2.28.2010

Eye of the Tiger

2010 is the Year of the Golden Tiger on the Chinese lunar calendar. This is a special lunar year that only comes along once every 60 years. So not only will our little boy be born under this special sign, but I have a have a new nephew who is a Golden Tiger as well!


Baby Rocky made his dramatic entrance to the world this past Tuesday, just about 4 weeks early. He clocked in at a hefty 3 pounds 13 ounces and we were lucky enough to be the first family (other than his parents, obviously) to get to meet him this weekend!


Little Rocky's road to the world has been paved with uncertainty and worry, but this little guy is quickly moving on up in life. He started out in level 3 of the NICU on Tuesday, got downgraded to level 2 by Friday evening and less than 24 hours later (on Saturday night) has was already down to the lowest level in the NICU! It sounds like he basically just needs to gain some weight so that he can self-regulate his body temperature, and he'll be heading home. His journey has been remarkably well aligned with the traits common to a Golden Tiger, so much so that it almost makes me believe in astrology. :)


Traits of a Golden Tiger: a fierce will to survive, bravery, competitiveness and a habit of rising to the top. Against all odds, this little baby nephew of ours is displaying a fiercer than fierce will to survive. He truly is a fighter, true to his name. We are so proud of his momma for believing in her faith and intuition all of these months and for giving him a chance to survive, because it has totally paid off. The road ahead is sure to be stressful and not always the easiest (as it is with all newborn babies), but we absolutely cannot wait for our little Golden Tigers to both get here and be best buds throughout the years.


Plus, how perfect is it that we’re all Tigers ourselves (both sets of parents), and our first babies are going to be Tigers as well?! It was surely meant to be. :)

Baby Rocky is so cute, and we're not just saying that because we're a biased aunt and uncle...all of the nurses are ga-ga over him as well! Here's a link to the photos from our short visit this weekend: Rocky photo album. We hope to be heading back down to Portland in a few weeks so that we can see him and his mom and dad at home.

Welcome to the world, Baby Rocky!

2.22.2010

Kitchen counters and other sundries

Our kitchen counters are here! Our kitchen counters are here!


Other than our appliances, we knew that the counters would be the most expensive part of our DIY kitchen remodel. Expensive because we wanted stone and we knew that it couldn’t be a DIY project so we’d have to hire someone and pay for labor and installation. But since we were saving so much money on all the other aspects of our kitchen, this is an expense that we gladly took on. We decided to go with quartz counters for a variety of reasons but mostly because they are super durable, look great, don't stain easily and don’t require periodic sealing like some of the other stone options.

Before we even had a chance to fully complete our research into the best option for where to purchase our counters, my friend Amy (Daphne and Chloe's mom) told me about a place they’d found in the SoDo district of Seattle, Pius Kitchen and Bath. OMG, this place is seriously a diamond in the rough! Their prices were several thousand dollars less than the big box stores, and they had a decent selection as well. Their prices are the best thing, but the second best thing is how fast they are. We finalized the order on a Sunday and they were willing to come and install that next Thursday. Since we wanted a weekend installation date though, we had to wait slightly longer...but they still came within 2 weeks of when we placed the order.


And how did they turn out? We love them!! The installation guys came on time, cut and shaped the counters on-site and finished the job up in just a few hours. Plus they were very polite and professional.

In other kitchen developments, my dad and stepmom came up the weekend before our counter installation and helped us get a few finishing details done so we’d be ready for the counter installation. Namely, we now have a GORGEOUS microwave installed above our range (still need to finish getting the vent out the roof, but it’s almost done). We also now have some beautiful custom trim work done on the dining room side of our new wall (but I've been having a hard time getting a good shot that truly captures how cool it looks). And because Karl did such a great job carefully removing the bead board from the back of the old cabinets, we were able to continue with our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle theme and reuse the bead board on the back of our new cabinets. I love it when plans come together like that!


Man, I tell ya...when this kitchen is done it is going to be the nicest part of our house! And we have saved so much money thanks to the generosity of perfect strangers and the hard work of our loving family. I may be a bit more emotional and hormonal than normal right now (some days more than others), but I really do appreciate with my whole being everything that everyone has done for us. XOXO :)

2.16.2010

Happy Pancake Day!

Today is Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day! While I’m not overly religious, I’m never going to pass up an opportunity for a good pancake. You know what that means? Breakfast for dinner tonight! :)

I have several recipes for homemade pancake mix, but I’ve never even tried them because I just love the Snoqualmie Falls pancake mix so much. Typically we have our pancakes plain with just a little butter and syrup, but in honor of Pancake Day we decided to have a trio of fruit pancakes to see which we liked the best.

First up, apples and cinnamon pancakes. Shredded half a camano apple and added ½ tsp of cinnamon to the mix. Verdict? OMG, it tastes like a hearty apple pie.


Next up, banana pancakes. Mashed up one ripe banana with a dash of vanilla and added to the mix. Verdict? Holy cow, this is good.


And last, blueberry pancakes. Added whole blueberries to the mix. Verdict? Blueberries were made to be added to pancakes!


Final verdict? It’s a three-way tie, there is no clear winner here. They are all good! I see lots of fruit pancakes in our future.

(Sorry for the so-so quality of the photos. Somehow in our whole-house shuffle during the kitchen remodel I have misplaced my favorite camera lens. Boooo!)

Happy Pancake Day!

2.12.2010

This is a Man's World...

(alternate title: Let's Hear It For The Boy)

Boys dominate our household – 1 husband, 1 pup and 2 kitties...all male! Well soon we’ll be adding one more boy to the mix as we found out at my mid-pregnancy ultrasound that our little one is a BOY! Looks like I get to continue my reign as the alpha female in this house for a bit longer. :)


Above is a 3-D image of our little boy. He was being shy and wouldn’t move his hands or uncurl his body no matter how nicely we asked (or how much we pushed and prodded on my belly), so no face/profile shots today. I do get a follow-up ultrasound in 12 weeks though to monitor some very minor things they are keeping an eye on in his kidneys, so hopefully we’ll get a good Glamour Shot at that time. :)

We're so excited to meet this little guy in 4.5 months!

2.07.2010

soffit to me

Our kitchen had a soffit built into the framework. HAD being the optimal word here! :) It went from this, on Jan 24...


To this, yesterday...


To this, around noon today...


And now it looks like this! (there are doors and shelves for these cabinets, we just hadn't put them on yet when I took this pic)


It's beginning to look more and more like a kitchen in here...and now we even have a little half wall on the back end of the peninsula!


I keep saying to Karl, "Man, it is so nice to have a professional (Rocky) and an exceptionally good hobbyist (my dad) in the family!" And it's also nice that we found a smokin' deal on a flight out here for Rocky this weekend (thank you, Midwest Airlines!).

Next up, my dad is coming back up to help us put the finish pieces on the cabinetry and then the weekend after next our luscious quartz counter tops are being installed. I can't wait!

Thanks SO MUCH to Rocky for all of his hard work this weekend. We got everything accomplished that was on our wish list and then some. You rock! :)

2.06.2010

Kitchen Update, part II

And now, page 2 of the story…

I wasn’t sure when we’d get the rest of the cabinets up here for the rest of the remodel, but apparently my dad had other ideas. Karl and I were taking a trip back to Missouri to visit family during the last week of January, and my dad hatched a little plan to rent a truck, drive up the rest of the cabinets and install the lower cabinets while we were gone so we wouldn’t be too terribly inconvenienced by an unusable kitchen for very long. No amount of “Are you sure? That’s a lot of work for one person to do by himself. Are you REALLY sure?” questions could deter him from doing this though, so a rental truck was procured, a few extra cabinets were purchased from HD Supply (a fabulous source for affordable cabinets and other home improvement goods in the Sacramento area, by the way) and we anxiously kept an eye on the weather forecast for the two mountain passes one must cross to get from Sacramento to Seattle (Siskiyou Pass and Mt. Shasta, if you are wondering).

The other crucial piece to this puzzle was that we (well, Karl really...since I’m in a “delicate condition”) had to get the old cabinets/counter ripped out before Dad arrived. So the weekend before our trip, Karl gutted the kitchen! I helped by cleaning up, going on food runs and offering moral support...but Karl did all of the huffing and puffing and blowing our house (kitchen) down. Two trips to the dump later, and we were left with a blank slate. Along the way we found some lovely old wallpaper, a very poorly insulated drainpipe, a big hole in the drywall, some not-so-safe electrical work and a hole in the floor that had at some point allowed mice to get in and create a nest under our cabinets! YUCK!


Off we went to Missouri and in came my dad to pet-sit and install cabinets. What a guy! I heart him. :) He caulked the drainpipe gaps, plugged the drywall/critter holes, fixed the shoddy electrical wiring, leveled the floors, installed the lower cabinets (and even raised them up a few inches to make it easier on our backs since we’re both so tall), hooked up the dishwasher (O Happy Day!!), installed a temporary plywood counter and then (with Karl’s help, after we returned) re-installed our heavy old cast iron sink so we could have a semi-functioning kitchen again. All in the span of one week! I really heart him. :)


So that’s where we were as of February 2, 2010. As I type this Rocky (my FIL) is here for the weekend helping us rip out the soffit, build a small raised wall on the back of the peninsula and running some new outlets for the space. Then we'll still have to install the rest of the upper cabinets, install counters and a sink, paint/glaze the cabinets and apply a frosting treatment to the glass fronts of the cabinets. Lots of work still to do, lots of work already done...and it’s all going to be so worth it. The kitchen already looks and feels at least 200% better than what we started with, and we’re not even done!


I have to give HUGE THANKS AND APPRECIATION to Rocky, Susan, Dad and Karl…you have all done so much work for us (not just in the kitchen), and a simple thank you will never convey just how grateful I am for all you’ve done.

More updates to come as we progress through the remodel. And once we’re done with the kitchen, it’s nursery time! And garden time!

2.05.2010

Kitchen Update, part I

When I last left off, my wonderful in-laws had come to visit in October and generously used their entire Seattle vacation time helping us move a wall to give us more space in the kitchen. Before I get to the more recent update though, let me provide everyone with the back-story to this whole kitchen remodel.

To borrow a phrase from the movie Clueless, our kitchen was sort of a Monet when we bought this house. The previous owners had done just enough to make the kitchen look good enough (except for the appliances) to attract potential buyers, but not enough to actually make the kitchen GOOD.


We dreamed and saved and clipped inspiration photos out of magazines, but we still weren’t really sure that we’d ever be able to afford a full kitchen remodel. I sure did get tired of hand-washing dishes though, and at some point we just decided to go for it. We started by hiring a plumber to replace all of our old galvanized plumbing (kind of important to have good water pressure if you’re going to have a dishwasher!), and while we were at it we had them install a gas line in the kitchen so we could convert to a gas stove eventually. The new water pressure was great, but we were still left with our cruddy old kitchen at this point.

Then about a year ago some new neighbors moved in next door to my dad and stepmom and they proceeded to completely gut their house. One day as I was driving to work I had a little flash of brilliance and I immediately called up my dad and put him to the task of asking his new neighbors what they were planning on doing with the kitchen cabinetry that they were in the process of removing. Several months of wondering later, and they gave us the cabinets. FOR FREE. Unbelievable! These cabinets are 10-ish years old, but are in wonderful shape. Solid maple with panel doors and really well constructed...and they were just going to go into a landfill! Man, am I glad my dad doesn’t have any qualms with pestering a complete stranger until he agrees to give us his unwanted cabinets!


So now it’s late summer 2009 and we have a bunch of cabinets sitting in a garage just east of Sacramento, and that means it’s planning time! My dad has been tinkering with measurements and plans for our kitchen since we got these bad boys, and things really got moving in January (It helps to reveal that you are pregnant and by golly that kitchen had better be done well before the baby comes, darn it! Amazing how that works to kick-start things!). We road-tripped down to Cali for Christmas and brought home a few of the upper cabinets, then my dad and Karl installed them a few weeks later. After months of storing our dishes in various parts of the house, it was so nice to move them into the new (to us) cabinets!


You’d never know it by looking at these cabinets, but my dad did a TON of work to them to make them fit into our space. The upper cabinet to the left of the fridge was originally part of a bank of three cabinets, so it had to be cut apart and re-assembled. Then the cabinet above the fridge required a few hours of on-site work (by my dad and Karl) to cut it down, file and re-assemble it to make it fit in the smaller-than-expected space. Now it all fits like a glove and it looks like it was just meant for this space!

Coming next, part II...

2.04.2010

Hi...

I’ve been such a bad blogger these last several months! We do have a good excuse though, and since I’m pretty sure all of our friends and family who read this blog already know...I won’t beat around the bush. I’m pregnant! Due the first week of July, and we’ll find out next week if the little one is a boy or a girl. We are so, so, so thrilled about this baby (and also a little bit nervous, if I’m being honest). Karl and I have been together a little over 9 years now, so we’ve definitely had our 1+1=2 time. It was still a complex decision to make that big leap to 1+1=3 though, and a decision we definitely didn’t take lightly...but make the leap we have, and we are barreling toward July with hopeful/nervous anticipation.


And now to answer the top 10 questions I’ve been getting...

1) How are you feeling? The first 6-8 weeks after that BFP (that’s Big Fat Positive, in pregnancy-speak) were pretty brutal. I was crampy, insanely exhausted and would feel wicked nauseous and dizzy if I didn’t eat every 2-3 hours. My energy is back now though, and for the most part the nausea has ceased. Being pregnant is very weird, but overall I’d say I feel really good considering all the craziness that’s going on inside my body right now. I haven’t had any major cravings or aversions to speak of, except for maybe fruit and chocolate milk cravings.

2) How much weight have you gained? My first response to this question would normally be “None of your business, don’t be so nosy!”...but since it seems to be a common question I’ll have you know that I lost 2 pounds during my first trimester and I have no idea what’s happened since then because I haven’t had my next doctor’s appointment yet (and I don’t weigh myself at home, except on the Wii Fit...and I haven’t been on the Wii in a while).

3) You’re not still planning on growing that big vegetable garden, are you?? Yes, of course we are! Honestly, one of my pet peeves is when people think they know what I will and will not be able to handle while pregnant and/or after the baby comes. Growing fresh, organic food is one of my biggest passions, and I will always make time for it in one form or another. Seed starting will begin within the next few weeks, plants typically go in the ground by Mother’s Day (early May) and then harvesting/preserving doesn’t really start in earnest until August so I’ll be home on maternity leave and hopefully will be adjusting well to life with a newborn by that point. Plus, Karl has always been and will continue to be a big help when I need it. During the peak 2009 harvest time I threw my back out something fierce, and was out of commission for several weeks…and he did all the picking and an awful lot of the canning as well during that time.

4) But how will Henry handle a new baby in the house? Who knows! He hasn’t been around a lot of babies, but we’re confident that he’ll be able to adapt well to the bambino. If we need to do additional training with him, then so be it. No biggie.


5) What about the cats? You aren’t planning on keeping them after the baby comes, are you? I’m always shocked that anyone would ask us this question, but I seem to get it a fair amount...so let me just say that we are absolutely keeping the cats! Hobbes and Cooper have adjusted so well to anything we throw at them, and we’re positive that they’ll adjust to baby also. As long as they have each other and a warm place to nap and cuddle, they are happy!

6) You’re not going to go all hippy dippy on us with this baby, are you? Come on now, do you even have to ask this question?! We try to live our lives as eco-friendly as possible, and that won’t change where the baby is concerned. Stay tuned for more details on this in a future post.

7) What room will you use for the nursery? We’re going to convert the red room into the nursery. It won’t be red anymore though!

8) What about work/daycare? I’m currently working on this one, and don’t have too much to share yet. I know what Karl and I both want, but it’s going to take a little more work before everyone else agrees with us. :)

9) Have you picked out a name? We have picked out a boy’s name, but not a girl’s name yet. Even though we are 99.9% sure of the boy’s name, we still reserve the right to change our minds so I’m not going to share anything just yet.

10) Are you planning on having a natural childbirth? I believe that everyone should keep their options open and do what feels right for them at the time. I also know that even though it would probably be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I am totally 100% strong enough to make it through a natural childbirth (but I won’t beat myself up if I ultimately decide on an epidural). Heck, I even strongly considered a homebirth! But don’t freak out on me, Dad...I’m going to give birth in a hospital with doctors and nurses tending to me (this time, anyway).

So there you have it, the reason for my radio silence these past few months and answers to the most common questions that I’ve gotten lately. I’ve got all sorts of ideas for future blog posts, so I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be consistently blogging from now on! :)