Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

This year we're spending the holidays in Taiwan with Mike's oldest brother, Chad, and his family. We leave tomorrow evening from Los Angeles and arrive in Hong Kong early Friday morning (we completely miss Thursday, December 17, 2009) and Taipei early Friday afternoon.

Having never travelled across either ocean, we're really anxious about this trip. At 14 hours from LAX-HKG, this will be the longest flight we've ever been on. Additionally, at 3 weeks, this will be our longest vacation, too. As far as location (we've been to Mexico and Desi's been to Costa Rica), we're anticipating Taiwan to be completely different from anything we've ever experienced before (characters versus Latin alphabet, majority Asian versus white, tonal language, etc.).

There are a number of things about this trip that we're looking forward to but one of the highest on our list would be the cultural exchange we'll receive by staying with a Taiwanese family. Additionally, Mike hasn't had the opportunity to spend this much time with his oldest brother, or anyone in his family for that matter, since he was a kid. This fact alone is worth a 14 hour flight.

We wanted to be sure to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year prior to our departure. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you upon our return.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2009

For most of our years in Seattle we've been going down to Desi's uncle's place in Dallas, Oregon for Thanksgiving. They put on this fantastic feast every year. But, this year, having never spent a Thanksgiving by ourselves in Seattle, we wanted what may be our last Thanksgiving in Seattle to be a Thanksgiving spent in Seattle. So, we made reservations at Salty's on Alki, a restaurant renowned for it's amazing view of Seattle and pretty good food. They provide a Thanksgiving Day buffet that includes the traditional turkey and ham options but also offers oysters on the half shell, Dungeness crab legs, and prime rib, plus all the sides and a variety of desserts. Rather than just treating it like any other meal out, we decided to make a Seattle day of it, using public transportation. What would've only been a two hour meal turned into a five hour adventure. We had so much fun waiting for the buses and walking the nearly 4 miles from our bus stops to our destinations. Rather than just having a memorable meal we had a memorable experience. And, that's exactly what we wanted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot Yoga

The first and last time Desi experienced hot (Bikram) yoga was in 2002 when we lived in Belltown. She walked away from her first hot yoga experience with a distaste for the practice because the studio she had chosen, Belltown Yoga (no longer in business), had locked her in the 90-110 degree room for the entire 90 minute class. Not expecting to be locked in a hot room for 90 minutes, and also not truly comprehending what 90-110 degrees would feel like, Desi had not mentally prepared herself for the experience and did not find it relaxing nor beneficial. In fact, it may have traumatized her.

Recently, however, Desi has been struggling with a few issues where the idea of hot yoga as the solution has proved intriguing. First, she hurt her back while renovating the second bedroom this past weekend. Probably nothing too serious, but enough pain to cause her to want to begin strengthening her core and lower back muscles. Plus, she still worries that her shoulder muscles aren't strong enough to prevent another injury similar to the one she experienced while snowboarding in early 2008.

Second, the lethargy that comes with the Seattle winters is settling in upon her regardless of how hard she tries to prevent it. The rain and darkness are preventing her from commuting to work via bicycle and her intention to join a gym to combat the lethargy is met with the reality of her laziness, which won't even allow her to get to the gym to sign up let alone go regularly to exercise.

Surprisingly, 7 years after a very bad first impression, these recent issues have led her back to hot yoga. The idea of being in a hot room practicing yoga seems almost comforting to her now. And, having tested this theory this past Tuesday, she enjoyed herself so much that she has even convinced Mike to join her on occasion.

Being in a room that hot for 60-90 minutes during these winter days is like being wrapped in a warm blanket and sitting next to a fireplace. Hopefully, the infusion of heat and the regular sessions will prove enough of a distraction to get us through these next few months of dark and wet days and also provide Desi with the core building she needs to prevent further injuries.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009 Status Update

At the beginning of the year, like most people we know, we make resolutions for what we hope to accomplish in the coming year. And, like most people we know, we forget about said resolutions within a few months/weeks/days/hours of making them.

However, we've been fortunate that our last few years' resolutions have actually been realized, though completely by coincidence alone and through no deliberate effort. Perhaps this has nothing to do with being fortunate and is, rather, due to the fact that we compose our resolutions based on necessity rather than desire?

Either way, in an attempt to keep this streak alive we need to be more deliberate about our 2009 resolutions. Thus, we are revisiting our 2009 resolutions in an attempt to coax them into reality. Luckily, we keep our resolutions list short and simple. We aim low because we are lazy. However, the fact that we are lazy may also be the reason why we find ourselves in November without a fully realized resolutions list.

Original Resolution #1 - Continue renovating the house.

OR#1 Status - Right now we're at a huge F for failure, though we've had a few starts/stops. The driveway stands incomplete, with 1/3 of it excavated and awaiting gravel. The remaining 2/3 has yet to be touched. This project has stood at this stage for at least three months but probably closer to five. Additionally, our second bedroom currently has only about 1/3 of the vinyl flooring removed. This project has stood at this stage for the majority of the year.

The goal for 2009 was to renovate part of the kitchen and all of the living room. That goal will definitely not be reached. But, there is no reason why we can't finish the floor in the second bedroom. Perhaps even get a gravel delivery for our driveway? Whoa, let's not get crazy.

Revised Resolution #1 - Finish exposing original hardwood floors in second bedroom

Original Resolution #2 - Continue working towards the Two Year Plan.

OR#2 Status - We're doing pretty good with this one. Mike is in dialogue with the University of Edinburgh regarding his application. He also spoke with the international student recruiter for Glasgow School of Arts when she was in Seattle in mid-October. This resolution is definitely and deliberately being addressed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October Blues

October is a sad month in Seattle. Phrases like, "I can't believe it's still this dark at 9AM," or "I come to work in the dark and I leave for home in the dark," are common conversation starters and stoppers at this time of year. A gloom begins to settle over the city and her people, replacing the radiant glow that was another long and lovely Seattle summer.

As dreary and as long as Seattle's winters are, October is the worst of it. Although the weather in October does begin to deteriorate, getting colder, wetter and darker, it's the fact that this weather trend is just beginning, coupled with the anticipation of the long, dark winter ahead, that makes October so unbearable. 

When we first moved to Seattle the dreariness of the Seattle winters didn't affect us, not until our 3rd year. Once the winters started to have a negative affect on us we decided "Winter Sun" vacations were in order. In the winter of 2003 we initiated what we had hoped would be an annual tradition of chasing the sun.

Unfortunately, though our initial trip to Zihuatenejo, Mexico was amazing, this idea hasn't happened regularly enough to be a reliable defense against Seattle's winters.

Next, we tried to work with the elements rather than against them and took up snowboarding. Although she lived in Salt Lake City, UT for 21 years, Desi had never learned how to ski or snowboard. Starting from scratch, she took lessons at Mount Baker and we both got fully outfitted. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the minimum 2 hour one way drive to decent snow or to the high ski lift ticket prices, snowboarding has not become the escape we initially predicted nor the distraction we require.

Now, in 2009, with the idea that this may be our last winter in Seattle, we need to develop a new strategy for getting through these next few months. Winter doesn't end in Seattle until May. Though there may be some nice days, and even some warm ones, beginning in February, those respites are surrounded by dreariness until near the end of May and sometimes into June.

With some "Winter Sun" trips already planned, and one trip dedicated to snowboarding, we hope this season will pass quickly. However, when it eventually does pass, we'll undoubtedly become sentimental about the passing of our last winter in Seattle, regardless of how miserable it actually was.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Couples Weekend, Vegas-style

After months of planning, and with the planets in alignment, this past Friday found us flying to Las Vegas to meet up with Luis & Alysha. We arrived at Las Vegas airport around 9:30PM and took the $15 (round trip) Bell Trans shuttle to our hotel.

We had selected the Golden Nugget as our hotel about a month earlier, which was a difficult decision. The hotel you choose in Vegas is often the most important decision when planning a Vegas vacation because it alone can dictate your experience. The deciding factor for us proved to be the hotel's pool, The Tank. With a shark tank at the center of the pool and a three-story tall water slide passing through it, The Tank was recently noted as one of the top 10 hotel pools in the world.
But, the Golden Nugget is located in downtown Vegas, rather than The Strip, otherwise known as the ubiquitous Vegas experience. The downtown area is about 6 miles away from the action on The Strip and we had some trepidation about staying that far away. But, since both couples have traveled to Vegas plenty of times, we decided we wouldn't be missing anything by staying in the downtown area. In fact, since we hadn't spent much time in the downtown area on previous trips, this might prove to be an entirely new and different experience.

The Tank did prove awesome, and we wound up spending many hours just lounging around it, but downtown Vegas did not. First of all, Fremont Street is lame. So lame, in fact, around 2AM we encountered a few casinos on it which had actually closed. Seriously. The Fremont Street Experience is also not worth the cab fare from The Strip, although it is pretty cool if you happen to be downtown anyway.

Additionally, and Luis made this observation, since downtown Vegas is where the locals tend to go for the cheaper gambling, better odds, etc., the overall vibe tended to be more "down and out" rather than "What Happens in Vegas." The general demeanor of the people we encountered was depressing, plus they were older, fatter, and uglier, and generally seemed sadder, than what we encountered on The Strip. Overall, The Tank was not worth a stay in downtown Las Vegas. But, at least we know that now. For the future, though, it's going to be Bill's Gamblin' Hall & Saloon or bust. That place is awesome!

Our Vegas trip with Luis & Alysha consisted of pool time, drinking, eating, Strip walking, late night gambling and donut eating, and cheap drink hunting. Alysha and Desi were denied their $1 daiquiris twice, though they did encounter many $1 margaritas, Mike had many helpings of $1 and $2 beers and Luis had a football sized pina colada, which we determined to be 46 ounces.

One of the more memorable events of the weekend was staying up until 4AM on Saturday night/Sunday morning. We had gotten back to the hotel from The Strip after midnight and decided to hit the hot tub, which was open until 2AM. After which, Luis wanted to go gambling. So, we rallied and joined him, which is when we encountered some of the aforementioned closed casinos. Around 2:45AM, Desi started craving donuts and we all walked to the Dunkin Donuts which didn't have any donuts because they don't make them onsite and delivery wasn't expected until between 3 and 4AM. After finding that the Krispy Kreme down the street was closed, we walked back to the Dunkin Donuts and waited for delivery. Luckily, the delivery was made around 3:15AM and we had our donuts and coffee by 3:30AM. Luis & Alysha headed back to Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon, leaving us until Tuesday morning to entertain ourselves. One of the best moments from Sunday was dining at the Fontana Bar at the Bellagio. We had headed back to The Strip but didn't want to walk around too much, so we walked through the Bellagio and found the Fontana Bar, which would provide us with a beautiful resting spot.

We had a wonderful seat on the outdoor patio, overlooking the Bellagio pond, drank sangria and scotch, had oysters and cheese, and got to see the magical Bellagio fountains dance at least 4 times. The rest of our trip was spent at the pool and relaxing. Desi lost $40 playing craps, but had fun doing it, and we watched a couple Fremont Experience light shows. After a lovely 4 day trip, we flew home Tuesday morning.

Luis & Alysha went through a lot to make this trip happen and we really appreciate their efforts. They coordinated Luis' mom's trip out to Salt Lake to watch their kids so that we could have an adults only weekend and sacrificed a weekend alone to spend it with us. We had a wonderful time with them and hope to do it again, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 25, 2009

SUP With You

A few weeks ago, my summer 2009 goal of Stand Up Paddle boarding became a reality when Tanya and I hit Shilshole Bay with a couple of rented SUP boards from Cheka Looka Surf Shop. The rental was $25 for 2 hours.

There were many things that intimidated me about my first SUP trip. First of all, large bodies of water scare me, especially those that contain orcas and other man eating wildlife. Secondly, the waters of the Puget Sound are freezing, and I don't like being wet or cold and definitely not both at the same time. And, finally, there is a scene in one of the Gidget movies, where Gidget gets tangled in seaweed while surfing with the boys and almost drowns, that has always haunted me. But, having made mental peace with the assumption that I'd be spending the whole of those 2 hours in the water (plus, having confirmed with the surf shop dude that he hadn't lost any customers to orcas), I was up for this challenge.

Of course, the surf shop dude created a new fear when he said there was a sea lion nosing people's boards. As a fan of Arrested Development, the idea of a loose seal in the water had me scared of losing a hand. But, a few Buster references later and I was back in the game.

Upon hitting the water, armed with my mental preparedness for being an utter failure, I didn't spend much time on my knees, in the beginners pose. Instead, I jumped right up on my board and began to paddle around like a pro. Surprisingly, I spent the whole 2 hours mostly upright and didn't fall into the water once.

We saw the sea lion almost immediately upon entering the water but it didn't nose either of our boards. It did, however, get uncomfortably close and it wasn't responding to either the cougar defense (big and loud) or the bear defense (play dead). But, it did get bored with us and move on rather quickly, though we kept an eye out for it the whole time.

Undoubtedly, my first SUP experience was one of the best times on the water I've ever had. Tanya & I couldn't stop laughing. Plus, given much more practice, I feel like this is definitely a sport I could master.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Noodle Ranch

The Noodle Ranch is located on 2nd & Bell in Belltown. It is one of a string of cheap eateries that fill this block, next to Lava Lounge, Mama's Mexican Kitchen, and Shorty's. Mike & I were never regulars here when we lived in Belltown but we always wanted to be.

Recently I was reminded of the awesomeness that is the Noodle Ranch happy hour. They're "happy hour size" offerings are generous and their drinks are cheap. Plus, with their location near other cheap eateries, when happy hour ends at the Noodle Ranch one can simply stumble into the neighboring establishment to continue the revelry for basically happy hour prices.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mt. Rainier

This past Saturday, we headed to Mt. Rainier, another national park in our backyard that we have woefully neglected for all these ten years. We've visited Mt. Rainier only twice since moving to Seattle: the first time was accidental and occurred during our first year in the area whilst attempting to explore our new surroundings; the second time was a few years ago when we enjoyed a free, ranger led snowshoeing excursion at Sunrise.

This time we had planned on exploring the Paradise area, but when we got there it was so crowded that we decided to keep driving. After a lovely drive across the southern section of the park, we wound up stopping in the Ohanapecosh area, in the southeast corner, for some hiking. Our first hike was to Silver Falls, along the Ohanapecosh River.

Honestly, the river and our surroundings were much more impressive than the waterfall. The hike was of easy to moderate difficulty (paved trails, 300 ft elevation gain) and just gorgeous. As a matter of fact, we were enjoying ourselves so much on this 3 mile loop trail that we decided to extend it another 2 miles by taking a detour to the Grove of the Patriarchs, an island of towering, thousand-year-old Douglas firs and western red cedar trees.

Though these trees were enormous, we kept comparing them to the size of the giant sequoias we saw at Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park a few years ago. Although Douglas firs and western red cedars are not giant sequoias, we are not arborists and those sequoias were freaking HUGE! and have made an indelible impression on us. We imagine all large trees we find in the future will always be compared to those amazing giant sequoias at Mariposa Grove. Though unimpressed with the Grove of the Patriarchs, the Ohanapecosh River that surrounded the island was beautiful. While the "one person at a time" suspension bridge was occupied with families taking advantage of some late summer hiking, we skipped rocks and waited patiently for our turn across, absorbing our surroundings and one of the last outdoor summer activities before another long, dreary Seattle winter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Discovery Park

Yesterday, in another attempt to add more activity into her life, Desi commuted via bicycle to work (5.1 miles) and to Discovery Park (5.0 miles), where she and a friend hiked for 2 hours.

Discovery Park, located along Elliott Bay near downtown Seattle, is an oasis for city dwellers, encapsulating the varying ecosystems available throughout the Pacific Northwest within one small area. The plan is to continue hiking after work, at least once a week, until it starts getting dark at 3PM, as it does here in Seattle during the winter months. Once those months roll around, though, she'll have to develop a new plan for combating lethargy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Olympic Peninsula

We started our Labor Day weekend with intentions toward activity. The past two weekends we've been sedentary and we needed to do something dramatic to break the cycle. Desi planned a day of hiking on the Olympic Peninsula, specifically in the Hoh Rain Forest, and a day at Mt. Rainier, specifically at Paradise. The idea was to hike on Saturday, rest on Sunday, and hike on Monday.

We started out leisurely on Saturday morning, hitting the 11:25AM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. We stopped in Port Angeles for lunch and at the Olympic National Park visitors center near Hurricane Ridge for a map of the park. Afterwards, we were off towards the western side of the peninsula, trying to hit the Hoh before it got dark. We paid our $15 park entrance fee and arrived at the Hoh around 5PM. We spent about 1.5 hours on a leisurely walk, taking us along the Hall of Mosses Trail (.08 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles), both loop trails. The Spruce Nature Trail took us along a piece of the Hoh River, which was lovely. Now, if we'd planned this day better, we would've brought an overnight bag, because we were about 4 hours from home and it was quickly getting dark. Plus, we weren't done exploring. But, since we didn't plan the day very well at all, we headed back to the ferry and got home around 1AM.

Sunday morning we awoke to torrential rain. We were pretty anxious to hit the trails again and wrestled with a rainy mountain hike (Mt. Rainier) or heading back to the Olympic Peninsula, where we'd already paid our park admission fee (good for 7 days) but would also have to pay the $35 ferry fare again. Both being equidistant from our abode, and experiencing the same weather, we decided to head to the Olympic Peninsula again because the forests would provide excellent coverage from the rain, whereas we weren't sure of Mt. Rainier's forests and didn't want to hike in mud.

We caught the 12:20PM ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and stopped in Paulsbo for lunch. We also stopped in Sequim to see the Strait of Juan de Fuca and check out the Dungeness Spit. We didn't walk the spit, but we did do a nice bluff hike along the shoreline.

Afterwards, we headed to the Elwha River Valley.
We stopped right at the entrance for a super short hike to Madison Falls.
Then we headed to the trail head for Olympic Hot Springs. The hike was 4.9 miles round trip and took us 2.25 hours.
There were three river crossings: the first one with no assistance, the second one with a primitive wooden bridge,
and the third one with a solid footbridge.
Though the trail was paved for the most part, the distance and river crossings made this a moderate hike.

We could easily spend a week on the Olympic Peninsula. In the 10 years we've lived in Seattle, this was only our second time in the park. We'd like to spend at least one more weekend there before leaving the area next year. Perhaps exploring the Lake Crescent and Sol Duc areas next time.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Anxiety and Anticipation

So, here we are. We've now reached the pivotal stage of our Two Year Plan. Mike applies to the University of Edinburgh mid-September, a very short few weeks away, and our future hinges on his acceptance. If he's accepted, we're able to continue with the final stages of The Plan, which is to begin preparing for the move across the pond.

Mike has, or will, accomplish the three requirements the international student recruiter enumerated for us last year.

1) He has requested a letter of recommendation from his painting instructor and his sculpture instructor, both of which appear happy to comply. He should have these in a few weeks.

2) He's maintained at least a 3.0 GPA (he's actually at 3.87). And,

3) he will have completed a year's worth of credits (approximately 45 credits) by June 2010.

He has also managed to update his portfolio and his resume by undertaking a couple of paid art jobs. Mike is currently working on his personal statement and should have all the pieces in place for a mid-September application submission, which is as early as Fall 2010 applications are accepted. We should know whether he's accepted within a month from application date. Until then, we're wrestling with both anxiety and anticipation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mike's An Artist

Mike is having a pretty good couple of days. He was asked on Thursday to help finish the set design for a local play being staged at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. He's been working evenings since Saturday to finish painting the set pieces. Tonight should be his last night on the job.

What's exciting about this is twofold. One, Mike is being paid for his efforts, making this his first official job in the arts field. Two, he's getting great experience and more material for his application portfolio, which he'll be submitting to the University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Arts in approximately one month.

Today was also Mike's last day of summer quarter. So, on top of working until 1AM since Saturday, Mike has been going to school part time in the evenings and working full time during the days. No one can say he isn't trying his hardest to realize the dream. Happily, he now has a month off from school until fall quarter starts, at the end of September.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where's The Service?

A few years ago, probably early 2002, we were moving from Everett, WA to Belltown in Seattle. We had made our moving truck rental reservation online, with U-Haul, many months in advance. Desi called U-Haul the day before our move to confirm our rental truck would be ready and available the next morning. She was given confirmation by a gentleman working in the store (rather than the call center).

When we arrived the next morning to pick-up our rental truck we were told they didn't have it, but they had a smaller truck they could give us for $29.99/day and double the miles for free, since we were going to have to make two trips. Please note that on their price board in the store and on their windows (to mark the special) they were advertising the same size truck they were now offering us for $29.99/day as $19.99/day (in fact, there was no evidence of that truck costing $29.99/day anywhere in the store). Desi pointed this out to them. The manager of the store told her that price was only for some trucks of that size and not all of them. Desi asked if they had any of the cheaper trucks on the lot. The manager told her yes, but they were already reserved. She pointed out that her larger truck had been reserved, and confirmed, and that they should give her one of the cheaper, smaller trucks in order to keep her business. They rejected that offer and we walked off the lot without a truck.

The point: U-Haul was willing to screw us, twice, because they didn't care if they lost our business. The result: we have not used U-Haul since and never will. After walking off the U-Haul lot, we called J & R Trucking, a local truck rental purveyor, and they gave us the size truck we wanted for a very reasonable last minute rate and we only had to make one trip. We love J & R Trucking for that reason and, for all our local moving needs, we will only use them.

We tell everyone this story to prevent them from using U-Haul. We hate U-Haul and, to this day, Desi still fights the desire to do something destructive to the U-Haul stores that she sees.

Why are we bringing this up now? Because a similar situation just arose with Ryder. We had made a reservation for a van rental in Tukwila at least a month in advance to move some hardwood floors to Desi's uncle's place near Salem, OR. The day before pick-up Desi received a call from the Ryder store telling us they didn't have our van but a store in Tacoma did and we could go down there to get it. Tukwila is already 10 miles from our home and Tacoma is 30 miles from our home. Desi cancelled the reservation.

Desi used to work for Thrifty Car Rental. And, when a reservation was made for the Salt Lake City Airport location of Thrifty Car Rental but the car for that reservation was located in Provo, UT or Park City, UT they would move the car to the Salt Lake City Airport location because that's where the customer wanted to pick it up. The idea of calling the customer to have them pick it up at another location was never even considered. Because, they knew that if they called the customer with that request they would lose the rental.

The point: where's the service?! In this economy, where's the service? We're not asking them to do anything extreme. If they don't have the van, then don't grant the reservation. Desi was encountering this a lot when originally making the reservation. That's why she had to go all the way to Tukwila before she found what she wanted. But, the day before a reservation, you're going to call and ask us to go 30 miles (60 miles round trip) out of our way to pick up something we reserved over a month in advance? WHERE'S THE SERVICE?! Needless to say, we will no longer be patronizing Ryder with our moving needs.

A larger point would be highlighting the fact that dark economic days in history have usually resulted in companies creating a better experience for their customers. This typically results in better customer service, better products, better return policies, etc. But, in our experience, so far this current economic climate is not resulting in this type of fight for our dollar. Instead, we're being told to go to Tacoma. We're not going to take it anymore and are vowing to spend our dollar only where it is not taken for granted which can manifest itself in simple ways. For example, when grocery shopping, or shopping of any kind, not having to wait in line for the only open cash register would be nice. Or, when reserving a car in Seattle, WA not being called up the day before and asked to travel to Boise, ID to pick it up.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Where The Buffalo Roam

Mike's annual family vacation was this past week. His mom had picked Yellowstone earlier this year as our rendezvous point. What was fun about this trip was that it incorporated our most favorite activity, the road trip, with a week full of family togetherness (Mike's parents, two siblings, three wives (Mike's oldest brother wasn't able to join us) and their five kids). Plus, it took us on a route that we had never been on before.
We left Wednesday morning for Missoula, MT, home of the University of Montana and right on our I-90 route. Our friend, Laura, had suggested we stop there for the night, rather than power through to West Yellowstone in one day. Apparently, Laura's not familiar with our driving endurance, but we decided to take her advice since we had an extra day to play with.
Missoula is adorable. A super cute college town in a super picturesque setting. Right on a lovely river that we wish we'd had more time to enjoy. We arrived around 4PM and immediately set out for a walk to the downtown area. Laura had suggested we stop at The Rhino because of their vast selection of micro brews. Mike really enjoyed sampling their IPA selection, and he probably would've stayed all night if Desi hadn't wanted to see more of the town. Afterwards we dined at the Dinosaur Cafe, which has the most delicious catfish po boys that will most likely be craved fortnightly. Thursday morning we hiked up to the M on the mountain before setting off for West Yellowstone. We took a very scenic route through Ennis and past Earthquake Lake arriving at our hotel around 3PM. We rendezvoused with Mike's family around 6PM. Our stay in Yellowstone was fantastic! The weather was awesome, consisting of phenomenal thunder storms, hail, and beautiful warm days. The park didn't seem very crowded and wildlife was plentiful. At last count we had seen two black bears, herds of elk and bison, two coyotes, multiple deer, and a bald eagle, complete with nest and baby.
In addition to getting to spend some quality time with Mike's family, our friends, Luis & Alysha, drove up from Salt Lake to spend a quick day with us on Saturday night. On Sunday morning we drove to Big Springs, near Island Park, and did a nice hike/walk together before going our separate ways.
When we left on Tuesday morning, after spending Monday checking out the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, we were wishing for more time to stay and play in Yellowstone. We could've used at least two more days for hiking and exploring. But, even with the seemingly short stay, this truly was a great vacation and one we hope to enjoy again someday in the future.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seattle Happy Hour Favorites

Recent favorites include any place with drink specials and at least one food item containing truffle oil and/or salt.

Troiani - located in downtown Seattle, this lovely new experience includes $5 truffle French fries, $3 flat bread pizzas, and $5 lemon drops. On a recent trip we also discovered their free WiFi. Happy hour is from 1PM to close (seriously!) M-F and 5PM to close on Saturdays, which is perfect for post-show libations. The only downside is the parking situation. But, on a recent weekday visit, street parking was eventually found.

Smash - located in Wallingford, this neighborhood spot has sidewalk dining available, $9 truffled white cheddar macaroni and cheese, $6 fruity martinis, and $5 sangrias. Happy hour is from 5-6:30PM. Besides being in Wallingford (nightmare traffic situation), the only downside to this spot is the duration of it's happy hour.

Noc Noc - located in the seedy part of downtown Seattle, this old standby has no food specials containing truffled anything. In fact, I'm pretty sure if you asked for anything truffled you might get your ass handed to you by both the staff as well as the clientele, as it should be. With $5 PBR 40's, $3 food specials (including tater tots), and $10 bottles of wine, you don't really come here for the class. It's a good time, plain and simple. Huge, comfy booths and amazing people watching. Downside? There is no downside.

Dragonfish - located in downtown Seattle, this is an amazing happy hour spot for sushi lovers. However, there are several downsides. First of all, this place is very popular and there is limited seating. There is often a wait list for happy hour seats. Secondly, happy hour ends at 6PM so it's possible to still be waiting for a table when happy hour ends. Additionally, parking is terrible and the location, right next to the Paramount Theatre, is great for the restaurant but horrible for the customers because show nights make it ridiculously crowded.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mike's Tattoo Experience

Mike's 33 year old arm, as it's always been
Mike being educated by Coyote at Apocalypse Tattoo
The stencil has been placed
And so it begins
Almost done
1.5 hours later, the finished product

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Mike's Big Day

Mike had a big day today. First of all, he officially became a professional artist. He was paid rent for the use of his painting at a city event for youth violence prevention. This painting was done as a group project during his 2nd-year painting class at the Seattle Central Community College. At this event he met a number of influential people, one of which was the mayor of Seattle, Greg Nickels. His painting instructor has become his mentor and is shepherding him through the process of becoming a community artist. She is the one that facilitated the introductions to Mayor Nickels and other city dignitaries. She is also the one that got Mike's art displayed at this event and has also mentioned the possibility of grants to create art in some select Seattle parks. Finally, today was also the day Mike got his first tattoo. After years of planning and careful consideration, he finally did the deed and now has a very beautiful piece of body art. Both of us are very happy with the result of his careful planning and both agree that today was a very good day for Mike.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

We celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary this past Thursday, June 25. We had a small celebration at The Local Vine post-work but saved the bulk of the celebration for the weekend when we would be celebrating in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

After 10 years of living in Seattle, it feels as though we have been woefully neglectful of our neighbor to the north. We have only been to Vancouver thrice before and anywhere in British Columbia only 3 additional times (Whistler once, Victoria twice). Six times in 10 years, when less than 3 hours away from Seattle, is a sad commentary on our weekend priorities. What have we been doing with our time?

We left Seattle leisurely on Saturday morning and arrived at our hotel mid-afternoon. We were staying right on Robson Street, the main arterial north/south through downtown, at The Blue Horizon. We had dinner reservations at The William Tell and then strolled through the city for the remainder of the evening.
On Sunday we had breakfast at the crepes restaurant next to our hotel, did some shopping, and then jumped in the car to explore some of North Vancouver's parks. We drove through Mt Seymour Provincial Park and Lynn Canyon Park. We stopped in the former for a few pictures and just drove through the latter due to crowds. No hiking for us this time around.
After a sushi lunch outside of Lynn Canyon, we started States bound. We had such a great time on this trip that we've already got our next Vancouver weekend planned. It'll consist of Rodney's Oyster House in Yaletown, probably the same hotel, and a bike ride through Stanley Park. Plus, there was this restaurant that served only desserts that Desi really wanted to try but the timing just didn't work out. Next time, though, we'll be sure to plan around it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You Were A Good Truck

We sold Desi's truck this past Sunday. It had been on the market for only a couple of weeks and we got almost exactly what we were expecting. We advertised for free on both The Seattle Times website and Craigslist.

Although we expected the truck to sell quickly, we weren't prepared for how quickly the actual deal was reached. Desi barely had any time to say goodbye to her truck. She's having a bit of seller's remorse and wouldn't be too sad if the guy wound up returning it. But, it was a '93 Toyota Pickup 22R...the guy won't be returning it. That truck was a gem and he knew it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

I Remember This Being Easier

Saturday morning we decided to ride our bicycles around Lake Washington. Desi did this last year and found the ride to be really nice, though she got stung by a bee along West Lake Sammamish and was caught in a freak downpour during the last quarter of the 55 mile ride. Still, she recommended the ride highly and said it would be relatively easy, especially after all our experience on organized rides thus far this year.

The ride turned out to be the most difficult of all rides so far this year, including both the challenging Portland ride in February and the Camano Climb from earlier this month. The difficulty was mostly due to the fact that we weren't prepared for the distance combined with the heat (it reached around 80 degrees) so we didn't have enough water. Additionally, perhaps we've begun to rely too heavily upon supported rides and their conveniences because we didn't have rest stops planned and we hadn't eaten before departing the house at 11AM, perhaps expecting to find free food randomly provided along the route.

The elevation gain was probably equivalent to the Camano Climb ride. The first half of the ride, from Columbia City along the Burke-Gilman Trail to Woodinville, was flat and fantastic. It winds along Lake Washington and connects to the Sammamish River Trail, bringing us to the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery (below, our first rest stop) without traffic or difficulty. But, the second half, from Woodinville along Lake Sammamish and across Lake Washington via I-90, was disastrous! Almost all uphill along West Lake Sammamish, a very busy road and with no designated rest stops. We ran out of water along this part and the only park we found was private property with an entrance fee.

In the pictures below you see us resting on a small patch of grass on the side of West Lake Sammamish (where Desi has depleted both water supplies and is very near tears), at a rest stop on Mercer Island, and overlooking I-90 (the bike trail is on the left). Once we got back onto the trail, along I-90, we were still out of water and Desi had almost given up totally. We finally found a place to fill up our water bottles in Bellevue, with approximately 10 miles left before home.
We got home around 4:30PM. We're both amazed that we did the ride but Desi is perplexed regarding the increased difficulty this time around. She's in better shape this year, with more miles under her belt, so she doesn't understand the difference between how easy she remembers the ride from last year and the ride she barely survived yesterday. She's absolutely stunned by the difficulty and yet we'll most likely do the ride a few more times this year because it is such a lovely ride. But, next time, we'll plan for a hard, unsupported ride to help alleviate any of the self-induced difficulties we encountered this time around.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Umtanum Ridge

Yesterday we travelled with our friends, Ron & Nicole, to Umtanum Ridge. The Ridge is located between Ellensburg and Yakima, about 2.5 hours east of Seattle. This hike provided us with some amazing views and a good dose of sun and heat.
We're glad we have today off for Memorial Day because we're pretty sore from the hike. We're not sure if this is always going to be the case, but the descent did most of the damage. The ascent was pretty tough, but the descent was nearly disastrous. This hike took approximately four hours with the descent alone taking up a quarter of that time but only about an eighth of the distance. Mike referred to it as being "technical." Everyone else was pretty sure it was just impassable.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer/Fall Quarters

We registered for summer and fall quarters this past week. Our summer classes are all at South Campus, in West Seattle, rather than Central. Mike is taking Sculpture on Mondays and Wednesdays and we're both taking Intro to Food and Wine Pairing on Thursdays.

We were able to register for fall quarter classes at the same time as summer quarter classes, and this time Mike got his drawing class (YAY!). He'll be in Drawing Mondays and Wednesdays and Painting Tuesdays and Thursdays. Desi is taking Spanish on Mondays and Wednesdays and we're both taking Intro to Digital Photography on Saturdays.

It's exciting to think that with every quarter that passes we're that much closer to our Scotland goal. By the time fall quarter starts Mike will have already applied to University of Edinburgh. We should know in October regarding his acceptance. It's all very exciting!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thou Art Gone But Not Forgotten

This past weekend we cancelled our DishNetwork service completely. We bought a $30 cable to run from the laptop to the flat panel, so now we stream shows directly to the big screen. After just two days of living with this set-up we are SO happy with the outcome.

No longer slaves to the programming schedules of the networks, we watch what we want when we want. Also, we're no longer wasting time "surfing," trying to find something to watch. Instead, we watch a program while eating or winding down at the end of the day but otherwise we're finding other things to occupy our time.

This was more of a change for Desi than it was for Mike, who was never one to sit in front of the TV for more than a few shows at a time. Unlike Desi, Mike never used the TV as a form of relaxation. Desi could waste an entire day in front of the TV, even if nothing was on. Well, this weekend Desi discovered other things to entertain her.

On Saturday we walked to the grocery store and to Radio Shack for the TV/Internet cable. We did yard work (something Desi rarely does) and just generally enjoyed each other's company.

On Sunday we rode our bikes to the U Village (16 miles round trip) to shop at the Mac Store and Barnes & Noble and check a few more errands off our to-do list. We then spontaneously joined a friend in Ballard for some drinks and dinner.

Getting rid of TV is definitely a life change for Desi. The saddest part about this, though, is that she didn't decide to terminate it because of the amount of time it was sucking from her life. She terminated it only because of our move to Scotland, now just 14 months away.

Since we're unsure of the TV situation in Scotland, Desi didn't want that to be part of the culture shock. So, she pre-emptively terminated it from her life in order to better acclimate to life in Edinburgh. However, now that she has identified it as a time sucker, she's sorry she didn't terminate it years ago. Now the question is, what other unidentified time suckers exist?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Burlington Spring Classic

Yesterday we rode our first metric century (62 miles), the Burlington Spring Classic. This was the longest either of us had ever ridden and it really showed when we both hit the wall, Desi at mile marker 40 and Mike at mile marker 50. The elevation gain on this ride was 2400 ft., which made it easier than the Camano Climb last weekend. The two big climbs on this ride were Chuckanut Drive and Bow Hill Road. The picture below shows us at the top of Chuckanut Drive, at the first pit stop. Bow Hill Road was rough! It came around mile marker 45 and was the toughest hill of the ride. They positioned somebody dressed as a devil on the side of the road to scream encouragement at us. It was that rough. We eventually made it to the finish line spaghetti feed. At 6 hours and 15 minutes, we had our best pace yet. Although it's a day later and we're both still pretty broken, we both agree that this was a fantastic ride and our favorite ride yet.
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