29 July 2013

bits and pieces

Bits and Pieces....

No challenges beyond the big one: trying to get things together for No. 20: Move.  Only we are doing No. 20 Lite which is just a relocation for four months.

I have filled out a gazillion forms for the new school.  The girls are going from Vikings to Spartans.

We are in the process of purchasing a 4 wheel drive vehicle to take up there.  Belle has a very nice little station wagon that has maybe a 5 inch clearance from the ground.  We figure it would take her about 2 days before she bottomed out on a rock and inadvertently removed some important car part.  Also, her car is not four wheel drive which might be important once it gets cold and snowy.   Hopefully we finalize the car thing tomorrow.  Car buying is soooo time consuming.

Not new but new to us. 
Should be good in the snow and over rocks.

I am gathering birth certificates and passwords and insurance paperwork. I haven't even thought about clothes.

Carlos got his shots and info on the Rattlesnake vaccine.

Rattle- WHAT??? 
More shots? 

Picasso was going to move stalls but fortunately I will be able to leave him where he is. Just can't handle too much change at one time.

We've got a flight home for the daddy-o.  He will drive up with us which is good.  Except he thinks we can do this drive in one day.  Not good.  It's a good 18 hours in the car.


With all of this there have been no other REAL challenges.

But we did get to the baseball game tonight.

We have a  mini season ticket package of 8 games for our little minor league team. The stadium is about 5 minutes from our house and is just a bit bigger than a high school stadium. Ok, quite a bit bigger but still very intimate compared to Major League Baseball.

Unfortunately it wasn't a good night for our little team.  They lost- 7 to 10.

So please excuse if posts are slim to none for the next two weeks.  Going on an adventure seems to require a lot of planning...

25 July 2013

A Nature Walk...

Thursday's Nature Walk...

Thursday morning I slept too late to make it to yoga class.  Because it is hot, and humid, and basically summer in Texas, I have not been getting much exercise. To combat the sluggishness of not exercising, I took a walk.

It never ceases to amaze me that even though I live in the middle of a decent size city, nature surrounds me.

I admit I do live across the street from a creek so maybe I get a bit more wildlife than the regular folks.

First off were the egrets.  Hanging out in the trees looking like a zoo exhibit.

The one on the right had plumes and fluffy feathers.
According to the National Geographic Birds of N. America
 that means it is a breeding adult.

Hanging below them in the creek were the turtles basking on a log. These are red ear sliders. The big ones are the females, the smaller ones are males.  When you see a red ear slider plodding across the street in the spring or summer it is probably a mama going to lay eggs. Don't automatically pick her up and throw her back in the water in the interest of "saving" her. She's probably already expended a lot of energy just to get to the street and she's headed to a nice soft garden to deposit those eggs.  Help her to safety but don't assume she wants the water. 

Sliders are basking turtles.
Here they are doing just that.

Then there was some flora....

An invasive plant but it sure is pretty.

And a fluffy little weed:

Don't know this baby's name.
Feel free to enlighten me.

I could be in the rainforest:

But I'm not.

Then there were the pictures I missed. Because I just set out to walk originally I did not have my good camera with me.  iPhones are pretty slow when it comes to wildlife. 

I missed a pic of the snake that swam across the creek.  About 3 feet long, slim and quick, with a beautifully patterned body. It could have been a water moccasin but was probably just a boring water snake. Hard to say- we have both. 

Also missed the bull frog in the hyacinths.

And the baby bunny that hopped along the curb and disappeared into the storm sewer grate. I am going to assume that he hopped down that pipe and back into the wild. He did not plunge to his death. 

And the four sparrows silhouetted against the sky, perched on a bare vine. I was thinking how adorable they looked until a mama cardinal flew up and tried to land on the vine with them.  Two of the sparrows immediately took off and chased her away. 

Nature is not always kind.

Which brings us to the more grizzly part of my walk.

Should I be concerned that I saw this?

About 18 inches long. 
Who did it belong to?

This bone was along the water's edge. I know there are coyotes because I have seen them.  Did they bring this bone over? It must be a leg to something large. A dog? Another coyote? Maybe a small deer. There are deer within a few miles. Do alligators have bones like this? Fortunately there were no other bones.  Guess this will remain a mystery.

Look closely.
These are feathers, not flowers.

A trail of feathers from the street to the creek usually does not bode well for the duck they belonged to. 
At first there were the large wing feathers. Then lots of smaller feathers. Finally the downy feathers. This time no duck carcass. Whatever got it took it away.

Nature is not the only predator around here.  Sometimes the wildlife can't escape the cars.
This guy has been in the street for a bit so he was pretty sanitized. The turkey buzzards have done their job and nothing yummy is left on these bones. 

 Hard to say at this point.
But my money is on the Nutria.

Not sure how much exercise I got. Certainly did not get my heart rate up what with the stopping every few minutes to take photos. 
But it was a lovely way to spend the morning exploring the neighborhood.
Open your eyes....the world is all around you.
The good, the gorgeous, the ugly.

24 July 2013

Up Again.

Looking Up Again...

A few weeks ago I wrote about the benefits of looking up.  The sky is a  vast and wondrous place and if you don't look up, you miss what's going on up there.

The last few nights we have had a full moon and slight variations of the same.   While it isn't a "supermoon" it has been  pretty spectacular.

I went out last night and took a few photos.

The cloud colors are un-retouched. These are not Instagram altered photos. The clouds truly were this pinky orange at 11:00 at night. So amazing...

Scudding clouds, winking moon, beautiful night.
Lucky me.

(I've since discovered this is called a Thunder Moon.  Read about it here.)

22 July 2013

No. 60: Hit Five Restaurants in Houston that I Have Never Been to Before

No. 60:  Five Restaurants in Houston.  Restaurant No. 5

Restaurant No. 5 was Mel's Country Cafe in Tomball, Texas.

Talk about getting out of our comfort zone.  Not only did we get away from our little area, we completely by-passed Houston and went on to Tomball for lunch.  The hubs and his sister Sue were complaining the entire 45 minutes it took to get there.

The other sister, Barbi, is the one that came up with Mel's for a lunch date. Barbi is a great planner and thinks nothing of driving to the next town or state if fun, excitement or good food is involved. She's my kind of gal!

The occasion was sister Sue's visit from Arlington.

Mel's Country Cafe

Mel's is known for its hamburgers.  The chicken fried steak is supposed to be pretty good, too.  Nobody at our table had the special Mel's burger but the table next to us did. It was gorgeous. And a mouthful. Or three. 
Here's a picture of the Mel burger:

The standard Mel Burger
Isn't that a thing of beauty?

And because some people complained that the Mel Burger wasn't really ENOUGH food, Mel's Mega Burger was invented.

Here's the Mega Mel:
The Mega Mel
Yes, everything is bigger in Texas.

The Mega Mel is, according to the menu, 1 1/2 pounds of fresh ground beef, one pound of bacon, 1/4 pound of cheese and lots and lots of lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. It stands 14 inches high. If you eat the whole thing in less than two hours you can get your name on Mel's Wall of Fame.  Our waiter told us of a thirteen year old girl who finished a Mega Mel in 17 minutes, then rode her bike home after. Amazing.

No one at our table had a Mega Mel either.

But we had wonderful hamburgers and chicken fried steak ( it was okay- not outstanding- according to the hubs) and I had the grilled chicken sandwich with chipotle mayo. Plus Tater Tots since I was feeling a bit decadent.

Grilled chicken with pepper jack cheese, jalapeño bun and chipotle mayo.
Because if you are going to drive 45 minutes to eat, you might as well make it worth your while!

And then because it was a big family get together, we shared a bunch of desserts. There was Banana Pudding.  Chocolate cake.  And I had Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. Ala mode. 

I meant to take a picture.
But I forgot in the midst of the feeding frenzy.

And lest Weight Watchers comes knocking on my door, I will confess. I did not eat dinner that night. Nor did I eat breakfast the next morning. In fact I ate only one meal the NEXT day because I was still so stuffed from Mel's.  

So Restaurant No. 5 is done.  Come to think of it, I was pretty done myself. 
Stick a fork in me. 

For the first four restaurants click here, here, here and here.

(O! And I forgot to add. Sister Sue and the hubs both agreed after the fact that it was worth the drive.)
1 pound of bacon
For the first 
.25 pound of American cheese
lots, lots of lettuce, tomatoes, onions & pickles Mega Mel Burger
1.5 pounds of fresh ground 
1 pound of bacon
.25 pound of American cheese
lots, lots of lettuce, tomatoes, onions & pickles

18 July 2013

Follow Up Friday: We Are Alone

Follow Up Friday: We Are Alone...

Back in June I posted about the red-bellied woodpecker that made a nest in a tree in our backyard.

I was so excited about having baby woodpeckers.

Somehow I thought I would be on top of this development and would actually get to see the babies.

And right after I came back from Colorado I did  hear baby woodpeckers. Mom would fly in with a bug and the sound from the tree was pretty amazing.

But whenever I heard them there was also a lawnmower buzzing or the neighbors talking or SOMETHING, so I never got a Vine of the mama flying in and out and the babies chirping.

And this past week I stood outside watching the hole and listening and guess what??

There will be no pics of baby woodpeckers.

There will be no audio clips of baby woodpeckers.

Everyone has moved on.

I am SO bummed.

Now I know:

It takes only about 12 days for the eggs to hatch. Then the hatchlings are only in the nest for 24 to 27 days.
The day that I heard them squealing so loudly the mother and father woodpecker were flying in and out, both taking care of the babies. I foolishly believed they would hang around all summer.  

Wish I had done my research a little sooner.

Maybe next year.  Apparently they do like to come back to the same tree to nest year after year.
There is hope.

15 July 2013

No. 49:Make a New Friend and Another No. 42: Do a Charity Walk

No. 42 Redux: Do a Charity Walk    +
No. 49: Make a new friend

Back in May I did my first ever Charity Walk benefiting The One Fund Boston. One Fund is helping all of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

I had a great time and raised money for a good cause plus knocked a challenge off my list.

So I should be done with charity walks, right?

Well, not so fast.

As I mentioned before, the girls and I are relocating to our Colorado house for the fall semester of school.  I'm calling it No. 20 Lite:Move.

Home come August

Part of my concern with this move is that while my girls know lots of kids in our little town, I do not.
I am going to have to make some new friends.
That's where No. 49 comes in: Make a new friend.

 I figure the best way to get out and meet people is to volunteer.  Which brings us to No. 42 again....do a charity walk.

I'm on the mailing list for the local pet store in Salida and this week's email brought notice of a Salida K-9 Cancer Walk.

And that brings us to Jake:

Jake at ten weeks surrounded by small children.
When he died he was surrounded by the same children.

This tiny little furball turned into the most beautiful and intelligent Golden Retriever.

Jake all grown up

And when this fabulous dog turned six, he got bone cancer.  Cancer in Golden Retrievers is very common, so common that ONE OUT OF TWO Golden's will come down with cancer in their lives.  Those are pretty crappy odds if you are a Golden Retriever.  Cancer is the leading cause of death for this breed.

Jake had his leg amputated in an attempt to rid him of his cancer. It only bought us some time. He lived another 11 months before the cancer snapped his other back leg and we had to put him down.

Jake as a Tri-Pawd

So on September 7, Carlos and I will be walking for two purposes. Maybe we will make some new friends.  And hopefully we will help raise some money to fight Canine Cancer. 

My walking partner

If you feel like helping us, click here to donate.

If you want more information, here are some links:

Golden Retriever Cancer Study info, click here.

Info on the Morris Animal Foundation, click here.

More on Tri-Pawds, click here.

08 July 2013

Where there's a will....

Where there's a will, there's a way...or....
The power of positive thinking.  
(I think I can, therefore, I can.)

I've always been one to lose patience waiting for someone to help me with stuff. I'll ask once, but if I don't get help...
Fine! I'll just do it myself. 

Interesting how kids learn by example. 

This is Belle's closet. It always looks like this. Clothes are organized by color and hung up nicely. Her actual room might be a different story-but her clothes rule. Belle works and buys a lot of her clothes herself.

Belle's Beautiful Closet

This is Bunny's closet on a REALLY good day. On this day everything is sort of put away and you can actually see the floor. It does not normally look this good. She doesn't seem to understand exactly HOW a coat hanger works. Or what drawers are for. And because her clothes are usually wadded up and/or on the floor, Bunny has a tendency to "borrow" Belle's clothes. 

Bunny's Rabbit Warren of a Closet

Belle gets a little tired of that.

So Belle asked her dad to bring a door lock home for her room. Which he did. But he didn't install it for her. 

The next afternoon Belle breezed into the kitchen, grabbed the "lock in a box" off the counter and disappeared. 

And look:
Voilà! A lock.

I've never put a lock on a door, but that 17 year old figured it out on her own. As she said "It's upside down, but it works. That's all I care about." 

A couple of days later, Bunny asked if she could chevron her room.
Sure, as long as you clean up and I don't have to help. 

Her friend Micayla was there to help. Leave it to two 15 year old Math GT girls to figure this out. (with a little help from Pinterest)

Out of curiosity I went to see what they were doing. The entire wall had a chalk grid drawn on, with the chevrons being marked off with painting tape.

See the faint chalk grid? 

Taped and painted, waiting for the reveal.

And here's the final result: 

Not perfect.  But perfect enough.

I'm impressed. Not sure I could have done it, but they certainly figured it out.


And that brings us to this: 

"Come try me out" it said...

This is a new 9" band saw that has been calling to me from the garage. The potential!
(Why do we have a band saw? I have no idea.)
But I have always kept my distance from most power tools. Especially things that cut. After almost chopping my thumb off with a paper cutter a few years back, I've been cautious with sharp objects. 

But a quicky fix on the back fence was driving me crazy.
A board had broken and the hubs threw a new board up-except it was TOO tall!
He said "O! It's behind the tree, it's ok." (Besides, it was getting dark and he was about to leave town.)
But I felt bad leaving that odd board visible to our nice neighbor. So while the hubs was in Colorado, I took action.

This is just a little too 'white trash' for my taste.

We had an extra fence board. And a saw. 

I approached the saw with trepidation. 

But you know what? It was a perfect pussycat. It purred gently when I hit the "on" switch. It didn't grab the board from me, just gently sawed off the end. Don't look too closely. I may not have gotten a straight cut, but it worked.

That first cut wasn't quite enough. 
Or quite straight. 

Where there's a will, there's a way. 

Belle wanted a lock. She made it happen.

Bunny wanted a new fancy paint job in her room. She made it happen.

I wanted to fix the fence. I made it happen.

MUCH better.

Never underestimate the power of a woman that wants something done.
Or that thinks she can. 

03 July 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July!!!

Wishing everyone a "berry" happy Independence Day.

I'll be starting my morning with this:

a red white and blue breakfast...

and ending the day with a bang:

Nothing better than fireworks!!

I hope everyone has a great day.   

A little food for thought: 

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Enjoy your holiday weekend and I will see you next week.

02 July 2013

No. 24: Organize all those photos

No. 24: Organize all those photos.

How long can I procrastinate over this one?

A gazillion old pictures documenting kids, room decor,
toys.  What to do with them? 

Apparently, a pretty long time.

Pics of my parents when they were a bit younger.

When I had my PC my photos were  neatly organized by year, then month. Except then the memory got full and some of the photos went on another computer. And Windows 7 or something came along and my Nikon didn't like the program and I had to download my photos a different way...so they went someplace else. So photos were spread all over.

Gorgeous sunsets. Or is that a sunrise? 

Then I got a Mac and everyone raved about how marvelous Macs are for photos and I was thrilled.

Pics of patient pets...

Until I tried using iPhoto. Ugh. It does marvelous things but the organization of it all is beyond me. I even spent a couple hours at the Apple store with iPhoto training. Still can't keep it straight.
What's the difference between an album and an event? Got me.

Field trip sightings...

So I need to put all my photos in one spot.

and soccer field successes.

There's plenty of memory on this computer. I just need to gather photos from a couple different sources and sort them.

And my boy with his guitar.

Does anybody have any suggestions?
I'm thinking I'll just make folders. Sort them by year and month. But then do I lose all the wonderful search capabilities?

My brother, Paul, who is no longer with us.

Are there any photo apps that have solved your photography storage issues?

 And Jake, also no longer here.
I miss these guys.

I need help.