Friday, October 30, 2009

A Day in the Life

Countdown to the Seattle Marathon: 30 Days

Today was a great fall day in beautiful Seattle. The forecast on, when I checked it last night, predicted rain starting at 5 a.m. and no let-up until midday when, instead, it stayed rain-free all day long, I rejoiced - and the sun even made a brief, timid appearance in the early afternoon!

I was actually hoping for a rainy day to justify staying indoors all day long to decorate/organize the new place. But with dry streets, the leaves at their most stunning, some vestiges of warmth still in the autumn air, and the sun poking out here and there...there's simply no excuse to stay inside.

SO instead, I put in a long-overdue run (it had been over a week since my last run - eep! No good, with the Seattle Marathon a month away now!), exploring both some new territory as well as cruising old favorites - the University Bridge, the Burke-Gilman Trail and Ravenna Park. As I stopped to take a drink at a water fountain in Cowan Park, a man at a picnic table asked me for the time. I stared dumbly down at my Garmin Forerunner (for those who don't know - it's a clunky GPS watch that uses satellites to track my location, pace and distance on my runs) and though there's a clock somewhere in the thing, I couldn't find it. I shrugged and said I'd been running about an hour at that point and had left around 12:30, so my best guess was 1:30.

We wound up having an entire conversation for a few minutes while I caught my breath and guzzled water from the fountain. He'd never heard of Garmin (notably, based in Olathe, Kansas - the next suburb over from my hometown!) but had always wanted to hike with some sort of GPS device. As we talked, the man was feeding bits of bread to a huge flock of birds and geese gathered around him. "No way to spend an afternoon like feeding birds at the park!" he told me with a grin.

Elsewhere in the park, a solo saxophonist was jamming hard on his instrument. As a brisk gust of wind stirred up the piles of fiery-hued leaves, I wished the bird man a good rest of his day and took to the trail again. He waved me off as I ran finish up a 13.1 mile run!

Coupled with sampling Seyeon's homemade pumpkin pie and an epic trip to Target for exciting things like bath mats, hand soap, Pyrex containers, baking trays and a dustpan, the run made for a good day.

Soundtrack for the Week (superb bluegrass, a bit of stringed-instrument-incorporating hip-hop, and at least one embarrassingly bad top 40 hit)

So Long, So Wrong - Alison Krauss & Union Station
The Moon - Flobots
Undone in Sorrow - Crooked Still
Right Now - Fort Minor
Knock You Down - Keri Hilson, Kanye West, and Ne-Yo
Tomorrow is a Long Time - Nickel Creek
Dancing Nancies, Dave Matthews Band (On a sidenote, D.M. came shoe-shopping at REI a couple weeks ago. He wears a size 11...not that it's creepy or anything that I know that now.)
24 - Jem
Running Up That Hill - Placebo
Mexico - CunninLynguists

...and it just began to rain! Woohoo! I love the sound of rain on windows at night...perfect tea-drinking and journal-writing conditions. Good night, World!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cup o' Joe Monday: A Special Engagement

This week's Cup o' Joe is, again, actually a Cup o' Tea - and it comes to you from a very special space - i.e. the new apartment! Seyeon poses at our celebratory housewarming tea party:

Isn't her hair awesome?

This picture, obviously, was taken at night, so the bay windows behind her reflect more of the inside of the apartment. There will be more pictures in the future of the place, but not until Alan and I get some furniture moved in and everything organized and decorated. For now, it's just a heaping mess of boxes, and I'm camping out on the floor on a layer of memory foam with some quilts and this photo shall suffice :)

Like my kitty cat (who will officially take up residence here sometime this week, too!), the tea pictured above hails all the way from Oberlin. It's funny how much emotional significance material goods take on once your concept of "home" gets thoroughly fuzzed up by so many moves and cross-country shifts in a short period of time. Anything from Kansas or Ohio fills with me an achy sort of calmness.

On a total sidenote, there are so many people I miss. The size of the world is an increasingly melancholy thing as I grow up and move around and meet more and more people, only to miss them all the more when we inevitably go our separate ways. So it goes?

Just learned I have to officially switch over my Kansas license and plates on my car in order to qualify for a residential parking pass to park on my own street here during the day...bummer. As excited as I am about having a Washington State license and Mount Rainier on the back of my car, I'll miss the ties to my home state.

(Despite the lack of writing about coffee this Monday, I must be honest: I've had coffee twice in two days...eep! Free Starbucks at the Keen clinic yesterday morning, and a tasty but overpriced "white velvet" at the previously-reviewed Espresso Vivace this morning to help power through my 8.5-hour Monday workday.)

But off the melancholy note, and onto a happy report of a wonderful hike I went on yesterday with a couple coworkers -> We climbed Little Si, a small mountain (big hill?) that stands humbly in the shadow of its respectable sister, Mount Si, just outside of North Bend...which is about a half hour's drive from downtown Seattle. The lush greens and autumn colors were incredible. + The rain held off until we'd made it back to the bottom and were on I-90 on our way back to Seattle.


Kate, Jeff, and me atop Little Si.

And so it was that my to-do list for yesterday could include: a morning clinic at work, a 4-hour hike, moving into the new apartment, getting takeout pho and watching a movie with Seyeon. Awesome.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Life in Boxes, Again + Oberlin Run-in of the Week

Time for a semi-long, semi-reflective entry again, it seems.

I love the night. There's something really peaceful to me about night time, after the sun's gone down and the stores have shut down and the people have gone to sleep and I no longer have a to-do list hanging over me...there's just something lovely about it. Music sounds better; books are more capable of enveloping me in their worlds; my journal entries are more thoughtful; incense smells better; tea is downright fantastic...I just feel at peace.

I've been on such an early schedule kick here that I haven't capitalized much on night times. It's happening tonight, though, due to a crazy busy schedule this week - covering several extra shifts at work for people since flu season has hit Seattle, as well as midterms for many people in well as securing the new apartment, putting in epically long training runs for the marathon, and trying to cram in some nice social time, too. Having a full day planned for tomorrow too (walk to work + early a.m. Keen clinic + late morning hike with coworkers + afternoon/evening Move-In-to-the-New-Place, Phase I), packing tonight has been imperative.

So after an 8-hour work day and a long, luxurious dinner with some old family friends of Seyeon's (sushi appetizers + fresh halibut + delectable Indian dishes + white wine + tea and sorbet for dessert = yum!), I've spent tonight packing for what feels like the twentieth time in the last few years. (After having consulted my memory for a more specific number, I've come up with "14" for number of times I've moved in 5 years - so 20 wasn't so far off the mark after all...hmm.) Coupled with the night time, the whole packing process (naturally, right?) is putting me in a deeply reflective mood.

This again?

First of all, I still can't believe how much junk I have. You'd think that after so many moves in so little time, I'd have all my stuff pared down to a sparse few essentials. And yet packing still feels like a bit of a nightmare every time I do it. Assuming all goes well with the new place, it will be such a huge relief to just be settled for a while - get rid of all the crap I've dragged from place to place to place and never apparently used, and begin acquiring real furniture and artwork and kitchen utensils, rather than using cardboard boxes as night stands and posters to decorate my walls and mooching other people's cheese graters. I'm thrilled!

Move-In-to-the-New-Place, Phase II will happen later in the week, when Alan gets back into town, and we can go claim the rest of the stuff in the storage unit (furniture, yay!) and probably at that point, if not earlier, my beloved kitty cat Chloe! Chloe's been staying with my friend Kyle down in Olympia all this time - both of whom, notably, I visited earlier this week. Had a blast hanging out in downtown Olympia with him and his friend Katie, sampling Northwest microbrews, cooking a bunch of late-night yummy food and catching up for lost time.

At work today, one of my coworkers grabbed me in the back stockroom and was like, "Hey, there's some guy out there who's moving to Ohio and is shopping for winter want to handle this one?" Turns out the guy was a freshman at Oberlin, at home in Seattle on fall break, and shopping to prep for his first Ohio winter. It was fun to chat with an Obie for awhile, and help him buy the boots I should have gotten four years ago, rather than braving through four of those seasons with sub-par footwear.

More soon, including pictures - of the moving process and also hopefully what's apt to be an awesome, albeit rainy, hike with coworkers tomorrow!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A brief history of cupcakes (+ coffee)

Hot cocoa, Cupcake Royale (a.k.a. "cupcakes + coffee")

As is becoming increasingly typical, I'm posting this week's Cup o' Joe in Monday's final hour in the Pacific Time Zone...I'll try and be more on my game next week. But first, a quick note to you:

Hooray for new folks checking out my blog! I began this primarily as a way for people in Kansas, Ohio, the Netherlands and other various places that have been home to me at one time or another, to keep up with my life post-all-of-those-places...but given that I write as much as I do about specific places around the city, it makes me happy to know people in Seattle are occasionally following this, too. (And I've had several protests from Seattle friends on the notion of Starbucks as socially taboo here, so perhaps I need to stand corrected on that point.) Anyway, thoughts are always appreciated - so if you're reading this, I'd love to get your feedback!

With that, cupcakes are great. I was telling Becca on the phone yesterday that I think cupcakes are the wave of the future. They're coming back! Not that cupcakes were ever really "out" - but there's something retro and simple about them, and cities are picking up on it. Given that my best friend's favorite things in the world are cupcakes, it's no surprise that I give them a lot of thought. My exposure to cupcake-specific businesses began exactly one year ago, when Seyeon and I took a fall break our senior year to tour the lovely city of Austin, Texas, and stumbled onto this awesome trailer one cool October evening:

According to Facebook, an old friend of mine from high school who moved to Austin several years ago apparently now works at "hey cupcake!"

I thought it was an Austin-thing. But no! Seattle's got it going on, too. Seyeon and I discovered this cute little place on Pike Street called "Cupcake Royale" several months ago, and have made several repeat visits in the time since. With new featured cupcakes each month (autumn-themed ones this month!), they also boast funky flavors like "Royale with Cheese" (I didn't catch the Pulp Fiction reference until my second time there) and "Salted Caramel" (curious? NY Times tries to explain.)

The spread, clockwise from top: Seyeon's Americano, my pumpkin maple cupcake, my hot cocoa (the cutting-down-on-caffeine thing), her salted caramel cupcake.

The decor is...confusing? Exposed brick can be urban chic, but...

Exposed concrete? I don't know. And there's some seriously funky modern art, too - protruding, indecipherable, and occasionally grotesque abstract sculpture, etc. Another weak point for CR are its prices. $2.75 for specialty cupcakes that can easily be put away in three bites? Harumph. It's probably best for my health and blood sugar levels that way, but my wallet and my appetite have a different opinion on the matter.

The usual: great coffee (by Stumptown, a Portland-based coffee company that's branched out to Seattle and now NYC), floor-to-ceiling windows, fun people-watching location, trendy coffee merchandise, free wi-fi.

The not-so-usual: cute pink chairs, imaginative cupcake flavors, getting to watch the pastry chefs there frost all the cupcakes. Decadent!

Overall: not the coziest place to sit down and hang out...but sometimes it's just fun to remind myself I'm not 5 anymore and at the whim of my parents, so if I feel like having a cupcake (or two), I can walk into a funky little place in Seattle and darn well have myself one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tully's! + More reflections on life as a city girl

I'm a day late again on my Cup o' Joe Monday...and though I'll address a Seattle coffeeshop, I'm also going to just ramble a bit about urban living as well. (And then later this week, review the famed Cupcake Royale, another sort-of coffeeshop, but mostly just cupcake-heaven.)

The coffeeshop of choice, both last Monday and today, is Tully's, which is basically the more socially acceptable Starbucks in Seattle. I don't quite understand what the stigma specifically against Starbucks is, since (1)Seattle's the one city in the world in which Starbucks actually is local, and (2)Given their treatment of employees and environmentally friendly efforts, it is certainly a lesser evil than many big corporations. I'm not sure Tully's is any better or worse, but for some reason, it's okay to be a Seattlite with a cup of Tully's in your hand; Starbucks, not so much.

With that said, Tully's Pumpkin Spice Latte totally trumps Starbucks'. It's a matter of deliciously spiced coffee versus pumpkin pie in liquid form, respectively. The latter's just a little too sweet for my taste. Either way, though, pumpkin spice lattes are great, and there's something dangerous about the changing leaves that makes me feel justified in spending money on any autumn-themed beverages and snacks (pumpkin everything! Bread, muffins, cupcakes (as you'll see in my next entry), coffee...fall is fantastic.)

Mostly though, Tully's has a similar feel - standard coffee menu with frou frou coffee drinks and faux-Italian names for over-sugared beverages, huge calorie-laden pastries in a glass display case, chic decor with bold colors, and coffee mugs and grinders for sale on the merchandise shelves. Free wi-fi, though, at Tully's...and, one-price-fits-all for any size of pumpkin lattes, tea and cocoa = awesome. Despite the less-nuanced atmosphere at Tully's than some of the independent places I've reviewed, this particular location is tucked away on a lovely residential corner and serves as a nice, cozy respite from the brisk, bustling world outside.

Interesting observation: so, when I walked into Tully's this morning, the place was equally filled with people in business suits and...middle schoolers! With no parents around - just bunches of kids gathered around tables, decked out in school uniforms, drinking coffee, comparing answers on their math homework. For a moment, I thought, Wow, only in Seattle!, because I'm not sure I was even truly aware of the existence of coffee until college - but in the coffee capital of the world, I guess they start early. But then I realized what was really unusual about the situation - not that kids were drinking coffee, but that they were in a public place without parents. How did they get there? I wasn't able to get myself to meet up with friends anywhere until I had a car...

Of course! Again, I was reminded of why city-living is great. Kids can be so much more independent, because they can walk or bike everywhere, and don't need parents chauffeuring them everywhere. It's great.

In other urban-appreciative moments this week, I worked a 9-5 shift yesterday. I looked with equal parts forlornness and smugness at the traffic jam on I-5 as I walked my favorite bridge over it on my way to work. Had a generally great day there, then walked to the gym at the end of it to meet Seyeon for a super-intense spinning class amidst the post-workday gym rush - not an experience I care to repeat, because too many people in the gym at once stresses me out - but the high concentration of people certainly made me feel like an active part of the pulse of the city!

To round out the urban experience, I got spit on and called several unmentionable obscenities by a homeless man outside the gym on my way in. He proceeded to follow me in and scream things at other gym-goers inside until the staff chased him out. I'm not in Kansas anymore...

Anyway. All this city-living, among Seattlites walking their dogs and biking to work and running city blocks in spandex, and scarf-donning couples holding hands and strolling through fallen leaves on city sidewalks...makes me sometimes feel like a character in a movie. At least that's the way I prefer to imagine myself on my walk-commutes, decked out in fleece, my backpack packed for the day with everything I need, Ipod playing what I imagine to be the soundtrack to my own personal movie, and imagining self-reflecting voiceover about my day.

The soundtrack to my autumn season in Seattle, in case you want to follow along, goes as so (mostly a huge mess of singer-songwriter awesomeness):

Orange Sky, Alexi Murdoch
Vanilla Twilight, Owl City
I'm on Fire, Kelly Dalton (Springsteen cover)
To Be Alone with You, Sufjan Stevens
It Started to Rain, Amos Lee
One of Those Days, Joshua Radin
Cinders and Smoke, Iron and Wine
We Looked Like Giants, Deathcab for Cutie
For My Lover, Tracy Chapman
Falling Slowly, Glen Hansard (Once Soundtrack)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scaling mountains

Hi, Mama, from a continent away!

I blame my recent lack of blog updates entirely on Alan - who, to my absolute delight, was in town for nearly a week - and I, therefore, have been preoccupied.

There are (generally brief) times in my life when journaling/blogging falls away, because I'm so overwhelmed with the present moment, and not wanting to miss a second of it...and it's a good thing when that happens.

Example: Seyeon and I headed out to meet up with a couple of my friends from REI at the Seattle Art Museum last week, and after we'd left, I realized I'd forgotten my camera. Initially, I was really disappointed I had - and Seyeon and I both arrived at identical jokes in the same moment: Damn, I'd have to just live in the moment instead, for once.

But of course, I can't help wanting to write about things, too. An experience doesn't generally feel complete to me until I get to put it into words.

The last five days have been a lot like that. I got a few days off from work, and Alan and I drove up north to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest early Tuesday morning. I've gotten a zillion hiking recommendations from customers at REI, and a particular favorite repeat-customer (to his delight, I greeted him by name the last time he came in, and told him he was officially a regular) had raved about Granite Falls and Mount Pilchuck. Bless the internet; I was able to find fantastic directions to the Mount Pilchuck trailhead - a good seven miles up a gravelly access road - and privy to stunning views already, before the hiking even began.


The hike itself was fairly rigorous - a lot of steep, rocky terrain and boulders to clamber over - but proffered incredible views of the Cascade Mountains the whole way up....Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and several dozen others I can't yet name. It was busier on the way down, but on the way up, we had the trail nearly to ourselves. The weather was perfect - cool, almost cold, in the shade, but the sun out and cloudless skies. After a solid three hours going up, we arrived at the Mount Pilchuck Lookout, a small building constructed in 1919!

The view from the top.

The happy hikers.

Trees in the Northwest are so tall.


Also, we saw a snake! (Two of them, actually.)

Other highlights of the week: both of us trying Ethiopian food for the first time with Seyeon and Paul, lying on our backs in the afternoon sun on a hill in Gasworks Park, watching the sunset while cruising around Lake Union on my friend Zanna's boat, walking up and down Seattle's hilly neighborhoods, sharing Guinness in the U-District, and naturally, just all the hours spent catching up and making up for the weeks we'd been apart.

My theme song this week has been Owl City's "Hello Seattle". In his words:

Hello Seattle, I am a mountaineer
in the hills and highlands...

Hello Seattle, I am a manta ray
Deep beneath the blue waves
I'll crawl the sandy bottom of Puget Sound
and construct a summer home.

Hello Seattle, I am a cold seahorse
Feeling warm in your sand
I sing about the tide and the ocean surf
Rolling in the evening breeze...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quick update

I've missed a Cup-o-Joe Monday. I know. I didn't really; Seyeon and I got delicious pumpkin spice lattes at Tully's...the rest of the day just got crazy, and I may have to hold off until next week for the official write-up. In the meantime, expect a fairly epic life-update here in the next few days, accompanied with stunning photos and the usual cache of Reasons Yitka Loves the Northwest.

Until soon...