Monday, April 24, 2017

Universal Studios

We have gone to DisneyWorld every time we go to Florida to see Aunt Dolly and my cousins there. For this latest trip, we decided to forego Disney and see Universal instead, mainly because we wanted to see the Harry Potter villages they created in the two Universal parks.

The Harry Potter streets were filled with all of the stores and shops written about in the books, but not all of them were open for business. Most of the shops were empty, with just displays in the windows but no shopkeepers to talk to or merchandise to buy. The souvenirs were mostly wands (very expensive for plastic made in China), Hogwarts robes, scarves, and keychains, Butter Beer (very sweet but delicious) and Pumpkin Juice (we didn't try that because of the reactions from people who tasted it).

And shame on Universal..... there are two Harry Potter villages, one in each park. So they are forcing you to pay admission to both parks if you want the full HP experience. You take the Hogwarts train to get from one park to the other, and the train ride is fun but you don't see the outside world when you're on the train. There are scenes and sounds from the HP films showing on the train windows as you ride along.

We quickly saw the HP attractions, ate in the restaurants mentioned in the books, and walked around each of the parks. We paid for tickets for two days' worth of both Universal parks, but by nightfall of the first day, we had seen everything worth seeing. We bypassed all the extreme rides, enjoyed the colorful and joyous Dr. Seuss village, and wished for a better and fuller experience in the Harry Potter villages.

Now that we have seen the Harry Potter displays at Universal, I would not go back to those parks. Disney would have done justice to HP and J.K. Rowling, I'm sure. And Universal could take a lesson or two from the Disney parks concerning cleanliness and maintenance. Disney always does it better.... at the Disney parks, everything looks brand new and just-out-of-the-box. Always. No matter how crowded they are.

Next trip to Florida, it will be a Disney destination.

Aunt Dolly in Florida

I think my aunt is the only woman in Florida wearing a sweater when the temperature is in the 80s and the sun is shining. But that's okay... we cut her some slack because Aunt Dolly is just a few months shy of her 104th birthday. She tells us that her shoulders get cold, and she insists that air-conditioned air is not good for one's health.

My aunt used to live with my cousin S in a two-story home, the stairs of which she would go up and down at least five or six times a day. "For the exercise," she told us. But then she fell in the middle of the night.... not down the stairs, but in her bathroom. Unfortunately, her face hit the side of the sink and she was terribly black and blue. "Someone must have moved the sink," she insisted.

After that fall, her doctor thought it would be a better idea if she moved into an assisted living facility, so someone would always be there and she wouldn't have to worry about stairs and misplaced sinks. S found a beautiful residence for her, filled with gardens and comfortable rooms and friendly smiling aides. Aunt Dolly likes it there very much. She says everyone is so good to her and they like to hear her stories about the family. The only downside, she said, is that "The place is filled with so many old people.... it's sad to see them all at once in one place."  When Aunt Dolly told us that, I resisted the urge to tell her that she herself was not only one of those 'old people' but she is the oldest one living there.

The saddest part of seeing Aunt Dolly was bringing her back to the facility after she spent the day at my cousin's house with us. I must have given her three or four goodbye hugs, and still my eyes filled with tears when I left her room. Aunt Dolly was always the most petite of all my aunts.... small in size, but a giant in personality and authority. Of my grandparents' nine children, Aunt Dolly is the only one left. It makes her sad to think that she has out-lived all of her brothers and sisters. I told Aunt Dolly that God is saving the best for last.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blog this....

Magic.... I am typing this on my iPad (which I have named Gatsby). One quick trip to the AT&T store and the young man there showed me how to get the Blogspot thing-y on the page with all the other apps I have downloaded. I sound like I know what I'm doing with this iPad but most of the time, it is hit and miss. However, the more I use Gatsby the more hits I get.

So now of course I am wondering if I can get a photo to appear with the text. The AT&T guy showed me how to do that, but his fingers were flying all over the keyboard screen so I will have to see if I can duplicate what he did. I'm not even sure that the template for my blogs will even accept a picture.

Easter weekend has come and gone and it was a quiet one. The handyman worked all day on Saturday and half a day on Sunday. Not that we asked him to.... he asked to work for the extra money.   Having a new baby in the family makes one more productive, as if he isn't productive already.

The barn swallows have been building their nests around the porch, and we are trying to dissuade them from over-crowding. A few nests are fine, but last year we had two dozen... way too many baby birds around the porch in all of those nests. And with baby birds come the snakes.... my husband has already disposed of one snake that was trying to get into a nest. Stupid snake got himself caught between the screen and the window of the breakfast room. Not exactly what I wanted to see when I opened up the shutters.

Life goes on in the country...

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Spring Fling for the lizards....

I have a red wrought iron chair by the back steps, just as cute as it can be because it looks like an old ice-cream parlor chair. Two lizards decided to use the seat of that chair for a romantic rendezvous during yesterday's sunny afternoon.

My husband and I were walking down the path towards the back door and I noticed a big blob of bright green on one corner of that chair. From a distance, it looked like someone spilled some green paint on the red metal. As we got closer, the green looked like wilted cabbage or some other type of green leafy vegetable. Closer still, and it was clear that the blob of green consisted of two lizards, one on top of the other and neither one of them were moving.

Were they dead?  Baked in the sun?  Not at all. The lizard on the bottom had its eyes open and was watching us, but it clearly was pinned down and couldn't move. The lizard on top had its eyes closed and we could see its chest moving up and down, breathing slowly in a contented sleep. My husband said the male was on top, sound asleep after his 'adventure,' and the female wasn't able to move because of the male's weight.

We brought bags of groceries up onto the porch and then into the house, and the two lizards stayed on the corner of the chair, the male sleeping and the female watching us, and they stayed like that for nearly fifteen minutes. My husband said that if I got close enough, I could probably hear the male snoring.

I resisted the urge to get that close. Even lizards deserve some semblance of privacy.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Cottage dreams...

We now have a young 20-something-yr-old girl renting our cottage. She moved in this past week and lost no time in taking away my shabby-chic decor in there. I told her from the beginning that she could remove anything she didn't need or want in the cottage, and she proceeded to do just that as soon as she paid the rent and got the key. As a result, 75% of the cottage decor ended up on the porch. Which is fine with me, since it was my suggestion that she make herself at home and decorate as she wished. About the only thing that stayed inside the cottage was the DREAM sign over the beds, and she kept the sofas and small kitchen appliances.

I now have a plethora of Victorian and shabby chic items to price and bring to my booth at the antique shop. I took some of the cast-offs to the rooms in the barn, and a few things ended up back here at the house. RW looked at both the apartment over the barn and the guest cottage, but decided the cottage was more her style. She is a country-girl at heart, with no use for frills and fussy things, so I thought she would choose the barn apartment, but she liked the idea of one big room rather than four small ones.

We intend to rent the barn rooms also, rather than always having them empty, and we're hoping that possibly two of RW's friends might decide to split the rent on that two-bedroom apartment. We had hopes of keeping both structures ready for visiting family and friends, but that hasn't happened all that often since we moved up here, so we decided to turn the two buildings into money-makers.

RW seems happy over there in the cottage, and she's a hard-working girl with good common sense, so we hope her reign in the cottage is a long one.

The goldfish seem to be fine in the fountain. They're eating up the algae in there like they're supposed to, plus I bought a can of goldfish food to sprinkle on top of the water every few days. When the fish swim to the top of the water to gobble up the flakes, it's easy to count them and so far, all twelve are still there. I hope luck holds out and we don't lose any fish to the raccoons or the egrets.... my intention was not to have a goldfish buffet out in the front courtyard.

I have to say that I do miss having chickens... and I did think we could get a very small coop to hold just two hens... but then sooner or later (most likely sooner) we would be losing the hens to the hawks or to foxes or coyotes, and that's just too heart-breaking to go through again.

The bluebonnets were beautiful this year.... especially in our field beyond the barn. An ocean of blue from nearly one end to the other, and you couldn't help but stare at all that blue from the porch. The paintbrushes and wild roses are also up and covering patches of the fields with red and pink, and pretty soon we will have the yellow Texas stars blooming and it will look like the sun exploded on the pastures.

Spring is a beautiful time up here in the Hill Country, what with all the wildflower colors that paint the green fields with Nature's touch of an Impressionist's brush.  The weather has been perfect, with cooler temperatures in the morning and then below 90 degrees for the rest of the day. The summer heat with over 100-degree temperatures seems like a life-time away but I know that will be starting in a heart-beat.  Spring in Texas.... enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

There's gold in the fountain...

For weeks now, I've been meaning to get some goldfish for the fountain in the front yard. Friends and neighbors have told me that the fish will eat up all the algae and keep the base of the fountain clean. With all the gardening work that C has done in the flowerbeds for the past couple of years, I thought it would be nice to have those fish swimming around in the fountain, for nothing more than to keep it cleaner than it usually is, and to keep the frogs company.

Off to the fish farm I went, which isn't too far from where we live. Did they have goldfish?  Small ones for a fountain, not steroid-sized for a lake?  "Sure do, ma'am... take a looky right over here." And there they were, hundreds and hundreds of goldfish swimming around in a concrete tank shaded by an aluminum awning... and not a speck of algae in sight.

The man told me the fish were one dollar each, or 12 for $7.00.... well, a dozen seemed about right for the base of the fountain which is about four feet in diameter and a bit over two feet in depth. Out came the net, and the man tossed back the smaller ones and gave me the larger goldfish, each one about the length of my hand from wrist to finger-tip.  The fish got put into a water-filled plastic bucket, and then got poured into a plastic bag, like we used to get at those church carnivals years ago.

"There y'all go..... you might lose a few to the egrets or raccoons that might could see them in your fountain, but just come on back and we'll catch you some more."  I took the plastic bag and only just then realized that I would have to put them into my car to get them home. Live fish? In my car? Was the plastic bag thick enough? Would the bag of fish be better off in the truck (with the treasures I'd just bought at the shops in town) or should I put them on the floor of the passenger side?  My car is a small two-seater which has never had anything spilled on the seats or the carpeting, and the last thing I wanted was slippery goldfish somehow getting out of that bag during the drive home.

I put the bag on the floor of the car in front of the passenger seat, propping up the bag with my purse and just hoped for the best. The ride down the main highway towards home was fine... straight path all the way. But then I got to our road and as I made the right turn, I didn't even think that the plastic fish-filled bag would move... but my purse went over on its side, and the bag of fish went rolling from one corner of the passenger-floor to the other. Thankfully, the goldfish gods were watching, and the bag didn't spring a leak and no goldfish were harmed in the turning process. However, I may have gotten six new gray hairs (glitter, really) after that turn.

As soon as I pulled into my driveway, I got the scissors from the gardening bin and carried the goldfish to the front yard.... slit the top of the bag and poured both water and goldfish into the base of the fountain. I did, however, make a quick stop on the back porch, put the bag of fish on the table, and snapped a photo of the captured fish. I sent the picture to my cousin F up on Long Island, and to my husband at work. (I told my husband in the eMail--- "Congratulations! It's a boy, and a girl, and more boys, and more girls... a dozen in all!)"

The fish are now happily swimming in the fountain, coming up to the surface to take a peek at their new location, and the resident frogs have also come up for air and are probably right now thinking "There goes the neighborhood..."  One frog was perched up on the rim of the fountain base and when he saw me walking on the porch he dropped back into the water, so I guess he's okay with his new underwater neighbors.

I'm hoping that our outside cat Mickey stays away from the fountain and doesn't try to catch himself a golden snack. And the same goes for the local raccoons, possums, hawks and egrets.

As for that goldfish picture that I sent to my cousin F.... who believes that if you have a pet, or a stray animal that you're feeding on a regular basis, or any living breathing thing that you're taking care of, it needs a name. A real name, not just 'that gray cat' or 'that goldfish with the white spot.'

Within ten minutes of sending F that goldfish photo, she shot back an eMail to me with the names for the twelve new residents of the fountain:   Nemo, Orca, Jaws, Flipper, Chips, Shrimpie, Gortons, Schooner, Ferry, Arthur Treacher, Goldie, and Fluffy.  I read her eMail and just could not stop laughing.  By the way, Arthur Treacher's is the name of a fast-food fish restaurant up on Long Island, and as for Fluffy... there's no explanation for that one.

Monday, March 20, 2017

AT&T Madness

I should have known something was wrong because I hadn't written out a check to AT&T in two months, not since my husband ordered the iPad for me in late January. I chalked up the bill-less months to the possibility that my husband changed the billing system and had the charges posted to his credit card, like we do with the television service. However, I kept forgetting to ask him about that. I've been too busy with my iPad, and my books.

But then, late this past Friday, my husband started forwarding me all the eMails that AT&T was sending to his computer. He thought they were advertisements, and he forwarded them to me because they were in my name, which is how that account had originally been set up. But how did they get his eMail address? And what happened to the paper bills that came in the mail every month?  Turns out that the notices being sent to my husband's computer were past-due bills for January and February. What?!

I called AT&T up immediately on Friday, but of course the billing offices were closed and all I got was a robotic voice at the other end of the phone telling me to speak up and speak clearly. Give me a blessed break. I do not like talking to machines because every machine one speaks to has taken a job away from a human being. And don't even get me started on that.

After trying on Saturday and Sunday to pay that over-due AT&T bill on-line with a credit card, I finally, finally was able to do that late last night.  It would have been taken care of sooner than that but during the 'live chat' with an AT&T person, my computer decided to do updates and shut itself down. What?!  I decided to try again last night and wonder of wonders, it worked and I used a credit card to pay the over-due charges.

This morning, however, I called AT&T to get things straightened out. Where were the paper bills that came in the mailbox? And why are messages being sent to my husband's eMail and not to mine? And why do I have to talk to a robot for ten minutes before a real person gets on the line? And, most importantly, why are there so many pass-codes and entry numbers and passwords and ID codes?! Why can't they just ask for my mother's maiden name and the last four digits of my Social Security number, like they did back in the blessed day?

The young man I spoke to this morning was very nice, and very patient, but while he was eMailing the pass-codes to my husband's computer, our cat Sweet Pea got up the stairs because I forgot to close the door when I went up there to tell my husband to check his eMail so I could give the AT&T guy the 7-digit number that he just sent. At the same moment, Savannah started barking because our handyman pulled up into our driveway, and the little bell on the oven started dinging because the rolls I had put in there for breakfast were ready. In between all of that madness, I have the AT&T guy on the phone asking me why I didn't take advantage of their latest promotion plan and purchase an iPhone so I wouldn't have "just a flip-phone."  The AT&T guy also told me about a promotion for their latest television connections and tablets for live-TV streaming and iBooks.  I told the nice young man that we don't watch a lot of TV because my husband is always on the computer and I read books. "Oh.... you can get the latest best-seller releases on a Kindle," he told me.  No. I read books. Real books. With pages. And a bookmark.  "Bookmarks?" he said.  Give me a blessed break.

When that 20-something AT&T guy asked me how old the flip-phone was, I resisted the urge to tell him that my ancient flip-phone was probably older than he was. But I couldn't say that because there he was at the AT&T billing offices, promising to fix their settings so I would once again get a paper bill every month in the mailbox, and he said he would put my eMail back on their contact list so my husband wouldn't have 17 un-read eMails saying that our phone bill was past due.

By the end of that phone call, Savannah had quit barking at the handyman, I had found Sweet Pea underneath the bed and brought him back downstairs, the rolls were taken out of the oven before they got over-baked, and AT&T re-set our telephone account so I will get paper bills in the mail so I can send them a check, and my iPad has the correct pass-code and I'm sure the young man at the billing office has already told his co-workers about his first customer of the day who still has an old flip-phone and reads old-fashioned paper books.

This was not a good way to start the day. Give me a blessed break.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I never did get around to putting out the St. Patty's Day decorations.... and most of them have been brought to my booth in the antique shop anyway.  I had planned to make Irish Soda Bread yesterday, but I got caught up in a book of plays by Paddy Chayefsky and there went the afternoon. (Chayefsky is calorie-free, compared to the bread.) Maybe the Easter decorations will come out of the storage closet next month. Possibly. Maybe.

As I type, the latest (and best, so far) handyman is power-washing the back deck. E has been working here for over a month now, maybe longer.... the to-do list is getting shorter with each of his visits, and my husband is pleased with his work. There is a handyman god after all. Except for the day when his cell phone fell out of his pocket and got shredded by the riding mower, we think that E has liked working here as much as we like having him here.

The bluebonnets have been popping up in huge patches all over the fields, and within the next couple of weeks there will be picture-taking motorists riding along all the back roads in search of the perfect spot for their annual bluebonnet portraits. I hope that they at least check underneath the wildflowers for ant hills and snakes before they tell their children to sit in the grass.

We took Savannah for a ride out into the surrounding towns for some bluebonnet-searching the other day.... she loves the car and we can't even say that word unless we're planning to take her with us. I don't know if it's the car ride she likes, or just being with us instead of staying at home.  We found a small park in the town of Independence and we parked the car, thinking we would let Savannah walk around with us on her leash. There weren't many people there, but the ones who were had lots of little children who were playing and singing and just having fun being kids on a sunny day. Well, Savannah heard the noise of the kids and she wouldn't get out of the car. She just cowered in the corner of the back seat and wouldn't move. We didn't make her get out of the car, poor thing. There are times when the smallest thing either immobilizes Savannah, or sends her fleeing towards the house. Memories of her 'lost' days in the Spring of last year. I don't think I will ever forget those horrible 12 days, and apparently, neither will Savannah. The people across the road continue to be extremely loud at times... a constant reminder of their thoughtlessness.

My iPad (Gatsby) and I continue to learn new things every day. I've discovered "Words With Friends" and have on-going Scrabble-like games with people I don't know. I have Savannah's Facebook photo on the 'Words' game, and I've played with another woman who has posted her dog's photo instead of her own. Right now, the two dogs are in the midst of a game, and Savannah is winning. So far. I bought one of those rubber-tipped Stylus things to use with Gatsby, which makes moving the letter-tiles around the board much easier. I thought by now that my husband would want his own iPad, but he swears that he doesn't want a computer to fit in his pocket because he's on the computer all day long anyway and doesn't want to be able to take it on-the-go.

The barn swallows have started coming back to the porch. Just when we thought the porch columns would be free of bird-poop, they have re-discovered the sheltered spots around this porch. Oh well.... more baby birds to watch as they hatch and sit on the edges of the nests as they wait for their wings to develop enough to let them fly.

March 17th.... Happy St. Patrick's Day... to those who are Irish, and to those who wish they were, if only for a day.