Drinking and Dolphins, Not at the Same Time

I didn’t write anything yesterday, because I mostly took the day off, reading, napping, and watching movies (Bullet Train was hilarious). Now, though, I’ll share the fun Lee and I had on his last weekend here at Hilton Head.

Full moon (not Chinese balloon) from the hot tub.

Yesterday we had all sorts of plans, but while it was sunny it was way too windy and cold to go on another hike or on a dolphin cruise. We had planned to go visit Mitchellville, which was the first self-governed settlement of emancipated enslaved people, but when we got there, we realized so was everyone else on the island, due to a big Black History Month event. Lee is not a fan of crowds, so we let the celebrants celebrate.

Heron is also a hermit.

So, we did an indoor activity, which was visit Hilton Head distillery, a place I like very much. Lee had never been there, and I think he enjoyed seeing their stills and learning how they make their spirits. I enjoyed it for the second time, and had a good time with the tastings and all that. The tour guide, who also works there making spirits, did tell a lot about the Gullah people’s history and their importance on the island, so I got a little of the history stuff I’d been looking for, anyway!

I do wish I’d had the foresight to eat more than a fig bar before we got there. I ended up rather tipsy, though I managed to enjoy a nice meal at the Sea Shack, which is a real favorite down-home place with great food. However, when we got back to the condo, I fell asleep for quite some time, so no more activities other than quiet ones. I sure felt silly!

Today it was a lot warmer, and the threatened rain was off the coast, so we booked a dolphin tour. First, we went for brunch at a place called Skillets, which serves food in…skillets. How about that? My meal was interesting fried or baked “grit cakes” topped with spinach, shrimp, poached eggs, and a benedict sauce. It came with very crispy/tender rosemary potatoes. That was extra delicious and fueled me up for the day’s activities, like I wish I’d done yesterday.

I had already eaten one grit cake before I thought to take a picture.

Then we went off to the docks for our ride out into the local waters. I used the same company I did when Anita and I went a few years ago. It’s a smaller company with smaller boats and longer rides. There was just one other couple on the tour.

Not a fancy boat, but quick

We enjoyed ourselves immensely. I got to see lots of interesting birds, though most of them were too far away to photograph well. There were terns, gulls, cormorants, anhingas, cried, and lots of cute bufflehead ducks. I also saw an osprey on patrol and a bald eagle in its giant nest. Of course, there were also various herons and sandpipers. It was really pretty out on the barrier islands and in the inlets.

I figured we’d see a couple of dolphins out in the distance, and that would be it, but we lucked out and saw quite a few. The best time was when the guide saw a pod he knew and we followed them in a quiet inlet. There were six of them, and he had names for them all, based on their distinguishing characteristics, like fin shape and scars. At one point, the guide turned the boat engine off and we could hear the dolphins breathing and splashing, very close to us. It was so nice to see them in their habitat, not in some show.

I don’t think the other couple had as much fun as we did, especially the woman, who seemed pretty pouty. I think she was expecting a grander vessel. The boat was not at all grand, which was fine with us. The exciting part of the trip came when we were going back at a good clip and suddenly hit a sand bar. Pouty Girl had been sort of lounging on the bow of the little boat and was thrown forward. This displeased her greatly. She whimpered at her spouse the rest of the way back and jumped off the boat as soon as we landed. We all laughed, which wasn’t very nice, I guess.

After driving through some historic old neighborhoods and getting some shoes at the outlet mall (Lee volunteered for this), we’re settling in and watching the sunset as I get ready to cook Lee a nice going away dinner. I regret to say that the Baltimore oriole I saw at the mall flew away when I tried to get its picture, which was the only downer of the day. However, I did SEE it!

We will see what I come up with to do on foot when he is gone!

Now I’m Happy, Thanks to Pinkney Island

I finally got to go on a hike. It rained all morning, but at some point in the afternoon it cleared up. Hooray, hooray. Off we went to a big ole nature preserve called Pinkney Island National Wildlife Refuge. I hadn’t gotten to go there before, so I was pretty excited. There’s nothing I like better than a swampy and damp woodland and marsh combo. Ooh boy. Nature and all its smells and colors. This place looks like my dreams.

My idea of fun

This beautiful place is a breeding spot for marsh birds, and we did get to enjoy seeing lots of birds at the Ibis pond, including, of all things, some white ibis! There were many fun birds swimming around there, including our friends the great heron and great white egret. There were also snowy egrets, gallinules, and coots, which were all fun to watch. And all the sounds were like being in a jungle movie. We loved it.

After that, Lee rested while I kept walking down a long path where I was completely alone with the woods. Suna Heaven. I saw so many beautiful trees, including some huge oaks, pines, and the biggest sweetgum tree I’ve ever seen. It was tree world, full of fungus, lichen, decay, and dank dampness. Ah.

There were also at least two armadillos that just totally ignored me as they busily rooted in the leaves, a lot of annoyed squirrels, and a flock of American robins. There was also a precious ruby-crowned kinglet we watched take a bath in a puddle, but I enjoyed it too much to get a picture. It was glorious! I was so happy.

But I did have to come back and find my husband, after walking nearly five miles. Even my fancy shoes were beginning to let my feet hurt, anyway.

Found him!

I enjoy walking with Lee, because I’m free to stop and take lots of pictures while he takes his time. It works for us. I took a lot of pictures of the marsh, the shore, the trees ranging from tiny to immense, and all the life that feels safe on an uninhabited island. Well, unless there’s a hurricane or anything.

We topped the trip off with a meal at an overly fancy restaurant (Nunzio’s, for Rae who wants restaurant recommendations) where you have to have reservations even at 5 pm and most of the cars in the lot were Porsches and Mercedes. Still, the halibut was perfect, and the tomato salad had the ripest, tastiest tomatoes I’ve had in ages.

I just need one day like this per vacation, so I guess I can sit around the rest of the time I’m in South Carolina. Ha ha.

Fogged in, Mostly

It’s not like me to go on one of my trips and not post daily nature images. But, well, it’s not been overly nature-ful the last few days, AND I had a big workload. However, I’m incredibly glad I’m in South Carolina, because there has been the worst ice storm anyone can remember back in Milam County. My Facebook feed has been a constant stream of photos of fallen trees, downed limbs, dangerous attack icicles, and badly damaged buildings. Friends reported that it sounded like being in a war zone with all the cracking and crashing. It’s sad, sad, sad. I may not recognize the town when I get back.

I hope all the woodland creatures are safe!

The Hermits’ Rest is okay, just very muddy, from what I’m told. All the animals are fed and warm, though I know they’ll be happy to have some warmer weather. Anyway…

Will it get damp enough for ferns to start growing out of the buildings at home?

Here, it’s just been foggy. It’s been really foggy! We woke up yesterday and it looked like someone had put white paper over the windows. We often can’t see the edge of the ocean, and there’s no horizon whatsoever.

Sometimes the fog looked sorta artsy

Now, it’s not been all bad. I’ve enjoyed some nice beach walks, sunsets, and the usual birds. The water last night turned a color I’d never seen before, a steely purple. One of my old friends called it steel bluewinkle.

Wow, blew my mind.

Yesterday, when the sun finally came out, Lee and I had a late lunch at my favorite restaurant here, Hudson’s. It’s a really cool place with such fresh seafood – they have their own boats and everything. They also catch their own oysters. I just had to have some of the cluster oysters that Anita and I enjoyed last time I was on Hiton Head.

A few oysters. I didn’t waste any time on those crackers.

Lee’s food looked just fine, but I was in heaven. I ate every single oyster, from the little bitty ones to the giant and juicy ones. It made the fact that I had to go back and work until 9 pm much more bearable.

Today I did some of my work in the business area at the main building, because the dining chairs here are not comfortable for long stretches. It was so comfy and quiet! I got lots done!

Nice view to work with.

Once I got to a stopping place, we went to a town I’m fond of, just over the bridge, Bluffton. It’s where I got some art that I love last time I was down here (I still follow the artist, Kelley Luikey at Naturemuseimagery.com), so I was happy to go back to the art galleries there again. We also visited a recently restored house that had been owned by a formerly enslaved man who did well for himself. The house is in such a beautiful spot, and the information on the signs told all about how people lived during his life. The house was right next to a working oyster company with a genuine oyster boat. I just have to say this little town is beautiful.

We ate a quick lunch at a sub shop that Lee enjoyed way more than our fancy meals. Actually I had fun, too, because the workers were hilarious. They kidded each other and laughed the whole time we were there. It’s nice to see people enjoy what they are doing. (I enjoyed taking all these beachy pictures.)

Speaking of work, there was more of that when I got home. It’s been kind of fun taking a couple of hours to be a tourist in the middle of the day, then working a bit later than usual. My favorite part is when I rest my eyes to look out on the balcony. Just at sunset, I saw something moving in the little wooded area to the left of our balcony. It was a large buck white-tailed deer. He was way bigger than the ones at home, with a fresh set of fuzzy antlers. He slowly lowered himself to the ground and took a rest. He was nicely surrounded by brush, so he must have felt safe and cozy. That makes it worth dealing with all the fog.

Book Report: Byrne Your Bridges

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oh look, a book report! Since it’s been foggy for two days, I’ve been reading books on my beach trip. The first one is Byrne Your Bridges, by my friend, Liza Cameron Wasser, who lives in Germany. That explains the .de extension on her website, which is where you can buy this book if you would also like to read it.

Liza’s been writing ever since I’ve known her (which is since my children, who are well into adulthood, were small; we met on an email list for feminist mothers who were at home with their children, which is still going strong through all our lives’ ups and downs). I’m very happy Liza took the plunge and sent her first novel in the Byrne Sisters Mysteries series out into the world!

There’s lots to love in this book. Liza is really good with character development and dialogue. There are some funny lines you’ll enjoy, which sure sound like Liza’s clever sense of humor. You’ll get to be fond of the two sisters who are the “detectives” in the series. You will also get hungry while reading it, because nearly every scene includes cooking or eating something prepared by vegetarian chef Maggie.

There’s also an incredible amount of coffee preparation and drinking. One of my minor issues with Byrne Your Bridges is that people drink so much coffee late in the day that I wonder how they EVER get any sleep. Of course, though, Liza slips in ways to flavor your coffee with spices. Tricky. I do think they could have switched to herbal tea or something in the evenings!

The mystery part of the book was enjoyable, and if you’re a fan of mysteries, I predict you’ll want to read this and grab the future installments as well. All the characters are fun, too.

Bonus! At the end of the book, you will be happy to find the recipes for all the things Maggie Byrne cooks during the process of solving the mystery. And I assure you, Liza is a great cook and a fine recipe writer (that’s as much of an art as writing novels).

Editorial Notes

You know, I’m an editor. That’s one reason I don’t usually read things written by my friends and family. Little things irritate me. I’m happy to say that, other than all the coffee, there wasn’t much to complain about in this novel, even for me! Here are a few notes, more to show how I think than to criticize the book.

  • There is a distinct lack of typos. Liza had lots of pre-readers and it shows. There were no distracting issues with this one. Kudos!
  • I found one distinctive phrase that repeated. All writers have pet phrases that they like to use (me included, as any reader will agree). In this book, people shrug off their coats twice. Shrugging off is a cool phrase, but it’s so distinctive that I noticed it appearing twice. Maybe the second time, the person can shake it off, slide out of it, hang it on a chair…I don’t know, I’m NOT a novelist.
  • I noticed that the characters seem to all have magical ways of obtaining money that lets them live lives of leisure. Maggie got a ton of money in her divorce, the lady across the street can afford someone to care for her household so all the has to do is play with her kids (wish I’d had that), etc. The ones who do work have inherited money or businesses or something. The book needs more poor people (OK, the dead person was deep in debt, though). Maybe that’s just how it is on the east coast.
  • The writing is exactly what I like. There are occasional clever turns of phrase, but there isn’t so much descriptive exposition that I get bored, and there aren’t zillions of distracting details. I do like writing that just tells you enough to keep you interested.

I encourage you to get this book, which is reasonably priced and lots of fun. It’s digital only, but since most people seem to read on their computers, e-readers, or tablets, this should not be a problem. I’m staring at screens so much during the day that I enjoy reading physical books and magazines, but I think I’m a minority.

Birders Are Great, So Are Birds

Today it was certainly warmer here in Hilton Head than it was back at the Hermits’ Rest. Please be thinking of my friends, family, and animals tonight. I never like it when there’s a winter storm warning, but I know the animals are all protected!

Stormy weather approaches.

I enjoyed looking at large groups of ducks out in the ocean, which to me looked like hooded mergansers. They were so far out, though, that I couldn’t quite tell what they were. It was frustrating, but they and the dolphins were fun to watch. More on the ducks later.

My best photo of the ducks. What quality!

After work, Lee and I went to what passes for a town center here, and I got a couple of hats, including one that makes me look a lot like I live on Gilligan’s island. But the pink lining is oh-so-flattering.

We had an early supper at our favorite Greek restaurant, It’s Greek to Me. I had absolutely fantastic Mediterranean style cod and Lee had lamb, which he didn’t like at first, but warmed up to. I sure like the quality of food at this place!

When we got back, I headed out for a sunset beach walk, which is my favorite activity here. It was cloudy, but there was a beautiful pink and pale blue light that turned the water the color usually called seafoam green.

I even found some actual seafoam, and interesting patterns of what appears to be pollen deposited at the highest point of the tide. Elm trees are already in bloom here, so my guess is they have something to do with the formations.

I enjoyed watching seagulls at the water’s edge. They would go to the wettest part of the sand and stomp their little feet, stirring up whatever little creatures they wanted to eat. I eventually took a little movie of them. Even lowly seagulls can be fun to watch!

Dance of the Gulls

On my way back I kept stopping to look at the ducks. I saw a man with a big camera up by the dunes. Eventually he walked over and asked me if I thought those were hooded mergansers. I said I saw white on them and they had what appeared to be large heads.

The man then shared with me that they are often spotted here in big groups (rafts), but that there are other birds that they could be. He asked what else I saw, which was great, because he said that the osprey I saw is “the” osprey of this beach, and that the yellow-rumped warblers are everywhere right now, so it’s no wonder I kept seeing them.

Soon a young-ish woman (younger than the man and me) came up and asked about the ducks. We embarked on a wonderful conversation about what birds we’d seen, what apps we use, and what we’d like to see here (the man lives here, lucky dude). The woman suggested the birds might be scaups (there are two kinds here). At last, the man picked up the fancy camera and took a few pictures, after which his battery died, but not before we got to see an image. They were scaups! The white I saw was the body of these lovely water birds, which do have large heads. I should have guessed the birds were scaups, because I could tell they sit lower in the water than ducks.

photo by taarnersuaq on iNaturalist. The top bird is not a scaup. It’s a coot. A cute coot.

Just as we finished talking about terns and I was about to leave, a large bird swooped by right above the water. I said, whoa, that thing could be a skimmer! The man said it was! Lucky for us, it came back, and I got to see this fascinating bird up close. They are relatives of gulls that feed by flying barely above the water with their mouths open and the bottom jaw in the water. I got a great view of it, then got a not-so-great photo next time it considerately passed.

You can almost see its mouth.
Charles J. Sharp took this picture on Wikipedia. What a cool bird!

Wow. That’s enough birding for one day! I just enjoyed the heck out of all the birds I saw and felt so lucky to run into such generous fellow birders. I love how much information bird lovers share with each other. They are the kind of people who restore my faith in humanity.

Rainy Day and Condo Stuff

Today was a bit rainy and cloudy, but I am not complaining, since the weather looks much worse at home.

In the morning, the clouds were rolling in.

It was a really good bird watching day, though, since I have a balcony and binoculars. The coolest birds I saw were ducks. I’m pretty sure they were hooded mergansers, which do occasionally hang out in the ocean, according to Merlin Bird ID. I watched groups of 5-10 swimming fast and diving hard. There were also cormorants in the mix. The most fun I had, though, was watching a poor pelican who simply could not get rid of a gull that kept following it. They flew together, dove together, swam together and never separated.

I’ll say, though, that seeing dolphins right out the window is always a highlight of my day. I always feel my heart skip a beat when I spot them.

And I did my nails in Valentine colors. Whee.

The lowlight, as is the case with all the condo visits, is the sales pitch we inevitably have to attend unless Lee isn’t with me. They always have something new to sell you. We weren’t interested, so we played good cop/bad cop, with Lee not needing to act much as the aggressively negative person, and me trying to get my questions answered, which takes the salesperson off their desired conversational trajectory. This all went fine, our salesperson was not a creep, and we didn’t buy more condo days (I have enough now).

What I did enjoy was listening in on the sales pitches used on other families. They sure do tailor them to your perceived weaknesses…err…interests. Our guy was saying what a bad buy condos in Myrtle Beach are and what a good buy Hilton Head is (which I can see, since HH has very few condos and MB is crowded with them). The guy one group over was telling these people they didn’t need this boring area and should go to more lively MB. Another one was begging the people to just sign up for anything, even a week a year.

Condos don’t make sense for most people. I like the ones we have, since I can go work in different places and feel safe. If I were younger, I’d travel differently. At least I get to get out of Texas every so often and see Spanish moss and marshes.

Typical Hilton Head scene.

Anyway, do what works for you. I’m also looking forward to some shorter, more close-to-home RV trips. I didn’t get to travel much when young. Now’s the time, while I’m still mobile and have mental health.

I do love how lush and green this place is

After the condo meeting, we went to a restaurant on Broad Creek, which is very broad, as a matter of fact. My crabcakes were delicious, and Lee didn’t like his seafood omelet. That’s how our meals usually go. I’m a good menu-item picker. But, Lee enjoyed the guy providing the musical entertainment, who was a pleasant singer and a very good guitar player. I enjoyed his solos very much; he played a lot like my friend, Jeff, who I listened to a LOT at one point in my life.

Somewhat scenic location

Since I couldn’t do a lot of nature walking, I crocheted a lot (I am not sure this thing is working out, but I keep going), and watched football. I have a book by a friend to read, too. I’m not really fond of reading on the computer or phone, but it’s not in print yet. I could use a nice mystery, and I’ve sure been hearing a lot about this book!

Hope you all are handling whatever is challenging you. The weather’s bad in lots of the US, and there’s always something going on with most of us. I care!

A Day of Rest

No one was in a great mood much of today so I didn’t even try to do any activities. The only reason we left the condos was to get groceries in the world’s smallest and perhaps most expensive Publix supermarket. That’s ok. I still liked it, because my mom shopped at Publix when I was a wee lass.

I like how this place has lots of trees and birds. We are the top right unit.

It was a bit chilly, but warm enough to sit on the balcony and crochet long enough to realize I needed sunscreen on. I enjoyed lots of singing birds and chatty crows, plus I watched pelicans diving and an osprey hunting.

It doesn’t look like much yet. It’s another curtain or a tablecloth.

There wasn’t much reason to leave here, since I got a good lunch at the cafe along with a latte spiked with Bailey’s (which may explain the nap I took later). And it’s so pretty. Hilton Head is just so green and natural.

I did venture out on a Long Beach walk. I enjoyed looking at the patterns the tidal movement makes on the sand, saw a few dead horseshoe crabs and one dead stingray. Mostly I saw shorebirds, though, such as gulls, terns, sanderlings, and willets.

This time of year, dogs are allowed on the beaches here. I got to get my dog fix just by looking out the windows, but walking with them is even more fun. They really have a good time!

A happy fellow

We relaxed in the evening and watched two movies, which we don’t get to do often at home. The first one was an extra violent but spiritually interesting one about a Viking. I had to look away a lot. The other was Cruella, which was enjoyable.

Everyone is doing better now! Naps helped.

Drive Drive Drive Plus Stress

Bummer. This was not the greatest travel day. It was really long, for one thing. We usually break trips like this up into 3 days, but powered through two 8-hour days instead. Poor Lee got both tired and hangry.

But we have our feet up now. Ahh.

Second, there was a lot of work stuff that was hard to do in the car, but I did it! And there was family drama not worth going into. Let’s just say no good deed goes unpunished. And I appreciate people who are more patient than me. My mental health took a hit but I’m doing better already.

We didn’t get here until it was dark, but we do have a nice view.

I enjoyed the weather again today, though. There were many beautiful cloud formations to enjoy, along with beautiful forests. We went through many hardwood forests and pine forests grown for lumber.

I like seeing what grows in different areas. One of the loveliest areas we drove through was in Georgia, where they grow pecans and peaches. The bare trees are striking. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the peach trees, because their newer branches are pinkish, but I was too busy looking at them.

Pecan orchard

I crocheted on my new project a lot of the time when not working or dealing with stuff. But after sunset I just hoped we’d hit the edge of the continent soon.

I’m glad we found the island. This is a really nice place. I’ve missed it since Anita and I were here a few years ago. I’m looking forward to a weekend on Hilton Head!

Home and Away Are Both Moist

I started today very early with a 6 am work question. That’s all right, because that meant I got to see a beautiful sunrise.

Fiery and frosty morning

It was cold, but so beautiful that I just had to enjoy the crispness. During my early meeting, it sounded like rain. But there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! That mystery was solved when I got outside to feed the chickens and saw just how thick the frost was on the ground.

Nature’s art

The “rain” was frost melting quickly as the sun hit our metal roof. Lee said there was .02” of precipitation in the rain gauge!

As I worked my butt off to get all my stuff done, the dog alarm went off. There was a big truck in the driveway. Oh yeah. I knew it was coming.

Note lack of frost

Today was finally the day the garage apartment and pool house would get their blown-in insulation! That will sure help the occupant stay warmer the rest of the winter.

Clean garage awaiting insulation.

The guys were all excited to do the work, but they had some equipment issues and will be back tomorrow. I’m the meantime, here are before pictures.

I won’t get to see the work, though, because I’m no longer home; I’m away. Yep. Lee and I are road tripping again. We’re going back to Hilton Head, so I can see camellias. I like working with an ocean view, as you know.

Proof we crossed the Mississippi.

The most striking thing about the drive was how wet it was. That big rain we had on Tuesday was on our route with a vengeance. There had been much bad weather and flooding.

It’s pretty barren in a hardwood forest this time of year, but I enjoyed possumhaw holly along the roadside. It provides that “pop” of color any neutral setting needs.

It was not easy to photograph this stuff from a moving car.

Honestly, this was not our most exciting drive ever, since we’re zipping along to get there tomorrow. One highlight was Buffalo, Texas, where we got to see a bored hawk by the Taco Bell. The other highlight was in Calhoun, Louisiana, home of the small but mighty CB Superstore. You just don’t see many CB stores of any sort these days.

I managed to get work done in the car and once we got to our hotel in scenic Meridian, Mississippi, so I declare today a success. I hope it dries out tomorrow and that the insulation machine perks up.

Filet Gumbo and Filet Crow

What a nice day it was, through a bit nippy. So much got done that I felt like a paragon of efficiency. The Red House is ready for the next visitors, I got a fun custom sweatshirt from the talented Kimberly of Side Hustle Shirts (photo later), and I enjoyed a really special time with friends at lunch. That was the gumbo part.

From where I had lunch I could almost see our place. It’s over the far ridge.

Community is important, and with all the restrictions easing, it’s been a real pleasure to enjoy time with friends and meet new people to expand my community. It was very sweet of our friend Linda to invite a few women over for lunch today. It felt both special and normal at the same time. It’s healing to me to feel part of a group again, and I can’t wait to do more of this, like people used to do in the before times.

And the gumbo was so good. I need to eat that more!

Of course, it’s always good to be home with one’s spouse and his fancy mustache.

As for filet crows, I finished the little filet crochet curtain I started a few days ago. It was fun to do and I figured out how to do a bigger project with other yarn. The key is extended double crochet, which will make the squares more…square. You add an extra loop to make the stitches a tad taller.

Rectangles, not squares.

As my coworker said today, it looks more like a pigeon than a crow, since I did it left to right rather than top to bottom. But, since it’s cotton, I can block and starch it to stretch it a bit.

At least you can tell it’s a bird.

Most important is that I enjoyed making this. It came out the right size to be a curtain in the tack room, too. Sadly, I used up five of my eight skeins of fancy Rowan organic cotton, so I can’t make a pair!

Tomorrow I’m starting a smaller scale filet crochet project, which I hope will get it all out of my system and I can go back to knitting. Since the temperature blanket I designed uses many colors, I’ll wait a bit to start it. Why? It’s time for another road trip! Talk to you from the road tomorrow!

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