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.

 

Changes to schedule

I just realized that the day of my birthday, two weeks ago, I forgot to post a picture of my record player. So, if you want to go back and look, it’s now there in all its aqua glory.

We have had a few changes to our schedule lately. First, last Wednesday when I got into the car to go to art class, my sister told me she had decided to drop both herself and my great niece from the class. It wasn’t a huge surprise that my great niece was dropping. She tends to expect herself to do everything perfectly and gets upset in class if she doesn’t know how to do something. I have been thinking about this, because it seems as if our presence in class, particularly her grandmother’s, makes her more likely to get upset. There are other kids in the class doing just fine on their own.

But up until last week, my sister kept telling me how much she enjoyed our class. I was disappointed, because my idea in signing us up for the class was so we could do something together regularly, as she is the person I see the least of the family. She said her daughter (who is very creative) wants to make art, too, so they decided to do it at their house once a week together, and I am invited. That’s all very well, but they planned to do it the same time and day as my art class!

Well, I just bought the expensive oils kit, if you’ll remember, so I decided to keep going to class. I don’t have much expectation, just knowing how hard it has been to schedule anything regularly with my niece, that the art at home plan is going to work out very well. I will go, though, when they do it.

But this gave me an opportunity. I have lamented our original art teacher’s change of schedule. Both Sue and I felt that the quality of instruction had gone down with our new art teacher, even though she is very nice. So, when my sister put in her drop notice at class, I asked the receptionist if our old teacher had any slots, and I have changed my class from Wednesday afternoon to Tuesday evening. So, I have now had two classes since I last reported.

And that has been a good change for me. I felt a big difference just in my first class last night, about how much help I was getting from the instructor. Last week, I told you I was starting a painting of some flowers that was an exercise in mixing paint. When I used the formula for the exercise to mix my sky color last week, the first color I was supposed to paint, it came out much darker than the sample exercise I was looking at. So, my last instructor and I had a conversation about the point of the exercise that sort of matched the one we had done with the color wheel. Was the point of the exercise to see how the colors came out in using the formula or in trying to match the sample? She told me to use the formula. As it turns out, she had both the color wheel exercise and the flower exercise backwards, which I found out last night when I went for my first class with my new (former) instructor. It turns out I was supposed to match the colors, but it was too late to do so for my sky. I ended up correcting the colors on some of the flower petals and continuing the exercise, which is almost finished. But next week I will show her how my color wheel came out and tell her what happened and ask her if I should repeat that exercise. I am fairly sure that with the color wheel the idea was to see how the colors came out while following the formula, exactly the opposite of what we decided I should do.

And my new (old) teacher gave me some other useful pieces of advice. When I started painting, I asked my previous teacher what brush I should use, and she directed me to a flat brush about 1/2 inch wide. I found it very difficult to paint the circular shapes I was working on with that brush. My new teacher suggested to me that I use the smallest brush possible for the work and a rounder one for painting circular shapes, so changing brushes really helped me with my edges. She also showed me how a bit of linseed oil at the edge of my paint can help me with my edges.

So, I am charged up about my new art class schedule. My only fear is that my instructor, who is pregnant, may be leaving the class in a few months and I’ll have to see who we get as a substitute. But now I have no need to consult my sister’s schedule if I want to change classes again.

The other thing we have added to our schedule lately is to take my great niece to her tae kwon do class every Saturday. I volunteered to do this after my sister told me that she and my niece keep forgetting to take her on Saturdays. She is really excited about tae kwon do, so I think it’s a shame that they are not getting her to class when they’re supposed to. So, starting the week before last, we began taking her.

No more white belts in this bunch. All the graduates, in their new yellow stripe or yellow belts. Master Oh, their instructor, is in the very back.

Last Friday, she did her first belt testing to move from white belt to yellow stripe belt, and the kids invited me to attend. It was the white belts in all three age groups attempting to move to yellow stripe, and the yellow stripe belts attempting to move to yellow. (Just as a side note, the last time I had anything to do with tae kwon do was 50 years ago, when my great niece’s grandmother, my sister, took it starting at the age of 11. She worked her way up to green belt but then quit because, as I remember, she said her thighs were too muscular. That was when girls weren’t supposed to have muscles. Back then, they didn’t have yellow stripe belts. I believe it’s now a way for the beginners to advance and gain confidence more quickly.)

Everyone passed. I think at this stage they don’t have them test until they are ready to pass, which is probably better for their confidence. My great niece was a little taken aback, because she was the first one in the testing to be challenged by the master about her behavior at home. My niece told me that the parents had to fill out a form, and one of the questions was about whether the child had any behavior at home that needed work. Apparently, the parents of the kids before they got to my great niece didn’t fill in this section, so they got to her and the instructor said, “Do you always get along with your little brother?” My great niece shouted, “Yes, sir!” The master said, “I think sometimes you need improvement.” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” He said, “Will you be more considerate of your brother?” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” She was a little flustered. Later on, when he got to other kids, he said things like “Do you listen to your mother the first time?” or “Do you clean up your room when you’re asked to?” and every kid insisted he or she did. Then he would look at them gravely and say, “I don’t think so.” I have no doubt that these kids will be cleaning their rooms and listening to their mothers at least for a couple of days. That part of the testing made me laugh. It’s really amazing. I think the parents wished the kids would treat them like they did their master.

Today I need to finish cleaning the house so that tomorrow I can prepare some dishes for our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. This will be another week of frivolity, because on Saturday several of us are going to a Christmas concert.

 

 

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 spooky Halloween party!

My niece’s spooky birthday party for my great nephew, who turned four, took up quite a bit of last week. My husband and I found a spooky spirit and a skeleton cat for her on Thursday, so we took them over, and the house was really looking good!

My sister with the pumpkins before cutting

On Friday, I went over to help carve the jack o’lanterns that were going to line the path of the Haunted Forest. I haven’t carved a pumpkin in a while. I quit doing it when we bought our electric pumpkin and frankly haven’t missed it. But it was so much fun doing it with my niece and her family.

The kids with the pumpkins. Some of them are adorable, including the kids!

My sister and I started out cutting of tops and scooping the insides, then my great niece joined us as a scooper. Next my niece and her husband started drawing faces on the scooped pumpkins, and once they had a few drawn, they and my great niece started cutting. The birthday boy assisted by poking strategic holes in the pumpkins. We worked for three hours and carved 16 pumpkins.

All the kids: my niece’s husband in his Viking regalia, the two kids in their wolf costumes, my sister in her costume (she is some character I’m not familiar with), and my niece as Cleopatra. This picture was taken by Josie Edwards.

My niece was really getting into the decorating. I didn’t realize it before, but Halloween is her favorite holiday. The family ordered their costumes last summer, except for her husband, who always wears Viking regalia and adds to it every year. This week every time I went over to their house, things looked different.

My niece labeled every one of these bottles to sound like they came from a witches house. Notice the crystal skull and the bugs.

We actually got my husband to dress up as a lumberjack, and he made his own big blue ax, named Babe. I am not going to explain that joke to you. It is too corny. Anyway, the night of, the kids had a great time. There was food made up to look like brains, worms, and so on. There was a walk after dark through the Haunted Forest. There was a photo booth (which some of these pictures are from), a dance party and grab bags, and there was just general running around and having fun. I would say about 50 people attended, kids and parents. I had to keep taking my mask off whenever it looked like I was going to scare some little kid.

The family hearth, with skeleton person and cat

I may have said before that I think my niece’s kids are very lucky. They can run around their five acres of property and have an upbringing closer to the one we had as kids. They have a tree house in the woods and lots of things to do outside. I feel sorry for many kids these days, whose play activities are mostly scheduled and who hardly ever go outdoors. When the other kids are here, it is plain they are enjoying the place, too.

OK, that’s us. My sister, me, and my husband with his blue ax. Courtesy of Josie Edwards.

Parties aren’t really our thing, but it was nice to see the kids having so much fun.

Autumn around our farm

My sister seems to be right in that our fall colors consist of yellow before the leaves die. I’ve been looking around, and the only glimpses of orange and red I get are from planted or landscaped plants. The natural colors of the forest seem to be yellow and green.

In any case, fall is my favorite season. I love the color and sunny, cool days. I also love the blustery days. I love seeing pink cheeks on the children. The cooling weather always seems to energize me. I even love the rainy days, which we had most of last week. This week has been gorgeous, though.

Yes, is the same bush I showed you a few weeks ago. We think it might be a blueberry.

So, I give you a few pictures of our fall color, because nothing much else is going on this week. First, that little bush that I showed you a few weeks ago is now bright red and getting ready to drop its leaves.

At least I think this is a maple. It has maple-like leaves. I know very little about trees.

Back behind our orchard is a huge maple tree. It must be a silver maple, as I believe that other maples turn red in the fall. I took this picture when I went out into the orchard to plant more of my bulbs. This week we also planted the Carpathian walnut I bought to be a partner to our other walnut tree.

Behind the house there is quite a bit of color, but it is hidden among the fir trees. Here is the most notable color, at the top of a wild cherry tree right next to the pond. It’s too bad that the color is behind the firs, because I think it’s quite spectacular back there, if you could but see it.

All around our pond there are yellow trees peeping out from behind the firs and the other trees that have stayed green.

In the orchard, something or someone has eaten all our apples. I was out there a few weeks ago, and there were lots of apples on one of the trees, the tree that is supposed to produce Fuji apples. They weren’t quite ready to be picked, and my research shows that they are ready in November, which is when my sister picked them last year. Our other apple tree only had one apple. So, yesterday I went out to the orchard to check them, and there is only one left, high up in the tree. I don’t know what or who has eaten them, but I didn’t find any cores or apple parts on the ground. Perhaps the deer got all but this one, which is too high for them, because our little Fuji tree is leaning over to the ground. I hope it is the animals and not the kids from across the road, as this is the closest tree to the road. In any case, one of these days we’ll take a ladder out there and get our last apple. The apple on the other tree is gone, so I assume that whatever got the Fujis got that one, too.

This weekend is the Spooky Birthday Party for my great nephew, who will be four. I went over there yesterday to find all the adults and his older sister engaged in decorating the house, the yard, and the forest for the party. It is going to be quite some bash. I will be sure to take pictures of the costumes and the decor for next time. My niece must have spent hours on this so far, because, for example, her kitchen is full of bottles that she has labeled “Eye of Newt” and “Arsenic,” things like that, with quaint old-fashioned labels. What an eye for detail she has! Even in the living room are piles of books with titles like Grimoire and references to witches and devils (next to the giant spiders on the sofa pillows). My sister went out and bought a fog machine to send fog down the forest path for the Haunted Forest Walk. These kids are going to have a blast, as long as the little ones don’t get too frightened. All events are scheduled for daytime, though, so it shouldn’t be too bad. The children are excited at having helped their parents put up the decorations, so they dragged me through the house and forest yesterday showing me all the things they had made.