In Which I Am Not as Devious as Someone Else

Today was supposed to be sunny and mild (mid 60s) so we decided to go to the lake, something we always try to squeeze in when Lina is home. We got everything packed and loaded to do some grilling, and right before leaving I decided to just check on the burn ban situation. I had checked last week and everything was clear, but guess what? The burn ban has been reinstated in the county where the lake is located. We pulled our grilling stuff out of the trunk and had to settle for a cold picnic.

When we arrived at the lake, we stopped (as we always do) to pay the entry fee. It is on the honor system. You get a little envelope out of the box, put your money in, and then fill out the information on the outside of the envelope and on the tear-off tag that you hang from your rearview mirror (license plate number and state). You hang the tag and then drop the envelope into a slot in a locked box. Simple system.

So today, Jasper got out of the car to get me an envelope. When he handed it to me, I saw that it had already been filled out. Then I realized what had happened. Someone had filled out the information on the envelope and the tag before realizing that no one was watching. So they hung the tag from their mirror and put the empty envelope back in the box. If a ranger came by he would see the tag and assume the person had paid the fee. This type of dishonesty would never have occurred to me.

It was actually a kind of chilly day and we had a chilly picnic with no fire to warm ourselves at. Still, as always, we had the place to ourselves. All that water, sky, and grass and we didn’t have to share! Even the heron that normally stalks those waters was nowhere to be seen. Jasper went on a long hike and Lina and I stayed and enjoyed the sunshine and the peace.

I did some reading and dozing and knitting. The winter sunlight seemed to make my yarn glow. Lina also got some knitting done on the cardigan she’s working on:

12-14-17 Lina at lake

After a beautiful drive home, we had a bit of a break before leaving for the local Christmas balloon glow. This is a very active hot air ballooning area, and we have big balloon races here every summer, but this was just a chance to see some balloons up close as they fired up their burners in the darkness after sunset.

Although it was already crowded, we found a good parking space and watched as the eight huge balloons sporadically lit up. A fellow spectator told us that at 6:00 they would all light simultaneously, and they did, albeit very briefly. It was a beautiful sight.

12-14-17 Balloons 2

We still made it home in time for supper and a pleasant evening afterward. Lina helped me put the lights and garlands on my teacup tree!



Life sure has been a lot busier since Lina arrived home. Today I took Lucy to the doctor for her annual checkup. She is finally beginning to recover from the flu. The “good” thing about it is that she lost a lot of weight without even trying.

Shortly after lunch, my friend Robin and two of her daughters arrived, and the three of them took Lina and me to a “new” coffee shop and bookstore that opened in a nearby town a few months ago.  I had heard great things about it from some of my writer friends, but had never made it over there before today.

Now, as you know, I am not a coffee-shop kind of girl, but they did have hot tea and I enjoyed sipping it as I browsed through the store. It’s a lovely old house that’s been turned into a bookstore, and each room has comfortable chairs that you can sit in while you browse through books. We stayed for quite a while, and I think everyone found at least one book they couldn’t live without. I enjoyed talking to the owner, who is a fellow writer and who knows a lot of the same people I do.

When we left the bookstore, Robin and her girls had to go home, but Lina and I continued on to another town to see the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” For some reason it is not showing in our town, so we made the drive. We enjoyed it very much. Lina is a huge Christmas Carol fan and I am too, but being a writer makes it even more enjoyable.

Since we were in that town anyway, we went on to Jo-Ann’s after the movie, and Lina found some knitting needles and fabric she wanted. The other store she wanted to go to was World Market, and wouldn’t you know it—they put in a Half Price Books right between Jo-Ann’s and World Market! I found some great calendars there for half the price I normally pay.

We finished off at World Market, where we both picked up some odds and ends before driving home. It was a good day.

A Lesson & A Knit Night

Today I conquered a task that has defeated me for many months. I learned enough about MuseScore to transcribe a hymn I’ve been wanting to do for months. I had not been able to find the tune and the lyrics together. I was pretty proud of myself for working it out, but I know that I’ll have to keep looking up stuff a LOT as I try to learn this program.

So why did I put so much effort into it today? Because I had an autoharp lesson this afternoon, and my primary assignment was to start learning to use MuseScore so I could start working on the many hymn arrangements I’ve done, making them available to others.

I set off shortly after noon, since it takes an hour and a half to get to my teacher’s house. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and her husband opened the door with a rather bewildered look on his face. His wife had gone out shopping and was not expecting me! I was more than a little puzzled and double-checked the emails we’d exchanged. I came to the conclusion that she must have forgotten to “pencil me in” on her calendar.

She soon arrived home and was able to take some time for a lesson even though she hadn’t planned on my coming. Toward the end, she was showing me how to clean the tarnish off my strings with steel wool. I was more than a little nervous to see how hard she pressed down on my strings. Then—SPANG! One of the strings snapped and flung itself across the room. All I could think was, “Oh no! How will I ever get a new string and be able to play on Sunday?”

Fortunately, my teacher had a spare string. Now all I have to do is watch a bunch of YouTube videos to remind myself of how to put a new string in. It’s very nerve-wracking.

I had a beautiful drive home, and enough time to enjoy a cup of tea before Lina and I set off to check out a knit night at the library. I had just recently learned about it. It was easy to find the librarian in charge of it—she was carrying a big box of yarn. Lina and I made up half of the group, as it turned out. The four of us sat and crafted and talked (one girl was crocheting instead of knitting). It was an interesting evening.


Better Late Than Never

About a year and a half ago, I promised my friend Robin that I’d have her and her daughter over for dinner sometime, and we’d cook in my dutch ovens, because Robin and her daughter Liz both wanted to learn about dutch oven cooking. Of course, at the time, it was summer, and nobody wants to hover over hot coals for hours in the middle of a Texas summer.

But somehow, we never got around to it last winter, and then in was summer again, and it stays summer for a very long time here. With “winter” once more upon us, and with Lina being here for the month, I thought we really should try to make the dutch oven dinner happen, since I knew Lina would love to see Robin and her husband Doug.

So we set it up for today, which turned out to have perfect weather—sunny and in the 70s during the day, and cooling off after dark.

It took all day to get ready. I went grocery shopping this morning for the last of the food I needed and some extra charcoal. Then I did much chopping of cauliflower and trimming of green beans. Lina grated cheese and peeled and sliced apples. I also cleaned out my long-neglected dutch ovens and rubbed them down with oil.

I have three dutch ovens—a 16-incher, a “deep” 14-incher, and a 12-incher. I started the coals at 4:30 and started heating the 16-incher as soon as I had some hot coals. Soon after, the chicken went in to start cooking. I put the deep dish apple crisp in to bake in my 12-incher and then Robin arrived, bringing another 12-incher, which she has had for years but never used.

Over the next hour and a half, I cooked chicken, baked and set aside the apple crisp, cooked and mashed cheesy cauliflower, and made biscuits—all in the dutch ovens over coals. The only thing I had to make in the “real’ oven was the roasted Moroccan green beans, because I was out of dutch ovens.

Meanwhile, of course, I was able to visit with Robin and Doug, and their daughter Liz and her husband Matt. We set up tables right there on the patio and when the food was ready we had an enjoyable feast. I was so busy with all the cooking and fire tending that I didn’t take a single photo. But trust me—it was good.

After the meal we sat around the fire and visited until our friends had to go. It was a little sad because Walter finally arrived home just as they were leaving, so he got the food but didn’t get to enjoy the company.

I used to cook in dutch ovens quite regularly, because that was my go-to strategy for camping, but we haven’t been able to go camping for years because of my husband’s work schedule. So the dutch ovens have languished, and that’s a pity, because they are fun to use. Anything you can make on a stove or in a regular oven, you can make in a dutch oven, and the results are often better. I’m so glad we finally got around to doing this—maybe I needed reassurance that I still have the skills!

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent wreath #2

We enjoyed singing this old favorite in church this morning.

Once In Royal David’s City :
(Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895))

Once in royal David’s city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and meek and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all
His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly mother,
In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all should be,
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our child-hood’s pattern,
Day by day like us He grew,
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him, but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
When like stars
His children crowned,
All in white shall wait around.

Making Progress

Today I made it most of the way through without medication! However, it wasn’t easy. I slept in—it is still gloriously surprising to make it through the night without having to get up and sit in a chair due to coughing.

Lina went shopping this morning, and then came back so we could indulge in one of our old traditions—eating lunch while watching a classic mystery together. Today we watched a Hercule Poirot episode I hadn’t seen, so it was a real treat.

Lina also got all the lights and garlands on the tree—huzzah! Tomorrow everything else goes on. And while she was doing that, I made a new set of curtains for the living room. Our living room has two wide arches, one leading to the dining room and the other to the entryway. The dining room opening can be closed with the world’s biggest sliding door. The other opening used to have a red curtain we could pull across when using the living room as a guest room, but it has vanished into the ether and I haven’t been able to find it for months. So I turned a couple of gray sheets into a nice pair of curtains so that Lina will have some privacy until Lucy is well enough for Lina to move upstairs.

I also did some reorganizing and got our “stocking tree” set up, so it is finally starting to look more like Christmas around here. Now I need to decide if I am going to put up my teacup tree and/or get out the Christmas dishes!


A Movie & a Party

Today being Friday, I of course had to go grocery shopping at Aldi. Lina came with me but went clothes shopping in that same shopping center while I was getting the groceries. She found some nice new tops. Africa is hard on clothes!

When we got home, we barely had time to put the food away before leaving to attend a matinee. I had been waiting for her to get here so I’d have someone to see the new Murder on the Orient Express with me. It was visually gorgeous, but I have to admit I still like the original better. It was fun to have an afternoon outing with my daughter.

We stopped at Walmart to pick up some tinsel garlands for the tree. After fifteen years or so, the old ones are so threadbare we really needed to replace them. Now the Walmart we went to is the “old” one that I used to go to every Saturday morning, before they built one much closer to us. I have barely set foot in there in the last couple of years. So when I went to check out today, the clerk did a double-take and said, “I haven’t seen you here in a LONG time!” Made me smile to think that she still remembers me!

Lina has since put up the tinsel and started the laborious process of lighting the tree!

She also helped Jasper make a lot of little sausage rolls to take to his 4-H Christmas party this evening. I always feel even more like the “odd one out” at 4-H events now, since all the other moms I knew are no longer involved. Jasper had a good time, but it seemed interminable to me in my solitude. He came home with a new Monopoly game from the gift exchange.

By the time we returned home, Lina had made good progress on the tree and should finish it tomorrow. Lucy is still quite sick and hasn’t been able to do much except sit on the couch for part of the day. Walter is now getting sick, and I am just praying it is a cold and not the flu the rest of us have had. He has a full day of work tomorrow and a busy week next week!

The Traveler Arrives!

Today we got up and drove to Dallas. It was an uneventful drive except for the blazing car we saw when we reached the airport.

Lina’s plane actually landed early, so she was ready and waiting for us when we pulled up to the gate. We made it home in time for lunch!

Later in the afternoon, Lina and I went to Walmart so she could pick up some things she needed and I could also get a few things. It is good to have her home!

Daniel came over for supper and will be leaving to go home in the morning, so we gave him some things to take to Mercy, who will be spending Christmas with his family.

Meanwhile, Lina has had to set up in the living room to avoid being cooped up with Lucy and her germs upstairs. I really hope Lucy starts feeling better soon.


Last Day

Today I was dragging a little, but I finished a couple of crafting projects that really had to be done. It always feels good to accomplish something, especially when you are still trying to cough up your lungs every few minutes.

This evening Jasper assembled the tree at last. We have done virtually no decorating because of all the illness, but with Lina coming tomorrow we wanted to do something. She has generously offered to do the lighting honors when she gets here.

Unfortunately, Lucy is still sick, so Lina will have to camp out in the living room for a few days. The last thing we want is to give her the flu from hell on during her brief visit home!

Tomorrow morning Walter and I leave early to meet Lina at the DFW airport. Guess I should try to get some sleep, huh?

Right Place, Right Time

This afternoon Jasper and I went to a thrift store to look for gifts. We both had something specific we hoped to find. In my case, it was something I can’t afford to buy new, but I really hoped I could find a nice used one in my price range.

So we went to the biggest and “nicest” thrift store in town and were sadly disappointed. They had nothing even remotely like what I was looking for, and nothing close to what Jasper wanted either.

There is another thrift store not too far away from that one, so I decided to check it out before giving up. I didn’t expect much, since I really thought the bigger store was my best bet.

We drove up to the second store, and when I walked through the door, I stopped dead in my tracks. There it was. First thing I saw. The exact thing I wanted, in the color I wanted. I checked the price tag. It was even the price I wanted! And it came with a nice bonus item too.

By the time I had paid for my item, Jasper had found something he wanted too. We both were smiling when we went back to the car!