#62: Passports

We love to travel and see new places, and it turns out most of the places we haven’t seen are outside the nominal borders of the country we currently live in. This year we wanted to make sure the doors were open to take the kids further afield on our adventures.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

My passport was about to expire, Will’s already had, and Lucy had never gotten one. So we filled out forms, went to the drugstore and got overcharged for terrible photos of our faces, and sent them off with our hopes.

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Now they’re back, and there’s one less obstacle between us and international explorations as a family.

#22: Kill the Bar

We have sort of a yours-mine-and-ours situation when it comes to liquor in our house. Margaret and I had a sizable stash, most of it dating from when we (at age 23) decided we wanted to try making cocktails at home. Becky and Mike also had a few bottles. And ever since our households merged, we’ve been adding a few things here and there for novelty’s sake, or for a specific seasonal cocktail recipe.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

We realized the top of our bookshelf made it look like we had a real problem.

This year, we decided to do away with having a home bar. We weren’t using it, so dedicating this much space to it seemed silly. So we stopped buying liquor, and slowly but surely started drinking down what we had.

It took nearly the whole year, but just about every bottle that you see in that photo is gone now. The only exceptions are the three little deciliters of cask-strength scotch I picked up in Edinburgh, which take up very little space, and which I actually do treasure. The rest is totally gone. Which was a huge relief when it came time to move!

#60: Photography Exhibit

In the interest of avoiding becoming shut-ins, and becoming more cultured, we like to take in some art exhibits every year. This year’s photography exhibit was once again at the excellent Blue Sky Gallery.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

One of the main exhibits was a series of photos of dogs’ shadows, taken from above on sunny days. The artist was trying to capture a dog’s personality, and the way their shadow is sometimes an exaggerated version of themselves. It worked.

The other main exhibit, which we didn’t snap a photo of, was a collection of shots taken in a village in rural India. We loved the lighting and mood of the photos, and the moments the artist captured were really great. There was a vibrancy, and a huge amount of emotion in every photograph.

All in all, another successful expedition. We’ve never been sorry we went to one of these, so they’ll probably keep popping up on our list.

#28: Try 3 New-to-Us Vancouver Restaurants

We moved to the ‘Couve two years ago, and we’re not those people who will forever disdain the Washington side of the river for not being as “cool” as its southern neighbor. Great food is everywhere.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

This year we tried a few local, highly-rated establishments, and found goodness all over.

First up was Low Bar, which despite the name has set a high bar for cocktails. It’s kind of divey, so if that’s your scene great, otherwise beware.

Second is Willem’s on Main, which has been around for quite a while, and is kind of a staple of classy Vancouver food. Very tasty, very comfortable, very nice.

Lastly we want to heap praise on The Grocery, which has some of the best cocktails we’ve had anywhere, an awesome soundtrack, and their food is great too. Highly recommended.

Honorable mentions go to Goldie’s and Jazzy Johns for serious BBQ, and Thai Orchid is a fantastic option for east-Asian food. We’re telling you, it’s great up here, come on over!

#21: Genetic Testing

Becky and I don’t have a ton of information about our family trees. We don’t have a comprehensive family tree, curated by generations of careful record-keepers, detailing the exact nature of our familial relationship to Abraham Lincoln.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

So when we signed up for 23andMe, we didn’t know what we were going to get. If you’re not familiar, 23andMe is a genetic testing company, which will take a DNA sample from you and analyze it, giving you all the information that they can deduce from that sample.

You may or may not know this about us, but we’re not huge gift-givers. That isn’t either of our love languages, so on most holidays where you would normally unwrap things, we tend give each other experiences. 23andMe wasn’t cheap, but it fits in this category – it’s not a thing, but an experience, and it made a perfect way to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!

Our kits arrived, and we filled the little vials with saliva and sent them back. Then we waited. DNA testing is not a fast science.

What came back is fascinating. It’s amazing how much can be said about you just from your DNA. For example, in my report it showed that the British/Irish part of my DNA (59.8% of me) emigrated to the U.S. somewhere between 1890 and 1950, and the French/German portion (13.2%) came over a bit earlier, 1860-1920.

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Becky’s report is slightly different: her British/Irish ancestry (also 59.8%) is from the same time period as mine, but her French/German (10.4%) is from earlier (1830-1890), and there’s a tiny bit of Scandinavian DNA (5.2%) from 1770-1860.

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(Interestingly, we got these results as we were hiking in Ireland, which gave us even more reason to enjoy our surroundings.)

Our reports also included health information, which revealed that we don’t carry the genetic variants for any major diseases, like cystic fibrosis, or sickle cell anemia. We’re also in good shape when it comes to genetic disorders, like macular degeneration and Parkinson’s. Good to know!

Was this information super useful in our daily lives? Not really. But it did give us some clues as to where we came from, and an interesting insight into how genetics work. The kits weren’t cheap, but we feel like this was an adventure worth going on.

#37: Subscription to The New Yorker

We’re a little conflicted about this Thing. It’s not exactly, well, a success? Well, let me tell you what happened, and you can judge.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

At the beginning of the year, we bought a 1-year subscription to The New Yorker, a magazine whose articles we had been reading online for quite a while. The idea was to nudge ourselves out of our reading comfort zone, and learn about some topics we ordinarily wouldn’t.

When the issues started to arrive, we loved it. There’s a ton of great writing here, and some in-depth articles on fascinating topics. Like this one, about a photographer whose work you’ve probably seen and don’t know it. Or this more recent piece, about a family at the center of the U.S. opioid crisis. There’s so much good stuff here, including some political pieces that helped us broaden and deepen our views.

There was just one problem with this plan: volume. With the subscription, you get a full magazine every single week. Before long we were drowning in back issues, and never caught up; I’m still not caught up past April, and Becky, the most voracious reader I know, is three or four issues behind. (More like eight or nine…)

So we’re still counting this Thing on our list, even though we didn’t fully, 100% succeed with it. We still feel better off for having done it, and that’s what counts. We’re definitely going to continue reading articles from this publication, but not in a form where we feel constantly behind.

August Misc Round-Up

Lucy went with the Swanks and Aldridges to Mason Lake! It’s an annual tradition for them, and Lucy looks forward to it every year.

At Sandhill, Will occasionally floats in a sensory tank as part of his therapy; Lucy had her first day of 4th grade, loves having her Swenson cousins living nearby, and made an ecosystem in a jar; Ben went for a team dinner at Noble Rot; and our mailboxes were destroyed by a clumsy driver!

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#5: Karaoke Set Up

It turns out our family loves karaoke. Any reason at all, from birthday parties to dates to just because, we’ll take it and sing our hearts out. Well, now we don’t even have to leave our house.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

And it wasn’t even really that expensive. When I started researching gear, I expected it to be unrealistically expensive, but all you really need is a microphone or two and a small mixer. I agonized over this for a while, trying to puzzle out how all the pieces would fit together.

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After some trial and error, we ended up with a really great setup. I went a little bigger on hardware, and got four wireless mics and a biggish mixer, so we could travel or put on a live performance of a band or something (you never know).

For software, it took a couple of tries, but we ended up subscribing to KaraFun, which is just perfect for us: you pay $10 per month and you get access to their software (which is great) and a catalog of over 25,000 songs, all fully mixed so you can adjust the tempo, key, and volume of the main vocals (individually for duets).  It runs from a laptop plugged into the TV, but you can search for and queue up songs from a smartphone, just like at Voicebox!

Will helped us break it in on one of his visits home, and it was a central feature at Lucy’s sleepover birthday party. So now we’re that karaoke family!

#27: Set Up the Deck

 

Making our deck an extension of our living space has been a dream of ours since we bought this house. It took several projects to make it real.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

First: the dog bathroom. We struggled with a porch potty for the dogs for a while, but Becky and our favorite contractor got together and designed what they thought would be the perfect dog outhouse. It has a dog door straight out from the house, it hooks into the spigot (for rinsing) and the downspout (for drainage), and has a side door for picking up solids.

The second adventure was how to get the picnic table to the lower deck, since it was taking up too much room. It seemed silly to carry a 150-pound picnic table through the house, out the front door, down and around to the back yard, and back up two flights of stairs, when it only really needed to move 10 feet straight down.

So we tied some rope to it, sent Becky down to guide the landing, and lowered it over the side of the deck. Easy peasy! (Photos by Lucy, who was standing a safe distance away.)

 

Here’s the end result: a lovely, livable back porch with our garden boxes, the dog outhouse, and a little table where we can eat meals on nice days.

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It took a while to get here, but we really like it. And, in fact, all of this will be moving with us to the new house!

#36: Update the Kitchen

When we bought this house, there were some things we weren’t entirely happy with, so we made sure to set aside some of our house-buying budget for remodeling. It finally came time for the kitchen’s turn.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2017 challenge. Click on the photos for a closer look!

First job: the countertops. The house came with granite tile, which sounds great, but if you’ve ever had it you know the grout gets gross real fast.

So we took it all off! Ken (helpful as always) brought over some dropcloths and sledges, and we smashed the old granite to bits.

Then the countertop contractors came in, and put in our gorgeous new quartz-composite countertops. I installed my favorite kitchen faucet (I really missed the one from our Portland house), and the tile people came to install the amazing backsplash tiles that Becky picked out. Looking good so far!

After that it was time to fix up the cabinets. Ken worked his magic, and over a weekend we had a huge transformation! It felt brand new.

And now, once again, we have to leave a kitchen that we just got to where we want it. We love this look, though, so stay tuned for when we introduce some of these elements into our next kitchen!