Category Archives: backyard

Local honey

Three jars of local honey. From our shed, actually.

This morning, when the termite guy was doing his annual inspection, T moved a bunch of stuff out of the tool shed and discovered a swarm of bees in the corner. We called a bee removal guy and he showed up with a team of people (actually, two other guys and their wife and girlfriend). They pulled up the floorboard and found a huge honeycomb. Then they went around the back of the shed and found it was enormous!

They gave us some of the honeycomb and took the rest with their bee boxes. The bees that were left were not happy and we avoided the backyard for the rest of the day.

I took the honeycomb and mushed it up in a colander to drain the honey out. We were left with about 3 pints of honey! And some beeswax to chew on. It was certainly not how we expected to spend our Saturday.

weekends rock

I love weekends.  Weekends where the weather is beautiful and we have no real committments are even better.  We kicked off last weekend with some fine Irish pub grub at Patrick’s, then some Rock Band, apple pie, and ice cream sundae-makings, and a couple of late 70s-early 80s wacky movies.   We spent the entire Saturday working in the backyard – making the garden area bigger, tilling the soil and adding amendments, clearing a spot for T to grow hops, securing (and planting) lavender plants, and mowing the lawn.  We were going to build a real fence around the garden, but it would have cost something like $300.  Instead, we bought a couple of posts and T is going to make me a real gate.  The rest of the fence will be chicken wire, as it has been.  Which works just fine, in my opinion – it lets in all the sunshine, keeps the dogs out, and the beans have something to grow on.

On Sunday, to celebrate the nice weather, we took a motorcycle ride out to Julian with friends.  Well, our destination was Jeremy’s on the Hill, a restaurant in Santa Ysabel.  They serve breakfast on Sunday, and we were rewarded with some truly delicious food.  I had the biscuits and sausage gravy; it was definitely not made with lowfat milk!  But, boy, was it good.  T had an omelet with homefries, and it seemed to have the perfect ratio of egg to ham and cheese.  I also snagged a bite of a blueberry pancake and I have to say it was one of the better pancakes I’ve ever eaten.  Maybe one of these days we’ll get to go back for lunch.

We ended up taking the long way home, going through Julian (where apple butter was purchased), down Sunrise Highway, and then back home via some roads that parallel the 8 (don’t ask me, I just follow the bike in front of me).  It should be noted that our little motorcycle gang includes a Vespa, and you’d be impressed by how well that Vespa keeps up.  After the ride, we had just a bit more yard work to do, and then it was conveniently time for dinner.

Because we hadn’t seen enough of them, we also met up for dinner at Domenic’s.  Domenic’s is actually close enough to our house where we can walk to dinner, which we’ve done a few times.  The last time we did that, we took a bottle of wine (they’re running a no-corkage fee promotion) and finished it off, just the two of us, so walking was the safest mode of transportation.  But, Domenic’s is also running a special where you can order any Solo Pasta for $10.  Their pasta list is pretty extensive and I don’t think we’ve ordered the same one in the last few visits.  You don’t get a salad with the pasta, but you do get buttered, garlic carrots and the fresh garlic knots.  Between all that, you’ll definitely be full even without an appetizer or a salad.  This last time, we were talked into getting tiramisu, which was good, but not as good as mine.

After all that, it was back home for pajamas, a little bit of Book Club, and then bed.  After a hard-working, hard-playing weekend, I was definitely ready for bed.  I like weekends like that.  We got a lot of things on our to-do list done, we got to see our friends, and we had a lot of fun. 

And now it’s March.  I’m not really sure how that happened, but here we are. 

Vermin hunting

Okay, before I start my rant on rodents and why they all need to vacate my yard (please go to the neighbors!) or die, I would like to take a moment to reflect on some tv shows that have been introduced.

All summer, we have been eagerly awaiting Hole in the Wall, some wacky show ripped from the Japanese game network (those wacky Japanese!)  I am sad to say that, after watching the sneak peek and then the other sneak peek (?), I do not like it.  It’s not very funny.  There’s a lot of dumb chatter and not much potential for wacky incidents.  They either make it through the hole, or they fall in the water.  Yay.  Now, Wipeout I find hilarious.  I can’t get enough of the Big Red Balls.  The Sweeper is my all time favorite.  Love that show.  It always makes me laugh.  Hole in the Wall?  Not so much.

I was on the fence when I heard about the new 90210.  Then I watched it.  And I discovered the only reason I was watching was to see Jennie Garth in her old role, all grown up.  But the new kids?  It’s like they’re trying to be Gossip Girl but not succeeding.  So, I’m just not into the show.  I think it would have had a chance if it had come out before all these snarky, spoiled, sometimes-rich kid series had emerged, but now?  It has some real competition and I’m not sure it’ll prevail.  I mean, if their target audience is the demographic who is too young to have watched the original show, then the new version isn’t edgy enough to keep up.  If it’s trying to draw in fans of the old show, then there’s not enough tie-in to that era to keep us interested.  I don’t know.  Maybe next year I’ll end up watching an episode and actually be interested.

I am currently hooked on Mad Men.  I think you should be, too.  The sets are gorgeous, the cast is gorgeous, and it’s fascinating to watch their lives play out in this era where it was perfectly reasonable to have a suburban wife and a city mistress.  Where everyone smoked and drank, everywhere and all the time!  When wives were just starting to realize that maybe their voices counted for something and life offered more thanjust raising children and having dinner on the table.  I don’t know… it’s just drama and fun and addictive.  The show, that is.

Okay, on to the mice.  We have mice in the yard.  Or meadow mice.  Or possibly moles.  Whatever they are, they are not gophers.  They are not things that make a big mound of dirt leading to their tunnels.  They do, however, leave little puffs of airy dirt in top of holes 1-2 inches in diameter in my garden and in THE NEW SOD.  I don’t know what they are.  I don’t even care if they live in the dirt.  I just want them to stay out of the grass.  Is that so much to ask for?

We are skeptical about hiring an exterminator to gas the holes.  Even though we think that’s how the gopher was killed, I just don’t know if it would work with these rodents.  Also, every time we have someone gas the yard, we have to put up a temporary fence to keep the dogs from getting too close.  As I’m sure you know, poison gas isn’t picky.  And while certain dogs can be a pain, I certainly don’t want to gas her to death.  So we’ve set up mouse traps.  But who knows how many mice are running through their underground network?  I’ve had mice before, as pets.  I know how quickly they multiply. 

I have learned one thing about setting mouse traps outside.  Well, a few things.  They may benefit you someday, although I hope you never have reason to use them.

  1. Peanut butter and oats sometimes acts as good bait.  Apple works better, but can be pulled off without setting off the trap, apparently.  Apple pushed into peanut butter does a much better job.
  2. Ants will find your bait faster than you even though possible.  Ants are gross and also carnivores.  Did you know that?
  3. The trick to catching mice is to place the trap right outside the visible hole.  Arrange the trap so the mouse essentially has to cross it as soon as it exits the tunnel.  Placing it any further does no good.  I guess outdoor mice won’t go investigate food, but they may be lured out of the tunnel by it.
  4. It is best to dispose of the mouse as soon as you see it.  Otherwise, the ants get to it.  See #2 above.  Eww.
  5. If you leave traps in the grass and the sprinklers go off, it will rust.  Happily, a rusty trap still works just fine.
  6. There is a trick to setting traps so they don’t snap and hit your fingers.  It’s good to either learn this skill or know someone who does so you don’t end up with sore fingers (like I have).
  7. Mouse traps are not really resuable.  That’s why they’re fairly cheap.  I don’t know why I thought we would be removing a dead mouse and resetting the trap.

And now, my question.  Why do mouse traps design the bait-placing piece to look like a piece of yellow Swiss cheese?  Is that for my benefit or the mouse’s?  It doesn’t even make sense because cheese isn’t really the best type of bait. 

T is the one who can set traps without getting hurt.  I’m the one who has figured out where to place them for maximum body count.  We make a good team.  He’s also the disposer.  I just take a look in the morning and come in to report the findings.  In general, he gets rid of any dead animals in the yard for me.  I’ve tried to do it, and I seriously end up squealing and running away.  It’s just too much.

If anyone has suggestions on what to do, I’d appreciate them.  I’m all for living in harmony with creatures, but they’re not holding up their end of the bargain.  They’ve crossed the line into the garden and grass and that’s not okay.

In celebration of bacon

… and backyards.

To celebrate our new backyard (thanks, Mom!), we threw a Labor Day bbq.  Except we did it on the day before Labor Day so we’d have an extra day to recuperate (I think I actually didn’t feel caught up until Wednesday).  T felt we needed a theme, but we didn’t want some cheesy theme.  I also didn’t want something that would require extra decorating beyond “clean” and “just vacuumed”.  We ended up going with “bacon”.  Here’s what I threw out for appetizers:

  • bacon-wrapped, cream cheese-filled jalapenos (from the garden!)
  • bacon-wrapped, mustard-marinated bananas
  • peanut butter, scallion, & bacon canapes
  • bacon-wrapped water chestnuts
  • blue cheese bacon dip
  • deviled eggs with Bacon Salt (so, no real bacon involved there)
  • jalapeno artichoke dip with endive and cucumbers (so I could offer healthy vegetables; the dip came from Costco)

People, I went through 4 pounds of bacon.  Four pounds!  And I ran out of bacon when wrapping the water chestnuts!  We also made bacon-wrapped scallops, corn, tri tip, pork ribs, dorado with mango salsa, and Cami brought her famous potato salad.  Then we continued to stuff people with dessert: malted milk ice cream, lemon basil sorbet, grilled pound cake with blueberries and peanut butter whipped cream, and the grilled banana bar (thanks to Jayden for the idea!)  I’d say it was all a hit, except for the grilled Caesar salad.

Everything worked out that we were able to show out outdoor movie, which ended up as a lot of silly screaming and some disturbing broom-whapping (the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  Either I’ve seen the remake or I’ve watched a “horror” movie with very similar scenes.  I can’t figure out which.  But it was quite fun and I’m looking forward to more movies.  Even after the warm weather is gone.  I’m going to curl up on the patio with hot chocolate and down blankets! 

I think it was a very successful party.  Friends from out of town came in for the bbq, and I was very happy to see them.  I was also touched that they would arrange their schedules and travel in for us.  I mean, obviously they get to see all their friends in one place, but I’m glad we were able to provide that opportunity.  I must be getting older because I’ve started to really appreciate the friends we have and that we have the ability to see them so often.

T said we keep outdoing ourselves and raising the bar too high.  After this bbq, I’m inclined to agree.  I mean, I actually enjoy going all out for our parties and showing off what we can pull off.  I’m good at it, so why not?  Each of our friends throw equally fun parties in their own styles and it’s always a good time.  I joked that our next party was going to be totally simple, to lower everyone’s standards.  I said we’ll just order pizza and get back to square one.  Then I started thinking about it and decided that even if I said we’ll order pizza, I know I’d end up buying pizza dough and setting up a grilled pizza bar.  Probably with root beer floats with homemade vanilla ice cream.  And T would probably want to try making the root beer himself.  Or we’d provide the vanilla porter we just brewed (and tasted).  Maybe “simple” isn’t in my party-throwing nature.

In just a few months, it’ll be holiday time.  Which means time for another Pre-Thanksgiving/Early Festivus party.  It’s usually fewer people, but a fancier dinner.  It’s going to be busy this year with conferences, a baby shower, and regular holiday stuff, but I’ve been saving up my grievances so we’re totally holding a party!  Plus, I finally figured out how to roast a prime rib, which is pretty awesome and totally show-off of me.

Summer is fleeting, but I have to admit that we’re getting into my favorite seasons.  I love long summer days and weather perfect for hammock-napping, but when the air starts getting chilly (which it hasn’t, yet) and we get to build fires and curl up in blankets I am a totally happy girl.  And if I thought September snuck up on me, I know the rest of the year will be going by in the blink of an eye.

Epson MovieMate 50

Early in the summer, a bunch of us headed up to Escondido to enjoy an outdoor movie at Stone Brewery’s World Bistro & Garden.  Actually, it was not just any movie, but a Rifftrax showing of 300.  That movie was entertaining in itself, so to watch it again and make fun of it just had to be an awesome time.  And it was.  We got there early enough to secure good spots for our lawn chairs and plenty of beer and food was available throughout the movie.  I also brought blankets, which came in handy as it got kind of cold in their garden.

This was before any work on the backyard had started, but as we stood on our sad concrete patio overlooking the sad backyard of dying grass and dirt, I thought, “Pfff.  We could totally show movies in our new backyard and then we wouldn’t have to drive all the way up to Stone.”  Then we started the process of hiring the landscape contractor, working around a constantly dusty house with dusty dogs, and promptly forgot all about the prospest of outdoor movies at home.

I don’t remember how I found out about the Epson MovieMate, but when I saw that you could have it all in one little device I was pretty much sold.  Of course, then I found out that the reasonably priced version I saw was no longer sold and the newer versions were bordering on too-expensive.  The debate began as to whether or not an HD-compatible device would be worth the extra, extra money.  We decided it wasn’t, since we don’t even own HD or Blueray movies and by the time we had a collection the MovieMate would have died or broken or something.  So then it was just me going back and forth as to whether such a  purchase would even get used enough to be worthwhile.

Once the backyard was done, we seriously spent every day on the new patio.  We’d come home from work and sit in the new patio furniture.  T would grill up dinner and we’d eat in the new gazebo.  On weekends, I’d make coffee and sit outside with the paper.  Before the new backyard, we would have just turned on the AC and hunkered down inside.  Even after the sun went down, inside the house would still be too warm.  Outside on the patio would be just right.  I started thinking it would be pretty cool to be able to watch movies sitting on the patio.  I started wondering if we could just live on the patio.

We got to a point where it became pretty clear the yard would actually be done in time for Labor Day.  What better way to celebrate than with a bbq?  What would be cooler that being able to show a movie outside, in our new backyard?  Of course, as fate would have it, by this time no one had the MovieMate in stock.  The Epson store was out of stock; was projecting a 2-3 week wait before it even shipped out.  I finally found it at some other online electronics store that claimed it would ship in 1-2 days, only to discover they were out of stock (I was checking because my order had not, in fact, shipped in 1-2 days).  Now I was sad.  I had been looking forward to this and I was sad.  T offered to bring home his office projector, which we could rig up to a computer to show a movie.  Then, by the time I called customer service to see if my projector would ever get shipped (or if I could cancel my order), I got a tracking number from UPS saying my projector was scheduled to be delivered on Friday.  Before our Sunday party.  Talk about close timing!

Instead of buying a $200 screen, I figured I could make something myself for way less.  I bought a white shower liner from Target (non-PVC!) and hung it up with cup hooks.  It wasn’t wide enough, so I bought a second one (actually, I bought a second one + an extra liner, just in case).  Then it wouldn’t stop flapping around, so I taped shower tension rods to the bottom for some weight and stability.  Ta da!  Fairly decent movie screen for under $40! 

The MovieMate gives you a pretty nice picture – good lines, nice colors – but lacks a little in the sound department.  T hooked up comuter speakers pretty easily, which gave more than enough noise.  Considering that I didn’t want to have to carry and assemble a projector, speakers, and a DVD player every time we wanted to watch a movie outside, I’m pretty happy with the MovieMate and occasionally hooking up speakers.  It’s still really easy to do.

So, bottom line: the MovieMate (we have the 50, the 72 is the HD-compatible one) is a great little unit and easy to move around.  You get a nice big picture for movies and the sound of the side speakers are decent, too.  For showing to a large group, I’d recommend hooking up speakers (like computer speakers), but for a smaller group, even outside, I think the unit speakers would be fine.  Granted, I’m no movie afficionado, so I have no detailed observations on colors, graininess, dpi, or other such technical nonsense.  The only downside to the MovieMate, that I can see, is that it’s hard to find.  Perhaps it’s because Epson is coming out with a newer version?  I don’t know.