Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!



We made it through Christmas. Now we have the New Year’s Eve dance tonight and a musical entertainment show on New Year’s Day, another show on Friday, an ice cream social Saturday, and a pizza party and beer tasting on Sunday. That is all on top of the usual weekly events we work. Keeping so busy has made our first two months here fly by, so we figure it will be the end of March before we know it.

Jim continues to be very pleased with his new camera (Panasonic FZ200). He’s taken some really good shots of birds next door at Bentsen State Park, like the one of the mockingbird above.

We had a great time watching this green jay take a bath.


It was even joined by an Altamira oriole.


Can you find the kiskadee?


Last weekend we visited Estero Llano Grande State Park, about 30 miles east of here. We were there a couple times last winter and wanted to go back to see the paraques. Although we knew where they sleep during the day, we could not find them. Just as we were about to give up, several people came walking down the trail. They pointed out two of them for us, and as you can see, their camouflage is excellent.


If birds aren’t your thing, there is other wildlife to check out.


This was one big gator.


Jim has been trying to get our old camera back from Nikon even though they would not repair it  under warranty. At one point they could not even locate the camera. Interestingly, we received a phone call a few days ago and Nikon decided to repair it at no cost since they did not return it in a timely manner. It is supposed to be in the mail now.

It’s hard to believe another year is ending, the fourth since we’ve been fulltiming. When we left Pensacola in September 2008 we had no idea how long we would roam the country before settling down again. So far, although we have been to many places we really liked, we haven’t come across a place we want to call home permanently. Not that we are seriously looking, but it’s something we think about when we find an area we like. I hope this doesn’t insult anyone, but I can assure you it will not be the Rio Grande Valley of Texas!

I would be remiss if I didn’t post a kitten update. They went back to the vet last week for their second round of shots, and over the course of three weeks they doubled in weight. Elvis weighed 2.6 and Sophie 2.7 pounds. Based on the amount they eat I’m sure they’ve gained a few ounces since last week.

Could anything be cuter than kittens on our dash?


Hope everyone has a safe, happy and healthy 2013!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas To All


This is our wish for all the homeless pets.

Santa at the animal shelter

At least we did our part this year for a couple of them. Sophie and Elvis.


Wishing a very Merry Christmas to all our friends, family and blog readers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Up to No Good


Of course I’m talking about Sophie and Elvis.


We, on the other hand have been busy with work. Over the past 2 weeks we’ve had seminars by the director of the National Butterfly Center, a Border Patrol agent and Mission police officer, and an audiologist. One interesting statistic from the Border Patrol agent was that 70,000 illegal aliens have been apprehended this past year, down from a high of a quarter million in the late 90’s. Guess they are doing their job.

We’ve also had a wine tasting, ice cream social, pizza party, and movie night. That is all in addition to the regular margarita hour, coffee and donuts, bingo, etc. All has gone well except we didn’t buy enough ice cream so there were some unhappy campers. Of course it was in the 80’s that day so everybody was in the mood for something cold. Also there are a lot of new people staying in the park this winter, and they are showing up for all the events. That’s a good thing but we’ve been basing our purchasing of supplies on the number of people who came to things last year. It’s interesting being behind the scenes!

Wine tasting in the clubhouse.


 Jim and Ray hard at work.


We are having a Christmas Eve social, 2 seatings for Christmas day dinner, then a New Year’s Eve dance, and entertainment on New Year’s Day. We are definitely not bored!

The kittens are growing up fast, and causing more trouble the bigger they get. If only we had half of their energy, or could sleep as well as they do.


Jim loves the new camera. Here are some more photos taken in Bentsen State Park.

Golden-fronted woodpecker.


Great kiskadee.


Plain chachalaca.


Mexican olive tree.


It’s been unseasonably warm, in the 80’s, and sure doesn’t feel like Christmas. Not that we’re complaining!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Brain Exercise



Our new camera arrived this week, a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ200. This is a “bridge” camera, more than just a point and shoot digital, but a step below a “real” SLR. Jim has been wanting to get more serious about photography for a long time now, but just hasn’t found the right camera.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is a super-zoom camera featuring a wide-angle 24x zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout its 25-600mm range. This means it should take great images even zoomed all the way out.

This is not an inexpensive camera, but Jim found a good deal on an open box at One Call. Although there is now a $100 instant rebate at many sites so it is not much of a savings. That said, this camera appeared to have never been out of the box.

Finally, one caveat. This camera just came out in September so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will not have problems.

We took a long walk in Bentsen State Park yesterday to test it out and so far we are impressed. Most of these pictures are right out of the camera, and the rest required only minimal editing, such as auto-contrast.

This was taken with the zoom all the way out and no editing. The birds just looked like white specks with the naked eye.


We saw lots of green jays.


And mockingbirds, the Texas state bird.


This roadrunner was hunting butterflies. We saw him catch and eat one before Jim had the camera ready.


Debbie’s dog Elliot.


Dead butterfly on the road.


Luckily this camera has an intelligent auto mode, so even I can use it, but there are lots of manual settings to learn. We’ve been watching some videos by Graham Houghton about the camera, and they’ve been extremely helpful. He also has videos about other cameras and general photography tips that are worth looking at. It’s good brain exercise!

And if you were wondering, yes, the kitties are still here and growing by the day. They are quite the lap cats when they aren’t running around like a couple of crazies. Looks like we’re keeping them.





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Not Much Going On Except Kittens


Between working and caring for kittens, things aren’t too exciting around here, but we have definitely not been bored. The kids went to their first vet visit yesterday, got their shots and worm treatment, and other than sleeping most of the evening seem no worse for wear. They are definitely growing, weigh just over a pound each, and the vet estimated they are at least 6 weeks old now.



There are two other couples working with us in activities, and this is our “week”, so Jim had to be the emcee at Margarita hour tonight. All that entails is making a few announcements in front of over 100 people, but he was pretty nervous about it. After taste testing a couple margaritas though, he got up there and did a great job. He even announced that we have two cats looking for a good home! There were no takers, though. At least so far this feels more like fun than work.

Jim finally ordered a new camera today after much research. I will wait until it arrives and he tests it out before revealing what we got. Until then we will keep taking kitten pictures with the cheapie Canon.

Jim built a scratching post around our table leg. Crazy little Elvis.


Playing with sister Sophie.


If anyone has hints about how to keep kittens from chewing on cords and everything else in the house, please, we need help!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

You Touch It, You Own It


Elvis and Sophie. How did we get here?


We learned a valuable lesson this week, one that we will remember for many years to come. You touch it, you own it. And now we are the proud owners of these little balls of fur. It was not in our plans, but it happened and we are accepting it.

I had a serious case of “postpartum depression” the first few days they were with us, so even though Jim wanted to keep them, he tried to find a shelter to take them to. Unfortunately the Rio Grande Valley is not a very pet friendly place. Every time we go somewhere we see dead cats or dogs along the road, and many people just dump unwanted pets and don’t have them spayed or neutered. The only shelter we found that would take them took in 45,000 animals last year alone. That is an unbelievable number of unwanted animals, and the majority of those were euthanized.

Cinderella Pet Rescue will put them up for adoption but we have to foster them and get them spayed, neutered and vaccinated before they will try to find them homes. We haven’t even had them a week yet and we are already very attached to them so I doubt that will happen. But at least we have that option if they drive us absolutely crazy!

When they’re awake they are always under foot so we have to be very careful where we step.


A quiet moment watching TV on dad’s lap. They are precious.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Two Cats Too Many


So we had to work this morning, coffee hour and helping decorate the clubhouse for Christmas. Debbie babysat Elvis, and while she was there  one of our neighbors came by with another kitten. This morning her dog, that she adopted from Cinderella last spring, tried to go after it under a pile of limbs in the same vicinity as Elvis was found yesterday. She couldn’t keep it and didn’t know who else to bring it to. Wow, another lucky day for us.

I am trying to get the word out in hopes of finding them a good home other than ours.

Elvis, asleep on a heating pad in a Kleenex box.


One of our neighbors is a retired vet and came over to have a look at them. He thinks they are about 4 weeks old, is pretty sure Elvis is a male and the other is a female.

We haven’t named this one yet.


Right about now I am overwhelmed and am no longer answering the door ;)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black (bird and cat) Friday



Took a nice bike ride this morning and saw hundreds of black birds on the power lines. You have to be careful where you park around the Rio Grande Valley. The birds especially like to hang out on the lines around shopping centers. Sometimes late in the afternoon they are so loud as to be deafening, and if you park under them you may come out to find your car covered in white.

We stopped off at the fitness center to lift a few weights on the way back from our bike ride. When we returned home we were greeted by a few of our neighbors holding a tiny gray kitten they found on a woodpile behind the RV park. Knowing we are cat volunteers at Cinderella, she thought we could foster it until it’s old enough to be adopted. How could we say no to this sweet little face?


I can’t tell you how much we really don’t want a 4 or 5 week old kitten to take care of, but what can we do? Elvis is now asleep on Jim’s chest on the bed. Not how we thought our day off would turn out!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lots Going On But Nothing to Write Home About



We’ve been back at Bentsen Palm Village in Mission, TX for three and a half weeks now. Being new workampers has kept us busy, along with volunteering at Cinderella Pet Rescue.

It’s not just cats that greet us at Cinderella.


Last week we attended two more Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley Activity Directors Boot Camp events. The first was at Fireman’s park in McAllen, to show off the new park and 8 mile bike trail. There were several tables from local businesses promoting their products, and the McAllen Welcome committee served Border Buttermilk, which is tequila and Country Time pink lemonade mix. No one knew how the name came about, but it was a lot better than real buttermilk!

At the event in downtown Harlingen I won a two night stay at the Marriot Courtyard in Harlingen, which we will probably include in a raffle for the activities fund. Not that there’s anything wrong with Harlingen, but I can’t see any reason to go there and spend a couple days. They do have a Bass Pro Shops, some nice little stores and restaurants downtown, and nearby birding areas.

The activities at Bentsen Palm Village officially started Saturday morning with coffee hour, and a movie Sunday night. This evening is our first Margarita hour, followed by a busy Thanksgiving day setting up and cleaning up after the dinner.

Last night the park managers invited all the volunteers to a great dinner at Agave Restaurant. They even had music and some of us danced after a few Margaritas.

Our very nice managers, Juanita and Guy. They gave each of us a framed picture of ourselves and a Christmas ornament.


Jim, wearing his dragonfly ornament and singing YMCA. He’s pretty funny after a bit of tequila!


We found out that Nikon is claiming our camera was dropped so they won’t cover the warranty repair. They even sent a photo of it. We will be the first to admit to dropping and breaking more than one camera over the years but this is not one of them. So Jim has been researching cameras again in hopes of finding a great bargain with all the Black Friday sales. We aren’t finished with Nikon yet and they are sending the camera back but we have never been satisfied with it anyway so we will probably buy something else.

Our camera did NOT have this crack when we sent it in. Jim suspects an employee put the screw back in too tight after opening it and it cracked, but it is our word against theirs.

Nilon camera 

More animal news. We saw a bobcat on the Mission bike trail the other afternoon. He just stood there and looked at us for a couple minutes and walked away. Guess they are used to seeing people. Of course we didn’t have the camera.

Two more cats got adopted yesterday from Cinderella, Rosa and Isabel, another two of our favorites. The good thing is that a fulltime RV couple staying in our park adopted them so we’ve already visited them once and they said we can come by to see them anytime.

These photos are from the Cinderella Pet Rescue website.


Isabel. They are the sweetest two year old sisters.


Jim is back at the dentist in Mexico today and he should have a new tooth when he gets home. He took Patty, one of the guest services volunteers, with him. She needs some dental work but has never been to a dentist in Mexico and is very apprehensive. Hopefully going with Jim will put her at ease.

Guess I’ve caught up on our week. We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, whether you eat turkey or tofu!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Cinderella Story



We arrived at Cinderella Pet Rescue at 8:45 Saturday morning to pick up the cats we were transporting to Petsmart for the big cat adoption event. It was not an easy task trying to identify and catch the eight from the back cat room that we were to take. Pretty Peaches was hiding out in a covered cat condo along with 3 others, including feral Ozzie, who detests people and will hiss, bite and scratch to keep us away.

We couldn’t believe they all managed to fit inside that tiny space. I opened a can of stinky cat food trying to entice them out, but they were smarter than that. Deb, one of the other volunteers, finally got a broom and held back Ozzie with the handle while she got her other hand in to grab Peaches. It wasn’t pretty, but we finally got them all in carriers and loaded in the car. On Jim’s second trip to pick up a couple more carriers he found that Rosa, one of our favorites, had somehow managed to escape from her carrier and was walking around in the back of the car. At least she didn’t jump out, since he had left the hatch open. We knew it was going to be a long day at that point!

You can imagine it was a very vocal group of kitties on our 11 mile drive to Petsmart. When we arrived the other volunteers were in the process of setting up the pens, so we helped them put litter boxes, blankets, and water bowls in each one before we got the cats out of the car and into the proper cage. Each cage had a “CATFAX” sheet with a picture and information about their history.


Normally the fee is $80 to adopt a cat, which have all been spayed or neutered, tested to be sure they are feline leukemia negative, and up to date on all their shots. For Saturday only the fee was $25, in an attempt to thin out the large number of cats at the shelter.

The day was fairly successful, as seven cats of the nineteen were adopted. We must admit it was harder than we thought to see some of our favorites being taken away by strangers, especially so soon after losing Quincy.

               These are the lucky ones who found new homes.

    Sylvester and Molly               Pedro                            Powder

Cinderella Pet Rescue

       Shadow                 Jim’s favorite, Muffy            Peaches

This was the first time Cinderella did a big cats-only adoption, and the volunteers put in a lot of hard work to pull it off. They did a great job! 

Yesterday Jim and Debbie went to the dentist in Mexico while I went to Cinderella to take care of the remaining cats. It was sad not seeing Muffy, Sylvester, and Pedro, three of my favorites, but I now have a couple of new ones tugging at my heartstrings, Lazarus and Geoffrey.




Wonder which ones we will fall in love with next week? It will be a miracle if we leave here next spring without a cat!