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Note: The links in this post are to other blog posts on rajalary

In 2017, we welcomed the New Year, standing on a bridge overlooking the River Seine, across from Notre Dame, with fireworks exploding in the distance near the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t something we’d rigidly planned. It just kinda’ happened, thanks to Rich’s daughter Stacey who wrangled us into going to Europe with her and her boyfriend, Shawn Lee.

Like our trip to Europe, much of 2017 was loosely planned, but worth the effort.

A few months prior to touching down in Paris, we started refreshing our Coupeville house on Whidbey Island. Working together, we installed bamboo flooring, painted every room, replaced almost all the light fixtures (including outside), tore out the kitchen cabinets, and dug out huge bushes and tall arborvitaes in the front yard. Every day, we commuted 45-minutes between Mount Vernon and Coupeville.

By the time late December rolled around, we welcomed the opportunity to get on a jet plane. We were gone nearly two weeks, visiting museums and sites in Paris, before joining Stacey and Shawn in Mallorca, Spain for four days, and then onto Barcelona for more sightseeing before meeting back up with Stacey and Shawn for a final fabulous night in Paris, featuring a visit to the Moulin Rouge.

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There are no words to describe the enjoyment and cultural enlightenment this trip brought us. It exceeded all our expectations.

Once in Washington, it was time to once again roll-up our sleeves, and continue refreshing the Coupeville house. Happily, everything came together. The maple cabinets we ordered fit perfectly into the kitchen, along with the sight-unseen KitchenAid appliances we’d ordered online, and picked up in Portland, OR several months earlier.

We debated for several weeks over the granite for the countertops. The sample we saw in one Home Depot was very different from the sample in another store, so it was hard to know how a large piece would look.

Weeks after measuring the countertops, three men showed up in a van, and unloaded and installed hundreds of pounds of granite. Rich and I were in awe of our new countertops, which contain large, beautiful splotches of translucent crystals, swirls of warm browns, butterscotches, and ivories, and streaks of black. Success!

The subsequent weeks seemed to whirl by and fall into a routine with our driving from Mount Vernon to a storage unit in Anacortes, loading the car (or Rich’s truck) with boxes, and furniture, driving to Coupeville, unloading the car, working on the house, then driving back to Mount Vernon for dinner, and a good night’s rest.

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Once the storage unit was emptied, we started to bring “stuff” over from Mount Vernon. While Rich worked on the house, I unpacked and stashed stuff in closets, drawers, and cupboards. By the end of June, there was very little left in the Mount Vernon house, and we’d essentially moved into the Coupeville house.

It was then time to reverse the commute, and start fixing up the Mount Vernon house so it could be leased. Unfortunately, the good luck we had in Coupeville didn’t extend to Mount Vernon. Rich thought he could rebuild part of the deck, but it was completely rotted with some of the supporting beams filled with water.

He spent at least a month rebuilding the deck with me helping towards the end with painting, carrying deck boards, and helping line them up so Rich could nail them down.

Also working together, we completely refreshed the downstairs of the house, painting, replacing flooring, replacing the dated wet bar (with orange Formica countertops) with a cute mini-kitchen, turning the ghastly laundry room into a pleasant bathroom with the washer and dryer neatly tucked against the back wall.

We also repainted most of the upstairs, re-stained the cabinets, replaced lights, refinished the parquet flooring, and installed new carpeting.

After nearly three months of hard work, lots of frustrations, and weeks of packing up an insane amount of crap Rich had accumulated and stashed in the Mount Vernon garage from his two step-fathers, and himself, the house was ready to be leased. Check out the before-and-after pictures.

Once the Mount Vernon house was leased (within a few days), our focus returned to our Coupeville house. Rich spent several weeks working in the garage, elevating with pulleys our bikes and 120-pound double Hobie Cat kayak, creating enough room for our two cars, utility trailer, riding lawn mower (a necessity with over an acre of grass), and myriad of other large yard equipment and tools like a drill press, tile saw, and chop saw.

In addition, using our old kitchen cabinets, Rich created work spaces, which complemented a dozen or so shelving units, filled with tools and boxes of stuff from boating and camping gear to tools and equipment to do plumbing, electrical, tile, painting, and much, much more.

We also spent a couple of months sorting through and hanging pictures. For instance, in our shared office, there nearly 30 items on the walls, included framed patents, plaques and awards, photos of family members, and two large, hand-drawn caricatures of Rich’s mother and her third husband, Ted Robertson.

Places to See

In June, we enjoyed attending the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) Open House, where we checked out the cool Growlers and other naval planes that fly over our house. Equally impressive was a high-tech trailer from which technicians control drones, which are hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of miles away.

Also in June, we celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary by re-reciting our vows on a bench at the end of our property, while holding our hats because of the strong wind. Happily, the affirmation of our vows was quick, enabling us to scamper back into the house. It can get very windy and cold in Coupeville!

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In August, we attended NHRA at Pacific Raceway in Auburn, WA. We left on a Friday afternoon, had a lovely dinner with a friend, and a restful evening at a motel, before zipping to the racetrack early Saturday morning. Now that we live on an island, we need to plan ahead to attend events, sometimes leaving the night before.

While at NHRA, we checked out the motorcycles in the Harley Davidson tent. After getting home, we went online and researched bikes that were for sale. I spotted a gorgeous burgundy and ivory Heritage Softail Classic at the Harley dealer near Mount Vernon.

A week later, when we decided to attend an event at the dealership. Parked in front was the bike I’d seen a week earlier. Moments later, Rich gave the dealer a down payment, and the following day, I drove behind Rich as he rode “Gatsby” home.

After making a few alterations to Gatsby to make it more comfortable for his 6’3” frame, Rich was ready to have me jump on the back. We had several enjoyable trips around the island in the ensuing months, waving at other motorcyclists, stopping at tourist spots, and enjoying local foods.

By September, I’d landed a job as a consultant with Bridge Partners, developing messaging and marketing materials for Intel and Microsoft from the comfort of my home office. Much to Rich’s surprise, he was hired by Island Transit to drive commuter buses on Whidbey Island. He’s been in training for the past few months, and will start driving next year.

In late September, we had the pleasure of attending Stacey’s wedding at the McMenaman’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, OR. It was a fabulous affair, and we’re thrilled to welcome her husband Shawn, and his son Zach into the family.

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A few weeks earlier, Stacey gave us her tickets to see Pink Martini at the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville. Despite misreading the tickets, and not bringing chairs to sit on, we had a splendid time.

The following week, Stacey called Rich and asked if we wanted to take a tour of the USS John C. Stennis, Nimitz-class, nuclear-powered supercarrier in Bremerton. Both Stacey and her new husband work for the Puget Sound Shipyard, and had been working on the Stennis for the last year.

Of course, we said “yes.” It’s hard to find the words to describe touring an aircraft carrier, which holds 6,500 officers and crew, along with 90 fixed wing planes and helicopters, and 3 million gallons of fuel for the aircrafts and escorts. Our tour guide (along with Stacey) was a chief petty officer who spent two hours showing us the various decks, huge cafeterias, sleeping areas, anchor locker (each link weighs 365 pounds), and even let us climb to the very top of the bridge.

People to See

As soon as the spare bedroom was set-up in our Coupeville house, we started to receive guests, including, Stacey, Shawn, and Zach; Rich’s son Chris, and his wife Shawnie, and their two children Coen and Caitlyn; two of my friends, Wendy Sample, and Liana Antanovich who I met at Microsoft; and two of Rich’s friends, Ray Silva, a childhood friend, and Mike Pomeranz, who attended the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Academy with Rich.

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Our pet population remained somewhat steady with one of Rich’s cockatiels suddenly dying, leaving one cockatiel and one ring-neck parakeet who share a cage. We also have six cats: Jujube, Zephyra, Lunetta, Lila, Lolitta, and Gracie.

Frequent visitors to our backyard include deer, rabbits, hummingbirds, doves, quail, chickadees, finches, bald eagles, hawks, falcons, northern flickers, seagulls, and a lone pheasant.

All-in-all, 2017 has been a fabulous year for us, enabling us to realize the dream of moving to Coupeville, trading long commutes for peaceful drives down quiet country roads, saying good-bye to living in a suburban neighborhood to having lots of room to spread out, and replacing street lights for the lights of traveling ships, Sequim, New Dungeness Lighthouse and Port Angeles, WA, and Victoria, Canada.