Gigantic snowflakes and unexpected house painters

snow-huge
Yes, that’s a three-inch snowflake near the rail on the left.

There’s no way to show snow very well in a photo, so I tried to take a video for you of the snow that came down on Sunday afternoon. However, apparently my blog theme doesn’t support video. You can see the flakes in this photo, but you may not believe me when I tell you that at one point there were hundreds of snowflakes that were at least three inches in diameter. They looked like upside-down cocktail umbrellas falling from the sky. In the picture, you can see that one of them is bigger than the railing, but you can’t tell that most of them are that big. It was amazing.

On Monday, we had quite a surprise. The house painters showed up at 8 AM without warning. We knew they were going to start within a few weeks, but I had assumed that some other work would have to be done first. I also assumed that we would have warning. When I got to our contractor, he said he had told my husband last week. My husband has memory issues, so he never told me and then forgot. In fact, he has no recollection of being told, but I have no doubt he was.

Two walls of the kitchen are an unpleasant pinky red.
Two walls of the kitchen are an unpleasant pinky red.

The result was that we had to leap up and begin hauling things out of the rooms they wanted to start with instead of having time to put things in sensible places. Since they arrived at 8 AM, I still hadn’t washed my face or brushed my teeth, and since half of the toothbrush was promptly lost and the bathroom out of bounds, I still haven’t done that. This morning I was looking forward to taking a shower in the guest bathroom downstairs, but my shampoo is in the laundry room, where the cat is locked up for the day.

This violet wall is in the dining area--directly across from the red wall. Yes, it is.
This violet wall is in the dining area–directly across from the red wall. Yes, it is. Note also the charming use of green in the living room area.

In any case, despite the havoc, I am glad to be getting this done because I have been dreading the disruption. The house needs painting on the interior because of several reasons. The most prominent is the interesting color combinations throughout the house.

My niece and I discovered the secret to the myriad of colors in the house. We found a paint store color pallete, the kind that shows contrasting colors you can put together. The idea is that you pick a couple of these colors, one for your base color and one for accents. Unfortunately, the former owner of the house picked all of them. Luckily, she left most of the walls white. I’ll be sure to take some pictures of the finished rooms.

The other problem is that four years ago, after we bought the house and were preparing it for renters, my niece and I tried to match the white paint in the house so that we could paint out scuff marks. Although we found the color swatches for the house, the paint had faded or something. Our first attempt was a color much darker than the original white, something that you can’t tell until the paint dries. We tried again and got a closer match, but if you look carefully at the walls, you can see blotches.

So, right now our house is in even more havoc than usual, but the guys are making good progress. They finished the bathrooms yesterday, although we won’t be able to use our main bathroom until later today. They did the ceilings in the back part of the house, and made good progress on the guest bedroom. (The color my eight-year-old niece picked is a shocking turquoise. Years from now, someone is going to be making fun of me for my color choice.) Today they are working on our bedroom and will finish up the back rooms of the house except the laundry room. Tomorrow, I would imagine they’ll start on my office and the living room, kitchen, and dining area. But next week when I get back to you, they’ll be done! Exterior house painting is to come, but they can’t start that until the weather clears up and we have several dry days in a row.

More snow and work around the house

Fat flakes of snow on Sunday
Fat flakes of snow on Sunday

We haven’t had any snow on the property for the last two weeks, so what was our surprise when we started to get big fat flakes of snow on Sunday morning. This is what the trees on our property looked like by late in the morning. If you look at the railing on the deck, you can see it is still snowing. I think my husband is already sick of the snow, but I love it. Of course, today it is raining. We still have snow, but it should be gone in a couple of days.

We have been dealing with contractors for months now. The first job we had done was to get new carpet into the basement in November. They took all the doors down in the basement, so we had to add a project to our regular contractor’s list to get the doors cut down and rehung. Then we had peace until January.

My semi-finished office
My semi-finished office

First our contractor, Dustin, came back and rehung the doors in time for our friend’s visit. Then later his guys laid a hearth for our new wood stove and ripped out some cheap and poorly installed shelving in my office and replaced it. It is unpainted yet, but much more sturdy.

Our stairwell so far
Our stairwell so far

The next project was to replace our scary spiral staircase. This staircase has such a tight wind and is so narrow that you can’t bring very much up or down the stairs with you, so we have been having to cart things clear around the house and down the lower driveway. It is also very slippery and not safe for a couple of geezers like me and my husband. It was pretty and left us a nice big living room, but we decided to replace it with a normal staircase. The stairs are installed, and today the sheet rock guys are here to fill in the sheet rock. They got here before 7:30! We are used to our regular contractor, who usually arrives between 8 and 8:30.

His ladder was too short
His ladder was too short

And, last Wednesday we finally got our wood stove installed! We have been burning stuff ever since. It is a lovely stove. It took the guys all day to install it, and one of them had to climb up into the attic from our bedroom, which is on one end of the house, and crawl all the way up inside our chalet roof ceiling to make the hole for the chimney.

So, that’s what has been going on lately. On Thursday the guy comes to install our new gutters, which have been leaking profusely. He is a nice guy, especially considering that our dog bit him when he came out to do the bid.

New Year in Washington

snow-lights
Snow on New Year’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year to you all.

Adventures with the health care system

Far be it from me to have anything negative to say about Obamacare. I believe that it is a great thing that everyone in the country now has access to medical care, at least theoretically. But it has had some impacts to us we didn’t expect. I’ll be getting to that in a bit.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we have already had some adventures with the medical system. My husband got bit by one of our cats when he was trying to capture it in Austin, and he visited an emergency room in Fort Stockton on the way out and ended up in the hospital for three days when we got here because of infection from the bite. It turns out that cat bites are somewhat toxic.

But another problem was his Medicare. He has been retired for almost 11 years, and during that time, I insured him through my work. He had to apply for Medicare Part A, but our insurance did not require him to apply for Part B, so he didn’t. But my insurance that I get as part of my retirement requires both of us to be on Part B. I applied for social security online and Medicare Parts A and B at the same time, and my cards came through in a miraculous three weeks. But Wayne had to apply on paper, because he had to get a form completed by my workplace showing that he had been insured by them up until now and his insurance was ending. There was a delay getting this paper signed, because I had to have submitted my resignation and my resignation had to have been accepted by my management before they would complete it, and there was some fiddling with dates for a while because of various factors at work.

Before he left Austin, though, my husband dropped off his Part B application at the social security office. Then to be sure they got it, he also mailed it to Baltimore (or wherever). His mistake was in not getting the form he dropped off date stamped, because apparently both went astray.

I may have mentioned that about a month after we arrived, I found out that my husband had practically shut down from an inability to deal with some outstanding issues. One was that he was late filing for our extended income tax (which he gets an extension for every year for some reason I do not understand, maybe just because he’s a procrastinator), and the other was the Medicare issue. So, that day, we went to the social security office in Vancouver. We spent two hours there, one waiting and one getting things done. I have to say that the guy who helped us was nice, apologetic, and effective, because by the next day, Wayne’s Medicare was showing up with our insurance agents.

Because, of course, our insurance turned him down for not having the Medicare. He had talked to them once and they had given him until January 1 to get it straightened out, but we did not know that we should have also discussed this with our retirement agency, because they cancelled his insurance.

So, knowing it would be useless to expect my husband to take care of this, I spent another two hours on the phone with my retirement agency and our insurance. Everyone was responsive and helpful except, I regret to say, the woman at the retirement agency, who was the only person to get chippy with me. She basically said there was nothing to be done until January. So, I got chippy with her, telling her she was behaving as if this was our fault, that this wasn’t our fault, it was the Federal government’s. And what do you know? There was something to be done. By the time I got off the phone, my husband had insurance.

But the fun part hadn’t started yet. It was time to find a medical provider. Here’s where Obamacare comes in. It turns out that this area has been flooded by people wanting to find doctors who had for years been using the emergency room for their medical care. In addition, very few places took our insurance. I spent a whole afternoon calling clinics to find someone who would take our insurance, Medicare, and new patients. The best I could do was to get an appointment to get an appointment at a place with a two-month waiting list. They took our information and said someone would call me in 7 to 10 days to let me know when we might be able to get in. (I was not sure if I would actually get an appointment then or not.)

I still hadn’t heard from them yesterday, and it seemed that 7-10 days had passed, although I stupidly didn’t write down the date that I signed up with them. I called them yesterday, and it turns out that my first call to them was two weeks ago, so they were overdue. But the person I talked to this time was far less helpful than the first person and just told me she would tell “her” that I called but didn’t know when she would get back to me. I will wait a couple of days and try again, because once we really get into the holidays, things could be delayed by several weeks. So, we may not have a doctor until, say, February.

It also turns out that the number was listed as being in Battle Ground (the nearest town) but that office had closed, so we were going to have to go to Vancouver, and not close by in Vancouver, either. And, our insurance is changing again in January. This clinic will take our new insurance, but I wonder if it would be worthwhile to go back and call clinics again to see if they take the other insurance.

Ah, the fun just gets to be more and more. Tomorrow, I will have to call my doctor in Austin to get my prescriptions extended until we have a new doctor.

On the weather front, more snow all weekend, although it is melted today. Unfortunately, at least at this time, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a white Christmas.

An introduction to the winter weather

Snow on the first day
Snow on the first day

We’ve had a lively week, as far as the weather is concerned. As you know, we moved away from Texas partially because it was too hot for us. Well, we have come to the right place.

We were being lazy last Sunday, just watching TV, when it began to snow a little. We were thrilled. We got a light dusting of snow and then it stopped.

On Monday we got well over an inch. It’s difficult to know what the weather will be here because our weather forecasts all come from the valley in Portland, Oregon. There they were forecasting snow on Monday and again on Thursday, with slippery roads on Friday morning. But they said it would all be melted by Friday afternoon. They were wrong, as you know if you watched the national weather on Friday. But we are up 1000 feet, so our weather is quite a bit different. As my niece said, “If it snows in Portland, we are snowed in here.” I have to take that with a grain of salt, because my niece grew up in California, whereas we are both originally from Michigan, where the state would be shut down all winter if we stayed home for a little snow. On Monday she told me she was planning on staying home all week.

On Tuesday our carpet layers came, and they started out making a fuss about the weather. Down in the valley there was no snow, so they were surprised to find us covered with it and our drive quite messy. They objected to driving down our lower drive to the daylight basement. They said we had nowhere to cut the carpet, which they had brought in a big roll. Finally, I got shirty with them and told them we had been waiting for weeks to get the rooms downstairs carpeted, and that there had been no snow on Friday when they were originally scheduled to come. I showed them the huge room crammed full of stuff that we were not unpacking until the carpet was down. They said they’d go in to the warehouse to cut the carpet.

They did a great job, but there is one more delay. They said we need baseboards over the carpet. We hadn’t even noticed there were none. So, we have to get that done before we move in all the bookcases and create a library downstairs. (We have so many windows upstairs that there is no room for bookcases.)

On Wednesday, we drove down to the valley to run errands. The roads were a little slick in the morning, but the day turned out to be beautiful and sunny, which made the snow look bright and cheerful when we got back home. There was no snow in the valley or even within a couple miles of our neighborhood.

Thursday it snowed all day. We stayed home. I would imagine we ended up with a couple of inches or more of snow.

Friday was the day it was supposed to melt. It is Saturday, and the snow is still here. In Portland it was a mess. Here, it was slick, and we stayed home again, unpacking boxes and cleaning.

Today was our day to go out for breakfast with my niece and her family and then go to the U Cut for our Christmas trees. We were debating whether to take separate cars or let my niece’s husband drive us in his car, which has studded snow tires. We don’t actually have any snow tires yet, although our car has all-wheel drive. We opted for driving with them, and it was a good thing we did, because when we went outside, we found that a tree was down across our driveway. Our power also went out around 9:30 AM.

My niece and her family picked us up and we went out to eat and then had a great time tromping around in the snow looking at Christmas trees. Because we have a 20-foot ceiling, we got one that was several feet taller than we usually do, although I didn’t want it to be too tall, because I don’t want to climb a ladder more than a step or two. My guess is we got a 12-foot tree. I don’t usually talk about money, but this tree cost us $25. It was a noble fir, and in Texas it would have cost about $150. Maybe more, because we used to spend more than $100 for a 7-8 footer. We had high ceilings in Texas, too, but didn’t want to spend that kind of money to get a taller tree.

It started to rain while we were eating breakfast, and by the time we got the tree, large pieces of ice were falling off the trees. We went home, unloaded the trees, and then my niece’s husband brought back his chain saw, and the four of us spent a delightful couple of hours dragging wood off the driveway and out of the road.

We still don’t have the tree up, as it is too big for us to handle by ourselves. Our niece and family went home to put up their tree, and they will be back tomorrow to help put ours up. The power came back on around 3 PM. That was the second power outage of note since we got here. We spent the afternoon playing dominoes.

The snow did not melt, so I expect that it will freeze tonight again, and those who have to drive tomorrow up here in the hills will have an exciting trip.