Friday, January 11, 2013

Whirlyball birthday

On Saturday, January 5, I turned 31. It's a far cry from turning 30 which caused me to turn my world upside down - quit my job, move to California, fall in love, all that good stuff. Comparatively, 31 feels like a quiet year.

Tessa spent the night and we watched TV, cooked some food, and gave the dog a bath. We were up at midnight when it officially became my 31st.
Sailor gets a bath to be party-ready.
The next morning, Tessa and I started my birthday at the Korean spa to soak in the tubs and steam in the saunas and relax in all the cool rooms (including charcoal; salt; yellow clay; jade; and our favorite, the snow room). Then we picked up some take n' bake pizzas and went home to prepare for my Whirlyball party. I actually did this for my 26th birthday and it was such a hit that I organized it again. Like my 26th, my birthday once again fell on a Saturday, and I called it 31-going-on-13 (totally forgetting I'd called it 26-going-on-13 before).

Action shot
Whirlyball is absurdly expensive but it's probably cheaper than having people meet me at a bar and buy food and drinks, and definitely more fun. Here's a short video - it looks like we're going in slow motion but it doesn't feel quite this slow when you're playing (though some cars were definitely faster than others).

There were 13 of us so we all got a lot of court time. I played on winning and losing teams, and my own play started strong and gradually weakened until by the end I was just tooling around the court in reverse and ramming into people for the fun of it. Days later I'm still sporting several bruises.

After that we headed to my parents' house which is nearby. They were out of town but we didn't exactly throw a rager. The older we get the less we drink! All my siblings were there which was really fun, and Anne made the most delicious cheesecake I've ever had. That is not an exaggeration.

Archer siblings
Incredible mini cheesecakes! The lens
is smudged from something sugary,

After pizza and dessert we played some games, and when the crowd thinned I introduced my new favorite party game which is like telephone and pictionary mashed together. I have never not been sore from laughter while playing this game.

Playing Racko on the floor
We played Whirlyball in the afternoon and my party was over at 10, which was perfect timing. Tessa cleaned the house, then we watched some TV and went to bed. I had leftover pizza for breakfast the next day, washed down by cheesecake. Last night I took my mom to the symphony for her Christmas and birthday presents and we had a really nice time carrying on this tradition. And tonight (Friday Jan 11) we'll celebrate my birthday and my mom's birthday (which is tomorrow) with family pictures at my brother's studio followed by a nice dinner out. I feel really lucky to have gotten so much quality family time in on this trip.

So far 31 feels pretty good.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Home for the holidays

Christmas and New Year's have come and gone. Here's what I did!

Before I left for Seattle I teamed up with Sara to make some homemade presents. We made salt and sugar scrubs with essential oils, three kinds of finishing sea salts (Meyer lemon, tomato, and herbes de provence), and I made a big batch of persimmon marmalade using persimmons and Meyer lemons from the trees in my backyard. This was my first real exposure to persimmons and it turns out they don't taste like much on their own; they're more a blank slate for other flavors, and citrus is a perfect match.

Body scrub assembly

Final products - body scrub, salts,
and marmalade underneath.
Considering the Maya themselves said the world wasn't going to end I wasn't particularly concerned, but Sara, Ian, Carson and I decided to have a little "in case of zombies" dinner anyway. Instead of doing it on winter solstice on Friday (the day the world was to end), we celebrated on Thursday in case the end came at midnight. Carson made some incredible meatballs and I whipped up a red sauce and we washed it all down with red wine and fancy brandy that Ian opened for the occasion. 

Good to the last drop
Carson makes a mean meatball
Sara, Ian and I made a very last-minute decision to go to Fort Bragg for an ugly sweater/white elephant party on Friday night thrown by the neighboring houses where Whitney and Melissa live. We didn't get out of Ukiah until about 6 and in the pouring rain it took us an hour and a half to get there, but the party was just getting started. I couldn't find an ugly sweater at such late notice but I did find some horrible pajama pants at the Grocery Outlet for $7. I also wore my fur hat and really old snow boots, and probably won for ugliest look. Here's a partial group shot (I'm on the far left). 

The white elephant was pretty funny. Sara brought this popcorn-filled Elvis guitar which becomes a piggy bank once the popcorn is gone (a BigLots find, one of my favorite places in Ukiah), and it was a major hit. Poor Joe had about four gifts stolen!

We drove back that same night, also in the pouring rain, and although it was extravagant to drive three hours for a party it was worth it.


The next day Carson drove me an hour south to Santa Rosa for my flight to Seattle. I love that airport - it's teeny tiny! That very night was Adam's annual Ho Ho Hodown so I threw on a dress and headed to SoDo to sit on Santa's lap. Here I am with Morgan and Nathan:

I'm so short...
Jacob made this awesome pine cone
cheese ball, filled with bacon and
topped with smoked almonds.

My second white elephant in two nights!

Jacob got my gift, which were sock
slippers with stuffed frogs on the front.
I bought two pair for the two parties.
That night I headed up to my parents' house to settle in for Christmas. The next day I met Robyn for an early breakfast before she drove back to Portland, and the rest of the day my mom and I ran errands and wrapped all the presents I had shipped to their house. I'm a notoriously bad wrapper and she more or less took over the job because it pains her to watch me.

Carson started driving that day and arrived the next morning, which was Christmas Eve. I've never brought someone home for Christmas so this was a pretty big deal, and he handled it beautifully. Of course my family is awesome and incredibly welcoming, so I had nothing to worry about.

The next day was Christmas, the biggest day of the year at the Archer household. Us kids aren't allowed in the family room while my parents prepare it, so we gather upstairs in the living room, drink coffee, and wait (more and more patiently as the years go on). Then we get summoned downstairs, empty the contents of our stockings, and start the glorious process of unwrapping the embarrassing number of gifts under the tree. Everyone got Carson something (did I mention how awesome my family is?) and my mom and I got him a stocking, so he was right in there with us.

Christmas with my man and my custom
ribbon-in-hair that I do every year.
The rest of the day we laze around, eat a fattening breakfast, watch movies, play with our new gifts, drink hot buttered rum, take naps, play games... I don't think I've ever gotten dressed on Christmas day. So lovely.

The next day my brother Eric took Carson to the shooting range (part of his Christmas gift). They bonded over bullets while I tried to get some work done. Once they were done I took Carson on a tour of my childhood, past old places where I worked, past all three of my schools, and into Edmonds where we watched the ferries and ate clam chowder at Anthony's Fish Cafe, a favorite from my high school days. Then we went bowling at Robin Hood Lanes, which is sadly closing. I didn't do too terribly considering I hadn't bowled in years, but Carson destroyed me - he even got a turkey (three strikes in a row). 

He even bowls well - so annoying!
The next day Carson, my mom and I went to the outlets in North Bend to a ski shop where Anne got me my snowveralls (aka bibs) last year. Carson needed snow pants and I needed new boots, a ski jacket, and goggles, because we get to go to Aspen in February! More on that later. I would recommend Mt. Si Ski and Skate to anyone! They are so helpful and have consignment as well as new; I got a great jacket for $90 and what looked like brand new North Face boots that fit like a glove for $70.

In the ski shop, looking fly.
After that we went to the nearby Snoqualmie Falls which were roaring. We didn't stay too long since the combination of rain and spray were soaking us through.
The Archer women in front of the falls.
That was the end of our tenure at the Archer household, and we headed down to Capitol hill to house sit for my friend Shawna and her cat. The cat wasn't too pleased to see us and kept us up most of the night meowing, but she did calm down after that.

The next day was sunny and crisp, so we walked downtown to Pike Place market. Carson had never been to Seattle before so I felt like he needed the full tourist experience. He ate a humbow, we got mini donuts, and we even bought a salmon from the fish throwers to take to dinner that night.

Carson and the Seattle waterfront

We were invited to dinner at KMJ's house, and K made the most amazing squash soup, roasted Brussels sprouts, baked salmon (courtesy of the fish throwers), and poached pears for dessert. Then M made a fire outside and we all cozied up around it.

K cooks up a storm for us
The  next day (Saturday December 29 if you've lost track), Carson, Amber and I went snowshoeing off of highway 2. Our destination? Scenic hot springs. It took us about an hour and a half to make the often vertical climb, but once we got there it was totally worth it - we had the hot springs all to ourselves, all day! I packed us a picnic of rosemary bread, cheese, salami, sliced veggies, and homemade tzaziki sauce. We soaked and ate and drank mate and beer, gawked at the weasel that boldly worked its way closer and closer until it popped up right next to us, had some very pleasant conversation, and couldn't believe it when it was already time to hike back down. We had a glimpse of blue sky but after that it fogged over, so it seemed darker than it was and we got out of dodge at 2:45 to avoid getting stuck snowshoeing in the dark. 

The hot spring tubs
Amber and Carson on the way back down.
Amber hiking down a creek bed with
snow walls on each side.
The next day was Sunday - football day! We took a bus down to Pioneer Square since it was a home game, and Carson was blown away by how loud the Seahawks stadium was. Luckily we won (and have since won our first playoff game!) so everyone was in a good mood. We ate gyros at my favorite spot, Main Street Gyros, then popped into J&M Cafe, the New Orleans, and Fuel before finally finding a spot at the bar of McCoy's firehouse. At halftime we relocated to Swannie's, so he definitely got a sampling of Pioneer Square bars.

Carson with the famous firefighters.
At the Waterfall park (birthplace of
the USPS)
On New Year's Eve we had pho with Casey and then didn't do much of anything. We were both under the weather, particularly Carson, so we laid around Shawna's apartment, took a quick walk to the grocery store, and made a delicious swimming rama for dinner (Carson makes a mean peanut sauce). Amber came over for dinner but left before midnight because she had to work early. Shawna's place has a view of the Space Needle so we watched the show, Carson went downstairs for a cream cheese sausage outside Chop Suey, and then passed out. As someone who doesn't really care about NYE, it was a perfectly fine way to spend the holiday.

The Space Needle looked closer than
this picture shows; it  was actually an
incredible view and a really fun show.

The next day was beautiful (but COLD, brr) so we drove through Fremont on our way to the Ballard locks. I think this was Carson's favorite thing in Seattle.

The next day (January 2), Carson left town, my parents left town, and Shawna came home, so I was at the airport twice and ended the day on the couch with my parents' dog. 

I'm in Seattle until this Saturday January 12 so I actually have even MORE home stories to relay, including my birthday. More soon!