Monday, December 29, 2014

Birding Trip 12/29/14

It wasn't the best day for birding as there was a dense fog early. The fog lifted by 10am but it was still rather overcast. JMM did all the photography. He hasn't downloaded them yet so I don't know if any of them turned out clear enough to post. If so, I will put them up as soon as I can. Here is the list of birds we saw:
Birding Trip 12/29/14

Black Vultures
Mourning dove 
Red winged blackbirds
Great egret
Little egret
Night heron
White faced ibis 
Snowy egret
Northern shoveler
Lesser scaups 
Brown pelican
White ibis 
Roseate spoonbills 
Rock dove
Mourning dove
Sandhill Cranes -7
Laughing gulls
Meadow larks
White ibis 250 about
Brown pelicans many
Dunlin 25
Snowy plover 10
Willets 8
Cormorants 12
Snowy egret
Roseate spoonbills 
Ring-Billed Gull 
Caspian tern
White Pelicans -2

Sunday, December 28, 2014

January Menu

January Menu
1. Leftovers 
2. Texas Roadhouse 
3. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Veggie Tray
4. Schlotzsky's
5. Baked fish, Carrots/Thyme, Cabbage 
6. Slow Cooker Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard
7. Steak, GMP, GB
8. Leftovers
9. Pappasito's
10.  Bacon sandwiches, Oven fries, Veggie tray
11. Schlotzsky's
12. Tuna salad sandwiches, Veggie tray
13. Chicken-Rice Bake
14. Slow Cooker Hearty Beef Stew p.59
15. Leftovers 
16. Olive Garden
17. Bacon sandwiches, Oven fries, Veggie Tray
18. Schlotzsky's 
19. Baked fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn
20. Slow Cooker Farmhouse Chicken and Corn Chowder
21. Macaroni & Cheese
22. Leftovers 
23. Baker Street Cafe
24. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven fries, Veggie tray
25. Schlotzsky's 
26. Shrimp Jambalaya 
27. KFC
28. Slow Cooker Beef and Noodle Soup
29. Leftovers 
30. Pizza
31. Bacon sandwiches, Oven fries, Veggie tray 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind
that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. 

Pema Chodron,  When Things Fall Apart

Friday, December 26, 2014

In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die. 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true. 

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind. 

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler forms of life,
With sweeter manners, nobler laws. 

Ring out the want, the cares, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes 
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good. 

Ring out of shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace. 

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ to be. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Next Week

     Sit and Be Fit 
     Healthy Breakfast

Quilting: Buy fabric for baby quilt

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner 
     Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho 
     Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood 

     Beans and Rice and Sausage
     Chicken-Rice Bake
     Spaghetti and Meatballs 

     Make appointments for
          Eye exam
          Haircut and manicure
     Birding trip to Galveston 
     Cat to vet for exam and shots

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks

My Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks

It is hard to believe that someone who had been molested and neglected as a child could become such a caring and compassionate person. Perhaps, it is because as she says, the animals saved her. This book is about her healing neglected and abused animals as they heal her own neglected and abused spirit. 

The thought of animal abuse is so abhorrent to me that I almost didn't read this book. While there is no glossing over the neglect and abuse the animals came out of, Ellie's love and gentle respect for the animals is the major focus of the book. 
I had never heard of The Gentle Barn until I read this book. I knew of various rescue organizations but other than getting our cats from the local shelter, I really had no interaction with people whose lives are dedicated to animal rescue.  And frankly, it was easier just not to think about it. 

I read the book from start to finish almost without putting it down. It is interesting to see how Ellie grows and becomes the person that she was meant to be. And it is heartwarming to read about her patient, gentle nurturing of the animals that come into her life. And it is noteworthy that she uses the animals to help youth who have been injured by life to learn from the people and animals at the Gentle Barn how to heal and trust and be kind and gentle. 

You can learn more about the Gentle Barn at or on Facebook Gentle Barn. 

A very good read indeed. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Around Oak Meadows

Christmas around OakMeadows is such a pleasant season. Long ago we simplified our celebrations to where it is a pleasure to be savored rather than an ordeal.  My decorations do not include a tree but I do decorate the mantle and the dining room side board and table. We do exchange gifts with immediate family--usually gift cards or homemade eats. This year we decided to attend the Houston Symphony and Chorale's presentation of Handel's Messiah. It was lovely. 

We are planning a birding trip to the Rockport-Corpus Christi area right after 
Christmas. I love to see the ducks that winter down here. 

Believe it or not, I am finally making progress on the monster quilt. It is layered, basted, and I have quilted 2 blocks....out of 56.....I told you it was a 
monster. Only 54 more to go. And of course, kittens are right in the middle of it 
all. But I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. My quilts must have a certain amount of cat hair quilted in. 

Lots of good reading going on. I finished My Gentle Barn by Ellie Laks and it was wonderful. I'll have a review later this week.  Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner is excellent but at 600+ pages it will be a while before it is finished. And I've started a Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho. It reminds me very much of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. 

My cooking has been mostly old standards but I have plans for some new 
recipes in the New Year.  One new recipe is Balsamic-Braised Chicken with 
Swiss Chard. I will let you know how it turns out. 

It was raining this morning and one of the kittens got out and ran up a tree and out on a limb that was too high and too thin to really support him. He was wet and frightened and mewing piteously. So good old JMM got the extension ladder and got as close to the kitten as he could and I was at the base of the tree talking to him and telling him that he had to go over to JMM and what a good kitten he was and that he would get a can of Fancy Feast if he would be brave and walk the limb back to JMM. 
He finally did and 2 wet people and 1 wet cat finally got to go back inside. 

We made reservations for our Alaska cruise next August.  I have never been on 

a cruise.  I hope to add some northern sea birds to my life list. JMM's brother and his wife are coming with us so it will be doubly nice.  Our other trip for 2015 is a trip to Yosemite in May.  

That's all the news from OakMeadows where all the people are retired and all the cats think they are above average. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard

Balsamic-Braised Chicken with Swiss Chard

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
5 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 anchovy fillet, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
12 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed
Salt and pepper
6 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves slices 1/2 inch thick

Heat oil in 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onion, thyme, tomato paste, garlic anchovy, and red pepper flakes and cook until onion is softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in vinegar, scrapping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps; cook until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes, and transfer to slow cooker.  

Stir tomatoes, broth, wine, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low. 

Gently stir in chard, and cook on high until tender, 30-45 minutes.  Transfer chicken to serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from the surface using a large spoon. Discard bay leaves.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?  What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more?

Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseech one fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling. 
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us--Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight, 
This shortest day, 
As promise wakes in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, 
And hope for peace. 
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year. 
Welcome Yule!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

     10 Minute Exercise
     Healthy Breakfast and Snack

Quilting: Finish Block #2

     Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner 
     Never Turn Your Back on an Angus Cow by Jan Pol
     Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho

     Oven BBQ Chicken, Beans, Coleu
     Sausage, GMP, GB
     Baked Fish, Carrots/Thyme, Corn

     Lunch with PWBC
     Handel's Messiah (Houston Symphony and Chorale)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Around Oak Meadows

We went to the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth for my birthday. There was a wonderful exhibit of Impressionist portraits. It always amazes me how rich my life is. Who would have thought I would ever see paintings by Van Gogh or Rembrandt or Monet. My parents' generation never had the opportunities that we have today. 

More good news: the meadowlarks arrived followed today by the arrival of the goldfinches.  We have been expecting the little goldfinches because they usually arrive right around my birthday. And what a precious birthday present they are. Joe immediately put out the thistle feeders. I have no idea where they spend the rest of the year, but I am so glad they spend the winter with me. They will have all the fresh water, thistle, and sunflower seed they want. 

One not so good thing happened. I was scammed. Really. I was working on my Mac and suddenly the screen froze and a pop-up said that Apple had detected a security breach and gave a number to call and like a total dope, I called. An hour and $199 later, my Mac was back. But thanks to my dear daughter, I learned that it was a scam. Joe called the credit card company and canceled the charge and they are sending us a new card. Then I called the real Apple Support and we went through my computer and cleaned every trace of the scam out. My Mac is clean now and I have learned a lesson. Ack!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Around Oak Meadows

Around Oak Meadows

December already! Friday is my 67th birthday! Amazing! I have now lived longer than either of my parents. Other than my dratted CMT, I am in good health which is such a blessing. 

Finally, we got the 10 Italian door pictures hung.  These are pictures that JMM took when we were in Italy in 2001. I was really surprised because he doesn't usually notice things like that. All of our early vacation pictures that he took are of rocks or outcrops. Even our trip to Israel is mostly rocks. Anyway, I had him print out the 10 door pictures and went to Hobby Lobby for mattes and frames (which we bought on sale for 50% off).  I laid them out on the bed in a nice pattern and JMM hung them for me. I think they turned out rather well. 

Modest progress on monster quilt. It is all basted and ready to quilt. The kittens find it fascinating and are in the middle of it.  I think Henry will develop into a good quilting partner because he doesn't mind my moving him around.

We went to see The Barber of Seville which was a live broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera. It was OK but was nowhere near as good as Carmen last year.  I think JMM wants to see The Merry Widow in January. 

I am hooked on The Hunger Games series.  We saw Mockingjay Part 1 and it was excellent.  I am so disappointed that we have to wait a whole year to see Part 2.  Well, if I made it through the Harry Potter series, I can wait a year for Mockinjay Part 2. 

Reading:  Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner is excellent but 600 pages long so this will take a while.  Almost finished with The Last Kasmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly; I have never read anything by her but I think I have a new detective series to get addicted to. 
And finally, Call the Nurse by Mary Macleod; it is about a community nurse on the island of Papavray off the west coast of Scotland.  All I can say is that they are made of sturdier stuff than I am. In reading about the cold and wind and rain,  I had to go get a quilt and the heating pad. 

Thanksgiving was nice and very low key. JMM and I made the turkey and dressing.  The only disaster was I tried to make mashed cauliflower and I couldn't get it as smooth as I wanted; it was good but lumpy.  We had our traditional pecan pie from Goode Co. for dessert. Daughter, son-in-law, and their ancient cocker spaniel were our only guests.  Everyone was relaxed and enjoyed good food and a nice visit. 

Christmas decorations are in the process of being put up. I have decided to put out the crèche in spite of the kittens; this is going to be interesting.  I don't put up a tree anymore but dear daughter has all the ornaments from when she was growing up and she likes to have a tree at her house. My decorations take about 2 hours to put up; if I could walk, it would take about 30 minutes.  We are going to the Houston Symphony and Chorale performing Handel's Messiah and that will definitely get my Christmas spirit going. 

And that's the news from OakMeadows where the people are all retired and serve as concierges to the 4 cats. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Menu

December Menu

Blueberry Bran Muffins

1. Fish, carrots, corn
2. Chicken and Snow Peas
3. Beef and Barley Soup
4. Texas Roadhouse
5. Out of town
6. Leftovers
7. Good Co Seafood (for my birthday)
8. Slow Cooker Farmhouse Chicken and Corn Chowder
9. Beef and Bok Choy
10. CB Hash
11. Leftovers
12. Gringo's
13. Bacon sandwiches, Oven Fries
14 Schlotzsky's
15. Shrimp Jambalaya
16. Oven BBQ Chicken thighs, Beans, Cole Slaw
17. Sausage, GMP, Green beans
18. Leftovers
19. Olive Garden
20. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
21. Schlotzsky's
22. Fish, Carrots, Corn
23. Chicken Noodle Soup
24. Cutlets, GMP, GB
25. Christmas Ham
26. Leftovers
27. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries
28. Schlotzsky's
29. Tuna Salad Sandwiches
30. Chicken-Rice Bake
31. Roast, Carrots, GMP

When Death comes by Mary Oliver

When death comes 
like the hungry bear in autumn; 
when death comes 
and takes all the bright coins 
from his purse to buy me, 
and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes like the measle- pox; 
when death comes like an iceberg 
between the shoulder blades, 
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, 
what is it going to be like,
 that cottage of darkness? 
And therefore I look upon everything 
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood, 
and I look upon time as no more than an idea, 
and I consider eternity as another possibility, 
and I think of each life as a flower, 
as common as a field daisy,
 and as singular, 
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
 and each body a lion of courage, 
and something precious to the earth. 
When it’s over, I want to say: 
all my life I was a bride 
married to amazement. 
I was the bridegroom, 
taking the world into my arms. 
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder 
if I have made of my life something particular, and real. 
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, 
or full of argument. 
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Goals for Next Week

     Daily Bible Reading

     Weight Watchers

     Blocks #1 and #2

     The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly
     Call the Nurse by Mary Macleod 
     Wartime Britain by Juliet Garfield

     Bean and cheese quesadillas
     Baked fish, carrots/thyme
     Chicken and Snow Peas Stir Fry
     Beef and Barley Soup

     Hang Italian door pictures

     Kimball Museum in Fort Worth

Sunday, November 23, 2014


“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 21, 2014

Gannets by Mary Oliver

I am watching the white gannets 
blaze down into the water 
with the power of blunt spears
 and a stunning accuracy— even 
though the sea is riled 
and boiling and gray with fog 
and the fish are nowhere to be seen, 
they fall, 
they explode into the water like white gloves,
 then they vanish, then they climb out again,
 from the cliff of the wave,
 like white flowers— and still 
I think that nothing in this world 
moves but as a positive power— 
even the fish, 
finning down into the current
or collapsing in the red purse of the beak,
 are only interrupted 
from their own pursuit 
of whatever it is that fills their bellies—
 and I say:
 life is real, and pain is real,
 but death is an imposter, 
and if I could be what once I was, 
like the wolf or the bear
 standing on the cold shore, 
I would still see it—
 how the fish simply escape,
 this time, 
or how they slide down
 into a black fire for a moment, 
then rise from the water
 inseparable from the gannets’ wings.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Goals for Next Week

     Layer and baste quilt--done

    The Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine--finished. Excellent. 
     The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly

    Tuna Salad Sandwiches, Veggie Tray--done. 
    Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup

     Hang Italian Door Pictures 
     Garage--vacuum cobwebs and wash windows and blinds

     Learn how to use iPhone camera and how to post pictures to FB and blog
     The Barber of Seville. NYC Met simulcast to AMC theater--done

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Around OakMeadows

Around OakMeadows

Well, here we are, not even Thanksgiving and we've already had some freezing nights.  I saw a Weather Channel map showing the Jet Stream looping all the way down to just above us.  I have read that as the Arctic warms, the Jet Stream becomes more unstable. Anyway, it's been cold.  The good thing about the cold weather is that the kittens have become very affectionate.  Everyone wants to nap on a warm lap. 

I have about decided that I will quilt the monster queen sized quilt myself. But I will violate my cardinal rule and start my next baby quilt before finishing my current project. That means I will have to get JMM to layer and pin the blasted thing so that I can baste it and then quilt it. Never, ever, ever again will I get carried away and make a big quilt! Never!

I've been cooking cold weather food-- Cassoulet and cornbread, Potato-Leek Soup, and banana nut bread. It is nice to not sweat while cooking.  And besides cold weather soups and stews make the house smell so nice and cozy. 

I am still plowing through The Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine. It is really good; I had never realized the opposition to the war within the Southern states. Good to know that not everyone wanted to go sacrifice so that the rich planters could continue with their slaves and entitlements. Well written, I will write a review after I finish it. At the other end of the spectrum was Stitches by Anne Lamott. Her first book was really good but it has been downhill after that.  Stitches had absolutely no point, no cohesion, no organization, and finally nothing to say. I read it in a day and a half thinking there must surely be some point somewhere, there wasn't.  I've just started The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly. It is set in the last days of the Indian Raj, a time and place I know nothing about. But her writing is so clear and descriptive that I feel like I'm there in the heat and smelling the smells. Excellent so far. 

We went to the Houston Symphony last week. They have a Sugar Land Series where they perform at Sugar Land Baptist Church and we have tickets for the series of 3 performances. This was the first and was Beethoven's Fifth Symphony preceded by two other pieces. Excellent. Next month we will go to the Symphony and Chorale as they perform Handel's Messiah. I am looking forward to that. 

I haven't been contacted by GB again about our committee to find our member of BHS Class of 1965 since he showed me the shared data base. I am still in shock over Janie Clark's death. What a beautiful, sweet girl she was!

We were supposed to meet P&W&C&B for lunch at DiBella's in Galveston tomorrow but Paul has a full court docket tomorrow morning. So we will meet at Gringo's on Friday instead. 

All is quiet around OakMeadows.  Most of the birds have left and the goldfinches haven't arrived. JMM took the last hummingbird feeder down. But the raccoons, possums, and deer are still plentiful. I suspect we have an armadillo that is responsible for rooting up my path around the birdbaths and feeders.  The mockingbirds still have plenty of beauty berries and pyracantha to feast on. JMM said he saw a kestrel the other day. 

That's all the news from OakMeadows where the women are all retired, the men are busy with stamps, and the cats are all above average affectionately. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Goldfinches by Mary Oliver

In the fields 
we let them have— 
in the fields we don’t want yet— 
where thistles rise 
out of the marshlands of spring,
 and spring open— 
each bud a settlement of riches— 
a coin of reddish fire— 
the finches wait for midsummer, 
for the long days, 
for the brass heat, 
for the seeds to begin 
to form in the hardening thistles, 
dazzling as the teeth of mice, 
but black,
filling the face of every flower. 
Then they drop from the sky.
 A buttery gold, 
they swing on the thistles, 
they gather the silvery down,
 they carry it in their finchy beaks 
to the edges of the fields, 
to the trees, 
as though their minds 
were on fire with the flower 
of one perfect idea— 
and there they build 
their nests and lay their pale- blue eggs, 
every year, 
and every year the hatchlings wake 
in the swaying branches,
 in the silver baskets, 
and love the world. 
Is it necessary to say any
 Have you heard them singing 
in the wind, 
above the final fields? 
Have you ever been 
so happy 
in your life?