Monday, January 30, 2012

A Busy January

I'm really behind on the backlog but I don't want to go even further in the hole so I'm getting January done before going back to September.

January is usually a month of rest and recovery. Not for this girl! I started it out big on New Year's Day by planning a trip to Mexico with my friend Jacob. I hate planning things too far in advance and we leave THIS SATURDAY for a week in the coastal town of Chacala - did you know you can get to Puerto Vallarta in a 4.5 hour direct flight?? - and I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself. In fact, I don't contain myself - I've been jumping around saying things like "a week from today we'll be laying on the beach/drinking on the beach/in a hammock on the beach/hiking in the jungle near the beach!!" Everyone but Jacob hates me.

Birthday Girl

I turned 30 on January 5. At the time it was a little traumatic but I think I've settled into it. During the day I went to the Olympus (aka Korean) spa in Lynnwood, where I got a body scrub - if you've never had it done, trust me when I say that the amount of skin they get to come off your body is disturbing at best. On my way home I got a call from someone trying to deliver flowers which is scary for me since I've only ever gotten flowers twice, both in semi-creepy situations, but luckily they were from my fabulous friend Annie in Los Angeles. Thanks Annie for not only breaking my creepy flower streak, but going to extremes to make sure you ordered my favorite flowers.

That night I had a party in the back room at Liberty on 15th to celebrate. It was, if I do say so myself, an incredibly fun night. To get to the room you have to walk through a door that looks like a wall and then you stumble into this large area filled with couches and good lighting. A steal at FREE to rent, but you do pay in lost time trying to reserve and then confirm your reservation. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, though. My sister Anne plus Morgan and Nathan made different kinds of cupcakes, people drank freely even though it was a Thursday and therefore a work night, and a lot of people stayed way later than they intended. I have a lot of blurry photos from the evening, and this is me giving what I think was a pretty bad speech:

My sister Tessa and I were the last two left and we spent an hour singing along to her iPhone music - everything from Disney (a lot of Disney) to Don McLean to Amy Winehouse to Garth Brooks to Billy Joel. The staff were highly amused by us. This is me singing and gesticulating to the song "Just Around the Riverbend" from Pocahontas, I believe:

The next day started a birthday weekend at a coworker's house in Plain, WA. The pass was clear and the drive was lovely, with a requisite stop at the 59er Diner for lunch before finishing the last few miles off. Once there we split into two factions: snow and spa. Amber and I suited up to frolic in the yard while Dustin, Jacob, and Robyn headed for the hot tub, where they spent most of the weekend. Anne got me these amazing snoveralls for Christmas (I've been told they're called 'bibs' but snoveralls is a WAY BETTER WORD) and I can't get enough of them:

Unfortunately our plans to build a giant snowman were foiled when we discovered that week-old snow is hard as, well, ice. Instead we found a sled in the shed and did a little gentle slope sliding before deciding to build a cooler for our drinks next to the door. This took longer than you would have thought (you can barely see the hot tubbers in the background):

That night Robyn made her mom's amazing homemade beef noodle soup and we did some more hot tubbing before turning in.

The next day the rest of the troops descended on us and Amber, Shawna, Katie, Toddler J and I headed to local Wenatchee State park for cross country skiing while everyone else stayed behind to laze. The park was not only gorgeous, but almost completely empty - talk about tranquil. Here is Lake Wenatchee. We were lucky to get a clear day and the mountains reflected perfectly in the water.

Amber and me before I put my skis back on:

We brought a sled to pull Toddler J around in and did some serious sledding down a massive hill. Everyone went twice and I was somehow really bad at it! The way I was sitting or steering or something kicked all the snow up in my face, blinding me so I couldn't really see if I was about to hit a tree. I guess I never learned how to sled as a kid. Here we are at the top of the hill:

That night Katie, Shawna, and Amber made pulled pork mole tacos (I pulled out all the ingredients and made them for us to eat twice after dinner that night) and Casey followed up with a delicious tres leches birthday cake. Robyn had written some "Elizabeth trivia" and Katie and Casey tied for the win.

It's amazing how much lazing you can fit into a short weekend and we took full advantage of the cozy house by sprawling all over it:

The next day was Sunday and Dustin made my favorite breakfast, biscuits and gravy with eggs and hashbrowns. There was also considerable mimosa consumption by the non-drivers.

After breakfast we all took off in separate carloads, with the original group staying a few hours longer for one last hot tub and a quick walk in the snow. Here are Jacob and I on a nearby pedestrian bridge:

Thank you to my friends who made this weekend so special!

Snowpocalypse 2012

I think the whole country knows that Seattle got a nasty week of snow/slush/icy rain two weeks ago. I admit that we are sometimes wimps, as the LA Times proclaimed us, but this was a particularly nasty week and hey, no one calls us wimps but us! This article is a good explanation of why Seattle shuts down when it snows - stop judging us and blame the hills.

Not too much to report on the snow week. I did have to go to work since I live so close, but don't worry - I wore my snoveralls. Obviously.

In the evenings I watched the drunks sled down Denny a few blocks from my house and I consumed 2 seasons of Say Yes to the Dress on Netflix. Overall not too traumatic but I was glad when it melted.

Winter Wedding Bells

Our dear family friend Jamey was married on January 21 and my whole family turned out for the affair. The wedding was the Saturday after the snow and even as of Friday the streets were still a mess. Luckily it warmed up enough to melt the street ice, and what was supposed to be a day of dumping rain miraculously turned into a gorgeous, sunshiney afternoon. What a lucky break! The reception was at Shilshole Bay Beach Club and the sun set over the room - bright and beautiful.

I can't remember the last time my family was together and dressed up - probably another wedding - but we so rarely get family shots that these are already dear to me. You'd never know it was January in Seattle!

We had so much fun seeing old friends, dancing the electric slide, and avoiding the bouquet.

The very next day I got even MORE family time as we celebrated my mom's and my birthdays, including MORE gourmet cupcakes by Anne. Confidential to my family: I love the hell out of you guys.

Weekend Visitor

My friend Meagan was supposed to come up for my birthday weekend but the flu waylaid her for a few weeks. She came up this weekend instead and we had a blast. Friday night we had a dozen oysters at Taylor Shellfish Farms before going for a late dinner at Terra Plata, both in nearby Melrose Market which I highly recommend checking out.

The next day we went to Ivar's for lunch - touristy but good - and then giggled our way through Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. I'm embarrassed to say this is the only photo we took all weekend:

That night I made kimchi fried rice with the last of the old batch and the first of the new (both so good) and Nick and Jacob came over for a game of Settlers of Catan. After that the four of us headed to a Jet City Improv show in the University district and our jaws hurt from laughing so much - man they're funny.

Sunday was a lazy day of shopping and a late brunch where we played rummy and drank warm drinks before heading to her aunt and uncle's incredible condo over Kerry park for dinner. It flew by but I have it on good authority that I'll see her again soon.

And now it's January 30 and I'm somehow caught up for the month!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sayonara, Sallie Mae!

My big goal last year was to pay down debt - a combination of car, credit, and student loans - and from January 2011 to January 2012 I was able to cut it in half.

Today I had my last and biggest milestone of this 12-month push: the VERY LAST STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT I hope I ever have to make. A year ago I owed them 5k.

My favorite Fridays are those rare paydays that fall on the 13th. I have to say, today's was especially satisfying!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Shameless Appreciation for Acupuncture

I feel like sometimes acupuncture is on that list of things we admit to doing with eyes turned downward to avoid the smirk such a confession might draw. Well, I refuse to hide under the Western rock of shame any longer! I've been getting acupuncture on and off for about two years, and in August I made a concerted effort to get acupuncture every Saturday morning at the inspired Community Acupuncture Clinic in Columbia City as part of a physical and spiritual cleanse. I know I should give the community clinics on Capitol hill a try but I just love CAPCC.

The sky’s the limit in terms of what I’ve sought help for with acupuncture, and I always see results. Physically, it has effectively eliminated my lock jaw and carpal tunnel in my right wrist; it eases the tightness in my shoulders and neck from sitting at a desk; it helps my thick blood flow so I don’t get sore calves from minor clots; and it has, on more than one occasion, relieved intestinal issues.

On another level, I often request points to raise my energy level, release stress, and help me with anger/sadness/resentment/whatever I’m feeling that I want to work through. One especially memorable time I felt an extreme heaviness concentrated around a needle in my shin until it built to a level where it imploded on itself, leaving me feeling light as air. Very intense and incredible to experience. Even when I don't have such tangible sessions, I always leave feeling like my batteries have been recharged and I spend the rest of the day at total peace. I wish I could go every day.

I had a conversation about the benefits of acupuncture with someone recently and he was pretty science-snobby about it: “It’s just endorphins being released into your body.” “There’s no science to back it up.” I feel bad for closed-minded people who need more evidence than a centuries-old practice and a person in the flesh describing the countless health advantages she has reaped. And really, who cares WHY it works? The fact is, it works miracles for millions of people. I'm not from the show-me state but even if I were I'd still buy into acupuncture because I've seen and experienced first-hand what a blessing it can be.

If you’ve been considering it I can’t recommend it enough, and I especially encourage you to check out a community acupuncture clinic near you. It's less expensive and has a warmer, cozier feeling - the shared energy of multiple people receiving acupuncture at the same time is both comforting and powerful, unlike the often sterile, lonely rooms of private acupuncturists.

Have you done acupuncture? What was your experience like?

p.s. Happy birthday to my mom today! Mom, you're so awesome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Backlog: September White Water Trip

I've been a wee bit remiss in writing lately due to the frenzy of the holidays and being way too busy for my own good (oh, and I turned 30 - more on that later).

Anyway, I've cleared some time in my schedule so without further ado, let the backlog continue.

Months before September, my diligent sister Anne saw a Living Social deal for white water rafting. Flash forward a few months' worth of scheduling conflicts, and 5 out of the 7 of us - plus my friend Katie - were on our way to the Tieton river near Yakima for an afternoon of watery fun.

The ride itself was pretty fun; we all piled into my dad's van with snacks and blankets for the 2+ hour drive. The weather was a perfect 75 or so and when we arrived they were barbecuing a huge lunch to feed the morning rafters who had just finished, and us afternoon rafters about to begin.

After chowing down we received our ultra-sexy wetsuits...

...while Tessa found a familiar face - a girl she knows works for the rafting company, and this connection hooked us up with the best guide acquaintance could buy: Pickles. Here he is teaching Tessa how to flip a boat:

After a safety talk and a quick lesson on commands and dos and don'ts, we were getting ready to pile into our boat when Pickles noticed that we were pretty low on air. The portable pump was broken. After staring at the boat in contemplation for a few moments, Pickles shrugged and said something along the lines of, well, it'll be an interesting ride! I think he was happy for the challenge.

We put into the water and immediately started working quite well as a team, something Pickles complimented us on several times. After the first mini-rapid, everyone was screaming and laughing and completely hooked.

Look at how in sync our oars are!

The thing about having less air is that you ride really low in the water and flop about, making each rapid feel significantly larger but also providing a lot more opportunity to fall out. Although a few people in other boats did get bounced into the water, we didn't lose a soul and had the most hilarious time being the joke 'low rider' of the bunch. I highly recommend riding with less air if you ever have the chance.

The Tieton is a really shallow river and is apparently one of the most technically difficult in the area. We never would have known since Pickles was such a competent (and cocky but what outdoors enthusiast isn't at age 23?) guide. The ride was the exact right amount of time; just as we were starting to get cold and sore, it was over.

After peeling off our wetsuits we took a picture with Pickles...

...and piled back into the van to have dinner in nearby Naches at a local dive - the "Walkabout Creek Saloon" - recommended to us by the guides (who ended up filing in about 30 minutes after we did). Burgers and tater tots digesting, we set off for the drive home with just about everyone in the car passing out except my trusty dad behind the wheel.

I have a feeling that wasn't the last time the Archers will hit the rapids!