26 December 2008

Surprise Christmas Visitor

We had surprise Christmas visitors yesterday: a very plump suburban raccoon and his not-so-plump sidekick. We've seen the plump one before, but it has been quite a while, and he has never come out in the open like this before yesterday. He scurried up the tree and back down, across the thin fence with his partner, and then drank some melted snow on the neighbor's shed before disappearing. They were cute as could be and fairly entertaining for the 15 minutes that they spent in the yard but certainly not creatures we wanted to go out and cuddle.

Oh, for those of you who are curious, it is still snowing here despite the meteorologists' assurances of raining and snow melt. Perhaps we'll thaw over the weekend...?

25 December 2008

Merry Christmas!!

We wish you all a very merry Christmas full of love and laughter!

We're enjoying a quiet day together in Kirkland (Seattle area). The snow had turned to rain yesterday, but apparently went back to snow overnight because we woke up to several inches of fresh, puffy, white snow and a sky full of giant flakes. It's a beautiful white Christmas (and this wet snow is perfect for snowmen and snowballs). Other than that, we're going to enjoy my partially successful attempt at Grandma's tea ring (a McCamon family tradition) and some bubbly (a Sadlier family tradition) while we open gifts and watch the snow fall. Merry Christmas!

18 December 2008

Winter Wonderland

The Puget Sound area is in the midst of a burst of winter. For those who live in the midwest, northeast, Rockies, or Atlantic seaboard, this is just average winter weather. For the Pacific Northwest, this is a real weather event. [We hope our little feijoa tree can survive.] Our temperatures have been below freezing for a good five days now, and snow has appeared in the forecast for most of those days.

Today was the real weather event. At about 5am, the snow suddenly started coming down...and wow did it come down! We got several inches in an hour or so. Despite the forecast for snow and near white-out conditions, my 8:30am final exam was scheduled to go on like normal. I left at 6am, George went with me, and we arrived at school just shy of two hours later. The freeways were a mess, and side roads are even worse. I was glad to have plenty of snow-driving experience from growing up in Ohio...like when I nearly spun out on the I-405 to I-90 interchange at the top speed of 15 mph. George thought it was great adventure. (Check out the road conditions and snow-covered holly tree viewable from my craft room.)

Any time it snows, Seattle transplants (and most of my friends here are) begin the rant about Seattle and snow. Despite being a transplant myself, I have to come to Seattle's defense. Sure a inch or two of snow can stop this city (just the threat of that canceled school across the region yesterday), but we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Sure, drivers who aren't used to driving in snowy conditions are a hazard, but the hills and infrequency of snow really make this a different game than snow in many of our hometowns. Getting from point A to point B nearly always involves a hill in Seattle; getting around them can take a lot of time and planning. And, since it only snows a few days a year here, there is very limited equipment. And, let's remember that we usually get snow only after getting rain...which means ice under snow. If the road conditions I experienced this morning would have been in Ohio, it would have closed everything there, too. So, while I am as irritated as the next guy when the car in front of me puts on its brakes at the worst possible time, I can appreciate that life can't go on as normal when snow hits Seattle.

On the other hand, snow always brings out a little grump in me. After all, I love snow at ski resorts and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I moved from Ohio to avoid living in snow. When I moved here, I was told that it would only snow a dusting once every few years, but it has snowed a measurable amount every winter thus far. Ah well. Now that finals are over, the snow makes it easy to get in the holiday spirit. Did I mention that - as of right now - I am halfway through law school and on break? I'm not sure what to do with myself besides cuddle George and drink lots of hot tea.

30 November 2008

Productive Weekend...sort of

In law school tradition, Thanksgiving weekend is the time to catch up on outlines, reading, or whatever else you have been putting off for the previous 12 weeks. In American tradition, Thanksgiving weekend is a time to start thinking about Christmas. I intended to embrace the former and ended up with the latter. Nonetheless, we have been pretty productive.

George has worked diligently all weekend to install 4 recessed lights in my craft room. When he finishes, it'll be the best lit room in the house since all the other bedrooms are lit by a single wall sconce. As soon as exams finish, I'll give the room a little TLC with plaster repairs where needed, fresh light blue paint on the walls, fresh white ceiling paint, a new closet organizer, some new curtains, and, of course, some shelves to keep all of my craft goodies organized. This is the last bedroom to be "finished," so I am pretty anxious to get my hands on it and really anxious to enjoy my completed room.

We have also tended to Christmas preparations this weekend. For whatever reason, we have been ahead of the gift-buying game this year, and our New Zealand-bound gifts have already been purchased, wrapped, and sent. After my trip to the shops today, we have just one gift left to buy. I'm also making all of our Christmas cards this year (or at least that's the goal). I started several weeks ago, and, after a few solid blocks of time this weekend, I currently have 43 completed cards with about 20 or so needing made. With the exception of a few repeats, they are each a little different to the rest. I hope that each recipient will enjoy the one that George and I pick out just for him/her. I'm really enjoying making the cards, but I seriously doubt that I'll undertake a project like this in coming years.

This morning, we completed another holiday task: picking out a Christmas tree. It's our first tree at this house, and I think it fits in perfectly, if I do say so myself. George is less than excited by the process of hanging lights, ribbon, and ornaments, so I did it mostly myself. As I hung each ornament, I was taken back to the time and place when it came into my life. Corny, I know. Seriously, though, virtually every ornament has a story because the majority are either gifts from my mom or souvenirs from places I've visited. Now that it's all put together, we get to sit back and enjoy that amazing pine scent. Mmmm...

Speaking of pine, we bought a pine wreath at the tree farm. I'm not big on decorations, much less holiday ones, but I thought that a nice simple wreath might bring some holiday cheer to our pathetic front door. The whole thing was going well until I decided to tie a bow. I'm not sure that the bow is going to stay, but I'm quite pleased with the rest of the wreath.

And with that, I'll return to my jealous outlines.

27 November 2008

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

George and I celebrated Thanksgiving in our very own way this year. It started with a very late start, lazy "morning" coffee, and lounging in front of the TV. I talked with some of my family, we cleaned up, and, by 3pm, we were finally ready to start thinking about food.

This was our feast: enormous scallops and prawns (from Pike Place Market), Safeway "fresh" bread, green bean casserole, and 2007 Eroica Riesling. The meal was anything but traditional (okay, except the green bean casserole), but I think we both enjoyed it. After eating, I talked with some more of my family, and we lounged some more. I have so much to be thankful for...being able to take a lazy day with my one-and-only beside me is just the tip of the iceberg!

Tomorrow, I'll get back to studying. My final oral argument is Monday afternoon, and I have three exams between now and December 18th. Oh, and there are also some Christmas decorations to buy and display. I'm still looking forward to that tree! :-)

14 November 2008

Jewelry Holder

My most recent craft project was the creation of a jewelry holder from drawer knobs. The idea originally came from a magazine clipping my mom passed along to me. At the time, I made one as a trial, but this one is much more sturdy.

The frame originally held a collage of photos before I broke the glass moving it from California to Washington. I stripped the wood to the raw material, stained it, and applied a coat or two of polyurethane. For the main material, George cut a piece of plywood and drilled holes. He also cut down the knobs so that they wouldn't protrude from the back. Then, I covered the plywood with silk and used hot glue and rubber cement to secure the silk in the back. Finally, I screwed the knobs into the board and hung some jewelry. Tracy's idea of using a handle as a cup worked well. Success!

More on my crafty genes and Christmas card-making project in future posts.

13 November 2008

Autumn Update

It has been a beautiful and exciting fall for George and I.

George spent most of October in London on business. Although he laughs it off, I thought it was pretty cool that the Queen visited the Big G while he was in the London office. It's not every day that the Queen and Prince Phillip stroll past your desk. I'm told that there are videos of her visit on YouTube, though I don't believe George appeared in any of them. George also had an opportunity to catch up with his friends in London and his colleagues in Dublin while he was across the Atlantic.

While George was gone, I had 100% focus on school during the week and girl time on the weekends. One weekend, some law school friends came over for a night of snacks, mojitos, sangria, and Apples-to-Apples. It brought out the true geek in each of us. The other weekend, I drove down to Oregon to visit Tracy in Salem. The drive was gorgeous - sunny, warm, and full of colorful leaves. Although I haven't been to New England in the fall, I imagine it looking something like my drive down the I-5. (Tracy, from Maine and New Hampshire, assures me that New England is even more vibrant.) Tracy and I had a fantastic time catching up, grabbing some drinks, exploring wine country (see photo), shopping in Portland, and escaping from our respective law school work loads.

We've been blessed with exceptional weather this fall. For some reason, the leaves have been even more vibrant than we remember them being in the past. Our house backs onto a community road, lined with deciduous trees. Their huge leaves were glowing in shades of red, yellow, and gold. What a wonderful view from our office and coming and going from home.

Driving through the arboretum on my way to and from school has been therapeutic. (I know that I'm talking about the leaves a lot, but 1-I love the shifting of seasons and 2-little things like beautiful leaves can make the stress of law school passable.) I've definitely needed the momentary escape as the semester progresses. My classes have proven both enjoyable and challenging. The real test will come as I finish my final appellate brief and appellate oral argument for legal writing and take exams in my other courses over the next month. I've lined up an externship (like an internship, but I get credit from the school rather than compensation from the site) for next semester that relates to my interest in bankruptcy law - exciting!

Of course, this fall brought election season to both the U.S. and New Zealand. I can't speak for the NZ experience, but I feel fortunate to have been part of the U.S. election this year. While the ads (particularly for some of our local candidates) drove me crazy, I fed off of the constant election news. Hearing so much about Ohio also made me a bit homesick and even more attracted to the news. For election night, we hosted a small gathering. We had the TV on and two laptops keeping track of counties and states reporting. The election call itself was a bit anti-climatic but exciting in its own respect. This is a really neat time to be part of the democratic process, and I really hope that President-elect Obama is able to harness the country's positive momentum and take us to a new and better place.

Enough with the election talk - our thoughts are now shifting to the holidays. This will be our first Christmas together in Seattle, which means our first tree. I am absolutely ecstatic to bring the pine scent into our home and display my ornaments, though George is less thrilled about killing a tree for our enjoyment. Stay tuned as the semester wraps up and the holidays approach.

16 October 2008

Farewell, Faithful Friend

In December 2001, my college friends and I exchanged gifts before we took our very first college finals and parted ways for the holidays. Lucky for me, Megan gave me the blue Nalgene bottle that would go everywhere with me for the next 7 years. In that time, my Nalgene and I hiked across Spain, caught the train across Morocco, explored the hills of Pennsylvania, snorkeled in Ecuador, napped in parks around San Francisco, checked out the sites in China, got to know George's family in New Zealand, hiked and snowboarded around the Pacific Northwest, explored southeast Alaska, and attended many, many undergraduate and law school classes.

Last week, our journey came to an end. The handle, which was so convenient for hooking onto my bag or belt, broke. I'll probably replace the handle and take my Nalgene on a few journeys in the future, but she's going to be retired from everyday use.

In her place, I have a new Bilt stainless steel water bottle. I love the ferns that remind me of New Zealand, and I look forward to having many adventures with my new bottle!

27 September 2008

Pat's Visit

It's been a hectic start to the year. Can you believe fall semester is already 1/3 over?

We really enjoyed our visit with George's mum, Pat. Although I spent most of the time studying and at school, George and Pat got out and about to see a bit of the Seattle area.

Much of Pat's trip was actually a working vacation. She is an incredible gardener, and - lucky for George and I - she was anxious to get her hands on our very sad and empty garden. We planted new grass in the spring, but we hadn't done anything with the surrounding flower beds.

In the main part of the back yard, she put together a lovely set of beds full of really beautiful, colorful plants. In the mix are hummingbird-attracting fuschias, hostas, plumbago, tickseed, cone flowers, bleeding heart, eupatorium, crocosmia, silver mound, garden aster, alumroot, and walker's low. Click on the pictures to get a better look. We're already seeing more birds, bees, and other pollenating creatures, so we really hope all these flowers will withstand our local squirrels and cats. We know they'll die off as the weather gets cold, but Pat assures us that we'll have all this wonderful color back in the spring.

Even better, Pat developed a plan for our garden that we can work on when we have time and money and that she can work on when she comes back. When it's all finished, we'll have several distinct areas in the back (including a section with New Zealand plants), a deck off the back, a utility area to one side, a bit of privacy from taller plants in the front, and perhaps a veggie patch to the other side. I can't wait to see how it all develops!

Just before Pat left, she and George planted a very special tree in our front/side yard: a feijoa (aka pineapple guava). George really misses having them, so we really hope that we're able to grow a little bit of New Zealand here in Kirkland. I'm particularly fond of this photo of mother and son wearing matching shirts, glaring at the feijoa as if they're demanding that it grow well. We'll see how it works out next summer. Hopefully we'll have lots of fruit on our feijoa tree.

Even though that's the only specifically Kiwi plant Pat put in during this go-around, George and I think of her every time we see the garden. Pat, thank you for sharing your time and gift of the green thumb with us!

06 September 2008

2L: Prepare to be worked to death

I'm finding the start of my second year challenging. Supposedly, 1L is the hardest part of law school; however, after experiencing 2L for just two weeks, I have to say that it's a strong contender.

Admittedly, much of the stress I'm feeling is the product of my decisions. My load consists of the maximum allowable credits (3 4-credit classes, a 1-credit clinic, and 3-credit legal writing II). I'm also applying to (and hopefully interviewing at) a few local firms that are hiring clerks for next summer. Adding insult to injury, class periods have changed from 50 minutes to 110 minutes...so my attention span is really being tested.

On the bright side, I can feel myself slowly adjusting. My legal writing II course (reputed to be very difficult and demanding) is off to a good start with glowing reviews during my practice oral argument. Since I have managed to schedule Mondays without class, I know it's possible to tackle what I've undertaken if I manage my time wisely. With any luck, I might even be able to carve out a life outside of school. :-)

Speaking of life outside of school, George's mum, Pat, arrived from New Zealand last Friday. She's been on the Olympic Peninsula at an elderhostel for the last week, but, after she returns, I hope to get away from my school work and enjoy as much as possible of her last two weeks here.

20 August 2008

Paul and Robyn in Seattle

George and I really enjoyed hosting Paul and Robyn last week. Here are a few highlights from the visit:


We started with a lovely walk along Alki. The weather was perfect and gave us a really nice view of the city. (Little did I know, George had arranged to surprise me with a birthday BBQ later in the evening.)


Paul and George visited three flight museums in two days. (Robyn and I set out the last two museums in favor of a day at the mall.) Here, they're in the cockpit at the Future of Flight Museum.
We all escaped to Mount Rainier National Park for a hike up Tolmie Peak. The view of Mount Rainier was amazing, and wildflowers were blooming near the top (seen above). Even though the mosquitoes, horse flies, and deer flies were overwhelming, I think we'd all agree that the view was well worth it. Back at the snow-covered trailhead, George and I continued our tradition of swimming in Lake Mowich (not pictured above).


For Paul's 60th, he flew a Cessna over the Seattle area.


The week wrapped up with a special birthday dinner at Herb Farm. What a treat!

Thanks for a very special week, Paul and Robyn!

16 August 2008

San Franciscan Dream

George's dad, Paul, and stepmum, Robyn, are currently visiting the US from New Zealand. Last week, George and I went to San Francisco to visit with them. While George was working, I shared my little knowledge of SF with Paul and Robyn. We put many, many miles on our feet in the process of seeing much of the city and getting to know each other a little better.

For me, the most exciting thing we did was take the ferry across the bay to Sausalito, bus to the Golden Gate Bridge, and walk across. As a child, growing up in rural Ohio, I idolized all things Californian. Most of all, though, I fantasized about the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm pretty sure it's related to my love of Full House and friendship with Richelle, my pen pal in San Jose (with whom I corresponded from ages 6-16). Even living within a few flying hours of San Francisco and seeing the bridge plenty of times, I still haven't been satisfied; I had to get closer to the bridge.

Walking the bridge was neat. I was right there...one with the bridge...up close and personal. While one childhood dream has now been realized, I know the Golden Gate Bridge will continue to hold a special place in my heart as a symbol of all those other childhood dreams yet to be realized. Thanks for the fantastic company on a very sunny and windy day, Robyn and Paul!

More more pictures from San Francisco, check out this folder in the gallery. Pictures from our adventures around Seattle with Paul and Robyn have been posted in a few different folders in the gallery, and I'll blog about it next week. Stay tuned. :-)

20 July 2008

Flattop Mountain - Round II

This is just a quick post to let you know that I made good on my promise to hike all the way to the top of Flattop. Although, like the rest of this summer, today was overcast, it was still a great day for the hike. I couldn't see McKinley due to clouds, but the sun and wind combined for the perfect hiking temperature.

To top it off, my hiking company was quite interesting: a 60-something doctor from NYC and a middle-aged Boeing contractor. They've both lived adventurous, inspiring lives. I hope to be able to share the same sorts of stories they shared with me when I'm in their shoes.

Enjoy the videos from the top of the trail. I recommend turning your volume down because the wind gets quite loud...although not loud enough to drown out the sound of the kids who wanted to "attack" me when I was taking the second video a little too close to their fort.

Check out the gallery for more photos.


video video

13 July 2008

Girdwood

Yesterday, Erica, Kiki, and I headed for Girdwood. As it turns out, this small, friendly, artists' colony is pretty cool! And, though it's only 40 miles from Anchorage, it feels like an entirely different world.

As you might remember, we originally intended to cycle the trip in mid-June. Weather caused us to delay the trip, and research taught us that we'd only be able to ride on a path separate from the busy, winding highway for 10 miles on either side of Girdwood. So, Erica borrowed her mom's Blazer, and away we drove!

Our first stop in town was the local art center. What a neat place! I think we all picked out some unique Christmas presents and a few treats for ourselves. The potter, who was working at the shop at the time, gave us her home address to stop by and look at other pieces. I'm pretty excited about the bowls and plate I bought!

From there, we headed to the Alyeska Resort for a tram ride to the "top" of Mount Alyeska. This is the ski resort in Girdwood and certainly the winter hub of the town. Much to our surprise, several feet of snow pack greeted us at the top of the tram. Nonetheless, we tromped around in our sandals, enjoyed a brie and bread picnic, and watched in amazement as person after person paraglided off the mountain and into the wind. We met an entire family from Findley, Ohio. With the exception of grandma, grandpa, and youngest grandchild, they all went paragliding! It looked really enjoyable and peaceful, except for when the winds sent them so high that they became a mere speck in the sky. (Yes, the fleck on the top right of the photo is a paraglider.) On a return trip to Girdwood, I definitely think I could be convinced to give paragliding a go.

The view from the top of the tram was pretty impressive. Looking up the mountain, another chairlift takes skiers to the true peak. To one side of the tram, there is a fantastic bowl, which would probably provide some excellent riding when completely covered in snow. To the other side, at least three glaciers, Glacier Creek, and a valley make up a picture-perfect scene. And, looking down the mountain, Girdwood and the Alyeska Resort happily sit in the glacier valley which meets Cook Inlet and the Turnagain Arm. Before we knew it, though, the wind picked up a cool breeze, and we decided to take the tram back down the mountain.

We had dinner at the Double Musky. I won't go into much detail beyond offering a general recommendation. There is definitely a reason why this cajun gem has such a sparkling reputation. Oh, be sure to go hungry because dinners are HUGE and come with fresh cheddar/jalapeno rolls and salad.

To wrap up the evening, we went back to the b-n-b (Glacier View B&B) for a few drinks in the hot tub. Connie and her cat were excellent hosts! She has an incredibly modern and comfortable home. I lost count of both the glaciers visible from her place and the fuschias on her porch. Connie is fearless, a little crazy, and the kind of b-n-b host who I hope to pay a return visit.

This morning, Connie prepared us a leisurely breakfast before we headed for Portage Glacier. Because it is retreating, it's quite a distance from the visitor's center. If it wouldn't have been 40-degrees (F) and sprinkling, we might have trekked a little closer. As it was, though, it was still neat to see icebergs and a very, very blue glacial river.

I'm down to a week and a few days left in Anchorage, so I suppose it's time to wrap up my projects at work and study for my final. You can view pictures from this and other weekends here. While these past months have been an experience, I am really looking forward to going home and getting back into my daily routine with George.

10 July 2008

Ohio and Kentucky

George and I spent the holiday weekend (Independence Day, for our international readers) together in Ohio and Kentucky. It was great to meet up a little more than halfway through my time in Alaska, and I really enjoyed a visit to true summer and darkness.

The first stop was Columbus, Ohio, for a visit with my family. We ate lots of yummy homemade food, played a few games, and generally enjoyed the company. Mason (my oldest cousin) and Justin (my brother) introduced George to basketball. (For the record, Justin and I beat Mason and George in a little 2-on-2.) And, I know I say this after every trip "home," but I truly can't believe how quickly my niece and nephew are growing up! Laila is a very mature soon-to-be first grader while Beathan is a full-fledged high-schooler complete with girlfriend and busy sports schedule. Wow!!

To top off the great visit, my friend from high school, Miranda, and her boyfriend, Ken, stopped by for a few hours. Miranda and I were inseparable during our last years of high school, so it was refreshing to catch up on the many years that have passed while we've been busy living our lives thousands of miles apart.

The next day, George and I headed to Louisville to celebrate Sam and Brian's wedding. (They are friends we met in Seattle, but they chose to hold their wedding in Brian's adopted hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.) The festivities started with rehearsal dinner on Saturday night at the Jefferson Club. The view of the surrounding city was superb! We enjoyed meeting their friends from near and far and experiencing southern hospitality. Brian's parents threw quite the party! Oh, and if you find yourself near Louisville, stop for some (Kentucky) Derby pie. This local favorite is pecan pie's chocolate chip-filled cousin.

The wedding, on Sunday afternoon, was also beautiful. Sam and Brian are a great couple, and George and I were so happy to have been part of their special day! As a bonus, we even got to spend some time with the bride and groom throughout the reception and after-party.



All-in-all, we had a very enjoyable weekend...and sadly parted ways on Monday to head back to the grind.

02 July 2008

Everyday Life in Anchorage

This trip is definitely not all fun and hiking. After all, I did come here for a class and to work.

My days start with 4 to 5 hours of work. Each day is a bit different from the one before it. Often, I'm met at the door with new assignments. I'm getting used to it, and my boss is getting used to letting me have some coffee before he asks too much of me. At the halfway point, I am quite pleased with my work experience. My boss gives me a fair amount of responsibility. I do some research projects, plenty of drafting, and a bit of client contact. So far, I think my favorite project is negotiating a commercial lease on behalf of a tenant. Combing through a 20+ page lease clause by clause really appeals to my love of details. I've also enjoyed drafting a few motions, but I'm not fully convinced that litigation is my cup of tea.

In the evenings, we have class for two hours, four nights a week. During June, we studied Alaskan Native law. It was surprisingly interesting. I'll write a post at some point on the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Unlike reservations in the lower 48, this legislation established native corporations for Alaskan natives. Has anyone heard of it? Starting next week, we'll be studying environmental law. Bring on the polar bear!

I get from place to place with the help of my feet, bike, and bus. The bus system is an experience all its own. Really. Although I'm getting used to it, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the Seattle bus system. Here in Anchorage, by and large, the only people who ride the bus are those who absolutely cannot afford even the most basic of cars. Not only is there stigma surrounding bus ridership, but also the schedule is not exactly convenient. Most buses only run every half hour (peak time) and every hour (evenings and weekends) for limited hours, and they cost $1.75 per ride with no transfers. I have seen a shocking trend of poverty and alcoholism in my rides as many of the same people show up on bus after bus. This is really just the tip of the iceberg; most all of us (especially the women) have stories from the bus.

Anchorage has many drawbacks, but it's growing on me with the appearance of moose in my daily life and 4 weeks of adaptation. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to seeing George, some of my family, and a few friends this weekend during a brief trip to southern Ohio and Kentucky.

Back for Breakfast

Much to my (pleasant) surprise, the moose family came back for breakfast. Aren't the babies cute?!






01 July 2008

Moose!

A little after 10:30pm, Kiki knocked on my door and said that there were a bunch of kids and a police officer outside her window. After looking around and not seeing anything, I opened a window and asked what was going on: MOOSE! Of course, I grabbed my camera and started clicking away as soon as they came into view. I've missed my last three chances to photograph these crazy creatures, and I was not repeat my mistake. After all, mama moose and her two babies were literally right outside our window. This is definitely the closest I'll get to a moose while being safe.

These are not the greatest pictures in the world, but I was trying to hold still to take them through the screen and dirty window without a flash, at dusk.