Thursday, November 23, 2017

and, a happy Thanksgiving to you!

Thanksgiving is kind of a weird thing to me.  Never in my memory do I remember celebrating it, as a child, at my house with my family.  Our mother didn’t see the point of doing a big Thanksgiving dinner and then, have to repeat it a few weeks later for Christmas. 

Though, why it was a problem, I cannot say since by 1960, she did very little in the way of cooking for Christmas (and certainly there is no rule about HAVE TO have Turkey, dressing, et al for Christmas).  However, things are what they were so …

She used to say that Thanksgiving was her mother’s “thing”, so I assume as very small children we went to Ma’s house, though from 1960-ish on, we didn’t go anywhere.  Sometime after 1961, our parents bought property in Galveston and built a beach house.  Thereafter, we went to the beach during the Thanksgiving holiday and had chili.

After I was grown and married, we spent Thanksgiving with in-laws and much later with friends.  The times it was just Michael and I, we went out.

Today, my sister invited me to go with them into Houston and celebrate with her daughter and family.  I offered to bring pecan pie.  Also, am bringing an English (as in England, English) dessert – Sticky Toffee Pudding – which is actually a cake.  

I am thankful for my sister and brother; children and grandchildren; friends that are family. 


Take care

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Part Two - from one part of the known and loved universe to a strange, unusual place …

You know, I have decided people that say “moving is a good thing because you can clean out and throw stuff away”, are from a different portion of the universe than I’m from.  I don’t think that really happens until the very last minutes of the very last day, just before that very last box is full and you are desperate.  I found that, during 2 months of packing, I just couldn’t throw things away as I just might need whatever later and then I’d just have to go buy whatever again.  However, as those last minutes approached, throwing away got easier (and, truth be told, it wasn’t my stuff that I threw away anyhow).

Right up until THE morning, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to close as a hurricane, Ivan the Terrible, was in the Gulf and the insurance companies got all itchy.  Fortunately, our buyers had ordered their storm insurance early; unfortunately, it hadn’t been processed; fortunately, the powers-that-be determined all was covered and closing was a go. 

We had just about the same problem with the new house.  At the last minute our insurance agent hadn’t done his job and sent the binder (ordered a month previously).  He tried telling me, because of the storm, that we couldn’t get insurance until I pointed out to him that we were buying a house in Wharton county, not in one of the coastal counties.  We did close on both houses that day – the Galveston house in the AM and the Wharton house in the PM.  It was a long day but at the end I felt like things were going to be less hectic.

I was wrong.

On Wednesday, we rented the biggest Uhaul truck available and moved about 100 boxes, all my
plants, yard decorations, the pond, and the fish.  I had already brought down a goodly number of boxes but there were still umpty-dozen trips up/down the stairs bringing down more.  I’ve figured out that was the ultimate stair stepper exercise and I should have lost, oh, at least 5 pounds (nope – but I console myself with the thought that I gained muscle and that’s heavier that just plain old chubby fat).  Anyway, thank the gods for my sister and brother-in-law.  Without their help, we’d have never gotten it all done. 

The following day, the professionals (a term used lightly) were to get the rest.  This did not happen.  First of all, they didn’t even get to the house until almost 11:00AM.  Then, they did not bring a truck – instead, two not large enough trailers.  (Did you get that “trailer” word??  no truck – two trailers arrived.)  We still had the big Uhaul so there were three large truck/trailer packing areas.  They did get all the house packed into one trailer.  I had pointed out to them what downstairs went and what did not.  NOT THAT ANYONE LISTENED TO ME!!!  MHN and I went to lunch and stopped by a local appliance store (having a big scratch and dent sale) to take a look at a washer/dryer, since we were leaving ours in Galveston.  As it turned out, it was a terrific price and we bought washer, dryer and a refrig (nope, I didn’t need one – I didn’t want one as our sellers were leaving theirs – but it was that “honey, it’s too good a deal to pass up – we NEEEEEEEEED this.”).  And, here I have to inject a personal opinion.  Side by side refrigerators are TERRIBLE!  The fridgie side is small and difficult to use and the
freezer side is just plain useless.  By the time we got back, the movers had packed up all sorts of little things and left all the big heavy things (like the cement bench and the bird bath and the fountain).  Because SOMEBODY didn’t pack HIS workroom stuff into boxes, and the movers decided to pick up all that little crap, they just didn’t have room for the big stuff.

We got away from the beach house about 7-ish at night and got to the Wharton house about 9-ish at night.  Then, I ran back and forth showing the movers where to put the furniture.  A few pieces got damaged but, all-in-all, not too much.  Still, by the time they emptied all three vehicles, it was after 1AM. 

Do you see why I hate to move?

Tomorrow: Part Three

Take care.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Another move – from one part of the known and loved universe to a strange, unusual place …

Part One

As I said earlier, we lived in Galveston six years and making the decision to leave, a decision based of many long conversations with many people, was very hard.  The day the realtor called to tell me we had an offer on the house, had I not had packed boxes everywhere, I think I would have said “Sorry, changed our mind – not selling”, and hung up the phone.  I did tell her one of us would call her back and sat on the porch and cried for 30 minutes. 

Of course, we hadn’t even started looking for a house, hadn’t even agreed on a place to look.  I wanted to be in the hill country or maybe the East Texas piney woods.  MHN didn’t want to be 8 hours away from his customer base which was still along the gulf coast.  Agreeing on a place was really hard and involved some serious compromise on my part.  Ultimately, we agreed on Wharton.  It’s a small town (neither of us wanted a big-ish city), located in a 2nd tier county (no wind storm insurance needed), not too far from Houston (airports) and right off highways 59 and 60 (easy access to the known world).  While it did have a grocery store (one), it didn’t have any type of entertainment or variety in restaurants (lots of Mexican food – not much else).  We didn’t do as much research as we might have and looking back, there would have been different decisions made.  But, we all know about “hind-sight”.

Michael wanted acreage – at least two, preferably five.  I wanted to be in a neighborhood where I could actually SEE other people every day.  I think we looked at every house that even sort of met our requirements.  One, located in a more rural area, was on five acres, large house, right price.  OK – first of all the area, while considered a neighborhood, had homes on large tracts of land.  No seeing neighbors daily, maybe not even weekly.  Then, two – to get to the house, you drove on a dirt driveway through two acres of trees, brambles, and underbrush.  Uhhhhh no.  The house itself did have some unique features like – a stone (like large river rocks) floor in the kitchen, a ball room (that someone painted orange, on the top half of the walls and purple, on the bottom half), pocket doors (good, I like pocket doors), and three bedrooms upstairs one painted a fluorescent pink, one an eye blinding yellow, and one black.  And while the house could have been a “maybe”, because MHN would still be gone 5 days to 2 weeks on business travel, it was a great big NO for me.  I got a bit claustrophobic and generally spooked with all the scruffy woods pushing up to the house on all sides.  I do have a vivid imagination and can imagine lions, tigers, bears, and worse things, oh my – with little help.

We did find a house that mostly met our needs.  Two acres with pecan, oak, and magnolia trees (good), huge barn (ok), partially fenced back yard (good), neighbors all around (check), no city water or sewer – on a well and septic system (very weird, I’m a city person, you know).  The house had a nice kitchen/breakfast room, an ‘L’ shaped dining/living room, a fire place that had been bricked-up and tiled over (so- there was just the mantel and very slight opening for nothing), two bedrooms, another room that was really the size of a walk-in closet (called the 3rd bedroom) and one bathroom.  Oh, and it had two front doors – one off the living room with a tiny entry and the other in a breeze-way type room between the attached garage and kitchen.  I could work with this.

Onward and upward……

Take care.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

Here recently I decided to make pomanders – cloved apples.  You can use oranges but I like apples because with an orange, I have to use an ice pick or other sharp implement to punch my holes first.  With an apple, I can just poke in the cloves.  I have a large oblong handmade wood bowl filled with pinecones, dried pomegranates, acorns, nuts and other odd things that have caught my attention in the big wide world.  I’ve had pomanders in it for years and this year decided to make a few more.  They add a nice fragrance and I like them.  They last a long time and when the scent fades all you need to do is put a few drops of clove oil on them and, voilĂ !, they smell nice again.

So, DID YOU KNOW – cloves come from a tree (Syzygium aromaticum).  They’re native to
Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.  Clove trees are evergreen, have green, oval leatherlike leaves, and can grow as tall as 60 feet.  They produce green buds that grow into little white flowers and ultimately into red berries.  A clove tree must be at least 8 years old before it will bloom.  Clove production tends to fluctuate year to year.  One year there will be a heavy crop, the next very light (sounds like my pecan trees!). 

And, where are the cloves we all recognize?  Well, those are the flower buds.  The buds start out green and when they turn reddish, they are picked.  Once the little white flowers bloom, the flavor is lessened,
therefore, buds are harvested just prior to blooming. 

I think I might need one – a clove tree.  They need a warm tropical climate with high humidity levels (CHECK), a rich, loamy soil (CHECK), fast draining soil (CHECK), temperatures that stay above 50° (Mostly, usually, - that could be a problem).  They will take 10-15 years to reach maximum production levels (I need to get one really soon).  Once picked, the buds are dried in the sun or in a hot air chambers (I have a dehumidifier – CHECK) until the bud stem has turned dark brown and rest of the bud a lighter brown color.

Historically, cloves were used as an antiseptic, to control nausea and vomiting, improve digestion, protect against internal parasites, and as a pain reliever.  They can be used to flavor meats and stews, sauces, warm beverages like cider and tea, pickled vegetables, breads, cheeses, and desserts but remember, cloves have an intense flavor – a little goes a long way.

Whole cloves hold their flavor longer than ground clove. So, you can use a coffee bean grinder to make your own, more flavorful powder.  How to know if the cloves you bought are still full of flavor?  Well, place one clove in a cup of water; a good quality, fresh clove will float vertically, a stale one will sink or float horizontally.  Keep them in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, dry place.  Or, to keep them fresher longer, store them in the above glass jar in the fridge.

Cloves have been used for more than 2,000 years. Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths in order to freshen their breath when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century, although they did not come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their flavor.

And yet another use - burn them to attract riches, drive away hostile forces and stop any gossip about you.  Place them in sachets with mint and rose to chase away melancholy and to help one sleep soundly.  A pomander given as a gift indicates a warmth of feeling, one person to another.

Take care.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Salty tears and moving on

Ok, I hear you – “If it was so good in Galveston, so many wonderful memories, so much to miss every single day, why did you leave?”  It was good when we were there and while I miss the soft sea breeze and walking down to the beach daily …..

….I don’t miss the STORM WATCH.  For those of us living on the coast, we started paying attention to the Weather Channel as early as April until as late as November.  We watched storms as they came across the Atlantic – would a storm come into the Gulf?  And then -what direction did it appear to be traveling?  Might it change directions?  Do I have to start thinking about moving everything?  Will I have to pack up and leave?  

Hurricane Alicia, a category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of nearly 100 mph and gusts up to 127 mph crashed into Galveston on Aug. 18, 1983.  This picture was taken from our porch looking toward the bay.  It's why we watched the Weather Channel. 

In theory, I knew when we moved to the West-end, that there was always a chance a major storm would come in – (I knew this, “in theory”).  And it actually took several years for the fear to set in.  Michael changed jobs - outside sales with a territory from Brownsville, up the coast as far as Florida.  He was gone every week, a minimum of 5 days and often for 2 weeks.  And, of course, it seemed the pending storm was always between where ever he was and Galveston – no getting home.  I did not enjoy having to pack up the house – move furniture and whatever else away from outside walls -  move everything on the porch, deck, yard and then try to decide would I have to take the large dog, 3 cats, and whatever else I could cram into a small car and head for Houston. 

No, I never actually did that – evacuate the house.  I had the mind-set (and still do) that if I stayed in the house, it would be safe.  I could hold it down and together by sheer force of will.  No matter if that makes sense to you, it works for me.  And, we did have out share of storm remnants – lots of wind, rain, water but we had no big storms.

Then in 2003, I began to be seriously concerned about an unknown storm out there someplace, sometime.  It nagged on me in the back of my mind until I finally knew, I didn’t want to, couldn’t lose everything.  Was I seeing ghosts in all directions?  Maybe.  But here’s something to think about, we moved in 2004.  Hurricane Rita came ashore along the Texas coast impacting an area from Galveston to the Golden Triangle in September 2005.  Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island on September, 2008.  During the aftermath of Ike, the west-end was cutoff for weeks.

Storms weren’t the only reason, of course.  It was often difficult living there.  Galveston was then and is a tourist hotspot.  There are festivals and events all the time.  Honestly, I often wondered if the island would just sink when there were 200,000+ people expected for an event.  And, go into town – even to the grocery store?  Frustrating at best.

Then, it was more expensive to live there than we had originally thought.  For instance, you would need to carry three different types of insurance on your home – 1. storm (basically covers wind damage), 2. rising water (obvious – storm surge or flood water) and 3. Standard home owners (whatever else). 

Also, during this time, the island seemed to finally to have been recognized as a beautiful resort location and new HUGE homes started sprouting up – everywhere on the west-end – most of which were mega-million dollar houses.  It sort of changed the feel of the place.  

It got to be hard to live there, at least for me.  So, we started looking at options.

Take care.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

“Memories light the corners of my mind”

So, before I get to storms and fears, I’m going to have to be a little maudlin.  While going through my photo albums, I came across so many memories of the time we lived in Galveston, I decided to share some of them and then move on. 

The sea air has a different feel there, a more relaxing quality, so sitting on the porch was almost a balm to the soul.

Swimming in the canal in front of the house.  We all did that, swim in the canal. 

Feeding the seagulls was an interesting pass time.  Plus, a perfect way to get rid of kitchen scraps (no compost pile in Galveston!).

Running along the beach.  To the water and from, being chased by the waves.

Playing in the surf.  And just what could be better than splashing water into the face of the person close-by.

Boogying on the Boogie Board   And we did float out to the second sandbar and speculate on the ways of the world.

Well, really mostly feeding the fish.  When they all were young, they were thrilled to catch a croaker (which got thrown back) thought not much else came of it other than “fish tales”.  “The flounder that slipped off the hook, was THHHHIIIISSS BBBIIIIGGGG!”

What can be better than a castle on the beach.

Take care


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'”

We lived in Galveston for 6 years.  And, they were good years.  Our house was on the west-end of the island in a subdivision called Sea Isle.  At that time the neighborhood was more resort than full time living so Monday-Friday, there were few people around.  Weekends were a different story – lots of neighbors ready to relax.  

The house, located on a canal that emptied directly into the bay, offered all sorts of beautiful views .  The beach was a short walk.  There was a sea breeze more often than not.  There were sea gulls cavorting in the sky.  Pelicans made a huge comeback during that time and it wasn’t unusual to see groups of them swimming down the canal (the fisherpeople hated that).  I walked down to the beach every day and, yes, I brought something back every day - shells and driftwood and coconuts and unusual glass bottles and whatever else caught my attention.  

One day I went down to find there had been a Red Tide and a swarm (cell, pipe, or array) of eels had been washed up onto the beach.  Really kind of icky.  Once, a ship out in the gulf had lost several crates of oranges and they washed up on our beach.  Very odd, seeing oranges all along the beach.  Then, one day I was standing on the porch looking out to the bay and I saw a cow swimming along with a cowboy in hot pursuit, lasso in hand, in a boat right behind it.  Speaking of cows – one afternoon the cattle in the pasture just east of us, broke through the fence, walked across the mud flats and roamed through the neighborhood.  It was a little surprising to be sitting on the bulkhead, fishing and look up to find a very large cow peering over your shoulder.

I miss it still, every day.

Next: Storm Warning

Take care.