Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Green Windowsill

As Spring is springing up all around Oxford, I'm trying to bring a little greenery to the inside of our house as well.

It all started with the cactus re-potting and windowsill 're-styling' earlier this week:

Coincidentally, this month's Urban Jungle Bloggers 'inspiration' was to add greenery to a balcony or windowsill. So. Voila. I know the photography is not as stunning as that of some of the other bloggers, but this is what you get with a point-and-shoot. 

The green-scaping continues with some herbs I bought at last weekend's farmers market. The market has been happening once a month this winter, and this last weekend was the first time everyone was really starting to itch for a weekly market. 

The weather was sunny, the temperature was nice, and vegetables are beginning to show up again! Hurray!

I need to pot these herbs in a larger planter, but for now they seem happy in another kitchen windowsill.

I bought a couple large planters at IKEA last week, but I want to try to drill some drainage holes in the bottom before transferring the herbs. Darn it, IKEA, why can't you just make plant pots with holes in the bottom?!

So that's my project for this weekend. I've been a little light on DIY projects lately, so I'm happy to have something to work on.

And don't think I've forgotten about my line-up of spray painting projects waiting in the basement... The weather has definitely warmed up enough for painting, so I'll be getting to those soon!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Top Five for Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! Phew! We made it.

1.  The first thing to celebrate this Friday is my stellar report from my eye doctor. I had my 5 month appointment (since LASIK), and he says everything looks divine. I'm still experiencing some dryness and a little 'refraction' (doctor's word, not mine), but he says they look great, and more importantly, I can see!

2.  I made a delicious salad on Tuesday with a bunch of leftovers from the fridge. The more I cook at home, the more comfortable I get with just throwing stuff together and experimenting. I piled up romaine, black beans, avocado, salsa, and some crushed blue corn tortilla chips, and I made a 'Southwest' dressing with sour cream, lime juice, chopped cilantro, minced garlic, and a little salt and sugar. Mmm mmm mm! It was delish. 

Sorry the picture's not totally appetizing. I had already begun to dig in
when I thought, "This salad's so good, I should take a picture!"

3.  Look at my baby girl out enjoying the sunshine. What would the weekly highlights be without a cat picture?

Minnie loves the grass, the sun, and rolling in the dirt, and I love watching her enjoy the outside world. She also stalks bumble bees. So cute.

4.  Check it out, y'all!! We have bloomage.

When I bought these air plants, I didn't even know they bloomed! This was a fun little surprise this week.

5.  I started tutoring a Russian girl about a month ago. I teach her English, and she teaches me yoga (and then I help her with her English yoga vocabulary). It's been a nice little exchange, and today we went on a field trip to JC Penny to practice her shopping vocabulary. I got a new pair of (very, very much needed) running shoes, and my tutee made it through checkout all by herself. Yessss! High five!

So those were some highlights from this week. It wasn't the most exciting week, and I did a TON of driving (to the airport, to work, to JC Penny...), but the point of these Friday posts is to focus on the positive! So we won't complain too much about that... ;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Air Plant Update

Ooooh! I'm so excited. I noticed today that one of my air plants is changing color, and upon closer inspection I noticed a tiny flower bud forming.

Here is what the plant looked like when I got it a couple months ago:

And here it is today:

See the little purple flower head?

I have no idea how often this will bloom or how long it will last, so I'll be keeping a close eye on this one!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Belize Outtakes

Just thought I'd share a few more photos that didn't make it into the regular Belize recap posts. We'll start it off with our gorgeous mugs:

... and the Queen's gorgeous mug.

behind the waterfall

island transportation on Ambergris Caye

I forgot to include the banana farms on my Flora and Fauna post. Belize produces a TON of bananas, and we stopped by one of the banana plantations on our way to Cockscomb Basin one day.

These are banana plants, not banana trees. So there's your first lesson in bananas. Those blue bags are covered in insecticide to protect the bananas as they grow on the bunch.

Here is an uncovered bunch. That large purple thing on the end is the flower. And that's all I can remember of our banana tutorial... Oh, except that we don't get Belizean bananas in the U.S. because a U.K. company called Fife exports all of Belize's bananas to the U.K. However, Chiquita is in talks with Fife about some kind of merger, so you may soon see Belizean bananas in your local grocery store.

Also from our Cockscomb Basin tour, here's Doyle demonstrating the strength of an ant. He has a soldier ant pinched between his fingers (which he acquired by stomping on top of a HUGE ant hill until the soldier ants began streaming out... at which point he told us to "get away fast!"). When Doyle picked up the soldier ant, it opened its pincers up, waiting to bite whatever threat it was facing. Doyle then put a stick in its pincers, and it latched on. So Doyle is not holding that stick up. A soldier ant is.

Moral of the story:  Don't mess with ants. Especially big jungle ants.

We also learned on our tour that the term jungle refers to a forest that is dense. We were definitely in a jungle:

Speaking of forests, here's our friend Forest, the cockatoo, again.

And this is when he flew down and landed on Ted. Ted is covering his ears because the bartender warned us that Forest is kind of an a-hole and likes to bite.

Last but not least, I can't believe I forgot to post our departure pictures! We were scheduled to drive 3.5 hours from Placencia to the airport in Belize City on our last day, but that is a loooong drive, and we would have had to leave very early in the morning.

And when we got to Placencia, we discovered that there is a little airport there, and plane tickets were relatively cheap to get back to Belize City.

It was totally worth forking over the extra cash to get to Belize's main airport in a matter of minutes vs. hours, even if Ted didn't exactly fit in the tiny plane seat.

Buckle up! Ready for takeoff!

It's pretty much just up to the drivers on the road to notice when a plane is taking off and stop to wait.  Seems like a good enough system to me. After all, there is a sign on the road that says, "Give planes the right of way."

OK, I think that does it! I think I've shared every part of our Spring Break vacation. Posting all these photos and writing about our trip makes me want to go back to Belize. I would highly recommend it if you're looking for something a little off the beaten path!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cactus Repo(r)t

Happy Easter everyone! We're celebrating by getting a new water heater!

Yesterday morning I tried to take a shower, only to discover that there was NO hot water. I went down to the basement to check on the water heater, and lo and behold, a puddle was forming underneath. Uh oh.

We've had trouble with water heaters before. In Boulder, our upstairs neighbor's water heater exploded one night and flooded our kitchen. A year or two later, our own water heater gave up on life and flooded our downstair's neighbor's deck.

So I called our landlord right away. Rather, I texted Ted and said, "Call the landlord."

Of course these things only happen on holiday weekends... So I'm sure the guy who's downstairs replacing it is making overtime pay. Good for him. As long as I get a hot shower out of this.

Anyway... this post was not meant to be about hot water.

It's about cacti.

A couple months ago I planted some cactus gardens in glass bowls. I loved my cactus gardens.

Sadly, my cacti did not. One has already shriveled up and died, and the others were threatening to join him.

I've discovered that the climate here is not quite as dry as Boulder's (actually, it's no where near as dry), and the soil in my bowls was not drying out. I tried moving the bowls into the sun throughout the day, but the rocks that formed the top layer of my gardens held the moisture in.

Exhibit A:
That poor little ridged cactus in front is no longer with us... she deflated.

So, in an effort to save the rest of my cacti, I decided to repot them without that layer of rocks on top. I also wanted to "re-style" my kitchen window, so I repotted the cacti into smaller pots to fit in the sill.

This is where my IKEA trip came in... The only problem with IKEA's flower pots (and it's a big problem) is that none of them have drainage holes!!! This is not ideal for plants that need dry soil. I was muy disappointed.

But I had driven 45 minutes to get there, and I did kinda like the white, textured flower pots, so I bought five and have my fingers crossed that the soil will still be able to dry thoroughly.

I filled the bottom of each pot about halfway up with rocks, then I put quick-drying cactus/succulent soil in with the repotted cacti. I have not watered them yet, as the soil around the bottom of each cactus was already thoroughly drenched from their previous "pots."

Notice, no rocks on top.

Sid Vicious couldn't be happier to be on his own.

So here is my message to you:  Unless you live in an arid climate, I would not recommend making a cactus garden with a top layer of stylish rocks. I'm bummed cuz I liked the look of the rock and soil layers in the clear glass bowls.

Ah well. In the end, I would rather have live cacti. And my window sill looks much cleaner and less cluttered with the series of white pots (as opposed to a handful of bud vases, a vase filled with wine corks, and a couple mismatched potted plants atop yogurt lids to catch drainage). Some day when there are no dishes in the kitchen sink I'll take a wide angle shot so you can see the effect.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Top Five for Friday

This week has been a bit of a downer since Ted came down with a nasty cold and hasn't felt well since Monday. But despite his coughing, sore throat, and general malaise, I've managed to think of five "positives" from the week:

1.  Our neighbors just happened to host a backyard BBQ on my birthday, since it was 75 degrees and sunny last Sunday. Then we woke up to snow on Tuesday. What, am I back in Boulder or something?

2.  Since it was so cold on Monday night, I made a big pot of Red & Black Chili with all the fixins' (and a fresh salad, of course). Mmmm mmm mmm!

3.  There is an IKEA only 45 minutes from our house. Growing up in Portland, the nearest IKEA was 3 hours away, in Seattle. My mom and I would make a weekend trip of going there. Now I can pop on over to IKEA whenever I want, which I did yesterday. :) Got myself some new plant pots and gardening tools.

The green one is an old herb pot from Crate&Barrel. The white ones are from IKEA.

This is my new favorite cactus. She's got spunk.

4.  Watching Milo (and Minnie) run home when I call him. Notice how puffed up their tails are when they arrive at our back door.

5.  Last but definitely not least, I got the day off today because my students went on a field trip to Nashville! Woot!

So that's my Top 5 for this week. There were other good moments sprinkled in there, like the light from a tiny window hitting my potted plant perfectly:

... and receiving a BIG birthday box in the mail.

unraveling all that bubble wrap was fun

If you want to read other Friday Top Fives, you can click here and scroll to the bottom. BTW, the girl you hosts the High Five for Friday also has an orange cat named Milo, whom she posted about today. :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Belize, Part IV

OK, this is the post you've been waiting for! It was hard for me to narrow down the photos and commentary on this one, so it's a bit lengthy...

Part IV:  Flora and Fauna (including underwater)

Ambergris Caye is known for its diving and snorkeling excursions. The thing to do is get a guide with a boat, get up early, and head to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley.

That's exactly what we did one morning; we beat the crowds and spent a couple glorious hours swimming with sea turtles, rays, nurse sharks, moray eels, barracuda, and lots of other fish. Our friends were the ones with the underwater camera, so all underwater photos are thanks to K and M:

I should mention that they dove, we snorkeled, so some of the photos are from their dives. I was not this far underwater. I am very happy on the surface, thank you very much.

Besides, there was plenty going on near the surface when the guys in the boat started throwing chum in the water.

(I'm in the black suit with the white spots!)
(Ted's the one shivering with his hands tucked in his armpits...)

So that was awesome. It's a little hard to tell with all those fish in the way, but that shark was a good 10 feet long. There were other, smaller, nurse sharks on the bottom. I even got to "pet" one on its belly. I also dove down to pet the rays a couple times. The shark was sandpaper-y; the rays felt more slimy.

The sharks and rays were cool, but I especially enjoyed swimming through the coral reef and seeing the variety of life there. 

And here's a quick video of the very first thing I saw when I jumped into the water:

This is a "baby" sea turtle. The mama was nearby, and she was MUCH bigger.

Again, I wish I had had an underwater camera, but many of the things we saw just wouldn't be the same through pictures. For me, the Top 3 Sightings were:
    1. an eagle ray - about a meter and a half 'wingspan', and it swam right under me as we crossed an underwater "canyon"
    2. a moray eel - our guide got him all riled up and he swam out of his hole; it was like a green ribbon in the water
    3. sea turtles - we saw a mama and a baby, and I could have just watched them eat turtle grass for an hour
K got a picture of the eagle ray from a distance. 

In addition to the ocean life, there is plenty going on above the surface. It was warm and a little humid, which meant lots of lush and LARGE plants. 

I really liked the "fan palms":

I also liked the all the birds and lizards that we saw - often in our own backyard:

We took a jungle tour from Placencia (to see jaguar, but alas, we saw none). Our guide, Doyle, told us about many of the plants in Cockscomb Basin, though, and he even had us eat a few. 

Here's Doyle, telling us about his grandma's tamales, because this plant's leaves
remind him of banana leaves, which in turn reminded him of grandma's cooking.

On our tour we saw a red rump tarantula:

This is not my photo. I got it off the internet, as I quietly freaked out.
If you dislike spiders even a little,
do NOT type 'tarantula' into a Google images search.

On that same jungle tour we tubed down a lazy river through the jungle and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I worried about getting sunburned since we were exposed for about an hour, but luckily our sunblock did its job!

Photo courtesy of M and her waterproof camera

At the end of the river we hiked to a waterfall and then slid down several natural rock slides. It was a little unsettling, as our guide had very specific instructions about how to do each slide without getting injured. In the end, we made it out with only a few bumps and scrapes and had a great time doing it.

We swam through the waterfall, and M took some photos in the cave behind it. The water was fresh and drinkable.

So there you have it - a glimpse into our Spring Break in Belize! There might be one more post of photos that were left out but seem worthy of the blog. For now, I just want to get this posted since it's been in the "Edit" phase for about a week now!