Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Figs and Roses


A Mexican dove sits in the oak tree in the yard behind us. It and 3 of its flockmates were sitting quietly, waiting for the cold front to arrive. And, I suppose, wishing I'd fill the bird feeders. Sorry guys, out of luck today.


I wish I could paint the way this rose looks.

And it looks like I've some ripe figs. I think they need one or two more days, and then they'll be chomped. The other two figs are not as close to ripe as these are.
Highs today in the mid 70's (it feels really very nice right now), but it will get down to about 40 tonight.
Other notes: the ash trees are blooming and budding out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy New Year

Today is the Chinese New Year, the beginning of the Lunar New Year as celebrated by Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean...most Asian cultures. It is the Year of the Bull.

I feel somewhat comforted by the fact that it is the Year of the Bull, as it seems, I think, that we're not going to get through this year without a lot of hard work, stubbornness and some good leadership. The first two, I'm pretty sure Americans (and all peoples of the world, in general), have in abundant supply. Life is a challenge most people meet, somehow.

What worries me is Leadership.

I'm not sure where we're going, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to be pulling around a multi-trillion dollar debt with me into the future. And I'm dang sure that, unless something drastic changes, the consumers who can really drive this economy into sanity aren't the ones who are going to see any of the bailout money. There will be some companies who benefit from the bailout, but there aren't really all that many jobs in building yachts, personal jets and in services that maintain the luxurious lifestyles of so many of the CEO's who seem to be skimming off the top of these bailout amounts.

The rest of us will just be working and paying for everything. Those of you with children, know that your children will be working to pay this off for several generations. We're going to be passing down a very heavy burden.

Sigh. I guess I'm worried about that other commodity produced by bulls. Good for the garden, after it's composted for a while, but toxic and foul smelling until it is transformed.

Happy New Year.

Back to gardening posts tomorrow. I've got seeds, and I'm not afraid to plant them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ambition, or God Help Me, What Was I Thinking??


To be fair, almost everything under "herbs" are plants I already have planted here and there, except for the basils, which have to be replanted every year anyway. This year, I'm planning to put them with some of the tomatoes and some marigolds.

Also, some of the vegetable seeds were bought because my mom wants a garden this spring and she likes some veggies I don't much care for, so I got them for her.

I need to get started with the seeds...

Oops..

almost forgot the Bay Laurel on the herb list!

List This One Under: HUH???

The darnedest thing happened to me on the way home from work the other day. It's never happened to me before, and it's not something I thought would ever happen to me.

What was it? Let me tell you the story.

There I was, in my 1996 Saturn, driving home. I noticed a motorcycle coming alongside me. I notice motorcycles. This was a big red one. What kind..I dunno. It was big, had one of those seats built for two and had some storage cases on the back and sides. It looked substantial. The guy riding it was about my age, mustached, long hair tied back, and a bald pate. No helmet, though he was wearing jeans, gloves and boots.

He pulled up a little and waved his hand at me, and pointed at my front tire. Thinking he'd spotted something wrong, I rolled down my window.

"Hello!" says he, with a big grin. "Where ya goin'?"

"Uhhmmm...home." I said.

"My name's Rob, what's yours?"

"Uhmmm...Nancy. Hello, nice bike. Is there a problem."

"Ah no problem! I just wanted to ask if I could call you later tonight."

? (inside my head--) Boing!

"Ahh, uhmmm, I don't think my husband would like that very much, sorry."

"Oh well. You have a nice night!"

"Thanks, you too."

As he pulled away, I had a sudden urge to try to catch up with him. I wanted to say "Thanks". It's not every day....heck, until then... it hadn't been ANY day... that this 48 year old woman gets hit on while driving. Come to think of it... it doesn't happen too often when I'm NOT driving either.

Sometimes, a little respectful flirting makes a girl's night.

Thanks Rob!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Help

I'm having some problems with my laptop. Not the laptop memory, that's been fine. No, I'm having trouble getting into the id's in the machine. It boots up, right up until I have to choose the identity/account to enter into. It keeps flickering right on....then off.

Is there anyone out there who can walk me through some possible fixes? It was working until this morning, but now? I'm in trouble here.

The "Cain't Sees"

I've got a bad case of the "cain't sees". Even though my eyeglasses are less than a year old, either my eyes have gotten worse lately, or my nose isn't as long as it used to be. Not that it was ever very long to begin with..sigh. I've a stubby nose. It matches my stubby body.

At any rate, I've had to put my glasses farther and farther down my nose to bring the print in books into clear focus. By now, the frame nose pieces are perched precariously on the very tip of my nose, and looking up from the book means that I'm looking all the way over the glasses. I hate not being able to see. And I just got the two pairs I like. I guess I can always get the new lenses in the old frames. That would save a little money. Only a little. Sigh. My frames have always been the cheapest part of my glasses. The lenses are the killers.

Oh, well...see ya (I hope)

Eyes Everywhere.

Most of us, most of the time, don't ever think about just how many security cameras there are on us all the time. We go into stores...we're seen. Go into a bank, have your picture taken. Go through a toll booth...have your car and movements tracked. It's enough to have a paranoid person get downright...jumpy.

Most people would see that as a invasion of privacy...but I rather like the fact that there are so MANY cameras taking so MANY pictures. It's easier to hide in a crowd of people. When you're just one more face in a sea of faces, you're seen... but still invisible. Believe me, I've been invisible for enough of my life, for example, in high school, or more lately when I use my wheel chair, people can look right through you in real life. With so many cameras and so many pictures, who has time to look at them all?

Then, there are the lucky "catches", like the two scuzzballs who robbed me--right after Walgreens had put in a brand new sharp image catcher...well. It caught them okay too. The other lucky catch are the views of the plane that came down in New York. The best pictures they have of right before the crash came from security cameras on the warehouse docks.

The Skinny

'Pup's weight loss has been on an up and down road. Lately, it's been the "up" part that has been causing problems. However, 'Pup has an advantage in that he doesn't need weight loss pills to get back on the "down", he just has to eat properly. He needs more protein and less carbohydrates. More salad and fewer crackers.

Sigh. He's doing that, and his weight is already going down. Meanwhile, I do the same, and I don't lose anything. I don't want a gastric by-pass. I am, however, thinking that a lap band might be endurable.

I dunno.

Not Eating

'Pup and I both slept most of yesterday away. Why? I'm not really sure, except that we're both trying to get over a cold. I thought mine had been beaten, but it seems to have come back. We've not been eating well either. Neither of us have felt like eating, mostly because we're asleep, and some because we can't smell anything and don't feel like eating much. (Don't you wish more appetite suppressants work that well?)

What both of us have wanted to eat are things we probably shouldn't eat..or can't stay awake long enough to make. Anyone got a pot of chicken soup to send us? One with lots of noodles..or dumplings.. would be nice.

Yawn... I have to go to work today.. but no work tomorrow. More sleep is scheduled.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Big Ol' Smile

The big day is coming up. Tomorrow we'll have a new president and our country will begin again, as it has since George Washington, to peacefully change the head of our government. This luxury is not given to every nation. It is, perhaps telling that the nations/cultures that are most against have not been able to effect a government change with the same frequency or lack of violence.

That is not to say we've not had our troubles. Our civil war was as bloody and damaging as any, and it took a long time for our people to come fully together. But we did. We've lived through assassinations, but our governments did not fall.

So, all week long, we'll be seeing the very best of Washington DC cosmetic dentistry flashed at us, as everyone wishes the new president well... and gets face time.

Speaking of face time, I just saw on the news that people in the capitol were being asked to keep their cell phone usage to a minimum and to not immediately send the pictures of the inauguration to their friends at home. One of the anchors (who might not have known her mike was on) said, "Yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen."

It made me laugh.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, January 2009

First, to all of those in the heart of that monstrously, viciously cold Siberian Slapdown-- you have my respect. And my fervent wishes that you stay safe, warm and well.

We're going to be bit by the backend of a brushoff from that mess, and we might go down to the upper 20's for several hours here. For this part of Texas, that is very cold. The plants I have survived the freeze (several hours at 32/31), but this one will be a little longer and a little colder. Ah well. Most of my perennials have really good, strong root systems, and should bounce back after a week of warmer weather.

So, for those of you with only vistas of white blowy cold stuff outside your windows, I hope you can enjoy this, vicariously.

Golden Showers, a bloom and several buds. The roses probably won't be bothered much by the cold weather, they're very tough.

The Pinata rose is blooming and, oh MY, I'm liking this rose more and more the longer I have it.

The fig tree got bitten a little, but most of the leaves were more sheltered and did okay. These two figs (half of my 'crop') may be in a little danger, but oh well...


Under the pond enclosure, the fuchsia is blooming. It's springtime under there.

The Butterfly Weed is blooming and the plants seem impervious to the frost.


Not blooms, but proof that even bees need water in the winter.


The Carolina Jessamine is progressing nicely. Last month, they were just beginning to bud, and I could only guess that they were flowers and not new leaves. I guessed right!

Under the frost blankets and plastic and an old ratty comforter (to provide weight, the wind's liable to pick up), it was WARM. The tomatoes aren't ripening all covered up, but they're blooming.



A weed, grows through the brick pavers near the back door. Sigh, guess who'll be repainting a sill?

This really does look warm, doesn't it? I believe it's a wild oxalis of some kind.

And a dandelion...


The Calendula is doing well. I really wish I'd gotten a lot more of these. Next year, I'll sow a lot of them.


A little frost bitten and wind burned, this pincushion flower is hanging in there.



And a surprise allysium is hanging in there from last month.


And the pansies...oh... the pansies... and violas...

I just love their little faces.

The Black Prince...


And a Gold Medal rosebud...



And the fully opened rose of the same kind.

The Angel Wing Jasmine is still blooming, and also seems to ignore cold weather.


The hibiscus is still hanging in, but doesn't like opening on a day in the 60's. It likes something closer to 80.

Truthfully, so do I.

Nasturtiums...

and a very very odd petunia.

Belinda's Dream is blooming, but the buds and blooms are a little frost bitten.



Poinsettias

The cedar is budding.

So is the pink jasmine.

And the geriatric geranium is hanging on...
Not shown, is the Mexican Heather, which is blooming and giving the bees a favorite food source. I like bees.

Pause for Thought

One of the first things 'Pup and I did after getting married was look at insurance. For those of you who have been married and have had children, life insurance is probably a given. You have to think about those you're leaving behind.

People who are single, and have been single a long time and have even come to terms with the fact that they'll be single for the rest of their lives (that would include 'Pup and I, btw), come quickly to the realization that big life insurance policies aren't really meant for them. We had no one for whom it was important to leave anything beyond enough money to make sure last debts and a funeral could be paid for, so our parents wouldn't be burdened with those things. I always relied on the term life insurance quote my employer provided, and I never looked beyond for anything else.

'Pup was a little more forward looking, getting a whole life policy, but even he used it for it's cash value rather than regarding it as a legacy.

Now we have each other, and now...we both have whole life and we both are leaving enough make it easier for whomever is left behind. But both of us hope we never have to.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Well Wishes

Not for me, I'm beginning to feel better and will probably be able to work tomorrow. Instead, I'd appreciate it if you'd head over to a site that tells the story of a battle against a much more intractable foe, and a very young man. Please sign his guestbook.

UPDATE

I fixed the link, I think.

This is a link to a Caring Bridge site. They're sites set up for, in this case, a young man named Brandon who is fighting some serious cancer. Please go visit, and let me know if the link works..

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thymes on My Mind (and Hands!)

I owe a big apology to a company that sent me some products to review. Not only am I really late, the products are really good. And I feel really bad. (Not just because I've got a nasty cold...this is shame) (I hate shame.)

The products arrived during the summer. I can't remember why I put them away (for just a week, I thought), but between going to my class reunion, 'Pup's class reunion and then back here... and with Ike...

It slipped my mind.

I do, however, remember my excitement when I got the very lovely box with the word "Thymes" on it. As I opened it, I found an elegantly wrapped and presented set of soap, lotion and a nail brush, in a handy sink caddy. It was like opening a really beautifully wrapped present.

The Thymes Gardener products are wonderful too, especially in the kitchen. I can cut onions, then wash my hands with the soap, and the onion smell is gone. Instead, I'll have a nice....green...scent left. It's a summery smell, and in many ways, I'm glad I have it now, as it's a smell that makes me feel warm. We're having a cold spell down here, and with me being sick, I'm not getting to spend much time outside with my green things.

I also like the fact that, when I read the ingredient list, I can recognize the herbal components of the lotion and the soap as ones that are good for your skin, and their scents are those that make me feel happy. It really smells, to me, rather like early spring, just as the new grass is growing, and the air slips between the blades of grass, nascent flower buds and warmed earth. It smells, in fact, rather like the way the new grass looks...delicious enough that you wish, for a moment or more, that you could reach down and take a chomp. I used to roll in grass like that.

I'd like to try the Wild Ginger, as I like a citrus scent, or Filigree, as I like slightly spicy scents too. For a friend that's getting married soon, I think I may get something from the Goldleaf collection. At any rate, I suspect any of the collections would be wonderful, and while I missed Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day are right around the corner.
Thank you Thymes.com and thank you Skirtpr.com for allowing me to try these products, and please, accept my apology that it took me so long to say thank you.

I am not Well

I woke up with a cold last Wednesday and it's gone downhill from there, tho...I may be seeing an upswing just now. I do, at least, feel no worse than yesterday, and perhaps a little more alert.

I went to work Thursday and one of my darlings (a sweet kid with NO mouth monitor), said I sounded like Rudolph. You know the scene. Where his dad covers up his nose with mud so he'll fit in? And he sounds like he has a cold? Yah. That was (is) me.

To be honest, I've always identified with Rudolph, especially when I was in first grade. Seems I always had a cold that year and I was always sniffling and sneezing and coughing. My nose stayed red and chapped. Yep, me and my man..err reindeer.. Rudolph... we had a a connection.

A brief stock tip for everyone: Puff's Plus with Lotion's stock should be headed up...

Even with the soft tissue, I am also going to laud Burt's Bees products, most specifically the Honey Shea Body Butter. As a diabetic, I'm prone to dry skin and this has been a miracle creme. My hands look and feel younger, my elbows are no longer doppelgangers for cheese graters and my feet are doing better too. The stuff smells like honey. Yummy.

The two products that have saved my nose are Res-Q Ointment which has a slight menthol scent, good for the stuffed noses. The other one is Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm. The combination of the two has turned a chapped, sore nose and chapped lips back into...well...normal skin. Next place I'm going to try the Res-Q is around my eyes. They've been watering so much and I've been wiping them often enough that the skin around my eyes is red and puffy and sore too.

I like this stuff enough that I bought some for my mom for Christmas. I hope she liked it.

No work for me again today. I don't like losing the money, but I want to get better sooner, not later. Besides, I'm probably contagious... (ain't I a charmer today). Y'all stay well.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Shopping for Cars as a Disabled Person

It is not fun, at the best of times, to be disabled. It is (literally) a pain in the back/neck/elbow, knee,.... you name it. Believe me, the handicap spots at the store? While they're nice places to park (when they've not been parked in and filled illegally), having a real need...NEED to use them is not nice. Not nice at all.

Here in Houston, the city lets people with handicapped hang tags, and those with handicap/permanent disability licence plates, park on the streets and by the meters for free. I was once told that perk was really cool! The person who told me that wished she could get "free" parking. I then reminded her that it wasn't really "free". It came with a need for canes, wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Didn't look like such a good deal then. I guess things are just a matter of perspective sometimes.

After we were told that the van (with my scooter and crane) was totaled, with no damage to scooter or crane, we went shopping for a new van, or crossover vehicle...something that could have the crane installed.

They aren't easy to find. Making a car salesman listen to what you need isn't easy either. They are dedicated to selling you the car their manager has told them to sell, one that offers the greatest amount of commission. I feel for them, I do. It's not easy at the best of times to make one's living on commission, and these are NOT the best of times.

Two notable standouts that day illustrate the good and the very very very bad parts of shopping while disabled. One was at a Lincoln/Mercury dealership, part of a complex of dealerships owned by the same company. I'd had pretty good service from the other parts of that massive conglomeration of vehicles and the salesmen attached to them. The Lincoln/Mercury was a glaring exception in all possible ways.

First, we had to get the salesman to listen to ME, not just look at 'Pup. I do all the talking in situations like looking at cars, especially when we're seriously considering buying. After he looked at me and half way listened to what we needed, he allowed as he might have a couple of vehicles that would be perfect.

So, up he shows with a HUGE passenger van and a somewhat smaller crossover vehicle. Neither had anything close to the storage area needed for even a disassembled scooter, much less a scooter AND a lift. And, I was quick to tell him, that no, these just wouldn't work.

"Oh, but ma'am, yes it will!"

"No, it won't, it's too small an area..."

"But ma'am, I'm SURE it will work."

Let me stop here and interject this brief aside. I really don't like being argued with when I am both the customer and the one who knows how big the item I need to carry is and whether it will fit.

"Young MAN!" says I, in my best/worst teacher voice, "Do NOT argue with me, I KNOW how big an area I need, and that's NOT IT."

After a breath I explained again, what I needed and asked to see a Grand Marquis. My mom had owned several and I knew how big a trunk they have. I've also seen one with a lift installed and it was, as a friend up northeast would say: "Wicked cool!"

He said they didn't have any. That they just weren't made much anymore. So, he showed me ANOTHER suv/crossover vehicle. It wasn't goint to work either. Suddenly, it seemed, he did, after all, remember that maybe there were a few Grand Marquis and a couple of Towncars in the back of the dealership, and he'd go get one of both.

After he left, I said, to 'Pup (gritting my teeth), "We're leaving. Now."

And we did.

Today, I got a phone call from someone who wanted to follow up our visits to the various dealerships. I told them, in great detail, about my experiences. I also suggested that all the salespeople needed some training in dealing with customers with disablilites. They need to know, for one thing, that under Texas law, individuals with disabilities are exempt from sales tax on a vehicle purchase. In addition, most car manufacturers have a $1000, to $1500 allowance on each purchase, if the vehicle is to have a mobility assist device installed. It would be good not to have to do all the educating.

There's only ONE dealership who not only knew about both those programs, but also shared their knowlege with me before I asked. It was: Saturn. Kudos to them and their vehicles... more about them later.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bumper Cars

'Pup and I used to have very clean driving records. No DUI's (still true), no recent speeding tickets (none for me, ever) and, generally speaking, a record free of wrecks. The last of those sterling qualities has now changed with a little fender bender we had on Dec. 23. So much for cheap car insurance, it's gonna cost us.

We had hoped to get by with just fixing the van (the one with my scooter lift in it), but the repair shop has reported that it would cost a lot more than the van is worth to fix it, as the frame was just so ever slightly bent out of shape. Damn.

The end result is a totaled van. We're waiting for the insurance to tell us how much it will be giving us. I'm pretty sure it's not going to be very much. We do have to get the van back so that we can take out the lift and a power inverter. Together, the two of them may be worth more than the van just now.

We've started shopping for a new vehicle, one that can be fitted out with a powered lift and with enough room for the scooter. It's harder to find one than you'd think. It's not just that they're expensive, but that there aren't many vehicles made that are suitable. Most vans, suv's and crossovers are made, nowadays, carrying the spare tire in a compartment that is accessed through the cargo area.

Think about that. It's impossible to both have an installed lift AND a spare tire inhabiting the same space. In fact, I think it's a daft idea to have the spares there in the first place. If you have a flat tire, do you really want to unload your groceries or anything else you're carrying before you can change the tire?

I'll get into just how hard it is to talk to most car salesmen who have no real interest in listening to what you need in a vehicle. Seems most of them just want to sell you the car they've been told to sell. Still, I will admit most of the salesmen and one woman were more or less honest and courteous and eventually, with enough repetitions, they did try to show us something that might work.

There was one glaring exception towards the worst and one towards the best. I'm going to be writing about just how hard it is to shop for a new vehicle when you're disabled. It isn't fun.

We have narrowed down the search for a van, as my dear Pa-in-law had bought one recently. We may even be able to find one used. Whether we can afford one or not, a new (ish) vehicle is in our future.

Friday, January 02, 2009

A New Year's Harvest


Last summer, Carol at May Dream's Garden proclaimed that she had officially grown the World's Ugliest Tomato. This winter, I proclaim that I have grown the earliest IN GROUND, non-greenhouse tomato.

It was delicious. (Thank you 'Pup for letting me eat it all myself)


I also picked my entire orange crop for the year, and promptly gave 50% of it to the little girls who helped me pick it. They wanted both of them, but I was mean and kept one for myself. Humm... I might shudda shared that with 'Pup... next year.

It was a good orange, not a great one, but it was good.

These aren't ready yet, nor will be for several months. However, as big as they are now, they look like they may be BIG when they're finally ripe.

All four of them. Big, Big crop.

It's a start.

Speaking of which, it will soon be time for me to start the tomato seeds. I've gotten a lot of different varieties, and will be trying them in different parts of the yard. Some will be hybrids, but a lot of them will be heirloom varieties.

Spring will be here in just a couple of months.