Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Texas Thanksgiving - Part II

It has been several years since our visit back home to Texas included a visit to downtown San Antonio.  Many years ago when we lived in the outlying suburb area of San Antonio, visiting downtown was a regular event that got to be commonplace, because we were able to go whenever we wanted to.  Now, we don't get to go downtown San Antonio much at all because we live so far away.

But as it turned out, on this trip to Texas, some of the family wanted to go and see San Antonio.  Some were visiting from out of town, and had never been to San Antonio before, and so it became a group event to meet up in downtown San Antonio, and explore the Riverwalk together.

The only problem was that we chose to go at a VERY busy time, when thousands of people are congregating down there, and for that reason, our visit was rather nerve-wracking!

I apologize for the quality of the above photo.  I took this picture through the car window, and it of course was dark outside, and the flash was only catching reflections of light.  However, we were in a major traffic jam, all the way down I-35 trying to get to downtown San Antonio.... I was very thankful my husband was driving... as there were a lot of crazy people out on the freeway, zipping in and out, all in a hurry to make an extra second or two in the backlog!  It took us double the time to get downtown as it normally would have.  This should have been our first clue that it would've been better to turn around and go back to my parents to enjoy a nice quiet evening at home instead of out in this mess!!  But, as we were meeting others who were already down there... we persevered.

The next problem we encountered was finding a place to park.  The place we usually parked at, the Rivercenter Mall Garage, was full.  We had to drive around for quite a while, before we finally found a place to park.

The downtown area was decked out with millions of lights everywhere, and it seemed people had come from every corner of the globe to be here tonight!  We found a place to sit in the park and just had some "people watching" time... it was quite entertaining!

The lights were incredible to see.

Another popular thing to do in downtown San Antonio is to catch a ride in one of the horse drawn carriages. We have done this before, but preferred tonight to just walk around ourselves, but the carriages were all unique, and decorated differently.  It was beautiful to see!

People! Oh my!!! So many people!  There were probably more people in that one little area, than reside in our entire county here in Idaho or maybe even state! LOL!

The Emily Morgan Hotel lit up with lights, and a Texas flag blowing in the wind at the top.

The Alamo lit up with all the colors of the various lights... beautiful.

 A Texas-sized Christmas tree lit up for all the world to see!

We made our way through the crowds down to the Riverwalk.  It was lit up like Vegas too!  All the riverboats were decked out.  This particular boat above was a dinner boat,  which was decorated for a wedding party.  I wanted to get a picture of the lovely bride and groom who were waiting to board, but because there were so many people around, and because my dearest husband thought it would be a bit awkward for me to do ... so I didn't.... but, the whole setting certainly was beautiful! They were going to enjoy dinner on the river from one of the restaurants that line the Riverwalk.

We found a quiet place out of the way of all the crowds of people with a chocolate shop close by, and all of us sat around and visited for quite a while away from the hordes of people.  Finally, it was approaching my bedtime, and since we had a long way to walk back to the car, it was time to go.  It was quite an evening, let me tell you!

The next day we spent relaxing at Mom and Dad's with most of the family there for dinner, and my sister and her husband made it down too.  We had a wonderful time visiting with everyone.  Later that afternoon, my Mom pulled out a puzzle, and we were all hooked on it, even my husband found a piece or two! We had a good time working on the puzzle with Mom, and spending some great time with her.

But, before long, the day was gone, and it was time to pack up our suitcases, and get ready to head back home!  We flew out the next morning, and had a very calm and safe journey home, thankfully!

When we stepped outside the airport, we got a taste of the reality awaiting us... it was COLD! The temperature was in the low 20s, and was dropping.  It wasn't about to get better any time soon.

For the next two weeks, our temperatures hovered in the minuses.  The coldest I saw it at our house was about -9 degrees, which was very cold for us!  After being in Texas, it took a long time to get the house warmed up, coupled with the fact that it was so bitterly cold outside, and it seemed to take forever to get the cold out of the house.  You'd take a plate out of the cabinet, and it was cold as ice! LOL.  Hot food on a frozen plate had a way of cooling off real quick with these kinds of temperatures!

With these cold temperatures though, the sun was shining brightly, and it was too nice to stay inside!  I took the dogs on a walk through the woods, and they couldn't have been happier about it!

The sun was shining so bright and combined with the reflection off the snow, it was an exhilarating walk! It was about -6 degrees outside, but it really didn't feel that cold with the sun shining so bright!

Annie really comes into her element when she gets to be outside in the cold and snow.  Cosmo is just glad to be on a walk, but I suspect he would be glad to do without the snow and the cold!

As we walked the trail through the woods, the dogs were on high alert, chasing after every new smell and scent, and couldn't have been happier.

Every so often, after chasing after some smell, or running through the woods, Annie would come back to check on me, to make sure all was okay with me.

As we were walking through the woods, I heard a rush of wings, and saw at least ten crows take off to the sky, cawking and crowing as they went, and just furiously flying around above us.  I wondered what all the excitement was about.

Annie soon found it... someone had left a deer hide out here and there was still a bit of meat on the bones... and the crows weren't happy about having to share with Annie.  Luckily for them, I called Annie and off we continued down the trail.  Once they saw we were leaving the kill alone, they flew back in, and all was quiet again.

I love this part of the trail where the trees are like a canopy over the trail.

Usually the snowmobiles have the trail packed down, but apparently it had been too cold for them to be out, because the only tracks out there were the deer tracks, and ours.

It was such an exhilarating day for a walk that I hated to see the trail come to an end...

As we crossed the road back to the house, I took a picture of the road in front of our house.  The roads have been covered with ice for the entire time the cold has been here, making driving rather treacherous if you don't have studs!  Even crossing the road, or getting your mail can be an adventure in itself.  You could almost get out your skates on this! 

Thankfully the cold broke after a couple of weeks and we went back to the typical temperatures that we get this time of year, about 20s-30s.  Now all we need is some snow to help insulate against the cold weather, and we'll be just fine.  Annie agreed with me on that!  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Texas Thanksgiving

November rolled around, and before we knew it, it was time to head to Texas to be with family for Thanksgiving.  We hadn't planned on going anywhere for Thanksgiving, but one of my husband's family members saw to it that we were there for the holidays.  It was an amazing blessing for us, of which we appreciated so very much!

A cold front had arrived just before our arrival in Texas, and temperatures had dropped down to a balmy 30 degrees or so... for those in Texas, everyone was freezing, but for us, it was still pretty balmy weather, compared to the teen digits we had been experiencing before we left!

Everyone was talking about how cold it was, and for once in my life, I didn't feel cold, it felt pretty warm to me actually!  I do believe that living in the North does something for the blood in your veins, like thicken it!  Of course in Texas, cold weather doesn't stay around for very long, but while it's there, it can be pretty miserable, especially if it is accompanied with wind and rain... which of course is usually the case!

We got in late Saturday night, and had a wonderful time visiting with everyone who came by Mom and Dad's house to see us.

Even the squirrels were happy to see us, and put on quite a show for us at the breakfast room window. They showed us how adept they were at stealing the food for the birds, much to Mom and Dad's dismay.... This one little guy put on quite a show for us.. hopped from the feeder to the tree, to the ground, and back again, and hung upside down... he was quite the acrobat!

The next day, Mom cooked up a fabulous meal again... homemade pizzas!

I forgot to take a picture until there were only two pizzas left... and one of them half gone at that!

Makes me hungry just looking at that pizza as I type!

My brother invited us over to see his new place.  It was night when we got there, so I didn't get a shot of his house as it was dark.

My nieces were so excited to show me their room... and their dog, Jaggar... was more than happy to be along for the tour, and he made sure he was in all the pictures!  He is a mix of a standard poodle, and a golden retriever, and he is one hilarious dog!  It seems he can almost read  your mind, and thinks ahead of what is happening.  He kept us entertained the whole evening!

Jaggar was determined to be in all the pictures I was taking, and I didn't even have to ask him to pose!! He just knew what to do!

He is such a smart dog... really too smart!  If the girls weren't giving him enough attention, he would go to their room, steal one of their favorite toys, bring it back out to where they were, and start chewing on it, making sure then that he got some attention from them... good or bad attention... he didn't care... he just had to be the center of attention!

This is my nephew's bedroom, who at the time the picture was taken, hadn't arrived yet... he was still "baking in the oven" .... His room was really decorated so cute and just awaiting his arrival!

 I've never seen a dog get so "into" watching TV as Jaggar did!  Every time a cat or a dog showed up on the TV... he would run over to the TV and just whine, and get so excited!

He sure provided more entertainment for us, than the TV, that's for sure!

It was so hilarious to watch him.  Unfortunately, as I tried to video tape him doing it.... he quit.  What is it about animals and kids... who will put on the show of a lifetime, until you get the camera or video camera out, and then it all comes to a halt.... one of those unanswered questions we may never find an answer for... lol!

On Monday morning we hit the roads to travel north to visit with my sister and brother-in-law, and precious little niece.  This little girl was living life in the fast lane... literally!  She has the neatest little car with a handle on it, so you can push and pull until you're exhausted... and believe me... she will exhaust you! She would live in this car 24-7 if you'd let her!  The faster and wilder the ride... the happier she was...

... and isn't she dressed so cute....with her little "auntie loves me" outfit!!

The poor little darlin' has nothing to play with!! Not a thing!!!!

Here she is literally screaming and belting at the top of her lungs as she was being pushed around the house.  She wore all of us out, until we were all laid out on the couch, and she was still ready to go.  Life is a wild ride for her... she lives life to the fullest, every single second!  She is certainly making up for all the lost time while she was so sick just a few months ago!!!

We had time for an impromptu visit with my dear friend RH and her sweet grandson!  He is just a month younger than our little girl... and it was fun watching them play and interact together!

Two precious little ones... and we actually saw them give a kiss to each other, but I didn't manage to get it on my camera... but it was surely the sweetest thing to see... they got along like two peas in a pod, and they were the cutest little peas you ever did see! We had a wonderful time watching them, and visiting with each other, and time went by way too fast!

Before long it was time for us to leave my sister's and head back to our old stomping grounds...  where we lived for many years.  We stopped on the bluff overlooking the town of Kingsland, looking down over Lake LBJ.  It was a very cold and blustery day.  The wind was blowing something fierce, and even though the sun was out, it was rather chilly!

This is a beautiful part of the Texas hill country, and it brought back so many wonderful memories of the years we spent living here.

Lake LBJ was our favorite lake to swim and boat in, but you certainly didn't see any boats or swimmers out there in the water today.. no sirree... it was just too plain cold for any of that!

We stopped in Kingsland to see a precious friend of ours who had been our neighbor for many years. He had just lost his wife of 66 years.  She had been sick in the hospital for some time, and had passed away the day before we flew to Texas.  The family held a memorial service for her, and we were thankful to be able to attend.  Afterwards, we went by the house to spend some time with him, and his son.  It just was so sad to see pieces of dear Mary everywhere, and she was not there.

Their little dog, Stirling, was quite an entertainer, and brought a smile to all our faces as we sat there visiting, and reminiscing about our times spent together, and how sad we were without Mary.  Little Stirling was able to keep us entertained, and was so sweet!  Our dear friend was so glad that he still had Stirling to keep him entertained, now that Mary was gone.  She will be so very much missed, such a sweet and gentle soul, always with a smile, and a funny story to tell.  I loved to hear her talk about her growing up years, and all the places they had traveled over the years.  After being married for 66 years, I can't imagine how lonely our dear neighbor must be.

Before long... we had to get in the car, and make tracks to be with husband's parents.  They were expecting us, and we had been getting several calls while we visited with our dear neighbor, as they were wondering when we would be arriving.  It was my husband's parents wedding anniversary, and the family was going out to dinner, and the family was waiting on us.  It was hard to leave and say goodbye to our sweet neighbor under the circumstance, and as a result, we were running a little behind.

So.... already running late, what should happen next... but a Christmas parade!  Yes, a Christmas parade through the town of Marble Falls cut us off at the pass, and we had to sit for 30 minutes waiting for Santa, all his elves, and fireman, cheerleaders, and so on to pass!  It wasn't such great timing to be sure!!!  Especially since we hadn't had a genuine Texas Mexican meal since we'd been back in Texas.  The family was gathered at the biggest Mexican restaurant in their area, eating chips and hot sauce, and waiting on us to arrive!  Oh my.  Every time we return to Texas for a visit,  it seems that we are always on the run while we are there, trying to see everyone!

So, we enjoyed the Christmas parade, because there wasn't much else to do but enjoy it, and make the best of it,  and then we continued on our way, and managed to get in a wonderful dinner of enchiladas, chips and hot sauce in our stomachs before midnight!

(... don't ask about the heartburn!!!!)

This is a picture of my husband's brother's place.  He just purchased property on the Pedernales River and it was simply gorgeous!  He had been telling us about it, and it was great to finally be able to see it in person!

We hadn't been out at the place long, when I overheard some excited exchange between my husband and son, and got involved in a frantic search for a shovel.  I had my camera in hand, and followed along behind them to find out what the excitement was all about.... then I heard the word "copperhead".... and then I knew...

All of a sudden, every branch, twig, and piece of grass in front of me took on new life!! But, my adventurous soul carried on bravely behind my husband and son.  They had the shovel, and I had a camera.  I wasn't about to miss out on the action!  As we were walking back down to the river, I finally heard what had happened.

My son had been down here looking around at the water, and just taking it all in, when... as he was just walking along, a copperhead snake jumped out of the bush at him!  Oh my... heart be still!!! Luckily, he had good cowboy boots on (like every Texan should!), and while the snake didn't bite him, or get real close, it was a wake-up call for all of us... just how dangerous these snakes are.  My husband's brother was bit twice by a snake, two different times, but on the same foot... and he still suffers from it to this day.  I was VERY thankful that snake did not get to my son's foot!!

As we arrived back at the general area where the snake was last seen... I kept glancing down at my little boots, hoping they would survive a snake attack, were he to find me.... I didn't have cowboy boots on, just cute little black leather boots...

And then.... aiyahayaya!!!!  ....  sorry to scare you, but I scared myself... as we were walking around looking down at the ground for the snake, I wasn't paying attention to a stray branch that was hanging down out of a tree, and it caught my hair, and scared just about all the life out of me!!!

Finally we found him.... can you see him? .... see how HARD it is to spot these guys!!! They just blend right in!!!!!

See him now?

Aha!!! A good snake is a DEAD snake!!  Especially this copperhead!  It wasn't a big snake, but thankfully... it was dead!! My brave son was glad to do the honors.  I am just glad we got the snake, and that the snake didn't get us!!!

Now,  you would think that after the snake episode that we would have all tucked tail and ran, and stayed inside the rest of the day... but.... don't forget... we are in Texas... and Texans don't live with fear... they just carry on as usual... which is exactly what we did!  It was too nice of a day and too much to see outside!

*but... you can be sure that every twig, branch, and blade of grass was carefully inspected before I stepped on it!! *

Now the river that this piece of property sits on is known for flooding.  In fact, if you'll look at that house in the picture above, go ahead and look at it real closely.  It may not be there the next time we visit.  Nope.  Because.... a flood has already washed it away once, and they rebuilt... can't say I would do the same myself!

But apparently several years ago, a flood came through, and completely washed this house right off its foundation!!!!! It's not exactly sitting on the river's edge either, it is at least 100 feet away from the river bank.  I can't even imagine how much water that must have been coming through to take out that house.  My husband's brother will not be able to do much with the lower riverbank area on his property, but will have to keep his buildings, and outbuildings well away from the flood plane.

It is hard to imagine on such a beautiful day how that much water could come rushing through this river, and bring so much destruction with it... but indeed, I've seen floods in Texas, and I know it is more than possible!!!

My kids found the four-wheeler their uncle had provided for the day, and had a grand time wheeling around the place together.  It was the highlight of the day for all the kids, who all got to take turns!

Finally, the best part of the day had arrived... it was Thanksgiving... and a blessed Thanksgiving it was!! I don't know the count of how many people were in attendance for Thanksgiving Dinner, but it had to be close to 50.  My husband's brother had built a pole barn and set up tables inside.  It was an amazing place to feed this many people... and the food! Oh my... the food!  There was so much you needed two plates to sample a teeeny bit of everything!!!

Dear Lord, forgive us for the sin of gluttony that are about to commit, Amen!

Heaven help us all... desserts, meat, sides... food in massive quantities... it was wonderful.  It was even more wonderful to be surrounded by family and friends.  Every single member of my husband's brothers and their families were there, so it was a great time for all of us to be together!!!

After we finished eating, most of us wandered back outside to walk off some of the massive amounts of food we had just consumed.  I was able to zoom in on a waterfall off in the distance just beyond the property.  Apparently in the spring, the waterfall is so loud, it sounds like thunder.  

I imagine that there are some fish hiding out down there, just waiting to be caught.  No one had a fishing license with them, so no fishing was done... lucky fish! It was their day to be thankful!

As it grew dark, the next thing on the agenda was a bonfire.  One of my husband's nephews and his girlfriend, as well as our daughter got busy, and built a place to have a bonfire, and began to gather up wood to burn for the fire.  Dan's brother got out his chain saw to help and before long we had a roaring fire going!

The sun was putting on a blazing show too!  The sky was filled with vibrant reds, purples and orange colors.

It was so nice to sit and relax around the fire and watch the sun's fire show off in the distance... a perfect ending to an amazing Thanksgiving, surrounded with wonderful family and friends.  We are more than blessed to be sure, after a day filled with food, laughter, fellowship, and thankful hearts!! It was a very special Thanksgiving, and we were so thankful for all the wonderful memories that were made today!