A white non-Thanksgiving

I noticed earlier in the week that we had a couple of ducks in our pond. I’m surprised. It seems rather late. We haven’t had nearly as many geese migrating overhead. Now they are gone, so perhaps we were just a short stop on their journey. Wayne saw two does in our orchard the other evening, so that’s two wildlife sightings in one week.

This last week has been strange because Enzo’s was closed, so there were no puppy activities. In addition, my pack walking ladies were all busy and so were my hiking friends. It was super cold earlier in the week, so I wasn’t good about getting out to get exercise. Now, it has warmed up a little.

Mischa looking very much the young lady before our tree

We treated Thanksgiving Day as a regular day except that my great niece, Mischa, came over to help me decorate the Christmas tree. We got it up and I put the lights on the day before. That went much more quickly ever since I switched over to the small LED lights. Before, I had LED lights that clipped onto the branches, and it usually took me several hours to get them all on. (I like lots of lights.) Now, I just drape them over the branches, and it takes me about 20 minutes.

Similarly, working with Mischa makes the decorating a snap. When I lived in Austin, it used to take me an entire weekend to decorate my tree, with lots of rest stops. Now with her helping and me in better shape, we finished the tree in an amazing two hours. Then we had lunch and played dominoes for a while before Mischa went back home.

On Saturday afternoon, I went with Shawn and a friend to Randy’s Christmas concert with the Portland Choir and Orchestra. This year, they played with the Big Horn Brass, and they had an impressive sound. However, I missed the bell ringers they’ve played with the past two years. Afterwards, the four of us went out to eat, and then Randy had to return for the second performance. Unfortunately for all of us here, Shawn and Randy are moving to Utah early next year.

I look this picture around 7 AM on Sunday. It’s just the front lawn and the driveway with a bit of snow.

Sunday morning, we awakened to our first snow fall, just a dusting of snow. Sunday was our non-Thanksgiving dinner, so I got up early to work on the turkey. It snowed just a bit again around 11:30 that morning and then proceeded to melt.

In mid-afternoon, we had 13 people to dinner. We had a very nice time, eating turkey, dressing, and all the fixings. Considering I had prepared only a small portion of the food, I was amazed by how tired I was when everyone left. I was just trying to get a load of dishes that my sister had rinsed off into the dishwasher, but I really wanted to just collapse into a chair.

This week, all the puppy events are back in force, so Luke and I went to class on Monday night. Unfortunately, he had a case of diarrhea when we arrived at puppy play on Tuesday and was sent home.  I should have tried to make up for this by taking him for a walk, but I got too involved in writing Christmas cards. However, Maja and I are taking him on our hike today.

Wayne’s project to expand the hanging capacity of the guest closet hasn’t progressed very far. It has resulted in two trips to buy more parts, and one day he spent a lot of time down in the basement planning it out. However, he turned on a heater down there yesterday because he said it was too cold to work, which I took as a good sign except he never went back down to work. I hope he’ll do some today while I am out. My brother and sister-in-law have made it to Taos so far on their slow journey out here, and I have been waiting to clean their room until I see how much mess Wayne has made in working on his project. At this rate, he’ll be halfway done when they arrive.

Working toward the holidays

This last week, Wayne and I did some preparation for the holidays. We shopped at World Market for stocking stuffers and went to the alpaca store to buy alpaca socks. I have presents for Wayne, my friends, and Mischa, but I still need to find things for two nieces, a nephew, a great nephew, and a second cousin, all kids. That reminds me that I need to find out how old the second cousin is.

A view across the marsh in the wildlife refuge

On Wednesday, Maja was still feeling a little under the weather, so we chose an easy place to hike, the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail in Washougal. This trail is in the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful sunny day following several cold, rainy ones, and it was nice to see all the birds and one big fat nutria who couldn’t be bothered to leave the path. We had to walk around him. We just missed seeing an eagle. We were looking at a bird of prey scaring the water birds in the marsh and asked a guy with a large camera lens if he had seen it. He said no, he was looking at the eagle, which had just flown away. The path intersects with the Columbia River Dike Trail, so we spent a while on that. Nice day to walk along the river.

On Thursday, Wayne and I did our Thanksgiving shopping, or maybe we should say non-Thanksgiving. On Sunday afternoon, our family is having a non-Thanksgiving dinner that just happens to include turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie. Since we moved out here, we’ve only had a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday once, and that was because our family was out of town. My sister always works on Thanksgiving, and some of us are too politically correct to observe Thanksgiving. My niece always says it’s a stupid time to have a harvest festival and she observes hers at the autumn equinox. I haven’t broken to her yet that it’s not a harvest festival. Anyway, we are hosting our non-Thanksgiving dinner, so we bought a turkey and things for stuffing and my grandmother’s scalloped oyster recipe. I made sure there were going to be mashed potatoes and pies, and other than that, I’m not keeping track of who’s bringing what. This didn’t sit well with sister-in-law Nancy, who persisted in trying to make me tell her what to bring. Finally, she said she’d bring green beans, and I said fine.

On Friday I stopped into Bi-Zi Farms, a nice produce stand where I often shop, to see what they had. I was thrilled to see that they were setting up to sell Christmas trees, because last year we had a hard time finding a lot. We only found one in Battle Ground after driving all up and down the highway, which used to be lined with them. That lot had a choice of only a few trees of the size and type we like, and I have to admit that last year’s tree was quite scruffy but expensive. Bi-Zi Farms told me they would be selling trees the next day, so Wayne and I decided to go there after dog class to make sure we had a good choice, even though it’s quite early for us to put up a tree. I made arrangements with Mischa to help me decorate, as a week or so ago she told me that was her favorite part of last Christmas (a bit of an exaggeration, I’m guessing). However, when we came by on Saturday, they weren’t set up yet. They told me they still didn’t have prices from the owners.

If you look closely at the middle of this photo, you can see the heron we saw in the turtle pond at Salmon Creek Park. He’s sitting on the branch sticking out of the water.

On Monday, the pack walk devolved to me and Christine (and Luke and Duchess), so we decided to go somewhere else for a change. We drove to Salmon Creek Park, where Christine had never been, and had a good walk of about 3.5 miles.

On the way back, we passed by Bi-Zi Farms and saw they were set up to sell trees, so in the afternoon, Wayne and I went to Home Depot and then to buy our tree. We usually buy a big one, but this year, we had a choice of several really tall trees that looked a bit scruffy or a really nice seven footer. They told us the taller trees were not shaped as they grew. I sort of liked one of the nine-foot trees, but Wayne pointed out that it didn’t have very many branches for ornaments. So, we picked a seven-footer. It’s probably the shortest tree we’ve had in ten years, but it is also very pretty. I won’t need a ladder this year at all. We put it up Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, snow was forecast for  1,000 feet, which is where we are, although the weather seemed to be going more toward the south of us. We were excited to see if we’d get some snow; however, the storm did go just to the south of us, and we got nothing but wind and colder weather. My sister Sue says we always get a big storm right at Thanksgiving. I guess this was it, but if so, it didn’t do anything to us.

Last night, Sue and I went to see the movie about Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Two movies in two weeks, amazing! It is seldom that the little theater in Battle Ground has any movies for anyone older than 14. My sister was going to invite Mischa, but I told her I didn’t think it was a kid’s movie. I was right. It was a very touching and sweet movie, though, about a guy who is assigned to write a story about Mr. Rogers. You can’t go wrong with Tom Hanks, anyway.

My brother John has messaged us that he has the okay from his doctor to leave town. He and his wife Lucie have already emptied out their house in Madison and closing is today. They had originally decided to leave on Wednesday immediately after closing, but because of the storm in the Midwest, they are leaving Friday, heading for Taos, New Mexico. Eventually, they will come to our house to stay until they figure out where they want to live, somewhere in this area. We are all really excited. For their long-term stay, Wayne has started on a project to extend the hanging capacity of the guestroom closet, which only has a four-foot wire rack in it. The closet itself is huge, 12 feet wide. We’re going to extend the wire shelving to stretch across the whole thing, at least I hope that’s going to be the case. With Wayne it’s hard to know how quickly he’ll accomplish a task, or even if he will.


A more ordinary week

This week, Nancy asked if we wanted to go on a six-mile, moderate hike in Yacolt Burn, but I told her we had decided to do something super easy because I was recovering from being sick. Maja had already planned a harder hike with her on Tuesday. But Maja ended up getting sick, so she cancelled that hike and our Wednesday hike. Wayne had been supposed to take Luke to the groomer while I was hiking, but since I wasn’t hiking and Wayne was having back problems, I took Luke to the groomers. He looks very pretty now.

On Thursday, we had our people training for using Luke’s e-collar. It was amazing. One of the things Luke always does on the leash, even with a prong collar, is pull as hard as he can, despite me using the correction with the collar (a short jerk). I spent most of the time after learning about the controls walking around with Luke on his leash. He walked right next to me and didn’t pull on the leash at all. The only problem with this is that he seems to think he only has to do that at Enzo’s, so yesterday I took him down the road on his leash, and he did very well. I will have to do more practicing.

It was my birthday on Friday, and Wayne gave me a backup device (yippee! not!) and a nice Aran cardigan. The only reason I got a nice sweater was that I circled it in the catalog along with the color and size. I haven’t worn it yet, because I want to make sure that Luke has completely stopped jumping on me first. He would have it in snags in no time.

That day, I went over to Christine’s and we walked our dogs and had coffee. I always enjoy visiting Christine. She gave me a little jam container that I can use for tea parties.

My only birthday requirement is not to have to cook dinner, so we tried out a Szechuan restaurant in Vancouver that was opened by some Portland restaurateurs. I had the personal hotpot with lamb and broccoli added (it comes with tofu and leeks, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and wood ear) and for an appetizer, the Szechuan wontons in special sauce, which looked delicious in the picture on the menu. The hotpot was hot without having much other flavor. The sauce needed something. However, the wontons were fabulous. I ended up dumping some of my special sauce into the hotpot, which improved it. We will go there again, because Wayne’s food was also good, and good Chinese restaurants are few and far between here in Battle Ground and Vancouver. In fact, the ones we have been to in Battle Ground are horrible, and before this one we only found one mediocre one and one bad one in Vancouver.

Luke did much better in his Saturday class with the e-collar on.

On Sunday, my niece and her family and my sister took us to Portland for a birthday dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Yum! I am sure I gained five pounds, but I haven’t checked because there was no Weight Watchers meeting on Monday. After we stuffed ourselves to the gills with Ethiopian food, we went to Powell’s for about 45 minutes before taking ourselves off to Salt and Straw, Portland’s decadent ice cream parlor. Weight Watchers just went out the window. Several of our party tried an a salted caramel ice cream with bits of crispy turkey fat in it. It was really good, even though it sounds horrible. I just stuck to plain salted caramel.

That’s really about all of note for this week except that on my birthday, I also heard from my brother Steve, who lives in Seattle. He said that our cousin Amy, whom he had briefly visited when he took his oldest daughter down to school in L. A., was coming up for Christmas. I haven’t seen my cousin Amy since she was a little girl and I was in college. She lives in Spain, where she is a French hornist in an orchestra. She married an Icelandic man, Petúr, who was also in the orchestra. Sadly, her husband died last year, still young. She was invited to L. A. by a friend whose husband also recently died. So, she’ll be coming to visit Steve and co., and then they will bring her down here, along with her youngest son. Or, since Steve’s family is very disorganized, she may come here and they will come down later. My brother John and his wife Lucie know her, and they will be here, so it won’t matter which way it happens.

Finally, we’re started planning a non-Thanksgiving dinner for the Sunday after the holiday. I am hosting. We’ll see how everything works out.


The secret is cheese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Trees, Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas concert, and art

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.

Here is my color exercise, with its much too blue sky. Each petal is a slightly different color.

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.


Changes to schedule

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.

No more white belts in this bunch. All the graduates, in their new yellow stripe or yellow belts. Master Oh, their instructor, is in the very back.

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.



A week of frivolity

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.

Hillary “playing” Candy Crush Soda Saga.

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.