My bucket garden

My Burpee garden showed up last week.  It was in pretty sad shape by the time it reached our house.  It looked as if the box had been tipped over and stepped on a few times.  None of the tags were in the correct pots, so I’m not positive what I have.  I know I have tomatoes, peppers, and basil, but that’s about all I know. Since our dirt is essentially clay, I decided to plant the garden in Lucent’s  old litter buckets.  I drilled drainage holes in the sides and bottom of the buckets, filled them up in the bottom with about an inch of gravel and/or broken clay pots, and then filled up the buckets with several pounds of potting soil.  The plants seem to be doing pretty good, so far.  The pepper plants still look pretty peaked, but maybe that’s just how pepper plants look?

Hopefully the plants will survive and produce something.  The tomato plants already have some flowers on them.

I also planted vincas, impatiens, and 4 hostas, and pulled up the lawn carpet that had started to encroach on our front sidewalk.  I raked the old mulch off of the bed on the south-side of the house and pulled a bunch of weeds from everywhere.  I worked outside for about four hours – most of the time on my knees, leaning forward pulling or digging.  It was Thursday of the following week before my lower back and hamstrings felt normal again.  Gardening is hard work.  Wah, I know.

Most of the hard work is done now.  I just need to get some new mulch and keep on top of the weeding.  I probably should plant some stuff in the bed in the northeast corner of the house, too.  I just don’t know if I’m up to that yet.  Plus, our garden hose doesn’t reach that far, so I would have to water any plants over there with a watering can, and that’s tedious.  This Fall, after we re-paint the front of the house, I need to take the time to plan out what I want to plant.  I need to put in some grasses or bushes and some perennials, so that each summer I don’t have to spend $50 on new plants and ruin my back and legs planting junk.  The only perennials we have now are peonies which are super beautiful right now.  Tim took these:

Here is the current state of my flower garden.  I’m hoping it will look amazing in 3-4 weeks.  I love vincas and impatiens – they are so easy to take care of, and they flower all summer long.

This year, for the first time, I also planted some flowers in pots on the patio.  If I can keep the rabbits from eating them, they are going to look super pretty back there.

So far I’ve been warding off squirrels and rabbits with a blood meal and coffee grounds mixed with cayenne pepper.  I’m going to attempt to cut Tim’s hair today, too, so some of that might end up as a warning around the plants too.

So, there are my gardening highlights. My gardening endeavors pale severely in comparison to the fantastic work of my other gardening friends:

But, it’s a start!

Iron Man 2

Tim, Butterbrickled, and I attended the 4:25 showing of Iron Man 2 yesterday.  We got off to an inauspicious start – the theater was prohibitively laced with pockets of children – a row towards the front, and a row towards the back.  We choose to sit behind the back row of kids, which ended up maybe not being the best decision.  There was one guy who was trying to corral 3 kids, all under the age of maybe 7?  The, I suppose most people would say “cute” 4 or 5-year-old, kept turning around, staring at my husband, and telling Tim to quit looking at her.  He was, of course, not looking at her, but was looking at the screen behind her, but try convincing a 4-year-old of that.

For the first 15-20 minutes, the kids transferred from seat to lap to seat to bathroom to seat to lap, etc.  I think about half-way through the movie, the guy just gave up.  The whole crew got up, left the theater and were never to be seen again.  At least not by us.  Ahhh….

The quiet allowed us to focus on the movie, which, actually, doesn’t require a lot of focusing.  It was a very typical summer blockbuster sequel type of movie.  The robots/drones/Iron Man effects were cool.  The Genesis-System type robot arm was played up for cuteness again (oh, he looks sad…), Tony Stark had cool tech and invented cool tech, Mickey Rourke was, well, Mickey Rourke.  Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It’s not nearly as good as the first one, but it’s entertaining.  I was really disappointed by the women in the movie, however.

Pepper Potts was a very strong character in the first movie.  In this movie she spends all her time mincing around in high heels and SUPER tight dresses, whining about everything.  SPOILER ALERT – She and Tony hook up in the end (Tony said he is going to “do right by” Pepper – how romantic), and their kiss is super lame.  If the character had been written smart and sophisticated, as she was in the first movie, their romance in the second movie would have made much more sense.

Which brings me to Scarlett Johannson.  She, of course, also wears super tight dresses.  I honestly don’t believe that either her or Gwyneth could even sit down in one of those dresses.  She also wears a cat suit at one point, well, two points.  She is super gorgeous and has a beautiful figure.  But that’s pretty much all there is to her  in the movie.  She has a fight scene towards the end of the film, but it’s super fast and quick and unrealistic.  I can understand her wearing a cat suit for the fight scene – you don’t want your clothes to get in the way when you are vanquishing 20+ guys in the span of 7 minutes.  What I don’t understand, is why you wouldn’t put your super long hair in a pony tail or braid or something.  All that hair would totally get in the way.  So unrealistic.

Yes, in a movie about a guy with a flying exo-suit powered by a palladium core in his chest, I am complaining that a girl fighting with her hair down is unrealistic.  But really, the first thing any girl in that situation would do, is pull that hair up.

My final verdict on the movie – it’s worth watching for the cool effects and some funny material.  It’s worth a matinee ticket price.

Sunday Sunny Sunday

Yes, yes, I know.  It’s a beautiful day outside – why am I inside writing a blog post?  ‘Cause I feel like it, that’s why.  So there.

It really is a beautiful day.  I picked up an apple fritter and bavarian cream-filled long john for Tim and me for breakfast (no judging – it’s a holiday weekend) and some coffee from Starbucks.  We read the paper out on the back patio, and it was perfect – the birds were singing, the sun was shining, Lucent was peeing on my pepper pots.  We retreated back to the house when the sun started to crest the roof-line, and I made some boiled eggs.  We’re going on a bike ride today, so we need something more substantial than coffee and doughnuts.  The eggs were delicious.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet – Tim finally got road bike.  He found it on Craigslist a couple weekends ago.  It’s a Cannondale from the late 90s.  It’s is in amazing shape – looks almost brand new.  We bought it from a bike enthusiast in Bettendorf.  He bought it from someone else, just because it was a good deal.  He already has a dozen bikes, so he decided to sell it.  Since we currently have no working way to transport bicycles, Tim rode it home.  The seller recommended getting a hitch bike rack – said they are inexpensive and secure.  I called the garage next to my office, and they want FOUR HUNDRED dollars to install a hitch – a hitch that only needs to be strong enough to hold two super-light bikes.  I need to check around and see what other places charge.  Tim and I have also discussed getting the Ranger in our garage operational again.  For so many reasons, it would be nice to have a working truck.

Tim really likes the new wheels.  I have to say, though, that he was much easier to keep up with when he was on his Hard Rock, and I was on my Avail.  Now, he can just fly!  It’s good for me, though – makes me work harder.

So, today I look forward to a great day of bicycling, evening out the tan line I accidentally got last weekend (we’re going to a wedding on Saturday, and I don’t want to look two-toned in my dress), maybe doing a little shopping, a little work, and maybe finally getting some Mexicana from Great River.  Hopefully they are open today.

I hope you have an awesome Memorial Day weekend!

How to poach an egg (and not just the yolk)

I loved poached eggs on toast.  I especially love poached eggs on English muffins with slices of avocado.  My problem is that many times, I lose at least 50% of the egg white when I poach an egg.  It turns into ghostly wisps that separate from the main egg section, and I end up just washing it into the drain or garbage.

I recently read that to make a good poached egg you should boil water in a deep skillet, add a little salt and vinegar into the water, and then use a little bowl to ease each egg in one at a time when the water reaches a rolling boil.  I tried this yesterday, and I don’t know what I did wrong, but one of the eggs was a complete disaster.  The other one was undercooked, and I didn’t drain the water off well enough, so when I broke the yolk, it mixed with the water and was disgusting.

Today, though, they turned out EXCELLENTLY.  The combo of the vinegar and water keeps the egg in a nice compact, fluffy-looking mound!  Here is how they look in the skillet:

If I was using my former method (using a tiny pot, bringing the water to a boil, and then adding two eggs at once to the water), the water would be full of stringy, wispy egg whites.

I boiled the eggs for 4 minutes, and the yolks were perfect – not too hard and not too soft.  This method is more work and more resource intensive, but the eggs turn out so much better.

I so tired…

I hit Green Thumbers nice and early yesterday morning.  I wanted to get in and get out before the crush of people started.  I bought a flat of vincas and a flat of impatiens in various shades of white, pink, red, and lavender.  I also got 3 cubic feet of good dirt and my first pair of official gardening gloves.  They are blue and very pretty.  Or at least they were very pretty, now they are covered in dirt and grub residue.  I was in and out and back home within half an hour.

When I got home, Tim and I headed straight off to the gym.  We haven’t been there in almost two weeks because Tim was sick and then I was sick.  We did leg weights and cardio.  It felt good to get back into the routine.

When we got home I started working on the yard.  Boy o boy, does it ever need a lot of work.  I did the easy stuff first and planted the vincas in a pots for the front steps.  Then I raked the old mulch off the bed in the back of the house, tried to pull the chives out by the roots (I mostly just got the tops), and then started spading out clumps of dirt, making holes for the impatients.  Our dirt cannot really be called “dirt.”  The soil, especially by the front of the house, is more clay than anything.  To plant the flowers, I dug out a hole, filled it with potting soil, planted the flower, and then topped it off with some more potting soil.  I did this a couple of years ago, and the plants seemed to do just fine.  Of course when I pulled them out at the end of the summer, they were completely root-bound within their original clump of first.

Mom says I need to add some compost to the soil, but at this point it’s so clay-ey that I don’t see how I could actually MIX it.  She also said I could do some raised beds – put good soil on top of the clay.  One of these years, I’ll have to do something like that, but for now I’ll just have to address it one spadeful at a time.

I still have about 3/4ths of a flat to plant.  It’s cloudy today, but hopefully the rain will hold off until I can finish up.

Over the years, the lawn has crept over the sidewalk,  so I also spent an hour pulling up lawn carpet from our sidewalk.  I could just roll it back and the tear it right off.  I ran across tons of disgusting grubs and weird red, um larvae maybe?.  I don’t know what they are.  I should have taken a picture of them, but they creeped me out, so I didn’t want to spend any more time with them than necessary.  After rolling back the lawn, we now have a 2 inch ledge where the sidewalk meets the lawn.  It looks odd, but better than it did before.

I also cleaned off our back patio.  It was covered with helicopters, and the lawn has started to overgrow that too.  I raked it off and then swept it.  It looks way better.  Once the impatiens start to fill out, it’s going to be beautiful back there.  Right now it looks a little meloncholy:

Obviously, we still have tons of work to do to the yard.  I better stop typing and get to work.


I won!  I never win anything.  A few weeks ago I started reading the Simply Stated blog by Real Simple.  I ran across this post where readers could make a comment and by doing so, put their names into a drawing for a Burpee Home Gardens starter set with tomato, pepper, and basil plants.  I got an email yesterday from Real Simple saying that I was one of the 8 lucky winners.  I wasn’t sure it was legit until I looked at the blog this morning and saw my name listed as an official winner.

I’m not positive what the set IS.  I assume it’s seed packets and not live plants?  But, I’m excited about it whatever it is.  Tim and I wanted to start a square foot garden this summer, but it’s already  May 15th.  Is that too late?  Maybe we can at least get our boxes built this year, so we can start a garden next year.  We already have quite a few projects to do this summer – paint the garage, repaint the front of the house, rebuild our back porch, paint the stairway to the basement, etc. etc. etc.  Plus, we need to have tons o’ fun.

I’m excited to see the starter kit.  Thanks Burpee and Real Simple!

A case of the Sundays

It’s been another lovely weekend in the Longoria household.  Not that it hasn’t been without its faults.  I re-potted two plants yesterday morning (and froze my fingers off during the process – literally.  Just kidding.  Not literally.  I figuratively froze off my fingers) but not before I dropped them three times.  One plant, the rubber tree, was actually dropped by Mother Nature.  A freakish and evil gust of wind blew the plant off our patio table, and the plant crashed to the ground.  The pot was a complete loss, but the plant seems to be okay.  The next plant I repotted was our beautiful jade.  The leaves seem to be falling off quite easily, so I postulated that the plant needed more breathing room.  As I shook the plant out of the existing pot, I noticed that the 14-inch tall plant was completely root-bound in its original clump of soil.  The circumference of this base was maybe 3 inches.  I broke up the root ball a little bit and then repotted it.  As I was taking it in the house, the top-heavy jade flipped right over and sprayed soil everywhere in our kitchen entry-way.  I clean it up, repotted the plant, and then cleaned the outside of the pot, which was completely covered in soil.  I walked 5 steps into the living room and promptly dropped the whole pot.  Dirt sprayed everywhere.  I was still looking at it mournfully when Tim returned from the grocery store and helped me clean it up.  Hopefully the jade will survive.  It lost many, many leaves.  It looks…curly, somehow.  I don’t think it’s supposed to look curly.  I hope it perks up.

That was pretty much the end of the tragedies for the weekend.  Although today when I was jogging, I did get glanced by bird poop.  It hit my sunglasses and the edge of my shirt.  It could have been much, much worse.

The good stuff that happened this weekend consisted of me making super delicious chocolate chip cookies, Lucent’s ear infection improving dramatically (thanks to Tim religiously cleaning his ear and putting meds in it daily), me purse-shopping and not buying anything, getting a tremendous deal on A Brief History of  Time and The Universe in a Nutshell book duo at Borders, finding nice folks at BWW who shared their table with us and relieved us from a 40 minute wait, and watching Shaun of the Dead.

Timmy Tee is ill, though.  He has a super bad chest cold.  I need to start sending him to work with a face-mask and rubber gloves.

I watched 500 Days of Summer on Friday night.  Gotta say, I’m not a fan.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good in it, but I found Zooey Deschanel to be affected and unrealistic.  They made her out to be some sort of guy fantasy.  I guess any girl with huge, blue eyes and a penchant for The Smiths is irresistable.  Maybe I’m just too used to seeing her sister on Bones.  Maybe one can only like one Deschanel at a time.  It’s interesting too, how being an architect is so often held up as being this laudable achievement.  I enjoyed architectural drafting as much as the next person, but I have to imagine that being an architect in real life is all sorts of tedious.  Drawing beautiful buildings would be awesome, but having to know thousands of building codes would not be awesome.  What’s wrong with being a greeting-card writer?!

I also finished I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (author of 101 Dalmatians).  I really enjoyed it up until the point that Cassandra (the 17-year-old girl who is constantly referred to as a “child” – is a 17-year-old really a “child?”!) falls in love with her sister’s fiance based on a single kiss.  Suddenly she is completely devoted to him.  It didn’t seem like realistic behavior for a girl her age, especially a girl who is continuously presented as being wiser than her years and more mature and insightful than her 21-year-old sister.  I liked the movie more, I think because you don’t get to know Cassandra as well in the movie, so her behaviour is less nonsensical.

I also attempted to do some watercolor painting.  I discovered that any talent I may have had has completely deserted me.  This is all I have to show for my attempts:

I decided to give color a rest and pick up my old standby, sketching.  I used a 2H pencil to sketch out Lucent, and then darkened it up with a nice charcoal pencil.

I think I need to find a good house to paint – maybe then I will find my mojo again.  If you have a good house photograph – one with interesting light and shadows (and uncomplicated detailing), please send it my way.  Maybe if I am beholden to an outside entity to do another painting and to do it semi-well, I’ll actually stand a chance.

Bike Path Etiquette and Other Randomness

The Teem and I just returned from the jogging on the bike path.  We both had really good runs, but my tranquility was spoilt by my annoyance at the cyclists who kept whizzing by me super fast, without even a grunt to acknowledge that they were speeding up not a foot away from me.  I wasn’t wearing head phones or anything, but I still didn’t hear them until they were right up on me.  If I  would have taken one little step to the left, I would have been creamed.  How hard is it to say, “On your left?”  Dummies.

But, despite the whizzers, it was a still a great morning to be out there.  I’m steadily building up my endurance.  I ran a mile, walked 1/2 a mile and ran a mile back home.  I came home and did this quick little yoga routine to stretch out.  I love this routine – it takes maybe 3 to 5 minutes, but it does a great job of stretching out muscles.  I need to find a new yoga mat, though.  I got a cheap Gaiam mat from Target a couple of years ago, and it’s too thin and makes my feet & hands sweaty.  It’s almost impossible to do downward dog with sweaty hands and feet.  Laura and I did pick up a good mat tip at class on Monday night.  Instead of rolling the entire mat up into a tube, fold it in half first, and then roll it from the folded end.  This ensures you always know what side of the mat touches the floor (and your face), and it also prevents the ends from rolling up once the mat is laid out.

One of my motivators for jogging is a recent purchase of some good workout clothes.  I typically shy away from spending money on nice exercise cloths because, really, who am I trying to impress?  But I have a problem with my running shorts riding up, and I read that if you have a shorter inseam in your shorts, it actually helps.  I thought I would give it a try.  I went to Dicks and spent $90 (of course nothing was on sale) on these items:

Nike Fit Dry Running Shorts

These cost $28.  They are super light and have a convenient inside pocket for keys/tissues.  They have mesh on the sides to keep you cool and a non-restrictive elastic waistband.  They are pretty short, but not too short.  They stay where they are supposed to stay too.

Nike Dri-fit Running Shirt

This shirt is also is super light and breathable.  It has a nice unrestrictive fit, but still has an attractive cut – it’s not boxy at all.  The cool mint color doesn’t attract the heat of the sun like my black gear. Plus it perfectly matches my running shoes.  When I wear it, I actually look put together.  I love this shirt, but I think it’s too pricey at $30.

My final purchase was a running skirt.  Yes, that’s a right.  A running skirt.  I’ve been eying them ever since last summer, but when I tried to buy one at Dick’s last year, they were all out of black larges.  Dicks is ALWAYS  out of  the most sensible colors and sizes.  Which is why I bought these three things immediately without waiting for a sale.  If I waited, I would be stuck with a S or XL in fuchsia.

The skirt is a Reebok Play Dry Medium skirt.  The closest one I can find is here.  Mine is all black  mesh, with grey, very light shorts sewn in to it.  That is one thing that frustrates me about Reebok.  It’s really hard to find the EXACT thing you want online.   If you find a Reebok item you like in the store, buy it, because you will never be able to find it again.

The skirt was $25.  I’ve run in it 3 times, and it works great.  I had Tim run behind me to make sure the shirt doesn’t kick up in the back and show too much junk and stuff.  He says it stays where it’s supposed to.  It’s very light, modest, and fashionable.  I think I could even wear it for casual clothes.  Maybe.  If I start wearing skirts.

If this new gear keeps me motivated to keep jogging, it will be well worth the $90 investment.

I was wondering if I would be able to get myself to exercise today at all.  Yesterday Tim and I embarked on a massive house-cleaning exercise.  We were having company over at 6, so we started up around 10AM.  I worked on the bathroom first.  We often light candles and matches in our bathroom, and all the soot and match residue has been steadily accumulating and mixing with the moisture of the shower for the past 6 years on our white bathroom walls and ceiling.  We have made a couple of half-hearted attempts to clean up the black stains/mildew, which only resulted in worsening the appearance of the bathroom.  Instead of uniformly grimy walls, we had swaths of lighter grimy walls, set off by darker, grimy walls.  So yesterday I drug the ladder up from the basement, mixed some TSP substitute with bleach and set to.  It was a hot, sweaty, frustrating job (the ladder is almost bigger than our bathroom), but it was worth it.  Our walls are 95% white again. I couldn’t get the stains completely off some areas.  Our only solution is to repaint the walls.  But it looks way better than it used to:

That corner in the upper left used to be disgusting.

I am super sore, though, this morning, from contortioning my body into awkward positions and from bracing it against the ladder steps.  My back is rather jacked up, but running didn’t bother it at all.

Tim also removed the door separating our kitchen from the basement stairs.  We leave this door open always anyway, so Lucent can get to the litter box in the basement.  The only purpose the door served was to annoy me – when the door is open, it partially blocks the basement stairs.  I always run into it while carrying things up and down the stairs.  Last weekend, while I was negotiating around the door with basket full of laundry, I stubbed my toe on the steps and tripped up into the kitchen.  Not only did my toe hurt like a mother, but I was also super embarrassed ’cause I tripped.  While I was cleaning the bathroom, Tim surprised me and removed the door.  I am amazed by how much more open the back entry-way looks now.  Once we paint the basement stairwell and the closet that used to be hidden by the open door, it will look awesome.

All-in-all we had a very productive Saturday.  Our friends came over at 6, we ate Tim’s delicious (and healthy) chicken tortilla soup, guacamole, and macho nachos, and then played a rousing game of Settlers of Catan.  I was totally in the running to win (despite being repeatedly attacked and robbed by Teem), when our friend stole my Largest Army victory points, flipped over her secrete Discovery cards and stole the show.  It was still fun, despite losing.

Our guests brought delicious treats for dessert – turtles made of pretzels, Rolos, and pecans.  They were super tasty and cute.  I say “were” because all of mine are now eaten.  We have 3 left, and I’ve reserved them for Tim.

So goes another weekend, way too fast.  I wanted to plant some vincas in my pots today, but I went to Green Thumbers at 11, and the parking lot was packed to the hilt.  I didn’t feel like pushing an unweildy cart through narrow lanes of flowers, clogged with the after-church crowd, so I drove through the parking lot and came on home.  Maybe I’ll sweet talk Tim into picking up some flats of vincas and impatiens for me during the more sane week-day hours.  At least I pulled out all the pots from the garage (gingerly tapping each pot to scare out any mice or other creatures who had taken up residence over the winter) and rinsed them out with our mice-eaten hose.  Get me some dirt and some flowers, and I’m good to go.

Hope you had a great weekend, too!