Yes, we had a white Christmas

Here is our first snowfall in the early dawn. Our Christmas lights are still on and part of the sky is still dark.

That’s what we were dreaming of. It snowed late Friday night or early Saturday morning, and we drove out Saturday morning around 8 to do some errands in town. Just a mile or so from our house, there was no snow, while we had lots of the fluffy, wet kind that sticks to all the branches. I took a picture of our first snowfall in the early dawn. The rest of the day was sunny, but it never got warm enough to melt the snow we got that night.

On Saturday night, my sister came over to watch Game of Thrones. I didn’t figure out that since she was working the next three nights, she was looking at it as a little early Christmas, whereas we just acted like it was a normal night. We didn’t even have any eggnog to bust out. So, we watched Thrones and then she left, and the next morning, I opened the front door and found a three-foot fir tree on my front porch with a bow on it. An early Christmas gift from her! We will have to wait until the spring to plant it. It made me feel bad that we hadn’t even had a glass of Christmas cheer.

Then on Christmas Eve, it snowed all day. After doing my floors on Saturday afternoon, I was ready for Christmas, so I had a delightful day listening to my Christmas music on the stereo and reading before the fire. My husband was down in the basement all day wrapping presents and doing whatever it is that he does down there.

Sun on the snow the morning after Christmas

Christmas day was quiet. The kids were still all recovering from the flu, so we left them alone to have a quiet day by themselves. We exchanged gifts and spent the day watching Dr. Who reruns, running up to the Dr. Who Christmas special, which in my mind this year was not that good. I think it’s fine that the new Dr. Who is a woman, but frankly, I didn’t really like Peter Capaldi as the doctor especially since they killed off Clara. But my problem with the Christmas show is that it wasn’t that well written. The parts that were supposed to be funny were just marginally funny, and the parts that were supposed to be emotional just weren’t. So, we’ll see how things go with the new doctor. (My favorite is still David Tennant, although I grew to like Matt Smith.)

Our house in the snow. It is evening (well, 3:30, so starting to get dark). I took this from the road, and you can just barely see the pond (in the foreground) and the house (up at the top of the hill) through the trees.

Yesterday, it was sunny again, and so I loaded all the Christmas presents for the kids into the car and then left a note for my husband to bring them when he woke up from his nap and walked over to my niece’s house. Of course, by the time I started walking, the sun had pretty much gone. That seems to be the way it goes, that it would get cloudy just as I set out. It had rained on all the lovely snow the night before, so that there was a thick crust on top of the snow. I had crunched my way to the bird feeders that morning to fill them up, and the crust was almost thick enough to support my weight without me breaking through. It made interesting walking to my niece’s house as I couldn’t walk in the treads of the cars because they were icy. We had a nice visit with everyone, ate some of the marzipan candy my niece made, and exchanged gifts. My niece let the kids go outside for the first time since everyone got sick, and it was really funny. The sled went pretty far down the hill on that ice, and when they tried to make snow angels, they were just flopping around on top of the snow. My little nephew didn’t even break through the crust when he walked on it.

So, we had a quiet holiday, and we hope you all had a nice holiday, too! Next time I post it will be 2018! Merry Christmas, everyone!




Will it snow for Christmas?

This is the question everyone in my family is asking. Although practically the whole rest of the country has had some snow by now, including good old Austin, where it hardly ever snowed the 20 years I lived there, we have had none. Last year, it had been snowing since shortly after Thanksgiving by now. Of course, last year was an unusual winter for snow. We had lots more of it than normal.

I’ve been checking the forecast regularly, and they keep changing their mind. About a week ago, they were forecasting snow for today and Friday. The next day, no snow was forecast, the next day snow on Friday, and so on. Yesterday, no snow was forecast for the next 10 days. Today, snow is forecast for Friday, possibly Sunday, Tuesday, and possibly Friday again. So, we just might have a little snow on the ground on Monday (although it’s supposed to rain). We all wish for it except my husband.

My poor niece spent weeks preparing her house and cooking food for her big family Christmas dinner with her husband’s family, supposed to take place last Sunday. But the immediate family got sick with the flu. The only person in the house who escaped was my sister. So, my niece’s mother-in-law was picking up all the food that my niece prepared on Sunday to take over to her house. My niece and her family were disappointed, but they didn’t want to spread the germs.

We finished our Christmas decorations this week. The last thing that remained to do was for my husband to hook up an extension cord to some lights that have been strung on a tree out in the yard since before we bought the house. We had no idea they worked, but our tenant told us they did, so he lit them up last night.

Other than that, nothing significant is going on except at art class. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I switched classes after my sister quit art class so that I could get back my original art teacher, Sarah. But Sarah is clearly pregnant, and I asked her about her plans for taking time off from work. She is working through January. At first she told me she was coming back in a couple of months, but now she’s not planning on coming back for five or six months.

We discussed what I could do in the meantime if my last teacher was given her classes to cover. If it’s another teacher, I will try her out, but otherwise, I would rather get someone else. Sarah suggested taking a break while she is gone, but that was before she planned to be out so long. She also said I might have trouble getting back into the 4:15 Tuesday class. That doesn’t matter to me, though. If my sister decides to start back, I’ll have to change classes to one that is later on Tuesday or on Thursday anyway.

Here is the background of my bird. I learned how to shade for lighter and darker last night. I took this picture before I finished, so the blob by the twig at the bottom center looks different now.

So, for now, we’re waiting to see who substitutes for Sarah. I ran into another lady who was in my original class with her last night, because Sarah asked me to stay late for the next class. I was finally painting a picture, and she wanted me to finish painting the background while the paint was wet. So, I stayed for the class and saw this other lady. She originally quit our last class when Sarah stopped teaching it, so she was concerned about the same thing as I was. We got recommendations from Sarah about who would be a good teacher to move to temporarily in the art school.

And here is a photo of the background of my picture. I learned how to do the shading of the beautiful shade of purple we mixed.

The nightmare before Christmas

I am posting late this morning because I had to take our car into Vancouver this morning for routine maintenance. My husband said he couldn’t go because he was expecting a delivery of firewood. When I got home, he said the firewood was being delivered tomorrow. Senior moment? It’s hard to tell.

This week I learned how much more difficult it can be to get ready for Christmas if you’re out in the country. You know how it is. You start decorating and that’s when you find out you need something. When I lived in Austin, I could just run down to the corner drugstore to get replacement lights, for example. Here, it’s a 20-minute drive to town with no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for.

My decorating started relatively painlessly on Thursday when I put up some of the outside lights on the back deck. Although we had plenty of lights already, my husband had bought some fancy ones that change color and can blink or not blink, so I started out by helping him put his up, then I put up the ones I used last year on the other side of the deck. I just bought a couple of strings last year of pseudo-antique ceramic bulbs and found that about six of them needed to be replaced. More on that later.

The next day, my sister went with us to get a Christmas tree. Or rather, she took us, because she drove and borrowed her son-in-law’s trailer. The U-cut near our house has closed up and the one we were planning to visit this year took its sign down early. I think maybe some of these guys sell enough trees to make their profit and then stop. So, we weren’t quite sure where we were going. We finally decided on a large U-cut fairly far from our house. But when we got there, we saw that they had severely trimmed all their trees to look like perfect cones. I thought they looked bizarre. They were also about twice as expensive, or more, than they were elsewhere. We went back to a smaller U-cut we had passed on the way.

Last year was the first time I ever got a tree at a U-cut and while the tree was being cut, I went off to ask to use the people’s bathroom. I am only saying that because I had no idea that my niece’s husband had had to lay down in the snow to cut the trees with a hand saw. Okay, now picture us, no snow but three geezers. My husband is five years older than I am and has trouble with his knees. I am heavy and also have trouble with my knees. My sister, bless her heart, threw herself down on the ground and began to cut. She is six years younger than I am, but she is also heavy and had her knee replaced last year. She did a good job but had to get up after a while, at which time my husband tried it. I could tell just by the sound of the sawing that he was not using his muscles at all. It was probably the difficult position. I kept saying I would try it, and he kept telling me I wouldn’t be able to get down there. Finally, my sister came back and finished the job. That poor woman. I told the younger generation that next year it would be the tree lot for us, at which point my niece’s husband said he would take us next year as long as he wasn’t sick. He’s a sweetheart, but he hasn’t been feeling well. We took my sister out for prime rib the next night to thank her. I felt totally guilty, because I didn’t have to do anything except help drag the tree.

When we got home, we put the tree in the stand. That is an understatement. It was a noble fir, and they are heavy. It’s not as tall as the one we had last year but very fat and solid. My husband tends to get aggravated easily at Christmas, since he has no interest in it, so after we got it in the stand, even though it was tilted at about a 20 degree angle, he said, “If you want to straighten it, do it yourself.” Of course, it’s impossible to straighten a large tree by yourself. You have to have one person pulling it into position while the other person adjusts the screws. My sister came over the next night and helped me with it, but it is still tilted, just not as badly.

Getting the tree was tough, but that’s just part of the story. On Saturday morning, I took my niece to tae kwon do. Afterwards, I made a quick trip to the hardware store in town, innocently thinking it would be easy to get what I needed, replacement bulbs. They didn’t have any. Can you imagine? I just bought these lights from them last year, and they already don’t have replacement bulbs for those strings. In fact, I have been quite a few places since then, and I can say that no one has them.

This got worse. When I started trimming my tree later Saturday morning, the first thing I found out was that one of my strings of white lights didn’t work at all. The fuse was out, but we couldn’t get it to work even after replacing it. I am a little anal about my tree. I first cover it in white lights, then I start again at the bottom and do colored ones. I don’t put any ornaments on until the lights are on, so I was stalled.

In the afternoon, I went over to my niece’s house to help decorate cookies. This wasn’t as fun as it was the year before, when the entire family did it together. First, my niece wanted to wait until her friend arrived. She had told me to come at 1 PM, and it was 2 before we got a text from the friend saying she had just left the house. So, we got started. My sister and my niece were decorating cookies for some school events, and they said they had to be identical or the kids would fight over them. So, they were working sort of assembly line style on a whole bunch of identical cookies at once. My great niece and I were doing the other ones. That went well until the friend dropped her daughter off instead of coming in to help. The two little girls got into a competition with each other about who could put the most junk on her cookie, so that by the time I had finished a couple of dozen cookies, they had only done three apiece.

In the meantime, my niece and sister finished their assembly line cookies and just stopped working. Then the friend came back and showed no inclination to decorate cookies, but took a cup of tea and began talking to my niece. I started to wonder how I got landed decorating cookies with a couple of nine-year-olds, so having filled up my tray with decorated cookies, I quit. My sister started to protest that there were still some cookies to do (only about six), and I said, “I’ve done enough.” Maybe I was being Grinchy, but I remembered too many times as the oldest girl in the family when my brothers and sisters begged me to bake Christmas cookies. I would say, “Okay, but you have to stay here and help me decorate them.” They would always agree, and then they would do a couple of cookies apiece and disappear. I would get stuck decorating dozens of cookies all by myself, which is not fun.

I had to run into town to try to find C6 LED white lights and a wreath holder. My sister decided to go with me because she was trying to find eight red bows to hang on the fence on the way to the house. She and my great niece had already done a great job putting ornaments and bows on the trees in the yard. It looked really pretty, all of them red, gold, or silver. I think I might do something like that in my orchard next year if I can find some inexpensive but nice looking ornaments. My niece is getting ready for a huge family dinner next weekend for her husband’s very large extended family. We are invited to “drop by,” but we won’t go, I’m sure. We only know a couple of members of the family, and this is precisely the type of situation that makes us feel uncomfortable. We are introverts.

At the hardware store, I got the last package of C6 white lights, but they didn’t have a wreath holder. They said they were out. It’s more than two weeks before Christmas and the local stores are no longer stocking Christmas stuff. I took my sister a few places looking for bows. No bows but a wreath holder, much chintzier than the one I had, at the Fred Meyer.

We got home. Who knew that now the LED lights come in more than one kind of white? I plugged them in and they were warm white. They looked ridiculous with my bright white lights. Then I went to hang my wreath. Guess what? My wreath hanger was for an interior door, not an exterior one. It of course did not say this on the package, but I defy anyone to fit that wreath hanger on an exterior door. So, I went to bed with my tree in the same state.

The next morning, early, my husband and I went to Home Depot, where we found what we thought was the last string of C6 white lights in town. This one was fancy, it could blink or not blink, had a controller, so it cost more. My husband found this string, so I did not check the color, but he knew the problem with the other string. I guess you can already tell what’s coming. Still no wreath holder. I got back into the car and said to my husband that I was sure the Michael’s would have a wreath holder. This store is another 10 or 15 minutes away (the Home Depot is 40 minutes away from our house, in Vancouver), but we went there and found a wreath holder, actually lots of them, and they were plainly of better quality and designed to fit on an exterior door. We also found red bows for my sister.

After having a nice breakfast out, we went back all satisfied with ourselves, dropped the bows off, and came home. I plugged in the new lights. You guessed it, warm white again. I put the lights back in the box with the receipt and got back into the car and drove right back to town, where I went to the dreaded Walmart. I hate to shop there, because I don’t like their policies. But I finally found what actually was the last string of C6 LED bright white lights in town. They are oddly shaped, smaller than my other C6’s and pointy tipped instead of rounded, but by then I just wanted to finish my tree.

Hah! I got to the colored lights. I had two strings from the year before that had no working blue lights. I’m not sure why it would be, but even though we know all the lights are white with just a colored bulb covering around them, for some reason on all my strings, the blues burn out first and then the greens. All of these LED lights are oldish, not the kind where you can replace the bulb. So, I had one very long string of lights and two shorter ones that I was planning to use without using the two strings that had no blues. However, just like the white lights, one string would not light even after my husband replaced the fuse. At this point, I decided to heck with it and distributed the working strings to cover the tree. Next year I plan to replace all my colored lights, because on my working strings about every third bulb is burned out. However, they still look okay.

Here is my tilty Crhistmas tree, still without its top. This year we can’t put it by the window because the wood-burning stove is there now. But it looks nice next to the staircase.

I finally got to the ornaments on Monday morning. No problems there, just a few broken ornaments from sheer clumsiness. I still haven’t put out all my decorations through the house, but my tree is done except for the topper. I need my husband to cut off part of the treetop (we forgot to do it when it was on the ground) and then put my Santa on top. It is too high for me to reach.

This is a very long article just to be about decorating the tree. I hope your Christmas decorating goes more smoothly!


A winter journey

Last week revolved around a weekend trip to Leavenworth, Washington, where they have a Christmas festival every weekend in December. My niece planned this trip almost a year ago. Seven of us went, my sister, my husband and I, my niece and her family. Leavenworth is located on the east of the Cascades in central Washington, so we had to drive over the mountains to get there.

My great niece and great nephew with a bear outside a store in Leavenworth

We drove up on Friday, arriving around 3:30. Leavenworth is a little German town that looks like the residents transplanted a chunk of Bavaria. There are murals painted on the walls of the buildings and they are well lit up for Christmas. My goodness, does it get filled up for the Christmas festival.

The town schedules events all weekend in a gazebo in the center of town. If they don’t have someone performing then they pipe Christmas music. We arrived in town in time to witness the arrival of St. Nicholas. The town was all lit up with Christmas lights and fairly packed for the arrival. St. Nicholas drove up in a horse-drawn carriage and then proceeded to give an uncharismatic and tedious lecture on the history of St. Nicholas. All the adults in my party had to laugh. Here they designed an event for kids and then bored them. Our favorite line—“And then I died.” I’m sure the children were confused, if they were paying attention at all. Finally, St. Nicholas handed out pears wrapped in gold foil to all the children. I never saw so many orchards as I did in the immediate area when we were driving in to town.

Our trusty steeds awaiting the arrival of us. Our horses were the ones on the left. You can just barely see the mountains behind everything.

On Saturday, we had scheduled a sleigh ride through the country. This turned out to be a wagon ride, as there was not enough snow. It began snowing on Saturday morning, though, and continued to snow all day. As the day went on, the town, nestled in the mountains, became more and more beautiful. The horses were percherons, massive draft horses but seemingly placid in disposition. That was fun. Our driver was a hoot.

I had to take a picture of the people with presents on their heads. You can see it’s just beginning to snow.

But when we went back into town, it was so packed! We thought it had been full Friday night, but we were wrong! They closed off the main street for the weekend, which meant that people could walk in the street. That relieved the congestion on the sidewalks but eliminated a lot of the parking. The lack of parking continued to be a problem all weekend, because my husband was unable to walk from the hotel to the town. We arrived in time for a charmingly short parade down main street. First came people with presents for hats, then people dressed like elves and Christmas trees, and finally Santa’s sleigh. The parade lasted about two minutes.

My great niece and niece at the parade

We were lucky in finding a restaurant for lunch that was not only good but apparently unknown to the tourists. After we arrived, the entire parade showed up except the Christmas trees. The town was so full that after we attempted to do some shopping, in tiny stores stuffed with people, we all decided to go back to our hotel so that the kids could play in the game room. We were unable to find a restaurant that had room for us all for dinner, so my husband and I ended up going to the overpriced German buffet at the hotel. By then, I had had all I ever wanted of mediocre German food.

Leavenworth lit up at night. This was one of the few times when it wasn’t packed with people, after the lighting ceremony on Sunday. Everyone left immediately to go home except us.

By Sunday, everything was covered in snow and gorgeous. The sun was shining, too! All the women in our party walked downtown, and so many people had gone home by then that we could easily go from shop to shop. We saw all we wanted of the stores, which were fairly typical in a tourist town. I bought some cheese in the cheese store. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor sausage place. More sausage, but at least it was good. Then in mid-afternoon we went back to the hotel for a few hours’ rest. My niece’s husband had the forethought to book us a table at a nice restaurant for dinner.

When we went back to town, my husband and I found probably the last parking place there, for $20! It was just in time for the lighting ceremony and right before our dinner reservation. The lighting ceremony seemed interminable to me, with every person who helped in the festival taking his or her turn to talk, so finally my husband and I went to the restaurant to make sure they held our reservation. Apparently, it was quite touching when they finally lit up, not just the Christmas trees, but the whole town. It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The restaurant was delicious. I had fish instead of sausage. So, a nice night.

We drove home on Monday through the mountain passes that were now spectacular, having been snowed on for an entire day. All the limbs of the trees were thick with snow. But because of sun the day before, the roads were quite clear. So, we had a nice journey home from our Christmas adventure.

Trees, Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas concert, and art

I realized that last week I forgot to talk about trees. Several months ago, we joined the Arbor Day Foundation, whose mission is to encourage people to plant more trees. Around here, we go out and see more and more logged lots every month, so planting trees seems like a good idea. With a donation, you have the choice of either receiving a bunch of trees to plant or telling them to plant them for you. Since we had very little spring color on our property last year, just a couple of apple and cherry trees, and all white, I decided that we needed the trees. All that was specified was that we would receive ten flowering trees and two crepe myrtles.

We received these trees the week before last, so last week, we set about planting them. We actually received five white flowering dogwoods, five redbuds, and the two crepe myrtles, all very small plugs. We planted all of them along the edges of the orchard in places where I thought they would be least likely to get mown over by my husband. Then we went around and stuck stakes in the ground next to each one (the trees themselves just look like sticks right now) to make it more noticeable for my husband. I still have not replaced the lilac bush that my husband mowed down, because I’m waiting for a landscaping box to put it in.

My Friday Thanksgiving dinner went well. I made Russian wild mushroom and cheese soup, turkey, green bean casserole (my husband’s favorite), squash casserole, stuffing, and gravy. My niece brought a raspberry pie. Only the mashed potatoes were a problem. I had bought a bag of Yukon golds a couple of weeks ago, but when I removed them from the drawer, they were a bag of liquid, leaving behind a puddle of goo that was 1/4 inch thick. It was disgusting. The only potatoes that escaped the devastation were the three older ones that were in the drawer by themselves. I never buy potatoes by the bag, so this will teach me. Neither my niece or my sister had potatoes, so we were forced to put the gravy on our meat and stuffing. Not exactly a disaster. My sister told me afterwards that my niece remarked what a treat it was to eat a holiday dinner that she didn’t have to cook herself.

Of course, that meant that Friday was a busy one for me. In fact, I was so tired afterwards that I was lying on the couch feeling like something was pressing me downwards. But Saturday was busy, too. We took my great niece to her new yellow stripe belt class first thing in the morning. This was our first class to take her to since she belt tested, because the day after the belt test she was sick. Unfortunately, they were closed. If they told people ahead of time that they were going to be closed, they certainly didn’t put it on their web site or anything. My niece was already mad at them, because they posted the wrong class schedule on their site, so that my great niece missed her Tuesday class because she went at the wrong time. So she hasn’t attended class since the belt test.

After we got back from the non-class, I had just about enough time to finish the hand wash from Friday before my sister came to pick us up for the Christmas concert. This was a concert with the Portland Orchestra and Choir. My niece’s husband’s stepfather is in the choir. We went with my sister, my great niece, and my great niece’s other grandmother (in case, you didn’t follow that, my niece’s husband’s mother). The concert was very nice, with traditional and not so traditional Christmas songs. A particularly nice touch was the inclusion of the Bells of the Cascades. I always like to do at least one Christmassy thing before Christmas. In past years, that has been difficult, because my husband is not into it, but the Christmas spirit has captured my niece big time (she used to dislike it, before she had kids), so it is no longer a problem. After the concert, we met all my niece’s husband, his brother, and my great nephew for dinner.

Here is my color exercise, with its much too blue sky. Each petal is a slightly different color.

In art class, I finally finished the second color exercise, a simple picture of some flowers. As I mentioned before, my last teacher had misunderstood the intention of the exercise, which was to match the colors on a sample, so, my sky was much too blue. When I went back to my original teacher, I fixed the rest of the picture, but it was too late to change the color of the sky. I also found out that I had missed another color exercise that was supposed to come before this one, so next week I’ll start on that.

This weekend we have another Christmas experience coming up. I’ll tell you all about it next time.


Changes to schedule

I just realized that the day of my birthday, two weeks ago, I forgot to post a picture of my record player. So, if you want to go back and look, it’s now there in all its aqua glory.

We have had a few changes to our schedule lately. First, last Wednesday when I got into the car to go to art class, my sister told me she had decided to drop both herself and my great niece from the class. It wasn’t a huge surprise that my great niece was dropping. She tends to expect herself to do everything perfectly and gets upset in class if she doesn’t know how to do something. I have been thinking about this, because it seems as if our presence in class, particularly her grandmother’s, makes her more likely to get upset. There are other kids in the class doing just fine on their own.

But up until last week, my sister kept telling me how much she enjoyed our class. I was disappointed, because my idea in signing us up for the class was so we could do something together regularly, as she is the person I see the least of the family. She said her daughter (who is very creative) wants to make art, too, so they decided to do it at their house once a week together, and I am invited. That’s all very well, but they planned to do it the same time and day as my art class!

Well, I just bought the expensive oils kit, if you’ll remember, so I decided to keep going to class. I don’t have much expectation, just knowing how hard it has been to schedule anything regularly with my niece, that the art at home plan is going to work out very well. I will go, though, when they do it.

But this gave me an opportunity. I have lamented our original art teacher’s change of schedule. Both Sue and I felt that the quality of instruction had gone down with our new art teacher, even though she is very nice. So, when my sister put in her drop notice at class, I asked the receptionist if our old teacher had any slots, and I have changed my class from Wednesday afternoon to Tuesday evening. So, I have now had two classes since I last reported.

And that has been a good change for me. I felt a big difference just in my first class last night, about how much help I was getting from the instructor. Last week, I told you I was starting a painting of some flowers that was an exercise in mixing paint. When I used the formula for the exercise to mix my sky color last week, the first color I was supposed to paint, it came out much darker than the sample exercise I was looking at. So, my last instructor and I had a conversation about the point of the exercise that sort of matched the one we had done with the color wheel. Was the point of the exercise to see how the colors came out in using the formula or in trying to match the sample? She told me to use the formula. As it turns out, she had both the color wheel exercise and the flower exercise backwards, which I found out last night when I went for my first class with my new (former) instructor. It turns out I was supposed to match the colors, but it was too late to do so for my sky. I ended up correcting the colors on some of the flower petals and continuing the exercise, which is almost finished. But next week I will show her how my color wheel came out and tell her what happened and ask her if I should repeat that exercise. I am fairly sure that with the color wheel the idea was to see how the colors came out while following the formula, exactly the opposite of what we decided I should do.

And my new (old) teacher gave me some other useful pieces of advice. When I started painting, I asked my previous teacher what brush I should use, and she directed me to a flat brush about 1/2 inch wide. I found it very difficult to paint the circular shapes I was working on with that brush. My new teacher suggested to me that I use the smallest brush possible for the work and a rounder one for painting circular shapes, so changing brushes really helped me with my edges. She also showed me how a bit of linseed oil at the edge of my paint can help me with my edges.

So, I am charged up about my new art class schedule. My only fear is that my instructor, who is pregnant, may be leaving the class in a few months and I’ll have to see who we get as a substitute. But now I have no need to consult my sister’s schedule if I want to change classes again.

The other thing we have added to our schedule lately is to take my great niece to her tae kwon do class every Saturday. I volunteered to do this after my sister told me that she and my niece keep forgetting to take her on Saturdays. She is really excited about tae kwon do, so I think it’s a shame that they are not getting her to class when they’re supposed to. So, starting the week before last, we began taking her.

No more white belts in this bunch. All the graduates, in their new yellow stripe or yellow belts. Master Oh, their instructor, is in the very back.

Last Friday, she did her first belt testing to move from white belt to yellow stripe belt, and the kids invited me to attend. It was the white belts in all three age groups attempting to move to yellow stripe, and the yellow stripe belts attempting to move to yellow. (Just as a side note, the last time I had anything to do with tae kwon do was 50 years ago, when my great niece’s grandmother, my sister, took it starting at the age of 11. She worked her way up to green belt but then quit because, as I remember, she said her thighs were too muscular. That was when girls weren’t supposed to have muscles. Back then, they didn’t have yellow stripe belts. I believe it’s now a way for the beginners to advance and gain confidence more quickly.)

Everyone passed. I think at this stage they don’t have them test until they are ready to pass, which is probably better for their confidence. My great niece was a little taken aback, because she was the first one in the testing to be challenged by the master about her behavior at home. My niece told me that the parents had to fill out a form, and one of the questions was about whether the child had any behavior at home that needed work. Apparently, the parents of the kids before they got to my great niece didn’t fill in this section, so they got to her and the instructor said, “Do you always get along with your little brother?” My great niece shouted, “Yes, sir!” The master said, “I think sometimes you need improvement.” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” He said, “Will you be more considerate of your brother?” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” She was a little flustered. Later on, when he got to other kids, he said things like “Do you listen to your mother the first time?” or “Do you clean up your room when you’re asked to?” and every kid insisted he or she did. Then he would look at them gravely and say, “I don’t think so.” I have no doubt that these kids will be cleaning their rooms and listening to their mothers at least for a couple of days. That part of the testing made me laugh. It’s really amazing. I think the parents wished the kids would treat them like they did their master.

Today I need to finish cleaning the house so that tomorrow I can prepare some dishes for our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. This will be another week of frivolity, because on Saturday several of us are going to a Christmas concert.



A week of frivolity

As much as we have enjoyed living here in this beautiful country, we have sort of fallen down on the job when it comes to entertainment. My husband seems to prefer to stay home versus almost any other type of activity. So, it was nice that this past week we went on a couple of different outings.

Last Wednesday was my birthday, as I said before. I had art class, during which I made a color wheel. It was a little difficult because my yellow paint didn’t seem to be doing its job. The way a color wheel works is that you have your basic colors, red, blue, and yellow, in circles each one third around a larger circle. Then you make the intervening colors by mixing. If you are going between yellow and blue, for example, the first circle after yellow is supposed to be a mix of two dots of yellow paint and one dot of blue. The second circle is supposed to be equal parts of yellow and blue, and the third, the one next to pure blue, is supposed to be one dot of yellow and two of blue. I had a model I was trying to match, but in the cases where I was mixing yellow, to match that model, I had to use a lot more yellow paint, six dots of yellow instead of one. It wasn’t altogether clear to me whether it was more important to match the model or to get the paint percentages right. Now that I think of it, I probably was supposed to get the paint percentages right and use whatever colors I got from that. Between the red and blue, I didn’t have the same problem.

Finally, you do triangles of the opposite colors to get browns. My browns didn’t look anything like the model browns. In one case, a brown looked like a green. I think this had to do with my yellow paint being weak or something. Someone more experienced would know, but my teacher wasn’t clear about these problems. In the next class, I will trace a picture of flowers that is another paint-mixing exercise.

After art class, we went out to eat. My only rule for my birthday, usually, is that I don’t have to cook dinner. I don’t even require a fancy restaurant. That evening we went to McGrath’s Fish House, which is an okay fish restaurant. I don’t think there are any really good ones short of Portland. It is much better than Red Lobster or Joe’s Crab Shack, but that’s about all I can say for it (and I actually like Joe’s pretty well, but only for crab). My highly recommended halibut was nice and fresh but needed a little something, and Wayne said his highly recommended salmon wasn’t as good as my halibut. However, what with getting a birthday gift that I wanted and going out to eat, it was a pretty good birthday.

The best part of my birthday was Friday night, an event that we had all been looking forward to. When it was my niece’s birthday in August, she asked to go to Kachka, a trendy Russian restaurant in Portland (a city with lots of Russians). It turned out, however, that we needed reservations at least two weeks in advance, so we couldn’t go. We went to her second choice instead, but at that time, planned to go to Kachka for my birthday. It was me, my husband, my sister, my niece, and her husband. As the menu and my niece suggested, we had lots of zakuski, which we all shared. If you actually bothered to look at the menu, we had Moldovan eggplant, Baltic sprat buterbrodi, salo, the meat and cheese board, khachapuri, Siberian pelmeni and sour cherry vereniki, golubtsi, bread and butter, and assorted pickles. My husband also had the borscht. Even though I’m usually not a big pickle eater, every bite was delicious. My sister and niece also had vodka while the rest of us tea-totaled. If that wasn’t enough, we all had dessert (mine was plombir sandwiches) and either coffee or tea. I had some delicious chai.

My only complaint was, why does every new trendy restaurant have such uncomfortable chairs, sometimes the same uncomfortable chairs as the other trendy restaurants? They always look really nice but they are really horrible to sit in. Do no restaurant owners ever sit in their chairs before buying them, or do they just buy them for the looks?

That was a great evening out even though we missed Game of Thrones night this week. Our weekends are going to be heating up as we approach the holidays, so I suspect Game of Thrones is going to go by the wayside a few more times.

My niece is hosting her husband’s huge family for Christmas, so she doesn’t want to mess with Thanksgiving this year. So, my husband and I decided to offer to host. We will be doing everything, but we will do it on Friday evening instead of Thursday so that my sister, who works every holiday, can come. We made this offer that night out, and everyone decided it was a good idea. (I wasn’t sure before that if my niece wanted to skip Thanksgiving altogether or just didn’t want to do it herself.)

Finally, yesterday, which is cheap day at the theater, we saw the new Murder on the Orient Express. I was worried about it, in particular that they would change the ending. I also didn’t see how it could stand up to the star-studded 1974 movie. It did, but in a different way. They interjected more action and made Poirot a little more of a physical detective than Christie probably would approved of. They also changed some of the characters, while preserving their names. Oddly, Count and Countess Idreni, played originally by Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset, hardly even appeared in this production. It was like they kept forgetting they were on the train.

Hillary “playing” Candy Crush Soda Saga.

There was a difference in the substance of the casting, this version going more for popular stars rather than screen legends (an exception being Judi Dench and a couple of other actors), but overall, I think it was a movie that was effective in its own right, going for an emotional impact at the end.

Finally, it’s time for a picture. My husband and I aren’t the only ones being amused this week. My cat, Hillary, has developed a fascination for Candy Crush Soda Saga. She seems to care less about the original Candy Crush game, but whenever I get out Soda Saga, she comes over and one time even reached out her paw to touch the screen. So, here is a picture of Hillary on my iPad playing Soda Saga. She likes the fish.