A Saturday Morning Adventure To One of Houston’s Well-kept Secrets

Passion Flower--Is there anything other to say than "Wow"?

Because Houston is a city that has experienced most of its growth in the last several decades, it feels pretty much the same, no matter which part of the city that you find yourself in.  Despite the ubiquitous strip centers, fast food restaurants, and housing developments, tucked away here and there are a number of unique places that can make for a fun outing.

Part of the grounds of Jerry's Garden, ready for the 4th of July.

Yesterday morning, a friend and I took a Saturday morning adventure to one of Houston’s best-kept secret’s, Jerry’s Jungle.  No more appropriate name could have been given to this plant menagerie, which is open to the public just a few times a year.  This private garden-cum-nursery is about a 15-minute drive north of downtown off of I-45.  Taking the exit onto Gulf Bank, then Airline, and finally Hill Street, one might feel a bit like they are somewhere in Mexico (as my friend said).

The grounds, very densely covered with all types of flowering plants and trees, occupy, what seems to be, several lots.  Most of the plants are growing in the ground, but when Jerry’s Jungle is open, there are many varieties of unusual plants for sale.  (Check out the Jerry’s Jungle website for the calendar and other offerings.)

This red clerodendron is ahowy plant. There are many other varieties. I wonder if I will be able to recognize them.

I am not good at recognizing nor naming even the more common yard and garden foliage, so I was far out of my league with the myriad of plants yesterday.  However, the beauty and variety were amazing.  Seeing everything that Jerry grows, I realized that the range of plants that we can have in our yards and gardens here in Houston is far greater than I had ever imagined.

Some of the many hardy, acclimated plants available for sale at Jerry's Jungle.

I’ll go back in October when Jerry’s Jungle is open to the public again.  By that time, I will have a better idea about some new beds I want to make in my yard, and the relentless heat should be a bit more forgiving.

After a wonderful time of encountering many different plants, when the Saturday morning heat intensified, despite the shade, my friend and I decided to take a respite at another place she knew of:  My Dee Dee’s Pie Shoppe and Deli.   Just a few blocks from Jerry’s Jungle, this is another business that seems a bit out of place.  Located in an old Victorian house with antique decorations inside to match, My Dee Dee’s was an interesting stop to get inside from the sun.  The lemon chess pie had a nice citrus tang, but was so empalagoso, that a sliver would have been enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.

What a very pleasant way to spend the first morning of a 3-day weekend, a lot more fun than a trip to Lowe’s and stopping at McDonald’s afterward.

Seeing passion fruit actually growing--another first for me.

Like so many others, the name of this beautiful flower is unknown to me. That will be the challenge if I want one to put in my flower beds.

Advertisements

McDonald’s: I’m Lovin’ It

I saw the video of this French McDonald’s ad more than a week ago, but, alas, my French goes no further than oui oui and silver plate. Now with the subtitles, I find that it’s a mini-French film all of its own.  Were they to do one like it here, the evengenitals and Focus on the Family would be crying for a boycott of Mickey D’s.  It’s time to give the French credit for more than the fries!

A Bit of Culture Shock in the Suburbs or “I Want My Barnes & Gay-ble”

From the most recent issue of "The Advocate," contained in an article about some of the young organizers of the National Equality March. (If you're someone who doesn't agree that this about one of the most tender images you've ever seen, you'd probably better click right back to the site you were on before.)

Last night another go at the turkey I had baked over the weekend wasn’t going to be my supper, so after getting home and walking Annie, I decided to head up the road to Stripcenterolandia.

One of the benefits of living in my new (new to me) house is that I’m actually closer to all kinds of shopping than I had when I lived close to downtown.  Before, I had to drive at least 3 miles to the super market and about 10 if I wanted a megastore like Walmart or Home Depot.  Now, even though I live more than 20 miles from downtown, I have, within “spittin’ distance” at the corner of Highway 6 and 529, more shopping opportunities than I really need.  I don’t even have to cross the main intersection to get to both Home Depot and Lowe’s, and if I do decide to wait at the never-changing light to make that journey across all those lanes of traffic, there’s Target and Walmart and almost every other smaller chain retail store that one might think of.  Without crossing the corner, I can get treats for Annie at PetSmart, a new camera at Best Buy, or something to read at Barnes & Noble.

Even with all the great shopping nearby, every time I go out to buy groceries or just check out the other stores, I almost go into culture shock.  Yes, the demographics of 77084 are not the same as those of 77007.  77007 is the land of the singles and couples.  Whether straight or gay, young or old, people either come “one to a package” or at most two.  And while the two might be married, or not, kids are not usually part of the deal, even if they have some.  Most of the time the couples are young, so no kids yet, or older, empty-nesters, with the kids happily off to college or now married with offlings of their own.

Not so in the land of 77084.  Can you say f-a-m-l-i-e-s?  So it’s kids dancing in the canned goods aisles of the HEB, kids punching at Dad outside the McDonald’s, kids begging for something they want anywhere and everywhere.

OK.  It’s not that I didn’t expect that.  I just didn’t expect it in such a big way.  I just miss all my single people and my coupled people, my without-kids people, who had some sense of my existence and my space when waiting in the check-out line, who, even though they may not have spoken a word to me, make me feel that I wasn’t  alone.  (However, I love my house, and living in 77084, I can afford this house.  If this house were in 77007, I couldn’t touch it.  I’m just whining to be whining on a cold night.)

Last night, after polishing off my Angus burger, I decided to hit the strip with PetSmart, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble.  At least, at PetSmart, there’s a bit of kinship with the other petlovers.  The Best Buy is typical, stocked with all the electronic gadgets.I thought it would be great to have a Barnes & Noble Bookstore down the road.  Finally, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble has always been a retreat for me, no matter whether it was the store near where I lived or one in a city that I was just passing through.  Last night, I thought I’d buy a 50% calendar with the gift card I had been given for Christmas.  I remembered looking at the selection when everything was full price and hadn’t been tempted by anything, and the reduced price didn’t help with the selection. I browsed through the books, but nothing lured me either.  What does this store have the biggest selections of? All kinds of stuff for home schooling and aisle after aisle of religious stuff.  The gay and lesbian section is housed on two bottom shelves, but as I looked closely there were fewer than ten gay books, the rest were definitely lesbian.  I faired no better in the magazine section.  The really don’t want people to browse the magazines in this store; their selection is all stuffed together on four stands directly at the front of the store, and whoever is in charge of the magazines needs a short course in organization.  I couldn’t find any gay magazines; likewise, there were hardly any of the typical soft-core skin magazines for straight men like other bookstores usually have.  Maybe the person who decides on which magazines this store will stock is the same person who fills half the store with religious materials.  This is beyond culture shock!

My little evening outing reminded me that I still hadn’t changed my address for my Advocate and Out subscriptions.  Today I found out that it’s very hard to do online.  After much searching, I changed tactics and found the numbers in the magazines themselves.  It’s easy to do.  A real person answers the phone, and because they are published by the same company, if you change your address for one, your address is automatically changed for the other (as I found out with my second call).  So for anyone who wants to change your address for The Advocate or Out magazines, call one of these numbers: (800) 792-2760 or (800) 827-0561.

I’ll probably go back to this Barnes & Noble.  Maybe ordering some gay books and picking them up at the store will get them to add to their selection.  Maybe I can shock their culture a little bit.

Picnik and FotoFlexer–Cool Photo-Editing Sites; But What’s the Difference?

With Additional FotoFlexer Effects, Text, and Frame

Top: Original Photo; Center: With FotoFlexer Twirl; Bottom: With Additional FotoFlexer Color Effects, Text, and Frame

Soon after I started this, my first blog, I discovered that I would need some kind of photo-editing tools. I stumbled onto Picnik, and until very recently have been using it and like it alot.

Picnik is easy to use, and it works efficiently. Choose a photo, do your editing, and save it back to your own photo files in no time. Mostly I’ve cropped and re-sized photos so that I can get them to fit in the posts here in WordPress, and when it comes to placing photos in the sidebars, they have to be sized (usually smaller) to fit. Sometimes it takes a littlef trial and error just to get the fit that you need, but even so, you can do it quickly.

I also like working with the text option on Picnik. There are lots of different fonts, and after using it just a couple of times, adding text of whatever color and size you want is a no-brainer.

There are some special effects choices as well, but the creative possibilities with these will take you only so far. Using Picnik is a bit like going to a McDonald’s; you’re in and out in no time, and the Big Mac and fries that you order today will be identical to the Big Mac and fries that you ordered the last time you were there.

FotoFlexer, on the other hand, is more like one of those restaurants where they serve wine and you might have to wear a jacket. There are more options when using this photo-editing site, so you have more possibilities of being creative, but with these options, there is more to learn and more to play with.

With some of the twirl and stretch choices, you can almost become an artist. I just have started to work with my photos on Fotoflexer, and I know that I’ll continue to do so. Along with a variety of effects, you can add some nifty animation, which I have done, but haven’t been able to make work after I downloaded the photos with the animation to my files. The animated images are on the photo, they just aren’t animated anymore. (If somebody reads this and knows how to remedy this, I’d appreciate your leaving a comment.)

Also FotoFlexer has some of the correction tools that PhotoShop has so that you can erase, draw, and do that color-dipping with that cute little eye-dropper. You can also reverse the image. This is definitely a fun photo-editing site, but something that will take a bit of learning. In comparison to Picnik, I found working with text and re-sizing somewhat more complicated. However, FotoFlexer allows you to butt photos together, do overlays, and even make montages.

One thing both of these editing sites seems to be missing is the ability to re-size photos into inches or centimeters; there’s only the pixel option. I wanted to re-size some photos for some postcards I’m trying to print on my new HP Photosmart C5580 (my barely-more-than-a-year-old Lexmart died of a paper jam that I wasn’t able to fix, and I reckoned it wasn’t worth trying to get it repaired), but I couldn’t re-size to the size necessary because I could only use the pixel dimensions.

Until recently, most all of the photo-editing I’ve done for my blog has been done with Picnik; however, the banner is one place where I have utilized both FotoFlexer and Picnik. First, I used FotoFlexer to repair some of the blemishes in the old photo and added the sepia coloration; the I cropped the photo, added and colored the text, and re-sized it to fit my banner space with Picnik.

Both of these photo-editing sites are good: Picnik is great for novices and for saving time, while FotoFlexer requires a bit more practice to use but has the capability to advance your creativity.

___________________________________

See also: Picnik: A Cool Photo-Editing Site

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?