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.

Heat and relatives

I’m a little late with my post today because my youngest brother and his family just left after a short visit. As is usual with them, this was a visit fraught with drama because of the uncertainty of when they would actually arrive. Last week, they couldn’t decide whether to come New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Then by Saturday, they had decided on New Year’s Day until they learned that my niece’s kids had to start school today, so they changed it to this Friday. Then my niece told them that her Friday night and Saturday were booked, and my sister told them that she had to work both Friday and Saturday night, so they changed their arrival date back to New Year’s Day. On Monday, New Year’s Eve, I was just heading out to the store to make sure we had food for their visit when my sister-in-law called and told me they had decided to come that day, and they would be here in about five hours. So, I went to my niece’s house to let them know and do a little planning. Then I went to the store, which was packed with people. Then I came home and began changing the beds and cleaning bathrooms. They didn’t actually arrive around five like they told us, but closer to six thirty. It is always nice to see them, but we go through something like this every time because they can’t make up their minds what they are going to do.

My beautiful niece, Áine, with her silly New Year headgear on. Unfortunately you can’t see that it lights up.

So, we had a New Year’s Eve party at our house. My niece and sister brought over almost a complete taco dinner. All I had to make was guacamole. With the two families and me and Wayne, we had 12 people in the house, which for us is a lot of people, since for years we have been alone on New Year’s Eve. Since we knew not everyone would make it to midnight, we toasted the New Year in at 9 PM, midnight New York time. After we all sang Auld Lang Syne, Søren, my five-year-old great nephew said, “So, where’s the toast?” This remark became an instant family classic.

We spent the rest of the evening playing silly games, and we watched a movie. My brother has friends who are in the Motion Picture Academy, so they brought along a bag full of the submissions for this year’s Academy Awards. I was surprised to find that I had already seen about five of them, because usually the past few years I am lucky to have seen one. We watched Green Book, which was very good. They left a couple of the movies with us that they don’t have to return to their friends, and my sister took the rest, so we will be trading them around. I have the one about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the one about Laurel and Hardy.

This has been a week for movies, because this Sunday I went to see Mary Poppins Returns with my sister and my niece’s children. They all loved it. I had mixed feelings. This movie purposefully evokes the original movie, even playing themes from it in the background and having the cartoon penguins in it again, and so on. The two stars are very talented, and Lin Manuel Miranda has the cutest smile. However, as far as the format of the movie went, I felt it wasn’t very original. The Banks children were now adults, and the movie was about Michael’s children. There was one animated scene, just like in the original movie. There was a bunch of dancing lamplighters instead of a bunch of dancing chimney sweeps. There was a woman who went topsy turvey instead of a man who floated when he laughed. There was a balloon saleslady instead of a birdseed seller, and there was drama at the bank. It is a completely enjoyable movie, but it was too much like the original one for me. And, I don’t think it had any memorable songs. My sister and brothers and I can still sing all of the songs from the original movie, which came out when I was in middle school.

Doggy pals Sage and Luke on a break from romping. She looks smaller than him, but that’s just the perspective of the shot. She is actually bigger.

The family stayed until this afternoon, when they were on their way to visit friends in Oregon. Lukey was in seventh heaven the whole time because of the kids and their dog, Sage. We were disappointed to miss a mini pack walk this week because my family was here, but Luke got to run around with Sage for two days. He was a bit taken aback at her arrival on New Year’s Eve, and we had to keep them separate. But by the next day, they seemed to be getting along just fine after a few minutes. Sage, in fact, had to correct his puppy behavior a few times. She’s a grown dog, and she wasn’t putting up with his puppy foolishness.

When the heating guy came out last Thursday, he explained to us that when the heat exchanger gets iced up, it defrosts. That was why Wayne saw it steaming. It was just doing what it was supposed to do, and if we had just turned up the thermostat to a normal temperature, we would have saved ourselves almost a week of shivering. Then on Friday morning, the chimney sweep came out, so now we are back to being toasty, which was good, since we had guests.

Aside from having the family here, nothing particularly interesting has gone on this week. Most activities were cancelled except art class. I did a double, finished my sky and made a good start on my castle or cathedral or whatever Mt. St. Michel is.

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and a pleasant start to the new year!

First post of the new year

I am late posting today because we planned to go out earlyish to do a Costco run. My husband went back to bed at about 6 (he wakes up in the middle of the night and then sleeps again in the morning), though, and when I got up he was fairly unresponsive. So, I sat down and wrote up a book review of the book I finished reading last night for my other blog (review coming in a few months), and after a while, my husband got up. So, we went later than usual.

Oddly enough, the Costco here is packed at all times. We have found that they open it early, so if we get there before 10, we can go right in and it’s not as crowded. (That was our plan, but it didn’t work out.) I can’t really figure out why it is so full compared to the ones in Austin. My sister said because it is the only one serving a large area, but Vancouver isn’t nearly as big a town as Austin, even if you count the population of the small towns and countryside around it, and Austin had two Costcos serving more than a million people. So, population much more dense. The Vancouver store isn’t serving Portland, either, because they have two in Portland. My guess is that more people use Costco around here than in Austin, because the number of people with very large families is high (see my article concerning the Old Apostolic Lutherans in the area).  In our grocery store, for example, most of the meat is packaged for large families to accommodate them. So, I guess the OAL families are buying in bulk at Costco, too. I can think of lots of people I knew in Austin who said they didn’t shop at Costco because they didn’t have a large enough family.

That leads me to the big New Year’s Day sale they have around here. Last year when I saw it the first time, it really cracked me up. Every New Year’s Day, Fred Meyer, which is the local grocery store, has a sock sale. Yes, socks. It is packed. You don’t want to go anywhere near the Fred Meyer in Battle Ground on the day of the sock sale. I’m guessing that no one in the area buys socks any other day of the year. There are huge traffic jams on the two highways that run next to the store. This year, they completely rerouted the traffic going into and out of the store, and they finished it in time for the sale. I’m sure they had that goal in mind.

I really don’t have much news today. I am thinking about when to take down the Christmas tree. I’ve reflected that I no longer have to get it down on New Year’s weekend, which always seemed too early to me (although I know of people who take theirs down the day after Christmas), but was the weekend while I was working when I had enough time and was still able to make the deadline for when the city would pick up the tree. Of course, out here, we can get a permit to dispose of our tree, but last year we just cut it in half and threw it into the woods to decompose. It provides the birds a place to hide. So, maybe I’ll start this week, but it’s a relief not to have to be in a hurry. On the other hand, I remember that when  I was a kid, our family left our tree up sometimes until almost the end of January, and the whole time its needles were falling off onto the floor. Don’t want to wait that long.

On New Year’s Day we didn’t do anything except have a nice dinner, this year artichokes and lamb chops encrusted with garlic, herbs de Provence, and pepper. Long gone are the times when we had something to do on New Year’s Eve (although of course we did last year, because my brother came down from Seattle). As usual, we didn’t even make it up until midnight. On New Year’s Day, though, our neighbor stopped by with a tin of Christmas cookies. She is the neighbor I talked to about going walking sometime. We had left it that she would call me when her infected toe improved, but apparently she forgot that, because when we talked about it the other day, she said she thought she’d offended me because she hadn’t heard from me. (Actually, I asked her one day if she wanted to go to the Japanese greenhouse, so I guess she forgot that.) I thought I’d offended her because I didn’t hear from her. So, we were at cross purposes, and we’ll try again. Right now, she says she is a little depressed, so I’m waiting again to hear from her. But this time I will call her in about a week to see if she feels better. In any case, I’ve been much better about my own walking, most days managing a walk down to the end of the road and back. Just a mile, but it’s all the farther we can walk around here without getting killed trying to walk on the main road. If the neighbor and I go, we will drive to a nearby park and walk there.

I also helped my husband move a bunch of firewood from our driveway into a shed roof thing we have on our property. The problem with that is that I have wanted that thing removed ever since we moved here so that I can put raised beds there for gardening. It’s the only place near the house that gets full sun. So, if my niece and her husband ever make it over here to help us take it down, it’s going to be loaded with firewood and other things. (This is what happens when you live with a hoarder. He fills everything up.)

We thought my brother and his family were coming down sometime last week, but when I called him, they weren’t planning to come. They said we’d see them in the spring. They only live about three hours away in Seattle (well, it’s usually more like four or five hours, the traffic being so bad), so we should go visit them sometime. I don’t think my husband wants to drive in the traffic. Maybe my Portland friend would be interested in taking a day trip sometime.

We also heard from a friend in Houston. She said she wanted to see how we were doing in the cold. Well, I hated to tell her, but lately it’s been colder in Houston than it has been here. There is a high pressure system sitting on top of the Pacific Northwest, and it’s been there ever since winter started. It’s kept us warmer than usual, which was why we had our snow so late and it went away so fast. Just about the entire rest of the country is freezing its butt off (including in Michigan, where another friend had to drive home from Christmas at her daughter’s house through a blizzard), but here it’s in the 40’s and even the 50’s during the day. Maybe we’ll get some more real winter later. At least we had our Christmas snow!

No pictures for you today, but speaking of pictures, last night in art class I learned how to make a glaze. I showed you the painting I am working on, just the purple background around what is going to be a bird, a couple of weeks ago. Last night, we made this brownish gray glaze and painted over the background, darkening it and lightening it in places. The color is really beautiful. I guess next week I get to start working on my bird.

New Year in Washington

snow-lights
Snow on New Year’s Day

We have had an eventful holiday season, our first with family for several years. We spent Christmas Eve with my sister and my niece and her family. I made an English trifle dessert, my sister cooked ham, and my niece made veggies and salad. We had dinner, then later we all decorated Christmas cookies, even the three-year-old. We finished up with the kids opening a few presents. It was a lovely evening.

My husband and I spent Christmas day by ourselves as we usually do, just opening our presents and having a quiet dinner. So, that was nice, too.

Then we more or less went back to normal for the rest of the week, having no plans for New Year’s Eve. Well, we didn’t think we had plans, but then my youngest brother let my sister know that he and his family would be driving down from Seattle on New Year’s Eve. That morning, my husband and I had some errands in town, so we picked up a few things for the ravening hoards to eat, as we didn’t know the plans. There turned out not really to be any. We took all our food over to my niece’s house later in the day, and my brother and his family arrived in the late afternoon.

It began snowing shortly before they arrived, snowed all evening, and most of the next day. By morning, when I took the picture above, we had about four inches of snow. All in all, I think we got about six or seven. It was lovely stuff, soft and sticky. Later in the day, it got sunny for a while, so the snow was sparkling on the branches.

My brother and his wife ditched their kids the first night, so they were the first to inaugurate our new guest suite, which isn’t totally put together yet (the doors are off all the rooms) but is good enough since they were downstairs and we were upstairs. Coming back from my niece’s house around midnight, we weren’t sure we were going to make it up our steep driveway, and we had to make several attempts, so my brother started putting his chains on his tires around 1 AM after seeing the house and visiting for a while. We all (except my husband) stayed up until 3 AM, something I am no longer used to. My husband and I were up earlyish the next day, but they were not. A good time was had by all, at least until the next morning.

We woke to lots of beautiful snow. The kids stayed out almost all afternoon building snow men and snow igloos, having snowball fights, and sledding. The adults went in and out. I hit my nephew with a few snowballs, but unfortunately my choice was between warm but slippery Uggs or my waterproof, nonslip, but not that warm muck boots. I chose the muck boots and had to go inside after a while, so I sat by the fire with my sister.

The second night, my brother’s entire family came to stay. They can be quite the active group, so I was a little worried, but actually they were great. The kids got their Christmas presents from us, and then we all watched an old movie on TV and had popcorn. Later, my sister-in-law and her oldest daughter and I stayed up talking until about midnight, but everyone else went to bed when the movie was over.

It was such a nice holiday. My husband and I, as I keep saying, haven’t living among family for years, my husband since he moved down to Texas to be with me, and me since the 1980’s. So far, our nearness to our family has been perfect. We get support and company without anyone feeling like we’re imposing on them.

Happy New Year to you all.