The Eyes Have It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Flaking Out, or What Making Snowflakes Has Taught Me. . .

A little picture essay on the making of snowflakes . . .

I really needed a size larger crochet hook than the size 6 (1.8 mm) hook I was using, and the thread was very slubby, which didn’t help.  And in the years since I’d made them last, I had forgotten just how brain intensive following a crochet pattern is.  Life is hard, then you get over it.



About three pins into pulling out the straight pins after the snowflakes had been liberally coated with stiff stuff, I realized why God gave us needle nosed pliers.  Duh!



I didn’t have days for the stiff stuff to finally dry all the way through, so I got creative.  Air circulation did the trick.  I elevated it even further off the table by putting it on upended juice glasses.  Use what you have in more creative ways.


The last three snowflakes!  Small victories add up.


Fifteen snowflakes, stiff and sparkly.   Gluing on the ribbon loops with a hot glue gun reminded me why I hate hot glue guns.  GLUE STRINGS!



Three sheets of this paper cost me $23! — (mostly because 3 x $0.79 for paper, 2 x $1.50 for two tubes of glitter which was on sale for half off, and 2 x $9.99 for two  “teacakes” of yarn. . . .yeah, I know.  I was going cold sheep, but . . .)  I have no willpower and I need to stay out of Michael’s.


Sewed them to a piece of blue card stock and stuck some little plastic snowflakes on as accents.  Presentation is everything.




Mom took them to the auction at her SEKRIT KLUB.  They were auctioned off for $25 a set, so $75 toward a very worthy cause.

And . . . there is knitting news.  The yarn “teacake” got rolled into a big ball and a hat is in progress.  It’s superbulky yarn (6) so it ought to go fast.  I’m calling it the Mossman hat because it’s a man’s toboggan done in moss stitch.  Pattern to be posted in my knitting blog once I’ve finished knitting it.

Home Baked ECT

Our relative humidity has gone up to 38% from 9% earlier today, but curiously, even though the temperature has gone up about 5F as well, the rise in humidity makes it feel colder, not warmer.  Right now, it’s 33F (0.5C), heading for a high of 70F(21.1C).

My computer guy brought my computer back last night.  He said, just take the side off and blow a fan straight into the box, and I can use it.  Fans, I’ve got.   So I am typing this now on my big girl keyboard.  I love this keyboard so much, I’ve got a new one squirreled away in the closet because this one will wear out.  I love the touch on it.  Very light and fast.  (It’s a gamer keyboard.)

So, sitting in the office, at the ‘puter, eating pineapple chunks for dessert after a meal of Pedro’s beef tamales (their factory burned down, and we didn’t have any for SO LONG, but now it’s been rebuilt and I don’t care if I was in the middle of Walmart, when I saw them in the meat case, I did a happy dance!).  I had three, with a big glop of refried beans on top, a sprinkling of chopped black olives, and some shredded “Mexican four cheeses” on top, zotted in the microwave.  It was sheer nums.  When I opened the can of pineapple chunks, I dumped juice and all into the bowl, and drank the juice when I’d eaten them all. (Did I mention the humidity was 9% earlier today?)

I need to put Burt’s Bees Lip Balm on my shopping list.   I’ve got a tube in my purse, but  I’ve been using Vaseline around the house because I’m afraid if I take the tube out of my purse, I’ll forget to put it back, and be caught out without any.  Vaseline works OK, but Burt’s Bees Lip Balm has peppermint in. . .   I might get a couple of tubes, one for my bedside table, one to put in the junk bowl on my computer desk, and maybe another to put on my reader’s table in the living room. . .

When our humidity dips below 20% I can put two dryer sheets in the dryer, and I still end up playing Rice Krispies clothes.  I run a comb through my hair and it just stands up and roars.  I’m wearing a little flannel lap robe at my desk, and when I get up, if I don’t take my ear buds out before I pull the lap robe off, the static electricity goes right up the ear bud cord straight into my ears.  Gets your attention, I can tell you!   Home baked ECT therapy.





Here’s the junk bowl on my computer desk.  As you can see, it has cable needles, a crochet hook, and stitch markers in it, plus a little stylus that came with my phone in case I want a little glittery thing dangling off it all the time.  I have a matching plate on my side table for my carafe.






I’ve had the bowl a while, and only recently ordered the plate when I saw that the carafe was leaving a ring because if there was any liquid in the spout, it tends to dribble if I tilt it when I pick it up.  The first plate I ordered was evidently drop-kicked at some point during the shipping process, but they were prompt to send me a replacement.

Houston got snow.  This is hilarious because the same front came through us (and was colder) before it got to them.  (The fact that the humidity here was under 20% when the front came through may have had something to do with it.)  I, however, have been having snow flurries in my living room for days now.   I have one finished except for the ribbon, 8 with one side stiffened and glittered,  5 more to crochet, and 6 more to “process” with the fabric stiffener and glitter.  Mom needs them by Wednesday.  I’d best get cracking.