Enchanted hike.

Several girlfriends and I made a roadtrip last week to Enchanted Rock state park, about an hour and 45 minute drive southwest of Austin.  I have been there several times, and have hiked to the summit, but love to go back anytime.   This was the first visit for my friends.  We hiked to the summit and enjoyed the views.  Then we hiked a couple of the other trails, which I had never done before.  I recommend taking the time to do it, if you can.   Remember to bring along drinking water for your hike.  You’ll want it.  🙂

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A survey marker atop the 1823′ summit

Make sure you check out their website before heading out for trail / park closure information and rules about pets, camping, parking, etc.

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Looking SW at neighboring Little Peak from the S side of Enchanted Rock

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Looking NE from the N side of Enchanted Rock

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A little oasis along Turkey Pass Trail

Year of the Rooster.

In honor of the 2017 Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, I whipped up a little chicken stir fry.  Delicious.

Chicken Stir-fry (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1lb), sliced thinly
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 T grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 head of cut broccoli florets
  • 4-6 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 T oil with high smoke-point (e.g., peanut or sesame)
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice

Combine corn starch, soy sauce and chicken broth in large bowl, and stir until smooth.  Add ginger, garlic and pepper flakes to liquid and stir.  Marinate sliced chicken in this mixture for at least 30 mins.  Stir occassionally.

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Place wok or saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 T oil and saute onions, mushrooms, broccoli and water chestnuts, stirring, until tender (5-7 minutes).  Empty these cooked veggies into a clean bowl and set aside.

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Add 1 T oil to wok/saucepan and add chicken slices, reserving liquid marinade until a bit later.  Brown chicken 2-3 minutes per side.

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Add remaining liquid marinade and veggies back to wok/saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occassionally, to allow sauce to thicken.

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Serve over cooked rice.

Add more/different veggies, cashews, or other favorite ingredients, to taste.

 

 

Remembering the Alamo.

We have out-of-town family visiting us this week, and today we headed to San Antonio.  It has been a long time since my last visit to the Alamo.  So, it was nice to visit again to get a Texas history refresher.

The rain finally let up, the sky cleared and the sun came out, making for a nice afternoon.

The Alamo is hallowed ground, given the loss of life there in 1836 of those trying to defend a foothold in the battle for Texas independence.  A plaque on the door reads:

“BE SILENT, FRIEND.  HERE HEROES DIED TO BLAZE A TRAIL FOR OTHER MEN.”

If you are patient, you might be able to get a picture of the front of the chapel without people milling about.

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Keeping watch.

We took a roadtrip to Fredericksburg today – one of my favorite Texas Hill Country haunts.  This trip we toured the National Museum of the Pacific War.  And, let me tell you, this is one amazingly detailed set of museum exhibits.  We spent about two and a half hours walking through the museum, and we still didn’t see everything.   You must go.

On the way home there was a rainbow on the horizon, after a few late afternoon rain showers had rolled through.  I was taking some random photos out the window as we drove.  When I got home I scrolled through the photos I captured, and liked this one in particular, which has been significantly cropped.  I liked it because I can see the faint colors of the rainbow through the branches of this tree.   But, it wasn’t until I zoomed in that I noticed the hawk perched at the top of the tree, and the two gravestones underneath its branches.

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The battle and the reward.  

We spent about 6 hours in the yard today cleaning gutters, roofs, porches, and mulching about a half an acre of leaves for this year’s compost pile.   Hard fought. 

My anti-cedar pollen gear worked really well, thankfully.  


In the end, we were both plum-tuckered out and succumbed to an easy dinner at Chuy’s.  

Yummangomarg:


The yard looks great!

One birdie, two birdie, three birdie, four…

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Today took me to Westcave Preserve with my friend, Doray, to participate in the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.   I’m still learning how to identify the many bird species beyond those that frequent my own backyard.   There’s much to learn, but I am enjoying the time spent out in the beautiful hill country of central Texas immensely.

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We counted birds that we saw or heard.   The counts get rolled up for each locality and are used to monitor bird populations from year to year.   A very nice day spent in a place that I love.

 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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Saturday evening, right around 7pm, the predicted “artic blast” arrived with 30 mph winds in our part of Austin, quickly dropping temperatures from the upper 70’s (Farenheit) during the afternoon to an overnight low in the low 20’s in just a few hours.   Sunday stayed right at freezing at our place all day, and then temperatures last night again hit the low 20s.  Tonight will probably freeze again.   Things will warm up a bit before Christmas Day.  Then we can put away our woolies until the next cold front comes through.

A few years back we had an outside spigot and pipe freeze, flooding one of our back rooms and making a cold mess when the ice thawed.   This year, Monte designed a wooden box to house a 25w incandescent light bulb for each of our exterior spigots to keep them warm and avert disaster this time around.   He cut out the pieces.  I assembled them, while he wired a light socket and lamp cord for each of them.  They worked great!  We can put them away later this week, until the next deep freeze heads our way.

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Cookies, baked & decorated.

I had a marathon baking session yesterday.   🙂

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I used a recipe from Southern Living‘s “Christmas at Home” 2009 special issue that I’ve had for years.

Sparkling Sugar Cookies  (made 4-5 dozen medium sized cookies when I made them)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Coarse sparkling sugar sprinkles of your choice

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill 1 hour.

Roll each portion of dough to 1⁄8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with desired cookie cutters.  Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes ( 14 worked perfect in my oven)  or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Add glaze (recipe below) and sprinkles (while glaze is still wet).  Leave flat until completely dry (this took quite a while for me).

Enjoy!

Simple Glaze  (makes about 1 cup)

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons hot water
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Stir together powdered sugar and hot water until smooth. If desired, divide mixture, and tint with food coloring.  Spread on cookies with spatula or dip, whatever works best for you.

 

 

Free Thursday at the Blanton.

The Blanton Museum downtown currently has an Andy Warhol exhibit, running through January 29th.   It is called “Warhol by the Book.”   It contains his artwork associated with bookcovers, album covers, playbills, books that he published, and other of his works associated with authors.  I enjoy Andy Warhol’s art, and saw things in this exhibit I’d not seen before.

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Hands-on album cover exhibit.  You can handle the albums and even play the LPs.

There was another visiting exhibit by Xu Bing called “Book from the Sky,” which runs through January 22nd.  I knew nothing about this artist nor the work, but thought it was interesting.  Over 4 years, Xu Bing hand carved thousands of wood blocks with non-sensical chinese characters/words of his own design, and then crafted traditional-format chinese books and scrolls made up with his hand-crafted characters.  So, if you know Chinese, it looks like gibberish.  If you don’t know Chinese, it looks like, well, Chinese.  🙂  I guess it’s supposed to get you thinking about the power of words, and also the beauty of Chinese calligraphy.  It was a beautiful exhibit, nonetheless.

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Their permanent exhibits are currently not open, as the museum is doing construction on the 2nd floor.  But those will reopen mid-February.

I enjoyed learning something new.  After we fed our minds, we had lunch downtown.   A nice day.

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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