Another finished painting

My starfish painting, or at least most of it. I can see that my photo cuts off the two sides just a little bit.

It’s a good thing I didn’t submit information on my starfish painting for the art show (we had to submit it two weeks ago), because my entry has to be at the library, framed, by Thursday afternoon, and I just finished my starfish painting last Thursday. My instructor told me to give it two weeks to dry before trying to take it home. So, deciding to submit my Mont St. Michel painting was the right thing to do. My starfish painting came out really good, by far the best thing I’ve painted so far. I know exactly where it is going to go, in the bathroom. I don’t really think I know what I’m doing yet, but this is the first painting that I’ve thought was good (for me). I especially like the reef at the top left and the rock under the starfish.

On Thursday, we will be dropping my painting and Sue’s at the library, and next Tuesday they are to be picked up. The show is for First Friday, when downtown Vancouver opens its art galleries and the library generally features something, but I guess the pictures will be up all weekend. We probably can’t pick up the pictures on Tuesday, because Wayne has a colonoscopy scheduled that day, although they have yet to tell us when he’s supposed to be there. It’s very different from how we scheduled them in Austin. They’re not going to tell him until Friday or Monday (they said two days before, but that would be Sunday).

My great-nephew started taekwondo last week. He’s five and is very excited about it. I was supposed to take both him and his sister to class last Saturday, but my niece told me later on that she had forgotten they had tickets to something in Portland. Next Saturday is a cultural event in Ridgefield, where Mischa is supposed to be part of a demonstration, so no taekwondo then either.

Luke’s dog classes start back up regularly this week on Saturday at the same time as taekwondo. This means that I am not there to watch the kids. We just drop them off and Wayne picks them up while I am in class. Dog class is only one day a week this fall with extra pack walks on Monday nights at various places. I have already explained my problem with these walks. She never posts the information in time for us to go. And I can’t go on the Saturday pack walks because of having to take the kids home from their class.

As for our mini pack walks, Christine and Duchess are still out for the count, but this week I met Nancy (not my sister-in-law but pack walk Nancy) and Lola for a walk. Lola is a little Havanese, and they have been busy most of the summer. We went up to a coffee place and ordered coffee, which gave us a chance to catch up. Nancy’s daughter is near to having her first baby, so she was very excited.

No hike last week, but this week Autumn, who goes with us occasionally, has suggested Beacon Rock. I will give it a try. It is straight up, but at least it’s a short hike and not too big of an elevation change. I hate straight up, though.  At least the days are trending toward being cooler. For a while there, it was fairly hot for hiking.

My niece tells me that she tried twice calling the number to check on the wild bird we found, but no one answered, and then she forgot. Unfortunately, I gave her the information, so I can’t check on the bird.

I took Luke in for his shots on Friday and talked to the vet about his peeing and his rash. They gave us an antihistamine and some steroid spray for him. He is much better and doesn’t itch  most of the time. His tummy has healed right up. They aren’t sure what is causing the peeing but think it isn’t associated with his neutering procedure, although it certainly started up then. He seems to do it most often either when we spray his tummy, which he hates, or when I come home after an absence, at which time he is very excited. I think perhaps that Wayne doesn’t see he is out often enough when I am gone, or at least doesn’t go out with him as often as I do. As for the spraying, we have found that if we do it right after he goes out for the morning, he doesn’t have an accident.

Yesterday the chimney sweep came, so this year we hope to have no chimney fires! Wayne made an appointment for next year but unfortunately didn’t write it down, so I have no idea when it is. I’ll have to call them. It’s “same time next year,” but does that mean the 2nd of September or the day after Labor Day? This time, we scheduled it for the day after Labor Day.

I haven’t sighted the otter since he had that big fight. I hope he didn’t leave our pond. I did see a deer yesterday morning on the way to Puppy Play, right in a spot where I’ve seen one several other mornings at about the same time.



You otter see this!

Twice last week when I was down by the pond, I saw a mammal that was not our beaver. The first time, I saw it swimming in the pond, flipping over, swimming under water, and then flipping again, obviously playing. This is not beaver behavior. The beaver is always beavering away carrying twigs to his dam. I looked up what it could be, and it was too big for a muskrat, which only weigh about four pounds. It didn’t have a rat tail like a nutria. I was hoping it wasn’t either, as they can be destructive to ponds. When I described it to my brother, he asked, was it long and skinny? I said yes, and he said, “You have an otter.” I am so excited.

A few days later, I heard a shrieking sound from the pond that I had heard before. When I heard it before, I thought it was some kind of water bird, as when they show up at the pond, they often make loud noises, but I didn’t see anything. This time, as I walked so that I could see the pond, something fell into it. I could see it was the otter, which swam off, shrieking the whole time. I think someone was having a fight. My sister-in-law says the otter and beaver should cohabit nicely, so maybe there are more otters than just one. I hope the otter wasn’t being attacked by a cat or something.

For our hike we just went to Lewisville Park this week, but we took Luke. At first, as happens sometimes, I had trouble getting him to stay in the way back until the door shut. I finally gave up and left him home. Then I went to get Maja and told him why Luke hadn’t come. We decided that since Luke probably had no idea how recently I left (sometimes he acts like I’ve been gone for hours when it’s been a few minutes), we would pick him back up and if he stayed in the way back, he could come. That’s what happened.

And speaking of animals, I gave the information about the bird we rescued to my niece. I keep forgetting to ask her whether they called to find out what happened to it.

Thursday afternoon, I got a call from Craft Warehouse that my picture was ready to pick up, so my sister and I went early to art class so that we could stop by first and pick it up. She had also been asked to put a picture into the art show, and she picked one she had painted of her granddaughter on a horse. She had actually framed it herself using a staple gun and fabric tape, but she is not a detail person, and the detail she got wrong was which end the staples came out of. She ended up stapling her little finger and had to go to the ER! After all that work and a disabled finger that was making her miss work (although luckily on her left hand), the art teacher didn’t want to submit her painting because it wasn’t painted for the Medallion school but before she started there. So, Sue had to go home and frame her lighthouse painting that she finished a few weeks ago. Luckily, she had already bought a ready-made frame at Craft Warehouse. If you are putting an oil painting into a ready-made frame, which is a fairly easy thing for them to do, Craft Warehouse only charges about $20. (They used to do it for free when it was one of their frames, but no longer.) I think she spent a bit more than that going to the ER.

In any case, both of our paintings have made it into the show along with a drawing by one of our other classmates. I was sorry that our teacher, Sarah, wasn’t submitting anything, because I have seen photos of her paintings, and they are amazing. She said it was because none of her things are framed. I hope if they are going to repeat this show that she will frame something for the next one.

I am supposed to take both our paintings to the library downtown the Thursday before the show. I think Sue has managed to frame her other painting without stapling herself. (I shouldn’t laugh because I’m sure it hurt, although she said it didn’t hurt right away, and she couldn’t figure out why the staple gun didn’t work. Where was the staple? In any case, there is no permanent damage and she has a good story to tell.)

My second haul of blackberries. I think by myself I ended up with more berries than before, although together Deb and I picked more last time. I had eight cups, just exactly the amount needed for one batch of jam.

On Friday, less than a week after our first blackberry-picking expedition, I went back down to the same places and picked a huge basket of berries. There are still more to be had, as many of them were still green. I spent Friday afternoon making freezer jam. I have never made jam before, so this was kind of an adventure. I think it came out right. I took some to Christine, who had talked to me about making it before, and she said it was the right consistency, not quite as thick as cooked jam.

Homemade wild blackberry jam, the first jam I ever made. This picture is from before it had cooled. You have to leave it out an entire day and then you can put it either in the freezer or refrigerator.

We got an invitation to my brother’s house for dinner on Friday night. Shortly after they moved here, my sister-in-law went around to all the neighbors and introduced herself (something that I never even thought of doing when we moved here). Apparently, the people who lived in their house before were not good neighbors, and the neighbors were so relieved that someone nice moved in that they brought my brother a huge salmon fillet, fresh from being caught. He had already had my niece’s family over to dinner the night before to try to eat the fish, and even with Wayne, Sue, and me there, we still didn’t finish off the rest of the salmon. A good time was had by all. I gave everyone some jam.

No dog class this week, but I did take Mischa to taekwondo. She is now a red belt. She has one more belt level to go between red and black, but I think it is much more difficult to progress from here. Lukey also did not have a pack walk this week. Lately, it’s only been Christine and me and our dogs, and now Christine’s dog Duchess is injured. She strained her back somehow, and apparently it will be a long time before she can go for a walk or play with other dogs.

As a result, I’ve been making more of an effort to find something for Luke to do, and so Monday I tried to go on the Enzo’s pack walk, which they usually have every Monday night. During the summer, they have been doing them at locations all over the county and even in Portland. It has been difficult to participate in these, because the owner of Enzo’s never posts the information until just a few hours before. She posts it on Facebook, and sometimes when I look for it, I can’t find it. For example, two weeks ago I probably would have gone on one at Frenchman’s Bar Park, but I didn’t see the announcement until 5 PM and they were meeting at 6:30, more than an hour from my house. Well, what happened is that this week, I found a notice I hadn’t seen before, drove all the way out there, a 50-minute drive, and no one showed up. I looked it up on my phone to be sure I was in the right place, and I was. It wasn’t until I got back home that I saw in very little letters under the video that she posted it last week. If she had done a text post, it would have been easier to ascertain when it was posted. She never ever lists the date, as if she expects that you’ve been keeping track of her posts. It turns out they didn’t do a pack walk this week, and I don’t think there will be a pack walk next Monday, as that is a holiday.

In the meantime, she has passed around a sign-up sheet for a picnic on Saturday but has not announced where or when. This is typical.

Speaking of Luke, those of you who have been following this blog know by now that he’s a very silly dog in many ways. For the longest time, we couldn’t get him to go out by himself. Now, if we leave the door open, he sometimes will not be able to resist all the nice smells.

Ever since he was neutered, I have noticed that sometimes when he is very excited, he will pee a little. He hasn’t done this since he was a very small puppy, so I mean to discuss it with the vet. Wayne says it’s because he’s conserving his pee for marking, but I have never seen him do any marking and being neutered is supposed to lessen it even if he had been doing it.

This morning, I got up about an hour after Wayne and Luke, and he was very excited to see me, jumping up on me in my nightgown, which I hate. Ever since we got him, I’ve had to change into my clothes right away instead of lounging around in my pjs, like I do sometimes. This time, though, he was making a little whimpering noise, and it occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t peed yet, although he wasn’t making any little puddles. Well, I found out I know my dog.

He has had a bad tummy rash all summer from running around in the underbrush, probably from nettles. So, we have been trying to spray this stuff on his belly every day that makes him itch less. When we are good about doing this every day, his belly stays clear, but we haven’t been so good about it lately, so the poor dog itches all the time. (Wayne doesn’t want him to take the steroids the vet gave us.) He was scratching himself, so I almost immediately decided to spray him, which entails Wayne catching him and holding him up, while I wash his tummy off with a washcloth and then spray his belly. He likes the washing but not the spraying.

Wayne picked him up, and he began copiously peeing. It was plainly his whole night’s worth of pee when he’d been up already more than an hour. Wayne took him outside and stood by the door, and I spent the next 15 minutes mopping up the floor (still in my nightgown). When they came in, I asked him if he had gone out with Luke this morning. He had not, just opened the door. I told him Luke wouldn’t go unless he was taken out to his usual places. As usual when I imply that Wayne’s been lazy, he got angry and started yelling about how stupid that was. I said I knew it was stupid, but that was Luke. I got dressed and took him out, and sure enough he also pooped, which he should have already done.

Well, that’s about all of interest that has happened this week except we have had several deer sightings. Last Saturday on the way to taekwondo, Mischa and I saw a deer by the road and then just a bit farther down another deer and a fawn. Then last night Wayne and I went out to dinner at Fargher Lakehouse and a black-tailed deer was standing behind the parking lot. I always love to see the deer.

A flower from Mars

My artichoke flower, looking like a flower from Mars, if Mars had any flowers. The actual flower looks more purple than blue.

My artichoke plant produced a premature (they’re not supposed to make an artichoke for three years, but it did it in one) but small artichoke, so I did not eat it. After all, there are two of us. I just let it flower, and it came out beautifully Martian looking, like a giant purple heather, about four inches in diameter. I took this picture a few days ago, and it is already several inches wider, about six inches across now. I hope that next year I will get more than one artichoke.

This week we did all our normal activities. I finished my starfish in art class and have only to complete the foreground, which my instructor says should be this week. My neighbor Maja and I went on a hike to Frenchman’s Bar in Vancouver over by Vancouver Lake. It was a hot and humid day, and we didn’t walk as far as we usually do. There wasn’t a lot of shade on the trail. We took Luke to class on Saturday.

Before class on Saturday, though, something happened that I probably shouldn’t mention, as it is not conclusive. My art teacher called me to say that they were having an exhibit of Medallion art school student and teacher work at the Vancouver Library in early September, and invited me to submit a picture. She said she was just asking her more advanced students. She wanted me to submit my painting of Mont St. Michel, but the entry had to be framed and wired. Since that painting was a large square canvas, I never got it framed, just hung the canvas on the wall, because I knew it would be too expensive. The paintings I have framed were ones I could buy ready-made frames for.

I would like to show my starfish, but there’s no telling how long it will take to dry. I am finishing it this week, but if it wasn’t dry by next week, the timing would be tight. I would hardly have time to have it framed.

So, on Saturday afternoon, after our neighbors’ open house (which we attended with Luke), I took the Mont St. Michel painting to Craft Warehouse. First, the framing lady and I picked out a very nice frame and it costed out at about $375. I said no, so we costed out another frame. $175. I said I had hoped it would be cheaper. So, she said that the frames with red tags on them were half price. We got a neutral one for $80. The price was right, although still a lot more expensive than any of my other framing jobs.

Of course, there is no guarantee that my painting will be in the show. Neither I nor my teacher know how they are going to select the paintings, since they are only showing 35. That’s why I said this might be premature.

In another recurring theme, I applied for another part-time job at the library. They fairly often have openings, but the library is regional, and by regional, I mean that they serve several counties. For example, two jobs were advertised this week in White Salmon. I looked up where that was, and it takes two hours to get there, one way. It is, I think, two counties away from me. Those jobs seem to be the ones that pop up most often and sometimes stay open a while. However, this time they were advertising for a pool of assistants to work in Clark County libraries. We live in Clark County, and I think the farthest one away might be a 45-minute drive. So, doable. Last time I applied for one of these jobs, I got a note from the HR person, who is always the same woman, saying, “We got your application,” and nothing else. This time, she said, “Thanks for your application. You’ll be hearing from us next week.” So, that sounds more hopeful. They had pool jobs a few months ago, and just recently I saw them showing all the successful candidates through our local library. I know I could do just as good a job as any of them.

Sunday was a day with some different activities than usual. My friend Deb came in from Portland, and we spent a couple hours picking berries. First, we picked wild blackberries on our property. We did this last year and got about one basket worth, but this year, we came away with a large two-gallon bag full. Yet, most of the areas around the house still have unripe berries. We got this many only from a place where they hang over the wall from the staircase above and at the end of the wolf pen.

Then, we had an invitation from Maja to come pick blueberries. She has a blueberry plantation that of late years has not produced well, but last year half the bushes had a lot of berries, and this year, there were even more. After Deb took the berries she wanted, I had seven pounds of berries, and we stopped picking when there were still a lot of berries. We were just tired. I would not make a good agricultural worker.

After picking berries, we drove into town for lunch and then went to see the movie Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I enjoyed this book very much when I read it eight years ago, but I did feel as if it was a little overrated, it was so popular. I thought it was a fun light read. However, it made a very good movie, although I thought I remembered a slightly different ending. I was surprised to find it was a Richard Linklater movie, but then I guess I wasn’t. After all, we went to see Bernie several times, because we kept taking our friends to see it. Cate Blanchett is wonderful as usual, and the girl who plays her daughter, Emma Nelson, is quite a find.

On Monday, being overloaded with berries, I started out to make pies and freezer jam, but I saw that freezer jam required too many blackberries. I decided to make pies my priority. Last year, I was only able to make one pie with the berries I picked, and that was with adding raspberries from the store. This year, I had more than enough berries to make two pies. I still have a lot of blueberries and about two cups of blackberries. I think I may try to make a small amount of freezer jam with the blackberries. In any case, in a few weeks I will have the opportunity to pick more. Deb had brought me some huckleberries, so this year my mixed berry pies were blueberry, blackberry, and huckleberry.

My pies. This year they were blueberry, blackberry, and huckleberry.

The pies came out great, and that evening we took one over to my brother’s house to give to him and my sister-in-law. They invited us to have a piece, and we ended up staying so late to talk that we decided to pick up a pizza (not the easiest thing to do here, where you have to drive 20 minutes to Battle Ground just to get a decent one), not a Weight Watchery type choice. We called it in as soon as we had phone service (none up by my brother’s for my phone) and made it there just a few minutes before they closed. In fact, I think we got home about 9:15 and had dinner.

The weather has been going back and forth between cool and hot, always cold in the morning and sometimes hot in the afternoon. We are already seeing signs of fall, though.


Bye bye birdie

On Wednesday night last week we took my sister out to dinner for her birthday, meeting my brother Mark at the restaurant. We had a good time, but as we were driving out of her driveway after dropping her off, Wayne stopped the car. It turns out he had noticed a bird on the driveway when we picked my sister up but thought it was dead. On the way back in, he saw it move.

The little birdie in the box. He was quite scared at first, but after we gave him a blueberry to eat, he calmed right down and just sat there.

We fetched my niece Katrina, thinking we just needed to turn it over, as it was on its back. However, when we flipped it over, it fluttered helplessly and flipped back over again. Its wing was obviously hurt. Wayne thought he may have hit it on the way in to pick Sue up, but Sue later said she thought the cat that hangs around their house got it.

We picked it up and put it in a shoe box then tried to find someplace to take it while Katrina attempted to identify it. It has a fairly common coloring on top but a beautiful greenish yellow or yellowish green belly, so we thought it was a juvenile western tanager.

It seems that there is nowhere to take an injured bird in Southwest Washington. I started out with an organization with a local phone number that seemed promising, but they said they only took parrots. I found an emergency number in Portland, but when I called them, they said they were remodeling and the fumes from the new carpets would be harmful to birds. So, they advised us to keep the bird hydrated and warm and take it to the Audubon Society in Portland in the morning.

So, that’s how we spent Thursday morning. We left him at Katrina’s overnight and then picked him up at 7:30 AM. (Rush hour! What a good time to drive to Portland!) She reported that he had eaten three blueberries and four crickets and had drunk some water out of an eyedropper. The Audubon Society opened at 9:00, so we took Luke in the hopes of making his Play and Train at 10. We arrived there about 8:50, during which time Luke was making a fuss but we were unable to pull over. The poor puppy had diarrhea in the wayback of the car. We took him out and cleaned it up as good as we could and then turned the bird over at 9. They gave us contact information for inquiring about the bird’s progress, which we gave to Katrina, because they said that if he recovered, they would release him at her house, and we thought they might want to arrange things so that the kids could watch.

We got back to Battle Ground in time for Luke’s Puppy Play, but Wayne said he was covered in poop, so we went home. When I took Luke out of the car, though, he was fine. We could have taken him to Puppy Play after all. The back end of the car was another matter.

Much of my week was taken up with cleaning the house for the advent of the Cirque du Schimmelman, which is what we call my youngest brother’s family. They are making a family trip to California, where they are dropping off their oldest daughter, Áine, at design school in L. A. Aside from cleaning and cooking, the only other things I did were go to art class (where I have finished painting all the spots on the starfish and now have to go back and do some second coats) and walk in the park with my friend Christine and her dog Duchess on Friday morning. Friday afternoon I spent making potato salad. Since I was going to have 14 people for dinner, I figured to keep it easy by grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and serving potato salad and other salads. My sister-in-law Nancy said she would have everyone over for dessert. Of course, they wanted to show my brother Steve’s family their beautiful new house.

Part of my dinner guests at my dining table. From left, my sister-in-law Nancy, my sister-in-law Mary, my niece Nadia, my sister Sue, my great-niece Mischa, my nephew Will, my brother Steve, and my brother Mark. Missing are my niece Áine, my niece Katrina, Katrina’s husband Ares, my great-nephew Søren, and my husband Wayne.

As usual with the Cirque, they gave us an original ETA of 3:30, revised it to 5:30, but didn’t actually show up until close to 6:30. By then we had the grill going and we all dove into eating. Sue had brought corn on the cob and salad. By the end of the evening, everyone had gone through 16 hamburgers and about 8 hot dogs. Unfortunately, they only ate half the potato salad (we’re a little sick of it now). We all had a nice time.

The dessert trip to Mark and Nancy’s turned into a little more of an adventure than expected. We took three cars over from our house. Nancy and Mark left first, about a half hour before anyone else. Then Katrina and her family with Áine as an extra went in their car. We took all the rest, which meant cramming five people into our car.

Nancy had about eight desserts there (oh my god, Weight Watcher unfriendly!), and we all had more than one kind, even me. We had been there for about an hour, and people were being toured around the outbuildings by my brother when Wayne started fretting about Luke being locked up for too long. He decided to pop home and take Luke out. We only live a few minutes’ drive away.

Well, everyone came in and Katrina and company went home, taking all the kids except Will so that they left exactly the same number to go home in our car. I could tell that Nancy was getting a little antsy. She started saying maybe Wayne didn’t realize he was supposed to return and get us (of course he did). She suggested taking us home herself, but I was worried we would miss Wayne on the way, so I tried calling him. No answer at home, and he doesn’t have a cell phone. I called three times telling him he didn’t have to return to get us but to please call to let us know he got the call. We waited a while longer, but Nancy decided he hadn’t listened to all of the message and had gone to bed. I was sure that wasn’t something that Wayne would do and that returning home would not work out right, but Nancy is a very forceful person. She finally ending up getting us all into her car.

As we pulled out of the driveway in the dark, a car was right there, and I said, “That looks like our car,” but it went on and Nancy said, “There are lots of blue Subarus in the area.” Of course, it was our car. We got home to find no Wayne and no Luke, and we found out later that Wayne had come up to turn into the driveway but hadn’t been able to because of our car, so had continued on instead of stopping because a car was right behind him. He turned around and came back but missed the driveway and had to turn around again. Then, of course, he arrived at their house to find we were gone. He got home about 10 minutes after we did. If Nancy could have waited exactly one minute more, he would have driven into the driveway before we could drive out, and he wouldn’t have had to make a useless trip.

Steve and company continued on their merry way about 11 AM the next morning, and we received pictures from them on the beach later that day.

That’s about all of note that happened this week.


Happy families

Four British Library Crime Classics to read over the next few weeks!

I reported last week that I had requested review copies from several publishers. Well, I already received my first shipment! I requested two books in the British Library Crime Classics line from Poisoned Pen Press, and they sent me four! I have already read one of them, and the review for that one, Murder in the Mill-Race, will appear on What? Me Read? on August 29.

This week has all been about families. My niece’s husband’s (Ares’s) family was here over the weekend for a family reunion, for which my niece was preparing all week. Last year, they did a similar ramp-up for Thanksgiving, during which my niece was cooking for days and picking out silver (she is very organized), and then she and her husband and the kids got sick and missed it. They had to send all the food she had cooked over to her mother-in-law Shawn’s house. So, this time she was determined to entertain properly.

I didn’t even realize that our attendance was going to be requested until Thursday, when first I met Shawn on our road and she urged me to come and then, when I said I would come and asked what I could bring, Katrina asked me to bring dessert. So, I spent all of Friday afternoon and part of Saturday morning (after dog class) baking cookies. I also brought two watermelons.

My brother Mark and his wife Nancy are in front. My husband Wayne is on the right. Shawn, my niece’s mother-in-law is the white-haired lady in the background left, and I think that’s her husband next to my brother (although it may be one of Ares’s uncles). My great-niece Mischa (with the red hair), niece Katrina and her husband Ares, and my sister Sue are all sitting on the couch with their backs to the picture. I’m not sure who the guy is who is playing the guitar, but I think it’s Ares’s brother-in-law. Somehow without even trying, I managed to get my entire family into this picture of Ares’s family. Believe me, there were lots more of them.

We went over Saturday afternoon, and I met lots of people whose names I don’t remember and whose relationship to Shawn and Ares I didn’t get. But it looked like there were Ares’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and the cousin’s children. Quite a group. The cookies went over very well. In fact, I think if they remember me at all, it will be as the woman who brought the cookies. We never even cut open the watermelon, but I assume they all ate it after we left. My oldest brother and his wife, Mark and Nancy, the ones who just moved to the area, were there, as well as my sister, of course. And Wayne surprised me by coming. He has not come to most of the more recent family events.

But that’s not all, folks, for I am unexpectedly preparing for another family visit. On Tuesday I heard from Katrina, who mentioned that my youngest brother, Steve, had announced they were on the way down here this week. She said that she was too tired to entertain so she had told her mother she could do it. I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything, because they almost always stay with me, since we have room for all of them (although sometimes Nadia, the youngest girl, goes over to stay with Mischa, if Mischa doesn’t stay here with her) albeit with a couple of them camping out on the floor or the couch. It turned out that he sent me an email to the address I hardly ever use, the one I give to marketeers and businesses but not to family and friends. (I’m going to have to do something about that.)

It turns out that my brother’s family is making a leisurely trip down to California to drop my niece, Áine, off at design school in Los Angeles for her first year of school. I think they are only planning on staying one night. They are taking the beach highway (101) and will be stopping along the way to camp and visit friends.

Well, of course, now they are planning to stay with me, so yesterday I changed the guest beds and mopped the marmoleum floors. Today I’ll be cleaning bathrooms and mopping the wood floors. Between me and Nancy, we’ve figured out that logistics of dinner, and Katrina gets a night off unless she wants to bring a salad.

As to our regular events, last week there were no hiking takers, nor are there this week, but this week I will be cleaning anyway. Luke is back on his regular Puppy Play schedule. I thought I had skipped his class the week before last, but I forgot that over the summer, he was only having class every other week, so it’s a good thing I didn’t try to take him. He had class this last Saturday and did better than I expected, considering he hasn’t had class for more than a month now. They took a break and then he had to miss class after his procedure.

We didn’t have a pack walk this week either because it was too hot for some and others were busy. Nancy and I have discussed taking a walk on Friday morning to make up for not doing the hike. That would include dogs, so would be good for Luke.

We’ve had one more deer sighting. One evening when we were watching TV, Wayne had me move over to look, because a deer was grazing in our side yard, just next to the woods. She stayed there for about ten minutes. So, I guess the deer are still around, just not very visible most of the time.

In art class, I have finished my yellow spots and am now working on the ones at the bottoms of the starfish’s arms, which are sort of a gray white. Then I will go back and repaint some of the areas in the background that didn’t get enough coverage the first time.

I’m sure I will have family news to report next week.

Poor puppy

Luke lying around depressed

The big thing going on this week, actually on Monday, is that Luke got neutered. The poor thing is now lying around depressed, first because he doesn’t feel well, and second because he often has this stupid cone around his neck. We take it off as often as we can, but when we do, he immediately tries to lick his sutures, which we can’t allow him to do. Poor puppy. He’ll be missing at least this week of Puppy Play and Train.

Last Wednesday, only Autumn and I made the hike, although we took her dog Frankie and Luke. We tried Salmon Creek Park because dogs are allowed. Autumn is house-sitting for Maja this month and can’t leave her dog home with Maja’s cats because he’s afraid of cats. It was a cool day but super muggy. The park turned out to be more urban than expected. It’s a nice park for city dwellers, but we’re more used to hiking in wilder areas. But it was more because of the mugginess that we decided fairly soon to turn back. Although the park got a little wilder as you went on, we were just feeling uncomfortable. It does have a nice big swimming hole near the parking lot that might be fun to explore at another time. (Dogs aren’t allowed in that area of the park.)

Because both my niece and sister were sick, I also went to art class alone. I am working now on finicky aqua spots, where I paint them in a darker color and then come back across them with white speckles and sometimes yellow or black ones. While I finished the other colors of spots in one class, so far, I have been working on these for two and have just finished one arm of my starfish, three arms of which are visible.

On Friday we picked up our friend Christine and all went to breakfast at Elmer’s. Then we went back to her house for a while and let Luke and Duchess run around her back yard. She has a beautiful yard, full of flowers, but doesn’t mind the dogs running through them. I ate too much at breakfast, though, and had to lie down when we came back.

Luke had his first class in a while on Saturday. He actually did pretty well considering that he loses his brains if he misses class. One good thing about it was they held it in the front room instead of the back. The back is open to the elements and is covered in astroturf, and they let the dogs pee back there. So, Luke spends every class back there trying to put his nose to the ground and completely loses all concentration.

Hillary stopped eating chicken. I gave her some leftovers of some fish we ate the other night, and she just gobbled them up. So, I poached her a whole fish yesterday. Now, every time I come into the kitchen, she begs for fish. I hope this won’t be like the other foodstuffs—that she’ll eat it ravenously for a while and then start turning up her nose at it, just when I begin to think she might recover. Right now, she only seems to be eating the fish and some cottage cheese, and I’m not sure the cottage cheese is good for her. But at this point, I’ll give her anything she will eat.

Over the weekend, I started mowing the orchard. I began Saturday afternoon but only did about a third of it. It was just too hot. Then, the temperature went down drastically on Sunday. I worked on it Sunday morning and afternoon and got all but one little strip of it done. I intended to finish that on Monday, but it was raining on and off all day. In any case, we had to get up at 5 AM in order to get Luke to the vet by 7, so I decided it wasn’t the day to be mowing.

Here’s my first tomato of the season.

And when we came back from the vet, I harvested my first tomato of the season. It is supposed to be a big one, at least according to the label on the plant, but is only about three inches in diameter. However, it is nice and red. I hope it won’t be my only tomato of the year, like the yellow one was last year. I do have several more on the vines of both plants, but right now the largest is about an inch in diameter.

A scent of fresh Heyer

One of the pleasures of this weekend was a visit to a small local theater where Deb and I saw they were doing a play based on a Georgette Heyer book, The Talisman Ring. Now, I am not a romance reader, but I have been fond of Georgette Heyer’s clever and funny Regency romances since I was in college, and I introduced Deb to them last year. So, when I saw that this tiny theater was doing an Heyer-based play, we just had to get tickets.

The poster for The Talisman Ring

The play was in the Love Street Playhouse in Woodland, Washington. It holds fewer than 100 people and has a very small stage, hampered by doors that have to be opened to make it a little larger. We were delightfully surprised at the production. It is one of Heyer’s typically frothy stories with a complicated plot about a lost heir, a false accusation of murder, and a lost ring. We found it original in its approach to some difficulties (not being able to have horses on stage, for example) and very funny. The two female leads were particularly good. I was struck by a scene where the standard dashing hero (who, if you know Heyer, you will know is not the actual hero of the play) flings one of the heroines onto his horse and rides off into the woods. The couple merely sat on a bench with wheels, while people holding branches and small trees ran past them.

Anyway, we found it lots of fun (despite being hampered by having one of the actors from the Magenta Theater in a lead role—the weakest performance, we thought) and have decided to get tickets for their next production, And Then There Were None.

Luke and I also had some sort of visitation last week. I was outside in the garden and he was on the front lawn chewing his bone. At one point, he suddenly ran from the front yard past the garden, which is in the side yard. Just as he did that, a creature ran the same direction only up above me on the ridge above our front yard. It was large and made a lot of noise but ran swiftly, too fast for a human. Oddly, it wasn’t Luke that ran last. He wasn’t running after it, it began running after he did but did not come down to our level. I didn’t see it, but I think it sounded too large and noisy to be a deer. In any case, if it had been an animal that was startled by Luke, it would have run first, not last. I talked it over with my pack walk ladies, and one of them suggested it might be a cougar or a bear. Right above us on the ridge, which is about the height of our one-story house. And I suspect that if it ran after Luke did, it was stalking him and did nothing because it saw me at the last moment. I have been keeping a much closer eye on him when he’s been outside on his own (which he doesn’t like to do anyway; he is constantly asking to go out but then refusing to go unless I go with him).

Shawn and I on the 45th Parallel trail at Whipple Creek Park, this photo sneakily taken by Nancy

Last Wednesday, we went to Whipple Creek Park for our hike. We had originally planned to take a very easy hike, because my niece wanted to bring her friend, who is not fit. However, they cancelled because my niece was sick. It was the first hike for my sister-in-law, Nancy, so we went somewhere a little more interesting. At her suggestion, instead of just hiking the main paths, we took a secondary path that cut right through the middle of the park. It was actually an easier path than the main ones, because it had very little elevation change. We were the only ones on that path, although we passed several runners and horse riders on the main paths.

There was no puppy play again for Luke this week, and no classes either, so on Friday, Christine and I took our dogs for a walk in Lewisville Park. It was starting to get warm by the time we finished, a trend that continued until Monday, when a thunderstorm and a cold front came in. The temperature went down Monday evening about 10 degrees in a few minutes, and it continues to be cooler than average.

Hillary continues to improve, I think. She has changed from eating kitten food to eating chicken breast lunch meat (low sodium). It is probably not really good for her, but everything else she chose to eat, she stopped eating after a day or two. Not only has she been eating the chicken breast since Friday, but she has been devouring it, begging for more almost every time I pass her. I hope to see her gain some weight and seem a little less weak. We tried giving her chicken breast that we cooked and tore up about a week ago, but she did not eat it. There must be something about the softer texture of the lunch meat that she likes. Wayne is not enjoying the expense, but if she’ll eat it, she gets it, as far as I’m concerned.

In art class, I finished the blackish teal color and started painting some aqua spots on the starfish. These spots are speckled in the photo I am painting from, and to re-create the effect, I am painting them with a slightly darker color and then dotting them with white while the paint is still wet. It took me a long time just to do a few. In a few instances, I noticed some yellow as well as white, so I have dotted some of them with yellow. I didn’t get very far doing these spots last week, and this week there is no class because of the holiday.

My first batch of green peas

In the garden, I’ve started to pick spinach and I have harvested just a few pods of green peas. Last year, I only got enough peas to add a few to a mixed vegetable dish. This year, I have that many already and a bunch more pods coming in.

The other notable thing I did this week was finish reading a book written by my middle brother. Although it is fiction, it is based on true events in our family, some of which I knew about and some not. It was difficult for me to read, and I admit to being a little freaked out about it.