Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Our kitchen is slowly taking shape and giving us hints of what it'll look like when all is said and done.

We are still fawning over our new granite counter and how pretty it is. Because we were able to convert our existing sink to an undermount sink with the addition of the granite counter, we quickly realized we needed a taller kitchen sink faucet. Eric and I peeked around online and found one that we liked. Part of this weekend was spent under our sink tightening this, attaching that, and making sure no leaks reared their ugly heads. We did hit a bit of a snag with a leak, but quickly mopped it up and got the problem solved (WHEW!).

Yesterday, we came home to our new subway tile on the south wall of the kitchen (between the granite and the cupboards). We also now have a windowsill!! Our old kitchen window was flush with the wall; I never realized how excited I'd be to have a windowsill!!

I don't know what's next for the kitchen, but I did hear something about making our cabinets plumb so there aren't gaps between them. That works for me!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Scones, Biscuits ... Tomato, Tomahto

This month's Daring Bakers challenge could not have been more perfect for a baker who is eye deep in a kitchen remodel (ah hem ... such as yours truly). We made biscuits ... or scones, depending upon which country you live in. Here in the U.S.A, we call them biscuits and they were mighty good!! I've used the Betty Crocker (I think) buttermilk biscuits recipe for as long as I can remember, but after this challenge, I think it is safe to say that I'll no longer use my old standby. These biscuits were fantastic!

I wound up making the basic biscuit recipe (milk) and one of the alternative recipes (cream) just to see if there was much of a difference between the two. There was! Our family voted for the cream biscuits hands down (and mouths full). Not only were these biscuits really good, they were also a great project for Annika and me to do together. She had a great time sifting the flour, mixing the ingredients (sometimes with her hands, other times with a spoon), and eating our fresh-from-the-oven biscuits with homemade jam.

Annika sifting the flour

Ta da!

Our butter and flour all mixed together to a "fine gravel/sand" consistency
Annika stirring the dough
(although it doesn't look like it, I really did help make these biscuits!!)

Our dough after adding the milk
Ready for the oven!

Annika taking in the glory that is her biscuit

Annika gives the biscuits a big "YUMMMMM" and thumbs up!
Cream-based biscuits

Milk-based biscuits

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

One of my happy places

There's no secret that I adore the water. I can't even count how many times I've said that I'd never be able to live (happily) in a landlocked state. I find an immeasurable amount of tranquility and sense of personal scope when I'm around water—especially large bodies of water. (No, the dripping faucet in our bathroom just doesn't quite have the same impact on me.)

Recently, our local news has showcased a baby otter pup that was born at our aquarium. Fortunately, my office is just down the street from the aquarium and I decided today was the day to visit the new pup. Never did I expect the pup's viewing window to have the crowd that it did mid-day on a weekday. It was nutty!! In addition to us gawkers, there were also two biologists parked at the window monitoring the pup and mama making sure all was going well. As I stood there watching the mama and her pup do laps around the tank (the mama was grooming the pup's tail while the pup slept), I quickly realized it was anything but an ideal photography opportunity, but I still caught a few pictures of the otters. One of the caretakers sprayed down the window to do a little cleaning, which did plenty to make a difficult photography situation even trickier. On top of that, the crowd was reflected in the viewing window; they weren't the ones I wanted pictures of.

My photos from the non-otter portion of the aquarium turned out much better. I had issues taking photos of the jellyfish; those darned things move so much that it is really tricky to get them in focus ... that and the fact they're in a tank that has constantly changing lights!!

sea anemone

I have no idea what this is, but thought it was pretty

Otter pup and her mama (Aniak)

This seal was much easier to photograph ... no line, no waiting!



diver feeding a wolf eel

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Kitchen of Mass Destruction

And to think all of the work we've been doing (yes, this is the royal we; the real "we" is the rock star of a man David van Sanford, who has really been the vast majority of the work on our house ) for the past 3 weeks started with Eric wanting to fix the wood under our kitchen sink.

Today, the mirrored wall became a thing of the past! We decided to convert it from reflective surface to a pantry and spot for bottles of wine. We've also decided to replace the yellow Formica that was on the walls with white subway tile. Can we get a collective "woo hoo" from everyone? :)

Bye, bye mirrored wall!
The vertical lined wall used to be covered in 12"x12" mirrored tiles.
The wall that is 90 degrees from that wall used to have cupboards and yellow Formica.

Bye, bye yellow Formica

Bye, bye cabinets (don't worry, they'll be back, just in a slightly
different configuration) and yellow Formica!

Next up - more windows will go in tomorrow. Granite counter top and kitchen sink (our old one, but just excited it is coming back!!!) will also go in tomorrow. YIPPEE!!!

The Next Generation of Look Alikes

Growing up, my best friend and I had a habit of showing up in either identical outfits or outfits that looked like we coordinated our clothes (she'd wear black pants and a black/white checkered boyfriend jacket on the day I'd wear my black/white checkered pants and black boyfriend jacket). Even on my 25th birthday, she showed up at my door wearing khaki pants and a denim shirt ... exactly what I was wearing. People would often ask us if we planned to coordinate our wardrobes.... we were dorky growing up, but not THAT dorky. (Hee hee - me using the term "dorky" probably proves I haven't completely outgrown my dorkiness!)

ANYWHO ... the reason behind me telling this story....

When I got to Annika's school yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight of Annika and her BFF Allison doing (by chance) exactly what Kate and I used to do (by chance). Annika was in her heart dress and Allison was in heart tights that looked like they were made to go with Annika's dress. The girls were pleased as punch when I pointed out their complimentary clothes!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Not Exactly "Snowmageddon", but We'll Take It

For the past few days, the weather forecasters have been telling us to prepare for a huge snowstorm... one that could possibly break records for our area. Well, the snow has arrived and isn't anywhere near their original predictions of crippling snow, but we'll still take it. The kids are excited to have more snow to play in and Annika is quickly learning the joy of snow days from school. Eric and I are excited that the weather forecasters were just employed in a type of emotional cruelty by predicting snow that never arrives.

 vcxf[;vcgrt[gt gfcv '/
(Conor's blog post contribution—"tapped" as I peeled an orange from him in the next room)

Here's the view from our front porch a little before 7 this morning. You can't tell from the pictures, but it was snowing when I took the pictures.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Snow in Seattle

My original thought for today was to take the kids up to Snoqualmie Pass so they could have some fun in the snow. I'd basically given up on seeing any lowland snow this winter and didn't want them to miss out on the chance to play some of the white stuff.

That's what I get for making plans. Of course, it snowed in Seattle this morning. (Glad I didn't bother with the hour+ drive to the pass!!) The kids (as well as their parents) got really excited when we saw the flakes falling from the sky. Eric was still working on replacing the bathroom sink faucet (that's a blog post for another day), so I bundled up the kids so we could head outside and enjoy the falling snow.

It was fantastic snow ... PERFECT snowball snow. The kids had a blast catching snowflakes on their tongues, making snow angels, and making/throwing snowballs. I had a great time watching them explore the fun that comes with falling snow.

After lunch and while Conor took a nap, Annika got rebundled and headed out on the deck with Buca so they could play together and take in as much of the snow fun as possible. Buca is a huge fan of the snow ... proving he's an Olson through and through!

Having a snow parade around the front yard

Making a snow angel

Conor figuring out how to make snowballs

Annika catching snow on her tongue

Conor catching snow on his tongue

Playing in the snow with Daddy

Conor all bundled up

Annika getting ready to throw a big snowball

Buca got in on the fun, too!

Buca jumping to catch a snowball that Annika threw to him

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Remodel Update

Here's what's been afoot for our house lately...

  • We've now ventured out past our kitchen a bit. One of the bay windows in our computer room is no longer glass.... it's now plywood. It's all the rage in the cool houses!! OK, no it isn't...not even close. It's just keeping out the elements until the new panes of glass are delivered.
  • The window above our kitchen sink has followed suit and now is a big piece of plywood. This one, however, is a bit fancier because it has a drawing (in Sharpie) of a starfish on it. I've always wanted a nice view from our kitchen!! Apparently sealife is the way to go. We'd waffled about whether to replace the kitchen window, but decided to bite the bullet and have it done while the amazing David is at the house doing other work. SO glad we did! Apparently, we were uncomfortably close to the wood around the window being so rotten that we were seriously risking it giving way and allowing water into our walls ... talk about an ugly situation.
  • Side note: I've realized that plywood windows have some serious benefits over glass: no fingerprints, water splatters don't show us, no one can look in and see how messy our kitchen is most of the time, we can draw starfish on them and not worry about the consequences! It's all good. :)
  • We still have no kitchen sink, but at least David laid out a bunch of wood to act as a temporary countertop, which is much appreciated.
  • Annika's wall had some water damage due to an incorrectly installed window (whoops - our bad, I guess we did it wrong when we put it in before Annika was born). David fixed the window's installation and cut out a piece of Annika's wall. He has since then patched the wall and is waiting for the mud to dry and then will repaint it. He's going to put a starfish on her wall (hence, the Sharpie one on our kitchen "window") to match the rest of the sealife motif on her walls.
  • We have two quotes from granite fabricators. We're waiting for one more. Once we get it, we'll figure out who is going to make our new kitchen counter and get moving on that portion of our project. Hurray!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Time with my boy

Each weeknight, I come home, unload my stuff, get a quick pulse of the family and then spend time with our kids. Sometimes it is 1:1 time, sometimes it is both kids piled on top of me.

Last night, was a 1:1 evening... just Conor and me. We had fun making silly faces at each other, talking in funny voices, and making each other laugh. It is moments like those that bring a tear to my eye ... a tear of joy and gratitude for the gift of our children. They are the most amazing little creatures and we are beyond blessed to have them in our lives.


This face is one of my happy places

Pure, unadulterated joy

Mama kisses!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Unscheduled Kitchen Remodel

When I woke up this morning, our only plans for the day were church at 8:30 and Annika's swim lesson at 2:30. Easy. I'd clean up a bit and fold some laundry, but all-in-all, our day would be quiet.

FOOL! I was a FOOL for thinking that's where our day would go.

Eric decided to tackle the wood under our kitchen sink. It was damaged when our (now former) food disposal developed a leak. The wood warped and (we found out when Eric pulled up the shelf paper that was under the sink) that mold was also taking root. Mold = game changer. Eric wasn't quite sure how to get the wood replaced due to the size of the cupboard's opening and the fact there were pipes running through the wood. So, we called on our go-to guy, David, who is married to Eric's mom's cousin's daughter (or something like that) and lives on our street, just a mile or so away.

While the kids and I were at church, David came over, got a look at the mold and basically said "time for respirators; that stuff has to come out."

Eric and I have talked about replacing the countertop (yellow formica) with granite (to match the counters on the other side of our kitchen) but never really did much more than talk about it and ask a guy for a quote (from a guy who came to the house, took measurements, but never called with an acual quote). We figured because we have to rebuild the cupboard under the sink, this would be an ideal to get the countertop replaced.

David is also going to do a few other projects for us like replacing a few windows that have decided to rot ... darned that Seattle moisture. We are so lucky to have someone we can rely on to do great work and who happens to be available right when we need him most!

David and Eric surveying the scene

Bye, bye sink!

This was about the point I asked them if I could still run the dishwasher. To that, the repsponded "are you serious??"

No more sink. No more cupboard. No more counter.

Ripping out the fake brick wall treatment (woot!)

Eric taking in the scenery

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas Tree Dough Ornaments

No - there hasn't been a time warp (how many of you are now doing ... or at least singing... the Time Warp from Rocky Horror?? Be honest!) and we're back in the holidays. I just never got around to posting this topic and I wanted to share some more holiday pictures of the kids. (What? Me sharing pictures of our kids? SHOCKING!)

One of the holiday activities that we took on before Christmas 2011 was making dough ornaments for our tree. The dough couldn't have been easier to make (recipe will follow) and the kids had a fantastic time making them! We used my mini Christmas cookie cutters and one of my snowflake cookie cutters. While Annika and I headed up the "cutting out" portion of the project, Conor whacked at his ball of dough with a small rolling pin and occasionally snacked on the incredibly salty dough... decided he didn't like it while making a really funny screwed up face, spat it out, whacked the dough, and then tried another bite. (The boy doesn't learn!)

One of the best parts of this project was decorating the ornaments. The kids had a blast painting their ornaments and taking charge of how their ornaments looked. Colors were delicately applied by Annika; she was precise in her color placements and techniques. Conor smashed his colors into the ornaments with flair and passion.

The final phase of the project was hanging our dried ornaments on the tree. Again, the kids dove in head first and loved seeing their creations on the tree. (Buca liked the ones that fell off and asked us for more snacks like them... but maybe with a little less salt!)

Annika believes that one must be dressed to the 9s while doing art projects

Conor creating a color mixture for his ornaments
Annika's Ornaments

Conor's Ornaments

Dough Ornament Recipe:
1. Mix 1/2 c salt, 1/2 c water, and 1 c flour until forms a ball.
2. Knead briefly on lightly floured surface or in the bowl. (Note: I wore food handler gloves to keep my hands from getting dried out by the dough's salt.)
3. Roll out to 1/4  inch (plus or minus)  thick.
4. Cut with cookie cutters.
5. Use a toothpick or small straw to make a hole in each ornament for a hook or thread for hanging.
6. Place ornaments on a cookie sheet.
(Hint: I use parchment paper to keep the ornaments from sticking to the pan) at 250 degrees for 2 hours.
7. Cool completely.
8. Paint with poster paints, puffy paint, and/or glitter glue.
9. String thread or place hook through hole.
10. If desired, spray with a sealer in a well-ventilated area or outside.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Minute!

Many things in our household happen in "one minute," which can last anywhere from a true minute to a half hour. It is basically our way of preparing our kids for something that is around the bend: bed time, bath time, end of bath time, time of pajamas, time to clean up, etc.

Last night, the kids were in the bath. I'd finished washing Conor's hair and turned around to grab a towel so I could pull him out of the tub and get him dried off. As I turned back to the tub (after grabbing the towel from the bathroom counter), Conor stood up, put up one finger, and said, "ONE MINUTE!" and then proceeded to sit down and continue playing with the bath toys. At that point, I had to duck around the corner so I could giggle out of sight.

Our words (including hand gestures) have come full circle....

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy 2012

Another year has amazingly zipped right by us.... how did that happen? 2011 was a year of definite highs and lows for us, but I'm happy to announce there were more highs than lows.

The kids astounded us almost every day of 2011 with new things they learned and accomplished. Both kids' language skills went to new heights; Annika now shocks us by using more parts of speech correctly (the kid correctly uses adverbs... I'm one proud mama!) and Conor is now able to put together 5-6 word sentences that we can even understand! Over the year, the kids really developed into play buddies and enjoy spending time playing together. The only friction arises when Annika gets frustrated with Conor when he doesn't play what she instructs when they do imagination-based play. Some other highs include a couple of trips to visit my sister and her family in San Diego, Eric and me celebrating our 10th anniversary in November and celebrating a week later by going to Apple Cup with my siblings (Go Dawgs!), Annika thriving in her swim lessons and proving that she's part fish, and Conor turning one year old and showing his ability to eat us out of house and home (I shudder to think what his appetite will be like when he's a teen!).

Our year did have a couple of lows, unfortunately. Our sweet dog Riley died in March; it was really hard to lose him and our home definitely felt a bit emptier without him.  He was a part of our family for almost 11 years. We also lost my dad in December; we had a really nice send off for him and we know he would have loved so many people gathered in his honor. My sister's mother-in-law said something to my sister that I think was quite beautiful and touching; she said, "Now your dad is reunited with his memories."

We had a busy hectic chaotic holiday season in 2011, but feel so blessed to have spent the holidays with our extended family members and friends. We look forward to what 2012 has in store for us. So far, it is off to a great start!