Monday, May 13, 2024

Spring

Lots happened this spring - we started off with G getting their braces off! And we did get the bad news from the dentist that M will need braces after all (though this has become obvious since more adult teeth have been growing in recently), so once all his adult teeth are in then we get to start another orthodontic journey. G celebrated by getting to eat popcorn at our next movie night.

We've been doing a family D&D campaign, holding sessions every few weeks when we get the chance on a weekend. This was a Christmas gift from G to M since the middle school D&D club had been a bust. But M did attend Magic the Gathering club a few weeks ago and has enjoyed that.

G was surprised when their sprints placed them among the top sprinters on the track team early in the season. This meant we added to their spike collection so they now have jumping and sprinting spikes. G even got to go to an invitational for both pole vault and the 200m early in the season. Of course, after that pole vault was ramping up so they did a lot less sprinting...so hopefully the sprinting spikes still fit next year!

The jumping spikes have a bigger heel and there's some difference in spike placement

Despite developing shin splints mid-way through the season (a common vaulter injury I'm told), G had a good season - went to metros and placed 12th while also getting a PR of 11', and just missed getting to go to districts. He could've gone as an alternate, but opted not to so that he could let his legs rest and get started on fully healing the shin splints. They are hoping to do a lot more off-season work on strength training (which will help them be able to use a longer pole and help with getting higher) and maybe working with a local pole vault club so they're ready to go for even higher PRs for their final season.

I made the chocolate raspberry mousse cake for M's birthday...and then again for G's birthday. They aren't very creative in their requests, but it's a delicious cake so I can't really blame them either!


And I made a giant batch of brownies for our office March birthdays.


We had a candy hunt on Easter again. I was most proud of this hiding place, which took them a while to notice, but wasn't the one that took the longest.


After being foiled by illness three times in our attempts to go to a baseball game, M and I finally made it to a Mariners game, and on a gorgeous weekend to boot.


Ryan finally got COVID. The kids had very mild cases last summer, I got it at the end of January, and Ryan in April. I am quite proud of us for managing to not spread it to the rest of the household on any of these instances. Ryan had to go on a work trip mid-April, he got back on a Friday and by Sunday (as we were celebrating G's birthday), he noticed he was feeling a little feverish. After dinner and cake we immediately quarantined him to our bedroom and I moved to the couch for the next ten days. I was determined to do everything I could to avoid getting it again, especially because I was due to be on call again the next week and call had been busy so I knew my colleagues wouldn't be okay if they had to pick up my week as well. It all worked out and I didn't get it and by the time the 10 days was up he was testing negative. Pretty pleased with us that we all made it so long before getting it.

G took their AP Computer Science test and is confident they did well. I started planning some college visits for this summer and fall - mainly in-state schools, one up in Canada, and California schools. We'll knock out several visits over the summer and hopefully that will get G a little more excited about the whole thing. Though they were thrilled when they discovered that UC Santa Cruz has a banana slug as their mascot.

After spending the morning at metros this past weekend, I dropped G at home and the rest of us headed to make sausage and have dinner with friends. I made another cardamom rose cake and it turned out so well this time! I may have made the icing a tad too runny, but that was better than too thick. I put ever so slightly less rose in the cake itself and only put 1/4 teaspoon in the icing and it still came through nicely.

Just a few more weeks left in the school year!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Cardamom Rose Cake

I'm the designated baker for the office, so was asked to make a treat for our February birthday celebration. I hemmed and hawed a bit about what to make, but my sister came through with a cardamom rose cake recommendation. It uses rose water, which I'd never worked with before and discovered that it's impossible to not feel like you've overdone the rose because as soon as you pour any amount into the batter the room smells strongly of rose. 

Of course, my cake pan is also a 9 inch, not an 8 inch, so I had to calculate the recipe. And I knew one co-worker wouldn't touch the cake, so also needed to make chocolate chip cookies - which served as a solid backup for everyone else as well just in case I messed the cake up horribly. None of this would've been a big deal since our lunch was on a Tuesday and usually my Mondays are pretty chill. But I'd agreed to play in a concert for another orchestra and that group rehearses on Mondays and our concert was the same week. So I found myself trying to frantically put together the cake and cookies between work and rehearsal. I managed getting the cake baked and cooling as well as making the cookie dough before I had to leave. When I got back I baked the cookies while making the glaze for the cake. Definitely messed up the glaze a bit because it was a little too stiff when I put it on the cake. So mine didn't end up as pretty as the online picture.


But adding the pistachios and rose on top helps to draw attention away from my glaze mistake!

The cake was delicious, definitely floral. I did cut the rose in the glaze down to 1/3 of what was called for and may try playing around with the amount of rose in the cake itself the next time I make it as well as increasing the lemon just a bit. Don't want to lose the rose flavor, but I think where it was at may be overwhelming for some. Overall, a very easy cake to make once you get your flavoring amounts to your taste - since it's just a single layer it only takes 40 minutes to bake and the glaze is not complicated, even though I managed to mess it up. Both this and the cookies got rave reviews from co-workers.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Mid-Winter Break

For the first time ever, I took off during the kids' mid-winter break. It's my least favorite of their breaks but we were planning to try and organize an international trip for the family - maybe to Mexico. We failed at that and then thought what we should really do is go see some colleges in California. But it took a while for G to confirm they were on board with that and then covid finally got me and after recovering from that the airfares were crazy expensive, so that idea got tabled. But since I had the time off we didn't want to waste it, so we booked a last minute stay on San Juan Island.

We headed up to Anacortes Wednesday to catch an afternoon ferry - it's a one hour ride to Friday Harbor and even though it's the off season, reservations are still needed for the ferry. It was funny to hear San Juan locals on the ferry chatting - lots of surprise at how many cars/people were on the ferry when it's not even summer yet. But also "you coming back from the doctor?" conversations and that right there is why you don't retire to/I couldn't live on the islands. A full day just to get to/from appointments is rough and it's probably smart to sign up for their helicopter ambulance service if you do live there.

We checked into our room, decided it was a little too late to fit in a hike so we wandered the town for a bit. Of course, since it was after 4 many of the shops were already closed, and there were several that were closed until spring or summer. But we did find an open bookstore and always enjoy a good bookstore wander. M got the newest Amulet book. The streets were almost completely empty while we wandered, but then we headed to San Juan Brewing for dinner - and there were actually other people there! Enjoyed some good food before walking back to our room.

The next morning we headed out for our first hike - Young Hill. This is located on the north part of the island and where the English were camped at the time of The Pig War - which M actually knew about from school! Not too hard of a hike but with a little climbing. We took a mini-detour to a cemetery part way up the hill.




Some of the land in the distance is Canada.


When we got back down the hill, I very unexpectedly ran into a former coworker - she'd moved to Portland so it was surprising that we both ended up visiting the island the same week! It was fun to catch up before heading back to town to find some lunch. After lunch we headed out for our second hike - a longer one at 4 miles, but mostly flat. Despite being mostly flat, the area was called Mount Finlayson. This hike was on the southern part of the island, closer to the American camp during the Pig War.



The first half of this hike was mostly in the open, with flat grassland, while the second half was more forested with occasional opportunities to detour to the beach. We opted against the beach detours since M was getting tired. We could've detoured to one of the two lighthouses on the island as well, but that would've added more time to the hike than we had. After getting back to town we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner - another instance of being pretty sure the town is completely dead and only as we got to the door of the restaurant did it become clear that there were many people there. 

The next morning we had an early checkout, but our ferry back didn't leave until the afternoon so we had some time to kill. We started off by heading to Bakery San Juan for breakfast - delicious pastries and if we did live there I'm sure we'd go to this place often because their loaves of bread and cakes were so tempting. Then we headed to the Whale Museum. Lots of informative things there, but definitely a little dated in their presentation. After the Whale Museum we headed to the San Juan Island Sculpture Park. 

This is titled "Grumpy Man" and made me laugh

These fishnet sheep were delightful - they're intended to be used as footstools apparently!

My feet were already very wet by this point so I didn't want to walk through the mud to see this cool jellyfish any closer

I forget the name of this one, but it's supposed to be something new breaking through the old

We still had a couple hours left so hung out at San Juan County Park, where my phone got confused an thought I'd entered Canada. There is a little beach area below the main park that you can go to and then we also enjoyed clambering on the rocky bluff. There are several campsites with views of the strait.

We headed to the ferry line and back home. G had stayed home so they could attend a rocketry club event but also completed some fine-tuning of their college list while we were gone, so we actually need to plan our college visit trips now.

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!