Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015 in review.

By the time you read this, as usual for me, Christmas will be past and we’ll be settling in to a new year.

Wow, the time has flown by this year. As I review this letter I can see why – it’s been a busy year!
I haven’t been able to keep up with posting on our blog, so this letter will have to encompass the year’s activities. I did manage to post about a few of our outings, so there's some duplication here, but as this blog serves as a sort of family diary I wanted to be sure we covered everything. I’ll try to be better in 2016!

In March our “Lady Duck” friends from Oregon visited for a week. I usually fly to Oregon to visit them, but this year they all came here to the house for a few days and we rented a house in quaint little Wimberley for part of the week.

Steve cooked several of his world famous BBQ dishes for us, and we toured around the area seeing “must see” sites like the Alamo and the Riverwalk in San Antonio. It was a great visit, and we didn’t know it but the town of Wimberley was soon to come into notoriety in national news.

My sisters visited in April, and though it was overcast and cool much of the time we still had a few good wildflower viewing days. We took a drive over to the little town of Wimberley to take advantage of the nature trails and quaint shops.

Wimberlley's Blue Pool City Park is absolutely beautiful, and Kendra and the boys met us there for the day so she could visit with the ladies. She hadn’t seen these friends since the last time she attended a football game in Oregon so it was a nice opportunity to catch up.

If you ever travel through the Austin area, Wimberley is certainly worthwhile as a side trip. There are little shops, great restaurants, and the Blue Hole swimming area is so beautiful it's hard to describe. This is a special park area set aside on Cypress Creed and managed by the city.
The "pool" is only open for swimming in the warm season, but you can hike the trails, have a picnic, photograph the trees along beautiful Cypress creek, or whatever you want during the rest of the year.

In May we again participated in the local AMVET Post chili cook-off. It’s always fun to share food and recipes with the other participants. Steve and Skot were in charge of the chili, and I cooked a Texas favorite "camp bread" to go along with it.

The event featured the ceremony at which Kendra was installed as Post Commander. She’s got her hands full now, with the post work and managing the two little boys.

In what is now known as the Memorial Day flood much of Wimberley was severely damaged, including the little house we had rented for the ladies’ visit. The waters rose to within 4 inches of the ceiling, according to the owner. The flood spared Cypress creek and most of the downtown shops. Those areas however, were hit hard in another flood in the fall..

The damage was evident in many towns along the Blanco River, but it was heartwarming to see the communities all come together to support those who were affected by the flood waters. Even now, in January, there are piles of uprooted trees and other evidence of water damage lining the roadsides in some areas. Cleanup after a flood like that takes a long time, long after the topic has fallen out of favor with news reporters.

In early June, we left on our summer travels. As usual our first destination was Nevada for the annual 4th of July reunion. Skot, Kendra and the boys flew in to join us, so we celebrated Raylan’s first birthday with all our long-time friends.

The trip included not only the birthday, but his first trip on an airplane, first dip in a swimming pool, first ride on a train (at the train museum in Carson City) and his first ice cream bar. He wasn’t sure he liked it at first, then buried in his face in it!

Even though we’ve all given up our U of O football season tickets we still attend the annual Duck training camp, in late July. The gathering has been a tradition for over 12 years now. We spent 3 days in the Ochoco Mountains, eating, relaxing, discussing football, playing with our dogs and catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for a year. Great times!

After training camp our summer took and unusual turn. . . unusual for us anyway. Following camp we drove back to Nevada to park the trailer and situate Shiner with our friends who had agreed to take care of her for the duration of our cruise to Alaska.

My sister had invited us on the cruise and who could resist! We enjoyed the 10 day cruise, including the shore excursions. We rode trains, toured the pipeline, panned for gold, and visited cultural centers and glaciers. It’s hard to absorb it all as it was a very busy time!

The 4 days following the cruise were spent by car, exploring a few out-of-the way areas that weren’t included in the cruise itinerary. We spent one night at the Gakona Lodge and Trading Post (the oldest operating roadhouse in Alaska) another in a beautiful bed and breakfast on Lake Lucille (near Wasilla), and one at a new lodge near Delta Junction. Everyone we met was so gracious, and the scenery so beautiful. It was really a wonderful experience. I am assembling a few of the hundreds of photos we took into an album, with captions! so I'll like to that here when I get it done.

After the cruise we flew back to Nevada to pick up Shiner and the RV and then headed to southern California to see Steve’s mom. That leg of the trip was cut short as we had to make a hurried trip home to help Kendra with the kids. A back injury she had experienced last winter had flared up, and she really needed some support.

October is Halloween of course. Jaxen was a fireman this year, and his faithful Dalmatian, Raylan went along for the trick-or-treating.

Also in October our friends the Finchs visited us for several days on their way to their family reunion in east Texas. We had planned to go with them, but the flooding prevented it. What has come to be known as the Halloween flood was a terrible blow to people in Wimberly, as well as our town here, and several other communities that were still recovering from the flooding in late May. The power of Nature is often hard to comprehend. As we drive our normal routes we still can see the many huge trees that were carried down-river and snagged on cliffs and bridges far above the normal river level. It’s hard to wrap your head around how much water was moving, how fast it was moving, and how the river could change the landscape so quickly.

Another friend stopped by while the Finchs were here. . . a coworker from the old days, and our RV pad in the back accommodated both rigs, so we had a mini reunion. It felt like we were camping! By then most of the rain had run off and you'd never know such horrific flooding had happened just a few days before. Living on the top of a hill is a good thing.

A trip to Black's BBQ for some good Texas food finished off the visit perfectly.

November 10 Steve’s mother, Daphna, arrived for a month-long visit. That same day Kendra had spinal surgery for the back problem she’d been dealing with all year.

Limitations on the amount of weight she can lift for the next several months have meant that Skot has had to take several days a week off of work, and we alternate that with my spending several days a week over at their house. Her lifting limit at the moment is 10 pounds, and both her strapping little boys weigh far more than that! She’s healing nicely though, and things should be back to “normal” by summer.

Steve’s mom was here with us for Thanksgiving, and for Jax’s 4th birthday in early December. She’s back home in Seal Beach now, and doing very well for her 87 years!

We still very much enjoy our property. We spend almost every afternoon on the porch, watching the foxes, roadrunners, cardinals and other birds that visit us. We make a considerable investment in bird food on a monthly basis, so they’ve all learned where to come for a hand-out!
I still spend a lot of time quilting, and filling those bird feeders!

Steve is always making improvements to our RV set up (his solar set up has been a great boon to our camping experiences), refining the rainwater capture system here at the house, clearing brush, fixing things that break! maintaining all our vehicles, and planning the next trip. We never have trouble finding things to do!