Looks like a happy new year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my newest painting.

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

 

A merry Christmas lead-up

The big news for this week is that my brother John and his wife Lucie arrived here on Saturday after a leisurely trip from Madison. They had planned to arrive here on Sunday, but when they got a message referring to our planned baking day being Sunday, John decided he wanted to get here in time for that. So, they arrived about four PM.

You have to use your imagination a little to see that this is a Christmas tree of dogs on their places. There is Luke on the far left. He’s supposed to have all four paws on his place like the other dogs, but Luke always puts his front feet out. (I make him put them in at home.)

That morning, Enzo’s had its Christmas party. I was going to post the picture of Luke with Santa, but they didn’t post it on their Facebook page. I saw a lot of other dogs, but not him. That’s a little disappointing. I should have asked them to take a picture using my phone.So, here’s a picture from a few days earlier when they made a Christmas tree out of the dogs.

So, on Saturday John and Lucie got here, and there was lots of conversation. We took them out to dinner, and we stayed up very late talking.

Here is Katrina with the cake with just the moss on it, ready for the other decorations. I’ll take a picture of the finished cake today and post it next week.

On Sunday, Katrina scheduled baking day. The first thing we did was make marzipan mushrooms and holly for her cake. She at first intended to make a buche de Noël, but since she doesn’t bake often, I think that rolling the cake intimidated her. So, she found several examples of a regular cake decked out like a buche, and that’s what she decided to do. She made a three-layer cake with fruit in it and buttercream frosting, then she covered it in chocolate ganache, which she gave the texture of bark, and then she put pistachio moss on it. Once our mushrooms dry, she will decorate the cake with all the marzipan decorations.

The big group pictures didn’t come out that good, but here are John and Mischa hard at work.

After we finished the mushrooms, we decorated Christmas cookies. Each of us had a tray of cookies to finish. It’s always fun when the whole family does it. Sue wasn’t there, because she was tending a sick Mason, and Mark and Nancy didn’t come, but otherwise, we all helped.

On Monday, John, Lucie, and I went for a walk in Lewisville Park. After that, we went grocery shopping to get our things for the holiday dinner. Tuesday was a settling in day for John and Lucie, while I did the laundry and just puttered around and read. Wayne had an appointment, so he was out part of the day.

 

 

Anticipation (of both people and the holidays)

My sister-in-law Lucie earlier in their journey, at Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico

I sort of worked myself up into a false alarm last weekend. We had messages from my brother John that they had started the drive north from Los Angeles. We got pictures from them of Morro Bay and Carmel. So, when I didn’t hear from them after that, I thought that maybe they were arriving during the weekend. We got the house all ready, but when I finally broke down and asked where they were, they were still in Carmel and heading for Livermore to see our cousin Paul. They estimate they’ll be here shortly before Christmas, perhaps on Sunday.

On Friday, we left Lukey in the doggie hoosegow and went to Christine’s. We couldn’t take Luke because Christine’s dog, Duchess, whom he usually plays with, had injured herself again. Christine was having difficulties accessing Netflix from either her TV or computer. First, Wayne looked at her computer and after some time decided that her keyboard wasn’t working anymore. Her husband had all kinds of dongles and things attached to the computer, so it was difficult to tell what was going on. The keyboard was wireless, so we tried replacing the batteries and restarting, to no avail. The TV was easier to fix. The modem just needed to be restarted. Wayne took her one of our extra keyboards on Saturday, and now she’s all set.

On Saturday, Deb and I had our last tickets at Magenta Theater, and I don’t think we’ll be going there again. Overall, our experiences have been underwhelming. This time it was Miracle on 34th Street, and the first act was really, really slow. This is one of my all-time favorite holiday movies (the old version, of course), so I felt like it was being wrecked. Lots of lines were flubbed. There were some cute characters, but the worst idea was that they tried to update it but still left in some of the parts that are really out of date. You can’t update this script, because you can no longer have someone committed against their will unless they are criminally dangerous, and the supposed psychological tests are just ridiculous. (Touch your nose with your fingers, who’s the first president of the United States?) So, they would have done better to have it be a period piece. At least the second act went a lot faster and was quite a bit better, but then the play ended somewhat abruptly, and they left off the last line, where Fred says something like “I guess I’m not as good a lawyer as I thought.”

The fun part was going for Thai food afterwards, and I always have a good time with Deb.

The play got me in the mood, though, to watch the good movie. Much to my surprise, no one was showing it on TV unless we wanted to pay for it. I found this shocking, since almost every year it is on AMC or TCM. It wasn’t even available streaming on Netflix. I am considering buying it, but it won’t get here before Christmas. I have it somewhere on videotape, but we don’t even have our VCR hooked up anymore. (Wayne would prefer to dig up the tape and hook up the VCR, which he might get around to by next Christmas, rather than me buying it from Amazon for $6.95.)

That’s about all of interest that’s going on this week. I got the lights on my little tree at the top of the slope on one of the few days before it starts raining again. It’s clear this morning, but it’s supposed to start raining very hard around noontime. Of course, since Christmas is next week, we would like it to snow soon. A snowflake keeps going in and out of the ten-day forecast, but right now, it’s on the day after Christmas. That would be better than nothing.

The next week will be fraught with activity. On Friday, Lukey is getting his holiday grooming done and I am picking up cookies for Enzo’s holiday puppy party, which Mischa has asked to attend with me on Saturday. The cookies are for the humans, though. Katrina has designated Sunday as “baking day,” and expects me to go over and help decorate a cake and possibly frost Christmas cookies. She was going to do a buche de Noël, but decided it might be best to bake a regular cake the first time and decorate it with mushrooms, etc. Apparently, rolling the cake without breaking it is the hard part. If John and Lucie arrive while we’re baking, they’ll just have to pitch in.

A few more things finished

The good news is that Wayne more or less finished working on the closet. He says there are parts he would like to redo, but for now, it is usable. We aren’t hiking today, so I’ll put Luke in his crate (also known as the doggy hoosegow) and go down and clean up that room, change the bed, and clean the bathroom, and we’ll be ready for John and Lucie (except for cleaning the house better). The last time I heard from them, a few days ago, they were still in New Mexico. I imagine they want to visit friends in Los Angeles, so I think they aren’t going to get here by mid-December as they originally projected.

Earlier this week, I also put up my outside lights except for the little Christmas tree at the top of our ridge, which depends on Wayne running an extension cord up the hill. It’s raining for the next few days, so we probably won’t be doing that, but also I wanted Wayne to concentrate on the closet.

On Saturday, Lukey got his Canine Good Citizen certification. He was supposed to test this coming Saturday at 8:15 AM, but when Karen said she had some spots after class, I decided to bite the bullet and try it so that we didn’t have to get up so early. Luckily, I wasn’t expected to pick up Mischa that day. I was most concerned about his heeling, which he still sometimes pulls at, because they have to do it without any tools except a leash and a flat collar. But he not only passed, he passed with flying colors, Karen said.

On Saturday evening, my brother Mark invited us over unexpectedly for dinner. At first I was inclined to decline, but he got me with prime rib. Wayne told me he was too tired to come, as he had spent all day on the closet. While I was there, I was telling them what Wayne was working on, and when Nancy realized that John and Lucie are going to be staying with us a while, she implied that they would be cadging off us. She also gave me one of her pep talks that are supposed to be encouraging about how she had to teach herself to be more sociable because of work. I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably something I had no interest in doing because I am not very outgoing, but it’s like she thinks I didn’t work for 30 years. I was perfectly sociable at work. That doesn’t mean I want to subject myself to certain things when I am no longer working.

On Monday I saw the other Nancy, pack walk Nancy, for the first time in weeks. We took our dogs for a walk and stopped for coffee. It was nice to see her again. Unfortunately, Christine and Duchess had another engagement.

That’s about it for this week and no pictures. I am sorry I didn’t get Karen to send the picture she took of Luke with his blue ribbon.

 

Baby, it’s cold inside

Here are two of the guys from the Yacolt station of the Clark County Fire Department. The guy on the right is the commander.

Our big event for the week happened on Wednesday night. My first clue was that it got very hot in the living room so that I had to take off my sweater. Just a hint. I never take off my sweater in the house during the winter. Then, a little while later we were watching TV and the smoke detector went off. We couldn’t see any smoke, but Wayne went outside and said that sparks were flying up out of the chimney of our wood stove, so he told me to call the fire department. The fire department got here in about five minutes, cooled off our stove and told us not to use it until we got it cleaned. (We have not neglected it, though, we got it cleaned last winter.) They were really nice guys. The fire commander told me some things about what they were doing and what the colors of their helmets mean (orange is probationers and yellow means they have passed some level of training) and told me that they were all volunteers except for him. They were a bunch of nice guys, very understanding about what I felt like was almost a false alarm. The sparks had stopped going out of the chimney by the time they got there.

So, thanks, guys from the Yacolt station of the Clark County Fire Department for coming so quickly and being so helpful! I took Luke back in the house after it looked like they were leaving and started sweeping up insulation that came down from our attic. Then I realized that they still seemed to be there. I went out to see what was going on, and they had backed the fire engine into our racks of firewood and knocked them over. Well, it’s a fairly small turnaround, big enough for cars and smaller trucks but too small for a fire engine! They were actually restacking our wood! Now, that’s what I call service. The racks got a bit munched up but they still work.

And speaking of that, an odd follow-up to that experience was that two days later, we received this huge packet from some kind of insurance adjustment company assuming that our house burned down. At least, that’s all we could think of. It started out condoling us, and at first we thought it was about Wayne’s sister-in-law, who died last week. It took us a minute to figure out what it was about. I guess they’re the fire equivalent of ambulance chasers.

That was our excitement for last Wednesday, and it was a bit of a shock when on Thursday, Wayne announced that our heating system wasn’t working. He said the heat exchanger was burnt out, whatever that means. So, I guess you understand my post title for this week. The furnace guy is scheduled to come out tomorrow, and the chimney sweep on Friday. That’s this week. So, for the next five days, we were huddled part of the time next to a space heater by our chairs. Then yesterday, my husband suddenly started fiddling with the thermostat, and lo and behold, we had heat! I don’t know what it was that made him decide the system was broken, but it apparently isn’t. Unfortunately, he can’t remember who he called for service, so we can’t tell them not to come tomorrow.

For Thursday art class, my sister and I did a double. My art teacher has finally convinced my sister to work in oils, so I got her a gift certificate from the art school for a down payment on her oil set for Christmas. Tomorrow night I am doing another double, but Sue has to work.

On Saturday afternoon, I went over to my niece’s and sister’s house to help with cookie decorating. It was the complete family again like the first year, all decorating (except Wayne, of course, who didn’t go). It was lots of fun.

Mischa and Luke with Santa at the puppy Christmas party

And speaking of Christmas activities, I went online and downloaded the picture of Luke and Mischa with Santa from the puppy Christmas party. Lukey looks like he wants to get away from there as soon as possible. Mischa is styling, as usual.

Wayne and I decided to have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, so we sat down for it earlyish. All presents wrapped, everything done. Then later on, I took my favorite holiday movie over to Sue’s (currently, it is Love Actually) and we watched it together.

On Christmas morning, we took two quiches over to the relatives’ house and had brunch and presents. It was a perfect idea for Christmas—no huge meal where you have to stay for hours and hours, just an exchange of gifts and a light brunch and plenty of laughing. Everyone said I got a little carried away with the gift-giving this year. I admit it, I did!

That was our week, and I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Yeah, no sign of the white stuff yet, and the forecast shows nothing but rain up through Christmas. The kiddies will be disappointed, and so will I! This will be our first year here that it didn’t snow before Christmas. The forecast is changing all the time, though; in fact, just yesterday, it showed snow for Friday. But today it shows rain all the way through next Wednesday, and the lows aren’t supposed to be low enough for snow. They don’t get down that low until after Christmas. We had freezing temperatures at night for a few weeks when it was clear, but now that it has started raining again, the temperatures are up in the forties and fifties in the daytime and mid to high thirties at night.

This happens every year. I thought I was all ready for Christmas, but this week I still did a few more things. I decided to get a couple more presents for some great nephews, since I think my great niece came off pretty well this year. I have a big present for her, one that was a lot more expensive than we usually spend, but I had forgotten about all the little things I already picked up for her, as we tend to buy things all year and then just stick them in the closet. Some of these things are not going to be appropriate if I wait to give them to her for her birthday. Kids grow up so fast.

So, of course, that meant more wrapping, which meant that I remembered I had run out of gift tags. And now I need to go to the store to buy things for our Christmas brunch.

This Saturday, I took Mischa to her taekwondo class, taking along Lukey because his puppy party was next. Mischa just belted up on Friday, and she is very proud of her brown striped belt. Lukey was very well behaved. At first, I took him for a walk around the shopping center where the taekwondo studio is located. Then, I was standing around in front for a while trying to see Mischa through the window. Finally, I sat down on a wall only to see the master’s wife come through the door. She checked to see if I had received Mischa’s present (which I ordered from her) and then told me I could bring Luke in if he was well-behaved. We sat back in the corner, and he was a really good boy. From there, we could see best through the mirror, and he seemed to be interested in trying to understand what they were doing. I was afraid that he would get upset when Mischa started sparring, because he freaks out at the weirdest things, but he did not. That morning, he had started barking at me when I came out, I think because I was wearing a Christmas sweater for the party, but he didn’t react at all when Mischa put her sparring gear on.

After the class, Mischa put on her regular clothes, lamenting all the time that she had chosen pants with kitties on them and a shirt with a ferret on it instead of clothes with dogs. That led us to have a discussion about whether dogs understood that abstract representations of animals were really supposed to be animals. Also, I don’t think she has any clothes with dogs on them. Then we went to the Christmas party at the dog-training place. Almost all of Luke’s puppy friends were there, which meant that the women I know were there, so I didn’t have a bad time. I usually am very uncomfortable at parties unless I have people to hang out with. Luke and Mischa got their pictures taken with Santa, Mischa had some hot chocolate with a candy cane in it, and Luke did the obstacle course in back, making a very good time and only having one bobble, when he came off place at the beginning just as I was walking to the start. However, once he got started, he did everything pretty well, even the swimming pool full of bottles, which he was reluctant to step into at first. Ever since the class where they used tunnels, which he was afraid of at first, he has loved the tunnels, so he went zipping right through this one. His puppy friends’ owners, who were watching, said he was a star at the obstacle course.

Aside from that party, it was a slow week, because we had our last puppy class on Wednesday. On Thursday, we went for our mini pack walk with all three of his friends, and he had fun at that. Otherwise, we’ve just been at home or running errands. I started getting the house back in some order in time for the holidays.

We have been trying to get Lukey from chewing up our entire house. He eats everything. I don’t know how many times I have stopped him from chewing a table or chair and given him one of his rawhide “bones” to chew instead. Just yesterday, I had to throw the doormat outside, because he had chewed a huge hole in it. A friend suggested getting him horns, so we got him one. When I tried to give it to him, he barked at it for ten minutes. He only took it after I coaxed him to come get it, and then he put his teeth on it and jumped back several times before accepting it. Now he likes it, but what he really likes is for me to hold it while he gnaws on it. Sigh. And it still hasn’t kept him from getting into everything else.

We also have started something we should have done all along, training him not to go on the couch. We let him get up there until we discovered, this week, that he had torn the leather out of sight down in the cushions and was pulling out the stuffing. This poor couch is already in bad enough shape from Hillary’s scratching the arms. We didn’t pay what we did for it to have it be disemboweled by a dog. So now, he’s not allowed up there, and if he gets on the couch and won’t get right back off, he has to go in his crate. It’s hard for him to understand he can’t do something he’s been doing all along.

In art class, I was working on dark clouds this week. My teacher says the sky is the star of the picture I’m painting, so we have been working on it for weeks.

No pictures, today, but I hope to have some next week!

 

‘Tis the season, for rain

After a week of beautiful days, we now have at least two weeks of rain going, this week and the next, and no indication that it will turn into snow. The kids are hoping for snow for Christmas, but at this rate, I don’t know. We have had it the last two years, but maybe we were lucky.

I got enough of my Christmas things done last week to spend part of the last almost nice day (it wasn’t raining, but it was overcast and cold) preparing my garden for next spring. I added in some alpaca poop and a layer of new dirt. Next spring I’ll mix it all up before planting. The original dirt in my garden was already frozen solid, which it would not have been this week.

This weekend I discovered some great new lights. When I went to put my lights on my tree on Saturday, I saw that I had no colored lights and remembered that I had gotten rid of them all last year after Christmas because most of the blues and greens didn’t work anymore. (I rhink it’s very wierd, considering they are just lights under a colored cover, that the lights in the blue and green bulbs so consistently burned out first.) I had had some of the lights for more than 20 years, ever since the first LED Christmas lights came out. I put up my white lights and then went to the store to get new colored lights. I found these very small LED lights that are very bright. They are just little cylinders of light, and they come on a spool, so that they are very easy to put up, no clips. Instead of taking an entire day just to get the lights on my tree, after I returned with these lights, it only took me about a half hour to put them on. I hadn’t bought enough, so when I went back, I also bought two spools of white lights. At the end of this year, I will discard all my bulkier white LED lights that look like traditional lights.

Mischa and Luke in front of the decorated tree. Luke’s a little blurry because he’s eating cheese.

On Sunday, my great niece, Mischa, came over to help me decorate the tree. She was so much help that we got it all done in just a few hours! I am used to doing it by myself and taking the entire weekend to put up the lights and decorate the tree. But we put up all the decorations in three hours. She did most of the ladder work. I have to say, though, that a few years ago, to climb a ladder, I would have to haul myself up it. Although I have not taken any hikes lately because my hiking companions can’t go, and I have missed a few water exercise classes, I found that when I needed to climb the ladder, I just went up it. It wasn’t until I got to the top that I realized how easy it was.

Yesterday, during a lull in the rain, I put up the Christmas lights we have put up every year, which is to just decorate the railing of our back deck. It’s the only place on our property that anyone would be able to see lights when they went by on the road except maybe by our driveway. We have lots more lights, though, and I would like to do something more if it will just stop raining.

So, we’re pretty much ready for Christmas. All the presents are wrapped except a special one for Mischa that I will be picking up this weekend. Usually, since we have no kids, I would put the wrapped presents under the tree, but Luke would destroy them, as he chews everything. In fact, just how we will handle our Christmas presents at all will be a challenge, as I would like to at least have them under the tree that morning.

On the good news front, Luke just successfully completed a week of both puppy and adult classes. On the bad news front, I just took the remote control for the satellite system out of his mouth. I think it will still work, but the front cover over the buttons won’t go back on. As you can imagine, the master of the remote is not pleased. (Now he is even less pleased, because we just discovered that Hillary the cat peed on the bed. She wouldn’t have done this, but I accidentally left the door to the laundry room not open enough for her to get in to her cat box. Before we got Luke, it was open all the way, but now we just crack it enough for her and stuff a doorstop into the side of it so that Luke can’t open it. I was doing the laundry and didn’t leave it open far enough, although I thought it was open enough. Oh well.)