Full Sturgeon Moon
There were 2 full moons this August!
We started the month with a full Sturgeon Moon. But I only saw it in the morning.
The ducks were unimpressed.
This was the hottest August, I ever remember in Texas. It was tolerable being outside, very early in the mornings.
I tried to get out for runs before the sun came up. Muggy and 80, but better than 104.
Not So Cool Pool
Most pools in the Houston area became like giant bathtubs.
But it was still refreshing to be able to jump in. Sometimes in my clothes after yard work or running.
After the big freeze last winter, so many of our plants suffered, or were lost.
I spent a lot of the month trying hard to keep the plants from dying.
Most of our plants aren't used to triple digits. I was proud for every bloom!
Lucky for Meds
Poison ivy used to be a regular thing, in my childhood summers.
Weeding led to a huge outbreak. I suffered until I got steroids. No complaining, though. My rash was nothing compared to Don's back issues. Activity was limited for Don in August.
With lots of home time, I got some chores checked off my list. I thought painting the laundry room would be fun and easy.
I was sloppy and impatient with my brush and little roller. Don to the rescue! He ignored is back pain and fixed my mistakes!
We haven't been to a movie theatre since the pandemic. (Seats are much comfier than 3+ years ago!). Barbie was a fun pick for a hot summer day. I ate my weight in popcorn.
My bucket of popcorn was half gone, by the time we got through all the movie trailers! Yep, I got the free refill before heading home!
The pool got more use than it has in years. Sometimes, I skipped my run and did laps. And sometimes I just lounged.
I did some reading and floating (with plunging mixed in) and I stared at clouds. Do you see a pig?
On the Road
At the end of the month, we hit the road and headed for Missouri. We picnicked at a park in Corsicana, Texas.
Not far from the giant flag, I discovered an old metal merry-go-round! It brought back good memories.
We spent one night in a small Oklahoma town.
My mother's family has owned land in Atoka County since 1915.
Country music singer, Reba McEntire grew up on a ranch in Atoka County. She recently opened a restaurant/bar, in Atoka's century old Masonic Temple.
I shopped on Main Street and got a blouse for $4.75 at the hardware store.
We had a grand time eating dinner at Reba's Place and learning lots of inside scoop, from the staff. They were very friendly on that slow night.
We closed down Reba's at 9 pm and wandered the cute little Main Street, under an almost full moon.
I met a doggy while shopping on Main Street the day before. I met a longhorn, in the morning.
We spotted the cows when we headed out in search of the family's property in Atoka County.
Just after we pulled onto this dirt road, I asked Don to pause so I could take a photo of the sign... Chockie Mountain Road.
A man driving a truck slowed down and greeted. We ended up chatting through our windows for 10 minutes. Turns out he was Reba McEntire's brother, Pake. He said our car was parked where the old McEntire mailbox used to be.
After our fun, chatty encounter, we headed down another gravel road and found the 40 acres, that my grandmother's uncle purchased from a Choctaw Chief, over 100 years ago.
My 3 sibs and I now own two thirds of that property. Which means I own about 6.6 acres of Oklahoma property, near the McEntire Family Ranch! Time to build a tiny house!
On nearly the last day of August, Don and I stayed with our old Tulsa neighbors, Kim and Dan. Cheers to about 35 years of friendship!
We only had one night to catch up, but it was a perfect evening! Another full moon night!
We walked up the street to spot the full Blue Moon, through the trees! I absorbed all the warmth and power of that beautiful moon, to let me start the new month! September will begin with a family reunion in Missouri!
Don and I spent almost all of July at home.
For the first 10 days of the month, our house was loud and happy, with celebrations and voices and toys and activity.
After our long roadtrip in June, we enjoyed hanging out at the house with Heidi, Jamie and Charlie. It was nice to have time together, while their furniture was in transit from Oregon to Austin.
It's been years since Don and I have had "kids" at home over the 4th.
Charlie wasn't sure what to do with that flag... so I blasted on some Sousa and we did some marching throughout the house. Can't say I've done that in recent years!
The temps reached about 100 on the 4th.
The pool helped!
A quick storm helped. Thunder sent us to the porte cochere, for some tricycle time. Hard to believe Charlie's mom once rode that!
The sun came out again and popsicles helped cool things off.
Fresh plums, watermelon, hotdogs and corn on the cob! It felt like the 4th!
Don wore his Party Crocs!
And we toasted with red, white & blue pina coladas! Toasting made me miss the rest of our family!
After the 4th, Heidi was busy working remotely. We squeezed in some toe-time after work one day.
We did not have coffee on those mugs. It was after 5.
Heidi and Jamie left for Austin when the moving pods arrived. Don and I had Charlie to ourselves for a few days.
I love these two together.
Charlie doesn't do much sitting around, but she did have some couch time with Don.
We only watched TV once, to watch a little bit of "Frozen".
Charlie's voice was just as sweet as these photos, when she sang along with the Disney musical.
"'Cause for the first time in forever..."
And More Singing
We heard a lot of singing!
Charlie's Old MacDonald Voice is much louder. I believe in both photos, she's holding that last note for a little drama.
Charlie visited the piano every day. We sent a video of "Happy Birthday to Uncle Scott..." on his birthday.
Sometimes "Grandma" was allowed to play the piano. But often I was instructed to dance to Charlie's music. "Happy!" "Sad!" "Silly!" It was exhausting. And funny.
Charlie's feet couldn't reach the pedals, so I was allowed to help with the pump organ.
We went through a lot of instruments. The cigar box "guitar" that Heidi made in high school, was a hit.
The ukuleles were fun.
Don taught Charlie how to strum.
Plucking the old zither was more fun than strumming. Charlie tried to sing the sounds she made.
Better than I could do!
I was excited to get out some old records from my childhood. Charlie was less enthused.
Charlie listened to Burl Ives sing "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly..." But when he sang the words, "...Perhaps she'll die!" They didn't match the words Grandma had been singing for days. I think Charlie wondered why the man sang, "Perhaps she'll die" instead of "Perhaps she'll cry". Such a weird song!
Lot of old toys and teaching props came out of hiding!
It was fun to see Charlie pretend. I'd forgotten how much I actually love to pretend.
The old black phone was a prop I used with classes. Charlie took right to it.
I'm not even sure who she was talking to!
I adore reading books to kids, but mostly Charlie read to me.
She found this old gem, made by my dad and brother.
The book that Charlie seemed to like the best was my childhood favorite, Eloise!
Charlie could definitely relate to the spunky 6 year old Eloise!
After a couple days of Pop-Pop and Grandma time, it was time to drive to Charlie's new house!
The 2.5 hour drive was nothing, compared to the 2,200 mile drive we used to make to Oregon! It was fun to see the new house, but I only stayed one night.
Quiet at Home
It should have been easier saying good-bye, since our cities are so near, now! But after 5 weeks of bonding with our favorite 2-year-old, I knew it would be tough not waking up to her in the morning!
It seemed way too quiet back in the Sugar Land house. Even the neighborhood felt quiet.
Routines and Heat
It was nice to get back to routines. I don't love running, but it felt good to get out there again.
I went early to avoid the scorching heat. I was happy for sprinklers.
The fierce heatwave called for cold drinks. And since our downstairs a.c. went out, we enjoyed them outside.
Poor Don dealt with worsening back issues during the month. But we got a smile from him, here!
The new baby ducks on the lake, didn't seem to notice the heat. They seemed surprised to see me. The only person not hunkering down in their air-conditioned home!
After a week without a.c. (and dishwasher & disposal) the house came to life with repairmen. Actually it was 2 days!
We got a new a.c. unit AND furnace. It took the workmen many trips up and down the wooden attic stairs. Some sloppy work caused a hole in the wall and stained carpet... ugh!
I was sort of furious with the workmen, before the carpet cleaner and painter did their work. But the focus on the attic prompted me to have a look for forgotten treasures. Toy kitchen! Charlie needs that!
I only explored the oven-attic for a moment. I brought down the old "Showboat Theatre" I adored as a child. I cleaned it and played!
Finishing the Month
By the end of the month, Don's back was feeling up for a drive to Austin, so he could see the fam in the new house!
We only stayed one night, but what a fun time! And what a relief to know we no longer have to book flights or block big amounts of time. What a sweet way to end the month of July!
Starting in Springfield
June began with a one-night trip to Missouri.
I gathered with relatives to celebrate my dear Aunt Spencer, after her sudden passing. I felt extra grateful, that I had seen her in January.
Sad occasions often result in good reunions. I had a nice visit with Dad.
I saw cousins that I haven't seen in a while. It was a sad, but special beginning to the month.
Off to Oregon!
On June 4, Don and I left for Oregon. We stopped for a night at the cabin and toasted to safe travels ahead.
Our drive began in Texas, but took us through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.
Every evening we celebrated with a toast.
We talked about what we'd seen along the way and the good things coming up.
We hit some interesting hotels. La Posada in Winslow was once a Harvey House Hotel.
The old Mizpah has been sitting in Tonapah, NV for 116 years. The Border House was next to the state border, but it was also once a "boarding" house hotel. In Crater Lake National Park (OR) we stayed in a rustic lodge. All so different!
We had good food on the road. Don enjoyed a burger and tots in Post, TX and a spicy Mexican feast in Albuquerque, NM!
I ordered at a crazy looking counter in Seligman, AZ and a wooden counter in Tulelake, CA. No complaints about my grilled cheese or my ice cream!
We wore the proper dress for our bigger feasts in the evenings. Bolo tie for a Southwestern meal in Winslow.
Neon paisley for my crazy steak feast, in a retro Lake Tahoe casino!
Curious Crossroads & Borders
We stopped to admire some noteworthy intersections and state lines, on our trip. The iconic Winslow intersection was free of tourists at 5:30 am.
We couldn't stay at the iconic CALNEVA Hotel, because it had closed down. The hotel (once owned by Frank Sinatra) sits directly on the border of California and Nevada. But we stayed at the hotel next door.
Sunsets and Sunrises
I love catching a good sunrise or sunset while traveling. The RR tracks were glowing in the evening, near our hotel in Winslow.
I rose extra early to catch the sunrise at Crater Lake Lodge. 5:15 am!
Happy Valley, OR!
Happy Valley was our destination. We arrived on the 10th.
This was the real reason for our trip. We came to help with a move.
Grandma & Pop-Pop
Don and I didn't fill boxes or move furniture. We entertained Charlie, more than anything!
It was a little sad to know we would never come visit this house again... or enjoy neighborhood walks, with views of Mount Hood.
But there was nothing sad about this little girl. And there was nothing sad about knowing our daughter's family would soon be living in Texas!
After 2 years of traveling over 2,000 miles to visit Charlie, we now will drive only 2.5 hours from Sugar Land to Austin!
Starting Off in Oregon
After packing and closing up the house, the 5 of us left in 2 cars. We gave ourselves 12 days to meander back to Texas.
The first stop on the road involved a cozy stay, back at Oregon's Crater Lake Lodge.
Fireplaces, mountains, volcanic lake and snow...!
Pool & Ice Cream in California
There was nothing unique about our chain hotel in Redding, CA where we stayed on our second night.
But Charlie had her first ice cream cone ever. She also had her first real pool experience! Both were a hit!
Fun food stops made the road travelers happy.
Lucky for us, Charlie is pretty content in the car and she loves restaurants!
Reunion in Sacramento!
Our most special stop on the road was a 2-night stay in Sacramento. What a treat for our family to be all together. (click to enlarge)
We had a Father's Day BBQ and a wonderful brunch outing. We had lots of yard time with apple picking and rock collecting.
It was relaxing to spend 2 days (mostly outside) before being stuck in a car again. It was extra hard saying good-bye to Scott & Cha. Wish we could have had a 3-car caravan!
Nevada... Vegas with a 2-Year-Old!
We spent 2 nights at the Mirage, in Las Vegas.
Sounds like a crazy idea with a 2-year-old... especially one that won't be carried and doesn't like hand holding.
Charlie would have preferred running ahead of us at all times, but she was given a choice of holding hands or holding the strap of my bag. She cooperated well!
Sin City Entertainment
It was all about the pool and shopping for Charlie. Actually she only "tested the fabric" as we passed a display.
None of us are big gamblers, but Heidi and I did dash away one evening and had fun losing some money on the slot machines. I would recommend Willy Wonka, as the most entertaining slot machine.
Arizona's Grand Canyon
We spent one night at the Grand Canyon and caught the sunset.
I stayed on Charlie duty most of the time. I was happy that she liked following birds and looking into trees more than climbing the wall.
We couldn't get dinner reservations at El Tovar, till 9 pm. But it was a wonderful feast and our toddler hung in there well.
Cooling off in Colorado
We took a break from the road, for 2 days of relaxing, in Durango.
We only wandered from our hotel as far as our legs would take us.
The children's museum was a hit. The food trucks at 11th Street Station fed us well. Mostly we loved hanging out on our hotel's terrace.
Santa Fe is not the ideal vacay destination for kids, but again it was all walkable for us.
We had a heavenly dinner at the Pink Adobe. The 300 year old building has housed the restaurant since 1944.
The atmosphere was quiet and cozy. The food was heavenly!
Touristy Stops Along the Way Arizona & New Mexico
We found some kid-friendly dining along Route 66 in New Mexico and Arizona.
Elvis and diner decor in Kingman, AZ. A stuffed bear and BBQ in Tucumcari, NM.
Charlie obviously thought it was silly to pay $8. per person and wait in a line for a goofy photo op at "Four Corners! She walked away. But we did get to add Utah to our list of 7 states. (somebody should have instructed us about putting our feet in different states!)
Back in Texas
We spent 2 nights at Texas hotels before reaching Pop-Pop & Grandma's house. The Big Texan in Amarillo and Shady Villa in Salado.
The kitschy Big Texan was a hit. Shady villa's pool was broken and the restaurant was closed, so no comparison. Big Texan actually wins the prize (for kid friendly fun) out of all our stops. (click to enlarge)
We swam in the Texas-shaped pool, then dined in the crazy Big Texan restaurant. We stopped to visit the Horse Hotel, before turning in at the Big Texan Motel. I love a motel room with saloon doors!
Home in Sugar Land
On the 28th, we split up our caravan. Heidi and Jamie said good-bye to Charlie in our car. They headed to their house closing, in Austin.
Charlie slept a bit and woke in good spirits. We had a couple days to reintroduce Charlie to the house. Back at Christmas she wasn't yet 2, but she remembered her favorite things.
After 2 weeks of no crib and no routines, Charlie was suddenly in a house with no Mommy or Daddy and no baby-proofing. Thank goodness this little girl is flexible!
Charlie kept me moving from room to room and activity to activity, but I couldn't have been happier. I was giddy when she picked "Eloise" as her go-to-sleep-story, each night. I was delighted over her songs and pretend games.
But the most exciting thing, is what you don't see in any of these photos. Her beloved "Paci" went to his own bed, as soon as we arrived at the house. He only came out at bedtimes! The timing was lucky! None of us can believe that she happily went along with this.
Heidi and Jamie arrived at the house on the last day of the month. We cracked open champagne to celebrate their return to Texas after 6 years.
What a packed month! We spent so much of it on the road, that we literally zoomed through the month! I will admit I'm pooped, but in a good way. It feels like we squeezed 90 days into 30. Why? I think because Charlie seems 90 days older! What an experience to watch your grandchild grow for a month! July 2023 won't be forgotten!
Don and I spent the entire month of May, getting caught up at home... and celebrating here and there.
A May Day surprise (from very special neighbors) was our first little celebration!
Cinco de Mayo
Weather was just right for margaritas and guacamole on Cinco de Mayo.
We added some Mexican carryouts and some mariachi music1
You know it's a relaxed month, when there's time to revolve the morning around the TV, watching Prince Charles become King Charles III!
We didn't get up in the wee morning hours to watch, it live. But we taped the 4-hour event and watched the best parts with breakfast. Served on the Royal Doulton china, of course.
Mother's Day TV
We hadn't intended on eating our pasta in front of the TV on Mother's Day. But by the time we finished FaceTiming with the kids and Zooming with my siblings, the daylight had disappeared.
I still got what I had hoped for... ravioli and chianti (in a champagne flute!) and an Italian movie. My kind of celebrating!
Celebrating with House Projects
New paint always feels good. We got the bathroom and kitchen painted.
After the mirror mishap in April, we were prompted to make some changes.
This is our mirror, shortly after we heard the dramatic shattering from the other room. "Shattering" actually sounds too gentle. The sound was more like an explosion! But no one got hurt. Not even finger cuts, with the 3-hour clean up!
Weeks later, when the workmen carried in the new mirror, I held my breath. But all was good! That's worth celebrating.
Walks & Runs
It was nice to get back to regular exercise in May. Don and I got back into our own walk and run routines.
I love to run early, before the sun's up. But I started getting nervous about hidden obstacles.
There were so many odd discoveries on the sidewalks, in May.
Now I run when there is some light.
The lake behind our house is usually calm and predictable.
But the lake got very active in the month of May
For the first time in 25 years, we spotted a bald eagle from our yard.
He stayed around the lake for just 2 days and then he was gone.
But this pretty guy, left the lake and wandered into our yard and made himself at home.
Luckily, this 9-foot alligator did not invite himself into our yard. But he did live in our lake for about 10 days.
Mostly he stayed in the water
He enjoyed the fountain behind our house. He camped out near our mailbox and near the "Catch & Release" sign.
I took this photo (from the car) on Mother's Day morning. He was facing the same culdesac, that he had visited day before. He seemed to be thinking about exploring again. He actually ended up on someone's porch.
Mother's Day "Rescue"
In the afternoon on Mother's Day, I briefly watched a skilled "Alligator Rescuer" capture the gator.
I only watched for a bit. It was actually kind of sad. But this post is about happy stuff. The happy part is that the gator was relocated, not killed. And hopefully we'll go another 25 years being gator-free in our neighborhood. I didn't realize how stressed I was, until he was moved.
On my birthday in April, I vowed to enjoy and celebrate with more people this year. I tried not to forget that vow, as we entered a new month.
I'm a happy hermit at heart, but I know being with others really does feel good.
Now and then, I have to remind myself what it was like 3 years ago. In May of 2020 we were all pretty isolated, during the first pandemic spring.
So in May 2023, we said cheers with others.
Cheers to the pandemic being pretty much behind us.
Cheers to getting in the pool for the first time in 2023.
And CHEERS to seeing our kids next month! June will not be a quiet, stay at home month.
And Cheers to the new baby ducks on the lake!
So glad we don't have to worry about the ducklings meeting up with the gator! What a good way to end the month!
Birthday & Bon Voyage Zoom
Just like the movie title, April was enchanted! Don and I spent my birthday and much of the month, in Italy! We started celebrating the night before we departed... with these special faces on Zoom!
Our Family Zoom had one interruption. It was an explosive crash, made by our mirror, (9.5ft X 3.5ft) falling off the bathroom wall. Not a fun 3-hour clean up, but the memory is fun-ny now!
Birthday & Easter
The next day we were finally on our way, to enjoy the trip we cancelled during the pandemic. Our trip was scheduled to celebrate Easter and my birthday, in the sweet town of Soriano nel Cimino. First time my birthday landed on Easter, in my 66 years!
I celebrated one other birthday and an Easter, long ago in Italy. Those childhood celebrations were on different days, but I remember them fondly. Don and I toasted to my 2023 Birthday/Easter and to the beginning of our Italy adventure. I wore a mod paisley dress like I might have worn in 1969, when I turned 12 in Florence. I didn't have champagne back then, but I remember being bothered by the rum in my birthday cake!
We did a lot of toasting on our 18-day trip. I also did a lot of camera snapping, which means I've gone overboard with the photos.
Actually, these are all iPhone pics. We packed carryon only and left the old Nikon at home. Cheers to "gallery display" (above) which allows for more photos. Just click image to enlarge.
Places... Starting with Rome
We visited 7 cities/towns. Rome was the first. We arrived on Good Friday and did our best to ignore jet lag. The holidays brought crowds to Rome, but the Vatican area was fairly quiet at dusk.
Standing in St. Peter's Square brought back memories of my family's visit 55 years ago. We lucked out in 1969, with a sighting of Pope Paul VI, inside St. Peter's! No luck for Don and me on this trip, with less than 24 hours in the beautiful city!
Six More Stops
Italy's train system worked well, getting us to 6 other villages and cities. (click to enlarge)
The weather was mostly cool, with mostly blue skies! We were lucky!
We were also lucky with no mishaps or sprains, with all the stair climbing! We knew we'd be climbing lots of hills, especially in the Cinque Terre villages. But we hadn't realized just how many indoor and outdoor staircases we'd be climbing in all the locations.
All the step climbing usually rewarded us with incredible views. The photo above was taken after climbing a spiral staircase inside Vernazza's Doria Castle. A 360 degree view of the sea, village, harbor, terraced hills and distant mountains!
The pics below are just some of my ridiculous collection of stair photos.
When I was a child living in Italy for a short time, I recorded (in a small notebook) the number of steps I climbed in domes and towers. I no longer count steps, but I'm clearly still obsessed with them!
Sometimes all the climbing made us thirsty.
Wine, cappuccino and Aperol Spritzes! We had a lot of those beverages!
And we burned enough calories to make up for all the pasta and bread and gelato!
I lack photos of important foods. Where's the spaghetti and focaccia and lasagna?
Sometimes we enjoyed food, on the go.
Food always tastes better in the fresh air, especially when you're famished from all the walking!
My favorite part of the whole trip was wandering, either early in the morning or off the beaten path.
I'm shown hiking above Vernazza and Don is exploring the overgrown gardens of Palazzo Chigi Albani, in Soriano.
Below are some of my favorite places and fun discoveries.
Even in the most touristy places, we could always find quiet places and views.
People Watching and Meeting
I enjoyed our tourist-free wandering, but I didn't mind the people watching at busier times. Most of the other travelers seemed to be Italian. I loved observing the locals and hearing the Italian language!
Sometimes I just spotted people doing things that made me smile.
We also met some wonderful people. We had some amazing hotel hosts and delightful wait staff. We enjoyed chatting with other travelers now and then. In our Soriano hotel, we befriended a couple from England and ended up joining them for dinner.
Besides people watching, we had some good animal spotting. We saw some sweet kitties here and there. I remember when I was a kid, worrying about the Colosseum Cats, that swarmed the ruins in Rome. The cats we saw all seemed healthy!
While wandering early, in Lucca and Riomaggiore, I had some nice animal surprises, with this horse and seagull.
I took more photos of churches than probably anything else on our Italy trip.
This tiny Gothic beauty, (Santa Maria della Spina) was far from the Leaning Tower crowds, in Pisa. It was sitting between the Arno River and a street, like a miniature cathedral! I wish I could have gone inside.
Exteriors & Interiors
In each city/town, we visited churches.
(click for info)
You didn't need to know the history, (or anything about religion or architecture) to appreciate the flavor of each!
Castles and Palaces
Besides churches, we wandered through a number of castles and palaces.
In most of these, we were the only visitors, which made it easier to imagine living in these amazing structures!
Morning was my favorite time of day. It was quieter and I had more energy.
But as I look back on these photos, I think evening/night was the loveliest!
So we're back home now and April is over. We need to get back to reality, like replacing the demolished mirror. But, I can't get the trip out of my head.
Our Italy trip introduced Don and me to a lot of new places, We finally experienced Cinque Terre! But the trip was also a nostalgic one for me. I spent a lot of time remembering what Italy was like, 55 years ago when I first laid eyes on tile roofs and cobblestone. I've aged a lot, but I'm glad Italy is still so much the way I remember it!
I'm so grateful that Don was enthused about visiting some of my favorite places, from childhood. Going down in Orvieto's well and visiting the 16th century Park of the Monsters was as dreamlike and magical as I remembered.
Climbing is no longer allowed, but Don and I set the camera timer, for a pose with the Giant Mouth!
Best of all, we explored new places together. I took about 2,000 photos and at least I have a handful of the 2 of us together...
... only one of which is a selfie, taken from our hotel in Vernazza!
I'm so thankful we pulled this trip off without health issues or pandemics getting in the way. We came back happy and healthy and so appreciative that our knees and backs cooperated!
Ciao for Now!
Don and I didn't leave the state in March.
We did make it about 4 hours from home, though. We spotted a few bluebonnets along the side of the road.
In the good old Texas Hill Country, we saw some redbud trees and some bluebonnets.
We were actually a week too early for a real bluebonnet display. But the drive was nice!
We made it to the cabin for a couple days. These photos are actually from February, when we discovered a broken pipe and had to wipe up the mess with beach towels.
This time we met the plumber and all was fine. Except for that darn palm tree that was suffering after the same freeze, that did a number on our pipes.
Weather was perfect!
The temps were in the low eighties.
By the second night the temps dropped to the 30's and we got to have a fire. Best of both worlds!
It's nice to take our time driving to and from the cabin. I talked Don into a silly detour, so I could lay my eyes on Oatmeal, Texas.
I had hoped to eat some oatmeal in the town. But there's not much left besides the tall "can" and the windmill.
Back in Sugar Land, I had a good reunion with my childhood friend.
Diane lives on the east coast, but was in town for work. Don made us Mexican martinis and we had Texas BBQ.
Then & Now
Diane and I had a lot of fun as kids in Iowa, trick or treating and riding bikes. Sadly, our only photo as kids together, is one with Diane's head covered.
Since Diane moved away after third grade, we've managed a few adult reunions. We always make sure to get some photos. This reunion involved a visit to Houston's Funeral Museum.
The museum is actually amazing and not a bit creepy. We wandered and talked and learned little and had some fun.
I posed on a designated "selfie spot" posing circle... with colorful caskets from Ghana.
Diane removed a "Do Not Touch" sign from an exhibit that celebrated famous animal actors... who have died. The retro TV & TV tray scene, was right out of our childhood. Diane did not touch the exhibit, I promise!
Pearls and Bowtie
You know it was a quiet month, when I have time to spotlight our evening of TV. We watched the Academy Awards with French 75 cocktails and popcorn.
We dressed for the event. (pajama bottoms out of view) and we texted with the kids, since we had all voted on winners. I tied for last place. But we made it through he whole award night without nodding off!
And That's It!
So I'll end this simple post of March with more flowers.
Yep, there's my bear again. A simple month with time to take photos of that Little Bear!
So Many Celebrations!
This is mostly what we celebrated in February.
We spent 2 weeks in Oregon. Charlie turned 2!
We celebrated Valentine's Day...
Which also happened to be Charlie's second birthday.
Birthday celebrating lasted through the weekend.
Charlie tested out her new slide before her little friends came over for her Kitty Party.
A few days later, we made sure to fit in a Mardi Gras celebration.
We all enjoyed beads. A few of us enjoyed King Cake and Sazeracs. Actually the cake was awful, but it looked festive.
Family at the Zoo
We celebrated President's Day with a trip to the "Oregon Zoo". It was cold and gray but the zoo was lively.
Charlie enjoyed the fake animals, more than the live ones.
Most of all she enjoyed the people! We managed to have a (logistically tricky) reunion, with 12 relatives who drove many hours for a zoo meet-up! Cheers for a gathering of aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins!
Portland Art Museum
Another evening was spent celebrating art! Our dear friend Milissa works at the Portland Art Museum and gave us a warm welcome!
Charlie explored the museum in her own special way. She experienced the floor, using all body parts and she tested the acoustics with her voice. Finally a multimedia exhibit captured Charlie's full attention. The music and colors were mesmerizing. Before we left the room she said softly, "Good bye colors. I love you."
We celebrated afterwards at the iconic Jake's Famous Crawfish, which has been around since 1892!
Celebrating an Old Friend
Don and I slipped away, one morning and drove across the Columbia River into Washington. It was cloudy, but we could view Mount Hood on the drive.
We met up with my old college pal and her husband at their home. Claire is the one who introduced Don and me, in 1977!
Lunch and a Hike
After a fun lunch outing we hiked near their home. Don and Michael gabbed...
Claire and I followed behind, reminiscing and laughing. There's never enough time!
Portland's second biggest snowfall ever, hit during our stay. Charlie was more than happy to bundle up and head out.
Charlie did not want to try the sled.
But she was happy to eat some snow!
Celebrating at the Lighthouse!
The day after the big snow, much of Portland was closed down. But Don and I had reservations for a night at the Heceta Lighthouse!
Our 4-wheel drive rental got us to the iconic lighthouse by late afternoon. By evening we were enjoying wine and cheese at the Lighthouse Keeper's House B&B, with my sis and sis-in-law.
Before it got dark, we walked up to the lighthouse. Had it all to ourselves!
The view from our room was stunning.
The 7-course breakfast was scrumptious! It was hard to drive away from the cozy white house!
One Last Stop... Astoria
We had one more day before heading back to Portland. The snowy drive was gorgeous, but closures slowed us down. We arrived in Astoria by 5.
We had dinner at a fun place across the street from The Elliott. Next morning was cold, when we explored the waterfront. Once again... needed more time!
The Portland area had more snow, so the last days of our visit were spent hanging out and being cozy at home. No problem with that!
Saying good-bye to a 2-year old is a lot different than saying good-bye to an infant. Kisses... "Bye Bye Pop Pop. Bye Bye Gramma"
What a special visit. What a memorable February.
New Year's Day
Don and I celebrated NYE at home, like happy old fogeys. We made a toast with my Great Aunt Mary's old coupe glasses.
We made it until midnight, but I was sipping water by then. So I guess I'm cheating, by opening this 2023 post with this photo!
But I'm not cheating with these pics. I did indeed get up on a foggy New Year's morning and jog.
I rarely take my phone, but I'm glad I had it. The morning was eerie and lovely.
We had a handful of nice days in January. I read by the pool.
I read and ignored the dead ligustrums and oleanders. We had a bad freeze in December! But this is the Happy Blog. The petunias are coming back and I spotted a monarch!
In mid-January, my sister and I flew from TX and OR, to see Dad.
I brought some candy necklaces as a joke, but we 3 ended up wearing them all day. Well, almost all day.
We visited with some of our Springfield relatives.
6 of us are in both photos. Some of us look a little cheerier in the 2023 photo!
Dad & Daughter Time
We had no plans when we arrived. We just spent time catching up. Jennifer fixed Dad's old cabinet door...
I looked through photos with Dad.
It was too cold for picnics on this visit. We ate our meals out, which was nice after so many recent pandemic visits.
On Martin Luther King's birthday, we went to a book store. Something Dad had been wanting to do.
Big Trip to Arkansas
Another thing Dad has wanted to do, is visit Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was 2 hours away and Dad is 94. His walking has become more difficult. I was skeptical.
But we pulled it off, mostly thanks to Jennifer's determination! The best part was that when Dad started getting tired, instead of wanting to leave, he finally gave in and said YES to the wheelchair! A milestone for sure! Suddenly the huge museum and grounds became much more accessible!
Back in Texas, the weather stayed cold. Don and I gathered for a potluck with our international friends. It's always fun catching up after the holidays. So many different traditions and stories, in this group.
On January 22, Don and I celebrated the Lunar New Year. Just Chinese carryouts this year, but they were good! Year of the Rabbit!
Bring on the Circus!
A huge highlight of this month was a last minute adventure to see Cirque Du Soliel.
We've known Lauren since she was 3. We have memories of Lauren, her sister and our young kids, tumbling and clowning around the yard, when we lived in Oklahoma!
Lauren is obviously grown up now and she works for Cirque Du Solieil. She contacted Don and me with some last minute VIP tickets. We were suddenly at the big tent!
What a spectacular evening, from start to finish!
It wasn't the last day of January, but I spent the last few days of the month dreaming of (being younger) and running away with the circus!
Thanks Lauren and thanks Cirque Du Soliel, for making me laugh and squeal like a kid again!
It finally happened! Our family was able to gather together for the first time in our home, in 6 years!
In 2016, there were 6 of us. This year we also had 20-month-old Charlie and Chali's brother, Alex.
Earlier in the month, it was just Don and me. We spent a few days at our cabin.
Just the 2 of us... a couple bears and a handful of decorations. No TV and no interruptions. Just books and puzzles and some neglected cabin chores.
One day, we drove from the cabin to spend the day in Fredericksburg.
Our favorite little Texas-German town was looking extra festive for the holidays.
Fewer Covid Worries
This holiday season felt so much safer, than the 2020 & 2021 holidays.
We didn't exactly attend huge parties, but we enjoyed a few friends and activities, outside the house! No lockdowns or bubbles!
And Finally...12 Days of Christmas!
Six years ago, the kids lived closer and we gathered at the house for a few days.
This year "the kids" came from CA, OR & DC and our celebrating lasted 12 days! We started off with a toast! There were many toast in 12 days!
We gathered around a lot of tables.
It's been many years since we sang the Johnny Appleseed song at the Christmas dinner table. We almost forgot about our funny, "musical" tradition. We never know how the song will end. Sometimes we're in hysterics, with cringeworthy harmonizing. This year we nailed it and grinned.
Everyone pitched in with meal prep and clean up... or food pick up! Sadly no photos of our many breakfast tacos! Don and Scott teamed up on smoked pulled pork for Christmas.
Charlie decorated cookies... well sort of. She discovered on her own that the white paint, tasted really good!
Music & Dancing
There was a lot of music in the house. We had to unearth an old boombox for Christmas CDS. And then we made our own.
The music inspired some fine dance moves!
The weather turned ridiculously cold, but we still got out. Charlie tried out the very trike, that her mom and uncle once rode. (She'd rather push!)
The hot tub didn't get fixed in time... after waiting months for a part. But "some of us" braved a Polar Plunge on Christmas day!
We made sure to plan in a tiki themed night.
It got down to 23 degrees that night, so the theme kept things warm!
Besides Hawaiian shirts and leis, the big fashion moments were mostly made by Charlie.
This girl loves hats and shoes. There were lots of shoes lying around to choose from... near every door!
Christmas Eve Dinner
Our casual group spiffed up a bit for Christmas Eve Dinner, at our fave Rudi Lechner's. Our attire wasn't nearly as curious as some of the staff. Father Christmas, the accordion guy and our Elf Server, dressed for the evening. There were some oddly dressed guests also. A Trump shirt on Christmas Eve!? No photo.
We made some champagne toasts in the festive atmosphere and I grabbed Charlie for a little polka dancing. Usually there's a whole band and a larger dance floor. We made do.
I think Charlie wins the prize for dining fashion though. No one can pull off a dainty barrette in quite the same way. And how about those "hip" beads that her grandmother wore in 4th grade? The glasses complete the look!
It was an odd crowd at Rudi's and a curious vibe. It was a buffet only this year, so that was different.
But the German food was yummy and plentiful. Alex showed us the proper pose, before digging in.
Love and Laughter
Our silly moods (and kisses) followed us home from dinner!
There were lots of signs of affection over the next days.
There were some old critters that needed kisses in the house. Besides kisses, there were...
Hugs and High Fives
There were early morning hugs...
Thank you hugs... leg hugs and of course good bye hugs. No photos of those. Too sad.
There were no covid fist bumps this year. But we did have some high fives.
Charlie was extra cute when her Aunt Emily visited.
Lots of Laughing
Laughing was the best.
My camera only captured a fraction of the laughing moments.
It was Christmas, so there were gifts. But that was hardly the focus. There was definitely some laughing with the White Elephant gifts.
We exchanged some Game Gifts. Don handed out some Kitchen Gadget Gifts, we opened and swapped some Book Gifts... and Chali gave us each personalized handmade Candle Gifts! Lots of themes!
Some gifts were hugged or read or worn right away. Some "paper gifts" were given to avoid suitcase worries later.
Hanging Out Time
All in all the best times, were just hanging out times.
I wish I had some candid couch snoozing photos.
The outside walks started getting warmer.
The air was balmy on a Rothko Chapel outing. Some shorts actually came out of suitcases.
I'm feeling so grateful that we pulled off a Texas Christmas in 2022.
A year ago, the kids cancelled flights and Don and I drove last minute to Oregon. After lots of worry and rush, we had a great time celebrating Charlie's first Xmas, on the west coast.
This year, we hung our stockings in Texas!
There wasn't much sitting still for this little toddler's second Christmas. But Charlie managed to sit and stare at her uncle, for the entire "The Night Before Cajun Christmas", just like last year!
I've gone ridiculously overboard with this post. But that's because we seemed to pack about 100 days into 12. What a wonderful 12 days!
By the last day of December, it was just Don and me. We toasted to an incredible visit and we toasted to the future. Who knows where we'll be at Christmas next year. I'm just so grateful to have had this one!
I love travel, but sometimes it's nice to stay put. We had a lot of home time in November.
Much of the weather lovely. We enjoyed it and so did our neighborhood critters.
Early in the month, we had midterm elections. Don and I voted one morning, then went to breakfast.
In the afternoon we relaxed outside and refused to fret about the outcome... which wasn't perfect, but better than we feared.
I spent a good part of November, lifting and dragging boxes from closets and underneath beds. A lot of sorting and purging and debating over...STUFF.
Getting 7 rooms (plus hallways) carpeted, requires lots of prep work. Especially when you've lived in a house for nearly a quarter of a century. It was a daunting task, but this is the Happy Blog. I actually laughed a lot, as I went through old stuff. I laughed at the bathtubs as I filled them up!
Luckily the installers moved all the furniture. But only bare furniture. Don's back is still healing, so I was on my own for most of the junk-moving.
I was amused when I saw how they shuffled our furniture from room to room. The old pump organ jammed here, the antique youth bed, jammed there...
I had a heck of a time clearing out shelves, so they could move them. Few people have shelves so oddly packed with goofy displays. I had fun putting it all back.
Even the built in shelf had to be dealt with. But I made some fun discoveries as I pulled out neglected scrapbooks and a few forgotten autographed books! Justice Sandra Day O'Connor...!
Celebrating with People
It was nice to be home for a month, to catch up with a few friends.
Here we are having a good old fashioned potluck with "old friends".
I also enjoyed some "younger friends" at a baby shower. Jessie's little one was born before Thanksgiving!
And I got to enjoy a visit from an even younger, little neighbor friend. I was so glad to have that new carpet, for sitting and looking at books!
I guess I didn't exactly stay put, in November. But I did stay in Texas, when I met up with friends in Fort Worth.
The 4 of us had not been together since the pandemic. We also made a new friend. Larry is the best waiter in all of Fort Worth. Maybe the world!
Quiet & Cozy Thanksgiving
It poured on Thanksgiving. There were even tornado warnings at one point.
This could have been a depressing Thanksgiving, since it was just Don and me. But it was cozy and relaxing and we kept in touch with family, all day!
Family in Oregon
I couldn't have been happier knowing that our West Coast Kids, were having celebrations with 2 of my siblings. Heidi, Jamie and Charlie drove 2 hours from Portlond, to be with my sister and her family.
They sent us updates and photos and we did the same.
Family in Idaho
I was equally thrilled that Scott and Chali were were able to drive from Sacramento to Boise. They spent Thanksgiving with my brother's family.
Again, technology made us feel like we were all spending the holiday together. Our family is so spread out, but so many of us were together!
Turkey for Two
It was just Don and me in Sugar Land, but we were totally content. I pulled out Aunt Mary's old crystal for some sparkling wine. I set the table with Grandma Daw's old china.
Then Don smoked 2 turkey breasts and I tried 2 new recipes. The turkey was amazing. One success and one fail, for me.
I didn't get a photo of the turkey chef, but we have a bit of Don's hand, in our toasting photo!
Weather was gorgeous the day our neighborhood planned to decorate the entrance. It's been many years since Don and I have gotten out and helped.
But there we were, in the sunshine, chatting (and sometimes helping) with neighbors. Some, we haven't seen in years.
In our yard, I wound colored lights around some tree trunks. I had help from a visiting kitty. Then I decorated the porch.
On the last day of November, I put out 11 boxes of donations for charity pick up. All that sorting and purging... Whew! I kept fingers crossed that UPS deliveries wouldn't cause confusion. (That happened once) All was good!
It was a good month! Except for a 2-week ailment, which I wasn't going to mention, because this is a happy blog. But it was my first sickness since the pandemic. I'll put that in for the record. Yay, for getting well and yay for still managing to avoid Covid for nearly 3 years! Yes, a good month!