Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alternate Pathways

When 'Pup got laid off from the Huge Bank, he could have taken classes to get a Project Management certificate. It might have made a difference in what kinds of jobs he would have qualified for, but who knows? 'Pup really prefers to manage only himself, so...perhaps it's just as well.

My take is that it's never a bad idea to have an updated skill set. Education is a good thing. Education you can do something with is even better.

I have a brother out of work now. He's smart and has experience managing groups of people, hiring and firing, and everything in between. What he doesn't have is a 4 year degree. He's just a few hours away from it, but never finished. His grades were good, very good in fact, but somehow... he just never quite finished. I have to admit that I am mystified by that. If something is out there, that can help you get a job, or make you better at your job, you should go and get it.

So, here's my bro, a very computer literate man, smart and personable and someone I think would be a good person to work for (he cares, and gets good responses from his people), and I am asking myself... why is he not going here and doing this?

His last job was moved out of the country, right out from under him. I'd like to see him get into something that can't do that again, and I'd like to see him be able to...shrug it off and go on, if it does happen.

Shopping: Two Experiences

Last night, I went to two different stores, looking at netbooks/notebook computers. In one store, I was not only greeted, I was helped, had the product demonstrated, the salesman/associate allowed me some alone time to think, (I now realize, he timed being called away perfectly), and ultimately, would have made the sale if he'd had the product on stock. All he had left was the floor/demo netbook and couldn't sell it, as the model hadn't been discontinued and they would be getting new. If he'd sold me the floor model (10% discount), he'd have had to put a new one out and then take that 10% hit. Still, he took the time to look up some other stores in the area that did have one in the box, and made sure I knew where I could get one right away. That's a salesman. I would be willing to go back and buy other things from him.

He also never seemed to notice, unduly, that I was in my wheelchair (easier than walking). Dang, I AM going to make sure I go and buy something from him, specifically. And, I'll try to make it a purchase that will get him commission. Note: he told me where to get the item I wanted, that he didn't have, at another store!

The second store I went to was just two stores down from the first. I was greeted there, as I came in. All seemed pretty good.

That was the last time someone said anything to me, or asked if I needed something. I was rather obvious in my interest in the netbooks I was looking at there, and they were more expensive than at the first store. They also had a few more bells and whistles, and cost more than I wanted to spend, but I was really wanting to be sold on them. The associates in that store need some sales training. I have rarely been so thoroughly and efficiently ignored in my life. I will NOT be going there to buy anything. Ever.

The first store, was the Office Depot at Hwys 6 and 529. The second store was the Best Buy next door. Guess where I'll be doing my shopping from now on?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Debbie's Garden and Farmer's Market Update

'Pup and I decided to go see what was available at one of our favorite garden centers, and decided to go get some fresh fruit and vegetables at Debbie's Garden and Farmer's Market . When we were there last, the young man that works there had told us of some of the plans Debbie had for improving and expanding the market.

Again, we found the cheerful yellow and white striped tent.

Inside, there was a small selection of in season vegetables, some grown in the area, some honey and preserves and a community bulletin board.


Also available, fresh eggs!

Outside, they have a small selection of plants. Which leads me to a special request. Debbie is looking for local herb growers. She'd like to offer plants for sale, but doesn't have a local supplier. If you'd like to have a place to sell the extra plants you might have seeded, this might be the place for you to do it. I'm going to try to start a few extra seedlings. You never know!


This is the skeletal framework of the future. The farmer's market is going to have a climate controlled area, where the fresh produce will be kept cool and in good condition. Without it, well...in the hot Texas sun, in the summer, under a tent...you'd be getting precooked veggies. Not good. This, however will make sure that you get the produce fresh and cool.
When we stopped by a few days ago, we got some lovely spring onions, squash, mangoes (and I liked them! for the first time, I LIKED mangoes!), and some of the most delicious and fresh spinach you can imagine.
I can't wait for tomato season!
So, NW Harris County residents, go support your local Farmer's Market!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Takin' It With You

The Spring Fling is getting nearer. In about 2 months I'll be going to Chicago, with 'Pup, to meet Garden Bloggers and see the myriad gardens that Chicago offers. I'm going to want to blog this...live. Problem is...my laptop, she is dead. Well, not completely dead, I think she might be fixable. Still, she's a good laptop, but she is also a heavy laptop. (Not as heavy as some, but she starts getting heavy after a bit.)

I'm going to need something lighter. And I keep finding all these lightweight notebook computers on sale. It doesn't help that I keep finding more and more places advertising "Free Wi-Fi". I must confess to a small fantasy. I'd like to be one of those people who go to a small restaurant/coffee house...anywhere... who blithely opens up a tiny notebook computer and merrily types away while getting endless refills of coffee... (it's a fantasy, I can have as much coffee as I want).

More practically, I would like something that I can carry with me, if I'm in the manual wheelchair, that won't add a lot of weight while I'm rolling. I'm getting better with the chair, too. I've figured out how to lean so that my weight is a little forward. That seems to make it easier to propel me forward. I'm figuring out a kind of backpack that can be securely attached (and closed!) to the back of the chair.

I'm planning on having fun and traveling light.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Houston Resources

I've been asked recently some questions about gardening that I'm not sure how to answer. I do, however, have someone for people to call if they need help in Houston/Harris County.

The Harris County's Master Gardener's hotline is 281-855-5600. Montgomery Cty is 936-539-7824. Phone rooms are usually open 9-3, M-F.

They can help with diagnosing plant diseases, growing conditions and what things grow well here in the various parts of the county.

Good people!

Update: I'm going to have to enable comment moderation for a bit as spammers (nasty ones) have discovered me. If you have troubles commenting, let me know

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

STAMP!

Do you ever get the feeling that someone is going through your life using rubber stamps on every experience you have?

Grade School? STAMP!

Middle School (Jr. High when I went)? STAMP!

High School: STAMP, STAMP, STAMP! (I had a rough High School experience.)

College: STAMP! (College was much better.)

Marriage: STAMP! STAMP! (The last STAMP! was a good one, I kept him.)

Work: STAMP! (repeat 20 times)

Retirement: (a bit early) .........no stamp on this one. Can't afford this one. So I'm doing a semi-stamp. 'Pup's gonna have to keep working for a while.

Right now, between losing a lot of the worth of our 401k's and a 401b....we're going to be getting creative with some money making ideas.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Underground Economy

As they say: A recession is when your neighbor gets laid off, and a depression is when YOU get laid off. No, 'Pup's job is safe (as far as we know), but our neighbor? Well, it's our recession and his depression.

The good thing is that he does have some arrows in his quiver. First, he's in good shape, smart (he learned to build a fence by taking apart the ones Ike blew down), he's not afraid to work hard, and he's got a family behind him 100%.

He's made his living rebuilding transmissions, working under automotive lifts, and getting dirty. He knows how to figure things out and I think...he'll be okay. The shop he had worked for went under, but fixing cars is going to be a lot more popular than buying new ones for a while, and I know he'll find another shop who needs someone with his skills.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

BlogThing




You Are Blooming Flowers



You are an optimistic person by nature. In even the darkest times, you are hopeful about the future.

You feel truly blessed in life and can sometimes be overwhelmed with emotions.



You have an artist's eye. You are always looking for beauty in the mundane.

You have a good sense of aesthetics, especially when it comes to shapes and color.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring

video

In honor of Spring, I give you what it sounds like in my back yard on a beautiful Spring day. Enjoy the birds!

Humm

Seems our good friends and allies in Great Britain are not overly enamored with our new president.

Tomato Update

The tomatoes I overwintered are doing remarkably well. I've never had such success with tomatoes I've started in the fall. Usually, they peter out fairly quickly. This year, I think the difference was where they were and how well I protected them.
There are two ripening in the bright sun. That may be another difference. After Ike, the ash trees were pruned fairly heavily, leaving the tomatoes in full sun all day long (that's an exception, not the rule in my back yard.)

I also have several green tomatoes promising some bounty later on.

Oops.. do you see what I see?

Yep, looks like another tomato is mooning me.

I also have a volunteer that grew over the winter. It is in the pot that I have my dwarf Cavendish banana, and from the look of the tiny blooms, it may be a Mexican miniature from a couple of years ago. I hope it is, as the tomatoes are tiny, but intensely flavored. I've not found anyone selling seeds or sets of that variety, so I'll be saving seeds from this one.

There's more going on in the backyard, but I'm going to be sitting down (gingerly) for a while, as I fell down as I was working (alone). I had re potted a clivia, Orange Bush Lily, and planted a Bird of Paradise (both of them were bought end of the year and overwintered in my surround shelter. I was also able to re pot some begonias (also over wintered). More news later. I need to go find a pillow...

Stuff

We have an HP desktop. It's not a bad machine, for its age, and was a very good machine, when new. It still works well. The only problem is with my pictures. Yah, I take a lot of pictures, and they eat up a lot of space. So, we're going to get an external hard drive dedicated only to my pictures and files. We had been backing the files up on CD, but lose one disc, and you've lost a lot of data.

We don't want to spend a lot, so we're looking for a good sale on one. Prices for all electronic devices are going down. I read, the other day, that pawn shops are seeing more and more flat screened TVs, computers, Ipods, and cameras. On the other hand, you can never be sure what's been done to the electronic stuff, so I suspect anyone buying from a pawn shop had best be "buyer beware" aware.

I'm still thinking of getting a little notebook computer that I can carry easily, even when I'm wheeling from place to place. I've found several smaller models that have the features I prefer and I've priced them online and off. So far, the online prices have been lower than the store prices. The stores have the benefit of allowing me to touch and compare the different kinds of screens, keys and features, along with comparing the quality of the different brands offered. I'm going to be looking for a while, and who knows. Prices might come down even more.

Stamping Data

'Pup likes rubber stamps. He does a lot of report making and data entries to requests and he likes to keep those project with some form of paper trail. Some of his coworkers don't do that, and they wondered sometimes, why he bothered. After all, all the data was in the computer, right?

Okay, stop laughing out there. Some of 'Pup's coworkers are just a little young, that's all.

He's been vindicated a couple of times when someone comes, in a panic, asking for the data that they need. Pup's usually able to bring it out, to the great relief of the person asking.

He uses the rubber stamps to mark the papers as complete and as to whom the data originated with, and to whom the data is to be addressed. He's got his own code, and while it is a little obscure to me, it seems to work for him!

Past and Future

When I became a teacher, I knew I had absolutely no, and I mean NO interest in ever becoming a principal or assistant principal. They didn't spend nearly enough time with kids, and for the most part, that seemed to affect their personalities.. and not to the better.

When I retired, I made a similar decision about any possible administrative careers I might qualify for, not that there were many. But, most of them would have required me to deal with grown ups acting like children. I don't mind it when it's children acting childishly, but grownups make my eyes cross and mutter angry imprecations under my breath. And I don't need that.

At any rate, it would be a moot point, as I am realistic about the fact that ONE, I'm 48. Two, I'm usually using at least one cane, sometimes two and sometimes a wheelchair. Three, I'm not cute. Not gonna be hired, you see.

I wouldn't mind some "at home" remote tasks though. The work would be fine, not as much fun as tutoring, but maybe more stable.

Cha-Ching: Amature and Professional Garage Sales

With the warm weather of the last few weeks (other than the week of RAIN, yippee!), the Spring sport of garage sales is in full force. Most of the sales are held by one family or a group of families. Others though, have a more...professional look. One of the give aways is that they don't use the traditional cigar box, or cookie tin to keep the money safe. The professional sale will often have a cash drawer, and a full amount of change to break even largish bills.

Some of the professional sales are stocked by people going to family garage sales. There, they negotiate a really low price for a lot of the better goods and load up and go. These, women mostly, have little time to waste and are intent on getting to as many sales as possible in as little time as possible. As the day goes on, they'll have fewer choices in the sales, but the prices will have gone down too, as the families are usually ready to shut down and be done with it all by noon.

The neighbors of these professional garage sales are not usually happy about their neighbor's commercial activities. One garage sale a month might be over looked. When it gets to having one every weekend, the gig is up and everyone knows what's going on, and often, it is not what the neighborhood wants to happen.

The problems include an increase in traffic on weekend mornings, just when children would be going out to play, or the parents going out for a walk. Another, perhaps not as obvious inconvenience, is that the customers of the garage sale occasionally include those who are less than upstanding, and take the opportunity to note which houses are empty for the weekend and who might have things laying about that might... walk away.

There are very few benefits of having a permanent neighborhood garage sale. Mostly, the drawbacks of traffic, strangers in the neighborhood and the annoyance of it all is why Home Owners Associations will shut the garage sales down when they're discovered.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Zone

With the weather nicer, and the ground softer, I've been weeding in the front yard. I can only do it for a little while at a time, but last night, in the evening just before dark, I got into the "zone".

Gardeners know that "zone". It's the I'm-almost-done-so-I'll-just-keep-going-for-a-little-while-longer feeling you get when you're making some good progress and you can aaallllmmooosttt see the end of a job coming up. But you've been working for a while, and you're getting tired, but you're in the ZONE! And that means... no stopping.

Sometimes, this results in some rather soul satisfying progress in some trouble area of your garden that you've been meaning to get to before, but hadn't.

And then there are the times when you go for just a few minutes more, and finish up two hours later. You still have the feeling of accomplishment, but there's another feeling or three that go with it.

Those feelings all start with OUCH! OOOFFF! ARRGHH! and WHAT the HADES was I THINKING! (when, of course, you weren't'... thinking, I mean... 'cause you were in the ZONE!).

The amount of pain you feel afterwards is in direct correlation to the amount of time you spent in the zone, plus the amount of time you'd worked before achieving the "zone", plus the amount of time it had been since you'd been in the "zone" last.

In other words: GROAN + MOAN + SCREECH = ice pack, band aids, hot tub soaking and copious complaining.

And no sympathy from your mate...who'd warned you that you were starting to look a little tired, and you ignored him.

Must. Remember. To. Stretch.

Where are the pain pills?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, March 2009

This post took a long time to put together today. Blogger seems to have choked on my pictures. Oh well, here we go!

As a lone bloom, in what was once a bed full of dianthus.. I have to honor this little guy. I think the bed's been shaded out this winter by the tomatoes. The plants are still pretty healthy, so perhaps later this spring, or summer, I'll have more of them to share.
Carolina Jessamine, it's been blooming for several weeks. I had a heck of a time getting a picture for some reason. The camera did not want to focus. Wonder if electronic devices have a form of ADD?
It would explain a lot.

The ham'n eggs lantana is blooming beautifully. I don't have the heart to whack it back as far as I need to, so I guess it will either take over one corner of my garden...or I'll wait till it's out of bloom and sneak up on it.
That's about 6 feet of blooming bush there, and about that much again out of frame.
No, the ferns aren't blooming. The sword ferns in one bed have made an invasion of the "dry garden", where I have some aloe and a kolanche. I will be fighting for the resistance in this war.

Oh, did I mention we'd had a little rain? I'm not sure how much, as my rain gauge never got put back up after we rebuilt the fence. From the feel of the soil, we've gotten at LEAST two inches, and from the look of this bucket, maybe a bit more.

The three tiny blueberry bushes I planted a couple of weeks ago are doing okay. This one is blooming, but I don't really expect any blueberries this year.

Aren't tomato blooms pretty? Especially when one has set a tiny tomato!

Speaking of tiny tomatoes, here are the seedlings, under a frost cloth, on a wagon outside. I wanted them to get the rain, but not too much at one time. They look very happy under there. No, I don't know why I started so many seedlings. If you live in the Houston area and need some tomato plants, let me know. Between myself, my neighbor and my mom, I'll still have too many.



I had to take these shots of the pink jasmine earlier this week. The ones I took today just didn't turn out as well. The camera and I are having discussions with one another. It was much more cooperative a couple of days ago.
The pinata rose is blooming, but just a couple of buds open right now. I'm hoping the rain will encourage it to do better. I think most of the winter it was recovering from having a fence fall on it. All things considered, it's doing pretty well. The Golden Showers climbing rose is also blooming, but the rain has beat the two open roses to smithereens. And, I don't care!! (have I mentioned how happy I am it's been raining? 'Cause, for the first time in 6 months.. it's RAINED!)

One of the few things I've gotten done this last week or so has been, with 'Pup's help, to put up the wire fencing on the western fence. We made the decision to have the "back side" of the fence for two reasons: 1) it was gonna be a son of a gun to try to pound in the nails for the boards behind the raised beds from this side, and 2) I wanted the boards to be able to put up a trellis of some kind on the fence. I'll take a better picture of it as a whole on another day. Like when the camera is actually talking to me again.
The hyacinth bean plant is blooming again. It's entering its 3rd spring/summer now. It's wintered over pretty well. It was doing even better before I snapped off the top half of the vine accidentally, while I was pulling off old, dead vine. Not a problem, as it will recover. Ah... for anyone who attended the Spring Fling last year... this is the parent plant of the hyacinth beans I included into my little sachet bags connected to my Moo cards.

In the front yard, the little Blue Eyes are blooming in among the weeds. I'm going to be able to clean out that bed now, since the soil won't be rock hard.


The allysium is still blooming in that bed too. I need to find something that makes me happy to plant into the strawberry jar next to it. Perhaps geraniums or begonias, I'm not sure what I want yet.
Not having learned my lessons, or perhaps in a burst of optimism engendered by the start of the rain a couple of days ago, I bought two more nicotiana plants. Poor things. I wonder how long it will take for me to kill them? Sigh.


And, also entering into its third, or is it fourth(?) spring is the pretty salmon colored geranium. It is a trooper. I may even reward it this season and do something crazy, like.. oh... re potting it, or adding some soil to the pot.
Now, see... I KNOW it's spring, because the wild onions are up again! I think this calls for another scrambled onion and cheese omelet sometime this week.

The morning glories are opening too. I think this may be one of the better pictures I've been able to get of this flower. I love the blue flower, but the vines are threatening to take over the house. If I ever go silent, send help. The morning glories will have won.

I also have some roses beginning to bloom again. The Belinda's Dream is a reliable bloomer, and my favorite.

The little lavender colored rose (I don't know the variety for this one), got a little beat up in the rain, but it still has it's charm.
The Peace rose seems intent on keeping me from uprooting it for nonperformance, by putting on THREE full, open roses. The jury's still out on this one. I love it, but it's a pain in the backside. And I know from pains in the back side.
Cherry Parfait is opening. Sorry about the white washout, the interior of these roses are so very very white, it's hard to photograph them.
As much as I love my Belinda, I have to admit that this lowly, Walmart special, Fragranza rose has the best bloom this week. It's not only big, and pretty, it smells almost as good as the Belinda.

The bees have continued to enjoy the Mexican heather. Oddly, while we've had some colder than usual temperatures this winter, we've not gotten quite cold enough for long enough to knock the bushes back this year. They're going to need trimming too.

The Angel Winged Jasmine also suffers from whiteout, but the buds are lovely.
Finally, the nasturtiums and that rogue petunia are still blooming. along with the calendula.

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is hosted by Carole at May Dreams Garden. For a complete list of participants from all over the world, go there and enjoy a tour!

Going on the Road

My laptop, the one that I was so graciously given last year, is...hurtin'. I think I'm going to have to lose some pictures and reformat the drive. I really hate losing the pictures. I am going to take it to the Geek Squad to see if they can save the pictures, as I THINK what's wrong is at the boot up level. It might be salvageable.

It's a good laptop. It has been a little heavier to carry around, but it's been great for my home use. The problems it's having has gotten me to look around to see what's on sale around the web. Popular Mechanics had an issue lately about the best laptops under $500, and what I've read there has been instructive.

There are also some really small notebooks out there that look like I could carry them in my purse. But, I really want something that is has a little more... well, everything. I need the hard drive, as I want something that can handle my photos, and editing them on the road. I'd like a CD reader, if not read/write, as there are some programs I'd like to install.

The little notebooks are so small, so portable. Some of them only weigh about 2 and 1/2 pounds, but I do need more performance for my buck. So, I think I may be going with something like this one. It weighs just over 6 lbs, but it will be good on the road and at home. Richie and I can both have a laptop and both spend some of the nice weather outside and still get some writing done, and blogs read, and other things.. like playing pool against each other online. It's more fun when you can see his face when you..

Never mind.

Hee hee.

Besides, I hear that one of the possible door prizes at this years Spring Fling in Chicago will be a snazzy new white leather laptop bag. I gotta have something to put into it! (Not that I'll win it, but it's nice dreamin'.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Springtime Rains

video

It started raining yesterday, and when I got to work I was a little early. So, I sat in my car for a moment and admired the raindrops dripping down the windshield.

In case you can't hear/understand the little song I sing at the end (softly and made up on the spot, as I was singing it), here are the words:

Rain, little raindrops, splitter, splatter,

Rain, little raindrops, splitter, splatter,

Make my plants grow big and strong,

So rain the whole day long!

Hey, I've never claimed to be a song writer.

Still, I can see the wonderful promise of the greening this rain will give us. This is what I love watching for every year. Sometime, right between Winter and Spring, we usually get this kind of rain, one that lasts a couple of days, with cloudy, drippy and chilly weather, one that gives us rain at just the right rate, so that it is able to sink deeply into the ground. It's chilly and damp enough that most people stay inside, and run from place to place when they have to be outside.

Then, it stops raining and the sun comes out. The air gets a soft, warm, silky feeling as the breeze slips over you and you look around, and stop.

Things have suddenly changed. All the brown bits of grass have disappeared under a sea of green, tender, sweet looking grass. Grass so young and sweet that the smell of it crushed under your feet, it makes you want to reach down and take a bite of it. The trees look as if they've changed clothes, with the live oaks giving up the last of last year's leaves to lay at their feet. The sky looks clean and washed, and you envy a kite for it's ability to leap up into it. You wish you were a bird so you could go wash your face in the puffy white clouds left over from the tail ends of the rain clouds that have passed over.

And you understand Easter, as it seeps into your soul.

Life is good when it rains in the Spring.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

AAAAHHCCCCHHOOOOOO!


Have you ever seen a live oak bloom?


You have now. AH AHAH CHOOO!

Tree pollen is at EXTREME levels here in Houston. The trees are very very happy.

The rest of us are making Kleenex rich.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring Harvests


No, can't harvest cross vines, though they are kinda pretty...

they're not something that will feed anything but your soul.

Lemon grass, on the other hand,

tastes just fine. I could harvest this much about 10 times and I'd still have a respectable stand of lemon grass. Anyone need some lemon grass? I've been sharing it with some Vietnamese neighbors and my hairdresser, and a parent of one of the students I tutor.


Another tasty harvest.. some tomatoes. They aren't pretty, but they're not as ugly as some! And they tasted juuuuust fine, thank you.
Finally, I also did some more radish thinning. I'm developing a fondness for these sprouts. Nom, nom, nom.
The beets are up, as are the carrots, peas, beans and lettuce. I've not transplanted the tomatoes yet, but that's something I think I'll save for Friday when it's supposed to be a lot cooler (50's) and..and.. and...
IT'S GONNA RAIN!!