Happy Memorial Day

Well Folks, I’m taking a break.

Got through the Morning Routine early after getting up at 5AM and taking Mrs Dog for a drag up and down Wilton Drive.

So now, I’m sitting in the chair thinking of what’s going to happen today.

There’s a big ball of Bread Dough rattling around in the Bread Machine waiting to be taken out to rise and make Rolls for dinner.  Take this recipe from my Sister Pat, and divide into 10 parts for some of the most amazing 150 calorie rolls you’ve ever had.

Cookies will be made today after the bread is baked.  It’s going to be a busy afternoon.  I have never actually posted that particular recipe, but I have written about it.  Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies.  They’re a winner and you’ll have to take my word for it.

Of course there’s the last minute cleaning and vacuuming that has to happen as well.   Having spent the weekend making Tomato Pie Sauce that works amazingly well as a spaghetti sauce doesn’t leave the house clean.  That’s another one I haven’t written about, although it was from another web site that I’ve lost the link for.  I’ll have to add a reminder for that one, it’s really quite good and completely from scratch.  Oh, and it’s not only vegetarian, but vegan, so if you aren’t into that, toss in something to beef it up.  We don’t and it isn’t necessary.

Lisa and Billy will be coming over from across the street for dinner.  Billy’s bringing some Kebabs to make on our grill and we’ll be enjoying their company tonight for dinner and chat.

So whatever you do and whoever you it with, enjoy your day.   I know I will.

Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got a bread machine beeping at me.  The first batch of dough is ready to come out of the machine to be made into rolls to rise for a couple hours.

See Ya!

Intercity Disposal got it right on Bulk Trash Day

Last week we had the brush cleared for hurricane season.  There was so much debris that work stopped as the head of the group working in the yard asked us if we thought that bulk trash would take the pile away.   We thought it would and work continued.

By the time things were done we had a “Big American Sedan” worth of leaves and stems sitting in the parking space in front of the house on the swale.   It was about as big as a Crown Vic Police Interceptor.  Big.

So the weekend came and went, the leaves started to turn brown and we were looking forward to the pile going away.

When Bulk Trash Day came, I put a video camera in the front window because it can be an interesting process to watch them pick up all that “bulk”. 

If you ever have driven down the coast on I-95, you’ve seen the trucks.  They’re big open topped things with a claw on an arm that is used to pick the stuff up.  The operator will direct this claw that looks like a beefy 55 Gallon Drum split down the middle on top of the debris, close the claw, pick up the handful, then drop it in the back of the truck.

In our case, he took 20 minutes to pick up the trash.  Like I said there was a lot.  Actually, he picked up about 80% of the trash then left.

I was wondering if I was going to end up picking the remaining trash put it in the regular trash can, one piece at a time.  I’d then have to relocate that pile that went from a large car to around a 5 foot tall cube of leaves and stems. 

Needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to that task.

After a couple emails back and forth we were resigned to attack that mess later that night.

Perhaps we were hasty because all the sudden up popped the same driver from Intercity Disposal for try number two.

Why I say that the driver got it right was that he picked up all he could with the claw, then got out of the truck.

Picking up a rake, the driver then pulled all that remaining trash into a smaller pile and picked it up and placed it in the bin.   I’ve never seen trash haulers take that sort of care in doing a job before.  This was one for the record book.

Sure there are some smaller bits of refuse in the swale, but he did get almost all of the remains into the truck with that claw, then took a swig of water from a bottle, and left.

So I have to say that Wilton Manors is getting their money’s worth with this particular contract.

Training the Dog to Hate Peanut Butter

Pretty difficult task isn’t it?  Teaching the dog how to hate peanut butter?  I think I’ve learned how.

You see Mrs Dog is incredibly smart.  In her younger days, we’d ask her questions and she’d follow through with the results.  “Show Me” wasn’t Missouri, it was an invitation by us to have her show me what she wants.  When I moved from Philly to South Florida, the first thing we had done with her was to teach her the neighborhood by going out in a general direction and say to her “OK, Go Home”. 

She never got lost.  She’d get us home every time.

Tricking her to take her pills was not too difficult when it was a random thing.  She was always a very healthy dog, just toss the pill over your shoulder and she’d scramble for it.  The pill would be gone in a bite.

She has a taste for Glucosamine.  The capsules are white, filled with a powder, and slightly sweet.  She actually bites down on them and scatters Glucosamine all over my kitchen floor, typically right after I have mopped it.

Now that she’s older, pills are a daily occurrence.  Twice daily for the Glucosamine, twice daily for the thyroid hormones.  I can usually get her to take the thyroid pill by treating it as a treat.  She’ll do a trick, then get the pill, give me a dirty look, then spit it out and of course eat it off the floor again.

There goes the Dining Room floor.

Lately she had a flare up.  We thought it was due to her thyroid medications giving her a reaction.  Her skin got dry and flaky, and she was scratching almost constantly.  After taking her back to the vet, we came home with weaker thyroid meds and some Antibiotics that we were to give her twice daily.

Great!  More Pills!  Lets do a dance around the microwave!

Why the microwave dance?  She decided she didn’t like the Antibiotics after the second dose.  First it was sneak it in with the food, then that didn’t work, she would eat around the pill and spit it out.   Forgetting that she still had teeth, I slipped the pill in the side of her jaw and tickled her throat.  She swallowed it but hated the experience.

Now for the heavy guns.  Peanut butter!  

The last time she had seizures, she lived on the stuff.   Peanut butter on a saltine with a steroid pill happily hidden deep under all that brown goo.  She ate them and didn’t think twice.

Grabbing the butter knife, I would get a dollop of peanut butter, drop an Antibiotic on it, then roll it around like a little ball and then encrust it in dog food.   Sure!  That would fool her!

Guess again pal!  You see My Best Friend would bite down and have antibiotic flavored peanut butter now in her mouth. She’d swallow part, spit out the rest, then try to eat the food that wasn’t “polluted” with antibiotics.

Time for another change in plans I guess.  Glucosamine and Thyroid meds on the food, antibiotics will have to be done separately. 

Luckily it’s less than another week of this.  Her skin is mostly cleared now.  She’s scratching approximately as much as she did before all this coincidental nonsense hit. 

When I reach for the Peanut Butter jar, she isn’t begging nearly as much as she had been.   I guess today would be a good day to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch.  I have a jar of Lemon Curd in the refrigerator plus one to spare, as well as a Cinnamon Raisin roll… Maybe I can have that without having a wet nose in the middle of my lunch?

Creating a Holiday Skating Rink In Your Own Hallway

The Thanksgiving Holiday is now, thankfully, over.

Two weeks of cleaning, preparing food, baking bread, and general fretting about the house has culminated in a rather excellent meal. 

Roast Bottom Round Beef with Port Wine Gravy, Yams, Mashed Potato, Carrots, Freshly Baked Rolls, and finally Apple Pie.

No Wonder why people put on weight over the holidays.  All that food coupled with the lower activity that comes with an earlier sunset would give you a good reason for it all.

While doing the final preparations for the meal yesterday, I was standing in the hallway to the bedroom side of the house.  I had turned on the light to check to make sure that the air conditioning was turned off since all the windows were open.  It has been a beautiful week here for the weather has been calm and cool and will remain that way next week.  No need to run Air Conditioning in these weather conditions.

However it showed that the louvered doors that enclosed the closets needed attention.  All that air being drawn up into the air handling unit would leave dust on those louvers. 

Here’s a bright idea.  While obsessing over everything else on your plate, why not clean those louvers.  After all, the guest coming over for all that food had restricted vision and wouldn’t see it anyway.  On the other hand YOU would know that the doors needed work.

Padding your way into the laundry where all good house cleaning chemicals go to die, there resided in a small “clutter catcher” box, a can of spray furniture polish.

You will need that light bulb over your head, genius, because that hallway is dark.

Yes, I started spraying the polish onto a door and proceeded to work the polish in. All six of them now had a somewhat more shiny look to them and the house had a slight orange scent to it.   Oranges in Florida?  Who knew!

As I turn around to head out to the recycle bin I look down at my faithful sidekick, Lettie.  She’s standing there looking up at me as if I am the font of all knowledge.  I’m not but the love of a good dog is something every person should experience at least once in their lives.

Lettie was also doing something else.  Sliding.  If you have ever watched a video of a baby Giraffe, they typically are standing there wobbly on long legs that are spread widely apart.  Ungainly would be a good description.  My 11 year old dog was doing her best impression of that.  None of the legs were steady.  She would stand still as those long legs were sliding out from under her slowly.  Eventually she tired of that and decided it was time to go, but not before her legs gave out entirely.   Looking like a character from an old cartoon, she hit the floor as if it were ice and she were wearing Teflon shoes. 

I had a problem here.  Not only had I waxed six doors, but I waxed the floor under the doors with overspray, and the dog was enjoying the benefits of having non-stick feet. 

I helped her up and she trotted out into the rest of the house leaving little dog footprints of furniture polish along the way. 

Thinking of our guest, an 86 year old lady, we had a problem that would be solved by mopping.  We can’t have her fall and break something, and the dog wasn’t the only one who slid out while walking through the house.  I managed to topple into the wall, being on long legs myself.  

Next step was the mop.

The short hallway was given a thorough scrubbing and was pronounced clean.

I really should say “Clean-Ish” since the tiles were so old that they absorbed the furniture polish.  Squeaky clean though as now they no longer slid out from under dog and man, and should be grippy enough for little-old-lady. 

Oh and Orange Fresh too!

Luckily through the evening, our guest never needed to use the facilities behind my orange-polished door.  My rubber soled shoes on the other hand now squeak anywhere I go in the house.  Even after walking the dog, twice, to wear the stuff off the shoes, they squeak.

So the moral of the story is that no matter how dried out the woodwork is in the house, spray the cloth and polish the wood, not spray the wood and rub it in with the cloth.

After all, your dog will appreciate it and you won’t be quite so noisy as you walk down the street.

Indoor Livestock in South Florida

It started on a visit to my Godmother, Kathie and her husband Larry for the holidays.   We had a pleasant visit, and after Larry excused himself for some business he had to attend to, we went out to their little secret garden.

Behind the house in Wellington, there is a back yard full of Bonsai and fruit trees.  It is a compact space that has Tangerine and Orange trees as well as some other beautiful plants.  They seem to have the same idea that I do, you can have beauty in your yard but you should be able to grow something that bares fruit even if you don’t get a chance to have any of it.

That Tangerine tree had on the order of 100 fruits this season, and I came home with a shoebox full of them. 

I also came home with some plant cuttings.

My yard is quite full, but every time I get a cutting from someone I care about I am able to look at the plants and think of them fondly.  Remembering the times that I had when I got the cuttings that are now a tree is a nice way to remember your good times.

I have in the back yard a Trumpet Flower tree that has salmon flowers on it.  Nice plant but after reading the fear mongering that the local news paper said about how they’re poisonous, I’m afraid to go near it.  Many tropical plants have the same problem, they look beautiful but need to be handled with care.

The Trumpet Flower didn’t like the last cold snap and died back, and it died back last year as well.  If it makes it to next season I will be surprised.

Coming home with three plumeria cuttings as well as an unidentified cutting that was in the way of the walkway meant that I had to root the things.  In the two weeks, the unidentified cutting lost all its leaves and almost all of its green so I am afraid it will end up in the trash bin.  

Of the three plumeria cuttings, one has a leaf growing from it and the other two seem to be alive but unhappy. 

All of these are in water as well as some hybrid coleus.  I have a row of jars all three of which are rooting plants.  As the natural process of shedding extra leaves goes on, the water turns into a pea soup and has to be changed.

This is where the livestock comes in.  You see, this being Winter in South Florida, I’ve taken advantage of the cool breezes blowing through the house.  The last front that came through put us on the Northern side of the winds.  The wind isn’t coming from the ocean like it does in the Summer, and the land breeze is keeping us up to about 5 degrees F warmer than Key West.  The weather is backwards.  Metro Broward county is warmer than that of Metro Dade for some reason, and I suspect that is the water. 

All of that water that surrounds us in the Everglades breed Mosquitoes.  The little things are everywhere that aren’t sprayed.  They did spray here a while back, but of course that never gets them all. 

Unless your house is very new, your screens may be missing or have holes in them.  All it takes is for one female to find a tablespoon of water with a little bit of plant material in it, and you will breed bugs.

This morning we have killed six mosquitoes.  The usual trick is to have a copper penny in the bottom of the pots and I missed the ones with the plumeria.  So of course I emptied all the wrigglers into the sink, added a penny and started swatting mosquitoes.

(Make that 7, the little blood suckers are coming out of hiding)

So today when the neighbor stops mowing the lawn, I will open the windows and hope that they all end up in the back yard.  Wind blowing from the front of the house to the back will keep the little blighters banging their bug brains against the windows and hopefully they’ll just run out of steam.

Until then remember the helpful hint – copper bottomed plant pots or put pennies in the bottom of all of your “rooting pots” or else you will end up like I did.  I’ve got this big welt on the right knee and now I know where they came from!

Ok, those cuttings are getting planted TODAY!

Death of a Roomba and my Dog – Picture

Yes, I have a roomba. 
Yes, it is dying. 
Yes, I am disappointed.
Yes, it is way too soon.

Ok, Enough Dr Seuss type prose!   I have had a Roomba for about a year, maybe more like 14 or 15 months.   As you can see my house has floors, not carpets.  I also have a dog.   If you look closely, you see a spot near her yellow toy.  That was a piece of fluff that was missed by the roomba that morning.   It never was all that efficient at keeping the house clean, more like a sweeper.  It worked, but it would have to be run daily.  Now that the batteries are dying on the thing, I’m thinking it gives me an excuse to get a real vacuum and stop using the “Toy” to clean up after the dog and myself.  

The biggest problem that I see with the Roomba was that it never was easy enough to clean.  Not the house, you just press a button and it would stumble around seemingly randomly and get the place clean enough to pass as long as the place was mopped.   The dog hair though would get caught up in the wheels and the works of the thing and jam up the machine.  Now, if you could unbolt parts and brush off the bearings and so forth, you could recover from the dirt and let it work more efficiently.   When you have to get out a screwdriver and a knife and cut the fur off the spindles and worry the dirt off the wheels, you know you have a major design flaw.

Would I recommend a Roomba?  Only very conditionally:

No furry pets – cats or dogs in the house mean this thing will die early.
Make sure you clean the filter at least weekly.  Soap and water works well, and I’m still on the original filter.
Inspect the machine frequently and make sure that all bearings and wheels move freely.
If the Roomba looks dirty, clean it.
Make sure that there are no wires or small objects on the floor that can get caught up in it.
Expect your dog to hate it.  Mine did until I trained her not to.
They are noisy, and they run for about a half hour at a shot.
No Carpets.  Anywhere.  Ever.
If you have a place that something can get under, it will and you’ll wonder where it went.

I wouldn’t get another, and luckily mine was very cheap.

Swiffer Review

The executive summary is that I ended up with a Swiffer when my partner went to Publix looking for a sponge refill to my old fashioned mop.   After using it I found it to be unsuitable and am using up supplies as fast as I can manage since in this case, the Old School Method is the best.   In other words…
Why Swiffer Sucks… and the Curmudgeonly Rant Begins:
1) The Pads have a Scent.   Whoever decided in their focus groups to perfume this thing should be locked in a room with that scent and made to smell it for the rest of their lives.   There’s a distinct floral scent to the premoistened towelettes that you attach to the Swiffer head.   Go about your work and the stuff dries and soaks into the grout and whatever is left on the floor.    After a while you notice that the scent has changed to something smelling like dusty flowers.   Open the windows please?
2) The pads are good only for small areas.   I live in a smallish house.  1200 Square feet and all of that are tile or terrazzo floors.   If I used a sponge mop it wouldn’t be a problem, I’d have a bucket and rinse the thing out and I’d be able to re-soap the floor and get everything… Spic and Span.  Or Pine Sol.  Or even Windex.   Swiffers run out of their moistened towelette “goodness” after doing about 3/4 of my kitchen.    By then they’re too dry to finish the floor and are beginning to make mud out of the dirt they’ve moved around in a distant parody of “Cleaning”.   So you get out another premoistened towelette or do what I do and spray down a mix of 8 parts water and 1 part Pine Sol and get the job done.
3) You can’t reuse the pads.  Single use only.   They are designed to be thrown away after one use so they’re not very resilient and you can’t really use them to Scrub the floors, merely “lick the floors” as Mom used to say.   Mom would hate these things.  Don’t make Mom angry, go visit O’Cedar and make Mom happy.   Or the teenager who is press-ganged into doing the cleaning.
4) You can’t clean pads while mopping.  So you have a medium kitchen, you are trying to get the job done and keep your hands dry like Swiffer promises?   You decided to just spray down a mix of cleaners and use the original pad you started with?   By the time you get to the other end of your 15 by 6 kitchen, your pads are now looking very grimy.  Take them to the sink and try to clean them.  You may get away with that but now your hands are wet.   O’Cedar wins again!
5) They more expensive.  Buy the mop head at roughly the same price of an old style mop.   Get a box of Swiffer Refills at roughly the price of a sponge mop head.  So you just bought a box of premoistened paper towel like things containing like 12 or 24 of them.   I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the same mop since I moved in this house 3 years ago, and only used up one mop head.   If I mop my floors weekly, we’re talking around 150 cleanings.   See what I mean?   UGH!  I hate Planned Obsolescence!
6) They are bad for the environment.   More packaging that should be recycled, more obsolete premoistened towelettes that should partially degrade in a landfill in 500 years since there is a plastic scrubby strip on the things I have here.   Give me a cellulose sponge any day.   Ok, I know they’re not truly cellulose but they’ll degrade about as much as those stupid scrubby strips.
7) Flimsy equipment.  I’ll admit I’m rough on things.   I’m 6’4″ and 220 pounds.  I throw my back into scrubbing the floor.   I don’t want stuff in crevasses and corners.   So when I lean on that flimsy aluminium pole that is held together with toothpicks, er, plastic bits, I am concerned when I see the entire thing flex.   Low bid design or Chinese Construction?
8) You must use original swiffer pads for best results.  I have tried to get around this a couple ways.   The local store brand leaves a film.   The original dampening fluid in the premoistened towelettes may stink but it does go away and evaporate into the atmosphere… leaving a dusty flowery smell.   *SNEEZE*  I even tried using regular paper towels the one time I got caught without backup supplies and that was just a joke.   Think about mopping 600 square feet of Florida Tile with Paper Towels.   Can we say “Comedy of errors” children?
When I finally use up supplies I think I’m going to happily back my car over this comically bad piece of Marketing Genius.   Then I’ll drive to Publix and get a refill for my old standby O’Cedar Mop.