Thursday, December 31, 2009

Visiting Home

I think one of my New Year's resolutions should have something to do with blogging. This is getting pathetic.

Shawn and I had a very enjoyable anniversary (way back on December 21st). We went out to dinner using a gift card that we had received as a wedding gift (yes...we were given the gift card two years ago). We went to a place called the Palomino, which is a more upscale restaurant (though not overly fancy). Although everything we ate was good, my favorite part of the meal was actually our appetizer....a king crab and artichoke dip! Sooooo good!

On Christmas Eve, we flew to Ohio to spend the holidays with my family. The whole trip was pretty low-key, but it was very nice to get to spend time with everyone. While we were here, we also got to spend some time with my friend Sara (who I've actually known since I was three!) and my friend Lis (who I've been friends with since Junior High).

Today, we were originally scheduled to fly out at 6:00am, but when we attempted to drop off our bags, we were told that our flight had been oversold. We agreed to take a later flight in exchange for two free travel vouchers, so my poor parents came back to the airport (driving through the snow) to pick us up. We'll be hanging out here now until it's time to go back to the airport for our afternoon flight.

Unfortunately, this means that our evening plans will have to be changed, since we won't be getting in to Seattle until about 10:30 tonight. I doubt we'll be able to make it to our friends' party before we may just have to ring in the New Year while in our car, driving back home. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Anniversary, #2!

It was two years ago today (December 21st) that Shawn and I were married! I'm typing this, two years ago at this very moment (6:30pm, MST), we were either taking pictures in the church after the ceremony, or we were arriving at the reception. :)

I have such wonderful memories of that day! I couldn't have asked for anything better. Sure, our guests probably would have preferred if it hadn't snowed (especially since we were married in the mountains, and most of our guests had to come up from Denver), but that just made it all the more memorable for everyone! And we got some pretty awesome pictures. :-)

The last two years have been absolutely much has happened, and we've been truly blessed! I'm excited to see what year #3 will bring! I love you, Shawn!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Counting Down...

So...Christmas is just over a week away. Where has the time gone?! It really hasn't felt like Christmas to me for the most part. It's helped having the decorations up, but it was very easy for me to forget that it's actually December. I think part of that is the fact that I'm still not used to living somewhere that gets so little snow. (We did get a little recently, though...just enough to dust the ground.)

Last Friday, my facebook status had something to do with the fact that I hadn't started buying presents yet. Honestly...not a single gift (except for the ornament I bought for our "Nestie" gift exchange). Not even an anniversary gift for Shawn. So on Saturday morning, Shawn and I went shopping. And we didn't leave the living room. It was pretty awesome. :)

As of today, I think we have 3 more people we still need to buy for. Unfortunately, I think I might be on the verge of being too late to buy the rest online, so I might have to brave the mall area on Sunday. Should be interesting. :)

And as of right now (midnight, Wednesday night), I have 50 Christmas cards written...70ish to go! Oh, and Shawn still needs to sign them. And they need to be addressed. And stamped. And sealed. My goal is to have them finished by Friday night so they can be dropped off at the post office on Saturday. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Using God's Gifts

If you're a church-goer, I'm sure you've heard sermons and lessons about the importance of using the gifts that God has given you...right? I remember as a kid thinking that I didn't really have any "talents." I can definitely carry a tune, but I'm not a great singer. I took piano lessons for about five years (and there were very brief stints at the violin and the flute), but I wouldn't say that I'm a talented musician. I've been in plays, but I was always cast in minor amazingly great acting talent here. I'm NOT athletic, so that's definitely not a gift that God gave me. In my mind, these were the kinds of gifts these sermons and lessons were talking about, so I always felt a little bad that I didn't have a gift I could use.

As I got older, it finally dawned on me that there are lots of different kinds of gifts. I spent a lot of time as a teenager volunteering with different groups and organizations. I think that the willingness to give of yourself and of your time is a gift that people often don't consider. As an adult, I realized that one of my gifts is the ability to handle of group of middle school and/or high school students without losing my sanity, so I taught Religious Ed to 6th and 7th graders at church for a few years.

Since getting married, though, and moving up here, I haven't really been doing much in the way of using the gifts God has given me. I think this is probably the case for a lot of us...and I think I might know why. Another sermon/lesson I remember hearing a lot is the importance of being humble. Don't think of yourself as being better than others...right? Don't be proud. And yet, to be able to use the gifts God has given you, you have to acknowledge that you are gifted in a certain area, don't you? You have to be able to think, "Yes, I am good at *this*, and here's what I can do with that."

I finally started acknowledging a couple of my God-given gifts lately. #1 - I really don't mind public speaking. It's been a long time since I've gotten nervous to stand in front of a crowd and talk. And #2 - I'm good at reading out loud. I actually enjoyed having opportunities to read out loud to my students, and they would occasionally ask me to do it for them.

So a few weeks ago, I volunteered to become a Lector at our church. If you're not Catholic...a Lector is someone who reads the Scripture readings to the congregation during Mass. I was privileged to be one of the Lectors at Mass each of the last two Sundays, and if I do say so myself, I did a pretty good job. :-)

I was particularly happy to find out that one of the readings I was responsible for (the second reading this past Sunday) was one of my all-time favorite passages. I think it's one that just about anybody can relate here it is!

Philippians 4:4-7 "Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Terrible Blogger!

Wow...I knew that I'd been a bad blogger lately, but I didn't realize that it had been almost two weeks since I last posted! I'm a terrible blogger!

I've actually been thinking about why I haven't been blogging much lately. The first excuse that I thought of was that not much has been happening...but truthfully, just as much has been happening as usual, and that hasn't really stopped me from rambling on aimlessly before. :-) Then I thought that maybe I've been busier than normal...but that really isn't the case at all.

So the excuse I'm going to stick with is this: since I now spend 40 hours a week sitting in front of my computer for work, when I'm finished working, I don't really have much of a desire to sit by the computer and type. Oh sure, I'll still chat with my friends on the Nest, and I'll still use Facebook (including playing Mafia Wars and Bejeweled Blitz), but for the most part, that doesn't take actual brain power.

I'm also going to blame part of it on Blogger (the actual blog site). For the last few weeks (or maybe it's months by now), I've been having issues with my formatting. It's really gotten to be a pain in the neck to get things to load correctly on this blog, and for the slightly-OCD side of my personality, that's very frustrating.

But as an apology, I'm going to brave the formatting issues and leave you with a few pictures of our living room, finally decorated for Christmas. The last photo is an ornament that my Nestie friend Bev sent to me, which I think is completely awesome since this is our first holiday season in our own home!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, 2008 (374 pages)

I had heard a lot of buzz around the internet about this book, which is pretty impressive considering it just came out last year. I'm sure part of the reason for all the hype is that A) it's a good book, and B) the sequel came out a couple months ago. It actually made the New York Times bestseller list.

The story is set in the nation of Panem, which is located in the ruins of a place once known as North America. This nation is comprised of the Capitol and 12 surrounding Districts. The Capitol controls everybody, and to help keep everyone in line, they hold the "Hunger Games" once a year. One boy and one girl (between the ages of 12 and 18) from each District are chosen by lottery to participate in the games, where the 24 tributes fight to the death.

I actually read the majority of this book in one day. Granted, it's a "Young Adult" novel, so it's a fast read, but it's good enough that I didn't want to put it down. I put in a request at the library for the sequel; there are 34 "holdable copies" in our library system, and I started at #170 on the waiting list. I think the quote I found from Katie Roiphe of The Wall Street Journal says it well: It's "[A] stylish, postmodern Lost in direct collision with The Lord of the Flies. It's a little science fiction, a little survival story, and a little social commentary, all wrapped up together.

I really enjoyed this book, and if you can find a copy of it, I definitely recommend it!
Total number of books read in 2009: 41
Total number of pages read in 2009: 14760

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Our lives were certainly a bit more hectic than normal last week with 7 people in the house! But that's one thing that Shawn and I are very thankful for this year...that we were able to purchase a house that allows us to comfortably have multiple people come stay with us! I had the house to myself during the days, Monday through Wednesday, since I had to work. Shawn spent those days with his family, exploring the city. They were nice enough to bring me a cannoli one day and a cupcake another day. :)

On Thursday, most of my day was spent cooking! I did have a bit of help in the kitchen, and I was able to keep an eye on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. We also had the football games on (except the Broncos game, which was only shown on the NFL Network...which we don't get as part of our cable package here), and Shawn had some time to play with his nephews.

We ended up having so much food on Thursday! Much of what I made was the same as last year, but that's okay with me! For munchies before dinner, I made the caramel toffee fruit dip and served it with apple slices, and we had baby carrots and celery. Shawn's mom made roasted garlic that she served with bread and cheese. For the actual dinner, I made cranberry sauce, corn casserole, the turkey (of course!), gravy (I'll admit...this came from a packet), mashed potatoes, fried sweet potatoes, and dinner rolls. Shawn made a salad for us, but unfortunately, people seemed to avoid the more healthy options that day. :) We had some friends over, too, and our friend Annie brought some yummy stuffing and the traditional green bean casserole. Another friend brought some desserts...a pumpkin cheesecake and a cranberry-orange trifle. I also made a milk chocolate pecan pie and the same apple pie I made last year. Oh, and we had both whipped cream and ice cream available. :)

Needless to say....we were all really full by the time we finished eating! It was so nice to be able to host a holiday meal for family and friends! I'm hoping that this was just the first of many that Shawn and I can put together. :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

New Chairs

Before family arrived, Shawn and I decided to get some new chairs! We knew when we first moved in that we didn't love our furniture arrangement in the upstairs living room. We just didn't like the fact that the big couch was sitting in front of our big picture window, so we talked about finding some chairs that would go in front of that window instead. Here's what the living room has looked like for the last six weeks or so.Earlier this fall, we had taken a little trip down to the "local" IKEA, just to see what they had. I fell in love with a chair that was actually out of stock at that time. When I checked the IKEA website, it wasn't listed, so I eventually decided that it must be an old model that they were phasing out. So I chose another model that I thought would work well with our furniture.

A couple weeks ago, we headed down to IKEA again, with the intention of going home with a couple new chairs. We thought we'd leave with two Ektorp Jennylund chairs. Instead, when we got to the store, we discovered the Karlsvik model that I had fallen in love with before! And this time, the furniture had a tag on it that said "new!" So that's what we ended up buying...two Karlsvik chairs. They only come in one color, and it actually works pretty well with our current color scheme.

Of course, we realized that the chairs wouldn't fit in our car, so we had them delivered a couple days later. This weekend, before Shawn's family arrived, we rearranged the furniture. We put the loveseat downstairs in the family room, and we moved the sofa over to the little "half way" by the stairwell. Then the two new chairs went in front of the big picture window. Here's what our living room looks like now:
I'm loving our new chairs! They're really comfortable, and they look good. :) And if you have an IKEA near you, the Karlsvik sofa is on sale this Saturday for $199 (instead of the normal $299). I'll admit...I'm tempted to make a trip to IKEA again this weekend! :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Busy, Busy!

Things have definitely been busy around here! For the last few days, we've been trying to get things ready for Shawn's family to arrive, so that's involved painting, cleaning, unpacking, organizing, and rearranging furniture. Once we figure out where the camera battery charger is located, I'll take some pictures and do individual posts of some of these things.

Saturday was Shawn's last rugby game of the fall season. Although they lost, they played pretty hard. Now Shawn has a couple weeks with no rugby at all...and then "spring training" begins. We think it's funny that "spring" training starts in early December (which is before "winter" even begins!).

Shawn's family has come to visit us and spend Thanksgiving with us! I went to the airport to pick up Shawn's mom tonight, while Shawn waited here for his brother's family to arrive. So for the better part of this week, we'll have a pretty full house! Shawn's brother and sister-in-law drove up from California with our two nephews (ages nine and five and a half). Shawn was brilliant earlier this week, and he saved the boxes that our new chairs came in. So while the adults took some time to relax after the long drive, Shawn and the boys turned the cardboard into a pretty awesome fort. Great way to let the boys run off some energy!

For the next few days, I'll be working from home while Shawn takes his family to do some touristy things around the area. I'll also need to do some more shopping for the Thanksgiving meal. I'll try to do a few posts throughout the week to show what all we're up to!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Glassblower of Murano

The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato, 2007 (348 pages)

I really didn't know anything about this book before I got it from the library, but I knew it was set in Venice. And I love Venice. :)

The author tells two stories simultaneously, so the chapters tend to go back and forth between a modern time and the 17th century. The modern story centers on Leonora Manin, and the 17th century story centers on Corradino Manin...Leonora's famous, glassblowing ancestor.

The plot line itself is an intriguing story about an aspect of Venetian history, and it makes me want to do a little research to find out how much is actual fact (versus the author's invention). But it's also a story of family, love of country, and honor.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how much the author drew on some classic Italian works. She often mentions the Italian painters that I love (such as Titian and Botticelli), and the characters frequently reference Dante's Divine Comedy. Even Shakespeare is mentioned (as an English contemporary of Corradino's).

I really enjoyed this book, and now I want to go back to Venice. :)
Total number of books read in 2009: 40
Total number of pages read in 2009: 14386

Monday, November 16, 2009

Halloween Bummer

I realized that I never blogged about something that happened on Halloween weekend. That Friday night, we went to our friends' apartment for a little Halloween party. Hmm...I never blogged about that, either, did I? I wasn't feeling super creative, so I wore Shawn's stuff and went as a Queen City rugby player.
Shawn was much more creative than me, and he went as Professor Chaos. (He said I should tell you that I "was a good minion.")
Don't know Professor Chaos? On South Park, he's the alter ego of the character, Butters. We like Butters. And Shawn's costume was pretty spot on. See?We had a good time at the party with our friends. When we came home that night, we went straight to bed. On Saturday morning, Shawn went into the kitchen and made a discovery:Yep...broken window. Fortunately, it's just the outside pane, so we haven't had to be in a huge hurry to replace it. When we went out onto the porch, we found a few rocks that weren't there the last time we were on the porch. There were also a few small, dirty dents in the siding. So...our conclusion is that someone (probably stinkin' kids) was throwing rocks at our house on Friday night. Bummer. Here's the rock that seems to have done the damage to our window:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shawn's New Toy

We were hoping to be really productive today. One of our major things on the to-do list was to do a little more painting. However, we realized that we had the wrong paint, so Shawn headed off to Lowe's.

He did come home with more paint. And some bags for our leaves. And a new toy.
Since before we closed on the house, we've been keeping our eye on lawnmowers. Although we've had lots of people assure us that "now is a great time to buy a lawnmower," we really hadn't been seeing any good deals. But when Shawn went to Lowe's this afternoon, he found that the mowers had finally been put on a good sale! He called to let me know about it, and I checked the reviews online. People have had a lot of good things to say about this model, and when it was all said and done, we got it for less than half price. I'd say that's a good deal. :-)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Working Out

Every once in awhile, I start feeling a little guilty about my lack of exercise. Last June, I vowed to get fit before I turned 30. I also thought I'd try to be able to run a 5K by then. Um, yeah....I turned 31 a couple weeks ago, and I'm neither fit nor able to run a 5K. Back in January, one of my few New Year's Resolutions was to get more exercise. For a couple months, I did a pretty good job of walking regularly, using the Wii Fit, and working on the 100 Push-ups and 200 Sit-ups programs. For whatever reason, though, over the summer I fell out of the habit of getting regular exercise.

Once we moved, Shawn started talking about the possibility of switching his gym memberships. He's been going regularly for a few years now, and although he's been happy with his gym, driving 25 minutes to get there isn't super convenient. I thought it would be a good time to suck it up and try a gym myself.

There's an Anytime Fitness really close to our house, so we decided to check it out. Basically, it's staffed during the day, but your member keycard allows you to get in 24/7. I like that it's close to home, and I actually like that it's small. We've never seen it crowded, and I can actually figure out how to use all the machines. So a few weeks ago, after taking advantage of the free 7-day trial pass, we both signed up for memberships here!

This is actually the first time I've ever had a gym membership. Before the wedding, I got a 20-visit punch card for the Rec Center...and I never actually finished using up the 20 visits. But this time, I'm proud to say that over the last four weeks, I've actually been going a few times a week! Usually, Shawn and I go together, which is really nice. Frankly, he usually is my motivation for going...why should I stay at home by myself doing nothing, when I could just go with him to the gym?

So, we'll see how this goes! We signed a contract for a year, so hopefully knowing that we're paying for it will help give me some extra motivation, too. Who knows? Maybe I'll be fit by the time I'm 32. :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World Series 2009

I have to's always hard for me to watch any team celebrate a World Series win. What can I say? I'm jealous. I've never known what it's like to have my closer get that last out in the 9th. (Thanks a lot, Jose Mesa. I still blame you for blowing the save in the 9th inning of Game 7 against the Marlins in 1997...and therefore losing us the Series.) I've never known what it's like to watch my team swarm the field for a World Series win, and I've never watched my team accept the Commissioner's Trophy and thank the fans of Cleveland for being the best in basball.

So like I said, it's always hard for me to watch any team celebrate a World Series win. It hurts a little more when it's the frickin' Yankees.

With that being said....only 152 days until Opening Day, when the Indians take on the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field! We haven't won a World Series since 1948. Maybe the 62nd try will be the charm! A girl can dream, can't she? :-)

(Just don't get me started on the fact that we've hired Manny Acta to be our new manager. That's right...the same guy who was fired in July by the Washington Nationals...the worst team in baseball in 2009.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


When we were given the keys to our house, we really didn't get much. Shawn and I each got a copy of the front door key, and there was one spare. That's it. We weren't given a key for our back door or our garage we could lock those doors, but we couldn't unlock them from the outside.

Our front door has two locks on it...the main door lock and the deadbolt. One key worked both locks. Lately, just to save time, I've gotten in the habit of locking the main lock from the inside before I leave the house. That way, I only need to use the key to lock the deadbolt.

This evening, Shawn and I headed out. On my way out the door, I locked the main lock from the inside. Then Shawn came out and closed the door. And then it occurred to us to wonder which of us had brought our keys. Um...that would be neither of us. D'oh!!

Our neighbor was outside at the time, working on her yard. Since every window and door in our house was locked, she gave us her phone book and a recommendation for a locksmith she's used before. While we waited for him to show up, Shawn and I did a little weeding, and we kicked around a soccer ball (that Shawn found in the yard of the vacant house next door). Once the locksmith arrived, it was almost scary to see just how quickly he was able to get through our front door. And since he was already here...Shawn asked him how hard it would be to get keys for the rest of our doors. Turns out, the locksmith was able to change the locks on our back door and garage doors very quickly, and now we can use our front door key on any of them! He also gave us an additional spare key, which is nice.

So...getting keys to those doors was on our house to-do list. We just didn't realize that would be something we'd be checking off our list this weekend!

Trick or Treat?

Shawn and I were looking forward to having adorable Trick-or-Treaters come to our door this year. Last year, we bought a couple bags of candy and then only had about 4 kids all night long. In this neighborhood, we figured we'd get tons of kids! First of all, we've seen quite a few kids around. And second, it's pretty much ideal for Trick-or Treating. We have sidewalks and street lights, and it's a huge neighborhood with LOTS of houses within easy walking distance. So in preparation, we bought nine bags of candy. Not huge bags, but still...nine bags.

We figured kids would start arriving shortly after dark...maybe around 6:00. The first kid didn't show up until just after 7:00. We didn't actually count the number of kids who eventually came to our door, but we're guessing maybe 30...max. So even though we gave multiple pieces of candy to each dressed up child, we didn't use nearly nine bags. I suggested at one point that we just hand the next kid an unopened bag of candy.

What's happened to Trick-or-Treat? I know that kids still do least, they do in Colorado. Even my high school students would go out on Halloween. Maybe it's just not a big deal around here? Or maybe kids/parents are afraid of a little rain? It definitely wasn't raining hard tonight, but maybe it was enough that it kept the kids inside? If that's the kids in the Pacific Northwest never leave the house?? I realized quite awhile ago that if I wasn't willing to do things in the rain, I'd never do anything at all. But that's what rain pants and jackets and umbrellas are for, right?

Oops...sorry about the little side rant. But for future reference...note to self: No apparent need to buy any more than 3 bags of Halloween candy. I hope Shawn's coworkers want fun-size Snickers, Reese's Cups, and Hershey's miniatures, because he and I really do NOT need to eat all this ourselves!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bad Blogger!

Wow...I've really been slacking with the blog posts lately! If anyone actually still reads this regularly...sorry about that. We've had a lot going on, frankly. Let's see if I can quickly catch up.

More than a week ago (October 17), Shawn played an awesome rugby match. He was named "Man of the Match" (basically the MVP of the game) and he even scored a try! In rugby lingo, that's basically a touchdown. And for the position that Shawn plays, that's fairly uncommon. I would liken it to a Linebacker scoring a touchdown. It's certainly not impossible, but it's not something you see every game. In fact, until that game, I'd never seen Shawn score a touchdown in a "regular" game of rugby! (I saw him score once in a 7s tournament.) I was on camera duty that afternoon, but his scoring play was on the other end of the pitch, so I didn't get a picture.

Things are moving along with the house. We've finally gotten all the doors re-hung (after taking them down to be painted), the outlet covers back on, and the stairwell railings reattached (again, after painting). Shawn picked the color for his "Man Room" and bought paint last we just need to start painting. (He picked #2, by the way.)

This past Saturday, we invited a bunch of people over for a "Housewarming/Birthday(s) Party." We had a lot of fun! It's really nice to actually have room to have a bunch of people over, and I'm already looking forward to doing it again. We had way too much food, so I've been eating the leftovers all week. I bought Tostitos and salsa and pretzels. I made a tray of carrots, celery sticks, and strawberries, and we had also apple slices. I made a Caramel Toffee Fruit Dip, which was super yummy! I also made Cinnamon Chips, which were awesome alone or in the fruit dip. For more sweets, I baked a pan of brownies (nothing special...just from a box), and I also baked a loaf of banana bread. Don't worry...I didn't forget the meat. :) I made super easy crockpot meatballs, and I also made these really good bacon-wrapped-turkey-bites. Sadly, I took almost no pictures at our party. Our friend Thuy made us a housewarming cake...isn't it cute? :)
And finally, in other big news...I've gone full-time with my online teaching job! Technically, I made the move to full-time two weeks ago. However, neither my boss nor I knew that until last Wednesday, since HR didn't bother telling either of us that the paperwork had been processed. I also still don't have my company computer or my VOIP phone, so I'm not yet able to take on a few of the new responsibilities that come with being full-time (and that will more easily allow me to actually work 40 hours a week). I'll admit that I'm not super thrilled that I don't get some of the "normal" perks of being a full-time teacher (I only get 5 vacation days the first year, plus 7 or so paid holidays), but it should be an interesting experience.

So...yeah! I think that's pretty much it for us these days. Oh yeah, and my birthday was yesterday. It kind of snuck up on us, so we didn't really make a big deal out of it. Shawn and I went out to dinner at one of our current favorite restaurants for pizza and a few games of pool. It was a good night. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon, 1994 (870 pages)

I've noticed lately that I haven't been loving most of the books I've been reading. I've given most of them 3 stars (on Goodreads, that indicates that "I liked it"); a few of them have gotten four stars. I was glad to pick up Voyager a week ago...definitely a five-star book!

This is Book #3 in Gabaldon's series that started with Outlander. It continues the story of Claire and Jamie Fraser. In this book, Claire goes back to 18th century Scotland to find Jamie, after she discovers (through historic research) that he didn't die during the battle of Culloden like they both thought he would. At this point, they've been apart for 20 years, but they're both completely happy to finally be together again. However, a lot has changed in Scotland during this time, and certainly not everyone is happy that Claire is back.

Just like the other two books, this one is wonderfully written. This book is 870 pages, but it never feels like it's long or drawn out. I usually don't want to put the book down because I'm so interested to see what might happen to Claire and Jamie (and their friends and family) next. If you haven't read the Outlander series yet, you definitely should. I'm glad that there are still three more books left in the series, but I do plan on spreading them out, like I have the first three.
Total number of books read in 2009: 39
Total number of pages read in 2009: 14038

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Silas Marner

Silas Marner, by George Eliot, 1861 (183 pages)

I picked up this book at the library, thinking my friend Lis had said it was one of her favorites (in one of those silly Facebook "which of these books have you read" things). But I just double-checked it...and no, she likes Middlemarch. Oops...I read the wrong George Eliot novel. Oh well!

Silas Marner is a linen weaver who is wrongly accused of a crime. He exiles himself to a different village and basically becomes a recluse, only interacting with others in the town when they need him to do some weaving. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but Silas does eventually begin to interact with his neighbors after he himself becomes the victim of a crime. And as it says on the back cover of my copy of the book, "Ultimately, Marner finds redemption and spiritual rebirth through his unselfish love for an abandoned child who mysteriously appears one day in his isolated cottage."

One of the major themes of this book is that everything happens for a reason, and this is something that I wholeheartedly believe. Even things that seem negative at the time often have a way of turning into something good.

I'm going to have to say that this is another one of the books that I think I would've liked better if I had just read it faster. I do enjoy George Eliot's style of writing, but I felt that this book took a LONG time to get to one of the main plot threads of the novel (and to introduce one of the main characters). But it is definitely worth reading! I've also learned that in 1994, Steve Martin wrote and starred in a movie based on this novel, called A Simple Twist of Fate. I might have to see if I can find that. :)

Total number of books read in 2009: 38
Total number of pages read in 2009: 13168

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Paint Choices

Before we moved in, Shawn and I managed to paint the living room, the office/guest room, the master bedroom (including the "dressing area"), the stairwell, and both the upstairs and downstairs hallways. Oh yeah, and all the trim and all of the doors upstairs.

We do eventually want to paint both bathrooms, and I'd like to paint the downstairs family room. But the next room on our list is the 4th bedroom...the one downstairs. AKA, the Man Room. Or the Preparation Room. Whatever you want to call it. Basically, since I've known Shawn, he's let me know that he would eventually love to have a room where he can keep all of his outdoor gear...camping gear, hiking gear, rock climbing gear, outdoor clothing, trail maps, technique books, etc... He loves the idea of having everything well organized and easily accessible in one room. When he's ready to go out and do something, he can use this room to prepare for it (hence the "preparation room" name).

So when we bought this house and it had that fourth bedroom downstairs, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for Shawn to have his preparation room. (By the way, I just call it the Man Room because I think it's funnier.) Let's be honest...I love the idea of all of his "stuff" being out of the way of everything else. I also like the idea of keeping all of that dirty equipment downstairs and away from the main living area. That downstairs bedroom gets bonus points for being right next to the garage.

Before the move, we just ran out of time for painting the Man Room. At the moment, all of Shawn's outdoor gear is in the garage. (It's okay...we can't park our car in there right now anyways since the door is broken and needs to be replaced. Had I mentioned that little detail yet?) We want to paint the room before we bring in all of the gear and the tall shelves that will house it.

I told Shawn that picking out a paint color for this room is his job. I'll gladly give input if he wants it, but ultimately, the choice is his. He started out with these nine colors as possibilities.

After he and I discussed the options, he went to get samples of some colors. He had narrowed it down to four. These are our choices.

#1 is Aspen Gray, #2 is Stone Mason Gray, #3 is Porcelain Shale, and #4 is Mountain Smoke. (Do you see any trends in the names of these paint colors?) Once these dry and Shawn picks a color, we'll paint the room! I'm hoping to get it done this week. But let's be realistic...I'll be happy if it's done before Shawn's family arrives for Thanksgiving. :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We Need Rakes

I'm sure the fact that it's the middle of October hasn't escaped your attention. And unless you live somewhere with absolutely no deciduous trees, you probably know that we are very close to that time of year when the leaves decide they've had enough, and they all come tumbling down. Since both Shawn and I have been renters for quite some time, we don't really own anything for taking care of a lawn...that's what landlords are for. But of course, we no longer have a landlord. It's all up to us now to take care of these "minor details."

Yeah...something tells me that raking the leaves isn't going to be such a "minor" detail for us. Do you remember this picture I posted a month or two ago? It shows a very small part of the very large tree we have in our backyard.

Although both Shawn and I really like this tree (okay, I'll admit it...Shawn likes it way more than I do), a very large tree comes with some very large leaves. Like this one.

Now, you should keep in mind that this is actually a fairly small leaf for this tree. This was just the biggest one I could find that had already fallen to the ground. Many of the ones still attached (and especially the ones much higher up) are easily double the size of this leaf. And there are lots of them! Maybe you can kinda see it better in this picture.

So that explains part of what we're up against. Have I mentioned (or have you just noticed it for yourself by now) that this is some kind of a maple tree? Maple trees have "helicopters." At least, that's what we called them when we were kids, because as they drop from the tree, they spin around and look like helicopters. You know...these things:
Well, our very large maple tree with its very large leaves also has very large helicopters. Again, that was one of the smaller ones. And not only are these helicopters rather large....there are thousands of them!! All those brown things in this picture are helicopters, and again, this is just a very small section of the tree, near the bottom.
Like I said, this is a pretty awesome tree. It's a formidable thing to have growing in our backyard, and it will provide plenty of shade for us in those warm summer months. But I have to say...I am NOT looking forward to cleaning up after it in the fall!! Maybe we'll get lucky and all those leaves and helicopters will just blow right over our house and into our neighbors' yards. A girl can dream, right? :-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Day of Rest

After our busy day on Saturday, Shawn and I wanted to have a relaxing Sunday and just enjoy our house! Shawn got up a bit earlier than I did and went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. He seemed happy with what he found...lots of trails, playgrounds, and play fields. After we went to Mass, we also stopped by a bakery/cafe that's close to our neighborhood. So far, we've enjoyed the snacks, sandwiches, and coffee that we've gotten there, so I'm looking forward to making it our "local" coffee shop. :)

Almost as soon as we got home, a couple women from our church came over to do our House Blessing! Instead of sending a priest every time someone wants their home blessed, our church has commissioned lay people to do the blessing ceremony. I thought it was really nice! The four of us started at the front door to start with some prayers and a Scripture reading. Then we went from room to room, saying a prayer appropriate to the room's use ("bless the meals that are prepared in this kitchen") and sprinkling holy water. They also gave us a nice little plaque-type thing that we can hang up.
We spent the rest of the afternoon on the couch, watching football. We were thrilled that CBS switched over to the Broncos/Patriots game after the Seahawks game ended, so we were able to see the Broncos win in overtime. Then we headed out to meet friends of ours at a dinner theater! Tim and Thuy were given free tickets to a dinner theater in Bellevue, and they invited us to come along. The four of us agreed that the show was rather cheesy (it was "A Mafia Musical"), but was free! And parts of it did make us laugh, and it was something different.

Overall, we had a great weekend, and we're looking forward to a good week!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Domestic Saturday

This was our first Saturday as homeowners...and we definitely dived right in to the "domestic" activities! Well, I will admit that we did sleep in first. But then we went grocery shopping together (I don't normally do this on Saturdays, so Shawn usually doesn't go with me...but I hadn't gotten around to it yet this week). There's a Safeway less than half a mile from our house, so that's nice!

We picked up a carpet cleaner while we were at Safeway. Once we got back to the house, I actually went out to lunch with a friend of mine (at the Applebee's that's also less than half a mile from our house!), while Shawn stayed home to get started on the carpet cleaning. He said that our power actually went out for a little while, but he did already have one room done by the time I got home. As I'm typing this, we've gotten 3 of the four bedrooms done, and the downstairs family room. Our plan is to do the living room and the hallway right before we go to bed tonight, and then we'll do our master bedroom after we get up in the morning. Here's Shawn cleaning the office/guest room.

One thing that we really love about this neighborhood is our friendly neighbors! Shawn met a neighbor while he was getting the mail this afternoon (about 8 mailboxes are all together, right across the street from our house). This neighbor, Jim, let Shawn borrow his lawnmower! So Shawn mowed our lawn this afternoon. It was definitely a job that desperately needed to be done!
While Shawn mowed the lawn, I actually cleaned out the car. It's so nice to have a driveway to do things like this in instead of dealing with an apartment complex parking lot! And some neighbors that we had met a couple weeks ago (the first weekend we had the keys) drove by...and honked and waved. Such a nice feeling!

And then....we thought we'd spend a few minutes pulling some weeds. We ended up pulling out tons of weeds from our front yard flower beds! I didn't take any pictures since we were losing the sunlight, but it looks so much better! I'll take pictures tomorrow. Our next door neighbors also came over and introduced themselves while we were weeding. I had met the mom, Wendy, earlier, but her husband, Mike, and their daughter came over, too. He made the mistake of telling us that he's a contractor.....what a handy neighbor to have! :-) He's also offered to let us borrow some of his lawn stuff (like a trimmer) until we have the time and finances to buy our own!

So...that was our Saturday!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall is Here!

We've been having some really beautiful weather lately! I remember that last October was like this, too, and I was warned that it was unusual for this area. I'll take two years in a row of unusually beautiful weather! Fall is definitely here. The temperatures have been much cooler...only in the upper 50s for the highs. But the leaves are finally starting to change, and the sun has been out!

We have a few trees in our backyard. One...I have no clue what it is. I'll need to look it up eventually. Another one is gigantic! I can't get the entire thing in a picture. It's some kind of large maple, and we're guessing that it was originally about 10 separate trees planted close together, and now they've morphed into one giant tree. I'll do my best to get pics of it soon. And then we have another fairly small maple. Its leaves have started changing, and it's really pretty! I took this picture this morning, when there was still some fog hanging around.
We've been busy this week trying to get things unpacked and put away. We've still got a looonngg ways to go, but I'll try to do an update post in the next day or two, showing off the finished kitchen. Our plans this weekend involve more work on/in the house, and then we're taking Sunday "off" to enjoy the fact that it's actually ours! And hopefully we'll do a little more neighborhood exploring, too. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We've Moved!

Sorry about the lack of blog posts lately...but we've moved! (We just got internet access at the house today, so I'm definitely going to use that as part of my excuse, in addition to just being downright busy!) So here's a quick recap of the last 5 or 6 days.

First of list from the last post. Pack - Check! Paint - partial check. Clean carpets - nope, didn't happen. Put outlet and switch covers back on - Check! Purchase and install shower curtain rods - check! Purchase and put down shelf paper in bathrooms - check! Power wash and stain deck - nope, definitely didn't happen.

So let's see...that last post was on Thursday. On Friday, Shawn took the day off from work and we spent the entire day at the house. We really spent most of our time painting (and taping...oh my goodness do I hate the taping!). Check out the video posted here to see what happens when I've been doing lots of painting in a poorly ventilated space. :-) Once we got tired, we went back to the apartment and packed until about 1:00am. On Saturday, we went back to the house, where we finished the painting with the help of our awesome friends, Tim and Thuy. Seriously, Thuy (pronounced "Twee," in case you're wondering) is a trim painting goddess! There are seven doors in our main hallway. She painted the trim around six of them in the time it took me to do one. I'm not kidding. At some point, we had to admit that the carpet just wasn't going to get cleaned before moving in. That's now our #1 priority for this'll just involve the rearranging of furniture in order to do it completely.
We did take a brief break from house stuff on Saturday, and we went to the Mariners game Saturday night. We had actually gotten the tickets as part of the "Date Night Package" that Shawn bought at an auction in June, so we didn't want them to go to waste. It was actually really nice! We enjoyed the game (which the Mariners won), and it was fairly short, which was a nice bonus. Plus, we scored a free parking spot (you just have to know where to look for them around Safeco)! Once we got home, we kept packing until about 2:00am.

Sunday...we were up by 6:00am! When Shawn left to pick up the moving truck at 9:00, I stayed back and kept packing. Five of our friends (and a baby) showed up around 10:30, and we all managed to get everything from the apartment and into the house in just over five hours! It was pretty impressive, and we're incredibly grateful for our friends' willingness to help! We couldn't have done it without them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three More Days!

How on earth is it already October 1st?? We've had so much going on in the month of September, no wonder it went by so quickly. On September 1st, we were relaxing in Maui (ahhhhh.....). If I remember correctly, September 1st was our first full day there, so we just hung out on the beach all day. :-) While we were in Maui, I had a few students in my online classes, but the week we got back to the mainland, my job really took off with the addition of 17 students in one day! That was the same day we signed all of our paperwork for buying the house, which we finally took possession of two weeks later (on September 22nd). The day we closed on the house was the same day that I was given two new sections to teach...which added 83 new students to my roster in one day! So for the last week, I've been really busy with the online teaching and also getting over to the house to do work in there. All this time, Shawn's been really busy at work, putting in extra hours and often working past midnight at home.'s October 1st. Absolutely nothing is slowing down for us right now...we're moving on Sunday! Fortunately, I got all caught up last night with my teaching (as of 11:00pm, I officially had no assignments left to grade, no messages to respond to, and no discussion board posts to read). I have a couple meetings today, but I'm hoping to spend most of today doing things to get ready for the move. Here's what we're hoping to get done in the next three days!

  • PACK!! As of right now, I've packed a whopping 5 boxes. Yep. That's it.
  • Paint: We still need to paint the stairwell and downstairs hallway, the downstairs bedroom, all of the trim, and the bedroom doors.
  • Clean carpets: A friend and coworker of Shawn's is lending us his heavy-duty carpet cleaner. Eventually we would like to replace the carpet, but we just don't have the time or money for that right now, so a deep clean will have to do.
  • Put outlet and switch covers back on.
  • Purchase and install shower curtain rods.
  • Purchase and put down shelf paper in the bathrooms. Whatever used to be lining the vanity cabinets and drawers is no long there...and there's a disgusting residue left over that I can't scrub off.
  • Power wash and stain deck. Something tells me the deck's not getting done this weekend, but I'm putting it on the list anyway.

There's definitely more to be done, but I think everything else can pretty easily wait until after the move. In fact, I think some things (like installing the entryway chandelier) will be easier after we've moved in. I did feel bad that Shawn had to spend a beautiful Sunday a couple weeks ago working, but that does mean that he can take off Friday without using a vacation day. So what do you we have any chance of getting all this done before we pick up the moving truck at 9am on Sunday? :-)

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, 2002 (302 pages)

I've often heard good things about this book, but I've avoided reading it. I read another book by the same author (The Mermaid Chair), which I did NOT like, so I was worried that this book would be similar. However, I was given a new section of English to teach, and one of the required readings for the course is this book. Considering I'm supposed to be grading assignments based on the book...I figured I'd better read it!

I actually really liked the book! It's set in South Carolina in the summer of 1964. Lily is a 14-year old girl who leaves home in search of information about her mother (who died when Lily was only 4). One of the few things Lily has that belonged to her mother is a picture of a Black Madonna with "Tiburon, South Carolina" written on the back. This picture leads Lily to the Boatwright sisters, who keep bees and make "Black Madonna Honey."

This book is a story about love, about mothers and daughters, about friendship, about racism, and about healing after emotional pain. It's beautifully written, and the characters are very likeable. It's definitely worth the read!
Total number of books read in 2009: 37
Total number of pages read in 2009: 12985

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Natural

The Natural, by Bernard Malamud, 1952 (231 pages)

Considering that I'm such a big fan of baseball, I can't believe that I had never read this book! (And I've still never seen the movie.) As the back of my copy says, "The Natural, Bernard Malamud's first novel, is also the first -- and some would say still the best -- literary novel written about baseball.

I really enjoyed this book. It was quite different from everything else I've been reading lately! It tells the story of Roy Hobbs, a man with incredible baseball talent who is actually a rookie in the Majors at the age of 35 (due to an "accident" earlier in his life). It's interesting to see how the other players, the coach, and even the fans respond to him...first being skeptical, then being accepting, and then practically worshipping him.

I liked all of the "baseball" elements that were included in this book. I do think that someone who's not a big baseball fan could read this book and enjoy it just for the story; however, I think that having some understanding of the significance of the baseball jargon definitely helps to appreciate the actual writing style. I like the quote (again, on the back of my copy) by Alfred Kazin: "[Malamud] has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology."

Especially if you're a fan of baseball, I definitely recommend this book!
Total number of books read in 2009: 36
Total number of pages read in 2009: 12683

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Painting the Master

After painting the guest room/office, we decided to start in on the Master bedroom. The Master is at the front of the house, so it gets good light in the morning. The walls in here were actually two different colors, although the blue was so pale that it didn't look much different than the white(ish) color that the other walls were painted. (Side the closet, we could see other colors that had been painted in the Master at some point. Prior to the pale blue, this room was a light green. Before that...HOT pink.)

Before painting:

The Master doesn't technically have its own bathroom. However, it does have a "dressing area." It's this little vanity and another closet, and this area connects to the main bathroom on the floor. (Note: we discovered on Sunday that the door from the Master to the bathroom doesn't really close entirely. It'll pop open at any given moment. Something else to be fixed.)
For most of the Master bedroom, I used the roller while Shawn did the detail work at the ceiling, floor, corners, and trim.
This little vanity area was kind of a pain to paint...trying to get around those mirrors and lights.
This is the first coat in the Master bedroom. It will definitely need a second coat because there are too many areas where the light color underneath is showing through. This paint is a bit different than we were expecting. In this picture, it looks fairly light. In person (and in certain light), it actually looks quite bold. At twilight on Sunday, this paint looked downright purple!
My hunch is that it'll look better after a second coat, and I think that it'll be toned down a bit when we put our furniture in here. We have a dark wood dresser, and our bedding is black with a white geometric pattern. And worst case scenario? We'll live with it for awhile and eventually paint it again.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Starting the Makeover!

After getting our keys to the new house last Tuesday, Shawn and I have been trying to juggle our jobs and doing what needs to be done in the house. We've known all along that we'd like to do quite a bit of painting in the house, and it just made sense to us that we should attempt to do as much of it as possible before we actually move in. Empty rooms = easier painting!

Since neither of us has done much painting in awhile, we decided that the first room we painted should be one that wouldn't be a big deal if we messed it up a bit. So...exhibit A. This is the bedroom that I'm guessing used to be a nursery for twins. We've decided to make it our office/guest room. A few days ago, it was a bright, cheery yellow.

With vinyl words attached to the wall. I'm guessing they were over cribs...they just seem to be that height. The other set said, "I'm a princess with an attitude!" Cutesy, no? But not really what we had in mind for our office. I figured I could peel them off...they're basically stickers. I thought my fingernails would do the trick, and a putty knife would be a good backup (with spackle, if necessary).

Fortunately, a friend on facebook had a brilliant suggestion. A hairdryer!! After about 60 seconds of hot air blasting onto the letters...

...the letters basically peeled right off! The backs of the letter actually remained rather sticky, so I'm thinking if I'd really wanted to salvage them, I probably could've. I didn't. :)

Once the words were off the walls, I started washing down the walls with TSP. Shawn taped around all the trim, and then we dove in to the painting. I have to admit that it was a little nerve wracking to put the roller to the wall the first time.

We switched off some for this room, but I think Shawn was pretty handy with the paintbrush, taking care of the trim. We got the first coat done on this room on Saturday night, and we did a second coat on Sunday. (We'll admit that we're a bit annoyed by the fact that we needed two coats, considering that we bought the expensive paint based on the recommendation of the paint guy at Lowe's who told us that it would eliminate the need for primer and also would most likely cover just fine in one coat.)
Oh, just to clarify...before we did the second coat, Shawn's friend David showed us how to get the blinds off the window, so yes...those did come down. :) We haven't painted the trim yet (that'll probably be Tuesday evening), so I'll post official "after" pics of the room when that's done.