Hiking Bull Creek.

Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  It was really interesting.   We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek.  Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms.   But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands.   I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland.  And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July.   I’m looking forward to more hikes out there.  Stay tuned.

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Bull Creek  is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very nice!

A busy two weeks.

I have been away for a bit.  Since I last posted…

On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country.  As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person.  I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited.  But, I didn’t have my camera with me.  So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek.  I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him.  Success!  A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive.  🙂

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The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters.   We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation.  It was a nice weekend.  We shared laughs and memories and a few tears.   I enjoyed it.  I also snapped way too many pictures.   This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.

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Spokane has gotten much snow this year.  The nearby rivers are flooding and raging.  This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.

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I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent.  Have a good week!

 

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.

 

 

A walk in the woods.

Well, our guests have gone back home.  I had a really wonderful time with them.   I took many photos during our visit, but have not yet sorted through them.

Today, I went to the woods for some photos of birds.  Doray and I headed out at about 7:45am.  It was chilly, for a change.

We stalked them.  Or they stalked us.  Not sure who won.  But we did get a few good bird shots.   I have been playing with longer exposure shots of moving water.  I like this one.  You can see water bending around the leaves and the rocks in the stream, and the flow of the water.

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Sunday funday.

Today we tried out a “puzzle room” a.k.a. “escape room” with our visitors; a first for all of us.   We went to Puzzle Room Austin.  The general idea is… you are locked in a room for 60 minutes.  The room has a bunch of clues and physical puzzles in it, and the goal is to work out all the puzzles to find the key to get out of the room.   We almost made it, but ran out of time.  The good news is they will let you out either way.  🙂  It was lots of fun, though.

No photos of the puzzle room, but here is a bowl of Seahawk M&Ms, which we finished off even though our team is out of the playoffs.  GO HAWKS!

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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!

Looking up.

Happy New Year!

Unlike last night, which was incredibly foggy, the sky was very clear tonight.  I went out back and took a picture of the setting conjunction of the waxing crescent Moon with Venus.

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It’s cropped a bit close, so that both are in frame, yet still able to see some moon detail.

Then I tried to get a shot of Orion, which had just risen on the other side of the horizon.

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Here comes Orion!