Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fish and chips

Here's the first attempt at backtracking to some of our Seattle discoveries over the summer. This beach is a recent find - less than ten minutes' drive from home. Our neighbourhood is a lakeside one and that means we have a plenty of waterside places to hang at, not far away.

This particular spot is on a northern stretch of Lake Washington, and has a lengthy jetty walk that loops out from the beach at one end, and all the way to the other side of the beach. A nearby sign claims that to walk it 2.5 times would be equal to a mile, and the water between the jetty and the beach remains incredibly shallow for most of it - Miss Pie can walk out more than halfway, and still only be waist deep. That, and the playground, makes this spot perfect for small kids.

Last night marked our final Friday evening of the summer holidays and it was 27ÂșC, so after I picked up J from work, we made out way to this beach in time to grab the last rays of sun.

The sun is setting earlier these days, and as soon as the shade took over, the girls' lips began turning blue. After a speedy change from swimwear to dry clothes, J took them for a walk along the jetty as I went across the road to grab some fish and chips for dinner.

A strange thing happened on that quick mission for dinner. You see, we haven't had fish and chips at all while we've lived in the US. Not once. There simply weren't any places in our old neighbourhood in L.A. and I suppose we didn't really hang out at the beaches, so this was the first for us in years.

If you're Australian and reading this, you'll understand what a staple it is to have fish and chips, especially after a visit to the beach. Hell, I grew up a good hour away from the nearest beach and we still had fish and chips takeaway at least once a month for dinner - and it was always a treat.

As I set foot into this fish and chips (fries, for you American readers) joint last night, the familiar smell of oil and vinegar stung my nostrils straight away - in a good way. It smelled... comforting. I turned and looked out the window as I waited and was struck by the similarities of the scenery. The frosted pale blue water of dusk, the pink sky, and the silhouettes of pine trees dotted along the beach's park - not unlike the Norfolk pines that are a regular feature of so many of the beaches dotted along the coastline around Sydney.

If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was back in Australia. Bizarre.

When the order was cooked, I watched as a young guy wrapped it into a papered bundle. Then I stepped out into the fresh air and made my way back to the beach. Along the way, I couldn't help but raise the warm package to my nose, inhaling this smell from my childhood. People who saw me must have thought I was a little mad.

It was one of those evenings when your senses are alive, and it feels good to be alive. Gentle beaches, warmth, ducks, sunsets, fish and chips.

Hard to beat.

(Oh, and those fish and chips? They didn't disappoint, and I'm already thinking of an excuse to go back soon...)

PS - I'm working on breaking my lazy habit of iPhone only shots. These were all taken on the 'fancy' camera over the course of several visits to the same beach. It's been fun to pick up the heavy camera again.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Every few days this summer, I've thought to myself: Wow - I need to sit down and write about this so I don't forget the details that aren't in the photos. Good intentions, which have not seen the light of day. I will get around to some more detailed posts about our Seattle explorations, but they'll have to wait. There's exactly one week left until the Faery starts her new school, which means the two months since we moved to Seattle truly have flown by.

On Saturday, J spent the afternoon with some friends of his that he's made through work. They went on a massive 50km bike ride through Seattle, on some kind of brewery sampling mission. Meanwhile, I had another entire afternoon of entertaining the kids and monotonously mind-numbing housework. The deal was that as soon as he got home that night, I could take myself off to go see a movie - which I did. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of 'mood' by the time evening had arrived (discovering four sneaky patches of cat piss on carpet in a not-often used room will do that)... and instead of cheering up, I felt even worst after the movie.

Once I returned home, I realised the problem was that I was feeling 'lost'. Acutely aware that I only have a couple of friends here (known from years ago), and good old-fashioned down in the dumps. Christ, we've barely been here two months - during a part of the year where there's no routine, structure, and little in the way of opportunities to meet people. I need to go easier on myself, I know. These things take time, and I've already signed up for various new ventures here which will help (more on that another time), so it's not like I'm sitting around moaning without actually making an effort - I just need to make patience a new virtue, mantra, or whatever it is... and get back into some bloody yoga!

So there we have it. I had a bit of a pity party on Saturday, which carried though into Sunday.

Then, Sunday afternoon saw us attend a neighbourhood picnic party at our local park. It was an annual event put on by the American equivalent of a local council - sort of like a block party. Have I mentioned how there's a really lovely sense of community in out new area? We just needed to bring a side dish or dessert to share, and the rest was taken care of. We signed up on arrival, were given name tags to wear, and promptly feasted on barbecued burgers and hotdogs, curries,  and frozen yoghurt (provided by the local restaurants and shops)... a Ben & Jerry's ice cream truck even turned up to hand out ice cream.

There was a balloon dude for the kids, face-painting, water balloon tossing contest, bubbles and chalk - leaving J and I free to chat and meet other folks and parents in our neighbourhood. It was fantastic. When the rain arrived and it was time to leave, we left knowing a bunch of new faces and names, kids who were similar ages to ours, and parents from the same school that the Faery will attend - along with praise sung about the school. We met people who'd lived in the Seattle area all their lives, and people who were transplants like us, with Australian and British ties. I'd been invited along to trivia nights and girly drinks.

All in all, it was reassuring. My 'mood' had shifted, and I was glad we'd taken the time to attend.

I came home feeling hopeful for my own happiness here.

(On a side note, after giving it much thought recently, I'm doing away with watermarking my photos. Lately, I've been shifting away from photo-editing/processing in general. With the exception of Instagram - and even then I don't add filters as much as I used to - the most I can be bothered with is a little straightening and cropping when required. I'm deriving more pleasure in keeping an image as true to the one that landed on my phone or camera, and aiming for better shots to begin with. The water-marking issue mostly comes down to a time factor and laziness, but I've also realised that if someone really wanted to steal an image of mine, they'd simply crop out the watermark anyway. I don't condone it, but I can't stop it.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Last of L.A. (Part 2)

(Continued from last week)

Below is from our final week in Los Angeles.

Enjoying the green of a park with some friends, not realising just how much
 greenery and wild flowers we'd be surrounded by in Seattle.

Last chance for my beloved guava cream cheese pastries (far left,
centre shelf) and potato balls from Porto's.

Dinner with girlfriends in Hollywood.

Last chance for our favourite ice cream.

Last Saturday evening in L.A.
Farewell hangout with friends in the beer garden of this
local brewery, full moon rising.

Waiting for the moving company's packers to show up.

First of two nights in a hotel down the road.

Last playdate in our local park.
Tired + refused ice cream = meltdown

Apartment finally empty + stinking hot day = swim at hotel

With the kids in bed, J sent me upstairs for a cocktail.
The bar was on the 19th floor, and had this view of our neighbourhood.

There was also a view of downtown L.A.

Last sunset in L.A.

At Burbank Airport, en route to Seattle.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Last of L.A. (Part 1)

Almost two months later, I have finally forced myself to sit down and go through my gazillion photos from our last couple of weeks in Los Angeles (all taken back in June).

Despite the hectic-ness (not really a word - I know - but I'm stuck) of that time, it was wonderful. There's nothing like knowing it's the last chance you'll get to do certain things; spend time with those who matter most. I did my best to cram as much in as possible. Sunshine, playgrounds, sightseeing, hanging at friends' homes, sunshine, swimming, visits to favourite ice cream stores, favourite restaurants, ladies' nights out, more sunshine, more gatherings... you get the idea.

I don't think I've got the words to ever do justice to those few weeks, so I'm going to stick with just photos. I sat down to pull out my favourite shots and when I was done, I realised there were far too many to put into one post. No matter how I try, I can't distill the essence down to just a dozen photos.

So. Here is Part One of an epic couple of weeks.

Playdate at a friend's house.

Announcing the ice cream truck outside a friend's house, 
in case we hadn't noticed.

Her last day of school.

Swimming break for ice cream at our local Baskin Robbins,
also near our local supermarket (reflected).

In a buddy's playhouse. 

Eastbound home as the sun was setting.
In those months of solo parenting, I was never able to catch a proper sunset.
A rear view in the mirror was as good as it got.

A pedicure treat for the Faery and I during Miss Pie's 
last day of preschool.

A failed attempt at culling the soft toy pile,
in preparation for packing and moving.

A last ice cream date with a good little buddy.

Cooling off in the pool at our apartment complex.

In the grand old lobby of L.A.'s Union Station.

The Million Dollar Theater, downtown L.A.
(featured in Blade Runner, and The Artist)

Shiny downtown L.A.

I have a thing for old fire escapes (downtown L.A.)

Angels Flight funicular, downtown L.A.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Little impressions

We've been Seattleites for a good six weeks now, which is crazy. I'm always amazed at how quickly I find new rituals and routines to settle into - it never takes long, but I'm undecided as to whether or not that's a good thing.

One of the first things I noticed here is the set up for receiving mail. In Los Angeles, we had the typical apartment complex lobby - near the underground parking - that was crammed with small post boxes in the wall. When we moved into our townhouse here, I couldn't see a letter box anywhere, so had to ask the leasing agent. "Oh, it's with a group of mail boxes at the end of the street", and she waved her arm in a vague direction. No big deal as we're on a tiny little cul-de-sac, so I wandered to the end to find it. Nope, nothing. I looked around, and could see various clusters of mail boxes from nearby houses and townhouses, but nothing on our corner. Turned out it was actually at the end of our street and across the road. Basically, it's a bit of stroll for the mail, or a pull-over to the curb in the car on our way home from wherever.

I suspect that collecting our mail is going to be somewhat of a bitch when the weather turns cold and wet - so, you know, most of the year.

There's nothing out of the ordinary about this set up in Seattle though. Once it had been brought to my attention, I noticed how all the homes in our area have their mail boxes grouped together with their neighbours', right on the street curb. Groups of three boxes, to groups of half a dozen - all clustered together in what looks like an effort to allow the postie to make drive-by-deliveries from the comfort of a van. This is pure speculation, though.

I don't know if this is a general North American thing (but not in Los Angeles - at least not where we lived), a specific Seattle thing, or even an Eastside Seattle thing. Feel free to enlighten me, if you know.

The other situation that's become painfully obvious to me these last six weeks is that the layout of streets - at least on the Eastside - is a What the fuck? kind of arrangement. Navigating these streets is nothing short of headache-inducing.

Keep in mind that this observation is coming from a woman who has always prided herself on her map-reading skills, excellent sense of direction, and overall refusal to rely on a GPS. In Los Angeles, if I was venturing somewhere unfamiliar, I was still able to do so with a study of the map before setting out, and leaving it at that. Cities with grid-like streets are a piece of cake to navigate.

Unfortunately, Seattle is not one of those cities. Well, the Westside is far more grid-like than the Eastside but the sheer volume of unexpected one-way streets there counteracts any good that comes from a grid arrangement.

I'd love to know which genius was behind the master planning of the streets in Redmond, Bellevue and Kirkland (in the Eastside). Streets twist and turn, with name changes often along the way. There is an unusually high percentage of dead-end streets, creating bottlenecks of traffic through the few routes that are possible to get from one side of town to the other.

Adding to (my) confusion is the way the streets are named. It feels like only a small number of them have actual names, but most of them are a mere number.

NE 80th St.
6th St S.
132nd Ave NE.
SE 42nd St.
155th Ave SE.
2nd Ave S.

You get the idea. It's a wonder there aren't more nervous breakdowns brought on from driving around in circles, unable to get from A to B without getting the streets mixed up, or the streets suddenly changing name or number... because it sure as hell is doing my head in. I once read somewhere that Seattle has been named in the worst ten American cities to drive around. It's early days for me, but I wouldn't be surprised.

On the flip side, drivers here are way more sensible and considerate than their L.A. counterparts. So, that's something, right?

Silly street issues aside, I am falling in love with this corner of the world. We've managed to explore Seattle even more, had a date night in the inner city, and squeezed in a weekend in Portland to catch up with old friends. Life has been good lately.

Time for a stack of photos, but I'll get to that next time I post.