Monday, July 12, 2021

Early July

Shortly after getting back from our vacation, some of Ryan's family began to arrive. Ryan's brother was in the Seattle area to wrap up his final year with American Band College, working on his master's degree. The kids and I hadn't had a chance to meet his wife or their toddler yet, so it was exciting to have them visit. I didn't end up taking many photos because we were so busy while they were here. The first couple days we took things easy as I was on call still and needed to stay where there was wifi. Ryan's parents and Karla went to Brent's graduation ceremony. We took the toddler and older kids to the local park and enjoyed lunch at the local coffee shop. On July 4th, we all went to Brent's final concert. It went pretty late and was near the airport, so we all stumbled into bed on getting back home.

The next day we took everyone to the Ballard Locks - sadly, the fish ladder viewing area is undergoing renovations. But given the holiday weekend there were plenty of boats to watch going through the Locks! We meandered the gardens for a bit before heading back to Daniel and Emily's place for a graduation/birthday celebration around the fire pit. Mal loves Emily and Daniel's cats so much, but equally loved his little cousin, so he was in heaven. He really, really wanted to hold his cousin, but kept trying to pick him up like a cat and just clearly has not spent time around little kids. Also, an almost 2 year old generally isn't going to want to be picked up by a kid who clearly doesn't know what they're doing! At this firepit, Mal settled for sharing a chair and putting an arm around him while watching Cocomelon.


My birthday gift to myself was to go on a bike ride with Steve on the Iron Horse Trail. Emily decided to join us and it was so fun to have her along! Some family members decided to meet us up at the top of the trail (Hyak) to check out the Snoqualmie Tunnel. They went to Snoqualmie Falls first, since that really is a must-see. Mal was not impressed by the gift shop at the falls, but he and Gareth thought the tunnel was pretty cool. Gareth wants to go back and ride the tunnel, so we really will have to get a bike rack for the car soon. And more bike lights. I took pictures, but they never do justice to the great views along the ride.





It's a steady 1-3% grade the 20 miles up to the tunnel, which you don't really notice on the way up. You really notice it on the way down though when you're riding the brakes the whole way, your hands start to cramp (well, in my case, Steve's hands since he's got the brakes!), and every bit of gravel feels way bumpier when you're hitting it at 20 mph rather than 10!

Emily and I were both pretty exhausted from the ride, but it was Ryan's parents' last night in town. We asked them to watch our nephew so the three couples could go out to dinner. Tried out Capitol Cider for the first time and it lived up to its reputation. We had a great time getting to know each other better.

The next day, Emily and I took Karla and Brent downtown to visit the gum wall and Pike Place - we ate some delicious hom bao and falafel at the market. Then headed over to Harborview to show Karla the hospital that Grey's Anatomy is based on, did a drive by viewing of the Space Needle (way too overpriced to actually go in!), then headed up to Queen Anne to check out the Meredith Grey house and the view from Kerry Park. I'd never spent time up there before and, man, serious house envy. Glad I don't live in that neighborhood all the time, because there are so many beautiful houses that you just know cost millions of dollars and that most of those people just totally lucked into by getting in when things were cheap. (Fellow clarinetist has told me about how when things were in a bust in the 80s, Seattle Symphony musicians were snatching up houses in all those sorts of areas; things they never could've dreamt of previously; none of us relative young 'uns were so lucky with the timing of our house purchasing.)

The next day we took a ferry ride in the afternoon over to Bainbridge. Wandered the charming main street of Winslow, ate some dinner, got some ice cream and headed back home. One of these days I'll actually drive onto the ferry so I can get over to the Bloedel Reserve!

We were sad to see Brent and Karla go, but it was time for us all to get back to our usual routines. I had to work on Friday, so it was really strange to be off for most of the week, work a day, and then hit the weekend. I'd harvested the scapes from our garlic just after our June trip. Also managed to snag some through our farm box and I needed to use them. Found a recipe for grilled scapes with grilled potatoes and sausage. It was delicious and definitely a keeper for the one time a year you can get scapes. If I can get more next year I might also make some butter with chopped up scapes to create a nice garlic butter.



To keep up with our busy pace, instead of putting together the kids' new dresser like I need to, we met up with Daniel and Emily for a hike up Little Si. Gareth had a sleepover with a friend in Olympia the night before and hadn't got much sleep, so he skipped this hike in favor of sleeping in.




So pretty! Again, hard to capture the beauty in pictures (at least it is for me). There were a bunch of ants at the top and as we sat to take in the vista and eat a snack, Mal commented on how cute they were - I love how much he loves and appreciates life/nature. He peppered Emily with questions about nature throughout the hike. This hike, at just over 4 miles round trip and about 1100 feet of climbing is definitely my limit for now. I've got some annoying knee thing going on and walking downhill makes it worse. I made it, but the shooting pain from my knee down my leg by the end was not great. Ibuprofen immediately afterward was helpful, but I'm still feeling it today. I have some PT lined up to see if that helps, because this is the same pain that put a halt to my jogging efforts last spring/summer and that has been cropping up for years if I ever try to do any long amount of walking even at a leisurely pace (like showing Ryan's sister UW campus last summer). At this point, it is interfering with my ability to do activities that I want to do so I finally decided to try to do something about it.

Then we all met up with Steve again (and his family) so he could show Emily how to make rhubarb pie and we all enjoyed some dinner together. He even made Mal some octopus hot dogs. It's been so wonderful to start seeing friends again! Mal was jealous of Emily's camelbak on the hike, so he spent a chunk of today looking up hiking gear (he also wants a walking stick or trekking poles?). Unfortunately, most of those things cost more than the money he has. I'm trying to convince him to just wait for Christmas (since I was already planning on getting them some outdoor gear so I don't have to schlep everything for them), but he wants something now. At least he's excited about hiking!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Vacation

We took our first ever family vacation (in the kids' memories) this past week. Decided to start small and just headed down to the Portland/Vancouver area. Seemed like that should be a doable drive without too much "are we there yet?" complaining from the back seat! I was considering Whidbey, but the only accommodations I could find at the kinda last minute date we were planning made it seem like all lodgings on the island are not welcoming to kids. So going somewhere we could just get a regular hotel sounded pretty great.

The mountain was out as we headed out of Seattle!

The drive quickly became tedious. We expected a little traffic around downtown Seattle, but there continued to be slowdowns throughout the trip, in random places. Despite being a mid-week, mid-day drive, it took us about 4 hours to reach the town just outside of Vancouver where one of Ryan's college roommates now lives. Malcolm said their house was like a mansion - which compared to our little city house it is! The kids enjoyed playing in their yard with their kids and on the trampoline. And we had fun catching up with the adults.

Then it was off to our hotel in Vancouver. Our room had a little patio, which was rather fun. It looked out over Esther Short Park.



The weather was forecast to be unseasonably warm, so we opted to spend our first day hiking, before the temps hit the high 90s. The whole Columbia River Gorge area is beautiful. I'd considered having us drive to Mt. Hood as well, but in the end I opted to keep that for another trip as it was another couple hours away from our hotel and there was plenty to keep us entertained closer to our hotel.

We headed to Beacon Rock State Park and were pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds on the "heavily trafficked" hike we chose. Always a good feeling with the hiking app rates the hike as "easy" and your out of shape body quickly starts complaining. Spending some good time hiking was exactly what we all needed after the past year and stressful past few weeks.




This was at the Hardy Falls viewpoint, but it was impossible to get the falls in the picture with us

Pool of the Winds - absolutely beautiful, and the spray from the fall was very welcome!

At the Pool of the Winds, a butterfly landed on my finger twice - and seemed super content to hang out there for a long while. This was an out and back trail of ~3 miles round trip. There was a playground near the parking lot, so the kids played there for a bit before we headed back to the hotel for dinner.

The next day we headed into Portland to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. Parking was a pain, but the garden was beautiful. This one is perhaps a little more "manicured" than Kubota Garden, but I think the kids and I do prefer how many more paths there are to explore at Kubota. This garden definitely leads you along a more set route. They have a pavilion with several bonsai trees that were really cool to look at, with several of them hundreds of years old! Because the garden is part of a larger park and that park is on a hill, as you get to the top of the garden there is a really nice viewpoint from which you can see downtown Portland and Mt. Hood in the distance.



That evening we walked along the Vancouver waterfront to enjoy the views of the Columbia river. The next day it was starting to warm up. We used it mostly as a day to just chill a bit - checked out the Vancouver Farmer's Market in the early afternoon and bought lots of fresh fruit and then reserved a time to use the hotel pool. We definitely did not mind the having the pool all to ourselves due to their current Covid precautions! And for dinner we introduced the kids to sushi. Mal was really willing to try things, which I was impressed by, even if he didn't like a whole lot - except for the shrimp tempura, which he loved (and the dessert of sesame balls). Gareth enjoyed it all.

For our final day, we planned another Portland day. We started with a mid-day jetboat tour of the Willamette River that starts in Portland and talks about the bridges and areas along the river and then ends at the Willamette Falls before heading back down the river to Portland. I didn't take any pictures of the falls, but I'm sure there are better ones than I could take to be found on the internet. Lots of getting splashed with water during the ride - we were thoroughly drenched by the end - which was much appreciated on such a hot day. Ryan and I ended up with sunburns despite our best efforts with sunscreen. The kids fared better, I'm guessing because their skin is generally more used to the sun/outdoors. 

The jetboat dock is right near OMSI, so we spent some time there after our excursion. It was a little awkward to wander around while semi-wet still, but it worked. We saw their dinosaur exhibit, checked out the exhibit on pregnancy that has real fetuses (really cool to see), enjoyed the live snakes, geckos, cockroaches, etc. And then watched a movie about the oceans prior to heading back to Vancouver. 

Our drive home was less tedious than the drive there. And our garlic scapes were ready to be harvested by the time we got back home! Now to decide what to use them for.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Rainbows and More Birthday

Met up with some coworkers a few weeks ago and were treated to a lovely double rainbow - the picture doesn't really do justice to just how bright this rainbow got. One coworker has a 4 year old and he was over the moon about the rainbow after starting out a little grumpy.

This gathering was with newish coworkers (newish to me because I'm only now officially becoming a part of their team) and some soon-to-be former coworkers (RDs who are leaving). I'll officially become a metabolic dietitian at the end of this month, which is both exciting and nerve-wracking. I'm happy for the folks that are leaving to be moving on to new adventures in their lives, things they've been working toward for a while. But it does mean I won't have more experienced metabolic RDs to lean on as I move into this area. I've been helping to cover some clinics and on-call for the past year, but will now get to be in the role full time (while still helping out in the epilepsy program a little). It can take years to feel fully competent in this area, so it definitely won't get boring anytime soon!

Metabolic RDs work with patients with inborn errors of metabolism - genetic changes that make it so they can't metabolize certain nutrients or metabolic byproducts. For many of these, nutrition interventions are among the primary ways to treat the disorder and help reduce damage done by buildup of toxic metabolites over time (by limiting the nutrients that lead to increased metabolite). There are over 40 disorders that we work with. Some of the most common that we see include fatty acid oxidation disorders, urea cycle disorders, glycogen storage disorders, and organic acidemias - each of these have more specific disorders within the categories and then there are more in addition to these as well. We typically follow patients into adulthood as these are rare disorders. For some of these disorders, it is only recently that people are surviving into adulthood, so that brings new challenges that in previous decades wouldn't have been considered - in how to help them navigate their disorder and going off to college, living independently, pregnancy, etc. Because metabolic crises require rapid responses in treatment, we take turns being on call 24/7. Our doctors try really hard to not page us in the middle of the night, but evening and weekend pages are not uncommon. It's a tight-knit multi-disciplinary team and I'm so excited that I get to join them.

We also recently celebrated Ryan's 40th, which of course called for getting 40 candles on the cake!

I stupidly lit the candles without checking to see if Ryan was actually ready for that, so they melted quite a bit while waiting. And the cheesecake hadn't had as much time to cool in the fridge as I would've like. And it was almost 80 degrees that day. So between all of those and the 40 candles sitting there melting, the center of the cheesecake was a little on the soft side when we served it. But still delicious!

I've decided that the NY Cheesecake recipe is just easier somehow. 2/2 for no cracks on that one, 0/2 on the chocolate one. Despite mixing them both nice and slowly and following the baking instructions to a tee.

Rodents got to a wire in the car the weekend of Ryan's birthday, so when we went out to use the car it wouldn't start. Of course, we didn't know right away what was wrong. Didn't quite seem like a battery based on lights coming on and sounds we got when we tried to turn on the car, but everything we could find also said that maybe the battery wasn't dead but just didn't have enough charge. Some folks threw out thoughts of fuel pumps or whatever else. But when we finally got it towed into the repair shop they told us it was rodents chewing through a crankshaft position sensor wire. Pricey repair, so now we get to go through the insurance and just use a loaner car for the next while. But it also meant I wasn't able to get out to get Ryan's birthday gifts in time for his birthday. One (bike carrier to attach to the hitch) will have to wait until we get the car back. And we get to call a pest control company for the first time in our lives to try to deal with the rodent issue and hopefully prevent this from happening again. It's times like this that I really don't enjoy this whole adulting thing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

New Living Room

Ryan and I have been wanting a new couch for a while, as the one we got before Mal was born was slowly succumbing to the years and to the kids use of it as a jungle gym (despite our best efforts to get them to NOT use it as such). And we wanted better lighting in our living room. And more seating. And to figure out how to use the weird little nook area while still maintaining the walkway from the entry to the hallway. Every time we looked at anything we just became paralyzed by indecision. How to find a sofa that actually works for Ryan's lanky legs but is also firm (we both dislike super soft sofas)? How to know that it actually is good quality (our current one hadn't lasted nearly as long as we'd hoped)? How will this one piece or that define the style of the room and how on earth do we make everything look cohesive?? Just too daunting. 

I was planning to enlist the help of an interior designer for ideas, but then Covid happened and I hadn't quite brought myself to pull the trigger yet, so obviously that was put on hold. But then my lovely sister-in-law, Emily, asked if we would let her design a room for us. She likes doing this sort of thing, so we jumped on the chance, because why not?

With some input from us, she gradually started to acquire items for the room. A few weeks ago we painted the walls in a warm white. And then a couple weeks ago we got word that the sofa was ready to deliver, so last week we spent a few days putting it all together.

We didn't think to get before pictures, but this one (minus the mess of boxes we were getting rid of here), sums it up. Couch (tv across from the couch), side table next to the couch, chest in the nook, and there's one pathetic lamp that doesn't have a lampshade to the right of the couch. 


After:



Emily made the large artwork for us


We have no choice but to leave Ryan's desk there in the corner for now, but eventually he'll go back to in-person work and that can go away. We're actually contemplating making the current foosball room into an office for the one day or so a week that he might want to work from home - but outlets will need to be added first and the foosball table would need to relocate to the basement, which means we'd likely prefer to get some other work done in the basement first as well. And, of course, the kids will need to be back at in-person school to avoid constant interruptions from people walking into the kitchen for stuff, since that space is right off the kitchen and entryway.

But enough about the future office plans. We're so in love with the new living room space! We opted to leave the ceiling the bright white it already was; I wasn't positive about it at first, but over the past few weeks have decided I adore the slight color contrast there, highlighted by the brown picture rail/molding. I always want to put my feet up in the evening, so the ottoman is largely mine so Ryan/the kids don't have to put up with my legs across them as they sit on the couch anymore. And the nook area feels perfectly part of the room now, while also still leaving plenty of space for the "walkway" between the entry and the back hallway. 

At the end of the day, Ryan and I have accepted that for things like this it is completely and totally worth it for us to let someone else make most of the decisions. The kids are so happy to have more light in the room at night and it quickly became apparent they'd been somewhat embarrassed of our bare-bones living room before and are now excited to have friends over. Malcolm declared that the room was looking like a mansion. And that now it's nice enough that we can host parties, just like Mr. Redpath does. Emily did an amazing job, so we've already enlisted her to help with the dining room, which we're hoping to get finished by early July when some of Ryan's family will be in town. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Another birthday weekend

The weather has been amazing this past week, so we wrapped up Spring Break/Gareth's birthday week by letting the kids set up the tent in the backyard. It's just cool enough overnight still that you end up being grateful for the sleeping bag. Also, the birds in our yard are really loud in the early morning hours. 

We started Gareth's birthday mid-morning since his big ask was a skateboard. Uncle Daniel came over and they went out to a skate shop and got the helmet/padding needed to prevent a PICU admission. Then we were ready to head to the school blacktop to start practicing.



Dinner was smoked gouda mac 'n cheese with roasted broccoli followed up by chocolate cheesecake. A few very simple alterations to make everything gluten free. I'm 0/2 on getting the chocolate cheesecake to not crack. And I think I might be burning the Oreo cookie base ever so slightly as well. But it all tastes good anyway!


We let the kids sleep in the tent again since we hadn't got around to taking it down. Mal was wanting to move out there permanently, but we said no - such mean parents. Gareth described it as the best weekend ever.

Gareth spent most of the weekend skateboarding, but I got out for a bike ride on Sunday afternoon. It was definitely a sunscreen-worthy afternoon, hitting almost 80 degrees. Lovely day for a half lake loop - 26 miles. We'll gradually work back up to the full lake loop again. We're planning to hit the Iron Horse trail with Ryan in the next few weeks - will have the kids meet us at the top of the trail/Snoqualmie tunnel with a picnic!



Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rattlesnake Lake

The weather has been gorgeous here the past few days, so naturally I had to get outside with the kids while off work today. We all decided for another hike, though stuck to an easy one. We had two options at this location - hike up to a ledge for a view or hike a shorter, flat trail along the lake. I want to hike to the ledge at some point, but I'm nervous enough around heights when it's just me. Adding my kids to the picture just amps up the anxiety (even though they are not little anymore I still get nervous), so I was happy to wait on that until I have more adults with me. 

The kids spent some time playing on the rocky beach of the lake, skipping/throwing rocks in the water.

Then we headed to the trail and meandered along, enjoying the various lake views, watching those who were out canoeing/kayaking/paddle boarding. We also found the signage around the lake interesting, especially when we got to learn about how the lake was made (and the town of Moncton that was flooded in the process) and about the old railroad that used to go through the area.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Weekend Adventures

With spring here, I've been itching to get out of the house more on weekends. Getting tired of feeling like we're just sitting inside in front of screens all the time.

Started off with a bike ride with friends last weekend. Weather was gorgeous, but we stuck to a 16 mile ride from Log Boom Park to Lizzy Kate Tea and back. It's been a while since any of us went for a ride, so needed to ease into things.

The next day was rainy, but we got the kids out anyway and went to Kubota Garden. Ryan had never been before, even though it's one of our favorites, so I was eager to get him there. The rain wasn't so bad at first, but definitely picked up as the day went on and we were all quite cold and wet on the way home. There were signs of spring and it was quite lovely despite the rain.






This weekend we met up with Emily and Daniel and went to Twin Falls for a hike, which is inside of Olallie State Park. It's only about 3 miles round trip, but has some good uphill climbs and stairs, so we got a good workout. It's easy enough that it's usually quite crowded. There were a lot of people there this weekend, especially as it's early in the season and the weather was nice. But overall we were able to keep out of the way of others and most people were really good about wearing their masks.







We also had an impromptu barbecue with them in the evening - it was threatening rain by then, but we stuck it out around the firepit and the rain mostly held off until later in the evening. The boys got to enjoy roasting Starbursts - a new favorite introduced to them by Uncle Daniel.

My body isn't quite sure what to make of the sudden increase in activity and was definitely complaining a bit yesterday afternoon. But we've all been enjoying getting out more - hopefully my body will adjust and not feel so tired if we're able to regularly get out and explore.

Elementary schools are starting back with a few hours in-person this week, and secondary schools will get half days a couple days a week starting mid-April, but our kids will be staying remote. Ryan should be eligible for the vaccine in a couple weeks, along with everyone over 16. I'm guessing it'll be a while before we are able to find him an appointment. But I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get him (and Gareth, maybe?) vaccinated before the fall, so cautiously optimistic about the kids going back to school next year.