Monday, October 29, 2012


We have the most beautiful buzzards living around this lake, big red-heads with wing spans of four feet or more. 
They soar in graceful silence up and down the shoreline, circling back and dropping lower to see what we are up to out in the yard. 
Occasionally they can be seen in groups of a dozen or more, gathered on a neighbors roof.  Hunched in their feather cloaks, they look like a collection cartoon judges.

The buzzards do keep the environment clean - anything edible that washes up on shore, or meets with a accident, is quickly attended to. 

This week I noticed a second, smaller type of buzzard. Looking a bit like large chickens, two of these black-headed buzzards sat out on the pier on Saturday.

And here's one on my neighbors chimney.

We are really enjoying the bird sightings out here! 
This weekend also brought quite a display of water birds involved in group fishing.  Masses of pelicans and cormorants drove the fish up and down the lake.

I wish I had a better lens! 
We just watched a small, charming movie called The Big Year.  It's about birding enthusiasts (Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin) competing with each other to see who can spot the most species in a single year.  The number of birds they chased after was amazing, as was their ability to tell one bird from another.  Obviously they had some very nice equipment and better eye-sight than mine!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Restoring the Finish on Very Old Doors

In an earlier post I described some of the very old doors we bought last year for our new house.
This picture, taken last March, shows the pair we selected for the front entrance. 
Originally old temple doors, they were rescued from demolition India, shipped to New Mexico for sale, and have now finally settled into their new home in Texas.

The doors are made from Neem wood, an evergreen tree from India that is a member of the mahogany family.  The oil produced from Neem is widely used as a biopesticide in organic farming, and Neem wood is highly valued for its insect resistance. 
These doors have had a hard life.
Here is a close-up of the door on the left side.
Grey, dry, weathered wood and the copper insets are completly black.
On their interior side, these doors are have a plain, rough hewn surface that is a glossy, rich brown.
This weekend my project was to begin to restore their exteriors.
I used Restor-a-Finish by Howard on the wood.
It just drank it up.  I could almost hear it!
Here is the door on the right after a rub-down with Restor-a-Finish in the walnut shade.
I have used this product before on stained exterior doors suffering from sun and weather damage, and I really like the way it works, bringing back color and shine without stripping.
Here are both doors, one restored and the other in its original state - quite a contrast!
Hopefully they will have a longer life with some extra care.
Restoring the brass was much more difficult - I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed with brass cleaner. The black stuff was really stubborn. 
My goal wasn't to remove all of the oxidation, just enough to bring out some gleam.  And the brass panels turned out to be so interesting up close, once their character had been revealed.
Each one is unique, a pieced together collection of valuable scraps that are almost paper thin.
The panels on the left hand door will have to wait until next weekend so that my hand has time to recover.
Workers are still milling around the house trying to finish up various projects, but we did unpack enough to spend a few nights (at last!) in this cozy house.
The sunsets are lovely...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dusty Turquoise

 The first color choice for our lake house was made before we ever broke ground. 
Inspiration came during a visit to New York City.
We were at the New York Botanical Gardens, enjoying the spectacular spring orchid show.
The show has been an annual April event for ten years.
The beauty of the orchids was otherworldly, and the artistry of the displays was amazing.

But it was in the permanent display area featuring dry climate plants that we found these subtle shades of a gorgeous greenish blue.

Not true blue, but decidedly more blue than green when compared to the new growth on the cactus.  Dusty turquoise seems like the right name!

Or maybe powdery aqua? 
It's a color that reminded us of shutters in the French countryside, New Mexican garden gates, turquoise jewelry, Greek pots on white-washed balconies, warm ocean water, old Mexican benches...I think I could go on and on pulling up delightful images! 
What they all have in common is climate.

These are warm weather plants and their beautiful color turns up often in warm weather regions.
Here's a handsome prickly garden outside one of the old San Antonio missions.
What a great combination of shapes and textures and color.

Obviously this dusty turquoise is a perfect color for a hot climate! 
I decided to use it inside as a statement color on some of the kitchen cabinets. 
After collecting the requisite fistful of samples from various shops, I settled on a shade called  Seascape from the Valspar collection at Lowe's.
It looks brighter in this photo of the kitchen, but on site it is actually a bit grayer, an exact match for those cactus in the photo above.

Seascape has a warm tone, so it looks great with the saltillo tile and with the mellow Texas limestone.
The interior of the cabinets have been painted a soft yellow to set off the white dishes. 

This color collection turns up again in the fabrics for the dining nook.
And even in some of the moods of the lake...

As of this weekend, we are mostly unpacked!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Year Later...

 What a difference twelve months can make! 
Although we had a another exceptionally hot and dry summer in Texas, the lake levels are dramatically different. 
On October 10th in 2011 the lake level was 307.49 feet above sea level, and the beach extended past the end of where the boat house was being constructed. 

On October 10th of this year, the lake level is at 311.59 feet. 
Just a bit of beach is exposed along the sea wall.

We have plenty of water to take the boat out.

The wind was warm yesterday, but pretty brisk, so the waves rolling towards the house had small caps of froth.

This is a large enough body of water to have many moods.  It's so mesmerizing, and so relaxing, that it is hard to resist the temptation to just sit down and watch the water...