Having spent our first weekend back from our holidays avoiding the subject, Nikki and I finally got our decorations up this past weekend. One good thing about delaying was that all trees were 50% off. Our 7 foot Noble Fir cost $17. Woohoo!
Also reduced in price were plastic snowmen with lights that flash on and off. This certainly beats my idea of putting Santa hats on the light up skulls from Halloween.
I think tinsel may also have been reduced, judging by the amount we now have. Nikki, who, for a normally classy girl, has a suspicious fondness for the stuff, insisted on having one tacky room. At least we got the pink stuff up here so that Tim won't mistake it for edible vegetation. He's already been sniffing round the tree a lot.
We also took a spontaneous drive around the other night snapping shots of various displays for inspiration. I definitely need an inflatable santa and/or a 6 foot lit snowman next year...we'll go out again and have a fully charged camera next time., but here are a few we liked:
Some of you will be particularly unimpressed with our little flurry, but it's snowing in Houston this evening and temperatures are close to freezing. The 8 white streaks in his picture are actual, genuine, proper snowflakes:
This wouldn't bother us in the slightest if our sodding heating was working. Having replaced the ignitor and control board in March we were a little surprised to find that either the ignitor or the control board are knackered and we can't get the parts until tomorrow. We are not alone, as evidenced by the scrum around the space heaters in Lowe's when I went to pick one up for Alasdair's room. The technician reckons all the power surges during Ike did a load of damage as they've been flat out busy all day.
The little man is not bothered... ...but he is easily distracted by gadgets.
I know, I know, I said "early next week" and it's now Wednesday and you've had no photos. Sorry. They're downloaded. I'll get them captioned and stuff soon. Meanwhile, here's a photo of Alasdair in his lovely new rugby top that his uncle Alex and auntie Fi bought him.
This means football and rugby are now claimed for Scotland. Sorry. I believe cricket is still up for grabs.
Dad is going to have to change the name of this blog to Alasdair's blog so I can tell everyone about my first trip to the UK. I arrived at Grandma and Granddad's on Tuesday. Apparently I was perfectly behaved on the flight over but I wouldn't know because I slept all the way. Travelling is very tiring, I even fell asleep on my new playmat I was so tired.
Grandma has a nice big bath for me to play in. It's a great improvement on the kitchen sink at home, I can swim around in this one. I'm just about getting over the jet lag. I'm sleeping through the night again so I've got more energy in the day to play. This new playmat is so comfy, I hope it fits in the suitcase to take back to Houston. And take note of all my new outfits that I finally get to wear. (Mum wouldn't let me wear them until we got here in case I messed them up)
We went to Bath on Friday for a look at the shops. There was a photo of me outside the Roman Baths but I'm so bundled up in blankets that you can't actually see me so I didn't blog it. We had a nice lunch, all of Mum's food looked really good, can't wait until I get old enough to try some.
And of course I've been into Chepstow a few times. Here's me posing outside the Castle. Maybe next time I visit I'll be awake to see it.
Next week I've got a busy schedule of appointments - cousins, uncles and aunts, Mum's friends - so keep checking back for more updates.
We went up to the Renaissance Festival last weekend, it was a lot of fun. Alasdair was so cute and charming that he attracted lots of attention.
In the end we had to disguise him with some cool shades. The day was really sunny and he found it hilarious every time I put these on him. I'll have to get him a pair of his own so I don't lose mine forever.
I also got to have a go on a bungee trampoline thing. It was great, despite the large amounts of greasy deep fried food consumed earlier in the day.
Friday night a couple of the families on the street hosted their annual Halloween party. Here's a bonus photo of two very scary characters...
Alasdair is now big enough to fit into some of the cool clothes various nice people sent. First up there's this cracker from Stephen and Louisa:
Mine too buddy, mine too.
Then there's this fantastic exercise in territory claiming by Innes and Susie, as exhibited at Kelly's first birthday party today:
Yep, that's a full Scotland strip. Nice. Let's see that in close up:
Mummy claims she doesn't mind, but she's also telling me she's buying an England rugby shirt when she's at home in November...let the arms race begin. Speaking of Mummy, apart from the fly away hair, she's happy enough with this pic to let me post it:
We needed some pictures of Alasdair on a white background for his U.S. and U.K. passports. Nikki got it done yesterday. Alasdair is stuck with this picture for 5 years! Should be interesting getting him through immigration in 2013. Here are the ones we had to choose from.
Here's a link to view them bigger and, should you need a full size version of any for printing and sticking on fridges, let us know.
Still no flipping power. I really shouldn't have got my hopes up. We've had enough, and, rather than sit around and get more and more wound up about it we've booked a suite at The Woodlands Resort for the weekend. The power may well come back on tomorrow, but we won't care, because we'll be pushing Alasdair around some of the 145 miles of hiking trails, or enjoying the Forest Oasis Waterscape, whatever that is. All I know is they have poolside bar service for me and Alasdair and Nikki's booked in for a well deserved pedicure. With any luck the power will be back when we return on Sunday afternoon, but, if it's not, at least one third of us will have wonderfully sculpted toes to kick Centerpoint's arses with.
Someone's happy to be 7 weeks old today: One good thing about Hurricanes: You get the swings to yourself. Morven and Andy's son Sean is on the right.
Another good thing about Hurricanes: You discover that Alasdair's Baba Bing changing mat may just be his favourite place to lie down in the whole world.
One of the many, many terrible things about Hurricanes: Traffic lights are out all over so the traffic is horrendous. These big tree trimming trucks were heading towards my neighbourhood but, sadly, drove on past.
We are still without power, but the street 3 roads to the south of us now has power, so I am hopeful about getting it sometime today.
Eleven! 11 fricking days since our power went off last Friday. I reserve the right to include Friday as one of those days and you really don't want to start a semantic argument with me right now. 34% of Centerpoint's customers are still without power and the three of us are part of that 767,000. No one has power in our area, so hopefully they'll turn up one day and blitz the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Kyle may form South of Puerto Rico in the next day or so. SciGuy says it's going North, which is usually good enough for me, but right now I'm feeling a little twitchy, so I'm keeping a close eye on it.
There's a sustained wind graph on that page that makes interesting reading. Nikki and I live at 29.66, -95.45, which puts us in or around the orange blob to the left of the eye's track. That may explain the 11 flipping days.
I've got some more pictures uploaded. Click through to the album for larger versions.
Nikki, Alasdair and I are still without power and staying with Morven and Andy. Our house is in Zip code 77035, which, on this link, is slated to be restored sometime after Monday. Mustafa and Salimah have their power back despite also being on the Monday list, so there's hope. We're in the same boat as half the rest of the city, so there's nothing we can do except be patient. CenterPoint are doing an astonishing job, having restored power to over 800,000 people in the last 7 days, only 1.2 million more to go.
Up and down our street from the bottom of the driveway. It's hard to pick up the details on some of these pics, since I've resized them.
September 12, 2008. 1:32pm: September 13, 2008. 10:49am: The little tree on our front lawn leans precariously. Two doors down, the entire front yard is now tree and across the road from them the top of a pine tree leans on a house. September 12, 2008. 1:32pm September 13, 2008. 10:49am: Trees stripped bare and the ground is covered in leaves. The street drains towards Cliffwood this way, so everyone got out early and cleared their gutters. At the top of the street the people in the corner houses lifted the drain covers off and removed tonnes of leaves in order to let the street drain.
I've just dumped the pics off my phone. These first 3 were taken at about 7:30am on Saturday while the storm was dying down. I was still a bit nervous about standing in front of a big pane of glass looking out at the backyard, so this one was taken from near the indestructible safety of the ugly sofa: No bananas for us this year. The oleanders hiding the pool equipment got destroyed too and I've no idea where the tree hanging over the fence came from, but a huge branch was standing up out of the recycle bin at the back: The guttering I spent a hot day putting up stood up pretty well, except for the bendy connector from here to the downspout, which was lying on the ground and is now back in place: Finally, some photographic evidence that the little man was unperturbed by the whole thing. Sound asleep in Morven and Andy's spare room last night: There are loads more pics on the other camera, I'll dump them later. For now I have to go repay my generous hosts by beating up their 5 year old son.
We spent last night in comfort at our friends, Morven and Andy's place. They even have internet access! Still no power down where we live, I went back today to grab some more clothes and open some windows. No-one in our area seems to have power yet. 7 miles away my office got power back last night and my team and I got all services back up for folks to come to work tomorrow. If they can make it. Nikki, the now thoroughly spoiled Alasdair, and I, will spend tonight here and then, not wishing to wear out our welcome, find a hotel to check into if we still have no power tomorrow.
There are long queues at all open gas stations, but navigating around the city was pretty easy and we still have enough petrol for another day or two. We also have my rental car back in the garage at home with a full tank, though with the Mazda out for repair I have a slightly smaller car that the baby seat won't fit in very well. The supermarkets nearby don't have a lot of food in them, but I did see an open McDonald's on my way back out here. Even though I haven't had a Big Mac in years, I was very, very, tempted to stop and get 5. Andy is grilling a delicious chicken concoction instead though, so I'm glad I resisted.
Thank you all for your kind comments and thoughts below. I suspected the news was showing footage of Galveston and claiming it was Houston so I'm glad we managed to keep you updated. Technology, eh? Funnily enough, all the old low tech stuff fared pretty well. The cell phone service was poor, texts were about all that worked for a couple of days, but our house phone never went out. Might have to start giving out the number and get a laptop with a modem.
Still no power here. I saw one power company truck yesterday, but despite my encouraging salute he didn't stop and hook us up. The temperature is okay and because we have gas we've got the stove and the hot water boiler working. Being able to shower and have a cup of tea make this much easier. My mobile blogger thing still won't let me send pics. We have load of photos from the area and will post them as soon as we have power. I can't read the blog myself, but Jen assured me, through the magic of text, that my post yesterday made it. Our home phone is working fine, but my laptop doesn't have a modem. I'm sure everyone out there knows a lot more about the situation than we do, but if they're only showing you bad stuff then don't worry, our area is in good shape. Doesn't seem like anyone took any real damage.
Hurricane Ike is heading for our region and some of you have expressed concern for our well being. Living on the gulf coast has turned us into weather nerds so we're probably much less worried than those of you living elsewhere. The two concerns with these events are water and wind.
Water: Our house is 50-odd miles inland and therefore not at risk from storm surge and, though we live near a bayou, our street is slightly higher than those surrounding it and according to our long-time resident neighbours did not flood during Carla, Alicia or Allison. With the speed Ike is moving at, it won't drop anywhere near as much water as Allison did on our area.
Wind: The house is also a good solid home that's stood up to a lot of wind in it's 50-odd years. As far inland as we are, the winds from Ike will probably be beneath Hurricane strength by the time it reaches us. Winds in the 60's or 70's are no picnic of course, but will not do any real damage to building structures. Trees in our neighbourhood are mature and our neighbours have done a great job of securing any loose debris.
All in all, we're pretty confident. We've set the nursery up as our shelter, it's in the middle of the house, we've boarded the window and we're ready to go. We've got loads of food, plenty of booze (and water) and the cars are full of gas. If the power goes out and looks like it's going to stay out for a while then for Alasdair's sake, we're evacuating to Jen's house after the storm passes, but until then, we're here and we're in good shape.
Sadly, Nikki's drinking ability has not returned and she needs to feed Alasdair, so we won't be playing the Hurricane reporter drinking game this time around. I'm going to have to keep an eye on her though as I suspect she's planning on putting the patio window in so that the ugly sofa gets trashed.
I'll keep the blog updated as long as we have power and comms, but I'm not expecting to have much to report.
The best source for information on tropical weather in our area is the Houston Chronicle's SciGuy. You might also want to check out the pretty cool StormPulse and of course, the source for all of the info everyone else uses, the National Hurricane Center. All the information from NHC is good, but the discussion is where you'll get the most info about what it's doing and where it's going.
Most of all, remember that reporters on the telly have been sitting around watching not much happening for hours on end. They get bored and tired of repeating the same stuff too and sometimes fill the hours with outrageous statements. Don't let them stress you out. We'll catch you all on the other side.
Lost tourist looking for the Galleria. He's in the left turn only lane, here. Nikki, Alasdair and I are in the lane to his right, which is left turn or straight. He goes straight, I go left. He's in a big SUV I'm in my Mazda 6. He wins. It was a low speed collision. Everyone was fine. Alasdair barely even work up.I am resisting the urge to buy a new car. So far.