December 7, 2012

We moved into the new house!

. . . and then I dropped off the face of the Earth for awhile.

But I'm starting to pull myself back up, and I may even finish unpacking boxes before Christmas gets here! (or at least all but the handful tucked away in closets, which totally don't count)

It really shouldn't have surprised me, but the move-in was crazy! We've got so much stuff, even after getting rid of a bunch of things before we moved out. The moving team we had was great, and unpacking was part of the service, but once we made it through the kitchen, china, and Sam's room, I told them to leave everything else in boxes! Unpacking is easy, putting finding places to put everything is the hard part. I'd much rather have a bunch of things in boxes that needed to be sorted through than to have the stuff strewn about all over the place. Not that we didn't (don't) still have things strewn about anyway, but it kept things to a manageable level.

Then a few days after we moved, Sam and I headed to Texas! It was a wonderful trip with Oma, Grandpa and Aunt Elle, so good to get back to familiar and beloved faces and places after all the new and strange. Mr. Sam continued to be excellent at airplane travel, and Giggy flew back to Seattle with us! She got to spend plenty of time with Sam and it gave me some breathing room to unpack a bit more.

More updates to come, but for now I really wanted to get something posted so I can get back into the swing of blogging!

October 14, 2012

Housing update

We've sold the house in Texas! *happy dance* It's a huge weight off our minds, and it didn't take nearly as long as we'd feared. It was a wonderful house, and it provided a haven for many cherished memories.
We celebrated the sale of the house the same way we celebrated buying it :-) Margaritas and texmex! Ok, maybe not actually texmex, more New Mexico/Southwest style, but extremely tasty with excellent margaritas. The place is called Cactus, a small local chain with one location nestled at the base of Jonathan's office building and three others scattered elsewhere in the Seattle area. I suspect we'll be visiting them fairly frequently.

After a full month in the apartment, we're all desparate to get back into a house. Unfortunately, we've been having a hard time finding a place--two not-small dogs make the whole thing more complicated. At one point we had a good place picked out, and our rental application was submitted and accepted. But then, as we were waiting for the lease paperwork, they came back and said "sorry, someone else put in an application after you, and they don't have dogs. Have a nice life!" That was not fun.

But now we officially have a house! Did the walkthrough yesterday and got all the details, which were really impressive. It's very tech-friendly with lots of nifty gadgets built in, I think Jonathan will have lots of fun with them.

Gotta admit, at first I was a little . . . unenthusiastic about this house. It's not in our first (or even second) choice of locations, and because we were running out of options and time, we didn't spend very long thinking about it--just moved ahead. (I think I literally spent 10 minutes walking through; we had dogs in the van that day.) So I didn't have time to fall in love with it like I had with several other houses over the course of our search, but the size and price were right, it was available and willing to accept the dogs.

Then yesterday when we did the walkthrough, I did have time to fall in love. The neighborhood is full of giant trees, several little windy roads and a couple of parks within walking distance. We're in a small culdesac, set back out of the way, and the fall colors were stunning. The house itself just got better and better the longer we were there--skylights, beautiful light and window fixtures, huge sink in the upstairs laundry room, on and on.

Now I'm really excited, ready to be out of the city, into our house, and get all our stuff back! Movers come Tuesday, and I'll try to get some good pictures ^_^

October 6, 2012

Cougar Mountain Zoo

Last weekend we made another escape from the city, out to Issaquah and the Cougar Mountain Zoo. So far Issaquah is our favorite Seattle suburb--full of trees, right on the slopes of two small mountains that are also large wilderness parks, with a charming downtown reminiscient of a ski town. It was our first choice for a house, but the rental market has dried up and we had to look elsewhere. Oh well, we can still visit!

Cougar Mountain Zoo is a small private zoo in Issaquah. Private means that its a little pricey, as zoos go, but well maintained and clean. The scenery is beautiful, and the best part is that you can really get up close and personal with the animals.

The zoo mascot was waiting to greet us as soon as we got in (apologies for all the phone pictures, I keep forgetting the big camera!)

What a handsome pair!

How up close and personal? Well, outside all the tiger areas there are big signs that warn "you are in a spray zone!" so look out for tiger butts.

As for the less dangerous animals, you can buy various animal treats all over the place in order to tempt them closer, and even though we didn't have food most of the time, the animals seemed to expect it. We stopped by the alpacas as another family was feeding them and Sam thought they were hilarious! He laughed and laughed, until the alpacas decided they didn't appreciate us getting a free show and started making sounds that sent us running. (We know just enough about alpacas to keep our distance if it sounds like they're going to spit)  

This crane was disappointed in his search for treats, but didn't mind a quick photoshoot.

The mule deer agreed to pose in exchange for kibble, which Sam gladly handed over. Sam thought that was pretty cool, but not as funny as the alpacas!

 This is the button you push for the animals to come, right?

Watching the cougars :-)

October 2, 2012

The Journey by Kathryn Lasky

This second book in the children's series Guardians of Ga'Hoole expands both the world of the owls and the reach of the plot. It's starting to feel like Redwall meets Harry Potter, although aimed at a slightly younger age. (Not 100% sure about that, Redwall and Ga'Hoole both have fighting and blood, but so far it seems a little tamer in the owl's world.) Still a fun read, excellent kid lit!

Review also posted on Goodreads

September 27, 2012

REI Convert

The last time I was in need of outdoors gear, I headed for the big Bass Pro Shop in Grapevine. If Bass Pro is the mecca of the hunting/fishing/good 'ol boy outdoorsy life, REI is the equivalent for the sporty/hippie crowd. There's an interesting dichotomy between the two, a difference in philosophy and approach to nature. I'm more philosophically aligned with the Bass Pro side of things, but since I neither hunt nor fish, REI works just as well!

I knew Sam would be needing rain boots before we were ready to take advantage of the winter weather, and Google informed me that there's an REI near our apartment so I pointed us in that direction. It's really quite close, only about an 8 minute walk past heavy downtown traffic, stores and road construction. Then we turn a corner and find a lovely forested oasis, complete with waterfall and mountain bike testing trail.

A helpful sign explained that this was"the first corporately sustained urban forest in Seattle"

Turns out this is their flagship location! I knew that REI was famous for its indoor climbing walls, but in addition to a large one, this place also has the aforementioned forest and bike trail, a US Ranger Station, indoor children's play area, cafeteria, and who knows what else. I even met another Texas mom! (Yay for Aggie shirts!) They'd also recently relocated to the area for Amazon. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get her name because I'm horribly awkward and scatterbrained. I'm really regretting that because she had a little boy not much older than Sam and it would have been great to compare notes.

By the time we got to children's footwear it was almost lunch and nap time, so Sam wasn't in a mood to linger or particularly interested in trying on shoes (by which I mean he screamed every time we approached his feet). In his defense, Mommy made the mistake of exploring the store and letting him play *before* we tried on shoes. >_< The lady who helped us in the shoe department was still very helpful and sold me a pair of boots (to be tried on at home) and a membership. 

So now I have another good destination to take advantage of while we're downtown! On the way out, I snapped a picture of the view:

Not bad for downtown!

September 23, 2012

Missing Texas

During the last few weeks before the move, I was keeping mental tabs on what I'd miss after we moved. By a huge margin, numbers one and two on the list are our amazing family and friends, but a few of the others (in no particular order) are:
  • The sky. It's a subtle thing, one I didn't really notice until we moved back to Texas from two years in Baltimore, but the sky in Texas is so much bigger!! Maybe it's the lack of trees, the expansive pastures, or lack of topological features, but driving from place to place the beauty of the sky and drama of all kinds of weather is palpably present.  
  • Whataburger. One of their big billboards right now says "Texas is a Whataburger state, lucky you!" During our last few weeks in Texas, I kept mentally changing it to "Texas is a Whataburger state, you lucky bastards!"
  • Freebirds. We probably ate at this College Station burrito haven at least once a week all through my college years, and our fellow graduates have made it easy for the brand to establish new locations all over Texas. Sadly, they have yet to reach the Pacific Northwest. (Decent facimilies exist, but it's never quite the same) 
  • Plentiful, delicious TexMex. I know they'll have some mexican restaurants up north, but I'm expecting a huge drop in both quantity and quality. Luckily TexMex is my cooking forte, and there's always the wonderful Homesick Texan for new recipes and inspiration. As soon as we're settled I'm planning to order an entire crate of Mateo's salsa, a Frisco brand which has quickly become a staple for us. Jonathan will eat it on almost anything and even Sam is a fan.
  • Country music. I'm not a huge country fan; back home I'd generally flip through the country station as often as alt rock, classical or pop. But if our time in Baltimore is any guide, my radio time is going to be pretty much all country from here on out. It just sounds like home!
  • Streets with names. Less a Texas thing than a Seattle thing; 95% of the rental houses we've browsed through are on numbered streets. The addresses are horrible mouthfuls, like 65583 SE 127th St. Just try saying that out loud! Oh, and heaven forbid you leave out the SE qualifier on Google maps, who knows where you'll end up. I miss street names that stick in the mind, like Teel, Grayhawk, El Dorado, Cattle Drive Ln (a real street!), or Shiny Peacock Feather Dr (possibly not a real street). They don't have to make sense, that's half the fun.
  • The heat? This gets a question mark because it's extremely qualified. I'm mostly looking forward to having outdoor activities in the summer, but every now and then that soul-melting Texas heat comes in handy. Like when you're having a nice dinner out with family and between the restaurant's AC and the after-dinner chill, you're almost shivering by the end of the meal. Then you walk outside and bingo! Not cold anymore :-) Also applies to long days in over-air conditioned schools and office buildings.
Any other Texas expats want to add to the list?

September 19, 2012

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller

Also posted on Goodreads:

I absolutely loved this post-apocalyptic novel, which is apparently a classic that I'd never heard of. The book's got it all: apocalypses, Catholic monks, re-developing civilizations, religion vs science, religion working with science (even better!), and multiple characters with more than one head. I feel slightly cheated that I wasted time reading drivel like The Road while Canticle was waiting to be discovered.

Although Miller writes with plenty of dry humour, it's a dark story and a heavy, occasionally plodding read. The theme of cyclic history is both amusing and haunting when it's not being terribly depressing. The characters come and go without too much fuss (I half suspect this is done on purpose, a statement of the monk's light grasp on this world and focus on the world to come).

I found it satisfying that Miller commits the secular heresy of suggesting that the Catholic Church would not only outlive modern science and the fall of civilization, but would protect and foster their redevelopment. When the "Christians/Catholics hate science" narrative is still way too strongly preached in many areas, it's refreshing to hear it so beautifully refuted.

Quick note: I usually link my blog posts to Facebook, but since the review's cross-posted on Goodreads and (I'm pretty sure) shared on Facebook, nobody wants multiple newsfeed items every time I finish a book.