Saturday, September 29, 2012


I used to have a garden at our house. It was rather extensive at one point and then we scaled back. We did raised beds to the side, raised in-ground beds that took up most of the yard, and raised store-bought beds. I thought I had pictures of the first two variations, but apparently they have gone by the wayside. I enjoyed our vegetable gardens and my extensive native plant garden. I really enjoyed all the birds and wildlife. However, I do not miss the yard work and trying to keep plants alive in a drought.
Our former yard
Our balcony
I have been trying to do some gardening on our balcony at the apartment.  I forget what the plant in the blue pot is called. It stands up well to neglect and has pretty little blue flowers. The "window box" style planter has done fabulously. It has a sage and silver pony foot. I made it from a gift basket my mom gave me that I lined with a heavy duty trash bag with holes poked in the bottom. It is attached with zip ties. The basil (not pictured) I moved from our front porch is also doing well.

Basket planter a couple of weeks after planting
Basket planter
My experimental yellow herb containers (recycled soda bottles) are so-so. They are technically sub-irrigated planters. The top is cut off and inverted in the bottom to create a water well and a piece of felt acts as a wick. The seeds were very slow to start. So far only the cilantro and climbing spinach look like they might make it (and even then they are puny). I was also trying to grow oregano and lemongrass. I will give the yellow containers another two weeks and if they haven't become more successful, I am replacing them with another large basket planter.
Sub-irrigated herb planters (and an aloe and rosemary)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


If you are in Austin and love duck, go to First China BBQ in the Chinatown Center. Do not order off their highly Americanized lunch menu. If you open up the menu they have several roast meats served with rice for the same price as the lunch specials. I've had the duck on several occasions and it is amazing. Duck skin and fat is uniquely delicious. Other restaurants price duck like it is some rare and precious meat. Here it is $6.50 for a decent sized portion.

After you eat, go over to the giant Asian supermarket. It smells awful, but has really well priced Asian goodies. The junk food aisles alone are worth the trip. I love exotic foods. Hence while I still try to buy clothes and other wares made in America, I refuse to apply this to food products.

Awhile back we visited a Hindu temple in Houston. I really enjoyed it, but was shocked to learn that certain Hindu sects do not eat onions or garlic. We met a man at the on-site restaurant that had never had onions or garlic in his 40+ years. That blew my mind! I eat onions or garlic with nearly every meal I make at home. I love sauteed onions dearly. I try to understand people who restrict their diet because of religious or moral reasons, but I can never quite wrap my mind around it. I love meat. I love the commonly forbidden pork. I love wine and other alcohol. I fiercely love onions and garlic. One day I may discover I am in fact the unenlightened one, but until then I will enjoy all the glorious foods and beverages this world has to offer.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The sweet joys of apartment living! No, seriously! You don’t really appreciate apartment living until you have owned a house. Going back to an apartment after owning a house is like living a vacation. You wake up on Saturday and no longer have to tackle yard work. When the AC isn’t working, you just call the maintenance number. You don’t have to care about how much something will cost to fix or what exactly is wrong with it. There is much less space to clean (assuming most apartments are smaller than most houses). We have the added benefit of living within walking distance to the grocery store, several restaurants, a pharmacy, and a bookstore. There are also two pools and a work out facility on site, plus trail access to a large green belt.

There is a lot of pressure in our society to own a home. I talked in a previous post about how owning a home is not always a great investment these days. It can be if you get lucky, but it can just as easily result in a net loss. Plus, even once it is paid off you are still stuck paying property taxes and paying for repairs. I am not anti home ownership; I just recommend taking a critical look at that path. Just because you can afford a house doesn’t mean you should buy it. Just because you can afford a larger place doesn’t mean you should move.

In other news, I recently made a baby mobile for a co-worker (mostly because he bugged me to make him one for 3 months after seeing a mobile I made for another co-worker's birthday). He is also into the buy domestic movement and told me about trying to find a crib that was made in the US. I had guessed he ended up with one made by the Amish and sure enough he did. It was pricey, but is solid wood and there are no worries about paint or sealant chemicals or unsafe parts.