Archive for July, 2010

Joys of jalk-wogging the bayou…

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I really like to run. Or at least, I used to. During business school, Bill and I took up jogging together 3 or 4 times a week. We went all over the place: around our ‘hood, around Buffalo Bayou, up and down the stairs at Rice stadium… By 2004, we even got pretty fit. It was awesome.

But in late 2007, Bill ganked his knee and tore the meniscus. No more running for Bill. Then in June 2008, my spine doctor looked at MRI images of the herniated disc in my back and told me to “compensate” to delay making the disc worse. No more running for Bob, either.

Two years later, after physical therapy, learning which postures to avoid, and more exercise, my back is merely a daily annoyance rather than a chronic pain. Thank goodness! But running has remained an elusive goal. I admit that I feel frankly envious when I read about Elizabeth running around Decatur, or Stubbie running in Millenium Park, or T triathloning.

Daily exercise is essential to feeling good, and for two years, nearly all of my exercise has been within the safe confines of the gym. The upside is if I start to hurt, I can stop immediately. The downside is boredom: I am bored, bored, bored with the gym. But boredom is an easy problem compared to where I started, so I mostly just suck it up and go anyway.

Recently, my annual physical revealed that I’m insufficient (not quite deficient) for vitamin D. Being lactose intolerant, I don’t get enough dairy. And apparently, between working indoors and exercising indoors, I don’t get much sunlight, either. One of those things I can fix: I need to get out more.

So with some trepidation, I am resuming outdoor exercise, mostly around Buffalo Bayou. I’ve even tried a few snippets of jogging (because walking can be damned boring, too). In the process, I’m delighted to rediscover what a multi-sensory experience exercising outdoors can be:

  • the heat and sweat of working out in ~95°F weather,
  • the glint of sunlight off surface ripples of the bayou,
  • the strain of tiny muscles in my feet and ankles no longer accustomed to covering uneven terrain,
  • the sweet smell of blossoms in the grove of magnolia trees, and
  • the twitter of thousands of bats blanketing the overhead joints under the Waugh Drive Bridge.

Best of all, there’s the refreshing coolness of spray from the Wortham Dandelion fountain for cooling off afterward. I remain a little nervous that my back will yet make my freedom short-lived, but so far so good. I am not missing the gym. And I may run again yet.

dandelion fountain

Birthday baking with Sierra and Izzy

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

We spent Saturday celebrating my nieces’ July birthdays. Chris and Shawn both had commitments earlier in the day, so I collected the girls around 11:00 am for party prep. We baked their cakes together, reprising the rainbow cake batter (click image for larger):

licking beaters

Sierra mixing batter

Izzy filling her cake tin

colorful cake innards

decorated cakes

When the cakes were ready and the table was set, the girls and I went to collect Gran’mom. And everyone else gathered around 3:30 pm to enjoy the cake and punch and celebrate:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

It’s striking to me how much Sierra and Izzy have grown up since their birthday two years ago. I really enjoyed spending the day with them, and I hope that it will be for them another happy birthday memory.

TDF: Did totally too!

Monday, July 19th, 2010

The 2010 Tour de France is underway and Bill and I have watched every stage of the race so far. Like the Super Bowl and other huge sporting events, Tour coverage includes topical advertising. Here are three of my favorite ads so far:


Fleas suck. And how to kill them without poison.

Monday, July 19th, 2010

It’s July, it’s hot, and it’s rained a lot recently, which means the fleas are in bloom. We first noticed Tibbs scratching 4-6 weeks ago, and it’s always a surprise when our indoor cat manifests fleas. We were slow to go to battle against the fleas, given what we were up to at the time. But when the little ankle-biters start going after me, it’s war.

There was a time when we’d have glibly used flea powder, flea collars, bug spray, or foggers to eradicate the pests promptly. But now that we know most pesticides are endocrine disruptors, especially organophosphates, we avoid exposing ourselves to them. We’re instead striving to give the fleas a natural death, and it’s proving to take some work:

1. Get fleas off of the cat. In earlier years, we’d just dose Tibbs with Revolution or Capstar. But that seems hard on his system, and topical pesticides skeeve me out. So we’re combing Tibbs with a special flea comb every day, and multiple times most days. It’s essential to kill every flea and egg the comb catches. One can simply dip the comb in soapy water to drown each flea, but I prefer to crush them. And the near-permanent bruise on my index fingernail is recovering now that I’ve discovered rolling them to death with a hard plastic vitamin bottle. The crunching sound is surprisingly satisfying.

Bill combing Tibbs

Several sources also advocate bathing the cat weekly. I’m pleased to learn that no scary “flea dips” are required; again, gentle soapy water is sufficient to dissolve the waxy coating around their spiracles and suffocate the fleas. But bathing Tibbs is beyond my pay grade. When Bill thought I intended to try, he wrote:

Be sure to film your bathing of the cat. I’ll be sad that I’m not there (to claim the remains).

Heh. No baths for Tibbs.

2. Get fleas out of the house. Pretty much anywhere we’ve walked after being outdoors, and any surface where the kitty has been, could be fair game for nearly-invisible flea eggs, larvae, or pupae. We’re therefore supposed to vacuum everything, daily. (Note that one must dispose of the flea-filled vacuum bag immediately.) But it took me 3 hours Sunday to vacuum most every nook and cranny in the house, so it will be a few days before that happens again. I’m again grateful that our bedroom is a Cat Free Zone.


I’m also testing an internet remedy. Fleas are ostensibly attracted to white/light colors. They say you can fill a plate with soapy water and fleas will be drawn to it and drown. I filled a plate with Ivory soap and water and placed it next to the one crack we’ve identified where fleas are breaching the house from outside. Within an hour, one flea had met his end and the next day there were two dozen dead fleas. But given that at least that many jumped past the dish (to meet death-by-crushing on the bathroom floor), I suspect the dish is merely catching unlucky/stupid fleas, without actually attracting them. We may need a bigger dish.

drowned fleas

3. Get fleas out of the yard. The main way fleas reach our indoor cat is by hitching a ride on our socks/ankles/pants as we pass through the yard into the house. So to reclaim Flea Free Status indoors, we have to achieve Flea Free Status outdoors. But our yard is home to myriad birds and squirrels, and stormwater from our yard flows directly to the bayou, so I’d prefer not to use chemicals out there either.

If we had more time to prepare, we could plant mint and lavendar in the yard to repel fleas. A scorching drought would kill a bunch of the little buggers, too. Citronella repels fleas, and apparently cats as well. In the short term, I chose a spray called Orange Guard that uses essential citrus oils to repel fleas. Having sprayed half a bottle on the porch, walk, and grass nearby, we can now get to/from the car without collecting fleas. (One clear-cut victory! Woo-hoo!)

Orange Guard is safe for indoor use around pets and children, and it claims to kill ants/roaches/fleas on contact, so I also brought it inside to combat the breach in the bathroom. This turned out to be a bad idea. First, instead of killing the fleas, it only spurred them to jump away across the floor (where I had to crush them). Second, citrus oil leaves a vaguely oily residue on the floor. Third, it prompted Tibbs to abandon his bathroom/litter box for 2-3 days in favor of other areas in the house he found more suitable. Yuck, yuck, and yuck. Getting him to do his business where it belongs again required cleaning the bathroom thoroughly.

All of this has been a real pain in the @ss. Killing fleas naturally turns out to require real effort. But even after all that, I’m still sure I don’t want toxins in our house or on our pet. I’ll just be glad when flea season is over.

Bob’s 15-minute grilled eggplant

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

When our friends Stubbie and Angel ask “What’s for dinner?” the answers often sound downright delectable. Dinner at our house is rarely anything special, but we do have some yummy fare. My newest tasty treat is grilled eggplant. Here’s how I make it:

1. Go to the grocery and ask Charles in Produce to help me find a ripe, organic eggplant (or two). He says the darker purple, the better. Pay and bring them home.

ripe eggplant

2. Heat the grill to 375-400°F. Rinse the eggplant, remove the ends, and cut the rest into slices 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick.

sliced eggplant

3. Fill a small plate with extra virgin olive oil, and bathe each slice in oil. Sprinkle each slice with sea salt and throw them all on the grill for 10 minutes.

on the grill

4. Plate the eggplant, serve, and enjoy while it’s hot!

grilled eggplant

So yummy! And excluding the trip to the grocery, prep and cooking takes only 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Seeking out the bright spots…

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Several of you observed that my last post sounded more optimistic than you expected. I admit that I felt it was important to post a forward-looking, optimistic view. We will be parents someday, one way or another. I’m reasonably sure of that.

Some of the last week, I have felt remarkably chipper and productive. I’ve completed several delinquent chores around the house, which is satisfying.

But some of the time, I have felt utterly uninterested in squat. I can’t say I have good days and bad days because it’s more hour-by-hour than that. Today mostly sucked:

  • Seeing Frank Schleck crash in the Tour de France and break his collarbone made me cry;
  • Taking my favorite dress from 1997 to Dress for Success so that some up-and-coming young woman who it fits can wear it to work made me want to cry;
  • Seeing a garbage can get away from a City worker and spill on the street made me want to cry…

You get the idea. I forced myself to go to the gym for the first time in days in hopes that endorphins would improve my mood. Working out was hard. It wore me out. It did not make me cry, which was an improvement.

This evening turned out better:

  • We sent Bill’s mom and her theater companions to dinner at Broken Spoke, on Washington Avenue;
  • I went out to retrieve a packet from a colleague who lives downtown on Franklin, which is essentially Washington Avenue;
  • Bill’s 6:30 pm ride out of West End Cycles starts by flying east down Washington Avenue…

… at which point it occurred to me to swing by Broken Spoke on my way home and watch for Bill and his buddies to ride by:

Bill biking out
Bill heading out to ride, which is all I usually see until he returns

glass of wine
A nice glass of Cotes du Rhone outside Broken Spoke

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Shooting into the sun didn’t make for great video, but Bill’s in there, and I love that his friend John and a couple others recognized me, hollered hello, and rang their bells on the way by. Staying to visit with Nancy and her friends over a glass of wine was a lovely complement. Needless to say this outing dramatically improved an otherwise mediocre day.

As for tomorrow, we’ll see.