Saturday, March 31, 2018

Pretty little Wildflowers

Today I promised myself I’d get the front yard mowed.  The front yard is small so doesn’t take too long to mow and it’s mostly in shade.  But, I found I could not mow down the big patch of Fleabane blooming there. 

Fleabane is a very pretty little wildflower in the daisy family.  It blooms in the spring when the temperatures have warmed up.  Here that’s usually March and into April.  It’s a very easy-care perennial wildflower and it can make a pretty addition to any informal garden.  It will bloom and produce fluffy seed heads all at the same time.  I did, this year, transplant some to an ignored, neglected area in my back yard.  Since Fleabane thrives on neglect and prefers being left alone, I’m hoping it will do well (and spread) under one of the big pecan trees back there.  

In addition to being a pretty little wildflower, it’s also an interesting herb.  First of all – the leaves are edible.  Cook them like you would greens or spinach.  The leaves are a little hairy so eating them raw would be a lot weird. Though, if you’re lost in the wilderness …

In times gone past, Fleabane was used to treat dysentery.  A paste made from tallow and the bruised leaves was applied to cuts and wounds to help with healing.  It’s been used with other herbs for headache, as an eye medicine to treat “dimness of sight”, as an astringent, a diuretic, an aid for kidneys and the treatment of gout.  It was also used as a strewing herb or stuffed into mattresses to control fleas and other bugs.  All that plus it is considered a protective herb – keeps evil spirits away. 

And you thought it was just a weed.

Take care

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Computing right along

Yesterday, I had every intention of posting about my ghost cat (which I’ll talk about another time).  However, while searching for a particular picture, I got seriously side-tracked.  I hate it when that happens.

A little about me – I think of myself as being relatively computer literate.  I’ve used a computer since the early 1980’s.  My office was the first field office to get a computer and one with access to the corporate data.  Wow …. Cool …. Scary .... Interesting ... Hmmm what happens if I push this ..

The thing today I find completely unacceptable, in regard to computers and file storage, is the Cloud.  OK, I sort of understand the theory of using an unknown, unseen, questionable database in   the sky to store documents BUT, I’m not gonna do that.  Nope.  I don’t understand it well enough to know I’ll ever get those documents or pictures back again.  Instead, I back up all my stuff on a USB data stick.  It’s something I can see, hold in my hand, feel moderately secure with.  Pleasedo not tell me they don’t last forever – I don’t want to know that.

Back to searching for a picture …..  All my pictures from the last 20+ years are stored on a data stick.  It also has old pictures I’ve scanned along with pictures that others have scanned and sent me.  It’s a great big photo album though someone hasn’t been good about dates and who’s who and who’s where. 

Now, usually I am an organized person.  Things are where they should be so I can find them – mostly.  However when it comes to backing up or moving files from the computer to data stick, not so much.  I tend to just move things from one place to another with the thought “I’ll fix this later”.  Consequently there are lots of duplications in every major file folder.  Plus each primary file folder has many sub-folders and those have sub-sub-folder; some where they should be, some where they are lost in space and time and some I swear the gremlins put there.  It’s hard to find anything.

Couldn’t find the picture I was looking for.  Grrrrrrr.  So, I started opening every file, moving it where it actually should be, deleting duplications, renaming folders, and generally organizing it all.  I worked non-stop from 1pm until 5pm.  And, I got almost half way done.  My goal today is to finish ‘pictures’ and move onto ‘documents’.  That may take me a very long time.  Like into the coming millennia.

The cool thing about doing this is that I found a bunch of pictures I forgot I had!  Yea!

Take care

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Red and Yellow and Pink and ORANGE

Here a few years ago, I went into Katy to spend Mother’s Day with my youngest daughter and grandson.  When I got to her house, she asked me if I had ever been to the ORANGE SHOW.  No, I hadn’t. 

Now, I’m thinking it must be some type of production entertainment – maybe a play of sorts that shows around Mother’s Day ---- Orange SHOW.  Cool and off we went.

OK – if you have never been to the Orange Show and live in or around the Houston area or are wanting a daytrip – you need to go there.  It is amazing and entertaining and a ma zing!

The Orange Show is a folk-art architectural milieu located at 2402 Munger in Houston’s east side.  I don’t know if it suffered damage from THE GREAT FLOOD OF 2017 so, it would probably be best to call before going – 713-926-6368.

Just a little history – “Houston postman, Jeff McKissack, created The Orange Show in honor of his favorite fruit and to illustrate his belief that longevity results from hard work and good nutrition. Working in isolation from 1956 until his death in 1980, McKissack used common building materials and found objects — bricks, tiles, fencing, farm implements — to transform an East End lot into an architectural maze of walkways, balconies, arenas and exhibits decorated with mosaics and brightly painted iron figures.”  It is a totally cool place.  There are things to see, things to read, things to climb on, places to sit and contemplate the show.  I loved it!

It’s a large area – about 3000 sq.ft that includes an oasis, a wishing well, a pond, a stage, a museum, a gift shop, and all sorts of other things.  The most amazing fact is each piece of the Orange Show was hand-placed, hand-painted by Mr. McKissak. 

Right next door to the Orange Show is Smither Park.  Words cannot describe it adequately.  It is a wonderful whimsical artistic venue for a day out.  There is an amphitheater, a memory wall, meditation area, covered pavilion, swings and interactive sculpture.  Look closely at all the mosaic work and you’ll see that each piece was created out of recycled and found materials.
like used bottles of fingernail polish

Most of the mosaic creations are three-dimensional.  Looking around you’ll see colorful trees, octopi, rocket ships, owls, mermaids, flowers, people, bulls, angels, serpents, chairs, fish, birds, bears and lots more all hiding in plain sight.  I loved it!

Take care

Sunday, March 25, 2018

"Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers iz."

 March 20, was Ostara (the vernal equinox) marking that Spring and warmer, sunnier days have come.  It’s a good time to try an Earth Meditation.  Chose a quiet place outside.  Lay down so you are fully in contact with the earth.  (Watch out for ants - they are everywhere!)   Feel your connection to the earth. Feel the warmth of the sun.  Imagine that warmth growing and spreading from your body into the ground. Visualize the awakening roots, seeds, and other life that is just below the surface.  Breath quietly.  It’s a good meditation – you lend the earth your strength and the earth gives back its strength to you. 

For me, however, the vernal equinox, first day of spring, Ostara or whatever you may call the official changing of seasons, winter to warmer weather, is the day my pecan trees actually put out leaves.  As soon as the leaves appear we can be assured the cold weather is past.  My trees have had leaf buds for the past couple of weeks but no leaves have appeared.  Today, I saw the first ones and I’m sure by tomorrow the trees will be covered with new green leaves. 

 March and April are very pretty times of the year here in south central Texas.  Lots things are blooming.  So, in answer to the little poem above,

The flowers iz here!

Wild Flowers

and lots of other blooming things

It has been an interesting month weather-wise.  Dry, windy, warm one day and chilly the next.  While many things have greened out or started coming up, it seems to me most of my plants are growing rather slowly.  Could it be spring??? Actual spring???

Take care

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cookie -

1 : a small flat or slightly raised cake
2 a : an attractive woman
   b : person, ‘a tough cookie’
3 a small file or part of a file stored on a World Wide Web user's computer, created and subsequently read by a website server, and containing personal information (such as a user identification code, customized preferences, or a record of pages visited)  Merriam Webster

I like to cook.  Actually, I like to bake.  I don’t do it very often because being the only person in the house, I’d be the only one eating all the baked goods.  That’s just never a good idea.  However, once in a while, I am overcome with the need for cookies, so out comes flour, sugar, butter, etc.

OK – here is an interesting fact – one to add to your “odd info for an exotic cocktail party” file – The Chocolate Chip Cookie is the number one favorite cookie in the world.  I don’t know who asks and keeps score but that’s what I read.

Did You Know:  In 1930, Ruth and Kenneth Wakefield, purchased a house halfway between Boston and New Bedford in Massachusetts. The house, built in 1709, had once been a stopping place where travelers could rest, change horses, have a nice meal, and pay any necessary tolls for using the road. Ruth and Kenneth turned the home into a lodge, “The Toll House Inn.”  Ruth, known for her baking and dessert skills, often made a cookie dating from Colonial days – Butter Do Drop Cookies.  One version of the recipe called for Baker’s chocolate, and, finding herself without, Ruth chopped up a bar of Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate and added the tiny bits to her dough. The chocolate was supposed to melt and spread through the dough. It didn’t. That day in 1937, the history of chocolate chip cookies began.  There are other versions of this story but essentially Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the #1 favorite cookie today.  Interesting.

I’ve made a variety of Chocolate Chip Cookies over the many years, using different recipes.  Some are ok, some were terrible, but this one is the BY FAR BEST one I’ve ever had.  I actually found it in the Houston Chronicle about a bazillion years ago.

Fabulous Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ cups flour
1 large package dry instant vanilla pudding mix
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12 oz chocolate chips
12 oz toffee bits
2 large eggs
6 oz chocolate chunks
1 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, pudding mix, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.  Set aside.
2 Mix butter, both sugars, and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Stir in flour mixture a little at a time.  Stir in chocolate chips/chunks and toffee bits. 
3 Place large rounded drops of cookie dough – about ¼ cup – on cookie sheet.  Limit to two cookies per row.  Bake 8-9 minutes until just golden.  When taking cookies out of oven, bang cookie sheet on the counter a couple of times to let the air out of the cookie.  Cool on rack.
** Personal note:  I don’t use two different types of chocolate – chips and chunks.  I just use 18 oz of chips.  And, the recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate but I like milk chocolate better, so, that’s what I use.  My cookies aren’t as big – maybe 1/8 cup dough with 3-4 cookies per row.  Finally, I cooked mine 12 minutes but that may be my oven.

Take care

In some places chocolate chip cookies
are topped with chocolate sauce and eaten
with knife and fork.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Just another day of fun in the sun.

I mowed with my new green mower.  Yea me! 

Anyway, prior to mowing I had to open the new 100-foot V-E-R-Y pricey extension (has lots more copper and copper is more expensive, you know) cord.  My new extension cord is yellow – goes nicely with the green mower. 

Heavens above!  I had to have all sorts of things like scissors, just to get the silly thing out of its box and unbound.  It’s heavy.  Very heavy.  A very heavy extension cord that I must drag along with me.  Heavy.  And, I forgot to put the extension cord dingus on the mower handle.  Oh well.

I got day one of the mowing done without issue.  I generally mow over three days.  I hate to mow and there is no need in being hot, sweaty, and annoyed by doing it all at once. 

Afterward I planned to pull weeds, thin seedings, pull weeds, and generally do yard clean up (you know, pull weeds).  Now,

I have several unusual yard art items mixed in with all the plants.  One such is one of a set of andirons shaped like dragons.  Michael had bought them, heaven only know where, several years ago.   I’ve used them outside.  Works for me. 

One dragon was being used as a demarcation line in front of some sunflower seedlings so they wouldn’t get mowed down by accident.  The dragon had fallen over (caught on the new yellow 100-foot heavy extension cord).  So, first I loosened the dirt a little for the feet and then, grabbing the dragon by head and wing, shoved it down with all my strength.  SNAP!  The andiron broke and I fell forward hitting my head on the edge of a piece of marble.

 Ow, ow, ow!  Owie, owie, ouch.  Went straight to the ground.  And, boooo-hoooo’d for a little bit.  Fortunately, I had on a denim hat so I didn’t have blood running everywhere.  However, it did raise a huge lump that looked like someone had sandpapered my skin and HURT LIKE THE VERY DEVIL!

Then, I went inside.

Now, I get “poor babies” from everyone.

Take care

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A NEW mower – oh joy

I know I mentioned that recently I burned up my little red electric mower.  I was, actually, surprised it lasted as long as it did since it sat in 12-15 inches of water for three days during THE GREAT FLOOD OF 2017. 

Because I do not understand the workings of electricity (my personal belief is --- magic), I called my brother to question him about several “electric lawnmower” things.  Based on what happened with the red mower, did he think I could still use it with a different extension cord?  What kind of extension cord should I be using?  How long a cord can I use?  Yada, yada. 

His immediate response was NO, do not use the mower again.  And then he said I should just get a gas-powered mower (no cord, no electricity needed, etc.)  But, if I was getting an electric mower, I needed a 12-gauge extension cord no longer than 100 feet.  Then he talked about amps and volts and GFCI outlets – a whole other language of weird.

OK, so here’s the problem with a gas mower.  (1) they require gasoline.  (2) they also need oil, spark plug(s), air filter(s), lines cleaned out and a bunch of other stuff.  (3) they need somebody who understands the “how-tos and when-tos” to fix them when THEY WILL NOT START.  I am not that person.

I went to the Lowe’s website and shopped for a mower.  Decided on one – under $200 that’s good.  Then looked at 12-gauge 100-foot extension cords.  Whoa!  It cost just slightly less than the mower.  (When asked, brother said – it’s because they have more copper and copper is expensive.)                 O K  F I N E.  Put everything in the shopping basket, hit send and waited to get notification that everything had arrived at Lowes.

Today, I decided to take the mower out of its box and mow the weeds (still don’t have grass but I have all sorts of weeds!).  Six pieces along with three instruction books came out of the box.  Putting together power tools of any sort has never been in my job description but – “how hard can it be”.  

Well, first of all,

“Fit the lower handle into the two holes in the machine body and fasten the handle on both with the screws provided.”

That sounds easy.  NO!  It is not easy.  The handle ends just barely fit into the holes and only go in a little way.  It took me pushing and a hammer to get the damn things in so the screws would actually do their job of fitting into the side of the mower and through the handle thus holding it in place. 


“Join the upper handle to the lower handle using the knob, washer, and bolt provided.”

This wasn’t hard although an extra hand would have been helpful to hold the two handles in place to bolt them together.  Then, I realized I had not remembered to put “the extension cord restraint hook” on the upper handle before bolting it to the lower handle.  Too bad.  Not taking it apart.

Next came the Side Discharge Chute (and one the reasons I chose this mower).

So, I live in Texas.  If you mow with a grass catcher on your mower, you will have to stop every 6 or 7 steps and empty the bag.  That is just way too much work.  I firmly believe the clippings are good for the grass and are just fine laying there doing whatever it is they are supposed to do.

OK – the Chute –

“Raise the spring-loaded ejector flap.  Fasten the side-discharge chute to the mower body by sliding the chute tabs onto the coupling hooks found under the ejector flap.  Make sure the chute is securely fastened.”

Huh?  OK, well ….. hmmmmm …….

And, finally, Taa Daaa!  A cute little green mower.

Take care.

Monday, March 19, 2018

More new stuff to plant

 Something else I’d like to grow this year is Heliotrope.  It is a small shrubby perennial that grows best in a place with hot summers.  That might work – we do have hot summers.

Heliotrope is an old-fashioned favorite and was found frequently in cottage gardens.  It’s highly fragrant, drought tolerant, non-invasive, has few pests and diseases, and deer hate them.  Of course, for me, that’s not a consideration – deer.  For best results plant it someplace where it will get at least 5-6 hours of morning sun and afternoon shade.  And, while it doesn’t do well in heavy clay soils, it can thrive as a container plant.  As a potted plant, it is a heavy feeder – so for best results, feed every two or three weeks. 

You can grow Heliotrope from seed pretty easily or take cuttings.  Root cuttings in soil and then keep them moist.  I put cuttings, pot and all, in a ziplock bag and keep it closed.  Then I put the bag in a sunny window or under a grow light.  Works for me.

Garden Heliotrope fragrance is described as vanilla, cherry, grape, fruity and floral, all rolled into one.  The scent is said to help fight fatigue.  In long past days, it was used to clean the blood and fight off viral infections.  However, it’s not really a good medicinal herb to use because in the long term, it can cause liver damage – never good. 

In the Language of Flowers, Heliotrope means devotion and faithfulness.  Growing it in your yard will attract cheerfulness, gaiety, and wealth, will protect you from physical harm, increase your clairvoyance and help find lost objects. 

Smells good, deer hate it, and it helps to find lost things.  A good plant to have.  Now, all I have to do is find seeds …….

Another new plant I’m thinking about for this year is Castor Bean.  Castor Bean is a fast growing perennial capable of growing up to 12 feet in a single season.  It typically grows one or more reddish stalk(s) with large palm shaped leaves that are dark green to dark purple in color. In early summer it will produce a 1-2 foot spike with small flowers – the female flowers are rosy pink, the male are white to pale green.  Those produce the shiny brown seeds.

The seeds can be planted directly in the garden or started in pots inside.  Soak the seeds overnight to aid in germination.  The plant likes a loamy soil best, full sun and humid conditions (yes, we can do humid here).  Oh and remember – it’s likely to get really tall and wide.  You might think about future size when planting the little seed, although, it does lend itself easily to a planter or large pot. One more thing – Castor Bean is cold sensitive – it’s going to freeze to the ground and may (or not) come back the next year.

In ancient times Caster Bean oil was used as a lamp oil, a beauty ointment, and a purgative medicine.  It was also supposed to make a woman’s hair grow. 
These days, the castor bean seeds are grown worldwide, for making everything from paint and varnish to lubricant for jet engines, from nylon to contraceptives. The seeds have also been considered as an alternative energy source for motor and diesel fuel. And scientists involved in cancer and AIDS research are studying the seeds' compounds.

If you choose to plant Castor Bean and live in the south/southwest, please harvest the seeds carefully.  If they escape to the world, they can become an invasive pest.

Take care.

PS: The leaves and especially the seeds of the Caster Bean contain the toxin ricin and are  very poisonous.  Keep that in mind when choosing to plant it.