Archive for July, 2009

Today was painfully hot in Seattle, as we reached the hottest temperature ever on record here.  Now, I lived in California’s Central Valley, so I know heat, but I also know that in California, you can usually count on coming home to an air-conditioned house.  No such luck here, so once again, we headed right back out the door once we got home from work to seek refuge from the heat.  After calling a couple of restaurants in search of AC, and visiting a couple of others, we finally found ourselves at Pyramid Brewery and promptly ordered a round of cold beers.  Sweet relief…

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After dinner, we spent some time hanging out at REI, fiddling around and waiting for the sun to go down, and left the store just in time to swing by Elliott Bay to catch the last remnants of a vibrantly pink sky.

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This weather has been a great incentive to get out and enjoy the city, but then again, tonight we’re sleeping on an air mattress in our living room, because it’s just two degrees cooler down here than in our upstairs bedroom.  This is what desperation feels like.  (Yes, I do know that I’m being dramatic…)

Seattle is hot, hot, hot this week, with temps approaching 100 degrees.  I feel like it’s heresy for a Seattle-ite to complain about heat, since we always seem to be complaining about the absence of sun, but we are approaching the point of unbearable-ness.  This, coupled with the fact that Shane’s dad is visiting and we’d like to show him the city, is incentive to do all we can to get out of our AC-free house in the evenings.  And so tonight we headed out to Ballard for Thai food (after calling ahead to make sure that the restaurant was air conditioned), then decided to check out the Ballard Locks.  It was a great night to be out near the water.  We watched the boats travel through the canal, oohed and ahhed over the huge salmon that were running in the fish ladders, and reveled in the feel of the cool breeze coming off the lake.  Lovely.

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When Shane and I started house-hunting two and a half years ago, we kept our search radius within a 30-minute bus ride to the center of downtown Seattle.  The place we ended up buying in Columbia City met our criteria, but still, the fact that it took 25 minutes (on a good day) to commute to 4.5 miles to downtown was a little tough to stomach, considering I had been able to walk to work from our old apartment in almost half that time.  What made the bus ride a lot easier to bear was the promise that the first leg of the Seattle lightrail system would eventually run just two blocks away from our house, thereby cutting our commute time almost in half.  And finally, after enduring two and a half years of roadwork and construction and train testing, the lightrail officially opened for business on Monday and made our trek to work so much more pleasant.  A few of the pros:

-  The trains come almost three times more frequently than our bus used to come, so if we happen to just miss our train in the morning, we’ve only got a seven-minute wait to catch the next one.

-  The downtown stops for the lightrail are in the underground bus tunnel.  This is a big plus, considering Seattle sidewalk bus stops are cool and wet for eight (or more) months out of the year.  The underground tunnel is dry and well-lit – a much more pleasant place to wait on a cold winter evening.

-  The trains are so clean and modern and shiny and new!  Yes, this will last for only so long, but it’s such a step up from the bus – I hate to rip on Seattle’s bus system, since it did serve us relatively well for the last couple of years, but some of Metro’s buses are looking a little ragged.

-  It’s just so much more cool to say, “I’ve got to catch my train home” than to say you’re taking the bus.  So much more urban!

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Major kudos to Seattle for taking such a huge step in improving our city’s mass transit system.  We’re finally getting on the right track (pun intended).

This is the author’s true story of his experiences in war-ravaged Sierra Leone, where he flees at the age of twelve from rebel fighters and is soon after recruited to fight as a soldier for the cruel and corrupt government army.  The violence he is part of as a young adolescent is horrifying – he is brainwashed into becoming little more than a killing machine, with a thirst for blood and a total lack of compassion for fellow human beings.  Parts of the book caused me to cringe, to have to close it for a moment to recompose myself.  And although there is redemption and hope in Beah’s eventual rescue and rehabilitation, what sickens me is that this is a true story.  Boys as young as eight or nine years old were drugged with cocaine, handed machine guns, and convinced that their self-worth was found in how many people they could kill in a day’s time.  I was so ignorantly unaware that this country had suffered such violent conflict for so many years.  So yes, this was a worthwhile read.  Inform yourself.

We got back this afternoon from an absolutely fantastic weekend of camping in the San Juan islands, enjoying the beauty of nature and the company of good friends.  We played on the beach (and laid on the beach), laughed around the campfire, caught a couple of beautiful sunsets, and fell in the love with the tiny little paradise that is Shaw Island.  Scenes from the weekend:

Our approach to the island.  The anticipation builds…

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We set up camp on Friday evening and decided around 8:30 that we’d try to jet across the island to catch the sunset.  We made it just in the nick of time as we came across this little bay and west-facing view.

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Saturday was a day to play and be lazy.  I spent much of the afternoon lounging in the sand with the ladies, while the boys played on the beach, skipping rocks, hitting rocks, and overturning them to see what kinds of little marine life might lie underneath (boys will be boys…).

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That night we caught another beautiful sunset, then spent the rest of the evening sitting around the campfire, munching on s’mores, chatting and laughing, and enjoying the sound of the waves crashing on the beach adjacent to our campsite.

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It was truly a perfect weekend in the woods – we are already talking about our next trip back, hoping this voyage to the island is something we can instate as an annual tradition.  It will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight, but man, I will miss the sound of the ocean as I drift off to sleep…

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Random little things that are making me happy these days:

Fresh berries.  My parents brought us a couple of pounds of fresh-picked Oregon blueberries when they were here last week, and Shane and I have been eating them by the handful.

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The Lupines that are blooming in our little front yard garden.

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This handmade white ceramic vase that we bought on one of our last days in Paris.  It’s nice to have little reminders of our trip such as this one scattered about the house.

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My cute new jeans that I got on super-sale at Nordstrom Rack.

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Evening and weekend runs with Shane.  We’ve put quite a few miles on these shoes over the past few weeks.  Feels good to be getting in shape together.

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My sketchbook was sadly neglected through much of June, but I’ve picked it back up recently to flush out some of the subject matter that’s been floating around in this cluttered mind of mine…

collage in brown (2009.06.01):

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deer in wood (2009.07.05):

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dress collage (2009.07.06):

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plumes (2009.07.08):

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tower crane (2009.07.12):

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Since I want to wait until apple season to recreate the pie that we loved last fall, I’ve been looking for some good in-season desserts to share with friends and guests.  This recipe from Everyday Food caught my eye, and since we had a couple of pounds of strawberries in the fridge, so I decided to give it a try:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend graham crackers with 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground; add butter and pulse until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture into the bottom and up the side of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until crust is lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, cranberry juice, 2 cups strawberries, cornstarch, and salt. Using a potato masher, gently mash strawberries. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until very thick, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in remaining strawberries. Pour into cooled pie crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours (or up to 1 day).

In a large bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over cream and continue to beat until soft peaks return (do not overbeat). Spread whipped cream over pie, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border around edge. Garnish with whole berries.

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Looking forward to slicing into this one with friends tonight!  Have I mentioned how much I adore summer and all its goodness?

This has been a fabulous weekend, full of so much eating, playing, laughing, and lounging with friends and family.  Thursday we celebrated one friend’s 30th birthday with pizza, wine, and gelato; Friday we celebrated another 30th birthday with Korean barbeque, beer, and wiffle ball.  Good times.

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Friday evening we headed down toward Enumclaw to hang out with Shane’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, who recently returned to Washington after a three-year stint in the Midwest.  I am thrilled to have family near us once again.  They are living in a beautiful house out in the country, on several acres of land.  Shane’s aunt and I were enjoying a drink out on the back porch when Shane came barreling around the corner in this:

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Looks pretty good, don’t you think?  I’m trying to talk him into a pair of Wranglers and a sexy Stetson hat, but he’s pretty attached to his flip-flops and Giants cap.  The view of Rainier from down there was beautiful.  Shane and I have several friends who are climbing this mountain this weekend and I was struck with what a feat this is as I looked at the steep, snowy peak from a distance.  Impressive!

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Yesterday we rang in the Fourth of July in our backyard with friends and neighbors.  Shane stepped up as grill-master and we all feasted on burgers and hot dogs.  And Jack’s super-fantastic special Sangria.

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It was a perfect afternoon – I felt blessed to be spending the day with so many close neighbors and friends.  We really have developed and grown our own little community here in Seattle.

And apparently, the Fourth isn’t really the Fourth with out a watergun fight.  Shane was quick to grab a super-soaker to take part in the craziness.  This man shows no mercy.  Shane was definitely wet by the time the fight was over, but the neighborhood kids were soaked to the bone.

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I’m thinking three-day weekends should become the new standard, no?