joanna irl

Toiletgeddon 2012, or I Got My Parents a New Bathroom for Christmas. (The exploding toilet saga.)

Throwback Thursday! Exactly a year ago TODAY, I got my parents the MOST EXPENSIVE CHRISTMAS GIFT they will EVER get from me: a fully remodeled house! How did I do it? By exploding the upstairs toilet, of course! Read more… ^_^

Joanna Volavka

So here we are. It is December 5 and I finally have a story for you. I’ve already told it partly on twitter, but feel that it should be EXPLAINED. Here it is, as I wrote it, commentary added as needed.


3:28pm: Twitter I just got attacked by a TOILET.
3:40pm: Seriously, there is an INCH of water on the floor. I had to grab the rug and RUN.
3:42pm: And THEN I had to barricade the door with towels to save the hall carpet and THEN I had to run for rubber boots and wade back in.
3:42pm: Because SOMEONE had to shut off the water.
3:42pm: I deserve a metal. Seriously.

And here is where we take our first commentary break. Seriously, after I flushed it, the toilet started filling (it’s old, so this wasn’t entirely surprising) and then… then it DIDN’T STOP. It just kept…

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joanna irl


Well, doing it badly, in any case.

I was going to write about our MUCH belated holiday party from this weekend today, but NO.

If you know me well, you know I don’t think much of most ads, especially when I can tell I am the target audience and feel that THEY are pandering to me. This is not one of those cases.

While watching a recorded TV show tonight (I don’t watch live TV other than sports if I can help it, mostly because of the aforementioned ad-induced-irritation), I happened to catch the last ten seconds of an ad at the end of a commercial break.

Of a woman leaning back into a pool.


Let this sink in for just a moment.

Are you with me yet?



I had to go back and watch it again (twice) to make sure.

PRO TIP: If you’re going to ADVERTISE something like STOOL SOFTENER, maybe using a POOL isn’t the best IMAGE.

Just a thought.

Want to see for yourself? I couldn’t find the ad on a video streaming site to embed it here, but you can see it at the company’s website. Click the tab marked “Video” and watch. You’re welcome.

joanna irl

The Story About the Beetles

Well, my Christmas tree is finally in its box, in the garage where it belongs. It went there on Saturday.

Yes, I know it’s March. Yes, I know Christmas was 2 1/2 months ago. And I tried, I really and truly tried to put it away. December 30th I actually started pulling down all of the Christmas decorations and on January 1st I started putting them back into storage. See? I blogged about it.

But the tree was the last thing to get taken apart and stored because it is, of course, the largest and heaviest decoration I had. I figured I’d need help to take it apart (though I’d managed somehow to put it up on my own), but I could at least take all of the ornaments off of it and get the box inside, right?


Later that same weekend, I wanted to take a break from undecorating and head to the beach for a bit, so I opened the garage door (where the Christmas tree box is kept) to get my beach chairs….

…and was met with a wall of teeny tiny CRUNCHING-UNDER-FOOT things. As I moved they started to fly into the air… and then I got close enough to see that they were thousands upon thousands of BEETLES.

Keep in mind that I am in my BATHING SUIT (with a cover-up, of course, but STILL) and holding a beach bag and there are THOUSANDS of little insects everywhere. And then I discovered their NEST– inside my emergency supplies and snuggled up next to (and INSIDE OF) our garage furniture.

The next door neighbors had moved out that week, but the garage was opened and I assumed some workers were over there (they’d been replacing floors all week), so I walked next door to see if THAT garage had beetles. One of the other neighbors was sitting there with another guy I assumed to be one of his friends. I asked them if they’d seen any beetles. They said no, but wanted to know WHY.

So I showed them the garage.

The neighbor scooped some into a cup to take to a guy down the street who does pest control, but we had an entire conversation (again, with my IN MY BATHING SUIT and HOLDING A BEACH BAG) about the SWARMS of BUGS in my HOUSE.

Then it occurs to me to introduce myself to the new guy (since I’m already the crazy lady with the beetles).

“Hi,” I said. telling him my name and shaking his hand. “Do you live around here?”
“Yeah, I live right here,” he said, pointing at the OTHER HALF OF THE HOUSE. “I’m your new neighbor.”
“OH!’ I said. “Well, you should probably get CURTAINS. Just, y’know, because all the windows here are level with each other. And the noise isn’t too bad, but if we’ve both got our bedroom closet doors open, we can totally hear each other. Just so you know.”

And then I drove off to the beach.

Later I realized that I must’ve seemed like not-the-sharpest-knife. I mean, of all things… Neighbor lady shows up dressed for the beach and tells you her half of your shared house is INFESTED WITH BUGS and then tells you that you need CURTAINS and about how you can hear through each others’ closets?

It’s a wonder the poor guy has spoken to me since then. (He does seem nice, though, and not too thrown by the fact that I made possibly the worst first impression ever). It helps that he has a dog. Dog people are usually nice.


Later that week I attacked the beetles with my good bug spray. It took three applications to GET them all, but I finally managed it and this weekend (exactly two months after the whole process began), J and I put away the Christmas tree. In the garage. With no beetles.

joanna irl

Cleanest toaster oven EVER: revisited

So, if you’ve been reading my blog a while, you probably remember the Lizard Sandwich episode.

If not, well… Here. Go read.

So tonight I reheated some leftovers, went into the den to watch “Once Upon a Time,” and then when the show was over I came back into the kitchen with my plate… to find a GIANT COCKROACH sitting INSIDE the leftovers container.


Now, I’m not a huge fan of things dying, but cockroaches in my house are NOT OKAY. I yelled, and it ran…

Straight into the toaster oven.

Seriously, what is with things going into my toaster oven??

SO I got out the flyswatter and poked it and the thing SKITTERED (made the noise… I’m still shuddering just THINKING of it) and I chased it (using the flyswatter) around the toaster oven until it RAN OUT and then FLEW down onto the floor and headed STRAIGHT FOR ME.

At this point, I screamed like a little girl.

I’m not even exaggerating.

I shrieked so loud that I kind of scared myself. My neighbor is probably listening next door for banging sounds or something before he comes running, but I’m sure he heard me. I was LOUD.

And then I got the roach and flushed him down the toilet and dumped STRAIGHT VINEGAR on the floor where he’d been.

And now the toaster oven is ALSO getting covered in vinegar.

The wildlife here is the reason I have the CLEANEST TOASTER OVEN EVER.

Being the animal/nature geek I am, I actually looked up the species. Turns out this is an “American cockroach” (or Periplaneta americana) and that it measures (get this) an average of FOUR INCHES. That’s FOUR INCHES OF skittering little COCKROACH in my KITCHEN.

You’re welcome for THAT visual.

[update 1/30/12]
This morning I got up and am in the process of re-cleaning the toaster oven (for my own sanity, mostly). I also scrubbed and sterilized my teapots and (two hours after rising) am finally sitting down drinking my first cup of tea. A few minutes ago, Caspian came up to me and made his “Look, mom!” noise… the Gray Wonder just brought me ANOTHER ONE.

Guess what I’ll be spending the ENTIRE DAY DOING? (If you guessed clean the ENTIRE HOUSE then you are CORRECT!)

joanna irl

Lizard Sandwich (or, Only in Hawaii)

Last night I got distracted by this and that, as I sometimes do, and I didn’t eat supper until 9:30pm or so. I wanted something easy but also a “comfort food” so I made a toasted peanut butter sandwich. My method is usually to make the sandwich and then toast it, but last night I decided to toast the bread first and then put on the peanut butter and apple jelly– my favorite.

side note: We’ve got a relatively new toaster oven and I clean it about once a week by pulling out the crumb tray and washing it. Usually my trigger to do this is that I can smell crumbs burning.

As I was toasting my bread last night, I noticed what I assumed to be the smell of some crumbs burning down in the bottom of the tray, as I hadn’t cleaned the toaster oven yet for the week. The bread was already almost done and the little oven was very hot– too hot to touch by far– so I made a mental note to clean it first thing in the morning.

This morning I got up and prepared to eat my usual breakfast– a poached egg over a piece of toast (or some variation thereof, most days)– and remembered to clean out the tray.

And when I pulled out the toaster tray…

I found a dead lizard.


It was gray and shriveled and I freaked out and threw him away before examining him properly.

But then I started thinking…. Did I eat a Lizard Sandwich? Am I contaminated? Am I going to puke all day??

The answers are no, no, and no, or so it would seem.

Once I calmed down a little, I realized the lizard wasn’t black like he’d been burned; he was still gray like a lot of lizards are around here, and just looked, well, dry. I also heard from a couple of nurse friends (who received urgent messages in ALL CAPITALS LIKE THIS) who told me I was fine (and found me very funny).

So here’s what I think happened– Last night it got pretty cool in the house downstairs. I’ve always got lizards in the house, and mostly the cats either get them (which is sad) or I get them and relocate them to one of the porches (which is happy). So this lizard probably felt his little cold-blooded self getting too cool and climbed into the nice, slightly warm box on the counter… and then couldn’t get out and dehydrated. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

In related news, I now have what is possibly the cleanest toaster oven EVER.


joanna irl

Me After Dentist

Today was my semi-annual sojourn to the dentists’ office, which is actually across the street and takes me about three minutes to reach. My predictions this morning?

  1. I will be told I need to floss more.
  2. The amount of finger shaking and encouraging me to floss more will not change from my last visit, even though I really am, in fact, flossing more, albeit marginally.
  3. I will get a blue toothbrush.

Well, I got a blue toothbush. I don’t know why my dentist only has blue toothbrushes, but I’m not going to complain. I like them because they’re the nice kind and not the cheapy kind I used to get at my previous dentist.

I did not, however, get told to floss more. This is maybe the first time I have ever in my life avoided that conversation! Apparently when they ask if you floss every day and you say “Yes, of course!” that goes better than if you say, “Oh, about four or five times a week.” Apparently.

I also got my usual fluoride treatment, which at this dentists’ office involves a foam mouth tray with the fluoride in the tray so that you have to hold it in your mouth (by biting it) for a minute. They nicely give you one of those spit tubes that sucks your mouth dry during the process. My particular dentist also gives you safety glasses to protect your eyes, I’m assuming from your own mouth. Or something.

Anyway, the photo was too wonderful not to share. So here you have Me With Fluoride:

47/365 Jo at dentist

Nice, huh?

joanna irl

And Then There Was Cold

The annoying thing about our house is that it is two stories but only has one thermostat and only one air conditioning pump. This matters when you live in a place like Hawaii and your housing office wants you to keep the air running (they have, until recently, paid for it) to prevent mold in the houses. The problem with leaving the air running is that in order to get the upstairs cool enough to sleep (say, no more than 78 degrees F), the downstairs is usually set for 70-72 degrees F. That’s frustrating. I feel entirely too cold (and the air conditioner works entirely too hard) for the downstairs just so I can go to sleep at night and not sweat all night long.

A few weeks ago I noticed that when I dusted the house, within two or three days I already had a good coating of dust everywhere again. This is also frustrating, especially when you have company. Anyway, I noticed that thick gray dust was coming out of the air vents, so I called maintenance and they scheduled an appointment to come out and clean the system.

The technician came out to the house today at 11am, spent two hours cleaning, and left me with clear (and shiny clean) air vents. Yay!

Since then, I haven’t touched the thermostat… but the house is now freezing cold! Well, J (the Minnesotan) says it’s “comfortable,” but I’m in a sweatshirt inside. I’ve even raised our thermostat to 75 degrees F and am still cold. The best part? The upstairs doesn’t feel more than a degree or two warmer than the downstairs!

Lesson learned: clean out the air vents on the inside with a vacuum! It makes a whole world of difference.

joanna irl

The Wildlife is Winning!

But not for long…

I made a nasty discovery today. Well, two of them. The first was that I went to check my plants, as I do every morning, and one of my container gardens now contains a large number of round, bright yellow mushrooms. They’re the kind that seem to grow from a sort of slime along the rim of the container.

Off I went to the garden shop to get a fungicide (and a pot for the new orchid I got today, but that’s another story). I got help from a guy who works there and he went through all the different options before helping me find a sulfur-based fungicide that’s organic and won’t hurt any of my plants. In passing, I asked him if he knew of a yellow and brown striped beetle, as I’d seen one in my house this morning. It’s the second one I’ve seen– the last was a couple of weeks ago in the dishwasher and I smashed it and then ran the washer to clean it. This one was on the cabinet door where I keep my baking sheets and pans and skillets. It also got squished. Bugs are fine outside, but not allowed in my house.

We looked at a chart the guy had and none of the beetles looked right to me. He started describing something and I told him that what he described was exactly what I saw. That’s when he dropped the bomb:

That’s a variety of cockroach.


Sooooo the guy helped me buy a pack of really good bait traps and I’ve pulled everything out of that cabinet that had the cockroaches and I’m washing every last thing in there. I’m also checking the rest of the kitchen, but so far there’s no, shall we say, “evidence” of roaches in the other cabinets (small evidence was found in the back of the baking cabinet). At the moment I’m SO grateful that I haven’t baked cookies recently. Or anything else for that matter.

joanna irl

Pilling the Cat

Sometimes I wish I could explain things to my cats. I mean really explain them, like “I know the medicine tastes yucky, but it’s going to make you feel better” explanations.

This all started a week and a half ago when I found some small infections on Caspian’s stomach. I took him to the vet last Friday (who was an amazing vet, by the way– Caspian stayed calm, which never happens) and found out it was just a topical infection and got 28 antibiotic pills, to be given twice a day for two weeks. This should be a fairly simple thing to manage, since Caspian scarfs down treats (he doesn’t get them all that often and gets very excited about them) and I can hide pills in those soft pill packs the vet sells. Usually.

We are now on day seven of the antibiotic.

The first two days he ate the pills at treats. Things were going well. Then he figured out how to chew it so he could eat the soft, yummy part and spit out the pill. The easy method was done.

This wasn’t too big of a deal since I’m very good at simply opening his mouth and poking the pill to the back of his throat and then rubbing his neck to make him swallow. We’ve done this before. And it worked for two days.

I repeat, we are now on day seven.

For the last three days, getting the pill into his mouth has become a nightmare. I know it doesn’t taste good, but I’ve been rewarding him with soft food (his favorite kind, too) since he has to take it with food on his stomach. The process has devolved into him hiding, me pulling him out of hiding and pinning him down, trying to get the pill in his mouth while he trashes around and froths at the mouth, literally. I think the frothing is a defense thing to make the pill easy to spit back out. And he’s gotten good at spitting them back out. I’ve found them on the floor, on his face and on his back. No joke. And they dissolve as soon as they get wet, so I have to act fast.

In desperation, I went back to the vet yesterday (I needed to pick up flea preventive anyway) and asked if I could crush the pills and hide them in his food. Apparently I can give them that way, but the pill itself is very bitter tasting and he might not be willing to eat it, and then I’m out of luck for that dose.

The vet tech helping me had the best idea, though. She said she had to pill one of her cats for fourteen years and developed a method that worked almost every time. It’s the sneak-attack method. I wait until he falls asleep (which, for a cat, is all the time), sneak up on him, and shove the pill in his mouth before he has time to realize what I’m doing. I like this method. I tried it last night and it worked like a charm.

We are now on day seven. I am halfway through the pills and so ready to be at the end.

As a side note, I had a great experience at the vet. Caspian is usually horrible at the vet. If you’ve ever met him, you’d never guess that my friendly, talkative little guy could be so much trouble. The problems started when he was a kitten. I called him “Plague Cat” because he was always sick for the first eight months of his life. At one point, he had ear mites, pink eye and round worms all at the same time, so we were on a pill-eardrop-eyedrop regimen. I had to keep a chart of when he’d had what drug and get up in the middle of the night to keep the schedule. It was rough, but we made it through and he’s been a sturdy little guy ever since. The only bad thing was that we had to go to the vet quite a bit for everything and he had to get a lot of exams of his eyes, ears, mouth, etc. He became scared of the vet, who was a very nice, very good vet, to the point where we’d walk through the door into the exam room and Caspian transformed into a raging ball of claws and fury. They had to wear leather gauntlets to hold him down, and had to drug him if, for whatever reason (like, say, coming to Hawaii) they needed a blood draw. He had a “dangerous animal” sticker on his file and was, according to the vet’s assistant, one of their five worst animals. Caspian.

Anyway, I was worried about taking him to a new vet, but I warned the staff accordingly about the issues and told them that if I could stay with him and help hold him, things would be better, and told them that since he was afraid more of the vet himself than anything else, maybe the new doctor could take off his white coat. They were accommodating; the vet removed his coat before he came into the exam room and Caspian was good as gold. One of their best-behaved cats, they said. Caspian. My Caspian, the “dangerous animal,” was one of their best. How wild is that?

Anyway, that’s been my adventure with the cat this week. Nothing else terribly exciting to share. I might write my thoughts about Earth Day later, as this is the first year in a while that I haven’t had anything work-related to do for it.


This is how good the vet is: he just called me to check in and see how Caspian’s doing now that he’s been on the meds for a week. Asked about vomiting (which there has been) and appetite (which is down) and said the antibiotic might be causing upset stomach. He advised me to give Caspian (get this), 5mg of Pepcid. Yes. The cat can have over-the-counter Pepcid. Isn’t that crazy and wonderful? Of course, now it’s one more pill to get him to take, but if he’ll eat better (and not puke on my floor) it’s worth it.

joanna irl

Invasion of the Maggots!

Today, after leaving my next door neighbors’ house, where I’d been invited for brunch, I found another of my neighbors that I’m not terribly familiar with standing at the bottom of my driveway. I say standing, but she was actually in more of a crouch. And holding an aerosol can. And spraying little spots along the driveway edge. Lots of little spots.

Finding this a little, well, weird, I went down to see what she was doing on the pretense of bringing my trash can back to the garage, as the garbage truck had come a couple of hours earlier. We then had our Very First Conversation as Neighbors.

Me: What are you doing?
Woman: I’m spraying them! Haven’t you seen them?
Me: Seen what?
Woman: The maggots.
Me: What?! Where?
Woman: (while looking at me like I’m stupid) They’re all over! They were all over the driveways, and now they’re all over out here!

I looked around and sure enough, the culdesac looked like it was slowly moving because there were thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of maggots swarming across it. I quickly looked to my feet and didn’t see any there, or on my driveway. We continued our Very First Conversation.

Me: Where did they come from?
Woman: I don’t know, they were in the trash cans. I didn’t see them until we got those recycling bins, though, and I think it’s because you don’t put bags in them!

Yes, her sentence was really that confusing. I think she was reaching a state of maggot-induced-panic. At this point, I went and checked my recycling bin, which was clean, as was my trash can. I pointed both of these facts out to her and told her that I’d call maintenance and see what they could do about it. She bent back to her task, sniping the maggots. One. By. One. Did I mention there were thousands of these things?

Let me point out here I would be a lot more disgusted by this if I hadn’t spent the last couple of years feeding mealworms to various animals. As it is, I’m bothered… but somehow entertained.

A couple of hours later, they were gone. This is the part that bothers me; maggots you can see are merely gross, but maggots that have disappeared have gone somewhere.

I think J and I are going to spend tomorrow putting insecticide around the house, again… After all, the problem with maggots is that you can’t be sure what they’ll morph into…. Elgh.