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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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.

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.

An Unsettling Episode

I was sitting watching TV this afternoon when the doorbell rang.  It was a man dressed in T-shirt and slacks, who identified himself as a former tenant of my duplex.  I recognized the name he gave because I had gotten his mail, mostly hospital bills.  He said that his son had passed away about three months ago, and that he had first started having seizures while they were living in the duplex.  He said he just wanted to stand outside in the yard and pray for a little bit. (It was obvious he was still very much affected by his son’s death as he teared up and got emotional talking about it. I don’t know how old the son was, but the man looked to be  in his late 30’s, so the son couldn’t have been very old.) I made appropriate responses (what do you say in a situation like that, anyway?) and said it was OK.  He was the one who had planted the roses, apparently.  I apologized that the rose bed badly needed weeding, but he passed this off, saying, “It’s your house now.”

What made it even more disturbing was that the elderly couple who moved out just prior to my moving in were both quite frail.  I got conflicting stories from the landlady as to why they moved.  First she said that a sister was supposed to be moving in with them to help take care of the man and she had a dog, and the landlady didn’t want any more dogs.  Then later she said they moved out because they needed three bedrooms, and the duplex only has two.  The husband really, really didn’t want to move as he really liked the duplex.  Three months after they moved, he died.

And then, since I’ve lived here, some chronic health problems I’ve had for a while have gotten much worse.  Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

I knew the place had terrible feng shui when I moved in, but I’ve done the best I can with it.  Mom was very keen on my living here because she really likes it.  It’s probably five minutes away from her house, driveway to driveway, and it’s important to her to be able to drive by where I live all the time, so there it is.   You do the best you can with what you have.

On a more whimsical note, the other day I had finished eating my daily ration of nine Rolo candies, which come wrapped in tin foil.   Sometimes I spread them out, like four after lunch and five after supper by way of desert, and sometimes I eat all nine at once.  The other day I was blogging, looked over and saw these rolled up balls of tinfoil and thought — owl pellets! Then I cracked up laughing.

 

 

A Change of Pace

That loud grinding noise you heard a while ago was me changing gears from knitting to crochet. (Yes, I am ambicraftous.)  My mom belongs to this Sekret Klub, and every year in early December they have a fund-raising auction.  The members bring things to auction off, pay inflated prices for each other’s stuff, and the money goes into a college scholarship fund of some sort.  Last year, I made her four buttoned cowls.  This year, I’m making her three sets of five crocheted snowflakes. I’m also making several sets of three for hostess gifts.

Tuesday after knitting group, I need to dash over to Michael’s and get some stiff stuff, some opalescent embossing powder, a container of sewing pins, and a paint brush.   I’m pretty sure I already have enough crochet thread in my thread stash.  In order to turn the snowflakes into tree ornaments, which is the goal of the exercise, they have to be blocked (stretched and pinned into shape), then soaked in the stiff stuff and sprinkled with opalescent embossing powder to give them just the right amount of sparkle. When that side is dry, you flip them over and repeat the process.  Once they’re thoroughly dry, you hot glue a little loop of the narrowest white satin ribbon they make to one “point” so an ornament hook can be attached for hanging it on the tree.

One down, many to go.

I googled crocheted snowflakes and found this website that has a whole slew of free patterns for them.  More than enough for the 15 I’m making for my mom.  I’ll choose the 15 I like best, and do them.

I was searching for “Russian waltzes” on YouTube yesterday (because I couldn’t remember whether this one waltz was written by Prokofiev or Khachaturian)(It was Khachaturian.) and found this serendooglously*.

And yes! It’s from a Russian film.  And yes! An English language version is available on Amazon, . . . And yes! It’s been shipped!  (It’s dubbed in English.  I wish it had been in Russian with English subtitles, but I may just turn the sound off and gorge on the video.)

Here’s the Russian language trailer.

Matvey Lykov, who plays the guy she really loves (spoiler alert:  Not the blond guy.), is yummy.  And that wedding ensemble she’s wearing in the boat is just fabulous.

 

*serendoogle — something you find serendipitously while googling for something else.  I made this word up by mashing “serendipity” and “google” together.