Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bad Blogger!

Wow - what a terrible blogger I've been lately! So many adventures, so little time to write about them! I promise I'll (slowly) start catching you up on our spring and summer adventures soon. But in the meantime, know that I'm still alive and I hope you'll still be a reader even when I go on a long hiatus for no good reason.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Starting the Conversation: National Infertility Awareness Week

Today is the last day of National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility awareness is an issue that is near and dear to my heart, and I've mentioned it in this blog before. I was trying to figure out a way this week to increase awareness and I did something kind of bold, even for me. A section of my work's online newsletter is called Healthy Living and I thought it would be a great area to write about infertility awareness. I spoke to the editor and she thought it was a good idea as well, so I started writing. The whole concept was a lot more difficult than I initially thought. I needed to find the right balance of sharing personal information along with education for people who don't know much about infertility. The article finally was distributed to 2,000 people this week, and I got a great response! I've had about 20 people (mostly strangers) email, call, or stop by my cubicle to thank me for sharing my story or offer support. Most of the people contacting me have had experiences with infertility and were happy to see the silence broken on the subject. And I've had a few people who haven't experienced infertility just thank me for sharing information with them. One woman in my office is just starting the process of getting diagnosed and dealing with infertility and we're scheduled to go out to lunch soon to discuss our shared experience. I was very nervous about the article coming out and sharing such personal information with my co-workers and boss, but after the feedback I've received, I'm positive I did the right thing. The article is below for your information!

Starting the Conversation: National Infertility Awareness Week
My husband and I are among the 7.3 million people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with infertility. It has been more than two years since we made the decision to have children, and we’re still childless. After a variety of intrusive tests and exams, we’ve been told that it is highly unlikely we will ever be able to conceive without expensive medical intervention.

So, why am I making this big announcement for strangers, co-workers and friends to read? Because National Infertility Awareness Week is April 24-30, and I think it’s a great time for people to learn more about infertility and how to support those who are experiencing it.

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. Reproductive endocrinologists (doctors specializing in infertility) usually diagnosis infertility if a person has not achieved a viable pregnancy after 12 months of trying, or 6 months if the couple is older than 35.

Doctors estimate that one in eight couples experience difficulty in conceiving a child and, contrary to popular belief, infertility is not just a woman’s problem. According to Resolve, The National Infertility Association, 30 percent of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors, and 30 percent can be attributed to female factors. In about 20 percent of cases, infertility is unexplained, and the remaining 10 percent is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.

There are dozens of reasons that a couple may experience infertility. A woman may have diminished ovarian reserves, ovarian cysts, clotting disorders or endometriosis, a disorder that causes tissue normally inside the uterus to grow outside the uterus. A man may have poor sperm quality because of genetic factors, cancer treatments, hormone levels, etc.

Even though infertility is a problem with the body functioning improperly, most insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with diagnosis or treatment. The out-of-pocket expenses can quickly become overwhelming. In fact, that’s the reason my husband and I still don’t have children: we have to save thousands of dollars (I’m talking more than $10,000) before we can pursue the treatments we need.

Many people who suffer from infertility do so silently; they don’t share their struggles with co-workers, friends or even family. The reasons for secrecy are personal, multiple and varied. In the past, I haven’t shared our diagnosis widely because sometimes I don’t want to deal with intrusive questions or opinions about my treatment choices. Also, if I gain a couple of pounds or complain about feeling sick, I don’t want people to look at me suspiciously, trying to figure out if I’m pregnant yet. (Trust me – I won’t be pregnant for a long time, if ever.)

Infertility is so emotionally devastating some days, it’s difficult enough to keep it together on my own without having well-intentioned people give me “support” that really doesn’t help. For example, telling me to “relax” doesn’t change the medical condition that’s preventing us from conceiving.

Another phrase that makes many infertile couples cringe is, “Why don’t you just adopt?” My husband and I are very open to the adoption route and would love to grow our family in any way we can. But the same thing that’s preventing us from infertility treatments is preventing us from adopting; adoption can cost more than infertility treatments. In addition, not every person is qualified to adopt, the process is not quick or easy, and it is unbelievably emotional.

Starting a family is an intimate and personal decision, even more so once infertility becomes a factor, so I understand why some people are not comfortable talking about their experiences with the disease. However, with one in eight couples suffering from infertility, awareness of the disease should be higher than it currently is.

I encourage people who have dealt with infertility to share their stories, dispel some of the myths and gently correct people when they make inappropriate comments. I also think that having honest discussions about infertility and treatments might eventually lead to better insurance coverage and more funding for research. This week – National Infertility Awareness Week – is a great time and reason to break the ice and ease into the conversation!

To learn more about infertility, you can visit Resolve, The National Infertility Association and the infertility page on PubMed Health.

Also, I especially like this article about infertility etiquette.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oscar Movie Marathon

So have I mentioned before that we're huge movie fans? We have over a thousand DVDs in our house. Robb's the one who's really into it, but I think he would agree that I have good taste and can appreciate films better than most. So a couple of years ago when I was working at Panera on the weekends I noticed people coming into the bakery with movie passes hanging around their necks. I asked what the deal was and was told that they were attending an Oscar movie showcase at the AMC movie theaters. I had never heard of that before! They were attending all five movies nominated for best picture at that year's Oscar ceremonies in one day, the day before the Oscar ceremony! I thought it was such a cool concept and I knew Robb would love it. Since then the Oscars have increased the number of movies nominated for best picture - now there are 10 movies and AMC breaks the showcase into two weekends. This year Robb and I finally got our schedules organized enough to go to the movies two Saturdays in a row.

I was pretty apprehensive. I love movies, but to see five in a row in the theater sounds a little intimidating. But you know, it ended up being pretty easy. It was nice to be in a theater with other people who love movies and are a respectful audience (no talkers, texters, etc.) We got there about an hour before the start time to secure our seats. The seats you choose for the first movie are the seats you are stuck with all day - we were pretty happy with our seats (we like to get seats where you can stretch out your legs.) There were about 15-25 minutes between each movie to get up and stretch. In the early evening there was an hour long break for people to go get dinner if they wanted. The first weekend we grabbed a burger. The second weekend we packed our own picnic (including a sugar cookie sold at Metropolitan Market that was in the shape of an Oscar award)! Included with our passes were gift cards to buy food at the concession stand, so we snacked on popcorn and soda throughout the day.

I had a pretty good idea that we would be attending the Oscar Showcase this year, so as movies came out in the previous months that had Oscar buzz, I made sure that we did NOT go see them. So we went into the showcase having only seen two movies previously - Toy Story 3 and Inception, which were great movies so we didn't mind seeing them again.

I don't want to review all of the movies, because I don't want to give everything away and I don't think my words could do the films justice. But, a brief overview will do. On the first day we watched: Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, True Grit, and The Fighter. I thought all of the movies were really good, except for The Kids Are All Right. I was really looking forward to that movie the most and it disappointed me on several levels. I really had no desire to see 127 Hours, but I ended up loving it, which kind of shocked me. On the second day we watched: Winter's Bone, Black Swan, Inception, The Social Network, and The King's Speech. I was impressed with all of the movies this day. My favorite movie of the entire showcase was Winter's Bone. I'm not quite sure why it spoke to me so much; the depiction of poverty was powerful and the story drew me in. We had a great time at the showcase and I hope that we can do this again in the future.
Our Oscar cookie!

Polar Dip, Opera, Wooden Boats

On my 30 Before 30 list I had written that I wanted to see a live opera. For Christmas this year my parents were kind enough to get me opera tickets for January! And Robb's Christmas present to me was to make a whole weekend out of the event. He made hotel and dinner reservations so we could have a great night out in Seattle.

The weekend started with with us getting up early on Saturday and heading to Alki Beach in West Seattle. My running club were having their annual run and polar dip, followed by a potluck brunch. If you'll recall, I did my first polar dip last year and was the only girl to participate. This year, there were a lot more of us running into the cold water. I was a little uncomfortable doing so this year because the rumor was Puget Sound was very polluted because of all the rain in the previous weeks and the run-off/pollution from the roads. But, right before I jumped, a flock of birds decided to take off and poop all around me and on me. I must say, most of the poop was around me, but a lot of poop was on me. That sealed my fate of running into the freezing Puget Sounds. 
Soaking wet after the plunge!
After the run, plunge, and breakfast, Robb and I headed to our hotel for an early check-in. We had a great view of the Space Needle. We took a nap and then started getting ready for our night on the town! Originally Robb had made reservations at an Italian restaurant, Il Bistro. He had made the reservations weeks in advance and had even secretly made plans for a private booth, rose petals on the table, and champagne. A week before our night out Robb got a call from the manager saying that Il Bistro was actually closed and he was so sorry that somehow reservations had been made. The manager was apologetic and offered to help us make reservations at another restaurant. We finally decided on 94 Stewart. We walked to the restaurant from our hotel, dressed in our finest, and found that the manager at Il Bistro had arranged for rose petals, champagne, and privacy at 94 Stewart (and he paid for those amenities to make up for their mistake,) It was a lovely evening and meal. We enjoyed drink and an appetizer of fried avocado with corn relish and dungeness crab. Robb had pork belly for dinner and I had a delicious salmon. We would definitely recommend a visit to 94 Stewart and hope that we can hit up Il Bistro soon.
After dinner we rushed to the monorail station to take the train to the theater where the opera was being performed. It was our first time on the monorail. It was kind of fun and a pretty cheap and fast way to get from downtown to the Seattle Center. We semi-ran to the theater because we were running a little late, but luckily got there in time. I had decided that I wanted to see a classic opera for my first opera experience - so I chose the Barber of Seville. We had fantastic seats and were so impressed with the opera. It was really funny and the guy who sang "Figaro" was wonderful. (I loved hearing "Figaro" and not seeing Bugs Bunny at the same time.) The opera was super long and while I loved it, I was also a little glad when it was over. Luckily we managed to catch the last monorail of the night and made it back to our hotel around midnight! Let me say that I'm really happy that I chose this opera to see for my first and I would be more than happy to see another opera in the future. Another 30 Before 30 list success!

The next day we went to breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe. We probably waited close to an hour for a table - this place is popular and that's why we wanted to try it. Robb even went to Starbucks to get us coffee while we waited and read the paper. Our meals were pretty good and I wouldn't mind going to Portage Bay again, but there are so many other places to try for breakfast that I don't know if we'd go back on our own. Our next destination was the Center for Wooden Boats. I had read that on Sunday afternoons they provide free boat rides. We were there a little early so we took some time to walk around and look at some other boats in the docks. Then at the appropriate time we piled into a 100+ year old sail boat with a few other families and took a frigid sail around Lake Union. It was cold, but fun (and at least it didn't rain)!

Whidbey Island - Our Five Year Anniversary

On December 30th we celebrated five years of wedded bliss. Every anniversary I am amazed that we've been married for so long; we're still newlyweds as far as I'm concerned! Five years is a big milestone, so we had to do something special for a long weekend (but still affordable). In our constant quest for exploring more of the fabulous Pacific Northwest, I determined that we should visit Whidbey Island. I'd heard the towns were cute and the scenery fabulous. After lots of research I came up with an itinerary and made reservations at a B&B. A few days before we were scheduled to leave, Robb started fighting a pretty serious flu and even missed work he felt so bad. Our reservations at the B&B were nonrefundable at that point and we had really been looking forward to our little vacation, so Robb brought a ton of medicine with him and toughed it out. The first day he still felt pretty bad, but he felt better every day and I think it was good that we were out of the house and doing things. And we were unbelievably lucky with the weather that weekend. It was super cold (well below freezing the entire weekend with some serious wind chill), but sunny and no rain!

On Thursday we headed north to Whidbey Island. There are two ways to get to the island, by ferry and by a fantastic bridge over Deception Pass. I had heard such wonderful things about the beauty of Deception Pass that I knew we should drive the extra distance in order to see the area. Deception Pass is a narrow gap of fast moving water between the mainland and Whidbey Island with long bridges to take you from one side to the other. There are places to park before the bridge so you can get out and take in the scenery. We parked at the first pull-out we saw and thought we would take a short walk to look at the bridge and Pass. We actually ended up spending quite a bit of time there because you could walk under the bridge and see different views of the water and the bridge. We were beyond impressed with the views and so happy we started our weekend with Deception Pass.

We got back in the car and drove a couple more minutes to Whidbey Island and stopped at a beach. We ate our picnic lunch in the car because it was too cold to eat outside. A naval air station was nearby and we were fascinated with watching fighter jets doing training maneuvers during our meal. After we ate we walked along the beach for awhile until the sun started to go down.
We decided it was time to drive to our next destination, the town of Coupeville. The Blue Goose Inn was amazing - our room was really lovely without being flowery/obnoxious, like many B&Bs are prone to be. We hung out for a bit and decided to finally go to dinner at Christopher's. I was so excited to try Christopher's because Coupeville is situated along the water of Penn Cove. This is where Penn Cove mussels come from - which I love. I couldn't wait to try the mussels in this restaurant. We walked to the restaurant and got there a couple minutes after 8:00 to see a closed sign in the window. There were still people inside so we popped our heads in, hoping that the sign was incorrect. Nope, a waitress came over and told us they were closed. We expressed surprise that a restaurant had closed so early and she said, "Well, this is Coupeville." We walked around the main street and saw most of the restaurants had already closed. We ended up going into Toby's Tavern for food and a drink at the bar. The food was okay and it was interesting to be in a small town tavern where everybody seemed to know everybody. But I was pretty disappointed to not get my Penn Cove mussels from Christopher's and to not have a romantic anniversary dinner. In fact, I was so bitter, I decided that Christopher's would not be getting our business at any other point that weekend.
The next morning after a delicious breakfast we went to Fort Casey. The weekend before we had been in Fort Worden with my parents, which is across the water from Fort Casey. Fort Casey was very similar to Fort Worden, but Casey had several cannons still on site. Fort Casey also had a beautiful lighthouse and great Pacific Northwest beaches. We explored Fort Casey for several hours. We saw both a sea lion and harbor seal swimming in the water, deer, and even a submarine being escorted out to sea. We headed back to Coupeville for a late lunch at Mosquito Fleet Chili, which was okay. The location was great, right on the water! The plan was to spend the rest of the day wandering around town to pop into shops. But, as it was New Year's Eve and this was small-town Coupeville, most of the shops had closed by mid-afternoon for the holiday.
Sea Lion
Can you see the cannon pointing over the water on the left-side of the picture?
Since experiencing small-town Coupeville was a bust, we headed over to Ebey's Bluff. There was a trail that went along the ridge of a cliff overlooking the Sound and then went down to loop back around along the beach. We had hoped to hike the entire 5+ mile trail before the sun went down, but as we walked along the bluff we realized we wouldn't be able to make it, the sun was just moving too fast. So we turned back around and got to the car as dusk started to settle in. We ended up going back to Ebey's Bluff the next morning to complete the hike, but we were so happy to see it that afternoon as well. The late afternoon sun bathed the bluff in spectacular glow and we were able to see both Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker in the distance. That night we got a bottle of wine at a grocery store and picked up Thai food and ate in our room, watching cable (which we don't have at home). Happy New Year's!
Mt. Baker

Mt. Rainier

Originally our plan for the last day was to drive down to Langley to check out another cute Whidbey Island town, visit a winery, and then take the ferry back to the mainland. However, considering it was New Year's Day and we had experienced a small town on New Year's Eve where most shops were closed, we decided Langley probably would be shuttered up as well. So after breakfast we loaded up the car, stopped at the Knead and Feed for some pastries to try later on (ohmigod were they delicious), and headed back to Ebey's Bluff.
After completing our hike we drove back north towards Deception Pass again. We stopped in Oak Harbor (the biggest city on Whidbey Island) for Robb to see a "roadside attraction." He's got this thing on his cell phone that helps him find weird roadside attractions. I let him indulge in this hobby every once in awhile. So we saw the Flinstone's car in Oak Harbor. We went to the BBQ Joint for lunch and were so glad that we stopped! Washington isn't exactly known for its barbecue options and my Kansas husband has been missing it. After our meals we went up and got another sandwich to share because I just couldn't get enough of the pulled pork!
The hosts at the B&B had told us about Mt. Erie and said we just had to take a visit to the top. Luckily there was a road all the way to the top and some great viewpoints. After Mt. Erie we decided to head for home. On our way we decided to stop in La Conner. We had been in this cute town once before and we thought it might be fun to check out the stores again. And of course, Robb found another roadside attraction - a statue of Biter, an homage to a stray dog in the 70s that was apparently well-loved and cared for by the town. (Later that night we made one more stop for a roadside attraction in Everett - a flying saucer.) We didn't spend too long in La Conner, but we did find a beautiful Christmas ornament that we can put on our tree next year. And on our way out of town we saw one of the most incredible sunsets I've ever seen. Several cars ended up pulling off to the side of the road so that people could take pictures. Our pictures don't even do it justice.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Christmas Weekend 2010

This year Christmas was extra special because my parents decided to visit from Florida; it was the first time for them to visit us during Christmas. They arrived at 1:45 in the morning on the Thursday before Christmas (can't argue with cheaper plane tickets.) After a quick McDonald's stop so they could get some food we headed home and went straight to bed. The next day we slept in and spent time running around town to deal with chores, buying groceries and such. That night my running club had our annual Jingle Bell Run. As a club we meet up and do a short run to a neighborhood that goes all out in decorating. Then we running around the neighborhood randomly stopping to sing Christmas carols (badly.) The neighborhood is known for their decorations, so tons of people drive through it at night to look at the lights - and they are extra lucky on that night because they get to hear us caroling! It's a lot of fun and this year my Dad and Mom decided to join us. I was really glad they could meet my running friends; and I was surprised that even my Dad sang.

On Christmas Eve day, while Robb went to work for the day, the rest of us went to Seattle in the morning so we could take the Underground Tour. Robb and I went on the tour a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it; we think it's a must-see for tourists. After the Tour we came home and while we started watching Christmas movies Mom and I started prepping food for that night's and the next day's meal. Normally, our tradition is to eat Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, but this year Robb was working and we decided that with his schedule it would be better just to eat appetizers for dinner. We had pastry squares with homemade veggie cream cheese, shrimp cocktail, and baked onion-brie dip. It was delicious and we were comfortably stuffed as we watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (a long-time Christmas Eve tradition in my family.)
Pioneer Square, Seattle

Pioneer Square, Seattle
Family Togetherness - Robb, Me, Mom, Dad
Because there were two extra people here this year, Christmas morning seemed a little more impressive because there were more gifts under the tree. As always, we got great gifts and had a nice morning. We convinced my Mom to make sausage bread for breakfast, a delicious, but time-consuming to make breakfast (bread baked with sausage, onions, peppers, and cheese tucked inside.) She kept vowing that she would never make this breakfast again because it's so annoying to make, but I think we can convince her again in another couple of years. We just lazed around the house that day, calling relatives, watching movies, and taking naps on the couch. That afternoon we had cheese, bread, and butter for a snack. And that night we were able to share our Christmas meal tradition with my parents - an aged New York strip roast with a garlic-herb crust. So delicious, especially paired with the mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, fried corn with bacon, spinach salad, fresh-baked apple pie (my great-grandma's recipe), and wine.

Christmas Morning
On Sunday we decided to venture to Port Townsend. It's a bit of drive to get there, but we thought it would be nice to check out Fort Worden, some wineries, and the cute town. Robb and I had been to Port Townsend once before when I ran the Rhody Run and had been wanting to return to explore it more. It rained the entire drive there, but it cleared up as soon as we got there, which really lucky for us (it started raining as soon as we started heading home that afternoon.) At Fort Worden we went first to see the lighthouse. The wind on the beach was most impressive and almost blew us away! We then checked out the little artillery museum (my Dad was an artillery man after all!) After the museum we walked up to see the ruined gun emplacements. It was nice to spend so much time outdoors and see such a cool, classic army fort, with so many buildings still intact. We went to downtown Port Townsend for lunch and stopped into Waterfront Pizza. It looked like a hole-in-the-wall place and the menu wasn't super-exciting. But man, we were impressed with the flavors! It was really good pizza and we had a great view of the main street. Because it was Christmas weekend, a couple of the wineries and hard apple cideries we wanted to visit were closed, but we did make it to the Fair Winds winery tasting room. The wine was decent and we even tried mead, which was a first for all of us. It was a long drive for a relatively short trip, but Fort Worden was really cool and I think a success.
Can you see the rainbow in the middle of the picture?
On Monday we headed to Seattle again. We stopped at REI and spent way too long in there - my Dad finally bought slippers and Robb got some pants. My Mom and I tried many clothes on, but unfortunately didn't find anything to purchase this trip. Next we headed to West Seattle and took a little hike around Lincoln Park. I like this park because it takes you through some woods and also allows you to hike down to a typical Seattle beach (lots of rocks and logs), which is really different than a Florida beach! For a late lunch we went to Cactus on Alki Beach, a restaurant that Robb and I had been wanting to try for a long time. It was risky taking my parents to a restaurant, especially a Tex-Mex style restaurant, we hadn't been to before (we're pretty snobby about our Tex-Mex food because we lived in Texas for several years.) But it ended up being pretty good, especially for Pacific Northwest Tex-Mex. We'll definitely go back at some point. That night my parents left to go home. I was so glad they were able to visit - it made the holidays extra nice this year.
Lincoln Park