Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Green River Walk on a Gray Afternoon

Monday was the first day in a while where I could just do as I pleased and make it up as I went along.  

I did not get out of bed until 8:15, even though I had been awake for a while. Then I planted myself in my computer chair and caught up with the world through email, Facebook, and bloggers.

It must have been close to 10:00 before I was dressed and got some breakfast. I put the dining room back to its non-company form, did some laundry, and consolidated the rest of the Christmas cookies into one large container and put them back in the freezer. 

We knew we needed to go for a walk. We both have pounds to lose after all that eating. So, in the afternoon, after a long lunch with the newspaper, Tom and I drove down into the valley, parked in a lot along the Green River near the Southcenter Mall, and instead of walking south on the Green River Trail, as we usually do, we decided to see where it took us going north and how it would take us safely through the maze of freeway intersections and get us to Fort Dent, a place we knew. 

The Green River looked pretty brown to my eyes, but in the camera it does actually look sort of green, muddy green. 
 It was raining ever so slightly, and eventually quit all together.
 We went under lots of overpasses, as the trail stayed down along the river and the rest of the busy world was up there somewhere. 
 We arrived at Fort Dent without once leaving the river.
 The Black River is all but gone now, and the Green is kept within its diked banks, but at one time this area was more water than land, and boat navigation was the means for transporting people and goods. 

 The trail crossed over the river for a second time in our two mile stretch of the trail. 
 Here is where the remnants of the Black River drain out into the Green. 
 There was not much wildlife to see on our walk today, so we appreciated spotting this Hooded Merganser. 
 Mrs. Merganser was there too, but she seemed to wish to stay out of the picture. 
 "Train whistle blowing" added to the feel of the place, urban yet wild, industrial yet natural. 
 Two guys on bikes shouted "Hey, it's not raining!" as they pedaled by.  Yay!
 After about two miles, we turned around.

 Around the bends, along the banks, and under the freeways we did go. 
 Back at the car I took a few minutes to just gaze at the river.  My little Canon zoom lens found these friends - Common Mergansers, I think. 
We walked for over an hour, covered 3.85 miles, and enjoyed the fresh air and exercise. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Going to a Seahawks Game

Jill is a first year season ticket holder for the Seattle Seahawks Football Team.  She has three seats. She sells half of the home games, to pay for the tickets, and then uses the other games for herself and her kids or guests. 

Sunday Irene didn't want to go, so I did. Isaac and Jill and I braved the 35 degree snow/rain and took the light rail to the stadium.  We were well layered up for the weather.

It took me a while to get my bearings from our perch high up in the southeast section.  For Sounders games I sit on the west side, so everything was backwards. 
 We made it through the crowds and into our seats in time for the opening ceremonies. 
I had to learn all the rules for live viewing. You stand and make noise when the Seahawks are playing defense, and sit down and watch quietly ( with a few groans, unfortunately) when they are playing offense. You watch the guy on the field with orange sleeves to know when we are on commercial break, and when he waves his arms, play can resume. 

When there is no action on the field, you can study your surroundings, and the view. (And play with your phone.)

Unfortunately our boys did not play well against the St Louis Rams, and we lost the game. As people began a mass exodus well before the game was over, we hung around to watch the Seahawks score one last touchdown, blow the onside kick, and with 18 seconds to go, we turned our backs and worked our way through the throngs out and into the city. 
It wasn't the best game to watch for Seahawks fans, but it was an interesting opportunity. It's definitely easier to watch the game at home on our big screen TV, but there is an attraction to experiencing the atmosphere of a live game with nearly 70,000 other fanatics. 

A few more reasons to cheer would have been nice. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015 Report, Part II: Christmas Day

The kids were up early, but Jill wasn't. When we arrived, bringing the Christmas bread, we were informed that breakfast was being moved back to 9:30.  Everyone was OK with that except Isaac, who did a remarkable job of restraining himself, since he REALLY wanted to get to that pile of gifts under the tree. 

We did do stockings while we were waiting and preparing. That was fun. The stockings were well stuffed. 

Just before Breakfast, Irene placed the decorative cherries on the warmed wreath bread. 
 We ate eggs and sausages and cardamom bread and talked and took our time. But then Tom and Jake had to get the barbecue ready for the turkey and the turkey stuffed and ready to be smoked and roasted. 
Finally it was time to open gifts. There were fun gifts and surprise gifts and warm and cozy gifts. 
 Jake entertained himself working Isaac's new puzzles. 
 Tom searched under the tree for the next right gift to deliver. 
 This won the prize for the most fun gift.  When we took the kids shopping for their gifts for their mom, Irene found this calendar - Hot Guys and Baby Animals - and insisted we had to get it.  How could you go wrong with that!  

 There was one thing that Isaac wanted more than anything, Nike LaBron high top shoes.  He knew they were expensive and that if he got them it would limit what else he got. Well, I have never paid that much for shoes in my life, but Grandma is a soft touch. The package was well buried, and he had to wait, but when he opened it, he got very quiet.  I think he was having trouble believing that he was actually holding them. 
 Jake took a photo and posted it on Facebook - this is guy news!
 Little old Tiger found a good nest in the chaos. 
 Gifts done, and clean up sort of done, I went for a walk. When I returned, I found Tom back on his phone. 
 I always give the kids, Jake included, small Lego kits in their stockings. I found Jake at the table putting his together. 
 I found Isaac in the computer room putting his big new kit from Santa together. 
 I found Irene downstairs adding to another kit they have been playing with for several weeks. 
Jill was in the kitchen preparing stuffed mushrooms. 
 Then it was time for the concert. As a fifth grader, Irene is now in the school band and is learning the saxophone. Her band teacher told each student they had to perform for an audience some time over the holiday break. Irene prepared a program to announce her performance. 

 Well done, Irene!
Irene shared her new book with Jake.
 Isaac set up Skype on his new Kindle Fire reader, so he can communicate with his dad. I think he was going to sleep in those shoes, and the Oregon Ducks hat too. 
 I worked in the kitchen with Jill, peeling lots of potatoes and vegetables. 
 It was as we were waiting for the potatoes to boil that we first noticed that the burner wasn't hot. We had been using the wall oven and the new stove oven and the burners, and then suddenly none of them were working!

Tom tried the circuit box, and the appliance lights came on, but nothing was heating.  OK, what to do.  The vegetables roasting in the oven were done enough, but the yams weren't baked, and we NEEDED mashed potatoes and gravy.  The turkey on the grill got done and we wrapped it up to keep it warm while Tom and Jill and I began to think.  

When we think back on it now, we are impressed by how calmly we just started problem solving.  We could boil some potatoes in the microwave in a glass bowl. Jill had a camp stove we could set up on the deck. We could put the stuffing in the toaster oven we could plug in in the laundry room.

Jill gave us a new microwave, and Tom said, "Hey, we have another microwave" and got it out of the box.  We had to move it to the bathroom counter when we blew a circuit in the kitchen. We boiled the rest of the potatoes on the camp stove, Jill cooked vegetables in the microwaves, and as soon as the potatoes were done, I made the gravy on the camp stove. 

As I stood out in the cool air on the deck stirring the gravy, I had to grin.  Here we had given Jill a new stove for Christmas, and it wasn't working.  How ironic. But instead of going into a panic, we just handled it. There I was stirring the gravy on the deck!

We got everything cooked, only a half hour late, and sat down to a wonderful dinner, very pleased with ourselves. Catastrophe averted by professional problem solvers. 

Jake left soon after dinner to meet up with friends to go to the new Star Wars movie. Tom and I lingered to clean up and have dessert, We left for home about 7:00.  All of us agreed it was a very good Christmas!

And Saturday afternoon Tom was back at Jill's house to try to figure out the wiring issue with the new stove. I was keeping my fingers crossed. 

I got back from my late afternoon walk to find the message "It's working!"  Tom had tested and traced wires over and over again, texted back and forth with jake for advice, and finally fixed the connectivity problem.

Jill's kitchen is now back in business! And I am relieved. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015 Report, Part I: Christmas Eve

Preparations began fairly early at my house for Christmas Eve. Jill and the kids were expected in the early afternoon and Jake was to arrive about 5:00.

We had to prepare the turkey for Christmas Day dinner to go into the brine, make stock out of the giblets, and pick and chop fresh herbs, all for the stuffing.  Then I chopped more herbs for the Swedish meatballs that were for Christmas Eve dinner, and cleaned and sliced a mountain of mushrooms, for both stuffing and meatball gravy. 

Jill and the kids arrives while I had everything ready for the stuffing ingredients to cook and combine and then Jill took over while Tom and I took the kids out for a walk/run in the nearby park. Jill said they needed it. 

Cookies were arranged, whipped cream was added to the rice porridge to make it pudding, and Tom was a great help in getting our dinner prepared by 6:00.

Irene lit the candles. 
We dined and shared laughs and stories. 

After the clean up we settled into the family room. Irene really wanted to watch our traditional Sesame Street Christmas video, and so did I. Isaac wanted to play a game. Jake went upstairs to the gift wrapping station to wrap his gifts. Tom disappeared into the living room to read his phone. 

Irene lit the Nativity Pyramid. 
 Jill had to keep pulling Isaac back into the game he so wanted to play and away from Oscar the Grouch. 
 Irene was enthralled.  I don't know if you have ever watched "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street", but if you haven't and you have young children around, you really should. It is just so sweet and kind. It was published in 1987, but I know it is still around in Amazon Prime.
 It has two songs that I really love, "True Blue Miracle" and "Keep Christmas with You All through the Year". 
 After the video and the game were finished we returned to the dining room for dessert.

 I served the rice pudding.  Irene loved it, Tom and Jake and I really liked it, Isaac had one bite, and Jill said it was OK. Jake  found the lucky almond in his dish. 

By 9:00 all the young'uns had gone home. I sat down to watch some of "It's a Wonderful Life" while Tom loaded the "sleigh" full of packages and stocking stuffers. At 10:30, Jill texted us that the kids were asleep and Santa Claus could come. 

He did, abundantly. 

It didn't take us long to fall asleep once we were back home and snuggled in our bed. There were only a few visions of sugar plums.