Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lighthouse (Really) Dog Biscuits

No, really, they are Lighthouses.

Any resemblance to a "willy" is purely coincidential and completely in your own mind, you naughty person.

At least that is what I tell people every time I use that silly cookie cutter.   It *is* a lighthouse cookie cutter.  I bought it in a Marine Goods store on Cape Cod one year because it did look like a slightly "wrecky" version of a lighthouse and found it amusing.

So yes, it does look like a willy to me too.

That's our own secret.

Everyone who has ever seen these things ask me about that little story.  And, Yes, I could break down and get new cookie cutters and stop using these, but why?  I was even looking at cookie cutters at the thrift store yesterday and had a private laugh then moved on.

Anyway... The dogs love these cookies.  I baked them after seeing a link to a bunch of recipes the other day on www.petfooddirect.com and this was the simplest one that I found.

This is their pumpkin dog biscuit recipe.  Everything was human grade.  In fact, I sampled one since they smelled so good.   They're a bit bland as a human cookie but they're not meant to be human cookies.

My dog loved them.   He first picked it up after sniffing it, set it back down, circled it and then devoured the thing.  I gave a dozen to Lisa and Bill across the street for Ellie, and Ellie devoured it and asked for more.  I have another container to give as a gift later.

So the recipe is a winner.

My recipe here is a double batch.  The original link made a smaller batch but I never do anything in half measures.  Plus if you double the batch you use exactly one can of pumpkin puree.  Do not get the pumpkin pie filling in a can - you want pumpkin puree.   The extra sugar isn't good for the dog and it really isn't good for you.

You also want to make this in a stand mixer.   Mine churned through the ingredients and ended up with a strangely rubbery batter.  Similar to those "really neat stretchy rubber erasers" that they use in art class.

Rolled out thin is better than thick since they will be dense when cooked.  If thick, you will have a little trouble cooking out all the moisture for the right consistency.

Also, keep them in the fridge.  They're human grade and moist so they will spoil eventually like any cookie.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup peanut butter (unsweetened or natural)
  • 2 cup pumpkin puree (canned, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl at once.  
  • A Stand Mixer is highly recommended.
  • Mix ingredients until smooth.  
  • Consistency will be thick and stretchy.
  • Roll the batter out on floured board or table until 1/2 inch or less in thickness.
  • Cut with cookie cutters as desired.
  • Pierce with fork in each to allow even baking and for steam to escape.
  • Bake at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.

Lighthouse cookie cutter is optional.

Monday, December 30, 2013

No You Silly Parrot, You Don't Want Espresso!

If you choose to take an animal into your life, it is going to change you forever.

It also is a lifetime bond, until one of you goes, that animal should remain with you.

If you can't handle that truth, get a beanie baby. They cost about a buck at the thrift stores.

On the other hand, they can make things much more interesting.

Having finished what I set out to one Sunday Morning, I decided I would like a nice mug of espresso.  Padding into the Kitchen, I snapped on the lights above my head and went to work.  I filled the maker with some water, put in the grounds - full but not packed, and then set it on the back burner on the stove.

Soon the elements were glowing red, and I went to work.


I got the box that contained my green coffee beans and decided to roast some decaf.  If you get ...


If you get unroasted decaffeinated coffee beans, they are a brown color instead of the green of the regular beans...


Pouring them into the popcorn popper, I slid it out to the serving area on the other side of the kitchen window and closed the window down.  Plugging in the popper, I touched the timer on the counter to watch the time.


What do you want you noisy old buzzard?


My noise detector had started to make it's warning sounds.  You see if you have a parrot in the house, they tend to be quite involved with what you are doing.  A parrot may be "just a bird" or a pet to you, but to that parrot, you are its mate.   They do not form a friendship bond, they form a pair bond or a mate bond with you.  Intensely social, a parrot or other bird will want to be doing what you're doing at pretty much any moment it is awake.


Yes, Oscar, I'm roasting coffee.   Want a bean?


I've had Oscar since 1986.  He's not at all a cuddly bird.  Named after Oscar the Grouch, he can be quite arbitrary and grumpy.  But he's mine.

Or rather, I am his.

I went about giving Oscar two decaf coffee beans, still warm from the first batch, and went back to roasting batch two.


I guess I had better turn the music down a bit, I'm well into the parrot...

*sigh* Ok, Oscar, what?

The espresso maker was now gurgling away, I had another two minutes between first and second crack on the third batch of beans.

I raised my hand to scritch him behind the neck and he growled and walked away.

Ok you silly old buzzard, have your bamboo stick.


The espresso was now done, the water had either been made to steam or deep dark espresso.  I poured it over the...


French Vanilla Creamer and began to stir it with the Coffee Spoons that my sister had shipped me down from New Jersey for the holidays.  This one had French Vanilla


Chocolate on them so that I was going to get a deep and rich kick of chocolate and coffee and vanilla.

Noticing that the last batch was now on Second Crack, I made note of the time, gave it another 30 seconds for that darker roast I have been shooting for these days, and unplugged my aging popper.  That was the end of the...


noise for the morning.  I poured the beans out onto a dinner plate to cool and went on stirring my espresso.

*sip*  Yes, Pat, that was a wonderful cup of...

Urp.  Braak.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Boudreaux' Confession

Boudreaux' confession

Boudreaux was feeling guilty, so he went to confession.

"Father, I kinda took a little lumber from that new construction site."

Priest: "What did you do with the lumber, my son?

Boudreaux: "Well, Father, my porch, she's had a hole for a long time. I'm afraid that someone will break their leg, so I fix the hole."

Priest: "Well, that's not so bad."

Boudreaux: "Well, Father, I had a little lumber left."

Priest: "What did you do with it?

Boudreaux: "Well, my poor dog Phideaux, he ain't never had no place to get outta the weather, so I make him his own little doghouse."

Priest: "OK, anything else?"

Boudreaux: "Well, Father, I had a little lumber left. So you know, my truck, she ain't never had no place to get outta de weather either, so I make her a two-car garage."

Priest: "Now, this is getting a little out of hand."

Boudreaux: "Well, Father, I still had a little lumber left."

Priest: "Yes?"

Boudreaux: "Well, my wife, she always want a bigger house. So I add two bedrooms and a new bathroom."

Priest: "OK! That's definitely too much. For your penance, you are going to have to make a Novena. You do know how to make a Novena, don't you?"

Boudreaux: "No, Father ... but if you got the plans, I got the lumber."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Xmas Angel

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Xmas pressure.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drunk all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and an irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Xmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Xmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful Xmas tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Xmas tree.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Navigating by Remote Control

Ok, rule number one.  When a bunch of people are going for a ride in the car, driver sits behind the wheel.  The rest of the people line up by height.  The tallest gets the seat in front next to the driver.  The shorter people go in the back.

How do I know this?  Simple, I'm 6'4".  Tall people don't fit in the back of the car, it just doesn't work.  Unless you're driving a limousine or one of those boats that they used to sell back before the 1973 oil embargoes, there just isn't enough room back there for anyone over 6 feet tall no matter how you try to spin it.

That might explain how I constantly got drafted to be the know-it-all who is next to the driver up front all the time.  Yes, the navigator would be a nicer way to phrase it.

I don't care if she's your wife or your elderly grandma, putting someone in the back who is over 6 foot tall means that you're just not thinking.

But it does mean that you get good directions.  You should at any rate, or that tall person should be locked in the trunk, which might even be worse than sitting behind the driver in a compact car.

I got excellent at giving directions, but there were always limitations.  Back in the stone age, when your grandparents and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, there were somethings called Maps.  These things were typically either in a book or were a giant piece of paper best used on a wall to cover a nasty stain that got there when you tried to cover up a food fight you had when you were 12.  You would open this and now the entire surface of the car was covered with a sheet of paper covered with brightly colored lines representing roads of various shapes, and rivers.

Don't drive on the Blue Roads.  They are rivers.  Your car won't survive long nor will it get where you are planning on going unless you are trying to collect on the insurance.  In that case, you're a bad person and you made me a Sad Panda.

Later, you would find things that would fight that massive sheet of paper by simply printing out the road in a strip.  Don't stray from your route or else you will fall off the edge of the map to where There Be Dragons, and who knows what other evil creatures of the night might find you as you hurtle through the unknown in your little compact car of doom.

I still haven't managed the attraction of a GPS.  Sure, I have the software on my phones, whether Android or iPhone.  They work well enough, but then you get this rather assertive voice barking at you while you're stuck in traffic.  The one I used last had a fight with the one the driver had turned on for the same route and as a result there are little computer chips and shards of LCD screens laying on the floor of the car.

It wasn't a pretty sight.

This time though, I will be a Navigator by remote control.   Kevin is coming back from up North where he spent a week with Mom.  Holidays with Mom, then Mom and Sister's Family.  He's currently stuck on the Auto Train where a switching problem in Banjo Player County Georgia has him limping along to the promised land of North Florida and Sanford Beyond.

How these trips go are that I start getting calls when the train is past Daytona on its way South.  Then he's sitting in the station playing with the iPhone getting fidgety waiting for the giant train to disgorge his car so he can drive back.

Stop by a Wawa in Central Florida if one is nearby and get an Italian Hoagie.  I swear the bread is made by license by them from Amoroso...

As things progress I get more calls saying I just passed a cow in the middle of a field, do you know where I am?

Well, no, I can watch your progress on Google Earth, but I don't have access to those Spy Satellites that I've heard about.  If I did, this world would be an interesting place, but that's a different flight of fancy.

It's bad enough that I load up Google Earth and start looking at things like borders on the map and scratching my head as to why I can trace the border for miles when the neighbors have been peaceful for 200 years.

You know, Pennsylvania and Maryland?

We seem to have jumped over the standalone GPS era and went right to the Smartphone based GPS.  But it's still easier to ask me, 100 miles away, where that particular cow is.

Ok, just get yourself home.  I'm sure you must be back in Florida by now.

You're not?  Oh well, I'll go make some espresso.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Silence is Golden, Especially on a Holiday Morning

Picture it.

Wilton Manors, FL.  6AM December 25, 2013.

All is silent.

No, really.  Silent.

This little quirky island is never really quiet.  Not the kind of quiet I'd get when I would roll out to the New Jersey Pine Barrens, shut off the motor, and hear nothing but winds blowing through the pine trees.

Here I can hear traffic from sources as far away as I-95, two miles away.

At that time in the dog walk I heard something I hear rarely.  Crickets.  As Rack and I walked past the little M.E. DePalma Park, the loudest sound I heard were the crickets that flocked there to live among native plants.  It's a little urban oasis that has a distinctly different sound and smell than the usual grass that is planted everywhere here.

You walk past the tall grasses waving their purple heads in the breezes and you smell hints of oregano.  There are a couple different plants that grow wild that smell like that, it just makes me want more pizza.

But the thing is that the crickets were usually mostly drowned out by the traffic on Dixie Highway or Wilton Drive two blocks away.  This morning I could hear the crickets that were away from the park in people's yards which I can't usually hear.

This morning, nothing.  No Traffic.

Repeat after me... Ahhhh....

Living in a resort town, you get used to the ebb and flow of visitors.  This is the beginning of Snowbird Season.   I've heard more than once "If this is Snowbird Season, what can we hunt them with?".  My normal response is "your businesses and not your shotguns, thank you".  So we're used to having crowds in February, and not so much in August despite the fact that it's typically cooler in Ft Lauderdale on the hottest week in August than it is in Philadelphia, Chicago, or Dallas.

That Ocean is a wonderful thing.  Those breezes are a wonderful thing.  No, don't move down here, it's a crowded place, you wouldn't like that... no really you wouldn't.

Ok, that didn't work, in the time it took for you to read this blog article, we gained another snowbird or two.

On the morning of December 25th, when the Long Winter's Nap is just ending, you lot are not on the roads.  It gives my quirky little resort town and many other quirky little resort towns a ghostlike silence that you only hear on the morning of a holiday.

With people beginning to wake up everywhere and shell their presents of the wrapping paper, they just aren't outside making a racket.  It was a cooler morning so the air conditioners weren't running.  You can tell when Florida is cool because the AC is off.

This day being what it is, even if you aren't with family at that time of day, you're typically not going to be in your car going somewhere unless work requires it.  Because, just because.  That's why.  Everyone deserves a day off.

I'm glad you took that morning off.  Even the airplanes weren't flying out of the airport, 8 miles to the South.  It was appreciated. 

The world will have a slack week this week, maybe getting back to work sometime later in January.  But it won't be quite as silent. 

Now... when's the next major holiday?  Oh yeah, New Years....

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays from Ramblingmoose.com

Happy Holidays - yes, all of them.

With Rack the Laser Dog staring his glowy eyes at you, may you have a wonderful end of the year, and a better 2014!

If Santa Clothes came by and left you a Yellow Polyester Leisure Suit with Lime Green Frogs, and a Lump of Coal, you are probably my nephew remembering his childhood.

You see one year, when my little nephew was a toddler, he learned about the Holiday ATM that is known as Santa Claus.  For months, Jon was telling us how he was going to get action figures, a new bike, and all the other things that a kid would want.

Then Thanksgiving hit.  We told him that Santa Clothes would come for a visit and bring him clothes for Xmas.

Predictably that didn't go over too well, but it did start a new family tradition.

Every year from that point onward, I made it a quest to find my nephew a lump of coal.  Even when he was a teenager, he knew that he would get a lump of coal in his stocking and some piece of clothing that he actually wanted from me, along with everything else I could find that he wanted for the holiday.

The lump of coal was a hard candy.  It tasted like licorice and he did enjoy it because he was in on the joke.

So maybe Santa Clothes will bring you a sock and a lump of coal.  You might just like it.

Especially if it was licorice flavored and came in a small bucket with a teeny weeny little hammer.

Mmm Licorice Flavored Coal!  Yum!

Mind you, one year I actually did find a real lump of coal and gave him one of his own along with the licorice lump and an article of clothing.  I think it was gloves that year.   He also got a haul of goodies that he really wanted but the gloves he used all that season - or so I was told.  Philadelphia and the suburbs get quite cold in winter.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

If You Hear Your Dog's Toenails - You Aren't Getting Enough Exercise

Lately, Rack has gotten lazy.
Consequently, I've taken advantage of that as well.

Ok I got lazy too.

But I got better and I made sure Rack got better too.

I noticed that Rack, being a "Social Eater" didn't want to eat his food unless I'm watching him.  Strange mutt.  He'd get excited and decide to eat once he got back after our march around town. 

We have a couple different routes, all made of loops around specific blocks.  The rectangular blocks here are all 1/2 mile.  If you have Exercise OCD, you'd love it.  Pick a block, any block and if it's "square" it's 1/2 mile.

Or so.

Rack, being a social critter, decided that now that he hauled my own bulk out of bed, he'd go out and see who else is awake at stupid o'clock, also known as 5:30 in the morning.   Sniffed the food and started heading to the front door, did you?  Fine, let me get your leash.  Hey, I'm back here dog!

We'd go out of the front door into the brightening morning, listen to the songs of the crickets and semi-trucks a mile or three away on I-95, and get about one block in.  He knows the neighborhood well, so he'd start to herd me back to the front door.

Yes, I am being herded.  Yes, my nickname is Moose.  Yes, a Moose is being Herded by A McNab Dog in Florida.

He is very insistent you know.

So after a truncated walk that happened because none of his friends were out, I'd get towed home by his 45 pounds.  I guess he really did want that food.

Repeat this for a couple days.  I started to notice that I could hear his toes tick on the Florida Tiles in the house.

I know the name is redundant.  The nearest state to my house is The Bahamas, not Georgia.

This all means that I had to break out the electric sander and file down his toenails.  It's an appliance that looks like a Dremel, spins at 5000 rpm and has a little sanding cylinder on the end of it.   If I ever run out of sanding cylinders, it conveniently will take Dremel bits.  It is a dog foot care device I can replace parts at the hardware store.  Yes, it is strange, but that is my life.  Everything is a bit odd and if you did a documentary of me, you'd have to tilt the camera 30 degrees so it would be filmed like the bad guys in the old campy Batman show from the 1960s.

Come on, Chum, it's time for a walk.

You see while he's slacking on his walk, my own weight went up a pound.   Sure on a big guy, a pound isn't much but it's time to stop this slacking.  A Dog Walk is much more than mere exercise, it's a bonding experience, and a learning experience for both of us.  If you are out on a walk, your dog will burn energy.  That's energy he doesn't burn up in the house chewing up the couch pillows or the recliner.  If the energy isn't there, he doesn't turn into a bouncing spring and pounce on the neighbor's dog either.

They tend not to like that and it gives you a bad reputation.

Oh, yes it does.  We talk.  We talk about you when you're gone too.   You know who you are and who doesn't pick up after your dog.

That's a different story.

I started taking Rack out on longer and longer walks over on the other side of the Drive.  I've walked under the one stand of Australian Pines that is protected by a fascinating and very fierce woman who watches over those trees as they are something that brings her joy.  I've walked Rack out to the smallest town in Florida, Lazy Lake, a silly little one block affair with 38 people at my last count.  We've walked past the Wilton Manors Elementary School, chock full of students who are amazingly interested in learning from extremely proactive and involved teachers.

Wilton Manors is a fascinating town, and I am wearing out my sneakers seeing a lot of it lately.

I've lost that pound and more and Rack's toenails have stopped ticking on the off white floors in my house.  The benefit is that he's not watching over me as much as he was earlier.  A tired dog is definitely a happy dog.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Too Much Food? Try a Deconstructed Turkey Instead

This particular drama happened to start back in early November.

Bill, my neighbor from across the street said that I was going to be getting a turkey for the holidays.
Great!  I like turkey.  It isn't Lobster, but I don't have a lobster pot and the idea of plunging a creature into a pot of boiling water is a bit "Medieval" for me.

But nobody likes giant hunks of leftover turkey lurking in the refrigerator or freezer.   I literally had little bags of leftovers from last year's Thanksgiving feast in July.

To compound the drama, I was told it could be as much as a 30 pound bird.


As the drum beat of the clock and the march of time got closer to the actual day, we kept thinking about what to do with a 30 pound bird.   I'm the only one in the house who eats turkey, and while I can pass a platter back to Bill and Lisa, I was going to be on my own for the Lion's Share of the roast.

I don't have a Lion handy.

I came across an additional problem.  I hate dried out turkey.  I mean let's at least "honor" the animal who died for your table by preparing it well.  Lets not overcook the breast.

This problem is because Turkey Breast should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140, Turkey Thighs are to 180F.  Dark Meat likes it hot, White Meat likes it cooler.

So I decided to butcher this bird down into pieces.

When the actual bird arrived, it was a big bird,but only 17.45 pounds according to the tag.

Great!  I had a more manageable bird, but it was still too large for my refrigerator.

I defrosted it partially and went to work.

Cut the bird into pieces.  Wings in one bag.   Each thigh and drumstick in their own bag.   The main body, the white meat went into four different bags.  The giblets and the neck are in my refrigerator and I'll be making them separate.

So great!  Now I have a full freezer and one drumstick and thigh in my refrigerator.

The recipe is dead simple!  Of course it is, all my recipes are once I break them down.

Cook your Dark Meats separate from the White Meats.

Season the parts with a rub.  In my case, I used the Sylvia's Secret Chicken Rub.  Since Sylvia was the Queen of Soul Food, she needed a sceptre, and I suggested a turkey drumstick.

All this silliness aside it was cooked as such.

  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Turn heat on oven down to 350 and place prepared Turkey Parts in the oven.
  • Place Turkey in a baking pan or cookie sheet after rubbing with your favorite spices.
  • Roast DARK Turkey parts for 1 hour or WHITE Turkey parts for 45 minutes and test the internal temperature on the thickest part of the meat.
  • The Turkey parts may not be done at this point, but check every 10 minutes from this point forward.
  • For White Meat, it is done when the meat reaches 140F.
  • For Dark Meat, it is done when the meat reaches 180F.
If you really want a treat, you can roast your favorite vegetables at the same time.  A Potato or Sweet Potato both will roast in roughly an hour at this temperature.  Just score the skin on the potato, and add some spices at this point against the skin inside of the aluminium foil wrap.

I had mine with some Stove Top Stuffing but that really is just because I was being traditional.

The benefits are that you can cook just what you want, and since you are only roasting for an hour or so, plus or minus, you aren't heating your house for three hours.  

Who wants that hassle?

Too much?  Pass some across the street to Bill and Lisa.  They like Turkey too!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Asking for a Day Off and Two Hunters In The Woods

Two Hunters in the Woods When One Collapses

He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”

The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.”
There is a silence, and then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

Asking for A Day Off

A worker goes up to his boss and asks:
Worker: Hey, sir, I'm having a kid, can I have the day off?
Boss:Sure go ahead

The next day, the worker comes in and the boss asks:
Boss: Hey! Is it a boy or a girl?
To which the worker replies: "I don't know, but I will tell you in nine months."

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmastime at the Pearly Gates

Christmas time at the Pearly Gates

Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates.

'In honour of this holy season' Saint Peter said, 'You must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven.'

The Englishman fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. 'It's a candle', he said.

'You may pass through the pearly gates' Saint Peter said.

The Scotsman reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, 'They're bells.'

Saint Peter said 'You may pass through the pearly gates'.

The Irishman started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women's panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, 'And just what do those symbolize?'

The paddy replied, 'These are Carols.'

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mom Got Fed - Caring for Your Sourdough Mother

I can't get Amoroso's Rolls in South Florida.

The nearest Wawa at this point is South East of Orlando.

I wish they'd open a Wawa here in Wilton Manors, but this is a small city.

I love sourdough but never managed to get the Starter or Mother to work right ... until this time.

The last rolls I made were perfect.  Very sharp sourdough tang to them.  They used a very long rise time of 23 hours, and no yeast.   This batch of hoagie rolls and the sandwich sized rolls just off frame to the left were a shorter rise of only 2 hours with some commercial yeast added to the dough.

The result is that that little piece you see in the lower left tasted only mildly like sourdough, but it was there.  The Crust was crispy but not too thick.  Kind of a "Cracker Crust" on a hoagie roll that will go well with ham, prosciutto, sharp provolone, onions, tomato, lettuce, spices, EVOO, and Balsamic Vinegar.  

Can you tell what Lunch will be?

I'm "in".  I have a functional Mother who will live in my fridge until I get a power outage and the entire contents have to be chucked.

How do I care for Mom?

Yes, I really do refer to it as Mom, but hey I'm enjoying the whole process.

After I created the Sourdough Starter, I used up 2 ounces (1/4 cup) in a recipe.  This means you have to feed Mother at least 2 ounces. 

I fed Mother
  • 2 ounces of all purpose flour, 
  • 2 ounces of warm to the touch water,
  • Stir Mother until smooth.  Air Bubbles are acceptable at this time, it makes her happy.
I then put Mother in a one quart resealable jar and placed it on the top shelf, front of the refrigerator.

What this will do is keep Mother alive but not so vigorous that you will need to feed Mother every day.

I feed Mother once a week, or when I make Sourdough bread.

I actually got about 5 days in and fed Mother another 2 ounces each of water and flour.

The trick is to always feed water and flour evenly and feed well before your intended use date so the new flour and water get incorporated into the Mother.   In my refrigerator, in my conditions, I saw a bloom of new bubbles from the sourdough bacteria and yeasts within a couple hours, and it settled down to make a fine amber liquid on top by the next day.

Day 2 usually smells more like beer than bread, but it is fine as long as it doesn't smell "vile".  Sourdough is a living thing, treat it well and you will enjoy the results.

Stir your Mother often, once a day is fine.  I do mine at breakfast while I am waiting for the water to boil for coffee.

I bake on the weekends, typically, so I will feed Mother on Wednesday or Thursday.   Prepare the dough on Friday, and allow a day to rise in the oven with the heat off but with a pan of hot water under the dough.   This will allow the dough to rise and not dry out.  If it does dry out, the crust will have a strange texture similar to crackers, but not as pleasant.

If I bake with sourdough Mother and commercial Yeasts, I allow at least 2 hours to rise and then bake at 450 for 11 minutes to get the results you see in the picture above.

The longer you allow your dough to rise, the better and more complex the flavor will be.  If bread tastes flat and lifeless, why bother wasting the calories.

I typically weigh my dough balls when I prepare rolls.  A good Sandwich roll is 80 Grams, a good Hoagie roll is 120 grams.  Yes, I use a gram scale.  It really does help to make your results come out correctly first time, every time.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who Wants Yogurt? A Beggy Dog's Morning

Standing in the kitchen mulling over the day, I was debating what project to attack first.

Shall I get the latest SugarCRM system and try to install it in a Virtual Computer?  Probably not, I can do that in my sleep now.

Train a bit on my Microsoft Sharepoint Server?  Probably will.  I have a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine with Sharepoint installed.  I can start that up and work on it from the safety of my browser.

There are some video projects that I need to edit down and water mark.  That stuff is always fun but it takes time to move a DVD worth of video off of the device to get it to the work station.

The Microwave bleeped at me breaking my concentration.  Three cups of milk, now at 200F, that needs to cool so I can make more yogurt.

Looking up from the counter, away from Mom, my Sourdough Mother, I saw the reflection in the sliding glass door that led out from my Florida Room.  I was being watched.

Rack, my McNab Dog, can be a bit too smart for his own good sometimes.  If I leave him in the house while I am having breakfast, I get stared down.  Guilted into sharing my Cranberry and Plain Yogurt, I will leave a tablespoon in the bowl when I am through and place it in his food bowl.

I guess the boy's come to expect that.  Stare Down Dad, He's a Soft Touch.

When breakfast time comes, usually a good 2 hours after I am out of bed, I ask him if he wants to use the backyard.  Black and white fur moves on cat like feet, with a grace I can only achieve on 10 inline skate wheels.   Safely sealed behind glass, I walk back into the kitchen and have a bowl of oatmeal followed by a bowl of homemade yogurt with some cranberry sauce.  I must have the most healthy insides on the island after that stuff!

You see Mr Dog has learned how to use a mirror.   The first time I introduced him to the house, he walked into the master bedroom and saw the mirror on the wall.  Full length, he cocked his head, sniffed the other dog, and realized he smelled like glass instead of...

Well you get the picture, he wasn't really concerned with the dog in the looking glass.

I didn't realize he understood that well enough to look at what I was doing in the kitchen, supposedly out of view. 

And. Dogs. Like. Yogurt.




At least my dog does.

Rack will sit down near the door, on the deck by the pool, and watch both the window and the door.   He now knows to look at the reflection on the glass and see what is going on in the well lit kitchen behind the coffee gear and the solid wall.

Amazing dog.  Really.  They're always two steps ahead of you.

Not wanting to feed into the food begging, I finished up my pinkish blobs of cranberry goodness, and rinsed the bowl out.

Walking to the backdoor, I let him in.  Rack made a bee-line for his food bowl hoping I would forget being Dad once, and become his bestest buddy once again.

Nope, sorry, pal, you're not getting a snack this morning.  Better luck next time.  Nobody likes a beggy doggy.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Three Holiday Boxes, Ready to Go!

Three Holiday Boxes, ready to be sent out to their homes.

Every year, I bake cookies, roast coffee, and set aside a few odds and ends.  Drop them into these boxes, and send them off to some specific people.

They know who they are, and they know what to expect.

I make it a point to throw some curve ball items in each box every year just to make it a little less predictable.

I'm also forgetful this year.  I forgot to put a Card in there with the letter saying what everything is, and I know that I will get comments about that.

But it is my specialty to make these things every year, plus on their birthdays.  I usually have spare cookie dough in the house as a result, since the birthdays come spread out just enough that there's always something in the house.  It works out to be four times a year at any rate.

So once I get to the Oakland Park Post Office, up on Dixie later on, they'll get on their way.  I'm thinking they "should" get to their destination by Saturday, but only if I get there by noon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monster.com, Are You Kidding? Fancybox? Really?

In business, there is a phrase.

"Eat Your Own Dog Food."

Monster.com doesn't seem to realize this in their roll out of new "features".

You see, Eat Your Own Dog Food really means that you're going to use your own product to make sure that it suits what you intend it to do, and that you aren't giving the competitors an unfair advantage.

In web development and Project Management, this means finding someone who becomes the "Subject Matter Expert" and "Product Owner" and takes on a very special role.   When I worked at the university, and in every position I have held back into the beginning days of my career, I've assumed this role.  It means that you are going to step back, listen to what the "Main User" of the system says about it, and champion that role within "Development" so that the Main User's need are best served.

It means that you have to anticipate how any person will use the system and make sure that problems do not occur, and that when they do, problems are dealt with gently and "Gracefully".

It also means that unintended consequences sometimes occur like in this picture above.

It is one of my least favorite features, the "Fancybox" or the "Lightbox".

It is also very very rarely used correctly.

This is an example of how badly monster.com used the fancybox.

I did this under "my signon" and on another browser with no signon and it repeats itself.

Simply put, go onto Monster.com and do a search for any position you like in what ever zipcode you prefer.  Monster will return a list of positions.  It may even give you more than one page.  When you go from page 1 to page 2, it will put a "fancybox" up on your browser asking you "Let These Jobs Come To You".

No, you blistering idiot, that is not what I wanted.

You see it will do that for this page, and any future page I want to look at. 

Every Blistering Page.

Ok, so I'm quoting the TV Sliders and Dr. Arturo with his wonderful rants and insults, but the point is still valid - Fancyboxes rarely serve a useful purpose For The User.

I went in immediately to my browser, clicked "Adblock Plus" and found a script.  I blocked it, and refreshed the page, and now I'm back to the old Fancybox Free behavior.

If I wanted an RSS Feed of the search parameters, it would not work because since I live in a major metropolitan area, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, there are thousands of jobs.  I have given up on RSS Feeds for this because they "max out" at 50.  I typically would need around 500 to be able to see the last two days worth of positions on this given search.

I have many searches, and have saved each individual page to save me a LOT of time that would be otherwise wasted clicking on "Next Page" buttons.   If I were not able to do the search the way I do, then I probably would have stopped using Monster.com a long time ago.

So all you need to do is go into your adblock plus and block the script called:


It is badly written code, your QA, Development Department, and Project Managers have made a mistake.

It simply does not belong in a professional product like we have come to expect in Monster.com.  It only can have come from someone who has sat in too many Marketing Meetings and thought they could get more "buy-in" from their users.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I must have been channeling pop culture a few years back when I took this picture.

There was an artist that went around taking pictures of dogs, cats, and piglets.  Using a fisheye lens, he ended up with a rather distorted picture.  Giant nose, smaller head, and a ridiculously undersized body, it looked like an Anime picture on steroids.

I don't have a fisheye lens.  I have a middle of the road 8 megapixel stand alone camera that I use very heavily.  I am literally wearing the camera out.

I also have a very curious dog, Rack.

Rack will go out into the backyard on his own, wander around, snuffle the ground, and generally explore things but do so slowly.   If I am out there, he becomes the curious child wanting to know what I'm up to, up in my business as they say.

If I end up going into the shed, he'll walk up close by me but not too close.  I can't drop anything because he's sitting just outside of the door and the noise will make him bolt, head for the door and shudder.

Much better than he was with noise triggers, he still is quite jumpy.

If I ever needed a hunting dog, Rack most certainly is not one.

I'm not a hunter, although I have pulled quite a few iguanas out of the swimming pool.  Rack, on the other hand really could not be bothered with the invasive green monsters.  He's much more interested in the Monarch Butterflies that float by on the breezes.  Nut Brown eyes will follow the orange floaters in amazement until they pass out of sight.

Nice to have the company though.  He will keep me in view, parking himself nearby if I am quiet, further away when I drop the tools on the ground.  I keep him entertained and his curiosity satisfied.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In Line at the Supermarket, and Petal and Fridge

In Line At The Supermarket

Standing in line at the supermarket, I turned around and saw a beautiful young woman who looked a little familiar.

I told her that I thought I knew her, to which she replied, "Well you should remember me. You`re the father of one of my kids."

I had to stop and think, and then it hit me. "New Years Eve - 2008. That rooftop party in San Diego! Wow!
We got so drunk together, didn`t we? That was some night, huh? I guess I should have stayed in touch."

She looked at me a little puzzled and said, "What are you talking about? I am your son`s pre-school teacher."

Petal and Fridge

There were two sisters called Petal and Fridge sitting with their parents.
Petal asked her mum, "Mum, why am I called Petal?". 
Her mum replied "Well it's because when you were a baby, a flower petal fell on you".
Then Fridge said "BLRGGGGGAAABLLRR!!!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Three Drunk Guys and a Taxi & Who Says Guys Can't Remember

Three drunk guys entered a taxi.

The taxi driver knew that they were drunk so he started the engine & turned it off again.

Then said, "We're here".

The 1st guy gave him money.
The 2nd guy said "Thank you".
The 3rd guy slapped the driver.

The driver was shocked thinking the 3rd drunk knew what he did. But then he asked "What was that for?".

The 3rd guy replied, "Slow the hell down next time, you nearly killed us!"

Who Says Guys Can't Remember

A couple were Christmas shopping. The shopping center was packed , and as the wife walked through one of the malls she was surprised when she looked around to find that her husband was nowhere to be seen. She was quite upset because they had a lot to do and so she became so worried that she called him on her mobile phone to ask him where he was.

In a quiet voice he said, "Do you remember the jewelers we went into about five years ago where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we couldn't afford, and I told you that I would get it for you one day?"

The wife choked up and started to cry and said, "Yes, I do remember that shop."

He replied, "Well, I'm in the pub next door."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ellie's Portrait

Running around the backyard will tire you out, whether man or beast.

When Ellie came over for a playdate a while back, she was doing just that.  Running over every square inch of the yard, sniffing the trees that Rack had watered, and basically enjoying the freedom of being an off leash dog outside of the house.

Ellie is a part of Rack's Pack.  She lives across the street in our little neighborhood on our quirky little island.  Bill brought her over one day, shyly suggesting that we try it out in the yard.  Why not?  After all the two dogs, Rack and Ellie, walk around down 3 or more nights a week.

We either park ourselves in front of Wilton Manors City Hall for a bit so Rack can get "innoculated" against the noises of traffic, or lately we've been taking The Long Walk out to Island City Park Preserve.  Good exercise for all.

But that's all on leash.  In this case we had a solid half hour of canine chaos.  They did visit the far corner of the yard and got barked at by the pitbull that lives on the opposite of the four corners of the property line from us.  He was boring so we saw them charge back into the yard, leaping all the way.

Ellie is a middle aged dog, having her second life with us after the original owner got too old to properly care for her.  She's socializing well, and helping me to calm Rack down on our walks.  Good company, but don't get on her level and make kissy faces or you'll find 45 pounds of fur licking your face!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Spiders! ACK!

You adapt.  Wherever you are, you will bend to what is around you and accommodate things that might be a bit strange.

In my case, it's the onslaught of creatures that live around us.  Wildlife thankfully is not completely gone from South Florida, and sometimes it even watches you back and benefits from your being there.

My Geckos and Lizards that visit my kitchen window every night are a perfect example.  If we forget and leave the kitchen light on they will come and stick themselves to the glass like a decal. 

When you're out in the yard, you have to keep an eye out for critters.  I've seen plenty of Black Racer snakes run away from me, and that's about all they do.  You come by and they run away.   While I am out there looking for snakes and other crawlies, I'll have to watch for spider webs.   This particular one and I had a week of encounters.  Right behind my bedroom window there is a Bougainvillea that is trained to grow on an arbor.  It may be a salad for an iguana since it's not exactly in the best condition.  But it is perfect for Little and mostly harmless "Crab Spiders" are all over the place, and generally are no cause for alarm.
these spiders to come by and make a web.

When I see their webs they are almost always perfectly round.  It's like they want to present themselves as a bullseye target so you can find them.  Colorful and non threatening, they're welcome there especially if they manage to eat those blasted mosquitoes that torment us here. 

After a week the encounter ended.  Being where it was I would see them every morning when the sun would rise high enough to light the target in a silvery glow.  When it left, I found myself missing it there.  Not to worry, another one will be through shortly.   These creatures seek that spot out on a schedule.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Sourdough Haul - Recipe

When you have a "viable Mother" you need to do something with her.

In my case, Mother was the first ever sourdough starter that I made that "worked".

Since it takes between 2 and 5 days to get Mom out of that bowl and ready to be added to the bread dough, it gave me time to find a recipe.

Of course I procrastinated.  The recipe I found was very good, and I did learn from my mistakes.

You see there are some tricks to this.

Sourdough bread does not typically have added yeast.  You use the Starter as "yeast".  Those starters are also very slow acting.   Commercial yeast, like the stuff I buy in 1 pound bricks at the warehouse stores, are vigorously active.  You can add yeast and a little sugar to some warm water, stir, and step back.  You will have a bowl of froth in short order.

Sourdough starter looks like wallpaper paste that separated out and spoiled.

My recipe said between 12 and 24 hour rise time and that is why the rolls all look "Lumpy". 

What happened was the outside of the rolls got dried out and when Mom got busy with the dough, she had to break through the crust. 

The solution is to make sure you rise your dough in an enclosed space with a pan of hot water in the bottom.  This is what I will do next time I have to bake.

Since the recipe was so large, I won't bother baking for a while.

Another wrinkle is that Mother is Wet.   Mom is 1/2 water and 1/2 flour.  So if you add 1 cup of Starter, you have to reduce your normal recipe by 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour to get the "Hydration levels" right.

Fancy talk for watch your dough or it will be too wet or dry.

So here's the big recipe.  Next time I do this, I'll increase my water since my High Gluten Flour is thirsty and my dough was too dry to start out with.  It made a great pizza crust, but the rolls were on the small size since they didn't rise quite enough.


  • 1/4 cup starter
  • 6 1/2 cups White bread flour
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp Salt


  • Stir your starter to knock the bubbles out for a correct measure of starter.
  • In the mixer, add starter, water, and salt and mix until smooth.
  • Add flour 1 cup at a time to the mixer with the dough hook and continue until the dough has formed.
  • Separate the dough into two loaves or individual rolls.
  • Allow to rise in a moist area until double in size - this will take between 12 and 24 hours. 
  • For decoration, slash the tops of the loaves at the beginning of the rise time with a sharp knife.
  • To bake, place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 375.
  • Bake the bread for 45 minutes or until it thumps hollow - Internal Temperature will be 190F when done.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sourdough Starter - FINALLY!

Sourdough was my own private Holy Grail.

I seek the Grail!  I have never found the Grail!  Do you know of the Grail?  Can you help me find the Grail?

Ok, so channeling Monty Python and the Holy Grail aside, I think I finally found it.

No, my light is not Grail Shaped, evil Zoot.

I have been reading the Breadit subReddit on Reddit.com lately to try to get insight to this odd thing.  After weeks of reading, I finally thought that I had enough of that and just threw my hands into the air to try to make a Sourdough starter.

Sourdough is a special bacteria that grows wild in a Starter and is named after San Francisco in California but not limited to that area.  From what I can tell, while I have re-created the taste, I have the bacillis in my area.  My own commercial yeast "went wild" over the generations of breeding that happened in that not so very pretty white bowl, but it did not jump species and become that specific species of yeast that they may use in San Francisco, but the lactobacillis seems to be here.

Any kitchen where you bake bread will have wild yeast.  I would wager that any kitchen that you do NOT bake bread in has wild yeast as well, but that's just my scientific background coming to the surface.

The story goes that you start a commercial yeast in a mix of flour and water and perhaps a little sugar.  Make sure that the glass or plastic bowl is "sterile clean".  Allow the right conditions of not too hot nor to cold to exist for the little creatures.  Leave the thing alone for 2 to 5 days.  That's right, practically a week.  All you do to it over that time is to stir it.

The resulting mix will have the consistency of Pancake Batter or Wallpaper Paste.  It should be runny per the recipe.

If it doesn't get infected or spoil, you will go through some specific phases.

In the first couple hours, the commercial yeast will bloom and the mix will rise.  In my case it grew to push the towel up in the air.  I had to remove the towel and clean it off, replacing it with a cookie sheet that was placed so there was an opening at the top of the bowl for air to circulate.  The next time I try this, I will leave the towel off until the first bloom is complete and the yeast settles down a bit.

The next five days it will settle down and beneficial yeasts and beneficial bacteria will populate the mix.  The mix will settle literally and there will be some changes of smell and color.  It went from being a wallpaper paste looking mass to what you see in the picture - a layer of amber liquid on top. 

It smelled first like beer.  Then it started to smell like what I remember Sourdough smelling like.  It was a sharp smell but not unpleasant.

I vowed to allow it to go five days, only stirring the mass once or twice a day.  I did not feed it any extra flour, yeast, or sugar.  It merely sat on the counter looking strange and perfuming the house with that brewing smell of funk.  

Finally when I decided to try it out, I got proper Sourdough Rolls, Torpedo Rolls, Pizza, and a Boule loaf.

I had success!

The recipe was this link on King Arthur Flour but I will reproduce it here for brevity.   You already have the process above.  If it sounds less precise than usual, it was.

The remnants of what I made were "fed" with another half cup of flour and placed in a semi-sealed ball jar in the refrigerator.  It is still alive, although mostly dormant and growing slowly.   I will add another half cup of flour and water each week and give it a stir from time to time to make sure it is still alive and happy.


  • 2 cups warm water 
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour


  • To Glass, Plastic or Ceramic bowl add 2 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey, 1 tablespoon or packet of yeast.
  • Slowly add the 2 cups of flour while stirring it in to incorporate it to a smooth consistency.
  • Allow the yeast to bloom.
  • When the yeast settles down in a couple hours, cover the starter with a towel allowing it to breathe.
  • Stir it occasionally over the next 2 to 5 days.

Feeding and care:
  • Move the remaining starter to a smaller jar with a loose lid. 
  • Place starter in the refrigerator.
  • Feed every couple of days but no longer than once a week with 1/2 cup flour and water to retain consistency and "vigor".
  • Yes it was vague to me as well but I added flour and water in equal parts. 
  • This "extra" water will need to be accounted for in a Sourdough Bread recipe.

Or you could visit the King Arthur Flour website for additional insight on how they make their starter.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Taking Rack To The Network Operation Center

Just when you thought a computer room was the final frontier, I found a way to confuse a dog with one.

The key to getting a fearful dog to stop being fearful is to expand what they see.  Bump up against that safe-zone wall and you will find it's made out of rubber bands and not stones and mortar.  The walls are amazingly stretchy and will eventually fade away.

At least that's the plan.

When I got Lettie way back when, she was fearful.  She was terrified of buses, and I am going through that with Rack as well.  Dutifully, I'd take her to Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.  We would park ourselves in front of the clothing store or the bench in front of Kilian's Hardware and watch the bustle of traffic, people shopping, and basically experience the city.  It got me out of the house, and exposed her to the racket of the Big City.  Slowly we realized this was unneeded as Lettie wouldn't freak out when the 23 bus would go past on its way to Center City, or the turnaround loop at the Top Of The Hill.

I'm doing the same with Rack.  We park ourselves in front of Wilton Manors City Hall and chat for a while.  Waiting for the Dreaded 50 Bus, Rack's Pack will cool our heels while watching him alternately be engaged or panic depending on what is going by.  He's getting better, and that rubber band is stretching further each time.

When I got the chance to try something new, we jumped at it.

You see, Kevin needed to check the Computer Room.  There was an issue with the HVAC system at work, and it meant a drive to the office to make sure all was well.

Rack being Rack, all I had to do was say Ride In The Car and he perked.  We got him in his harness and soon we were riding down A1A past the bars and the tacky T Shirt shops at Fort Lauderdale's Beach.  My dog assumed his normal outlook on life, staring out the windows like a stoner.  Ooh Cool, Dude, Look at that Jogger!  Wow, man, there's a big boat out on the ocean!

Yes, that is one of the things that turns my dog into Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

When we finally got to the office, Rack decided that he didn't want to get out of the big beast of an SUV and tried to make himself as flat as possible.  I had to lift him out of the seat and plop him onto the ground.   The scents of the nearby Fort Lauderdale Sewer Plant coupled with the distant Port of Fort Lauderdale most likely threw him.

Panic aside, we walked to the building.

Herding Dogs are an amazingly adaptable beast.  They will handle challenges admirably, but you have to introduce them properly.  The challenge of the day was going into a high rise office building.  He had no problem with the doors, we've done that before.  Once in the lobby, he walked around the perimeter doing his Perimeter Search thing that I've seen many times, snuffling the corners until the doors opened on the elevator.

He sat down, cocked his head at a 45 degree angle and looked confused as we both walked inside the little stainless steel box.

When he saw us both go in, he followed and made himself as small as he could in the back corner.  I swear his eyes doubled in size when the door closed and the mechanisms came to life with relays snapping and hydraulic lift oil whooshing through the pipes.

We went up to the fourth floor and he just could not wait to get out of that box of doom.

Kevin in the lead, I followed with Rack unsure.  I don't think it was possible for a dog to get any closer to someone while they walked.

When we got to the office, the black and white dog flattened against the floor as the door opened.  Regaining composure, I lead him inside so he could snuffle around the small office.  The computer room with its constant fan white noise was a bit much for him, he didn't go in.  Standing at the door, that was quite close enough.

Finishing our inspection, we wandered out of the office and down the hall.  He liked this suite better since it smelled richly of Office Snacks left out for passers by.  I kept his snout away from those chocolates, those were for people, and they were quite good.

After he wandered around a bit, it was time to go.

We stepped out of the suite and Rack knew one thing - Get Me Out Of Here.  

He was at the end of my 6 foot purple leash the entire time.  Dragging me down the hall with Kevin behind, we made it to the fourth floor lobby.  Elevator beeped and snapped to life, Rack flattened like a pancake against the green granite floor.  When it arrived, doors opened, and he knew what to do.   Rack was actually inside the elevator before we were. 

He was clearly stressed but he did know that this meant escape from the empty office complexes with the strange smells and sounds.  

Getting to the ground floor garage, he lead the way to the SUV and practically flew into the back seat.

As we went past the beach bars with their Smooth Jazz saxophonist and the joggers that are all a part of the Beach Scene in Fort Lauderdale, Rack calmed down.  Eventually he even learned to enjoy the trip, regaining his trippy outlook on life.

Whoa Dude, that was cool!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

For those who love the Philosophy of Ambiguity, as well as the Idiocyncrasies of English - Humor


                        (This one took me a minute)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Blonde on an Airplane

Blonde on an Airplane













Friday, December 6, 2013

Tenting The House - All Done!

All Done!  We're back.

After three days, we got the call at 9AM, right on time that we could come home.   We anticipated that, so in the rain of that morning, we piled everything we could into the Jeep and Kevin's Beast, and rolled home.  It was only a couple of blocks, so it wasn't a big trial.   Even Rack was happy to leave.

Ed Lugo's Resort was fine, no complaints, but it was truly nice to head back to our own digs.  Home Sweet Home may be a cliche, but it is for a reason.

Pulling into the driveway, we saw our house, darkened.  A light glowed in the living room, all the windows and doors were opened.   Kevin got in first and was chatting with the person from Hugh Turner Pest Control.  True to form we got The Joke.

I was told that I would have to wash everything, dishes, Linens, and the lot.   Then the lady laughed and said that we were fine.

You see, Vikane Gas may be lethal, but it does not leave a residue.  There was a grit on the floors but I attributed that to my own housekeeping shortcuts and had a mental picture of teeny critters falling like snow while the place was buttoned up.  Probably nothing more than a fantasy and the soles of a herd of workers' boots.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the house though was "It Smells Like Death In Here".

There was a good reason for that.  We found a day later that there was a freshly killed grey mouse on a glue trap that tried to get a last meal in the attic.  It was right next to the air intake for the HVAC system so the scent was everywhere.  It doesn't any more.

Also, coming back into the House Of Death meant that all the no-see-ums were dead too.  That was a good thing because those critters who were eating my walls needed to go.  Dead Termites good, Live Termites Bad.  All the random moths that I would see fluttering around haven't been back yet either.

Unfortunately, my friends the Lizards and Geckos were harmed as a result.  There was one that was alive, probably shut itself off during the time to conserve oxygen, and it survived between the window panes when the house was closed off.  There was another one which was ghostly white and dead on the front of the house.  I'm sure there were more.  I still smell death outside now when I'm in the garden but that's fading fast.

We three settled back into the routine of life.   Rack found his spot between the coffee table and the couch.  We had 14 double bagged sacks of food, medicines, and odds and ends to unpack and load into cabinets.  My own house cleaning hack had to be fixed since we just didn't see the sense of vacuuming before the workers got here, and before they left.   There was a herd of Chihuahuas worth of dog fur creeping out from the nooks and crannies here that got vacuumed up as soon as the pest control worker left.

I am a week past the event when I'm writing this.   The house smells like beer since I'm trying to make Sourdough Starter.  I figure that since the place is open, the "natural yeasts" of South Florida will repopulate fast.  The "clean" house didn't stop my making Yogurt either, the first two brews were perfect.

Yes, normal life here means there's always something brewing or cooking or waiting for the time to bake.

But basically it's all done.  We are back to whatever passes for normal here.  Sometimes you just have to kill off civilizations of bugs to get back to normal.   It took us 6 years to get to this point, lets hope it is longer next time.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tenting the House - Rack Does Not Like Change

We had to decamp for three days.  Really one solid day, plus two half days. 

Practically the entire time we were gone, it rained.   In fact when the rain left us here in South Florida, it paid a visit to Havana Cuba where I hear it caused a lot of damage.

Wet Cubans aside, we ended up at Ed Lugo's Resort.  Just around the corner and up the block from the house, this place was perfect for us.   A small two bedroom house with one bath.  The place gave me ideas about redoing the bathroom here.

Remove the tub, add a glass partition wall and make the whole thing a shower.  I can hear my mother complain that "You'll never sell the place, families want tubs!".

Sorry, Mom, times changed.  Plus I'm 6'4" and need the room.

Fantasy discussion with Mom aside, the place was fine.  Ed has done a nice job of clearing the backyards out and connecting them all together with a pool, large hammock, and places for discussion with other guests and the friendly staff.

Highly Recommended.

In Ed's accommodations, we were comfortable, excluding the dog.  Rack had never been away from the house for any length of time since he joined us in April.  It was November when we left our house.

He was recovering from his experiences as being a shelter and a rescue, and really still has a way to go.  Any loud noises at home will send him running for the crate.   Tuesday and Fridays are trash days here on my quirky little island, and he will spend most of the day hiding in his big plastic box.  If the windows are open he's up and down all day.  Anything noisy gets him running off.   My neighbor Kirby taking D.O.G. (yes, that is his name) for a walk, and Rack comes back into the living room trying to see.

Rack loves Kirby.  I think he likes D.O.G. as well, but Kirby is the attraction.   So we're breaking him of his fear of loud noises to tell him that everything loud is Kirby on his big motorcycle.  It is starting to work, but has a way to go.  Yes, I am lying to my dog.  No, don't judge.

So taking our little boy out of the comfort of my little house to the small place we stayed at at Ed Lugo's was a big disruption. 

His usual fear was compounded by the confusion of not being at home.  I have had him longer than anyone else at this point, but I had to wonder if inside his little mind he was thinking that he might have been one step away from another stint at another rescue.

No, get that out of your mind.

He did start to get used to it by mid day the second day, but we simply didn't concern ourselves with that.  Putting the crate in the door to the front bedroom helped, he could lay in his safe room and watch us while worrying about all the drama around him.

On the other hand, getting him out of the house was easy.   We got to take him out to different areas in town, he got to visit the Island City Park Preserve, and sniff new trees and fences.

Being a McNab Dog means he is extremely intelligent, and he did learn the area and which little house was our little house within the first 24 hours.  On the other hand, getting him out to the quieter areas meant you had to get through the noise first.

It really only was about 48 hours for us.   We had him out back to visit the house Chihuahua which helped him a lot, but every little noise sent him to the door of the house for refuge.

When you have a fearful dog, or cat, or person, life means making adjustments.   We did finally adjust him to the situation, in fact a bit quicker than we thought, but it did take time.

Better to get back to the normal routine at 9am that Wednesday.  That day, we took all the crap we brought with us, loaded it back in to the vehicles, and made the short hop back home.  What took us 4 car trips to load only took us two to get back.

When Rack saw his crate get into the back of the car, he got hopeful and nervous at the same time.  Well really, he gets nervous with a summer breeze blowing through the house.   The crate leaving meant he began to almost panic. However, opening the door with his leash on meant every time he passed by the tailgate of the car, he would hopefully look at it to leave.

Finally when the time happened, in the rain, he vaulted into the crate and we left.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tenting the House - The Day Arrives

Would you like to run away to the Circus?

Would you REALLY?

Well join us on a little trip we want to call "Tenting The House"!

You see, we have by this time boxed all our food that goes with us, all our clothes, and all the needs of the Parrot and the Dog.

It went into the cars and brought about 3 blocks away.

And then it begun.

Almost precisely on schedule, which in Florida means about 30 minutes late, they arrived.   We really did need the extra half hour to plan this anyway since we were still bagging things and showering and doing Normal Household Things when they got here.

There arrived a box truck and this ... thing.   It's sitting in the driveway.   A truck full of things that I am sure I would have loved to explore if I had the time to.   Clamps, water, tarpaulins, signs, and everything you would need to entomb your house in a giant circus tent.

No loitering allowed, this place was going to be gassed.

The truck has an upper deck that would allow the workers to step onto my rather fragile roof so they could do their thing.

They arrived and began opening every window, drawer, and door.  Everything had to be opened just enough so that the gas could get to it.  That gas was Vikane gas, something related to what the Nazis used in the holocaust.  It would be released in the house along with Tear Gas to deter anyone from entering the place.

Why tear gas?  One of the dodges that criminals were doing in South Florida was to get scuba gear and go into these houses and basically empty them while the gas was in the place over night.  Nobody would be there to see them do it and they did get away with some of the burglaries.   Luckily these scum got caught and will be in jail for a while.

The workers inspected the entire place, deemed it ready, then cleared away an area of about a foot from the actual footprint of the roof of the house.  It needed to be clear so that the tent could be weighted down to the soil.  Anything actually living within the perimeter of this zone of death would be killed over the next three days.

It was Monday and we weren't allowed back until Wednesday morning.

Over the next two hours, I watched my Orange Tree trimmed back since it was encroaching on the carport, watched my orchids and other potted plants relocated to the pool deck, and people swarm over the place like the ants that they were ejecting from the premises.

It was fascinating to watch.  People who were as large as myself on the roof stepping over tiles, handing down clamps and tarpaulins, and eventually wrapping the place up in cheerful blue and red.

They finally affixed a sign to the place that pronounced that we were being fumigated by Dead Bug Edwards as we left for lunch.

It was surgically precise.  The house was professionally secured.  The grounds were cleared.  Things were prepared by people who clearly have been doing this for a long time. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tenting the House - The Preparation

Having your house tented is a major disruption.  A Huge Pain in the ... Tail.

We first had to schedule the operation.   This is such a "popular" thing here that the better companies are booked months in advance.  Oddly enough that worked in very well with what we had to go through.

I bake, a lot.  We both cook large meals and keep frozen leftovers.  The cupboard is full of things like baking soda, and mixes that are somewhat less common.  A Spice Cabinet with things like Cumin, Curry, and Vanilla Bean that actually get used.

I tell people that I have a spice cabinet and I know how to use it. 

I buy Cinnamon by the "large jar", as well as certain other spices.   It can be an obsession but my neighbors like it when ever I get a bit out of control and start baking.

All of that had to be drawn down.   The freezer needed to be "minimized" as well.  The freezer was so crammed full of food that even in the hurricane season it was difficult to manoeuvre in there.

There was a silver lining in this whole process.   When asked when we would want to have the house tented, we were told it would be three days.  Either over a weekend or starting on a Monday.  The Weekend Tentings were not as popular since we could get one sooner.   We were speaking to them in August, the next weekend tenting was in October.  That would give us two months to empty the freezer as much as possible.

The problem with Weekend Tenting here is that we have people who are going to the shopping center with the bar that is close to the house.   I had this mental image of coming back to the house after some drunk climbed under the tent after thinking mistakenly that they can hold their nose and be safe.

We went with a weekday Monday tenting as a result.  That could not happen until the Monday before Thanksgiving.

We had a date.

For three months we were purposely eating everything we could that was "back stock" in the refrigerator and freezer.   I was baking to draw down supplies as much as possible.  I managed to use up 20 pounds of flour in two months.

The instructions were straightforward.   If it goes in you it gets bagged in a giant Nylon bag.  That bag would get bagged inside of another bag.  Each bag gets separately zip tied shut.  This was true for anything in the cupboard - so there went my spices.  It was true in the freezer and the refrigerator.  If it is sealed in a can or sealed in a jar it can stay out, but plastic bags and bowls go in the bag.

By the end of the bagging, my refrigerator had two bags, the freezer had one.  There was a mountain of bags in the dining room of food that would not be harmed by being out of the cupboard.

The pet food would either have to be bagged or taken with us.   Anything that was the dog's had to leave the house.  After all, Rack's sense of smell was much better than ours was.

So dutifully, I began putting Rack's toys in a box to take with us when we would de-camp to another place.  The box being on the floor was an invitation for him to take his favorite toy out of the box and play with it again.  This went on for a while until I picked the box up and placed it high and out of his reach.

No, Rack, you may not play with that now.

Pouty dog aside, Oscar the Parrot was easier.   His toys are bolted onto the cage and the food all went into one giant bag save a little for the three day trip to the BnB.

A solid weekend plus worth of packing food, dog gear, parrot food, and people's clothes resulted in a disrupted house full of things "staged" to go.

Finally, electronics and other valuables had to be triaged and staged.  I had to make sure that I could do whatever it is that I do with my computers while gone.  The computers I have are all older and I use them differently than most.  Since data is put on the machine that it is most needed, it is spread around.   There isn't a computer in the house that is newer than a year old, and most are what others would think are underpowered.  That's a benefit since underpowered means cheap and in some cases free since they are "cast off" or even throwaway machines getting a second life.   But since there are more than one, I can spread the load around. 

There would be a long block of time that workers would have access to the house but we would not.  Luckily we had honest workers.  I've heard horror stories about that sort of thing down here in South Florida.  You've got to watch people while they're working these days.

We even went so far as to take pictures of anything and everything in the house.   While it turned out to be overkill, it is a great inventory in case of a break-in and well worth the couple of megs worth of picture files we both have floating around.

After all of this obsession and prep work, we were ready.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tenting The House - The Backstory

One night we were sitting in our big green chairs, having an evening of what passes for Domestic Bliss here.  Lights were on, the TV was glowing, and we were preoccupied with a conversation.  Chattering back and forth stopped when Kevin was dive bombed by "A Bug".

This is South Florida.  Wilton Manors.   We're technically not "in the tropics" but it's close enough to not matter.   The freeze line is 15 miles North of us in Boca Raton.  We're used to having wildlife crawl into the house and not give it a second glance.

Trying to ignore The Bugs, we shooed it away as it banged its little insect head against the twists of the Compact Florescent Lamp above our heads.

It's not really that uncommon to have a moth here doing exactly that.   They come and go as they will, and you learn that when you live here, it means to keep all your food in jars, double sealed and set away safely.

I have had the pleasure of watching those bugs get eaten by lizards and geckos.  I'm completely entertained by those.  There is a window that looks out of the kitchen, into the Lanai and out into the backyard beyond.  The light from the living room will glow out that window drawing outdoor bugs to it.  Moths will bang themselves senseless against it while translucent Geckos will come by and feed on them every night.

They also help to keep the population of ants down, but we do have to spray for them fairly regularly.  Recently the ants got past that passive nuisance phase.  We had two different types of ants living in the house.  Ghost Ants are tiny creatures that threatened to pick up my coffee jar and move it as it got in their way.  These are much smaller than any ant I have ever experienced and simply would not die when we sprayed the over the counter stuff from the big box stores.

The other kind of ant lived in the holes in the metal frame around the windows.  They would make great lines of black dots leading to whatever they find interesting as a food source.   We couldn't keep them down either as they became more insistent.

We had the exterminator by twice to get rid of them but they just kept coming back.

The final straw was the Light Bulb Bugs.  You see, they were termites.   We had them come by for a visit.

The geometry of the house is such that that light bulb over Kevin's Chair will shine out into the hallway and out into the master bedroom.  The master bedroom looks out into the backyard.  There was just a little bit of wood around the window there.  That was where the termites nested.

Having the exterminator back, they did a more thorough inspection.  In fact, we were dissatisfied with the old exterminator company getting indifferent work here.  We moved to a much better group of people who took a much more professional level of care on the house.

Hugh Turner was recommended to us as a company that has "Been around a long time" and would "take care of us".  They did that well.   The report we got back was that there were termites in that frame and in some of the nooks and crannies above that spot up in the roof.

In short, it was time to tent the house.

Here there are two types of people.  Those who have termites and those who will have them.  We had them.  We will have them again.  It is all a part of living in South Florida.