Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the old...

Today is the last day of 2008. Time to reflect on the bad, the good and the beautiful (notice that little "half full" twist on words there).
The bad:

The worst thing that happened in 2008 is that my father in law passed away in August from aggresive small cell lung cancer. It knocked him down so rapidly that we barely had time to process what was happening and, honestly, it is still hard to believe he is no longer with us. Robert was diagnosed in late June and battled for 6 weeks. He was 65 years old and was hardly sick a day in his life. He is greatly missed. For Christmas, we made his famous sherry trifle -It was good to remember him, but I am afraid that we will never be able to duplicate his fabulous recipe.
The Good:
I started my MBA at Uof W in January of this year (6 months to go!). Fulfilling two dreams in one- to go to grad school and to attend Uof W. So far so good.
Jake just got accepted into Western Washington University for Fall 2009. I am extremely proud of him- he totally took the initiative on applying and researching this school. He plans to study math and communication.
I turned 40 on November 29. Won't call it "bad" and can't call it "beautiful" I guess it is just "good"

The Beautiful:

We paid off our last debt and are now debt free except for our mortgages (home and rental property). Next step: Build 3-6 months emergency fund.
Dinner at the Herb Farm to celebrate my big 4-0. Wow! Wonderful! I have nothing but good things to say about this experience. Probably the best dining experience I have ever had- flavors, music, ambiance...gorgeous and generous husband to share it with.

Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Finally! A White Christmas!

I have been dreaming of having a White Christmas for a long time. Since moving to the western half of the state, holiday snow has been holiday rain, and our pilgrimage across the pond has only provided us with a light dusting on Christmas day- for which I have been grateful- but no remarkable stickage.

A year ago this week we were vacationing in Tenerife, Canary Islands...again-no snow there- just white beach. (Which one could become very used to). Put plainly- it has just been too long since we have had snow worth frolicking in!

This morning - Christmas morning- we woke up to flakes so big that, I swear, you could make out the distinct, unique pattern on each one! Another few inches added to our record breaking 10 days worth of accumulation and we have ourselves the whitest Christmas I have been able to enjoy since my childhood....God bless us everyone!

I spent a little time out of doors this morning...made my first snow angel in about 20 years....I dedicated this one to my mother in law who really hates the snow. She would not make one herself, no matter how much I persuaded.
I hope your holiday is just as blissful as mine has been!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Flurry of a Billion Miracles

Thought I would share these real photos of snowflakes by Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. If the onslaught of snow has got you down, then perhaps taking in this new perspective on the white stuff will cheer you. No two are alike, and we have billions of them!

For more on Mr Bentley, visit:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In "Elf" Mode.

Well, there it is...another weekend done. Two days of work and the holiday begins.

It was a very productive two days. I shifted into "elf" mode on Friday night and managed to accomplish a lot of important pre-holiday tasks. Seems I just need the snowy weather, a little Christmas music and a Hot Buttered Rum and suddenly I am all about Christmas. Jolly as can be!

I made a menu for Christmas Eve dinner and from that I created the mother of all shopping lists. We made our way to Mill Creek to shop at Central Market (the best place to grocery shop for the holidays in my opinion!)

It snowed all weekend, much to my delight. Simon and his mum are tired of it, but I think it is perfect. A multitude of birds have been dropping by for suet and seed. Fat robins, a white headed woodpecker and a whole flock of little birds that we have not yet identified. Most exciting was a trio of doves- I was unaware that doves existed in the pacific northwest- so I need to confirm this. We hung the best feeder just outside the big kitchen picture window- this has provided some perfect bird viewing.

Today I finished making gifts that need to be sent out tomorrow. One big package for my brother and his family in Denver, and one little card for my neice in Wenatchee. I also finished one gift for my stepfather.
The snow has fallen all day - despite the forecast that it would taper off in the afternoon. Everytime Simon and his mum groan about it, I agree with them enthusiastically "Yes, it is just terrible....yea-can you believe it is STILL falling...unbelieveable". Of course they know that I am loving it. What could be better than snow lightly falling as you go to bed at night...and a few little flurries as you listen to Elvis singing Blue Christmas....I, for one, am in the holiday MOOD!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Calm before the Storm

It is a quiet night tonight. All noise seems to be buffered by the blanket of snow and the icy air. We have had two major storms this week, resulting in a lot of wonderful snow and beautiful scenary. I really love winter, and I really miss having the snow that I grew up with.

Tomorrow another major storm is forecasted. This time hurricane force winds, icy temperatures and more snow. Not sure I like the idea of strong winds, but it will certainly make things interesting. On the flip side I think I could never have enough snow (but ask me again in February when I am waiting for signs of spring!)

Today we headed out to the Seattle Outlets to shop for presents. Our timing was excellent as the place was quite bare- certainly this won't be the case tomorrow.
We went into the casino for lunch. I gave Simon and his mum a $5 bill to play the slots and they turned it into $100. So lunch was on the Tulalip Tribe and the extra cash will cover a nice portion of our Christmas dinner.

We are headed to Central Market early in the morning tomorrow- we want to be there and home before the storm hits. I am making up my Christmas menu tonight and a shopping list. I plan to spend the entire day tomorrow being crafty....I have Christmas presents to finish and decorating to do!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Martha doesn't live here, but she is welcome anytime!

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” - Anna Quindlen

I have been thinking a lot about perfection lately....

One undeniable truth is that Perfection is subjective. I am a perfectionist- but what I believe to be "perfect" and what, say, my mother in law feels to be "perfect" can be two very different things.

Perfection is subjective because it relies heavily on how one views their priorities. My husband who is a perfectionist when it comes to school (he has a 4.0 in grad school) is clearly not a perfectionist when it comes to hanging Christmas lights out doors. (he thought the mix of lights was perfect....I found them a bit awkward).

I know that,very often, my expectations are not realistic. But when things are "just so"- well, I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. And conversely, when things aren't "just so", my tendancy is to feel discomfort until I can fix it (or get Simon to fix it!)

It makes me come across as very controlling and very self righteous and I do not like being perceived that way, but I have done some experimentation recently with not speaking my mind or stating my preferences..(with telling myself that something is little and it doesn't matter, when it realy does)...and, well,....this doesn't seem to work for me. The stress that I think I am saving is not going is just building and building.

Any ideas for combating perfectionism? Is it really such a bad thing?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Big Green Thumb

Just wanted to share a few interesting plants that I discovered today.

Take for instance this one: This is called a Snake plant. It is also called a mother in law plant. It obviously looks like a Snake skin...but where, oh where, could the mother in law label come from? IDK. (I actually have one of these thriving in a dark corner of our living room).
Here is one that is a little more transparent....this is called a golden ball cactus...but, ironically, it is also called a "mother in law" seat. Interesting. I do not have one of these, but I am a few chairs short for Christmas Eve dinner.

I also learned today that Hyssop is used to ward off evil spirits. Think I will grab a pot of that one too!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First Snow!

Got our first snow yesterday, and forecast calls for more today and a very chilly week.
I anticipate that it will get more cheery as the week goes on though. I finished my 2nd final last night 15 minutes before the midnight deadline. Performed a little happy dance and went to bed.

This morning was delightful. The sun is shining, the snow is sparkling, the coffee is warm. I put on a pair of fuzzy socks and just basked in the beauty of it all.

Today I am going to attempt to complete my final final exam for Winter Quarter and then I will be school free until Jan 7 (well, I have a few paperbacks to get through in preparation for next quarter, but the heavy math stuff will be finished!). Lots of Christmassy stuff to do and it sounds like I may be able to get a snow day or two from work if this "frightful" weather keeps up!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jumping through Hoops

Finished my negotiations paper last night. I am not 100% pleased with it, but I made the deadline and I think it was adequate. Two final exams to go and I am done with the quarter.
Looking at a Level 5 Project management position today. The requisition arrived in my inbox this morning-virtual work available- and I know one of the contact people quite well. Level 5 is the highest PM level at my company. Would be a great opportunity and change of pace for me. I am a bit tired of my current role in engineering. I don't feel like I am being allowed to be as effective as I am capable of being here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brownie Points

Today my husband told me- for reasons I will not divulge- that he knows that in the very near future that he is "really going to owe me -big time".

Of course, given the messy circumstances under which his realization has come to light, I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment. The "filthy" truth is he does owe me....and substantially.

I have been thinking about this a bit today-this winfall soon to be deposited in my account at the Bank of the Very Understanding and Patient Spouse- and I am faced with an important dilemmna....

Whatever will I spend these brownie points on?

Do I save these for a rainy day? Do they accrue interest? Do they expire? What can you buy with them? Do I diversify? Immediately liquidate?
Here are a few ideas:
  • Another trip to the Herb Farm would be cool- for Valentine's Day.

  • A "Have your Cake and Eat it too" spa treatment at the Bee Hive Day Spa

  • A Shopping Spree at Nordstroms

  • A weekend at the Whidbey cottage

Earning brownie points sucks, but spending them might be fun!

Every End is a New Beginning

So I am anxiously awaiting the end of this school quarter....well, not really awaiting, because in addition to my busy schedule and holiday company arriving, I am trying to complete my paper and two finals- the end is rapidly approaching and I am not ready for it! (Even though I am soooo ready for it to be over!)

But taking things day by day... I have school tonight. My last class for the quarter. Tomorrow I anticipate having some paper writing time which is good since my paper is due tomorrow. I have one final due on Saturday and one due next Wednesday. Then (finally) I am done with the quarter.

Well, no rest for the wicked. Just got our materials for next quarter. While the topics are much more interesting to me than this quarter (marketing, entreprenuership and global business) the reading appears to be substantial and needs to be accomplished before the start of the new quarter on January 7. I have 6 paperback books to read. (and would you believe that they didn't even gift wrap 'em????)

I am so ready to be done with school. 2 more quarters, I keep telling myself....just 2!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I would rather be bloggin'

Can't seem to get focused on finishing up school this week. I have a paper due on tomorrow night that I have not started yet. If I don't get to it soon I will be in a world of hurt. 2 finals after that, both mathematical (have I mentioned how much I really do not enjoy math?) I am typing away on my blog...I should be writing my paper!

Mum in law will be here tomorrow night. We got the guest room ready and most of the house is sparklin'. Just our bedroom and the office are left to do- and both look like war zones. Perhaps over the break we will tackle those! Neither is going to be cleaned until after finals are over though, and I am making no apologies! I am a busy girl.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lenticular Clouds at Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier put on quite a display yesterday..
These are called "lenticular" clouds and they are created when air gets pushed upward where it cools and condenses into clouds. Pretty amazing! Add this to one more thing I love about Washington State- amazing!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The best thing to do when you have had a bad day....

Lots of things went wrong today and I thought maybe I would just quit everything and join the circus. The car had to be towed to the mechanic and our refrigerator went warm. Spent all day in school only to come home to crabby husband and spoiled food.

I have learned that the best thing to do when you have a bad day, is to just find something to convince you that it could have been a worse one....

Pretty sure that I won't be running off to join the circus anytime soon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Stellar Presentation

Attended an "all-team" meeting today and had a wonderful surprise guest speaker! Dr Bonnie Dunbar - the astronaut- spoke to us for an hour about her experiences flying into space on the space shuttle, visiting the International Space Station and being weightless.

Four things I have in common with Bonnie Dunbar:

  • We are both from the Yakima Valley

  • We are both U of W Huskies

  • We have both worked for Boeing, in a field where we are outnumbered by guys.


  • We both had someone tell us we should just get married and have children instead of pursuing a career (is something in the water over there?)

Dr Dunbar's presentation was fabulous. She even showed us home video from her two trips into outerspace. She talked about weightlessness and the affects of zero gravity on the human body and she spoke of her passion for turning kids on to science and math. Dr Dunbar is now the director of the Museum of Flight. She is just a very cool and inspiring pioneer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Decided to share some pictures of our home. These were taken in June 2008. The first is the view out of our back window. The Sky' River flows amongst those trees in the distance. We spent as many hours as we could sitting on our back deck, drinking wine and enjoying the chiminea

The second is a picture of the entrance to our home. It was very beautiful with all the rhodies and azaleas in bloom!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Paperwhites amongst the Chaos

I am a little concerned about the speed at which Christmas is approaching this year. Today is Dec. 3...just 22 days before Christmas. I have done very little to prepare.

What scares me is that I do not anticipate being able to throughly emerse myself in the joyous season until somewhere around Dec 15, when finals are complete and I close the chapter on another quarter of school.

Is 10 days adequate time to get my Christmas ducks in a row?

I am hosting Christmas Eve this year. It looks like I need 4 more chairs, 2 more plates and an entire set of glassware. I need a tablecloth as well.

Mum in law will arrive next week so I must get the guest room sorted (I have Sunday to prepare for her arrival- as Saturday I have school and my workload has suddenly increased again)

I need to shop for Simon and Jake, the mum in law and my step dad. I need to finish making gifts for my brother's family and for my mom. I need to decorate and bake and get the Christmas cards signed and in the mail.

On a bright note, my paperwhites have taken off. They required very little prodding. I simply pulled last years potted pot from the garage and watered it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all holiday preparations were so effortless? Amongst all the chaos, my paperwhites are a bright spot. A reminder that I need to just keep it simple.

I have decided to employ three rules to keep simplicity in mind...(after finals, of course)
1) If it isn't fun, don't do it
2) Make no excuses for not doing something that isn't fun.
3) when stressed, buy more flowers....hmm, an amaryllis would be nice!

Paperwhite photo is courtesy of

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Questionaire

Received this questionaire today...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? No preference
2. Real tree or Artificial? I prefer real, but have resigned myself to artificial
3. When do you put up the tree? Mid December
4. When do you take the tree down? New Years Day
5. Do you like eggnog? S’alright - Hot Buttered Rum is my preference.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? A dollhouse that my dad built for Barbie dolls. An easy bake oven (not sure if that was Christmas)
7. Hardest person to buy for? Stepdad, Brian
8. Easiest person to buy for? Mom
9. Do you have a nativity scene? no - I have a Christmas village - does that count?
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Ugly sweater, but a nice thought
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story – we also watch Love Actually every Xmas- not sure if that is a Christmas movie but it is set over a Christmas holiday!
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Extremely early - I try to be done before Thanksgiving- especially if we are going to be travelling
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, only the gift wrap or bag
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Mince Pies with Brandy butter, fudge, sherry trifle, Hot Almond Butter Rum – I’ve a bit of a sweet tooth
16. Lights on the tree? Of Course
17. Favorite Christmas song? Let it Snow
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? This year- home. But usually we go to England. Last year we went to England and the Canary Islands. I think a mixture of both is good
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? If I sing the intro to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I can
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star, but used to have an angel
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Commercialism, people thinking they have to spend money they don't have, and the Seattle weather – only rain, no snow!
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? I like silver and glass, but also like to mix it up each year. When Jake was little I would do themes…usually with cookie cut outs…dinosaurs one year, planes, trains, boats and cars another. Now we just do lots of picture ornaments of Jake…it seemed like a good idea when I started it)
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Prime Rib – this year we are going out though
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A Nintendo WII Fit...and maybe an amaryllis
26. Who is most likely to add a similar questionnaire to their blog? Mom
27. Who is least likely to? Charlie Vander Houwen
28. Favorite thing about Christmas? Baking, seeing Family and friends, giving (especially shopping for the foster kids), “fairy lights”, music, and snow, if we get some.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting rid of stuff

Started many things today, finished just one.

I finished cleaning and organizing the utility room today. I actually started this room two weeks ago, doing just a little bit each day.

Now the only problem is that the mess that once was the utility room is now the bigger mess in the garage. Clearly we have too much stuff. A yard sale would be great, but the time of year is all wrong, and frankly, I have no time to organize one. Also, Simon is against it. He did not enjoy our previous yard sales at all! He swore "Never Again!" and I think he really meant it. Simon wants me to just donate it all and write it off on our taxes.

I do not know why it bothers me to just give this stuff away like that, but it does. Donating is easy and I know that I will feel really "free"when the stuff I don't need is gone. So why do I have an issue with this??? Well, maybe it is because donating stuff feels a bit like just throwing perfectly good stuff out. It feels wasteful, even though it is less so than having lots of junk around that you never use. It might also be that cash is tangible....I can sell my stuff and then turn around and buy more stuff (like furniture and new windows)....a tax deduction is a little less apparent than cold hard cash- same wealth building potential- just not so visible.

Well, let me see if I can overcome this. Nortwest Center is going to have a truck in my area on Thursday. Perhaps I will throw some of my more valuable junk their way and see if I don't regret it.