Christmas Vacation

We had a great week in Florida. It was the first time that all six of us had been together since our wedding (a year and a half ago!) and so we enjoyed it. The weather cooperated beautifully – the sunshine was a treat after the dismal, short Seattle days. Aside from a great boat tour down the Intercoastal Canal (fun to see the fancy homes, and the iguanas) and a brunch out with Kevin’s grandmother (who fortuitously lives nearby!), we mostly stuck around the house and neighbourhood. Perfect.

Kevin enjoyed the hot tub after a bracing swim.

Comet was willing to play reindog just long enough to get a picture.

Sharon was past her exams and Dave seemed happy to be free of work.

Plenty of cocktail hours, delicious meals (Kevin and I always get reenergized about cooking after a week at home) and time to catch up and visit.

Plus beach and patio time, a visit to the bird sanctuary, the midnight Christmas service, plenty of books, tree decorating on Christmas eve and presents Christmas morning (with mimosas and fauxmosas), fun fish sightings in the canal (including a dogfish and some large, round, striped things), watching the Grinch on YouTube, and lots of work on the jigsaw puzzle that my parents put under the tree.

Antlers aside, Comet seemed blissfully happy that everyone was back.

It was a great week.

Airport Adventure

We pushed back our flights by two days due to concern about the weekend snow and power. Luckily we didn’t lose power at all (such a relief), but we got another 8″ or so of snow in the interim. Usually we take the shuttle to the airport, but they refused to accept reservations, so we loaded up the all-wheel-drive Matrix and ventured out into the streets.

Our road had not been plowed, but the snow was pretty crunchy and the traction wasn’t terrible.

The main road had been plowed at some point, though, so there was a 3′ snow mountain ridge that Kevin did a great job navigating over/through. Despite the plowing, and due to the lack of salt or sand, the roads to the highway were white and open. Beautiful (especially with the stunning snow-covered trees lining the route), but we were glad that there weren’t too many other cars to contend with.

The highway also hadn’t been plowed recently, so the lanes were sort of ad hoc. We saw several people slow and then get stuck on the entrance ramps, but on the whole it seemed like people were heeding the warnings and staying home – it didn’t look like the morning commute. (This is right by the Microsoft exit, but the entire trip down 520 and 405 was similarly depopulated.)

We actually made decent time, and then we joined the many-hundred-person line to check our bags. At least Southwest was still flying and at least the line moved along relatively quickly. The airport was packed with displaced travelers. The Red Cross had been by with food, water and blankets (since many of the restaurants didn’t have deliveries or workers) and apparently SeaTac made national news all day for being among the worst. Kevin and I were particularly struck by one little girl (probably around two?) who just stopped walking and laid down on the floor, limbs heavy, totally exhausted. Her mom blocked traffic for a few minutes until she gathered enough energy to stand up and be carried. A cute but very apt demonstration of a lot of people’s emotional state at that point, I think.

Waiting

I decided to bring in our trash and recycling bins since it’s looking like there wont’ be a pickup this week. I was clearing off the snow when I saw that the bottom layer was actually hail – must have arrived during the thundersnow that kicked the whole storm off in the first place?

There’s supposed to be an enormous wind and snow storm tonight, possibly with freezing rain, and they’re forecasting gusts of 70-90 mph. We were supposed to fly out to Florida this morning, but we pushed back our flights, partly out of concern that we’d have trouble getting to the airport (our neighbourhood still has so much snow).

The other factor was that if we lose power, we wanted to be here to keep an eye on the fishtank and make sure that it’s staying warm, oxygenated, and that there’s a bit of current. We have the deep cycle battery from the 2006 windstorm all charged and ready to go, and we have battery operated airpumps. Fingers crossed that we don’t need to use either of them.

For the moment, we’re appreciating our electricity. This house is going to be very cold without it, and luckily we have plenty of food that doesn’t require cooking, since that won’t be an option either. Fingers crossed that the wind and freezing rain don’t hit the power supply lines. We have candles out already, and the energy company number programmed into my cell phone (we don’t have a house line, so if too many towers go down, that bit of prep will be moot) – everything we can do to jinx against the storm.

Everything is so still and stark outside. We’re surrounded by all of these enormous trees, and everything feels like it’s just waiting.

Catching up

As usual, I seem to be writing in spurts. Usually I manage to fit all of the posts on a page, but this time they’re overflowing. Oops! To see all of them, you can go scroll down until you see the Archives section in the sidebar and click on the 2008 “Dec” link.

Snow Day!

All week, we’ve been waiting for the snow to start in earnest. Schools were cancelled on Wednesday and nearly everyone decided to work from home on Wednesday, only to spend all day waiting for the snow that never came.

Thursday morning, I woke to a before-dawn thunderstorm, and apparently the flakes started falling in earnest shortly after that. Kevin roused me at 10:30 (a bit of sleeping in since work was not on) and there were already so many inches of snow that the backyard had lost definition – just whiteness and the ground seemed oddly elevated.

All of our big rockwork, ferns and bushes were almost entirely mounded over. You can see the tracks of some creature who’d been snuggled up by our grill in the bottom left corner of the photo and apparently decided to break for it up the hill after we already had many inches.

The light in the house was so unusual during the day. Our bumpout window in the kitchen and the skylights in the family room were entirely snowed over.

Meanwhile, the snow reflected the light back up and so it seemed much brighter outdoors than usual. I set up at the dining room table with a laptop and a mug of tea so that I could watch the snow swirl around the backyard. Neither of us was able to log into work or email, too many people stuck at home and the servers couldn’t handle it. I kept trying every so often, but it was a real snow day. (And the best part of that as an adult is that you don’t have to make it up at the end of the year!!)

A little after two, when it became clear that the snow wasn’t stopping, we headed out for a trek to see the neighbourhood. I finally got to use the cross country skis that I got as a Christmas present the year we moved out here. I had to take the stickers off before we went out – I’d forgotten what a great deal they were. :-) With no plows or sand trucks, our home is ski-in/ski-out, so I clicked in at the top of the driveway and off we went. Kevin manned the camera.

No trash pickup today!

Our street Ts onto a larger one, and at the corner we were surprised to see signs that the road was closed.

Kevin went to investigate later (he ended up doing a much larger loop to trek to the grocery store for apple cider) and was deeply amused to find three metro buses, clad in their chains, stranded halfway up the hill.

There were only a few sets of tire tracks on our street, but the main road was quite compacted. There were occasional cars, moving slowly, and the first appropriate use of tire chains that I’ve seen in Seattle. We headed down the street to Grasslawn Park, and I was impressed (as usual) by how much use it gets. There was very little pristine snow left, and plenty of people out building snowmen and igloos, plus a few groups of teenagers and some intrepid people passing through on bikes. The playground areas were more compacted than the roads! Even with all of the activity, there was more than enough snow for skiing.

And for admiring:

We were most impressed to come across a postman out on his route on the way home.

Amidst all of the reports of people abandoning cars on roads and highways, and metro buses spinning out everywhere, and general Seattle snow-related grinding to a halt, it seemed like an unusually brave and steady sight.

Tank

Our shrimp seems to be settling into a nice, regular schedule of molting and then producing eggs! I’m pleased, since that seems to be a sign of good health. It’s very hard to get a picture of the eggs, since he (she?) gets much more cautious and shy when carrying them, but I managed to get a reasonable view at feeding time. He was working away on the food.

You can see areas of yellow on the underside of his tail. The eggs are yellowish (slightly green) and about the size of a poppy seed, and you can see the masses of them through his skin. I’m not entirely sure what happens to them (I’m guessing the shrimp eats them? They seem like they’d be nutritious) but they disappear after a few days.

Cold!

It’s been in the 20s here and is supposed to stay that way all week! Brr!! Not the typical Seattle temps at all.
Kevin and I were quite pleased to find icicles on the kitchen window this morning. This one is all of three inches long:

And these little icicle nubbins are a half inch or so each:

For further proof of the temperature, look at our rhododendron bush out front!

Rhododendron leaves curl up when it gets below freezing (the lower the temps, the tighter they get), and this was what they looked like at 24 degrees. Much more of a Massachusetts sight than a Pacific Northwest one! We were both somewhat amused to hear that the temps set records today and yesterday. It’s so temperate here.