Spiders and Lizards and Toads, OH MY

So one of the goals that SSH and I have set for our house is to not use herbicides or pesticides unless absolutely necessary. (Fire ant piles are one of the few things so far that’s been necessary) We use neem oil, baking soda, and other preventative measures with our plants, plus a mulching lawnmower to keep the grass nice. And a trowel and some elbow grease to remove weeds that get big enough to look particularly icky.

One of the benefits of this treatment is the healthy, thriving ecosystem in our yard. We have lots of beneficial insects, including wasps, dragonflies, and assassin bugs, plus honeybees in the bee garden. And we also have a ton of native critters.

Brown earth snakes and garter snakes hang around, especially in the gardens. We’ve had a snapping turtle take up residence under the tomato plants. And the lizards. Holy crap, so many lizards. When you open any of the doors, herds of baby lizards go streaking across the sidewalk. I’m always afraid I’m going to step on one. The anoles get bigger than any I’ve seen before too – some are close to 6 inches.

In the last week I have seen six separate toads. I am reasonably sure they are actually six DIFFERENT toads, and not the same toad six times. Some in the gardens, some around the potted plants, one hanging out on the front porch. Cute, fat toads.

And now that it’s getting to be fall, the jewel-back spiders are out again.

I was thinking about this today, and I realized it sounds a little like a wicked witch lives here. We’re actively cultivating a yard with a snake, toad, lizard, and spider population.

But then I also have a garden specifically for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, so I guess that balances out.

Bouncy Desk Chair

Inspired by Tami, I’ve decided that I would give a try to this whole exercise-ball-as-desk-chair thing. I feel a little silly for taking this long to try it out, given that my exercise ball has sat in my office next to the desk chair for months. Especially if you consider how much of a pain in the butt my desk chair has been. It’s supposedly a “nice” desk chair, and it wasn’t cheap, but it makes my elbows hurt and I have to use an extra lumbar support pillow that requires constant readjusting.

So I pumped a little extra air into my big blue exercise ball this morning and opted to give it a go.

So far I’ve noticed a few things:

  • My lower back is having to work on keeping me stabilized, so the muscles are getting tired. This isn’t a huge deal, but will take some adjusting.
  • My butt is cold. The ball doesn’t retain heat like a regular chair. I’m going to try draping it with a blanket and seeing if that helps.
  • My cat has nowhere to sit. Charlie (spazcat) likes nothing better than to camp out on the back of my chair while I’m on the computer. He’s not sure what’s up.
  • My posture is better. I CAN slouch, but it takes conscious effort.

Also? My inner child is pleased.

*boing boing boing*


House and Home

Three years ago this week, SSH and I started looking for our house. We knew we needed to move, as Hurricane Ike had well demonstrated the struggles our more coastal area would have with any kind of tropical storm, and we knew that around the first of the year we’d be able to start really looking for a home. It was a learning time for both of us, filled with books about houses, phone calls to family members, internet house listings and house-hunting programs on TV.

Something I didn’t expect to be so significant about being in a house, versus an apartment, was the level of “ours-ness” that would come about as we both added our own style to the house and as we changed with it through the seasons. I can’t speak for SSH, but setting up the house for the holidays this year brought back memories of our last two holiday seasons here, and how things are so different for us now than they were three years ago, or two years ago, or even last year.

The more memories we have here, and the more time we spend, plus the work we’ve put into making this place ours – the house feels more and more like a reflection of us. The gardens, especially, make me feel plugged into this little chunk of land with our house on it.

Decorating for the holidays, I realized that there are some decorations that no longer fit anymore, and others that I may not have put out in the past that seem to fit better now.

The out of place things stick out more than they used to, since I feel so settled in.

I am, at my core, a homebody. I enjoy traveling to new places, but I don’t have the wanderlust, the sense of adventure that some of my other family members seem to have. I like my home, and being able to return to that home is one of the highlights of a long trip. The safety and security of my own place is something that I treasure, especially during the winter months.

Seeing the house decorated for the winter holidays only reinforces how much at home I feel here, and how thankful I am to have it.


Home Repair, part 2

After installing a dishwasher, we decided to install a new faucet in our prep sink as well. Which sounds like there was one before. There wasn’t. It went bad about 2 months ago, we just hadn’t replaced it yet.

Of course, I’m headed in to work today.

Let’s see if the faucet is going to be the same kind of dramatic experience that installing the dishwasher was…

Dishwasher Delivery

Ever since we moved into this house (going on 3 years now, sheesh!) SSH and I have known we needed a new dishwasher.

Until very recently, we needed a lot of other things more pressingly than a new dishwasher, especially since TECHNICALLY the old one still did run, even if it was almond colored. You had to wash everything before you put it in the dishwasher, half of the top rack’s tines were broken, the sprayer didn’t wash the top rack so all the glasses had to go in the bottom, the dial on the front was finicky so you had to dump about 2 quarts of hot water in or the first cycle would grind because it didn’t fill properly, and usually stuff came out crusted with crud regardless.

So we put it off, knowing that functioning plumbing was more important, and good insulation was more important, etc.

That lasted until we both realized that having 10 people in this house for Thanksgiving with a barely functioning dishwasher was going to mean handwashing all of the dishes after every meal. I don’t mind handwashing pots, and I don’t mind handwashing the good china, but neither of us was OK with handwashing everything for 5 days.

The finances worked out alright, plus we got a really good sale, AND we got free delivery and haul away of the old beastly thing. SSH decided (after uninstalling the old one) that he was capable of installing the new one, so we’re both pretty excited.

Said dishwasher of shiny new awesomeness was supposed to be delivered between 11 and 1 today. They called last night to tell us, and at 6:45 am (!) to remind us… and then showed up at 9:30 anyway. Fortunately SSH was still home, both of us having overslept, so I didn’t have to answer the door in my PJs.

And now I have the whole day ahead of me, instead of having to wait for the repair guy!

I think I might take my laptop (with it’s shiny new battery) down to the seawall. It’s a little chilly, but I think the ocean would do me some good.

The Art of Neatification

*crossposted from Seven Deadly Divas*

Neatifying* is a valuable skill, especially for a homeowner or apartment dweller with the occasional unexpected guest.

Neatifying is NOT cleaning. Cleaning is what you do on a regular basis (hopefully) with some kind of systematic process. When you’re cleaning the bathroom, you’ll scrub the sinks, commode, and tub, wipe down the mirrors, and sweep the floor. It might take you half an hour (or longer, if you have a ginormous shower/tub), and it’s something most people do once every week or so. Same with cleaning your kitchen or whatnot.

Neatifying is what you do when your mom/friend/mother in law/business associate calls unexpectedly, letting you know they’re in the area and might they stop by in half an hour or so?

At that point? Cleaning is out the window. It is time to NEATIFY.

As an aside, nobody really ever talks about neatification. They talk about how important it is to keep your house clean, that clutter in your workspace increases your stress levels and that your home should “rise up to meet you” and be all nice inside. While I think that’s all well and good, it’s not always realistic, especially if you’re living totally by yourself (who will see the mess?) or in a dual income household (who has time for all that?) or have kids (have you SEEN the mess?). Besides, even if you DO keep your house generally clean, if you do that cleaning on Saturdays and your unexpected guest phones you on Friday afternoon? You’ll have to do some picking up.

So don’t let anyone tell you that this kind of neatification doesn’t count. It’s a valuable skill!


The first step of neatification is to stop for about one minute and think – you might make a list, but don’t let it become Listfinity. Think about the areas in your dwelling that said visitor can be expected to see. In my house, that’s the entryway, kitchen/bar, living room, and guest bathroom. If you only have one bathroom and it passes through a bedroom, that bedroom might be on the list as well. Notice that “master bedroom closet” is not on the list – anyone snooping in your closet needs to get a life.

Think priorities here – if making a list is too likely to get you distracted, just move through your home and look around.

Step two is to break down those areas into chunks, grab a trash bag for any loose garbage you find, and, if you’re me, set a timer for five minutes in each area. (Setting a timer makes it a game of beat the clock.)

Five minutes in the entryway might look something like this:

  • Put mail in the office (don’t sort, just move)
  • Shake out the rug
  • Move any stray shoes/backpacks into a neat arrangement (or into their proper rooms)
  • Sweep the exterior and interior
  • Turn on the porch and entry lights

You can easily do all of those things in five minutes, and now – presto! the entryway looks presentable.

Remember always that the goal here is a version of the ten foot rule. If it looks fine from ten feet, leave it alone.

Moving on to the (guest) bathroom, grab a rag and a bottle of spray cleaner (I like vinegar and water):

  • Move major clutter into drawers or under the cabinet.
  • Start at the top and move down: spot clean the mirror of any obvious toothpaste goo, wipe the counters, wipe out the sink
  • Spray the inside of the toilet bowl and give it a quick brush, flush.
  • Using the same rag, wipe down the toilet seat and close it.
  • Close the shower curtain.

Presentable bathroom in five minutes flat. Nobody cares what’s behind your shower curtain. If they do, that’s THEIR problem.

In the kitchen, neatification means dishes go into the dishwasher if there’s room, neatly stacked into one side of the sink if not. You don’t have TIME to do the dishes all properly, you just want things to look presentable. Wiping down the counters is more important than not having any coffee mugs in the sink. Large pots can get shoved into the dishwasher too, so long as you remember to remove them before you run it later on! Stack things in neat piles if you have to – the goal is the ten foot rule: clear off the counters and the stovetop, but don’t worry too much about cleaning all the pots RIGHT NOW.

You might also take a paper towel and the spray cleaner and spot clean any large sticky spots on the floor or pick up stray bits of dry catfood.

Another trick – light a good smelling candle on your stove or counter. It looks pretty, smells good, and adds ambiance that will distract from any other issues around. It says “I lit a pretty candle so the room would be nice for my guest” – which is always pleasant, even if there’s a pot in the sink.

In my living room, my five minutes is devoted as follows:

  • Tidy the coffee table – magazines in a stack, trash in the trash, TV remotes dug out of couch cushions.
  • Plump the couch up nicely, fold the throw blanket, straighten chair cushions
  • Run a clean rag over the TV to remove dust

If you’re cleaning a bedroom as well, make the bed and put the laundry in the hamper, but don’t change the sheets. Consider tidying the nightstands, or at least moving any empty glasses to the kitchen, but again – ten foot rule applies.

At this point I’ve spent 20 minutes (or less) and the house probably looks vaguely presentable. The clutter is still there (if you have no clutter, you can bite me.) but it’s straightened up and the general atmosphere is … well … neatified. The last 10 minutes are for me to make a cup of tea (or a pitcher of iced tea) and relax. This way not only has the house been neatified, but I don’t look like I’ve just spent 20 whirlwind minutes cleaning either.

I’m sneaky like that.

Obviously, the more warning you get the more you can get done, but even 10 minutes is a long time if you prioritize what will actually be seen versus what “needs” to be done. This isn’t for long term cleaning. It’s not how to keep your house neat and tidy, though there are many systems for doing such a thing. It’s OH GOD THEY’LL BE HERE IN FIVE MINUTES AND THIS PLACE IS A MESS.

It’s neatification.

*Neatification is a word made up by my third grade teacher, Mrs. Fisher. It is, of course, the noun form of the verb “to neatify”. While we’d have monthly desk clean out sessions, she would give us about 5 minutes every Monday morning to neatify our desks for the week.