Sunday, April 21, 2024

Birding on Grand Isle, Walking around the State Park

As always, we left Grand Isle on a happy note. It’s such a wonderful place and Connie and Gary are the best! Gary took me fishing to his secret place and I caught a sixteen-inch trout. He also took me out in his boat and after I set a record for small hardheads he finally found the spot and we caught three keeper trout and a bull red, (which of course was released unharmed as it was 36 inches).
We also took pictures of the destroyed Observation Tower and Fishing pier.
Dolphins feed in the surf, and as usual there were plenty of todaloo, which is a hermit crab.
They all posed menacingly shwoing their claws.
Our luck was against us and we didn’t see any, but we did see a flock of elegant terns. Renita also got a picture of a Summer Tanager, and a local birder told us of a tree called the Toothache tree.
Its leaves deaden your mouth, just don’t put in the whole leaf! Connie told us that a bird fallout happened right after we left. Clear skies

Monday, April 15, 2024

Magnificent Frigate Bird, A Grand isle Stormbird

In the twenty years that we have been visiting Grand Isle, Louisiana, we have sometimes seen the appearance of a bird the locals call a storm/rain bird. Whenever it appears you had better batten down the hatches as a strong cold front is approaching.
Five days ago, five of the birds appeared over the pond across from the Blue House. They wheeled and soared and even looked down to see if there was food they could steal from a seagull.
The birds almost never land, (if they come down in the water their feathers are not waterproof and they drown), as they have a very difficult time taking off. They feed by stealing food from birds that have caught the fish on the ocean’s surface.
Sure enough, the Frigates foreshadowed the flooding, tornadoes, lighting, and strong winds. Clear skies

Friday, April 12, 2024

Bettys RV and arrival at Grand Isle

We left High Island and our next stop was at Bettys Rv in Abbeville, Louisiana. If you are a fulltime rver, and have never stopped at Betty’s. well you have missed it. She is immersed in Cajun Culture and knows about everything and everyone. She can direct you to whatever is happening nearby and even invites in bands to perform at her happy hours.
Now Betty had called us and invited us to stop by. We are no longer full-timers but she told us that she would like to see us and even show a sample of our jewelry. Arriving at the same time as a local band was setting up, we were even greeted by several people that remembered us from our last visit, (it had been at least seven years ago). The band started and the Happy Hour got happier as many of the guests started doing shots, (we don’t’). As the happiness flowed the band loosened up and started to forget the words to several of the songs. At one point the daughter of one of the band members told everyone that, “No more shots were wanted”, and the band settled down. My favorite song was “Hey Mama and Papa no one wants to dance with me”. It was sung in Creole/Cajun and even though I did not understand many of the words it a was beautiful rendition.
Later we said good by to Betty as we were next headed to Grand Isle, Louisiana. We try to time it right, and sometimes we are lucky enough for a fallout. Apparently, a wave of warblers had been there but had left and so we waited for the next cold front.
Connie and Gary took us to the Iris Trail, the Iris are in bloom, and we noticed that the Blackberries were ripening and that the mulberry trees were full of berries. If a fallout did occur, the birds would have plenty to eat!
The front finally passed and today the wind has shifted to the Northwest. If any flocks of birds are flying across the Gulf of Mexico, they will be exhausted from fighting the headwind, and drop out on the Grand Isle, the first land they see. Maybe tonight or tomorrow morning. Clear skies

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

High Island, April 4th, 2024

We begin our spring migration with a drive along the coast to a small town named High Island. It sits on a salt dome which formed an oil trap. The place besides the oil wells, is a birders paradise. The Houston Audubon Society has done an incredible job in maintaining the area and in constructing trails, blinds, benches, and platforms.
Arriving at the Boy Scout Woods we learned that only a few warblers were present. A black and white warbler had been spotted but we never saw it. Ever hopeful we walked the trails and watched the drips, but to no avail. I started to take pictures of flowers and a moth which speaks to the birding opportunities,,,
From there we decided to head to the Smiths Oaks and Rookery. Luckily the Rookery was full of nesting snowy egrets and roseate spoonbills. The platforms are so close to a small island that the yoi have an unfettered view of the birds behaviors. As you watch, the birds are fighting, repairing nests, posing and calling. It’s a constant din and I am always reminded that I am watching the descendants of dinosaurs.
The place takes me back to the Mesozoic and I imagined a large vocal herd of nesting dinosaurs. Instead of dinosaurs the egrets, rosettes, cormorants, and anhinguas are the star attractions. I concentrated on taking pictures of the bright pink and white rosettes and the displaying egrets. The egrets were nesting an several stood up to stretch and turn their eggs, The egrets eggs are a blue color similar to the blue color of Sleeping Beauty Turquoise.. We did spend several hours looking for a night hawk named a chuck-wills-widow but to no avail it’s a mix of brown and white feathers that gives it near perfect camouflage on the live oak trees.
After lunch we decided to drive to the Anahouc Wildlife Refuge. The word was the name given to Mexico by the Aztecs and the town nearby bills itself as the alligator capital of Texas. We did spot ten alligators, (we were told there were eighty-nine), in a small lake. Spotting a hwak like bird with pointed wings we realized it was a new bird for our life list. It was a Mississippi Kite. I could not stop the car and get a photo of the bird but it was unmistakable. We walked several of the boardwalks and drove most of the roads. It was a nice break abd way to end te day after the the High Island area. Clear skies

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Migration Time

Most of the whooping cranes have left for their northern homes and its time for us to leave for our summer places. Yesterday seventeen of our friends headed north and so we set up our lawn chairs and for a joke made a sign saying money/candy?
One of our friends Maureen stopped and handed out peppermint candies and Shelly and Kenny threw out a dollar.
It was all meant in good jest and we all look forward to meeting all of them next winter, somewhere on the Coastal bend.
Being full-timer rvers, we don’t say goodbye but instead prefer saying safe travels or our personal favorite, we will see you down the road. And of course, Clear skies

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Preparing and Preserving a Columbia Mammoth Skull Fragment

The time to buy something is when you first spot it. Not the best approach but someone else will probably want it. At the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral show, three of the twenty-seven dealers were retiring and selling off their fossils and cabochons. It was pointed out that one dealer had a fragment of a Columbian Mammoth Skull, that had been found in a Texas streambank, (I also bought two dinosaur eggshell fragments from the same booth). At half off I just had to buy it! It is the only piece I have ever seen for sale. The fossil is at least 13000 years old, which is the time when the last Columbian mammoths died off, (or slaughtered by early humans).
As we are getting ready to migrate north, I decided to clean and preserve the delicate skull parts. Luckily, I have dental tools, paint brushes, and foam brushes in my jewelry making work box and so I began to slowly remove the sand grains, rock pebbles, and bone fragments, keeping all of the loose material for a future display.
It took about ten hours to remove the loose material, (regolith), and as I cleaned each area, I applied two layers of Mod Podge. It’s similar to Elmers glue, which is often used after diluting with water, to preserve delicate fragmented bones.
Some small bone fragments came free, and one large piece, which I was able to reattach to the skull. When I finished the cleaning, I applied another two coats of craft glue. I am happy with the results! Now if I can just find more!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Blue Lagoons Round Robin Pickleball Tournament

It’s been a great winter and we have had 26 people who have played pickleball on our court! Most of the players were just learning to play and so Renita and I volunteered to teach the fundamentals. Our first and most important rule was, “It’s just a ball don’t fall! Several ignored this rule but luckily we have not had any long lasting
injuries or trips to the emergency room. As our winter friends are starting to leave, we decided to hold two round robin skill level tournaments. Most of our players are now capable of playing others with a skill level of 3.0. Four of us have played for years and so we held a separate round robin. The day arrived and the weather cooperated. The order of play was decided by the order in which they had signed up. We had six who felt comfortable playing and we started our first, round robin with a rules meeting. Barb volunteered to judge the games. Her task was to keep and say the score, call any side outs, and to watch for foot faults in the kitchen and over the baseline.
Renita also kept track of the book recording the scores and I determined the order of rotation for the players. Everyone loved the positive atmosphere and we had quite a few people show up to cheer their favorite players. We encouraged the spectators to be quiet during the play and to only cheer for positive points! The players changed sides when one side reached five points and we played each game to nine. Of course you had to win by two. After each game the sides rotated so each player was able to partner with everyone else. Both players on the winning side scored a point and the tournament was decided by who had the most wins. At the end the players with four wins were Laurie and Del. Third, fourth, and fifth place were lee, Patty, and Maureen. All played well!
Prizes were donated by our friends Zita and Alan and by Mark and Renita. We also purchased brand new balls for the games. The top two winners received a new pickleball paddle and the next three had their pick of new grip tape and wrist bands. All the players also received a pickleball.
As you can see our players were all smiling and can’t wait to get back home to continue their learning against other similar ranked players. Two days later the weather held and we were able to play our 3.5 round robin. The format was the same for the 3.5 round robin. As there were only four players it only took us six games to decide the winner. I took first, Barb, second and Dan third. Renita was the anchor, she had some bad breaks during play. It was fun and challenging to play against better players and we held nothing back. Finally a thanks to Blue lagoons for building the court and to Gordo and Babs who bought the nets. Clear skies and of course game on!

Thursday, March 7, 2024

The Sixty-First Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society Show

Each year we only sell at six shows. One of the biggest is the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Societies, (GCJMS), annual gem and mineral show. This year the show was held at the usual site, the Fair Grounds, in Robstown Texas. This year twenty-seven dealers showed their fossil, mineral, rock, and gemstone creations. It so nice to see so many of our friends in the Society and to reconnect with other dealers. Last year the show’s attendance had dropped a little and so we were concerned about the numbers that walked through the door. We should not have worried!
Both Saturday and Sunday’s sessions were well attended. We make virtually everything we sell. Each summer I saw grind and polish the cabochons and in the winter months I wire wrap the pendants and bracelets. Often, we compete with booths in which the dealers don’t make any of their wares, (resellers). One of our friends, Cecil knaps and makes arrowhead, knifes and other Native American artifacts. His work is exceptional!
Our niche is that because I am a geologist, we aren’t just selling jewelry, but we are telling the story of almost every one of the stones. We even prospect some of the materials! One of my favorite stories involves a rattlesnake that Renita encountered while hunting Sweet Water Moss Agates. That time she spotted the snake and told me to get a good picture of it. The prairie rattler had just shed and was a beautiful greenish color! As I neared the snake it rattled and reared up. After taking a couple of pics she yelled at me to get closer, and I always do what she says. Happy wife happy life! I could fill the blog with stories but back to the show.
My cousin Angie and her husband Pete traveled down to the show and helped us both days. Pam and Roy, Renita’s sister and her husband also attended and helped us on Saturday. Thanks to them and all the GCGMS members who worked at the show! It was a good two-day show, and it met our expectations. Not only do we sell but we also buy supplies and fossils for our own collection. This year several dealers were retiring so we purchased larimar, red tiger eye, dinosaur eggs shell fragments. We also bought a large fragment of a woolly mammoth skull for our private collection. Now we are preparing for the summer shows in Wyoming. Maybe we will see some of you down the road, (full time rvers never say goodbye). Clear skies

Friday, February 23, 2024

Valentines Day Feast 2024, Thanks Zita and Alan

For the past nine years we have had a feast on Valentines Day. Our activities coordinators Zita and Alan have prepared sumptuous feasts of prime rib and Cornish hens, smoked to perfection! Thie year was perhaps the best yet!
They prepare the meal after careful planning and everyone in the park is invited. Tickets are sold ahead of time to make sure that everyone gets their choice, and the Recreation Hall is always sold out! This year sixty-eight people attended.
Upon entering the door, we were first greeted by our friends Barb and Dan who took great photos of each couple. Dan is an excellent photographer and Barb makes sure all the couples are smiling and sitting in the right spot.
The festivities were started with a prayer and then the tables are called starting with the back row, it alternates each year. This year they first served the small number who requested Cornish Hens and then the rest who chose prime rib. After getting our main dish we next proceeded to the salad table where we had the choice of shrimp cocktails or a lettuce salad. Renita couldn’t eat all of her Cornish and I barely managed to eat my huge slice of outstanding prime rib.
Zita had also prepared a special dessert to sweeten the finish of the meal! Our friend Jane, a master florist arranged the flowers on each table, which we were able to take back to our rv! The decorations were done by volunteers the morning of the party. Sadly, this is the last year Zita and Alan will serve as activities directors. There will never be any better! They are not returning to the park as they have purchased a home and are leaving the full-time rv lifestyle. Words cannot express our gratitude. Clear skies and safe travels! Mark and Renita

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A 2024 Oyster Feed at Blue Lagoons Rv Park

Not everyone likes oysters, so our 2024 oyster party only had fifty-four people sign up for the event. Usually, the party is just for our happy hour group, currently about 28, but this year Zita and Alan bought oysters for everyone.
The first task was to line up enough cleaners and shuckers. We had six. A couple of them had never shucked before, but they quickly caught on! Two people washed the oysters while the shuckers worked carefully! No one was cut as the oysters were opened! Alan and Zity had bought a full sack, which is about 2-300 oysters. Alan estimated that we would split the oysters into two presentations, raw oysters on a half shell and Oysters Rockefeller. I volunteered to cook them. Now the plan was to make two for each person which meant that I would need to make one and cook one hundred and eight! Luckily three sou chefs volunteered to help me.
I was using a new recipe from Allrecipes. It was pretty simply, sauté onions, spinach, and garlic in olive oil and then add spices, three cheeses, ( I used parmesan, feta, and pepper jack). Finally add milk. Then after laying out the oyster in a pan lined with parchment paper and coarse salt fill each tray with rows of raw oysters, (the salt is used to keep the oysters level).
I cooked the filling in a large pan and then transferred the mix to a big bowl where Renita, Laura, and Maureen filled each one with the mixture, (solution, I was a former chemistry teacher). Finally, they were topped with panko bread crumbs. Then I placed each tray in an oven preheated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. The final step was to move the trays every four minutes, (top to bottom of oven), eight minutes total, and then to take them out for serving! My assistants performed superbly, and the oysters turned out great! Thanks to Alan and Zita for the oysters and to my great three volunteers. I could never have prepared them by myself! Thanks for the help!
Bon Appetit and of course clear skies. Ps The Oysters Rockefeller were well received! I will most definitely use this recipe again!