Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Let the Merry Bells Keep Ringing!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had the merriest of Christmases and all other holidays occurring since my last post.

I think to say that we survived the holidays is a bit dramatic. But I was starting to feel like I'd been through something wild by mid-December. Things were just fine up through Thanksgiving. We had a lovely holiday at the Castanedas, with loads of good food, good company and fun. And then after Thanksgiving....well, everything ramped up a notch or two. Have you ever noticed that it feels like this when Thanksgiving is later, rather than earlier?

Everything started off innocuously enough. Lorelei was working hard in school, and has discovered that she likes to make sushi at home (minus the raw fish; she's more of a California roll type of kid).

Lorelei also attended a birthday party that was at a roller-rink. I was ready to just drop her off and come back and get her, and the next thing I knew....

Yep, I rollerskated for the first time in, oh, what, 30 years? It was a blast! It's just like riding a bike! I'm pleased to report that I only fell down once. Lorelei had a great time too. We might need to make this a family outing sometime.....

And then, everything went to hell in a hand basket.

Perhaps the biggest contributor to my crazed, deer-in-the-headlights experience in the first two weeks of December was my job. I don't like to get too specific about my job for obvious reasons, but for the love of all that is holy, I think I was being punished or hazed in December. I had back-to-back hearings, including one that took me to eastern Washington for an exhausting day of travel and oral argument. I returned to a deposition in which I was accused by another attorney of testifying (instead of my client), committing bad faith, and lying. I believe that day I almost quit. I've never been accused of such conduct before, most likely because I DON'T DO IT. Chalk it up to a bad day at the office. Well, it was Friday the 13th, I guess.

Getting back to that trip to eastern Washington, that was pretty neat. One of the most stressful days I've had, but it was a great experience. The day started with an early morning flight from Seattle to Spokane. I love flying over the mountains, and the view was stunning:

Those are the Cascades that we flew over. The plane was a commuter. I love those small planes, but props always make me feel like I'm getting ready to fly the Memphis Belle on her last mission to Bremen.

Once landed in Spokane, I picked up the rental car and headed up to Colville, WA. Colville is a sleepy little mountain town in the foothills. It was a gorgeous drive up there.

They just had a dusting of snow in Colville, but it was about 5 degrees. Barring the scenery, it reminded me of the Midwest winters. I didn't get to enjoy the scenery too much, though, because the sun set at 3:56 pm on that day in Colville. Yep, gets dark a little early there. But the town was all decked out for the holidays with lots of lights and decorations. The downtown boasts a general store with a complete line of huckleberry foods; jams, pancake mixes, etc., and also a specialty jerky and sausage store. And yes, they have special classes on how to make jerky and sausage on the weekend. They also know how to make a decent cup of coffee, for which I was very grateful, as I had to drive back to Spokane to make the last flight out to Seattle that evening.

We'll go back to eastern Washington and spend some time there. It's gorgeous country, and we'll make certain to spend some time with cousins Jim ad Trish in Spokane!

My December travels also took me to Port Orchard in Kitsap County for a hearing. This is a little closer to home, just across the western Sound. I took the ferry back home that day and it was a lovely view.

It is pretty over there.

Somewhere around mid-December, things started to level off a bit and the season started to feel fun. We managed to get ourselves in the Christmas spirit.

Lorelei also had a belt test in Tae Kwon Do. She has advanced to high green. She has also started sparring classes. She can now officially kick our butts.

We had a lovely Christmas Eve with our friends coming over for games, gifts and snacks, and then a Christmas day that involved not getting out of our pajamas all day.

I guess Ivan (the cat) had a good Christmas, too. He made a new friend, it seems.

I took off the days between Christmas and New Year's, which was desperately needed. One of the days we all trekked over to Ballard, one of the neighborhood's in Seattle. For those of you who have been here, Ballard is where the Locks are, as well as the Nordic Museum. It's one of my favorite parts of town. The pictures below are of the fog burning off as we drove on the viaduct through downtown. The fog is like a living, breathing animal here.

While in Ballard, we shopped around and I discovered what is now my second favorite place in Seattle: a local kitchen store. They had my two favorite lines of kitchenware next to each other on the shelf!

I loved that place! I need to go back with a purse full of money. I could have easily spent Lorelei's first year of college in there. We also went to a board game store that is attached to a pub, so you can actually play the games and get a meal/coffee/drink. Very, very fun. The rest of our break has been just being lazy and quiet. We have enjoyed it immensely.

As much fun as we've had in the latter part of December, I admit I'm not sorry to see the end of 2013. It's been a tough year in many aspects. We see big changes ahead in 2014, but with a little luck and love, they should all be good changes! 

Love and a blessed New Year to all!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9, 2013: New House, New School Year, New Do

I know.  It's probably weird to start out the post with a giant picture of me. But here's the deal: I have zero pictures of me because I'm the one capturing all these precious memories to begin with. And it's been a wild few months, so family portrait time has seriously taken a backseat to keeping our sanity. The reason for this picture, though, is obvious. No more long hair!

Okay, so on to the real news.  Most of you know we moved. Well, we had to move at the beginning of August because our landlord was selling the townhouse we'd called home since our arrival in the Emerald City.  No problem; we knew that was a possibility, though she had promised to extend our lease into 2014 previously.  We found a place right away, a neighborhood south of West Seattle and we packed our stuff and set up camp on Marine View Drive (isn't that a great street name?). Then we found out that landlord was in bankruptcy and the bankruptcy trustee was selling the property. Of course, I checked the property out before we signed the lease, but I didn't check bankruptcy records. I checked for foreclosures and scam-oriented clues. [sigh]

So, we packed our stuff in order to get ready to move again. Though the idea of signing another lease with these idiot, flaky Seattle property owners was not ideal, I was adamant that we not buy a house until we sell our house in Ohio. The problem with that is that the rental market was terrible in September. Unless we wanted a $3,000/month beach house, or a 1-bedroom, $800/month, no-pets-allowed apartment, we were looking homeless. So, we decided to enter the market and look to buy.

And this is where we landed:

Isn't it cute? At the risk of going down a seriously boring path, it's an old craftsman house, built in the 1920s. I guess you could say it's loaded up with character, but also loaded up with things that need to be done to it. For the most part, though, it was move-in ready and the kitchen remodel and basement finish can wait until we sell our other house.

The short of it is, we love it.  We feel more at home in this house than the other places we've lived in Seattle. It's 3 blocks from Lorelei's school, and 3 blocks from the store, our pizza place, and favorite pub. Perfect. It also has a wood-burning fireplace, which I've always wanted.

The animals fight for space on the hearth.  I think you can see a cat in the picture above. Even though the road to this house was a curvy one, in the end it worked out. Now we can catch our breath in time for the holidays!

In other news, Lorelei started off third grade with a bang! It's been quite a transition for her. She has a lot more homework this year, and a lot more going on in general. The other night at dinner she confided to me the name of the boy she has a crush on in school.  Lord, help me.

Here's the first day of third grade picture:

She and Shawn also carved pumpkins, as is their Halloween tradition.

Lorelei dressed up as Marceline the  Vampire Queen from the cartoon Adventuretime.  Only, I don't have any good pictures of her in her costume, as she refused to keep the wig on. But she had fun, all the same. She went to trick-or-treat at my office, and then to Shawn's office for the AllRecipes Halloween party, and then trick-or-treating with her bestie in the neighborhood! She had a blast.  And it all led to this:

Which inevitably leads to this for Mom and Dad:


We also had a fantastic visit in Ohio with the Sieferts. It was so great to see everyone; I hope I can manage to see some of them out here on the west coast, too!

I love that one of Lorelei and Brianna. They are making buckeye necklaces!

We also got some good time in at our favorite haunts:

It was so great to be back, not just visiting family but to be at Ohio State for the tailgate. The weather was fabulous and the Buckeyes won, of course.  What could be better? I'm so glad we made it back. Even though Lorelei is going to need long-term therapy over the "underdog" Paul gave her, she still managed to enjoy the Siefert swingset.  :)

With that, I will sign off for now. It's almost time to get Lorelei to tae kwon do, and start our Saturday. Love to all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted...

Doesn't it just make you feel like breaking into song?  Of course, "The Sound of Music" comes to mind, but really, any song will do.  That's Hurricane Ridge!  Mom and Dad Shrader came to Seattle for a visit and we decided to take a week and tour the Olympic Peninsula, come down the coast and end up in our beloved Pacific City, Oregon.  It has been a lovely vacation.  One for the books.

We started in Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountain Range.  We had some company while we toured the ridge.
There were black-tailed deer all over the place!  The wildflowers were also in bloom.  It was gorgeous.  Lorelei hiked up to Sunset Ridge, conquering her fear, as she put it.  It is a little bit scary going up there the first time, but L and Grandma made it without any comment of being nervous.  I must have been nervous enough for all three of us:

There was a lot of cloud cover, but the range was clear as a bell.  It was beautiful.  Looking down this path at the black and white dots at the end, that's Shawn and Grandpa:
Here are the ladies at the ridge:

I just love the mountains.  I can't wait to do more exploring in the Cascades.

From Hurricane Ridge we traveled up to Neah Bay, on the Makah Tribal Lands, where we walked ourselves out to the northwesternmost tip of the continental U.S., which is Cape Flattery.  It was an amazing little journey.  We had to get a special permit at the Makah Tribal Museum, and the guy painting the wall and the doors of the Museum let me take pictures:

The Makah are a whaling and fishing nation.  I loved this artwork.  Most tribes out here do not permit photos of the artwork (or you have to promise not to post them anywhere) in order to preserve their culture from outside influence.

From the Museum, we went to Cape Flattery.  It was a short hike, and through some interesting and beautiful terrain.

Once we got out to the Cape, it was gorgeous scenery.  Absolutely stunning.

Here is looking out to Tatoosh Island, looking west and a little north from our northwesternmost corner.
From Cape Flattery we turned south to La Push, Wa.  La Push is on the Quileute Tribal Lands.  I can't tell you how amazing La Push was.  We only saw one of the beaches there, the one we stayed in a cabin on, but there are at least two others that are equally stunning.  The surf and the scenery are just lovely.

So, yeah.  That was day 1.

Day 2 had us going to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park.  It was so green and lush.  My photos don't do it justice, really.  It reminded me of the hanging Spanish moss in the south, a little, but it's also so different.  I fell a little in love there.

I love the ferns.  There are loads of maple trees, too, but the ferns were so lush and fragrant!
We saw an inchworm crawling on a piece of deadwood.  I have never seen an inchworm before.  We also saw an elk on our drive in; my first elk!  Of course, we had some companionship in the rainforest, also:
And that was day 2.  Whew.

The rest of the week was spent in Pacific City on our beloved beach there.  It was quiet, as it always is, but we also found new pathways through the dunes and found ways to explore and also show Shawn's parents this place that we love so much.

I don't know what to say about this part of the Oregon coast that we haven't said before.  It's our place.  We will find a way to live there eventually, come hell or high water.

In the meantime, there is much to explore for us about coastal living.  I had planned to take a surfing lesson this time, but Lorelei made me promise that she could do it with me.  I guess that has us waiting until next year because Lorelei needs to be a stronger swimmer before we surf those crazy waves.  The good news is she has finally agreed to let me teach her how to really swim.  I guess we have a project for the winter!

Because we weren't surfing, Grandpa, L, and I rented wet suits and boogie boards and road the waves amateur-style.  It was a blast!
I was glad to get L into the ocean and really experience how strong the undertow is.  She understands why she needs to be a strong swimmer in order to surf.  She has also learned proper respect for the ocean.

One of the things I love watching at the coast is the gathering for the sunset.  People just show up.  It's nice.
In addition to vacation, we've had a lot going on.  We had to move kind of spur of the moment because our landlord decided to sell our place.  The bad news is that we had to do this right away and were not prepared for it.  The good news is that we ended up in a house, in a quieter neighborhood, and it appears to be better for sleeping, the dog, dog-walking, and L has a yard to play in.  We are hoping to be able to move again in a year, but to a house that we buy instead of rent.  We'll see.  We are also making plans for moving to the Oregon Coast at some point...but that's a post for the future, I guess.

Love to all, and blessings abound with the new school year!