Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow Days...

No words necessary - pictures speak for themselves. Been home from school for 2 days - too treacherous to drive into work - schools closed. Yeahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Ice Hockey aka Ice Boxing

Did you know that ice hockey is a very treacherous sport? Not only is there the distinct possibility that you might get one of your facial features sliced off by a skate blade or a hockey stick, but you also run the risk of being beaten to a pulp by one of your opponents - in full view of the spectators AND referees. I discovered this fact on Saturday at a game between the Silvertips and the Cougars up in Everett. Apparently, as long as gloves and helmets are removed - players are allowed to brawl (and when I say brawl, I mean full on boxing fists, blood on the ice, flesh-to-bone contact) UNTIL one or both hits the deck. Amazing. Had I not seen it with my own (delicate and naive) eyes, I wouldnt have believed it. Thankfully, we were sitting far enough away, that I neither suffered any permanent psychological damage, nor ran the risk of inhaling a puck.
See what a deprived childhood one has living on an island with a temperate climate. Although I guess we always have rugby to feed our violent voyeuristic natures!

Birthday Bowling Bonanza!

Cortez loves bowling. So when there is even the remotest excuse for an excursion to West Seattle Bowl - we're there. As it happens - we didn't need an excuse this time - he turned 33 on December 7th so it was a done deal!
As usually happens -we always 'go early' so we can 'get home early' - but end up bowling until we can hardly feel our fingertips, are usually so drunk we can't see the pins, and have crossed the threshold into GlowBowling (or Twilight Bowling as it has now been christened by Tiff - not that we are obsessed by Stephanie Meyers at all!).
It was the usual suspects plus Diane, Cortez's co-worker from Realtime - and as it turns out a rather demon bowler herself. She was a mine of information and tips; 'hand to your face', 'don't even try to hit the sex-pin' and if you happen to be 7 months pregnant 'bowl slow and low'
The boys stuck to their funky-ignore-the-holes-spinning-sneak-attack, technique with Deruki on his usual shite-hot form. We girls bowled a little, gossiped a little, took a few photos, discussed fashion - that kind of thing. It's our differences which make the world interesting after all!
Footnote: Jenni was using an 8lb bowling ball. She is due to give birth in 2 months......I'm just saying.......

Gainful employment!

I have a new job - yeah! I am officially a Teacher once again - at a Special School on Mercer Island in Seattle. It really is on an island - albeit a big one - in the middle of Lake Washington.
The Children's Institute for Learning Differences (CHILD for short) is a private school which accepts students from 4-17 from all over the Seattle area - and for whom their own school district cannot provide adequate services.
I came across the school by chance when I applied to do some supply work there. I walked in for my interview and felt as if I had been transported back across the ocean to Ridgeway! It has a very similar feel to it - high student/staff ratio, great atmosphere, wonderfully supportive staff, and a real sense of humour (born out of realistic expectations in an extremely challenging environment!) Needless to say - I supplied for 2 weeks and then somehow convinced them to offer me a job - still not sure how I managed that - but I'm here now - and I love it. I have 3 fantastic members of staff as my class team and we have a grand total of 4 students! Even with my dodgy maths skills that comes out at a 1:1 ratio! I'm not ashamed to say that even at that we struggle sometimes - not least because the students exhibit some fairly extreme behaviours - the most challenging I have ever experienced. That is good for me though - it is keeping my mind busy with all the strategizing and problem solving - which has to be good for staving off the Alzheimers!
I'm getting used to the early starts (slowly!) - although I'm not sure Fergus is too enamoured with the 6am walk in the dark so Mum can leave by 7. The 30 minute commute means I get to listen to KMPS (country radio for the uninitiated!) in the morning which always puts me in a good mood - so you see every cloud has a silver lining!!!

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving went mobile this year when we decided to load up the vehicles with all the fixings and head up to a cabin in them there hills. 'Them there' was just outside Leavenworth - a very cute German style town (when I say German style I mean all the buildings look like Bavarian chalets and even the MacDonalds in a wooden shack with a funky Olde Germane 'M').
There was nothing shack-like about the cabin however; hot-tub, woodburning stove, fully fitted kitchen, fire-pit, games room, entertainment centre - you name it, it had it!
The muts came with and had their own personal doggy annex (otherwise known as the garage) as well as a tree-filled Chuckit arena at the back of the house.
Sadly we were not blessed with snow this year - although it was pretty chilly at that elevation. Consequently - apart from a few brisk walks with the dawgs and some pretty hardcore Chuckit sessions (Sydney's split pads will attest!) - the most activity the majority of us got was raising a glass from the counter to our lips and wielding a controller for the very intensely competitive MarioKart tournaments which provided the signature entertainment. There were a couple of other notable highlights; the food certainly - we all did a little bit and the sum of the parts turned into a feast fit for some Yanks and a Lime; the boys doing simultaneous chin-ups on the internal chalet beams (sadly I have no photos) and the double lunar eclipse provided by my husband and Cortez for the pleasure of Mr Leigh. Boys will be boys I guess!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Houseful.....

Sarah and co arrived just in time to experience a no-holds-barred American Halloween - and they were determined to make the most of it! After sourcing 2 very cute costumes and a lorry load of very scary temporary tattoos we set off with a witch and a Skelzor towards North Admiral for their annual Trick or Treat Treasure Hunt. I think Mike was the only one not phased by the whole spectacle (born and raised on extravagant US holiday traditions!). There were dogs in costumes, tiny babies in costumes, grown-ups (I use the term loosely!) in costumes and even a couple of transvestites (unfortunately I didn't manage to secure any photographic evidence of this so you'll just have to take my word for it!) Outstanding were the Wiener dog dressed as a hot-dog, the Elvis and Hound-dog combo, and the teeny tiny Scoobie Doo! It took Livvy and Josh about 5 minutes to get the hang of marching into the stores and simply having to say Trick or Treat to be rewarded with a bag full of sweeties! They got a little carried away and came away thinking that they will most definitely be crowned the winners of the best costume contest as well as winning the enormous Treasure Hunt Prize Basket! Well - in their Auntie kate's eyes - they deserve both anyway!!
We even managed to squeeze in some pumpkin carving although I think Mark and Mike enjoyed that just a touch more than the kids!
The candy bags and kiddiwinks have now made their way safely across the pond just in time for Show and Tell at school on Monday!

Red Rocks and Bright Lights

I had been beside myself with excitement since Sarah had told me that she and Mark had booked a holiday in Sedona (the closest their timeshare would bring them to the PNW). Even better, they were going to fly home via Seattle and spend a few days here with us :-)
So Mike and I headed off to spend a long weekend with the Twigges and Twiglets in Arizona with no higher expectations than being able to spend good quality time with my sis and Mark and the two sweetest munchkins in the world!
As it turned out we managed to squeeze quite a bit into the weekend; at least 30 games of Uno in the back of the minivan (with some pretty nifty tactical playing by both Josh and Livvy!), a visit to the Grand Canyon, some acrobatic sessions in the pool, a drive over the Hoover Dam, and a very exciting visit to Vegas. Sadly, the kids were not allowed to hover too close to the blackjack tables or slots, although with their card playing skills that probably turned out well in Vegas's favour! We managed to find a room at the Treasure Island which Josh and Livvy thought was 'way cool' - although I'm not sure whether the pirate show or sleeping in a bed with Auntie Kate and Mike held the most appeal! As Aunt and Uncle we were spoiled rotten with constant attention, ensuring permagrins on our faces for the entire trip.
It was very hard to leave on Monday - but we managed to drag ourselves away knowing that it would only be a few days before we could resume the wrestling and hairdressing sessions back in Seattle!

Hunting Rookie

So this year made our annual trip over to Colfax for the fun and frolics which is Opening Weekend of Pheasant Hunting Season - but this time we had the added excitement of bringing our own rookie bird dog, Fergus! As Cortez always says, 'It's all about the dogs' - and giving them the opportunity to do what they were born to do. I think it's a great sacrifice those boys make for their dogs - after all it's a pretty grueling weekend of firing guns, drinking beer, eating good food and tromping about the countryside - selflessness, pure selflessness ;-)
It was almost a full complement this year, (absence of the newlywed Leighs notwithstanding - honeymooning in Fiji is a pretty good excuse in my book!) with 8 hunters and 5 dogs (plus Sydney who was representing the Leigh household!). In addition, Heidi took advantage of her post-Masters free time and made it over this year, as well as Wendy and the boys (Blake wins the youngest participant prize yet again!) and Jenni and Baby Bump Lothbright (future hunter I'm sure!). Jenni and I joined the boys on Sunday morning to check out the progress of Gunther and Fergus and get some of the fresh Whitman County air. As it turns out the air was more muggy than fresh and by the end of the morning we had halved our number of layers and doubled our thirst!
In the end the rookie had a good first outing; he flushed a bird on the first morning (nobody mention beginners luck!) and did a good job of staying close to his Dad. His stamina needs a little work (but then again so does his mum's!) but it made for a very docile hound for the remainder of the week!

When two become one....Burleighs drop the 'Bur'..!

It was certainly a long time in the making - 7 and a bit years to be exact - but the long awaited union of Tiffany and Ryan was well worth it!!
The wedding was a wonderful combination of family, friends, humour and love. The PNW weather cooperated for a change and the ceremony took place under a vivid blue sky!
The chocolate and Granny Smith green wedding colours worked wonderfully with the country setting of Tesa Valley Farm and even though it got a little chilly later on - I dont think anyone really noticed.
Blake Stauff - Wendy and Frank's son - took the prize for the youngest wedding guest - at a mere 11 days old - whilst Tiffany's Grandma evened the score at the other end of the age spectrum! Megan was definitely the most beautiful pregnant bridesmaid I've ever seen - and showed no signs of the stress caused by having to find a seamstress to enlarge her dress by about 4 sizes!
Ryan wowed everyone with his dancing skills (way to go North Seattle Community College Swing Class ;-) )and his chocolate brown pumps, whilst Tiff just smoldered as a very serene and elegant bride.
My nomination for new favourite person has to go to Michael, the officiating priest. What a dude! As I said to him on the day - if there was ever anyone who could inspire me to set foot back in church - he would be the one. I wont go into the reasons here - for fear of embarrassing myself (and him probably) - but great job Michael!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Road Trip 08

14 days, 6789 miles, 22 States, 0 speeding tickets! Phew!! It was a challenge keeping ahead of the changing speed limits though - especially in the construction zones, where it's apparently instant castration if you are caught speeding.
For those who don't know - we had decided to head East to Mike's hometown of Greene which is in upstate New York. In a rash moment whilst walking Fergus one morning we decided it would be fun to drive and take him with us. For once, my naiveity served me well and I was totally gung ho about the prospect of driving coast to coast and seeing the full range of scenery this mammouth country has to offer. I can honestly say that apart from one fleeting instant in South Dakota - which is like driving in a scene from Groundhog Day - long and flat, and more long and flat - and yet more long and flat - when I did question our sanity briefly - I did not regret our decision once. Fergus was not surprisingly, an angel. He valiantly responded to the 'load up' request every time - even though I'm sure he was muttering doggy obscenities under his breath - and made the most of every second of freedom he was afforded in Greene with his Uncle Jake - and Joe, Mike's Dad!
It was a trip of extremes; we experienced temperatures ranging from 28 degr in New York state and 32 in Utah, to 84 in Nashville (note to self - check weather forecast before dressing in the morning to avoid looking like a twerp in long sleeves and boots in 84 degree heat); we traveled through the flattest of flatness in Kansas (plus tumbleweed the size of a house and winds so strong they removed a chunk of our roof rails!), to the dramatic steep crags of the Rockies in Colorado, and on to the eerie pink canyons of Utah.
The highlights were Mount Rushmore - a monument so symbolically moving it touches even a non-Yank's heart, Nashville, Tennessee - a veritable pilgrimage site for a Country Music disciple like myself, and New York City. Oh my gosh - that place is like no other. We did everything it was possible to do in 12 hours - food, sights, Broadway show - and came away totally invigorated by it's energy, and mish mash of cultures, styles, and people.
By far and away the most beautiful, however, was Greene and its environs. It was very strange being surrounded by towns with English names; Norwich, Oxford, Rochester, Newark and even stranger seeing small settlement towns which could so easily have been transplanted straight from the other side of the pond; Victorian looking houses, village greens, taverns and village shops. I had always hoped that I would experience Autumn in the north east as it is supposed to be a thing of legend. It is. Just in the 5 days we spent there the trees went through a multitude of colour changes - from pale greens and yellows to rich reds, ambers and golds. We spent several happy hours walking snowmobile trails and hunting grounds above Cincinnatus Lake and just marvelling at the views.
It was a wonderful experience, and made for some lifelong memories.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hens, chicks and blokes.....!

It's been a while since I was on a Hen Night - and of course that was in my home country, so I really didnt know what to expect when we decided to send Tiff off in style. My first challenge was remembering that this was a 'Bachelorette' Party - no Hens involved over this side of the pond! All was going swimmingly well with this challenge....until we managed to adopt 2 nice young English chaps who would gladly have followed us home, to the wedding and who knows whatever else! Anyway - needless to say - it was all Hens, pints, bloody hells, cor blimeys, tomarrrtoes and snogs from then on (OK - I may have exaggerated with the snogs part - although I may have to seek clarification from Mandy Mae!)
We started the evening at Chopstix - a dueling piano bar in Everett. We greased the palm of the pianists and made sure they embarrassed Tiffany big style. I will never be able to hear 'She'll be coming round the mountain' in the same light again!
On to McCabes - which was surprisingly quiet (although that might have had something to do with the fact it was 1am). Tiff got her two-step with Brad Paisley (well he looked a bit like him), she and I cobbled our way through a cha-cha (feeling a mixture of sadness for the state of our country dancing skills and nostalgia for the Little Red Hen), and two sisters got to wow the bar with their very cute dancing!
We finally managed to drag ourselved away once the bar closed, just about managed to lose the Limey Limpets and set off to pick up the sleeping pregnant lady and head out to Patti's cabin in the wildnerness.
3am was a little too late for S'mores, we decided - and that was even before Heidi had realized she'd forgotten the key and treated us to her very best Spiderman impression. At least we managed to talk Tiff out of scaling the roof - although I was thinking a chocolate/green leg cast would have made for an interesting bridal accessory.
Instead we opted to seal ourselves into our sleeping bag cocoons in the loft and sleep for as long as our bladders would allow.
Heidi had done a grand job of arranging the whole event which was topped off by a sumptuous breakfast of fresh fruit, muffins, hairs on your chest coffee and chit chat.
I don't even think there was a hangover in sight - and we managed at least 6 hours longer than the boys - and we had Megan and her baby bump in our group! So way to go girls - we rock!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Homage to a grand old hound...

Peps has moved on. Without a doubt he is in doggy heaven. He did not have a mean bone in his body and was the kind of dog who would have kicked himself for those few times he was naughty!
He spent his glorious 15 years worshiping sticks. Ironic really as the only times he had any close shaves with death, they were as a direct result of his stick addiction; once when his Dad accidentally threw his stick into the path of an oncoming canal barge and once (or was it twice) when his stick retrieval was so enthusiastic that he impaled himself and had to have the shards removed from his throat.
Peps was a people dog. He couldn't have cared less about his canine peers - but loved human company. Consequently he was a great giver and receiver of love - and he banked lots in his long life - and from a plethora of fans!
My lasting memories of him are the quirks of his character; his love for cheese, his tree-climbing, his obsession with water, his hatred of cats (until Oliver came to live in his orbit), his stubborn determination to decide which direction we were walking on any particular day, and his ability to twirl his long feathery tail in a circular motion.
I regret terribly not being able to be with him at the end - but know he was probably in much better hands than mine - and will always admire and love Mark for being his support when he needed it most.
Peps' legacy lives on; in the 42 year old stuffed bear with one ear and one arm, in his striking resemblance (in character and appearance) to Fergus, and in the memories those people lucky enough to have known him, share regularly.
Rest in Peace, Peps - I hope he was watching from up there and had a basket full of sticks waiting for you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

'It's a pleasure!'

...and if ever there was a place dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure - Cancun is it! Now, granted, pleasure means alot of different things to alot of different people and Cancun caters for everyone. It can compete hands down with the Costa del Sol with it's pints of dubious cocktails, wet T shirt comps, sombreros and mind-numbingly loud music (I use the term loosely). So if that whets your whistle just step out of the confines of the resort and hey vida loca. If, on the other hand, all you need to relax is a beautiful beach, clear turquoise water the temperature of a warm bath, a drinks waiter and a couple of good books - Cancun does that too - and how!
Heidi and I had an idyllic week shooting the breeze, making no plans and wondering over how fraudulent we felt in such a swanky resort!
The highlight was undoubtedly swimming with the dolphins. Indescribable creatures; gentle, intelligent, sassy, and unexpectedly strong. Having been kissed, bear hugged, jumped over, herded and (in my case) goosed - the piece de resistance was being propelled from behind by two dolpins pushing our feet. Amazing! I felt as if I had the imprint of a dolphin snout on my foot for hours afterwards!
Meeting up with Toriann and Heather albeit very briefly came a close second to the dolphins I have to say. The girls are travelling around the world for a year and just happened to be in our vicinity for our last night. I met Toriann whilst nannying and having got to know her well over the past few months was not in the slightest bit surprised to find out that they had left the rest of their party, taken a bus and a taxi just to spend a couple of hours with us - before doing the whole thing again (including some pretty hardcore price negotiations on Toriann's part) a couple of hours later to get home! You rock, T!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Stars, Stripes and Snow

Independence Day 2008 (or as we like to call it amongst friends - 'Sod the Brits Day')

The plan was not to waste the day drinking like navvies and falling asleep before the fireworks began but to do something energetic and uplifting! That's how we ended up hiking up to Snow Lake in the Alpental valley (East of Seattle in the Cascade mountains). As it turns out the hike was aptly named as it didn't take too long before we hit some very significant 'slabs' (technical term) of snow - covering the trail and on steep slopes. And there was me thinking the Portaloo at the beginning of the trail was going to be the biggest challenge of the day ( I still haven't built my lung capacity quite enough to be able to take a large enough breath to last the whole time I'm unzipping, weeing and zipping back up again - working on it though).
In the immortal words of the song (maybe only the Brits will get this) 'the only way is up, baby!' and so that's what we did. Went up ( and slid back down a bit) and up again ( and down a bit more, in my case). And all the time the four legged fiends were just bouncing up and down like gazelles as if they were on concrete - oh to be a dog.
Anyhow -the hike was fantastic - well worth the quad/calf workout with superb views of the Alpental valley, beautiful swathes of wild flowers, wild ( and sometimes treacherous) waterfalls and lots of interest for the ornithologists amongst us (way to go Tiff :-) ) The pics show us at the top and the bottom!
By the time we had got back down and home, showered and changed it was time for dinner - of course it had to be a traditional Independence Day BBQ with dogs and burgers, salads and corn - and topped off with a few raucous card games and the firework display over Lake Union - sweet.
The evening wouldnt have been complete without Cortez's arsenal of illegal explosives which he and Leigh expertly ignited in the driveway - ensuring that no-one on 36th Ave (south precinct) got any sleep until after we were done scaring the crap out of them!
Here's to the next Yankee Doodle Day - hoorah!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


So picture the scene; we are being lazy and sitting eating supper on our laps in the living room. I have a full view down the garden. There we are having a pleasant chat when............'what the &@#! is that?'
It's a possum says Mike. Of course it is - silly me - how could I have been so stupid - I used to have possum wandering through my garden in Warwick ALL the time......errrrrrrrr NOT. Granted my geography sucks - but I know that Dame Edna thinks that possums only live in Australia - and I believe her! This thing was fearless - very slow and not averse to having his photo taken (as you can see). Anyway - thank goodness for Wikipedia. Technically (sorry to publicize your wrongness Mikey ;-)) he was an 'O'possum - which are native of the Americas. The creature I was thinking of is a Possum (minus the 'O') - which is an Australasian mammal - so woo hoo to Dame Edna - she was right after all. Personally I think the 'O' is for 'Oh my giddy aunt there's a creature the size of a large cat tiptoeing through my daffodils' but that's just me:-)
G'day Possums.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sweet justice!

So - the story behind our acquisition of the four legged member of out family is that we were on our way to look at new sofas when we were 'diverted' to Gig Harbor by a request by the breeders to visit the pups that very day rather than the next day as we had planned. So we (for 'we' read 'I') never got the nice new sofa to replace the filthy, ratty, flea-bitten 'college' couch I love so much.

However - between the two of them, my husband and dog have had the last laugh - to which the attached picture will attest. Where on earth would our totally spoilt dog have laid his handsome head if we'd had a pristine new sofa sitting where the old one does?

Oh well - you can't have it all! Not much beats sitting on a beat up old sofa with a heap of soft snoozing fur on your lap :-)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sun at last....!

After what seems like weeks of wearing a hundred layers of clothes (day and night!) I finally ventured out today WITH NO COAT. I knew it was warm as Fergus even managed to muster up a couple of pants during the walk. It was was such a tonic to feel the warmth of the sun on my face - a feeling obviously shared by the garden as the crocuses and daffodils seem to have grown at least 3 inches in the past couple of days.

I got to dog-sit today (by choice) whilst Mike, Heidi and Kristian sailed Kristian's new boat from Lake Union to Elliot Bay. Yes - I'd be lying if I didn't say I wish I'd been there - especially given the weather - but I'm guessing there will be other opportunities - fingers crossed!

My compensation earlier this week was a killer view of the Olympics whilst out walking with Duncan. I thank my lucky stars everytime I see those beautiful mountains out across Elliot Bay and wonder what I did to deserve living in such a wonderful place. A little part of me always wishes Mum and Dad or any of my family and friends were here to share the view - but at least it always prompts me to think of them - so they are there in spirit!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feisty Fergus....

We had planned to go sofa shopping - but somehow ended up taking a detour to Gig Harbor to 'look' at some pups...........yes, yes - I know! Anyway - we are now three - two of us exhausted and one of us full of energy, lust for life, and poop!

We wanted to give him a Scottish whiskey related name (partly because we love it so much and partly because the first night he came home he took a lick out of Cortez's whiskey glass - and dropped a piece of food into it). most single malts seem to have between 3 and 33 syllables, we plumped for a plain old Scots name - Fergus - which means 'first choice' - pretty apt as he was the first and only pup we saw! We figured he'd be Gus for short - but most people seem to be favouring Fergie - which thankfully for most people over here conjours up a hot rock singer rather than a not so hot ex-Royal!

So far he has been a brick! Hardly any whining at night - just when we put him in his bed - and virtually house-trained already. Mind you Mike has got absolutely no work done in the last week as a result! He's taking fatherhood very seriously! I am a little more devil-may-care - I think because I've done it all once before - with the gorgeous and still going strong Peps. However - I think I'm a little out of practice as Fergus did fall into our icy pond this afternoon whilst in my care! Never too early to teach them the rudiments of swimming I say!

More news from the West soon!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Welcome to the first of the Hoyt (Seattle) posts on the new blogsite!

One of the great aspects of living in the Pacific North West (and one thing I hope I will never take for granted) is the fact that seasons are still discernible. This winter we have already hit the national news because of the amazing winter storms which have brought flooding and huge amounts of snow. We decided to take advantage of the latter for the first time this season and went snowshoeing last weekend.
For the unitiated (ie anyone who lives in middle England!), this involves strapping two tennis racket like contraptions to your feet and tromping through the snow for a few miles. I have made it sound much less attractive than it really is - not necessarily glamorous (especially when the snow is coming down thick and fast, your hair is like rats tails and you are trussed up like the Michelin man for warmth - but an amazing workout and a marvellous opportunity to view some spectacular scenery.

We headed north to a trail in the region of Granite Falls this last Saturday - and despite the rather ominous avalanche danger - had a great time. Here are some photos to prove it!

Just to complete the weekend of winter sports, Heidi, Christian, Mikey and myself hit the Winter Wonderland Ice Skating rink at Bellevue Square on Sunday. Not quite the same as Warwick Castle courtyard it has to be said - but aided by a practice session the week before (at the Snowdome in Tamworth, England - way to go Tennants!) and copious amounts of alcohol - we had lots of fun and avoided any broken bones - although there were a few near misses thanks to some kamikaze youngsters on the ice and some stray snowball missiles launched by Messrs Hoyt and Brekke! Fun times!