be like the "Motel 6" for bees (Lucky us!!!). So, even if we ARE successful at eradicating (and sealing-up) the existing hive, we still have a big ol' flashing-neon "VACANCY" sign hanging up there for even MORE bee infestations!!!

"Oh Goodie!"

As the discussion and assessment continued, essentially it started to turn into a lot of "Humunah, Humunah" talk. Nothing definitive or concrete. And my attention span started to wane.

So - Jeez - cut to the chase already!

"Okay." I finally interjected "Let's say we decide to get rid of the tree. Tree goes? Then, obviously, so do the bees. What are we talking - in terms of cost - to remove the tree?"

"Wellllll... to cut it down, level to the ground, you're looking at approximately $2,000.00"

(Wow - not as bad as I was expecting, actually!)

"Ahhh, but we have to deal with the City too, right? We'll need to pull a permit and they *are* gonna insist that we plant a replacement tree, right?" "Well, yes."

And the rest of the story just gets progressively sadder so I'm just gonna summarize the rest of it.

Yes, the City needs to get involved. We'd have to pay Simon $175.00 to write-up a recommendation-report, but the city would *still* send out (and charge for sending) one of their arborists to look at the tree, personally. And, evidently, some of the City Arborists are "peckerheads." (Direct quote - Niiiiiiice!).

So, when it's all said and done: Tree removal, stump removal, reports, inspections, replacement-tree, yada-yada, it's all gonna end up being somewhere in the neighborhood of appx $3,000.00

:::BIG SIGH:::

So where are we now? Personally, I think the whole tree-removal business sounds like it's gonna be a royal pain in the tush. Messy. Expensive. PLUS - something else to consider is if the tree goes, we lose a whooooole lot of afternoon shade on the un-insulated side of the house. You know what that means? Our A/C is gonna have to work a LOT harder during the summer months (An added expense that one wouldn't normally consider!).

Soooooo... Mr. Bee-Trapper is going to be coming out to give us *his* assessment of the situation. I figure we need to weigh-out ALL of our options before making a final decision.

Yep. The fun CONTINUES...!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mini Ceramics Update!

Like I said earlier... I don't really use this blog for "Ceramics Updates" but I do think it's cool to keep ya'all apprised of what-all I'm doing in The Tiki Shack/Studio...

I did a glaze-firing today: △5 (2167°F for - what ended-up being just over 5 hours)...

Here is the outcome:

Ooh! Shiny!
Not bad!

And here are some Clay Critters!
Mr. Easter-Bunny and Tazz the Spazz!

Just wanted to share!!!! :-)

Bee Saga: Chapter V - Monster Tree

More rambling ahead (but at least I'm gonna keep breaking it into manageable chunks!)...

Once again, if you missed the earlier posts, I suggest you start here: Bee Saga: Chapter I.

So where we last left off, I had:
  • Discovered that the (Killer) Bees had returned
  • Written to my online Beekeeping/Gardening/Blogger Friend
  • Met a Real-Life Beekeeper
  • Spoke to a Real-Life Bee-Trapper (excuse me, "Bee Removal Expert") (I still like "Bee-Trapper" better! And Google finds it, so it *must* exist!!!)
  • Contacted an Arborist...
Now Hubs insisted that - even though contracting the whole Tree-Removal thing was, in fact, "Man's Territory" - he felt that I needed to "be there" for the initial consultation.

But of course! "But" he admonished "don't make it sound like we want to get rid of the tree... I mean, this could be EXPENSIVE."

"Like Duhhhh! Ya think?!"

Now, in the meantime, I hooked up with Finnyknits (I'll have separate postings for The Finny Farm and all of the glorious seedlings I got from her!). As we were chatting, I brought-up my "Tree Dilemma" and the whole "Oh Christ, I hope we don't have to get The City involved" thing.

As luck would have it, Finny has had first-hand experience with this and she *even* wrote an article about it here. Her experience was with a Street-Tree (planted in the sidewalk planter, owned by The City, but the home-owner gets to pay for everything! Yay City Government!), whereas our tree is totally on private property - but I think we'll be facing similar hurdles...

The main take-aways I got from that were A) It's a "hot pain in the @$$" (direct quote!) and B) She had to PAY the City Arborist $300.00 just to come out! "Are you sh*tting me?!!" and C) Even if the tree is really-and-truly-dead, you *still* have to jump through all the hoops to get a friggin' permit to have it removed!

Well, here's hoping that our (privately-paid) Certified Arborist's recommendation will carry some weight with The City and we don't have to invite government officials onto our property.

While we aren't running a cannabis-plantation or meth-lab or anything insidious like that - ummm - "technically" we *might* be in violation of the city's tree ordinance which dictates that Every House Must Have At Least One Street Tree.

Side-story there: There *was* a street-tree out front, several years ago (although, "technically," I think it was in front of our neighbor's property). The tree really didn't look very healthy and, as the years went by, it got progressively less healthy-looking. One early-spring storm brought gale-force winds and the not-so-healthy tree toppled over! Onto the *very* spot where I normally parked my car!!! By some stroke of sheer-and-utter luck, my car was NOT parked in that spot, at the time!

That storm actually took out SEVERAL trees in our neighborhood and all of the "Sumdoods with chainsaws" made a killing that year!

But the moral of THAT story is: If you have an unhealthy tree, it is *far* easier to just wait for a storm to come and "take it out" rather than deal with The City to get the appropriate permits and all that bullsh*t (unless the unhealthy tree is gonna land on your house, of course!).

And, of course, now there's just a hollow stump left in the sidewalk. Can't exactly plant a replacement tree. And, quite frankly, I'd rather NOT have a tree pooping all over my car, year-round! Buttt... Point being: If we have to have the City Arborist come out, he's *probably* gonna make mention of the fact that we lack the requisite number of street trees and - "cha-ching, cha-ching!" - we end up with an even BIGGER bill ("JeeeeZUS!")

Annnnnnywaaaaaayyyyy... You *did* notice that this blog is titled "QT's Random Ramblings," yes? I'm living up to the "Rambling" again, aren't I?!! Hang in there - the story *will* continue!

In the meantime, hubs took it upon himself to interrogate Good Neighbor Bri. Bri grew up in the house next-door (his mom was the original owner of the house and is, therefore, Historian of our 'Hood!). Here is what we learned out about Monster Tree:

Monster Tree has been here since "before forever." It was growing in the ground (at ground level), and was surrounded by decorative rocks and a rustic post-and-rail kinda fence. The previous owner of our house decided to build a retaining wall and raise (and level) the front-yard appx 2-3' so he could plant a lawn. So he did. He built a retaining wall and filled-in with dirt - ALL AROUND THE TREE'S TRUNK.

After that, according to Bri, the tree "took-off" and the trunk became MASSIVE...

Still, I'm pretty sure that's not the best thing in the world for the health of the tree (JMHO)..........

Okay, hubbie's home so blogging must stop (I'm getting too rambly anyway!), I'll continue this later...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bizzy Bizzy Bizzy!!!

I have to say we had a rather productive weekend!

Hubs fertilized the lawn while I puttered around in the Tiki Shack/Studio, glazing my Works-In-Progress. I don't know why, but I find glazing to be mind-numbingly dull. Yet "sanding" pieces with green scrubbies (which, honestly, is FAR more tedious) doesn't bother me one whit! I had NO company, and NOBODY I could call on the phone, so I just tackled it solo - with Spotify blasting 80's Pop Music thru my Netbook...

I do most of my Ceramics Record-Keeping on Facebook - not this blog.

I've got a lot of Ceramic-Artist FB Friends so - hopefully - they aren't *too* terribly bored with it! But, even if they are, I find it useful to go back thru my "albums" to keep track of what glazes I used on what pieces and, generally, track the progress...

But I *do* like to share SOME stuff here:

Well hello Mr. Easter Bunny!
I shall cook you @ 2167°F, for 8-9 hours on EASTER SUNDAY!

Mr. Easter Bunny is one, in my series of "Clay Critters" - basically animals that are squished out of leftover clay-blobs.

Full-kiln - after glazing all of my pieces.
Actually, two of my tall vases didn't make it into this firing.

I have a third tall-vase "in the works" but it hasn't been bisqued yet. I have TONS of stuff to bisque (including some of P's pieces) so - sometime next week - I'll do another bisque firing (low-fire - Cone 06 @ appx 1828°F). Then, after that, I'll probably do another mid-fire, glaze-firing for *just* my tall vases.

I'll try to post a few pics of Random Ceramic Creations, as they're completed...

Now, onto Gardening!

"The Peaches are Coming! The Peaches are Coming!"
Early-bearer white-peach - gonna be prolific!

Tough as it may be, I have to "cull" roughly half of the peach-babies from this tree. Unfortunately, we learned this "the hard way" a few years' back. I was culling baby-fruits from "Hubbie's" (yellow) peach-tree when he stopped me. He hated to see me kill the baby peaches but, later that year, the tree - so overladen with fruit -SNAPPED halfway up the trunk!

So yeah, I *gots* to cull the babies!

Annnnnnd.... As I'd mentioned in yesterday's post: I have tested my soil and found it to be completely deficient in Nitrogen, and mildly deficient in Phosphorous. Today, I amended the beds:

Tools for Soil Amending:
  • Organic Blood Meal
  • Organic Bone Meal
  • Disposable plastic container for measuring
  • Digital Scale
  • Bucket for mixing amendments
  • (not shown) Bag of Organic Compost and a hand-trowel...
Note: Measurements (below) are "Per Bed" (25 sq. feet apiece)

3-1/2 oz. of Blood Meal

Appx 1 oz. of Bone Meal

I dumped the Blood/Bone Meals into the plastic bucket with a couple-three cups of compost, and mixed them thoroughly (Droid seems to have "lost" that picture - Grrr!). Then I pulled-back the wood-chip mulch from my raised beds and sprinkled the beds. Then I gently raked it into the surface...

Beds w/1 (cubic foot) bag of compost,
plus "Amended" compost, skritched in with a rake...

Okay... Time for a break! Poke my nose into the greenhouse and check-up on the babies:

Starting to look like a "Garden Center" in here!!!

Next up on my list of Garden Chores (driven, mostly, by the friggin' Garden-Center in my Greenhouse!), I need to get rid of last year's Garden Experiment:

Straw-Bale Bed - FAIL!!!

I *might* keep the very-back bale for a few more weeks (there are broccolis and/or cauliflowers "still hangin' in there"), but I DO need to clear the space soon, because I am gonna have to build another raised bed. Otherwise all those Greenhouse Veggies are NOT gonna have a home!

Moderation? I haz none!!! (at least not where the garden is concerned!!!)


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