Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Around OakMeadows


Around OakMeadows

Pine warblers have moved into OakMeadows. We don't see them every year but they have recently shown up. Pretty little birds!  The goldfinches are still here stuffing themselves with thistle seed. Just about the time they start putting on their breeding colors, they will leave us which just goes to show how ungrateful they are after all the thistle we have given them.  Cardinals, blue jays, doves, and the inevitable red winged black birds have been at the feeders.  We have seen the little skunk several times, a rabbit, raccoons, a possum, and the deer. Nothing unusual. 

We didn't get to go to Brazos Bend State Park as planned. The weather has not been cooperating. Foggy and overcast. And this evening we have a cold front coming through; I hope it brings some rain since we are still in drought condition. 

Speaking of travel, I think we are going to cancel our trip to Washington, D.C.  I'd rather spend the time, money, and effort going birding. Maybe a trip to the Louisiana coast. I know in June we will be going to a wedding in San Marcus and we will spend a couple of days birding the Texas hill country. 

Quilting is moving along at a glacial speed. I don't know why the little table runner is taking so long to do!  I have several projects mulling around in my head that I would like to get started on if I could get the runner finished! I want to do a baby quilt and I want to do a travel quilt using the patches we have accumulated on our travels all these years. 

I am really enjoying reading Basilica by R.A.Scotti about the building of St. Peter's in Rome. Quite a cast of characters. I finished listening to Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham on audio CDs. It was fascinating to learn about that brilliant, complicated man.  I have a book coming from amazon.com and one coming from the library. So many books, so little time!!

Cooking has been just the usual fare, no new recipes or dishes. I did bake chocolate chip cookies and this morning it had 3 overripe bananas so I made a loaf of banana nut bread. 

JMM is happily settling into retirement. He usually does outside work all morning, comes in for lunch and a nap, and then reads and helps me get dinner together. Oh, that reminds me, our DD recommended the television series Sherlock and we got the first of the series on Netflix DVD. It is excellent! We watched the two episodes on that DVD and are looking forward to the next. If you haven't seen it, check it out!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Portobello Burgers

1/4 cup Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme 
Salt and pepper
4 portobello mushroom caps (5 inches in diameter, 1 1/2 lb.)
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
4 round crusty rolls, split in half
1 tomato, sliced thin
2 cups arugula

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Combine the oil, garlic, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. 

2. Place the mushrooms gill-side up, on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush the mushrooms with half the oil mixture and roast until the mushrooms awe just tender, about 20 minutes. Flip the mushrooms over, brush with the remaining oil mixture, and continue to roast until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the mushrooms and continue to roast until the cheese melts, a out 5 minutes longer.  Lay the cooked mushroom caps on the rolls and top with tomato and arugula. 

Serves 4

Sunday, February 23, 2014


“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Poetry for Saturday

i thank You God for most
this amazing day: for the
leaping greenly spirits of
trees and a blue true
dream of sky; and for
everything which is
natural which is infinite
which is yes. 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Goals for Next Week


Goals for Week Ending Saturday, March 1, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Table runner Block #2
2.  Reading
     The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict of Nursia
     Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
     Winter Hours by Mary Oliver
     Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal by R.A.Scotti
 3.  Cooking
      4 dinners
      Make March Menu
 4.  Painting Master Bedroom Project
      Paint wall #2
5.  Plan trip to Washington, D.C.  
6.  Make March budget
7.  Birding trip to Brazos Bend State Park if the weather cooperates

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Memory: Playing before there were screens


Memory: Playing before there were screens

I am remembering all the things we played before everyone got their own personal screen. I am excepting the movie screen and the one small black and white television screen. I don't remember ever being unhappily bored as a child. There were times when there was nothing special going on but it was a pleasant poking a twig in an ant nest to see them come out kind of bored. 

So what did I do:

I played jacks on the front porch with my friend Kathleen for hours. 

I played hop scotch on Kathleen's wide driveway. 

I liked to jump rope by myself. I didn't like to jump rope with 2 people on either end turning the rope. From a young age, I wanted to control things.  And how someone could jump more than one rope being turned in opposite directions was nothing short of a total mystery to me. 

Bike riding was almost always fun. The exception was when the horrid boy across the street would run me off the street with his bicycle.  I have often wondered if he ever went to prison when he grew up. 

Hula hoops were the craze one summer.  That was fun. 

I never learned to roller skate although Kathleen was a whiz on them. 

Playing cards: Fish and Old Maid and sometimes Canasta with the grown ups. 

Board games: I know we played checkers but never chess. I played Monopoly but it was never fun after about the first 30 minutes. 

Pick-up sticks, well you can imagine how well someone as uncoordinated as me would do at that!

Playing the piano. I was never really good but I could entertain myself for a good while playing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes or Harbor Lights. 

Reading, always. 

What I didn't play with: 
      Anything involving a ball.
      Red Rover
      Chasing or being chased

That's what comes to mind but I'm sure I have forgotten a bunch of games. What did you play before screens took over the world?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This profoundly moving book is narrated by Death which is quite appropriate considering that the story is set in World War II Nazi Germany. The central character is Liesel Meminger who is the Book Thief.  There is so much of human experience, character, and emotion in the book that at times tears are near, at other times you are holding your breath, and at other times laughter, happiness, and contentment are there. We follow Liesel along with her foster family and her special friend as they move from childhood to adolescence in the horrible times of the Third Reich. Don't give up anywhere in the book until you have read the very last page. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Around OakMeadows

We have had temperatures all over the scale this week. Down in the 20's a couple of nights and now we are supposed to hit 80 tomorrow. We have signs of spring--the dandelions have sprung up deep green blotches on an otherwise brown yard. It is also the time of year to be thankful you are not a male mockingbird. He begins announcing his territory well before dawn and spends the rest of the day chasing other mockingbirds away.  It must be exhausting.

My bedroom painting project is well underway. JMM very kindly does the brush and roller washing up for me and that is the only part of painting that I don't enjoy doing. It always surprises me how much better the wall looks after painting than before. The other side of that, of course, is how awful it makes the wall beside it look so you can never stop with just one wall.

It has been too cold to quilt much of the week as the cold just makes my fingers too stiff. But I should be able to get a lot done before the next cold front comes through. I hope to have the table runner finished by the end of March so I can get going on the Travels Quilt.

We have had the usual Blue Jays, Cardinals, Collared Doves, Titmouse, and Chickadees at the feeders; the Goldfinches are still with us and I am glad because the weather is still so horrid up North. We were very surprised to see a group of Cattle Egrets last week; they usually stay down in South America for at least another month.  The gorgeous Sand Hill Cranes are still out in the rice fields; JMM counted 30 in the flock. I wonder when they will leave.  Mammal sightings have included a small skunk, a rabbit, and the usual deer.

The flower beds look horrid with the dead lantana and milkweed stalks. I am thinking of paying someone to just come clear it all out and be done with it and have it all ready to plant. JMM will burst a blood vessel though--but he will get over it.

I read an absolutely fantastic book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I just couldn't put it down. I will write a review later this week as I am still digesting it. Other reading: I finally finished all 700+ pages of Empire of Liberty by Gordon Wood; it was an excellent history of the years after the American Revolution through the War of 1812. It was so well written and such an interesting period about which I knew zip, zero, zilch. Just getting started on Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder and am wandering through Winter Hours by Mary Oliver.

Daughter and SIL are looking to buy a house.  I always enjoy house hunting. My friend (and realtor) Vicki Haislup and I are having lunch to discuss what is available. Houston is a booming city and it is a sellers market. I am not sure if they will be able to put it all together and be out of their rental by June 1. We shall see.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Greek Salad


Greek Salad
Serves 4-6

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin Olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 romaine lettuce hearts, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved 
1 8-ounce jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
5 ounces feta cheese, crumbles

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a bowl large enough to hold the salad. Add the onion and cucumber and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Add the romaine, tomatoes, peppers, and mint to the bowl and toss. Sprinkle with the olives and feta. 

Serve with fresh pita or sourdough bread. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014


“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Apple Inc.

Our Animal Neighbors by Sitting Bull

Behold, my brothers, the
spring has come; the earth
has received the embraces
of the sun and we shall
soon see the results of that

Every seed has awakened
and so has all animal life. 
It is through this
mysterious power that we
too have our being and we
therefore yield to our
neighbors, even our 
animal neighbors, the
same right as ourselves, to 
inhabit this land. 

Tatanka Yotanka, Sitting Bull

Goals for Next Week


Goals for Week Ending Saturday, February 22

1.  Quilting
     Table runner Block #1
2.  Reading
     The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict of Nursia
     Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
     Winter Hours by Mary Oliver
     The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
 3.  Cooking
      Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
 4.  Painting Master Bedroom Project
      Paint wall behind dresser
5.  Plan trip to Washington, D.C.  


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is based on the true story of an unlikely WW II platoon which had been tasked to rescue works of art which had been stolen by the Nazis and to return them to their rightful owners. While this film is no Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List, it is unabashedly heroic and without cynicism. The characters are well drawn and human. There is comradeship, humor, and pathos. Definitely worth seeing. 

The Olympics


I am not a sports fan at all.  Perhaps it is because I was always the last person chosen for any team other than the spelling bee team. (I didn't blame them for not choosing me for the team; I knew that if any ball of any size came toward me, I just tried to get out of its way so it wouldn't hit me.) The attraction of watching or playing sports has always eluded me. 

So every other year we have the Summer or Winter Olympics where nations vie with each other to host the games. They spend a gazillion dollars to build villages and arenas for the athletes, journalists, and tourists who attend.  Since wasting money is what governments seem to do all the time anyway, this is not surprising but it does seem to be a shame that they don't spend the money to improve infrastructure or provide a better life for their citizens.  Anyway, what I find hard to understand is why the athletes spend their lives doing one thing, honing their skill hour after hour, week after week, year after year. It seems terribly boring to me. So after the competition, we crown the victor. Fine but then what? Do you spend the rest of your life doing endorsements for sports equipment? And what about the competitors who have spent years of their lives and all their parents' retirement money but came in 4th or are disabled by accidents or damage from overuse? Doesn't seem like a reasonable use of time or money to me. But then I'm not a gambler. 

All that being said, I do like to watch the figure skating. The music is beautiful, the costumes are usually lovely, and it seems to be as close to flying as humans will ever get. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Birding in the Rio Grande Valley

The pictures aren't as good as I'd like because it was overcast and we didn't have the tripod with us.

Black-necked stilts

Blue Winged Teal


Great Kiskadee

Green Jay

Ladder Backed Woodpecker

Northern Shoveler

Orchard Oriole

American Coot



Around Oak Meadows

Around Oak Meadows

We went to the Rio Grande Valley to do some birding in the warm, sunny south Texas parks. Ha! We froze our buns! But we had a good birding trip anyway. One thing that made it so pleasant was that I have discovered the Marriott Residence Inns. They are wonderful! I could watch television without disturbing JMM, there was a buffet breakfast and dinner, and best of all there was a handicapped accessible bathroom so I could shower easily! 

We went to the Bentsen Rio Grande State Park, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and the Estero Llano Grande State Park. My favorite is the Bentsen Rio Grande State Park where you are able to watch the beautiful Green Jays, Great Kiskadees, and Chachalacas up close and personal. Another thing that made this trip so pleasant is talking with the volunteers at the parks. Without exception they are friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable.  Most of the ones I visited with were from the north, down to escape the northern winter. I bought tee shirts and mugs and JMM bought pins for his pin board. I had the bright idea of stitching park patches from our travels onto quilt blocks and making a travel quilt. We shall see how that idea progresses. 

As always, it was wonderful to get back home. Pictures will be up this afternoon.  In all honesty, the pictures are not all that great. It was overcast and we didn't bring the tripod but how could you not take pictures of green jays and Kiskadees? 

Reading this week:
     Empire of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood.  This is taking a long time to read but it is excellent. It had no idea what a turbulent, interesting time the post-Revolutionary period was!!
     Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I am listening to this one audio CDs and can certainly understand why it won a Pulitzer Prize. What a complicated, interesting, brilliant man! 
     The Leafcutter Ants by Bert Holldobler. Beautiful book, full of pictures, diagram, and charts. Learning a lot about ants; first of all, how many millions of years they have been busily doing their thing. 
     The Rule of St. Benedict by St. Benedict of Nursia. I like to read this every year. Just nourishing to the spirit. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

1 (15.5 oz.) can Refried beans
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons salsa (Pace medium chunky salsa)
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon cumin
8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 cups)
Vegetable oil spray

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Combine the Refried beans, cilantro, salsa, Tabasco, and cumin in a medium bowl. Spread 1/2 cup of filling over 4 of the tortillas leaving 1/2 inch border. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over the filling. Spray vegetable oil over the 4 plain tortillas and place over the filling. Press the edges together to seal. 

Arrange on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spray lightly with vegetable oil and bake until the quesadillas are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. 

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. 

Serve with guacamole, sour cream, and/or salsa. 


“If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lovely White Fields by Mary Oliver


Snowy White Fields  by Mary Oliver

Every night 
the owl
with his wild monkey-face
through the black
the mice freeze
and the rabbits shiver
in the snowy fields--
and then there is the long,
deep trough of silence
when he stops singing, and
into the air. 
I don't know
what death's ultimate
purpose is, but I think
this: whoever dreams of
     holding his
life in his fist
year after year into the
     hundreds of years
has never considered the
how he comes, exhausted,
through the snow,
through the icy trees,
past icy snags and vines,
out of barns and church
turning this way and that
through the mesh of every 
undeterred by anything--
filling himself time and time
with a red and digestible joy
sickled up from the lonely,
     white fields--
and how at daybreak,
as though everything had
     been done
that must be done, the fields
swell with a rosy light,
the owl fades
back into the branches,
the snow goes on falling
flake after perfect flake. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Well, this goals for next week is almost a total repeat of last weeks because nothing on that plan was done. Instead, we went birding in the Rio Grande 
Valley. I'd say that was an even better plan!! I am still working on the pictures from the trip and will put them up as soon as they are done. 

In the meantime,  plans for next week!

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, February 15,

1.  Quilting
     Table runner Block #1
2.  Reading
     Empire  of Liberty by Gordon S. Wood
     Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
     The Leafcutter Ants by Bert Holldobler
 3.  Cooking
      Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
      Slow Cooker Chicken with White Wine, Tarragon, & Cream 
      More Casserole
4.  Painting Master Bedroom Project
      Get paint, pan, roller, and floor cover
     Have Adrian and Daniel move dresser away from the wall
5.  Plan trip to Washington, D.C.  
6.  Photos from birding trip


Monday, February 3, 2014

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

This has been the week of Blizzard Part II. Monday I ran around doing errands and stocking up at the grocery store so that I wouldn't have to go out in the coming cold weather. I got it all done just in time because by Monday evening the temperatures were falling and the wind howling. Tuesday was so bad that schools were closed and Joe worked from home.  It is days like Tuesday that make me so very thankful that I am retired and don't have to worry about getting to and from work!

Wednesday was Joe's retirement party at work. I went and met everyone and took some pictures. Then Thursday Vera Taylor took us to lunch to say goodby. Friday was his last day at work. He came home at noon and has been smiling ever since. 

Joe got a Roomba for us. He has set it up and had it vacuuming the house. It is fun to watch and when it finishes, it takes itself back to its docking stand and recharges. The cats are totally disinterested. 

I have gotten virtually no quilting done and have no real excuse other than general sloth.  Lots of reading though. I absolutely love Mary Oliver's poetry. 
She captures the essence of what she is describing. It is almost like  catching of whiff of a scent that transports you to a thought or time.  I read her book of 
poems A Thousand Mornings; I will return the library book and buy a copy to savor again and again. 

Cooking has been minimal this week with all the celebrations and eating out. I made  Beef Stroganoff on Tuesday and baked oatmeal cookies. Comfort food for cold weather. 

We are getting ready for a trip to the Rio Grande for birding.  We will make Brownsville our center and make trips out from there. We will be staying at the Marriott Residence Inn.  Joe is in charge of where we go and what we see. I am taking plenty of reading, quilting, and an audio book. We are also taking a folding chair that I hope to be able to use in the shower; we shall have to see how that works....