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Well, the chores are muddling along. Got the garage door opener back together. Lost one screw, replaced it. Had the car halfway in when I remembered that I forgot to plug it in. SIGH. Had to drag the ladder back over and plug the thing in. But it’s working. Poor husband is STILL jackhammering. Ran into just a huge piece of bedrock. UGH. I got two loads of laundry done though so that is out on the line. Washer is working fine with the new clamp. Fertlized the garden again. It really looked bad yesterday so I did the low fertilizer twice. I see no point in giving it the full doses and then rinsing it away when I water the next day so I did two small doses and most of the plants look better. The cucs probably won’t make it. They are just yellowing for no good reason. I’m hot, sweaty, I stink and I ruined my t-shirt.

So, pretty much a typical day of doing the chores I don’t like. I would like to speak with the guy who designed the garage door opener such that you have to take a screw in and out without being able to see the screw or the head of the screwdriver. Y’all need to plan better and you annoyed me greatly this morning. Just so you know.

In other news, a way to help with the hurricane situation: conserve gasoline. Refineries are still out and pipelines closing. Less driving is always good for the environment too.

Posted: August 31, 2017
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life

Fairyland – Inner Space Caverns

I love caves. They are very inspirational, not to mention beautiful. Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown, Texas is only a few short miles from where we live. We’ve never gone there because the signs near the area are so cheesy, we figured the caverns were small and nothing more than a tourist trap.

Well, the signs are misleading! Thanks to regular blog-reader, Max, we decided to go visit the caverns and my! what a great surprise. The cave is very much a living cave with fabulous formations. It’s been a nice, wet winter too, so there were some great water flows, making for just a magical place. The cave costs about 18 dollars per person to tour and takes about an hour. It’s well worth it if you’re in the area. Beautiful formations, knowledgeable guides and a lot of fun.

As always, click on the thumbnails to view a larger picture.

Posted: March 16, 2010
Filed in Texas

Lightning Bugs and Owls

So last night we were standing out front. I was teasing Husband because normally I go out back. There are plants back there that need tending and talking to. I tend the front too, but a lot less often and not in the evenings. We were just standing on the driveway chatting and this little lump flew up from the ground and onto our roof and then into the nearby tree. There were a few robins heckling it. It seemed rather fat for a dove.

A few seconds later the little fat dove dove for a tree across the driveway. The robins were in hot pursuit! When it landed on an open branch it was pretty obvious it was a little owlet. Oh my gosh. You haven’t seen cute until you’ve seen a little baby owl! This thing was just gorgeous with giant orange eyes. It had little tufts too. As I moved around to get a better view, I spotted ANOTHER baby owl on a different branch! FABULOUS. With a little more looking and a couple of hops, we found a third! I think it’s unusual for owl parents to have three owlets! No sign of the parents either. We watched them until they flew off. Cutest things ever.

Of course, we went out to look for them at dusk tonight. No luck. Not a single fat bird to be found. BUT. Lightning bugs!!! I haven’t seen a lightning bug in Texas EVER and I’ve lived here for twenty-six or so years! I haven’t seen a lightning bug since I was a teenager! And there they were, whispering across the front lawn, blinking. FABULOUS. What a treat. I told Husband that it paid to leave the one area in the front wild (it’s a bunch of trees, and we let just about anything grow between those trees. Sometimes I throw wildflower seeds in there. The neighbors probably think it’s a mess, but I love that tangled area. I once found a five dollar bill in there too!)

So tonight we stood and watched fairies. I mean, fireflies. What a treat.

Posted: June 29, 2017
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life

Palo Duro Vacation: Two Engineers and a Dad

I try to visit my parents on their desert cattle ranch in New Mexico whenever possible. Occasionally, I out-clever myself and we meet somewhere. One year, that place was Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas Panhandle.

palo duro

My husband and I arrived at the cabin first. It was a nice stone building tucked along the top of the chasm. Outside, beautiful red-rock Spanish skirts decorated the landscape. Inside, two bedrooms were separated by a three-foot hallway. Strangely, there were no doors on either end of the short hallway. A sink and toilet was on one side of the hallway. Directly across from it, another glass door covered a shower. Anyone getting out of the shower had to step directly into the open hallway. If you were using the toilet, anyone walking through the very short hallway could see what you were doing. Then again, if you’re in the bathroom, I guess they already know what you are doing.

My husband and I moved our things into the room with the microwave and refrigerator because it had a double bed. The other room had a daybed with a twin stowed underneath. My parents tend to fight over who is hogging the bed when they try to sleep in a double. I figured they’d be happy about the twin beds and mildly unhappy about the strange engineering concept that put all the electronics in our room…their room had a light, but not a single electric outlet.

Since I had expected mom and dad to arrive an hour earlier, I hiked about a mile to the public telephone booth near the ranger station and reached dad on his cell phone. What followed was a typical father/daughter communication with a bad connection thrown in. “Where are you?” I asked.

Dad replied, “Highway forty, almost there.”

Since highway forty doesn’t lead to the park, “almost there” didn’t make any sense. As long as dad knows where he is, he can be maddeningly inexact. “Almost where?” I asked.

“Almost to Amarillo,” he replied. “I guess we’re going to stop and get dinner.”

“I thought we were going to grill food here?” I said.

“What?” he crackled back.

“Weren’t we going to grill?”

“Well, I don’t know where we are going to stop,” he replied. “We might get something grilled.” More crackling while I hinted that they had the food.

“I guess we can bring you some food.”

“No, I said…” The connection crackled. “Hello? Hello?” It was gone. Died. Calling back would do no good. Parents never listen to their children anyway.

I hiked back to the cabin and reported the development to my husband. Mom and dad had agreed to bring a cooler with steaks and burgers. My husband and I only had buns, potato salad and silverware.

“So what should we do?” he asked. “Eat potato salad?”

The wind was picking up and we didn’t really want to drive to Amarillo in search of a meal. If we were delayed and my parents arrived before we returned, we had the only keys to the cabin.

We waited. Two hours later, we were starved.

Dad’s only comment upon arrival was an innocent, “I didn’t know you were waiting for us to bring the food.”

“I told you we had the food,” my mother asserted.

“But weren’t you hungry?” he asked her.

“It doesn’t matter,” I interjected. “We have the food now.” It was seven o’clock and the wind was blowing very hard, which made it difficult to get the charcoal hot enough to grill.

While my husband and I ate, dad told us about the Italian restaurant in Amarillo. “It didn’t look like much and they had plastic forks, but the food was darn good!”

Mom agreed. “I didn’t want to stop there at all. Italian food is so expensive. I was just going to get a salad, but they had spaghetti and breadsticks. I could have eaten a dozen of those breadsticks.”

“And the price was right!” dad added. “You should drive up to Amarillo before you head back home and try it.”

“What was it called?” I asked.

They looked at each other. “Oh let’s see.” Dad scratched his almost gray hair. “It was–do you remember?”

Mom frowned. Her hair isn’t as gray as dad’s and she perms it so she has those little old lady curls. “No.”

The breadsticks and plastic forks rang a bell in the back of my mind. “Fazolis?” I guessed.

“That’s it!” they both shouted.

“How did you know?” my mom sputtered. “I thought you said you hadn’t been to Amarillo before!”

“It’s a chain,” I said with a grin. “You guys need to get out more often.”

It was downright blustery outside so we went inside to tell stories about growing up on the ranch and all the creepy crawling bugs and rattlesnakes that are in the desert. My husband, from tame Wisconsin, was not overly inspired by our enthusiast tales of survival.

Before long, a discussion started on the cabin design.

“Even if the second room was an add-on they could have put in electricity. The electrician must have been lazy,” dad decided.

“I guess the guy putting in doors was lazy too,” my husband said.

We examined the door frames to see if doors had ever been attached. “Maybe we could take the door off the water-heater closet and latch it onto the hallway opening,” I suggested.

Dad stroked his gray day-old stubble thoughtfully. “If you had thumbtacks you could at least hang a blanket. But my tacks are in the truck. We brought the car.” He carefully searched the cabin, but didn’t find tacks. All the while he mumbled, “You get out of the shower, your naked butt will be hanging out for all the world to see.”

From the look on my husband’s face, I was pretty sure he was not excited about this possibility.

Though we all stared at the doorway long and hard, no solutions appeared. The opening loomed.


Road Trip

I recently took a road trip that involved driving long distances across Texas. Basically almost any road trip in Texas involves long distances because frankly, Texas is huge and it takes a full day’s driving for me to get *out* of Texas. I thought it interesting that traffic on I-10 wasn’t as busy as in past years. On the way out, traffic was a lot lighter than I expected. On the way back, traffic consisted mostly of semis and very few cars. I’m fairly certain that some of it has to be due to gas prices, which ranged from $3.43 to $3.95 for unleaded. Near El Paso and Van Horn, where truck traffic can be extremely heavy, there appeared to be less semis hogging the road too.

Finding a hotel in the fifty bucks a night range meant staying away from the larger chains in a couple of cases. Walking in and asking for a rate was cheaper than booking online or calling ahead (this was especially true of the large chains.)

It appears that having a membership card to a hotel chain means they will tack on 20 dollars so that your “free” room after x number of stays is…paid for by the 20 dollars more they charge above a non-member who walks in and says, “how much?” I always suspected as much, but we went ahead and tested it on the trip. Sometimes I wish I weren’t right about my suspicions.

At one hotel where I stayed, I was peacefully minding my own business when the front desk called. “Can you move your vehicle over one spot? The lady who just checked in next to you wants to back into the spot directly in front of her door.”

Hmm. I was in front of my own door. I peered outside around the curtains. Technically the spot I was in could be for either door. Technically if this lady wasn’t all that secure in her ability to back up her van without hitting me, I’d happily move it.

“Sure, I’ll move it.”

Since I had no confidence in the other driver’s ability to back up, I moved it over two spaces. Hey, I’m nothing if not cooperative. Especially if it saves me getting a dented car.

So what do you think? Are you watching what you spend on gas? Driving less? Thinking of staying closer to home this summer?

Posted: April 12, 2011
Filed in Texas

Short Hike – Bird Refuge, Doeskin Ranch

Click for larger pictures.

There’s a few areas in Austin designated as the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge. The area isn’t necessarily completely connected. We’ve hiked on some of it before, but not all of it is open to hikers. Some of it is reserved entirely for birds and whathaveyou during breeding times. I’m all for preservation, but I do believe these places have to allow hikers and people. How else will anyone learn to appreciate nature?

Anyway, we went to hike one of the areas known as Doeskin Ranch. We’ve been before. It’s not all that large and this time we didn’t see much wildlife–not a single deer or even a rabbit. I think we saw a total of two birds and one was while we were driving! It’s a nice hike with some trees and a lot of open spaces. It used to be a cattle ranch. Before that, looong before that, settlers used to harvest the trees and grow cotton.

There’s still an old house that has been restored near one of the creeks. As houses go, it’s not plush. It’s one room for however many people had to squeeze in. Note that it has a lot of gaps. Built-in air conditioning, but that’s okay because there were no windows.

We used to have something similar out on our ranch in NM that my grandfather built when he was young, but all that was left by the time I was a teenager was an old metal bed frame. There was no restoration going on for Grandfather’s cabin, but you could still see a few of the cut tree planks scattered around. There was bits of wire that possibly held some of the wood together. Down one of the ranch roads just a few feet from it, an old tub was perched against some rocks as though a huge explosion had just delivered it to the middle of nowhere. I am not sure the tub had anything to do with the one room house. I think it was hauled out there to hold water or feed the cows.

I took a few pictures from the Doeskin Ranch hike to share with you. We walked about four miles total, maybe a little less. It wasn’t very strenuous other than near the top of the one ridge. Still, even that wasn’t more than a few feet, so we were able to haul ourselves up quite handily. I walked in regular sneakers; my hiking boots are at the ranch!

Posted: October 12, 2017
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life

Walks of Life: Texas

I have a friend who lives in Houston. She posted a very interesting story to facebook the other day and has given me permission to share it with y’all:

Last night was a bad night. My dogs were randomly barking, which they never do, and I swore I heard a gun shot at 4 AM. Then when we left for swim practice, we saw a large amount of blood in the street. For those of us who have watched too many episodes of “Bones” recently, we tried to pretend none of this happened. I just got a note from a neighbor that a cow was loose in the neighborhood, got hit by a car, and had to be shot. Only in Texas …

Posted: February 8, 2014
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life

Zilker Park, Austin

A good friend of mine came to town yesterday so we went to Zilker Park to walk around. It was a gorgeous day! Originally we were planning to look for their bird rehabilitation area. I’ve been there before and there were some great hawks and owls. But, being me, I got kind of lost so we ended up walking along the Colorado River instead. Austin calls this river ‘Town Lake’ or “Lake Austin” or “Lady Bird Lake,” but it’s clearly a river if you ask me. And Town Lake is the old name for “Lady Bird Lake,” which according to the map could meander anywhere along that section of “river.” Whatever. There were ducks and turtles and boats and glorious sunshine with a nice breeze. You may have to click the pictures to see any details. Ducks and turtles are kind of small.

I took some photos to share with you!

Posted: November 29, 2017
Filed in Texas, Walks in Life