Wednesday, March 30, 2011


On Sunday, Shawn and I decided to get up early, head east towards the mountains, and look for snow.  Our last attempt at snowshoeing ended up just being a hike, but this time, we were hoping for actual snow.

We found it!

We were aiming for a particular trail that we weren't able to find.  Turns out, the road was just snowed in, so we could've parked our car and just hiked an extra mile or so to the trailhead.  But since we couldn't find the trail we had in mind, we decided to just turn up a plowed road and see where it led.  We drove up a couple miles before the plowing stopped and the snow started.  That's also where we saw a big ol' pickup truck stuck in the snow, and 3 college kids attempting to get it out.  Shawn parked our car and got out to help.  (For those of you who don't normally drive in the snow, here's a tip: If you're stuck in the snow, don't floor the gas.  If your tires start spinning, all you're doing is creating a more slippery surface, and you'll just get more stuck.  To get unstuck, rock the car gently back and forth.)

After Shawn helped get the truck out of the snow, we decided that we'd just keep heading up the road on foot.  Other than the kids in the truck and one other couple who drove up as we were putting on our snowshoes, we only saw one other pair of people all day (and they were cross-country skiing, and we saw them near our car).  Eventually, we ended up on the Iron Goat Trail, and the snowshoeing up there was awesome. 

Satchel had never been in deep snow before, and he loved it!  We even got really good weather.  It only drizzled for a few minutes, and for awhile, we even got sunshine!  Here are some pics:
And hopefully this video will work.  Shawn was actually running behind Satchel for a little while to encourage him to run, and the sound you'll hear is Shawn's snowshoes, but it gives you an idea of the fun Satchel had.  :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Flowers!

We actually hit 60 in the Seattle area was so nice!!  I took Satchel for his walk at lunch, and although I started off wearing a light jacket, I took it off after a couple blocks.  The flowers have enjoyed the sunshine, too!

Our tulip/crocus type flowers:

The beginnings of our Columbines (they look better in person, I've realized):

The one tiny blue flower that's popped on one of our perennials (phlox, I think?):

And our flowering pieris (those aren't berries...they're flowers); and the sunshine!

As you can probably see from the pictures, we need to get busy weeding and mulching our flower beds.  If the weather holds up, maybe we can do some of that this weekend!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Fence

When we bought the house, we knew that we'd eventually need to replace part of the fence.  The fence on one side and most of the back of the yard was was obviously put up by someone who had some idea of what they were doing.  However, the other side...not so much.  The fence was shorter over there, and pieces of it were falling off.  Oh, and there's one section of the back of our yard that was never technically fenced in.  There was just a temporary "wood and wire" fence put up.

Here's an example of the fence between the yards:

Early last summer, the house next to us was finally purchased, and our wonderful new neighbors moved in.  As soon as they got here, they started working on their yard, mowing, weeding, and cleaning up the trash that the previous homeowners had left behind.  We introduced ourselves one day when they were working in their backyard, and Shawn brought up the subject of the fence. 

Happily, these neighbors are awesome.  They very quickly agreed that the fence would need to be replaced, and rather than hire someone to do it, they'd love to just chip in on the cost of it with us, and the guys could do the work themselves.  Woo hoo!

A few months passed before the guys got started on it.  And took awhile.  Fortunately, Jeff and Emma like Satchel, and they were totally okay with letting him have full run of our combined back yards while the fence was down. 

Here's are a couple "in progress" shots:
Just last weekend, Shawn finished the front section of the fence (between our garage and the neighbor's property), and that included building and installing the door:
I love it!  The back section of the fence still needs to be done, but I feel pretty good that Satchel isn't going to get out any time soon, and it's a lot harder for anyone (or anything) else to get in to our yard.  (Did I mention that the previous door/gate didn't actually shut all the way?  We just got lucky that Satchel never realized that.) 

Sure, it took awhile to get the whole thing done, but it was a nice "bonding" experience for Shawn and Jeff.  It'll also be a nicer selling point whenever we sell the house (versus the crummy fence that was here before).  And since Jeff got a deal on the materials and since the guys did the work themselves, it only cost us a few hundred bucks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Efficient Heating

We had another major home improvement project a few months ago, and while it certainly isn't glamorous, it's saving us money, and we're hoping that it'll be a "plus" whenever we attempt to sell the house.

When we bought the house, we were told that it was built in 1979.  That means that this house is only a year younger than I am.  The furnace that was still being used to heat the house was original...also from 1979.  And it was electric. 

I really, really wish that I had a picture of that old furnace.  It was almost scary.  We knew when we bought the house that it would need to be replaced, and I was voting that it would be replaced fairly quickly.

In case you're not aware, electric heating is not efficient.  It just takes lots of power to heat a house this size.  What's more, this particular furnace was designed with four "burners."  We discovered at some point last year (when we called in a plumber, actually, who is also a heating guy and offered to look at our furnace for free while he was here) that only two of those four burners was even working.  So for a long time, our house was being heated by an electric furnace that was only working at 50% capacity.  I'd rather not think about how high our electric bills were last year.

So this fall, we decided it was time to replace the darn thing.  We quickly realized that it would be in our best interest to replace the furnace with a heat in December, that's what we did.  This now stands outside our house:
It's quite snazzy.  I'll be honest...I don't understand how it works, exactly.  But I do know that it's energy efficient, and it somehow takes the heat out of the surrounding air.  In the event that the temperatures get below 35 degrees (which does happen here on occasion, but it's not the norm), we do have an "air handler" in the spot where the old furnace was located, and it will turn on "emergency heating" to make sure the house doesn't get too cool.  Along with this new heat pump, we now have a programmable thermostat.  And, although it often isn't needed in this part of the country, we actually do now have air conditioning that will come in handy for those 3 or 4 days a year when it'll be nice to have.

We've already seen a sharp reduction in our electric bills, which is awesome.  And we qualified for a $1500 tax credit (which we've already gotten, since I submitted our taxes more than a month ago).  So between the tax credit and the electric bills, this baby will pay for itself in just a couple years.  Nice.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Kind of Invented a Recipe!

You probably know that Shawn and I are Catholic, so Fridays during Lent mean no meat.  Now for a lot of people, this isn't really a big deal.  Lots of Catholics just eat fish on Fridays.  I don't mind fish, but it's never been one of my favorites, and I've never really learned how to cook it.  Typically, if I want to make fish, I pull out a bag of Gorton's frozen fish filets, pop a few of them in the oven, and call it good.

This year, though, Shawn and I have agreed that we should try to branch out a bit...try new things on Fridays.  I've pulled a recipe out of a magazine to try salmon, which is a huge deal for me (I've only ever had smoked salmon, and I hated it).  And a friend of mine recently gave me a link to a recipe for crab rangoon, which I actually think sounds pretty good!

So that's what I decided to try making tonight...crab rangoon.  I got all the ingredients, but then I re-read the recipe and realized that the filling mix needs to refrigerate overnight.

So.  Hm.  Now what to do?  I was actually in the mood for crab, so I thought about possibly making crab cakes.  I looked at a recipe I've tried once or twice before, but I don't have any tartar sauce.  I started looking on (one of my favorite sites for finding recipes), but I couldn't find a recipe that I actually had all the ingredients for.  So....I kind of made one up!

I basically used this recipe as my base.  But I don't have lemon juice, tarragon, or crackers.  And I don't like red pepper flakes.  So I decided to pull some other flavorings and seasonings that I had seen in other recipes, and put them in here.  This is basically what I came up with!

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 egg, about 4 TBSPs mayonnaise, garlic powder (I eyeballed it), a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce, about 1 tsp of brown deli mustard, and some sliced green onion (I sliced up most of two "bulbs").  If the consistency looks too runny, add a bit of mayo.  Then stir in two 6 oz cans of crabmeat (drained first).  Once that's mixed in, start adding in dry bread crumbs until the consistency looks right (I just eyeballed this....maybe 1/2 cup?  3/4 cup?).

I divided the mixture into four equal-ish portions and formed them into cakes.  Then I melted 1 or 2 TBSPs of butter in a skillet over medium heat (but I did turn it up to medium-high after a few minutes), and cooked the cakes, about 5 or 6 minutes on each side (until golden brown).

I have to say...these crab cakes were pretty darn good!  And since I'm normally a very "follow the recipe to a T" kind of cook, I was also impressed with myself that I was able to improvise and end up with something more than just edible.  :)

Here are the cakes after the first flip:

Look What We Have!

Even though the rain won't really stop in this area for a few more months, I'm definitely excited that spring is just around the corner!  Since we don't typically get super cold temperatures in this part of the country (although we did get snow 3 or 4 times this winter!), one big benefit to living here is that our flowers start to bloom a bit earlier than other places!  As I've been taking Satchel on his daily walks, I've really enjoyed noticing the little differences in the plants, bushes, and trees around the neighborhood.  As Satchel stopped to sniff at one of his favorite bushes this afternoon, I noticed that it has tiny little leaves on it that weren't there yesterday!  Our neighbor's plum trees are also starting to blossom, and even our own maple tree is starting to get little buds (or maybe they're huge buds...who knows...they're nowhere near the ground, so it's hard to say).

I took a couple pictures of the flowers that are starting to bloom in our own yard.  This is a flowering bush we have in our front yard.  It's a type of Japanese Pieris.
Since I took that picture on Saturday, the rest of the flowers have popped and it looks really pretty!

We also have a group of flowers growing near our garage.  Honestly, I'm not sure if they're tulips or crocuses.  The leaves look like tulips, and the petals are a bit too long for crocuses, but they're low to the ground like crocuses, and the shape of the petals are more like crocuses.  I was telling my dad about them, and we wonder if they're a hybrid....each flower is a tucus (pronounced "tookus").  It made us laugh.  We're odd.  Anyways...I took this first photo on Saturday:

And then I took this photo early this evening:
I should've taken the pic earlier today; around lunch time, I noticed that the petals were more open.  Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.  If you notice the leaves poking up behind these flowers, those are our irises popping up!

I'll definitely have to keep an eye on the flowers and try taking more pictures soon.  We have day lilies popping up in the front flower bed, and Shawn and I noticed that our columbines are coming back!  Those sprouts are super tiny right now, but they're there!  It's nice to have a little Colorado in Washington.  :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First "Major" House Project

Okay, that title might be misleading.  It was the first "major" house project we did (something more than painting, weeding, or installing a new appliance), but we didn't actually do it ourselves.  We definitely paid someone else to do it.

Anyways...during our home inspection when we bought the house (back in September 2009), we realized that the garage door had some issues.  Namely, it wouldn't stay up.  Our inspector thought that tightening the springs would probably do the trick, so we didn't think too much about it.  After living here for a few months, we had someone come to look at the door (and, ideally, fix it), and we were told that actually, the springs had already been tightened as much as they could, and at this point, all we could really do would be to replace the door.

Shortly after we were told that, we also realized that the door was falling off the track.  If we did open the door, one side of two of the panels was hanging off the track, just waiting to fall.  Additionally, the wooden door was "smiling" (warped enough that, from the outside, the bottom of the door looked a bit like a smile...turned up on the ends).  It kind of makes sense that a wooden door in a super rainy area would probably warp after awhile.  I was searching for a "before" picture, but I don't think I really took one.  This is probably the best picture I have of (part of) it.
You can at least see that it was gray, and it had little squares on it.  I guess I never really cared to take a "before" picture of our crummy garage door.  :)

So finally...about a year after we moved in to the house...we had the garage door replaced.  One guy came and did it by himself, and by the end of that day, we had a brand new, white, non-wooden, insulated garage door.  And a super quiet garage door opener.  I love it.

Other than the fact that the garage door opener is so quiet that I can't hear it from inside (even from our bedroom,which is located directly above the garage!), my favorite thing about this new door is that we can actually park the car inside the garage!!  You may be aware of the fact that it rains a lot around here.  I love that I no longer have to walk through the rain to bring in the groceries from the car.  :)

I Blame Satchel

Oh's been a few weeks since I last posted, hasn't it?  Sorry.  :(  I've actually taken a bunch of pictures to post on the blog, since I've realized that I actually do have some things to blog about!  Shawn and I haven't been totally lazy the last few months.  :)

So...I blame Satchel for my lack of posting.  See, here's the thing.  If he's awake and ready to play, it can be difficult to use my computer.  He has this habit of barking at me in an adorable, growly way, and I feel the need to put aside the laptop and play with him.  Or he'll come up next to me and nudge his nose under one of my hands, sort of tossing it on top of his head, asking me to pet him.  He's hard to resist.

And then there's what he does if he's ready to sleep.

Um....yeah.  He comes up on the couch and plops down on my lap.  Sometimes, he keeps his head up, and he basically leans his "elbows" and shoulders on my leg.  Super cute.  Then, when he falls asleep, he flops his head over across my lap, which is what he's doing here. 

Now seriously...who can say no to something so adorable?  And when he's there, it's again rather difficult to use my computer.  In all honesty, he often doesn't mind if I go ahead and put my computer on top of him, but I do try not to do that.  My only other choice, then, is to hold the laptop in one hand, a la server holding a tray of drinks, and then type with just one hand.  I can do it...but A) my left hand gets tired, and B) typing is painfully slow.

So needless to say, when I've finished my work for the day, and I don't have to work on my homework, and I have time to blog....well, Satchel often prevents me from doing much on the computer.  I can blame him, right?