Monday, February 28, 2011

Can you say BBQ?

Well, these Texans take their BBQ seriously. This past weekend was the BBQ Cookoff, one of the "pre-rodeo" activities and they were anticipating a big crowd. We decided to go since we will probably never be here again for it and thought we might enjoy the activities.

While the BBQ is a big event, it is not all open to the public. Most of the tents are by invitation only. There are over 400 teams. . . yes, I said 400+ teams. They compete by cooking chicken, pork and brisket. The top prize in just one category is $15,000, money that the team then uses to sponsor scholarships. So there is a little money involved. The teams are set up in row after row of tents. Not your normal little pup tent, but large tents made to hold large crowds. Most of the teams create a false facade for the front of their tent to follow the theme/gimmick they have chosen to set their team apart from the others. Most all had matching team shirts and hats, so you could easily tell one team from another.

The cookers were very unique. Again, we aren't talking your average little table top BBQ, but large BBQ machines on trailers, all primarily wood fired to get that distinctive taste that will "wow" the judges. One of the BBQ's looked like a Continental airplane. I took a picture of it, but the side you see in my picture is not the cooker. The cooker was on the other side and the sides of the plane lifted up to reveal the cooking racks. Another was actually a tanker trailer that had been modified. The top was cut so that the entire top portion lifted to reveal the BBQ racks inside. When finished and ready to move, the top slides down and it looks like any other tanker truck going down the road. Very unique.

We had a very enjoyable time and for your admission price, you got a free plate of a BBQ sandwich, beans and chips. We went over with Mike and Pat and had a great time just walking around. There is a large carnival on the site which will continue to run during the rodeo which officially starts tomorrow. There have been many activities going on, but the main events start tomorrow. We are planning on going, but since it lasts for three weeks, we are going to go next week, hoping that the crowds will not be as bad.

Till next time. . .


My quilt is done!

I really cannot remember when I started this quilt project. I believe it was two years ago. Everything went quite quickly and smoothly with it till I got to the "snipping" stage. This is a "rag" or "biscuit" quilt with the seams all open on it. Once pieced together, you snip all the seam allowances and wash it to make it "fringe." It is quite unique and was more of an undertaking than I had imagined. First off, I used 6" squares when I should have used larger ones. That would have cut down the stitching time. It is three layers. . . matching on the outside with a flannel piece between them for warmth. Our bed is queen size, but I did customize it so I wouldn't have long sides to tuck in beside the night tables. I also had to make corners on it because in a motorhome, you don't want long tails dragging at the end of the bed. So there was considerable "thinking" time that went into the project. I got about 2/3 of it completed which was the basic part of the quilt. From that point on the customizing began, so that was a "reasonable" time to take a break while I contemplated the rest of it. So a couple years later, I got tired of dragging it around. In a motorhome, you don't want to drag anything that you aren't using, so I put the unfinished quilt on the bed to act as incentive to finish the rest of it. Finally, here in Houston, I have had time, so I got it out and started work.

I finally got it configured the way I wanted, worked out the details and finished piecing it. The snipping is the bad part, though. Fortunately after working on the original part, I found some "rag quilt snippers" which cut through layers of fabric like a hot knife through butter. It took me about three days working a couple hours at a time to get this final section snipped. Then I washed it and dried it and it was properly fringed. I put it on the bed and it is beautiful. We are very happy with it. It is all one piece with the top flipping over the pillows. It makes it easy to make up the bed and doesn't require tucking yards of fabric down the sides where there is no room.

On to the next project!

Till next time. . .


Who let the horses out. . . WHO. . . WHO??????

We were getting ready to go for a walk last evening and check on Pat, our friend who is taking chemo for breast cancer. She had just had a treatment on Friday and we figured she was feeling puny, so thought we would offer to take Pebbles, the mini-Schnauzer for a walk.

When Terry went to the door he saw Mike, Pat and Pebbles outside our door and as soon as he opened the door, Pat thrust Pebbles leash at him and she and Mike took off RUNNING saying something about horses on the loose.

Two sides of our park border busy, busy roads. One is actually a frontage road for US90. The other two sides border empty lots/fields with a concrete plant on down past the east side and a construction site on past the horse field on the south side. Apparently someone had inadvertently, or on purpose, left the gate open on the horse lot. Eight beautiful horses had gotten out and were grazing on the small patch of ground next to the curb on the busy roadway. Any one of them could have stepped onto the curb and been killed or severely injured by passing traffic.

Pat and Mike, prior to their fulltiming days, had a ranch in upstate New York and had a variety of stock, including horses. After dropping Pebbles off with us, they RAN out the front of the park and around the corner and back down the length of the park to rescue these horses who had wandered out of their protected area. They were gone for 45 minutes or so, but when they got back, they reported they had saved EIGHT lives. All eight horses were rounded up by them, with no help, and secured once again safely behind the gate.

They are such great people. We are lucky to know them.

Till next time. . .


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Rodeo is coming to Houston!

It's no surprise that the rodeo is coming to town. The dates this year are March 1-20. . . yes, that's right. . . about 3 weeks worth of rodeo. The action all takes place just about 3 miles from us at Reliant Stadium, Reliant Arena, and the Houston Astrodome. We have been forewarned about traffic.

The are places to park, but we are told the best thing to do is to go to the metro station and park, then take the train in to the grounds. We aren't completely sure we want to go and brave the traffic and the crowds. It sounds like the entire town of Houston must come out on a daily basis. We have heard tales of waiting for 3 hours for a shuttle bus and that is at 11 p.m. when the rodeo shuts down. We really have no desire to get caught up in a real mess, but everyone says we must do this at least one time. We shall see. We may get brave.

This weekend is the BBQ cookoff. There are teams here who compete for producing the best chicken, pork and brisket barbecue. Saturday is the best time they tell us to go. Our neighbor here in the park says he will get us tickets which will allow us to go inside his tent. . . the tents are by invitation only. It might be fun to do that.

This morning we were seeing off our friends, Dave and Reba. They had returned to MD Anderson in order for Dave to have some cancer surgery. He has been a little sick all week and was running a low-grade fever yesterday, so they would not do the surgery. They will be returning in 4-6 months for another attempt.

While they were hooking up, we saw a wagon train on the road beside the park. It was a trail ride and I think it signifies the cowboys all riding in off the range to compete in the rodeo. I particularly like seeing the horses. So many beautiful animals. Some of the carts were drawn by mules also, and there were a few ponies in the group. Everybody was having fun and enjoying the ride.

Today was Terry's 18th treatment. Monday he is half-way done. He is having a little fatigue, but tolerating everything really well. He is anxious to get everything wrapped up and get out on the road again.

Till next time. . .


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Busy, busy, busy. . .

We have not been idle during our time here in Houston. We have filled our days with shopping, sightseeing and visiting with friends. My cousin Jim is in Africa for two weeks and his wife Lillian is in Florida visiting her brother, but we have managed to keep our social calendar full.

Terry's first two years at Ball State were spent rooming with Dave, who years later was in our wedding. When he graduated from Ball State, he moved to Houston and has lived here since then. Terry had contacted him some time ago and we finally connected with him the other night. We drove over to Dave's house and met him for the first time in 40 years. Wow! He lives just 6 miles away from our camp, which is really quite convenient. We like that the camp is located where it is, because it is easy to get around the west side of Houston which is where we need to be. It didn't take long to get to Dave's house. He lives on a street, one of three he tells us, which are like their very own community. They watch out for each other and know everyone on the block. Dave's house is a lovely brick home with "interesting" furnishings. Dave said they decorate with anything they find and enjoy the strange and inquisitive looks they get from visitors. They have a lot of folk art in the house and some borders on the bizarre. I think Dave would like my description of it. In the one room of the house is a three-story Christmas village. They are planning on taking it down this week. He left it up to show us, I think. He and Kirt collect vintage Christmas village buildings and have an extensive collection. They start in October to set it all up for Christmas and show it to residents of the neighborhood. The pieces were very beautiful and the display was complete with water fountains and a ball atop a building which drops to signify the "new year." They have so many buildings, they had to set up tiers, which is why it was three stories tall. It was quite unique. I didn't have my camera, so my pictures were taken with the phone, which is why they are not too good. Dave also raises Koi and shows them all over the country. They were in a backyard pond. We had to look at them through the cover because they had to be protected from the cold weather we have had. We also got to meet "Pepper" who is the resident lop-eared bunny who lives with them.

Yesterday, Saturday, we asked some park friends to go to "Old Town Spring" with us. Mike and Pat are Pebbles' parents, the little mini-schnauzer I posted about earlier. Pat is doing chemo-therapy for her second round with breast cancer which had spread, but she is determined to continue living her life to the fullest. You would never know from looking at her what she is going through and she remains as upbeat as anyone I have met. They were glad to get out of the park and do something fun for the day. Old Town Spring is an "artsy, crafty" area of town which has many old buildings reminiscent of its heyday as a railroad town. There was a shop which had Asian antiques and we saw this bed from the Chinese Qing dynasty, circa 1730. It was priced at $30,000. We enjoyed walking around and visiting many of the shops, listening to the live entertainment, and having lunch at one of the restaurants.

We had a great time with Pat and Mike and when we returned to the park, we dropped them off so I could see Pebbles. Pat brought out her pictures of her last trip to Alaska last year. While Mike was working, she drove an elderly family friend, who they liken to a father figure, to Alaska. He wanted to go and bought a small motorhome and she did all the driving, for 14,000 miles. What a woman! She certainly knows how to enjoy life. Her pictures were gorgeous.

Today we are relaxing and watching the Daytona 500. We are looking forward to that.

Till next time. . .


Monday, February 14, 2011

Meet Max!

Max is a blue and gold Macaw. She is living with her humans in the fifth wheel behind us. I had seen her before but had never been properly introduced. I had worried about her because her humans have been spending a lot of time in the E.R. and the hospital. But the mom comes at least once a day to tend to her. She gets mad at being left alone and upsets her food dish. I told her humans I would help any way that I could if they had more problems, but I think they are doing fine now.

Max was rescued by her humans from an abusive situation and they were not able to handle her because she would bite. The had to use a welder's glove to hold her and she seemed to respect that. Over the years of good and better treatment, she is now easier to manage. Her mom had a little trouble getting her to sit on her arm so I could take the picture because she feared they were going to put her back inside and she wanted to sit outside in the sunshine. Max is 32 years old and will soon celebrate her 33 birthday. She is beautiful, but because of her abusive past, she tends to pull out her tail feathers, so she doesn't have any long ones. I didn't try to touch her because she isn't trustworthy with strangers, but that's okay. She wouldn't talk to me until I turned to walk away, then she talked. Hahaha!

And, today I met Fig. . .

I have a special place in my heart for Scottish Terriers. It takes a special person to be owned by one. This little gal is Fig and she is nine months old. She is a little ball of fire and was very curious about the birds in the park. We have a lot of those black and greenish black birds that don't do much except poop and make a lot of noise. Fig unfortunately is leaving today, so I won't get to see her again.

Till next time. . .


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Life in the s-l-o-w lane. . .

Nothing wrong with life in the slow lane. It is quite relaxed with not too many demands.

The last two weeks have been a test of sorts here in Houston. Last week we had four days of sub-freezing weather and this week three days. Now, I know that won't garner much sympathy from our northern friends and relatives, but we take pains not to experience that kind of weather. But then, it's only a few days, so we managed to survive! Hahahaha. It was amazing to watch how a city the size of Houston deals with something they don't have much experience with. . . mainly ice with a threat of snow. They started by letting all the schools out early the day BEFORE this was to transpire. Yep, the schools let out shortly after noon in anticipating of the approaching winter storm. Now back home in Indiana, they would NOT send students home until the ice/snow had already been falling and building up on the ground. And then we would have to wait the next morning to hear if school was in session or not. But here in Houston, they not only sent the children home, but they announced that schools and most business would be closed the next day. Wow! I'm thinking. . . maybe they know something I don't. I thought it a wee bit silly, but in retrospect. . . 'twas not. I don't know that Houston keeps a supply of salt on hand for the occasional winter blast. I think sand might be available, but it's obvious, they cannot stockpile large amounts of a product they rarely have use for.

So, back to the closings. . . After everything shut down and everyone was home snug in their slankets, we waited for the storm. We were expecting some rain/freezing rain/ice/ and up to 3-4 inches of snow. The snow never did happen, and the rain/sleet, etc., did not start till around midnight. By morning, there was a layer of ice on our vehicles and that did require a fair amount of muscle to get the hard layer off the windows. It was impossible to get it off the truck cap windows, with no internal source of heat. But the roads that we could see were totally clear. HOWEVER, Houston has lots of bridges and elevated roadways and cautions abounded about staying off those areas. The news reporters were citing accident after accident occurring because people could get no traction and were sliding into one another. Before we ever got out to go to Terry's treatment, they were shutting down the loops around the city and any road that had a bridge on it. Course, remember that everything in town was basically shut down, so there should be fewer people on the roads. Of this, I am certain, but all the hospitals were open, so there were those workers who had to get to/from work. Many came in with suitcases in the event they were called to work over.

I must say, however, the "surface" roads. . . those not traversing any elevations, were totally dry and clear. Even after the rain. So even though we left early for our 4.6 mile jaunt to the Proton Treatment Center, we made it in the usual few minutes. There were many who did not make it in because they were not able to travel on the roadways. By the time we left the center at noon, the weather had warmed up and all roadways were clear once again. Whew.

We had another three days this week of freezing temps at night, so we had to pack up Phaeton Place and get refilled on propane. . . second time in 10 days, but that was easy. We should be good now and not require another fillup. The weather is warming up at night now, with 50's, so the heat pumps should do the job. The park water was shut off those evenings, so it was a minor inconvenience because they shut off ALL the water, including the bath houses and laundry, etc. So we basically boondock, except for electric. No problem.

We continue to meet and make friends in the park. Many are here for cancer treatment. I have never seen so many people look so good with cancer. Most have already had at least one round of treatment and then came here, now years later, when their cancer recurred. I pray for these people daily to maintain their courage in the struggle with this insidious disease. Everyday in the treatment center we see children. The proton beam is a favorite treatment with many childhood tumors because of its precise focus which affords little damage to adjacent areas. But it is heartbreaking to see children suffering. One child they tell me is transported back and forth with his mother on the gurney with him. Please, everyone, pray for the children of cancer.

I have made friends with almost all the dogs in the park. The only ones I haven't are the new arrivals. I carry six treats with me and I am running out everyday, so I must start with more. Pebbles is my favorite Schnauzer. She is a very petite miniature. Her mom, Pat, bred and raised show dogs and Pebbles has 32 AKC champions in her line. She is an amazing little dog, well trained and with perfect features. Pat is here for a recurrence of breast cancer. She had a radical surgery in December and is now undergoing chemo. She was doing very well, but is now starting to have some of the nasty side effects of the chemo. Last week she and her husband were both ill and I regret I had not checked on them. That was during the really cold snap and none of us were getting out unless we had to. Now that the weather is better, I will check on them regularly. I have offered to dogsit and they know I would treat Pebbles wonderfully, so they know they have someone to trust if need be.

The park is filling up. The rodeo is scheduled to start the first of March and people are coming in now to secure their site. Our friends, Dave and Reba are coming back soon for his surgery. They wisely called for reservations. There are still some sites close to us vacant, so hopefully, they will be close by. But we will still connect with them wherever they are in the park.

Terry's treatments are going well. He has one a day, in the morning, so we have the rest of the day. We go out to eat every Wednesday with the other guys (and their spouses) in the program. This Wednesday we are going to meet with Terry's college roommate. He has lived in Houston since graduating from Ball State and he is coming by to pick us up and take us to dinner. He was also best man in our wedding. It will be good to reconnect with Dave after all these years.

My cousin Jim and his lovely wife Lillian continue to be a source of strength for us. They are in the medical field (Lillian retired) and help out with our social calendar. They entertained us and another couple with a SuperBowl party last Sunday. We had a great time with great food and great company. It was most enjoyable. Jim is leaving this week for two weeks in Africa so we are wishing him a safe journey this week.

Till next time. . .


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Ok. . . . this is NOT funny!!!!

We are in Houston in the middle of a deep freeze. I guess we should be thankful that we didn't get the weather the upper midwest got. Talk about snow and ice. I am ever so thankful we are not there. But life is a lot more fun in a motorhome when the weather is nicer outside. So far we have just had cold temperatures (below freezing at night), wind and some rain. Today it is supposed to start sleeting after lunch and then snow after that. Hope by the time that happens, we are back in the motorhome. We have two appointments today. Don't think we will go anywhere after that.

We are still enjoying visiting the area. We have tried out a couple flea markets, but they take that term literally here in Houston, so we are giving up on that. Nothing of any interest in the two we have visited and don't care to go back. There is a town here called, "Old Town Spring." We are going to give it a lookover once the weather breaks and we get out again. It promises to be interesting with some different shops, etc.

I have used this time wisely, however. I have all our tax stuff done, ready to go. I have it done before we even got all the tax documents we needed. Hah! So once those all come in, I will be mailing our taxes back to our tax person for finishing up.

Once I had the taxes finished, I got out my sewing machine and started work. I have several things I need to get done, but first on the list was a cushion for son Brandon's sofa. Their one foster dog tore up a cushion and while I wasn't able to match the fabric, I was able to find some with the same colors. I had bought the fabric and the foam and batting needed and it was taking up a lot of room in the truck. So I started work on that. I took pictures of the cushion in case I forgot how it was put together and then I tore it apart, preserving the pieces to use as a pattern. I reused the zipper from the old cushion because those zippers are hard to find and it was in good condition. Once I cut the pieces, I started putting the new cushion back together. That part was easy, including the zipper; but then I had to do the cording and the long piece that connects the top and bottom pieces. It essentially is a long piece stitched in a "U" shape. I hate stitching square corners on a round cushion, but it just mainly takes time. I was very pleased with the result. Course, then I had to see if the foam would fit into the cushion. It actually has a layer of batting laid around it, then stuffed down into the cushion. The old foam had a thin plastic piece around it, so I used a trash bag and it slid right into the cushion. It fit perfectly. So I got that shipped to Brandon. I am anxious to hear how it fits. I have material left over to make some throw pillows with, so I will do that now as well.

My next project will be the windshield wipers' covers. I have been meaning to do that, so now is a good time. After that, I will finish the quilt on the bed.

Last evening we went out to eat with other people having the same treatment as Terry. We ended up having about 50 people. I was so surprised. There are people just starting treatment, in the middle, and some just finished. There actually was a gentlemen who finished his treatment 10 months ago who came to wish everyone well and to encourage them in the treatment process. Our days now are filled with a treatment in the morning. The treatment center is just four miles away, so hopefully even with this nasty weather coming, we should be fine. It will be back in the 60's on Saturday, so we can stand anything for two days! I think anyway.

Till next time. . .