Battle of the junk

Standard

Like most people, we have too much “stuff.” After watching M go through a very impressive de-cluttering phase, I decided it was time for T and I to do a “Purge” of our own. Two weeks ago, I told T to set today aside in his calendar to spend on this project. I’ve been reading a few organization books and de-cluttering blogs, so I had a plan-of-attack in mind. Basically, I wanted to go through all of the rooms in our apartment and do a quick initial sort, identifying things that could be sold/donated/thrown out immediately and what would require more thoughtful sorting. To make the process more enjoyable, we went to Cafe Besalu for some pastries and pre-planning, where we loaded up our much-depleted butter stores and determined the order of rooms we wanted to tackle.

Once home, we wrote our agenda down on the chalkboard:

Then it was off to the races. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, as we were too busy sorting. Suffice it to say, we found a lot of useless crap that can go to Goodwill/Craigslist/FreeCycle. We didn’t get through the whole list (the office and bathroom escaped.) But we were able to make a nice plan of attack for next steps, so now I don’t feel so overwhelmed by the whole process. Our overall goal is to end up only with stuff we love/need/use and I feel like we’re well underway. (And Mom, if you’re reading this; no, I didn’t throw out any of your stuff.)

Bastille day… evening?

Standard

As a thank you for helping them move, J & M invited us to join them for dinner at Bastille, a newish French bistro in our neighborhood. We’d heard good things about it, so I was excited to try it. Plus, the interior is really cool which was of particular interest to T, as his studio is dealing with restaurants this term. J & M walked from their place, because they’re fancy like that and I wore a skirt for much the same reason. 🙂

The decor was gorgeous, right down to the adorable little mustard pot on the table: (sorry for the super flashy photos, my camera doesn’t like the dark restaurants too much.)

The food was delicious and the company delightful.

I forget how nice it is to get dressed up in my “girl-clothes.” Definitely have to do that more often!

Say cheese!

Standard

M had invited us over for a “nostalgia brunch” of creamed chipped beef (or as it’s more commonly known: shit on a shingle.) I grew up with this dish as well, but my mom made hers with a cream sauce as opposed to the cheese sauce that M’s mom favored. (T & J were apparently spared this tradition, so they were useless as tie-breakers.) When we got to M & J’s place, there was the lovely fragrance of this bubbling on the stove:

The secret ingredient? Scary cheese:

Or should I say “cheeze™”? All I know, is that if it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it isn’t cheese. To counteract this and the pressed “beef,” J had baked homemade white bread to go along with the dish:

While definitely not healthy for you, it was a very yummy brunch. Little Fergus looked on in jealousy from his sunbeam (Isn’t he ridiculous?)

Afterward, T & I headed home. Dad & Baby Cyclone stopped by our place for a little visit, which was nice as we haven’t seen him in a while and it was good to catch up and see more of the munchkin (who continues to be one of those disgustingly well-behaved babies.) Note to self: make sure to pre-order the ant farm and chemistry set now…

Afterward, T & I set about doing some cooking of our own. I decided to be ambitious and roast an extra chicken with the one I was making for dinner, so we’d have extra chicken for other recipes during the week. I must say, I roast a mean chicken:

Meanwhile, T was making another bread and getting flour all over himself and the ever-present Smokey Joe in the process:

Undeterred by being sprinkled with flour and banned from the kitchen, Smokey Joe continued to work on his “I’m going to die if I don’t get some of that chicken or bread or whatever else you’re making” face:

Happy MLK Jr. Day everyone!

Attack of the babies!

Standard

(No, I don’t know what’s up with the exclamation point titles lately. It’s a very exciting MLK weekend, apparently!)

The Cyclones are visiting Seattle for Ms. Cyclone’s work. They are bringing with them new baby Isabella, who we’ve not yet met in person. To maximize their limited time in Seattle, we planned one big meet-up with T & I, M & J and Dave & Shelly along with their new addition Henry/Hank. (a.k.a. Rigatoni). There have been many jokes about the future union of Henry & Isabella, so it was exciting to be included in that all-important first meeting. We picked Pies & Pints for their central location, delicious food/beer and the fact that they’ll be okay with a big group of people making a bunch of noise.

The Cyclones were delayed getting their rental car, so Dave & Shelly arrived first. Here’s Hank, patiently waiting for his future bride:

Hank is a sweet little guy, very mellow and at that age where he’s starting to figure out that you can get a group of adults to do just about anything by pointing or waving at them. Here he is with mama Shelly:

Eventually, the Cyclones arrived with a sleeping baby Isabella. We got to greet them and they got to meet young Henry and order before she woke up:

Isabella is also a really mellow baby. She was totally fine with being passed around the table to a bunch of people she’d never seen before. (Of course, mom & dad were within sight, so that probably helped.) First, M got to hold her:

Then she got passed to yours truly:

Then she got passed over to T, who she’s in love with:

Poor Hank, while T was making the moves on his lady, he had to drown his sorrows in beer and straws:

J tried to protest my picture taking by attacking me with his Windows Mobile phone’s strobe light feature and made his way right onto the blog. (Take that!)

It was really fun to see everyone and meet the babies. I’m glad my friends are having babies because they look like they are really happy (if a little tired sometimes) and I get to enjoy the babies without having any of my own. (It’s win/win!) It’s weird that everyone is growing up and having kids, but in a good way. Now, if we could just get the Cyclones to come back to Seattle…

Snow day!

Standard

A few of the ladies from my tri team organized a snow-shoeing outing in Hyak, WA. One of the things that I love about Seattle is that you don’t have to drive very far to do any number of activities and feel like you are in the middle of no where. I had only been snowshoeing once before, on my own back in Portland, so I was hoping that I’d be able to keep up. I was fortunate to be able to grab a ride with Jen & Bryan and their two lovely dogs, who you might recognize from the Gunn Ranch pictures. Here’s Tyr, ready to hit the slopes:

The scenery was pretty right from the beginning:

There ended up being quite a large group of us – Erin, David, Timmion, JenHS, Francois and two friends of Jen & Bryan named Josh & Erika. Here’s the group getting ready to head out:

As is her custom, Erin got a flat right out of the gate… 😉

But she was up and running pretty quickly!

The trail was much hillier than my previous snowshoe outing and it took a little time to get used to the snowshoes, but eventually it started clicking.

Someone built this cute snowman on the trail:

We stopped for a few breaks along the way:

I was very impressed with Jen & Bryan’s impressive snowshoeing with high energy dog attached. I would have ended up head-first in a snowbank if I tried that with my dogs.

It got foggier and foggier as we got further up the mountain, so we picked a spot at random to turnaround. Before heading back, we had an impressive little snack break – complete with homemade bread (courtesy of David), some Beecher’s cheese and some Chukar Cherries. (Sorry, food was eaten way too fast to photograph!)

Francois tried to climb some crazy steep snowbank while we made jokes about how exactly he was going to injure himself, but he managed to prove us wrong and emerge unscathed:

The trip down was largely uneventful. All of the up was replaced with down, letting different leg muscles get a workout. Afterward, we hit a mexican place in North Bend for some recovery food. (Mmmmm, nachos… )  It was a really fun outing and so great to see everyone. And best of all, I arrived home to a freshly cleaned apartment courtesy of the boy and plans to hang out with J & M for some food and RockBand. So far this holiday weekend is off to a good start!

Impromptu Sunday

Standard

Our morning began very agreeably. There was some sleeping in, followed by buttermilk biscuits made from scratch. (Seriously, I love this new baking hobby of T’s, but I am going to have to train twice as hard to counteract the extra calories!) I had to snap a picture of the biscuits, because they looked so pretty as they cooled on the rack:

Then, while we were eating, the phone rang. It was M, telling us that their move was on. (A little back story: M & J are moving into a house just north of us. The landlord was doing some maintenance that involved sealants drying, so there was some question of whether or not they’d be able to move in this weekend vs. next weekend. M was really hoping to be able to do it this weekend, so we knew this phone call was a possibility.) We had about an hour to get ready, so I cleaned up the kitchen and prepped the veggie stock I’d planned to make that evening… )

Then it was off to M’s, where we were greeted by this sight:

(Oh, this is going to be so much fun!)

Luckily, M has been getting rid of all of her extraneous stuff and is super organized. She directed T to the wall of boxes in the laundry area:

(He looks so excited, doesn’t he?)

J & T set about loading boxes into the truck, while M & I packed the last odds & ends into boxes. (Why are there always such hilariously random boxes to pack at the end of packing? No matter how organized you are, there always seems to be at least one box of completely odd-ball things.) I really liked M’s list on the table. I think it really gets to the heart of moving:

Before we knew it, the last boxes were packed and the truck was loaded with the first trip’s stuff. We took a quick lunch break before heading over:

The boys went in the truck while M & I took some smaller/more delicate items in my car. As expected, her new place is super cute (pictures will be posted after she’s got it all set up nicely.) Most of the day was too busy for photos, but there were some funny moments while we were unloading. J discovered a smoker in the backyard that some previous tenants had left behind. Score!

T got this one of me trying to carry the big bundle of bedding into the house:

It was well after dark when we finished, mostly due to the late start. But we managed to get the majority of their stuff into the new place, including the precious desk and the kitties. I think it’s a really good fit for M & J and I’m looking forward to seeing it all unpacked and decorated. (I’m also looking forward to hanging out in their awesome yard, enjoying the benefits of J having that smoker!)

He’s free!

Standard

After putting in his time at the Safeway Starbucks in our neighborhood, the boy is finally free. He finagled a TA job at his school, so he’ll be able to do something that interests him and actually uses some of his professional skills. I’m very happy that he is done with this job, because it made him miserable and not much fun to be around. To celebrate T’s new found freedom we invited M & J to join us at Delancey, a pizza place in our neighborhood that I’d been wanting to try.

For those of you who read the food blogs, the wife of the owner writes Orangette (which is fabulous.) The only downside of Delancey is that it’s insanely popular and not very big, which leads to crazy wait times. We tromped over to put our name in around 5:45 and had an estimated 90 minute to 2 hour wait time. Yikes! M & T browsed the window of the neighboring umbrella store while we decided what to do:

The sign in the bar across the street was also good from some jokes:

(Cocky Ails? Cock-yails? Not good… ) But ultimately neither activity was going to fill the wait time, so we decided to head back home to have a little wine and download some RockBand songs while we waited. This passed the time nicely and before we knew it, it was time to head back (this time by car) where our table was ready, right on schedule. Sadly, they were out of the burrata, which I’d been wanting to try, as well as a delicious sounding roasted pear dessert, but the food they did have was all delicious. This is my favorite kind of restaurant, simple decor, delicious food and generally a really good vibe.

Here are my attempts to be artsy:

(Let’s pretend that “blurry” and “artsy” are the same thing, ‘kay?)

The rest of the evening was spent playing RockBand and reveling in the fact that T didn’t have to get up early to go to work. Woo!

Resolutionary road

Standard

It’s that time of year again – the time when we take stock, make resolutions for the future. Since we’re on the dawn of a new decade, it’s also a popular time to look back at the last ten years, make top ten lists, etc. I’ve never been a fan of the New Year’s resolution – something about it seems so overly formal and dramatic, which always seems like a recipe for failure. I’m more of a “make small adjustments that add up to big changes” kind of girl. It’s how I lost 40 lbs, train for triathlons and any number of other big changes in my life.

So, on New Years, I usually take stock of what changes the previous year has brought and what worked/what didn’t. This year, we didn’t have the big sweeping changes that last year brought (new city, new jobs, etc.) but when I look at our daily habits, I see a pretty big change. We’ve started cooking at home more and making more things from scratch. We’ve changed some of our spending habits and become more mindful of what we’re spending money on. (For example, I’ve become a much heavier user of my local library vs. buying used books.)

So, this is the year of building on that foundation: keeping those habits and going further with them. This year, I want to reduce the amount of useless crap we have in our house and simplify a bit. Go further with our cooking to incorporate more whole foods. Continue to make sure that our spending reflects the things that are truly important to us. In the midst of all of these plans, there will still be training to meet my triathlon goals and keeping my marriage happy and healthy amidst T’s hectic school schedule/my work and training schedule.

Whew! It’s going to be a busy year, that’s for sure!

New Years weekend on Whidbey Island

Standard

M & J were out of town this year for the holidays, so I thought it would be nice to do a little New Years getaway with T. Nothing fancy, just something fun to feel like we weren’t just sitting around the house. I hadn’t been back to Whidbey Island since T and I lived in Seattle the first time, back in the late 90’s, so I thought it would be just the thing.

A quick bit of back story on Whidbey Island, when I first moved to Seattle I thought the locals were saying “Would be” Island and this was only reinforced when I found out there was a bridge to the island, as in it would be an island if there wasn’t a bridge, etc. I later learned it was just the lazy way people pronounce the name, not clever wordplay. We chose a motel in Oak Harbor, a small town at the top of Whidbey right near the aforementioned bridge and Deception Pass State Park.

We left Seattle in the afternoon of New Years eve day and hit the road during a steady drizzle. There was a little traffic getting out of town, but not too bad. I’d made reservations at a place called The Coachman Inn, which turned out to be an older vintage motel right on the hwy heading into Oak Harbor. There turned out to be plenty of vacancy, so we didn’t need to make reservations, but better safe than sorry. We had a momentary stalemate at the check-in desk where “pet friendly” on the website contrasted with their actual pet policy where they charge a pet fee and only allow pets in certain rooms, which didn’t include the jacuzzi suite that I’d booked. Thankfully, a call to the manager from the front desk staff resolved the issue and we could check in to the room we’d booked. (I’m still annoyed by the pet fee, but that’s a rant for another day… )

Our room turned out to be less swanky than we’d been led to believe by the aforementioned website. It was quite an homage to beige, including the toilet:

the fancy jacuzzi tub:

There were two chairs for the dogs to make themselves at home on:

But the bed was comfy and good for TV watching:

The bathroom even came with a little wooden mascot:

I’d stopped at a supermarket in Seattle before we left and picked up a roast chicken and a loaf of bread so we could have a simple dinner in the room. I’d also picked up some yummy Trader Joes snacks and wine, so we had quite a nice feast. I celebrated the end of 2009 with a bath in the giant tub and some tv-watching. (I know, the glamour!)

The next morning, we slept in and missed the free continental breakfast so we ventured into the very odd looking restaurant in the parking lot of the hotel. Here’s a picture of the outside, (I just couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of the inside.)

It’s hard to see in the picture, but in front of the building were a row of flags, a bunch of soldier statues (kind of like big army men) a Statue of Liberty, a bumblebee and a big purple circle thing, in addition to the camoflage wall. It gives a good preview of the decorating style within:

The inside featured all kinds of military memorabilia, a camouflage painted floor and a fiberglass Elvis playing a guitar when you walk in. But we are in a military base town, so the military stuff made a little bit of sense (not so much the fiberglass Elvis… ) But the food was good and the place was packed with locals, which is always a good sign.

Afterward, we headed to Deception Pass State Park with the dogs for a little hiking. It was windy and gray, but otherwise a great day for hiking. We checked out the campground to see what sites we might like to reserve in the future and then hiked to the big bridge across Deception Pass. Here’s the beach where we started:

Here’s our destination:

And of course, my trusty hiking companions:

It was a nice hike. The trail wasn’t too crowded and the views were gorgeous:

When we reached the bridge we couldn’t resist walking across at least partway:

I snapped this shot from the middle:

It was crazy windy and there were a lot of cars on the bridge which were making the dogs nervous, so we turned around at the halfway point. We did hike to the top of Goose Rock which added another mile and a quarter to the hike. The view from the top faced the rest of Whidbey Island and it was also very windy.

Wally met and barked at a few dogs on the trail, but did okay. The hike also tired both dogs out, so they were very well-behaved. We did a little reconnaissance of the downtown area and selected a place to have dinner. We also saw two bald eagles splashing in a puddle in a field, but they flew away before I could snap a picture. Then we headed back to the room for a simple lunch of leftover chicken and bread, plus cheese and apple. Good stuff!

T settled in to watch the Ducks play in the Rose Bowl, while I fooled around on my computer:

Sadly, the Ducks didn’t win the big game and there was much moaning and yelling at the television by T, but he was soon cheered by finding a terrible Resident Evil movie to watch. Then we went out to a Mexican place on the water that wasn’t the best food ever, but had friendly service and a nice view of the water. We finished out the evening by watching “3:10 to Yuma” the Netflix that we’d brought with us. (Pretty good movie!) Afterward, there was another giant bath and general relaxation. A very good day to usher in the new year/decade!