Saturday, June 30, 2007

You never know what will be there

June is such a lovely time; I almost hate to say goodbye to it today.
In Kingwood, all the intersection plantings are just lovely right now. This one is the turn off to my house, it took me several tries to remain stopped long enough to get a picture without another car coming from any direction. It actually is part of a set, there are similar plantings on the sides of the road.
Around our place, affectionately known as the Circle Huh?!? Ranch, we have yet another visitor. Or should I say visitors. The tree by the front door is infested with bark lice.
One day it was just fine, the next day there was a sheet of web covering the whole tree from trunk to tip. Bernie spotted it first and ran a sample down to our local garden center, which is staffed by Master Gardeners, certified experts in horticulture.

They were delighted for us!

Bark lice are completely harmless. Colonies of the lice swarm onto southern coastal area hardwood trees, usually at summer's end. Our colony is early, but doing a magnificent job of turning our tree into a spook's delight. If you peel back the sheeting, you can see lots and lots of tiny beetle shaped bugs, about as big as a pencil lead, moving in synchronized waves. One peek was enough for me. Yuck!

Once the bark lice have consumed all aphids and other tiny insects on the tree's bark, they de-camp and move on, leaving the tree healthier than it was before in terms of parasites.

They have already started on our Bradford pear tree by the garage.
Guess they like us. And we should consider ourselves to be blessed by their presences.
I'm trying not to be prejudicial here, but I think I'd rather be blessed with lady bugs.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rocky wanted to say hi....

So Bernie started hollering that the raccoon was outside the window again a few minutes ago.
Guess Rocky must read my blog.
Anyway, this time I got his picture.

Bernie just asked what raccoons eat. I said corn. I'm remembering that I read somewhere they also eat apples.

I'm thinking Rocky should continue eating what ever it was that he (or she) used to eat, 'cuz I ain't gonna start grocery shopping for no lazy butt raccoon.

He is awfully cute though.

Inviting friends to drop by

Just a quick story today. Hart, the other cat around here that gets so little space on our blog, has a special friend. Each evening Hart likes to disappear for a few minutes and comes back rather wide eyed. He makes it clear he doesn't want to talk about it.

We don't want to talk about it either, so it works out just great.

One evening Bernie happened to look outside after Hart left, and spotted Hart sitting on the fence between us and our neighbors. A raccoon was busy unloading trash from our neighbors bins into our yard and Hart was watching intently. Ah, so that's the deal, Hart is running with raccoons. Well, what happens with between cats and raccoon stays between cats and raccoons is our motto.

It did explain why we so often found the odd bit of rubbish in our yard though. We apologize for our tendency to think our neighbors were just careless with their trash can lids.

The other day, in broad daylight Bernie started hollering for me to grab my camera because a raccoon was under the bird feeder, washing up in a tray that had filled with rain water. I wasn't quick enough to get a picture, but I was kind of surprised to learn the nocturnal raccoons were now dropping by mid day.

Well, last night the ante got upped. We had retired for the evening, when Bernie heard scratching at the back door. He got up and sleepily went to open the door, but luckily looked down before he did.

You probably guessed it...there was a raccoon scratching at the door!

Hart was scratching madly at the other back door (we have two). Bernie let Hart in, and denied entrance to Rocky R.

Honest to Pete.

What next. I suppose I should just be glad it wasn't a skunk!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Deeply moved

I've been given a new task at work: creating a "myspace" space for our college library. It has been a hoot already...I had to decide if our library was a boy or girl, married or single, interested in dating. Yeah, our library would love to date other libraries! We're a guy...just take a look at our clock tower!

To do this task I needed to figure out how to do what is known as "pimp" the site. I trolled around the Internet while trying out different ideas on my newly set up "myspace" which will serve as a practice site. Darn, I wish I had Jeff or Laura coach me on this when they visited two weeks ago. I'm learning using the old fashioned trial and error method.

In the course of trolling for animated images to use on the site, I found a site with Canada gifs, little animated items celebrating the big cold country up north. I went to try to find them again this morning to pass along to a friend, and stumbled across some Canada Day e-cards.

Just for fun, I clicked on a few. Moments later tears were streaming down my face. I confess, I was deeply moved. The combination of music and pictures and sentiment thanking God for a free and beautiful land just hit me so hard. It is a blessing to live on a continent shared by three countries where people can pursue their dreams, practice their faith, and live in peace upon the land.

I love America, passionately so. It only takes a quick peek at world headlines and I know if not one single good thing ever happens to me again, my life would still be counted as being extraordinarily lucky for simply having been lived in America.

This morning as I read those Canada Day e-card, I realized I am passionate about my continent. I am geographically surrounded by goodness. How funny that such a great revelation could dawn upon me by the simple click of an e-card.

(Just in case you are wondering which card started my waterworks, here's the link. It wasn't the most artistically pretty one in the collection, but it was the one that did me in.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Celebrations Southern Salad

One of the best things about living in the South is Southern cooking. While rarely as stylish as California cuisine, with it's "baby this" and strange sounding "on a bed of that", Southern cooking instead relies on delicious "may I have another helping please?" taste.

Since moving to Texas from California nine years ago, I have enjoyed finding new Southern style recipes each month in a regional publication called Southern Living

Their recipes are consistently easy and delicious. I quickly learned I could trust the Southern Living test kitchen to provide winner recipes for my table.
The magazine's July issue arrived here early in June. On the cover was the picture that is on the top of this post. It took me a second to register what was in that side dish/salad:

Watermelon and tomato.


I kept looking at it, and the recipe, trying to image those two flavors together.

I couldn't.
But I knew this magazine always publishes fantastic recipes, so I decided to give it a try.

Here's the ingredients:

Tomato-and-Watermelon Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Prep: 20 min., Stand : 15 min.

Chill: 2 hr.

Recipe adapted from Seasoned in the South: Recipes From Crook's Corner and From Home by Bill Smith
SL June 2007

5 cups (3/4 inch) seeded watermelon cubes

1 1/2 lb ripe tomatoes, cute into 3/4 inch cubes

3 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 small red onion, quartered and thinly sliced

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Romaine lettuce leaves (optional)

Cracked pepper to taste

1. Combine watermelon and tomato in a large bowl; sprinkle with sugar and salt, tossing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes.

2. Stir in onion, vinegar, and oil. Cover and chill 2 hours. Serve chilled with lettuce leaves, if desired. Sprinkle with cracked pepper to taste.

I chopped up a bowl full last Sunday, and it didn't last long. The flavors melded in a new taste sensation, a lively crispy chilled refresher salad, perfect for supper on a warm summer day.

Since currently I am on a goat cheese kick, I even tried some of that on one serving. It was good too, but the original recipe really needs no additions. It has plenty of "wow!" as it stands.

Well, I know the Canada crew will be partying on Sunday, and the USA gang next Wednesday. Around here, we always try to incorporate red, white and blue into our Independence Day meal plans. This salad would certainly do the trick!

And if I were a Canadian, I would be digging out some tiny maple leaf cookie cutters and watermelon maple leaves would be substituting for the unimaginative cube shapes.
How cute would that be?
And come to think of it, maybe I can use my Christmas bell shaped cookie cutters to make Liberty Bell cut-outs for us.
I wanted to give everyone the recipe early enough to sneak in a half recipe test run. It does sound weird combining watermelon and tomatoes, not to mention red onion and vinegar.
But trust me, like I trusted Southern Living magazine, and give it a try.
I think you will be please.
Happy Celebrations!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tiggie update

We're back from the vet.

Apparently Tiggie's "sit upon" (as we discreetly refer to it here in the Deep South) was inflamed from contact with the poo, which apparently got caught in his fur somehow during one of his sessions in the litter box.

Tiggie's vet, Dr. Mueller is always a delight to see. He is from Louisiana, and always has a funny story to share. One time he gave me a prescription for one of our cats, with the warning that it was a very bitter pill. I wondered how he knew, but before I could asked, he owned that he himself had used that very medication once upon a time, and was speaking from personal experience.

He assured us that orange cats are strange critters, and that he has owned about 30 of them in his life, along with other kinds of cats as well. As Bernie said later, I guess he goes through cats pretty fast if he's our age and has had 30 orange cats so far. Dr. M. said he used to have an orange cat that would let you pet him for an exact amount of time, and then would chomp. He enjoyed petting his orange tom, and encouraging his guy buddies to come on over and hold the cat and pet him, all the while checking his watch for just the right moment, knowing the eventual outcome. CHOMP. Fun cat, that.

Anyway, Tiggie's butt got shaved and the vet said there was no extra charge for that service.

I'll spare you pictures on that.

I'm sure you won't mind.

Caps, cats and oh crap....


Bernie's been reading the book of James, you know, the one that is all about rejoicing when trial beset you?

Hallelujah then already.

Today started as predicted, with "locally heavy rain." Around here, that is around an inch or two in an hour. I like rain, so that was OK. I even considered running out in the storm to get the newspaper. When I opened the front door it looked like a shower going full blast. I decided to postpone the trek to get the paper because THERE WAS A BIG BOX LEANING ON THE FRONT DOOR!

(One of the oddity of life in Texas is that a front door is rarely used by the home owner. Instead we enter and exit our home through the garage door; rarely do we go anywhere without the air conditioned comfort of a vehicle wrapped around us. Things left by the front door may remain there for weeks before we venture to leave the house via that route.)

Presumably the box had arrived sometime yesterday. I knew exactly what was in it: a Fleur de Paris hat.

For those who have a good memory for my nattering, Fleur de Paris Millinery Shop in New Orleans was the place where I became infected with millinery madness. The place where I first knew uncontrollable lust (sorry, I mean outside of lusting after my husband of course....)

I saw a hat on my first visit that I dreamed about for two years before I triumphantly returned and purchased it in honor of my graduation from Library school. Fleur hats are expensive. See for yourself on their website. Their day wear hat collection is quite eye opening.

A couple of years later I returned and purchased another hat, a straw one. Just looking at the huge pink and black lace hat boxes in my closet always brought back fond memories.

I knew I wanted more... specifically the one I had seen on the second trip, one similar to this Scottie style cap. Only it was fancier, and at a price that I simply could not afford at the time.

I dreamed about it though. Imagined my next trip, where I would close my eyes as I handed over my credit card...wincing at the price yet knowing my craving and lust was about to be fulfilled.

One night about a week ago, I just couldn't fall asleep. Rather than toss and turn, and disturb Bernie's sleep, I got up and decided to check my email. Nothing there. I frequently "window shop" on ebay, as it is a fun way to look at things in off moments. "Fleur de Paris" I typed in, not a typical search, but one generated from a dreamy state.

Up popped a hat. Fleur de Paris...Scottie style. Oh be still my heart! Someone had bid 99 cents and there was a note that the reserve had not been met. I bid $30...the reserve had not been $35 and I was IN! Reserve had been met, and there were three days left in the bidding.

I told Bernie. We talked it over, what was the most I would be willing to bid. Jeff has always advised deciding your highest amount, put that in and walk away. I put in, wincing, $150.

Three days later the bidding closed.

I had won the hat.

For $35.


So it was that early early this morning I was waking Bernie up trying on a new hat while dressed in my comfy baggy pajamas.

You know what? That hat looked good even with that outfit!

By the time I coxed myself into putting the hat back into it's chic little pink hat box, the rain had stopped so I sloshed through the puddles to get the newspaper. While I got the coffee going Bernie feed the cats, and then Bernie and I read the news paper over our cereal and juice.

While we were eating, Hart hissed at Tiggie.
And Tiggie stood down.


Well, whatever.

Reading the paper over breakfast is always a dicey concept; the journalists and columnists must write between meals. There was a column about a mother whose 4 year old daughter regularly poops her panties right after being put on the toilet. You'd think I'd have enough sense to flip the page, as I don't have any children still needing toilet training (Thank you, my darling children for sparing me that woman's trauma.)

But like passing road kill on the highway, I just had to look.


Then I looked over at Tiggie. He was doing a very vigorous job of washing under his tail.

Double eww. I made shisshing sounds at him, and he moved along.

Finished with the paper, I moved to the living room, and plunked down in our big arm chair, propped up my feet and started to plan my day. I could swear I could smell poopy pants in my mind.

Bernie came over to say something to me, and wrinkling his face, went to get a paper towel. He started wipe up something on the coffee table.

Cat poop.

We looked at each other...our cats have excellent litter box skills.

What the heck??

Tiggie, as always, was right there next to Bernie. And smelling to high heaven. Flipping the cat over, the source of the odor was plain to see. Fecal material was matted into his fluffy fur.

Now Tiggie has the sharpest, fastest claw west of the Pecos, as they say in western novels, and you don't mess with Tiggie if you know what is good for you. Bernie's arm was now sporting blood.

I went to find where Tiggie rocketed off to, and discovered that apparently he had been attempting to deal with his dilemma privately throughout the house. There were "skid marks" every where.

Triple eww...where do I hit the reset button on today?

While I cleaned the carpet, Bernie found and took Tiggie outside for a clean up. With predictable results. I went outside to help, neglecting to using insect repellent. The mosquitoes had me for their breakfast.

I applied an after bite product, and took another peek at Tiggie's rear. A red bulge, like a hemorrhoid was on the top of his anus. Oh great, a cat with hemorrhoids. Does it get better than this?

(Oh of course it does.)

I decided that we (that would be me; Bernie needs to work) should take Tiggie to the vet. So leaving Tiggie outside in wet garden, I showered up, and got ready to go. Bernie took a break, rounded up Tigs, and with just few more scratches and claw marks, got Tigs into the cat carrier.

That was when I realized I hadn't yet called the vet.

So I called, and called, and called...busy line, and finally, yes they could see Tiggie at 4 pm.

Great. Just great. Tiggie is howling in the carrier, and Bernie is having horrible flashbacks about the last two times we have had cats in that carrier. Both cats were dead hours later, dying in horrible hemorrhaging deaths as Bernie, all alone, struggle to comfort them.

This is not good at all.

I called other vets; all the lines are busy.

So as I write this, with thunder rumbling all around us, Tiggie is in his carrier, with a pinch of cat nip and a towel, and I am praying that he will take a nap, and everything will be OK after we see the vet later on today.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The garden update

We left the garden to fend for itself while we were gone to Switzerland, knowing we would be needing to replant for summer anyway. Between rain and a sprinkler system on a timer we figured everything would be fine when we returned.

Predictably, a few plants rose up to outshine their former glories, just to let us know that we as gardeners really don't have that much to do with plant success.

These specimens were blooming for us upon our return to the garden:

Last January we had pulled out all the day lilies that hadn't bloomed in three years. Missed bloomed!
Go figure.
Guess it knew I would be more impressed by the multiple shades of orange after I came back from Europe.
The yellow calla lily bloomed too.

The pansies though were done though; heat and pansies just don't mix. I always look forward to planting coleus for the summer season. Each leaf reminds me of a Persian rug. There are so many varieties! And they do grow very well in our hot humid climate.
"Salmon Ice"
"Coleo de Sol"
Each plant came with a fanciful name. I kept the sticks with their names tucked behind the plants so I can keep track of their names.
"Glory of Lumemberg"
I actually go hunting for different varieties; and I am warned which are for sun and which are for shade. They go into a bed where they get both, so I just mix them together.
"India Frill"
The best part of coleus is that you can snap off the top, and just push the stem down into the soil, and you get another plant. Just like that. (And yes it is tempting to snap off the tops of varieties I see in public plantings. I resist. Mostly.)
"Red Coat"
Our little green anoles are just as cute as they can be hopping around in the coleus. They sit on the leaves like they are posing on a rug.
Usually they stay bright lime green too, although they can change to brown too.

Replanting the small bed is challenging; the warm rainy weather has produced a boom in the mosquito population. I sprayed myself heavily before I started in spading up the soil and pulling the weeds that had tried to move in. I used a new spray, a powdered form of repellent. The mosquitoes considered it to be like powdered sugar topping on their favorite sweet treat.

Not funny. Back to "Deep Woods Off." Darn, I really hate the oily feeling of bug spray.
"Wizard Rose"
In a couple of weeks the coleus will grow so much that it will be impossible to see the dirt between the plants.
My dad LOVES dirt between his bedding plants, so Dad, enjoy this shot of the garden before it fills in.
Of course Bernie helped me with the digging, and the cats...well, they supervised. Tiggie especially likes to be outside when Bernie is out in the garden.
When it is just me, he has his reservations.
Once the boys are outside, they patrol the potted plants with the intense scrutiny. Bomb sniffing airport dogs would be impressed. We feel much safer from eco-terrorist knowing our boys are on the job.
We are just not sure what would be cheaper: feeding the boys, and providing litter and Uncle Scott services, or using this product around the yard:

(Wait a that a picture of a CAT in that advertisement? Hmmm...maybe we should put a copy up where the boys can get a good look. Just to keep them in line, you know?)
No, we wouldn't do that. We love OUR kitties.
(I just wish Tiggie would quit smoking. Tiggie wishes Jeff lived here so he could pet him like that ALL the time!)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sing along: "If you're happy and you know it..."'re happy and you know it spin a WEB.

If you're happy and you know it spin a web!

If your happy and you know it.....

Then your face will surely show it...

If you're happy and you know, it spin a web!

(This spider has been webbed up on the gardenia bush and the top of my morning coffee patio chair since we got back from Switzerland. As long as he is happy, and willing to catch mosquitos, I am willing to let him have the back of the chair.)
Pretty mellow spider.
And the orange smile is just too cute!
Have a happy Sunday. And remember to smile while YOU are hanging out!