Thursday, September 27, 2012

South Shore at Lake Bastrop

Today we took a short drive to South Shore at Lake Bastrop. The drive to the Lake was interesting and somewhat sad. If you follow the National news you may remember the devastating wildfire of Bastrop last year that destroyed parts of the Lost Pines Forest and Buescher and Bastrop State Park in addition to many homes and businesses.

For a couple of weeks from our front doorstep we smelled the burning forest, watched as the helicopters flew back and forth over the house carrying large buckets of water,  and watched the massive blanket of smoke in the distance get bigger and darker by the day. Until today, I didn't realize the mass of the destruction the fire caused. A year later, as we drove along I witnessed the acres and acres of burnt pine trees and the people out on their charred lots rebuilding their homes and it became more than just a story in the news.

Anyway, I didn't realize until we got to the Lake that we had been to this place before when we first moved to Austin. I thought it was a place on my list of things to see and do that we had not done yet.  O'well, we still made the best of the day and even checked out a bird observatory area that wasn't there before....or maybe we just didn't notice it.

Watching for birds
This was funny but pitiful. Bo slipped off the pier and fell into the thick grassy edge of the water. The grass was so thick he couldn't paddle well and he began  to panic. I was laughing at him but to be honest was beginning to get a little worried. Lucky daddy was there so save him!  Look at his pitiful face....

The rest of the day we spent exploring around and even played some tether ball. Summer said that was her favorite part of the day...probably because she kept beating me at the

Another beautiful day in Central Texas. :-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Autumn Outings

Autumn (Fall) happens to be my favorite season...even if in the South it's still 95 degrees at the onset of the fall season.

I like the outdoors and enjoy it most in the cooler months so I have tried to schedule a few outdoor activities in the past couple of weeks.

Last Saturday Summer and I attended a Geocaching Workshop at nearby McKinney Falls State Park. Geocaching has intrigued me for the past few years and now that Summer is getting older and doesn't enjoy trampling the trails as much as she used to I figured if she had  an activity to occupy her it would make hiking more alluring.

Last week we also took in a local art museum,  Laguna Gloria. Art is a weird thing to me. What other people consider to be "art"  appears to me to be something that someone that has a little bit too much to smoke or my 11 year old has done.'s all about perception.

Anyway, the museum is in an old historical home so I enjoyed touring the grounds of the home more than I did the actual "art".

We didn't spend much time at the museum so we stopped in the the Mayfield Park Preserve next door.

Any day outdoors is a good day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Calling All Thrifters

There is nothing that I find more pleasure in than thrifting. It's not really the shopping itself that sucks me in as much as it is the thrill of the find. As they say.."One Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure." If your the type that can look past germs and dirty surprises that are sometimes found sifting through someone else's discarded stuff then read on.

When I first moved to Texas I would occasionally frequent Goodwill or an occasional thrift store but it wasn't until a few years ago when I my met my thrifting buddy Robin that I found out what a treasure trove of thrifting opportunities Austin held. She introduced me to some real gems which I will share here with you.

If you are not from the Austin area but find one of these places listed intriguing, check in your own area to see if there may be something comparable.

My favorite spot is the Goodwill Blue Hanger Outlet Store.  Explaining this store to someone who has never been is a little difficult, but imagine an empty warehouse filled with about 100+ large blue bins piled high with every sort of item you can think of...clothes, fabric, books, toys, furniture, etc.  Most items are priced by the pound around $1.39/lb, books generally are $1.39 flat and most of the furniture items are priced much lower than the general 'Goodwill,' rate.  The best description I can give it is dumpster diving.

Next stop is "The Dump" as we so lovingly call it. The Dump is actually the Texas Disposal Systems resale store. What that means is all the stuff that people put out on the side of the road for once a month trash day pick up is sorted through and they take out the stuff that is still good and sell it in a "store" on the premises.

You wouldn't believe the good stuff that people will put out on the side of the road for the dump. For example, a few weeks ago I got a  nightstand that just needed a little TLC for $1.99!! I threw a coat of paint on it and decoupaged the front doors with fabric and tada!!!    

This next one I have only been to once but I feel it is worth mentioning because it may well be considered the best kept secret in Austin...maybe not anymore, right?! It's the State Surplus Store...everything that didn't make it through airport security and the the final resting place for all retired state owned furniture, filing cabinets, etc.

From Yelp: "You'll find everything from confiscated snow globes (they contain liquid, so it's a carry-on no-no at the airport) to Vietnamese cobra liquor!

If you're in to pocket knives, you'll be in heaven.  They have buckets and buckets full of knives and many can be had in near-new condition for $1-3!

Go through the double-glass doors near the jewelry cases, and this leads to the large warehouse floor.  They have tons of used office furniture (desks, chairs, file cabinets, etc.), fax machines, and even some restaurant equipment too.

The best thing about the State Surplus Store, though?  ALL PRICES NEGOTIABLE!

(It actually doesn't say that anywhere, but keep in mind that this is a clearing house for the state.  They're trying to move stuff out before the next truckload comes in.  Make them a reasonable offer and, more times than not, they'll accept it."

Even if you aren't looking for anything in particular, it's fun to just to have look around.  Who knows what you'll find next."

Last but not least is the Habitat For Humanity Re-Store...another that I have only been to once but feel like it is worth mentioning. It's Goodwill for building materials and an un-told secret of DIY/Home improvement stuff...doors, windows, ceramic tile, appliances, counter name it and it's there for a fraction of what you would pay for it at Home Depot or Lowes.

I wish I could frequent all these places more often but with what little free time I have I have to pick and choose my favorites.

I hope these thrifting ideas will inspire the desire!!!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Port Aransas

Last week we took our last mini vacation of the year to Port Aransas, Texas. Typically when we go to the beach we go to Corpus Christi/Padre Island but this time I chose to book us in Port A for no other reason than I wanted to cut off the extra 20 miles it takes to get to Padre Island in Corpus. As far as I am concerned the beach is the beach and when you have been in the car for 4 hours with a kid and a dog 20 miles extra is not worth it.

Since we do beach trips only 2 to 3 times a year it's always hit and miss as far as beach conditions/weather goes. This trip I was a little concerned that  Hurricane Isaac would have the beach full of seaweed and the water conditions too rough. Matter of fact, there were advisories on my weather channel app that warned of rip currents, and rough conditions.
Turns out, once we got down to the beach it was in the best condition I had ever seen it. The waves were perfect, there was little to no seaweed and the water was so clear you could see to the bottom at several feet. It also had an almost green tint to it.....rare for Texas beaches. It was so perfect that I was out there splashing around in it myself, rather than my usual position of standing on the edge scanning for jelly fish and other unknown creatures floating around.

Before we left on our trip I had everything worked out in my mind how things were going to flow and by golly they actually flowed the way I wanted them to. Did I say yet this was a PERFECT mini vacation???

The Mariner Inn where we stayed was conveniently located right across the street from the Nature Preserve which was great because it would give me a place to walk Bo....or so I thought until I saw the sign that said "No Pets Allowed".  It turned out okay though because right behind the Inn was a little quaint beach condo neighborhood where I ended up walking him.  As I walked him I really loved looking at all the beach houses so cute, colorful and beachy looking. I even pulled out a sales flyer out of the front of one of them just to get an idea of what they were going for nestled right there on the beach...$300, can still dream anyway. :-)

I was still itching to take a walk into the Nature Preserve across the street and since I couldn't take Bo Summer volunteered to go with me for an evening walk.
We had fun balancing the pier, pointing out different wildlife and vegetation, taking pictures, and racing back to the room before the sun set.


The next day we were beach bound, but first I wanted to check out the Leonabell Turnbull Birding Center that was close by. We got lucky and walked into a group of bird observers. It was a great learning experience for all of us and I was glad that the bird folks took on Summer as one of their "students".

After our bird adventure we ate lunch then moved on to the beach.  We were lucky to find a pet friendly Inn only about a mile from the beach so we could easily bring Bo back to the room once we had enough of him. Bo has tendency to chase shore birds and get diarrhea when he swims.  He can become a real pain in the ass early on so it was nice for me to be able to run him back to the room when we got tired of dealing with his over zealous personality.

In between beach trips and birding we played ping pong and pool in the game room of the Inn and did some souvenir shopping at the local souvenir shops. Summer got pretty good at ping pong but, like her mom, pool isn't her game.

We had so much fun on the beach that we decided to go once more on our way back home. The water was just as perfect but was much calmer...much to Summer's dismay. She was really enjoying surfing those waves on her boogie board the day before. She didn't let it stop her from riding the little waves though. The kid should have scales and gills. Every time we go to the coast she comes home wanting to move to the beach. The little secret around here is that if and when we ever move closer to the coast it will be Florida...NOT the Texas coastline...


Out of all my years living near the coast, I have never seen a "live" sandollar nor have I ever seen any shells like these two below...

Bo says "There's not enough shade around here."
Yes, always a wonderful memory in my mind will be our trip to.....