Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas 2008

After all our snow, the weather has finally warmed up a little. There was A LOT of rain around Christmas. A lot of rain on top of weeks' worth of snow and ice is a dangerous combination. The saturation can cause very heavy conditions on flat roofs and gutters. Several roofs in the area collapsed. Well on the Friday night after Christmas Robb and I woke up to a crash. We rushed to the living room and couldn't find anything. The family room looked fine too. So we went back to bed. Well the next morning Robb discovered the source of the noise. Right outside our bedroom window our gutter fell off the roof. I'm just thankful our roof didn't fall in, that would have really sucked. This just caused an inconvenience for the landlord who had to fix the thing. It's really interesting to live in a house, but only rent right now. We can see what types of things go wrong with houses, but don't have to deal with fixing them ourselves. It will prepare us for the future when we're finally ready to buy a house. We will have a better idea of what to expect in terms of house maintenance and repairs!

We initially weren't going to get a Christmas tree this year so that we could save a little money. But I just love Christmas so much and love decorating the tree. So we got a short tree this year. It was great little tree though. And I got to put up all my favorite Christmas ornaments. Most of our ornaments are from special places and mean something to us. I love my traditional and beautiful German ornaments. I bought most of them while I was in high school in Germany because I knew I'd want them on my own tree one day! And I love my ballet ornament because it reminds me of my dancing days. And Robb and I always try to buy ornaments when we visit fun places. We love pulling the ornaments out each year and reminiscing about the time we bought the ornament and what we were doing on that trip! So I'm very glad that we decided to get a tree this year and we got to do that again. It really is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. I think that's why I like decorating the tree so much. It's about the memories.

For me, Christmas Eve is more of the traditional family time and nice sit-down dinner. My Mom always made prime rib. While her prime rib is pretty good, I'm not generally a fan of prime rib. But I do like beef. So this year I looked on the Internet for the perfect beef recipe that was not a prime rib, but worthy of Christmas Eve dinner. I found an amazing recipe for Garlic Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin. It sounded amazing, had great reviews, and didn't sound too difficult to create. Robb ordered the beef from Metropolitan Market (New York aged strip loin) and we got an incredible 5 pound piece of meat. That's right. 5 pounds. 2 people.

I can cook, but I've never made a true piece of meat before. Robb is the main cook in our family. But I really wanted to make this dinner on my own. However, I didn't want to screw up such an expensive piece of meat either. So while I consider the meat prepared and cooked by me, I did make sure that Robb supervised so I didn't screw it up. And success was obtained. It came out perfectly. I could not have asked for a tastier Christmas dinner. (Along with the tenderloin, we had roasted potatoes, fried corn, and garlic-lemon spinach...all made from scratch by me!) I was telling my friend Michelle about how proud I was of cooking this 5 pound piece of beef. And even though she's vegan, she recognized and pointed out to me that I should be proud because there's something special about being able to prepare a real expensive and large piece of meat on your own for an important meal. It's kind of a rite of passage to becoming an independent, adult woman. (At least in my mind it is.) So the beef was a success and I think it will become a Christmas Eve tradition in our house!

Christmas Day was a quiet affair at our house this year. We actually took showers in the morning and changed into clean PJs so we could hang out comfortably all day.We spent the day watching our favorite Christmas movies all day (I think we made it through 7) and talking to our families on the phone. Robb's family always had Christmas dinner on Christmas day, so even after the amazing food we had the night before, he made a ham on Christmas day. Even though it was raining that day, the rain was mixed with snow at some points, and there was still plenty of snow on the ground from our snow storms over the past two weeks. So we definitely had a white Christmas, which was nice!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow and Snow and More Snow...

One of the reasons we decided to move to Washington is because there are seasons. We missed having a fall, winter, spring, and summer. In Florida it's mostly summer with a few cool days thrown in there. The neat thing about Puget Sound is that while you get the seasons, the winter is somewhat mild. You might expect trace amounts of snow, but it's not like you're in Minnesota. I actually have a colleague who works in Spokane, WA and he told me that he moved away from the Seattle area, to the eastern side of the state, because he wanted real seasons with real snow in the winter and real heat in the summer. So I moved here for the seasons. He moved away because Puget Sound wasn't season-y enough!

So most people who live in Puget Sound are not used to great amounts of snow. The area completely shuts down for an inch of snow: people do not know how to drive in it and there are not enough resources to plow and de-ice the roads. Now imagine 12 inches of snow. And imagine that snow and ice continually falls on the area for two weeks. We've got major freak-outs going on here. Everyone loved it at first. It's exciting for the kids to play in gobs of snow. Everyone got an excuse to take a day off work. The ski resorts were finally able to open. (Picture of the front of my house is after the first snowfall. The picture of my backyard is after the most recent snowfall.)

But now, people are sick of it. They're tired of being snow-bound. They're tired of being stranded at the airport. Christmas shopping has been frantic in the few hours between snow storms. I'm tired of having to drive to work in this. (Because, of course working for the state means that no snow days are declared. If I can't make it to work I am not allowed to work from home. And if I can't make it to work I have to use up one of my earned vacation days. I only gave up one day so far. Otherwise, I've been going to work. I leave a little later and come home a little early to avoid the icy roads in the dark, but I am NOT giving up my vacation time for this!) I'm a fairly good driver in the snow. I did learn to drive in Germany after all. But, there's not much you can do when there's a foot of snow on the street and you try to get to work and your little Honda Civic gets stuck in between the driveway and the street and neighbors have to dig you out (because you waited too late to buy a shovel and then every store within a 30 mile radius was out of them). There's not much you can do when your place of employment won't shut down, but won't plow the parking lot, so your little Honda Civic gets stuck (AGAIN, ON THE SAME DAY AS THE ABOVE INCIDENT) trying to park. There's not much you can do when your street is a slight incline and the city hasn't plowed it once in the two weeks since this has started, and when you turn down it you slide right past your driveway and your yard and have to beep your horn so teenage boys get out of the way. So yeah, I don't mind driving in the snow. But I do wish I had 4 wheel drive every once in awhile.

So we've got lots of snow. It's absolutely gorgeous. And I love having a white Christmas. It's great to have Christmas music playing, your tree lit, cookies baking, and snow falling. And we're supposed to get MORE tonight. But I think everyone is very anxious for it to get back to the typical Seattle winter rains. This is definitely a Christmas to remember...

The progression of snow over two weeks...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Celebration in Bellevue

Last week we braved the below freezing weather and went to see Disney World reincarnated in Bellevue, WA. Bellevue is an upscale city east of Seattle with a great mall and downtown area. We first went to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens to see the 'Garden d'Lights.' Apparently a few years ago Bellevue wanted a way to attract visitors to the Gardens in the winter time; they started to drape the gardens in Christmas lights. Over the years this morphed into creating elaborate displays of fake blooms, trees, and scenes using colorful lights. The lights were really quite incredible.

After the 'Garden d'Lights' we headed to downtown Bellevue. I wanted to see the nightly performance on 'Snowflake Lane.' There is a main street in Bellevue that is right next to a huge mall and tons of restaurants. During Christmas time this street is re-christened 'Snowflake Lane.' Christmas music is pumped out through loud-speakers and snowflakes are projected onto the sides of buildings. At 7:00 'Snowflake Lane' becomes even more of an extravaganza. Live toy soldiers lined the streets and handed out lollipops. People dressed as ice princesses, polar bears, and penguins were dancing in the streets. And a toy soldier drum corps marched their way through the crowds and then performed along with the Christmas music. The performance was capped off with fake snow falling. The crowds of families and kids were truly intense. It was a great little performance and such an interesting ploy to get families to come to the Bellevue Square mall for their Christmas shopping!
The night truly felt like the time we went to Disney's MGM studios in December a couple of years ago. Kids hopped up on excitement and sugar? Check! People dressed in costumes and dancing? Check! Outrageous displays of Christmas lights? Check! Fake snow falling? Check! All commercialism aside though, it was a nice way for Robb and I to feel festive and get in the Christmas mood!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Florida in November

I decided it was time to head back to Florida for a visit. I hadn't been there since I moved almost 1.5 years ago, and it was time to see the family again. Additionally, I knew that it would be a perfect time to throw my sister a bridal shower. Because grocery stores are busy the week of Thanksgiving, Robb couldn't take any time off, so I headed to the Sunshine State on my own for a week.
I only had to take three days of vacation and I managed to arrive in Florida on a Saturday and not leave until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was a nice visit with great weather - mostly in the 70s. I saw the various grandparents and relatives. I had a huge Thanksgiving dinner at my grandfather's house. I spent some good time with my parents (I hadn't seen my Mom since May and my Dad since LAST Thanksgiving!) I got to eat at my favorite beach restaurant, Frenchy's Rockaways, twice! I got to sit out on the beach for a little bit. And we went to the local park to see an alligator.

Briana's bridal shower was lovely, if I do say so myself. I'd been thinking about it and planning for months. It was a vegan dessert-themed shower, with a cupcake focus (Bri is a vegan who has become quite the cupcake-baker). Pink and yellow were the colors. I was told by the bride to not have stupid games. I think I managed that. We played the board game "Dirty Minds" and had a cupcake decorating contest. Briana picked the winner of the cupcake contest, see if you can figure out what it is.... I also had everyone write marriage advice for Briana and I'll be putting those thoughts in a scrapbook with pictures of the day. I think the day was a success. The bride had a good time and she cleaned up on the presents. And most importantly, everything was vegan and tasted delicious. I think it surprised some people that vegan desserts could be so good.

The other exciting part of the week was completing my first 10K! I convinced my Dad to run the Turkey Trot with me on Thanksgiving morning. We'd been training for it for a few months (since I completed my 8K in July). My goal was to finish it feeling good, not walk, and stay at 11 minute miles or less. My goals were met beyond my expectations! First, I ran the entire 6.2 miles. I'd been training for this, but had always stopped at 6 miles. So this was the first time I went the full distance. I also finished the race in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 1 second. That's an average of 10:27 miles. That's an incredible time for me and much faster than I thought it would be. My Dad finished in about 56 minutes, which was pretty good for him too. Although we didn't run "together" it was nice to know we were doing it together. And I really like making my parents proud. They're pretty excited about staying in shape and exercising, so it's fun to feel like I'm a part of that now. A year ago I could barely imagine running a 5K, now I've just completed a 10K. That sounds crazy! And, by the way, I've lost 17 pounds since this running/eating right thing started last March. I have to figure out what my next race will be. It's important for me to have a goal so that there's something to work towards.

Now I'm back in Washington and back at work. (This was the first vacation I've taken since starting work, it was weird to come back.) It's gotten pretty cold this week, the highs are projected to only be in the 40s. So it's time to start bundling up more. But you know, while those sunny Florida days were a nice break, I love wearing my sweaters and scarfs. So I'm back home to enjoy the cold, the fireplace, and the flannel sheets. I get to see the fat squirrels do anything to get extra food before hibernation. And as I decorate for Christmas, it's nice to feel a nip in the air. And if I start to get sick of the rain, I know that I'll see sunny days again when I go to Florida in March for Briana's wedding!