Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jane of All Trades

This beautiful woman, is my big sister, Jean.
We are seven years apart in age.
By the time I was 10, she had moved out of the house. By the time I was 15, and self absorbed, she had moved to California.
That age difference and distance was enormous until we grew up and I had the surly teenager you see sitting next to her. :)

She became the aunt that they make TV shows about. The aunt that we all dream of, but few of us get. The aunt that lets you eat chips for breakfast. The aunt that encourages jumping on the bed. The aunt that holds you upside down so you can walk on the ceiling. The aunt that plays with play dough and listens to up-to-date music. The aunt that is encouraging and listens. The aunt that texts you with a "I was thinking of you. I remember this thing about you....". The aunt that takes you zip-lining even though she's not too excited about heights. The aunt that comes to every single soccer game--not because she likes soccer, but because she gets enthusiastic kisses and hugs from her favorite player. The list could take all day.

I guess you could say, she's a pretty darn good sister and aunt.
Like all of us, she's much, much more than that.
Also, like all of us, she's held many jobs in her life.
In my mind, she's an artist at heart. Many of her jobs have required that creativity and vision that only an artist has.

She can build a deck, but she also build furniture out of reclaimed wood. She can put in tile and a faucet in my kitchen, but she also creates beautiful mosaics. She can paint a whole house, inside and out, but she can put her heart on canvas. Whatever she does, she puts her whole self into it. It is ever-lasting and beautiful.

Her latest creative outlet couples her love of all things artistic with her interest in the environment. She is making accessories out of recycled inner tubes and bicycle parts. Belts, handbags, satchels, you name it--she can make it. What's cool to people like me, who have very sensitive noses, is that none of her work smells like rubber.

Right now, she's set up shop in friend's spare bedroom and working on a logo for "Who's Your Rubber Mother". I think Austin is right city for her product. We're a city that prides itself on thinking outside the box, being 'green' and exercise (like bicycling!).

What's even better, she can be here for us to play with and celebrate holidays with. Hey isn't about time for Sister's Day? If you have a great sister like mine, you might want to look into it. Hallmark doesn't know about it yet. Jean has dibs on its creation.

Love you, Jean.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Is This?

My beloved sister, Jean, is back in Austin. WooHoo!
She always brings us fun stuff she's found along her travels. One year, she brought a dried up agave leaf. It looked just like it came from a sawfish. She knows we're nature weirdos at our house. :)

Anyway, all we know is that this little something came from New Mexico. She was laying under a tree, taking a break from driving and looked up. The tree was covered in these little corkscrew looking things.

Any help you can provide would be much appreciated. My Office Assistant, Hobbes is very interested in what it is as well. Unfortunately for him, this is his first and last look at it. He tends to make mincemeat of items that come in from outside. I think he's jealous because it has been outside and he has not.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guerillas in the Mist

Their traps are beautiful to behold. A marvel of engineering in every way.
The strongest spider silk is from the Golden Silk spider. It is the strongest fiber known to man. It is five times the strength of steel, stronger and more elastic than Kevlar (bullet proof vests).
The webs of the orb weavers were the seeds that grew suspension bridges in the minds of many architects. Think Golden Gate bridge. Strong enough to be a bridge, but flexible enough to hold up to the earthquakes that mother nature dishes out.
Spiders, while scary to most folks, eat their weight in insects every day. Insects that cause human disease and death.
Just as a bit of trivia. If you look at the web above, the 'spokes' of the web (think wagon wheel) are not sticky. Those are the walkways for the spider. The circular part of the web is what is sticky and catches all the insects.
On foggy mornings, you can often see the webs that you would never see otherwise. While I love spiders and the place they hold in the ecosystem, I don't like walking into a web unseen anymore than the next gal. I then do the 'spider dance'. It's a bit of jig, coupled with some mad wiping motions of my hair and clothing.
For now, I just choose to admire the beauty of the web. Nowhere else in nature can you find such a show of ingenuity and engineering. It really is a piece of art, if nothing else.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Office Assistant Gets a Raise

"M'am, I don't see any more Coke Zeros in here. Would you like me to run out and check the outside fridge for you? If I find out who took the last one, I'll give them a good scratching for you. I know how much you love your Coke Zeros."

"Let's see. I put a banana, some strawberries, your protein powder, a cup of 1% milk and some frozen cherries in there. Oh, I also put in some ice so it would be more like a shake. Is it sweet enough? I know you like it to be sweet. The strawberries weren't very sweet this time. Maybe next time I'll add a little Agave syrup."

"Hobbes, come here. You've been working so hard this morning. Why don't you take a load off and take a nap. My lap happens to be free right now. I am working on my computer, but the lap isn't busy at all. Shall we add lap-naps to your benefits package?"

"Yes M'am, that would be fine. Especially now that it's getting cooler outside. "

"Good, I'm glad you agree."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Darned Paparazzi!

Warning: Large spider photos ahead

"Ms. Tarantula, Ms. Tarantula!!" "Is that a baby bump??" "Are you, in fact, pregnant?!"
"Go away, can't you see it's raining? I'm getting wet!"

"Were you and Mr. Tarantula trying to get pregnant?" "Sources tell us that he isn't living in your burrow!"
"No comment, now get out of the way!!"

"Will you be......aaaaahhhh, don't touch the camera!" "Dang, I don't know if I'll get that grass stain out of my linen skirt!" "I wonder if my camera is broken?"

"That was a good interview." "She's so nice and down to earth. Maybe she'll invite me to lunch." "I wonder how much People and Us magazine will pay me?"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All I Want for My Birthday, Really. I'm Not Kidding

I want my family to put their stuff away. I want the rule to be: If you got it out, put it away. If it's empty, throw it away. If it's dirty, put it in the dishwasher or the laundry basket. If it's clean, put it where it belongs.

I hate, hate, hate matching and folding socks. When I do it, please wisk them away and get them out of my sight.

See the white box, just behind the shoes on the floor? It's the box we keep shoes in when we aren't wearing them. Sooooo, close and yet so far. We have the same problem with items that go in the dishwasher, trash compactor, and laundry baskets.

If you burn them onto your iPod, MP3 or other listening device, put them away. Please. My office is messy enough as it is.

This may belong in another category, but the fact that the toilet paper package is sitting on top the counter with two rolls left in it means two things:
1. At least one roll has already been used. That means this has been sitting here a while.
2. The cabinet that the toilet paper lives in is just below it. See picture #2 and description.
I will give bonus points to whomever actually put a new roll on the roller. We had trouble with that idea for a very long time after the Toilet Paper Fairy quit.

These items sat on the kitchen table for two weeks. I asked that they be put away. They got moved to the counter in the dining room.
Away: adverb |əˈwā| 2. into an appropriate place for storage or safekeeping

See above description

More shoes willy-nilly.
What would make this scenario okay--put them nicely as a pair up against the baseboard. These shoes are by the back door.
We go in and out all day. Shoes are required.

If any of my family believes this is just too much to ask, then consider getting me this, instead.
All my love,

Monday, September 20, 2010

Red Touches Yellow

Kill a fellow.
Red touches black, venom lack.

I spent a half hour trying to find out whom to attribute that common poem to. Couldn't find it.
I did find several variations on it. They all mean the same thing.
If you come across a snake that has three banded colors (red, black, and yellow), recite that poem before you freak out and run for a shovel. Or just run.
I was out mowing the property today, and this snake made a dash for it when I mowed too close to his rocky home. And I do mean dash. He was movin'. I am firmly in the 'live and let live' camp when it comes to critters. This one, however, is one that had to be killed.
Here is why:

Coral Snake

This snake is not to be confused by the similar colored and non-venomous Milk Snake, whose red and black bands connect. Remember “Red and Yellow kills a fellow, Red and Black is a friend to Jack.” Mostly the coral snakes in the eastern part of the state eat snakes and those in western part eat lizards. They tend to be very shy and secretive and will spend most of their time underground, in deep leave litter, dens and burrows. There is no anti-venom being manufactured in the United States that is available for people bitten by this snake. They possess the most potent venom out of any North American snake, but thankfully account for less than one percent of the number of annual snake bites. Respiratory paralysis can occur suddenly or within hours after a coral snake bite, therefore intubation and ventilation should be employed in a victim in anticipation for this.

I like snakes. I think they are beneficial. I think they can be beautiful.
This one is very beautiful.
If it had been any other kind of snake (yes, even a rattle snake) I would have let it go. It's just the idea of one of my kids ending up in the ER fighting for their life with no anti-venom that tips the scale in my decision making.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sweet Sixteen

Doesn't seem possible. Sixteen years ago she was born, at 3-something in the afternoon.
She has been her own person since before she drew breath.
She decided to come three weeks early.
I went from labor to baby in four hours.
She's been making plans ever since.

Last summer she was introduced to all the sea creatures at career camp. It looked like sea lions had stolen her heart. Unlike most kids that visit and fall in love with Sea World, she had no interest in working with the killer whales or dolphins at all.

Unfortunately for the sea lions, her heart wandered at this summers camp. It is now firmly in the beluga tank.
The trainers call them the "Marshmallow Hamsters of the Sea".
White and fluffy and cute.

I believe her to be one of the best friends a person could have. She is fierce in her loyalty and love for all those she calls her friends.

Her art evolves every year. I'm so thrilled for her to have such talent. It's such an amazing way to express herself. Happy, sad, silly---they all get down on canvas or paper.

This picture is one of my favorites. It shows three different sides of her.
How beautiful she is.
How much she loves animals.
How studious she is (when she has to be). :)

She has recently picked up the camera in earnest. I see her at least once day taking pictures. Most often trying to master the composition of her pictures. Light, subject, depth and interest.

There are so many, many more things about her I could go on all day. I love her madly. I think she hung the moon. I'm so glad she's in my life.

Happy Birthday, baby. I hope you have a great day and find a way to share with friends, soon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Not Everything is Bigger in Texas

A blasphemous statement to make, I know. It's true though.
Not everything is bigger in Texas.
Take this little dude for instance.
Tiny snake, you say?
Au Contrare'.
Tiny lizard.

He and his kind are often mistaken for snakes. He is a Ground skink.

They don't get any bigger than this one. They are, however, amazing critters to have in your garden. The are voracious eaters of snails, crickets, earwigs, aphids and all other garden pests. All they need to make a home is some loose dirt and leaf litter.
After mating, the female will lay eggs once a month from April to August. Then she's on her merry way.

The reason they are often mistaken for snakes is shown in this picture. When they are in a loose soil/leafy area, they lay their front legs back and just squiggle away. With legs tucked in, they look like a snake.
This poor boy forgot he was on concrete when he was put down. He just wanted to get back home. Pearl had rescued him before hitting him with the lawn mower.

She is the photographer in these photos as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's Difficult to Find Good Office Help

I, however, don't have that problem.

My assistant is always on the job. Always ready to help.

He makes sure every copy comes out properly. Checks for things like copier ink useage and paper jams.

When the job is complete he moves on.
He usually will come to make sure my coffee is full and then offers to cover up the foul smelling liquid.
Finally, he will check to make sure my lap is not too hot or two cold. Then he takes a break.
I believe he took the job because naps were included in his benefit package.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Girls

Are united in their hatred against the cheeky squirrels that torment them daily.
I'm afraid, if we fence the entire property, that the dogs would never come indoors.
They'd spend all day on their back legs, front legs up against a tree.
A tree holding a laughing squirrel.
For now, they must plot their revenge and bark madly at trees just out of their reach.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Good Thing It's Diet

Or he may not have been able to fit into it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

You'd Never Know He's the Baby

Yesterday, James turned 12.
When he was much littler, he thought it was so cool that we all got a 3-day weekend in honor of his birthday.
Whilst in the throes of labor with him, the nurses kept coming into the room and stating the obvious--"Did you know you're having a baby on Labor Day ((giggle, snort, giggle))?
Uh, yea, I got it. Very funny. Now get out.
It must have been a slow day in labor and delivery. :)

To celebrate, we did as we always do. Family only party one day and Friend party the next.
Saturday we had the family-only party. It usually entails either a favorite home cooked meal, or dinner at a favorite restaurant. This year, James chose 'out'.
Tom came home from college, as promised to James. All seven of us (our family plus G'pa and G'ma) went to a new place called Gumbos. It's a rather upscale place to have such a silly name. Their specialty is fish. Not much gumbo or jambalaya or po'boys, as the name suggests. There is nothing deep fried on the menu. James had a beautiful piece of salmon, topped with crab and a white wine sauce. Just exactly what he wanted for his birthday dinner. Earlier in the week, James and G'ma got together for their traditional cake making session.

Yesterday, his buddies came for the 'friend party'. Luckily, James and his pals are self entertaining. Give them their bicycles and our swimming pool and they're good to go. There was a Nerf dart gun war as well. I don't think we'll ever find all the darts.
We made homemade pizza for dinner and root beer floats served as James' "cake". I have no idea what time they finally went to sleep. I do know the four of them consumed much soda, ice cream, chips and candy. They probably all fell into a sugar induced stupor before they hit their pillows. They slept until nearly 9 o'clock. James hasn't slept until 9:00 in his entire 12 years of life. I think the smell of bacon finally awakened them.

Happy 12th Birthday, James! I love you madly, and hope you enjoyed your birthday.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A New Hiding Place

August the hen, is at it again.