Archive for July, 2012

I’m still coming down off a pretty perfect weekend in Portland – we ate, we sun-soaked, we raised our glasses to my brother for his birthday, and best of all, I reveled in some high-quality time with those super-precious nieces of mine.

We kicked off our Portland bonanza at the Saturday Farmer’s Market with Jack and La Verne, who happened to be day-tripping in the city. We laid on the lawn and stuffed ourselves with Italian sausages and the notorious fried chicken/bacon/cheese/fried egg sandwich from Pine State Biscuit (how can something so bad be sooooo good?).  Post-lunch, we stumbled down the aisles in a full-belly haze and picked up a few peaches and cartons of berries, bid farewell to the Chens, and headed over to Mitch’s place.

I prepared myself to find Morgan and Elise much-changed since the last time I saw them, but despite any growth, they turned out to be the same sweet, fun-loving little girls.  Our first stop is always the playground, and Elise was quick to hop and her bike and show Uncle Shane her skills while I watched Morgan go bonkers over the fact that she’s now big enough to climb to the top of the slide and go down it all by herself.

My parents were in town for the weekend and it was a treat to gather around the table and celebrate Mitch and Kathryn’s upcoming birthdays with mojitos, enchiladas, and juicy fruit skewers hot off the grill.  It was like Christmas in July, having the family together.

One more trip to the nearby park on Sunday morning, and then it was time for Shane to head home, all to soon.  I had decided to stay until Monday and take the train back to Seattle, so I settled in for another day of enjoying Portland’s finest (namely, Morgan and Elise).  We read books and stacked blocks and played in the water – never a dull moment…

We spent Sunday evening picnicking at Peninsula Park, enjoying grilled chicken and the free symphony concert.  The rose garden was stunning in the late-day sun, and the sound of so many kids running barefoot through the grass couldn’t have been more quintessentially summer-iffic.

Mitch and Kathryn were back at work Monday morning and my train didn’t leave until 6 pm, so my parents and I packed up the girls and headed out for a little adventure on Sauvie Island.  This little island, just 20 minutes from the city, is home to the best u-pick farm I have ever laid eyes on.  Rows upon rows of raspberries, blueberries, marion berries, peach trees, cabbage, cucumbers, the list goes on and on.  We went right to work – my mom and I grabbed our containers and started on the raspberries with Elise while my dad set out for the blueberry bushes with Morgan.   Elise was a great little helper, although I think she put five berries in her mouth for each one she put in the bin – far be it from me to deny that girl such pure summer pleasure! I checked in with my dad and Morgan and found that it was much the same situation – her belly was looking a little more round than usual with all her expert foraging.  We drove away with quite the bounty of berries and peaches.  At two dollars a pound, I’m calling this the deal of the year!

We grabbed a quick lunch and headed home for naptime.  I read Morgan her Clifford and Animal Sounds books for the fourteenth time and tucked her into her crib.  Elise and I snuggled up with her latest issue of Highlights for some quiet time and then I dozed while she sang and squirmed and did everything in her power to resist sleep (that girl did not inherit her aunt’s proclivity toward napping!).

The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging in the backyard, watching the girls play in the kiddie pool and water the plants with their squirt gun and plastic cups.  I drank a glass of wine with my mom and listened to my dad wish Grandaddy an early Happy Birthday on the phone and felt so incredibly blessed.  The past couple of days were filled with so many simple moments of the perfect joy that comes with being surrounded by people you love.  Morgan’s sweet giggle, a tender hug of encouragement from my mom, an afternoon of watching my dad play with building blocks (with and without the kids!), and my cup overfloweth.

Today is my big brother’s 35th birthday – although getting older is a little less fun once you hit your thirties, I do appreciate the way that the five-year gap between us seems to shrink in significance as the years go by.  I just got home from a couple of days in Portland and am feeling especially impressed with the man Mitch has become.  I mean, seriously, is this cool dad with the sleeve tattoos and the acoustic guitar and the bookshelf full of sophisticated literature the same guy that endured the seventh grade with coke-bottle glasses and MC Hammer piping through his Walkman?

Despite his ummm… awkward phase, I have always been the kid sister that looked up to her cool older brother.  When we were little, I longed to climb into the backyard sandbox and play GI Joe with Mitch and his friends.  When he became a teenager and discovered the grunge scene, I watched Pearl Jam videos with him on MTV and respectfully held back from my usual pestering when he got news of Kurt Cobain’s death.  When he graduated from high school and moved to Portland, I visited him in his apartment near Hawthorne and envied the urban lifestyle he lived, full of music and bus rides and tattooed friends in bands.  When he came to visit me during my year abroad and we traveled to Barcelona together, I was struck by his knowledge of Gaudi and the ease with which he ordered a plate of olives and a glass of wine at a sidewalk cafe.  When he married Kathryn in 2005, I thanked God that he’d found a beautiful woman so perfect for him and laughed as we all danced barefoot under the trees to the live bluegrass band.  When he became a dad four years ago, I nearly cried over the surprising tenderness with which he held his little girl.

And today, I wish a very happy birthday to my swell big bro – loving father, wine connoisseur, expert on boring Spanish Civil War novels.  Cheers, Mitch.  I think we’ve both come a long way since those good ol’ days…

I fell in love with café culture during my year of studying abroad in Paris. Those tiny cups of espresso were my ticket to seeing the city – I often didn’t have the money (or the companionship) to eat meals in each neighborhood’s best restaurants, but I could always scrounge up a couple of Euros for some coffee and a seat at one of those little round tables. I passed so many hours with my sketchbook or my journal, lingering at a Marais sidewalk terrace or a trendy Bastille bistro. It truly was la vie…

I brought this habit back with me for my final year of college and frequented Linnaea’s café in SLO, with its warm back room and lovely garden patio – this was my go-to spot when I had to get away from studio but couldn’t trust myself to study at home, for fear of falling asleep on my books.

And then I moved to Seattle, coffee capitol of the United States! I was living in Capitol Hill, with caffeinated institutions like Bauhaus, Joe Bar, Vivace, Victrola, and Faire just blocks away from my apartment. My office was near Pioneer Square and I often snuck away on my lunch breaks to Zeitgeist or Umbria for some me-time and a latte (now that I had a job, I could afford milk with my espresso – the luxury!). My office eventually moved a little closer to the middle of downtown, and Shane and I gave up our Capitol Hill apartment for a townhouse in Columbia City, and I spent less and less time savoring my coffee with a good book or my journal. I’m realizing lately just how much I’ve missed it – I’ve missed the taste of a latte out of a mug rather than a paper to-go cup, I’ve missed the people-watching and the conversation eaves-dropping (you know you do it, too) and the sense of independence and solitude that comes with taking a table for one. So watch out baristas, ’cause I am back! I got up extra-early yesterday and spent half an hour at Zeitgeist on my way into work, sipping and reading and reveling in the warmth of my sunny spot by the window.  I’m hoping I can make a weekly ritual out of this – some people grow weary without their regular caffeine fix, but I think my fix comes from the cafe itself.

It’s become common knowledge that Shane can run.  Good Lord, that boy can run.  One full marathon, a handful of half-marathons, and hundreds of miles in training runs in between – he’s a machine.  He can bike, too, with 20-mile weekend rides around Mercer Island just for fun (how is that fun?) and summer commutes from work on his shiny red Trek.  But swimming?  Not so much – Shane still carries the scars of his of his 6th-grade swim class.  The teacher told the kids to line up in their lanes according to their skill level – pros in lane #1, slow-pokes in lane #5.  Shane, in his pre-teen confidence, strutted straight over to lane 1 and doggy-paddled across that pool like his life depended on it.  Two minutes later, the teacher called him out and told him he belonged in lane 5 – poor kid had to get out and do that march of shame to the other end of the pool, dripping wet and totally embarrassed.  He carried that discouragement into his 30’s and never really graduated from the doggy-paddle.  So I was a bit surprised when Jack convinced him to register for the SeaFair sprint triathlon – did Shane understand that the first part of that “tri” was a half-mile swim?  My surprise quickly turned to pride when he registered for classes at the local pool and traded in his flowered board shorts for some legitimate spandex – it felt daunting and a bit awkward to be taking up swimming so relatively “late” in life, but he shoved his qualms aside and went for it.  ‘Cause my guy really is all kinds of awesome.

After months of training, race day dawned bright and early today as we made our way to Seward Park for the big event.  Shane suited up, I settled into my spot on the sidelines, and he was off!

He came out of the lake in the middle of the pack, tired but looking strong (and kinda hot, no?).

He said the bike was the hardest part of the race for him, but with a smile and thumbs-up, he signaled that he was ready for the run.

Just seconds from the finish line, with barely enough energy left for one subtle smile…

Check out this trifecta of studliness!

Congratulations, buhb!  I’d say you have officially earned your place in lane #1.

My weekends have been a good mix of chillin’ and sight-seein’ lately, with lots of time spent lazing around with Shane or getting out with friends.  And that’s been grand, but when I found myself with a wide-open Saturday on the calendar I decided I was really in the mood for some quality loner time, so I grabbed a book and a pair of sunglasses, waved good-bye to the hubster, and set out for my own version of Treat Yo-Self 2012.  First stop?  Crumble and Flake, Seattle’s newest buzz-worthy bakery.  This place opened it’s tiny storefront in Capitol Hill a couple of months ago and sells out of its signature items nearly every day.  I grabbed a spot in line right as their doors were opening and scored quite the spread – an apricot-lavender scone, a Kouign Amann (a sugared, caramelized croissant – soooooo good), a cheddar paprika croissant, and a black currant macaron.  In my defense, the cheddar croissant was for Shane, so keep the oink oink remarks to yourselves…

I took my goodies over to Bauhaus, ordered a latte, and found a cozy table by the window.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done some solid cafe-lurking.  Felt good.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Seattle Art Museum – I haven’t wandered the halls of the SAM for years and it was fun to revisit a couple of my favorites (hello, Anselm Kiefer and Helen Frankenthaler!) and take in the current exhibition on Australian Aboriginal Art.  Plus, there’s just something about a Saturday at the museum that feels so…chic.

I swung by the house for a snack and was soon back out the door with a mission to shop.  I made the usual rounds at Southcenter and practiced restraint when I walked out of DSW with just an (un)sensible pair of black wedges from the clearance rack, but I’ve got my eye on you, taupe leather sandals, I’ve got my eye on you…

I made it back home in time to enjoy the early evening rays from our back patio, where Shane and I drank smoothies and sun-soaked and talked about the day’s happenings.

We made a simple pasta dinner and Shane stuffed himself with noodles (carbo-loading for his race tomorrow!), but I was wise and saved room for dessert – I had a date with a perfect black currant macaron.  Treat yo-self, indeed.

When Nancy emailed Shane and I last week to see if we’d be in for a little surprise camping action for Jason’s birthday, we cleared our calendars and dug our tent out of the recesses of our closet. We set sail for Illahee State Park via the Bremerton ferry on Friday afternoon, loving the sense of “getaway” that comes with watching the Seattle skyline recede in the distance.

An hour and a half later we pulled up to our perfect campsite, nestled among the trees and just minutes away from the water. We set up our tent and inflated our air mattress in record time – Shane was eager to try out the extra mountain bike Jordan had brought along.

We ate our dinner around the campfire that night and stayed up talking and roasting marshmallows – until the rain began to fall in huge, splashing drops. We rushed around like madmen cleaning up camp and then took refuge in our tents, enjoying the nighttime storm from the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Saturday was devoted to a whole bunch of perfect nothin’. Jack and La V joined us late in the morning and we all headed down to the water to check out the beach.

While the ladies spent much of the day basking in the sun, the boys played hard. Frisbee, volleyball, mountain biking, whew!

There was also hammock-lounging, delicious oysters hot off the grill, and an evening swim for our uber-active fellas.

(Who said the Prius is only a 5-seater? Pshhh.)

We spent another evening sitting around the campfire, eating Indian food and grilled crab while the birthday boy waxed poetic about the ups and downs of his 31st year.

The fixin’s were brought out for s’mores round 2, Shane’s bottle of whiskey emerged and made its way around the circle, and the fireside chatter kept up late into the night. I’m constantly wondering with these people where conversation will take us next – there was heated debate over whether or not animals have feelings, there was the ridiculous attempt to decipher the lyrics to Alan Jackson’s Chatahoochee, and there were equal shares of reminiscing and looking forward.

We got a (kind of) early start this morning, toasted our Aussie Bites over the fire, then broke down camp and hit the road. Although I was jonesin’ for a hot shower and the comfort of our bed, I was more than a little sad to say good-bye to our little wooded retreat.

Cheers, J! Wishing you a year filled of laughter, frisbee golf, and plenty more surprise adventures…

I’ve been a bit off-kilter these last few weeks, feeling like I’m busy but not really doing anything. This is typical Kelly behavior – I get all caught up in wanting to be productive and have something to show for my time that I forget how worthwhile the “non-productive” stuff of leisurely weekends can be. I could use more reminders that there is indeed value in a Saturday trip to Bainbridge Island or a Sunday afternoon nap, even though I haven’t made/cleaned/”checked off” anything. Note to self: smell the roses! And don’t feel bad about it!

All of that said, I’m not letting myself off the hook completely – I’m still committed to growth and self-betterment and all that jazz, so I’m checking in again on my resolutions, wanting to know where there’s room for improvement (while still giving myself the occasional pat on the back).

Read the Bible in its entirety. On track! And man, did it feel good to hit that 50% mark this week. It’s been a slog through 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, but things are on the upswing. I like Elisha. Except for that part where he summoned two bears to maul the group of boys that called him “baldy” – that was weird… I mentioned in my last update how I was struggling with the angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament and I recently read this book in an attempt to dive deeper into the Bible. I’m still reconciling Old Testament God with New Testament Jesus, but my perspective has definitely broadened over these last few months. Pat on the back for breadth of perspective!

Catch up with a friend over coffee every week or two. I continue to be so thankful for the friends that have become our family up here, for the people that don’t hesitate to stop and ask me how me I’m really doing. There have been times in the past month when I’ve sat with friends and laid all my sorrows out on the table like a ratty old deck of cards, and there have been times when I’ve eaten chocolate cake and laughed until my cheeks hurt. So I’m not going to get hung up on whether or not that weekly coffee date is on my calendar – right now, I’m just dwelling in this spirit of gratitude and leaving myself open to opportunities for both sharing and listening.

Read the Economist leaders each week. I give up.

Check out one new (to us) Seattle restaurant each month. Eating out? Nooooo problemo. We haven’t been anywhere fancy in awhile, but we have recently discovered a pretty decent neighborhood joint in Bent Burger (I still can’t believe Shane ate that whole beef patty/hot link/fried egg/grilled cheese stack of a burger), and I am loving me some good farmer’s market fare. I’ve already mentioned my fondness for Broadway’s Kedai Makan, and Columbia City’s naan stand, Tandoozy, is scrum-diddly-umptious.

Juice at least once a week. I’m still tracking with a glass of the hearty green stuff on weekends, and also experimenting with some new in-season fruits. Sparkling water topped off with a batch of fresh watermelon juice? Hellllllllloooooooooo, Summer!

And an update on my big sugar reduction resolution: I haven’t had a Skittle or a soda for weeks, but damn it, it’s ice cream season! And two Red Mango yogurt shops just opened within three blocks of my office. And there will most certainly be s’mores on our camping trip this weekend. It’s like the sugar gods have joined forces to tempt me. And oftentimes, they win. But I did walk right past that plate of huge cookies that sat on the counter of our office kitchen on Wednesday afternoon. Small victories, folks. Small victories.

Summer has settled upon Seattle with a vengeance, and O – M – G.  The days are gloriously warm, the evenings long and full of leisure.  Shane played basketball and volleyball with the boys on Tuesday night and came home with a sweat-soaked shirt, a twisted ankle, and mile-wide grin on his face.  I met with my book club gals on the lawn of Seward Park last night and watched the last of the sun’s rays glint off Lake Washington.  I finally got around to planting my little herb garden tonight, and then we sat on the back patio until 9:00 and ate grilled nectarines over ice cream.  In shorts!  Until 9 pm!  This weather makes me want to end all my sentences in exclamation points!  And then I want to crank up Sublime on the stereo and let it rip until the neighbors come over to tell me to turn it down, at which point I’ll hand them a Corona with a lime in it and they’ll shrug their shoulders and join the party.  Anyone who says Disneyland is the happiest place on earth clearly hasn’t enjoyed a string of 80-degree days in Seattle…

Seattle continues to bask in all of summer’s glory – temps in the 80’s today and nothin’ but sunshine in the 10-day forecast!  This weekend was all about maximizing our Vitamin D intake, from the time I spent laying in the grass at Seward Park while Shane swam in the lake on Friday evening, to that last bite of corn on cob as we dined on our back patio tonight.  It’s like Christmas came early this year, in the form of blue skies and that blazing ball of heat.

I was itching to get outdoors and out of town on Saturday, so we hopped on the ferry for a mini getaway to Bainbridge Island.  There were a couple of previously-unexplored things we’d been wanting to check out, and a couple of old favorites we were eager to visit, so we grabbed our sunglasses and camera and we were off!

Our first stop was Streamliner Diner, where we scored a cute little table in the sun and feasted on gigantic omelettes and perfect buttermilk biscuits.  Awwwww yeah.

Next on the clipboard of fun were the Bloedel Gardens – a nature reserve on the north end of the island knows for its varied landscapes.  We spent a couple of hours leisurely wandering through the park and fell in love with it all – from the marshy wetland, to the open meadow, to the mossy forest, to the foxgloves and clovers and Japanese maples.  So, so beautiful – I’m adding this place to our “annual summer tradition” list.

By the time we left the garden, the biscuits and omelettes had settled enough to make room for an island favorite – ice cream at Mora!  W agonized over their list of 30+ flavors, settled on a couple of unlikely split-scoops (dulce de leche and lemon bar for Shane; raspberry and sabayon for me), and took our cones to-go so that we could grab a seat down the street and enjoy the live music.  Shane was sold the minute he heard this woman’s bluesy voice crooning the lyrics to a Rachel Yamagata song.  I dug her ukelele and her yellow sunglasses.

A couple of lavender lemonades from Blackbird Bakery, a few minutes of wandering Winslow’s cute downtown, and it was time to catch the ferry back to home sweet home.

We capped off the day with dinner and cocktails at Chez Rust.  Jason and Shane played volleyball in the backyard, Nance and I sat on the patio for some solid catching-up and bird-watching (the neighborhood hawk was making his rounds), and we all remarked over just how good it feels to be outside after what’s felt like such a long winter and spring.

Today was wonderfully mellow – an easy jog and more lounging at Seward Park while Shane did a training swim/bike/run (my man is going to kill that triathlon!) and dinner out back, hot off the grill.

Only downside to this perfect weather?  Hot damn, it’s going to be hard to head back to work tomorrow!

I initially grumbled a bit about the 4th of July falling on a Wednesday this year, wishing instead that we could have rolled the holiday into a three-day weekend, but this mid-week mini-break actually turned out to be kind of awesome.  We slept in, rolled out of bed to watch some baseball (dang it, Giants!), rolled back into bed for a pre-lunch nap, and then finally rustled up the energy to leave the house and head over to Alki for fish and chips and a walk along the beach.  Seattle-ites often complain about our rainy June weather and then offer consolation to one another with the promise that summer doesn’t truly begin here until the 4th of July – indeed, the sunshine came through in a clutch yesterday and made our city sparkle.

We hung out at home for a little while in the afternoon (confession:  nap #2!) and then made our way to Seward Park so that Shane could do a triathlon training swim and I could catch a few more rays.  So many beautiful expanses of water right at our fingertips!  I was feelin’ some serious love for Seattle…

We spent the evening livin’ it up at Jack and La Verne’s big Independence Day bash.  There was food, there was music, there were friends and laughter and adorable round-bellied babies.  It was summer holiday perfection.

As we drove home along Lake Washington Boulevard, rogue fireworks bursting along the water’s edge, I sighed contentedly and silently counted my blessings – how thankful I am for friends, for sunshine, and for my life in this country, so rich with freedom and beauty.  Land that I love…