general Archives

July 9, 2004


As most people are aware, I graduated from Purdue University this past spring with a degree in computer science. Quite recently, I moved from Indiana to Redmond, Washington to start a full time job at Microsoft. I just moved from temporary housing into my new apartment, which has lots of space, including a large deck and a loft, which I'm working on painting right now. I'll post pictures later. Life has been pretty busy, and it'll be even busier once the movers bring my stuff here on Wednesday. For now, I'm using boxes for tables and sleeping on a foam pad. It isn't too bad, though. I've got a gray cat to keep me company!

July 11, 2004

Weekend Fun

It's the end of the weekend, and I'm anticipating my first day of work tomorrow. I've had fun hanging out with my friends during the latter part of last week, since my social life will probably have to slow down once the movers come. There's so much to do in the Seattle area, particularly during the summer when the weather is so nice.

Unfortunately, nice weather also means lots of construction. Many of the major roads and highways here are doing a lot of repairs right now. The exit on 405 I used to take to get to temporary housing closed the day I checked out. The 520 bridge was closed this past weekend, so I avoided Seattle as much as I could, but today, I had to go further south to take the 90 bridge over the lake to get to church. There's also some construction on West Lake Sammamish, one of the local streets I'll have to take to get to work, but one of the guys at church assured me that the residents want the construction to last forever, so people will drive slower.

Yesterday, I meant to go to a parade in Redmond because a friend of mine was playing in one of the bands, but I got the time wrong, so I missed most of it. The parade was part of a day-long event in town called "Derby Days." I'm not quite sure what it was for, but there were a lot of things for kids, including rides and booths. I also went to the Saturday market near my apartment with Heather, a girl from Purdue who's also at Microsoft, and she bought cherries and I bought blueberries. It'll be really convenient once I get cooking gear... fresh basil for $1! We also walked around downtown Redmond, and there's a really great half-price bookstore that's easily within walking distance of my apartment. I found a book I've been meaning to buy, which was surprising because it's pretty new, but I'm not complaining... it saved me $7. Afterwards, we decided to head over to Kirkland, where Heather lives, and we went to the Kirkland Arts Festival, which was being held this weekend. It was a lot like the one I went to in Edmunds last summer, with a lot of booths and some demonstrations. Probably would have been a little more enjoyable if it wasn't raining, but it was still fun.

Today, I watched Spiderman 2 with some of my friends, then came back to the apartment and made dinner. It's funny how I don't have the cookware to make ramen noodles, but I have everything I need to make sushi. I made two rolls with chicken, lettuce, and mayo (sounds real Japanese, huh?) and one with cream cheese and salmon. They didn't look all that pretty, but they tasted decent, and I've got enough for dinner tomorrow, too.

July 18, 2004

Bite of Seattle

I went to Bite of Seattle today with Heather and two other people she found through the New Grads mailing list. All of the dishes had to be $5 or less, so we were able to eat without paying too much money. Heather and I shared two dishes, a crabcake and chicken and artichoke crepes, both of which were really good. I also got a cup of Thai iced tea, which I shared with the group because none of them had tried it before.

We also attended one of the free cooking demonstrations that was held throughout the day. Each demo featured two different chefs from local restaurants, and we got to watch one guy make a "seafood margarita" and another make grilled salmon with herbs and a salad. Sadly, they didn't let us sample. Afterwards, we went to another section, where we got small samples of food from 8 different restaurants for $8, which was a pretty good deal because they seemed more upscale than the rest of the options. The raspberry gelato and chicken with blueberry chutney were WONDERFUL. There was also live music, which we listened to for awhile.

When I got back, I finished putting the first coat of paint on my loft, and I'm all lightheaded from all those nice paint fumes. The walls are now a pretty shade of blue, though. I don't know if I'm too lazy to paint the bathroom or not, but it would definitely look better with some color. Still haven't unpacked many boxes, but I did get my table set up in the bedroom.

August 18, 2004

Music of the Night

Well, I mentioned MicroNewsAds in an earlier entry, and I made my big Seattle purchase from an ad in that site! No, not a llama. A few weeks ago, I saw a listing for a rather nice Clavinova on CraigsList for $800, but it was only being offered for so little money because the guy was moving practically the next day, and there was no way I could pick it up in time. Ever since then, I've been browsing the musical instruments listings on both sites more carefully, and I came across a listing in MicroNewsAds for a slightly cheaper Clavinova model (CLP-123), asking for $1100. That was still a pretty good deal, but I put in an offer for $800, just to see if he would take it. He did. So I went to his apartment to check it out over the weekend, got two strong male friends and a truck together, and now it's happily resting in my apartment.

That isn't the picture of the actual piano or of my apartment, but it's what that model looks like, minus the stupid stickers and clutter on top.

So I'm happy about that. Finally have a (digital) piano I can play on! After we moved it yesterday, I went through my boxes and dug out some music to play. The keys feel a lot like the piano I'm used to at home, since they're both Yamahas, and while there's still a noticable difference between this and a "real piano," it doesn't bother me enough to make me not want to use it. It's still somewhat heavy (about 120 lbs), but I figure anyone who can move my couch can move that thing, so it won't be extra effort if I have to move from my apartment.

About two weeks ago, three friends and I went on a weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula, and we had a great time. We briefly thought about postponing the trip because in true Seattle fashion, it randomly began to rain on Friday, but Saturday and Sunday were clear and gorgeous. Our plans for tent camping changed, but we ended up being able to stay at a friend's cabin, which turned out to be a rather nice family vacation home on lakefront property. Some of the highlights of the trip included Rialto Beach, the Hoh Rainforest, Port Townsend, and Fort Wordon. One of my friends on the trip grew up in Port Townsend, so he knew the whole area pretty well and took us to where the good food was, etc. There's still so much to do there that we didn't get around to, so hopefully there will be a second trip in the future. Pictures to follow once I dig up my electronics bag and find my card reader.

October 26, 2004

Life has stolen all my updates!

As I expected would eventually happen, I've fallen behind on my updates because of a busy schedule. Work has been really busy for the past few weeks because of a testpass.

It's autumn now, and when we have an occasional clear day around here, the scenery is gorgeous, with the mountains rising behind tall trees with multicolored leaves. Unfortunately, most days AREN'T clear and sunny... the average day is about 50 degrees, overcast, and rainy. So my activities these days have been adjusted accordingly: fewer outdoor things, more indoor things. Although once the snow starts to accumulate up in the mountains, I might be dragged to the ski slopes to break my legs.

I'm currently enrolled in a jazz dance class at Bellevue Community College, which has been a good experience so far because it forces me to do something active once a week. I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing because I don't dance and severely lack coordination, but it's fun anyway. I think I'll continue doing continuing education classes once this quarter ends, though it does hurt my schedule to have a weekly evening commitment like that.

Concerts and plays have also been fun evening and weekend activities around here. There's a little theater called the Second Story Repertory within walking distance of my apartment. I recently discovered the Seattle Repertory Theatre, which offers $10 anytime, any seat tickets for people under 25. That's a HUGE discount. I saw Anna in the Tropics without very high expectations, and it was excellent: I was particularly impressed with the set construction. As far as concerts go, there's always someone well-known playing around here, and not always in the big venues, too, which keeps tickets affordable. For the local live music scene, there are great jazz clubs, and many restaurants and coffeeshops feature live music on the weekends.

November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving, etc.

It was really nice to have those days off work, and even though I wasn't able to go back home, I did manage to have two very nice Thanksgiving dinners. I spent Thanksgiving day with Justin and his family, and I had dinner Friday night with Sam's family (they did Thanksgiving a day late because her grandfather had to work on Thanksgiving). I got to eat lots of turkey and other good food. :) I'm definitely thankful that I'm in a place with good friends that function somewhat as a home away from home.

Apparently, I don't look old enough to be living by myself. A few nights ago, I had some friends over and we heard the doorbell ring. This was strange because we weren't expecting anyone else, and I don't usually get random people at my door. It turned out to be a kid, about 13 years old or so, selling newspaper subscriptions. He looked at me and asked, "Is your mom or dad home?" I did not reply, and I must have looked angry or something, because he quickly added, "Or... are you the lady of the house?" Hah. I did not buy his newspaper subscriptions. Clearly because my mommy and daddy weren't home. >:o

December 6, 2004

Hakuna Matata!

Seattle doesn't get too many musicals, but when we DO get a good one, everyone goes. The Lion King is playing in Seattle for about a month, and most of the good seats have been sold out. Heather and I decided to go the cheap route and sit way in the back of the last balcony, but we still got a pretty good view of an excellent show. The audience was very enthusiastic about clapping, and they applauded very loudly everytime an interesting animal (like a large elephant) appeared on stage in the opening scene. The costumes were really, really well-designed, which was something very important to me because if they had just dressed everyone up in Halloween-like animal costumes, it would have made the entire thing pretty lame. Characters like Zazu and Timon were marionette-like figures controlled by a person standing next to them (the guy who did Zazu was REALLY funny). The dialogue left a bit to desired, since most of the jokes were taken directly from the movie, and they just weren't as funny when I knew the lines beforehand. And Zazu didn't sing "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts." :(

A few pictures (that I found on the internet, I didn't take them) to give a general idea of what the musical looked like:

The holiday season is definitely here, with the Christmas music on radio stations, huge crowds at malls, and Christmas lights in Redmond! The bridge right next to my apartment complex has been decorated with lights as a part of the Redmond Lights celebration, and it's really pretty at night. Yesterday the town had a kickoff celebration that began at city hall, and then everyone walked down the Sammamish River Trail to town center. The trail was lit up, so that was nice to look at. Justin and I went to town center, where there were a lot of people and free food samples from many local restaurants. Yummy. :)

December 27, 2004

Skiing at Whistler

Justin and I went skiing at Whistler a few weekends ago with some members of my team. It rained on Friday, unfortunately, so all the nice powder turned to slippery, hard ice. We drove over on Friday, and it was rainy but not icy on the roads, so tire chains weren't necessary. Justin was getting irritated because SUVs kept tailgating him when passing wasn't allowed. So when we passed two SUVs pulled over because one guy rearended the other, we had to cackle with glee. The group stayed in two hotels near the Whistler gondola. Turned out, there were only two of us who weren't management. We stayed at the cheaper hotel. =)

Saturday was my first day skiing, ever. I spent it in beginner lessons. Justin went off on his own, and I found him later resting with a bag of ice on his butt. At first, I considered doing lessons for both skiing and snowboarding since I was renting equipment anyway, but after putting together "icy conditions" and "snowboarders usually fall on their butts," I reconsidered. Group lessons were in groups of about 8 people with an instructor. I was the only person from my group who was from that continent, and the only person who was accustomed to snow. There were other people from Singapore, Thailand, and a girl from Brazil that I had lunch with. Her name was Ge, she was about my age and studying English in Vancouver, and she was married. The first half of the day was mildly irritating because we had to walk up this small hill each time to ski down, but after lunch, we went on the "magic carpet" (conveyor belt-style lifts) and it was more fun. I was okay while skiing, but I seemed to have more trouble when walking over to the lift. Fell down once really hard on my knees, and that left pretty bruises, thanks to the ice.

Sunday, I decided to join Justin at least for the morning to maybe do a little easy skiing away from the conveyor belts because it got pretty crowded up there with all of the people in lessons. We took the Whistler Gondola to the first stop, the beginners area. Past the conveyor belts, there was a small chair lift that looked manageable, but when we got there, they told us that they weren't opening for another 20 minutes. Rather than wait, Justin thought it would be a good idea to take the gondola further up. I cluelessly said, "Okay." BAD IDEA. I quickly realized that my instructor's statement "snowplow stop will always stop you if you put enough effort into it" was completely untrue when applied to steeper slopes than the measly ones we were on the day before. However, I did discover a very effective and timely method of stopping: wiping out.

The process worked like this:

1. I'd start moving, totally lose control, and plummet at ridiculously high speeds down steep hills.
2. Justin would try to follow behind me, thinking, "Man, I don't even think I'd trust myself to go that fast in these conditions because the fall would be absurdly bad."
3. I'd realize that there just wasn't any way I'd be able to stop normally and there was a really bad fall in my near future. The "oh crap" thoughts start to kick in.
4. Feet fly over head, or some gruesome looking fall. Skis and hat fly off about 10 feet behind me.
5. Justin catches up with me, picks up my skis and hat, gives them to me, I put them back on and repeat the process.

Yeah, that's cool and all, but as I got tired, my falls got worse. I did a lot of sliding on one side, which resulted in a really dark, grapefruit-sized bruise there that was really pretty to look at. Finally, I fell and hit my knee in a way that I really didn't like, and I decided that skiing down the rest of the way would just be stupid, so I walked down a ways to the chair lift. They wouldn't let me download, but they got this guy on skis with a cart to take me down. I stayed in bed with ice on my knee for the rest of the day.

That night we met up with the rest of my team members for dinner at Quattro. They had organized where to meet each day for people who wanted to ski down together, but I was clearly not at a level to do that, so we hadn't seen any of them yet. In fact, I only knew one of them, and he was a dev manager, so many steps above me on the food chain. When dinner conversation turned to lakefront property, I realized that most of them were several steps above me on the food chain. =) We had a good time, though.

Monday, I decided to try going back up to the beginner area. I spent a little time on the magic carpet again, but that was pretty easy and getting a little boring, so I asked one of the ski instructors about the chair lift. He said that I could probably handle it and to go up before it started getting too busy, so I did. It was a lot of fun! I managed to make it through the entire day without falling when getting off the chair lift, and I only fell once while skiing. It was the first time, and it was my fault... it wasn't clearly marked where the groomed part stopped and the icy part started, and once I got on the icy part, there was no stopping until I fell. But I was an expert at falling at this point, so that was no big deal. Justin joined me in the afternoon, and we skiied down a few times before the lifts closed. In fact, we were the last ones on the chair lift; they let us on for one last time even though it was after closing time. Moral of the story: stick to things that are your level, unless you think purple is a cool color and you want it on your knees and hips.

Pictures to follow.

July 1, 2005


One of the things I appreciate the most about Seattle (and other big cities) is the opportunity to see many plays, musicals, and other artsy things, and I've been taking advantage of these opportunities. Being under 25 makes the experience even better -- a lot of the local theatres offer great discounts for us young people.

Recently, we had the Seattle International Film Festival, where there were screenings of a bunch of foreign and independent films at some of the local theaters. I got to see three movies, all of which were great. Strings was a film from Denmark that had a pretty typical fantasy-MacBeth plotline, but the characters were all puppets, and the world was designed around that theme. For example, cutting a puppet's headstring would kill him. Cote d'Azur was a silly French movie about a family that had serious issues: the parents thought the son was gay, but he wasn't gay -- instead, his father was gay, but that didn't matter because the mother was having an affair. Right. And Dreamship Surprise was a crazy German spoof on Star Trek (kind of like SpaceBalls, except flamboyantly gay).

Listen to them sing!

I also saw Miss Saigon at the 5th Avenue Theatre, which is a theatre that shows musicals. Les Mis is coming next year, which I'm really excited about. A few of us got a season subscription to Broadway Across America, and we're looking forward to seeing musicals like Mamma Mia and Wicked.

Play-wise, I decided to try out a season subscription to ACT Theatre because it was a great deal for under-25ers. It's a very intimate theatre, but I enjoyed the one play I've seen there so far. And Seattle Repertory Theatre is always a favorite -- this season looks like it's going to be good.

So much to do!

July 7, 2005


I decided to try out a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program this summer. I first heard about CSAs (which seem to be pretty popular in the area) through Pike Place Market, but the boxes they offered were for a family of four, which is way too much food for me. Then I discovered Full Circle Farm, which offers small-sized boxes for two people, and they don't require an entire summer subscription: you can pay by the box, and it's okay to not receive a box if you'll be on vacation, etc.

So far, things have gone pretty well. It's a challenge to finish that many fruits/veggies each week, but it's healthy. :) The other interesting thing is that we get items that we wouldn't normally buy in the grocery store, like eggplant and white turnips (though we're allowed to swap a few items if there's something we don't like). So we've tried out some new receipes, like an eggplant, zucchini, and tomato casserole and white turnips au gratin. As for the fruit, Justin eats most of it, but I eat almost all of the berries. Strawberries came at the beginning, cherries started appearing recently, and this week was the first week of raspberries. Yum!

September 6, 2005

Good Grillin'

We've been eating pretty well, thanks to our Full Circle Farm boxes supplemented by the Redmond Saturday market. Some interesting recipes we've tried lately include a romano bean frittata and tomatillo salsa (yum!). Finally, at the end of summer, Justin decided to pull out and clean his grill, and we enjoyed the wholesome goodness of zucchini, summer squash, Walla Walla sweet onions, corn, and a variety of peppers that we found at the market. I've always been a fan of the red bell peppers, but these put them to shame.

Red and yellow gypsy peppers! The red ones were especially sweet and full of flavor. Unfortunately, it's hard to find these in the stores, and when you do, they're like $5/lb or something ridiculous like that. Ours were 2/$1. :)

That's right, a purple pepper! This was a really interesting find. We ended up liking the red ones better, though. The purple ones turn greenish-purple when they're cooked, and they aren't as tasty. But they definitely look cool.

A few weekends ago, some of my friends and I went on a camping trip to Sun Lakes. Pictures can be found here.

December 25, 2006

Ski season!

One thing that makes Seattle's dreary, rainy winters a little more bearable is that it snows in the nearby mountains, which means there are good ski resorts nearby! After a season and a half of skiing (and two snowboarding attempts) on rentals, I decided to shell out the money and actually buy a pair. I got a nice deal on a pair of new skis from last year's line. They're women's skis (K2 Sweet Luv), but all that means to me is that there are flowers on them. Not pink flowers, at least.

I most often ski at Steven's Pass, about an hour and a half away, but I've also been to Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain. Normally, I go with some of my co-workers in December up to Whistler Blackcomb, but the weekends didn't work out right this year, so we're hoping for a January or February trip. It should be more enjoyable, now that I'm finally good enough to ski intermediate terrain. :)

January 11, 2007

The world is ending in Seattle

November 26, 2006: Snowstorm hits the Pacific Northwest, leaving me stranded at the Vancouver airport overnight on the way back from London because no flights were going to Seattle. The Monday commute took many people 2-6 hours, and ice made conditions in the morning really dangerous on Tuesday.

December 14, 2006: Winds of over 60mph hit Seattle at night, causing the 520 bridge to shut down, over 750,000 homes to lose power for multiple days, and a handful of people to die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Not to mention all the trees down on cars, buildings, power lines, and roads, hour lines at gas stations, and freezing temperatures to make the lack of heat even worse. Not to mention many, many bored people, since there aren't a lot of activities you can do by candlelight, and it gets dark at 5pm.

January 9, 2007: Weather people predict big windstorm followed by big snowstorm. Instead, we get outrageous traffic, a mild breeze, and no snow until late at night, which ends up being only a light dusting.

January 10, 2007: Suddenly starts snowing at the beginning of rush hour. Repeat November incident with long commutes (my 15 minute drive turned into 1.5+ hours), abandoned cars all over the place, etc. I heard it was taking up to an hour to get out of the parking garage at work, and they were asking people not to turn on their engines until they had to because of the fumes. People were walking on the highway (I'm sure it was faster). I saw a bus lose its chains, stop, and rechain in the middle lane of a highway. Temperatures dropped down to 20 or so overnight, so everything turned to ice. Many people are not at work today. I unfortunately am not one of them.

Commute home

Across the street this morning

highways are parking lots
Probably one of the better highway offramps... supposedly I-90 around Issaquah turned into a used car parking lot with all the abandoned cars.

A nicer sunset picture from when it wasn't snowing

Looks like the snow is also tired of the Midwest and has moved West. Sigh.

March 2, 2007

I love bento!

Inspired by Cooking Cute, like so many others seem to be, I decided to start making bentos! My first three aren't that interesting because I'm out of town this weekend and I didn't want to buy too many fresh ingredients, so there's a bit of repeating. I also need to force myself to start liking fruit. I'm using more of my leftovers because I can use little bits at a time and also put new things in the box to make it more interesting.

First bento! Contains tamago pieces (from Uwajimaya), leftover fried rice, hot dog flowers, green peppers, stir-fried tomato & egg, and corn.

The links contain pictures of bento #2 and bento #3. Items inside include dumplings, udon with tofu, bbq chicken, stir-fried zucchini, shittake mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower in hoisin sauce.

And my first onigiri (which I'll probably make more of in the future):

Yay for being domestic. Now I just need a bigger kitchen...

June 26, 2007

no money and no time but I'm an adult now

It seemed like there were two things I was lacking in my life that were causing me to pay twice as much in taxes as the average person in my income group: children and a home loan. It seemed time to take on one of the milestones that would move me away from the "just out of college" group and into the "full-fledged adult" group. Take a guess at which one I chose...

I'm now the proud owner of a 2BR, 1280 sq ft condo in the South Rose Hill area of Kirkland. And a lot of debt. The picture above misrepresents my view (this is what you see if you stand in a certain place and zoom in), but hey, at least I have a view now. Despite being in Kirkland, I'm actually still close to work (only 5 miles away), and I like being in a neighborhood that's quiet but close to things I need.

No pictures of the interior yet, mainly because I'm still seriously lacking in furniture and have boxes everywhere.

January 25, 2008

laissez la fat Nina rouler

What's this I see... a king cake?!

Alice came to visit me in Seattle a few weekends ago (will post on that later once I get all the pics up), and as an awesome gift to the hostess, she sent me a king cake from Louisiana! Blueberry cream cheese, too! For those that don't know, king cakes are a Mardi Gras tradition in Louisiana. There's a plastic baby (yes, baby) that's hidden in one of the pieces, and whoever gets the baby has to bring the next king cake. I definitely remember eating a lot of king cake in elementary school. As I got older, a new tradition started... having a king cake be my birthday cake. It worked out well, since my birthday is close to Mardi Gras, and I preferred king cakes to the sugary sweet grocery store birthday cakes.

Here's the cake with the baby outside. They don't put the baby in the cake anymore (you have to do it) because it's not the safest thing in the world. =)

For some reason, the slices with the purple sugar always tasted best to me.

January 30, 2008

Alice visits Seattle

Pictures and a better summary of the visit are here.

February 11, 2008

Nina is 25 years old.

Lots of things happening at the beginning of the month this February.

Chinese New Year is on February 7th. (Year of the Rat)
Mardi Gras is on February 5th. (I already had my king cake)

And on February 2nd, 2008, the groundhog predicted 6 more weeks of winter, and I turned 25 years old!

Mike and I went up to Vancouver and spent a day skiing at Whistler (we skied Blackcomb). It was a great day and views were beautiful, though it could have possibly been a bit warmer... apparently temperatures at the peak were only 9 degrees! I was brave and decided to willingly ski down a black diamond run (Heavenly Basin). I'm sure it was a funny sight for anyone watching... Mike was standing midway down, yelling, "Turn! Turn!" I was at the top, slowly side slipping down a steep surface, whining, "I DON'T WANT TO!" Made it down just fine, though the moguls cause my form to suck pretty badly and my legs to get really tired. It's amazing how fast my heart will be beating after going down a run, and I don't even notice until I stop.

I know 25 is supposed to be one of those landmark years, but I don't really feel any older, maybe because so many of the people around me have already turned 25. I do know, however, that State Farm sent me a pretty pretty refund check for my car insurance rate being lowered.

April 11, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Those of you who know me well know that I'm pretty far from being one of those tree-hugging, bleeding-heart, hippie liberals. But as I get older, I start to feel more like a full-fledged citizen of the world, and as a result, I feel the burden of responsibility to make this a better place for everyone. I've sponsored a child through Compassion International since I was in college (she recently graduated from the program, got a job, and started taking technical classes, so I've gotten a new child). I also donate every year through my company's giving campaign. No, these dollars don't change the world, but giving a little more happiness to someone with a difficult life is always a good thing to do. I urge those of you who are not contributing to charity to find some causes that you believe in and give time, money, whatever. It only takes a quick search to find something you'll think is worthwhile.

Those of you who know me know how cluttered my living space is. =) That's where this whole blog entry got started... one day when I was looking around my kitchen and saw all the plastic bags that I'd been too lazy to pick up. Yeah, I reuse plastic bags as trash bags and lunch bags, but I don't use them nearly as fast as they come in. So I started looking around and found a recommendation for Reusable Bags. I purchased a basic set of shopping bags, including 2 long-handled bags, 2 short-handled bags, and 4 produce bags for $20. The bags are great for groceries, hauling food to work, etc. I found the produce bags to be less useful because they aren't replacements for the bags you use at the store, being neither waterproof nor transparent. They are great dirty laundry bags for traveling or the gym, though. =) Another big challenge is remembering to have the bags with you. I try to put them back in my car as soon as possible so they'll be available anytime I go shopping. Seattle's a pretty green city, so if you stick your bags in your shopping cart or basket, every single cashier knows immediately what they're for.

Especially with all the stuff in the news about a possible 20-cent fee for non-reusable bags. Time to start getting used to the cloth bags, cuz it's only a matter of time before this happens everywhere. I recently put in an order for even more bags, including two of the brown ones pictured above. These hold way more and will be great for taking to the Saturday market once that starts up again in May. I read a great suggestion for using cloth bags as "wrapping paper" for gifts to save on paper and encourage family and friends to use reusable bags. I love this idea. Wrapping presents sucks.

Oh yeah, my CSA of choice for this summer is Helsing Junction Farm. We'll see how it goes!

Domestication for Dummies

Man, I started this entry in February and then got really busy and never finished it. So much for posting once per month... it seems like the month of March just flew by!

It had been on my mind for awhile to seek out a sewing class, since the skill seems like something I'd enjoy as well as something that would be useful. Finally, I found one month "Sewing for Beginners" classes at Lake Washington Technical College that seemed perfect, since the college is really close to where I live.

I really liked the way the class was organized because we were able to complete at least one project each week. At the beginning of the class, I didn't know how to set up a sewing machine, and by the end, I'd completed a pillowcase, several reversible placemats, a heart-shaped potholder, and several other small projects. I liked it so much that I bought a beginner sewing machine and signed up for the second month of the class, where the main thing we did was a pair of pajama pants.

I hope to learn how to quilt in the future. Definitely have a long way to go before I'll be able to sew well, but at least my cat likes the results.

May 11, 2008

Daniel graduates from Purdue!

Congratulations to Daniel, who graduated from Purdue University with a B.S. in computer science and mathematics on May 10, 2008! Conveniently, graduation weekend fell on the same weekend as Mother's Day, so I got to make a dual-purpose trip back to Indiana. Purdue graduation ceremonies aren't the most interesting affairs... They split the university up into four separate times, and even then, they don't call out the undergraduates' names -- the names scroll down on electronic screens as two streams of people (one on each side of the stage) walk up, get a diploma and a handshake, and walk back down. Well, we all managed to stay awake long enough to see Daniel walk across the stage, and we were thankful that this ceremony had the least number of graduates (I think Engineering had double the number).

Fortunately, it was a nice day outside, so after the ceremony, we walked around campus taking pictures at Mom's insistence because she wanted to get pictures of Daniel next to every single fountain, as well as the math and computer science building. The math building, by the way, is probably the ugliest building at Purdue. Then we stopped by the computer science building for the School of Science reception, where Daniel filled out the "how to ensure that we will be able to contact you forever" card and got a keychain. Well, he's not going far... he'll be staying for his PhD at Purdue. Another Dr. Tang in the making!

August 24, 2008

a weekend bike ride

Summer this year has been pretty lame. The snow melted late and we didn't have real summer weather until pretty late in July, and here we are in mid-August with the rain starting up again. It rained most of the week last week and is predicted to rain a good amount of the week next week, but yesterday (Saturday) was the one sunny day in the forecast, so I had to take advantage of it. I couldn't get a group together for kayaking, so I decided to hop on my bike. I think it was my first ride on the Sammamish River Trail this summer -- I haven't really been riding because my bike has been sitting around with a flat tire that I finally begged Mike to fix. So here's a day in the hippie Seattle life, complete with a few random pictures...

Part One: Google vs. Microsoft
It's not Seattle life unless technology is involved. I'm still too cheap to get a GPS device to track my speed, location, and altitude, and I don't have one of the fancy phones, so to fulfill this requirement, I had to use my computer before the ride. I knew I wanted to be on the Sammamish River Trail, and I didn't want to put my bike in my car and drive to Redmond to get on it, so the mission was to find a way to get from my place to the trail without being run over by a car.

I found a bike map online and drew out the most reasonable route. Red star is my place, red dotted trail is the destination, and black dotted path is my intended route. Outside of that, my choices would be Redmond Way (heavy car traffic, really rough sidewalk, and Costco Saturday traffic = death) or NE 124th St (unsure about sidewalk, fast, heavy car traffic... probably also death). So that's cool and all, but I decided to plot it on a real map with street names so I could figure out how to actually follow that route. So, as a typical Evil Empire employee, I pull up Hmmmm...

Well, that's interesting. There didn't seem to be a way through, at least for cars. But maybe for bikes? So I switched to the satellite view, which showed a tiny gap in between the trees.

That looked promising, but I wanted something more definite. Evil Empire mentality sets in again, and I type in, eyeing the monitor dubiously. I pull up the aerial view of the same location... aha! There IS a trail!

Part Two: I wish I had a mountain bike

After making some tweaks to my bike computer, which had somehow reset the settings and was telling me that I was averaging 5mph, I set off on my adventure. Rode up 124th Ave, turned on NE 100th St, and as I was crossing 132nd Ave, I recognized the intersection as one that I crossed every week to pick up my CSA box (yay for another hippie reference). Why so recognizable? A sign with an arrow, happily pointing in the direction I was heading, labeled "Gun Club." Excellent.

So I go to the gun club and find, as the map indicates, a dead end with a trail. And there's no way I'm riding my bike down this trail because it's freaking steep downhill, narrow, and really rough. So I get off my bike and push it down the hill, hoping that the gun club isn't having a practice session today. The trail wasn't too long, and it ended up in a parking lot, just as my online research had predicted, and it happened to be the new Pro Club Performance Center (the Pro Club is the Evil Empire gym). Crossed Willows Road into the next parking lot (Overlake Megachurch) and found myself on the trail on the other side of the Sammamish River.

There was supposed to be a bridge somewhere around NE 95th St, but I saw huge construction signs marking that direction as closed, so I went the other way, hoping to find another bridge. Ever ridden a road bike on loose gravel? Not much to absorb the shock so it's a bumpy ride, and there's always the fear that the wheel will go too deep in the gravel and you'll end up on the ground. I passed a couple walking their dogs (and probably thinking, "I'm on this side of the river to get away from bikers like you") and they told me that the bridge I was supposed to take WAS actually open and the trail was blocked afterwards. Great. Well, I'd gone this far, so I kept going to the next bridge and finally made it onto the trail.

Part Three: I'm glad I have a road bike

It was fun riding once I got on the right trail. The scenery is pretty, and it's a flat, pleasant ride, except for when you're avoiding children or beginning rollerbladers or being passed by herds of Spandex Men. (Fortunately the annual STP ride already passed, so there weren't as many of them out training) Passed Sixty Acres Park (where some sort of kids soccer tournament was being held), the Alcohol Stop (one block: Chateau Ste Michelle Winery, Columbia Winery, and Red Hook Brewery), and the Wilmot Gateway Park in Woodinville (water and bathroom stop).

Took a break at the big Bothell Park. Redmond to Bothell and back is a typical, laid-back ride for me. I call it "riding to the roosters" because there are all these wild chickens wandering around making rooster noises. Seriously. And there are a bunch of ducks, too.

Got through that area, and the trail turns into the Burke-Gilman Trail, which will take you into Seattle. I noticed a guy with a pail along the side of the road and realized that he was picking blackberries! Sure enough, the berries were ripe, tasty, and all over the place. So I made several stops along the trail for some quality snacking.

Rode some more and reached Log Boom Park in Kenmore, at the top of Lake Washington. Stopped to look at the view and drink some water and decided to turn back there. I do want to make it to Fremont and back sometime, but that would take all day and require me to be in better riding shape than I'm in now.

On the way back, I took a picture of the waterfront trailer park. If you're gonna live in a trailer, this is the place to be. These guys might not own their land, but they've got waterfront decks and quite a few of them have boats.

Heading back down through Woodinville, there's a sign on the trail that says "Armadillo BBQ" that I'd previously ignored, imagining a meal of actual barbequed armadillo, but this time I smelled smoke meat, so I had to go and investigate. I ended up eating a BBQ pork sandwich that was pretty good. In the pictures, my bike is the silver one on the left.

Finally, I found myself back at the Alcohol Stop. I'd originally planned to drop by the Woodinville Farmers Market (also on that road, more hippie points), but I realized that I'd left all my cash at home, so that would be pointless. So I met Mike and his kids, who had biked from Marymoor, at the Red Hook Brewery. It's a popular spot on sunny days and there was a 1 hour wait for a table, but we were able to catch the brewery tour, which costs $1 for 5 small glasses of beer and you get to keep the glass. No one cares about the actual tour... it's the best alcohol deal in town.

That was the last stop. Once again, I took the wrong bridge over the Sammamish River -- this time it was one too far north -- but the ride along Willows Road ended up being more pleasant because there were no people there. Found the entry to the shady gun trail from the Pro Club parking lot, and once I started up the hill, I wanted to kill myself. It was a steep hill and I had to try to keep my feet from slipping downhill while pushing a bike up. I had to take a few breaks, where I realized that I was a single female in the middle of the woods and started to recall the news stories last year or so when two women were murdered while they were hiking.

Anyway, I made it home. Fun Pacific Northwest experience. Today it's raining again and my butt hurts from the 30-ish miles of riding. (Turns out I didn't get my wheel size exactly right so my odometer was still off) If you read this whole thing, that's amazing. =)

December 8, 2009

think local. spend local(ly).

A few months back, Microsoft opened a huge new space on campus called The Commons, full of dining, shopping, and conference rooms. We all looked forward to having better dining options on campus and enjoying a pint or two after work at the bar (the bar option didn't work out quite so well). But it's been a few months, and I've only been there a handful of times. Why? The dining options aren't cheap, the lines are long by noon, and so far, quality has ranged from unmemorable to downright poor.

So when I scheduled a lunch at the Commons (out of convenience because people were coming from different buildings), I wasn't surprised when Mike asked why. But what he followed up with made me think a little more. He said he wasn't interested in going to the Commons anymore -- why patronize mediocre establishments that already get a ton of possibly undeserved business when there are great restaurants that are in danger of going out of business due to the economy? (His example was Suree Thai a hole-in-the-wall Thai place near downtown Redmond that started offering a lunch buffet to get people in)

I injest ridiculous quantities of data when I browse the Internet, so unsurprisingly my brain popped up with something related that I'd seen on the website of Perennial Tea Room. The jpg simply read "the 3/50 project. Saving the brick & mortars our nation is built on," and I was intrigued, so I clicked.

Basically, it suggests that you pick 3 independently owned businesses that you'd miss if they disappeared and try to spend $50 per month. Yeah, that sounds good and all, but here are the numbers that matter:

"For each $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national change, only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home."

I don't do a ton of shopping at real shops, mostly due to lack of time when said shops are open, so when I think of things like this, it's mostly in terms of restaurants. Over the last year, we've seen quite a few Seattle establishments shut down. Mostly fancier restaurants, but they're still places I used to go to every once in awhile, such as Kirkland's Yarrow Bay Grill, Seattle's Fish Club, and now Kirkland's Third Floor Fish Cafe (which has been around for a long time =/). It really hit home when I stopped by Sushi in Joy, my local, friendly sushi place when I lived in Bellevue, and it looked closed. If each time I'd gone to Burger King in the last year, I'd eaten sushi instead, it probably would have helped.

So yesterday after my gym class, instead of driving to Chipotle to satisfy my chicken fajita burrito craving, I called in a to-go order at Tommy Thai, a really friendly little Thai place only a few blocks from where I live. No MSG in their food, great cashew chicken and green curry, and they have a dish on their menu called "Long old men." Teehee. Sure enough, there was only one table occupied when I showed up to pick up my order, and now I want to go more often to make sure they stick around.

What places would you miss if they disappeared?

December 18, 2009

Pacific Northwest alpine hikes

Lake SereneLake Serene hike - Waterfalls
Having lived most of my life in Louisiana (highest elevation: Driskill "Mountain" - 535 ft, haha..) and Indiana (highest elevation: Hoosier Hill - 1257 ft), I found hikes to be rather daunting when I moved to Washington (highest elevation: Mt. Rainier - 14411 ft). After a very pathetic intern experience trying to hike up to Panorama Point at Mt. Rainier (1700 ft gain... if I'd made it all the way!) and an embarrassingly difficult hike up to Wallace Falls (1200 ft), I swore off difficult hiking for quite a few years, adamantly refusing to join friends and co-workers on hikes to Mount Si, Tiger Mountain, and Lake Serene.

But in more recent years, I've been making an attempt to incorporate more physical activity into my life, through torture classes at the gym, skiing, biking, and hot yoga. This things got me in reasonable enough shape so that after a family trip to Glacier National Park, where we did some long hikes with moderate elevation gain, I decided I was finally ready to see some alpine lakes. My co-worker Nitasha and her husband Praveen were totally onboard with the idea, and we've done a good percentage of the hikes since then as a group.

Lake Serene Hike - view from the trailLake Serene Hike - water color

Hike 1: Lake Serene - 7.2 miles, 2000 ft gain
Oh, what a way to start the hiking adventures! This year, the snow in the mountains melted really late, so we had to wait until the end of July for the trails to be reasonable without snow gear. This was a tough hike to begin with, since a good chunk of the elevation came at the end in the form of many switchbacks and stairs. But it was definitely a rewarding one, with two waterfalls at the beginning, nice valley views along the way, and a gorgeous lake at the end. The lake was still half-covered by snow, unfortunately, but we could still make out the pretty color. We did get to see some retarded people jump in the ice-cold water, swim to the snow cover, and sit on it. I believe they instantly regretted this decision. :)

Hike 2: Denny Creek - ~7 miles, ~1500 ft gain
The original plan was to do the Denny Creek/Melakwa Lake hike far enough to see the meadows for the wildflowers, eat lunch, and turn back. However, Hikers Bob (who came equipped with... an ice axe?!) and Praveen were feeling ambitious, so we pushed onwards until the rest of us, tired, weary, and with dinner plans that evening (well, that was me, anyway) insisted that we turn around. To this day, Praveen still is unhappy that we did not reach the lake. :)

"Hike" 3: Cougar Mountain - embarrassing
We were feeling lazy, so we decided to do something close to home. Cougar Mountain Park is cool about providing maps with hikes that look like they would be interesting, but they were really easy and the "viewpoints" often looked over someone's back yard. Ah well. That's where the 2008 hiking season ended for us.

Annette Lake hike
Hike 4: Annette Lake - 7.5 miles, 1700 ft gain
After coming back from India where we did two days of hiking in Himachal Pradesh, I was all excited to start hiking. We opted for something with a little less elevation than Serene, but still with a view payoff at the end. Flowers weren't as great as we would have liked, but there were nice mountain and boulder field views along the way. We got our turquoise-colored lake at the end, but it came with something else... mosquitoes. :(

Mason Lake hikeMason Lake hike
Hike 5: Mason Lake - 6 miles, 2500 ft gain
I think I'd thrown out the idea of hiking Bandera Mountain a few times before, so finally, with the promise of wildflowers and beargrass, we decided to do the Ira Spring Trail, taking the end fork to Mason Lake instead of Little Bandera, saving us about 1 mile and 300 ft. Hey, every bit counts. The flowers were as beautiful as promised, with lots of Indian paintbrush and clusters of pink flowers. Beargrass was probably a few weeks past its prime and was looking a lot less bushy, but it was still pretty. Mason Lake wasn't the best view lake, but it was a nice swimming lake and plenty of people were taking advantage of that. None of us had swimming clothes, but the boys started trying to be macho by balancing on a slimy log that dipped into the water, and you can guess the end result of that. :)

Mount Rainier - View from Sunrise viewpointMount Rainier - OhanapecoshMount Rainier - One of the Paradise hikes

Hike 6: Mount Rainier - varied
I wasn't satisfied with my intern experience being my only exposure to Mount Rainier, so I went back for a camping trip to get lots of hiking in. Didn't do anything terribly difficult, and I didn't even try to fully conquer the trail up to Panorama Point (did a good chunk of it up to the glacier vista, though) -- I just wanted great views. I unintentionally picked "Free Weekend," which saved $25 or so, but it also resulted in large crowds at Paradise on Saturday. But things were still gorgeous -- huge trees at Grove of the Patriarchs, turquoise colored lakes all over the place, mountain range views, wildflowers everywhere... This place was ridiculously gorgeous. My words don't do it justice. My pictures do a slightly better job.
Mount Rainier - wildflowersMount Rainier - wildflowersColchuck Lake

Hike 7: Colchuck Lake - 9 miles, 2200 ft gain
It was October, temperatures were dropping, and people were happy to settle into the intermediate lazy season -- when it gets too cold and rainy to do summer activities, and there isn't any snow to do winter activities. But not me! I found a weekend where it wasn't supposed to rain, and I decided that I was going to see some leaves of different colors. And in order to get this, we were heading east of the Cascades, the longest drive to a day hike we'd done to date. Jenny was the only one nuts enough to agree to be dragged along (this trip involved leaving quite early in the morning because it was a long drive, and it was starting to get dark pretty early).

The colors did not disappoint, and we started getting really excited once we crossed Stevens Pass and started seeing bright reds and oranges. We pulled over to take some pictures, and that's when we started noticing the temperatures. 30-something? Ooh, it was cold. When we got to the trailhead, I think the car was saying 31 degrees, and despite a forecast for 0% preciptation, there were bits of white dust falling from the sky. Once we started hiking, we warmed up, and there were lots of pretty colors along the way to keep us going. 9 miles definitely made for a long hike, though, especially on the way back. The lake was beautiful (though I hoped for more golden larch trees) - really big with that clear turquoise water. Colchuck Lake is the gateway to the Enchantments, probably the best backpacking trip in Washington, and we could see Aasgard Pass, the nutso climb you have to do in order to get into the Enchantments from this side. Maybe next time. :)

Colchuck Lake - fall colorsColchuck Lake

Hopefully next summer will be full of more beautiful hikes! For now, I am looking forward to hitting the ski slopes...

December 21, 2009

Calm Amidst the Torture Chamber

Depression is a thinking man's disease.

Without thought, there's nothing to overanalyze.
Without thought, there's no nagging voice in your head, telling you those negative things.
Without thought, there is no regret, anxiety, or anger.

I think every intellectual must at some time in his life come across the question: would it be better to be ignorant and happy? My answer has always been a resounding "no," for I would have to be a completely different person in order to make my mind an ignorant one. I do love to think, I love to analyze. But sometimes when my mind is off involuntarily rehashing something for the 100th time, I wish my mind came with an off switch.

Unhappy teenagers in small towns around the country have long perfected the unhealthy off switches... drugs, drinking to the point of memory loss, perhaps mind-numbing distractions like TV or video games. But I'm not interested in using any of those as the solution to sooth my mind.

On the healthy side, the first answer is always meditation. Just clear your mind. Let the thoughts pass through, observe them, and let them go. Anyone who has tried anything like this knows that the worst way to try to clear the mind is to force it to be cleared, for that leads to more thought. I'm also not all that awesome at observing without thought. So while this might be a good avenue for me to explore and get "good at," there's no instant gratification and more often than not, there's some added frustration at my inability to succeed.

So where do all the Type As go to clear their minds, since theirs are probably minds that particularly need to be cleared? Freaking hot yoga, that's what. Bikram describes his studio, heated to 110 degrees or so with a dose of humidity to seal the deal, as a torture chamber. And that's the idea, torture the crap out of you until your mind can't think about anything. As an added bonus, it's a good workout!

I initially wanted to try a yoga class because I knew I was extremely inflexible, to the point where it was probably going to cause me injury in the future. (And this is true: can't touch toes = tight hamstrings = lower back pain down the line) Not knowing exactly where to go, I searched my company discount site for "yoga" and came up with two hot yoga places, both in my very own city of Kirkland. Yelp reviews pretty much summarized one as excellent and one as a stinky, crowded meat market, so you can guess which one I went to.

I definitely got a surprise. This was no "relax and stretch" class like I expected. My first class was a Bikram style class, 26 postures repeated twice for a total of 90 minutes in the hot, smothering torture chamber. I wasn't in bad shape, so I could manage the quad-busting "Awkward" series at the beginning and most of the standing series, but by the 20th pose or so, I was down in corpse pose for the rest of the class, fighting waves of nausea due to dehydration. Another plus of hot yoga: forces me to drink water. But laying there, waiting for class to end, I realized that my mind really hadn't wandered much during that class, which isn't the case for other workouts I do.

As my work life got interesting over the next few months, I relied a lot on hot yoga to keep my mind steady. My studio offered two types, the Bikram style that I first tried, and a Baptiste style Power yoga, which was a "flow" class that I hated at first due to the amount of time spent in downward-facing-dog. But now, I like the way the class moves and the fact that it's a great core workout (they actually do a brutal abs sequence that has absolutely nothing to do with yoga). I'm nowhere near bring a yoga expert, and I'm usually still one of the lower level people in the classes, but I can now touch my toes. :)

My body likes the exercise. My mind enjoys the break.

January 2, 2010

Outstanding in the Field

Outstanding in the FieldSet between the soil and the sky, Outstanding in the Field's long, linen-draped table beckons adventurous diners to celebrate food at the source. Bringing together local farmers and food artisans, chefs and winemakers, we explore the connection between the earth and the food on your plate. Join us as we feast on the gifts of the land.

Pete & Brook mentioned this event in 2008, and I was intrigued. But back when reservations opened up for the dinners that year, I guess the economy hadn't taken away everyone's money just yet, and the Seattle dinner was sold out pretty quickly. They raved about the event afterwards, though, so when the 2009 reservations opened (on the first day of Spring!) I was right there.

Now, it does sounds like a great event. The pictures are beautiful, they get great chefs, and the food sounds delicious, but... $180 plus tax for 5 courses? That makes the Herb Farm seem like a bargain (a story for another entry). Actually, $180 was on the cheaper side for the dinners on the site... there were three Seattle-area dinners for 2009, and one of them was over $200! We got our reservations anyway (yes, they charge the whole thing right away), and as I started reading reviews of the event on Chowhound I started to feel a bit of buyer's remorse.

It was a short day at work on July 15, 2009, since the event started at 4pm and was all the way out in Carnation. We were greeted with two wines and trays of appetizers, and things immediately looked up. In my opinion, the highlight of local ingredients in the Pacific Northwest is seafood, and our appetizer trio included seared tuna loin, scallop ceviche, and mussel skewers. Yum!

Once everyone arrived, Jim Denevan, the founder of Outstanding in the Field, talked briefly and then handed it over to Andrew Stout, the owner of the farm. He gave us a tour of the farm, including some time to check out all the different herbs in the garden and a view of a lot of different tractors. Finally, we crossed a little bridge over to the dining area, where Outstanding in the Field's signature long table was stretched out next to a row of raspberry plants. We walked to the end of the table and sat down, which ended up being a good decision because we ended up right next to Andrew Stout and Kevin Cedergreen, the winery owner.

The food was delicious, featuring the grain emmer (the chef is opening up a restaurant called Emmer & Rye), heritage Wooly Pigs pork belly, and king salmon. And it was a beautiful view, being out there in the middle of a farm as the sun slowly set. As the dessert course was being prepared, they handed out small containers for us to pick raspberries to take with us, which I thought was really generous... then as we left, they had a little produce stand set up, where we could fill paper bags with as much as we wanted to take.

Ultimately, it's hard to put a price tag on how much that experience is worth because it's pretty uncomparable to anything in the normal restaurant world. We got an awesome meal of local ingredients with a ton of good wine (7 glasses - he added a Riesling that wasn't on the menu) in a beautiful, unique setting. If you've got the money, I definitely recommend checking out whether or not OitF has a dinner near you next year. Though I will say (in a somewhat biased way) -- it might be hard to beat the local ingredients that we have here. :)

Full Circle Farm
Chef: Seth Caswell
Wine: Cedergreen Cellars

seared tuna loin, currants
smoked grapeseed oil, crackers
BC scallop ceviche, citrus, cucumber cups
marinated Taylor Shellfish mussel skewers
2008 Voila Rose
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
* * *
roasted Full Circle Farm beets, herb salad,
blueberries, basil-mint vinaigrette
2007 Sauvignon Blanc
* * *
wild mushrooms, Oxbow Farm cauliflower,
emmer, baby greens, hazelnut vinaigrette
2008 Chenin Blanc
* * *
Wooly Pigs pork belly, cabbage, zucchini,
spicy mustard
2004 Thuja
* * *
king salmon, Full Circle Farm carrots,
fennel, escarole, spring onions,
Golden Glen herb butter
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon
* * *
Bluebird Grain Farm emmer biscuits,
apricots, raspberries, fresh cream

More pictures, including pictures of the courses

February 20, 2010

Exploring Upper Queen Anne


We don't get a lot of sunny, clear days in Seattle during the winter. And usually when we get them, it's during the week. So when the weatherman predicted a weekend of good weather, I knew I had to get outside and do something. My original plan was to head down to Pike Place Market and walk around, but I've done that so much. Instead, I decided to look for a place with a view.

It didn't take me long to decide on Upper Queen Anne. I can see the hill from my condo, and I'm in Lower Queen Anne all the time for shows, but for some reason I very rarely make it to the top. So I took a bus, aiming for Kerry Park, a place well known for its good views of downtown Seattle. Being unfamiliar with the area, I got my bus stops mixed up and rode too far, so I ended up walking through Kinnear Park, which gave a nice view of the Olympics and the Sound.

kinnear3 kinnear4

There were a bunch of these trees with bright pink flowers that were really pretty.

View from Kinnear Park kinnear5

Views are great from Upper Queen Anne. The architecture is really nice, too... not just the super modern condos that you see elsewhere.


house1 View from Kerry Park

Walking from Kinnear to Kerry, I walked up through some really pretty upscale neighborhoods. Lots of BMWs, Lexuses, Mercedes... and a small house on sale for $929,000! The noon light wasn't the best for facing east, so I snapped a quick photo and walked up Queen Anne Avenue in search of food.

 television tower church

Walking up the hill, there was quite a bit to look at. Lots of pretty, old houses, a picturesque church, and one of those gigantic television towers that is easily visible from my condo (about 10 miles away). I also passed a bunch of restaurants that I know about but have never eaten at... Betty, How to Cook a Wolf, and Emmer & Rye. (Particularly interesting to see Emmer & Rye - the chef, Seth Caswell was the chef for the Outstanding in the Field dinner I attended last year. His restaurant opening was delayed by a LOT, but it looks like they are finally open now!) I need to get to this neighborhood for dinner more often! I also passed some cute shops, but my growling, hill-weary stomach was telling me that I  needed to find lunch first.

I was in the mood for sushi, and I knew of Ototo Sushi up there, but it appeared to be closed for lunch. Across the street, however, was Chinoise Cafe. When it comes to Asian food, I'm wary of any restaurant that tries to serve multiple cuisines, whether it's East-West fusion or "get all your -ese foods here." This placed served Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, kimchi fried rice, and yam fries. Right. Well, in the end, I didn't have anything to complain about. They had outdoor seating, so I got to enjoy my sunshine, and I did appreciate being able to eat salad rolls and sushi rolls at the same place.

food1 food2

Shrimp salad roll, spicy scallop roll, and negihama roll.

After lunch, I did a little shopping, admiring pretty $16 boxes of notecards at gift shops, then decided that I needed to sit down indoors for a little while. Queen Anne is home to one of those great tea places that the Eastside can't seem to hang onto. Teacup Cafe, a non-frilly cafe that focuses on serving tea as much as it does on selling it.

tea1 tea2

The tea came on a cute tray with milk and sugar. The cafe also had a fireplace. It seems like the charred sticker on it renders the text unnecessary.

Finally, the sun had moved enough to where I decided it was time to head back to Kerry Park. It was crowded, as expected, but the view was nice, with Mount Rainier peeking out in the background. There was some sort of puzzle hunt going on in Seattle, and one of the stops was here. The participants had to get makeup put on their face, put on a veil, and get their photograph taken at the viewpoint. I think all of them were guys, and the people doing the makeup were particularly mean/untalented.


View from Kerry Park, both with and without the crowds.

  line to piroshky

After that, it was time to take a bus back downtown with just enough time to grab a piroshky at Pike Place Market before things started shutting down. Since everyone and their dog was out running around, the line was really long, but it's worth it. Sadly, they were out of my favorite, the potato, onion, and cheese, but beef and cheese is a reasonable substitute. Add one last stop at the Perennial Tea Room, and that's a pretty good Seattle day.


March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring

Since I haven't left the country since India last June and don't currently have any plans to do so in the near future (particularly since my passport is expired), I have unconsciously been filling my travel need by having adventures near home. This time, I decided Friday night that I needed to take advantage of the non-rainy weather on Saturday by going hiking. Instead of fighting the Seattle crowds at Tiger Mountain or Mount Si, I opted instead to greet the smaller Bellingham crowd at Larrabee State Park.

View of Samish Bay Long way down

The drive up was about an hour and a half, which is a pretty long drive for such a short hike. But as soon as I passed Everett, the views got really pretty. I started off early, so I was looking at pastel layers of mountains beautifully reflected in a large, manmade water or sewage collection pool. :) Then 15 miles on Chuckanut Drive yielded green farm pastures (full of cows and swans?!) with snowy Mount Baker overhead, followed by views of Samish Bay. I also discovered that Taylor Shellfish is on that street, so next time I'll have to bring ice and bring back oysters.

Flower starting to bloom View of Fragrance Lake through trees

As I was driving up, there weren't any cars behind me, so I was starting to worry if I misjudged the popularity of the park and would be hiking alone. But no, I guess the Bellingham folks come a different way, and there were plenty of people there by the time I arrived. I wanted to start at a particular trailhead, and I managed to snag the second-to-last parking spot, and the last one was occupied a few minutes later. And that was at 9am!

The hike was on the easy side, but for the most part it was just switchbacks climbing upwards. My winter legs were complaining immediately. Fortunately, it wasn't long at all, and I quickly reached the 1 mile mark where there was a turn off to a viewpoint of Samish Bay. There, I met the woman who parked after I did, and we chatted a bit about hiking and grumbled about how bad the elderly trail runners make us feel. She was a massage therapist from Bellingham, and we discovered that we attended the same Steely Dan concert last year. She turned back from there to continue her day, and I took a few pictures and saw a bald eagle fly by before continuing my climb towards Fragrance Lake.

Fragrance Lake Samish Bay

As soon as the switchbacks stopped, I was disappointed to see a road with cars parked. There's nothing like walking up 1000 feet to see that it was possible to drive up. Ah well. I walked the loop around the small lake, at first only getting glimpses of the water through the trees. There were lots of benches to sit and relax, and the lake was really pretty with nice reflections of the trees. It would have been more peaceful if two dogs on the other side of the lake weren't trying to kill each other. There was also some trail running event taking place that day, and I can only assume that the finish line was near the lake, because I could hear a lot of howling. The walk down was quick, and even with the chat time at the viewpoint and relaxing at the lake, I was back at my car around noon.

The Burlington Outlets were just an exit south of Chuckanut Drive, so I had to make a stop there to hit the only lululemon outlet in the state. Since those outlets were smaller and further from Seattle than others, it wasn't that crowded, which made me happy.

Daffodil field White follies 

As a final stop before heading back to Seattle, I drove a few more miles south to Mount Vernon to check out the flower fields. I knew the tulips wouldn't be in bloom yet, but I wanted to see some daffodils before the Tulip Festival crowds came around in April. It wasn't disappointing! There were a few spots of red in a few of the tulip fields, but the daffodils were in full bloom. I even found one field with ice follies (white and yellow daffodils).

Bird feeder at my place Sushi

Got back around 3pm and caught a few little birds eating at the bird feeders in front of my condo. Took a short nap before heading into Seattle to the First Hill neighborhood, a place where I almost never go. I had yummy sushi at Sushi Kanpai and then listened to beautiful choral music at St. James Cathedral. The cathedral was really cool - I can't believe I've been in Seattle this long without seeing it.

St. James Cathedral St. James Cathedral - Interior

And that's my day!

May 5, 2010

Part-time Pescetarian

After spending a refreshing weekend at a yoga retreat (that I still need to blog about), I realized that one of the things that contributed to that good feeling was what we were eating. Local, organic, vegetarian, healthy cuisine, a lot of it using dairy and gluten substitutes so people with dietary restrictions would have options. Maybe in an ideal world I'd be eating like that all the time, but through some experimentation I've figured out that any diet I impose on myself has to not only have good justification but the potential for sustainability in order for it to succeed.

I don't think I can be a vegetarian. Don't even get me started on being a vegan. It's mainly because I don't have good personal reasons for not eating meat. I only have good reasons for eating less meat. And because I'm not ethically or religiously opposed to eating meat, I end up facing one thing that makes me start eating meat again: at some point, I end up in a situation where there is a lack of acceptable choices for me to eat.

See, I really like eating. I'm willing to forego a giant portion of deep fried stuff in order to keep my arteries unclogged. But I'm not going to order something that I 1) don't like, 2) don't think is a good option, or 3) shouldn't eat just for the sake of not having meat. No vegetarian pho. No $22 corn risotto at a seafood restaurant. No large fries at McDonald's. And inevitably I will end up in those situations.

So as a reasonable personal compromise, without sacrificing the spirit of this "diet," I have decided to become a pescetarian, with the caveat that I can have up to two meals each week that contain meat, if I really need to.

This seems to be working out so far.

1) I love seafood. Long term, giving up seafood is much harder for me than giving up meat. But I don't consume that much seafood anyway (it's expensive and generally less convenient), so keeping it around as an option isn't hurting anything.

2) Seafood provides me with a good option at nice restaurants that doesn't make me feel like I'm missing out on anything. So I have salmon instead of chicken. That's actually a better option for me.

3) I do not abuse my meat meals. I'm on my third week of this, and I think I'm really only using one meat meal per week.

4) Having such a low limit for meat makes me be really picky about what I'll choose for my meat. I won't eat Burger King or Lean Cuisine, but instead, I'll have a bowl of pho.

5) Even with the seafood allowance, I eat mostly vegetarian anyway. I have been cooking a lot more and fixing myself yummy salads.

6) I do not feel the need to end this diet. With one exception - I have some meat in my freezer that I'd rather eat than let go to waste, so I might have to give myself a week off or something.

Flank steak (one of my meat meals) My yummy soba noodles!

I have made for myself:

1. Lots of salads
2. Sunomono salad with shrimp
3. Cold soba noodles (broth from scratch! I made my own dashi) with fried tofu, shitake mushrooms, green onions, and peanuts
4. Shrimp fried rice
5. Vegetable frittata
6. Vegetarian red beans & rice
7. Chana masala

I'm definitely feeling healthier in general and that I have a bit more energy. I haven't been as good with the exercise, so it's hard to measure the effects on my weight, but I don't care so much about that. So yay, fishies! Let's see if I can maintain this for a longer period of time.

May 31, 2010

Alice and Shawn's Wedding

Alice & Shawn (photo courtesy of Teresa Fong) I'm at that age where everyone is starting to get married. My high school friends started a long time ago, and a good number of them have kids now. But my childhood friends have taken a little longer, maybe because they're either busy getting really educated or enjoying the fun of single life. Well, this summer, that has officially changed. In June, Ben (my boyfriend when I was 3 years old!) is getting married, and the weekend before Memorial Day, Alice and Shawn tied the knot.

I've known Alice since I was seven or so. That's about twenty years. It's crazy to think of lengths of friendships in terms of lengths of relationships - at my age, a five year relationship seems long. And though we might not have a lot in common and I've spent the last ten of those years away from Louisiana, I've kept in better touch with her than anyone else from Baton Rouge. We've shared a lot of history, listened to each other's good stories and bad stories, many of them about boyfriends... shared a love of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, and Vienna Teng. And after years of being a long-distance observer/confidante in her journey, it was really special to see her road of singlehood end at a beautiful ceremony in a city I called my home for a decade and a half. 

Mall of Louisiana

I really don't get back to Baton Rouge as often as I want to. The city has changed a lot and many of the people I knew have gone off to other places. Alice took me to the Mall of Louisiana to see how much it's expanded. There's now a Sephora in Baton Rouge! Still no Nordstrom, though. On one hand, it's great that Baton Rouge is becoming more of a "real city," but I think it comes at the expense of its character. The photo I snapped of the outside shopping area looked as sterile as a computer-modeled image. New residential developments mimic the identical townhouse hell that I hate seeing here in the Issaquah Highlands (and many other places). But one thing Baton Rouge has in its favor is a lot of  land, which means they don't need to knock down the old places as much. So I got to make my traditional trip to Mike Anderson's, still the same, to eat one of my favorite meals of stuffed crab, stuffed potato, and hush puppies.

Next year is my 10 year high school reunion (OLD!!!) so it looks like I'll finally make a trip back to Louisiana that isn't for a wedding. :) Until then, I'll be dreaming of crawfish.

Congratulations to Alice and Shawn!

My mom's meal - Crawfish 7 ways @ Mike Anderson'sPlane view somewhere near Baton Rouge

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