Sunday, January 7, 2024

Christmas and New Years

While Ryan and the kids were gone, we had some lovely foggy days. It was very atmospheric to walk to get my Thai food in the fog. Have I mentioned how much I love living in a walkable city/neighborhood? We can walk to the doctor, dentist, restaurants, bakeries/cafes, hardware store, library, parks, movie theatre, etc. And of course can walk to the lightrail which takes us even more places. The walkability of our life is a consistent source of joy.

The weekend after they got back, Ryan and I braved the mall because I needed wrapping paper so I could send my niece and nephew their belated birthday gifts as well as Christmas gifts. We managed to score a surface parking spot really close to the stores we needed to go to - even in non-holiday times I don't expect to find one of those - a true Christmas miracle haha! I wished the non-holiday paper options were more varied, but we had a lot of fun picking out what we got, including a couple fancy papers.

Aren't those beautiful? Perhaps another sign of adulthood when you're very excited about fancy wrapping paper. We also did a little shopping for G's Christmas - they love hoodies but don't usually want brand or place names on them, so I was a little worried it would be hard to find. But the first store we tried had several completely plain hoodies in a variety of solid colors! It'll be so exciting for them to be able to rotate their hoodies through the wash more frequently.

Christmas Eve was spent largely in the kitchen. Ryan was inspired by Ted Lasso and wanted to try a mulled wine and finger foods on Christmas day, so we found a recipe for Smoking Bishop and had to get that started. It included roasting oranges and grapefruit that we then poked cloves into before soaking those in wine overnight - the next day we juiced the fruit into the wine and then added ruby port before heating. Then I prepped the filling for stuffed acorn squash and roasted the squash, made a coffee cake since M doesn't like our usual blueberry breakfast bake dish, Ryan made toffee, and by the time all that was done it was about time to start prepping the rest of our dinner. Ryan made a delicious Kung Pao Chicken courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's wok recipe book and sides were the family favorite Korean lettuce salad, and that stuffed acorn squash I'd prepped earlier in the day (used Canadian bacon instead of sausage in the squash). 

The oranges were as big as grapefruit! But they roasted up nicely and my not thinking to rotate them while roasting didn't seem to negatively impact the end result

With all that going on, dinner was a bit late so then we started A Christmas Carol a bit late, which meant it was midnight before the kids got to bed and 1 am before Ryan and I could get all the gifts set out and get ourselves to bed. I was very grateful that I could anticipate the kids sleeping in late the next day!

And I was right - they didn't wake up until 10, which meant we weren't ready to start our Christmas morning until 11am - a record late start for our family but I was shocked it wasn't later. Our Christmas was quiet. Because we ate breakfast so late I was glad we'd decided on finger foods for dinner. We got our wine heated up and made up some platters with our finger foods that we ate while I tried out the Oregon Trail game Ryan got me. 

Ryan was disturbed by me and G being excited about a book I got (An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good) since it's about an old lady who has no qualms about a little murder. He read it before I got to it and I caught a picture of him looking quite distressed while reading (ignore my finger that got in the way). 

M's D&D club experience at school sadly didn't work out - their entire group was made up of kids who hadn't played D&D before, including the DM, so it was just a mess and he quickly got frustrated. So G's gift to them was a D&D campaign that we'll do as a family with G as the DM! We spent some time the weekend after Christmas creating our characters.

I finally got to some baking after Christmas, including this delicious Pine Nut Rosemary Shortbread, which is an absolutely beautiful dough.

Before we knew it, it was New Year's Eve! We chose How to Steal a Million as our movie to watch with my sister's family this year and the kid's all enjoyed it, so that's a win. So many great lines in that movie. We tried our hand at a New York Sour for the first time ever, which requires you to float red wine on top of the rest of the drink. It was a bit tricky and definitely made a bit of a mess trying to slowly pour the wine over the back of a spoon, but I was really pleased that it actually worked!

We got one more day of relaxing at home before we all headed back to work and school on Tuesday. Here's hoping we all have a great 2024!

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Fall 2023

Our fall has been fairly uneventful - work, school, cross-country, and so on. My mom came for a visit just before Halloween and we had fun making a lot of candies. She also got to go to one of my concerts and one of G's concerts. We made chocolate and coconut covered marshmallows, boiled cider caramels, and peanut brittle.

Ryan and M dressed up and went out trick or treating.

And Ryan and the kids carved pumpkins. Gram helped M put up our Halloween decor.

Then Ryan's brother's family came to visit over Thanksgiving. We ended up having 10 people around our table this year since one of my orchestra friends and her husband joined us as well. I was on call over Thanksgiving so it was a little crazy to host, but everyone chipped in helping to make dishes and desserts so that made it much easier.

I tried out a new way of opening pomegranates over Thanksgiving and it actually worked!

When he wasn't chasing around "cousin" (M) with dinosaurs or asking to play, our nephew enjoyed playing foosball.

It was a lot of fun to get to see them all again.

Shortly after Thanksgiving I went with co-workers to a Rage Room - we picked out plates and cups and bottles and got to smash them with hammers, bats, crowbars, etc. It's a good way to get out frustration with insurance companies getting away with not covering the most basic of things.

M had their first band concert - when you force all the 6th graders to take a music class, it's pretty easy to fill the stage with the beginning band. We couldn't see M because they were way in the back as a trombone player.

I got enough of a break in the stream of on-call pages for us to go get a tree - it helps that the tree farm has a stand only ten minutes away! Ended up with quite a character-full one this year, but we like it! The kids enjoy that the new LED lights allow them to easily switch from white to multi-color lights.

M also pulled out a puzzle to start at Thanksgiving and I finished it in mid-December. Sadly, it seems the puzzle is missing a piece. But still a very fun puzzle to complete.

The kids and Ryan started their breaks at the same time while I had a completely packed clinic week before being off the week of Christmas. So I sent Ryan and the kids off on a trip that first week - it started with Ryan joking that they were all going to go somewhere fun without me and then I realized they totally should do just that! So they took the train up to Vancouver, arriving mid-afternoon there and stayed overnight before coming home late the next day. They got a fun trip and I enjoyed a couple nights of having the house all to myself before heading into Christmas week!

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Whidbey 2023

For our final summer excursion, the kids went off to Camp Quest while Ryan and I spent a few days on Whidbey Island again. M had been saying all year that they didn't want to go back to camp again and I finally figured out that they feel pretty homesick while they're away - which is really all the more reason they need to go! They finally accepted that they were going whether they wanted to or not and went into the packing and trip up there with a decent attitude. Got our usual view from the beach photo while dropping them off:

We headed back home to an empty house - we'd opted for more driving for ourselves this year in order to push our time on Whidbey to the latter part of the week. Tuesday afternoon we got ourselves packed and headed to the ferry. Ferry rides here never get old, as evidenced by the view from the Mukilteo ferry ride.

We did a little exploring this year but also just spent a lot of time relaxing at the cottage - we stayed in for all our meals those first couple days and went out for dinner in Langley just on our last night. I read (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe) and we spent some time enjoying our shows that we watch without the kids and which we never have time for usually. We did do a little exploring though. I'd come across an article that talked up Greenbank Farm, so we checked that out. It was not as impressive as the article made it seem - the cheese shop was mainly cheeses you'd find in any grocery store for instance - but the small art studio/gallery was interesting and we did a little wine tasting and thoroughly enjoyed the pies we got at the cafe that's on-site. Our last day we headed up to Fort Casey State Park near Coupeville where we explored the fort and learned about the disappearing guns that were in place there. That was all interesting, but the main draw for me was the Admiralty Head Lighthouse. If the lighthouse looks shorter than lighthouses you're used to seeing, it's because it is! Since the house sits on a bluff, it didn't need to be as tall to serve it's purpose.

After a few days on Whidbey we headed home and had one more kid-free evening before camp pick up. M seemed to have a better time this year and their camp counselor commented that they were a great addition to the cabin and seemed to have really grown since last year. G has really enjoyed the past couple years as a "leader in training" - it's weird to think they only have one more year as an LT/camper, though they could opt to go back as a full counselor after that.

While I'm sure we'll do a few more small weekend things over the next couple weeks, we're starting to think about school starting again. The summer has flown by and I'm not feeling ready for the kids to go back yet. Cross-country officially starts this next week and I've got to figure out where to get a trombone from for M and we'll have middle school orientation and all that sometime in the next couple weeks as well. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

San Francisco

We were supposed to head back East this summer, but then airfares skyrocketed and things have been uncertain in the tech world, so we decided it wasn't the time to spend that kind of money on a vacation. Our consolation trip was to head to San Francisco - Ryan and I have both been but the kids never had. And my trip was 20 years ago in college, so I barely saw anything.

We stayed in the Embarcadero neighborhood, at a hotel Ryan had stayed at previously for a work trip. He had a view of the Ferry Building and the Bay when he stayed, but those rooms weren't available so we were stuck with city buildings/rooftops. The lobby of the hotel is pretty cool though.

Day 1: Started the day off with dim sum, much to M's delight. Took the bus to the Sutro Bath ruins, which also afforded the kids a first look at the Pacific Ocean. The baths look quite impressive in old pictures - would have been cool to see them back then. Hiked a bit along the various trails that run through the park here. Hadn't really thought about dinner plans, so ended up at a fancy (aka expensive) seafood place. Ryan got to experience cracking open lobster and he and G tried a variety of oysters/clams. I am just getting to where I can tolerate mild fish with the occasional crab or lobster being okay, so did not try the oysters or clams.

These trees were everywhere - I think they look cool

Distant view of the bridge

Day 2: We had a sailboat excursion in the Bay scheduled for the afternoon, so we took a very slow streetcar (not cable car - never did get around to riding one this trip) over to Fisherman's Wharf and found a cafe to eat brunch at before exploring that area a bit. G is confident that we could've jogged to the wharf faster than the streetcar got us there. It also lurched and shuddered every block or so, leaving me wondering if it was going to break down mid-trip. 

M bought a lobster souvenir and per their request we stopped in at a candy "department store" where they had all the usual stuff but also things like pickle cotton candy. 

Headed to Pier 39 to board the catamaran we were set to sail on - Adventure Cat. Saw a sea lion swimming around.

We forgot sunscreen unfortunately, but enjoyed the sail a lot. I was a bit cold despite dressing in layers - it's just so windy once you're out on the water! And because it's so windy and chilly you don't even notice that you're getting sunburned until well after the fact. We ate crepes at Pier 39 once we got back from the sail and then got ice cream before heading back to the hotel. We got the kids food from the store and Ryan and I headed out to a local bar for a light dinner/belated anniversary celebration.

Looking back on the city


Closer view of the bridge

Day 3: We took the light rail to the botanical garden in Golden Gate Park. After the gardens we headed a little east toward Alamo Square. Ryan and G stopped a a place for pedicures/manicures but M wasn't interested in that so the two of us went straight to Alamo Square where he played at the playground for a bit while I enjoyed the views of the Painted Ladies and SF. 

Ryan and G joined us and then we all headed to the Church of 8 Wheels for some roller skating. I used to know how to roller skate, but it's much harder as an adult. The building is cool though - used to be an African-American Catholic congregation, survived a couple big earthquakes, hosted Vietnam protests and was a site for the Black Panther Party Free Breakfast Program, which inspired federal school breakfast programs. 

After skating, we rode the light rail back toward Golden Gate Park where we had hot pot for dinner - a first for all of us, though Ryan and I have been wanting to try it for a while. Then we headed to Ocean Beach to catch the sunset. Before we knew it, M had their socks and shoes off and was wading in the water. Ryan joined in, while G and I decided that sand in our shoes was as much as we wanted to deal with. At some point a wave caught M and once a little wet he decided he may as well go all in. They had a lot of fun playing in the ocean even though it meant they were chilly as we rode the train back to the hotel.

Day 4: Mission District. We started off with breakfast pastries that we picked up from Tartine, which we ate at Mission Dolores Park. M enjoyed playing on that playground for a bit before we headed off to wander Valencia Street. There was this cool-looking high school across the street from the park.

We started with Clarion Alley - there are many more murals throughout the neighborhood than just the ones in Clarion Alley, but it was interesting to see several all together. I believe they are updated periodically, so often reflect current events. I took pictures of just a few:

Along Valencia street we stopped at Dandelion Chocolate for some very rich, chocolatey drinks. M found a store they loved further down the street that had a variety of taxidermy, rocks, witchy items, and then at the back had tons of houseplants. 

We walked all the way to Bernal Heights Summit, where we enjoyed a windy view of the city. 

Opting for a car to take us back to Valencia Street, we next stopped at a Brazilian bakery/cafe for pao de quejo, coxinha, acai bowls/smoothies, and a brigadeiro for M. All delicious. Then it was off to Urban Putt, a fun mini-golf experience that is inside what used to be a house. G, of course, beat Ryan and I while M opted to not be scored - though did manage a couple holes in one.

Day 5: We started the day with another dim sum place, then walked through Chinatown to Lombard Street and after climbing up toward the famous part of that, headed down toward the piers again. Browsed Pier 39 a little more before heading to the gate for another boat ride, this time on Bay Voyager. It was just us and a young German couple. The kids had loved our jetboat tour that we did in Portland, so we were correct in assuming this would be a hit as well. The captains shared a lot of interesting history through the ride - and I appreciate that they outfit us all in wet weather gear to help keep us dry and warm! 

It's close up and not covered in fog!

There is a Civil War era fort (Fort Point) under the bridge arch

SS Jeremiah O'Brien is a WWII Liberty ship that is still operational - our tour captain was part of the crew that sailed her from London to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-Day

Lounging sea lions!

After our boat ride we found a restaurant to head to for dinner, Piccolo Forno. It's in the middle of Little Italy and had excellent food - I'm very jealous that SF has a Little Italy neighborhood. We walked back to the hotel, a delightful journey through the Little Italy neighborhood which borders Chinatown.

Fun building seen on our walk back to the hotel

San Francisco was a lot of fun to visit. I don't think I'd want to live there (and can't afford to anyway), but if you stay right in the city it's very easy to get around by walking or via transit. Lots of sewage odors wafting through the air (apparently a combined side effect of warm/dry summers meaning less rainwater to move sludge through the pipes and unintended consequence of low-flow toilets per what my google search turned up). It hits randomly, which means you don't get used to it. That said, the robust transit was nice (not perfect - the signage left a lot to be desired, there was the aforementioned incredibly slow streetcar, and the light rail we rode was at grade and in the same lanes as the cars which slows everyone down; but still, more built out than Seattle) and I adore Victorian/Edwardian style homes, which are plentiful in SF, even if they have all been split into 2-3 apartments. I'd happily spend more time in several of the neighborhoods we visited and there were definitely sights we didn't make it to, so another visit may happen in the future.