Archives for August 2013

On the Road: Seattle

l_c cary park

With all the baby prep we have been doing during the past few months, the summer has just flown by. Needless to say, I’ve had less time to focus on blogging, which is why I’m just getting around to telling you about the last leg of our trip to the Pacific Northwest. Better late than never!

Anyway. Our last stop was Seattle, which is easily accessible from Victoria, via ferry or airplane. Since the first option can take three hours or more, we opted for the quick 25 minute plane ride instead. The day that we made the trip also happened to be our third wedding anniversary. Spending a bit of extra money on a plane ticket was worth it, since we were able to arrive with plenty of time left in the day to start exploring and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Our first stop was the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum, which showcases a collection of work by internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. It is located in the Seattle Center area, which  is home to several museums, theaters and other entertainment venues and the Space Needle, so you can easily spend a day in the area doing several different things if you want.

I can easily say that this is one of the most beautiful museums that I’ve ever visited. The vibrant colors,  grand scale of the works and the way that the space is organized—so that you feel like you can almost walk through the installations instead of just looking at them—made me feel like I was walking through someone’s crazy dream or an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.

I’ll just let the photos (which I could not stop taking) speak for themselves.

blue chihuly 2

 

chihuly boats 2

chihuly flower ceiling

chihuly red and yellow

glass garden_space

glass house

 

blue glass garden

Regular adult admission is $19, but you can also buy a $26 ticket that allows you to visit twice in one day, so that you can view the exhibition during the day and night. We couldn’t take advantage of this because we had anniversary dinner plans, but I imagine that seeing the gardens, in particular, all lit up at nighttime is amazing.

After that, we headed up to Kerry Park to take some photos of the Seattle skyline. Getting to the park requires a climb up a pretty steep hill. Since I was carrying around the extra weight associated with growing a person, we decided to cheat and took the bus up to the top (but, we did walk back down!).

cary park

When doing the research for our trip, Chester came across Seattle Free Walking Tours (SFWT), a non-profit organization that operates on a “pay-what-you-wish” model. Jake, SFWT’s founder and our tour guide for the day, started the organization after taking a trip through Europe where tour guides frequently utilize this system. SFWT is sustained by tips and donations and although a minimum tip of $15 is suggested for the guide, you can certainly tip more or less, depending on your own assessment of how valuable the tour was.

We ended up taking two tours on our second day in the city–The Pike Place Market Experience and Seattle 101–and thought that they were more interesting and informative than some of the paid tours that we have taken in our travels. Jake was a funny and engaging guide who was clearly passionate about his city and wanted everyone else to love it too. He knew all of the major facts and lesser known tidbits about all of the sights included on the tours.

The Pike Place tour started bright and early at 9:30 a.m., which gave our group some time to have the Market almost all to ourselves for awhile.  The Market covers nearly nine acres and offers just about every kind of food and handmade craft imaginable. It was nice to have a guide to help us navigate through its winding alleyways and staircases, and of course to make sure we got to try plenty of samples along the way!

chester_starbucks

At the original Starbucks

market

Checking out the gum wall near the Market theater

Checking out the gum wall near the Market theater

Our next tour, Seattle 101, took us through the downtown corridor, to historic Pioneer Square and finally to the waterfront.

I pretended that this ferry was taking all the Grey's Anatomy people to work.

I pretended that this ferry was taking all the Grey’s Anatomy people to work.

skyline

For our last two days in town, we rented a car to explore some of the neighborhoods a little bit further out from the city center. Our first stop was Fremont, an offbeat neighborhood referred to by its residents as the “Center of the Universe.” It is home to vintage clothing and gift shops, bookstores and music stores and quirky public art, including the Fremont Troll, who lives under a bridge.

fremont

 

Getting up close and personal with the Fremont Troll

Getting up close and personal with the Fremont Troll

While we were in Fremont, we took a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory. Theo was the first organic and fair trade chocolate producer in North America and it was fascinating to learn the ins-and-outs of how cocoa beans are harvested, roasted and milled in amazing chocolate bars and other gourmet treats. A one-hour tour costs $7 per person and includes plenty of chocolate samples!

Suited up for the factory tour

Suited up for the factory tour

 

Chocolate making equipment

I would like a chocolate pipeline in my living room.

 

Next, it was on to Ballard, where we spent some time at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Gardens. The locks allow commercial vessels and recreational boats to pass through Lake Washington to Puget Sound, while keeping the fresh and salt water from mixing. It was a pretty cool process to see in action.

Boat exiting the lock

Boat about to exit the lock

Seattle’s food scene reminded me of Philly’s, in that it has an eclectic mix of offerings, from high-end restaurants run by Michelin-starred chefs to hole-in-the-wall neighborhood favorites. Obviously, it’s been a few months so some of the precise details of what we ate are getting a bit hazy, but we got to enjoy several amazing meals at the following spots:

Tilth (1411 N. 45th Street) is a cozy farm-to-table restaurant, located in a remodeled craftsman home, where we decided to celebrate our anniversary. Executive chef and owner Maria Hines, a James Beard award winner, changes the menus with the seasons. Five or eight course tasting menus (including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options) are also available. Some of the highlights from our tasting included a refreshing English pea soup, the light-as-air ricotta gnudi in a lemon-parsley cream sauce, and the Wagyu beef, which was cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with creamy farro.

Paseo, with locations in Fremont (4225 Fremont Avenue N) and Ballard (6226 Seaview Avenue NW) looks like little more than a shack from the outside, but it has quite the following among locals and tourists alike for its amazing Caribbean dishes. We climbed up Fremont Avenue, braved a 30 minute wait in line and had to pounce quickly to snag one of the four tables in the tiny space. It was totally worth it. Most of the well-deserved fuss is over Paseo’s sandwich offerings. Crusty French baguettes are stuffed to the point of bursting with tender, roasted meats, jalepenos, onions, lettuce and a creamy cilantro mayo. At around $8.50 each, this is one of the least expensive, most satisfying lunches we’ve had anywhere. Make sure to stop by an ATM beforehand, as the restaurant does not take credit cards, and grab some extra napkins before digging into your lunch!

The Book Bindery (198 Nickerson Street) is worth a stop, just because it is so beautifully designed. It’s housed in, you guessed it, a former book bindery that overlooks a canal. I’ve decided that when I have my dream home someday, it will include a library that looks just like this restaurant–white wainscotting and marble, soft grey paint and fabrics and huge bookcases filled with vintage books built into the walls. Sigh.

As if the interior design wasn’t enough, the food was outstanding and beautifully presented as well. The hearts of palm salad that I chose for an appetizer had every kind of spring vegetable imaginable, from fava beans to radishes to carrots (and a couple of more that I’m probably forgetting) for an interesting mix of flavors and textures. It was dressed simply, with just a squeeze of lemon, to keep things light. Good thing, too, because the cavatelli that I ordered as a main course was a much heartier dish. In addition to the pasta, it included a generous helping of wild mushrooms and was served in a foie gras emulsion. I’m not normally a fan of foie gras, but in this case, the rich, fatty flavor and silky texture was the perfect complement for this earthy dish.

Most of the time when we travel we grab a quick cup of coffee and a pastry at a cafe before starting out for the day. But, we had heard good things about breakfast at Toulouse Petit Kitchen and Lounge (601 Queen Anne Avenue N.), located right across from our hotel, so we decided to make time for a more leisurely breakfast on our last day in the city. The restaurant brings the flavors of New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest. Make sure to get an order of the beignets, which are served with a coffee infused anglaise sauce for dipping.

benigents

Chef Tom Douglas has built quite the empire in Seattle, and we ended up at three of his restaurants during our time there. First, we met my friend Nellie for lunch at Etta’s (2020 Western Avenue), his seafood restaurant near Pike Place Market. The shrimp roll–piled high with sweet bay shrimp on a buttery, toasted roll–was perfect after our morning spent walking around Seattle.

Next, up was pizza at Serious Pie (401 Westlake Avenue N or 316 Virginia Avenue). Pizza topping combinations ranged from the traditional margherita and mushroom varieties to the more unique, like the clam and pancetta pizza that Chester chose (and deemed a bit strange, in a good way). I liked that the crust was almost like a foccacia bread–chewy and on the thinner side, with lots of air bubbles to keep it light.

Our final meal of the trip was at Lola, which draws inspiration from all over the Mediterranean region, from North Africa to Greece. As usual, we found ourselves in a situation where we wanted to try everything on the menu, so we opted for the “Big Dinner” tasting menu instead. At $50 per person, this worked out to be less expensive than ordering a la carte and we got to try dishes from every section of the menu.

I could have made a meal out of the first course alone, which featured a selection of six different spreads and grilled pita (my favorites were the roasted sweet red pepper and the fava bean and garlic varieties). But, I paced myself so that I could enjoy the Greek salad, squid and chicken kababs, and the highlight of the meal–thinly sliced leg of lamb in a rich sauce. I felt bad that we could barely touch the loukamades–Greek donuts served in a honey sauce and topped with walnuts–for dessert! Next time!

So, that wraps up our trip! It’s crazy to think that when we go on our next adventure, we’ll be taking an extra person along with us. But, that won’t be until she can drag her own suitcase through the airport (I actually spotted a kid on this most recent trip with one of these and I’ll be getting ET one when the time comes!). Until then, I guess we’ll be sticking close to Philly!

35 Weeks.

Now that I’m almost at the end of it, I can honestly say that the whole experience of being pregnant has been pretty surreal. Another person has essentially taken over my body during these last eight months and so much of what she’s doing in there on a daily basis is totally out of my control. Even though I can see her on an ultrasound screen, hear her heartbeat at the doctor’s office, and feel her kick me in the ribs (frequently), I’ve mostly felt like I was living in a crazy dream.

Then, we started making all of the necessary preparations for her to exist in the outside world. And, all of a sudden, stuff got real.

It started a couple of weeks ago, when we had the opportunity to celebrate ET’s impending arrival with our closest family and friends. ET’s Auntie Bridget and Granny Rose planned a beautiful baby shower for me and Chester at Positano Coast in Old City. We are truly lucky to have such a great group of people to share this exciting time with and were so touched by everyone’s good wishes and generous gifts. ET has just about all of the equipment, clothes, books and toys that she could possibly need to make it through her first year (and, probably, beyond!)

Here are a few shots from the day:

LR_Shower_57

Me and the party planners

LR_Shower_9

The proud granny, great-grandparents, and Uncle Mike peeking in from the back

ET's very first Hello Kitty (thank you, Jeff!)

ET’s very first Hello Kitty (thank you, Jeff!)

She already has her bathing suit for next summer!

She already has her bathing suit for next summer!

So excited that Shannon's having a baby, too (any day now!)

So excited that Shannon’s having a baby, too (any day now!)

 

Baby daddy

Baby daddy

 

The whole family.

The whole family.

 

Pretty flowers, favors and decorations, courtesy of Susie, Bridget's mom

Pretty flowers, favors and decorations, courtesy of Susie, Bridget’s mom

After that, our house pretty much started to look like a satellite location for Buy Buy Baby and Land of Nod, so we started to take all of the ideas that I’ve been collecting over the past few months and began to transform the guest room into the nursery. And, by we, I obviously mean Chester. We all know that I’m not cut out for manual labor. He did a beautiful job of painting the walls the perfect shade of pink and assembling all of her furniture. I’ll be able to help with the finishing touches, though—hanging artwork, organizing her clothes in the dresser, and filling her bookshelf—and then everything will be all ready for her to move in. I love the way that it’s all coming together and can’t wait to share photos of the room when it is all finished.

This past weekend, we attended a childbirth class and took a tour of the maternity ward at the hospital where ET will be born. I suppose it’s nice to have all of the information about what to expect during labor and delivery, but I seriously doubt I’m going to remember how to breathe, push, etc. when the time actually comes. I’ve decided to forgo any of those check lists that you can find on the interwebs (a totally uncharacteristic move, since I love making and sticking to lists) and to keep my birth plan as simple as possible. It goes like this:

“I would like the drugs. All of them. ASAP.”

(Really, what I would prefer is to be completely knocked out as soon as I have first contraction and to be woken up when the baby is safely outside of my body. Why can’t that be an option?)

Although I still wouldn’t say that I am now 100 percent mentally prepared for how crazy life will become in just a few short weeks, I am totally over all of the physical aspects of being pregnant.

As ET moves downward in preparation for her exit, she seems to have made herself at home right on top of my bladder (although I can breathe a bit more easily now than I could a few weeks ago). My entire body aches most of the time and by the end of the day, my stomach feels so heavy that I seriously wonder if it might explode. Finding a comfortable position to sleep in and turning over in the middle of the night when my hips and legs go numb is a multi-step process. Sadly, I’m not really enjoying food at the moment. I’m so hungry all the time and feel like I could eat everything in sight, but I feel uncomfortably full even if I just eat a little bit at a time.

Luckily, I’ve only got about 33 (ish) days to go. The countdown is on!