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.)

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Crimmers Eve

My friend LB made a bunch of knitted snowmen, and she gave me this one when I went to see her Thursday.  She used yarn that has a thread of iridescence in it that gives it just the perfect little sparkle like snow (like the iridescent glitter I used on my snowflakes) — which doesn’t photograph at all well . . . .

The little snowman got me to thinking again about how a simple object of little intrinsic worth becomes an object of great value because of its history and how one came to acquire it.  Its worth lies in its ability to evoke memories, of the time, the place and the giver.  .  .  .  It becomes a “souvenir” in the literal sense of the word, which is French for “remember.”

Sans segue,  I remembered I had this little bamboo silverware tray  (it’s too narrow for the silverware drawer in this house), and I had a brainwave — I put it on the little table I have by my computer to organize my knitting needles.  It works a treat.  I had a hard time getting to my double pointed needles before, but not now.  They all go in that front bit quite nicely, as does my needle gauge.  Win.

Here I make all these hats for other people, but I hadn’t made any for myself.  Last year, I had made a ribbed cowl to fit up around my neck, which I fold in half and which fits like a turtle neck sweater without the sweater.   I used it when I had to go out Friday, and it is tall enough that it will cover my mouth and ears no problem.  I made it so long because you can also unfold it and bring one end of it up over your head.  It fits my needs very well.  I thought a toboggan to go with it out of the same Caron Simply Soft yarn would be just the thing, so on this chilly (41 F/ 5C) Crimmers Eve, I’m making one.

Late in my salad days (1986), when I first started doing medical transcription, we worked at the hospital in a little room off the medical records department.  The lady I worked for, and who taught me transcription, used to get tickled at me for refering to “Christmas” as “Crimmers.”  I was more draw-y and cartoon-y then than I am now, and I drew her this little thing below one Crimmers.  (I didn’t know until about 20 years later that she had not only kept it all these years, but had had it very nicely framed.)  The sentiment still holds up well, I think, even now in these dark days. . .

We Were Thankful Clear On The Other Side of Town

My mom and I had resigned ourselves to Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant (we’re both so over cooking holiday dinners), but a lady she sings in the choir with asked us over to eat with them.  JH and her husband S moved last year from my mom’s side of town, clear across to the other side of town.  My mom had been there once, but not the way we went.  Still, she had it plotted out and she came by to pick me up.  I took the first batch of snowflakes with me as a hostess gift, and they were a hit.

It was a bit tricky to find their house.  Our town is laid out quite logically and typically, on north-south streets, odd house numbers are on the east side of the street, and even house numbers are on the west side of the street.  Their street runs north-south and their house number is an even number, so one would expect it to be on the west side of the street.  No soap.  The houses on the east side predictably had odd house numbers, but there were no houses on the west side of the street.  Typically numbered streets have the lowest numbers in the north, and get higher the further south you go.  What we didn’t realize was that the crossing street at the end of that block was 1st Street, which is where the system changes.  The next cross street going north was 1st Place, followed by 2nd Place, etc., and the numbering system from that point is exactly reversed.  When we got into the next block, the houses were still all on the east side of the street, but they had even house numbers in reverse numerical order to the usual “lowest number to the south, highest number to the north” sequence.  Fortunately, the house we were looking for was right at that corner, and we’d found it.

It’s a lovely house, somewhat smaller than their previous house, but with nice high ceilings, shutter blinds on the windows, a gorgeous, fully appointed kitchen,  and each of the three bedrooms has its own en suite.  They’ve accessorized the decor with SH’s antique electronic devices including an old 1920’s pole microphone.  (SH is an electrical engineer and has collected all sorts of vintage electronics).

JH is not real into cooking either and has little interest in doing it, especially since her husband S loves to cook and is very good at it.  It was he who cooked the luscious spread.  He even made the pumpkin pie.

While he cooked, we girls watched “Gone With The Wind” on TV, which was already in progress when we tuned in.  My mom saw it on its first run in a theater when she was 12 (it made a huge and lasting impression on her), and she has seen it a gazillion times since.  (I’m sorry to say, my mom has completely bought into that whole Cult of the Lost Cause thing which both the book and the film reflect, and can’t understand why they want to take down monuments to Confederate generals, etc.  She is scandalized and personally affronted that the name of the high school my dad graduated from was changed because it was named for a member of Jefferson Davis’ cabinet.)(She’s 93.  There’s no hope of my enlightening her.  I’ve learned to just let sleeping dogmas lie.)

We had a traditional meal — turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed corn , cranberry relish, — except biscuits for bread instead of white rolls.  My mom was supposed to bring rolls, but realized at the last minute the frozen rolls she was planning to bring had been in the freezer quite a while and she was no longer confident of their freshness.  The frozen biscuits, on the other hand, were recently bought, so that’s what she took.  No matter.  Bread is bread.  It was a very delicious feast.

We had a delightful time with dear friends, and many things to be thankful for.

Tears and Memories

Woke up thinking about my baby girl, who I lost in May of 2015 to renal disease at the all-too-young age of 11.  She was the only survivor of an abandoned litter and was hand raised by a shelter lady.  Consequently, she was a lot more snugly than cats, especially female cats, usually are.  She was Stormalinda Phogg-Phoote, the name was bigger than the cat.  Stormie was never very big, always slender and graceful, agile, gracile, and quick.  She was a climber, and could leap highest of any cat I’ve had.  Sometimes, the (cat) boys would let her up on the bed at night and she would creep into the hollow between my stomach and my body pillow, curl up and sleep there.  I remember how privileged I felt when she did that, and tears slide down my face.  I’m down to one now, the fat(cat)boy, and I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep him before time and the world steal him away from me.   He turned 10 this August.

You may or may not have noticed the Mary Oliver quotation from her poem, “Starlings in Winter”  on the sidebar at right.  Doodlemum is participating in “Inktober” a drawing challenge to post a drawing every day in October, and the picture above was her post for today.  It resonated with me on umpteen levels.  There are days. . . there are days. . . .

In addition to being “Inktober” it’s also “Pinktober,” breast cancer awareness month.  I’m already very aware of it.  Four of the ladies in my knitting group are survivors, all of them have had mastectomies, one of them has had her third recurrence and it is in her bones now.  She’s done a third round of chemo, and now she’s doing radiation therapy to the lesions in the bone.  Three of them have gotten the monster to leave them alone for now.  One of them is still being stalked.  Some of us knit because it keeps us from screaming. . . .

Also in the knitting news, I finished a Little Twisted Hat in fuchsia glitter yarn in honor of Pinktober, and I’m futzing with a mistake in a Carrie Fisher Memorial PussyHat which I have put aside until I simmer down.  I’ve revised the Little Twisted Hat pattern to do the decreases differently, and I like the way it “points” the cables better.

Last night when I got groceries, I got a Super Saver Jumbo skein of Red Heart PINK yarn to make some more pink hats for “Pinktober.”  I went looking for clear glass beads at Michael’s but didn’t find any.  Did find colored star-shaped beads, though and in a way that’s even better.  I have plans for a pink hat with star beads.  There will be a pattern published on my knitting patterns blog . . . eventually.  I’ll have to find one of my small crochet hooks to put them on with.

I’m going to finish that one Malguri Morning shawl today if it harelips the governor, and get both of them in the mail to Spokane ASAP.  I also need to wash a load of clothes. The first item will get done.  The second item may get done.  What I should do is go sit and knit on it in the living room where I can hear the washer and dryer*, start a load of clothes, and knit while I wait for it to be time to put the clothes in the dryer, and then time take them out of the dryer and hang them up.  I should eat something also, so I can have a personal pie** for dessert.  I got two apple ones and two cherry ones when I shopped groceries last night.  Decanted into a dish and zotted in the microwave. . . but apple or cherry? . . . decisions, decisions. . .

 

* The living room is beside the dining "area"; and at one end of the dining area is the kitchen, and at the other end is the laundry room.
** A two crust fruit pie made in a 5-inch aluminum foil pie tin.

Aftermaths, Dentistry, and a Baby

Please, donate to the Red Cross.  Nobody is immune to natural disasters, and what goes around, comes around, folks.

Heard from my friend JT who lives in Key West.  They evacuated Thursday afternoon and were holed up in a hotel in Orlando for the duration.  I don’t think they thought Irma was going to track as far east as it did, and Orlando did take a hit, but not a direct hit like the Keys did.  They have the hotel room booked until Saturday.  They should be able to get back by then.  Hopefully, they will have something left to go back to.  I’ve seen footage of the damage in Key West, and it’s pretty bad.  The main thing, though, is that they’re alive and unharmed.

I got a CT of my jaw done this past Monday to see if the bone graft took where I had that lower molar pulled, and the graft has taken.  That means that on the 21st, a large gob of money will be given to my dentist to implant a peg into my jawbone.  Three months after that, he will be given an even bigger gob to put a tooth onto that peg.  I also learned that the dentist’s receptionist/clerk is pregnant with a little girl due possibly at around the first of the year by the look of her, so there will be baby things in the knitting news.

However, currently in the knitting news is that I have finished three hats and a shawl.  The shawl pattern is Malguri Morning, one of two I’m doing for friends in Washington State.  It’s done in Loops & Threads Charisma yarn, “Northern Lights” and “Electric Blue” colorways.  The other one has about a ball and a half of yarn left to go and has been bumped back in the queue again due to the fact that their kitchen is in the process of being remodeled, and BABY STUFF KNITTING!

I finished two ribbed toboggans and a Simple Pleasures hat, and I am working on a new pattern I’m calling a Little Twisted Hat (at right).  I’ll post that pattern when I’ve figured out how many cable crosses are needed before the decreases can start.

 

 

 

 

The toboggans are the ones above (camo chemo!) and the Simple Pleasures one is to the right.  I’ve got five other hats started, but two are stalled, one has to be half ripped out and rethought, and the remaining two just have to be finished.  They will be on hold, however, until I get baby stuff out of the way.  I’m going to see how many baby things I can knit between now and the 21st. They already know it’s going to be a little girl, and I have pink yarn and lavender yarn, and yellow yarn . . . I’ve also got a ChiaoGoo size US 11 (8.o mm) 60-inch circular needle on order and two big balls of a nice yellow yarn, so there may be a baby afghan at some point.  We’ll see.

Another Friend in Harm’s Way

Please, donate to the Red Cross.  Nobody is immune to natural disasters, and what goes around, comes around, folks.

I was watching the Weather Channel on TV (again), and watching a hurricane (Irma) barrel down on the US (again), with South Florida in its sights.  It seems like after Irma side-swiped Cuba, that caused it to veer to the west.  I have a dear friend, JT, in Key West, which is now pretty much dead center in the storm track.  They’re talking 10-15 foot (3.o-4.5 m) storm surges along Florida’s west coast.

According to the Weather Underground website, “. . . Late Saturday, Irma was aimed toward the west of Key West, which would put the the city on the storm’s more dangerous right-hand side. However, Irma is beginning to angle rightward, and this will most likely bring its core somewhere near or just east of Key West between around 2 and 8 am Sunday. Winds of 120 mph (193 kph) or more can be expected just east of the eye, and storm surge is predicted to range from 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3.0 m).”

I don’t know his status.  I’ve refrained from trying to contact him because I don’t want to tie up his phone or deplete his phone battery when he has few if any opportunities to recharge it.  My main hope is that they were able to get out to someplace safe where they can ride this thing out, but I’m also hoping there will be something left for them to come back to once they can.  Knowing him, though, where ever he is, he will be helping others.