Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Saturday, December 29, 2018

12-29-2018 Christmas Time at Sunset House

Mo and I had a lovely December.  The weather was chilly, sometimes foggy and drab, but on other days the sun would appear.  After our Thanksgiving weekend company departed, I settled in to quiet days unpacking Christmas decorations.  I began during the last week of November with the outside lights, and ended with setting up the Christmas Village by mid-month. 

I took my time, doing a little bit each day, making it fun instead of a chore.  Grandson Matthew helped a LOT by climbing on the roof once again this year to put up the icicle lights crowning the eaves.  The roof line of our home is a treat to look at. 

I remember how Mo rolled her eyes when we first decided on the plan. “That roof will cost a fortune!  Look at all those angles”.  Still, I love all the angles of the roof, especially at Christmas when all the lights really set it off nicely.

In between decorating sessions, I worked on catching up on the blog, finalizing all the posts about my trip to Italy back in October.  We raked leaves, taking trailer loads to the organic recycling facility across town.  This time of year, the leaves are much too wet to burn, even when a burn day happens to occasionally appear. The leaves kept falling through mid month, and even now there are bits and pieces that sift down from our ancient oaks. 

I often bake a lot during the holidays, but this time I managed to stay happy with only one batch of cookies and one batch of fudge to share.  Lo carb eating went by the wayside during much of the month, but at least it wasn’t too bad. 

We both waffled about the annual Christmas letter, with Mo writing hers first.  By the time she finished, I decided that I needed to do mine again as well.  I had made Christmas cards last spring with my friend Maryruth, but needed to make many more.  I spent a couple of days at the dining table with the die cutter, paper cutter, stamps, ink, ribbon, tape, glue, and all the other stuff needed to make pretty cards.  I do have fun with the cardmaking, and it is an easy creative fix that yields results much more quickly than quilt making.

I did do some quilt making, working on the complex Blooming Nine Patch quilt that I am making for Daughter Melody.  A few days here, a few days there, and finally I am at last sewing the long strips together.  There are over 900 blocks in this quilt.

I had forgotten about how to actually make that all work until my quilting friend Mata exclaimed in an email, “You will have fun labeling all those blocks.”  Oh.  Yeah.  That!  Once I added 900 tiny labels to 900 little blocks I suddenly felt much better about trying to get them sewn together in the proper order.  Whew.  Thank goodness for quilting friends who know what they are doing.

In the midst of all this, Mo took care of the vehicles, making sure all are ready for our big upcoming trip. We made arrangements with our local RV repair shop to fix the MoHo leveler, which he said was bent!  geez.  How come no one else told us that?!!  His comment when he looked at our leveler repair bills over the last few months was, “It looks like they just threw parts at the problem”.

We also ordered the new awning arm, bought a new digital TV for the MoHo, and made arrangements for everything to be fixed and installed on January 9th.  Let’s hope it gets done since we are leaving on the 22nd! 

We are thrilled to have daughter Deborah caretaking the house for us while we travel, taking care of the mail, making sure the well is working properly, and spraying Liquid Fence to protect against the ever hungry deer. It is a nice sense of security to know she will be here while we are away.

A few days before Christmas we decided that a trip to Brookings was needed.  Mo and I both were hungry for an ocean fix.  The weather tried to keep us away, with big storm predictions for the days that we planned to travel.  The coast was pounded with gale warnings, weather alerts for flash floods, high winds, and heavy rains in the valleys and snows in the mountains made us think twice about our plans.

On Tuesday, a day after we had planned to go to the beach, the sun appeared, the breeze opened up the skies, and we looked at each other and said, “Why not?!”  No reason to let some bad weather predictions get in the way of the beach.  Mattie needed some running time in the sand and we missed the sound of the ocean.

The trip over was easy enough.  The rain was steady, but the winds weren’t too bad, and when we arrived at Harris Beach, the skies had cleared a bit and we could almost see the ocean. 

We found a spot in the front row once again.  This time, however, there were signs at every spot stating that they were available for one night only.  It seems now that Oregon State Parks are implementing this system to get people to move away from first come first served, to the reservation system.  We could stay one night, and attempt to reserve our spot for the next night online, paying the $8.00 reservation fee.  The rate has increased to $32. per night as well, quite an increase from years past. 

All the sites now have sewer, but cable is no longer available in the park.  We decided against paying the reservation fee, and the next morning spoke with a ranger who said our site was not reserved for that night and we could stay in the site.  I guess if you want to stay more than one night,  and not have to move around, it might be best to make a reservation ahead of time.  Talking with Nickie just the other day, she mentioned that she and Jimmy don’t like to make reservations.  Reading other blogs as well, it seems that this is a bit of RVing freedom that is going by the wayside.  It is getting harder and harder to be spontaneous when traveling.

We celebrated being at the beach with a quick trip down to Harbor and the Sporthaven Marina where we had great fish and chips once again.  This time we ate inside, since the winds and rains were still making the outdoors just a bit too rough to enjoy.  We had a great night listening to the ocean, and the rains stopped on the next morning so we could walk the beaches with Mattie. 

There was a King Tide happening that made the beaches really narrow, and even low tide wasn’t all that low.  There were warnings about “sneaker waves” and “don’t turn your back on the water”.  There was only one moment when a wave came a bit too high and soaked Mo to her hips.  Mattie, being a lot faster than we are, had no trouble escaping the wave, but it still scared me.

That evening we dressed warmly to go to the light festival at Azalea Park.  We have been to this light show a few times now, and each time we go we think it has to be better than the last time.  I am sure they have added lights each year, and this was no exception. 

There were families with kids and old folks in wheel chairs and walkers, and babies in strollers, and even dogs.  Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, including us.  I love this light show better than any other I have ever seen.

After the show, we stopped in at the classic steak house O’Holleran’s for Irish Coffee to top off the evening.  We did this last year as well, and on this night the same lovely lady was tending bar, and once again everyone was incredibly entertaining. I think we have a new tradition.

Just for fun, here is the link to our Brookings trip last year.

Let’s Go to the Beach! 

The funny part about all of this is that we had forgotten that we did exactly the same thing last year.  Not only the same visit, but on the same days of the month, with the same kind of weather!  I looked at the blog and cracked up!  I could have simply posted last years blog and it would have been almost perfect!

I am not quite sure what this means.  We saw the same Christmas light show, only it was even better.  We walked the same beaches, we had similar weather, we spent time reading and napping during the hardest rains, just as we did last year, and we drove home in the hard rain, again exactly like last year. The good part about this, is that it felt just as new and fresh and rejuvenating as it always has.  We are not yet bored with our favorite drive to our favorite beach in our favorite park.  Still, somehow reading last year’s blog made me feel a bit strange.  Is this what old people do?  Settle into routines that are comfortable and easy?  

We returned home, and with few days before Christmas I had time to drive north to Eugene to spend some time with daughter Melody and her Robert.  My grandson Xavier was away for the holiday, visiting his honey in Southern California during his school break, so the three of us had the house to ourselves.  I even got some great kitty fixes with their two big and very spoiled cats. We ate fabulous food, both in and out, went to an interesting movie, and walked the rainy streets of Eugene enjoying the Christmas lights.

Christmas back home at Sunset House was simple and lovely.  We did Thanksgiving this year, so the family agreement is that we only do one of these major holidays each year.  So this time, no big dinner, but we did invite daughter Deborah and grandson Matthew over for Christmas Eve clam chowder. Matthew also brought his friend Jackie who added some charming humor into our gathering.

After supper we piled into the car and followed the newspaper map to find the best Christmas lights in town.  It was a fun Christmas Eve activity and brought back lots of memories when Lance and I would take the kids to look at Christmas lights in Spokane when they were young.

We found some great lights right here in Grants Pass, and when I suggested we go find more, everyone said, “Nope, Time for Pie!”.  I had followed my friend Jeanne’s recipe for walnut pie and made one from our very own walnuts, freshly hulled.  It was truly yummy.  A bit like pecan, but better. Deb spent the night and made our traditional Christmas morning eggs benedict casserole for everyone. It’s a good feeling for me when any of my offspring are snoozing in the guest room.

I do love Christmas, with possibly my most favorite part of the season being the lights.  I love to sit quietly in the living room and watch the sparkle, or to walk around outside in the dark and see the glow.  I used to have serious bouts with SAD but with retirement, I find that the short days are a bit easier to tolerate since I am not going to work and coming home in the dark.  Still, the lights help to brighten the winter darkness.  I said today that maybe I could at least leave them up until Epiphany, January 6th, and Laurie Brown said, “Leave them up until DST”.  Not a bad idea, but since we are leaving, I’ll take them all down sometime in January. I can bear to be in the darkness once again because I know we are heading for desert sunshine.

Still, on a sunny Christmas afternoon, winter skies in Grants Pass can be gorgeous.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

12-10 through 12-12-2018 Tiny Vacation to Seven Feathers Resort

This past summer, Mo and I traveled north to Junction City, Oregon, to visit Guaranty RV.  The MoHo needed a few things checked out, and we knew that Guaranty was probably one of the best places that we could trust to do what we needed and to do it well.

In late January we plan to embark on a nice long cross-country journey.  It would be nice to be sure that things are all working properly.  We needed an awning repair, and that turned out to be an awning replacement.  Our slide seemed to be sliding a bit off kilter, and it was determined that the pad on which it slides was worn and thin.  That needed replacing.  Leveler troubles seem to be a repeating problem, so we needed to have them checked out again.  We paid for repairs at a local shop only to have the left rear jack still refuse to extend, so hoped that Guaranty could address that problem as well.

A few minor scratches were repaired beautifully, and the awning cover was painted black instead of the original white. The rig was there for several weeks, putting a serious dent in our late summer camping plans.  Once we brought her home, it was time for a tire check, and Mo replaced 4 out of 6 tires and had new extenders installed on the real dual tires.  Seems those extenders cause repeated problems, and this time after a ton of research, she installed straight ones, with some rubber gaskets to keep them in place. 

Anyone who has visited know about all the curves on the road leading from our house to town.

After all this work, it was important to get the rig out and tested before we make any kind of long distance trip.  A trip to the Seven Feathers RV Resort and Casino in Canyonville seemed like a perfect little outing for that purpose.  Oh, and it just happens that there is a great pool and hot tub at the resort, and a very nice casino across the street.  Another benefit to this little trip is that this lovely place is just an hour north on the Interstate from our home.

More curves on our local access road.  Mattie has them memorized and knows to hold on

We packed up on Monday morning, with just a couple of days of clothing, a bit of food and a couple of swimming suits.  Easy stuff.  It was nice that I had cooked a meat loaf the day before and a hot meal of leftovers would be simple and delicious.  Bean soup from the freezer added to the stash.

Interstate 5 was fairly calm as we headed north from Grants Pass

The weather was iffy, with rain in the forecast, but once we were on the road, the skies cleared and it was a lovely drive.  Checking into the park was easy and quick, and our site was perfectly level, with top notch hookups.  We noticed that there were not only 1 but 2 sewer hookups at the site, one at each end, to accommodate either a motorhome or a fifth wheel.  Nice touch.

Quiet park on this Monday afternoon.  MoHo almost all alone at our pull through site

Settling in and hooking up includes extending the jacks.  Such a pain!  Once again the back rear jack refused to extend. We have had these things looked at and repaired so many times and still are having trouble with this one jack.  I am really hoping that the next appointment with the next repair place will solve the problem.

Yes, we need another appointment.  The rains were heavy, and we forgot the simple detail of lowering one side of the awning to let the water pour off instead of accumulating.  We heard a snap and a crash and discovered that we would have to exit the rig through the passenger door since the awning had collapsed in front of the main door, and the arm was completely bent.  Seems as though the water weight broke the little plastic thingy that holds the awning to the rig, and the arm collapsed.  When Mo attempted to straighten it, it broke completely.  Uh Oh.  New awning broken.  Hopefully we can get a new arm ordered before we have to leave for our big trip.

We spent the rest of the time at the RV park relaxing in the rig.  Watched their cable tv, used the available WiFi, and went for hot tub soaks and swims in the heated pool. 

Lots of windows in the warm clubhouse where the fitness center and the pool are located

We chose to skip the casino shuttle, simply driving the short distance from the park to the casino in the baby car.  It was much too damp, wet, and chilly to walk there.  We did walk the dog along Cow Creek a bit, enjoying the very nearly empty park and the beautiful bare birch trees and nice landscaping.

We stayed home and ate our own food except for our last meal before returning home when we enjoyed lunch at the casino with our complimentary $15 first time credit.  The fish and chips were excellent, quite a surprise for an inland establishment.

We topped off our visit with an evening drive to Roseburg to visit the Umpqua Valley Festival of Lights.  The last time we did this was in 2004, when we stayed in a local motel, before MoHo days.  The light show was charming, and the $10 entry fee was worth it to support local causes.  The hard rain was a bit of a drawback, however, since every time I rolled down the window to take photos, I got soaking wet.

The trip home was uneventful as well, with decent weather and not much traffic on the interstate.  On the spur of the moment, we stopped in at Oregon RV Outlet, just ten miles north of Grants Pass.  Joe met with us, looked at the awning, scratched his chin and asked us to find out the model, the make, and where he could order the arm.  We tried getting the information from Guaranty, but they were very little help.  The manager finally said, open up the awning and look for the serial number.  That did the trick and we called Joe back with the information.

We now have another appointment for Joe to fix the awning and repair the jacks.  The earliest we can get in is January 9th.  Crazy.  At least it is in time for the big trip.  Hopefully all will be running smoothly by the time we leave.

It was a nice little shakedown trip, with mixed but eventually good results. It is funny how such a small little getaway can feel like a real vacation.  As much as we love our home, somehow getting away like this feels great.  Just hanging out and relaxing in a way that somehow doesn’t happen at home in quite the same way.  

Saturday, November 24, 2018

11-24-2018 Thanksgiving at Sunset House

I love Thanksgiving.  I love the cooking and the family gathering from all over to share the holiday.  It is better than Christmas to me.  No worries about presents and such, and complexities of family commitments for different people can be easily handled by having our holiday on Saturday instead of Thursday. 

That works great for family members who live a bit distant, and need to deal with working schedules and such.  Also works for other family members who have other family celebrating on Thursday and it is hard for them to be in both places. 

Grandsons Axel and Xavier

We had just moved in to Sunset House last year when we had our first family Thanksgiving in the new house.  I thought maybe we would go somewhere else this year, but happily for me, that wasn’t to be and I got to do Thanksgiving two years in a row!

Melody and family drove south from Eugene early on Saturday morning.  Both grandsons Axel and Xavier were free from work and school that day.  Axel lives and works in Albany, and Xavier is attending college in Eugene.  Axel brought his roommate Oni along who has shared holidays with us over the last few years.

Grandson Matthew and Daughter Deborah

Mo and I also decided to invite the neighbors from across the street who have family in distant cities.  Karen and Glenn were so good to daughter Deborah when she lived in our little cottage back before we tore it down to build this house.  Deb has maintained her friendship with them and we enjoy inviting them over now and then, especially when Deb is here.

Daughter Deb and her son Matthew joined us as well, and Deb got to take her famous creamed veggies to two Thanksgiving celebrations this year.  Everyone agrees it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Deb’s creamed vegetables, and Melody’s apple pies.

I do so love the traditions that are made more wonderful by the years of repetition.  Melody sent a photo of Facebook of her apple pies that were ready for transport and said, “Here is an apple pie for Mo”.  Mo loves Melody’s apple pies.  Right around that same time I got a Facebook memory notification from 8 years ago with a photo of Melody’s apple pies and a note saying “Here are the apple pies for Mo”.  Traditions are such a sweet thing.

Left to right: Neighbor Karen, Grandson Axel, Grandson Xavier, friend Oni, Grandson Matt, Daughter Melody, Melody’s Robert, and Neighbor Glenn

We had a lovely day, good food, and instead of games and puzzles, we spent a long time sorting the gorgeous tumbled stones that Melody brought.  She lives in a small house, loves to collect and tumble rocks and has no place to put them.  Lucky us, we get a huge stash of tumbled stones from all over the northwest to grace our gardens here at Sunset house. 

Mattie loves it when the house if full of people, friends, family, workers, anyone.  She loves people to be around.  Of course she also loved it that most people will slip her a treat during big family meals.

None of the family could stay for the night this year as they sometimes do.  I bought a stash of plastic containers with the holiday shopping and made sure everyone had a good selection of leftovers to take home.  Everyone left in time to get home before darkness set in.

It was a long and lovely day, and once we were alone again, Mo and I settled into the quiet, enjoying the fire and sneaking a few bites of leftovers.  Perfect Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

11-13 through 11-18 2018 Quick Trip to Colorado

Tom and Edna Paul

I debated about blogging about this trip because the reason for going was a sad one.  Still, we had some wonderful times with family in the midst of it.  With the blog serving as my personal calendar and journal I didn’t want to miss writing about this important family gathering.

Mo’s sister Edna had a lovely husband, Tom.  They were a great pair, so it was with a lot of sadness that we learned of his passing.  Edna lives in Colorado, and there wasn’t enough time to plan a driving trip so we found some airline tickets and within a few days were on our way to the Denver area.  I think I had about 30 hours in between landing from my Missouri trip to visit my son before Mo and I boarded another flight to Denver.

Mo’s brothers chose to fly as well, and with one coming from Spokane and one from Portland, it was quite surprising that their flights arrived within minutes of our flight from Medford.  Edna made sure that we had a nice rental SUV to use for the trip, and the four of us met at the airport without incident.

We chose to arrive a day before the funeral, and Edna opened her house to all four of us for the week.  We went out to great dinners, took some lovely walks, and hosted some big meals for the family at Edna’s home. 

Tom was Roman Catholic, and the service was a traditional mass, with wonderful readings from Scripture, and beautiful music from the choir and soloists. Edna’s daughter Susan played the bass sang Amazing Grace so beautifully. The meal served after the service was wonderful, provided by the church volunteers.

Edna lives in a lovely neighborhood within walking distance of the Bear Creek Trail system, and Dan, Don, Mo and I took a nice long walk on a lovely sunny afternoon. 

Edna has two daughters, Susan and Marcie, and with their extended families, and the four Oukrop siblings and me, the family gatherings were full of fun and conversation.  One evening I put together a roast beef dinner, and thanks to Mo’s brother Don, we didn’t run out of meat.  He went shopping with me, and after I chose the two roasts, he gently reminded me that “You two eat like butterflies, and I don’t think that will be enough”.  So I increased the thickness of the roasts ordered to 4 inches and bought a lot more stuff.  It was, after all, a supper for 15.  It took 2 large crockpots for the roasts and veggies, and even though there were potatoes in the mix, I also cooked a giant pot of mashed potatoes as well.  These strapping young men eat a LOT.  There were barely any leftovers.

The next day we went to the home of Mo’s niece, Susan, to play family games and have another great meal that Susan put together. 

The weather had turned bitterly cold, typical Colorado style, and the frosty wind kept us moving along quickly on our afternoon walk that day.

Dan and Don had Sunday morning flights, but Mo and I weren’t scheduled to leave until later in the day.  Susan kindly offered to take the two of us to the airport that afternoon so that we wouldn’t have to wait around all day after Don returned the rental car.

The entire trip was fairly easy, with no flight delays, no mix-ups on scheduling, and good family interactions.  Sometimes when the Oukrop family has reunions farther west it is hard for all of the Colorado contingent to make it. 

This was a great opportunity to spend some time with Mo’s nieces and their families.  Tom’s death was not unexpected, but no matter, it is still hard to be alone again after so many years in a good marriage.  Edna, with great help from her daughters, is doing Ok, and we are glad we could be there as well.