Texas Bucket List

For all you Texans, you get this. You probably have a Bucket List, but then you have a separate Texas Bucket List, for things that every Texan should do. For all you non-Texans, I’m sorry. Hopefully you can get here some day and check all these things off of your list. Luckily there is now a song dedicated to a Texas Bucket List. It’s called My Texas, and it’s by The Josh Abbott Band. There is also a little known guy named Pat Green that sings along with him. You may have heard of him?

Anyway, the list in the song has pretty much everything you need to do in Texas – here is the breakdown.

1. Climb Enchanted Rock    CHECK    At least 4 times

2. Drink a cold Shiner down in Luckenbach    CHECK     Of course I have! And I’ll do it again, too!

3. Take your baby to the River Walk     CHECK     And I’m planning on going in March again!

4. Float the Frio River       CHECK     Used to do this every summer as a kid!

5. Listen to Red Dirt music on the radio      CHECK     Back when I was in high school, we had a good Texas country music station. Not anymore….

6. Eat Cooper’s In Llano*         (sort of) CHECK        I have an * by this, because I have had Cooper’s from Llano, but I haven’t had it IN Llano. They were leftovers a friend brought for me to try

7. Go to the Houston Rodeo    CHECK     Pretty much every year of my childhood, and I showed a steer in Houston

8. Sing “Carry On” at a Pat Green Show     CHECK        I saw Pat Green AT the Houston Rodeo

9. See an Abilene sunset

10. Catch a trout in Port A(ransas)

11. Heard the words to “Corpus Christ Bay”      CHECK      Robert Earl Keen is one of the best – I know all the words!

12. Watch fireworks on PK (I had to look this up, it’s Possum Kingdom Lake)

13. Have a kolache when you go through West*   (sort of CHECK)       Again, the * means I had them when a friend (the same friend who brought me Cooper’s from Llano by the way, brought me some, but I haven’t had fresh ones. Doesn’t matter though – they were still A-MAZ-ING.

14. Heard of the Larry Jo Taylor Fest

15. Go to the Fort Worth Stock Show     CHECK     I showed a steer here too

16. Sing along with Cory Morrow     CHECK      Did this 3 times last year!

17. See a hill country sunset    CHECK      It’s beautiful every time

18. Hike through Big Bend    CHECK      I practically lived there for 6 years while I was in college!

19. Let your hair blow through the Lubbock wind

20. Be somewhere that they call you “friend”    CHECK     I count a lot of places, most of them in Alpine. You always run into someone you know there!

21. Go to the San Antonio Rodeo    CHECK       Showed a steer here too…

22. Sing “Everclear” at a Roger Creager show        CHECK          At least 8 times

23. See an El Paso sunset     CHECK       Best place in Texas to get factory direct boots, but it was quite a drive to get to even when I lived out West. So of course I saw the sunset!

So as you can see, it’s a lot of sunsets and listening to good country music. I’ve done most everything on this list. I think there are a few things that need to be added to it though. See live music at The Salt Lick (and get the Family Style bbq meal. Just trust me on this.), go to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, the Llano Crawfish Open, horseback riding on the beach on South Padre, have a beer on the Front Porch of Terlingua, swim in Jacob’s Well, see a Willie Nelson show, drive down a hill country road to see the bluebonnets at their peak, watch the sunset over Lake Travis at The Oasis, drink cold Texas beer on a hot Saturday night, go 4 wheeling on the Brazos River, eat Huevos Rancheros at Bob’s Taco Station, eat at  ALL of the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints, and go on every brewery tour (this is going to be a hard one, since new breweries are popping up all the time!), smell the wild Mountain Laurel blooming, get a Round Rock donut, go to Pete’s Piano Bar, and climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas. Sounds like I’ll be busy, because I have a few more to do. And the things I’ve marked off the list already, I’ll probably do again.

On Earth As It Is In Texas.

DIY Compass Rose Night Stand

This is a step-by-step How To Not Paint a 1970’s Night Stand.IMG_4369

I received two night stands from my sister, That Clever Chick. They were our Great-Grandmother’s night stands, but Dear Sweet Sissy didn’t have any use for them so they were sitting in her garage. I decided to take them and repaint them but hadn’t decided on anything in particular so then they lived in MY garage for a while. Finally, browsing Pinterest, I had come up with a few ideas. This was my original plan, found here:

Map Night Stand

Pretty maps are hard to find. These days, they have bright colors and I just don’t find them appealing. I went to Half Price Books to try to find a map book, but didn’t have much luck. (I also don’t have the patience to sift through their MASSIVE clearance section though, so if you do, give it a try!) I tried printing out some old world maps but they were too small, so instead I decided on a compass rose. It would be simple but still look awesome, and be easy to reproduce, since I have 2 night stands.

First, I tried taking some chemical stripper to them in order to get any finish, stain, or paint off of them. I will let you know now, that I will probably NEVER use chemical stripper again. Even using rubber gloves, I burned myself several times by getting this stuff on my skin. And, just by leaving a used shop towel on the garage floor, it ate the smooth layer off of the concrete on the garage floor. THIS IS SOME NASTY STUFF.

Next, I tried painting the night stands with leftover latex paint. Hubby was sick of the night stands taking up space in the garage, so I was trying to kill two birds with one stone and get rid of some old paint at the same time. Unfortunately the paint wouldn’t stay put. There was a plastic-y 1970s finish on the night stands that prevented paint from sticking to it.

Paint scraping of easily - you can't have that on a night stand!
Paint scraping of easily – you can’t have that on a night stand!

So I decided to power wash them. Fastest way to get paint off of them, right? Well, yes, but it also made a huge mess. There were chunks of latex paint all over the driveway, and the wood didn’t really like it either. There was some splitting of the layers of wood, since it was a composite instead of solid wood (I’m guessing it was in the 70s that the US started cheaping out on quality furniture?) Anyway, I got the paint off as much as possible, and then sanded the rest of the table smooth.

After it was power-washed
After it was power-washed

Then I decided to spray paint the tables. I bought 2 cans (one can for each table, right?) Man, that stuff DID NOT WANT TO COVER. There were patches where I could see the wood even after passing over the same spot several times with the spray paint. I ended up using 1 1/2 cans just for one table. The spray paint also didn’t go on smoothly. I’m not sure if it’s because of the chemical stripper, or because I bought a matte finish, but it’s bumpy. I like to think this will help prevent things from sliding off of the night stand in the future.

one can of spray paint was not enough
one can of spray paint was not enough

Then they stayed in the garage a while longer. One painted, the other one, not. We got busy, the days grew shorter, and I didn’t have a lot of daylight hours at home. So they waited.

Finally, while Hubby was out of town (probably hunting, but by now I can’t remember where he was) I decided enough was enough. I brought the painted night stand into the house and started working. I cut and traced the Compass Rose onto the wood, eye-balling it in the center. Then I started painting it in.

Drawing and Painting the pattern, free-handed with the exception of tracing the outline.
Drawing and Painting the pattern, free-handed with the exception of tracing the outline.

This part went perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that I’m afraid to start working on the other one, because I know it won’t turn out as well at the first one. I have seen this pattern my whole life – Beginner’s Luck turns into junk the second time around.

Finished!
Blurry, but Finished!
The Final Product
The Final Product

I am thinking that on the other night stand I might put an anchor or something instead of another Compass Rose, but I haven’t decided yet. At this point, January in Southeast Texas doesn’t bode well for outdoor projects, especially painting, so I guess I have some time to decide. What do you think I should do? Below are a few Photoshopped ideas:

Night Stand-idea1 Night Stand-idea2 Night Stand-idea3 Night Stand-idea4

So, all in all, it turned out well, even though there were a few hiccups along the way. Lessons I’m passing on to you: (1) try to avoid using chemical stripper, unless you are wearing a HAZMAT suit; (2) prime every time; (3) buy twice as much spray paint as you think you’ll need; (4) don’t use latex paint on furniture when it has a terrible plastic-y finish on it.

There you go. My experiences have paid off for you again. Learn from my mistakes, and you will be a crafting genius. Everyone will want to know where you got your furniture, and you can just say “I made it.”

Cheers!

Zoo Lights!

Every year, the Houston Zoo puts on the event known as Zoo Lights. It’s a lot of fun – you go to the zoo at light and the whole place* is lit up with millions of Christmas lights!

(*Not all areas of the zoo are lit up or accessible at the time of zoo lights. Mainly it’s just the large open areas of the zoo, in order to not disturb the animals too much.)

Hubby and I went last year and we had a great time, so we definitely wanted to do it again. And since my photography skills have gotten a lot better in the past year, I definitely wanted to try out some new techniques!

This year however, we made a big mistake. We went on the busiest night of the year for Zoo Lights! We went on the Saturday before Christmas. Holy geebus. It was packed. We didn’t even think about that being the busiest night to go. Parking was a nightmare, and I already hate driving around in that part of the city anyway, so the addition of super heavy traffic was really stressful. Luckily we found the “additional parking” lot pretty easily, and were able to park without a hitch, once we go out of the traffic. Of course, that means that we had a bit of a walk to make to the actual Zoo, but it was totally worth it, instead of trying to get into a crowded parking lot, and then circling for hours to find a spot. I would probably still be there if I had tried that.

I took a ton of photos of the lights and we ordered some wine and kettle cooked popcorn.  It was really expensive for popcorn, but I had LITERALLY never done that before, so it was worth it. Actually, come to think of it, I think it was still cheaper than movie theater popcorn, so if you are used to those prices, you will be in for a treat. I’m just WAY too cheap frugal for that.

When we were ready to leave, we headed for the front of the zoo. The Zoo Lights shuts down at 10pm, but we saw a line that practically wrapped around the zoo for people who hadn’t bought tickets yet! It was 9:50, and there were hundreds of people still in line. We were thinking about it, and knew that the zoo would never turn THAT MUCH MONEY away (it was about 200 people in like, at $15 each = $3,000!) If a zoo can afford to turn down $3,000, they have too much money! So we asked an employee what was going to happen, and they said that they were planning on letting people in until 11pm. It made me want to stick around and count all the people that made it into the zoo after 10pm, just to see how much more money they made.

There is a park around the Zoo that we had to walk through to get back to our car, so we slowly made our way through the park, while I took pictures of stuff. Lights on the steps, the cityscape, and even some Nutria that were feeding on grass roots on the bank of the pond. They were super cute and didn’t mind us at all, so I took a bunch of pictures of them. Of course, they were in terrible lighting so the pictures didn’t come out great, but it gave me some practice in my new Photoshop program, so….silver lining, right?

We had a nice time, and we definitely plan on going again next year, but maybe not the weekend before Christmas…live and learn!

Zoo Lights!
Zoo Lights!
Mysterious Wonderland
Mysterious Wonderland
Lighted Steps
Lighted Steps
Reflections
Reflections
Reflecting Pond
Reflecting Pond
The lights in the trees dance to music
The lights in the trees dance to music
My favorite statue in the zoo - a lioness taking down a gazel
My favorite statue in the zoo – a lioness taking down a gazelle (and trying out some Photoshop lettering)
This car is known as "Holly Berry"
This car is known as “Holly Berry”
Glowing Light Balls in the Cypress Trees
Glowing Light Balls in the Cypress Trees
Blue Elephant
Blue Elephant
Giant Agaves
Giant Agaves
The Crowd stretched from the beginning of the parking lot
The Crowd stretched from the beginning of the parking lot
all the way across!
all the way across!

Christmas Birding Trip

Since Hubby and I did most of our Christmas family gatherings on a day other than Christmas Day, we decided to go out and do some birding Christmas Day at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Our goals were to finally see the Whooping Cranes and create a bird list of all the species we saw.

For some reason, we woke up at 4:30 am on Christmas Day. I guess our child-like brains were thinking it was time to open Santa’s gifts, but since we are adults now we didn’t have anything to open. So instead, we got up, ate breakfast, and headed down to the wildlife refuge early. It’s a bit of a drive for us, so leaving early was already the plan, but we ended up getting there at 7am!

On our way down to the refuge, we saw some cool species – we didn’t keep an exact species list, but mainly because we weren’t going to write down everyday birds like Starlings, Pigeons, or Cattle Egrets; however we still had a list of 12 interesting species! The first species we wrote down was an awesome sighting – a huge flock of Glossy Ibis. They were feeding in a flooded field – either a cattle pasture or a rice field, I’m not sure which. When a Kestrel flew over them, the flock panicked and took to the sky, allowing me to get some awesome shots of them flying together. Then they realized it was a Kestrel, and they were about 3x as big as it was, so they settled back down to finish eating.

Our next sighting was a new species for us entirely! It was a male Rough legged Hawk. They are listed in the Sibley Field Guide as Rare in that area, so it was a special treat to see him!

When we finally got down to Anahuac, we saw the typical species that are common in wetlands – ducks, Coots, THOUSANDS of Snow Geese, Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, etc.

The only duck we were able to get close enough to to identify was a Lesser Scaup, but we stopped at a huge wetland area and saw hundreds and hundreds of ducks! They were too far away to ID, but they had their adorable little duck butt sticking up out of the water while they fed, and it was so fun to watch them!

While we were driving around we also saw Northern Harriers, White tailed Kites, tons of Red tailed Hawks, and even a Bald Eagle! That guy was flying pretty far away from us so the only way to ID it was to take a blurry picture and zoom in on it. Needless to say, THAT photo isn’t exactly publish-worthy 😉

After we left Anahuac, we decided to go to McFadden Beach, which is another Wildlife “sanctuary”. It’s designated a wildlife sanctuary because the State of Texas couldn’t get anyone to buy the land, so they just turned it over to the wildlife. While we were there, we saw Brown Pelicans, Willets, and a Belted Kingfisher.

We took the Bolivar Ferry to Galveston and saw a Common Loon in the water along with the typical (and annoying) various gull species. Most of them are Laughing gulls, but I don’t try too hard to ID these guys. Mainly because they are several different color morphs, so I will be looking at 5 different birds and they are all of the same species, but I’m not quite sure because they look so similar to OTHER gull species, so it kinda makes me a little crazy…

Anyway, while we were on the ferry we also saw what I’m pretty sure what a shark feeding on something big. It was a large gray animal in the water (so either a shark or a dolphin) but it was thrashing around in the water, and I don’t think that’s a common way for dolphins to feed, so I’m like 90% sure it was a HUGE SHARK. Which is just too cool! Unfortunately, the salt spray from the front of the ferry was really bad, so I couldn’t have my camera out while we were on the ferry and I couldn’t get a picture of it.

We stopped in Galveston at the same place I always go to see pelicans close up. There is a shrimp boat marina behind Katie’s Seafood where there are always pelicans hanging out. In the winter we have White Pelicans, and all year round we have Brown Pelicans, so I was able to get some great shots of those guys too. Additionally, we were able to watch an adult dolphin with her calf while we stood on the pier at the marina too.

We never got to see any Whooping Cranes, but now it’s just going to be an annual pilgrimage for us to try next year!

Willet
Willet
White Pelicans Preening
White Pelicans Preening
Tagged White Pelican
Tagged White Pelican
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
Rough Legged Hawk
Rough Legged Hawk
Resting Pelican
Resting Pelican
Taking Off
Taking Off
Thousands of Snow Geese
Thousands of Snow Geese
Flying Pelicans
Flying Pelicans
Red tailed Hawk
Red tailed Hawk
Flock of Glossy Ibis
Flock of Glossy Ibis
Brown Pelican Preening
Brown Pelican Preening
Rocks on the Sand
Rocks on the Sand
Cross on the beach - I'm not sure, but I think this is related to Hurricane Ike from 2008.
Cross on the beach – I’m not sure, but I think this is related to Hurricane Ike from 2008.
Duck Butts
Duck Butts