Friday, December 30, 2005

Important Firsts

What a busy week it's been! My nieces came over on Wednesday afternoon and stayed the night. They were very excited because this was their first over night in the new house. They are both quite taken with the idea of firsts. When Isabel made one visit to the house, I told her that she was the first person to ring our doorbell. Now every time she comes, she is sure to ring the bell and remind me that she did it before anyone else. On this visit, they were both the first (at the same time because otherwise there would be trouble) to take a bath in our bathtub. They both thought that was pretty amazing, and now they may want to have a bath whenever they come over. I haven't had the heart to explain that other families lived in this house, and took baths, long before we ever came along...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Pictures of Christmas Past

Christmas 2005 was a great success in our house. We had tasty food, a beautiful, sparkly tree, lots of presents, and some great company. I'm sorry to always sound like a Pollyanna but I am just a lucky person I guess. I know I posted pictures of the tree before, but this picture has the presents all laid out under the tree. Much to the disgust of my eldest niece, I did not actually count the presents. However, I think I can safely say that everyone did very well. As per family tradition, but again to my niece's dismay, we were very disciplined about not opening our presents until the actual holiday.
We started our day by unpacking our stockings together. My mom and my younger brother were there, and of course everyone had their own stocking. This year, Santa favored edible gifts of an international flavor. For example, some stockings included cookies from Sweden, chocolates from France, marzipan pigs from Germany, and mango pickle from India. Mmmmm.
Mark did manage to get the largest package, and he did not hesitate to riiiiip! We have a running debate out unwrapping carefully versus the making of confetti.

Mark's big gift was this big, blue coat. During the cold snap we had a few weeks ago, I noticed that he only seems to have light coats suitable for the usual temperatures in Seattle. I decided that he needed a "snowman" coat. He may have trouble moving quickly, but he will definitely not be cold. More on my presents later.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve from Thandi and Steerpike. They are both so caught up in the holiday that it makes their eyes glow! That or they are possessed by the devil, we're not sure which. They plan to spend the holiday rushing from lap to lap, getting in all the boxes, and trying to eat tape. They recently discovered that two fat squirrels live in our backyard, so they spend a lot of their time peering out of windows and chittering like mad. Sometimes they get REALLY brave and actually go out in the yard. Still, they always have to rush in again as soon as something scary happens. The window seat is still one of Thandi's favorite places.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Recently, someone told me a joke about reindeer. It was one of those very bad email forward jokes, so I won't bother to repeat it here. However, it did get me thinking about reindeer and the santa lengend and all that good stuff. I never intended to blog about it, but when I went looking for info I found pictures that were just too pretty to resist.

This picture is from the Alaskan Arctic Reserve; the very place that Bush and co. are so excited about. It turns out that there are many different kinds of reindeer-like animals, and that the ones in Alaska are probably quite different from any Northern European ones that Santa would have. One source says that only the ones found in the wild, in North America are technically called Caribou. The rest are commonly called reindeer or Rangifer tarandus if you want to be really specific. There are quite a few reindeer kept at a zoo near here, so it is always fun to go see them around Christmas time. Let's hope Santa's bunch are up to the task tomorrow!

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I feel a bit silly about even posting this one, but I so liked the picture that Mark took. Believe it or not, there is actually water in the tank. The all white fish, Quin the Quintessential Koi, is one I've had since college. When I moved in with Mark, he was concerned that Quin might be lonely (can you be lonely with only a neural bundle instead of a brain?) so we had to get another fish as company. Thus we have Rooifis (Red Fish in Afrikaans I am told, but I think he may be playing with me when it comes to the spelling). Both of the fish have grown to capacity in this tank, so they won't get any bigger unless we cave and get them more space. The kitties love to drink out of the tank, but they have learned from wet experience that it is not a good idea to fish.

Christmas Tree

There was much discussion in our house about the correct time to get the Christmas tree. In my family, we were allowed to get the tree anytime after my mother's birthday on December 5th. Being absolute Christmas hounds, my brothers and I made sure that we had a tree by the following day. In Mark's family, the tree arrives much closer to Christmas. He even admires the tradition of waiting to put up the tree until CHRISTMAS EVE!!! The horror! The long and the short of this is that we finally got a Christmas tree yesterday. We had a few friends over last night to help with the decorating, and our house actually feels festive now.

I couldn't find the last box of ornaments, so the tree looks a bit different than usual. Still, I think it really did end up looking beautiful (but then again I always think that). I wondered if people would actually take the time to do the decorating, but one friend started right off by putting on the lights. Another friend spent quite a bit of time artfully arranging the string of wooden beads. We try to buy a new ornament when we travel, so it is always fun to get out that box and look at all the different ones we've collected so far. The new ornaments for this year are the beaded ones we got in South
Africa, and the metal-dipped acorn we got at the Smithsonian.

Once the tree was up, the food was eaten, and the songs were sung, we went on to presents. These were just the presents between the friends, but it was a nice little exchange. This picture reminds me of a six-year-old, but his extra special gift was a wine opener.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Christmas List

Winter in Seattle is wonderful. Mark and I drove into town recently to do some Christmas shopping, and we were strongly reminded of how beautiful the Pacific NW can be. It was a clear, sunny day (rare for Seattle!) and we could see the Olymics in the West, Mt. Rainier to the South-East, and the Cascades to due East. This time last year we had very little snow in the mountains, so it's especially good see them covered in their winter blankets. The lakes sparkled in the sunshine, and we could see the Space Needle with it's special light display. Overall, it was quite an impressive sight.

Nevertheless, our real purpose was not sight-seeing, but rather the pursuit of valuable and important (ha! ha!) gifts for others. The Christmas list this year, including all his family, my family, and our collective friends got up to 34 people. Granted, many of those people just get little token gifts, but it is still quite an undertaking to get it all done. Don't get me wrong, I love to find those special little treats for people. We walked up and down the ave looking for the quirky, the amusing, and the surprising. I know many people get upset about the consumerism of Christmas, but I just can't help enjoying the giving part of things. Once you get to be an adult, the giving gets to be much more fun than the getting. Finding that perfect present, making up a nice little parcel for someone far away, or getting little, silly things for stocking is so much fun. Even after our trip to Seattle, I still have ten or twelve things left on my list. I don't mind though because it just means another chance at the hunt.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Lesson on Scrooge

In honor of the holiday season, my students are reading "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. Now, you may be asking, how can I get away with something so blatantly Christian in a public school. Well, it turns out that story is right there in our district approved Language Arts textbook! The argument is that it represents classic literature, and is therefore okay. It is one of my favorite Christmas stories, so I am delighted to do it every year. In our text, the story has been re-written into a short play while preserving the original wording. The kids all get parts, and we run it sort of like a radio play. No props, but we still do voices, get the actors up on "stage," and try to produce the appropriate sound effects. Most kids seem to enjoy themselves immensely, and the resulting performance is better than you might expect. At the end, we watch the Patrick Stewart version as a reward. All in all, this is one of my favorite times of our school year. Yesterday, I came across an article discussing the origins of Ebenezer Scrooge. It turns about to be a bit of a misunderstanding:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Carol Fest

I absolutely love this picture of an Edwardian ladies choir. I heard a radio piece recently about the popularity of choirs over the years. The first push to improve singing occurred as early as colonial times when church leaders wanted to improve the sound of the hymns. Itinerant choir masters roamed the country forming choirs and teaching basic musical skills to regular people. This strikes me as such an interesting image. If you lived in some tiny village where nothing ever happened, the arrival of the choir master might have been quite an exciting thing. Sort of like an updated version of the medieval bard. Of course singing as entertainment fell in and out of favor after that, but it always seems to have a place in the community.

Singing is also one of my favorite entertainments. My mom always used to sing with us in the car to amuse us on the long trip to town. She had quite a broad range of songs, and we covered them all from one time to the next. On the way into town we might sing spirituals such as "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" or "Amazing Grace." On the way home we might sing some selections from the Beatles catalog or perhaps a few folk songs. She knew a hundred and one children's songs, and she never seemed to get tired of singing them with us. At one point, my older brother got a book from the library, and decided to teach us ALL the verses to the National Anthem. Thus, I grew up singing away and having a great time at it. Unfortunately, the part I didn't realize is that I am not a very good singer. My timing is off, I have trouble recognizing tunes, and my only real skill seems to be in remembering lyrics. Now I mostly limit my singing to when I'm alone in the car.

However, I do get one chance every year to really enjoy singing Christmas songs. One of my friends holds a ladies-only Christmas party every December. All the girls bring tasty treats, handy crafts to work on, and their best holiday mood. I think we are on year four, and it gets better every time. The hostess plays along on the piano, and this time we went through the entire holiday song book. Two of the girls can really sing, two more are decent, and then there are a few of us who sing veeeery quietly during the high, squeaky bits. Hugely entertaining if you ask me. Now if only I could find a wandering choir master...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Okay, so she is actually yawning, not snarling, but it still makes a pretty good picture. The kitties have both calmed down considerably since the move. They seem to like the new house very much because it has much more room for chasing each other around and finding new places to hide. I knew Steerpike was truly over the shock when he started biting my toes through the covers again. Another fascinating thing about moving is the large number of cardboard boxes. Of course each box must be thoroughly inspected inside and out, and any loose packing tape needs to be shredded. Last week I caught Steerpike with a big ball of packing tape stuck to one of his paws. He was frantically trying to shake the paw and run away at the same time. It was so funny that I have to admit I watched for a minute before going to help him.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Picture at Last

Finally I got the chance to get some of the pictures off of the camera. This is a shot of the house taken last Thursday at the height of the snow. We actually got accumulation of about two inches or so. It was definatley enough to blanket the yard and sidewalks. It even caused some trouble on the road. If you have a Subaru or some other sensible vehicle, there was no problem at all. However, if you happen to have a silly car like me, you were in for some trouble. I had to park my car accross the street, go inside and find the one rake that we own, rake some of the snow off the driveway, open the garage door, turn my car around, and make a dash up the slope of the driveway. As it was, there was some slipping, but I did manage to get into the garage without taking off mirrors or paint. Once my car was safe and sound inside, I really did not want to take it out again soon.

I put on my hiking boots and big puffy coat over my school clothes, and I went outside to enjoy the scenery. I just love the quiet of a snowy day and the crunch of shoes on new snow. As I was standing in the yard, taking pictures and enjoying the scene, my friend arrived unexpectedly. She was in the neighborhood anyway, so she thought she would stop by. It was such a treat to have her visit AND the snow still falling outside. Pleasant things that are unexpected are often much sweeter than those that you plan.

That night it was still snowing on and off, so I just thought I would have to stay home from the dinner we had planned at our friends' house. Missing dinner was the only thing about that day that dampened my spirits. Then, when I sent out the email to say I couldn't make it, both the friends and Mark offered to come and pick me up. I was so touched, it's not a short trip, that both would be so willing to go out of their way. Mark ended up coming home early to pick me up (he is so sweet) and we had a great time at dinner. By the time we left for home at 11:00, it was easy to tell from the roads that we were probably not going to have school the next day. Sure enough I got a call at 5:00am, and it was another wonderful, unexpected treat.

10 Things I Love About the New House

(in no particular order)

1. The rose by the front door
2. The banister post (is that a newell post? what is a newell post?) where I can throw my coat
3. The cove window with my cedar chest/bench in front I can curl up and read or blog away
4. TWO pantries
5. The little window where Thandie likes to sit and watch the joggers go by
6. The mantle piece and fireplace where I can put seasonal decorations and such
7. The garage where my car gets to live inside!
8. The landing where the kitties peak around to see who is home
9. Our cute little office with room for two desks
10.Our beautiful, cozy, pale yellow bedroom

I know, I know I need to take pictures AND actually get them off the camera and onto the blog. I will one day I promise!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tiny Cold Crystals of Loveliness!

It snowed at school today. There was excitement, there was jubilation, there was dancing on the sports field. The kids were pretty happy too! I know, I know that is a terrible joke, but truthfully, I was excited right along with them. It really started to come down in ernest around 1pm, so I took my afternoon class outside to enjoy the first real snow of the year. Before we went out, I gave them a serious lecture about keeping quiet and being careful not to disturb any of the other classes. They all agreed very solomnly, and then we went outside and they forgot completely. There was running, screaming, throwing, and so on. In short, they forgot everything about being aloof teenagers and reverted to early childhood. It was pretty cute. I don't know what will happen tonight, but the snow today was definately a special treat.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wishing for Snow

The kids are on the edges of their little seats waiting to see if it will snow. Yesterday, one heard, there was snow in Everett. Tonight, another says, it will snow three inches. Two boys engage in a heated debate about the temperature range best suited to producing snow. They look out the window and peer out at the sky as if they might be able to cause something to fall with the power of their minds. The energy in the room is palpable. Officially, they want snow to delay or cancel school, and I'm sure that is a big part of their enthusiasm. However, on those rare occasions when snow does actually fall they are in complete awe. Looking at their faces, I feel certain that school delays are not first in their minds. I must confess that I feel exactly the same; snow is magical around here. We get just enough of it to keep the possibility out there, but it is still rare enough to be different and exciting. The sky IS looking pretty interesting out there. Maybe some youthful prayers will be answered soon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Note: we still don't have an internet connection at the new house, so this post has to be a little early.

Warning: Shmaltz ahead

I LOVE Thanksgiving. In fact, I pretty much love holidays in general. Any reason to decorate, get together, eat some tasty food, and have a good time sounds good to me. Even so, Thanksgiving is one of my special favorites. To me it is a completely non-religious holiday (I know a lot of hard-core Christians would croak at the idea) and I really, honestly spend a good portion of it thinking of all the things for which I am grateful. Family, friends, good health, a warm and happy home, and a great job are all "treasures" as my great-grandmother used to say. The old saying goes that you can never truly appreciate something until it is gone, but I am going to make a real attempt to value them now. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Parent Madness

Okay, I just can't resist any more. Today I have to write about school. I know this is a bit of a risk because people might get mad at me for speaking frankly, but I'm banking on the idea that I'm at least sort of anonymous. Anyway, if anyone wants to debate the truth of my statements, I would be happy to take them on.

My gripe for today (I have several) is about parents who do not let their kids be responsible for themselves. Today I got a message from one mother who wants to know why her child lost two points on a writing assignment that we completed THREE WEEKS ago! Another mother emailed me last week asking if her daughter could make up an assignment that she did not turn in because she "had a really busy soccer schedule over the weekend." These incidents both pale in comparison to the mother (why are they always mothers?) who could not see why her child should receive a zero on an assignment where she copied half the work from another kid. This parent really felt that half credit, and only on the copied portions, would be much more reasonable. I could go on and on. Aside from the fact that they drive me crazy, can these parents not see what they are doing to their children? It is no wonder that there are so many people out there with an extreme sense of entitlement. I know that there are people who err the other way and ignore, or even neglect, their children, but surely there must be a happy medium. Perhaps my opinion will change when I have kids, but at the moment I see this as a big problem. In twenty years will these mothers be sending emails to bosses asking why their child didn't get promoted?

Monday, November 21, 2005

All Moved (well, almost)

We did it! At least 95% of our stuff now resides in our new house. Of course it resides in big piles, but at least it's there. The moving went very well, and our friends were very trusty indeed. With very little ado we picked up the U-Haul, our friends arrived, we packed the truck, went to the storage unit, packed the truck some more, and then went up to the house. It took a few extra suburban loads to get the storage unit completely empty, but several people stayed to make sure it got done. We had beer, snacks, and pizza when it was over, and it was so much fun just to have people in the house. It was the first time to be in the house with noise and commotion (the nieces and a few other kids came too) and it was really warm and cheerful.

On Sunday we went over to the condo to gather some of the odds and ends. For some reason, this is one of the hardest parts about moving for me. I hate having to go back to the old place to pick up the leftovers and do the cleaning. Maybe it's because I just want to move forward, but I always dislike this part. We managed to fill Mark's car with stuff, and the condo is STILL not quite empty. Once we got home again, we spent the whole afternoon unloading boxes. Seven boxes of kitch stuff later, and I was just starting to feel like I have a handle on things. Of course I haven't even touched the living room, bedrooms, or bathrooms.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was the way the cats responded to the change. The black one, who is normally so brave and curious, was completely petrified to be in a new place. He found a deep, dark corner to hide in, and we didn't see him for the rest of the day. Thandie, on the other hand, is usually skiddish and frightened of everything, but she was much happier with the move. She hid for a few hours, but pretty soon she was being very brave and inspecting the house all over. By last night, both of them decided to venture downstairs. They stay close to the ground and slink around like big cats. My favorite part is the way they stretch their necks waaaay out to look around scary corners.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Moving Day

The fog is layered over Issaquah like a thick blanket, but at least it isn't raining. Nothing makes moving more miserable than cold rain. We are going to pick up the truck in a few minutes, and then our trusty (we hope) friends will arrive at 10:00 to help us. I am constantly amazed at the sheer quantity of our stuff. How did two people in a small condo manage to collect so much? And that's with an active effort to get rid of things regularly. The kitties are quite put out by all this commotion. I don't know what they will do when we actually crate them and take them to the new house. I think the little one might hide under the bed for a month.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New House!

Yesterday at 5:00 I was driving to Redmon because I thought that I was going to hear a lecture by Stephen Hawking. I also thought that our agent had stood me up, and I was not getting the new house key as he had promised. Trying not to grind my teeth about the key; I could at least be happy about the lecture. By the time I arrived at Mark's office things had changed. Stephen Hawking was not feeling well (poor Stephen Hawking!) but the agent DID turn up with the key. Okay, change of plans. We grabbed dinner, Mark ran home and picked up the key, and we met up again to go over to the house.

Every time I see it from the street I just can't believe it's ours. It was very dark out by this time, the key stuck in the lock, but finally Mark got it to work. (Can you tell that I'm trying to remember every stupid detail about our first visit to OUR house?!) Without the furiture it looks much bigger than when we saw it before. You can also see much more clearly how shabby some things are. There are dents, dings, scratches and old paint effects; in short it needs some sprucing. We will definately have quite a few projects ahead of us, but most of them are in the cleaning, painting, updating range, so I think we will be okay. Anyway, it was just an empty, slightly worn house, but it was WONDERFUL! I was OURS!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Almost There

When we get home today the key to our new house will be waiting! It will probably be too late for us to go up and wander around, but at least we will get to hold that key in our hot little hands. Meanwhile, the listing for the condo went up today. I was actually surpised to find that when I looked at the listing it made me a little sad. That condo was our first home together, and it will always be special. Moving the ornaments made me remember our first Christmas when we didn't have a tree topper so we sat a teddybear in the top branches. Silly little details sometimes make the memory I guess. Anyway, we are just about out of the old and into the new, and hopefully the next time I write, there can be rhapsodizing about the wonders of the new house.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tiffany at S.A.M.

The last time Mark and I visited the Seattle Art Museum it was for a showing of modern Chinese art. Let's just say I didn't have the artistic chops to properly appreciate most of that work. However, the exhibition on Lewis C. Tiffany was quite another story. The luminous colors, the curving, flowing lines, and the focus on the beauty of nature were really incredible. He is most famous for his lampshades, but they are really only a rough, mass-produced version of his better work. The vases and other free-form glass work are what really impressed me. Pictures don't do it justice, but you can see many of his pieces here: or better yet, if you are in the Seattle area, you should be sure to go and see it for yourself:

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Waiting, waiting, waiting

On Thursday we went to the title company to sign papers on the house. We each got our own shiney pen in a plastic wrapper. I was REALLY annoyed to find that my name didn't even appear on many of the papers. The young woman who was helping us appologized repeatedly. "It's just an archaic system" she said. Then why isn't Mark the one to be left off the top page? Did they ask us who we wanted as the "primary borrower?" No, they did not. They just put the male name on by default. I know it doesn't make any material difference, but I was irritated that it could still be set up that way. Anyway, we signed on Thursday, but the paperwork didn't quite make it through in time, so we don't officially close until tomorrow. We don't know if the "closing plus three days" clause is still in effect, so we either get the keys tomorrow or Thursday at 9pm. I think this has been the longest month in history!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pride and Prejudice

Tonight we saw the new movie version!
I would pretty much watch any adaptation of a Jane Austen story just on the off chance that it might be appealing, and, while this one does have its annoying moments, it was not bad overall. I think most of us who are big fans of the story would agree that the BBC version is about as good as it gets, but just to see another director's take is interesting. First, the casting of the main characters was not as good in the movie. However, some of the supporting characters are reasonably satisfying. Jane and Bingley are perfectly sweet and vapid, and the Bennet parents are very good as well. The big treat was Dame Judy Dench as Lady Catherine, but you almost felt she was wasted on such a small part. There were several gratuitous moments though where the director clearly felt that we were not smart enough to reach our own conclusions about what was playing out. By the later scenes you are starting to get pretty tired of this, and when Mr. Darcy goes striding accross the misty field with his shirt undone I had the urge to giggle instead of swoon. Don't even get me started on the music and the sunrise. Still, it was fun to watch. I felt a little manipulated into liking the last scene, but I liked it nonetheless. I would watch this again when it shows on TV, but I won't curl up with it on a regular basis like I do the BBC version.


I have always believed that most of the blogs out there are more a form of self-indugence than anything else. I mean come on, who really wants to know that you cut yourself shaving this morning or that your boss is a jerk. I wholeheartedly approve of journal keeping, but maybe some of these things should remain private? However, there are certain advantages to blogging, so, for the sake of the ten people who might care, I'm going to try it out. I hereby promise not to talk about my shaving habits, what the kitty hacked up, or anything like that. In the end, my blog may be a little on the boring side, but at least I can spell, and I do know how to use capital letters :)