Kerry Miranda

Can you believe this guy is a professional photographer?  WTH – I have a plant growing out of my head.  It is hard to imagine but there was a life before the Pandemic hit.  Every year Houston hosts the largest Rodeo in the world, natch.  As much as I would love to visit, there are just too many people in one place.  This year we decided to go to our nearest town, Tomball, where the Sam Houston Trail Riders arrive by horses and wagons from Plantersville for a reception/meal/bunk.  It was cold but gloriously bright (which is maybe why Teddy couldn’t see the plant), so we arrived early in great anticipation.  The location was around the old railway station so we had a look inside, for the first time in 16 years.  Why do we always ignore the history right beside us?

Which one is real?

My husband looks like a real cowboy – until he opens his mouth…  It has been a long time since there was a working station office at Teague or Tomball but there is still a working commercial railroad.  I was 20 minutes late for a dental appointment when I had to wait patiently on the other side of the line.  We met a charming docent who told us all about the train museum.  He was fascinated by our Scottish accents and had another regular Scottish visitor who comes to the museum when he sees family in Texas.  The world is full of train geeks.

Kerry got friendly with the station master…

Halfway through the rodeo, we got news that the Pandemic had reached us and for the first time in the Houston Rodeo’s history it was cancelled.  One of the first patients in our county had visited the Rodeo but had not traveled anywhere else.  After a month in our local hospital, he finally recovered and got to go home.  It was touch and go but he was one of the lucky ones.  More posts about the trail ride to come.

 

For Eliza

Ernie and Harry

Eliza had asked to see some photographs of my regular walk around our containment pond, so without further ado… We often see all the varieties of heron fishing together. There are little snowy egrets, little green heron, night heron, Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron.

Rory, the American Robin

I love Robins – British Robins are small and vividly red like our Cardinals. The American Robins have such lovely songs and their coloring is so pretty.

Shrimpy Shrimp is always in flower – even on the coldest days!

She is a native of Mexico – beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds

Happy Hibiscus!

I love this tree sized pink Hibiscus bush which is on one of our shared neighborhood flower beds. We live in a posh commune…

Vladimira, the Black Vulture

I opened my front door and Vladimiri was standing right in front of me, drinking the water from one the neighbor’s sprinklers.  I chatted to her and admired her juvenile who flew away but she was not bothered by my presence. Unlike the next wonderful creature.

Walter, the Water Moccasin?

I am not entirely sure if this is the venomous Water Moccasin or a Diamond Back Water snake. Teddy was shouting, “Don’t get too close!”, to no avail as I was determined to get a shot of the snake swimming. It was so EXCITING!!

Pineapple Gauva Blossoms. They have delicious little fruit.

Bobby, the Blackbird

This is the American blackbird – not dissimilar to the European version but with a gorgeous flash of scarlet on the wings.

The Waltons – Whistling Ducks

Whistling Ducks are not really true ducks, nor geese – they are a sub family Dendrocygninae.  Some Whistling Ducks, further south than us, nest in trees to keep the eggs safe from alligators. I think we will have many babies soon…

Bonnie, the Eastern Bluebird

The local Bluebird Group have little houses all over our township and this year we have TWO pairs of Bluebirds of Happiness.

A Little Levity

It drives me crazy that of all the lovely shots I had taken of me in my wedding dress for our thirtieth wedding anniversary, this is the one blown up on my husband’s office wall.  I guess that is the Kerry that he really loves.  Right now at this crossroad in history we need some lightness.  The last time I felt panicked about going out was in 2003 in Cairo, Egypt.  The Second Gulf war had started and there was a perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction.  We were advised to stay home in case Westerners were a target.

Don’t you love the vista behind our balcony?

Since I looked like I did above, it was obvious that I wasn’t Middle Eastern but I couldn’t stand being in the house.  I strode out silently daring anyone to harass me.  Nobody did…I probably looked like a crazy lady.  Then I felt silly.  Now we have to socially distance.  I went to Trader Joe today (our Marks and Spencer sorta) and there were little yellow lines painted 6 ft. distance.  They were only allowing a limited amount of shoppers and it was the quietest I have ever seen the shop – bliss.  As you approached the shop, the Trader Joe artists (there are always some on staff to paint the signs) had put little encouraging words on the yellow stripes.

“Getting closer…”

“Almost there…”

When I got to the checkout desk, I had a little chat with the lady. “I look ridiculous with these black hair dye gloves,” I said.  “Oh, no, I have seen much worse…” she returned with a chuckle.  Then my imagination went into overdrive with WWII gas masks and Breaking Bad yellow boiler suits.  Then I went home and disinfected my purchases.  Earlier in the day, Teddy was convinced he had appendicitis.  I reassured him that it was probably gas and this wasn’t a good time to go to our doctor’s office.  It is right across the road from a retirement community that has been quarantined because of a significant outbreak of Covid 19.  I checked his temperature and poked the sore bit, made him bend over to check for sciatica.  Then I scolded him for being hypochondriacal at the wrong time in human history.  He seems to be fine now – usually Dr. Kerry can scare most illnesses away.  The gas came out eventually – so much so that I fell about laughing and sprayed air freshener in our house.

It hasn’t been long since I had a major bout of depression and anxiety.  I have good days and bad during this crisis but so does everyone.  For the first time, most of you can empathize with how a chronically mentally ill person feels ALL THE TIME.  It is so exhausting to be terrified and worried about everything.  Now there is a pandemic and I am doing okay.  After I reassured Teddy that he wasn’t dying, I went for a walk around the pond and up to the reservoir.  Many years ago, my friend Anne and I took our bikes many miles to our nearest reservoir in Glasgow at Cathkin Braes.  The sign said, “NO TRESPASSING!” but we were about 13 years old with that ‘who cares’ attitude.  We were having a lovely time when the warden found us.  Oh dear… we got a dreadful row about how dangerous reservoirs were and to go home immediately.

Boris and Natasha, the Muscovy Ducks

I REALLY wanted to ignore the NO TRESPASSING sign, at my reservoir today, but two Sheriffs had already passed me.  I just stood and enjoyed the ozonic breeze wafting down from the water.  A Great Heron was fishing for her lunch at the spillway.  She must have caught a dozen little silvery fish that sparkled before disappearing down her gullet.  She was pretty husky for a heron…  Back at the pond I almost stood on the fattest Muscovy duck – I think the neighbors feed her because she isn’t afraid of me.  Teddy usually lumbers after me on walks round the pond – he has a big actual footprint and frightens all the critters away.  This time I was able to see around 20 little turtles sitting on a mud bank with a single White Egret.

I saw a variety of neighbors and we all kept our 6ft distance, shouting the news at one another.  The great leveler is how awful we all look.  Grey roots, no makeup, stubbly beards, Walmart clothes and no one cares.  My Walmart tops are all from the thrift store so I have Eco Brownie points.  Our cul de sac is in a state of excitement right now because we have a new nest with a Black Crowned Night Heron.  They aren’t particularly common round here.  Teddy and I sat out on our deck on Sunday and a perfect little Downy Woodpecker came really close in the tree right above our head.  She had no red markings yet and seemed to be fascinated by the humans.  She tapped and tapped, entertaining us for a full hour.  Take comfort in small moments of joy and be as safe as you can be.

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD  – POSTSCRIPT 

As I was writing this post, I heard an inordinate amount of sirens – police, fire engines and ambulance.  We live close to one of our major routes within the forest but we haven’t heard them for weeks since everything went pandemic crazy.  I was so bored that I considered going out to see what idiot had sped through our cross stop or ran over a pedestrian but decided to keep watching Animal Planet.  Then our neighbors sent a round robin to say that some desperate guy had robbed people at gunpoint in one of our furthest subdivisions and sped away.  He had gone into our sleepy little street to escape the police and then exited only to wreck his scooter in front of the pediatric hospital across the road.  He is now in critical condition – I guess God decided he deserved a Darwin award.  To give some perspective, this is a sleepy backwater with very little crime so this is unprecedented.  Today was a strange day for me, not just because of the weird robber, and I had already been considering opening a bottle of wine.  The wine is finished…  On a really sad note, two of the elderly residents of the retirement community have died – may they rest in peace.

 

Heaven und Hell

This is St, Mary’s old church, or die alt Kirchee in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Below is a closeup of the marker.  We still use the work Kirk in Scotland to refer to Protestant churches, usually Church of Scotland.  I knew a Scottish lady here in Texas who hunted fruitlessly for a church that resembled anything like churches in Scotland.  Everything was either too Mega, think Joel Olsteen, or Happy Clappy as we refer to evangelists in Scotland.  I suggested she try the Catholic Church as they are pretty similar all over the world.  Her look of dismay could have turned me to stone…😈

Just across the road from these lovely churches is a dark, imposing building…

Doesn’t that look scary???  It is right across from both the courts and Catholic Cathedral just to enhance what poor life choices you made, back in the day.  They don’t play around with Crime and Punishment in Texas.

I try to be a good citizen and I lit a candle in the church for my recently departed uncle.  Then Teddy and I raised a glass of wine for him and he would have thoroughly approved.  To add more brownie points for my ‘trying to get to Heaven’ profile, I intervened with a tourist situation in the fudge store.  I saw a family of white Latin Americans, maybe Argentinean, speaking softly, in Spanish, while looking at the wonderful, delicioso fudge.  The girl behind the counter couldn’t hear that they were speaking another language and she said, rather loudly, “Do y’alls want chocolate coated fudge?”  They looked at her, perplexed, and I asked if I could help them. “Mi espanol es malo, voy a tratar!”  They smiled and said they were just looking.  I passed on the translation to the girl behind the counter who looked with astonishment at the German looking lady (me) who spoke Spanish.  It is a small, strange world.

BTW, according to family records my Dellinger relative came to North Carolina from Oberacker in Bavaria.  No wonder I like living in a forest…🌲🌲🌲

Fredericksburg ist Wunderbar!


It took us many hours to drive to Fredericksburg, mostly because it is 235 miles from our home but also it was Christmas time and we had to pass south of Austin. Austin has the unfortunate title of most congested city in Texas (and you thought Houston traffic was bad…) Would y’alls please stop moving to Texas??? We tried to stop in Bastrop but they were queuing out the door for the only open restaurant downtown on Sunday and it was bloody freezing. There is a distinct difference in weather between our house in the swampy south and the drier climate of the middle of Texas in hill country. We ended up at a Dunkin Donuts but it was fine.


When we finally reached Fredericksburg, we quickly unpacked and left our hotel which was disappointing. Ah well, the weather was beautiful – vividly blue skies with cool, clear weather and sunshine. It seemed that most of Austin and San Antonio was visiting Fredericksburg but there was a fun atmosphere. There seemed to be more wineries since we last visited and now you can drink wine in a disposable cup along the main street, meandering between wineries, on a SUNDAY! I bet some of the original inhabitants were turning in their graves… When we moved to Texas, almost 16 years, I was delighted and fascinated that many counties were still dry (no alcohol). Modern life has reached us but you still can’t buy hard liquor on a Sunday.

If you are wondering about my hypocrisy – ‘unwanted people moving to Texas” – of course I have German ancestors in the Heinz 57 variety of my DNA! My great grandparents were Dellingers who settled in North Texas in the 1880s. The original Dellinger was from Baden in Germany. I think that gives me a legitimate claim to thoroughly enjoy all aspects of German Texas… 😊 Just recently an Irish cousin discovered that our Leonard ancestors in Ireland were originally Leinnarts from Germany – that was a real surprise. It shouldn’t have though been because several people spoke to me in German on both visits to Fredericksburg. I just pretend that I am REALLY German because it makes visitors happy. When I was 7, I went on a trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I was wearing a kilt and Aran sweater with long dark ringlets. A group of American tourists wanted to take photographs of the cute little Irish colleen and my mum whispered, “Don’t tell them you are American.”

By the time Teddy and I reached the end of the Main Street we were desperate for a drink and enjoyed a gorgeous local rose wine from a winery which quenched our thirst. We started talking to another couple, about our age, with that excitement you get when meeting another couple on vacation. They were just visiting for the day but we enjoyed chatting together, losing our inhibitions. On our solo return we realized that our tummies were empty. I could smell an amazing smell right behind this winery – Fischer and Weiser. They were only serving snacks when we went in but told us that the smell emanated from a tiny shack behind the street. I would have missed it, if the staff hadn’t pointed it out.

I haven’t eaten a burger since the ‘80s but this was the best that I have ever had! The delightful owner, Jennie, makes the burgers from smoked brisket and they were soooo good. When she told me she was from Peru then it all made sense – Peru is the gastronomic capital of Latin America. Everything tastes amazing, even the bread. So we go all the way to Fredericksburg and eat a burger made by a lovely Peruvian lady – but I bet it was local beef! It was the Sunday before Christmas but warm enough to eat outside in twilight. Welcome to Texas.

Fredericksburg Fox Squirrel

As we meandered along the beautiful High Street, we noticed that the visitors had changed. At one time it was mostly white local visitors but now the Far East and Latin America were represented. Many of them seemed like family groups – I guess this might be one of the destinations for visitors arriving at Houston. So many hundreds of thousands of snowbirds fly in during the winter holidays. On that note, I read a hilarious piece in my news feed about flocks of Grackles terrifying the North! They are migratory sub tropical birds that settle in vast roosts – so successful in the Houston area that they are spreading North.

Grackle, courtesy of Pixabay

There was too much sunshine to make this a good shot but I just love Teddy surrounded by giant Cacti!

Medina, Texas

On our little trip to Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country, we took a road trip to Bandera which is the Cowboy Capital of Texas.  Teddy had been longing to buy some arrowheads that he had spotted at the huge Antique mart a few years back.  It’s possible that they were the same ones but arrowheads are plentiful in this part of Texas.  As we were browsing, I spotted the mart cat and just had to pick him up for a close cuddle.  He was a snuggly, if heavy, brown tabby cat who purred even when I handed him to Teddy.  His cuddles lightened our hearts somewhat. The staff told me they would sell him for $99.99…  I might have bought him if they weren’t joking about their much loved mouser.

We had lunch at the down home restaurant, filled with locals before we took the back road to Medina, on our return to Fredericksburg.  We spotted this old girl on our way back to the car – I want one just like that…

Medina is a small village, famous for apple orchards.  I was desperate for a good coffee and to my astonishment, I found the best latte west of Austin.  Core Coffee shop was so unique.  It was run as part of an evangelical mission and the coffee was from Honduras.  Every single item in the restaurant had a religious theme – from the crosses on the wall and mugs to the bible on the coffee table.  There were even scriptures in the immaculately clean ladies bathroom.


It was a huge improvement on the generic Starbucks and the staff were charming and friendly.  It was not a rich community but it looked like a lovely place to live.  The light was so bright that I struggled to get a decent shot of the main street so I sepia-ed the second shot.  It could be from the 1950’s.

Texas Landman business in Medina. The building is made of local limestone.

Medina Main Street

Always save the tree!

I am a map reader and find it impossible to follow a GPS instruction so I noted that the road from Bandera to Medina, then Kerrville, looked remote and interesting.  As we were driving away from Medina, I spotted what looked like a deer fence around a ranch.  Then I saw a striped animal – it  was a Zebra in the middle of Texas!  Then I realized it was an exotic animal fence but why just one Zebra?  He looked so lonely – maybe there were other friends beyond my view.  Then we started to climb dramatically.  There were switchbacks and very steep gradients with road strips that warned me I was going too fast at 30 mph – that ain’t happened before!  It was too dangerous to really look at the view or stop for many miles.

Finally, I found somewhere to stop and take in the view.  No tourists – just trees and hills.  A little piece of heaven.  Well it might have been Heaven if my passenger had stopped cringing every time I turned a precarious corner – “Watch the edge!” is still ringing in my ears. 😀

 

Short, sassy and seasonal

 

I have been growing my hair a little longer, of late, and coloring it a shade darker.  Looking in the mirror it just looked dull so VOILA!  My stylist cut it in a really short style and I lifted it a couple of shades to a light ash blonde.  I always color my own hair and this time I used Ion color and Developer from Sally’s Beauty Shop.  It’s a cheaper way to color your own hair and wastes less product.  I mix and match the shades until I get one that suits.  This was a mixture of 10 AN (Ash Neutral) and some High lift blond with 30 % developer.

This photograph shows a little more of the texturized effect.  I have incredibly coarse hair that refuses to sit properly so it took my stylist a good hour to cut and re-cut when dry.  The left side of my hair (in the photo) has always been the difficult side, even from childhood.  Frizzier and less compliant than the right. Teddy is my patient personal photographer…

The hot, hot summer takes it’s toll on my hair but once it gets a bit cooler, I always feel like changing it up.  Especially when it is BOOT season!  Last weekend I wore my silk flowered ankle boots – totally impracticable for anywhere with a real winter.❄️❄️

Before  Teddy took the previous two photographs in the back yard, I took this selfie on the front porch which is shaded.  It is fascinating how different the photos look – just a different camera and position.  Teddy was able to make me look sunnier but I quite like the thoughtful look above.

Wishing you all a wonderful festive season.  I will be offline in a few days for the holidays.  Merry Christmas!

GRINCH BITCH POSTSCRIPT

I composed this draft yesterday.  Then Teddy came home late after a frenetic work day so we went to our local steakhouse’s bar for a quick happy hour meal.  I noticed with trepidation that the car park was full and suddenly remembered Christmas Work Holiday Parties – shudder!  We found a little table for two in the corner but it wasn’t secluded enough…  Sure enough, hyena screams started coming from a table of what looked like lady realtors.  I quickly ascertained that they were all in competition with each other thus the screeching across the table.  Then I looked at their hair.  Every single one was wearing a Rachel cut.  It was hard to tell their age with all the fillers/Botox but I would guess between late 40’s to my age.  There were no real beauties but all were attractive and would have benefited from a new hair style – a pixie here, a lob there even just a blunt bob.  I laughingly asked our wonderfully patient waiter if they had a volume control (perhaps at the back of their matching black shift dresses).  I hope they gave him a whacking tip.  Oh that feels so much better especially since a Swiss jackass (CH on Audi) in Trader Joe’s car park tried to take me out this morning.

 

 

Hooves and Paws

This is the prettiest bison I have ever seen.  It was the color of a teddy bear, gently snoozing at Franklin Safari Park.  Franklin is a small town just north of College Station, where A & M University resides.  The Safari Park is privately owned and the animals were really well cared for.  Franklin had a F3 Tornado a few months ago.  I remember seeing it on the news and wondering where Franklin, Texas was.  Many of the workers lost their homes but all the animals survived.  Life is full of curious miracles.  We gave the park a large donation along with the entry fee.

Don’t you just want to cuddle this little calf?  So precious with a cute curly coat.

Breastfeeding the twins in public!

This is an Asian otter who refused to let me take a photo of his lovely wee face so instead you have a photo of his lovely coat and toes.

We don’t have prairie dogs near us so I love them!

Isn’t his stripe down his back lovely?

An Aussie Immigrant

Another Ankole Watuzi – even bigger horns on this one

‘Look at my perfect babies!’

‘Are you sure you don’t have snacks’?

“I only have one wing but my pink feet are so perfect”.  We noticed there were quite a few special animals at this park who were just as healthy and happy as the perfect specimens.  I have a soft spot for broken creatures just like me.

 

 

 

 

Almost Tropical Autumn

Technically, we live in the sub-tropics in the Piney Wood ecosystem, Texas.  I think I prefer Almost Tropical and to illustrate – we go from Hot as Hades to Freeze your Ass off.  Yesterday a cold front came in and unusually we have some autumnal foliage.  Most years a hurricane or storm system blows off the leaves before they can change color.

This is my walking path just at the end of my ‘hood’.  It is so lovely at this time of year with less sunscreen/warm sweaters needed.  You can always tell the recent snowbirds.  They wear shorts all year round and look at my layered sweaters with disbelief.  Having to communicate or at least wave to everyone on the walking path also causes them some consternation.  Bless their hearts…

Usually this display of copper and gold would warm my heart but the Grinch has stolen it.  My depression has been getting better but the time change has messed with my brain.  For the last few months the driving in our town had improved after an obvious police/trooper/constable presence.  Even my ice cold heart was warmed by seeing jackasses in trucks/Mercedes getting tickets or at least a scolding.  On Wednesday I had to return to my trusty physiotherapist because my right arm is sore and numb.  In route back home, I encountered a weaver in a truck.  Three lanes of traffic, going about 50 mph, and yet he felt he could get three cars ahead by weaving in and out of traffic dangerously. He swerved right in front of me and something broke in my brain.  To preface this, honking your horn is almost unheard of down here.  I put my hand on the horn and left it there.  All the lanes seemed to back away from me and I was left in a solitary bubble of road rage.  The next day the police were back and schadenfreude overtook me as I watched car after car getting booked.

Now I am less sore and grumpy, the Grinch has retreated and I am enjoying the autumnal leaves once more.  I even went to the mall to get my Nordstom’s coffee and enjoyed the repartee with the Israeli soap sellers.  Sometimes it drives me crazy and I feel like I have never left the souk.  Can someone tell me how to say, “Stop bothering me” in Hebrew?  Nothing too rude…their employers probably make them use persistent sale tactics.

Northerners laugh at us when we complain about almost freezing temperatures but we are acclimated to a long summer of hot and steamy.  It is usually in the high 90’s but the humidity shoots up the heat index.  When the first cold front arrived the temperature shot down by about 50 degrees.  Today it is bloody freezing and the heating isn’t working – eek!  I phoned our contractor in a panic and they are coming out in an hour even though it is Saturday.  My neurological issues and low blood pressure makes me feel really unwell when I am cold.  The gas fire is on and the space heater, too.

The other week I spotted something strange and big in the garden.  I racked my brain until I realized it was an old Great Horned Owl nest which had collapsed – it was about 3 feet across.  They usually steal someone’s else’s but it was huge and very nicely lined with a plastic grocery bag and pine needles.  Everyone is recycling these days. 🦉

 

Cute Closeups

Miss Franklin, Texas 2019

What a beauty this little girl is – those brown eyes and eyelashes!

Burro Whiskers!

PLEASE give me a snack, Teddy???

Ilford – only the oldies will get that moniker.  I will give you a clue – what color is she??

This is my best side…

I only have one curly horn but still I am handsome…

A glorious little redhead – Cersei, perhaps?