Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Claire's 2nd Birthday and a Trip to Vancouver!

It's hard to believe, but Claire just celebrated her 2nd birthday on Sept. 14th! It definitely doesn't feel like it was 2 years ago that she came into our lives - what an awesome ride it's been so far for all of us! She's such a little ham, and makes us laugh every day. This is a really fun age, and it's been especially exciting to see how she's becoming her own person & learning new things all the time!

Claire and I headed up to Vancouver on September 4th to get some extra visiting time in, and then Zach drove up on Friday, Sept 13th. The plane trip from Boise to Seattle, and then finally to Bellingham where my Mom picked us up, was pretty uneventful. Claire even got her own seat on the flight from Seattle to Bellingham, which she was pretty excited about! Mainly she was just happy eating a bunch of snacks, reading books and playing with stickers...which is pretty much the perfect day in Claire's world!

We spent the majority of our time in Vancouver hanging out with family, which was perfect. Both my sister Megan, and my brother Dave recently moved, and we were able to get the grand tours of their new places. Megan, Ben & my niece & nephew, Emily & Matthew now live about 10 minutes from my Mom, and have a fantastic back yard for the kids to run around in! Dave moved to a cabin at Cultus Lake, about 1 1/2 hours from Vancouver - he's in a beautiful spot that's a very short walk to the water's edge - so peaceful!

Claire also got to spend lots of time playing with (and harassing) my Mom's dogs, Cassie & Sydney, and loved taking them for walks & playing on the playground by my Mom's house. She had a wonderful time playing with her cousins, Emily & Matt - Emily was an excellent big cousin/babysitter, and Matt & Claire had a great time horsing around!

Claire's birthday party was on Saturday, Sept. 14th, and we had a great party at my Mom's, complete with lots of family including my Auntie Cathy, who made the drive all the way from Miami, Manitoba to deliver the family heirloom cradle to us & a wardrobe to my Mom. It was so nice to see everyone, and especially great that AC could be there!

The birthday dinner menu consisted of Claire's favourite - noodles - with meatballs, sauce and veggies. She scarfed her dinner and when cake time rolled around, she inhaled a big piece of cake, too! My Mom & I made a Mickey Mouse birthday cake, and some cupcakes. Claire loved blowing out the candles, multiple times!

When it was time to open presents, it was like Christmas all over again - for Claire, Matt & Emily! Claire was very lucky in the present department, and in addition to the awesome tricycle that she got from her Grandma & Grandpa Vickery in Florida, she got a whole bunch of amazing presents from the Vancouver side of the family, too! Thank you very much to everyone who was able to celebrate with us in Vancouver, and to the Vickery/Dow side of the family who sent presents separately - it is all very much appreciated & Claire is one lucky 2 year old!

All in all, it was a fabulous birthday weekend, and a wonderful visit with the Vancouver side of the family! We drove home on Sunday night with a car packed FULL of presents, a cradle, suitcases and three people...oh, and possibly a bunch of stuff from the Trader Joe's in Bellingham - we have to stock up when we can...I'm so excited that we'll be getting a Trader Joe's in Boise next year. It's about time!

The next big event we have to look forward to is coming up this week - Zach's Mom & Dad are flying up from Florida on Wednesday to visit for a week! We can't wait to see them! Zach's also running a marathon while they're here, so send him your Good Luck vibes for next weekend!

Oh, and everything seems to be moving right along with Baby Vickery #2 - I had an ultrasound last month & the baby's right on track, size-wise! Keep it up, Baby Vickery!

Here are some pictures & videos from the past month or so - Enjoy!!

Katie, Zach & Claire

Claire is 2 Pictures!
Claire Eats Cake Video
Claire Opens Presents Part 1 Video
Claire Opens Presents Part 2 Video
Claire Bathtime for Baby Video
Claire on the Rings Video

Sunday, September 1, 2013

9 Year Anniversary... and Claire Update

August 12th was our 9th wedding anniversary.  To celebrate, we decided to take a short trip to the nearby resort town of McCall.  Neither of us has ever spent very much time there so we were both looking forward to checking out the town.  We arrived on Sunday just as Claire was finishing her nap.  We immediately went down to the McCall waterfront, which is beautiful and full of recreational options.  You can rent boats, jet skis, kayaks, or just go swimming.  We did none of those things.  A storm was about to move through so we didn't spend too long down there.  We ended up checking out the town a little more and having a nice dinner at the Salmon River Brewery.  Their beer selection was a little limited but everything that was on tap was very good!

On our anniversary, we had a nice breakfast at the hotel (the Best Western) and I went on a nice run around town.  Later in the morning we went back to the waterfront so that Claire could enjoy the park and the water.  She didn't want to get in the water very much but she did like splashing and getting her feet wet.  Once Claire got tired of the water, it was lunch time and we went to My Father's Place which has a well-deserved reputation as a go-to spot for a quick bite.  After a yummy lunch we took Claire to the park where she could spend some quality time in the swing - one of her favorite pastimes.  Then it was naptime and we decided to start the drive home while Claire was sleeping.  We drove around beautiful Payette Lake and returned to Boise with plenty of daylight to spare.

While we didn't do too many of the standard touristy things in McCall, we had a great time and can't wait to go back when Claire is a little older and able to spend more time out in the water!

Also included in this update are some pictures and videos from August.  Enjoy and have a great Labor Day!

9th Anniversary Pictures!
Claire Up and Over Video
Claire on the Bar Video
Claire Bouncy Ball Video
Claire Jacks Video
Claire at the Playground Video
Claire with Maggie with Cudjo Video
Claire Climbing Video

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Griswold Peak / Cougar Peak Climb

Life has been so busy lately and my hiking adventures have taken a back seat.  Dan noticed this and invited me to get out for the first time this summer.  We decided upon Griswold Peak, an "11er" near the headwaters of the Lost River.  While up there, we would visit nearby Peak 10727.

We left Boise a little bit after 6am and began the long drive to Ketchum, over Trail Creek, and up the headwaters of the North Fork of the Big Lost River.  Though the drive was long, the time flew by as Dan and I caught up on everything.  Soon we were at the Hunter Creek trailhead and moving around 10am.  We didn't follow the trail very long before we headed straight uphill toward the ridge leading to Griswold Peak.  Gaining the ridge also proceeded pretty quickly and soon we were on the ridge with great views of Griswold Peak and the surrounding area.  The ridge was an easy and enjoyable class 2 climb to the top, where we found a small cairn, a register, and a horde of flying ants.  Fortunately, we were able to stay about 20' from the summit and avoid the ants for the most part.

Since the bugs were kind of annoying and the clouds were starting to build, we didn't spend too long atop Griswold before heading over to Peak 10727.  The descent from Griswold was pretty steep, probably class 3+ but it was fun downclimbing due to the generally stable rock.  Once off the rock, it was easy slopes up to the summit of the peak.  A cairn and summit register were atop the peak, placed by Rick Baugher in 2011.  He chose the name "Coog" for the peak but we decided "Cougar Peak" sounded better.  After spending some time enjoying the summit we decided to get back to the car.  The descent was a little bit challenging because I forgot my map and we had to dead-reckon our way through the forest and back to the car.  Descending the open slopes was fun, the wooded slopes were a little less fun, and it was a little bit of a slog following the bottom of the drainage back to the trailhead.  Dan did a great job navigating as always!

The biggest event of the return trip was the Escape's "check engine" light coming on (it went off mysteriously a couple of days later).  We did stop at the Burger Grill in Ketchum for some tasty burgers before finishing the drive back to Boise!

Griswold Peak / Cougar Peak Pictures!
GPS Track
Dan's Trip Report

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vickery Summer Camping Trip 2013

Hi everyone! Now that you've recovered from the exciting news in our last blog post, let's talk about our recent camping trip! We go on an annual long weekend camping trip with our friends Joey & Sam (and their kids, Cecelia & Mallory), who live just outside of Olympia, WA, and our friends Tracy & Dan, who live in Portland, OR.
We usually try to pick a spot that's sort of halfway, but that's not exactly easy - there's not much around the halfway point between Boise & Portland/Olympia! This year, we tried a campground at the base of Mt. Rainier - La Wis Wis Campground. Since it was a 7 hour drive for us, we decided to split the trip into two days. We left Boise on Thursday night, stopped in Hermiston, OR (the apparent watermelon capital of the universe..or maybe just the Northwest). We made the rest of the drive to the campground on Friday morning/early afternoon, arriving around 2pm.

The campground was absolutely gorgeous - lots of tall pine trees & plenty of underbrush, moss-covered logs & fun areas around our sites for the kids to explore. We had a small site & a much bigger site, so we left the bigger site to the rest of the crew & set up in the small site (which was a good thing when night time rolled around..that's some foreshadowing, people!). Our site had a beautiful little creek running behind it!

We spent most of the weekend hanging out, going for walks, checking out the area & reconnecting with our friends, since we hadn't seen them for a year. Claire had a great time playing with Cecelia (who's 4) and Mallory (who's 17 months). Cecelia brought her bike (with training wheels), and Claire was OBSESSED with it. She loved honking the horn, and figured out pretty quickly how to climb onto the bike (over the back wheel & onto the seat!)..and then wanted us to push her around everywhere! We're already looking for the perfect tricycle for her birthday, of course!

Claire (and Mom & Dad!) had a tough night the first night - she went to bed just fine, but woke up a few hours later very upset, and didn't fall back asleep until 4 am. It was rough, to say the least. Luckily she was in a great mood all day after that, took a nap & then had a fantastic night's sleep the next night (exhaustion will do that to you!). Because of that first night's mayhem & screaming/crying, I was very glad we chose the small site, across the street from our friends & not near any other sites!

On Sunday morning, we all packed up & headed out to check out the park at the immediate base of Mt Rainier. Claire slept on the 30 minute drive there, and we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery...Mt Rainier is absolutely stunning! The Visitor Center area was packed with people - lots of hikers starting their climbs, and lots of tourists checking out the sights. We spent some time checking out the area, but unfortunately had to head out, since we had a 7 hour drive to make, and knew that we'd be losing an hour with the time difference.

We drove to Richland, WA and stopped at a park so that Claire could run around and burn off some energy before we made the rest of the drive. There was a pretty cool riverboat docked at the park, complete with a big paddlewheel! We had dinner at the Atomic Ale Brew Pub. Claire had a shrimp & cheese quesadilla (and insisted on dipping it in the salsa they provided, since any kind of dip is her favorite food). We split a thin crust pizza - half Bangkok Chicken (peanut sauce, bean sprouts, chicken, green onions, mozzarella, cilantro, shredded carrots & peanuts!) and half Ham & Pineapple. Zach also got to try a couple of their beers, which he enjoyed!

We made the rest of the uneventful trip home, and Claire slept most of the way. We were happy to get home at 1am!

It was a wonderful camping trip, in an awesomely beautiful location! We both agreed that we'd love to go back there in the future.

Here are some pictures & video of the trip...enjoy!
Camping 2013 Pictures!
Claire on Cecilia's Bike Video

Monday, August 5, 2013

3 + 1 = Exciting times!

Well, for those of you who haven't heard yet, the big news around here is that our little family of 3 is becoming a family of 4, as of sometime around January 31, 2014!!

We're all very excited (well, Claire's pretty unsure about it all, but that's to be expected!), and are looking forward to meeting the new little guy or girl! Once again, we're choosing not to find out the baby's gender until the big day - it was such a fun surprise with Claire, we figured why not do it again?! I'm about 14 weeks along, and am happy to say that the first trimester was pretty much uneventful. Luckily, I haven't had any nausea or issues like that, and I really can't complain - it's SO much worse for many women! I'm sure it'll get tougher to chase after a 2 year old once the 3rd trimester rolls around, but for now it's all going pretty well.

We'll keep you updated periodically on how things are going. Now we get to try & potty-train Claire before her sibling gets here. Hah!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Trip to Tennessee!

We decided that this year's summer vacation would be a visit to Great Grandma's house in Tennessee.  While there, she could meet her Grand Aunt Joy and see Grandma and Grandpa!

We left Boise early on July 3rd headed to Nashville with one layover in Denver.  Claire was a great traveler and even slept a little on the second flight.  For the most part she was content to read books, magazines, and play with her toys.  We arrived in Nashville around 1:30pm and got to meet my childhood friend Doug who is now a lawyer in Nashville.  Doug got to meet Claire for the first time while we got our rental car.  The four of us proceeded on to Trader Joe's to get a Claire a few food items before we began the 90 minute drive south to Great Grandma's.

After bidding adieu to Doug, we drove down to Winchester, arriving at the house in the late afternoon.  It was great to be back at Great Grandma's house, a place where I have lots of childhood memories.  It is the only house from my childhood still in the family!  Naturally, everyone was excited to see Claire and it ended up being a little bit of a late night with all of the excitement and a pizza dinner from Rafael's.

We spent much of our time at the house, partly because of the unusually rainy weather going on during our stay.  On Saturday, we did make a partial day trip to Chattanooga to visit the Creative Discovery Museum.  It is a children's museum and while Claire was a little small for many of the exhibits, she still had a blast and was not ready to leave after two hours when it was time for lunch!  For lunch we met my Mom's college roommate Linda and her husband David at the Big River Grille.  After having a nice lunch and catching up, we headed back so Claire could get her nap.

During our stay we also let Claire play at the Winchester City Park, swam in the pool at the Tullahoma Holiday Inn Express, and even set off a few fireworks.  The fireworks had to wait until the 7th when there was finally a dry evening!  While shopping for fireworks it was abundantly clear that Tennessee sells the best fireworks!  Claire was too young to invest in the "good" stuff though!  On July 4th, we attempted to have family pictures taken but Claire was acting too much like a toddler so they didn't work out as well as hoped.  On the 8th, Doug had to make a court appearance in Manchester and afterwards came out to the house to hang out for the day.  We had a good time catching up, checking out Tims Ford State Park, and having a nice dinner at the Camino Real Mexican restaurant.

On Tuesday, we got up early and drove up to Nashville for our return flight.  Other than the airline person giving us guff for having a suitcase that was too heavy, everything went well.  On the first flight, Claire even got her own seat!  We arrived back in Boise in the mid afternoon in time for Claire's nap.  I had time to mow the yard and get back to the grind at work.  In short, it was a great trip and we wish it could have been longer!

Below are lots of pictures and videos from our trip!  Plus a few others from the past couple of weeks in Boise are thrown in as a bonus!

Claire July 2012 Pictures!
Grandma's Pictures of Claire!
Pictures of Doug and Zach
Claire With the Ducks Video
Claire Sees the Ducks Video
The Sparkler Video
Little Missy Refuses to Dance Video
Shake Your Booty Video
Claire Forward Rolls Video
Claire Jumps and Dances Video
Claire Does the Steps With Daddy Video
Claire and Family in the Pool Video
Claire Eats Spaghetti Video
Claire Does PTL Video
Claire on the Slide at the Creative Discovery Museum Video Part 1
Claire on the Slide at the Creative Discovery Museum Video Part 2
Claire Runs In the Rain Video
Go See the Blue Flowers Video
Claire on the Uneven Bars Video
Claire Splashing in the Fountain Video

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Claire Summer 2013 Update!

Well, it's been awhile since we blogged about anything.  Claire has been keeping us busy and she's been having lots of fun enjoying the warm weather.  Mostly she's been going to parks, tumbling at the Little Gym, playing in the yard, enjoying her copious toy collection, and participating in Skype calls with Grandma and Grandpa.  Here are some pictures and videos of the past few months!

Claire Summer 2013 Pictures!
Claire on the Bridge Video
Claire Climbs Video
Claire Splashing Video
Claire Gets a Medal Video
Claire on the Rings Video
Claire Balance Beam Video
Claire Checking Out Rocks Video
Claire Heel to Toe Video
Claire In Capitol Park Video
Claire in a Car Video

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Break in Vancouver

Hi all!

In mid-March, Claire & I took a trip up to Vancouver to spend some time with my family. Megan, Ben & Dave are all teachers and schools in the area were on Spring Break while we were there so we also got to hang out a lot with Claire's cousins, Emily & Matthew, and of course my Mom & Greg!

Claire & I flew out of Boise on March 13th, had a layover in Seattle and then a short (30 minute) flight from Seattle to Bellingham. Luckily, we didn't have anyone sitting next to us on either flight, so Claire got her own seat, which was awesome! She spent the flight from Boise to Seattle reading books with me, eating lots of snacks and playing with toys, but her favourite game was watching (and pointing and laughing!) at the people sitting in the row behind us! She'd stick her face between the seats & just watch them for a minute...we were also lucky that they thought she was cute & didn't mind being stared down by a toddler! The flight to Bellingham was uneventful - Claire fell asleep just before takeoff & slept the whole way. My Mom picked us up at the airport, we did a little shopping & sat at the border for 45 minutes...which was nothing compared to poor Mom's border wait on the way down to get us - 1 hour 25 minutes! Ugh. Sorry Mom, and thanks again!!

It was a relaxing trip - I visited with my friend Kelly who has a little guy 1 1/2 months older than Claire. Lucas & Claire had a great time & I was in awe of Lucas' amazing vocabulary! Claire & I also went out for dinner a couple of times with my best friend, Linsie. Lins took us over to her sister's house for a little playdate with Linsie's niece, Delyla (who will be 2 on Mother's Day), and Claire was obsessed with her! Every morning after that playdate, Claire woke up & asked for "Lyla?!" We'll definitely have to do more playdates with "Lyla" when we visit! It was really cute to see them interact, too, since most of Claire's buddies are her age or younger, and she LOVES older toddlers & kids.

Another highlight of this trip was that we were there for both Emily's & Megan's birthdays this year! AND, Zach was able to make it in time for both! He drove all day on Saturday, March 23rd, and got to Megan & Ben's place just as we were all arriving for Emily's party - perfect timing! We had a great dinner with our family & Ben's family, and then Claire & Matthew helped Emily open her presents! The next day was Megan's birthday, and we had a big lunch at my Mom's house, complete with Szechuan food, Chinese food, Sushi and salad! It was a lovely mix, and we topped it off with Lemon Meringue Tarts, which were fantastic!

I think the best part of the trip was seeing Claire interact with all of the family members (including the dogs!) She LOVED Cassie and Sydney, and said "Woof! Woof!" when she woke up in the morning and after every nap. The dogs were very patient with her, and knew when to get out of the way - she even had fun helping my Mom feed the dogs & give them treats! She also LOVES her cousins, and Emily was absolutely awesome with Claire - they played really well together, and Claire would follow Emily around like she was a big kid - it was pretty darn cute! It's been great to see how Claire's interactions with family change as she grows older & understands more about how the world works!

All three of us left Vancouver on Monday evening, March 25th and drove through the night to get home, so Tuesday was kind of a write-off! Shortly after we got home, it was time for Easter! Zach and I dyed Easter Eggs the night before, and then "hid" them (in very obvious spots) around the living room for Claire to find. She did a great job, and then decided that she needed to send some of the eggs down her slide! Good thing they were hard-boiled!

Now that the Easter candy has finally all been eaten, we are getting into Spring mode around here. We had a bout of beautiful weather right around Easter, but in the past week or so it's been sunny but very windy. Hopefully we'll start to see some nice warm, calm days soon, and can get back to the playgrounds without getting blown away!

We hope everyone had a Happy Easter!
Here are some pictures and (embarrassing, for me!) videos for your viewing pleasure!

The Vickerys

Claire Spring Pictures!
Claire Walks In Mom's Shoes Video
Claire at the Duck Pond Video
Claire Eats Sushi Video
Claire Feeds the Dogs Part 1 Video 
Claire Feeds the Dogs Part 2 Video
Claire in the Yard Video
Claire on Her Slide Video
Claire Pitches Easter Eggs Video
Claire Finds Easter Eggs Video
Claire on the Balance Beam Video
Claire Eats Dinner Video

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's time for another Claire update!

Well, folks, it's that time again...time for us to post a whole bunch of pictures & videos of Claire (a.k.a. The Reason Random Strangers Stop To Talk To Us Everywhere We Go). She's getting more & more busy these days, and also more confident in her walking (and running/escaping skills), so it's definitely a fun age!

Since we last did an update, Claire has been figured out how to walk up & down the stairs (holding on to our hands, of course, even though she'd LOVE to be allowed to try & walk down the stairs like a big kid!) She's gone to the Little Gym for her favourite gym classes, and has started to do forward rolls all by herself, as a result! We also had some play dates at Jabbers, a local kid's hangout place that has lots of fun stuff like a play house & a kid-sized grocery store - Claire loved it, and it was a great indoor option when the weather was gross (which was the ENTIRE month of January - when it wasn't snowing/freezing, the streets & sidewalks were covered in a sheet of ice!)

Claire likes to imitate us, whether it's words (such as "Woooow!" or "Oh Noes!", even using them in the correct contexts) or actions. Zach will sometimes flop down onto the bed on his stomach, and Claire now insists on being lifted onto the bed so that she can "flop", and will often "flop" onto the living room or kitchen floor! She also loves taking baths (and loves them even more than I thought possible, now that I've started making them bubble baths!) - once she gets the idea in her head, there's no distracting her, and she runs to the stairs, saying "BATH! BATH!! BATH??" Her vocabulary seems to be growing every day!

In January, for Claire's 15-month check-up, we switched her from a family doctor to a pediatrician, and so far, I'm impressed at the care & attention we got! She will be turning 18 months old (WHAT?! ALREADY?) on March 14th. It's unbelievable that she's almost 1 1/2 years old! What a fun, crazy 18 months it's been!
To celebrate, here are approximately 1 billion pictures & videos of Claire Elizabeth...enjoy!

Claire 18 Month Update Pictures!
Claire Walking Video Part 1
Claire Walking Video Part 2
Claire Belly Button Video
Claire Balance Beam Video
Claire Little Gym Video
Claire on a Swing Video
Claire Checks Out Snow Video
Claire Walks Up Stairs Video
Claire Walks Down Stairs Video
Claire at Little Gym
Claire Bubble Bath

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lockman Butte Hike

I hadn't hiked a peak since last August and finally found a good opportunity to remedy that.  Katie was meeting a friend for lunch so I decided on a mid-afternoon hike to Lockman Butte, an obscure summit near Mountain Home not far from I-84.  I wasn't sure how to best approach this "peak" and after driving around a bit I settled on an approach from the end of Canal Road on the northern fringe of Mountain Home.  From here it was about two miles each way, crossing a dry ditch, two fences and passing some grazing cows.

The hike was very straightforward and crossed terrain consisting of exclusively low grasses, sage, and a few volcanic rocks.  The wind was whipping out of the northwest but with temperatures in the 50s it wasn't unpleasant.  Along the way I saw numerous cows, (two of which were deceased), an antelope, and a rabbit.  The summit was actually surprisingly pleasant as it felt wilder than most other summits on the plain.  I couldn't believe there was no road to the top and in general there are few roads in the area.  The original surveyor's tripod (presumably from 1955) was still intact (but toppled) and the summit has expansive views of the plain which I really enjoy.

In retrospect, I think a better way to climb this peak is from Martha Ave. on the north side of the peak.  This can be reached from either the Simco Road I-84 exit or Canyon Creek Road north of Mountain Home.  Some dirt roads branch off from this road and approach the butte.  This would likely allow avoiding the fence crossings and grazing animals.

Lockman Butte Hike Pictures!
GPS Track

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New job... again!

On February 19th, I started my latest career adventure.  Making a job change wasn't in my plans but I was contacted last Fall by a former colleague about a software developer position at Cradlepoint, a Boise-based maker of wireless (cellular and wifi) routers.  Since I wasn't too interested in switching jobs, it took until January before I was eventually convinced to talk to the team in sort of an informal interview.  The interview went well and perhaps most importantly I was impressed by the team and it seemed like the sort of place where I would fit in well.

Eventually they made a strong offer and I had to make a decision which took me the full week to make.  After lots of waffling and indecision I ended up choosing to make the change.  I wasn't excited about leaving SEL so quickly but I felt like the opportunity better matched my own career goals.  It was hard to put in my notice and give up all of the great things about SEL.  Even as I finished up there, I was still uncertain if I had made the right decision.

I took my birthday off in between jobs and started the day after on Tuesday the 19th.  So far I've been very happy with the change - the environment is pretty fast paced and I get to work with a variety of open source technologies.  The development environment features a lot of Python and JavaScript, with a variety of other languages mixed in.  The office pretty much runs exclusively on Linux and MacOS, which is a first in my career but a very positive one.  The gig also involves some pretty cutting-edge cloud deployment infrastructure, which has been a lot of fun to learn.  I think it's important to always be learning and growing and the past two weeks have been full of that.  Plus it is my first time working downtown and it is really nice to have lots of interesting lunch spots within walking distance!

Like any career change, it takes awhile to assess whether it was a good move.  But so far I've been very happy with the change!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Volkswagen Passat

Since Claire was born, our 2002 Honda Civic had been a little bit undersized for family travel given the giant rear-facing car seats that exist nowadays.  Last Fall, Claire was upgraded to the toddler-sized rear-facing car seat which meant it became impossible for the three us to ride together in the Civic, unless the front passenger likes having their knees in their face.  So I decided it was finally time to stop procrastinating and get a bigger car.

After doing quite a bit of reading and looking around, I decided to focus on family size sedans with decent gas mileage.  I was also interested in wagons, of which there are hardly any made anymore.  While looking at Jetta wagons at the Boise VW dealership, I stumbled upon a 2008 Passat wagon which seemed like exactly the type of car I was looking for.  Some subsequent research led me to the fact that 2010 was the last year these were made and that there was a low mileage certified used 2010 Passat wagon available at Sheppard Motors in Eugene, Oregon.  After some indecision and eventual phone negotiation, I got a good price and decided to go ahead and buy it.  On December 30th, I flew one-way to Eugene, rode a taxi to the dealership, bought the car, and drove it home.  Fortunately the roads were clear of snow and ice that day, although that didn't prevent a horrific bus crash from happening earlier in the day along I-84.

This "distance buying" approach at first seems crazy but in retrospect I think it's a great way to get exactly the car you want, particularly if you have very specific wants.  The negotiation was much more straightforward than the usual face-to-face shenanigans that occur at the dealership.  Of course the key is that the dealer's sales department is comfortable with Internet sales and can be straight with prospective buyers.  I had a great experience with this particular dealership and wouldn't hesitate to do this again in the future.

Of course, once I got home from Eugene we now had three cars to shuffle around.  I first fixed some bumper damage on the Civic and then listed the car on cars.com, eBay Motors, and craigslist.  I started the price pretty high and brought it down over time.  This wasn't the best strategy in retrospect because it just wasted time.  Once I got the price near the Kelley Blue Book value, the leads started pouring in.  On Super Bowl Sunday, a couple came to our house to look at the car.  After test driving it, they informed me they had cash on them and were ready to buy.  After writing up a bill of sale and signing the title over, they left us with a stack of benjamins and one less car.  The whole thing took less than an hour given the right buyer!

My biggest lesson from selling the Civic is that cars.com and eBay are a waste of time for selling a car.  craigslist generated all of my leads including the eventual buyer.  In my opinion, cars that are in good shape and priced right are pretty easy to sell on craigslist due to the volume of buyers that watch it.  cars.com seems to cater more to dealerships and I found the experience of listing on their site unpleasant.  eBay has two types of listings and I chose the "free classified listing" which is somehow locally targeted.  I couldn't tell that the eBay listing generated any interest whatsoever.

I apologize for all of the blather.  In short, we now have a new car and so far we're both very happy with it.  The Passat is the best driving car I've ever owned and it's really is fun to take out somewhere.  The 12-way adjustable drivers seat is also the most comfortable car seat I've experienced.  Oh, and I can sit comfortably in front of the rear-facing car seat, with even more legroom than our Ford Escape!  Plus it's nice to have all of the modern conveniences in a car like bluetooth, built-in sat radio, an iPod dock, trip computer, etc.

Our 2001 Ford Escape is getting old too, so I'm already starting to think about its replacement.  I'm hoping to keep it at least a year longer, depending on its maintenance burden.  Maybe there will be a blog post about that one day!

Old Civic:

New Passat:

So old

Well my 34th birthday has come and gone.  This year my birthday landed on Presidents Day which again made me wish that holiday was taken more seriously.  Fortunately I did not work on my birthday (yay for that) but I was feeling pretty bad due to a cold and opted not to do a fun outdoor activity, despite the favorable weather.  Instead I slept in, went on a nose-blowy run, and spent the day with Katie and Claire.  We had a very nice dinner at Flatbread Community Oven and in lieu of a cake I also enjoyed some cupcakes from Sugar Rush Cupcakery (thank you Katie!) before opening presents.  Thank you everyone for the gifts!

It was a little disappointing to be ill on my birthday, but it could've been worse.  It finally broke on Wednesday and I'm happy to report that I now don't feel any older than I did a week ago!

Katie and Claire at birthday dinner:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas in Boise 2012

Hi Everyone!
Two posts in one week?! Shocking, I know...this is what happens when we don't post for a while, and then the holidays are over & we have copious amounts of photos, videos & news to share that it won't all fit into one post. Lucky you!

As I'm sure most (if not all) of our readers know, this year for Christmas we were very lucky to have visitors stay with us for a week! My Mom, one of my brothers & my Mom's best friend (my "Aunt") Margaret made the (long) drive down on the Saturday before Christmas, along with the two family dogs, Cassie & Sydney. They hit a 10 minute stretch of very heavy snowfall while coming through Oregon, but other than that they had a pretty smooth ride. We had shredded beef tacos for dinner & had a quiet night after their long journey.
Claire was initially a little freaked out by the dogs, but by day two she was much more comfortable around them & by day three she was waking up in the morning & asking for the "woof woofs". It was great to see her interact with them and they were very patient with her pointing at their noses/eyes/ears & patting them - she was very gentle with them (for the most part!).

We spent Sunday morning at brunch with Zach's Uncle Gary & Aunt Bonnie at a local brunch spot - The Griddle - it was great to see them! Apart from Dave getting hot coffee spilled onto him, it was a lovely meal. Claire did lots of unassisted walking while we were there, and kept up the walking practice the whole time my family was here. She's slowly getting more adept & looking less & less like a zombie baby (although that's pretty cute, too!).

We spent the rest of Sunday & Monday shopping & prepping for Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve night we followed the Shepherd tradition of going to a church service - I found a local Presbyterian church & we went to check it out. It was definitely more contemporary than the traditional services we're used to, but it was interesting...Claire's favourite part was definitely the singing puppets (yep, puppets!). After our Christmas Eve church service, we again followed tradition & Zach, Dave & I wrapped presents while having a few drinks with Mom & Auntie Margaret.

Christmas Day was one long present-opening extravaganza! It was an all-day event! We started with brunch (eggs, bacon, cinnamon buns from Great Harvest bakery, a cheese plate & a fruit plate...yum!) then moved on to opening our stockings...lots of chocolate & other fun stuff! Then we took a break so Claire could have a nap...and once her nap was over we spent the afternoon opening presents...Wow, what a lucky group we were! We had a wonderful Christmas dinner - the star of the show was definitely Bernard the turkey (yes...we name our turkeys...doesn't everyone?!) - Dave was responsible for him & made a brine with oranges & cinnamon & all sorts of goodies - talk about moist & delicious turkey! Along with that, Mom & Margaret made lots of fantastic side dishes including sweet potatoes with pecans, mashed potatoes, turnip puff (basically very light & fluffy mashed turnip with breadcrumbs on top), gingery steamed carrots & green beans with shallots. Oh, and cranberry sauce, stuffing & gravy...all of it was SO good!! For dessert, Mom & I made a Buche de Noel - a traditional French dessert called a Yule Log in the US. It was a thin chocolate cake filled with espresso cream cheese & rolled into a log shape...then frosted with a dark chocolate ganache & made to resemble a log. It was quite tasty (especially the filling!) and I'd love to try some different cake/filling combos. Many thanks to my Mom for being a huge help (and moral support!).

It was a really great Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, but we definitely missed everyone who wasn't there...if only we could spend Christmas with everyone we love!

The rest of the family visit was spent checking out some local restaurants & doing some shopping. Zach also took the visitors on a tour of the city one night while I put Claire to bed. Mom, Margaret, Claire & I also went for lunch with Bonnie one day, which was very nice! The gang packed up on Friday night & headed out early Saturday morning in a VERY full car! It sounds like their drive was pretty uneventful, and I'm sure they were all exhausted upon arrival home.

It was so wonderful to have Dave, Mom, Margaret & the pups here to visit! I know that Claire absolutely LOVED spending time with everyone & getting to know the dogs, and Zach & I both had a great time. Again, we really missed all the family members on both sides who couldn't be there, but we know that you all had great Christmases whether you were celebrating in Tennessee, Manitoba or Vancouver.

Here's to a happy, healthy & safe 2013...we love you all!!
Enjoy the pictures & videos!

Katie, Zach & Claire

Christmas 2012 Pictures!
Claire Toddles Video
Christmas at the Vickerys Video
Claire Talking Dog Video
Claire Animal Sounds Video
Claire Walking Video

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Claire New Years 2013 Update

I know it's been a long time since the last blog post.  It's been really busy here and we apologize to all five of our readers!  This installment features various pictures and videos of Claire from the past three months or so.  The Christmas post will follow shortly.  Enjoy!

Claire New Years 2013 Pictures!
Claire on the Stairs Video
Claire Pumpkin Painting Video
Claire Pushes a Scooter Video
Claire Eats Whipped Cream Video
Claire Eating a Grilled Cheese Video