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!

 

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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.

Big green egg!

The biggest news for this week is the arrival of our Big Green Egg. This is a special type of charcoal grill, called a kamado grill, made of ceramic. We needed to buy a grill anyway. We had a gas grill in Austin, but I was accustomed to a charcoal grill and could never get comfortable with the gas, so I quit grilling. When I was talking grills with my niece’s husband, he got all excited about the Big Green Egg and kamado grills, something I had never heard of before. They are a cross between a regular charcoal grill and a traditional ceramic oven, and you can use them for grilling, smoking, and baking. The reason I bought one is, I can learn to make tandoori chicken and naan. Although kamado grills are expensive, tandoori ovens are much more so.

Here is our big green egg on our deck.

As I said, the egg was expensive, but we heard about demo eggs, which you could buy after they were used for one day at an EggFest.  They were priced about 20% less. The egg isn’t any less, but they throw in a bunch of free accessories, ones that you definitely need, and some charcoal. We decided to buy one. Originally, we were supposed to pick it up after the EggFest on Saturday. We had planned to go early and watch people using the grill and eat some of the food, but as the day approached, the weather forecast dismayed us, as it was supposed to be very hot, near 100, and the EggFest was in Portland. Frankly, we weren’t looking forward to either the drive or the heat. Also, I was concerned because of reports that the egg doesn’t cool down very quickly. The EggFest was scheduled to end at 4 and we were directed to pick it up starting at 5. I was wondering how that would work out, with the grill just having been used.

I was talking to my husband about this on Saturday morning, and he remembered that the hardware store guy had called on Wednesday, when I was at art class, to tell me that we were supposed to pick the egg up at the store. No more details were forthcoming, because he had forgotten them. In fact, I’m lucky that he remembered at all and that we didn’t end up at the event to pick up an egg that wouldn’t be ready. When I called the store, they told me they had decided not to break down the event until Sunday. They said I should call the store Monday morning to make sure the grills were there before coming out to pick it up.

So, I did, and after some confusion about our last name, we went to get our grill. Now, if anyone else is interested in buying such a grill and wants the discount, I will caution you. Whether you think this is a good deal depends on how fastidious you are. We actually got a free Conveggtor (used for indirect cooking, for example for naan or pizza, and for many of the recipes in their cookbook) with our grill, which was not supposed to be included, because it was used with our egg at the event. So we actually got the whole package for about 30% off.

However, the grill was filthy. They didn’t clean it at all. In fact, the store people had to rake out the ashes onto the pavement in front of the store before putting the egg in our car. I spent several hours cleaning the grill once we got it home, and I didn’t get everything off it. If you can imagine, it was used all day and never cleaned in between cooking. I am supposed to be able to clean it thoroughly by lighting a fire in it. I haven’t done that yet, but I will have to in order to use the Conveggtor, because it is horrible. Trust me, the pictures of the nice clean egg from their cookbook is not what I’m looking at, even now.

Yum, asparagus and pork chops. The chops were just a tad overcooked, but I will know better next time.

I used it last night for the first time. I was a little worried about using it, because I hadn’t grilled for a long time, and when I did, everything was by guess. I had no notion of keeping the grill at a particular temperature, which is the whole deal with the kamado-type grill. However, with a little fiddling, I was able to figure out how to control the temperature fairly easily, although keeping it steady is another thing. When you open the grill to do anything, the temperature goes way down, and if you overcompensate, it goes way up. However reviews that said it took a long time to cool an egg if you overshoot your temperature proved to be incorrect. You can easily make the temperature go back down by adjusting the vents. And here it is: my first meal made with our Big Green Egg. Nothing fancy. I thought I’d start out with something easy.

For those who are still stuck back in the saga of the slope, our young lawn guy came back with his uncle’s brush cutter and cut it. It is not a beautiful job, but it is done for the time being. We will have to get someone out here again in about a month. I’m thinking lawn service, since this guy was moving out of state next month.

And what have we been doing this week besides catching up on the laundry? (A slight mishap there. Our contractor was in too big a hurry hooking up our washer, and when I went in the next day, we had a puddle on our laundry room floor. We had to move everything out ourselves, suck up the water with my steam mop, and move it back. But no big deal and the linoleum floor still looks great.) Firewood is the answer.

A young neighbor came over two weeks ago and asked if we needed to buy firewood. Up here everyone gets it early, to make sure that it is good and dry for the next winter. I don’t know if I said that we got ripped off this winter. Installing a wood-burning stove was one of the first things we did with the house, and we had to look around for firewood. It seemed to be all sold out right when we needed it. Despite a warning on Craig’s List about someone selling wet wood for dry and my efforts to avoid this by checking the phone number, we did indeed get ripped off. Our wood was supposed to be dry and it was wet and of very poor quality. We had to use supermarket wood all winter to get it started. The fire starters alone wouldn’t do it.

Here’s how much firewood we stacked so far. I did most of the stacking while my husband fooled around with the mower.

Anyway, we had been looking around for wood, but our contacts hadn’t come through. I think people were just forgetting we had asked them about it. So, when Scott came over and asked me, I told him, yes, we did need firewood. This kid looks about 14, but the Apostolic kids around here learn to work hard at a very young age. I intend to write a post about some of the more interesting characteristics of the area, and I’ll be writing about the Apostolics in that post. We made a deal, and that boy went out and cut all the wood himself and brought it here with his mom and his younger brother. He delivered it a week later than he said, but he kept us posted all the time. And it is clearly good wood, dry and nice looking.

Here’s how much we have left to do. Yikes!

So, we’ve been stacking firewood. A few months ago, we helped our niece and her husband do theirs, and with five of us in a line, we managed to stack a couple of cords in a couple of hours. But the two of us geezers are taking a lot longer about it, and we don’t have a good place to stack the wood. We have just been putting them in the side parking lot on two two-by-fours, but we’re missing the pieces to hold the wood at the ends. I just ordered two racks for us, although it would be cheaper if we just built something out of wood. But I’m not waiting for my husband on this one. We need to get the wood off the ground. Anyway, you can see by my two pictures we haven’t made a lot of progress. The picture of stacked wood is after about three hours of work. Oh, my back! (When I helped at my niece’s house, I strategically picked a position in the line where I didn’t have to bend over. But that option isn’t open to me now.)

 

 

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

You can’t always see those mountains through the trees.

It’s a gorgeous day today! Yesterday, the high was 51, and it rained almost all day. We had a fire in our wood stove. Today, the high is supposed to be 81. I had an early morning appointment, and the air was fresh, the skies sunny. Now, I’ve had to remove my sweatshirt for the first time since October and won’t be wearing two shirts today for the first time since November (when I figured out what was needed to keep from having to crawl in bed every day to get warm). Here is a picture of our deck this morning. If you look carefully past the trees, you can see mountains.

For those of you who can’t wait to hear the latest renovation news, we haven’t done anything this week, but my marmoleum samples finally arrived. I picked a deep but bright blue called adriatica that only has a few speckles, light and dark (I could have used more speckles, but this was the best color) and looks lovely with our grayish green-blue walls. It will be very dramatic. On Tuesday, I heard from our contractor, who has been on vacation. He said he had found a vendor of marmoleum who has installers, and he is just waiting for pricing information. Yippee!

On the down side, we developed a leak under our kitchen sink last week. Every once in a while we would find a small puddle of water on the floor in front of the sink, and then open the cabinet door to find a puddle inside. Of course, my husband did nothing about this immediately, because that is not his way. I put a towel under the cabinet door to avoid wrecking the hardwoods any more than they are already wrecked (most lately by his dog having an accident and then him not cleaning it up right away—I wasn’t around). Then my husband ground up my pestle in the garbage disposal. I had only used it once. It was in the sink, and he must have taken out the drain plug without putting the drainer in immediately. The pestle fell down into the garbage disposal at some point and then he turned it on. I know I didn’t do it, because I always have either the plug or the drainer in the sink to avoid extra garbage going down, because we compost most of our garbage. We only use the disposal when the sink gets clogged up with the particles that we haven’t captured in the drainer. This saves our septic field from filling up too quickly.

So, the pestle, which was made of porcelain, broke, and bits of it got into the disposal and broke it. Then the drain got plugged so that we couldn’t use the sink. I finally got on the phone and started to try to find plumbers, but it wasn’t easy, because they are all busy putting plumbing into the new houses that are going up in the area, from people moving out of Portland because it is too expensive to live in. My contractor told me I could call his plumber, but my husband finally went out to buy parts and fixed it himself. In Austin we went without a garbage disposal for years, during which he wouldn’t let me call a plumber (he was always going to fix it sometime), so this is an improvement.

We started back at our unpacking last week, because we finally got tired of waiting for our contractors to come back and clean up their junk in the basement. My husband spent a day tidying up the basement, and then we started hauling our bookcases out of the storage room. They can’t make the corner from the storage room to the big room downstairs, so we have to wheel them straight across the hall, through the guest room, out the sliding glass door, down to the other sliding glass door, across the wooden walkway for the sauna, and in the door to the big room. You can see why we wanted to wait for a day when it wasn’t raining. Then we had to clean them up and put them into position. We got all of a set of 10 cherry library shelves (with a crossbar and a ladder) out of the storage room. Unfortunately, they cannot occupy one wall like they did in Austin, nor can they have their top shelves added on. But we set up half of them on one wall, and will be setting up the other half on the other wall. We still have three black bookshelves to move out, and then the bookshelves will be done, and I can start unpacking the books.

Also in the shelving category are our DVD/CD shelves. My husband moved them up from the basement last week and attached them to the walls in my office. Then I unpacked all the DVDs and put them away (alphabetically, of course) and the CDs that were on the shelves before. We have hundreds more CDs, though, that used to be in a 300-CD jukebox that broke. We will have to figure out what to do with them. So much for jukeboxes. That one held up only a paltry 15 years. I still have the 5-CD player that my brother sent me for my birthday 20 years ago, and it works perfectly well. I also have my record player. Yes, I do, and my record albums, which I understand are becoming chic these days. We’ll have to figure out a place for those, too. I do play them sometimes.

Hillary watching birds

It took me a while to figure out what my cat was doing every morning, but I finally did. She stands just outside the bedroom drapes, which are closed in early morning, and watches the birds in the feeders. If it’s a cold morning, she sits directly on top of the heating vent you can see there in the floor. We put a feeder out months ago, but it is only in the past three weeks or so that we’ve seen any usage made of it. I thought it was too close to the house, since we hung it directly under the eaves outside our bedroom window, but that doesn’t bother the chickadees, and they love the suet that is next to the feeder. If I want to get other birds, I’ll have to hang another feeder farther from the house. Sometimes a few small gray birds are on the deck eating the seeds that the chickadees dropped. I think they are bush tits. We had tufted titmice in Austin that hung out with the chickadees, but here I have only seen these little gray birds. The chickadees here, by the way, are lots bigger than the ones that we had in Austin.

If you are waiting with bated breath to hear about my art class, I finished my flower last week, but I forgot to take a picture of it, as requested by Naomi. My flower is okay, but I think my sister’s is much more striking (although our instructor has labeled us the one who doesn’t follow instructions [my sister] and the one who does [me]). I think this is because my sister traced the outlines of her flower petals when the instructor told her not to. I will try to remember to take a picture of my flower today.

Now the instructor has us doing another exercise. The first one was interesting, but now that we have done real pictures, the exercises are boring. This one is drawing everyday objects from the basic shapes. That is, ice cream cones from cones and spheres, etc. I think the school is wise to alternate exercises with opportunities to draw pictures.

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.