Friday, December 11, 2009

My puppy's all grown up...

Wow, exactly a month since I last posted. How unprofessional of me! The holidays will do that to you. And by "holidays," I mean "college football."

I was looking at some new photos I took of Murphy, and I can't get over how different she looks now, compared to when we picked her up in July at 8 weeks old.

Her first photo (by phone) on the way home, the day we picked her up:

Later that month:

In August, after getting spade (thus the bandage on her arm from the anesthesia):

In September, at a house party for the UF-Tennessee game with a friend of ours (being silly - he didn't know I had the camera!) :

In October, in our front yard:

In November, another house party, which was ostensibly for the SEC Championship game, but turned into a dog party:

Last night, playing tug-o-war with Reggie:

When we first got Murphy, she was a little puff of fur with stubby legs and tiny ears. A friend called her "something that falls out of the dryer." Many others commented that she looked like a little bear. And then her snout lengthened (and became adorably freckled), her legs stretched out, and her ears grew as well. Our little bear cub is a dog now.

I think she's in an awkward "middle school" look now, but soon, I think she'll look a lot like her mama, Ruby:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death of a Loquat Tree (with bonus puppy photo!)

We have several loquat trees in our back yard. Also known as Japanese plums, these trees are a pretty common sight around here, almost to the point of invisibility - you kinda stop noticing them. Until something weird happens.

I'm poking around with the dog in the back yard a few days ago and notice that one of the loquat trees is looking, well, pretty bad. Every leaf is drooping and turning brown. What's weird is that there are two more on either side of it - and they look great! They're actually flowering right now.

Not my best work, but here are two of the trees - the dying one is on the left:

A close-up of the leaves:

The other healthy tree:

I brought a leaf in to Kim, our Master Gardener, but it's really hard to tell what's ailing a tree by one brownish leaf. There's no sign of insect damage, which would lead me - in all my ignorance - to believe it's a disease affecting this tree. So why just the one? We must have seven or eight loquat trees in the back yard.

If we were to figure out what the problem was, I hope it's an inexpensive cure. Kyle doesn't really like the loquats for some reason, and has been talking about taking them down. Luckily, he's got an invasive mimosa and some dangerously close pine trees on his to-do list now.

In a completely unrelated story, my puppy!

Just chillin' on the front lawn with Kyle. I can't believe how big she's getting. Not a pokey little puppy anymore, sigh...

Although not a grownup dog, either. This morning I stumble out of the bathroom to see that Murphy has thrown up on the bedroom carpet (for some reason she never chooses to do this on the tile). This is not the first time this has happened, and in fact, it's the same stuff - pine bark, leaves, but with a new addition - some fiber from a toy she destroyed at a friend's house the previous evening.

Not the best way to start your day. But then I look at her and she's just so damn cute.

To use a phrase that's becoming very popular in our household, damn dog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

This frog: cute or invasive?

I found this fellow hanging out on our kitchen windowsill the other night, probably attracted to the floodlight in our back yard.

It was pretty small (wish I'd taken a photo with something in the shot for size comparison), and quite calm. I thought his hazel eyes were beautiful, almost bronze.

I called Kyle out for a look and he thought it might be a Cuban treefrog - which would be bad. They're invasive - they eat our native Florida treefrogs and compete for resources with them. Florida treefrogs are much smaller and have significantly smaller toe pads. You can read more at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research & Education Center's Invasive Cuban treefrog web page.

Comparing this photo to one of a Cuban treefrog I found on the UF/IFAS web site, I'm afraid Kyle was right:

The problem with Cuban treefrogs is that their coloring can vary pretty widely, from really dark brown, to striped or splotchy. But the toe pads look pretty similar.

I was pretty bummed. You're supposed to humanely dispose of them - in fact, it's illegal to release them again. The best way to euthanize the Cuban treefrogs is to put a generous dose of benzocaine (20%) on either their backs or stomachs, which will render them unconscious. You then put them in a plastic baggie and place it in the freezer, where the froggy "goes to sleep." Be sure to wear gloves while doing this, as the frog can give off a slime that irritates the skin.

Not being sure at the time that it was a Cuban treefrog, I didn't do this. But I guess I'll have to if I see it again. (I kinda hope I don't see it again.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pretty awesome cookies and a bit of Betty Crockerism

I know - it's me, ranting yet again about baking. But wait! They were so pretty, I had to share a photo, and they're so tasty, I wanted to share the recipe.

These are Chocolaty Caramel Thumbprints, from Better Homes and Gardens, and they are delish! Yes, a wee bit time-consuming. You have to bring the dough together and then chill it for two hours. This is not a "Oh, look - it's 8:30 in the evening. I think I'll make some cookies" recipe. And then you have to roll said dough into little balls, dip them in egg-white wash, roll them around in finely chopped pecans and then smush with your thumb. That's not counting the melting of caramels and chocolate.

BUT. They're so pretty, and so yummy! I think they're great for a potluck sort of thing, or to impress someone (boss, boyfriend, in-laws, holier-than-thou neighbors).

My hubby loved them. Which reminds me of something funny. We were sitting on the back porch yesterday after work; he's eating a chocolaty caramel thumbprint and we're talking about (for the billionth time) how badly I need new shoes and how we're not paupers so why don't I just go buy some for chrissakes? And I offer up my usual "I hate shopping."

To which my husband adds, "You just hate spending money." (Which is only partly true. For real - look at my Publix or Target receipts. Good beer isn't cheap, either.)

He pauses, and then says, half a cookie in hand, "My God, I'm married to a woman who doesn't like to shop or spend money, and actually thinks baking and cooking is fun. I am the luckiest husband alive. You're perfect."

Now, before you get your feminist thongs in a wad, I promise you that he also loves my wit, appreciates my intelligence, and bows to my mighty credit score. Just because it's a bit of stereotyping and old-fashioned doesn't mean it didn't make me smile. Who doesn't want their husband to think they're the most amazing woman on the planet?

Anyway, I was flattered. And it's hard to complain about old-fashioned stereotypes while wearing a "dressy apron."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pretty . . . weed

I was walking across the "lawn" from the parking lot to my office building this morning, and came across this lovely flower:

It's really quite pretty - if you look at the full-sized version of this photo, you'll see that each little blossom resembles a tiny little snapdragon flower.

In reality, this plant is really small. The flower couldn't have been more than an inch tall, if that. And I'm quite sure it's some sort of weed, as it was growing merrily across the grassy strip surrounding the parking lot. Plus, the leaves remind me of another weed found pretty much everywhere in Florida, the dreaded spurge. But I've never seen one with such pretty flowers.

I looked through the book "Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses," pulled from the shelf of my coworker and Master Gardener, Kim. Nothing - no tiny, low-growing weeds with itty-bitty-pretty flowers.

Perhaps someone will recognize it here? Hmm, I'm not sure how many botanists who specialize in Florida landscape weeds read my blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Things I Want

Yes, even a penny-pinching tightwad desires stuff sometimes.

I love pretty much anything in the Arts & Crafts style. But I especially like crewel embroidery, also known as crewelwork. Crewelwork uses heavier wool for embroidering and usually sewn on a sturdy fabric (in order to support the weight), like linen. I like the style of early 20th century work done in a Jacobean fashion - stylized floral patterns, mainly.

A lovely example of a modern piece is this pillow from Pottery Barn:

I have one like it at home. Of course, the pillow I have was probably $20 at most, from World Market in Jacksonville. (Oh, World Market - how I miss you! Pier One ain't got nuthin' on you!)

This is $40, and that's just for the pillow cover - you'd pay an additional $18 for a pillow "insert." I looked around the Internet for a cheaper alternative, but 16x26" doesn't appear to be a common size.

So, a $60 pillow? I don't think so. What a bummer!

But it's so pretty...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mairzy Doats and Regrets

I have no idea why or how, but a song my grandmother used to sing popped into my head. I started singing it out loud as I walked down the stairs in my office building (don't worry - no one else was there).

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?
Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?

Now, if your elderly relatives didn't sing this ditty to you as a child, you're probably wondering, "What the . . . ?"

It's what they call a "novelty song," and it's from the World War II era. It became popular on the radio, and the G.I.s fighting over in Europe liked it too. (Rumor has it they used the nonsensical lyrics for passwords.)

While she could be quite stern, my grandmother had a playful side - from convincing me that she could change red lights to green with her mind, to honking at cows (she told me they understood that to be a human "hello") - and she sang this song enough that it's taken up residence in my memory, popping out from time to time.

Walking through the near-empty building, I started humming it. It had been a while, so it took a second to get the whole verse. But when I did, two very different senses hit me, of goofy pride that I'd remembered the lyrics, and bittersweet nostaglia.

I still miss my grandmother, gone more than five years now. I regret the time lost that I could have spent with her, thanks to my family's absence from Maine for 15 years. We got along famously when I was small, but we never got to know each other as fully-formed adults. I think she would have liked me as an adult.

Lost in these thoughts, another emotion crept in:


I felt a slight pang of remorse, knowing that I was depriving my parents of grandchildren. Of that relationship my grandmother had with me.

And maybe, also, a little sad that I will never have a grandchild, no one with whom to share goofy songs, dubious psychic powers, and secrets that only grandparents and grandchildren share, things that too cool for Mom and Dad to know about.

I still feel it as I write; there is no wrap-up paragraph to explain how I dealt with these emotions. I don't know if there really ever will be. That slight tug at my soul, and at my decision to not have children, might remain forever.


Oh, and in case you have no clue to what the song's about, sing it out loud.

No? Okay, sing this out loud: Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. . .

Pretty silly, isn't it? But it makes me smile. Perhaps it made you smile, too. Teach it to your kids - they'll probably love it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Light is Shed

Literally. For over a year now, the dining has been without over lighting, a gaping hole with dangling wires where a light should be. Mainly because we took down the hideous monstrosity that was the previous light fixture. It hung so low, you could see the light bulb. And way too modern for our tastes:

We'd been putting off getting a new light forever, when Kyle went to turn on the kitchen light one day and the chain came down with his hand. This light/fan fixture was really, actually worse - it was very country, white and too big for the kitchen (old photo - the kitchen doesn't look anything like that anymore - DIE WALLPAPER DIE):

So he ripped that one out - and now we had TWO holes-with-wires. But then, my wonderful husband went off to Home Depot one morning and returned with two fixtures.

So now not only do we have a new, smaller-yet-brighter kitchen light:

We also have a lovely dining room light as well!

(Please ignore all the booze - it's left over from the wedding - AS I SAID IT WOULD BE...)

Here's a close-up:

I think he did an awesome job and I'm so pleased to be able to see what I'm cooking and eating. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's a Man's World

(For those of you who received an e-mail, or saw my post on FaceBook, I apologize: I'm talking about this article friggin' everywhere. Feel free to come back next week when I'll regale you with tales of husbands doing fabulous things around the house and puppies making it through typical-yet-traumatic-for-me surgery.)

I was supposed to be looking for gardening book reviews in the New York Times, but I stumbled upon this article, "The Women's Crusade." I feel very strongly about this article. It touched my heart, and I feel compelled to share it with as many women as possible.

In many parts of the world, women are second-class citizens, literally at best and basically slaves in the worst places. There's a growing awareness that half of the population is considered a burden only because they're forced to be as such - with tiny loans to start businesses, education and health care, women can become part of their country's solution instead of its problem.

Emily will find a pleasant surprise in the article - a group she's helped is mentioned in an incredibly touching story.

I know it looks long, but if you give it a chance, I think it will "grow" on you. :)

The Women’s Crusade
Published: August 23, 2009
The liberation of women could help solve many of the world’s problems, from poverty to child mortality to terrorism.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kick-Ass Cookies

Warning: Completely self-indulgent, horn-tooting, post.

Kyle loves chocolate chip cookies. Given a choice when I'm in the mood for baking, he always goes with chocolate chip. I had just made a small batch a week or so earlier, so a few nights ago when we were planning on leftovers for dinner and I decided to bake, I thought I'd make something different.

I was flipping through my Cook's Illustrated book, "Baking Illustrated" and came across pecan bars. Hmm... tasty...

"Ooo, are you making cookies?" Kyle wanted to know.

"Well, I was thinking of making pecan bars..."

His face falls, ever so slightly.

"But I can make cookies."

"Yay!" His face lights back up.

So I found a recipe for "Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies." As the book says, the goal is to recreate those huge, sinfully rich cookies you find in boutique bakeries and fancy hotels.

And damn if they weren't just as good - if not better!

Not only were they delicious, but they actually looked good too. I think the secret to that was size consistency (you portion out a "scant" quarter-cup of dough per cookie) and the strange technique of pulling the dough ball apart and squishing the two "broken" halves together, "broken" side up - this makes for a craggy top.

I was so pleased, I took a photo!

(On my trusty Silpat - a non-stick liner made with silicon and fiberglass. No, really. It's awesome.)

Kyle loves them. I took a few to work today (the recipe only makes 18, and they are for Kyle, so I split them in half) and my coworkers really liked them as well.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Gift from Italy

My cousin Rich, who is stationed in Italy, sent me a wedding present!

His wife is due with their first child any day, and I was tickled to see that items in the box were wrapped in baby diapers! Diapers have come a long way - did you know they have Velcro flaps now? Amazing. Anyway...

They sent us two beautiful Italian crystal wine glasses (suckers are HUGE), a bottle of wine and best of all - boxed wine!

Now, I know what you're thinking. "They shipped a big 'ol box-o-wine to the U.S.?" But that's what's so awesome - it's not what you think it is.

In a cardboard sleeve were three little boxes - juice-box style! Individual servings! I couldn't get over it. So cute!

On the bottle of wine was a blue sticky-note that read "For celebrating!" And the boxed wine has a note reading, "For on the go! :)"

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rock T-Shirt Update

I open my e-mail Monday morning and find this:

Subject: RE: Never received my shirt
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 2009 15:46:02 -0700

Hello Jennifer,

We sent another shirt out for you on Friday. You should be getting it in a few days. Thank you

I think, "Oh, finally - they've sent the shirt out - great!"

And it was. I came home Monday afternoon to discover the t-shirt delivered. Awesome.

But then, this morning, as I'm cleaning out e-mail, I re-read the e-mail and notice something that I hadn't before.

"We sent another shirt out for you on Friday."

Another shirt?

Huh. So, basically they just half-assed admitted that they've sent another shirt to me previously which never made it into my possession. And all this time it's been nasty "How dare you involve PayPal before contacting us" and "We told you it would take five weeks" messages. How lame is that? Instead of acknowledging their mistake ("Dude, we have no idea what happened to the shirt we totally sent you, so we're sending you another.") they just act casual and try to slide it under the rug.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rude Business

Wow. It never ceases to take me by surprise when a business is rude to you.

Especially when it was they who did something wrong.

I ordered a t-shirt from a band I like, The Killer and The Star (they're new-ish; lead singer/songwriter is formerly of the band Cold). I paid via PayPal, and my credit card was charged that same day. This was June 25.

Five weeks later, and I still haven't received my shirt. Five weeks - that's more than a month.

I've been patient. I understand shipping takes a while. But I'm starting to think something's wrong. So, as PayPal suggests, I attempt to contact the seller first.

I send an e-mail on July 21 (last Tuesday, three weeks after the order). You know, just a "Hey! Haven't gotten my shirt? Can you help me?" sort of thing.

No response.

So today, I open a dispute with PayPal.

And today, surprise! I receive an e-mail from the seller:

Your Shirt‏
From: The Killer and The Star (
Sent: Thu 7/30/09 4:55 PM

Your shirt is being shipped tomorrow. The website said shipping time was 5 weeks. Please in the future if you have questions about an order contact us instead of opening a dispute with paypal. This all could have been easily avoided with a simple email to us. Please go to paypal and drop the dispute so we can ship out your shirt. The money is frozen in our account until the dispute is resolved.

Thank you.

I have two problems with this - outside of the snotty tone.

1. I did contact you first, bee-yotch! Over a week ago!

2. Wait, I'm sorry - did you ask me to drop the dispute because the money has been frozen by PayPal? How about I get the damn shirt first?

My response:

I guess I didn't really think about how long 5 weeks is; it's rare to wait over a month for something.

I ain't dropping the dispute until the shirt is in my happy little hands.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Car Wars II: The Buyer Strikes Back

Those of you who've been following the drama via Facebook or Twitter know how the story ends: I got the "galaxy gray" Mazda3 from Gainesville Mazda. After they snatched it from under the Ocala dealership's nose and charged me a bit more. But it was still under invoice and I'm very happy with it.

So - pictures!

This is in my work parking lot.

The dealership slipped a "Gainesville Chevrolet" tag frame on (they're a Chevy/somethingelse/Mazda dealership). They also slapped on a "Palm Mazda" sticker (crooked!) on the trunk door. Those will both be going.

Isn't she pretty? And it has extras. While the salespeople tried to impress me with the spoiler and 6-CD changer, the only thing that made me do a little happy dance in my head was the moonroof. I have always (and I mean, always - for years now) wanted a moonroof.

Interested in the dirty little details? Read on.


So I was all set to buy a 2009 Mazda3 s Touring 4-door sedan in white from Palm Mazda in Gainesville, when a salesperson from Jenkins Mazda in Ocala called.

I told her the only way they could steal me away was if they found the exact car in a darker color.

They had. Specifically, they had found a "galaxy gray" 2009 Mazda3 s Touring 4-door sedan. Same exact car - except it also had a moon roof and a 6-cd changer.

It was practically the same car I already knew I loved - but in a darker color - plus it had my "dream car" addition of a moon roof! But I had already put a deposit down on the white one.

I tell her that I love the car, the price is fair, but there's this $500 deposit thing. She suggests I call the Gainesville dealership back, tell them I had found the car somewhere else and simply ask for my deposit.

This was a mistake on her part, turns out.

I call the Gainesville dealership back, and tell him all this. After a significant pause, he asks, "What if we could get you the car?"

Hmm. "Well, sure - I've actually dealt with you, met with you, and I've only talked on the phone with the Ocala people. I'd love to give you my business - but I really like the gray one better."

He says he's going to look into it and call me back.

"Great news! I can get the gray Mazda3 for you!" Then he tells me the price. It's a little more than what Ocala's asking. I tell him this, he argues that the extras . . . I tell him Ocala's cutting me a deal on the moon roof/etc. because I don't really care about them. He argues that he has to pay a driver to get the car . .. I tell him so did Ocala, and they're willing to pay for it. He doesn't sound pleased. He says he'll call me back.

I feel pretty good - either way, I'm getting the car I want, in the color I want, at a fair price. I've never had businesses fight for me - it's nice!

He calls back-only to say, "Sorry - that's the best I can do."

What?! Well, pshaw on that! I call back the Ocala dealership and say, "I'm buying from you." For the first time in all this, she sounds vague. Says she'll have to call me back.

I can't believe I didn't think of this. She calls back and says, "Look, as soon as you told the Gainesville dealership that we had found you this car, they immediately went and found it themselves. While we were waiting for a confirmation from you before going and getting it, they just went and got it."

So THAT'S why he "couldn't" go down on the price! There was only one gray 2009 Mazda3 with manual transmission in the s Touring trim - I gave him all the details, and he went and found it, just like Ocala had. So Ocala can't sell me the car - they don't have it.

I'm pissed. This is unethical, right?

But I really want that car...

I talk it over with Kyle and decide that a couple hundred dollars isn't enough to keep fighting over this. I want something very specific, and they had it. So I bought it.

Car Wars

I'm thisclose to purchasing a car. But damn if it hasn't been a helacious two weeks in between.

I started with the assumption that I would want a Honda Civic or used Accord. What I did not realize is that there are very few cars available in manual transmission. Either they are stripped-down models, or they're expensive sports cars. I suppose about-towners such as myself are supposed to prefer automatic transmission.

Back at the office, I started doing some research. For what I want out of a car (affordable, four-doors, side-curtain air bags, gas-efficient), a couple models kept getting mentioned as comparisons to the Civic: the Honda Fit, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra and Accent, and the Mazda3.

They all came in under $20K (unlike any Civic I found - the Fit has taken its place as Honda's "cheap" car), and came with varying levels of extras.

Corollas bore me to death for some reason, so I planned to test drive a Honda Fit, and a Mazda3 - a maker that I've never considered. I just don't think about Mazda - except when I think "tiny little convertible" (the Miata). But it kept getting these rave reviews, and one recurring phrase especially caught my eye:

"Fun to drive."

I drove the Fit first. Very cute, lots of fun, comes in a stick. And cheap! (Under $17K.) But you get what you pay for: not much going on for extras. But still - it's a Honda, so you know it's made well. And it's a lot roomier on the inside than you'd think.

(I also drove an '08 MINI Cooper for the thrill of it. But they're so small...)

I head over to the Mazda dealership. They've got two Mazda3's with manual transmission on the whole lot. That's it. One was a 2009 in the nicer "s" trim, the other was a newer 2010 in the lower "i" trim, plus it had the updated Madza3 look, complete with the "Joker grin" grille.

I drove both, but really liked the 2009. As fun to drive as a MINI (if not as "cool"), but much roomier, and with a lot more extras than the Fit. Its only failing was that it's white (blah!) and overpriced.

After a lot of mental hand-wringing, and encouragement from my husband (his exact words: "Go with your gut. And don't be so frugal!"), I decided on the Mazda3. I called the dealership and told them my research showed the car was overpriced. Being the last of two 2009's on the lot (and an un-popular stick), he didn't pause much when he offered it to me at invoice, plus $2K cash back (a Mazda promotion for '09s).

Whoo hoo! I gave him my credit card for a deposit. Great price, and so what if it's white? I'll be on the inside, right?

I'm getting a car!

And then Ocala Jenkins Mazda called . . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Farewell, old girl - you served me well.

The Sentra is dead.

I've had this car for twelve years. I leased it brand-spanking new in 1997, and start paying for it outright three years later. I've driven that little tan car (official color "champagne") all over Florida, putting 208,000 miles on her.

She's been good to me - one major repair, and only a couple minor ones. Sure, the visors fell off five years ago, the "check engine" light came on six years ago (and has never gone off), the headliner is drooping, and faulty wiring causes my left brake light to go out regardless of how many bulbs I put in there, but she got me from point A to point B nicely, without using too much gas.

She's been through an entire relationship with me. Seen me buy two houses, move to a new town and job, get married.

When she started acting "funny" a year or so ago, I tried not to think about it. Over that time, the engine has gotten quirkier and quirkier - to the point where I stopped driving out of town: past dark at first, and then stopped driving out of town altogether.

So when the inevitable finally came to pass, I wasn't really surprised. Wished it hadn't happened after work, in the middle of a busy intersection, in the pouring rain. But not surprised. One second the engine's rumbling along, the next: nothing. No sputtering, no slow-down. Just on, and then off.

Kyle took it to a trusted friend who happens to also be a mechanic - whatever the problem is (something to do with timing chains and sprockets, maybe), it would cost twice as much to fix it as the car's worth.

So the old girl is done for. She's served me well - I definitely gotten my $17,000 (plus a shamefully huge amount of interest) out of her. Rest in peace, Sentra.

It's time to look forward. Ugh, car shopping.

My 1997 Nissan Sentra, a long, long time ago

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Some very minor bragging

I subscribe to Budget Travel magazine's e-newsletter. I did so initially to research California and Yosemite for our honeymoon, but I like it and thus have kept my subscription.

They had a contest where you're entered into a drawing for a trip to Punta Cana if you submit a travel photo. So I submitted one of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and another of Yosemite Falls.

They've included my photo of the waterfall in their "Readers' Best National Park Photos" slide show. I can't help but feel a little tingle of pride - somebody likes my pictures! Granted, it's a slide show of readers' photo in Budget Travel, but still.

The slide show

The photo:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Puppy Hell

Our puppy is a vampire!

Miss Murphy is slowly draining the life out of us. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: How the hell do parents of real-life babies do this? Kyle and I are exhausted and cranky, and all we've got a dang dog.

A dog that won't sleep at night. That chews on everything except the toys we give her. Whose teeth are like tiny ceramic razors. Sigh...

I'm not sure if I've even blogged about getting a dog, now that I'm thinking about it. Kyle's been wanting an Australian shepherd for years, and I've been putting him off. First a house, then a wedding, then the dog. I can only handle one major life-altering event at a time.

So Miss Murphy Brown was born May 1, and we picked her up June 27. That's right - a little over a week, and we're in despair.

I don't think Kyle really thought about how time-consuming this stage of puppy-hood is. You have to keep an eye on them at all times or they're all over the place, leaving a path of destruction in their cute, fuzzy little wake.

But she's pretty dang cute:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A New Name

Well, it's official - it's on the driver's license. I've changed my name.

Wow. Thirty-six years of my life under one identity, and starting today, I have a new one.

I've accumulated quite a bit of official-ness under my maiden name. A bank account, a mortgage, credit cards, a retirement account . . . I've been a full-on grownup with my maiden name.

But it's not the loss of my old name, really, that gives me pause. To be honest, I'm not that close to my father's family - they're not the tightest-knit. When I was a little girl, in fact, I planned to change my last name to my mother's family name; I had this grand scheme to run off to Maine, where my mother's family lives, and "become" one of them - I had an issue with my Southern heritage (I've gotten over it).

No, it's just change in general. I've never been a big fan of change. It's a fear of the unknown - what if it's not as good as it is now? Even when a situation sucked, at least it was comfortable - I knew where I stood, how to navigate (never mind that I was miserably unhappy).

When I met Kyle, I learned how much better things can get if you just let go. But the change was made for me - I didn't choose it. Taking the first step myself, bringing about a change, not just accepting it - this, for lack of a better word, "personal growth" has been a work in progress. There are still times when it takes conscious effort for me to let go of the known, the comfortable, and move on to the next, unknown, scary, thing.

But I have. I took a deep breath and changed it all up. I fell in love. I sold my house, left a job I'd had for ten years, and moved away from friends to a new city. And look! Obnoxious as it is to proclaim it, life is ridiculously awesome. I'm humbled by the things I've been blessed with.

And now I'm married - a whole new experience awaits.

Bring it on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pickin' up pawpaws and puttin' 'em in your pocket...

We have a shrub or small tree in the back yard, right in front of the master bath, that blocks the window nicely (when it has leaves; it's deciduous).

I've always wondered what it was; it didn't look like anything I'd seen before. And this spring, the mystery deepened when small green pods appeared on the branches:

Photo of fruit:

Photo of foliage:

After weeks of procrastination, I finally took some photos and brought them in to work for our master gardeners to look at. Tom, the state master gardener coordinator, works downstairs, and my coworker Kim is a master gardener as well.

The two puzzled over the photos briefly, and Kim pulled out a book titled "Florida's Best Fruiting Plants" (they both have an impressive library of plant geekery).

Mystery solved! It's a Pawpaw tree; Latin name Asimina triloba. According to the very handy web site, it's native to the Eastern U.S. and likes rich, well-drained soil. The strange little pods are the fruit, which mature up to 3-6 inches long and have a creamy interior full of black seeds. The taste has been compared to a banana or pineapple. We'll see if our pods make it to maturity; our squirrels number in the hundreds and dang, are they hungry beasts.

Our particular specimen has been there for some time, although it doesn't look like a tree; it looks like a shrub, meaning it has growing to do. Which is unfortunate, as Kyle will be cutting it down if it gets too big. I wonder if whoever planted it right next to the house knew pawpaw trees can grow up 25 feet!

What the interior of the fruit looks like:

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Free for any use.)

Monday, June 8, 2009

The More, The Merrier

Kyle and I attended a wedding this weekend in Clearwater Beach. We only met Kelly and Dieter a few months ago, but we've really become good friends. They came to our wedding, and I recently flew to Chicago (for the first time!) for Kelly's bachelorette party.

They were married on the beach. Kelly looked beautiful (loved her dress!) and the weather was nice. Warm, but nothing Floridians, hardy midwesterners, and even-hardier Germans couldn't handle.

It would have been 100% wonderful, except for this large group of people that camped out near the ceremony spot. Of course, Sand Key Park is a public beach, and I'm sure Kelly and Dieter were made aware of what that could entail, but you would think that people would at least try to be quieter during a wedding ceremony. I couldn't help but think that this group was actually being loud on purpose. We really couldn't hear anything they were saying, but Kelly's smiles and Dieter's very serious face spoke volumes. I might have even caught a little tear on his cheek!

Kelly's friend Julie from Chicago (who is one cool chick), Kelly and me at the cocktail reception after the ceremony:

Yes, I have a little bit of sunburn (put your sunscreen on before you get to the pool, not when you get there!).

Our friend Jay, who officiated mine and Kyle's wedding, sang at Kelly and Dieter's, along with our friend Cassie, who just so happens to be recently engaged. They did a duet of "Leather and Lace," originally sung by Don Henley and Stevie Nicks. Kelly just loves Cassie's voice, and she and Jay sing together very easily. Of course, we practice every year at Ginnie Springs!

Kelly and Dieter were so pleased afterwards!

Sigh, don't you just love weddings? So romantic...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Married Lady Rears Her Head

Hello, my tiny audience!

(I refer to the number of readers, not your particular size. Wait, not that I'm saying you're not tiny - you are! Unless you're male, then you're manly and huge! . . . you get the point.)

Since the wedding and honeymoon are over, I suppose it's time to get back on this particular horse.

The wedding was lovely. The Baughman Center was beautiful, the ceremony brief and personal, and the reception kick-ASS. The photographer took over 800 photos, and I haven't had time to look at them yet, so you'll have to make due with my few that are from before, and after, the actual wedding:

First errand of wedding day: getting my hair done.

Taking a lunch break at the makeup location with my fantastic A'vie wedding coordinator, Ann Marie (right) and her trusty assistant (left, and whose name is currently escaping me):

Pretty hair -- bad, bad, sandwich:

After-party at the Gainesville Hilton (where the cops showed up! but that's another post...). My BFF Janet (recently married herself) and I posing with a cardboard cutout of our friend Frank, who couldn't be here with us for the wedding:

A recently-met girlfriend, Kelly and me. She's getting married this weekend (yes, there's something in the water).

The end of the night (which didn't come until the wee hours of the morning, truth be told):

Next time: either some "real" wedding photos or the story of the afterparty (aka "The Hilton Sucks"). See you then, thanks for waiting on me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prickly stuff

I have never cared for the actress Keira Knightley; she always seems full of herself in interviews. She actually said something once about being "so British" -- as way of explanation for why some of us (presumably stupid Americans) don't "get" her or her bony frame.

She was good in "Love Actually" though, wasn't she?

And now she's gone and made the censors uncomfortable.

From Frogblog, an eco-blog out of New Zealand:

In early April, the UK charity Women’s Aid, which battles domestic violence, released this public service announcement, directed by Atonement director Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley. Without showing graphic violence you couldn’t see on any crime procedural any night of the week, Wright creates a genuinely disturbing two-minute film that unsettles precisely because it’s shot so straightforwardly.

But now, Clearcast, the body that’s responsible for approving ads for British television, has reportedly decided that the PSA is not suitable for television unless they cut the end. You know, the part with the domestic violence in it.

If that's not coming up for you, here's a link to the commercial on YouTube.

It is shocking, and for me, especially upsetting. But as the blogger writes, it's nothing that millions of people pay to see in movies or watch on TV.

One major finding from the study "Violence on Prime Time Broadcast Television 1998-2006"
by Caroline Schulenburg was:

"Violent scenes increasingly include a sexual element. Rapists, sexual predators and fetishists are cropping up with increasing frequency on prime time programs like Law and Order: S.V.U., C.S.I., C.S.I. Miami, C.S.I. New York, Medium, Crossing Jordan, Prison Break, E.R. and House. "

Why not air the PSA at the same time as these shows air? After all, the kiddies are all in bed by this time, right?

Domestic violence isn't pretty, but it does happen to pretty people - not just "trailer trash" and other ignorant folks low down on the socio-economic ladder.

I'm still not a fan of the actress, but I think she took a good part in this project.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A little home-keeping in the midst of wedding madness

I'm going crazy with wedding stuff right now; so busy that I don't even have time to write about myself! (That's pretty busy.)

I did take the time to notice two lovely flowers blooming right now in our front yard, some sort of iris and a sweet orange gerbera daisy:
Pretty, no?

I wish I could take a decent photo that shows the front yard in all its glory. Kyle really keeps it looking fabulous. I'm so lucky. :)

But before I could appreciate the outdoors this morning, I had the displeasure of facing my nemisis:

The hair-clogged tub drain.

One of the down sides of having long hair is that it eventually falls off your head and collects - everywhere. The bathroom is especially plagued with my hair. And the tub drain is no exception.

I've noticed the water taking longer and longer to drain, and this morning I couldn't take it any more. It's my fault, after all.

Thank goodness for my hero Cheryl Mendelson and her book "Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House." Most of my friends will tell you that I love this book, as I've raved about it in the past. But I can't help it - it's so useful, and written well to boot!

For clearing a slow drain (not a fully stopped-up one), she suggests the following:

1. Start boiling a gallon of water (yes, you'll need a big pot). Get out some baking soda and vinegar.

2.Get as much stuff out of the drain manually as possible. (This is the most disgusting thing ever; I will not go into what hair and soap scum comingle as in a drain.)

3. Pour 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain. Then pour 1/2 to 1 cup of household vinegar down after it. This will result in some fizzing, which mechanically breaks up some of the gunk.

4. Cover the drain if possible and let sit for five minutes.

5. Pour the gallon of boiling water down the drain.

Now, like I said, it only works for slow-moving drains - clearing a clogged drain is another post altogether.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I want one!

Yes, I've been slacking as of late. I apologize, and as a filler, I give you the geek-cooliest April Fool gift evah:

Tauntaun sleeping bag

(With thanks to my friend Peter for finding first.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring in Yosemite

A three-minute video - it will be brighten your day.

Yosemite, There is a Season, Turning Spring from Sterling Johnson on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wedding updates: invites and the shoe blues

1. I got the invites out! Phew! And I've actually received a few of my neat-o tear-off RSVP postcards already.

Word of caution, ladies and gents: My invitations are of a fold-up and seal style. When I took them to my local post office, the counter employee told me that, if I didn't Scotch-tape up one side of the invite, they would, at best, get mauled in the machine and worse, they might not make it to their destination at all. Take this into consideration when choosing your invites.

You may be wondering why I didn't just have them hand-cancelled. I did. But today's postal process involves more than one machine, so even after the very nice lady hand-cancelled my invites, they still had to go through a machine that can read the handwritten addresses and another that sorts the items.I'm still glad I chose the fold-n-seal invites, because it was less paper and thus less waste, and a postcard stamp (for the RSVPs) is still cheaper than a regular one. Although there weren't any love-themed postcard stamps, so I chose these lovely tropical fruit ones instead:

Very spring-y!

2. I have been overestimating the length of my dress - all this time, I've been shopping for heels, and I finally realized, while trying on some hooker-height Jessica Simpson carribbean blue heels, the dress is too short for any heel.That's right - I will have to wear flat shoes. Flat shoes with a dress! Something I've never done before.

I tell you, I wasn't happy. At all. I know, no one else can see, much less care, about my shoes. That's not the point. The point is that I wanted to wear heels. Me. Me me me me me me me.

I finally get selfish about something for "my" day, and I can't even do that. That's the point.

I'm getting over it. However, I need some inspiration on what kind of flat to wear. It has to be light, somewhat casual, but I'm afraid a flat sandal will be too casual. Arrggh!

Friday, March 13, 2009

If it's not a wedding, it's a baby

Seriously, everyone seems to be getting married or on the verge of delivering.

My girlfriend Gail threw me an awesomely cliched bachelorette party a week or two ago. And she hand-made this veil for me:

She sewed the little pearls on the edge of the tulle and everything.

If you know me at all in the brick-and-mortar world, you know that I like to wear my sunglasses. Pretty much all the time. I feel like they give me some height that my flat-ass hair cannot provide. Friends have been joking about making me a veil with sunglasses for years, even before Gail knew me - and yet, here it was - the most awesome bachelorette veil ever!

I was so excited, I didn't even get dressed before trying it on. You didn't think I went out in that, did you?

Gail also orchestrated, along with my other lovely girlfriends, to rent a swanky limo for the evening - and was thoughtful enough to stock it with my favorite girly beverage, champagne.

After playing some games at Gail's, we took off for Durty Nelly's, so I could quaff some Guinness (why yes, it does go well with champagne, how did you know?) and get dirty looks from the hipsters who probably thought I was being held down by The Man by getting married.

Then it was off to 101, where Kathryn got us the hook-up. I'd never been, so what better time than when I'm wearing a veil, a condom and a sash?

(Left to right: my future sister-in-law Melissa, Cynthia, Tabby, moi, Gail, Sonia, Janet)

Wait, we're missing Kathryn and Marilyn!

There they are! (Kathryn is in the center in the photo on the left, and Marilyn is second from left in the photo on the right)

Leaving 101, we stayed in the limo for a very, very long time. Eventually, we graced Sharab with our presence. Except that we lost Kathryn . . . Not that most of us have too clear a memory of it . . .

We finally piled into the limo and were safely deposited back at Gail's (sans Kathryn, sadly), where everyone went to bed - except me and Cyn, who stayed up philosophizing until . . . oh, 5 a.m.

It was lovely. I couldn't have asked for more, and was so touched at all the effort Gail and the ladies put forth - for me!

Next week, I'll whine about my shoe issues and grouse about pew decorations. Ooh, sounds like fun!