I took that top photo four years ago yesterday. I remember taking it, too, as I was folding laundry one evening and Forest was being his chunkalunk self! It must have been a warmer December day because of the diaper only outfit, which is how he spent a lot of those first three to six months, hanging out in just a diaper!
Then on Wednesday night we went to my studio to hang out for a bit and for some reason he finally noticed the baby chair sitting there, where it’s been for well over a year waiting for me to sell it or donate it. (It’s going to Goodwill soon!) He dragged it out and I almost told him not to sit in it for fear he would break it but I let him go anyway. He got up too quickly after his test sit but I got him to lay back down so I could snap a photo since I knew I had the first photo already. I didn’t realize how close to date the photos would be though until I dug the first photo out of my Flickr archives.
From rolly poly baby to whip-smart and expert little kid negotiator in just four years! Time flies.
The final post for Mission Tejas State Park! A few little morsels between photos but a write-up at the end!
Indigo Milk Cap, Lactarius indigo: I was so excited to see this! The state park had shared a photo on social media a few days prior to our hike of this cool mushroom and I had seen someone else share their find in Ohio, so I put it on my bucket list to see one of these. We kept our eyes peeled for them but it was Chris who found them in an early morning hike before Forest and I got out of the tent. We went back later to find them and I looked underneath on the gills but didn’t really see any blue ‘ink’ oozing so I wasn’t 100% certain that’s what they were until I compared photos online. A pretty great find—thanks Chris!
On Sunday morning before we left the state park we opted for a long hike between breakfast and packing up for lunch. Piecing together the Cemetery Hill Trail, Lightning Trail, Olen Matchett Trail, Fire Tower Trail, and Karl Lovett Trail, we made a giant loop from our campsite back to our campsite. I can’t recall but I believe it was around—errr, hey, I have a handy dandy Garmin watch and so I checked my app for that day and it looks like that hike was only 1.5 miles. It certainly felt longer with some of the steep hills!
The morning was gorgeous, a perfect early fall morning in east Texas with sunlight pouring through the pine canopy and punctuating the understory with golden glow. The terrain was quite rolling, particularly along the Lightning and Olen Matchett trails, with steep ravines that begged to be explored. I think Forest was rather happy, too, as he stopped along the trail and spread his arms wide for a few moments to pretend to be a bird. A downed tree along the trail was no match for him and was a perfect play opportunity for him to crawl under!
I’m now quite enamored with the blue sage, especially after growing it in the garden this year. I ordered more seeds so I’m hoping to have even more this coming year. The little euphorbia find was a nice surprise as I almost walked past it but decided to stop and take its photo. At the time I didn’t know what it was but upon reviewing the photos and seeing the seed pods I knew it was a euphorbia and after that it was fairly easy to identify to species.
After climbing the steep Fire Tower Trail we arrived to view the remnants of the fire tower for a few moments. Forest didn’t quite understand what it used to be so we showed him the display materials at the site and told him how they used to work. Maybe some day he’ll see a real one! There’s not too many left in east Texas.
After that it was an easy sloped downhill back to the campsite where we packed up quickly to grab lunch in Crockett on the way home. As I stare at the photos from this trip I fall more in love with this little state park. I know we will be back next year!
Imagine my surprise when I got home at lunch today to find a pipevine swallowtail had eclosed in the butterfly cage! The pipevine chrysalides I have in the cage have been in there since September and I fully expected them to continue over wintering until spring. I still have two monarchs that have been darkening the last few days and figured I would see them out soon so when I saw a butterfly on the bottom of the cage I assumed it was one of them. But no, I was completely surprised! When I checked underneath the rock that the chrysalis had eclosed from I noticed it was the one that hadn’t secured itself properly to begin with. I had worried that it wouldn’t form properly but apparently thinks went just fine, though for a few minutes I worried about it and later dismissed the worry when I realized it just needed to warm up a bit more before it flew off.
That’s another thing, while we had the early freeze and cold weather in November, I’d say December has been fairly average so far. Though, still chilly, which makes me worry more about the monarchs eclosing than it does for the pipevines. Who knows? I have to trust that nature knows what it is doing.
Hidden away on the Olen Matchett Trail near a remote corner at the front of Mission Tejas State Park are a set of old CCC tubs. Constructed when the CCC workers had set up camp to construct the state park, the tubs are a few feet downhill from a spring.
Before our dinner the night we stayed at the state park we made one last hike to see what this interestingly labeled point on the state park map meant. At a slope behind the top of a hill we found the set of tubs. The spring was at the top, the clean rinsing tub in the middle, and the bathing tub at the bottom. I can’t imagine a whole bunch of men lined up to get their weekly baths in the 1930s—maybe they took turns throughout the week? And I wonder if they had to hike up to take their bath or if their camp was nearby? Either way, it was interesting to see this relic of the past hiding in the woods. It’s hard to believe it’s nearly 100 years since the New Deal was passed. I just hope all of these CCC built parks throughout the country can be preserved as the years pass.
An interesting write up from Houstonia magazine about the park if you’d like to read: For the History Hounds: Mission Tejas State Park. Since the Caddo Mounds is mentioned in there you can read about out trip in 2014 here.
We were supposed to be camping this weekend. And then the weather forecast last week stated temperatures in the 40s and rain starting Friday afternoon into early Saturday morning, tapering off around breakfast.
The rain started later than anticipated on Friday so the rain became heavy by nightfall. The problem pipe draining our front yard still hadn’t been solved; Chris had been unable to pinpoint the actual issue. Friday night I started packing up my clothes and Forest’s clothes and a few other items, with Chris to bring in the storage bins for packing the rest of the gear later in the evening. However, the rain never let up. Secretly I had already been hoping not to go camping, though I was going to make the best of it if we were going. It still felt too close to our last camping trip just a couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving to be packing up once again for a camping trip.
The evening wore on and I meandered upstairs to find a Christmas movie to watch on Netflix and settled on Christmas with a View which wasn’t terribly cheesy. Earlier in the week I had watched A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding which is the sequel to the original movie from last year. The sequel was definitely cheesier than the first. Around 8pm or so Chris decided to go outside and attempt to see if he could work on the clogged pipe after he’d done a yard surveillance to see where water levels were heading (the pond went over the dock but the stuff in our fire pit didn’t float away—so, not terribly high). The front yard was becoming a pond of course and if nothing drained my poor winter seedlings would have succumbed to submersion. Thankfully Chris managed to dislodge something or the amount of water already accumulated managed to start the draining process because when we woke up on Saturday morning there was on a small puddle in the low spot instead of a flooded garden. We still have no idea what’s going on with the pipe. Chris’ new theory is a tree root is pushing the pipe up somewhere so a little amount of water isn’t able to start flowing but a larger amount is. Who knows?
It proceeded to rain sporadically Saturday morning and paired with the cold weather we canceled our camping plans. Instead we did chores and Chris worked on our back door which he’d replaced the weekend before. I never wrote about it here, maybe I mentioned it but I can’t remember, but during the fall of 2017 Chris built a giant stand inside the house for a 205 gallon freshwater aquarium he bought off of Craigslist. Chris had kept tanks up until our move from Florida, ranging from freshwater to large salt water reef tanks. We hadn’t had a tank since we’d moved back to Texas and I guess he got the itch and went ‘Chris style’, which means he went all out, and got really into aquatic plants and raising discus fish. Welllllll, one morning last spring we woke up to nearly the entire tank drained out onto our dining room floor. Luckily there is only one or two spots with any kind of minor warping and he was able to save some of the fish and sell them that day. It was a disaster. Anyway, part of the reason the back door was replaced, other than it opened in and hit our sofa chair, was that we needed the second double door to actually open so we could get the tank stand out of the house. The tank itself barely fit through our front door.
It was a slow Saturday, the chores and back door, lunch out, getting groceries, and I managed to escape by myself for a few hours to do some Christmas shopping. I actually love to get out and shop at Christmas. It tires me out now but it was one of the things I really enjoyed doing with my parents as a kid. Even if I’m not buying something I do enjoy looking at things, especially now because I don’t really shop that much or have the chance to get out by myself. Back when I had the weekend away with my friends we went to the Temple mall and even then it was just enjoyable to walk through and see things and bring by memories from being a teenager and spending hours at the mall or when I worked at Hallmark in the mall in high school. I did get wistful as I passed a Hallmark yesterday but didn’t go in since I didn’t need anything. I can’t resist the urge to straighten cards when I do go in and I always turn my cards around to show the barcode when I do buy cards because I know how annoying it is to have to flip them over.
Today was similarly as quiet, though we ventured to the museum district to get another trip in from our membership to the Houston Museum of Natural Science before it expires sometime in January. We arrived around 10:30 and surprisingly the place was not packed, which has been our experience for every single visit we’ve had there. Considering the weather was terrible I thought more people would be inside but I suppose they were all shopping! We bounced from exhibit to exhibit with an exuberant 4 year old towing the adults around. Chris and I would attempt to look at the various exhibits but that mostly happened in a blur. Apparently trilobites and ammonites hold no interest to kids excited about dinosaurs!
I’d been promising to make sugar cookies with Forest for a few weeks now and despite being tired from our museum trip I decided we’d just buckle down and do it today. I quickly checked my grandmother’s recipe but wasn’t interested in using shortening and then my next go-to recipe involved powdered sugar which I think Chris used the last of when making Forest’s birthday cookies a few months ago. So, to the internet I went and came up with something I could do with regular old butter, sugar, and flour and we made it work. I quickly realized that once Forest ran out of patience for cutting out cookies that I didn’t have the patience to finish cutting the rest of the dough by myself so I saved about half of the dough in the freezer to make at a later date. Our Christmas cookies are an eclectic mix of your typical Christmas holiday cookie cutters thrown in with a heavy dose of orange T-Rex’s.
All of this is to say that it was a quiet winter weekend for us, the kind that I really enjoy the most because we’re all hanging out together. Not that camping wouldn’t have been fun if it had been sunny and in the 40s—it would have been more fun in the 70s and sunny—but it was a lot more fun to relax and have a good weekend around the house.
On Sunday I got on our NextDoor group and saw that several people were posting about President Bush’s funeral train supposedly traversing a track that runs through a town very nearby. I can hear the train horns from inside our house, that’s how near this track is. Sure enough, I looked up the route and it was set to go through Magnolia sometime around lunch or just after. I told Chris about it and thought it would be neat to go. Honestly, when I thought about going I didn’t imagine that a ton of people would be going considering it was the middle of a work day. Little did I know!
Now, if you’ve read this blog long enough or know me in real life, you know I’m a liberal. I was not a fan of GWB while he was president, though like others in the media and Michelle Obama, I’ve warmed to him post-presidency. As for George H.W. Bush I honestly didn’t have a huge opinion of one way or the other because during his presidency I was 8-12 years old. Not exactly an age to be paying attention to politics. I do remember in 6th grade (1991-1992) having a mock election or something like that and I was for Ross Perot. I’ve obviously evolved since then but apparently I do like those third party people because I went for Nader in 2000. Hah!
During the course of the last week I’ve obviously read a bit more about his presidency and his work in politics before that and of course it was mired in the lens of 2018 of being somewhat problematic. But, I have room for nuance and empathy, and also historical importance, and knew that I wanted to see this train if I could. Chris did too and he wanted to take Forest out of school for a few hours to see it. I was hesitant at first because he didn’t know what the president was and only in the last several months have we really talked about death as a concept for humans. Trying to explain both of them together was a bit tricky and I don’t think he quite gets what a president does but I showed him photos of GHWB and so he kind of understands he was an ‘old man’ who died.
We picked Forest up, grabbed Sonic for lunch, and then headed for Magnolia where we thought we’d stake out a spot at the Walgreens which is across from the railroad. But we didn’t get very far down, right where the tracks begin paralleling FM 1774, and saw a lot of people pulling over the curb and right up to the railroad. Across the street people were parking in empty lots or businesses. Well, this worked as well as going all the way into town!
I’m glad I took that empty track photo at the top because it wasn’t empty for long. Parking quickly filed up and traffic got thicker. Eventually a couple of officers started walking along the tracks trying to move people off of it. Folks were putting coins on the tracks so they could get the flattened result later and there were several railroad spikes laying on the ground. We’d arrived just after noon but had to wait for nearly an hour and a half before the train arrived. Chris had kept tabs on a livestream on his phone so we had an idea of when they left the rail yard in Spring but it wasn’t until the helicopters arrived and began barking over a speaker for people to clear the tracks that we knew it was really near.
And then UP 4141 was in sight and while it didn’t move as fast as a typical train it was moving at a good clip. I was balancing trying to take some photos but also attempting to be in the moment and look at the train itself, in the windows, and finally at the casket. At the time I could only make out a couple of people waving but I couldn’t tell you they were anyone in particular. I did get a good look at his casket in the window when it passed but only the angled photo. And looking closer at the photo I now see a military officer standing guard inside which I did not see at the time. I see other people waving or sitting/standing in the passenger cars but again, cannot make out anyone in particular.
The train passed quickly after that, it seemed. Looking back at the photos the approach seemed slow and then in front of us it just whirred by. I kept thinking, no, wait, slow down I want to actually see it, see everyone inside, to make the connection between these people we see on tv and hear talked about in the political spectrum, to see their humanity. Instead, just anonymous waves from inside the cars and the waves from the crowd outside to the people inside.
I’m glad we went. It was an experience that likely won’t be replicated in my lifetime.
(Ok, so nearly wordless, but you can’t quite tell here but the piece of wood to the right of the fire pit, there’s a pipe coming out of it. yes, that’s the water source. It’s usually near the electrical outlet, typically near the parking. Let me say, getting water when smoke is blowing your direction isn’t fun. Poor planning on whoever did this!)
Before we arrived at the state park that last weekend in October, Chris had noted that there was some kind of trail run going on in the park. I was a little surprised considering the park isn’t huge, but after looking at the park map and seeing that it was adjacent to a Davy Crockett National Forest tract I knew that there was much more here to be explored.
The park was very busy when we checked in and we were unable to get to our campsite right away. It had taken us around two hours or so to get to the park, a much quicker drive than we had estimated. And we’d come up on a Saturday morning instead of a Friday so I was worried that we wouldn’t feel as if we’d spent a lot of time at the park due to only camping for one night. Getting there well before lunch that day stretched the hours out, especially since we weren’t at our campsite until later that day.
Much of the overflow parking was taken and runners were camping in a group designated area as well as within the main campground itself. The campground isn’t that large, with only fifteen typical campsites you’d see at a state park, but there were multiple tents and groups at each site. Much smaller than the average Texas State Park. That said, it was jam packed with runners and other campers who’d managed to get a reservation before the event.
We started off by heading to the playground for Forest because the kid can identify playgrounds a mile away. The playground boasted a digging/scooping toy that you sat on and manipulated the handles to move gravel or dirt around, or in this case the recycled rubber that made up the bottom of the playground. Forest bounced from toy to toy and attempted to make friends with a few other kids before Chris and I tried to pull him away for a hike.
Crossing the dam for the pond, we weaved our way up the slopes of the forest, sharing the trail with runners on their multi-K loops. The weekend was glorious, a beautiful fall October weekend with clear skies and lots of golden sunshine. Overhead a helicopter swirled, coming to fetch a runner in need of medical attention. We never found out what happened. The trails we ended up following weren’t really on the map but we ended up finding the park boundary trail and coming to a dirt road before turning back around.
On our way back we stopped at the pond and noticed a snake swimming from one bank to the next. We couldn’t convince Forest to investigate what kind of snake it was when it reached its shoreline destination. The playground was beckoning again!
Eventually we did make it to our campsite, at the 2pm check-out time when the other campers were supposed to leave. We ended up making lunch at the picnic tables at the playground instead of where we intended at the old CCC shelter because a Model A club had reserved it for a lunch get together. Seriously, this park was packed that afternoon and it is in the middle of nowhere East Texas! Forest did get a kick out of seeing the old cars, though!
At the campsite most of the campers had left but there was only small backpacking tent left off to the side and a cooler. It was clear that person was still running. After talking to the park ranger we decided we would just set up camp and move the cooler to their tent and sure enough an hour later the runner finally arrived.
I have more photos from other parts of the park that I’ll share throughout the rest of the week!
Yesterday was one of those typical Texas December days that had you thinking it was early March. It was shorts weather and if you didn’t know any better, you would be loading up on plants at the nursery to get going for spring. A cool front came through last night which chilled the air just a bit but the temperature is back up today, though not nearly as high as yesterday’s.
We had intended to get out and get our Christmas tree last weekend after we got back from Thanksgiving but the goal of cleaning up our upstairs living/play area was thwarted when Chris realized the pipe running under our neighbor’s yard that assists in draining our yard when it rains (it takes it to a wooded lot on the other side of our neighbor where it flows into the pond), was not draining right. He has to periodically clean it out with pipes and I think he even uses a hose to force water through it to clear out clogs sometimes. So, his time was spent investigating that and it turned out that our neighbor may have accidentally broken the pipe when he drove on his yard after the rain we had while we were gone. Needless to say, no cleaning up got done and getting the tree was put off until yesterday.
Since it was such a gorgeous day lot of other folks were out getting trees, too. Thankfully the line for Santa was nonexistent! We’ve taken Forest to Bass Pro the last several years but that is all the way down in Katy and you spend quite a bit of time in line waiting. No waiting, even though it was a take your own photo situation instead of a professional, was worth it! Forest wrote out his list for Santa on Friday night with some help from me. He’s getting better at writing but definitely cannot spell things on his own, though he has started trying to sound out words and figuring out what they start with. He can spell his name, of course, though sometimes he writes ‘FORT’ instead of ‘FOREST’ and insists that’s his name! We took that list with us and Santa managed to decipher 4-year old writing for the most part with some interpretation from me.
Afterward we wandered through the games the tree farm has and then boarded the hay wagon pulled by antique tractors to get out to get our tree! Back at the tree barn there was a pile of hay for kids to play on and Forest made a beeline for that, bouncing on the hay with the other kids. He did manage to get his foot stuck in a small hole where one of the bales has moved apart from the other bale, so I had to climb up and finagle his foot out of that!
Now the tree is merry and bright upstairs and decorated. We did have one ornament mishap when I let Forest hang a glass ornament. He managed just fine with its pair, a fish, but the second one ended up on the floor in pieces. After that I made sure to hand him non-breakable ornaments.
Oh, and Forest picked out his shirt to wear! This kid does not normally like to wear button shirts at all–he’s all about the cozy!—but he grabbed that out of his closet and said he wanted to wear to Santa! Sure thing, dude!
You can see our very first trip to the farm here.
I didn’t write about it earlier this month but I went on my first overnight trip away from Forest in early November. I’ve been ready for a weekend away for several years now but I knew Forest wasn’t. Finally this summer I knew that it would be a lot easier to get away for the weekend and so two of my friends and I made plans to spend a night away. We’ve been friends since the summer of 1998 and were living aboard the TS Texas Clipper II.
Ideally we would have liked some quaint cabin in the Hill Country but with last minute planning and driving distance we opted to split the drive sort of in the middle in Waco. Waco has become a bustling little town thanks to the Magnolia store. Well, our decision for Waco and waiting until late September to book a hotel room turned into a problem because there was a Baylor game against, I think, OU. Needless to say, we booked a hotel in Temple instead.
Our plans for even visiting Waco changed after we thought about the amount of traffic dealing with parking for the Magnolia shop (Full disclosure: I’ve never seen an episode of Fixer Upper and most of my information on Chip and Joanna came from a Texas Monthly article about two years ago.) as well as college football traffic, well it sounded like a nightmare. So we stayed in Temple completely, wandering their slowly growing downtown, finding a unique coffee shop in the dying Temple Mall, and generally catching up on life and staying up later than our late 30s bodies should have! It was really nice to have that time to connect and I think our goal is to at least make this a yearly activity, if not a twice a year thing. We did agree that the next time we needed two nights away.
What else is on my mind? It’s several weeks past now but I was a little bummed that Beto didn’t win the senate race here in Texas. I checked the results at one point and he was leading and I got my hopes up a little then and then of course checked thirty minutes later and it was clear he wasn’t going to win. I’m just glad to see Texas and Texans actually challenging the status quo of Republicans running everything in Texas. A couple of things I thought about: if Andrew White had been the nominee for governor instead of Lupe Valdez, I think there’s a very good chance Beto and Andrew could have won running their campaigns in tandem. I just shake my head at the lost opportunity of having White actually give the governorship a good run for its money. With Valdez there wasn’t even a chance. The second thing was, maybe Beto should have run for governor instead of senate. Anyway, I know there’s a lot of talk about him running in 2020 and part of me wishes it would be ‘thing’ but part of me hopes he either goes for Cornyn’s senate seat or is a VP running mate for someone else with a bit more experience. *shrugs*
My gardening post the other day pretty much summed up what’s going on right now. This afternoon at lunch I tried to take down the luffa vines and gourds but apparently the 10+ still in the sweetgum tree are going to stay there until the vines rot enough for them to fall! Some I can probably reach with a ladder, the others are 20+ feet up in the tree!
+Forest and his little sayings
+NYX Liquid Illuminator: I don’t wear makeup these days, haven’t really for years, but I’ve been feeling like I look a little pale and in need of some pep lately so I bought this stuff that really acts as a light, well, illuminator! You can use it to highlight your eyes or your cheeks or just lightly spread it as if it was foundation. It isn’t as thick as foundation so it doesn’t feel like you are wearing makeup. It really just adds a touch of color. I don’t use it every day but it has been fun to try to use.
+Oh, one of my shopping splurges while on my girl’s weekend were these rub on nail sheets. They seriously stayed on for about 10 days until they really started chipping! I was impressed because regular nail polish lasts just a few days for me before chipping. I keep my toes polished, that lasts much longer, but nails? I haven’t really done my nails but a handful of times since having Forest. First it was because there was no time to have my nails dry between picking up a baby and then I just never wanted to go back to dealing with it chipping from gardening. So I’ve never bothered. Anyway, it was fun to have the nail sheets while they lasted. I have enough to do one more round.
As per usual I have about 3-5 books I’m reading at any given time. I’ve been meaning to do another book report here but haven’t really felt inspired to do so. One book I’m currently reading it Walking with Spring about Earl Shaffer’s thru-hike of the AT. For those unaware, he was the first documented thru-hiker of the AT in 1948. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read the book but I am really enjoying it so far. I love the history he weaves into the story as well as how he discusses the trail as it was during his hike. Because he wrote the book well after his hike he has little amends in there saying that the trail was moved further west or away from such and such landmark, usually with a bit of chagrin. One interesting note is just how many people in 1948 are the same as today in a: wanting to know if you are hiking with a gun and b: interested in snakes, ie: the snakes are out to get you and OMG kill ’em if you see ’em.
I find myself doing so many other things in the evenings, working on photos or blogs or podcasts, working out, doing chores, or other random things that reading falls to the wayside. I sometimes read on the Kindle when Forest is falling asleep but lately I’ve been uninterested in that.
Forest and I were going to the studio frequently before Thanksgiving break and we need to get back over there. I am working on putting together some of my grandmother’s granny squares into a pillow cover so I can cover a pillow I have on the futon in the studio. I have two more identical squares that need a second pillow to cover but I’ll likely have to make that pillow.
My creativity like I said earlier is mostly through photography, writing blogs, or editing podcasts right now.
Watching & Listening:
Dr. Who continues to blow itself out of the water in awesomeness! Does that make sense? Having the new doctor be a woman has been a revelation! There are definitely some pointed parts of episodes that are like “hey, we’re going to teach you about feminism, or racism or whatnot” but I’ve been really intrigued with the historical aspect of the story this season. Since I’ve only watched the newer Doctors, I’ve gleaned from other people that the original series from the 60s and 70s was more based on teaching history lessons. This season seems to bring that back a little more as we’ve had lessons on Rosa Parks, the partition of India (which wow, I didn’t know much, if anything, about!), and the most recent episode was a twist on witch hunters/witch trials in early 1600s England involving a very cheeky King James I. If you’ve never watched Dr. Who, picking up with this season is a great start!
Outlander is back on and I am loving it! I finally feel like we’re back to a season 1 kind of love. It probably helps that I have not re-read Drums of Autumn recently so my knowledge of the book versus what they are reworking on the show isn’t making it hard to watch.