The Great Bra Hunt: Cosabella

Please see my introductory post for why I’m on a Great Bra Hunt. And feel free to skip past this post if real bra talk and related topics aren’t your thing!

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Sunday Coffee – All the Nonfiction

It’s no secret that I haven’t really felt like reading lately. I’ve hardly read a thing since Rhythm of War came out in November, and none of what I have read – with one nonfiction exception – has made much of an impression on me. Over the years, I tend to go through reading moods, where I want to read only classics or only fantasy or only YA or only mysteries etc. Since November, I don’t seem to be interested in anything except nonfiction (hence the one exception).

The thing is, I’m SUPER picky about nonfiction. It takes me forever to get through a title, and half the time, I read part of a book and that’s enough. Most years, only about 10% of my reading comes from nonfiction, sprinkled into the rest of my reads. And the few times that I go on nonfiction kicks, my finished-books and reviews on the blog tend to be few and far between. Like now.

I do have a lot of nonfiction on my to-read list at the moment. (So much that it’s daunting – more nonfic than I usually read in three years!) And yet, I’m interested in adding to it. Even if I only get through a fraction of these, this is my current list:

  • Off Menu by Nell McShane Wulfhart (in progress)
  • Compete to Create by Michael Gervais and Pete Carroll
  • Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science by Robert Sapolsky
  • Coffeeland by Augustine Sedgewick
  • Strong Women Life Each Other Up by Molly Galbraith
  • Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery
  • Sitting Pretty: The View from My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig
  • It Could Be Worse: A Girlfriend’s Guide for Runners who Detest Running by Beth Probst
  • Gut Feelings: The Microbiome and Our Health by Alessio Fasano
  • The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David Roche
  • This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler
  • What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon
  • The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
  • Leave Only Footprints by Conor Knighton
  • Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis
  • Down to Earth: Gardening Wisdom by Monty Don
  • Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry
  • Testimony by Mark Chadbourn
  • Understanding Exposure. by Bryan Peterson

What else should I add? Help me make this an even more impossible list! Heh.

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Quarantine Diaries – Weeks 50 and 51

There you go. Texas is about to become a virus hotbed in the next month or two. Rather than continue to hunker down as we get vaccinations distributed, we’re going to make sure another 50K Texans die. Excellent plan, Abbott. See Week 51 below for details if you haven’t heard The News by now.

Week 50 – February 19 to 25
194,736 cases, 2,514 deaths, 7.5% positivity rate (down 2.2%). Hospitals are down to under 500 patients, hurrah! Our local high school only reported 3 student cases this week. Things really do seem to be improving, even if our numbers are still skewed by the city’s shutdown over last week. Speaking of which: Testing was limited last week due to the Snowpocalypse, and went from around 60/70k weekly tests (normal) to about 10k. This has affected the case/death numbers and reporting, and the city won’t put out a rolling average again until there is a full seven days of data. Additionally, the positivity rate was calculated based on the last 2 weeks due to the low testing.

So yes, there is some good news. Hospital numbers have decreased so much that the occupancy levels at certain businesses can increase to 75% again. They were brought down to 50% in mid- to late-December because of our skyrocketing hospital admissions. But with every bit of good news, there’s always that one dummy – and in this case, that dummy is our governor, who told reporters this week that he’s thinking it’s nearly time to end the statewide mask mandate. Even though only 5% of Texans are vaccinated. Even though our numbers are still incredibly high throughout the state, with the only “dip” we’re seeing due to the snow and freezing temps shutting the entire state down for a week or more! I’m glad San Antonio at least has the order that people must wear masks inside businesses, and businesses must require masks to stay open and keep their occupancy certificate!

Another bit of good news: My sister and brother-in-law got their first vaccines this week! Neither of them qualify under the current levels the state is at, but they got on a list for leftover vaccine doses at a nearby pharmacy. One day, they got a call, and both rushed over. Hurrah!

Week 51 – February 26 to March 4
197,497 cases, 2,678 deaths, 329 seven-day rolling average (last reported average, in week 48, was 890!!), 5.6% positivity rate (down 1.9%). With 50K tests taken last week, the positivity rate and rolling average are up to date, which is really good news. Hospitals are also showing good improvement, getting almost down to 350, the lowest it’s been since early November. Also, we had absolutely no cases reported at our local high school this week for the very first time since schools opened to in-person classes back in September. All this is really great news, but it’s not going to last. Because:

For Texas Independence Day on March 2nd – and no, I’ve never even heard of this “holiday” before – Abbott announced that starting on March 10, the statewide mask mandate will no longer be in place, and all businesses – including bars – no longer have any occupancy limits on them. In other words, Texas became the newest contestant in the Hunger Games. Nothing else really matters this week. Yeah, San Antonio moved from “moderate” to “mild” risk, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved, and TX is letting all teaching/daycare staff get the vaccines now. But give it a couple weeks, and the cases will be skyrocketing again, and we’ll be rolling in refrigerated morgue trucks soon after that. I swear, if this a$$hole governor gets my husband or kids killed because of his recklessness, I will sue the state of Texas. THIS IS NOT OKAY. And it makes no sense, either. Back in May, he removed local authority to require masks when TX was averaging 5k daily cases, only to have cases skyrocket just like the health authorities predicted. Now, TX is averaging over 7k daily cases, and it’s only that low because all the testing centers were shut down for over a week! I predict that we’ll hit 100,000 deaths in Texas by the end of June if this order goes through. Which looks highly probable.

Per this new order, the city is no longer allowed to have its mask mandate in businesses, so that one safety line is gone. Our school district has said it’ll wait for guidance from the TEA, as if the TEA has ever been concerned with safety during this pandemic – glad my kid is still schooling from home! HEB has said it’s too hard to enforce a mandate in their stores if the governor won’t enforce it statewide, so it’ll require masks for employees and “strongly recommend” them for customers. Businesses have started drawing their lines in the sand, and as much as possible, I’ll be sticking with those siding with safety. –>

And definitely, my family will NOT be going anywhere. Even less than before. No stores, all curbside pickup, and if someone needs to go inside a store, that will be me, because I’m the only one vaccinated. Even then, I’m frickin’ pissed because already this week I spent time in Target and Lowes, and there were people defying the mask order even before the announcement. They say the mask is an IQ test, but it’s not, it’s an a$$hole test. Spot the a$$hole. It’s easy. A toddler could do it.

(I fixed it)

My dad, as a professor, got his first vaccine this week. Hopefully my sister and brother-in-law will be able to do the same, but they’re up in Dallas and I don’t know how the city is applying the rules there. My cousin managed to get an end-of-day vaccine at the UT Health Center. I’m going to see if I can get Jason and the boys onto a pharmacy leftover-shot list, and Jason is set to volunteer at a vaccination site (as volunteers used to get leftover vaccines, so we’ll see?). This is insane.

Moving forward
Time to prepare for the absolute worst lockdown ever. And for more emergency alerts, and the death toll going up, and people shooting each other over masks again, and…

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Recap: Winter Bucket List

Gotta start this post honestly: While I loved my summer and autumn goal challenges, I just wasn’t feeling it for this winter one. It’s likely because I don’t really have dedicated time block to feel “winter” and “spring” the way I do the other two. Plus, this is the time of year when I make my yearly goals and such. So a lot of this fell by the wayside, since a lot of it was quite arbitrary when it drew it up. Shrug. In any case, I split the post below into those goals I completed, partially completed, and didn’t do.

Finished: 14 of 20

Walk/hike a new-to-me park/area: Walked both sides of Hardberger Park, as well as the new land bridge connecting them, on 12/23. Other new-to-me areas include Denman Estate Park (gorgeous!), Lockhart State Park, Inks Lake State Park, and Friedrich Wilderness Park.

(Denman Estate Park)

Fireside night with the fam: Christmas Eve with the family, including some extended family (distantly, with masks).

Finalize my 2021 goals: done 12/27

Support a local/small business: first done 12/27 with Lucky Sew & Sew. Additional small/local businesses used during this time period (and which deserve lots of love!) include Bluebonnet Cafe, Uye Surana, Girlfriend Collective, Milberger’s Nursery, Aphrodite’s Closet, Pesto Ristorante, Knight Watch, and Instant Donuts.

Do a personal tarot reading for 2021: Two of them, actually. One was focused on what I need to know going forward. The other was more time-based (yearly, quarterly, monthly). 12/27

Create a 2021 vision board: done 12/30

KonMari catch-up of my room/clothes: done 1/2

Run the ASPCA 5K: done 1/14 – two weeks later than it was supposed to be done, but better late than never, yeah?

Give blood: donated on 1/26

Walk the wiggly sidewalk: done 1/27

Host a personal (at home, just us) Super Bowl party: chili dogs, queso, chips, cake, booing at Tom Brady because he really needs to just retire and get out now… (ha!) 2/7

Use up 10+ cubes of scented wax: done 2/13

Zero out my podcast backlog: done 2/16 (thank you rolling blackouts!)

Build the wall around the front tree: done 2/22

Partial Completion: 4 of 20

Complete YWA Breath: I’d finished the first 12 days of this when I realized that I just wasn’t into this particular series. I didn’t want to force myself into something purely to reach a goal (though I did continue yoga more generally, because it’s good for me!). In the end, I completed 14 of 30 days.

Update my bucket list: Instead, I decided to make myself a shorter-term bucket list in my 50 x 50 project.

Catch up on backlogged medical appointments (2+): One of those appointments got scheduled in this time, but it’s with a specialist so the appointment itself isn’t until later in March. Another was put on hold until after my April bloodwork. Otherwise, I did no work on this, as I decided to wait until after my covid-vaccines were up to fully working beforehand.

Learn more about photography: Well, yes, I definitely learned a lot about photography during this time, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg and not nearly as much as I would have liked to due to a delay in getting a camera with manual mode. So I’m considering this a partial completion.

(turns out I like to take photos of small details)

Didn’t Do: 2 of 20

Volunteer at the library: This was an “if allowed” goal, but the library has still never opened up to volunteers so I couldn’t complete it.

Read 1+ of the Sanderson drafts I have waiting for me: I started this, but realized that I didn’t want to read early drafts of books I’ve read, with non-canon information that might change the way I thought of these books. As much as I’d love to study the evolution of these books, I like them too much to change them around in my head.

So that’s not too bad, really, for this go-round. I’m going to be more moderate (aka small list) for my spring goals, whenever I get around to drawing those up!

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The Meaning of Life

Ask Siri: What is the meaning of life? And she’ll tell you. (Or, well, she used to. Now she says things like, “If you ask Cruella de Vil, life is all about kidnapping puppies. That’s why we don’t ask her.” But a few years back, if you asked her, she’d answer correctly:

TBH, I’ve never read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and likely never will. That particular book was ruined for me well before I had a chance to read it by a lecherous fellow writer in one of my writing groups. *shudder* But still, all this is to say that for the next year, I am the meaning of life.

As in, I turn 42 today.


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Sunday Coffee – January/February 2021 Wrap-up

My original intention for 2021 was to do a seasonal wrap-up rather than monthly. I set up a future post where I could keep my notes as the months went along. In January, that was fine…but I got toward mid-February, and the notes piled up, and the post content got longer and longer until it was ridiculous and I began to contemplate breaking it into multiple posts. And then I thought – if I’m planning to break this into multiple posts, what is the point of doing it on a seasonal basis? These monthly wrap-ups have been an easy way to look back at my year and remember all the little things that were going on in my life, and to draft it up three months on means that I’ll disproportionately remember more recent months/happenings and leave the early season behind. I just don’t think that’s going to work for me! I don’t want to cut out any of the things I include in my wrap-ups, I don’t want novel-length posts, and the whole point was to include fewer wrap-up posts (so breaking it into multiple doesn’t help!).

So, what to do? Well, I’m going back to monthly posts, and this will just be a (long) combo post for Jan/Feb. These have not been the easiest months. Covid numbers were higher than they have been all pandemic. Ash suffered through another bout of his illness and was down to around 9 lbs (he should be 12 lbs), spending multiple days/nights at the vet before he finally began eating again. Morrigan returned to Kansas at the end of January. We had a week of Snowpocalypse in February, with around 8-10 inches of snow in San Antonio and multiple water/power outages. Our house was under various bits of construction for all of these months. My health has suffered tremendously and I’ve felt like sh1t for a lot of 2021. Everyone is getting major cabin fever after nearly a year of being stuck inside with each other 24/7.

It’s not as if there weren’t good things – I do include highlights below – but so far 2021 has been a sh1tshow, and I’m giving it major side-eye right now.

I’ve hardly read a thing during the last two months. Two books in January, neither of which were great, and absolutely nothing in February. There was one Rumi poem that I discovered that I liked (pic at left has the poem transposed on photo I took at Hill Country State Natural Area in 2020), and that was pretty much my favorite read of the year so far. I just haven’t felt the reading vibe since about November. It really doesn’t help that I can’t go browsing at my library. I miss that more than almost anything from pre-pandemic.

On the other hand, I’ve been obsessed with Murdoch Mysteries, and have watched all 13 seasons available to me since mid-December. I’m not generally a big TV person – for years, the only show that I watched regularly was NCIS – but over the last few years, binge-watching shows like SVU and Murdoch Mysteries has been a saving grace for me. It calms my anxiety for some reason. I’ve spent a lot of the last two months injured, with my left foot swollen and my right hip painful in any position, so a binge-worthy TV show was perfect. Additionally, I saw a few new-to-me movies these last two months (Bill and Ted Face the Music; Mulan), but honestly, I tend to prefer shorter show to watch than movies these days.

(I paused at one point and had this random ad come up perfectly framed!)

My goals are rather abstract this year, but I’ve made some progress in a few areas: fixing up the house, using more small/local businesses, and learning more about the potential career path I might take (still not ready to discuss publicly). Honestly, I’m not terribly happy about the nebulous goals, and likely I’ll forget them entirely by the end of the year. Already I had to go look them up to even remember what half of them were for this post.

As I said above, my health hasn’t been great in 2021. Until this past October, I’d been maintaining my previous current weight +/- 5 lbs for about four years. Unfortunately, the two months I was on Ozempic injections really f-ed me up, and I gained 15 lbs on that medication. My body is heavier than it has been since 2009, and it isn’t adapting well to the new weight. My left foot/ankle is continually swollen and stiff (see below). My right hip has constant sciatica. My right arm continues to go numb from shoulder-blade to fingertips because of the weight from my breasts. My V02 max has dropped a few points because exercise has gotten harder and harder. In general, my body seems to have weight brackets: Go below a certain weight, and certain symptoms disappear. Go below another weight, and more symptoms disappear. Same with going back up. I’ve crossed the line now where my weight causes random body parts to go numb and my hips to continually hurt, and where exercise is no longer fun but a chore. It’s not pleasant.

(the swelling begins right at where the old break in this foot used to be…)

Other things in health: I had my covid vaccine (both parts) over these months, and my only side effects seemed to come from the second dose – a terrible headache for three days, and ten days of intense, grueling hunger. I’ve also experienced both sugar withdrawal and coffee withdrawal headaches these past months as I try to remove these from my diet more and more, as if my body is under major protest (I don’t blame it!).

Not everything has been negative, though. I walked/ran the ASPCA 5K in January, and the pain I’d been experiencing in the fall with my running had gone, so that was good! I hope to start up with C25K again this spring, if I can get my foot/hip to cooperate. I’m also intensely grateful for getting the covid vaccines and for having as much immunity as currently possible. Ambrose and I donated blood in January. I updated my Wellness Wednesday vision board/button. I have some upcoming trips this fall to look forward to and motivate me to greater fitness. And I made a little personal discovery with regards to mental health, emotional suppression, willpower, stress, and weight issues – summed up in the following quote from my GGS personal coaching program: If you are exhausting your willpower in order to suppress your emotions, you aren’t going to have much willpower left over for the self-care behaviors that are important to you. !!!

Lastly, the best thing in health over the last two months is that I’ve mostly been sleeping amazingly well! I’ve hardly had to use any sleeping medication at all, and most nights I sleep for a good 8-9 hours. Hurrah! As someone who has suffered (medically-diagnosed) chronic severe insomnia since the fall of 2011, this is INCREDIBLE!

I wrote a whole post on the details of this (link above), but in general, we got a lot done over this time period, mostly in this last week of February. Since Friday’s post, we’ve finished the first coat of base paint on the back siding, added the additional dirt/etc needed by the vinca wall and nectarine area, bought/planted the additional plants that will help the nectarine grow well, and put the baseboard back on in my bathroom. There is still a lot to get done outside (siding, porch) that we’d planned to do by now, but I’m happy with our progress (and that the inside stuff is done!).

Favorite Photos of January & February
Top two collages below are from January; bottom two are from February. There are non-collage, larger versions of all these photos in albums on both Facebook and Instagram. As always, these photos are taken by me, and are not always the best photos, just my favorites!

Top, left to right: Buddha’s Hand fruit; leftover rain water on my aloe vera plant; sunlight cutting across my chiropractor’s office. Bottom, left to right: bookplates from my favorite author; train bridge on a sunny morning hike; moss at Inks Lake.

Top, left to right: Denman Estate Park; Jojo lying in a sunbeam. Bottom, left to right: creek running through Lockhart State Park; air plants; shadow triumph pose!

Top, left to right: sun through snowy trees at my favorite park; dandelion; demon cat (ha!). Bottom, left to right: blowflower, mini-succulents on display at Lowes, macrame and tiny air plant

Top, left to right: catching snowflakes; a lone snowman looks out over snowy treetops. Bottom, left to right: icy blowflower; sun through snow on a discarded window pane. Note: Snow makes for very awesome and fun photos!

ETA: The problem with posting this with a whole day left in Feb is that I now have another favorite photo to add. Here is a tree tag in a photo that looks straight out of a paranormal horror movie, ha!

Random moments
Since this is two months’ worth of posting, I thought I’d add a section for miscellaneous stuff that hasn’t ended up somewhere else.

  • When doing our taxes, Jason and I totaled everything we spent on home repairs in 2020, and it came out to about $22,000. !!!
  • When Jason put the backing board behind the tiles between our kitchen windows, he carved “666” and a pentagram into it so that potential future home owners could have a fun surprise, ha! –>
  • Jason read out to us one night the best donuts in each state, and one was Holy Donut in Portland, ME. Ambrose and Jason argued over whether or not that’s where we went on our day-trip to Portland in 2015, when Ambrose suddenly said, “I’m sure mom has a picture, she takes pictures of everything.” He was rolling his eyes, but I couldn’t have been more proud in that moment. (Yes, I did have a photo, and yes, it was Holy Donut. Mom wins.)
  • Murdoch Mysteries are normally lighthearted and fun, but one evening, I watched S11 E7 and was just bawling. It was so incredibly sad. I very rarely cry at movies, shows, books, etc unless I’m already in an emotionally fragile place, which wasn’t the case here. It was one of the saddest show episodes I’ve ever seen. Very well done, too.

Despite the not-so-greatness of 2021 so far, there have been good moments. Here are the highlights of the last two months:

  • my Hiking Group hoodie arrived
  • HEB had kettlebells for sale (I’ve spent most of the last six months looking for heavier kettlebells)
  • snow! (rare in SA – last time was 2017) (Note: This was snow in January, not the later snow in February. This snow was only a small dusting! And it’s very noteworthy that we had snow twice this year! That’s never happened in time here.)
  • my Secret Santa had a late-arriving gift, which turned out to be signed Brandon Sanderson bookplates !!!!!
  • We got some air plants! (Which later got new blooms!)
  • everything about the inauguration, and HURRAH to Trumpy getting out of there!
  • walking the wiggly sidewalk
  • Jason found a refurbished nice camera with manual mode for me, plus I learned (the basics of) how to use the manual settings!
  • outdoor yoga with friends in the park
  • lovely Galentine’s gifts!
  • While it wasn’t a great time what with power and water outages, it really was awesome seeing snow in SA! And going on snow-hikes at my favorite park!
  • Discovered mini-bottles of wine at Target! I normally don’t buy wine for home because I’m the only one who drinks it and I don’t usually go through a whole bottle before the wine turns. These mini-bottles (not just craptastic sutter homes and cheap brands) are a great solution, and it turns out they are available in three of my favorites: Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, and Chandon Brut!
  • I learned that there is an elephant sanctuary not 1.5 hours away from me!! You can pay a (substantial) cost to spend several hours with the elephants. Dream. Come. True.

Coming up
March is birthday month! My birthday is tomorrow, and there are seven further March birthdays in my family. Several are literally on the same day – which also happens to be the same day as our one-year pandemic anniversary in SA. March 13th – which yes, was a Friday last year. Dun dun dun. Ha! So that’s pretty much all we’re looking at for March. Lots of (virtual) birthdays and the acknowledgement of an entire year stuck at home.

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A Week of “Vacation”

Y’all. The house projects were stacking up. The kitchen and dining room were stuffed full of saws, tools, air compressors, random nails and screws, and more. (Pic below is after most of it was cleaned up!!) The living room had several stacks of wood in it. The back porch was so full of construction materials that it couldn’t be used as a porch. The front and back yards were both full of stacks of retaining wall blocks and sheets of cement siding panels. The outer walls of both dining/kitchen and master bedroom were ripped apart. There were new trees that needed to be planted before they died in their temporary pots.

In other words, the list of projects-in-progress had grown untenable, and the house had been taken over by construction supplies and partially accessible rooms. The chaos kept building until, in early February, I said enough was enough.

(I don’t handle chaos very well.)

Because of the pandemic and several canceled vacations over the last two years, Jason had an excess of vacation days built up. After some discussion, he asked for this last week of February off, with the intention of finishing as many of the projects as possible. Usually, we only have weekends to work on these things, and many of the projects had been in progress for months – and some for nearly a year! So we made a list and set up priorities for this week of “vacation.” Of course, we didn’t expect an insane snow-week to come the week before this “vacation,” causing some further construction-related issues. Sigh. So anyway, here’s what we managed to complete.

In my room, the wall was torn up from the window-replacement done in 2020 (top photo is from actual window replacement on 12/31). Most of the following work had been done over weekends in 2021, but was finished this week. Wainscoting went up over the damaged wall and the interior shelves between the two new windows was built. Eventually it was all painted a very pale blue. (Difficult to see via photo with the old walls still that ugly brown they were when we moved in.) I also got new curtains that weren’t blackout-style. Eventually, the rest of the walls will be repainted, but that’s luxury instead of necessity, so my room is done for now. (Not pictured: a couple more shelves added to that between-the-windows area.)

In the dining/kitchen, we used slat-board and tile to frame out the new windows and repair the walls. (Bonus: It covered up the really horrible yellow. It doesn’t show in photos, but the yellow paint was a single layer over some kind of dark color with no primer, and looked sickly and patchy in real life.) I’m highly sensitive to polyurethane, so we couldn’t poly the walls, and we were worried that I’d have the same reaction to highly chemical varnishes. Then Jason found this absolutely wonderful website about non-chemical finishes, and we used the info to shellac and wax up our wall to make it beautiful without paint! In the above photos, please ignore whatever mess was around – other parts of the house were still under construction, and the “after” photos were taken while still dealing with the boil-water notice – and the open light switch, which we can’t finish until after the outside work is done. Plus, the “before” photos are what I could cobble together from the last year living here! Eventually, we will do far more to this room (replace cabinets, counters, and florescent lights; paint the other walls, new light fixtures, etc), but once again, that’s luxury.

Outside, I finally built the wall around our tree and vinca as the next step of xeriscaping the front yard. I can’t do much more right now for lack of finances, but I’m glad to get that done. In the backyard, we’d previously bought two new trees to plant, a live oak and a nectarine. Thankfully, we hadn’t planted them before the Snowpocalypse came through! They stayed safe inside the house! This week, we planted them. The nectarine took longer than expected because we had to build up a retaining wall to give one of the trees more than a couple inches of topsoil! So much erosion in this neighborhood! Note: I was supposed to plant my giant aloe vera as well, but the spot we chose for a potential succulent garden 1) didn’t end up being a good spot, and 2) led us to discover one of two problems caused by the Snowpocalypse. More on this in a bit.

One of the other big projects we planned to do this week was finish the siding along the back wall, and potentially finish the porch railings and such. There was siding on about 2/3rds of the back wall, and house wrap on the rest. Jason got the rest of the siding up and caulked everything together. We began the painting as well. But then other more-urgent projects arose due to the Snowpocalypse, plus it began to rain. The rest of the painting, trimming, soffits, porch stuff, etc all became a much lower priority (at least that’s all outside!) while we worked with other things. Photos: The before photo is the realty photo taken before we bought the house, and includes the old (rotten, falling-down) porch as well as the moldy siding. The in-progress photo is current as of yesterday morning, though we hope to make more progress by the time J goes back to work next week. Assuming it ever stops raining. (As you can see, our yard is still FULL of construction supplies!)

Which leads us to the two WTF Snowpocalypse projects of the week. The first is hard to see in that photo to the left. When I went to find an exact spot to start my succulent garden, this entire area was water logged, and an external drain was pouring water as if a tap was turned on. Turns out, it was the water heater release drain – meant to drop only condensation from the a/c and heating unit, or to drain water from the water heater if it got too hot or was under too much pressure. None of those situations were applicable (the a/c and heating unit hadn’t even been on for days!). We spoke with the plumber who installed the water heater – who, btw, was swamped due to all the broken pipes from the sub-freezing temps – and he concluded that due to the low water pressure issue, it’s likely the pressure valve had gone bad. We picked up a new valve, and Jason installed it. Issue fixed. Just took time away from other things!

Then there was my bathroom vanity. That thing was old, cheap, and not particularly well-cared for by previous occupants. Over our winter-week, we had the sinks either filled to capacity (for washing use once we lost our water) or continually running (to prevent burst pipes). One of the two sinks sprung a leak through the porcelain itself. I mean WTF?? After multiple attempts to fix it with epoxy and more, plus attempts to improve the other sink (it was the worser of the two and generally didn’t get used), we realized we were just going to need to replace the whole thing. This was a project we were planning in the “eventually, once we have a lot more money” category. (The whole bathroom needs gutting and redoing.) So it was IKEA to the rescue! The final setup is definitely an in-progress photo because the walls and floors both need to be repaired/replaced, and I’d like to eventually get rid of the horrid lighting and mirror situation with a better solution. But like everything else, that’s luxury. For now, this will be fine, and at least I really like the setup!

So how’s that for “vacation?” Ha! And to think, we still have all these things as current in-progress projects that need to be finished before we can STOP doing house construction for a bit, aka things we’d planned to be done with during this “vacation:”

  • finish painting and trimming the siding, plus soffits, along the back wall
  • wiring the two porch lights (and indoor switch that goes with them)
  • more dirt/compost/mulch to both the nectarine area and vinca area
  • porch railings attached to the new siding, and railings finished (need interior rails)
  • porch stairs need a stable ground under the last step re: erosion
  • planting the aloe vera
  • replacing the baseboard in my bathroom
  • attaching one of the two bathroom cabinets pictured above to the wall (need to buy supplies to anchor it)
  • general construction supply cleanup, including many, many trips to the recycling center/dump

Some of that, we still plan to do today and over the weekend, depending on the rain situation. Hopefully, we’ll both get in a movie and/or a couple’s massage or something relaxing over the weekend as well, as a reward for all this insane work. We’re both sore and exhausted. Hauling 40+ concrete blocks, 22 lbs each – not to mention bags and bags of dirt, manure, peat moss, and mulch – across the property is no fun. Nor is tons of digging in ground that doesn’t exactly like to be dug out, or assembling furniture, or painting… And I didn’t even do any of the holding-up-concrete-siding-panels etc. Oy. But it does feel good to make progress, even if some of that progress was impeded by new emergency projects. One of these days, we’ll finish all this crap and take a nice, long break before we do anything more!!

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Wellness Wednesday – Hikes of 2021, #9-16

Overall, I’ve hiked a lot less in February than I did in January, due to some foot/hip injuries. This post includes the last few from January and all those up til now in Feb, which will likely be all but one more this upcoming weekend (unless predicted rain becomes bothersome!). It becomes quite obvious through this post that there are certain parks I tend to frequent more often than others! There are also a few that I used to go to often, but haven’t been to in ages…need to diversify my hikes a little more going forward!

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The Great Bra Hunt – Another Batch of Returns

Please see my introductory post for why I’m on a Great Bra Hunt. And feel free to skip past this post if real bra talk and related topics aren’t your thing!

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Sunday Coffee – Winter Wonderland, or Snowpocalypse

I’ve lived in San Antonio for over half of my life. I’ve experienced snow here several times, and ice storm or two, and some hard-freezes where temps got into the low-20s. But I’ve never experienced anything (here) like what San Antonio went through this week. The event ranged from the amazing to the horrific.

(ice/snow storms in 2007, 2011, 2017)

As last weekend approached, we watched the weather forecast with amazement. Temps as low as 4 degrees were predicted. I looked it up, and it turns out that San Antonio has only dipped into single digits five times since 1899 before this week. So we were in for some insanity! The cold weather began to roll in on Friday, and the snow/ice was predicted to start Sunday morning. Hikes got canceled for safety’s sake, and my family ran to the grocery store early on Saturday to stock up on some basic supplies for the week (milk, eggs, etc). The temps went below freezing on Saturday evening and didn’t get above freezing again until Wednesday.

(snow, Monday morning)

The snow/ice didn’t start on Sunday morning as expected, but instead came in around 10:30pm. It started with some graupel fall, then switched to full on snow over the next six hours. Altogether, we got about 4-5 inches at our house. (San Antonio once had a heavy snow – 13 inches – in 1985, but otherwise has never gotten above about 2-3 inches before this week. The most I’ve personally seen was ~1 inch or less.) The power went out briefly in the middle of the night. We’d already anticipated this, and had set out extra blankets (for humans and cats), covered all the plants and pipes, had the water running throughout the house, cabinet doors open, etc. We’ve lived up north enough to know 1) how to deal with this kind of weather, and 2) how different San Antonio is structured from northern areas used to these kinds of temps. For example, the pipes run through concrete slab foundations, so are really susceptible to freezing/bursting!

(the cats wanted out, but then they weren’t impressed, ha!)

Thankfully, we had no major energy or water issues on Monday, when the temps were as low as 7 degrees and as high as 28 degrees. Many of my friends were without electricity, and quite a few lost water. We were informed that there would be rotating power outages because TX is stupid and they privatized and deregulated their energy grid, so it was mismanaged and power was being spread throughout the state. (Really, why wouldn’t you winterize your power stations?? WTF??) My sisters, who live up in the Dallas area, experienced different levels of power outage. My mom has been off and on all week, and my dad’s house was out for all of Monday (then off and on afterwards). Jason and I ventured out at mid-day (when the roads were slushy) because we couldn’t resist a snowy hike at the trails just four miles away. Some of the stoplights were completely out. !!! We were SUPER careful driving, and also out on the trails.

(winter hike in SA!)

Monday was our best day, despite it also being the coldest day. Other than our short power outage overnight, we had power and water all of Monday. Over the next night, the temps got back down to around 10 degrees, re-freezing all the semi-melted slush into ice sheets on the roads. The city closed all highways. Tuesday morning, our power went out…for the next six hours. About four hours into that time, the water pressure suddenly got very, very low. We quickly filled up tubs, sinks, pitchers, and large pots with both drinking water and water that could be used for toilets. We prepped food so that we could start cooking the second our power came on. When we’d grabbed food supplies at the store, we didn’t expect massive rolling blackouts, so we hadn’t grabbed the right supplies! Long story short, the power came back on around 5pm, and we ran to cook breakfast tacos, cornbread muffins, cookies, hot chocolate, and coffee, plus charge all our electronics and batteries. We had a couple hours of power before it dropped off again.

(ice and thaw – we have no idea if any of our plants will survive!)

After that, we seemed to go on a three-hours-on, five-hours-off power schedule. During our time in the dark, I caught up on my favorite podcast, read more of my photography instruction books, and attempted some really simple macrame (it didn’t come out so well, haha!). During our power-on times, we cooked, warmed the house, and charged electronics. Because we have plenty of heavy-duty clothes/blankets from our time up north, we managed pretty well. Unfortunately, Tuesday overnight brought a secondary ice storm, and by noon on Wednesday, we lost water completely. (The water system said the pumps were being put out by the power outages, and couldn’t get enough water pressure to reach the houses. Thankfully, our pipes didn’t freeze!) Wednesday did see above-freezing temps, thawing some of the ice and snow, plus allowing Jason to run to the grocery store again for a few scant supplies (not much was available!). Why a grocery run this late in the game? Because a third storm front was set to come through on Thursday with another load of sleet, freezing rain, and snow.

(more power outages, more snow)

The good news: First, the power situation improved Wednesday and we began to have power more often than not. It was back completely by Thursday. (Other than taking showers and running the dishwasher, we continued to conserve heavily!) Second, the water – which was down to a dripping in the bathroom sink and gone completely in the kitchen – returned to normal pressure overnight into Thursday. (Hence showers and dishwasher!) (Unfortunately, the return of water came with a boil water notice for the foreseeable future.) Third, the last storm that was set to come through grew milder in the forecast (from sleet/ice and snow to just snow, and from 4+ inches to maybe 1 inch). In the end, there was definitely closer to 3-4 inches of snow, but it was all snow, no more ice. Whew! It was the prettiest kind of snow, too, fat lazy flakes that lasted for hours! Once again, I couldn’t help myself, and I went out on another snow hike, ha!

(snowy hike 2!)

Overnight Thursday into Friday was another hard freeze (about 17 degrees, which was much lower than expected!), but it got above freezing in the afternoon. The snow started to melt except in places of deep shadow. I took the sodden, heavy sheets off our plants. The tall dianthus were mostly snapped in half, so they’re going to take some pampering and might not survive. I guess we’ll see what happens. Especially since Friday into Saturday saw another hard freeze (this time only down to about 25 degrees at least!). I have to admit, by Friday afternoon, I was going stir-crazy. I’m used to being in my house all the time, but able to leave to take walks and such. Sure, I took those hikes, but I wanted to really go out. Didn’t matter if it was to the nursery for flower pots, or the craft store for macrame supplies, or the gym to renew a membership I haven’t used in ages anyway. I just wanted OUT. I was happy when my hiking leadership group decided to get together for a walk Saturday afternoon when it was in the 50s and the snow was mostly melted away completely.

(patchy thaw)

Across San Antonio, things were crazy all week. Highways closed. Streetlights out. Power and water outages. Giant warmth shelters set up to hold hundreds of people despite the covid threat. City services (mail, recycling/organics pickup, new briefs, covid data, etc) were all canceled. Covid testing sites were closed and vaccines delayed. Schools closed or went async, and there are possible closures next week as well as school deal with burst pipes. The water system put in place a policy where customers will pay whichever is lower of this month’s and last month’s bills, because of burst pipes. Electricity bills aren’t so kind across much of Texas – we don’t know what ours will look like yet. Sigh.

(post-Snowpocalypse hike)

We aren’t out of the woods yet. We still have to boil all our water for drinking, giving to the cats, and cooking. For the dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher, we’ve had to add a bit of bleach to the wash water. One of our sinks got overwhelmed holding full of water and began to leak out of the drain, so we have to fix that now (nothing to do with the cold, it was just old). Gas stations are out of gas and the oil refineries are apparently offline, so we may not be able to fill our cars up for another week. Major fires have broken out in areas where there is no water pressure, causing widespread damage (far more than normal) because firefighters couldn’t get them out in a timely manner. Etc. But it got into the 50s  yesterday, and is supposed to remain above freezing all week, so hopefully soon we can get to the work of fixing, rebuilding, and (of course) changing the energy grid system here in Texas!

Things I learned this week of the snowpocalypse:

  • Hiking in snow uses weird muscles that will be really sore the next day.
  • Cold brew is a lifesaver when you have no power. Also I’m glad I learned about 20 ways to make it this past year.
  • Have the kettle filled so that you can run and hit “heat” the second the power comes on. Have a coffee thermos that will keep it hot for you.
  • Cook when you have power. Better to have real food that’s room temperature than snacks for dinner.
  • Texas is stupid. A privatized, de-regulated energy grid for the entire state is stupid.
  • Eating healthy is no longer a priority when you only have power a few hours per day. Neither is exercise when you don’t have heat or running water.
  • Cell towers also go out when the electricity goes out, and we rely too much on the internet for things like emergency updates.
  • Breakfast tacos only take 5 mins to cook. Five-min meals are excellent when you don’t know how long the power will stay on.
  • Boiling all your water sucks. We don’t keep bottled water around but I do wish we’d stocked up before this started.
  • Boiled water also tastes awful. You wouldn’t think so, but it really does change the taste of the water.
  • HEB is the best store that ever existed.
  • Ted Cruz is an a$$hole. I mean, I didn’t really learn that – I already knew it – but he really proved it well this week!
  • WhatsApp is an awesome tool for keeping in contact when the cell towers go mostly down and you only have the tiniest bar of data, because it’s primarily text-based and no frills. My text support group on there was the very best.
  • Nothing makes you feel more human than being able to take a shower for the first time in three days. (Also, clean dishes and clothes.)
  • Snow days make for really awesome photos and great photography practice!!

As I said at the beginning of this post, I’ve never experienced anything like this in SA. Hell, I lived in Wisconsin for five years and I lived in Boston in The Year of Blizzards, and still have never experienced anything like what we went through this week. I’m just glad we’ve made it through safe and healthy and without any major damage.

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