Where’s Kerry?

On the water somewhere?

Can you guess? Apologies for my absence from writing and reading blogs. My life has been a little hectic recently and I took advantage of a short hiatus in my schedule to fly to San Diego. What a photogenic city! I chose this destination because some of my American ancestors were early settlers in San Diego…and it had a great weather forecast. I am so shallow.

Over the next few weeks I will share my travels but for a change, I had very little funny human encounters. I think I was disadvantaged by staying the Gaslamp area which was full of convention visitors and tourists. The Uber drivers were eagerly engaging but other people didn’t seem to want to talk to me. 😢 I’m Chatty Kerry, for goodness sakes! Nobody was unfriendly but just focused on themselves. When I walk around the trails near my house most people wave or say hello whether I know them or not.

The Gaslamp is an interesting part of downtown San Diego which is on the way up but some parts are still a little run down. My hotel had a guide for safety at night and there was a safe in my crappy room. Istanbul seemed safer… I dutifully took sensible precautions and went to dinner at Happy Hour, taking advantage of sunset and safer streets. When I walked into the lobby of the Hotel Andaz, I thought I had interrupted a photo shoot for a glamorous magazine. There were a plethora of handsome young men in snappy suits. When they ascended to the rooftop bar, I asked why they were being photographed. It was a groomsman party from England would you believe? They must have had megabucks to party across the pond! More lovely shots of them in blogs to come.

Groomsmen PARTY!

I love rooftop bars because of the photo opportunities and this one was lovely but full of lonely people sitting by themselves (and me…) It crossed my mind that this would have been a good Bunny and Teddy destination but we are travelling alone until our last cat makes it to the rainbow bridge. On the the second night I ventured further afield and for the the first time ever, rejected a meal at a swanky bar. It was terrible so I found yet another rooftop bar (not the hip Hotel Andaz in the shots) which was much better but the food was still meh…

Kerry with the San Diego skyscrapers at sunset in the delightful Hotel Andaz

The barmaid in the second unnamed rooftop hotel, however, was wearing an outfit that shocked even me. She was an attractive slim blonde who was wearing a non supportive bralette with see- through linen pants that revealed that she had forgotten to put on her underwear that day. Perhaps it was a way to increase her tips? Ladies at bars were wearing very revealing costumes so maybe it is a really fun city after dark. Guys were giving me lascivious looks or none at all and I was wearing very supportive underwear. I don’t mind a nice compliment or admiring eye but I felt uncomfortable on my own.  Many beautiful shots to come and some funny stories.

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Teddy is not a skunk whisperer…

Nine banded Armadillo

There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds.  Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors.  Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language?  Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us.  Possums can hiss but don’t say very much.  Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all.  Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words.  One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty.  I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)

What on earth was it?  Light bulb moment!  It is our little armed ones – Armadillos!  What a wonderful surprise.  Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.

Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants?  They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?”  Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes.  Then I started reading about them.  They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one.  Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there.  Happy hippy commune, man!  They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks.  Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring?  They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years.  That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years.  Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us.  We are THEIR people; not the other way around!

Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants.  Now I love my little armed ones with a passion…  For some reason fire ants love to bite me.  You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go.  Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off.  Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts!  Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America).  Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that?  We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other.   Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.

Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects.  They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why.  It was their female person.

The Owl and The Pussycat…

Well, it’s not really a pussycat but Pepe Le Pew  thought that he was a black and white cat.  So the correct title of this post is The Owl and the Skunks.  I don’t know how many of you have been lucky enough to see a Great Horned Owl but they are massive.  They stand as tall as a toddler and have a wingspan of up to 5 feet.

For months we have been hearing a very distinctive ‘Whoo Whoo’ and I was so excited when I realized it was a Great Horned Owl.  The sound is very deep and you can tell that the creature has large lungs.  I started researching this wonderful bird and discovered that one of his favorite snacks is SKUNKS!!!  He has really large eyes and ears but very little sense of smell.  I adore my little skunks that live in the reserve and play under my deck, so I was sad to find out that they had a predator that was immune to their scent.  Then I thought about baby Great Horned Owls – I guess it’s just the circle of life…sobbing.

On the plus side we have a brand new deck for skunks, armadillos, possums, raccoons, wood rats, snakes and feral cats to hide under.  One night Teddy and I went to bed, really early as always, only to sleep fitfully through a night of deafening WHOO WHOO!  Mr. Horned Eagle was sitting on our fence or the trees in the reserve which is just a few feet from the bedroom.  Underneath that noise was the frantic sound of little skunks chattering nervously underneath the deck.

Aren’t they adorable little twins??

It reminded me of the Pixar short movie about the toys, Tin Toy, that were all hiding under the bed, terrified of the giant baby.  If I hadn’t been so sleepy I would have gone out to tell him to keep the bloody noise down.  Well… this is a happy ever after story.   The skunks survived and the Great Horned Owl has decided to move on to a deck free habitat.  Teddy snapped a shot of one in Florida and couldn’t believe how big it was as it flew over him.  This is a link to the Great Horned Owl Wikipedia page.  One description of its call is “You still up, me too”.  This article noted that some people regarded it as solemn and terrifying.  Really?  It’s just a giant owl!

On a final note, only stupid people have skunks as pets, with their scent organ removed (the only exception would be a rescue).  Skunks belong in the wild where they are the gardener’s friend.  They busily till the soil while eating bugs and larvae.

 

Fall Fungi

Gourmet critter fungi

Here in the subtropics, fall comes late. After enviously looking at other autumnal posts with amazing red and yellow trees, I searched my garden for some sign of winter coming. It is subtle but the leaves are started to drop and the fungi have arrived. I loved the pretty edge of the larger fungus above and noticed that the critters were digging a trench.

Fungus blossom

There can be such delicacy in fungi and I loved this pretty little one, above with a frilly edge. By contrast there was a stoater (Scottish for very big) in the front garden.

Stoater!

There is something kind of scary about some fungi and this one, below, was a little creepy. It looked like straw but the critters had been playing with it, so someone enjoyed it. Right now, one of our garden animals has dug a really big tunnel under the deck and I suspect it is the armadillos. They are getting their new deck ready for cooler nights…it is like living in a commune. 🍄

Strange Fungi…with some colored leaves!!!

I saved the best one for last – a little bouquet of pretty flowers.

Fungus flowers!

Sext Fail

Fresh plums!


Here is the backstory – I like to eat snacks in bed. On this occasion I was enjoying a juicy plum. The next morning I got up and sleepily went for my bath. Like most of us, I concentrate on the potentially odorous body parts and give a cat’s lick to the rest. I glanced at myself in the mirror as I was drying myself with the bath towel only to notice I had a bar code for a plum on one of my plums!

Laughingly, I realized that I had bathed insufficiently much like Toffee, our elderly cat, who has a medieval annual bath… It was so funny that I thought I would share this with my husband. We married long before the internet was accessible to Plebeians and although we wrote long love letters that flew across the world, we missed out on the delights of sexting. Ah ha, the opportunity to sext had presented itself. Eventually Teddy noticed his text and responded ROTFLOL. Really? Surely those plums were worth a “can’t wait to get home, baby” or a photo of his body parts that don’t include a shingles rash. My first sext was a fail.😔

It struck me that I was so lucky to have been young and stupid BEFORE sexting selfies. Now I am just old and don’t care. I would have been sexting left and right, especially after a night of ‘refreshments’. Back in the day I had an amazing figure and was more than happy to show it off, especially bra-less.

When I first moved to our conservative part of Texas I was amazed that the letter page in our local paper was full of our neighbors’ outrage about a large Victoria’s Secret poster on our turn off the interstate. Wait for it…..she was wearing a BRA! According to the letter writers, this was a likely cause of accidents and moral degeneration. Then I discovered that nipples were vulgar and wondered where I had moved to. Amish country? Thirteen years have passed and now I flinch when I see a hint of nipple. We adapt to our surroundings. When we lived in Egypt decolletage caused both expats and locals to gasp in horror. Well now my reputation is completely ruined. Next stop, Sodom or Gomorrah.

Teddy’s ouch!

SHINGLES!!!!

During Hurricane Harvey, my husband, Teddy, was stuck in Utah because the flights were cancelled into Houston. We had talked the day before he was due to leave and he was running out of Gabapentin because like most of us, we only pack a couple of days extra medication. I suggested he call our health care provider and see if they could send a prescription because it is dangerous to not taper off this medication, which was prescribed for his migraines. Like everyone else, we had no idea that Harvey was going to be such a catastrophic weather event and initially I suggested he taper his drugs by one third.

Then he complained about a rash from bug-bites. Not so; it was undiagnosed shingles! He noticed it the day of the eclipse where he was outside in very hot temperatures taking photographs. Somewhat ironically, Gabapentin can be used to help with the nerve pain of shingles so he probably didn’t feel the nerve pain initially. After the hurricane hit, Teddy was still stuck in Utah. When he called me, I asked him if he could talk me through using the WII Fit which I haven’t used in years. Like most married couples, technical issues can create a divorce inducing argument. Teddy raised his voice at me (during a flipping hurricane!) and I immediately shouted back. It is his fault for provoking a Hispanic/Irish wife…

During our ‘conversation’, I realized that Teddy was very upset and I backed down, concerned for his health. Eventually he traveled from Utah to Denver to Austin and intended to drive home from there. The weather conditions were still too bad for him to reach our home with most roads blocked. By this time he had to go to Urgent Care for more blood pressure medication and then the rash. Curiously, the Medic diagnosed it as bug bites and prescribed an antibiotic cream.

Finally, he made it all the way home and suddenly his strange mood made sense. We were both a little tearful when he returned because no matter what I said, it was really scary not knowing what would happen next with the weather. When he showed me the rash I recognized it as shingles. Our own doctor prescribed anti-viral medication for him which helped reduce the spread of the rash which was also hurting at the front of his chest. Shingles is infectious and you can spread the chickenpox virus. I caught chickenpox when I was about 30 and I thought I was dying – it is much more serious in adults. He is now well on the road to recovery from this second bout of shingles and he will get the vaccine when he is better. (I have stopped quarantining him…and removed the red cross from the door).

On a much lighter note, we went to Nordstroms’ Rack a few weeks ago for Shrek size shoes for Teddy. He insisted on buying these Psycho Bunny boxers – what do you think he is trying to say to his Bunny??? They are extra cute, though.🐰

PSYCHO BUNNY PANTS

Hurricane Harvey – please go away

Everyone was rescued, even the cat

I imagine that most of you have seen this photo and your heart sinks. It is hard to imagine but it just gets worse with our reservoirs releasing water to protect their structural integrity.  I, and people around me, can’t help yet because so many roads are flooded and we don’t need to add to the rescue attempts. I got to the supermarket today, less than 5 minutes away, and started asking the staff how they had fared. Quite a few had water in their homes but none devastating. We laughed about how good Gorilla Duct Tape was and wished each other well. I am on the north of the city which is much less badly affected but areas near Lake Conroe have been evacuated and that is further north than us.

As I approached the supermarket, I could see a police car blocking the bridge over Spring Creek which is now a raging torrent bursting over its banks. Our creeks are mostly rivers but they can dwindle down to almost a trickle when there is a drought. You must all feel so frustrated looking at the TV and wondering what you can do. The Red Cross website is hard to access at the moment but your money would be so appreciated. I have survivor’s guilt, stuck in my house, unable to go to and volunteer. This morning I cleared my closets of everything that might be useful. I have towels, sheets, clothes, shoes and even a pet crate to donate.

Kim of Glover Gardens has an excellent series of posts about the hurricane and ways that you can help. As Kim pointed out, we don’t want you to travel here yet unless you are a specifically trained volunteer (Red Cross, for example) and they will start arriving at airports over the next week or so. There may be a need for volunteers in other parts of Texas where the evacuees will go after the immediate triage. Hope is in abundance with people like Mattress Mack, a local furniture magnate and benefactor. As soon as people were being evacuated, he opened the doors of his furniture stores for people to stay. Can you imagine that kind of generosity? Then there was the Cajun Navy and all the boat owners who came from all over Texas.

We have a wonderful phrase in Texas – “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as soon as I could”. That spirit will help us through this. Last night someone with a giant Caterpillar truck came to the rescue and people were helped up ladders into the truck. The news reporter asked the police officer who the volunteer driver was. The policeman said you can ask him but he doesn’t speak English! Actions mean so much more than words right now. Some of our medical facilities have had to evacuate and I felt so sorry for the patients and families. My heart goes out to psychiatric patients and those with dementia. I am struggling to keep my anxiety under control but ironically I am really good in a crisis. Teddy is still in Austin, on his third visit to the doctor. Now he has reacted very badly to some bug bites and sometimes he gets blood poisoning with the red lines going to his underarms. Really, Teddy???

I saved an armadillo today! As I came back from the supermarket, I noticed a disoriented armadillo crossing the road to our subdivision in daylight. I stopped the car and persuaded him to hurry up before he was squashed. Maybe he will be under my deck tonight, safe and sound? Now I have a dilemma. My dead mother made me promise never to give away the teddies we had bought her. Her childhood was teddy deprived but that’s another blog. We are all allergic (including the cat) to stuffed toys so I have had to put them in the attic. Despite my promise, I think I would like to donate some of them to a shelter where the children have lost everything. I am going to sleep on it and if you are reading this from heaven, Mum, send me a message in a dream.