Adventures with wood stoves

I am again posting late because this morning both my husband and I went to the dentist. I had my first exam in more than a year, and the dentist wanted to check my husband’s temporary bridge. After that, my husband decided to have his teeth examined and cleaned. It turns out I have no tartar on my teeth, something I can hardly believe, and good pockets in my gums. My dentist congratulated me on my good teeth genes. I guess it’s nice to have some good genes in my body.

Last weekend I finally took down my outside lights. It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to be doing something outside. While the rest of the country has been suffering, we’ve had temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, and both weekend days were gorgeous, with no rain. Now, it’s gone back to being cloudy. Rain has been forecast all week, but we haven’t had very much or any each day.

Our other adventures had to do with our wood stove. As you may know, we had it installed last February, and we have been using it heavily. In fact, since my husband found it was easier to light if it was warm, most of the winter he has had a fire going almost 24/7. We have had a little trouble lighting it lately and we thought it was the new wood we bought, which hadn’t sat around all summer drying like our old wood. But on Friday, my husband cleaned out the ash pan for the stove, and when he did that, he pushed the chunks of charcoal out of the grill above it. He said he hasn’t done that before when he cleaned out the ash pan.

Well, the stove lit much easier and burned brighter, but when he went to bank it down that night, it wouldn’t calm down right away like it usually does. I suggested that was maybe because it was getting a lot more air because the grill wasn’t stuffed up. In trying to get the fire to bank down, my husband went outside and stuffed a magazine into the stove’s air intake, which I couldn’t help feeling was probably not a good idea. Shortly after that, the room got really hot, which it has done before, but not suddenly and not for a while. Then the smoke detector went off three times, although I could see no smoke. (The detector that went off is the one right up by the stovepipe at the top of the ceiling.) Next, I saw sparks flying through the air outside. My husband went out and said that there were flames shooting up the chimney. So, we aren’t going to light another fire until the chimney sweep comes out. This is early, though, to have to sweep the chimney. Snow is forecast for next week, so I hope we can get it swept quickly.

In art class, I spent the day painting needles on my tree branches. Oil painting is really different from drawing, because you put layers upon layers, waiting for the paint to dry in between. Next, I will paint snow on the branches, and then over the top of that, I’ll paint more needles. It takes a lot longer to do an oil painting than it does to draw a picture because of this layering. I didn’t get any sense of this when I took oil-painting classes before.

I think I’ve forgotten to report on some new birds I’ve seen lately. First, a big fat goldish, reddish fellow was sitting on my railing the other day. Hillary the cat was very interested in him. I think he was a northern flicker, the red-shafted kind. Then, lately I have seen some birds by the feeder that looked a lot like robins but had spots. I think these are spotted towhees. Finally, the other day I looked out the window and saw a large bird fly by. I couldn’t see his head, unfortunately, because he was flying through the trees, but judging by the gray speckling on his body, I think he was an immature bald eagle. Last year, I spotted a bald eagle just sitting in a tree by the road on the way into town. It’s nice to see more.

We have been a little worried about Hillary lately. She is almost 14 years old, and she seems healthy most of the time, still acting like a kitten sometimes. But she has had a recurrence of a problem she had as a kitten. When she was not quite six months old, she got an eye infection and when we went to the vet, I told her that Hillary had already had antibiotics and they had not agreed with her, so please not to prescribe them unless she really needed them. Well, of course she prescribed them. They really didn’t agree with her. She started vomiting all the time. She couldn’t hold down any of her food even after we stopped giving her the antibiotics. We ended up giving her some kind of prescription cat food that is not good for kittens. She was supposed to eat it only in very small amounts, and the poor kitten would beg for food. Plus, her brothers weren’t allowed to have any, so I had to feed her from my shoulder to keep them out of her food. It took a couple of months on this food, but eventually she got well. However, I’ve always been convinced that this period of malnutrition was why she never got very big. She is still not much bigger than a kitten.

For some reason, she has started vomiting all the time again. It started out with her treats, which she loves, so she would gulp them down without even chewing them, and she would vomit them whole. So, I stopped giving her the treats, and that seemed to help for a while, but now she is vomiting when she eats anything. Some of you may know that she’s a little bit wild and refuses to be picked up, so it’s kind of hard to take her in to the vet (like, impossible). Also, she hides when anyone comes over, so it would be hard to call in a traveling vet, which they have around here.

Feeding her less but more often has seemed to help, and we will go a couple of days without any vomiting, but then if we feed her at all late, it starts up again. She doesn’t seem to have lost any weight, though, so she must be getting enough to eat.

That’s about all I have to report this week. Aside from this, it’s been the usual housework, walks, lolling around, and reading.

 

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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.

Moving into oils and a gift

My last landscape drawing, a Greek church, perhaps on Santorini, where we had our honeymoon years ago. Thngs don’t look quite straight, but I think that’s because the page has buckled. You can see the edge coming up on the bottom right.

In art class, I am moving into oils. I finished my last two drawings the week before last and last week. I then had to look at the state of my old oils to decide whether to buy the kit sold by our art school. As it turned out, although I had most of the colors, some of them were almost used up and about half of them were stuck so I couldn’t get the tops off. Also, some kind of goo leaked out into my box and got all over the sides of some of the paints and a brush so that I had to pry them up from the bottom of the box. I wasn’t able to get the goo off yet, although it might come off with linseed oil. I think it was some kind of medium that leaked. Finally, I didn’t have a lot of the brush sizes and other items on their basic list.

My latest still life

Anyway, my husband and I decided that I may as well buy their art kit, which I had to admit was sexy, with all its new tubes of paint and brushes. I haven’t started a project on it yet, so I’ll be doing that today. The first project is to paint a color wheel.

My sexy new art kit

It is my birthday today. My husband tends to buy me things like office supplies, robot dogs, and remote control cars for my birthday if I don’t specify a gift, so this year, I asked for a record player so that I could play all my old vinyl albums. To make sure he got it right, I sent him the URL. And I got a great record player. My great niece had one of her sleepovers at our place last night, and last night we taught her how to play dominoes, which she greatly enjoyed. This morning we picked out a bunch of albums and played them while we played dominoes again. Unfortunately, we did not find my Thriller album, which she wanted to hear. I don’t know what happened to it. I don’t remember anyone borrowing it or it getting wrecked. My husband thinks there still might be a box of records somewhere that we haven’t unpacked. Of all things, she picked out Harry Belafonte, Linda Ronstadt, and Simon and Garfunkel to listen to. She was also happy because she coaxed our cat, Hillary, famous for hiding under the bed, to sit on her lap.

Two weeks later, I just posted this picture of my record player.

I have meant to mention that lately, a couple of times, we have seen the deer in the woods, including some fawns so small that I mistook them at night for dogs. Small dogs. They must be very newly born, and it seems late for them. I hope they’re going to make it through the winter. It has started to turn coldish, with both highs and lows in the 40’s.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

You can’t always see those mountains through the trees.

It’s a gorgeous day today! Yesterday, the high was 51, and it rained almost all day. We had a fire in our wood stove. Today, the high is supposed to be 81. I had an early morning appointment, and the air was fresh, the skies sunny. Now, I’ve had to remove my sweatshirt for the first time since October and won’t be wearing two shirts today for the first time since November (when I figured out what was needed to keep from having to crawl in bed every day to get warm). Here is a picture of our deck this morning. If you look carefully past the trees, you can see mountains.

For those of you who can’t wait to hear the latest renovation news, we haven’t done anything this week, but my marmoleum samples finally arrived. I picked a deep but bright blue called adriatica that only has a few speckles, light and dark (I could have used more speckles, but this was the best color) and looks lovely with our grayish green-blue walls. It will be very dramatic. On Tuesday, I heard from our contractor, who has been on vacation. He said he had found a vendor of marmoleum who has installers, and he is just waiting for pricing information. Yippee!

On the down side, we developed a leak under our kitchen sink last week. Every once in a while we would find a small puddle of water on the floor in front of the sink, and then open the cabinet door to find a puddle inside. Of course, my husband did nothing about this immediately, because that is not his way. I put a towel under the cabinet door to avoid wrecking the hardwoods any more than they are already wrecked (most lately by his dog having an accident and then him not cleaning it up right away—I wasn’t around). Then my husband ground up my pestle in the garbage disposal. I had only used it once. It was in the sink, and he must have taken out the drain plug without putting the drainer in immediately. The pestle fell down into the garbage disposal at some point and then he turned it on. I know I didn’t do it, because I always have either the plug or the drainer in the sink to avoid extra garbage going down, because we compost most of our garbage. We only use the disposal when the sink gets clogged up with the particles that we haven’t captured in the drainer. This saves our septic field from filling up too quickly.

So, the pestle, which was made of porcelain, broke, and bits of it got into the disposal and broke it. Then the drain got plugged so that we couldn’t use the sink. I finally got on the phone and started to try to find plumbers, but it wasn’t easy, because they are all busy putting plumbing into the new houses that are going up in the area, from people moving out of Portland because it is too expensive to live in. My contractor told me I could call his plumber, but my husband finally went out to buy parts and fixed it himself. In Austin we went without a garbage disposal for years, during which he wouldn’t let me call a plumber (he was always going to fix it sometime), so this is an improvement.

We started back at our unpacking last week, because we finally got tired of waiting for our contractors to come back and clean up their junk in the basement. My husband spent a day tidying up the basement, and then we started hauling our bookcases out of the storage room. They can’t make the corner from the storage room to the big room downstairs, so we have to wheel them straight across the hall, through the guest room, out the sliding glass door, down to the other sliding glass door, across the wooden walkway for the sauna, and in the door to the big room. You can see why we wanted to wait for a day when it wasn’t raining. Then we had to clean them up and put them into position. We got all of a set of 10 cherry library shelves (with a crossbar and a ladder) out of the storage room. Unfortunately, they cannot occupy one wall like they did in Austin, nor can they have their top shelves added on. But we set up half of them on one wall, and will be setting up the other half on the other wall. We still have three black bookshelves to move out, and then the bookshelves will be done, and I can start unpacking the books.

Also in the shelving category are our DVD/CD shelves. My husband moved them up from the basement last week and attached them to the walls in my office. Then I unpacked all the DVDs and put them away (alphabetically, of course) and the CDs that were on the shelves before. We have hundreds more CDs, though, that used to be in a 300-CD jukebox that broke. We will have to figure out what to do with them. So much for jukeboxes. That one held up only a paltry 15 years. I still have the 5-CD player that my brother sent me for my birthday 20 years ago, and it works perfectly well. I also have my record player. Yes, I do, and my record albums, which I understand are becoming chic these days. We’ll have to figure out a place for those, too. I do play them sometimes.

Hillary watching birds

It took me a while to figure out what my cat was doing every morning, but I finally did. She stands just outside the bedroom drapes, which are closed in early morning, and watches the birds in the feeders. If it’s a cold morning, she sits directly on top of the heating vent you can see there in the floor. We put a feeder out months ago, but it is only in the past three weeks or so that we’ve seen any usage made of it. I thought it was too close to the house, since we hung it directly under the eaves outside our bedroom window, but that doesn’t bother the chickadees, and they love the suet that is next to the feeder. If I want to get other birds, I’ll have to hang another feeder farther from the house. Sometimes a few small gray birds are on the deck eating the seeds that the chickadees dropped. I think they are bush tits. We had tufted titmice in Austin that hung out with the chickadees, but here I have only seen these little gray birds. The chickadees here, by the way, are lots bigger than the ones that we had in Austin.

If you are waiting with bated breath to hear about my art class, I finished my flower last week, but I forgot to take a picture of it, as requested by Naomi. My flower is okay, but I think my sister’s is much more striking (although our instructor has labeled us the one who doesn’t follow instructions [my sister] and the one who does [me]). I think this is because my sister traced the outlines of her flower petals when the instructor told her not to. I will try to remember to take a picture of my flower today.

Now the instructor has us doing another exercise. The first one was interesting, but now that we have done real pictures, the exercises are boring. This one is drawing everyday objects from the basic shapes. That is, ice cream cones from cones and spheres, etc. I think the school is wise to alternate exercises with opportunities to draw pictures.

Battling hummingbirds and the state of the stairs

A couple of weeks ago I put up a hummingbird feeder, finally, after being astounded that my sister had hummingbirds at her feeder on New Year’s Day, in the snow. In Austin we never had hummingbirds in the winter, but apparently some kinds live here year-round.

This dear little bird has been keeping the others away.

Last week we had a warm, rainy day, so I opened the sliding glass door to the deck in our bedroom. To my surprise, our cat Hillary, who hasn’t been outside since she was six weeks old (she was born in our junk pile to a feral mama) and has never shown any inclination to go outside, walked right out. I got worried about that after a second (because there are coyotes around, and she is not exactly an outdoor-saavy cat) and scooted her back in. Just as I was closing the screen door, I heard a whirring noise, and there was a hummingbird! A little brown one. I have looked up the hummingbirds in our area and think she might be a female calliope or black-chinned hummingbird. She has a little cream-colored tummy.

A while later, I heard more whirring, and there were two hummingbirds, one a rufous. Unfortunately, the brown hummingbird was chasing the rufous hummingbird away from the feeder.

So, my husband and I went out and bought another feeder, figuring that would surely make room for two. This one has a red glass reservoir with a metal base. Less than an hour after we put it up, the rufous hummingbird spent about 10 minutes drinking from it. He came back several times (I admit, I have no way of knowing if these are the same birds or several of the same kind) but then the little brown bird started chasing him off. Since then, we have only seen the brown bird at the feeder and an occasional hummingbird battle. Yesterday there were two brown hummingbirds at the feeder. They like the red one best, although yesterday I finally saw two back at the original feeder, fighting.

A six-foot square area at the back of the staircase is unfinished.

Last week our contractors didn’t come until Friday, when they started putting in the flooring next to our new staircase. They did a really nice job, but they ran out of hardwoods. So, another wait. You can see in the picture that there is a distinct difference between the old wood and the new wood, but the new wood should darken up a bit when it is clear-coated. We knew the match wouldn’t be perfect, but when Dustin showed me the sample, it looked like it would be very close. We’ll see.

We have some painting left to be done, touch-ups and painting of the new doors and clear coating the new wood, but they won’t be doing that until the stairway is complete. However, Monday we were able to go back to order more carpet for the stairs.

We put a light-blocking blind in one of our bedroom windows yesterday. All I had been able to find for that window was a muslin curtain, and it gets light so early here that we have been waking up much earlier than we want to. We ordered a cellular shade, the kind that you can move up and down with your hand. Even though it hasn’t quite stretched out to cover the whole window yet, it makes a big difference in the darkness of the room.

Today I am going to the light store to pick up the new bathroom lights. We are getting close to completing the work on the inside of the house, whoopee! The only inside project that isn’t started yet is to replace the worn vinyl in the bathrooms and laundry room.

What else can go wrong today?

We started out this morning by failing spectacularly to capture my cat, Hilary. She sits on my lap every night, but that doesn’t mean she lets me pick her up. Our clever plan was to catch her while she was eating and put her in our dog’s crate, where she could stay until we reached Washington. My husband’s brother is due in today, and we figured we wouldn’t be seeing her once he arrived, but certainly not after our helpers get here tomorrow and start tearing the place apart.

Last time I tried to pick her up to try to treat her for fleas, I made the mistake of following my husband’s advice and trying to pick her up by her nape. I have the scars to prove how bad an idea that was. Naturally, my husband believes he could have done it. So,this morning I left it up to him. He threw a towel over her, as advised by a friend. Now he has three scars. We have put her dish in the crate in hopes we’ll walk in sometime and find her in there eating. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what we will do.

A high quality padlock
A high quality padlock

So, on to the storage facility, where we were picking up a moving truck and clearing out our unit. That went just great except that my husband insisted on locking our unit every time we made a trip to the truck. There was literally no one else there.

On our last visit to the unit, the key broke off in the padlock. Of course, these storage people have to cut locks off all the time, luckily for us. She just brought in a saw and cut it apart. But there are still several hours left in the day. What else might happen?