Sunday, October 18, 2015

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes....

Yep. That's right. Back to school. Lorelei would tell you it's pure evil going back to school. She was not ready this year. It might be the first year she didn't want to go back. It's a sure sign she's growing up. That picture above was the first day of school, which was delayed about a week due to the teachers' strike.

I'm not sure what it is about back to school time, but it's a crazy time for all of us. All of a sudden there is a lot more to keep track of. There is more stuff, more events, more things to plan. And she's not even in organized sports yet! How do people do this with more than one child??!

In other news, Debbie's son, Paul, is out here in the Pacific NW on an internship. He's staying a bit north in Bellingham, but we see him a bit. We took a short tour of some Seattle neighborhoods, which included the Locks in Ballard.

Lorelei loves hanging out with Paul. I think he's the brother she never had. That day was in September, and it was a crystal clear, perfect Seattle summer day. We had a great view from West Seattle across the bay to downtown.

Also in September, Debbie came to visit!! We went all around the Pacific NW. I think she was on a recon mission to see where she and her husband, Dave, might want to go when they come out together. So we trekked up to Hurricane Ridge, which, as you know, I can't get enough of.

It was another perfectly clear day.

We had some company from the wildlife - Paul caught a bird on his arm at one of the viewpoints. It was crazy - these birds were so tame! One of them landed on Debbie's head but I wasn't fast enough to get the picture!! We also had a deer walk with us for a bit in the photo above.

I think I mentioned the drought in previous posts. I was talking with the workers in the gift shop and they said that Hurricane Ridge remained open all winter last year, and that they had close to no snow. They could not open the ski lifts. Typically, the road to Hurricane Ridge is closed for several months in the winter. There will be skiing at part of it when the road is accessible, but last year, nothing. It's at an elevation of about 5500-6000 feet. It's alarming to think of it without snow. I hope this winter is different and they get loads and loads of it.

I was reminded of winter on the day we went to Hurricane Ridge because we arrived in the morning, and it was cold - like 35 degrees cold. I forgot how crisp those cold fall/winter mornings can be. The temperature is so much more mild in Seattle. It might be 50 degrees but it won't feel chilly, exactly. At least not yet. We should get some cooler temps in the next couple of months. If we do have another mild winter, though, I hope we can get to Hurricane Ridge during it.

The other place I took Debbie was, of course, the Oregon Coast. It was fabulous weather there, also. The day we arrived we were treated to an amazing sunset. These photos do not do it justice.

We also had some good beer, and put our feet in that wonderful ocean water.

<sigh> Definitely my happy place.

Well, with the fall comes football season, right? I've been wearing my Ohio State gear with great pride, and I'm finding Buckeyes everywhere! I had a guy almost wreck his car in the grocery store parking lot trying to get over to me to tell me he spent five years in Cbus and another 4 in medical school near Dayton. Last weekend, Lorelei and I were walking around at a shopping center and this woman came running out of the gym to give us an "O-H!!" I love it. I also think I like it better when Barrett is playing QB.

In more local news, the Chinese president came to Seattle for a few days. He was staying at the Westin, which is about 3-4 blocks from my work. The Secret Service blocked off a 4-block radius when he was here, so traffic was even more stupid than it normally is. His entourage was over 1,000 people. Anyway, it was sort of neat. There is a huge Asian community here, as you can imagine, and there were protests all along his route to go to and from the Westin, and right outside my building.

To take these, I was standing right outside our building, and across from the Federal Courthouse. It was really interesting.

That's about all the news that is fit to print. Lorelei is getting back into the swing of school and we are talking all things Halloween at the moment. Shawn is adjusting to life as a college graduate and without the burden of school, only to discover that when you are a programmer, you are constantly learning. My work always seems to get a little busier around October/November, so it's starting to pick up as well. We are looking forward to having Shawn's parents for a visit in November, as well. We are also thinking of how we will spend the winter and get through the dark days of January-February. I have a few ideas, so we'll see what transpires.

Love to everyone, and Happy Halloween!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Last Blasts of Summer

Summer is starting to wane. Today, it's about 65 degrees and windy with intermittent rain. Shawn is so relieved he can't stand it. He's not a sun/heat kind of guy to begin with, and summer has been long this year in Seattle, as you have likely gathered from previous posts. I'm not quite ready to let go of the heat, sun and clear blue skies, but I have had my fill of the smoke from the wildfires, so for that reason today's weather is a welcome change. I'm also ready to start using my oven again without turning the whole house into an inferno.

I mentioned wildfires. The Pacific NW's drought has led to large wildfires east of the Cascades and south of Seattle. Seattle is typically shielded from the effects of the fires, being situated between the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges. Also, the wind usually comes from the west, bringing lovely ocean air keeping things fresh. Last week the wind shifted to come from the east and brought the wildfire smoke with it. Here's what our mornings looked like:

The tell-tale sign - the orange sun. The air smelled like the fire was in our back yard. Seattle mornings this time of year should be crisp and colorful - blue sky, blue water, green everything else. Between the drought and the wildfires, we had a lot of white haze and brown grass on our palatte. I feel for those east of the Cascades. It must be unbearable in the places that haven't been evacuated, and frightening in the places that have. So yes, the rain is welcome.

I suspect Summer isn't quite done with us, yet. At least, I hope not. I'd like just a few more days, please.

Last week Shawn and I were off work. It was mostly a stay-cation, but we went to Orcas Island for a few days with the Castanedas. Orcas is the largest of the San Juan Islands.

You can see on the map below:

By way of reference, last September we went to San Juan Island. People refer to Orcas as being lung-shaped - with a right ventricle and a left ventricle. We stayed on the left ventricle.

It was lovely. We stayed in a house with a view of an inlet and a huge front yard for relaxing and what-not.

We also took a sailing trip around the islands and had a great view of Orcas. Orcas has a mountain on each ventricle. On the left, it's Turtleback Mountain (about 1500 feet or so in elevation), and on the right, Mount Constitution (about 2000 feet in elevation). Here are some photos of Turtleback we took while sailing - you can see how it got its name!

Also, our captain allowed Lorelei to steer the boat for a time. It took a year off my life. I am not looking forward to teaching her how to drive.

But she was a good sailor and loved being on the boat!

The Castanedas had fun, too! Ed steered most of the time, and got us docked safely!

Shawn liked the boat also. It was a tranquil, perfect evening. In addition to sailing, we visited the tide pools at low tide by the house, and generally relaxed in the peaceful surroundings. I could have stayed there all week.

I think Maya liked hanging out with Lorelei, too.

In other news, August was a bit of a wild ride. The weather, in addition to being dry and unusually dusty, also brought another rarity to downtown Seattle - a thunderstorm complete with thunder and lightning! Crazy. I miss storms.

Seattle also continues to build. This picture below is outside my office window. I have a giant crane for a neighbor at the moment, and soon will have a giant skyscraper, blocking my view of Mount Baker. 

Boo commercial development! I've heard it's going to be a hotel. Which means instead of looking out to the pristine Mount Baker on a clear day, I'll have views of tourists running around naked in their hotel rooms, thinking no one can see them. You'd be shocked at how often that happens. My coworker, Katie, had an office that had a hotel next door and she would see people doing all sorts of things in the hotel sans clothing. Odd. The crane is sort of cool, though.

Now as vacation winds down and the air grows cooler, we start thinking back-to-school thoughts. Lorelei's first day of 5th grade is September 9. 5th grade!! I can't believe it. I have such vivid memories of 5th grade. I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

Oh, before I forget, our adventures in ice cream making continue! We made mint chocolate chip and regular chocolate this month, and tonight I plan to make another batch of coffee. If you have a favorite ice cream recipe, let me know!

Until next time - Go Bucks, and Happy Fall!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Adventures of a Too-Hot Summer!

Ahhh summer. It's the time of sun, heat, bright, vibrant colors and spectacular sunsets. I don't know why I try to take pictures of them, they don't do the sunsets justice at all. Hmm. Maybe the iPhone 6 camera will do better. Perhaps it's time for an upgrade.

You've probably heard it's been hot. Typical summer temps are 75-80. For a few weeks in June and what seems like every other week in July we've had 90 and above, which is pretty warm without a/c. It's bearable because there's no humidity, but 93 degrees is still 93 degrees. It must be making the national news because I've been getting messages from some of the Ohio folks asking how it's going with the heat.

People who are from Seattle or have lived here a long time have their strategies for dealing with shit weather. After all, winter is just day after day of shit weather.The most popular thing to do when it gets too hot is the same thing Seattleites do to deal with the winter gloom: get outta Dodge. In the winter you can head up into the mountains for skiing or over the mountains and maybe find the sun; in a too-hot summer you can drive 2 hours to the coast where it's 65 degrees,

You see how we handled it. We drove to the Ocean Shores area of the WA coast on July 4 weekend. It was crazy hot in Seattle - upper 90s - so we gave ourselves a break. Put on our bathing suits, packed a picnic, and hit the road.

Lorelei could play in the sand all day. She doesn't even have a bucket. She just finds some driftwood and plays. It seemed like it must have been a little warmer than normal at the coast also - the water wasn't too cold. Interesting.

It was a great day. I could do that every weekend and be just fine. Even though we all managed to get sunburned (I believe one of the bottles of sunscreen was too old), it was still damn near perfect. A little foggy to start, but that's typical for the Pacific NW coast.

And then the skies cleared and we had the greens of the cliff side, blues of the ocean and sky and the browns and beiges of the sand.


I get ridiculously excited when we go to the coast. I'm like a child. When the GPS shows this as the map:

I turn into a 7-year-old. Are we there yet?? How about now, now are we there?? Poor Shawn. Lorelei does the same thing. And look - obviously the beach agrees with her. This is how she spent the drive home.

Sadly, that was our only day trip in July. It felt like it was a busy month with the odd social engagements and so forth. The good news is, we have a vacation coming up at the end of August. Shawn and I both have the week off. We aren't going anywhere for the week, but we are headed to Orcas Island in the San Juans with the Castanedas for a couple of days, and we'll catch up on our day-tripping as well.

I think maybe I've mentioned before how much I like living in West Seattle because of the beaches (maybe I've mentioned this a thousand times or so). West Seattle is a peninsula jutting out into Elliott Bay, the bay between the Olympic Peninsula and downtown Seattle. But on the west side of West Seattle, the Puget Sound continues down toward Tacoma and Olympia where it pretty much dead ends. The Sound is a migratory route for marine animals and sometimes we see Orcas, but this time of year, lots of seals beach themselves on those western beaches of West Seattle and have their pups. In fact, there is an organization called Seal Sitters, comprised of volunteers taking shifts sitting on the beach keeping people away from the birthing seals and pups.

Above is one of the signs stationed every so many feet along the beach to warn people to not be jackasses and keep their dogs on the leash. This sign is along the beach of Lincoln Park near our house. When I go running, I run along this beach. I haven't seen any seals this year, but I've seen them before.

West Seattle, like the other Seattle neighborhoods, has a festival every year also, so we went to that. It's pretty fun - lots of local vendors, tons of good music (all free) and some spectacular people watching. It reminds me of a smaller scale version of Arts Fest in Cbus. This is the only picture I took this year at West Seattle Summer Fest. But it is an awesome photo:

Who doesn't love a big giant brick of fresh-cut fries??

Speaking of food, I'm going to digress here on a bit of our day to day . This might get boring if you aren't into food and cooking, so feel free to skip to the end. Since we moved to Seattle I've been on something of an epicurean journey. Part of it is that the agriculture is very close in proximity to Seattle and fresh fruits/vegetables are everywhere all year long. Part of it is also the culture here: people want to know what's in their food, where it comes from, and they want it to taste really, really good. It's legal in Seattle to keep chickens and goats for this reason. That sort of makes me crazy but I get it. You cannot beat fresh eggs. I remember Mom buying fresh eggs from the farmer in Lancaster - delicious! The other part of my food/cooking journey is related to trying to be healthy and fit and take care of my body as I get older.

The convergence of proximity to agriculture, Seattle's food culture and being healthy has resulted in a desire to control the ingredients in the food we eat as much as possible. At first I just read the labels of everything we bought in an effort to keep stuff we don't really need out of our diets. That worked for awhile, but I got tired of reading labels and having to constantly look up what all the additives are. Some of them are preservatives, some of them are ingredients that keep the other ingredients held together, and some are just stuff I can't figure out. At some point I just decided to hell with it. We can make our own stuff and it will be fine. This means we are making our food; not just meals, but making the sauces, dressings, etc., from scratch. We don't buy prepared foods, and we spend a lot of time working on recipes and making it perfect.

In this quest for really good food that is fresh and without unnecessary additives, Shawn had the idea to buy an ice cream maker. I admit, I was dubious about the ice cream maker because I do not like to have a lot of gadgets and items around that end up being clutter. Especially in the kitchen. I think it must be growing up with Mom's clear counters and always-gleaming kitchen. As it turns out, though, this idea of Shawn's was nothing short of genius. We made the first batch of ice cream last weekend - vanilla. 4 ingredients. It was the best ice cream any of us had ever tasted. This morning I made coffee ice cream. 7 ingredients. I'm pretty sure they serve that ice cream in Paradise. My apologies to Talenti, Tillamook, Graeter's and Baskin-Robbins. I will never buy ice cream again. Who knew? I always thought ice cream makers were a pain in the ass to use and yielded mediocre results. I could not have been more wrong. And what a nice way to beat the heat!!

I'll be back with more photos of our summertime adventures just as soon as we have some more of them. Until then, drop a line or comment and send us your strategies to beat the heat!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-sum-summertime!

Welcome to summer!! I know warm weather and sun is typical this time of year in the Midwest, but that is not the norm in the Pacific NW. In fact, June is usually COLD and WET. Yeah, I know, hard to believe that Seattle would be COLD and WET. But when I found out that's the typical weather in June, I was a little pissed off. I mean, it's JUNE. Ed calls it Junuary. Junuary is the reason native Pacific NWers say that summer does not begin until July 5.

This year, however, summer has arrived a month early. We have already had days that are downright hot - into the 80s!

That was the good news. The bad news is that Washington is in a drought. This is normal for July-August, but not right now. It was a warmer than usual winter, which provided less snow, which is providing less water for Seattle. Also - the entire state has not had its normal rainfall. This summer also is expected to be longer and hotter than the normal Pacific NW summer, and the experts say that it will be the Pacific NW's first real test to see how it will survive the effects of global warming going forward.

It's good to be informed and to understand the effects of things, but all that is harshing my buzz. I am in love with this weather. If you know me well, you know that my least favorite season in Ohio is summer. I hate Ohio in the summer. It's hot, sticky, hazy, white sky...and sweaty. It's too humid to be anywhere outside except in a swimming pool and you just go from a/c to a/c. In Seattle, however, summer is my favorite season! The low humidity and proximity to the ocean means clear blue skies, warm sun, cool shade, and amazing mountain/water views. Sometimes I just sit on the steps in front of our house and soak in the sun. When it's really hot, it gets warm in the house, which can be a little uncomfortable with no a/c, but I don't mind. It's a fair trade for these amazing sun-filled days. Plus, the open windows let in the ocean breeze!

I cannot wait until we start taking our day trips and going to the mountains and my beloved Pacific.

Speaking of trips....we just had one! Heck yeah, we had a whopper of a trip to Ohio! 10 fabulous fun-filled days of family time and graduations! Hmm. That sounded better in my head. It was a lovely trip back to the old farm, though. I'm consistently homesick for family time, and I was able to scratch that itch. But first and foremost - the MOST IMPORTANT REASON to go back to Ohio:


Yep, he's finished with school! Magna cum laude in Web Development from Franklin University. It was a lovely ceremony.

We were actually staying in Toledo at this point of the trip, but we trekked down to Cbus for the ceremony. We are all so proud of Shawn! What an amazing accomplishment. Truly, it is. And...two days before we left for Ohio, Shawn started his new job at Meredith Publishing. Big, big changes! Again, so, so proud of my husband. I'm still not sure how he managed it working, being a dad and dealing with his (mostly fabulous but sometimes high maintenance) wife.

As it was graduation season in Ohio, I also got to see my beloved godson, Will, graduate from St. Charles. Another reason for all of us to be so, so proud.

Those Siefert boys clean up pretty good! Ah Will, I know your mom is so proud.....

There were other bittersweet moments of the trip to Ohio. My friend Leigh's mom passed while we were there. Leigh and her daughter Paige moved to Seattle a couple of years ago. They were in Ohio sitting vigil, and it was some strange luck that we happened to be in Ohio also when Deanna passed. Deanna was one of my favorite people. She was a genuine southern woman complete with the drawl, the courtesies and that subtle southern wit. I loved her. She treated me like one of her own when I was in college and still finding my way after Mom and Bud had moved to Florida. She always had a room made up for me if I needed a weekend home from school, and the laundry was welcome too.

I'll never forget her. I'm so glad I got to help see her off.

Of course, we had some truly wonderful visits in Ohio. We had a party at the Shraders and Lorelei got some quality time with her Shrader cousins.

She also got some quality time with her Siefert family, and she was able to overcome her great fear of the underdog on the swings, thanks to Uncle Paul. And a shout out to Uncle Paul for giving her that fear in the first place.

Lorelei loved her time with the Sieferts. She especially loved little Ben. He's a sweetheart for sure. And I love these people in this next picture! So fun to see Shelley and Tracey! (And of course, Jan!!) We had such a fun time.

It was also the time to visit the old haunts. This was Shawn FIRST trip back to Ohio, so we drove by every place we had lived, and of course:

<sigh> I wish Seattle knew how to do pizza. There's some decent pies here, but nothing like Rotolo's.

Shawn's first impression of Ohio after being gone for almost 4 years? And I quote, "Wow. It's really flat here." Hahahahahahaha!!!! It is flat in Ohio (duh), but we have to navigate the (sometimes ridiculous) hills of Seattle daily. And any direction you look you have mountains, so yeah, I imagine it did look pretty flat to him. But I've always loved the farms and understated beauty of Ohio. It's just different than here, that's all.

I love the trains, too. This is right down the street from Shawn's parents' house. I love it. I don't know what it is about trains, but I love them.

I drove by our houses on Lakeview drive in Lancaster (and suffered the consequences of some of the back roads near Carroll - of course there was a bridge out and I had to backtrack 3 miles, when is that not the case??). I can't believe how different it all looks - the trees are amazing.

I love that house Mom and Bud built. It looks beautiful now, too. I also loved driving those back roads outside of Lancaster. I miss that - I rode my bike all over hell's half acre when I was growing up, trying to figure out the lay of the land. What fun I had!

I had some wonderful visits with my college girls, Debbie and Kelley, and also the lovely Sarah Hammer, who looks more gorgeous 7 months pregnant than most of us do on our best day ever. We saw Ma, Christie and Sydney also - people I think about and miss every day. I only wish we'd had more time to see all of you. For every one person we got to see, there are at least 5 that we didn't. Like I said, I miss my people. I'm afraid no matter how much I acclimate, that will always be the case.

But, I'll emphasize what I keep telling our family: Um, you could always come see me, dammit.

Before we knew it, it was time to go home to Seattle. We were ready. You know why? As much as I miss everyone so, so much, I was hot in Ohio. Damn hot. I had a layer of sheen on me at all times, and it's not even the really hot season yet. I'm not a true Seattleite yet: I don't run around in 45 degree weather wearing a down parka like the natives do, but as far as summer is concerned, I've acclimated.

And we got back to this crazy, fabulous, early summer in Seattle. I love what greeted us from the plane on the descent:

See it? Just over the wing? Yep, that's Mount Rainier. Such a pretty sight.

While our trip to Ohio came to an end, graduation season did not, and we had one more ceremony to attend this year. Paige graduated from 8th Grade! Hard to believe that little 3-year-old who hung out with me when I graduated law school is heading into high school!!! How is this possible?!

Her graduation was last night. She attended Denny International Middle School, here in West Seattle. It was an amazing ceremony. Lots of international aspects to it, and student speakers who were so articulate it's hard to believe they are only 14 years old. When I was 14, I think I might have still been playing with Barbies.

And Paige. She's a wonderful, beautiful person. I can't wait to see how high school plays out for her. I'm so glad we were able to watch her graduate and celebrate with her after.

Uh, Lorelei has not gotten a face tattoo. She's not THAT Seattle, yet. She had Field Day at school yesterday and they had face painting. She insisted on wearing it to Paige's graduation. Ah, 4th graders. But check out her hoodie. Yeah! CHAMPS! (Still not done smack-talking SEC and PAC-12 fans.)

I know we have lots and lots of catching up to do. I haven't even started on the March trip to FL and Lorelei's birthday, but this entry is getting lengthy. I'll wrap it up here and get another entry together soon. For now, I'll share one final picture, my personal favorite:

[wiping tear from eye] So proud. Of all my graduates.