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.  

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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!

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.

Must be that time of year.

We’ve had ample early warning that Christmas is coming.   I went into a Home Depot store at the end of September and they were already filling the entire store with Christmas decorations.  Halloween and Thanksgiving have come and gone.  So, it must be close.

We went out to lunch today, and this little paratrooper greeted me on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, having landed there recently.  I had to take a second look, but it’s Frosty!  A little shaken up, but I think he’ll be alright.  Must be one of Santa’s early reconnaissance forces.

Time to start decking the halls!!!

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