All moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to the women who made us! I enjoy seeing all the photos posted by those marking the day, whether they are daughter, son, husband, mom, father, or friend.

I miss my own mom immensely. I feel the pain of friends who were denied the blessing of becoming a mom. I see the joy and pain of my friends and family mothers who live the ups and downs of their dear ones. This week I went to lunch with a friend who recently lost her 20-something son. She is strong and full of grace, but I cannot begin to imagine how terribly difficult this is for her.

So today, let us remember all moms — those who are here, passed, mourning, struggling, wishing, or praying — Amen.

Shocking.

They say April showers bring May flowers.  But, they also bring colossal bolts of lightning.  We had some potent ones during the storms over the weekend.  Monte is still piling up and fixing the carnage at the chez.  The photo below doesn’t include the internet modem/router box that we had to replace, and two fried GFCI outlets, one fritzy raspberry pi, an LCD monitor power pack, and who knows what else.

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On a positive note, Monte didn’t get killed when he was outside and lightning struck nearby.

Score!

I’m so excited!  I have several custom searches saved in my profile on craigslist that I check every few days to see if THAT-ONE-THING ever comes up for sale at a crazy good price.   Today something popped up in my gardening & outdoors search that I just couldn’t pass up.  I was all over it within minutes of its posting and swooped in for the sale.  I picked up all of these ceramic pots & pavers for a song (plus a couple big sago palms and succulents as a bonus).  And it ALL fit in the back of my SUV.

I’m one happy girl with dirty fingernails.  🙂

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Brushing up on Texas history.

Austinites have several nice museums to visit.  The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is one, and  it is loaded with a number of permanent and rotating exhibits about all things Texas.  On the first Sunday of each month, admission is free, or to be more accurate, HEB picks up the tab (another reason HEB is the best grocery store, hands down, ever).

I like to visit a couple of times a year to see the new exhibits.  In particular today we went to see the Becoming Texas exhibit, and to see the new permanent exhibit for the 17th century recovered French ship that wrecked off of the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1686, La Belle.

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The 54′ La Belle, or at least the portions of the timbers that remain of it, on display at the museum.  This ship crossed the Atlantic, brought munitions, provisions and trade goods to the New World, and then sank off the Texas Gulf Coast.   If you live in or near Austin, you should check out the museum.  Ideally on a free First Sunday.

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Afterwards we visited Zilker Brewing; we’re slowly working our way across all the breweries in Austin.  One must have goals.

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2018 happened.

The year was full of the usual fun times spent with Monte, our friends, as much family visits we could squeeze in, and my girl posse.  I stopped coloring my hair.  I gained too much weight.  I missed my mom often.  I was continually enchanted by Keeto.  People often ask me what I do with my oodles of free time.  On the spot, I usually can’t think of what the heck I’ve done to fill the days and weeks of this year of retirement.  So, I spent some time today scanning the photos I took this year, to jog my memory for some highlights.

January brought many birding day trips and a number of lifers.  More special were visits with 2 of my high school friends.  Pilar was in Austin for business and looked me up.  We hadn’t seen each other for … decades, not counting one brief wedding visit that happened many moons ago.  We’d reconnected on social media several years back, but it was really wonderful to get a face to face visit in.   Another friend from high school, Irene, texted me to see if I could join her in Lubbock, of all places, while she was there for her son’s sports event.  And so I took a road trip and saw some interesting things along the way.

February brought a huge leap of faith, a drive to Florida with Lori, Monte & Joe, and then a journey across the Gulf of Mexico by sailboat to bring Lori’s new-to-her sailboat home to the Texas coast.  It was an awesome and challenging trip.

March brought a really memorable road trip across Arizona and New Mexico.  We celebrated Monte, Gene and Susanne’s birthdays together.  I saw a couple dozen lifer bird species.  Tucson, with its Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, is a truly amazing birding destination.  And on the way home, we saw some glorious works of nature and man.  We spent 2 days on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, staying overnight in a cabin sitting about 50 feet away from the rim.   We marveled at a ginormous meteor crater off of I-40 on the drive to Santa Fe.   Then we spent 2 days in Santa Fe, staying at the luxurious Spa at Loretto.   We saw more new birds there, but the highlight was a visit to the Loretto Chapel, with its spiral staircase that legend says might have been constructed with divine intervention.

April brought a number of trips to the coast; one special one to visit High Island during a Spring fallout, and another girl’s trip to Kemah to officially rename Lori’s boat, S/V Trident.  But if that wasn’t enough, I joined Irene again, this time for a week in Italy.  I thoroughly enjoyed Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terra and points in between.

May brought more trips to the coast to help Lori with Trident repairs and projects.  It also marked the return of warm weather and lots of fun boat outings on Lake Travis with friends and family on Nirvana.

June and July were full of projects at the house, in the shop, and in the yard.  We popped down to the coast again, a time or two, and really enjoyed our almost full lake during the peak of the heat of summer.  We delivered a beautiful table that Monte made for Doray and Tom in their new home in Wimberly.

August brought another trip to the Texas coast – to crew for Lori and Mike on their first shake-down cruise on Trident since she arrived in Texas.  We sailed out to the Gulf of Mexico and down to Port Aransas.  We stayed for a couple nights in the municipal marina there, and enjoyed one of our favorite towns on the Texas Gulf Coast, before our return sail to Kemah.  Then we popped up to Seattle for a very overdue trip.   We stayed two weeks, encased in smoke from the nearby fires, but did enjoy immensely seeing our family, and a bonus of 2 clear days on the Pacific coast of Washington.

September brought a month of non-stop rain to Austin.  So we busied ourselves with more projects in the house.   I began to dabble with sewing canvas projects for the boat.  Monte made sawdust and honed his web site and various GPS apps.

October brought another trip to Kemah.  I became a novice diesel engine mechanic.  We also experienced historic flooding amongst the Highland Lakes.   Monte worked on shop projects for a client or two.  Autumn arrived in Texas, which I love only second to Spring in Texas.

And then it was suddenly November!  Monte made another trip down to Kemah to help with last-minute projects.  Thanksgiving happened.   Then we made one final trip to Kemah together at the end of the month to bid bon voyage to Lori and Mike, and their crew, Janet and Will, taking Trident back east to Florida.

December brought the usual whirlwind of decorating, baking, parties, Christmas shopping, visiting with friends, and eating too much.  And now, POOF, it’s the last day of the year.

Tomorrow, I will gear up to do it all again – starting a new year with an as-yet-unknown set of trips, projects, visits, fun and (hopefully only occasional) troubles that lay ahead.    I am truly blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

Very merry.

I joined some friends yesterday at Ann’s house for nibblies and libations.  Then we all walked down to Mozart’s on Lake Austin to watch their Christmas light display.  It was a beautiful night, with a clear sky and a nearly full moon.  You should check it out, too!

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Counting birds.

I participated in my 3rd Christmas Bird Count today.  Our small group of four birders hiked for over 6 hours and logged 45 species.  Our counts will be rolled up with the other teams’ results.

A foggy morning over the Pedernales River….

turned into a beautiful day above the Pedernales River.

What a lovely day!

B-bye BB’s.

Last night Monte and I went to our local pub for dinner and to watch Monday Night Football. Since we don’t have cable, we have to go out to watch the Seahawks play. We won! 🙂

It was bittersweet, though. Our local favorite and most awesome pub, BB Rover’s, is closing for good in 2 weeks. 😦

I’ve enjoyed lots of good times and good beers in that place over the last 23 years. Post-softball-game celebrations, after-work happy hours, St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinners, darts, Austin Sailing Society meet-ups, live music and open-mic night, and many games of pinochle with friends. It is very sad to see it go.

Fare thee well, BB Rover’s.

G’nite y’all.

We had a bit of a Wii frisbee golf-a-thon tonight. As I turned out the kitchen lights at the end of the night, the silhouetted tulips caught my eye. Keeto says, “night night go seepies.” So, off I go… 🙂

No lions, tigers, or bears.

I checked the SD card on my critter cam yesterday.  I moved it a few weeks ago to point at the opening of a burrow I discovered that some animal had recently dug in the middle of our back lot.  I just wanted to see what I could see.  I captured countless daytime visiting backyard bird species (doves, blue jays, cardinals, titmice, wrens, mockingbirds,…).   But it turns out, it’s quite the popular nightspot.  Here are some snaps…it’s a jungle out there.  I thought these were the most interesting visitors.

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Nine-banded Armadillo – time to set up the trap again
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Gray Fox – we’ve seen this guy during the daytime as well
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Damn cat – this guy and several buddies are out here day and night, chasing my birds away
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Opossum
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Cooper’s Hawk – bottom left of frame
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Racoon – this guy also stars in some crittercam footage I took of our trash can
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Another dillo – this one is posing standing up on his hind legs, almost cute, no?

 

In case you are interested, this is a nice reference for wildlife of Texas put out by Texas Parks and Wildlife.

 

Fountain 4.0.

A year or two ago, I installed a small water feature under the oaks next to our back patio. It was a small fountain powered by a tiny water pump (4W, 80 gallons per hour). The birds have enjoyed it almost as much as I have.

The first pump lasted about a year. I clean it every few weeks. But one day it just stopped working. No problem. I ordered another pump from amazon and installed it. A week later some varmit pulled the pump out of the water basin, and it ran dry until it melted. 😦

I bought a third pump and the same thing happened; probably by the same damn varmit. 😡

This time, I’ve placed the pump under a rock and added a piece of plastic tubing to carry a stream of water through holes in the rock onto the pebbles below.

Wish me luck!

Sterling silver jewelry cleaning technique.

I’ve read about an easy do it yourself way to clean up tarnished sterling silver jewelry. I finally got around to trying it today.

You’ll need:

– a piece of aluminum foil
– bowl
– boiling water, 1-2 cups
– baking soda, 1 Tablespoon per cup of boiling water
– some tarnished silver jewelry to clean

Crumple up the foil really well, place in an empty bowl, and nestle each piece of jewelry into the foil so it is making good contact with the foil. This is really important to ensure the electrochemical reaction required to clean the silver.

Boil the water, add baking soda, stir well and then pour into the bowl with jewelry and foil. The chemical reaction to remove the tarnish from the silver will bubble while it’s happening.

Wait 15 minutes or so. Remove jewelry and rinse well.

Tarnish results from silver reacting with sulfur-laden substances in the air, forming black silver sulfide on the surface of the silver. This technique reverses that reaction, causing the sulfur to instead move to the aluminum in the foil.

Before:

After:

Wasn’t that easy?! 🙂