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.

Let there be light

First, a miracle occurred! About a year and a half ago, the second fluorescent light in my closet started to go out. (The other one was out already.) When I mentioned that I needed new bulbs, Wayne suggested that we change out the fixture for LEDs, as they are more energy efficient and he has done that throughout the house. We soon bought a fixture for the closet, which we put under the dresser in the guest room. Time passed. My other bulb went from flickering a lot to being completely out, and since then I have been going into my closet with a  flashlight or just feeling around for things. I complained about it several months ago, and Wayne installed a camping lantern in my closet that was almost as bad as no light at all. My friend Christine suggested I go out and buy fluorescent bulbs and install them myself, but I kept forgetting to measure the fixture.

And lo and behold, yesterday Wayne brought a ladder in from the garage. I could hardly bear to hope, but yes, I now have a new light fixture in my closet! I only had to go a year without any light! For some reason he didn’t install it straight in the closet. It is at an angle to the wall. But beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll take it! It is very bright!

Lukey enjoying the new snow. He just loves playing in the snow. I shot a video of him playing but was unable to transfer it from my phone to my computer. I’m not sure my template supports video anyway, as it didn’t last time I tried to upload a video.

I have to admit to not having done very much the last week. We had a week where it snowed just about every day, and it was so nice to sit in front of the fire with a book that that’s about what I did. Of course, I continued to take Luke to class, and in my art class, I began painting my pigs. I went to tai chi again, this time with Maja, but we did not go for a hike.

And speaking of Luke, he is going through a stretch of naughtiness after being relatively well behaved for some time. The first thing he did was steal my bookmark off the coffee table and rip it to shreds. He hasn’t been taking things off the table, so I let my guard down. Next, he stole one of my socks out of the dirty laundry, but this time, at least, he didn’t tear it up. He just took it into his crate, and it missed its turn in the laundry, since I didn’t discover that he’d taken it until I finished the washing.

On Sunday morning, my only day to sleep in during the week, I tried to sleep a little later than Wayne and Luke. However, he stayed outside my bedroom door growling and scratching on the door, so I finally gave up and got up. I know I’m forgetting at least one more minor misbehavior, but now I’m at the big ones. On Saturday night, he vomited copiously into his bed. After I cleaned it up, I discovered why. He had gotten up on his hind legs and stolen the butter off the kitchen counter. Then he ate it, all the butter we had in the house, about a stick and a half. At least, I found the half stick on the floor, but it was covered in teeth marks, so I threw it out.

Finally, I took him out to the orchard Monday morning without his e-collar, and he ran straight into the road and across the street and did not come back when called. That’s a serious misbehavior, as he gets to go out without a leash around our property because he can be relied upon to come when called. Then he started down the road as if to call on his friend Rosie, but he came back and got dragged ignominiously home. He doesn’t really have it in him to actually run off as he prefers being around me. Nevertheless, I put his e-collar on him first thing in the morning ever since then.

This is just one bunch of the many mushrooms we saw along the path. I don’t think they are edible, more’s the pity, but they are certainly pretty.

Yesterday we went for the first regular hike since the holidays began, perhaps the first one since November, although I went out a couple of times with John and once with Lucie. It was me, Maja, and Nancy. We just went to Moulton Falls Park because it was supposed to rain, and it was raining by the time we turned back. We saw an area where they’d been cutting trees that was just loaded with mushrooms. As always, it was a beautiful walk.



Spring is sprung(ing)

Small signs of spring are appearing this week. My sister said her crocuses and snowdrops bloomed, so I went out in the orchard to look for mine. There were none, but there were some suspicious small holes where I planted them. I think a mole or raccoon must have eaten the bulbs. (Do moles eat bulbs? I know raccoons do, as years ago a raccoon dug up and ate every bulb I planted one winter back in Austin.)

Look closely and you can see some tiny daffodils. I don’t think these ones are supposed to get much bigger.

However, my daffodils are coming up. I planted some tiny ones along the edge of the basement level before the slope down to the septic field, and they had already bloomed. My larger daffodils, which I planted under the orchard trees, are showing the blades of their leaves.

Soon these nice green stems will be daffodils.

Down in the valley, though, spring is blooming ahead of us. Clumps of large daffodils wave in the breeze here and there, and the cherry trees are starting to bloom in gorgeous shades of pink and white.

We had three beautiful days in a row, warm and sunny, during which my husband and I both did some outside work. I went around with our wheelbarrow and picked up sticks that had fallen during the winter, and I also took the covers off the patio furniture. My husband put together a garden shed. I hope we’ll be putting together my raised beds on our next fine day, because soon will be time to plant. We will also need to build a fence around the garden, or the deer and rabbits will get everything.

Although the weather had returned to rain and gotten colder again, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more snow.

On Sunday, I was relaxing in the house when I heard a loud, reverberating bang that sounded like it was in the garage. I looked out in the garage but could see nothing wrong. Later, my husband came up from the basement and I asked him if he had heard it. He did not, but he was on the other side of the house, so it’s not surprising. He, too, looked in the garage and saw nothing.

Coincidentally, he had driven the car out of the garage earlier in the day when we were both working outside and not put it back, so he went out to move the car into the garage. When he hit the button to open the garage door, we heard a horrible grinding noise. It turned out that the spring to the garage door opener had snapped, and that was the noise I heard earlier. It’s a good thing he left the car out, because until the guy came to fix the door, two days later, it was impossible to open the garage door! We would have been stuck without a car to drive.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we were forced to find another doctor. You may remember that when we first moved here last year, it took me more than a month to find a doctor who would take us, between the Medicare and the type of secondary insurance we had. We really like our doctor here, but in January, our clinic announced it was closing. Our doctor was not able to find another local practice, so he was planning to work in urgent care for up to six months while he looked. Originally, we were told that we should be able to sign on with his coworker at the Salmon Creek branch of our clinic, which is about 1/2 hour away.

However, the Salmon Creek clinic decided it would not take any of our doctor’s patients, because our doctor had too high a load of Medicare patients. His assistant told us that the Fishers Landing clinic was accepting a small number of Medicare patients, so we called them immediately and got on there. Unfortunately, Fishers Landing is about an hour away. We like our new doctor, but the plan is to switch back to our original doctor when he gets settled in a new local clinic, provided they will take our insurance. We have an alternate, sneaky plan, too. Our new doctor has office hours in both Fishers Landing and Salmon Creek, the same clinic that refused all of our doctor’s patients. Once we get established with the new guy, I’m going to find out if we can see him at Salmon Creek. I don’t see how they can turn us down when we are already his patient. That will save us a lot of driving.

Last week my neighbor and I returned to Moulton Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River and walked about four miles. We were actually trying to find a path my neighbor thought linked the Moulton Falls park to the Lucia Falls park, but there was none. I think she just got confused by the confusing park map. We have still to walk the Lucia Falls loop, but it is very short, only a mile.

My niece told me about a trails app, which we will probably use today to decide where to go. So far, we are only doing easy trails, though, and it seems that most of them are very short. I suppose we could pick a short one and go around it more than once. The longer trails are the two we have done already. It doesn’t bother me to continue to walk the same trails—after all that is what I did in Austin, walk the same loop around Lady Bird Lake every morning for years—but my neighbor wants to branch out and eventually tackle harder trails.

This picture of pelmeni soup is from the recipe I used.

A few weeks ago, I reported that my Portland friend and I had done a tour of the Russian markets in Portland. I was fascinated by the different types of little frozen dumplings called pelmeni, but I was afraid to buy any because of the train trip and car ride home, a total of more than an hour’s time, during which I was sure they would melt. So, last week I visited our local Russian market and bought some a bag of lamb and a bag of cabbage pelmeni. I served the dumplings for one dinner, but my husband didn’t like them. However, I still had three pounds of dumplings, and I had noted references to soup, so I looked for a recipe. I ended up making a simple pelmeni soup, and it was delicious! My husband said he liked it much better than the dumplings by themselves, so I have gone farther and found recipes in my Russian cookbooks.

As I finished my painting in art class last week and brought it home this week, it is time to start another one. This new painting will be a landscape of the Oregon coast. I am a little trepidatious about it, as it is a complex landscape. I had been picking out simpler landscape photos to copy, but I selected this one because I had been there. My teacher picked it because she loves the Oregon coast, but she says it will be easier to paint than I think. In my art class, we draw the picture on tracing paper and then trace it onto our canvases or paper. This method makes our pictures neater, because the erasures are not on our canvas or paper. I got my picture drawn, but it turned out I had the carbon paper backward (it is quite worn, and it’s hard to tell which side is up), despite my neighbor in class and I checking to see it was right! Oops! I will start from there next week!