Come Take a Walk to the Park with Annie

Annie Resting on the Bench

Annie Resting on the Bench

Having a dog means walking, or at least, it should mean that. I’m so fortunate that I live within “spittin’ distance” from what I think is one of the nicest parks anywhere, Memorial Park in Houston. Annie and I are out the door, and within five minutes we can be to the edge of the park. For the both of us, there always seems to be something new to see, or in her case, to sniff. This evening she got to sniff, and I snapped some photos.

Here are some of the highlights of our walk this evening.

Bright Yellow Trumpets

Bright Yellow Trumpets

Dwarf Magnolia Blossom

Dwarf Magnolia Blossom

Orange Trumpets Along the Road With the Park Behind

Orange Trumpets Along the Road With the Park Behind

Tiny Purple Flowers with Seed Pods Like Miniature Bananas

Tiny Purple Flowers with Seed Pods Like Miniature Bananas

A Shiny Pot and Palms Near the Esplanade

A Shiny Pot and Palms Near the Esplanade

The Majestic Oak Tree Shading the WOW Roundabout

The Majestic Oak Tree Shading the WOW Roundabout

Flowering Vines Overhanging the Yellow Gate

Flowering Vines Overhanging the Yellow Gate

The Wonderful Century Plant Crowding the Walk

The Wonderful Century Plant Crowding the Walk

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A Walk to the Park with Annie

Bougainvillea and a Mailbox

Bougainvillea and a Mailbox

Annie and Azaleas

Annie and Azaleas

On This Side of the Path

On This Side of the Path

What great days we have been having here in Houston since I got back from Colorado–nice clear afternoons with a cool breeze. Annie and I took our walk through part of Memorial Park, starting out just at 5 PM. In my pocket, I carried my new little camera (Nikon Coolpix S230) to try it out on some of the sights we might see.

Flags Behind the Fence (Yes, I know they're irises, but we always called them flags on the farm.

Flags Behind the Fence (Yes, I know they're irises, but we always called them flags on the farm.)

Color Pops

Color Pops

Christmas in February? Or Maybe Even March? How About April? These Blossoms Bring Out the Spirit Even If They Are A Bit Confused

March 8th--The first of the yellow buds to open.  It's just the palest of yellow with a bright pink stamen.  The pinks are still going.  Their flowers seem to last a long time.

March 8th--The first of the yellow buds to open. It's just the palest of yellow with a bright pink stamen. The pinks are still going. Their flowers seem to last a long time.

April 1st--And it's no April Fool's joke.  This is a single blossom on a plant that was in full bloom before Christmas.

April 1st--And it's no April Fool's joke. This is a single blossom on a plant that was in full bloom before Christmas.

It’s just the most pleasant Saturday morning. It’s crazy, but every weekday morning when I have to pull myself out of bed, I tell myself, “Wait ’til Saturday,” knowing that I’ll be able to take Annie out for her morning “ablutions” (damn, I thought that word was spelled with an ‘O’, I guess I got it confused with “abolition”, ha) and crawl back into bed for another round of sleep. However, it seems that each week, by Friday, I’m ready to get myself into bed at a normal person’s bedtime, so Saturday morning, no matter the weather, I’m fairly awake and the warm bed doesn’t pull me back in.

There are never enough pictures of Annie!  She "sits" with the Christmas cactus.

Feb. 28th--There are never enough pictures of Annie! She "sits" with the Christmas cactus.

This Saturday morning is no exception. It’s quite pleasant outside, not warm at all but fresh feeling and fresh smelling (the air, not me–yet), but there are some clouds in the north that look as if they might bring some showers or, perhaps, keep the day on the grey-side. However, even the prospect of rain didn’t push me back under the covers, so while my coffee was brewing (Saturdays and Sundays only), I got all my plants–inside and out–watered.

Most of the time I have no plants inside, but late in December, because I was going out of town for the holidays, I brought in my Christmas cactuses, most of which were already in full bloom, although the flowers in each pot were in varying stages of being at their peak: the nearly white one had already passed its best moments; the fuschia had many blooms but some had already dropped off; the new yellow one, which I had just bought at the Farmer’s Market, was completely aglow; the true red one, which may be my favorite as a Christmas plant, had buds that were just starting to open; the smallest one, which comes from pieces that have dropped from the others, had the tiniest of buds on the ends of its leaves.

One gorgeous, but lone blossom.  This red plant was in full bloom right after Christmas.  This one came back out of jealousy, I think, because of the pink.

Feb. 28th--One gorgeous, but lone blossom. This red plant was in full bloom right after Christmas. This one came back out of jealousy, I think, because of the pink.

When I returned home ten days later, the Christmas cactuses looked a sad lot sitting there on the window sill, except for the red one, which is perhaps the hardiest; there were just a lot of dried-up blossoms hanging from the plants or already dropped onto the sill and floor. Even the little one had lost its buds, the ones I had been so curious to know what color (or wishful thinking–what colors) they would be. After about a week, even the Christmasy red had finished its blooming. “So that was that,” I said to myself, thinking that I would have to wait another year for the colorful show that these small plants make just once a year.

Feb. 28th--The yellow one has some buds too.  They are much slower to open than the others.

Feb. 28th--The yellow one has some buds too. They are much slower to open than the others.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, as I was watering them, I noticed something on the small plant that hadn’t bloomed. “Were those little nubbins on the ends of some of the leaves buds?” I hoped. “Or maybe just new little leaves.” But in a day or so, I could see for sure. Buds! So thinking what else I could do for good measure, I stuck in about half of one of the Miracle Grow fertilizer sticks that I had found hidden away. And just to be fair, each of the other plants got a piece too.

christmas-cactus-bloom2

Feb. 21st--Taken with the still setting on my Everio Camcorder because my digital camera has decided to go retro and take pictures like it's the 60s on LSD--not bad quality for a camcorder still, huh?

Now here we are, February 21st, and this small Christmas cactus is giving out its happy show of color! Theses are just the first blooms, there are at least 10 more buds in varying stages, that will be opening in the weeks to come. And as if not to be outdone, both the yellow plant and the red on either side of this one have buds, though just a few. I’m anxious to see the yellow blossoms again, because I never really had time to appreciate them in December.

It’s amazing really, how nature will surprise us, and give us so much joy.

It’s these surprises and differences in nature that always seem to wow us. Why is it when it comes to people, so many of us search for those that are familiar and those who are most like we are, and tend to push away the ones who are different?

Why is it that we don’t find joy in the amazing differences that others have?

Feb. 28th--This bright pink Christmas cactus is just going strong.  No blossom has even dropped off since they started opening more than a week ago.

Feb. 28th--This bright pink Christmas cactus is just going strong. No blossom has even dropped off since they started opening more than a week ago.

Maneuvering the WOW (A Short Film with No Intermission)

They have a lot of roundabouts in Europe, but, comparatively, there aren’t so many, of what many of us call traffic circles, on this side of the Atlantic. I remember one of the first I ever encountered in a car was in Sheffield, England years ago. I had a hard time maneuvering this circle, not only because I hadn’t ever had to traverse one before, but I was also driving on the left side of the road for the first time in my life. Whatever I did was obviously wrong because other drivers started honking at me, something the polite British seemed to rarely do.

This is the WOW at Westcott and Washington. I see some drivers, who themselves obviously haven’t encountered very many traffic circles before, trying to make their way around it, deciding which lane they need to be in, and finally figuring out which street to exit on. I’ve seen some get so confused that they go all the way around it before realizing that they are back where they entered the circle. I’ve seen semi trucks crunching up the curb and squeezing out cars. I’ve even seen a few fender benders and almost have been in more than one because drivers in the other lane try to make a fast move into mine. Even worse is that very few drivers pay attention to the yield-for-pedestrians-in-the-crosswalk signs, some of them even “gunning” their engines because, despite seeing the man and his little dog, they want to beat him to the crosswalk so they don’t have to wait for them to cross.

Most people that have lived in Memorial Park area for some time really like the roundabout. The WOW works so much better than the old intersection of five streets, where cars backed up at the never-ending red lights. Not only that but the traffic circle adds character to the neighborhood, especially with its old Live Oak tree (which came through Hurricane Ike practically unscathed) standing majestically in the middle.

Even with some near misses and encounters with a few arrogant drivers, I like the WOW too; thus, I’m using it as the setting for one of my first attempts at making a little video on my very recently purchased Everio camcorder. (And by the looks, I still need a great deal more practice.)

Two Too Cool: Little Gifties–Snow in Houston and Pet Shop Boys’ Remix of “Kids”

It was one of those days at work today, all hectic in the morning and then an afternoon that dragged its butt until 5 o’clock (and, no, calling in for “Call in Gay Day” wasn’t really an option. There were just too many things that had to be accomplished that couldn’t have been done any other time. I’m not sure I bought into that tactic anyway.)

When I got outside the wind whipping through the parking garage was bitter cold. The thermometer in my car for the outside temp said 34, pretty dang cold for Houston at 5 in the afternoon in early December.

It wasn’t until I reached the stoplight at the top of my exit ramp that I noticed the white flecks barely hitting the windshield and thought they might be snowflakes. Then after I hurried inside, got Annie bundled up for the cold dash outside for her “business” walk, more of the the moisture was coming down, and when I saw them landing on her black patches of fur, I knew for sure it was snow.

We hopped in the car and headed for our little Logan Park, thinking there’d be nobody else for the evening dog romp, but there in almost a huddle were five hardy or crazy friends and as many dogs managing to have fun in the wind and wet. Annie and I stayed ten minutes at most, both of us ready to get back into the warmth of the car, go back home, and get inside.

Tonight, just a little after 10, we went out for the last “go” before bedtime, there was about a quarter inch layer of snow on the tops of the cars outside, but none had accumulated on the warmer ground.

I don’t like snow when I’m some place where it gets so deep that you have to shovel it and fight it when you drive, but here in Houston, where it’s such a rarity, the snow is a delightful change in the weather.

MGMTNow if you’re a Pet Shop Boys fan like me, here is a fun little “gifty” for you that I ran into (maybe you already have). PSB has made a remix of MGMT’s “Kids” and it’s very PSB. Originally, I found it at: petshopboys.co.uk .  It’s no longer there, but there is a lot of other PSB good stuff.

Check out some other remixes of ‘Kids’ in my Vid Box in the right sidebar.

Hey! I found it again; check it out!

After Hurricane Ike–Seeing the Light in Houston’s Memorial Park, Camp Logan, Rice Military, 77007, and WOW Areas

October 1, 12:00 AM–It’s a decent night outside, and the streets in all directions seem so bright. It’s an amazing contrast from about three days ago and even more when compared with just ten days ago.

Although we had electricity here just 4 days after it had gone out, because of Hurricane Ike’s winds, much of the neighborhood was still in the dark. Looking toward the WOW Circle about ten days ago, it almost felt like standing on the edge of the city looking out into the darkness.

This past weekend, there was a flurry of activity by the repair crews, and finally by late Sunday evening, it seemed like most everyone in the area had electricity once again. Spec’s, Shipley’s Doughnuts, and the convenience store have been open for about 8 days, it took Candelari’s Pizza a few days longer. But that last holdout that would show that “yes, civilization had once again returned to the neighborhood”–those golden arches of McDonald’s did not light up the night until just yesterday.

As of 8 PM this evening, Centerpoint Energy show that just 2% or 42,000 customers are still without power, and in the 77007 zip code just 72 customers or 1%. Although some people have complained about being without electricity, most people that I know have kept a pretty good attitude throughout the entire time after Hurricane Ike. In reality, getting power back to more than 2 million people in this amount of time is no short task. The local crews as well as those that came in from parts far and wide have really done an amazing job, and by looking at the outage maps on a daily basis, we’ve seen it take place. 

Perhaps, there have been a few rough moments here and there, but by and large, the officials of local city and county governments have done a really good job of trying to get people out of harm’s way, taking care of the people who needed it, and getting life for most people of Houston and the area back to normal as quickly as possible.

Here in our area, there were many trees in Memorial Park that were lost to Ike’s fury, some roofs and outer walls need repairs or to be replaced, and outside fixtures and equipment like ACs may have been damaged, but overall this neighborhood stayed in tact.

Likewise, those who meet at our little pie-shaped dog park were good support for each other, just by enjoying the dogs and sharing and comparing experiences.

Still wanting more Hurricane Ike information?

After Hurricane Ike–Dealing with the Effects; Information Links for Residents of Harris, Galveston, and Neighboring Counties

Updated at 9:00 PM CDT, Friday, September 19th–Hurricane Ike passed through the area last Saturday AM.

The following links connect to Harris and surrounding county offices.  Each gives specific information relating to dealing with the after-effects of Hurricane Ike in that particular county.

NASA has an excellent in-depth page on Hurricane Ike here.