Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pacific Northwestern tourists

I've been going through photos from this summer, and realised I've barely touched the surface with what I've shared here. Time to fix that.

We discovered fairly early on that it's an easy trip to Downtown Seattle on the public transport - a five minute walk to a bus stop, a direct bus ride for about twenty-five minutes, and then we're smack bang in the centre of it all. I am extra appreciative of this, given we've just had more than three years of crappy, almost non-existent, indirect public transport in Los Angeles. Until L.A, I had been a frequent - if not daily - user of buses, trains and trams in every other city I've lived in. It's nice to have that option again.

Number 1 tourist destination in Seattle, am I right? This, or the Space Needle.

The Gum Wall in Post Alley, near Pike Place Market. And yes, it smelled... bad.

Seattle Central Library - possibly one of the coolest buildings ever.

The view from Kerry Park.

We also squeezed in a weekend visit to Portland, where we stayed with old friends and mostly hung out in their front garden. On our last day, we took all the kids out to a pick-your-own farm in Oregon, and arrived back in Seattle with several full (and mushy - it was a hot day) bags of strawberries and blackberries.

Last month, we briefly explored a massive state forest - 482 acres - close to home. By close to home, I mean hop in the car and drive less than ten minutes. Unbelievably close. It has a number of trails and is bordered by stables so during our walk, we were overtaken occasionally by a horse and its rider. I can't imagine a more beautiful place to go horse riding, surrounded by firs, maples, hemlocks, birch, and ferns.  The entire park is forest - trees stretching so high that the ground rarely saw daylight (judging from the amount of moss, mushrooms and the damp fungal smell). I kept intending to return solo for more walks, but never managed it this month. I know I should make the effort one Saturday morning, and now that I've got myself some hardy new boots, I have no excuse.

X-Files flashbacks, anyone?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn falling and catch up

This week marks the official start of autumn here. It's crept up, but there's no denying it. Going barefoot at home in the evenings is no longer an option (I really should replace my uggs that fell apart years ago, but were never replaced, nor needed in L.A.) and the setting sunlight has stopped infiltrating my showers through the bathroom window at face level. Instead, it's been replaced by steam as I crank up the hot water.

I've started eyeing off the gas fireplace, wondering when it will be time to figure the damn thing out and and start using it. Back in my London days, I used to have similar internal dialogues - when is too soon to pop on the central heating? To bring out the scarves? The gloves? The heavier coat? I used to battle through October, too stubborn to concede to the increasing chill, because for some stupid reason I drew a red line under November as being the appropriate time to give in. If I gave in to extra layers and heating sooner, what I would I do when things really got cold?

I wonder if my ego will be as stubborn for this coming Washington winter. I just want to be warm.

The colder change in seasons might be is a depressing bitch, however there are a few things I'm enjoying right now.

New boots

A few weeks ago, I ordered some new rain boots online for myself and the girls. They had grown out of their boots from last winter, and as for me? I don't think I've owned a pair of rain boots since I was a preschooler. I certainly have no memory of ever wearing them, but if ever an occasion calls for it, it's going to be my first autumn and winter in the Pacific Northwest.

I found reasonably priced boots for the girls, but due to my own size 12 (US) feet the same could not be said for me. Cheap rain boots in my size? Nope, I searched but could only find fairly hideous and unflattering styles. I'm vainer than I usually let on, so I'm now the proud new owner of Hunter boots. I'll confess to eyeing them off for a couple of years now. In L.A, they seemed like a frivolous purchase which would only be truly needed from time to time, so I could never justify the cost. I know it'll be a different story here in Seattle and two days ago, I finally got to break them in. I felt pretty stylin', which is a rare feeling for me.


Cooler temperatures equals an increase in appetite, right? I'm digging the pears that are in season, but sadly they are the healthiest of my cravings and vices right now. There is a Metropolitan Market (kind of like Whole Foods) right near the Faery's new school, and parking there is certainly easier than attempting the nightmare that is anywhere closer to her school... so guess where I park most afternoons for the school run? It's especially convenient for grabbing bread and milk as needed, but also means the temptation for cheeses in all shapes and form (which they are currently spruiking all month long) is right there in my face. I can't resist.

I've also rediscovered the bliss of a baked potato that's been smothered in sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. It's totally the sort of thing I lived off as a poor uni student, and I've only recently found what an easy, filling lunch it is. The bad news is I no longer have access to a gym like I did in Los Angeles, nor have I found a (convenient) yoga class to join. We are heading back to Australia next month for my sister-in-law's wedding, and it's not looking good for my arse.


Of course, I have to mention the autumn leaves. Seattle has an amazing amount of evergreens, and that knowledge makes me feel a little happier about a winter that's not full of depressingly bare trees (I'm looking at you, London)... but for all the firs, spruces, cedars and pines - of which I mostly cannot tell the difference - there are still a lot of maples beginning to blush red, and each night of rain and heavy winds has resulted in beautiful swirly colours on the streets. I have a feeling there's a lot more to come, so I'll have a good excuse to get out my DSLR again. Definitely prettier than L.A. at this time of year.

Crime TV

With the darker evenings, I've become a little hooked on a couple of crime shows. This is a little odd because I've never really been into them before, but J and I stumbled across a remake of a Danish show called The Killing. I suppose the factor that pulled me in initially was that it's set in Seattle. Like many shows, it's not actually filmed here but a few hours away in Vancouver. Nonetheless, it has the Pacific Northwest vibe down pat. The story takes place in October and November, so all the outdoor scenes are chilly and wet. It's gloomy, grey, and the actors get around rain jackets, thick woolly jumpers (pullovers, sweaters, whatever) and heavy coats. It's dark and atmospheric, with a pretty cool female lead detective character - no makeup, hair pulled back, no nonsense. Watching it makes me want to curl up even more, with an endless supply of hot chocolate (or red wine).

Courtesy of BBC America, I've also been drawn into a smaller British whodunnit drama, Broadchurch, and caught up on Luther (which I highly recommend). I'm not even sure why these shows are appealing to me right now, but for now they are scratching the right spot. Next on my list of shows to catch up on is Homeland. Breaking Bad's finale is this Sunday, and I can't even go there - I've invested so much into that series and its characters that I have no idea how I'm going to deal with the inevitable conclusion. It's been a ripper of a ride.


We're not the only ones in this house feeling the cooler air. After a humid summer, especially with our bedrooms upstairs, Emily The Cat has decided that our bed is once again the place to be overnight. In typical aloof cat style, over the summer she'd deigned our laps too hot for her in the evenings when we were watching TV, but suddenly our laps are back in hot demand. Emily-laptime and crime TV have been going hand-in-hand recently. Don't tell her, but I'm kind of enjoying her furry hotwater-bottleness again.

I haven't linked any of my posts in a long time, so when - after having half-written this post already - I noticed that the first of this week's writing prompts on Mama Kat's Losin' It was to "share something fall related that you did", it seemed the perfect time to join in.

Click HERE for link.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Summer lovin'

On a slightly selfish note, it's a sad day today because our lovely young neighbour is heading back to college. We've been incredibly lucky to have landed next door to such a warm, sweet family (seriously, they're like one of those tight knit TV families you wish you'd been born into), and having a babysitter next door - who our girls adore - over the summer has been more than convenient for J and I.

While it's been fun to explore our new city with the kids these past few months, it's been important that J and I got to have the occasional night out together - especially considering we spent around three months apart before the Big Move North. Let's face it, an evening out at a restaurant is far more relaxing without bored, fussy-eating youngsters in tow.

On a couple of the date nights, we've stayed more locally and squeezed in a movie as well, but the most fun nights we've had were the ones where we headed across to the inner city areas of Seattle. The inner city (of most cities we've lived in) is pretty much where J and I have hung out and felt most comfortable before the kids came along. Every now and then, it's fun to get back to that essence of a city.

On one of our first date nights in Seattle, we headed to the Capitol Hill district (I think - I'm still getting my bearings) and started off at a micro-brewery. I don't really dig beer in general - I wish I did - but to sit down and have a drink as the early evening summer sun streamed in, minus kids? How civilised.

That same July evening was my first time in that area so with the low sun, long shadows and urban structures, I was in Instagram heaven.

After the micro-brewery, we ate at a nearby gastro pub. When we first walked in, I was struck by how untattooed I was compared to the staff, who all shared a healthy collection of ink between them. We were seated on the loft level, and with the green view out the windows, I fancied myself in some kind of groovy New York/Brooklyn place. I prepared myself for some kind of I'm-cooler-than-you attitude from the staff but instead we received the friendliest, most genuine service I think I've had here yet. Oh, and the food and cocktails were perfect.

We walked off the dinner with a stroll around the neighbourhood, and were more than happy when we stumbled across a vast bookstore. Back in the day - pre kids - a typical night out for the two of us involved dinner and happy book-browsing in whichever bookstore happened to be on the way to whichever cinema we were on our way to. It was fabulous to have a taste of that again and - despite my fairly slower than slow track record these days with books, and the fact I had three library books out on loan (a tad ambitious, I realise), I walked out of the Elliot Bay Book Company as the proud owner of two more books. I'm on to the last library book now, so I might actually get to start one of these books soon. Crazier things have happened.

Another spot we found ourselves at was a bar named Unicorn. The decor was pretty crazy - in a good way - and despite its distinctive appearance, it was only halfway through my drink that I realised it was the same bar that was used in the video for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop". Extra hipster points there, right?

On a more recent date night, we decided to spend it in Ballard. J had recently gone on a bike trail with a friend, which finished there and he was keen to show the area to me. As we drove there, we took the 'scenic' route along the north side of Lake Union. Neither of us had been to Gas Works Park before and as we drove past, we impulsively pulled over to grab the last rays of sunshine, as well as a stunning view of Seattle's skyline. In fact, we were so taken with this park that we went back only two days later - but with the girls too.

First stop in Ballard was another micro-brewery - one which caters to cyclists, and J had been to the previous weekend with his friend. You know you're in a Seattle bar when the toilets have signs like the one below on the toilet wall.

Our main meal, though, was at a sushi and cocktail bar a few blocks further along. I can't remember the last time I had such mind-blowing sushi (it's been way too long) and my taste buds were dancing. The ginger cosmopolitan didn't hurt either.

Of course, that meal also had to be walked off so we strolled through part of Ballard. Even though it was dark, and I only saw a small part of it, I fell in love with that area. Oh. My. God. The Scandinavian history alone was enough to pull me in. In another life, with a double income and no responsibilities, that is where I would live (assuming I was still in Seattle...) The perfect end to the night was finding a gelato bar that also served espresso and cannoli. Fresh cannoli - bliss!  I haven't had that since we lived in Sydney, where our last neighbourhood (Leichhardt) was known as Little Italy. I am already trying to think of a excuses for a weekend visit to Ballard so I can see if it's as impressive and seductive in daylight.

For now, there's the matter of finding a sweet, reliable babysitter that the girls will adore - I hope we don't have to wait too long for another date night, but I have a feeling that I'll have to tuck these memories into my reserve tank for now...