Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today, I officially registered for the Seattle marathon! I tried to do so online, but was confronted with a fairly sizable online processing fee that, in my current saving mindset, I didn't particularly feel like shelling out.

So I did the only logical thing: laced up my new running shoes and set out for a 12.5-mile round trip run to Super Jock 'n Jill, a local Seattle running store, where I could register in person.

First of all, that store is awesome. It was one of the places where I initially applied for a job, and got asked for an interview, but had already nailed down the job situation by then. BUT the manager there, Ty, is great - down-to-Earth, personable, and when I tried to buy an energy GU gel there today (6.5 miles into my run), he gave it to me for free, along with a giant cup of water to wash it down. I filled out my registration form there, got sweat all over it, and happily turned it in. It's official: I'll be running the 2009 Seattle Marathon in two months!

The run itself today was fantastic - building upon two 10-milers, a 19-miler and an intense cycling class over the past week (not to mention +/- 20 miles walk-commuted as well this week!) - The sun came out halfway through, and I got fabulously lost on some trails in the super-lush forest ravine of Ravenna Park, as well as making footprints in a handful of other city parks today: Denny, Gasworks, Boren, Woodland, Volunteer, Cowan, Greenlake, Interlaken, stretches of the Burke-Gilman Trail I hadn't been on yet...the list goes on and on. Parks are everywhere! They break up the urban scenery and allow for plenty of long, intersection/stoplight-free stretches to run. Exploring them is a blast.

Basically? I'm happy. Running consistently injury-free for the first time in my life is fabulous. *Knocks on wood.* I contribute it all to hill-training in Seattle. I'm faster than I've ever been, and capable of mileage I've never even approached before, even when I was marathon-training a couple summers ago. Wish me luck on my endeavor!

Old meets new: From right to left, the pair of shoes I ran the Cleveland Half in, and the new pair I will run the Seattle full in!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cup o' Joe Tea Monday: Celebrating the Arrival of Autumn in Seattle

Chai Rooibos Latte at Remedy Teas

Woke up this morning with bundles of energy. Given my newfound commitment to cutting down on my caffeine consumption, I decided to save the next few coffeeshops on my Cup-o-Joe to-do lists for weeks I really need the boost. Today, instead, Seyeon and I celebrated the arrival of autumn with an aptly refreshing trek to Remedy Teas.

This place is awesome. Each week, I feel like I'm going to new places that make me think, "Wow, now I've found my favorite" - but this one really trumps all so far, I believe.

Remedy boasts 150 varieties of tea, each described in full on their tea menu, with quirky flavors like Roasted La Creme (roasted green tea with white chocolate bits to create a marshmallow-hazelnut flavor), Precious Eyebrows (pure "chun mee" from China grown at high elevations, hand-rolled leaves for vegetal flavor and a plum-like aftertaste) and Iron Goddess of Mercy (organic oolong with chestnut notes and floral flavors). Each kind also specifies its caffeine content on the menu; much appreciated.

Does anyone notice a familiar, magical number here? Inclusion of it in my photograph composition is not an accident.

I ordered a chai rooibos latte - no idea there was even such a thing! Rooibos is a spicy, non-caffeinated South African red tea that I absolutely love, largely for its emotional associations for me with being in Holland, where it is wildly popular. The fact that Remedy combines it with my other favorite tea beverage - a chai latte - is amazing. Sipping this was like Holland in a Teacup.

Seyeon opted for their Green Energy tea, which again, as in Holland, was brought out in a glass pot and kept warm over a tea light. That little square pastry is a lavender shortbread tea cookie - not my favorite, but a nice sample nonetheless.

They also serve smoothies, lattes, matcha green tea, tea cocktails, and organic coffee, wine, beer and well as a host of locally baked goods, soups, fresh salads and tea sandwiches - again, in quirky options like Nutella Crisp (nutella + green apple + cream cheese on an organic date-nute bread with chopped walnut garnish) and Pesto Cream (pesto + cream cheese + fresh tomato on wheat bread with seed garnish). Everything is remarkably well-priced (sandwiches under 5 bucks! Unheard of in Seattle, it seems.)

It's got a trendy vibe to it - modern, hip, bright colors, big lowercase sans serif font - while being a quieter respite than many of the coffeeshops. It's a little off the main drag on 15th Ave, with gentle, melodic background music - and draws a different crowd than coffeeshops: folks looking to relax and be nurtured, rather than pump in the caffeine and get going with their day. Wonderful staff.

Bonuses: a sunny outdoor terrace, free tea samples all day long, free wi-fi, great merchandise, reading material, and probably the coolest displays of tea leaves ever imagined.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Probing the recesses of Yitka's post-college psyche

So, I'm at the (temporary) end of a long, dark tunnel of stress, and thus am putting forth a more in-depth, content-driven blog entry about some of my thoughts and emotions beyond "Seattle, woohoo" and "Coffee, awesome."

Actually, I'm not really at the end of any tunnel, temporary or not, at all - not even close - but I'll pretend! It was a twelve-hour work day for me, so I'm in need of some journaling and detoxing! I'm enjoying Seyeon's chocolate brownies with homemade cream cheese frosting, and a giant glass of soymilk. It's 57 degrees out - total jacket weather, which felt *great* on the walk home from work; I've decided to quit being a lazy bum and driving my car all 1.8 miles to my job. No excuses anymore. The fact that I can walk to work, the gym, the public library, the grocery store, my new doctor's office, or any of 452348238 coffeeshops is awesome, and I am taking full advantage.

So. Life after college. It's surreal to continue following the Oberlin blogs, for whom I used to write, and know that academic life is carrying on for so many other people, but not for me - and for the first time in my life, no one really cares what I do to occupy my time all day long. I was out on an epic run yesterday and passed a whole group of high schoolers at Seward Park. They were apparently on a school field trip, and it was so strange to think that all of them had a confined area in the park they could go, and chaperones to answer to, and a deadline at which they'd have to board the bus again and go back to school. Meanwhile, I could just run...literally, run away.

When Natalie was in town and she and Lu and I got together, we discussed how strange it is that our entire lives up until this point have revolved around working toward another obvious stage - getting through middle school to get to high school, getting through high school to go to college, getting through college to get to graduation. And then what? There are no certainties anymore! Some hopes, perhaps - a lasting relationship, maybe grad school, a steady satisfying career, a family someday - but nothing in our futures is certain anymore. Things are a lot more up in the well as a lot more up to us, individually, than ever before.

There are enough stories out there of people hitting middle age and feeling that the time just passed them by. Regrets, often. I do not want to be one of those people. I was determined to hit the ground running out of college, and even though there were some hitches along the way (graduating in the worst year to be a college graduate in nearly a century, and with a financially impractical degree), I feel like I'm not doing too shabbily for being about 10 weeks into my new life in a new city: two delightful, rewarding jobs I'm passionate about, my name in print in an awesome magazine, being in the best shape of my life and plans to run the Seattle marathon in two months, the beginnings of some good new friendships, and plans to get an apartment with Alan in November.

I feel fortunate that my mind hasn't changed too much over the years. To illustrate this idea: the first computer password I ever created for myself, probably back in elementary school, was "author33" - because I wanted to be an author when I grew up, and because I thought 33 was the most magical number in the world. Miraculously, over a decade later, I still want to be an author, and anyone who's spent more than a few hours in my presence in recent years has probably heard me sing praises for the number 33. (If you haven't, please ask! I'd be delighted to elaborate for you!)

Anyway: the fact that I don't change my mind much certainly makes planning out my life at this point easier; instead of devoting huge amounts of energy to deliberating over what I want to do with myself, I get to concentrate my energies on crossing things off my existing life to-do list, one by one. Several years ago, at the very tail end of my blogging time with Xanga, I wrote a "Life Plan" entry, with the tagline, "The idealist in me needs some tangible dreams to hang on to this summer." It's cool to look back on that entry, written in the midst of a troubling, floundering time in my teenaged years, and see that in the time since, I've already accomplished six of the "tangible dreams" I wrote about that summer.

Again, as with the tale of my graduation cap (which, UPDATE (!!!) - was featured in the Oberlin's alumni magazine's current issue!), I kind of want to give my past self a high-five.

And, of course, there are new goals now: I want to be a recession success story! I want to move up with both/either of the fantastic companies for whom I now work. I want to start my own business. I want to climb Mount Rainier. I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I want to head my own non-profit. I want to publish a work of nonfiction. I want to travel extensively in Africa. I want to learn how to design websites. I want to advance my photography skills. I want to grow my own food.

And there are revised ones, too: job at literary agency or publishing company? Meh...there are other career paths that interest me more. Dancing the funky chicken on my 75th wedding anniversary? Doubtful :) But I can live with all that. What matters to me now is just that I don't lose focus of the dreams I had going into college - the ones that propelled me through those four years, and to this city, and into the shoes I'm wearing today - the ones that whisk me away for hours of running along the shores of Lake Washington and carry me home through Seattle's winding, hilly streets at the end of a long day's work.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Espresso, European Vintage and The Eco-Urban Landscape (or, Cup o' Joe Installment IV)

A quick history of my relationship with coffee, before diving into this week's Cup o' Joe:

I, like most people, was born into this world with a strong aversion to the stuff. Along with cell phones, all-nighters and mounds of student debt, coffee was something I managed to avoid altogether until I got to...(drum roll, please)! Oberlin, however, cannot fairly take all the heat. (Though Black River Cafe, which I still swear serves the best cup I've ever tasted, is perhaps at least partially to blame.)

My appreciation for coffee largely developed during my semester abroad in Amsterdam. I was living in a homestay with no internet - but plenty of friends and family back home with whom I wanted/needed to keep in touch for the five months I was in Europe. I began trekking to a little cafe with wi-fi called Bagel & Beans: just a hop and a skip away from my home, overlooking one of Amsterdam's loveliest canals, where I could sit with my laptop, watch the ships pass, write home and devour handfuls of complimentary espresso-infused dark chocolate nibs.


It was there that I discovered cappuccinos. It seems that something about that memory has inextricably linked coffee to city life for me. Granted, I am not a big-city person; I enjoy the urban landscape, but for me to feel at home in it, I need plenty of greenery and bodies of water to offset all the people and buildings. This week's Seattle coffeeshop of choice does a great job linking all those factors:

Espresso Vivace!

Vivace takes their coffee very seriously. And I quote (from the official website), After fifteen years of research on all aspects of espresso preparation, a specialized method and roasting process has been developed at Vivace in the singular pursuit of perfect espresso. Their motto, una bella tazza di caffe is Italian for "a beautiful cup of coffee" - which they certainly pull off:

Their downtown location has a distinctly European vintage vibe to it. Check out the evidence:

Bikes dangling from ceiling

Italian frescoes on the walls

Coffee-art built into the floors

Sepia-toned diagrams of espresso machines and the roasting process, and the occasional European-looking guy in a beret

They immediately won me over with a solid Radiohead-on-shuffle mix for the first two hours I spent there. (I spent an entire morning there doing tutoring prep.) Nothing like a little Karma Police to dial through those algebra equations! Furthermore, the wealth of natural light there is phenomenal. This is a point of impression, it seems, wherever I go; Seattle coffeeshops have clearly got the sun-maximization down pat.

Best of all, Vivace feels like an urban coffeeshop without...well...feeling like an urban coffeeshop. It's generally bustling; it's hip; it's full of all the espresso machine noises that are becoming such familiar music to my ears - the mechanical clacking, the whirring, the timers going off periodically, the buzz of conversation - but it's across the street from REI, which, notably, takes up an entire city block in Seattle - and the view from Vivace's windows is very non-urban: it's brilliantly verdant, lush and serene.

A big chunk of REI's block is its veritable forest in front - a dense, multi-tiered jungle with trails and a huge waterfall and a glimpse at one of the tallest free-standing rock climbing walls in the world. Although you can be a mile away, in a totally different neighborhood in Seattle, and still be able to catch a glimpse of the rock climbing wall, emblazoned with REI's logo:

The greenery, too, as you can see, is everywhere in this city. Which is why I love it. And why I loved Amsterdam. And coffee is tasty. Did I manage to tie all those ideas together the way I envisioned before I sat down to write this entry? I hope so. My mind's a bit fuzzy after a long week, but...Vivace gets an A+.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ennui-less in Seattle

What a week so far. I haven't stopped going since Monday morning...not sure how much longer my caffeine resistance is going to hold out. Especially now that I've officially gone off the deep end by accepting a fourth job that will get me out of the house by 4:45 a.m. a few mornings a week.

But! So far, so good, despite my ostensible foolhardiness on the job front. However, multiple jobs lead to good things, like
- money
- feelings of purpose and accomplishment
- gratitude, especially in this economy
- many new friends

And those things lead to fabulous adventures like last Sunday night! REI hosted a staff beach party on Alki Beach - miles of actual beach (not just a strip of gravel and rocks that the city of Seattle seems to think can be referred to as a "beach"), with sand you can dig your toes into and everything. It's located in West Seattle, which means that, like the photo posted several entries ago taken from Gasworks Park, it affords a stunning view of the downtown skyline from across the waters of Puget Sound (Elliott Bay, in the case of Alki; Lake Union, in the case of Gasworks.)

I got off work at 7:30 on Sunday, swung by my coworker Zanna's houseboat on Lake Union to give her a ride to the beach bash, swung by home to pick up Seyeon, and the three of us trekked across the West Seattle Bridge with a mission - make it to beach before the bonfire was out and all the marshmallows roasted. We pulled it off!

We stayed late with a couple of other REIsters (apparently that's the lingo for us; I'm learning) around the bonfire, watching it go down, talking about life, trying to find the perfect placement in relation to the fire to keep from either burning up or freezing our butts off in the September nighttime chill.

In other magical nights in Seattle, I got together with fellow Oberlin alum (!) Zoe, who hails from Portland originally but is going to grad school up here. We missed connections a lot throughout our years at Oberlin, despite having been in touch (via the now ancient blogging website, Xanga) the summer before college even began. It was great to finally get to know one another a bit more, and in the context of the city. We went out for great Mexican grub on Broadway, then off to Gasworks Park for a lovely sunset, the longest falling shooting star either of us had ever seen (it started directly overhead and fell, over the course of many slow, beautiful seconds, to the horizon before finally burning out), and a long night lying on the grassy side of a hill overlooking the sparkling skyline.

Final other highlights of the week, in spite of the 60+ hours of labor:
- Seeing a really stirring, well-orchestrated performance of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" at the Intiman Theater with Lu
- 8, 12, and 16 mile runs along Lake Washington Boulevard, with clear and stunning views of both Mount Rainier and Mount Baker
- Fabulous, killer cycling class earlier today
- Lots and lots of cookies and cupcakes, courtesy of Seyeon's spectacular baking skills
- The usual awe and wonder: mountains, sunrises, sunsets, Space Needle, I-love-Seattle, blah blah blah...


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cup o' Joe Monday Tuesday: Installment IV

This week, I trekked back to an old favorite. By "old favorite", I mean the first coffeehouse I went to when I came to Seattle two months ago, and got stuck on until the commencement of Cup o' Joe Mondays in order to diversify my Seattle coffee experience. Without a proper review of Victrola Coffee Roasters, my blog feels incomplete.

Even after diversifying, I put Victrola at the tip top of my list. First of all, great coffee (almost a given, right? Most of these independent places have that part of the formula down pat.) Their chai, which I opted for this week, avoids the too-sweet issue that plagues so many cups of chai. Always one free (drip) refill on all coffee and espresso drinks!

Also: the proper music/coffeehouse-buzz balance. Couches in the back if you want to really relax, tables of all sizes spread throughout, your pick of window-side natural light at the front or that hunkering-down-lampside-to-get-work-done-while-people-watching vibe at the tables in the back. (For the record, I generally prefer the latter...)

Victrola doesn't mess around with art. All the non-windowed walls feature huge canvases of paintings, photographs and other mixed media, and always include a posted biography about the featured artist. Currently, the walls are exhibiting photography of the Hmoung tribe in Laos - stunning portraits by photographer Tara Clark that I highly recommend checking out if you're in the area this month.

Victrola does well with lighting - individual spotlights aimed at each piece of artwork, individual lamps on each table, not to mention all the natural sunlight flooding in from the large windows at the front.

A wealth of laptop-friendly power outlets by all the tables! Though they offer free wi-fi during the week, they turn it off on Saturdays and Sundays to observe their No-Wi-Fi Weekends, proffering the motto, "Hang out and Talk."

My only complaint would be the baristas. They're undeniably talented at making coffee, (check out Victrola's blog for evidence!), but many of them have a little bit of the cool, hard, urbanite edge to them that seems to say, I've been doing this forever, please just order your beverage and move on. Not quite as much of the down-to-Earth friendliness or conversational opportunity as I've found at other, less frequented places.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Epic fail.

I didn't make it to a coffeeshop today. Instead, I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to work/prep the last of my SAT math problems for tutor-training tonight, left for work at 7:30 a.m., worked nearly nine hours, had a brief turnaround to get home, wolf down dinner, change into business casual dress and make it to my all-evening session with Kaplan.

Got home at 10:30 and am crashing.

Sleeping in tomorrow ("sleeping in" = setting the alarm for 8 a.m. - another sign I'm a Real Grown-up™ now), but I'll put in my Cup o' Joe entry then.

And soon, very soon, another substantial entry about this crazy schedule I'm trying to balance. This life is insane, but the city continues to dazzle:

Skyline, as seen from Gasworks Park

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Friends, cupcakes and the great outdoors

So, I feel like my blog is neglecting my life outside of coffee. Ironically, I'm actually neglecting coffee...yes, that's right. I moved to Seattle and am trying to give up coffee. Minus Mondays, I've been caffeine-sober for nearly two weeks now. So, just one cup for my Cup o' Joe Mondays; loyalty to my blog readers is that strong! Otherwise, I'm trying to manage this morning person schedule here without. If I feel I need coffee to make it through my day, I'm obviously not getting enough sleep. The solution? Sleep more.

But...onward! Enough on coffee. I do other things in Seattle too! This holiday weekend in particular was made up almost entirely of work...30 hours, in fact, between Friday evening and Monday. I love my job. The people - coworkers and customers alike - are amazing. I've gotten so many fantastic tips on trails to hike, places to run, gear to utilize, etc. The learning curve was steep but doable, and I'm already feeling cozy and comfortable in my REI vest. Coworkers often bring cookies and cupcakes to share. I get to read the Seattle Times and Runner's World on my breaks. A couple nights ago, I went out for hot chocolate and a long, late-night walk around Seattle with a coworker who also just moved to the area (from North Carolina). Hooray for making friends.

In the past week also, my friend Natalie came to visit Seattle! She stayed with Lu, another close friend (both from high school), and I got to spend a day with them playing around the scenic Seward Park - a small, forested peninsula that hangs off the east side of Seattle into Lake Washington. It seems that motorized boat traffic has been prohibited there, as the lake is unbelievably quiet and placid - and Seward Park scenic and much emptier of the hordes of people that some of the more centrally located parks invite.

A 3-mile path wraps around the park, offering beautiful views of the water, Bellevue and the woods themselves in all their tall-treed and sunshine-poking-through glory. Magic-garden-esque, no?

I was there again the next day, with Alan, as he got to spend a few days in town. We got to take long walks in the park too, play in the water, get ice cream cones, go out for cupcakes with Seyeon (official blog review of Cupcake Royale cafe coming soon!), stroll around Pioneer Square, eat gyros and falafel in an open-air cafe, browse the infamous Elliott Bay Books, stroll around the small mountain town of North Bend about thirty miles east of Seattle, watch a sunset over Green Lake, have the Alaskan Amber on tap that I sampled and fell in love with at the brewery itself when my dad and I were in Juneau last summer.

Life's good.

P.s. And a plug for a new discovery - singer/songwriter Kelly Dalton. I'm loving him, and his "Home" EP captures the mood that Seattle's drizzly, gray mornings give me before the afternoon sun breaks. Check him out if you get a chance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cup o' Joe Monday: Installment III

Fuel Coffee

Happy Labor Day! Fortunately, the holiday doesn't stop Seattle's coffeeshops from opening their doors. Seyeon and I woke up at the bright and early (i.e. overcast and drizzly) hour of 6:30 a.m. this morning to squeeze in Cup o' Joe Monday before observing the holiday with...all-day work shifts at our respective jobs! Woohoo for The Working Life!

So, we hit up Fuel Coffee on 19th Ave. Fuel has 3 locations around Seattle. This one's tucked into a lovely little strip of shops, cafes and restaurants in the middle of an otherwise sleepy, quiet residential neighborhood. If coffeeshops with lofted balconies are my favorite feature, those with free refills are a close second. Fuel boasts the latter, along with free wi-fi, as well as access to High 5 Pies, an entrepreneurial pie venture by the same woman who founded Fuel itself.

The atmosphere at Fuel is great. We arrived three minutes after they opened, and had the place to ourselves for about fifteen before the morning crowds started coming in - young twentysomethings, older couples, even a family who came in for coffee, bagels and reading together around a table. The baristas were great - down-to-Earth, really friendly and engaging, and enthusiastic about my Cup o' Joe blog project as Seyeon told them about it.

Best music of anywhere I've gone so far - relaxing folksy indie music at the perfect volume. The coffee itself gets a real thumbs-up, too. Espresso drinks seemed a little pricey, so I just went for straight up drip coffee, but it was wonderfully smooth. Great artwork on the walls, really tastefully done, and a bookcase full of books, maps, zines, travel guides and puzzles for browsing and playing with. + Lovely lighting!

Will definitely be coming here again!