Christmastime is Here!

So, it’s Finals Week at school and I’m procrastinating in my grading by posting pictures of this past weekend.  Just sayin’.

I put up the Christmas lights the Sunday after Thanksgiving (in the rain, I might add…), but we didn’t turn them on until late last week when it was closer to actually being December.  This weekend after we got the tree, I put the LED “flicker” candles in the windows.  Every year, I love seeing them up in the attic windows…

We got our tree this past weekend, again under threat of bad weather.  Calvin was actually feeling a bit sick, so we made him go with us, but he stayed in the car.  Brooke thought we should try and get a straighter tree this year rather than buy a new tree stand (last year’s tree had some “issues” staying upright…), and the tree lot we tend to go to keeps their best ones pre-cut and covered for easy browsing.  Meg and Brooke picked the one they liked the best (a Fraser Fir this year) and we hauled it off on the Forester.

By the time we got home, Calvin was feeling a little better.  He and Meg hung out for a bit while we waited for the tree to dry off from the rain (again…it’s Precipitation City here in Missouri this year…).  After a bit of unloading, I carried the tree in and put the new Christmas lights on it that Brooke picked up on sale at the end of last season.  These are bigger “bulb”-style lights, but they’re really just a plastic cover around a small LED.  Still, they look nice!  The kids helped out with hanging the ornaments…and then we had to rearrange the ornaments after they only hung them in the very front and below the 4′ line of the tree…  

In the end, it turned out pretty good!  The tree’s about 8′ tall, so the star doesn’t quite fit in the bay window perfectly.  We pulled it out a little bit, but it still looks great from the street outside.

This year also saw the addition of a new tree upstairs, also a pick-up from a sale at the end of last Christmas.  It’s a 4′ fake tree the kids can keep upstairs to put some of their ornaments on.  We actually put it up Thanksgiving weekend to tide Brooke over until it was time to put up the real thing.

We’ve got most of our presents purchased this year already and Brooke’s been busy with the wrapping.  She took care of Christmas cards before Thanksgiving for the first time ever, but as I’m in the throes of Finals, I won’t be addressing them until this weekend at the earliest.  Still, I think we’re ahead of most folks this season!  Since we’ve had at least 5 snowfalls this year (including a small one this morning…), it’s felt like Christmas for weeks now, even though it’s only December 4th.

The house at least looks more like Christmas now, too!

Review: Halloween

I don’t think I actually saw the original Halloween (1978) until after college.  Perhaps I saw it earlier and just didn’t remember it, but I don’t think I actually saw it until relatively late in life.  Growing up, I wasn’t really into “slasher movies,” though the Friday the 13th franchise was frequently on TV, so I caught a few of those here and there.  I’ve seen parts of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but never the whole thing.  The 1980s were the heyday of slasher franchises, so I remember going to the Gerbes in Columbia to check out movies available for rental and seeing all of the covers for lots of movies I’d only later be old enough to actually watch.

The thing I really appreciate about the first Halloween movie is that it a). kicked off the “slasher” genre, and b). contains no blood.  Not a drop.  There’s tension, there’s violence.  But there’s no gore to it.  Not that I’m against such things, but I think it sets itself apart from other movies that came out in that era and later that leaned so hard into gross-out territory that it wasn’t really scary so much as it was shocking.  Later movies in the Halloween franchise definitely kicked things up a few notches, but they weren’t better for it.  In fact, the movies were barely comprehensible, aside from a few examples that weren’t utter train wrecks.

This brings us to Halloween (2018), technically the third movie to bear that name (there was another reboot in 2007 that wasn’t all that bad).  This film has a few things going for it that piqued my interest.  Firstly, it ignores all of the other movies except the original, which is a crazy thing for a franchise to do.  Secondly, it takes place, in real time, 40 years later, so the passage of time is integral to the story being told.  Lastly, they got Jamie Lee Curtis back to portray Laurie Strode, but with 40 years of trauma built in that turned her into a secluded “prepper,” who is ready for the return of Michael Meyers.

As the original is probably my favorite horror movie of all time, it isn’t surprising that I liked this one, too.  I like the direction it took, the story it told, and the characters involved in telling it.  This new iteration was, in some ways a “remake” of the original, which has been the trend in Hollywood to “tell a new story” by “retelling the old one” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes to mind).  However, I think this one leaned more toward “callback” than “retelling.”  Some similar story beats were totally there, like the psychiatrist and sheriff pairing up to find Michael, or the babysitter connected to the main characters being a target on Halloween night, and so on.  But I think the writers did a good job of acknowledging the original movie while putting enough twists in the plot to make it a new thing.  The fact that I knew certain main characters wouldn’t die (because they’re main characters…), but I still felt tense at the edge of my seat, is a testament to what they were able to craft here.

So yeah, it was good.  Was it as good as the original?  Probably not.  But this movie still didn’t have all that much gore to it.  There’s totally violence and, this time, there’s blood in there…but it wasn’t over-done like some horror films will do.  It wasn’t as much “shocking” as it was “tense,” and I think that’s about as true to the original as you can get.

Challenge Completed

As I’ve written before, I’ve been working on running a half marathon for most of this year.  Back in May, I registered for the Kansas City Half Marathon and have been putting in quite a few miles since, especially recently.  I did 45 miles 3 weeks ago; 37.7 miles 2 weeks ago; 47.4 miles last week; and then scaled down for this week, “only” running 19 miles in the days leading up to today’s race (and I took off yesterday).

Brooke and the kids stayed home this time, mostly because there isn’t a whole lot for kids to do for two hours between 7:00 and 9:00 am in downtown Kansas City.  It also afforded me the flexibility to get down there, use public transportation to get around, and go to bed when I needed to.  To that end, I left home yesterday around 2:30 and headed to Union Station where the race packets were being held.  I picked up my shirt (which is really nice, btw…) and race bib, checked out a few of the “wares” from various sponsor companies, and then headed to my hotel.  We had originally scheduled an Airbnb for the night, but the owner cancelled about a week ago (hmmm…wonder why…), so I ended up staying at the Marriott Downtown, closer to the convention center.  In the end, this was probably best because I was a). close to the Power and Light District (for dinner options) and b). the hotel was a block away from the KC Streetcar stop I needed the next morning.

After I checked into the hotel, I went around to the corner to a sports bar called Yard House, which was packed (because Friday, ya’ll).  I ate my turkey club and fries at the bar, along with a few beers from Torn Label, which were quite good.

I was done with dinner by 7:00, so I went back to the hotel and watched Netflix for a few hours before trying to fall asleep, which thankfully happened around 9:45 pm.

It was a brisk 46 F when I walked to the trolley around 5:45 am Saturday morning.  Honestly, it was supposed to be worse earlier in the week, when the temperature forecast was closer to 36 F, so I was fine with this.  The worst part about this aspect of the experience was that, because of the number of people running and parking being at a premium, using public transportation requires getting down there early, and when you are by yourself, there’s no one to hold a coat for you, so I just had my running gear to keep me warm (read: not really warm).  Thankfully, Union Station was open, so I could hang out in there until the race was to start.

I should also note that, before leaving the hotel, I had 40 oz of water and a Cliff Bar.  I took along some Scratch Labs energy chews (effectively fruit snacks with more salt than usual) to have closer to start time, and I washed it down with a 20 oz water from a vending machine in Union Station.  I did not carry water with me for the race.

Note: You can “check” gear at one of the tents at the end of the race, so I could have taken a coat along with me, but having not run this race before, I wasn’t sure what that process would look like with a few thousand people being down there.  If I run this again sometime, I think I can get away with doing it this way again.  If it’s any colder, though…who knows…

There were a lot of people racing.  Official tallies indicate 3,987 finishers for the Half Marathon; 1,263 finishers for the Full Marathon; and 1,363 finishers for the 10K.  All of them started at 7:05 am, so it took a bit to get off the starting line.  The 5K runners (1,272 finishers) started at 7:30 am.

My goal for this race was to do it in under 2 hrs.  My understanding from perusing the internet is that 13 miles in 2 hrs is a perfectly “respectable” time (indeed, the average was 2:19:16 from those that ran it).  The two times I’ve run 13 miles before, at least around Marshall, I’d done it in 1:56 (back in May), and then again at 1:51 a few weeks ago.  Granted, I didn’t know the Kansas City landscape, so it was still a bit of an unknown how this route would go, but I hoped I could at least do it in close to 1:50.

Relatively early on, I noticed the pace runner in front of me maintaining an 8:00 min/mi pace, which would put runners nearby on track for a 1:45 half marathon.  After I spotted him, I thought I’d try to keep up for as long as I could, thinking that would push me beyond 1:50.  And for most of the run, I kept up or was in front!  I didn’t stop for water (which was provided every 2 miles) or restrooms (which were also provided about as often), so that helped me keep moving.  My legs didn’t really hurt all that much until I got closer to the 8 mile mark, but more on that shortly…

The organizers made a big deal of the fact that the race course was “reversed” from usual, and this is the second year they’ve done this.  I guess it used to start with a giant hill to go up at the beginning, and then slower declines for much of the rest of the race.  However, by virtue of reversing things, that meant there were more slow inclines for much of the race and a mile long decline at the end.  Around mile 9, I definitely started feeling those slow hills…and wasn’t a fan…  Still, knowing the end of the race would be on a downhill kept me going.

That last hill, though.  Whoa.  For comparison, I was going uphill at 8:24 min/mi for mile 11, then 8:03 min/mile for mile 12…then 7:34 min/mile for 13…

…and 6:36 min/mile for the last 0.2 miles of the race…

In the end, my official time was 1:44:06 to run the 13.1 miles, which I was very happy with.  I not only beat my goal, I killed it. I placed 49 out of 286 people in my age group (35-39) and 276 out of 1773 males who ran the race.  336th place overall (out of 3,987). For my very first official Half Marathon, I thought that was pretty good!  

At the very end of the race, at the “Finishers Festival,” you are given a beer and some BBQ, which I wouldn’t normally be all about, but after burning 1,600 calories before 9:00 am, I can’t say I was eager to refuse…

People have asked if I’m going to push on for a Full Marathon next and, at this time, I’m thinking “no.”  After I finished the race, took the trolley back to my hotel, and took a shower, it was around 10:00 am…and I just thought about all the Full Marathon runners still going.  I’m not sure I’ll say that I’ll never do it, but it’ll be awhile.  With that finishing time, I’m not really eager to do another Half for awhile, either – I’ll probably stick with 10Ks for awhile.  But when I’m ready, perhaps I’ll hit up the Half Marathon in Columbia or St. Louis where I know more people and don’t have to deal with public transportation quite as much.

For now, though, I’m going to take a few days off!

Garden Update: Late-September

So, being honest for a moment: I put these pictures in here earlier in October and forgot about it.  I’m a little late, but the garden hasn’t changed all that much in the last week, so oh well: it is what it is.

Aaaaannnyway, we’ve mostly shut down the garden for the year.  At this point, I’m still going out a few times a week to grab cherry tomatoes for Meg’s and my lunches during the week.  There are some full-size tomatoes still coming on, and we’ve still got peppers out there, but we’re only going out there when we feel like it, or when we need something for some reason.

Brooke picked the popcorn.  We got some this year, but nowhere near what we got two years ago.  She noticed a squirrel attempting to carry an ear up one of our maple trees a few weeks ago, so we know various pests also went after them.  Still, we got something, so it could have been worse.  The bean plot has some of last year’s straw bales on it to try and limit the growth of weeds, but other than that, we’re leaving that entire plot alone now.

The tomato and pepper plots are still moving, to a limited degree.  Somehow, earlier last week, we ended up with 80+ F temperatures before it started getting cooler.  The low tonight is supposed to be 38 F, so we’ve had a big swing in the last week!  We’ve also had some rain, so I should probably mow…er…sometime…

Earlier in October, Brooke picked as much as she could handle and ended up with quite a few tomatoes.  She’s pretty sure she’s canned over 20 pints thus far, though she put these tomatoes pictured here in the freezer until she’s ready to process them.  She expects that she can hit 30 pints by the time it’s all said and done, but the “official” count remains to be seen.

Our pepper crop ended up being pretty solid this year!  We didn’t get many traditional bell peppers, but the peppers we ended up with were still relatively mild and tasty.  

She ended up canning them after roasting them outside on the grill.  The roasting process was straightforward outside and provided the “real estate” to do all of them at one time.  Brooke brought them in and cut them all up and put them in small jars in the fridge.  I’m not entirely sure what she’s going to do with them, but I suspect they’d be good in a chili or on a pizza.  We’ll see!

Lastly, aside from the popcorn in the middle, here’s the soup bean and “pole bean” haul from this year.  Not a ton on any of their counts, but still: more than we had before.  We will definitely go with pole beans next year, but we haven’t decided whether to go with a more “prolific” variety, or whether we need to just add more arms to the teepee and get more plants going.  With regards to the soup beans, we knew going in that we weren’t planting as many as last year (we’ve still got some), but it just feels wrong to not plant them, so here we are.  We got something.  That’s what matters.

This post probably closes out this year’s garden posts for awhile!  I may do another wrap-up later after the sweet potatoes come up, but that doesn’t usually happen until we get closer to the freezing point (which is tonight…incidentally…who knows…silly Missouri weather…).  We had a good run in 2018!

Update (10/16/18): Rather than starting a whole new post about this, I figured I’d add a few pictures from yesterday.  Our first frost hit last night (a low of 29 F), so we picked the rest of the tomatoes and peppers that were out.

The tomatoes weren’t in the best of shape, but I got almost a “car wash bucket” out of them.  I’ll be sad to see the cherry tomatoes go this season, as I’ve been eating them in my lunch twice a week, but I suppose all good things must come to an end…

The peppers were in better shape, overall.  Lots of big ones and little ones out there.  Brooke’s going to freeze these after she slices and dices them and we’ll use them in chili, on pizzas, etc. I think our pepper haul was shockingly good this year, though I guess I can’t say for certain whether we got more than last year or not (I suspect so…).

Sometime in the next few days, Brooke will dig up the sweet potatoes.  That’ll close out the garden for 2018 for good!

Oktoberfest 2018

Last year’s Oktoberfest went well, but attendance was down slightly from the previous year due to putting it the same weekend as Fall Break.  We also consistently hear from some of the usual folks we invite that October is pretty busy because of other school-related activities.  Therefore, for this year’s Oktoberfest, we pushed into September.

Of course, once you start looking at the calendar, there aren’t all that many options for later in the month because a certain someone has a birthday on September 23rd (incidentally, Calvin’s grandmother has a birthday on September 22nd, so he isn’t the only one with a birthday around then!).  Soooooo, the decision was made to try and combine the two: he was turning five and had more friends to invite this year, so we could just invite everyone and try and satisfy both needs.

We spent the usual amount of time preparing for the even the week before.  Thankfully, the weather was solid enough that we could get mowing done and pick up some straw bales for seating.  There was a threat of rain later in the week, but a front came through on September 21st, cooling off the temperatures into the low- to mid-70s for September 22nd.  Near perfect weather, really!

Mimi and Poppy, and Nana and Papa, all came in early to help with some set-up, though Brooke and I had most of it done already.  Still, it was good to visit a bit during “the calm before the storm.”  Calvin and I even went to the MVC Rodeo the night before, so we weren’t so behind with set-up that it was necessary for me to work through Friday night getting ready (the rodeo was fun, by the way).  Before everyone arrived, Calvin opened some presents from his grandparents – we saved the rest of them for the next day.

As part of Oktoberfest, knowing that we’d have more kids than usual present, Brooke looked into getting special activities to entertain them.  We tried finding mini pumpkins, but it was just a bit too early for them to be available at our local stores, so Brooke found some plastic ones to be painted at Dollar Tree.  

We also set up some yard games, including a “throw the ring around the beer bottles” game and horseshoes.  Honestly, I was down with the grill the whole time, so I didn’t see how the “kid games” went over, but it seemed like they were relatively entertained!  Some kids got out chalk for the driveway, others used the swings, and others played cornhole.  No one felt the need to go inside and turn on the TV, so I suppose this was a “win!”

The rest of the party went off without a hitch.  We set up the screen-in tent down where the yucca plants used to be and put some straw underneath (it fit the theme of the party while also covering up the distinct lack of grass from that particular spot).  We ran an extension cord out there for the Crock Pots and turned on our blue Christmas lights for later.  We ended up with plenty of seating for the 38 visitors we had (about 10 more than last year!) and moved chairs around when necessary.  It was warm enough that I didn’t light up the fire until early-evening, but once it was going, it was a welcome addition.

A brief side-note: the Nuremberg sausages we like to get from Aldi didn’t come in until that very week here in Marshall.  I ended up grabbing 15 packs of them from the Aldi in Columbia when I made my run for Oktoberfest beers, just in case, but the Marshall store got theirs in just in time.  Still, if we do it around the same time next year, we may have to drive a bit to stock up!

As usual, most people were leaving by 7:00, which was when the rodeo started that night.  A few couples stayed later than that, one of which hung out until around 9:00.  Calvin sat inside in front of the TV; the adults chatted by the fire; and Meg laid down in the straw under the blue lights.

It was a great day!  Let’s hope the weather is similar next year!

The Saga Continues

Well this looks good…

So, as mentioned in the previous post, we had a bit of rain coming through and had to protect the porch as best as we could.  We hung some tarps from the roof line because it wasn’t supposed to be all that windy and it was more likely that any moisture that did get onto the floor would evaporate faster than it would if we just laid tarps out on top.  For the most part this held true, though the mailman had to walk up onto the porch and tracked wet foot prints, so it wasn’t a perfect solution.  Still, it was better than the alternative.

Eventually, after a few days, the sun returned and we were able to get to work on painting.  We put two coats of primer on and two top coats on the floor, as well as one coat of primer and one coat of a more “cream” color on the columns and previously-white portions of the porch. 

Unfortunately, toward the end of the primer coat on the columns, we noticed something going on down in the foundation…

Brooke noticed it first.  Some of the rocks and mortar from the supports had fallen out overnight.  This happened after we’d been on the porch with our initial priming work, so we’d been on there quite a bit, but never felt any shifting.  However, clearly something happened.

Even the floorboards had separated a bit, so now pine between the boards was exposed and, obviously, wasn’t primed against moisture.  The floor had dropped ~4 inches, so it had also separated some from underneath the siding.

Needless to say, this wasn’t good.  We called the construction folks and had them come out the next morning.  They looked it over and decided the supports had to be replaced.  As we couldn’t prove that this was necessarily their fault (and, honestly, we can’t know that for sure…it could just have been a coincidence, but seriously, we were not wanting to spend more than we already had!), we were going to have to shell out more to have them lift the porch and replace the supports with fresh cinder blocks.  And this was going to take more time, which meant that we couldn’t paint anything because it could move again!

So, they came that same afternoon to remove the supports and replace them with temporary wooden ones while they poured concrete bases for the new blocks to go on.  This part was done the afternoon we first contacted them.

Then, another guy was supposed to come do the masonry work…but he was engaged in another job elsewhere, so it took four days for him to finally come and take care of it!

By the time it was done (on a Saturday morning…the weekend we took the kids to Columbia to be out of our hair while we finished this…), the blocks looked good and everything was solid.  It just took substantially longer than I wanted to get done!

Granted, you can’t make plans around construction, because “things happen.”  Still…I don’t have to like it…

Once the blocks were in place, we could finish the painting of the floorboards and trim, and also do all the landscaping we had planned.  Brooke picked up boxwood bushes, blue rug juniper, and sky pencil holly to go in the front from our local landscaping place, and we also had 100 cu. ft. of mulch dropped off.  (Side note: apparently 100 cu. ft. of mulch isn’t enough, so get 150 next time!) We struggled to find landscaping pavers we really liked, as multiple places in town didn’t have anything in “grey” and we didn’t really want to drive down to Sedalia, but thankfully we lucked into some for $1 each at Wal-mart, so that worked just fine!  

We put those in and did our best to secure them, though we didn’t use a shovel to dig a ditch for them like we probably should.  I’m hoping that they’ll settle out over the winter months and be fine for next year, otherwise I’ll knock them over while mowing…

The landscaping was mostly done by Saturday, but we had to wait until Sunday morning for the construction folks to remove the supports and drop the floor for us to finish painting and put the lattices back up.  Brooke also spent a substantial amount of time with a small paintbrush filling in the gaps in the floorboards to limit the water that could cause damage.  While she finished that up, I grilled some awesome steaks out back… 🙂

The next day after church, we put the railings back on, as well as the lattices.  The lattices went on alright, though they don’t fit quite as well as they did with the new supports.

That part wasn’t so shocking, but the railings proved more difficult than we’d expected.  Apparently the columns weren’t put back in exactly the right places, so we ended up having to saw them down a bit to make them fit appropriately.  I also had to run out and grab a few more brackets that would fit the railings better (because the ones we bought fit some railings, but not all railings…ug…).  Still, they’re a bit wobbly as they’ve always been, but they’re far more secure than they were before!

Finished product!  Those pencil holly should grow up to ~6 ft high, so we’ll have to trim them, but they’ll drive people toward the center of the stairs.  The plan is to remove that center railing once we get some time.  It’s falling apart and a coat of paint isn’t going to fix it.  We also switched around the furniture relative to where they used to be because we realized during the course of work on the lattices that the western side of the porch is actually longer than the eastern side, so it makes more sense to have the couch and chairs/table switched.

Lastly, because we were waiting for paint to dry, Brooke took it upon herself to finally, ultimately, gut the yucca plants.

Seriously, she’s been waiting for years to get rid of them.  When the bees were here, the yuccas provided some useful shelter in the winter, but without bees, we don’t need them!  They’re gone!

That’s it!  It took a lot longer, and a lot more money, than we’d originally hoped, but I suppose that’s to be expected with home improvement projects.  We’re happy with the finished product, at least!

Upgrades

Well, that looks different…

The front porch has been in need of repair for…years…really…  We weren’t entirely sure if they were the original floors or not (ca. 1906), but we knew they were very old and that the edges nearest the concrete steps were disintegrating with each step the postal worker takes onto our porch.  Thus, it was one of my “summer projects” to figure it out.

I checked around a little bit, once with someone who was recommended by a neighbor but never called me back, and then a second group recommended by a different neighbor who did finally call me back.  Their price seemed reasonable, though higher than we really wanted to pay for it (like anything), but we figured it would be worth it.  Firstly, it wouldn’t take extra time on my part.  Secondly, it would be done by professionals (i.e. correctly).  Thirdly, and importantly, we weren’t even entirely sure how to complete the work by ourselves because of the way the columns were on the porch.  The columns needed to be removed and the roof propped up with posts if we were going to replace the whole floor, so we figured the pros was the way to go.

So save a little bit on the total bill, once we knew exactly when the work was happening (and it took over a month from “yes, we’ll do it” to “actually starting”…), Brooke and I tore up as many of the boards as possible.  We also removed the railings and scraped them down so they can be re-painted.  While I was working on the floorboards, Brooke cleaned, sanded and started priming the lattice covers that go down closer to the ground.  

Our “Labor Day” was rather labor intensive…

We couldn’t remove the boards under the columns, so we saw that coming, but the boards in front of the door, we thought we’d be able to remove.  Sadly, they were pinched underneath a 2×4 that was a part of the doorjam, so no matter what we did, we couldn’t get them out.  Ultimately, we think we saved the pros some time, but we kinda hoped we could do more.

We did notice another set of nails underneath the existing slats, so it’s likely this was at least the second set of floorboards on that porch.  Still, they were old, so they’ve at least been on a few decades…just maybe not 100 years…

Anyway, they started on Tuesday morning and got some of the work done, but not as much as I’d hoped.  Rain is a substantial issue this week, so we’ve been keeping an eye on the weather for when exactly we could prime and paint the new boards, so having it all done in one day would have been ideal, but alas, home improvement rarely happens according to schedule.

They got the columns removed and propped up the roof with boards and removed the extra floor slats we weren’t able to (somehow).  They also switched out some of the more rotten joists that have been there since the beginning of time.

And that was about all they got done that first day.  The rest of the boards had to wait until today, when the rain was scheduled to hit.

Thankfully, the rain was pushed back into late-afternoon (parts of Missouri are expecting 7″ or more…so yeah…rain is coming…), so they were able to get everything finished up by early afternoon.

Brooke came home early after stopping to pick up primer and paint.  I left work a little early to help, and it’s good I did because the clouds were coming in…

The new boards are made of pine, rather than the red oak that we used to have.  Sure, they won’t last as many years as the last ones, but if we keep them painted appropriately, maybe we’ll get a few decades out of them.

Speaking of which, Brooke was slapping on primer when I got home, so between the two of us, we were able to get it mostly primed before the rain hit.  Unfortunately, it did start raining before it was dry, so some of the spots we primed are lighter than others, but hopefully that single coat does some good in keeping the rain off the boards these first few days.

We’re going to prime the columns, too, once the rain is finally over in a few days.  We’ll still go with a “gray” of some kind on the floor and paint the columns and other panels white, much like it’s been for the last few decades.  The railings will be painted black as well, but again, we’ve got to get through a few days of rain before we can start on a few of those things, and even then, we have to let them dry before we can put them up again.

Therefore, I’m posting this now because, frankly, I have no idea when all of it will actually be done.  Hopefully we can get to some of it this weekend, but the way the weather is going (the remnants of Hurricane Gordon are making their way up toward us as I write this…), it may be next week before we can actually sit some of that stuff outside for painting and drying.  The garage is full of the wicker furniture for the porch, so there’s not a ton of room in there, but if we get ancy, perhaps we can rearrange a bit to make more progress.

Regardless, we’re happy with it!  More pictures will come after it’s all done!

Garden Update: Mid-August

Thar be tomatoes here!!!

We finally have some tomatoes coming off the vine after what seemed like an eternity.  The paste-type tomatoes Brooke planted have been hanging around for a few weeks, but very slow to actually start turning red.  We also finally got some rain in the past few weeks, so while that’s been good for the garden, as a whole, the tomato ripening has slowed due to slightly cooler temperatures and the cloud cover.  I guess I can’t complain all that much…

Brooke is officially “done” with the pickles.  She ended up with around 12 pints of dill pickles and lots of the aforementioned lime pickles.  I’m honestly pretty surprised how many of these things we got this year, as compared with other things we’ve planted in that spot (e.g. watermelons, pumpkins), so I suspect we’ll put more of them in next year.  I guess that depends on how many pickles we have left in March 2019…

Still workin’ on those pole beans…

The pole beans keep trucking along, but we haven’t gotten all that many of them yet.  Brooke’s been filling up a jar, but it’s only a handful so far.  They’re relatively far for the garden hose to reach, so I haven’t kept up on watering them much, but the rain recently has helped them survive just a bit longer.

Bigger pods than we get from the soup beans

The soup beans are being processed, too.  Meg’s gone through a few handfuls of bean pods in the last week, so she’s working on an ice cream bucket of them.  We’ve still got some from last year downstairs, so we didn’t plant nearly as many as before, but hey…it seems weird not to grow at least some, right?

Did I tell you we’re getting tomatoes now???

We’re also getting a ton of green peppers.  I feel like the harvest is substantially better than from previous years.  We’ve got poblano, “margaret,” coyame, and something else that Brooke can’t remember growing and all of them have tons of peppers.  Brooke’s thinking she’ll prep some “chili veggies” ahead of time and vacuum-seal them for later on in the Fall, so whatever we don’t use fresh, at least we’ll be able to store.

The garden’s starting to wind down a tad, but based on how much is on there still, I think we’ll be picking well into September!

Garden Update: Late-July

It continues…

The garden has slowed down to a degree, mostly because rain has been very scarce.  I’ve watered as best I can, of course, but there’s only so much a sprinkler can do.  The temperatures this week have been great: the A/C has been off for a week and will remain that way into next week!

The green beans are “done,” it seems.  You can see in the picture above, but the middle of the crop just died off all the sudden and we aren’t sure why.  Regardless, Brooke canned 28 pints of beans, plus another 2 pints that didn’t seal correctly, and the 3+ quart-size bags we’ve given away to others.  Brooke has also canned cucumbers as lime pickles and ended up with 7 pints of those, but the cucumbers are still coming so she’ll end up with more.

Tomatoes and soup beans

The tomatoes have taken off and have tons of green ones on, but we have relatively few that have actually ripened.  And by “relatively few,” I mean “two.”  We’ve stolen a few from the Gault’s next door, as it always seems like theirs ripen a month before ours do.  I’m not sure what black magic their casting, but whatever it is, it works.

Mama Tomato and Papa Tomato.

The soup beans are also vining out substantially, though the ones furthest from the trees are doing better. I’m sure it’s the excess sunlight they get over there, but still, worth noting.

Berries, pole beans, sweet potatoes.

The berries aren’t doing much right now.  The Japanese Beetle War of 2018 spilled over to them for a little while, but I’m not sure they actually did much damage.  We did lose all the peaches except for four that I picked early.  After the beetles were done last week (seriously, it took a month this year…), there were still 3 or 4 peaches out there, but when we looked this week, we couldn’t find them.  We suspect the neighbors stole them…grrrrrr…

The pole beans have some nice looking pods on them, so we think we’ll be able to pick some soon!

Peppers!

The peppers keep truckin’ along.  We’ve got Margaret Peppers coming off the plants, as they’re starting to turn red.  They’re bell-type peppers, but they’ve got an ever-so-slight “kick” to them that Meg doesn’t seem to mind.  The other plants are mostly hot peppers of the Coyame variety (I think…they at least look a lot like those from last year…)

An extended walkway!

Last but not least, we added to the walkway over the past few weeks!  Meg and Calvin helped a little bit, but weren’t as interested this year in concrete work.  I think I ended up getting something like 20 or 25 bags (80 lb) of concrete mix to finish this up, though I’ve got a few extra I didn’t use.  The intent is to put a few patio chairs out there and move the chiminea onto the platform, but I’m waiting a few more days for the concrete to harden more fully.  I put sand and pea gravel on today, but I still need to get some more to fill in the gaps a bit better.

Just need some chairs now…

We’re happy with it, but may need to add a few more segments depending on which chairs we end up settling on.  We’ll probably landscape around the patio a bit, but as it’s so shaded there, we need to be careful what, exactly, we plant nearby.  Brooke has a large pot she picked up to get something started for next year already, so that’ll make an appearance once she gets some time.

Ultimately, we want some nice old metal chairs, or something similar, but they’re ridiculously expensive and you kinda need to run into them at antique malls, so we’ll get something for the meantime and keep our eyes open for “just the right chairs” to go there.  It may be a bit before we find exactly what we want.

Also, in the space between the patio and the tomato garden plot, we’re going to put in a raised bed and a make-shift greenhouse for some lettuce.  We want to get that going in the next few weeks so we have time to plant lettuce for the Fall, and perhaps a few other things.  I think Brooke’s going to plant some herbs there, too, but we’ll need to wait until next Spring for those.  We’ll see what she picks, I suppose!

Review: Ant-Man and The Wasp

I wasn’t planning on going to see Ant-Man and The Wasp.  I rented the first one, Ant-Man, after it was available and thought it was fine, but not mind-blowing.  It wasn’t until Captain America: Civil War when I actually kinda liked the Ant-Man character.

But this one was out the same week the kids were at Mimi and Poppy’s house, so I had the time available to go see it in Sedalia, and the reviews were pretty solid, especially as a “palate cleanser” after Avengers: Infinity War, so I went ahead and saw it.

It was a fun movie!  It takes place after the events of Civil War and focuses on Hope Van Dyne and Hank Pym searching for Hope’s mother, Janet, who was lost in the Quantum Realm (as we found out in the previous film).  They have to enlist the help of Scott Lang again because he’s the only person to have ever successfully returned from the Quantum Realm (also in the previous film…).  The villain, Ghost, is also interested in finding Janet, but for her own nefarious purposes.

Paul Rudd does an excellent job, as always, and has great comedic buffoonery to throw around, but Evangeline Lilly really steals the show for much of the movie.  This is the first Marvel film where a female has “top billing” along with the male and it shows: this is as much her movie as it is his.  Captain Marvel will be the first female-centered hero movie among Marvel’s slate.

The effects are mostly solid, but I still think the insects look pretty fake.  Not sure they’ve got an alternative on that one, but compared with the other Marvel movies, it just stands out.

I also thought the story, while fun, was a bit contrived.  For reasons I won’t get into, there were three interested parties in obtaining the MacGuffin in the movie, and I’m not sure that was really necessary.  Did they really have to have the slimy arms dealer also chasing after Our Heroes?  Does it really make sense that Ghost happened to need that technology right when Hank and Hope developed it?  It just threw some story elements together in a way that felt awfully convenient.  Again, it was still a fun watch, but the story wasn’t all that compelling.

I’m definitely glad I saw it, though I likely won’t be buying it.  I hope The Wasp ends up being featured more in Avengers 4, as she’s certainly earned it.