Today was a day of getting some school done and some other things as well. I returned to my schoolroom reorganizing project and got some more done there. I also made some headway on my current knitting project.

I forgot to tell you yesterday that our Suburban has a flat tire. It picked up a nail or screw when Spencer was driving it back from Lindale on Sunday night. Walter tried to fix it tonight, but was unsuccessful, so we will have to take it in to the tire place tomorrow. Meanwhile, Spencer and Mercy don’t have a car to drive.

8 more days.

Trying to Get it All Done

I can’t remember a whole lot about Saturday, except that I wasn’t feeling all that great and I was trying to get a bunch of stuff done. I had to work on music and some other things. I spent a lot of time online researching and taking advantage of sales on certain gifts I wanted to get.

Yesterday I had to take Lucy to take care of the dogs in the morning, which meant we missed the first service at church. Fortunately we made the second service, since the violin player wasn’t there and it was just me accompanying the singing.

In the afternoon I got to talk to Lina via the internet–our last long-distance conversation before she arrives home next week! And Lucy helped me put the bead garland on the tree.

Today we had a huge thunderstorm in the morning while Jasper and I did school. I also prepared for my class. After lunch we went to pick up the twenty poinsettias he had sold for his 4-H club, and after my class we set off to deliver all the ones that he hadn’t already delivered in our neighborhood.

We had four stops to make and we had to travel rather far afield. The last two deliveries were surprise poinsettias for two sweet ladies we know. One didn’t hear us knocking so we left the plant on her porch and I called her about it later to make sure she found it. The other was very surprised and happy when we showed up at her door. I think I enjoy giving the flowers away more than I enjoy keeping them myself! Besides, we have cats. They think poinsettias are our Christmas present to them, and they have great fun playing with them until the beautiful plants are nothing but bare sticks. This year they only have one to destroy.

After supper, one of Mercy’s friends came over and helped put the ornaments on the tree. With him and Mercy and Lucy all working together, the job was done in record time! And I got some knitting done. I’ll try to get some photos tomorrow.

Eight days till Lina comes home!

First Sunday of Advent

Creator of the Stars of Night

Creator of the stars of night,
Thy people’s everlasting light,
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all,
And hear Thy servants when they call.

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse
Should doom to death a universe,
Hast found the medicine, full of grace,
To save and heal a ruined race.

Thou cam’st, the Bridegroom of the bride,
As drew the world to evening-tide;
Proceeding from a virgin shrine,
The spotless Victim all divine.

At Whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.

O Thou Whose coming is with dread
To judge and doom the quick and dead,
Preserve us, while we dwell below,
From every insult of the foe.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Laud, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

Thanksgiving and the Aftermath

Well, another Thanksgiving is past and we’re on the express train to Christmas! I hope I will be recovered from this latest respiratory bug before things really speed up again.

Our day started, as it always does, with me baking our (gluten-free) breakfast casserole. On Thanksgiving we only have two meals–brunch and “lupper.” I love our holiday brunches with the whole family around the table talking and laughing.  Of course, this year there were only six of us, but it was still lovely.

The girls had made pies the night before, so after brunch we focused on the main part of the dinner. I had two smallish turkeys to roast and quite a few side dishes to make, but I was able to pace myself and lie down when I really had to. The girls picked up a lot of the slack.

Janet and her boyfriend came over shortly before our target dinnertime of 3:00. Only eight people around the table! That is a small Thanksgiving for us. There was a LOT of food. When everyone was fully stuffed, we waddled into the living room and watched a movie that Mercy had rented (Ant Man). By the time it ended, darkness had fallen, but we could hardly use that as an excuse to forgo our traditional paper airplane races!

We all got a piece of paper to make our planes and I made the kind I always make because when I asked for help from friends on Facebook, I didn’t get any! We turned on the porch light and the garage light so we could sort of see what we were doing when we went out to the front yard. Jasper’s plane won the “distance” competition and Mercy and Walter ended up having a fly-off  to determine the “air time” competition, which Mercy won. Walter got the “best-looking” plane by default since he’s the only one who really decorated his.

We came back inside for chips and dip and watched our second movie, which I’ve already told you about. Toward the end everyone was finally ready for pie. Mercy had made an apple pie and Lucy had made a pumpkin pie. I heard they were good. Neither one was gluten free or diabetic friendly!

Janet and Aaron left, and I still had to take both Lucy and Jasper to their dog-sitting duties. The streets were virtually deserted. When I returned from the second trip, there was still time to spend some time together and get a little more knitting done.  It was a good day.

Today we slept in shamefully late (almost 9:00!) and got a slow start on the day. I am still struggling with my cold so it was hard to feel like doing much. However, Mercy made the startling announcement that she wanted to put up the Christmas tree today. Why was it so startling? Because the way we like our tree to look is extremely time and labor intensive to achieve. No one likes to do it. Mary usually does it if she is here for Thanksgiving, and it takes her some 7 hours to set the tree up and get the lights on. Lucy flat out refused to do it, so Lina said she would do it if we can wait until she gets here. It never occurred to me that Mercy might be willing!

My part of the process was to move my chair from the corner where the Christmas tree goes and get it set up on the other side of the room, with all my knitting, etc. It was a good chance to sort through all my knitting supplies and put away all the things I’m not currently using.

Mercy invited a friend over for lunch and afterwards she got to work. Lucy did help a little at the beginning, but it was mostly Mercy working all afternoon on the lights. I know what you’re thinking. Why not get a pre-lit tree? Are you kidding me? The pre-lit trees the same size as ours typically have about 500 lights. We use a minimum of 800. And after so many years of doing it this way, we like it so much we could never be happy with a dim tree! I foresee that in the future, I may have to pay a college student to do this job for me. Thanks to my arthritis I can’t really do it myself anymore.

We had a great supper of leftovers and then Mercy went back to work on the tree. To my amazement, she ran out of lights. I buy a minimum of 200 new lights every year, so that even if a strand stops working, we’ll always have enough. So I figure she’s got at least 1000 lights on there. She and her friend had to zoom up to the store to get one final strand of lights so she can finish in the morning. Then it will be my turn to put up the bead garland.

Meanwhile, I got quite a bit of knitting done, and it’s a good thing because I’m quickly running out of time!

A Review and a History Lesson

One of the things we did yesterday was to watch the new Tarzan movie. I have never been much of a Tarzan fan, and never read the books because I figured they would just annoy me, seeing as they were written by a man who never set foot in Africa (from what I’ve been able to find out). I have not changed my opinion about the books. There are so many hundreds of books to read that I know I would enjoy; the Tarzan books aren’t on that list.

However, I did enjoy the movie, at least to the point that it piqued my curiosity about some things. One was the background of Jane. In the movie, she is portrayed as having been raised in Congo by a father who was a professor who taught English to the local villages. To me, this was laugh-out-loud funny. I guarantee there were no noble Americans teaching English to Congolese tribesmen during the time when Congo was the personal property of King Leopold of Belgium. If any language was taught, it would have been French, to make it easier for the Belgians to exploit the Congolese.

It would have been much more believable to have Jane’s parents be missionaries, because in fact it was missionaries who alerted the rest of the world to what was going on in Congo at the time. So,  before casting aspersions on Edgar Rice Burroughs, I did a little research and found out that the Jane in the books, though indeed an American and the daughter of a professor, was shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa as an adult (just like Tarzan’s parents) and therefore was not raised there. Whew! Burroughs gets points for that one and it was the movie makers who screwed up.

My research rabbit trail also led to the interesting fact that the movie’s antagonist, Léon Rom, and the Samuel L. Jackson character, George Washington Williams, were actual people who were in the Congo during the time the movie’s story is set. So of course I had to look them up too!

Rom was a Belgian official known for his brutality, a man who adopted the quaint local custom of decorating his garden with the severed heads of his enemies. Sadly, he was not killed by Tarzan. Instead he was rewarded for his barbarous leadership and lived to a ripe old age.

George Washington Williams, on the other hand, joined the Union Army under an assumed name at the age of 14. After his fighting days were over, he became a minister, one of the details the movie left out. He did indeed travel to Congo to investigate the treatment of the tribespeople under Leopold’s regime, and he did indeed write an “open letter” to King Leopold calling him out for the deplorable situation in Africa. However, he never confronted the king in person and he died of diseases caught in Africa when he was on his way home to the USA. He was only 41 when he died.

I applaud the makers of the movie for making the effort to place the Tarzan story into the context of actual historical events. Thanks to their efforts, I learned something new from this rather cheesy movie about Tarzan! Now maybe you learned something new too.

Mercy Returns

So, yesterday I had quite a surprise. I had planned to do a bunch of Thanksgiving pre-preparation. I lay down after lunch for a rest and planned to get to work after I got up. However, two of my kids burst into my room to inform me that I would be driving to the airport in Dallas.

I knew Mercy was coming back this week. I knew she was coming back on the 21st. But for some reason, I firmly believed that the 21st was Tuesday. I told everyone she was coming back on Tuesday. Then she mentioned to her siblings yesterday that she’d be seeing them that evening, and my delusion finally had to go.

So Lucy and I ran a couple of errands and then took off for Dallas. We arrived at the terminal just in time to meet Mercy. It was good to have her back! It was kind of a bummer that we still had to drive all the way home, but we made it.

This morning Jasper and I went to Aldi where I was very disappointed to find that they didn’t have several items I had counted on getting there. That means yet another trip to Walmart tomorrow . . .

Lucy has a dog-sitting job for the next few days and I had to take her over there twice today. I hope tomorrow Mercy will be able to take her for at least one of the times.

Mercy actually went to work today (at the university library) and got paid to set up and decorate their Christmas tree!

I had to sit down and prioritize my gift knitting today. I have finished a lot of it, but the rest has to be ranked according to various factors and I am beginning to feel a tiny bit panicky. Not much knitting is going to get done over the next couple of days!

A Very Long-Winded TRF Report

Well, it was a busy weekend. I know some of you experience Renaissance Faires through my reports, so strap yourselves in! It started Friday afternoon when Lucy, Jasper and I drove down to Houston. Not actually into Houston, but to the suburb of Tomball, which was the closest place we could find a hotel room within reasonable driving distance of the Renaissance Festival.

We arrived right at supper time, just as it got completely dark, and enjoyed a picnic supper in our room. To our delight, the room had not only two beds, but also a sofa with a pull-out bed, so Jasper didn’t have to sleep on the floor!

I took my computer with me for the sole purpose of being able to watch the first episode of “The Grand Tour” with the kids since it debuted on Friday. We enjoyed it!

We got to bed early because we knew we had to get up early. At least 6:30 is plenty early for us on a Saturday morning. After gulping down the hotel breakfast we changed into garb and set off for the faire. It was the coldest morning so far this season—in the 40s. Cloak weather at last! We had only been to TRF once before, and that was for a school day two years ago. We knew going on a regular day would be different, and it was.

I had bought our tickets months in advance, and also a preferred parking pass which in my opinion was worth every penny. We were directed to a prime parking spot that was very close to the gate, but even so we were still given a shuttle ride.

However, first we had a big problem to solve. As we got out of the car and started getting our garb in order, a tragedy occurred. Lucy’s black peasant blouse, which I made her several years ago, has a drawstring neckline. I had forgotten that the “string” was a length of cotton yarn which I fully intended to replace with stronger cord at some point. As she stood up and got ready to put on her waist cincher, the string snapped and her neckline became a waistline. (Fortunately she was wearing a cami underneath.) Oops!

This was a true emergency, and I would have panicked if I had not realized at once that I had a solution handy. I had brought some knitting to do at the hotel, and in my knitting bag I had a skein of black yarn and a kit of tools which included scissors and a large yarn needle. I sacrificed several yards of my good black wool yarn in order to thread a quadruple thickness through the casing with my yarn needle, which of course I had to do while Lucy was wearing it. I worked my way around until it was all the way through, and then we pulled up the yarn and adjusted it the way Lucy wanted it before I tied it off. Problem solved! And yet another excellent reason to take up knitting as a hobby: someday it might save your day and your modesty!

After that we caught our shuttle to the gate and joined the hordes of people assembled there waiting for the 9:00 opening cannon. There was some drama going on, put on by the cast, but we couldn’t see or hear it because there were SO MANY people! Then the cannon fired, the gates opened, and we joined the throng of colorfully-dressed folk who were crowding through. So many amazing costumes! We were accosted at once by people who wanted to take our pictures (for a price) but we ignored them and forged on through.

We bought a program, which is something we skimped on last time, much to our regret. On our last visit, I had introduced the kids to the group Tartanic, and they were at the top of our list for the day, so we headed off to the stage where they would be performing their first show. It was COLD. We were very grateful to have our cloaks! Many others were wearing fabulous cloaks and coats as well.

Tartanic is an acoustic instrumental band consisting of two drummers and two top-notch bagpipers. They are enthusiastic performers, especially Adrian, who is the band leader and one of the drummers. Watching him perform is like watching a visible illustration of joy.


Despite the cold temperatures, and despite the fact that they were all wearing kilts, they put on an exuberant performance. We huddled in our cloaks and enjoyed every moment.

From there we went to watch the birds of prey show, something we had missed the last time because the crowd was so huge you couldn’t get anywhere near the stage! This time we did get seats, although they were near the back. I was expecting to really love this show, but I was actually a little disappointed. It was cool, yes, but it was hard to see much of the birds unless you were really close to the front. At our local faire, the crowds are small enough that everyone can be close to the birds and the falconer, and you can get some great photos. I prefer that more intimate setting.

After the bird show, we took off to explore and to sort of look for a performer we know from our local faire. We saw many, many kilts because it was the “highland fling” weekend. We saw a storm trooper wearing a kilt.


We saw other people wearing kilts who should have made a different clothing choice. We found the place where our acquaintance performs, but he wasn’t there, so we trekked all the way back to where we started to check out a group we hadn’t heard before, called Saxon Moon. At this point I should probably point out that TRF isn’t one of those uptight faires where everything has to be “period.” This is especially true of the music. To be honest, I don’t think I heard any music at all that could be remotely classified as “medieval.” Saxon Moon used electric guitars and a modern drum set (the speakers were thinly disguised with burlap). You wouldn’t think I’d enjoy that kind of music, but I did. Two squares of decking had been removed from the stage for their show, and we soon found out why. At regular intervals, one of the guitarists pressed a pedal which sent spouts of flame up from the two holes in the deck. There was also a young man performing to the music with two merrily burning balls of fire (on chains). The combination of the music and lots of fire was very entertaining, not to mention that the heat from the fire was very welcome!


After that show we walked back to the front gate. I had been so jazzed about getting to the faire and so distracted by fixing Lucy’s garb that I had forgotten to take my insulin and other meds, and there was no way I was eating lunch until I got that taken care of. We got a shuttle back to our car and I took my meds. By that time it had warmed up to the point that I felt I could do without my cloak, so Jasper and I both left ours in the car.

When we re-entered the faire, I had to have my bag searched. I didn’t mind, since I knew I had nothing suspicious in there, but I am SO curious to know what they were looking for! We didn’t have to have our bags searched on the way in the first time!

We made a beeline for the Greek area because we all agreed we wanted Greek food for lunch. We got our (overpriced) food and then found a table where we could sit down. We should have hightailed it out of there and eaten somewhere else. There was a show going on in that area, which we had no choice but to listen to. It was vulgar and offensive and obscene. They did have a warning that it was “R” rated, but we were something of a captive audience due to our choice to eat Greek food. Instead of enjoying our lunch, we bolted it down as fast as possible and wished that we could bleach our brains! I have heard a lot of suggestive humor at renfaires, but nothing as offensive as that show was.

By then we were a little footsore (it is a BIG property!) but we trudged back to see if the performer we had looked for earlier was there. He was, but when I finally got close enough to greet him, he didn’t recognize me so I just carried on and said nothing. Introvert dilemmas! Later I messaged him on Facebook to tell him what had happened and he felt terrible! (We interact on Facebook all the time.)  Oh well . . .

There were actually several performers we know who were at the faire, but we didn’t even see two acts we would have enjoyed. We did see these guys though:


They performed for several years at our local faire when they were just starting out. Now they’ve hit the big time!

When you go to the faire on a budget, you are restricted to doing free or almost free things, so it really limits your choices. We stopped for a snack and ate it while watching this lady perform:


Most of the songs she sang I had never heard, and wasn’t particularly taken with. Then, without warning, she started singing a John Denver song (The Eagle and the Hawk) and from that she launched directly into the Firefly theme song. At that point I decided I liked her.

There was a guy in front of me with the biggest drinking horn I’d ever seen, and I was trying to estimate how much ale it would hold. Then he stood up and I saw that he actually had a second drinking horn also:


Why, random man, why? Why do you need two drinking horns when you only have one mouth? Why are you wearing a Viking tunic with a Scottish kilt? So many questions! We walked on and saw a man who at first glance appeared to be completely naked. Not quite. He was wearing a leather g-string with a tiny little loincloth hanging down in front, and was accompanied by his girlfriend in matching miniscule leather underwear. Oh, if only we could have unseen that! They had to have been freezing but I had no sympathy for them.

We did not make any effort to watch the joust. The joust at TRF, as at most of the big faires, is a “theatrical” joust. In other words, it is a scripted play involving horses. After more than a decade of watching sport jousting, it’s hard for us to get excited about theatrical jousting. Sport jousting is an actual sport, where you never know what is going to happen, and that’s what makes it so much fun to watch.

We headed back for another fiery performance of Saxon Moon. Because I took a lot of photos, I looked up the band when I got home so I could tag them, and you can imagine my surprise when I found out that the drummer has the exact same name as one of Spencer’s friends!

After the Saxon Moon show, Jasper headed back to the other side of the faire to watch the glassblower. I would have liked to see that too, but my feet said forget it. Instead Lucy and I stayed where we were and people watched. There were plenty of people to watch. Many of them were inebriated. I knew that there are people who come to faires for the express purpose of getting drunk, but I didn’t realize what a large percentage it was!

Jasper returned in time to hear Tartanic again. It was another great show, completely different from the one we saw in the morning. The crowd was huge–I’d say at least 300 people. There were plenty of people in the audience who were, as they say, feeling no pain. Some of them were dancing. I, on the other hand, was feeling a lot of pain after spending the day walking or sitting on concrete benches.

After the show we hung around so I could get some photos of the kids with band members. This particular band is so friendly and they seem to genuinely enjoy meeting their fans. When we saw them for the first time two years ago, I got a great picture of the kids with Adrian. This year I got one of them with bagpiper Willie (and the other piper, Ethan, photobombing in the background):


Then Adrian came over and I got this hilarious series of photos of him and Lucy:



It was a great postscript to the day. I had thought we might stay into the evening, but as we went through the day it became clear that after about 5:00, the shows get a lot raunchier and the patrons get more and more soused. This didn’t sound like something we’d feel comfortable with, so we dragged our weary selves back to the gate and from thence to the car.

Of course, I still had to drive 200 miles to get home. Holly, my phone GPS, cleverly planned a route that made it impossible for us to stop for supper until it was 8:00 and we were almost home. By then we were ravenous!

It was a good day. I don’t know if we’ll try to go every year or not. We have so many faires that are much closer, and I truly do enjoy the smaller faires.


My tips for TRF, assuming you are looking for a relatively low-cost and family friendly experience:

*Spring for the preferred parking.

*Get there at least half an hour before opening; a full hour is better.

*Buy the $5 program which they sell inside the gate. It is well worth it, especially if there are specific acts or places you are looking for.

*Take money. Lots of money, if you can. I’ll be specific here. If you haunt the website months in advance, you might be able to get tickets for $10 apiece. Otherwise, it’s $30 at the gate. Preferred parking is under $10 in advance, and $15 at the gate. If you are planning to eat a meal, and you actually like food, you might want to budget $15 per person, especially if you want to get a soft drink or a bottle of water, both of which cost $3 or more. You will also need money for tipping performers (see below). If you plan to buy anything or do any activities that aren’t free, bring much more money. I’d say if you want to have a pretty decent day, and don’t plan on buying alcohol, you might want to have $100 per person. If you want to buy fancy boots or a hand-forged sword or something, you will need a LOT more! Most people don’t go as low-budget as we do, obviously. We got through the day on about $25 per person, and that included buying a CD.

*Go in garb if you can. It’s so much more fun. You can put together a perfectly acceptable costume by gleaning stuff from thrift stores if you’re not into sewing and can’t afford the good quality garb from online merchants.

*Pick the shows you want to watch and plan to be there at least 15 minutes early. Half an hour early if it’s a popular show and you want to have a seat. If the show says it’s R-rated, they mean it and if you’re like me you’ll make a point of staying out of earshot.

*Bring a folding seat cushion if you have back issues. At small faires, I actually carry a folding chair with me for the sake of my back, but at a big faire like this it would be too cumbersome. I really wish I had had a folding cushion in my bag though. Those concrete benches are hard!

*Bring small bills for tipping performers, and maybe enough to buy a CD if you find a group you really love. Yes, the shows are “free,” but without tips most performers could not continue doing what they do so well. This is what they do for a living, and in most cases they only get to work for two days a week. For some reason I have never understood, many Christians seem to think that tipping is somehow “unspiritual.” They might think differently if they ever had a job where tipping made up a large percentage of the income. Many times I have forgone food or a coveted souvenir in order to be able to tip performers, because I like to think I am a decent person, and I am so grateful for those who are willing to entertain me. The smaller the audience, the more generous I try to be. At smaller faires, I have sometimes been the only person in the audience, but I still get a great performance. You’d think there were a hundred of me instead of just one! In cases like that, I’ve been known to simply empty out whatever is left in my wallet (usually not much!). Okay, this has turned into a rant, but it’s an important point. I guarantee that 99% of the performers you see at a faire are not rich. That means they are playing their hearts out for love, and I think that should be rewarded. Also, you should stay long enough to greet and thank the performers. They need all the affirmation they can get.

Parting Shot:


One of the lovely wedding chapels at TRF.



Something For Thee

It’s my job to choose the hymns for Sunday morning, since I have to practice and play them, and any time I choose a hymn I haven’t played before, I have to figure out the chords for it. So this week I chose the following hymn, which I have always loved, only to find out this morning that nobody else knew it! Fortunately, some were familiar with the tune and I played through it once before we started singing, so we made it through!

Something For Thee


Sylvanus D. Phelps


Savior, Thy dying love Thou gavest me,

Nor should I ought with-hold, dear Lord, from Thee:

In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfill its vow

Some off’ring bring Thee now, something for Thee.


At the blest mercy seat, pleading for me,

My feeble faith looks up, Jesus to Thee:

Help me the cross to bear, Thy wondrous love declare,

Some song to raise, or prayer, something  for Thee.


Give me a  faithful heart, likeness to Thee,

That each departing day henceforth may see

Some work of love begun, some deed  of  kindness done,

Some wand’rer sought and won, something  for Thee.


All that I am and have–Thy   gifts  so free–

In joy in  grief, through life, dear Lord for Thee!

And when Thy face I  see, my ransomed soul shall be,

Through all eternity, Something  for Thee.


In a Nutshell

This will be a “stub” entry, because I have already stayed up later than I intended and I have to drive to Houston tomorrow. Today has been filled with school, errand running, knitting, and autoharp playing! And a little bit of poem writing.

Don’t expect to hear from me tomorrow. Expect to hear a LOT on Monday!

A Needed Treat

Today was a pretty normal school day, with Jasper and I working together. After lunch, however, my friend Robin came over for tea. We see each other so rarely now that we had a lot to talk about. I needed that little breather.

After Robin left, I had to make a run to Sam’s for laundry soap. We cannot go even one day without laundry soap, because Walter has to do a load or two of laundry every single day for his cleaning business. Unfortunately, our almost-new washing machine is getting a little quirky. I sure hope it is under warranty.

I made great headway on another secret knitting project and wrote a couple of poems. I am beginning to think I may finish the poems by the end of the month, which would be wonderful.