Another finished painting

My starfish painting, or at least most of it. I can see that my photo cuts off the two sides just a little bit.

It’s a good thing I didn’t submit information on my starfish painting for the art show (we had to submit it two weeks ago), because my entry has to be at the library, framed, by Thursday afternoon, and I just finished my starfish painting last Thursday. My instructor told me to give it two weeks to dry before trying to take it home. So, deciding to submit my Mont St. Michel painting was the right thing to do. My starfish painting came out really good, by far the best thing I’ve painted so far. I know exactly where it is going to go, in the bathroom. I don’t really think I know what I’m doing yet, but this is the first painting that I’ve thought was good (for me). I especially like the reef at the top left and the rock under the starfish.

On Thursday, we will be dropping my painting and Sue’s at the library, and next Tuesday they are to be picked up. The show is for First Friday, when downtown Vancouver opens its art galleries and the library generally features something, but I guess the pictures will be up all weekend. We probably can’t pick up the pictures on Tuesday, because Wayne has a colonoscopy scheduled that day, although they have yet to tell us when he’s supposed to be there. It’s very different from how we scheduled them in Austin. They’re not going to tell him until Friday or Monday (they said two days before, but that would be Sunday).

My great-nephew started taekwondo last week. He’s five and is very excited about it. I was supposed to take both him and his sister to class last Saturday, but my niece told me later on that she had forgotten they had tickets to something in Portland. Next Saturday is a cultural event in Ridgefield, where Mischa is supposed to be part of a demonstration, so no taekwondo then either.

Luke’s dog classes start back up regularly this week on Saturday at the same time as taekwondo. This means that I am not there to watch the kids. We just drop them off and Wayne picks them up while I am in class. Dog class is only one day a week this fall with extra pack walks on Monday nights at various places. I have already explained my problem with these walks. She never posts the information in time for us to go. And I can’t go on the Saturday pack walks because of having to take the kids home from their class.

As for our mini pack walks, Christine and Duchess are still out for the count, but this week I met Nancy (not my sister-in-law but pack walk Nancy) and Lola for a walk. Lola is a little Havanese, and they have been busy most of the summer. We went up to a coffee place and ordered coffee, which gave us a chance to catch up. Nancy’s daughter is near to having her first baby, so she was very excited.

No hike last week, but this week Autumn, who goes with us occasionally, has suggested Beacon Rock. I will give it a try. It is straight up, but at least it’s a short hike and not too big of an elevation change. I hate straight up, though.  At least the days are trending toward being cooler. For a while there, it was fairly hot for hiking.

My niece tells me that she tried twice calling the number to check on the wild bird we found, but no one answered, and then she forgot. Unfortunately, I gave her the information, so I can’t check on the bird.

I took Luke in for his shots on Friday and talked to the vet about his peeing and his rash. They gave us an antihistamine and some steroid spray for him. He is much better and doesn’t itch  most of the time. His tummy has healed right up. They aren’t sure what is causing the peeing but think it isn’t associated with his neutering procedure, although it certainly started up then. He seems to do it most often either when we spray his tummy, which he hates, or when I come home after an absence, at which time he is very excited. I think perhaps that Wayne doesn’t see he is out often enough when I am gone, or at least doesn’t go out with him as often as I do. As for the spraying, we have found that if we do it right after he goes out for the morning, he doesn’t have an accident.

Yesterday the chimney sweep came, so this year we hope to have no chimney fires! Wayne made an appointment for next year but unfortunately didn’t write it down, so I have no idea when it is. I’ll have to call them. It’s “same time next year,” but does that mean the 2nd of September or the day after Labor Day? This time, we scheduled it for the day after Labor Day.

I haven’t sighted the otter since he had that big fight. I hope he didn’t leave our pond. I did see a deer yesterday morning on the way to Puppy Play, right in a spot where I’ve seen one several other mornings at about the same time.



Last Wednesday, I was getting ready for our hike. Maja had told me she was bringing along a friend, so I was taking bags out of the back seat of the car. (We have enough grocery bags back there to get food for an army.) Then I noticed that there was about a quarter bucket of dirt in the back seat. I have no idea how that got there. So, I went around the car to get the brush out. As I returned around to the other side, my phone dinged from inside the car, and I thought I should look at the message to see if Maja was telling me that they weren’t ready yet. In any case, on the way over, I stepped wrongly on the edge of the asphalt driveway and fell flat on my face. My husband had to come out of the house and get me a chair before I could get up. By the way, the phone message was just something unimportant, like a “Yes” from Maja.

Here’s the path we walked on our Wednesday hike. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but almost all of the return was uphill.

I went on the hike anyway, even though my right foot and left hand were hurting. We went about four miles on the Bells Mountain Trail to Cedar Creek, a hike we hadn’t taken before, out in the Yacolt Burn. My foot hurt all the way, but not too badly. Then when I took Maja and Autumn back to Maja’s house, I had been driving and I had to get out of the car. I don’t think they even noticed, because they were talking to each other, but after my foot was rested a bit from driving, I could hardly walk!

I went home, and Luke was so excited to see me that he wouldn’t leave me alone. The result was that after I got my foot out of my hiking boot (no mean feat), he kept stepping on my foot. It didn’t seem to be swollen, but it had a red mark on top of it and it hurt like crazy. I ended up going back to bed, just to be able to keep it up and not have to deal with Luke.

By the next day, I was hobbling, but it was better. However, my hand, on which I had landed, hurt so much that I couldn’t do very much with it, not even work the pump for the liquid soap. I was surprised, too, to find how often I use my left hand. It was slightly swollen, too.

My foot was fine by Saturday, but my hand still hurts today, although it gets better every day. I skipped Luke’s Saturday class, however, because you do all the work with the leash in your left hand. The right hand holds the leash but doesn’t do much. Monday, there was no class, but I went over to my friend Christine’s for our mini pack walk. Three of us were there, and after the walk around her neighborhood, we sat on her back patio and had coffee and cake while the puppies romped. Well, Lola, Nancy’s little Havanese, felt more comfortable under her chair, while Duchess, Christine’s small poodle, alternated between running around in circles in the garden with Luke and getting up on a chair so she could dominate him.

Here’s Luke on Christine’s lawn, Memorial Day, 2019. You can tell this isn’t our lawn, because it actually has grass and nothing but grass.

By the way, for those who are wondering what Luke looks like these days, Christine took some really nice pictures of him, better than any of the ones we have. He is looking quite handsome these days, and is sometimes acting more grown up.

We had a return on Friday night of our poltergeists. They hadn’t visited us since the winter, but always on Friday nights. Last week, kids were shining flashlights into our living room window after dark. It could tell it wasn’t an accident while they were running around the woods with flashlights. They were definitely shining them in our window. Then, this last Friday night, Luke began barking hysterically and kept barking. At one point, I opened the door and thought I heard a dog barking. It is a sad fact that our neighbors across the road, who let their dog Eddie run around loose for months as a puppy, now have him tied up all the time, and he never stops barking. However, the sound was coming more from the other side, so I told him it was Rosie. Later, I realized it was coming from too close to the house to be Rosie, who is now restricted to her yard by an electric fence.

Luke kept barking, and then twice I heard noises that sounded like someone knocking on the side of our house. So, finally, I picked up our powerful flashlight and went out the back door. They knew I was coming this time and I heard at least one kid run up the ridge on our property and climb over the fence to the Scotts’ property. Then I stood next to the house and listened to them. There were probably at least four kids there, and they were making noises to try to get Luke to bark. Some of them were whistling, and one was doing a fake dog bark, and one was saying mean things that put my teeth on edge, the kind of thing that makes kids laugh but makes adults want to smack them. I waited until I was sure where they are, and then I hit them with the flashlight. I couldn’t actually see them, but they ran away.

This time, I called the Scotts’ house and talked to one of their mothers. It’s a whole gang of kids, and I’m not sure who most of them are, but one of them, at least, belongs to the Scotts. She said she thought her kids were home, but then she said, “A bunch of them just ran out of the woods. I’ll talk to them.” I hope this stops, because it’s starting to border on harassment. Luke barked for at least an hour that night.

I am starting to do a good cleaning of the house getting ready for my guests arriving next Tuesday. Karen is arriving from Michigan and Ray from Denver. Later that week, we’re going to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. What fun!


A visit to Crystal Springs

Here are some of the rhododendrons and other plants at Crystal Springs Garden.

My pictures this week are from my visit Friday to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland with my friend, Deb. We originally planned to go a few weeks ago, but it was raining that morning. That might have been a better plan, because this week got really hot, with record temperatures in the 90’s. That was the temperature on Friday, and many of the poor rhododendrons looked a little wilty. I expect they’re not used to those temperatures so early in the year. I am not a hat person, but I took my garden hat and was happy I did. However, the garden was beautiful although small. We spent about an hour wandering around in it. Lots of ducks were there with their ducklings, apparently not afraid of all the people. At one end of the park that was a little less trafficked, we saw a bunch of duck families, including one duck couple with 16 ducklings.

In the middle of the picture at the back is a little waterfall.

After that, we went to a terrific restaurant called Tasty n Daughters. It was a sort of brunch, Mediterranean, North Africa kind of place. They explained that they meant you to share dishes, so because Deb is a vegetarian by preference (that is, she doesn’t refuse to eat meat but tries not to), we went that way. We shared their cast iron fritatta, which had nettles, cheese, and leeks in it, delicious, but even better was the Shakshuka roasted pepper and tomato stew with baked eggs. Yum, yum! It is the kind of place that you want to return to just to try more things. I am particularly interested in the Manti, Turkish beef and lamb dumplings in a garlic yogurt sauce, or the Moroccan chicken hash.

There are lots of picturesque little bridges in the park. And another waterfall on the left and ducks off to the right.

That’s enough about food. You can tell I’m on Weight Watchers. One of the problems with the program is it forces you to think about food all the time, which was why I quit it the last time (and gained back all my weight and more). I have lost yet another pound since last week. A little bit at a time.

On the way home, I was led astray by my GPS. I have only been to Deb’s house three times. All other times, we have met somewhere else or I have taken the train into Portland. I am fairly sure I could get there without GPS, but I am hazier on the way back, which presents with less obvious turns, so I was using my GPS. I was on my way back the usual way, when it told me there was a traffic jam ahead, not surprising on a Friday at 4 PM. However, instead of just telling me that, like it usually does up here, it recalculated my route automatically and sent me farther north instead of directly west to get on the 205. I could have just ignored it, but as I said, I was hazy on the way back, and I thought it might actually save me some time. But of course, the downside was that as soon as I followed it, I had no idea where I was. And, the next thing I knew, just as it was about to turn me back west toward the freeway, it recalculated again. Well, of course, at that time of day in Portland, there are going to be traffic jams everywhere, but in hindsight the most sensible thing would have been for me to get onto the 205 as early as possible.

I started out in Clackamas, which is southeast of Portland. I ended up going north all the way to the junction of 84 and 205, which is in northeast Portland, where I ended up around 5:15 (keeping in mind that it usually takes me about an hour to go to Deb’s). Just blocks from the freeway, I got stuck in a traffic jam trying to turn left on Sandy Blvd. for 45 minutes. I had only six blocks to go to get on the freeway, but the traffic was gridlocked on my side. We had no protected left, so what would happen was that you would work your way, one car a light up to the light, and then when it turned green, have to wait until the oncoming traffic got across, many of which turned in front of you to take up the remaining space on the street you wanted to turn onto. You would then have to wait to see if a space opened up. When I finally got one car back from the intersection, the woman in front of me sat there through three lights without moving instead of squeezing herself into what little space she had just so that our line could move. When she finally went, I went, too, and sat blocking traffic for a short while. That was not nice of me, but our line of traffic wasn’t moving at all. The others were moving a bit more, and it just wasn’t right. In fact, cars were driving past us straight across the intersection, turning around, and coming back the other way so that they could make a right, and it was those cars that were taking up what little space was left in the lane ahead, preventing the left turners from going anywhere.

I got home around 6:30. So much for my GPS.

The rest of the week was fairly normal, except that those of us who are in the doggy Relationship Class all got an email on Saturday saying that we are also required to go on the pack walks. This was a surprise to me, as Luke and I have been going to the Relationship Class for over a month now, and no one said anything to us about it. We tried to go on the Monday night pack walk months back when our trainer sent us to the class and we got kicked out of it. It was a 2.6-mile walk, after dark (which it would not be now), but it wasn’t the distance that made it difficult so much as the pace. They all walked much faster than I could. On the way back, I just told them to go without me, but Ash, one of the nice trainers, stayed back with me.

A lake with a bridge over it

So, I’m not going on that pack walk, but we have been to the Saturday one twice. It is a much closer distance, just around the corner and up the block to a school playground, but they still walk very fast. The owner of the dog training place said we could drive to the school, where they do further practice with the dogs, but the problem with Saturdays is that Wayne and I take my great niece to taekwondo. To do both, Wayne has to drop her off, drop me and Luke off at class, pick Mischa up, take Mischa home, and then come and get me and Luke after the pack walk. Up until we got the email, he’d been picking me up after Mischa’s class and then we all went home together. In any case, if I wanted to do the pack walk, I would not be able to get a ride to the school because Wayne would be taking Mischa home. I’d have to walk with the fast walkers.

So, I stopped the owner after class on Monday night and told her we had to rearrange our Saturday schedule to do the pack walk and I wouldn’t be able to get a ride to the school, so I asked her could I walk at my own pace. She didn’t really answer the question. Instead, she said that I could skip the pack walk, because I was a dedicated owner. She said she wanted the Relationship Class people to be doing more with their dogs than just coming to class once a week, and doing the pack walk would get them more involved. She said to come when I could. However, I feel as if I should go, because one other dog owners was very upset about the requirement to do the pack walk because of her age, and she will notice if I never show up. This is the problem with sending out an email like that and then making exceptions. The owner could have strongly encouraged people to do the pack walk rather than telling them they had to. She said, in fact, that several people had quit the class because of the requirement. Perhaps, though, that lady who was upset will give me a ride occasionally, from class to the pack walk, because she has decided to drive over.

The rest of the week was fairly normal. We went hiking but just to Lewisville Park because Maja had other things to do that day. She brought along a young friend. On Thursday, I began painting the coral in my starfish picture, and it seems to be coming out very nice. Saturday and Monday were dog-training days, and Luke seems to be getting over his teenage years and behaving better in class. In fact, the misbehavior of one of his puppy pals during the Monday class made me feel a lot better about Luke, who did everything fairly well, only breaking his sit or down a couple of times when several other dogs did, too. That other puppy was rolling on his back all over the place and broke several times every exercise. (If the Russian trainer was still there, he would have gotten kicked out for sure!) Luke is also behaving better at home. Now most nights he sits patiently on place while we eat dinner, because he knows if he is good, he will get some of our leftover food. If we have something he shouldn’t eat, I give him a cookie instead. He seems to understand this and is very good.

Our schedule has changed because Luke’s puppy play days have changed from Monday and Wednesday to Tuesday and Thursday. This means that I haven’t been going to the Y for water aerobics, which was what I sometimes did on Tuesday mornings. I could go on another morning, but it’s now hard to find a morning that I’m not doing something, except Friday, and I want to keep Fridays fairly free. It’s nice to sleep in occasionally.

On Tuesdays and Thursday now we drop Luke off at puppy play and then do our grocery shopping and errands. If we get them done, we go to the library and read until it’s time to pick him up. We are doing this to try to avoid making two trips to town in a day if we can. We also had to move our mini pack walk with friends from puppy class from Thursdays to Mondays, which means that Luke has to go with me to Weight Watchers and wait in the car, then we arrive 45 minutes early to the park for the pack walk. This week, during that time, we practiced sits, downs, and moving downs. For the moving down, I have to throw his leash on the ground and say “Down!”, at which point he is expected to lie down. I am supposed to keep walking while he does this and then call him to heel beside me. What actually happens is that I throw my leash on the ground and Luke does nothing until I stop and step on it. Then he will slowly, very slowly, very reluctantly, go down and we can complete the exercise. Not exactly a moving down, more like a stopping down.

Delinquent dog

The first thing that happened last week after our hike was I got an email from the owner of our dog training facility that Lukey was kicked out of Relationship Class. She made it sound like I had taken him to the class on my own initiative, so I wrote back and said that the trainer had instructed me to try it out. She said she didn’t know that, and we would talk about it on Saturday. They had had a bad day, because a woman drove through the front of their building, Wayne reported, just before he arrived to pick up Lukey from Puppy Play and Train.

I was pretty angry at her tone and way of handling this, and on Saturday, I tried to point out to her that she had handled it poorly and that she should have talked to the trainer before sending the email. I didn’t care whether Luke went to Relationship Class or not, even though I felt that he had done as well as some of the other dogs in the class. However, either she misunderstood me or she lied, because she said she did talk to the trainer, which was exactly opposite of what she had told me before. Anyway, Luke is now just taking the adult obedience class.

And he has been a real pain lately. Wayne says he is suffering from an excess of testosterone, but he is adverse to the idea of having him fixed now. He wants to wait until Luke is almost a year old. I asked the trainer about it, but she said she didn’t think dogs should be fixed at all, so that is no help. In any case, he takes a few naps, but when he is awake, he is either playing (good) or getting into mischief (bad). There is no middle ground.

A case in point is the baby gate at the opening to the hall. Our original intention was to install a semi-permanent gate at the opening of the hall so that Hillary could come and go in the back part of the house without worrying that Luke could get her. However, we could not install that metal gate at the opening because of the pocket doors in the hallway. We ended up installing it towards the other end, so that it only blocks off the doors to the two bedrooms. Since Hillary’s cat box is in the laundry room, however, we supplemented that with a wooden baby gate at the opening of the hall.

That gate worked fine until he figured out that he could just push the ends aside and squeak back behind it, at which point, Wayne tied it to a bookcase on one end and the pantry cabinet doors on the other. Then, he just chewed through the twine on the pantry end, so Wayne chained the gate to the pantry doors.

That worked for a while until Luke figured out that he could bully his way through the door. So, we put a ladder behind it so that the door could only open towards him.

Luke on the wrong side of the very battered gate, with the ropes and the bungee cords on it.

That worked for a while until Luke figured out that he could work at the door until he opened it toward him. So, the last few days, Wayne has been bungee-cording the door shut, which, by the way, makes it very hard to get through. Then, this morning, Luke got through the bungee cords three times.

So, we finally gave up and removed the gate. Hillary is still safe behind the second gate, and I moved her cat box to the other side. We are keeping all the doors shut, so, sure enough, now that there’s nothing keeping him from going down that hall and nothing to see, he’s not interested.

He is generally always on a path of destruction. We had to block off the downstairs stairs with a large, heavy footstool, because he went down to the bottom of the stairs and began ripping up the carpet. He has been steadily chewing on the gate, and although he hasn’t been chewing on the windowsills or coffee table as much, we still catch him chewing on the door frames. He ripped a huge hole in our old quilt, which I had the forethought to put on top of the nice bedding. His latest is to have chewed his leash in half. The trainers told us to keep him on a leash inside so that we could give him a correction when he chewed something he wasn’t supposed to chew, used his teeth inappropriately on us, or jumped up on me. The result was not that he stopped doing any of these things but that he has destroyed his leash. Wayne tied it back together. We bought him a new leash for class, but he will wear the old one at home until he stops doing some of these things. That was his latest, but his worst thing was to get a hold of my reading glasses (prescription) when I wasn’t home and chew them up. He also tried to chew up my hairbrush, but Wayne rescued it.

He is certainly in a contrary stage of his life. He knows what he is supposed to do, but he doesn’t want to do it, except in class. He knows what he isn’t supposed to do, so he is determined to do it. I hope he gets out of this stage soon. Before I got up, I heard Wayne cursing him all morning long as he went from one misdeed to another.

No hike this morning, but we went on a nice one last week, although it was raining. When it’s a soggy day, we usually keep to one of two parks that have nice, paved trails. Last week, we went to Lewisville Park. What with the pack walk last Monday, the hike, and the mini pack walk on Thursday, I got quite a bit of exercise last week. This week it will just be my jaunts with Luke and the mini pack walk tomorrow.

The waterfront trail has a cantilevered pier hanging out over the water.

Oh, and my friend Deb and I went for a walk along the Vancouver Waterfront Renaissance Trail on Sunday. First, I met her at the Cascade train station in north Portland, and then we drove back across the bridge to Vancouver. We first went to When the Shoe Fits, where Deb bought a pair of hiking shoes just like mine. Then we went for lunch at a waterfront restaurant called Twigs, and we walked along the trail for a while afterwards. It was a gorgeous day, clear and not too cold. Finally, we went to see the movie The Favourite. It was quite entertaining, although I think it took huge liberties with history. I read a biography of Queen Anne a few years ago, and she wasn’t the nincompoop that this movie and history has made her out to be. What she was, was very ill.

A missing bag, a poltergeist, and snow

Our New Year’s guests left Wednesday to drive down to Oregon, and Wednesday night they texted me a picture of two similar bags, saying, “Is the one on the right yours? You can see they are identical, and we took it by mistake.” I was appalled to see it was my art bag, and okay, the bags were the same colors, but mine had a whopping great STC logo on the front. I’m afraid I got a bit testy with them, but I was wondering what I was going to do the next night, which was art class. Also, and everyone in my art class agreed with me, my art supplies are the one thing I don’t want someone messing with. Luckily, I had mixed a lot of paint colors for what I was working on the week before, and my brush roll was still in my office, so I had my brushes and palette knife. My sister was offering to let me use her paints, but since she had just bought her oil kit and not used it yet, I was relieved to only have to borrow a sheet of palette paper from her.

The other thing was that after Christmas I had looked around for a new art box, because the one I had was stuffed to the gills. The art box the art school gives you is exactly big enough for what you get with it plus a few more tubes of paint. Over the past year that I’ve been painting, I’ve bought a few colors at my various teachers’ suggestion, and I put in all the colors from my old art box that weren’t duplicates. So, I can barely get my box shut, plus my medium leaked out into it months ago, and it is coated inside with sticky stuff. I now keep my medium at the art school. (That’s exactly what happened to my old art box, which I opened up to find that all the paints were stuck to the bottom and each other.)

My new art box. Some of the reviews complained that the box hinges didn’t hold. I hope that won’t be the case, as it really wouldn’t be nice to have my paints fall all over the floor. It is definitely more cheaply made than the old, smaller box of the same brand that I already had. This one, however, has space for even more tubes of paint

So, I had looked around at art kits (the one that was bigger was very expensive), tool boxes, and fishing tackle boxes looking for one that opened up in tiers, like all tool boxes used to, but apparently don’t anymore. The fishing tackle boxes do, but their slots are too small for paint tubes. And I wanted tiers so I could sort my paints by color rather than just dumping them into the bottom of the box. I finally ended up buying a new ArtBin that is larger than the old one I have had for 20 years. That one wasn’t big enough for some of my brushes, so they got bent. The new one, alas, while the perfect size, is more cheesily made than the old one, which uses metal for the risers instead of plastic and has metal hinges instead of plastic ones. I had been excited that it was due to arrive the day of my art class, and I’d been hoping to switch everything over and take it to class, but of course, I had no supplies when it arrived. I got my art bag back on Friday when my brother and family were on the way back up to Seattle, and now I have all my supplies in my new box.

Friday night, we were startled by a rap on the door after dark. There was something odd about it, since we didn’t hear the UPS truck, and we don’t usually get people at the door that we don’t know are coming, so Wayne told me not to answer until he got there. When we opened the door, no one was there. Wayne hadn’t heard it (he is deaf, so of course, nothing he doesn’t hear actually happens), so he was trying to make out that nothing had happened because Luke didn’t bark. Then it came again. We didn’t catch the little brats, but both the kids next door and the kids across the road were outside playing. We could hear them. Wayne, though, said that maybe Nadia, my niece who is 11, had left her poltergeist here, because they are usually associated with girls that age. (For those who don’t know Wayne, that was a joke.) It didn’t come again, so I figure there were two kids and each one had to take his or her turn. I just didn’t think we would have to deal with stuff like that out in the country. It was a little unnerving because, although we aren’t so far into the country that we don’t have neighbors, they would have had to come across our fence or at least come up our long drive or across our orchard to do it. (Just to carry the theme a little farther, though, our valley is notoriously haunted, although I don’t think that rapping on doors is the usual manifestation.)

Everything is returning to normal schedule-wise. Luke had his first adult class of the month on Saturday and did very well. Then we went Monday to the first Relationship Class. This is the one that they say the dog must be very obedient to take, so I was a little worried about Luke, as he usually does well in class, but is a little imp at home sometimes. He actually seemed to do very well at first, better than some of the other dogs who have been going there a while, but then they did a long exercise where the dogs had to be in a down until it was their turn to either come when called or weave through all the other dogs. He was staying down pretty well, but he goes down for treats, and I had forgotten to bring any. A few other dogs got back up, and one had to have someone stand on his leash. However, after about ten minutes, Luke began popping up regularly. When he saw I didn’t have any treats, he was reluctant to go back down. Finally, I borrowed some, but then I think he was getting up just to get more treats. One of the trainers came over and stood on his leash, which made him go frantic. When we originally trained him to go down, you do it by standing on their leashes, and it made him scream. Our original trainer and I were unable to get him to go down that way, and I had to resort to luring him down. It was a mistake not to come to class without treats, but on the other hand, at some point he’s not supposed to need any to do what he’s told. The other trainer said she would work with him on his downs today while he is at Puppy Play and Train.

After that was a pack walk. About a third of the class left, and the rest went on the walk. It just about killed me. I don’t know what distance we walked, but it wasn’t the distance so much as the pace. I am a slow walker. When I pack walk with the women from Luke’s puppy class, I have to walk faster than normal or they have to stop and wait for me, and we are all retired women. These people were younger, and they weren’t trying to walk fast, but they were going about twice as fast as I usually walk. I tried to keep up with them on the way there, but on the way back, I just went at my own pace and was way behind. The nice trainer who said she would work with Luke stayed back with me, and she had her son in a stroller. She even traded Luke for the stroller for a while, because having my arms on something made my back and shoulders feel better. I sometimes have a problem when I am walking for a long time where they hurt, presumably just from the weight of my shoulders and arms. I have broad shoulders that sometimes seem too broad for my body.

So, now I have to consider whether I want to do that again. I was aching all over by the time we got home. Luke was worn out, too. The walk was supposed to last an hour. That’s about how long we take on our mini pack walks, but we stop and gab part of the time. This walk actually lasted about an hour and a quarter. I just measured the distance we went, and it was three miles, with a break in the middle for rest and exercises, so not so far, but fast for me. Many of our hikes are longer, but one of my hiking companions is even slower than I am, and we never go faster than the slowest person.

As for the weather, it has been rainy and cold most days, with an occasional clear, colder day. Snow was not forecast on Sunday, but for about half an hour on Sunday afternoon, we got some. It didn’t accumulate, but at least we saw some coming down. At least we had that little bit if we don’t get any more this year. Snow was forecast for Monday, but we did not get any, and none is forecast for the next 10 days. It’s a big contrast to our past two winters.

Today, I am going on a hike for the first time in over a month. One of my hiking partners has been in Europe for the past month. The other one ended up substitute teaching every week but one, and that week she got sick. One of them can go today, though, so that will be good. I’ll be getting some exercise this week, what with the pack walk on Monday, the hike today, and another mini pack walk scheduled for Thursday.


Getting in the spirit

I got my weekdays mixed up Wednesday morning and posted my Thursday book blog review instead of this blog, which is what I usually post. So, this week this post goes out on Thursday.

This week we have had beautiful but cold weather, sunny skies every day but cold, cold, cold. If it had been raining, we undoubtedly would have snow. Mt. St. Helens is looking great, because with the recent rains, it got back its covering of snow. It is a perfect week to go out and finish up my garden, but instead I have been working on Christmas cards, wrapping presents, and getting packages ready for the mail. These days, since we live close to much of our family, we only ship out two packages, but I still try to get them into the mail early. Since the post office was closed yesterday because of President Bush’s funeral, I made it my goal to get my packages ready to go into the mail this morning. We have one more nice day before it clouds up, so I hope to do my garden tomorrow.

On Tuesday, we went out to buy a Christmas tree. This year, for the first time since we moved here, we were planning to buy it from a lot. Last year, my niece’s husband was unwell so couldn’t help us and we went with my sister. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been around when they cut the tree the first year we were here, so I didn’t realize how much work it was. Because we are both geezers, my sister had to cut the tree, and I vowed never to have that happen again. We would have accepted an invitation from my niece and her husband to go get a tree with them, but none was forthcoming, so we went out looking for a lot.

Our scrawny tree next to a nice warm fire

We had been hearing on the news that Christmas trees are scarce this year, but it was hard to believe they would be hard to find here. Heck, there are Christmas trees everywhere. Of course, lots of people around here cut their own trees, go to a U Cut, or even cut them in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, but still, last year and the year before, there were several tree lots on the way down state highway 503 to Vancouver. This year there were none, and we didn’t know where else in Vancouver to go. I didn’t want to go to Home Depot, because my theory was that they were more likely to have purchased their trees far away and they might not be fresh. We ended up buying one in a tiny lot in Battle Ground, the only one we could find besides those in the grocery and hardware stores. It is tall, about nine feet, but it is kind of pathetic looking compared to our previous trees. It’s branches are far apart, and it looks kind of skimpy for a Noble fir, and it’s lop-sided. Although it was much cheaper than any tree we could have bought in Austin (and in fact, we never bought a tree that big in Austin), it cost about twice as much as any tree we have bought since we moved here. I have tons of ornaments, so it will be interesting to see if I can get them all on the tree. Once I finish spreading alpaca poo and more dirt on my garden tomorrow, I’ll start decorating.

Last Saturday, my sister and I went to a Christmas concert in Portland. Our friend was singing in the Portland Choir and Orchestra concert. Last year, I thought the program was a little dull except for the Bells of the Cascades, whose director is a delight to watch, full of energy and practically levitating off the podium. This year, although the choir sang more traditional songs, the arrangements were really interesting, and some of the songs were quite beautiful. And the Bells of the Cascades were there again.

Luke has not only graduated from puppy class, he has been asked to join both puppy and adult class for the last few classes of the year. We went last night for the first time. I thought he could handle two classes, but wasn’t sure how well he could handle two in a row. However, he did really well, almost better than the adult dogs, just because he has been taking class for so long. We have quite the little puppy pack going now, with three other dog owners joining me and Luke once a week for a pack walk.

Last week, my great niece Mischa came with us to puppy class. She enjoyed it, so if she thinks she can bear getting up that early, she might go again while we are still in puppy class.

We no longer need to take a leash with us when we take Lukey out, as long as we have cheese in our pockets! In fact, even the promise of cheese gets him back in the house when we have gone out for short runs. I only take a leash if I think we may be walking on the road, as he tends to go toward traffic.

In art class, I am still working on my sky, whereas my sister has almost finished her picture of an owl. Actually, she has almost finished two pictures. Hmm. Well, it is not a race, as my instructor keeps telling her. I guess I’m going to have to get used to taking three or four months each to do my paintings, while she finishes one a month. It is a secret from my husband (who does not read this blog) that a woman in my class who does beautiful pictures of dogs has agreed to do one of Luke for me to give Wayne as a gift. It doesn’t look like it will be done for Christmas, but it will make a good birthday gift. Tonight, we are both doing makeups, so we will be in class from 4:15 until 8:30!


The secret is cheese

Of course, much of the beginning of this last week concerned Thanksgiving. My niece and sister never celebrate holidays on the actual day, because my sister, a nurse in the maternity ward, always works the holidays. She, in her inimitable way, had tactfully suggested I host Thanksgiving this year, as I did last year, by saying, “Why don’t you host Thanksgiving and we could bring dishes?” But even if I’m only doing the main things, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing, that’s a lot of work, and Wayne and I like to have a meal on actual Thanksgiving day. However, just for two of us, that’s even more work, even if we keep it to the basics, as we have done for the last five years.

So, we decided to skip actual Thanksgiving dinner and have Sue and my niece’s family over that weekend for another Moroccan meal. This is because my recipe, which says it feeds 6 to 8 as part of a Moroccan dinner (and suggests also serving a chicken dish), actually feeds about 20, so we had tons of leftovers in the freezer from my dinner earlier in the month (and still do). Those Moroccans must really eat.

That’s what we were going to do, but the week before, we started talking about not having any leftovers, which of course is the purpose of Thanksgiving dinner in the first place (aside from the obvious thanks part). Then I saw an ad for buying the basics of a Thanksgiving dinner from a sort of Whole Foods-like market in the area called New Seasons. I figured that if it was good, the price was worth the savings in my time and effort, especially since my husband’s reaction to any dinner, whether it took 15 minutes to cook or six hours is “Good supper, honey.” In any case, we agreed it was worth the experiment. So, I signed up for a turkey breast dinner for four to six that included the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce. That meant I only had to make the pies and my husband’s required dish of green bean casserole (yes, that very dish, dripping with Campbell’s mushroom soup).

So, that was the plan, and we stuck to it, only adding a mince pie to the menu at my husband’s request. (He has to eat all of it. I don’t see the point of mince pie.) However, my husband dubbed the food “commercial,” so I guess that next year it’s back to Plan A. I actually thought the food was much better than commercial. I’ve had commercial at numerous corporate and state holiday parties, and this was much more tasty. So, New Seasons, I thank you for saving me about two hours of work. It still, however, took about an hour and a half to coordinate heating up all the dishes, some of which had more than one step, and cooking the green bean casserole. At least I didn’t have to mash the potatoes and make the gravy all at the same time, as usual.

The weekend dinner was complicated because that entire branch of the family got sick, as they almost always do on the holidays. Actually, my niece had been sick for close to three weeks and had made two trips, including a flight to Madison to visit my brother and his wife, with a cold. So, they weren’t sure they were actually going to make it. We enjoyed the week, although one negative of being retired is that holidays aren’t that different from other days (the positive being, of course, that every day can be like a holiday). However, it seemed weird because every single one of our usual activities was cancelled—no puppy class, no great niece’s taekwondo, no art class, and no hike, because of course everyone was too busy cooking on Wednesday. The only regularly scheduled thing I did was go to my water aerobics class.

In any case, we finally decided to have the Moroccan dinner on Sunday, because everyone felt well enough. And it went very well except that Lukey got a little excited and had to retire to his crate at one point. Everyone was duly impressed, however, when I put him in his place and he stayed there—that is until everything got too exciting for him and he got off without permission.

Our biggest concern with him is that we have no fenced-in yard except the wolf pen, which is partially disassembled so that he is more or less contained in there but can’t be left unattended. My husband has been planning to finish it for weeks, but that’s him all over. He only has to replace one pole and rehang the fencing between it and the rest of the fence. That’s all. Yet it remains only a semi-secure place. I feel like Lukey should be able to run around loose occasionally. After all, we live in the country. However, I don’t want him on the road, and I don’t want him going all over our neighbors’ property. And the problem is, he doesn’t always come when called. If he would do that, then we would feel safe in letting him run a bit more. We have experimented with letting him go loose, but I don’t do that very often, and when Wayne does, he won’t come back. I have to go out and call Luke, and so far he has always come back for me (but he doesn’t always when he is on a leash, sometimes I have to reel him in, so you see the problem), and there were a few times the first few times when we let him loose that he only came when he was good and ready.

That’s where the title of this post comes from. Two days ago, I bought string cheese at Costco. That day, I cut a portion of it up into little pieces. Then I put them in a baggie in my pocket and took Lukey out on a leash. We did our usual tour of the orchard, and he was bugging me to let him off the leash, which he does by trying to grab it. I took him into the wolf pen and threw the ball. He doesn’t play catch. He plays keep the ball away from the human. He hasn’t figured out that catch is more fun, at least for me. Then I started calling him to come, which I did a few times before we went into the pen when he was still on his leash. Every time he came, he got a piece of cheese, and trust me, he was trying to get that cheese.

When we left the wolf pen, we didn’t put his leash back on, and he barely left my side. He wanted cheese! I let him run around for a while, having him come several times, and finally I put his leash on and we went in.

I originally posted this article without this picture, because our internet service was out, and I had to post from my phone. This is Lukey looking for cheese.

Yesterday, we followed the same experiment, only this time he went a little farther away from me, but he always came back for the cheese. In fact, he stuck with me much more closely than he did when he was off leash before, when he has gone deep into the woods and even crawled under the neighbors’ fence (not a neighbor we know, either). In fact, this time he kept looking back to see if I was coming too. When it was time to go in, I said, “Let’s go into the house and have some cheese,” and he did. I didn’t have to put him back on the leash.

The only trouble with this experiment is that it was so much fun for him that after we came in, he was ringing the bell to go out within five minutes. I took him back out and worked in the garden for 45 minutes, pulling up what was left of my plants, taking down my plant supports, and raking. He wandered far enough away that I didn’t know where he was, but every time I called him, he came back.

This week are his last two puppy classes. We think he’ll be graduating.