Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Fall color -- in Florida

It seems that many people think that green will be all that is found in Florida during the fall, but the color is there, if you look. Here are a few more colorful bits I've found in my yard.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Meltdown

I have been interested in fusing glass for several years and had acquired everything necessary to try it -- except the courage to face my ultimate enemy -- fear of failure.

The logical part of my mind understands that it is normal to start at zero and gradually amass the skills required for any undertaking, but the more primitive part of my brain wants to be perfect from the beginning -- failure is not an option.

The day before Thanksgiving, I finally gathered up enough courage to fuse together a few bits of glass. As often happens, things went smoothly and the pieces looked nicer than I expected.

Thus lulled into a greater sense of confidence, I fused a batch of glass every other day or so, each time, without incident. The results were satisfactory, but not outstanding.

Then I tried to fuse on Saturday.

The glass and I had a meltdown.

For some reason -- I think it was because it was a windy day -- the kiln took longer than usual to reach the first benchmark temperature.

What I now know is that the glass was thoroughly warm at that point and I should have very carefully monitored the rest of the process. Instead, I kept an eye on the pyrometer at the intervals I had found worked before.

The result? The glass -- and I -- had a total meltdown.

There's something very disheartening about opening up a kiln and seeing puddles of glass on the shelf. It's even more discouraging to see molten glass hanging from the side of the kiln lid. If you've ever seen cheese dangling from a slice of pizza, you get the idea.

After the glass and I cooled off, I discovered the results weren't as catastrophic as I thought. The kiln is still usable and I have since fused glass without incident.

So, what did I learn from this?

In most cases, it's ok to make mistakes. Don't be surprised when you do, and keep track of what you've done so you can avoid making the same mistake over again. It was easier to figure out what happened because I had started a firing log.

Don't ignore your instincts. I had a feeling that I should check the kiln sooner, but didn't. Next time, I will be more aware of all aspects of my endeavors. The past can serve as a guide, but each situation is unique and must be treated as such.

Accept and appreciate the support of your family and friends. When you are no longer rational or able to objectively look at a situation, their input is invaluable.

Don't be afraid to fail. If I succeed at everything, I have only verfied what I can do. When the outcome is less than stellar, I have the opportunity to find a way to make it better and to increase my knowledge.

I can see life as a series of adventures and seek new experiences, recognizing that I will stumble on occasion, or I can seek out the familiar and continue doing what I know without any risk of failure -- or growth.

I choose adventure!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A close encounter of the frog kind

You've probably heard: "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince." That may be true, but I've already met my prince, so I'm not interested in kissing frogs. That's why it came as quite a shock the other night when I walked out of my front door and a frog landed on my face.

After performing several notes of operatic quality and volume, I realized that the cold, slithery, and yet sticky thing on my face was one of our resident Cuban treefrogs. Since I had been carrying newspaper to the recycling bin, the frog ended up on the newspaper.

We looked at each other, said a fond farewell, and I deposited the frog in the ferns by the door. The frog and I were none the worse for the encounter, but I'm not sure if my husband and the cats have yet recovered . . .

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chili Cookoff

This weekend we went to a "Hoedown and Chili Cookoff" because I had volunteered to judge the chili entered in the Chili Cookoff.

After I agreed to serve as a judge, I had to find out how to judge chili. . .

It should come as no surprise that there are numerous sites with chili recipes, but there are also sites that provide basic guidelines for judging chili. The International Chili Society has specific guidelines in its Membership by-laws. (see Article VIII, Section 2)

W. Bruce Cameron tells a very funny tale of his experience as a chili judge. I am very grateful that my first time was nothing like his.

There is a very good explanation of what to consider when judging chili on the Metamora, Indiana site. They are still looking for judges for their November 8, 2008 Chili Cook-off. . . Here's your chance!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Selecting a President

The current US political campaign ads are almost inescapable. While I want to be informed, I do my best to shut out the cacophony of politics that's swirling around. In spite of that, thoughts of the upcoming election do creep into my head.

This morning I thought of the perfect way for the candidates to prove their competence: have each potential pesidential team compete via simulation. Each team is given an identical program simulating world conditions for the next 4 years -- SimWorld instead of SimCity. The team with the best results at the end of the 4 simulated years wins.

Simulation is used for everything from outer space (think NASA) to inner space (think surgery). Doesn't it make sense to have some idea of what could happen when we select people to serve on the presidential team?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You've got mail!

There was a watercolor bunny in my mailbox the other day. He'd hopped over from my friend Monette's house. You can see him at her blog. Isn't he cute?

It almost inspires me to dig out all of the stuff I've acquired to make a postcard quilt. Go here if you're curious about fabric post cards.

Speaking of mail, I watched "You've Got Mail" yet another time on Sunday afternoon. I'm not sure why I enjoy the movie so much. I think it may be the way it deals with relationships and the way we handle the inevitable changes in our lives.

If you haven't watched "The Shop Around the Corner", the 1940 predecessor of "You've Got Mail", you've missed a treat. This film, based on a Hungarian play, inspired both "You've Got Mail" and the MGM musical, "In the Good Old Summertime".

Watching all three would make an interesting mini film festival. Maybe I should send out postcards. . .

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Junk food fling

When it comes my relationship with foods, I've finally realized that I should live with healthy foods and reserve junk food for the occasional fling away from home.

Even though it doesn't take any more time to reach for a bag of baby carrots and a container of dip, I'm much more inclined to reach for a bag of potato chips to go with the dip. So, fling acquires a double meaning - I'll fling the junk food from my house and choose to engage in a rare fling or two with junk food when I'm not at home.

Salsa and baked tortillas cut into pieces make a delicious snack. Here are a few tips to help substitute healthier foods for junk foods.

Happy snacking!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

. . . and then there were eight

Two of our cats, Cleo and Obie, had been staying at the vet's off and on for the past month. Yesterday we brought them home.

Obie was doing much better and ready to come home and keep her brothers in line. The first thing she did when she got home was to run to the back porch for "lizard patrol". The lizards have their own version of "X Games" - they scoot under the screen porch door and see if they can survive being on the porch with the cats before scooting out again.

Cleo had been frail and failing. The vet called us on Saturday afternoon and said she was gone. She is now buried in our back yard.

Cleo found us in Orlando in 1987 when we were staying with my parents and waiting for our house in Virginia to sell. When we moved to Brevard County, she moved with us. The vet estimated her age between 3 and 5 when we took her for her first visit. Since we had been married for 4 years by then, we decided to go with 4.

Our first major adventure with Cleo came one Saturday morning, shortly after we moved into the house. We are far enough off the road that I felt she'd be safe from traffic, so I let her outside. (I know better now!)

After a while I heard her calling for us and I went to the back porch to see what she was doing. I could still hear her, but I couldn't see her - until I looked up. She was clinging to the top of a sapling as it waved with the breeze.

Of course, we had to rescue her. And "we" meant my husband dragging out a ladder and climbing through blackberry brambles while I offered helpful suggestions. After that, we decided it would be best if she stayed in the house.

Over the years we got used to being bossed around by a 5 pound tyrant. She had no problem telling us exactly what she wanted and when. She was a dictator, but a benevolent, furry one. She fussed so much we'd call her a "grouchy old pooh". Pooh became her nickname. We knew she was nearing the end when she stopped fussing at us and spent most of her time asleep on her favorite beach towel.

Even though we knew it was time, it was still hard to say, "Goodbye."

'bye Pooh, we'll miss you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Funeral humor

I don't know exactly how it started, but I have been thinking about funerals and humor lately. For some reason I didn't think to search "funeral humor" until today, and . . . jackpot!

I found Underground Humor which offers: "Gifts and novelties for the funeral director, mortician, embalmer & more!" You can find everything from a guide to shipping costs (How else will Grandma get from Florida back home to Kansas?) to a t-shirt (black, of course) that says "All men are cremated equal". There's even a "Sexy Coffins Calendar" that features handcrafted Italian coffins and scantily clad models.

If you want to laugh, I highly recommend the Chuckles the Clown episode from the Mary Tyler Moore show. It epitomizes the tightrope between laughter and crying at a funeral. I can't watch it without cracking up.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Summer scenery

This little fellow and many more like it have been frolicking in the yard. They are incredibly fast. I was delighted to capture it in a photo.

The kwanso daylily in the background is one of several I planted a couple of years ago. They seem to have happily settled in and are blooming now.

More rain has meant more mushrooms. I found these two beside the driveway when I was taking my morning walk.

A ladybug is hard at work in the garden. Someone else has been munching on the leaf.

The mimosa strigillosa, also known as a sunshine mimosa, or powderpuff plant, is another Florida native that I've added to the yard. I'm looking forward to the next native plant sale at The Green Marketplace.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Color-coordinated book-marks

When I go to a store that has a paint department, I frequently select several of the paint sample cards. I enjoy picking out the colors and dreaming about what the walls will look like when I repaint. As a result, I often have a handful of the cards sitting with me on the sofa.

One day when I was in the midst of reading a book, I realized I needed to check on something. I absentmindedly grabbed a piece of paper to mark my place and went on my way.

When I returned to my book, I was delighted to see that I had picked a paint sample card that complemented the book cover. Now I make a habit of recycling the paint sample cards by using them as book-marks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


There are turkeys living in my neighborhood. Yes, real ones -- the birds.

As I drove to work today, the tom decided to cross the street in front of me. I slowed and let him pass. Since the car windows were down, I "encouraged" him to speed up, and he did. I thanked him and we continued on our ways.

That made me think: how do I deal with the people who are turkeys in my life?

My first response is to try to avoid them as much as possible. Of course, avoiding an issue doesn't really remove it from my life. It just adds to the pile of things I carry around in the back of my mind. And all of the things I'm subconsciously dealing with distract me from the projects I truly want to do.

So, how to deal with turkeys?

It may take some time to figure out why they are a turkey. If I really stop and think only about it, I may realize it was a simple misunderstanding. At that point my problem is resolved and I can move on.

It may be that they truly are unhappy people who want everyone else to join them in the gloom and doom club. In that case, it really is better to avoid them as much as possible.

As is often the case, they are probably nice people who don't see the world the way I do and I need to agree to disagree and look for all of the things we do have in common.

So, the next time a turkey crosses my path, I'll look for the common ground rather than the differences -- and continue on my way.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer rains

Since the summer rains have begun, the daylilies, sunflowers and cosmos have begun to flower. The grass now requires a weekly "haircut" and the frogs are singing on a daily basis as they celebrate the returning moisture.

Another result of the rain is mushrooms. Several have popped up along the driveway.

The tomatoes continue to grow, some successfully, some not. There are people who have so many tomatoes that they give away bushels and bushels. I am not yet one of those people. As a matter of fact, the tomato plant that has produced most successfully so far, was a volunteer!

Still, I look forward to my annual tomato adventure. As with many other areas of my life, each year I learn a little more and make a little more progress.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In addition to the fire that started several weeks ago, numerous brush fires have sprung up around Central Florida in the past few days.

When our neighbor told us of the brush fire spotted a couple of miles from our house late Sunday afternoon, all I could think of was the classic exercise to help crystalize what's important to you: if your house was on fire, what 10 items would you want to save and take with you?

This is what it looked like on the road that runs parallel to our road on Sunday night:

Malcolm Denemark, Florida Today

This is what the neighborhood looked like on Monday morning:

Michael R. Brown, Florida Today

And, as scary at that looks, it is nothing compared to what the people who live south of us are experiencing.

Michael R. Brown, Florida Today

Over 50 homes have been totally burned or badly damaged. The most sad part about their situation is arson is suspected.

This incident has shown the best and worst sides of people.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Urban Farming

While I love the idea of owning and living on a farm, at this point in my life it isn't possible... at least not in the traditional, idealized way I envision when I think "farm". You know, Old MacDonald and all that E-I, E-I, O-ing stuff.

Since rural land is rapidly disappearing due to urban sprawl, what options are available to wannabe farmers?

It turns out there are multiple options suitable to just about any type of farmer: urban gardens, urban homesteading, and community gardening, just to name a few.

No land? No problem. Try container gardening, mini gardening or hanging baskets. And there's always hydroponic gardening.

If you've always dreamed of having a productive little garden that was all yours, there are numerous non-tradtional options available. Start with a tiny pot of herbs that adds texture, aroma and life to your personal space, and I predict you'll be convinced that "farming" is for everyone!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

May flowers, etc.

The old adage "April showers bring May flowers" is usually true, but we didn't have much rain in April. In fact, it has been rather dry here. There have been several brush fires, none close enough to see, but at least one close enough to smell when the wind blows in the right direction.

I'm thankful that the only fiery looking things in our yard are the cardinals,

this amaryllis,

and the canna lily.

the tomato plants are growing and the first of the tomatoes are appearing --
the Eva Bell
and the Russian Purple

the cuban treefrogs have come back to their condo (also known as my wind chimes!)

and the lizards continue their patrol of the yard.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Running away to the circus

Yesterday I ran away to the circus...

Cirque du Soleil presents La Nouba at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando -- so we went.

It has been a while since I've had such a good time. Like many people, I've watched videos of Cirque du Soleil performances, but a recording can never capture the true essence of a live performance.

So much is taking place during the show that you would have to attend at least a dozen performances to see everything that's taking place. Even then, each show would be different.

That's the joy of live performance - the shows vary because there is no way to have identical conditions each time. Even when the performers in the show don't change and have consistent performances, the composition of the audience and their reactions will not be the same.

If you can, attend a live performance soon. The opportunities abound in almost every community, even if they are as simple as a kindergarten play or a community band playing in the park.

If you can't find anything, perhaps it's time to schedule a live performance of your own!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


IKEA came to Orlando in November, 2007. We finally visited the store in March. What an experience!

The parking lot and store were filled with people at mid-afternoon on a Sunday. It was like being at one of the local theme parks. People of all ages strolled through the various displays while chatting in English, Spanish, German, French, and a few languages I couldn't identify. (Swedish, perhaps?)

It is a good idea to take the virtual tour of the store before you go. The Quick Links to Sneak Peek Films and Slideshows are especially helpful.

You will find a treasure trove of information and see lots of ways to organize and upgrade your living spaces. They have incredible examples of living well in small spaces.

We were so inspired that we are in the midst of purging the excess from our home so we can effectively organize the things that remain. (Freecycle is a great way to find homes for the stuff than no longer matches who you are.)

In the mean time, we whistle while we work, or hum along to Jonathan Coulter's IKEA song.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Meteor landing ahead

One of the streets in our neighborhood will be closed for construction for a while, so an electronic sign has been set up for about a week to warn people to change their route. As I was coming home yesterday, what I saw on the sign made me laugh. Someone had reprogrammed the sign with an additional message.

The sign still informs of the road closure, but also warns

"Meteor landing ahead" .

I thank the reprogrammer for making my day.

It reminded me of the infamous "The cow is OK" sign and of two other scifi related sign incidents.

Of course, there will always be hackers who enjoy playing with signs. Again, thank you for making my day.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tomato update

The "tomatoes in a box" are growing nicely.

They are heirloom tomato plants purchased from a local nursery.

Purple Russian and Eva Purple Ball.

Striped German and Rose.

I'm also trying "upside down tomatoes".

5 gallon buckets are used for containers. Drill a 3" hole in the lid and in the bottom of the bucket.

Mortgage Lifter and Hillbilly tomato plants have just been added to the buckets.

The plants have been adjusting to the buckets for about 3 weeks. In another couple of weeks, I'll hang them upside down and see what happens.

Easter flowers

A few of the flowers I found in our yard on Easter Day . . .

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's tomato time

Well, not exactly tomato time . . . It's tomato planting time.

I'm experimenting with container planting this year.

The container looks like this

I filled it 3/4 full with soil

added tomato plants

and herbs

and a plastic bag barrier to hold in moisture and keep out pests --

Now all I have to do is wait for tomatoes!

Instructions for making your own container can be found here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another musical cat

While looking up the names of the people who wrote the hymn "My Faith Looks Up to Thee", I found this video of a feline who appreciates acoustic guitar music (or maybe it's the 15 seconds of fame).

This musical cat is not to be confused with Cats, the musical or Cat's Music.

There is music specifically for cats and music videos that remind us to "stop littering".

And there are numerous blogs about cats.

But my favorite online "kitty treats" have to be The Daily Kitten and I can has cheezburger.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Free prize inside!

As a child, one of my favorite treats was a box of Cracker Jack. If the sweet and salty taste combo wasn't enough, every box has a FREE PRIZE INSIDE!!!

Yesterday I stopped at a nearby farmers' market and picked up a few more native plants for the yard, some kale and New Zealand spinach, and goat cheese.

When I rinsed the spinach this morning, I found a prize inside -- a lady bug!

I enjoyed the spinach, and the lady bug is now happily flying through Historic Cocoa Village.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to deal with criticism

As my new year has gotten off to a less than roaring start, I've decided to focus on quotes made by people who successfully negotiated their way through life.

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't." -Eleanor Roosevelt

This was my first choice because it reminds me that it is very difficult to reach a goal when I am listening to a variety of conflicting voices. My intention this year is to remember the people who are sources of encouragement and wise advice and listen to them. Everyone else is welcome to find a more appreciative audience. ;-)