Saturday, December 3, 2011

A “Season” of Surprises

You really have to live in Texas to understand the surprises that a “change in the weather” can bring.  This is the only place I have ever lived where you can have summer and winter in the same week (and sometimes even the same day).  Trying to stay on top of things can be a little difficult because it is easy to develop a false sense of security when the warm temperatures seem to last forever.
Thus it has been with the chicken coop.  The temperatures have been so mild (even at night) that I really have not given as much thought as I should have to winterizing the coop for the girls.  When you add the fact that this is our first real experience raising chickens, I often am amazed that the girls have even survived their ten months of living with us, but somehow they have.  Anyway, this colder season has kind of snuck up on me and now, even though the days are mild, the nights have been getting pretty chilly. 
It was time to break out the heat lamp!  Just one little problem…the girls were terrified of it.  Three nights in a row I would get the heat lamp going, only to come back later and find that the girls had retreated to the other side of the coop.  I tried to explain to them that it was for their own good and they would enjoy it, but they did not believe me.  In an effort to try to help the coop retain as much warmth as possible, I spent a little time yesterday tacking some heavy clear plastic outside of their windows to try to help keep the warm air in and the cool air out.  The girls were quite intrigued, pecking at the hammer whenever I put it down and eyeing the little tacks with a great deal of curiosity.  I could not have done it without them!
Wanting to give it one last shot, yesterday I turned the heat lamp on a little earlier in the evening than I had been doing and went into the house.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I returned to the coop later and saw this:

Those hens were basking in the warmth of the heat lamp like two teenaged girls sunning themselves on the beach!  Hooray!  (For some reason, the only time I have ever seen them get in their nesting boxes is when they want to lay an egg.  They seem to prefer hanging out on this ledge, even with a roosting bar nearby that Robert made for them from an old sawhorse.)
I had another surprise when I looked in the back yard today:


Do you see him?  Here’s a closer look:

A cute little parakeet, enjoying the feed that I had put out this morning for the neighborhood birds!  We had parakeets when the kids were younger, so I “speak” parakeet.  I stepped out onto the porch and called to him, hoping that I could charm him into coming to me.  Nope!  He took off and perched on a nearby bush:

Later he was back with the rest of the gang:

Knowing that domesticated parakeets are not outdoor birds, I will worry about him with the freezing weather that is to come.  Hopefully he will find a warm spot among the various nooks and crannies of buildings and such that we have in our yard.  In my perfect world, he could hang out in the coop, warm and snuggly with the girls!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dee Dee!

Today we celebrated Dee Dee’s birthday.  It was a pretty quiet little party…Mom has not been feeling so well lately.  She already has been struggling with some thyroid problems (they have found some nodes growing on it), and she will be having a biopsy performed at the end of the month.  Last Sunday, she and I spent the day in the Emergency Room of the VA Hospital, not sure whether or not she was going to have emergency surgery for some abdominal issues.  Although emergency surgery was not required, she will be having surgery for those problems in the near future.  So we were grateful to actually be celebrating her birthday, and glad that Mandy and her little family were able to join us.
Here’s a picture of Dee Dee when she was just a wee tot living in Dodson, Texas (her sister, Jan is on the left and Mom is on the right):
And here is a giggly high school Dee Dee (on the left) with her best friend from back in the day:

Mom was 33 years old when she joined the Army (I am so impressed that she made it through Basic Training so well!):

And here’s her picture from Christmas just a couple of years or so back:

It’s been hard to see her struggling with these health issues and feeling so miserable.  We are really hoping and praying that she will be back to her old self soon and really be able to enjoy time with her family again.
Of course, even though it was Dee Dee’s birthday, the most beautiful girl in the world stole the show.  She posed with her Uncle Vinny in her new UT hat while we were waiting for the spaghetti to finish cooking:

After stuffing herself with spaghetti and bread, she had a ball eating birthday cake!

Paisley was right in on helping to make Dee Dee’s birthday dinner a real celebration and she certainly helped to make Dee Dee smile!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Midwife

I try to let the girls roam free in the yard every chance I get.  There are times that we will be outside and Ruby disappears.  A look inside the coop will show that she is in her nesting box, and that can only mean one thing – a fresh egg is on its way!

I don’t know if all chickens are this way, but our girls are very protective of each other.  Neither Ruby nor Opal has any qualms about chasing away one of the dogs if that dog is dumb enough to get too close to her buddy.  The closeness they share exhibits itself even more strongly when it is time for Ruby to lay her egg each day.  (Opal CAN lay eggs – I’ve seen her do it – but she rarely does.  She better be glad that she is my cuddle chicken!)
With all of the clucking that occurs during egg-laying time, I have concluded that laying an egg must be for a chicken what having a baby is for us.  Looking at that big old egg and that little old chicken makes me think that this is a logical assumption.  Therefore, I always thank Ruby for her efforts as I remove the egg from the nesting box each day.  It’s only right.
When Ruby is in her nesting box, Opal watches very closely.  If you happen to enter the coop before Ruby is finished, you will find Opal standing over her.  I have actually seen her “nuzzle” Ruby while she is working so hard, as if to say, “Are you okay?  You can do it!  Just breathe!”  Don’t even think about disturbing Ruby during this delicate time!  Opal will be there to stop you.  Here she is, protecting her best friend this morning:

What a dedicated midwife!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finally Fall!

Across the country, the arrival of fall is heralded by the changing of the leaves, the first frost, or the passage of migratory birds overhead.  Not if you live in Texas.  Even at Christmas I will be raking leaves, with a good half of them still clinging to the branches of our mighty oaks.  The first frost (if it has happened at all) will have been nothing worth noting, and the migratory birds don’t seem to go any further than the feeders in my back yard.  Therefore, I have to rely on other things to let me know that fall has finally found us.
This year, our first indicator of fall’s arrival was the arrival of Alan, back from Yellowstone.  Albertson’s was happy to see that he had returned and offered him a job on the spot.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: he is here, needing a job, just when they need a little extra help to get ready for the holiday season.  About the time he leaves for Yellowstone, the high school students who work at Albertson’s are getting out of school for the summer and are ready to work more hours.  Here is my boy, on his first Sunday home, ready to head to church (and so thrilled to have his mother snapping pictures of him once again):

Nothing says “fall” like a trip to a pumpkin patch.  Paisley’s parents took the most beautiful child in the world to the local pumpkin patch and her mother took a few pictures:





(Just a note:  If you like the "candy corn" dress that the most beautiful child ever born is wearing, I wish I could say that I made it.  Not true, I'm afraid.  My sister's co-worker makes all kinds of wonderful things, and I had her make it.  She has an Etsy shop.  To learn more, you can visit her blog, "Blingin Blooms".)
On Halloween, Little Red Riding Hood did actually make it to Grandma’s house where she donned her outfit, ready for “trick-or-treat” action:

"I've got to get this load of chocolate to Lolee's house."


"I seem to have lost my way!"



"I think I need to go in that direction!"



"I see her!  I see her!"



"Oops!"



So there you go:  the signs of fall are everywhere….a wonderful time of the year!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Happy anniversary to my sweetheart!  Where has the time gone?

Through the years, you’ve helped me wrestle children (even when you still looked like one yourself):

You’ve brought home critters of all kinds over which I could obsess:

You’ve built more things and done more home improvement projects than anyone I know…

 



…And introduced me to the wonders of nature (although I bet that you regret ever taking me to Wyoming):

 

You’ve always made sure that I have a night on the town…

But more than anything, through thick and thin, after all these years, you are still here with me!  I am so glad that you are mine!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Retreat!

It seems like forever since I have been able to blog (or read any of the wonderful blogs that I like to stalk), but I have been involved in a pattern of being sick, going somewhere, being sick, then going somewhere else.  Now that I am finally home for a while (I hope) and finally well for a while (hope some more), I have to tell you about one of the wonderful places I went.
I love to scrapbook, but I hate the hassle of dragging everything out, only to put it all away a couple of hours later.  Also, whenever I am home, there is always a little voice that whispers, “You know, if you have time to play with this stuff, maybe you should consider using that time to clean the bathroom.”  Between the hassle and the voices, I really don’t spend much time on hobbies – at least, not as much as I would like.  That’s why a little something called “Scrapbook Retreat” is one of the most exciting things in my life.  I haven’t gone for the last couple of years, and when I told my husband that I thought I would just go crazy if I didn’t get to go this year he was kind enough to help make it happen.
My friend, Julia, who is also my Creative Memories consultant,  is the person who arranges the retreat for her customers.  There are a couple of other consultants who join us with their groups, so it makes for a lot of women armed with tape runners and paper trimmers!
My Friend, Julia:


The facility that we use is called “The Compass Centre” .  It is a wonderful place that was built by a woman who loves quilting and decided to build a business by providing a facility that is a place for quilters to get away from it all and just spend the weekend on their craft (although we scrapbookers are grateful that she allows our kind to use it).  Each of the rooms is decorated in a different color scheme with handmade quilts that are each made from the same material, just in different quilt patterns.  You can’t see it from this excellent photography of mine, but there are four beds to each room:


One really exciting thing is that there is plenty of workspace for a girl to spread her pictures and supplies everywhere:


Even better is the fact that when you are done for the night (whatever time you CHOOSE to quit), you just walk away from the table, leaving your mess strewn about your work area.
Even more exciting than that is the fact that we have the most wonderful meals and we don’t have to do anything except stand in line in the wonderful kitchen once dinner is ready:


Since we never seem to be able to pull off full-fledged vacations, and especially since our house has turned into “critterville”, Robert and I have agreed to support each other in our desire to indulge in individual pursuits.  He goes on a hunting trip each year with some friends from one of his previous jobs and I go to scrapbooking retreat.  It really is about the most exciting thing that I get to do all year.  Once a year (if I’m lucky), from Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, I “retreat” from the whole world, don’t cook or do dishes, sit up until one-o’clock in the morning if I want to, and just work on scrapbook pages.  For me, this is just heaven.
This year, I was still fighting a sinus and throat infection for the first couple of days that I was at retreat so I didn’t get as much done as I normally do, but I did get more done that I would have if I had stayed home.  For the first time I was using a lot of papers from a company called “Die Cuts with a View” .  I usually buy them at Joann’s because they are on sale quite often, or I can use my 40% off coupon.  Anyway, DCWV sells pads of papers that are coordinated and I absolutely love the colors.  I like using their striped papers by cutting them apart and using the stripes as borders on solid paper or card stock.
I didn’t work on any one specific project this year – I was all over the place as far as time line.  However, here are pictures I took of just a few of the spreads that I did (the spreads are better than my awful pictures, but you get the idea):





So there you go – I had retreated from life for a while (and recovered), so I am back!  I’m looking forward to catching up on the blogs that I love reading so much and doing a little picture taking and blogging of my own!
Have a great week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Surprises!

We have recently enjoyed the blessing of small surprises to brighten our day.  One really terrific surprise was a pop-in visit from Paisley and her mother.  Paisley stood at her mother's knee while Mandy fed her bits of banana:



Another surprise came tonight when Robert was cleaning out our little fish pond, which holds our three remaining fish.  As he was scooping out the dirty water, we discovered...babies!  Four in all!  Aren't they cute?



I just love surprises!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alan at Yellowstone

“What ever happened to Alan?” some of you who know us may be wondering.  It has been awhile since I’ve focused on him, so this little entry will get everyone updated.
As you know, Alan returned to work his second season at Yellowstone National Park.  While last year was “okay”, it really was just “okay”.  This year, I have been informed by Alan that he is having the time of his life.  A large part of this is due to the fact that he really has the hang of everything now, plus there is a certain status that is afforded the Yellowstone “sophomores” that just isn’t held by their “freshmen”.  On top of everything else, he got a promotion from being a sales clerk at the Old Faithful Inn Gift Shop to someone who does more with inventory, etc., and I am very proud of him!  The only down side of all of this good news is that the first year he was gone I received a LOT of phone calls, but this year I only hear from him now and then.  However, he’s busy working and having fun, and I can’t be too sad about that.  Therefore, I am left with downloading pictures from his Facebook page and telling as much as I know about them.  I had wanted Alan to write a blog (“Alan at Yellowstone”); however, the internet there apparently is mind-numbingly slow, and uploading a picture here and there is all that Alan feels like messing with.  I guess I will do my best to include him on our family blog.  So here goes:
There are quite a few activities for the workers, both company sponsored and non-company sponsored.  I’m not really sure what this picture is about:

I am amazed at how many pictures there are on his FB page with Alan and all kinds of girls!  For a guy who used to be a wallflower, he sure has a lot of girls around him!  Here is one of the few pictures that his mother feels comfortable showing (I think this may be “Toni” – she’s the girl who introduced Alan to camping and she actually chops wood for the Inn at times – what a woman!  Too bad she already has a boyfriend!  I was also intrigued by how much they seem to resemble one another):

Alan has been artistic ever since he was old enough to hold a pencil.  His bosses at the gift shop have called on him regularly to decorate the store windows.  Here is one of the windows from the 4th of July weekend:

It appears the theme for that week had something to do with the 1970’s because he had several pictures of workers dressed in 70’s garb:

The gift shop itself seems quite cozy and quaint.  (I sure wish I worked there!):

Alan has applied to stay during the winter season, but since the number of available spots is much more limited during the winter, he has not yet heard if he will be staying.  He and a couple of friends have actually discussed getting an apartment together and getting jobs in Bozeman and just staying there.  His mother is waiting anxiously to hear!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Paisley in Wonderland

Yesterday we attended a birthday party for the most beautiful child ever born:  Miss Paisley Grace is turning one!  Her parents put together an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful party.  The theme was “Alice in Wonderland”, and it truly was wondrous!
Although they had a lot of help setting up (Jeromy’s family can move so fast it made me feel like I was standing still at times), Alice’s – I mean Paisley’s – parents did all of the prep work, from concept to execution.  Mandy made scads of paper “pinwheel-flowers” for the tables and a pretty good number of tissue paper pom-pom things.  Mandy and Jeromy also scoured the area thrifts stores, buying them out of mismatched tea cups and saucers for all of the place settings.  The tea cups were filled with little bags of chocolates and became the party favors for the adults.  For the kids there were little headbands with white rabbit ears, crayons, and an “Alice in Wonderland” coloring book.  I loved the photo tree with pictures of our girl taken over the last year.  There were quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” on the tables, and guests were encouraged to wear their craziest hats.  From invitations to decorations, it was all things Wonderland.
Here’s a peek at the d├ęcor:



And there was some food, too:


Paisley was dressed in a petti-romper – blue, just like Alice, to be sure!  (Although she looked a little like Miss Kittie from the old western, “Gunsmoke”, if you ask me.  Just sayin’):

She had a great time with her Grump-Pa while waiting for the festivities to begin:



There were lots of gifts to open.  Good thing her Dad was there to help her:

And of course, you must have cake:

I didn’t know how much I could love someone until I had my children.  And I was totally unprepared for how much I would love a grandchild until Miss Paisley Grace came along (that little stink pot!).  And now, I can’t believe it!  My baby has a baby who is turning one year old!

Why it seems just like yesterday that Paisley’s mother was turning one, celebrating with her grandmother and mother:



My, oh my!  How the time does fly!  I’m feeling a little more like the White Rabbit every day!