Spring Is Here

My apologies to the half dozen or so readers of my blog. I’ve just not felt the inspiration to post much lately.

The nice thing about getting out and visiting new places is that I find lots to things to take pictures of and write about. But there’s always a lull when I get back to Houston in terms of inspiration. It’s already been several months since the trip to Copenhagen and I must confess, the photographic and blogging inspiration is STILL at an all time low.

The Pi(e) Day Card was a fun project. We’re still pondering what’s next in the esoteric holiday card lineup.

Cynthia and I have been hard at work trying to get the front and back lawns into shape. We lost very little during the recent snow in December and the more recent hard freeze where temps stayed below 32 for awhile, so that’s good.

In the loss column was one of my favorite plants, the giant pink Hibiscus we’ve had since our first apartment in the Heights over 15 years ago. Call me sentimental, but I always looked fondly on the soul survivor of our futile efforts to maintain a patio garden in Houston. It had a place of honor in the front yard just to the side of the front door. Now that it is dead we’ve replaced it with a somewhat neglected Sago Palm we’ve had in a pot in the backyard. It’s a bit of a runt due to living in a pot in the shade in the backyard, but hopefully it will reach it’s full potential now that it has been moved.

We also lost the giant and hateful Bougainvillea that dominated the back garden. It was pretty and really doing well before the freeze, but just didn’t manage to survive so we spent the better part of two weekends cutting it down and chopping it up enough so that the trash collectors would haul it away.

We managed to get most of it gone but not without some parting shots from it’s numerous and sharp thorns.

There’s still a lot of work to be done and hopefully this good weather will hold for a few more weeks so we can finish it up. We’ve really had some gorgeous California style weekends with low temps and low humidity with lots of clear blue skies and sunshine.

Oh, and speaking of the good weather. We’ve been taking the opportunity to walk a few miles each day after work. That, in combination with a revised diet and some Wii Fit excercises I am personally down 20lbs!

Leave Me Bee!

simpbeesA few days ago I noticed a huge pile of bees under our front window.

We called the exterminator and they took care of them.

Turns out they had not successfully established a hive and were relatively easy to get rid of which saved us a few hundred buck as a hive removal is costly.

This is our third encounter with the bees. Is there such a thing as “Bee-Be-Gone”?

Bees!

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Bees!

Bees!
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Bees!

Landscape Lighting

Landscape Lighting

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Landscape Lighting

I am not the handiest guy around. I can manage the technical stuff, but when it comes to home maintenance and improvement I like to “leave it to the professionals.”

I’ve been wanting some landscape lighting for awhile now. For decorative as well as security purposes. I decided I would go to Lowe’s and check out my options. It took some time to sort it out, but I bought some lights, some cable and a timer enabled power converter and worked all day last Saturday installing it. There’s been a few tweaks over this past week and the above picture is the end result of my efforts. The pic doesn’t do it justice. It’s really something to see in person and I am quite proud of myself.

Tool User

Magnetism to the rescue!

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Magnetism to the rescue!

When you have your roof replaced, it generates a lot of waste as a byproduct. For the most part, the crew did a good job of loading it all into trucks and hauling it away. Several truckloads of debris by my reckoning.

Unexpected, but not surprising, some nails ended up in the pool. Now that it’s getting a little cold here, wading in and fishing them out was unpleasant thought. Waiting till summer was also not an option. I tried using the cleaning net attached to the telescoping pole, but could not quite scoop them up.

Then it dawned on me. I’ve had in my possession a chunk of ferromagnetic rock since my teenage years. I found it near some railroad tracks when I was a teenager and I’ve just hung on to it. By placing it into the cleaning net I was able to collect all of the loose nails at the bottom of my pool without much effort and, most importantly, without getting wet.

Hammer Time

We’ve been through a few hail storms over the years. I rather regretted not contacting the insurance company to have a look at the roof after seeing many of our neighbors getting new roofs on each occassion.

We knew our roof was getting to a point where it would need to be replaced and were dreading having to pay for this out of pocket.

Before Hurricane Ike we did have an inspector come out and have a look and he said it would only be a matter of a few years before replacment would neccessary.

After Hurricane Ike plowed through we noticed a lot of loose shingles in the yard and called our insurance company to have a look and they declared the roof a total loss and are paying to have it replaced (less our deductable).

I’m home now listening to the pounding of hammers as the old roof is ripped away and the frame is being prepped for new decking and shingles.

Dooley is terrified and probably learning some new sound effects and some conversational Spanish.

New roof being installed
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New roof being installed

New roof being installed

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New roof being installed

New roof being installed

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New roof being installed

New roof being installed

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New roof being installed

Holes

As I watch this unfold the tune from The Great Escape is playing in my mind’s ear…

Foundation Repair
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Foundation Repair

Foundation Repair

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Foundation Repair

Foundation Repair

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Foundation Repair

Jackhammer

They say there are two kinds of houses in Houston. Those that need foundation repair and those that will need foundation repair. We just changed from the second to the first category.

The jackhammer is freaking out the birds a little. The house is vibrating, and not in the good way. Thanks god I’m not hungover with a headache and thank technology for telecommuting.

Spring Is Springing

One of the first things we did when we bought this house many years ago was have some new landscaping done. Part of that landscaping was three, small Bottlebrush Trees. Over the years they’ve grown and now extend past the rooftop of the house. Each spring they explode with blooms and the end result is like a flowering fireworks show bursting with red and green all over the front of our home.

It’s really quite beautiful.

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Bottle Brush Explosion

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Bottle Brush Explosion

Fixin A Hole

As I was going through my morning routine on Thursday I noticed a brown stain that looked like coffee on the counter next to the sink. My brain is not at it’s best first thing in the morning and I was trying to puzzle out how I managed to spill coffee in the bathroom.

Coming up with no plausible explanation I looked up and discovered the culprit. A water stain that covered half the ceiling of my bathroom had formed and brownish water was slowly dripping from the sagging sheet-rock.

I gathered my addled faculties and grabbed a flashlight and went into the attic and discovered that one of our pipes had formed a pin-hole leak and was dripping water into the insulation and the ceiling underneath it.

After procuring a pan to catch the dripping water we called American Home Shield to arrange for some warranty repair. I called in to work letting them know I needed to stay home and wait on the plumber.

A few hours later I received a call from the plumber informing me that they could have someone out on MONDAY to fix the leak.

This was unacceptable and I called AHS back and let them know that we needed someone immediately if not sooner. The woman I spoke to was very helpful and told me she would find someone to come out that day and would call me back.

30 minutes later she called to let me know that she had made arrangements with ARS and someone from there would be contacting me shortly to arrange a repair for that day.

I was pleased when only 45 minutes had passed and the phone rang. It was ARS calling me to let me know someone would be out in the next few hours to fix the leak.

When the repair guy arrived he informed me that the water shutoff for the house was not working and he would have to shut off the water at the main. I knew the shutoff was having problems so I negotiated a repair of that while he was here.

The pipe was covered by the warranty and cost a nominal fee. The shutoff is outside the house and as a result, not covered by the warranty and cost bit more to have repaired.

After that was taken care of it was now time to call our insurance and figure out how to proceed. They gave us the name of a home repair contractor and we called them and arrange to have someone come out and give us an estimate for the repair.

Later that evening as we watched TV and commiserated about this old house we heard a noise coming from the bathroom and went to investigate.

Not surprisingly the ceiling went ahead and collapsed, spilling wet insulation and sheet-rock all over the place…

What a mess.

The next day the contractors came out and went ahead and removed the rest of the damaged ceiling so we could start drying it out.

On the plus side it looks like the repair will be much cheaper than the deductible.

Another plus is that this was NOT the recently renovated master bathroom….

Flower Power

Cynthia and I took advantage of what must be some of the last “reasonable” weather of the season and got some yard work taken care of. This included cleaning out the main elevated garden in the back yard and putting in new topsoil to prepare it for planting. After that it was off to Cornelius Nursery so Cynthia could select some plants.

I used it as an opportunity to shoot some shots of flowers I don’t get to see very often.


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One last thing

Prior to Christmas, I was talking with my boss (who happens to be Korean) and the subject of the Chinese characters for “giraffe” came up. As it turns out, his father’s name contains these characters.

In Chinese, the word “giraffe” is rendered using the characters for “Ëślong-necked deer.’

I was struck by the idea that some type of artistic rendering of these characters would make an excellent gift for Cynthia as an addition to the giraffe room.

So it was off to the Intarwebs in search of some way to execute this plan before the holidays.

I found three separate web sites that advertised custom Chinese calligraphy and sent them my request. Only one responded. That was Oriental Outpost. They responded in less than 24 hours with the results of their research and provided me with several options in the form of scrolls/wall hangings.

After selecting the one I thought would be best suited, I placed my order. Sadly there was no way to have the item in hand in time fro Christmas as it was a hand made, one of a kind from China. Still, I was pretty excited and I knew that even if it was to arrive after the actual holiday, it would be more than worth the wait.

It showed up just a few days after Christmas and it is AWESOME!

It’s hanging in a place of honor right next to Cynthia’s sculpture

Captain, it is I, Ensign Pulver, and I just threw your stinkin’ palm tree overboard!

One of the first projects we undertook after buying our house was the front yard. When we moved here we had an Oak and a Chinese Tallow that dominated the space. The roots were close to the surface and beelined straight for the foundation where they slurped up all the moisture and caused a bit of a problem.

We decided to have the trees removed and some landscaping done. Since this area of the south is not very conducive to life as we know it we decided to go with a tropical theme, thinking that plants of that nature had a better chance of surviving.

One of the larger expenses was a palm tree that we purchased. It was placed in such a way as to be a focal point of the overall layout. It was planted and propped up and we waited for it to take root and grow a bit with the idea we would remove the supports at some point in the near future.

For the longest time the darn thing did not grow or take root. I knew it was alive but it wasn’t doing anything. After awhile the supports yielded under the weight of the tree and it began to fall. I got out there and reinforced the supports so it would not fall all the way to the ground. I had this idea that we would re-plant it so I did not put it back the full upright position. Cynthia suggested that we just get rid of it or replace it. I wasn’t prepared to write off the expense just yet.

On one weekend I went out to address the matter thinking I would go ahead and replant the palm tree as best I could. When I went to move it the darn thing would not budge. Turns out it had finally taken root. So now I have this palm tree jutting out of the yard at a 45 degree angle. Over the years it has turned skyward and grown like crazy.

I actually kind of like how it turned out.

Palm Tree

Here be dragons

Lot’s of hard work is paying off. The yard is looking really good this year.

We have the feeders out and the bird activity is really quite impressive.

We have the usual flock of sparrows that raid periodically along with the morning doves that wait on the ground for whatever might fall their way. I’m still waiting to get a picture of our mated pair of cardinals that have been around every year since I can remember. Cynthia named them Ricky and Lucy. The baby cardinal last year was named Jethro for his clumsiness.
The baby this year has only been spotted once and is, as yet, unnamed.

Of particular delight to Cynthia is the fact that we finally came up with a feeder that is squirrel proof. Not that the neighborhood squirrels aren’t trying. In fact, that is what amuses Cynthia the most. She laughs and laughs as the squirrels climb everything they can find in the backyard looking for a way to access the tasty feed that hangs so close, yet so far out of reach.

I had my first spotting of Lizardo this season. He was on the garage and really putting on a show. I think there’s another male lizard in vicinity and Lizardo was staking his claim to the garage and surrounding flower beds.

Late Saturday afternoon Cynthia and I were just sitting on the swing watching all the activity when a butterfly landed on her knee. It would fly away and land on the nearby bricks and then fly back and land on her knee again. It repeated this a dozen or so times.

Right now it’s still pleasant but you can tell it’s going to be a hot summer. We’re enjoying it while we can.