This is what Christmas decorations look like in our township – fresh flowers and a huge tree! We live on the cusp of the subtropics and the piney woods area of Texas. On the day that I took these photographs it was glorious. Cool, for us, and bright sunshine.
Isn’t that Veranda just perfect for sippin’ something southern? It is really the Tommy Bahamas’ store and restaurant and you can sip whatever you want on the back patio looking at the Christmas tree.
I liked this modern installation of birch trees and Cardinals. We don’t really have birch trees like that but we do have plenty of little Cardinals.
Flowers and greenery everywhere!
Just one more shot of the Christmas tree that shows how very high it is. Finally we got lovely new Fake Grass! It is impossible to keep our Augustine grass alive in winter – it naturally dies back and goes green in Spring.
I just made Crimson a noun but Shakespeare messed with words all the time – ‘brevity is the soul of wit‘. For the first time in 15 years our dwarf crimson crape has fully matured and she is beautiful.
Doesn’t she just make you happy? Our neighbors love her.
Meet Shrimpy Shrimp, as I call our shrimp plant. Shouldn’t all our plants be named? The early botanists made a marvelous job with the Latin monikers. This is her much more gracious formal name – Justicia Brandegeeana. She seems to dance with hot pink petticoats. Justicia is a native of Mexico and seems to love our garden as you can see from the shot below in front of our other pink crape.
I deliberately clothed the garden in pink at the front – it just looks so pretty together including the Ti plant which is to the right of the tree. He is a Hawaiian native – aloha!
Even our dragons live in luxury on the porch with velveteen pink cushions. This is a spotted Gecko, unnamed, as there are literally hundreds all over the garden. You can name him if you like?
Variegated Peach and Coral
I don’t think I had seen a hibiscus until I moved to Egypt. Our villa garden was gloriously full of the original red hibiscus. Since living in the States I have discovered so many other shades but never as many as I spotted in San Diego at Balboa Park.
Aren’t the colorful stamens pretty? Such perfection in a flower.
I love the matching lemon stamens.
Look at those stamens!
I would love dresses in all of these colors, especially this clear red above.
This was the first time I had seen clustered blossoms of hibiscus.
Cream and crimson
Sometimes it is the small aspects of life that make us happy. These hibiscus were a distance from the Botanical Garden in Balbao Park and outside the zoo. Only I seemed to be fixated with the variations of color and taking photographs. Perhaps they are more common in San Diego? Ironically, my camera had lost battery power, so all these are taken with my Samsung phone. My beloved Nikon camera is getting old and slow, so Teddy and I bought me my first proper camera at the weekend. It is a Sony with a Zeiss lens but most importantly it is really light for my neuropathic fingers to manipulate.
Lush flowers in our garden in Cairo
This is a shot of our beautiful garden in Cairo. Can you see Toffee hiding in the flowers? Look for the tail in the path… Click here if you would like to know more about our adventures in Cairo – Letters from Cairo
Yellow shrimp plant
My current life and the geopolitical world have left me lost for words. I have been feeling anxious about everything, which is part of my diagnosis, and nightmares have exhausted me. There is a short break before I start the Super Bowl work then I will stop feeling anxious because of focus and tiredness. Sometimes writing lifts me up or helps ease anxiety but despite taking more medication, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, yawning with insomnia.
I have peppered this short post with some final photos from Puerto Vallarta – just to take the edge of my writing. I work alongside people who have immigrated from Iran and Iraq and wonder if their American dream feels as ephemeral as mine. Even at the shops, people are talking in hushed tones about executive orders and I don’t know if they feel happy or afraid. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, we were seriously considering a retirement home somewhere in Mexico but now I doubt that they would want us. Do you think I have enough Mexican ancestors to request entry? Should I print out my Ancestry family tree?
Almost every week I soothe people whose relatives have been detained at immigration. It is usually something relatively minor such as an incorrect visa or a similar name. We were stuck in Egypt until the very last minute, whilst my husband’s employer desperately tried to get a work visa for him to go to the USA. I remember being at the airport in Cairo, wondering if they were going to accept our cats’ paperwork or my husband’s. I have an American passport, so I could go anytime. Nonetheless, it was terrifying, especially since it was during Gulf War II.
I can support passengers and myself by being as helpful as always. A smile can work wonders, for the recipient and the person feeling depressed.
Her real name is Polydamus Swallowtail – not a variety we see in Texas. We were intrigued that most of the flowers and bushes were the same as we have in the sub-tropics but much more lush. I buy my plants from a nursery and the owners come from Guadalajara and for some reason, they never die. It helps that they are actually grown just a few miles from my home.
Band celled sister
Isn’t this one a beauty. We get a similar zebra stripe in Texas but it is so exciting to see new varieties.
I had to put in a shot of a Ponsettia – it was Mexico and Feliz Navidad! The chili peppers below were just so tempting…
One final shot of Miss Julia Heliconian, wearing a beautiful yellow outfit. I have that little coral bush in my garden but it very rarely flowers.
After Thanksgiving we went on a short trip to Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. We have been scouting out possible retirement locations. I wanted to stay in the old town and we chose a very well recommended bed and breakfast situated in an original Hacienda. Oscar picked us up at the airport and whisked us back to the Hacienda. Escondida means hidden and it really is. It is on a cobbled street that leads from the beach up to the mountains and there is just a beautiful arched door leading into this wonderful oasis. I loved the horse sculpture that was above the small swimming pool, right outside our patio doors.
Our suite was beautifully appointed with local ceramic tiles in the bathroom, a small kitchen and seating area, right by the pool. The property has a huge Banyan tree and there is a fun tree-house with seating, a TV and bar.
The gardens in the Hacienda were amazing, full of delicately tended flowers and bushes. These attracted quite a variety of butterflies. More lovely photographs to come. Click on the red link for the Hacienda Escondida website.
Doesn’t this gorgeous blue conifer look furry and wintery? Blue conifers do not seem to grow in the swampy south and I just love seeing them in the northern climes. It was really very hot, mid 90s, and yet the conifer was in full bloom. This post is really just a collection of photographs but the last few weeks have made me wonder why Salt Lake City didn’t flick my switch. Every destination is a prospective new home in my head so I am picky about the pluses and minuses.
I mentioned in previous posts about Salt Lake City that I was concerned about the number of homeless people, many of whom were mentally ill. I could see that there were two issues; Mormons are very generous to those in need and life, perhaps, must be extra difficult if you are mentally ill or alcoholic in a strictly religious environment. When I spoke to people about the problem, they said that many of them were incomers and I quite believe that. It is a safe city so those most vulnerable may feel safer and there is a homeless shelter. There were signs all over the center saying, “Don’t give the homeless money, you know where it goes” or words to that effect. I usually concur with that but on two occasions people asked me to pay for a meal for them.
Finally, I decided to do something about one young man who really concerned me. I had noticed him at 8 am on the main drag, muttering to his self and likely hearing voices. The whole day was roasting hot and I saw him again at 5 pm in the same place. He seemed agitated and I thought my accent (and general eccentricity) might frighten him. I assumed that the locals were generous with cold drinks and food but he was so ill, he should have been in a hospital. When I got back to my hotel there was a police cruiser with a perfectly blond, clean cut young officer in it. I motioned to him to lower the window and immediately his face looked concerned.
In short, I told him the whole saga; he listened carefully and told me that there was a homeless shelter quite close. I explained that community mental health had been my field of work and that this young man was really ill. To his credit and my relief, he said he would go and check on him. I know he thought I was a crazy lady but maybe I opened his eyes to a problem that goes beyond people who live on the open road.
Blossoms at the Temple Complex
There is really no criticism of the people of Utah – they are generous and friendly (if a bit odd) but if I lived there I would spend all my time helping waifs and strays. We have so many people in Houston in the same position and they usually beg under bridges. I try to keep some gift cards for fast food places – although they are not always received with gratitude! One lady was about to argue that she would prefer money until she saw my face…
Multi-colored blossoms in park
The Lion House
This is the original house of Brigham Young and his many wives. I went on a short tour of the inside of the house which was remarkably small but quite beautifully appointed. Not all of the decoration was the original, which is to be expected. I was fascinated by the red chandeliers and eventually had to ask if they were original. They weren’t and I laughingly mentioned that a red light, where I come from, usually indicated a house of ill repute. In Salt Lake City, the red light indicated that the household had extra food for the early pioneers who struggled to grow enough food. Although Brigham Young was a polygamist, there was pressure from the United States for polygamy to be outlawed as it threatened the status of the Latter Day Saint’s as a legal church and the practice was officially ended in 1890. Researching Polygamy was quite fascinating…
Brigham Young Cottage Garden
You probably have seen a variety of documentaries and reality shows about current day polygamists. Despite the law against it, many groups of families carried on the practice. Some of it is weird but harmless but a few of the larger family groups behave more like cults or cartels. It is very much frowned upon by current LDS members. Polygamy is a reasonable practice in times of stress. It regularly occurred in historical times were men were often killed in battle and the survivor’s would marry their brother’s wife, for example, to protect them and to increase the population. It is legal in Egypt to have 4 wives but they must be treated equally. As a result, it is very rare. Who the heck would want more than one spouse? 😚 😍 😒 😟
Red and Blue flowerbed
Everywhere I went in the Temple Complex, I was mistaken for a Mormon woman. That was probably because I was dressed more respectfully than some red neck Mormons who were visiting. There was very subtle missionary work but it was water off a duck’s back (I lived in Egypt…). As you can see from the photographs, the flowers beds were just so vibrant. It was a very hot, sunny day and I was surprised that the flowers looked so good – they wilt in Houston. I guess the blossoms enjoy the respite of a cooler evening with some dew?
Bee in blossom
A penultimate post to come, with more flowers.
White Ginger Blossom
This is the last in my series of Mercer Arboretum. Although all the flowers are white, they are not really the same. Some have a greenish tinge, others pink. When I shopped for my wedding dress over 30 years ago, I realized that there were many shades of white that somebody with a yellow undertone can’t wear. In the end I wore ivory and it was so much more flattering.
Three white trumpets
This exquisite hibiscus is the epitome of beauty in color (or the absence of it). It’s delicate pink stamen peeps out provocatively. The little yellow centred white flowers below, look like they are laughing.
sunny centered white flowers
Wouldn’t this border would be lovely for a bride and groom to stand next to?
Virginal White Border
Are there any brides out there who are virgins when they marry? It was quite common in my Irish Catholic community, 30 years ago but my ivory dress was apropos…not quite pure! Isn’t it odd that the majority of us, these days, think there is no great advantage in being a virgin before marriage and those that extol it seem a bit weird. Each to their own, but I think I would at least like a look and a free trial. 💓 LOL!
On a similar note, people of my age usually hate the smell of cut lilies because we had our dead relatives lying in state (the bedroom) with lilies to overcome the faint scent of decomposition. Fortunately, we lived in Scotland and most old people die in the winter so they are more likely to freeze than decompose… 👻 I have a healthy disrespect for the basics of life – we live, we die and hopefully, in between, have some sex.
We are still at Mercer Arboretum in Houston and every year I wonder who decides on the amazing color palettes. Despite the heavy flooding, (and having to replant) the main theme was magenta and yellow with lots of white.
Hot pink azalea
As you can imagine, every type of family celebration is filmed here. The most recent one is very pregnant ladies proudly showing their bump. I bet they don’t bother for the second baby! When I got married, people like Princess Diana, still wore maternity outfits that universally looked awful. I quite like the trend of showing it off but feel sorry for the poor mothers who just look swollen and miserable with zits all over their face. Not everyone looks like Chrissie Teigen when in bloom…
The celebration I love most is the Quinceneara, which is a fiesta for a fifteen year old girl. They all wear fantastical Princess dresses in hues that only a 15 year old Latino girl could get away with. I can tell that some of the families are from central America and how proud they must be that they can send their relatives photographs from this wonderful new place. Chances are that they live in a run-down apartment but their children might be doctors or lawyers.