Monday, August 12, 2013

Playing Tourist

Since we've had such free time this summer, and my lack of job thus far has been extremely stressful, we have tried very hard to both find affordable things to do and enjoy what our "new" home city has to offer. Touristy things can sometimes be pretty expensive, and of course anything downtown is more expensive than anything in the 'burbs, but strategies like using student or teacher discounts where possible, sharing food at restaurants, doing flights or tastings rather than full-size of a few things, etc really help in reducing the cost of things. In addition, we took public transportation so we didn't have to pay for parking all day! Go public transport!

(Side note: I saw a billboard on the side of a BUS advertising parking downtown for as low as $3 per day. I'm pretty sure that's not accurate unless you literally use the same garage/lot 7 days a week and 365 days a year, but also I thought it was kind of a hilarious place to post a billboard encouraging people to drive their cars downtown...)

Summer is time for such fun things! From parades to great seasonal farmer's markets to festivals and block parties and reunions, not to mention this summer has had AMAZING weather here in the PNW, so what better time to enjoy the touristy things as well!

The above photos are from the very first Sunday we were here and went to our local farmer's market! Beautiful eggs, lovely bouquets, and much much more was seen that day. We talked with the meat vendors who were there, the dairies, and the produce stands. We bought eggs, some meat, and some veggies, and enjoyed the street musicians who were there. I'm so glad this particular market is year-round, since it is less than two blocks away. We still have yet to go to some other seasonal markets I've been wanting to go to, but we're working on that.

The above three photos are a select few from my parents' gardens. My mom's roses were stunning this year, and my dad's vegetable garden was taking off early this year (these photos were from June!) thanks to the soil taking a year off last year. Since the radishes, we've had beets, green beans, carrots, and snap peas! He planted another row of beets since his were doing so well so early in the season, and they can be harvested until late October - awesome! I was just there the other day and the tomato plants are going CRAZY! I can't wait until they are ripe enough for salad! Fresh food is definitely superior.

That's the three-sausage-plate from Uli's Famous Sausages in the Pike Place Market. [Another aside: I absolutely cringe every single time I hear or see someone say or spell "Pike's Place." It's seriously all I can do do bite my tongue!] Anyway, Uli's is SO delicious! Local-made sausages, in about as many flavors as you can think of, and all but one flavor is gluten-free! I love the little restaurant they've got in the Market, too. So cozy, just three beers on tap, some canned sodas, and then the Market-front display and register. The sides we got were potato salad, red wine vinegar slaw, and sweet and sour slaw. Very reasonable prices as well, whether you're ordering lunch or taking sausages to go.

There was about a week-long period in late-ish June when we had SUPER low tides, like 3.5-4.0 tides. It made for several days of great beach walks on the tide flats! My favorite, especially when I can find the areas of tide flats where the sand has all the ripples in it, it feels SO GOOD to go barefoot! There are some great gray sand beaches around with lots of low tide sea critters to see. Unfortunately, most of the sea life that's revealed at low tide is in serious danger of dying, if it's not already dead. Many of the sea stars we found were protected by the rocks they clung to, in tide pools, and typically in the shade - those ones had better chances, of course, unless they were to get eaten. Anyway, I just love going barefoot on the tide flats, it's literally the best type of pedicure I've ever had! :) 

A friend of mine was able to get club tickets to the Seattle Sounders game earlier this summer, and invited us to go with him. It was so fun! Soccer is now my new favorite sporting event to attend, because it's literally non-stop. Much more entertaining than NFL breaks for commercials or the lulls between any big plays at a baseball game. That being said, I'll go to pretty much any baseball or football game as well as soccer, because honestly I love sports - and people-watching at baseball games is super fun. Anyway, the Sounders game was great; it was only the second time I'd been to Century Link field, and the Sounders won! Plus all the great food at the buffet in the club. Yum.

For the Fourth of July, we went up to Maxwelton Beach on Whidbey Island, my favorite place! Every year there is a quarter-mile-long 4th of July parade, and they have buttons made each year. Gotta buy one! The couple in the photo on the right were just legally married in WA state after being together for 21 years; WA state legalized same-sex marriage earlier this year. A huge milestone, and hopefully setting precedence for other states who have yet to do so.

My mom and I took a little day trip up to Sequim and Port Townsend a few weeks ago. Both really cute little towns on the peninsula. Every time I go to Port Townsend, I've got to go to this diner called Nifty Fiftys. It's been there forever, and the decor is so great! They've even got the classic KitchenAid milkshake mixers! And miniature table-top jukeboxes THAT WORK! On one of the roads we took out to Sequim from Port Townsend, we saw the jerky drive-thru. Just HAD to get a photo! Unfortunately, we did not stop for any jerky, but I'm sure it was delicious.

While the nephews were in town, we went with them on their downtown outing with my MIL and her BF. The nephews are ages 11 and 8, so we had tons of fun going on the Ride the Duck tour and the Great Wheel with them! The Duck Tour was hilarious, mostly due to our silly driver. The Great Wheel was awesome, 11-year-old and I were pretty scared of the heights though! We also walked through the Market, and visited the famous Gum Wall. I was pretty surprised that they thought it was so gross, they're elementary school aged boys...!!! It was funny, though. Then we had a huge meal at the Crab Pot! Yum, yum! It was such a fun day.

Right in our neighborhood there is a huge parade in late July every year, so we just walked right down the block and perched on the sidewalk for a couple hours! In case you can't tell, I LOVE parades! I love the marching bands, the floats (although the main float in this particular parade this year was extremely disappointing...), the drill teams (!!!), and the fleets of motorcycle cops! Pretty much everything about parades is awesome to me. Oh, and the Seafair clowns and pirates, too!! Can't forget them!!

A happy hour double date with another married couple we're friends with, at Maximilien in the Market (are we sensing a theme, here...Pike Place Market, anyone? Hehe). Apparently the menu can change daily, or even hourly, as their ingredients are quite fresh and the chefs do some different things. Their happy hour is pretty awesome, with reasonable prices (we ordered a ton of food and a bottle of wine), and a great rooftop deck looking out at the Sound. It was super hot the day we went, so I was sweating in my chair, haha, but it was great. The food we ordered (center, then clockwise from top left): oysters, escargot (left photo is it in its platter, right photo is it on my plate), foie gras, and cheese platter. I would definitely go there again, and recommend it to anyone seeking a new happy hour hideout, visiting the city, or looking for authentic French food.

Our most recent tourist day was spent in Pioneer Square. We started by walking around and enjoying all the little nooks and crannies like the dives, and some boutiques, and a great toy store. I love the architecture in this part of town, and the cobblestone sidewalks in some parts. Also, there are all sorts of flower baskets and pots everywhere! It just makes it so pretty and nice to walk around in. For lunch we ate at a salad and sandwich shop, the name of which is escaping me now, but there are plenty just like it in the area I'm sure, and it wasn't anything super special. Good, but standard. 

I was so excited to see that Dry Soda has their tasting room and shop in this neighborhood! We totally tasted every single flavor and then each got a can to enjoy on our walk. They have really unique flavors, only four ingredients, and they are so refreshing - unlike typical Coke or Pepsi, which is pretty much just syrup, and tastes like it too! Dry Soda is very crisp, not syrupy at all, and each flavor is so delicious. I had cucumber this time, and husband had vanilla bean. I've also had rhubarb prior to visiting the tasting room, and it's excellent! My two favorites are probably rhubarb and juniper berry. Yum!

For an early-ish dinner, we went to a butcher shop we found, Rain Shadow Meats. Um, AMAZING. The items on their menu were like nothing I've seen or tasted before, and both mine and husband's selections were delicious. They also had a malbec rose wine that I had, which was also excellent. Looking at all the meat in the cases was great too, and fairly reasonable for the types of cuts they had! I just love local businesses like this.

After Rain Shadow, we went to a random little Italian place on a corner somewhere for a bottle of wine before our adult version of the Underground Tour. Great people watching as we enjoyed our wine sitting outside on the corner. On the Underground Tour, it was neat to see parts of the city that have been covered up, and to learn a little of the history of the OLD city. Of course, brothels and prostitutes are not unique to any city's history, but our tour guide was raunchy and entertaining at least, and I'd never done the tour so I'm glad we went. I might say it was a little expensive for what it was, even though it included a "free" drink at the end.

The best part about the tour was that we met three AWESOME Irish ladies! They were all best friends, and one of them had moved here almost two years ago and the other two were visiting her from Dublin. Have I mentioned before just how much I love Irish people and culture and country? Hmm, maybe it's time I mention it again - I truly love Ireland and its people. Anyway, I noticed their accents while we were all on the tour, and then approached them and introduced myself afterwards while we had our "free" drinks. What great ladies!! We totally hung out with them for the rest of the night, and ended up at Fado, a really great Irish pub, just down the street. It ended up being a much later night than we had planned, because we met these awesome ladies and hung out until 1 am! We bonded over Magner's Irish Cider (they told me it's the same as Bulmer's, just the American label is Magner's), and it was fantastic.

THEN, two days later when I was out on the bar crawl in another downtown neighborhood with a bunch of ladies I went to high school with (this year's reunion, haha!), WE TOTALLY RAN INTO OUR IRISH LADY FRIENDS!!! It was great. My reunion was great for many reasons, and seeing the Irish girls is definitely one of them :)

Anyway, this post has been FOREVER long, so if you've made it this far, thank you! Until next time, enjoy the beautiful August weather! Ciao!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Some Crafts and Gifts of Summertime

Well hello!

Again I've noticed it has been a while since a post, and since I still have no job there is really not a good excuse I can use for lack of updating. Funny though, how even without a job and with husband on vacation, we seem to be so incredibly busy! I suppose summer can get that way really fast, and in some ways I'm glad I don't have to be cooped up somewhere during the best hours of the beautiful weather we're having, but this lack of paycheck thing is getting stressful. I now know what it feels like to be amongst the depressed unemployed-and-looking. I don't recommend it. It's exhausting.

Scouring Craigslist and my profession's state association classifieds, responding to anything advertised within 60 miles, networking LIKE A BOSS (but apparently not well enough...??), cold calls, dozens (literally) of inquiries into posted positions with not even a "thanks for your interest and we'll get back to you soon..." even after I've sent follow-up's all very overwhelming and at the end of the day, depressing. It sucks. All I want is to take care of people, improve their quality of life, provide impeccable service and care, and be able to pay my bills. Please?

So obviously I've had plenty of free time on my hands. After sending email responses to classifieds for jobs posted, after driving around with three supply reps to all of their clients, and after making new cold calls almost every day...there's still so much time for everything else that summer has to offer. So, I've filled up that time with crafts, catching up with old friends, cleaning and settling into our new place (still after two months, I know...), and pretending to be tourists in our old/new hometown. If not for lack of income, I'd be having SO MUCH more fun, but I'm really trying to make the best of having free time and still trying to be thrifty as well...

Anyway, down to business! Here's a little project I did to help spruce up our place:

I bought two plain wooden crates from JoAnn with my coupons, and stained and finished them. It took a couple of days to allow time for everything to dry sufficiently. They aren't all that large, the bottoms are about the dimensions of a small TV tray, which is actually perfect for our place. When we moved, we got rid of our entire living room furniture set, and have not replaced it. This has nothing to do with money, it is actually 100% due to the fact that our place is small. So instead of living room furniture, we have several floor pillows, a blanket, and two of these crates. 

We also don't have a television, so instead we use Netflix and Hulu, and have a large flat screen monitor to hook up to our computer and watch movies and Top Gear and British sit-coms. We have five wall shelves, one of which is mounted about 18 inches off the floor, and the monitor sits there. Then we relax on the floor for some movies and cuddles, and we also usually eat dinner during a Top Gear episode or something, on the floor. So the crates come in handy to store some of the pillows, and also to use as little dinner tables. Floor living has been pretty nice so far, except it does make me feel like I don't have a space to use as an "office" or craft area. That is a little tough. But in such a small space, there's not really a ton of room for anything like that anyway.

Moving on...friends of ours had a party for the baptism of one and the birthdays of both of their children, and I wanted to make something they could enjoy as a family in addition to the little books we got the kids for their birthdays. I found the tutorial for the following project at Grow Creative (click for tutorial...) It ended up being pretty easy and turned out great. 

So, a few things I should share about this project. 

1) Yellow is too light...unless your pencil tracing is already super light, you will NOT be able to erase the outline after you've painted with watercolors over it. So, I darkened up the yellow one to more of a golden/light orange and the remaining pencil marks all but disappeared. The other colors weren't as big of an issue, although I would definitely recommend tracing as lightly as possible so that whatever color you choose will cover up the lines completely.

2) The frame I had was 12x12, and since I wanted four images they were each 6x6. I cut my watercolor paper into 6x6 squares, and when I was done painting each one I definitely made sure to use my heavy duty scrapbooking tape runner to then arrange them on and stick them to a 12x12 scrapbook page. Then I trimmed the purple strips to frame each image.

3) Overall I was really happy with this project. One thing the original tutorial on Grow Creative mentions is to pick a photo that has a good balance of shaded and lit areas...but that's actually kind of hard to do. Until you upload the photo into the online editor, it's really hard to tell exactly how it's going to turn out. And I won't lie, I didn't do *exactly* what the tutorial said to do. For her image, she posterized the photo to have only two colors. Well, three of the four photos I was working with didn't turn out that well with just black and white, so I posterized them with three colors, and used a faded version of my main color when I painted. Does that make sense? Just a watered down version of the darker color.

4) I kept small scrap strip of my cropped watercolor paper nearby so that I could test out the saturation of my color before I added it to my image. Helpful.

I think that's it for tips and notes about was a fun project and, especially for photos of kids and pets, is an awesome addition to a home. It made a pretty great gift as well, I think.

Another great gift I put together this summer was a "Just in case..." bag with all sorts of great event-specific-emergency items. I gave it to my lovely bride-to-be friend as a bridal shower gift, and I actually got the idea from a great gift I got from my own bridesmaid for my wedding! I collected the same or similar items that I had received, and then added a few more things that were specific to this lovely's and my friendship together. I found a super cute cosmetics bag, made a cute tag, and just put everything inside! And my lovely bride-to-be loved it :) Oh, and I also made a card with my collection of cardstock, a little snippet of ribbon, lace, and tulle. I made a similar card (with slightly different patterns of how I put the tulle on, and a gray "belt" instead of the white ribbon) for another friend who is also getting married at the end of this summer. I really liked making them, and they were definitely unique; plus I didn't buy them for $6 each :P

Now, I wish I had kept an actual list of all the stuff I put inside. You can see some of it, but that's not even close to all of it! So, I'll list what I can remember:
Travel sized toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, and those little Wisp things.
5-Hour Energy shots
Travel tissue
Travel Tide stain remover stick
A tampon
Lip balm
Bobby pins
Safety pins
Granola/snack bar
Mini box of Altoids
Travel sized deodorant
Gosh, I feel like there was more but I just cannot remember what...! Here are some ideas that you could add also:
An airplane shot of her favorite liquor
Starbucks VIA or other instant or premade coffee drink
Travel sized hairspray
Moist towelettes/hand sanitizer
Sample/travel size of her favorite perfume
Little rubber earring backs
I think that's all the additional ideas I've got off the top of my head right now, but you're creative so you get the point. One thing I appreciated SO much from one of my own lovely bridesmaids was that she brought a PBnJ sandwich and a bottle of water, and she fed me a few bites and sips just before the ceremony as we were hiding from all the guests taking their seats in the chapel. We also had some bagels and cream cheese in our dressing area, but the bagels were really dense; a little hard to chew real quick and get it swallowed before we had to go! Everyone getting ready was able to enjoy a few bites though. Delicious. I then popped a mint, and we were ready to go. It was awesome because it wasn't even something I had thought of - needing a little bit of food between the VERY early breakfast that morning and the hors d'oeuvres at the reception at 2:30 that afternoon. 

Well, I think that's all for now! There will be another post soon about being tourists in our own city, since I've been trying to live up my unemployment time...

Thanks for reading, mates! Until next time, make someone a gift. It feels wonderful to share your creativity, or even just share the fact that you've been thinking about someone in your life.