Things not to take for granted.

Loved ones.  Good health.  Lake Travis.

One of my favorite artists is Mary Doerr.  You can browse her extensive collection of prints either in person or online at Images of Austin gallery.  The image below is a link from her online gallery of the print entitled Lake Travis.   Monte gave me this print as a gift several years ago.   The vantage point of the view in her print is above the lake overlooking Marshall Ford Marina and the basin.  Across the way you can see Windy Point, the land on the left fading into the distance is Hudson Bend.  There are no signs of Sometimes Islands in her print (which only start to show when the lake drops below about 658′), as she has captured the basin as we love to see it — full.

Mary Doerr's capture of Lake Travis.

Below is a shot from a similar vantage point taken today with the lake at 626 feet. Sad to see. Let’s hope for LOTS of rain in 2012.

View of Lake Travis basin from St. Luke's.

But, even with our lake low and dropping, we can’t stay away.  So, after our stop to look at the lake, we continued on to our marina.  I joined Lori, Laura, Ann and Ireni for a ladies’ sail on Camelot.  Monte and Joe went out on Cupholder to find some fish.  It was a beautiful day, as you can see in the picture.  Light northerly breezes made for a nice sail.

Today is Friday, New Year’s Eve’s Eve.   Just 3 more days left of what’s been a great vacation from work.   Here’s to not taking anything for granted.  Cheers!

Woody.

Woodpecker out back.

I spotted this woodpecker working on one of the trees out back today.  The tree is a hackberry and from the sound of his rapping on the branches, it might be a casualty of the drought.  But losing a hackberry isn’t a great loss.

I think this is a Ladder-backed woodpecker.

Apologies for the crummy photo quality.  He was way up near the top of the tree and I had to use my 12x zoom.  He didn’t seem very perturbed though, he paid no attention to me as I walked under the tree trying to get a shot.

Mo’ Willy.

Number 6.

Today we walked 9 holes at Morris-Williams Golf Course.  I’ve been looking forward to golfing with my sweetie since vacation started.  The rain put a damper on that for a bit, but today was beautiful with temps in the 60’s.

This is a shot of the Number 6 hole, taken from the Number 5 green.   The rain we’ve had the last few weeks have greened things up a bit.  You can just barely see the UT Tower – the one building visible on the horizon.

I really enjoy Morris-Williams.  I am still quite the novice golfer, but this is the course that I know best – by far.   The tee-to-green distance of the first 9 holes is about a mile and a half.  So I figure we walked 2 or so miles.  Though the way I hit today, it might have been more like 3-4 miles.   🙂   And, on this course, every hole seems to be uphill.   But no matter, it was really nice to be out there.

I did not lose any balls in the out of bounds or in the water hazards.  I did, however, hit several trees that popped out of nowhere.   Oh well.   Maybe one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to play at least once a quarter in 2012.  We’ll see….

 

It’s going to be a lean winter.

Quercus shumardii (Shumard Red Oak).

One of the things I enjoy about our little homestead are the many large trees that surround it.  It’s a blessing, but also a challenge with the extended droughts we’ve experienced over the last few years.  We just couldn’t seem to put enough water on the trees this summer, given the water restrictions we had, and the fact that our sprinkler system is currently out of service.  Though quite stressed by the drought, most of them weathered through the summer.   We lost a redbud out back (*sniffle*), and I’m not sure about the ornamental pear out front — we’ll just have to see how it looks in the spring.

The Shumard Red Oak that graces the front yard is ginormous, and is a sight to behold when the leaves start to change.   Even though it lost many of its leaves this summer, there are still plently left to fall (and to rake up in about a month).

The strange thing is that i cannot find an acorn on the entire tree this year.   I guess that’s a result of the drought stress as well.   Last year, by comparison, was a bumper crop for acorns, and the squirrels went nuts (pardon the pun).   This year the little critters are going to have a hard time finding food — which means they’ll be trying to eat anything attached to, or around the house, that looks like food.  (So, be warned!)

The golden hour.

Bass #3.

This afternoon, though it was very chilly, we headed to the lake for some fishing.   We picked up Joe, Kurt and Wally and motored over to the docks across the lake.  Wally caught the first bass, and Monte caught 2 more.

We headed back to the marina as the sun was slipping away.   I love the light at this time of day on the lake.  It is the golden hour.    The shot above is of monte’s 2nd fish, lit up by the golden sunset.

The shot below is of the sun as it was setting.

Sunset.

The shot below is from the cockpit of the catboat, after the sun has set.  I love the colors of the sky at dusk.

Dusk.

And this last shot is of the crescent moon, with Venus to its left, as viewed from B-Dock, through the Christmas lights on Allegro’s rigging, as we were heading for home.

Crescent moon & Venus.

A good day, indeed.

Saying goodbye.

Ceremony @ Fort Sam.

Today we drove down to San Antonio for my uncle’s funeral.  The mass was very nice, and the burial was at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, where they held military funeral honors.  One of my cousins from Colorado also flew down to attend.  Having 4 cousins together was quite rare for our far-flung family, so it was a real treat.

Rest in peace, Uncle Devitt.

One more time.

Armadillo artist.

I made another run to the Armadillo Bazaar tonight with some friends.  This is a shot of some prints from Texas Photomontage artists Carl & Betsy Crum.  There are over 150 other artists there, too.

Another of my favorite musicians was playing tonight – Marcia Ball w/ Bill Kirchen.

Marcia Ball @ the Armadillo Bazaar.

Goin’ fishin’.

Hot cocoa.

Today we headed out to the lake to spend the afternoon on the boat.  It’s been a long time since I have been out there.  I’m happy to report that our dock is still attached to land.  It has rained several times since the beginning of November (thankfully), so the lake has risen several inches, and at least has not dropped, so they are holding off on moving us offshore.

I made a steaming hot batch of cocoa for the thermos, so that we could fend off the cold, and packed the peppermint schnapps and mini marshmallows.

We picked up Joe on B-dock and motored out into the cove armed with Joe’s fishfinder and several poles to see what we could catch.   I caught a small catfish.  Monte got a small bass.  Mostly we just listened to Christmas carols on the iPod and watched the blobs go by on the fish finder.

It was a nice way to spend a Sunday.

Down at the Dillo.

Eliza Gilkyson's set.

Earlier today we were baking cookies and grilling wings to bring to a party at Kurt and Barbara’s tonight.  With all those preparations done we headed downtown to the 36th annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, which kicked-off on Wednesday and runs through Christmas Eve.  It’s an Austin-style combination of art and music festival, with local artists selling their work to Christmas shoppers, and 3-4 musicians/bands per day scheduled to play sets on the floor among the artists’ booths.  You can gather round the stage and watch, or listen to the live music from anywhere in the event center, as you’re doing your shopping.  It’s an event I look forward to, more for the music than the shopping, and I usually go a couple of times each year.

Today one of my favorites, Eliza Gilkyson, was playing at 3:30.   I enjoyed her set.

We were back home in time to get ready for the party,  which was a great time.  We got a chance to visit with all our B-dock buddies — with the onset of colder weather and the shorter days that Autumn brings, it’s been a while since everyone saw eachother.  Mark your calendars for Wednesday, December 21 at 11:30 PM, which is when the winter solstice occurs in Austin, after which the length of each day beings to increase again (yay!).

Deck the Halls: Check!

2011 tree.

Well, I ended up working all day yesterday, and most of today.   An “emergency” set of meetings came up out of the blue.   At least I didn’t have to travel to New York to attend in person.

One of my goals for this vacation is to get back on a normal sleep schedule.   I would really like it if the sleepy leg syndrome would stay away until at least after 9 or 10pm.   As it is, i’ve been falling asleep on the couch early in the evening and getting up at 1 or 2 to offically turn in.   This morning, I woke up on the couch about 1 AM.  Before I went to bed I checked my email and learned that my uncle in San Antonio, who’s been ill, passed away a few hours earlier.   Makes me very sad.   But I’m very glad that we had a visit with him recently.   On the other end of the happy/sad emotional spectrum, a friend’s first grandchild was born yesterday.   Life.  Happens.  We should enjoy every minute of it while we’re here.  And hug those important to us as often as possible.

I peeled myself off the phone at about 3PM and decided to finish decorating the tree.  This might actually conclude the hall-decking at our house.   If i get the tree decorated, a wreath on the door, a little manger put up, and the stockings hung, I feel like I’ve got most of the bases covered.

Soup’s On!

Lentil soup.

With cooler weather in town, it’s time to make soup!  One of my favorites is lentil soup.  As I made this tonight I flashed back to 2 years ago when the kitchen remodel was finally over, this was the first thing I made on the awesome new gas range.

Here’s the recipe I mostly stick to each time:

Lentil Soup

1 lb dry lentil beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
2 cloves garlic minced
1 14 oz can petite diced tomates
1 Tbsp tomato paste
8 cups chicken broth
4 oz diced lean ham

Rinse lentils well in colander.  Heat large sauce pan to medium high.  Saute onions and carrots in olive oil, add salt & pepper.   Add garlic a little later to prevent it from burning.  After about 5 minutes, add diced tomatoes & juice and tomato paste.  Stir for a few minutes and then add broth, lentils and ham.  Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer and cover.   Cook for about an hour.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top.   Makes 6-8 servings.

Celebrate every day.

Crepes!

Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to leave nearly 5 weeks of vacation for the end of the year, but that’s the way it turned out.   So, after a long-ish Thanksgiving vacation just a couple weeks ago, we are now both officially on vacation for the rest of the year!

To ring in the vacation season, I made crepes this morning.   They’re SO YUMMY!   If you now have a craving, you can find the recipe in this previous blog post.

I hope I can decompress a bit in the coming week or so.  But as much as work can seem to mess with my life and mindset, I really have nothing to complain about.

My mind this week is especially on family members that are experiencing real challenges.  My sister-in-law is in the hospital recovering from surgery to treat recently diagnosed breast cancer.  She is a strong woman, though, beating her first bout with cancer several years ago.   One of my uncles recently was diagnosed with cancer as well a few weeks ago, and is preparing for surgery.    Another uncle is dealing with long-term health issues as well.

So, today I’m sending thoughts and prayers their way, and starting this vacation acknowledging how very blessed I am — and celebrating with crepes.

The Eyes of Texas.

Congratulations class of 2011.

Today was another welcome, wonderfully drizzly day.   We just need another 100 or so days like it.

My cousin graduated from the University of Texas yesterday with his bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.  Today we drove to his parents’ house in San Antonio to celebrate with him, his family and friends.

On the way home we could see the UT Tower lit up in burnt orange from I-35.  But today, instead of the #1 on the tower, reserved for times when the Longhorns win a national championship, there was a #11, to honor the class of 2011.   Monte drove me around to at least 3 different vantage points on campus to try to get a decent shot.  This was the best one I captured.

Congratulations to all the new Texas-Ex’s!