More Thinky Thoughts

“There is much I don’t understand . . . Much the world does not understand. But we should not be afraid.  How else will we discover the answers?”

An uplifting quote from a graphic novel I’m reading*.  Thinky thoughts with lovely artwork = Win/win.

I went to rehab Monday (treadmill 30 min, recumbent bike 20 min), stopped briefly at my mom’s house to lend moral support for the plumbing disaster that thankfully didn’t materialize, shopped all over Wal-Mart, shopped all over Market Street to get the things Wal-Mart didn’t have, schlepped it all home and put 95% of it away.  I managed to muster the energy to eat something, crawled into bed about 9 p.m., crashed, burned, and slept through most of Tuesday.

Baked three small potatoes the other night.  Wash the potato with a brush, dry it with a cloth, smear the skin liberally with olive oil and bake at 360º for 1 hour.  When you bake them in the oven with the olive oil, the skins become so soft you can eat the whole tater.  I bake them three at a time because energy efficiency. The oil baked into the skins seals in the goodness and allows them to be refrigerated for up to a week without losing their moist, flaky texture.  I like to slice them open and lay them out in a soup bowl, throw all kinds of toppings (finely chopped meat, drained vegetables, butter, maybe a little Ranch dressing, or whatever else is handy) on them, top with sprinkle cheese and nuke in the microwave.  I just finished hoovering one up moments ago, in fact.  Serious noms.

Monday the 21st is my last session of cardiac rehab before Xmas, with two more sessions left in this annus horribilis.  I’ve got three more Julekuler to knit before Monday (little tokens of appreciation for the cardiac rehab therapists).  Won’t be hard.  Snuggle into my knitting knook, deploy a lap robe, conjure up a little music, a little yarn, a little time . . .  A pleasant interlude to stoke up on some serious Christmas spirit.

Next week, I get to mom-clean** the house and orchestrate a Christmas dinner for two.  As I have mentioned on several occasions previously, my threshold for critical mess*** is a good deal higher than that of other members of my immediate family, and roundtoits have been a little thin on the ground of late.  But now I have Bluetooth earbuds, and there is with 24/7 psytrance music.  Yowsa.  I find I can get busy better when there is appropriate music to get out and push. . .

Next week (Tuesday, in fact), I also get the long awaited crown seated which marks the final installment of the dental implant process that has been a work in progress for lo, these many moons.  I’ll have seven molars again, just in time for Christmas Dinner!  Oh, frabjous day.

I really, really need to haul the fold-up banquet table out from under my bed, get out my blocking squares and T-pins, the steam iron, an extension cord, a couple bath towels, a tea towel, and my spray bottle and block some shawls.   These two are among the three made from acrylic yarn that I need to kill.  Whether I will or not remains to be seen.  As I mentioned, roundtoits have been rather thin on the ground of late.

Got my name in print.  Thursday, I received my hardback copy of Trader’s Leap by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, in which my name appears in the forward as one of the Mighty Tyop Hunters, as I helped proofread the E-ARC**** for oopsies, fingerfumbles, and say, what?’s — which I would have done anyway for no other reason than to express my gratitude for the many years of Liaden Universe reading pleasure I’ve gotten from the books of this literary dynamic duo. They are among the few authors whose books I keep in dead tree editions for post-apocalyptic rereading because, unlike ebooks, they require neither electricity nor technology to operate.   Space opera at its finest.

Two weeks left in 2020.  Thirty two days left before we get that dumpster fire out of the Oval Office.  There is a vaccine!  The VA will be getting and giving the Moderna flavor of it.  I may have to drive to Amarillo to get it, but I will be able to get it.  I continue to hope against Hope that the light we are glimpsing faintly at the end of this long, dark tunnel is not another train.

*Caveat: The one this quote came from is for the open-minded reader.

**Clean enough for you is not necessarily clean enough for your mom.  Still, a house ought to be mom-cleaned at least once a year. The only clean cleaner than mom-clean is feng shui clean, which happens in the week before Chinese New Year.

*** critical mess -- the point at which your inability to stand the mess any longer sets off a chain-reaction of house cleaning. 

****E-ARC - Advanced Reader's Copies are nowadays sent out as ebooks.

Baking in My Dreams

So, Tuesday, mom and I had talked about what to do for Thanksgiving since it’s just the two of us, and I was going to suck it up and clean my house and cook the dinner and have mom over, and then Friday, she tells me we’ve been invited to a friend’s house. . .  But, in the meantime, at cardiac rehab on Wednesday, I only did 40 minutes on the treadmill before I caved because I knew I was going to Wal-Mart afterward and would have to hike over to the “non-grocery” side, nearly to the garden dept,  for a new shower head (see below) and pick up some teethpaste en route.

Whilst at Wal-mart, I got a frozen turkey breast (frozen so solid you could have shot it out of a cannon!) and had to ask two different stockers where the heck they’d hidden their cranberry sauce (neither of whom knew).  (Now that I mention it, I don’t think one of them was real sure which end was up . . .)  There are apparently two schools of thought on where to stock cranberry sauce.  Some stores stock it with the vegetables (???) and some stock it where it’s supposed to be — with the fruit.  (cranBERRY sauce– duh!)  After wandering all over half the store, I finally found one little box of cans of Ocean Spray jellied stuck way up on the top shelf above the canned pineapple where you couldn’t have found it with GPS and a homing beacon.  (sniffs in annoyance)

Anyway, neatly threaded into Tuesday’s conversation about what we were going to do for Thanksgiving, was one of those oh-and-by-the-way’s — her shower head was not spraying properly, would I come look at it?  (We have hard water here in the flatlands, which is not surprising as there is a sizeable chunk of limestone between us and the aquifer.)  (The combining form for “water” is “aqua-“, n’est-ce pas? So why does “aquifer” have an “i”?!?) The problem with her shower head was that since it was probably old enough to vote, it had become calcified beyond the power of CLR to revive it.  What it put out was more of a half-hearted rivulet than a spray.

So, when I went to cardiac rehab on Friday, I had an adjustable crescent wrench, Teflon tape and a new shower head in the car seat by my purse.  (Why, yes, I am a Toolbelt Diva.)  I stopped off chez mom on my way home, and it was only a matter of moments before she had a new shower head in her shower. (Don’t I wish a lot more of the world’s problems could be solved with an adjustable crescent wrench and Teflon tape. . .)

I couldn’t stand it.  I cast on for an infinity scarf like I was talking about.

Anyway, what with all the treadmill time (40-45 minutes a pop) I’ve put in during cardiac rehab sessions (not to mention 10-15 minute wind sprints on the top and bottom bicycle), and Wednesday’s  Wal-Mart Invitational 10K Grocery Shop, when my alarm rousted me out at 9 o’clock this morning, it was plain by the way I felt that I wasn’t done sleeping yet.  After a brief breakfast in bed (some of my morning meds must be taken with food), I rolled over and sounded* like a sperm whale going for squid.  I surfaced to breathe at about noon, again at about 3 pm, and again at about 6 pm, and when I surfaced at a little after 9 pm, I knew I was done sleeping.

But there was this dream I had just before I woke up.  I was in a kind of farmhouse kitchen, at this big beautiful antique farmhouse kitchen table making pastry dough.  I was wearing a bib apron made from cotton feed sacking and the long-sleeved t-shirt I had on had the sleeves pushed up past my elbows.  I took the dough out of the big crockery bowl and plopped it directly onto the table, with sprinkled flour and everything, and began to work it.  I rolled it into a “worm” with my hands and used a roller to roll the “worm” out flat into a rectangle  about a foot wide and about 2 feet long.  I thoroughly dusted the surface of the dough with a mixture of coarse-ground brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, finely chopped nuts, and minced raisins.  Then I began to roll one of the long edges in toward the center.  I went round to the other side of the table and rolled the other long edge in toward the center.  I grabbed the ends, lifted the whole shebang off the table and plopped it onto a large greased baking sheet (one of those heavy duty kind about an inch deep with a rolled rim), pinched the ends and guillotined it into two-inch sections with a pastry knife.  I covered it with a cotton tea towel and let it rise.  Once it had risen, I spooned jam made from pureed cherries down the center trough and put it in a hot oven to cook.  I have never seen nor heard of sweet rolls made this way, but they were delicious!

*sound, verbto dive down suddenly used of a fish or whale.  (This is the 7th of 7 separate dictionary definitions of the word "sound".  Any wonder why English is such a booger for a non-native to learn? )


Happy Birthday!

My mom celebrated her 96 birthday today pretty much all day long. It started this morning with phone calls from friends and distant family.  A friend, MD, came over to visit and MD’s daughter brought lunch.  MD turns 90 shortly so they had a little celebratory luncheon.  My mom had no idea that the lunch was a pretext for a drive by party that had been organized by friends from the church she has attended since the 1950’s.  A friend from the church showed up with birthday tiaras and sashes, and installed my mom and her friend in the front yard and about 20 cars of well-wishers proceeded to drive by, honking horns, leaving cards, gifts and balloons.  There was even a guy from the local news channel who  videoed segments of it for the evening news!

Then C & DK had the two of us, and two more friends from the church over to their house for a small party involving home-grilled steaks and baked potatoes and birthday cake.

Ever since my dad passed in 2014, on the day before her 90th birthday, her birthdays have been a bittersweet occasion.  Every year since then has been another year without him.  She’s finally beginning to slow down a little bit and has retired from the church choir.  But, as the card I got her said, age is irelephant.

Happy (as much as can be expected in an election year) New Year 2020!

May you and yours be safe, healthy, and near.

May you and yours be fed, clothed, housed and free from want.

May this be the year the world’s downward spiral FINALLY begins to at least level out, if not start to trend upwards. (Yes, I am a wild eyed optimist. . . )

Counting Down to Christmas

I’ve finished knitting and stuffing the Julekuler and have gotten them all packed up to be auctioned off for the scholarship fund of the Sekret Klub my mom goes to.  At left you can see some of my collection of knitting bowls — a bowl for each color, and a bowl full of booties in progress, which I can finish now that the Julekuler are off the deck. I got some stiff gold paper, poked a hole in the center of it and put the hanging loops through the hole and taped them down.  Then I put them in clear plastic bags and tied them off with a snazzy Christmas ribbon. Because of the bag dimensions, they had to angle to fit into the bags, which is just as well.  I made three of each kind:  green on red, red on green and red on white, and put one of each in each package.  They all needed to be the same assortment, since only one will be held up for bidding.   Mom has them now and will be taking them to be auctioned tomorrow

This evening, I consigned the AT&T gear to FedX, so that’s out of my hair, and good riddance, and mailed a care package to my BFF.  I got the long phone cord put on the base unit for my cordless phone.  I get to coast until Christmas, which will be nice.  I’m on the brink of starting “Outlander”  I believe I’ll start with the book.   Now it’s time this buckaroo was in her beddie-boo.

No apologies for this:

Turkey, Punkins and Julekuler

Artwork © 2019 Gregory Manchess, from

Well, at lunch today, I got a rolling start on the pumpkin pie I got at the grocery store Tuesday.  Dear friends S & JH have invited us over for dinner tomorrow, so Friday, I’ll be having store-bought “leftovers” courtesy of Prater’s and Market Street with some of Prater’s good ol’ cornbread dressing, sliced chicken breast (no Carving Board turkey to be had, alas) and jellied cranberry sauce, with punkin’ pie for afters.


I’m back making Julekuler again,  The little booklet of 24 patterns is a free download from the Schachenmayr website.  The pattern is from Arne & Carlos, and they have a tutorial.  I’m doing 9 of them for the scholarship auction that Sekret Klub my mom belongs to has every year.  The members are supposed to use their talents to come up with crafts or auctionable items with the proceeds going to their scholarship fund.  My mom’s talent is getting me to do stuff for her.  One year I made snowflakes, one year washcloths, one year neck warmers.

As I have said before, there’s nothing a knitter likes better than a worthy excuse to knit something.  Like the wife of the assistant pastor of her church is expecting a baby in December . . . .  There’s a hat that goes with the ensemble, but the photograph is on my phone and not on my ‘puter and I’m not in the mood to hassle with transferring it over.   I’ve got one bootie to finish, the sweater to block and sew buttons on, and it’s done.

The stockings in the picture of the Julekuler I’m in the process of are hostess gifts for the friends who are having us to dinner tomorrow.  I always like to do a little something for them.  They have been such good friends to my mom, lo, these many years.  She sings in the choir with my mom.  (I have this homonym thing where I know the one I want, but I invariably type the wrong one.  Like just now, I typed “quire” instead of “choir.”  The worst one is typing “meat” when I mean “meet.” I try to tell myself it just seems to be happening more frequently because I’m so aware of it, but I dunno. . .)

This time around on the Julekuler, I’m finally internalizing a technique for catching my floats.  For those nonknitters in the crowd to whom that last sentence made no sense, when you are working with two or more colors, you carry the color(s) you’re not using at the moment behind the work, which leaves a little loop of thread called a “float.”  If you have to carry one color for more than three or four stitches, you need to secure – catch – the float by securing it to the back of your work to prevent having a big long loop of thread you could catch a finger in (mittens or sweater) and so it will look neat.  There are several techniques for this.

Now that I’ve got the float thing down, I want to try again to make me a “death flake” hat.  My first attempt ended up being too small partly because I didn’t catch my floats.  The pattern is a “gothicized” version of the eight-petal rose pattern so popular in Norway and Sweden.  I’ve already made me a hat with the traditional eight-petal rose pattern on, but I have a black cowl that is just begging to have a matching black hat.  I have the yarn.  After Xmas, I’ll have the time.  The hats as well as the stockings and Julekuler are all made with Caron Simply Soft yarn, which I love (except that it splits badly).  It’s an acrylic yarn, but it’s very soft and snuggly, perfect for hats and scarves and cowls.

Last month we had a medication crisis when the stupid VA website wouldn’t let me refill my clopidogrel prescription and I was fixing to go out of town.  I spent about an hour on the phone and finally got them to refill it locally and I went and picked it up.  This month when I went to the VA website and tried to refill the prescription, it wasn’t even on the list!  I called and left a message, which apparently fell down a well, or something.  Tuesday, I went down there in person to see what the heck was going on.

Turns out I’d used up all my refills and had to get a new prescription from my cardiologist.  I found this out two days before a major holiday (with only enough doses to get me through Tuesday of next week) only because I went down in person and rattled some cages.  They had a whole month to warn me my prescription was expiring so I could go to my cardiologist in a timely manner and get a new one, but did they?  Nope.

So, I have to call the cardiologist and get them to fax over a new Rx, which they promptly did, because they are not a government agency.  Then the VA calls me this morning to tell me they tried to call me Tuesday (while I was out doing the things I actually needed to do like renew my car tags and shop groceries) and that I can go pick up my December supply at the pharmacy. So I had to make a special trip today to get the stupid medication I could have picked up while I was at the VA yesterday, only nobody bothered to tell me it was there.  And not to put too fine a point on the whole debacle, all my other prescriptions come in 90-day quantities except this one.  I have to go through the refill rigamarole on the website every 30 days!  I’ve asked and asked that it be changed to a 90-day supply just like all the rest of them, but to no avail.

Oh, and I did get the little sweater finished for the ball-jointed doll, plus a hat.  I need to send it but I want to do another sweater before I do.


Where Blue Heavens Began

This is a boy-meets-girl story.  It began seventy three years ago.  America was a very different place then.  The country had just gone through the grueling ordeal of a world war.  Boys who should have been setting about the tasks of becoming men and building lives for themselves had instead been sent off to distant places to spend four long years amid the death and horror and wreckage of war.  They saw first hand the terrible cost of it, not just to the people who had the misfortune to live where it was being fought, but to their brothers in arms, and to themselves.

But now it was 1946.  The war was over.  The boys had come home and wanted more than anything to put the nightmare of war behind them and get back to normal as quickly as possible.  They wanted wives, jobs, families, homes of their own, all the things they’d fought to protect during those long, terrible years.   They wanted the happily-ever-afters they’d paid such a high cost for.


This particular boy was the fourth of five children who wanted to finish high school so much that he was willing to work 40 hours a week in the evenings so his family could afford to keep him in school.  Even so, he still managed to graduate half a year ahead of his classmates.  But after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Marines and went off to war in the Pacific, island hopping from Tarawa to Okinawa, and then, after the Japanese surrender,  to mainland China in what was an (eventually futile) attempt to help Chiang Kai-shek.  What had brought him home was not the end of the war, but the death of his father and a humanitarian reassignment to recruiting duty in his home state where he could be closer to his newly-widowed mother.  He was on a weekend pass to see his family.  His sister and her husband, and he and a girl he knew from high school were going to go out dancing, but he’d brought a friend along who was not from the area and didn’t know any girls there to ask out, so his sister fixed his friend up with this cute secretary who worked for another business in the same building as the dentist office where she worked.

meets Girl

The girl was the last of twelve children born on a farm to a mother who, as the saying goes, had had a tough row of her own to hoe, and who had taught her youngest child two of life’s most important lessons:  that if something is worth having, it’s worth working for; and if you want something, don’t wait for somebody to get it for you, go get it for yourself.  She wanted more for herself than to be a farmer’s wife and saw education as the way to get it.  She worked hard in school and graduated at the top of her high school class.  Then she went to business school to learn the skills she would need to get a job in the city, working in an office.  It was her ticket to the world.  She got a job, did well, got a better job.  The money she made gave her the independence to buy for herself the things she wanted — her own space to live in, nice clothes, opportunities to travel and see other places.  Then, one day, her friend who worked in the dentist’s office up the hall told her that her brother and his friend were in town.  She and her husband wanted to go out dancing with them but the friend didn’t have a date.  Would she like to go with them?

The boy had asked his high school friend to go dancing because she was somebody he knew well enough to ask out, but that friend of his sister’s was really something.

The girl didn’t much care for the brother’s friend, but the brother was not only good looking, but very nice — but wasn’t he dating that girl he was with?  No, actually, he wasn’t.

Engaged May 8 1946
Just Married, November 16, 1946
At right, 25th Anniversary, 1971
40th Anniversary, 1986
50th Anniversary, 1996
60th Anniversary, 2006
November, ‎2013 67th Anniversary

Their happily ever after began on November 16, 1946, and lasted for 67 years, 10 months, and 6 days.  On September 22, 2014, he quietly went on ahead, to be there to welcome her when she comes to join him.

Semper fidelis.


Celebrating The Birthday Girl

Yesterday was my mom’s 95th birthday, and she celebrated in her favorite way, with cake, good food, and a warm circle of friends.  Three couples, the K’s, the S’s and the B’s threw quite a bash for her at the K’s house.

Ever since my dad passed the day before her 90th birthday, birthdays have been a bittersweet occasion for my mom.  This one was no exception.  Sunday was the fifth anniversary of his passing.

My mom was delighted and flattered that the S’s, K’s and B’s would host a party for her, but a little trepidacious too.  The other two times that the K’s had hosted birthday parties for her at their house — her 80th and her 90th, we had had good ol’ West Texas gullywashers.   Monday dawned bright and clear, and we hoped that “third time was charmed” and we would have good weather.  Wouldn’t you know it, about two hours before the party, it rained, but then it quit.  Then once the party got started, this happened:

CK had a table set up just inside the door with a guest book for everyone to sign, a basket for any cards, and a framed invitation.  My mom had asked that there be no gifts.  (She got a couple anyway!)I thought it was a nice touch to have guests add their own personal anecdotes as to how my mom had touched their lives.  My mom is one of those lucky people who never meets a stranger and she has been such an integral part of her church and those organizations she belongs to.  Not surprisingly, her circle of friends is large and warm.

The S’s, the K’s and the B’s, the party’s hosts before the festive spread. — And of course there was cake!






It was lucious — I should be that rich!

We all sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl.  That’s CK at her side.

The party was well attended despite the contrary weather and a good time was had by all!