More progress

November 30, 2008

Today was another productive one, project-wise, mixed in with a bunch of great food. We made waffles on the griddle (these are my raspberry chocolate chip ones, midway).

As you can see from the background, we had Dunkin Donuts coffee to go with! Stretching out the East Coast trip happiness a little bit.

Partly to get dinner ready early, and partly to put off painting trim as long as possible, I took all of the remaining CSA root vegetables and cut them up for a soup. Many of them were surprises/unidentified. We definitely had turnips, carrots (white and orange), a beet (that one was a bit of a shock – ugly brown outside, juicy fluorescent red inside. Woah. My hands are still stained.), and potatoes. We think we also had Golden Bunch Beets and a second kind of turnips?? I added store-bought leeks, lentils and purple onions, and it turned into quite the colorful pot.

I like that we managed every single color except for blue. I seasoned with thyme, oregano, pepper, and (as usual, not enough) salt. Not bad.

Procrastinating out of the way, I finally started painting trim. I did the windows, shelf and one of the doorways, and it took a little over three hours (felt much longer). I think we'll need at least one more coat, and I'm considering buying a less-glossy paint to hide the many imperfections. It felt like a good step forward when I was done for the day, but the lesson remains: I will not retrim a room that size, with that complexity, *ever* again.

Home Again, part 2

Yesterday, we did a good job catching up after a week away, including the typical fish tank chores, grocery shopping and laundry. Kevin hung Christmas lights (on the mossy, wet roof, in the dark – I asked if he wanted my safety-concious opinion of that and he declined), I did yard work.

And we both finally, finally hung the last of the trim.

Yay! Pre-drilling the boards and then hammering in the nails by hand turned out to be much neater than using the nail gun. We're still not sure if we should have turned the pressure down or if nail guns just don't work well with MDF, but these nail holes were nearly invisible. And I am so, so excited about the end result – it's so proportional and beautiful.

I did another round of caulk, to finish up the work for the day, and Kevin cooked dinner. It's good to be home.


Home Again

November 28, 2008

We decided to fly back on Friday, mostly due to cost, and then stupid Continental moved our flights up by three hours so we really only had time for a leisurely breakfast before we had to head for the airport. This is the third time in the last three months that our flights have been changed for the worse – I'll have to start being more vigilant. We both felt bad to have to leave so early.

The one upside is that we had a three hour layover instead of an extra three hours in the air. Our first flight was Philly to Newark (which I knew was in New Jersey, but otherwise I was vague), on a teeny nine-row propeller plane that flew about 100 feet off the ground. Great views of the countryside the entire trip, but I was shocked when I looked out the window and saw New York City. Huh! We found seats in our terminal that had pretty city views for our long wait, and I called my brother to let him know that we were within "seeing" distance.

Luckily we see him again in just a few weeks, or I'd feel like we truly squandered an opportunity.

Turkey Day

November 27, 2008

For Thanksgiving, we went over to (family friend) Stacey's new townhouse. It was gorgeous, and it was fun to see all of her family again. After getting psyched up about it for many months, people decided to deep fry the turkey. (I wasn't totally on board, especially given the explosion factor, but I also knew that I didn't have a vote. I felt better after Kevin and I went out and at least bought a B-rated fire extinguisher.)

Sample photo, with my father-in-law in a turkey hat and smoking a cigar (he appears to have put his drink down), a boiling vat of oil, lots of propane, Kevin wearing oven mitts of doubtful utility, and the bird waiting to go in.

Scientific calculations:

An hour later: One cook in turkey hat, two back seat cookers, and a gorgeous field of waving grasses in the background.

Carving, and many in the kitchen:

It ended up being delicious. Debbie had asked for my family's stuffing and yam recipes, so it was fun to have those on the table, along with all of the other great dishes. I had pangs of wishing I was back with my family, but this was the first holiday where it wasn't wrenching to be away at Kevin's instead of at home. I felt like I belonged there just as much – a big step, and nice to finally be at that point. :-)


November 26, 2008

More rockband in the morning:

And Tucker hoping for another long walk.

Meanwhile, the computer died within hours of Kevin walking in the door. Apparently it had been on the fritz for ages – you have to wonder if it was just saving its last gasps until he got back. In any case, there was loud chorusing this time for a laptop instead of a desktop, and lots of decision-making about all of the options. Tucker ping-ponged around all of the decision-makers – he liked having everyone nearby.


November 25, 2008

We took way more walks this visit than our norm, which was wonderful. The weather was perfect – brisk but sunny, and we saw lots of wildlife. Sunday night we walked up to see the new huge houses up the hill and saw at least seven deer, grazing in the twilight. On Tuesday, I walked up the hill to see the hawks. There were two huge ones sitting in trees, snoozing in the sun.

And myriad birds circling over the hills.

The view is really getting winterish and brown, but that's so pretty in its own way. Kevin's parents' area is still (despite increasing development) at that rural/exurb mix point and with all of the very old stone houses and pretty barns and covered bridges over creeks it is incredibly scenic to drive through. Add all of that, spread over rolling hills, to the fact that the sun shone steadily (in November!!) and our Seattle souls were sated.

After my bird walk, Kevin's mom and Kevin and I took Tucker (their golden retriever) up for a nice loop around an old orchard and by a cut corn field. We were just coming down the hill and Debbie was mentioning that they sometimes see foxes when we saw a big red tail bounding away out of view! How cool. Lots of little, bright blue birds, too. We got back, and got to do some raking until it got dark and cold. A great afternoon.

Birthdays and Rockband

We were about a week shy of Neen's birthday, but we celebrated early, in part so that she could unwrap the joint gift (Rockband for her Wii) and everyone could start playing. Assembly started nearly immediately, and we traded off spots for over six hours.

I'm usually a "three songs are plenty" video game music person, but the evening ended up being a lot of fun. We all played all three instruments many times (though I seem to have timing issues with the guitar??). Kevin's mom's rendition of "Ballroom Blitz" was particularly fun – extremely energetic vocals. :-) By the end, Stacey could barely drum she was laughing so hard. This was the general-consensus favourite photo:

A brief break for a delicious dinner (crab cakes and steaks):

Strawberry basil martinis and the almost-birthday girl:

And Kevin and I were surprised to find out that we were celebrating our birthdays, too! (Especially since we thought we'd already been quite feted back in July and August!!)

The gifts were perfect (beautiful scarves for both of us, a great knit bag for me, Phillies gear for Kevin, and Dunkin Donuts coffee and Christmas ornaments to share) – though neither of us had ever received winter/holiday items for our birthdays before... perhaps a little bit of a hedge against the promised "smaller Christmas" this year? :-)

The four birthday people and the cake:


November 24, 2008

We got to Kevin's home right before the Eagles game on Sunday. Sharon was very amused to see Kevin in his jersey on Sunday morning, and even more so when Neen showed up in hers to pick us up. None of my photos from later in the day came out (mostly since the Eagles fans got less happy as the game progressed), so here's a pre-game kitchen shot with two Westbrook jerseys and one Akers.

I felt underdressed. :-)

Kevin, mid-game, joining in the anti-Donovan banter.

Visiting Sharon

November 23, 2008

We started out our Pennsylvania trip with a visit to my sister's new apartment in Philly. I loved being there. We didn't get to see Sharon's last apartment in DC, so I'd last seen her place three years ago and this was a completely different experience. Combine her great sense of style with a creaky, wonderful , light-filled east coast apartment with old-fashioned, quirky heating and N layers of paint... Kevin kept looking my way and catching me mid-grin. I loved it.

We combined good eating with a healthy amount of downtime. Shar was very busy with schoolwork, so we napped and read and knit while she worked on some of her cases.

Perfect for the day after a redeye. We kept interupting each other with random bits of thought – here's Sharon cracking up to Jim Gaffigan on youtube.

We went to the panini and gelatto place around the corner for lunch, Monk for dinner (a return visit for me and Kevin! Neat!), and a neat French/modern place for brunch the next morning. A church nearby had bells that rang frequently (my mom would have known the names of the hymns, but my brain just hummed along with the notes and couldn't quite remember the words). Lots of city sounds at night, and we woke to cheering for the Philadelphia marathon.

Hopping on the bandwagon

November 21, 2008

I made an executive knitting decision that the Sunrise Circle Jacket was just too much math and counting to be a good trip knit (I'm nearing all of the increases for the front, and my row gauge doesn't match what's required, so I'll need to recalculate all of the increases -– a mess). While I was pondering what to bring instead, the Yarn Harlot made an irrefutable case for knitting the Noro Striped Scarf. I'd been hoarding a yarn store gift certificate from Kevin's family for my birthday last year that covered the yarn perfectly, and now I'm knitting away. Choosing yarn was very difficult, since a skein of Noro is essentially a mystery, colorwise. I tried to find colors I liked, and nothing too neutral, but you really never know. Two skeins of each colorway, hopefully enough for a scarf and a hat.

I meant to just start and be sure that my needle size was right, but the color shifts are alluring and I got several inches in.

The yarn feels wonderful (soft and smooshy), and the sheen from the silk is amazing. What a great, fun knit, at the perfect time of year, and I'm so happy that I can show off the gift purchase to Kevin's family since we'll be there in two days! :-)


Family visiting

November 20, 2008

The phone lines were all lighting up earlier this week with the news that my great aunt and uncle would be in town. Their son (and my mom's cousin), Robert, lives on Bainbridge Island. Kevin and I were both delighted, and we managed to skip out of work early to race to the ferry on Wednesday. We made the 5:30 ferry with minutes and minutes to spare (yay!) and Robert's kids were able to make it, too, so it was quite the dinner party. Irene made us all Chicken Paprikash for dinner – a great meal and a fun family tie as that's one of the recipes that Mom copied from Irene in the early 80's, and I copied from Mom when I moved out to Seattle. After dinner, we went through some of the photos my mom had recently sent of the Denver Crew. I'd gone through all of the photos and culled ones with the family from 1979-82. There was lots of exclaiming over old girlfriends, mustaches, how young everyone was, and how old I am now compared to the baby photos. :-)

Perhaps after four-plus years on the West Coast I'm particularly starved for family contact, but I do have to say that it is a treat to have an evening with family and to revel in all of those shared connections. Despite not having had that much contact over the years, I still feel like they were a known presence when we were growing up. It's amazing how quickly everyone settles into family mode – that certain mix of shared stories and catching up and belonging. I can never get over how much Uncle Bob reminds me of Papa (my grandfather). I hope that when I'm that age people can talk to me and know without a doubt that I'm related to my siblings, even if we haven't always lived in the same place. That would be a great thing.

I made the mistake of taking out the camera late, and then only taking photos when people were talking over decaf and wine, instead of asking them to stop and smile. Oops. Hopefully you'll get the sense of all of us enjoying gabbing away about so many subjects, from family history to current activities, to all of the recent energy and financial issues.

And one with Robert in it. :-)

One of the exciting pieces of the night was that I finally got Bob to sign my painting. We have two of his paintings – one of the San Juan Mountains near Pagosa Springs that Bob and Irene gifted us for our wedding, and one that Bob painted on an autumn visit to my grandparents in MA. My grandparents gave me the Fall painting in 2003 when I moved into my new apartment in Boston. It was my first real art. :-) I've always loved it, but it wasn't signed, and now it finally is.

:-) Wonderful.

New Pets?

November 17, 2008

There's a DL at work for home owners – it's high traffic but I enjoy reading it. A month or so ago, there was a thread about moles, with photos of the little molehills, and since then I've been noticing them everywhere at work and around our neighbourhood.

Yesterday morning I woke up and thought that certain parts of the landscape looked unusual...? I didn't get out to photograph them until after the blower/pine needle roof fest, so these photos are a bit obfuscated by pineneedles, but they're freshly-dug dirt, classic circles, flat-top volcanos, etc. I'm thinking moles?

I know that this is supposed to be one of the major stressors of lawn care, but so far (knock on wood) I think they're kind of cute and unexpected. We shall see. Given that all of the "mole" googling that I've done quickly devolves into rants about lethal poison and major explosives, my live-and-let-live sense of things is growing. Our squirrel vs. birdfeeder fight was so chastising (they didn't even NOTICE the horseradish!!) that I'm loath to tread where so many others have failed. I'm more just hoping they find greener pastures in our neighbours' yards. :-)


Productive Sunday

November 16, 2008

We got up early-ish for a Sunday (10, to listen to the Eagles game). I worked on un-taping the MBR, which quickly spread to vacuuming, and then all out cleaning. Kevin helped me get the bed and mattress back in shape, and assembled our new coffee table (pictures soon!!).

The bright and sunny morning deteriorated around 1, so Kevin went out to work on the the roof and gutters before the rains came, and I went out to rake the lawn. The skies held and we got hours of yard cleanup in before it got dark.

My raking:

The leaves are only half down, but it makes such a difference to have the patio and grass clear!

We still have tons of wood on the patio (a co-worker may be picking it up) -- perhaps it will kill some of that moss?? In the meantime, here's the Sunrise Circle Jacket progress:

I've had to redo the math on the sleeves, and I didn't have a chance to get to the math on the jacket fronts before I needed some mindless knitting, so I put the first sleeve on a holder for the moment and started the second.

The purple in these photos is still way brighter than the yarn -- think more of an eggplant.

Here's Kevin up on the roof, happy with his blower.

Isn't this photo sort of deja vu?? Amazing how all of the needles pile up in just a few weeks.

I'm glad that we did all of the work -- we're about halfway through the leaf and needle season, but it's too dark to do any of this after work, and we'll be gone for most of the Thanksgiving week. I'd rather leave knowing that our gutters are clear and the lawn is happy, especially after all of the rain we've been having. :-)


More Painting Progress

November 15, 2008

Way back in December of '07, I painted two of the master bedroom walls blue. We were planning to paint the remaining walls white (since they were shoddily painted and some of the walls needed repair), but then we had a series of guests to stay and lost momentum. With our house's first anniversary, I gained a lot of momentum on stalled projects, and painting the rest of our bedroom was pretty much top billing.

Kevin had flag football at 9, so I got up when he did (early for a saturday for me!!), we moved the bed, mattress and box spring, and I was done the edging and walls by noon. Not terrible, even if white-on-white painting has to be one of the least rewarding things ever.

And another great thing to have off the list.


November 14, 2008

The mirror that was in the bathroom was, realistically, a heavy, ugly behemoth.

But, somehow, when I was taking it down from the wall it struck me as having potential. Turns out that it is the perfect size for the MBR closet wall, so we may be saving ourselves money by reusing it. (My favourite option was a gorgeous glass mosaic mirror of a field of birches on Etsy, but $700 was definitely too steep. Major sigh.)

One coat of brown enamel spray paint, plus one coat of black:

Not the fanciest option and we're both opposed to wall anchors (we repaired about forty of them after moving in here), but it's still about perfect for the money. :-) Now we just need a nice bureau and a fancy glass vase to put in front of it and we'll be a class act!

Ready to sign up for next year!

November 13, 2008

We got our final CSA bag this week! On one hand, it's disappointing to be at the end of a great 22 weeks, but on the other hand we will still be working on squash and turnips and apples and tomatoes and plums for ages, so it feels a bit premature to be sad.

Several people have written to ask what a CSA is. CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you buy a stake in a farm's crop at the beginning of the growing season, and each week you get a big bag of produce. There are lots of different programs in the Seattle area, and all of the details are different. We went with Tiny's Organic. (Organic was a moot point to us, but we liked that the bags were about ½ fruit instead of all vegetables. Most of the options are geared to about 4 people, and it's easier to make it through an entire week's bag when some of it can be used for baking, waffle & ice cream toppings, etc.) We paid about $40 a week upfront, and picked up a bag each week at a bookstore about five minutes away. There were lots of heirloom varieties of things, and we tried many vegetables for the first time. (Fava beans were a big hit, and we've loved the different kinds of arugula and herbs (esp cilantro). I'm so sold on winter squash, now, too.)

They included around 10 recipes each week – a major benefit especially when cooking something for the first time. We both loved unpacking the bag – it felt like a gift each week, and there was a fun element of surprise. Little things in life, but I love not having to pick out summer fruit at the grocery store (almost always disappointing) – just having delicious, healthy things appear was a treat. We probably broke even or saved about $5 a week on vegetables and fruit, so it wasn't a major cost savings, but the only things we bought week to week were mushrooms, and tomatoes until August. Not bad. :-) And when we're left to our own devices we tend to be a week of shopping and cooking/week of cheese sandwiches and pasta sort of people. It's nice to have the fruit and non-frozen veggies just appear and beg to be used.

It wasn't a total success – we couldn't really keep up with the cucumbers or melons (a minor source of stress). Next year I'll try making pickles and maybe we'll just gift the melons to amenable friends. :-) We both wished for more beans, peas, broccoli, etc, though those crops were apparently a particular challenge with the weird growing weather this year. And I am still a bit baffled by turnips and beets – I buy that they're great for you but I'm confused whether you can eat the greens and I need more recipes. Something to research in the off season, I suppose.



November 12, 2008

I've been noticing many of the quilt and craft bloggers organizing their fabric stash and it seemed like such an appealing idea that I couldn't help but emulate.

I love that pretty shoebox – it's the perfect spot for all of it. Sorry for the slightly off-focus shot – the camera seemed drawn to my curtains and new coffee mug. (I love the blue/aqua/brown leaves. Kevin has a orange/red/brown one that makes him just as happy. It's nice when we both get to win on color schemes.)

Here's a bright closeup!

I waited until the very brightest part of the afternoon to take photos, but bright in Seattle in November is a laughable concept. We are in DEEP cloud season, and it's been raining so much that all of the nearby rivers are flooding. So I had to use the flash, but the colors are still cheerful and so neatly folded. :-)

Another step in the right direction

November 11, 2008

Our new vanity is here!! I went to pick it up yesterday, and now it's happily hanging out with the fish. Cherry, finish color, door style, and sturdiness are perfect.

(Please ignore the paint collection at left and the assorted fishtank buckets at right. I didn't think to move them before taking photos or frame the shot differently. Oops. At least it's representative of our decor.)

Here's the inside – you can see our pretty drawers and their upgraded tracks with their awesome glide.

Any opinions on what paint color would be perfect for the walls around this?



November 10, 2008

I finished the two pillows for my room! JoAnn Fabrics had 24" square pillow forms on sale (only $8!) a year ago, and though they seemed large it also seemed like a good back support for reading or watching tv on the daybed in my office.

When I started the quilt I did two sample squares to test out the pattern. I decided to tweak the size of the strips, so I couldn't use them in the quilt itself but I wanted to used them in coordinating pillows. The best way seemed to be to add sequential borders. I'm fine with the diagonal pink pillow, but I really like the square red one (much better proportions and color contrast). Fun. :-)

I also like the ¼" flower detail on the back of each strip. I used my sewing machine attachment to make button holes (with the buttons facing in so that they wouldn't scrape against the wall or catch on the bed frame) – a fun detail and the cases are staying in place well.

I'm about 90% satisfied with these. The pillows are about 6" too big visually (though they are very nice to sit against) and the patterns are fine but not my favourites. But still – a project off the long, long list!! Hooray!


House Progress

November 09, 2008

Yesterday was one of those success stories that you fantasize about. Both of us were sick of having had certain home renovation items on our list for OVER a year. We'd done research, we'd saved money, the holes were punched in the wall, and yet the project was still "in the planning stages". There are actually several projects that fit this description, so with 49 minutes until the relevant stores started to close, we chose the two most dire (lights for the dining & living room, and a vanity for the main bathroom), and in a moment of wild decision-making headed north to the cabinet store. This apparently set off a chain reaction of shopping & home improvement awesomeness.

I'd been a bit hesitant about this store because the prices were so, so low. (One of those "don't test it in case it's not true" scenarios.) It's a tiny minimal operation on a dead-end warehouse sort of road, which could either be awesome or horrendous. We were really impressed with the quality of the cabinets when we saw them in person, and the one we chose (it was perfect) was about ½ of our budget and about 40% of the prices of any of the other reasonable alternative options I'd found. Cherry, perfect door detailing, and nice glides on the cabinet drawers. Awesome. We were offered granite countertops with undermount sinks for $300, but the colors weren't great so we decided to wait on that piece of things.

We tried Home Depot and Lowes for countertops – expensive and really crummy. I'm glad we checked so that we can enthusiastically cross them off the list. I know of a bunch of stone /granite places, esp south of Seattle, so we'll try there before we jump for anything.

A break: We stopped at Pete's Wine in Bellevue – missed the tasting but still were able to stock up on plenty of fun bottles. It was a good pause (and right next to our wedding ring store – always good for karma), and for the first time we were able to use our new, free 6-botttle bag from QFC for our purchases – a fine addition to our "green" canvas shopping bag collection. :-)

The standard bathroom remodel seems to require matching your mirror and your cabinet. Our place didn't do mirrors. I'm really happy about that. I don't tend to love the standard "matching" mirror styles, and they are wildly expensive for what they are (four small pieces of wood and a mirror for $200+? Really?). I'd found a few mirrors that seemed possible at Pier 1 Imports (of all places!), and one of them turned out not only to be perfect but to be $20 off. We'll take it! (And how amazing to have something that's a bit more creative and fancy-free.)

At home (in my room for the moment), from 8 feet away:

The more I look at it, the more I love it. (Both photos and in person – it keeps getting happier.) The leaves are enameled, so it there's a silhouette from afar and a great color interest close-up – it's an interesting effect as this can be seen from our entryway/the main crossroads of the house (at 18 feet away).

From 3 feet away, with all of the color:

What's left for the bathroom?

  • The vanity top.
  • New lights.
  • A toilet paper holder.
  • Actually installing the vanity, plumbing, etc. (My uncle/ godfather sent the most wonderful anniversary card in June that basically joked if you can paint a home without divorcing, you're probably in it forever. That one stayed on the kitchen counter for months and months. My guess is x2 for installing your own bathroom sink without total meltdown.)
  • Paint (somewhere in the cream or yellow range) once we're done the drywall repairs.
  • And hopefully, someone to refinish the tile and tub – goodbye to the hellacious aqua?

The goal is still to do a sub-$2000 remodel, and we're on our way, especially with the potentially woah-expensive vanity + mirror costing less than $575 with tax. Woohoo! If we can bring a 1980s bathroom up to snuff without going over that budget I'm going to be very pleased.


New Trick for Click

November 08, 2008

For the last few months, the clowns have been hanging out under the leather. Before, they used to mostly stay under the purple rock near the zoos and the xenia, but Click started to move over around the time we got the shrimp, and Clack decided to join him in late September. Typical photo of Click hanging out and keeping watch, with Clack zooming back from a jaunt to join him:

(Click for a bigger photo) The leather has been getting quite large, and so it must feel like good protection and shelter from a fish perspective. The tang occasionally tries to join them, but the clowns don't like having him there and he doesn't seem to like the way the leather feels (every time he gets brushed by it, his fins flare and his tangs come out) – definitely a clown-only fort.

When Kevin was at PDC last week, Click started mostly hanging out IN, not under, the leather!

Clownfish instinct takes over!! We don't have an anemone for them, so the leather must seem like the next closest thing. While it used to shrink every time a fish brushed it, the leather now seems remarkable unperturbed about its new resident – all of that boneheaded fish persistence clearly paid off and it just decided to succumb to the inevitable. :-)

I videod Click swimming away (my first youtube contribution) – no sound and pretty low quality, but you can get the idea.

I love the tang in the background, keeping an eye on everything from a safe location by his rock. He's basically completely cured – adding Selcon to his Nori did the trick. We're cutting the Selcon down to every other day now that he's looking better (it definitely seems to contribute to algae in the tank). So yay, Tang.