Delinquent dog

The first thing that happened last week after our hike was I got an email from the owner of our dog training facility that Lukey was kicked out of Relationship Class. She made it sound like I had taken him to the class on my own initiative, so I wrote back and said that the trainer had instructed me to try it out. She said she didn’t know that, and we would talk about it on Saturday. They had had a bad day, because a woman drove through the front of their building, Wayne reported, just before he arrived to pick up Lukey from Puppy Play and Train.

I was pretty angry at her tone and way of handling this, and on Saturday, I tried to point out to her that she had handled it poorly and that she should have talked to the trainer before sending the email. I didn’t care whether Luke went to Relationship Class or not, even though I felt that he had done as well as some of the other dogs in the class. However, either she misunderstood me or she lied, because she said she did talk to the trainer, which was exactly opposite of what she had told me before. Anyway, Luke is now just taking the adult obedience class.

And he has been a real pain lately. Wayne says he is suffering from an excess of testosterone, but he is adverse to the idea of having him fixed now. He wants to wait until Luke is almost a year old. I asked the trainer about it, but she said she didn’t think dogs should be fixed at all, so that is no help. In any case, he takes a few naps, but when he is awake, he is either playing (good) or getting into mischief (bad). There is no middle ground.

A case in point is the baby gate at the opening to the hall. Our original intention was to install a semi-permanent gate at the opening of the hall so that Hillary could come and go in the back part of the house without worrying that Luke could get her. However, we could not install that metal gate at the opening because of the pocket doors in the hallway. We ended up installing it towards the other end, so that it only blocks off the doors to the two bedrooms. Since Hillary’s cat box is in the laundry room, however, we supplemented that with a wooden baby gate at the opening of the hall.

That gate worked fine until he figured out that he could just push the ends aside and squeak back behind it, at which point, Wayne tied it to a bookcase on one end and the pantry cabinet doors on the other. Then, he just chewed through the twine on the pantry end, so Wayne chained the gate to the pantry doors.

That worked for a while until Luke figured out that he could bully his way through the door. So, we put a ladder behind it so that the door could only open towards him.

Luke on the wrong side of the very battered gate, with the ropes and the bungee cords on it.

That worked for a while until Luke figured out that he could work at the door until he opened it toward him. So, the last few days, Wayne has been bungee-cording the door shut, which, by the way, makes it very hard to get through. Then, this morning, Luke got through the bungee cords three times.

So, we finally gave up and removed the gate. Hillary is still safe behind the second gate, and I moved her cat box to the other side. We are keeping all the doors shut, so, sure enough, now that there’s nothing keeping him from going down that hall and nothing to see, he’s not interested.

He is generally always on a path of destruction. We had to block off the downstairs stairs with a large, heavy footstool, because he went down to the bottom of the stairs and began ripping up the carpet. He has been steadily chewing on the gate, and although he hasn’t been chewing on the windowsills or coffee table as much, we still catch him chewing on the door frames. He ripped a huge hole in our old quilt, which I had the forethought to put on top of the nice bedding. His latest is to have chewed his leash in half. The trainers told us to keep him on a leash inside so that we could give him a correction when he chewed something he wasn’t supposed to chew, used his teeth inappropriately on us, or jumped up on me. The result was not that he stopped doing any of these things but that he has destroyed his leash. Wayne tied it back together. We bought him a new leash for class, but he will wear the old one at home until he stops doing some of these things. That was his latest, but his worst thing was to get a hold of my reading glasses (prescription) when I wasn’t home and chew them up. He also tried to chew up my hairbrush, but Wayne rescued it.

He is certainly in a contrary stage of his life. He knows what he is supposed to do, but he doesn’t want to do it, except in class. He knows what he isn’t supposed to do, so he is determined to do it. I hope he gets out of this stage soon. Before I got up, I heard Wayne cursing him all morning long as he went from one misdeed to another.

No hike this morning, but we went on a nice one last week, although it was raining. When it’s a soggy day, we usually keep to one of two parks that have nice, paved trails. Last week, we went to Lewisville Park. What with the pack walk last Monday, the hike, and the mini pack walk on Thursday, I got quite a bit of exercise last week. This week it will just be my jaunts with Luke and the mini pack walk tomorrow.

The waterfront trail has a cantilevered pier hanging out over the water.

Oh, and my friend Deb and I went for a walk along the Vancouver Waterfront Renaissance Trail on Sunday. First, I met her at the Cascade train station in north Portland, and then we drove back across the bridge to Vancouver. We first went to When the Shoe Fits, where Deb bought a pair of hiking shoes just like mine. Then we went for lunch at a waterfront restaurant called Twigs, and we walked along the trail for a while afterwards. It was a gorgeous day, clear and not too cold. Finally, we went to see the movie The Favourite. It was quite entertaining, although I think it took huge liberties with history. I read a biography of Queen Anne a few years ago, and she wasn’t the nincompoop that this movie and history has made her out to be. What she was, was very ill.


A missing bag, a poltergeist, and snow

Our New Year’s guests left Wednesday to drive down to Oregon, and Wednesday night they texted me a picture of two similar bags, saying, “Is the one on the right yours? You can see they are identical, and we took it by mistake.” I was appalled to see it was my art bag, and okay, the bags were the same colors, but mine had a whopping great STC logo on the front. I’m afraid I got a bit testy with them, but I was wondering what I was going to do the next night, which was art class. Also, and everyone in my art class agreed with me, my art supplies are the one thing I don’t want someone messing with. Luckily, I had mixed a lot of paint colors for what I was working on the week before, and my brush roll was still in my office, so I had my brushes and palette knife. My sister was offering to let me use her paints, but since she had just bought her oil kit and not used it yet, I was relieved to only have to borrow a sheet of palette paper from her.

The other thing was that after Christmas I had looked around for a new art box, because the one I had was stuffed to the gills. The art box the art school gives you is exactly big enough for what you get with it plus a few more tubes of paint. Over the past year that I’ve been painting, I’ve bought a few colors at my various teachers’ suggestion, and I put in all the colors from my old art box that weren’t duplicates. So, I can barely get my box shut, plus my medium leaked out into it months ago, and it is coated inside with sticky stuff. I now keep my medium at the art school. (That’s exactly what happened to my old art box, which I opened up to find that all the paints were stuck to the bottom and each other.)

My new art box. Some of the reviews complained that the box hinges didn’t hold. I hope that won’t be the case, as it really wouldn’t be nice to have my paints fall all over the floor. It is definitely more cheaply made than the old, smaller box of the same brand that I already had. This one, however, has space for even more tubes of paint

So, I had looked around at art kits (the one that was bigger was very expensive), tool boxes, and fishing tackle boxes looking for one that opened up in tiers, like all tool boxes used to, but apparently don’t anymore. The fishing tackle boxes do, but their slots are too small for paint tubes. And I wanted tiers so I could sort my paints by color rather than just dumping them into the bottom of the box. I finally ended up buying a new ArtBin that is larger than the old one I have had for 20 years. That one wasn’t big enough for some of my brushes, so they got bent. The new one, alas, while the perfect size, is more cheesily made than the old one, which uses metal for the risers instead of plastic and has metal hinges instead of plastic ones. I had been excited that it was due to arrive the day of my art class, and I’d been hoping to switch everything over and take it to class, but of course, I had no supplies when it arrived. I got my art bag back on Friday when my brother and family were on the way back up to Seattle, and now I have all my supplies in my new box.

Friday night, we were startled by a rap on the door after dark. There was something odd about it, since we didn’t hear the UPS truck, and we don’t usually get people at the door that we don’t know are coming, so Wayne told me not to answer until he got there. When we opened the door, no one was there. Wayne hadn’t heard it (he is deaf, so of course, nothing he doesn’t hear actually happens), so he was trying to make out that nothing had happened because Luke didn’t bark. Then it came again. We didn’t catch the little brats, but both the kids next door and the kids across the road were outside playing. We could hear them. Wayne, though, said that maybe Nadia, my niece who is 11, had left her poltergeist here, because they are usually associated with girls that age. (For those who don’t know Wayne, that was a joke.) It didn’t come again, so I figure there were two kids and each one had to take his or her turn. I just didn’t think we would have to deal with stuff like that out in the country. It was a little unnerving because, although we aren’t so far into the country that we don’t have neighbors, they would have had to come across our fence or at least come up our long drive or across our orchard to do it. (Just to carry the theme a little farther, though, our valley is notoriously haunted, although I don’t think that rapping on doors is the usual manifestation.)

Everything is returning to normal schedule-wise. Luke had his first adult class of the month on Saturday and did very well. Then we went Monday to the first Relationship Class. This is the one that they say the dog must be very obedient to take, so I was a little worried about Luke, as he usually does well in class, but is a little imp at home sometimes. He actually seemed to do very well at first, better than some of the other dogs who have been going there a while, but then they did a long exercise where the dogs had to be in a down until it was their turn to either come when called or weave through all the other dogs. He was staying down pretty well, but he goes down for treats, and I had forgotten to bring any. A few other dogs got back up, and one had to have someone stand on his leash. However, after about ten minutes, Luke began popping up regularly. When he saw I didn’t have any treats, he was reluctant to go back down. Finally, I borrowed some, but then I think he was getting up just to get more treats. One of the trainers came over and stood on his leash, which made him go frantic. When we originally trained him to go down, you do it by standing on their leashes, and it made him scream. Our original trainer and I were unable to get him to go down that way, and I had to resort to luring him down. It was a mistake not to come to class without treats, but on the other hand, at some point he’s not supposed to need any to do what he’s told. The other trainer said she would work with him on his downs today while he is at Puppy Play and Train.

After that was a pack walk. About a third of the class left, and the rest went on the walk. It just about killed me. I don’t know what distance we walked, but it wasn’t the distance so much as the pace. I am a slow walker. When I pack walk with the women from Luke’s puppy class, I have to walk faster than normal or they have to stop and wait for me, and we are all retired women. These people were younger, and they weren’t trying to walk fast, but they were going about twice as fast as I usually walk. I tried to keep up with them on the way there, but on the way back, I just went at my own pace and was way behind. The nice trainer who said she would work with Luke stayed back with me, and she had her son in a stroller. She even traded Luke for the stroller for a while, because having my arms on something made my back and shoulders feel better. I sometimes have a problem when I am walking for a long time where they hurt, presumably just from the weight of my shoulders and arms. I have broad shoulders that sometimes seem too broad for my body.

So, now I have to consider whether I want to do that again. I was aching all over by the time we got home. Luke was worn out, too. The walk was supposed to last an hour. That’s about how long we take on our mini pack walks, but we stop and gab part of the time. This walk actually lasted about an hour and a quarter. I just measured the distance we went, and it was three miles, with a break in the middle for rest and exercises, so not so far, but fast for me. Many of our hikes are longer, but one of my hiking companions is even slower than I am, and we never go faster than the slowest person.

As for the weather, it has been rainy and cold most days, with an occasional clear, colder day. Snow was not forecast on Sunday, but for about half an hour on Sunday afternoon, we got some. It didn’t accumulate, but at least we saw some coming down. At least we had that little bit if we don’t get any more this year. Snow was forecast for Monday, but we did not get any, and none is forecast for the next 10 days. It’s a big contrast to our past two winters.

Today, I am going on a hike for the first time in over a month. One of my hiking partners has been in Europe for the past month. The other one ended up substitute teaching every week but one, and that week she got sick. One of them can go today, though, so that will be good. I’ll be getting some exercise this week, what with the pack walk on Monday, the hike today, and another mini pack walk scheduled for Thursday.


Heat and relatives

I’m a little late with my post today because my youngest brother and his family just left after a short visit. As is usual with them, this was a visit fraught with drama because of the uncertainty of when they would actually arrive. Last week, they couldn’t decide whether to come New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Then by Saturday, they had decided on New Year’s Day until they learned that my niece’s kids had to start school today, so they changed it to this Friday. Then my niece told them that her Friday night and Saturday were booked, and my sister told them that she had to work both Friday and Saturday night, so they changed their arrival date back to New Year’s Day. On Monday, New Year’s Eve, I was just heading out to the store to make sure we had food for their visit when my sister-in-law called and told me they had decided to come that day, and they would be here in about five hours. So, I went to my niece’s house to let them know and do a little planning. Then I went to the store, which was packed with people. Then I came home and began changing the beds and cleaning bathrooms. They didn’t actually arrive around five like they told us, but closer to six thirty. It is always nice to see them, but we go through something like this every time because they can’t make up their minds what they are going to do.

My beautiful niece, Áine, with her silly New Year headgear on. Unfortunately you can’t see that it lights up.

So, we had a New Year’s Eve party at our house. My niece and sister brought over almost a complete taco dinner. All I had to make was guacamole. With the two families and me and Wayne, we had 12 people in the house, which for us is a lot of people, since for years we have been alone on New Year’s Eve. Since we knew not everyone would make it to midnight, we toasted the New Year in at 9 PM, midnight New York time. After we all sang Auld Lang Syne, Søren, my five-year-old great nephew said, “So, where’s the toast?” This remark became an instant family classic.

We spent the rest of the evening playing silly games, and we watched a movie. My brother has friends who are in the Motion Picture Academy, so they brought along a bag full of the submissions for this year’s Academy Awards. I was surprised to find that I had already seen about five of them, because usually the past few years I am lucky to have seen one. We watched Green Book, which was very good. They left a couple of the movies with us that they don’t have to return to their friends, and my sister took the rest, so we will be trading them around. I have the one about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the one about Laurel and Hardy.

This has been a week for movies, because this Sunday I went to see Mary Poppins Returns with my sister and my niece’s children. They all loved it. I had mixed feelings. This movie purposefully evokes the original movie, even playing themes from it in the background and having the cartoon penguins in it again, and so on. The two stars are very talented, and Lin Manuel Miranda has the cutest smile. However, as far as the format of the movie went, I felt it wasn’t very original. The Banks children were now adults, and the movie was about Michael’s children. There was one animated scene, just like in the original movie. There was a bunch of dancing lamplighters instead of a bunch of dancing chimney sweeps. There was a woman who went topsy turvey instead of a man who floated when he laughed. There was a balloon saleslady instead of a birdseed seller, and there was drama at the bank. It is a completely enjoyable movie, but it was too much like the original one for me. And, I don’t think it had any memorable songs. My sister and brothers and I can still sing all of the songs from the original movie, which came out when I was in middle school.

Doggy pals Sage and Luke on a break from romping. She looks smaller than him, but that’s just the perspective of the shot. She is actually bigger.

The family stayed until this afternoon, when they were on their way to visit friends in Oregon. Lukey was in seventh heaven the whole time because of the kids and their dog, Sage. We were disappointed to miss a mini pack walk this week because my family was here, but Luke got to run around with Sage for two days. He was a bit taken aback at her arrival on New Year’s Eve, and we had to keep them separate. But by the next day, they seemed to be getting along just fine after a few minutes. Sage, in fact, had to correct his puppy behavior a few times. She’s a grown dog, and she wasn’t putting up with his puppy foolishness.

When the heating guy came out last Thursday, he explained to us that when the heat exchanger gets iced up, it defrosts. That was why Wayne saw it steaming. It was just doing what it was supposed to do, and if we had just turned up the thermostat to a normal temperature, we would have saved ourselves almost a week of shivering. Then on Friday morning, the chimney sweep came out, so now we are back to being toasty, which was good, since we had guests.

Aside from having the family here, nothing particularly interesting has gone on this week. Most activities were cancelled except art class. I did a double, finished my sky and made a good start on my castle or cathedral or whatever Mt. St. Michel is.

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and a pleasant start to the new year!

Baby, it’s cold inside

Here are two of the guys from the Yacolt station of the Clark County Fire Department. The guy on the right is the commander.

Our big event for the week happened on Wednesday night. My first clue was that it got very hot in the living room so that I had to take off my sweater. Just a hint. I never take off my sweater in the house during the winter. Then, a little while later we were watching TV and the smoke detector went off. We couldn’t see any smoke, but Wayne went outside and said that sparks were flying up out of the chimney of our wood stove, so he told me to call the fire department. The fire department got here in about five minutes, cooled off our stove and told us not to use it until we got it cleaned. (We have not neglected it, though, we got it cleaned last winter.) They were really nice guys. The fire commander told me some things about what they were doing and what the colors of their helmets mean (orange is probationers and yellow means they have passed some level of training) and told me that they were all volunteers except for him. They were a bunch of nice guys, very understanding about what I felt like was almost a false alarm. The sparks had stopped going out of the chimney by the time they got there.

So, thanks, guys from the Yacolt station of the Clark County Fire Department for coming so quickly and being so helpful! I took Luke back in the house after it looked like they were leaving and started sweeping up insulation that came down from our attic. Then I realized that they still seemed to be there. I went out to see what was going on, and they had backed the fire engine into our racks of firewood and knocked them over. Well, it’s a fairly small turnaround, big enough for cars and smaller trucks but too small for a fire engine! They were actually restacking our wood! Now, that’s what I call service. The racks got a bit munched up but they still work.

And speaking of that, an odd follow-up to that experience was that two days later, we received this huge packet from some kind of insurance adjustment company assuming that our house burned down. At least, that’s all we could think of. It started out condoling us, and at first we thought it was about Wayne’s sister-in-law, who died last week. It took us a minute to figure out what it was about. I guess they’re the fire equivalent of ambulance chasers.

That was our excitement for last Wednesday, and it was a bit of a shock when on Thursday, Wayne announced that our heating system wasn’t working. He said the heat exchanger was burnt out, whatever that means. So, I guess you understand my post title for this week. The furnace guy is scheduled to come out tomorrow, and the chimney sweep on Friday. That’s this week. So, for the next five days, we were huddled part of the time next to a space heater by our chairs. Then yesterday, my husband suddenly started fiddling with the thermostat, and lo and behold, we had heat! I don’t know what it was that made him decide the system was broken, but it apparently isn’t. Unfortunately, he can’t remember who he called for service, so we can’t tell them not to come tomorrow.

For Thursday art class, my sister and I did a double. My art teacher has finally convinced my sister to work in oils, so I got her a gift certificate from the art school for a down payment on her oil set for Christmas. Tomorrow night I am doing another double, but Sue has to work.

On Saturday afternoon, I went over to my niece’s and sister’s house to help with cookie decorating. It was the complete family again like the first year, all decorating (except Wayne, of course, who didn’t go). It was lots of fun.

Mischa and Luke with Santa at the puppy Christmas party

And speaking of Christmas activities, I went online and downloaded the picture of Luke and Mischa with Santa from the puppy Christmas party. Lukey looks like he wants to get away from there as soon as possible. Mischa is styling, as usual.

Wayne and I decided to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so we sat down for it earlyish. All presents wrapped, everything done. Then later on, I took my favorite holiday movie over to Sue’s (currently, it is Love Actually) and we watched it together.

On Christmas morning, we took two quiches over to the relatives’ house and had brunch and presents. It was a perfect idea for Christmas—no huge meal where you have to stay for hours and hours, just an exchange of gifts and a light brunch and plenty of laughing. Everyone said I got a little carried away with the gift-giving this year. I admit it, I did!

That was our week, and I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Yeah, no sign of the white stuff yet, and the forecast shows nothing but rain up through Christmas. The kiddies will be disappointed, and so will I! This will be our first year here that it didn’t snow before Christmas. The forecast is changing all the time, though; in fact, just yesterday, it showed snow for Friday. But today it shows rain all the way through next Wednesday, and the lows aren’t supposed to be low enough for snow. They don’t get down that low until after Christmas. We had freezing temperatures at night for a few weeks when it was clear, but now that it has started raining again, the temperatures are up in the forties and fifties in the daytime and mid to high thirties at night.

This happens every year. I thought I was all ready for Christmas, but this week I still did a few more things. I decided to get a couple more presents for some great nephews, since I think my great niece came off pretty well this year. I have a big present for her, one that was a lot more expensive than we usually spend, but I had forgotten about all the little things I already picked up for her, as we tend to buy things all year and then just stick them in the closet. Some of these things are not going to be appropriate if I wait to give them to her for her birthday. Kids grow up so fast.

So, of course, that meant more wrapping, which meant that I remembered I had run out of gift tags. And now I need to go to the store to buy things for our Christmas brunch.

This Saturday, I took Mischa to her taekwondo class, taking along Lukey because his puppy party was next. Mischa just belted up on Friday, and she is very proud of her brown striped belt. Lukey was very well behaved. At first, I took him for a walk around the shopping center where the taekwondo studio is located. Then, I was standing around in front for a while trying to see Mischa through the window. Finally, I sat down on a wall only to see the master’s wife come through the door. She checked to see if I had received Mischa’s present (which I ordered from her) and then told me I could bring Luke in if he was well-behaved. We sat back in the corner, and he was a really good boy. From there, we could see best through the mirror, and he seemed to be interested in trying to understand what they were doing. I was afraid that he would get upset when Mischa started sparring, because he freaks out at the weirdest things, but he did not. That morning, he had started barking at me when I came out, I think because I was wearing a Christmas sweater for the party, but he didn’t react at all when Mischa put her sparring gear on.

After the class, Mischa put on her regular clothes, lamenting all the time that she had chosen pants with kitties on them and a shirt with a ferret on it instead of clothes with dogs. That led us to have a discussion about whether dogs understood that abstract representations of animals were really supposed to be animals. Also, I don’t think she has any clothes with dogs on them. Then we went to the Christmas party at the dog-training place. Almost all of Luke’s puppy friends were there, which meant that the women I know were there, so I didn’t have a bad time. I usually am very uncomfortable at parties unless I have people to hang out with. Luke and Mischa got their pictures taken with Santa, Mischa had some hot chocolate with a candy cane in it, and Luke did the obstacle course in back, making a very good time and only having one bobble, when he came off place at the beginning just as I was walking to the start. However, once he got started, he did everything pretty well, even the swimming pool full of bottles, which he was reluctant to step into at first. Ever since the class where they used tunnels, which he was afraid of at first, he has loved the tunnels, so he went zipping right through this one. His puppy friends’ owners, who were watching, said he was a star at the obstacle course.

Aside from that party, it was a slow week, because we had our last puppy class on Wednesday. On Thursday, we went for our mini pack walk with all three of his friends, and he had fun at that. Otherwise, we’ve just been at home or running errands. I started getting the house back in some order in time for the holidays.

We have been trying to get Lukey from chewing up our entire house. He eats everything. I don’t know how many times I have stopped him from chewing a table or chair and given him one of his rawhide “bones” to chew instead. Just yesterday, I had to throw the doormat outside, because he had chewed a huge hole in it. A friend suggested getting him horns, so we got him one. When I tried to give it to him, he barked at it for ten minutes. He only took it after I coaxed him to come get it, and then he put his teeth on it and jumped back several times before accepting it. Now he likes it, but what he really likes is for me to hold it while he gnaws on it. Sigh. And it still hasn’t kept him from getting into everything else.

We also have started something we should have done all along, training him not to go on the couch. We let him get up there until we discovered, this week, that he had torn the leather out of sight down in the cushions and was pulling out the stuffing. This poor couch is already in bad enough shape from Hillary’s scratching the arms. We didn’t pay what we did for it to have it be disemboweled by a dog. So now, he’s not allowed up there, and if he gets on the couch and won’t get right back off, he has to go in his crate. It’s hard for him to understand he can’t do something he’s been doing all along.

In art class, I was working on dark clouds this week. My teacher says the sky is the star of the picture I’m painting, so we have been working on it for weeks.

No pictures, today, but I hope to have some next week!


‘Tis the season, for rain

After a week of beautiful days, we now have at least two weeks of rain going, this week and the next, and no indication that it will turn into snow. The kids are hoping for snow for Christmas, but at this rate, I don’t know. We have had it the last two years, but maybe we were lucky.

I got enough of my Christmas things done last week to spend part of the last almost nice day (it wasn’t raining, but it was overcast and cold) preparing my garden for next spring. I added in some alpaca poop and a layer of new dirt. Next spring I’ll mix it all up before planting. The original dirt in my garden was already frozen solid, which it would not have been this week.

This weekend I discovered some great new lights. When I went to put my lights on my tree on Saturday, I saw that I had no colored lights and remembered that I had gotten rid of them all last year after Christmas because most of the blues and greens didn’t work anymore. (I rhink it’s very wierd, considering they are just lights under a colored cover, that the lights in the blue and green bulbs so consistently burned out first.) I had had some of the lights for more than 20 years, ever since the first LED Christmas lights came out. I put up my white lights and then went to the store to get new colored lights. I found these very small LED lights that are very bright. They are just little cylinders of light, and they come on a spool, so that they are very easy to put up, no clips. Instead of taking an entire day just to get the lights on my tree, after I returned with these lights, it only took me about a half hour to put them on. I hadn’t bought enough, so when I went back, I also bought two spools of white lights. At the end of this year, I will discard all my bulkier white LED lights that look like traditional lights.

Mischa and Luke in front of the decorated tree. Luke’s a little blurry because he’s eating cheese.

On Sunday, my great niece, Mischa, came over to help me decorate the tree. She was so much help that we got it all done in just a few hours! I am used to doing it by myself and taking the entire weekend to put up the lights and decorate the tree. But we put up all the decorations in three hours. She did most of the ladder work. I have to say, though, that a few years ago, to climb a ladder, I would have to haul myself up it. Although I have not taken any hikes lately because my hiking companions can’t go, and I have missed a few water exercise classes, I found that when I needed to climb the ladder, I just went up it. It wasn’t until I got to the top that I realized how easy it was.

Yesterday, during a lull in the rain, I put up the Christmas lights we have put up every year, which is to just decorate the railing of our back deck. It’s the only place on our property that anyone would be able to see lights when they went by on the road except maybe by our driveway. We have lots more lights, though, and I would like to do something more if it will just stop raining.

So, we’re pretty much ready for Christmas. All the presents are wrapped except a special one for Mischa that I will be picking up this weekend. Usually, since we have no kids, I would put the wrapped presents under the tree, but Luke would destroy them, as he chews everything. In fact, just how we will handle our Christmas presents at all will be a challenge, as I would like to at least have them under the tree that morning.

On the good news front, Luke just successfully completed a week of both puppy and adult classes. On the bad news front, I just took the remote control for the satellite system out of his mouth. I think it will still work, but the front cover over the buttons won’t go back on. As you can imagine, the master of the remote is not pleased. (Now he is even less pleased, because we just discovered that Hillary the cat peed on the bed. She wouldn’t have done this, but I accidentally left the door to the laundry room not open enough for her to get in to her cat box. Before we got Luke, it was open all the way, but now we just crack it enough for her and stuff a doorstop into the side of it so that Luke can’t open it. I was doing the laundry and didn’t leave it open far enough, although I thought it was open enough. Oh well.)

Getting in the spirit

I got my weekdays mixed up Wednesday morning and posted my Thursday book blog review instead of this blog, which is what I usually post. So, this week this post goes out on Thursday.

This week we have had beautiful but cold weather, sunny skies every day but cold, cold, cold. If it had been raining, we undoubtedly would have snow. Mt. St. Helens is looking great, because with the recent rains, it got back its covering of snow. It is a perfect week to go out and finish up my garden, but instead I have been working on Christmas cards, wrapping presents, and getting packages ready for the mail. These days, since we live close to much of our family, we only ship out two packages, but I still try to get them into the mail early. Since the post office was closed yesterday because of President Bush’s funeral, I made it my goal to get my packages ready to go into the mail this morning. We have one more nice day before it clouds up, so I hope to do my garden tomorrow.

On Tuesday, we went out to buy a Christmas tree. This year, for the first time since we moved here, we were planning to buy it from a lot. Last year, my niece’s husband was unwell so couldn’t help us and we went with my sister. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been around when they cut the tree the first year we were here, so I didn’t realize how much work it was. Because we are both geezers, my sister had to cut the tree, and I vowed never to have that happen again. We would have accepted an invitation from my niece and her husband to go get a tree with them, but none was forthcoming, so we went out looking for a lot.

Our scrawny tree next to a nice warm fire

We had been hearing on the news that Christmas trees are scarce this year, but it was hard to believe they would be hard to find here. Heck, there are Christmas trees everywhere. Of course, lots of people around here cut their own trees, go to a U Cut, or even cut them in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, but still, last year and the year before, there were several tree lots on the way down state highway 503 to Vancouver. This year there were none, and we didn’t know where else in Vancouver to go. I didn’t want to go to Home Depot, because my theory was that they were more likely to have purchased their trees far away and they might not be fresh. We ended up buying one in a tiny lot in Battle Ground, the only one we could find besides those in the grocery and hardware stores. It is tall, about nine feet, but it is kind of pathetic looking compared to our previous trees. It’s branches are far apart, and it looks kind of skimpy for a Noble fir, and it’s lop-sided. Although it was much cheaper than any tree we could have bought in Austin (and in fact, we never bought a tree that big in Austin), it cost about twice as much as any tree we have bought since we moved here. I have tons of ornaments, so it will be interesting to see if I can get them all on the tree. Once I finish spreading alpaca poo and more dirt on my garden tomorrow, I’ll start decorating.

Last Saturday, my sister and I went to a Christmas concert in Portland. Our friend was singing in the Portland Choir and Orchestra concert. Last year, I thought the program was a little dull except for the Bells of the Cascades, whose director is a delight to watch, full of energy and practically levitating off the podium. This year, although the choir sang more traditional songs, the arrangements were really interesting, and some of the songs were quite beautiful. And the Bells of the Cascades were there again.

Luke has not only graduated from puppy class, he has been asked to join both puppy and adult class for the last few classes of the year. We went last night for the first time. I thought he could handle two classes, but wasn’t sure how well he could handle two in a row. However, he did really well, almost better than the adult dogs, just because he has been taking class for so long. We have quite the little puppy pack going now, with three other dog owners joining me and Luke once a week for a pack walk.

Last week, my great niece Mischa came with us to puppy class. She enjoyed it, so if she thinks she can bear getting up that early, she might go again while we are still in puppy class.

We no longer need to take a leash with us when we take Lukey out, as long as we have cheese in our pockets! In fact, even the promise of cheese gets him back in the house when we have gone out for short runs. I only take a leash if I think we may be walking on the road, as he tends to go toward traffic.

In art class, I am still working on my sky, whereas my sister has almost finished her picture of an owl. Actually, she has almost finished two pictures. Hmm. Well, it is not a race, as my instructor keeps telling her. I guess I’m going to have to get used to taking three or four months each to do my paintings, while she finishes one a month. It is a secret from my husband (who does not read this blog) that a woman in my class who does beautiful pictures of dogs has agreed to do one of Luke for me to give Wayne as a gift. It doesn’t look like it will be done for Christmas, but it will make a good birthday gift. Tonight, we are both doing makeups, so we will be in class from 4:15 until 8:30!