Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's a Bit Squirrelly Around Here

Cardinals Rally Squirrel
I am surrounded by squirrels. And unfortunately I don't mean the two legged kind, or the cute one that adorns my St. Louis Cardinals shirt. I have been hearing noises above my office for awhile. Because it goes on during the day and not at night, I figured that it was not mice. Plus I can see the squirrels scampering outside my office window. It is very annoying and distracting as I am trying to write. I have just started hearing them make a different noise, which made me wonder what squirrels sound like when they are trying to expand their families. So on Monday Jim called a couple of different pest control companies for a bid.

The first Squirrel Buster came to the house at 11:00 yesterday morning. After walking around the house and looking at the pitch of our roof, he respectfully declined the job. Oh dear! I could practically hear the squirrels high-fiving each other at the news. The second guy had given Jim his pricing over the phone, so Jim just called him back and asked him to come on over. I was not optomistic when he showed up. But he walked around the house, listened to what I had to say, and said he would set up a trap right away. He explained that last season was the largest explosion of wild critters that he had seen, and this year was shaping up to be a banner year as well. The trap companies cannot even keep up with the demand. He added that while regular pest control was falling through the floor, furry pest control was through the roof - lterally. Har, har. The extreme cold this winter has encouraged the four legged pests to seek warmer quarters. In our case, they are living in the area above the small, open porch we added to the second floor back in 2003.
squirrel trap

Knowing nothing about how this process works, I listened with interest as he explained that he would find the point of entry, and then attach a trap to the outside of the house over the hole. The trap is baited with peanut butter, and when the animal goes in the trap door closes. He comes back frequently to check the trap, but we can also call him if we see or hear one in the trap. After he is convinced there are no more squirrels in the space, he permanently seals the hole. My question is what happens if the squirrels were not in there when he placed the cage? I guess we shall see. What he does with the squirrels once he catches them, I do not know. I decided to take a don't ask, don't tell approach. I don't really care as long as they are no longer living in their Wolterman condominium. I do know that if they are relocated, they must be taken at least five (preferable ten!) miles from where they were caught. Otherwise they will come back.

After the Squirrel Buster left, I took Kirby for a walk. Our little deal at the end of each walk is once we get close to the house I let him off his leash in our front yard. He runs around like crazy and thinks he is hot stuff, and then we go into the fenced in back yard. When I took him off the leash yesterday, he chased after a squirrel. He always chases them, but never catches them. Except this time. He actually caught the squirrel! It seemed a little gimpy, so perhaps it had injured its leg. Regardless, there was Kirby, shaking the thing back and forth in his mouth. I was yelling at him in vain, telling him to drop it, when he shook it one too many times and it went flying. It managed to limp its way up the tree, thankfully. New name for the dog - the Kirbinator!

As of today, there are no squirrels in the trap. Kirby-1, Squirrel Buster-0. The guy said it may take awhile, but he thinks the warmer temperatures will draw the squirrels outside. Guess I better keep my eye on the Kirbinator.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Smokin' Ribs

It is hard to conceive of now, when the temperature is a measly 8 degrees, but Sunday was a beautiful day here. My husband was off on a motorcycle ride with a friend, so I decided to surprise him by grilling ribs for dinner. He gave me a head's up when he was about an hour away, so I fired up the grill. "Fire" would end up to be my word of the day. I put the temperature halfway between medium and low, wanting to cook the ribs for a longer time period. A little later I looked out the kitchen window and saw too much smoke pouring out the sides of the grill. Uh, oh! Grabbing a glass of water as I had seen my husband do on many occasions, I dashed out the door and flipped open the lid of the grill. Flames were everywhere! I quickly moved the ribs off the grill and set them on the side board, then doused the flames with the cup of water. Well, that didn't work, so I slammed the lid shut hoping it would burn itself out. No dice. By now there was black smoke pouring out of the grill. I was quite surprised that no one call the fire department. Perhaps I should have. I turned off the burners and ran inside for another cup of water.

Following a second dousing of water, there was still a small fire burning. When I opened up the grill doors, I could see that the lower tray was lit up like a bonfire. That is where my next cup of water was tossed. And that, thankfully, did the trick. I took the semi-blackened ribs into the house and put them in the oven. I was afraid to try lighting the grill again. Which got me thinking about gas grills and fire. What is the best way to put out the fire? Do you keep the lid closed? Does opening it feed the fire? Can you use a fire extinguisher? After all, that is a propane tank right under the fire. After searching online, I see conflicting information on water versus no water. This is a topic I plan to research further before I try the barbecue grill again.

In the end, I feel lucky that I wasn't burned and that I did not set the house on fire. We had a nice meal, and watched the fabulous sunset St. Louis was blessed with Sunday night.

Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 is Snow Laughing Matter

Jim and I traveled to Los Angeles on New Year's Eve to ring in 2014 with our daughter as she was unable to come home for Christmas. Unlike last year when we visited her in January, the weather was perfect. We had sun every day, no rain at all and temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70s. It almost made us want to live there. I say almost because I simply cannot handle the area traffic. Let alone there being lots of it, people cut in and out on the highways without signaling all the time. It seems so dangerous!

We arrived in time to take a cab to Katie's office, where we were able to meet her boss and many of her co-workers. It is fun to now be able to visualize her sitting at her desk. Everyone seems very nice. From there we went to her apartment to drop off our luggage, and then walked to a nearby Scottish restaurant for dinner. I love where she lives because you can walk to many different places and leave the car in the garage. The next morning, New Year's Day, we drove north to Ventura where we met my college friend Karen Smith and her husband for lunch. While they live in Washington, DC, the navy has transferred Mark to Ventura for a couple of years. It was so much fun to reminisce about our days at Iowa State.

Karen Smith and me

After lunch Jim, Katie and I boarded the Island Packers boat for a three hour tour (okay, it was three and a half hours, but most of you will know my reference to a three hour tour) of Channel Island National Park. The park encompasses five islands and the ocean that surrounds them. Officially this was a whale watching excursion, but we saw sea lions, dolphins, many birds and whales. We actually saw a humpback whale, which is unusual this time of year as they are normally further south on their migration to Mexico for the winter.

dolphins at play

humpback whale

whale tale

sea lion waves hello

sun sets on a great day                                                                                  

Katie had to work on Thursday, so Jim and I drove to work with her in the morning so that we could drop her off and use her car for the day.  We headed to Santa Monica beach, which was fairly uncrowded due to the early hour, and then down to Venice Beach with all of its uniqueness.

Santa Monica Pier

fitness, Santa Monica style

California sledding at Venice Beach

another glorious sunset in Venice
Friday after we dropped Katie off we went back to the Getty Center. We had gone here last January, but it was cold and rainy so we did not get to enjoy the gardens. I'm so glad we went back as it is absolutely beautiful!

Getty Center

Getty Center gardens

Jim and me

everyone's a star
After lunch at the Getty Center we headed over to the Getty Villa. From a beautiful, clear day we drove a few miles into cool fog. Weird. The villa is nice and its museums are interesting, but if I could only go to one of the Getty options, I would go to the Getty Center.

Getty Villa
Saturday we took it a little easy before making the two hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park. Located east of Los Angeles this 800,000 acre park is made up of two deserts. Obviously we should have arrived early in the day to see more of it, but what we were able to experience was really cool. We had asked the park ranger for the best spot to capture the sunset, and she definitely directed us to the right place.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees

Sun sets over the mountain

We had been touching base with home about the snow headed to St. Louis, so I wasn't surprised to find out that our flight home on Sunday had been cancelled. Unfortunately American left me a voice mail in the middle of the night so by the time I retrieved it on Sunday morning we had few options for rescheduling anything. They had booked us on a flight Monday night arriving in Dallas at 9:35 p.m. That didn't look too bad until we realized that the next flight for us didn't leave Dallas until 9:35 p.m. on Tuesday night! When I tried to call American I was informed there would be a two hour wait on hold. Yikes. No changes were allowed online at all. We decided to just go to the airport early on Monday and hope for the best. In the meantime, that left us with the opportunity to spend Sunday with Katie. We enjoyed a nice brunch in Glendale, walked around the outdoor mall in the area, and then drove the short distance to downtown so that Jim could see one of the urban parks in the area. We picked up brats for dinner and watched the season premier of Downton Abbey.

We drove to work with Katie Monday morning and then took a cab to the airport. The couple in line ahead of us had just returned from a 17 day cruise to the Panama Canal, and were trying to get back to St. Louis as well. I jokingly said that they would probably get the last two seats on the non-stop flight going out at 7:25 a.m. Tuesday morning. It turned out that they couldn't get any flight at all until Thursday! When we got up to the agent she was puzzled by the flights we had been given since they normally do not make you wait so long between flights. But she could not find any better alternative for us.

In Dallas we headed to a Comfort Inn near the airport for the night. Everyone on the shuttle bus had a horror story. The next morning my brother and his wife came to pick us up at the hotel, and we spent the day with them, my niece and my two great-nephews. That was the silver lining in the black snow cloud that was hovering over us.

Once we arrived back in St. Louis we were faced with clearing 12 inches of snow off the car - with no winter coats or boots! Luckily the shuttle bus driver helped us remove snow from behind the car so that we could get out. That was pretty nice considering it was nearly midnight and 16 degrees outside.

snow on our patio
What an interesting beginning to 2014. I wonder what the rest of the year will bring?