America is in the news again, and not for a good reason. Even in subtropical south east Texas, we do get snow every few years. Millions of Texans were without power or water in sub-zero temperatures with two freezing events over a period of 4 days – the snow was the least of it. Our houses are not built for the cold, nor are our bodies which acclimated to the intense heat of summer. Our power went out for 18 hours, we had a gas fire and we were so cold. Usually when we get snow, it is fleeting and we have fun but this year our state was unprepared. There is no excuse – our power grid equipment should be insulated for our extreme heat and occasional extreme cold.
My husband and I both contemplated how we felt; discouraged by our country, our state and getting older. I checked on neighbors, some of whom are elderly or ill. In retrospect, I realize how lucky we were to have a different energy company than the Houston metropolis (and water system). All our freezer food is in the trash but we can afford to buy more. On Tuesday, I went to the store but it was back to quarantine days – empty shelves and too many people in a pandemic. All were wearing masks and considerate of distance. We all looked as though we were in shock. What next – locusts??
Don’t you love my coordination? Ancient pajamas that are too big, industrial rubber boots and my New Mexico jacket. I am leaving black sunflower seeds out for the birdies and squirrels. This is yet another reason why I shouldn’t have cut my hair so short…
During this really terrible year, my mood has been boosted by comedy. It doesn’t matter if it is funny animal videos, comedy shows or stand up comedians. I created a wee video of me telling you a bedtime story from back in the day. The tale will be even more fun with a glass of wine, some snacks and your feet up on the sofa.
Enjoy! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Festive Greetings to all. 💕
Meet Fluffles, a new temporary resident in Katniss’ old house. It makes my heart sing to see something furry enjoying it. Fluffles aka Fluffless (she keeps losing bits of her tail in skirmishes) is looking out pensively asking Nut-Mom to turn off the rain. Nut-Mom has the power to provide banquets of pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds and apple cores but not weather.
Fluffles runs up as soon as I open the back door and very politely asks for a snack. Her sometimes friends are Polar, who has bright white spots on his ears, Floppy with one ear down and Big Foot. Little gray squirrels have white markings on the back of their ears so that a predator from above thinks they are bigger than they are – bio mimicry. When it is quiet, I can sometimes hear one of them ‘chappin’ or knocking on the door.
Corn-dad provides the corn cobs which I can’t stake in the ground. I know we are not alone in our lunacy because I have been searching for squirrel furniture on the web and there is plenty of it. They usually just get an occasional treat but cold weather has arrived with a vengeance. It is hard to stay warm when it is below freezing when you were just born a few months ago. They are the glossiest squirrels for miles around with white fat tummies. The video below will explain the title.
Sincere thanks to Janey Godley for keeping me amused in this crazy time!
This is what Christmas decorations look like in our township – fresh flowers and a huge tree! We live on the cusp of the subtropics and the piney woods area of Texas. On the day that I took these photographs it was glorious. Cool, for us, and bright sunshine.
Isn’t that Veranda just perfect for sippin’ something southern? It is really the Tommy Bahamas’ store and restaurant and you can sip whatever you want on the back patio looking at the Christmas tree.
I liked this modern installation of birch trees and Cardinals. We don’t really have birch trees like that but we do have plenty of little Cardinals.
Flowers and greenery everywhere!
Just one more shot of the Christmas tree that shows how very high it is. Finally we got lovely new Fake Grass! It is impossible to keep our Augustine grass alive in winter – it naturally dies back and goes green in Spring.
There has been a curious mystery at our pond for the last few weeks. There were three little ducklings swimming alone in the middle of the water. The Whistling ducks have gone to Latin America – would they leave their ducklings behind? It would be strange as they are the helicopter parents of the duck/goose world.
JUVENILE WHISTLING DUCKS
Then I noticed we had a lovely dove gray Muscovy duck that I assumed was a daughter in law to the extended family. Was she a flighty young mum, ignoring her ducklings?
UNUSUAL DOVE GRAY MUSCOVY DUCK – AKA DAUGHTER IN LAW
When I walked with Teddy to the pond on Sunday we spotted new visitors. We have a pair of Egyptian Geese which are an invasive species.
I watched their relationship with our adored Muscovy Ducks but all seemed well. To be honest our Muscovy ducks are bruisers, more than ready for the pot, as they would be in Mexico. They look like those Mexican wrestlers with a mask on so I didn’t think the Egyptian Geese would bother them. I recognized the geese but couldn’t remember what they were. Now I realize I have seen them on thousands of Egyptian papyrus and ancient carvings.
Much like the Whistling ducks they are neither ducks nor geese but a sub category most similar to Sheldrakes. Today we had an important duck/goose update when we met one of the neighbors who has named all the Muscovy ducks and who lives at the pond. Apparently the Egyptian Geese were indeed terrorists and had frightened the Muscovies on two occasions. What!! She chased them and they seem to have left the area. If I see them again I will call the Ranger. How dare they frighten our residents!!! As for the abandoned ducklings, they are just deadbeat parents…
A few years ago we had another invasive species at the pond, Nutria – mama and baby are pictured above. They are a relative of the Capybara and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade. They breed like rabbits although they look like little beavers and can decimate the vegetation that is needed for the local species. My friend saw the Forest Warden preparing to trap them and asked him, “What are you going to do with them?” Bless her heart! It was like asking the store Santa if Santa is real. The warden very kindly told her that they were being ‘relocated’ to another area.
For some more fake news see RARE TWO HEADED DUCK below
Last night I was watching CNN news when a familiar face and name was on the screen. In shock, I recognized my beloved lung specialist and he had died on November 30th 2020 of Covid-19. According to the various news reports, he had worked 80 hour weeks since the Pandemic started trying to help his hospitalized patients. As a respiratory expert he was always on the front line for Covid-19. He was 52 with two young adult children. He was a brilliant mind who had immigrated to the USA from El Salvador enhancing the lives of all his patients. This is the article from CNN.
He was utterly charming and warm, able to empathize and sympathize with compassion. I first met him 8 years ago when I was the victim of a traumatic car crash. Initially they took me to ER to check my spine as it was a rear end impact. To everyone’s surprise the scans revealed an egg sized tumor or cyst in my chest cavity – nothing to do with the accident. They referred me, one by one, to neurologists, a cardiac surgeon and finally to Dr. Carlos. I was mentally traumatized by my first car accident in the USA with all the insurance shenanigans, the ludicrous medical bills and then the unexpected tumor/cyst. The cardiac surgeon said that they normally surgically removed cysts of that size but they would have to deflate a lung to do so and would not recommend it.
By the time I got to Dr. Carlos, I was a mess, mentally and physically. He thoroughly reassured me that it was a congenital cyst, not cancerous, and best just to keep an eye on it. Over the years, I visited him and he always made me feel like a Princess. Last year, I went for a routine scan and check. To everyone’s surprise the cyst had shrunk down to the size of a raisin. Hurrah! It was a lovely celebratory doctor’s appointment and I thanked him profusely. I had another routine scan arranged for February 2020. It was before quarantine but I cancelled it because I can physically feel when the cyst gets larger. The staff members at his office were delightful as always and reassured me that I could make an appointment at any time. But now I can’t.
Few of us know people who have died from Covid-19 or its complications but now I do. He was very special to me and to all his other adoring patients. I can still hear his voice – he sounded exactly like the Puss in Boots from the film Shrek. I have been very careful this year because I am surrounded by immunosuppressed neighbors and friends. On a personal note, I was unsure if my lung history made me at higher risk. Would my cyst expand if attacked by the corona virus? I know we hate this strange time but we have the vaccines now and it will be a relatively short time until life becomes safer. Please, please wear a mask. Assume that everyone could be exposed to the virus. Think about it as a wartime scenario. Unemployment, poverty and social chaos are with us but we will be stronger. Just be safe and unselfish for a few months more.
Dr. Carlos Araujo-Preza, you epitomized what makes America a good place. I will never forget you. Thank you for the gift of compassion.
…are they naughty or nice? My husband can’t stand German Christmas nutcrackers. In his mind they are akin to the clown in the Stephen King book IT, or any clown for that matter. As a result, I have one pathetic little nutcracker that someone gifted me. My neighbor has a huge collection of them and Teddy would run shuddering from her house. He doesn’t like their mouths and won’t accept the logic that they are NUTCRACKERS!
We live in a German area of Texas so nutcrackers are just a part of holiday life, much like scary tree roaches in the summer. To my joy, I noticed that our village (the Township is divided into villages, each with grocery stores, cafes, doctors, dentists and other essential stuff) had new holiday decorations. We are now guarded by giant silver Nutcracker soldiers. It is a big upgrade to the ancient ‘doves’ which look like pigeons or geese or some other mutation.
Early one morning I went down to our Market Street and saw this window display, above. My friend forwarded me a article from Saxony, in Germany, where traditional Nutcracker makers have created a new Virologist with mask.
Do you see what he is standing on? Let’s stamp this Corona virus out!! The woodcarvers are struggling like many other businesses. Click here for the article – Saxon Woodcarvers.
This is my tiny nutcracker and tiny tree and tiny elf. Teddy hasn’t noticed him yet… On a brief segue, I read the book IT many years ago and have never felt the same way about clowns/bridges. At the time I had to trek through our very dark hamlet in northern Scotland to the school at the top of the hill. I crossed a railway line and then a wooden bridge across a stream. One very dark morning a heron flew out from the bridge just as I was crossing. There were some choice words directed at the poor heron.
This was a completely different post a few hours ago. In essence, I revealed how miserable and anxious I was feeling about the upcoming holidays. On reflection, I realized that’s not what I want to share with my friends. Instead I hope you enjoy these pretty pictures from Christmas 2019 which we spent in central Texas with the most glorious weather.
The Christmas Tree and Decorations at Fredericksburg 2019
There will be happy holidays and celebrations in the future. Please keep safe and warm. 🎄
I just wish to send my personal greetings to all who serve and to all veterans here in the USA and in the United Kingdom.
The photograph above is of my dad; a Gordon Highlander who was captured at St Valery-en-Caux, France in 1940. He spend the remainder of the war years as a POW in Stalag IXG (Muhlhausen) Thuringia in the east of Germany until they were liberated by US troops in the very last days of the war. Dad passed at the grand age of 93 in August 2012. Below are the medals awarded to him that I keep with lots of other interesting memorabilia – stories for another day.
This a copy of a post by my husband on his LinkedIn page. I can add nothing more to this tribute than say that it brought a tear to my eye. May he rest in peace.