Shorebird Etiquette

 

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Marbled Godwit

Shore birds are a delight and provide entertainment for beach wanderers just wanting to lounge in a beach chair listening to the surf, sipping a cold beverage and feeling the wind playfully dance across suntan oiled skin. Shorebirds were easy targets for me and my BFF when we first started birding…easy because they stayed relatively still or in sight allowing us to study and identify them.

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Least Tern

But shorebirds are usually out foraging for food and we would do well to remember that we are the visitors to their home territory and there are some rules that can make us good guests as well as protect the large variety of birds that make their home along the coast.

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American Oystercatcher

At the following link there are helpful hints to assure the bird’s safety as well as enhance enjoyment of their beauty and antics.

https://www.audubon.org/news/how-become-bird-friendly-beachgoer?ms=digital-eng-email-ea-x-20180523_shorebirds_medium&utm_source=ea&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180523_shorebirds&utm_content=medium

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Black-bellied Plover

Enjoy!! And don’t forget the fried chicken!!!

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Long-billed Curlew

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Finding Peace and Comfort in What We Have

I recently visited Half-Price Books in search of some tomes on silk screening. In my younger years, one of my projects with the young girls in my girl scout troop, was silk screening and/or printmaking. Nearing my nursing retirement, I have turned to exploring ways to supplement my income doing some of the things I have loved and pursued my entire life…art is one of those many things. In my search for books on silk screening, I ran across a delightful, gotta-have-it book written by Australian Sibella Court and entitled “Etcetera etc, creating beautiful interiors with the things you love.” Her book was a reinforcement that it is time for me to let go of 40 years of a nursing career and reinvent myself in a different persona.

This book filled every one of my bibliomania quirks…earthy tones, crinkly paper, different types and weights of papers and packed full of beautiful photographs depicting the author’s design style using the many things she has loved and collected from childhood to adulthood. Things like shells, beads, paper, ribbons…using objects in new and different ways so when a new friend walks into her abode, they instantly have a sense of who she is, what she loves, interests she has pursued.

I have no “need” for additional things in the winter of my life. I have been drawn to certain objects throughout my entire existence and arranging and rearranging those things in new and different ways throughout my home, gives me a fresh perspective and renewed love of all of my treasures. Bird feathers, an abandoned bird nest, sand dollars, shells, carved birds, books galore, various papers, paint tubes, palettes, brushes, plants, walls covered with paintings, a mermaid vase, candles, empty clay pots, easels. A stroll throughout my living space gives insight into who I am as a person.

Just by adding a few empty two dollar Goodwill wooden frames to the three paintings already hanging on my living room wall, had me falling in love again with a portion of my living space. Walking through my front door became a fresh exciting experience. Using what I have in new and different ways is pleasurable and gives new appreciation for why those found objects were cherished in the first place.

I ponder the emotions that drive me to surround myself with things that appeal to me both visually and emotionally. I derive peace and feelings of well-being from having loved objects around me. My bed is often piled high with several books or other reading materials. Books close by, permitting me to reach for one, open it and enjoy reading excerpts as day by day I weave my way through their contents. Each cherished object brings with it a flood of memories…the bird nest discovered on a sidewalk outside Alamo Drafthouse when a girlfriend and I were going in for a movie; the giant brain coral I literally stumbled across when walking the rack line on a Matagorda beach; a funky vase purchased at a restaurant in Fredericksburg  where my daughter and I shared a sumptuous lunch; a giant pair of scissors that belonged to my Mother and each and every time I use them my memory takes me to the beauty of her hands; a baking stone thrust upon me by a sister so every loaf of bread that bakes itself on its hot surface carries a thought of her; a beautiful shell encased memory box filled with sweet memories from another sister and another wooden box filled with loving thoughts from a daughter; a Barack Obama coffee mug, a gift from a daughter who shared my passion for #44; postcards lounging in a woven basket on a coffee table, and birding and junk journals that sweep me into the past when I flip through their pages, overwhelming me with emotional memories of exciting times shared with people I dearly love.

Life is short. What a oxymoranic statement that is. I recently completed my 72nd trip around the sun and it has been a great ride! A long ride. I find myself being more nostalgic with each trip now. My memories of a life well spent are important. There is little doubt that my children will wonder why “Mom kept that silly fossil” or why some of my journals have pages missing leaving blanks in my story that they will never know which brings to mind one of my favorite movies of all time…The Bridges of Madison County… A story of a full life, unrequited love, regrets, successes and a myriad of moments turned into memories of a beautiful existence.

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Rent the movie, watch it if you haven’t, and live your life to the fullest!!!

 

Betty

Poolish

Last night I took the sour dough starter given to me by a friend and made my poolish in anticipation of making bread this morning. Each sour dough starter has a character all its own and today’s baking will determine if Betty is as good as Boris. Boris resides in my fridge with occasional feedings and regular use in the appearance of delicious loaves of bread. I imagine he is anxiously awaiting the verdict to know if he needs to worry about the competition.

My bread baking adventure continues and I have fallen into a routine of making bread most weekends for my own consumption or to share with friends and neighbors. So this morning I took the poolish from Betty and was pleased to see that overnight she had bubbled and foamed into a nice sourdough base. I added oil, salt and more flour to the poolish and after some vigorous kneading placed it in a bowl to rise while I went for a morning walk along Lady Bird Lake.

Mr. White-wing Dove
Cormorant and Mr. Turtle catching some rays
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Al Weiwei sculpture “Forever Bicycles” is made from 1200 bicycles.

When I returned, I popped Betty’s baby into the oven and an hour later had a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread. Taste delicious but not quite as sour as Boris. This loaf had a nice chewy crumb, but the outer crust was not hard and crackly.

Betty’s newborn

All in all a lovely Saturday morning filled with birds, art and bread baking!

 

Revisiting the Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk – Tests and Rewards

Boardwalk access off I35

A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, cool breezes so I was drawn to try out a new pair of walking shoes and test their mettle and my feet’s tolerance for their new boundaries. This walk would also be a test to see if the adjustments made to “Thumper” AKA my pacemaker would allow me to walk without jumping up to tachycardia rates.

The boardwalks around Lady Bird Lake are great for getting a walker up close and personal with nature. Lots of peeps out and about today jogging, walking, biking or just sauntering along like me and my friend.

My rewards for this day were shoes that worked well and feet that didn’t hurt in the least bit by the end of my adventure. My heart rate never went above 95 so booyah…success. And just as I was leaving the boardwalk and proceeding to the I35 walkway to head home, I spied a beautiful green heron stalking his lunch.

In the midst of concrete, tall buildings and heavy traffic, there exists a world of nature if we but only “see” what is around us.

Happy walking!!!

Saggy, Baggy Starfish

This past weekend I headed back to the Round Top Antique Festival which is a semi-annual event in my world. My friend Kathleen drives up from Houston and we invade my sister’s house as our home base before we venture out to begin trekking through miles of antiques, treasured vintage items and eclectic art objects.

I am at a point in my life when I really don’t “need” anything but this year I was in search of a butter dish that was wide and tall enough to house a large block of butter rather than just one stick. The Kerry Gold butter needed a house!

On my treasure-seeking journey, the artist in me is drawn to the expertise exhibited by so many vendors in their marketing skills. I am entranced with the vignettes they create and they inspire me to want to cleanse the entire palette of my condo and begin again anew.

Plein Air Paint Box
Unusual art objects
An enlightening moment! Very creative, one-of-a-kind lamps

So I found my butter dish…check! But there is always one something that I believe I can’t live without and for me this trip it was the saggy, baggy starfish. It was love at first sight and the beach bum in me could envision him ensconced with my huge basket of scavenged sea shells surrounded by sponges, feathers and other nature objects de arte that I have collected over  decades of beach trips.

The Butter Dish

No trip to Burton is complete without visiting one of my favorite stores called Leftovers. The store owners are nothing short of genius in their merchandising artistry and no trip can end without strolling through and absorbing all the beauty created with old, new and found objects. My every visit purchase here is their goat’s milk soap that comes embedded in a soft sea sponge and both my daughter and I are addicted to this soap. A visit to their store is similar to taking a designing course from a world-renowned interior decorator.

So here are some Leftover displays that caught my eye on Saturday.

The Antique Weekend runs through April 7th. I highly recommend a visit if you like a good treasure hunt!

Happy Hunting!!!

Who’s Watching?

One of my favorite movies is Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. In this movie Mel Gibson, AKA Jerry Fletcher, is portrayed as a crazy person because of his perverted view of the world. Another favorite of mine is Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. In this movie Gene Hackman is savvy to government surveillance and Will Smith is trying to survive being murdered. And in one of my favorite television series, Better Call Saul, the main character’s brother believes his body is bombarded with energy waves from any and all electronic devices including electricity and lives within his beautiful home with only kerosene lamps and igloo coolers, all windows blocked from sunlight, never leaving to go out because he experiences real physical pain if he does. No spoiler alert needed here. A well constructed movie is easy to enjoy multiple times. But perhaps it is the subject matter that intrigues me.

Recently a friend and I were discussing the appearance of ads on our social media feeds or in our email. After talking about a certain product, an ad for said product miraculously appears in her mail. She hadn’t googled it so that explanation for its appearance didn’t fly. Last Christmas one of my daughters gifted me with “Alexa”. She sits on my kitchen bar counter silently surveiling, awaiting my voice commanding her to wake up. After our discussion, my mind took the leap to “what if she is always listening” and through her, my every move and conversations are being monitored. And then I jumped to George Orwell’s 1984 book where Big Brother IS always watching, the Thought Police exist and truth is what Big Brother says it is. That book was published as science fiction in 1949 imagining a world unknown at that time and certainly a world that has now become a reality.

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In the movies, conspiracy theorist personalities are fervent in their beliefs that Big Brother is listening at all times. And different methods of interrupting Big Brother’s ability to monitor us are numerous…from tin foil hats to electro magnetic body scanners to devices worn around one’s neck to interrupt electronic signals. Assassination conspiracy theories from  JFK’s assassination to UFO’s and space aliens hidden away in Roswell New Mexico or “Area 51”, to the most current version today known as the Deep State will always exist. It lends itself to excitement, espionage and an escape from everyday doldrums of ordinary lives.

I derive much pleasure from the movies such as the ones mentioned above and it does give me pause when something pops up on my social media feed that I was thinking about, talked about, or searched for on the internet,  but not enough to invest in copious amounts of aluminum foil stock or to purchase products that might envelop me in a cocoon that repulses magnetic waves. I plan on keeping all of the high-tech devices that have made my world infinitely easier. I can’t imagine my life without a cell phone now if for no other reason but safety. And I can still remember the hard work of typing a document on an old-fashioned typewriter and using carbon paper in triplicate for copies before copying machines came into vogue. And if my microwave is spying on me so be it because I will not go back to reheating leftovers on top of the stove or in an oven.

There is a price to pay for convenience. Each of us must decide if we are willing to pay that price. Just as each of us must decide what is Fact and what is Fiction. “The truth is out there”…

 

 

 

Multipurposes of Old Bread

One of the curses or perhaps benefits of experimental bread baking  is the plethora of left over bread, the uneaten or slightly stale bread. No way can I possibly consume all of the bread that I am making right now. So the obvious ways to dispose of unwanted or surplus bread are to share with friends, which I am doing at my place of work, or transform it into an entirely new form. I always warn my coworkers that everything I am producing right now is trial and error and mistakes are sometimes made along the road of progress.

Breadcrumbs were made famous in a children’s fairy tale called Hansel and Gretel. These two children went walking in the forest and afraid they would get lost, they decided to drop bread crumbs as they went so they could later follow them back home. As an adult it is easy to foresee the folly of their plan but it made for a good story in a child’s mind.

Hansel and Gretel by MegaBoneDesignsA popular scene in many movies is someone feeding the pigeons from a park bench. Seeds, bread crumbs being fed to a flock of birds is a peaceful bucolic scene. There is a man who lives in my condo building who daily makes his way to feed the numerous pigeons that call our little piece of property their home. They flock around him eagerly awaiting the tiny morsels he brings them each day.

Bruschetta is another way to use stale bread. Slices of toasted bread topped with a multitude of savory spreads make for a delightful, satisfying appetizer accompanied by a nice bottle of wine. And a cousin of bruschetta would be crostini, a smaller size bread base with a variety of toppings. Both make excellent antipasta.

Homemade bread crumbs are probably the easiest way to use up old bread. Cubed, seasoned and tossed with a drizzle of quality olive oil and toasted in a slow oven begets some pretty crunchy, tasty croutons. Old bread shredded to crumbs in a food processor are easily stored in the freezer and used as bread crumbs for coating meat or as an additive to the best meatloaf recipe ever.

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Homemade Croutons

Barbecue Meatloaf – A Paula Dean Recipe

  • 1 1/2 pounds (96% lean) ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 -8 ounce cans (or 1 16 ounce can) tomato sauce or puree
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water to thin sauce if necessary (I never thin)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper and 8 ounces of tomato sauce. Form into loaf and place in loaf pan. Stir together remaining tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pour this sauce over the meatloaf. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Baste frequently.
Home-made Bread Crumbs

Panzanella Salad is another wonderful way to combine toasted stale bread croutons into a salad of fresh spring lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and purple onion making for a very tasty meal.

I think my favorite way to use up stale bread is making my favorite dessert…bread pudding! Not too many years ago, my BFF Kathleen and I went to NOLA for a few days. One of my most favorite cities in the United States, we of course enjoyed many wonderful culinary masterpieces in various restaurants throughout the Quarter. And at the end of each meal we indulged in one of many sumptuous deserts offered and at each place I was on a quest…to discover the restaurant that created the BEST bread pudding I had ever tasted. Bread pudding should be a melt in your mouth savory smooth filling bathed in a sauce that enhances the bread filling and makes it a sensual experience. I have already recycled some of my bread into a savory chocolate bread pudding that wasn’t half bad.

Sour Dough Blueberry Muffins

And this morning I cranked out some sourdough blueberry muffins to use a portion of my starter so I could feed it again. The recipe came from the King Arthur website and the muffins were tasty if not a little unconventional. The stone ground corn meal ingredient gave them a slight crunchy crumb and they weren’t super sweet which was a plus for me. My only wish was that I wanted them to be bigger in size. It seems that one thing leads to another…my muffin pan is standard size and if I want bigger, I either need to purchase a larger muffin tin or devise a way to make parchment paper cones that will house a larger amount of batter.

This baking journey is turning into a wonderful learning adventure! Happy Baking!!!

Yummy, savory Blueberry Muffin