The journey begins…

It’s a funny thing about time zone changes.  You can think you’re totally fine… and then all of a sudden you’re not.  I think that’s what happened to me on Monday and on Tuesday of this week after getting back from England and Ireland.  Both days I woke up at 5am and felt great.  I went for a run, got ready for work, worked productively all day, and felt great… and then all of a sudden at 4pm I crashed.  I guess that’s what happens when you go on a 9 day vacation eight time zones away, are on the go the entire time you’re there, and then go back to work the day after you return!  However, it was a wonderful trip, so I don’t mind a little jetlag for a few days.  :)

Mike and I left for London Heathrow on Thursday evening at 6pm.  Both of us were too busy at work to do much preparation for leaving which basically meant that the night before we left we didn’t have anything done… including reserving a hotel room for at least the first night, planning out any of our activities, or even packing.  The one thing that I was extremely well-organized regarding was Piper.  I made sure that her cat sitter was lined up well in advance, I got the key to the cat sitter early along with a long list of instructions for caring for Piper (probably long enough that the cat sitter rolled her eyes when she read it), got Piper’s food all set out on the counter along with paper plates, plastic bags, all her toys, and anything else I could think of that her cat sitter might need.  Wednesday was technically our last day at work, so Wednesday night after work I sat down to plan.  After two hours of pricing hotels, I realized that any hotel in London is just expensive just because it’s in London.  Once I accepted that, I was much better prepared to find an appropriate hotel.  Basically I wanted one that was reasonably inexpensive, had bookings available for at least the first several days of our trip, had pretty good reviews (after all, we didn’t want to come back with bed bugs), and was within walking distance of the downtown area.  I eventually settled on the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Westminster.  (In case you’re wondering where Mike was during the hotel selection, we each have our responsibilities where our travels are concerned.  Mine include doing planning, organization, logistics, and navigation.  Mike’s include driving manual in a right-hand drive car on the left-hand side of the road.  More on that later!)  Our flight out of Seattle was at 6:30pm on Thursday evening, so both of us took Thursday off to give ourselves time to pack.  We ended up pretty much counting out socks and underwear and other clothing for the number of days we’d be gone and throwing them in our rolling suitcases.  We deliberately left out a lot of toiletries because they’d just slow us down going through security and customs and we figured we could buy anything we needed in London.  We finally got out the door around 4pm and there was a lot of traffic getting to the airport so by the time we actually reached SeaTac it was almost 4:30pm.  I was in high-intensity mode and was in a hurry to get through security to make sure we didn’t miss our flight, but we got through security in 15 minutes and then had to wait for an hour and forty-five minutes for the plane to start boarding.  We left Seattle a little late, but since we were flying directly to Heathrow without any connecting flights, we weren’t concerned about that.

Long flights are hard for me.  I’m the type of person who has difficulty sitting through a two-hour movie without a break, so nine hours of basically being chained to a small, cramped chair isn’t really my thing.  Mike has a hard time sleeping on planes, so he doesn’t like long, red-eye flights either.  We watched an episode of Game of Thrones that I had downloaded on my Kindle Fire and we watched American Hustle which was one of the free movies offered on the plane… but that still only took up about three hours.  I watched most of the movie Frozen, but towards the end the sound started cutting out on the plane which hampers my enjoyment of a musical.  :)  After four and a half hours Mike and I tried to sleep but we weren’t very tired (likely because we both drank coffee at the airport with dinner right before leaving Seattle).

It’s always a strange feeling flying east because we’re flying away from the sun and keep crossing time zones and getting further and further ahead of Seattle time.  By the time we reached London we’d gone so far forward it was Friday at noon.  We were both really tired and in danger of crashing, but it helped a lot that the London weather was bright and sunny.  Plus we still had to figure out how to get from Heathrow to downtown London.  (No, we didn’t get that figured out before we left… we somehow just figure things out as we go and so far it’s been fine.  One of these trips it may come back to bite us, but this wasn’t that trip.)

We found a ticket counter for bus tickets at the airport and asked the man there how to get to Westminster.  He told us we could just take the Underground.  That sounds slightly ominous or secretive or something, but basically it’s just London’s huge, extensive subway system.  We discovered that whereas Seattle has Orca cards for use on public transportation, London has Oyster cards.  Pretty similar!  We each bought an Oyster card at the airport after changing some dollars for British pounds.  We followed the signs for the Underground and got on the Piccadilly line headed west and transferred at a station called Hammersmith.  When we got off the train at Hammersmith, which happened to be an above-ground station, we were shocked by how wonderful the weather was.  I actually took off my coat just because it was so warm which is pretty unusual for me.  We waited patiently, eyes squinting in the sun, until the District line came along to take us to Westminster.  While waiting, we saw a teenage boy help an old woman with her suitcase as she got off the train.  Helpfulness, common courtesy, and a strong sense of the good of the community rather than solely the individual were common themes throughout our trip, both in England and in Ireland!

We got off the subway at Westminster feeling pretty exhausted and really ready to find our hotel and crash.  As we walked up the stairs from the subway we walked right into view of a giant gothic cathedral-looking building.

Our first sight on emerging from the Under

Our first sight on emerging from the Underground

We felt like we’d stepped out of the subway into another world!  Without knowing much about British landmarks or buildings, we guessed that it was Westminster Abbey (we were in the Westminster district after all, right?).  As it turned out, what we were actually looking at was the Parliamentary buildings and Westminster Abbey was around the corner.

We also saw this... Mike had to tell me that it was Big Ben... apparently that's how jetlagged I was.  :)

We also saw this… Mike had to tell me that it was Big Ben… apparently that’s how jetlagged I was. :)

Both the parliamentary buildings and Big Ben looked gorgeous and helped us to get a second wind of energy.  Which was a good thing because the wide sidewalks were PACKED with people and navigating through them was exhausting!  The Thames wound around the Parliamentary buildings just to our left, but the bridge crossing the Thames was literally so thronged with people that I doubted our ability to get our suitcases through the crowd.  I wondered if there was something special going on, but as it turned out that’s just always the way that Westminster is.  People EVERYWHERE!  If it’s not tourists, it’s parliamentary members, members of the press, people working in the district, etc.  I only had a fuzzy idea where our hotel was in relation to the subway station, and both of us had cellular data turned off on our cell phones to avoid roaming charges, so after a few moments of looking at street signs we decided it was time to just find a cab!  We saw a bunch of cabs, but none of them seemed to be stopping, and they were of course all on the opposite side of the road.  Eventually we found a spot on the sidewalk that was a little out-of-the-way and we were able to flag down a cab from there.  The cab driver was very friendly and knew right where our hotel was.  He expertly wove through the crazy traffic at breakneck speed, often drifting across the boundary line of the oncoming traffic when pedestrians crossed right in front of him (which they seemed to do with alarming frequency) and often veering off onto strange side roads that didn’t seem to have names and also seemed to be one-way somehow.  He also easily maneuvered a roundabout that seemed to have six exits on it.  Seriously CRAZY stuff!

When he dropped us off at the front door of our hotel, Mike turned to me.  “I don’t want to drive in London.”

I nodded.  “Me either.”  And just like that, it was decided… NO driving for either of us in London!  This is one of the great things about planning our trip as we go… if we’d already rented a car we probably would have been stuck with it.  As it was, after our tiny ten-minute taste of insane London traffic we were ready to write off cars for good.  We were both ready to walk everywhere rather than try to navigate that.  (For London anyway.  Ireland is a different story.  More on that later.)

The man who checked us in at the front desk of the hotel gave us two warm chocolate chip cookies (!) and told us how to find our room.  Five minutes later we were standing in our hotel room on the 11th floor holding two camera bags, one purse, one catch-all bag, two rolling suitcases, and two chocolate chip cookies.  We had quite a view from our room!

We could see the top of the parliamentary building from our room!

We could see the top of the parliamentary building from our room!  And the top of the London Eye ferris wheel!

And a view of modern London, complete with construction crane, in the other direction!

Modern London

Modern London

Mike, hungry after all the travel, made short work of one of the cookies while I munched an energy bar and then we belatedly decided to have a real actual meal at the restaurant in the hotel.

If Mike looks tired, it's because London is 8 hours ahead of Seattle, and we were tired!

If Mike looks tired, it’s because London is 8 hours ahead of Seattle, and we were tired!

Our waiter was very helpful and friendly and made small talk about the London marathon happening that weekend.  What!?  I didn’t know the London marathon was happening the weekend we were there!  Mike shook his head as  I instantly tried to scheme up some way that I could run it, but I am really not in shape to be doing 26.2 miles right now so I abandoned the idea around the time we got our after-dinner coffee.  I did feel twinges of jealousy every time I saw someone checking into the hotel with a London marathon checkin bag though!

We were still minus some toiletries and we had very little idea about what we actually wanted to see in London, so we decided Mike would run to a drugstore that the hotel staff told us was a couple blocks up while I did some London investigation on my Fire.  Mike came back an hour later with three separate bags and a very interesting story about how the first drugstore didn’t have what we needed so he had found a cab driver who drove him all around the area looking at various drugstores.  Mike loved the experience, and by the time he got back I had a much better idea of what there was to see in London, as well as a good sense of how the neighborhoods were laid out.  We were ready to explore! Except that by this point it was getting late.  We did the math and realized that we’d been up for almost 24 hours.  No wonder we felt pretty tired!  We decided a good night’s sleep was in order and that we’d start our exploring early the next morning.

One interesting thing of note: London felt very safe.  There were CCTV cameras everywhere, and there didn’t seem to be any drugged out people wandering the streets or anything like that.  So we would have felt safe wandering around London if we hadn’t been so tired.

I was planning on detailing our first full day in this post as well, but I’ve been wordy and this post is already long, so I’ll save that for the next post.  Definitely more pictures to come as well as well as more trip info… I have hardly even gotten into any of our actual trip yet!  :)

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Last minute details before our trip

Here we are at (t-1) days until our England trip!  We are excited, but Mike has been working really hard the past couple of weeks, so he is mostly crashing in the evening.  Because of that, I’ve done the planning for our trip so far, but we’re actually not doing a lot of planning beforehand.  We had a great time last year winging it in Italy, so that’s what we’d like to do for this trip as well.

I’ve been trying to get things done like cleaning Piper’s litterbox, setting out her food so it’s available for the cat sitter, getting all of our laundry done, etc, but this has been slightly hindered by Mike’s new obsession: Game of Thrones.  I started hearing lots of good things about this show about a year ago and it sounded like something Mike would like so I bought the first season and periodically bugged him to watch it (with no success).  However, since he was so busy at work last week and had very little energy left over to do anything I started bringing up him watching Game of Thrones again, this time with success.  Except I wasn’t planning on quite this much success.  We watched the first episode on Saturday, three more on Sunday, and then one or two every night since then.  The good news is that he loves the show, the bad news is that I really don’t have the attention span to watch (even a really good show) in a marathon manner.  In addition, the show is extremely intense and isn’t a relaxing show to watch.  Mike correctly pointed out, though, that this is really all my fault since there’s no way he would have started watching it without my influence.  We reached an agreement last night that I would watch some episodes with him and he could just briefly fill me in on the episodes he watched without me, at least until he’s recovered from the long hours at work and has energy to do things other than watch shows.

Apart from Game of Thrones and getting things ready to go, Mike and I haven’t been doing a lot.  We’ve both been busy at work trying to get work stuff wrapped up as much as possible as well.

One thing I finally got around to doing was enabling my iPhone for Europe.  It will be very expensive for me to talk on the phone in Europe, but at least I have the ability in case of emergencies.  The whole thing was more of an ordeal than I thought it would be.  I went to Verizon’s website and tried to set it up there, but I kept getting errors saying that my request couldn’t be completed and that I’d need to call Verizon.  So I called Verizon and after navigating through a complex (and pretty sophisticated) set of voice-recognition menu options I got to a point where I was told by the automated voice that my request needed to be handled by a Verizon representative and that I should remain on the line.  After a pause I was then informed (again by the automated voice) that Verizon was experiencing greater than normal call volumes and that I could stay on the line on hold but that I could get my problem solved much more quickly on the Verizon website.  Well, nope, apparently not since I already tried that.  I tried calling about five different times over the course of two days but just kept getting stuck on hold.  Finally Monday night I decided to do some Nintendo Wii Zumba while waiting on hold with Verizon.  I dialed the Verizon number and then put it on speakerphone so that I could hear when someone actually picked up.  I had just started dancing to an upbeat Latin song when I heard someone picked up.  Well that was a lot faster than the other times I’d called without doing Zumba!  I made a mental note to make sure I had the Nintendo Wii on the next time I wanted to reach Verizon.  The woman on the other end was extremely helpful although she did briefly throw me for a loop when she asked to speak to the primary account holder.

There was a pause during which I tried to come up with something to say and failed miserably.  Finally I settled for “It’s my account.”

“I understand that,” the woman said patiently as though she were used to talking to errant phone callers every day of her life.  “Would it be possible to speak to the primary account holder?”

It took a few back-and-forth iterations of “I am the primary account holder” and “I understand that.  Can I please speak to the primary account holder?” before we understood each other.  Verizon still had my maiden name in their system.  Once that was cleared up the rest of the conversation went very smoothly.  The weather was so gorgeous on Monday that Mike wanted to take some pictures from the roof of our apartment building and from across the street.  We got some good pictures on the roof, but then in a completely uncharacteristic move, Mike accidentally deleted all the pictures while he was trying to modify some configuration settings.  As I told Mike, that’s usually not something he does; it’s usually something I do and he makes fun of.  ;)

We had a pretty relaxing weekend apart from prep for our England trip.  I’m really glad I bought us each a bunch of socks last weekend because the one thing you want to have enough of during trips is socks.  For us anyway.  :)

The one thing I always hate is leaving Piper behind.  Poor girl!  She’s lying on my lap now and I would really like to move but I don’t have the heart to kick her off since I’m leaving her tomorrow.

Piper investigating the area under the bookshelf for mice

Piper investigating the area under the bookshelf for mice

I know you’re all tired of seeing pictures of Piper, but the cute yorkie puppy at work wouldn’t hold still long enough for me to get a picture so you’re stuck with Piper.  After this trip, I should have a bunch of pictures to post that aren’t Piper-related!  (And hopefully work settles down for both Mike and me as well so that we have more time and energy for going places and doing things.)

Piper on the bed... last Piper pic for awhile!

Piper on the bed… last Piper pic for awhile!  And you can actually barely see her anyway since she’s so dark.

On Sunday night I made sloppy joes, and Mike’s been enjoying those each night since then.  Some things he just doesn’t get tired of and sloppy joes always seems to be one of them.  I need to figure out how to freeze the rest before we leave, but that will probably just be something I google tonight.  :)

Before Mike discovered Game of Thrones but after he was too tired from work to do anything besides watch shows, we watched Rushmore, a Wes Anderson movie.  We had just watched the Grand Budapest Hotel a couple weeks earlier, so I guess we were in a Wes Anderson mood.  It was interesting and, given that it was one of his first movies, it was interesting to get a sense of the early Wes Anderson work vs his current work.  If you enjoy Wes Anderson movies you’ll probably enjoy Rushmore.  Otherwise you won’t.

I have been steadfastly sticking with running even though my pace is still slower than it was in the fall and I typically feel tired during my runs, particularly if I try to quicken my pace.  Tonight though I was on a treadmill in the workroom listening to trance (thank you Armin Van Buuren) and I felt like I was flying.  And most importantly, I felt strong.  Like half-marathon kind of strong (which is probably just as well since I’m registered for a half marathon this fall).  Sure, I was a little breathless and my legs were a little tired, but mostly I was just flying.  That’s a great feeling.  That makes all of the hard runs worth it.  And there have been plenty of those lately.  I did hill intervals late last week, and those were HARD.  Mostly because Seattle hills are intense.  I ran up a big hill and then down a slightly less big hill into Wallingford, through Wallingford, and then back around to the apartment building.  And that big hill was a half-mile steep hard hill.  Here’s a shot from that run:

A night run in Wallingford

A night run in Wallingford

I realize that the picture is not great, but it’s so much better than my old iphone.  With that if I tried to take a picture at night it just turned out completely black.  With this one you can see the mass of lights in the middle that is the lights of Seattle.  You can even see the Space Needle (the small bright light directly above the parked car just above the horizon).

I hope everyone has a wonderful week and a half… Mike and I will take a lot of pictures in England!  :)

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The luxury of new socks and spare vacuum cleaner batteries

I feel like I haven’t written a blog post in a long time.  Probably because it actually has been a long time.

Mike flew back to Michigan for a very quick trip last weekend for his Mom’s birthday and to help his parents move.  Even though it seems like that would make the weekend less busy for me, it actually felt much busier.  I used the time to do a lot of things that I normally don’t find the time to do.  For instance I drove to the outdoor University Village mall and stocked up on laundry detergent.  That was the only thing I bought at the grocery store there and I felt a little conspicuous buying four jugs of it.  But it was on sale, and I NEVER feel like carrying laundry detergent home from the store, so Saturday was laundry detergent day.  I used the self checkout, partially because it’s faster and partially because I felt a little ridiculous buying four jugs of laundry detergent and nothing else.  Of course Murphy’s Law took over and the machine I was using completely froze and I became the spectacle of the self-checkout lane.  Not a big deal by any means, but a little amusing in that ‘Murphy’s Law’ kind of way.

I also decided that it was the week for buying Socks.  I know that sock-purchasing probably sounds run-of-the-mill and not particularly eventful but this is only if you don’t have to struggle every morning to find a matching pair of socks without the beginnings of holes in it.  Or if you don’t have to make sure to do laundry at least every three days because you really don’t have more than three days worth of good socks.  (This problem has been getting worse over time since, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our washing machine and/or dryer seems to eat socks at a rate of about one or two socks a week.)  So basically I went sock-crazy.  I bought Mike a 10-pair pack of socks plus a 3-pair pack of socks in a different style.  I bought myself two 5-pair packs of socks.  It’s funny… this past week Mike has mentioned three times about how nice it is to just open his sock drawer and know that he has a bunch of pairs of socks in there.  It really is a wonderful feeling.  Definitely one of those small things that makes a huge difference.  :)

Mike had a good trip to Michigan, but came home with a cold.  I think the cold weather and the stress of making a long trip over just a few days probably wore down his immune system, because he typically never gets sick.  Fortunately he kicked it pretty quickly, but he’s been sleeping more the past week to recover.

It occurred to me yesterday that nothing has happened in terms of the blog redesign I kept promising.  That is still on Mike’s and my todo list, but we had some snags.  First of all, work got really busy for both of us.  Even though I’m confident everyone reading this blog is tired of hearing that work is busy, it still puts a damper on getting other non-work things done.  The second problem is that Mike and I had a disagreement about the picture of me for the front page of the blog.  He wanted to use one and I didn’t like it.  That was about the sum total of the disagreement.  :)  I know it sounds small, but we never really reached a resolution on that, so we stopped moving forward.  I’m hoping that spring will bring a new blog header… once our work settles down and we’ve gone to England.

Speaking of work, it is still busy but it’s no longer as hectic for me and it’s getting less hectic for Mike.  Definitely thankful for that.  I always like it when things fall out such that I’m spending more time at work in the winter and less in the summer.  All things being equal when it’s cold and rainy and dark anyway, why not be working?  And when it’s sunny and warm and the days are longer, why be working?  That’s pretty much my philosophy anyway, and strangely the past couple of years it’s worked out that way that my projects have been busiest during the winter.

Speaking of the England/Ireland trip, Mike and I are getting geared up to go!  I bought a new iPhone which will not only allow me to take MUCH better pictures, but will also allow me to actually talk on the phone in Europe (albeit pretty expensively).  But still.  Very good for emergencies.  My old iPhone is CDMA-only and can’t communicate on the European GSM networks.  Both Mike and I also got haircuts.  I’m not sure why, but we always do this a few weeks before going on vacation.  Maybe we want to make sure we look good in the pictures we take?  Or maybe we have a deeply-rooted fear that there won’t be hair salons at our destination?  Or maybe we know there will be hair salons but have deeply-rooted fears around what hair stylists in our destination local will do to our hair?  I’m really not sure.  :)  That’s just one of those things we do before going on vacation.  I’ve also started to look up the weather in England and Ireland, and it is remarkably similar to the weather in Seattle.  So remarkably so, in fact, that it’s almost identical right down to the misty rain.  At least we won’t be in a strange climate!  :)

Did anyone hear about the helicopter crash at the Seattle Center?  It was briefly on the front page of msn and yahoo.   Crazy!  A television helicopter was coming in to land on the landing pad on top of the Seattle center and missed.  How tragic!  And less than a mile from the building where I work!  Having said that, I was at work at the time of the crash and I didn’t hear anything at all.  There was a lot of smoke in the South Lake Union area though.

I was also surprised to hear about a huge mudslide over our main interstate, I-5, about 60 miles north of Seattle.  Wow!  It’s terrible, and it sounds like a lot of people are still missing.

I’ve been cooking a little lately.  I made Mike some banana bread and some beef stew.  It had been a long time since he’d had beef stew and since it’s been a little rainier lately, that seemed like a good time for beef stew.  I’ve also been using the Vitamix pretty regularly (although I don’t know that that counts as cooking!)  Mike and I had a friend over for dinner last night and I made a lemon chicken and potato recipe that both she and Mike really liked.  I’m glad it turned out so well!  I made some small modifications to the recipe.  For instance, it’s painful to grate lemon peel with a cheese grater (which is the only grating tool I have), so instead of 2Tbsp of fresh lemon juice and 2 of fresh lemon zest, I added 4Tbsp of lemon juice and barely one of lemon zest.  I also threw in a couple extra cloves of garlic because really when can you have too much garlic?  I also made a spinach strawberry salad, but I cheated on the dressing part and bought some raspberry dressing instead of making the dressing in the recipe.

As mentioned, one day last week I got my hair cut and highlighted, and Mike picked me up when it was over.  I fully appreciated that, particularly since it was raining.  I had just spent two hours at the hair salon, but Mike said, “So… do you want to be taken home or somewhere else?”

I was instantly suspicious.  And rightly so, since “somewhere else” turned out to be Lowe’s.

“Do we have to?” I asked.  “Can’t we go somewhere else?  Maybe even Home Depot?”

I should probably clarify here that Mike and I have an outstanding (semi) joke about Lowe’s.  I maintain that it’s the store most likely to bore people to death (namely, me), and that Home Depot runs it a close second in that category.  I can’t help it… there is absolutely nothing of interest to me there.  I can look at the shiny new stainless steel appliances for about two and a half minutes… but then I get bored.  Mike of course disagrees and thinks Lowe’s is a store with multiple interesting things in literally every aisle.

“No, Lowe’s,” Mike said, clearly in a good mood.

“What do you need from Lowe’s?” I asked, still hoping there was a chance to escape a Lowe’s trip by thinking of somewhere else to get whatever item Mike needed.

“A spare vacuum cleaner battery.”

He had me there… I had no idea where to get a vacuum cleaner battery.  “A what?  Our vacuum cleaner plugs in.”

“No, not that the big vacuum cleaner.  The small hand-held one.  I just got a promotion, and I want to celebrate by going to Lowe’s and getting a vacuum cleaner battery.”

(Mike did get promoted by the way… yay Mike!  He’s a senior engineer now!)

Of course there was no way that I could decline going to Lowe’s when it was a trip for his promotion, so off to Lowe’s we went.  I stopped in the ladies room on the way in and then came out and tried to locate Mike.  I walked up and down aisles and couldn’t find him anywhere.  I tried looking for vacuum cleaner batteries, but I didn’t know how to find those either.  I found vacuum cleaners pretty easily, but the little handheld one we had didn’t seem to be located with the other big, upright ones, so finding them didn’t help me find Mike.  After another couple of minutes of wandering, I saw a giant sign at the other end of the store that said “TOOL WORLD”.  I doubted vacuum cleaner batteries could be found there, but I was pretty sure Mike could.  Sure enough I found him browsing tools there.  On the way back home while driving through the misty Seattle rain Mike turned to grin at me.

“A promotion and a vacuum cleaner battery… life is good.”  I don’t get quite the delight out of vacuum cleaner batteries that Mike does, but I’m very proud of him for his promotion.

This is completely random and out-of-the-blue, but I can’t believe the new American Eagle line of clothing for dogs called American Beagle.  I’ve been pretty resilient about continuing to shop at American Eagle despite the fact that they’re marketing is geared towards people in a different decade of their lives than I am, but I don’t know if I can bounce back from this.  I should dress to match my dog?  Really??  I laugh every time I think about it.  :)

I’ve been mixing my running between outdoors (on nice spring-like days) and on the treadmill.  A gym just moved in to the commercial retail space on the bottom floor of Mike’s and my apartment building, and I’m convinced that they have a deal with our apartment building to encourage everyone in the building to join the gym instead of using the apartment building’s fitness room.  For one thing, the workout room always seems to be out of paper cups.  The water cooler in the room really doesn’t benefit anyone if there aren’t any cups to drink the water from.  Then a couple of weeks ago (around the time when the new gym was starting to offer memberships) the television disappeared from the workout room.  It wasn’t actually replaced by anything, so there was just a bare spot on the wall where the TV had gone.  Strange!  Fortunately I almost never watched the TV anyway.  Also, given that many times one of the other residents had it turned on to a loud sports channel, I actually probably lucked out that it’s been removed.  :)

My outdoor runs have been just gorgeous!

I-5 bridge over Lake Union

I-5 bridge over Lake Union

I guess I was in a bridge mood when I went on this run, because I also got a picture of a small walking bridge across Lake Union.

Walking bridge over part of Lake Union

Walking bridge over part of Lake Union

Mike and I had a friend of ours over Saturday night so we got our apartment nice and clean prior to her arrival.  Mike has done a lot of work at our apartment making sure that there’s a place for everything (I think he learned this from the manufacturing environment he works in), so it’s actually very easy to clean our apartment now.  Or rather it’s pretty clean most of the time.  That makes it so easy to have people over because we can just spend an hour or two doing a deep-clean of the bathroom or something else relatively easy and isolated.

I hope everyone is having a good weekend!  Mike and I are trying to get geared up for another week at work!  And Piper, who had a busy day yesterday watching us clean and vacuum, has been sound asleep all day.  It’s definitely a tiring life for her!

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Filed under Apartments, Cooking, Family, Food, Friends, Running, Seattle, Winter, Work

Where can I find a petition against heavy metal doors?

Last weekend Mike and I actually spent quite a bit of time working.  It made this week much easier and more relaxing, so it was definitely worth it.  Mike got so wrapped up in his work, though, that it was difficult to get him extricated long enough to even eat or have a conversation or eat any food.  Crazy!  I get focused on work, but not that focused!  :)  The good news was that because of that weekend, I got the first version of my software released and Mike got the modifications he wanted done to his software.  This past week has still been very busy getting everything cleaned up and released, but both Mike and I are starting to see the light at the end of our respective work tunnels.

The only bad thing about having kept my Michigan phone number for my cell is that when I get wrong numbers they typically occur based on the three-hour-time-difference Eastern Standard Time zone.  Practically what this means is that occasionally my phone rings at 5am because someone who is up bright and early in Michigan is making a business call and is awake enough to make the call but tired enough to get a couple digits wrong.  This happened to me Thursday morning at 5:09am.  I blearily looked towards my cheerily ringing phone but was in a sleep too deep to really fully awaken.  I stumbled up and reached for the phone but it stopped ringing just as I got to it.  I got a drink of water, trying to resolve the dream I’d been having to reality now that I was awake but without the mental capacity of a truly awake person.  I noticed that there was a voicemail on my phone from the call, so I listened to it.  A man who was way more perky than anyone should be in the morning was cheerfully apologizing to Cathy Phillips for not having gotten back with her sooner.  He followed up with “Please give me a call whenever it’s convenient for you.”  For a full half second I considered calling him back to at least let him know he had the wrong number and Cathy wasn’t going to get his message.  Only for half a second though.  He sounded so perky I really didn’t feel quite ready for that kind of intensity at 5:11am.

On Wednesday when I was coming home from work with two bags of groceries and a giant backpack housing two laptops.  (I seriously feel more like a pack mule than a person most days during my commute.)  I paused at the bottom door of the stairwell, balanced both bags of groceries in one hand, and braced myself to pull the huge (HEAVY!) metal door open.  I have to take a quick rabbit trail here to talk about these doors.  I have likely complained about these doors in the past because they are heavy to the point where it’s ridiculous.  Heavy to the point where I can do pushups for a full minute but my heart always sinks at the thought of yanking that three-inch think door open and keeping it open long enough to get myself and any bags I’m carrying through before it crashes shut with a resounding echo that can be heard for miles.  Or at least heard anywhere else in the hallway.  It also means that practically almost no one holds the door open for anyone else because, let’s face it, it’s hard enough to keep that giant behemoth open long enough to get yourself through, much less anyone else.  I suspect that the whole process of men opening doors for women happened during the middle ages when the doors of the aristocracy were not drastically different from the doors in my apartment (although probably made out of wood instead of metal!).  If all doors were as heavy as the stairwell doors I would definitely appreciate someone opening doors for me in a way that I really can’t fully appreciate with skinny little glass doors that are found everywhere else.  But anyway, I’m digressing pretty intensely.  I reached out to the pull the door open while bracing myself and my bags to accomplish the pull, and somehow my hand slipped on the big metal handle as I was pulling the door.  This resulted in the door crashing closed again before I’d gotten through it, but not before its metal handle had hit my hand pretty hard.  It was painful and my index finger swelled up instantly despite the cold water I soaked it in as soon as I got up to the apartment.  Over the next 7 days my finger turned various shades of red, green, and purple and has finally managed to heal now.  Seriously… is there a petition to ban doors above a certain weight and/or those with hinges so similar to jaws that you can barely get the door open long enough to get through before they snap on you?  And if so, where do I sign??

However, apart from my colorful index finger, things have been going well.  Mike and I decided to have at least a little more fun this weekend.  Friday night we went out to University Village.  It was raining and University Village is an outdoor mall, but we spent most of our time inside, so it was fine.  We stopped by the camera store so Mike could look at a new camera by Panasonic.  He was interested and spent some time taking pictures with it in the store to get a feel for it.  He’s very interested in its ability to operate in lower light with more noise reduction than his current camera.  After the camera store, we headed to the Apple store (can anyone guess where this is going yet?), and I bought a new silver iPhone 5S.  How exciting!!  I took pictures with it a lot yesterday, and the pictures are SO MUCH better than they were with my old iPhone 4.  So now I’m basically ready for our England trip.  :)  It was also kind of a present to myself after all the time I’ve put into work the past couple of months.  Mike may be getting that camera as a present to himself after all of the work he’s been putting in as well… we’ll see.

Then we went to Boom Noodle and just had a relaxing dinner.  One bowl of vegetarian pho and one bowl of coconut curry later, and Mike and I were headed home in the rain.  We also went to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Wes Anderson movie.  I think it gets released for all theaters next weekend, but it’s showing in select theaters this weekend.  One of the select theaters was the Guild 45th about a mile from our house, so we definitely wanted to go.  When we got there, we found out that there were only 50 seats left for the showing we wanted to see, and the later showing was completely sold out.  Apparently everyone else in Wallingford wanted to see the new Wes Anderson movie a week before it hit all theaters too.  Mike and I managed to find a couple of seats way in the back off to the left, but we were still able to see the screen perfectly.

Wes Anderson movies are always entertaining and visually stimulating.  You’re never able to predict what’s going to happen, either, since his plots take bizarre twists and turns, and I feel like subconciously that actually allows you to relax and enjoy the movie more.  Many times when I see movies I feel myself expending mental energy trying to figure out how the movie will end and what (usually predictable) twists and turns will occur in the process.  With Wes Anderson movies, you have no idea what will happen, so you just relax into your seat and enjoy the completely unexpected twists of the story.  In addition, Wes Anderson’s use of stylistic elements and vivid colors are gorgeous nuggets to be processed by your brain, making me feel like my brain is forming new neural pathways just to process the images I’m seeing.  Anyway, suffice it to say that Mike and I typically really enjoy Wes Anderson movies.  And The Grand Budapest Hotel was no exception.  There were a few actors in it I wasn’t expecting to see (like Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park), as well as lots of actors I’d never seen before.  The story was full of strange turns of events and, even though it was told with the typical Wes Anderson levity, it had a depth that had Mike and me awake at midnight that night discussing life and morality implications of some of the items dealt with in the movie.  I would definitely recommend it if you’re a Wes Anderson fan.  If you don’t like his other movies though, I would be shocked if you liked this one as it’s very true to his style.

Here’s a picture of Mike from the new iPhone camera… notice how clear it is and how natural the lighting looks!  LOVE it!  :)

Mike at a camera store

Mike at a camera store

If you’re wondering about the guy behind Mike with the purple hair, that is not a defect in my camera’s light sensor; his hair is actually that color.  This is a picture taken in Seattle.  Nonstandard hair colors are to be expected.  You’re just lucky there aren’t any unicycles in this picture given that Seattle seems to have a disproportionately large percentage of unicycles compared to other cities I’ve been in.  Maybe because the traffic on I-5 is so slow you have to find alternate methods of transportation?  I’m not sure.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!  Mike and I have housework on the agenda today because we’ve let it go a couple of weeks in a row.  I’ve already cleaned Piper’s litterbox and done some cleaning in the kitchen and living room.  Next up is sorting through junk mail… lots of fun!  ;)

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Filed under Apartments, Life in Seattle, Rain, Random Thoughts, Seattle, Seattle Restaurants, Work

Broken eggs and a missing coffee mug

I’ll be honest, readers.  Sometimes I sit down to write a blog post and I find myself with literally nothing to say.  Much of Mike’s and my productive hours are spent at work.  We’re definitely getting the whole ‘working as an engineer’ thing down, him as a hardware engineer and me as a software engineer, but that doesn’t leave much time (or energy) for lots of fun outside-of-work activities that make for good blog reading.  This past few months have been especially difficult since both Mike and I have been completely swamped at work.  We both see lights at the end of our respective tunnels, but we have been working hard.  Thus if you’re interested in hearing about how Singletons are implemented in Ruby, how symbols are basically immutable strings, or how modules are used to create namespaces, I’m your girl.  If you’re interested in hearing the details of the four hours on Friday I spent interviewing SDE intern candidates, I’m your girl.  If you’re interested in anything that’s actually a part of a real, ordinary, fun-loving person’s life, I might not be your girl.  At least not lately.

So where does that leave the blog?  As you may have noticed in the past, most of the things I talk about on the blog involve day-to-day things, which often make up the high points of my day (or even week!).  So today, I’m going to focus on those.  Yay for the small pieces of normal, everyday life that are so wonderful, and I feel so blessed for!

* Mike drank coffee this morning and then went to take a shower.  I washed the dishes while he was showering, washed the coffee maker, and looked for his empty coffee mug so that I could wash that too.  I absolutely couldn’t find it.  Either I’m blind or it’s just not here.  Or he broke it and hid the pieces in the trash?  Or he took it into the shower with him?  He’s never done that… but where is that coffee mug??

* On Tuesday night I made chili.  I thought it was delicious, but despite the fact that I didn’t add the crushed red pepper flakes Mike claimed it was too spicy.  I argued that I didn’t have anything even remotely spicy in it (except for chili powder which is in all chili by definition), but Mike insisted I must have snuck in some additional spice.

* On Friday I stopped at the grocery store on the way home, and one of the things I bought was a carton of a dozen eggs.  As I walked out of the grocery store, I accidentally swung the bag containing the eggs too close to the door, and the bag hit the door.  I cringed, hoping that the eggs were surviving.  I then proceeded to accidentally hit the bag containing the eggs with the other bag (containing heavy stuff like a bag of apples) while trying to do some kind of acrobatic move to switch the bags between my hands.  I cringed again.  This was bad.  It was getting less and less statistically likely that I was going to get all twelve of those eggs home in one piece (or rather in twelve respective pieces).  The bus was completely packed; it was standing room only, and we were packed in like sardines.  I was sandwiched between about four people and had the bag with the eggs carefully balanced on my wrist trying to make sure it didn’t hit anything.  The guy in front of me decided to be nice to the other passengers in front by backing up closer to me without watching where he was going.  While I fully appreciated his altruism in trying to make room for the other passengers up front it was all I could do to keep from shouting, ‘GET AWAY FROM MY BAG!’  The funny thing is that even if I had, I don’t think anyone would have thought twice about it.  If you ride the bus in Seattle, you encounter all kinds of characters, and even yelling in the middle of the bus I probably wouldn’t have attracted too much attention.  Now, if I was yelling in the middle of the bus, wearing a pair of Rainbow Brite striped colored stockings up to my waist, had purple dreadlocks, was wearing a tribal necklace that hung down to my knees, and was carrying a woven basket filled with squirming ferrets, I might have warranted a couple glances.  But as it was?  Certainly not.

Anyway, I digress.  When I got off the bus I managed to hit the bag again against the side of the bus in an effort to avoid hitting it against the other passengers.  Aaaaahhhh!  At this point I was just hoping that my eggs would be broken in pairs and I wouldn’t be left with some stupid number of eggs like nine.

I pulled open the door of our apartment building, and because it is so heavy and hard to pull (particularly when you’re pulling it one-handed as I was), it bumped the bag again before I got myself and both grocery bags through the door.  This was becoming ridiculous.  It was getting into sitcom territory.  I could almost hear the canned laugh tracks as I hit the bag yet again.  At this point I was just viewing any unbroken eggs as a bonus.  The elevator finally arrived to take me up to my floor and I realized I was sweating profusely (whether because of carrying a heavy backpack and two bags of groceries on an almost-60-degree day or because of the stress of worry about my carton of eggs, I wasn’t sure).  When I finally dropped the bags gratefully on the floor of my kitchen I almost didn’t have the heart to check on my eggs.  I finally decided to peek in because my imagination was going crazy with images of yolks dripping all over.  Imagine my surprise when not a single egg was broken.  WOW to the engineering of both eggs and egg cartons!  :)

* When Mike saw a picture of a regal looking Dominique rooster in a magazine, he paused on the picture and stared at the chicken for several moments.  Then he held out the magazine for me to see.  “That is quite a bird!” he said.  And for some reason I couldn’t stop laughing at his admiration of the humble chicken.

* Mike did some organization in his music room one night this week and he and I spent an hour coiling all of his unused cables.  We spent so much time coiling cables that my wrist was sore for two days afterward.  The joys of being in your thirties.  :)

* Lately I have been loving Stash teas.  They’re based out of Portland, and I love their holiday teas so I stocked up on some right after Christmas.  (Who cares that I’m drinking ‘Christmas Eve in Paris’ tea in March, right?)

* Piper has been a very clingy cat lately.  I’m not sure why.  It’s almost as if she knows we’ve booked tickets and will be going on vacation in a month.  She also loves laser pointers.  With a passion.

* Last weekend we watched a move called Blue Jasmine with Cate Blanchett.  She is SUCH a good actress.  It was a very interesting Woody Allen movie that told the story of a woman whose very rich husband participated in shady Wall Street dealings and then ended up getting caught and thrown in prison and she suddenly found herself penniless, on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and moving to the west coast to stay with a sister she didn’t really know well or relate to.  There were definitely some interesting elements to the story, and I always like watching Cate Blanchett as well.  I found out afterwards that she just won an oscar for her role in Blue Jasmine, and I can definitely see why.  She played the part to perfection.

* The last couple of mornings when I’ve been waiting for the bus I’ve seen flocks of geese flying over, headed north.  So it looks like the geese have decided that winter is over!  (Take heart Michigan family and friends who have seen enough snow this winter alone to last you a lifetime.)  I’ve also been noticing birds singing enthusiastically in the mornings.  I never realize until spring how silent the birds are during the winter.  But then in the spring it seems like they all awaken as one and start chirping and singing their little hearts out.  Piper is fascinated by them and spends a significant amount of time watching them from the window, I’m sure with less than charitable thoughts despite being an indoor cat with no front claws.

Last Saturday night we took a break from the work we were doing and went to University Village, an outdoor mall near the University of Washington.  We were there to have dinner, and I was considering getting the new iPhone.  We ate dinner at Boom Noodle, one of our favorite restaurants in the area, and just relaxed.  I love the ambience there!  Mike had hardly eaten anything that day because he’d been so busy cleaning and organizing, so he was hungry!  He ended up getting a hazelnut toffee crepe for dessert.  Boom Noodle has partnered with their next-door neighbor Tokyo Sweets to offer a variety of sweet crepes for dessert.  Mike has had a couple of them over the past year or so and says they are really good.  By the time we’d finished dinner, though, I had decided to wait on the new iPhone.  I just bought the plane tickets for England and Ireland, so I decided I still wanted to wait and save up some more money before buying the iPhone.

Speaking of our England and Ireland trip, we have made significant progress in the planning stages of the trip.  For starters, we bought airline tickets (which basically guarantees that we have hard dates we’re going), made sure that Piper’s usual catsitter is available during those dates, and we have both asked for the time off from work.  We’re getting excited and are starting to plan out some things we want to see in both England and Ireland.  We want to balance the touristy things (i.e. Stonehenge) with visiting local places and getting a sense of the culture.  It’s hard to believe that in just a little over a month we’ll be on our way to London!  :)  We’re flying into Heathrow, which is definitely a great airport… very mall-like with a lot of stores and a lot of restaurants.  Perfect for layovers, as we found out during our Italy trip last year.  The next month we need to really focus at work to get stuff done so that we’re able to get our most critical work done before we leave.  I also need to check the temperatures in England and Ireland as our travel dates get closer so that I have some idea what the temperature will be.

Last night Mike and I were both tired from a long week at work, and it was a beautiful day (a high of 58 degrees!) so we drove to downtown Wallingford and looked for a place to have dinner.  We wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, so I suggested Djan’s.

“What kind of food do they have?” Mike wanted to know.

“Thai.  And it’s supposed to be really good.  And it’s supposed to be a really romantic place.”

Mike blinked.  “Is that what we want?  Are we a romantic couple?”

I tried to resist rolling my eyes at him, but I didn’t try very hard.  “Yes, that’s what we want, and yes we are a romantic couple.”

And that’s how we ended up at Djan’s, a Thai restaurant located in an old white house near the outskirts of Wallingford.  Djan’s didn’t have cocktails, but we had some Peter Lehmann Shiraz (me being careful not to have too much since wine doesn’t always agree with me) and just had a really relaxing dinner.  The atmosphere in the restaurant was delightful… very quaint and old-fashioned, while still somehow seeming modern.  There were some actual gas lamps positioned around the room which caused flickery shadows to dance everywhere, and every table was adorned with a little candle and a tiny vase of flowers.  We both ordered wok plates, Mike’s with beef and fried green beans, and mine with an assortment of veggies and tofu.  We got to pick our spiciness level between 1 and 5.  Mike said I should just get a 5 because Thai food wasn’t very hot.  I disagreed and got a 3.  I said Mike should get a 1, because he cannot handle spicy food, but he disagreed and got a 2.  And as it turned out, his food was a little spicy for him and mine wasn’t quite spicy enough for me.  Apparently we know each other better than we know ourselves?  :)  The food was delicious though!   SO flavorful, and perfectly paired with the Shiraz.  I read the back of the Peter Leymann wine bottle and apparently he was a beloved Australian winemaker who was a huge advocate of the local growers and just passed away last year.  He sounded like a really nice guy, so I was glad we were drinking his wine.  Our server was a very nice young guy.  He seemed young and new to the job and wasn’t sure how to pour the wine and then got a little flustered when the amount he poured for Mike and the amount he poured for me weren’t equal.  I don’t mind inexperienced waiters at all (unless they’re rude or something).  I really appreciate hard work (I feel like hard work has helped me immeasurably), and I appreciate the fact that he’s there working and learning, even if he’s struggling a little at first.

People were out in droves in Wallingford, given that it was the warmest day we’ve had all year.  It was fun just being out and about, even though we really didn’t do anything except go out for a long dinner.

I hope everyone else is enjoying their weekends!

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Filed under Cooking, Food, Random Thoughts, Seattle Restaurants, Uncategorized, Work

Insomnia and archival-grade photo paper

Last Monday night was somewhat weird and psychedelic for Mike and me.  I went to bed promptly at 10pm with thoughts of getting up early and going running.  And I couldn’t sleep.  I really couldn’t.  I tossed and turned until Mike came to bed close to midnight.

“I can’t sleep,” I informed him.

“Yeah, I’m not tired either,” he said.  We talked for awhile and then tried to fall asleep.  Neither of us had any luck and at 1:15am we were both still awake.  Since nothing was happening in the sleep department I threw off the covers, got my workout clothes on, and went downstairs to the workout room and ran on the treadmill for an hour.  Mike suggested I do Wii Zumba instead, but I figured the sure way to make sure Mike really got no sleep was to play African music loud enough to dance to.  So the treadmill it was.  It was a little weird being in the workout room all by myself in the middle of the night, but I learned a couple of really useful things.  1) The heat to the workout room turns off at night (at midnight maybe?) so the workout room gets nice and cool… perfect for when you’re running.  I think they have the heat set in that workout room too high… half the time when I go in there after work the heater is blowing from the ceiling right down on my head.  Hardly what you want when you’re already sweating like crazy.  So running after the heat had turned off was definitely a nice surprise.  2)  There are apparently no second shift workers who are fitness nuts living in the apartment building, because I literally didn’t see a soul from the time I left our apartment until the time I returned an hour later.  3)  Running at night when I can’t sleep helps reset my body.  When I got back to the apartment I took a quick shower, hopped back into bed next to an almost-asleep Mike and a very-asleep Piper, and fell asleep almost instantly.

Mondays are interesting.  I feel like they’re difficult at work for both Mike and me.  Somehow our entire brain capacity gets used up during the workday on Monday and we come home pretty tired.  Great example: yesterday was a Monday.  I came home from work and attempted to make hard-boiled eggs.  Making hard-boiled eggs is literally one of the easiest things possible to make in the kitchen.  It’s basically akin to boiling water.  Actually, it’s literally akin to boiling water.  I put the eggs in a big pot filled with water, bring it to a boil, remove it from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes, and then put the eggs in cold water.  Easy.  A couple nights ago when making eggs, however, once the water came to a boil, rather than letting the pot sit for 15 minutes with the hot water in it, I prompted dumped all the hot water out of the pot and proceeded to submerse the eggs in frigid water.  Then I returned to my computer with the vague feeling that something didn’t seem right.  Two minutes later, my brainpower apparently returned, and I realized I hadn’t actually let the eggs cook in the hot water for 15 minutes.  I tried to remedy my mistake, thinking that if I got them in hot water again maybe I could cook them in that.  In my efforts to avoid overcooking them (since they’d already been heated to boiling once), I ended up undercooking them and ended up with soft-boiled eggs in the shell.  Which are pretty disgusting, actually, since when you break the shell open, half-cooked egg yolk may splatter around you.  Fortunately I remedied the problem by carefully preparing new hard-boiled eggs tonight which turned out perfectly.  :)

Another great example of absent-mindedness brought on by a combination of a tired brain and an over-reliance on modern technology: a couple nights ago I was lost in thought while using my electric toothbrush.  It stays on for two minutes, buzzing briefly every 30 seconds to prompt you to move to the next quadrant of your mouth.  I must not have been paying attention because I missed one of the buzzes and the toothbrush shut off with me having brushed only three quadrants of my mouth.  I was left staring stupidly at the toothbrush wondering what to do with the last quadrant of my mouth.  And trying unsuccessfully to remember which of the quadrants of my mouth got brushed twice.

Since I brought up cooking (although hard-boiled eggs barely qualify), I have made a couple dishes for Mike recently.  The most recent one was a simple baked chicken recipe with a soy/garlic/lime marinade.  I doubled all of the sauce ingredients (except for the soy sauce) and I served it over rice.  Mike said it was good but it needed vegetables, so the following night I sautéed up some diced onions and red peppers and mixed those in with the already-cooked chicken and sauce.  The original may not have had vegetables, but the leftovers did!  :)

Lately I have re-discovered raw veggies and hummus.  I hadn’t had that in a long time, but to crave veggies and hummus you have to have really good hummus.  And I just found one!  If you like greek olives, this is definitely the hummus to try… it’s delicious!  Speaking of delicious, Mike

Mike has been busy the past week or so with a home project consisting of getting our TV wired up to the internet.  We were already connected to the internet, but it was via wireless and we were seeing latency and connection drops because of that.  Mike checked out the patch panel in our front closet, used a network analyzer to determine which connection in the patch panel was hooked up to the ethernet jack by the television, found appropriate cable… and the next thing I knew our TV was wired into the router without a big ugly cord stretching all the way from the TV to the router.  Awesome!  :)  I don’t all of the steps that went into making that happen but there were multiple times where I had to step over/around black cables strewn around the apartment which were ultimately connected to some digital measuring instrument or another and multiple times during which Mike was completely unavailable because of his focus on googling various electrical and network protocol things.

Piper took the chair which is why Mike is standing...

Piper took the chair which is why Mike is standing…

Piper has been loving her new laser pointer lately.  Almost every night she wants either Mike or me to play laser pointer with her.  She gets so excited that her head twitches madly when we get it out.  She’s also discovered that she likes the bookcase.

Interestingly, she's right next to a cat figurine...

Interestingly, she’s right next to a cat figurine.  And sitting on top of the mate of the candle on the left.

Usually on Fridays Mike and I are ready to just relax, but last Friday we decided to go out to a Moroccan-themed restaurant which served food prepared in a French tradition.  The restaurant was named Hunger, and the food was amazing!  Both Mike and I went for seafood entrees since apparently Morocco, being surrounded by the sea, has a history of a lot of seafood dishes.  I went with a salad with unique olives, sundried tomatoes, and very lightly smoked salmon.  Mike went all out and got seafood paella which included mussels, shrimp, and tuna in a risotto-like rice mixture.  It was all very good.  For dessert we got a scoop of homemade mint ice cream and shared it.  It totally tasted just like a fresh sprig of mint!  Very good.  Our waiter was excellent… very knowledgeable about all of the cuisine and very helpful without coming across as overbearing.  The atmosphere was amazing as well… light music playing in the background, high dark wooden ceilings, and a saying by George Eliot painted in quaint script spanning three of the ceiling beams: There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.  Presumably the restaurant was named for the quote?  It was a very pleasant and relaxing experience… I’m sure we’ll be back!

I know this picture is fuzzy... I keep thinking about a new phone with a better camera!

I know this picture is fuzzy… I keep thinking about a new phone with a better camera!

This weekend, after a months-long concentrated effort on Mike’s part, we finally got a framed picture from our wedding hung on the wall.  Mike started by going through the digitized version of the film negative, carefully removing any impurities he found due to the film.  Then he took it to Moon Photo, a hard-core picture-printing shop in the Greenwood area of Seattle.  The guy there printed out the photo on archival grade photo paper (which basically means that the picture will last longer than either Mike or me).  Then Mike and I went to a framing store near our house and picked out a frame and black matting for the picture.  Then we had the store frame it.  Then when it was ready to be picked up, we chose a spot on the wall for it, and Mike hung it up.  Crazy how much work went into that!  But it looks nice, which was what we were after, and it’s only a 5″x7″ and hung in the entry hall so it doesn’t look too prominent in our apartment.  The last thing you want people seeing when they enter your house is a giant framed photograph of yourselves.  I’m not entirely sure what kind of impression that conveys, but I’m pretty confident it’s not an impression I want to convey.

In other news, Mike and I are buying a limited membership to the Seattle symphony this year… I’m excited to hear some concerts… the couple of times we’ve gone the music has been just beautiful!

I hope everyone else is having a wonderful week so far!  :)

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Filed under Apartments, Cats, Cooking, Food

A woolly mammoth tusk and ornamental buttons

We had SNOW in Seattle on Saturday!  Crazy!  The second time in a single winter!  (I can sense everyone from the midwest sending massive eye rolls in my direction since I don’t think you guys have had less than a foot of snow all winter.)  Still, it was a big deal for Mike and me to look out of our window late Friday night and see giant fluffy snowflakes coming down!  Gorgeous and especially nice since the following day was Saturday and we could easily stay indoors until the snow melted.  The snow had melted by early afternoon on Saturday, so we were able to run a few errands.

I haven’t been cooking a lot lately, primarily because the beef in the beef stroganoff I made last week ended up too tough and I had to throw half of it out.  Cooking disappointments always result in my feeling like I’ve wasted money on ingredients and take away my motivation to cook.  I rallied a little tonight, though, and made a chicken and veggie dish.  I made modifications to it based on what I thought would be good and based on what reviewers suggested.  I added chopped garlic cloves and 1/4 cup of sliced onion.  I also used chicken broth instead of water.  Last, I added garlic powder and extra rosemary and thyme, because seriously, more spices are always better.  :)  Mike worked late today, so he ended up eating dinner in Everett before he came home so he hasn’t tried any yet, but he thought the house smelled good when he got home and he can have some heated up tomorrow night.

I asked Mike if he wanted to do anything for Valentine’s Day tomorrow and he looked at me incredulously.

“You mean celebrate the day of St. Valentine?  What’s up with him anyway?  Some saint who made love potions or something?  Why would we celebrate his day?”

I took that to mean that Mike probably didn’t want to do anything to celebrate.  ;)

Sunday was mostly a relaxation day for Mike and me although of course there were the ever-present chores like dish-washing and laundry.  Mike spent most of the afternoon in his music studio room messing with a bookshelf (this is the same bookshelf that required reinforcement last week).  He emerged around 5pm beaming and ready to talk about his project.

“How’s it going?” I asked, even though I was fuzzy on exactly what he was doing.

“I forgot how much I love I love epoxy.  This new epoxy is so much better than it used to be too.  The bottle is much higher quality,” he said.  “Can you put some dish soap in my hands so I don’t get epoxy all over the dish soap bottle?”

I complied and then he headed off to wash his hands, still happy about the current state of epoxy in the world.

Mike and I ordered new electric toothbrushes in the interest of basic human hygiene (our old ones were years old and pretty dingy).  They have arrived, but Mike said that we should run down the batteries in our current electric toothbrushes before we throw them away since batteries can be corrosive (and they’re somehow less corrosive if they’ve been drained?  I don’t really know… this is why I’m a software engineer instead of a hardware engineer).  However, running the batteries out is turning out to be much harder than either Mike or I had anticipated.  We assumed that the batteries would run out in a day or two if the toothbrush wasn’t resting in its charger, but apparently the battery chargers for those toothbrushes were better engineered than Mike and I gave them credit for.  I’ve used my toothbrush twelve times since I unplugged it (which equates to about six days), and it’s STILL going strong.  Crazy!  Mike said he’ll figure out some way to drain the batteries fully this weekend.  I suggested just repeatedly turning on the toothbrush until it stops turning on, but Mike thinks there’ll be a better way.

Speaking of Mike’s electrical know-how, I bought a laser pointer for Piper at the pet store the other day since her old one got messed up and stopped working.  Mike put in the batteries and played with Piper last evening, and Piper LOVED it.  (Note to anyone who has a cat: you must get a laser pointer.  It is so cheap and provides hours of enjoyment.)  After Mike had finished playing with Piper I asked where the spare batteries for the laser pointer were so that I could put them away safely.

Mike looked at me blankly.  “What spare batteries?”

“The laser pointer comes with three.  So there should be two spares.”

“What are you talking about?  The laser pointer takes all three.”

Now it was my turn to fix him with a blank stare.  “What?  Really?  No way.  I only put one in her last laser pointer and it worked.”

Mike rolled his eyes.  “Yeah, and it broke after a month and only worked sporadically.  You really only put one battery in it?”

“Yes… why would a tiny laser pointer take three batteries??”

“I don’t know, but the directions clearly show the steps for putting three batteries in the laser pointer.  Didn’t you look at the directions?”

I glared at him.  “Clearly that’s a rhetorical question.  You know I didn’t.  You know I don’t even read the directions for household appliances, so why on earth would I read the directions for a two-dollar cat toy?”

“I don’t know, but if you had read the directions the original laser pointer would probably still work.”

I tried my best to come up with a good retort but failed.

Speaking of cats, a friend of mine introduced me to the Simon’s Cat series of videos on youtube.com, and I am completely hooked.  Mike and I crack up watching every one of them because they remind us so much of Piper.  Here’s one of my favorites (mostly because this is exactly how Piper acts when Mike and I try to watch TV!).  :)

In other crazy Seattle news, a woolly mammoth tusk was unearthed literally three blocks from where I work and three blocks from where Mike and I used to live!  How weird is that?  If you click through, you can see pictures of it.  It is indeed mammoth, as one would expect from a woolly mammoth.

The weather in Seattle has finally gotten back to its normal (relatively) warm, drizzly, windy self, and Mike and I are back to carrying umbrellas everywhere we go.  Honestly, I’m not disappointed.  Even though it was nice seeing clear blue skies every day, it wasn’t a good trade for temperatures that were ten to twenty degrees lower than normal.

This weekend Mike and I are having a friend over for dinner, and I’ve been trying to think of something to make for dessert… any suggestions??  Preferably something easy and quick, but also something a little elegant.  Oh, and also something with few leftovers.  Now that Mike’s trying to eat healthier, he doesn’t like us keeping as much junk food in the house.  Let me know if there are any ideas!  :)

In other news, Mike and I are tentatively planning on the third week in April for our England/Ireland trip.  We’re already getting excited!  Work has been busy for both of us the past month or so (ever since the holidays, really), and I think we’re both ready for a break.  We are also very ready to see a little more of the world.  Mike’s prompting me to get a new iPhone before I go, since the new one takes pictures that are SO much better than the ones my old one takes (my old one is three years old, but keeps plugging away even though it’s much slower and needs to be rebooted much more frequently than it used to).  Also, my old iPhone can’t go on the European networks at all, whereas Mike’s newer one (and any newer one I buy) can.  I’m considering that and considering the better pictures I could be taking using it, but I’m still not in a big hurry to spend a bunch of money on one.  We’ll see!

This is a strange thing to be concerned about, but I feel like I can still smell onions and garlic on myself and my clothes since cooking up the chicken and veggies and I feel like when I go to bed tonight I’m going to make the sheets smell like onion.  But I can’t tell whether this is real, or whether I’m just paranoid.  Probably time for a shower regardless, right?  :)

I am a little annoyed with myself because I broke a button off of the cuff of my coat yesterday.  The button is primarily ornamental, except that it holds one end of an (also ornamental) strap on the cuff on.  So without the button the cuff strap flops around.  Why was I so hard on the cuff (all those trips to the grocery store where I carried heavy grocery bags on my forearms during the walk home probably didn’t help)?  Why are those ornamental buttons for ornamental cuffs even on the coat anyway?  What’s wrong with a purely functional coat that only contains buttons where it needs buttons to hold things closed?  (This is a purely rhetorical question since I of course bought the coat and thus must have been ok with the cuff button before I broke it off.)  And much more importantly than all of these questions: am I a good enough seamstress to get the button back on without it looking like a patchwork job?  (Stay tuned for the answer to this one, because I’m giving it a try this weekend.)

I almost missed the bus this morning because it was on time.  I have grown so accustomed to the bus being three minutes late that I only go down to the bus stop around the time it’s actually due.  As it was I had to make a mad sprint for the bus, but I managed to catch it so all was well.  I guess I really shouldn’t plan my morning around the bus being late anymore.  :)

One thing I’m loving this month: Starbucks tall half caff Americanos with no room.  Every Friday I treat myself to one at the Starbucks a block away from my office.  So tomorrow’s the day!  :)

I hope everyone has as wonderful weekend and let me know your favorite easy, quick dessert recipes if you have any!

Mike and Piper chilling

Mike and Piper chilling

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Filed under Cooking, Friends, Weather, Winter, Work