29 June 2009

My secret garden...

Welcome to our home! A view of the front door...

Looking into "The Grotto" onto the outdoor kitchen

Last May, Jennifer and Jason came to Katy to oversee the garden maintenance/overhaul that was long overdue here. I did a pretty decent job of overseeing the building and decoration of this house, planning interior spaces for use and making use of colors and our furniture to create a warm and inviting interior. But I dropped the ball on the exterior totally - due to both lack of time and ignorance. I know now that several things should have been done differently. First of all, I should not have had the pool company be involved with the landscaping at ALL! The pool company promised a landscape plan that their landscaper couldn't provide given the funds he was given by the pool company for this purpose. By then we were too close to closing to do much about it. I should have contacted various local landscaping companies to come and make suggestions based on what our use of the space would be, taking into account what we would be viewing from INSIDE the house and how well it continued style-wise into the outdoor spaces. Then I should have taken several bids from the companies whose ideas we liked and then made a decision.

But I didn't. And have lived to "rue the day". So we were working with a plan that wasn't ideal but one which was already "in" and "paid for". We were forced to work within certain parameters of the current scape and needed knowledgeable help to do that.

Sweet potato vine, roses and ixora, oh my!

That's where Jason comes into the picture. You see, he loves gardening. And he enjoys it. And he knows what he's doing. They all came down on a Tuesday night and for the next 5 days, we sweated, we tore out, we replanted...you name it...and we have a gorgeous garden with growth plans in place. We'd had some trees removed and some new ones installed, three of which are already victims of the Great Hot Texas Summer of 2009, but they have a warranty on them so come fall I'll have them replaced. A flagstone path with ledge stone edges was the biggest project. And it wasn't laying stone and putting down decomposed granite that was the biggest issue - it was getting the established thatch of turf to "budge" to remove it prior to installation that proved to be the real back-breaker! Even the tiller we rented had a hard time gnawing through it. Mike and Jason resorted to using pickaxes to cut through it all. But it turned out beautifully!

Lots of plants were bought at the Brookwood Community. I'd never even heard of this place until my hairdresser, Terri, told me about it. If you're in the west Houston area and have never been, you have to drive out there! We bought things like Butterfly Weed, Knock-out Roses, mosses, sweet potato vine, hibiscus to name but a FEW. I even got a lime tree to put in a container on the patio!

I'd like to add another crape myrtle in the front bed between the front door and the bay window to Mike's study next year as well as adding a play scape in the backyard. But those are projects for another day, another fiscal year. :) For now, I am happy to have a plan, a maintained garden and knowledge of how to do both. And I've also learned that removing a few weeds a day, as they pop up, is infinitely easier to deal with than trying to pull them out after a long while left unattended (not to mention how much BETTER and CLEANER it all looks!).

So thanks to Jason (and Jenny too) - I hope this can be an annual event! I have SUCH plans for NEXT year (run, run...flee while you can!!)

A new member of the family...

Yup, we have a new dog. Call me crazy, but (hello, Crazy Butt!) we decided to take a "semi" rescue dog. She's not truly a rescue dog in that she was abused or abandoned or anything. She's just "made the rounds" of the family and has finally come back to her town of birth, Katy.

Sophie was bought as a pup for Jen and Jason back in 2002 while we were living overseas. I think I was living vicariously in my need for a puppy through them and they enjoyed her, spirited schnauzer that she is, until Ben was born. Sophie is a large miniature - she's more like a small standard really - and has a bark that can put hair on your chest! (so to speak - no gazing at mine next we meet please...) So when Ben was born, between Emma, the barking daschund and Sophie, the barking schnauzer, he was often awakened by the Doggy Chorus Cacophony numerous times a day. Christopher and Jenjer agreed to take Sophie (after all, they had "only" four QUIET ferrets to contend with).

Fast forward to 2007. Chris and Jenjer became the parents of Mirai. School, jobs, baby, tight budget...and a schnauzer. Sweet schnauzer but loud and barking when someone came to the door. I heard they were looking to rehome her in May and I decided the poor girl should just come back to me, return to the "land of her birth" (aka Katy) and took her on a trial basis. I've had her about a month now and think I can safely say she's home for good. Shelby and Izzie were none to pleased by another interloper but they've learned to get over themselves once they figured Sophie wasn't just visiting. Shelby likes to assert her authority and perceived "superiority" on occasion but for the most part, our "pack" is doing well. Izzie seems to vacillate between "you are at the bottom of the pack and have to bow to me as well" and "you are bigger than Shelby and can overtake her - and I'm here to help". It's funny to watch.

Jennifer said, before I took Sophie back to Katy the first time, "Well, Sophie-girl, you don't now it yet, but you're headed to Dog Heaven down there in Katy!" BIG yard to play in (Chris and Jen live in a condo) and other dogs to play with are just the starters. Sophie has turned out to be a VERY sweet and QUITE obedient lady and I think I've been able to somewhat break her of the "barkies" with a water bottle - she does NOT like getting "spritzed" when she barks! All THREE are much quieter now that I've instituted Operation Dreaded Water Bottle.

I told Megan I should just rename them Small, Medium and Large (Shelby, Izzie and Sophie). She laughed and suggested Tall, Venti and Grande. When I related this to Benjamin on the phone, he said, "Oh Gramma! You can't name those dogs those COFFEE names!" and I realized just how much we must go to Starbucks for a 4 year old to know what that meant. :)

(I thought I had a photo of her but I left my camera in Keller on Saturday so will have to post one later. Today she is having surgery - a teeth cleaning/descaling as well as a "mass removal" (lump on her side). Once she gets home and I have a camera, I'll share a photo our The Lady. When she is groomed, she is WHITE! Evidently her undercoat is white but her hard coat is silver. So more later!)

Mondays in Katy...

I am briefly "home" - I say that loosely since, for most of May and the month of June anyway, I haven't been here much. Between keeping grandsons for parents celebrating a wedding anniversary, birthdays for two grandsons, a birthday upcoming for a granddaughter and Mike's business trips overseas, I've spent the lion's share of my time in Keller, Pflugerville and on the road, specifically in THAT order!

Mike flew into DFW on Friday (following a trip to Kazakhstan, home, then onto D.C.) and we drove back together on Saturday arriving in Katy in time to attend Sarah and Taylor's wedding at 3pm. A RARE dinner out at Houston's Restaurant, just the two of us, followed before a trip to the Galleria to pickup a watch repair that had been waiting for ages. Then it was onto Mike's office to collect his car where it had been left after being collected for his D.C. trip by a service.

We are trying to get caught up (ha! like that will ever happen) before turning around and leaving once again on Wednesday after work for Keller again. Mirai's birthday party is at our house on Saturday so we're getting a jump start so we can have the house ready for not only the party but Tim and Megan's visit from Friday on for said party. Monday we head back here and have a bit of a breather before a reunion with overseas friends back up in Colleyville leaving the 16th. Jen and the boys will be visiting us here in Katy the week leading up to the reunion and we'll all drive up together.

The very next weekend, Tim and Megan et al come to Katy for an Astro's game. Then Mike heads off to Kazakhstan for a couple of weeks and I head to Plugerville and Keller respectively again.

I relate all this NOT to make your head spin but to explain where I'm coming from lately with my non-blogging! Prior to all this has been two trips to Keller, two trips by Jen's family to Katy, two trips by moi to Pflugerville and a major garden renovation wedged in somewhere. We have NOT had any moss growing on us lately. And while it has been run, run, run seemingly, I find that I'd rather be running than sitting home bored (and alone!). I feel very fortunate to be able to be part of the children's lives as well as the grandchildren's lives on such a "grand scale". Nothing beats hearing, out of the blue, an unsolicited "Gamma, I dub ewe!" Be still my beating heart...

So today, Monday, I have my mega-list ready. Dog in for surgery - check. Package to mail. Party bags to find and buy. Cake supplies to purchase. Bills to pay (yuck...) and insurance claims to file. I'll try to get ahead of the game a bit today and tomorrow. So I can enjoy what is really the essence of life - life, liberty and the pursuit of loving on kids and grandkids!

18 June 2009

Thursday Morning

Yes, striking title, no? Really grabs your interest I'll bet. :)

The heat has been onerous and my hair is revolting (that's both a verb and an adjective in this sentence, in case you were wondering). So I'm soon heading into the bathroom to attempt to arrange my summer heat frizzled mane into some sort of semi-respectable coif before heading over to Jen's to get her, the boys and Madison (my surrogate granddaughter) for our "Really Big Adventure" to Cabela's and Toys'r'Us this morning.

No, I'm not turning into a Big Game hunter (although I DID buy the anniversary edition of Monopoly once - the one with the wooden base that spins - whoohoo!) - word on the street is Cabela's carry Keen shoes and I want to see what all the fuss is about them. Disney is looming in my future again and I do NOT want to do the tennis shoe thing again. And all the (taxidermist) stuffed animals at Cabela's sort of makes it like an air-conditioned zoo so the kids like it. Win/win! Cabela's is one of those "last bastions" of the Best of Texas where we are happy stick it to both PETA and the anti-gun lobbyists. I mean, where else can you see fine examples of hunting successes and pick up a fine firearm and ammo all under one roof??

Toys'r'Us however is a venture not for the faint-hearted when toting around 2-2 year olds and a 4 year old under the best of circumstances. "I want..." will be echoed in our ears ALL morning, noon and night following this expedition but Mirai's birthday is coming up soon and moi is hosting her party up here in Keller. A "bounce" vehicle of some sort is called for so we're in search for the "Birthday Girl plus 4 cousins" sized bounce house. And Toys'r'Us is usually filled with parents who have already abdicated any semblence of control on their children and are reduced to the bribing stage where they try to placate their restless (and leaderless) youngsters with material goods in a misguided attempt to buy both favor and silence. Doesn't work folks. Perhaps they should take the kids to Cabela's FIRST ("Yes, Johnny, that bear didn't obey his mother and look what happened to HIM!") before heading over to the Toy Heaven. Might be an effective tool...I'm just saying...

Wish us luck.

I have a feeling it's going to be a BIG Chick-fil-A iced tea day - that's what us Bible Belters drink when stressed instead of bourbon. With Mike in Kazakhstan, I wonder that my family isn't worried that I sit alone at night with my iced tea, drinking alone, adding more slices of lemon.

Better not tell them about the hot fudge sundaes. Don't want to worry them more than necessary.

Have a good one and keep the iced tea flowing!

17 June 2009

To blog or not to blog? When to find TIME is the question!

I wonder sometimes what Shakespeare would have done with the internet and blogging. Would he have been a daily blogger, throwing out ideas to his "public" about his next project? Or would he have shared the minutiae of daily life? And how would it have read?

"Anon, must gather unto myself provisions. Away to the Target whilst the day is long and the belly speaks!"

Or "While this vain glory doth take hold, my age belies me as I tread this path of life! Another wrinkle I beheld this day..."

Or would he have been so busy with his life that he would often neglect his blog (or would that be "Blogge"?) I wonder. Now I'm not in ANY way comparing myself to Shakespeare with all the themes and mysterious psychology embedded in his prose. But as a semi-avid blogger, I find that I have sadly lapsed in my blog entries of late.

I was quite gratified however to find that all FIVE of my faithful readers missed me and I got, within the space of 3 days last week, five emails from 'friends of the net' who wondered if I was okay as I had not blogged "in like, forEVER!"

Thank you, my gracious public. I am humbled and honored by your entreaties and have been convicted to rise from my bed of non-bloggiture and once again grace the net with my mundane observations on life, liberty and the pursuit of just about anything at the best possible price.

See you again soon, I promise.

09 June 2009

The Case of the Missing Blogger...

"So you want to know where my Gramma Cheri has been? I know!"

It has come to my notice (through emails, phone calls and facebook) that I have been absent from these pages for quite a long time.

Rumors of my demise have been wildly exaggerated. Thank goodness.

I have grandiose plans to enlighten my Blogging Public with news of my recent whereabouts and activities over the next few days (week?) so stay tuned.

It should be riveting.

If you like reading "The Farmer's Almanac" that is...

A teaser...or at the very least, a tranquil scene of great beauty...