A mild week

A view of our pond on this beautiful day. I took the picture from our deck.

We are feeling for the rest of the country, which seems to be suffering this winter. I hear from a friend in Michigan that she and her husband have about used up all their firewood, and another storm is due in this week. We had some snowy winters the last two years, but this one has been really mild, and we think a bit too dry. During the last week, we have had hardly any rain, although we had several foggy days, and since Monday we have had beautiful, clear but chilly days. Still, our chilly days have only been in the 40’s or 50’s most of the winter.

Oh, my gosh! My brother just sent me a picture of his dashboard showing the temperature. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and it is -22 there! My niece sent him back a picture of her kids playing in the greenhouse yesterday with their shirts off. What a contrast!

We have gotten a bid on financing our roof from the roofers, and now we have to go visit our credit union to see if they can do better. I hope so. We are also having to have our satellite dish moved. It is supposed to be mounted on a proper mounting on the side of the house, but there are actually several satellite dishes on the roof, from services gone by. All of them have to go.

In fact, the satellite guy was scheduled to come out to our house yesterday. We had dentist appointments at 10 but thought we would be home by noon, which was the beginning of the time period during which he was supposed to come out. What would the odds be that he would be on time? However, our appointments lasted longer than we expected and in fact when we arrived home at 12:20, we had missed him.

Our dentist appointments were rescheduled from last Thursday, when we drove into town to find that the doctor was out sick. He did not have measles but stomach flu, he told me yesterday. If you are paying attention to the news about the measles, you have heard there is an outbreak in Washington. What you probably don’t know is that the hotbed is here in Clark County, which has a large percentage of unvaccinated children. My great niece and nephew have had their vaccinations (my great nephew is only partially vaccinated because of his age), but I know that my niece is worried they might get sick anyhow, as the number of vaccinated people who got sick is “unconfirmed.”  The first children to get sick attend a school that my great niece’s school shares its parking lot with. The kids were sick last week but not with measles.

No hike last week but one is set for today. My sister has said she wants to go with us, but as usual, her sights are set on a more challenging hike than I can probably do. A couple weeks ago, we went on one of our easy hikes that we do when it is raining, and I found it a lot tougher than I had done in the past, because I have gotten more out of shape since we have been missing so many hikes.

Oh, now we have made our plans, and we are doing an easy hike that we have never done before. Interested readers will be able to see my write-up in Friday’s Fat Girls.

Last week, the women whom Luke and I go dog-walking with were supposed to come to my house so that their dogs could play in the wolf pen. However, this outing completely fell apart. Instead, I took Luke over to the house of Christine, Peter, and Duchess, as Wayne had promised to help Christine and Peter with their computer. Luke and Duchess played in their backyard, and they had a blast running around in circles. The only problem with this was, that during their next class, Luke was sitting next to Duchess and clearly wanted to take up where they left off. He concentrated poorly during that class. I would like to see him do well in front of the trainers so that he can graduate to the next class. He is clearly bored with adult class. I don’t want to quit going entirely, because I think the socialization is good for him.


Disastrous lead-up to a dinner party

Well, maybe not exactly disastrous but not really as planned. But first, our hiking day.

Lucia Falls

Last Wednesday because I had to get home and clean, we decided to go hiking nearby. We picked Lucia Falls Park, which I wouldn’t have necessarily thought would make a good hike because the trail is very short, but Shawn said she’d seen pictures posted of salmon jumping, so we thought we’d go there and try to see some.

In fact, it was a beautiful day. I have only been in the park when it was pouring with rain, so it was a revelation to see how pretty it is on a crisp autumn morning. We didn’t see any fish, but we managed to get some exercise by exploring the park thoroughly. Before, I had only just gone down to see the falls and back, which is a very short walk.

In the afternoon, I came back and cleaned my bathrooms, but I’m afraid I never got around to the dusting.

That night we took Lukey to puppy class, and our class had expanded from nine to eleven dogs! So much for the perfect class of five! Even worse, when we took him to puppy class on Saturday, there were 13 dogs! And they had it in their new facility, which I found freezing, overcrowded, noisy, and very distracting. Lukey had a much harder time concentrating with all the new puppies in the class and the confusion.

On Thursday, I had determined to clean our hardwood floors. This was one job that had to wait until the last minute because of wet puppy footprints. I managed to procrastinate until after lunch, and then just as I was getting started, I got a call from my oldest brother, wishing me happy birthday. I don’t think he has called me for about 20 years. I had an entertaining conversation with him, but he is a talker, and after an hour I had to tell him I only had a couple hours to finish my floors. I finally got them done. Then in the late afternoon, my sister Sue picked me up and we went for Greek food at George’s Molon Lave in Battle Ground. We both had lamb chops and asparagus. Yummy.

Then to art class, where I began painting my newest painting. My last one is still not dry enough to take home.

Friday was, by bad timing, the day for our dinner party. I was so concerned about everything I had to do that when I woke up at 4 AM I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I got up. Wayne got up about an hour later, and we decided to go to breakfast, returning about when everyone else was going to work. Then we relaxed with coffee for a while, and I found myself nodding off. So, we all went back to bed.

I got up around 11:30 and started to cook and set the table. I should probably have said that since most of the work done in our house before we bought it seems to have been completed by idiots, we have had lots of trouble with the plumbing under our kitchen sink. You can tell just by looking at it that an amateur installed it, as the angles are all wrong. Wayne has had to fix it several times, and ever since we got our new dishwasher, we’ve had lots of trouble with it because the installers obviously didn’t put it back correctly. A couple weeks ago, we started having leaks under the sink after we used the garbage disposal. I suggested that we hire a plumber to come out and replace everything and install the new garbage disposal that we bought when we thought ours was on its last legs. But Wayne said no, he could do it. And he did, but a few days before our dinner party, I discovered that now it leaked when we ran the dishwasher. As one of the secrets of a successful dinner party is to have an empty dishwasher ready and waiting, this was not good. Of course, Wayne didn’t get around to trying to fix it until I started cooking.

So, he thumped around under the sink for a while and then pronounced it fixed. About that time, my friend Deb arrived to help me get ready. All went fine, with her peeling the pumpkin while I chopped up carrots, until I ran the garbage disposal, at which point water squirted out from under the kitchen sink, the doors for which were still open, and sprayed all over my jeans.

So, we had to put the sink out of operation for the duration of the meal, and we were unable to run the dishwasher so that I had a huge pile of pots and pans sitting on the counter all during our dinner party. Luckily, the house has a small sink in the corner of the kitchen that I don’t usually use, or I don’t know what I would have done.

The dinner party was a success, though. I served pumpkin/lamb couscous and tomato and cucumber salad and a selection of olives. We ordered hummus, baba ganoush, and pita from Pita House, and Deb brought homemade baklava. A good time was had by all. Deb was staying the night, and I found that by the time Shawn and Randy left, I was just about falling down with tiredness.

Unfortunately, we had to get up early to take Lukey to puppy class and even earlier to make the quiche that Deb brought for breakfast. It was delicious, though. Sweet potato slices instead of crust, and the insides a mixture of brussell sprouts, sage, and the usual quiche mixture of eggs, milk, and cheese. Very thoughtful and yummy.

After puppy class, Deb and I dropped off Wayne, who had run to the hardware store for parts to fix the plumbing (all fixed, I think) and then picked up Shawn, and we all drove to Washougal for the Pendleton Woolen Mills sale. We went the back way from Shawn’s, which involves driving through the forest and over the mountains. It was a nice day, so we had a beautiful drive, and we ended the day by eating lunch at a restaurant in a marina right on the Columbia River. The restaurant wait staff was incompetent and the food mediocre, but the view was wonderful.

By Sunday, I was so tired that I was grateful to have nothing scheduled. I just collapsed on the couch, and since then our week has gone on normally, with us doing our usual things.

Everyone napping together

It’s nap time for everyone but me. Hillary is a little black blob up against the red pillow.

First, I have to start out with my picture, which is of life co-existing in the Robart house. Here are Wayne, Luke, and Hillary all taking a nap together. You can just barely see Hillary up against my pillow on the right side of the picture. Ah, bliss, when they are all asleep and I have the house to myself!

We have had some bright spots in the story of Luke’s house training. Yesterday, we were working on three full days of no accidents in a row until a little glitch right before bedtime. The problem is that Luke likes to go out in the evening, so there had been a series of false alarms when he rang the bells (yes, he finally got that) to go out and we took him out only to watch him trying to catch bugs. It’s too cold out now for bugs at night, so he waited in vain and so did we. To be fair to us, at some point he stopped ringing the bells and just stood near the doorway and hinted. He does this a lot when he’s not serious about it, so I kept an eye on him, but didn’t take him out after I had done so four times in a row. Next thing we knew, he was peeing on the carpet.

But our breakthrough came when our trainer told us that it was nonsense about not scolding your dog after he’s had an accident because we didn’t see it. She said “He knows what he’s done. He can smell it.” We had been following that “wisdom” and just taking him out after he had an accident, and he was so sneaky about his accidents that we hardly ever saw him. But he sees going out as a reward, so I feared I was teaching him to go in the house to get to go outside. Now, when he has an accident, he gets scolded and goes straight to his crate, which he dislikes, and interestingly enough, we have had much more success since then.

We have also started letting him go off leash a few times. He is already getting brave enough to wander far away when we are out with him but too timid to stay out if we are in. However, I know that at some point he’ll want to wander off our property, so I don’t think we should do this too often until he learns to come when called. He isn’t very good at that except when he has his training collar and leash on, when he is a star at coming. Yesterday, when we walked down to the pond with him off leash, it didn’t take too long before he was up to his knees in mud. If I hadn’t captured him, he probably would have gone right into the water.

Last week I didn’t go hiking because my hiking partners weren’t available. I tried to talk Wayne into taking Luke for a walk in the park after Puppy Play and Train on Wednesday, which is when I’m usually hiking. But that morning it was so cold and gray that I was shivering and Wayne complained of his knees hurting (although he complains of that whenever he doesn’t want to do something, which is often). We decided to go the next day, which was beautiful, but predictably enough, Wayne cancelled on me.

I am almost done with my painting, I think. My teacher told me to start thinking about what I would like to do next, but I have no idea. I painted the base coat of all my flowers this week. Some of them need more work, but she said one was done, so after that it is just whatever improvements we want to make.

Other than a trip to Costco, nothing much happened this week. The weather has been unseasonably beautiful. It is gorgeous today. Many of the leaves have changed colors, and it is sunny and bright and a little warm.

Tomatoes, berries, and puppies!

Well, I certainly have a surprise to start out this week, for me, too. I don’t know if I told you that my husband and I had an argument last week or the week before about getting a puppy. I actually preferred not to get one, especially as my cat Hillary is older now and deserves to spend the last few years of her life in peace. Also, frankly, my husband is older now, and he wasn’t much up to taking care of his last dog. He started out wanting a labradoodle, but I represented to him that it might be a good idea to get a smaller dog. At the same time two weeks ago, we ended up contacting a labradoodle breeder and a Keeshond breeder. You may know that we had a Keeshond rescue dog that died several years ago of cancer. He was the sweetest dog ever, our Luke.

I didn’t hear anything back from the Keeshond breeder, but Wayne heard from the labradoodle breeder and filled out an application. However, his policies gave me pause (not to pun). I have bought a couple of purebred cats and a purebred dog before, and the breeders don’t usually take money from you until your pet is born. This one wanted a deposit just to put us on a wait list, and then he wanted to keep our deposit if we didn’t get a dog. I asked Wayne how he knew the guy even had any dogs. At least the Keeshond breeder, bad business people or not, had pictures of puppies on their Facebook page.

Here’s our new Lukey looking confused about why I called his name.

So, Wayne was having second thoughts about turning in the application for the labradoodle puppy, and I hadn’t heard anything at all from the Keeshond breeders in a week. Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon after our hike, I got a message, “Do you want a male or a female?” It turned out they had exactly one puppy left, a little boy dog. By that evening, we had him in our possession. And he is a cutey, although he is at the stage where he bites everything he sees. After batting around a few names, we decided to name him Luke Too. He shares so many expressions and characteristics with his namesake!

That, as you can imagine, has taken up a lot of our time, and our sleep, since he isn’t quite house trained yet.

Baskets of blackberries!

Then on Sunday Deb came back and we picked a lot of blackberries. She was also charmed by Lukey. A good time was had by all, and we even went to the farm store to buy her a straw hat.

My first two tomatoes (a few cherry tomatoes got eaten already)

Finally, this week I harvested my first two tomatoes! I had a small red Early Girl come off the vine first, shortly thereafter followed by one of my golden tomatoes, so far the only one that has actually appeared.

And that’s about it for this week. I am continuing working on my painting of my grandmother’s vase, and I have helped my niece a little on her project to scan all of our family photos and make a family tree. I have an extensive family tree that was begun by my maternal grandmother, and I’ll be able to help her fill in the relationships and names when she gets to that point.

A new blog and other news

During our hike last week I tossed around an idea with Shawn that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I originally had this idea for a book, but it occurred to me that a blog would work just fine. So, after our hike in the lovely Salmon-Morgan Rivers Natural Area, I wrote up the first entry for a new blog, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking. My idea came from my experience hiking trails that are rated by experienced hikers, especially their rating systems. My blog is designed for people who are not fit and will tell them all they need to know to decide whether the hike is for them. Each time I go on a new hike or do a new portion of an old hike, I’ll post an extensive review.

And that reminds me that I did two hikes this week, one at Salmon-Morgan, which is a beautiful old-growth forest, and the other on the promenade above Oregon City. I did that with my friend from Portland, Deb, and if you want to read about it, you know where to go. More about that day later.

One thing that happened last week before I even wrote last Wednesday’s blog was that I was selected to be one of four new moderators for the Classics Club blog. A few weeks ago they asked for people to apply, and I did so on the spur of the moment. I have the time, and it should be fun. We new moderators have been discussing how we will break up the work and what new ideas we have. The official announcement is coming out Friday, and we begin Monday.

That is probably not a great week for me to begin, because my brother is coming from Madison, Wisconsin, for a visit beginning next Wednesday. My day to work on the blog will be Friday, but maybe I can sneak in the first week on a day that one of the other moderators isn’t going to be on the blog and start my work early. If not, I get up early and can probably do some work over the weekend.

In art class, I got a lot done because I did a makeup with Oksana and my regular class with Sarah, so I was in art class for four hours. I finished the first coat of my background for my painting and painted a table in the foreground. It is nice being back in Sarah’s class. I understand that my sister is next on the waiting list, but she is still undecided about whether she wants to start again.

On Sunday, I took the train into Clackamas and met my friend Deb. We took her car to Oregon City, where we first explored the McLoughlin Promenade. It was a nice hike above the city, but then we went down some old iron stairs to the road below, where the path was right next to the busy Highway 99. You can see more about this hike on my new blog.

After lunch, we went to the Clackamas Community College for a performance of Sense and Sensibility. Yes, it was the same adaptation that we saw in Ashland early this year, and we were curious to see what it would be like. The production was much lower budget, but in some ways it was more appropriate as an Austen adaptation. Still, it was modernized, and there were some places where for humor they went places that were really inappropriate for the 19th century. The actresses that played the two main parts were much closer to the right ages than the actresses in Ashland, but we thought that Elinor would never have chosen the actor that played Edward Ferrars. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and found the production less shocking than the Ashland one.

This week I followed my new program of attending tai chi and deep water exercise. I’m trying to get my husband to try the arthritis water class. I asked some women in my deep water class about it, and one of them said that she had hardly been able to move before taking it a few years ago. I’m hoping that will encourage him to go, because his walking is getting more and more unsteady. He has been doing yard work around the house but otherwise not much else, and the yard work comes in spurts.

My basket of raspberries next to my gardening hat

Last night, I went over in the evening to pick raspberries at my niece’s house. She said that they already have picked enough for their use for the entire year. She cans and freezes, so she can accommodate more than I can. I think I might make a pie.

Today we are not doing our regular hike because of a dentist appointment, and so I must go brush my teeth.


A lazier week in some ways

The flowers on our pond. There are some in the foreground and some at the back, too, that aren’t quite as obvious.

This week, I noticed that the flowers on the pond have come out. I am not sure if they are water lilies or lotus flowers, but they are beautiful. In the spring we have yellow skunk cabbage flowers, and in the summer we have these lovely bright pink flowers.

We haven’t been down to the pond for a while, but we went down twice last week. The woodpecker family has left the hollow tree, but the woods around the pond abound in woodpeckers, and some of them look young. We saw the beaver carrying around a long leaf of grass in his mouth as he swam across the pond, and I saw a fish jump right out of the water. It is lovely here in the summer. We are finally in outright summer weather after the climate couldn’t seem to settle during the spring. First we would have a day or two of sun and warm weather, and then a several days of overcast weather and cold. Today it is supposed to be hot, up to the 90’s, perhaps, followed by a string of days like that. That is early for this area, I think.

This week I missed doing some of my usual activities. For one thing, I missed my hike. My neighbor is away for a month participating in Native American ceremonies. She is not a Native American, but it’s a long story. However, I planned to hike with my ex-tenant, who is my niece’s husband’s mother. However, I cancelled because my husband wanted me to help him work on the fence around my garden. As I might have mentioned last week, the deer finally discovered my garden, so we have started, but not finished, putting up a fence. Of course, I should have known better, because we did not end up working on the fence that day. So, I missed my hike for nothing.

My first cabbage

But speaking of gardens, here is a picture of my very first cabbage. I have picked most of my broccoli and picked all my spinach and uprooted the plants. Every day I go out and pick a handful of snap peas, and my shelled peas are starting to develop. On the down side, my red cabbage is crushing my one eggplant. Also, my sister suggested I replant my cherry tomato into another container, as it was being pushed out by the peas. I did, but it doesn’t look very happy.

What I did this week physically speaking was go sign up with the Y in Vancouver. Earlier this week I had a tai chi class, and yesterday a deep water exercise class. The tai chi class was sort of odd, not exactly what I remember from tai chi years ago, but the deep water exercise class was fun.

Otherwise this week I helped my husband work on the fence and we watered the trees in our orchard. We hauled five-gallon buckets with a small hole in each down to the orchard and ran a hose down. Then we filled each bucket at the base of a tree, moving them around to different trees as they emptied. One of our trees has small cherries on it! I can’t tell if they are sour cherries or unripe bing cherries. By the time I looked at this tree last year, the cherries were all gone.

I went to art class on Thursday night expecting to have my second class with Oksana, and Sarah was there! One of the women I met in my very first art class was in her class already. It turned out that the main office arranged for her to come back and didn’t tell our office manager, Angie. Angie said she hadn’t had time yet to figure out who from the wait list could make it into the class, because she didn’t know Sarah was coming back. I was just getting ready to go into Oksana’s class when she said she had an opening, and I could have it. I know I wasn’t at the top of the list, but I was on the spot, so I took it. I am so happy that Sarah is back, although Oksana seemed to be a very good teacher. I have just begun painting the background for my latest picture, a still life of my grandmother’s silver pitcher.

And that’s about it for this week. Shawn, my ex-tenant, will soon be here for our hike.

Getting briefly back to normal

This week just ordinary things to report, briefly, because next week we are going on vacation to the San Juan Islands!

Art class was really wild last week. The kids were out of control. This made me ask the receptionist, Angie, when Sarah was coming back from maternity leave, as I had always been resolved to switch into her class when she came back. I like Alina well enough, but we have too many young children in our class, and she is only 21 and doesn’t know how to handle them. Angie told me she had already put me on the waiting list for Sarah’s class and that they could open up the third classroom when she came back. They have a list that will fill the class up already of older women like me. Then she told me that if I wanted, Oksana, who has a class at the same time, has openings and she would put me in one. Oksana is one of the few teachers who does watercolor instruction, so it is hard to get into her class usually. I went home and thought about it, but I finally decided just to go for it. It is a late class on Thursday, and I had been hesitating because it would mean I wouldn’t get home until after 9 PM. But I will be on that same schedule for Sarah’s class, so I thought, what the heck. I start this week. I finished my painting last week, finally, but forgot to take a picture of it. I will post that next week.

Here is a picture of Moulton Falls on the other side of the highway. There is another falls to the side and above this one, but I did not think to take its picture.

My neighbor did not go on our hike this week. Instead, my sister and my former tenant went. We decided not to do anything out of the ordinary, just go back to Moulton Falls. Since it has a very easy path with few ups and downs, I left my hiking poles at home and regretted it. That’s because Shawn, my tenant (who is also my great-niece’s other grandmother), took us to a part of the park we hadn’t been to before. We took a side trail down to the highway and across, then took some old stone steps down and down and ended up on a bridge at the base of the actual falls. If you’ll recall, in my last post I said there weren’t really any falls, just rapids. But these are falls, if smallish. The stone steps go across to the other side and up, then there is a path through the forest and a substantial picnic area, and finally you go back across the highway to an area where we had been many times. We ended up getting most of our exercise in the area where we had been before, about 3.4 miles down and back. It turns out this park is much bigger than I had realized.

Other than that, I spent some time weed-whacking the slope again. We have spent a couple of days working outside, but it was very hot yesterday and is supposed to be today (hot for the Pacific Northwest, that is, which is not at all hot for Texas). So, I’m suspending the yard work until it cools off later this week. It was supposed to be hot during the weekend, but instead both days we got a late-afternoon thunder storm, which cooled it down nicely.

I put out another hummingbird feeder and bought a large hanging fuschia plant and put both out on the back deck a few weeks ago. Now we have hummingbirds everywhere back there, flying around, doing acrobatics over the empty area in front of the deck, and squabbling with each other. I love it!

Oh, yes, I only gained 0.6 pounds during my week of dissipation. Yay!