Thursday, June 4, 2009

Closing Sale

During these tough economic times, this blog has been forced to close its doors. But not to despair, it's only because Grayson and Natasha have moved 3,034.19 miles away from Seattle to Boston.

Move along with us to our new, shared blog, where all of our adventures everywhere will be piled into one action-packed, thrill-a-minute über-blog!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

West Seattle

We've now been in Boston for just shy of two months. I have to say, I miss Seattle like crazy, and have often thought, if we ever move back to Seattle, where would I want to put roots down? And I have to say, my mind keeps drifting to West Seattle.

The entire year we were in Seattle, I had really wanted to make it to Alki Beach and West Seattle, but for one reason or another it just never happened, until one of the last few weeks we were in town at all. My mom had come to visit for the weekend, and among a crazy whirlwind through the city that we embarked on, we took the water taxi across Elliot Bay to West Seattle. Originally, it was to kayak around the West Seattle peninsula, but a kayak proved a bit too...intense...for my claustrophobia, so we opted instead to rent bicycles from the place. My mother, Grayson and I hopped on beach cruisers and rode our bicycles the entire parameter of the West Seattle peninsula, from where the water taxi drops you off, past Alki Beach, and to the Alki lighthouse. Unfortunately the lighthouse was closed, but we stopped by anyway. From there, we cut through the middle of the peninsula and went down to the farmer's market, checked out the main drag and indulged in delicious cupcakes. From there we rode our bikes the rest of the way across and back to our original starting point. It was an intense ride, but TONS of fun. Below are some photographic highlights. I surprised mom for her birthday with a harbor cruise and went through the Locks, after which she saw boats from her favorite show "The Deadliest Catch," we palled around Pike Market and Pioneer Square, and of course, at the end of the weekend, we tried some cupcakes! This time from a new shop I hadn't tried before, Yellow Leaf in Belltown. I had the Tomato Soup cupcake, which just tasted like pumpkin pie. But it was yummy!

Anyway, there are captions galore:

Can't wait for my next whirlwind in the city...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back in Action!

We've been back in town for just shy of a couple of weeks now. It was difficult to board the plane and leave Europe, there were a handful of towns and cities I could have easily made my home in, but I will admit it was nice to come home to Seattle. The weather was beautiful and sunny when we arrived as well.
Coming home was really strange. Riding the bus, which I've done at least twice daily for the last year was different having navigated public transit systems all over the European continent. It made me miss the Paris metro and Prague trams especially. A couple of new annoyances about the US now that I'm stateside again: (this is actually an old annoyance made fervent by Europe), in the States, people just stand wherever they want on the escalators, and no one really asks them to move aside to move up, if two dorks are standing abreast in front of you up the slowly crawling and ascending escalator and you maybe don't necessarily *need* a robot to climb the stairs for you, you just simply appreciate the robot's help in getting you up the stairs faster, it's almost rude to excuse yourself to pass people on the escalator here. But in *most*, not all, places in Europe, there's an unspoken rule where you stand on the right side of the escalator, and the left remains open to allow people to walk past. People will even cram their huge pieces of luggage in front of them rather than occupy the small aisle on the left-hand side of the escalator. We first noticed this phenomenon in Vancouver, BC, where again the right side of the escalator was for standing, and the left for walking. This is an amazing, revolutionary model for etiquette and efficiency, and Grayson and I are single-handedly doing our part to bring it to the States. Even if we're not in a rush, we're going to excuse ourselves all up and down the elevator on the left-hand side until the nation catches on!!! :)

Annoyance number two: trains. Oh my goodness how I love trains. And there aren't hardly any around here. Nothing like Europe. There is Amtrak, but it doesn't go anywhere, and there are a couple of commuter trains in Seattle, but they, also are not everywhere. Nor do they hardly go anywhere. We could take a train from the airport to the city, or from Prague to Munich. Rome to Paris! They were everywhere, comfortable and super-punctual (except sometimes in Germany of all places!) I wish trains were as prevalent and amazing as they are in Europe.

Though most of all, I just kind of enjoyed the feel of Europe, the people, the general way in which they do things and believe things ought to be done. The smaller portion sizes, the huge prevalence of bicycles (and bicycle lanes on the sidewalk!), the huge parks everywhere (like Seattle!), Muji stores!!!, and mostly, just the amazing culture and buildings that is everywhere around modern day real life. It's just nuts to see businessmen in expensive suits riding their bicycles to the ultra modern and high tech buildings next door to centuries-old buildings.

I did, however, miss a couple of things: more than two pairs of clothes. Free laundry in the comfort of my own home. Paper towels. Coffee the way I'm used to it. Ice cubes in every drink and free refills (though this is something that would be best gotten used to live without). Nail clippers-I never dared buying them because we always had to get on a plane in a couple of days and it would have been a waste of money. Perhaps.

Coming home to our apartment was really weird. I couldn't begin to explain it but it just felt so strange, pleasant, but totally foreign. A place with all our stuff where we could was so *weird*, even the size of it seemed strange, not like it was super tiny compared to everywhere we stayed, or super large, just ... different. As soon as we dropped our bags, I drank a diet coke which was still in the fridge, laundry was started, I took a loooong shower and put on my NORMAL clothes. Since then we've been taking it as easy as possible and I've been super lazy and not fixing up any photos or doing much of anything Europe-related. I went right back to work and have been getting back in the routine, and now this weekend we'll be in Boise, and the following weekend my mommy is visiting, so we'll be kept on our toes.

Last weekend we went out and about. Friday night we went to an art opening at Roq La Rue, a hip local gallery that specializes in pop surrealism art. The show was called "Lush Life," and featured a lot of multimedia images that attempts to bring "together painters in both the alt-art world as well as contemporary art scene, who all work within a guideline of tight technical craftsmanship as well the use of opulent and decadent imagery to convey higher inner truths and emotions. This take on 'Neo-Symbolism' is different from it's predecessor in that while it still mines the unconscious for a sense of mythic gravitas, it incorporates American culture's pervasive pop culture-flavored and cartoony aesthetic." I like that the paintings were modern but so many reminded me of the tons of paintings I saw in Europe, with high technical skill and attention to realistic detail, yet imbued with modern, symbolic elements, technologies or techniques. I even found one I adored so much I'd consider paying $3200 for...if I ever had that to burn on a painting...Mia Araujo's 'Across the Nile.' Check out more images from the show here.

I spent Saturday slumming around the downtown library, and the rest of the weekend doing some errands and chores. The weather was favorable, especially after a work week of grey, windy rain. And now it's sort of been the same this week, mostly grey and windy and rainy, and then the sun pokes out for a bit.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We're off to Europe!

Peace out, Seattle!

Clearly, there won't be any Seattle-related posts for a while. Do follow Grayson and I on our April in Europe blog!

Brother Visit!

My little brother came up to visit for a few days, and he got a whirlwind tour of Seattle while he was here. We went to the Seattle Center, the Sculpture Park, Pike Market, took a harbor cruise around Elliott Bay, went to Safeco Field and Qwest Arena (just the outside), through Pioneer Square, then off to Ballard to see the Locks and Archie McPhee's, Wallingford for Dick's, Fremont to the Troll, a few glorious, sunny moments at Gasworks Park in an otherwise grey, rainy week, then milled around the U-District, and even went up to Northgate. It's left me exhausted just in time to leave for Europe!

Here are some scenes:

Dismantling the Space Needle...

Sculpture Park

Harbor Cruise

Pike Market

International District

Safeco Field, Home of the Mariners
Welcome Back, Ken Griffey, Jr! Woohoo!

Qwest Arena, Home of the Seahawks, and our new Euro football team, the Seattle Sounders!

Ballard Locks - we got to watch a yacht move through!

Gasworks Park during the five minutes of perfect sunlight!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Vernal Equinox

Grayson and I celebrated the first day of spring with yummy food and sangria!

And then I got Easter presents early, since we'll be far away for my favorite holiday (bunnies!) I got cupcake dental floss (ahh yeah, Archie McPhee's) bunny paper clips, and a hopping mechanical bunny who is also fuzzy:

The city was also celebrating springtime with some fun sidewalk chalk!


Radioactive bunny!


In order to prepare for our upcoming trip to Europe, we're hitting the many streets of Seattle testing out our new walkin' shoes and my new, tiny, travel-ly camera. We started last Saturday in Fremont, walking around from the Fremont Rummage Sale (which raises money for the totally Fremont-y Solstice Parade) through the rest of Fremont in the rain:

Fremont: Center of the Universe

Lenin looks on...

...and finds Fremont to be good... the hairs on his Commie-chinny-chin-chin.

Fremont knows that gelato deserves an exclamation point

On Sunday, we walked all the way from our place to the Greenlake library. It mostly rained, and then was intermittently blue and pretty, just in time for nice views and decent photos:

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Grayson's out of town on a field trip to a potential graduate school, so I'm all on my lonesome!

So, I took the opportunity to mill around Wedgwood, a neighborhood in North Seattle that we haven't explored yet.

Wedgwood in pink

It's mostly families and from what I could tell a lot of senior homes, so some old people to boot. BUT, there were some awesome things in Wedgwood:

Novelty-sized donut-shaped signs? Check.
Yiddish at the bus shelter? Check.
I also went to a boutique-Coop market, and spent the rest of the day planning our trip.

As I was trying to reserve a hotel in Rome (ah, me, not realizing that one of the very few days we are in Rome is EASTER FRIGGIN SUNDAY. Who's up for seein' the Pope?), kitty decided he likes venti whatevers from Sbux:

Saturday, February 21, 2009


As some of you know, Natasha and I are now committed to spend the entire month of April in Europe. Our current itinerary is:

1) Fly into Frankfurt, Germany, stay the night to recover from jet lag.
2) Prague, Czech Republic and stay for 2-3 days.
3) Munich, Germany, day trips to Füssen and Dachau.
4) Night train to Florence, Italy, staying for most of the day
5) Rome for 4 days
6) Night train to Paris for 6 days
7) Fly to Nottingham, England, stay the night, hang out for a day
8) Go to London for 6 days
9) Fly to Oslo, Norway for 3 days
10) Fly to Frankfurt for the flight home (May 1st)

Of course, none of this comes on the cheap. If anyone wants to pitch in for supplies, we have a wishlist for equipment here. If you are so kind as to buy clothing, the sizes required are indicated in the notes on the right hand side of the wishlist. Thanks in advance for your generous donations! Special attention may be given to donors when it comes to keepsakes and such :)

We've already purchased the plane tickets to Europe - we found an insanely cheap direct flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, which is what inspired us to go in the first place. We bought our railpass already:
This pass allows us to use the train any 5 days we want for 2 months, and go through 5 countries indicated on the pass. When we bought the pass we got a sweet discount at the Rick Steves travel store, so we stocked up on goods:

Pictured here from left to right: railpass, travel towels, free maps, hostel sheets, toiletries bag (front row) money belts, inflatable neck pillows. If you don't know, Rick Steves is a guy who does travel shows for PBS, and his hometown is Edmonds, WA (13 miles north of Seattle) and he runs a store there which hosts free classes on travel and language skills, has an extensive free library of travel books, a collection of DVDs of his show. He is basically a suburban middle class white guy who helps other suburbanites travel through Europe - and is also fighting for your right to smoke pot.

We also paid a hefty fee to a consultant to look over our itinerary and give us some advice - she saved us three times her cost on the railpass, so I highly recommend this if you plan your own trip sometime (if you happen to be near Edmonds. They will do this over the phone but it costs extra).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day, surprised Grayson by having a Valentine to him printed in Seattle's alternative newsweekly, The Stranger.

Here's the cover:
Printed on his birthday! Some were especially dirty...
We were in Canada when it printed, so I had to grab an issue all nonchalantly on Valentine's Day while we were out having coffee and point it out to him.

I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


For my 27th birthday we visited...Canada! It was the first sojourn out of the US for both of us. Money was tight, but we will be leaving the area soon and this will be one of our last opportunities to visit Vancouver for many years.
We rode the train up north along the sound, at times right beside the Pacific:

When we arrived, we were questioned by a polite but curt Canadian border guard, who gave us a battery of questions about our plans, and let us go unmolested.

We left the train station and immediately found the SkyTrain. This is probably the best form of public transportation I've ever seen. It is what the Monorail in Seattle was trying to be. Best of all, you use the same tickets to ride it as you do the buses there. It basically runs in a circle on a track around the city, going super fast and stopping at each station every few minutes. It makes the craziest noises running along the track, which I couldn't even describe. It also plays strange jingles when it stops and starts to let you know when the doors will be closing or opening (which happens automatically at each stop).
We made it to our hotel - by showing up before our room was ready, the hotel was forced to upgrade our room for free in order to accommodate us, which was super nice. The complimentary breakfast included DIY waffles, which were awesome.

Vancouver is huge, and in very large parts of downtown seems to have been built overnight. The skyline is vast, and most of the buildings are of fairly recent architectural style (read: made almost entirely out of glass and designed with modern geometric styles).

Some of the best buildings we saw:

The city library, in a colosseum/modern style:
Canada Place, which is home to the Vancouver IMAX theater, which is a fairly prominent feature of the waterfront due to this strange design:

The Lookout (Vancouver's ghetto version of the Space Needle):
As you probably know, Canada features two official languages, English and French, and laws require that most signs and labels carry both languages. We found some otherwise familiar items around that had both languages on them:

We also found some other peculiarities. Note how they like to spell "center" (in all cases, not just this one):
Their street crossing signs are all brand new, and feature LED lighting, and most have a hollow figure instead of a filled one to save power (although the only good picture we got was this exception):
Vancouver is scheduled to host the Olympics in 2010, so the whole city was hopping with construction and paraphernalia in preparation for this event. They had a big rock sign with a digital countdown timer in the park next to the art museum.

Some other things we did:
Visited the Space Centre, saw this vintage rocket engine and this 1/5th size model of the Hubble telescope, and the creepy crab water fountain/statue they have out in front):
Caught some nice shots of the skyline from multiple vantage points:
Visited a small part of the enormous park they have sitting at the northwestern corner of the city (which is almost as big as the city itself), and ate a delicious candy bar unique to Canada:
Tried a strange local favorite, called Poutine, which is basically cheese curds and gravy on fries. I didn't love it, but it wasn't bad:
And last but not least, celebrated my birthday in a humble way with delicious cupcakes:
A million other shots of random stuff we saw on the way:
The ride home was a bit more difficult than our arrival. The Canadian border guards hand searched both of our bags and ran past us with the drug dogs, and thoroughly questioned us with that deadly seriousness that clearly conveys the message of "I'm willing to shoot you if you make a wrong move." The American agents that boarded the train and questioned us at the border had the same attitude. It is interesting to watch the tools of the state doing their business.

We made it home to our lonely kitty, who missed us very much.

So what was great about Canada and what wasn't?

Great: infrastructure, especially transportation. The buses weren't as spacious but they were much more technologically advanced, having computerized voices and displays inside showing the next stop. They also had digitial "next arriving" signs at some of the busier stops. The SkyTrain is awesome, and unlike Seattle's Monorail, is actually used by local commuters.

Not so great: the bus system is paperless, so you have no idea what routes go where unless you have access to the Web, which we weren't willing to pay roaming data charges to access, never mind someone who doesn't have a phone with a full Internet browser.

Great: people were all very friendly (except some homeless person who hassled us with Bible verses).

Great: the money is very convenient - there are no $1 bills, only $1 and $2 coins (called loonies and toonies, wtf) which work in all vending machines.
Great: the buses are really polite - instead of the OUT OF SERVICE our buses display, the Canadian buses have a very nice "Sorry...Out of Service." Nice touch.

Great: there is a public discipline on escalators, where people who don't feel like walking up the moving steps stay to the right, and allow fast climbers to move on the left. Maybe there are some American cities where this happens, but I've never been to one.

These are only the benefits given to a traveler; the citizen of Canada also has access to their free healthcare and social services. So all in all...
We couldn't agree more.