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.)

Advertisements

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.

We Snuck Off For A Long Weekend

Friday morning, I got up at ye gods o’clock, bundled the fat(cat)boy off to the pet hotel and mom and I hit the road to Pearland again.   The Pearland Hyster Historical Society has their annual luncheon in October and mom wanted to attend, so off we whooshed.  It’s about 550 miles from up here in the flatlands to down there near the Gulf.  You will recall they had a hurricane there not so long ago and had a gawdawful amount of flooding in the Greater Houston Metropolitan area.  They’ve got most of it cleaned up now, although the recovery is still ongoing.

I didn’t realize until we were on the road that I forgot to pack my camera, so all but about three pictures here were taken with my phone.  My mom took the other ones.

We got there with only one small hitch — construction on Interstate 20 had the exit to State Highway 36 blocked off and we had to take the scenic route (FM 603) through Eula to get to it from the interstate.  We encountered a lot of road construction this trip, but we still made good time — We left at 7:45 a.m. and got to my cousin EJ’s house at 5:15 p.m.  We made our usual pitstop at our favorite gas station in Comanche, which is just about halfway.  My 2015 Corolla averages 30-31 mpg and I can make the drive easily on a tank and a half of gas.

My mom called my cousin EJ when we were about 5 minutes out to let her know we were nearly there, and we were told, “Never mind the sweet potato vine, park as close to the railing as you can.”  The vine grows in a pot on their back porch, and was just about to die off for winter anyway.

 

 

 

EJ is the daughter of my mom’s older sister VY, who was famous for her chocolate meringue pies, and she passed the secret on to her daughter.  My mom had this beauty waiting for her when we arrived.

Of course, the whole state is all in an uproar because the Houston Astros are playing in the baseball World Series, so we had to watch them play. Somehow in the years since my dad passed, my mom has turned into a rabid sports fan, and she and my cousin EJ had to watch the games they played in Houston.  (After watching my cousins little 48-inch flat screen TV, my mom has since decided she needs to get her one for her bedroom to replace the miniscule 19-inch TV she’s had for probably 20 years.  We’re going to go get her one tomorrow. — if she’s going to fall asleep watching sports games, better to fall asleep in her bed than in her recliner in the den.)

Saturday, we went to the cemetery to visit the graves of my uncles and grandmother. I had not seen my uncle HJ’s or QJ’s graves.  Here is my mom by her mother’s gravestone.   Her father died when she was very young and he is buried somewhere else.  My grandmother’s second husband’s name is on the headstone, but he did not adopt her children, who all kept her first husband’s name.  He was originally supposed to be buried beside her, but his relatives had him buried in their family plot near his birthplace.  It’s very confusing.  Unless you know the story, you would never connect my grandmother to those of her children who are buried next to her as they have a different last name.

After we left the cemetery, we drove down Yost Boulevard.  (The boulevard was named for EJ’s father’s people.)  Some of her cousins from that side of the family have bought my late uncle HJ’s house on Yost Boulevard and the property next door that was where my grandmother’s little house (below) was and where my mom was born has finally been sold to someone who has cleaned it up and is actually building on it now, which is great.Then

 

 

 

 

Now.

Then we went to the Historical Society luncheon.  Naturally, we had barbecue and all the fixin’s.  They had potato salad and beans for sides.  It was good. My mom is a year older than the mayor of Pearland (at left), and he always gets a kick out of seeing her.

My mom, at 93, is the oldest living graduate of Pearland High School (below).  The class of 1941 only had 14 students, and she is the only one still alive.

After the luncheon we went back to my cousin’s house.  Various family members gathered at her house to talk over old times.

The two ladies in the middle are my mother’s sister EW’s girls, MW and WM.  It was WM’s cows that I was worried about when the Brazos River flooded (cresting at 59 feet) during Hurricane Harvey.  She did lose a few of her cows, but she also lost two of her four “guard donkeys” that she keeps with her breeding heifers.  (The donkeys are very aggressive and will chase off any coyotes or dogs that try to attack the newborn calves.)  She was really lucky she lost no more animals than she did.  The dark haired lady on the right end is my cousin EJ’s daughter R. The bearded fellow on the left end is my cousin PJ.

DSCF2672

Sunday, my cousin EJ (2nd from right above) took us to eat at Red Lobster for lunch and then we headed for Galveston to see her son, his wife and their daughter.  This is the little girl I made all the baby clothes for.

Needless to say, she’s not a baby any longer.  She’s two years old now and a ring-tailed doozie.

Here’s her with her moma and daddy at left.

She’s my cousin EJ’s only grandchild.  Here she is with one of her (several) caches of toys.  With two sets of grandparents to spoil her, this child has made out like a bandit!

They live in this house that was built in the 1920’s on the highest part of Galveston Island, so if their house starts shipping water, the whole island is in trouble!  It has rained so much this year that the oak floors in the living room have buckled in two places from the moisture. (They’ve had 52.51 inches of rain so far this year.)

Here she is beside Mickey Mouse who, we are reliably (and frequently) informed, is jumping out of the pumpkin.  You will notice Meemaw (my cousin EJ) helping her hold one of the (real) pumpkins that was on the porch. (Peepaw sat this round out and stayed home.)  She’s quite an active little girl  — even without Halloween candy on board!

The port of Galveston is where my great great grandfather and most of the European immigrants to Texas landed.

It’s still quite an active port, with not only container ships and oil tankers coming and going, but also cruise ships.  If you recall, there were several cruise ships stuck out in the Gulf during Hurricane Harvey because they were unable to make landfall at Galveston.

 

 

 

There were two cruise ships in port when we were there.

Here’s why gas prices have been higher.  There are several large refineries in this area which were put out of commission for a while by Hurricane Harvey.  I think all of them are back in operation by now, though gas prices are still high.

 

Sunday evening, my dad’s niece EG and her husband PG came by EJ’s house to visit.  My cousin EG had both her hip joints replaced last month, within two weeks of each other.  If you are otherwise in good health with no chronic illnesses, they now send you to “prehab” to learn all the exercises and to get your muscles in shape.  Then, when they do the surgery, they spread the muscles apart to reach the hip joints, rather than cut the muscle attachments.  This makes the surgery much easier on the patient, and they can get you on your feet much sooner.  On the day of surgery, if you can get up and walk, and climb a short flight of stairs, they send you home!  She’s been doing very well and walks with only a little stiffness at only three weeks out from her second surgery.

Bright and early on Monday morning, when I got into the car for the drive home, I saw my odometer read 10,001. When I pulled into my garage, it read 10, 573.

We set a new record on the way home.  This is the second trip I missed the turn off for Interstate 610*, we took the scenic route through Temple because I missed a turnoff,** I missed the turnoff for the detour we took in Abilene (because we knew a key exit was closed due to construction) to get from Highway 36 to Interstate 20, and once I did finally make it onto the Interstate, I missed the exit for highway 84 West to Snyder!***

As a result of our various “scenic detours,” we didn’t get in until 6:20 p.m. on Monday evening. (We were under a bit of a time constraint, as if I didn’t get the fat(cat)boy checked out of the pet hotel by 7 p.m., it would have cost me another $20 to spring him.)

Coming back, we stopped for gas and a “pit stop” in Temple instead of Comanche like we usually do, and I had to stop to get gas on the way home from picking the fat(cat)boy up at the pet hotel because my “need gas” light was on and I had less than a quarter of a tank.  My car has a “range” feature that gives an estimate of how many miles I can go based on how much gas is in the gas tank, and it was showing 27 miles when I filled up!

But I want you to know, I was unpacked, put away, had all my dirty clothes washed, dried and hung up before me and the fat(cat)boy snuggled in for night-nights. (And the chicken cacciatore sauce did come out of my shirt — !)


*Although to be fair, the signage was confusing.  It showed one lane for 610 East and the lane beside it for 610 West.  Then there was an exit, which I assumed was for 610 East (which we didn't want).  But there was no subsequent exit for 610 West!  What I didn't realize until it was too late was that BOTH lanes were supposed to take the exit and THEN split to go their separate ways.

**Although to be fair, the roads were all in a mess due to major road construction, and key signs were missing. 

***Although to be fair, there was only one sign to indicate which exit we were supposed to take, so if you missed it, too bad.  The other sign had apparently blown down, according to the guy in the convenience store where we asked for directions.

Kept Awake by a Book

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, to be exact.  Not because of anything in the book — or at least not anything so far.  I’m only about halfway through it.  It’s a delightful little book peopled by an interesting cast of characters.  No.  It’s what’s on the book. The stylized design of books on shelves on the cover fluoresces a bright highlighter yellow in the dark! I read a chapter or two, put the book on my bedside table, turned out the light and … whoa!  It glowed so brightly I had to put the book in my “office” so I could get to sleep.

It’s Pinktober, breast cancer awareness month, and I’ve started another Carrie Fisher Memorial PussyHat in honor of it. I’ll probably do a couple more pink hats of various styles, but I need to finish the Monmouth hat and whatever other style of hat I decide to make out of the last of the Dazzle yarn I was gifted with by the lady who donated a large portion of her late mother’s yarn stash to the group, so I can wash them all at the same time and treat them with hair conditioner to soften them up.

I finished another Coriolis chemo hat, and played yarn chicken through the whole hat.  I did have enough yarn to finish it, with a ball about an inch in diameter left over.   The pattern makes a really nice had for being no more complicated than it is.  The yarn is that Red Heart Unforgettable in the colorway “Dragonfly.

Here it is finished from the side and from the top.  So swirly.

The lady who donated the Dazzle yarn also donated an assorted bunch of knitting needles, from which I got several incomplete double pointed sets.  The double pointed needles usually come in sets of 5, but if you can get four, that’s enough to work with.

These were US size 10’s (6.0 mm) and they’re the long DPNs.  I did get some 6-inch ones — some US size 7’s (4.5 mm) and 8’s (5.0 mm), and a couple of straight needle sets (a point on one end and a button on the other) to round out my collection.   That’s the Monmouth hat beside it.  It’s worked on a US size 10 (6.0 mm) 16-inch circular needle.  You have to do a provisional cast on, and then “hem” the bottom of the cap, which is why I had the DPN needle out. Soon as I finish this hat (for the picture) I’ll post that pattern on my knitting patterns blog.

Last week, one of my paternal cousins had her second hip replacement surgery in two weeks. (They did one hip and then two weeks later did the other one).  It was a “same day surgery” — which is to say, they let her go home the day of the surgery.  It’s a new thing.  In order to be able to have this procedure, you have to be otherwise in good health and a low surgical risk.  You have to do “pre-hab” before surgery, and learn all the rehab exercises you’ll do following surgery, and in order to go home, you have to get up, walk, and be able to walk and climb a short flight of stairs. She’s been doing really well.  The thing is, she’s about 14 years younger than I am.  Still, if your joints are in such bad shape, especially your hips, that a doctor recommends joint replacement surgery, you probably should have it done.   Hopefully, we’re going to get to see her later this month

 

The Old Stomping Ground Has Its 15 Minutes of Fame

On the Show and Tell of the Harvey Disaster Area that the POTUS was given Saturday, he deigned to visit a church in Pearland (First Church of Pearland) where relief supplies were being distributed, and if you’ve been following the news, you’ll have seen him speechifying there, and otherwise photo opting.

The thing is, in order for the POTUS to get there, he had to travel over ground that has a long history in my family (significant bits of which used to belong to my family, in fact).

Air Force One landed at Ellington Airport, the presidential motorcade apparently came up the Dixie Farm Road to get to the church (red tag), and then went back out to Ellington Airport via Yost Boulevard.

At one point, my mom’s three oldest brothers leased the Dixie Farm (for which the road was named) where they grew magnolia figs.  East Broadway, where the church is, used to be the Friendswood Highway which is how we used to get to Yost “Boulevard” from Houston back in the 1950’s when it was a dirt road paved with oyster shells way out in the country and every house on that road was the home of someone in my mom’s family.  Her second oldest sister VY lived in a white frame (1) house at the northwest corner of the T-intersection (the house is not there any more). 

Her youngest sister EW lived in this little 4-room house built in the 1930’s (below) (2), which is dwarfed by the $2 and $3 million dollar homes around it.  That’s my dad on his way in to visit my aunt in 2009.  Time has taken both of them away in the years since.  The only reason her house is still there is because my aunt befriended her neighbor’s autistic son and he spent a great deal of time with her and grew to love the house.  After she had to go to a nursing home, they bought her house for him as a “retreat.”

Further down the road was my grandma’s house (3) (above left with her daughter VY, VY’s daughter C, and nephew JCJ on the front porch) where my mother was born in 1924 (that house is no longer there).  That’s my grandma at far right with her 12 children in age order R to L (far left is mom, 3rd from left is HJ, 6th from left is EW, 7th from left is VY).  Her eldest son has a middle school named after him.   Down at the end of the road, where it dead ended was my mom’s brother HJ’s place.  It was a little wood frame house (no longer there) set in the pine trees far back from the road with a barn, and his wonderful grove of satsuma orange trees.

My uncle HJ later built a larger house (4) closer to the road, and eventually sold his orange grove when he could no longer work in it.  The patch of trees to the left in this photo is where my grandma’s house once stood.  Behind all these lovely homes runs Clear Creek, where my mom once played and chased cows.

The house (5) (at right) in the video below now stands where my uncle’s satsuma orange grove used to be and is two houses down from the new house my uncle HJ built.   You will note the name of the poster of the video below, who is one of “those” Yosts (great great grandson) for whom the road was named. One of those black SUV’s has the POTUS in it, but naturally the Secret Service has seen to it that it’s impossible to tell which one.

Life on Yost Road used to be a lot simpler.

What 9 Trillion Gallons of Water Looks Like.

houston-modis-post-harvey

MODIS image from NASA’s Terra satellite on August 31, 2017, showing flooding in the Houston, Texas area and sediment plumes in the Gulf of Mexico from Hurricane Harvey. Image credit: NASA

Before and After pictures from the Washington Post.

The relatives we’ve heard from were very lucky.  So very many more were not.  Please donate to the American Red Cross.