The Next Phase

Oh WordPress, how I’ve missed you. From perusing plugins, to scouring theme sites to reading documentation just for fun. I just realized that I’ve had this blog for a decade. Back in the early days, I loved the seemingly small, supportive community of bloggers with Typepad (before everything had to be monetized). I used to write for the pure enjoyment of it and to practice putting things out in the world (even if no one was reading it). And now, I’m starting to think about whether it’s time to morph this into something else. More to come …

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V-Day

So, we’ve never celebrated Valentine’s Day. We’re jaded, old crochety people who make that hand gesture (I think my Grandpa did it best) while saying, “Bah. Hallmark holiday.” However, like so many things that doesn’t mean we don’t get caught up in Dooz’s excitement over swapping cards with his classmates.

This year, instead of store bought cards or even construction paper cutouts, we thought we’d try something different. I saw a super cute Valentine’s card idea on Designmom’s blog and had filed it away months ago to try. It’s easy peasy and just takes a little bit digital know how (and not very much at that). You take a photo of your child with arm outstretched, add some text, print up and then insert the treat of your choice into the photo. The result? It looks like your kidlet is handing out a treat to everyone who receives the card. Dooz really loved everything about these from trying out different poses to signing the backs and stickering them with glittery heart stickers. I’m thinking we might make this a little tradition and try a variation on it again next year.

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Day Trip: Padilla Bay

Yesterday, the weather was forecasted to be pretty mild (40s with scattered rain) so we decided to head out of the city for a day trip. One of the (many) things we love about living here in the Northwest is the fact that the mountains and the ocean are never more than a short trip away. There are so many great hikes, camping spots, parks, beaches, etc. to explore and the endless possibility of discovering new places. It’s important for us to get outside in nature because we all love it (especially Dooz) and to ensure that he has an appreciation of the great outdoors. In addition, I love everything about the road trip. From the strategic packing of games and snacks to the focused time for us to talk about everything that is whizzing by our windows to the random stops we make along the way.

And so, yesterday we decided to head up to the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (say that five times as fast as you can). We’ve often passed signs for it on our way further north (Vancouver, Deception Pass, etc.) and been curious, and here was our chance to check it out. Thankfully, it’s dog friendly so we could bring along the pooches as well. It’s a quick hour and 20 minute drive straight up I-5 (exit 231) to the heart of the picturesque Skagit Valley (I love that their roadside sign boasts In-FARM-ation). If you have little ones in the car and need a snack stop, check out Skagit River Produce (exit 221 – Conway). It’s easy to spot across from the gas station and serves made-to-order sandwiches and is a great spot to pick up a pint of local fruit for the kids to snack on.

As with all good road trips, there was a slight unintended detour. Once you exit I-5 there is a roundabout and at that roundabout, we (unknowingly) took Chuckanut Drive instead of the road we had intended. This is another drive we have on our list of to-dos, but have never managed to hit. It’s a beautiful two lane road along the coast past oyster beds, tidal flats and close up views of the bay, all while hugging Chuckanut Mountain. It also happened to be dotted with what looked to be a few hidden restaurant gems. We are definitely planning a trip back to try The Oyster Bar, a charming stone and wood building perched about the bay. They’re menu looks chocked full of fresh fish and they’ve been been awarded by Wine Spectator every year for the last decade for their extensive wine cellar. Yum! I foresee a mini food/wine tour in our future.

Where was I? Once we realized our mistake, we made our way to Padilla Bay’s Breazeale Interpretive Center (just past Bay View State Park). The Interpretive Center itself is quite nice with a small viewing area with a few tanks of native wildlife. The main part of the center is very kid-friendly, with information on the estuary behind panels the kids can lift  and open to explore along with buttons to press to hear the sounds of various birds. There is also a “Hands On” room that had games, books and lots of things for the kiddies to touch and explore. Behind the center is a .8 mile walk that winds through a hay field offering a close up view of grazing cattle then moves through the woods. It’s a very short and easy walk that is also dog friendly (as long as your pup is on a leash). 

The walkway in front of the center leads directly to a tunnel underneath the road that crosses to the beach and a viewing platform.

Padilla Bay tunnel to beachThe interesting thing about this deck is that although it offers a peaceful view of the surrounding area, it also faces the Shell Oil Refinery over in Anacortes. Although this may seem really off-putting, it’s still a beautiful view. If you’re brave, you can take a steep spiral staircase down to the pebble-laden beach.

Padilla Bay beach stairsIf it’s high tide, there’s not much to see on the beach itself as the coastline is blocked by fallen trees but D still enjoyed wading in the water. Is there anything more satisfying than (warm) waterproof boots? He waded as deep as he possibly could to test them out.

Padilla Bay beachNext time around, we’d definitely check the tide tables, as it would be great to be here at low tide.

It didn’t take us much time at all to explore this area (an hour and a half), so we decided to make the short drive into Anacortes to give Dooz a little extra play time. For a kid that can do a four mile hike, this was definitely not enough activity for him. We were headed to Washington Loop Park, but it was starting to get dark (already!) and decided to head to Storvik Playground instead. I wish I snapped a photo of this HUGE playscape! The giant wood structure boasted sandpit, a ferry boat right next to a pirate ship (The Scallywag) along with a variety of equipment to climb and a smaller toddler area right next to it. All of this with a birds eye view of the Fidalgo Bay. Dooz had a blast here (despite the dropping temperatures and the start of rain) and it burned the last of his energy before we packed ourselves back in the car and drove through Penguin Coffee for a hot cocoa to fuel the ride home. The barista served his kids cocoa with the whip cream on the top of the lid (great idea!) laden with sprinkles so he could alternate between slurping cream and sipping cocoa.

By the end of the trip, the dogs were exhausted and laid down in the back (this is no small miracle considering we have the “stubborn standing dog”. And we had a cozy trip back, sipping our cocoas, zipping back down I-5 in the rain. We made it home just in time to make a pizza (thank goodness for Trader Joe’s pizza dough) and relax after a day well spent.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a new year filled with happiness, balanced with challenges and loaded with experiences in the really real world!

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Backlog

The last couple of months have been an odd vacillation between whirlwind and complete state of limbo. It’s literally left me with a backlog of writing stewing around in my brain that I really need to purge. I should really sit myself down to write, especially after being inspired by an old KCRW interview and performance by Nick Cave on Morning Becomes Eclectic (back when Nic Harcourt still hosted). He talks about his writing process and the fact that he goes to his office and writes every single day, regardless of how he’s feeling or whether he’s feeling inspired. It reminds me quite a bit of the same thoughts from Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit on the rigor of being creative.

That’s what I should do. Instead I’ll procrastinate and write about food instead. Mmmm …. food.

Tonight, a friend and I stopped by for the soft launch of The Sexton, a new bar/restaurant on Ballard Ave. Having renovated the old Madame K’s space, they offer southern-influenced small plates and boast of an expert pour of a pretty deep selection of liquors. Where Madame K’s was awash in dark colors and its brothel-esque vibe, The Sexton is bright with a wall of birch trees and lit from within to make the space feel open, yet cozy at the same time. Unfortunately, they had run out of some of their ingredients the night before and were serving a much smaller version of their menu. However, the preview we had proved to be delicious.

Sexton Mac: Bacon roux serving as the base for this mac and (five) cheese topped with a bit of arugula and balsamic vinegar. Yum!

Hush Puppies: Served with a red pepper aioli and pleasantly much lighter than the hush puppies I’ve had in the past.

Yam Fries: Served with green chili aioli, also really good … but I do always wish yam fries were potato fries.

Fried Brussel Sprout Leaves: Quartered fried until a bit crispy with a dose of sea salt (but not too much). I can’t help but think of the similar dish served down the street at The Walrus and the Carpenter. Interestingly enough, this place had a similar vibe to me … fancy, sparkly and yet comfortable and charming at the same time.

Unfortunately, alcohol is not on the list of things I can have right now (a shame, indeed!) However, my dining partner (a Manhattan connoisseur) gave the cocktails the thumbs up after giving a couple drinks a try. In addition to their excellent list of cocktails, they also offered a “Bet on the Bartender” where the bartender will create a custom cocktail based on your taste preferences. You know the bartender must be good to allow that to happen! All in all, I’ll definitely be bookmarking this little spot to return when the restaurant has been officially launched and things calm down a bit. If you’re in this neck of the woods, it’s definitely worth checking out!

 

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Fade Into You

Common Burn Mazzy Star

 

Sentimental attachments aside, I love the two new tracks from a reunited David Roback and Hope Sandoval. Rather than sounding like they’re just revisiting old songs, these two pick up where they left off and progress the way I’d hoped they would while still maintaining their dreamy sound. Limited edition colored vinyl out today (the geek in me wants it) and hoping that a full length will be released soon.

 

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Tiny Treasures

A million thoughts are buzzing through my head right now, not the least of which is the fact that I’ve been a bit uninspired lately. Due to a prolonged nasty cold (it’s been going on for a torturous two weeks) I’ve not been able to conduct my usual writing rituals. For whatever reason, I can’t write at home. I need to go to a cafe, sip a latte, let the words flow. And lately, that’s just not been possible. It’s led to a strange state of limbo that I’m trying to ignore right now (cross legged in a chair, trying to ignore the sounds of our house).

Because I’ve been sick, there hasn’t been much to do. The first couple days of any sickness, you lounge on the couch and indulge in it. Drink tea and chicken soup, burrow into blankets and pillows and watch terrible television. Any longer than that, I find myself longing to go for a walk … to rejoin the living outside of my house. I know, dramatic, but I’ve literally left my house only a handful of times in the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, I found myself looking through old books the husband had just brought out and prominently placed on a new shelf in the living room. Despite the fact that I own a Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone and two computers, I have lots of books I would/could never part with. The idea of the e-book seems polarizing to voracious readers and I was/am reluctant to part with the comfort of being lost inside my favorite bookstore. But hey, when you’re commuting, lugging along a 1000 page book seems less attractive than a skinny little Kindle that can hold three different trilogies without breaking my back. And so for a good while, I’ve been buying books on the Kindle and borrowing books from the library.

Today though, as I flipped through books I found a few unexpected pleasures: tiny writing in margins I had notated unknown years ago, a book with a sticky note inside the cover with the following “Be wary, then. Best safety lies in fear.”, a handwritten excerpt from the bible (I read it at a friends wedding 15+ years ago) and an envelope from a postcard sent to me by Raymond Carver’s widow (that’s another post). I was reminded that I used to collect pre-1900 editions of Shakespeare’s play and I had a hard time grasping that the edition of As You Like It I held in my hand was published back in 1899*. I have to tell you, I don’t see myself looking back at notes I’ve made on my Kindle years from now (that would assume that I even use the notations). And I started to think about what I might be missing by not buying quite as many books (aside from supporting independent book sellers and authors themselves) selfishly. What charming, surprising discoveries I might be missing.

And so, tonight I just ordered two books from Alibris. I love this site because they allow you to browse the shelves of independent booksellers from across the country AND find out-of-print and rare books. I’ve bought several books I loved as a child for D here that I would never otherwise have been able to find. And on Tuesday, I’m going to march myself right down to Elliott Bay (health willing!), buy Haruki Murakami’s new book, 1Q84 and am going to sit and leaf through those pages while sipping a latte and enjoying the tactile nature of a book you can hold in your hand.

*Notice the unusual spelling of Shakespeare? At first I thought it might be an error, but it’s consistently used throughout the book. It turns out that it’s not uncommon.

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Jet Setting and Show Seeing

Ah the days of yore … when we could plan a vacation around seeing a band. These days the logistics of having someone to watch D and schedule around work, school, etc. is enough to kill my will to leave the house … much less the country. Long ago we flew to Las Vegas to see The Cure for the Bloodflowers tour performing at The Joint (now defunct) at the Hard Rock Hotel. Back then it was a very small venue and a unique chance to see them in such an intimate setting. It was amazing to see them in a club setting without squinting through a pair of field glasses. Did I mention those days are gone? Still, it didn’t stop from me from fervently wishing we could figure it all out to see The Cure in London for the Reflections tour performing their first three albums in their entirety.

Sure the band is looking their age, dressed in black with over teased hair and eyeliner but let’s face it, we’re looking older too. I’ve grown up with this band and just thinking about hearing their music live is enough to make me hop a plane.

 

p.s. If you’re a jetsetter, they’re playing shows in NY, London and LA … if the tickets aren’t already sold out!

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In Which I Try To Get Back On The Wagon

This morning while the boy was busy doing puzzles and making artwork and we were both letting the husband sleep in, I got sucked into the rabbit hole that is looking at old blog posts. A little self-indulgent? Perhaps. But having children sort of robs you of the possibilities of other self-indulgent activities like binge drinking and spontaneous road trips. So, there you go. I spent an hour or so reading through really old blog posts and marveling that I’ve been posting to this (and the old starbody blog) for 8 years. Holy crap! And at times, I mean that literally. And if there’s anything I’ve realized, I used to go out ALL THE TIME. It’s kind of funny to me that the times in my life when I was out and about the most, were also the times when I had the least money. Just goes to prove my ol’ old rule … there’s lots of fun to be had for $5, you just have to find it.

Back to the present where I have more than $5 in my pocket today, but much less motivation. September has decided to flip the fall switch (after successive sunny days in the 80s) and I’m looking out on a wet backyard and leaves floating through the air. It’s good writing weather. I had started looking through the posts in my renewed effort to get writing again after having been inspired by Kate’s daily blogging this month (she’s also the singer/songwriter from The Blueflowers) and The Daily Post (filled with little inspirational writing ideas). So, here’s to more writing!

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USP: Summer Market Dinner

We live in a place that has been tossing the phrase “locavore” since 2006 and is passionate about eating local, organic food. The conversation often seems as though there are only two types of people: those who eat all organic food by carefully researched, sustainable company and those who exist on Twinkies, Rockstar and Oscar Meyer lunchmeat. We fall somewhere in the middle.

Our goal is to avoid foods that are ridiculously processed most of the time. That means although we don’t keep processed or preservative-laden foods on our shelves all the time, it doesn’t mean that every now and then a bag of Doritos won’t show up. We try to adhere to organic where it makes sense for us, but really we put a higher premium on buying locally especially when it comes to produce with a few exceptions. Strawberries, always organic. Pineapple, not usually. It’s a balancing act between season, source and price for us. That’s not to say we spend lots of time agonizing about it. We’ve found a rhythm with our shopping between a few different places that allow us to eat the way we like to. Typically, that means a trip to the farmer’s market on Sundays during much of the year, Trader Joe’s for certain snacks and pasta and our local market for everything else. Sunday dinners are always the best in the summer because it’s inevitably loaded with whatever we’ve picked up earlier in the day. It’s also an especially good time of year because we do grow vegetables in our raised beds as well. This year D chose to plant carrots, snap peas, mini pumpkins and onions in addition to the tomatoes, strawberries and lettuce we chose.

Today, we picked up farm fresh eggs, breakfast sausage from Skagit River Ranch, several kinds of squash, an inexpensive round of Cirrus from Mt. Townsend Creamery ($6 directly from the creamery at the market, $7-8 in stores) and beautiful organic cucumbers for $.75! It’s easy to think about cooking when you have bags full of good ingredients. Later in the day, we had the perfect summer dinner. Open faced herbed egg salad sandwiches on rustic, toasted bread (slathered with a little butter and a rub from a garlic clove) with a plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper. We finished those off with some finely chopped scallion. The Cirrus round and a wedge of Tomme de Savoie was probably unnecessary, but what the hell, you only live once right?

I wish I had a photo of the finished product, but we gobbled it down too quickly.

The recipe was taken from one of my all time favorite sources, Heidi Armstrong and her latest book Supernatural Everyday. It’s one of those cookbooks that are SO good that it will take you awhile to realize that all of the recipes are vegetarian. Okay, except that I just told you. Seriously, she manages to make the quality of her food take center stage over the category of food it falls in to. Her focus is on whole foods and ingredients with much of food using whole grains. I end up mining her site 101cookbooks.com, on a weekly basis for meal ideas.

We’re all about quick, easy and delicious even if we don’t always achieve it! Tomorrow, we’re trying out the Summer Squash Soup with Thai Red Curry and Tofu Croutons. Happy Sunday to you and yours.

p.s. No, D didn’t eat the egg salad. He’s not big on herbs … yet. He opted for a little Annie’s mac and cheese (though I often whip up a light homemade cheese sauce for him) and several hunks of rustic bread.


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