As much as it shocks me, it’s already mid-February. I haven’t even finished posting about what we did in New York. That part isn’t shocking at all, but it’s still nagging at me. Anyway, here is what we did on New Year’s Eve!

We got up early with the goal of killing two birds with one stone. Bird Number One: get some exercise, since we’d done nothing but eat and drink for two weeks. Bird Number Two: explore Central Park. It seemed logical, then, to go for a run through there to see as much of it as we could.

One thing we hadn’t planned for was how dang cold it was going to be. Another thing we didn’t plan for was how out of shape and creaky our joints would be. We had to stop a lot to “Take Pictures” and “People Watch” and “Stretch.”

After we finally made it back from that and thawed out, we went off on our next cold adventure: a New Jersey Devil’s hockey game! This involved riding the train to the arena and back, with just about everyone else that was at the game.

Instead of buying into the craziness of Times Square, we decided to stay in Greenwich Village to ring in the new year. Across the street from our hotel was a little wine cellar that had cheap bottles for happy hour. We settled in there for a while and met quite a few locals who aside from giving us lots of tips for how to spend our last few days, also hooked us up with cupcakes. Gotta love that!

Then we just had dinner and more drinks at a different pub. Very low key.

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to describe the event that happened on the first morning we spent in New York. It was a rainy day and, after having breakfast, we walked through the drizzle toward the subway station. By some stroke of serendipity, we took a wrong turn and ended up walking down a side street. My eye happened to notice a sign that said, “Puppies!”hanging in a door way. I glanced to my left, and there in the window of this shop were three tiny puppies, all of different breeds, just playing and frolicking in a bed of white shredded paper. I nearly died.

John didn’t get it, but I mean, come on! How does that not make your day? My favorite was the Yorkie, of course. The other weird thing was that the place didn’t seem to be open. Aren’t they afraid someone will smash that window and grab the goods? I know I almost did.

Anyway, after lingering there for longer than my hubby probably cared to, we went on our way to our planned destination: the Natural History museum. Where, again, I got all excited and nerdy taking pictures of fossils and minerals. (For use at school, right?)

Rawr! Fear my large teeth and tiny hands!

…And a pterodactyl, as promised in my previous post. Not pictured (because no one probably cares about this stuff like I do): a prehistoric moose, the Giantest Tortoise Ever, and the whole cast of characters of The Land Before Time.

It was raining even worse after that, so we decided to avoid more crowds at tourist sites and watched the Packers game in our hotel room. But we did venture out again in the evening to go see a comedy show. Our hotel was right by Washington Park on the NYU campus, so we had to stop for some public displays of affection.

Eww, gross!

The comedy show was alright, except for when I called out that we were from Seattle, which caused a comedian to — of course — rip on our rainy city. Then I made the mistake of saying that it didn’t rain as hard in Seattle as it had that day in New York. Man, he did NOT like that and unleashed all his sarcastic fury on us. The injustice of it all! We still love you, Seattle.

The next day was slightly nicer out, so we were able to get out and walk around a bit more. First, we walked through the Chelsea Market.

Someone had recommended it, saying it was like Seattle’s Pike Place Market, but I disagree. It was twenty times better. Like, it didn’t smell like raw fish. And it was actually indoors and warm. Even though we’d already eaten breakfast, we had to stop at this amazing soup place for a light lunch.

Then we went back to the cold to walk the Highline, which is an old elevated railway turned park. So magical to walk amongst the buildings and get peeping views of different landmarks!

I bet it’s even better in the spring/summer when the plants aren’t dead and the trees are leafed out!

Finally, we did a quick tour of Grand Central Station. This was for John like the natural history museum was for me. It was rather impressive, though, and we really enjoyed the acoustics at the whispering wall!

I didn’t take any more pictures that day, but we went and stood in line for theater tickets again. This time we learned from our mistake and got dinner in our neighborhood before heading uptown. The only downfall was that we had extra time, so we stopped at a wine bar as well to kill time!

The play we saw was Murder for Two, a two-man show in which a murder happens at a party. One guy played the detective, the other guy played all of the other characters (at least 10). They both sang and played the piano, and hilarity ensued of course. Loved it!

We had quite a trip over the holidays! Our first stop was Combined Locks, WI, for Christmas. I have to admit that I didn’t take many pictures while we were there, except for this one:

Yes, that’s John shoveling the driveway after it had snowed several inches the night before. I may or may not have still been in my jammies when I took this one. (There was no “shoveling” snow where I’m from. You got out the tractor and plowed the whole road into town. And by “you” I mean “my dad or some other farmer.”

Highlights of the hometown visit included many family get-togethers at various cousin or aunts/uncles houses, playing spades with Pete and Roxie, celebrating Christmas at Jim and Nikki’s, and having my tears freeze right onto my eyelashes on our ten-minute walk to Church!

After that, we hopped over to New York City for a week. Of course we immediately went out for drinks and to watch the Husky bowl game.

The next morning, we got up bright and early for some sightseeing. Along with about a gazillion other people, we rode the Staten Island Ferry to see old Lady Liberty up close…

…Checked out the NYC skyline from Staten Island (as seen through the 9/11 memorial sculpture there — the tall building is the new World Trade Center building)…

…Ferried back…

…And took the train to Brooklyn and walked back over the bridge with a DIFFERENT gazillion people.

Then we went and stood in line for cheap tickets to see “Avenue Q” off Broadway. We learned several things about how to successfully see a show.

1. Don’t even try to eat anywhere near the theaters, unless you show up hours early.
2. Chipotle is a totally acceptable place to eat instead.
3. Don’t order a margarita at Chipotle.
4. Don’t assume that just because a play involves puppets it is kid-friendly.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s highlights, which include a window full of puppies and a few pterodactyls.

We have a spiffy new freezer in our basement that’s been begging to be filled. And since we use frozen blueberries all the time for pancakes, muffins, cobblers, and smoothies, last weekend we decided to head to the local u-pick. By our calculation, we’ll need three gallons of berries to last the year, which should be more than enough to use a cup or two a few times a month.

It’s a pretty smooth operation. They hook you up with buckets and send you out to the field, telling you which of the five or six patches are currently available for picking. Then it’s up to you to hunt down the ripe ones and try to get more of them into your bucket than a) on the ground or b) in your mouth.

It was slow-going to begin with; the first area we tried had more white berries than blue. But once we got the hang of it and searched around for a good spot, we got going at a pretty good pace.

No, I didn’t just shove all of those into my mouth right after taking the photo. Not that it wasn’t tempting…

Anyway, after about an hour and a half of picking, we’d had about enough for one day, even though we were still well short of our three-gallon goal. But we traipsed back in and paid for our harvest — the final weigh-in was over 6.5 pounds! And at only $1.50 per pound, we got the whole batch for ten bucks!

Back at home, we picked through all of them to rid them of stems, leaves, bugs, etc., and spread them out on rimmed sheets for the freezer.

A few hours later, they were firm enough to be scooped into freezer bags and stacked neatly! Can’t wait to use up the rest of our store-bought ones so that we can dig into these.

Stay tuned for more freezer shenanigans!

Let me tell you a little story about Oscar the tomato plant. When we got him from the nursery, he was about twelve inches tall. You know, a normal starter plant. Not wanting to spend money on a big pot to plant him in, we decided to make an old garbage can his new home. He lived in our sun room for a while, and we’d bring him outside on sunny days to get some fresh air. Soon enough, he was as tall as his mama and still growing — far above the cage we got him.

Sadly, one day when we left him outside it got quite windy, and one of his branches bent and buckled in half. So back inside he came, and we propped his long limbs up against the walls for some support. Miraculously, his kinky branch kept thriving.

But it was not the end of the trauma for Oscar. His lower leaves began to yellow, and it became clear he really wanted to be outside. By now he was almost too tall to get out the door, and during the maneuver his already fragile branch snapped in half, only being held on by a few strands of fiber on one side. Still, knowing his resilience and not wanting to lose half of his buds, we tied him up real good in a sunny spot to stay.

Would you believe that that darn branch still didn’t die? It looked a little wilty for a day or two, but with a good dose of water and some sweet Seattle sunshine, the thing kept putting out leaves and blooms, and the tomatoes there are growing like nothing ever happened. I mean, look at how bad this break is:

And here he is now in all his glory. Just for reference, the branch on the left is about 6 feet tall right now, and that’s not even stretched to its full length. Go Oscar, go!

We harvested for the first time last week, and again this weekend. I have to admit that only a few of them actually made it to the table; they’re just too easy to pop into your mouth right off the vine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you: this variety has earned its name of Sweet Million. There definitely seems like a million buds and green tomatoes, and they’re sweet like candy. Mmm, tomato candy!

Ahh, the Fourth of July. That special time every year where the whole family goes on pilgrimage to the metropolis of Johnson, WA, does silly (foolish?) things in the parade, and gets sunburned by the pool. This year I headed home with Molly and Henry early in the week to enjoy some extra vacation time.

Henry had a great time in the pool! I’ll spare his future sixteen-year-old self from embarrassment by not posting the pictures of him skinny-dipping.

Of course the highlight of the week was the Johnson Parade. This year our family decided to dress up as the Miss Johnson contestants past and present. Never mind how there never has been or never will be a Miss Johnson pageant.

Clockwise, from top left: All the sissies (Molly — Miss Peled, Shannon — Miss Shapen, Alli — Miss Take, Emily — Ms. Erable); Pearl and Opal anxiously awaiting the parade on the train; “The Fiat” in action; Bernie aka Ms. Chief (clearly he was up to no good)

After the parade, we BBQ’d back at Mom’s house with the whole extended family.

Awww! So many cute photo-ops!

The next day, John and I decided to hike to the top of Bald Butte, the highest hill in the region. It was a quick half-hour jaunt up the access road. On the way, we saw plenty of pea plants in bloom, a random honey bee colony, and only a few fences that we had to hop. At the top, we got an amazing 360-degree view of the Palouse — Colton and the Druffel Compound to the south, Pullman and Moscow to the north, and a lot of farm land in between. Loved it!

Hooray for getting to both of our hometowns within two weeks of each other!

My calendar tells me that it’s mid-July, which I find extremely rude! Doesn’t the universe know time needs to goslowlyfrom June through August? But we sure have been enjoying every minute of the summer! Here’s a recap of June.

The first thing we did once school got out was head to Lake Crescent for some camping to celebrate our anniversary (sooo romantic). We snagged a campsite right by the lake…

…cooked a ton of bacon for breakfast…

…and had some duck visitors, which ate right out of my hand. (I gave them bread, not bacon! The male was a big hog and would hardly let his lady friend get a bite. If they want to make it to their first anniversary, he’d better shape up.)

The couple we went with had their own canoe, so we got to tool around the lake a bit. It was the most gorgeous shade of deep turquoise; something to do with no nitrogen in the water. I don’t know, I guess it’s a science thing.

Fun times!

Next up was a trip to Wisconsin for Chris and Lindsey’s wedding! Here’s a little photo montage I made with a Windows Phone app called Phototastic.

Clockwise, starting top left: The happy couple; The other happy couple; John sliding down the giant slide in a hometown park; Lake Michigan beach at Two Rivers; Turtles hanging out on a log; The Shark Bus–our transportation around on the day of the wedding. Sa-weet!

And some other randoms…

Babysitting my sweetie-eyed nephew, Bernie. Umm, Shannon can you please go into work more often so I can spend more time with him?

And we rounded out the month with some of my college friends coming into town for a Mariner’s game. It was retro night at Safeco; all the players were in vintage-style uniforms, and president Taft even made an appearance!

All in all, a pretty darn good June!

So, you may remember that our garden last year flopped. Or is that only us, since it was scarring to put in so much work for so little yield? But I completely blame the neighbors and their too-frequent sprinkling in shady spots and the clay-rich soil. And the bugs that ate sweet Helen the Honeydew. And the fact that we waited until July to plant most things.

But we shan’t dwell on the past, for it’s a whole new season out there, and since we just signed another year-long lease, we felt OK about spending some money to increase our chances this year.

Enter…the garden plot.

When John’s parents were in town last weekend, and since his dad is a total garden guru, they teamed up to make a raised garden bed. We picked the spot in the yard that gets the most sun (yet is also dangerously close to the neighbor’s “crop” of dandelions). The boys made quick work of the sod, even unearthing an old tree stump in the process. Also notice, if  you will, the darker green grass that we planted earlier this spring — coming up nicely!

“Measure twice, cut once, boys,” my daddy would have said.

A few screws and two-by-sixes later, the frame was constructed and in the ground. I also feel obligated to point out that it was I who solved the mystery of the Drill that Wouldn’t Drill — it was in reverse mode. See? My daddy taught me LOTS of things.

Last week, we planted. A fruitful trip to the nursery supplied us with three tomato starters and cucumber, lettuce, spinach, and beet seeds.

The Garden Guru also gave us some tips on caring for the young sprouts. We covered the planted seeds with a layer of this thin white fleecy stuff, which lets light and water through but keeps bugs, weed seeds, and — hopefully — the neighbor’s chickens, out. Two of the tomatoes got put in their own little plastic greenhouse thingies, which are filled with water and collapse around the plant. So luxurious!

Peek-a-boo!

A week later, the seeds are sprouting and the tomatoes are almost too squished in their little homes. The third tomato got planted in a garbage can, of all things. Because why buy a pot when you have a dozen little bathroom-sized trash cans around? Seemed totally normal to us. Anyway, we named that one Oscar, obviously. He’s also doing well and travels back and forth between our sun room and outside when it’s warm. Still no names for the other stuff; I don’t know their personalities well enough yet.

Hooray for home-grown goodness!

We just couldn’t wait for the weather to turn nice, so back in March we planted some herbs and lettuce inside. The sunny breakfast nook is perfect for seedlings; look at how much they’ve grown!

Basil — can’t you just about smell it? We used some on bruschetta for dinner tonight. According to the all-wise-and-powerful Pinterest, pinching those few leaves off is going to lead to huge gains in production. HUGE, I tell you. Or else I’ve cut their young lives short before they had a chance to thrive. I’ll keep you posted.

Cilantro: Spanish for ‘extra-sticky stems and leaves’, apparently. (And by apparently, I mean: don’t trust me because yo no hablo espanol!) No, really, these plants are just one giant manky tangle at this point. Who knows what’s going to happen, but I did sneak a few leaves for burritos this weekend with no ill effects.

But the crowning glory is the lettuce. We planted it in one of those plastic tubs that you buy spinach or salad greens in. The top served as a perfect little greenhouse lid while they got started. And then….

It took off like crazy! Seriously, I don’t think we’re going to be able to eat it as fast as it’s growing. So far we’ve had it on tacos and burgers. In fact, John plucked the leaves and put them straight on his buns — now that’s what a I call a short trip from farm to table!

And don’t even get me started on the outdoor garden we started last week; that’s a whole different blog post.

Is anyone else familiar with this term, or is it just something my sissy made up? Either way, yesterday was the quintessential Sprimmer day: a spring day that feels almost like summer. (Get it? Spring + Summer = Sprimmer.)

It was so nice that we were even able to go play some barefoot volleyball in the backyard for the first time this year, after which I was compelled to wander around the house taking some photos to document that after a long, dreary winter, spring is finally here.

The view from our breakfast nook: all you can see is the white blossoms on the neighbor’s nectarine tree.

A little pot of succulents that have been sitting out ever since I repotted some for the wedding. These were the leftovers, and despite my neglect they are flourishing!

Our very own flowering tree; I saw a guy walking by the other morning and he was just ogling it because it’s so pretty. (I can’t figure out why no one seems to be ogling my lovely Ford Focus, but whatever.) Here’s a close-up of the blossoms:

Oh, and then there’s this; the flowerbed that’s a total mess of weeds, moss, grass, and remnants from last year’s fail vegetable garden attempt.

Yes, that is 2-foot tall grass growing up through the shurb. I’ll take care of it. Eventually. But for now, another beautiful sprimmer day is brewing outside, and even though it seems logical to be outside doing yard work, we have a trip to San Diego to get ready for!