Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What calms YOU down?

The other day, Shawn and I drove through a neighborhood fairly close to here, and I laughed out loud when I saw this sign:
"Traffic calming devices ahead." Hmmm...what could this mean? Shawn and I started brainstorming. What devices could possibly be used to calm the traffic? Zen-like meditation for cars? Yoga classes? Maybe the neighborhood pipes in Gregorian chant and plays it through loudspeakers set up next to the road. Aren't crystals supposed to give off a calming energy? Maybe these have been set up along the road. What do you think?

Frankly, we didn't see anything particularly "calming" in this neighborhood except some old trees which were kinda pretty. The road itself was kind of annoying with a bunch of speed bumps.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our New Best Friend

If you're not familiar with the Seattle climate, I should explain that it's typically very mild. Generally speaking, the high temperatures in the summer are in the 70s or maybe the low 80s. In the winter, it doesn't normally get very cold...typical high temps are in the 40s. The average yearly snowfall in Seattle is only 8 inches, which explains why everyone around here freaked out when we got 5 inches in one "storm" back in December. This is my first summer living here, but I know that it does occasionally get hot. It just doesn't happen very often, which is why most apartments we looked at aren't air conditioned. It's just not necessary most of the time.

However...starting late last week, the weather gurus around here started getting anxious. We've been getting weather alerts for close to a week now, letting us know that this area is in for "extreme heat." got over 90 yesterday! Actually, the forecast is for high temps above 90 all this week, which is very unusual.

Unfortunately, like I said, our apartment has no air conditioning. (In fact, our gas fireplace, which is the source of our heat in the winter, never actually turns off....but that's a story for another post.) We do have a ceiling fan in the dining room, but that's it. So if there's no breeze coming in the windows (which was the case yesterday...there's also an "air stagnation warning" for this area), it gets pretty darn hot in here.

I headed to Walmart yesterday afternoon to buy a fan, but apparently I wasn't the only one who had that idea. Walmart had one fan left, and it was actually an outdoor fan that you could hook a hose up to and use as a mister...and they were charging $70 for it. No thanks. Fortunately, not as many people had thought to check Walgreens, and that's where I was able to buy our new best friend!
This lovely creature was pretty easy to set up...took me about 10 minutes yesterday. It kicks off a good amount of cool air, and it oscillates enough to hit all of our seating in the living room (or the entire bed in the bedroom). It made hanging out in the living room bearable last night, and it made sleeping pleasant. It even has a remote control and a timer (so we can set it to turn itself off...I'm guessing while we're sleeping, so we don't wake up cold?). I'm loving this thing. Definitely $30 (after a $10 mail in rebate) well spent!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's a Sweep!

My birthday was back in October, but I just got my present this weekend. The Cleveland Indians came to town to play a 3-game series against the Mariners, and my present was tickets to all three games. It was awesome.

Friday night, Shawn and I had great seats...we were in the second row of the upper deck, right in line with the 3rd base line (draw a line from 3rd through home plate and just keep going up to the seats...that's where we were). The game didn't start until 10:10 EST, so unless the fans in Ohio stayed up pretty late, they missed a good game. The Indians beat the Mariners, 9-0!

Saturday was a day game, and our seats were in left field, about 10 feet inside the foul pole. For some stupid reason, this game was blacked out nationwide, so the only ones who could see it were those of us who were there! My brother even tried to watch it online and couldn't. We were in the sun the entire time, and it was really hot out, but it was still another great game. The Indians beat the Mariners, 10-3!

Finally, on Sunday, we went to another day game. It was hot again, but our seats were in the shade for the entire game (well, we were in the sun for the first half of the first inning or so). We were back in the upper deck, a bit higher up than Friday, and we were on the 3rd base side. A group of our friends from church were at the game, too, but I'm not sure where they were sitting. (We already had bought our tickets before we knew that friends would be going.) Once was an awesome game! This time, the Mariners took a 2-1 lead after the first inning, but reigning Cy Young winner, Cliff Lee, settled down pretty quickly after the first, and the Indians beat the Mariners, 12-3! We swept Seattle!!!

Safeco Field is a really pretty park. It was actually designed by the same guy who designed both Jacobs Field in Cleveland (I refuse to call it Progressive Field) and Coors Field in Denver. Here are a couple shots of the park.
So this weekend, I had the privilege of watching some great baseball with my wonderful husband, who cheered for the Indians with me. My team swept the Mariners by scoring 31 runs in 3 games, and we enjoyed a lot of good food. (I'll admit that the hot dogs at Safeco are the best I've ever had, and they also make some darn good garlic fries there!) It was a wonderful birthday present!! So what if I got it 9 months late? :-) Thanks, love!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Job!

There's been a lot of stuff sort of simmering in our household this summer. However, I haven't felt like jinxing anything, so I've tried not to blog about things until I know they're actually happening. So unless I talk to you on a regular basis, it may come as a surprise to know that I got a new job! Starting this fall, I'm going to be teaching English online through Aventa Learning.

I actually applied for an online teaching position in late May or early June. I honestly don't remember if this is one of the online schools that I found through Craigslist (job posting) or if this is one of the schools I found by googling. Either way, I found the school and sent in my resume, and then I forgot about it until I got an email while I was in Colorado in early July. I had a phone interview on July 6th, and I thought it went really well. However, I didn't hear anything back until last Friday, when I got another email for a second phone interview. That interview took place on Monday, and it couldn't have gone better. We'd only been chatting for about 15 minutes when she let me know that, without even finishing the interview, she already knew she wanted to hire me. That was nice to hear. :)

I've already had a lot of questions about this job, so let me explain basically how it works. I'm not sure if this was just a conversation that teachers had, but do you remember probably 10 years ago when people started wondering if someday computers would replace teachers? There was talk that someday, everyone would just sit at home in front of their computer...the teacher would teach from home, and the students would watch on their monitor. Yeah...that's not how online teaching works, at least not usually. Instead, think of this as a sort of correspondence course entirely online. Students log on to a virtual classroom where they can see the syllabus. In any given unit, students will have some things that they need to do on their own (like reading a book or studying a website). They will also often need to submit homework assignments (like an essay or questions to answer); they will submit them by uploading them to the teacher's "inbox." Students may need to take a quiz or test, which they can do through the online virtual classroom. They can also be required to participate in an online "classroom" discussion, which takes place via message boards.

So where does the online teacher come in? I'm there to make sure the students are actively participating in the class. I'll be able to see how much time each student is spending "in" the virtual classroom. I'll also be available to answer students' questions via email or phone. And of course, I get to grade all their work and provide feedback on their assignments. If students are struggling to grasp the material, I can create and provide supplemental assignments to help them reach a better understanding.

I'm really excited about this opportunity. There are LOTS of reasons that a high school student might want to take an English class online, so this is an "industry" that is growing by leaps and bounds, and I'm getting in pretty much on the ground floor. Plus, I get to do the fun part of teaching (explaining things to students and providing feedback) without having to put up with a lot of the things that I dislike about teaching (like dealing with students who won't stop talking while I give instructions, or getting up before dawn to drive to work). And I can do it pretty much anywhere that will give me internet access! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Left to Tell

Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza, 2006 (210 pages)

In 1994, a terrible holocaust occurred in the tiny African country of Rwanda. There are two basic "tribes" of people in Rwanda...the Tutsis and the Hutus. There is a pretty involved back story here, but to keep this relatively short, you simply need to know that in April of 1994, the Hutus began killing the Tutsis. There was a lot of political influence and propaganda, and eventually, neighbors began turning on neighbors, and there was very little mercy shown. The goal of the Hutus was complete extermination of the Tutsis. Although the numbers aren't certain, it is estimated that in a period of just over 3 months, somewhere between 800,000 and one million Tutsi people were killed. Here's a wikipedia article that explains more detail, if you're interested.

Immaculee Ilibagiza is a Tutsi by ethnic heritage. She was raised in a devout Catholic home, and she had returned from her studies at the University for the Easter weekend when the killing began. Her parents sent her and her younger brother (and a friend of theirs) to the nearby home of a pastor to hide. Her brother and the friend had to leave the house, but Immaculee survived the genocide by hiding in a tiny bathroom at the pastor's house with seven other woman for 3 months. The pastor didn't tell anyone else in the house that the women were staying there, and he only fed them what he could manage without buying anything extra. While hiding in the bathroom, Immaculee spent her days praying.

This is an amazing story. There are parts of the book that are graphic, and yet the author writes without being gruesome. The things that the author experienced are absolutely horrific, and yet throughout her trials her faith in God actually grew stronger. This is definitely a book worth reading.
Total number of books read in 2009: 29
Total number of pages read in 2009: 11035

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Other Auction Win

If you read this blog regularly, you may remember that about a month ago, Shawn and I went to a charity auction/dinner. Feel free to read this post that explains all about the auction and the wonderful "date night" package that we won. Like I said in that post, we went into the live auction portion of the evening expecting absolutely to be outbid on everything we wanted to try for, but we came up with some "maximum amounts" that we'd be willing to pay for a few items so that we could have the fun of participating in the bidding.

One of the things we decided to bid on was the last item of the night. We were both thinking that the biggest ticket item is usually left for last at an auction (right?), and there was no way we could afford what this item would go for. But wouldn't it be fun to say we bid on it? As the auction progressed, we were amazed at the amounts some of the items were going for. To put this in perspective, our "maximum bid" for the last item of the night was less than what a Cajun dinner for 8 went for ($2400) or what a relatively small stained glass window went for ($1800).

When the bidding started for this last item, there were quite a few who offered at the opening bid, but it quickly dwindled to just Shawn against another guy. The bidding went quickly, up by $100 at a time, back and forth. Shawn bid what we had agreed would be our maximum bid, fully expecting the other guy to bid the next amount.....but the bidding fell silent. And we won!

So what did we win? A 7-night stay at a beachfront condo in MAUI!!! Holy cow!!!! As soon as the auctioneer declared Shawn the winning bidder, I think we looked at each other and quickly said, "What did we just do?!"

Fortunately, plane tickets to Hawaii from Seattle really aren't all that expensive. In fact, it's probably cheaper (most times of the year) to fly to Hawaii than it is to fly to Ohio to visit my parents. I booked our flights this afternoon, and although it cost a bit more than I was hoping, it really wasn't bad at all. So in about six weeks, we'll be going to Maui!

I'm really excited for this. Shawn has been to Hawaii before (I think a couple times, actually), but I've never been. For awhile now, it's been on my list of places that I'd really like to go. (Just to prove it, check out this list I made in March...Hawaii is on there.) This was definitely an impulse buy, and had we really taken our time to think about it, we probably wouldn't have bid on this item (just to save money, especially after all our travels already this summer). But is something we knew we'd enjoy, and how often in our lives will we genuinely be able to afford a beachfront condo in Maui? We got it for less than it's technically worth. And frankly, it's really nice to know that since the owner of the condo donated this week to the auction, our good chunk of money is actually going to a very worthy cause...and we just happen to get an awesome vacation out of it! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good Day

Poor Shawn was at work all day today, working really hard. He didn't even take the time to come home for lunch. (He only works a block from home, so he usually comes home on his lunch break.)

I, on the other hand, had a nice, social day! In the young adults group we've gotten involved with at church, the other women and I have realized that none of us are working right now. There are six girls who either are currently unemployed, are teachers (or are currently unemployed teachers), or have recently had a baby. So we've decided that we should start doing things together during the day while our husbands are all at work.

Today, four of us started off by meeting in Ballard for cupcakes at Cupcake Royale! I love this place. Today, I had the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and I also had a "babycake" (a mini cupcake) that was vanilla cake with strawberry buttercream frosting. The frosting actually was made with locally grown strawberries...yum! The other three girls had never been to the bakery, so I was glad they all enjoyed it.

Then we headed over to Green Lake, where two more girls met us. It was beautiful and sunny today, and warmer than it's been in at least a week. The six of us walked around the lake, which is about 3 miles. It took longer than I expected since the various moms had to stop on occasion for feedings, diaper changes, putting babies into strollers, taking babies out of get the idea. :)

By the time I headed home, my legs were a little tired and my shoulders were sunburned...but I had good conversations with some good, new friends. It was a good day!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon, 1994. (947 pages)

Dragonfly in Amber is the second book in the Outlander series. I first heard about the series last fall, when I was chatting with girls on the Book Club board of I read Outlander in February, and I absolutely loved it. Here's the post I wrote about the book then.

A large portion of Dragonfly in Amber actually takes place in France, which, for some reason, I wasn't expecting. It was still a well-written story, and this part of the plot was intriguing. However, I missed the "magic" of Scotland that was present in the first book. So I'll admit...I was thrilled when they eventually went back, even though I knew it was dangerous for them.

For much of the first book, Jamie didn't know that Claire was actually from the future (1945). However, in this book, he knows. So it's interesting to see what they choose to do (or not do) with the information that she knows from her history books.

If you haven't read the Outlander series, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared, though, for the occasional gruesome details of 18th century battle, death, and destruction. :) I'm very excited to read book #3 (Voyager). I just requested it from the library...and even though it was published in 1994, I'm number 20 on the holds list (and the library owns 7 copies of it).

Total number of books read in 2009: 28
Total number of pages read in 2009: 10825

Friday, July 10, 2009

2nd Wedding Weekend, Part One

I really need to blog about our trip before we get too far away from it and then I don't remember details! So...after my brother's wedding in North Carolina, and after spending a few days with my parents in Ohio, I flew (with my friend Katie) to St. Louis. There were two major events going on in St. Louis that weekend. The main event, really, was the wedding of my friend Shannon. The other event was a reunion of the Hydra! For a full explanation of the Hydra, read this post from last summer. Basically, there are five of us girls (me, Katie, Rachel, Jane, and Shannon) who were best friends in college and are now spread out all over the country.

Anyways...Katie and I flew in to St. Louis on Thursday. While checking in to my hotel room, I learned that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson had both died. Rest assured that MJ "tributes" and references abounded all weekend long. Then Katie and I headed over to Shannon's parents' house for a HUGE family/out-of-town-friends barbeque. Jane and Shannon were both there, so the Hydra was almost complete! I had planned to leave at some point to pick up Rachel and her husband from the airport...but the poor things missed their connecting flight and had to spend the night in Memphis. Regardless, Thursday night was a great time to start catching up with my friends (and their family members) that I hadn't seen in awhile.

On Friday morning, I eventually was able to pick up Shawn from the airport. He was kind enough to take another overnight flight so that he'd be able to spend time with my friends and me on Friday. Unfortunately, he was without a cell phone (long story), so I spent 45 minutes circling the St. Louis airport waiting for him to come out, while he spent 45 minutes sitting at baggage claim waiting for me to come in! Turns out, I took him over to Jane's house (where all the girls and assorted children were going to have brunch) and only had about 4o minutes until I needed to go back to the airport to pick up Rachel and Phil.

So two weeks ago today, the Hydra was together* for the first time since we graduated from college 9 years ago!! It was so nice to be able to spend time with all of the girls. I think Shawn was a little overwhelmed at first (my friends can be LOUD), but he settled in pretty quickly and held his own. :) We spent the rest of the day at Jane's house, just chatting and eating. When everyone needed to head off to the wedding rehearsal and dinner, Shawn and I relaxed at the hotel until it was time to find dinner (I introduced him to Bob Evans restaurant). Then we saw Transformers 2 (on opening weekend).

This picture was actually taken at the wedding on Saturday (obviously), but I think it's the only one we got of all the girls. I'll make another post about the actual wedding day. Left to right, this is Katie, Jane (8 months pregnant with Lucy...and her son Joey hugging her), me, Shannon, and Rachel.

*If you didn't read the original Hydra post, I feel obligated to mention that there was originally a 6th member of the Hydra. However, none of us has seen her or heard from her in over 3 we consider this get-together to be a complete reunion. No offense to her, should she happen to stumble across this blog. :)


While we were gone on our trip(s), we were bad gardeners. We weren't too worried about the first weekend we were gone, since Shawn was back home after only 4 days. We figured the plants would survive (especially since we have the extra reservoirs at the bottom of our planters). However, for the longer time away, we kind of forgot to arrange for someone to come over regularly. Shawn was able to contact one of his co-workers, and he came over to feed the fish and water the plants after we'd already been gone about a week. When we came home, I thought we'd probably killed all our plants. But there have been new blooms on the columbines, there are little itty bitty tomatoes, and suddenly there are lots of pea pods! I was most certain that we'd killed the peas, so I'm very excited to see them growing (especially since I love eating peas right off the vine).

Shawn and I picked one pod yesterday, just to see if we were correct in thinking it was ready...and it was yummy! Here are pod #2 and #3 that I just picked this morning!
It's official...we have peas from our "garden"! :-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Modoc: The True Story.....

Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived, by Ralph Helfer, 1997 (325 pages)

I read this book while I was on vacation, and it actually took me the entire two and a half weeks to get through it. I don't think that had anything to do with the book...I just tend not to read much while I'm traveling. That being said, I read it for a new book club I'm hoping to start attending. The meeting about this book actually met last night, and I ended up not going. The friend who invited me wasn't going to be able to go, and honestly, a night just sitting at home sounded really good yesterday.

As you can see by the title, this book claims to be a true story. I'm not 100% convinced that it's entirely true, but it's definitely an amazing story if it is. (Anyone know if it's honestly a true story?) It is written by Ralph Helfer, who is an exotic animal trainer, and this is supposed to be the back story of an elephant he eventually acquired.

The book tells the story of Modoc, the elephant, and Bram Gunterstein. Bram's father was the elephant trainer for a circus in Germany, and Modoc and Bram were born on the same day. Because of this, Bram was literally raised around Modoc. When Bram was a teenager, the circus was sold to an American, and Bram stowed away on the ship that was taking the animals to the U.S. so that he could stay with Modoc. As the book progresses, the journey of Bram and Modoc is an amazing one. Together, they manage to survive shipwreck, thieves, murders, and civil war.

I did like this book, but it wasn't my favorite. I think I would've liked it better if I'd read it faster, instead of breaking it up into small sections like I did (and spread out over more than two weeks). I felt that the author didn't do a very good job of allowing the reader to get a sense of the time that was passing. For example, in one part of the book, Bram and Modoc are living in a village in India. It feels like they're only there a few weeks, but the author casually mentions at one point that they'd been there for over five years. The author has the same problem with Bram aging. For most of the book, Bram seemed to be portrayed as a teenager. Then there seems to be an abrupt shift in his personality, and it was then that I realized that he was probably decades older than I was picturing.

This would have been an interesting book to discuss with a book club, as I would be interested to hear what others thought of it. I'd also like to know if others had the same issues with the author's style that I did.
Number of books read in 2009: 27
Number of pages read in 2009: 9878

We're Home!

It was a long and fun trip, but it's good to be home! We flew back to Seattle late on Sunday night. Parking anywhere near the Seattle airport is really expensive, so our new friends in the area have been great about giving us rides. When Shawn flew out to St. Louis, he left our car at the house of our friends. That's fine...except that these same friends had to come get us at 12:30 Monday morning! By the time we went to their house, picked up our car, and drove home (stopping by the drive-thru of Jack in the Box since we were both hungry), it was about 2:00am before we made it home. Poor Shawn had to go to work on Monday morning...but I slept in until 10:00. :)

Over the next week or two, I'll work on some posts that will show pictures of some of the things we did while on vacation. But just to recap...Shawn and I left on Wednesday, June 17th. We flew overnight, arriving in Raleigh, North Carolina, around 9:30am on Thursday, June 18th. After celebrating my brother's wedding that weekend, Shawn flew back to Seattle that Sunday. I, however, drove with my parents and my 3-year old niece to NE Ohio. Shawn spent most of that week at home, working, while I hung out with my family and saw some friends in Ohio. On Thursday, June 25th, I flew (with my friend Katie) to St. Louis. Shawn met me there early Friday morning (after taking yet another overnight flight). We spent the weekend there, hanging out with my college friends and attending a fun wedding. Early that Sunday morning (after 3 hours of sleep), Shawn and I flew from St. Louis to Denver, where we spent the next week enjoying the mountains and spending time with lots of friends and family.

And now we're home. :) The whole trip was definitely tiring at times, but overall, I'm glad we did it this way. It was actually cheaper for us, since we only needed to buy one-way tickets for me instead of round-trip tickets. We got to see LOTS of people in one big trip instead of trying to remember who we did or did not see in lots of little trips. While we were gone, we think that most of the fish survived (although I still can't find the ghost catfish...); however, we're not sure that our garden will survive. We kind of forgot to have someone come over to water everything, so things are looking a bit crispy. I have high hopes for the tomato plant (there is actually a small tomato currently growing), and I'm crossing my fingers for the peas (since we already have a dozen or so pods growing), but I'm not going to hold my breath for the carrots. I'll let you know what happens. :)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Still Alive!

So...I got a little busy over the last week or so. Since I last posted, I flew to St. Louis, hung out with my college girlfriends, attended the wedding of one of said girlfriends, flew to Denver, and have been doing lots of fun stuff with friends and family. I'll try to explain more details in posts over the next few days, when I have a chance to add some pictures.

Today, Shawn and I went out to lunch with our friends Mat and Abby. Mat was one of the groomsmen in our wedding, and he and Shawn have played rugby together for years. Mat and Abby are the same couple that I did the Stomp to Romp Out Breast Cancer with back in March.

They suggested a restaurant that's relatively new to Denver, called D Bar Desserts. Here's the link to the restaurant's website. You should definitely take the time to look around the website, looking at all the yummy food! It's actually primarily a dessert and wine bar, but obviously, they do also serve lunch and dinner. For my lunch today, I had baked mac n cheese. I normally don't like homemade macaroni and cheese, but this was wonderful!! I didn't take this picture (I found it at, but this is what I had:

For dessert, Shawn and I split the "Cake and Shake." It's a big piece of triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate icing, and a mini milkshake (we chose chocolate...should've gone with vanilla). It was awesome! Again, we didn't take this picture...I found it on flickr.

Everything that we had today was so good! And it should be, considering that the restaurant is owned by none other than Keegan Gerhard, of the Food Network! He was actually there today, baking and running the restaurant. He actually brought out Mat and Abby's food for them. It was a little surreal seeing a chef from TV working in the restaurant where we were eating. If you're not familiar with him, you can find his bio on the restaurant's website. And this is what he looks like. :)