Thursday, December 31, 2020

Coming to an End

 

Thought I’d toss in a few things as this last day of 2020 approaches the close


and the New Year prepares to come in.


Christmas at my house was very nice.  My oldest granddaughter drove over from San Antonio Christmas Eve and spent the weekend with me.  Made the day extra merry and happy.

Growing up, my family always had a big fancy dinner on Christmas Eve.  We all dressed up – my mother always said – Everyone should have to dress up at least one day of the year and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be Christmas Eve.  You’d never know who would be there besides the 5 of us.  Friends and relatives.  Occasionally my father invited a visiting doctor from another country.  You just never knew. 


Ellen and I


Mother and brother, John.

Sometime in the 1980’s I took over the job of THE CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER.  Same rules applied – everyone dressed up though not quite as spectacularly. 

So, all of that is leading up to – I decided to do a small version of Christmas Eve dinner.  Ellen and Marc came over.  Vicky was here.  I invited Bobby to come.  It was nice with ham, chicken (not really big on turkey), cornbread dressing, green beans, and mashed parsnips (rather than potatoes) (they’re similar but a bit sweeter and slightly carroty tasting), salad.  Ellen brought dessert.

Christmas Day, Vicky and I did very little – watched movies.  The most memorable – Attack of the Crab Monsters (c: 1957). 


OMG – it is awful!  Really terrible.  We laughed throughout the movie!  A perfect way to spend Christmas Day!

The rest of the week has been warm verging on hot-enough-for-shorts.  Until last night.  Last night a cold front came charging in and along with it came rain.  Not just ordinary rain – Victorian-mansion- in-the-dark-spooky-woods-thunder-lightening-pouring-down rain, rain.  I checked my rain gauge about 11am and it was full to the top – that’s 5 inches.  Emptied it because it’s still raining.  Temperature has dropped and we’re expecting lows in the 30’s tonight (hey! I live in south central Texas – 30 degs is cold).  Which is fine, it’s winter for heavens sake!  It’s supposed to be cold.

Myself – no big plans to welcome in 2021.  In fact, I’ll probably be asleep long before the midnight hour arrives.  In the long past days, my husband and I stayed home and watched movies rather than go out.  He always said – he wasn’t going out with all the amateur drunks on the roads.

Okay – just a few Did You Know’s to close out the year . . .

In Scotland, today is celebrated as Hogmanay.  Hogmanay is a time for clearing out the old and welcoming in the new.  This celebration began during the Middle Ages when religious reformation meant celebrating Christmas was discouraged and instead Scots celebrated on December 31st, with singing, dancing and a number of other traditions and customs.  They even exchanged gifts as they rung in the New Year. 

It is also New Year's Eve Banished Words List day.  Each year since 1976,  Lake Superior State University wordsmiths, compile a list of words to “uphold, protect, and support excellence in language by encouraging avoidance of words and terms that are overworked, redundant, oxymoronic, clich├ęd, illogical, nonsensical — and otherwise ineffective, baffling, or irritating.”

So far, more than 1,000 words or phrases have made the list.  An example of past inductees are words such as “absolutely,” “BFF," “covfefe,” and “yuh know”.  This year the nominees are:

COVID-19 (COVID, coronavirus, Rona). “A large number of nominators are clearly resentful of the virus and how it has overtaken our vocabulary,” the committee wrote. “No matter how necessary or socially and medically useful these words are, the committee cannot help but wish we could banish them along with the virus itself.”

Social distancing. “This phrase is useful, as wearing a mask and keeping your distance have a massive effect on preventing the spread of infection,” members said. “But we’d be lying if we said we weren’t ready for this phrase to become ‘useless.’

We’re all in this together.

In an abundance of caution

In these uncertain times

Pivot. “Reporters, commentators, talking heads, and others from the media reference how everyone must adapt to the coronavirus through contactless delivery, virtual learning, curbside pickup, video conferencing, remote working, and other urgent readjustments,” the committee wrote. “That’s all true and vital. But basketball players pivot; let’s keep it that way.”

Sus, short for “suspicious.”

 

And you thought it was just New Year’s Eve!
speaking of which

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

31 Dec 2020

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The day before the day before

 

Greetings!  Not lost, not MIA, not forgotten how to operate a computer.  There’s just been ‘stuff’ going on.  ‘Stuff’ that has kept me doing other ‘stuff’. 


Before I forget – I hope everyone had a good Winter Solstice and looked out to see the Great Conjunction.  The 21st was cloudy here but, the night of the 20th, it was big and bright.

My shed got here!!!!  Wahoo!  Goodie, goodie, gumdrops!  Yaaayyyyyy!

Started out like this . . .

Ended up like this.

My second oldest granddaughter graduated a semester early from the University of Montana (that’s somewhere around Santa’s house, you know).  Taking extreme care, she drove to her home in New Mexico.  Stayed a couple of weeks and then, using the same extreme care drove down to see me.  It’s been 10 days of true happiness on my part.  Of course, this being 2020 and COVID, we didn’t do anything exciting. 

We baked.  Coffee Blondies, Spritz Sugar Cookies, Butterscotch Cookies with Brown Butter Icing, Mini Pecan Pies, English Shortbread Cookies.  (I sent them all with her when she left to go back to NM.) 

We filled up the shed with tubs and plants.

 


We did take two day trips – staying outside and away from other humans.  One trip was to Brazos Bend State Park.  “Brazos Bend includes 5,000 acres of bottomland and upland coastal prairie” – which is a fancy way to say it is swamp country.  Mostly what there is to see are alligators and birds.  And we saw some of both. 

This guy was sleeping in the sun along side the path.

The Ibis were all lined up.

Common Moorhens – and I thought these were ducks!
Nope.  Also called Mud Hen or Pond Chicken, these are duck-like birds.

Anhinga, aka Snake Bird (because of the long neck).
These birds do not have waterproof feathers and will stand with wings
spread to dry out the feathers.

Yep! I can still climb a tree
(though I did need a little help getting down).

And, we went to the beach.  It was a just a bit cool but still barefoot walking weather.




She left on Monday to go back to NM and I miss her lots more than lots.

Well, believe I’m pretty much caught up now.  So, all y’all have a Merry Christmas.

DAYS – not weeks – DAYS!

23 Dec 2020

 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Just One More, I Promise

 

Some long years ago, a good friend gave me a small book titled “The Politically Correct Night Before Christmas”.  And, since the world is so weird these days, I thought to share it with you . . . .

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Nation
Not a creature was stirring, not even a small endangered rodent
The synthetic wool foot coverings were hung by the non-wood burning fireplace with care,
In hopes that the non-religiously associated Mr. Claus would soon be there;


The young people were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of green toys and healthy foods dances in their heads;
And mamma in her non-gender specific PJs and I in my sweats,
Had just settled our minds for the nightly sleep trek;

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
I sprang from my bed to see was the matter
To the window I ran in such a great hurry
While popping back a few Tums to deal with that evening’s curry;

The lunar sphere’s light on the sure-to-be highly polluted frozen H20
Gave the image of midday to my Prius below
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a smallish snow vehicle and eight size-challenged endangered reindeer;

With a vertically challenged, elderly driver so lively and quick
I knew in a moment he must be Mr. Nick
Quicker than electric cars his size-challenged endangered reindeer they came
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;


(well, ok, this one can stay. . .as long as these size-challenged mammals are getting overtime. . . )
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As leaves that before the man-caused weather event fly,
When they meet with an obstacle and fly to the undoubtedly polluted sky;
So up to the housetop the size-challenged endangered reindeer they flew
With the winter vehicle full of responsible, eco-friendly child’s things, and Mr. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each size-challenged hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Mr. Nicholas came with a bound;

He was dressed all in faux-fur, from his head to his foot,
And thanks to our woodless fireplace, his clothes weren’t all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of responsible, eco-friendly child’s things he had flung on his back,
And he looked like an authorized street vendor just opening his pack;


His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His quaint, size-challenged mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the frozen H20;

The stump of a pipe he did NOT hold tight in his teeth,
And naturally, no smoke encircled his head like the wreath of a tree we just killed;
He had a broad face and a size-challenged, spherical belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of sugar-free jelly;

He was unhealthily overweight, a right jolly, elderly little person,
And I laughed when I saw him. . .how rude was I!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the synthetic wool foot coverings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the faux chimney he rose;

He sprang to his winter vehicle, to his size challenged endangered reindeer gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight—
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

 


13 Dec 2020

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Storytelling

 

When I was young, my mother read my sister, brother and I a Christmas story before bed on Christmas Eve.  So, in case you do or want to do the same, here’s a story I found recently . . . . .

A CHRISTMAS TALE.

Santa was cross, he'd had a bad day.
His elves were on strike for more overtime pay.
They’d all been on strike since the end of the 'fall'
They wanted a 'National Elf Service' for all.

And Donner and Dancer and Cupid and Blitzen
had gone off in a 'hoof' since early last Whitsun'.
His lights wouldn't flash and his bells wouldn't ring
and his Jing wouldn't Jang and his Jang wouldn't Jing.

He'd asked Mrs. Claus for the weather forecast
and wished Christmas present would become Christmas past.
Global warming has meant there'll be no snow this year,
so she said, "Sorry my luv, there will just be 'rain dear!"

On top of it all, he'd the presents to sort
and political correctness had made the task fraught.
No dolls for the girls or guns for the boys,
no fireworks that bang or pollute with their noise.

No harm to their teeth from a sweet or a lolly.
Nothing sexist or racial, like a doll or a Golly!
No books on religion or to do with the body,
no 'Famous Five' and nothing on 'Noddy'!

No caffeine filled drinks to cause tension and stress.
No glue and no paint, because of the mess.
No jigsaws with pieces that some kid could choke on
and nothing too fragile that would only get 'broke-on'.

No feathers or fur and nothing of leather.
Nothing too simple and nothing too clever.
Nothing too violent and nothing too scary.
Nothing Royalist or 'Gay', not a Queen or a 'Fairy'!

Nothing with e-numbers or colorings that might
bring them out in a rash or be hyperactive all night.
No balls and no bats which could injure or bruise
and nothing with bits they were certain to lose.

No marbles or beads that a small child could fit
up its nose, in its ears or unmentionable bit.
And trees must be from a sustainable source
and the lights must be energy saving, of course!

And gone were the days when all they would wish
was an apple, an orange and a wooden goldfish.
Now a video, computer and color TV
was what they all asked for when they sat on your knee.

And he was tired and fed up of appearing so jolly
and he knew what he'd like them to do with their holly!
And he was sick of clambering about on those roofs
now he wasn't as nimble as he was in his 'yoof'.

And he hated the folks who said, "No pets at all,
a puppy's for life not for Christmas", they call.
Well it's OK for them with their fine protestations
but what can I do with five thousand Dalmatians?!!

In spite of it all, at the end of the night
he'll have managed to give every child something right.
And he'll sit by the fire with a big jug of beer
and wish you all, "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

By Ian Birket (Panikatak).
The Storytelling Resource Centre

12 Dec 2020

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Adventuring in the Past

 

Here recently, Bobby and I visited the Varner-Hogg Plantation.  It’s located in West Columbia, only a short drive from here. 


Now, I know about the Hogg family.  James Stephen Hogg was governor of Texas from 1890 – 1895.  He had a daughter – Ima (her first name was taken from her uncle Thomas Hogg's epic Civil War poem The Fate of Marvin, which featured two young women named Ima and Leila. It was not given her because her father was mean-spirited as is said by gossips.)
and three sons – William, Michael, and Thomas.  I am most familiar with Miss Ima (she never married) because of her reputation as a Texas society leader, philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th century.  I’ve been to her home in Houston – Bayou Bend – a beautiful place, with amazing gardens and a collection of some of the finest American furnishings, silver, ceramics, and paintings
anywhere.

However, I did not know anything about a plantation, in Texas, and close by.  Nor did I know who the ‘Varner’ was. 

In 1824, Martin Varner, became one of the “original 300” grantees who received a league of land from Stephen F. Austin establishing his homestead in Texas. The Varners received 4,428 acres and planned to farm and raise livestock on a small scale and establish a rum distillery. 

In 1832 the property was sold to Columbus R. Patton.  He had the current plantation house built along with a smokehouse, sugar mill and slave quarters.  Patton established a very profitable sugar cane/sugar mill operation.  Between 1869 and 1901, the site changed ownership several times.  Then, in 1901, former Governor Hogg bought it primarily because he believed there was a huge oil field in that area.  Gov. Hogg died in 1906 however, in 1920 a huge oil strike made his children very wealthy.

The property is beautiful with large groves of pecan and magnolia trees, plus a number of really big oak trees. 


Greek Revival Style Plantation with a separate kitchen and smokehouse to the side.


Miss Ima donated the property to the state of Texas in the 1950’s with the proviso she could build a small house for her personal use.


The sugar mill was destroyed during the 1900 hurricane and all that remains is a part of a wall (these are all handmade bricks),


several of the sugar cook pots all of which are big, 


and, one of the firepits for cooking the cane down.


Gov. Hogg had a spring fed bath tub built for himself (he was a big man – over 300 lbs.)


There’s also a swimmin’ hole though there’s a bit of an algae problem.  The swimming hole is also spring fed.


Beautiful old oak trees.  Me:  That one, I want that one, Can we fit it in the car, How fast can we get out of here, Do you think someone will notice it’s gone?????


I love the Spanish moss.  All the trees were covered with it and lest you think “oh no parasite”:

1 Spanish moss is not a moss at all. It is a bromeliad

2 Spanish moss isn't from Spain; it's native to Mexico, Central America, South America, the U.S., and the Caribbean. In the U.S., it grows from Texas to Virginia, staying in the moister areas of the South.

3 Native Americans told explorers the plant was called Itla-okla, which meant “tree hair.” (I like that better than Spanish moss.)

4 Although Spanish moss grows on trees, it is not a parasite. It doesn't put down roots in the tree it grows on, nor does it take nutrients from it. The plant thrives on rain and fog, sunlight, and airborne or waterborne dust and debris.

5 It can be used as an arbor roof or to hang over a chain-link fence for privacy, but since it will only live in trees, you have to replenish the supply as the moss dies. American colonists mixed Spanish moss with mud to make mortar for their houses—some of which are still standing strong. Dried moss makes good tinder for fires, and you can make it into blankets, rope, and mattress filling. Mattresses filled with Spanish moss are noted for staying cool on a warm summer night. Because it soaks up and retains water, it is also used for garden mulch.

Although the house was closed for repairs when we were there, it was still a very nice, interesting place to visit.  I’d like to go back in the spring when things are greener.

And, that’s all I know right now.

 


8 Dec 2020