Archive for March, 2013

Garden Surprises
March 29, 2013

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It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. ~ Lewis Grizzard

Last fall I purchased quite a few small pumpkins (from our church’s pumpkin patch- above) to scatter around my front garden to give the appearance of a mini-pumpkin patch. It didn’t take long for the squirrels to taste each and every one, strewing the seeds everywhere.

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Fast forward five months later, and you might guess what happened next. Pumpkin vines are growing all over the place with big bright orange-y flowers! They lend a certain whimsy to the garden, but I’d always heard “you can’t grow pumpkins in Houston”, so I figured they wouldn’t last long. Supposedly they need cross pollinating to thrive, and every time I’ve ever had a volunteer vine sprout previously, no punks ever materialized.

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But lo and behold! I began to see fat little embryonic fruit at the base of many of the (female) flowers. Most didn’t get much past this stage before detaching from the vine, but then one evening as I was strolling in the garden, I spied a growing green gourd! And look, there’s another one! I was so excited that I took a photo of them. See?

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Since that day, the two pumpkins keep on growing. I know nothing about how to care for them, but I guess I’ll ask around. Mostly I want to protect them from those pesky squirrels (who were the reason for their existence, I guess, so I can’t be too mad at them).

Yet another surprise has been a volunteer tomato plant that just appeared in my flower garden. I came very close to yanking it early on, thinking it was a weed, but something stopped me. I’ve also never grown tomatoes before, but I’ve seen enough tomato plants to know what they look like. And this looked enough like one to give me pause.

I’m glad I did, because now I have tomatoes growing, too! I have no idea what kind they will be or how they got there (squirrel or bird poop?), but I’ll take them. Stay tuned for my bountiful harvest.

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Gotta love me some free food!

The Legacy
March 21, 2013

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Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. ~ Ray Bradbury

Not long ago, Joel and I enjoyed a fire in our fire pit out on the back patio, and were feeling nostalgic as we looked into our living room window.

Our “interior decorating scheme” has never been trendy. We started with nothing, and have over the years collected an assortment of furniture that belonged to various family members. None are of much value except for sentimental reasons.

One of our main benefactors was Joel’s cousin “Tootsie” (Eddith Crow Cooke) who passed away in 1994. She was one of our favorite relatives.

Tootsie had no children to bequeath her possessions to, except for her first half cousin’s sons, Joel and his brother. And we are all the richer because of her generous legacy.

She was like an extra mother to Joel and Charlie and another grandmother to Shannon. Tootsie was always so much fun, and such a resource for all things botanical and wonderful recipes!

OK, let’s outline the connection. Joel’s great-grandfather came to Texas from Alabama and at some point had two children, one of whom was Maggie (Tootsie’s mom). His wife (mother of Maggie) then passed away, and he re-married and proceeded to have five more children with his second wife, one of whom was Joel’s grandmother, Eddith (for whom Tootsie was named).

So Maggie and Eddith were half sisters, and Tootsie and my mother in law, Betty (Eddith’s daughter) were first half cousins. So to Joel, she was his first half cousin once removed. Got it?

Back to Maggie, she married Douglas Crow (Tootsie was a first cousin of Trammell Crow), whose sister was getting a divorce in the early 1900’s. Douglas was accompanying his sister to the courtroom for the divorce hearing when the sister’s estranged husband shot him dead… leaving Maggie a widow and young Tootsie without a father.

One of our most treasured pieces of furniture is our bed, a mid 19th century “full tester” with massive bedposts. I literally have to jump to get into it. Tootsie’s grandfather Crow had bought it and other pieces in the early 1900’s from a black woman in the deep south, for the sum of $7 (if I remember the story correctly).

Alas, the bed was too tall for his house, so he CUT THE TOP OFF. Augh! But even so, it is still a grand bed to sleep in. A queen mattress squeezes into the bedposts, so I’m happy.

Tootsie was born in that bed, and her grandmother Crow passed away in it. Sometimes I wonder if spirits surround it; there have been more than one occasion when I have experienced the sensation of someone sitting down on the bed when I know there is nobody else in the room. If so, I imagine they are friendly spirits, since I love their bed so very much!

In addition to the bed, she gave us an amazing table that sits in our living room. Day in/day out, it measures 4 x 4 feet. But it unfolds to be 16 x 4 feet when you add leaves to it. So when we have large dinner parties, that’s what we do. I’m not sure what this table’s history is, but I do know it was an early 20th century piece, made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Chairs, side tables, several sets of china, goblets, a breakfast table and hutch, linens, cast iron outdoor furniture, and more. All of these things that she gave us mean so much to us, mostly because we enjoyed them with her while she was still alive.

Her aura is still in our house, and we remember her so fondly. She passed away about this time of year in 1994 when Shannon was six. We loved having her in our lives, and I know that she felt the same way about us!

Face Planting in the City of New Orleans
March 15, 2013

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I wish I could blame it on the choreography, but it’s not a musical. I just had a clumsy moment.~ Delta Burke

When I was six years old, I was riding my bicycle on the street in front of our house in New Orleans. It was August 25, 1961. Mom was 8-1/2 months pregnant with my little brother who weighed 12-1/2 lbs when he was born the next month. Imagine how uncomfortable she must have been on that hot, August day. Here’s what Mom wrote about what happened next:

“In the afternoon I was trying to get a little cooking ahead, since we had a rather full schedule, and right in the middle of getting chicken fried came a brigade of shrieking children ‘Carol’s bleeding! Hurry, hurry!’ Well, I had been moaning and aching around all day, but I know I ran the hundred yards in ten seconds, and sure enough, she was bleeding, and badly.

She’d been riding her bike and showing off in front of the older children by using ‘no hands’ when she and bike parted company, and she landed chin first on the curb. It was a bad, deep cut. So we stopped the bleeding and Helen (note: our housekeeper) held Carol on one knee and Mary on the other while I alerted the doctor, and then we took off.

Fortunately, he is in the neighborhood, and they were ready for us when we got there. Bless her heart, sweet Carol needed seven stitches to get closed up, but she never peeped or even turned pale; she just lay there with her little feet crossed and counted the stitches as he took them. Funny part is that I stayed and held her hand and even watched the whole thing without getting squeamish, but haven’t had the nerve to even change the bandage since!”

She went on to say that afterwards, she rested awhile and then she and Dad went to a dance at the Roosevelt Hotel (on Canal Street). Even as uncomfortable she must have been, she said that the party “was fun, and I needed a slight bit of relaxation.”

Fifty one years later (two weeks ago), back in New Orleans, I was staying at that very same hotel, which is now beautifully refurbished. It was a breezy, sunny but very chilly Friday morning when I set out for a run along the River Walk.

Since it was cold, I had decided to wear leggings and a windbreaker, and even put some gloves on. Usually, I warm up after awhile and regret bundling up, but I really hate being cold at the beginning of a run! Sure enough, I began to feel warm, so I took of my gloves and put them in my pocket. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t!

Up on the River Walk, I stopped to admire the view of the Mississippi River Bridge and the assorted boats. It was a gorgeous day, and I reveled in the fact that I was in one of my favorite places and had absolutely nothing planned but do what I wanted and go where I pleased.

So I started running north towards the French Market. The River Walk is paved with bricks in a herringbone pattern interspersed with stone pavers (see photo). I was watching the river traffic (instead of my feet), and it wasn’t long before my left foot tripped over a gap between the bricks and stone. DOWN I went before I had a chance to regain my balance. Knees, hands, elbows and as hard as I was trying to keep my head up… FACE PLANT.

Oh. No. As I attempted to scramble up, a nice man ran up to help me. I could see that my hands were gouged and bloody, but what about the rest of me? Since I had on leggings and a jacket, my knees and elbows were protected (bruised, but not scraped). How about my face? I asked the man if I were bleeding anywhere, and he said he didn’t see any blood. Recalling my face plant of fifty-one years ago, I anxiously felt my chin. It hurt and had dirt all over it, but it seemed to be intact!

Happily, I had managed to turn my head to the right, so while my left cheekbone and  brow were both bruised, they weren’t cut! Next I felt my teeth, and they all seemed to be in place. I was so lucky it wasn’t any worse! If only I hadn’t taken off my gloves…

Feeling a bit shaky, I walked back to the Roosevelt, imagining that my face was turning purple. Of course I had no mirror to see myself. As it turned out, my bruises were minimal and easily concealed with makeup. Only my hands were a mess.

On the long walk back, I couldn’t help but wonder about what I would have done if I had cut my chin (or brow) or broken my teeth. I was so grateful that I wasn’t seriously hurt!

Now the next morning, I felt like a train had hit me. My jaw had seized up, my neck was stiff and I could barely move my arms. My solution to that was to book a massage, which helped a great deal, as did drinking wine at the nightly parties!

Ah, New Orleans… where one can let those good times fall. Oops, I mean ROLL.

More Dog Drama
March 8, 2013

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It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dog day. ~with apologies to Judith Viorst

God surely laughs when we make plans! Last Thursday, we were supposed to travel to New Orleans for Joel’s firm’s annual meeting. So I my had Wednesday all organized with four majorly important things to do on my calendar like a manicure (!!), a trip out to deliver Tucker to “doggie camp”, a swoop by the tailor to pick up my new britches to wear the following night in NO, and an afternoon church meeting. Add to that helping Mom with breakfast, plus my daily run, finishing all my website work, etc. Busy, busy, busy.

But that morning, just after I returned home from helping Mom and right before I headed out to run, Mr. Tucker somehow managed to crash through the dining room window while barking at the garbage men, cutting his leg, which bled profusely all over the house as he ran in a panic. I heard the glass crash, and just said, “OH (bad word), TUCKER!!!” I finally corralled him and looked to see if he was hurt, which he was.

I snatched up some paper towels (of course, it was the end of the roll) to stanch it, but they were soon soaked with blood.

What to do!? I was holding very tightly to him, so I only had one hand available. I found a dishrag then scooped him up, held his paw, got a roll of duct tape, awkwardly tried to wrap it around the rag to hold it in place and cut it with scissors (it wasn’t pretty!) so I could call the vet and Maria (our housekeeper). Otherwise, what would she have thought when she arrived to an empty house with a broken window and blood all over the place?

So off we went, with Tucker in the front seat with me (it was his first time to sit up front); I had a firm grip on his wrapped up leg the entire way to Sunset Blvd. Animal Clinic- a good 20 minute trip. He was very quiet.

After I left him there, I was literally shaking. I could barely sign the surgical form. It’s an understatement to say that I’m not very good dealing with blood, and this was the second time in three weeks that he had bled all over me (and I had the SAME running shirt on both times!).

He ended up needing two stitches, because they couldn’t get the cut to stop bleeding, and so now he has another blue cone of shame to add to his collection.

Certainly I was worried about him, but I was also worried about my trip the next day! I called Guy (the kennel owner), and told him that I would understand if he couldn’t accommodate a needy dog (cone, bandage, meds). He said it would probably be better to keep him at home or at the vet’s, given his weekend dog show schedule (he’s got a great kennel caretaker, but was worried he wouldn’t be able to pay special attention to Tucker).

However, my sister Camille’s daughter Catherine was available, and she said she’d come stay with Tucker and the kitties all weekend. So hooray! I was SO thankful, because I really, really needed to get away for some “me” time after my mom’s recent hospitalization and Tucker’s recent surgery.

Thankfully Maria cleaned up all the glass and blood, and I called a glass repairman who came out in the exact “window” of time between all my appointments.

Finally, that “no good” day was done, and my little blue conehead slept soundly in his semi-drugged condition. And the next day, I took off for New Orleans and left all my worries behind me, thanks to Catherine and my sisters who took care of both Tucker and Mom while I was away.

Tucker gets his stitches out tomorrow, and I am very much HOPING that this little episode will be the final drama for the rest of his doggy life!