Reorganization

After a weekend away with no vacuuming last weekend and house guests arriving next weekend, this weekend was circled in red on the calendar with the words “CLEAN HOUSE” scribbled all over.  We made a dent in the to do list and still had an enjoyable family weekend.

The biggest task we undertook and completed was finishing painting LC’s room.  While we kept the room the same color as it was when we purchased the house, we had removed some fixtures from the wall which left large unpainted areas.  Shortly after removing the fixtures, a baby unexpectedly arrived and painting took a back seat.  Only one more picture to hang and then I’ll finally post a tour of the nursery.

Another chore that I had been unable to find time to accomplish was finally taking all of my maternity clothes out of the drawers and putting them away, as well as general organization of my closets.  A helped me tackle this today and I think this will help reduce my stress in the mornings, since my clothes are organized and easier to find.

The never ending laundry and vacuuming continued today – thanks in large part to A getting up early and doing two loads of laundry while I slept in with LC.

Our house is probably not house guest ready yet, but I don’t think it looks like we’ve left B-Cat in charge of housekeeping anymore.  And some days you just have to take these small victories as they come.

One Year!

Hard to believe but today marks one year since I started this blog.  As cliche as it sounds, we have come so far since that first post.  We both have jobs we enjoy, we have a house, we have a baby, we have friends and routines.  One year ago I couldn’t even figure out how we were going to close out our condo in Alexandria and get everything across the country – and the amazing thing?  We did.  We did close out the condo and move everything from one Washington to another.  We took one pet by land and one by air.  We lived in temporary housing for a month and found a house we loved immediately.  A started his job and I found one.  And soon, so very soon, after all of that, we found out we were pregnant, and well, you know how that ended up.

To be completely truthful, I do still miss our life in the Other Washington.  As the winter lingers here in Seattle, I miss it more as I long for sundresses and flip flops.  I miss my friends so much and would love to be able to join them for an impromptu dinner or glass of wine. With LC here, I wish my family were closer so they could meet her and see how much she has changed in the past 14 weeks and listen to her coo and talk.

But even with all of that, I do not regret moving to Seattle.  A once said that lots of couples talk about doing things, but we are the couple that does them.  I think he may have told me that while I was having a nervous breakdown while planning our wedding celebration, trying to decide why I needed to have a big party since we were already married.  Because we are the couple who does the things they talk about – we follow through on those plans, he told me.  We always said we’d live in Seattle,  have a dog to walk around Green Lake, go to the Beer Fest in the summer, complain about the rain in the winter, drink lots of coffee and listen to Nirvana. (OK, maybe we didn’t plan to do that last one.)

Our life here is so much more than we ever could have imagined it being and so much more than I hoped it would be one year ago.  I know last April when we made the decision to go West that we were giving up an amazing life in the Other Washington, but I am so glad we followed through on our plans to let this Washington show us what she’s got.

Holiday Traditions

This is our fifth Christmas together, our third since we’ve been married and the first one when we will spend it together as a family, just us.  No traveling, no extended family obligations and for the last and only time, just the two of us.  (and Cal and B-Cat, but they go without saying).  We’ll miss our families and not being able to spend Christmas with them is one of the side effects of living across the country.  But I think we are also both looking forward to having a quiet holiday of just the two (four) of us and the opportunity to start some holiday traditions for our family.

One tradition I hope we’ve started today is the fire.  As you may recall from the home tour, we have a beautiful fire place, complete with stockings hung with care, but it was previously filled with pebbles and votive lights – a leftover from the previous owners.  It was really important to me to be able to have a fire in the fireplace this weekend, so this morning A, Cal and I piled into the car and headed to Home Depot (and Lowe’s) and picked up our fire supplies.  A worked hard and now we have a beautiful fire, providing warmth to the house and a delightful crackle in the background.  The pets were unsure of the noise at the start, but they’ve both been asleep for hours now, enjoying a relaxing, lazy Christmas Eve afternoon by the fire.

Another tradition we’ve done since being married is displaying all of our Christmas cards.  Christmas cards are probably one of my favorite things about the holidays.  I love designing our photo card and getting them together every year.  I even enjoy writing and addressing them.  But I love nothing more than receiving them from friends and family.  Photocards now allow us to see photos of friends’ children who we may not see that often, or to see what adventures our friends have been up to in the past year.  Most of all, who doesn’t love receiving mail!?  

Here is a look at one side of our Christmas card wall, I’ve highlighted a few for you – see below for the key.

A –  This card involves a dog named Frank wearing antlers.  It may be my favorite card of the season.

B – This card announced our dear friends were expecting their first baby!  We are so excited the CCBOJ will have a little friend close to her age to learn to ski with!

C – This card is from Heifer International, making a donation in our name.  A great idea for holiday cards.

D – This card is from the family from whom I baby sat all through college.  The “baby” is 9 years old now.  I’m pretty sure that makes me really old.

We’re still trying to determine what other traditions we will put in place, something I am sure will develop more once the CCBOJ is part of the celebration.  But one thing we are both looking forward to tomorrow is waking up in our own beds, ready to greet the Christmas morning.

Home for the holidays, with a tree!

I have very strong opinions about Christmas trees, which is not surprising since I have strong opinions about a lot of things.  But I think Christmas trees should be live.  It is Baby Jesus’ birthday and Baby Jesus wouldn’t want His Christmas tree to be bought at Target with lights already on it.  Or at least I don’t think He would. 

For me, picking out a Christmas tree each year is part of the fun – standing out in the cold, rain, trying to determine which tree looks better and has fewer holes or is the correct height for your living room.  I love everything about the process of getting the tree – even if fitting it into the tree stand can be a pain, not to mention getting it on to the roof of the car.  (We bought from the Boy Scouts this year and the young troop members took it upon themselves to get out tree tied to our car and we appreciated their hard work.)

So without further ado, here is our Christmas tree this year. 
Can you find B-Cat in this photo?  It looks like we have a lavish amount of gifts under the tree already, but in fact they are all gifts for the Angel Tree at church, so as of tonight our tree is looking a little bare.  
 We decorated the tree while watching the Pats awesome victory on Sunday.  Please recall I am pregnant.  So I only wear sweatpants on the weekend.  Don’t judge.  I am wearing a maternity Pats shirt, so points for that.  A is stringing the lights while wearing his Duke santa hat. 
Another strongly held opinion of mine is that Christmas tree ornaments should reflect the tree’s owner.  I’m not a fan of trees that are all white or blue or just has snowflake ornaments.  I’m sure some people have strongly held opinions that say that your tree should look like the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog, but I’m just not one of those people.  The thought of being able to add an ornament next year that reflects the CCBOJ’s first year with us warms my heart. 
Here’s a quick tour of some of the ornaments on our tree that I think reflect us, both as a family and individually. 

These first two are not really surprising – our winter weekends are planned around football and we love our teams.  We’ve gotten each other ornaments for our teams.  There are two Patriots’ Nutcrackers on the tree; I call them Wes and Ben. 

These ornaments represent places we’ve lived.  The top is from Old Town Alexandria, our home sweet home until June.  It is a beautiful hand painted glass ball I purchased at Art on the Avenue in Del Ray a few years ago and it makes me very happy to hang it on the tree.  The trolley ornament is from our first Christmas together (aww) when A was going to school in the Bay Area and we spent a weekend in the city over the holidays – our weekend included a ride on the famous San Francisco Cable Cars.

This one is from last year, our trip to New Zealand.  We try to grab an ornament from our vacation destinations each year.  (We may have forgotten in Maui but I am trying to find one online to add to the tree.) This little kiwi made the trip all the way from the other side of the world and will always remind us of when we were young, married and carefree :)

B-Cat has many ornaments on the tree, she’s been around longer and therefore had more time to accumulate ornaments.  For some reason I didn’t grab a picture of one of them though, but here is Cal’s beagle.  He is on the side of the tree the faces the windows and the ornament is keeping an eye on the front of the house, like a good watch dog should.  (He is a little quieter about it than Cal).
So that’s a little highlight tour of our tree.  It makes our place so warm and cozy.  I love coming home at night and seeing the lights all aglow and I can’t wait to sit by the fire and look at our tree on Christmas Eve. 


Holiday Home Tours

Isn’t looking at how others decorate their homes for the holidays fun?  Of course it is.  That is why you enjoyed the look at my house (see below post) so much.  So why not check out others? 

Two Washingtons’ “holiday home tour” is one of many featured on The Nester Holiday Home Tour today – so check it out.  Recognize that some people decorate a lot more festively then others.  But do they all have a beagle?  No, probably not.  So I have that going for me. 

Holidays in Seattle

It has been a very, very rainy weekend in Seattle.  Not a little rainy, gray and misty like one is to expect in Seattle, but a “Pineapple Express” tropical storm rainy weekend that has caused flooding and mudslides throughout Western Washington.  With the exception of encountering some large puddles and potholes, our home and weekend have been relatively unaffected.  We used the weekend to pull out the holiday decorations and get the house appropriately in the spirit. 
 Here is our mantel, complete with the stockings.  The “JOY” used to be our stocking holders when it was just A, B-Cat and me.  Now there are four of us with one more to arrive soon, so buying four stocking holders seemed like a waste.  And while next year we could use “PEACE”, I figure the possibility of having more children or pets is pretty high and so any future stocking holders will be generic in nature.   To the right of the silver “JOY” is our other “Joy” on the mantel, this one a small nativity scene, which appears at the top of this post.  It is my goal to be able to have a fire in the fireplace on Christmas and Christmas Eve.  I should probably start prepping for that.
Over on the wine bar, because what would be a more appropriate location, is our nativity set.  It is growing – currently in its infancy if you will – and my aunt has been giving us a new piece every Christmas.  For now we have Mary and Joseph, with the manger, and the Three Wise Men.  Baby Jesus is in the wine bar drawer for the moment, because you know you can’t put Baby Jesus in the manger before Christmas.  I also know you are supposed to have the Three Wise Men traveling through the house so they can arrive on Epiphany, but that just isn’t in the cards this year, sorry.  In our growing set, we don’t have an “Angel Gabriel” yet, so here is our solution.
Above the nativity scene on the wine bar are two pieces special to A and me.  One is A’s Duke Bear.  This item is a matter of much debate in our house because 1) why is there a Duke Bear?  Duke’s mascot is not a bear.  Bears really have nothing to do with Christmas.  So, what is Christmas-y or Duke-y about a bear??  2) Where is the bear going?  3)  No really, what does a Duke Bear have to do with Christmas?  Every year the same debate.  I managed to relocate the bear off the mantel, but he is still prominently displayed in our home. 
Next to inexplicable Duke Bear, is the singing kitty.  This kitty was my Grandmother’s – she was in a nursing home before she died and one Christmas a Boy Scout troop visited the home and brought singing stuffed animals for the residents.  The little kitty sings We Wish You a Merry Christmas.  But in all “Meows”.  And on the last note, she holds the meow and it makes me giggle each time.  Truth be told, my Grandmother hated this cat.  Probably because all day people and visitors (like me) would come to her room and start the cat singing.  Anyway, being the only granddaughter, when my Grandmother passed away I got her jewelry and the singing cat.  The cat always has a place of honor in the house – this year next to Duke Bear ironically – but close to the front door so it can welcome us as we come home each night. 

I don’t remember where I picked this up – probably at the Christmas Tree Shop (which if you aren’t from New England you won’t understand and won’t know why shopping for a bargain at CTS is an amazing experience) – but I really like it.  I’ve put it up in the dining room for the season.  I like that it looks like something you would find in a kindergarten classroom of a Catholic school.  It is just both cheerful and solemn at the same time.  It is homey and makes me smile.

Our big excitement for the weekend (beyond the Pats win, which warmed the chilly day for sure) was getting and decorating our tree.  Pictures to come, along with a little “tour” of our Christmas tree ornaments.

Comfy Couch Days

The holidays have caught up to me, despite the fact that they really just arrived.  Our November has been jammed pack with travel, work, visitors, SNOW and yes, turkey.  Yesterday was our first real holiday in our home and I think it went rather well.  When we bought the house our number one concern was the size of the kitchen, which was smaller than we had hoped.  However, we cooked 15lbs of turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, squash casserole, stuffing, gravy, Toll House Pie and pumpkin custard without a problem yesterday. I was proud of our little kitchen, as well as the cooking/planning/calculating skills of A and me.

As mentioned above we have had unseasonably cold and snowy weather here in the Emerald City.  It began snowing Sunday night and by Monday night we had two inches and impassable roads.  It took us approximately 2 hours to drive 5 miles from work to home.  I had two snow days (Tues and Wed), so we worked from home.  As I am about to turn the corner from second to third trimester,  the extra days of wearing sweatpants and move at a slower pace is much appreciated.  Unfortunately for our guests, A’s parents in from the Other Washington,  the snow has reduced the ability to site see and explore Seattle, but they did enjoy Northgate Mall, not to mention our day of culinary indulgence yesterday.

Tomorrow A and his mom will head to Portland to watch the Evil Empire take on the Ducks.  I will brave the Black Friday Weekend crowds at Babies R Us.  Keep me in your thoughts.  Glider or bust, I say.   That or I will hang out in a Starbucks until the game is over.  We will see how the spirit hits me. 

Whatever plans you may have this weekend – eating leftovers, shopping at your favorite mail order online store or traveling, I hope you enjoy some rest and quiet time before it all begins again on Monday. 

Go To Dinners

Last night we hosted our neighbors for dinner, including their adorable 4 month old son.  We enjoy spending time with our neighbors and were excited to see Cal interact with a baby.  He is certainly interested in these small people, but he doesn’t know quite what to make of them.  He spent a lot of time walking up to the baby, sniffing at the baby until he moved or giggled and then running to stand next to me, giving me a look, as if to ask “WHAT is THAT?” 

It was the first time we had our neighbors over for dinner so I made my “go to” dinner menu – chile relleno casserole, Mexican rice (Rice a Roni or Liptons, whatever is on sale that week) and cornbread.  I made a “sweet and spicy” squash recipe as well, to ensure we had some veggies and to use some yummy seasonal items. (The recipe calls for Kabocha squash, but ours went bad before I used it, so I substituted acorn squash, which was just as delightful). I also made Toll House pie for dessert because it was the lowest maintenance dessert I could think of, while still being so yummy.

I found the casserole recipe about a year ago when friends of ours had a baby and we brought dinner over (which is my way of bribing new parents to let me hold a baby).  I wanted something that would be low fat, as well as something that would be relatively easy to make and would travel well.  The recipe has since become the one I turn to when I am having people over or need to make something easy but nutritious for dinner. I’ve even made it as a “drop off casserole” for a colleague whose wife had surgery and we wanted to send something for the family while she recuperated.

The problem I encounter now is that I’ve used my “go to” recipe for dinner with my neighbors – with whom I hope we continue to socialize and have dinner.  So I am reaching out to you, dear readers, what are your go to recipes for times like this?  One of the things I like most about this recipe – besides it tastes good and seems to impress those who eat it – is that it is easy.  Last night from start to serving dinner, it took A and I about an hour to do it all.  Chopping, cooking, serving and walking the dog – for all of the menu items (I even had the pie ready to go and it baked while we ate dinner).  I like this insurance for when I wait until 2 hours before my guests are coming over to decide to shower and then return to the kitchen to discover there is now about 70 minutes until they are due to arrive. 

So – when looking for a delicious, somewhat healthy, easy to make, sure to please dinner, what do you end up with?  Is there one meal you make for situations like these?  Are you smarter than me and have more than one such meal in your rotation? 

Come and Knock On Our Door

When trying to decide what to do with my Monday night my options were walk up to the main drag of our neighborhood and get a pedicure, or take photos of the house and post them to the blog.  Because I love you, dear readers, I chose to let my toes go untended to and that posting photos was more important. 

A caveat before you see the photos – these are not staged real estate photos so there is stuff on the counters, unpacked boxes and a half made bed.  In short, they aren’t perfect but they are a pretty good portrait of what our new home looks like on a daily basis.  I also think at least one pet appears in almost every photo – kind of like Where’s Waldo. 

So welcome to our home, thanks for your support through the move and maybe tomorrow I’ll post photos of my pretty toes.

Exterior

Here is our home, complete with our car in the driveway.  As you can see, the sun is setting behind the house, meaning our house faces east and receives wonderful morning sun.


To the left is a closer view of the steps to our front yard and door.  On the right is our Japanese maple tree that provides shade to our front yard.  Many people have commented how lucky we are to have such a large and beautiful Japanese maple and we are excited to see it turn purple/brown this fall.

If you come up the stairs and walk to the left of the house, towards the back of the house, you reach our side yard, which is to the left.  Through that back gate is the backyard, complete with a “playground” as the young guests at our housewarming called the swing set in the backyard.  The backyard is also good for playing fetch with a beagle.  If you walk past the swingset, you get to the other side of the house and a path that leads to the driveway, as well as the side door to the kitchen and the downstairs door to the office.

Back at the front of the house, this is the front yard – looking towards the street.  Walk up those stairs on the left and you get to our front deck.  To the left is the deck looking towards the house, the right is looking out towards the street.  The grill is in the one corner not captured in either photo. That long black thing is Cal’s leash, not a snake.  No snakes here.  All of this brings you here:  our front door.

Interior

 
This is the view as you walk into the front door and enter the main living area.  B-Cat is even there to welcome you!

To the left of the front door is the window nook or conversation area.  Or as the pets would prefer us to call it, Cal and B-Cat’s corner.  They love to sit side by side, each in their own chair and wait for us to come home.  You can see Cal waiting for his dad to get off the bus and come home in this picture.  He is waiting very patiently. 

Just beyond the “nook” is the fireplace.  This picture has terrible perspective but you can tell it is a fireplace.  It is in the center of the room on the left side, and no, we are not using it as our design focal point.  It just didn’t make sense for the type of room we wanted.  The previous owners had filled the fireplace with rocks and have tea lights in it.  FYI – beagles like to eat rocks.  So we will be changing that out soon and probably using it as a traditional fireplace this winter.

Directly opposite the fireplace are these bookshelves and wine bar.  I love this piece in our living room and we spent a lot of time picking out the right books to display out here.  I will have to do a whole post just on the bookcase one day because I think we did a nice job representing “us” on it.  If you could zoom in here, you would see the tequila and triple sec left over from our margaritas this weekend.  I point it out only because A bought “Montezuma” triple sec and it really amuses me.  No one complained though, and the ‘ritas were a hit.

If you were to turn to the left after entering the front door, you would enter the dining room, pictured here.  I couldn’t get the wall color to come through very well, it is a light green.  I thought I really hated the color, but it has grown on me.  I think it looks good with our honey colored dining room set.  The bookshelf to the left holds cookbooks.  Just before that bookshelf is a door which leads to . . . .

The kitchen.  Ta da.  This is a shot from the doorway from the dining room.  To the immediate right is the door to the outside.  Past the refrigerator on the left is a door that leads to the living room.  Both the dining room and the living room doors have pocket doors, so you can close off the kitchen if necessary.  I love the backsplash colors, which is also behind the sink.  I also love the island workspace that looks out to the window.  And I love love love my hanging pot rack above the workspace.

Through the living room (past the glass half wall if you look back at the first living room photo) is a hallway.  Immediately to your right is the bathroom. It is the guest bathroom and it is inhabited by monkeys.  More photos of this room (and the rest of the house) will be in the picasa album.

Continuing down the hall, also on the right is a closet, then two rooms at the end of the hall.  One is a guest room (with the queen bed) and the other is “in progress” and will one day be a child’s room (the one with yellow walls).  (Do not pay attention to the boxes.  They are not really there.  Oh, and clearly I don’t iron my sheets. But if you visit, I promise I will.)

Back down the hall there is a pantry and then there is a staircase.  Down the stairs and to the right is the master suite. Which is “lived in” at the moment.  I wasn’t sure if I would like having the master suite downstairs, but I suppose it really is no different then having it upstairs, just a different direction to walk.  It is actually a nice retreat, to be below it all.  The walls are Tiffany blue and it has the softest brown carpet (on which orange cat hair shows up surprisingly well).  That door to the right is our walk in closet.  There is another closet opposite the foot of the bed.

When the previous owners redid the downstairs to create this master suite, they had to be sure it had a separate exit to be considered a bedroom.  (If you watch HGTV you know about this rule.)  So there is a large “escape” window in our room that we can climb out of in case of fire.  They created a “zen garden” outside and it is very cute.

To the right of the walk in closet is the master bathroom and one of my favorite rooms in the house.  When making our list of wants when looking at houses, this bathroom was on it but I thought I would never be able to find a house that had it and fit our other more important needs.  We were very lucky.  The bathroom is the reverse color scheme of the bedroom, brown walls and blue accents.

Through the bathroom is the laundry room – or B-Cat’s private sanctuary. 

If you returned to the stairwell from the upper level and took a left instead of a right, you would reach a hallway.  There is a utility/storage room in the first door on the right, and the laundry room is at the end of the hall (with the kitty door).  The second door to the right is the office/fourth bedroom.

The office is also a work in progress.  The pale wood to the right are all closet doors, leading to a ton of storage space.  To the left is the desk (you can see the desk chair) and a futon in the background.

In this picture to the right, I am facing towards the hallway, so you can see the desk area better – as well as the tv hidden away in the tv cove.

So that’s our home.  Thanks for taking the tour.  One day I hope to be fully moved in and settled.  But for now everything that I need on a daily basis is unpacked and in usable condition and I even threw a party with it looking like this – and you know what, no one seemed to care.  Speaking of not caring, here is a beagle who has clearly reached his teenage years – he is rolling his eyes as his mother asks him to do something.  Or more likely stop doing something like pull blankets out of the closet.  Ah, youth. 

Home Improvements

We continued our work on the house this weekend – working under deadline because we have our housewarming BBQ scheduled for Saturday.  So we need to get this house in show to the public shape by then.  Oh and then cook and feed everyone.  I would like to hire a house manager.   If they promise to organize the office, they may sleep there. 

We’ve been doing lots of little projects throughout the week, some more cosmetic then others.  As you may have seen on our Twitter feed, we have a compost pail now.  Some commented that this seemed awful “yuppie” of us, but composting is required in Seattle, as is recycling.  In fact you have to pay for non-compost, non-recycling trash – so it really is in our best interest to try to get our trash output down as much as possible.  Besides, the compost pail matches our stainless steel kitchen appliances.

We bought and installed some bookcases to match our wine bar.  They look pretty snazzy.  I expect you to be impressed by them as soon as I take some photos of them.  The new bookcases lead to us having to create a hierarchy of books to determine which would be allowed out in the living room, which would be on our “guest book cases” and what books still need to find a home.  If you are wondering, Twilight made it to the living room. 

This weekend was our biggest project, a grill.  We do not have a large car so despite Lowe’s generous offer to assemble the grill for us, we had to take it in the box and then assemble it ourselves.  We chose to do this on the hottest weekend not only of the year in Seattle, but a record-breaking heat weekend.  It was 95 on Saturday and 96 on Sunday.  It was hot.  And for future reference, if you are putting together a large metal item and some of the pieces of that metal item are black – do not leave those black items in the sun and then grab them for assembly.  They will be hot like the molten surface of the sun and you will yell out in pain.  But our “commercial grade” grill is assembled – in less then 3 hours – and even more miraculously we are still married.  We made grilled pizzas using Melissa d’Arabian’s recipe and they came out delightful.  We have to work on our technique but it best of all it proved that our grill was a success.  We even made homemade ice cream for dessert (Alton Brown’s recipe from Good Eats: The Early Years) and it was delicious.

I think the house is almost camera ready – which is again to say it has to be since we are having many, many people over next weekend to share this house with them.  We look forward to sharing photos of the fruits of our labor with you  so stay tuned :)