Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.

Today I went birding with my friend, Doray, to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.   I’m a novice.  I was able to get a lot of amazing photos of tree branches.  :)   If I ever get an amazing photo of a bird, I may share here.  But for now, I won’t bore you with it.   We did see several kinds of birdies, so I’m calling it a success.

Here are two non-bird shots from the morning:

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Knocked one off the bucket list.

Over the weekend I took a roadtrip with 4 girlfriends to Big Bend National Park in far southwest Texas.   I’ve lived in Texas over 20 years and have never made it out there.   And it was long overdue.   It is all that they say it is.   Big, beautiful, rugged, inspiring, with mountain, desert and river views to die for.

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We made it!

Six and a half hours by car from Austin, we made it to Ft. Davis by about 7pm Friday night.  We had reservations to attend one of the evening Star Parties held 3 times a week at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory, and made it with a little time to spare.   The skies were dark and the stars were out.   The Milky Way was amazing.   The stars and constellations visible to the naked eye were too many to count.  Through the telescopes they had placed for visitors, I saw Saturn, the Andromeda Galaxy, M11 star cluster, and the 2 star clusters in the Perseus constellation.   If you’re going to make the trip all the way out to Big Bend, you really should combine it with a trip to the observatory.   Get tickets ahead of time online.   They sell out frequently and have to turn people away.

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McDonald Observatory giant telescopes on the hill – viewed from where we stayed outside of Fort Davis

Saturday morning we drove to Big Bend and hiked inside of Big Bend National Park.   Saturday afternoon we did the Window Trail – to experience the Chisos Mountains part of Big Bend.   Four hours round trip, a moderately challenging hike, with breathtaking scenery all along the way.

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The Window in the Chisos Mountains from the beginning of the Window Trail.

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The Window view at the pour-off at the end of the trail. Watch your step!

We started Sunday at Santa Elena Canyon at dawn – to experience the Rio Grand river part of Big Bend.  It was about an easy 2 hour hike roundtrip – though we had to bushwack a bit to get onto the trail.  The Rio Grande has sliced a 1500′ deep canyon through the mountain there.  At sunrise, the face of the sheer mountain walls glow in the brightening sunlight.

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The Santa Elena Canyon trail, looking northeast with the sun rising over the Rio Grande.

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About a mile and a half into the Santa Elena Canyon trail along the Rio Grande.

Sunday afternoon we hiked the Mule Ears Springs trail – to experience the Chihuahuan Desert part of Big Bend.   A 3 hour hike, moderate difficulty, mainly due to the rough terrain and 90+ degree temperatures.  Packing water with you is a must!

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Mule Ears, in the distance on the left, from the Mule Ears Springs trail.

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From the Mule Ears Springs trail, looking back south to Santa Elena Canyon in the distance.

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Chihuahuan Desert scape, looking north to the mountains from the south side of the park.

Another very awesome trip.  We hiked our butts off.

Super hunter’s moon 2016.

I enjoyed playing with my big-girl-camera while photographing the moon last night.  The first one was right after it rose above the horizon, and the second was shot a while (and many frames) later.  I was especially pleased that I got a good shot or two given that I took them from the boat.  It’s a magical time for a moon dance….

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Scenes from the weekend.

We rafted up with Marty & Sue in Bee Creek over the weekend.  No wind, but we had beautiful weather.

We were treated to an exceptionally stunning sunset Saturday evening.  This photo is not edited; the colors really were that amazing.

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And in the morning we were surrounded by hazy fog rising off the warmer-than-air lake water.

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Twas beautiful, indeed.

Late bloomer.

I planted a 2-gallon sized Pride of Barbados shrub yesterday.   It’s a bit late in the season, but I’m hoping that planting it now will give it a good month or so to acclimate to its new home before the cold weather hits.  That should make for a good winter’s nap before spring.  We’ll see.  If this one doesn’t pan out, Monte’s starting a few from seed.

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Birdies above. 

At home I am feeling the absence of the little birdies and squirrels lately.  They started making themselves scarce about the same time a hawk was spotted swooping around the trees in our yard.   Hopefully this won’t last long. 

In the mean time, I was thrilled to see a flock of 20 or more Monk Parakeets flying around the Lamar & 51st street area as we headed home from dinner tonight.  We stalked them for a while but didn’t get a great shot. 

This is a picture of them near one of their nests.   I count 16 or so in this shot.  Kind of reminds me of a musical scale with the birds as the notes. 

Subterranean Jazz. 

I met some girlfriends downtown last night to listen to a band at The Elephant Room –  Kris Kimura’s Wasabi Grande Big, big band.  Now, that’s a big band!

Low-light shot of the back of the room. 

Garbage-pail pasta before & after.

Garbage-pail pasta is a quick dinner dish that I throw together using whatever is in the fridge.   Last night’s version featured:

  • leftover chicken breast meat from the day before – diced (8-10 ounces)
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp each of kosher salt & ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces of dry bowtie pasta, cooked before it is added to sauce
  • 1 cup of half & half
  • 2 cups of baby spinach – coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese

Pre-cook pasta in salted water.   Save the pasta water to use it to thin the cream sauce later, if needed.

I use a 4-5 quart saute pan/pot to make the sauce, so that it is big enough to hold both the sauce and the cooked pasta when it is added later.

Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat, until soft.   Add in the pre-cooked chicken, salt & pepper, and stir for another few minutes til chicken is warm.  Add flour and stir, to coat meat and veggies (this will help thicken the cream sauce later).

Add half & half and stir until sauce begins to thicken.   Add small amounts of pasta water if sauce gets too thick.  Stir in parmesan and spinach, for a minute or two.  Then turn off heat under sauce.  Add drained, cooked pasta to the sauce and stir.

Before:

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And after:

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Not bad.  This dish would easily serve 4.  Next time, I’d add more mushrooms.

A day in the life of the sky.

We spent Saturday & Sunday nights on the lake this past weekend with Marty & Sue.   As I looked back over the photos I took, I was captivated by the different colors in the sky from shot to shot.  These are several from a 24 hour period, Saturday evening to Sunday evening.

Saturday sunset:

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Crescent moon and Venus in Saturday’s twilight:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunrise on Sunday:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thunder-boomer building Sunday night:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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And the crescent moon again, Sunday night:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Life is good.