Every year, at the end of the calendar year, I get a little annoyed at myself. Because I end up with vacation time that I have earned but have not yet used. We can carry over one year's worth of vacation time. For me that is four weeks. Anything beyond that amount, you lose if you don't use. And since I am insistent on getting what I have earned, I use it...at the end of the year...not my favorite time of year.

So I start ever new year telling myself that this year it's going to be different; this year I am going to take time off and stay home, play tourist, try recipes, watch movies, get caught up on whatever. This is the year I actually did that. I've been out of the office for a week and a half and it felt great (well, until I saw my inbox, but that's not anything I could control).

I frequently get into conversations, mostly with "locals" (which I will never consider myself) where they will be shocked at my lacking knowledge of the area. My new-found interest in exploring Snohomish (SnoHo to the folks around here) has been stoked by the fact that my friends just moved up to Lake Stevens and so I have been "forced" to explore a bit.  Anyway, these conversations, they can get confusing. Like when someone mentions the Fremont Troll and I say something stupid like "is it an 'actual' troll or just some guy living under a bridge?". OK, not well articulated, but hopefully you know what I was getting at. It is, in fact, not an "actual troll" but a statue. How the heck was I supposed to know that. OK, I need to get out more! It's probably something that I should have done when I first moved here but I was so focused on being the perfect Microsoft employee and proving myself. I jumped head-first into my work and didn't do all those "get-to-know-the-area" activities that most people do. Plus, I was single; single-single. Some of that stuff you don't want to do by yourself. I'm still afraid of hiking by myself. Once the news reports about "lost hikers" stop, I'll reconsider. I know I am being paranoid. Sometimes, it's more comfortable to indulge your paranoia than to freak your mother out by telling her you went hiking alone. On a mountain. With wild animals. Did I mention that we are city people?

So anyway, taking time off, I was of course thinking about projects that I could get done; because that is just how my mind works. And I picked a few that weren't overly ambitious. Totally do-able, but without sucking up all of my free time. I painted the door (4 coats!) and replaced the door hardware. I ordered a storm door. I planted my flower beds in the front yard (I am assuming that there's some force that will tell me to stop planting my beds but it has not made itself aware to me yet..perhaps, it's my neighbors telling me to stop...right now we are going for the English garden look....the peonies in my yard are outrageous...yep, I am the queen of the peonies).

So in addition to my regularly over-programmed, productive time off, I scheduled some other activities that I have foregone because my time has always been so full of projects. Instead of just going to get an oil change, I stopped off and saw a matinee (I know, you are thinking "big deal" but the last movie I saw in a theater was Starsky and Hutch). I went to the farmers market last Saturday just to check out what they have this early in the season (asparagus and lots of plants). I drove up to Lake Stevens twice, once to see my 6 year old friends t-ball game.

I have to talk a little more about the t-ball game because it was hilarious. I guess when you are around that age, the learning curve for sports can be steep. There's a huge divide between the kids that understand the game and those that don't. Of course there are coaches on the filed letting you know what to do, but sometimes, it's more important to adjust your pony tail than to watch the ball coming at you. And tantrums? Oh yeah, saw one of those. They didn't keep score but it was clear which team was winning (and it wasn't ours), but I thought the coaches did a good job of encouraging effort without squashing the competitive spirit. The kids knew who was doing better and they seemed to shake it off after the game; especially when the goody bags came out. Anyway, it was hilarious and I am sure there are some lessons in this story but I just got back from time off so I don't care to dig that deeply. If you want lessons, I am sure there's a t-ball game going on this week on your neighborhood. With the lessons you get plenty of cuteness. A bargain.

I also went to the newly re-opened Seattle Art Museum. I'd visited the old location in the early 90s (when I really was a tourist) but the new location was just opened within the last month or so. It was really impressive. What I think you'll get at the SAM that you might not get as much of elsewhere is Native American art, glass and modern art. I was pretty surprised at the amount of modern art, but I am into that kind of stuff. Where I have found museums in other places overwhelming (have you ever been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Yikes!), the SAM was a good sized museum for an afternoon. I went with a friend and because I need to look at art alone, without distraction, we split up and I think we were probably there for about 3 hours). We ate at their restaurant TASTE and the service was great. The food was OK, but it's new so I sure they will work it all out. Needless to say that the food was artsy (interesting combinations, small portions).

I also went to Pike Place Market since it was around the corner and I haven't been there for quite a while. Once you have lived here for a while, you can pretty  much just go directly to the stalls that you want (they tend to not move too much) and then grab some flowers on the way out. If you ever visit here, you have to go to Pike Place Market just to see the flowers. They are pretty amazing. Must be something about the rainy off-season. I'm all about buying that kind of stuff locally because the idea of flying in flowers is a little absurd to me when you live in a place like this.

What else did I do? I went with a friend to this event at the Château Ste. Michelle. I have to say that I liked the idea of the event but was not impressed with it overall. What could have made a huge difference to me would have been some guidance/education on the wineries represented. I probably know more about wine than 90% of my friends, but unless you were vary familiar with the Washington State Wineries represented, the tasting was a crap shoot. All of the restaurants involved did a great job.The tents were a bit too crowded. I'll skip it next year. Oh, and note to anyone doing any events at the Château; if you plan to cab, arrange for your return trip WELL ahead of time. We waited for a cab for almost 2 hours.

 

Otherwise, I just caught up on my taped TV shows, cooked some recipes (thumbs up to the lemon rosemary cheesecake, thumbs down to the scallops in champagne sauce) and only checked mail a little bit. I'm still a little surprised that I actually took a real week off without going out of town. I;m kind of looking forward to doing it again!