A winter journey

Last week revolved around a weekend trip to Leavenworth, Washington, where they have a Christmas festival every weekend in December. My niece planned this trip almost a year ago. Seven of us went, my sister, my husband and I, my niece and her family. Leavenworth is located on the east of the Cascades in central Washington, so we had to drive over the mountains to get there.

My great niece and great nephew with a bear outside a store in Leavenworth

We drove up on Friday, arriving around 3:30. Leavenworth is a little German town that looks like the residents transplanted a chunk of Bavaria. There are murals painted on the walls of the buildings and they are well lit up for Christmas. My goodness, does it get filled up for the Christmas festival.

The town schedules events all weekend in a gazebo in the center of town. If they don’t have someone performing then they pipe Christmas music. We arrived in town in time to witness the arrival of St. Nicholas. The town was all lit up with Christmas lights and fairly packed for the arrival. St. Nicholas drove up in a horse-drawn carriage and then proceeded to give an uncharismatic and tedious lecture on the history of St. Nicholas. All the adults in my party had to laugh. Here they designed an event for kids and then bored them. Our favorite line—“And then I died.” I’m sure the children were confused, if they were paying attention at all. Finally, St. Nicholas handed out pears wrapped in gold foil to all the children. I never saw so many orchards as I did in the immediate area when we were driving in to town.

Our trusty steeds awaiting the arrival of us. Our horses were the ones on the left. You can just barely see the mountains behind everything.

On Saturday, we had scheduled a sleigh ride through the country. This turned out to be a wagon ride, as there was not enough snow. It began snowing on Saturday morning, though, and continued to snow all day. As the day went on, the town, nestled in the mountains, became more and more beautiful. The horses were percherons, massive draft horses but seemingly placid in disposition. That was fun. Our driver was a hoot.

I had to take a picture of the people with presents on their heads. You can see it’s just beginning to snow.

But when we went back into town, it was so packed! We thought it had been full Friday night, but we were wrong! They closed off the main street for the weekend, which meant that people could walk in the street. That relieved the congestion on the sidewalks but eliminated a lot of the parking. The lack of parking continued to be a problem all weekend, because my husband was unable to walk from the hotel to the town. We arrived in time for a charmingly short parade down main street. First came people with presents for hats, then people dressed like elves and Christmas trees, and finally Santa’s sleigh. The parade lasted about two minutes.

My great niece and niece at the parade

We were lucky in finding a restaurant for lunch that was not only good but apparently unknown to the tourists. After we arrived, the entire parade showed up except the Christmas trees. The town was so full that after we attempted to do some shopping, in tiny stores stuffed with people, we all decided to go back to our hotel so that the kids could play in the game room. We were unable to find a restaurant that had room for us all for dinner, so my husband and I ended up going to the overpriced German buffet at the hotel. By then, I had had all I ever wanted of mediocre German food.

Leavenworth lit up at night. This was one of the few times when it wasn’t packed with people, after the lighting ceremony on Sunday. Everyone left immediately to go home except us.

By Sunday, everything was covered in snow and gorgeous. The sun was shining, too! All the women in our party walked downtown, and so many people had gone home by then that we could easily go from shop to shop. We saw all we wanted of the stores, which were fairly typical in a tourist town. I bought some cheese in the cheese store. We had a nice lunch at an outdoor sausage place. More sausage, but at least it was good. Then in mid-afternoon we went back to the hotel for a few hours’ rest. My niece’s husband had the forethought to book us a table at a nice restaurant for dinner.

When we went back to town, my husband and I found probably the last parking place there, for $20! It was just in time for the lighting ceremony and right before our dinner reservation. The lighting ceremony seemed interminable to me, with every person who helped in the festival taking his or her turn to talk, so finally my husband and I went to the restaurant to make sure they held our reservation. Apparently, it was quite touching when they finally lit up, not just the Christmas trees, but the whole town. It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The restaurant was delicious. I had fish instead of sausage. So, a nice night.

We drove home on Monday through the mountain passes that were now spectacular, having been snowed on for an entire day. All the limbs of the trees were thick with snow. But because of sun the day before, the roads were quite clear. So, we had a nice journey home from our Christmas adventure.

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A week of sightseeing

I spent this week entertaining my guest from Houston and boy, am I tired! Yesterday, we dropped her at the airport at 6:15 AM, and after doing a few chores around the house, I lay down and fell asleep for four hours.

My friends on one of the many bridges across the Williamette River in Portland. The bridge we were standing on is a new one that is just for walking, biking, and mass transit.

The first day of our visit was cold and rainy, and we again took the North Clark County Scenic Drive. Of course, it began raining when we got to the waterfalls, so we ended up skipping the one that we so far have always skipped for one reason or another. We were happy to return early for a pot of tea and a seat before the wood stove.

On Friday, we had a few rain gusts, but it eventually became sunny. We met my Portland friend in Portland for a visit to the Pompeii exhibit at OMSI. After we saw the exhibit, we walked around downtown Portland and of course visited Powell’s books. By the time we got there, I was just ready to sit in the coffee room, but I did buy a book by John McPhee about Alaska called Coming into the Country.

Cannon Beach, with its famous monolith

Saturday we went to the beach. We drove out to Astoria, went up to the tower above the city, and then drove down the coast as far as Cannon Beach. We got to see what each of the small beach communities was like. I confess that I still prefer Gearhart, where we were this summer, because it is quiet. The beach at Cannon Beach is very nice, though. Seaside is crowded and full of arcades for the children.

At a viewpoint on the way up to the mountain. It was a gorgeous day.

My husband went along with us only on our Sunday expedition, back to Mt. St. Helens. He only went because I asked him to, as I was already very tired and wanted him to drive. As usual, he was not much help when it comes to entertaining visitors. It was a beautiful day, so we got some nicer pictures of the mountains and had the opportunity to listen to an interesting presentation by a ranger.

Monday started out with a doctor’s appointment, but then my friend and I continued out along the Gorge. Normally, I would want to take a visitor to the old highway between Vista House and the falls, including Multnomah Falls, but all of these sights are closed because of the Eagle Creek fire. So, instead, I decided that it might be a good time to investigate the Maryhill Museum of Art, which is way down the Gorge. My original plan was to drive there on the north side of the Gorge, on highway 14, and back on the freeway on the south side of the Gorge, but our GPS kept trying to force us to go to the freeway, and so we had no idea how long it would take us to drive out on highway 14. Finally, we decided to cross over at Bridge of the Gods, because who could resist driving across that bridge? It is really spectacular, an old, narrow bridge that people can both drive and walk across.

Maryhill Museum of Art

Maryhill museum is small but packed with interesting exhibits. It was originally the house of railroader and highway advocate, Sam Hill, who was trying to establish an agricultural community out there. But he bought property just a little too far out on the dry side of the mountains, and the community failed before he finished building his house. Eventually, he decided to make a museum out of it and got contributions from his friends in European royalty.

The museum has rooms with Russian icons, Grecian urns, gilt furniture and other artifacts donated by the Queen of Bohemia, chess sets, an entire room of Rodin sculptures, and what interested my friend most, the Théâtre de la Mode, which is a display of 24-inch wire mannequins dressed in beautiful gowns that the Parisian designers used after World War II to present their creations to women in the United States. The collection was believed lost, but the mannequins were salvaged from a store basement in San Francisco and their elaborate settings restored. It’s a very interesting little museum and well worth the visit, even though the trip is long and there is nothing else out there except a winery.

My friend left early yesterday morning, and now I am just trying to get back to normal. We had a beautiful week, but yesterday it started raining again. Art class today!

 

Visitors and Mt. St. Helens

Our visit with my husband’s brother and his wife passed off nicely. They only stayed one night and were not interested in more driving, as they had driven down highway 97 to the Gorge and come down the Gorge and back up here. We found that an odd route, considering there were forest fires on both sides of the Gorge, past which they had to drive. They said they didn’t see any fire, just smoke. We showed them the house, did a lot of talking, found a restaurant to take them to dinner, and all had a sauna, and that was about it. When they left, they were planning to go back along the Gorge to Hood River, which would put them even closer to the fire in Oregon.

Last we heard, the fire on the Washington side was well contained, but they were saying that the Eagle Creek fire may never be fully contained because of the rugged terrain. However, starting Sunday, it is supposed to rain here for three or four days in a row, so maybe that will put both fires out. It is supposed to be the first substantial rain we have had all summer.

Our guide in his favorite place in the park

On Saturday, we had an outing with my friend from Portland to Mt. St. Helens. Her neighbor works as a part-time ranger there a couple weekends a month, and she was able to arrange a personal tour with him. He was quite a garrulous guy, but he had lots of interesting stories to tell about the eruption and about the park in general. He himself had a close call. He was at Spirit Lake helping remove some equipment from a boy scout camp, and he and the other people with him had decided to spend the night to finish the job even though the governor was not allowing anyone to stay overnight in the area. But a law enforcement officer came by and asked them to leave. The next morning was the eruption, and they would have been killed if they hadn’t gone home as requested.

Mt. St. Helens on a misty day, but it cleared up just for our visit. The eruption busted through the side of the mountain, removing the top and making that huge crater.

I have to admit that Mt. St. Helens wouldn’t have been my first choice of a place to visit, but it was fascinating. It was amazing to think that it only took three minutes for all the debris and gas from the eruption to go miles across the valley and up the other side, to where I was standing when I took the picture above. The before and after pictures are devastating, and the movies in the visitor center were informative and moving. This was a really interesting visit, and I recommend it to anyone who is in the area.

We almost cancelled our expedition because of smoke from the fires, but it cleared up the day before. However, the day we went it was misty. But the mist cleared for our visit, and it started raining just as we were leaving. Because of the fires, there were not many people at the monument that day.

At home, I have spent the last two days listing teapots on my Etsy store. The whole Etsy experience has been a lesson learned. I started out with some harlequin dolls from a collection I made in the 1980’s. I had offered the dolls to the little girls, but they find them creepy and always put them out in the hall when they sleep in the kids’ guest room. So, a few months ago, I looked at Etsy to see what it would take to list them.

I was just investigating opening a store, and before I knew it, I was actually opening one. They don’t really have a primer that tells you all the steps ahead of time, which was what I was looking for. I ran into trouble when it got to the shipping part. I could have just saved my listings and investigated the shipping later, but instead (don’t ever do this yourself), I guessed about the shipping. The program says “Let us estimate your shipping costs,” and I thought (duh!) that when it asked for the weight of the item, it meant the item itself, not the item with shipping materials. I stupidly thought they had a way of estimating the weight from the size of the box and the weight of the item. Of course, I had no boxes and I didn’t have the dolls packed, so I just weighed the dolls! Boy, was that dumb. I figured if I was off, I would only have to add a few dollars.

The error came out when I sold my first item, last week. It was my best doll, and I had it under-priced to begin with, I think (although I couldn’t find any as nice to compare it with). I packed it up in the only box I could find (the one containing my Indonesian puppets, whose bases I can’t find yet), printed the postage label, and took it to the post office. There I found that I owed $8 more on the postage. So, I made hardly any money on that doll. I also have a problem that to get boxes the correct size to ship the dolls, I have to order 25 of them! I only have a few more dolls to ship, so I hope that my husband will be able to make boxes for me out of other boxes. Oh, for the box store I used to go to in Austin, where you could get one of any size of box.

I have always planned to sell my teapot collection that I put together in the 1990’s, and that sale got me going again. So, the past few days, I got the right-sized box from Walmart and have been weighing each teapot with the packing materials on them, adding the weight of the box, unwrapping them and taking their pictures, and listing them. Some of the teapots are unusual enough that I wasn’t able to find comparisons, so I hope I have them priced right.

It has started to turn cooler here. The last two days have been cool and sunny, and finally the smoke has cleared out completely. Right now it is only 46 degrees out, and the high today will be 62. It will get warmer again next week, but I think fall is coming!

Oh dear. My niece just invited us a costume party for my great-nephew’s fourth birthday just before Halloween. I’m going to have to do some thinking. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in about 20 years!

Fire, incoming guests, and an outing

The last few days we’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of a nearby forest fire. It started at Eagle Creek in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge, apparently by a 15-year-old shooting off illegal fireworks in the forest. It has displaced quite a few people in Oregon, although last I heard, no one had died and no structures have burned. But yesterday, it jumped the river into Washington. It is over in the next county, although I don’t think it is nearly as bad here as in Oregon. But they are evacuating some people on our side of the Gorge.

Our skies are so smoky this morning that we can barely see the sun, even though normally it would be a clear day.

Our skies have been really smoky as a result, and outside it smells like smoke. The air quality is very bad, and we have been avoiding doing work outside, although I had to go whack down the weeds in front of our address sign yesterday, because we are having guests who have never been here before and I realized you couldn’t read the number. There is ash all over our deck. I hope this is the worst we get from the fire and that everyone else’s houses are okay.

This is ash on the deck as of yesterday. Today it is worse.

At midnight the wind was supposed to change and the sky was supposed to clear out, but I could see no evidence of that when I got up. It was still hot out, too, and it was supposed to get cooler. But about an hour ago, I went outside and it was cooler, so I suppose the wind has finally shifted and the smoke will move out of the area. But since the wind is shifting from east winds to south winds, it will be blowing the ashes from the fire straight up into Washington, although not toward us anymore (we are northwest of the fire).

Just last Friday we saw some of the smoke on a little outing we took, although then it was not very bad, because the fire was still just on the Oregon side. We started out just going to the post office. But it was a nice day, although hot, and my husband decided we would take a little drive. First we headed straight east out of Yacolt, but after a while each of the roads we took ended up as private roads. One of the oddities of this area is that there are hundreds of private roads and roads that start out public often become private. It cramps your style when you are blindly exploring, as we like to do. So then, we decided to take Sunset Falls Road, which ends up in the Gifford National Forest, but only out as far as Dole Valley Road and then see what is on that road. Our ex-tenants live somewhere out on that road (they are my niece’s in-laws), so we wanted to see what the territory looked like.

It is much more remote than where we are. The road heads south, and we wound our way through mountains and a beautiful valley, presumably the Dole Valley, for hours. We thought we ended up in the Gifford National Forest, but looking at the map when we got home, I realized that it was the Yacolt State Forest. At some point in the forest, the road became just a narrow gravel road, and then it changed its name to L-1000. We passed a prison. It surprised us that there was a prison in what we thought was the national forest (but wasn’t).

Eventually, we got to a four-way intersection marked by signs on wooden stakes. One direction sounded like it pointed out destinations in the park. One sign said “Henderson,” and I had no idea where that was. It wasn’t even on our county map (which, since it was a map for bikers, helpfully had a huge legend covering the area of the county where we were) or the state map. The other sign said “Camas.” I knew where Camas was, on the Columbia River, because my sister and I visited it after art class one Wednesday. So, we decided to go to Camas, but it was still quite a drive to that nice little town. Camas has a scenic old town with lots of interesting shops, restaurants, and art galleries, so we stopped there for lunch at a Louisiana-style restaurant. The food was pretty good. There was some sort of art competition going on, because at just about every corner, there were artists working on canvasses. I know that there is a yearly art competition centered around areas of the Gorge, so maybe that was it. Finally, we drove home on the more normal route. When we got home, we found out we had been driving for about four hours.

Now, we are preparing for tomorrow’s arrival of my husband’s youngest brother and his wife. He was the brother who helped us drive our stuff up here from Texas. They are coming from British Columbia, where they live about an hour outside Vancouver (the more famous Vancouver). Although he was not eating a special diet when we moved last year, I find we need to locate somewhere where he can eat on a vegan, low-carb diet. That should be interesting.

For those who were worried about my brother, he is at home now. He did not have some of the more dangerous conditions they tested for, but he had to have his heart started twice to try to get it beating more regularly. Now, he will have to take medication every day and keep nitro glycerin pills near him at all times for the rest of his life. This is better than the alternative, I guess, but he is such an active guy who likes camping and kayaking and is in good physical health in other ways. He now has some blockage that makes him tire easily. Unfortunately, a bum ticker is part of our family heritage. My father died of a massive heart attack on the tennis court when he was 54, and his father died at the same age from the same thing (although not while playing tennis). My uncle was surprised that he made it to his 80’s. I guess this legacy has now made it down to one of my brothers.

 

Things that are different

We have a few things to worry about this week. My younger brother is in the hospital with cardiac problems, so we are thinking about him and hoping his procedure today comes out okay. Also, we have been thinking about our friends in Texas, in particular, Houston. Our friends in Austin report that it isn’t bad there. They just got more rain than normal. But Houston is a low lying city with a high water table and no high areas. We called one friend on Sunday, and at that point she said she was okay, although she was worried that water might come in the house. She said when the rain stopped, the water drained off immediately, so she was just hoping for breaks in the rain often enough to keep her house from flooding. We are assuming she is okay. As far as I know, she doesn’t live near any of the reservoirs that they opened up.

I don’t have much news this week, so I thought I’d write a little post about some of the things we’ve found different about living here in Washington, versus Texas, where I lived for 30 years.

Weather. Well, I’ve written a lot about the weather. We absolutely love it here. At this time of year in Austin, it would still be really hot, with highs in the 90’s or even 100’s and no relief until October or even November. We got so tired of six-month summers, and really hot ones at that. This week, it has been hot here in southern Washington, by which I mean in the 80’s and 90’s but cooling off into the 60’s at night. We have only had one day that we had the air conditioning on all day, versus most of the time in Texas. Most of our days are sunny. In fact, this year, we are having less rain than usual. I understand that most years it is sunny in the summer most of the time but rains every three weeks or so. This summer we have only had one rainy day. Still, it is nice and green here. We have loved all of the seasons, and we are moving toward the end of our first year here.

Degrees north. Since we are so much farther north, one thing we’ve had difficulty adjusting to is the earliness of the mornings. In Texas, morning comes about 6 AM in the summer and 7 in the winter, and evening at about 8:30 PM in the summer and 6 in the winter. At the height of this summer, it was getting daylight about 4 AM and stayed light until after 9. My memories of living in Michigan are that it was dark in the winter until about 7 AM, but here it is definitely daylight in the winter earlier than that. That might be because of the time zones.

We have had difficulty adjusting to having light come into our windows so early in the morning. Unfortunately, our bedroom faces east, and the sun blasts in even before it is over the treetops. In fact, if we didn’t have a line of huge conifers behind the house, it would be much worse. We have black-out curtains everywhere except across the sliding glass door, because I couldn’t find the right size. My husband bought a blind to put outside that door, but he hasn’t hung it yet, partly because I think he bought one that is too large. It will cover the sliding glass door and both windows, and I don’t want to cover the windows, which have black-out curtains on them, because I want to be able to get air into the room at night. So, we still have the sun blasting through the curtains on the sliding glass door every morning.

Scenery. Austin, with its hills, creeks, trees, and river, was pretty enough, but it is gorgeous here. We are surrounded by huge trees, with views of mountains on clear days. We’re up on a hill with a view of our pond and woods. We can barely see our neighbors. And this is just from our house. Every drive we take we discover more to look at.

Traffic and driving. In Texas, people drive fast, probably because the state is so big it takes forever to get across it. Here, some people drive fast but lots don’t. After all, we’re in the country, and comparatively speaking, there is no traffic. I also have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have anywhere to get in a hurry. I’ve been consciously slowing myself down. (My husband has had less success in this regard.) However, I have noticed some little driving idiosyncrasies here. The main highway on our way home is four lanes in Battle Ground, then it is down to two lanes, and after about a mile it has an extra passing lane. Then it is back down to two lanes. I keep getting behind people who drive very slowly, like at least 10 miles an hour under the speed limit, on the two-lane road, but then when the passing lane comes up so that I can pass them, they speed up so that I can’t. Then as soon as we are back to two lanes, they slow down again. That is frustrating.

But the odder thing, the thing I can’t figure out at all, is what I call the white stripers. These are the people who drive up the highway with their right two wheels straddling the white line so that their wheels are actually on the shoulder. I have seen this time and again, and I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I have no idea what they think they are doing or why they would drive like that.

But traffic? No, there isn’t any really, except for the double dump trucks that are busy disassembling the mountain nearby. We don’t like them.

Logging. A sad thing about this area is that if a property changes hands, in most cases the first thing that happens is all the trees are logged. I mean all the trees. I mean utter destruction and devastation, with piles of trash lying around on the ground for months afterwards. It is horrible to see and so bad for the environment. But the people around here are loggers. See a tree, cut it down. Although some of them will plant a few trees on the property after they build their house, many of them won’t. In fact, they really like to decorate with rocks. And I am sure that many of them need the money from the trees in order to afford the house that they put up. Still, many lots in our area that were wooded when we moved here are now scenes of total destruction. This is really a contrast for me. I remember that when we were kids, our family bought a wooded lot, and our parents went around with the builders and marked every single tree that the builders were allowed to cut down to build the house. I’m sure it was difficult for the builders, but we didn’t want to end up with a treeless lot.

Religion. Here’s the biggest oddity of this area. Unknowingly, we have moved into the hotbed of a sect of a sect, that is, Old Apostolic Lutheranism. I did some reading after we got here, and this county has the highest concentration of members of this church in the country. I tried reading about their beliefs, but I don’t really understand what the Wikipedia page is talking about. Their practices are another thing—in particular, that they take really seriously the “be fruitful and multiply” part of the bible. I think we have at least three apostolic families in our neighborhood. Our neighbors across the road are one of them, and they have 17 children. I was really surprised when I met them to find that they are only in their 40’s. They get married really young, and then they have children every year. Those neighbors’ kids, in particular, are considered the scourge of the neighborhood. They are always making a lot of noise. Lately, they’ve been shooting guns all day every day. We’re talking eight-year-olds, here.

Basically, most of the boys go straight out of high school into a trade. In fact, they’ve all been working really hard before they get official jobs. I think I mentioned that the kids across the street are the ones who cut and sold us our firewood. This means we have lots of very capable and hard-working people around here, especially in the building trades. I am fairly sure that our contractors are from that religion, although we never talked about it. The girls get married and become mothers. I don’t think very many people in our county go to college.

These people are descendants of the original settlers of this area, who were from Scandinavia. Old Apostolic Lutheranism came out of Sweden, but we also have a lot of Finns in the area that belong to the church as well. Our contractors are of Finnish descent. Finns are good wood workers, which is one reason they constituted a large portion of the population of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where long ago they engineered the copper mines. (I lived there for a year long ago.) My understanding is that a lot of the people up there are also Old Apostolic Lutherans.

I think this is all very interesting, and so far the only down side is that the schools around here are known for bullying by the OAL kids toward the other kids. My niece heard about that before her kids started school. In fact, standing in line at the post office, an OAL mother told her not to send her quirky red-headed daughter to the Yacolt school or she would be bullied. So, she is home-schooled part-time and goes to school two days a week in Battle Ground. Next week, my little great-nephew is starting preschool on the same schedule.

Anyway, it is odd to me, coming from a city, where the largest churches are usually Catholic, Methodist, and in the south, Baptist, to find that what I consider the more usual religions have very small churches out here, whereas there are three really big (for the country) Old Apostolic Lutheran churches in the immediate area, and their parking lots are packed on Sundays and some other days, sometimes at rather odd times, like last Friday at 10 AM.

So, you can see that there are some things here that are very different for us.

A little break

My husband seems to like to spend all his time at the house. The exception is the errands into town. He loves to stack one errand on top of another, so that when I start to go into town to return my library books, say, and go to the grocery store, suddenly he has added on a trip to Walmart (I hate Walmart), a pickup of prescription drugs at Walgreens, and a trip to the hardware store. Every jaunt into town must include at least one trip to the hardware store. Luckily for me, there’s a Dutch Brothers coffee booth right next door and I love their Cocomos, a combination of coffee, coconut milk, and chocolate. There is always a big line at Dutch Brothers, but if it isn’t too bad, I get in the walk-up line while my husband is looking at nuts and bolts next door.

This is all a big lead-up to say that I finally got him to take a little drive with me on Sunday. It was a beautiful day. We had one really hot day this weekend during which we actually started up the air conditioning for a few hours and one really beautiful day, during which we had the windows open all day. And then there was yesterday, when it was cold and cloudy all day, never out of the 50’s. I loved all of them.

These are the falls without the kids. They had momentarily gone out of sight.

Anyway, we chose to drive to Sunset Falls, which we had not seen yet. The drive was a nice one, southeast farther into the foothills of the Cascades. The falls aren’t spectacular, but they are pretty. Kids were sitting on the rocks over the falls in the middle of the creek (it looks like a river, but I’m pretty sure it’s a creek), and some of them were jumping off the rocks into the river or going along the bank to a cliff and jumping off there. Twenty years ago I would have been up top sitting on the rocks or wading in the creek, but I don’t think I would have had the nerve to jump off even forty years ago! It’s not terribly high up, but you could easily hit rocks on the way down.

On the contractor front, our general contractor finally came over yesterday and cleared out our basement, so I foresee some busy days of returning to what we had been doing two months ago or so when they messed it all up. We have almost all the bookcases out of the dance room, only three to go. My husband is going to fasten them to the wall because of the kids, and then I can start putting away my books. Finally! That will free up a lot of room in the dance room so that we can find the rest of our possessions and start organizing the storage in the dance room and garage.

As far as our remaining projects go, it looks like what I feared might be coming to pass. We had been waiting to hear from the guys who are going to asphalt our driveway, the guys who are going to install our marmoleum, and the guys who are going to install the carpet on the stairs. Some of these projects have been in limbo for months. I feared that what would happen is they would all want to do their jobs around the same time. That could be a problem if the driveway was being asphalted. And sure enough, we have a provisional start date from the asphalt guys of June 5 and a provisional start date for the marmoleum of June 8. I’m not sure how many days the asphalt will take, but this seems too close together. On the other had, both dates are provisional, so I’m not going to start trying to reschedule anything until at least one date is set. Also, no word from Lowe’s about the carpet since mid-May, when they said it had been shipped. I don’t want to put any of these guys off. We’ve been waiting for the carpet since February and the marmoleum since April. And the asphalt guys have the toughest schedule.

We also have a provisional start date of mid-June for painting the outside of our house. That’s not such a problem as the other projects, except, of course, if they end up being the same time as the asphalt.

We recently made a possibly foolhardy purchase. Well, who knows. It’s an interesting one at least. I have been wanting to buy a grill. I used to do about half of my meals on the grill when I was single. That was a standard Weber charcoal grill, and I used it so much it had a hole in the grill top. But when I got married, we decided to try a gas grill. Frankly, I never felt comfortable with it. I never knew if it was heated enough or whether the grill was supposed to have some sort of medium in it, like rocks, or anything like that. Our family has always used charcoal. And my husband is one of the few guys I know that doesn’t grill. (This used to be one of my dad’s favorite weekend activities.)

Our gas grill ended up being hauled off from our Austin house, where it had been chained to the deck but unused for years and was in horrible condition. Now that we have a lovely deck and some nice deck furniture for dining, I wanted to buy another charcoal grill. I was discussing it with my niece’s husband when he told me about something that’s called a Big Green Egg. A Big Green Egg is a kamado-style grill. I had never heard of these grills before, but most of them are made out of enamel, and you can use them to grill, smoke, or bake. What sold me was the information that you can use them to make tandoori chicken and naan.

I was 2/3 of the way there after reading about them, although they are expensive for a charcoal grill, but I wanted to see one. That is the difficulty. Our local Ace was supposed to carry them, but apparently they decided they took up too much space in what is a fairly small store. They said they could order one for me, but I wanted to at least look at one first. Then we stopped by Home Despot, which does not carry Big Green Eggs but has several other styles of kamado grills, some of which are less expensive. But they didn’t have even one of them in stock, either. We talked to a helpful guy in the store, who told us where we could see a Big Green Egg just to get a look at a kamado grill. The plan was to look at the Egg and then return to the Home Despot, where he would show us his other kamado grills online and we could order one. It was this kind of informed and guided shopping that I wanted from the store, because I had already read some reviews and looked at all the various grills online. I just wanted to hear what he had to say about them.

Well, we went to look at the Big Green Egg, but when we returned to Home Despot, nobody knew who the heck we were talking about, even though we knew his name (he might have been a manager), and if he WAS the manager, he was in a meeting. We stood around and stood around waiting at the service desk, but when I heard they were getting someone from flooring to help us, that’s when I decided to leave. After all, someone from flooring wasn’t going to know any more about the grills than I did. This is a problem with the local Home Despot. In Austin, they had pretty good service, but here, you’re lucky if you can find anyone to talk to. We went right back to the store with the Big Green Eggs.

The Big Green Eggs are pricey, but while we were talking to the nice man in the other store, we found out about demo eggs. These eggs are used one time at a Big Green Egg demo in Portland, and then you get one for 25% off. So, we signed up for one of those. We get our grill, slightly used, on June 25.

.This is what I call color

I hate to subject you, completely changing the subject, to another picture of our ridge, but lately the rhododendron on the left side of the water feature has bloomed beautifully. I was complaining in early spring that our property didn’t have any color, but it just didn’t have any early color. Now wildflowers are popping up all over the place. First there were some small blue ones on the ridge, but lately there are lots of white ones and some yellow flowers all around the house, maybe buttercups. I need to learn something about wildflowers. Here is part of our ridge now, just a couple weeks after the last picture. You can see some of the white flowers at the base of the rhododendron.

We have had several returns of the bunny, one time with a smaller companion, to our drive, where he or she likes to eat the grass in between the bricks. Sadly, that grass is going to be going away soon. Maybe the bunny will stay to eat the grass on our lawn, though. The bunny comes almost every evening now just before dusk.

This is my cedar waxwing.

If anyone is still interested in my art class, I finally finished my picture of a cedar waxwing. My sister is still working on her hummingbird, since she missed a class. I guess that means I’ll be doing an exercise in class today. The exercises tend to be tedious, but they are wise to intermix them with the opportunity to draw a picture. I think my next picture is supposed to be of a furry animal.

Sight-seeing North Clark County

I know I haven’t posted to this site lately, but right after New Years I got the flu, despite having a flu shot. Also, some other tests came back rather bad, and my new doctor (yay! I finally got a doctor!) has taken me off a lot of my medication, so I’ve really had to watch my diet until he prescribes new medication. Hopefully, that will happen Friday.

A cool bridge out in the middle of nowhere
A cool bridge out in the middle of nowhere

I was down sick for more than a week, and I was just starting to feel semi-normal when my friend was due to arrive for a visit from Denver. We still had snow when he arrived, but the roads were clear. However, rain was expected the day he arrived, and all the reports from Portland sounded bad. My husband wanted to ask my friend to take a taxi or bus, but I insisted on driving to the airport, and as it turned out, the traffic and the weather were fine.

The gristmill
The gristmill

We spent the next week entertaining our guest. Our contractors had come in to shave down and rehang the doors in the guest suite, so that was more or less ready for our friend. We spent a few days in because of the weather (rain on snow, but afterwards the snow melted away) and one day because the contractors were working on the new hearth and my office, but otherwise, we bopped in to Portland a couple of times and spent a day going up to Multnomah Falls. That was a kind of hairy drive, as the old highway between Vista House and the falls was down to 1 1/2 lanes where snowbanks had been shaved off, and lots of cut trees testified to the number that came down in the storm.

The creek by mill
The creek by mill

One of our most fun times, despite rain all day, was the day we decided to take the North Clark County scenic drive. We did not have the map, but just started following the signs from Battle Ground. We stopped at several falls and saw lots of beautiful scenery before losing the trail in La Centre.

One of the nicest sights was an old grist mill and covered bridge, right next to each other. We drove down a hill and around a corner, and there they were.

P.S. I forgot to mention, when I originally posted this, that one day when my friend and I were driving away from the house, we saw a bald eagle! It was sitting on a branch right next to the road, about 12 feet up. I turned around and went back to look at it, but it flew away.