All Dressed Up

It feels weird to do normal fun stuff like go to a Christmas party (that’s what they call them here, since it’s pretty mono-cultural).

It appears I remember fun

I’m tired, though. I now have energy again, so I want do DO things, but I still don’t have stamina. Just running Drew through a couple of practice obstacles and setting up the trailer for a horse show tomorrow had my heart pounding. Oops.

I may have to walk all my events tomorrow. But I’ll give it a try. I’ll think positive.

Or I could just crawl into my hole and rest, like Goldie.

Today was crazy at work because so many people asked me questions. They keep finding me on the intranet and contacting me. I even answered a question from a woman on another part of Dell on software I had never seen. Dang I’m a good trainer!

But it makes me want to hide, like Carlton.

The evening was nice, and it featured our Master Naturalist party, as mentioned above. It warmed my heart to see two women I admire get volunteer hour achievement awards, and some other hard-working volunteers receive recognition from the group. Our chapter president has had some great ideas, including these recognitions.

My friends Don, Lisa, Donna, and Linda Jo. Super volunteers.

I’m a bit of an outsider, but that did not stop me from enjoying the warm community of these nature lovers. Watching them interact was so much fun. I’m glad I have this connection to my rural county and that I’ve made kind friends there. Here are many of them making gestures.

And yeah. I enjoyed wearing clothing that wasn’t horse stuff. I’ll put those on tomorrow!

Phyllis and I put on headgear to complement our ensembles

Christmas for Two

And we aren’t really traditional Christians. Still, I’ve always enjoyed the gatherings of family and friends each year. But it’s 2021. Not a year for fun, comfort and joy, or peace.

It’s okay to be sad this year. We’ve all lost a lot, one way or another. For me, I’ve been sitting with the sadness and allowing peace to replace it in my heart.

My husband loves me. My dogs, horses, and chickens love me in their animal ways. My family love me, from their respective holiday locations. My dear friends are full of love as well. I’m grateful for all the kind messages. Nothing cheers one up quite like newborn baby pictures, so I’m happy to have my unofficial grandchild.

Peace to baby Ruby!

So, since the damned COVID kept our intended guests from coming, I told them I’d send pictures of how I decorated for the meal and relaxing with snacks. I was making lasagna, and Anita was bringing the other stuff. Here’s my decorations:

I also spent an hour or two getting the back porch ready for guests. Everything was dusty and dirty from pool construction. I swept everything, which is so futile, since the wind deposits Alfred hair in every corner as soon as I sweep. And I arranged the newly cleaned cheap patio furniture in a way that gives us a shady sitting area and a sunny one.

I’ve enjoyed butterflies today, so here’s a gift for Anita, Declan, and Rollie to say I miss them but am glad they are being responsible.

And Kynan. I miss you.

Work Can Be Fun

Not job work. Work around the ranch. I’ve been being sure to get a couple hours of chores done every day. Today I crafted, I guess. The end result was this.

It’s a tree-like thing.

I took the old brown naked tree and revived it.

Reminder of its previous state.

First I spent a LONG time cutting the nonfunctional lights off. I’m so glad I found the wire cutters (they also helped me attach wreaths by the gate).

They are sorta small. Like our holiday spirit.

Then I tried to perk the tan tree up by painting it green. I artistically used two shades. It’s debatable how successful that was.

Looks like a naked mesquite tree.

I did use paint designed for plastic, so maybe it will stick.

Yes. It’s ugly.

Still, since I spent all that time on it, I put it on a table and did my best to put lights on. I’m too short. There is also nothing on top yet. I wish I could find my white peacock from the house in Austin.

Before ornaments.

I put a bunch of old ornaments I found but stopped short of putting all the childhood ornaments of my older son. Made me sad. Next year I’ll find my nice ornaments and make a pretty tree. Until then, it’s at least cheerful.

I did gaudy up my counter chickens, though.

Tomorrow no more holiday cheesiness. I hope to ride the horse.

Being Adult about Christmas and Unpacking is Necessary

Today I had to do grownup things. Things I do not enjoy doing and that exhaust me physically and mentally. I cleaned up some stuff that had been sitting around too long, and the hardest part was taking all the ornaments off my “nature tree,” which is this weird leafless artificial tree we’ve had up in this house since we started building it, even before it was finished. I used to put it in the closet every year, but there is a bunch of padding from Lee’s sleeping arrangements. The really cute lights stopped working a couple of years ago, so it was time to remove it.

Poor nature tree is all naked and about to be peed on by Alfred. I am washing it tomorrow.

Plus, my autumn tree had gotten knocked down by some dogs one time when I was gone (I came home to find it missing, and the ornaments in a bowl…the ones that made it). It was time to do something else.

My plan is to spray paint the tan tree green and put some nice lights on it, then put it up on a table in the family room, so I can put good ornaments on it. I may paint the nonfunctional lights red, to look like berries or something. I hope I am able to do that, anyway. Maybe then I can take down my weird decorated branch that lives in the family room. But, I love that thing, even if people keep turning the lights off.

Strange but beautiful to me.

It becomes clear that I am more of a fan of trees than of Christmas, since these things stay up all year around and have a distinct lack of specifically Christian elements. I respect that religion, but my fondness for Jesus and his acts doesn’t make me what counts as a Christian to most people in the US.

Where was I. Yes, I spent a long time taking down ornaments and dusting them off, then I put the tree outside. I put up the few decorations I can find around the house, so it looks like wintry cheer around here. I’ll spare you photos.

Then I decided that, since I’d made space in the entry, I could put a tree in the entryway, where people could see it driving by and we’d look at least a little American. I went to the dollar store and got an inexpensive white tree and a bunch of lights. First, I could not put the tree on the table I intended to put it on, (which got damaged on the trip between the church and the ranch anyway, sigh) because it would hit the chandelier. Okay, so I can only put unbreakable ornaments on it.

Mandi came over and we were chatting as I put the tree together. It doesn’t look bad, I thought. Then I went to put lights on. Oh, poop. Green light cords do NOT look good on a white tree. So, I just put up all my nature and dog-related unbreakable ornaments. It looks, well, okay.

It will look better with a tree skirt, anyway.

I’m going to order some lights with white cords from Target or somewhere, and they will get here soon. I need a 2021 ornament and my annual Target Christmas globe, too. There, I am decorating for the season of light this year, and doing a much better job than last year, when I simply failed.

I dusted off this little tree I used to use in my office, and I swear it’s the best looking decoration in the house.

I also unpacked two, count them, two boxes from the move. One contained some nice things from my old living room. The other was a mystery! Lee had brought it in when he dragged some things in the last day of the move. I do not recognize the contents. It’s dishes from some grandmother.

Some ironstone and decorated plates. Huh.

The dishes were wrapped in Chicago Tribune issues from 1988, then later wrapped more in Austin American-Statesman paper from 2003. Whose could it be? None of my relatives ever lived in Austin. Nor did anyone else who ever lived in my house, unless maybe Declan’s girlfriend from high school. Well, everyone loves a good mystery.

I now have some plants in the house. I will attempt to keep them alive.

My next unpleasant adult task is to repot the plants that got messed up in the move. I also hate repotting plants. But, these are good ones, so I will do it. And Lee is helping me unpack at least a couple of boxes per week. And some furniture will show up here soon as we have some help and they have time. When does deer season end, anyway?

Peace, Joy, Hope

Sharing a quick message to all of you. Keep the Hope going, it will help.

Holiday love.

From the Hermits’ Rest to your place of refuge, celebrate what’s meaningful to you today.

It’s a memorable Christmas!

Here’s what’s keeping the ranch house looking cheery!

Of course, dogs
Blooming on time!
Looking forward to food. Yay.

Peace! Hope! Love!

Okay, Let’s Spread Some Cheer

One of the things I like about the way Hearts, Homes and Hands does its business is that they do lots of nice things for the clients and staff. Every year, goodie bags and flowers show up out of thin air to give out to everyone.

Just kidding. Many hours are spent making those goodies. Last night, after a long day of work, Kathleen, Meghan, and CC showed up at the Hermits’ Rest to go into goody overdrive. I got to help, and even Lee measured some cocoa for fudge! (I picked and shelled a small bunch of pecans from the tree outside our office, but Lee ate most of them.)

Ready to make treats.

Meghan and I made many, many pretzels dipped in almond bark and sprinkled with sugar. We got better as we went along. Everyone laughed at how I wanted to be sure every treat bag had the same number of treats. Well, MAYBE I enjoy divvying them up! (Hey, I spelled divvying right the first time!)

The pretzels are hiding in here.

The other half of the crew made Kathleen’s special fudge recipe, which contains cheese product (you’d never guess). The microwave was going nonstop between melting fudge ingredients and almond bark. Good thing we have a big kitchen.

Fudge, not solidifying.

After the fudge was done, Kathleen made “trash,” which is her version of Chex Mix. It’s spicy! That’s mostly for the caregivers, since we don’t want to shock the systems of the clients.

Trash. And remnants of the pretzel operation.

We had so much fun making a mess, enjoying adult beverages (some of us), and telling stories to each other. I’d say the management team put a LOT of love into our gifts.

This morning, they discovered our fridge wasn’t quite cold enough, and the fudge hadn’t solidified. It got re-melted and put in the freezer for a while. Our poor saucepan was traumatized, but everything worked out, and after a good soak, that saucepan can cook Christmas foods.

Ready to deliver the goodies.

Eventually, everything was all packed up and ready to be delivered by Kathleen and Meghan at some point today.

Personal Note

I’m really proud of them. They work SO danged hard, taking phone calls at all hours, filling out paperwork, supervising…trying to help team members better themselves…etc.

A personal assistance service is not an easy business to be in, since you tend to be surrounded by sick people, hurting people, grumpy people (and FUN people, too, don’t get me wrong) and doing your best to make their lives easier. Luckily, the great people on our team and the truly wonderful and appreciative clients make up for it. I’ve always felt that work that helps others is the best, and I think the Hearts, Homes and Hands team will agree.

Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas

Glorious. That’s the word for today. So, I went out to the woods to look for signs of Christmas and miracles. I found some of each!

The first miracle was water in the stream.

I ended up standing right where the above photo was taken for a long time, just listening to bird songs and watching them flit around. It’s lots easier to spot them in winter. I saw one I could not identify that could have been a black phoebe.

Too blurry. Wah. Not a miracle.

Once I got walking, the subtle signs of Texas Christmas began to appear. First, there was a Christmas cholla. That’s pretty obvious.

Then I found our one holly plant, a possumhaw (deciduous holly).

Cheerful berries.

So, how much more holiday greenery could I find? Of course, mistletoe!

I brought it home but no one will stand under it. Correction: Lee is willing.
Continue reading “Have Yourself a Hermits’ Rest-y Christmas”

A 2020 Kind of Christmas Hope

Enjoying a raspberry Coke on the deck.

I’m tired. I’d hit all my exercise goals by 3 pm, so you know I’ve been physically active. It’s all good, though. Some of that time I even spent walking with my son. Finally. We got to walk and chat outside. It takes a lot of coordination to get to see each other, but it’s just so nice to hear stories of his work, his friends, and normal stuff like that. It was a pretty day, too. Cloudless!

I spent much of today outside, which was much better than the hours I spent yesterday in a chilly drizzle. My decoration and home improvements have been quite 2020. Allow me to explain.

Yesterday

I worked so hard that I bruised my hands, but I got stuff done I’d been putting off, boring things like changing the air conditioning filter that’s practically inaccessible in the attic, and replacing all the burned out porch light bulbs.

Oops

Unfortunately, the teeny nut that holds one fixture together fell out of my hand and landed somewhere under the deck. Anita and I searched for it, but no luck. I tried many things to save it, but failed big time. Duct tape only lasted a few minutes.

Ahh

Finally, today it occurred to me I had wire. It worked and hardly shows. 2020 ingenuity!

The main project I worked on yesterday was outdoor lights. Our next-door neighbor, Ruth, gave us 3 boxes of icicle lights. We had another one just like it, hanging around in the Big Box of Lights. So, I set about lining a long stretch of our deck with them. I used pushpins to hold them up (one way I got bruised). I finally finished, in a dripping rain, only to realize I’d put the female end on the far side, rather than close to the extension cord. Face palm. After going inside and sulking, I figured out a way to rearrange the cords to make them plug in. A 2020 Holiday Miracle.

You can sort of see the lights. This is right after I got them working.

I also set up some lights in a different spot from usual, down by the basement, where people driving by could see them. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before. It was a start on a winter wonderland to match my indoor stuff.

Little sparkly trees outside the door to Anita’s den.

I managed to get up lights around the front door, with Anita’s help, and think it looks cheerful.

Not perfect, but okay. And the fact that I changed the bulbs in that porch light is a mini miracle. It was not easy.

Today

At some point, I had to drag myself inside and warm up. This morning, I was back at it, driven to use every single light we have. I’m not sure why I felt so strongly about it, but I think there were two reasons. One, it cheers me up to decorate. I’m not as good, nor do I have as many nice things as a lot of people who decorate do, but I have fun and it looks like “me” when it’s over with.

Cheesy, but cheery.

The other thing is I know how I get cheered up when I see cheerful lights on houses, and I just want to give back. No one’s going to be able to enjoy our inside lights but me and Anita, so I’m sharing 2020 Christmas Hope with others by my decorations.

I did NOT get a dumpster fire ornament. Proud of myself.

The first thing I did was complete the winter wonderland. I added our snowflake lights that we’ve had a few years down at ground level. I hope they look pretty. And then I also brought down our sleigh with a tree in it, which usually sits on the deck. I had no way to light it, thanks to my icicle-light-stringing faux pas, so it didn’t hurt to give it a new spot.

Here’s how it looks in the daytime.

I put some decorations on the rocking chair area on the porch, so it didn’t look neglected, and put some stuff in my sad Texas mountain laurel at the entrance to the deck, too.

Then I went into some kind of overdrive. Honestly, I had decided to tone down my lighting this year, you know, because it’s a somber time.

Looks so exciting.

But nope, I kept thinking of Anita walking Pickle, making her tea, or whatever. She needs cheer, as hard as she works every day. So every light that was left got strung in a tree branch.

From the other direction.

It’s not a thing of true beauty, but no matter what window you look out, you’ll see lights this year. Woo!

Obviously I need another extension cord. Back deck.

Plus, it’s a family tradition to just sorta throw lights on trees and call it done. Declan remembered us doing it at our Braesgate house for many years. Back then we used brooms to get higher in the trees. No professional light-stringing service for us! And it showed. But, it was cheerful.

Yes! You can see them from the road!

What’s left now is decorating our villa-sized tree. It may be the tree’s last year, since it no longer will sit up straight in its pot. Anita tied it up with string, and at least from the front it looks all right. From the side, though, it’s a 2020 Christmas tree.

It’s just leaning a LITTLE.

I feel better having done this. And a neighbor texted that it looks good. My 2020 Christmas is just fine.

They look good from inside, too.

Do whatever works for YOU to get through the season. I will support you! Now this is a real Blogmas post!

Ready for a disco party for me, Anita, and Pickle!

More Yoj and Christmas Decoration Confusion

Yes, I have now broken down and begun turning my Austin house into a winter wonderland, even after saying how much I loved the autumn décor. It got cold. That did the trick. Thus, I’ve been wandering into all our secret storage areas and getting out items. And thanks to those crazy people at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts, with their 80% off (with coupon) sale and curbside delivery, I got more.

I didn’t have to buy anything to create my thematic table setting. I just combined stuff I had around. I don’t have silver candles, so the pop of red is on purpose, yeah.

But, there’s another Yule mystery going on! It all has to do with our YOJ sign. I shared the story of it back in 2018, but I bet you weren’t reading the blog in 2018. In brief, I bought this light-up sign that said “JOY” at Target back when we lived at the tiny casita house in north Austin, when Anita first moved here. I proudly set it up in my bedroom window, which was the only window in the house visible from the street. I went outside to view it in its glory, only to realize that I’d set it up backwards, and the sign said “YOJ” (with the J backwards).

Back in the glory days when YOJ lit up.

This struck Anita and me as totally hilarious. It really felt just right to us, with our contrarian bent and strong dislike of the commercialization of the season. So, we left it that way. A few neighbors pointed it out and enjoyed the story. So, we’ve put up YOJ ever since.

Here’s how I improved the mantel. Garland and little pine-cone picks really make it look like a frosty forest, to me, at least.

The sign fell in the garage and lost a light, so now it doesn’t shine with, um, joy anymore. But it lives in our current living room year around, along with our tree for all seasons, etc. We had a second YOJ in 2008, but I don’t recall it returning last year (which was not our best year for decorating).

Where did this go? I’m confused!

This year, though, we spotted some stocking holders in a catalog, so Anita got them. Now we have matching signs in our living room windows, which makes up for the other one, which is probably hiding in the garage, where we haven’t looked yet.

Joy to our windows!

Sadly, we can’t light them up, because they don’t go on and off automatically, and we will not be climbing up there every evening to turn them on to save batteries. Maybe the last week I’m in Austin before Christmas, we’ll light them up.

One of my Christmas cactuses is doing its best to provide decorations, as well!

I’m not sure if the neighbors can see the signs in our windows, but I like the idea of bringing in some joy to our lives so much that I got a couple of smaller signs to go in the windows. They also look like they are knitted, which endears them to me more.

Here’s where the second YOJ is. The decorations around my ancient gingerbread house light up at night.

As you look around my decorations, you will see a lot of large, white branches with bells and snowflakes. I thought they were much smaller, and was going to put them on the mantel. Instead, even the sad cactus that got messed up last year looks happy again, thanks to those branches. And the little palm tree. Whatever, I made it all cheery and like a woodland snow scene around the house.

Now, that’s a happy cactus.

We will drag out the Christmas tree from the garage tomorrow, I guess. I hate to admit it, but that cheers me up. As for the ranch, we’ll see if I can come up with anything dog-proof. Maybe we will get a new branch or something. And I can look forward to doing something in my office next week! There, I have a reason to live!

Semi-happy palm tree, with weird broom I made.

Just kidding. What are YOU doing to keep your spirits up? Suggestions are welcome!

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