After our hot weather the week before last, now we are having highs in the 60’s and low 70’s. Heaven! We had some rain on Sunday. A bit was forecast, but we actually had quite a downpour about 10 AM. The trees and the other plants were happy.
The contractors came back and put a rail on our steps, and that concludes their work for a while. But my husband discovered we had more money left over than he initially thought, so we can afford to have them back to redo the steps going up from the driveway to the top of the slope and the steps from the lower drive to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. Then all our dangerous outdoor steps will be gone.
The last thing finished was the sauna. It turns out that the timer was wired to be on all the time, so it was only off when we turned it on. That means that as soon as there was power to the sauna, it burned out. We got a new timer from the sauna manufacturer, and my husband is going to see if he can get a refund on the labor. I have never had a sauna, but my niece and nephew have already informed me that they would probably be over this weekend to take one. We had planned to buy a rigid sided kiddy pool to fill with cold water for after the sauna, so I guess we’d better get cracking before they aren’t available anymore.
This week I started hanging some of our pictures around the house. I was able to find the large ones but not the small ones, including one that had been in the kitchen for several months, a historical photo of a tornado next to the capitol building in Austin. I hope to find the rest soon.
Those of you who have been interested in my art class might like to see some pictures I took last week. Both my sister and I were finishing up our latest drawings. The figures were supposed to be animals in close-up, and I was drawing a white horse in a snowstorm and my sister a wolf. I have to say that I was the least happy with the results of this picture. It’s very hard to draw a white on white subject in black and white. I thought my horse looked the least like a real animal than any of my other pictures.
Anyway, I’ve commented on how much bolder my sister is in her drawing than I am. She just really goes at the canvas, whereas I am still worried about making mistakes. I think that sometimes my work has come out better than hers, but in this case, it is totally the opposite, as you can see from this series of pictures. Good news! My great-niece will be able to start art class right on time, next week, the same week school starts.
We are back to our normal life this week after entertaining like mad last week. We had my middle brother (MB) and his wife here for Wednesday, then they moved over to my niece’s house so that my little brother (LB) and his family could stay at our house. Then MB and wife came back for the next night, after LB went home to Seattle. The house was noisy and full of people, but it was fun. We had nine people to dinner on Wednesday night and fifteen people to dinner on Thursday. When you consider that it’s usually just the two of us, that’s a lot of activity.
We are noisy when we get together. MB is quite the raconteur, and LB’s family of five is just plain outgoing (sort of a family trait—most of us are super extroverts, and then there’s me, the introvert). But LB has quite the knack of just coming in and making himself at home. When he and his family arrived, he came out on the deck and helped me grill the steaks (when he was young, he had a job as a chef at a fancy restaurant) and his wife started roasting cauliflower. MB also assisted with the steaks, only he had LB saying to him repeatedly, “Don’t cut it!” (He cuts into the meat to see if it is done. Apparently, you’re supposed to tap it.)
It’s a good thing everyone brought something, because I thought steak, big baked potatoes, and salad were enough. Then when I came back in from eating, hoping for more green beans that my niece brought, literally every bit of food was gone except for some of the steak. After dinner, LB’s oldest daughter, a lovely 16-year-old, started making cookies for dessert. My niece and her husband took their youngest home and left her daughter with us, so that she and her cousin, nine and ten, could spend some time together. The two little girls were no trouble at all.
And in the morning, LB got up and started making breakfast. That was a nice start to the day. Then we went over to pick raspberries at my niece’s house before they had to leave. That night, the rest of us went out to eat and finished the evening in my sister’s hot tub.
All in all, there was mostly just a lot of talking and story-telling, but that’s what family get-togethers are for. It was a shame that the week they were here was one of the hottest on record, one day being 105, but no one seemed to be uncomfortable. We just couldn’t go on any hikes, which is something we usually do.
Then yesterday the guys were back out to work on the very last project that we are paying for, the outside steps from the top level of the house down to the lower drive. I don’t know if I reported a few weeks ago that I almost fell down those steps when the asphalt guys were working on the driveway. They were very dangerous. Some of them slanted, some were unsteady, and one was a step that was twice as high as the others. I forgot to take a picture of them to start with, so here is a picture of some other ones we have that are actually safer than the ones we replaced. These steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard. See if they even look like steps to you. I have been weed whacking them, but I haven’t done it recently.
Since I forgot to take a before picture, I took the following picture while they were in progress. You can see that several steps are already inserted at the bottom of the picture, but the top of the steps give you an idea what they were like. The only ways besides these steps to get down from the upper level are to go back in the house and go down the stairs, or to walk all the way down the driveway to the lower drive and back up again.
Finally, here is a picture of the finished steps. They forgot we asked for a rail, so they will have to come back and provide one, but in the meantime, these steps are much safer. We have already been up and down them several times, whereas I used to avoid the other ones.
That pretty much takes care of the projects we are paying for, except for the sauna, and the electrician is coming out next week to install the new part. We still have lots more to get done around here, though. My husband says maybe we can have our contractors come back and do the lower steps later, but we have already used up more of our house sale money than I wanted to. I want to have some left over for emergencies. We have to take down the wallless shed so I can put up my garden boxes, so there will be some gardening related activities to report later. And my niece’s husband has some plans for some more rustic, but still safer, steps below.
But in the meantime, now that the major work on the house is done, I’ll have to figure out some other projects to work on.
It’s time to let up on our tales of toil to have a short vacation. But since it involves my family, it is not without complication.
Our little jaunt began with my sister’s birthday, one of the big ones. She decided to throw herself a party by renting a beach house in Gearhart, Oregon, about two hours away. She invited most of the family to join her on one night or the other, the nights being Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s what was supposed to happen. My middle brother (heretofore to be known as MB) and his dear wife were supposed to arrive from Madison, Wisconsin, late Friday night. They were staying at an airport hotel and then driving out to Gearhart to meet us. My husband and I were staying at the beach on Saturday night, and then MB and wife were coming to stay with us on Monday. On Wednesday they planned to go to Seattle to visit our younger brother (YB) and family. Then they would come back on Friday night and fly out Saturday morning.
Well, that was assuming that YB and family fell in with the plan, which is not a good assumption. Within our family, we call YB’s family the Cirque du S—, S— being their last name. We love them dearly, but there are five of them, and they are very loud and unpredictable. MB had not been able to pin them down to find out if his plan was going to work.
The first part of the plans went fine, except that my husband suddenly went off the deep end and started barricading the house. He hadn’t even taken his shower and was not totally packed when he started cutting poles to block all our doors and windows with. Keep in mind we live in a totally crime-free area. Our county crime map shows only a few “disturbance at house” entries in the entire north half of the county, where we live. He was sawing away when my sister arrived. I could see he had no intention of leaving on time, so we eventually decided that I should go with her. I put our suitcase in our car, though, because otherwise there would be no guarantee that he wouldn’t decide not to come at all.
Our timing was great. We found the house with some difficulty, but it was being cleaned, so we went to a little cafe a few blocks away. We had no sooner arrived there than my sister received a phone call from MB. He and his wife were at the house. They came to join us and within ten minutes my niece and her family showed up. We all had desserts and then we went to the house, quickly unpacked, and went down to the beach.
The water was surprisingly warm, but I couldn’t go in past my ankles because my suit was with my husband and I had no change of clothes. However, we spent a couple of hours on the beach, and MB and my great niece went in the water. (Her parents are originally from California, so the water was too cold for them.) My husband arrived around six, which was a good time to go up to the house for dinner.
The difficulties began in the evening. YB called and had a great plan. He was taking his 16-year-old daughter to an Ed Sheeran concert in Tacoma and then they wanted to drive down to the beach house. The occupancy of the beach house was 10, and there were already 9 of us there. My sister kept trying to tell him to stop somewhere else for the night and come the next day, because my husband and I and my niece and her family were leaving. My niece was also concerned that they would come into the house in the middle of the night and wake everyone up. (They would have.) They finally agreed.
We had a nice morning on the beach, although the water was much colder, so I only ended up going in up to my knees. After lunch, my husband was itching to leave, although I would have liked to stay a few more hours. We have dubbed him the official party pooper.
Then we found out via phone that MB’s plans had completely changed because of YB’s plans. Instead of coming to our house on Monday, they got reservations at a hotel in Seaside where YB and his family were staying. They are coming today, and tomorrow we will be blessed by the arrival of YB and his family. We love them, but they are tiring, and since they are bringing their dog, which my niece is deathly allergic to, I get to have them as guests in my house instead of MB and his wife. It is a difficulty with us, too, as we have purposefully kept the lower floor animal-free because of my niece’s and MB’s wife’s allergies. My niece breaks out, but my MB’s wife can’t breathe. We will have to insure that the kids don’t let the dog downstairs. I don’t know why people travel with their dogs when they know their relatives are allergic to them.
I am a little disappointed, as I we have prepared for weeks for MB and his wife, and I was looking forward to having them. YB and his family have already stayed here. Also, my niece and I have been planning the menus for weeks to feed 9, and now we might as well throw them out the window, since we will have 14. Oh well, that is life among the Cirque. We will still have a good time.
On the home front, we finally finished splitting and stacking firewood. We did the last bit yesterday morning.
I was estimating it would take me through the weekend to put away my books, and we are running out of time to prepare for my brother’s visit. We are going to the beach on Saturday for my sister’s birthday celebration and won’t be back until Sunday. My brother is coming from the beach to our house on Monday, so we don’t have much time.
But I was wrong about the books. On Wednesday morning last week, I got through F, and then my sister volunteered to come help me with them after art class. Once she gets going on something, she really gets going, and she had a good idea about doing a double sort. Instead of putting all the books for one letter on the table and alphabetizing them, which could be very difficult with letters that had lots of stacks, she sorted out all the, say, GA’s first, then began making stacks of GE, GI, and so on while I sorted the GA’s by author and title. It made the work go so much faster that in a couple of hours, we were able to get through N. The next morning, using her new system, I got halfway through T (S and T were lots of stacks), and then she came over again. Within a half hour, we had finished the books. When I tell you that we had 11 stacks of just the letter M, you will know that we shelved a lot of books.
I took my sister out to dinner on Wednesday evening, and on the way to take her home, we saw our friends the doe and her two fawns, having a snack in our orchard.
My husband and I then set about clearing out the room. We finished doing that as good as it is going to be done by Sunday, and then I started cleaning it. Here are pictures of what the big room looks like now.
And we finally got our carpet in, after waiting for it since February. It is not a perfect match with the existing carpet. To me, it looks browner. I felt like the existing carpet had more light and blue colors in it. I chose a speckled color to hide dirt. But since the two carpets meet at the doorway, I don’t think anyone is going to notice.
I started cleaning the house on Monday. I had been neglecting the cleaning while I worked on books and helped my husband stack firewood. We did a little more of that today. Our last rack finally came in, and I just finished stacking three layers and came in to rest. My husband is still outside splitting the larger logs. The shade by the woodpile is almost gone, so I probably won’t go back out to work today. It’s only an hour before I have to leave for my class.
The contractors came back out on Friday to “button up” the rest of their work, that is, put the transitions in where the marmoleum and hardwood floors meet, adjust the pocket doors for the new floor height, do some dry walling in the electric room, rehang the closet door in the laundry room, and finish the sauna. Unfortunately, when we tested the sauna, the heater did not work. We had it on for more than an hour and no heat. So, the electrician has to come back out. We don’t think he saw the instructions for the sauna in the folder with the ones for the generator when he came the first time. He knew the generator, so he probably didn’t even look at the folder.
For those who are interested in my art class, here is my latest picture, of a clown fish among anemones. We are still not sure we are going to stick with our new teacher. The time slot is good for my sister and for my great niece, who is on the waiting list for our class. But we have noticed that the teacher spends lots of time with the kids in the class and not much time with the adults (the opposite of our former teacher, but then most of the kids in the class are not serious about the art). If we didn’t need help with our art, would we be in a class? My sister is going to talk to her today. She told me what she was going to say, and I said it was better for her to talk to her, because I wouldn’t be so tactful.
I just noticed that the titles of my last four posts ended in exclamation points. Got to get out of that bad habit.
The house is painted, and it looks so good. Originally, it was a light gray, so light and faded that even after we bought the house and were still living in Austin, I remembered it as being white, with white trim. Before we got here, my niece painted some of the siding that needed protection with the original paint, and the house had faded so much that there was a dark blotch on the side of the house. The door was a pale blue. Above is my before picture.
Here is my after picture. I wish I had remembered to take it yesterday in the afternoon when it was well lit. Both pictures were taken early in the morning before I posted the blog. The new colors are a very dark gray with black trim. The door, if you can see it, is a very bright leaf green.
Here is a picture of the back of the house. The paint looks lighter than it actually is, but you may be able to get a better idea of what it looks like. The windows are vinyl, so I couldn’t do anything about them being white, but they look nice.
I have been working away at my books. I figure I unpacked about 60 boxes of books and put them in stacks by the first letter of the last name of the author. I started doing it on Thursday and worked at it all weekend and Monday. On Monday, my husband moved the reference books and A-C upstairs, because we only have two bookshelves up there, and yesterday I shelved the reference books by topic and then A-C alphabetically. Anal retentive, I know.
Today I probably won’t get much done because it is art class day. My brother and his wife are coming for a visit in two weeks, and we have a lot to get done in the basement first. Their room is in good shape except for changing the sheets and cleaning the bathroom, but the room outside their room is meant to be a library, study, a TV room, and activities room (it’s very big) and right now it is a room that is full of stacks of books a lot of junk. I want to clear it out and make it look nice for when we get here, and the first job is to put away the books. My husband says, “It’s not like they’re visiting royalty,” but my husband will still be saying that three years from now if I let him. Right now, he is in work mode, and I hope to keep him going until we have that room right. Maybe the incentive of a new big-screen TV for that room once we get it cleaned up and in order will work. We have been looking at TVs for months at Costco, but we aren’t buying one until the room is ready for it.
As far as the rest of the renovation projects go, we are just waiting for our contractors to return to “button up,” as Dustin calls it, our house. We have a few odds and ends and the sauna that need to be finished. The only project that isn’t done at all yet is a redo of our dangerous outside steps from the top story of the house down to the basement level.
Yes, finally, I am advised by Lowe’s that the carpet got shipped. I called them this week to find out, because I wasn’t willing to wait any longer. If they hadn’t told me it had been shipped, I would have started talking to them about changing or cancelling our order. We have been waiting for the carpet since February. The Lowe’s associate told me that when it arrived at the installer’s, they would call me to schedule installation. I have to say that I haven’t been impressed by Lowe’s service this go-round. If I hadn’t called them about the carpet in June, they probably wouldn’t have called me to tell me the shipping had been delayed.
While I’m talking flooring, the guy came out on Monday to fix the bubble in our marmoleum. He said that since linoleum is a natural product, it expands and contracts with the weather. Apparently, it expanded and pushed up against the cabinet for the sink. All he had to do was trim it a bit and glue it back down. Problem solved. It looks great.
And speaking of contractors, yesterday the house painters returned to begin working on the outside of the house. They power-washed the house and are back this morning caulking. They said they would begin painting tomorrow. I went out this morning and took a “before” picture so that I would be able to show the difference when it is done. One of the painters is outside the front door right now singing really badly.
We also have had a visit by the deer family. The deer we saw in our yard this spring were two sets of twins from a doe we hadn’t seen yet. But the other evening, we were sitting in the living room when I looked up and saw two fawns and a doe outside our window. Unfortunately, my phone was across the room, and when I got up to get it, the fawns ran out of view. The doe stayed and munched for a while at our blueberry bushes. Then all of them leapt up the ridge in front of the house. I hope they’ll be returning often.
On the social event front, I have a friend I used to work with in Austin who moved to Portland years ago. We have been getting together about once a month, but we missed the last two months. I drove in to the train station in North Portland and picked her up on Saturday. She came to the house to see all our improvements, and then we went out to lunch at a place called the Rusty Grape Winery. After that, we took the North Clark County scenic drive. It was a beautiful day for it, and here is a picture of my friend, very tiny in the middle of the photo.
My sister and I are getting a little peeved with our new art teacher, because she skipped both of us twice last week when she was doing her rounds. If you are busy as she goes by, instead of checking in with us or giving suggestions like the old teacher did, she just goes on to the next person. As a result, she spent a lot of time helping one of the children in the class, much more time than she spent with the adults. Why does she think we are taking an art class if we don’t need any help? If it was up to me, I would switch to a Tuesday or Thursday night class with our old teacher, but I think that might pose a problem for my sister, and even if it doesn’t, we are planning to add her granddaughter to the class soon.
All week my husband and I worked on and off at stacking firewood, and we finally did all we can do. We have to order another rack! At last, I can tell by looking at the pile of firewood that is left that we have made progress.
And there has been one delay after another, but tomorrow I should be able to start putting away my books. Yesterday, I helped my husband move a buffet and another shelf out of the storage room, and I removed all the things that are currently on the shelves (with my husband around, no space stays bare for long) and dusted them. So, first thing on Thursday after I finished posting my book blog, I will start sorting books!
I probably mentioned that in the spring we saw some deer outside our living room window several times, but we haven’t seen them since. And the bunny that used to eat the grass in our driveway hasn’t been around since we asphalted the driveway, even though we have lots of nice grass around the driveway. So, we haven’t seen too much in the way of wildlife lately. But one morning I got up and my husband told me we had a window peeker. I was just getting alarmed when he explained that a deer had been standing at the window that morning looking in at him. We also have had curious hummingbirds hovering in front of the living room window as if they are looking in, not anywhere near the hummingbird feeders, but maybe they are seeing their reflections.
My husband and I didn’t expect to have plans for the fourth of July. I had asked my sister what her crew were doing, and she said they were thinking of going to the Fort Vancouver fireworks (which I have since learned are some of the biggest in the country). My husband doesn’t like fireworks, so absent an invitation, I figured we’d do what we usually do, stay home and do nothing. For years, I lived a 15-minute walk from where they shot off the fireworks in Austin. We could actually see the fireworks over the treetops from our living room (just barely, of course, and only the high ones). When I was single, I went down there and watched them, but since I’ve been married, not once.
However, my niece sent out a Facebook invitation. At the last minute, she decided she didn’t want to face the crowds, so they invited a bunch of friends for a potluck. I made beet and apple salad, to which I added some goat cheese. That turned out to be a delicious addition. And we brought a couple of watermelons.
We had a nice time, although it got fairly hot. When I first got there, my great-nephew, who is three, insisted I go watch him climb a tree. He was able to get up to the first branch. After I watched him once, we went to the garden and picked some strawberries. Then he told me I had to watch him climb it five times. Luckily, people began arriving at that point, which distracted him. A surprising number of people showed up, about six couples and their kids. I didn’t count the kids, but one family brought five of them, so there were a lot of them, ranging in age from about 16 to 3, racing all around the yard, going up into the tree house, walking the weasels, and having a great time.
We had a feast. There was a terrific amount of food for the number of people. Our watermelons didn’t even get opened up, so we brought one home and left the other for my sister and the kids.
And finally, my husband had to put up with fireworks, which are legal in Clark County. My niece doesn’t believe in disturbing the neighbors, even though they have been shooting off fireworks every evening since Friday, so ours were restrained. But they were pretty. Finally, though, her husband and my sister convinced her to let them shoot off a few of the big ones. My sister bought a package of them two years ago, and my niece has been too concerned about how loud they are to let them shoot them off. I think half the package is still there. They shot off four of them, the pretty kind that shoot way up into the air and then explode in colors.
So, we had a nice time.
On the house improvement side, no progress this week except that we got a bubble in our marmoleum. I am waiting for the flooring guy to call me back with a date for the guy to come back and fix it. And no word on the carpet. I will call them this week to see if it got shipped on time. That was supposed to happen on Friday.
We have stacked about twice as much firewood as I showed last time. Now we are waiting for the racks to arrive so that we can safely stack the rest. And, yay! my husband finished fastening the bookcases to the wall. I thought I was going to work on the books on Monday, but I feared I was coming down with something, so I spent most of the day in bed. I had a sore throat for four nights running, but now I believe it is some kind of allergy.
So, no pictures for you today, except this one of the fox I just finished drawing in art class. We have a new teacher, starting last week. We are still trying to decide if we like her or if we want to start looking for another class with our old teacher. We are complicated a little by the fact that we are planning to enroll my nine-year-old great niece in the class when school starts. She is partially home-schooled, and this will fulfill an art requirement, plus we thinks she will really like it. So, the Wednesday afternoon time slot is perfect for her and for my sister. I can go anytime.
I was a little perturbed by the new teacher in several ways. First, she had me change the approach my other teacher was having me take to indicate the lichen on the rocks. I was almost done with my picture at the beginning of class, and she made me rework quite a bit of it. This change in midstream made me feel as if the result was muddy. Then, she started talking to us about the way our original teacher had us prepare to do a picture, which she felt was unnecessary. I have to admit that when I first encountered it, I was surprised, but it results in a picture that is much neater. She has us drawn the major outlines of our picture onto tracing paper, where you can make as many mistakes as you want, and then lightly trace the outlines onto our paper. That way, your drawing is transferred without mistakes onto the paper, and you have guidelines to work with when you begin working in charcoal. Well, our new teacher doesn’t like this and is talking about “weaning us away from it.”
Finally, this is a small point, but I just realized that our old teacher always told us to sign our pictures before we spray them, and this one didn’t. My poor fox picture doesn’t have my signature, because I forgot. Ah well, maybe we’ll get used to her. She didn’t do what our old teacher did and ignore the new students until she got to them. On the other hand, she was more easily distracted, so that we didn’t get our turns for her attention strictly in order, like we are used to.