Dinner and a movie.

Yesterday we helped Julie move into her new apartment.  Then she joined us for dinner.  I shouldn’t have, but I made a very decadent pasta dish, and we pigged out while watching The Princess Bride (for probably the tenth time).  If you are craving a high-calorie, savory, down-home, soul-food kind of pasta dish.  This is the one for you.

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Sausage & Basil Baked Pasta

  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz dry penne or ziti pasta (makes about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 lb fresh mild italian ground sausage
  • 24 oz jar of tomato & basil sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz carton of ricotta cheese
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c fresh basil, chopped

Boil pasta per package directions, drain and set aside.

In medium saucepan, cook & crumble italian sausage.  Drain off fat.  Return skillet to heat and add onion & garlic to sausage.  Saute until onion is soft.  Add tomato sauce, heat through and set aside.

In large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, and half of the mozzarella.  Fold in the cooked pasta to combine well with cheese mixture.

Into a 13×19 pan, add half of the pasta & cheese mixture, spread evenly.  Add half the sausage & tomato sauce mixture.  Layer again with remaining cheese and sauce.

Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, until bubbly.

Remove cover, add remaining mozzarella cheese and place back in oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.    Makes enough to feed an army.

 

 

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The watch.

This morning my friend, Joe, set off as a crew member on a 46′ sailboat to help move her from Key West, Florida to Kemah, Texas.   The boat has Garmin navigational equipment on-board, which means people can follow their progress via a garmin web portal.  So I’m watching.  And I’m wishing them fair winds and an uneventful crossing.  Their current position is down by the blue arrow just off of Key West.  The trip will be about 800 nautical miles, and I’d guess that depending on their average speed, it will take them 5-7 days.

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I am also watching the weather (wind speed, wave height, temps, etc) through a website called windy.com.  The pinkish color below represents the current wave activity (10-20 foot seas) trailing the tail end of the cold front that moved through the southeast US this week.  It looks like they timed their departure to just skirt north of that nasty stuff.   I hope they see only blue or turquoise (6 foot seas or less) out there for the next 7 days or so.

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I’ve also recently started using an open source chart plotter navigation program called OpenCPN.  I’ve installed it on my Macbook, and have uploaded charts for the Gulf of Mexico.  There are many obstructions and hazards out there; lit and unlit; above and below sea level; as well as a significant level of ship traffic.

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Godspeed to Joe and all mariners out there.

Close encounter.

Apologies for all the bird pictures of late.   But I’ve had a lot of birding moments since the new year began, so they dominate my thoughts.

This one was sweet.  I visited Pedernales Falls State Park today, which has a wonderful pair of bird blinds.  While I was inside one of the bird blinds, a little ruby-crowned kinglet hit the roof and fell inside the bird blind.  He was stunned, and stuck in a narrow opening in the wall.   I picked him up and set him on the floor.  He eventually got his wits about him again and flew off.

It is rare that I can even lay eyes on these guys long enough to identify them.  So I enjoyed getting an up close look at this little one.  I had my telephoto lens on my Olympus, so I had to take this macro shot with my iphone.  So tiny!

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Friends and flan.

A friend of mine from high school, Pilar, was in town for business this week. She stayed over an extra night and we got to have dinner together and catch each other up on several decades of our lives.

I loved it. Reconnecting with an old friend was a great way to start off the new year.

I also loved the flan that Monte made for dessert. Mmmmmmm delicious!

First lifer of 2018.

I went for a hike today around our neighborhood greenbelt and pond.  I came across this white-throated sparrow, who posed just long enough for me to raise the camera, focus and press the shutter.   It’s a rare thing for me to have the sun at my back when I try to get an unexpected shot off.

It’s a pretty bird, with an even prettier song.

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By the way, “lifer” just means it is a first in my lifetime sighting of the species.

My modest year.

Birder’s track the number of bird species seen in their lifetime (a life list), and also keep track of those seen in a given year.  Sometimes, a birder sees an incredibly large number of species in a year, which is lauded as a “big year.”  This past year, 2017, was my first year of really paying attention to birds.  I have sought them out, listened to them, tried to lay eyes on them, and have learned much.  And…I am happy to tally 167 species that I have seen in 2017.  Not a big year, really, but a fantastic one in my book.  I can recall where I saw each of these birds this year; some, but not all, captured on film.  I look forward to more birding in 2018.

Here is a pic of a some of my common backyard birds on the fountain today.  Temperatures have been in the 20s for a couple of days.  Since the pump keeps the water moving, it is the only unfrozen source of water in the yard.  I see two female house finches, three male lesser goldfinches, and a female northern cardinal.

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And, there they go.  You have to be quick to capture the birdies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got game.

Last night we enjoyed a fun New Year’s Eve celebration at our house, clocking in at 3AM by the time we went to bed.   Temperatures have dipped into the 20s, for the next few days.   We even got some snow last night, so the merrymaking  was pretty much restricted to indoors.    Nonetheless, a good time was had by all.

The day after New Year’s Eve has come to mean spending the afternoon at Ann & Dave’s house, playing games with friends and friends-of-friends.  It is a very-low-key, come-as-you-are, and bring-your-leftovers-and-libations kind of affair.  Some people creep in, looking a little worse for wear after a fun night of celebrating.  Other regulars are missing in action.  But, eventually, everyone perks up, ends up laughing, telling stories, and making plans for the new year that has just begun.

One of the New Year’s Day games that has become a regular is a home-made version of Jeopardy.  The mistress-of-ceremonies for the last several years has been Doray.  This year she, again, painstakingly prepared the categories, questions and answers.   Very fun!

Some Christmas Eve eve lights.

After dinner last night we cruised by some Austin neighborhoods that light it up during the holidays…37th street, Clarksville, and a few in between.

Enjoy a bit of Austin weirdness:

An homage to a scene from the movie Stranger Things:

Now, THIS is weird:

R2D2 lights:

Sock-monkey nativity scene:

Just a mess-o-lights:

Not weird:

Merry Christmas!