Viral mania

Those of you who read my blog regularly have probably guessed that I have a challenging relationship with one of my sisters-in-law, although I have been gritting my teeth to keep things pleasant. Well. So, I talked about part of this issue last week. There is now one case of coronavirus in Clark County, but Wayne and I have decided that the likelihood of us encountering that guy’s germs, or the germs of anyone with whom he was in contact, to be slim. And, in fact, no more cases have emerged in the county since this one was announced almost a week ago.

My local relatives have taken the most cautious approach of staying at home most of the time, and that’s fine. However, Wayne and I have decided to continue to live our life normally until things look more alarming in the county. As life around the area looks fairly normal, I’m guessing most of the local people have decided the same thing. My Weight Watchers meeting was just as full as it usually is (I lost 2.2 pounds!), and almost everyone has been coming to the dog classes and tai chi. My neighbor Maja went ahead and had her sweat lodge ceremony this weekend as planned.

So, we come to our Tuesday hike. When I sent out the message on Monday to see who wanted to come, Maja said that she did and my sister-in-law  (SIL from now on) suggested a place to hike. I did not know she had invited my niece and her family, but that was fine. The difficulty came about when Maja decided to drop out, because her hip has been bothering her and she doesn’t want to miss tai chi.

The plan had been to meet at SIL’s house, and after Maja dropped out, I said I didn’t have a ride. That is because, since we shifted our hiking day to Tuesday, I have not had the car, since that is one of the days that Luke goes to puppy play and Wayne has physical therapy. SIL messaged me asking if my car was in the shop, and the next thing I knew she was calling me. I told her that I never had the car on Tuesday because that was Luke’s puppy play. There was a few minute’s silence, and then SIL began interrogating me about the measures we were taking to avoid the virus. Wasn’t I observing social distancing? Didn’t I know not to attend large events? (I usually meet three or four people at puppy play.) She called it a class, but even after I explained that all we did was drop Luke off and pick him up, she kept asking me about what I was doing. I finally said that Wayne and I were living our normal life like we said we were going to do (on an earlier messaging round with the family).

She got really wound up and began saying things like “If I am going to allow you to ride in my car . . .” basically she had some say in my behavior. I told her that if she was uncomfortable going with me then I would stay home. (Note that this started out to be my hiking expedition.) Even then, she kept trying to tell me how Wayne and I should be behaving, so I finally hung up on her. It is as though she can’t take a polite hint. Earlier, she kept sending me articles about the virus and to get her off my back, I told her I wasn’t interested in medical issues (which is true, but that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention, which she seems to have taken it to mean). In answer to that, she sent me another article.

As if that were not enough, when I got up Tuesday morning, I had an email from her entitled “Please read.” It quoted the King County health department and said that all at-risk people should avoid large gatherings and try to stay home as much as possible. I wrote back and said, “King County. That’s up by Seattle.” Then I again explained about the odds of getting the virus with only one case in the county, and no additional cases emerging in the last week. Finally, since I was sick of all this, I told her that what we decided to do wasn’t her business, just as what she decided to do wasn’t our business, and that I wasn’t going to talk about it anymore.

Of course, since she doesn’t seem to be able to control herself, she had to answer back, saying, among other things mostly implying that I was criminally oblivious, that she wanted me to remove her from my hiking contact list and any other event lists until after the contagion had left the area. As if she can get the virus over the internet.

So, I guess I’ve alienated SIL, but if she wouldn’t always be trying to tell me what to do, this wouldn’t have happened. Wayne says he’s happy she doesn’t want to be around us. Frankly, after the way she treated my other brother, so am I. I wonder what my oldest brother, her husband, thinks of all this. I guess I’m not going to find out, although I’m sure she spent the hike with my niece traducing me. I know my niece agrees with her about the risks, but that’s not the issue here.

And actually, after the hike I got a nice message from my niece saying she was sorry I had missed it and inviting me to go with her some other time.

The rest of the week was normal. We’ve had a lot of very nice days lately, so we’ve been doing yard work. We have a burn pile of blackberry bramble in the middle of the wolf pen. Wayne was going to burn that today, which was supposed to be partly sunny, but we woke up to mist and a bit of rain. Around here, you always see guys burning piles in the rain in the early spring, but Wayne’s been waiting for the perfect day. I hope he does it today, because I don’t want the blackberry bramble to sit there so long that it reroots in the wolf pen.

I spent a few hours ripping up the smaller blackberry vines that were trying to smother several of our bushes and a poor little Japanese maple that’s been struggling along since I planted it. It is too high up on the ridge during summer for me to do anything with it, but since the foliage around it is dead so I could see what I was doing, I was able to remove most of the vines from it from as far up as I could climb. I just won’t be able to do much about the vines that attack it this summer until next spring. Still, those little suckers did their best to trip me when I was going back down the ridge to put the dead ones on my pile.

In the orchard the crocuses are all out now and the daffodils have started to bloom. We have a duck family in the pond. We have had ducks there on and off all spring, but this time I swear I saw ducklings. It seems early for them, but although they were hard to see, I counted two large ducks and several smaller swimming things around them when I looked out early this morning from the kitchen window. I hope the ducklings will make it for a change.

Wayne has not made it to tai chi (big surprise), but now he’s saying he will start it when our class starts over in April. I should be taking Luke to Monday night class since we haven’t been going to tai chi, but inertia keeps setting in. And anyway, that’s one set of germs I’m avoiding weekly.

No picture today. I thought I’d have one of our hike, but that’s how things go.

Some of my traveling friends will be delighted to hear that I finally got Wayne to finish filling out his passport renewal application, and he just left to put our applications into the mail. Our passports expired the year we moved here. That was not a good time to have one more thing to attend to, so I let them lapse, and since then we’ve been lazy about getting new ones. We don’t have any traveling plans yet, but one friend has proposed England and Scotland for next year. Yay!


My teal toenails

This might seem amazing to some of you and trivial to others, but last Friday, I had my first ever pedicure. Christine, who has them now and again, scheduled one for both of us while Luke was at the groomers. I sort of liked it, although I was worried at times about my feet, as I used to have gout attacks (never since I moved here, though). When I saw my brother John that weekend, he said he used to have them regularly and really enjoyed them, until they retired and Lucie cut them out of the budget. He didn’t have his toes painted teal, however. I liked them so much that I decided to get my fingernails done to match next time Christine does hers. I actually have about the same color polish in my cupboard, but when I do my nails, they get smeared right away and chip off within days.

It’s not too snowy at this point, but if you look closely, you can see snow on Luke’s back. Not dandruff.

Just before writing this (on Tuesday), I was out playing with Luke in the snow. We got about an inch on Sunday, and most of it melted away, but Tuesday we got about seven inches. When I wrote the draft for this post, it was only sticking on the grass. I took a picture of Luke with snow on him. Luke has this habit. We get done with our errands (today it was the dentist and Play and Train), come home, I make lunch and do the dishes. Then, just about when I’m ready to settle down with a nice cup of tea, Luke gets up from snoozing and starts ringing the bell to go out and play. So, that’s what we did.

We ended up getting about an inch of snow again, but early in the morning, it started raining, so this morning I woke up to mostly slush.

We had a couple of beautiful days this week, Monday being clear and quite cold, but mostly it has rained for days. Still, we don’t complain. We’re not in Austin. Yay!

Last week in tai chi we finished the first third, which seemed weird because we learned 17 out of 108 moves. But many of them repeat, apparently. I can’t really remember more than 6 or 7 when I try to practice at home. I already know I’ll have to take the beginner’s class over again at least once. Our instructor says that most people take at least two beginner’s courses.

Now that Wayne has missed the beginning of our class and we’re not accepting any new students, his physical therapist has said he should take tai chi. (I tried to get him to go, but he never believes I know what I’m talking about. He’ll listen to anyone but me.) So, he’s going to start a class beginning in March on Monday nights in Orchards. I told him I would skip Luke’s night class to take it with him for a month, and then we can both start over again in April, when the Battle Ground beginning class starts again. While I’m taking class with him, I’ll also take my regular class. Of course, this all depends on his not changing his mind by the time March rolls around. Right now, he still says he’ll take it.

I spent a lot of the week getting the house cleaned up in case we had visitors. That’s because Mark was having a birthday party on Sunday, and rumor had it my brother Steve and his family would be coming down from Seattle and staying with us. Not that he ever said anything to me. I had been sadly neglectful of the housework since the holidays, pretty much only doing the dishes and the laundry and sweeping the floor occasionally. So, the entire house got cleaned and the guest bed changed, and so on, but no guests. Steve and his family did indeed show up at the party on Sunday afternoon, but they went home about 7 PM. It was a nice party. Mark made delicious homemade pizzas according to a recipe we’ve had since the 60’s. Eighteen people showed up, including friends Mark has known since he went to college up at Michigan Tech, who now live up by Bellevue.

John and Lucie are having a great time in their cottage in Seaside and sent us all a beautiful picture from their walk on Monday, after they got back home. He reported that they had nearly finished the puzzle I brought them, so I gave them another one.

In art class, I continued to work on shading my piggies.

Monday, we bought a new bed, a Sleep Number bed. Gosh, they’re really expensive. When you price the mattress, it doesn’t seem too much worse than a regular high-end mattress, but then you have to buy the support for the mattress that has the electronics in it, and they keep hitting you with additional expenses (the proper mattress cover, sheets, etc.). We didn’t get everything, although we may regret not buying the sheets if ours start popping off whenever the mattress is raised. However, neither of us sleep well, so if this will help, it’ll be worth it. We looked at Tempurpedic beds a few months ago, and I personally thought the soft one was more comfortable (and they’re about half the cost, because none of the extras are needed), but the Sleep Number bed also raises up to help people with sleep apnea, which Wayne has. (Actually, I think the Tepurpedic bed does, too, so maybe we would have to buy the same extras. They just didn’t show us that feature.) We’ll get the bed in a couple of weeks and I’ll report back.

On second thought, I figured that since we got the split top mattress so that Wayne could sleep slightly elevated, our sheets would be popping off the mattress, so I looked at sheets online. I found that if I bought them from Sleep Number, they cost about $200 a set. Online I found a set of bamboo sheets for $69, 1900 thread count. We’ll see how they work out.


Just recently some of us on the Schimmelman (my maiden name) side of the family began to realize that doing jigsaw puzzles is a family pastime. We never had one out at home when I was a kid, but after my father and stepmother bought a cottage on Suttons Bay, he was always working one. I used to have one going all the time years ago, but for some reason Wayne put my project table upstairs, so I didn’t have a place to do one. I also noticed, when I used to visit my Uncle Fred and Aunt MM, that they always had one out, usually a very complicated one.

When we were at my niece’s house this year to decorate Christmas cookies, they had a puzzle out, and I noticed that my great niece, Mischa, who is 11, has the ability to just look at an open spot, glance around, and pick up the piece for that place. Ares said that they always do a puzzle when they are on holiday. John and Lucie and I tried to help with the puzzle and spent several hours only placing a few pieces. So, since the puzzle (1000 pieces) was only about 1/4 done when we were there, when Ares sent us a photo of the completed puzzle the next day, we were amazed. That’s when we started talking about Dad always having a puzzle out, and John told us that Amy, our cousin, had one out when they visited her on their way here. They told us how she had it on a board so that she could move it if she needed the space, something that will be necessary for us, too.

Here’s our solved puzzle. I’m not sure where this one came from, as it’s not the type of puzzle I would have bought myself. You’re supposed to read a story that goes with it and try to solve the mystery, but although I love mysteries, I expect this one was probably a stupid one.

I have half a dozen puzzles in the closet, so when we went home, we got them out and picked one and started working on it. I generally like scenic or art puzzles, but we picked out a mystery puzzle because John, who is colorblind, thought it would be easier for him to do it by shape. We worked on it a bit, but they found their new home so quickly that we barely had the edge pieces in before they left. They said they wanted to have one going in their new home, so I took them another mystery puzzle when Sue and I went to visit.

I have been working on it for a bit every day, and Friday I finally finished it, with Wayne helping a little bit, especially at the end. It has taken us a lot longer to do than I expected, but Friday I also bought a lightweight board to use under the next puzzle. I generally break up a puzzle as soon as I finish it, but this time I let it sit on the table for a day.

I am now working my second puzzle, which has a lot of areas that are the same color, so it’s proving difficult. Unfortunately this weekend I’ll have to find a place to put it, because we are going to be full up. At least, I think we are. Nancy is having a 70th birthday dinner for my brother Mark, and John told me Sunday that Steve and co. (alias the Cirque du Schimmelman) were coming and planning to stay with us, and did anyone tell me? To which I answered, of course not. And they still haven’t told me. So, this week I’ve been cleaning house, a set of tasks I’ve been procrastinating about since the holidays, so the house is pretty messy. I will need to find an opportunity to sneak downstairs and change the bed and clean the bathroom, since Luke gets very upset when I go down there.

And speaking of Luke, he astonished me on Saturday during class. For the first part of the class, we heeled our dogs from one spot on the ground to another, not moving forward until the dogs looked at us. He did okay with this. He tended to look up at me quickly for the first two spots and then take longer for the second two, but at least I wasn’t the last person left standing. We did that several times and then were responsible for keeping our dog looking at us while the other people in the class came in and did the same thing with the spots.

After a while of that, they had us take the dogs into the yard and heel in the circle. After we went around a couple of times, they told us to take them off leash. Up until now, when I take Luke off leash he heels for a little while and then stops and looks confused. This time, I took him off and he continued to heel for the rest of the class, around and around. That is great, because I want him to be able to go with me places off leash, and once I can be sure he’ll stick with me most of the time, I can get a short leash and get rid of the prong collar.

It’s true that once I picked the leash back up, he dragged on it as he usually does until we get heeling sorted out again. I meant to try to practice with him on the road on Sunday, but I was busy putting away the Christmas lights and when I finally was ready, it had started raining. Monday afternoon and evening it just poured. On Tuesday, Maja and I went for a hike, but we just stuck to Lewisville Park, because of threatening rain. It actually worked out pretty well that we got wet, but not too wet.

I may have mentioned that the day of our New Years party, the smoke detector at the top of the ceiling started to beep. Some moron installed it at the peak of the roof, which is about 25 feet high. We have a 12-foot ladder, and we had to have Ares, my niece’s husband, stand on the next to top rung of the ladder and use a grabber to take out the battery and install a new one. He came over that day and did it, and later my brother John suggested that we leave the battery out next time and install a new smoke detector lower on the ceiling where we can more easily reach it. (Actually, we hired a guy to wire all the smoke detectors into the wiring of the house, but apparently he didn’t do the one that we needed done most.)

So, we just put a new battery in on December 31 (or Ares did), and Tuesday morning at 5 AM I was awakened by a beeping noise. At first, I thought Wayne, who was already up, was walking around squeaking his shoes on the floor, but of course it was the smoke detector again. Wayne found a brush with a very long pole, and he whacked it until it stopped, but Tuesday evening it started beeping again. This time I was able to pop open the battery casing just a bit from the floor. I know it opens more than that, but hopefully it is enough to break the contact. We will have to buy a new smoke detector soon.

Sure enough, as these things go, the smoke detector started going off again at 2:00 this morning.

A long weekend at the beach

The first tai chi class went well aside from us all being locked out when we first got there. The instructor said they hoped for four or five people, but there were 16 of us. We learned the first five moves. Maja wasn’t able to go with me but will go this week. They called me on Tuesday to tell me that if Battle Ground schools are closed today, we won’t have class, but there’s just a late start. On Monday night we got a couple of inches of snow up here (although not in Battle Ground) and Tuesday we had more.  Wayne also said he might go, but as usual he has copped out.

On Thursday night at art class, I drew my pigs, which will be my next painting. My teacher told me I should do a furry animal after finishing my landscape. Almost everyone in my class picks cats, dogs, horses, or wild animals like foxes and tigers. I thought it would be nice to do a barnyard animal. I looked at pictures of cows and pigs and picked some pigs sleeping in hay. I completed transferring the drawing onto my canvas a few minutes before clean-up time, so I did not begin painting it.

Lucie, John, and Sue on the beach at Seaside

On Friday, Sue picked me up and we loaded up some things that John and Lucie left and drove to Seaside. We arrived about noon in pouring rain. In fact, it was raining so hard when we crossed the bridge to the south of Astoria that we could barely see where we were going.

Haystack Rock from south of Cannon Beach

John and Lucie’s cottage was built in the 1930’s and is very nice. It has cedar shake siding and has two bedrooms downstairs and an attic with three twin beds upstairs. It is small but a lot larger than the apartments we looked at here and well lit and pleasant. There is a little sun room where Lucie sits in the morning reading her book. Luckily for me, Sue volunteered to sleep in the attic. The staircase from there to the little bathroom below it is very narrow and steep, and the ceiling slants so that you can bang your head on it. I was sure I’d fall down the stairs during one of my many nighttime trips to the bathroom. I had been trying to figure out if both of us could sleep in the guestroom bed, but it is pushed up against the wall, making it difficult for the inside person to get up in the middle of the night.

The cottage was rented furnished, and it is furnished to the max. There is very little room for any of John and Lucie’s things, and it is also full of kitsch with a seaside theme. Lots of shells and starfish around the place. Not very good paintings of water. And so on. However, it is comfortably furnished and the decor isn’t overly annoying.

I took this picture at Oswald West just north of Manzanita.

After we ate lunch, we walked the three or four long blocks to the sea. We had heard warnings of king tides and sneaker waves on the way in, and I tried to impress on John and Lucie how serious this was by telling them about a man and his child who were dragged out to sea the summer before, but John and Sue still went pretty close to the water. Lucie stayed well back with me. We walked along the ocean for a while. It was very windy and rainy, though, so after a few miles, we turned around and went home. John said they had already started a habit of heading out whenever it stopped raining. They had only had one day so far that it didn’t rain. (During that same time period, we had none.)

That night, Lucie made us a delicious dinner and we finally got to watch Amadeus, which I brought from home.

The next day when we went back down to the ocean in the morning, the tide was so high that the beach we had been walking on was completely underwater. We went down to the promenade and checked out the ocean from several viewpoints, before going to breakfast at Pig n Pancake. When we headed south to drive around the point below Seaside, the road was blocked off, so we had to go back to Highway 101.

We spent the day exploring a bunch of stops along the highway south of Seaside and looking at the ocean from different angles. Only once did John and Lucie go down to a beach, but it was at a tight cove, which is not a good place to do it under these conditions. Most of the time, we were looking at views from up high. We went down to Manzanita, and as we were going there, we encountered several ambulances. Later, we found out about the man and his two children who were pulled out to sea right when we were in the area. His little girl drowned and his little boy was never found. I feel so sorry for that family.

In the evening, we went out to dinner at one of the fish restaurants in Seaside, and we went to bed fairly early. The next morning I got up early and was thinking of taking a shower but was worried that it would wake up John and Lucie, who shared a jack and jill bathroom. I’m glad I didn’t do anything, because John got in the shower that morning and found the water not going down. When he got up, he saw that water had flooded up from under the toilet. We had to get the property manager to call a plumber. It turned out that the bamboo roots from the hedge on that side of the house had clogged up the pipes. The water was turned off for some time, and during that time, I had to walk several blocks down to the public toilet. However, I’m sure that will soon be fixed, and I’m glad they are so happy in their new home.

Some good news was that while we were there, Nancy texted John inviting him and Lucie to attend Mark’s 70th birthday potluck in early February. That made him very happy. Maybe we’re all going to put the latest unpleasantness behind us.

Sue and I drove home about 11 on Sunday morning. It was supposed to snow in Yacolt later that day, but we really didn’t get much. However, we got a lot more on Monday night. It was a little slippery going down to town to do our usual errands on Tuesday, but when we got to Battle Ground, they had no snow.

Lukey was very happy to see me when I got home. Wayne said he spent most of the time looking out the window.


Start of a new life stage

I’m referring in the title to my brother John and sister-in-law Lucie, because over New Years they were applying to rent their house on the beach, on Wednesday, they were accepted, and on Thursday, they were told they could move in any time. Of course, their new life stage actually started when they retired, but everything has been chaos and up in the air until now, what with his several surgical procedures, followed by selling the house, traveling out here, and then their hunt for a new house. Because the new house was let furnished, they are going to send for their things but keep the furniture in storage until their lease is near to being up, at which time they will decide whether to renew it or whether to try to find something unfurnished. They are still set on not buying, but I think that as a long-term decision it’s not the best one, because of the rising rents. We’ll see how that all turns out. They like Astoria, and it seems as if home prices there are still affordable as it is a working port instead of a beach town.

John and Lucie on the beach in Seaside on a foggy day. Is that haystack rock behind them? It doesn’t look right, but that may be because of the fog.

So, they decided to leave Friday morning, because they had to meet the property agent at 1 PM to sign the lease. On Thursday night, I decided to miss my painting class so that we could all have a nice dinner out before they left. We took them to a very nice Greek restaurant in Battle Ground called George’s Molon Lavé. On Saturday, we received several pictures of them in their new home or on the beach, including this one.

Just before our New Years’ Eve party, some of the family was very upset because we heard of some untrue things my brother Mark’s wife had said or implied about John, I assume in an overzealous loyalty to her husband. In a way, it was none of my business, because the things weren’t said to me, but I was tempted to pull Mark aside and tell him to rein in his wife. However, it was clear to me on the night of the party that he knew nothing about any of this, because he was friendly to John (after not speaking to him for seven years), and he even got up from one end of the dining table and walked over to sit next to him at the other end, where they remained in conversation for quite a while. That decided me to say nothing at this point, although Nancy was not at all friendly to either John or Lucie, interesting because neither of them have ever been anything but nice to her. But then the whole thing is just plain stupid. In any case, my hope is that John and Lucie will now be far enough away for Nancy to stop meddling. If I hear of anything else, though, I’ll be speaking to Mark about it.

We had a fun New Years Eve, but because my brother Steve’s family was unable to come after all (they were unfortunately all sick), I knew none of us was going to make it to midnight (they are the ones that keep going and going, like the Energizer bunny), so at my instigation, we toasted in 7:13 PM, which just happened to be the time we started the toast. Everyone thought that was very funny. I read the situation right, because all the guests were gone by 8:30 (we started at 5, at least we were supposed to; this was the only time in my life that most of the guests showed up 1/2 hour early), although John and Lucie and I attempted to sit up watching Amadeus. Unfortunately, we thought the DVD was defective because only the last half was on it, so we switched over to It’s a Wonderful Life, which turns out to be John’s Christmas movie. (As it was, the DVD wasn’t defective, but the movie was on BOTH SIDES of it! I had never seen that before. Unfortunately, we lost the DVD case before Wayne rescued the DVD from the trash. I dug through the trash for it but did not find it. Maybe it will turn up.)

Thursday was a day for the blahs, as John and I ended up staying up well after midnight (Lucie has seen It’s a Wonderful Life too many times to stay up for it), but at least we got some exercise. I had taken John to Moulton Falls Park a few days before, and he wanted Lucie to see it, so we went for a long walk there in the rain (going in two cars so that Luke could go, as Lucie is very allergic) and got very wet. In fact, it has continued to rain here almost every day for the last couple weeks, and the only letup will be if we get some snow. Right now, I see snowflakes on my phone for every day in the next week except Friday and Saturday, but the forecast highs seem too high for that to be likely, at least this week. Next week, it’s supposed to be colder.

On Friday morning, John and Lucie left, and I went into Battle Ground with Luke to take a walk with my friend Christine. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and we both missed what have become our almost weekly coffees. We walked Luke from the park to Battle Ground Deli and had coffee. Luckily, it was one of the few days lately that was dry.

On Saturday Luke’s classes started back up, but unfortunately, I forgot about his Monday night class this week. That’s especially bad because this coming Saturday he’ll miss his class, for I’ll be out of town. The days when Wayne might have taken him to class are long gone. Luke won’t miss Puppy Play this week, though.

This week, we are back to our usual schedule with one exception. Maja and I are switching hiking day from Wednesday to Tuesday so that we can go to a tai chi class at the Battle Ground Senior Center. I have been looking for a tai chi class, since I took it for a few years in Austin, but until I happened upon a sign in the Community Center advertising this one, the nearest one I could find was in Vancouver, and it was expensive. As far as I know, this one is either free or inexpensive. I’ll find out today when I go.

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.