29 January 2012

Weekend in Photos

I couldn't help but laugh at my husband, who was practicing his funny faces in anticipation of an uncooperative child. 18.5 weeks pregnant. 

After touching up the paint and returning the fixtures in the guest bath, it's almost like we never had to cut a hole to access the plumbing upstairs as part of the upstairs bathroom remodel.

George picked up a new set of allen wrenches. 

A year and a half later, we finally have curtains (and privacy). I'll iron them when I have a bit more time, but for now we're just enjoying the hardware and curtains we picked out sooo long ago.

This is all that was left from making this recipe, adapted by adding some kale for extra nutrients. Yum. Of course, I found it through Pinterest. All of our dinners this week came from Pinterest, including buffalo chicken bites, Swedish baked potatoes, beef and broccoli,  avocado dip, mushroom and marsala pappardelle, smashed potatoes, and Sriracha chicken.   

27 January 2012

Squirrel Parenting

If my interaction with our backyard squirrels is any indication of my ability to parent and discipline, I have a lot of work to do on my willpower.

Today, one of our squirrels perched up on her hind feet and stared at me for about fifteen minutes. That was all it took for me to dig through the pantry and feed her some roasted peanuts. Our squirrels are so spoiled...but so loved.

How do I say "no" to this?

26 January 2012


I'm very happy to report progress on our house projects. Check this out:

Laundry room: electrified, plumbed, insulated, drywalled, and primed

Bathroom: drywalled and primed with updated plumbing and electrical

This means that we only have a few more steps to complete before we have a new laundry room, a newly remodeled bathroom, a reclaimed closet (where our laundry has always resided), and new flooring in the entry way. These are projects we started imagining shortly after we moved in nearly five years ago, so it will feel particularly good to have them complete. I'll provide more detail about each project when they are complete and we share the reveal.

25 January 2012

Anatomy Revealed!

A glimpse into my past:

Approximately five-year old Amanda with "Joanna," who went everywhere with her

We were originally scheduled for the anatomy ultrasound next Monday.  However, we learned this week that my stepdad, David, will be having heart surgery next week, and I'll be going to Ohio for it.  So, in this bittersweet turn of events, the ultrasound was rescheduled for this morning.

Without any hesitation, the ultrasound technician showed us baby's lower parts and announced that we are expecting a baby GIRL.  I truly did not have a preference about the gender of this baby, though I have always said that I hope I eventually get to have a baby girl.  I know that George is going to be an amazing parent and role model for our daughter.

Perhaps this is a glimpse into our future:

Another baby revealed its gender recently: baby otter. Isn't she cute?

22 January 2012

Big Day

I completely and totally forgot to take photos this weekend, so there will be no "weekend in photos" recap tonight or tomorrow. It was a really fabulous weekend, too. Wa. Wa. I blame the snow week for getting my weekdays and weekend days mixed up.

Nonetheless, today was a big day for us. After starting the day with a tasty breakfast at Lola, we ordered Thumper's crib and dresser, chose the fabric for the nursery chair (though the model is still TBD), completed our first recon mission to Babies R Us (a great place to touch, feel, and try out things that you can buy elsewhere for less money, less hassle, and better karma), and selected a stroller (which we'll eventually buy from either the least expensive or most local/small business source). We also found these totally adorable socks on sale:

George and I have such a good time (nervously) laughing about our ability to be parents and (more confidently) anticipating the great memories we'll make with our child. I hope he/she knows how much he/she is loved and anticipated even though he/she is only the size of a small burrito.

19 January 2012

Snow + Ice

We still have our snow and woke up to an ice warning due to ice and freezing rain that blanketed the area overnight. Roads are hazardous, and a lot of people are dealing with power outages as a result of trees falling under the weight of the snow and ice. Needless to say, George and I are still hunkered down at home, very thankful for our electricity and heat. While we're suffering a bit of cabin fever, we're grateful to be stuck in comfortable conditions.

Looking for a bit of humor in the circumstances, I saw this crawling across the screen on King 5 this morning:

"All flights on Horizon and Alaska Airlines are cancelled until 10am when flights resume, 
the focus will be on flights to Hawaii and Mexico."

Grammar aside, I find humor in the fact that the airlines are trying to get people to tropical destinations ahead of all others. Ha!

On an unrelated topic, this is our 250th blog post!

18 January 2012

Snow and Comfort Food

Over the weekend, local meteorologists started calling for an epic snowstorm set for arrival on Wednesday. They said that we'd get 10-15 inches of snow in a single day, which would be the single largest snowfall in Seattle's history. As expected, the predicted quantity of snow didn't materialize, but we did get about 4-5 inches of snow at our house. Pretty much everything was closed, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day doing absolutely nothing except watching George work, napping, and cooking.

Snow days call for comfort food. I made some whole wheat rhubarb and blueberry muffins (an adaptation of this recipe) and tuna noodle casserole from what we had in the house, pantry, and freezer.

What I'm really craving are Oreos so that I can make these beautiful truffles or perhaps Oreo cheesecake, which I made about five years ago and still remember. I have pinned a few other things that I'm itching to make, including jalapeno popper dip, egg breakfast muffins, and seafood and mushroom pasta. Yes, I think a trip to the supermarket is in our future (tomorrow).  There better be a trip to the gym in my future, too, if I'm going to make all of these goodies.

17 January 2012

Gender Guesses

We now have less than two weeks until the ultrasound in which our baby will go from being "it" to "he" or "she" (unless it has already been learning tricks from Julia and Adam's baby). :-)

Although seeing the goods is pretty much the only way to know the gender for sure, there are plenty of old wives' tales claiming to predict the gender. Here's how they've come out for us:

Ring on a String: Boy

Cravings (sweet=girl; sour/savory=boy): Boy

Acne (more=girl; same or none=boy): Girl

Dreams about Baby: Boy

Baby's Heart Rate (140+=girl; less than 140=boy): Girl 

Chinese Lunar Calendar: Girl

Carrying Position (high=girl; low=boy): Boy

George and I both think the baby is a girl, but we have zero scientific basis for our guesses. My doctor suggested drinking some caffeine or eating about an hour before the ultrasound for our best chance at an active baby during the ultrasound. I really want to find out, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if we had to wait until June...or would it? So, what's your prediction for the flavor of our baby?

16 January 2012

Weekend in Photos

Inspired by Misha's weekly "weekend in pictures" recaps, I'm going to try my best to make such recaps a regular occurrence around here. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Amazon delivered. More on baby names in a separate post.

George installed the new (floor-mounted!!) toilet in our master bath while I watched. We'll have to take it out in a few weeks when the drywall folks come by, but we're glad to have it for now. 

George worked really hard all weekend to install insulation in the new laundry room and prepare the bathroom for drywall. Our projects are moving along nicely - more on them in a separate post. 

Our first snow flakes of the winter added up. We received about 2-4" most places.

The dusting of snow is really beautiful. I especially like this view out of our new office window.

Of course, the squirrels came by for their Sunday morning treat of sunflower seeds.

I took my Subaru Legacy out for its first drive in the snow. (This photo was taken early in the day, before the bulk of the snow fell.) A friend told me that I wouldn't know just how much I loved my Subaru until I took it out in the snow, and she was right. I don't know if I'll ever have a non-AWD vehicle again. 

I finally assembled this trivet/cork board from the kit that our friends gave us for Christmas last year. I'm not sure why I waited so long because it wasn't difficult, didn't take long, and looks pretty great when it's done. Can you spot our favorite wineries on the corks? 

Blue skies showed up on Sunday afternoon, creating a breathtaking and rare scene with the beautiful fresh snow.

I made this Thai soup for Sunday dinner, paired with these spring rolls (which we ate too quickly to photograph). George usually does the Asian cooking in our house, so it was fun to mix things up. Both recipes came from Pinterest. George liked them both, so I told him that he's not allowed to complain about me spending time on Pinterest. :-)

13 January 2012

Chicago's Next

This post comes with a caveat: if you're not a food or drink or restaurant person, you may want to skip it. Even if you are, you'll probably want to skim. To be honest, this post is mostly about recording the experience for myself rather than sharing. Bear with me...if you wish. 

Let me start by saying that Next is not your typical restaurant. It doesn't have reservations; rather, it sells tickets to particular seatings. It serves a fixed menu, so everyone in the restaurant is eating the same food and enjoying wine pairing, non-alcoholic pairing, or no pairing. The concept is reinvented every three months, so you'll basically never get to experience a particular meal a second time. We were lucky enough to get tickets during the Childhood menu, which was based off of foods eaten in Michigan in 1985. After a lot of hype, we showed up at 9:15 on a Sunday night to a dark building without signs in a warehouse district. Clearly, this was not going to be a typical dining experience. And it wasn't. 

Without further delay, let's talk about the food. Was this the best food that I've ever eaten? Probably not, though it was certainly near the top. Was this the most creative and inventive food I've ever eaten? Yes, hands down. Was this the most whimsical meal I've ever eaten? Again, yes, by a mile. Would I go back? To quote Sarah Palin, you betcha! 

The first course was delivered in a wrapped package. We were told the following: do not shake the package; everything inside is edible; and the contents should be eaten in one bite with the mouth closed. We unwrapped the package and opened the box to find a little ball and lots of crumb-looking things. Following the instructions, we ate the ball with our mouths closed and were rewarded with peanut butter and jelly creamy goodness. Because the peanut buttery crumbles were too good to waste, we slurped them from the box without a hint of guilt. Ok, maybe a little bit of guilt, but the taste was worth it. 

For the next course, we were presented with a bowl of soup and told that the chefs thought that chicken noodle soup made more sense when the soup included a noodle of chicken...and it did. The flavors were true to homemade chicken noodle soup but in a more complex way, and the texture of the chicken noodle was just like an al dente homemade noodle. 

Next, we were served a square plate with a scene drawn onto it, meant to be a child's drawing that would hang on the refrigerator. Turns out, it was our delicious fish and chips course. The sea was made of slightly pickled cucumbers. The land was the star of the show: the most perfect herb and breadcrumb mixture ever. It included generous sprigs of fresh dill, which happens to be my favorite herb. The rock was fish foam. The little nugget behind the grate was a perfectly prepared piece of haddock, complimented perfectly by the balsamic vinegar drawing and (slightly overbearing) lemon sun. And that yummy grate (fishing net?) was made of crispy potato. Ohmygosh. So good. This course was one of my two favorites of the evening. I almost licked my plate to make sure that I didn't miss anything. 

Fish and Chips
Up next was our mac and cheese course. We were served a plate with several small garnishes arranged in a circle. In the middle was a vessel of creamy yumminess, which the serving staff released before leaving the table. Each garnish was meant to represent one of the many ways that mac and cheese can be prepared at home. For example, there were manchego cheese shavings for those who put extra cheese on their mac and cheese; there was a cube of powdered Hebrew National for those who put hotdogs in their mac and cheese; and so on. The mac and cheese alone was possibly the best that I've ever eaten (and I have sampled a lot of mac and cheese). Each of the garnishes brought back such memories that they were really icing on the cake. This was my other favorite course, and I think it was the favorite of the rest of the table as well. We all wanted to lick the plate for this one.

For our next course, called winter wonderland, we were served our meal atop a glass plate, which was resting on a hollowed piece of wood, which held hot rocks and fresh, roasting juniper. This was the most aromatic of the courses, and Denaye said that it took her right back to her family's Christmas tree shopping adventures. I can't really describe the food because I couldn't identify most of what I was eating, aside from some terrifically crisp chard and flavor-rich mushrooms; however, what I ate was absolutely, positively delicious. Every bite was a flavor blast. 

Winter Wonderland: a walk through a Michigan forest 
Winter Wonderland: a walk through a Michigan forest

Next, we were served a really strange-looking plate. It appeared that a bun or Kraft singles had been melted onto the plate. The dish was genius. The bun/Kraft single element had the consistency of a thick sauce but tasted exactly like a sesame seed bun. Each of the sauces on the plate tasted like a particular flavor on a fast food burger, with one tasting a bit buttery/greasy so that a bite that included that sauce tasted like a particularly greasy burger. The beef, of a cut I can't remember, was tender and flavorful but not too pretentious to be paired with the rest of the flavors on the plate. The more elements of the plate that you could fit into a single bite, the more complete the burger flavor you'd experience. For me, this was the most nostalgic because I was rewarded with a McDonald's Happy Meal after most doctors appointments (which were frequent for me as a child). 

Hamburger: McDonald's, Burger King, White Castle?

Hamburger: McDonald's, Burger King, White Castle?

As though we weren't already full (I was), we were next presented with a vintage lunch box. The star of this course was the wagyu jerky. The lunchbox also included a homemade funyun, truffled Oreo (oh so delicious and seriously trufflated), Nutella Snack Pack-inspired pudding, and some apple-brandy Fruit Roll-Ups-inspired candy. No lunchbox is complete without a thermos, and ours were filled with a delicious mixed berry punch, either spiked or not. For me, the memorable part of this course was when Denaye and David discovered that they did similar things with their Fruit Roll-Ups before eating them when they were kids. 

Lunch Box

The pudding and Oreo of the lunchbox were a nice transition into dessert. The next course was called "Foie"sting and donuts and was served on a mixer beater. As you might guess from the name, the frosting was made with foie gras or was at least foie gras flavored. This was the only course that I did not enjoy. My pregnant palate couldn't make the sweetness of the dish and the flavor of the foie gras work. 

'Foie'sting and Donuts

To finish our meal, we were served sweet potato pie. Well, sort of. First, some sweet potatoes were lit on fire in the center of the table, eliciting some serious campfire memories. Then, we were instructed to move the sweet potatoes to our plates after the fire went out and to add some caramel sauce. Our plates contained several yummy morsels, including marshmallows, something similar to a granola, bourbon ice cream, and some unidentifiable bits. What I tasted was fabulous, but I would have enjoyed this course a lot more if it had some earlier in the night (ie, if I'd actually had room for it) and if I would have had the kitchen hold most or all of the bourbon ice cream. Still, when was the last time that a restaurant served you with a campfire of sweet potatoes? 

Sweet Potato Pie: campfire on your table

And because no meal is complete without a hot drink, the night ended with hot cocoa. Ahhhh. Thankfully, they sent us away with a copy of the menu (which we had not seen until the meal was over) so that we could remember all of the courses. 

Now, a word about the pairings. The wine pairings were generous, leaving the bottle at the table until it was finished. The wine drinkers at the table seemed really happy with the selections. Of the ones I sipped, I thought the Sarah's Vineyard Charbono from Santa Clara (who knew?!) was great. I'm always excited to discover new grapes, and I'm sure we'll keep our eyes out for charbono now. George loved the very earthy, rustic, wild Caparone Sangiovese from Paso Robles. I enjoyed the non-alcoholic pairs, and I really appreciate the effort of doing creative pairings for the alcohol-free crowd. I loved the apple cider, and I could have consumed a gallon of my favorite drink, which was a meyer lemon, thyme, and lemon verbena lemonade that tasted just like a Lemonhead

Now, a word about the service. This is the only restaurant I've ever visited with service rivaling Canlis. I swear, the staff at Next knew exactly what each and every person in the restaurant was doing at every moment. The second that I started to back away from the table, there was a server ready to escort me to the secret bathroom (I must be starting to look pregnant). Upon return, there was always someone there to push in my chair. The Next servers were better at comfortably pushing in a chair than the servers anywhere else I've been. 

I went into this meal prepared to be disappointed. However, Next perfectly executed a balance between fun whimsy and deliciously sophisticated food. I doubt I'll ever forget my meal at Next, and I'm so glad that I was able to share it with my husband and dear friends. 

If you've made it this far, give yourself an award. This is one long blog post. 

12 January 2012


Here's a detailed, photo-heavy account of our recent trip to Chicago:

On Friday, Denaye and I spent the day in downtown Chicago. We took a self-guided walking tour of some of Chicago's beautiful outdoor art. 

Marc Chagall's Four Seasons

The Chicago Picasso

Miro's Chicago

Along the way, we shared an Elvis cupcake at Crumbs. It was a vanilla cake with banana filling and frosting, a dollop of peanut butter, and peanut butter chips. The flavor was good, but the cake was pretty dry.


We stopped by the controversial Marilyn Monroe statue while walking along the beautiful Chicago River, before heading up the Magnificent Mile for some window shopping. 

Marilyn Monroe

Chicago River with the Trump Tower and Chicago Tribune Building

On Friday night, Denaye and I enjoyed a nice meal atop the John Hancock Center. This was the view just to my right out the window. Incredible, right? 

View from the John Hancock Center

On Saturday morning, I started the day by catching up with my dear friend, Lindsay, who had studied with me in Spain and now lives in Chicago. After a long chat over coffee and pastries, just like old times, I was off to meet George at the airport with Denaye and David. 

After welcoming George to the windy city, we all headed to Oak Park to check out Frank Lloyd Wright's work. It was an incredible neighborhood to explore. 

The Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio

We worked up an appetite for Chicago-style pizza, so we stopped for lunch/dinner at Giordanos.

Giordanos Stuffed Special

On Sunday, we all headed back downtown to check out the Cloud Gate, aka The Bean.

George decided to point at our bean (now avocado-sized) while at The Bean.

Cloud Gate from below

We stopped at the aquarium and field museum, and we scored some great views of downtown and Lake Michigan. 

For lunch, we had incredible BBQ at q. I was so excited about the food that I didn't remember to take a photo until only scraps were left on our plates. 

Cornbread, coleslaw, pickled onions, pulled chicken

Babyback rib bones

Then, we stopped at the Baha'i House of Worship. It took me by surprise because we were driving through a residential neighborhood and then - boom - it was like the Taj Mahal came out of nowhere. It's incredibly beautiful, peaceful, and ornate, inside and out. 

Baha'i Temple, Wilmette, IL

Baha'i Temple, Wilmette, IL

After a bit of a rest, we headed out to an incredible dinner at Next, which I'll discuss in a separate post because this post already has 39,845 photos. 

On Monday, George worked from G's Chicago office and David went to class while Denaye and I checked out the baby supercenter that is Wonder! It was incredible, and I picked up a few tiny bits and bobs. George and I flew home on Monday night with big smiles on our faces. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time in Chicago.

04 January 2012

That was pretty good.

Yesterday, my day included the following: 
  • Getting up at a decent hour, but not 6am; 
  • Volunteering at an ESL (English as a Second Language) class; 
  • Taking a nap without any alarm clock; 
  • Completing a nice long swim at the gym; 
  • Driving to and from the gym with George; 
  • Making dinner; 
  • Eating dinner with George; 
  • Doing some legal work on behalf of my favorite client, George; and
  • Going to bed with a feeling of accomplishment.
Balance is not easy; however, days like today make me certain that I am on a better path now than I was two or three months ago. 

01 January 2012


Philosophical Review of 2011:

Each new calendar year is an(other) opportunity to reflect upon the past year and get inspired for the coming year. Here's what I had to say about 2011 at its start: link. I was both successful and a complete failure at living deliberately. In my daily life, I think I failed to truly act deliberately. I went through a lot of motions instead of really contemplating whether each one was the best decision for me. In doing so, I spent a lot more hours behind a desk at work than at home with my husband or out building friendships. That allowed me to get some incredible experience, like preparing several trials and fully handling two trials, and it allowed me to make an impact, like keeping several families together (ie - preventing/delaying deportation). Toward the end of the year, however, I came to see that my focus on my job and keeping up with its heavy stress load was taking a toll on what truly matter to me: my family and my health. Fortunately, I was in a position to act on that realization and leave my job for some soul searching and career evaluation time. This is where I think that I was successful in acting deliberately.

As for my other 2011 goals, here's how I score myself:

  • Give time and expertise to causes that inspire me  -  D
  • Take refresher Spanish classes so that my second language can be a little less broken  -  F
  • Bring our home a little closer to complete  -  C-
  • Keep traveling as much as our budget and schedules allow  -  A+
  • Explore local attractions, especially the outdoor ones  -  D

Eeek. Better luck next year...?

Chronological Review of 2011:

George and I started the year with an amazing trip to New Zealand. It was my first time to visit New Zealand in the summer, and I fell in love all over again. We had a great time catching up with friends and family while taking in a few tourist attractions, such as as many wine regions as we could reasonably reach.

In April, we had a visit from Flat Laila, the flat version of our niece.  While she was visiting, we got away for a weekend to Alberta, Canada to celebrate George's birthday. I was particularly taken with the scenery of the Canadian Rockies, and we both agree that Lake Louise and Emerald Lake are places we hope to return to once we have a family.

At the end of May, we took off for the Philippines. The trip was a year in the making, planned by one of our dear diving friends. For the first week, we stayed on a diving liveaboard in the middle of the Sulu Sea. We were at a resort for the second week, still diving about 3-5 times a day. We had a fantastic time from the diving to lounging on the deck of the boat between dives to some fun nights at the bar at the resort. We stopped in Hong Kong on the way home, but we didn't get to enjoy as much of it as we would have liked because I came down with a stomach bug for the last two days of the trip.

In July, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a return visit to our reception site: Canlis. That same month, we learned that my old Cavalier needed its engine replaced. In August, we purchased our first (but probably not last) Subaru, a 2011 Legacy sedan, and we retired the Cavalier. In August and September, we got away as many weekends as possible, visiting Willamette Valley (Oregon) wine region, Las Vegas, and my hometown in Ohio for my 10-year high school reunion.

In October, we contemplated some big changes; I decided to leave my job; and, at the end of the month, we learned that we have a baby on the way. Although planned, I was still completely shocked at learning the news. To be honest, I'm not sure I'm completely out of that shock even now.

In November, we had our first two glimpses at our then-embryo. Seeing the heart beat for the first time was a life-changing experience. Then, we celebrated Thanksgiving at our house with a giant feast and the good company of our friends, Sam and Brian. I had my last day at work on the 30th.

In December, we decorated our Christmas tree and patiently waited for our next ultrasound appointment. My mom visited us for a week and was able to attend the ultrasound and doctor's appointment with us. Shortly after the appointment, we were finally able to make the announcement to the world. We celebrated Christmas by quietly lounging at home and then attending an amazing Christmas dinner hosted by our friends, Seon and Ki. To finish off the year, we celebrated last night with dinner at Canlis with our friends, Sam and Brian, and with Brian's parents. Canlis showed, once again, that they know how to throw a good party.

Phew. What a year! Even though most moments not mentioned above were filled with work for both of us, we still managed to accomplish quite a bit.