Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Just Some Advice

I used to spend a lot of time outside. I liked camping, hiking (well, not so much), fishing, canoeing, walking on the beach and picking up shells, swimming and sitting and watching what would come by a spot in the woods or the beach. The last is best done with a cold drink nearby. The last was and is my favorite. It's also the one I can still do.

Tho, I really think I'm recovered enough to go fishing. If I could just get someone to carry all my stuff, and let me sit down or lean somewhere when my legs....locked up.

Dang legs. I tell people, and it's very true, that it feels like I have to stop every so often and "reboot". The nerves seem to stop relaying the message to move forward. I tend to try to get other muscles to move me forward. They object. I hurt. I stop. Everything gets reset, and I can walk again. Very annoying.

I like gardening as an outside activity too.

During my long association with outdoor activities, I've come up with a few..........rules to live by.
I have developed these during a long career as a Girl Scout, Boy Scout (yes, I've been both. And I was never an "Explorer". But, that's the subject of a future post.), hum where was I?
Oh, yes. Boy Scout, "Cool Aunt", and child of my mom and dad who liked getting away from the house for a vacation, but never really had enough money for hotel rooms for themselves and five kids. We camped a lot.

So, here they are:

First and foremost, and never forget this: "Leaves of three, Let them be".

Poison ivy usually has a leave that looks like three leaves growing from one stem. This site shows it even better:

Try to avoid ever coming into contact with the nasty stuff.

But, you will anyway. Really.

Once you contract the rash, use an antihistimine. I always seem to have better luck with benedryl. The old benedryl was better, but any antihistimine you can use will help. It makes me sleep, but you can't scratch if you're asleep.

If you're the type that would scratch in your sleep. Sleep in gloves. If you scratch the rash it will spread to anywhere you touch later. Really.

You might try corn starch on rashes that aren't poison ivy. It's neutral, doesn't react with anything, but dries up a heat rash very nicely.

For sunburn: Aloe vera. LOTS of Aloe vera. And cold baths. Ice is nice too.

Wear a hat. Sunburn is not a beauty enhancer. Also, when in the woods, you are walking under trees. Things live in the trees, waiting to drop onto mammals walking under said trees. You are a mammal. Wear a hat. Really.

If you should come in contact with a jellyfish, wash off the body part immediately and try a baking soda paste. If it still stings when you get home, another benedryl, and maybe more aloe, and a nap.

If a channel catfish fin sticks you in the finger, wash it out immediately and then go to the doctor two days later for antibiotics. Sigh.

Always use a stick to poke at funny looking things on the ground.

Shake out your shoes before putting them on. Your shoe looks like a nice place to live for several kinds of critters. Many of them come armed with stingers and pinchers. Evict them before they come in contact with your foot.

Snapping turtles really do not like to be bothered. They are easily annoyed and are well armed.

Always shuffle your feet when walking in a pond, creek or ocean. You want to give the critters there fair warning before you step on them. Stepping on a water critter, fresh or salt, is not a good thing. Really.

This idea works well when hiking as well. Stomping lets the snakes know something big is coming. They don't really want to bite you. They'd prefer to save thier venom for something they can swallow. However, they will bite if suddenly disturbed by a foot, hand or any other appendage.

While it is possible to pick up a blue crab by the back flippers, one should not carry it that way for long. Dropping it into a nice boiling pot of water seasoned with some crab boil is the best defense.

Never turn your back on your little brother and sister when they are also picking up said crabs. A bathing suit does not provide adequate protection from the pinchers. Really.

Raccoons look cuddly. They aren't. And they can open a cooler faster than you can.

Put your coolers and any food in your car and lock the door. raccoons can open car doors too.

Deer get testy when you've been feeding them corn (or the previous campers had been doing so) and you run out of corn. Don't try to pet Bambi. Momma is not happy when you do.

When camping in the summer, resist temptation to strip down nekkid in your tent, no matter how hot it is. Especially when you have the lantern on. And you're not the only tent in the area.

Keep these things in mind. Disturb nature as little as possible when you are in the middle of it, and nature will return the favor.

Sometimes. Usually.

And never forget. You are part of nature too.

Anyone else have some good tips?

Monday, May 29, 2006


I'm not sure why this day was so hard for me this year. Perhaps t was the memories invoked last night at a dinner, and then by reading Livey's (Nothwoods Woman) question about a flag she got when her old gentleman passed away. She was wondering what to do about the folded flag she'd received after his funeral.

My mom got a similarly folded flag. He was honored by the VFW, who sent five men to help with the ceremony. Four of them folded the flag as another played taps on a bugle. It was a touching and dignified tribute, and I'm thankful for it.

My mom has a special presentation case ordered, or perhaps she has it now...I've not asked. When talking on the phone with my mom, we don't avoid the fact that my dad is gone, but it isn't....dwelt on. Instead we touch on it lightly, as one would touch a wound to see the boundaries of the pain, to avoid it's center, or as one would touch the stump of a missing limb. We've not healed yet, and we are still protective of the the aching empty space in our lives.

Last night, I went with my tutoring center boss lady, Ms G., to a dinner she was giving at a restaurant. She had invited the people in her church that had helped her through the illness and death of her husband. I was honored to be invited.

The dinner was held at Fung's Kitchen in Houston. It is a well known Chinese restaurant. I'd never been there before. It was large, ornate and smelled wonderfully of good food. We were sat at one end of the large dining room behind a tall screen beautifully decorated with cranes. 'Pup and I were seated at the table with Ms G's sisters-in-law and her mother-in-law. We were both ('Pup and I) a little nervous. The waitress took one look at us and brought some silverware to lay beside the chopsticks at each place setting.

Ms G had pre-ordered a multi-coursed feast. We started with soup, went on to Peking duck,and scallops with snow peas. Then we got serious.

There was a lettuce wrap, (Vietnamese style), chicken with minced vegetables, ('Pup's favorite), a sauteed spinach and leek dish, a tofu dish (a specialty of the restaurant and it was wonderful---and I don't usually like tofu), rice, a whole fish (sole or trout I think, but large enough to serve the 10 people at our table), and a whole fried chicken, cut up into smallish pieces. And by whole, I mean the chicken included the feet and the head. t was tasty, but a little tough.

No, I mean the meat, not the head. That, I left alone. As did everyone at the table. It didn't seem to mind much.

Finally, we had a mango custard. It had been molded into the shape of a large fish. It was goooooooood.

I was even able to use the chopsticks. I've been getting better at using them lately and I don't think I spilled anything much. Heck, I usually spill more using a fork. Hummm. Maybe I should use chopsticks more often?

The best part of the meal was the conversation. 'Pup and I were made to feel at home. The people who were able, translated stories back and forth. I was praised by Ms G, and one of the other guests whose child I am tutoring. Much tea was drunk and pleasantries exchanged.

As we left, I was able to go to Ms G's mother-in-law to properly express my condolences. She clasped my hand with both of hers. Some things needed translating, but it really feels as if most of what I felt and what she felt was communicated through our hands. Some things do not need translating.

Several times during the meal, I felt.......Melancholy. I couldn't understand why until after we'd left. I realized that it reminded me of the reception we'd had after my father' funeral. This was far more lavish, but underneath the smiles and camaraderie, the sorrow was there too. Our guest of honor wasn't with us, and his presence was missed.

Today was Memorial Day. I honor my father, father-in-law, husband and all the other men and women who gave parts or all of thier lives in service to our country. May we always do so.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What's Goin' and Growin'.

Yellow roses. They start out so vibrantly YELLOW, with red highlights, and then fade out to an antique cream with pink highlights.

The pink rose at dusk. I thought the single rose picture wasn't going to turn out, but it emerged out of the darkness. The rose bush is putting on another bloom explosion. I wish I could "post" the scent of these.

The cherry parfait rose is doing a bloom of it's own. This bush has some real promise. I can't wait till next year, when it'll have some size on it.

The mallow hibiscus is happy too.

More pictures from the highway project. This is the interchange of I-10 and the "Beltway".

Click on this one and check out the sheer scale of this project!

'Da Brain Dog is still hanging in with us. He's had another round of the big guns chemo, and another round of another, and most of the lymph glands are down. Most.

There is one gland that is still the size of a large naval orange, or small grapefruit. It's gotten big enough that we can see it. He's lopsided.

He's not in any great pain, and still enjoys outside, "basket ball" and has Charles convinced that he could take ol' Mr. Chuckers. He doesn't really even have to growl. He just gives him a LOOK.

It's very much the same look that the cat gives him.

And kinda resembles what 'Pup has to say when Chuckie gets to licking everything in his exhuberance and joy.

Sigh, it'll take us a few years before the Kid calms down. Still, I kinda like him.

But he's no Brain.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I can't believe it's almost June. It feels.....different somehow. It's been a long time since I didn't have most of the summer off. Still, I like working. I like teaching.

We're going to be losing one of our tutors soon. She's been offered a full time position, with much higher pay for a magazine. She sets up the areas for the photographers to shoot. It has to do with fashion. I am not good with fashion. The job sounds interesting, and rather daunting. She says she hates to leave here. It's been a good place for her to work.

The students were a little slow in registering for the summer schedule of classes we offered, but they're beginning to come in more steadily. I'll be teaching a morning group of kids, early readers and some children who do not speak English yet. I'm beginning to think we may have to offer one class especially for the new arrivals from Korea. The students will only be in the U.S. for a few months to (perhaps) two years, and the parents want the students to learn English as well as possible before they return home.

It seems I may have infected 'Pup with the gardening bug. He's out buying a couple of tomato plants (looking for some older established potted plants) to put into a new raised bed/box we made this last weekend. He used to do quite a lot of the yard work before he got too heavy, and is eager to get back into it all. While at the store to get the plant he found a lady to flirt with, so he's happy.

Seriously? When he doesn't flirt, I'm worried. It means he is either very sick or in a whole lot of pain.

He also got to see a real "nifty" woman who actually had the bad manners to fuss at a clerk for taking care of a disabled (as in, very, as in electric wheelchair) customer. She just couldn't understand why ANYONE would wait on a "cripple" (her words) before waiting on her. GRRRRRR. 'Pup says God will get her. She will have a flat tire one day, and the first people to stop for her will be disabled. Sigh. I suspect she'd be rude to them too. Some people just never learn.

Hope everything is growing and glowing for all.

Friday, May 19, 2006


'Pup and I (well, really 'PUP) were two cars back from an accident caused by a young man determined to drive his Huge Enourmous Black Truck with Customized Plates(!!)across a fairly busy street.

He almost made it.

Instead, he ended up hitting a white van. The van's front end was messed up enough that the van was going nowhere fast. The truck ended up doing a complete spin, ending up facing the direction he had been driving, still under power(!!!!), almost hitting the van again!

Fortunately the driver of the truck hit the brakes. He ended up about 10 feet away from the van.

The van's driver was shaken, but not hurt. His biggest shock had been watching the truck come at him and almost getting him again.

The driver of the truck wasn't as lucky. He was bruised, and hurting (especially after talking to a man that I suspect was his father) and taken to the hospital. A passenger riding with him, probably not wearing a seatbelt(!!!) and thus most likely shaken around the cab of the truck, was taken away on a backboard. She was not doing well. One of the volunteer firefighters/EMS people in the community was fortunately near enough to provide some aid until the ambulance got there.

I base the opinion that she hadn't been wearing a seatbelt on the fact that when the truck finally came to a stop (we'd come to a stop too) we could only see two heads in the truck. We saw the driver, and a blonde young lady who was flailing about with her hands. We didn't even know there WAS a third person in the truck until we'd gone around the truck and come back to the site to give our account of what had happened. The gentleman in the truck that had been in front of us gave his account too. There was no doubt in our minds that the driver of the truck was at fault.

We waited in our van to give 'Pup's account to the constable who was gamely trying to corral a collection of the black truck's friends and family (I'm guessing that the blonde had a cell phone and used it to call for reinforcements), the traffic around the wreck and several tow trucks who somehow beat the AMBULANCE to the site. 'Pup waited until it looked like things were calming down to approach the constable.

He gave his name, address and driver's licence (the easiest way for the constable to get our address) and told him what he'd seen. He was thanked and we were on our way soon after that.

Oh, by the way, the whole thing took place in front of a school.


Oh, and the produce stand we'd been heading for? Closed.

Never mind, we'll get there tomorrow.

For which opportunity we are very grateful.

Thank You God.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some Random Pictures

They're expanding I-10 in Houston. From the current 8 lanes to about 12? or so. These concrete squares will be part of the drainage system. They may also ultimately carry the water mains too.
Since the water table is so high here, no sewer systems. So, we have retaining ponds. This one is large, even by Houston standards.

That is a HUGE dumptruck. The driver stands just taller than the wheel.
I'm going to take more pictures of this construction. The sheer amount of concrete is amazing. Not being an engineer, I find the shapes and "flow" of the design mysterious, but I know just enough to be impressed by what is there, and what WILL be there.
The things concrete and steel can be made to do is astounding. There is almost an organic grace to the arches and struts and swaths of the highways.

The downside? The traffic is somewhat............trying at times.
And of course, this being Texas, the underpasses are being decorated with large stars. There are a few of the underpasses finished, and the stars are being painted. One of them is painted to look like a field of wildflowers from far away. When you get close to it, the picture is less recognizable. I'm going to get some pictures of a few of the finished stars.

Oh. This is to answer a question about the dark leaved "elephant ears". They're called "Imperial Taro".

On the homefront, Chuckers and Braindog are getting along quite well. Brain still guards every food bowl as his own. The steriods that he takes every morning have made him a chow hound. He never was as focused on food before. Luckily, Charles/Chucky/Chuckers is a light eater. We feed both of them a mixture of high protien and some lamb and rice meant for older dogs. The high protien keeps them energetic and the uhmmm... byproducts..........are smaller and less smelly. Easier to clean up.

Brain's treatment for Lymphoma is having it's ups and downs. He's on his second round of "rescue drugs", some fairly powerful chemo. They've managed to reduce the size of all his lymph nodes. There's just one of the tumors it's reduced, but not eliminated. But, for now, he's feeling better. Well enough to chase his basketball, play in water and growl when Chuckers gets too close to the food. We've gone to having 2 or 3 different food bowls in different parts of the house. Brain can only manage to be in one spot at a time, so Chuckers IS eating.

Isn't this a lovely blossom? It's portulaca. I had a plant that acutally over wintered! These are usually annuals. They usually die back when the weather gets below the 60's at night, then reemerge from seed. This one just kept on growing and staying green. It doesn't bloom as much as a normal one would either. but the flowers are large and gorgeous.

My herb garden is doing well. I've planted less basil this year, but I've found several plants that have have grown from the seeds of last years. The sage is doing well, as is the pineapple sage, a scented geranium, and the lemon balm never quite died back from last season, so it's growing well. I planted another bronze fennel, and the fennels from last year are blooming. I've seen several different kinds of butterflies on them and I look forward to a nice crop of winged things. The tall mass in the middle is a flower vine that was there when the bed was full of shrubs. It had over whelmed the shrubs so much that it was mostly vine. I think it's called a "cross vine". Sometimes I get rather cross weeding the bed. It keeps popping up everywhere.

Oh, and the thymes, they are a'bloomin'.

So are the canna.

The lillies are doing well too.

I hope y'all are as well.

Btw. My Frappr! map is on the sidebar. Y'all visit.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

One of Those Days.

For the last two weeks in April, and the first week of May,
I've been having"Good Days".
Days where I can walk without a cane sometimes
And get up from a chair without having to THINK about my balance.
The days that I can go outside and get something done.
The days my back muscles don't jump around,
Quivering because I stood too long.
The days that I could carry things and not be afraid that I'd fall,
Because I didn't have a free hand to steady myself.
The days I could walk across a room instead of walking near the wall ,
Between tables and chairs, just so I could be sure I wasn't going to fall.

I'm afraid of falling.
I have always been afraid of falling...well.
To be more precise?
I've always been afraid of landing.
Landings hurt worse than the falling.
Falling just bruises your ego.
Landings can bruise in odd places,
Depending on where you fall.
So I'm really afraid of falling and landing.
I really hate living afraid.

I know the good days will come back,
After rest or some magical combination of ...
I'm not sure exactly.

I do hope they hurry back.

Friday, May 05, 2006


It seems that I've picked up a few readers since last week. Gulp.

I have a few pictures from the blogmeet, but I'm not sure I can publish them. You know... faces and all and jobs and all..

Besides, they're in the laptop and I'm on the desktop and I've not imported from one to the other. I've been a little busy.

After Sunday showing the lovely ladies around Austin, 'Pup and I made it as far as Bastrop and decided to check into a motel and finish the trip to Houston in the morning. 'Pup slept most of the time from when we got there, to when we left the next morning.

Monday to Thursday, we've been working at the tutoring center. 'Pup's started working there, mostly as a math tutor, but he also picks up any overflow of reading/writing kids and sometimes fills in if a teacher is running late or, as had happened this week, a tire blows out. His teaching style is a bit different from most of the other tutors, but I think the kids are responding. He challenges them more and explains why he's challenging them. If you'll remember, most of the kids we have there are children of some type A executives. They're used to being challenged and want to excell.

We've a few that are behind grade level, but most of those students are ones that have just arrived in the U.S. They'll be returning to Korea within the next year or years and want to go back with a good command of English.

Now, back to garden stuff.

This year, the star is the front yard. The back yard is doing well, and we'll be tweaking it a bit from now one, but my five year plan to rehabilitate it from the jungle I inherited has suceeded. In fact, it did even better than I could have imagined 5 and 1/2 years ago. Y'all. It's gooood.

So, we turned our attention to the front yard.

The peppermint patch near the front door is filling in again. I put only potted flowering plants there, or the peppermint can and will overwhelm them. The two geraniums are from last year. They overwintered quite well. I put the herbs I buy there too, to wait till I've time and energy to pot or plant them. They're destined to go into one of the two strawberry pots I bought recently.

The other, I've plans for as a thyme pot. It's the closest thing I'll ever have to "Thyme in a Bottle"...heheeh I want to get as many varieties of thyme as I can. Why? Well.. Dear.

One can NEVER have too much thyme.

This little bed has a hummingbird plant and the yellow flowers are.. DANG if I can remember, but lots of people around here grow it and the hummers and butterflies love it. I've also got some yarrow growing there. That variety I DO remember. It's Apple Blossom.

Why is it I seem to remember names that have to do with food?
The arched trellis on the right side of the house has a bare spot in it because we put in the drainage pipes through there.

Ever since we've watched The Lord of The Rings movie, 'Pup has wanted to but a round doorway in there. He really liked that Hobbit hole. The idea is growing on me too. Anyone out there got any ideas how we can engineer this?

We planted a few new rose bushes and spread out some of the yellow daylillies. They're plants that my mom gave me. She'd gotten some of them from my grandmother's yard. Someday, I hope to give some to one of my nieces.

One of the rose bushes was a yellow rose. It's doing extraordinarily well. It's putting out blooms that I wasn't expecting until later in the summer or into the fall at the earliest. The other rose bushes are doing well too, but this one's going crazy with the flowers. Not that I'm complaining. Just dumbfounded.

And then, there's this bed. It used to have a sickly pecan tree there. When 'Pup planted the tree, it was doing well until some neighborhood children tried to climb it. They broke the crown of the tree, and it never quite recovered. This year, we just took it out and let the bouganvilla there be the star instead. It's not blooming (the rat!) but I've never really wanted this plant for it's fushia colored blooms, lovely as they can be, but rather the striking varigated leaves.

This is a close up of the bed. It is very lush this year. There are pansies, petunias, two kinds of day lilly, and the bouganvilla. Oh, and a little purple wandering jade plant. All of them are blooming. Except the bouganvilla. Sigh.

One can't have everything. But it's fun watching this garden grow.

By the way, could some of y'all go into the Frappr! map and put yourselves there?