Friday, September 28, 2012

Goodbye Ballard, Hello Snoqualmie

Well, a lot has happened since our last Suburbia Update! We first visited Snoqualmie Ridge together just two weeks ago, and since that time we've done a lot of research, thinking, and talking, until we finally reached the conclusion that YES, this is where we want to raise our (future) family. We've experienced a whirlwind of events, which culminated this week with putting our condo on the market and obtaining mutual acceptance of our offer on a new construction home in the Eagle Pointe neighborhood of Snoqualmie Ridge. We couldn't be more excited!

Everything seems to be going smoothly with both the listing of the condo and the purchase of our new house. Since it's new construction, it won't be complete until February or March next year, which means that if our condo sells quickly we could be homeless for a while. But we know it will all be worth it in the end when we get the keys to our brand new home.

Here is a rendering of the house that we chose, as well as some photo of the model home with the same floor plan (courtesy of Pulte Homes web site):






Cleaning out our condo and getting it ready to sell has been hard work, and it's also been kind of sad. This is where Stew and I first lived together before we even got engaged, and it will be kind of bittersweet to leave it behind. But looking forward to the future as husband and wife has been an incredible experience, and I can't wait to see what life in the suburbs has in store for us. And on the plus side, we'll have a lot of guest rooms for a while... Come on over!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: The Almost Moon

I had been looking forward to reading The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold for a long time, because I loved her other books, The Lovely Bones and Lucky. I was disappointed.

First and foremost, this book made me feel very uncomfortable... I absolutely hated being inside the mind of Helen, the narrator, who is obviously psychotic. I could not relate to her at all, and I felt no sympathy toward her or her situation. Let me explain...

Helen Knightly is an artist's model near 50 years old who, in the first few pages, murders her mother (who has dementia) by suffocating her with a towel on the back porch. (I have a very close and personal relationship with my mother, so I almost didn't read any more after this). From here, the story just becomes a bizarre and bleak tale of mental illness that apparently affects this entire family. For 24 hours we follow Helen as she processes what she has done (she feels liberated and never seems to have any remorse). She succumbs to strange impulses like washing and dragging her mother's body into the basement, having sex with her best friend's son, and going to work to pose as a nude model. Her ex-husband also arrives on the scene and tries to help cover up her crime, and she does a fair bit of reminiscing about her father and her daughters.

This book made me feel insane, and for most of the book I was afraid that Sebold was going to let Helen get away with murder. If Sebold's goal was to shock and appal the reader, she certainly succeeded. But for me, being unable to identify or sympathize with the main character of this book made reading it extremely difficult. Almost every single person in the book seemed to suffer from some form of mental illness, and I turned the last page feeling a little bit crazy myself.

One review I read noted that this book "challenges your thinking, your own relationships, and the thin line between normal behavior and grotesque." I suppose I could agree with that statement, but personally I could have done without this particular challenge. It took me a while to shake the icky feelings this book left me with, and in hindsight I wish I would have followed my instincts and put it down after the first chapter. As shown from the popularity of her other two novels, Sebold is obviously a successful "dark" writer, but I think with The Almost Moon she took it a step over the line. I'd skip it if I were you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seahawks Game 3

Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers...
WIN: 14-12.

Catching up with Brett & Haley at half time.
I'm not even quite sure what to say about this controversial win. However, following the Cowboys game last weekend, we're thinking that we chose an amazingly exciting year to get season tickets! I didn't see the replay of the game-winning Hail Mary touchdown until we got home later, but from our seats all we saw was the referee who raised his arms in the air for a TD, and we screamed our bloody heads off! It was all very exciting until the confusion of reviewing the play and then calling the teams back out of the locker rooms started. In any case, we win, and we'll take it. (And a part of me thinks maybe this is karma for Super Bowl XL?)

Go Hawks!
Made it to our seats before kickoff this time!
Madness on the field after the final play.
We win!

We'll be in Victoria, BC this weekend when the Seahawks play the Rams in St. Louis for Game 4. But I'm sure Stew will find a bar that we can watch the game from!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sunday Dinner v3.0 and other updates

We've really had a busy week! Hosting the baby shower and the Summer Deck Party were huge commitments and I'm definitely breathing a sigh of relief that those events are checked off my list. In addition, we've also been working simultaneously on the sale of our condo and the purchase of our new home.

The Condo

We have been de-cluttering like crazy, and I also bought a Groupon for professional cleaning so that we could really get our place spic and span before it goes on the market. The two-woman cleaning crew arrived on Friday afternoon and stayed for about three hours, at which time we were faced with a dilemma... how much were we supposed to tip them?! I've never had a cleaning service before so I had no idea what was typical. But in the end the ladies did a really amazing job and since we got such a good deal on the Groupon we decided to tip them pretty generously. I found out subsequently that many people do not tip their cleaning person, but instead give them a tip at the end of the year, but since this was a one-time thing for us I feel good about how we handled it.

On Sunday we had appointments to interview some local area real estate agents, mainly to get a sense of what they thought our condo would be worth. Our goal was to have a friend take pictures and then list it ourselves. However, once we met with the first realtor we became pretty overwhelmed by how time consuming the listing and sale process could be. And we also liked the agent very much, so in the end we decided it would be a better decision to just hire her and let her move forward with the sale of our condo. The listing should be live next week!

The House

Stew's dad and my parents both came up this week to visit Snoqualmie Ridge and see the lot and floor plan that we are considering. They all absolutely loved the model home and thought it would be a really good fit for us. We also took a good amount of time walking and measuring the lot that we like to make sure it will be a good location and have a decent sized yard once the house is built. We are very, very excited and feel confident about our choice to move to the Snoqualmie Ridge community. So we'll probably be making an offer this week!

Sunday Dinner

Matt and Alissa came by on Sunday evening so Matt could photograph the condo with his fancy-pants camera, and then we continued our Sunday Dinner tradition at La Isla in Ballard. This restaurant is very popular and I've eaten Puerto Rican cuisine here a couple times before and always thought it was delicious.

This time I decided to try the Camarones Entrees which has butterfly prawns sauteed in olive oil, white wine, and butter served with Al Ajillo garlicy garlic sauce. Stew got the special which had three types of meat including pork, chicken and beef. Each entree is served with rice and beans, tostones, mixed greens and mojito sauce. Stew was not a fan of the tostones, which are fried plantains, but we both agreed that the rice and beans were probably the best we've ever had.


Dinner was a great way to catch up and celebrate moving forward with some very significant events in our lives. It was a SUPER busy week and weekend, but we really got a lot accomplished. We've really looking forward to seeing how things unfold with the house and the condo... stay tuned!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Summer Deck Party 2012

Once again, as part of my company's annual auction to raise money for United Way of King County, my department hosted a party at my boss's beautiful house on Bainbridge Island. Guests purchased tickets at our annual charity auction last year, and yesterday was the day of the party. Each year we choose a theme for the event, and this year it was "Big Ass BBQ," which meant a Western-inspired menu including appetizers, a typical smoked barbecue main menu and dessert, and delicious drinks to wash everything down.

We arrived on the island bright and early Saturday morning to start prepping, cooking, cleaning and decorating before our guests arrived. Last year by the time the party started we were so exhausted we couldn't really enjoy the event, so this time we tried to simplify the menu slightly so we would be alert enough to socialize with our co-workers when they arrived. Our strategy worked out very well and I'd say it was probably our most successful party to date!

Prepping for our main dishes.

My friend Jessica and I occupied ourselves for quite a while
prepping Italian parsley and cilantro for some recipes.

Stew stoked the fire so we could barbecue
steak, chicken and ribs for the main course.

Other dishes included "Cowboy Caviar" salsa, Caesar salad with "big ass croutons,"
potato salad, baked beans and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

We always start our guests off with jello shots as they arrive.
It tends to make the party a little more lively!

Our lovely outdoor party venue.

This year we rented a margarita machine so no one would get stuck bar tending.

Yee-hawing with my friend Margaret.

Getting silly with the admin team.

Planning and prepping for this party can be absolutely exhausting and very stressful, but this year as we headed home on the ferry I felt extremely satisfied with what we had accomplished. Everyone had a great time and I wasn't nearly as drop dead exhausted as I've been in years past, and I had a really great time spending the day with my co-workers.

So that's one more big event checked off our list!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BURN

Last night Stew and I saw BURN - One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit, and if you have the opportunity I highly recommend checking it out. The film is a feature documentary about Detroit, told through the eyes of Detroit firefighters, who are charged with the thankless task of saving a city that many have written off as dead. I thought this was a very well done documentary, and I was absolutely fascinated by the history of the city and the personal stories of the firefighters who work there. It was also fun to finally see a movie in the little theater in Lower Queen Anne that I've always wondered about... it's actually pretty nice!

Here's the trailer to give you a sneak peek of the film:



As I understand it, proceeds go toward a major commercial release of the film, as well as providing Detroit firefighters with equipment that they desperately need. For more info visit : http://detroitfirefilm.org

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Peter Rabbit Baby Shower

I co-hosted a Peter Rabbit themed baby shower for a co-worker this week, and I think it turned out really well! They decided not to find out the sex of the baby, which meant choosing a gender-neutral way to decorate their nursery... Hello, Beatrix Potter! The subtle tones of blue, green and brown in Peter Rabbit were perfect for decorating the nursery, as well as the theme for our shower. We held it on a Tuesday evening at our office and it was very successful! Our new momma was very pleased and grateful about the time and effort we took to plan out each little detail.

Lovely views of the Sound from our conference room.
You can't really see the Peter Rabbit banner we made, but it turned out super cute.

I used colorful painted terra-cotta pots with fake grass and flowers to hold
my "worms in dirt" dessert, and I wish I had a closer picture of the gorgeous
centerpiece! The floral arrangement has a mini cabbage in the center and
carrots with the tops on that showed through the glass vase. A perfect
garden theme! And our accounting department made that impressive
diaper cake next to the flowers.

My friend Jessica and I made yummy themed desserts:
Carrot cupcakes and "worms in dirt" pudding cups.

We also created this fence to go along with the garden theme.

And our co-workers contributed so many yummy dishes!

We played the "Dirty Diaper Game," where you melt mini candy bars into diapers and then have a contest to see who can guess which melted candy bar is what candy... it's kind of gross but super fun! Then we all just hung out, ate yummy treats and drank sweet refreshing Bellinis while mom-to-be opened her gifts.

It was a lot of work but the shower was super successful and I think the Peter Rabbit theme turned out great!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Cutting for Stone

I gave Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese three out of five stars, and I have kind of a mixed review.

In the end I would say yes, I liked the book. But it took me so long to finally get into the story that I really can't give it a rave review. Cutting for Stone reads like someone on a meandering walk with no destination in mind. It was a very slow, wandering read that was overly detailed. A lot of time was spent spinning a very complicated web that could have been just as easily understood and more appreciated if a good 200-300 pages had been edited out, in my opinion. The writing throughout the first two thirds of the book seemed over indulgent and really lost me, so that by the time the story got interesting in the last third of the book I really didn't care what happened to anyone.

The story itself is about Marion and Shiva Stone, twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, and bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

I know a lot of people loved Cutting for Stone, but for me I saw this book as a chore and found myself dreading picking it up until I was at least 300 pages in and things finally started to get interesting and tie together. But if you are looking for a book that has a very slowly developed story that meanders across continents and generations, and if you have an interest in detailed medical procedures, this is probably the book for you. If, however, you want a story that grabs you from the beginning and holds you tight with every page, a story that moves at a pace that makes it hard to put down, then I'd say skip this one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Suburbia Update

I can't believe that it's been almost four years since we bought our condo in Ballard and moved in together! So many amazing things have happened since that time, our wedding obviously being the highlight. Marriage inevitably led to discussions of having a family someday, and we quickly realized that having a child while living in our one bedroom condo would definitely not be feasible. We both agreed that we don't want to raise kids in the city (or most importantly, in the Seattle School District), which meant we decided to start exploring the suburbs.

Extensive research and exploration has led us to Snoqualmie Ridge. This new home master-planned community is in an absolutely gorgeous location just 25 miles east of downtown Seattle via I-90. Here, we can afford to choose a floor plan and have a large house built for us in less than six months! We will be able to choose our lot as well as pick custom finishes and upgrades for our home, making it absolutely perfect for the next 15+ years of our lives. It's all very exciting... We've narrowed our choices down to a couple different floor plans and lots, and we hope that if all goes well we'll be making an offer on our new home soon, and moving in early next year!

In the meantime, we need to deal with the not-so-fun part of this process: selling our condo in Ballard. So we've been de-cluttering like crazy, we hired professional cleaners to come in and do a deep clean, and we have a photographer and realtors coming in this weekend to help us with our listing. Then, hopefully, we can put it on the market by the end of the month. We have no idea at this point how quickly it will sell or how much (if anything) we stand to make on it, but we have high hopes that the process will go smoothly.

So lots of changes for the Always right now, but we're very excited!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seahawks Game 2

Seattle Seahawks vs. Dallas Cowboys...
WIN: 27-7.

After a tough loss in Arizona last weekend, I had mixed feelings about this Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. But we were super excited for our first regular season home game using our new season tickets. Stew got invited to a huge tailgate and we wanted to make the most of the day so we arrived in SoDo by about 8:45 on Sunday morning. I just love the energy and camaraderie that comes along with Hawks tailgating! I was actually surprised to see so many Dallas fans wandering around, though. I mean, I know it's "America's Team" and all, but come on guys, you live in Seattle. We even had one Cowboy at our site, but don't worry... we made him take out the trash.















Next up... Monday Night Football vs. the Green Bay Packers. Very exciting!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventura

A while back I bought Stew and I a Groupon for Adventura at Redhook Brewery in Woodinville. I had no idea that back behind Redhook there is a jungle gym built for grown-ups! Our deal included 2.5 hours of climbing on the enormous aerial adventure playground plus a tour of the brewery when we were done. The course included a 50-foot cargo-net climb, a state-of-the-art zipline exit, and 15 variations of cable crossings.

When we first arrived and saw the course I was a little disappointed. It was smaller than I had imagined and I couldn't understand how it would take more than about 15 minutes to complete. Boy was I wrong! It took about 30 minutes to get geared up and complete safety training, and then a while longer to get everyone up the cargo net and onto the course. The crossings themselves were incredibly mentally and physically challenging, and they required way more balance and upper body strength than I would have thought. It took me at least twice as long as Stew to complete each of the crossings, but I never did fall! And we used every minute of that 2.5 hours, we were having so much fun!

We absolutely loved the adrenaline rush that the course provided and we had a super fun, sunny afternoon together. And the tour of Redhook afterward really hit the spot.

Who knew this was right back behind Redhook?

Jungle gym for grown-ups!















Now that I've sampled all of Redhook's brews I've decided that
the Copper Ale is my favorite and I'm going to start buying it all the time.

If you happen to see this Groupon pop up again we highly recommend it!