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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


On Mal's birthday I took the kids to Meadowbrook Pond. We saw a couple herons, lots of ducks, and heard a lot of birds.

We made a minecraft cake again.

And got a whole slew of new stuffies - hedgehog, fennec fox, and niffler. They join Hobbes and the teddy bears to form what has been named the "Boopy Union". From what I can tell, the primary purpose of the union is to attack Gareth and smother him in stuffy love.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

St. David's Day

When I realized I was working the first weekend in March and therefore needed to take a couple weekdays off, I immediately decided I should get off for St. David's Day, if possible. It's been a few years since we've been able to do much of anything for the day, so I've been excited to try several Welsh recipes out.

I discovered this past weekend that no grocery stores in our vicinity carry ground mace! I can find multiple brands of juniper berries and a million types of mustard seed, but no mace. Thankfully one of our friends keeps a well-stocked spice cupboard and we were able to get some from them. And I know that Penzey's carries it, so I'll have to plan ahead and make a trip to Lynnwood to get some the next time I need it.

Not necessarily a Welsh recipe, but very Welsh-inspired: Potato-leek soup! A true cawl was feeling a little too ambitious to attempt while also trying other new recipes. Maybe some future year though. Softening up the leeks before adding the broth and potatoes:

You blend it all up before adding cream and half and half. Tasty, and even Mal liked it! I started the day though by mixing up bara brith. I had forgotten to soak my fruit in tea overnight, but got it going in the morning, so it still got a good 8-9 hours or so. Then made up a stiff batter:

It turned out beautifully and smelled delicious. Mal definitely didn't like it, but Gareth loves it. I always get thrown by the flavor in things like this initially (I think it's the orange-raisin combo?). But really enjoyed it today after it sat overnight and had a lot of fun making it. Will definitely have to make it again and play with the ingredients (fewer raisins, more currants, maybe a little less orange zest?)

And, finally, pice ar y maen. These were very easy and everyone loved them. Mal, after tasting the soup and these, declared that we should find a Welsh store or restaurant to get more Welsh food from - a far superior response than I was expecting. Oddly enough, both these and the bara brith use the same spices and dried currants, so I'm not quite sure why these were much more popular (with Mal particularly). Regardless, there were minimal leftovers of the teacakes, so those we'll definitely make again.

I also planned to make rarebit, but the blending of the soup took me longer than anticipated, so I left that for today. After a few moments of worry that it wouldn't work at all since my cheese sauce started to re-solidify so quickly, I was able to smooth it out again and get them put together. Gareth thinks we should try these with a Welsh cheddar instead of the English cheddar that I was able to find and I agree. The sauce started to split pretty quickly as it started to cool, so trying to make a second batch didn't work as well, though tasted okay still. Because of the addition of Worcestershire and stout, it's not the most beautiful-looking dish, but still very tasty!

Cymru am byth!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


Apparently mid-February is when we typically get snow, given all the "look back on these memories" notifications Google photos gave me of all our past snowstorms in the week leading up to our snowfall this past week.

We started with a dusting on Friday - at this point I thought we'd maybe get 3-4 inches, which would be a decent snowfall for Seattle. 

It started snowing again Friday evening and we woke up to a surprisingly decent snowfall the next morning. The kids were super excited. We don't own any sleds, so snowmen, snowballs, and snow angels are about all they can do. We did put them to work helping to shovel though (they need to learn how at some point and just don't get a lot of opportunity to practice).

I thought that was going to be it, but it kept snowing on and off through the day and then by the next morning we had accumulated a good foot of snow!

I was quite proud of our sidewalk care (even though we didn't get out to get salt before the storm came - thankfully, once it started snowing we only got warmer and things didn't melt and then freeze). We had, by far, the clearest section of sidewalk on the block. I'm grateful to have the sidewalk and therefore more than happy to take care of it so others can get around more easily in snowy weather.

Even though things were starting to warm up and melt by Monday afternoon, there was still a lot of snow on our street and a woman trying to get back to her home ended up with a stuck car. We were able to dig her car out and, with the help of neighbors, gave the car a push to get her going again. It was a little iffy watching her get down the hill, but she made it.

We realized that (especially now that we have this nice, wide sidewalk) we should get a second full size shovel (can only do so much as an adult with a child-size shovel) so we can get through the job more quickly. Maybe once Gareth gets more practice we'll be able to send him down the block to help clear more of the sidewalk.

It was fun to have the snow this year - coming on the holiday weekend where we didn't need to get anywhere - as noted by this article. Lots of sledders, skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers seen along our street throughout the weekend. Obviously much less fun for anyone who had to work through the weekend. And, of course, we are quite happy that it's mostly gone now so we can resume getting groceries and so on.

Monday, January 4, 2021

New Year

We often work on a puzzle at New Year's. Sometimes one that we start that evening or sometimes one we started between Christmas and New Year's Eve. This year, Mal received a puzzle from his secret santa, so we started on that just a day or two after Christmas. And actually finished it the day before New Year's Eve!

1000 pieces and proved quite tricky. It also hung over the edge of the table slightly, which provided the added challenge of trying not to knock any sections off inadvertently! Ryan worked on a bit of everything. I started with the lettering, which took me a few days, before lending a hand with some people, and Gareth and Mal focused on faces and wands. Gareth mostly helped the first day, but after that was more focused on his new video games. Mal took over as the face expert. It was so fun to see his puzzling skills blossom this year, though he still has no patience for sorting through and finding all the edge pieces to start with.

Instead of puzzling on New Year's Eve, we spent the early evening virtually with my sister's family. We set up a zoom call and a watch party so we could simultaneously stream The Thin Man and chat about it together. I, of course, had seen it several times before as these older movies were common in my household growing up. But it's been at least a decade. I'm sure I made Ryan watch it once in our early years together, and the kids had never seen it. We all loved it and it was so much fun to laugh together at the antics (well, drunkenness) of Nick and Nora Charles. The younger kids particularly loved the dog (and really, who doesn't love Aster?). 

We munched on cheese and crackers, veggies and hummus, and jerky while we watched. My mom's gooseberry jelly paired with brie is divine. Ryan and I also tried some new cocktails (French 75, boulevardier, and bijou). I only had a few sips of the boulevardier as whisky forward cocktails are less to my taste. Very fun to try some new things though. Even though I set my alarm for the wrong day and woke up late the next morning, this was definitely one of our best New Year's yet!

Also, just for fun. I thought for sure our garden was done for when we got the snow and accompanying freezing nighttime temps for a couple days. But the chard seems to have bounced back quite well! As you can see, the squirrels or rabbits or whatever continue to enjoy it. So we (or the animals) should be able to eat these last few leaves at least.

I'm on furlough this week, but don't have any major plans since Ryan and the boys are both back at school/work. At some point I'll take down the Christmas decorations, I suppose.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Christmas 2020

In these last couple weeks we've kept busy with the usual holiday trappings. We started by opening a variety of advent presents each night.

Ryan ate the first grapefruit of the season:

We ordered our usual bushel plus my brother and his wife gifted us a quarter bushel. Which has turned out to be a good amount to have. Mal ate 1.5 all by himself one morning! Gareth suggested that as they get older we should just plan to purchase 3-4 bushels each year to get us through the Christmas season. Which probably would be what we'd need to match their growing appetites and give them their grapefruit fill.

We made cookies - cranberry swirls and magic in the middles. The kids took charge of the magic in the middle cookies both times we made those. Also made fudge and toffee.

We managed to give away a good size chunk of the fudge to a friend dropping off secret Santa presents. This chunk was over 1 pound and we still have so much more! We normally give away at least half of the fudge, but that's more difficult to do in covid times.

We got a little snow! We were all shocked when our rain started to turn to slush and then snow as night fell the Monday before Christmas. It was beautiful, but I had to work on-site on Wednesday, so was very pleased that it melted the next day. Kids were less pleased.

We were gifted our first-ever fruitcake. Very beautiful. Mal was not a fan. Not bad, but a little goes a long way and not a flavor I'm super used to. I could probably acclimate if I had enough of them? But I also don't love raisins in carrot cake, so maybe not.

Before we knew it, Christmas was here!

Gareth received a 2020 Mad Libs style game from his secret Santa. You roll a die to fill in the blanks with horrors of the year, such as "lockdown hair" and "meth gators". It gave us some good Christmas morning laughs.

Mal received a stuffed tiger which he has named Hobbes and has been inseparable from ever since.

The kids got mini waffle makers from a friend and made their own breakfast the next morning! (This age where you trust them to be independent is seriously the best.)

We got them multiple project packs from KiwiCo. Including this Christmas carousel that they worked together to build.

And a couple nights ago we tested out the kids' new coats and the light-up stomp rockets. Both worked excellently and it was definitely cool to see the rockets fly up in the dark. Gareth was able to get the rockets to go especially high/far, though we had to tell him to scale it back a bit so they would stay in the yard and not get stuck in the trees. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Tree, Home Repair, and Latkes and Sufganiyot

Last weekend we made an appointment to get our tree and yet again find ourselves debating whether or not to find a new place to tree shop next year. We managed in the end to find a decently tall tree for a more reasonable price, so it worked out. But I've heard good things about a tree farm that runs a local lot not far from us; I think we'll check them out next year rather than going to the nursery again. 

We had a good time putting on the lights and ornaments. Every year the kids find more burnt out lights - I'm surprised we haven't run out of replacement bulbs yet. These lights are at least 5 years old, so are probably reaching the end of their reasonable lifespan. Maybe next year I'll get around to getting some LED ones. Both kids still can't resist clumping multiple ornaments into a single area of the tree.

We finally got the basement wall fixed. We were a little nervous about having workers come in when infection numbers are rising. But we were able to move all of us up to the main/upper floor for work/school and workers were able to mostly come in and out through the garage, minimizing interactions in the same space. 

When they opened up the wall, there was only a small spot of mold on the back of the drywall, right behind where the baseboard was. Everything else was in good shape and totally dry. Their best guess was we'd been lucky and the water had run right through rather than soaking into everything. So they patched the wall back up. The next day they put down new carpet padding where we'd removed wet padding and tacked the carpet back down.

And the next day they painted wall to wall and put new trim on. It looks so good and we're very excited to have this space usable again! Of course, to do what we'd like to (get a custom-built desk along this wall and move all computers over there), we'll need more outlets along that wall at some point. So it might be a while before it's really where we want it, but we're thinking of moving the giant desk back to this side of the room for now and then we can at least start coming up with some ideas for what to do with the rest of the basement space.

G has been getting really into Kerbal Space Program over the past few months, and drew up this design for a satellite. I don't know if this is what it ended up as, but he did get a satellite into orbit. And made a shuttle to get to the Mun and was able to return from the Mun. He and Ryan are very excited for Kerbal 2 to come out in a couple years.

Our friends who usually host a white elephant are replacing it with a secret santa this year. With the help of my sister, I discovered this local yarn shop and was able to select some useful gifts for a knitter on our list. They were super helpful at selecting items over the phone and then had them ready to go for curbside pickup when I dropped by later in the day.

And we got latkes and sufganiyot from a local Jewish deli/bakery. I have never fried up latkes myself, so was a little nervous about that, but it went pretty well. Served with sour cream and applesauce and paired with an acorn squash and it made quite a filling dinner. To be honest, the sufganiyot look a little dark and overdone on the outside, but they still tasted delicious (and I'm not about to deep fry anything like this on my own, so I'm not going to complain). Chocolate, cardamom cream, mango, marionberry, and cranberry filled. 

I'm hoping to get in some holiday cookie baking today, but also need to work on starting a lit review so I can reach out to a couple doctors tomorrow to propose a possible case study we could write up. Ryan has lots of reading to do as well to try and get up to speed at his new job. So some of the baking might be pushed to mid-week.