Eleven from ‘Eleven
Posted by joeabbott on December 22, 2011
The last couple months have mired me in a bit of a funk but while Suzy and I wrote our Christmas letter to our family and friends, I realized that it was quite a year. Quite a year, indeed. We didn’t do much in the way of travel but we seem to have come a long way: we made our home more comfortable, we tried many new experiences, and shared a lot of time with others. If I had to define happiness, it would probably include a couple of those items.
So, in a year of good things and enjoyable experiences, in no particular order, I’m going to call out eleven of my favorites from 2011.
I really hesitated adding this as I plan on making a more complete post on our flight… but that probably just puts it on par with all the other things on this list: stuff I’m sure to have blogged about before.
iFly let’s you step into a “vertical wind tunnel” and simulate skydiving! Best of all, it’s within walking distance from our house (OK, it’d probably be a three mile walk), indoors, and all you need is the time and money to enjoy.
Suzy got us both a session during WoJ. While I wasn’t 100%, this was still a blast and I’d definitely do it again.
I was a bit sore after my outing and I’m not sure if that was because I was feeling a bit ill that week or if it really was a work out. Either way, all you do is hold out your arms and fall forward into the wind chamber and you get blown up!
And I mean the good sort of “blown up”, not the explosive sort.
For the initial session a “technician” is in the chamber with you, giving you tips on how to fly, keeping you from getting hurt, and managing the time. And that was the only bad part about the experience: it was over too soon!
Expect more to be written about this outing later!
Shakespeare in the Park
Suzanne and I have attended the SeaTac-sponsored “Shakespeare in the Park” (SitP) events for the last few years but, I imagine in response to budget cuts, this was the first year they’d only had one play rather than the usual two.
And when I realized I had really missed attending the second play, I added it to this list of yearly favorites.
Angle Lake Park is just over 3 miles from our home and the location of our local SitP plays. I can’t recall all the plays that we’ve seen here … this year was saw The Comedy of Errors … but I know I look forward to them each time they’re offered.
Yes, it means we have to rush home from work; yes, we always worry about parking or finding a good space to sit; and, yes, it is a deviation from the routine and that makes it tough, but it’s all worth it. And, most of these worries are for naught.
I catch the early bus home and have our picnic blanket and camp chairs in the car; Suzy will have a soft-sided cooler with treats (our dinner) ready, and we can park in a nearby neighborhood and enjoy a short walk to the event. Our chairs are low enough (no legs!) that we can sit up front and while the events are well-attended, they’re never packed.
We are tickled by the modernized touches the Wooden O Theater gives to the Shakespeare classics (usually in the form of costume, sometimes in an aside). So far we’ve had good weather on nearly all plays and we hope the city of SeaTac continues their tradition of sponsoring these events so we can continue ours of attending.
5th Avenue Theater Tickets
I wouldn’t say I love theater but I clearly have an interest. And, given how much attention and time we’ve invested in seeing plays this year, perhaps I’m not being completely honest with myself here.
Suzy and I used a windfall from a generous uncle to buy tickets to the second half of last year’s season at the 5th Avenue Theater and liked it enough to buy the full season tickets this year. It was a spendy endeavor but we knew we wouldn’t be traveling this year and used funds from our “travel budget” to get our seats. And, while we’ve seen a few plays we might not have attended without the season tickets, we’ve seen a lot of good plays and always enjoy the “dates” that it forces us to take.
Here are the shows we’ve seen and few word critique:
- Vanities – fluffy “chick” show
- Next to Normal – second favorite, about bipolar disorder
- 9 to 5: The Musical – light, fun show that follows the movie plot
- Guys & Dolls – classic 1950s theater; fun show
- Disney’s Aladdin – high energy family theater
- Les Miserables – THE play of plays; very nicely done (fav!)
- Saving Aimee – the set and music was good but I disliked the character in the story so much that I didn’t enjoy the show
- Cinderella – lead actress singing didn’t suit me (the show reviewed favorably)
But, as I noted above, it’s more about getting out with Suzy, taking the Light Rail into the city, and kicking about for a few hours.
After the last play we saw, Cinderella, we walked about the West Lake Mall area with cups of hot beverage enjoying all the Christmas decorations, did a bit of window shopping, and shared a bag of hot mini-donuts … well, can you beat that?
In previous efforts I’ve “blown glass” in the sense that someone else is doing all the shaping and I just puff into a straw to round out whatever it is we’re making. Not this year, baby!
Suzy found us a great deal through Groupon which allowed us a three-hour session or something like that. It was at the Renton Uptown Glassworks hot shop, which we’ve been to several times before. This time, however, we we in charge! I wrote about this experience previously in the 2011 Week of Suz post.
We finished far earlier than the three hour limit but, when it was over, Suzy had a wonderful glass plate and I’d created a vase. Both of these items look good enough to keep out and actually are functional! My vase has held many a flower from our backyard and Suzy’s plate recently doubled as the “chip bowl” when we hosted a “burrito night”.
That said, our critical eyes see details we’d like to address in our next session! I want to have a smaller mouth on my vase and the side and a bit of a flat look toward the top; Suzy was interested in more of a platter with a slight wave to it. That’s not to say we don’t love our work! But, learning and improving is a healthy trait!
I’m not sure what it is, but blowing glass is quite satisfying. The heat is amazingly intense, there are real physical dangers but it’s easy to do an OK job without a lot of training. Now to do an excellent job … that might take a while. So I guess we’ll just have to try it a few more times!
I live a long way from my family, which is hard … and pretty much why I keep this blog: to stay in touch. But, my wife’s siblings all live within an hour’s travel and her father is just a few hours away, so every holiday there’s some sort of “family gathering”. Suzy’s family is large (six kids) so they trade off who hosts which event: we meet for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Then there are the “birthday gatherings” in which once or twice in the year (in the spring and late summer) we get together again … just to celebrate those with birthdays that didn’t fall near one of the other holidays.
It sounds messy, but it works. Oh, then throw in New Years (which her brother Steve usually hosts), the July 4 holiday in which we always head to Suzy’s father’s house for a long weekend, and Suzy has started throwing a “summer kick-off” party at our house … well, we meet a lot.
This year Suzy decided to host all the major holidays (Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas), in addition to our summer party (this year’s theme was 70’s/disco), and we had everyone over to celebrate her father’s 80th birthday. It was a lot of hosting and I’m not sure I’d suggest it was a good model. But, looking back at the many pictures, you can’t help but smile a lot at the funny things that happened, the good times that were shared, and knowing that I’ve found a good family out here in Washington state.
What this really tells me, though, is that I need to get back to MN more often; the Stapelmans are a fine surrogate clan, but nothing can beat your own family and home.
I started this blog to detail woodworking and climbing activities but those have been pushed a bit to the back for the time being. But, I do get out hiking and those are true highlights of the year. I’m in a bit of a routine where I have 2-3 “obligation” outings each year and then squeeze in a hike or two if I can.
This year I got out for a snowshoeing trip to Goat Island Mountain (just north of Mt. Rainier), my friend Pete and I hiked into the Ingalls Creek valley, and my annual “Boeing Test Lab Hike” turned into a watercraft adventure.
I wrote exclusively about those trips earlier (and expansively on the kayak outing), so I won’t repeat those specifics, but getting out was a tremendous joy. I breathe deeper, I’m quiet longer, and I sleep more peacefully than I ever do at home (and that’s saying a lot … I sleep pretty good any time or place). The one thing I missed this year was getting out alone and really being alone (not just alone but around other people). My ankle problems will keep me from doing that for a while, I think, but in a year without the high water mark of a solo adventure, those three outings were amazingly satisfying.
And, on reflection now, I realize that one of those trips was completed in snowshoes, one in my hiking boots, and the final trip was a kayak water outing! I spend a lot of time looking for new and quiet places, so I must like that which is novel … and now I can add kayaking to my repertoire!
I feel I could leave the title as is and that would say enough.
Suzy has always enjoyed baking desserts and, like anything you enjoy, it shows. Over the last couple of years, though, she’s found a way to turn that dial to “11” (Spinal Tap reference) and the results are foodilicious here in the Abbott household. But, now we’re into meals, too!
She’s bold (anyone who is willing to make prime rib is fearless … that’s an expensive cut of meat you’re working with!), she puts in the time (there’s a ton of prep time involved in putting together a complete meal), and she uses great ingredients. We get herbs from our garden, she makes her own butter and cheese (ricotta), and will take classes to hone her skills. I’m not sure why, but I’m happy she invests her time and energy here.
A couple of my favorites are her smoked ribs, chicken teriyaki (it’s very hard to eat takeout teriyaki now … just not the same thing), and seared pork medallions. And serve any of those with smashed potatoes (not “mashed” … there’s a difference), and you have a delightful meal.
This is almost hard to have in the list … because it’s not done yet!
But, you can see it taking shape. And, to be fair, it’ll likely be done today. As in really, actually done!
We had a deck off our master bedroom on the front of the house; I liked it because the views of the valley are nice and it reminded me of my grandmother’s home in Virginia, MN. But, we just never used it much. A while back we had some work done in our master bathroom and a contractor asked if we’d like to “push out” our bedroom to fill that space and then make the bathroom bigger. We didn’t do that, but a seed was planted.
Early in the year we had some leaking into the garage coming from the deck and it turned out the seal around the railing was shot. We fixed that but not in a permanent way. As we were feeling a bit pinched for space in our shared home office, we decided to enclose the deck as a “sun room” and turn it into Suzy’s office. While that project is still going, you can see it’s getting close; the new room is great!
You get awesome views (thanks to a lot of windows), it’s quite and snug (if a bit chilly … we have a lot of windows here), and when it’s ready, we’ll move in a couch, some desks, a bookshelf or two, and some lamps. You can just tell it’ll be very nice.
This year has seen a lot of great titles for games (I wrote this post on all the games I played early in the year) and since 11/11/11 I’ve been heading to Skyrim most nights! While I do think the pendulum has swung a bit heavy toward playing games (rather than getting out into the shop, planning hikes, doing chores around the house), I’m having fun and enjoy the time spent here. I will admit that now that I’m working for the group at work, a bit of the “magic” has fallen out of games themselves.
I used to look at the online resources for what was coming up, to get the word on the street about what’s going on, and reading about the industry … well, now I’m part of that industry! I know which games are coming up, what their launch dates are, and how much work it took to “get them through our system”. It’s still magical (“hey, our group was helping launch YouTube on the Xbox!”) but I have more information than I should to be delighted in what I’m seeing.
But I’m still having a blast.
I say this time and again, but, as I type this, my gaze continues out the window to my right as I look down on the seven birds in the backyard. OK, I only see six but that means one of the Rhode Island Red hens is working on getting me the makings for a fresh omelet! We’re still not giving them names but we refer to them daily, laugh as they flap about, smile in spite of ourselves as one will come strutting across our deck (they should be on “their side” of the yard), and enjoy recognizing their personalities coming out.
I’m not sure chickens in the yard are for everyone, but we’re enjoying it.
But I do consider the cats to be pets of the first order!
Over the past year Spencer has become much more “sharing” of himself than he originally was. He’s still Suzy’s cat in many senses, but at night he now sleeps between us and will occasionally flop next to me. And in a year without Trout, that’s a very nice thing.
And, Trimble is starting to become more “my cat”. While both cats are “ours”, they naturally tend toward one person or the other. Trimble shares himself with both of us but, maybe an extra 10% of the time, he’ll look for me. Mostly because I tolerate him climbing all over me, butting me in the face with his head, and letting him snuggle up on my shoulder for a nice place to rest and nap.
This has to be the single biggest highlight of the year.
As I look out at the backyard, it just “is”. It looks good and timeless and yet, we only have had it with the stairs and paths and retaining wall and whatnot since this last Spring. And yet it looks like it’s not only been this way for a while but it’s what it should look like. We did a good job and it shows. But I mostly like it because this is as close to “woodworking” as I got!
I laid in landscaping timbers, built a stairway and gate, put in a seating area and planter, and built a little bridge. Suzy did most of the path and we both built the trellises. Along the way I put together an outdoor shelving unit and built a couple of temporary coops/shelters. It was fun to use my tools and put things together.
With the remodel noted above, we have a large space in the garage that we can use as storage. So I’ll get a chance to build shelves and build that up so it’s a great space.
And, in 2012, I will build the front room storage system and shelving unit! I will!
And that’s it: eleven things that made 2011 a great year and highlights by any standard. Some were one-time events, some we did a couple times, others are a way of life now … all helped define who we are. As I reflect on the year and all that made it special, the common theme through nearly every item is “Suzy”. I have found a good partner (for the last 22 years!) and happy for both what she does for me, what we do together, and what she inspires and encourages me to do. While I maybe should have had a section just for her (and not just her cooking!), she’s been a part of all of these in one way or another.
Thanks to 2011 for being a great year and thanks to Suzanne for being sharing this charmed life of mine.