Friday, January 27, 2012

Early morning "cast of characters" at the gym I exercise at.

I've been going for two months now, around the same time 3-5 days a week. So I'm now a "regular" and have started to notice the other "regulars" and their little routines.  I only exercise in the pool, so most of the people I see are in the pool/whirlpool/sauna area.  Here's a cast of characters I've put together from my personal observations:

- Peaceful Paddler.  She's an older lady who always comes in with a smile and friendly "hello". She is content to warm up in the whirlpool for a bit, then come into the lap pool and slowly and quietly swim laps for a half hour. She's so quiet and gentle with her swimming that I sometimes forget she's in the pool with me and think she made it up the steps and into the locker room without me even noticing.

- Grumpy Guppy. Another older lady, who always has a grouchy look on her face and always wants to complain about the water. It's too cold, too warm, too heavily chlorinated, etc... She isn't a very good swimmer, and kind of struggles along like a frog, back and forth until she has had enough. Then she complains some more about the pool and goes off to the locker room with the same grumpy look on her face that she arrived with.

- Mrs. Mermaid. This lady always has the prettiest tropical patterned swimsuits in vibrant shades of blue and green. She takes her time putting her long curly hair up in a bright colored swim cap, and she also has matching blue goggles and fins. She's a very good swimmer and is pure grace in the water when she does her laps.

- One Lap Wonder. This dude, I can't figure out... He comes in wearing a flashy pair of swim trunks and some flashy mirrored goggles. He makes a big show about putting his towel on the hook, stretching out, and showering off. Then he gets in the pool and just hangs out at the edge for a while before swimming one lap. Just one. Across and back again. He hangs out at the edge a little bit longer, then gets out, showers off, dries off, and is gone.

- The Whirlpool Dudes.  There are two of them, both around age 60 or so. They get into the whirlpool for a few minutes. Then into the lap pool for a few minutes. Then back into the whirlpool, and back into the lap pool, etc... they repeat this hot and cool routine several times before heading back to the locker room.

- Sweat Man. This middle aged heavyset guy wears neoprene bike shorts and a heavy rubber reducing belt into the sauna. It's obvious that he's there to try and sweat off the pounds. He hangs out in the sauna for a while, rinses the sweat off at the shower, then sits on the bench to cool off, then back into the sauna.

- Splashtastic Spastic. This guy gets in to do his laps and just churns the water like a hurricane. He kicks up so much water with his feet that he can be three lanes over and you'll get splashed when he passes by. Thankfully I'm usually finishing up and leaving by the time he's just getting there.

It's a whole other scene late at night. Here are two I remember from the couple of times I went in the evening instead of morning:

- Rico Suave. This good looking young guy swam a couple laps then sat on the edge and posed and preened, wearing sunglass style goggles and a tight speedo. Then swam a couple laps and got out and does his sexy strut all the way to the water fountain and back. Then swam a couple more laps and got out and stretched and posed. Not sure if he was cruising or just enjoys his body so much that he can'tr help but show it off.

- Who Needs A Swimsuit? Girl. This young woman (late teens maybe?) comes in wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch tight tee shirt and cutoff short jean shorts. She kicks off her flip flops, and jumps in and swims severl laps (quite expertly I might add) but with her jewelry on, her makeup on, and her hair still up in a ponytail. Then she gets out, puts her flip flops back on, and walks off into the locker room, mascara streaming down her face. You can see through her shirt that she had a bra on too. I don't know if she was high or drunk or what. But at the wee hours of the morning, who knows?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The guest bedroom that never gets slept in. What a waste of good space!

I wonder how many other people out there have a guest bedroom that never gets slept in? It was a good idea when we moved into a house. Finally a third bedroom to use for something else than the computer, bookshelves, and storage! Besides, we might have friends and family over for extended visits, so it'd be nice to have something other than the sofa to offer them for the night. A guest bedroom made perfect sense at the time. So, I went a little wild decorating it with a "junk-tique" kind of theme. I had an old armoire that my dad had given me, a small jewelry armoire he had given me too, a great old velvet upholstered headboard with a heavy scrolled gilt frame, and all kinds of thrift store and antique shop decorative odds and ends to finish the look. I also lucked out and found this nice tapestry bedding set that actually went fairly well with the green headboard on clearance, along with a bunch of velvet draperies to complete the look for less than $10 a panel. It all came together quite well for the little bit of money I put into it.

But in the past four years, nobody has ever used it as it was intended. I've sat in there to read and to catch a catnap now and then, but that's it. I have this awesome little guest bedroom but the only time anybody slept over, they crashed out on the couch anyway.  I think because I overdid it on the fou-fou factor and the guy was worried about losing a man card if he'd spent the night surrounded by all that velvet and flea market finery. LOL!

As you can see, it's a very small room. There is just barely enough room to walk around the bed on all three sides. You can open the door to the armoire without hitting the bed, but not by much. With the bed in there, there isn't room for anything else. The armoire holds extra bedding, pillows, and whatnot, the two closets opposite it hold all my sewing supplies, fabric stash, yarn stash, and papercrafting/scrapbooking supplies.

I decided this past weekend that it'd just make more sense to get rid of the bed and turn it into a sewing and craft room.  It's plenty big enough for that. I'd just set up my big worktable against the wall where the headboard is now, under the window. And move the armoire back just a bit, to give some more room. With the bed gone, there would even be room against the wall in front of the foot of it for a big comfy chair and use the nightstand for a side table. I could even get a "chair and a half" that converts into a twin bed for the off chance that we someday might actually have a guest that needs a room to stay in.

So, that's my mission. To try and sell off the bed, headboard, and linens on Craigslist. Not sure if I will have any takers, but I'll try.

"Tis the season for decluttering, purging, and organizing!

"Tis the season for decluttering, purging, and organizing! - At least it seems that way based on all the posts I see in online forums, and the many television shows along those lines that I see as I'm flipping channels, and magazine articles I see as I'm flipping pages.

At the house we live in, my husband and I both have a walk-in closet.  They're not huge closets, so maybe it's more accurate to call them "step-ins" because there is just enough room to step in, and turn around. While we really try to keep on top of organization, every year or so, we have to go through them and get rid of stuff. It was time for both closets to have a good going-through, so that was the project yesterday afternoon.

Even though they weren't packed beyond capacity, I still managed to fill a few laundry baskets with things to donate. I'll box them up so that we can drop them off during the week at the Purple Heart donation dropoff station near our house.  I had thought about getting a booth at an upcoming community garage sale to sell it off, but the price has gone up, it's not worth it anymore.  I really haven't gotten involved in Freecycling, I signed up for the freecycle forum in my area, but mostly it was requests for high-ticket items. Same with Craigslist free section, mostly junk people want somebody else to haul off, or people requesting high-ticket items. Not much in run of the mill stuff being offered or requested.

One of the things I did was get rid of half of my purses. I had way too many that were too much alike, and none of them were anything special. I'm not a purse lover. I have a few that I love, but I don't collect handbags or get particularly excited over them. The only time a designer bag catches my eye is when you can tell the quality of materials and workmanship is better than something less expensive. I have all of four "designer" purses. 2 came from thrift shops, and the other 2 from Marshall's (and were on clearance at that). The others are just generic cheap purses from places like Target, sometimes a sale table at a department store, and the thift shop.

I'm the same way with shoes, although I have a lot more shoes than purses. But simply because it's not always easy for me to find shoes that fit, don't hurt my feet, and at least somewhat go along with my personal style. I tend to take good care of them and hold onto them as long as I can. But, I managed to get rid of some shoes anyway, and made room in my shoe shelves for a few new pair.

Other than that, it was some clothes we never wear, and random pieces of whatnot.  I have some sewing to do, and as soon as I have some new tops made for myself, I'll be getting rid of several more things in my closet, although they'll probably be going in the trash. I've had the same half-dozen peasant style blouses that I've been wearing with jeans for years now. They've started to look flat out shabby, so I got rid of the worst already and altered the few remaining ones to fit better. But I really need to replace the rest before the weather warms up again. Same with jeans. I'm wearing them until they are too worn out to be presentable and then just replacing them with better fitting ones as I can.

The next project will be the garage, lots of stuff to get rid of in there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Garden stuff, and a funny cat photo

Gizmo, with a complely "derpy" little  look on his face!

 So, some of the stuff I planted last weekend has sprouted, I checked this afternoon and both the turnips and the mixed color "easter egg" radishes have sprouted. I'm still waiting on the chard, beets, spinach, and kohlrabi though. I went ahead and planted some carrots, I had the seeds and the containers were ready for them, so this afternoon I got them in the dirt. They take a while to sprout, so we'll see what happens.

I made it to the nursery on Saturday and picked out a few blueberry bushes that do well in our area. We're going to build a raised bed for them sometime within the next month while they're still dormant. I also got a couple herb plants (a parsley and another chocolate mint). I think the blueberries may be all we get to with the front yard landscaping right now, it's a big enough project to make a start with. There's a spot in the corner of the yard where they'll get plenty of sun and fit just fine. I've been keeping my eye out on the local Craigslist for people either giving away old bricks or selling them cheap so we can build a planter bed out of them. We did that in the back yard with some old bricks that had just been stacked up behind the house and it came out really well. If we find some bricks for cheap (or even better, for free), we can do more in the way of landscaping because we won't have to spend so much of our budget on materials.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Garden update, mid-January 2012.

What can you grow in a garden in the middle of winter? If you live in a warm growing zone, the answer is quite a bit! Earlier this week, we had a massive rain storm and then a night where my area was right on the edge of a freeze zone. I went to check the garden out yesterday afternoon and it seems like everything is doing well. I'd planted some seeds last weekend that haven't sprouted yet, but that's to be expected because most cooler weather crops do take a little bit of time to get going.  I'll give them time before replanting or giving up.

Broccoli is making florets, this one has the biggest cluster so far, but the other plants have at least a little cluster of florets already.  If I can get enough for a stir-fry or even a pan of broccoli-rice casserole out of them, I'll be happy. Broccoli is a first for my garden this Winter, and it seems to be doing just fine in 5 gallon buckets and similar sized pots. 

This repurposed plastic utility tub has radish seedlings sprouting in it, the long thin "French Breakfast" variety. I need to get in there and pick out fallen leaves and do a bit of thinning now that they've gotten going. I planted some in Fall but didn't really thin them or take much care of them and still got enough for a few salads, so hopefully with more care these will do better.

Not plants, but still...something fun. I found this cute little gnome/fairy house at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago when they first put out some Spring garden decor, and had to have it since it'd be perfect in a crook between the edges of the trunk of the oak tree in our yard. I found the tiny gnome stakes at WalMart the other night and they were the perfect size to go next to the gnome home.

There's a lot of stuff going on with these plant racks. The almost fern-y things up top are an herb called "Salad Burnet" that I bought in early Fall. They taste like a cross between lettuce and cucumber and the little leaves make a nice addition to salads and sandwiches. I need to get in there and pick out the dead sprigs, but all in all they're doing better than expected in the cold. The brown and pink ruffly plants are Red Sails lettuce, I've got 5 mature plants and 3 baby plants here. They're almost too pretty to pick, but I've been picking a couple leaves off of each plant here and there and they keep growing. The bright pink flowers are begonias from early Fall that are still going strong.

Here are some lettuce seedlings, from a pack of seeds I bought last Spring and then quickly learned that we can't grow lettuce here in Spring because it gets too hot too fast. I planted these really densely (just spread them out across the top of the soil in the pots) because I wanted plenty of baby green thinnings for a salad. Hopefully once thinned, they'll do well and I'll get a bit more of a harvest than I did last Spring. I only got one sad little bowl of leaves, but what I did get was enough to make a couple of THE best BLT sandwiches I have ever tasted.  I've got more lettuce seeds from that batch, and may try to get them going soon to see what they do as well.

That's pretty much it until the end of February for the garden. I may try planting some carrot seeds since I have a lot of them. I waited until March last year and that was too late. And I might try sprouting some of the tomato seeds I saved. I've read that you really need to start them indoors here under a bright light around the first of January (doesn't have to be a grow lamp, a flourescent even will do apparently). But I've also read that some people have had luck with starting them outside too up until the middle of January to get them big enough to go into the ground or big pots by the beginning of March. Might as well try, I have the seeds and the seed starting mix. I've only ever bought tomato starter plants at the nursery, so this will be an experiment.

I bought a few new varieties of seeds for Spring. Since the green beans did so well here in early Spring and again in Fall, I got some flat Italian style beans that grow on a bush plant instead of a vine to try along with them this time. Something different to try. I also got a Japanese variety of cucumber that is supposed to do well here too. They make long, thin cucumbers with few seeds, just like English style cucumbers. I did so well with the cukes in Spring and Fall I figured I might as well try these too. And then I got some seeds for a rare variety of melons that can be grown easily in large pots. They make a tiny melon about the size of a peach or apple, that is supposedly very mild and refreshing in flavor. Since the melons are so tiny, I can grow them like cucumbers on a simple trellis without having to worry about supporting fruit that can reach several pounds.

We're starting the first half of landscaping in the front yard with a big corner planting bed. We decided to make a taller raised section in the middle (and probably plant blueberries in it), and then on either side, have a pair of lower beds with a mix of veggies, herbs, and flowers. Not sure exactly what yet. First step is buying the landscaping bricks to build the bed itself, and the soil additives and mulches, along with special stuff for growing the blueberries in (if we go with blueberries).  I hope we do, because you can grow them quite well here if you put them in raised beds or big containers. I figure we can do the center section at the beginning of February, and then finish out the rest of that planting bed into the first of March. I have to budget for both the back yard garden and this new front planting area so we can't do it all at once. I'd wanted to get a tree going  in the front yard too, but unless I put one of the potted citrus in (the satsuma or orange) in the ground, that might have to wait until next year, budget willing. It all depends though. I'm still researching fruit trees for our area.

Lots of stuff to think about, and with the stores all starting to get their Spring merchandise in, and garden centers starting to restock for the coming season, lots of inspiration and ideas too!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How much Gizmo the kitten has grown in just 4 and a half months!

Gizmo was just a tiny little thing when we got him back at the end of August. He's grown SO much in the past four and a half months. Here are a couple photos of him taken sleeping next to Pixel, his companion and snuggle-buddy. I don't know how much bigger he's going to get, but since he was only around 8 weeks old when we got him, he still has a little bit of growing left to do before he reaches full maturity. He's such a healthy and happy little cat, I'm glad my husband brought him home. He was in a storage lot where D.H. had to go for work one day, and just walked right up to him meowing and rubbing on his ankles. He was tame, friendly, clean, and housebroken so we know he wasn't a stray. I don't know if he was dumped or managed to wander all the way from the only apartment complex in the otherwise industrial area (which was across a very busy six lane road, railroad track, and empty field). I think he was dumped, but maybe he did wander that far?  We'll never know for sure.

Taken soon after we got Gizmo, around the first of September

How big he's gotten as of January 10th

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Resolutions?

I'm so-so on the concept of New Year's resolutions. I think that they're a really good way to set yourself up for failure if you go about them the wrong way. Most people I know make really extreme resolutions. They're going to get into shape, get back to their high school weight, organize their house, get out of debt, find their dream job. All these absolutes, and one year to accomplish them! 

How about just resolving to make a good honest effort at something that's not out of the realm of the do-able?  Or just to continue with or build upon a positive endeavor that you've already started?  That way you've got a goal, but it's open-ended and something you can easily accomplish and feel good about.

My resolutions are mostly about continuing things I've already started. Keeping up with a healthy lifestyle is top of the resolution list. But I also added a few new ones. Finishing more projects, doing more social things, and finding some kind of local volunteer opportunity.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012! And lots of stuff harvested from my garden this afternoon.

In the basket:  Globe basil, jalapeno peppers, poblano peppers, French radishes, thyme, Japanese eggplant (just one), green beans (just two), cucumbers, and oregano.

In front of the basket:  Purple and white kohlrabi and Meyer lemons.

Those were the absolute last of the peppers, green beans, and cucumbers from my 2011 garden. But for some reason, my Ichiban eggplant plants are making more eggplants. Aside from the one I picked today, there are about a half dozen baby eggplant still maturing. The herbs are just a trimming, plants are doing well. I still have several baby kohlrabis maturing as well as a few more radishes. The two  lemon trees each have about ten more lemons apiece

I pulled up everything that was done for the season, and am going to try and plant a few more things like chard, some more radishes, lettuce... stuff that grows well here in cool weather.  Maybe some more beets, I have the seeds still.