A long weekend at the beach

The first tai chi class went well aside from us all being locked out when we first got there. The instructor said they hoped for four or five people, but there were 16 of us. We learned the first five moves. Maja wasn’t able to go with me but will go this week. They called me on Tuesday to tell me that if Battle Ground schools are closed today, we won’t have class, but there’s just a late start. On Monday night we got a couple of inches of snow up here (although not in Battle Ground) and Tuesday we had more.  Wayne also said he might go, but as usual he has copped out.

On Thursday night at art class, I drew my pigs, which will be my next painting. My teacher told me I should do a furry animal after finishing my landscape. Almost everyone in my class picks cats, dogs, horses, or wild animals like foxes and tigers. I thought it would be nice to do a barnyard animal. I looked at pictures of cows and pigs and picked some pigs sleeping in hay. I completed transferring the drawing onto my canvas a few minutes before clean-up time, so I did not begin painting it.

Lucie, John, and Sue on the beach at Seaside

On Friday, Sue picked me up and we loaded up some things that John and Lucie left and drove to Seaside. We arrived about noon in pouring rain. In fact, it was raining so hard when we crossed the bridge to the south of Astoria that we could barely see where we were going.

Haystack Rock from south of Cannon Beach

John and Lucie’s cottage was built in the 1930’s and is very nice. It has cedar shake siding and has two bedrooms downstairs and an attic with three twin beds upstairs. It is small but a lot larger than the apartments we looked at here and well lit and pleasant. There is a little sun room where Lucie sits in the morning reading her book. Luckily for me, Sue volunteered to sleep in the attic. The staircase from there to the little bathroom below it is very narrow and steep, and the ceiling slants so that you can bang your head on it. I was sure I’d fall down the stairs during one of my many nighttime trips to the bathroom. I had been trying to figure out if both of us could sleep in the guestroom bed, but it is pushed up against the wall, making it difficult for the inside person to get up in the middle of the night.

The cottage was rented furnished, and it is furnished to the max. There is very little room for any of John and Lucie’s things, and it is also full of kitsch with a seaside theme. Lots of shells and starfish around the place. Not very good paintings of water. And so on. However, it is comfortably furnished and the decor isn’t overly annoying.

I took this picture at Oswald West just north of Manzanita.

After we ate lunch, we walked the three or four long blocks to the sea. We had heard warnings of king tides and sneaker waves on the way in, and I tried to impress on John and Lucie how serious this was by telling them about a man and his child who were dragged out to sea the summer before, but John and Sue still went pretty close to the water. Lucie stayed well back with me. We walked along the ocean for a while. It was very windy and rainy, though, so after a few miles, we turned around and went home. John said they had already started a habit of heading out whenever it stopped raining. They had only had one day so far that it didn’t rain. (During that same time period, we had none.)

That night, Lucie made us a delicious dinner and we finally got to watch Amadeus, which I brought from home.

The next day when we went back down to the ocean in the morning, the tide was so high that the beach we had been walking on was completely underwater. We went down to the promenade and checked out the ocean from several viewpoints, before going to breakfast at Pig n Pancake. When we headed south to drive around the point below Seaside, the road was blocked off, so we had to go back to Highway 101.

We spent the day exploring a bunch of stops along the highway south of Seaside and looking at the ocean from different angles. Only once did John and Lucie go down to a beach, but it was at a tight cove, which is not a good place to do it under these conditions. Most of the time, we were looking at views from up high. We went down to Manzanita, and as we were going there, we encountered several ambulances. Later, we found out about the man and his two children who were pulled out to sea right when we were in the area. His little girl drowned and his little boy was never found. I feel so sorry for that family.

In the evening, we went out to dinner at one of the fish restaurants in Seaside, and we went to bed fairly early. The next morning I got up early and was thinking of taking a shower but was worried that it would wake up John and Lucie, who shared a jack and jill bathroom. I’m glad I didn’t do anything, because John got in the shower that morning and found the water not going down. When he got up, he saw that water had flooded up from under the toilet. We had to get the property manager to call a plumber. It turned out that the bamboo roots from the hedge on that side of the house had clogged up the pipes. The water was turned off for some time, and during that time, I had to walk several blocks down to the public toilet. However, I’m sure that will soon be fixed, and I’m glad they are so happy in their new home.

Some good news was that while we were there, Nancy texted John inviting him and Lucie to attend Mark’s 70th birthday potluck in early February. That made him very happy. Maybe we’re all going to put the latest unpleasantness behind us.

Sue and I drove home about 11 on Sunday morning. It was supposed to snow in Yacolt later that day, but we really didn’t get much. However, we got a lot more on Monday night. It was a little slippery going down to town to do our usual errands on Tuesday, but when we got to Battle Ground, they had no snow.

Lukey was very happy to see me when I got home. Wayne said he spent most of the time looking out the window.

 

Looks like a happy new year

We had a very nice Christmas morning with my brother John and his wife Lucie. My husband magically got me something I wanted, a nightgown I had marked in a catalog then decided not to buy. John and Lucie don’t really do presents, so we got them a pair each of alpaca socks so that they wouldn’t feel left out as we opened our presents.

Here is a picture of the decorated Christmas cake. It’s a work of art. (I’m sure Katrina probably finessed some of our work, because the mushrooms I made looked better than I remembered.)

In the afternoon, we made our veggies in preparation for the big dinner at my niece Katrina’s house. She made a Norwegian buffet for appetizers, and I’m afraid one cheese was so good that I ate way too much of it. Then the dinner, which I barely had room to eat, then the beautiful Christmas cake, decorated like a buche de Noel with mushrooms that we all made the Sunday before.

We were pretending it was Christmas Eve so that my sister Sue could be there for “Christmas morning” when the kids opened up their presents, since she worked the night before and slept in that afternoon until late. For once, though, she was there for Christmas dinner on Christmas. The kids got their presents from the people at the party early, though.

On Thursday and Friday, I went around with John and Lucie showing them different areas where they might find a place to live. They are renting, at least for the near future while they decide if they want to stay in that particular area. For what they want to pay, though, we were seeing some awfully small apartments.

However, yesterday they went out with Ares and Katrina to see some areas Ares recommends, and they ended up finding a house! It’s much farther away than we hoped, but I knew John thought a house on the beach would be nice, and they found one in Seaside, Oregon. It is larger than most of the places we looked at around Battle Ground, Vancouver, and Camas (except for one very nice but expensive two-bedroom in downtown Vancouver that we saw), but it is at a lower rent, an older cottage just a couple of blocks from the water. We are very excited because we will be welcome to visit them. It is furnished and has a room up in the attic with three beds in it as well as a guest room and a master bedroom, so several of us can go visit at a time. Right now, they are applying to live there, so we expect that soon they will have a home. I love the beach, although Wayne does not, so I am sure to be visiting soon.

Here is my newest painting.

On Thursday night, I finished the painting I had been working on since September. It’s another landscape but in colors very similar to my starfish. My teacher says I should do an animal with fur for my next painting, so I picked pigs, because everyone in the class does either cats, dogs, horses, or sort of exotic animals like lions and tigers. I decided to do a barnyard animal.

 

More wildlife spottings

I don’t know how they know this, but our former tenants told us that a bear had been spotted near the corner of our road and the main road, which is only about half a block from our house. My sister has maintained  we have a bear in the area, but I have never seen any sign of one. However, that makes me think a bit about the times that Luke seems to be barking at nothing in the woods above our house.

Similarly, my sister reported last week that she saw something that looked like a well-fed wolf in our neighborhood. I asked her if it could be a coyote, and she said, no, it was too big. Then my husband said he saw what looked like a wolf running down our road one morning. That same day, I took Luke out to the orchard and there was the “wolf,” running out of our orchard. It was a malamute. Luckily, Luke was behind me so he didn’t even notice the strange dog leaving our orchard.

I am surprised that neither Wayne nor Sue noticed it was wearing an orange collar. I don’t know who he belongs to. As far as I know, no one on our street has him unless he is a new dog. He ran across the road to our neighbors’ property and skirted it toward the farm on the main road that is next to our neighborhood but not in it, so maybe he lives there. I have heard a dog barking over there but never saw a strange dog in our neighborhood until now. It turns out my husband never heard of a malamute before. When I told him what it was, he said, “What?” I showed him a picture and he agreed that was it.

It’s hard to see, but Cougar Creek runs down the middle of this picture at the bottom of a narrow cleft.

Last week, Maja and I hiked again at Salmon Creek Park. This time, we got farther in and walked along a wilder area of the park along Cougar Creek. I have to admit to liking the park more after going farther from the urban part of it, the baseball fields, etc. We did about a four-mile hike.

Not much else of interest has been happening lately. I have been thinking about buying my fall bulbs, as every year I plant more daffodils and crocuses in my orchard. This is earlier than usual, but fall is coming on strong. Today, the high is only supposed to be in the 50’s with the lows getting into the 30’s, and there is frost on the ground for the first time this fall. It has been alternating cold, rainy with cool, sunny days. On the rainy ones, we tend to light a fire on our stove and stay in with a book. Today it is cold and sunny for a change.

I don’t know what exactly it is, but ever since we got the chimney cleaned this time, our stove has been heating up the house really fast. I noticed during the evenings this week that by the time we went to bed, the living room was too hot for me, and this was after only having the wood stove lit in the evening. When the fire department came out last year, they broke some parts of our stove running water down the chimney. They said we could still safely operate the stove, but this fall the chimney sweep installed the new parts. I don’t know if it’s the parts, the cleanness of the stove, or the good wood we bought this year, but the stove is really heating things up. Before, it used to take all day of feeding wood into the fire before the living room got too hot.

This weekend on one of the sunny days, I put on my bramble-proof gloves and tried to cut back some of the blackberry on the slope behind our house. After a time of working, I didn’t feel as if I had made any progress, even though I had a big pile of blackberry bramble on the grass behind me. I decided it would make more sense to wait until winter, after the leaves died off and I could see what I was doing. The next day it was still nice, so I went back out and clipped up the brambles into short lengths and put them in a yard bag. Last spring, when I cut back bramble down by the pond, I just threw the pieces back on top of the bramble. I didn’t realize they would reroot. They are all still green now, despite having been cut months ago.

Luke continues to steal my shoes, so I have to shut them in the closet or put them up high. The other night, he actually opened the closet door and came running out into the living room with one of my shoes in his mouth. That’s not so bad, because he hasn’t chewed any, but one night last week he was looking for trouble, went into the bedroom and got one of my bras off a chair. I had to throw it away after I got it back from him, because he tore it to pieces.

 

All over the place

Because I had guests this week, I have been on the run every day and have lots of pictures. This was a particularly fun visit because of all the places we went.

On Thursday morning, my friends Ray and Karen and I left for Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, picking up Deb in Clackamas on the way. I thought it was going to be interesting, because none of these people had ever met each other before. They just all knew me. But everyone got along very well.

On our way down to Ashland, we stopped in Albany to have lunch. We had intended to eat a Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant, but they had had a fire and were closed. So, we ate at a restaurant where we stopped last year, Brick and Mortar Cafe. While we were waiting for our table, we walked down the street so that Karen and Ray could see the reconstructed carousel.

We arrived in Ashland about 5:00 PM and checked in. We stayed at the Tudor Inn, the same place as last year, but not in the old motel part of the inn. Instead, we were in rooms across the street, which were much more expensive because they were fancier and this was during the high season. Between my room and Deb’s and next to Ray’s and Karen’s was a little sitting room that seemed like it was just for us, even though it was open to the other guests and had an exit off one end. It was nice, but if we go next year, we’ll try to get in the motel again. The opulence isn’t really worth the difference in price since our original rooms were just fine and neat and clean, with everything new.

Then we went to get our tickets at the box office, had dinner early, and wandered around town until our first play started at 8:00. I thought that because it was high season, the stores might stay open later than 6:00, but just like before, most of the stores closed at 6:00 except the Bloomsbury Bookstore (a very good bookstore).

Our first play was All’s Well That Ends Well in the Elizabethan Theater. The reason we chose to go during the summer this year was so we could attend the open-air Elizabethan Theater. And now I have to confess to a certain amount of idiocy, because although I knew we were going to an outdoor theater, I didn’t put two and two together about the forecast temperature until I walked into the theater and saw they were selling blankets. I hadn’t even worn the layers I could have worn. And, although I had told my guests way back when that it was open air, they had apparently forgotten. What made it worse was that when Ray checked the forecast before coming, it was showing hot temperatures for his whole visit, so he didn’t even bring a jacket, just a fleece vest. (His only souvenir of the trip was an Oregon Shakespeare Festival sweatshirt, which he bought first thing the next morning.)

I had only read the play a few weeks before departing and noted it wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s best. Plus, I was curious about how some of the ideas would go over with a modern audience, particularly the ending, where, no matter how jerky the man had acted throughout the play, the happy ending was his marriage to the heroine, or more accurately, his falling in love with his wife. The play was entertaining, but we weren’t sure we liked some of the artistic decisions. The costumes were very weird, sort of a cross between Elizabethan and 19th century, with some 20th century thrown in. A very odd choice was made in Helena’s costumes to dress her like an Elizabethan boy at some times (well, a stylized Elizabethan costume) and in overalls at other times. I don’t mind the idea of placing a play in another time period, but I would like them to make up their minds. I thought the costumes were more distracting than otherwise.

The audience did boo Bertram during the course of the play, and of course, he was the reluctant groom who ends up in a supposedly happy marriage with Helena at the end. I guess the audience most likely would not have booed him in Elizabethan times.

The experience was a good one, but we froze our butts off, not being smart enough to buy blankets. As always, it was better to see the play for me than to try to read it, but this play is not one that has beautiful speeches in it.

These were the turkeys in the park that let me walk up to within four feet of them before they started casually strolling away

In the morning, we strolled around Limpia Park for a while, but we didn’t realize until we bought a hiking map later in the day, just how extensive it is. We could see there was a big gate farther in, but we didn’t go that far. In part of the park, they were preparing for two events, and in another part, we saw a bunch of wild turkeys. They let me go quite near to them.

The Elizabethan Theater with the first setting for Macbeth

The next day, we had two plays to go to. One was As You Like It, which took place in the larger of the two other theaters. As You Like It has never been one of my favorite plays, because it just seems disjointed to me. In addition, I seldom very much enjoy the humor of Elizabethan times, although like other things, I often find it funnier in performance. There were also some interesting costume choices in this play as well as some annoying stylized movements at times, including at the opening of the play.

We all went to see Macbeth, which was the final play for me and Deb, the one I was most excited about seeing. This play was more traditionally staged except that they moved some scenes around for no apparent reason. I don’t have the play memorized or anything, but it was pretty obvious when they started the play with a fairly boring informational scene (a discussion of what was going on with the king) instead of the witches. I am not sure what would lead them to make such a decision to start the play that way instead of eerily, as it was meant. However, the witches stayed on the stage for most of the play, observing and adding to the eeriness, and that was a good decision. We all liked this play much better.

The North Mountain Park Nature Center has paths and benches and deer grazing on the grounds.

The next day, only Ray and Karen had a play and that was in the evening, Alice in Wonderland, so we had the day to kill. Karen decided to stay in and write postcards, etc., while Deb and Ray and I went out exploring. First, we took a very short river walk. Then we went across the road to the North Mountain Park Nature Center. Finally, we walked a couple of miles on the Bear Creek Greenway, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, although at that point it was not in the mountains.

Recently, I heard of a new movie by Kenneth Branaugh about Shakespeare. I found out it had come out in 2018, but I couldn’t find it playing anywhere in our area, although I looked for it several times. To my delight, it was playing in Ashland. So, Saturday afternoon we all went to the movies. It was a very good movie, and I was happy to see it in a theater, because it had some nice panoramic shots.

Deb and I decided just to hang out in our rooms on Saturday night, although we went for dessert to Mix, a delicious bakery in Ashland, where we made a point to stop several times. We always split our desserts so didn’t feel too guilty about it. So, a quiet evening. Ray and Karen reported that they enjoyed their play and thought particularly that the costumes were very inventive. They also said that the few degrees warmer temperature made it much warmer in the audience, and they didn’t put their coats on until intermission.

Crater Lake

Early on Sunday morning, we got started, because our plan was to visit Crater Lake on the way home. We found out that only one road is open so far into the park, and that was the south one, which meant that we would have to backtrack on our way out rather than being able to come out farther north. The lake is simply breathtaking, so we were happy to have come even though it meant that we got home rather late. We took a picnic lunch with us. You could only drive up to the Rim Village and a bit beyond to Discovery Point to view the lake, although if we had had more time, we could have hiked farther.

We got home after 9:30 and discussed our plans for the next day, which turned out to be another long driving day. It was to Seattle, where we wanted to visit Chihuly Gardens and Glass. I have been wanting to see a Chihuly installation since I first looked at one online years ago. I have seen a couple of pieces of his in Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids but have not been in a city where a garden was installed.

We met up with my brother and his son for lunch at Chinook’s. Delicious. Then we went to the gardens.

One of the exhibits in the Chihuly gallery outside the gardens. To give perspective, this was two full-sized boats (you can only see part of the second one on the left) filled with objects resembling sea life.

The work was beautiful, but I was a little disappointed because the garden was so small, and he only used a few different shapes of items. Particularly, there was no water installation, and I think the things he does with fountains and ponds are among his most interesting work. However, the gallery, although only of a half dozen or so rooms, was very beautiful.

After we left the gardens, we wandered around Seattle Center for a bit, and had a cool drink. Then it was time to hit the road, at about the very worst time possible. I ended up in a traffic jam for about an hour on the way to Tacoma, but after Tacoma, the rest of the way was fine. I think it took about twice as long to get from Seattle to Tacoma as it did to get from Tacoma to Seattle.

On Tuesday, my guests opted for a visit to Portland. We drove to the Cascades Station of the Max train, took the train into town, and walked to Powell’s books. I bought a handful of books. Then we had lunch at Deschutes Brewery and took the train home. For once, we were home by about four, so we had a lazy evening, just going out to dinner.

Wednesday morning I took my friends to the airport. Later in the afternoon, I went over to visit my brother and sister-in-law, who are now moving in to their new home in Amboy. They moved up from Berkeley a couple days ago.

So, it was an exciting week with lots going on.

 

Staying in the rain forest

Lake Quinault Lodge from the back lawn

I just love old western lodges, the kind that are built of logs or planks or stone and cedar shakes, that have large lobbies with enormous fireplaces in them. I loved staying in Old Faithful Inn, the mother of all western lodges, a few years ago, and my only disappointment was that the entire time we stayed there, I was never once early enough to get a seat before the fire.

Last summer I stopped twice with family at Lake Quinault Lodge in the Olympic Peninsula. The first time, my sister was taking me for a tour of the peninsula, and we stopped for lunch. The second time, I was touring around with two of my brothers and family when we stopped for an hour or so to look at the lodge. It’s a beauty, built in 1926 by the CCC.

I wanted Wayne to see this lodge and I wanted to stay in it, so I reserved us a room for two nights over our anniversary. We left late Thursday morning after dropping Luke off at the trainers to board and stayed until Saturday morning.

This is part of the lobby. You can’t see the whole effect, because the other side of the room has rows of leather chairs and small tables. When I was in there one time, there were probably about forty people in the lobby, but it wasn’t crowded at all. Everyone had a seat, and several groups were playing games.

The lodge is beautiful. The older section of it is from the 20’s. In that building are a lovely restaurant, a big lobby with lots of comfortable chairs and sofas, tables, library shelves, game tables, and so on. There is a ballroom on the end opposite the library, and then there are the historic rooms. Underneath all this is a game room, pool, and sauna.

We didn’t stay in the historic section, however. The lodge has several other buildings, where they have added on more modern rooms. We had a room in the Fireplace Room building, where each room has a gas fire. The fire was nice. It worked on a thermostat so that you could set a temperature for the room, and the fire would come on and go off when needed. I tended to overdo it and make it a little warm in the room. Our room was fairly large. We had a balcony overlooking the lake, and there was enough room to have put a small dining table and chairs in the main room, which we would have liked, because do what I would, I could not get Wayne to hang out in the lobby. We ended up playing dominoes in our room one afternoon. Another time, I took my book down to the lobby and read for an hour or so.

I took this picture from inside the restaurant on our last night as the sun was setting.

That was my one regret, that I couldn’t get Wayne out of the room more. He came out to eat, basically. I thought he would use the sauna and pool, but no. It rained all day Friday, but I did manage to get him out to do a drive around the lake. We didn’t see many views, though, because the lake is hard to see for most of the drive. After playing dominoes on Friday afternoon and waiting until it stopped pouring, I went out to do one of the hiking trails near the lodge. If you’re interested, I’ll be posting my hike information on Fat Girls Friday morning.

That was our big trip. I enjoyed it despite the rain (it was really pouring for our drive home on Saturday morning), and when I asked Wayne whether he liked it, he said, “Very peaceful.” There were quite a few people there, because it was Washington’s spring break, lots of kids, but the lodge is built so well that we heard almost nothing in our rooms. Also, although we were in a separate building on the second floor, the buildings were designed so that we could walk under cover from the walkway outside our rooms, around a corner and straight into the historic building. Then we only had to walk past a few of the rooms and down three steps and we were in the lobby. So, we didn’t even need our jackets most of the time.

We needed to get home around noon to pick up Luke at a specific time, but the restaurant at the lodge didn’t open until 8, so we knew we would have to stop for breakfast on the way home. So, we left really early. It poured all the way home, until about an hour away, when the sun came out. However, back in Yacolt, it was gloomy. We got home around 11, so I had time to unpack before picking up Lukey. He was ecstatic when he saw us, although his trainer said he had a blast boarding.

I kind of flubbed up my scheduling, because that afternoon I had tickets to the Magenta Theater. My friend Deb and I got season tickets because they were so cheap. So far, we have experienced fairly typical amateur theater. Sue was coming along with us that day, so I picked her up and we met Deb at the theater. The play was called Pack of Lies, and it was a drama based on a true incident of Cold War spying in England. Sadly, the acting was so-so, and the English accents were terrible. I was surprised to see they actually had an accent coach, and I can only assume that either the coach wasn’t very good or the actors just couldn’t do the accents. I think the latter, because they came and went. One actress actually attempted a more regional accent than the others, who attempted the plummy BBC approach. She was a little better than the others. We decided afterwards that the play wasn’t very good. We were all waiting for a twist, and there wasn’t one. We weren’t sure if we would have had a different reaction with better actors, however. I’m not sure why they keep picking British plays if their actors can’t do the accents. You may recall that the last play was a Jeeves and Wooster.

As before, we were impressed with the sets, which were pretty nice for an amateur theater. They were done in black, white, and gray, which at first didn’t seem right for a play set in the 1960’s, but the actors were also dressed in black, white, and gray, so it occurred to me that maybe they were trying to replicate film noir or black and white TV. It was a clever idea.

The rest of the weekend I was recuperating from our trip. I must have been pretty tired, because after taking Luke to Play and Train Monday morning and to his new class Monday evening, I slept until 10:30 on Tuesday. Unheard of!

When I first saw our orchard, it was this beautiful field of wildflowers with some hydrangeas along the driveway. We found out later that we had to keep it mowed because of the bramble that will grow in it if we leave it wild. Still, each year I’ve been planting wildflowers with the hope that briefly, before we have to mow, the orchard will return to what I originally saw. So far, no luck, but on Tuesday I planted another large bag of wildflowers. Last year, I followed the instructions on the bag of raking the ground, sowing the seeds, and covering them up. No additional wildflowers emerged. This year, by planted I mean I just threw them on the ground.

 

Walks to waterfalls, beaches, and other amusements

I didn’t manage to post last week as I planned to, because I took an unexpected trip with my brother. The day I usually post, I was staying in a motel with a poor internet connection.

My brother John arrived the Wednesday before last. His flight was an hour late, and it was already due in latish, so we didn’t get home from the airport until midnight. Then, of course, the two of us stayed up late talking. That was the first of many nights in a row where I didn’t go to bed at my usual time, which is tough for me these days, but it was fun to stay up and chat. Some of the evenings, we sat out on our deck and listened to frogs, watched bats, and heard a pack of coyotes in the distance.

Most of the time John was here we all sat around talking, one day playing in the kid’s pool. For dinner, I was responsible for portions of two meals. The first was the Indian meal. I underestimated the time it would take to get my Big Green Egg up to temperature, so we ended up eating about an hour later than planned. Still, the tandoori chicken came out great. The naan didn’t seem to have the right texture, but I had trouble with the dough and will continue to experiment.

I also made almost all of a Mexican meal, enchiladas Suisses, topopo salad, black beans, and flan. It had been years since I did the beans, and I misread my cookbook to the result of destroying the crock for my crock pot. I thought it said to cook the beans in a crock on the stove, which I thought odd, but did it anyway. The author had been talking about crocks, and I was the victim of my own skim reading. The crock seemed to be okay, and then it went “Bang!” and it cracked clear around the bottom. All the black bean water went out onto the stove and into the cupboard below and on the floor. I managed to salvage the beans and spent quite some time cleaning up the water. Then I rechecked the recipe, and sure enough it said to cook the beans in a pot on the stove. Yikes! Later, that evening, my great niece remarked that my feet were completely black on the bottom because of wading around in the bean water trying to clean it up.

On the first Saturday John was here, we all decided to go for a hike. We were having a hard time deciding where to go, trying to find a hike that I could do but that would take us near water so that we could cool off, as it was supposed to be a very hot day. We drove way up into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the part that is near the east side of Mt. St. Helens, and we went on a series of short hikes. When it came to going somewhere with water, though, we hadn’t reckoned with the fact that all the trails in the Gorge near last year’s fires are closed, bringing all of the people who would usually go there up here. We went to Lower Falls on the Lewis River, and it was packed with people. The descent to the river was too steep for me, although it looked lovely, with a beautiful blue swimming hole. We couldn’t believe the number of people there, with boom boxes, umbrellas, and rolling coolers. Not our idea of a getaway. There was even a traffic jam.

Here’s a selfie we took while out hiking. That’s my sister, me, my brother, and my niece and her two kids, with her husband taking the picture.

I was able to cool off at Lower Falls and Middle Falls by walking farther down the river. At the one, I found a place where I could put my feet in the river, but it was too rocky and shallow to go swimming. At the other, we found our own private waterfall, just a little one with a hole at the bottom where you could sit and let the water trickle down on you. I will be detailing all four of these hikes this week and the following weeks on my blog The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking.

Steve, his son Will, John, Steve’s daughter Nadia, and Sage, the dog. Steve’s wife Mary and his daughter Áine were back at the hotel.

On Monday, John was due to go to Seattle to visit my youngest brother, Steve, and his family. Up until he left, they tried to get him to change his plans, offering a variety of reasons. Finally, they announced that they would actually be in Ocean Shores, and then they would be camping, and he was welcome to join them. John is a big camper, but he came prepared for hot weather here and Seattle, not for cooler coastal weather and camping. He didn’t even bring a long-sleeved shirt or socks. We brought up a load of camping equipment for him to borrow. Then Steve invited us all to come along. At that point, I decided to go as a surprise, although I would not be camping.

So, I unexpectedly went out of town on Monday and spent the next four days with them. We were in Ocean Shores for two days, which we spent at the beach and doing other things to amuse the kids, playing put-put golf, playing games at an arcade, and bowling. Then we started out on a tour of the Olympic Peninsula. We saw some beautiful beaches and did a couple more hikes, which I will also detail on Fat Girls. John was happy that I had gotten a room in a motel in Forks, because when he saw Steve’s camp site outside of Forks, he realized another tent wouldn’t fit, so he stayed with me. We spent a late night around the campfire with them and then went back to our motel. It rained all night, though, and so they did not camp the last night in Sequim.

We got back Friday afternoon and went over to Katrina’s for dinner, and then my sister took John to the airport on Saturday morning. I was so tired from all the late nights that I did a lot of sleeping that weekend. And as it has worked out, I have missed most of my usual activities this week. On Monday, I was still too tired to go to tai chi class. Monday night, I was driving my great niece to tae kwan do class and picking up my sister at her mechanic’s when I hit a pothole and got a flat tire. We changed to the spare, and since I already had an appointment for yesterday at the dealership (to replace a piece of our rear-view mirror that went missing on our trip around the Peninsula), I just thought I’d take my tire in for them to repair.

However, on Tuesday morning I finally talked my husband into going with me to the Y to take the arthritis water class while I did my deep water exercise class. We were on our way to that, after which we were going to the dealership, when practically every warning light on our dashboard lit up. This was so alarming that we pulled over and called up the dealership, who told us to come on in. Of course, we were there for hours, and it turned out I had bent both the front and back rims of the wheels.

Then we had to deal with the insurance person, who wanted us to let the car sit at the dealership for three days until some sort of inspector could get there to look at the damage to our car before the repair. We thought this was ridiculous, because the dealership said they could get the parts the next day or the day after. That would have delayed the repair on our car to the point where we would be without it for at least a week. My husband worked out a deal where we could pay for the repair ourselves, take our rims to the inspector afterwards, and get reimbursed.

Then the insurance person was supposed to send us a rental car. We waited and waited. Finally, I called the only office in Vancouver for that rental car outfit, and they had no order from the insurance people. We didn’t have our claim number because they emailed it to us at my husband’s email address instead of mine, where I could have got it on my phone. So, I went back to the dealership rep and asked him to get us a rental car, as I didn’t want to spend the whole day there. Enterprise was there to pick us up within 10 minutes. When we were at the Enterprise desk filling out the paperwork, the other rental company called me FROM OREGON! That’s right. Our insurance company contacted a rental car company that wasn’t even in the same state as we were. She knew we were in Vancouver, because she gave us the name of an inspector in Vancouver that we had to take our rims to. We don’t know how they’re going to handle the fact that we cancelled the rental car company, but we didn’t care.

On the garden front, while I was gone, my peas finally gave up the ghost because of the heat. I got another cup or so of them, and then I pulled them all up. Now, my onions and my beans will get some more sunlight.

And that’s about it. No art this last two weeks, just lots of sightseeing. However, my sister contacted me while I was away to tell me she had gotten a call from our art school. She is back in my class!