Snow was forecast for Thursday night and all day Friday last week. When I got out of bed Thursday morning at 8 AM, I thought to myself, it is light out, good. That means it isn’t raining, and we can go for our walk. Then I opened the curtains to see that it was snowing. Even the more recent forecast for our area showed that it wouldn’t snow until 11 AM, and our local weather station in Portland was saying there would be snow at 5,000 feet and up. We are at almost exactly 1,000 feet.
At first, my neighbor seemed reluctant to walk in the snow, which tempted me much more than the usual drizzly weather, but after I suggested we go walking farther down in the valley, where there probably wasn’t any snow. She said, “Oh, let’s just go.” In any case, at the park by Moulton Falls where we chose to walk, there wasn’t any snow, just puddles. I guess it is just far enough lower in altitude that it didn’t get snowed on.
It was a gray day, and drippy, but it was a nice day to walk. There weren’t very many people in the park until we met a group of about 30 who were in a Portland hiking club for seniors. I told them we were the Yacolt hiking club for seniors.
We didn’t pay any attention to how far we walked or how long, although we were getting a little tired on the way back. What was my surprise to find that we walked nearly five miles and were gone more than three hours!
Here is a picture I snapped on our way back to the car. You can see that it’s a gray, foggy day. We got wet but only had to walk through a few puddles.
Today we are going walking again, I hope. So far, the weather is gloomy but not raining.
Another thing that happened Thursday was that the chimney sweeps were due out. In the morning, I asked my husband whether we shouldn’t call them and tell them that we had snow, as often we have it when the valley containing the larger towns and cities doesn’t, and workers arrive to be unpleasantly surprised. He said rather scoffingly that they didn’t care about snow. Well, the first thing they said when they arrived was, “We can’t go out on your roof. We’ll have to come back.” Our roof is rather steep, after all. So, Friday they came back, and we have had our stove burning merrily ever since.
Also on Thursday I went with my sister to Weight Watchers. I belonged years ago and managed to lose quite a bit of weight, but never gained my goal weight and just maintained my weight for over a year, which got discouraging. As soon as I quit counting everything I ate, I gained all of it back and more. Since I had almost weighed the same for many years, that scared me into thinking I shouldn’t diet again. But since then I have gained a lot of weight, so I’m trying again. We’ll see how it goes.
On Saturday we had plans to meet my Portland friend by taking the train into the Gateway station. She was going to pick us up there and take us on a tour of Russian grocery stores. However, I felt sick all Friday night, and my husband woke up complaining of being sick, too, so I cancelled. I had a runny nose and sore throat from stuff going down it, and I was worried about the flu. However, after several doses of hot lemon and some Nyquil the next night, I woke up on Sunday feeling fine. My nose still runs sometimes, so I can only think it might be an allergy. Our expedition to Portland is postponed to this weekend.
On Sunday we were invited to my niece’s house for dinner to help consume the prime rib that came with the beef they buy in bulk. I think my niece and sister divide a half steer, and that feeds them beef for quite some time. Dinner was delicious. I brought roasted beans and asparagus.
Finally, last night we met our new art teacher. She is not Theresa, as I had feared, but a new teacher. So far, it’s difficult to tell how good a teacher she will be as she was just observing. I spent the evening trying to paint my bird. I felt fairly frustrated, as my bird has lots of brown markings on whitish feathers. I thought I was just painting blobs. It’s at times like this that require patience that I fall down on the job, having no patience at all.
Last week I ended up taking down the Christmas tree and putting away all of the decorations except the outside lights. They are dripping, and I am hoping to get a sunny day this weekend to take them down when they are dry. Even with a day on Monday that had little rain, they did not dry off.
After we took the Christmas tree out of the living room and swept up all the needles, we rearranged the furniture. My husband has started sitting in our Amish glider-style rocking chair instead of on the sectional, because he has difficulty getting up out of it. The only problem with that is that the glider was against the wall, and he had to move it into a walkway to see the TV. That would have been okay, but he refused to move it back again, so I was continually putting it back where it belonged. I decided to try to think of a furniture arrangement where the rocking chair would be permanently in a place where he could see things.
I started out with one idea that didn’t work because of the size of our sectional and our living room rug. But then we settled for squaring off the sectional with the staircase instead of having it at an angle to the room. It really looks more spacious in the living room now, I think.
In art class, my glaze came out looking beautiful. I could not have predicted from the color it was last week how it would look this week, after it dried. I started out with a deep purple base, and last week painted over that with a brownish gray glaze. This week the entire background looked a warm gray, like it might on a blustery day. I spent the class painting in the branches surrounding the bird and painted the first layer of color on the bird. Next week, I think, I’ll be painting the needles on the branches.
Today, I’m blogging late because I took my husband to the dentist. The other night one of his crowns broke off, so we had to find a dentist fast. It looks like we found a good one. He has all sorts of high-tech equipment and was showing me how he was making a temporary bridge for my husband with a machine that is sort of like the opposite of a 3D printer. That is, it takes a block and carves it away electronically to the right shape for the bridge. I have already made an appointment with him for a check-up.
While my husband was at the dentist, I went and had my hair cut (I have gone from seeing a pricey stylist when I was working to just getting my hair trimmed at Great Clips) and then took my book for a crêpe and a latté at a nice little café in town. Finally, I browsed for a while in the local used bookstore.
And that’s about it for today. I am rereading a book that I read when I was in my 20’s, and I am having quite a different reaction to it. It’s The Women’s Room by Marilyn French. At the time that I first read it, it made quite an impression on me, but now, although I think it is an important document for the times, I would not recommend it as good fiction. I’ll be discussing this on my other blog in April, for the 1977 Club.
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.
I am posting late this morning because I had to take our car into Vancouver this morning for routine maintenance. My husband said he couldn’t go because he was expecting a delivery of firewood. When I got home, he said the firewood was being delivered tomorrow. Senior moment? It’s hard to tell.
This week I learned how much more difficult it can be to get ready for Christmas if you’re out in the country. You know how it is. You start decorating and that’s when you find out you need something. When I lived in Austin, I could just run down to the corner drugstore to get replacement lights, for example. Here, it’s a 20-minute drive to town with no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for.
My decorating started relatively painlessly on Thursday when I put up some of the outside lights on the back deck. Although we had plenty of lights already, my husband had bought some fancy ones that change color and can blink or not blink, so I started out by helping him put his up, then I put up the ones I used last year on the other side of the deck. I just bought a couple of strings last year of pseudo-antique ceramic bulbs and found that about six of them needed to be replaced. More on that later.
The next day, my sister went with us to get a Christmas tree. Or rather, she took us, because she drove and borrowed her son-in-law’s trailer. The U-cut near our house has closed up and the one we were planning to visit this year took its sign down early. I think maybe some of these guys sell enough trees to make their profit and then stop. So, we weren’t quite sure where we were going. We finally decided on a large U-cut fairly far from our house. But when we got there, we saw that they had severely trimmed all their trees to look like perfect cones. I thought they looked bizarre. They were also about twice as expensive, or more, than they were elsewhere. We went back to a smaller U-cut we had passed on the way.
Last year was the first time I ever got a tree at a U-cut and while the tree was being cut, I went off to ask to use the people’s bathroom. I am only saying that because I had no idea that my niece’s husband had had to lay down in the snow to cut the trees with a hand saw. Okay, now picture us, no snow but three geezers. My husband is five years older than I am and has trouble with his knees. I am heavy and also have trouble with my knees. My sister, bless her heart, threw herself down on the ground and began to cut. She is six years younger than I am, but she is also heavy and had her knee replaced last year. She did a good job but had to get up after a while, at which time my husband tried it. I could tell just by the sound of the sawing that he was not using his muscles at all. It was probably the difficult position. I kept saying I would try it, and he kept telling me I wouldn’t be able to get down there. Finally, my sister came back and finished the job. That poor woman. I told the younger generation that next year it would be the tree lot for us, at which point my niece’s husband said he would take us next year as long as he wasn’t sick. He’s a sweetheart, but he hasn’t been feeling well. We took my sister out for prime rib the next night to thank her. I felt totally guilty, because I didn’t have to do anything except help drag the tree.
When we got home, we put the tree in the stand. That is an understatement. It was a noble fir, and they are heavy. It’s not as tall as the one we had last year but very fat and solid. My husband tends to get aggravated easily at Christmas, since he has no interest in it, so after we got it in the stand, even though it was tilted at about a 20 degree angle, he said, “If you want to straighten it, do it yourself.” Of course, it’s impossible to straighten a large tree by yourself. You have to have one person pulling it into position while the other person adjusts the screws. My sister came over the next night and helped me with it, but it is still tilted, just not as badly.
Getting the tree was tough, but that’s just part of the story. On Saturday morning, I took my niece to tae kwon do. Afterwards, I made a quick trip to the hardware store in town, innocently thinking it would be easy to get what I needed, replacement bulbs. They didn’t have any. Can you imagine? I just bought these lights from them last year, and they already don’t have replacement bulbs for those strings. In fact, I have been quite a few places since then, and I can say that no one has them.
This got worse. When I started trimming my tree later Saturday morning, the first thing I found out was that one of my strings of white lights didn’t work at all. The fuse was out, but we couldn’t get it to work even after replacing it. I am a little anal about my tree. I first cover it in white lights, then I start again at the bottom and do colored ones. I don’t put any ornaments on until the lights are on, so I was stalled.
In the afternoon, I went over to my niece’s house to help decorate cookies. This wasn’t as fun as it was the year before, when the entire family did it together. First, my niece wanted to wait until her friend arrived. She had told me to come at 1 PM, and it was 2 before we got a text from the friend saying she had just left the house. So, we got started. My sister and my niece were decorating cookies for some school events, and they said they had to be identical or the kids would fight over them. So, they were working sort of assembly line style on a whole bunch of identical cookies at once. My great niece and I were doing the other ones. That went well until the friend dropped her daughter off instead of coming in to help. The two little girls got into a competition with each other about who could put the most junk on her cookie, so that by the time I had finished a couple of dozen cookies, they had only done three apiece.
In the meantime, my niece and sister finished their assembly line cookies and just stopped working. Then the friend came back and showed no inclination to decorate cookies, but took a cup of tea and began talking to my niece. I started to wonder how I got landed decorating cookies with a couple of nine-year-olds, so having filled up my tray with decorated cookies, I quit. My sister started to protest that there were still some cookies to do (only about six), and I said, “I’ve done enough.” Maybe I was being Grinchy, but I remembered too many times as the oldest girl in the family when my brothers and sisters begged me to bake Christmas cookies. I would say, “Okay, but you have to stay here and help me decorate them.” They would always agree, and then they would do a couple of cookies apiece and disappear. I would get stuck decorating dozens of cookies all by myself, which is not fun.
I had to run into town to try to find C6 LED white lights and a wreath holder. My sister decided to go with me because she was trying to find eight red bows to hang on the fence on the way to the house. She and my great niece had already done a great job putting ornaments and bows on the trees in the yard. It looked really pretty, all of them red, gold, or silver. I think I might do something like that in my orchard next year if I can find some inexpensive but nice looking ornaments. My niece is getting ready for a huge family dinner next weekend for her husband’s very large extended family. We are invited to “drop by,” but we won’t go, I’m sure. We only know a couple of members of the family, and this is precisely the type of situation that makes us feel uncomfortable. We are introverts.
At the hardware store, I got the last package of C6 white lights, but they didn’t have a wreath holder. They said they were out. It’s more than two weeks before Christmas and the local stores are no longer stocking Christmas stuff. I took my sister a few places looking for bows. No bows but a wreath holder, much chintzier than the one I had, at the Fred Meyer.
We got home. Who knew that now the LED lights come in more than one kind of white? I plugged them in and they were warm white. They looked ridiculous with my bright white lights. Then I went to hang my wreath. Guess what? My wreath hanger was for an interior door, not an exterior one. It of course did not say this on the package, but I defy anyone to fit that wreath hanger on an exterior door. So, I went to bed with my tree in the same state.
The next morning, early, my husband and I went to Home Depot, where we found what we thought was the last string of C6 white lights in town. This one was fancy, it could blink or not blink, had a controller, so it cost more. My husband found this string, so I did not check the color, but he knew the problem with the other string. I guess you can already tell what’s coming. Still no wreath holder. I got back into the car and said to my husband that I was sure the Michael’s would have a wreath holder. This store is another 10 or 15 minutes away (the Home Depot is 40 minutes away from our house, in Vancouver), but we went there and found a wreath holder, actually lots of them, and they were plainly of better quality and designed to fit on an exterior door. We also found red bows for my sister.
After having a nice breakfast out, we went back all satisfied with ourselves, dropped the bows off, and came home. I plugged in the new lights. You guessed it, warm white again. I put the lights back in the box with the receipt and got back into the car and drove right back to town, where I went to the dreaded Walmart. I hate to shop there, because I don’t like their policies. But I finally found what actually was the last string of C6 LED bright white lights in town. They are oddly shaped, smaller than my other C6’s and pointy tipped instead of rounded, but by then I just wanted to finish my tree.
Hah! I got to the colored lights. I had two strings from the year before that had no working blue lights. I’m not sure why it would be, but even though we know all the lights are white with just a colored bulb covering around them, for some reason on all my strings, the blues burn out first and then the greens. All of these LED lights are oldish, not the kind where you can replace the bulb. So, I had one very long string of lights and two shorter ones that I was planning to use without using the two strings that had no blues. However, just like the white lights, one string would not light even after my husband replaced the fuse. At this point, I decided to heck with it and distributed the working strings to cover the tree. Next year I plan to replace all my colored lights, because on my working strings about every third bulb is burned out. However, they still look okay.
I finally got to the ornaments on Monday morning. No problems there, just a few broken ornaments from sheer clumsiness. I still haven’t put out all my decorations through the house, but my tree is done except for the topper. I need my husband to cut off part of the treetop (we forgot to do it when it was on the ground) and then put my Santa on top. It is too high for me to reach.
This is a very long article just to be about decorating the tree. I hope your Christmas decorating goes more smoothly!
I realized that last week I forgot to talk about trees. Several months ago, we joined the Arbor Day Foundation, whose mission is to encourage people to plant more trees. Around here, we go out and see more and more logged lots every month, so planting trees seems like a good idea. With a donation, you have the choice of either receiving a bunch of trees to plant or telling them to plant them for you. Since we had very little spring color on our property last year, just a couple of apple and cherry trees, and all white, I decided that we needed the trees. All that was specified was that we would receive ten flowering trees and two crepe myrtles.
We received these trees the week before last, so last week, we set about planting them. We actually received five white flowering dogwoods, five redbuds, and the two crepe myrtles, all very small plugs. We planted all of them along the edges of the orchard in places where I thought they would be least likely to get mown over by my husband. Then we went around and stuck stakes in the ground next to each one (the trees themselves just look like sticks right now) to make it more noticeable for my husband. I still have not replaced the lilac bush that my husband mowed down, because I’m waiting for a landscaping box to put it in.
My Friday Thanksgiving dinner went well. I made Russian wild mushroom and cheese soup, turkey, green bean casserole (my husband’s favorite), squash casserole, stuffing, and gravy. My niece brought a raspberry pie. Only the mashed potatoes were a problem. I had bought a bag of Yukon golds a couple of weeks ago, but when I removed them from the drawer, they were a bag of liquid, leaving behind a puddle of goo that was 1/4 inch thick. It was disgusting. The only potatoes that escaped the devastation were the three older ones that were in the drawer by themselves. I never buy potatoes by the bag, so this will teach me. Neither my niece or my sister had potatoes, so we were forced to put the gravy on our meat and stuffing. Not exactly a disaster. My sister told me afterwards that my niece remarked what a treat it was to eat a holiday dinner that she didn’t have to cook herself.
Of course, that meant that Friday was a busy one for me. In fact, I was so tired afterwards that I was lying on the couch feeling like something was pressing me downwards. But Saturday was busy, too. We took my great niece to her new yellow stripe belt class first thing in the morning. This was our first class to take her to since she belt tested, because the day after the belt test she was sick. Unfortunately, they were closed. If they told people ahead of time that they were going to be closed, they certainly didn’t put it on their web site or anything. My niece was already mad at them, because they posted the wrong class schedule on their site, so that my great niece missed her Tuesday class because she went at the wrong time. So she hasn’t attended class since the belt test.
After we got back from the non-class, I had just about enough time to finish the hand wash from Friday before my sister came to pick us up for the Christmas concert. This was a concert with the Portland Orchestra and Choir. My niece’s husband’s stepfather is in the choir. We went with my sister, my great niece, and my great niece’s other grandmother (in case, you didn’t follow that, my niece’s husband’s mother). The concert was very nice, with traditional and not so traditional Christmas songs. A particularly nice touch was the inclusion of the Bells of the Cascades. I always like to do at least one Christmassy thing before Christmas. In past years, that has been difficult, because my husband is not into it, but the Christmas spirit has captured my niece big time (she used to dislike it, before she had kids), so it is no longer a problem. After the concert, we met all my niece’s husband, his brother, and my great nephew for dinner.
In art class, I finally finished the second color exercise, a simple picture of some flowers. As I mentioned before, my last teacher had misunderstood the intention of the exercise, which was to match the colors on a sample, so, my sky was much too blue. When I went back to my original teacher, I fixed the rest of the picture, but it was too late to change the color of the sky. I also found out that I had missed another color exercise that was supposed to come before this one, so next week I’ll start on that.
This weekend we have another Christmas experience coming up. I’ll tell you all about it next time.
I just realized that the day of my birthday, two weeks ago, I forgot to post a picture of my record player. So, if you want to go back and look, it’s now there in all its aqua glory.
We have had a few changes to our schedule lately. First, last Wednesday when I got into the car to go to art class, my sister told me she had decided to drop both herself and my great niece from the class. It wasn’t a huge surprise that my great niece was dropping. She tends to expect herself to do everything perfectly and gets upset in class if she doesn’t know how to do something. I have been thinking about this, because it seems as if our presence in class, particularly her grandmother’s, makes her more likely to get upset. There are other kids in the class doing just fine on their own.
But up until last week, my sister kept telling me how much she enjoyed our class. I was disappointed, because my idea in signing us up for the class was so we could do something together regularly, as she is the person I see the least of the family. She said her daughter (who is very creative) wants to make art, too, so they decided to do it at their house once a week together, and I am invited. That’s all very well, but they planned to do it the same time and day as my art class!
Well, I just bought the expensive oils kit, if you’ll remember, so I decided to keep going to class. I don’t have much expectation, just knowing how hard it has been to schedule anything regularly with my niece, that the art at home plan is going to work out very well. I will go, though, when they do it.
But this gave me an opportunity. I have lamented our original art teacher’s change of schedule. Both Sue and I felt that the quality of instruction had gone down with our new art teacher, even though she is very nice. So, when my sister put in her drop notice at class, I asked the receptionist if our old teacher had any slots, and I have changed my class from Wednesday afternoon to Tuesday evening. So, I have now had two classes since I last reported.
And that has been a good change for me. I felt a big difference just in my first class last night, about how much help I was getting from the instructor. Last week, I told you I was starting a painting of some flowers that was an exercise in mixing paint. When I used the formula for the exercise to mix my sky color last week, the first color I was supposed to paint, it came out much darker than the sample exercise I was looking at. So, my last instructor and I had a conversation about the point of the exercise that sort of matched the one we had done with the color wheel. Was the point of the exercise to see how the colors came out in using the formula or in trying to match the sample? She told me to use the formula. As it turns out, she had both the color wheel exercise and the flower exercise backwards, which I found out last night when I went for my first class with my new (former) instructor. It turns out I was supposed to match the colors, but it was too late to do so for my sky. I ended up correcting the colors on some of the flower petals and continuing the exercise, which is almost finished. But next week I will show her how my color wheel came out and tell her what happened and ask her if I should repeat that exercise. I am fairly sure that with the color wheel the idea was to see how the colors came out while following the formula, exactly the opposite of what we decided I should do.
And my new (old) teacher gave me some other useful pieces of advice. When I started painting, I asked my previous teacher what brush I should use, and she directed me to a flat brush about 1/2 inch wide. I found it very difficult to paint the circular shapes I was working on with that brush. My new teacher suggested to me that I use the smallest brush possible for the work and a rounder one for painting circular shapes, so changing brushes really helped me with my edges. She also showed me how a bit of linseed oil at the edge of my paint can help me with my edges.
So, I am charged up about my new art class schedule. My only fear is that my instructor, who is pregnant, may be leaving the class in a few months and I’ll have to see who we get as a substitute. But now I have no need to consult my sister’s schedule if I want to change classes again.
The other thing we have added to our schedule lately is to take my great niece to her tae kwon do class every Saturday. I volunteered to do this after my sister told me that she and my niece keep forgetting to take her on Saturdays. She is really excited about tae kwon do, so I think it’s a shame that they are not getting her to class when they’re supposed to. So, starting the week before last, we began taking her.
Last Friday, she did her first belt testing to move from white belt to yellow stripe belt, and the kids invited me to attend. It was the white belts in all three age groups attempting to move to yellow stripe, and the yellow stripe belts attempting to move to yellow. (Just as a side note, the last time I had anything to do with tae kwon do was 50 years ago, when my great niece’s grandmother, my sister, took it starting at the age of 11. She worked her way up to green belt but then quit because, as I remember, she said her thighs were too muscular. That was when girls weren’t supposed to have muscles. Back then, they didn’t have yellow stripe belts. I believe it’s now a way for the beginners to advance and gain confidence more quickly.)
Everyone passed. I think at this stage they don’t have them test until they are ready to pass, which is probably better for their confidence. My great niece was a little taken aback, because she was the first one in the testing to be challenged by the master about her behavior at home. My niece told me that the parents had to fill out a form, and one of the questions was about whether the child had any behavior at home that needed work. Apparently, the parents of the kids before they got to my great niece didn’t fill in this section, so they got to her and the instructor said, “Do you always get along with your little brother?” My great niece shouted, “Yes, sir!” The master said, “I think sometimes you need improvement.” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” He said, “Will you be more considerate of your brother?” She shouted, “Yes, sir!” She was a little flustered. Later on, when he got to other kids, he said things like “Do you listen to your mother the first time?” or “Do you clean up your room when you’re asked to?” and every kid insisted he or she did. Then he would look at them gravely and say, “I don’t think so.” I have no doubt that these kids will be cleaning their rooms and listening to their mothers at least for a couple of days. That part of the testing made me laugh. It’s really amazing. I think the parents wished the kids would treat them like they did their master.
Today I need to finish cleaning the house so that tomorrow I can prepare some dishes for our Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. This will be another week of frivolity, because on Saturday several of us are going to a Christmas concert.
As much as we have enjoyed living here in this beautiful country, we have sort of fallen down on the job when it comes to entertainment. My husband seems to prefer to stay home versus almost any other type of activity. So, it was nice that this past week we went on a couple of different outings.
Last Wednesday was my birthday, as I said before. I had art class, during which I made a color wheel. It was a little difficult because my yellow paint didn’t seem to be doing its job. The way a color wheel works is that you have your basic colors, red, blue, and yellow, in circles each one third around a larger circle. Then you make the intervening colors by mixing. If you are going between yellow and blue, for example, the first circle after yellow is supposed to be a mix of two dots of yellow paint and one dot of blue. The second circle is supposed to be equal parts of yellow and blue, and the third, the one next to pure blue, is supposed to be one dot of yellow and two of blue. I had a model I was trying to match, but in the cases where I was mixing yellow, to match that model, I had to use a lot more yellow paint, six dots of yellow instead of one. It wasn’t altogether clear to me whether it was more important to match the model or to get the paint percentages right. Now that I think of it, I probably was supposed to get the paint percentages right and use whatever colors I got from that. Between the red and blue, I didn’t have the same problem.
Finally, you do triangles of the opposite colors to get browns. My browns didn’t look anything like the model browns. In one case, a brown looked like a green. I think this had to do with my yellow paint being weak or something. Someone more experienced would know, but my teacher wasn’t clear about these problems. In the next class, I will trace a picture of flowers that is another paint-mixing exercise.
After art class, we went out to eat. My only rule for my birthday, usually, is that I don’t have to cook dinner. I don’t even require a fancy restaurant. That evening we went to McGrath’s Fish House, which is an okay fish restaurant. I don’t think there are any really good ones short of Portland. It is much better than Red Lobster or Joe’s Crab Shack, but that’s about all I can say for it (and I actually like Joe’s pretty well, but only for crab). My highly recommended halibut was nice and fresh but needed a little something, and Wayne said his highly recommended salmon wasn’t as good as my halibut. However, what with getting a birthday gift that I wanted and going out to eat, it was a pretty good birthday.
The best part of my birthday was Friday night, an event that we had all been looking forward to. When it was my niece’s birthday in August, she asked to go to Kachka, a trendy Russian restaurant in Portland (a city with lots of Russians). It turned out, however, that we needed reservations at least two weeks in advance, so we couldn’t go. We went to her second choice instead, but at that time, planned to go to Kachka for my birthday. It was me, my husband, my sister, my niece, and her husband. As the menu and my niece suggested, we had lots of zakuski, which we all shared. If you actually bothered to look at the menu, we had Moldovan eggplant, Baltic sprat buterbrodi, salo, the meat and cheese board, khachapuri, Siberian pelmeni and sour cherry vereniki, golubtsi, bread and butter, and assorted pickles. My husband also had the borscht. Even though I’m usually not a big pickle eater, every bite was delicious. My sister and niece also had vodka while the rest of us tea-totaled. If that wasn’t enough, we all had dessert (mine was plombir sandwiches) and either coffee or tea. I had some delicious chai.
My only complaint was, why does every new trendy restaurant have such uncomfortable chairs, sometimes the same uncomfortable chairs as the other trendy restaurants? They always look really nice but they are really horrible to sit in. Do no restaurant owners ever sit in their chairs before buying them, or do they just buy them for the looks?
That was a great evening out even though we missed Game of Thrones night this week. Our weekends are going to be heating up as we approach the holidays, so I suspect Game of Thrones is going to go by the wayside a few more times.
My niece is hosting her husband’s huge family for Christmas, so she doesn’t want to mess with Thanksgiving this year. So, my husband and I decided to offer to host. We will be doing everything, but we will do it on Friday evening instead of Thursday so that my sister, who works every holiday, can come. We made this offer that night out, and everyone decided it was a good idea. (I wasn’t sure before that if my niece wanted to skip Thanksgiving altogether or just didn’t want to do it herself.)
Finally, yesterday, which is cheap day at the theater, we saw the new Murder on the Orient Express. I was worried about it, in particular that they would change the ending. I also didn’t see how it could stand up to the star-studded 1974 movie. It did, but in a different way. They interjected more action and made Poirot a little more of a physical detective than Christie probably would approved of. They also changed some of the characters, while preserving their names. Oddly, Count and Countess Idreni, played originally by Michael York and Jacqueline Bisset, hardly even appeared in this production. It was like they kept forgetting they were on the train.
There was a difference in the substance of the casting, this version going more for popular stars rather than screen legends (an exception being Judi Dench and a couple of other actors), but overall, I think it was a movie that was effective in its own right, going for an emotional impact at the end.
Finally, it’s time for a picture. My husband and I aren’t the only ones being amused this week. My cat, Hillary, has developed a fascination for Candy Crush Soda Saga. She seems to care less about the original Candy Crush game, but whenever I get out Soda Saga, she comes over and one time even reached out her paw to touch the screen. So, here is a picture of Hillary on my iPad playing Soda Saga. She likes the fish.