Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

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

Friday, December 29, 2023

12-28-2023 The Best of the Season

Mo's mother made the little guy second from the right, and the other two are mine from more than 20 years ago.

For me, there is nothing quite as delightful as the preparation for the Christmas holiday season.  I don't have a huge family, so buying presents isn't an issue.  I usually pick something from the Farmer's Market artisans in summertime, or from some random travel that we have completed during the year.  I like that I no longer have the huge pressure of "buying, buying, buying" that used to be part of having kids waking up on Christmas morning all excited about Santa.

Each season of life has its own blessings, and those days with young ones are especially sweet, but the days now when my daughters are grown women and some of their kids have kids, I feel especially lucky that I can get them home for the holidays.  Maybe not all at once, and maybe not all the grandkids, but no matter the number, I am so grateful for the people I love coming to our home to share in the delight of Christmas.

I usually start right after Thanksgiving, and this year was no exception, with Grandson Matthew giving his annual gift of climbing up on the roof to install the Christmas lights on the house.  I have photos of homes where I did this myself as a young woman, but no more.  No ladders for me or Mo either climbing up on the roof of our house, especially on the west side where the roof is more than 20 feet off the ground. Even though we have a single-story home, and where we enter is at ground level, the slope of our property creates a high wall on the far side of the house.  Thank goodness for Matt who is still flexible enough to stand sideways on the roof and kneel and bend to get those lights up.

It was wonderful that this year the hard freeze only lasted a day or two and the rain let up long enough for some sunny days for the job.  Matthew figured out a new system of gutter clips that made the job much easier than it had been in the past.  Yay, Matthew!

Mo and I managed to get the rest of the decorations up in time for the annual Christmas Light map published in the local paper.  We are always tickled to see the little red light bulb at our address indicating that our house is one worth seeking out on the Christmas light tours around Grants Pass.

This year I had another reason for making sure that all the inside decor was up before December 9 when my daughter Deanna was to arrive for a short but sweet Christmas visit.  Deanna lives more than 700 miles distant and she drove through the winter weather by herself so that she could visit her sisters and stay with us for a couple of nights in Grants Pass.

Mo and I enjoyed so much walking with the girls around the historic downtown area of Grants Pass after dinner to check out the local decor.  

Grants Pass goes all out for Christmas, with a beautiful downtown tree, and the wonderful animated LED Christmas panels that are located on the sidewalks throughout town.  

Tall wooden nutcrackers stand guard at the shops.  It was a sparkly, sweet, and nostalgic glimpse at what Christmas can be.

Even though it wasn't actually Christmas, with the house all decorated and the girls spending the night it felt like it.  Such a wonderful gift to us from Deanna.

Here are a few of the Christmas decorations that I put up each year, with most of them having a story connected and a history of their place in our home during the season.

After Deanna left, Mo and I embarked on another Christmas tradition that we seem to repeat every December during the same week.  

We traveled in the MoHo to Brookings for a short stay at Harris Beach State Park.  I made the reservation in early November and was thrilled to get a spot on the A Loop with a view of the ocean.

Mo and I love Harris Beach, with its beautiful campground and easy access to the city of Brookings.  We have camped there for many years, although not often during the summer season when it is crowded and often chilly and foggy.  Winter is the best time for this part of the Oregon Coast.

Mattie loves the beach and as soon as we settled into our site we took her for an afternoon beach run.  In addition to doing doggie zoomies in the sand, Mattie loves to climb the rocks.  

I simply point to a rock and say climb it and she is climbing higher and higher before I can even get the words out of my mouth.  Every year we have photos of her on the rocks with the ocean in the background.  Sometimes even on the same day in December.   

The weather was perfect and in the evening there was no wind to interfere with our campfire time enjoying the warmth as we sipped a glass of wine.

In addition, when traveling to Brookings at Christmastime, we have the lure of the most fabulous light show we have seen anywhere in the country.  This year the Nature's Coastal Holiday Festival of Lights was even more spectacular than ever.  

With 3.5 million lights covering almost every square foot of the 33-acre Azalea Park, every step is filled with wonder.  We took our time walking around this time, knowing that if we walked too quickly I would want to do it again and again, so this time we walked slowly and sat on benches strategically placed throughout the park. 


The animated light show was spectacular

The Scandinavian-styled chapel was open this year and beautifully decorated as well.

In addition to the light show, we enjoyed fish and chips at Catalyst Seafood, a restaurant that has evolved over the years that we have visited.  The restaurant has been updated and now has a bar with drink specials.  The Cole Slaw is a modern version with jalapenos and who knows what else, but it wasn't to my liking.  The fish however was as fresh and wonderful as ever, and we enjoyed it thoroughly, even though we only ate half our meal.  Into the takeout boxes it went and those boxes stayed on the table when we left for the light show.  It wasn't until we got home later that we realized we had forgotten to take home the rest of our dinner.

Better fish and chips for the money at the Chart Room in Crescent City where we will go next time.

We returned home from the beach late on Friday afternoon with just enough time to unpack before dressing for a play put on by our local theater where my friend Lisa is working.  The play was called "Nuncrackers" and was full of hidden sexual innuendos despite it being "ok for kids".  My friend Kristin was there with her family and spent much of the time hoping her kids didn't understand some of the more racy stuff.  Still, it was a fun time and a bit interesting to see our first play at the local theater after living here for more than 6 years.

The very next evening was the Christmas party for our book club, held for the third time now at Kristin's house.  It has become a tradition for Kristin to host the December club where we simply enjoy food, some simple games, and a secret book gift.  

Robyn and Jennifer are amazing young women who belly dance, and do fitness pole dancing, in addition to their techie jobs.  Jennifer often offers to drive me to book club in the winter when it is dark and foggy and I hate driving at night in those conditions.  

Kristin as always is a superb hostess with a lovely home and so much good food to share

Lisa and I round out the generations in the group, adding a bit of perspective to all the young people.  Lisa is close to my daughter's age, so I probably shouldn't include her in my generation.  

The very next day we were invited to Maryruth's home for what has become an annual tradition for her.  She hosts a Christmas party for the couples in her neighborhood where almost everyone is retired and from California.  It was a fun time and Maryruth went all out making party food for the guests.

Finally, it was Christmas week, and time to begin the Christmas baking.  First and most important is the making of fudge, a favorite.  It is good that I wait until just before Christmas to make it because otherwise, I would be eating way more than I should.

I made several kinds of cookies and some cranberry orange bread in addition to the fudge with enough to share Christmas plates with a few select neighbors.

Mo and I filled in the quiet spaces between baking with a couple of Christmas puzzles to enjoy on the rainy days that dominated the weather through Christmas.

At last, it was Christmas Eve, with Melody and Robert arriving from their home north of Eugene before noon, and Deborah arriving from her place in Trail about an hour away at about the same time.  

The afternoon seemed to disappear as we laughed and talked and prepared the traditional clam chowder for supper.  

Robert spoils Mattie terribly, and she loves the new Christmas sweater as well as the treats

Our family has traditionally opened presents on Christmas morning and Mo's family opened them on Christmas Eve.  I thought maybe I could ask the kids if they would prefer one or the other, but within minutes of arriving Melody and Robert were passing out gifts.  No one wanted to wait.  

Mattie was especially excited about the Christmas presents they brought for her, racing around the room and trying to decide which new toy she loved the most.  It was so very much fun.  
Our original plan was to go look at Christmas lights around town, but no one really wanted to go out on the chilly, foggy night, and we instead stayed home watching a very good Christmas movie.  

Melody crocheted this string of adorable Christmas lights for us

With one pair in the guest room and Deb on the sofa, I went to bed with the warm happy feeling that only comes when my children are again close by on Christmas.

The next morning was simple, with presents already opened we simply had to wait for the Christmas brunch ham to finish baking and for Maryruth and Gerald to arrive for our yummy brunch with Deborah's fabulous eggs benedict casserole as the star of the show.  Of course, orange juice and champagne, Baileys, and some brandy made everything even more festive.

Ever try for a family photo where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling nicely?

Melody fiddled with her phone and came up with this composite, fuzzy but we are all in it!

Melody and Robert decided that they would stay until the day after Christmas. After Deb and Maryruth and Gerald went home the four of us settled into a peaceful afternoon of knitting and talking and looking at photos on the big TV screen.  Melody and Robert have taken up knitting and crocheting and the two of them knocked out a few hats that evening.  I was shocked at how fast they are at their new hobby.  

Christmas was over.  The next morning Melody and Robert packed up to travel back north through the fog to their home.  Mattie knew they were leaving and started sulking even before they were out to the car.  She refused to get off the couch pillow to say goodbye.

Melody and Robert are two of her favorite people and she was NOT a happy dog when they left.  A funny story to share as I come to the end of this story of our Christmas:  Mo and I mentioned to Mattie in the morning that Melody was coming.  She got all excited and ran around the house impatiently.  I forgot all about it until Mattie started barking and howling the special howl that she only does for her very favorite people.  I thought the kids had arrived, but when I walked into the bedroom there was no sign of them.  Mattie kept howling until I said, no, Mattie, they aren't here yet, but she didn't believe me.

A full five minutes later the kids pulled into the driveway.  Mattie had somehow sensed when they turned up our road from the main road about 1/2 mile away.  I have no clue how, but it was amazing to me that she knew they were coming.  Needless to say, the highlight of Christmas for Mattie was the arrival of her favorite people.

Christmas is over, and the new year will begin in two days.  I will then begin to undo all that I did in December, taking down the tree, packing up the village, and finally putting away all the outdoor lights before we leave for California in January.

December was so full and I only realized as I attempted to write about it that there was no way that I could include our beautiful fall days in November without complete overload.  Mo said, "Are you going to post December before you write about November??

Yes, it seems that I am doing that.  Fun stuff in November as well, but thank goodness not quite as much.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

11-30-2023 November Beauty

Yes, I am writing about November on the 30th of December, but you won't know it because I can set the posting date back in the past.  In the blog book, which is the main reason I have to keep up the blog, November will be in the proper order.  This will be a bit shorter post than the one I wrote yesterday about December and Christmas. 

It is quiet here this morning and Mo and I spent a few hours early in the day running MoHo errands.  We are planning to travel in early January and before our Fred Meyer fuel discounts expire tomorrow, it was important to get the MoHo fueled before we leave for California where fuel prices will be exorbitant.  Thirty cents per gallon isn't small change, and with the new expiration of fuel points in the works we didn't want to lose our credits.  Along the route to Freddies, we pass the local station that sells propane and pull in.  It isn't the cheapest propane in town but it IS the most convenient, with an easy in, attendants that know how to run the propane delivery system, and an easy out back into traffic.  It is the little things that count.  

A nice little addition to my life in November was my new membership to a local fitness center.  Club Northwest has lots of cool stuff  I will never use but the best thing they have that I WILL use is the saltwater swimming pool.  At 85 F it is fabulous.  The facility is clean and beautiful, and when I swim a couple of days a week early in the morning the pool is nearly empty.  I love my Garmin watch that has a "pool swim" function which keeps track of my laps, my strokes, my time, and all the other fitness stats of interest.  It is wonderful and is the best exercise I can do for my legs and back. A funny little thing about my membership is that to shave 20 bucks a month off my fee I am required to send a photo each month of this sign posted in my yard.  Worth it for sure.

It is raining again today, with the heaviest downpour behind us but more to come.  It seems that the atmospheric rivers that spin toward the northwest and California are stacked up and keep dumping their wetness in our world.  December has been very wet, and as I look back at photos from November preparing to write about that month I can see that most of those photos include gray skies as well.  

Funny thing, there is a thin line of moss growing on my pickup in the space between the roof panels. I might need to use some kind of pick to get it out of there, but I don't suppose it is causing any harm. I drive the truck to the dump and back and sometimes to the store.  She is a perfect truck at 21 years old, and I bought her new.  No rush to replace the little Dakota, she has served us well. I guess you know you live in the Pacific Northwest when moss grows on your truck.

She served us especially well in November when the truck was often used to haul the leaves to the local area compost facility.  Someone asked if I could then get free compost.  Nope. No matter how many loads of leaves I deliver for 8 bucks a load I will still have to pay 30 bucks for a pickup full of compost.  Still worth every penny.  When we first moved to Grants Pass we thought we could wait for burn days to burn the leaves.  

It didn't work out well.  Either the burn days came too rarely, or the leaves were too wet to burn well and the pile would smoke into the night, irritating both us and our neighbors. 

Mo and I used to share the fall raking job but this past year Mo is the one who does most of the raking.  I can still manage the blower, getting everything into piles that she can then load into the trailer for going to the dump.  Some years the leaves are nice and dry, but this year we had many more wet days than dry ones.  It didn't help that I sprained my back attempting to transplant some roses and was down for a couple of weeks with all sorts of meds, unable to even turn over in bed for a time.  It wasn't fun, but now thanks to Celebrex for the arthritis in my back and muscle relaxers, I am almost functional, at least most of the time.  

In the fall, even without doing the raking, I can still get in 9 or 10 thousand steps just walking around the property.  Weeding trimming and clearing flower beds keeps me busy.  The fall colors this year were truly spectacular.

Mo and I didn't do a lot during November, and for the first time in many years, we skipped a month going out in the MoHo.  With the wet weather, it just wasn't high on the agenda. 

Instead, we spent Sundays with daughter Deborah, making Sunday omelets and having a little shot of brandy together.  On the 11th, we took advantage of Mo's military service to get a free meal for her at our local Applebee's.  

This time Deborah joined us, driving to Grants Pass in her brand-new Subaru.  Deb decided that it was time for a new car and she once had a Subaru that she loved.  I think she is going to love this one.  I know I love it!  Her previous car was an adorable little Mini-Cooper but I had a heck of a time dropping into the very low passenger seat. 

Going to Applebee's is another tradition that Mo and I have upheld for at least ten years now.  Funny thing, we rarely go to Applebee's except for this one day each year.

Thanksgiving was a treat of a different sort.  When Mo and I visited Deb at her new home in Trail, we exclaimed at how adorable it was, and yes, how very small.  With rents being completely ridiculous in our area, Deb found a little place that was something she could afford now that she had chosen to live alone.  Housing in Southern Oregon is nearly impossible to find.  When we helped Deborah as she was looking, we found horrid apartments in horrid neighborhoods, with dirty carpets and tattered plastic window shades for 1500 a month.  It is simply crazy.  So Deb was delighted to find this lovely, creative, artistic tiny place on top of an old barn in a rural area that was affordable.

Back to the story of Thanksgiving.  When we walked into her small space, I made a joke, "Oh gee, maybe we can have Thanksgiving here this year!" We laughed a bit, and then the laughter turned to delight when we realized that yes, we COULD have TG at Deb's home.  There would only be six of us and Deb was tickled at the idea.  Deb is a lover of all things miniature, and we threw out the idea of creating miniature food that would be easy to eat without a big table where we could sit.

We spent a bit of time planning our tiny food, and Melody and Robert chose to join us in the tiny community of Trail on Thanksgiving day, a three-hour trip for them.  

The day was a complete success with some of our tiny food choices a bit bigger than planned, but everything was easy to eat and small enough the still qualify as tiny food.

Deborah's son Matthew

Turkey sliders with cranberry dressing and a hot honey mustard drizzle

Tiny baked red potatoes with toppings

Deb made some miniature sweet potato treats and created a do-it-yourself Waldorf salad in a cup.  I made turkey sliders that weren't that small and were very messy but very good.  Melody and Robert brought his famous hard-boiled eggs, and other goodies for our meal.  Melody made some delicious apple hand pies instead of her traditional regular apple pies.

It was a sweet afternoon sharing Deborah's space, enjoying the beautiful late fall sunlight pouring in through her windows, and appreciating every family moment that we had to share.

Melody and Robert left Deb's place and followed us home to spend the night here in Grants Pass.  The next morning Deborah showed up so that she could check in on a neighbor she worries about and bring her some food.  We all spent some quality time trying to untangle yarn.

The month of November closed with some truly gorgeous sunny days for me to begin preparing for Christmas.