Friday, October 5, 2007


Jared has joined the Sarasota United Soccer League for his first official team sports experience. He's on the inspirationally named "Team Four" of the recreational league, and will be having a soccer game every weekend through mid-December. We're so excited he has this opportunity to play soccer, something he has wanted to do for the last three years. Go, Jared! Last week, we attended a fundraiser for the league, and Jeff videotaped the whole thing. He's now editing all that down into a two or three-minute promo film for the league, pro bono of course. Go, Jeff!

(As always, you can click on the picture to see it larger. Such a handsome team! And at least they didn't get the ugly uniforms. Some of them were, well, shudderable.)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Treeman Cometh

Well, we finally had to call the treeman to come and prune the yard when large chunks of our dead cedar started falling off and smashing into the roof. Whoops! In addition to that and massive trimming of all our trees, I'm sorry to say we also had to remove the large water oak growing right next to the house. The new treeman confirmed the message that another treeman gave me five years ago--it was doomed, and the fall of 35 feet of oak would crush the house, if not kill someone. So, we bit the bullet and had it taken out. Looking at the trunk sections, it's quite clear the treemen knew what they were talking about, as it seems to have suffered from something called "heart rot." The entire center of the trunk was black, icky and so soft you could spoon it out. It surely would have broken in any serious storm.

Still, dear funky deformed tree with the crazy crossing branches, I'm so sad we had to cut you down, and I'll miss you and your shading beauty terribly. I know the squirrels will miss you, too. Thank you for being a tree!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Paris redux

We decided to cancel the apartment we had.  It was pretty far away from the heart of Paris.  So, we reserved another apartment which is very near Notre Dame.  And it looks out into a pretty park.  Neat!  Have a look.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Knitting Success!

Just a very quick update on the Dulaan Project. The official tally of contributions was an amazing 17,376 pieces for donation to the people of Mongolia. I don't know about you, but that's some serious evidence of the power of the internet, which is how most of the contributions came to be. Yarn love to all!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

And Did I Forget to Mention...

We have picked out our apartment in Paris! There were a few that we loved that were already booked (six months in advance!), but Jeff kept searching and found a great little place near the Montmartre area. I've never stayed in this area before, so it will be an exciting adventure into the unknown for both of us. We've downloaded several podcasts for learning French, so we should be able to get by. It's amazing how much I've forgotten, but bits and pieces are coming back. All in the wrong order, of course. C'est la vie!

You can see the place here:
Cozy Carpeaux

Dulaan Update

Almost forgot to add that I have finished my parcel of charity knitting for the Dulaan Project, items for which have to be delivered prior to July 1 (I guess mailing to Mongolia takes a while!). I wanted to do five pieces and, lo and behold, five there are! I made four scarves and my very first hat--pretty keen. Everything after this point will go to local charities. It's fun, however, to think that something I made will be used halfway across the world. If this keeps up, I'll have to get one of those maps to put pins in. Think warm thoughts!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Done and Doing

Whew! Since the last post, we've been doing a lot here at the HandyHouse. The garden continues to grow, although erratically. There are watermelon vines all over the place, the corn has basically come to a standstill after an attack of some kind of caterpillar, the cucumber vines are growing and flowering but not fruiting (yet), and the bush beans are making a valiant effort. Those beans in the picture are ours. It's pretty exciting to see an end result to the effort, meager though this first product may be. I've had far less tasty outcomes to some of my past "experiments," so I can only be happy with the results so far.

Jeff started a "Couch to 5K" running program and has already completed his very first charity 5K, weeks before actually completing the program. The funds from the race are going to a new playground that will have complete access for disabled children. Check out his finish line photo--fantastically photogenic that man.

We also pulled out the scuba gear a few weeks ago and went diving in the Gulf. This was my first dive in my own backyard, amazingly enough, and it turned out to be the best dive we've ever experienced. Who knew! We visited a sunken barge named the R.J. Thompson (in the picture) and went to a strange outcrop called Table Rock, which pokes up in the middle of a sandy bottomed nowhere. Fish everywhere, a nurse shark, barracuda, all kinds of corals and sponges, and very clear water. I had no idea the Gulf could be like that. Nice to know we don't have to travel for days to enjoy the amazing beauty under the sea. I also learned that no matter what I do, I'm going to be seasick. Too bad!

See, you'd think that "seasick" would be the tip-off to avoid our next accomplishment, but no. Jeff and I signed up with the St. Pete Sailing Center and learned to sail keelboats! Check one off the "Life List." These are traditional, non-motorized sailboats (in our case, the Rhodes 19' sailboat like the ones in this picture). We took a weekend course, and then took a boat out ourselves the following weekend. It's a lot of fun, but more work than you'd think given how serene the boats look when you're standing on the shore and watching them float on by. Everything seems to need constant adjusting and tweaking and tacking and jibing and hauling in and out. Whew! Still, it's a good time, and we look forward to going out more. Part of the Sailing Center membership includes use of their boats when you please (and they're not being used for classes or races), so that's pretty swell--all the fun of boating with none of those pesky upkeep expenses. Just something to keep in mind for those folks who might want to visit and, oh, say, go out on a boat in grand Florida tradition. We promise not to sink you (intentionally).

That's it for the moment. Summer break with Jared starts in just a few days, which means a flurry of camp activity and a trip up north. We're looking forward to checking in with the Hoosier side of the family! Love to all.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wheels on the Bike Go Round and Round

Just a quick note to remind everyone that today is National Bike to Work Day. In honor of the event, I did! This is the second time I've managed it in a month, but I'll be making an effort to get off my duff and do this more. The trip takes about 12 minutes from our garage door to the gate of my office building. Considering that it takes me 6-8 minutes to drive, that's kind of amazing. Of course, it's going to get mighty hot and rainy here soon, but I'll do it as long as I can stand it in the hopes that some meager bike commuting habit gets established by the time it cools off again.

Happy biking!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Going Green!

This time I mean "going green" quite literally! Through a team effort we have finally accomplished something I have long wanted to do, build a raised garden box to compensate for the truly terrible quality of our sandy soil. Jeff and Jared built the 3' x 8' box using spare wood that has been up in the garage loft since before I bought the house. We filled it with a mix of Miracle Gro's new organic garden soil and some mercifully unsmelly cow poop. I laid down a string grid to create 24 foot-square boxes to organize the planting, then in went the seedlings that Jared and I had planted weeks ago from some Seeds of Change seeds (there's a link to the left over there). As a result, we are now growing heirloom sweet corn, watermelons, bush beans, chili peppers, carrots and cucumbers. Two of the five bean seedlings have since died (I think squirrels sat on them), so I'm going to replace them with Italian white eggplants. I also replanted all of my sadly neglected herb pots. We are now swimming in basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram, two types of parsley and cilantro. This is all just experimenting, really, as I know very little about gardening except that I'm starting about two months late for Florida's growing zone. But what they hey! It's worth a try, especially since our farm co-op is shutting down for the summer. We will keep you posted on the progress, including photos.

In other news, we are heading down to visit Valerie and her family this weekend. This is our last weekend with Jared before we get him for summer break at the end of June. In addition to two weeks of fun in Indiana (which Jeff and I will also be enjoying for a week), we have Jared signed up for a week at each of four different camps--a soccer camp, a traditional summer camp called Camp Frontier, an outdoor "sea scientist" program at the Pier Aquarium, and Busch Gardens for animals and fun. Hopefully, Jeff and I can get in some diving on those free weekends in June. We haven't suited up since November! So very sad.

Hope everyone is spectacularly well. Eat your veggies!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Crafty On Purpose

So last year I took up knitting. I enjoy it a lot but I'm currently only capable of doing the most basic stitches. It takes practice, but honestly, how many scarves (or hats, mittens or potholders) does a family in Florida actually need? The answer is, of course, not many. However, there are plenty of people on our little planet that could use a scarf. Or a hat. Or mittens. Or a blanket. A little googling led me to several resources for knitting for charity that I thought I would share for the crafty amongst us. The projects are very simple—simple enough for children, in fact, which means that I might just be able to handle it too.

Here's one:

And here's another one:

And here's a whole bunch:

You can also call your local shelters and hospitals and see if they accept donations. There are so many small things you can do to help people out and spread a little loving kindness and compassion. Isn't it awesome?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Making Changes

Spring is here, the breezes are blowing, and I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather be anywhere than sitting in an office, even one that has a great big window that opens (causing my office workers to complain bitterly that the temperature has risen above 70 degrees and it's "too hot").

Spring is also that great time when fresh ideas and the desire to do things differently seems to be, well, springing forth at the HandyHouse. Words like "energy," "saving," and "living more with less" seem to be on our minds these days. I sometimes think they should be on everyone's minds more often, but who am I—or anyone, for that matter—to preach without practicing, eh? To that end, Jeff and I have been making some changes. Small steps, to be sure, but steps nonetheless to see what we can do to reduce our impact on this here planet, help reshape the way things work and still live shiny, happy, modern lives. There are so many things we can change about the way we live, the question arises—where to start?

Here's the first spring thing we've done: "replanted" just about every light bulb in our house with compact fluorescent bulbs. At first I was resistant because, ew, office light! But CF bulbs for the home have come a long way in recent years, and having lived with them for a few months now, I can honestly say it doesn't bother me at all. We changed all bulbs except for a few that are on dimmers (haven't found a good, dimmable CF that doesn't buzz) and the bulbs in the bathrooms. I may change those, too, but I wanted to see how I felt about the lights before going whole hog. We discovered that you have to choose your bulbs carefully. We first tried the GE bulbs (got them at Lowe's), but we found their light really unpleasant. I did some research about lumens and other techie things and then we chose the N:Vision bulbs at Home Depot. Love them! And they were fairly inexpensive, to boot. We did the entire house for about $70, and have already seen a drop in our electric bill of about 15% over last year. They will easily pay for themselves in less than a year and then just keep on saving from there. Try it!

Here's another little thing I'm doing, and it seems entirely stupid and obvious, but . . . I'm hanging clothes on our clothesline when I can (right now, it's about 2 out of 3 loads). Gasp! It's ridiculous, isn't it? We live in Florida, the SUNSHINE STATE, for pete's sake, and I am only now taking advantage of all that free energy. The sad thing is I had to make a conscious decision to do it. When did it stop becoming the thing you did automatically? I wonder. Right now, I can't quite buy the idea that it's because dryers are so much more convenient, at least in Florida. It takes, quite literally, 4 minutes to put the clothes up and 4 minutes a few hours later to take them down. I figure that's a savings of about 5 minutes over dealing with the dryer. What am I going to do with 5 minutes, anyway? Watch TV? Write that novel? It's funny how this bright spring weather is making me shift my perceptions about things like "convenience" that I typically never think about. Anyway, you can now see our springtime fresh underthings waving in the wind in the backyard. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Welcome to the HandyHouse!

One of my resolutions for 2007 was to stay in better contact with the family, and here it is coming on May and I realize that I have done a seriously lousy job so far. No good excuses, just the ongoing distractions of generalized busyness that seem to swallow each and every day. So! Here's an attempt to keep everyone somewhat up-to-date on what's happening here at the HandyHouse in St. Pete. I figure a quick thought here and there, a photo or two, some links to places of interest, the occasional joke, and there you go—a 100% improvement over the cone of silence!

So, check in from time to time, comment, tell a joke, hurl an insult, share bits about your own lives. The HandyHouse is always open!