Baby shower!

Last weekend we had an amazing baby shower thrown by our wonderful friends and family.  It was co-ed (and child-friendly) and well attended by a large contingent of Matt’s family from Oregon and Washington, the few members of my family who live within a reasonable traveling distance, and a whole bunch of our Seattle friends.  So much fun!  

And check out this spread:

Taco bar, all kinds of finger foods, chocolate cake, carrot cupcakes (the ones for which I made the stand), assorted beverages (champagne or sparkling water with frozen strawberries!)… looks like everyone was enjoying it all quite a bit.

So many presents for the baby!

And I made some little gift bags for our guests as a thank-you.

We had a onesie-painting station where people could customize a onesie or bib with fabric paint.  They are all great!

I think it’s fair to say we all enjoyed ourselves.

When we received a UW hat for our son, there was a small outcry from the Oregon crowd (or maybe just Matt’s dad).  My sister-in-law bridged the divide by making both Husky and Duck onesies.  Matt and I are UW grads, so our kids will probably grow up rooting mostly for the Huskies with their dad.

Someone was smart enough to get all of the family together for a picture.

Super special thanks to these folks for organizing everything and making/bringing all the food.  Everything was excellent.  We love you!  

Thanks also to my mom for sending the flowers.  She and my sister were sad not to miss this, but they live much too far away to fly in for just one weekend.  ’Grandma’ and ‘Auntie’ will be visiting this summer once the baby is born.  And of course, thank you to everyone who came to the shower!  It was a really special day for us.


Productivity is relative

This past weekend, we had a packed schedule and didn’t devote a whole lot of time to working on our house projects until Sunday evening when Matt started moving all our bedroom furniture around in preparation for some major changes I’ll tell you about later.  We did much more socializing with more people in that one weekend than we normally do in two weeks.  That could make me feel like we didn’t accomplish anything, but I think we were actually very productive in different ways.

On Saturday, Matt took the dogs to the park while I cleaned up the house. We gave the dogs a quick bath before my friend Lauren came over to do a little sewing (in honor of the hands-on skills workshops we decided to skip that day, and just for fun).  Lauren is making a really cool quilt, and I tried to get my sewing mojo back and make progress on some stuff I’ve been wanting to make for the dogs.  Is it weird that at least half of my sewing projects lately are for my dogs?  Oh well.  My cousin Rachel came over to join us.  We planned future sewing get-togethers and talked about plans for the baby shower they’re so awesomely planning for us.  Next stop: dinner invite at Sarah & Arnie’s.  Dinner was fabulous, we got to hang out with our friends, and we also got to see one of our favorite kitties, Buster.  Isn’t he gorgeous?  Don’t you think he should be in commercials or something?

Sunday was another whirlwind.  I slept in a little, then headed over to Jeff & Teri’s for a visit and to pick up a whole bunch of baby supplies they are passing along to us.  I just love free stuff!  Save money and resources, reduce waste.  It just makes so much sense, especially with baby things that only get used for a few months per child.  It was a great excuse to see them and their adorable 18-month-old daughter too.  I rushed home, grabbed the dogs for another romp at the dog park, came home, grabbed Matt and took off for our first childbirth class.  We’ll be doing that every Sunday afternoon for 7 weeks.

So while the house projects were on the back burner for most of the weekend, I feel like it was very productive in terms of spending time with wonderful people, getting the dogs exercised and bathed, and continuing to make progress on getting prepared for baby - both physically and mentally.  It feels great to be productive, especially when we get to have fun doing it.


Banana mint hot chocolate

Last weekend our friends Sarah and Arnie came over for a potluck dinner.  They brought ingredients for hot chocolate made without sugar (sweetness comes from ripe bananas) and made it for dessert.  They invented this recipe and not only is it delicious, but it is actually quite nutritious.  Mmmmmmm.  I’m going to make it sometime soon!


Spring snowshoe & weekend getaway

Snow in April?  We were hoping for it, and we got it!  Our trip to Mount Rainier was originally planned for Valentine’s Day weekend, but we postponed it until April Fool’s Day.  Through a series of lucky events, Max and Sonny moved in with us in early February and we didn’t want to leave them so soon.  They had both already been through a lot of changes before we adopted them, so we wanted to make sure they felt safe and confident in their new home.  Despite the delay of our trip to the end of snowshoe season, the weather held for us.  We snowshoed (?) in falling snow and played around by sliding down some hills.


We stayed at Alexander’s Country Inn, thanks to our friends Lauren and BJ, who sent us on this getaway.  We really enjoyed having their cat Luna stay with us for several weeks in August while they moved here from New York, and while we did not expect to receive such a wonderful gift in return, we certainly appreciate it.  It had been a while since we went on a fun trip just the two of us, and it was really nice to spend a weekend together without computers, dogs (though we love them and missed them lots), or any household work or chores to do.  Very relaxing!

The inn was great, and highlights included soaking in the hot tub after a day in the snow, dinners of trout from the inn’s pond, and the propane stove that heated our living area.  It was so cozy, the way I hope our future fireplace/heater will be.

We liked the looks of the cabin across the street too:

The next day we were planning to do a short snowshoe before heading home, but much of the mountain was closed due to avalanche risk.  We checked out the park museum, which was small but pretty cool if you like geology, taxidermied local wildlife, and trying to identify animals by their tracks.  We could have gone for a hike, but we decided to head down the road to check out this place, which is best described in pictures:

While we were out having a great time, the dogs enjoyed a little vacation of their own, playing with their dog friends Ioda and Helper.  We were thrilled that our friends Aly and Tim volunteered to have the boys over to their house while we were gone.  Doggie play dates at their house the previous two weekends went so well, we all thought it would be a fun time for everyone, and it was.  I hope we can return the favor sometime.


Needle felting is all the rage

I can see why needle felting is gaining popularity.  It’s easy to get started, it’s fun to do, and the possibilities are just about endless.  I wasn’t going to start another craft, but my pal Sarah had another one of her awesome crafting parties and I just couldn’t say no.  I managed to stay under a budget of $20 for tools and supplies, which was worth it to have some fun with friends and make a couple of small gifts.  I got this starter kit including a set of the special barbed needles and a foam block for $10, plus some loose wool and yarn.  I also tried using a little bit of woven wool that I had gotten via freecycle a while back.

At the party, I made this little sheep (with string to be a Christmas tree ornament), and later at home I made the hedgehog. 

Not fantastic by any means, but decent first tries I think.  The picture is not very good; sorry about that.  When I gave them to my parents and my sister as gifts, they asked how I made them.  I told them you take a blob of loose wool and stab it with a barbed needle over and over until the wool fibers are so tangled that it becomes a solid object.  What about the eyes?  Same thing, but with a tiny blob of wool, and then when it’s formed, place it onto the larger blob and stab repeatedly to attach.  This site gives a good introduction and demo of how to do it.  Other than that, you can just play around with it to figure out good technique, and try not to stab yourself with the sharp needle.

Check out these gnomes and veggies Sarah made!  Aren’t they amazing?  I love them.

Quite a few people are selling their needle felted creations online, and some of them are very impressive.  I recently came across Bossy’s Feltworks through a friend (ooh, their sheep are leaps above mine), Bear Creek, and so many others on Etsy.  In addition to making wool sculptures, you can use this technique to create hats, bags, you name it.  And that’s just with loose wool, not even getting into what can be done with knitted wool, recycled wool sweaters, and similar materials.


Snow day!

Last week Matt finished installing our final new window, so we now have a full set!  They are fantastic, and we’ll tell you more about them soon.  Yesterday I used the Great Stuff low-expanding foam to insulate between the window frames and the rough openings. Here it is curing, yet to be trimmed (easily done with a razor blade or a serrated knife).

I had already done four windows a few weeks ago, but was waiting on the final window to do the last batch.  The cans of foam are pretty much one-time-use since the foam will cure in the straw and block it, so it seems more efficient to do several windows at once.  Boy does that insulation make a big difference.  It was getting cold outside and some condensation was forming on the inside of the nailing fins.  I could even feel a cold breeze coming in around the edges of the window frames.  After the insulation, no more cold air!  It was just in the nick of time.  We woke up this morning to this:

Wilbur was the first one outside to check it out.  He loves it!

Early in the day we had maybe an inch of snow on the ground.  Seattle doesn’t usually get snow that sticks, so this is pretty exciting for us. 

Amazingly, it stayed cold all day and the snow kept falling.  We ended up with a few inches of fluffy, dry snow.  Here it is piled up on the fence and sticking to the old picture window.


Rob knocked on the door and invited us to come play outside with several of the neighbors.  We had a blast making a 6 foot tall snowman.  “With a corncob pipe coffee bean mouth and a button mustard bottle nose and two eyes made out of coal beer cans.”  Classic.  Oh and his neck tie is made of a piece of old wiring we recently pulled out of the wall.

Rob is hoping it will get on the news.  Several people gave us the thumbs up as they drove by at 5 mph.  Now we are warm and cozy in our mostly insulated house.  Even in the middle of winter, it is uncommon for the temperature to drop below freezing here, but it will be in the 20s and maybe even the teens this Thanksgiving week.  I’m so glad we got the house buttoned up just in time.


The workout of the decade (for me)

Yesterday I did the hardest workout I’ve done in a decade.  I’m not exaggerating.  Thanks to my friends for inspiration and motivation.  My oft-mentioned pal Sarah recently joined the CrossFit movement and is quickly progressing from good shape to insanely fit.  Our friend Eva, who has gotten pretty serious with her running (half marathons, 24-hour relay race, etc.), was visiting for the long weekend.  Over the last couple weeks since I got my new shoes, I’ve been building my base by running about 25 minutes on 3 days/week with the occasional burst of speed, and also increasing the intensity of cross-training days with more cardio and more serious lifting.  So when Sarah and Eva suggested we do a track workout, I agreed.  We ended up doing a CrossFit inspired workout cooked up by coach Sarah, which was quite challenging: 

Warm-up jog/walk to city park ~0.6 mile. 

5x: 15 squats + 10 pushups (modified) + 5 pullups (assisted) in quick succession. 

Ran a hilly 1 mile circuit in 7:15.  I haven’t run a mile that fast in way too long!

6!: burpees, box jumps, dips. (6 of each, 5 of each, 4 of each…)

Ran up a one-city-block hill fast 5x. 

Walked home, stretched.

I wouldn’t have made it through any segment of that workout, much less the whole thing, on my own motivation, so I’m very glad I was able to do it with friends.  Today I have soreness in several muscles I had completely forgotten about for 10 years.  It feels good.


Why wait until a current project is finished, start 3 more!

While Matt has been working tirelessly on the fence with Robert, and somehow finding time here and there to build some raised garden beds and do some other landscaping work, I have been researching and preparing to begin some other major projects this summer.  I spent a lot of my spare time last week and the weekend researching replacement windows, picking Robert’s brain about installation (which we are currently planning to tackle ourselves) and other details, and measuring our rough openings.  Soon we’ll order custom windows for our almost 60-year-old house.  Goodbye single paned aluminum, hello Energy Star and (hopefully) maintenance-free vinyl.  I considered wood, but after doing some research and conferring with our real estate agent, decided vinyl was more suited to the level of our house.  Higher quality materials don’t pay when they’re disproportionate to the overall value of a home.  I also wanted casement windows, which is what we have now, but Matt worried he’d walk into them around the house.  So we’re probably going with sliders, which I like second best because they leave a lot of viewing space when open or closed.  We almost bought them from Lowes to take advantage of a 20% off sale on custom orders, but the ones we were considering were rated “poor” by Consumer Report in wind resistance.  Back to the drawing board.  The good news is that if/once we are customers of the local natural gas company, they offer rebates on energy efficient windows and exterior insulation (if professionally installed - is it worth it? - maybe).  I also need to continue moving on the whole natural gas / new furnace / tankless water heater decision-making process.  Decisions, decisions.  Oh yeah, I have all the supplies to install the light/fan combo in the bathroom, and would like to get that done soon.


Holiday cards

A few week before Christmas, my friend Sarah invited me and a few other gals over to make holiday cards.  I was thrilled, because I had been feeling guilty about not having made any effort toward making or otherwise procuring any cards this year.  Even though I love to do crafts, sometimes I need a little motivation.  A card making party was the perfect solution.  Sarah and I had both dabbled in linoleum block printing before, so we pooled our supplies and added some new ones Sarah was nice enough to pick up.

Two of our friends joined the fun.  I was safety girl, reminding everyone not to carve toward their other hand.  But only because I have stabbed myself on more than one occasion, and it’s not pleasant.

Sarah chose two intricate leaves from a plant book and printed them in various colors.  It turned out beautifully!

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