Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas 2019

Christmas Eve we had Daniel and Emily over; Emily's family typically spends hours making spaghetti and meatballs. I gave over the kitchen to her and she went to work and made the best spaghetti and meatballs I've ever had. I made some roasted brussel sprouts with shallots and garlic, green salad, and a flourless chocolate cake as well as a ginger-pear punch. It was a delicious Christmas dinner and the chocolate cake even turned out well! Also, bonus, Mal loved the brussel sprouts and asked for seconds.

Afterward we all watched A Christmas Carol together. Normally we would have hot chocolate during this, but we were all quite stuffed from our dinner and the chocolate cake so skipped that this year. Everyone headed out/off to bed and Ryan and I stayed up to prep for Christmas Day.

We started with the boys hanging out in our room while Ryan and I got ready, then stockings and our traditional breakfast. Then regular present-opening. Mal got a kindle, Gareth got Mario Maker 2.

At our friends' white elephant party, Mal had grabbed a bow, stuck it on himself and declared, "I'm a present for today!". He repeated this with three bows Christmas morning and curled up in a ball on the floor and made me pick him up to "open" him.

Then he made a hat out of the top of Ryan's present packaging.

I was pretty proud of my gift for Ryan. Managed to stump him when he was opening it. After he got the wrapping off, he saw it had been shipped from England, which only stumped him more. When he was a kid, they'd had the vinyl album for Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds musical (Ryan will play this sometimes for us all; I rather enjoy it). He would spend a good chunk of time staring at the album art, particularly the pieces by Geoff Taylor.

Image result for war of the worlds album art

Image result for war of the worlds album art

He'd pulled these images up online a couple times in the past year. I decided to see if I could find any of the artwork. Turns out it's pretty hard to find, but I found reference to a limited edition run of prints from several years back. Found the artist's website and they were on there, but with no price information or any indication if any were left. So I emailed the artist and there were some left, so I ordered a set from him. I debated getting them framed before gifting them to Ryan, but realized they wouldn't be ready before Christmas, so we'll take them to the framer sometime this next week.

We also received a delightful book to add to our "children's" book collection. Mal, who won't watch Dr. Who because it's too scary and who claimed to have difficulty sleeping after watching A Christmas Carol, loves these sorts of books. We all got a good laugh out of the first story about a malicious playground.

Emily and Daniel came over in the afternoon and we made some GF sugar cookies, enjoyed various family video chats, and just generally enjoyed one another's company. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 14, 2019


It's been a little off-feeling to have Thanksgiving at the very end of November and thus have just a couple days between it and the start of Christmas season. The past couple weeks have passed by in a whirlwind. This past weekend we went out looking for a tree. We started at a lot just a few blocks away, but quickly discovered that while their trees were inexpensive ($35!!), there was perhaps a reason for that. They were almost out of anything over 5 feet, didn't have much supply in our favorite type of tree, and what they did have was a little sad-looking (and short). They promised they would be getting more trees in the next day, but we had set the time aside for this that day and couldn't wait. So off to Swanson's we went. Where the trees are more expensive, but you're guaranteed a certain level of quality and decent selection.

There, we found a tree in just a couple minutes, paid for it, they loaded it on the car, and we were on our way. And for the first time in years, we managed to get the tree up, lights on, and ornaments on all in the same day!

Saturday, November 30, 2019


We're getting one block of sidewalk installed by our house. We're all very disappointed that they aren't rounding the corner and just continuing on up the road to connect with the sidewalk by the school. Maybe in another decade or two that will happen. BUT, we're going to enjoy the sidewalk we are getting. Though I'm trying to tell myself that they'll probably do something with how they make it that will be less than ideal, just to temper my excitement (and disappointment if they do mess something up). We've known about the sidewalk plan for about a year, but just saw the signs go up indicating they were starting work a couple weeks ago.

Per the signs, it seems they're planning to get the work done by mid-December. We'll see if that actually happens. So far they've got some curb and driveway cut-outs in. But they haven't gone all the way down the street with those things yet. When Mal saw the initial preparation work he exclaimed, "They mined!" (Ryan and the boys have been playing Terraria lately.)

It was a bit of work to figure out how to get our bins out for collection day since they were cut off from the street by the trench. But Gareth managed it in the end. And then, after initially being hopeful about our prospects of being able to park in our driveway after this is all done (it's a rather short drive and has always been somewhat dependent on the right of way), once they poured the curbs we were worried we wouldn't be able to and would have to figure out an alternative solution. But now we're back to being a little hopeful again, since they uncovered the cutout and the small section of sidewalk they poured next to the cutout and it looks fairly promising. Even if we can't park in our driveway, I'm happy to have a sidewalk. I've told Ryan we can buy bags and bags of salt and I'll salt the entire thing (since no one around here ever bothers with that) if we have any risky days. I'm seriously tempted to salt the entire 4 blocks to my bus stop on icy days.

I've also gone on a couple more bike rides recently. One across the 520 bridge and back on the I-90 bridge. Then we rode up some steep hills through south/downtown Seattle to work our way back to my house. And another to the Discovery Park Lighthouse (which has a very steep hill coming back up). The last time we rode to this lighthouse together, Mal was with us in the trailer and much smaller than he is now. It was also a cold day and he wasn't at all happy when I pulled him out of the trailer for a picture. Didn't see any eagles on this ride like we did then, but it was a beautiful, if chilly, day.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

October/Early November

At some point in all the busyness of October, we managed to squeeze in a few minutes at the elementary school fall carnival. Mal made a fun craft, which he then used the next weekend to set up "camp". He used the lantern as the campfire, set up the play tent, and had books and games ready to go. He named it "Camp Qest" (camp quest, just like summer sleepaway camp). We had a great time "sleeping" (I actually fell asleep for a bit!) and playing some Forbidden Desert after we woke up.

While Ryan was away at his friend's wedding, I got home one day just in time to take Mal out for a treat after school. The next day Gareth was at a sleepover, so Mal and I went out for pizza. He likes to color in the squirrel to match the menu. I tried to convince him to let me get half pepperoni, half margherita, but he wasn't having it.

My orchestra is celebrating our 75th anniversary. Our first concert included several Copland works, including Lincoln Portrait. Tom Skerritt lives in the area, so we got him to come read the narration. I really only know him from his role in Parent Trap 2, which would quite possibly horrify him. He seemed like quite a nice person from my minimal interactions.

And somewhere in all of this, we found some time to carve pumpkins. It helped that the kids had a good idea of what they wanted to do before they started.

On Halloween, we had quite the crew over. 3 friends joined us and Daniel and Emily came and hung out with Ryan/helped pass out candy. Myself and one of the other parents took the kids out, making it several blocks before we decided we were done. Mal was getting tired of carrying his bag because it was so heavy and my feet were getting cold.

We then got a one weekend reprieve before I had to start final preparations for our orchestra fundraiser (the orchestra's in a not-great place financially, which is frustrating, but we're working hard to try and make it through the year and hopefully do some work to get to a better financial footing). We held it at a large brewery that offered the use of their space for free. Ran a small silent auction, which I think a lot of people thought would be simple to pull together, but which I knew wouldn't be. And it's not made easier by people waiting until 4 days before the event to let you know what they're going to donate to auction off. The woodwinds ended up putting together quite a nice little wine-themed basket. It included a gift certificate for two to a 2-day wine tasting event on Bainbridge Island. I tried to bid on it, but someone came in and grabbed it for the "Buy It Now" price. I won a knife-sharpening party instead (my knives are really needing a good sharpen after almost 15 years).

In the end, we pulled off quite a nice event. Had lots of small ensembles made up of orchestra members playing and the auction did about as well as I expected it to, with everything getting auctioned off.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Skagit Color Classic

The day after our pumpkin excursion, my friend and I went on a bike ride. It was the route of an organized ride called the Skagit Color Classic, but we did it one week late. We were hoping to see some great fall colors, but sadly could count on one hand the number of colorful trees we saw. The organized ride a week earlier must've been particularly disappointing! But, the weather was beautiful and clear and we got to ride on the ferry. It was a great ride, with lots of rollies and a few larger hills, which made up for it only being 25 miles.

Took some photos on our ferry ride back:

Our trusty steed!

Mount Baker, I think? This definitely wasn't looking toward Rainier, so that's my best guess. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Toward the end of September, I looked at our October calendar and realized we didn't have many open weekend days during the month. Gareth's time has been frequently co-opted by sleepovers with a friend lately, which has made doing family things more difficult (we're going to have to cut back on the sleepovers in the coming months so we can do holiday stuff and just so he can maintain relationships with other friends as well). Ryan was going to be out of town for a whole weekend for the wedding of a high school friend, and I was going to spend two weekend days on concerts. I was working the weekend Ryan was going to be out of town, and we needed to go to a Halloween event at a friend's house after one of my concerts. We were left with two possible days to go to the pumpkin farm, but one of those was a sleepover day, so we chose the other one - the first weekend in October.

Turns out that's a pretty good time to go to the pumpkin farm as it's not super crowded yet. Mal was still very into the cutout photo ops.

Then he wanted to take a picture of the landscape:

After which it was right back to the cutouts:

Mal immediately wanted to go down these slides, but then was nervous about them and made me go down with him the first time around. Gareth tried to be non-chalant about it all, "Yeah, sure, why not?" when asked if he wanted to take a picture or go down the slides (but you could tell he loved it all; it's hard being a tween and trying to figure out if you can let yourself just like what you like or if you're supposed to be "too old" for stuff!):

Several parents got roped into going down the slides with kids, just like me. There's a bump at the bottom, so every single adult came out stating that that was a mistake, they should have medics there for the adults, walking their now aching bodies back to the benches gingerly, etc. Glad I wasn't alone in my pain! Thankfully, after one go with me, Mal was thrilled to go again and again and again on his own.

Mal checked out the big tractor while Gareth worked on the rope maze:

More photo ops:

Gareth finally joined in:

And then Ryan decided to join as well:

We took a break for some food. Cider and pumpkin donuts, roasted corn, hot cider. The deliciousness was dampened by the insane number of bees hanging around (maybe the one downside to going in early October?) Boys couldn't finish their cider, because there were constantly 4 or 5 bees also loving the smell of the cider. It was not fun for the boys (not helped by Ryan's fear of bees; I was the only one staying calm and they seemed to not like me quite as much as everyone else who was freaking out). Eventually we gave up on eating and headed to the hay ride to the pumpkin patch and corn maze.

Photo op at the maze halfway point (I love the face Mal is making here)!

After Gareth and Mal successfully led us through the maze, we searched for pumpkins. Gareth took a while to find the right pumpkin while Mal picked his immediately. We'd told them they had to be able to carry their pumpkins.

Folks were very impressed with Gareth hauling his pumpkin back onto the hay ride by himself. Also, white/grey shirt is not a great choice for pumpkin picking.

Back to the car! We recommended using a wheelbarrow for the hay ride to car walk. Would've taken forever otherwise.

Aside from the terror of the bees (which they kept calling wasps - it felt very melodramatic because of that), it was a beautiful day and a great outing! Now we just needed to find time to carve the pumpkins...

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Samish Bay Cheese

We picked Gareth up from Camp Quest today - final year he'll be headed there alone, as Mal will be old enough to go next year! (Yes, I am already thinking about what we should do during our kid-free week!) Gareth had a great time, as usual. To add a little extra fun to the drive up and back, I decided we should head to Samish Bay Cheese, which is only ~10 minutes away from camp.

You have to give yourself a self-guided tour, so we started off heading to the sheep.

Mal and Gareth both got a kick out of the sheep braying loudly at them. After a while, the sheep lost interest since the kids were just staring at them. We couldn't see any pigs, and there wasn't any noticeable activity in the production room (it is a Saturday after all, maybe not a bustling as other days?), so headed to the tasting room. The boys and I tried all the cheeses they had out (4 of them, plus a dip which only Ryan, Gareth, and myself tried). I was shocked Mal was willing to try anything - it helped that two of the cheeses were gouda (smoked gouda is the only cheese he likes). We ordered a cheese board and a couple slices of cheesecake to share and purchased some of the spicy cheese dip to bring home. I think this will become a new camp pick-up tradition. They make yogurts and lots of other things as well, so we have more we'd like to try.

One of the women working asked if we'd fed the sheep - we hadn't since I wasn't sure if that was okay or not. She said they like it when people feed them grass. The farmhand lives on site and we were told he spoils them, giving them all his leftovers. We headed back over to the sheep and sure enough, they were thrilled when the kids offered them grass to eat. We also found the pig and her piglets. They were resting in their shelter, piglets focused on drinking milk, so didn't come see us. There was also a little more activity in the production room at this point - they were straining something through large swaths of cheesecloth (clearly I don't know much at all about cheese making!)

Definitely a worthwhile side-trip!

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Mal has been loosing teeth left and right the past couple weeks. He started with a couple lower teeth, then (after many tears and worry while trying to eat dinner as it kept hurting while he tried to eat, but he wasn't willing to let me attempt to pull it), an upper tooth fell out.

Then the other upper tooth was super loose. He kept getting scared because it was getting stuck sideways and backwards - I expected it to just fall out the first time I helped him fix it, but it hung in there until the next day. It came out the day after the other upper tooth. He's having to get a little creative with eating, since it's a little hard to bite into things with all those missing teeth!

Monday, July 29, 2019

14 Years

I was scheduled for my first weekend shift on our anniversary; normally I would try to trade with someone, but it seemed a bit late in the year, I haven't really figured out the trading weekends thing yet, and we often celebrate our anniversary on alternative days anyway. In the end, it worked out well because I got this past Friday off in exchange for working the weekend, which meant we could drop the kids off at their respective day camps and then spend the whole day together.

When Ryan took a week off earlier in the summer, I had suggested he take the ferry to Bainbridge Island. He enjoyed his trip there enough that when we found out I'd have the Friday off, I suggested we have breakfast in Bainbridge and lunch at our favorite downtown restaurant, Lecosho. The weather was gorgeous, though a little chilly due to the wind on the way over to Bainbridge, but Mt. Rainier was out and the scenery was beautiful, as ever. We'd heard that Streamliner Diner was an excellent breakfast/brunch place, just off the ferry. However, it was packed both when Ryan made the trip a couple weeks ago and as we walked by on Friday. We were headed for a crepe shop instead. After our crepes, we sat for a bit, then wandered down the main street. We took some time to look at the art in an art gallery. We even found some pieces we both liked, though weren't willing to spend the $3000-4000 they cost. Maybe one day, when we've don't need to buy a couch or a new dining table or any other things like that. We walked a bit further, down to the water, then back to the main street. We were thinking we should head back for our lunch, then realized by the time the next ferry came and we ate lunch, we might be cutting it a bit close to get our bus back in time to pick up the kids. So we changed our plans and ate lunch on Bainbridge at a deli a friend had recommended before heading back. I took pictures on our way back.

It was so much fun to take a relaxing pace with the day and to get to spend a whole day with just the two of us. It's great to think that as the kids get older, days like this will be easier and easier to come by.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Hospital?!

I worked this past Sunday and, while I've got down what time I need to leave to catch the bus to work on the weekend, I hadn't yet figured out the reverse trip. This meant when I left work I was looking at a 25 minute wait for a bus. Given it was already pretty late, I asked Ryan and the kids to make a trip and pick me up and had the following exchange with Malcolm in the car:

Malcolm: A kids' hospital?!
Me: Yup, this is where I work.
Malcolm: You work in a hospital?!
Me: Yeah...
Malcolm: Do you get changed into nurse clothes?
Me: Nope, because I'm not a nurse. I'm a dietitian. I help the doctors and nurses know what to feed the kids.
Malcolm: Do kids go there when they're injured?
Me: Yeah, sometimes. Some of the kids who are there have injuries.
Malcolm: Have there ever been any kids there with an injury? Like from animals? Like a jaguar injury?

Apparently Mal hadn't known where I've been going for work for the past 6 months, which was surprising to us all to realize. And, for the record, I felt pretty confident stating that there had never been any jaguar injuries treated at the hospital.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Kubota Garden

This past weekend I worked all weekend (training so I'm ready to work future weekend days). Because I would be working the weekend, I got the 3rd and 4th off. Well, I would've got the 4th off regardless, but now I'll get to bank the holiday hours and use them whenever I want in the future. Anyway. I decided that I should spend some time with the kids on the 3rd, so kept them home from camp. We slept in, ran a couple quick errands, then got lunch at Dick's. We only do that once every few years, so it's a big treat for the kids. After that we headed down to South Seattle to Kubota Garden. Gareth and visited the garden our very first summer here; I've been meaning to come back ever since, but had never made it until now.

I was a little worried Mal would be bored, but within a few minutes he declared, "This is amazing!". The boys loved getting to choose what direction we wandered in our explorations, as well as all the animals and plants we saw.

Excited to see dragonflies:

And a bunny:

The first of many bridges:

Another bridge. Mal posed this way at 4 different points along the bridge.

I took a picture of this flower, and then they decided I needed to take a picture of every flower thereafter:

Baby duckling!

Hiking up a small hill:

We found a gazebo type thing:

Mal insisted he and Gareth rotate through all the smaller rocks. Gareth was feeling a bit silly by the final rock:

Koi fish!

And turtles!

The kids were sad to leave. I promised them we'd be sure to come back again; hopefully it won't be another nine years before we make it again!