Monday, December 28, 2009

Lunchtime Wiring Project

It looks so obvious now

When we bought out paradise dream home, we knew that it wasn't perfect. Opulence aside, there were a few issues we would need to work on in the coming years. One of those is the wiring, which wasn't quite finished up before we moved in.

The previous owners were kind enough to leave me a number of electrical puzzles. The most interesting so far has been the three way switch, which they attempted to wire with two-wire rather than three-wire on one leg. That took about six hours to sort out; we still haven't gotten around to doing the actual work.

But they threw a curve ball today. Or maybe it was a sinker. We have three outlets in the dining nook that were unpowered. I checked the nearest three outlets for a loose connection, but none of them looked to be powering these three outlets (one was a dead end, the other two were connected to each other). Of course, in checking those outlets, I discovered that they didn't leave me enough wire to pull the outlet out. What should have taken a few minutes total took twenty minutes just to reassemble.

Just a dead end?

Anyway, I gave up (for the second time) and returned to work. When I was sufficiently distracted by SQL my subconcious reminded me how a previous puzzle turned out to be a wire run from one outlet to the other, but it was not connected at all. I decided to have a second look at the nearest outlet (that appeared to be a dead-end).

I took out the outlet and stared for a second. No loose wires. Then, I got on my belly.

Coiled on roof, the missing wires

Coiled on the roof of the box was the wire I was missing. Connecting that up took less than two minutes, followed by flicking the power back on and -- success!

Some day, I want to build a house and put all these kinds of puzzles in it for the next owners. My dad and I spent a lot of time in the walls of his old house. I think it's our turn to start playing tricks.

I've got to wonder what then next little surprise will be!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cooks' Dinner, 2009

A few weeks ago I introduced Tom to Simon. Tom, as you might remember, was the last person I reported to at Insightful before the layoffs, merger, and my new overloads took over supplying me a paycheck. Tom, however, is much more than a boss -- more like a life-long friend that happened to show up at work one day.

Simon is the husband of Vena, my first friend in Seattle (I met Rishi shortly after, both at the Pearl cafe). He trimmed our trees recently, and has impressed me with his culinary skills at Vena's parents' house years ago.

We invited these to boys over for dinner, and they ate politely, and we had a very good time. They made it clear they would be back, and not to eat. To cook.

Tom and Simon convinced Quincy and I to host a dinner where they would do most of the cooking. They like our stove. So, we did. First, we invited Megan and Scott, friends of Quincy who I just can't get enough of. Scott is a talented musician and Megan is a brilliant blogger and crafter (check her stuff out at Not Martha). They had gotten along swell with Vena and Simon at our house warming. I like inviting Jake to any gathering, because he is the consummate mingler; one of the best party attenders and hosts I have ever met.

Of course, we invited Maggi and Jeff & Rishi and Jamie, but their schedules were booked. Vena and Simon invited Vince, a talented musician and soft soul.

As a surprise, Megan and Talina were in town for the weekend, so they joined us. At this point, the quiet panic was in our bellies, and Quincy and I have never put on a dinner for so many people. So, we stopped inviting!

Simon prepared an exquisite trout main course. I can't possibly describe it, you'll have to see it for yourself. There was bacon and cherry tomatoes and lettuce frizzle involved. Simon also baked more than enough polenta cakes with roasted veggies as a side dish, which are so good I've been trying to limit myself to only two slices leftover per day.

Tom has the most intense side dish I have see in the making: a chestnut, celery root side that had subtlety and depth. He also fried us up some green beans and sliced almonds for color. There was not a single bit of either of those sides at the end of the night.

Quincy and I threw together a salad and a dressing from a Jamie Oliver cookbook. Quincy baked rolls, which also were consumed at a frantic pace.

For dessert Tom make a walnut cake swimming in some sort of sauce that I wish I could describe! I must get the spelling of the French words that mean "melted ice cream from heaven." There was one slice left over, but only because I hid it behind the microwave.

As if the food, conversation and company weren't enough, Vince and Simon set up with guitar and drum box and blessed us with mellow, soulful, relaxing ambient music at the end of dinner.

Overall, this first Cooks' Dinner was a huge success. We missed a couple things, and the "front of the house" fell over; but we'll get it right next time. Simon is lobbying for dinner for 30 -- I guess it's time to buy some comfortable kitchen chairs!

Check out all the photos on Flickr .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wedding Blog

Well, our wedding web site is up and running. It's pretty sparse right now, with just a landing page and a blog, but we'll be putting more information up as we go. We sent our Save the Date cards out last week, and a couple of Seattle locals have already received them.

I bought the domain name before I knew that a woman's name always goes first for wedding related things. Oh well!

So, there's a couple of blog posts over there, and I'm overdue here, but that's how these things go. When all other procrastinations fail, blog; but we're not procrastinating anything!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Engaged Again!

Quincy and I have been diligently working on our wedding planning. This time, we’re having a lot more fun. Last night Quincy surprised me with a re-engagement ring. I’d been hinting that I was jealous that she had a “taken” ring and I still looked single. Well, now I look married!

Here’s to another crazy year of a big project. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Selling and the whatnot


I've been away from the blogging circuit for a while. We've been settling into our new dream home and making good progress on selling my previous house. We're just waiting for the buyer's financing to finish up.

I'll miss 906 quite a bit. I'm doing my best to make the buying experience positive for the first-time homeowners who are taking over. I fixed everything on my original home inspection report, and countless other things, in the lead-up to putting it on the market. Since then, I've been keeping up the garden (more on that later). Once the buyers handed over their requests, we said yes to all of them (they were modest and reasonable) and added a few other things from their inspection report to the mix. Really, some things should just work when you move in, even if the previous owner didn't know they were broken.

All in all, we're really fortunate to be in this spot. There are a lot of houses still on the market, and a lot of folks had to drop their asking price considerably. We did not, and with any luck we'll be closed in early September.

I know, that's not much of an update. Once the rains come back I'll pick up blogging. We've got a nice backlog of garden photos and adventures to relate.

While you're not reading what I'm not posting, you can check out my friends' Vena and Si blog: they're building a house on Vashon island -- themselves! I have the most amazing friends.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Grete's new game

On the first afternoon we spend at our new house, Grete learned a new fetching game. I toss the ball from the balcony, she goes down the stairs, through the yard, and brings it back. We had the master bedroom door on the first floor open, so sometimes she'd run through the whole house on her return trip.

Yeah, the video is lame, but it shows the trick!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

New Truck

I did it. I finally broke down and dropped by less-than-five-grand requirement for a new truck. Rishi found this 2002 Ford Ranger Edge on Craigslist last week, and I finally made the purchase on the 3rd of July.

The truck is two wheel drive, but the Edge Premium package included the 4x4 suspension, so I can haul a bit more and have a higher ride. It has premium Panasonic Tremor sound, four doors, extended cab, color-matched canopy, rubber bed liner, and low miles. It was a good deal, even if it was a little more than I wanted to spend on a truck

There's a few more photos of the truck sitting at the Evenston Pea Patch on Flickr (click through the image above). I'll take some more photos once I get it all washed and whatnot.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good day

Today is setting up to be a very good day. The last few weeks at The Company have been an experiment in focus and behavioral modification -- care less, do more. It's beginning to pay off as I am returning to the center of action without any tangential antagonism. Today a conversation with the Boss Man left me feeling empowered and appreciated. Also, my directs were supportive of my plans, which in this environment has been an ongoing challenge. Also, folks really love my charts and data visualizations -- adoption rates are increasing and productivity is, at least on paper, getting better. The phrase "better living through reporting" has been circulating. Love it!

To top the workday positive changes, I'm buying a new-to-me truck today. Pictures to follow, of course. It's a red 2002 Ford Ranger. Quincy and I decided that the new house expenses squashed the hopes of a new Toyota Tacoma, so we went for the inexpensive, reliable, frill-free used Ranger option. The pickup will come in extra handy in the Biggest Move Ever coming up in a couple of weeks.

And really, we're moving into our dream home. We spend a good part of last night pouring over graph paper sketches, trying to fit couches in rooms and fences in the yard. So much fun. We close on July 2nd; we have July 3rd off from work; we scheduled the movers to come to 906 on July 11th. I'm picking up boxes from coworkers this weekend and next week -- with my new truck.

As for the drop-in buyers of 906, that's all still pending. There has been considerable interest, but I think I might end up listing with an agent once we move. If that fails, renting is still a very viable option -- especially for just a year or 18 months. Worst case, we'll rent and rescue some of our plants to the new place as the front yard fills in more and more.

I went for a run yesterday. Only 2.5 miles of run/walk, but it really raised my spirits. First real outdoors exercise in a while. Considering Seattle just tied the all-time record for consecutive days with no rain (in May-June) at 29-days, it's hard to believe I haven't been running more.

But we have been eating well. Our garden has produced an outstanding amount of snap peas, which are just as good as a snack as they are in a stir fry. We've probably eaten three pounds in total, with many, many more on the vines. Strawberries are starting to ripen, as are the raspberries. The tomatoes are bushes with many small blooms. Our garden will be missed!

So, that's my news. I'm going to eat some gluten-free quinoa pasta in peace (most of The Company went out for a goodbye lunch at a Jason-unfriendly restaurant) and work on test plans.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Long story short: 906 is on the market

As all of you know, Quincy and I are buying our dream home (all is going well) and selling or renting our house in Greenwood. Until all the deals go through, I'm not going to blog about it. You'll hear plenty of stories later.

But, we did post our house in Greenwood on Zillow. From that early posting, we had a buyer drop in and ask to see it. Today they viewed the house. Today we upgraded the listing on Zillow to "For Sale" (from "Make Me Move") with more photos. Redfin picked up the listing as well. Already over a hundred views have been logged.

Check it out. We're really pleased with the way the photos and listing turned out.

More later!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Duck Dodge

Center for Wooden Boats sail

Quincy gave me sailing lessons at the Center for Wooden Boats for Christmas, and Rishi and I have so far taken four lessons and one classroom session. We've been up and down lake union practicing our tacks and jibes, heave-to's and man-overboard drills. Tonight was a special challenge. Our lesson was during Duck Dodge!

Duck Dodge is a post in itself. Check out this page for the lowdown on this crazy, crafty, close-quarters, three-class sailboat race up and down Lake Union. When I told our first instructor that I wanted to learn to sail mostly because of Duck Dodge, she thought I was a little nutty and certainly an adventure seeker.

We went out for the fourth time in a Blanchard Jr Knockabout. The winds were between 5 and 11 mph the whole time we were out -- the best wind we've had so far. We got out to the middle of the lake by about 6:30 when our of nowhere dozens of boats, many with pirate flags on their masts (the theme of the evening) sailed around us. Our instructor Scotty had us sail up even with Gasworks where we worked on our jibes and tacks in close quarters with a rowing crew, jet skies, kayaks, sailboats, a tug pushing a barge of dirt, and motorboats. It was by far the most stressful of all our sailing lessons.

Twice we came pretty close to much, much larger sailboats. We did good, though, and kept our paint to our own hull.

I highly recommend Sail Now! sailing lessons through the Center for Wooden Boats. This has been a trip! We have one more lesson next week, then we'll do our "check out" and be ready to rent and sail out on our own.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Thirty-eight," for short

On Monday we saw a home up in Meadowbrook, a neighborhood we've been considering for a while, that made our heads spin. It was outside our price range, but we made an offer Tuesday anyway. Today, after a lot of wringing of hands, we heard back from the sellers with a counter-offer. We accepted!

There's still inspections, final paperwork, and probably 30 days of more hand wringing. But the biggest hurdle has been cleared: we've found a dream home and have an accepted offer.

Of course, I am presently posting over a hundred photos of the place. Mom, check out those windows and floors! Dad, check out the 6' spaced outlets, modern wiring, and sturdy stairs. Rishi, check out that entertainment space. Megan, check out the massive gardening opportunity. Baba, check out that kitchen! (we'll have to replace the range, it's actually a commercial unit that shouldn't be in there.) Regina, check out those subway tiles!

It's a dream home for us.

Please have positive, house-closing thoughts for us over this month. If all goes well, my fourth-annual Dependence Day BBQ will be at "Thirty-eight." And, just for kicks, we're pretty certain we're going to have our wedding in the back yard!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Goodbye Subaru

She's dead, Jim.

Cars are like people and pets. As they get older their flexible parts become less flexible and require expensive maintenance or replacement.

Cars are not like people or pets. They are replaceable themselves, and often the newer models get better gas mileage.

This past winter the great mechanics at Smart Service Subaru predicted that my car would die on a hill or mountain soon if expensive maintenance was not performed. The price of the work was more than what the car was worth. Add to that our thoughts on getting a new car for Quincy, and I was really wondering if I wanted to keep investing in the car.

Well, sure enough, driving around in Normandy Park pushed the eleven year old wagon to the edge of brokenness. The engine temperature spiked a couple times -- the mechanic's prediction of final death throws. The next trip up to Woodinville left us stranded in a place called "Thrasher's Corners." Here's all the photos from my last minutes with her, while we waited for a tow truck to save us. (Jeff, Maggi and Scooter saved Quincy, since the tow truck was not dog-friendly.)

Following the advice given to me by Rishi a while back, I decided to donate the car to charity. There are a couple places you can work with to get the money to any charity you want. I used V-DAC because their website was easy and linked from Goodwill, a charity I had considered supporting recently. I would have used Feed the Children or KEXP or KIVA, but they weren't in the V-DAC database. They get my money anway. Oh, I digress.

So, the car is gone. I don't really miss the Subaru wagon, per se, but I do miss having a hauling car. Rishi and Jamie want me to get a luxury car. Quincy would probably be happiest if I bought her car from her. I want a small, electric pickup -- sadly those don't exist. I am thinking about a used Toyota pickup or, my dad's favorite, a Ford Ranger.

What do you think, internets?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elsa Hotel


As most of you know, Rishi has been working on a big project the last few months. He's puting together a business plan for a small, boutique, budget hotel in Capitol Hill. The hotel is named "Elsa Hotel." I've been blogging a bit about his experiences so far at I'll admit, we haven't hit the really juicy stuff yet, but if you're into following Rishi's progress on his dreams, I suggest subscribing.

The most recent update highlights some of his Google SketchUp drawings of some of the rooms. He's super excited to be able to play around with this. It's a great break from grinding out number on water usage and P&L and marketing strategies.

So, check it out! I try to get in a post a week or more; I'm sure as things heat up I'll have more to write about.

Whidbey Island Dog Parks

Grete at the beach

The dog parks of Whidbey Island are legendry around these parts. Maybe it’s the crowdedness of in-city parks that drives us all to dream of acreage. I’m always a little hesitant around dog parks, not being a natural dog person, and wide open spaces don’t really add to my comfort. A dog near me is a dog near me – the only thing space might add is a the distance between the dog and its owner. But, so far, at all these dog parks we’ve only run into the sweetest dogs ever. Maybe city owners are just not as careful about socializing their dogs?

Grete Flying at the beach

We took two trips to the expansive Double Bluff Beach Dog Park. It located in such a way as to point back to Seattle, this two mile stretch of wide, open beach is a dog’s dream. We played some long-fetch with the dog both times. Grete loves the tennis ball more than anything, and flying disk/Hurley action just didn’t cut it. She chased a couple big birds, one of them a heron, but being a city dog she never gets close before they take flight.

Grete shaking at the BeachQuincy telling Grete she's lost the ball

At the end of the second day, Quincy and I tested Grete’s desire to swim out to sea. I think she just doesn’t swim. Eventually, we were able to goad her out as far as she could touch; but once the ball was thrown farther than that, it was lost. It was a little sad to see our dog hunting around for anything resembling a tennis ball on the walk back to the car. Maybe this will help her learn?

Patmore PitPatmore Pit

My new favorite dog park is Patmore Pit, about half way up Whidbey Island, near a huge naval air station outlying field. It’s touted as about 40 acres of wide open space, and it certainly is! There are tress in the middle of the park, and a small agility field fenced off in one corner, but other than that, it’s just wide open, flat, grassy field. Grete fetched like there was no more tomorrow. She jumped, bounced, ran, flew. Man, it was fun. We all had a great time in the sun. The park was nearly empty, too, so we had our pick of the most scenic fetching field. Even when other dogs strolled by, it felt like we were just passing in the Plains. (In the photo below, Grete can barely be seen in the center.)

Grete (the dot) at PatmorePit

We didn’t hit up any other dog parks on Whidbey. I don’t know why they have more! With the expansiveness of both, a dog owner can choose between clean dry fetching or dirty beach romping. Either way, on our last day of the trip, Grete was so tired (and I imagine sore) that she wouldn’t run even a tenth of a mile with me in the morning. She was still smiling from the day before!

Patmore Pit

Monday, May 11, 2009

I happend upon this little social experiment via rebel:art yesterday. I have to admit, and maybe it was from being in the sun all day, it kinda brought a little tear to my eye. I find it a very reassuring note on humanity -- especially the humans that live in big cities.

From the site: "Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal."

Love it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Inn at Langley

Grete on our Balcony

Last weekend Q and I took the short ferry ride to Whidbey Island to celebrate her birthday. We took Monday and Tuesday off to make a four-day weekend out of it. There are a number of dog-friendly inns and bed and breakfasts on the south end of the island, but since we were in a celebratory mood, we stayed at the best of the best: The Inn at Langley.

The Inn lived up to its reputation as a destination in and of itself. We brought enough cheese for a party of 40, and ate dinners of cheese, wine, Scotch, fruit, bread and crackers in the room all three nights. We took full advantage of the free breakfast, eating more fruit and breakfasty things in the room each morning. The warmer days, we were out on the balcony overlooking Puget Sound. The rainy days, we ate by the fire.

We thought ahead and brought the must-haves for a romatic getaway like this: ample CDs, candles, wine, and reading material. We spent a lot of time sitting on the balcony or soaking in the huge tube (with a view).

Of course, being a trip with Grete, we hit the two biggest and best dog parks. That could be a post in and of itself. Actually, that's a good idea.

We took a day trip up to the top of Whidbey to hike a little around Deception Pass. The park is great, but northern Whidbey is just like North Seattle -- where the south is very beautiful and coutry and folksy, the north is strip malls and six lane roads.

You can check out our favorite few photos here. There's a pile of photos of Quincy and I, and our vistas here. Then, there's, like, 200 photos of Grete jumping and shaking here.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Wall zero, Baba one

Baba Falls

My dear grandmother, Baba, fell the other weekend. She probably tripped and smacked her forehead into a concrete wall in her sewing room in the basement. My grandfather, Champ, rushed her to the hospital for a once over. A few scans later they determined that she was spunky, resilient, and mostly uninjured. The next morning she woke up with two black eyes and a nasty bruise on her head. Apparently, that's just where the blood goes.

That concrete wall got me once. I was a little kid and a slipped (probably rushing) down the basement stairs. I don't recall it well, but I don't think I was stoic. I'm guessing I balled my eyes out.

The worst thing, in Baba's opinion, about this fall was that it happened right before Russian (Orthodox) Easter. She wasn't able to go to all the ceremonies and sermons, which is very disappointing. Easter is her favorite holiday.

Champ's birthday just came and went again, as well. I called to wish him well, and in classic Baba, ended up talking with her about her run in with the wall for most of the call.

My coworker remarked that there's just something special about that generation. They seem to take everything in stride. I'm willing to bet generation X (or whatever I am) will not end up being known for its stoic demeanor in the face of adversity.

Rock on, Baba.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

House Hunting

It has been nearly six years since I hunted for a new home. Last time, the market was crazy fast. Houses were going for 20% over their value on the same day that they went on the market. Bidding wars knocked me out of six houses before I was lucky enough to land here. I love this house. It has spoiled me for future houses. The doneness of it has no connection to the constant upgrading and remodeling of my childhood home. I spend my weekends in the garden, not in the crawl space.

It all started with this little 1911 house down the street. It's very pretty, it's on the perfect lot, and none of the infrastructure has been up dated in my life time. Wiring, plumbing, sewer, foundation, bones, roof... they're all needing work to support the 21st century.

In order to see the house, we engaged Wendy, Quincy's amazing realtor. She's fantastic. Wendy brings a kind of honest energy to the search that I wouldn't expect from someone working on commission. Yesterday, she drove from Brier to Normandy Beach to show us a few houses.

Before heading to the deep south, we headed back east to a little bump off I90 named Preston. It's 20 miles outside of downtown (8 from Issaquah). The house blew our mind-- beautifully updated in every way. The lot was odd, with a creek running through it and gently sloped in every angle, but the owners have 10 acres and might be interested in changing the boundaries. But, it was far. And, it up a wash-out prone never-plowed road that would be impossible to traverse in the deep winter. Sigh. Back to the city we drove.

Here's what we saw with Wendy:

This updated house held a lot of promise. The back yard was in bad condition, but with a few grand in retaining wall/drainage we could get a big practice field. The neighbors had a huge garden. But, there were invasive weeds everywhere (think blackberries on steroids), it needed a new roof, it was priced for a view (but it didn't have one), and there was an unfinished bathroom off the bedroom.

This house had substantial yardage. There were flowering trees everywhere, and a few 200' cedars (that maybe should be cut down). No view, and the lot was heavily shaded by all those beautiful trees. The basement was recently remodeled, but they split up the space oddly and left us imagining opening it all back up again. For every interesting plus (outside fireplace) there seemed to be a strange minus (tiny entryway/sitting room).

We drove up some really steep hills into Seola Beach, nearly killing my car (so much for never having seen the overheating predicted by the mechanic). This house was pretty, but no usable yard. We started thinking that a view might not be possible with a yard. Then we remembered that views weren't on either of our lists.

Or maybe it was at this house that we remembered the view thing. Who knows, they all blended together. The concrete block house listing at 559k was incredible -- big lot, hideous unmaintained unupdated house, HUGE view. I mean, HUGE view.

Either way, by the end of the day, we drove out of Burien in my overheated Subaru tired and hungry. We made gluten-free pierogi and steamed broccoli. We watched the fantastic movie "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" and ate popcorn. Next week, less hunting, more house.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

House Hunting

Quincy and I have been looking at new houses. This is not news to those of you who see us often. We spend probably an hour a day each combing through the recent and not-so-recent listings on Redfin hoping to find our dream home. We’ve been regularly meeting to discuss our core requirements and nice-to-haves. Our dream homes look very similar – sadly, we have expensive tastes. (I remember my dad telling me that I always would voice enjoyment over his Asian-influenced dishes when he used better cuts of beef.) In a nutshell:

Core: Yard big enough to practice agility with two dogs (60’ x 40’); separate yard for gardening with good southern exposure; enough space in the house to store our stuff comfortably; two bedrooms + office; good light; safe neighborhood; access to gluten-free food; no more than 45 minutes to Seattle downtown via mass transit; affordable enough so that one of us can quit our job.

Flexible: Master bathroom off bedroom; gourmet kitchen (or budget to remodel kitchen); neighborhood with sidewalks (if in-city); close to businesses; views (sunrise/sunset); yard big enough to run a real agility course (100’ x 50’); out-building storage for agility/gardening equipment; mudroom; room that can support a pool table; front porch; feels-like-home architecture (hard to describe, we know it when we see it); space for ornamental plants and veggie garden; posh neighborhood; near a PCC grocery store; house sits above street or shielded from street; affordable such that both of us can get out of this crazy industry forever; not surrounded by industry or developments.

Yeah, I know we're crazy. All dreamers are.

This week we swung by our first house with Quincy’s amazing realtor, Wendy. The house is only a few blocks from our current home, in Greenwood. Here’s the listing. We were immediately drawn to the yards and the tallness of the house.

We were both a little disappointed in what we ended up seeing. The second floor was a converted attic that did have 540 square feet of floor, but most of the volume was taken up by the roofline. The three bedrooms were tiny. The views were beautiful. The basement was also a disappointment: what was listed as a spate apartment was nice, but also very small. The rest of the basement was unfinished and mostly just knee-wall storage and crawlspaces. It’s listing of 760 square feet is at best generous. The main floor was exactly as called out: 760 square feet of usable, beautiful space. The den was very small, but would actually be a great computer room for one of us. Converting the basement apartment into a “man cave” or TV room would be very doable.

In seeing this house, though, we both added a new requirement. This house was built in 1911 and was nearly 100% knob and tube wiring. Rewiring would require ripping out the walls, as there is no way to access anything with so many finished ceilings and floors. Quincy realized that with her entire life savings in the house, she wasn’t comfortable not having earthquake insurance. Since we’re overdue for The Big One, a retrofit and insuring would be required for her piece of mind. Again, with the walls finished and the extra story, this would be both expensive and invasive.

So, in the end we walked away from the house. I am still thinking about it daily. I wish it were just a little different. I wish the earthquake retro fit wasn’t necessary, and that the knob and tube wiring would magically update itself. At the price they are offering, we can’t afford to pay someone to do both, and do the other work the house would require (like a kitchen remodel, etc).

Back to the hunt, I guess. I am worried we won’t find a house that matches our expectations. I am more worried that the search itself is driving a considerable wedge between us, and I push for a shorter commute and Quincy dreams of acreage.

Wish us luck.

Giving away the farm

Reach for the sky, tomatoes!

Today I handed off nine of our Yellow Pear Tomatoes to coworkers. We’ve had great success with the starts so far. We’re keeping seven plants and giving away sixteen! I just up-potted them into environmentally friendly 6” coconut fiber pots.

Last night we walked down to Fred Myer to get some larger plastic pots for up-potting the brussel sprouts and shallots (and maybe the dill and some basil). I’m wishing I had saved all those unrecyclable plant pots from all my initial plantings in the front yard! I would have had so many pots of all kinds of sizes. Currently, we’re using 2” square pots saved from last year and washed in the dishwasher. I’ve got a few 3” pots and a couple 6” pots for up-potting. With 36 more 3.5” pots from Fred Myer, we’re ready for the summer!

Of course, everything will go into the garden soon. The last frost date is upon us! Tonight I’ll up-pot whatever is ready, and plant the sunflower seeds in coconut fiber 3” pots. These guys will start inside, but then move to the porch, then outside quickly. I have had very good luck with sunflowers, so I don’t worry about them.

Also to arrive last night were two new sea holly tubers (or plants, I can’t tell). We’ll try to stick those in the ground tonight or at the latest this weekend. I’m sure Quincy is psyched.

Here’s to the sun!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Beautiful Weather, Beautiful Weekend

Jason and Grete

This weekend was a blur! Quincy was out of town with her girlfriends in the mountains. I spent the weekend with Grete and the gardens.

I pulled up all the weeds in the back yard beds, redid all the edging, put up a new fence to keep Grete out of the beds, planted three new plants, put down a yard of mulch, mowed, and repotted/staked all of my indoor succulents. In all, I spent about 16 hours in the garden.

New Yellow Summer BroomIllumination PeriwinkleTrillium and star flower

Almost the whole time Grete was by my side, dropping the ball and chasing after it. She got pretty good at bringing it close enough so that I didn't have to move from my weeding spot. As a reward, we went to the Green Lake dog park for some long-throw fetching. The weather was perfect all weekend.

Grete in the back yardWalking legs

On Monday Quincy and I woke up with headaches from all the pollen in the air. We decided to stay home and take it easy. This lead to a trip to Marymoor dog park, which led to me going to Fremont for lunch at Silence Heart Nest, which led to us washing the cars.

In other news, we found a house we like. And... it's right down the street! More on that later, we're going to stop by tonight to check it out with our realtor. We're not getting our hopes up, but after seeing the back yard, Grete is already packing.

Ta-ta for now!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Business End

Quincy and I have been talking about exit strategies. We'd love to quit our jobs and do, well, other stuff. Part of that for me, at least, is getting back into running my own business. Or, just exploring other business ideas. I figured there was no reason to wait.

The first thing I wanted to learn how to do was to start up a web site. I hadn't figured out an excuse for a while. So, I started with someone else's idea.

A few of us were sitting around the cube bay the other day, talking about our corporation's golfer. That's right. In these tough economic times with layoffs and budget cuts, our parent company FTI signed a 8 million dollar deal with a B-rate golfer. He has to wear a hat and shirt with "FTI" on it. You might be thinking: what does your law consulting firm have to do with golf? Nothing.

The joke was, since no one has any idea of what FTI is, when they see this PGA golfer wearing the FTI logo, they'd have to Google it. If our site showed up with all the burried news clips, and folks clicked on it, we could surface ads to them and hope to make, say, $2 on ads. Or a million, should our golfer make it big.

I saw this as a perfect opportunity to learn how to make a website. I ran back to my desk and registered The other guys tried to as well, but I beat them to it. I registered through GoDaddy. I wouldn't do that again (too expensive and they charge for every extra). Once I had the domain name, I needed a hosting site. I thought I might be able to use my Comcast space, but that's not how DNS works. It's just an IP address. So, off to recommended by Megan to buy some hosting.

I was surprised to see that the site hosting and the DNS registration actually took a few days to kick in. While I was waiting for all that internet rerouting to happen, I set up my Associate's account. This is the free account that lets anyone set up to track ads. Long story short, when almost anyone who clicks through ads on my website to, and buys something, I get a 4% kickback.

But that's not really why I did this. It would be nice, actually surprising, to make any money at all on I wanted to learn how to register a domain, set up forwarding and email, set up a hosting site, add ads for Amazon, and be ready for when my next (or someone else's) idea happens. Now that I know how easy it is, I'm psyched.

You'll notice I've added a couple ads to this site. Feel free to click on them and buy a new Kindle or M. Ward CD
. The more you buy, the more I earn. Better yet, set them up for your site! We can trade traffic. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dancing Bear and M. Ward

If teh internets have taught me anything, it's that having nothing to say is no excuse for not saying anything.

In other news, Quincy and I went to an M. Ward concert last Friday. We had a fantastic time, and the Showbox is always a great place to see a show. I've seen M. Ward there before, but his sets are so different now that he has a full band and plays mostly up-tempo songs. It was nothing like the time I angled into the KEXP studio to see him perform four songs live (just me, the sound mixer, the deejay, and M. Ward).

Here's a video of the title track to his newest album.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Agility Class

Quincy continues training with Grete for dog agility. It's a hoot. I visited a lesson this weekend and shot some video with Quincy's camera. The video above is a series of small exercises that they were working on. Grete is just getting the 6-pole weave poles. She still runs into the tunnel with her reward!

Below is a video of the longest course (I think) that Grete and Quincy have run. They didn't quite get it, but the one jump they missed was really tricky and tripped just about everyone up. She gets it the second time!

Here are some of Grete's friends, posted mostly for their owner's viewing pleasure, but also in case you're interested. Hoover is really fun to watch walk it! Zoooom! It took me two tries to keep the fast little guy in the frame. Hoover is in advanced training.

Molly and Luna are in Grete's class.

Rug Adventure

Fail rug

Quincy and I have finally broke down and done it -- we bought a rug for our hallway. Local friends will know that I had an affinity for cheap IKEA rugs and runners when I bought the house. All of these rugs are falling apart and shameful compared to the beautiful rug Quincy brought to our living room. So, off we went.

Every Tuesday Quincy and I pass a little rug shop in Fremont called Caravan Carpets. It's run by a man with a thick accent, Reza, who has energy rivaling Rishi. Reza wanted to know if we were going for color or size, as all of his rugs are original, so you have to start somewhere. We went for color, choosing quickly between two beautiful, light, vegetable-dyed runners. The whole experience took less than twenty minutes and we had a blast.

Reza's prices are good, too. We couldn't find a similar rug online for less than twice what we purchased it from Caravan Carpets. And, Reza insisted we try it out. How? First, you open a bottle of find wine. Then, you light some candles and open the windows to allow natural light in. Then, you reveal the rug in the space it is intended for. Then you sit and watch the colors.

Now that's a salesman. We did open a bottle before the reveal (with shades open wide). And the colors were breathtaking, but the rug was 2" too wide for our hall.

So, we have to try again. Since we would have had to bring the rug back for (free)padding anyway, no loss. Still, we love the Talish rug's colors. Reza promises that he'll have a number of rugs of the correct size for us to look at from the warehouse next time we come by. I might buy two.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Organic or Inexpensive

The debate continues to rage at the Page\Hunt estate: do we buy organic veggies at PCC, or the unknown origin fruits, roots, and vegetables at Lenny's: God's Gift to Greenwood. The price difference is substantial: On any given day the same (visible) quality vegetable will be 1/3 the cost at Lenny's compared to PCC. For some veggies, like my favorite red, yellow and orange peppers, the price difference is 5-fold.

Well, a new piece of evidence has arrived: Hammy the Hamster. The cleaver video below (via Megan via BoingBoing via Geek Dad) clearly demonstrates that there is a difference between organic and non-organic.

The debate will rage on.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gluten-Free Pierogies: Long Time Coming

Conte's Gluten Free Potato and Cheese Pierogies

Conte's Gluten Free Potato and Cheese Pierogies

My grandmother loves Pierogies. As do all her children and their children's children. For me, they are the sacred, comfort, feasting, holiday, every day food of my youth. When visiting their house to this day, my grandparents serve up pierogies almost as quickly as they do hugs. And I won't soon forget the magical afternoon three of my closest friends and I spent making pierogies from scratch in my current home: three expatriot Pennsylvanians (and one native) cooking soul food. We ate nearly four dozen pierogies that day.

My grandparents serve up pierogies in lots of butter, onions, and cabbage. It's a simple dish that warms my heart and tummy. A side of thick, heavy bread and horseradish; or if for brunch with potato pancakes and sour cream.

I opted for the former: boiled for 7 minutes while a diced onion simmered in an ungodly amount of Smart Balance butter, drain pierogies and add to butter/onion mixture. I kept them on the burner while we finished our creamed corn side, browning each pierogi on each side. It's not the same method Frankie used (just straight up frying), but it's more conducive to the frozen variety.

Since the whole celiac diagnosis, I have been pierogi free. This is a crying shame. For a Valentines Day present, Quincy purchased six bags of Gluten-Free pierogies from an east coast producer, shipped to our house one-day freezer pack.

The only brand of gluten-free pierogies Q's found (so far) are (sort of) available on Amazon (of course): Conte's Gluten Free Pierogies. As you might guess, a giant ravioli filled with mashed potatoes and cheese and onions isn't difficult to make without wheat, and the end result is a gluten-free pierogi that does not stray from the Mrs. T's standard. We're encouraged now to try it ourselves, from scratch. I might have to fly in Frankie and Regina; while I'm at it, Baba and Champ.

Champ, the day after Orthodox Easter, 2003Baba, Orthodox Easter 2003

Frankie and Regina smooshFrankie and Regina smoosh and roll

Ten Acres Enough

Home made creamed corn

(For Q, in the style of the book she is reading from the Seattle Public Library: Ten Acres Enough; published in 1864. I'm not done writing about the wonderful experience of eating Pierogies yet, but figured I could post the side-dish blog first.)

The side dish was, at least at first before the run of groceries necessitated by a surprising shortness of onions and of our lifeblood, Diet Coke, decided on in agreeable fashion based on the the meager contents of our fridge, freezer and cupboard in the category of "vegetable," which being late in the grocery shopping cycle -- despite our considerable and largely successful efforts to stock up on shelf-stable staples -- left us with wilted carrots, frozen bags of peas and corn, and canned artichoke hearts that quite possibly predate our initial meeting at the base of the hill at Gasworks Park, that summer day nearing two years ago. While creamed corn is not traditionally a side accompanying pierogies, we are not in our minds a tradition-bound couple. To that, I submit our zombie-voiced cat and affinity for odd books.

While I slaved, though good spirited for certain, over the left side of our Viking gas range (the envy, I must say, of the neighbors who go without for trade of boat and towed camper) over the twelve precious pierogies, Quincy began the preparation of the creamed corn. Many would assume she shucked, grated, cut free of cob, and washed the kernels from fresh ears, but being a woman of much learning, and a specific frugal nature for things which frugality does not harm (mind you, she is not such the woman to be penny wise and pound foolish, sparing no expense to ship the frozen pierogies from the East Coast overnight to ensure proper freshness; she does know that winter corn would fly great distances beyond which crispness cannot hold), she opened two cans of organic corn kernels. With those rinsed quickly, she turned to the right side of the stove and mixed a small amount of organic half & half and Smart Balance butter, thinking to spare at least in part my heart for future meals and life-long love, in a small pot. To this she added incremental half-teaspoons of corn starch, and eventually, the corn and a measured dose of sweet sugar.

This woman I so admire stirred my soul as the stirred the pot: the rich, sweet smell of summer wafting through the kitchen -- my mind might have wandered to the un-sewn sundress in the sewing room and, again, our first meeting and the bright orange t-shirt she wore, her puppy dragging her towards me -- but my concentration was not lost so much as to allow my own portion of the meal to go burnt. She loves me for my practical nature, for certain. Let us remember, finding a woman with such dedication in honest nature, with qualities suggesting design by Higher Good, is not to be taken in a light manner, nor thought about in such detail as to stifle.

To summarize:

Two cans of organic corn kernels
1/2 cup of Smart Balance butter (to taste)
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup organic half & half
2 tsp corn starch
1 Organic Quincy

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gluten-Free Breaded Mack and Cheese

Crusted mack and cheese

In the back of my head there's an unofficial and likely corrupt list of things I haven't had since being diagnosed with celiac. On that list is breaded macaroni and cheese. Actually, the list entry just says "breaded."

Quincy had the idea of saving the butts and stale slices of her homemade gluten-free breads in the freezer. On Saturday night we broke them out to indulge our cheese needs.

Here's the basic recipe, since neither of us really keep track.

16 oz (2 boxes) of Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta (elbows)
8-12 oz of freshly grated Tillamook medium sharp cheddar
8-12 oz of grated mozzarella
4 oz of freshly grated Parmesan
2 medium vegetarian-fed, hormone-free eggs (I can't wait until I have my own hens.)
1 large head of chopped broccoli (makes the dish look like it might be healthy. It's not.)
1 large red onion, copped
2 cups of gluten-free bread crumbs
2 tbs Smart Balance buttery spread
Salt and Pepper to taste

We boiled the pasta for about 5 minutes, half the time recommended on the box. While that's going, we put a little corn oil in a big, deep pan and cook the red onions until transparent and yummy looking. We remove the pan from heat and drop the drained pasta in and add the chopped broccoli as well. I moved a big glass baking pan over the burner that warmed the past and dropped in the butter.

In the mean time, we've combined the mozzarella and cheddar with two beaten eggs to form a gooey mess. We added a little Parmesan at this point, but only a little.

We use a silicon basting brush to spread the melty butter in the class baking pan. We spooned about half the pasta-veggie mix into the pan. Then, over top of that we carefully dolloped and spread about 2/3 of the cheese-egg mix. We added a thin layer of bread crumbs (the smallest ones, almost dust). Then, the rest of the pasta and the rest of the cheese goo. On top we sprinkled the Parmesan and the bulk of the bread crumbs.

We baked it uncovered for about 40 minutes in a well-preheated 375 degree oven. Some parts were crunchy, that's how we roll.

This dish would cost a small fortune if it weren't for the frozen leftover bread. To turn the hard butts into crumbs, Quincy used our cheap food processor. She microwaved a small bowl of ends and chopped. Repeat until done. Brilliant! This would have taken forever any other way. And we were left with a bag of bread crumbs for our next breading project. mmm.... maybe shrimp?