A week devoted to Halloween

Here’s my still life from a photo I took of my grandmother’s silver water jug one day the summer before last when it was full of peonies. The little Aladdin’s lamp pot is one we bought from our favorite potter in Austin.

The big news for me this week is that I finally finished my painting, a still life of my grandmother’s water jug and a little pot that sit in my kitchen on top of my bookcase of cookbooks. Here is my picture. I have to say that in real life the colors are more vibrant, but that didn’t come across in the photo I took in class with my phone. I have now finished three paintings in the year since I started working in oils. Gosh, we’ve spent a long time on each one.

The old mill on the trail

Last Wednesday, my neighbor and I returned to a local park, Whipple Creek Park, for our hike, but we took a different path than usual. This trail was called the Stone Mill Loop, and it actually had the remains of a mill along the trail. Although it was not a beautiful day, it was at least not rainy, and we had the park almost to ourselves. It’s really a lovely area right up against suburban Vancouver.

On Friday, I was pledged to help my niece and sister and crew carve pumpkins for my niece’s annual Halloween bash. This is that family’s favorite holiday, and they really get into it. Last year, I was impressed by all the work that went into the Halloween decorations, but this year I was amazed to see that they had twice as many. Friends and family carved 19 pumpkins on Friday afternoon! Everything went really quickly. My sister and I did the hollowing out while the rest drew and carved pumpkin faces.

The pumpkin-carving crew at work. Friends are in the foreground. My great niece is at back left with her father, my sister, then my niece and great nephew.
My guacamole swamp. If you look carefully, you can see an arm sticking out of it and a shoe resting on the surface. Next to it is my mummy baked brie.

Then on Halloween was the big party. I had promised my niece that I would make a big bowl of guacamole for the party. The tradition is to bring spooky food. Hmm. What to do with a bowl of guacamole. A swamp, of course! And a mummy baked brie.

My actual Halloween pictures didn’t come out very well. No one has posted theirs yet, so I don’t have a picture of me in my person being eaten by a shark costume! If I see a picture of it, I’ll post it later. Unfortunately, it was really rainy all evening. That didn’t prevent everyone from enjoying the Haunted Forest, a walk my sister prepares through their path in the woods. I slogged down that trail four times that night, first trying to find my sister because I had promised to put out tea lights in the jack o’lanterns, then putting out the tea lights, then trying to find my sister again to tell her that my niece’s husband was putting out more pumpkins, and finally doing the walk after almost everyone else had gone through it (because I’d been looking for her and missed their departure). I was really wet!

That’s about it for this week. The week has been cold and rainy, and we have no hike today. This week we had to discuss whether Luke would finally graduate from puppy class. Our trainer suggested we keep all of the puppies together for one more class. She said we could move them up to the adult class, but she has only one puppy starting puppy class this month. All of our puppies are still a bit young for adult class (now there is one younger than Luke), so she suggested we stay in class one more month and then all move to adult class together. So, Luke is held back from graduating again! However, he is finally house trained. Our trainer’s talk about the conventional “wisdom” for house training did the trick. As soon as he started going into his crate when he had an accident, he shaped up. We have only had one accident since the first rough days when we started doing that, and that was because he rings the bell to go out incessantly every night. We get sick of taking him out, and so one time we didn’t take him out when we should have.

Yesterday, it cleared up for a while and the afternoon was nice, so I took him for a walk over to my niece’s house. Up until now, he has resisted passing the neighbor’s house and getting too far from what he thinks is our property. (He knows nothing about our pasture. We are still next to our property when he wants to turn around.) But the last week I’ve noticed he is acting a lot more grown up. Instead of trying to push past the gate and go back to bug Hillary every time someone goes through it to the back of the house, for example, he will sit and wait for us to come back. He is a lot less hyper, usually, at night, although last night he had to go to his crate to calm down. Except for trying to tease Hillary when he gets on the bed, he is becoming much less of a pain in the butt!



Indian summer gives way

Last week was beautiful, with warm sunny days and cold nights. We started using our wood stove in the mornings and some evenings. The leaves were turning. Yesterday, however, it was cold and overcast all day, and it rained all evening.

The fall color at June Lake. The waterfall is off to the right.

For our hike last Wednesday, my neighbor and I tried to go to Lava Canyon, which is at the end of the road up in the Mt. St. Helens area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. When we got to the point of the road where there was only Lava Canyon left, however, we were turned back by a ranger. He said they were doing a search and rescue in the area. I don’t remember hearing anything about it on the news, so they must have found the person. We drove a couple miles back down the road and took the June Lake trail, which I took with my family during the summer. It wasn’t as tough as I remembered, probably because I wasn’t trying to keep up with my family.

My sister and I skipped out of the Weight Watchers meeting to go to a nearby bookstore and look for ideas for paintings. We ended up buying a couple of scenic calendars, and I bought a book and a hat. My art teacher and I picked the subject of my next painting, a picture of Mt. St. Michel. My teacher warned me that it would take me a long time to paint this picture, but when I pointed out that in a year I had only painted three pictures, she nodded and said okay.

My great nephew with his gigantic sundae.

On the weekend, my husband and I attended my great nephew’s fifth birthday party, which was at a pizza restaurant. For dessert, we had these truly decadent frozen custard sundaes. Yes, I had one, too. I doubt if my weigh-in this week is going to be that great.

It looks like Lukey might be almost house trained. No accidents this week until last night, when it was raining. We would take him out and he would want to come right back in, tent notwithstanding. He had been ringing the bell incessantly, and then he stopped. Then just before we were ready to take him out before bedtime, he had both kinds of accidents.

Other than that, we have been preparing for my niece and sister’s annual Halloween bash. I haven’t done much of anything but line up the things I need to make my food contribution. I’ll take pictures and report next week. It’s a potluck, but the tradition is to bring spooky food. I think mine is going to be pretty cool. On Friday, I’m supposed to go over there and help carve pumpkins.

At art class I finished painting the first coat of my flowers, and now I am doing final touches on them and on the shadows in my painting.

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).┬áMy 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.

Some pictures from art class

My great niece with her picture of flowers in art class. I think it’s pretty good for a nine-year-old.

We took three pictures in art class last week, one of my great niece and her drawing of flowers. She took a lot of encouraging, but I think she did a good job. Her teacher told her she had a knack with the charcoal.

The other two were of my drawings. One was the finished castle that I mentioned last week. Half of the picture was its reflection in the water, and I was deeply unsatisfied with my rendering of it. But when I went back to class last week, it didn’t look that bad after all. I cleaned it up a bit and decided the drawing was finished.

My castle landscape

The next assignment was to do a still life. I wanted to try one, but after I got started, I don’t think either I or the teacher was very dedicated to it. I remember hearing our original art teacher tell people that she usually skipped that assignment, which she thought confused people because it had no relation to the method they used in the school for learning how to draw. I didn’t know how they were going to let me do a still life, as we sit in rather small spaces to draw, but it turned out that I was allowed to select some objects from the anteroom and they put me at a corner to draw so that I would have more room. The objects I could select from were fairly tacky, so I picked a glass vase and two seashells. I did not think I did such a great job, and my teacher really didn’t help me much. I wanted pointers on how to do the glass and all she said was “Make it streakier.” I remember getting lessons on painting glass in my oil painting class years ago, so I know there is a lot more she could have said.

My really pathetic still life

On the home front, I first went crazy buying bulbs. Ever since we arrived here, my intention was to plant bulbs in the fall so we would have flowers in the spring. But I was hoping to actually have flower beds by that time, which would have been easier. I went out to buy daffodils one day, to plant in the orchard, and I was fairly restrained, but they did not have a good selection. Then the next day, I went with my sister to the farm store, and they had a much better selection, so I got more daffodils, ranunculas, crocuses, and snowdrops. The next day I went out to find places to plant them. I planted some of the daffodils under a rim of sod behind the house and some under one of the apple trees in the orchard. But most of our ground was either rock under a thin layer of dirt or under sod. It was very hard trying to plant, and I didn’t get more done except that I planted the ranunculas at the bottom of the ridge between the blueberry bush and the bird feeder. Still haven’t done the crocuses, snowdrops, or about half the daffodils. But I don’t have to get them planted all at once.

On the weekend, I went on an outing with the kids. My niece, her husband, and their two children and I went to the Japanese nursery in Woodland and then to the pumpkin patch. I restrained myself at the nursery, only buying a partner walnut tree for the one we have in our orchard. My great niece talked her father into buying something called a jujube tree. He is a pushover, basically. Then we all went to the pumpkin patch. My niece needed lots of pumpkins to be jack o’lanterns for the spooky forest walk for my great nephew’s birthday party. So we filled up a wheelbarrow with pumpkins. Then the kids enjoyed the hay maze and the hay ride. Later we went to Fuel, a cafe we like in Ridgefield, and then home. A couple hours after arriving home, it was back to their house for our third Game of Thrones night.

This week I have spent finishing the housework for our guest’s arrival. The days were beautiful until yesterday afternoon, but now it is cold and drizzly. Poor timing, as our guest is coming from Houston and is originally from Louisiana, so she is used to warmer weather. I hope she doesn’t think its too cold here.

Today, our contractors are back to finish our sets of steps in the rain.

More of the same

This is the upper set of steps before being redone. As you can see, you can barely see that there are steps. You can see the edges of two of them at the top middle of the picture.

This week there’s not much to tell. We had a few days of rainy weather, but it really didn’t rain very much, and now it’s beautiful out again. We know that probably won’t last long, but right now it’s lovely, cold in the mornings and warm in the afternoon, sunny skies. The trees have begun to turn, mostly yellow, but there’s not enough movement yet in that direction to show another picture. Looks like our friend’s visit will be timed just right for fall color. My sister tells me that here the colors aren’t as pronounced as back east, but they are better than Texas, where you just get a suggestion of color change. Next week it will be almost exactly a year ago that we arrived here, and the colors in the Gorge were pretty gorgeous.

Here is where the steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. This is the longest set of steps. They wind toward the right of the picture and about halfway, they turn toward the left.

Our contractors came back for a day last week to begin working on our final project. We have two sets of steps that are very dangerous, one up to the ridge above our house and one down from the lower drive to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. We decided to have the guys put in steps like the ones they installed from the upper to lower drive, only half the width, because these stairs are more foresty. They put most of the steps in last Thursday but got called to another job on Friday, and then it began raining. They might put one more step in when they come back, and they have to install the railings. Anyway, I took some before pictures and have one of the mid-stage.

Here are the partially finished lower steps without the railing. Now the wind and length are much more obvious.

I skillfully avoided doing some of the more unpleasant housework (like bathrooms) the last two weeks so that it will be done right before our guest’s visit. Perfect timing.

In art class I am drawing a ruined castle beside a lake. The lake shore is about halfway down on the picture, so that the castle also appears upside down in its reflection. I didn’t have much of a problem drawing the castle, but the reflection is driving me nuts. I feel deeply unsatisfied with it.

We had our second Game of Thrones night last Friday and my husband signed on for a third, so maybe we have him hooked! Socially, nothing else is going on except that my niece is already signing people up for their spooky birthday party for my three-year-old great nephew, whose birthday is right before Halloween. I’ll be wearing a costume for the first time in 20 years. We ran into my great nephew’s other grandmother at the grocery store yesterday, and she told me that she was happy to have finally found her Spongebob Squarepants costume, so she can wear that for the party. It’ll be something to see this slim, tidy woman in a Spongebob Squarepants costume. I think I’ve been drafted to carve about a bazillion pumpkins.

Quite a deluge

This is a pitiful amount of hail, but it’s our first storm of the season.

The big news for this week is that we finally have rain! In fact, we got so much rain yesterday all at once that I stopped what I was doing to watch. It was really loud, and there turned out to be a small amount of hail. The hail was so small that at first I thought the water pouring down from our eaves troughs (which couldn’t keep up with the rain) was frothing. The picture makes it look pretty pitiful, but there was lots of it along the driveway.

In any case, it looks like we are quickly turning toward fall. From very hot temperatures two weeks ago, we went to lovely temperatures last week, and now it is quite cold. We had a fire in our fireplace all day yesterday, because the highs were in the 50’s. But this weekend is supposed to be beautiful. I am waiting for the color changes.

Some of our classical music CDs, double-stacked behind and on top

This week I put some more things away. I am finally down to boxes of decorative items and our CDs, which I finished over the weekend. We had 300 CDs in a changer and probably 200 more. Our changer broke, so I had to find places for all of those CDs. Some of them are double-stacked on the shelves.

I also sold a teapot on Etsy. Again, another fiasco with the shipping weight. At the last minute, I made the mistake of weighing the box on my food scale. Because the box is so much bigger than the scale, I had weighed the box and the packing material and then added the weight of the item for each one. But that morning I doubted myself and reweighed everything. The weight came out a pound more than I had calculated, so I added that to the package, but of course that meant the extra weight came out of my own pocket. When I got to the post office, I found that the original weight was correct. So, I paid an extra $3 for nothing. Worse, I went ahead and changed the weights of everything by a pound, thinking that the box must weigh more than I thought. Now, I’ll have to go back and reweigh all my items. Sigh.

That’s all for this week except we are excited because one of our friends from Houston is coming for a visit in October. We haven’t seen her since the Christmas before last, so we are really excited to have her come visit.

My landscape

I forgot that last week I finished my first landscape in art class. This is a drawing of a place somewhere in Utah. Although I don’t think our current art teacher is teaching us as much as our previous one, I think we’re planning to stay in the class. My sister keeps saying that she likes the time slot, and certainly if my great-niece continues with the class, this is the time we’ll have to go. My great-niece is, I think, enjoying the class more, but she gets frustrated if she can’t do everything perfectly the first time. It doesn’t help that we have kids her age or a little older in our class that have lots more art lessons than she has had. Since drawing this picture, I completed another exercise and already started another landscape.

Finally, the costume I ordered for Halloween doesn’t fit, so it’s back to the drawing board. I got a great mask, though, one of those Venetian ones with the pointy nose. Only I can’t wear my glasses when I have it on, which means I won’t be able to see. I have clearly not done Halloween in a long time.