In like a lion…

March 2020, in like a lion, out like a freaking atomic bomb.

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Usually one of my favorite months… ushering in Spring, wildflowers, bird migration, beautiful weather.   This year it brought so much more for us to deal with.  I’m looking ahead to better things.

Take care, everybody!

A real treat.

I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in.   Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera.   The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits.  Welllllll.  I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.

I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:

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A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo.  I caught him here mid-song:

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And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers.  They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving!  This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:

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Nice.  Very nice.  🙂

Hunter, gatherer, … e-shopping commando.

I am taking this social distancing thing seriously.   But that means getting food in the house is a challenge.  I’m not really concerned about the amount of time it would take me to shop in these current times, with lines and limitations on the number of people allowed in a store at a time.  But I would really like to remain outside of COVID-19’s chain of transmission for a while.  Not to bring it home.  Not to pass it on to multiple other people.  So, I have taken to the interwebz to find delivery service and/or curbside pickup service options for my nearby grocery stores.  It’s not as simple as I thought.

In-store inventories are low, though continually being restocked.  So, even if I am able to find an item in a specific store, it may not be on the shelf when my real-life-shopper-hero goes to find it.  So there will be items substituted for the ones I wanted; some of which I get to pick, some I just have to live with.  Different grocery stores, even of the same chain, carry different items.  So, I have had to search individual stores to find specific items.

The bigger challenge has been finding a delivery window or curbside pickup window.  Most of the stores and services I have looked at in my busy corner of Austin have either no open windows at all, or the first ones are a week to 10 days out.  So I’ve had to be patient and persistent.  And, I have taken to placing an order ahead of time for each week and it is working ok for now.  Once an order is in the queue, I can add a few last-minute items to it before it is fulfilled.

I am using a combination of Shipt.com’s delivery service, from HEB, and HEB curbside pickup.  I’ve been happy with both.  Target also offers drive-up (in their parking lot) delivery, which has to be initiated from their app, not the target.com website.  I haven’t tried it yet.

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Wine and beer aren’t being delivered by most grocery stores, as that would require interacting with the delivery person to check the recipient’s ID, and the delivery companies are really trying to make each delivery interaction-free to keep their employees safer.   So I wanted to find an alternative source that would deliver alcohol to the house as well.  Solution:  Costco delivery!  Thanks for the tip, Lori 🙂  Costco uses Instacart.com for their same-day deliveries.  I had to wait a day and a half for any delivery window at all to appear, but one eventually did this morning.  It is 5 days away, and I grabbed it.

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There have been a couple of food items that have been extremely hard to locate, but I stumbled upon Amazon.com’s Amazon Fresh store online, available for Prime members.  Yesterday I ordered found a couple of items I haven’t located anywhere else, and they were delivered within 2 hours!

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I know I am one of the fortunate ones to be able to afford this luxury.  And I am thankful for that.  I hope my using the service and tipping well helps the workers on the front lines.  My goal is to try to avoid placing a MEGA grocery order for things I really don’t need right now.  And, rather, place several small orders, spaced out over the next few weeks to get only things we need, leaving the rest in the store for others to buy.

Shop on!  And be well.

P.S.  I just love HEB.  They are more than a grocery chain to Texans.  They are integrated into their communities across the state, especially in times of disaster, be it a hurricane, mass-shooting, or pandemic.  Their motto is “No store does more than HEB.”  That is the truth.  Here is a great article on their preparations for the times in which we find ourselves:   https://www.texasmonthly.com/food/heb-prepared-coronavirus-pandemic/

 

New tricks.

Social distancing is turning into social isolation. To keep my sanity, I’ve been trying to find new ways to play with old friends. Like making up new games to play on zoom video conferences and WhatsApp group chats. Here’s one: an endless game of “picture UNO.”

My sister is going to teach me how to play Settlers of Catan together using zoom video conferencing.

I found a surprisingly well done website for multi-player card games like pinochle; it’s called trickstercards.com. You can play in a browser or on a mobile device using their app. Tonight we played 4-handed pinochle with Doray and Tom from our respective bunkers.

Now I need to find one for cribbage.

Where there’s a will there’s a way.

Distantialism.

Distantialism; a word I made up to capture the way of life we have all been suddently asked to embrace due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Keeping in touch via technology:  We have been keeping to the house for the last week or so, even before the City of Austin declared a shelter-in-place order last night for the next 2-3 weeks.

I’ve been using video chat apps like zoom and skype to keep in touch with multiple groups of friends and family at a time.  Alternatives didn’t meet my needs; Facetime doesn’t run on non-Apple platforms, and WhatsApp only supports chats amongst 4 people at a time.

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My niece introduced me to the marco polo app, which I can only describe as a group texting app, except instead of just asynchronously texting eachother, you can send video clips to eachother which can be viewed by the recipient(s) at their leisure, and then subsequently responded to.  You can also use it for real-time communication, though, in which case, as my niece describes it, it works kind of like a video “walkie-talkie” where each person takes turns “talking” by sending small video clips.

Grocery shopping without going to the grocery store:  I have tried using our local grocery chain (HEB’s) delivery and curbside services.  I can’t say how that has gone, though, since the first delivery slot available when I placed my order 8 days ago, was for tomorrow.  So I get to wait another day and see what actually gets delivered.   Their curbside pickup/delivery timeslots are booked 10 days to two weeks ahead of time now, so I’m not sure how much more experience I’ll get with them.

I signed up for Shipt.com, in the hopes that I could schedule a much sooner grocery delivery.  The membership fee is about $99 for a year, or $15/month.  They had an opening for the next day, so I decided to try it out.   It actually worked well.  My shopper texted me when an item that I wanted wasn’t available, so I could pick a substitute from the available items.  There was a bit of a snag on the delivery end, but it all worked out in the end.  🙂

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Entertaining myself:  I’ve been taking walks in the neighborhood and nearby parks, streaming TV shows and movies, watching the many now live-streamed instead of in-person events, gardening, and whatever else my heart desires (that I can do in the confines of my house and/or yard).

I hope you are all faring well.  Take care.

Keeping it real.

The world out there seems to be going nuts.  Kids are home for weeks.  States and entire countries are on lockdown.  Countries are closing their borders.  The market is in the tank.  We are on the front end of an exponential infection curve.  People are hoarding things that other people need.  There will be many more people who will die from this pandemic, sadly.   But, it’s not the end of the world.  Life must go on.  What matters is how we feel inside, how we treat others, and trying to think about the good things we share.

Today is Monte’s birthday.  So, today, we’re celebrating that.  🙂  Be well, and stay home if you can manage it.

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Redbud.

My favorite flowering tree is the Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis).  Their blooms are fleeting but gorgeous, some of the first of the year.  This bee likes them, too.

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Out and about.

Last night I ventured downtown to celebrate Lori’s birthday.  It was nice to catch up with everyone that could make it.  In the midst of the state of emergency declarations and the cancellation of SXSW, it felt odd to be walking along not-busy streets of South Congress where it would have otherwise been packed shoulder-to-shoulder with crowds.  We are living through some weird times.

Happy Birthday Lori!

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Escape.

The societal and financial market upheaval caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is mounting at a feverish pitch (pardon the pun).  It is incredible to watch it unfold.

To get away from it, I retreated to the outdoors for some much-needed weeding and gardening.  About 3 years ago I started a small bed in the backyard intended for butterflies, bees, and birds.  Yesterday, I rummaged through it a square foot at a time, removing unwanted weeds, leaving the perennials that I want to see bloom again.  The bed is mostly sage, salvia, purple coneflower, scabiosa, and a few volunteers that I will have to wait a bit to correctly identify.  It doesn’t look like much today, but soon it will be filled again with blooms and flying fauna.

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Rainy day project.

I knocked out a quick project today as rain soaked the yard. It’s a bag to hold a 3L boxed-wine bladder. Boats don’t much like things made out of cardboard; roaches do. So we don’t bring cardboard on-board. This bag will hold, hang, and dispense the wine instead, so we can toss the box for recycling. Yes, that’s right, I just ooze class. 🙂

Hanging in there.

I planted this impatiens last spring. I typically lose my annuals over the winter and just plant new ones in the spring. I babied this one through our warm winter and it has rewarded me with these beautiful late-winter blooms.

Swing into spring.

I just finished a new canopy cover for my friend, Irene’s, garden swing.  I popped over this morning and we put it on.  Looks great!

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Aloft!

Okay, I’m a tiny bit ecstatic. I finished the mainsail repairs today. And the slow, endless rain of the last week or so has moved on. So we drove out to the marina and tied the main back on, then took Nirvana out for a sail for the first time in about 3 months. We hoisted both the main and the jib. It was the first time taking Nirvana out since I repaired each of the sails. The winds were light, but I loved seeing them out and in the wind.