Friday, October 31, 2008

Hurricane Ike Syndrome Hits Plants

After Ike, a lot of the plants in the area suffered damage of varying severity, ranging from lost leaves to uprooting to whole trees goin' DOWN (too often taking power lines and roofs with them).

Very soon afterwards, people noticed things blooming when they shouldn't.
What I've noticed recently is that, in spite of 3 cold fronts, where the temperatures when below 40 degrees....the trees are still green. Some of them are still putting on new leaves.
The juniper is putting on new tips, even as the berries are ripening.
These trees are usually the first to show color and usually turn as soon as night time temperatures go into the 50s.
The neighbor's tree had leaves on its west side blown it put more on. It, also isn't about to drop the leaves.
Still.....the weather has been nice.

Gas War Updates

Y'all remember the gas war?? You don't? Then, go HERE to refresh your memories. Well, the other day, I reported they'd gone down to $2.03... and yesterday, they broke the $2 barrier to go to:

Sweet, huh?

I can almost live with this price, and getting about 28 MPG in my little Saturn doesn't hurt either.

The station across the street from the one I used last night (it was on the wrong side of the street, with no easy access from where I was driving) is the one with my all time favorite sign:

The local television stations are taking note of this price war, too. Some of the other stations in the area of Hwy 529 and Eldridge are trying to keep up. The other stations aren't as aggressive with their price drops, but I'd imagine the folks in the area are thankful for the price breaks.
Maybe the gas prices will get low enough that the jerks without auto insurance can finally afford some? Maybe? PAHHHLEEEZZZ???
If you live in the Northwest area of Harris County, the location of these two stations is (again) the intersection of Hwy 529 and Eldridge Pkwy. Go get pumpin'!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Popcorn Memories

I like popcorn. I've always liked it. It was one of the treats my dad made for us, and taught us how to make. He'd make it on Saturdays and Sundays when he watched football or basketball...or golf.

I will admit to preferring the popcorn made in a good dutch oven, over a hot fire, sprinkled with real butter and salt. I will also admit to not making it very often that way, and to succumbing to the siren call of the microwave... instant popcorn! (not nearly as tasty, but oh so easy!)

What has been on my secret Christmas List (the one you keep in your head, the one that lists the things you wish you could ask for, but can't because people would give you a really funny look), have been popcorn machines. I want a movie theater popcorn machine.

I even worked at a movie theater for my first out of the house, non baby-sitting job. I made hot dogs and popcorn and sodas (aka cokes for my fellow Texans). I got sick of hot dogs. Soda...the smell of the syrup from the airborne fizzy droplets as I filled the cups, became cloying and I felt perpetually sticky.

What I never got tired of was popcorn.

Go figger.

(ps: I miss my daddy's popcorn balls he'd make for special occasions like: a kid wanted one and asked nicely)

Happy Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween, and, unlike past years, our neighborhood has a LOT of kids of Trick-or-Treating age. So, 'Pup and I have bought a lot more candy than we usually have in the house. (Temptation!) We've tried not to get the candy that we like the best, but still get some that will be welcomed by our neighbor's kids.

I'm debating about dressing up for passing out the candy. It's going to be such a very NICE night, with temps in the '70's and no rain... we'll probably sit outside to pass out the candy. I like seeing the kids come down the street and with the rose bush by the door, I don't want the kids to get too near the thorns.

So, while I'm passing out the little energy pills disguised like candy (....oh... as a teacher I remember I hated it when Halloween was during the week, because the kids would come to school hyped up on sugar for the whole week!), I MIGHT be wearing a hat, and have some paper stuffed into my sleeves, hanging out near my gloved hands and out of my pants above my shoes. I MIGHT slump over, as if I were a stuffed scarecrow. I MIGHT watch as the kids came closer to the bowl of candy, and then, I MIGHT....hehehehe.... OH, I MIGHT just suddenly come to life....


Happy Halloween!

My Sweet Tooth

Do I need to point out that I like candy? I mean, I kinda wish that diet pills came in chocolate flavors, or, even better, that chocolate kisses WERE diet pills, 'cause then it might be a lot easier to lose weight.

However, in an attempt to lose weight by exercising more and perhaps increase my mobility, I have gotten a manual wheelchair. I know I can't get exercise by walking. When you can't walk more than a few yards before you either fall down or start crying in pain, you just. don't. walk. Even walking in water isn't much better, because it's the action of moving the legs that makes the pain begin. If I sit down and swung my legs too often it hurts. Walking my pounds off is just not going to be an option, so...let's roll!

I'm going to try to get into a gym again, one with a pool and try to swim without kicking too often. Moving at all has got to be better than not moving enough.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goin' Down the Road

I got very irritated at 'Pup last night. As I left work, I called him (as I usually do), and got no answer. Called again, thinking that perhaps he was outside with the Wests, working on the fence...still no answer. After about 14 more calls I was irritated and annoyed and a bit concerned.

Turns out, I didn't have to worry. He had been helping out with a fence, but not ours. Seems that 'Pup had been passing by one neighbor's house and had noticed some very slow progress towards rebuilding all three of her downed fences. Last night, he saw the gent who was doing the work and stopped to say hello and, yes, be nosy.

The neighbor's son was doing the work by himself, after work, and before he would go home to his own home and family. Because the neighbor behind our neighbor was also an elderly widow (our neighborhood is about half older couples/widows and half young families), the son was also trying to fix HER fences too....for a total of 5 fence lengths.... on his own.

The world is full of unsung heroes, like a good son who extended filial duty to include a woman who had no son of her own to help her.

As he drove on home, there was a nagging voice in his head. (NO, not MINE--not this time)

Now, most people don't know this, but 'Pup has a soft spot for...well, to tell the truth, he has a lot of soft spots and he's a lot more generous than you'd think. By the time he was home, he had decided to go back. He grabbed a hammer and West Jr. (after making sure West Jr. had no girlfriend plans, no homework to do and was off for the evening) and went back to the man on the job.

Something very cool about West Jr.: he thinks chances to do people a favor or a good deed are "neat". (dang, I like that kid!)

So, off they went, and 'Pup and Jr. carried things, 'Pup held tape measures and, no doubt, cracked bad jokes, they got a lot of work done.

By the time I was home, 'Pup had been asleep for an hour after it got too dark to work. I saw Mr. West and West Jr. working on West Jr.'s car. They're fixing it up, for West Jr. to drive when he turns 16. I suspect they'll be looking at auto insurance quotes very intensely. The long term plan is for him to drive this car for a while, then sell it and get a motorcycle. (gulp... a teen on a motorcycle in Houston traffic--- I hope he keeps the car for a while.)

Ike was an "ill wind", no doubt of that. But, like a lot of "ill winds", some good came of it. 'Pup and I are very blessed in our neighbors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Goin' Down

I'm glad gas prices are going down. In fact, remember the price war ? The lowest price reached during that little exercise in capitalism was $2.08. Well, today, the price was $2.03. I think the two fighting stations are still the price leaders in the "How Low Can It Go" race, but everyone looks like they're doing their best to keep up.

So, other than vanity, I'm not going to have to put Harley parts on my scooter in an attempt to get it road worthy...but it might still be fun.

In more realistic news, I've found a couple of wheelchairs on Craig's List that I can afford. I'm going to buy both of them and donate one. The one I keep will fit into my Saturn and on really bad days, I can use it.

The bad days are getting more and more common. The scooter just doesn't fit into the Saturn and 'Pup feels like a sardine in the Saturn. So, in an attempt to 1) keep us both in the vehicles we prefer (I don't LIKE people driving Ms Saturn... she's MINE) and 2) keep me mobile and use some muscle power, I'm going to be using a manual wheelchair sometimes.

I'll be taking it to Spring Fling in Chicago. I have places to go and things to see and I'm not going to NOT be able to go somewhere.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's Coming Up...

One more plant that had gone away before the storm, but is popping up here and there, once more. Now, if only ALL of them had done that... sigh... I need to plant new caladiums this spring/fall/winter...

I think I've mentioned that our GP doc has recently retired. To tell the truth, for the last year or so, he's been slipping. He's had some health problems of his own and I think there were some personal stresses too. At any rate, we're going to new doctors.

Our first doctor was a podiatrist. We'd set the appointment up even before we knew our doc was going to be closing down. We like the podiatrist, and if you live in Northwest Harris County, drop me a line if you need a good foot doc, 'cause I'd recommend him.

From the podiatrist, we went to a rheumatologist. Another good doctor! (again, I'm willing to refer!) The rheumatologist was/is a little concerned about the medicines we're taking. He's changed 'Pup's pain meds, and has confirmed that both of us have osteoarthritis. This is actually a relief of a sort, as I'd been afraid 'Pup had rheumatoid arthritis, a muchmuchmuch baaaadddder thing.

The other thing the podiatrist has done is give 'Pup some medicine that actually helped with the breakouts on his face. (Just a hint, Triclear, is not so good). His face is not perfect yet, but getting better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blooms Busting Out

It looks like the Pinata rose has mostly recovered from being half yanked out of its bed, and the Golden Showers rose was blooming too...just too high up for me to get to it.

And Ms Belinda (Belinda's Dream) is busting out all over with blooms. Walking up to my door is a very rosy sweet experience. Just be careful of thorns...

I've been reading some of the garden blogs belonging to people who live in colder climates than mine. The amount of work it takes to get ready for winter! You have my respect and admiration.

A Wedding!

A dear friend, a teacher I worked with, is getting married. She's the mother of a grown son, and the last thing in the world she thought she'd do was get married again. Oddly, when I met 'Pup, I wasn't looking to get married again either. Life has some interesting surprises for you at every turn.

So, now she's looked at wedding invitations, and they're out... and the wedding will be in Baton Rouge! I've never been to Baton Rouge, and I'm excited to go there for my friend and for me. This year is turning out to be a well traveled one.

I am beginning to wonder what is coming next. I can't wait.

Stylin' Shoes...Sorta

I don't think I've mentioned it, but our regular MD has retired. So, 'Pup and I are out and about looking for new doctors. One of the new doctors is a podiatrist. (Good Doctor! ) The podiatrist resolved a problem 'Pup had needed addressing for a while, and while we were there, I made an appointment because of a sore heel. I thought it was something caused by all the hubbub and activity on the Friday before Ike hit.

Turns out, I have a heel spur. Ouch. Really. Ouch. I've gotten some physical therapy, but it didn't do much for a long term solution. I wear a boot to bed to stretch the tendon, and now both 'Pup and I are getting some special shoes. They're not exactly "stylin'", but like these MBT shoes, they promise to give some support where it's needed and hopefully it will make it easier to walk without pain.

My issues with the nerves running to my legs is a different issue, but any improvement in other areas, should help with that one. I'm tired of not being able to get myself from one place to another. I wasn't able to walk nearly as far as I'd have liked to walk while in Chicago. When I go back, that is going to be different. Somehow....

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

This is a tale of two neighbors, one good and one...not so good.

Excerpt from: Mending Fences, by Robert Frost.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say, 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

by Robert Frost

And sometimes, it isn't good fences that make good neighbors, but rather good neighbors who make good fences.

What didn't like fences was a nasty storm named Ike.
And I mean to tell you, he REALLY didn't like fences.

We got an estimate from a fencing company for fixing half of the back and half of the side (all that we THOUGHT was damaged), came to $1100. Ouch.

Then the Wests came over. Mr. West had a proposition...he wanted to rebuild the fence together as he didn't have the money to help pay for the fence. We'd not even considered asking him for anything. We owed him... we still owe him. We made a proposition of our own: instead of paying $1100 to a company, use the money we'd have had to pay them for materials to rebuild our common fence, and the other two fences the Wests had down and the back (North) fence of ours.

So, we went shopping.

May I interject here to say that a bag of Quickcrete has got to be one of the heaviest things that can actually, almost, be picked up by one person?

After taking down the old fence (which took quite a while), that I mean Mr. West and wife and I and 'Pup tried to dig post holes with no post hole digger. Those things were harder to get than ice after the storm, and NO ONE was giving them away. We did get to borrow a neighbor's, but we got another one special order from Ace Hardware.

As it so happens, while we'd thought we'd only lost half that side fence, it really turned out that all 8 posts had to be replaced. So much for the $1100 estimate. It would probably have been closer to $2000. We considered reusing the old pickets, but then decided to just do it up right. We did reuse a few of the older pickets in the back corner, where bushes and a fig tree and some trellis will be hiding the color difference.

As you can see, Mr. West still has his back fence to get to... but his neighbor to the north is promising to help out. Eventually.

And it's all done... and Ah Heyallped. I really did! I pounded in most of the bottom course of nails....well I pounded in a lot of them. It's remarkable what you can do sitting down. All in all, it's a pretty good deal for the Wests and for us. For far less than $2000, we're replacing 4 complete fences, not just 2 halves. And we're getting some time to spend with some good neighbors.

When we got back from Chicago, Mr. West had not only finished his western fence, but had also started on the new posts for the north fence in our yard.

Since he didn't want the dogs to be let loose, he kept the old fence up... easy to do as it had been blown to the North's yard.

We considered tearing down the old fence before we put up the new pickets, but we didn't know how long it would take to finish, and we didn't want to leave the back yards unsecured. We have dogs, and so do the Norths.
So, we finished repairing the back fence without tearing down the old one.
We halfway.... well, more than halfway... joked about putting a sign on the fence saying "No one should live their life never owning a fence...Merry Christmas".
We're tired, especially Mr. West. I really have been helping where I can. 'Pup's hands don't let him hold a hammer, but he can carry boards and such, and I still do wield a fairly good hammer. We've provided the tools and materials, but it's wearing and Mrs West wants a little family time.
We want to replace the other half of the fence, to match the new one in a couple of weeks. The old fence can stay up until then, unless Ms North just HAS to have it down, and if so, she can do. it. herself.
I have little pity for her. She is not one of my favorite people. As a thumbnail sketch of her: she once owned a dog that ate through a former incarnation of the fence because he was afraid of thunder and fireworks and they'd left him alone in the backyard with some food, for a 4 day weekend. This was a beautiful Golden Lab who'd been hand raised and had lived inside a house with his young owner. He got lonely and scared and came visiting.
Brain (he of blessed memory) was always a good host. He showed Champ in and showed him where the food bowl was and where the people were... Brain always did like company.
For the rest of the summer, I replaced fence pickets as Champ ate through, broke through and went over the fence to get to us. Ms North even paid for half of the pickets..not the nails....but half the pickets.
She ended up chaining the dog to a large tree in the back corner of her lot. He was in an area of about 8' by 8'. He was never walked, so was forced to soil his sleeping area. Dogs hate that. He was never petted or kept company. He took to trying to climb over the fence again. And one day, he did it. There was just enough slack in the chain to make sure he suffocated slowly as he hung from the fence.
No, this is not my favorite person in the world.
She was and is not pleased about the fact that we've not yet torn down that fence. I got a phone call from her:


She's a Charmer, ain't she? When she got over here, she was yelling more and cussing and carrying on. We told her that if she wanted the fence taken down before we got to it, she was welcomed to do it. She indignantly told us that she couldn't do that, as she didn't have a truck. Uhmm.. neither do we.

Her last shot was a long wail about how useless her (eastern) neighbor was and that she was going to have to put in a WHOLE SIDE fence by herself.. and that now, she couldn't put her dog (a little white, fluffy barker), couldn't be put outside because he might get stuck in the old fence and DIE.

I am developing a real dislike of that woman.

More about my good neighbors next. This episode has taken me about 4 days to write. The good stuff is just a whole lot more fun, somehow.


The cool weather we've been having here in Houston has been wonderful. There are so few days of the year that we can open our windows and just enjoy the air, but we've had 3 of them in a row so far... and a couple more to come! I don't think I've slept so well since I left my baby bedding days behind me.

Of course, the new pain pills the rheumatologist gave me might have something to do with that too...

I think I love my new rheumatologist. He gave me a shot of cortisone in my knee and it started feeling better within a few minutes! The next few days after the shot, I could walk without wanting to hit someone..errr something, I mean....

Sigh.. it's wearing off, but it's still better than it was. The pain pills will help too. It's a low enough dosage that I don't feel too muzzy, but still makes it easy to ignore the knee and sleep or walk or sit or....whatever.

More later!


Our wireless router has bit the dust. I believe it might be the fourth or fifth one we've gone through. Why do they keep failing? I don't know. But for some reason, at unexpected times, the wireless router (which ever one we're using at the time) just stops sending out a signal we can tap into. It's still transmitting. It just won't accept MY computer into the system, and it refuses to allow us to get into it administratively, as it's decided it no longer wishes to accept our password.

Y'all, we're not hard on our computers. We use them to manage our finances (and the finances ain't exactly on the large side!), and store our pictures. We use them to blog. It's not like we need an industrial strength Linksys router or anything more than something that will just get the Internet from the phone jack to the airways...

Sigh, time to go shopping. I'm tired of being tethered to the phone cord.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

It's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, as sponsored by Carol at May Dreams Gardens .

It's been right at a month since the hurricane. I lost a lot of leaves then, and not a few blooms from the plants. Well...things have recovered a bit.

Belinda's Dream is planning on a bodacious bloom in a few days. The first buds have opened, but there are about... a gazillion (okay, a hundred or so) buds ready to bust out all over.

Oh, and when those buds do open, they spread an incredibly sweet classic rose scent.

The Fragranza rose is open, with about 6 blooms and buds. Now, mind you, it hasn't finished replacing the leaves that got blown off the stalks, but it's blooming!

So is the Cherry Parfait, with more on the way.

Mr. Lincoln bloomed a few days ago, but has one still open (barely) to show off.

The Peace rose is open, with 5 blooms open and 4 buds still to bloom.

The Gold Medal rose is open, 5 or 6 blooms and a few buds swelling....

The mauve colored no name rose is open, it's still a small plant, but growing! Even the JFK (not shown) rose has a bud, and is holding it about 5 feet high. The roses will have all winter to grow and get strong. Next spring will be very good.

The Hummingbird bush is still going strong. It didn't loose leaves or flowers during Ike. Just after the storm, there was a hummingbird flitting around feeding from it. I still wonder where that little bird sheltered from the storm. It was a miracle.

Hope, in the form of Esperanza is blooming in the front and backyards.

This is a view of the Esperanza, Hummingbird bush, Belinda's Dream rose and the lemon grass in the back.

I do believe I'm beginning to see the color change on my blood orange. I only have 2... on a very young tree... so I was sooo happy to see it survive Ike.

The cross vine is growing on the Juniper and is becoming heavy enough that I think I'm going to have to cut it back, as the tree (about 15 feet high) is actually bowing from the load.

The Mexican Mint Marigolds, aka Texas Tarragon, is blooming.

If you look closely, you can see why it's called a "marigold", though it's not in the same family...and the leaves have a anise scent, rather like tarragon, though also, not related. Its saving grace is that it can grow here and be used.

Alas, the fire ants also survived. This is one of 3 mounds I found this morning. Out comes the ant poison. I don't use many chemicals, but fire ants are beyond noxious, as they not only sting people, pets and small animals, they also tend to predate on other ant species and on small critters like caterpillars, anoles and beneficial bugs. Fire Ants have NO saving grace.

The bougainvillea is blooming, though only on the branches that have reverted to the non-variegated leaves.

Looks like I'll have some hibiscus tea this winter, though probably only a cup or two. I'll be saving seed from this and planting more.

The portulaca in my front bed... just the white blooming for now.

This is a rogue petunia, who, against all odds, survived the whole summer. I think I'll let it set all the seed it wants.

This isn't a flower, but it is a butterfly I've not seen in my garden before. I know it's some kind of swallowtail... but what kind? It's small, only about 1 1/2 inches and a very fast flutter about. at rest, it half folds it's wings. Anyone who can help? There were two of them!

The butterflies were feeding on the hyacinth bean flowers.

These trilliums are some of my favorite wild flowers. They bloom all year long around my air conditioner.

And some purple jade is blooming.

My newest canna, no name, but isn't it pretty?

The Maid d'Orlean's jasmine is blooming, but no open flowers. Like the four o'clocks, I just cannot seem to catch one open.

This croissandra sheltered in the doghouse during the hurricane.

And this canna is blooming again!

The yellow lantana (that was supposed to be WHITE!) is blooming, though weakly. It was in a bed hit/sheltered by the fallen fence to the west.

The two green chair trellis' that support the pink jasmine and the Pinata and Golden Shower's roses fell over, bringing the plants with them. There is no lasting damage, but they're still recovering from the stress of having their roots pulled almost to breaking.

The Ham'n Eggs lantana are blooming and setting berries, so the birds that will be migrating through this area soon will have something to snack on as they rest a while.

The hibiscus in the side yard is very happy just now. We've had enough rain and warmth to make them bloom well.

And finally!!! On one of the two new tomato plants I got from Nelson's Water Gardens, not only is blooming, but is also setting fruit! I may actually have tomatoes this year after all! Will wonders never cease?

Note to self... from now on, just buy plants from Nelson's Water Gardens . I don't know if it's the way they treat the plants (exceedingly well!) or that I think the growing conditions there are just about identical to my back yard... well. The plants are proven winners, and so I'm going to stick to them.

Bloom where you are planted.