Running Outdoors - WAY harder than you think

I've been a little cocky lately.  Ok, maybe a lot cocky.  I've been strutting around all "I can run a 5k any night of the week, cuz I'm cool like that."  Or perhaps, "Look at me! I'm running at 6 mph and I can have a full conversation with you!"  I'm pretty proud of that accomplishment, so I can be a little cocky, right?

Look at that smile on my face.  Cocky, right?

But the other night, I was SHUT DOWN.  By my own self...

It was an incredibly cool night out and I wanted to take a stab at running outdoors.  After all, I used to run cross country and I was in great shape then!  My major complaint with running outdoors is that I hate getting my clothes all sweaty, so in general, when I'm home I only wear shorts and a sports bra to exercise.  I know that some people think that it would perfectly fine for me to wear that same thing while running outdoors, but I do not have the body to go running around outside in a sports bra, no matter how good I feel about myself.  Trust me.  Plus, my ritzy neighbors would probably call the police, or something.

Just kidding.

Anyway, it was a nice cool night, I wanted to try to run outside.  I wasn't feeling great - my one meatball sub for dinner was so good that I doubled it to two and my belly was not happy about the addition - but I decided to persevere.

After a brief warm-up walk with DH and the Murph dog, I put my earphones in and headed off!


Only to stop immediately because the sound on my iPod was so loud that I temporarily went blind from the blast. 

Once I got that figured out, I started running again.  It was hard.  It sucked.  My knee starting hurting almost right away and in less than 60 seconds I encountered my first hill.  (If you saw this "hill" you'd probably laugh at me and tell me that it was basically totally flat, but trust me, it was definitely a hill.)  That hill was HARD, with a capital H A R D.  But I pushed through it and continued on.  I probably went half a mile - if that - when I encountered the massive hill at the end of the development.  I stopped briefly, panting like I was dying, and paced around, trying to get up the nerve to try that hill.  Then I saw some ladies who were walking coming up behind me, and in an effort to not look like a total wuss, I took off up the hill.

Oh. My. God.  It was sooo hard.

My lungs hurt, my heart was pounding.  I couldn't feel my legs and it felt like I couldn't take in enough air to sustain my existence. About three quarters of the way up I said "Screw this," turned around and headed back down the hill.  I avoided making eye contact with the ladies.

Second later, DH and Murph rounded the corner.  Wow.  Seriously? I'm so bad that walkers basically caught up with me?  Hmm...

So, the moral of this story is that running outside is WAAY harder than running on a treadmill.  Way harder. WAY HARDER.  Did I mention that it was harder?

Now I know why real runners hate us treadmill runners, and call treadmills things like "dreadmills."  I'm going to start calling it the "lovemill."  Because at least on the lovemill/treadmill I can pretend that I am healthy and in shape and strong and beautiful, which I love.  Outside I am sweaty and hurting and suffocating and hating it.   

And of course Murphy was being a royal jerk.  He's usually a jerk when we're walking - he hates other dogs and does everything that he can to kill them - but tonight was even worse than normal.  I think he was pissed that I went jogging without him.

And I think I'm going to try to it again tonight. I know... I'm a glutton for punishment.  But I can't let outdoor running get the best of me.  I'm much happier when I'm confident and cocky.  This dejected/defeated feeling is definitely not for me....

Mayan Ruins

One of the neatest things about Tulum is that it's the home of an amazing set of Mayan ruins that were built on a cliffside overlooking the ocean.

(All images from

Beautiful, right?

We decided to rent a car, since it's relatively safe and easy to drive in Mexico, and since the rental was significantly cheaper than round trip van transportation that would take twice the time (Tulum is about an hour and a half drive south of Cancun, which is the airport that we're flying into.)  Another perk of the car rental is that instead of paying the steep "excursion" prices offered through the resort, we can drive ourselves to the ruins. From what I've read on Trip Advisor, it's about $5 a person for entry into the ruins (without a guide, which I think we're ok with skipping on.)  The resort price for the excursion is $50 a person, which does include another trip somewhere else, but still, I think we're definitely saving money.

Since we're staying at an all-inclusive, we can order sandwiches from room service (free, round the clock) and pack a lunch and drinks and then hang out on the beach.  This day trip will end up being dirt cheap.  If we decide that we need more, a short down the beach and there are supposedly some awesome beach bars/restaurants that are fun and authentic. 

Given the proximity to our resort and the low cost of this trip, this is definitely on my "must do" list.   I hope to take some amazing, breathtaking pictures like the two above and hopefully some of them will be frame worthy. 

Has anyone ever stayed in Tulum or seen the Mayan ruins there? 

Tulum Bound!

Our trip to Mexico is only a few weeks away and I've starting doing research into what sorts of things we're going to do when we're there!

Photo from

To bring you up to speed, we decided to go to Tulum, Mexico and specifically, the Dreams Tulum resort.  We chose this particular resort because early on in the planning stages, we were trying to get a group of friends and family to go together.  We sent out lots of e-mails, solicited feedback, and there were quite a few people who said they would be interested.  Some of these people had kids, and so to encourage people of all ages and family orientations to join us, we wanted to do child friendly.

But no one else is coming with us.

I shouldn't have been surprised, but in all honesty, I was.  I'm not really the type of person to tell someone that "might" do something.  I usually just say "no," which does make me a party-pooper of sorts, but I hope that people appreciate the honesty.  So I guess that I thought the people who told us "maybe" were actually interested and seriously thinking about coming.  I really truly honestly thought that we'd get at least ONE other couple to join us.  Maybe even more!  I was really optimistic about this, and I'm not usually an optimistic person.  Now I remember why.  Optimism usually leads to being disappointed, and feeling disappointed sucks.  If I had been using my realist attitude, I would have said, "It's pretty unlikely anyone else will come," and I would have just moved on.  For one, we definitely would have booked at an adult's only hotel - kids are great and all, but for just DH and I, we both really enjoy the adults-only atmosphere for an all-inclusive vacation.

Anyway, speaking of moving on... enough about that!

There is one enormous "positive" to no one else coming with us.

Being able to do whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want.

Competing with the interests and agendas of others can be challenging.  When you have a group of people, everyone will want to do different things, but some people will also really want the whole group to do things together.  This can be challenging.  Everyone will have different things that they want to do with their vacation time, and in the past, I've often felt like so much time is lost arguing about what to do or saying things like, "you decide." "No, YOU decide."  Seriously.

We're renting a car and we don't need to share space.  We can do as many or as few day trips as we want.  We don't have to meet anyone for meals and if we want to sleep for an entire day, no one will miss us. 

I'm going to have lots of plans in place for things we want to do, but if we wake up one morning and want to do something else, we can.  There's something refreshing about being able to live life day by day and although we might wish we had family and friends there in the evenings when we're at the bar, we can always make new friends, right?!?!

I'm going into this trip with a totally positive attitude and I'm determined to have an amazing time.  It's our first all-inclusive vacation where we'll have a ton of freedom to leave the resort when we want to.  (In the Dominican Republic and Jamaica it's not really safe to leave the leave the resort other than sponsored excursions.)  I'll leave some of the fun plans for a later post!  Until then, just know that I am SOOO excited. 

Living the Suburbian Dream

This past weekend, while I weeded the garden, the two Hartman men mowed our 1+ acre yard with two lawnmowers, while our small white dog watched from the top of the hill. 

After I was done weeding, I set up my beach chair and soaked up some sun, while they finished up mowing.   Then I made strawberry daquiries and we sipped them over a dinner of taco soup while we listened to traffic pass by on our screened in porch.

Seriously.  Could we be any more suburban?  What's happening to me?!?!
Remember this desolate looking hill of dirt???

 It started out look like this.... evolved into this....

I dreamed about it looking like this....

And so far, it looks like this.

It's definitely progress, although not QUITE the dream I had envisioned.

Some things have been more disappointing than others.  The hibiscus plants - the entire reason that I ordered these dormant plants in the first place - have been less than successful.  It seems like 3 of 6 that I received will actually end of surviving.  The same seems to be true for the rose of sharon bushes - 3 of the 6 have leaves, and the other 3 are still stupid looking twigs. 

That's a rose of sharon in the center of that picture

The bulbs, on the other hand, have been a dream.  Both the lilies and the blazing liatris are thriving.

I'm definitely excited to hopefully get some flowers later this summer.  Now that things are actually sprouting, I can't help but laugh at how haphazard the bulbs appear to have been planted.  Some of them are right next to each other, others have 3 feet between them.  If I had not planted them myself, I would certainly be making fun of the gardening who doesn't know how to evenly space.  Oh well... as I always say, lessons learned, right?

There were quite a few plants that just never sprouted, including the Black-Eye Susan's, the Blue Oat Grass, and the Candy Tuft.  I plan to contact the company within the next few weeks if there is no evidence of life in those plants, since they do offer a warranty if the plants do not survive.  But based on what I received in that initial package, I feel like I should be THRILLED with what came up, since I honestly had NO EXPECTATIONS for anything to actually grow. 

I know that I won't get any Hibiscus or Rose of Sharon flowers this year, but I can't wait for lilies!

How to Plant Potatoes

I am writing this post because when I was looking for some guidance on how to plant potatoes, I couldn't find any good information.  I'm not sure if this will really qualify as "good information," but it's more than I could find online!

I bought potato spuds from the same nursery that I ordered all of the dormant plants (update on those soon, I promise.)  But the instructions that they provided were basically useless and I was left with a bag of potatoes and no idea how to plant them.

This is what the spuds looked like when I took them out of the bag:

I have no idea what that white stuff is on them, but that's how they came

 After reading over a dozen pages about potatoes, I compiled all of my new knowledge and set out to plant.

Things to know:
1. Plant in rows 2 feet apart.
2. Plant spuds about 4 to 5 inches deep.
3. Plant with the new growth and roots pointing UP.
4. Plant each spud 12 inches apart.

Two of my rows

I will admit that my spuds are not quite 12 inches apart, because my hills are 5 feet wide and I didn't want to plant the spuds right on the edge.  So, I would say that the spuds above are about 10 inches apart.  Hopefully that decision won't haunt me later in the summer.

So, after a couple of days, I started to see signs of life.

And two weeks they look like this!

Apparently within a few weeks, all of the plants should look like this, and the leaves should basically fill the area.  Underneath, the potatoes will be growing.  If potatoes start to poke through the soil, you're supposed to cover them up with dirt, otherwise, your potatoes will start turning green from the overexposure to sunlight. 

I am thrilled with how much progress these potatoes have made in just a few short weeks.  This is my first time planting potatoes, so my hopes are not high, but so far I have no reason to think that these won't be sucessful!

Updates to come, I'm sure!!!

Money Makeover

Many weeks ago I won my first blog giveaway ever!  Laura, who writes Life Happens, was giving away a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover, and I won!  I almost never participate in blog giveaways, mostly because I don't need to acquire random, useless stuff just for the sake of winning, and because I hate how with most giveaways there are all of these requirements to enter such as "Post a comment and then a Tweet linking back to my blog and refer at least 3 friends and then you're entered!"  Yeah, that's way to much work.

But this giveaway was right up my alley.  All I had to do was comment, AND it was for something that I was actually really interested in receiving.  I probably would have borrowed the book from the library eventually, since I have been hearing so much about it the past few months.  But I WON! And now that I have it, I'm excited that I don't have to return it to the library because I've been marking it with post-its so that later on I can go back and refer to various sections when I get to that part of the plan.

Because - as I should have assumed - doing a "total money makeover" is a long-term plan.  It's really not the sort of thing where you can just read the book and then "BAM!" your financial problems are all over.  For most people, the TMM takes months and ever years (and in our case it will probably be years.)

So, I've been thoroughly enjoying the book, and although there are some parts that I think get a little preachy, it's still highly motivational and DH and I are planning on implementing many aspects of the TMM to our lives.

I plan on doing a series of posts over the next couple of weeks called the TMM posts.  I'm plan to discuss some of the "dos and don'ts" that Dave Ramsey discusses in the books, and which ones we follow and which ones we just have to ignore based on our personal situation.  I'm going to talk a little about our debt, and about how we got to where we are today, and finally, our current plan for tackling it all over the next couple of years. 

I learned a lot from reading this book, and I really do think that it will help us and hopefully some of you as well!  If you have any tips or other information to share after these posts, please do!

The promised "before" and "after" pictures

So even though I'm sure you all agreed that the picture of the newly mulched hill looked great, I don't think you truly understood how horrible that hill looked before.   MY plan was to let it "go back to nature," a nice way of saying that I don't want to take care of it anymore.  DH persevered though and convinced me that mulch was the way to go.  So far, I totally think that he was right.

So... here it is!


And AFTER!!!!

What a difference, right??!?!  I love it!!!

$600 worth of mulch

This is what $600 worth of mulch looks like. It's about 16 yards of mulch (or 8 truckloads for those of us who don't speak in yards) and it took about 8 hours.  It's black, triple shred (aka the nicer stuff!)  and compared to the slightly cheaper stuff it seems so nice.
Our hope is that $600 worth of mulch (and hundreds of feet of weed block) will mean that we never have to do anything ever again with this nightmare of a hill.  I'm anxious to see what happens the next time it rains - currently there is perforated pipe running along the top to help with runoff.

But at least for now, doesn't it look amazing?  I'll re-post some of the "before" pictures soon so that you can remember how horrible this hill used to look!

My favorite shows

There were a lot of shows that I LOVED to watch this past season.  My two favorites, by far, were LOST and Flash Forward.
 Oh, TV, what would I do without you?  Source

Flash Forward
As we all know, Lost is over (and it wasn't really the satisfying ending that I was hoping for...)  Flash Forward, on the other hand, was CANCELED!!! WHAT!!??!  How in the world could they cancel that show??? It was going to be my new Lost and I know that a lot of other people liked it as well.

Here's the concept: there was an "event" which caused the entire world to blackout for 2 minutes. During those 2 minutes, most people saw visions of their future.  Those who didn't see visions assumed that they were going to die over the course of the next few months.  Some characters were so excited about their flash forwards that they pursued them and made life-altering decisions that they probably would never have made if the flash forward hadn't happened (i.e. going to China to find a girl.)  Others tried desperately to change or avoid their futures - one man committed suicide so that another woman and her children could survive.

Anyway, the last episode was great, and ended with another flash forward happening.  The whole episode had us asking, "Is it going to happen? Or will it not happen??"  Well, it happened.  The writers - who I'm sure by this point knew that the show was going to be canceled - decided to end the series with the original cliffhanger of a finale that showed flash forwards from years in advance (instead of months, like the first one) and we're all left wondering "What's going to happen!???!"

Well, I guess we'll never know.  ABC officials, if you're out there and reading this (Ha! Who am I kidding?)  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE reconsider canceling this show!  We NEED it!

And what really ticks me off is that they decided to renew V for another season.  V is ok - I mean, we watch it and all that - but it's not great.  It seems super low budget and it really pisses me off a lot.  Like in the episode where the hybrid human/alien baby was born, they kept showing everything peeking under the blanket and making wide-eyed faces, but we never got to see it.  All we got to see was a tiny, slimy tail poking out from the back of the blanket.  Lost would have showed that alien.  But V just teases us.  It has the makings of a good show, but the execution is poor.

My Other Favorite Shows From This Past Season?
  • Community
  • The Office
  • 30 Rock
  • Biggest Loser
  • Survivor
  • Amazing Race
  • Grey's Anatomy
  • Private Practice

Shows That I Watched But Didn't Necessarily Love?
  • 24
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Glee (I "sort of" love it, but not like most people love it, so I'm not putting it under my "loves" list)
  • Modern Family

We all know that the summer TV series sucks.  Right now, the only thing that I really plan on watching So You Think You Can Dance, which is sort of annoying because it's 2 hours and there's really only about 30 minutes of actual content, but with DVR I can blow through an entire 2 hour episode in about an hour.

But what else is worth watching in the summer? If I don't have something to watch, I won't work out.  What do YOU watch?  And if you agree that there's nothing to watch on live TV over the summer, do you have any favorite past series that we could get on Netflix and start watching?  I've heard some good things about True Blood?

Any and all comments are greatly appreciated!

There's a mouse in our house!

And his name is Sam.

DH's brother is living with us for the next two months and with him he brings a mouse AND a toad.  Murphy has been intrigued so far.

Here's hoping that Sam does not figure out how to escape.  As you know, mice are on The List.

Definitely NOT Murphy's best friend

Believe it or not, two dog interactions for Murphy (Winston and Dillon) was not enough for one weekend.  We also had to go and meet Kaylee, DH's aunt's new puppy.

Kaylee is definitely a "puppy" puppy.  Meaning, she's got tons of energy, isn't super well trained yet, and has paws that she still needs to grow into.  I think it's safe to say that Murphy does not like puppies.  He definitely did not like Kaylee.

She looks cute and innocent, right? 

But OH MY, the energy.  It's one of the reasons that I'm thankful that Murph was already two years old when we got him.  He was well past the puppy phase.   Puppy energy cannot be described in any other way.

Watching from a distance...

Murph does NOT like surprises, or quick movements, or anything that might catch him off guard. If one of those things happens, he growls and lunges for the throat or whatever other body part he can connect his teeth with.  Fortunately, he's only about 17 pounds and has always been smaller than the dogs he was attacking, so for the most part, the owners of the other dogs don't hate us too much when our dog acts like a total jerk to theirs.

But remember that Kaylee is a puppy, and probably hasn't ever been attacked before.  So after a lunge from Murph and a nip on the back of the leg, Kaylee cried like her leg had been completely bitten off.  She literally yelped for at least 30 seconds (which is a long time when you're listening to piercing yelping.)  DH hauled Murphy away, and henceforth was known as Osama bin Murphdog.  We put him in Guantanamo Car for the duration of the visit, which he was not very happy about.

I checked Kaylee's leg, and all appeared to be well.  Within another 30 seconds, I'm pretty sure she forgot about it, but I still felt bad.

Even this guy...

... didn't get along with Kaylee as well as we had thought he would.  Dillon usually gets along with most dogs, but Kaylee's energy seemed to make him think that they were fighting, and he was getting a little crazy as well.

So, that visit was cut short, but I'm glad that we got to meet the new puppy.  If nothing else, it reaffirmed for me that if we ever get another dog (many years from now, after Murphy is gone *sniff*), I definitely do NOT want a new puppy.  I don't think I have the patience and a small, young adult dog is just as good as a puppy in my book.

When I wish I was a teacher

This is always the time of year when I wish I was a teacher.  The last day of the school year, graduation, all of those exciting things, but most importantly - you're done with work!!!! For weeks!!!!

Before you get mad at me for saying that:
  • Yes, I realize that many teachers still work over the summer on planning for the next year
  • Yes, I realize that many teachers work other jobs over the summer
  • Yes, I realize that teachers work hard during the many months that make up the school year

But I argue that it's still better than NOT having a last day of "school" (or work) to look forward to.  You get to lesson plan for the next school year AT HOME, or at the POOL, or at the BEACH, or even just outside on your back porch or maybe even in the comfort of your living room with the air-conditioning blasting.  The point is, you get to decide where to do your work.  Or even better YOU GET TO DECIDE whether you want to want to plan, or work somewhere else, or do nothing, or do everything.  Having that sort of choice for more than a few days at a time is something I would loooooove to have. 

Get what I'm saying?

 Murph loves having his summers off too!

Those of us who work full-time, permanent year-round jobs never get to experience the annual excitement surrounding the first day of school, the last day of school, winter break, spring break, easter break, break for hunting season, etc.  All of those things that we loved and look forward to as students, that teachers get to relive every single year.

I know that many teachers might say something like, "Well, teachers have EARNED that time off!!!" as if the rest of us don't work horrible, grueling jobs, and deal with immature and overbearing people.  I don't buy that.  We all earn our time off, whether it comes in the form of summers off or vacation days.  I make less than my husband and yet I don't get the summers off!  But it was a choice that I made.  I know that.

Which is why I would rather teachers just say something like, "Yep, it's an awesome perk of my profession."  It's a great way to acknowledge the awesomeness without rubbing it in our faces. 

So teachers, congratulations on finishing yet another school year (see!?!?! no one ever says to me, "Hey Lisa, congrats on finishing another year of work!).  Enjoy your summer off! Have fun at the pool! Or whatever you decide to do.  Just please don't post toooo many pictures of your summer fun on Facebook, or I'll get even more jealous that I already am.

And finally, yes, I do realize that I could have become a teacher.  I even thought about it many years ago, right after I finished undergrad.  But no, I have no interest of going back to school to become a teacher.  I still have $30K+ in student loans to pay off the bachelor's and master's degrees that I already have, and I am not looking to make that number any bigger.

And besides, I need to focus on figuring out a way for me to be able to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom some day!  :o)  Murph needs his mommy at home!

Garden Update

I'm definitely behind in my garden updates.  But don't think that means that nothing has been happening in the garden!

Currently we are overwhelmed with trying to consume the mass amounts of spinach that our plants have exploded into.  The picture below as taken about two weeks ago - they are about twice as big now!

I am loving our spinach salads with dinner each night.  The problem now is that the plant has started to "bolt," meaning that it's producing seeds.  Once this happens, it's necessary to pretty quickly harvest the rest of the spinach, because once the plant starts seeding, it puts all of it's energy into those seeds and the new spinach leafs don't taste as good.   I hope to do a final harvest really soon so that we don't waste any of this.  One of DH's brothers is coming to live with us soon, so hopefully he will be interested in eating spinach salads every night for dinner as well.

That's the crazy thing about gardens.  Even if you space out your plantings, it's still nearly impossible to plan it in such a way that you only produce exactly as much as you can reasonably consume.  Nope.  Instead, we find ourselves consuming mass amounts of leafy greens (organic AND on the anti-cancer diet list, so I'm not complaining, but DH is starting to get sick of spinach already...) in an amount of time that is somewhat unreasonable.  And it makes me sad to think that some of it might go to waste....

In other news, we've been harvesting our strawberries relatively regularly and DH has been loving the berries, although once again, it's harder to eat what we grow than we would have thought.

The Northeastern blueberry plants, which only really produce one crop, are pretty much over.  Sadly the slugs liked these berries the best, and we lost a LOT of them. The other variety that we planted are an "everbearing" variety, which means that they'll continue to produce throughout the summer.  Last summer the plants produced flowers until the first frost (we were pinching off the flowers though to give the plant some strength.)

More garden updates will be coming soon, including:
  • How to plant potatoes
  • Update on the dead twig (dormant) garden
  • Cukes and beans!

Murphy's New Best Friend

Last weekend we went to Delaware to see DH's mom's new house.  A friend of ours came down from Philadelphia to visit, and with him he brought a creature that was soon to be Murphy's new best friend.

His name... is Winston.

Of course, Murphy doesn't give up his friendship without a fight, and initially tried to attack and kill Winston.  I restrained him, suffered some fairly significant scratches on my stomach, but before long, they were doing this.

Pretty much ignoring each other, really.... since, well, that's how Murph rolls.  He's an old man compared to the new young pup.

We went on a walk....

And even a little run!

If you look closely you'll notice that none of Winston's feet are touching the ground!

They even started walking closer together!

And I continued to take pictures....

When we finally got back to the house, there was a third dog to add to the mix.  Dillon quickly jumped into the mix to create this debacle.

And all of the daddies held up their little ones for a father/son photo shoot.

I may or may not be guilty of having said "treat" in order to get the dogs to look at the camera.  Too bad Winston doesn't know the treat word yet....

At the end of the day, I think it's safe to say that Winston was Murphy's new best friend (sorry, Sydney).  They're about the same size, and even though Winston is still a puppy, he was remarkably calm and didn't do anything to make Murphy mad.  But I also think it's safe to say that Murphy would most prefer to keep his friends at a distance.... like in the photo below. 

Don't Cross Me

In general I am an animal lover.  I think I've mentioned this before, but I get sick to my stomach when I see dead deer on the side of the road, and I think that groundhogs are some of the cutest animals on earth.  I will swerve (without being totally unsafe) to miss hitting a bird or a raccoon or anything else that runs in front of the road.  I can't volunteer at animal shelters because I can't even handle the thought of being around so many unwanted animals and not being able to take them home.  And the images of those poor birds down in the Gulf of Mexico, covered in oil, and basically dying right on camera chokes me up.  The physical reaction that my body experiences when I see innocent animals suffering is amazing to me.  I can't control it and sometimes it consumes my thoughts.

But when an animal species crosses me or messes with my home or my garden, it's added to "The List."

This year there's a new animal on The List.  The slug.

 Our slugs look a lot like this ugly guy (Source)

Our garden is being taken over by slugs.  I don't remember this being a problem in the past, so I'm thinking that it has to do with the fact that we really enriched the soil in the garden this year - I've also seen a considerable increase in the number of worms in our garden since we did the enriching.  But slugs aren't like worms, and as far as I can tell, slugs are good for absolutely nothing.  In fact, according to Wikipedia, some slugs even EAT worms!

When picking strawberries the other night, I had to throw away as many berries as I was able to keep. Almost all of the berries that I threw away had slugs on them.  Early on in the picking process if I saw a slug I jumped when I touch it's slimy body, but then ultimately just flicked it off.  But then I realized that by just flicking them off, I'm still leaving them in the garden, where they can just climb onto another berry.  So then I starting throwing them outside of the garden, but as far as I'm concerned, slugs are pests and pests don't just go away if you relocated them slightly. 

So last night when I was picking berries, and I started noticing more and more slugs, I got really angry.  I was so mad that we spent so much money and put so much hard work into these strawberries, just to have them rotted through by evil, nasty slugs. 

That's when some clicked in my brain, and slugs were instantly added to The List.  Instead of flicking the slugs, or throwing them outside of the garden, I started squishing them with my bare fingers until they were dead.  This held true for ants and any other bugs that I noticed on my berries.  I was through with being a bleeding heart animal activist.  You mess with my berries, you mess with me.  And you mess with me, I mess with you.  Me equals much bigger than you, you stupid slugs, so you equals dead. 

Please don't judge me - I realize how horribly mean I sound, but seriously, they are killing my fruits and costing me money.  I've done some research on other ways to get rid of slugs, and they are all equally evil, including:
  • Pouring salt on them 
  • Putting sand around the plants you're trying to protect (sand apparently will rip a slug apart)
  • Putting out cups of beer (they're attracted to the yeast) so that they'll climb in and die
  • Pick them off plants and throw them in salt water
So really, I feel like I'm doing the slugs a favor by crushing them with my fingers.  Salt just sounds like torture and drowning isn't so nice either (although I admit I am probably going to try the beer method.)   So really, I'm providing them with a quick and humane death, while providing them with an awesome last meal of strawberries.  I'm an angel, in that case!

Animal kingdom, beware.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, other animals on The List include deer (in my yard), chippies (chipmunks), mosquitos, ants, and mice.  Now that I live in the country, I have a feeling this list is going to start getting a lot longer.... )

We're not in Wilkinsburg anymore...

Sunday night around 7:30 p.m. I was outside finishing up some gardening work, and DH was inside in the office.  I heard some popping and snapping sounds that initially sounded like fireworks, but then became so loud and explosive that I thought it might be gunfire.   I jumped up and noticed that across the street, the power lines were popping and sparking, smoke was coming from the top of the pole, and the wires were bouncing like crazy.

I called for DH, and he came running out.  I told him what I saw happening across the street and he said that he thinks a tree or some branches fell.  We walked down the driveway and then down the road, and saw our neighbor from across the street running through the trees, on the phone.

It turns out that DH was right - a tree HAD fallen.  A big tree.  A VERY BIG tree.  The road was completely blocked.  Power lines were down and laying across the road.  Our road gets a ton of traffic, so we stood up the road from the tree for a few minutes waving down people to stop them before they got too close to the tree.  The really funny thing is that most people thought that we were waving just to be nice.  So they smile, waved back, and when they turned their head back to the road to resume their driving, were shocked to see a tree right in front of them, and they proceeded to slam on their brakes.  Maybe using waving as a means of alerting drivers to a danger up ahead is not the best thing to do in the suburbs.  People apparently just think you're being nice.

Which brings me to my initial thought when the tree initially fell.  I immediately thought it was gunshots, even though that would be totally ridiculous given that we barely have any neighbors.  "We're not in Wilkinsburg anymore..." DH told me, and he's right.  But that doesn't mean that I still don't think like a city resident.  I lived in two different buildings right on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, and a couple of the trashiest streets in South Oakland.  I learned to sleep through the roar of Port Authority buses, helicopters, police and fire sirens, and drunks screaming outside my window.  I learned to recognize the sounds of gun shots, particularly when we lived in Edgewood, right on the border of Wilkinsburg.  And apparently, I think that the sound of a tree falling - a sound that I have never heard before - sounds a lot like gunshots. 

We live very close to the police department, so within 2 minutes, the first police car had arrived to block the road.  Thankfully, we still had power so we went to the grocery store (our regular Sunday evening plans) and when we returned we found the top of our road barricaded with a "road closed" sign. We easily drove around that, but then about 50 feet from the entrance to our driveway, we saw this:

Wow, now they're getting serious.

So we drove around that too, and I walked down to see if any progress had been made on removing the tree, but by this point everyone was gone except for one power company truck, who was apparently assessing the damage.

Around 10 p.m. we were getting ready for bed.  We heard the power company trucks outside and I watched them from the office window.  They raised a guy up in the cherry picker trucker, and he held out a long tool which he stretched out to the pole.

Right before the snap poof

Then I heard and "snap" and POOF - complete darkness.

DH and I were soooo mad.  Couldn't they at least have called us to tell us that they were going to be cutting the power.  I'm actually glad that I saw that they were the ones who cut it because we didn't have to waste time calling the power company's hotline to report a power outage.

But still, we were pissed.  For us, no power equals no water, so in addition to having to run around the house to find flashlights and candles at 10:15 p.m., we had to get out our case of bottled water so that we could brush our teeth.  I couldn't flush the toilet and DH used the outdoor facilities (the "boy's bathroom" when the power is out.)

Oh, and let's talk about trying to sleep.  First of all, there were at least 3 large power company trucks roaring just down the street, and they kept backing up to the pole right in front of our house, so I kept hearing that annoying "BEEP BEEP BEEP" that large trucks make when backing up.  On top of that, have you ever tried to sleep when they're cutting a tree apart with chainsaws right outside of your window?  I closed the window on that side of the house, but I didn't get much sleep until after 2:40 a.m., when the power came back on and everyone went away.

DH slept like a rock, although he tried to tell me that he didn't sleep at all.  I don't believe him - I was awake, and I know that he was sleeping like a rock.  Men.... how do they do it???


We have crazy woodpeckers out here in suburban wilderness.  I never realized just how destructive wood peckers could be until I witnessed it first hand.

A BIRD did that... with it's FACE

This poor little tree has 'pecker holes all over it.  I feel bad for it, and I hope it doesn't die, but I'm fascinated by the hard work that those birds must put into pecking these holes.

How do you convince woodpeckers to stop destroying trees???

Summer functional

This post is about shorts.  You know, like pants but... short.

In the past, I hated shorts.  I owned a few pairs, but never really wore them.  I felt like my legs looked horrible and they always bunched up at my thighs, causing chafing.  (And no one likes chafing.)

I used to always wears capris or gouchos or dresses, but capris and gouchos seem so out of style and dresses aren't always functional for summer events (picnics, sitting in the grass, etc.)  Lately I've been seeing a lot of shorts in the stores, and they aren't the same old ugly jean shorts like I used to buy.  They're cute, and soft and not too short... so I took the plunge, and bought two pairs of shorts.

These shorts in fact, except that mine have a grey vertical stripe as well.  I love them.  They're comfortable, soft (from their "soft khaki" line) and I walked in the mall in them for two full hours and there was no chafing involved.

Plus they just felt so "summer functional."  Don't I sound trendy?

I know that most women have an opinion about shorts, and whether or not you like them... where do you fall?

How to make a beautiful garden

Before I even begin this post, I will tell you right up front that the title of this post is sort of a joke.  My gardens have yet to truly be beautiful, although as I stated yesterday, I think that THIS IS THE YEAR!

But really, the steps that I've outlined below are simply what I do.  I'm not a professional gardener. I'm barely a hobby gardener.  So, take my advice with a grain of salt, and I'll let you know at the end of the year if it worked for me.

So let's start with a confession - sometimes I'm rather lazy.  And our garden is at the top of a mountain and you need a LOT of stuff.  So instead of making 3 or 4 trips up the hill carrying individual items, I put a lot of work and effort into loading it all into this wheelbarrow.

Includes: Plants, weed block, rake, hand shovel, three tine tool, scissors, a towel (for kneeling or sitting on), garden soil from Home Depot, watering can, seeds, and probably a lot more that I'm missing.

Pack that up wasn't so hard.  But pushing it up our enormous mountain of a backyard?  Nearly killed me.

What!??! You don't think that looks that steep???

Well here's a shot from the TOP of the hill, once I made it. (Barely.)

Seriously.  I'm in decent shape, and it almost killed me.  It's steep. Please just take my word for it.  

Anyway, 45 minutes after getting outside, I'm finally ready to work on the garden.  That's when the sun decided to come out.  Cue sweat glands.  In case you didn't know, I HATE sweating unless I'm at a beach or pool in my bathing suit.  Only then am I ok with sweating.

Where was I going with this post?  Oh yeah, steps to making a beautiful garden....

Step 1 - Enrich and Mix

There are no pictures of this step, but there wasn't much to see anyway.  We spread nearly an entire truckload of mushroom compost throughout the garden.  Not sure what mushroom compost is? Well, in my professional opinion, mushroom compost is moldy manure mixed with pinecones.  Seriously - at least from what I could tell after spending an hour or so walking around in it. 

Anyway, once you've enriched, you have to mix.  If you have a tiller, or can rent one, I highly recommend it. Tilling by hand is a lot of work and it's the $40 or so rental fee to get it done quickly without killing your back. 

Step 2 - Hills and valleys

Step 2 is to create your hills and rows.  Since we had tilled everything together, I used a shovel to dig out my rows, and then a garden rake to flatten them and also to flatten the hills.   In order to maximize your gardening space, make the rows as narrow as you can.  I make them just wide enough to fit my butt if I want to sit down since I black out a lot when bending or squatting for extended periods of time.

Step 3 - Block 'them weeds

Step 3 is to lay weed block.  This is, of course, optional.  But I highly recommend it. Gardens get enough weeds as it is.  You don't want to have to be weeding your rows. You'll thank me later in the summer.

Step 4 - Plant plants

Step 4 is the fun part, where you actually get to plant things.  In order to maximize success, this year I did a combination of already started plants from Home Depot, seeds that I started in trays, and seed planted directly into the garden.

Spinach plants from Home Depot

If you're like me, getting results is important to not feeling like a complete gardening failure.  The already started plants will make you feel really good about your garden right off the bat, because it makes it look as though you were already really successful (see beautiful plants above.)  But then I also planted spinach from seeds.  This not only makes you work more like a real gardener, but it spreads out your crops, so you don't have 8 million pounds of spinach during one week in July.

Some other quick thoughts:
1. For already started plants, be sure to spread them out as far as the directions tell you to.  I learned the hard way that the spacing guidelines are there for a reason - to maximize success.
2. I have a problem killing things, including tiny little seedlings.  So, I'm not good at "thinning" like you're supposed to do when your seeds first start to sprout.  For this reason, I don't start off planting as densely as they suggest - I just spread them out even further.  If you're soil is properly enrich you'll get result from 90% of the seeds you put down, so why kill plants when you don't have to?  But if you're ok with killing things, go ahead follow the instructions on the seed packet.
3. Finally, water water water, but try NOT to plant if you know there are going to thunderstorms in the near future.  Seeds and plants need a lot of water, but thunderstorms push tiny fragile leaves down into the dirt, and wash away your newly planted seeds.  You need to give them a little time to get established.  So if is calling for constant thunderstorms in your area (like they have been here for past week), hold off until the stormy weather passes.  You'll be glad you did.

That's it!  More garden pictures coming soon!