Christmas Vacation

December 30, 2008

We had a great week in Florida. It was the first time that all six of us had been together since our wedding (a year and a half ago!) and so we enjoyed it. The weather cooperated beautifully – the sunshine was a treat after the dismal, short Seattle days. Aside from a great boat tour down the Intercoastal Canal (fun to see the fancy homes, and the iguanas) and a brunch out with Kevin's grandmother (who fortuitously lives nearby!), we mostly stuck around the house and neighbourhood. Perfect.

Kevin enjoyed the hot tub after a bracing swim.

Comet was willing to play reindog just long enough to get a picture.

Sharon was past her exams and Dave seemed happy to be free of work.

Plenty of cocktail hours, delicious meals (Kevin and I always get reenergized about cooking after a week at home) and time to catch up and visit.

Plus beach and patio time, a visit to the bird sanctuary, the midnight Christmas service, plenty of books, tree decorating on Christmas eve and presents Christmas morning (with mimosas and fauxmosas), fun fish sightings in the canal (including a dogfish and some large, round, striped things), watching the Grinch on YouTube, and lots of work on the jigsaw puzzle that my parents put under the tree.

Antlers aside, Comet seemed blissfully happy that everyone was back.

It was a great week.

Airport Adventure

December 23, 2008

We pushed back our flights by two days due to concern about the weekend snow and power. Luckily we didn't lose power at all (such a relief), but we got another 8" or so of snow in the interim. Usually we take the shuttle to the airport, but they refused to accept reservations, so we loaded up the all-wheel-drive Matrix and ventured out into the streets.

Our road had not been plowed, but the snow was pretty crunchy and the traction wasn't terrible.

The main road had been plowed at some point, though, so there was a 3' snow mountain ridge that Kevin did a great job navigating over/through. Despite the plowing, and due to the lack of salt or sand, the roads to the highway were white and open. Beautiful (especially with the stunning snow-covered trees lining the route), but we were glad that there weren't too many other cars to contend with.

The highway also hadn't been plowed recently, so the lanes were sort of ad hoc. We saw several people slow and then get stuck on the entrance ramps, but on the whole it seemed like people were heeding the warnings and staying home – it didn't look like the morning commute. (This is right by the Microsoft exit, but the entire trip down 520 and 405 was similarly depopulated.)

We actually made decent time, and then we joined the many-hundred-person line to check our bags. At least Southwest was still flying and at least the line moved along relatively quickly. The airport was packed with displaced travelers. The Red Cross had been by with food, water and blankets (since many of the restaurants didn't have deliveries or workers) and apparently SeaTac made national news all day for being among the worst. Kevin and I were particularly struck by one little girl (probably around two?) who just stopped walking and laid down on the floor, limbs heavy, totally exhausted. Her mom blocked traffic for a few minutes until she gathered enough energy to stand up and be carried. A cute but very apt demonstration of a lot of people's emotional state at that point, I think.


December 20, 2008

I decided to bring in our trash and recycling bins since it's looking like there wont' be a pickup this week. I was clearing off the snow when I saw that the bottom layer was actually hail – must have arrived during the thundersnow that kicked the whole storm off in the first place?

There's supposed to be an enormous wind and snow storm tonight, possibly with freezing rain, and they're forecasting gusts of 70-90 mph. We were supposed to fly out to Florida this morning, but we pushed back our flights, partly out of concern that we'd have trouble getting to the airport (our neighbourhood still has so much snow).

The other factor was that if we lose power, we wanted to be here to keep an eye on the fishtank and make sure that it's staying warm, oxygenated, and that there's a bit of current. We have the deep cycle battery from the 2006 windstorm all charged and ready to go, and we have battery operated airpumps. Fingers crossed that we don't need to use either of them.

For the moment, we're appreciating our electricity. This house is going to be very cold without it, and luckily we have plenty of food that doesn't require cooking, since that won't be an option either. Fingers crossed that the wind and freezing rain don't hit the power supply lines. We have candles out already, and the energy company number programmed into my cell phone (we don't have a house line, so if too many towers go down, that bit of prep will be moot) – everything we can do to jinx against the storm.

Everything is so still and stark outside. We're surrounded by all of these enormous trees, and everything feels like it's just waiting.


Catching up

December 19, 2008

As usual, I seem to be writing in spurts. Usually I manage to fit all of the posts on a page, but this time they're overflowing. Oops! To see all of them, you can go scroll down until you see the Archives section in the sidebar and click on the 2008 "Dec" link.

Snow Day!

December 18, 2008

All week, we’ve been waiting for the snow to start in earnest. Schools were cancelled on Wednesday and nearly everyone decided to work from home on Wednesday, only to spend all day waiting for the snow that never came.

Thursday morning, I woke to a before-dawn thunderstorm, and apparently the flakes started falling in earnest shortly after that. Kevin roused me at 10:30 (a bit of sleeping in since work was not on) and there were already so many inches of snow that the backyard had lost definition – just whiteness and the ground seemed oddly elevated.

All of our big rockwork, ferns and bushes were almost entirely mounded over. You can see the tracks of some creature who’d been snuggled up by our grill in the bottom left corner of the photo and apparently decided to break for it up the hill after we already had many inches.

The light in the house was so unusual during the day. Our bumpout window in the kitchen and the skylights in the family room were entirely snowed over.

Meanwhile, the snow reflected the light back up and so it seemed much brighter outdoors than usual. I set up at the dining room table with a laptop and a mug of tea so that I could watch the snow swirl around the backyard. Neither of us was able to log into work or email, too many people stuck at home and the servers couldn’t handle it. I kept trying every so often, but it was a real snow day. (And the best part of that as an adult is that you don’t have to make it up at the end of the year!!)

A little after two, when it became clear that the snow wasn’t stopping, we headed out for a trek to see the neighbourhood. I finally got to use the cross country skis that I got as a Christmas present the year we moved out here. I had to take the stickers off before we went out – I’d forgotten what a great deal they were. :-) With no plows or sand trucks, our home is ski-in/ski-out, so I clicked in at the top of the driveway and off we went. Kevin manned the camera.

No trash pickup today!

Our street Ts onto a larger one, and at the corner we were surprised to see signs that the road was closed.

Kevin went to investigate later (he ended up doing a much larger loop to trek to the grocery store for apple cider) and was deeply amused to find three metro buses, clad in their chains, stranded halfway up the hill.

There were only a few sets of tire tracks on our street, but the main road was quite compacted. There were occasional cars, moving slowly, and the first appropriate use of tire chains that I’ve seen in Seattle. We headed down the street to Grasslawn Park, and I was impressed (as usual) by how much use it gets. There was very little pristine snow left, and plenty of people out building snowmen and igloos, plus a few groups of teenagers and some intrepid people passing through on bikes. The playground areas were more compacted than the roads! Even with all of the activity, there was more than enough snow for skiing.

And for admiring:

We were most impressed to come across a postman out on his route on the way home.

Amidst all of the reports of people abandoning cars on roads and highways, and metro buses spinning out everywhere, and general Seattle snow-related grinding to a halt, it seemed like an unusually brave and steady sight.


December 16, 2008

Our shrimp seems to be settling into a nice, regular schedule of molting and then producing eggs! I’m pleased, since that seems to be a sign of good health. It’s very hard to get a picture of the eggs, since he (she?) gets much more cautious and shy when carrying them, but I managed to get a reasonable view at feeding time. He was working away on the food.

You can see areas of yellow on the underside of his tail. The eggs are yellowish (slightly green) and about the size of a poppy seed, and you can see the masses of them through his skin. I’m not entirely sure what happens to them (I’m guessing the shrimp eats them? They seem like they’d be nutritious) but they disappear after a few days.



December 15, 2008

It’s been in the 20s here and is supposed to stay that way all week! Brr!! Not the typical Seattle temps at all.
Kevin and I were quite pleased to find icicles on the kitchen window this morning. This one is all of three inches long:

And these little icicle nubbins are a half inch or so each:

For further proof of the temperature, look at our rhododendron bush out front!

Rhododendron leaves curl up when it gets below freezing (the lower the temps, the tighter they get), and this was what they looked like at 24 degrees. Much more of a Massachusetts sight than a Pacific Northwest one! We were both somewhat amused to hear that the temps set records today and yesterday. It's so temperate here.


December 14, 2008

When Kevin’s sister was here for Christmas last year, she decorated our tree out back. We left the lights up, and it’s so fun that we’re back in the season again.

Kevin’s been plugging it in at night, and it looks so pretty glowing away out there at us. Plus, it snowed last night!! Just an inch or two, but it’s so pretty to see all of the accumulation in the backyard, and it’s supposed to stay cold enough that it might actually stick around.

Time to cut off the water

December 13, 2008

Our granite top for the vanity came in!

The countertop and attached sink are currently upside down on a towel to the left of the vanity (we need to get a piece of 3/8” plywood for them to rest on) so you can’t see the color and pattern of the stone, but this photo of the backsplash pieces is at least a glimpse!

Mostly mottled grey with a bit of background pink. (As usual, click for bigger.) I’m very happy with it. Right now they’re sitting in the fish room. We have to remove the old vanity, redo the walls, and paint, and then we’ll be able to put the new vanity in. A good project for the week after Christmas?


Larry and the Olympics

December 12, 2008

Our friend Larry not only took care of the fish over Thanksgiving, but he left us a gift: a poster of the Olympics with all of the peaks labeled!

I’ve been wishing for something like this for ages. There are just so many peaks in the Olympics, and such depth that it’s impossible for me to translate the standard map to the actual view. This method is perfect. It’s been living on the coffee table (I’m trying to relax the roll a bit) and I’ve been studying it when I walk by.

Rumours have already started that we’ll be moving offices in Feb/March, and I’m sure that this will go perfectly on my new office wall.

It’s so nice to finally have names for those mountains!


December 11, 2008

At this point we have a semi-long list of furniture for the house that we’re keeping an eye out for. We still have money from wedding gifts that we would like to spend on it, but the problem has been finding furniture we like in the proper dimensions. I cruise the local furniture stores pretty regularly, but keep not finding the perfect kitchen table, cabinet to store games and puzzles for the family room, side table for the family room, DVD shelf for the hallway, or cabinet/dresser for our closet.

In a change of fate, we found two Craigslist items off the list in under two weeks. First of all, a cabinet for our bedroom:

I was having a hard time envisioning what could go in the space. A dresser would be more traditional but we don’t need dresser-style storage. The combination of one drawer and then the adjustable shelf inside seems ideal for storing sweaters, blankets, pillows, etc or things in baskets. Nice and flexible and while the color isn’t necessarily what I was picturing initially, it fits perfectly with the shelves in the closet and looks surprisingly coordinated.

Our second find was a kitchen table. We were pretty set on white legs and a blond top, with matching white and blond Windsor chairs. I’ve been just missing perfect examples on Craigslist for months. This table was a little bit smaller that we were hoping for (38” vs. 42”), and it has folding sides, but it only cost $30 and we’re quite pleased with it.

That big window is one of the brightest spots in the house in the afternoon, and it’s nice to have a spot to sit and work and soak in whatever light is out there. The stools and side table were already there, and we’ll leave them for now.


December 10, 2008

View of the Christmas lights from my computer desk.

I’ve been leaving my curtains open in the evenings so that I can see them glowing away as I work. It’s a small but happy bit of consolation for the short, short December days.

(We were both rather impressed how very blue the LED lights are once they were strung up again. They’d kind of whitened in my mind over the course of the year. It’s interesting to walk around the neighbourhood, since you can really see the difference between last year’s LEDs and this year’s. Perhaps we’ll wait a little bit longer and then upgrade ourselves...)


December 09, 2008

We finally had the guys come out to grind up the four stumps. Here’s a last photo of one of them from our bedroom window.

Now we just have big piles of sawdust. :-) The guys were great and also ground the tiny stump from the tree I cut down myself last fall.

We’re considering what to do with that side yard. It feels so much bigger without those trees, and it actually gets morning and afternoon sun now – probably the only place on our property where that’s the case. There’s no easy way to get water over there, but part of my brain has been chanting away about a real herb garden and a veggie garden...

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Look what I made at work today

December 08, 2008

At work, we are building collages. (A long blog post in itself.) My group already had plenty of cooks making layout decisions, so I decided to make a mosaic of our logo out of chopped-up clippings from magazines.

It's fiddly (each of those blocks are about 4"x4", and the paper bits are usually less than a quarter inch per side) and wonderfully colorful. Still have the blue panel to go!

I made a hat!

December 07, 2008

I finished the first pair of skeins of Noro just after we got back from Philadelphia, and so I took a break mid-scarf to make a matching hat with the beginnings of the second pair of skeins.

A good picture was hopeless, since the silk in the yarn is so reflective and we have zero natural light here (two weeks from today the daylight will start to return!!). I'll have to remember to get a good photo later in the winter.

The hat was top-down. I knit the body on #7 needles, increasing as described for the Thorpe hat, and then kept going until I had 110 stitches. I knit until it was almost long enough, then switched to #6s for six rows of 2x2 rib and a castoff row. It fits nicely. Now back to the scarf!

(But first, a closeup of all of that shiny, multihued silk: )


Shaking up the clowns' world

December 06, 2008

I was blowing off the rocks with the turkey baster (a common fishtank chore – it stirs up the detritus so that our skimmer and filters can remove it) when I got a little bit too close to the leather and sucked at some of its arms. It was not pleased and promptly retreated, leaving the clowns very confused.

It's an amazing coral, since it can pull in those long (over an inch) arms in completely, leaving only a dimpled top. I love the texture, especially when it leave a few arms out for grizzle around the edges.

(You can also see the pretty patterns on the trunk – click for big – so delicate and lovely.)

After a few minutes, the clowns started nuzzling in. This did not seem to improve the leather's mood.

(You can also see the shrimp dancing away. Clack recently started letting it clean him, and the shrimp has been paying him lots of attention.)

About a half hour later, the water started to clear and the leather, grudgingly, came partway out again. It curled its top into a funnel shape. Amusing to me because it still looks outraged.

The clowns were being very protective when I came near with the camera, and whenever the tang swam by to investigate. Cute. :-)


Reaching the end of the internet

December 01, 2008

Between work and evenings, I probably spend a good 6-15 hours in front of a computer (and sometimes more than that) on any given work day. On weekends I make a concious effort to abandon the computer, frequently turning my desktop off and solely relying on my work laptop, which cuts things down to a blissful hour or two online per day. (All bets are off when I sew on the weekends, since I listen to npr online or watch TV online while I work.)

Obviously, most of this is not productive -- you get some work done, and you spend an awful lot of time zoning out and combing the internet. I feel like there are huge sinkholes (youtube, many blogs and news sites, etc) that I ignore, but every now and then I stumble across things that I think are so neat. The Obama "yes we can" video was one example. I generally don't post them on my blog, but I think this dancing guy is neat. (The story, as far as I can ascertain, is that he is sort of a drifter, started videotaping himself dancing in all sorts of different spots, posted it all over the web, and then people became enthused and joined him.) If group events (national politics, sports, etc) move you, it's a fun four and a half minutes.

I won't make this regular fare, but can you imagine seeing some of these places in person? How cool. And the Seattle moment was filmed in Gas Works Park. :-)
The world is so wide. Yay, internet.