Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29, 2012: Winter Blues and Funk

Of course by now you've all heard about the snowstorm hitting the pacific northwest right after MLK day.  Despite my skepticism regarding Seattlites and their issues with snow, this storm was one for the record books.  Seattle ended up with about 6 inches of snow, followed by an inch or two of ice, and south of Seattle they measured the snowfall in feet.  Olympia, which is about 45 minutes south, had something like 2 feet of snow.  It was truly an unusual event for this area.

The hills in Seattle are incredibly steep - think San Francisco.  The city is full of them.  I have about a 6 mile commute to work and I can think of three major hills I have to traverse, and I avoid the seriously steep hills for fear I'll get stopped in my standard shift car and roll into the car behind me.  These hills are somewhat treacherous in the rain, so adding a little snow to them creates nothing short of madness.  As if that weren't enough to contend with, the city is really not cut out for dealing with this weather.  They do not treat the roads with very much in the way of salt or the chemicals used in the Midwest for fear that it will kill the salmon population.  Seattle also does not have a lot of snow plows to help clear the roads.  This is why, on the second day of the storm, I had a pretty good commute in until I hit downtown - nothing had been done downtown.  The city allocated its resources to the bridges and freeways.  It experience.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the snowstorm was the cliche-like run on milk and bread.  We live pretty urban here - we are walking distance from several grocery stores, not to mention the little markets that are sprinkled in here and there.  In some ways, you can't really blame the masses for overreacting - the local newscasters described the storm as certain death for anyone who went outside.  It's far worse than the White Death newscasters in Columbus.

We decided to walk around in the snow, since there was virtually no traffic and not a lot to do (though of course, I was working remotely).  I love how green the plants still are in the winter.  When the snow melted, just a couple of days later, it was so pretty to see the green grass underneath the snow.  I can definitely appreciate how green it is here year-round.

They close the side roads during the bad storms because of the hills.  In West Seattle, where we live, it's hills all around.  You cannot go anywhere without heading up or down a very steep road, so these signs are everywhere.  The hills provided a lot of fun though; Lorelei went sledding with some kids from her school, and we saw lots of people skiing down the hills and getting around that way.

Of course, the beach is still fabulous, even with snow.

It's winter, so no matter where you are, if you are in colder weather, it's cabin fever time.  All of us here in Seattle are getting a little stir-crazy.  The snow has melted and the weather is a little warmer now, more normal for Seattle, but the rain is back and it's still just plain dark.  8 hours of light a day is not enough.  Gretel and my walks are consistently in the dark and the rain, morning and night.  It's depressing.  So yesterday, Ed, Amy, Lorelei and I took a day trip to Portland, OR, where it was 50 and sunny (sadly, Shawn could not join us because he had to study).  Despite the torrential snow they received in Portland from the storm, and flooding that followed after, the city looked great.

The city itself is gorgeous.  The Columbia River flows right through the city so there are lots of bridges and of course, natural beauty.  You may have heard that Portland is a very environmentally conscious city.  The picture below is of windmills on top of a skyscraper.

I think Amy put it best when she said, "Portland makes Seattle look like a bunch of uptight republicans."  However, like Seattle, Portland has all this cool, funky art out and about, and there is a real culture and beat to the city that you can't ignore.  It's a fun city.  There is a booming microbrew industry there as well.  You can't walk 3 feet without passing a microbrewery.  The beers were amazing, too.  I'd like to spend more time checking out the rest of the city.

There is this really cool bike sculpture outside of one of the stores in the Pearl District, which is where we spent the day.  Lorelei thought it was awesome.

I think we all liked the bikes a bit.

That's my self-portrait from Portland.

Of course, no visit to Portland is complete without two things:  a trip to Powell's books, which is the size of a city block (not including the technical annex which is on a separate block) and VooDoo Donuts.  Wow.  Donuts, beer and books.  Heaven.

Otherwise, we are hanging in there.  Shawn and Lorelei continue to do well in school and I'm busy at work as ever.  Shawn started working at, and it seems to be going well so far.  It's a good start as he continues studying web development.  I have Gretel in training classes and despite how crazed she is on the leash (the reason for the training), the trainer loves her and sees real potential for her.  We'll see.  I know she needs this kind of stimulation and I need to be trained on how to care for a big dog that needs exercise.  I guess we are both in training.

In the meantime, we are keeping our eyes toward Spring and the weather clearing (hopefully) a bit so we can get out and about, exploring the mountains.  And of course, we await the much-anticipated arrival of Unicornia Rosabelle Castaneda!!  Amy is 35 weeks and counting.  It won't be long now!

Our best wishes to all back in the Midwest, and Go Bucks!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 14, 2012: Time & Change

Happy New Year!  Many good wishes to all for this fabulous 2012!

The new year in Washington so far is nice.  You see in the picture above the welcoming mural on the side of a building in Leavenworth, WA.  Leavenworth is a Bavarian-style town nestled in the Cascades.  It's really kitschy, lots of touristy shops and German food.  We decided to go to Leavenworth last weekend, just for a day trip, something to get out of town and explore a little bit.  The nicest part was Shawn's mom, Brenda, arrived in Seattle Saturday morning, so we picked her up and took off for the mountains.

Leavenworth was really cute.  For the German in us, it was fantastic.  They still had their Christmas decorations up and it was truly adorable.

It's truly nestled right there in the mountains.  It had an amazing view on all sides and it's settled right in the middle of ski country.  I liked Leavenworth.  It was really neat, and I'll be happy to go back in the Spring and probably the fall for Oktoberfest - it's got to be just crazy fun during Oktoberfest.

The best part, though, was the drive to Leavenworth from Seattle.  You go through the mountains and through Stevens Pass, which is the easiest way to get there, being one of the lower altitude passes.  We had to watch the weather reports for several days to make sure we could get through the Pass.  Leavenworth is only about 2 hours away, but the weather in the Pass can make it difficult.  Down here in the lowlands we don't see snow very much, but just a couple of thousand feet makes a big difference.  The Washington Department of Transportation is pretty good with up to the minute weather and you can access their webcams for current conditions in the Passes.  They are also conservative about closing the Passes or requiring chains/cables for your tires.  So if the Pass is open without restrictions, we are good to go.

I go into this detail because I am a midwestern girl and really had no idea about all this.  But this is what it looks like in the beginning of the mountains:

No snow, right?  Here's what it looked like 3000 feet later, or about 20 minutes:

And this:

And this:

I love the mountains.  I mean, I really love the mountains.  I expected to reignite my love affair with the ocean by moving here, but surprisingly, I am drawn more to mountains.  I loved that drive to Leavenworth.  I also have itchy feet because I really want to learn to ski.  I think Lorelei would be awesome on skis, too.  Her legs are getting so long, and her coordination seems pretty decent.  I think our goals for next winter include buying an all-wheel drive car and learning to ski.

Other than Leavenworth, Shawn, Lorelei and Brenda had a great week.  They visited the Locks and the Nordic Museum, shopped downtown and went to Pike Market, and also did lots of local exploring.  Lorelei loved having her Grandma Shrader around, as did we all.

Speaking of snow, it's in the forecast for this week here in the lowlands.  If you think that people freak out in C-bus over a few inches of snow, you haven't seen anything.  The excitement and frenzy over the possibility of  a small amount of snow is akin to that of the Beatles landing at JFK.  It's like I'm living in town full of Jym Ganahls.  A town full of Jym Ganahls who can't drive when it's perfectly dry and sunny outside...and will surely lose their minds if they get behind the wheel in an inch of snow.  To be fair, the hills here are terrifying on the best of days.  I don't look forward to navigating them in snow.  On the other hand, I'm not sure this forecast merits a run on milk and bread.  Oh, and I'd just like to remind the Seattleites in my neighborhood:  you are walking distance from 4 grocery stores.  No need to rush out to stock up.  You live in the city.  You can walk in one inch of snow.

New Year's was nice.  Ed and Amy came over and helped us ring it in, and that was perfect.

This is Amy and the baby sharing a NYE toast.   Lorelei has named the baby Unicornia Rosabelle.  Is there a better name out there?  I dare someone to come up with one.

This is Ed with his three drinks.  We had fun.  We are now looking forward to the great arrival of Unicornia!  Amy is due March 7.  I will say this:  I might have a little baby fever.  I'm very much looking forward to holding a baby again!

For our biggest news, Shawn got a job at in the customer service retention department!  He starts next week.  It's part-time, but will work well around his school schedule and it might also allow him to be around the web developers a bit.  It's a good opportunity and will certainly help us as we carry two households financially.  More importantly, this is Shawn's first step in the industry he'll work in.  The opportunities out here are so much better than in Ohio; it's one of the reasons we wanted to relocate.

Lorelei continues to do well in school.  She's learning to tell time from a clock (not a digital readout like most alarm clocks) and how to count money.  She's reading more and more all the time, also.  Gretel started school today also; she and I enrolled in training.  We'll see how it goes, but I think Gretel will be happier being in school pretty regularly.

As for me, well, I remain homesick for my friends and family and am looking forward to trying to get back to Ohio in a couple months or so.  I love it here - and I don't regret moving.  I just wish I could transplant all of my people to this part of the world.  Work has been ramping up and getting quite busy lately, but it's good work and I enjoy it.  Even when it exhausts me....

I think the most important thing to remember is to take time to smell the roses.  Or in Seattle in the winter, smell the coffee and sit by a giant stuffed bear.  (That picture was actually taken in Leavenworth, but you get the idea.)

We continue our new experiences and becoming acclimated to this new and amazing place.  Much love to all, and please come visit - let me know if you want to and I'll watch flight prices for you!