Friday, May 10, 2019

RV trip Spring '19 part 1 - Dinosaur Valley State Park

My friend Susan gave me this gorgeous Indian Blanket plant for my birthday last week.

She got it to remind me of the RV trip my husband and I took over Easter.

A major highlight of the trip was the profusion of wildflowers, including Indian blankets.

taken with my cell phone

Texas Indian Paintbrush. These are often seen on the side of the road mingled with bluebonnets. I've never seen them this close up until this trip. Really spectacular! This one is especially clear as i took it using my new tripod.

more Texas paintbrush

These tiny flowers looked like they just had yellow dots in the center until I zoomed in on them. Then I saw the center yellow part is on a stock and sticks up.

Indian Blanket

Our ultimate destination was Enchanted Rock. It's in Texas about four hours south of here by Google's estimate. RV time, however, isn't the same as Google time. We have learned to double whatever Google says our time will be.

And since we haven't yet managed to get away on the first day of any trip as early as we want, we decided it would be good to break the trip and camp for a few days at Dinosaur Valley State Park (DVSP) in Glen Rose, Texas, an easy hour and a half from home.

As the name suggests dinosaurs figure large there--both from the distant past and the not so distant past, as you'll see below. Fossilized dinosaur footprints were discovered there in the Paluxy River in 1908. According to the park's website, there are two kinds: "Sauropod tracks, large elephant-like tracks believed to have been made by Sauroposeidon proteles." And "Theropod tracks, smaller and often with a distinct three-toed pattern, believed to have been made by Acrocanthosaurus."

Getting to the fossilized theropod footprints in the next picture involved stepping somewhat precariously on rocks to get to the other side of the river. We put on our water sandals and made our way carefully across. John carried my backpack as I'm not as steady on my feet as he is. There are many other fossil footprints but most of them are not visible until summer when the water level goes down. Hopefully we can go back some time and see them in person.

Fossilized theropod dinosaur footprint we saw in the Paluxy River. I believe this is in what they call the "Blue Hole" site. It is a little north of the "Ballroom" site on the park map

 This sign shows the "Ballroom" site that is only visible in the summer. I guess they know not many people want to visit Texas at that time of year so they gave us a picture!

And then there is the not quite so distant past:

John reading about this Brontosaurus model. It and the Tyrannosaurus model below were commissioned by the Sinclair Oil Company for its "Dino Land" exhibit for the New York City World's Fair of '64-'65
Tyrannosaurus. Its mouth no longer opens and closes like it did at the World's Fair. I found a fun YouTube video of these and the others at "Dino Land" from that World's Fair. I'll put a link to it at the end of this post.

Wow! John found a theropod footprint in the side walk! Imagine, maybe it was hiding behind that tree until the work-men's backs were turned ;-). We had fun pretending anyway. Then I noticed that tiny smudge of white next to the "footprint" and snapped the next photo. 

A true wonder of nature! Those inconspicuous little flowers are amazing up close.

We found these similar looking pink flowers on another day. Any idea what they are called?

We took lots of walks and hikes. The weather was unusually nice the whole time and there were always lots of flowers.

Texas blue bonnets. Our state flower.

close up of Texas Bluebonnet. I was surprised to see pink on them too.

One path had these by the hundred. They were so tiny my camera wouldn't focus on them until John held one between his thumb and forefinger. This also gives some idea of the size.

One of my favorites: Wine Cup.  I've never seen inside them.  In our home, area on the rare occasion when we see them they are too far off the path to look inside.
 I noticed this one that we saw earlier in the trip looks like it has cottage cheese in the middle. Is it pollen?
This Wine Cup several days later looks quite different in the center. I guess it is more developed. Maybe a lot of bees and butterflies came and took the pollen away?

Some of our hikes required wading across the Paluxy river. After the first trip across balancing on the precarious rocks to see the (real) dino footprints we discovered a cement walkway just below the surface further down stream and used that most of the time after that.

Here I am just starting out on the cement walk way. It is difficult to see in some lights but it is definitely there.

Our longest hike at DVSP was up to the scenic overlook. We went the long way around as it wasn't such a steep a climb. What it lacked in steepness it made up for in length!

Basket flower? seen on our overlook hike

This tiny little flower likes rocky places in the middle of the path. It is so deep and dark inside it was hard to get a good photo of the center. I lightened this up some so you can see its star like center standing up on a stock

A view from the overlook. I think John took this one

The scenic overlook. I didn't like to get too close to the edge. It was very windy up there and a long ways down. We enjoyed a break and ate our picnic lunch. We had to hang on tight to everything to keep it from blowing away.

At the bottom of this photo, taken from the overlook, you can see people crossing on the the stepping stones to see the dinosaur footprints. This was taken with John's camera. It has more zoom range than mine.

On our last full day camping at DVSP we went canoeing. The photo above shows the area we canoed in. The Paluxy has a lot of shallow places and rocks so we couldn't go very far. But we enjoyed going back and forth and around in circles several times. It was still pretty and perfect weather for it--cool and not too sunny--though it rained a little. At the top of the above photo is the beach where we put in. And at the bottom just before the stepping stones is where we turned around. It's a bigger area than it looks here.

This fascinating little flower was hiding in the "weeds" near the beach.

Another, bigger flower but still pretty. I took these two with John's camera while I waited for him to bring the canoe.

a view of the river from the beach. we didn't go this direction.

Another view from the beach this time in the direction we canoed. You can see part of the underwater cement walkway. We launched the canoe just past that.

Layers of limestone along the edge of the river.

This is where we turned around. The people on the left are in the dinosaur footprint viewing area. On the right is a staircase leading down to the stepping stones.

We arrived on Sunday, April 14. We left for Enchanted Rock in Llano county on Thursday the 18th.  I didn't realize how much we packed into such a short time until I wrote this post. I'll save the Enchanted Rock visit for the next post. Hopefully that one won't take me as long as this one has!

* Here's the link to the World's Fair video on YouTube. It's called "Sinclair at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair." The "DinoLand" portion starts at 9:28. Although it is essentially an advertisement for Sinclair Oil Company it is also an interesting window into the past. I was amazed by how dressed up everyone was.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

More fun with downsizing

For most of our married life I displayed a lot of things on top of our kitchen cabinets: pretty dishes, vases, canisters, a favorite cookie jar from when I was a kid. Filling all that space seemed sort of required. There is space, I must be meant to fill it, I thought.

Lately, though, I’ve been getting fed up with how dirty things get up there. Every time I wanted to use a vase or something it was so grimy it needed serious scrubbing before I could use it.

I thought if I had a larger china cabinet then I could keep them behind glass and they wouldn’t get dirty, at least not as dirty. We do have a smallish china cabinet tucked into the corner of our living room. We'll have to get rid of a lot of books to make room for a larger one. I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon and I wanted a quicker less painful solution.

As I looked at all the stuff up there, though, I wondered how much of it I really even wanted to keep. I believe Marie Kondo has the right idea when she instructs people to first declutter before buying special organizing boxes. I figured the same would apply to buying large expensive china cabinets!

So I got everything down and started sorting. I was surprised to realize how little of it I really did want.

After experimenting with different ideas and arrangements, it is now down to this:

I'm surprised how well I like this more minimal look.
Some of the dishes and vases I found space for inside the kitchen cabinets where they will stay clean until I want to use them. Some of it I plan to donate to our church youth group's upcoming rummage sale. I was delighted when my friend Susan wanted a couple of the things I was planning to donate. It’s nice to know they went to a good home. A few items I am not sure I will part with yet so I put them in a storage bin to think about. Though I am tempted to just take the plunge and donate them after all.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

To wear or not to wear

I am necklace challenged! The most special ones always seemed to get lost or broken, or too tangled to wear. For many years I mostly just gave up wearing them.

Last year at church I noticed a friend wearing a necklace that reminded me of one I had from my Grandmother. It was a delicate antique gold colored chain with a few tiny coral colored roses on it. I told her I had a similar one from my Grandmother but that it was too tangled to wear. That I had tried several times to untangle it. She said if I put it in oil and rubbed it between my fingers that should do the trick, and that it would clean it at the same time. It sounded like a brilliant idea. But later when I looked for it, I couldn’t find it.

Then I remembered that a few months before after yet another unsuccessful attempt at untangling it I had thrown it away in a fit of anger. I was heartbroken, how could I have done something so rash and silly?

I remember I was feeling super frustrated that night with all the clutter in our house. Every surface seemed covered. Why keep it if I can’t wear it, I wondered? It’s just so much useless clutter. Besides I don’t have anyone to leave it to! I was feeling particularly lonely and a little sorry for myself, I suppose. I don’t have a sister to ask about things like that. And i didn't feel close enough to any of my other friends to think to ask them about it at the time.

I was also upset because when I asked John to help me untangle it, he made a seemingly halfhearted attempt and then gave up. Later he said he would have helped more after he was finished reading his book if he had known how upset I was. But I didn’t want to ask again. I just thought, that’s it, he doesn’t care or want to help. I just have to deal with it myself! (He has a much higher tolerance for clutter than I do. It’s usually an uphill battle to get him to help deal with it. I’m sure that was also fueling my frustration.)

I never told my friend what I had done. I was too embarrassed and sad.

Anyway. After that I decided I needed to get a necklace holder to help the rest of them not get so tangled. It took several more months before I finally gave myself permission--it seemed too self-indulgent and frivolous. I also wondered was it worth it? After all I hardly ever wear them anyway. What was the point? But for some reason that I can’t explain it mattered to me. I couldn’t keep dismissing it. I wanted to take better care of my necklaces and start wearing them again.

So I finally made the time to search for necklace holders and found one on-line. When it arrived, John mounted it next to my dresser and helped me untangle them so i could hang them up.

So I am wearing necklaces again. It is surprisingly difficult. Other women seem to know about this stuff automatically. I ’m still learning which necklaces go with which outfits. I even texted my friend Susan a couple of selfies one Sunday to see which necklace she thought looked best. It feels weird and embarrassing to be such a neophyte at this. It also takes more time and thought. As someone who hardly ever remembers to even trim my nails and put lotion on until we are in the car on our way to church and I notice how ragged my nails look, it is a new thing to take time on, seemingly trivial, personal details like this.

Maybe this is the point of starting to wear necklaces again after so many years. I’m learning it is ok to do things that matter to me even if they don’t seem particularly useful to anyone else.

My current favorite one is a short chain with a tiny little heart on it. It’s not very noticeable to anyone else. But it is sweet little reminder that I am loved.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

One of my favorite wildflowers

Yesterday morning i was thrilled to see one of my favorite wildflowers growing in our yard!  I was getting ready to go out with some friends for the day so I didn't take the time to photograph them just then. I wish now I had. They were wet from a rain storm and looked fresh and sparkly as the morning sun shone on them. In the afternoon I took some photos but they didn't look as pretty as my memory of them from the morning.

Nevermind, I am trying to be less perfectionistic anyway and they are still there so I took some more photos this morning. It is amazing how their color seems to change with the time of day. They look more purple in the photos I just took.

Based on my internet research, I think they are grape hyacinth (muscari botryoides)

The first two photos below are from this morning. The next two are from yesterday afternoon. They look much more purple and grape-like in this morning's light. They are really quite small. These are enlarged a lot.

Taken this morning.

From yesterday afternoon. The color looks more of a light blue.

not as purple as this morning but still a beauty!

I also took this yesterday afternoon. It's the same sort as from my last post but more open

This one is quite pretty too. It's so small it's difficult for me to get much detail. It looks almost like an orchid    

Monday, March 11, 2019

The first wildflowers of Spring!

Saturday I went outside and discovered wildflowers had come up in our grass. It's been a long cold winter and I was so thrilled to see any signs of Spring that i picked some and put them in a little vase in my kitchen window.

They aren't the most colorful or exciting of our Texas wildflowers, but when I looked at them up close through the camera lens I was surprised to see how much detail and color they really have.

After taking these photos of them in the vase I went back outside and took more of them in their natural setting.

To think that God lavishes so much beauty and creativity on such small things is amazing. Most people if they notice them at all might think they are just a weed they need to mow.

It brings to mind when Jesus said, " do not worry about your life ... see how the flowers of the field grow... If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you...?" (Matthew 6:28-30)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The magazine basket was getting full. Usually that’s an easy fix since a lot of them go into the recycling bin. The rest go on a shelf that I periodically purge. I was surprised when I discover that none of the few I wanted to keep would actually fit on the bookcase. Looking at the shelf I noticed how large of a collection of old Dwell magazines I still had.

Although I canceled my subscription before our last trip to Australia in 2016, I was baffled that I could not detect even one "spark of joy" about keeping them. What is wrong with me I wondered. I used to love these. Looking at the sleek uncluttered modern interiors pictured in Dwell at my favorite book store gave me such a feeling of calm and peace during high stress years when I was caring for my Mom full time, that I subscribed to it for myself.

So here I was looking at my four plus years of Dwell gold and realizing that not only had I not looked at them for a couple of years, I didn’t want to look at them anymore. I felt more joy at the thought that I might get something for them from Half Priced books and that I wouldn’t need to persuade my husband to let me get rid of them--since getting them was entirely my idea in the first place.

I was disappointed when we took them to Half Priced Books, though. They said they were too old to put on their shelves. So, they gave me 50 cents for the whole lot!-- “as a way of saying thank you for bringing them in.”  And a coupon for 10% off future purchases for a year. That could be worth something if I wanted to buy more physical books. But since I mostly want to buy e-books that isn’t very exciting. It is nice to have more space on my shelf, though, so I don’t regret getting rid of them. I mostly regret I didn’t do it sooner while they may have been worth something.

I do wonder why I’ve gotten so unsentimental about so many of my things. I seem to be becoming a grumpy old curmudgeon before my time. Is it due to diminishing estrogen? That seems to explain nearly every weird change lately. Or am I depressed and need to see a psychiatrist.

Is this desire to de-clutter a sign of some deep psychological problem? Am I trying to erase myself? I have wondered that. Why for example do I want to get rid of my old high school yearbooks?

But maybe it’s not that I want to erase myself I just want to prune away the old to make way for the new. To get to the essential me. The things that matter most to me now and not let the old me clutter my home. Maybe it is actually a sign of healthy growth. Some of my tendency to hang on to stuff may have come from unhealthy “people pleasing.”

But caring about others doesn’t mean I need to keep every greeting card I ever got, for example. (I love e-cards--no painful decisions later about whether to keep it or not.)

Most people downsize by moving into a smaller space. I do sometimes wish we could move somewhere warm, especially on cold days, like today. And there are things I don’t like about our current house. But I mainly just have a strong yearning to experience life here in this house with much less stuff.

I want to pare down so I can more easily enjoy the things I currently care about and not waste time and space on things I don’t.

Last year I decided I’m just not into gardening anymore. I'm tempted to get rid of most of my gardening books? But what if I decide I want to garden again some time?

What about books on writing that I haven’t read in years? I care about writing but do I really need so many books about it, most of which I don’t even use?

What do you think? Please feel free to leave comments!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

desperate to declutter

feeling desperate to declutter. Almost manic. Too much clutter everywhere I look.

Removed everything from the bottom two shelves in my office bookcase. With part* of the Konmari idea in mind I only put back what "sparked joy."

I did move one picture to a different location. That was, I thought, a clever bit of downsizing in itself because in the process I combined two things into one. I had two pictures. One in a frame and one not. I put the one that didn't have a frame into the frame and put it on top of our entertainment center. The one that was in the frame will go into a photo album.

Now, however I don't know where to put the thing that was on the entertainment center in that space. I guess I'll have to clear another shelf...

Most of the other photos from those two office shelves will go into photo albums. The other knick knacks I haven't decided about yet. I think they need to go into a box and I'll decide about them later.

Meanwhile, I wondered, what else will I put on those two shelves? It felt strange and silly to remove stuff if I didn't have other things that needed to go there.

Of course, I realized, there is no rule that says I have to fill every shelf. If I like it nearly bare then I can keep it that way.

But I do have goals and things I want room for. And I have to start somewhere.

For one thing, I want to put a china cabinet in our living room for some of our pretty dishes. Partly to display them and partly to make them more accessible so I don't get a hernia every time I retrieve them from the remote corners of our kitchen cabinets.

The space in our living room where the china cabinet might go is currently chock full of books. So maybe some of the books from there can come into my office to make room for the theoretical china cabinet. I also thought of a pretty antique dish I got from my Mother in law that I want to display that is still packed away. I can put it in this newly created space. There may be other things I haven't thought of too.

But even if I didn't have current plans for that space just having less stuff to dust is a worthwhile accomplishment! And I've learned that when I make space life has a way of filling it. Sometimes with unexpected blessings or new ideas.

*I know the Konmari method isn't "supposed" to be used piecemeal, but oh well!