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Tessie’s Thistle

I’m not sure when our vehicles became ‘pets’ of sorts. Perhaps it is because they take on a sort of personality—my rough and ready F250 that served as my home/office away from home packed with blankets, reference books, water, flashlights, a few repair items. And then there is Tessie–the latest in our fleet of vehicles.

She was definitely a challenge at first, her self-driving mode a bit confusing—almost like someone learning to drive a stick shift—awkward stops at things like lamp-posts or black strips across the roads and certainly confusion over the roadwork construction cones, painted over lines.

And then there are thistles.

I have always liked thistles—not to step on or brush up against—but their big beautiful flowers atop grayed out minty green leaves. Finches like their seeds. Farmers with cows do not like thistles.

Still I take photos of them every year—fascinated by the purple globe lasting much longer than their more ubiquitous unwanted but so cheerful dandelion.

Three miles or 8016 steps

Trying to figure out relationships —of buildings and land areas and canals and bayous –can be challenging even when the sun is shining and it is a place you’ve been a dozen times or more before. People relationships may be a bit more straightforward—you can ask them who they are related to and if that person sitting next to them is their family member or friend or some random person.

Our walk—hardly a hike as it was all gravel paved road… was three miles according to Google maps but 8016 steps on my FitBit. We could hear some men talking–could see their cars through the trees—but we were too far away to ask them.

And then there was the waterway–it was not straight so guessing it was a bayou—the canals here tend to be straight and are the source of our city water.

I could look at a map.

Or I can just imagine the places that bayou runs and wonder if Ratty might be there—and maybe next time I can bring a picnic lunch.

Egg Hunters

Wisconsin springs did not always lend themselves to outdoor egg hunts. Usually my mother hid our baskets somewhere in the living room or dining room—a very small house in retrospect. One year, though, I remember an egg hunt on the farm with eggs hidden in the dog house, under the bridal wreath bushes, in the lilacs and in the crooks of trees.

Here in Texas, we are more likely to have rain than snow but this year, the weather was absolutely perfect.

It was rather a last minute request—to have an egg hunt for two grandsons and their dad—but we went shopping on Holy Saturday—to find no plastic eggs, we chose not to boil and dye regular chicken eggs, but decided on some plastic food containers with bright red tops, some Hot Wheel cars, candy eggs and little packets of M&M’s.

Before we had dogs, we hid eggs in our backyard—but with dogs able to sniff out any food related items, the front yard was our option.

The Weir boys headed out for a walk around the block while I (designated Easter bunny sub-contractor) hid the containers—including one for the dad.

Toby stuck her nose under the gate watching—and no doubt wishing she was invited.

It took them a lot longer than I thought to find the containers—with dad being the last—and taking the longest—maybe I made it too easy for him in his younger years.

But they were all successful and pleased with their finds.

Of course I needed a group photo.

and under the gate Toby and Dora both watched patiently.

We adjourned for a very traditional Easter dinner of corn dogs and ice cream drumsticks.

Oliver fell in love with Toby—Toby now showing her age and responding with less enthusiasm was so well behaved, Oliver wanted to take her home with him.

Fortunately Grandpa said no; and once again made Oliver cry with disappointment.

Bound and Labeled

Evenings while mostly listening and occasionally watching a movie or a series via Netflix or Amazon Prime are perfect for sewing down bindings.

The quilts are prepped with bindings sewn on by machine, sometimes pinned while aforesaid activity and then hand stitched. Labels are prepared by using bits and pieces of the ‘top’, a strip of muslin or other light colored fabric, ironed onto a piece of freezer paper for stability, the verbage created in Word and printed with each quilt having its own piece of paper. The words are traced onto the light colored fabric and pinned to a corner of the back.

Sewing down that binding by hand is very meditative and unlike a lot of other folks, I find it to be one of the best parts of quilt-making.

A photo is taken of the finished piece, printed on that piece of paper with the label verbage, information about the size and any details I want to add about the construction or pattern used.

Some pieces are fairly small–lap-sized or ‘baby’ quilt sized—my house is chilly around the edges and a quilt over the legs is welcome.

Here are the three I just finished:

Modified 9 patch

That center fabric–a cream color with brown leaves was my mother’s. I think she made a blouse with it. I never knew how she selected the amount of fabric she bought for clothing items.

Red and Blue Modified 9 patch with sashing

I do have a photo with the back not flying up and around but more of the ones with backing twirling to the front. I added a sashing to the same modified 9-patch idea but the center squares were left-over from another project thus dictating the final size of the block.


This was one of the projects in a curved piecing class I took with Okan Arts. The process is much like garment sewing, matching up notches or markings for accurate seaming. The light blue is a piece of batik I created using a tjap from Bali on a hemp/cotton blend fabric.

As you can see, they are all bound and all I need to do now is crop the images and print them.

The background area is my shop–a hundred year old rice farmer’s home.

Rainy days and a new computer

The sun is out today. It was 36 degrees this morning, but our house is relatively warm thanks to the sun heating up our tile roof for most of yesterday.

The previous days had been dreary, chilly, and dark. After some contemplation, I decided to replace a vintage netbook working on windows 8. It sat on the corner of my sewing desk attached to a large monitor for me to watch Netflix, book-making videos, art chats, and zoom meetings. Occasionally I would read my email there. But it kept crashing.

I now have a Lenova IdeaPad with Windows 11. This laptop has Windows 10 with all my documents, photos and programs—the photos are backed up and the documents copied onto SD cards and USB sticks—

While in Big Bend I organized my document files. I haven’t figured out how to organize the photo files as they live on both an outside photo site AND on this laptop. I have to think about it.

As I usually include a photo or two or more—I would not want to deprive anyone of that opportunity.

This is my submission for ‘Funny’ in an upcoming SAQA journal

Returngin Home

Our trip home was uneventful. Traffic was heavy and road construction made the last two hours challenging. I simply cannot see well enough at night to drive through construction zones.

Once home, we unpacked the truck (mostly) and headed to bed.

It was hard to sleep; remembering all the wonderful hikes. We contemplated a return in the near future, but there are other places to go, a family reunion, a medical school reunion plus just the regular upkeep and maintenance of house and home. The garage has a sagging roof that needs repair. The garden needs planting, and I have a stack of assorted projects all staring at me, tapping their feet impatiently.

Toby and Dora were thrilled to see us—although we tried to make it look like I was the one rescuing them from the kennel—-Dora did not buy it though. She still regards me as the one that makes her do things like go to the vet and get shots.

We learned earlier this week that a father and daughter are missing somewhere off Old Ore Road—their last sighting two days before we left. Their vehicle was left in a very remote and rough part of the park–although once off the pave road, it is all rough and remote. Maybe it was a good thing we judged our abilities as less than they were.

Big Bend Day Nine What Shall We Do Today

The morning was bright and cheerful and there was NO WIND!!! A lineup of cars were at the entrance station suggesting a lot of people on the trails. The road construction crew was home for the weekend so we did not have to deal with the one lane road and pilot car. Two options were available—Mules Ear and Lost Mine. I thought Lost Mine’s parking lot might be full, the trail over-crowded and so we opted for Mules Ear. We had done part of the trail in the past but not the entire trail.

The day was pleasant  with little breeze but the path was mostly downhill with steps of rock, mesquite logs, and some concrete. Several other groups were on the trail with us.

start of the trail to Mules Ear
look at all that rock

We made our way to Mule Ear Spring, the Mule Ears Peaks dispearing form time to time behind hills or mountains. This area is all volcanic and there was a large quantity of flat dark brown rocks looking like an abandoned construction site.

The spring is through some reeds and is covered with ferns—very pretty. A man in the other group tasted the water—I stuck to the bottle of water filled from our cabin. AT one point I sat down to draw a bit—a good excuse to rest my  feet and legs for a spell. I had not slept well for several nights and it showed in the drawing. Drawing/sketching with markers is not easy and requires some time to practice.

We never got to the overlook for Mules Ears having walked some distance down Sandy Creek Trail. This trail was marked as ‘moderate’ and only 2.4 miles round trip. Again we wondered how that was measured—I think with a ruler on a map as there are a lot of elevation changes making the trip much longer.

Somehow I managed to leave my camera behind when I sat down to draw but quickly discovered its loss only a hundred yards away from where I had put it down.

We returned to the parking lot, ate our lunch and Glen talked motorcycles with several other men in one of the groups. By this time it was nearly 3 PM. Too late to try another long hike so we opted to tour the Panther Junctdion garden area—vegetation marked with signage. That  parking lot was full suggesting a busy weekend ahead for the park.

goat mountain

Back at the cabin we enjoyed a glass of wine on the porch, ate leftovers from our meal at the Starlight and began packing up for our return trip home in the morning.

It has been a full week; we could have done more; we could have planned more; we could have brought better shoes but we didn’t. It was still a wonderful time.

Big Bend Day 8 Hiding from the Wind

Wind shook the cabin and clouds covered the sky. It was chilly and we were both reluctant to step outside. About ten the sun came out and we decided to venture out.

view from our front porch door cabin looking toward the east and Big Bend

We thought perhaps one of the lower elevation hiking trails would be more protected from the wind and so we chose Burro Mesa Spring and Pouroff. Both of us were happy to have hooded jackets and I found my stocking cap and gloves in a back seat pocket.

start of burro mesa spring trail

more trail

looking back

end of the trail with spring by that cottonwood

Quite a few people were on the trail and we chatted with some of them. The distances marked on the maps did not seem consistent with my Fitbit readings..perhaps they were crow miles, not land miles. We did a lot of up and downs and over rocks. The spring was at the bottom of a wash with some sheer drop-offs. We could see footprints there but remembered our agility and aging bones and called it a completed hike.

Our next stop was at the PourOff. This was considered an ‘easy’ hike of a short distance. Again it required some effort on our part to traverse. The pouroff resembles a lava tube and we could hear people on the upper spring trail talking.

A couple from Washington state asked about pinon—and showed us some fruiting bodies==definitely not pinon nuts. Near the pouroff we found several pinon trees with a large quantity of pinon nuts below—it was tempting to run after that couple—but again remembering the status of our feet and legs—we opted to continue on.

pinon tree
pinon tree

By this time it was a little after 2 PM. We wanted a short hike—but not too long as we wanted to be at the Starlight before 5 PM to assure ourselves of a table. Homer Wilson ranch and part of the Dodson Trail seemed like a good option.

This ranch site was abandoned in 1945 but it is stil in excellent condition. The ranch house itself is roomy with a large porch overlooking the canyon below. The foreman’s hose is much smaller. Remains of the corral were visible but we did not find the dipping vat for the sheep.

bear warnings for this area that was home to 2500 sheep a century ago
abandoned in 1945 but still looks like it would be livable
corral still standing

Terlingua weas packed with people abut we were able to get a table quickly at the Starlight. I had chicken Suate, Glen had the ribeye—and we sampled the antelope strips as an appetizer. The bourbon chocolate pecan pie was as wonderful as the first time.

the first time we ate here the stars were visible through the missing roof; now there are painted stars on an enclosed roof

Home to sort through photos and prepare for our last day here.

Steps today—13,771. Perhaps it was a good thing we did not hike yesterday giving our aging feet and muscles a time to rest.

Acrobats and a Bull

Last Thursday was a doctor visit day and I like to spend some time in the Museum of Fine Arts. There is always something new and interesting to see and sometimes just walking through the galleries in a different direction yields something exciting. It has been a long time since I’ve been in a museum–thanks to the pandemic—and I was eager to see the Calder-Picasso exhibit.

It was beautifully displayed; the huge mobiles hung from the main gallery space as well as most of the downstairs gallery rooms. It was something that was difficult to photograph although I gave it a try.

Calder’s work began with small figures constructed of a very thin wire; some with a single piece. One grouping was of acrobats—and reminiscent of the French exhibit of the people dissected and posed but without the odor of formaldehyde. The pieces grew larger and suggested foliage and vines and airplanes. PIcasso used a heavier wire for his pieces; and the two of them both worked with folded metal sheets.

Picasso also did a series of lithographs featuring a bull. The series began with a simple line drawing reminiscent of the cave drawings and progressed to a fully modeled bull. or perhaps it began with a fully muscled creature that was pared down to a simple line image.

Of note, Picasso was most fascinated with his masculinity as that anatomic part was frequently exaggerated in size–perhaps envy on his part.

of interest also was the concept of an initial sketch of the final sculpture.

Thinking in 3-D and in motion is not an easy task. I thought Statics was a fun mathematical challenge but then when I had to think about those stationary items moving—the math was easy, the concept difficult. Picasso was able to converse equally in 2-d and 3-d formats; and Calder in 3-d and in motion.

It was an exciting and overwhelming exhibit in the complexity of display. Here are a few more images–a taste of what was there—but the magnitude and airiness of the pieces is something not captured in photos.

Pay no attention to the man with the immense granite marble.

Dipping my toes

Winter is our favorite time to visit the beach. Sometimes, like yesterday, the weather is perfect, sunny and warm. Other times it may be chilly and blustery but there are few people there. It is peaceful and serene. I like to wade in the water and although I roll my pant legs up, they get soaked. I thought I might avoid that problem by wearing a pair of German Army shorts (no photo!).

I regretted that apparel choice as there was a breeze. And the water was cold!

We did have the beach to ourselves, though. Two trucks drove by, waved and kept going. No fishermen/persons. No radios. Just birds and the waves and rustling of the marsh grasses.

Toby and Dora raced up and down the beach, occasionally dashing into the waves. Dora took care to roll in the sand several times. The back seat of Tessie looks like we brought the beach home with us.

There weren’t many shells but there was a rotting catfish Toby really wanted but wasn’t sure she could eat it all before being called away===and of course there were birds to chase—never successfully.

The Great Blue we had seen before was wading along the shoreline once again. Gulls and sanderlings and other shore birds were there too.

We had a lunch of cheese and crackers; decided to visit what used to be the Dick Dowling park but is now the Sabine Pass Battleground park. For the first time since we have lived here, there was an entry fee. The park is nicely laid out with lots of places for fishing, a boat ramp, and interpretative signage of the Civil War battle and World War II munitions storage.

We walked along the fishing piers, Toby thought Glen should open the ‘gate’ at the end of the pier for her; and tried sampling the salt water at the edge of the boat ramp–didn’t like the first ramp water, thought the second might be better.

Everyone was tired when we got home. This morning Dora reluctantly went out to fetch the newspaper–if there had been a thought bubble over her head it would have read–‘grumble, grumble, grumble, okay…but don’t ask me to do anything else today”

Dora rolled in the sand several times while Toby was too eager to run to take the time to roll in the sand