A winter journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My great niece and niece at the parade

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

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

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

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

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

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Trees, Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas concert, and art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Year in Washington

snow-lights
Snow on New Year’s Day

We have had an eventful holiday season, our first with family for several years. We spent Christmas Eve with my sister and my niece and her family. I made an English trifle dessert, my sister cooked ham, and my niece made veggies and salad. We had dinner, then later we all decorated Christmas cookies, even the three-year-old. We finished up with the kids opening a few presents. It was a lovely evening.

My husband and I spent Christmas day by ourselves as we usually do, just opening our presents and having a quiet dinner. So, that was nice, too.

Then we more or less went back to normal for the rest of the week, having no plans for New Year’s Eve. Well, we didn’t think we had plans, but then my youngest brother let my sister know that he and his family would be driving down from Seattle on New Year’s Eve. That morning, my husband and I had some errands in town, so we picked up a few things for the ravening hoards to eat, as we didn’t know the plans. There turned out not really to be any. We took all our food over to my niece’s house later in the day, and my brother and his family arrived in the late afternoon.

It began snowing shortly before they arrived, snowed all evening, and most of the next day. By morning, when I took the picture above, we had about four inches of snow. All in all, I think we got about six or seven. It was lovely stuff, soft and sticky. Later in the day, it got sunny for a while, so the snow was sparkling on the branches.

My brother and his wife ditched their kids the first night, so they were the first to inaugurate our new guest suite, which isn’t totally put together yet (the doors are off all the rooms) but is good enough since they were downstairs and we were upstairs. Coming back from my niece’s house around midnight, we weren’t sure we were going to make it up our steep driveway, and we had to make several attempts, so my brother started putting his chains on his tires around 1 AM after seeing the house and visiting for a while. We all (except my husband) stayed up until 3 AM, something I am no longer used to. My husband and I were up earlyish the next day, but they were not. A good time was had by all, at least until the next morning.

We woke to lots of beautiful snow. The kids stayed out almost all afternoon building snow men and snow igloos, having snowball fights, and sledding. The adults went in and out. I hit my nephew with a few snowballs, but unfortunately my choice was between warm but slippery Uggs or my waterproof, nonslip, but not that warm muck boots. I chose the muck boots and had to go inside after a while, so I sat by the fire with my sister.

The second night, my brother’s entire family came to stay. They can be quite the active group, so I was a little worried, but actually they were great. The kids got their Christmas presents from us, and then we all watched an old movie on TV and had popcorn. Later, my sister-in-law and her oldest daughter and I stayed up talking until about midnight, but everyone else went to bed when the movie was over.

It was such a nice holiday. My husband and I, as I keep saying, haven’t living among family for years, my husband since he moved down to Texas to be with me, and me since the 1980’s. So far, our nearness to our family has been perfect. We get support and company without anyone feeling like we’re imposing on them.

Happy New Year to you all.

An introduction to the winter weather

Snow on the first day
Snow on the first day

We’ve had a lively week, as far as the weather is concerned. As you know, we moved away from Texas partially because it was too hot for us. Well, we have come to the right place.

We were being lazy last Sunday, just watching TV, when it began to snow a little. We were thrilled. We got a light dusting of snow and then it stopped.

On Monday we got well over an inch. It’s difficult to know what the weather will be here because our weather forecasts all come from the valley in Portland, Oregon. There they were forecasting snow on Monday and again on Thursday, with slippery roads on Friday morning. But they said it would all be melted by Friday afternoon. They were wrong, as you know if you watched the national weather on Friday. But we are up 1000 feet, so our weather is quite a bit different. As my niece said, “If it snows in Portland, we are snowed in here.” I have to take that with a grain of salt, because my niece grew up in California, whereas we are both originally from Michigan, where the state would be shut down all winter if we stayed home for a little snow. On Monday she told me she was planning on staying home all week.

On Tuesday our carpet layers came, and they started out making a fuss about the weather. Down in the valley there was no snow, so they were surprised to find us covered with it and our drive quite messy. They objected to driving down our lower drive to the daylight basement. They said we had nowhere to cut the carpet, which they had brought in a big roll. Finally, I got shirty with them and told them we had been waiting for weeks to get the rooms downstairs carpeted, and that there had been no snow on Friday when they were originally scheduled to come. I showed them the huge room crammed full of stuff that we were not unpacking until the carpet was down. They said they’d go in to the warehouse to cut the carpet.

They did a great job, but there is one more delay. They said we need baseboards over the carpet. We hadn’t even noticed there were none. So, we have to get that done before we move in all the bookcases and create a library downstairs. (We have so many windows upstairs that there is no room for bookcases.)

On Wednesday, we drove down to the valley to run errands. The roads were a little slick in the morning, but the day turned out to be beautiful and sunny, which made the snow look bright and cheerful when we got back home. There was no snow in the valley or even within a couple miles of our neighborhood.

Thursday it snowed all day. We stayed home. I would imagine we ended up with a couple of inches or more of snow.

Friday was the day it was supposed to melt. It is Saturday, and the snow is still here. In Portland it was a mess. Here, it was slick, and we stayed home again, unpacking boxes and cleaning.

Today was our day to go out for breakfast with my niece and her family and then go to the U Cut for our Christmas trees. We were debating whether to take separate cars or let my niece’s husband drive us in his car, which has studded snow tires. We don’t actually have any snow tires yet, although our car has all-wheel drive. We opted for driving with them, and it was a good thing we did, because when we went outside, we found that a tree was down across our driveway. Our power also went out around 9:30 AM.

My niece and her family picked us up and we went out to eat and then had a great time tromping around in the snow looking at Christmas trees. Because we have a 20-foot ceiling, we got one that was several feet taller than we usually do, although I didn’t want it to be too tall, because I don’t want to climb a ladder more than a step or two. My guess is we got a 12-foot tree. I don’t usually talk about money, but this tree cost us $25. It was a noble fir, and in Texas it would have cost about $150. Maybe more, because we used to spend more than $100 for a 7-8 footer. We had high ceilings in Texas, too, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money to get a taller tree.

It started to rain while we were eating breakfast, and by the time we got the tree, large pieces of ice were falling off the trees. We went home, unloaded the trees, and then my niece’s husband brought back his chain saw, and the four of us spent a delightful couple of hours dragging wood off the driveway and out of the road.

We still don’t have the tree up, as it is too big for us to handle by ourselves. Our niece and family went home to put up their tree, and they will be back tomorrow to help put ours up. The power came back on around 3 PM. That was the second power outage of note since we got here. We spent the afternoon playing dominoes.

The snow did not melt, so I expect that it will freeze tonight again, and those who have to drive tomorrow up here in the hills will have an exciting trip.