first christmas in our new house

Since we were in Texas last year, this is the first Christmas spent in our house. It felt really good to be home and have a relaxing holiday. We started a Christmas Eve tradition of baking lasagna which turned out most excellently. Then we went on a drive to see the lights. I love that this weekend has one more day and then a 3-day weekend next week.

christmas dinner

Steak, crab legs, salad, twice baked potato, broccoli salad, brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole, struffoli, plus a lot more food not pictured...


a tasty recipe

Last week I made Curried Rice, Bacon, and Cabbage and it was so good we're making it again. I got the recipe here. I modified it to use way less butter, but other than that, I stuck to the recipe. This week I have some pine nuts to use up so I think I'll throw them in. I'm not a huge green cabbage fan, but this is an excellent use for it.
This week I'm also going to try a struffoli recipe that I'm excited about.


Florida Trip

We just got back from an excellent trip to Florida over the Thanksgiving holiday. We started in Fort Myers and I had a chance to visit some friends. Then we went up to Ocala for Thanksgiving. The first night we played Hand and Foot (see the rules I had to write on the clip board to avoid total chaos) and Nate won. We also had an intense bocce ball game. You can see some highly scientific foot measuring occurring in the photo above.

I also had a list of foods that I can't get in Seattle that I had to complete:
  • Lobster Nuggets at the Fish House
  • Sausage and Lentil Soup at Carrabba's
  • Banana Milk Shake at Steak N Shake
  • Chicken Tender Sub at Publix
[It was all as good as I remembered it.]

The weather was perfect (sunny with highs in the 80's) and we missed out on all of the snow-induced chaos in Seattle. It was great to see our friends and family and I wish we could make it down there more often. The trip went by too quickly.


the basement is done

I'm very excited to report our basement is finished. We put down flooring, added recessed lighting, painted the wood panels, and added trim. And by we I mean http://www.jacobreid.com/index.php . The next step will be to put up some curtains and hook up a TV. The hard part is done and now we just need to decorate. Nate is much happier to keep his desk down there now that it doesn't feel like a dungeon.


trick or treat in ballard

We like to keep it nerdy. You can plot your trick or treat route online or on a smart phone with Google Maps. The idea came from our neighborhood blog My Ballard. Anyone who is accepting trick or treaters can add their address to the map.

View Ballard Trick-or-Treating 2010 in a larger map


crock pot win

My new crockpot arrives tomorrow. My old one has been kind of worthless because it doesn't have a timer. I'm gone for too long during the day so everything overcooks in it. This new one has a timer and a probe!

Work on the basement has been coming along. The ceiling is up and the wood paneling is sanded and ready to be painted. Next week they will lay the floor and paint the walls and trim. It should been done on Thursday. We have a new sofa bed that should also be delivered Thursday so that will be the new guest room.

Autumn is in full swing here and we're at the peak of the fall colors. We've had wind and rain all weekend so I don't expect them to last until next weekend. Nate's brother is coming into town Thursday and we're having a Halloween party Saturday so we've been busy with lots of planning. You can expect something served out of the new crock pot!


dim sum

I may officially be addicted to dim sum. I crave that salty, savory goodness at the most random times. We did not have this delicious concept in Florida that I was aware of. You sit at a table (often sharing it with other parties) and they wheel around carts of small dishes you can choose. They mark off what you've taken on a little card and by the end of the meal that card is covered but your bill is still somehow under $25. In the International District, it's customary to get dim sum on Sunday mornings so you have to wake up super early to get a table without a long wait. You may think your body will reject Chinese food before 10 but in fact it loves it.

In other news, we drove up to Mt. Vernon yesterday to pick up our tulip bulbs that we ordered last spring. We also picked up a variety pack of daffodils. I love that the daffodils are the first flowers to bloom and most of our neighbors had them last year. It brightened up the neighborhood after the gray winter. Between the tulips and daffodils, we're talking about 75 bulbs. I wish they would magically appear in the ground for me....

As for a basement update, work begins next Tuesday. Off to get ready for dim sum...


house projects

We will be finishing one of the basement rooms soon. It will be a game/guest room. More to come soon.


busy week

We had a great visit from Perla this week. She one a contest at work for an all-expense paid trip here to Seattle to visit her home office which we found out is the building directly across the street from mine downtown. Since she came last year, we got to skip the touristy stuff and just hang out which was really nice.
I'm now further convinced that we should get a Wii. I realize that most people who want a Wii probably have one by now but I'm a late adopter! Maybe it's the huge financial commitment that comes with it since you have to buy the console, game, and tons of controllers and accessories to actually use it. I think I've just talked myself out of it again and I should stick to board games and cards.


Canvas on Demand + Groupon = Win

My photo on Canvas from CanvasOnDemand.com
This is the result of my very first Groupon I got a couple of months ago. It was a coupon for a 18x20 canvas from Canvas on Demand. You provide the photo yourself. This is a picture I took in Rome when I went with my parents in 2007. We're going to put it up in the dining room. I'd highly recommend them as an alternative to expensive art work!


labor day weekend

Our cabin in Leavenworth

The mock-Bavarian village

Wine tasting

I hope everyone had an excellent Labor Day weekend. We rented a cabin in Leavenworth with some friends and had an excellent time. Nate picked me up from work and we headed straight there Friday night. On Saturday we went tubing which was freezing but fun. The tubes we rented had mesh bottoms so you didn't have to get too wet. A separate tube was rented for our cooler resulting in fun times such as "I can fit my tube between these pilings" and numerous beachings. Sunday we went into the mock-Bavarian downtown area which is what Leavenworth is known for. We went on a wine walk and hit 5 of the 15 or so wineries that offer tastings in the village. In between we played a lot of cards and spent many hours in the hot tub. The weekend flew by and I wish it could have been longer.

We didn't celebrate Nate's birthday last weekend because one of our friends had her birthday while we were there. To prolong the celebration, we'll have Nate's birthday next weekend. Then, Perla visits next week which will cap off what has been officially dubbed Best Summer Ever. The goal from here on will be to attempt to top the prior summer to continue the tradition of naming every summer Best Summer Ever.


recommended books

I had a late-night need for a new book yesterday so we drove to Fred Myers hoping to get lucky. If you don't have Fred Myers, it's somewhere in between a Super Walmart and a Super Target. They have a few aisles of books, so not a huge selection but I figured I could find something off the best seller's list at least. It was the strangest book section I've ever seen. The shelves were constructed with rows built in that would only fit the small size of paperback. Plenty of room for for your James Pattersons and Sue Graftons but completely ignoring books that were not made in that size! I made it to the very last aisle and was excited to find a "recommended books" section. Behold! Books of different sizes! The shelf was constructed without the dividers so any sized book fit. Conclusion: Fred Myers recommended book section consists of the books that will not fit on any of their standard shelves. Based on the content of the section, I hope for their sake my conclusion was correct.

I went home without a book.



Lately I've been thinking about hobbies and what I enjoy doing with my time. I usually struggle with this question because I don't think I spend a lot of time doing activities. We go out to bars, we go out to eat, we have house parties. We go to soccer games but it's not something I'm an active participant in. The only two things I can think of are reading and cooking.
I recently discovered I can read on the bus without getting motion sickness, which suddenly frees up and hour and a half everyday for reading. I've read three books this month- all fiction. I keep hearing I need a Kindle but I'm not sold on them. I like going to the book store and taking an hour to pick out something. I like the smell of the book and feeling how many pages I've read and how many are left.
Cooking is something I've only recently started to consider a hobby. It started out of necessity. We realized we spent too much eating out and needed to start cooking at home more. It's evolved into a Sunday routine in which we plan out our meals and actually make a grocery list. I have a "recipe box" on my computer which is a folder I keep PDFs of recipes I want to make. Some meals are winners- tonight's frittata with edamame, scallions, and cilantro topped with cheese. Others will not be made again- the ridiculously sour lime/herb chicken salad.
Maybe it's because reading and cooking aren't relaxing to me, but they don't feel like hobbies. Cooking feels more like an obligation that I'm making the best of. And I enjoy reading, but it's a difficult balance to stay in the now rather than let myself be absorbed in the book. It ends up being a lot of work to stop myself from just reading straight through a book and participate in what's going on around me. So I need ideas for other things to do. Is there a craft for the artistically challenged?


blog neglect

Whoops, haven't written in awhile. We've been pretty busy lately. It's the last day of a 4 day weekend so I actually found some time to sit and write.
Our first major home project was completed a couple of weeks ago. We've done a complete rewire of the electrical and added in some recessed lighting in the living room and finished basement room. Each room has about 3 outlets now instead of 1 which makes life much easier. We also put an outlet outside for Christmas lights. It feels good to tackle a large project and improve the house.
I've been trying to go on more hikes lately. A few months ago a walked a half-marathon with some friends which I enjoyed but I get bored of walking around neighborhoods. Luckily, there are tons of places to hike within a hour of here with lots of waterfalls and views to explore. We finally bought ourselves some decent athletic shoes which has made a huge difference.
Yesterday, we tried to continue our 4th of July tradition by spending the day at Gasworks and then watching the fireworks. They did not have a corporate sponsor for the $500k show this year and had announced it was canceled. In 24hrs, businesses and individuals of Seattle rallied and raised the funds to keep the show going. The weather was not as cooperative. By 4pm it was pouring and we lasted about 20 mins before we joined the mass of people leaving. It continued raining until about 15 mins before the show started so we ended up just watching it on TV. We were both really bummed out about missing it.
Note to those filming fireworks: Keep the camera in one place. No one cares about your artistic interpretation of fireworks.


sick of being sick

Being sick was not what I had in mind for the in-laws' visit this week. All four of us ended up sick with a nasty flu of some sorts. Each of us took it a little differently, but all 4 of us were miserable at some point. Mine started Thursday at work when I started to feel a little nauseous. I was really nervous about taking the bus home because I get motion sickness. Apparently somewhere around Belltown I tried to get off the bus and blacked out. The driver and someone else got me off of the bus and made sure Nate was coming to get me before leaving me. Not long after getting home, both of us were throwing up more than we've ever thrown up in our lives. Very fun times.
Yesterday Nate, Jane, and I were feeling up for the Tulip Festival so we drove up to Mt. Vernon. It's not a lot of walking around and we wanted to salvage a little of their vacation. The tulips were amazing and it was definitely worth the drive. I ordered 50 bulbs for the fall when it's time to plant! There are a lot of pictures up on my Facebook and I'm sure Nate will be posting a shared album soon.
As pitiful as it sounds, the tulips wore me out and I'm exhausted today. I'm also just tired of being sick. I've never had to take so many sick days before because usually when I'm sick it's something I can work through. I also just feel really bad that Doug and Jane came all this way to spend most of the time sick. Hopefully they can come back soon!


financial housekeeping

With spring being filing season, it seems like a good time to review all of your finances to see how you're doing. For the first time, we filed our 1040 long form by hand. I had previously done an amended return by hand but did not know what to expect. And given my profession, there was no excuse to not know how to do this.
IRS does offer free efile with all the bells and whistles of the tax software you buy but you have to meet an income requirement. If you don't meet that, they will let you use a program that does nothing but add and subtract the lines for you at the end. And pretty unreliably. The 2009 1040 instructions are available on the IRS website in PDF format which makes it super easy to search for what you're looking for. We actually found using the instructions very straightforward. We easily figured out what schedules and forms we needed and the tax tables could not be clearer.
The funny part is we'd actually started online with Turbo Tax because it said it was going to be free. When we got to the last page where it's submitted, it suddenly wanted to charge $50. The fee is what prompted us to try to file ourselves in the first place. And it was nice to see in the end that our total matched theirs, so we're confident we did it correctly. The only thing I'll change next year is not relying on the IRS-provided software to do the math. We had to double and triple check it because it would ignore your entries until you left the page and returned. A calculator will be faster . =)
Since we had all of our records out for filing, I wanted to try to take care of something else I'd been putting off. When we moved from Bothell, I thought I'd updated our address with every company we deal with. At work, I updated it on our payroll site and our HR site. We also had our mail forwarded with the post office. A few months ago I received a somewhat threatening letter from my TSP stating they know I moved (via USPS) but I haven't updated my address with them. At the time, not knowing where my records were for them, I couldn't find my account number. But there is a button! And when you submit your info, they advise you that they are not emailing your account number. They are mailing in USPS and it will take at least 10 days.
Fast forwards several months, because I kind of forgot about it. I was getting concerned because I've now been employed for a year and want to re-evaluate how my funds are distributed. I found my password when we have all of records out doing taxes. I was excited to finally be able to log in to update my address. The website informed me that only my payroll can update my address. Now I'm completely confused, because my pay stubs get mailed to our home address indicating they already have our correct address on record. Morale: The government is frustrating to deal with even if you work for them!
While I'm on the topic, if it's been more than a year since you updated your distribution of funds in your retirement account, you need to do it! It only takes 5 or 10 minutes but can mean a difference of thousands of dollars when you're ready to retire. Also, if you haven't requested your free annual credit report in the past year, now is a good time! www.annualcreditreport.com is the only one recommended by the FTC. And finally, if you haven't filed your taxes yet and your income is such that they are going to charge you a fee for it, try it on your own. The tax prep industry wants to perpetuate the idea that taxes are intimidating and should only be handled by professionals. Or another I've heard is that you'll miss out on credits. If you know how to use the find feature on Adobe and search for "credit" (with a few find nexts to make sure you catch everything), you really won't miss out on anything. There aren't secret tax credits that aren't in the instructions, they just want your money.


sounders opening night

Last night was opening night for the Sounders. After having a blast at a game last year, we decided to get season tickets this year.

This is the cheer leading section. They're a group of fans who have taken it upon themselves to create chants and cheers. When they are all jumping in sync, it's mesmerizing.

Only part of the seats are under the roof (which is crazy considering this is Seattle.) Good work Nate picking covered seats because it rained for the entire game and we stayed warm and dry! It looked absolutely miserable for the people in the rain.

Sounders win 2-0!!


tired of being sick

The cold has gotten a bit worse. My voice is down to a pitiful whisper which means I can't work. I took Nyquil last night because that used to knock me out but I woke up at least 20 times during the night. Apparently the TemperPedic commercials are true, because my tossing and turning did not wake up Nate at all.
I was slightly amused at being so sick when health care reform was being passed. We're in the minority who actually likes their health insurance coverage so I'm not excited about our new tax liability. It will be really interesting to see what becomes of the states that are suing. I love watching checks and balances at work.
I had some really good conversations about the bill with coworkers and have concluded that both sides agree on about 75% of the issues. It is a shame that our lawmakers couldn't see past their party lines to craft a bill that encompassed those things that everyone agreed on. The only people who seem to be completely satisfied are the ones who will get a hand out from it. I feel like this doesn't do enough to fix the problems and is wasting money by throwing it at the symptoms. Kind of ironic, as I thought that was part of the problem with our health care philosophy to begin with.


first day of spring

Yesterday was the official first day of spring, and it was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun was out with a high of 68. The tulips in the front yard look like they are ready to bloom any day now. I am really glad to finally get to experience seasons.
We went down town for a St. Patrick's Day pub crawl since it fell on a weekday this year. I really meant to take a picture of Pike Place Market while we were there because the entire roof is covered in daffodils right now. The windows on the bus are always too dirty and we didn't make it that far south in the crawl yesterday. I tried to find a picture online but wasn't able to. I always see other people on Facebook constantly posting pictures of the things they are doing and I wish I was better at remembering to do that! I love having pictures after the fact, but while I'm doing something I hate to be bothered taking out my camera.
In other news, I was feeling decent and worked a full week last week. Several coworkers who were clearly sick but did not want to use more sick time spread their filth and germs everywhere and now I have a cold. The point of sick time is not only for you to get better, but also for you to not get more people sick. I was just finally getting my appetite back to normal the past 2 days and now it's all out of whack again. My body is putting me on an involuntary diet.


spring forward

I didn't mean to go a whole month without updating, but we've been busy. My parents came for a visit which was a lot of fun. It was only for a weekend, but we did squeeze in some good food and some house projects. My dad and Nate put up a couple of light fixtures and my mom and I planted tulips in the front yard. I've haven't taken pictures of either, but both look really nice. Instead of the ugly brown light fixture in the living room (see previous post), we now have a pretty crystal chandelier. And instead of whatever random things the previous owner planted, we have a bed of tulips and hyacinths.
We've been really enjoying getting out in the garden when the weekends are sunny. We did a bit of planting last weekend try to spruce up the front of the house. Neither of us know much about plants so we still have all of the little tags sticking out of the ground to tell us the names of the plants. In the back yard my herbs are just starting to sprout.
We're definitely settling into a routine which I guess is both good and bad. It's nice to start to really feel comfortable in the house and the neighborhood. We know our way around Seattle, public transportation, our jobs. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like we're living in a foreign country. Like when we were buying plants, we didn't recognize half of them because they didn't grown in Florida. People's attitudes and mannerisms are different. People's values are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from ours. Even the road signs confuse us!
We love living here, especially in Ballard, but I wonder if there is always going to be a sense of not quite fitting in. Because no matter how long we live here we won't drive a Prius, give money to pan handlers, or understand wasting millions of dollars on public art when we can't fund schools. The beautiful views and mild weather will certainly keep us happy for while though.



We painted all of the trim in the living/dining room white yesterday and it made such a huge difference. The whole room is brighter without the weird 70's wood trip. We still need to replace the light fixture, which I hope to get some help with when my parents visit. =)
The new couch arrived! My parents got it for us as a housewarming/Christmas gift and we absolutely love it. I suppose I could have straightened up the pillows before taking the picture. The Ikea coffee table looks really sad in comparison to everything else, but we have a lot of other projects that need to be done before we buy any furniture.
This was my project in my office. I had this swatch of blue on the wall for at about 3 months before finally getting around to painting it. I haven't figured out how to deal with the futon yet. I suppose I'll need to find a slip cover for it that matches. Then, I plan to put up this really girly white chandelier I saw at home depot.


spring is here early

We had beautiful weather yesterday so we took a walk to the library to get some more cookbooks and then down to the locks. While walking, we noticed many plants starting to bloom and the trees starting to get leaves again- in the beginning of February! We were excited to start planting since it seems we won't get another frost so we stocked up on seeds last night.
We spent the better part of today mowing, raking, and pulling up weeds. The pictures above are the beginning of the herb garden. The vine on the trellis had huge woody roots which were hard to get out and unexpected on such a small vine. We planted parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, and cilantro. A lot of them can grow indoors, so I'm not sure how they'll do out in the elements when they are starting as seeds.
In other news, I would like to announce that I finally made good chili. We watched the Super Bowl on the comfy new couch, extra careful not to spill any of it. The commercials were a huge disappointment, by the way. We laughed at a couple of Dorito ads, and started to laugh at the Green Police until it was actually for something green. I would have laughed harder if it was for a Hummer or something, but instead Audi got an eye roll.
All in all, it was a highly productive weekend rather than a relaxing one. Next weekend we have some painting to do which has been put off for months. More pictures to come as projects are completed...


sunset hill/golden gardens

Yesterday the sun peaked out so we decided to take a walk to the beach. The first photo is on Sunset Hill. If you notice how far down the marina is in the photo, that is how far you have to walk down to get to the beach. The path is a little further up the street and consists of a series of steep staircases and hiking trails. (You can also walk the long way on the bike trail which is much less steep and is probably an extra mile.) The beach pictures came out pretty dark even though it seemed bright to us (in comparison to normal winter days.) They had several fire pits, so I'm thinking bonfires are in our future.
In both the first and second pictures, you'd have a stunning view of the Olympics if it had been a clearer day.
It's funny that we moved to an opposite corner of the country and we are still 2 mins from the beach- even though it's a completely different kind of beach. I look forward to many sunsets in the future!


the green roofs are coming

(image from www.greenroofs.org)

As I mentioned last week, we made a visit to our library down the street. I had no idea what the point of putting grass on the roof was so I did some research on it. Read about it here.

Speaking of plants, many of the books we got were about gardening. Nate was out in the garden this weekend. (I was being lazy inside and not feeling well.) He got rid of a gigantic plant by the garage that did not look like it belonged in WA . In it's place he moved the ridiculously heavy cement sink that used to be in the basement. That will be our bed for planting herbs. He did a lot of work raking as well. The only thing not done is disposing of the gigantic branch that fell off our neighbor's pine tree. I don't want to have to pay for the city to take it so I think we should toss it back over the fence into their yard. They are lucky it didn't damage our house when it hit. Nate said I was being cranky. =)

We also checked out a Rachael Ray 30 min meal book and have been trying recipes. Some have been good; most have been misses. All of them have gotten us eating more veggies than we had been previously so I suppose that's good. The kitchen is really well laid out for us both to be in there and not bump into each other. The best recipe by far was a chicken piccata pasta toss- here. I'd recommend using less than a full pound of pasta and choosing a whole wheat one. The sauce is flavorful enough that you can't tell it's whole wheat, but there wasn't quite enough for a full pound of pasta.

While exploring this weekend, we found the best grocery store ever (and only 5 mins down the street). We used to love going to Trader Joe's for all of the unique things, but they don't have everything you need for a weekly trip (trash bags, cat litter, diet coke, a deli counter.) Ballard Market has to be the best idea ever. It's 50/50 with regular grocery store items and unique/organic things compared to about 90/10 at our regular grocery store. It's arranged with the organic stuff mixed in with the regular stuff so you can see what the price difference is without going across the store to the organic aisle. They've also got a ton of stuff from local companies and the best produce section ever. Best of all, I didn't feel like a tool like the one time I went in Whole Foods to use the bathroom.


first weekend of the new decade

It's bedtime but I'm trying to be better about blogging this year. A quick summary of our weekend:
  • Had a fun time ringing in the new year with some friends (by the way, Seattle watches the ball drop in Times Square on delay instead of something on the west coast live- wtf is up with that)
  • Finally got library cards and checked out our local branch. Found lots of books about gardening in the pacific nw so we can start our vegetable garden. Also found they have tons of the Food Network chefs' cookbooks so I'll be trying some new recipes this week.
  • Put away all of the christmas stuff. We were the only people who put up our lights on thanksgiving weekend and the only ones who took them down on new years weekend. I thought that was standard but seattle is working on some other schedule.
  • Got living room furniture courtesy of my parents!! We are so excited to have a comfy couch, though we have to wait 6-8 weeks for delivery because we picked a custom fabric.
  • Speaking of my parents, my mom turned 50. They had a fabulous looking party last night and I wish I could have gone.
  • Gave the house a good cleaning/ finally finished unpacking from TX
  • Got lots of reading in
We were very productive this weekend, leading me to believe every weekend should have 3 days. I'm thankful another federal holiday is right around the corner...