Monday, February 2, 2015

Look Over There!

Just a quick announcement will be the final post here. I'll leave this blog up for the sake of posterity (heh) and as a link to our new digs. What digs, you ask? Well, Brian and I have formed a mini-blog Voltron and put together our own site. It will give us the opportunity to customize our stuff and learn some new skills, so we're very excited about it. We'll be adjusting things a lot as we learn, so don't mind the frequent face lifts. Do leave us lots of comments! 

Take this handy dandy link...

And enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Updates and Technology

We’ve made some changes around here since the Creepy McJerkface event. Thanks to Brian and his judicious application of technology, I feel a lot safer these days. If someone tries to bust into the house now, they’ll be greeted by an ear-splitting siren followed shortly by the police. We’ll even be able to provide a nice video of the miscreant shrieking and running away. My ability to sleep has greatly improved with these additions, and we’ll be able to take it all with us when we move to a neighborhood that doesn’t suck. Brian rules.
I heart Theo!

In related household technology news, our old Bunn 3-minute coffeemaker died a horrid, gurgling death right before Christmas. We limped along with my 1960s avocado-green percolator for about a week before ordering our new coffeemaker, which is my current favorite Kitchen Thing. It reminds me of Buck Rogers, so I’ve named it Theo, short for Dr. Theopolis. I’m kind of in love with it. Theo matches my mixer and food processor, saves us quite a lot of precious counter space, and beeps adorably. I’ve taken to setting up the coffee every night (for morning auto brew!) and I enjoy it. Brian rules again because he found Theo, put it in a lineup, and let me pick.

And in yet more technology news, we watched the Microsoft presentation for the upcoming Windows 10 last week. Both of us have a professional interest in this stuff because so much of our work revolves around Microsoft applications, but we probably would have watched it regardless just to see where the technology is going. Where is it going? Well, to Mars, among other places. It was an impressive presentation. I was excited even before they got to the holograms, but I’m also the only person we know who liked Windows 8 when it was released. Good integration makes me happy, so my next phone will probably be of the Windows variety (sorry, Google).

That’s about it for the technology news, at least in our household. There are tons of things I want, like a Fitbit Surge, but until I crank in some more dough or convince companies to send me things to review, they won’t make the “news” category.

I would review the ever-living heck out of a Surge, though. Truly. Food for thought, Fitbit. Food for thooooought.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home Security

I had to call the police last Thursday because a man tried to break into our house. I’ve always been strict about keeping doors locked, even when we’re home, regardless of where we live, because I’m an anxious sort. This practice paid off. When he couldn’t get in the door, he went around to the bedroom windows with a metal bar and I caught him peering in. Imagine our mutual surprise when I walked into the room.

Brian had texted me just before 5:00 p.m. to say he was heading back from OKC. I was happily ensconced in his chair with a big orange cat in my lap, about to watch Dark Shadows again because it was on TV when I heard our back storm door open. The knob on the inner door turned and caught, a couple of loud taps sounded against the glass, and the outer door closed. I got up to investigate because I was pretty sure Brian hadn’t teleported home. No one was at the door, but a rather nice blue and silver mountain bike exactly like the one pictured below was sitting under our carport. At that point I figured a kid was here trying to sell stuff (Girl Scout cookies?!), so I went to look out the other windows.

The would-be burglar was standing in my flower bed (!!) with his face mashed against the window and both hands cupped around his eyes to see through the glass. He squawked when I came through the bedroom door. He looked to be in his 50s, short and skinny, with white stubble on his face and a dirty sock hat on his head. The metal bar was tucked into the top of his pants. He bellowed “Is Frankie here?” through the window at me. I blinked and asked who. He said, “Is there a Frankie here?” I said “Sorry, no.” He said sorry several times, sprinted around the corner of the house to his bike, and rode like the wind out of the driveway. The fact that he was riding in the direction of the police station makes me giggle now. At the time, I was totally creeped out but didn’t realize what had just happened.

It wasn’t until I was texting the story to Brian that I processed the situation and understood I had interrupted a break-in. We’ve lived here for ten years, and while the area seems to get worse by the day, nothing like this has ever happened to us. Also, because I’m an anxious sort, I have to actively remind myself that most people don’t have criminal/horrible intentions, so my own daffy brain gummed up the works there. Calling the police hadn’t occurred to me at all until Brian suggested it. So I did. The dispatcher was kind and professional as she took the report and set us up for an extra patrol. I was pretty rattled and she made me feel better. Thumbs up, lady.

While it scared me at the time, I know this incident was minor in the grand scheme of things, and I was lucky. The guy was equally scared if the speed of his departure was any indication. And for all I know, the police found him and read him the riot act. Some good has come of it, too:

  • Keeping the doors locked at all times turned out to be an excellent idea. Paranoia vindicated!
  • We are getting a security system. When Brian got home and asked if I wanted the one we had talked about previously, I said yes. It costs less than the video games we used to play and will allow me to sleep again.
  • We are going to move. That experience was profoundly motivating for me to make more money this year and get a new house. Our neighborhood has become Creepy McSuckville and I am freaking done with it.

This is not the post I had envisioned starting the year, but hey, learning experiences should be shared. Remember to keep your doors locked, kids! I sure will!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Garden

We've had unseasonably warm weather in southwest Oklahoma for the past few weeks. This should make me rather crabby because October is my favorite month due to its normally crisp prettiness, but this year I don’t mind as much. Why? The garden loves it. Our vegetables and flowers are making the most of this extra warmth, which makes me smile every time I set foot out the door. So, what did we plant this year? Let me show you.

Our magnificent snapdragons. Jerk caterpillars.
When we first started to work on the yard in 2008, which seems like an eternity ago, we focused mostly on the existing flower beds and started with morning glories and snapdragons. Both flowers took hold and have reseeded themselves for years, though we finally lost our snapdragons this spring to a huge invasion of caterpillars. Jerks. The glories are still going strong in the front of the house along the porch trellis and on the side along our storm cellar counterweight. Last year we planted another set of glory seeds in the south bed. My favorite aspect of them is their color change from one day to the next. They’re like little Christmas presents.
The array of glory colors from this year.

This year we decided to experiment a bit with what we put into these beds. Up front went a Shasta daisy, some marigolds, and some gorgeous little pansies. The side beds had to take more shade tolerant flowers, so we put in impatiens, a couple of ferns, white wax begonias, wood phlox, wave petunias, a foxglove (because why not?), calibrachoas, and dianthus. Most of these were rescued from the clearance racks of various garden centers, which makes them extra awesome. This bed brought a lot of butterfly and bee activity into the garden.

Pansies and marigolds up front.
First half of the south bed in June.

Second half of the south bed in June.

Planters just after initial setup.
Earlier this year Brian built a set of cedar planters for us so we could expand our container garden on the driveway. We have two vertical for tomatoes and bell peppers, and one horizontal for onions and carrots. They've been hugely successful and provided the ingredients for quite a few meals since he set them up. They’re really pretty and have made the driveway look a thousand percent better, especially in conjunction with the smaller planters around them. 

He also made me the most amazing garden cart in the history of garden carts. Look at this thing!
Best. Garden cart. Ever.
The smaller planters include our herb garden: three large pots of garlic chives, a pot of dill, a pot of basil, and what has become a ginormous spearmint bush. Around those he arranged two long planters of purple wave petunias, and two smaller planters of verbena and dianthus. Those lovely red daisies are also going gangbusters these days (thanks, Chark!).
Herbs and planters in full bloom, mid-June.
We were pleasantly surprised at how well the petunias, verbena, and dianthus have done in those small planters. They’re especially enjoying the current weather, blooming in full splendor every morning.
Small planters just after 8:00 this morning.
And, in a giant pot all its own along the driveway fence is a Japanese honeysuckle, because honeysuckle is the loveliest scent on the entire planet. While preparing all this Brian found a squirrel-planted pecan that had taken root in one of our petunia planters, so we decided to give it its own pot and let it grow (see pic above, left side of the onion planter). Like the honeysuckle, we’ll take it with us when we buy a house. Some things are just too cool to leave behind.
Pink lemonade calibrachoa!

I can’t talk about the garden without mentioning how we manage to keep it alive during the never-ending draught we’ve been stuck in. Brian came up with this idea a couple of years ago: rain barrels. He started with one, hooking it to the gutter drain and (ingeniously in my opinion) to the condensation dripping from our air conditioning unit. That drip line has probably provided more water than rainfall over the past few summers. This year he added two barrels to our system, which allows us to catch more water when it does rain and to pump water from the condensate barrel to the others when it doesn't. We hand water everything from these barrels, which lets us save money and community water. Win!

Honestly, I can take very little credit for the lovely state of our garden this year. All I did was choose a few plants. Brian did all the work setting it up and has done all of the work maintaining it over another dry, awful summer. The next time you see him out and about, give him a high five. He deserves it!

Monday, October 20, 2014


This post was supposed to appear last week and it was supposed to be about our garden, but I got a bit derailed. As I was preparing the photo fest to accompany the garden explanation on Monday, a friend messaged me with awful news. Her boss, his wife, and their daughter had been murdered in their home over the weekend. I had also worked for this family back in 2007 and saw them around town all the time. They were good to me. They were good people. I didn’t know what had happened, but I was certain they didn’t deserve it. For the rest of the day I sat here hitting the refresh button on breaking news pages hoping to learn more.

When we heard the truth a tense couple of days later, we were horrified. The couple’s 19-year-old son had come home from college and shot them. He confessed he wanted money and figured he’d be the sole heir to the estate if they were all dead. Processing this was surprisingly difficult for me. We weren’t super close, but I knew these people: all four of them. We spent a good chunk of time together over the summer I worked at their newspaper. From that vantage point I saw solid parents who provided for and loved their kids, but didn’t spoil them. They were just a good local family.

And I still think of them that way. As more details are released and the public learns about the problems the family had with their son, tongues have started to wag. Ridiculous statements of “Oh, I wasn’t at all surprised,” and “How could they not see the warning signs?” are flowing freely on social media. Accusations of spoiling the children and not being religious enough have been thrown around as well. This behavior sucks. It’s easy to sit back now and say that someone should have done something, but we weren’t behind closed doors with this family. We don’t know what they went through trying to help this kid, and I’m absolutely sure they did try.

Normally when something dreadful happens, I feel better when I know why it happened. For the first time, this isn’t the case. Knowing I’ll never see them again bugs me, especially with the guilt from not realizing what they were dealing with back then. Could I have done something to prevent what happened? Most likely not, but I’ll always wonder. And all the hateful, judgmental blathering of the uninvolved doesn’t help. So, for the social media pundits who have everyone else’s families figured out, I share this advice from my late grandmother.

You’re welcome to think whatever you want. You’re also welcome to keep your mouth shut.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Stuff and Things

Okay, two things: (1) holy crap, it’s already October and (2) I’m feeling updatey. While celebrating the former, because we are so over these summer temperatures that won’t go away, I feel like the beginning of October is a good time to stop and take a look at where we are. Also, this update is part of my ongoing effort to get stuff out more quickly. The amount of time I take to put these things together is just appalling to me, so I’m training myself to remember that nothing is ever perfect and not all content has to be earth shattering. So here are the current goings-on in Harpyville and other things that are important to me at the moment.

The post-surgical timeline is cruising along pretty well, all things considered. My innards still get sore at odd times of the day and I still get tired stupid easy, but I’m improving. A few weeks ago a hideous amalgamation of strep throat and the Cold from Hell moved in and slowed me down considerably. It also completely screwed up my fitness goals for the year, but we can move those forward. There’s plenty of time to add cycling distance before the weather gets too cold, and then we can move back into the gym. At this point I’ll just be glad to stop feeling like semi-sentient Jello.

Talking about recovery makes me think about what caused the need for it. We’re now six months out from the loss, and Bunzilla would have been due on the 26th. Getting to sleep has been a challenge every night for the past few months thanks to the surreal games of What Could Have Been that my brain likes to play when the sun goes down. These games have intensified as that date draws near. They also like to hit while I’m out grocery shopping, which is really annoying. So far I’ve managed not to have a meltdown in public, but it’s been close. Something tells me Halloween is going to be extra weird this year.

Secret bonus flower!
Work has been patchy over the past year, which was a blessing when I needed time off for health and then something to keep my traitorous brain occupied. A new possibility is on the horizon and it would be a welcome addition to current gigs. I’ve also been easing into a new routine to get more writing done for you lovely people and to be more productive each day. Brian has been helping me a lot with this, both by example (seriously, he’s awesome) and with ideas for stuff to tackle. You’ll be seeing some interesting projects here in the nearish future.

My garden has been the main benefit of our bipolar weather. I have to stop and take pictures almost every morning because the flowers are blooming riotously and changing color with each bloom. Yesterday we discovered we even have a secret bonus flower growing beneath one of our bird feeders. I was a bit surprised to see a morning glory that far from the house, let alone blooming after getting mowed last week, but there it was. Between the planters he built and the natural beds he cultivated, Brian has built me the prettiest garden in town this year. It makes me happy every time I go outside.

I realize this update is a bit all over the place, but it’s an accurate account of me at the moment. I’ve never had anything that could be described as a “train of thought.” My process looks more like a kid playing Frogger because the connections don’t make sense to anyone else. That’s a subject for another post, though. It’s time to go walk in the garden and feed our uppity blue jays.

Monday, September 29, 2014


Last Wednesday when we were out bike adventuring in our favorite recreation area, Brian and I decided to hoof it down one of the walking trails just to see where it went. We discovered an old spring pavilion and a little waterfall flowing into a creek full of darting minnows. The walk was so lovely we knew we had to return soon with our backpacks and hiking boots to explore more of the trails. “Soon” wound up being Saturday.
Exhibit A: Ow.

We began from the Nature Center, having chosen to start with the easy main trail and all its moderately hilly/rocky loops for a total around three miles. Speed wasn't our focus; there were too many interesting signs identifying vegetation that we both wanted to stop and read. Besides, you can’t hurry adventure. We hit the first loop around seven minutes in. Three minutes after that my foot got caught on a root and I face-planted into the hillside (Exhibit A). Once I stopped laughing long enough to get up, we continued on our merry way. Leave it to me to crater on the first loop.

The loops themselves were fascinating. We had learned from a short film at the Nature Center that the trails cross through ecotomes where forest transitions into grassland, and these areas are weirdly pretty (Exhibit B).

Exhibit B: Prairie Loop ecotome.

Exhibit C: Pretty!
Seeing cacti among the prairie grasses and wildflowers is too cool. While I did take a few pictures of the first two loops, most of them were fairly craptacular. Exhibit C is the one good shot from the ecotome flowers. Back under the canopy we were surrounded by a variety of elm, oak, dogwood, maple, and even the occasional sycamore. With the weather beginning to turn, the breezes on these trail sections carry the pleasant smell of acorns and fallen leaves. For me that scent is right up there with honeysuckle on the happy scale.

Eventually we made it back to the Nature Center, where we stopped for a break and Brian was conscripted to take photos for a large group of women also out adventuring that day. After eating our lunch of PBJs and pretzels in the company of a pink-nosed feral forest cat, we decided to go hike another three-mile trail around the small lake nearby. The entire path around this lake is paved, but some of the hills on the far side are just gnarly, so it still made for a good hike. I got a couple of nice shots here (Exhibits D and E), and was able to pay more attention to the wildlife because I didn't have to focus so much on where my feet were going.

Exhibit D: Nifty marsh area. Also, Brian's elbow.

Exhibit E: Lake view from the top of the gnarly hills.

Exhibit F: So green! Photo credit to Brian Landis.
Back on the first loop we had come across two armadillos rooting around in the leaves. One of them crossed the trail not three feet in front of us and appeared to give zero cares that we were in the vicinity. On the lake path we were able to see many more birds, including ducks, cardinals, ravens, mockingbirds, and jays. We were escorted by a few cute little striped lizards with red tails on the far side of the lake, and there we also found the prettiest snake I've ever seen (Exhibit F). He crossed the path in front of us and we stopped to watch him pass. Also, dragonflies. Dragonflies everywhere. We even got checked out by a few bees and I managed not to have a runaway.

When we got back in the car to go home we were hot, sticky, itchy, scraped, sore, and slightly bloody. When I was a kid, those were the hallmarks of an excellent day. Turns out they still are.