Friday, January 31, 2014

Every Time I Think About Moving

I am down to one kid in a pretty big house.
A house built for 3 kids and their friends and our friends.

One of my friends recently downsized in a really big way.
She moved from exactly the same sort of neighborhood as I live in.
Homes with a homeowners association, but several acres between each place.

She and I both have been known to say that we'd never live in a neighborhood where neighbors can see in your kitchen (bedroom, bathroom, garage) again.
BUT,
She and her husband got tired of caring for the large house on a large property.
She moved into exactly the sort of place we both said we'd never do.

After visiting her new house, I'll admit to a bit of jealousy.
I know how long it takes her to clean her house and how long it takes me to clean my house.
I know how long it takes her to tend to her yard and how long it takes me to tend to my yard.

As I sit and type this, there are dog hair fluffies floating about on my floor.
My kitchen is not cleaned up.
My bed is made, so that's something I guess.

Anyway, every time I think that downsizing sounds delicious, I see something.
I see something that I would never see if I lived in a smaller house on a smaller lot.



This morning, I saw this.
"What, you saw the top of a tree?", you ask.

Look carefully---in fact, if you click on the photo, it should get bigger.
Near the center, about 2/3rds of the way up the picture you should see white and orange and black.

A large bird caught my eye as it lit in the top of my owl tree.
A striking figure.  
A gorgeous bird.
A Mexican Eagle---that's not really an eagle at all, but a falcon.
A bird nearly 2 feet tall with a wingspan of nearly 4 feet.

As I tried to sneak in for a closer picture, a Turkey vulture shooed him away.
Turkey vultures and Caracara compete for food.
Caracara's have a wide and varied diet.  
Eating a dead animal is far easier than catching a live one.  

Anyway, if I lived in the smaller house in a neighborhood, I would never have seen this bird.
I only saw him for a moment, but moments like these make me terribly happy.
It makes the house and yard work all seem worth it.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Good Thing I Like Scales

It's a good thing my office has a large bank of windows on 2 sides.  
I would miss so much if it didn't.
It seems I am forever rescuing creatures that unwittingly wander into my yard or are brought into my yard.
In this case, it was a Spiny Tree Lizard, aka Texas Spiny Lizard.


If you live anywhere south of the Red River (Oklahoma/Texas state line) you have them in your yard.
I guess this bit of trivia means they can't swim. 
I'm thinking it means they don't care too much for Oklahoma. 
It's important to poke fun at Oklahoma, I live in Texas. It's what we do.
Oklahoma is actually a beautiful state and hatches some of the best meteorologists in the world.

I digress.

Anyway, this little guy was being hassled by not one, but three of my animals.
He'd taken up hiding under a board in deep leaf litter.
The cat spotted him.  
The dogs spotted the cat.
The side of Smokie that is a spaniel kicked in.  She was going to flush that lizard if it was the last thing she did.
I had to physically drag her and Hobbes into the house.
Mandy came along quietly, because that's the great kind of dog she is.


After I warmed this lizard up a bit, I took him out on my property where dogs and cats don't often go.
I laid him on a sunny rock and bid him goodbye and good hunting.

Hopefully, he'll eat all the scorpions within a 4 acre radius.  
Doubtful, but a girl can always dream. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Woot Woot!! Critter Farm is Back!

Danni is a blogger friend that I've known for 5 years.
She had 'lost that lovin' feeling' for her blog in May of 2012.
I totally understood.
 I sometimes go weeks without posting.

photo stolen from Danni's blog--this is Danni headed to her henhouse
We kept in touch via Facebook and then got to see one another again (twice!) last Fall when our mutual blogging friend, Carson, had surgery.


Meeting each other coming and going in New Mexico
I have missed her blog though.  Missed it terribly!
She's got such a beautiful place and is a talented photographer and story teller.

Another photo stolen from Danni's blog.
Roxy the farm pup.
She doesn't know some dogs of her breeding are fru-fru lap dogs.

 I had actually gone so far as to remove her blog from my blog list on the left hand side of my blog.
I have known many, many bloggers over the years that moved on to different ways of expressing themselves.  
Imagine my surprise when a friend who is on Twitter, but doesn't blog said, 
"Hey, did you see that Danni is blogging again?"

I thought she was pulling my leg.
She wasn't!
I know anyone who reads this won't quite understand my excitement, but I just wanted to pass along the good word.  


Monday, January 27, 2014

22 Marks the Beginning of a New Book

Every birthday until this one, his 22nd, has revolved around his attachment to our family.
His first family.
Our family's stories.

This year, he begins his own family.  
His own stories.  
His own book.
He and Katie are a family of two.
In the future, God willing, they will add children to their family.

I am so grateful and blessed that they are willing to intertwine their new stories with our old ones.
They celebrated Preston's birthday on Friday, but on Saturday they celebrated again with us.

We got him a couple tires for his Jeep.  Actually, we wrote a check for a couple tires for his Jeep.
I remember when Eric and I were just starting our life together, our stories, our book.  
We got practical presents like tires from our first families.


I'm so proud of the man he's become. I'm looking forward to watching his new 'book' unfold and share in chapters added.
I pray blessings on him for guidance, prosperity,  patience, clarity of thought and choice, and happiness above all else.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Office Assistant Gets a Snow Day

After checking the news this morning, and checking the weather channel, I decided to go to the source on whether my staff should 
come to work today.


The "source" being my driveway.
Looks like I should let everyone know they don't have to come to work.
While folks from the Northern states only laugh at 1/4 inch of ice on road surfaces, we in the South simply close up shop.
We're smart that way.
Some of us.
There have been literally hundreds of car accidents in the last 12 hours.
Some people think they can outsmart ice.
Me, not so much.
I'm originally from the North.
Snow---you can drive on it.
Ice---you can skate on it.
Unless tires have been adapted to wear skate blades, I'm thinking folks should just stay put.

Hobbes, being born and raised in the South did not believe me.
He had to get out and see for himself.
He decided I might be right---just this one time.

His co-workers weren't too sure about the weather either, but since they normally work outdoors anyway, they decided to brave it.  They've got heavy winter coats to help shield them from the elements and I put hot water in their water cooler so they could make tea and hot chocolate.

 The girls that work in the egg production side of my business were none too sure about the white stuff on the floors of their lunch area and parking lot.
Two of them had never seen ice before and weren't even sure how to proceed.
One went outdoors and stood on a rock.  The other was too afraid to even come outside.
The oldest girl in the factory has experienced this several times before and didn't even bother to come to the door.  She stayed by the fireplace.

Well now what?  How do I get back in without stepping on the slippery stuff?
 One girl got stuck in the parking lot and I had to rescue her.  
 I think all 3 girls are tired this morning, as I left the fireplace (heat lamps) burning all night long.  I saw them up partying at midnight last night when I was headed to bed.

Broccoli loves the cold!
 Hobbes insisted on wandering about to be certain that I was right before he relented and admitted I was right on the whole 'snow day' matter.
He went back to bed.


Our evil Queen Agave is beautiful in snow and ice.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taking Bets



We get real winter weather every few years.
Real winter is defined as:
Temperatures that rarely make it out of the 30s for months on end.
Temperatures that make it into the single digits, frequently.
Temperatures that make it into the 50s is considered a freak occurrence.
~as defined by Carla who used to reside in Missouri and who has relatives in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Thursday Night's Forecast

Precipitation falls almost exclusively as snow, ice, sleet or a combination of all three.
Rain is a freak occurrence.

People that live in places that have real winters have some or all of the following:
snow shovels,
snow blowers, 
children that are forced to use aforementioned tools, 
children that have to go to the bathroom as soon as they've been packed into 5 layers of clothing to go outdoors to play (because they aren't old enough to shovel snow--yet),
children that come indoors after 5 minutes of being outdoors because it's cold and they have snow in their boots,
snow boots,
cat litter in their car trunks in case they get stuck,  
hats that aren't purely a fashion accessory, 
gloves that aren't purely a fashion accessory,
scarves that aren't purely a fashion accessory,
fireplaces that aren't purely a fashion accessory, 
heated steering wheels and heated seats that aren't purely a fashion accessory, 
coats for cold, colder, really cold, and "only-the-crazy-go-outdoors"cold, 
flannel sheets, 
electric blankets,
3 dogs--for when you need 3 dogs to keep you warm at night,
and
multiple ice scrapers in each car, all of which are mysteriously missing when you need one.
I've missed a few, I'm certain.

Most importantly, people that live in places with real winters go to work, school, the grocery store, the movies, the mall, out to eat, and outdoors in general.


Friday's Forecast

In the South we do not have real winter.
We don't know how to do real winter.
When real winter mistakenly comes to Austin, the city and its people shut down.
Just the chance of wintery precipitation will close businesses and schools.
Not kidding.
Which is a drag because with the kids home from school, it would be nice to go to a movie or the mall.
Nope.
Nobody is willing to get in a car accident so my kid can see a movie or so I can buy a less fashionable, more utilitarian hat.
Sheesh!
Trouble is, there's never even enough snow to make a snowman or go sledding.

So, on Friday, I'll be on my computer.
Quinn will be in bed until late.
The dogs and cat will be in and out of the house a million times to check to see if it's still cold.
My heater will not shut off, but I'll still be cold.
Eric may or may not get home from being out of town.
Oh, did I forget---they close the airport too.

OR

It may not snow, sleet or ice at all.
I'm taking bets.
You in?

Update:  We did, indeed, get wintery weather.  School was cancelled.  200+ car accidents.
What I don't understand is that the weather channel pictures I posted of my weather and my storm have mysteriously changed.  Our storm was named Kronos.  As I type this, I see pictures of the deep south (not Texas) and a storm named Leon. 
Go figure?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Be Jealous


So what do you suppose the haze is in the photo below?
Smoke?
Dust?
Fog?
Air Pollution?
Clouds of cedar pollen were seen throughout weekend of January 10 to 12 in Austin.
photo credit: Judy Piekert of Austin, TX

None of the above.
photo credit: KXAN television
The cursed beast--Mountain Juniper heavy with pollen
It's Cedar pollen.
Technically, it's Juniper pollen.
Someone started calling it Cedar forever ago and the name stuck.
Mostly, no one cares.  
The plant, no matter what you call it, is a problem.
In the summer, it sucks all the water from surrounding native plants.
It grows and spreads voraciously.
In the winter, if the weather gods align, the pollen turns all breathing beings into 
sniffly, sneezy, drippy, watery-eyed, itchy messes.
There's not enough Zyrtec or Flonase on the planet to fight the tiny beasties that are pollen grains



A few days ago, we had a pollen count of 21,400 grains per cubic meter.
What that means is this.
21,400 pollen grains were found to be inhabiting the space of the nice box the boys in the photo below have built.



photo credit: http://www.whittleseaps.vic.edu.au/

That's off the charts.
Anything over 1,000 grains per cubic meter is considered high.
Let's just say that 21,000 is WAY more than that.


So, if you live up north and are feeling a bit jealous of our sunny, dry days in the 60's--
don't.
We're all miserable.
We're all stuck inside so as to save our lungs, eyes, and sinuses.
If we have to be outside, we're miserable.
Yes, I'm speaking for all of the Central Texas population.
I can do that.
Who's going to stop me?
Everyone is holed up in their houses with their humidifiers, neti pots, decongestants, nasal sprays, antihistamines, eye drops and jumbo boxes of extra strength lotiony tissues.

In case you're feeling smug and think, "How bad could it be?"

We've got H1NI flu virus in record numbers too.

Remember our state motto:
Everything is bigger in Texas.

We take it very seriously.







Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Farm and Garden Soup

A family favorite at our house.
Easy to make, doesn't need to cook all day, and freezes well.
You can also easily tweak the recipe to your liking without fear of messing it up.



Ingredients

6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 large tomatoes, diced OR a 24oz. can of diced tomatoes-drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups rotisserie chicken-shredded
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 large handful of baby spinach
2 green onions-sliced
3 large eggs
Cooked Rice of your choice

Directions

Cook the rice according to package directions, set aside.

In large pot, add Broth, Chicken and Drained tomatoes.
Cook over low heat for 1/2 hour.
Add Green Onions, Soy Sauce, Toasted Sesame Oil, and Spinach.
Continue to cook on low heat until Spinach is wilted.

In a separate pan, scramble the eggs.
Add them to the soup and gently stir them in.

Serve the soup over rice and add extra soy and sesame oil to taste.

Cooks note: Toasted Sesame Oil is the only odd ingredient in this recipe, but it is vital.  It adds an amazing taste and mouth feel to this otherwise low-fat soup.  The scent of it is also adds to what you will taste
Get some.
It will keep in your fridge for over a year and you'll be surprised how many things you will add it to.
A little goes a long way.

The end.
Easy-Peasy.




Thursday, January 9, 2014

His Favorite Tree


Looking for dinner and calling home.

His call travels better from 50 feet up.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Birds and Glitter and Angels

My computer can now load new photos!
Old photos are still out there somewhere.
Or rather still "in there" (in my old computer?) somewhere.
Eric's working on it.
*********************************************************************************

I didn't take down the tree yesterday.
I chose instead to wallow in some sadness I was feeling and watch reruns of Bones on Netflix.

Today, the tree is coming down.
I stopped when I had taken down the items you see below.


Christmas never felt like a terribly happy place at my house.
My mom did make oodles and oodles of Christmas cookies---recipes from her childhood.  
I think it helped take her mind off the fact that we were probably going deeper into debt.  Something we wouldn't be able to pay off 'til spring or summer.
It was never talked about.
As an adult, I look back and realize that I never went without. 
 I got the one 'big' present I asked Santa for every year---except the pony.  
I never got the pony.


I suppose as we age, we either tend to make memories worse than they actually were or better than they actually were.  
Our minds blur the edges.  
My mind has blurred the edges of Christmas for the better.
Having children in my life and a husband who makes every Christmas as wonderful as possible has helped.

These two photos are of special ornaments.
My mom gave them to me at some point.
I don't remember their stories with clarity, but I do know the birds in the top picture were on her tree as a child. 
 I'm not sure about the angels.
What I do remember is that they are special.
I am very careful with them every year.
The birds probably have 10 coats of paint and glitter on them from repair.
The angels are holding their own, but I have re-glittered their stars.

I like to think they are all from my mother's childhood tree.
I can't imagine Christmas at her house---with 11 children, it must have been sparse.
She never shared any bad memories of Christmases in her life.
It's possible the edges had blurred for her by the time I came along.

Do you have any special ornaments?  Have your edges blurred?

The one thing I am certain about, I still haven't gotten my pony.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Lot Happened and One Day There'll Be Photos--Maybe

My last blog post with my own pictures 
(because a picture is worth a thousand words~Arthur Brisbane, newspaper editor, 1911)
was on November 25th.
We were leaving for Kansas City, MO to meet Jenna and her friend Kellie for Thanksgiving.

We drove to Kansas City from Austin.
They drove to Kansas City from Lamoni, IA
(much hugging, laughter, pictures taken)
We ate.
We were tourists in our old hometown.
We enjoyed renewing relationships with family we hadn't seen in a while.
The girls went back to Iowa
We drove home to Texas.
(sadness)

We got home.
Wedding shower for Preston and Katie the very next day at church.
Love my church family!
(happy)

Jenna came home from college!
(happiness)

Preston graduated from college!
Ate BBQ with our family and Katie's family in celebration.
(content, proud)

Helped Preston move some furniture from one apartment to our house to his new apartment.

Christmas!
Food and family!
(blessed beyond measure)

In between all those events there was some arguing, some sadness, some worry, some distress, and some tears.
We wouldn't be a family if we had a perfect life.
Heck, we wouldn't even be human.
(keepin' it real)

Jenna's sweetie, Jeremy arrives for Preston/Katie's wedding.

New Year's Eve--stayed up til midnight, but only because I had caffeine. 


Wedding Rehearsal
Rehearsal Dinner at a local place.
Lovely, wonderful.

Joel and Jody arrive.
Nate and Jen arrive.
(Hooray!)

Wedding day!
Bright, clear and cold.
Deliriously happy couple!
Beautiful couple!
Smiles and tears and laughter.
Fairy tale day.
New Daughter-In-Love!
Typical feelings of 'losing a son'.
(Que SerĂ¡, SerĂ¡)

photo credit: Jenna from her phone/posted on Facebook

The very next day, they were all gone.
Preston and Katie--honeymoon in Colorado
Jenna, Jeremy-back to Iowa to school
Joel and Jody--back to Colorado to work
Nate and Jen--back to Missouri to work.
(sadness)

Today, on January 6th, I will take down the Christmas tree and move forward from a busy and emotion filled month.
(contemplative)

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.
A great Christmas.
A Happy New Year.