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.

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.



Anticipation (of both people and the holidays)

My sister-in-law Lucie earlier in their journey, at Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico

I sort of worked myself up into a false alarm last weekend. We had messages from my brother John that they had started the drive north from Los Angeles. We got pictures from them of Morro Bay and Carmel. So, when I didn’t hear from them after that, I thought that maybe they were arriving during the weekend. We got the house all ready, but when I finally broke down and asked where they were, they were still in Carmel and heading for Livermore to see our cousin Paul. They estimate they’ll be here shortly before Christmas, perhaps on Sunday.

On Friday, we left Lukey in the doggie hoosegow and went to Christine’s. We couldn’t take Luke because Christine’s dog, Duchess, whom he usually plays with, had injured herself again. Christine was having difficulties accessing Netflix from either her TV or computer. First, Wayne looked at her computer and after some time decided that her keyboard wasn’t working anymore. Her husband had all kinds of dongles and things attached to the computer, so it was difficult to tell what was going on. The keyboard was wireless, so we tried replacing the batteries and restarting, to no avail. The TV was easier to fix. The modem just needed to be restarted. Wayne took her one of our extra keyboards on Saturday, and now she’s all set.

On Saturday, Deb and I had our last tickets at Magenta Theater, and I don’t think we’ll be going there again. Overall, our experiences have been underwhelming. This time it was Miracle on 34th Street, and the first act was really, really slow. This is one of my all-time favorite holiday movies (the old version, of course), so I felt like it was being wrecked. Lots of lines were flubbed. There were some cute characters, but the worst idea was that they tried to update it but still left in some of the parts that are really out of date. You can’t update this script, because you can no longer have someone committed against their will unless they are criminally dangerous, and the supposed psychological tests are just ridiculous. (Touch your nose with your fingers, who’s the first president of the United States?) So, they would have done better to have it be a period piece. At least the second act went a lot faster and was quite a bit better, but then the play ended somewhat abruptly, and they left off the last line, where Fred says something like “I guess I’m not as good a lawyer as I thought.”

The fun part was going for Thai food afterwards, and I always have a good time with Deb.

The play got me in the mood, though, to watch the good movie. Much to my surprise, no one was showing it on TV unless we wanted to pay for it. I found this shocking, since almost every year it is on AMC or TCM. It wasn’t even available streaming on Netflix. I am considering buying it, but it won’t get here before Christmas. I have it somewhere on videotape, but we don’t even have our VCR hooked up anymore. (Wayne would prefer to dig up the tape and hook up the VCR, which he might get around to by next Christmas, rather than me buying it from Amazon for $6.95.)

That’s about all of interest that’s going on this week. I got the lights on my little tree at the top of the slope on one of the few days before it starts raining again. It’s clear this morning, but it’s supposed to start raining very hard around noontime. Of course, since Christmas is next week, we would like it to snow soon. A snowflake keeps going in and out of the ten-day forecast, but right now, it’s on the day after Christmas. That would be better than nothing.

The next week will be fraught with activity. On Friday, Lukey is getting his holiday grooming done and I am picking up cookies for Enzo’s holiday puppy party, which Mischa has asked to attend with me on Saturday. The cookies are for the humans, though. Katrina has designated Sunday as “baking day,” and expects me to go over and help decorate a cake and possibly frost Christmas cookies. She was going to do a buche de Noël, but decided it might be best to bake a regular cake the first time and decorate it with mushrooms, etc. Apparently, rolling the cake without breaking it is the hard part. If John and Lucie arrive while we’re baking, they’ll just have to pitch in.

A few more things finished

The good news is that Wayne more or less finished working on the closet. He says there are parts he would like to redo, but for now, it is usable. We aren’t hiking today, so I’ll put Luke in his crate (also known as the doggy hoosegow) and go down and clean up that room, change the bed, and clean the bathroom, and we’ll be ready for John and Lucie (except for cleaning the house better). The last time I heard from them, a few days ago, they were still in New Mexico. I imagine they want to visit friends in Los Angeles, so I think they aren’t going to get here by mid-December as they originally projected.

Earlier this week, I also put up my outside lights except for the little Christmas tree at the top of our ridge, which depends on Wayne running an extension cord up the hill. It’s raining for the next few days, so we probably won’t be doing that, but also I wanted Wayne to concentrate on the closet.

On Saturday, Lukey got his Canine Good Citizen certification. He was supposed to test this coming Saturday at 8:15 AM, but when Karen said she had some spots after class, I decided to bite the bullet and try it so that we didn’t have to get up so early. Luckily, I wasn’t expected to pick up Mischa that day. I was most concerned about his heeling, which he still sometimes pulls at, because they have to do it without any tools except a leash and a flat collar. But he not only passed, he passed with flying colors, Karen said.

On Saturday evening, my brother Mark invited us over unexpectedly for dinner. At first I was inclined to decline, but he got me with prime rib. Wayne told me he was too tired to come, as he had spent all day on the closet. While I was there, I was telling them what Wayne was working on, and when Nancy realized that John and Lucie are going to be staying with us a while, she implied that they would be cadging off us. She also gave me one of her pep talks that are supposed to be encouraging about how she had to teach herself to be more sociable because of work. I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably something I had no interest in doing because I am not very outgoing, but it’s like she thinks I didn’t work for 30 years. I was perfectly sociable at work. That doesn’t mean I want to subject myself to certain things when I am no longer working.

On Monday I saw the other Nancy, pack walk Nancy, for the first time in weeks. We took our dogs for a walk and stopped for coffee. It was nice to see her again. Unfortunately, Christine and Duchess had another engagement.

That’s about it for this week and no pictures. I am sorry I didn’t get Karen to send the picture she took of Luke with his blue ribbon.


Working toward the holidays

This last week, Wayne and I did some preparation for the holidays. We shopped at World Market for stocking stuffers and went to the alpaca store to buy alpaca socks. I have presents for Wayne, my friends, and Mischa, but I still need to find things for two nieces, a nephew, a great nephew, and a second cousin, all kids. That reminds me that I need to find out how old the second cousin is.

A view across the marsh in the wildlife refuge

On Wednesday, Maja was still feeling a little under the weather, so we chose an easy place to hike, the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail in Washougal. This trail is in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful sunny day following several cold, rainy ones, and it was nice to see all the birds and one big fat nutria who couldn’t be bothered to leave the path. We had to walk around him. We just missed seeing an eagle. We were looking at a bird of prey scaring the water birds in the marsh and asked a guy with a large camera lens if he had seen it. He said no, he was looking at the eagle, which had just flown away. The path intersects with the Columbia River Dike Trail, so we spent a while on that. Nice day to walk along the river.

On Thursday, Wayne and I did our Thanksgiving shopping, or maybe we should say non-Thanksgiving. On Sunday afternoon, our family is having a non-Thanksgiving dinner that just happens to include turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Since we moved out here, we’ve only had a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday once, and that was because our family was out of town. My sister always works on Thanksgiving, and some of us are too politically correct to observe Thanksgiving. My niece always says it’s a stupid time to have a harvest festival and she observes hers at the autumn equinox. I haven’t broken to her yet that it’s not a harvest festival. Anyway, we are hosting our non-Thanksgiving dinner, so we bought a turkey and things for stuffing and my grandmother’s scalloped oyster recipe. I made sure there were going to be mashed potatoes and pies, and other than that, I’m not keeping track of who’s bringing what. This didn’t sit well with sister-in-law Nancy, who persisted in trying to make me tell her what to bring. Finally, she said she’d bring green beans, and I said fine.

On Friday I stopped into Bi-Zi Farms, a nice produce stand where I often shop, to see what they had. I was thrilled to see that they were setting up to sell Christmas trees, because last year we had a hard time finding a lot. We only found one in Battle Ground after driving all up and down the highway, which used to be lined with them. That lot had a choice of only a few trees of the size and type we like, and I have to admit that last year’s tree was quite scruffy but expensive. Bi-Zi Farms told me they would be selling trees the next day, so Wayne and I decided to go there after dog class to make sure we had a good choice, even though it’s quite early for us to put up a tree. I made arrangements with Mischa to help me decorate, as a week or so ago she told me that was her favorite part of last Christmas (a bit of an exaggeration, I’m guessing). However, when we came by on Saturday, they weren’t set up yet. They told me they still didn’t have prices from the owners.

If you look closely at the middle of this photo, you can see the heron we saw in the turtle pond at Salmon Creek Park. He’s sitting on the branch sticking out of the water.

On Monday, the pack walk devolved to me and Christine (and Luke and Duchess), so we decided to go somewhere else for a change. We drove to Salmon Creek Park, where Christine had never been, and had a good walk of about 3.5 miles.

On the way back, we passed by Bi-Zi Farms and saw they were set up to sell trees, so in the afternoon, Wayne and I went to Home Depot and then to buy our tree. We usually buy a big one, but this year, we had a choice of several really tall trees that looked a bit scruffy or a really nice seven footer. They told us the taller trees were not shaped as they grew. I sort of liked one of the nine-foot trees, but Wayne pointed out that it didn’t have very many branches for ornaments. So, we picked a seven-footer. It’s probably the shortest tree we’ve had in ten years, but it is also very pretty. I won’t need a ladder this year at all. We put it up Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, snow was forecast for  1,000 feet, which is where we are, although the weather seemed to be going more toward the south of us. We were excited to see if we’d get some snow; however, the storm did go just to the south of us, and we got nothing but wind and colder weather. My sister Sue says we always get a big storm right at Thanksgiving. I guess this was it, but if so, it didn’t do anything to us.

Last night, Sue and I went to see the movie about Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Two movies in two weeks, amazing! It is seldom that the little theater in Battle Ground has any movies for anyone older than 14. My sister was going to invite Mischa, but I told her I didn’t think it was a kid’s movie. I was right. It was a very touching and sweet movie, though, about a guy who is assigned to write a story about Mr. Rogers. You can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks, anyway.

My brother John has messaged us that he has the okay from his doctor to leave town. He and his wife Lucie have already emptied out their house in Madison and closing is today. They had originally decided to leave on Wednesday immediately after closing, but because of the storm in the Midwest, they are leaving Friday, heading for Taos, New Mexico. Eventually, they will come to our house to stay until they figure out where they want to live, somewhere in this area. We are all really excited. For their long-term stay, Wayne has started on a project to extend the hanging capacity of the guestroom closet, which only has a four-foot wire rack in it. The closet itself is huge, 12 feet wide. We’re going to extend the wire shelving to stretch across the whole thing, at least I hope that’s going to be the case. With Wayne it’s hard to know how quickly he’ll accomplish a task, or even if he will.


Heading toward winter?

Some nice light coming down the lower drive this morning. Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t show the mountains or clouds in the background.

We have been trying to figure out what kind of winter we’ll have this year. Usually about this time of year our houses are full of soldier beetles. They don’t do any harm, they’re just annoying. I don’t know how many times one has dropped on my head late at night when I’m in my office. They hang about on the doors and get in when they get a chance. However, this fall we have seen none of them. We also haven’t seen any woolly caterpillars. One year, my sister said, they had so many of them that they had to be careful crossing the lawn. We thought their number meant something about winter, but the only folklore I can find online is about their color not number.

In any case, snow is predicted for the night before Thanksgiving at 2,000 feet. Sue thinks that means we’ll have a humdinger of a storm that night, which she says happens every year at Thanksgiving. If it does, I haven’t put that together in my head, but I’ve only been here three years.

Right now, we’re having a fairly normal fall, sunny days intermingled with rainy ones. Today the highs are supposed to be in the 50’s. That’s a lot better weather than our brother John, for example, is having in Madison.

This week has been a normal one, except that Maja didn’t feel well enough to hike last Wednesday, so we went out to lunch instead. It was nice to catch up. Otherwise, it was back to puppy classes and puppy play and all of my usual activities. On Friday, Christine and I went for a walk on the WSU campus with our dogs, but Christine thought Duchess was favoring the leg she hurt, so we cut it short and just went over to her house for a visit.

Yesterday my sister Sue and I went to the movies. We went to see Last Christmas, which I was hoping might become an alternative Christmas movie to the one I have been watching every year for years, Love, Actually. It was a cute movie, but it didn’t really make the grade as something I’d like to see again. The situation seemed too contrived, and the dialogue wasn’t as good as I hoped, but the ending made it a slightly better movie.

Next week, with the holidays, there should be more to report.

A more ordinary week

This week, Nancy asked if we wanted to go on a six-mile, moderate hike in Yacolt Burn, but I told her we had decided to do something super easy because I was recovering from being sick. Maja had already planned a harder hike with her on Tuesday. But Maja ended up getting sick, so she cancelled that hike and our Wednesday hike. Wayne had been supposed to take Luke to the groomer while I was hiking, but since I wasn’t hiking and Wayne was having back problems, I took Luke to the groomers. He looks very pretty now.

On Thursday, we had our people training for using Luke’s e-collar. It was amazing. One of the things Luke always does on the leash, even with a prong collar, is pull as hard as he can, despite me using the correction with the collar (a short jerk). I spent most of the time after learning about the controls walking around with Luke on his leash. He walked right next to me and didn’t pull on the leash at all. The only problem with this is that he seems to think he only has to do that at Enzo’s, so yesterday I took him down the road on his leash, and he did very well. I will have to do more practicing.

It was my birthday on Friday, and Wayne gave me a backup device (yippee! not!) and a nice Aran cardigan. The only reason I got a nice sweater was that I circled it in the catalog along with the color and size. I haven’t worn it yet, because I want to make sure that Luke has completely stopped jumping on me first. He would have it in snags in no time.

That day, I went over to Christine’s and we walked our dogs and had coffee. I always enjoy visiting Christine. She gave me a little jam container that I can use for tea parties.

My only birthday requirement is not to have to cook dinner, so we tried out a Szechuan restaurant in Vancouver that was opened by some Portland restaurateurs. I had the personal hotpot with lamb and broccoli added (it comes with tofu and leeks, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and wood ear) and for an appetizer, the Szechuan wontons in special sauce, which looked delicious in the picture on the menu. The hotpot was hot without having much other flavor. The sauce needed something. However, the wontons were fabulous. I ended up dumping some of my special sauce into the hotpot, which improved it. We will go there again, because Wayne’s food was also good, and good Chinese restaurants are few and far between here in Battle Ground and Vancouver. In fact, the ones we have been to in Battle Ground are horrible, and before this one we only found one mediocre one and one bad one in Vancouver.

Luke did much better in his Saturday class with the e-collar on.

On Sunday, my niece and her family and my sister took us to Portland for a birthday dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Yum! I am sure I gained five pounds, but I haven’t checked because there was no Weight Watchers meeting on Monday. After we stuffed ourselves to the gills with Ethiopian food, we went to Powell’s for about 45 minutes before taking ourselves off to Salt and Straw, Portland’s decadent ice cream parlor. Weight Watchers just went out the window. Several of our party tried an a salted caramel ice cream with bits of crispy turkey fat in it. It was really good, even though it sounds horrible. I just stuck to plain salted caramel.

That’s really about all of note for this week except that on my birthday, I also heard from my brother Steve, who lives in Seattle. He said that our cousin Amy, whom he had briefly visited when he took his oldest daughter down to school in L. A., was coming up for Christmas. I haven’t seen my cousin Amy since she was a little girl and I was in college. She lives in Spain, where she is a French hornist in an orchestra. She married an Icelandic man, Petúr, who was also in the orchestra. Sadly, her husband died last year, still young. She was invited to L. A. by a friend whose husband also recently died. So, she’ll be coming to visit Steve and co., and then they will bring her down here, along with her youngest son. Or, since Steve’s family is very disorganized, she may come here and they will come down later. My brother John and his wife Lucie know her, and they will be here, so it won’t matter which way it happens.

Finally, we’re started planning a non-Thanksgiving dinner for the Sunday after the holiday. I am hosting. We’ll see how everything works out.