Rain by any Other Name is Still Rain

In Southern California the weather was fairly straightforward.  Unless you were in the middle of “STORM WATCH [INSERT YEAR HERE]” it was hot and sunny and it was not a legitimate topic of conversation.  In Seattle, things are different.

Weather in Seattle is not only a legitimate conversation starter, it’s an obsession.  Chit chat in the elevator, at the grocery store, at the bank, all revolves around the weather, and in particular, the never-ending rain.  For Seattleites – real or having lived here long enough to be delusional – there is an unquenchable optimism that perhaps we’ll get a little sun this week – maybe even on a weekend.  (For inexplicable reasons, sunny days usually come during the week and the worst weather reserves itself for the weekend.)

And there are all the ways the media can describe the rain.  “Rain changing into showers.”  “Increasing rain.”  Scattered showers.”  “Areas of rain.”   “Some sun breaks.”  Yes, sun breaks. 

Sun breaks were a concept unbeknownst to me until moving to the land of nine-months of gray.  A sun break is the 20 or 30 minutes of sun that may break through the rain clouds in the middle or at the end of a day of never-ending gray/rain/drizzle.  People live for them and will happily abandon their offices and sit outside for the duration of the sun break no matter what the temperature. 

 There are also sun days.  These are the sunny semi-warm days that generally fall mid-Spring to psyche you into thinking good weather has finally arrived.  When the sun days hit, those who can – a surprisingly large number – abandon their offices and head for one of the lakes,”beaches,” the wharf, the parks, anyplace they can sit, walk, bike or run outside and soak up the forgotten sun’s rays.  Dining al fresco suddenly becomes an option and everyone is outside.  Until of course, Seattle decides to slap you in the face with colder and wetter days to remind you who’s boss and to make you really really appreciate the sun of the summer.

My First Time . . .

The Little Mini That Could

. . . driving in snow.

Growing up a Southern California girl, snow was what happened when you went skiing. Ideally, the snow fairies would come at night while you slept and you would wake up to sun and fresh powder.

There were no snow days – although there were several smog days that kept the recess hour inside – snow was not something you had to walk in for ten miles to get to school and it was not something I learned to drive in – ever.

The first year I moved to Seattle there were a few hours of snow. I remember standing at the window mystified thinking “It’s snowing and I’m not even skiing.” Yes, sometimes the not-real blonde invades my otherwise functioning mind.

I was working at home at the time so I just didn’t leave the house. During the two-week snowstorm of 2008, I was in 80 degree India. From then til this past Thanksgiving we were snow free. And then yesterday, there was a weather advisory. “Weather advisory in effect from 4pm to 4am . . .” snow, followed by freezing rain, followed by rain. 1-2 inches of snow expected to start during the commute hours. The message was clear –GO HOME NOW.

Normally, I would heed this advice. I’m always up for an excuse to call it a day early, but last night was the first night of the second quarter of my non-fiction writing class. I checked the UW hotline. “The UW campus is operating on a normal schedule.” I checked it every 10 minutes for two hours. Nothing.

At 4 pm snow did not start falling from the sky. Nor did it at 5 pm. UW persisted in sticking to a “normal schedule.” I weighed my options – skip class or risk getting stuck in the snow. I drive a Mini, with bad tires. There is no four-wheel or all-wheel drive in my arsenal. No chains in the boot. So getting stuck was highly probable.

Naturally, I did the intelligent thing – I risked it. I drove to class, I parked – at the top of a hill – and I went to class. As we hit the 1 hour 45 minute mark of my 3-hour class the snow began. “Don’t worry, it won’t stick” my classmate Steve told me. It stuck. And it didn’t stop snowing. By the time we left class at 9 pm, snow was steadily falling and over an inch was at our feet. I called Jim.

“Can my car do this?” I asked. “Where are you?” he responded. “Well, you see, I’m in the Padelford lot at the top of a hill. If I make it past there I can exit the back way and then it’s pretty much flat all the way home.” Pause. Jim sighed, “If you can get to 25th you should be ok, but you’re not going to get up our hill, you’re going to have to walk.” “Ok” I said, resolve steeling me while I tried to push images of driving off a cliff out of my mind. “Go slow. Pump your brakes. If you start to slide go with the slide, head toward the curb. Call me when you get to the bottom of the hill!” Jim rattled off instructions.

While I was talking to Jim, Steve negotiated the hill. He walked all the way back up to give me a pep talk and recommendations. As I rolled down the window to talk to him, I let the window go all the way down. The accumulated snow on my window fell into my car and on me. Lovely.

With Steve and Jim’s advice in hand I was off. Off like a turtle. I crept down the hill, in first gear, clutch mostly in, brake foot at the ready, hand on the e-brake (which would have been useless, but we’ve established that logic was not with me). I made it down the hill. Success! A gentle incline greeted me and then it was smooth flat-land sailing.

My wheels started spinning and spinning. The car started turning – not, in the direction I wanted. With zero traction I wasn’t going anywhere. Naturally, I stubbornly kept guiding the wheel in the direction I wanted and upped the gas. After what seemed like ten minutes but was probably less than one, my stubborness paid off and with a jolt I was moving up the incline. I made it to the top, took a deep breath and headed home. I drove slow. I eventually made it into second gear but my speed never exceeded 22 miles per hour. A few SUVs and Subarus passed me. I just thought, “Hey, going slow is impeding your path a lot less than me wiping out and blocking the road.”

I finally made it to the bottom of our hill and decided to try to go a bit of the ways up to minimize the walk. As I started to turn the car off, the car began to slide. I pulled on the e-brake – nada. I quickly turned the wheels into the curb. That, worked. I sat in the car for a few minutes to assess whether the car would continue to slide and then I grabbed my purse and my briefcase and started the walk up the hill . . . in these:

Snow Shoes?

Perhaps, I need to invest in more practical footwear . . . and chains.

Happy Holidays

Dear Family and Friends:

I can’t believe it’s nearly 2011! This year has rushed by like a hurricane in Haiti.

We started off the year with a trip to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. We had to move on after only a week, however, due to the fact that Michael Buble would not stop stalking me. Sigh . . what can you do?

Work is proceeding as planned. Jim was promoted to dictator-on-high and my aspirations to royalty were realized in the Queen Mary tea room, where I was crowned. Clearly, these people know a princess when they see one.

Our lifestyle just doesn’t lend itself to pets, yet, in addition to the raccoons who visit us primarily to procreate under our deck, we were adopted by two cats and Mickey. We only had Mickey for a short time as he tangled with the cats and lost. Poor, Mickey. He’s lying in state on the neighbor’s roof and we pay tribute to him by peeking out the window each morning.

Little Jimmy, our imaginary child, was accepted into Harvard this year. As he’s 12, not 10, we are very disappointed. Another family failure. The blow was softened a bit when certain committee members saw him on Fox and Friends and heard of his ideas for bringing peace to war-torn Watts. We hear he’s on the shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize for what he might, perhaps, someday, possibly, if-all-the-planets-are aligned do.

We wish you the best for 2011 and hope that you have a wonderful and prosperous year, but not as wonderful and prosperous as ours.

Merry Christmas.

Giveaway Results

Sorry to keep you in suspense, but it’s been a crazy day.  The winners of the Fresh Express Salad Kit Giveaway are . . . drumroll please . . .

Lauren and Cajun Chef Ryan

Please email your addresses to oc2seattle@gmail.com and I will send your coupons for free Fresh Express Salad Kits out ASAP 😉

Terrorized by Bicyclists

For some reason that baffles me, Seattle, one of the rainiest places in the U.S., boasts a large number of folks who bike to work, the store, and around town in general.  Even our mayor claims to bike to work, although either he’s lying or he’s compensating for the exercise by biking through McDonald’s one too many times (not charitable, I know, but I’m not a fan). 

Rain aside, Seattle lends itself to biking because many office buildings have showers and the dress code at most businesses is so lax (thanks, Microsoft) that for those whose colleagues don’t mind the stench, showers are not an impediment to a sweaty pre-work ride, showers or no showers.  Drivers also are extremely deferential to bicyclists, refraining from honking when the less experienced biker takes up an entire lane on a four lane road causing a parade-like back-up at rush hour.

Last time I checked, however, bicyclists were obligated to follow the same rules of the road that cars follow.  Apparently, some think otherwise. 

While driving to the office today, I stopped at a red light and put my right turn signal on.  When the light turned green, I checked the sidewalk for pedestrians and began to make my right hand turn.  Suddenly, yelling ensued.  I stopped to determine the source of the screaming and saw a bicyclist (who was not there when I was stopped at the light) come careening down the hill and through the intersection).  Pardon my language, but WTF!  Now, a car certainly could not have decided to jump out from behind me and foil my right turn efforts, so what makes this bicyclist think he can? 

Was he emboldened by Seattle’s pro-bike policy to disregard the traffic laws and his and my safety?  Or, was he just plain stupid (not to mention unjustifiably indignant)? 

Perhaps, you should need a license to ride a bike on the city streets?   Something that ensures you actually know the traffic laws . . .because I’m pretty sure that helmet and raincoat aren’t going to save you when you crash your bike into a semi.

What do you think? 

Further Adventures In Yoga

Over the past month hot hatha yoga has become a pretty regular part of my exercise routine as has the .80 mile walk to and from the yoga studio.  2-3 days a week, I meet Lucia at the corner between our offices and we hike through the urban landscape of downtown Seattle – past the Sheraton, Specialty’s, City Kitchen, the monorail, Westlake Center, til we arrive at our hour of hot, stretchy nirvana.   

The studio that the hot hatha class is in can fit 20 people comfortably, more at a push.  Yesterday there were easily 26 with the front row mostly populated by newbies.  Having been a rookie once myself, I commend anyone for trying out yoga.  I was a bit dismayed, however, when the 4 high school girls who wedged themselves in front of Lucia and me arranged themselves so they were directly blocking our line of vision to the mirror.  Ok, so they probably didn’t know any better right?  Maybe.   But when the instructor told the entire front row to shift so that the back row could see and even made room for them to do so and they didn’t move, not one bit, I became a bit annoyed.  Still, it’s yoga right?  Best time to calmly make the best of it. 

Not being able to see myself in the mirror, I also couldn’t avoid noticing the girl in front of me.  With the enthusiasm of youth and no less than 8 clanging bracelets, she flung herself into the poses, overextending on many and pretty much repeatedly falling out of the balancing poses 90% of the time.  I have to admit, it was pretty entertaining in a train wreck kind of way – you want to look away, but somehow you just can’t.  I’m sorry to say it didn’t help my personal practice, however, oh well.

After class and the so-needed shower, Lucia and I walked back toward our offices.  The lights pretty much dictate our route and last night they took us straight down 4th Ave through the Westlake “Park” area, a haven of high school kids who would otherwise be hanging out at the 7-11, skaters, street entertainers and the homeless.  While walking by a group of rowdy young men, one turned to me and said “Hey beautiful, wanna f**k?”  Seriously.  While we walked on and ignored such an oh so tempting offer, there was a part of me that wanted to say “How did you guess?  Absolutely.  Right here, unzip and show me what you’re working with.” Just to see what his reaction would be.  I’m guessing he would be pretty flummoxed, because I have serious doubts that such a lame come-on ever works.  

Lucia and I are heading to hot hatha again tonight and in June there’s a challenge to do 20-30 classes in the month of June.  It will be interesting to see what further adventures will come our way both in and on our way to/from class.  But, that’s what makes life interesting, right?

Take a Bite Out Of Seattle

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

It was an ominous looking day when I headed down to the Seattle Art Museum to meet up with fellow foodies and bloggers, More Than Burnt Toast, Cookie Baker Lynn, Eat, Love Travel, Sortachef, and The Lonely Radish.  At the invitation of Jan Marie Johnson, we were meeting up to experience Seattle Bites Food Tours’  “Take a Bite Out of the Market Tour,” a 2010 Best of Western Washington winner.    

We started our tour at Taste, the restaurant inside the Seattle Art Museum.  The focus of Taste is on local ingredients, primarily sourced from Pike Place Market.  While there, we got to taste a flatbread with salmon, onion, dill, and capers topped off with a bit of creme fraiche.  It was crisp and chewy at the same time – quite a feat.    

Flatbread with Salmon at Taste

Flatbread with Salmon at Taste

Wine at TasteTaste also features a wine list of 90+ bottles most of which are boutique wineries.  Since you won’t find those wines in your average wine shop, they will sell you a bottle to take home if you like.  I wish more restaurants did this because when I try a new bottle of wine at a restaurant and fall in love I’m always disappointed when I can’t find it again.    

After Taste we headed off toward the Market, Jan Marie entertaining us with facts, stories and pics from the founding of the Market along the way.  For example, did you know that Pike Place Market is over 102 years old?  I didn’t.  Did you know that it is the longest running market in the U.S.?  That there are over 400 small businesses in the Market?  That it has its own food bank, post office, health care and day care?   

Nutella and Banana Crepe at Crepe de France

Nutella and Banana Crepe at Crepe de France

After our savory snack at Taste it was time for something sweet.  Nutella and banana crepes at Crepe de France (a favorite of mine in the Market).  While devouring our sweet treat we learned the history of Crepe de France, established in 1991 as one of the many small food stalls in the Market, family run, with over 15 types of crepes all made from ingredients sourced from the Market.

I Love New York Deli

I Love New York Deli

After our crepes it was back to savory.  First stop, I Love New York Deli, a stall next to the famous Market donuts.  Now when I say this is real NY deli, believe me (I have actually been to NY and had deli there, more than once, and I’m not talking Carnegie – ugh).  The owner is from Brooklyn and everything except the bread is flown out from NY.  The bread is made locally from a family recipe.  As a long time pickle hater, I was prepared to eat the potato knishe (yum) and the corned beef sandwich but I was not planning on touching that pickle.  Then I thought, this is a food tour, maybe I should just try it.  Um, YUM!  It perfectly balanced the plate.  I think I may have a new addiction (and no, I’m not pregnant).     Right next to I Love New York Deli is newcomer Saffron Spice, serving up Indian favorites like samosas, lamb kebab rolls, and lassies.  We sampled the vegetarian samosas with two sauces: the first of mint, coriander and cream and the second of tomatoes and ginger.  The samosa was as good as the ones I had in Delhi and the saucing was perfect.  

Samosas at Saffron Spice

Samosas at Saffron Spice

Our tour took us through the Economy Market (that’s where Crepe de France is located), the main market, and over to the Sanitary Market for a peek at Can Can a 1900s style Parisian Cabaret  that offers burlesque late night.  We wandered past Fero’s Meat Market (my go-to for lamb), Three Girls’ Bakery – the first legitimate female business in the Market, and over to Pike Place Chowder for a taste of their award-winning clam chowder(they won the Great Chowder Cookoff in Rhode Island 3 years in a row and then were inducted into the Chowder Hall of Fame).  

Award Winning Pike Place Chowder

Award Winning Pike Place Chowder

The chowder was thick, creamy and stick to your ribs, just as it should be.  It also threatended to fill us to bursting, so I limited my taste to a few savory bites.    

Back in the main market we hit two of my Market favorites: Uli’s Sausage and Pure Food Fish.  At Uli’s we sampled the German Bratwurst with spicy hot mustard – a hit that I took home last week – and Hot Italian Vesuvious with huckleberry jam.  The latter is a combo I never would have thought of on my own and it was fabulous.  Fiery, savory and sweet, a perfect combination of flavors.  Uli’s is lean and made with no filler, so to me that makes it health sausage 😉   

At Pure Food Fish we sampled on smoked salmon – yum- and learned that it is the oldest merchant in the market, having been there for over 50 years.   

Pure Food Fish

Pure Food Fish

We made some more stops around the market learning the history and lore and had a palate cleansing grapel and pear at Corner Produce.  Then we headed up to Seattle Coffee Works for some sampling and serious coffee knowledge.  Seattle Coffee Works roasts all of their own coffee and serves it in traditional and non-traditional ways such as vacuum pressed.  I’m not a coffee drinker, but I was diggin the flavors of the Sidamo we tried – light and hoppy like an IPA.   

Seattle Coffee Works

Innovation Rules at Seattle Coffee Works

Naturally we followed coffee with wine – at La Buona Tavola.  This was a MAJOR find for me.  The wines are Italian and are sourced from small Italian wineries.  Personal relationships are the business model here.  We started with a prosecco from a 2000 case production and I picked up a sangiovese that Jim and I are now officially addicted to.  La Buona Tavola has winemaker dinners once a month, puts together food and wine focussed trips to Italy and caters.   

Having tasted all that good food, it was time for me to do some shopping for dinner.  I picked up salmon at Pure Food Fish, asparagus at Corner Produce, and wine at La Buona Tavola so I could bring a little taste of the tour back home to Jim.  While he enjoyed the meal I concocted he wants to go on the tour himself, for the history more than the food (so he says).   

Jan Marie is fun, personable and a font of knowledge.  She’s done her research, built relationships and built a tour that has something for everyone.  Seattle Bites is a must do on my list for anyone visiting Seattle.  I know that every time family or friends visit I’ll be sending them to Jan Marie, and let’s face it, I’ll probably join them myself.  Whether your visiting or living in Seattle, take some time and indulge in a Seattle Bites Food Tour.  You won’t be disappointed and you’ll definitely be well fed.

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