Lo-Tech Eclipse Lagniappe

A total eclipse must be an awesome thing to experience. Here in North Texas, the occlusion was at roughly 75%. Despite the lack of totality, eclipse glasses sold out weeks before the date. I opted for lo-tech eclipse viewing. But it worked. It’s a bit of lagniappe, while Debra works on another Hildring House post.

Materials at Hand

Cardboard and shadowA hunk of cardboard, ripped from a box of something or other, with a hole poked by Phillips-head screwdriver made a basic viewer. Why a Phillips-head? Because I couldn’t find our ice pick, if we even still have an ice pick, and because it’s round. I did have to trim the fuzzy edges of the hole with the kitchen shears.

Image on concreteAs the occlusion started to show up in the image, I was disappointed in the quality of our driveway as a screen. So I went inside and grabbed a piece of printer paper.

Improved Visualization

Point of Maximum OcclusionThis picture, taken at 1:08 CST shows our maximum occlusion. You can also see the image at the edges of the cardboard (most notably at the ragged lower right-hand edge) and – my favorite – in the gap between my finger and the cardboard.

Here’s one more from a few seconds later:

Another image of the eclipseLo-tech eclipse viewing was a thing, apparently. I’ve seen some really cool images across the web of hundreds of eclipse-crescents made by everything from tree leaf shadows to a colander held above a white foam board (quite clever, that one!).

The best thing about the eclipse was that, for a few minutes, the whole country had its attention turned in the same direction, observing a natural phenomenon far, far bigger and more wonderful than any of the issues that divide us.

We all walk under the same sun.

I hope the rest of your week is peaceful, pleasant, and prosperous.



Hermitage in St. Petersburg – Wishes for Your Thursday Travel Lagniappe

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia is an amazing place. We don’t have time today for a full visit – one day, we’ll do that. It’ll be worth it. But for now, let’s just indulge a little local legend for your Thursday Travel Lagniappe.

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg
Hermitage Facade
It is enormous

Originally the Winter Palace of the Romanov family in Russia – from Peter the Great to Nicholas II – the Hermitage in St. Petersburg is an immense, sprawling museum. The building is actually several buildings but there is no way to tell when you leave one and enter another. It boasts over 1000 rooms and they’re all huge – like a couple of thousand square feet, each. The whole thing covers several city blocks.

And every inch of it is impossibly ornate.

Ornate staircaseSomeday, when we do our full tour, you’ll be able to see the scale and grandeur of the place. For now, the picture above should give you some idea of what I’m talking about. Continue reading “Hermitage in St. Petersburg – Wishes for Your Thursday Travel Lagniappe”

A Quick Trip to Lille – Travel Lagniappe

A Quick Trip to Lille, France

A couple of years ago while on a trip to Ghent and The Hague with some dear friends, we decided to hop on the train and take a quick trip to Lille, France, right across the border with Belgium. Come along with us for a bit of travel lagniappe, won’t you?


Tower in LilleThe architecture in Lille has a Flemish flair and, like most small towns in France, charm to spare. In fairness, though, Lille is not all that small. It’s the fifth largest urban area in France with over a million people living in the vicinity. The city, itself, claims nearly a quarter of that number. You can find some of the statistics here.

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Cannon Beach Haystack Rock – Lagniappe for a Thursday

It’s summertime in Texas. And I’m dreaming of Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon.

During Texas summers, the mercury challenges or shames the century mark every afternoon; even the mornings discourage more than a slow walk. Every year about this time, “Tell me again why we live here” becomes a common greeting.

Last year on a trip to Portland, Debra and I rented a car and drove over to Cannon Beach for a few days. It’s a glorious place, reminiscent of Big Sur but with an easier, more contemplative style. Haystack Rock, a massive chunk of stone, commands the shoreline at Canon Beach. In the picture below, it helped us welcome the sunrise during a barefoot stroll along the cool, damp sand. It’s a bit of lagniappe for your Thursday morning.

Haystack Rock at sunriseHere’s hoping that, wherever you are, your days are peaceful and pleasant. And if it seems too hot to breathe where you are? Well, just close your eyes and imagine that you’re some place else – like strolling past Haystack Rock at daybreak – where there’s a bit of a chill and the mist from the surf hangs in the morning glow.

Until next time –


Lagniappe for the Fourth of July

Today’s something extra is lagniappe for the Fourth of July.

A Brat

I was an Air Force brat. If you think that the word “brat” makes that a self-deprecating statement, you are mistaken.  Other military brats know what I mean. When asked the question, “Where did you grow up?” a military child typically can’t answer with a single state, so they describe a state of affairs.

I don’t know why “brat” became part of the description. Perhaps because many military kids moved so much that they had trouble assimilating – seemed standoffish, a bit aloof. Particularly the introverts. Shyness looks that way sometimes.

Whatever the origin  of the term, as a military brat, the Fourth of July has always been a particularly poignant occasion for me. My dad spent most of my childhood in a position dedicated to the protection – by force, if necessary – of “the American way of life.” As a kid and as an adult, I’ve thought a lot about what that means.

An American
Ceiling - Library of Congress
Ceiling – Library of Congress – Jefferson Building

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Sunday Afternoon Arabesque Lagniappe – The Alhambra, Baby

The Alhambra in Grenada, Spain is one of the most photographed sites in the world. But will that stop me from posting another one? Absolutely not. So here is a shot of an archway and accompanying door from that wonderful palace and fortress. It’s your Sunday afternoon  arabesque lagniappe.

Alhambra ArchwayTo my Muslim friends, Eid Mubarak.

The beauty of the Alhambra – and the Alcazar in Seville, by the way – simply blew us away on our trip to southern Spain a few months ago. I plan on doing a few travel posts about that trip but, frankly, don’t know where to start. When I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

For now, try to notice and be grateful for the beautiful things around you – those everyday, often overlooked gems. A flower in your garden. A child’s laughter. That twinkle in your loved one’s eye when you walk through the door. The aroma of dinner on the stove. The way a tile floor feels cool to bare feet on a summer day.

We’ve been busy at Hildring House and will be posting some updates very soon. Debra’s projects are unfolding beautifully and more updates on those are on the way, as well.

Thanks for reading and please keep doing so. After all, you’re the reason we do this!