Friday, October 22, 2010


well, we have bought our first home! I will post photos later once I take some decent ones. The whole process was basically going back and forth with the owners to agree on a price. Or should I say, our real estate agent went back and forth on our behalf. The whole process is sooooo much more civilised here than in Australia, where you are under the pump and on show at an auction! IT's kinda weird really. And because the market is so slow here, you don't have any competition with other potential buyers. So it's very stress-free really. Just how we like it!

So now we are getting quotes for having the kitchen updated. We looked into refacing the cabinets, and after ruling that out due to cost we are going to re-paint the old oak cabinets in the hopes that they come up good. There is also some crazy vaudeville show lighting in the kitchen which needs replacing. And we're putting in quartz countertops. We are beginning to learn that you can spend a freakin FORTUNE in the kitchen! It's crazy. And since we also have a master bathroom to do we really have to limit our budget, so we're only doing what we deem to be the necessities.

So we are closing on the home on Nov 5th, and we hope to be in the house before Thanksgiving (late Nov) if all goes to plan! WE WOULD LOVE VISITORS if ever you are over this way of course.

We have recently joined an International Supper Club! This is actually the brainchild of our friends Julie & Nick, who we knew in Australia. Actually Chad worked with Julie at Microsoft in Melbourne and they just moved over here last year. Julie is from Seattle but her husband Nick is from Melbourne. Sooooo when they arrived here last year they found it very difficult to rekindle old friendships and/or make new ones. So they decided to play hosts on a regular basis and hold social events at their home, especially since they weren't getting many invites to anyone else's!. They started the supper club with 2 other couples who also enjoy international food and wine. The group gathers 6x per year to share food and wine from a designated region of the world. Last week was our first supper club (theme: Thai) and while the food and drink were great, mostly we are grateful for the opportunity to meet some new people and enjoy good conversation and of course learn more about all-things-Seattle.

We are still hiking nearly every weekend. There are so many areas to explore here and we absolutely love getting out in nature & its beauty. Now that autumn is in full swing the colours are truly spectacular here. So vibrant, some almost fluorescent if you can believe.

So Halloween is coming up next week and we are (well, me and Amelie) pretty excited about an American Halloween this year! Amelie is dressing up as an angel (nothing scary for her!) and she managed to enlist my mom to make her costume. I have already informed Chad that we are spending next Saturday night at home watching horror movies, which he is not thrilled about because of the nightmares I will have afterwards and he doesn't want to be disturbed while he's sleeping. It is weird that I want to do this sort of thing, but I just want to get in the spirit of the occasion. I had forgotten what a big deal Halloween is here. They have all kinds of haunted houses and parties you can go to here in Seattle. There are huge stores dedicated only to Halloween. It's over the top. And it's fun! There is a haunted house here that I really want to go to- it's supposed to be amazing- but Amelie is too little so we'll have to wait a few years.

That is all I can write right now. I told Chad he HAS to write a blog entry about all the crazy coffee orders he listens to while standing in line at the coffee shop every morning. It is truly ridiculous, wait til you hear it....

I will post photos soon! I hope someone is reading this! Please post a comment so I know you are...


Monday, October 4, 2010

it's raining....

Hello people. I have recently had an eye-opening experience at my local grocery store which I will share with you. Firstly, grocery stores here have sprinkler systems installed in their fruit and vegetable departments. These sprinklers are timed to spray water all the produce at regular intervals- I suppose to keep everything looking "fresh" like it's just come off the farm. Can you tell I live in the rain capital of the universe???!! Aussies will be APPALLED by this
produce-sprinkler-policy. And while I do find it ridiculously water-wasteful, the most annoying part is that all my vegetables are wet when they go in the cart, hence all my groceries get wet when they go in the bags. And what about when you are in the middle of reaching for a bunch of carrots and you get doused all up and down your sleeve?! How bout a warning signal or something???
So I am in the Red Apple (my local grocery) shopping in the fruit and veg section, minding my own business when I hear a roll of thunder. That's right people- A ROLL OF THUNDER IN THE FRUIT AND VEG DEPARTMENT . Then I hear another one- no, it's not my imagination, there is thunder in the produce department. And just as I am trying to figure all of this out- the sprinklers come on! AHA! So there's the warning signal- thunder rolls before the "rain storm" . Whatever dude.

I should also mention that we have made an offer on a house! We are in the throes of negotiation with the sellers and hopefully we can come to an agreed price so we can finally have a home of our own. We are very excited! Well, I'm very excited, Chad is being more objective about the whole thing, which I figure is a good balance. So it is a 3 bedrooms/2.5 bath, one-story home on almost an acre of land which backs up to a greenbelt of pine tree forest with a creek running through it. It is in a beautiful neighbourhood and a great school that Amelie can walk to. It needs a bit of updating- mainly the kitchen and also the master bath which is crazy as it is now. The owners put in 2 master baths - a "his" and "hers"- so we want to knock out the wall between them and build one big master bath. The bones of the home are excellent so we feel we can realise it's potential.

We went to Home Depot to check out all the options for countertops, appliances, flooring, and all things DIY. Another weird thing here is that when you go to Home Depot (which is like Bunings), there are always a bunch of Mexicans hanging out somewhere in the parking lot. ALWAYS. So I finally find out what they're doing there: hoping to get work. They hang out and wait for someone who needs some work done on their house to come along and hire them for cheap labour and pay them cash so they can keep staying in the country illegally. I guess someone must hire them, but it's not going to be me. Pay your taxes like everyone else, amigos.

That's all for now! Miss you all in Oz! xoxo

Monday, September 20, 2010

kayak trip

I have been distracted lately as we have had an influx of visitors recently. It is amazing to be able to see so many old friends now that we are all on the same continent again. Amelie is loving school and her 2 teachers (a job-sharing thing) are absolutely lovely so of course that gives Chad and I much peace of mind. I have also enrolled her in gymnastics and Mandarin lessons. And before you say " what a wanker", I will tell you that she was learning Mandarin at Elsternwick Primary and was really taking to it so I thought maybe it would be nice if she could continue it over here. so there.

I have volunteered to come into AMelie's school classroom every week to help with reading. I also, much to Chad's amusement, volunteered to help out with their computer lab once a month. Not sure how helpful I'll be, but I figure how technical can 6 year olds get on the computer? Surely I'll be able to teach to clear your "deleted items" folder or something else that's very useful to know.

This past weekend we went on a one day kayak trip in the San Juan Islands. The goal was to be able to see some orcas, since this is where they come to hang out and feed for the summer and into early autumn. Well, I am up at 5:30am praying to the orca gods and then we drive 1 1/2 hrs northwest to Anacortes where we board the ferry and an hour-long ride to Friday Harbour where we will meet the kayak crew. It is a very foggy and rainy morning as we roll up our pants and slide our kayaks into the water. The San Juan Islands are one of the most popular weekend trips for Seattlites. They are rugged and mostly wild, forest-covered islands located just southeast of Vancouver Island. As we paddle we are greeted repeatedly by harbour seal pups which keep popping their heads out of the water every 200 feet or so. They are sooo cute! They like to check us out before bobbing back under the surface. We also see lots of porpoises, but NO ORCAS! Grrrrrrr..... I temper my disappointment with an overly enthusiastic paddling stroke which, in order to follow proper paddling instruction and much to his irritation, Chad must mimic at the rear of the boat.

Meanwhile Amelie is sitting in the middle of the kayak doing nothing. Which means being bored. Which means whining. Which is annoying and which is cutting into any possibility of having a Zen experience out here on the water. So I try to create my own inner Zen quietly up the front, which involves ignoring whining child, while I paddle through the fog. Amelie's whining becomes background noise. And after a half hour or so of practising this, I notice that she has actually stopped and is being extremely quiet. So I turn around and all I can see is a blob of a figure sitting in the middle of the kayak wearing a bright blue kayak skirt over a red lifejacket with the polkadotted arms of her parka and a patch of brown hair poking out. And I realise she has fallen sound asleep. And she (seriously) looks like the guy in the wheelchair from "A Weekend At Bernie's"- I am not kidding. I am howling with laughter over this thought. It almost makes up for not seeing any orcas.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pumpkin spice nonfat latte

Hello folks
Today I went to my first PTA meeting. This stands for Parent Teacher Association and it's job is to oversee all events- be it social, educational, or fundraising- for the your child's school. I figure that my involvement is a good use of my spare time as it enables me to have more insight into the different programmes & opportunities at Amelie's school; and it is also an opportunity to meet other parents at the school and maybe make a few FRIENDS which would be nice.

So the first meeting is at STARBUCKS of course, it seems this is where everyone meets for anything. Truth be told I think I have been in a Starbucks once since moving here, which is an anomaly given that Seattle is the birthplace of this coffee giant and they are, quite literally, everywhere you look. Way more than McDonald's or KFC, to stress the point.

Well, I am not really a coffee drinker, but since I am here I may as well try something new. Now here is something I have come to understand, and it is the plain truth. The reason people like all those fancy syrupy sugary coffee drinks is because the coffee at Starbucks is so bad that you can't possibly order a simple latte and expect to enjoy drinking it. So I am studying the menu and I see "pumpkin spice latte" up there on the board. Now, a lot of you know how I feel about pumpkin pie and this is the image I'm getting when I see those words up there. So I have to try it of course. And because I thought that it would probably be so sweet that I couldn't possibly drink the full fat version, I order it "nonfat". "Would you like whipped cream with that?" UHHHHH, no. And I feel myself get a little twinge of excitement over ordering this crazy pumpkin spice latte and I can't wait to experience the yummy pumpkin-y, nutmeg-y, cinnamon-y flavour.

Except that it is freeeaaaakin diiiisssgussstiiiiiinng! There is no hint, no remote resemblance to pumpkin pie, or even "pumpkin spice" for that matter. I am very disappointed. AFter the meeting I go straight home and comfort myself with a mug of hot, sweet, milky tea. And that is all I have to report for today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

regarding aforementioned traffic jam...

Oh yeah! I forgot to mention at the end of my traffic jam story that we found out a week later that the traffic we sat in for hours was simply due to everyone coming home after being away for the weekend. Honestly, if that is what I have to deal with in order to enjoy a weekend away, then I am going to spend my free time getting up close and personal with my neighbourhood block.
I decided not to finish that last post as it kept getting longer and longer and I was nowhere near the end of my story! Plus I don't feel like reliving it at this point! Suffice to say that we are finally feeling settled here! Will write more shortly....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving in Circles

dear readers....

every time I sit down to write another post, I am overwhelmed as I don't know where to begin or how to document all the s**t that has gone down in the last 4 weeks. So I simply stare at a blank post before signing out. But I made a commitment to keep my blog up to date and so here I go....

I am trying to remember what I last told you about our housing scenario. To briefly summarise, we have just moved for the 5th time in 10 weeks. No I am not kidding. When Microsoft finished paying for our housing in mid-August, we had to find somewhere else to live. We narrowed it down to 2 apartments- one of which was a 2br,2bath and one a 2br,1bath. The 2/2 was newer and in a better location. But for some reason in which no "reason" could exist, Chad and I went with our intuition which told us to rent the 2/1 apartment which was older and further out.

Well, that's when everything (including us) started to unravel...

my parents arrive on Tuesday morning, as we have planned to drive 8 1/2 hrs to Montana for my cousin's wedding reception.

I pack up everything to move on Tuesday. We move everything on Wednesday. It takes me an hour or so in our new apartment to realise that the place is a dump, only partially disguised by the nice rental furniture that is in here. It was built in the early 70's and absolutely nothing has been done to update it since then. Keep in mind we are paying nearly $3500 per month for this crap.

By Wednesday night, surrounded by unpacked boxes and suitcases and unable to find anything that I need, I have a stunningly obvious realisation that I should never have agreed to drive to my cousin's wedding reception. El stupido. Nevertheless, On Thursday we leave first thing in the morning for Montana. My anxiety levels, already well above average, rise a couple more points. But there nothing I can do so I may as well do my best to enjoy the next incredibly hectic 4 days.

This is my first visit to Montana. My cousin lives in a small town called Kalispell. She is the consulting psychologist at an exclusive and remote academy for troubled teens. If any of you ever saw an episode of "Brat Camp", you'll know what I'm talking about. Anyway, I attended a graduation ceremony at the school and listening to the students and their family members speak of their life-changing experiences quickly dispelled any of my cynicism. It is an amazing place hidden in the Montana wilderness- if any student decides to make a break for it, they even have search & rescue dogs on the premises to hunt them down and drag them back! Apparently this does happen on occasion.

I am overwhelmed by the beauty of Montana, and upon seeing it I immediately understand why they call it "big sky country". It is vast, untamed, and majestic. My cousin lives near 2 beautiful lakes (Lake Whitefish and Lake Flathead) and only an hour or so from Glacier National Park. There is much to explore here, but we only have 4 days so I make a vow to return and stay for a couple of weeks at least.

STaying at my cousin's adorable cozy house and witnessing her incredibly grounded and well balanced life ,well, honestly makes me feel even more unsettled and ungrounded than I already am! I find myself feeling envious of the normalcy she and seemingly everyone else around me is enjoying! I know it takes time to feel settled in a new place and find your community, your niche, but I am feeling rather impatient and want it all NOW please.

on Sunday we say goodbye and pile back in the car (myself, Amelie, Dad, and stepmom Mary Ann) to return to SEattle. The drive is easy and we stop at the Dairy Queen at the halfway mark for soft-serve. Dairy Queen is one of the reasons I am so glad to be home! If there is one thing Americans know how to do really well, it is junk food. I mean it- here we have the world's best ice cream, cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, brownies & bars, and any other dessert you can even dream of. And Dairy Queen is THE home of the BLIZZARD. This is soft serve ice cream with any kind of cookie or candy you want mixed into it. It is freakin delicious. But I realise I am diverting sooooo....

We finish our ice creams and then about 15 mins after we get back on the highway we hit bumper to bumper traffic. "What could it be?" we wonder. Must be an accident. Someone must've broken down. Maybe road work. Hmmm, no signs. No, must be an accident. We drive. One hour. No sign of accident or broken down vehicle. Two hours. Still no sign. Three hours. OKay... so maybe it's major road work and no signs. Four hours. AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!! Four hours of bumper to bumper traffic with my Dad in the passenger seat. I am practically seeing double with angst. In a desperate attempt to calm myself I begin frantically repeating "present moment, present moment" over and over again in my head. Instead of 8 hrs it takes us 13 1/2 hrs to get home. By this time I am practically shaking.

So you know how when you've been on a road trip AND it's taken you 5 hrs longer to get home than expected AND you have your backseat-driver-Dad in the passenger seat the whole time, you really just can't wait to get home flop on the couch and relax??? Well, Chad has been away for the whole weekend with some friends, so when I get home to our new apartment, there are boxes everywhere. Nothing has been unpacked, cleaned, cleared out or put away and I can barely walk through the damn place.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

3 months of amnesia

dear readers...

Currently we are enjoying the reason so many people live here: the Seattle summer.
For us, it has been the perfect introduction to a beautiful city surrounded by water, mountains, and forest. The days are long, sunny, and clear, and people stay outside until late in the day making the most of them. This beautiful season typically doesn't start until early July, but it makes up for it by stretching long into September.
We recently bought a book called "Take a Hike In Seattle". It contains information on 89 day hikes that are within 2 hrs of the city. So far we have completed 2 of them. Our goal is to do every hike in the book. Hiking in the Pacific NOrthwest is especially wonderful because of the abundance of old-growth forests, mountains, and lakes in the area. Both of the hikes we have done were very "kid-friendly", meaning that they weren't too long and not too steep. All 3 of us are enjoying getting out in nature and having it so accessible! Chad and I have a plan to climb Mt Rainier (over 14,000 ft) once we get a bit fitter! Have to do a few more hikes first. Amelie has surprised us with how she has taken to hiking. She is very interested in the different trees, plants, and flowers; and she seems to come alive as soon as we get into the forest. Yesterday we did a hike which led us to a beautiful series of waterfalls, the biggest one cascading down more than 150 feet! We found a few amazing swimming holes in the river, but it wasn't warm enough to swim that day so we bookmarked them for another time.
Someone recently told me that Seattlites enjoy 3 months of amnesia and 9 months of misery. This is regarding the famous Seattle weather patterns. Being new to the area, this is not what one wants to hear. I did not sign up for 9 months of misery. Rather, I envisioned something like a light constant drizzle that keeps my skin looking dewy and fresh; and keeps the surrounding forests and flora looking lush and green.

Apparently it is grey here from October to June, which is alarming to my ears. I have been told that I need to purchase a "lightbox". This is one of those things that you sit in front of for 15 minutes each day in order to keep from going insane while living through 9 months of misery. It gives you a certain type of light rays to lighten and brighten your mood and keep your Vitamin D levels healthy. If this is the case, then I am going to need at least 3 of them. Must go and compare prices...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Everyone is yelling

Greetings and welcome to my blog. I am an American citizen who recently returned to live in my home country after being overseas in Australia for the past 16 years. America is quite an insular country in many ways, and living outside of it gives you a fresh and insightful perspective.

I have been here less than 2 weeks and although I knew it was true, I was still unprepared for the LOUDNESS. In America, everything is loud, everyone is loud- all rise to the challenge of making sure they are heard. Everyone on TV yells, everyone on the radio yells. I can see that I need to be majorly de-sensitised, which should only take another few weeks, then I'll probably be yelling with the rest of them. Perfect.