Getting back to normal

We are back to our normal life this week after entertaining like mad last week. We had my middle brother (MB) and his wife here for Wednesday, then they moved over to my niece’s house so that my little brother (LB) and his family could stay at our house. Then MB and wife came back for the next night, after LB went home to Seattle. The house was noisy and full of people, but it was fun. We had nine people to dinner on Wednesday night and fifteen people to dinner on Thursday. When you consider that it’s usually just the two of us, that’s a lot of activity.

We are noisy when we get together. MB is quite the raconteur, and LB’s family of five is just plain outgoing (sort of a family trait—most of us are super extroverts, and then there’s me, the introvert). But LB has quite the knack of just coming in and making himself at home. When he and his family arrived, he came out on the deck and helped me grill the steaks (when he was young, he had a job as a chef at a fancy restaurant) and his wife started roasting cauliflower. MB also assisted with the steaks, only he had LB saying to him repeatedly, “Don’t cut it!” (He cuts into the meat to see if it is done. Apparently, you’re supposed to tap it.)

It’s a good thing everyone brought something, because I thought steak, big baked potatoes, and salad were enough. Then when I came back in from eating, hoping for more green beans that my niece brought, literally every bit of food was gone except for some of the steak. After dinner, LB’s oldest daughter, a lovely 16-year-old, started making cookies for dessert. My niece and her husband took their youngest home and left her daughter with us, so that she and her cousin, nine and ten, could spend some time together. The two little girls were no trouble at all.

And in the morning, LB got up and started making breakfast. That was a nice start to the day. Then we went over to pick raspberries at my niece’s house before they had to leave. That night, the rest of us went out to eat and finished the evening in my sister’s hot tub.

All in all, there was mostly just a lot of talking and story-telling, but that’s what family get-togethers are for. It was a shame that the week they were here was one of the hottest on record, one day being 105, but no one seemed to be uncomfortable. We just couldn’t go on any hikes, which is something we usually do.

The lower steps, ending up at the wolf pen. Yes, that thing in the bottom center of the picture is a step.

Then yesterday the guys were back out to work on the very last project that we are paying for, the outside steps from the top level of the house down to the lower drive. I don’t know if I reported a few weeks ago that I almost fell down those steps when the asphalt guys were working on the driveway. They were very dangerous. Some of them slanted, some were unsteady, and one was a step that was twice as high as the others. I forgot to take a picture of them to start with, so here is a picture of some other ones we have that are actually safer than the ones we replaced. These steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard. See if they even look like steps to you. I have been weed whacking them, but I haven’t done it recently.

The steps at the bottom are new, and you can see what the old steps looked like at the top.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, I took the following picture while they were in progress. You can see that several steps are already inserted at the bottom of the picture, but the top of the steps give you an idea what they were like. The only ways besides these steps to get down from the upper level are to go back in the house and go down the stairs, or to walk all the way down the driveway to the lower drive and back up again.

Our nice new steps

Finally, here is a picture of the finished steps. They forgot we asked for a rail, so they will have to come back and provide one, but in the meantime, these steps are much safer. We have already been up and down them several times, whereas I used to avoid the other ones.

That pretty much takes care of the projects we are paying for, except for the sauna, and the electrician is coming out next week to install the new part. We still have lots more to get done around here, though. My husband says maybe we can have our contractors come back and do the lower steps later, but we have already used up more of our house sale money than I wanted to. I want to have some left over for emergencies. We have to take down the wallless shed so I can put up my garden boxes, so there will be some gardening related activities to report later. And my niece’s husband has some plans for some more rustic, but still safer, steps below.

But in the meantime, now that the major work on the house is done, I’ll have to figure out some other projects to work on.

At the beach

It’s time to let up on our tales of toil to have a short vacation. But since it involves my family, it is not without complication.

Our little jaunt began with my sister’s birthday, one of the big ones. She decided to throw herself a party by renting a beach house in Gearhart, Oregon, about two hours away. She invited most of the family to join her on one night or the other, the nights being Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s what was supposed to happen. My middle brother (heretofore to be known as MB) and his dear wife were supposed to arrive from Madison, Wisconsin, late Friday night. They were staying at an airport hotel and then driving out to Gearhart to meet us. My husband and I were staying at the beach on Saturday night, and then MB and wife were coming to stay with us on Monday. On Wednesday they planned to go to Seattle to visit our younger brother (YB) and family. Then they would come back on Friday night and fly out Saturday morning.

Well, that was assuming that YB and family fell in with the plan, which is not a good assumption. Within our family, we call YB’s family the Cirque du S—, S— being their last name. We love them dearly, but there are five of them, and they are very loud and unpredictable. MB had not been able to pin them down to find out if his plan was going to work.

The first part of the plans went fine, except that my husband suddenly went off the deep end and started barricading the house. He hadn’t even taken his shower and was not totally packed when he started cutting poles to block all our doors and windows with. Keep in mind we live in a totally crime-free area. Our county crime map shows only a few “disturbance at house” entries in the entire north half of the county, where we live. He was sawing away when my sister arrived. I could see he had no intention of leaving on time, so we eventually decided that I should go with her. I put our suitcase in our car, though, because otherwise there would be no guarantee that he wouldn’t decide not to come at all.

Our timing was great. We found the house with some difficulty, but it was being cleaned, so we went to a little cafe a few blocks away. We had no sooner arrived there than my sister received a phone call from MB. He and his wife were at the house. They came to join us and within ten minutes my niece and her family showed up. We all had desserts and then we went to the house, quickly unpacked, and went down to the beach.

Part of the family watching my great niece fly a kite

The water was surprisingly warm, but I couldn’t go in past my ankles because my suit was with my husband and I had no change of clothes. However, we spent a couple of hours on the beach, and MB and my great niece went in the water. (Her parents are originally from California, so the water was too cold for them.) My husband arrived around six, which was a good time to go up to the house for dinner.

The difficulties began in the evening. YB called and had a great plan. He was taking his 16-year-old daughter to an Ed Sheeran concert in Tacoma and then they wanted to drive down to the beach house. The occupancy of the beach house was 10, and there were already 9 of us there. My sister kept trying to tell him to stop somewhere else for the night and come the next day, because my husband and I and my niece and her family were leaving. My niece was also concerned that they would come into the house in the middle of the night and wake everyone up. (They would have.) They finally agreed.

We had a nice morning on the beach, although the water was much colder, so I only ended up going in up to my knees. After lunch, my husband was itching to leave, although I would have liked to stay a few more hours. We have dubbed him the official party pooper.

Then we found out via phone that MB’s plans had completely changed because of YB’s plans. Instead of coming to our house on Monday, they got reservations at a hotel in Seaside where YB and his family were staying. They are coming today, and tomorrow we will be blessed by the arrival of YB and his family. We love them, but they are tiring, and since they are bringing their dog, which my niece is deathly allergic to, I get to have them as guests in my house instead of MB and his wife. It is a difficulty with us, too, as we have purposefully kept the lower floor animal-free because of my niece’s and MB’s wife’s allergies. My niece breaks out, but my MB’s wife can’t breathe. We will have to insure that the kids don’t let the dog downstairs. I don’t know why people travel with their dogs when they know their relatives are allergic to them.

I am a little disappointed, as I we have prepared for weeks for MB and his wife, and I was looking forward to having them. YB and his family have already stayed here. Also, my niece and I have been planning the menus for weeks to feed 9, and now we might as well throw them out the window, since we will have 14. Oh well, that is life among the Cirque. We will still have a good time.

On the home front, we finally finished splitting and stacking firewood. We did the last bit yesterday morning.