Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12/27/11: Holiday Frolics and Hangovers

Happy Holidays from the Pacific Northwest!  Hope you and yours had a good one.  I can tell you that for us, all was quiet on the western front.  We stuck close to our new home and had some home-cooking, and generally relaxed.  Well...as much as you can relax with a crazed 6-year-old whose eyes glazed over every time a new package arrived with her name on it.  Oooh the Christmas anticipation was at full speed by Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve was a glorious Seattle day.  The sun and my beloved Olympics were out, and I went for a run along the water in shorts.  As a matter of fact, we spent most of the day outside, running errands (walking to the stores) and walking to a neighborhood open house in the evening.  The open house was hosted by the head of the PTA at Lorelei's school.  She's a true free spirit, which of course, makes her parties the best.  I've been to two, now, and each time, something interesting happens.  At this party, we walked into a conversation about the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Just when I thought it could get ugly, someone handed me a glass of champagne.  God bless whoever that was.  Then another person arrived in full dress.  I mean, in full vampire-goth-weirdo-Halloween-floor-length-gown dress.  I feel terrible that I don't have pictures to share because it was a sight to behold.  To be perfectly fair, these people were wonderful and we had a great time.  The kids all played in the basement which was decorated, and the parents listened to great music and enjoyed a Mexican-themed fare - complete for 3 different types of homemade tamales (Ed - you were missed).  

When we got home, Lorelei was permitted to open one gift, and she chose the above gifts - from Great-grandma Bear.  She wears the doggy hat all the time!

And then the storm came.

Lorelei was crazy with presents.  She had a great time, but wow.  She got a lot of stuff.  Whew.  It wore me out.  By around 5pm Christmas Day, Lorelei had what can only be described as a Christmas hangover.  Those of you who spent the holidays around little kids will know what I'm talking about.  Only the aspirin isn't for Lorelei, it's for me.  Ugh.

It's hard to say what her favorite gift was.  She has played with all of her gifts.  It was really nice that everyone sent her gifts - she loved getting the mail and having the presents...it was just really nice.  She was sad to not be with family, she told us that.  This was a nice consolation.

Shawn and I did well too.  I got the hat I always wanted and the cookbook that I didn't even know existed (nice work, Santa!).

That hat is for the rain.  As luck would have it, it's been raining here, so I've had an opportunity to wear it.  This hat is perfect.

Probably the best part of the weekend came on the day after Christmas.  We walked down to Lincoln Park right near our house.  We walked all along in the woods and down by the water.  The Olympics were visible despite the clouds, but they looked like ghosts of themselves. It was really beautiful in a different way than the pristine views you have on a clear day.

Sometimes I think I like the Sound and the mountains as much on the cloudy days as I do on the clear days.  The wildlife is always much more visible on the rainy, cloudy days.  

It's nice.  This is a good place to get a little perspective on things, that's for sure.  It's why we moved here.  

As the year draws to a close, here's hoping that we all can keep perspective and have a great year coming up.  Much love to everyone - we wish we were with you, but hopefully we'll see you out here soon!

Much love to all!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

12/10/11: Dark Days and Bright Lights

Happy Christmas!  Christmas in the city is a magical thing.  One of the most striking differences between C-bus and Seattle is that downtown is just about always hoppin'.  All times of day and night there are people out and about doing things.  This is certainly amplified by the holiday season.  My office is right in the thick of the shopping district downtown, so I get to see all of the decorations and activity up close.  Above is Macy's.  I took that picture yesterday.  It was a glorious sunny day.  Shawn had dropped Lorelei off at my work so that she and I, as well as a co-worker of mine, could all attend The Nutcracker (also downtown).  Before we left for the ballet, Lorelei and I walked around looking at decorations.  We visited Macy's and visited the plaza at Westlake, where we saw the big tree and rode the carousel.

Who doesn't love the carousel?  The Nutcracker was fabulous as well.  We all loved it and it was a good way to cap off what was otherwise, a rather terrible week.

I won't go into the multitude of idiot things that happened this week, but everyone knows what it's like to have that string of days where it seems like everything goes wrong.  It may be a smidge harder to deal with at the moment because I'm going through some homesick feelings and missing friends and family.

It's also dark.  The sun sets around 4 right now.  The days will continue getting shorter until the solstice, but at least that's only another week and a half.  The funny thing is, everyone here knows exactly when the solstice is - they talk about it on the news.  It's a product of being so far north.  The difference from Columbus is quite noticeable.  I keep telling myself it's not a big deal, it just means we get that many more hours of the fabulous light displays.  Whatever.  It's dark.  I knew I would have more trouble with the dark than the rain, and I was right.  Like I said, only 11 more days until the solstice.

In addition to holiday fun, there have been a few other noteworthy things we've experienced.

God bless the Swedes for giving us IKEA.  IKEA is about 15-20 minutes from our house, which is insanely convenient.  It is definitely an experience.  We went to find some things for the closets and ways to make use of the small space we have.  Wow.  IKEA is totally the place for that.  It's also a statement on Swedish organization and efficiency.  It's laid out so you tour the showroom (which is organized by room in your house), where you write down the things you like and the aisles they can be found in the warehouse.  Then you take your cart to the warehouse and pick up your things, then you check out.  It's easy and user-friendly, and unlike any furniture experience I've ever had.  When my mom comes to visit, I'm taking her to IKEA so she can see her heritage in action.  Sure, we'll visit Ballard where the Scandinavians live, and we'll tour the Nordic Museum, but she needs to see IKEA.  I think she'll relate to it.

We also did Thanksgiving at Ed and Amy's.  They had a transplant Thanksgiving - most of us were from somewhere else originally.  There were people who had lived there for 4 years, some for 14.  It was very cool.  The food was amazing, the company superb, and Mary's (my sis) champagne punch really got the party started. Not a drop of it was wasted or spilled, and by the end of the evening, that was pretty evident.  (I'm so making that again)  Part of the magic is that Ed and Amy know how to throw a party.  Even if Ed did accidentally order a 32-lb turkey and had to stay up all night the night before cooking it.  It was a great way to spend the holiday!

We've also been to the West Seattle Farmer's Market, which goes on all year round.  This time of year you can still find some produce from local farms, but it's mostly meat, cheeses and ciders, wines, that type of thing.  Our family seems a little obsessed with the cheese out here.  The only cheese we have bought that wasn't produced in Washington is Tillamook - produced in Oregon.  It's pretty amazing stuff.  I can't say enough about the food here, and local farms, local production is reason number 1 it's so good.  I'm getting hungry just thinking about it....  That day at the market, it was another glorious, sunny day, and on the corner, right where I took this picture, I could look east and see the Cascades, look west and see the Olympics.  They are my constant reminders of why I wanted to be here.

This will wrap it up for now, as I've probably rambled on long enough.  I'll leave with a couple of Lorelei pictures for the holidays:  one from the Nutcracker and one from home, Lorelei by the tree.  Wishing everyone lots of love, and know we miss you all and are thinking of you.