New Place.

I ventured down south this week to check out The Austin Winery’s tasting room. It is on St. Elmo off South Congress. It’s surrounded by lots of other spots to visit, a food truck, outdoor patio, and a big, open warehouse space inside. Pick a tasting trio of wines, a glass, or a bottle, and nice nibblies.

It’s a nice spot to enjoy happy hour. Check ‘em out!

CBC 2021.

This year was my fifth year participating in the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Doray and I joined a bunch of other birders to count birdies in the Westcave area. Over 8 hours we logged 7+ miles and ~40 species over 3 different properties. I haven’t birded much this year. Other things have crammed their way in to fill my free hours. But I do enjoy walking around with my eyes on the treetops.

The temperatures started out in the mid-60s this year, instead of the 30s, for a change. No rain. Just a perfect day to tramp around the hill country trying to tell one Sparrow species from another.

Nice. Very nice.

Reflections on the Pedernales River near Westcave Preserve.

From the hack to the house with the rock.

Last night Monte and I went curling. Yes, that’s right. After spending many hours apres-ski on the couch in our condo on countless ski trips watching curling in the Winter Olympics, we tried the real thing. And we had a blast, eh!?

CurlAustin is a club that has its own ice (called the “Pond”), competitive curling leagues that anyone can join, and it also has for-fee 2 hour group lessons. They had us curling, safely, in no time. They are located right next door to Austin Beerworks, which is convenient for grabbing a frosty post-bonspiel beverage.

We joined six other newbies, divided up into two teams, and finished several ends. It was loads of fun. I highly recommend giving it a try.

It’s good to be yellow. We won this end with 4 counters (two of those were mine!)

Goals.

I’m not a bucket list person. But I am motivated by a challenge. And I love the outdoors. I’ve only recently sort of slid into this “see as many National Parks as I can” thing. But now it’s a thing I’d like to do. Before this week, I visited 10 of the current 63 U.S. National Parks in the National Park Service. As of today, my total is up to 14. 49 to go. And, they add new parks every year or two, so I need to step up my game.

Lori has a National Park Geek sticker on her car’s roof-top carrier. So, of course, I wanted one. I got the pin 🙂

I now am starting work on an itinerary, and on Monte to join me, for a long road trip to see several of the National Parks out west. Stay tuned.

Any reason to celebrate.

Today is National Champagne Day! At least that what some of the Google search results tell me. But it could also be on December 31st, or October 22, or some other day in May. No matter. As long as there is an excuse to make a toast with bubbly, I’m in.

Today I am toasting to a big step forward in the remodel project of our hall bath. I started tearing out the 1980s-era terracotta floor tile in November of 2019. We drug out the ginormous cultured marble countertops and wall-sized mirror. New countertops, sinks, faucets and wall paint went up in early 2020. Then COVID happened, which slowed things down quite a bit. Monte put new face frames on the cabinets and painted them, and they look fantastic. But the bare slab floor hung with us for over a year.

As of today, I’m loving the new floor tile and backsplash. Next up: new baseboards.

Celebrate the little things. And keep moving on.

It’s alive!

After the prolonged deep freeze we experienced in February, our giant sago palm appeared to be dead. Until about a month ago, I saw no signs of life. I’m very happy to report that now it is teeming with new growth. Yay, Nature!

Half and half.

I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Today is July 1st, and you can either consider that the year is half over, or there is an entire half a year left. I will take the latter view. Time does fly by, but I’m trying to enjoy the present and look forward to the future.

We’ve been busy. Working on house projects, boat projects, yard work, getting out and enjoying the lake, and, thankfully, finally spending time with friends face to face again.

The dishwasher conked out, and we installed the new one ourselves, as the first available installation appointment was weeks out. No thank you. AND, it works!

We’re enjoying the boat. The lake and our favorite coves are busy and packed with boats, but we’ve figured out that if we head out to anchor right before sunset, the majority of people have headed home. So, we have plenty of room to anchor and enjoy a peaceful sunset.

Monte’s below watching golf as I motor us over to Arky North.

I got together with friends to celebrate Laura’s birthday in Lori’s new home. Getting this up close and personal with people outside my bubble a year ago was unthinkable. I’m glad we are where we are now. We played some fun new games that Tina introduced us to. This is an action shot from “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza,” a fun, silly, fast-paced game. I recommend it if you’re looking for a fun game to play with a bunch of your vaccinated friends. 🙂

The cycle of life.

We welcomed a new Weber grill into the fold today. We have 2 or 3 out back at a time, but when we burn through a grate or the body of a kettle, it’s time for a new one and recycle the old one.

So shiny!

Clean socks!

A couple of days ago, I observed over the course of a few hours Monte coming in from his shop project du jour, going into the laundry room, swearing, and then going back out to the shop. This happened at least three times. I finally asked him what was up. He said he was just trying to do a load of laundry because he needed a clean pair of socks. But the washing machine wasn’t cooperating. Every time he came in the machine had stopped, unlocked the door and the laundry inside was drenched.

Having fixed one of our washing machine problems a little over a year ago myself (a leaking rubber door gasket), I decided to try and figure out what was wrong this time.

The symptoms:

  • the wash cycle would not complete
  • it would start filling the tub, putting way more water in than I have ever noticed before, up to about 6″ up from the bottom of the door window.
  • at 45 minutes left in the wash cycle, it would stop filling, unlock the door, and blink the start/pause light
  • a 12 minute drain and spin cycle would sometimes work to drain the tub. Sometimes not.

After doing some research online, and messing around with the washer for a bit, I thought we had at least 2 problems:

  • the drain pump, which empties the tub and sends the water out the drain hose into the wall, was not working consistently. I took that out and Monte hooked it up in the shop to a switch, and sure enough, it would only turn on about 2 out of 10 tries.
  • the water level switch hose (a rubber 3/8″ hose) had a hole in it, which prevented the fill computer from correctly detecting the level of the water in the tub. Wear on that hose can happen over time from abrasion against the side of the washer tub and housing.

The website AppliancePartsPros.com is great resource for how-to videos, and also to follow discussion threads from other DIYers.

Our washing machine is a 12-year old GE Model WCVH6800J1WW. The 2 parts we needed were the drain pump (part #WH23X10028), and water level switch hose (part #WH41X10129). I ordered certified GE OEM replacement parts. The fix was easy, requiring only a phillips screwdriver and some pliers.

The two videos I watched to understand how to replace the parts I ordered were:

The first load just finished, and we finally have clean socks!

Finally out of the deep freeze.

Wow. What a week. We had nearly 6″ of beautiful, powdery snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Then Texas broke. Or at least the electricity generators did, leading to a majority of homes in Austin and other cities throughout the state to have their electricity turned off. It wasn’t a rolling blackout for many. It was several days without electricity, with temperatures between 0 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit for most of those days.

We didn’t lose power at our house, for which I can only attribute to sharing a circuit with hospitals, a firehouse, and a couple of assisted living facilities. But crazy, scary times for many people.

Five days later, the temperatures are now in the high 50s, and will be even higher over the next week.

We drove to the lake today to check on the boat, and everything looks fine. The water temperature keeps the hull warmer than freezing, which insulates the plumbing that is below the waterline.

There was a little snow left on the decks almost a week after it fell, a first for us to see.

I am thankful for our good fortune, and hope that life soon returns to whatever normal it was before the cold weather arrived.

Big day.

Today was the day to re-raise the mast on Julie & Ryan’s boat. New windex, new lights, new halyards, new topping lift, new flag halyard, new sheaves, new wiring, new switches, refurbished outboard motor, replaced bulkhead mid-ships in the salon, chain plates reinforced, and some much-mended sails and boat canvas. I can’t wait to get out on the lake with these sailors. Next up: installing the boom, mainsail, and jib. Then we’ll take her for a sail!

What the dukkah?!

Colleen turned me on to a new taste treat, an Egyptian-heritage nut and spice blend. Apparently Trader Joe’s sells some. Instead of running out to the store, I asked Google for help finding a recipe and picked this one because I had all the ingredients for it. I just made some and I like it. You can serve it in another dipping dish alongside bread and olive oil, pita and hummus, or veggies and hummus, or whatever else floats your boat.

Click through here to see the recipe as I found it. I used almonds instead of hazelnuts.

On top of the world.

Most days, Keeto likes to leave his cage and fly around the house. I think he enjoys the exercise and the freedom. He has a couple of favorite perch locations that he flits between. Sometimes he likes to play hide and seek with us, though, and will land somewhere different and sit still as we look around for him. This morning I spied him sitting on a globe that I have placed atop an armoire in a far corner of the gameroom. I had to sneak a photo with my telephoto lens from across the house. 🙂 You’re IT, Keeto.

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