Christmas Day 2009

Today was one of the best Christmas days I can remember... ever. For the past 20 years, Dave & I have taken the ferry to Vashon Island to spend the day with my sister and her family. It began as a way to be together in the aftermath of our parents' death in 1989, just a couple of weeks before Christmas. But it turned into so much more. We watched our nieces and nephew grow up. We played games and listened to piano and violin recitals, watched the kids play basketball, looked at photographs of vacations and shared our own.

This morning, Dave & I drove right onto the boat, with seconds to spare. Good omen. The mountain was a huge silhouette on the skyline, with the rising sun an even larger silhouette right next to it. And since we caught an earlier boat than planned, we got to drive around a bit and do a bit of geocaching, sliding around on frosty (and beautiful) back roads, and enjoying the bright sunshine.

This year we have two homes to visit: first to Anna & Jeromy's house for gifts & breakfast, then later to my sister's house for dinner. Anna and her family moved back to the island last June, when Laurie & Bob moved into the old family farmhouse on the other side of the island. When we got to Anna's, the whole clan was gathered. My sister greeted us at the door, with Bob right behind. The family room was in chaos--that perfect Christmas morning scene when small children are opening their gifts. We waded right in, hugged as many of our family as we could get hold of, and watched the fun.

We both loved our hand-made gifts: quilted coasters and bed warmers, Christmas cookies made by Callie & Ella (with help from Auntie Caroline). We also made our gifts this year: we've been collecting wine corks from the wineries we visit, and made trivets using picture frames:

Callie loved her green hoodie with the silver heart, and Ella's pink sweater with the argyle hearts seemed like a hit (harder to tell with an almost-2-year-old). I'm sure Anna will post photos of the girls in all their new clothes; they got some really cute things!

We played a very short game of Phase 10; Jeromy kept winning hand after hand by getting dealt the exact cards he needed... (Make a note: I think he's the guy to buy lottery tickets or pick the winning horse.)

When we'd opened every last thing and munched our way through all the breakfast pastries, Bob headed for home to start working on dinner, and Laurie suggested we go look for the geocache that's nearby. We took her geocaching with us before, but it was a first for everyone else. So we loaded up the cars and headed out. The cache was near the beach and a small lagoon; Callie made short work of finding it, and Anna think that geocaching would be fun and educational for the whole family.

The last time we saw the old farm, the efforts were all on the historic barn--clearing it out, then stabilizing the foundation and structure. Then Laurie & Bob turned their efforts to the house. It needed a major overhaul, too. I can imagine lots of evenings spent sketching possible floor plans, rerouting the traffic flow with new doors, deciding where to add windows, and what trees to take down to let light in. We were amazed at the transformation. They took out walls, rebuilt the kitchen, installed oak floors and a new woodstove, and painted everything. The kitchen is open to the living room and dining room, and the light oak floor unifies the three areas. With the shrubbery and trees cut back, the dining room window floods the rooms with light, and the large space is perfect for a large family to gather at the table. The rooms are light and and inviting and completely perfect. Two huge bedrooms will become guest room and bathroom, bedroom and storeroom, with space for a new stairway to the attic rooms. Jeromy did the beautiful tile and lots of other tasks; how great to have a contractor in the family!

We got so wrapped up in the tour and talking about the possibilities, we almost ran out of light for a walk around the Fisher Pond. Everyone was keen on trying for more geocaches, and we knew there were three on the trail. We had a great time, and think we've made some new converts to the sport!

Back at the farm, Bob & Jeromy nearly had dinner ready for us and the place smelled wonderful! Callie & I chopped vegetables and lettuce for a salad, and she helped Anna carry food to the buffet. Laurie opened a bottle of wine, we chose our places, helped ourselves to food, and dug in. What a feast! We followed dinner with Christmas cookies and baked Brie with sliced pears, then a game of Apples to Apples that had us all in stitches.

I think I'm the luckiest sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and great-aunt on the planet... I have a wonderful family.

It was finally time to leave to catch our ferry. I always hate to leave Vashon, but today was worse than usual. I really didn't want to leave, and will be back... soon!


I'm Done!

It's 4:00. The presents are finished, the wrapping is done, and everything is in a box for tomorrow. (No photos until tomorrow; don't want to spoil the surprise!) It's time for a glass of wine, some unwinding, and a lot of anticipation for tomorrow. I love Christmas!

'twas the morning before Christmas...

Pre-Christmas tip #37: If you have to do some grocery shopping on the day before Christmas, drag yourself out of bed early and get to the store while everyone else is still in bed. The only other people in the store will be the stock crew, and a handful of other like-minded people. Your family might think you're nuts (my husband and sister did!), but it's worth every minute of lost sleep.

I woke up at 4:30, looked at the clock, and went back to sleep. The second time I woke it was 6:00, and realized I was dreaming about my job... yikes! No way of going back to sleep after that nightm... I mean dream.

I crawled into my clothes, whispered "see you later" to Dave, and headed out the door. I slid down the front steps, scraped ice off the car windows, did my shopping in an almost-empty store, and was back home again by 6:45. How cool is that??


Seeds, turkeys, and a lot of rain

This morning we took TrueRed out of the garage and into the monsoons of Kent, and headed north. We met up with friends in Stanwood, then took the back roads to La Conner, one of our favorite little towns in the Skagit Valley. La Conner (or LaConner, depending on which signs you believe) is a fishing village located where the Skagit River joins Puget Sound. Getting there involves driving through dairy and farmland, which is green and wet this time of year.

I love this area for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of all the old farmhouses and barns. My own small farmhouse is charming, but I confess to drooling over all the foursquare houses of the Skagit Valley. Huge, 2+ storied homes with Victorian millwork, surrounded by pastures... my idea of the perfect place to live. The snow geese and swans make this their home in the winter, and we saw plenty of both today (plus a few bald eagles).

Anyway... back to La Conner. Lunch was our main reason for braving the weather today, and our goal was a small cafe called Seeds. The building was originally a seed company; now it's a bistro with great food and atmosphere. Because of the awful weather, we had our choice of parking... not usually the case here. We walked, shopped, talked, and enjoyed the afternoon.

As we left town, we stopped at the crosswalk... for a group of 10 turkeys to cross the road. No kidding... they walked through town, along the sidewalk in front of the inn, and I couldn't resist hopping out in the pouring rain to snap their photo. An interesting end to a pretty nice day!


Boeing's future takes flight

Thanks to a very cool live webcam on the Boeing website, we were able to share in the excitement of the first flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It took off from Paine Field in Everett, flew for several hours, then landed to much fanfare at Boeing Field in Seattle.

I made a few screenshots as I watched the webcam; it was especially cool to see the chase planes take off at the same time, right next to the huge passenger jet. You can just make them out here, as the three planes head west toward the Olympic Mountains.

Congratulations to everyone who made this jetliner possible... you should be very proud!


Is it skating time?

It's been quite a few years since our frozen (and snow-free) pond coincided with a weekend, but this looks like the perfect weekend for ice skating. Our pond is small, but fun for 2 or 3 people at a time.

We used to have skating parties at the farm. We'd call up family and friends, and Dave would build a bonfire on the shore, and haul down chairs and a big stack of wood. I'd make bread and salad and a huge pot of soup for apres-skating. We'd have so much fun, we'd skate long after dark with the light from the bonfire, and a few well-placed lanterns. Those who had skates would bring them, and over the years we'd buy thrift-store skates, until we had a pretty good assortment of sizes.

These pictures are from 1989, the best year we've had for skating. It stayed cold and clear for several weeks, and we skated every night after work, and on the weekends. This is me skating with our niece, Sarah. This was also the year that Grandma Ruth came to watch, warmly dressed in a full-length mink coat!


I'm running out of adjectives...

Didn't think it would get colder than yesterday, but it did... it was a frigid 12° at 5:15 when I left for work. Brrr.....


It's 14°

It's western Washington, not eastern Washington. It's not supposed to be this cold...


It's Winter When...

No matter what the calendar says, it's winter when the daytime high is in the teens, when gloves and a warm hat don't keep my fingers and head warm, when a 3/4 mile walk around the building leaves me numb, when the bright sunshine has zero warmth but I still need sunglasses, when the birds are too cold to leave their nests to eat, when soup and sourdough bread are my number one choice for dinner, when the white wine stays in the cellar in favor of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and when my cats sleep so close to the woodstove they're in danger of combustion. The calendar says autumn... I say it's already winter!