Photodump: Ducks, Apostrophes, Fingerlessness!

First off, WordPress 3.1 is out. Its name is Reinhardt. If you’re a WordPresser, get some!

Secondly, The American Idol top 24 performances start tomorrow. In years past, over on LiveJournal, I used to run contests guessing who’d be eliminated every week. Is anyone out there interested in participating this year? Looks like there are some real good’uns, and some fantastic crapburgers this season.

Thirdly, as I’m previewing this post on my site, there’s an ad over to the side —> for a lawyer who looks like he wants to eat my face off. He’s staring me down with his crazy eyes. Sorry, Florida readers.

Now, to the photos. They are many.

Down below our apartment, there’s a pond and a nice stretch of grass. This trio of ducks has been waddling around a lot lately, but this was the first time our more chattery cat has been out on the deck to see them. It’s weird — normally Commie is the much bolder, braver cat. But with this new apartment with a deck, Trouble comes out to lounge around, while Commie sits just inside the door.

Like so.

Don’t mind the flip-flop; it’s my high-tech doorstop.

Oooh, I think I just came up with some rap lyrics.

It’s not a home, for me, until I have some edible things growing. Unfortunately, the deck faces north, so it doesn’t get any sun. But the kitchen window gets some nice afternoon sun. Hopefully it’s enough for these plants — our last place had windows that faced roughly west-ish, and I was able to grow some herbs there. This time I went with basil (I almost always grow basil, it’s my favorite fresh herb) as well as sweet banana peppers and a strawberry plant. I’ve never tried strawberries indoors before, so we’ll see how they do.

And now, sightings out and about in the big, bad world. Scott and I were both startled by the store name “Fairvilla’s Sexy Things”. I also noticed a Fairvalla Road the other day, although it was probably 10 miles away from this store. Which isn’t quite the same name, but it was an odd coincidence. Anyhoo, it’s just a weird sounding combo — to me, “Fairvilla” sounds like a town near the little house on the prairie. Which doesn’t make me think of any kind of sexy things.

Also, I totally want to get some sexy things, then a crazy costume, then finish it off in the middle ground with a light bulb. I think with all three of those, I could put together a heck of a package.

Saw this one at the mall the other day. This is Pottery Barn, where someone named All Hanging Canopy can be bought for 79 bucks. I guess if they’re all-hanging, they might be worth that much.

This is the back of a big truck with a big … crushing thingy. Seriously, it was a truck, then this thingy, then a flatbed. I don’t know what the thingy does, but apparently there are hidden gears that have at least two distinct methods with which they can crush your fingers clean off.

The mere thought of fingerlessness makes Spidey really, really sad.

The Tiny Bathroom Litterbox Solution

In this new apartment, our bathroom is probably half the size of the bathroom in the old apartment. And the old apartment had this kind of nook in the corner, where I’d presume you put your chair to make it into sort of a vanity where you’d sit and do your hair and apply your makeup. But for us, it was the perfect spot to put the cats’ litterbox where it would be out of the way.

The options are made extra-few because this new bathroom has two doors: one that leads to the front hallway, and one that leads to the bedroom. So here’s our new tiny bathroom, from the hallway doorway:

Small, right? And look in the mirror! The door to the bathroom is right there.

Our first thought was to put the litterbox on the floor next to the toilet. But then you’re either dripping shower water into the litterbox while reaching for a towel, or you’re accidentally unspooling the toilet paper into the litterbox. And either way, litter gets everywhere. We tried it for a week or so, and were disappointed.

Thought number two was to close the door to the bedroom and leave it closed, and put the litterbox in that corner. But that bedroom-pointing door is very handy when you’re up for a pee in the middle of the night. Who wants to go out into the living room, around the corner past the kitchen, then around the corner again into the bathroom? You’d be wide awake at the end of that voyage!

So you may have figured out idea number three from this picture, because there’s something missing.

That’s right, the litterbox is under the sink.

We measured the space, and it’s a perfect fit for IKEA’s 20″x16″ Slugis storage box.

I lined the floor of the cabinet with cardboard, for easy cleanup later. We also tossed an old doormat in there, and put the litterbox behind the closed door so they’d always have to walk on the doormat before coming out. Another little rug at the exit picks up the bulk of tracked-out litter granules.

They actually have a ton of room in there — the pipes for the sink are pretty much in the middle of the cabinet, so once they pass those by, it’s a high-ceilinged poop palace. We used to have a litterbox with a cover on it, and it’s a WAY bigger space than that.

We also store the poop scoop inside the cabinet. Handy! The mostly-enclosed space also does a great job at keeping the dust down.

Oh, and for those who might wonder about this picture:

I got this at a thrift store, years and years ago. For something really pricey like 59¢. I don’t know who they are, or what organization or club or workplace they’re from. But this picture is always hung in our bathroom, so they can collectively watch over us.

Especially the one guy in the front row who stares directly into your soul.

Daytona Beeyotch

We took a wee road trip today. Recently we finished off our ginormous bottle of Red Robin’s seasoned salt, so I proposed a lunch voyage to RR. Not only is it a source of seasoning, but it’s also a chance to have a tastes-like-home meal. Since Red Robin is from Seattle. I also feel homey in Costco. But strangely, I don’t head off to Nordstrom that frequently. Hmm.

There are now six Red Robin locations in Florida. But the closest one to Orlando is around 55 miles away, in Port Orange, which is on the east coast out by Daytona Beach. So off we went.

There’s a new restaurant going in just down the way from Red Robin. At least I’m guessing it’ll be a restaurant. Bottom line, I think “sauce box” is our new insult.

I had the regular old Red Robin classic cheeseburger, with cheddar. And wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of a bun. I don’t know what it is about Red Robin, but there’s a very distinctive flavor to their burgers. You know you’re eating an RR burger when you’re eating an RR burger.

The lettuce wasn’t so much wrapped around the burger, as it was on top and bottom like a bun. Each side was 4 or 5 leaves of iceberg, which was a bit much lettuce. I stripped a leaf or two off each side, which made it easier to bite through. The last quarter or so of the burger, it was so messy and falling apart that I had to go in with the knife and fork. I have to say, I think Fuddrucker’s may win for presentation by just putting the patty on a plate.

The steak fries were fantastic, as always.

After lunch, we headed over to Daytona Beach. We’d never seen it, and since we were right there, why not? We took the main exit off the freeway, which put us on International Speedway Drive. We got to pass by the ginormous racetrack, which was busy as heck because of the “Gatorade Duel”, whatever that is. Anyhoo, it was cool to hear the sounds of the cars as we passed by, and we got to see a few really bitchin’ mullets.

We drove down International Speedway Drive until it ended at the beach.

Daytona Beach is, apparently, the world’s most famous beach. Is it? According to whom? What about Waikiki? Or Malibu? The sign didn’t give a source for the claim.

It’s a really unique beach, in that it’s incredibly easy to walk on. You can see the high tide line, and from the water to that line, the sand is packed hard and flat. You can stroll all the way down to the surf and not get any sand in your sandals! Of course, we had to check out the water temperature. The verdict: flippin’ cold!

Lots of seagulls everywhere, primarily hanging out in packs down near the waterline.

Lots of dead jellyfish everywhere, with all of their (arms? tendrils? stinging-bits?) broken off.

And lots of love for Beap.

Pet Photography Made Easy

I’ve learned how to get Commie to hold his head still long enough to take a picture. Or at least, to get one or two good shots out of a dozen.

Hold the camera in one hand, twisted around at an awkward angle to keep a finger on the shutter. And use the other hand to shine a laser pointer on your own forehead.

(But don’t shine it in your eye. I think we can all agree, that’s bad.)

Here you can see that the eye is still a wee bit gunky in the corner (just a wee), and you can see the veiny-looking reddish-brown scarring on his cornea. The vets put some sort of stain on the cornea, to see if it was active infection (which there isn’t).

So it may clear up, or it may stay that way. Either way, he’s a pretty boy!

Photodump: Catty Valentinemas, Whorini!

So tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Not a holiday I choose to celebrate, because I don’t eat candy and I don’t like flowers. Live plants are cool — I just don’t like a big handful of dying things.

Although there’s always a cupcake cake …

I think it’s supposed to be a heart. Covered with bon-bons. Which are made out of poop-colored frosting. It’s too late in the season to send this over to our friends at CakeWrecks, so here it is. This was at our nearest Target, where the bakery always makes things that look a little weird.

I’ll have you know, friends, it’s not Valentine’s Day everywhere. Especially over at the nearest Winn-Dixie grocery store, where they still have really sparse and sad Christmas decorations up in the parking lot. All of the light posts were as ugly as this one. The store was pretty crap, as well. I’ll stick with Publix and Target.

Onward to the cats! Trouble was splayed oddly, so I took a picture before I poked her in the hock. Poor dear, she’s much lesser-known because Commie’s been a spotlight-hogger, what with his medical issues. He’s doing great, by the way. Still just a tiny bit of cloudiness on the lens of his eye, which the vets suspect is scarring. Otherwise, he’s seeing well and the swelling is gone.

Trouble also likes the “garden tub” at the new apartment. Because she’s always had a thing for sitting on the ledge and meowing at me when I take a bath.

This tub has nice, wide ledges. So she can really settle in comfortably to bitch me out.

The first time I tried to take a bath here, I only got it filled up about a third before the water got cold. Turns out that when this complex was built, all of the water heaters were put on the absolute lowest setting. And nobody who’d been in this unit minded. Not surprising; there are probably very few of us in Florida who want a scalding-hot shower. The maintenance guy turned it up, so now I can have a luxurious hot bath. Complete with cat.

The cats are digging the pond that we can see from our deck. There are almost always birds to chatter at. Here in Florida, most ponds have a fountain feature (that’s the concrete ring thingy) to keep the water from becoming stagnant. And in the last year or so, I’ve seen a number of ponds with fake birds in them. Fake ducks, fake geese, and fake … whatever these cement-gray things are. I don’t know their exact purpose — probably to scare away some other bird or predator or something. But you’ll frequently see actual birds sitting or standing on top of the fake birds. It’s hard to see because of the colors, but there are two fake birds pictured here, and there’s a long-legged craney herony bird standing on the top of each.

Last but not least, I hear that Words with Friends should be coming out for the Android platform this month. I currently play WordFeud (and if you’re on Android, I’m always up for a match) but once WWF comes out, I’ll gladly play both games. One can never have enough pseudoScrabble!

(By the way, “Whorini” used to be the name of my stripper-magician act.)

Whole Foods, Gluten, Cat’s Eye

In order of importance, I’ll start with the cat. We took Commie to the vet yesterday, where both vets came in to visit us, because they were both completely flabbergasted that his eye is almost back to normal. Shocked, they were! His eye still has a little bit of a cloudy spot on it, which may be permanent damage from the month or so that it was completely hidden by swelling.

The vets have no idea what happened. Or why it fixed itself. I believe both of them used the phrase “miracle cat”. For the cloudy spot, we were given some steroid drops (which are so much easier than pills or oral liquids, so I’m very glad) and we’re going back in a week to see if it clears up. But he seems to be seeing out of both eyes. At least both eyes track us. Which is great.

The kids look a bit grumpy in this picture, but they’re just a bit tuckered. I found where I’d packed the laser pointer, so I made them do some laps around the living room.

Next up, gluten. Since January is now over, so is Gluten-Free January. I stayed the course the whole time, and discovered that I could eat other carbohydrate foods in moderation (potatoes, rice, corn) and still not gain weight. In fact, my maintenance zone had been 130-133 pounds for the last year, and for most of January, I stayed in the 129s.

But to complete the experiment, it meant having some gluten. So we headed out to Costco, because I love their cheap pizza. I mean, look at this monster slice!

Greasy, gooey, awesome. 700 or so calories of pizza magic. Although I didn’t eat the big puffy end crust. I wasn’t against it — I was just too full.

I didn’t get the stomach cramps or bloating that others have reported from adding gluten back after a long break. But I did find myself hungry all evening long, and nothing could stop the munchies. Haven’t felt that way in a long while. I didn’t gain any water weight, which is good, but I think I’m going to stick with mostly gluten-free from now on anyway. But I will continue experimenting with other carby foods, to see how far I can expand my choices.

On that note, I sallied forth to Whole Foods, where I knew they had some gluten-free beers. Just the other day on the Facebook, someone wrote that all of our local Whole Foods employees seem like they hate the world. And I have to say, they weren’t the friendliest bunch. I don’t know about hating the world, but nobody was full of good cheer, that’s for sure.

Spotted the following GF option:

Of course, the gluten-free rice noodles make it twice the price of other macaroni & cheese dinners. And since it’s fancybrand, that means it’s like six times the price of a box of Kraft dinner. Boy howdy, did I love Kraft dinner. Maybe I’ll buy a box sometime, just to get the powdery cheese packet. Although that’s probably loaded with gluten too. I wonder if I could put powdered Kraft cheese on some spaghetti squash?

I got one bottle of gluten-free beer (New Grist, which is both an awesome name and a terrible name) and a hard cider I haven’t tried yet. They had three or four gluten-free beer options, which is great. Surprisingly, our local Publix grocery store had a wider variety of ciders (although they didn’t have the brand that I got at WF). Much to sample!

Lastly, I got these chips from the vending machine at the courthouse, when I did my jury duty. What I want to know is, what’s the creamy part? The chips weren’t creamy, they were crispy. And I sure hope dill pickles aren’t creamy. Also, what do dill pickle potato chips have to do with DJing and turntables?

All that aside, the chips were delicious. I love a good dill pickle chip, creamy or not.