Wrapping Up 2016

A camping Christmas trip with our family ended 2016 in a delightful way!

2016 is now in the “books,” and 2017 has already seen our first snow of the winter season and of the new year.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the mega storm that introduced 2016 to us, and we only received about an inch this time.  My back starts hurting just looking again at some of the photos from last January and remembering all the snow Hubby and I shoveled for three straight days.  Ugh!

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Girly Girl had lots of fun in the foot of snow we received the first week of January in 2016.
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The foot of snow caused lots of issues for the next two weeks in our city and area, but it was so very pretty, too.

It’s been several weeks since my last post, but all is well, good in fact.  I just took a little break to enjoy the Christmas season and take a few things “off my plate” for a bit.  I also had more holiday prep work to do this year, due to our ten day Christmas and New Years trip to the mountains of far West Texas.

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Spending “golden hour” at the top of Skyline Drive on Christmas Evening with my family is a precious memory now.  We captured some great photos of family and scenery here.
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Sunset at Davis Mountain State Park on Christmas evening with historic Indian Lodge in the distance was absolutely gorgeous.  We had the view all to ourselves, something I will always remember fondly.  This was literally the last ray of sunshine on Christmas Day. 😉

 

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The Belt of Venus is always so beautiful in this area, and it was lovely once again on Christmas evening.

All our kids joined us for a long Christmas weekend in the Davis Mountains, and they all departed for home on Tuesday afternoon after lunch, driving to El Paso together then catching their respective flights.  It was a most enjoyable holiday for me, and I think for all of us.  After all, what mama doesn’t like to have all her kiddos with her for the holidays?

We secured our daughter and son-in-law a room at the historic Indian Lodge (see photos below) during their stay, which was just a mile away from our RV in the state park, and our son stayed with us in the RV.  With all the additional space inside now, as compared to our previous RV, we were all quite comfortable, even with the dogs who slept on their nice, new beds next to him.

By cooking some dishes ahead of time, I was able to serve all our favorite holiday foods in the RV… tamales for Christmas Eve, sausage toasts and eggs for Christmas morning, and ham, turkey, cornbread dressing, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and yeast rolls for Christmas dinner.  We even enjoyed a Christmas morning picnic together at our site for breakfast, which was a real treat!  Truly, the weather was gorgeous the entire week we were there.

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Our festive picnic table at our site for Christmas.  Snoopy and Woodstock helped to light up the holiday nights at our site, along with three mason jar lanterns on the table.

 

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It was a real treat to have a visit from several mule deer late each afternoon during our vacation week, with our first visit on Christmas Day!  We also saw several javelina at our campsite on our first night, as well as some great birds all over the park during our stay.

Following our picnic breakfast, we opened gifts inside the RV in our comfortable living area, which was so much fun.  As usual, the dogs each had a gift of their own to start things off, and I can say that we all received some very nice gifts.  My family was especially good to me, but the real treat for me was just having everyone together for a few days of fun.

The weather was gorgeous in far West Texas the entire week we were there, which certainly helped make our trip more manageable and truly enjoyable.  We even ran our air conditioner for a bit on a few afternoons, too.  I’m sure some friends may think we’ve lost our minds spending the holidays in our RV, but we enjoyed our time in the Davis Mountains with our family more than anything we’ve done for the holidays in many years.  With all the cooking done ahead of time, meals were easy and tasty with minimal clean-up needed afterward, leaving quality time for visiting, hiking and playing games together.

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My long, long shadow during a walk in the park late on Christmas afternoon.  I feel so at home here now and have even entertained the thought of retiring in this very remote area that holds some family history for me.

After the kids left, Hubby and I enjoyed a few days all by ourselves, followed by two days with two friends who made their first trip to the area for the New Year’s weekend in their RV, the same friends we’ve started traveling with a bit over the past year.  We enjoyed showing them around, and they also spent some time on their own at the McDonald Observatory, which we have seen many times on previous trips.  Hubby and the friends hiked from the state park to the national park, and I picked them up there after we all toured the fort area together on New Years Eve.

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We always enjoy a quick visit to the national park in Fort Davis.  Just before our trip, I also learned that a family member, now deceased, actually lived at this fort for a time when he was a young boy!

Our holiday trip was pretty much perfect for us, spending time both with family and friends, as well as quality time alone.  We even made new friends, a couple close to our age that just recently started their full-time RV journey, and we exchanged contact information with them.  It was delightful to visit with them off and on all during our vacation week.

Hubby and I opted to dine out a little more on this trip because there are some really good restaurants in town.  Rumor has it we dined at our favorite Mexican food restaurant three times during our week in the area and that our waitress knew what we wanted to order as soon as we sat down on our second and third visits.  We dined there on the evening we arrived with our son, for lunch with all the kids on Tuesday before they left, and again with our friends on New Year’s Eve.

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Cueva De Leon is our favorite restaurant in the area with the best chips and salsa and chile rellenos to die for! 🙂

We also dined at three other restaurants in town during our stay, which was a nice treat for us.  All were very good, and two were new to us.

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We ate lunch at Poco Mexico for the first time… yummy!
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We made a return visit for burgers at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel.  My green chile and Swiss cheese burger with homemade onion rings was awesome!
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We enjoyed delicious panini sandwiches at The Porch, a new restaurant for us that serves breakfast and lunch and is part of the historic Hotel Limpia.

(On a side note, I couldn’t disagree more with the Trip Advisor restaurant ratings for Fort Davis restaurants, especially the #1 pick listed right now.  We’ve tried that place twice and are not at all impressed with it.  We won’t try again.  In our opinion, after many trips to the area, Cueva De Leon is by far the best in town.) 

Hubby and I also drove to both Alpine and Marfa on separate drives.  We had to make a quick trip to Alpine with our son on Christmas Eve morning in search of a new coffee pot, after ours unexpectedly died on us.  Thankfully, we found one at the big hardware store, the last one on the shelf, because we would have had a crisis on our hands without a coffee pot!

Our scenic drive to Marfa on an overcast day after the kids left was nice, and we saw the pretty courthouse there, along with the historic Hotel Paisano and the whimsical El Cosmico campground south of town.  On their drive back to El Paso, the kids stopped for photos at Prada Marfa, too.

Hubby and I also enjoyed a Thursday evening presentation at Indian Lodge where the hotel manager told us all about the history of the lodge from the CCC era to date, and she also pointed out several of the original furniture pieces from that time period, marked by the metal strappings at the bottom of each one.  It was a nice evening with other hotel guests and campers, complete with hot cider and cookies by a warm fire inside.

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I’ve seen this beautiful table at Indian Lodge on each trip to the area, but it was interesting to learn that it is one of the original pieces from the CCC era.

She also shared that Indian Lodge will close in September 2017 for four months for exterior resurfacing, just in case anyone is planning a trip to the area and would like to stay there.

The week prior to our trip was a fun and busy week, too.

Prior to Christmas, I also hosted my second annual cookie swap on the Monday evening before Christmas.  It was a big success once again, with two new participants this year, in addition to those returning from last year’s swap.  This year, we actually decorated cookies together for the first time, and it was so much fun, even though it was more prep work for me.  I think we will have to keep doing this in future years, if only for the laughs… which were many!  Those ladies pretty much destroyed my kitchen decorating cookies, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

After the cookie swap, I was able to provide some awesome cookie platters to my elderly neighbor, to Hubby’s side of the family during our evening together the next night and to the state park staff on Christmas Eve morning, while also saving lots of cookies for my family to enjoy during our trip, too.

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Christmas cookies are a tradition with us, and swapping cookies with friends makes the tradition even more special.  This tray included cowboy cookies, snickerdoodles, holiday thumbprints, peanut butter with chocolate kisses, cardamom cream cheese cookie press cookies and decorated star sugar cookies that we all decorated together.  I also made a few other types of cookies not shown here, including oatmeal with fresh cranberries and chocolate chip, and I totally hoarded the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that one of the new ladies brought to the exchange!

Just before we departed on our Christmas trip, we spent a delightful evening with Hubby’s side of the family on Tuesday evening, including some family members from the Dallas area.  The big home-cooked meal was a real treat for all of us during those last busy days before Christmas, with meatloaf served as the main entrée.  It was our first opportunity to gather together in our nephew’s new home with his precious wife and girls, and they were good sports to host everyone while still in the process of moving in.  They wouldn’t have it any other way.

I didn’t have an opportunity to celebrate a friends Christmas with my two special friends here before we left on our trip, but we are hoping to finally get together one evening this week.  I have grown accustomed to this fun tradition over more recent years and definitely missed our fun gathering.

I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best in 2017!

 

Fabulous Friday!

Maybe the best collection of dance scenes… ever!

I’ll just leave this right here… maybe the best collection of famous dancers in the history of movies.

Happy Friday! 😀

It’s So Hot…

It’s so hot right now…

… our tropical plants are begging to come back inside the house because they can’t take the heat.

… the weather forecasters underestimate the high temperatures for each day in the weekly forecast.  They never, ever, ever forecast 105 degrees or higher, and that’s probably  a blessing in disguise for us, even if it is living in denial.

… I feel like breaking out in song when a random cloud actually blocks the sun for a few seconds.

… the dogs think they’re being punished when it’s time to go to the backyard to do “business” in the afternoon.

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The dogs were not happy as I made them sit outside in the heat to take their picture after their recent grooming.  Girly Girl’s expression (on the left) pretty much says it all.  But that’s $178 worth of grooming sitting right there and definitely warrants at least a photo. 😀

… we can’t even escape to the mountains a few hours away because it’s as hot there as it is here.

… running errands anytime after 10 a.m. is not a pleasant experience, and getting out between 3-6 p.m. is… well… just a little crazy.  I never said we weren’t a little crazy, though.

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I don’t function well when it’s 113 degrees outside, and getting in a car that’s been sitting in the sun outside a store in this kind of heat is a near-death experience.

… unshaded playground equipment can reach temps up to 188 degrees.  Truth!  There was a report on the morning news today that proved this fact.

… firing up the oven, or any other heat producing appliance, just does not happen.  At. All.  This is officially “dining out” season.  After all, we need to help support all those businesses that are missing the college kids this summer, right???

… clothes dry in half the time by simply hanging them outside vs. using a regular clothes dryer.  This a really good thing, since using the dryer inside the house is really not an option anyway.  Dryers produce heat, and we also need every penny we can save to put toward our electric bill to run the life-sustaining A/C.

… RV travel is not even a fleeting thought in our minds right now.  We are not gluttons for unnecessary punishment.  One time, we actually RV camped down in the canyon at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in July, which is quite possibly the hottest place in the universe in July.  This was in our young and foolish days about four years ago, and we quickly learned that we’d made one of the worst decisions of our married life.  Thankfully, we survived.

… living in a grotto is pretty much a requirement.  Curtains closed, lights off, doors opened as little as humanly possible equals a winning plan.  If I didn’t know otherwise, I would swear everyone in town is away on vacation.

… the birds fight for drinks from the hose dripping water under our big tree.  I’m really not sure how much water is actually making to the tree roots for that reason.  I would run their birdbath, but the water actually gets too hot for them to drink!

… I’m not sure how we actually survived in our house before we had our solar attic fan installed a few years ago.  That thing is a blessing straight from Heaven.

… Facebook friends regularly post about how miserable our state is this time of the year.  They are absolutely correct.  In fact, some of the funniest weather memes ever show up this time of year for that reason.

… the grocery stores put Gatorade front and center for customers to find easily.

… the patches of milkweed in our backyard are finally dying a slow death.  Bye, bye.

… spending time reading a good book in the afternoons provides a nice break from the heat.  I can even pretend I’m back in elementary school earning more sticky stars for my summer reading chart.  (FYI, I’m reading The Lunar Chronicles books, thanks to the recommendation of my sweet librarian friend and an unexpected $30 settlement credit from Barnes and Noble that paid for the first four ebooks.  Nothing like free summer entertainment!)

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I’m halfway through reading these four books, and what a creative and delightful read they’ve been so far, a perfect summer book series.

 

… mowing the yard, even early in the morning, is a real sweat-producing workout.  I willingly took this chore on myself a few years ago and…

What. Was. I. Thinking!!!

Still, I haven’t missed a week of mowing yet this season with my brand spankin’ new lawn mower, and I’m now thinking that I’m pretty much Wonder Woman for doing that.  We’ll see how the rest of the summer goes.  If nothing else, it’s a great excuse to head over to Chick-Fil-A for a large diet lemonade when I’m done.

… I’m remembering fondly the crippling foot of snow we received back in early January… yes, the same one I fussed and fussed about for more than two weeks afterward.  Oh yes, yes, yes… please bring it back already!  I’m pretty sure the dogs would agree, too.

… we were inspired to finally make plans for our fall RV travels while also hoping that the usual break from the stifling heat actually shows up in September.  Sometimes the heatwave surprises and lasts well into October, though, so we are hedging our bets and headed north once again on our next long trip after Labor Day.  The mere thought of temps in the 70s during the day and in the 30s overnight in just a few weeks makes me feel all giddy inside.  We will even need to take coats!

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We are so ready to get this RV show on the road again!

 

There is actually a tiny glimmer of hope for a bit of a break from this weather madness this week.  Supposedly, we actually have a little chance of rain, and the high temps will only be in the low 90s???  If so, it will feel like winter has returned because that is over 20 degrees cooler than some days we’ve had lately!  Hope is always a good thing, and we’ll gladly take whatever relief we can get at this point.

Sometimes we just need to laugh a little and just get through the day as best we can.

Stay cool, friends.  This heat wave, too, shall pass.

I hope.

Wordless Wednesday – Starry, Starry 4th of July Night

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Digging Out

We experienced our biggest snow storm in over thirty years!

The historic snow storm hit with a vengeance on December 26 and 27.  The forecasts turned out to be right on target, as we received 11.5″ of the white stuff.

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Today, eight days after the snow stopped falling, we are still covered up at our house.  The melt-off has been painfully slow in our neighborhood, and we have not had any assistance in clearing streets that are not considered “major” streets.  While the overall response initially was nothing short of heroic, in my opinion, the extended response has been very problematic, if not just plain non-existent.

Hubby and I shoveled snow for three days last week in an effort to clear our driveway, part of the street and some of our elderly neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk so that we and/or her family could get to her, if needed.  Our street does not have thru traffic on it, so it is going to take a very long time for it to melt off at our present prevailing temperatures.  Our house faces north, so our front areas caught the brunt of the drifts that were caused by brutal winds of up to 60 mph at times.  I also had to buy a new pair of boots more suitable for this type of snow activity, after I pretty much ruined my one pair of Uggs in the snow.  Fortunately, I found a great pair of Michael Kors lined rubber boots on sale on New Year’s Day and even had a $20 off coupon to subtract from the sale price.  If you have to wear rubber boots, these are a great option, for sure.

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Michael Kors “Devenport” Rain Boots

All of the bad stuff aside, though, it was a truly beautiful snowfall with some epic drifts all around.  As a hobby photographer, I was so sad that I was unable to get out of the house to properly photograph some sights in the area as they were covered by the largest snowfall here in over 30 years, the third largest snowfall in the history of our area.  We ramped up feeding the birds in our yard, so I was able to take some delight in photographing them in the backyard as they dined on their feast of birdseed amid the rare snow-covered beauty.

We also had fun with the dogs, especially watching them maneuver the snow in their familiar backyard turf.  They had such a great time, once they got over some initial hesitation about maneuvering around the drifts.  They were like kids in a candy store, and we laughed and laughed at them throughout the week as they played hard outside in the white stuff.

The largest recorded snowfall here was in 1983, and we personally experienced that 16.9″ of snow and all of the many issues caused in our area at that time.  The second largest snowfall was in 1956 before we were born, so we can only personally compare this storm to the ’83 storm.  The main difference in the two historic storms was the wind.  The ’83 storm did not have the high winds to cause such problematic, but beautiful, drifts like this most recent storm caused.

The damage from the storm here is extensive, and Hubby’s company was just one of many that were hit hard.  Like many other businesses, including our big mall, sections of roofs collapsed under the large drifts that were caused in areas of roofs that were uneven, causing the snow to pile in up certain areas where it was trapped.  I heard this morning that some assistance may eventually be available to those that suffered storm damage, but so far, nothing has been made available, except coverage in effect from private insurance.

If such a historic snow storm had to hit, at least it hit during a week when schools were out of session for the Christmas holidays.  I doubt that schools here could have opened at all last week, due to the poor road conditions.  The snow started falling on Saturday evening, and we were not able to get out in our car until the following Thursday, and it was still problematic that day, too.  We just do not have the same snow removal resources that other northern areas have, nor does it make financial sense to have them to that degree.  However, we do need more than we have at this time, and that fact was made perfectly clear when so many emergency vehicles got stuck in the first two days of the storm.  Many individuals with four-wheel drive vehicles had to literally come to their rescue.  And, as to add insult to the injury in all of this, the city manager left town for the week, and the deputy city manager apparently never even showed up to the emergency operations center while it was activated.  There are already calls by prominent people in the community for their removal from their positions, which is quite understandable.

City officials anticipated that 20-30 people would die in this massive storm, but only one person died.  A homeless man was offered shelter by several different people and one care group, but he refused to come to the shelter anonymously.  There is not much that can be done in that situation, as he could not be forced to go.  Our elderly neighbors were appreciative of the fact that we had our motor home in front of the house, prepared to fire up the generator and take care of as many neighbors as possible in the event that we lost electricity.  Many areas suffered from outages, but thankfully, our neighborhood was good throughout the storm.  One neighbor across the street told us that she thought it might even be fun if we all had to bail out to the motor home together, and she even offered to bring food!  Who knows, it might have been pretty fun after all.

One more tragic result of this storm was the loss of many cattle throughout the panhandle area.  Dairy farms to the north have tragically lost thousands of head of cattle.  Closer to home, many cattle broke free from their fences by walking over them on drifts of snow or through them when they fell.  They took to the roads and even the freeways in town, and one herd was seen on a main road very close to where we live.  Another herd  showed up at a friend’s house that lives just outside of her small town not far away, but she was able to locate their owner through social media.  A group has now been created on Facebook to help reunite cattle with their owners in the area, too.

So, to sum things up at present, we are able to get out in our cars, even though the neighborhood streets are pretty problematic.  City and area officials have a lot to think about and change in their respective responses.  Many homes and business are dealing with extensive damage to roofs and water inside.  But, I’ve never been more proud of the private citizens here that came to the rescue of anyone that needed help during this difficult time.  So many people, especially farmers and ranchers, own 4×4 pickups, and *many* of them just spent those first days after the storm towing out stuck cars and transporting doctors and nurses to work.  We helped as we could, primarily helping our little elderly neighbor “weather the storm.”  Maybe someday, some nice person will do the same for us, if needed.

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