All in a day’s work.

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During this prolonged shelter-in-place, when people ask me “what did you do today?” I usually go blank.  But I have been busy!  Aside from the household chores, cooking, and yard work, I have found contentment in these online diversions, which fill my day.

Photography

Nikon is offering their curriculum of 10 online photography classes to be streamed for free until the end of April.  How cool is that?  Link here.

Birding

High Island on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations during migration in April.  But not only is travel not in line with the current stay-at-home order, but the sanctuaries are also closed.  Thankfully, Houston Audubon, who owns and runs the High Island sanctuaries, is live streaming video footage from their Facebook page at 8AM and 3:30PM every Thursday through Monday.  Their Facebook link here.

Guitar

Fender is offering a 90-day free trial of their online guitar, bass, and ukelele lessons.   I’m a poorly self-taught guitar player of nearly 30 years and I’m learning new things by following their lesson progression, and more importantly, practicing again.  Link here.

Exercise

Lori recommended some beginner yoga sessions on YouTube, from “Yoga with Adriene.” I’m a yoga-newbie and am enjoying them very much.  Link here.

I use an app called “30Days” to help me to do higher and higher reps of traditional strength exercises like plank, situps, pushups, etc.  You pick the exercises, set your starting point, and for 30 days the app will gradually increase the reps, giving you days-off every few days.  I’ve used their app for years, on and off.  I’m 27 days into my latest 30-day stint and am back up to planking for 3 minutes.  🙂   The app isn’t fancy, there are prettier ones out there, but it’s free and it works for me when I use it.  Link here.

Amy recommended an app she used to train herself from couch-surfer to running a 5K over the course of 8 weeks.  They also have a 10K version which takes you from couch to 10K in 14 weeks, which is the one I’m using.  I’m on week 4 and am still enjoying it. They are both free to try for 7 days, and then you have to pay to upgrade to unlimited access.  The provider, Fitness22, actually has an entire collection of fitness apps.  Link here.

After 6 years, I am still wearing my fitbit One tracker every day.  I need to upgrade to a watch soon.  Either way, I use their app daily to track my activity and food.   Link here.

Things to listen to

Amazon Music, one of the perks of Prime membership, has a great selection of music; 2 million songs from their 50 million song library are free to listen to for Prime members.  You can search by song, album, artist, or listen to existing playlists and curated stations for something that floats your boat.  Keeto enjoys George Winston.  Link here.

Amazon Music has a channel on twitch.tv where they are hosting live-streamed webcasts.  Look for #togetherathome hashtag.  I listened to Hayes Carll play live for an hour on his patio last night.  The audio was very well done.  Link here.

I’ve gone overboard subscribing to and listening to podcasts, true crime is my addiction.  I have new content to listen to each day.  I use the Stitcher app to listen.   Link here.

Foreign Language Learning

I still use the free app Duolingo to practice my Spanish every day or so.  Link here.

Things to watch

The British National Theatre is streaming previously recorded theater performances every Thursday in April, on their YouTube channel.  We watched the first one, a comedy called One Man, Two Guvnors, last week and really enjoyed it.  Link here.

The Metropolitan Opera is streaming videos of previously recorded opera performances, a new one every day.  Link here.

Acorn.tv is offering a 30-day free trial of their British TV shows’ episodes (which we enjoy very much) for new subscribers, instead of their normal 7-day free trial.  Use the code FREE30 when signing up.  Link here.

Videochat

Ok, hands down, I’ve adopted Zoom for video chat.  The free version allows unlimited video meetings with a 40-minute time limit on each, which works for me.   Link here.

Online multiplayer games

We have spent many hours playing online games with friends and family.  I think that trickstercards.com and boardgamearena.com are both well done for this.  We combine them with a zoom video chat.

Food & Drink

Virtual wine tasting from Becker Vineyards.  What’s a virtual wine tasting?  Well, Becker is selling different 3 pack bottles of different varietals each week, which you can order to be shipped to your home.  And then a few days later, you tune into their Facebook Live sessions to participate in a group tasting of each bottle with experts from the vineyard.  I just bought the 3rd tasting pack.  It should be good!  Link here.

I posted previously about my ongoing on-line grocery shopping adventures for delivery and/or curbside pickup.  I’ve been pretty good at keeping an order scheduled a week to 10 days ahead of time, to keep fresh food in the house.  Let me say, again, HEB is awesome!  Link to my previous post here.

 

 

 

 

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.  🙂

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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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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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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Tower Girl 2020.

I’m in my 3rd year of remotely stalking Tower Girl, the Peregrine Falcon that lives atop the University of Texas at Austin Tower.  The University has a live-streamed webcam pointed at her nest box on the northwest corner of the clocktower.  And they recently upgraded it, so it now also has audio.  Be careful with that audio volume, though.  The UT clock tower chimes every 15 minutes and it is LOUD.   This is a snap from about 5 minutes ago.  She has reportedly had a male hanging around lately, too.  February/March is the time she has been laying eggs, so I’ll be tuning in to see how it goes this year.

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As long as I’ve been watching, none of the eggs she lays each year have hatched.  I hold out hope that this is the year for baby falcons!

Leaf me alone!

I truly enjoy the trees in our yard.  But, there are many of them, and they collectively drop billions and gazillions of leaves every year. Over the last day or two, we raked and scooped up 5 or more trailer-loads of those bad boys – a good workout. Our new pile-o-leaves (and future garden soil):

I can’t complain though. It has been lovely outside. Today the temps were close to 70 degrees F. Thankfully, cedar pollen levels are below the threshold that triggers my allergies. As I sit here, sore and tired, I’m sipping a glass of wine listening to the news guys report on the cold and snowy weather up north. Yeah, I’ll take yard work in the winter in Austin over that any day.

Dawn of a new decade.

This is one of my favorite sunrise pictures from last year.  It is from the trip up the Keys;  I took it as we pulled up anchor at Rodriquez Key, just off Key Largo.   It is a beautiful, colorful image of the sun’s glow on the horizon at dawn.  It’s a good image to have in mind at the start of this brand new decade.  I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.

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2019 moments.

This year sped by, but it was jam-packed with short adventures, wonderful visits with friends and family, lots of good food & wine, and a few projects squeezed in.

A quick breakdown:

  • States traveled to/within:  Texas, Florida, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia
  • Countries traveled to/within:  US, Bahamas
  • Siblings visited:  Noreen & David, Brian, Colleen, Fran & Art, Susanne, Gene & Jo
  • Nieces & nephews visited:  Rachel, Julie, Neil & Miranda, Jared, Rebecca, Aaron, Jacob, Pat & Nga, Dan & Erin, Patricia & Florian, Michelle, Amy Lee & Chris
  • Great nieces & nephews visited:  Diego, Tionna & Alex, Will, Nick, Grace, Aly, Mae, Austin, Copeland, Anna Sutton
  • Great-great nephew visited:  X’ander
  • Births celebrated:  great-great-niece Aubrielle
  • Iron-men cheered on:  Jamie
  • Weddings celebrated:  Neil & Miranda, Dan & Erin
  • Friend & family visits to Austin:  Noreen & David, Susanne, Rob & Owen, Asha, Fran & Aaron, Rachel & Becky, Irene & Liz & Keith, and Noreen (one more time) 🙂

I’ve picked one photo from so many enjoyable moments of each month below:

January:  Sailing from Venice, FL through the Florida Keys, to Biscayne Bay; on a mooring ball at Garrison Bight Mooring Field off of Key West.  This was a magnificent trip.  The Keys are amazing.  We had enough time to really enjoy Key West and see the sights and maybe have one too many cocktails.  We hopped up the outside of the Keys, anchoring a few nights.  If I did this again I’d spend many more days in the Keys. We ended anchored outside of No Name Harbor near Miami for two weeks, which sounds like a long time but I thought it was a really nice place to be stuck, waiting for a weather window to go east to the Bahamas.

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February:  Sailing from Florida to Great Bahama Island and through the Abacos; dolphins in the Great Bahama Banks.  We enjoyed a really tame crossing to the West End from Miami, then spent several days making way through the bank and through the Abacos to get to Marsh Harbour.   It was a real treat to be back there for a while. Sadly, Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abacos this hurricane season, and they will rebuilding for the foreseeable future.

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March:  Springtime in the Hill Country means wildflowers.  I simply LOVE spring in the Hill Country.  Monte has cultivated an amazing bluebonnet patch at the chez.  I can’t wait to enjoy next year’s bloom, only 3 short months away.

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April: Spring migration means birding trips; a visit to the bird blind at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.  I spent much less time birding this year than I would have liked.  But I did make several trips to the coast at the peak of migration, and will definitely do it again this coming year.

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May:  A visit to the Pacific Northwest; a view from Mount Rainier National Park.  I have always loved Mount Rainier.  We picked a nice, though not an absolutely perfect day, to go up to the mountain.  The views on the way up and down are almost as stunning as the views from Paradise Visitor’s Center. I also made it back to the Bahamas for a week in May, but this trip to Washington was the highlight.

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June:  Roadtrip to Colorado and back; one stop was Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo.  We had fun on our trip to Estes Park.  And on the way home.

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July:  A two week trip up the ICW from Charleston, SC to Portsmouth, NC; the full moon rising just as we anchored near the Neuse River in North Carolina.  It was an amazing experience to take this trip up the Intracoastal Waterway.  I learned much, saw many birds, enjoyed the changing scenery along the trip, and never tired of the company.   If you ever have a chance to do something similar, just say Yes.

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August:  Summer heats up in Austin, lots of fun times on the lake, including enjoying Cupholder back in the water.  We enjoyed having both Nirvana and Cupholder on the lake this summer.  We love having boat guests for the day and / or night.  We enjoy our boat friends immensely.  And we really need to spend more time out on the lake next year.

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September:  One of several visits with out-of-towners to Barton Springs Pool to cool off.  I have my own custom tour of Austin for friends that are visiting.  Sometimes we walk around doing it.  Sometimes we do an express version by car.  But I love sharing my town with my friends and family when they come for a visit.  If the temps are anywhere near 100 degrees F, then we must visit Barton Springs Pool.

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October:  Let the boat canvas and sail projects commence!  I finally organized my various and sundry craft/project supplies in my new, amazing closet workspace.  Looking forward to knocking another couple dozen projects of my to-do list next year.

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November:  Enjoying the Christmas decorations going up at Donn’s Depot.  You can walk in the door a Grinch, but as soon as you enter Donn’s Depot after Thanksgiving, you can’t help but feel the Christmas Spirit warm your heart.

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December:  A trip south along the coast from Charleston, SC (Rainbow Row, below) to Brunswick, GA, via Beaufort, SC and Savannah, SC.  Our last trip of the year took me to a place I used to live MANY moons ago, and a few places I’ve never been.  I would like to make a followup visit to these parts again.

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So many great moments!  I’m looking forward to the ones 2020 brings.

Quick trip.

Last week, Monte and I flew to Charleston to meet up with Lori, to crew for her as she moved S/V Trident south to Brunswick, Georgia for the rest of the winter.

Trident in her slip in Charleston is in the foreground, to the right, of the picture below, with 2 tankers getting ready to pass nearby in the narrow Cooper River ship channel just outside the marina, and the Ravenel Bridge in the background.  The two-masted schooner at the dock to the left is the 140′ Spirit of South Carolina.  We finagled our way on board her to watch the Charleston Christmas Boat Parade up close the night before we departed.

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After we landed in Charleston, I had the Uber driver make a side trip to my old house.   I moved many times when I was a kid.  When I lived in Charleston, I was around 7 to 9 years old, and I think it is the first place I lived where I have lots of my own, real memories – as opposed to memories from snapshots, stories, or individual moments in time.  The old chez:

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After provisioning and finishing the short pre-departure list of boat chores, we had a chance to walk around Charleston a bit, and sample its great seafood, which was nice.  I would like to come back with more time to see the sights.  The Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park:

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Colorful housefronts along Rainbow Row: IMG_9837

We took the Intercoastal Waterway from Charleston to Savannah, anchoring one night in a creek just off the ICW, and staying at marinas in Beaufort and Savannah.  We strolled around Beaufort’s oak-lined and moss-draped historic streets, making a stop by the house where The Big Chill was filmed.  We had a lovely visit with our niece and her family in Savannah.  Amy Lee gave us the best car-tour of its historic downtown, as a slow rain fell.  Then we took the outside ocean route overnight from Savannah to Brunswick.

It was very COLD overnight on the ocean, but we made it!   Another adventure in the books.

 

 

 

 

Septemberfest.

Monte and I rang in our anniversary with a trip through the Texas Hill Country.   We had our own mini-Oktoberfest exploring Altstadt Brewery and spent the weekend in Fredericksburg.

We enjoyed the wine and brews of the region and some local good-eats.  We also did our share of antiquing and mantiquing and each brought home a little sumpin-sumpin.

The Longhorns have an off-week, but we caught them chilling in the shade near the Pedernales River:

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We did a number of laps down Main Street in Fredericksburg.  Next week is Oktoberfest in F-burg, so GET DOWN THERE! IMG_9329

You gotta love the Texas wine trail… grape vines and live oaks.IMG_9333

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Happy Anny to us!