Saturday, January 27, 2018

An Outing to Coupland, Texas

A couple weeks ago we had some frigid weather. One morning it was 11 degrees, and for a few days it didn't get above freezing. Not only were the temperatures in the basement, but the wind was also blowing, making it pretty miserable to be outdoors. When it gets that cold here, everything just shuts down. All of our community activities are canceled. Dan and I even tried to make a bank deposit and found Bank of America closed due to weather, even though the roads were clear.

On Wednesday, seeing the sunshine, blue skies and the mercury rising to the mid-sixties, I felt an urge to go on a little photo-shoot to enjoy the great outdoors.

Coupland, Texas, is a tiny town of about 300 people, an hour south of us. I've been wanting to take my camera down there ever since Andy and Kay drove us, one evening, by the outdoor sculpture garden, where artist, Jim Huntington, works his magic on carved stone monoliths.

On the way to Coupland, I stopped several places to take some shots of the winter landscape of our area. I said something to Dan the other day about everything turning brown here, in the winter. He disagreed, and said it was actually yellow. Not to give in too easily, I said, "Okay . . . kind of a yellowish-brown," to which he replied, "No. It's brownish-yellow." It's kind of funny that we have nothing more serious to debate, in our comfortable retirement years, than what color the grass is. We finally settled on "golden."

I also stopped at another tiny town, Bartlett, on my way down, to snap a few images of its old west architecture, which harmonizes well with its worn brick streets.

This building was abandoned, but I noticed that, upstairs, "Dentist" was painted on the window. Made me wonder if Doc Holliday had ever practiced in this Texas town.

I was fascinated by the stonework incorporated into the brick architecture of this building.

I arrived in Coupland around 1:30 and found 77-year-old Jim Huntington hard at work on two different sculptures. He was embedding copper strips in some of the veins of the stone. I asked if he minded if I took pictures of his sculptures, and he said that was fine. So I roamed around on the acreage, fascinated by his works of art. Below are a few of the photos I took.

This one reminded me of the "pleats" on the throat of a humpback whale.

This is a shot, looking skyward, from inside the tube of the sculpture shown in the picture above.

This one resembled river rapids.

And I couldn't help think about the wing of an eagle when I saw this one.

Inside his studio, there were hundreds of pieces in progress, including this one. The dark gray section looked like a huge Bird of Paradise leaf.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas 2017 - Katy, TX

Christmas this year was about as good as they come - with the exception of one missing family member. Tim didn't make it to Texas this year, and was definitely missed.

I got up at 6:00 on Christmas morning and crept down the stairs to find this sweet little package on the sofa, sleeping in the glow of the Christmas tree lights. I'm told that he actually came downstairs at 3:45 to ask if he could look in his stocking. When he was told "Not yet," he went upstairs and woke Clara to let her know that they COULDN'T look in their stockings yet.

Finally, around 7:45 a.m., after gathering in front of the Christmas tree for a photo, everyone got the "okay" to begin passing out and opening gifts.

Clara got a beautiful charm bracelet and several special charms. She was also really pleased with the owl wall decor that Robert made, with a little help, at his Daddy's workbench and using Daddy's tools.

Robert got a Lego kit to make an RC tracked racer. Probably his favorite gift was an aquarium for his bedroom and a gift card to equip the aquarium and buy fish.

For breakfast, Clara made Monkey Bread (seems an appropriate breakfast for the monkey pictured above!), which we enjoyed along with some hot cocoa.

Later that day, for lunch, Chris prepared cold-cuts, including a variety of natural cheeses and cured meats. He taught us a new word, inviting us to enjoy his charcuterie spread.

That evening we talked with Tim by phone, and let him know that he was missed. After the phone call, it turned into "pile-on-Daddy" time.

Clara eventually left the pile and climbed into an easy chair to listen to music on her new MP4 player. This was a birthday gift (Dec. 8), not a Christmas gift. However, there was a speaker for it under the Christmas tree!

But Robert never made it up off the floor. It had been a very long day for him - starting at 3:45 a.m. - and sleep came easily, for both Robert and his Daddy.

The day after Christmas Robert was eager to go to PetSmart to pick out some fish for his aquarium. When we got there, and talked with one of the employees, he told us that the aquarium water needed to sit for a minimum of 24 hours - and maybe as long as several weeks - to be safe for the fish. So Robert picked out some gravel, a beautiful hidden-hole statue, a plant, and a moss ball.

The fish will come later. I thought he might be disappointed at not getting any fish right away, but the moss ball turned out to be almost as good as fish. Robert named it "Mossy," although we tried to get him to name it after a Formula1 race car driver - like "Stirling Moss" or, maybe, "Felipe Moss-a."  But Mossy it was, and he proclaimed his love for Mossy numerous times that day.

On the 27th everyone went to Schlotzky's for lunch. There we took one final photo with the kids, and then left for home. We've got the best grandkids ever! What a joy to share the holidays with them.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Clara's First Orchestra Performance

On Wednesday Dan and I traveled to Houston to attend Clara's school orchestra performance. Clara, being a first year student, performed at the opening of the concert. I guess I'll never get past tearing up when one of my kids or grandkids is on stage. I can't imagine how I'll react when Clara, at some time in the future (I'm sure), performs at Carnegie Hall!

We were surprised at how far these first-year musicians had come already. And by the end of the concert, when we heard the cream of the crop of eighth-graders, we were amazed. Their teacher/director was obviously and justifiably button-popping-proud of them.

First-Year Orchestra. Kelsey was a little disappointed that they were asked to wear their Mayde Creek Jr. High Orchestra hoodies, instead of dressing up a bit. But that didn't seem to affect their performance at all.

Robert seemed to enjoy the concert, for the most part. He did rest his head on Grandpa's shoulder, at one point, and take a short nap.

After the concert, in front of the tree in the lobby of the high school performing arts building.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Party, Party, Party!

Saturday, December 2, was the start of our many, many Christmas festivities.

From noon until 3:00, I volunteered, along with other Salado Village Artists (SVA), at the Bell County Expo Center, for Christmas on the Farm. This is the annual fund-raiser for Aware Central Texas, an organization that works to prevent child abuse and family violence through education and case management. I love this low-cost event for children and their families. There were over 40 fun activities for kids. Our (SVA) booth was the Christmas stocking booth, and we helped over 750 children decorate their stockings.

Decorating stockings at the SVA booth
That same evening we met four other couples from church - Kay and Andy, Kelly and Trish, Larry and Deborah, and David and Denise -  at Olive Garden for dinner before taking in the Temple Symphony Orchestra's Christmas concert. I should have taken a picture or two, but I was too busy having fun.

My book club had their Christmas dinner on Monday (12/4) evening. We were hosted by Jean, an 88-year old member of our club, who loves to entertain. She has lived in the same house for 40 years, and it was not a new house when she and her late husband bought it. I think it was built in the '30s or early '40s, and has tons of character - just like Jean, herself. She kept us in stitches most of the evening with stories of her amazing life. She still volunteers overseas for two or three weeks each year, providing humanitarian aid to people in different countries. She comes by her adventurous spirit naturally, as her parents also traveled widely. Our book under discussion this month was an Agatha Christie Christmas mystery, and we learned that Jean's parents actually met and dined with Agatha Christie once!

First Monday Book Club - holiday dinner at Jean's 
Tuesday (12/5) I drove to Salado to join my friends from SVA for a "fancy" holiday lunch at the Inn on the Creek. One of our members, Connie (I also know her from church), made most of the arrangements, and brought her musically talented daughter, Nan, to play Christmas music throughout the luncheon.

Salado Village Artists - Christmas luncheon at Inn on the Creek, Salado.

Nan, at the keyboard.

Connie with her daughter, Nan.
On Thursday evening (12/7) we enjoyed a musical performance by the Salado Community Choir. A number of our good friends sing in this choir. They did an outstanding job!

Kay and Deborah in the opening song.
And, on Sunday evening (12/10) we celebrated with our church friends. It was a great party, with beautiful decorations, fun games and activities, a visit from Santa and tasty finger foods of all kinds.

Santa "Kelly" Claus entertained the children.
At one point that evening, four teams were formed to compete in decorating four "Christmas trees." Those trees were actually walking/talking Christmas trees, in the form of some of our church staff, including Daniel (youth minister), Joe (preacher), Ray Don (family life minister) and Saturnino (minister to our Spanish speaking members).



Ray Don

and our WINNER, Saturnino!
 I still have one more party to attend -- my Bell County Genealogical Society party -- but I think that's enough partying for one post.