Attack Of The Mummy!

Yeah.  A bit of back story on this one.   My dad (second from left) had two older brothers and a younger brother, KG (far left and below).  In the inscrutable way of families, he was closer to his younger brother than he was to his older brothers.  When WWII broke out, my dad joined the Marines, and KG joined the Navy, so they had ships in common.  After the war, KG joined the Merchant Marine and eventually became chief engineer on an oil tanker.   KG married and they had two girls, CLK and ELG.  My dad always doted on KG’s girls and our families always stayed involved and in touch over the years, especially after KG died.

CLK, the oldest, married and had two girls, MO and MA, which my dad considered the grandkids he never had (neither my bro nor I had children).

ELG, the younger, married later in life after her father had been dead for several years, and she wanted my dad to give her away at her wedding.  The picture below right is one of my favorite pictures of both of them.

KG knew how my dad loved woodworking, and one year as a gift, he sent dad a kit to make a grandfather clock — precut wood, fittings, “internal workings”and hardware — everything you needed.  My dad had such fun putting the clock together, staining it, finishing it, and assembling it, and it had pride of place in our den plonging the hours for many years — until yesterday.

For a number of years, the clock had been promised to  CLK, to be passed down with the grandfather clock KG had made for his family from the same kit, to their two daughters.  Thursday, she and her husband MK drove over from where they live in the Dallas Metromess, with the mission of taking it back with them.   My mom  imagined they’d just unhook the weights and the pendulum, put it flat in the bed of MK’s pickup, cover it with a quilt, and boogie on back.  Guess again.  Nothing is ever simple.

Yes, you have to detach the weights and the pendulum, but no, since it is an older clock (about 50+ years old or thereabouts) you cannot transport it flat.  The vibrations generated by driving it over roads will discombobulate the machinery and disarrange the internal workings.  It has to be transported upright.  CLK had done her homework, though.  She consulted the interwebs, that fount of universal wisdom, and found reliable instructions for how to transport it. By the time they had it all wrapped up ready to travel, it had been christened “The Mummy.”

It would have to be strapped to the back wall of the cab of the pickup, and MK got one of their adjustable ladders that could adjust to just the right length to brace it at the bottom and halfway up. I didn’t get a picture of it ready to go, but CLK did.  The Mummy Goes East!

Anyway, bright and early this morning (Saturday), the clock along with several other items my mom wanted CLK and MK to have for the girls (like the silver tray her daddy gave my mom and dad when they got married) began wending their way back.

Unfortunately, while we were eating lunch Friday, CLK’s eldest daughter called to say she had just fished three dead koi out of their koi pond in the back yard. Then it was four.  Then it was five. Then it was eight (they only had 13 total, including 3 new ones). Their waterfall is controlled by a GFI plug which is turned off by throwing the breaker. (The pond and circuitry came with the house.)

Apparently what happened is that during the warm weather, the pond stratifies by temperature with the water with the least oxygen ending up as the layer on the bottom. They had torrential rains there Wednesday and somehow the extreme moisture tripped the GFI breaker. They left to come visit us early Thursday morning and no one had noticed that the breaker on the waterfall had been tripped and that it was not running. The big influx of cold rainwater sank to the bottom and displaced the anoxic layer upwards. Because the waterfall was off for almost 36 hours, the water was not being mixed and aerated and the biggest fish (15+ inches), the ones they’d had for over 10 years (of course they all had names!), were the first to perish from lack of oxygen. They were lucky the girls happened to discover there was a problem or they would have lost them all. Hopefully, the ones that are left will be OK. Three of them were new fingerlings. So very sad.  Koi are not cheap to replace.  Even the fingerlings, but koi the size of the big ones they lost are around $500 apiece.

In the knitting news, I finished my avocado “washcloth”, but that’s about it.  Too busy visiting with rellies to do much of anything knitting wise.  Here it is all finished and on my toaster with the toast rack on top.

I’ve had that toast rack for so long I’ve forgotten when I got it.  I do remember where I got it, though, from the Williams and Sonoma catalog.  It is very difficult to find toast racks in America.  I got one because I like my toast crisp.  You take a piece of toast hot out of the toaster, butter it, and lay it down on a plate and the steam makes the underside soggy — which defeats the whole purpose of toasting the bread in the first place. You might be able to tell, the toast rack consists of five letters T-O-A-S-T made from wire which are affixed to the bottom and form the slots where you place the toast (it holds 4 pieces).  The “A” sticks up higher than the rest to act as the handle.  I think its a very clever design, myself.   Of course, I store the toast rack on top of the toaster, but because of the electricity and metal involved, I like to have something cloth or cloth-like in between.  I was using a blue knitted washcloth, which clashed horribly with my AVOCADO-GREEN! kitchen, whence the need for one knitted from avocado green cotton yarn. Voilà.

 

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Ups and Downs

It’s been a tiring day. Had a bunch of running around I had to do when I’d rather be sitting at home knitting.  C’est la vie.  My first stop this morning was at my mom’s and she told me that my cousin EJ, the one we stay with when we go down to Pearland, had called to say that her older brother (my mom’s nephew) BY had passed earlier this morning.  He had been in poor health for some time, in and out of  hospital and rehab places.  Very sad.  Cousin though he was to me, there was a pretty big age difference (not just between me and him, but between his mother and my mother), and I did not know him anywhere as well as my mom did.  Mom knew him from when she still lived down there, and from when he and his younger sisters were kids.

The new kitchen light fixtures are in as of Tuesday, I love them, and they put out more light than the old ones did, so total win.

I was doing a  worked-on-the- diagonal “washcloth” from cotton thread, had been working on it for some time at knitting group, it had mistakes in it, was too big, and  Wednesday, I frogged it.  Restarted it.  Realized I hadn’t finished writing the pattern for it. Can’t finish writing the pattern for it until I finish it.  Sigh.

This is the yarn I’m using for the cobblestone lace shawl I also haven’t finished writing the pattern for.  I’ve got two skeins of this stuff, but that’s OK.  I love the color and it has a nice hand.   I’ve got to wind another ball out of it for the garter stitch lace shawl I’m doing.   What I don’t use in that shawl I’ll use in something else.  I’ve got the increases and the decreases (it’s a triangular shawl knitted sideways), but there’s a transition bit in the center that goes behind the neck.  The way the stitch pattern of the body works is that it’s got to have two rows with an even number of stitches, and then two rows with an odd number of stitches, which you get by increasing/decreasing 1 stitch every other row.  I’ve yet to work out how to get the odd/even stitch count without a net gain or loss in stitch count.  I think I know but I’ll have to sit down and do a test piece to be sure.  Which I haven’t done.

It’s been a long day.  I’m tired.  I’m going to bed.  Night, y’all.

I Can Have Tuna For Breakfast If I Want To

I have never understood this “you can’t eat certain foods at certain times” thing.  Yeah, I can see structuring your food intake for what you’ve got to do during the day, so that you eat certain types of foods (proteins, complex carbs, fats, etc.) in certain combinations designed to keep you going all day long.  But specific foods being forbidden at specific time?  Nope.  ‘You can’t have that for breakfast!’  Pshaw!  Tuna salad makes a good breakfast.  It’s got protein, complex carbs (or it does the way I make it), and it’s tasty.   (And come to that, how is a piece of  fruit pie (dessert) different than a toaster pastry?)

I had tuna salad for breakfast instead of what I had originally wanted to eat because of a Mystery.  I know for a fact that I bought several cartons of almond milk when I shopped groceries at some point recently — the kind of cartons that don’t have to be refrigerated.  I know I did.  And I know where I thought I put them.  But, I’m durned if I know where they actually are.  There aren’t that many places where they could be and they aren’t in any of them.  I’ve looked.  Twice.  How can I have cereal without almond milk?  I’ve got some lovely Cheerios and some Kashi shreaded wheat, and no almond milk.   So now, here directly, I have to suit up and schlep off to Walmart and get some.   In the rental car.

Yep.  Tues, I took my poor Greyola off to Big Daddy’s Collision Center to get the collision damage repaired.  It’s going to take about two weeks, they said.  They’re going to have to replace both door panels, and the front fender panel, and work on the rear fender panel, and they have to take bumpers off and lights out to paint.  The rental car is a 2017 silver Chevy miniSUV.  I’m going to have to put a static decal in the back window so I can locate the durn thing in parking lots.   It has one of those keyless systems — not just keyless entry, but keyless ignition, too.  So long as you are carrying this fob thingie around on your person, you can lock and unlock the doors and start the car without a key just by pressing buttons!  Oh, the plonger* envy!

So, I’m going to go brush my teeth, put on shoes, beetle off to Walmart to get some almond milk, chopped olives, and TP.  Then I’ll get my adulting done for the day (pay bills), and decide what I want to do next, which will very likely involve yarn and sharp pointy metal things.  And maybe computers.  Busy, busy, busy. . .

It occurs to me that I’ve got a shawl going in every room of the house but the kitchen at the moment, all of them for me.  I’ve got a Malguri Morning shawl in Charisma yarn “Northern Light” colorway going in the living room (TV knitting at its finest), my modified version of the cable edged shawl in Lion Brand Heartland yarn color “Glacer Bay” going by the computer, and the cobblestone lace shawl in “bluejean” going in the bedroom.   I’ve got some YouTube subscriptions that have uploaded new videos, and some blogs to read, and The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman to finish rereading, and a lot of TV binge watching lined up to get stuff off the DVR, so shawl knitting is really high on the list of things that will happen in the near future.  Be nice if I can get all three shawls done in time for cold weather this fall.  Goalz.  I haz ’em.

 

*plonger - in the family parlance, a "plonger" is a small electronic device that has buttons you push to accomplish tasks -- a doorbell, a TV remote, a garage door opener remote, the little remotes that lock and unlock your car all fall under this generic term.  In order to accomplish the task, you "plong" the appropriate button.  This came from "plonging" on the door bell, which is also a common expression in the family parlance, which is what you do to produce the "classic" doorbell "pling-plong" sound.  "Plonging" would qualify as an onomatopoeic noun (for the sound) used as a verb (what you do to produce the sound).  This term has the sound and feel of one of my dad's (many) linguistic influences on the household.

The Eyes Have It

I know I’ve mentioned it here, although not lately, that I have a thing called ocular migraines.  Many migraine headache sufferers report an “aura” prior to their headache, a warning symptom(s) that a headache is coming.  Many of these “auras” are visual — scotoma, scintillating scotoma, etc.   Some people, like me, get the aura without the headache.  If you have to have migraines, and you get a choice what kind to have, choose the kind I have.  I get maybe 10-15-20 minutes of visual disturbances, and that’s it.  No headache.  No pain.  Just these annoying visual symptoms.  There is a genetic component to migraines, and women are more likely than men to have migraines of any type.  I have female cousins on both sides who have full blown migraine attacks — and who know their triggers.   Me?  I got off dead easy.

My ocular migraines typically involve a scintillating scotoma in my left visual field.   It starts as a flickering point just left of center in the area of sharpest vision.  It’s something that happens in my brain, not my eye, and because it happens in my left visual cortex, it affects both eyes.  (Anatomical aside:  The optic nerve from each eye branches and half of it goes to each side of the visual cortex of your brain, so each eye transmits to both sides of the brain.  If you lose an eye, you lose your depth perception.  However, if the right visual cortex of your brain is damaged, it doesn’t take out the vision in the right eye, it takes out the right half of the vision in both eyes.  Because you still have some vision in both eyes,  your depth perception is preserved.)  The scintillating point expands into a “C” shape, with the “gap” oriented toward the right lower corner of my visual field.  The “C” moves diagonally up toward the left upper corner of my visual field, getting larger and larger as it moves, until it expands off the edge of  the visual field and goes away. It only affects my sharp vision for a minute or two, but it’s visually disruptive until it goes away.   If I get one while I’m driving, I pull off out of traffic as soon as I can safely do so, and wait them out.

The whole reason I brought this up is that on the whole I may go months and months without having one, or I may have two or three over the course of a week.  Yesterday, I had four, and one was atypical — it was just like the ones I always have except it was in my right visual field instead of the left.  I’ve had another typical one today already.

Now, some migraine triggers are dietary (MSG, artificial sweeteners, nitrates, etc. ).  I eat Chinese food with impunity (and chopsticks).  I eat lunch meat and hot dogs with impunity (and mayonnaise), so MSG and nitrates are not suspects. Although wine is a migraine trigger for one of my cousins,  I can and will drink wine when it’s offered, and it’s not a suspect.  Changes in hormone levels are not suspect either; I’ve been on estrodiol-only HRT for (literally) decades and my hormone levels stay constant.  I suspect that changes in weather may be one of my triggers — possibly rapid changes in barometric pressure and such like —  and the polar vortex has been wreaking havoc with the weather here lately.  We had some nice warm weather earlier in the week, then Wednesday, it got cold again, and was drippy, drizzly, mizzly and dreich.  It’s the first moisture we’ve had in over a month.

I don’t care for artificial sweeteners and rarely consume them.  Saccharin has an unplesant “wang-y” aftertaste that I don’t like.  I’m not real wild about any of the others, either.  I just don’t care for the way they taste.   My mom uses both Sweet’n’Low (saccharin) and Equal (aspartame).  She likes the taste (300-500 times sweeter than sugar) and finds nothing “off” about it.    My dad never cared for diet drinks, and it is very likely that I get my dislike of them from him.*  (His tea was never sweet enough unless about half an inch of sugar had settled out of it into the bottom of the glass.  Yep.  I’m daddy’s girl.)

But the standout atypical thing about yesterday, apart from my having four attacks, was that I had this “zero calorie” bottle drink I hadn’t had before.    I bought four bottles of the stuff, but I bought it for the bottles — nice substantial, washable, refillable,  17-oz plastic bottles**.  The drink  was carbonated, contained several of the vitamin B’s, and it had green tea extract.   I’ve got three more in the fridge.  I’m going to try another challenge Sunday when I know I’m going to be staying in all day.

In the meantime, I think I hear some spinach focaccia calling my name.  I’d better go see what it wants.

*Taste breaks down to chemistry and your ability to taste or not taste certain chemicals is inherited. 
**I hate buying bottled water and throwing all that plastic away.  It's stupid and irresponsible, and it supports those criminally-irresponsible environmental-toxic companies who make them.  Not only is it much more environmentally friendly to get a set of bottles and reuse them for months and months, it's cheaper in the long run.

Llolling About in Llano, Part One

Our good friends C&DK invited mom and me down to their “ranch” about 7 miles outside of Llano, Tx, over New Year’s.  They have around 20 acres in  “the hill country” down near Austin, and Fredericksburg, on which they have a cabin.  They call it “The Crooked Star Ranch” because they had a star (Tx is the “Lone Star State,” after all) on the cabin door that kept getting knocked cattywompus* every time the door was closed.

The cabin was originally built as a 10′ x 15′ hunting lodge with a fireplace, a sleeping loft, a miniscule 3-piece bathroom, a very rudimentary kitchen, a veranda and a screened-in porch.

After they bought it, they replaced the porch screens with glass, added a bedroom and bath on the ground floor and bumped out the kitchen to make room for more prep area, shelving, and a full sized refrigerator.  They also added 3 mini splits for heating and cooling.   It’s rustic, I’ll grant you, and it’s out in the boonies, but it has hot and cold running water, a septic system, indoor plumbing, and she has a stackable washer and dryer, so we weren’t exactly roughing it.

The stairs to the sleeping loft (at right) are rather breakneck, and they did not want my 93-year-old mom going up and down them (nor did I), so they put her in their bedroom with its en-suite, and they slept in the loft.  I was put on the former porch on the bed the couch folded out into.  However, I had a waffle blanket, a quilt and the thick fleece blanket I had thrown in the back seat of the car (along with a baggie containing tea light candles, a cigarette lighter, chocolate, nuts and trail mix — part of my winter survival kit), and I was plenty warm.

They still had their Christmas decorations up.  The stockings were hung on the gun-rack with care.  (Actually,  the guns and sword are “authentic reproductions” that belong to one of their neighbors who participates in historical reenactments.

The cabin was all lit up for Christmas, including Dixie, their dog (lower left corner of picture).   (Dixie is a Boykin Spaniel, — the state dog of South Carolina — and is rather opinionated about how many treats she should be allowed to have. . . .)

This part of Texas is known as the “hill country” because it is just that — hilly, rocky, and wooded, with post oaks, live oaks and mesquite.  It is mostly used for grazing land, primarily for cattle, but also sheep and goats.  The land is dotted with limestone escarpments and outcrops which provide an abundant source of building material — the so-called “Austin stone.”

This part of Texas is about at the same latitude as southern Morocco or the northern border of India, and has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and generally mild winters. Average temperatures range from 84°F (29°C) in the summer to 46°F (7.8°C) during winter.  Towns are few and far between in this area, and with all this open land, there is also wild life — a lot of deer, racoons, skunks, snakes (including rattlesnakes and copperheads), possums, foxes, coyotes, etc.  Unfortunately, they also have feral hogs.

With this winter storm thing developing over the New Year holiday, mom and I were watching the weather so as to know what clothes to take.  These were the predictions as of the day before we left.

 

 

 

Suffice it to say, my mom, bless her, does not have the appropriate clothes for this kind of situation or weather.  Her wardrobe is “indoor-city,” i.e., geared to bridge clubs, luncheons, and church.  Her idea of cold weather clothes was to bring her wool suit made from thin woolen broadcloth lined with satin, which she wore with a long sleeved cotton jersey sweater, a flannel lined nylon windbreaker, and knee-high nylon hose —  and she couldn’t understand why she was so cold.  I was wearing microfleece — three layers on my core, and two layers on my arms — sweatpants, and thick cotton socks, and I was fine, although I did resort to a lap robe on Monday.

We drove down on Friday, and made really good time — with my mom navigating and the excellent directions CK had given us, we didn’t miss a turnoff.  The only time we had any trouble at all was when one of those bus-like RV motor homes nearly ran us off the road.  I was going slightly under the speed limit (which is 75 mph/120 kph in Texas) I was in the passing lane right beside them when this yahoo in the motor home decided to pull into our lane and durn near side-swiped us.  Fortunately, I was able to maintain control of the car and keep us going straight because the shoulder of the road (what there was of it) was steeply sloped and we could have easily had a roll-over accident.  I don’t think mom realized how close we came to wiping out completely, which is just as well.

One other incident of note did happen on the way down; I finally thought of a good name for my silver 2015 Toyota Corolla.  The car I had before it (for 27 years!), a 1987 Toyota Corolla, was affectionately known as “the Crayola.”  I’ve decided to call this one “the Grayola.”

CK, who is a great cook, served us home-made chicken and dumplings, queso, tamales,  prime rib and other such delicious goodies —  in a kitchen with no stove, just a microwave, toaster oven and crock pots!

*cattywompus — if something is all cattywompus, it is discombobulated, askew, tangled up, disarranged, jumbled up.  (If you’ve ever been around little kittens, you’ll have noticed that sometimes when they run, the hind end gets ahead of the front end, with predictable results.)

Snowing Outside as Well as Inside

I’ve finally finished crocheting all the snowflakes I plan to crochet this year.  There is glitter EVERYwhere, especially in the living room carpet by where I have the ironing board set up. Whoopee!(I have it set up in the living room right next to the dining area so I can use the dining table to put the bottle of stiff stuff, and the containers of glitter and straight pins, and what not on.  I still have two snowflakes that need the second side stiffened and glittered, and then glue the ribbon loops on, and then packing one bunch to mail.  I was going to try to get them there before Christmas, but obviously, that isn’t happening.

Then I have to clean up the mess.  Ugh. I out-and-about-ed all day yesterday — I went to the dentist and the verdict is that the post is looking great.  I’m supposed to come back Wednesday-week to get the impressions made for my new molar.  I had the tooth pulled in May.  I’ll finally get the implant/replacement in January.  I will be so glad to finally be able to chew on that side again. (Oh, I can chew on that side, but it’s a bootless undertaking . . .)

After that, I went to visit my friend LB and took her a snowflake.  She had knitted a bunch of snowmen and gave me one.  She is currently dealing with her third recurrence of breast cancer which has now metastasized to her bones.  ( She’s being treated at the same cancer center where I donate the hats.)  She’s had a third round of chemo and radiation treatments to her ribs where it first showed up in the bone.  Her latest MRI showed she had lesions in all but two of her thoracic vertebrae.  She’s trying to stay upbeat.  They’ve started her on this new pill type chemo that is supposed to be really great.  I hope it works.

Last week, the battery on my computer UPS device died — I have two UPS devices, and the battery on the other one died first, and I changed them out.  Now this one died as well — and I had to go get a new battery.  I took one of the dead ones in to be sure I got one that would work, and since both devices use the same battery, I got two.  I left the dead battery with them to recycle (it contained lithium), and one of the errands I had to run yesterday was to take the other dead battery in to get it recycled as well.  And I had to go to this store to get this thing and that store to get that thing, and then shop groceries. By the time I got home, and got everything sorted out and put away, I was pooped.  As a result, I went to bed too soon after I ate supper and had a bad reflux episode, woke up coughing and gagging, with my nose streaming.  I had a hard time getting back to sleep again, and I have a sore throat, and I’ve been wheezing all day.

I had an optometry appointment at the VA today, and they dilated my eyes.  I looked a little weird wearing dark glasses on such a grey, overcast day, but I was able to drive home.  In addition to being grey and overcast, it was also colder than the proverbial wedge (our overnight low is supposed to be 24F/-4.44C tonight).  I stopped by my moms later this afternoon, after my eyes had settled down, and  her halls are quite thoroughly decked.  Our family moved to that house in the 1960’s.  The house had a fireplace but no mantelpiece, which my mom found odd and disappointing.   At the time, my mom was doing ceramics as a hobby — one of her friends had a shop for hobbyists with molds and kilns, etc., — and she was working on this deluxe nativity set which would have been perfect to display on a fireplace mantel — alas!  My dad decided to make her one, and did woodcarving on it.  It took him forever (his projects usually did), but finally he got it done. (The reason it took forever was that he was so painstaking.  The results speak for themselves).   The white pieces pf the nativity set stood out better before mom had the brickwork (and the wood paneling) in the den painted.

The picture above the mantel is a photograph my dad took of my late aunt’s former house in El Paso all decorated with luminarias.  He had it enlarged and framed and they gave it to her one year for a gift.  When she passed, her son wanted mom to have it as a memento.  My dad’s niece made my parents promise that if they ever sold the house, she could have the mantel.   When my brother and I were little (1953), this lady in their church made stockings for us and my mom hangs them up every year.  I cropped them out of the picture, because this is not Facebook.

As mom and I were sitting in the den visiting this afternoon, I looked up through the sliding glass door into their back yard, and it was snowing — just not sticking.  When I got back home,   Lo, how a rose e’er blooming in my flower bed was sprinkled with snow.   Three days before Christmas, it’s still blooming.

After having to listen to this rock diva and that country music star warble and butcher all the popular* Christmas carols in practically every business I went into yesterday, I hunted up some little off-piste delights — trained singers singing a carol that hasn’t been sung into the ground because it’s one everybody knows.

I’m Ready For Some TV Knitting (and Watching!)

Well, the pattern is modified and the slippers are knitted and on my little tootsies.  The math involved makes my brain hurt, even when I’ve got a calculator.   My three remaining working brain cells are knackered, and I’m ready for a little mindless TV knitting.

They worked up nicely, but you have to sew up the sole and the back of the heel portion . . . grumble . . . grumble.  I strenuously avoid knitting patterns you make in pieces and then have to sew together.  If I wanted to sew, I’d get out my sewing machine.

The pattern is sized for a foot 9-10 inches (23-25.5 cm) long from big toe to the edge of the heel, which would accommodate an (American) 8 to a 10 ladies size shoe.

Yesterday was Veterans’ day, and I just couldn’t.   The picture of my dad in his dress Marine uniform at the start of WWII, the exact one (which is still in the exact frame) that his father had at his bedside while he was dying of cancer and hoping his 3rd son would make it home from China in time to say one last goodbye is just too fraught with memories.

My mom is an anniversary marker — she knows the birthdays and the date of death of each of her 12 siblings, her mother,  my dad, and my brother’s late first wife, and she never fails to remark on each event and how many years it has been since.  And she put that picture of my dad up on her Facebook page for Veterans’ Day.  That’s all well and good, but, we shouldn’t just remember veterans on Veterans’ Day; we should remember them every day.  They don’t just protect and defend us on Veterans’ Day.  They risked and continue to risk life and limb in our service every minute of every day.

And besides, my dad’s not the only veteran in the family.  Both he and my mother had brothers in the armed services during WWII, and they had a child who proudly served as well.