The Snow Train to Leavenworth, WA

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Ben and I took the “snow train” to Leavenworth, WA earlier this month. Leavenworth is a little town in the mountains modeled after a Bavarian village. The “snow train” is a special Amtrak train that only operates during the holidays. We boarded in downtown Seattle at the King Street Station. The train ride to Leavenworth took about four hours. Musicians came through the train cars playing holiday music about every 15 minutes. Santa also made a visit, and we got cocoa, cookies, coffee, and meals during the ride. At one point the train went into a long tunnel through the mountains and everything went dark. As soon as we came out of the tunnel the world was a winter wonderland. Everyone on the train gasped and cheered. It was really fun!

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IMG_6831When we got to Leavenworth it was snowing and super cold. They had little fires on the streets around town for people to gather around and warm up. The whole town was extremely crowded with tourists, but we still had a good time exploring.

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As soon as it started getting dark everyone crowded into the town square for a lighting. They had an orchestra, we sang Christmas carols, stars carrying “the light of Christmas” made their way through the crowd, and then the crowd counted together “ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one MERRY CHRISTMAS!” and Christmas lights came on all over the town. Then we got shuttled back to the train and had a calm ride back to Seattle.

Ben and I both agreed this trip had about as much Christmas cheer as we could ever want. Here’s all the scoop on the snow train if you ever want to go.

The merriest and happiest of holidays to you all!

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Ebey’s Landing Hike

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“Look at your feet. You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it, rake leaves, wash the dog, and drive cars in it. We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” -Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Several weekends ago Ben and I drove to nearby(ish) Whidbey Island to hike around Ebey’s Landing. After coming back from Vietnam I needed to do something to remind myself that we live in a beautiful place, and I can find adventure and beautiful scenery here too. This hike was all that — we were tiny people under a big, big sky and we could see for miles, and everywhere we looked was photo-worthy.

It’s a funny thing about traveling that leaves me with this lingering feeling of discontent, like the world is so big and I’m just in one small part of it and somehow I’m missing out on what might be happening everywhere else. Which is silly, I know. I don’t want to romanticize things in retrospect. I remember sweating so much on our last day in Hanoi that our clothes were still wet when we unpacked them 72 hours later in Seattle. There was that moment I wondered about bed bugs, and the constant question of what the next bathroom (or field on the side of the road) might be like. Home, lacking that uncertainty, is so very good. So constant and routine. But I sit, still, with the discontent. I call it out for what it is and let it push me a little…maybe into starting a savings fund for the next big trip, reading a travel book and letting myself daydream about somewhere else, or going on a Saturday hike not so far from home.

It pushes me to find ways to remind myself that my small part of the world is not a bad place to land.

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IMG_5388^Kai loves running in the sand and chasing the birds.^

If you want to do this hike too, take a look at the Washington Trails Association info about Ebey’s Landing.

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Vietnam Part 2: Sights of Hanoi

IMG_4465^The Temple of Literature, a Confucius temple built in 1070. Small admission fee ($1 per person).^

Ben and I spent three days in Hanoi on our trip to Vietnam, the city book-ending days spent in the countryside. Our explorations mostly kept us in the old quarter and the French quarter of Hanoi. One of our favorite things to do was sit around in cafes drinking iced coffee (or Vietnamese egg coffee) and watch people and traffic fly by. We alternated visiting some of the city’s landmarks with time at coffee shops, and one afternoon we got 30-minute foot massages for $7 each, and I fainted in the salon and caused quite a stir. (After water and some rest I was fine. The heat got me!)

IMG_4300^Temple at Hoan Kiem Lake (photo above and below)^

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IMG_4376^”egg coffee”…a must-try in my book^

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IMG_4422^Hoan Kiem Lake park at night^

IMG_5258^Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We were not able to go inside during our visit because the body is in Russia for “maintenance,” but the plaza was interesting and worth a visit.

IMG_4505^Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton”, where the French imprisoned Vietnamese and the Vietnamese imprisoned American POWs like John McCain. McCain’s flight suit from when he was captured is on display here. $0.50 cent admission fee.

IMG_4509^One of many delicious meals. We arranged an evening street food tour through one of our hotels in Hanoi so we got to try a lot of food on the tour, and we used trip advisor to find other good restaurants. The spring rolls were my favorite dish, and we had them with almost every meal.^

Ben and I chose to walk everywhere, so we didn’t see as much as we could’ve with a taxi or tuk-tuk, but I like to think we got a good sense of the city on foot. I read a book awhile ago called Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit, and as I think back on our time walking around Hanoi, this quote from that book comes to mind:

“When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for you when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.”

I don’t know if I will ever have the opportunity to visit Hanoi again. As much as I would love to go back, the world is so big, and on a trip like this I can’t help but know that it may be my first and last time to experience a place. There is no reason to dwell on a thought like “I’ll never see this again!” but keeping that reality in the back of my mind helps me fully invest each step.

See the first post from Vietnam here. More photos from our trip to come… :)

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Vietnam Part 1: Scenes of Hanoi

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Ben and I just got back from a trip to Vietnam (with a short stop in Seoul on the way home.) There’s something overwhelming to me about going through my photos and attempting to share my memories after I get home from a big trip, but at the same time I really love looking back through all the pictures and writing down my experiences while the feelings are still fresh.

It’s hard to know where to begin telling the story of our trip, so I’ll start with a quote from Graham Greene’s novel set in Vietnam, The Quiet American: “I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam . . . that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. . . . They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived.”

To say this quote reflects my feelings after just a week in the country would be a profound exaggeration, but I can certainly relate to it–most especially the intensity. We started our trip in Hanoi, and it’s a whirlwind of people, colors, shops crammed with merchandise, sidewalk cafes with tiny stools, and traffic–cars, motos, bikes, buses, and the constant noise of horns.

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We both tried our hand at making rice wrappers for spring rolls…

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Sweet soup making (above) and eating (below). I really liked this! We tried SO much good food.

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IMG_4443The weekend night market (above) and a blessing for a car (below).

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Our week was full of excitement, exhaustion, and meaningful encounters with strangers; a beautiful combination of the wonderful, the familiar, the new, and the uncomfortable. I definitely learned some things about myself last week, and maybe I grew a tiny bit in my understanding of the world around me too.

More thoughts and photos to come…

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Olympic Discovery Trail

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At the end of August, Ben and I went to Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula with some friends to bike a section of the Olympic Discovery Trail. We soaked up as much of the wide open land and sea air along this “Pathway to the Pacific” trail as we could, riding from Sequim Bay to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Port Angeles, WA.

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When I’m in a car scenery rushes by, but on a bike I’m part of a place–breathing it in; adding to its chaos or interrupting its serenity. The simple act of pedal. pedal. pedal. pushes away the clutter of everyday life. I’m on a steady path, living in the present and looking only at what is directly ahead…

…well actually, I did fall off my bike and skinned both knees one of the {many} times I pulled over to take a photo so I suppose I’m not always so steady and focused :) 

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IMG_4211^Snapping photos on the ferry.^

What a beautiful way to wrap up the summer! 

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Grove of the Patriarchs

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IMG_8687Some of my family came to town at the beginning of August. We spent a lot of time exploring Seattle, and also took a day to go to Mt. Rainier National Park.

After spending the morning hiking around Paradise, we visited the Grove of the Patriarchs near the Ohanapecosh Visitor’s Center. It’s about an hour to drive to get there from the Paradise Visitor’s Center, but the drive is beautiful, so it is well worth the time to explore the park more.

The trees in the Grove of the Patriarchs are 1,000 years old and the biggest I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible to capture their size on camera, but of course I tried :)

IMG_8662^See my dad there? He’s over 6 ft. tall and looks tiny compared to the trees.

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Awhile ago Ben and I started putting together an itinerary for a Pacific Northwest roadtrip that includes the Redwoods, and visiting the Grove of the Patriarchs made me excited for whenever we get around to that trip. There is something magical about being in the presence of ancient trees like these.

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Mount Ellinor Hike

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It’s 63 degrees and pouring rain in Seattle on this mid-August day, and it made me think of a hike Ben and I took to Mt. Ellinor on the Olympic Peninsula last month, when we were greeted with fog and chill rather than sweeping views and mountain goats. If you are like me, losing the view on a hike can be a disappointment, but the FOG is what my dreams are made of.

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This hike was a rocky uphill climb. We took our dog Kai, and he did great but it was slow going at times as all of us navigated the rocks. The trail was fairly crowded even on a less-than-ideal weather day, so I’m glad we got an early start.

I am working on a piece of felt based on the scenery from this hike that I’m pretty excited about. It’s the biggest wall-hanging I’ve made yet. I love taking a day away to explore the Pacific Northwest and soak up inspiration for new artwork!

If you’d like more scoop about this hike, check out the details on the Washington Trails Association website. We started at the lower trailhead, and didn’t see a single mountain goat, which I gather is unusual.

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A Quick Weekend in Rose City

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As I’ve mentioned before here on the blog, Ben and I always love exploring Portland. We spent a rainy Friday night and Saturday there this past weekend, and brought our dog Kai along for the fun. Our list of things-to-do in Portland keeps getting longer and so we keep going back!

We started our Saturday with coffee at Coava Coffee Roasters, where we sat outside with Kai. Then we had brunch in the rain on the porch at Interurban. We got there just before they opened at 10 AM, got a table right away, and had the porch to ourselves (thanks to Kai!)–we had just enough shelter to keep us dry while we ate and the food was great.

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After brunch we browsed a couple of shops along N. Mississippi like Animal Traffic, Annex Footwear, Salty’s Pet Store, and Worn Path.

Then we visited Renegade PDX in the rain.

Next we got lunch at the Alberta 15 food cart pod, I popped in for a quick browse of Modern Domestic, and we got another dose of caffeine to fuel our drive home at dog-friendly Case Study Coffee Roasters.

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IMG_3732^I had to pull out my camera for the perfect “raindrops on roses” shot.^

See you again soon, Portland.

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Whale-Watching in the San Juans

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On Saturday (June 27) Ben and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. We spent the day whale watching in the San Juan Islands on the Victoria Clipper whale watching boat. It was a breathtaking day to be on the water–and we saw lots of orca whales.

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My favorite thing about the trip was the way the whales shimmered in the sun, gliding in and out of the water. They are so graceful and majestic.

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Fiber Art at Fresh Flours

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Hey friends, if you’re in Seattle, I hope you’ll stop by Fresh Flours bakery in Ballard soon (5313 Ballard Ave. NW) I encourage you to go for a sweet treat and because my art work is hanging up for the months of June + July. Double good, right?

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I love how the artwork looks in this space, especially on the brick wall. (Don’t we all love a good brick wall.

If you’re not in Seattle, I hope you enjoy the photos! :)

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