Tonight Steph made a very tasty dinner of tortellini with roasted garlic alfredo sauce, and a side of green beans. Okay, the sauce was from a jar and the beans from a can, but still, it was quite yummy (give us a break, we both worked today!)
Well anyway, in order to get Noah to eat the delicious, cheesy tortellini, we actually had to bribe him with green beans. He had already scarfed down his first helping of green beans and wanted more, but we told him he had to have two tortellinis first (one for each year of age). He actually ended up polishing off the whole dish of beans!
This isn't a new thing, either. For the last year or so he has chosen to eat his vegetables before anything else on his plate. And to top that off, he will only drink water. Where did this kid get such healthy eating habits?!? Not that I'm complaining or anything...
This spring and summer is promising to be filled with back-yard projects. We can't really afford to do any of these home-improvements, but some of them need to be done.
Our first order of business is expanding the back patio. Our current 10x10 square just isn't big enough for Noah to ride on anymore.
We also need to expand the patio because we plan to build an arbor along much of the back of our house. The arbor will hopefully be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional in providing a weather-break (both sun and rain). We plan to do something along these lines, but maybe not quite so ornate. We will either use spaced strips or sheets of lattice to partially cover the top.
We would probably wait until next summer to build the arbor if it wasn't for the fact that we need to replace the rotting LP T-111 siding on the back of our house (south side). We plan to replace it with Hardi-Plank horizontal lap siding (like we have on the front of the house) and need to have the nailer board for the arbor lag-bolted (and flashed) to the plywood sheeting before we put the siding on.
After all that, we need to paint the whole house. The back is the worst because of the beating it takes (and because it will have new siding), but we may as well paint the whole house while we are at it. We aren't sure if we want to use the same Tan-Taupe color or try a new darker (trendier) color. Hopefully we can work out some kind of work trade between ourselves and Doug & Sandy (who also need to paint their house).
I'm sure the end result of all these projects will be nice, but I sure am not looking forward to the projects themselves...
Chocolate is a wonderful thing, but there are so many different types to choose from.
Steph loves white chocolate, but I find it rather flavorless. Some people like dark chocolate, but I find it a tad bitter. When I get a craving for chocolate, I must have smooth, creamy milk chocolate. I always go for the creams in a box of chocolates, while Steph always goes for the nuts and chews.
So, what is your favorite kind of chocolate? Do you prefer dark, white, milk, Belgian, German, Swiss, or possibly NO chocolate at all?
Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday to my lovely wife. I love you Stephanie!
This past Saturday was one of the most satisfying Saturdays in recent memory. I was able to sleep in until 7:30, make a fresh batch of coffee, and sit and relax while I adjusted to being awake. Steph made waffles while Noah and I had a chance to spend a little time together (we don't very often get to spend mornings together). After breakfast, Steph and Noah left for a Pampered Chef party and then down to Albany for a bridal shower. I had the whole day to myself -- whatever was I going to do?
The morning started out rather gray and foggy, but I knew I had lots of yard-work to do -- and I wasn't going to be deterred from my mission. By the time I headed out to get a few supplies from the hardware store, the sun was just beginning to peak out from behind the haze. The depressing gray was giving way to life-giving sunshine as I backed my pickup into the driveway -- I was pumped and ready to roll.
First on the agenda was pulling weeds. I normally spray weeds, but decided that there were so few this year that it wasn't worth doing the mixing. Of course there were more little weed starts than I realized, but since they hadn't had a chance to establish deep roots, they popped out of the ground very easily.
After weeding came edging. Thanks to the late-fall edging I had done, the early-spring job wasn't too tough. Still, it is amazing how much the grass was creeping out for this time of year.
A quick run with the lawn mower came next - the grass was quite dry.
Pressure washing the sidewalks and the back patio was next. I had already pressure washed the driveway on Thursday, but ran out of daylight after work. It's kind of fun watching the thin layer of slime peel off of the concrete with each pass of the wand. Steph says it is like using an ultra-sonic scaler (for cleaning teeth) but on a much larger scale.
With all the big jobs done, I had just enough time left for a little sweeping, webstering (de-spider webbing), and tree trimming.
It's amazing how even on a small city lot, all these jobs add up. I headed into town for supplies at 10:30 AM and by the time I put the pressure washer away it was 4:30 PM (with a short break in there to scarf down some grub).
After everything was put away, I went in, took a shower, and relaxed in the living room with the dogs. I really do detest yard-work, yet at the end of the day, I felt really good about what I had accomplished. I'm sure there were plenty of other fun things I could have been doing all day, but none of them would have given me the same feeling of satisfaction. I must be getting old or something…
We have returned from a lovely week-long vacation to Victoria. I am posting some pictures on the main page, and have composed a [long] written summary of our vacation in the "Continue reading..." section. For more photos, please see Noah's Playhouse.
Saturday, February 19
We hit the road under clear skies at around 6:15 AM, with a quick stop for coffee at the Mulino espresso stand. Noah was supposed to sleep for the first few hours of the drive, but we had no such luck. He became restless by the time we hit Tacoma, so we stopped for breakfast at a McDonald's (with a Play Place, of course).
After breakfast, Noah wanted to watch "Lowly", so we broke out the Richard Scarry DVD's (thank you Jeremy & Jenn!). He must have watched each one three times -- he just wanted to switch back and forth between them. We were making great time and things were looking good.
We made a quick stop in Bellingham for gas, and then headed for the Canadian border. About a mile south of the border, we began to see brake lights -- and we would see the very same brake lights for the next two hours. Aaarrrggghhh! I had figured if we hit the border at noon, we would have plenty of time to wait for the ferry and do a little sightseeing before we picked up Sandy (Steph's mom) at the Victoria airport. Wrong.
We cleared the border checkpoint at 2:15, with a half-hour jaunt left to the ferry terminal. The ticket agent told us we had a good chance of making the 3:00 boat, but would get bumped if more reserved ticket holders showed up. Well, they must have showed up, because this is as close as we came to making it on:
When we got to the ferry terminal, we phoned our friend Laurel Pritchard to find out which ferry she would be on. She had just miss the transit bus by 6 minutes, and wasn't sure if she would make the 3:00 -- and she didn't. At least we would be on the same ferry and she could just ride with us once we hit the island.
And of course, the ferries run every hour on the hour -- except at 4:00. So we had to wait for the 5:00 boat. Did I mention, aaarrrrgggghhhh? Let's just say I was a little bit hacked off that my schedule had been shot full of holes. Sandy was supposed to arrive in Victoria at 4:30, and we weren't even going to reach Vancouver Island until 6:30.
As we waited in line for the ferry, my cell phone rang. Sandy was calling to let us know that she was at the Vancouver Airport, and that her flight had been delayed by an hour, and that she might just take a Taxi to the Worldmark Victoria.
We got on the 5:00 ferry, met up with Laurel, had some dinner, and waited near the children's play area while Noah ran off some energy. Near the end of our 90-minute voyage, Sandy called to let us know she was sitting in our "fancy" room waiting for us, but she had no luggage. She had met up with another family friend, Jill Norris, on the plane-ride over from Vancouver; who in turn, gave Sandy a ride to the resort.
We found the condo, got unpacked and headed back out for dinner at the White-Spot (we were actually looking for a Boston Pizza, but when you don't know the town…).Then we were off to the grocery store for breakfast food and most importantly, for French Vanilla creamer.
In the end, I had no reason to be stressed out. All of our plans worked out just fine -- just few hours later than we had expected.
Sunday, February 20
We lounged around the condo most of the morning, visiting, sipping coffee, and enjoying the sunshine. We even did a little surfing of the web via a local wireless network - but were only able to pick it up for a few hours Sunday morning.
Sandy's luggage arrived at around 11:00 and we eventually ventured out for a two-minute walk to the Fisherman's Wharf. We checked out some of the boathouses, sailboats, and fishing boats; and then headed up to the Moka House café for a light lunch and more coffee. I was low on my BJ's West Valley Blend, so I bought a pound of the Moka House's Sumatra roast organic coffee -- a very good choice indeed.
We picked up Doug (Steph's Dad - aka Dougie) at the Victoria Airport at around 4:00 -- and of course, his luggage was also missing. After a quick stop at the local Winner's (similar to Ross Dress For Less), we headed off to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner with Jill. I had a good Minestrone Soup and a wonderful Tortellini dish - definitely a good way to start the week.
Then it was back to the condo for some Dutch Blitz.
Monday, February 21
We again spent the morning lounging around the condo, playing games and generally enjoying being on holidays. It became apparent that Dougie's luggage was not coming any time soon, so we headed off to downtown Victoria (a fifteen minute walk from the resort) for grub.
Most of us were hungry for breakfast food, so Laurel recommended the Milestone, which was conveniently located on the harbour front. Being a French toast connoisseur, I just wanted plain old French toast. I settled for the French toast stack, which came with cream cheese, toasted pecans, apple slices and maple syrup. My, oh my, did I ever make the right choice. That was, hands down, the best French toast I have ever had -- simply delicious. Oh, and the view of the harbour was nice, too.
From Milestone's, we headed down along the waterfront to see the boats, and then up the hill into downtown. We visited a quilt store (luckily the store had chairs for Dougie and I to hang out in), a few toy stores, a few gift shops, and a little Italian café that served Torrefazione coffee - a nice treat.
We headed back towards the waterfront, and noticed the little green water taxis cruising around the harbour. We decided to take one back to the resort to rest our weary legs. Noah absolutely loved the little boat ride, as there was a lot to see out on the harbour - including a floatplane heading out to the "runway".
Steph and Laurel headed to the local market, the "Little Gem", to get stuff to make dinner with. We were treated us to some yummy Taco Soup. Then it was in to the pool and hot tub -- which overlooked the harbour.
Tuesday, February 22
We arose bright and early to take Laurel to the ferry terminal. The terminal is really not very far from Butchart Gardens, so we figured we would check it out. But, just as we had suspected, very little was in bloom (just a few crocus), so we made a quick u-turn.
Sandy and Steph managed to sniff out a scrapbooking store on the north side of Victoria, so we had to stop. Dougie, Noah, and I headed across the street to a coffee shop where we shared a big oatmeal cookie.
Then we were off for a day of sauntering along Hwy 1 up to Nanaimo, stopping at viewpoints along the way. We tried to find a quaint little fish & chips or seafood restaurant (you know, something like Moe's on the Oregon coast) in downtown Nanaimo, but to no avail. We ended up eating at a Montana's on the north side of town. The food was good -- and the restaurant reminded me of a Western version of Outback Steakhouse.
We headed back towards Victoria, with another stop for coffee at a café called "Serious Coffee" (my eyelids were getting a little heavy). From there we took the scenic route through the west side of Victoria, then across the big, ugly, blue bridge into downtown; and then back to the condo.
Sometime during the day, Dougie's luggage arrives. Yeah! Good job, Air Canada. Not.
Once again, we needed to come up with something for dinner, so we made another run to the Little Gem for some frozen Perogees and fixin's for salad. Some good competitive card playing followed dinner.
Wednesday, February 23
Wednesday started with another leisurely morning, with everyone taking their time getting ready. We headed downtown and visited the Royal Wax Museum, with the intentions of possibly hitting the Bug Zoo or Miniature World. We ended up doing neither, as Dougie was all museum'ed out. So we decided to find some lunch.
I had seen Old Vic's Fish & Chips on a map, and I was determined to finally get the halibut I had been craving. The restaurant seemed very unassuming, which had me somewhat worried for a bit. Once my food came, all the worrying was gone. The halibut was top-notch and very fresh -- not a bit fishy. The batter formed a light, crispy crust that didn't overwhelm the flavor of the mild flavor of the fish. Some good old-fashioned chips and healthy portions made for a very satisfying lunch indeed.
Power naps were the main items on the agenda Wednesday afternoon, followed by a trip to the local Save-On Foods for grillin' steaks. We also got hot dogs for Noah, a little dessert, and some ham for Thursday's breakfast.
We got some nice top sirloins, some Montreal spice rub, and some baking potatoes for the big feast. Noah and I grilled the steaks while Steph and Sandy worked on the potatoes and salad. I was able to achieve a nice, juicy medium on the steaks, and that peppery spice rub was simply delicious. Dessert was a layer cake (similar to a Boston Cream Pie) served with Ice Cream - funny, I don't remember much else about that evening.
Thursday, February 24
Stephanie and I made a breakfast of ham, scrambled eggs, and raisin toast. The scrambled eggs roughly followed the recipe in the latest Cook's Illustrated, but I substituted diced ham for bacon.
Thursday was another day of driving and gauking. We headed south from the Worldmark, with several side excursions to check out the quaint residential architecture. The drive was beautiful - much nicer than the drive to Nanaimo. It is very strange to see the mountains of the Olympic peninsula rising high on the horizon - with a rather large body of water in between.
We meandered our way past Oak Bay on the west side of the island, and eventually came to a small marketplace complete with shopping, a greenhouse, a grocery store, and a restaurant and deli. Sandy even found the quilt store she had been looking for - and to think that Dougie and I just stumbled across it driving "by instinct". We took a lot of abuse from the backseat before we found that place.
The lady at the quilt store suggested we check out the town of Sidney, which was just few clicks to the north. We found a very nice boardwalk full of more shopping - yeah!! Dougie and I (and a sleeping Noah) headed down to the waterfront, as we were done with the whole shopping thing. We found the waterfront fish & chips place we had been after, but since we had already eaten lunch, we were out of luck. Then we met back up with the ladies and hopped from park bench to park bench as they hopped from store to store. The weather was gorgeous, so we didn't mind one bit.
Doug and Sandy watched Noah while Stephanie and I headed downtown for our "Date Night". I made reservations at Milestones at 6:00, which allowed us to watch the sun set over the harbour. We even got to see the Parliament Building's thousands of white lights come on at dusk. We ordered a spinach and artichoke dip appetizer, followed by a wonderful dinner. Steph ordered a Cajun chicken penne, while I ordered steak and fries (hey, we were on vacation, and I wanted another steak!).
After dinner we headed up the street to inquire about a carriage ride. We found a carriage that had just enough time take us on a "Short & Sweet" ride through downtown (which was all I could afford, as well). Stephanie and I huddled under the big fuzzy blanket and enjoyed our romantic fifteen-minute tour of Victoria at night.
Friday, February 25
I was tempted to head to Milestones for another French toast stack, but I resisted. We did eventually head downtown again (around lunch time), mainly because Noah wanted to "ride in a boat across the water". But, the little green water taxis were all full, so we had to hoof it downtown (much to Noah's dismay - many tears were shed over that one).
We decided to try the Blackfish Café, a floating restaurant located right down off of Wharf Street. I had to get another helping of halibut fish & chips, so I gave theirs a try. The Blackfish halibut was just as fresh as Old Vic's, but with a slightly heavier (and dill spiced) batter. Blackfish earned major points for having a delicious homemade tarter sauce and an unusual, but equally delectable, Italian flavored cole slaw. Old Vic had the better halibut by a hair, but Blackfish won on décor, location, atmosphere, and homemade trimmings to go with the fish.
After lunch, we headed over to the water taxis - and actually found one with room for all of us. Noah was most ecstatic. He sat on my knee and snuggled in as we made our way across the harbour - what a wonderful feeling.
We got out at Fisherman's Wharf and made our way back to the Moka House for dessert and coffee. I had a little chocolate and peanut butter Nanaimo bar type thingy that went very nicely with my mocha.
Then it was back to the resort where just about everyone hunkered in for afternoon naps. Dougie and I took full advantage of last opportunity to relax in the hot tub.
Steph made spaghetti for dinner, and we had one last late night of gaming.
Saturday, February 26
Saturday morning we awoke to fog, but nobody was complaining. We had a full week of unseasonably gorgeous weather. The gray haze just seemed to fit the theme of the day - going home.
We went out for one last big breakfast together before dropping Doug & Sandy off at the Victoria airport (where they sat for 3 more hours waiting for the fog to burn off). Our own ferry was about a half hour late in arriving, and then it took about a half hour longer than normal to get across to Vancouver.
We made one last stop at a Tim Horton's for a Canadian Maple and a Boston Cream, and then we made a run for the border. This time there was no line at all and we were through in less than ten minutes.
We made it to Todd & Shelley's house at around 4:30 in the afternoon. Todd had just finished mowing the lawn, and their entire yard looked beautiful - especially for February. We sat and talked while Shelley made dinner, a delicious cream based lasagna and a lightly wilted spinach salad with red onions and balsamic vinegar, accompanied by herbed garlic bread. Dessert was tiramisu - a fine ending to a wonderful meal.
We played with Clayton and Kendall for a while before settling into the family room to watch Without a Paddle, a goofy movie about three old friends who decide to hunt for the treasure of DB Cooper in the Oregon backwoods. It was fun to watch, but I couldn't get over the fact that they weren't really in Oregon - I could just tell by the terrain and the vegetation. Turns out it was filmed in New Zealand.
Sunday, February 27
The final day of our vacation. We arose to Shelley cooking homemade blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs, and bacon. Todd brewed up a nice, strong pot of Starbucks French Roast, and even had French Vanilla Creamer to go with it - yep, my sister married a good man. :-)
After breakfast, Noah wanted to go outside. I really couldn't blame him, it was another gorgeous morning (well, after the fog burned off). Shelley currently runs a daycare, so the whole yard is kid-proof (and full of fun toys). But, we had to get moving and so much too soon we were back on the road. I don't know if I was well rested after a week of vacation, or if the ZipFizz Todd gave me, but I never once felt tired on the drive home, despite the snoring coming from both of my fellow passengers. I even had energy left to mow the lawn and trim the willow tree in the front yard! Hmmm... maybe there's something to this stuff.
Well, if anyone is still reading after all that, this is the end of our trip to Victoria. Nick took good care of our house and our dogs - and as usual, the mutts were sad to see him go (they actually whine at the window as he leaves).
So long fair Victoria, we hope to see you again soon!