Saturday, November 29, 2008

Retro Shades

It's sunny today, after a couple of grey days. I've got the kind of glasses that change colors depending on how bright the light is, and I don't have to have separate sunglasses. This is a change for me, and a welcomed one.

Nowadays, sunglasses are rather utilitarian. They are stylish and sleek and sometimes very expensive, but they aren't really memorable. I suspect that's so because more people are wearing them as a matter of course, for safety, comfort and protection. It wasn't always that way.

When I was a teenager, people who wore sunglasses were either on vacation, or were expressing an aspect of their personality that they wanted noticed. The frames of the sunglasses were...different.

How different were they? Look here: Wayfarer sunglasses, . Not your average sunglasses there. Some of them, I'd feel silly in, and some...I'd love to have, and others...are just, well...they're JUST.

Fall Color


Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Houston area is finally showing some fall color.




Of course, this being Houston, not all of the color is leaves...

Violas and Pansies in a black kettle. The black ones are called "Black Prince". When I bought them, none of the flowers were open. They are, indeed, black. Beautiful.

The Cherry Parfait rose is in bloom again, and Belinda's dream is getting ready to put out another large blush of blooms.





Most of Belinda's blooms are still buds, only one open....but soon, oh, soon!

About 2 weeks ago, I bought an orange tree. I'm planning on planting it in February or so. Seems it wants to bloom now. I'm not sure...is that a nascent orange??


This lovely pink hibiscus isn't in my yard, it's in my sis in law's. It is pretty, isn't it?

Volunteer allysium thinks it's spring already. Oh well, if we don't get a freeze (or at least not a bad one) it might bloom all winter and I'll have even more volunteers from its seed. I just love free plants.
And now, on to Christmas.

Alphabet Soup

Have you ever wondered what acronyms like jpeg, Mpg, .mpeg, .m1v, .mp2, .mp3, .mpa, .mpe, .mpv2, and .m3u...ARE? What they MEAN? I do. But then, I wonder about a lot of different things, like: why does my dog always want to lick me when I don't really want him to? And, "Why do weeds grow so well in my garden and things I plant...don't?"

I found a blog that defines a lot of the alphabet soup associated with saving music, photo and video files. I'm not sure I understand it all, but that's my problem, sigh. It's not the fault of file-types.com/file-extension-mpg, As far as I can tell, they write in a clear style, I just don't have all the experiential base needed to integrate the information into what I do know.

I got interested in this because I'm getting interested in making videos. Most specifically, I want to know more about editing and posting GOOD videos. I think I've demonstrated (sadly, quite adequately) my ability to post rather poor videos.

So, what I do understand is that MPG-1 is the data format most of us use. It's not up to broadcast standards, as they use MPG-2. The problem is that most of us can't read the MPG-2 files without a separate download to handle it. And then, there is the MPG-3 for HDTV, MPG-4, and even a MPG-21. Something tells me I'm going to be stuck in the MPG-1 area, if I can actually bring myself up to even THAT standard.

I like learning things, I really do. It's just that, I think I'd rather spend my time learning about plants and people. I wish I were more able to make use of the information I found. Oh, well, no doubt, things will get easier as I grow older, the formats simplify and my brain ages enough to forget that I ever wanted to learn about it.

Eh, it's worth a try to learn.

Nikon's Black Friday

I make no secret about how fond I am of my old Nikon camera. It only has 4 megapixals, but it takes the clearest macros, things I have a devil of a time getting on my Kodak EasyShot. Someday, I want a big girl Nikon camera, with changing lenses, panoramic function...you name it. We all have our dreams....

So, a Nikon Black Friday Promo got my attention. Alas, it only talks about optics that are best used during hunting. Binoculars, scopes, ect. They have a whole package available with things like a special presentation from Lee & Tiffany Lakosky.

"The Ultimate Hunter's Package contains:
-ProStaff 3-9x40 Riflescope with BDC Reticle
-ProStaff Laser Rangefinder
-Silent Technology Rangefinder Case
-Mastering a Long-range shot with BDC DVD
-$50 NikonProGear Gift Card
All these come together in a great package, saving $144.90 on high quality hunting equipment.
In addition, if you’re looking for a high-quality, rugged binoculars, Nikon Sport Optics has got something for you – for a limited time only, get an extra $20 off on Nikon Action Extreme ATB 10x50 Binoculars!
But that’s not all – just for the Black Friday Promotion, Nikon and NikonProGear.com are expanding the Gift Card Promotion ($25 and $50 value) to include all of the following products – Nikon Monarch Binoculars, Trailblazer Binoculars, Nikon Action 10x50 Binoculars and ANY Nikon ATB Binoculars. Plus you can get special holiday prices on ProStaff Riflescopes, Nikon Monarch Rifle Scopes, Buckmasters and Omega Riflescopes." (quote from site)

There aren't any hunters in my family just now (a real shame, 'cause I like venison), so this doesn't help me. Maybe it can help you.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for today?

I'm thankful that I have places with family to celebrate, and plenty of food to eat. I'm thankful that my garden is growing and that I have help to do the work I cannot do. I'm thankful that 'Pup has a good job and so do I.

Our plans take us to see Pa-in-Law at Sis-in-Law's house. I was going to cook a huge turkey that I'd gotten from Kroger's (free coupon!), but turns out that turkey was needed somewhere else. I've another turkey, but it's still frozen. Ah well... no one says you can't cook turkey on Friday!

I think we'll take the dogs to the bark park so they can run off some steam before we leave. They're good watch dogs. They're loud too.

I hope all who read this have reason to be thankful and happy on this day. May your life be full of good harvests and happy gatherings.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Adaptive Shopping

I went shopping by myself today.

That probably doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, and a few years ago it would have been the norm for me as well.

That changed when my ability to be mobile changed. When I have the van, I can use my scooter, but 'Pup prefers to drive the van, and I don't. So, when I have my scooter, I usually have 'Pup with me. Which, is not a bad thing. But still...sometimes, I want to meander and look and think and just shop at my own pace. 'Pup does not shop the same way I do. I like to look at things I have no intention of buying. Sometimes, I look at something and try to imagine the person who would buy it. It makes for slow shopping.

The problem is, if I want to shop at a store, like Ross, which has no electric carts provided, I can not shop. Instead, it has to be quick and I don't usually have time to get what I need before I am in so much pain I have to stop. Indeed, the last time I was in Ross, I was literally in tears from the pain in my back and legs, and the muscles in my back were jumping around so that I was afraid I would fall. That was even with the shopping cart to lean on. So, I didn't shop there anymore.

Today, I did. I used the wheelchair I got a few weeks ago. The only problem with the wheelchair is that it doesn't have a basket. I got around that by using a regular shopping cart. I used my feet to hold on to it and steer, and the chair and I provided a "rear wheel drive" propulsion. It worked surprisingly, and satisfyingly well. I could leave the basket at the end of an aisle, and peruse the goods at my leisure, and bring back my selections to the basket. Several people offered to help me, but I thanked them and told them I was enjoying my independence. I did, however accept help at the dressing room and going in and out of the store.

I found good stuff too. Lots of inexpensive, but great shirts I can wear to work, a really nice party outfit ('Pup's company holiday bash is coming up), and some Christmas presents. I made a nice haul and didn't spend even as much as I would have for the same type of things at Walmart or Target (the two stores that DO have electric scooter carts). The clothes were much nicer than I could have gotten at either. I even found some shoes and a purse. Well, the purse might be a Christmas present for a sister, but, I kinda like it and it goes over my shoulder and I might be able to carry it while using the chair. That's another drawback. I had to leave my purse in the car and take just my wallet and it wasn't all that secure. In fact, it fell out of my pocket once and I almost lost it. (heart was thumping a bit there, believe me)

My arms are a little tired, but not too much. I can lift and use my arms with some strength. Rolling the chair wasn't much harder than digging or weeding, or lifting a bag of soil to pour it into a pot. The important thing is that I'm tired, but no more tired than anyone who'd done a couple hours of shopping would be. And, I wasn't in pain. I had FUN! It's been a long time since I've been able to just leisurely shop.

I still have some Christmas shopping to do, and now I know that I can do it by myself.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

We went to the bark park Sunday, and on our way back, we passed the part of Bear Creek Park that holds the County Extension office. Near there, is a cemetery on Patterson Road. In a pasture that surrounds it from the back and one side, we came across these local inhabitants. I've seen them grazing before, but hadn't had time, camera and opportunity present itself all at the same time. They were in a smaller corner of the pasture and I was able to get some pretty good shots.






As you can see, these are momma cows. Poppa longhorn cow is a lot bigger and has even longer horns.

Kinda makes you respect those old time cowboys a little more, don't it?
Ain't I cute?

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Green House, Shelter from the Cold

Ahhhh, cool weather.

Winter is on its way. Now I know, most of you are saying "Winter? Nancy, you don't even have a proper FALL!
Okay, so most of you aren't saying that. Still, I know some of you will be surprised to know that I have to Take Steps to insure that the tender tropicals I'm growing don't become some expensive and heartbreaking compost.

A lot of of my plants are in pots, especially in the shade. They're in pots because the soil there is heavy with clay, and full of rocks from a previous use of the area as a drainage field for an above ground pool. It's a lot like some seriously mucky and sticky and heavy modeling clay. If you dig down far enough, you will, in fact, hit a serious layer of some rather nice clay....I've considered trying to make some ceramics...
So, what measures can I take? I can't bring them all inside. When you reach a certain point, there just isn't enough room in a small house for people, pets AND a hundred or so potted plants. I don't have a basement. See, if I dug a couple of feet lower, and got through that layer of clay, I'd hit the water table.

Houston doesn't do basements.

I couldn't bring the plants in during Ike, and I sure can't bring them inside for the winter. Besides the floor space problem, there's the problem of enough light, and enough humidity inside a heated (okay--WARMED) house.

After a lot of years of trial and error (oh tragic error!), I've come up with a design that lets me protect everything and not have to worry about running out at the last minute when the weather man goes "Ooops...that cold front's a little colder than we thought and looks like we're going to have a hard freeze! Y'all protect plants, pets, pipes and people!"

That kind of statement from a weatherman in Houston tends to create a run on frost cloth, pipe protectors and blankets. The reactions of the gardeners of the area (the newbies) is kinda like the run on water we get when there's a storm in the Gulf. Shelves start. to. clear....

For me, the statement has created a different kind of panic. See, I've got the materials to protect everything, but, more and more, I have a harder and harder time of actually being able to cover things quickly and without a lot of pain on my part.

Thus, as need often does, my fevered brain and aching back caused a solution to brew in my head.

A greenhouse. I needed a greenhouse. Problem... I can't AFFORD a greenhouse. Dang.

But I can MAKE one!! Yes, I can.

This year, I found some stakes that are used for making electrified fences. They come with clips up and down one side, they were light weight and have a spike at one end to hold them in the ground.

After putting the stakes (I used 14, enough for one every 2 to 2 1/2 feet.) I opened some contractor grade trash bags. They're thicker and a bit larger than a household grade. I opened them by tearing down the seam on one side of the bag and then the "bottom". Opened fully, I had a piece of black plastic about 5 feet long and 4 feet high when laid on its side.

The good Sr. Medina was there, along with his youngest son--who is about a foot and a half taller than his dad. In fact, he looks a lot like my nephew, except for hair and eye color.

So, after putting the stakes into the ground, we started to attach the black plastic to the posts. This is where the clips came in very handy. I think this IS, by far, the easiest surround we've made. You'll note, I've made this plant corral around the pond and a half barrel of water. The water will absorb heat, keep things at a fairly stable temperature, and supply the needed humidity during dry cold fronts. The black plastic will help absorb heat.

It went up easily and fairly quickly, almost as fast as I could open the bags, Sr. Medina and son had them attached to the stakes.







we weighted the bottoms with some odd chunks of wood, broken pavers, ect.
This is basil perpetuo... if you can find this variety, I recommend it. It came through the hottest part of the summer AND a hurricane. It's looking a little worse for wear right now, but a trim and a rest, and it might make it through the winter. We'll see. I do like taking annuals into the next year, when I can.

Then, over everything inside the black plastic, went a frost blanket. It also keeps the foliage of the plants away from the black plastic.


We wrapped up the tomatoes and a new vine I got recently....and a pot where I've planted a small banana plant. This has a double, sometimes triple layer of the frost cloth.
I will admit to a few recent purchases.... they're snuggled in there to for a bit, until I have the areas ready to plant them.
The tomatoes could stay under there, as the frost cloth lets light through. It will be pulled off during very sunny and warm days though.
We even threw a double layer over the trellis with the hyacinth vine, with some canna and other potted plants snuggled in as well.
The last step to this process will/would be the addition of a layer of clear plastic drop cloth. If I put it over the pond enclosure, it will be a real greenhouse, and I'd probably leave everything under there, with some forays in to water the plants. I've done this before and I can see the condensation on the clear plastic drop cloth. In effect, I've created a gigantic terrarium. In the spring, it gets taken down and everyone released and spread over the whole yard.
This is probably a bit extreme for most people. They can run out and throw frost cloths over what they need to protect. I used to do that. I can't any more. So.... we over prepare so that I don't have to worry about the majority...just the occasional odd plant.. and the citrus in the front. THOSE will have to get a frost cloth.
There's a big difference between protecting a few potted plants and almost a hundred, especially if you just can't do things you used to do.
Now, I don't have to worry, I can do this winter.
You might say: I've got it covered.

We Ain't in the Money

Nice, huh? The banks are raising credit card interest rates. Sometimes, they're even letting people know that they're doing it. Of course, they're doing that by letters that look very much like the kinds of junk mail most of us either throw away or compost. What, you don't compost junk mail? It's easy to do. All you do is either shred it in a paper shredder or, just tear it into little pieces. Tiny, little pieces that, as you are tearing them, making the small pieces of paper smaller and smaller and....

Eh-hem, where was I? Oh, yeah, compost. Good addition to the compost heap, and free to boot. Any psychological satisfaction derived by the preparation of the material is secondary. Really. I do it for the compost. Think of the worms and the pretty flowers.

I guess it's a sign of the times that I keep hearing more and more advertisements for companies that promise debt consolidation as a way to save everything. I think that is probably a false sense of security. Unless you get rid of the temptation to add to the debt, no consolidation is going to be enough.

So, until things are calmer...make like a shredder and compost. It's the one way to ensure that the only thing you're adding to, is the fertility of your soil.

Looking Thru New Eye (glasses)

Okay, I'm up way too late tonight (this morning?)...and that means I go roaming over the internets looking at odd things. I click on ads I normally ignore, I read every blog on my blog roll. Though, I have to say, I've not a chance of reading EVERYTHING, as does El Capitan, who has kindly put me into a poem in company with some much more well read and regarded blogs. He has also been on a roll as far as posts go! El Capitan, you have written, and written well, on a wide range of topics, from shaved...cats..., to "movements", and even included a meme on a book.

So, here I am, awake at far too early/late an hour, looking at eyeglass frames on a site that promises $8 to $15 glasses. Alas, my prescription is far to wonky for me to take advantage of the specials. Instead, what's got my attention have been some of the prettier Holiday frames, and seasonal styles of frames.

I kinda like this one:

They come in a black/brown combination, but I like the red/rose combination better. I've had some red frames before and I've liked the color. I really like the temples on this pair though, 'cause I like flowers. (No surprise, huh?) They're even a shape and a kind that my prescription might work in.
Might be nice to have a pair to wear to Blogher. Hummm...
Or, should I save my money and have a really nice dinner out?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Pa-in-Law! Brunch at Sandy's


Sunday was my dear Pa-in-Law's birthday. The young cutie is 'Pup's youngest nephew. That kid has grown 14 inches in the last 2 years. Yeah... at least 14 inches. Right now, he's built very much like my Pa-in-law was built at his age, or a little older. PiL left High School at 16 to enlist in the Navy during WWII. Pictures of him show a 6 foot 4 inch kid with about a 22 inch waist. He's filled out a little in the years, but he's still a tall, good looking and engaging man. He's a hit at the seniors apartments he lives in...as it seems he never lacks for a dinner engagement, and had a good share of lunch dates too. He says he buys very few groceries these days.

He once mentioned that he'd not had fried cornmeal mush for breakfast since he was a kid, before he enlisted.

The next morning, he got a call, and an invitation to breakfast...yep... one of his lady neighbors fixed him some.

We took him and nephew "Stilts" out to Sunday brunch. PiL had already taken two of the lady neighbors to church, and later that day, he was the center of an impromptu pot luck dinner. Have I mentioned he REALLY likes where he lives?

We took the two of them out to Sandy's Produce Market for brunch.

Yes, it's a grocery store. It's also an incredible place to go eat fresh, organic, reasonably priced and dang tasty lunch or breakfast. It also has a huge assortment of teas, coffee, herbs, spices, and honey.

And it sells antiques. And has a masseuse, a selection of new and used books and oh yeah, locally produced meats, vegetables and eggs. When you step in, you kinda know you're not at your usual supermarket chain...


Sometimes, they have live music, too.

It is also the cleanest and tidiest store I've ever seen. Really. Things are kept spotlessly clean and well presented.





There are tables and chairs scattered all over the store. The tables are for sale too... but they're mostly for socializing and for.....

Eatin'.



During the buffet lunches and breakfasts, a trolly comes around with a selection of different teas. You select the tea you want from the selection, or if you have a particular favorite you don't see, ask. You receive. The tea is brewed and served from an individual and ingenious tea pot. They're for sale too... (new ones!)



Between buffets, you can come in during the afternoon and have a cup of tea with a friend and talk.


There are cool things everywhere.



Some go beyond interesting and into fascinating. This piece used to be part of a several piece set. I recognize it from past visits. It, and its companion pieces were made from cypress roots, hand carved and pieced together and burnished. I'd have loved to have had a piece or two, but, it's not to be...alas.


This little area is new, or at least new to me. It's a child friendly place to play and


read.

The managers aren't tucked away into the back, either. They're stationed out in the middle of the floors, using desks that are (you guessed it) also for sale. You want to see a manager? You have a question? You'll find the answer about products they carry and any service questions you might have.


And one of those desks belongs to the owner, Sandy hisownself. (He's the one in the blue shirt.)


One new thing they've started offering that 'Pup and I haven't tried is their dinner service. It's a more formal service, with a menu that changes as the chef chooses from the store stock to prepare dinner. For a $5 cork fee, you can even bring your own bottle of wine. They're offering a Thanksgiving dinner too, and if we hadn't already made plans for Thanksgiving already, we might have made reservations and gone. Unlike the buffets, you do have to purchase the tickets to the dinner service in advance.
All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon, and then a wonderful evening.
Happy Birthday PiL!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Expanding Horizons

I don't have a master's degree. Sometimes, I think I'd like to have one, not for the possibilities for greater earnings (that's debatable at this point in my life), but for the opportunity...the challenge...of broadening my knowledge base, and yes, demonstrating my abilities. I guess another way of putting it would be that I would be validating my credentials.

I think I'd like some classes to happen in real life, but I think I'd rather do things on my schedule, and not some set schedule determined by the real life needs of a real life building and staff. That would mean a lot of the schools I would need to look at would involve some form of an online degree course of study.

I'm thinking of taking some business courses, but I don't think I want that to be my major course of study. Perhaps history, or literature, maybe art? I'm not sure. I'm going to be looking into costs and time and requirements. Then again, with the experience I'm getting into finding, researching and meeting new doctors, perhaps I should take advantage of the things I've learned about my own conditions, and 'Pups, to explore some kind of work in a doctor's office.

Tutoring is getting a little thin on the ground. Parents are triaging the kids' needs. If they have two kids, rather than both getting tutoring, they only enroll the one that needs it the most, and limit what they're studying. While this is normally the slow part of the year, it's never been this slow.

So, while I think I do have a full quiver of arrows, and a wide range of skills, it might not be a bad idea to explore...additional avenues of possible revenue. That exploration might begin, like my marriage, online.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Welcome to Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, sponsored by the lovely and talented and generous May Dreams Garden. If you'd like to find out what's blooming all over the world (yes, the world!) go visit and learn to Embrace gardening in all it's glory and hard work.


The geranium is still blooming. It's entering it's third winter now, and is a little worse for age...still...I wonder how long I can keep it alive?

The Mexican heather is in full bloom still and the bees are buzzing around it during the day. There are so many of them, the bushes actually hum.

The butterfly weed is blooming, almost for the first time this year, as it's been munched on pretty steadily by caterpillars.

The hibiscus have been happy, especially with all the rain the last week.
Note the color of this bloom. All four of the hibiscus bushes I have bloom in THIS color. Why is that important? Well, look at this:

I think I may have a sport! This really is the color of this flower. It's a pretty color, but rather unusual. I'll have to wait for more of the buds on the same branch to open (if they do), to see if it's a one of a kind, or a branch that's sported.

The hyacinth bean is winding down, after putting on a big show a couple of weeks ago.

The pods are ripening......

and turning brown with the ripened seeds. I'll have a good harvest this year of the seeds. Alas, I didn't get many seed pods from the moon vine this year, so I'll have to buy some new seeds for this Spring.

The Pinata rose is blooming. They positively glowed this afternoon. Even later on this evening, as the light was dimming, they were incandescent

It's as if they're lit from within.


Can you imagine my surprise this afternoon when I found that the fig tree was actually putting on FIGS??? It's never done that before...ever. I wonder if they'll ripen so late in the season.

One of the fuchsias I thought I'd lost a couple of months ago is also putting on more blooms. I do believe Ike's affects are lingering in the oddest of ways.

This morning glory wasn't on a trellis, or a wall. It was smack dab on the ground. The vines run everywhere. I swear, someday, if my house goes missing, it will be beneath a blanket of morning glory vines.


I've always known this plant/flower by the name "Wandering Jade" or "Purple Jade". Sr. Medina says that in Mexico, it's called "Pico de Gallo" (rooster's beak). The leaves do look a bit like a chicken's beak.

The Texas tarragon, or Mexican Mint Marigold has been blooming nonstop since late September. It attracts bees, butterflies and a fair number of different kinds of wasps.


I tried to take a rather prosaic picture of this calendula, but I had a rather unexpected and, I think, a spectacular photo. I don't think I've seen anything like it. I was using the old Nikon coolpix 4500, on a very bright, sunny early afternoon sun, on the southern side of the property. I'm not sure how to reproduce this happy accident, but I'll accept the gift.
The bougainvillea is now blooming on the variegated foliage branches....at last. It's been almost 3 years since it's done that.

New in my garden, for this month, are a selection of violas. I like this little face. Oh, note the little bruise on my poor thumb...it's where I missed when hammering in a nail. Well, actually it was more than one nail...and more than one miss... and more than one Bad Word. I had to say it in my head though, as the West's little girls were nearby.

Another extreme picture, caused by the bright sun. I think the camera is stuck on a fairly slow shutter speed. I kept trying to adjust it, but it wasn't accepting the instructions. Sigh.... I love my old Nikon. I want another one.

And, another charming face coming out of the light...
The little Barbados Cherry plant is blooming. It really is a small plant right now, only about 7 inches high and perhaps 8 inches wide. The plant tag doesn't say that it's a dwarf plant, but I wouldn't be unhappy if it turned out to be, as it would fit the scale of my house and yard best. It has had a few ripened fruits. I tried one and it wasn't too bad... mostly seed, and probably not worth fighting the birds for, but not bad.

The Angel Wing jasmine is blooming still, and looks as if it wants to bloom for a while longer. It's growing through the fence, into the front yard, which faces south, so it might just get to do that for a while longer.

Most of the roses in the front yard are on pause right now, between bloom outs. The bad thing about having had all of them in bloom all at once after the storm, is that they are now all on the same hiatus for a bit. But, isn't that a handsome bug? It's not a particularly welcomed one, but it's handsome, in its own weird way.

Ms Belinda is still blooming, of course. She just never stops. However, honestly prompts me to say that this is just about the only branch still blooming and I think it's just a little behind the rest, as it's a brand new branch. I need to give all the roses a hair cut.

The Mealy Sage is blooming, weakly, as usual. I need to 1) re pot the plant and 2) feed the dickens out of it.

Right now, a lot of the plants in the back yard are under a frost blanket. It's not supposed to get down to freezing, but better safe, than sorry. Besides, I had Sr. Medina and son here today and we made a green house.
Yes, we did!
That story is for tomorrow.