Sunday, August 28, 2011

A small grain of sand am I...

...and Misseswether, Miniwether, and Mambowether are the clam trying to turn me into a pearl.

The last two weekends I've had an amazingly large amount of culture shoved down my throat... er, I mean graciously brought into my life. After last week's piano recitals the Wether family attended a live performance of "The Sound of Music" at a local community theater. They were surprisingly good, especially the lady who played Maria. Seriously, I almost stayed awake for the whole thing...and spent less than half my awake time wondering how to fortify the theater against zombie attacks.

This weekend was opera, ballet, live theater, and the Houston symphony and I must say that NONE of Houston's world-famous theaters would be good places to hole up when the zombies come...though I bet the ballerinas could be ass-kicking fighters dealing leaping death from above with a little training.

So how did we cram so much culture into one day? It was time one again for the Theater District's Open House. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that Sunday's sermon at mass was about everyone having a cross to bear. Some of it was kind of cool, such as the backstage costume design rooms. That was impressive only because Misseswether sews so much of her and the girls' clothing and so watching her face light up when she saw all the super-duper sewing machines, amazing fabrics, and the 96" cutting mat was nice. The rest...not exactly my sort of thing. Hmm, basically if you don't need a shower afterwards it's probably not my sort of thing.

But I did get some great pictures that you'll have to sit through (or click away to some non-family-slideshow-thingy).

Sugarplum fairy...who is welcome to dance inside my head anytime. ;-)
Dancer

There was all sorts of stuff going on on stage, but the lighting above it was also interesting. It looked like something from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Mothership

A different mothership.
Mothership2

A whole invasion fleet.
Sympony

A scary statue.
scary

Painted Mambowether!
Painted

Okay, some of it was worth it. :-)
Painted2

Miniwether says "butterfly" but I kept thinking "Magneto".
Painted4

Happy daddy.
Painted3

Princess!
Costume2

Southern Belle.
Costume3

Transylvanian child. Seriously, that costume was used in a production of "Dracula".
Costume

The girls partook in all sorts of activities and had a wonderful time. Me? Okay, I'll admit it, I had a wonderful time watching the three of them have a wonderful time.

But next week I'm heading off into the woods!

Adventure! Excitement! Performance Arts!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still paying for whiskey sins.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember a little incident involving some cheerleaders, free booze, and an electric keyboard...

Followed later on by the flaming greenbriar/microwave incident...

Let me just say that Karma has taken her revenge, my cosmic slate has been wiped clean. How did Libra rebalance the scales? Five words: Mother-Child Piano Duet Recital.

To be honest, it wasn't that bad. All the pianists were quite good for their ages though there were numerous musical restarts throughout the event due to minor mistakes. One major screwup though was the instructor forgot to bring Mambo & Misseswether's sheet music, forcing them to play from memory! Mambo did it beautifully, I was really impressed. Also, Mambowether had the best bow by far.

Mambo and Misseswether.


Miniwether got to do her duet with a friend which mad her really happy. They played "Ode to Joy" which is one of my favorite pieces of music.


Adventure! Excitement! Crescendo!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get thee to the San Jacinto River!

Due to the extreme drought the dam on Lake Conroe has been opened to send 150 million gallons of water a day down the San Jacinto River to Lake Houston. The city desperately needs this water to keep it flowing out of Houston's taps. This hasn't been done in over twenty years!

But more importantly it means now is a great time to paddle the San Jacinto River. I recommend putting in under the hwy. 242 bridge and ending at Edgewater Park in Humble. That's 19 miles but it goes by fast and it's really beautiful.

Hit the water, friends. This may be your only shot for quite a while!

Adventure! Excitement! Beneficial Droughts!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Widdershinning the Four Notch Loop

Because the sun played a highly important role in primitive religion, to go against it was considered very bad luck for sun-venerating traditions.
-Wikipedia.org

It's not all that great to go against the sun if you below to a modern, technology-based civilization, either.

I was supposed to do an overnight paddle trip last weekend but the danger of both temperatures over 100F and a potential tropical storm scared everyone off. Being desperate for some wilderness, I ended up doing the 10-mile Four Notch Loop again, though this time by myself. Sharp-eyed readers may notice the last time I did the Four Notch Trail it was only 9 miles long.

FourNotchLoop

Yeah, so I got lost a few times this hike... A lot of trees have fallen along the trail which took down the trail blazes, too. You need to keep a close eye on things otherwise you'll be backtracking a lot.

When Clark and I did it last time we hiked it clockwise, this time I did it counterclockwise and for a very good reason. By doing it counterclockwise (widdershins) the last quarter of the trail was mostly downhill which considering how exhausted I was, was a very good plan. It's good to be able to read a topographical map!

The morning was actually quite cool and comfortable. Walking the trail was pleasant, especially since there were lots of pretty scenery and interesting plants to see.

Pigeonwing flower (Clitoria mariana). Hmmm, why would it be called that?
Pigeonwing

Me by a pretty gully. There was water even in the worst drought in decades!
Merriwether

Pretty gully without me...for those who'd rather not look at me.
Gully2

The gullies were all very pretty...but by the end of the trail the constant up-and-down was getting to me some. I was carrying six liters of water in my pack which was pretty heavy. In the end I could have done it with only four liters, but I'm always paranoid about running out of water.

If you like spiders then the Four Notch Trail is for you. There were all sorts of spiders everywhere, especially funnel spiders. Plenty of crab spiders and orb-spinners, too.

Spiderweb1

Spider

Since I was alone I was able to spend all the time I wanted studying plants. This lead to the interesting discovery that wherever I saw a bull nettle plant I'd also find a young sassafras sapling. Very odd considering sassafras are understory trees while bull nettles are usually out in open, sunny fields.

Bull nettle. The needles pack a very irritating poison.
Bullnettle

American beautyberries were also turning ripe.
Beautyberries

Since the word for the day was "moseying" I decided to pitch my hammock and lay down for an hour over lunch. Best. Idea. Ever.
Hammock1

Hammock2

Currently there's a maximum-level burn ban there so even small campstoves were outlawed. I had to make due with trail mix for lunch. Works for me, I love trailmix!! A book would have been nice, too. Next time I'm definitely bringing some appropriate reading material. I spent the first half-hour just listening to nature but the grunting of pigs around me in the underbrush was pretty disconcerting. Luckily my new cell phone has a built-in mp3 player and pretty good external speaker so I ended up listening to the sound track from The Lord of the Rings. That was the PERFECT music and I ended up listening to it the whole rest of the day.

It was hard to leave the hammock but a lot of the trail still awaited. The temperature seemed to shoot up 20 degrees between noon and 1pm and my legs had begun to stiffen some. Not good. By the end I was really exhausted, though. The Texas sun isn't something to treat with disregard in July! Luckily, the plants and landscape remained beautiful and the music really helped me to keep going.

Pelvic bone. I stuck it in a tree where it looked like something staring at you as you passed by.
Bones

Trees with the Four Notch Loop blaze (blue lines). The silver blazes indicated the Lone Star Trail main path.
Blazes

I started the loop at 9am and finished at 4:30pm. This included an hour's lunch/hammock time and about an 45 minutes worth of being lost. Not bad.

Me at the end (and also the beginning) of the loop.
EndTrail

I ended up dumping almost 2 liters of water and if I had brought some sort of water purification system I could have carried even less. I was really surprised by how much water was still along the trail in spite of the drought.

Water.
Water

Gully

The Four Notch Loop is really the prettiest section of the Lone Star Trail that I've found. It's not just a long, flat slog through endless pine trees. It's very diverse in terrain and plant/animal life. Definitely a trail to do when I need some wild time.

Adventure! Excitement! Heat!