Lizards in the Bougainvillea

Every morning, after breakfast, it’s time for a wander out back.  I am never alone.  Usually by that time, Rack the SuperDog (TM) is ready for his final excursion of the morning.  He will have a full day of resting, napping, and generally watching me do my own thing until Lunch time when he tries for a morsel or two as a snack.

He usually gets some, I’m a soft touch.

Or so I have been told.

We will generally inspect the area.  He has his perimeter search and if there aren’t any dreaded trash trucks in the neighborhood, he may even decide that he wants to romp a bit.

If not, I entertain myself with what goes on in the yard.  There are always gardening chores to look into.  The cutting pots must be watered.  Orchids will have to be looked after.  The Staghorn ferns probably have had their Spanish Moss tossed out of them and need to be picked up and set right. 

Generally it’s a Quiet Before The Storm time of day.  The neighbors aren’t usually rattling around, that’s my job.  I’m the one up at stupid hours, so early that even Oscar the parrot goes back to sleep when I settle in.  Going outside is a chance to think about what needs to be done, and set out a plan for the day.

All the while I am being watched.

My friends that live back there, the lizards, watch over me.  Sometimes they’re watching to avoid, other times they’re actively looking for my attention.  Completely harmless, quite beneficial, and normally entertaining. 

I honestly think that I live in their house and they graciously allow me to remain here, at times.

But there they will be at that hour, recharging their solar batteries.  You would think that they are easy pickings out in the open like that, but I have never seen them molested.  I guess a creature smaller than your finger wouldn’t be worth the chase to a larger bird.

They will hang there eating the ants off my palm tree that grew too close to the house.  The tree itself is on borrowed time since it’s a hazard in a hurricane, but for now it will remain.  Its replacement was planted in the island in front of the house a year ago and is growing quite well, but this tree with the moss on the North Side will not remain in the long run.

Meanwhile, it provides an environment for my little Cuban Brown friends to hang upside down and dine and pose for the paparazzi that live there with them among the flowers.

As long as I don’t get too close, I may even be able to enjoy a little time with them as well.  Even if this one leaves, there will be another one to take its place.  Too good a spot to pass up.

Oatmeal Mango Raisin Cookie Recipe

Every recipe I have posted here I have personally tried.

Some are excellent and I keep referring to them.

Others are a work in progress and need a certain something.

I’d say this is a work in progress.

Now, why would I be posting this?

  • These cookies are about as guilt free as you possibly can get.  
  • There is zero added fat, sugar, or chemicals.  
  • They are low in calories at 50 calories to the ounce.
  • They are high in fiber – every ingredient is high fiber.
  • They would make an excellent meal replacement.
  • They taste of Oats and Mangoes, Cinnamon and Raisins.
  • They are easy to make, and actually kind of fun to make too.
  • They have no wheat, rye, or barley flour so it is Gluten Free.
  • They can be made with Bananas if you don’t like Mangoes.

So why the weak praise?  If you were looking in my window at this moment, you would see me chewing on one of these right now.

But, they’re just not “sweet”.  Oh sure, they’re sweet, but cookies traditionally are a sugary treat.  These are a very healthy food, but since there is no added sugar, you just don’t get that “dessert-y” sugary kick out of them.

If I were to make these for a proper “snack” I would increase the amount of oats and add some honey to them.

The other drawback is that the texture for the length of time I baked them was wrong.  I’d bake them longer than the 8 minutes you see listed because they were a bit “spongy”.  That’s a trade off, so bake them until they’re well done and you should get something more chewy as the natural sugar in the Mango will caramelize.  Longer still and you’ll get crunchy.

Anyway… These puppies will fill you up and probably should be called Granola instead.  But I digress.

The Recipe – as listed made a little more than 8 cookies.

The ingredients:

  • 4.5 ounces of Mangoes in chunks – Banana can be substituted as well as firm melons like Canteloupe or Honeydew.
  • 1 Cup Quick Oats
  • 1 Ounce Raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

The Process:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Chunk your Mango into a mixing bowl.
  • Add Quick Oats, Raisins, and Cinnamon to the Mango.
  • Mix with your hands the batter until evenly mixed.  The batter will be the consistency of a sticky dough or modeling clay.
  • Measure out your cookies in one ounce servings.
  • Roll the cookies into a ball and then flatten them out in the palm of your hand.  Thinner is best!
  • Place them on the cookie sheet, and since they don’t rise, they may be placed closely together.
  • Bake at 350F for 8 minutes for soft cookies, longer for other textures.

Eye To Eye With A Dragonfly

Tread Lightly, there are wee creatures about.

This was going through my mind as I walked outside into the late afternoon sun.

I was in the great windup for the evening march about town.  Rack the SuperDog (TM), my faithful sidekick, needed to get out and explore the world, exercise his mind, and water a few shrubs.  I was looking forward to seeing things around town after being cooped up reading accounting books all afternoon, and who knows what all else before that.

Walking to the unreasonably brilliantly white mailbox, I bend down low, grab the post from their hiding place, and start looking at what was misdelivered.  Two for me, 8 for my next door neighbor. 

Amusing, I’ll have to walk it over to his box.

I take one step and a cloud of Dragonflies lift from their perches in my grass.

“Oh, yeah!  It’s an early wet season.  Watch where I walk!”

I am slowly treading through the turf across the front of the yard.  Dozens of amber and brown gems are floating on the breezes, flickering lights as they go by.  It was the third day after the first rains.  The Dragonflies lay their eggs in the lawn, going through their lives eating grubs that eat the turf, and generally being beneficial to man’s way of life.  The rains hit and they make the transition to their next stage of life that we all see. 

The timing is so that those pets that we all have and loathe so much, Mosquitoes, hatch and get out into the environment.  About the only thing I can say good about them is that Mosquitoes feed the Dragonflies that I enjoy watching.  Other than that I would love to put a giant Simpsonian Springfield dome over the city and fill it full of insecticides to kill the blighters off.

Step again, another cloud rises.  At this time I am seeing amber waves of Dragonfly wings rising and falling.  I am in a cloud right out of a Disney movie, sparkling and fluttering on the breeze.  Hundreds of them flying around me as I make my way East.  I leave my neighbor his collection of junk mail, and head back.  This time the amber is brighter as I head into the sun.

Gently I make my way back to the house, enjoying yet another encounter with nature.

Confuse Yourself With A White Mailbox

We moved into the house 10 years ago, roughly.

Since we have been here, we’ve fixed things.  Other things we haven’t really paid too much attention to.  It works, it may not be perfect but it is “Serviceable”.   If it broke we could probably fix it, or replace it, or something else that would come to pass.

The mailbox was one of those things.

You don’t often give a mailbox much thought.  The postie comes by, drops something in.  If you’re home you say hello to Postman Pat, get your daily mail, then wander back to the house with a stop by the recycling bin.

I don’t mind getting “Junk Mail” since it’s keeping the US Postal Service in business.

But the actual box?  Meh.  It’s there.

The same can be said for my house that I grew up in, in the sainted land of New Jersey.  Cherry Hill, NJ. 

We replaced it once.  I can’t remember why, but it was there.  Doing its job, day in and day out.

We’d had a discussion here lately about how the old box was getting to look a bit odd.  Tatty.  Dirty actually. 

Off at the local big box store, we’d started looking at new ones.  That was started because some drunk came down our street one night and drove over the post holding the old one up.  I picked up the old post and box off the ground, we pulled the concrete slug holding the thing in until that day, and slid the old post back in the hole. 

Simple and elegant.  Ok, so sure, the mailbox is lower now.  I have to bend down lower to see what’s in there, but it works.

The flag on the West Side of the box snapped off in the process and has been mulched by the lawnmower.  Long gone, I’d say.

When we were looking at shiny new boxes we realized we’d need a new post and would have to get all of that at once.

Inertia hit and we left empty handed.

That happened a couple times and finally I got annoyed at the process.   Waiting for the right day, when nobody was there to say otherwise, I attacked the old box.

Early in the morning there was a complex series of events.  Naturally, I’m a bit complex myself.  The bottle of cleaning solution exploded under the sink due to a freak weather front coming through and making my ears pop all day.  I had to clean up all that blue fluid and got A Bright Idea.

I went out to the front yard with the scrubbing pad that was sodden with cleaning solution and scrubbed the old box to a nice charcoal grey.  You know, what your black T Shirt gets to look like when it’s too comfortable to toss out, but no longer black?

That’s the box.  I scrubbed all the rust off the thing and it was a uniform color.  Quite impressed I mentioned that we had a New To Us mailbox and walked back inside.

Until the next day.

Bright idea time.  I remembered I had the tail end of some Primer White Exterior Flat Latex Paint.  That’s what it called itself. 

I walked outside in the heat of the day and proceeded to make myself flash blind.  White Paint on a midday sunshiny day will make you walk into a door frame when you go back indoors, so be careful.

Not so bright that in two hours later I went back outside and gave the old box another coat of white.

Yes, I painted over the numbers.  We need new numbers.  The old ones were stuck to the side of the box and the new ones will be stuck over top of that just like those annoying registration stickers that have no purpose on your license plate.

Don’t get me started on that one.  Those stickers make no sense except where they actually put the license plate number on them.  But basically it’s there to keep someone in the state capitol employed.  Make Work Project my father would call it and I agree.

Walking back into the house, I called it done as I banged my left shoulder on the door frame.  The job was fine – good enough.  Paint brushes clean.

But the thing is I nudged the apple cart and a few golden delicious fell off the other side.

In my living room are two green chairs.  Mine sits close to the front window.  That’s how I like it.  It’s a little warmer than the other, but I can see out the window and watch the sunset.  Every night that I am sitting there, I get to watch the sunset over top of the Shoppes and the palm trees.  I always notice.  Unfortunately some days it notices me and shines right into my eyes in brilliant subtropical laser beams.  But lately it has just been pleasant.

While the old mailbox was black and unobtrusive, Zinc Oxide Primer White Exterior Flat Paint is brilliant in the Florida Sun. 

While I ignored the old mailbox before, now it shined in my eye like a beacon.

It was a very bright weekend. 

We watched some old sitcoms, a couple movies, and generally enjoyed domesticity when I commented.

“Now that it’s white, I keep looking at the damn thing!”
What’s that?
The Mailbox!  It keeps catching my eye!
Don’t worry about that, the sprinklers will dye it rust.
We need new paint.  I want some old school Barn Door Red High Gloss Paint!
Yep!  You’re at it again!  You’re making more work for yourself.  Do you think it will hide the rust?
Better than the white will, I’ll have to paint the box over in a month if its left white.

And so it goes.   So if you want to confuse yourself, change something that you never see into something that is brilliantly in your face.  It should give you at least one conversation.

I’ve heard more than once from the neighbors that I should “DO something with it and be Creative!”.  One suggested rainbow colors, another was talking about fire engine red.  Safety Yellow might be an interesting suggestion, but I’m thinking Barn Door Red.

That should be close enough to the rust stains on the house.  Yeah, Barn Door Red!  Get the keys, we need to go to the paint store!

A Man Takes Off Work Early And Goes Drinking

He stays until the bar closes at three in the morning, at which time he is extremely drunk.

After leaving the bar, he returns home on foot.

When he enters his house, he doesn’t want to wake anyone, so he takes off his shoes and starts tip-toeing up the stairs.

Half-way up the stairs though, he falls over backwards and lands flat on his back. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except that he had couple of empty pint bottles in his back pockets, and they broke; the broken glass carved up his back terribly. Yet, he was so drunk that he didn’t know he was hurt.

A few minutes later, as he was undressing, he noticed blood, so he checked himself out in the mirror, and, sure enough, his behind was cut up terribly. He then repaired the damage as best he could under the circumstances, and he went to bed.

The next morning, his head was hurting, his back was hurting, and he was hunkering under the covers trying to think up some good story, when his partner came into the bedroom.

“Well, you really tied one on last night,” she said. “Where’d you go?”
“I worked late,” he said, “and I stopped off for a couple of beers.”

“A couple of beers? That’s a laugh,” she replied. “You got plastered last night. Where did you go?”
“What makes you so sure I got drunk last night, anyway?”

“Well,” she replied, “my first big clue was when I got up this morning and found a bunch of band-aids stuck to the mirror. “

A Young Monk Arrives At The Monastery

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church, by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So, the new monk goes to the Old Abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even an error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.”

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives, in a locked vault that hasn’t been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the Old Abbot. So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

“We missed the R! We missed the R! We missed the bloody R!” His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably.

The young monk asks the old Abbot, “What’s wrong, father?”

With a choking voice, the old Abbot replies,“The word was—CELEBRATE!”

Rack Says, Slow Down, The Lights Are Changing!

I’m waiting for someone to get home.  It’s time for the dog walk.

Me and my Faithful Sidekick, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) had already been out to the backyard.

We went out through the double doors, walked out into the sunlight, and greeted the afternoon by peeing on it.

Now, don’t be silly, not all of it.   He knows not to pee on my mint because, well, it’s Mine.  Besides, yuck!

There are a few oddball herbs in the garden.  The Basil that I finally got the right pot to grow is right at dog nose level.  It’s in a white ceramic pot that sits on the irrigation drip-feed.  Rack walked right over to it and caught a scent.  Sniffed it and …

“Had a nice sneezing fit did you, dog?”

He smiled at me in that content way that dogs have when they were caught doing something dumb. 

I got this thought placed in my head like an induced memory “If I smile like this, he won’t tease me for being dumb, he’ll think it’s cute and smile!”

Yep.  However I got that thought, it was right.  I laughed.

Rack took off.  Ran off around the big palm tree, leapt over the spa, then sniffed the mint again.  He seems to do that at odd times.

At that point Rack bent space-time.  Einstein would be amazed.  His matter blurred in our own place when he launched into motion.  The air behind him cracked as he first broke through the sound barrier, then approached C, the speed of light.

Interesting, boy, you usually save your inter-dimensional travel for behind the shed.  His black and grey blur ran past the back end of the pool, over the stone fountain that hasn’t worked since the early part of the century, then curled around the Sea Grape tree.

Leaves were pulled out of our dimension as Rack roared past.  He was now out of sight, bending distance as he ran.  The turf showed where he had been as all the sudden the world went quiet.  SuperDog was visiting his SuperDog family in the Dog Universe that is on the other side of the Wormhole that resides in my backyard, behind the shed.

After a gap of a few seconds, white caps formed on the pool.  The usually placid waters rocked due to a vibration, a Change In The Force.  I heard a dull rumble.  Rack was reentering our plane of existence.  Wind rustled the Hibiscus and the Coleus near the big Sea Grape tree as a black and white blur dropped out of Warp into my yard, and continued to decelerate down below the speed of sound.  He did a figure eight around the Bougainvillea picking up brilliant magenta blossoms into his wake, then once around the big palm tree.  He was down around the speed limit for the neighborhood as he hurled himself over the spa, and slowed to a brake near my back door.

“Are you done, boy?  Time for a refuel?  Need water?”

Rack looked back at me and wagged his tail as if to say “Get a move on it, you need to come inside.  The mosquitoes are catching up to you!”

I padded across the yard to get to the door.  “Here you go Rack, go on in.”.

He got his drink then walked over to the big green chair.

“Slow down, it’s time to relax.”

His eyes began to change from his usual glowing robotic green to yellow from left to right.  Smiling, we knew all was right with him and his dog family in the canine universe on the other side of the wormhole from my little shed.

“Ok, Rack, we’ll go for a walk soon.  Have a rest, it was a long trip to get back here from the other realm.”

One more implanted thought appeared glowing on my cerebellum.  “Thanks, it was fun visiting the folks.  My kingdom is safe.”.

“Rack, sometimes I wonder what goes on inside that furry little head of yours!”

Rainbows and Palm Trees

It’s time for a breather.

The morning calm before the storm.  It’s like when the neighbor kid is learning to play the drum.  He’s in a garage band banging on those skins all the time, then, all the sudden…

Silence.

You get a clear radar after a couple days of rain and it’s that same sort of feeling of antici… 


…Pation.

Rocky Horror aside, that’s what we’ve got.  They’re predicting storms today, but for the moment, quiet and sun.

On the other hand, This Ain’t Nothin’.  Hurricane season is a month off.  June 1.  We’re early.  Start looking over your shoulder. 

Eat all the Good Stuff from the freezer.  You should have had that steak back in February!

We had a proper power outage the other day.  Call it a dry run.  Five hours into it, the ice was still solid, the milk was still cold, even though Lunch was at the middle of it.

Set a roll out on the counter, grab the Jelly while you have the fridge door open, grab the peanut butter.  Lunch will be the old school favorite.  Next, quick, get the Iced Tea carafe from the fridge since you forgot to grab it before, set it on the counter.  Get your glass, and fill it with ice.  Got to have something cold to wash down the PB&J with.

Meanwhile, the laptop batteries are getting low, the machine has been hibernated.  Play with the AM radio to see what you can find.  Less noise on the band since all the equipment in the house is dead quiet.  There’s this weird radio station way down at the bottom of the band playing something resembling Elevator Music and a Spanish speaking announcer.  Curious…  I swear I heard “Matamoros”, a city near Brownsville, TX I believe.

A power outage gives you a chance to look around and do things you were procrastinating on inside the house.  There is always a lot to do, and the power could come on any minute.

Or not.  Five hours later the fans whir to life, and you finally figure out that you were listening to a radio station in Cuba.  Weird.

But today, so far, sunny.

Time to get some real things done, bring home the bacon.

Police Use Selfie To Return Phone and the Importance of ICE

Being That Guy who is out walking his dog at stupid hours of the morning, I see a lot of weirdness.

Oh sure, I live in a tourist town in South Florida.  That could be redundant in itself, but its true. 

So I see a lot of weirdness.  Wait, I said that once already.

Some of that weirdness is best that I keep to myself.  Let me just say I see what you do out there and Shame.  Trust me some of that is truly bizarre. 

Luckily, most of what happens here is people from outside coming in and enjoying things a bit too much and therefore creating problems.

You lot party a bit too hearty.  No, really you do.  Have a little moderation.  A little goes a long way.  You wander down our streets using the wall to steady yourself.  Even my dog sees it and he is smart enough to know when to stay away.

So as you use that wall to steady yourself, you reach into your pocket for your keys.   What you were going to do with those keys scare me, but you have dropped them instead.

This is where I come in handy.  You see, I have found more sets of keys than I care to count.  I do tend to find a lot of things and since City Hall is on my normal walk, I tend to leave things there.  Just ask the Police Department. 

Really.  It gets to be a bit repetitious.  Keep a better handle on things.

So when the Police Department gets them they ask me where I found it and I tell them.  They also ask me a lot of random questions about myself that makes me think that it would be a lot easier if I just left your things sitting where I saw them in the grass next to that shoe.

This story doesn’t seem to be that impaired. 

It also has the benefit of some really great Aussie Sense Of Humour.  Love the way the Australians think, even if they are upside down.

They don’t like that joke either, but hey…

You see a lady lost her phone.  It was found by someone in Albury, New South Wales, Australia.  They took it to the police department, being good people who do that sort of thing.  Lo and Behold they were able to get into the phone.  There was no passcode.  I am assuming they couldn’t find the person’s own personal information but they were able to get onto her Facebook software and post a selfie.

Of the police.  Told her that she should come and get her phone because it’s safe.  They also said that she should use a passcode to lock the phone. 

Of course if there was a passcode and no personal information on the phone, the police would just have to hope that this person came to them and asked.  Small bit of circular logic.

What I do is I have a passcode, however I also have some ICE on the phone. 

ICE stands for “In Case Of Emergency”.  All the first responders know to look for that sort of information, although it is a bit vague where they look for it. 

I made it easy.  On my lock screen in Android, you can go into the settings and personalize it.  I added a message “ICE 954-xxx-xxxx”.  Yes, a phone number, No, you may not have it.

Someone presses the button to check to see if they can get in to the phone and if they’re honest, I’ll get my phone back. 

Honest people do still exist.

So add a little ICE to your phone if you can, I can’t tell you if your shiny iPhone has this feature or not.  You could always use the Find My iPhone Feature, and Android has a similar service, but this is easy.

It also might make things easier if you need a wall to hold yourself up.

Fudge Brownies From Scratch – Of Course They’re Easy!

I know every time I go food shopping to make sure I’m “tanked up”.  You know, have a snack first? 

Never shop on an empty stomach, you just end up buying “crap”.

But… I was surfing on an empty stomach.  I had hit that dreaded hungry zone an hour before a meal.

Then this recipe showed up.

It’s a basic brownie recipe, and it looked really quite simple.  

Melt the ingredients.  Bake the ingredients.  Eat the ingredients, er, results.

I did all that and I have to say, I will most definitely do it again.  I did not add nuts last time and I want to try it with Pecans.  Pecans are my Go-To nut when I’m baking anyway.  They cook up soft, have more flavor than Walnuts, and don’t overpower like Peanuts.  If the timing is right, I’ll toss in some mini marshmallows and make Rocky Road.

My own personal history with baking brownies is long.  There was a home-ec class we all had to take in 7th grade.  Since I have a scientific mind, I took to the whole baking thing quickly.  Baking is more like chemistry than cooking a roast is.  If you get the proportions wrong, it turns out badly, and in some cases a recipe could be quite fussy.

Think anything with Meringue.

But this particular recipe?  Simple.  Literally toss the stuff into a bowl and warm it.  It can be done in the microwave, but I suggest a Bain Marie or Double Boiler.  It’s a wee bit more trouble but worth it.  Just a bowl floating on top of some simmering water and you get the right amount of heat.

The whole thing is simple.  (Hmmm, Where did I hear that before?)  Get your ingredients to room temperature first.  Just melt your butter and chocolate chips in the bowl.  If you are using the Bain Marie, put the butter on the bottom of the bowl so it melts first.  Stir it around and when it is smooth and melted, remove it from the heat and fold in the other ingredients.  Whisk it smooth, then put the batter in the prepared pan.

Preparing that pan made it perfect.  Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan.  Cover that with parchment paper.  I gave the paper a quick once over with some more cooking oil.  It all just popped free.

Bake until the toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces good chocolate chips
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter (Room Temp!)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons Sugar (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar (baby!)
  • 2 Eggs (Room Temp!)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
  • Confectioners Sugar for dusting (Optional)

Process:

  • Gather all ingredients and get them warmed to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 350F/180C
  • Oil the 8 by 8 baking pan generously or use non-stick spray.
  • Line the bottom and sides with Parchment Paper. 
  • I oiled the parchment paper and the recipe just fell off the paper perfectly.
  • Set glass or stainless steel bowl on top of a simmering pot of water for your Bain Marie.
  • Add Butter, then Chocolate Chips and stir until everything is melted and smooth.
  • Remove Bowl from the Pot and carefully whisk in the sugar and brown sugar.
  • Whisk in or Mix in an egg at a time followed by the vanilla extract and flour.
  • Whisk the mixture until the batter is well combined and smooth.
  • Transfer Batter to the 8×8 Loaf Pan
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F/180C. 
  • It is done when the toothpick can be inserted in the center and comes out clean with few crumbs.
  • Allow the brownies to cool for 30 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.
  • Allow the brownies to cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours before cutting into pieces and serving.
  • Optionally dust the brownies with confectioner’s sugar to serve.

Recipe was adapted from PBS Kitchen Explorers