Sunday, February 28, 2010

As Seen On TV: Spring Cleaning

This spring has been unseasonably warm and sunny. So sunny, in fact, that we've had some time to reflect on our home's cleanliness. It's like year-round spring cleaning around here.

If you've met my mother, you might imagine our standards. They're high. So high, in fact, that quite often I find myself struggling to wash the corners of our windows by sticking my arm through the slit in the bottom. It never works.

Just the other week, however, our whole world changed in Bartell Drugs (Ohioans, think CVS or Rite Aid). As I shopped for some cards and other household essentials Dominic enjoyed an "As Seen on TV" ad for different products Bartell's sells. In fact, they have an entire aisle devoted to the things you can only buy from TV. As you may recall, we don't have a television (I returned the converter box last week as it didn't work when buses drove by) so our lives have been devoid of this helpful information. What Dominic saw, however, was a tool so helpful it has earned it's very own blog post...

Are you curious?

That's right -- a tool marketed for car owners who struggle to reach the inside of their windshield, this wonder with an extendable handle allowed us to access the far reaches of our street-facing windows. What a treasure.

Just yesterday I wrote about how I spend far too much time thinking about appearances. Here is a fine example of how it's a constant struggle every day. Unfortunately, we were just tickled pink about this microfiber "wonder" for only $9.99. Hey, cleanliness is next to godliness right?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bethany Day of Prayer

This morning I went to the Peace and Spirituality Center at St. Mary on the Lake in Bellevue for Bethany Presbyterian's annual Day of Prayer. Our church's old pastor, Bruce Murphy, and his wife Di led a group of about 30 people in a time of 'seeking stillness'. 

Not one accustomed to regular stillness, these days have been rare opportunities for quiet prayer and rejuvenation in the past. Last year I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but this year I came prepared with two Bibles, two journals and a workbook. As it turns out, I didn't need any of it. I just needed a quiet room, an open heart and a still mind... Well, I got the room...

The Murphy's provided a packet with some materials we could look at to guide our prayers. The packet explained: 

"Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. It is a time to open ourselves anew to the fullness of God's forgiveness and love in Jesus Christ."

One session really caught my interest. It explained that our objective is to be what God wants of us, not what we want of Him. I suppose this is something I'm constantly having to re-learn as I tell myself and proudly inform God of my plans on a daily basis. If only I could be more open to the other way around. According to Evelyn Underhill, (who was quoted in the packet) there are three virtues to meditate on during Lent:
  1. Poverty of spirit
  2. Purity of heart
  3. Obedience
Underhill writes: "The reason is that each of these qualities in a different way detaches us from the unreal and self-regarding interests in which (almost without knowing it) we usually fill up our lives. They simplify us, clear the ground for God, so that our relation of utter dependence on Him stands out as the one reality of our existence." 
I started to pray about some of my unreal and self-regarding interests filling my time. They fall nicely into four main areas:
  • Appearance: Mine, our home's, my work space's, my car's my action's. 
  • Organization: Everything in order, all time filled or 'utilized', my calendar, my plans, where I should be and what I should be doing.
  • What I've seen: Where have I gone, what photos have I taken, who have I met, what are my observations, comparisons.
  • What can I do: Earning, making, fixing, helping, leading.
All these things I do, and even if they're good and necessary and right are they clearing the ground for God to work through me? To fill me with His grace? Do they show me my utter dependence on God?

Pastor Murphy said something very insightful this morning that I couldn't help but share with you. He explained that throughout his life he always believed that prayer was an excellent way to prepare for the work he was called to do in the world. Then, late in his career, he realized that prayer was the work. He explained to me that once he understood this fact it put a whole new urgency, focus and devotion on his daily prayer that he had never felt before. I thought that was very powerful and a good way to frame the act of prayerful conversation with God.  

May Lent open you to the fullness of God's forgiveness and love. May this be a renewing time of soul-searching reflection for you to grow closer to the Lord.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seattle's Sunny Saturday and Sarah's Super Bike Route

I'm making this post...well... Jus' Because I can. I know it's inconsiderate of all our freezing blog fans in the Midwest, but really, how could I resist the shorts and sandals post in the middle of February?

There's nothing like a sunny Saturday in February to inspire you to dust off the bikes, pump up the tires and throw a picnic lunch in the backpack. This is exactly what we did today. I've created a bike tour of our neighborhood. It's embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Since I'm not too technologically savvy you'll have to click back and forth between this post and the map to see where the photos correspond. Sorry about that. Enjoy our photo journal of February 20, 2010...

We set off from Queen Anne and headed towards South Lake Union
Rode right past Fred Hutch were Dominic works, 
And enjoyed cruising along the waterfront past all of the house boats.

We admired these friendly neighbors out working in their shared pea patch,
and stopped for a moment at Good Turn Park.
You cross underneath I-5 (it's noisy)
And then head over the lake towards Fremont.
Be sure to wear your helmet and stay in the bike lane!
We didn't spend much time at the Wall of Death,
But continued on along the bike path scattered with joggers
We did stop to take in the scenery at GasWorks park
And couldn't help but get a shot of the blossoming cherry trees.
It's ok to take a break from the Burk-Gilman Trail to play in Ballard
And then on to the Ballard Locks for lunch.
You cross over the locks and cut up to Commodore Park. 
Then weave through Magnolia to get to the bike path again. Take a moment to admire the fishing equipment that pulls in all that delicious salmon we enjoy.
Back on our way to the sculpture park you must stop and remember the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for a moment.
And you end up at my favorite place to relax in the city: The Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park.

View Sarah's Seattle Bike Tour in a larger map

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Victorian Valentines Day

On Saturday morning Dominic and I woke up early to get ready for our weekend away. He had planned a quick overnight to someplace special but I hadn't the slightest idea where it could be. I packed light and threw on my boots (just in case). 

When we didn't go to the car I was surprised, when we walked past the bus stop I was stumped and when we continued past my office to the waterfront I was worried. Were we staying in downtown? If so, why did I have to get up so early to walk to a local hotel? 

Just then, we were there: The Victoria Clipper Ferry

We had admired this vacation option for a year, but had never made a trip down to pier 69 to check it out. What an exciting start to the day! We boarded the ferry and shared a six-seat table arrangement with a chatty Canadian and two UW freshmen on their way to a fraternity Valentines formal. It was a fun ride and before we knew it we were arriving on Vancouver Island. 

We dropped off our bags at the hotel and set out into the misty morning to enjoy the city and search for lunch. We had plenty of love to go around on Valentines Day Eve:

Dominic thoughtfully pre-purchased tickets to the Victoria Tea Festival. It was a lovely activity for a cool, gray day and we enjoyed the exhibition a great deal. There were plenty of tea tastings, tea pairings (with delicious chocolate, scones, danishes and breads) and we even watched a 'cooking with tea' presentation by Chef Heidi Fink. If you come visit us I'll make you a delicious smoky maple salad dressing featuring Lapsang Souchong tea, 'adult flavored' lemon jasmine popsicles and perhaps even some green tea shortbread cookies. 

Tea Festival in the Crystal Gardens

Although we didn't sign up for High Tea at The Empress we did get our photo with this lovely tea connoisseur at the festival. 

The day was a nice opportunity for us to spend time talking, sharing and reflecting on the past six months. We are both amazed by our blessings and thankful for the life marriage has brought us. 

On Valentines Day we woke up to a downpour, but by the time church was over the sky had opened up and the sun was in full force. Victoria really sparkles when it's sunny outside.

We couldn't have asked for a better day to laugh and play in this romantic city of sights and statues: 

We didn't hire a tour guide, we didn't pay for museums, we didn't consult a map and yet we stumbled across the most interesting places walking through downtown. 

Dominic's learning (and practicing his knowledge of) Tai Chi at a Chinese New Year celebration in the square. 

We spent the entire day wandering through neighborhoods. We prayed in Christ Church Cathedral, spied on a wedding at St. Ann's Academy and looked at the window displays at Miniature World

The evening ferry departed at 5 p.m. and we sailed to Seattle as the sun set in Victoria.

Happy Valentines Day! We love you!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Newly Wed New Technology

Dominic and I celebrated our six month anniversary on Monday. As a surprise I gifted him an Analog Pass-Through DTV Converter Box. 

It's not much of a gift. To be honest it felt a lot like throwing money into the trash can, but with the Olympics just days away and March Madness not far after, my options were either the converter box or countless hours in The Spectator (the sports bar down the street). 

The front of the box promotes: "Eligible for the $40 DTV Converter Box Coupon". This is the government's way of apologizing for the expense of this time-travel machine. Unfortunately, the friendly Radio Shack employee informed me that the refund was only available until last November. 

As if the purchase didn't already sting enough, once Dominic got the box hooked up we realized you have to have bunny ears to get a picture. Geesh, it was like a blast from the past! We sacrificed a beloved metal hanger and Dominic went to work at trying to auto program our four channels. 

Within a half an hour we were the proud owners of a semi-working television set. All it took was Dominic holding the aluminum foil-hanger contraption in a very exact position. This was fine because the only show we could see was The Bachelor. 

Live and learn...