A Series of Unfortunate Events (actually only mildly unfortunate)

This has been a roller-coaster of a week.

Not in any ways that are too major, but in a lot of little ways.  For instance, a few days ago, Mike woke up before the alarm and got up to get a drink of water.  He didn’t turn on any lights, and the next thing I heard was the distinct sound of shattering glass.

“What happened?” I called out, even though it was pretty obvious what had happened.

“I dropped the glass,” Mike called back.

I lay in bed enjoying the warmth for three extra seconds, before I called out, “Don’t move!” and scrambled out of bed and out to the kitchen to turn on the lights.

Yup.  There was Mike, standing at the kitchen counter amid some cracked and splintered glass.  I picked up the big pieces, and Mike brushed up the small pieces on the kitchen counter.  Then Mike started vacuuming the floor around that area while I emptied Piper’s water fountain and cleaned it, since that was near where the glass had shattered.

Everything was going very efficiently until the portable air conditioner in our apartment came on, and then all the lights went out.  No more sounds… not of the air conditioner or the vacuum cleaner.  Mike and I were completely still in the darkness for a moment, and then I heard Mike’s voice.

“And that’s why we don’t run the vacuum cleaner and the air conditioner at the same time.”

“Why?”

“Because we blew a fuse.”

“Oh.  Can you fix it?”

Mike fortunately has enough flashlights around that he knew exactly where to go to find a flashlight.  And, of course, he knew exactly where the fusebox was.  He opened it and peered at the switches.  He tried flipping the one labeled ‘Kitchen’.  No dice.  He looked at the panel some more, shrugged, and flipped the one for ‘General’.  Voila!  All the lights came on.

By the time everything was said and done, Piper had a squeaky clean water fountain, we had one fewer water glass, and Mike and I just managed to get out the door for work on time.

This is just one example.

Here’s another one.

I went to a late yoga class on Monday night, and Mike offered to pick me up afterwards.  He picked me up, drove home, and parked in our parking garage.  Then he reached over to pick up his house key which was in the center console of the car… and it fell.  Apparently between the seat and the center console.

Mike pulled out a flashlight (this guy has flashlights EVERYWHERE I promise you!) and climbed around on the front seat looking for where it could have fallen.  He couldn’t find anything.  He tried again, this time from the backseat.  No dice.  After five minutes, I offered to give it a try.  Mike turned the flashlight over to me, and I essentially did a headstand on the floor in the backseat shining the flashlight every which way.  It seemed surprisingly clean under there (this is Mike’s car we’re talking about after all), but that only served to make it more obvious that the key wasn’t there.  I tried my modified headstand again, this time from the front seat shining the light back.  Still, nothing.  We tried the seat cushions.  Nothing.

Mike sighed.  “It’s probably inside of the seat.  I don’t know it could fall in there, but there is a small hole in the side where the seat belt buckle comes out.”

I looked at the small hole.  “It just seems so farfetched that it would fall in a hole that small!”

“Yeah, I know… but where else could it be?”

I sat up.  “What does that mean… you have to take the seat apart?”

Mike shrugged.

I groaned.

“Hey,” Mike said.  “Did you check under the floor mat?”

“Why would I check under the floor mat?” I asked.  “A key can’t fall under a floor mat.”

Nevertheless, I pulled up the floor mat, and Voila.  There was the key nestled under the edge of the floor mat.  I’m still not sure how it fell under there, but I guess stranger things have happened.  And when you’ve just discovered that you don’t have to actually take apart an upholstery assembly, you’re not typically in the mood to overanalyze the reasons you don’t have to.

So it’s been that kind of a week.  :)

One piece of interesting news, though, is that after many years of delay I’m FINALLY starting yoga teacher training in November!  All of the pieces fell together exactly right, so I’ll be spending some evenings and weekends taking training classes from November until late June.  I am pretty much beyond excited, and Mike has been extremely supportive.  What a guy.  ;)  I’ve started some of the reading for the class just to get a head start (because apparently there are some habits from college that die hard), but apart from that I’m just enjoying the yoga classes I’m taking and really focusing on running, since I have a half marathon to run before the training starts!  So if all goes well, I should be certified by the Yoga Alliance to teach yoga by the end of June.  Exciting!

Speaking of running, the new Brooks running headquarters is officially open in Wallingford!  I heard through the grapevine that they might be starting a running club… perfect for Mike and me!  :)

Brooks running!

Brooks running!

Mike and I have been watching Game of Thrones season 4, and there are only 10 shows in the entire season.  Kind of disappointing, given how addicting the show is.  We’ve been trying to keep ourselves to one each week so that the show lasts longer, but it’s been difficult, and we’ve already watched two so far this week so we’re not exactly batting 1000 here (1000 is a good batting score… isn’t it?  My lack of baseball knowledge is surpassed only by my lack of golf knowledge.).

Veering completely off-topic, I have noticed something really bizarre about weather.com (which I use to determine the weather rather than just looking out the window.  Because, really.  We’re living in an age of technology.  Why would I look out a window and actually interact with the physical world when I can pull out my smart phone and limit my interactions only to pixels?).  Before about a month ago, the chance of rain always displayed in increments of 10% (i.e. 10%, 30%, 90%), but recently the chance of rain started to be displayed in 1% increments.  And, furthermore and somewhat bizarrely, it is extremely likely to rain if the chance of rain is 1%.  Twice this week, while walking to work, I have gotten unexpectedly rained on even though weather.com cheerfully proclaimed that the chance of rain was only 1%.  As a computer programmer, I have a theory about the buggy code that’s causing this, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Regardless, I’m not going to get the chance to look through their code and fix it, so in lieu of that I’ve just started carrying an umbrella with me to work when the forecast calls for a 1% chance of rain.  And, really, I live in Seattle.  I should be carrying an umbrella to work every day anyway.  :)

1% chance of rain?  I don't think so...

1% chance of rain? I don’t think so…

Mike has continued to play his guitar pretty regularly.  He got some little black box that can simulate guitar amplifiers so that he can play his electric guitar at night and the sound goes into the box and from there into his headphones rather than going into his big guitar amp and potentially keeping everyone on our floor awake.  What a great invention!  (Although I enjoy listening to him play, so it’s a little bit of a bummer for me!)

Not the best pic of Mike's new guitar, but I didn't want to disturb him...

Not the best pic of Mike’s new guitar, but I didn’t want to disturb him…

 

I hope everyone else is enjoying their week!

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Filed under Life in Seattle, Random Thoughts, Running, Weather, Work, Yoga

A low-key weekend

Mike’s week-long team project for improving the manufacturing process for one of the projects he’s working on is finished!  What a relief!  He was working long hours all of last week.  And when he did come home, it was typically late and he was typically wound up and only really up for thinking about work.  Unsurprisingly after his hard work all week, he had a headache on Saturday morning.  That did make us realize that he has been getting far fewer headaches the past several months though.  It’s probably the working out and healthier eating, because he also got far fewer headaches when we were going through the P90X exercise program last year.  It’s hard to believe that it’s already been about a year since we started that program.  I still remember all of the jokes the lead trainer says in all of the DVDs even though we haven’t done any P90X workouts in probably 8 months.  It’s amazing how that stuff stays with you!  :)

Work has started relaxing a little for me, which has been really nice.  Mike’s work will be more relaxing now that last week is over as well.  You would think that we would have been raring to go this weekend, but we were both still pretty tired from work and laid low.

On Saturday morning I woke up planning to run and then realized it was raining.  I dawdled getting ready to go hoping that it would stop, but it seemed to be raining pretty determinedly.  Finally I gave up, put on a raincoat and went for a run anyway.  I was expecting to be a little miserable, but the misty rain actually felt really refreshing after a hot, dry summer of running in primarily 80 degree heat with the sun beating down on my head.  I ended up running 10 miles at a very relaxed pace and having a really good time.  I also saw an adorable orange cat.

He had striking pale green eyes!

He had striking pale green eyes!

On another running note, I convinced several guys at work to run the Seattle half marathon, and they insisted that they’d only run it if I ran it too.  So… that’s how I ended up committed to a half marathon in Vancouver in October and another one in Seattle in November.  I’ve already decided that I’m taking it easy for the Seattle one though… the Vancouver race will be the one that I really race.  That will also be the race where Mike runs his first 10k.  He’s gotten pretty adept at 5k’s though.  Mike and I are actually running a 5k in Fremont next weekend.  That should be fun!  It’s part of the Fremont Oktoberfest festival, and Fremont always gets really bustling and crowded during Oktoberfest.  So fun!  :)

Greenlake during one of my runs...

Greenlake during one of my runs…

Mike played a lot of guitar this weekend, and I listened to him while I made up some ratatouille with all of the fresh vegetables from our CSA produce this week.  I got some artichokes, which traditionally I have no idea what to do with, but this time I just threw them on top of the ratatouille.  Why not, right?  What is one more vegetable on top of a vegetable dish going to hurt?  Just as a reference in case anyone decides to actually make this recipe, the artichokes on the top actually got kind of charred.  I didn’t mind; I like charred vegetables.  If you don’t, though, the artichokes aren’t necessarily recommended.  :)  I also made up some chicken risotto for Mike as well and made some mediterranean snow peas.  Lots of CSA-related cooking!

Snow peas!

Snow peas!

Mike fixed our vacuum cleaner with some parts that he ordered from Hoover.  Apparently there was some rubber seal that wasn’t sealing anymore.  As a precaution, Mike ordered several parts from Hoover in case the rubber seal alone didn’t fix the problem.  When he showed me the parts he bought, one of them was the plastic front piece of the vacuum.  Whereas our current front piece had the Hoover brand all over it, the new one was completely blank.  Knowing Mike’s history of de-badging cars, my mouth dropped open.

“Did you de-badge our vacuum cleaner?”

Mike started laughing.  “No.  By default the part doesn’t come with the Hoover logo.  You have to pay extra for that.  But if I would have thought of it, I would have de-badged the vacuum cleaner.”

I felt a modicum of relief.  I thought maybe in the absence of recent car work he was redirecting his car interests into our vacuum cleaner.  De-badging is fairly benign, but somehow I could picture Mike researching superchargers for vacuum cleaners and pointing out how great our carpet looked compared to everyone else’s carpet with our newly supercharged Hoover.  What a relief that his ‘debadging’ of our vacuum cleaner was entirely accidental.  ;)

Since using the dishwasher has been saving me so much time, I’ve started to make other efficiency improvements as well.  For instance, I’m no longer folding socks and underwear before I put them away.  (Yes, I did that… it’s a little embarrassing to admit.)  I think I’m realizing that there’s a point at which you get diminishing returns for the work that you do.  And when it comes to folding underwear, that law of diminishing returns catches up to you very quickly!  Mike hasn’t been complaining, so I suspect he hasn’t even noticed.  So, I get an extra few minutes back in every day from that.

On Friday night Mike and I got a little dressed up and went out to dinner at Boom Noodle.  It was a very relaxing evening!

Dressed up and ready to go!

Dressed up and ready to go!

On Saturday night Mike and I went for a long drive, ostensibly to see the Northern Lights, which were supposed to possibly be visible in the Pacific Northwest last night, but mostly just because we wanted to go for a drive.  As it turned out, we didn’t see even the remotest tinge of color in the northern sky.  We did see constellations, though, which we hadn’t seen in a long time given Seattle’s general cloudiness and the fact that the sky is pretty lit up with all the Seattle lights where we live.  We also saw a beautiful half bright yellow moon.  Typically the moon looks white, but last night it was most definitely yellow.  We also drove past the Boeing factory and saw what looked like an Aer Lingus airplane being assembled (if the green tail was any indication).  On the way north towards Everett we listened to the new Maroon 5 album, which I mostly like.  The lyrics are universally cheesy for all of the songs, but this is Maroon 5 we’re talking about.  They’re not exactly known for their compelling lyrics; they’re really mostly known for Adam Levine’s striking tenor voice.  And despite the lyric cheesiness, the songs are almost all really catchy, so much so that I sang along to the cheesy lyrics.  On the way back we listened to the new Wiz Khalifa album.  I really like most of the songs on that, and it provided an excellent introspective album that was a good complement to the fluffiness of the Maroon 5 album.

I hope everyone has had a low-key, relaxing weekend as well and feels ready to tackle the upcoming week!  How do weekends always go by so fast?

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Filed under Cooking, CSA, Food, Maroon 5, Running, Vancouver, Weather, Work

A race at Gasworks Park and Mike’s birthday

Work is getting more manageable these days, and both Mike and I got some key things done last week that frees us up a little.  Mike is in a Kaizen this week at work, though, which will make for a pretty busy week.

Last Thursday night, interestingly, both Mike and I had work events going on in the evening.  Mike was attending the “going-away” party of one of his co-workers, and I was attending the graduation ceremony for the Girls Who Code program for which I’ve been a mentor this summer.

Girls Who Code has been a very rewarding program to be a part of.  Seeing the girls grow in confidence and knowledge is really cool.  I really enjoyed working with the program and hope they continue their Seattle programs.  (This was its first year in Seattle… I believe it’s been going on in the Bay area for a couple of years.)

Friday night Mike worked late, so I went to the grocery store and ran some other errands.  I had a 10k race on Saturday morning which went ok.  It wasn’t terrible or wonderful.  It was a pretty strictly run-of-the-mill race with a run-of-the-mill finishing time.  There were a couple of things I really liked about the race though.  It started and finished at Gasworks Park, which is half a mile from our apartment, so getting there in the morning was really easy.

Gasworks Park (the day before the race... it was much busier the day of the race)

Gasworks Park (the day before the race… it was much busier the day of the race)

 

Also, the course was beautiful… right along Lake Union and the Ballard locks.  I was surprised at how many people there were!  I hadn’t realized it was such a large race!

Getting ready for the race!

Getting ready for the race!

 

For the first mile and a half (which is a quarter of the entire race), all of us runners were pretty much running shoulder to shoulder and there weren’t many opportunities to pass people.  (That probably didn’t help my overall time, actually, now that I think about it.)  After that, though, things thinned out and we had a lot more room to run.  It was still one of the more crowded 10k’s I’ve run though, so it was a fun, new experience.  A couple of other things I liked about the race.

1) They attached the race timing chip to your race bib, so you didn’t need to put on a bib and a timing chip on your shoe separately.  In the past I think the technology was such that you had to have the timing chips really close to the ground (where the sensors are) in order to detect your time.  Now apparently, as in all areas, technology has marched on and you can now put a timing chip all the way up on your chest and the timing sensors can still pick it up.

2) Rather than picking up your race T-shirt ahead of time, you picked it up when you crossed the finish line.  This is very convenient as it meant I didn’t have to pick up my T-shirt before the race and then figure out where to stash it until the race was over so I could take it home.

3) They offered two different color T-shirts at the finish line, and you got to pick which one you wanted.  What a fun idea!  I got to choose between blue and yellow, and I picked blue.  Mostly because I just got a bright yellow-ish green race T-shirt for the Seafair 5k Mike and I did a month ago.

4) Gasworks Park is just cool in general.  I don’t know the history of it or why it’s called Gasworks Park, but it’s got some pretty crazy equipment there.

Umm... not sure what this is

Umm… not sure what this is

 

Saturday was also Mike’s birthday!  He started the day with dropping the car off to get routine maintenance while I ran my race.  Then we had a present opening session where he opened his birthday presents.  In the evening we went out for dinner to Cicchetti, a favorite spot of ours.  It specializes in middle-eastern food and specialty cocktails.  The ambience there is incredibly relaxing… we actually ended up lingering there for about two hours just talking.

On Sunday I got a lot of CSA produce made up into food.  I made up a lemon chicken slow cooker meal for Mike, and I made up a pan of baked ratatouille.  It’s so good!  :)  I got all of the CSA produce used up from last week, so I’m all ready to pick up new produce tomorrow.  I’m already halfway through the CSA season, and I’ve been doing really well as far as food waste.  Basically the only food that’s gone to waste has been three bulbs of fennel (I seriously don’t know WHAT to do with that licorice-tasting vegetable!) and some cilantro and summer savory.  (I just don’t use that many fresh herbs, I guess.)  But I’ve been keeping up with the peas and green beans and zucchini (things that went bad last year), so I feel like I’m doing pretty well.  It’s helping a lot that I’ve been sending some lunches to work with Mike, and I always include some vegetables in there since he’s been eating healthier.  He isn’t a huge vegetable fan, but does like peas and green beans!  :)

The weather here has been warm and sunny… almost too sunny.  Seattle’s getting pretty dry and could use some rain!

Piper enjoyed having us home over the weekend.  She’s had a lot of energy lately and doesn’t seem to be sleeping as much.  Typically by Sunday she’s pretty exhausted having us home all weekend, but this Sunday she still was very awake and alert.  Mike and I really need to brush her more, because she seems to be shedding a lot this summer.

In honor of Mike’s birthday I told him I’d watch any movie he wanted to see.  He chose Mad Max.  It was seriously one of the weirder movies I’ve ever seen.  I didn’t quite get the location/scene set up, didn’t quite get the main characters’ motivations, and in general just really didn’t get the movie.  I wish I could analyze it a little more, but I can’t.  I can say that it reminded me of Quentin Tarantino’s very early works (think, Reservoir Dogs), so that probably tells you something about the almost comically extreme violence.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t watch it again.  Mike liked it, but there were half hour long car chases with giant old muscle cars sporting super chargers so large I’m surprised that the drivers could even see past them down the hood of the car.  I think it was basically Reservoir Dogs meets The Fast and the Furious.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more accurate that seems to me.  So you can take that for whatever it’s worth.  :)

We also ran a couple of errands, and Mike fixed our vacuum cleaner.  There was something in it that wasn’t sealing correctly, so Mike ordered parts for it a week and a half ago.  They took forever to arrive, but when they finally did Mike dove in to fixing it.  We haven’t tried it out yet because there was a little foam strip Mike had to glue and that apparently needs 24 hours to set.  But soon we’ll be back to full vacuuming strength!  :)

I hope everyone had a good weekend!

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Filed under Birthdays, Cooking, CSA, Fennel, Food, Running

Nearing the end of Mr. Selfridge

This past week at work was extremely busy (is this getting to be a theme?).  :)  So busy that I’ve been looking forward to getting it done for a couple weeks prior.  Friday I was interviewing candidates all day.  And by all day, I mean all day.  It wasn’t as tiring as I thought it would be but given that when I look back I can remember only a couple of the candidates my brain must have gone on autopilot at some point.  Mike has also been very busy at work and has typically been coming home tired.  Both of us see a light at the end of the tunnel this fall, though.

Friday night Mike and I completely relaxed.  I went for a 3 mile run down by Lake Union (still following my training schedule), and then Mike and I watched a Mr. Selfridge episode.  We only have one more to watch in season 2, and then we’re out of luck until sometime in 2015 when the next season comes out!

There is a new Brooks headquarter building going in about a third of a mile from our apartment building.  It’s almost finished, and their giant logo is now posted out front.  I’m excited for them to open… I think they’re going to have a big showroom on the first floor and then have offices on the upper floors.  Maybe they’ll start a running club in our area?

Saturday afternoon Mike and I gave our apartment a pretty deep cleaning and tidied everything up, and then Saturday night Mike and I got together with a friend of his from work and friend’s wife.  We had dinner at Kabul, which is a fairly upscale Afghan restaurant that takes basmati rice to a whole new level.  I hadn’t met either Mike’s friend or his friend’s wife before, but they were very friendly so we were able to talk right along and had a fun dinner.  Since Kabul is only about a mile from our apartment, we all came back to our apartment and walked around Fremont for an hour or so.  It was a lovely evening… warm, but not too hot.  Lots of fun.  :)

Today I did a lot of cooking with all the CSA produce.  (I have to use it up before I get new produce next week!)  I steamed up some yellow wax beans, and discovered that I had a lot of zucchini to use up.  I split it between a simple zucchini stir fry with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a zucchini and sweet corn sauté.  Both turned out well.  I know I’m going to have to get really creative with zucchini before the summer’s over, though… there is still a lot more zucchini on the way!  I also made an easy meatloaf recipe, but made it healthier by cutting down on the bread crumbs used and replacing half a cup of the ground with a chopped up green pepper.  Mike still really liked it.

My running has been plugging along.  The half marathon I was planning on doing in Vancouver is coming up, but because Mike and I are both busy at work and because I want more training time to get faster, I’m going to do a different half marathon later in the fall instead.  That will be much more relaxing!  I am going to run a 10k in Seattle the same day I was going to do the Vancouver half marathon though, and it starts only half a mile from our apartment so it will be MUCH more cost effective than two nights in a Vancouver hotel.  :)

Mike finally got me started using the dish washer a few months ago (yes, I’ve been hand-washing dishes all these years).  We were having an argument/discussion about time management and I was complaining about all the dishes I had to wash.  Mike told me I didn’t deserve to complain about hand-washing dishes when I had a dishwasher in the apartment.  Upon thinking it over, I realized he was right.  I didn’t think we would make enough dishes to be able to justify the dishwasher, but we actually have.  It helps a lot that we have two sets of silverware so we don’t run out of silverware before we’ve filled the dishwasher.  I feel like the dishwasher saves me a significant amount of time!  Not only do I not have to hand-wash dishes, but Mike is very good about rinsing off his dishes and putting them in the dishwasher, so he effectively does his own dishes.  I still haven’t taught Piper to put her dishes in the dishwasher yet, but perhaps that just takes time.

Apart from watching Mr. Selfridge, Mike and I haven’t been doing anything very structured in the evenings.  Mike typically plays a little guitar, I typically prep some food for him to take to work the next day, we typically play with Piper, some nights we go to the gym, some nights we go for walks around our neighborhood.  We have been planning to do some hiking in the mountains ever since we went with Lia during her trip here, but somehow we haven’t gotten to it.  A coworker lent me a couple books on hiking at Rainier and some other mountains in the area, and I am determined not to return the books until I’ve gone on at least a couple of the hikes!  Maybe next weekend!

In other news, I have pretty much given up on any pretense at couponing (is that a word?  dictionary.com says ‘no’).  Basically I seem unable to use coupons.  One of the four scenarios always occurs.

1. I see a coupon for an item I use.  I clip it, place it in the drawer near the front door, and never think of it again.  I then find it three months after it’s expired and throw it away.

2. I see a coupon for an item I use.  I clip it, place it conscientiously in my purse, and then discover it mixed among old receipts when I clean out my purse.  At this point it’s already expired and I throw it away.

3. I see a coupon for an item I use.  I clip it, place it conscientiously in my purse, think of it at the cash register, and then can’t find it in my purse.  The checkout line is building up as I search for it, so I finally give up and forget about it.  I then discover it mixed among old receipts when I clean out my purse later.  Once again, at this point it’s already expired and I throw it away.

4. I see a coupon for an item I use.  I clip it, place it conscientiously in my purse, think of it at the cash register, and hand it proudly to the cashier feeling like a responsible adult (or at least a good resemblance of one).  The cashier looks at it and shows me the small print saying that the coupon “cannot be combined with any other discounts”.  And the item I’m purchasing is on sale.  So I can either have the sale (worth $2.50) or the 50 cent coupon.  My math skills don’t have to be superb to realize that I’m better off shredding the coupon and taking the sale.

There’s another scenario that has happened twice, which (together with the frequency of the previous four scenarios) lead  me to believe that I have bad coupon karma.

5. I see a coupon for an item I use.  I clip it, place it conscientiously in my purse, think of it at the cash register, and it doesn’t scan correctly.  The cash register attendant tries a couple times, then tries keying in the numeric code, and then finally opts to just manually subtract the 50 cents from my bill.  Except that she’s new and still in training, so she has to call for a manager to come and manually subtract the coupon.  And apparently the manager is nowhere near the cash registers.  Or in the store.  Despite my pleadings with the cashier to forget the coupon, she assures me it will only be a minute.  Fifteen minutes later I’m finally leaving the store with a manager-approved receipt for the 50 cent deduction and with everyone else in line glaring daggers at my retreating back (ok, maybe that last part is just my imagination).

All in all, I’m beginning to accept the fact that coupons and I just don’t seem to mix.  I still clip them, but don’t feel badly when I don’t use them.  :)

This has been a pretty light post picture-wise (gross understatement).  I took a picture of Mike with his electric guitar, but he didn’t like the lighting so he said I’d have to take one a different time to post.  So that picture is still to come.  I’ll leave you with a picture of some beautiful flowers I saw on my run yesterday though.  :)  I hope everyone has a good week ahead of them!

 

A flowering tree

A flowering tree

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Filed under Cooking, CSA, Food, Friends, Running

A Trip to the SAM (Seattle Art Museum)

Once again it was a very busy week at work.  However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I have a few more key projects to get done at work, but the interns I’m working with all leave in the next one to two weeks.  I love working with them, but it will give me more time when they’re back at school.

Mike and I had a very relaxing Friday night and went to the University Village shopping area and out for dinner.  It’s surprising how little we’ve been going out to dinner lately.  I think because Mike’s trying to eat healthier he prefers eating at home.  On Saturday we drove to a local coffee shop that we hadn’t been to before called Fuel Coffee just to try it out.  Mike got a latte, and I got a Tangerine Ginger tea.  It was so good that I asked the barista about it, and she said it was organic looseleaf tea made a company named Rishi.  Since we were out anyway, we decided to go to the Seattle Art Museum (known locally as the SAM).  We hadn’t been there since our first year in Seattle when they had a Picasso exhibit that we attended, and at that time we really only looked at the Picasso paintings so we didn’t see anything else.

This summer they have a special exhibit going on showcasing painters from the Pacific Northwest.  The building is very well architected and was light and airy.  At this point, particularly after a couple of European vacations, we’ve seen our share of darker, more crowded art galleries, so this was refreshing.  The museum was divided into various galleries, each of which had a theme.  For some, the theme was a time period, for others it was related to a type of subject matter, and for others it was a painting style.  Some of the highlights for us included a bronze sculpture of a hunting panther which reminded us of Piper, a Jackson Polluck painting, and a Monet.  The Jackson Polluck painting was entirely abstract but very striking.  I noticed it and liked it before I knew it was a Jackson Polluck.  He actually spilled gravel on it to get a grittier texture.  Very interesting.  There were big sections dedicated to Egyptian, Greek, and Italian artifacts.  Unfortunately at this point Mike and I have seen a lot of those already so we were less impressed than we should have been.  Mike made quite a few comments along the lines of ‘We’ve seen better versions of this’, and we walked through those sections quickly.  We did really enjoy the Native American Indian exhibit and saw some pretty intense totem poles and other carved work.

Hard-core native American Indian carved work

Hard-core native American Indian carved work

Afterwards we ate at a little organic restaurant called Taste.  We were too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so we were served the happy hour menu.  It was all very good and flavorful.

Appetizers at Taste

Appetizers at Taste

 

Then, since we were downtown anyway we decided to walk around a little.  We went into a small, multi-story mall called Westlake Center which had been under construction for the previous year.  The construction seemed to be over, and there were a lot of new stores in it.  Mike and I found a coffee equipment store called Seattle Coffee Gear.  We had been to that store before, but it was miles north of Seattle and we had to drive to get there.  We discovered that they were opening new branches of their store, and this branch was one of the new ones.  Mike bought a bigger French press so that he can make coffee for him and me at the same time instead of having to make the cups one at a time.  I was just about to leave the store when I saw that they were giving away samples of Rishi organic tea, the same kind as my tangerine ginger tea that morning!  Once I saw that they sold Rishi tea I bought a small packet of their loose leaf tea as well.

Mike bought some sheet music for a classical guitar piece.  I had never heard of it before, but he’s been practicing that a little most evenings, and I really enjoy listening to him.  I have promised to post a picture of Mike playing his electric guitar, but unfortunately he’s mostly been playing his classical lately so I haven’t had the opportunity.  Hopefully in the next blog post!

My running has been going pretty strong.  I did 12 miles yesterday, and it will be another 12 miles next week.  I think the strength training this time around is really helping because I haven’t had any knee problems in a long time.

Run around Green Lake on Saturday...

Run around Green Lake on Saturday…

One night last week Mike and I were settling in to watch Mr. Selfridge Mike decided that he felt like popcorn.  We dug out the old, old air pop popper that I bought in Yonkers five years ago as a spur-of-the-moment purchase.  It hasn’t gotten much use (any use, actually) since I discovered that the brand of organic popcorn kernels I had been buying didn’t work correctly in the popper.  The kernels were a little smaller and lighter than regular popcorn and so they flew unpopped right out of the air popper as soon as it started blowing hot air.  This time though I had some organic normal-sized kernels from PCC.  We tentatively dumped a quarter cup of popcorn into the air popper and plugged it in.  It immediately start spinning the kernels around and literally 30 seconds later we had a big bowl of fluffy popcorn.  I was completely amazed by how quickly and accurately it worked.  Other people may be blown away by computers, wireless internet, etc, but I’m still stuck on how amazing common kitchen tools are.  :)

Yesterday I made up chicken rice soup.  In addition to the veggies recommended for the soup I threw in green beans, peas, and corn from the CSA produce that I get each week.  Last week I got beets, which I’ve never been a huge fan of, but thrown into smoothies along with other fruit and veggies seems to mask their taste so that I get the health benefits without the taste.  The only downside is that beet juice is seriously purple.  Very seriously purple.  I’m afraid if I make too many beet-based smoothies I’ll permanently stain my blender and my teeth purple.  I’ve sometimes wondered how people used to get dyes for clothing from plants, but as long as they had beets around they would have at least been set as far as purple dye.  I can’t even cut up a beet without staining my fingers.

Yesterday evening Mike and I went for a 3 mile run together.  Mike has been running more regularly since the 5k we did together several weeks ago and I can outrun him on flat or downhill terrain, but he pretty much dominates the uphill running.  It’s nice that we’re getting out to enjoy the gorgeous summer weather!  It has been dry, sunny, and warm for the past couple of months.  We’re supposed to have a high of 94 degrees today (!!) and then it’ll drop down to the 80’s tomorrow and the 70’s on Wednesday (with some rain and strong winds in there… pretty inevitable when you get a twenty-degree temperature drop in a couple of days).

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Filed under Beets, Cooking, CSA, Running, Seattle Restaurants, The Arts in Seattle

Back to blogging…

I’m back in the blog world after a fairly prolonged absence.  :)  I think my absence was basically due to two factors.

1) Everything seemed boring to write about in comparison to writing about England and Ireland.

2) It has been a busy summer so far!

Regardless, I’m back and will try to give an overview of Mike’s and my summer so far.  (It’s so hard to believe it’s already August!)

Lia, my good friend from Las Vegas, flew out to visit for a long weekend two weeks, and it was so good to see her again!  (How could it have actually been three years since I’d last seen her??)  We had a blast getting our hair done together, doing lots of shopping, visiting Pike Place Market, the Fremont Troll, and Rattlesnake Lake, and going to various Seattle restaurants to give her a sense of the culture!  Mike even drove us around while we shopped and looked in most of the stores with us.  (By ‘looked’ I mean that he was physically present with us in the stores but was looking stuff up on his iPhone… thank goodness for smartphones!  Seriously I don’t know how Mike survived shopping trips or I survived Home Depot trips before we had them!)

At Pike Place Market by the famous bronze (brass?) pig

At Pike Place Market by the famous bronze (brass?) pig

 

Apart from Lia’s visit, everything has been rolling along as usual, although work has been busier than usual for both Mike and me.

My training for the half marathon in late August is also really ramping up.  I ran 11 miles today, and next weekend’s long run will be 12 miles.  I’m trying to remember how I managed marathon training, because even the training for the half feels intense.  Mike and I are still going to the gym regularly as well.  I typically work out with Mike on Sundays and Wednesdays, and I’ve also started working out with a friend from work one or two nights a week.  I’m trying to focus a lot on lower body strength to avoid injury with all the running.  Lots of working out to coordinate!  :)

Last night Mike and I were just in the mood to drive, so we drove north towards Everett.  There’s nothing quite like driving around Everett after dark… the kinds of people you see are interesting to say the least.  We drove past all of the Fluke buildings in Everett, past the Boeing office building, and past the Boeing assembly line.  One of the giant doors was open as we drove past, and we could see a couple of planes being assembled inside.  Their factory is just HUGE!!  So interesting!

Aer Lingus?  Or some other green plane?

Aer Lingus? Or some other green plane?

We drove down to the harbor (I don’t know which harbor… just one of the harbors along the Puget Sound), and then we got out of the car and walked around for awhile.  It was early evening, the sun had just set, and there were lots of people at the beach with campfires, roasting marshmallows, playing music, and talking and laughing.  It had a very Grand Haven kind of feel to it.

 

Sunset at the Puget Sound

Sunset at the Puget Sound

We watched one of the big car ferries take off from the shore with a bunch of cars aboard bound for the other side of Puget Sound.  The ferry was all lit up inside, so it almost looked like some kind of cruise ship.  Then we drove back in a roundabout way towards Seattle.  Traffic on I-5 was good for once… I guess 10pm on a Friday is a good time to travel!

Mike got an amp for his electric guitar and has been playing guitar in the evenings pretty regularly.  I love listening to him.  He has a couple of delay pedals that he uses as well that give him a very “U2″ sound.  With the additional interest in music, though, getting the picture processing finished for the England/Ireland pictures has been going slowly.  Hopefully those pictures will be done in the next few weeks!

Every summer there is a big month-long Seafair festival in Seattle.  I’m honestly not entirely sure of the entire point of it (except that it’s summer in Seattle, the weather’s great, and why NOT have a festival?).  There’s a pirate-themed 5k as part of the festivities, and Mike and I ran that together last weekend.  It was a hilly race, but Mike just charged up those hills.  I think his time at the gym is definitely starting to show!  :)

Mike... just ran a 5k and still looking cool and collected!  Not phased by those hills at all!

Mike… just ran a 5k and still looking cool and collected! Not phased by those hills at all!

 

This weekend, though, Seafair is ending, and as part of the festivities the Blue Angels are flying over Seattle doing aerial tricks.  As cool as they are to see, it is LOUD when they fly overhead!  I was on a run this morning when I heard a crazy supersonic sound that almost made me jump off of the sidewalk into a bush.  I initially thought it was thunder, but it was the Blue Angels.  Mike and I also saw them out flying in formation over Seattle later today when we were out running errands.  Poor Piper!  The loud sounds from the Blue Angels scared her several times this morning, and she has been pretty nervous and very clingy since then.

We also went to The Guitar Store today (capitalization intended… that’s actually its name), and interestingly both of the guys working there recognized us from having been in a few weeks ago, to the point that they even remembered we were in looking at Mesa Boogie amps!  Mike and I chatted with them for awhile and Mike got new electric guitar strings and some new picks.

The weather here has been absolutely beautiful… mid 80’s and sunny.  We love it!  Tonight after we’d run a bunch of errands we walked to a coffee shop for some iced coffee.  The weather was just perfect, and there were so many people out!  The sky was breathtaking.

Wow!!

Wow!!

 

After we got home we settled in and watched a Mr. Selfridge episode.  Mike’s dad recommended it, and we’ve watched a couple episodes now.  The thing I find the most interesting about it is that it’s based on a real Mr. Selfridge who revolutionized the way department stores operate.  I’m not sure how many of the characters and the actual events are factual, but I always love shows based on true stories.

I’m planning to blog more regularly now… even without England and Ireland trips to write about!  Hopefully there will be enough going on in Seattle to be interesting!  :)  I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend!

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Filed under Friends, Life in Seattle, Pictures, Planes, Visitors, Weather

The end of a journey

So for those of you keeping track, you must be starting to think that our trip can’t possibly last much longer.  Despite my apparent inability to get through more than a single day in one blog post, the blog posts can’t go on forever, right?  This is true.  So true, in fact, that Saturday, the day after our Good Friday Ring of Kerry drive and 5 mile race, was our last full day in Ireland.  We were due to fly out of Shannon Airport early Sunday morning.

We woke up on Saturday morning with plans to fully enjoy our final day and to end up at the Park Inn Hotel in Shannon by nightfall.  We packed up and left Brook Lodge a little sadly.  Even though we only stayed there two nights, it was starting to feel like home.  The staff members were so helpful and friendly and we just loved the town.  Ah, well.  All good things must come to an end, even our time in Killarney.

We started out the day with the good breakfast in the sunny yellow breakfast room at Brook Lodge.  I was already getting accustomed to having dried apricots with my breakfast and wasn’t sure how I was going to manage without those in the future.  Suffice it to say I enjoyed them that last morning.  :)

The day was sunny and gorgeous with a bright, bright blue sky as we drove through town headed north and out of Killarney.

How could you not fall in love with this town??

The Quills on the right is where Mike bought his Irish hat and I bought my pink and purple plaid scarf our first night in Killarney

 

Well, actually I’m using the word “we” rather freely.  Mike, of course, was driving.  He tried to talk me into driving because he felt I should have the experience.  He tried hard.

“It will be a good experience for you,” he said.

I shook my head.  “No.  You’ve already got the hang of it.  It’s best if you keep going.”

“What are you going to do when your coworkers ask you if you drove on the left side of the road during your trip?” he wanted to know.

“I’m going to tell them my highly mechanically-minded husband did all the driving,” I replied.  “Plus,” I added, bringing out the clincher.  “I have all my maps and you’ll have to figure out all the navigation if I drive.”

Mike looked at my stack of five maps, all of them different, some road maps, some city maps, and he shook his head.  “Ok, fine.  You can keep being the navigator.  But let me know if you want to drive.”

Like that was going to happen.  I wasn’t scared of driving, but I believe everyone has their gifts and Mike understands how machines think which gives him an inherent edge when driving.  And my gift includes leafing through obscure maps trying to figure out which exit we should take on a 5-way roundabout.  All about teamwork, right?  :)

Once we left Killarney headed north the traffic thinned out immediately.  To the point where it almost didn’t matter which side of the road we were on.  We saw small stone fences separating farms as far as the eye could see.

Our first planned stop was about forty-five minutes outside of Killarney and was a special place!

Brosna... the town where my Irish ancestors are from!

Brosna… the town where my Irish ancestors are from!

 

We got a little lost trying to find Brosna because it’s a very small town and my maps didn’t have quite the granularity needed to navigate us there, but we found it!

My dad had told me there was a big church and cemetary there, and that many of my ancestors (Horgans) were buried in the cemetary.

We drove up a hill through the town, and it literally took about two minutes.  We didn’t see any big church or any graveyard.  Driving back down the hill, though, gave us the perspective needed to see the church and the graveyard.  Mike pulled our little Fiat Panda into the empty parking area.

The church with the gorgeous blue sky behind it was surprisingly breathtaking!

The church in Brosna

The church in Brosna

 

At first it looked as though there was a fence all around the graveyard, but then we located the gate.

There were Horgans there... probably relatives!

There were Horgans there… probably relatives!

 

We took pictures and enjoyed the nice weather at the church for awhile and then decided it was time to get back on the road.

We noticed a lot of windmills around Brosna and the surrounding countryside… as windy as Ireland seemed to be, it made sense to harness all that power!

Irish countryside with lots of windmills in the distance

Irish countryside with lots of windmills in the distance

 

Because of the way the River Shannon cuts so deeply into western Ireland, in order to keep going north we either had to take a car ferry across the Shannon River or drive east far enough to get to Limerick where the Shannon was narrower and there were bridges across it.  We opted for driving up through Limerick.

Limerick was a cute town, but we didn’t see any compelling reasons to stop, so we headed through and turned back westwards.  I continued reading my maps and discovered that we were going to be passing within a few miles of Bunratty Castle (and coincidentally our hotel for the night and the Shannon Airport, but we weren’t ready to stop there yet!).  We were getting hungry so we decided that a detour to quickly check out out Bunratty Castle and get some food was in order.

We were pretty sure we didn’t want to actually tour Bunratty Castle because there was a fee and because it would take time and we had a different destination in mind for our final day in Ireland.  However, since it was right off of the N18 freeway that we were driving on, we wanted to at least stop.  The first thing we did after getting off of the highway was to get lunch, though.  We found a good-looking place called J.P. Clarke’s about half a mile from Bunratty Castle.  I got a bean and lentil casserole (which was really good!) and Mike got some steak medallions with giant carrots and mashed potatoes (which he said was also really good).  Everything was tasty and relaxing and gave us the chance to be off the road for a little while.  Then we got back in our little black Panda and headed down the road to Bunratty Castle.  We could see it as we were coming up on it, and we were surprised that there seemed to be construction around it.  We discovered that this was actually not due to renovation of the castle, but due to building a “folk park” that basically would consist of replicas of the village houses that were prevalent in Ireland over a century ago.  While we appreciated the sentiment on one hand, we were a lot less interested in reproductions than we would have been in seeing the real thing.  However, we still enjoyed walking around the castle and taking pictures from the outside.  In looking up the history of the castle, it was attacked and fought over many times because of its prime position on the Shannon River estuary into Ireland.  It was a beautiful old castle!

Bunratty Castle

Bunratty Castle

 

After staying awhile, enjoying the gorgeous weather and watching a crow gather twigs to build a nest in one of the narrow windows far up on the castle wall, we were back on the road again.  We made our way back to N18 with little trouble; despite the area having more traffic than what we’d driven in before, Mike was getting used to driving on the left side of the road and shifting with his left hand.

Back on N18, we continued our journey west.  Our goal was to make it to the Cliffs of Moher, all the way on the west coast, with plenty of daylight left to see the cliffs and to take pictures.  If you aren’t familiar with the Cliffs of Moher, they are huge cliffs on the west coast of Ireland that span five miles of the Irish coast.  They have been used in several popular movies (i.e. The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).  They are also one of Ireland’s top tourist destinations and one I’d seen pictures of since I was a kid, so I was eager to see them in person.

I continued navigating us along the N18, which then became the M18.  In Ireland, ‘N’s indicate National Primary Roads and ‘M’s indicate Motorways (i.e. freeways).  Driving on these bigger roads was much easier because there were few intersections and once you were on the left side of the road you just stayed there.

We knew that we had about an hour to get from Shannon all the way west to the Cliffs of Moher, so we settled back to enjoy the ride.  The freeway part of the drive went by relatively quickly.  Once we passed through Ennis, the capital of County Clare, the roads got more windy and narrow.  I was able to look at my map less frequently as there were plenty of signs for the Cliffs of Moher.

Note the Cliffs of Moher sign on the right... and note that the Gaelic name is listed first!  This was standard throughout Ireland.

Note the Cliffs of Moher sign on the right… and note that the Gaelic name is listed first! This was standard throughout Ireland.

 

We kept driving and seeings signs for the Cliffs and the areas we were passing through kept getting less and less populated and the cities kept getting sparser and sparser, but we still didn’t actually see the Cliffs.  Mike kept pointing out things that might be considered cliffs.

“How about those over there?” Mike asked, pointing to some small rocky hills.

“No,” I said decidedly.

“How do you know?”

“Because I know what they’re supposed to look like.  And I know that they’re on the Atlantic Ocean so I think we have to drive west until we can’t drive west anymore.”

Both Mike and I were expecting some small visitor center out in the middle of nowhere, maybe watched over by an old monk, particularly since the Cliffs seemed to be in a sparsely populated region.  However, when we got to within about 5 miles of the Cliffs we started to see a lot more cars, about half of them headed west and half of them headed east, and we realized that this was all traffic from the Cliffs of Moher.  The traffic was pretty backed up for that five miles, but then suddenly it opened out into a giant, flat, paved parking lot.  There were signs everywhere directing people where to park, and there was a whole section of parking just for tour buses.  There was also a giant visitor’s center and some small shops.  Well, well.  Definitely not isolated and guarded by a single, solitary monk!

We easily found a parking spot in the giant sea of parking spots, and then walked up to the visitors center.  We bought entry tickets from there, and I tried to make sense of the map shown on the brochere we were given.  After all, we were at the Cliffs of Moher, right?  And there seemed to be hundreds of other people here, right?  So where exactly were those cliffs?  The spots on the map were a little unclear, listing sights like “North Platform”, “Main Platform”, and “Goat Island”.  Um, ok.  We decided to just head towards the main platform and see if we could see the cliffs from there.  We felt a little disoriented since we’d come there somehow expecting to be the only car in the wilderness next to cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean and instead we seemed to be in the middle of a giant visitor’s center with hundreds (or thousands?) of other people, many of whom were eating slushy-like frozen treats from a refrigerated food truck.

Interesting feeling!  :)

However, as we climbed the steps to the main platform, we saw the cliffs.

The Cliffs at last!

The Cliffs at last!

Now those were the cliffs I was expecting to see!  They were amazing!

To get a sense of the scale of the cliffs, you can dimly see people at the top of the cliff on the left… but they are very small in comparison to the cliffs.

VERY small people... or very large cliffs

VERY small people… or very large cliffs

 

At the north end of the cliffs there was a tower called O’Brien’s Tower.  It was an observation tower built in 1835 by a descendent of Brian Boru, one of the high kings of Ireland.

O'Brien's Tower

O’Brien’s Tower

 

The Aran Islands, a mecca of Irish culture and history and an area where Gaelic is still the primary spoken language, were visible on the horizon.

The Aran Islands

The Aran Islands

 

We also discovered that many sea birds make their homes among the rocks on the cliffs, including Puffins which are a special favorite of mine.  We saw many, many sea birds flying in and out and around the rocks, but we were so high up that I couldn’t tell what kinds of sea birds they were.

We ended up spending several hours at the cliffs because there was quite a bit of walking along the cliff edges on pedestrian paths to get different views.  It was extremely windy and very sunny while we were there.  Because we were up at the top of high cliffs there really wasn’t any shade, so by the time we were finished we gratefully sought refuge in the visitor center just to get out of the sun for awhile.  (Clearly we wouldn’t be good desert dwellers!)  :)

We got back to our car around 4pm and decided we were pretty exhausted from all the traveling and sight-seeing over the past week and a half, so we decided to head back to our hotel next to the Shannon Airport and get some rest before our early flight back to Seattle the following morning.  The drive back was easy and uneventful.  We were pretty familiar with the route given that we had just travelled it going in the opposite direction several hours earlier.  I was wondering how easy it would be to find our hotel, but as it turned out there were excellent signs pointing us right to it.  And it literally was right across the street from the Shannon Airport.  Perfect for getting to our gate early in the morning!

Our first order of business was dropping off our Enterprise car.  We saw rental car signs all over the front of the airport, but we didn’t see any Enterprise signs.

“What if there is no Enterprise location here?” Mike asked.  “And we have nowhere to drop the Panda off?”

I tried not to think about it!

As it turned out, though, the Enterprise location in Shannon was just new and didn’t have any signs up yet.  What a relief!  The woman who helped us was very friendly and had a name so Irish we couldn’t even begin to pronounce it but it sounded very pretty when she pronounced it.  :)

After we had said our good-byes to the Panda, we headed back across the street to the hotel ready for a relaxing dinner and drinks in the Park Inn’s lounge.

Given that we had been on the go for the previous ten days and had spent lots of time figuring out hotels, sights to see, rental cars, trains, and subways, we were very ready to just completely relax.  The lounge at the hotel definitely gave us that opportunity!  Mike had some sort of meat stew and I had a vegetable soup.  We both got drinks.  I got my usual Jameson (we were still in Ireland, after all!), and Mike went for a gin cocktail since he’d had enough Guinness to last him for awhile.  :)  We lingered there, eating at the bar and chatting with the friendly bartender.  We watched a couple shows on the Kindle Fire when we got back to our room and decided to make it a relatively early night.  We kept the window open to let the cool night breeze in, and we fell asleep to the sound of cars driving up to the airport and the sound of people talking as they approached the terminal.

And thus ended our England and Ireland adventure.  :)  We uneventfully flew back early the next morning on the Irish airline Aer Lingus (which has the cutest planes I’ve ever seen by the way!) .

Check out the three-leafed clover on the engine!  :)

Check out the three-leafed clover on the engine!

We found ourselves back in Seattle with our little black cat by 4pm that afternoon (plenty of time to do laundry and stock up on groceries, but not time for much else).

Hopefully we go back to Ireland at some point.  Mike really liked Ireland and said we can definitely come back, and I haven’t given up on convincing a certain friend (*cough* Lia *cough*) to come with us the next time we go to Ireland.  ;)

I know I haven’t seen enough of it to last me a lifetime.  :)

Slán go fóill, Éire

Slán go fóill, Éire

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Filed under England Ireland Trip, Food, Pictures, Travel, Weather