Victoria is cold!

November 25, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Victoria was absolutely freezing. The temperature hovered around 23 degrees, and the snow was falling in big, thick flakes. And the wind was gusting so hard that the snowflakes and the cold would creep into every nook and cranny and drafty spot in our coats. No big post today — Happy Thanksgiving! — but here are a couple photos so even those of you in Texas can feel like it’s winter somewhere. =)

The snow was so thick. You can hardly see the buildings one block away!

It looks like we're in Russia! The snow was blowing everywhere. (This is the House of Parliament in Victoria.)

Mom visiting

November 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Mom at a park near Alki beach with the Seattle skyline in the background.

This past Wednesday Mom flew in from Cleveland and she’ll be here through this Friday. We’ve had a nice visit so far, with trips to Alki Beach, Marymoor dog park, Pike Place Market, Olympic National Park, Hoh Rainforest, and Ikea. Tomorrow we’re taking the clipper to Victoria for a one-night trip that will have us back home Tuesday night, and while there we’re planning to see Butchart Gardens and a bunch of touristy Victoria stuff.

It’s gotten pretty cold this week, which hasn’t bothered mom or Blake much but has been pretty unpleasant for me. On the up side, we had a few hours of snow today and it was delightful. (Somehow I don’t mind the cold so much if I’m all bundled up and cozy in a hat and scarf and there are snowflakes drifting all around.)

The forecast for Victoria tomorrow. Yipes. I didn't even know there was an igloo icon. :-/

Unfortunately, this evening I looked up the weather for Victoria tomorrow and it included a hilarious and foreboding icon that I’ve never before seen: an igloo. It used words like “frigid” and “cold” and “3.54 degrees”. I’m breaking out my ski gear from Colorado to keep warm, since I hope to be able to walk around Butchart for more than five or ten minutes without turning into a popsicle.

Our trip to Olympic National Park was pretty spectacular even this late in the year. We woke up early and caught the ferry to Bainbridge Island, drove 90 minutes to the park’s visitor’s center, then got back on the road for a beautiful 2.5-hour drive to the Hoh rainforest. We took several opportunities to stop along the way and take some photos as the mood struck us, but eventually we remembered that it gets dark here at 4:30 and we had to hustle the last hour or so to avoid arriving at the rainforest in the dark. As it was, we only walked around the Hoh for about twenty minutes before we had to head back for fear of hiking through the wet woods in the frigid night. (The park ranger kindly lent us a flashlight in case we had trouble finding our way back to the parking lot in time, but there were no problems.)

The Hoh is a beautiful park and is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I didn’t even know there were rainforests with deciduous trees and pine trees instead of palms and parrots. Because it was pretty dim and I didn’t bring my tripod, the photos I took are kind of underwhelming. (I intend to see the Hoh again when it’s warmer and greener and I have a tripod and maybe a new lens.) Even though all the deciduous trees were brown and it was really cold, it was still pretty neat. Though I bet it’s even more spectacular in the spring.

Anyway, I’ve got to pack for Victoria and exercise and get to bed soon, so please enjoy these photos.

Driving into the Hoh Rainforest

Some elk drinking on the river next to the road

The rainforest! (Yes, that's snow on the ground.)

Mom looking up at a 270-foot-tall tree (!)

Oh, and an update on our loud neighbors: the night after we left the note, the music was booming again as usual. So the next morning I stopped by the leasing office and mentioned it to the office manager, and she said she’d talk to them that afternoon. Since then we’ve heard some booming music in the afternoon and morning, but never at night. It’s still a little irksome in principle, but I can be happy with that. It’s not too disruptive if we’re not trying to sleep. Though I’ll be happy when we have a house and all the walls belong to us alone. =)

PS – If you’re interested, you may want to check out my photo-a-day blog, Out Our Window, which (predictably) has one photo each day of something taken out our window here in Seattle’s Chinatown.

Loud neighbors

November 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Last week we had several nights in a row of loud music wafting through the walls from one of our neighbors. Unfortunately, try though we might, from the hallway we were unable to tell which neighbor it was. We went up a floor, down a floor, and listened at the adjacent apartments on our floor, but to no avail. It sounds inexplicable that it would be loud enough to disturb us in our bedroom and yet indistinguishable in the hallway, but there’s some sort of fan in the hallway and lots of ambient noise.

So I mentioned it to the girl in the leasing office the next time I was there. I told her our theories about how it was one of a few apartments, but that I didn’t want to accuse anybody since we didn’t really know. She said she’d send around a mass of fliers reminding people of what the quiet hours were. That night, having seen no fliers, the music was back again as usual — but this time much louder. So I threw on my bathrobe and jeans and Blake and I walked the halls again. This time we were able to identify its location with great certainty by putting our ears to the wall and feeling the vibrations.

But… I didn’t want to complain about them to the leasing office just yet. The music was loud, true, but it seemed possible that maybe the person didn’t realize that it was at such a disturbing level. Maybe. So I wrote them a note:

We put it on their door yesterday afternoon and last night everything seemed pretty quiet. Stay tuned!

Ka Hale Na Ke Kai

November 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A package of Mango oreos

If you have any doubt that they're mango flavored, you can see the fruit on the right side of the package as well as the price tag behind it on the left side. Also, they're $5.59. Ouch!

A few days ago I headed down to Uwajimaya for the express purpose of buying a bunch of things I’ve never tasted before. Between me finding the cherimoya (a fruit) and the mango oreos (yes, really), I saw something decidedly more familiar: scone mix. However, this was “island” scone mix, and although I wasn’t sure what that was I was pretty sure I wanted some. The graphics on the box had a small-company feel and the brand was Ka Hale Na Ke Kai, which their website tells me means “the home by the sea” in Hawaiian. So I dropped it in my cart along with some pineapple-starfruit jelly by the same company.

This morning I made them for breakfast, and boy were they ever spectacular! The mix came with a little bag of dried tropical fruit, which I added to the dough (as per the  instructions on the box) before noticing that the fruit bag had a sticker on the back which said, “chop fruits before adding to mix.” Oh, well, they turned out fantastic anyway even with the non-chopped fruit. I had half my scone with butter and half with the jelly, and it’s hard to say which was more delicious. But the scones themselves were moist and delicious and I really can’t recommend them too highly. Not only that, you can actually buy them online for pretty reasonable prices. I can’t seem to link directly to the scones page, but if you choose the scone category from their online store, the one I purchased is at the bottom of the list.


In other news, all the cups and plates we have here are things I purchased from the Japanese dollar store around the corner. (Since all of our kitchen stuff is packed and inaccessible in storage.) We have two big plates, two little plates (you can see one in the scone photo), two bowls, two cups, and four each of the following: little spoons and forks, big spoons and forks, and knives. I also got a few mugs and a very select few pieces of cookware. As an aside, it’s amazing how much stuff it takes to have the minimum kitchenware necessary for regular life! At first you get the items I listed above, and you think, “there, all my basic needs are met.” Then all your other needs slowly trickle in… a can opener… a corkscrew… Then, oops, you need a sharper knife than a regular butter knife. So you buy a big shiny sharp cooking knife. And then you try to cook something and realize you need a whisk. And then you cook some scones and realize you need a bowl big enough for mixing dough in. And then you cook something else and realize you need measuring spoons. And then you want to make some vegetables and you realize you need a cutting board. And oh, yeah, a strainer. And a measuring cup. And maybe you can get away with not buying a cookie sheet if you just buy a casserole dish. It doesn’t feel like that much until you actually start making all those purchases yourself from scratch.

I’ve tried pretty hard to buy things that aren’t total duplicates of things we already own, though that’s pretty much what I had to do for a casserole dish, skillet, and a pot. And boy, I didn’t want to buy a third coffee maker, so I finally bought a French press that I can use instead. Of course, that led to a coffee grinder purchase because the ground coffee I was buying was too small to get filtered out effectively by the press. (I think at this point it would have been cheaper to buy another coffee maker and just give it to someone when we’re back with our stuff again. Oh, well.)

It is fun, though, to buy all this pretty new stuff. The Japanese dollar store (which is called Daiso) is the coolest darn place and I’m sure stuff that looks cheap to Japanese people just looks interesting to me because nearly everything there is something I’ve never seen before. Also, they seem to have a website and an online store for Americans, so check them out. =)

And finally, if you haven’t checked out our new blog yet, I encourage you to head on over there and take a look. It’s a fun little side project for me right now (and I hope it’s worthwhile for my readers as well). Here you go: Our Our Window

An evening in the quiet city

November 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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A few nights ago Blake and I were sitting in the living room when the power went out. Everything blinked off except for our laptops, of course, and things were eerily quiet. It was already dark outside, so I went over to the window and looked at the surrounding buildings to discover that not only was our building out — it went for several blocks. At least a 3×3 block square, and maybe more. In the hallway the fire doors had fallen closed — they’re usually held open by electromagnets — so in the glow of the emergency lights the empty hallway looked almost spooky and closed off and silent. It was pretty neat.

I took some photos of the dark street below with the tripod — it is now a permanent fixture here in our living room — and then I left the camera untouched so I could take the same photo when the lights came back on. (Blake’s idea.) The camera must have shifted a bit during the intervening time, but the photos are pretty close:

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In retrospect I would have aimed the camera a little bit differently, but it was pretty hard to see what I was taking a photo of when the lights were out. (For the photography nerds out there, the dark shot was a 15-second exposure and the light one was 1/40 ish.)

After about an hour the lights came back on, which was fortunate since we were getting pretty hungry. So we took off down the street around 7:45 looking for food. After a few blocks it became apparent that most of the restaurateurs in Chinatown had decided to close up and go home once the power had been off for a while, and our hopes for a sit-down dinner dwindled. But then, up ahead, we saw some lights and a neon “open” sign. Just as we were approaching to take a look at the menu posted outside, the store’s proprietor came out to… I don’t know, stand around or something. (Why do restaurant owners in cities hang out in front of their restaurants? I’ve never understood it.) He was a diminutive Asian guy and seemed very friendly. He noticed that we were approaching and smiled broadly, but we sort of paused — if we went over to look at the menu and then didn’t want to eat there, I’d feel terrible walking away with this nice guy grinning at us! So we looked at each other and decided to go over anyway, and the menu looked fine. So we went in, much to this guy’s delight.

Most of the menu was in Chinese, but it had English translations. It took us a long time to decide what to order, though — me especially — because of my plan to order interesting ethnic food. I may be culinarily adventurous right now, but I’m doing it in baby steps — I’m not going to jump right into the prawn “hot pot” (whatever that is — it’s on lots of menus around here). Anyway, I ended up getting the “chicken ball” with rice noodles, which turned out to be…  rice noodles with normal-shaped pieces of chicken in it. (I’m not sure how the word “ball” got into that translation.)It was good, though, and there were photos on the wall of many more dishes that looked pretty appetizing and unusual. I hope to go back and try more of them.

The best part of the meal was what I had to drink. The beverage menu listed quite a few odd items, including milk with an egg in it, horlicks (?), and lemon Coke. Determined to broaden my horizons, I picked one of the more benign-sounding beverages on the list: “honey lemon.” Thinking it could be a soda or tea or something else entirely, I asked what was in it. “Honey and lemon in water,” she said, which didn’t sound quite unusual enough for me. So I moved on to the next most interesting item on the list: “almond.” When I asked what that was, I suppose I ought to have been able to predict the answer: “almond in water.”  Hm. Clearly there was something in this description that I was missing, because I was willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that I wasn’t going to get a nut sitting in the bottom of a water glass. So I ordered it and braced myself.

When it came, it was delightful! It almost looked like warm milk but more cream-colored. She pointed to the sugar in case I needed to add any, but when I took a sip it was quite sweet enough. It was kind of a strange, sweet, delicious almond-flavored… something. Not tea, really, though I don’t know what else to compare it to. Anyway, it was very good and I was very glad I ordered it. When you all come to visit us in Seattle we’ll have to take you there and then you, too, can have some almond.


Out our window

November 2, 2010 at 6:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Screenshot of the blog

I hope I'm able to take enough photos to keep things interesting.

This morning I got up, made some coffee, and then stood at the window looking out at the city. We actually have a pretty nice view here even though we’re only on the third floor. As I was standing there looking at all the interesting things, I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder if I could take an interesting photo out this window for every day we live here?” And the more I thought about it and looked around, the more convinced I was that it would be possible.

So! I have created a new blog for this express purpose: Out Our Window. Blake and I spent a fair amount of time discussing whether it would be better to make a new blog or just post the photos in this one, but I didn’t want to inundate my email subscribers with daily updates for the next four months. So I made it separate and hopefully that won’t be too inconvenient for those of you who want to see both.

If you would like to get email updates of the Out Our Window photos too, just head on over to the it, look over on the sidebar, enter your email address, and click “Sign me up!”


Dining in Chinatown

November 1, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Blake and his cream cheese puff

Blake and his cream cheese puff. You can see Chinatown's Chinese gate in the background on the left.

Well, we had a lovely weekend in the new apartment. Aside from the obvious benefits of living right next to Amazon, this is really a neat area. After sleeping til noon on Saturday morning (after our harrowing move during the preceding few days), we got up and walked over to the nearby Yummy House Bakery for breakfast. Like all the businesses here in the international district, it’s run by some Asians of indeterminate nationality. It was a charmingly rainy morning and we strolled the 100 or so feet under my big umbrella and then had coffee and other delicious stuff. Blake had a cream cheese puff and a sponge cake, and I had a ham-and-egg puff and an egg custard tart. We were the only non-Asians in there for most of the time, but everybody in there was friendly and chatty (with each other in some other language) and it had a real home-town neighborhood feel even though we were in an Asian bakery in the middle of downtown.

We’ve checked out a few other restaurants here, and I’m determined to try lots of interesting and different foods. It’s really easy for me to just order the chicken and broccoli at all these restaurants, but there’s so much authentic and different stuff on the menu that I don’t want to miss. We’ll probably never live in a place like this again, so I’m forcing myself to eat outside my comfort zone. Sometimes it backfires, though — the other day we stopped at a different bakery after dinner and I adventurously bought some sort of date-egg pastry and a tiny mooncake. The date-egg pastry was just awful, so I gave the mooncake a try. It was… acceptable, but sort of like a big Fig Newton with a disproportionately large amount of fig. I threw them both away but have resolved not to let them dissuade me from my goals.



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