Inside Out or Outside In?

Skeins, balls and cakes of yarn that pull from the center are all the rage with some of the people in my knitting group — but not me.  The way yarn is commonly sold is in pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil, by the way).  People who have never dealt with one before tend to pick the end that’s easy to find — the one on the outside, which is OK for a novice knitter, or people who have one of those fancy yarn spikes that is on a turntable. Pull skeins are actually designed to pull from the center, which you quickly figure out once you are able to knit fast enough to be frustrated with how cumbersome it is to have to stop and unroll more yarn (because if you give the yarn a hard yank, you have to chase the skein when it jumps off onto the floor).  However, once you figure that out, you then learn that (a) the inside end is tricky to find and (b) when enough yarn has been pulled out of the skein, the thin outer shell that’s left has a frustrating tendency to implode into yarn barf*.

One of the ladies in my knitting group is a big proponent of hand-winding yarn into a center-pull ball, but that has the same inherent problem as the pull skein.  Once you’ve pulled enough out of the center of the ball, again, the outer shell tends to implode into yarn barf.  Now, the voice of experience is telling you that if a yarn barf event occurs while you’ve got a knitting project attached to the other end of the ball or pull skein, some serious religion losing will happen.  When you’re in the middle of a knitting project, you do not want to have to stop everything and tediously untangle a big pile of yarn barf.

Nope.  First thing I do on a knitting project is roll the yarn from the pull skein into a ball that starts at the center and winds outward.  You’d think figuring out how to do this would be pretty intuitive.  Apparently not.  I’ve taught more than one novice knitter how to roll yarn into a ball.  Of course, the obvious problem with a ball of yarn is that it rolls.  That’s why I put the ball of yarn in a bowl when I’m knitting.  Once you do that, the ball unrolls smoothly from the outside-in.  Any yarn barf that was going to happen, happened when you were rolling it into a ball in the first place, and it’s already been dealt with.

For a yarn bowl, I recommend something large enough for the ball of yarn you’re using, something with a little weight to it like glass or ceramic or pottery so you won’t pull the bowl over if you give the yarn a little tug as you’re working.  One of the yarn bowls I use I got at a thrift store for 50 cents (at right).  It’s that indestructible restaurant china from the 1950’s and 1960s.  It’s cereal bowl size, and heavy for its size and I carry it in my knitting bag.

The one you see most in my pictures (left) is one of a pair of bowls I got at Pier 1 because I really like the imprinted design on the outside lip of the bowl.  It’s heavy glazed pottery.  My big ball bowl (below) is a salad serving bowl I got off Wayfair.com, again because it’s ceramic and fairly heavy, and I like the impressed design. (It was also on sale!).

[Topic change without segue warning]

I was making a sandwich the other day, and found myself mentally comparing my technique to the parental unit‘s — When she makes one, you get a smear of mayo on the center of one side, and either mayo or mustard smeared on the other, one slice of lunch meat, maybe a slice of tomato, the bottom half of a lettuce leaf on a couple of slices of the local “Wonder Bread” equivalent  — that awful “white bread” that becomes library paste after two chews.  When I make one, I “book” the bread — you take two side-by-side slices out of the loaf and lay them open like the covers of a book.  Whatever is going to be spread on the bread will completely cover that surface.  (Yes, I spike in several places on the OCD spectrum.  Why do you ask? ) If the lunch meat is chicken, ham** or turkey, then it’s mayo spread on both sides.  If beef, then it’ll be horseradish sauce on the beef side of the bread and mayo on the other.  There won’t be any lettuce (I don’t buy lettuce.  I’m not that into salads.) and probably no tomato unless I’m on a cherry tomato kick.   There will be cheese on the sandwich; Muenster or Havarti if it’s chicken or turkey, sharp cheddar if it’s beef or ham.   The lunch meat will be that thinly sliced “deli” stuff, and there will be three slices of it.  The bread will be something with a little more substance to it and a lot more nutritional value — whole grain/multigrain, or ciabatta, or right now there’s this rosemary and olive oil “baked-in-store” bread I’ve been getting that is so yummy.  It makes a killer sandwich with chicken, Havarti cheese, and tomatoes. (I did break down and get a couple of Roma tomatoes when I got another loaf of it the other day because sandwiches. . .)  Of course, since I slice tomatoes a little thicker than most people (“the knife***” is a paring knife with a serrated blade that has needed to be sharpened for years . . .), I always serve any sandwich that has tomatoes in with a folded-paper-towel “diaper” on it.   Nuts.  Now I’m hungry.

Ran across this surreally magical video the other day.

Wouldn’t that make a weird accident report?  “I was T-boned by a hot air balloon that ran a stop sign . . . ”

 

*Yarn Barf -- just what the term implies -- a big tangled mess of yarn.

**ham -- has, alas, been removed from the menu -- I've been put on a low-salt diet. Bummer. 

***"the knife" A paring knife I've had for over 20 years, with a serrated blade.  I use it constantly because it's the only "sharp" knife I have (besides this honking great machete of a bread knife which is probably illegal in any other state except Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming). It lives in the silverware cup of the dish drying rack because after each use, the blade is hand washed clean with a squirt of dish soap and put there, because I use it all the time.
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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.

 

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.

Watch Out For Those Traps, Booby

My dad used to say that when my brother or I blundered into one of life’s little booby traps.  — like this one.

Where I have this hung, the minute I walk in the door, I see it.  I got it because it’s a good motto, but also it reminded me of a certain four footed housemate. Only, a week ago, where it was hung didn’t matter.  Now it hits a raw place every time I walk in the door and see it.   In case you can’t read the writing, it says “Happy is the house that shelters a friend.”

Then there’s the clock . I painted the tip of the pendulum tail white because it was totally appropriate.

Then, I was FINALLY getting around to putting the lawn chair that has been leaning against the wall in my bedroom for months, into the garage (the back door is conveniently located in my bedroom — !) and when I picked it up, I found this behind it. It’s the second kitty toy I have chanced upon this week, but this one is in much better shape than the other one, which I threw away.  This one I’m keeping.

Monday and yesterday I gathered up the just opened bag of cat food, the two unopened packets of treats, and the one just opened, dishes, brushes, a cat bed, a cat mat, and his Littermaid and schlepped it all out to the car and donated it to a kitty shelter on the way to the pet cemetery and crematorium, which is way the heck out in the country halfway to Slide, to pick up his little cremains, which are slightly too fat for the little container I got for them, but I taped the lid down. . . .

It’s the black one with the gold leopard spots.  If you are familiar with the Peanuts newspaper comic strip, then you know about the rich fantasy life the dog Snoopy had.  I always thought the fat(cat)boy fantasized about being a “jagular” or a leopard.

They’re all there, all five of them.  Yeah, it’s kind of shrine-like, but they were my dear companions for all of 21 years — Shadow for 7 years, Jett for 12 years, Gobi for nearly 16 years, Stormie for 11 years, and Jaks for 10.  There will not be any more for a while.

My mom will be 94 this year, and while she is in full possession of significantly more of her marbles than a lot of people half her age, and is active, with no health problems except that she’s almost 94, that could change in an instant.   Once her situation is inevitably resolved, I hope there will be two more kitties.  That’s what I want to happen anyway.  Heaven knows, there unfortunately is not likely to be any shortage of kitties in need of good homes any time soon.

So I’ve been coping with my loss the way women have traditionally coped since time immemorial. I’ve been cleaning house. I washed bathmats and “guest” towels, and the leopard print beach towels that are covering where my leather furniture is worn on the chair seat edges or scratched on the sofa back.  I neatened my charity men’s hats yarn stash.  (there’s a whole plastic storage tub full of yarn in the closet, too, but that is for ladies’ hats.  That yarn is way too “gay-ly” colored for the men in this part of the country. )

About 9:30 this morning, my other side neighbor plonged on the doorbell and told me there was a leak in the alley by our water meter.  I went to look and it’s like a small spring is flowing forth from one “track” of the tire tracks down the alley and is making a small river.  I called the utility company and they knew about it — It had been going since yesterday, they’d marked it with little flags, and since water is only flowing, not gushing, they will deal with it when they get a “roundtoit.” If not tomorrow or the next day, then some time next week.  In the meantime, we have this river we have to jump to get to the dumpsters.  The important thing is, though, that the leak is before the water meter, not after, so it’s their nickle, not my landlady’s that is flowing down the alley.

I found this and it was too great not to share.  You may not be familiar with the kinetic sculptures of Theo Jensen.  If not follow the link. They are fascinating to watch.    This one is powered not by wind, but by hamster.  The look on the cat’s face is priceless.  The sphere is perforated so the hamster won’t suffocate.  Must be a real trip for the hamster, in both senses of the word. . . .

I started a “sectioned hat” and put a ribbed hem on it.  I want to do another version with a simple ribbed brim, and a smaller purl stripe, but — new rule — I can’t start anything new until I finish all the hats I’ve got started (about 5!). I also need to finish my cousin’s man cowl.

Tomorrow, I need to pay bills, go through my files and shred a bunch of stuff, ford the stream and take the shreddings out to the dumpster, and hang some pictures.  It’s late and I should go to bed so I can get up tomorrow and do that. so I will.  позже*.

*позже = later.

Things That Go Bump In The House

So far, so good. I got the kitty bed, the brushes, the water bowls I used before I got the pet fountain, the food and treats all packed up and I’ve emailed the local Humane Society about donating them and the Littermaid poop box, which works.  I hate to dumpster the poop box since it does work.  I plan to box up the food bowls I’m keeping as well as the pet fountain.  My mom said I ought to think about not having any more kitties ever again.  I thought about it — for about 5 seconds, and rejected that idea.  However, mom is 94 this year, and while she is in very good health for her age, with no chronic illnesses or health issues other than her age, that situation could change very rapidly.  I don’t foresee getting more kitties until after she is gone.

I got the baby bonnet finished today.  I get my teeth cleaned tomorrow, and the pink hat I did Friday and this bonnet, and the dress that matches it, are going to the dentist’s receptionist, who had a baby in November.  The larger of the two hats I made for her is now getting too small, and that’s what the toboggan is for.  Getting that finished freed up a 16-inch US 6 needle for another hat.  I need to see how many hats I can finish next week.

I think the little dress that goes with the bonnet is so sweet.  The receptionists little baby ought to be big enough to wear it come Easter.

I do need to keep busy and occupied.  I got a little spooked last night realizing I was alone in the house.  I’ve always had a tendency to get a little spooked and jumpy at night, and some of the medication I’m on exacerbates that tendency.  As I’ve mentioned, this is the first time in 21 years that I’ve not had kitties.  Suddenly realizing I am utterly alone in the house is not helping.  I’ll habituate but it may take a while.  I’ve heard “stray noises” twice this evening and that’s gotten me a little jumpy.  I’ve just got to keep my mind engaged, which is fine until I lie down, turn the light out and try to go to sleep.

I may try to write a hat pattern tonight, now that I’ve freed up that hat needle.  I’ve been wanting to write one for an “orange section” hat that looks like a peeled orange.   I might do that here directly.   I might do a version with a ribbed brim, and then do a toboggan version with a hemmed brim and internal ribbing

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.