Sunset Over Wilton Manors

The days, being as short as they are in winter, present an opportunity.

It’s cooler, sometimes even chilly during the day here.  It allows us to get out and walk further.  We’ve all got a bit more energy so why not?

Leaving before the sun is down, we get to meet up with friends.  Both two legged and four legged.

We make our way through the back of the neighborhood.  It is shaped like an eye.  Pinched at both ends, wider in the middle.  On the South side of the neighborhood, in the middle of the Quirky Little Island City, we run into our friends.  How did we know they were there, around the corner and behind the park?

The dog had been leaping into the air to get us to go ever faster.

An explosion of black and white fur stomping on the ground, whining excitedly, saying hello to friends gone for forever or at least a day.

As good as they are in certain things, nobody has ever accused a dog of being good at telling time.  They most likely know you are coming home before anyone else because they can hear the motor of your car further away, not because it is you, but because you have a noisy motor in it.

Suddenly the excitement stops.  The humans take advantage of the breather to move the dogs on.  The childlike bouncing around becomes a determined march onwards.  The others leave, we make it up to Wilton Drive.

Rack, being who he is, needs time on The Drive.  He needs to be injected against his allergy.  He has an allergy against loud noises, so we’ll let Broward County Transit inoculate him as the 50 bus comes by and blows its brakes.

He flattens against the pavement and moves on.

Better than it used to be, that’s for sure.

We make our way up toward Five Points and turn back into the neighborhood.  It has been a long enough walk.  I’m starting to look towards dinner, we all are.

Then we round the corner.

The conversation stops, words were not needed.

The sunset simply was enough.  A beautiful day ending with a riot of colors.  The remnant of the sun shining directly down the block.  Another beautiful evening in our own little city, as the sun snuffs itself out behind the gazebo of our friend’s yard, we all head on in for the night.

Rosebuds Against The Sky

I spend a lot of time out in the backyard.  That’s normal here, especially in Winter when the highs may be as cool as the mid 70s.

Yes, I know, Bracing Weather, innit?

I take Rack, my dog, out back and watch him.  If he wants to play, he makes it quite obvious.  If I am being particularly dense, he even assumes the down on the haunches dog “PLAY!” form.

This wasn’t one of those days.  I had to putter.  It was also just a little bit after sunrise so the skies hadn’t turned their brilliant blue yet.

Wandering around the semi-private areas, I inspected the pool.  It hadn’t rained in weeks but the water level was fine.

The hedges had been trimmed a few weeks back, so I didn’t need to putter there, although the one hedge is somewhat of a mess.  You may like Mother in Law Tongues in a pot, but growing under a Night Blooming Jasmine Hedge, they can be an invasive nuisance.

I’d send some to my sister but she’d probably clobber me.  Never tick off a Jersey girl.

Never.

Thankfully I learned that some time in my early 30s.  Missed opportunities before that I guess.

I have a Darwinian approach to gardening.  Things grow, I cultivate.  Things die back, I clear and plant fresh.  I’m not terribly effective at that, other than Screw Palms and Dracena.  They’re all over my yard, and terribly easy to grow even up North in a pot in a sunny room.

But then there are the roses.  People write sonnets, poems, and songs about the wonders of a rose. 

Floribunda or wild roses, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not exactly a fan.  They’re less annoying than my bougainvillea because they don’t spread.

But I can’t pull them out either.  I may cut them back, but I won’t kill them.

I have one leggy plant in the yard.  A Pink Rose.  I won’t call it a bush, it’s more like a stick with some prickles on it and some limbs.  Lately I will let them get a flower on the end, then I will cut that off and bring it inside and have it indoors.

That is where they belong.  Cut in a glass in my kitchen.

When they finally wilt or drop petals, I collect them and put them in a coffee mug.  Pour boiling water over them, I get a mild scent of rose petals in the kitchen to do battle with the curry or garlic or other spices I was cooking with.

I’ll get the plant cut down to a useable size eventually.  They won’t grow through the fence like my neighbor in Philadelphia, Ruth.  Ruth is gone now, well, really, so am I since I am down here.  She was a powerful woman.  Small of stature, she had a presence that demanded attention.

She also had what we called Little Wellfleet next door.

That’s Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Ruth had taken trips up there to Cape Cod and brought back plants for her garden.  One of them was right up against our fence.  Her “Wood Roses”.  At least that was what I’d call them when I was being polite.  These were the kind of roses that grew wild up there.  They also would have made a formidable fence for livestock because every square inch of that plant had dozens of thorns on them.  It looked like a hedge crossed with a medieval torture device.  It also insisted on growing through the fence.   Since it was planted next to where my Jeeps were parked, it also managed to get me on a regular basis.

So while I respected and liked Ruth, I also got to trim her rose bushes on a regular basis.

While she wasn’t looking.  I wasn’t crazy.  I wanted the job done, not to have to answer why.

Now Wood Roses would grow wild.  That was what they did.  You could try to train them, but if you were in their climate, they would not stay trained long.  They’d grow thick and form large mounds of prickles and thorns and flowers.

Every time I manage to cut a flower to take inside the house, and stick my thumb with one of those prickles, I think of Ruth and her wall of Wood Roses.

Blasted prickly plants, beautiful though they are.  Just like Ruth.

What Are You Waiting For?

I’ve said it before: We train dogs without our even knowing it.

They watch you.

No, I’m not going to make the usual comments about what they’re watching you do, simply because they do.  They live with you and since we don’t expect them to tell on us like the kid sister in the tattle tale stage, we do what we will even if the dog is watching.


And they watch.

And they remember.

And isn’t that what training is?  Watching and Remembering?

Somehow I trained Rack, my McNab Dog, to sit when he wants my attention.  He still is unruly around other dogs.  Going into the heeler mindset of a herding dog, he will nip at their heels.  Even much larger dogs, he will grasp their ankles and hold on.

At least I think it is a hold on since the other dogs he does this to have not attacked him for this behavior.  The other dogs he has done this to are sometimes much larger, even more than twice his size.

I’m sure other McNab owners will say the same thing. 

But lately if I tell him he’s doing something wrong, he is listening.  If I can get through the puppy mindset of playplayPLAY, he will simply stop what he is doing and sit.

With Lettie, my departed McNab, I could tell her “Show Me” and she would take me to what she wanted.  Then she would stare at “it” and then back to me.  It was obvious what she wanted.

Rack isn’t quite that sophisticated yet.  He simply sits and stares me down.  Or stares through me, I’m not so sure which is which.

With his other quirks, this one is turning out to be a useful one.

I was deep in the middle of mucking about with Photoshop.  I had a “head shot” of Rack that I liked and I wanted to erase all the background rendering it something I could paste into any other picture.

Select area with the magic eraser tool, then hit delete, repeat as needed.

I was happily trimming Rack’s whiskers from the flowers in the background when I felt laser beamed intensity in the room.

Stopping what I was doing, I looked back into the Florida Room.  That was when I saw the source of those beams.  My boy was trying for my attention.  Successfully.

I set the computer on the table, stood up, and said to Rack “Show Me” hoping to strengthen that behavior.

He immediately walked to the back door.   We went outside for a good 15 minutes of laps around the pool, quick switchback running around the palm, disappearing through the wormhole that is behind the shed, and coming back into the yard.

I swear there’s a Tardis back there, since he disappears into that area and goes to visit an alternate universe, file his reports with Orson like Mork From Ork, then comes back fully dog through my night blooming jasmine back in that corner of the yard.

After all, it’s larger on the inside since he takes much longer than I expect to come back into our own reality.

In a while he tires of this and tries to drink from the pool.  If he’s paying attention I tell him to go inside and he’ll walk to the door.

If I am not paying attention, I will see him staring at me from across the pool in exactly that same pose, one ear up, the other cocked over at the top, waiting for the dumb human to wake up and stop staring at the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars eating away his milkweeds.

It would be at that time that I realize no matter how much he hides from noises blocks away on Wilton Drive, he is learning and it didn’t take any effort.

Like the breeders say about the McNab Dog, “if you can’t train a McNab, you don’t need a dog”.

In his case he’s training his human well.  He can get me to stand up and walk outside, can’t he?  On the way back, I’ll get the laundry off the futon.  It looks a little shabby sitting back there but that’s between you and me even if the futon is the albatross around the neck of all furniture.

Have you ever tried to give away a futon?  I didn’t think so.

Police Officer

A police officer stops a speeding car and approaches the driver

Police: “Do you know how fast you were going?”
Driver:” Nope”

Police: “Can I see your Licence?”
Driver: “Sorry officer, it has expired”

The officer raises an eyebrow

Officer: “Can I see your Registration”
Driver: “You don’t want to do that, this car is actually stolen”

* The officer begins to tense*

Officer: “Open up your trunk!”
Driver: “you definitely don’t want to do that, there is a dead hooker in there”

The police officer calls back up. 5 policemen approach and search the car.
They find no dead hooker, the car isn’t stolen and the license isn’t expired.

One of the officers approaches the driver and says: “Sorry sir, there seemed to be a mistake.

One of the officers said that you stole a car with an expired license and killed a hooker.”

Driver: “Yeah, I bet he told you I was speeding too”

Baseball in Heaven

There were two old guys, Abe and Sol, sitting on a bench in a park feeding pigeons and talking about baseball, just like they did every day.

Abe turns to Sol and says, “Do you think there’s baseball in heaven?”
Sol thinks about it for a minute and replies, “I dunno, Abe. But let’s make a deal: If I die first, I will come back and tell you — and if you die first, you come back and tell me — if there is baseball in heaven.”

They shake on it and, sadly, a few months later poor Abe passes on. One day soon afterward, Sol is sitting there feeding the pigeons by himself when he hears a voice whisper, “Sol… Sol….”

Sol responds, “Abe! Is that you?”
“Yes it is Sol,” whispers the spirit of Abe.

Sol, still amazed, asks, “So, is there baseball in heaven?”
“Well,” says Abe says, “I got good news and I got bad news.”

“Gimme the good news first,” says Sol.
Abe says, “Well… there is baseball in heaven.”

Sol says, “That’s great! What news could be bad enough to ruin that!?”
Abe sighs and whispers, “You’re pitching on Friday.”

Now That You Have The New PC, What Do You Do With The Old One?

No, I don’t need it.

Well I mean, if it’s something really cool like a Mac Book Air, or a Thinkpad Yoga or something like that I could easily find a home for it here, but that’s not what I’m getting at.

So you had a computer for a while.  I don’t mean a tablet.  Tablets are their own weird problem.

A Laptop or Desktop Windows PC.  For sake of discussion.

And this is not meant to be comprehensive.  There are too many different vendors of computers, there are Macs, there are different places to keep the “original discs”.. you get the picture.

If you really need someone to hold your hand while doing this, you may want to consider finding someone nearby.  I’ve done this a number of times, and it is safe to do, but I am in South Florida and I have my own rates that I charge for this kind of service.

Advertisements aside….

You used the old PC for years.  I have a friend who had an old machine he just upgraded that he used for 10 years.  He’s lucky he could keep it going that long.  But normally people use their main computer for 2 years or maybe 3.

You get used to its quirks, it’s current operating system, it’s way of storing files, its noisy fan, that sort of thing.

I keep hearing the story of people that take the hard drive out of the machine and throw it out, or they just roll it into the hall closet and try to forget about it.

Some homes have three or four computers that way.

No.  Just stop.  Someone else could use that machine anyway, especially if it is a Core 2 Duo or newer machine.

First of all, you need some of those files.  They’re typically under a few specific spots.

Open your File Manager: Start,  “This PC”  on Windows 8/8.1 or “My Computer” under Windows 7.

I wish they’d stop renaming things, it doesn’t help.

The things you normally need are in places that are listed:  Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures.  If you are someone like me who goes and puts things in places that mean something to “ME”, you will know where they are.  I can’t tell you where that is from here, you’ll have to search for them yourself.

But Windows has for years kept things in specific folders where it wants you to save things.  If you followed Windows’ lead, then that does make life easier. 

You will need to copy those folders off.  Use an external hard drive, about $50, and copy the lot onto the drive.  If you know how to share the computer and the hard drive across the network, you probably know more than what you’ll get out of this article.  At that point you can copy the folders across the network.

Yes, you are already on a network since you are most likely on wifi and reading this here.  But hopefully you’re at home.

At any rate, copy those files back onto the new machine in the same fashion and in the same folders.  When you are done, delete them from the old computer.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily “clean” the computer.  What that did was to remove the pointer.  What everyone is afraid of is someone getting the computer and grabbing the data that was on it before.  The easiest way to fix that is to write over the data. 

There’s a middle step here that makes life easier.  If you created the original “Install” DVDs or have a way to “Set the Computer Back To Factory Settings”, do that now.  Your computer will go back to the way it was when you first plugged it in.  That doesn’t clear out your empty space, but it does delete everything and makes it all fresh and new.  It also is a one way trip and you can’t go back.  This is a bit of a shortcut since it makes space that needs to be cleared, and it also gets rid of your data.

Once you have done that, you need to clear all that extra space.

An automatic solution is one of those programs that writes “nulls” to the hard drive.  There are quite a few of them and many are free. 

This one, DP Shredder will simply delete files or folders, and there’s a handy little button that will let it clear out the free space on the hard drive, including the space you just made by deleting files.  He wrote the software correctly since it is a rare thing these days.  It is portable and does not require an install.  However it does come in a “.7z” extension which means that first you need a program to extract that.  You can install the 7-Zip program which is free, and extract the DP_Shredder.exe to run the program. 

Now that you ran DP Shredder, and that literally took hours I’m sure, your computer is cleared of your private data.

You can safely give the computer to the charity of your choice, the kid next door, or anyone you choose.  Your old data is gone.

Happy Holidays from Ramblingmoose.com

No matter what holiday you celebrate, may you have a happy one.

If you don’t celebrate a holiday, then may you have a contented and happy day.

This is just my own little post card to celebrate the event in its best Church Bulletin Style.

The Flowers are the Garbage Poinsettia that I dumpster dived for three years back.  They sit under the orchids, by the fence, sheltered by the roof over the Lanai here in my yard.  They also could use a bit of attention since they’re really leggy but then again I am an indifferent gardener.

Enjoy my flowers and my best wishes for a good celebration, and a good day.

Ginger Cookie Recipe

Usually, I don’t give out a recipe on the first try. I monkey with it and add my own stamp to it.

In this case, I mentioned that I was making Ginger Cookies on Facebook and people wanted the recipe.  This recipe was so good that in the middle of writing this out, I had to go to the freezer and grab the one you see in the picture. 

Yum.  Really, they are that good.

Here it is.  This recipe makes a cookie that turned out on the softer side.  If you want a firmer cookie, make them thinner or cook them longer.  These were like a commercial soft chocolate chip in texture, warm and savory with cinnamon and ginger flavor.

That being said, the only difference I would do with this recipe when I do it again is to add a little extra ginger.  I like a strong ginger spice flavor, almost “hot”, and this was warm and sweet and savory.  An excellent cookie on its own right.

I’d say make it as it is, no changes, as it really is excellent, then decide for yourself.

The dough it makes is soft, not sticky, and forms shapes well.  When you make the cookies, I took the traditional approach – 1 ounce of dough, roll in sanding sugar, then bake.  They will spread out to double the width of a round ball as they cook.

The way I made mine was to mix the wet ingredients in the stand mixer until smooth and creamy, then add all the dry ingredients, one at a time, while the mixer was running.  Finally add in the flour a tablespoon or so at a time to the mixer. 

The ingredients are listed in the same order that I added them to my mixer.

Here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light molasses (I used Blackstrap as it was on hand and it was fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour


Process:

  1. Cream together shortening and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
  3. Stir in Molasses and mix well.
  4. Sift all dry ingredients twice.
  5. Add dry ingredients to molasses mixture and mix well.
  6. Using cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out spoonfuls of dough and form into round balls.
  7. Optional and Preferred – Roll tops of balls in sanding sugar.
  8. Place the round balls on a cookie sheet, they flatten as they bake.
  9. Bake for 9 minutes in a preheated 350F/175C oven.
  10. Remove from baking sheet and cool.

Rack Is Not Ready For His Closeup

If You Can’t Train A Mc Nab Dog, You Don’t Deserve A Dog.

I read this once.  It was written by a breeder of Mc Nabs out in California.  It’s absolutely true.

The same goes for most herding dogs.

Australian Kelpie, shepherds, Border Collies, German Shepherd Dogs, Poodles, all that.

A lot of those undesirable behaviors are due to our subconsciously training dogs in ways we didn’t expect.

We have all seen those videos of dogs doing unexpected things.  Labrador Retrievers standing on the Ice Dispenser button to empty the freezer of ice cubes is probably my favorite.

The trick is to steer the undesirable behavior into something useful.

After all, have you wondered why your dog has this weird ability to predict when that ice cube needs to be shared when you say “I need a drink”?

I didn’t realize that I was training my dogs, but I should have been clued in.  I did this to Lettie, I certainly am doing this to Rack.

Pictures.

Lots of pictures.

They don’t like it.

Lettie would just walk away.  Cause meet Effect.  I would grab the camera, even if just to pop the chip out of it to read it, and she would find herself in another room.

Immediately.

Rack is a much more gentle creature.  He doesn’t cast aspersions.  He merely avoids.

Everything.

Trash truck on the street a block away?  In the crate.
Vacuum cleaner out of the closet?  In the crate.
Coffee grinder?  Garbage Disposal?  Toaster finishing with a snap?  All in the crate.

I tend to block areas off these days.  He’s got his crate, and he’s got his mat out in the open.  The rest of his hiding places are blocked off.

He hasn’t learned that Flash Camera Bad thing yet.  He just thinks if he’s being aimed at by a camera or a phone, it’s going to get annoying.

When people send me messages, text or email, saying what they’re up to, and I feel the need to respond with the smartphone, I have been known to send weird random pictures.

Someone started demanding to know where I was.  Driving.  So I took a picture of the “guy in front of me” and sent it back.

I got the same question once when I was in the bathroom.  They got a picture of my feet and the bathroom door.

I was in the yard when the text barrage last happened.  I took a picture of the yard and sent it to him.  He was in Lorton Virginia waiting to get off the Auto Train and bored.

Then I thought “Oooh!  Lets try to get a picture of Rack”.

Made a mistake there.  He doesn’t understand that when I am coming after him, camera in hand, that we aren’t playing a game.

Why?

I scuffed my shoes on the pavement.

Time to run the human.  Make human tired.  Go do 100 laps around the pool leaping over the milkweed pot.  Pee on the Spider plant.  Bark at the human because human isn’t running at my speed when he scuffs his shoes on the pavement.

I really should toss those sneakers.  They’re too comfortable to get rid of but there isn’t really any sole left on the stupid things.  Long story.  Good sneakers.  They don’t leak through the sole when I walk through a puddle – yet.  10/10 will buy again the brand after I use up the “back stock” in the closet that I got for $20 a piece in close out.

Eventually I knew Rack tired.  He wanted to drink.  Actually he wanted to drink the pool which isn’t exactly a good idea with a salt system pool.  Since it just makes you more thirsty.

I started to follow him around.  Looking for Just That Right Picture.

I know.  I have dozens, if not hundreds of pictures of Rack in the year since we met.  I wanted more.

Awww look at the puppy.

It is like the story of the comic who was asked about children.  She didn’t think babies were all that beautiful.  There is a rare one that she would comment from the heart.  But for the most part she thought they were pretty ugly.  She’d just say enthusiastically “Its a Bay Beeee!!!!” and move on quickly.

That’s what most people think when they hear a pet-parent raving on about their cat, parrot, lemur, monkey, cow, or dog.  “It’s a Doggie!!” And walk away.

But… But… It’s MY Doggie.

Yeah, well, I’m still looking for That Picture and Rack doesn’t like it.

I blame the flash.  If you want to take a picture of your pet – do it outside.  They won’t learn Camera Equals Flash so quickly.

I ended up with the tip of the ear snipped off of the frame, and it saved me from sending a picture of my sneakers to someone again.

Oh and keep a few topical shots in the smartphone just to send off as a random comment to people.  It keeps them guessing when your dog isn’t ready for the closeup.

A Box of Holiday Cheer at 7:10 in the Morning

I did not really expect it.

Not the box, I was expecting the box to arrive.  It’s a box of holiday themed goodies that came from my Sister, Pat, up in Cherry Hill, NJ.

We trade boxes each year, and they arrive welcomed.  This time I was expecting the box because when I told my sister to expect hers last week.  She said that one was coming this way and to keep an eye out for it.

It made its way down the coast to me.

See the thing was I didn’t expect it now.  I was just going around the house opening windows.  Florida in December can be beautiful.  Last week was a bit too chilly for my blood to open the windows before dawn.  Since I am up as early as 5AM on a regular basis, I see the temperatures.  They were as cold as the mid 40s one day, and since we have windows that don’t hold anything in, heat or cold, they stayed firmly shut. 

Today was the first day that I have thought it was the right temperature before dawn to open the windows.  It was 66 at half five when I walked Rack for his daily march around town, and true to form for a Floridian, I had on a sweatshirt.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh, we don’t retain the ability to go out in the cold weather like we did before we moved here.  So go button yourself up in survival gear and try to convince the car it needs to start when you’re in Sub Zero Temperatures.  I’ll keep my sweatshirt handy when its in the 60s.

Checking to see if my “pet” tree frogs have made it to their nook in the back of the house before I open the windows, I get half of the house open when I hear Rack start to grumble.

Quiet, Rack, it’s ok.

Being the smart dog that he is, he stopped growling.  That is about all he’ll do.  Growl.  Well, really, growl and then hide.

I looked up at the front window from the back of the house and saw the back end of the mail carrier’s truck.

The watch said 7:10AM, this is too early.

I walked to the front door since I didn’t want Rack to prove me wrong by barking like a lesser dog, and opened it.

The Postman was indeed making a delivery at this crazy hour.  I guess it’s due to the holiday rush.

I looked at the box and said “Wow!  It’s even for me!”, stupidly not realizing how that sounded, and thanked him with “Oooh! It’s Cookies!” and went back inside.

Yeah, ok, I didn’t mean it that way, and I hope that the postman realizes I didn’t but I can’t fix that now.

Sorry, buddy!

More than anything else I was surprised to have a visitor this early in the day.  With Cookies!

Well, not exactly cookies, but some sweets and a rather cool silicone loaf pan with cake mix in it.  I’ve been wanting a silicone bread/cake pan since I started using them for cupcakes and cakes before.  I haven’t broken down and bought the things because my cabinets are chock full of pans and gadgets from my old house in Philly plus the ones we bought here.

Thanks Pat, that’s pretty cool!

Now if I could just stop munching on this stuff and get started with my day!