Daydreams from Mexico

September 26th, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

“Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty—his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure.” – Aldous Huxley

Ben and I went to Puerto Vallarta last week with one goal: to relax. It was a purposeful halt to the fast-paced, tightly-packed vacations we usually plan, and we welcomed our boredom with great pleasure.

I didn’t do anything in Mexico I couldn’t have done at home. I read, I wrote, I watched the waves and the clouds. I learned a few more Spanish words and got a sunburn. Our brush with local culture and the only outing of the week was a bus ride into downtown Puerto Vallarta and back. We happily accepted our role as American tourists on vacation.

IMG_8023

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

IMG_7298

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

IMG_7992

IMG_7334

IMG_8013

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

We turned off our phones, lingered over meals, and watched the sunset every night. The week reminded me that life isn’t about to-do lists, schedules, rushing, cramming, and stressing. It was a simple trip, with no agenda but to eat and rest. It was the adventure of being still.

YellowElmsignature

Sweet Seattle #7: Cupcake Royale

September 24th, 2014

Sweet Seattle: I’m exploring Seattle one cake, pie, and cookie at a time.  

IMG_5262

Cupcake Royale has pink boxes, pink dishes, and a sprinkle bar—does a cupcake shop need much else? And their West Seattle location is a 4-minute walk from my house—do I need much else?

IMG_5263

photo 2-1

I ate a Huckle Buckle cupcake with pink huckleberry-flavored icing. The icing was enough to get a burst of flavor with each bite but still taste the cake underneath.

IMG_7116

IMG_7118

IMG_7887

Despite protest from my sweet tooth, I have occasionally stopped in Cupcake Royale for just a cup of coffee and left content. They serve Stumptown drip and plenty of barista-made coffee options. But I’ll be back to try more cupcakes—they have fall flavors out now and I can’t resist anything pumpkin.

See previous Sweet Seattle posts here.

Play along: #sweetseattle

YellowElmsignature

Whidbey Wanderings

September 1st, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Ben and I finally made it to quiet, beautiful Whidbey Island, an island north of Seattle on the Puget Sound. It’s been on our to-visit list for awhile, so we took advantage of a free Friday/Saturday to drive up, ride the ferry, and camp overnight at South Whidbey Island State Park.

IMG_7048

IMG_7080

IMG_7052

IMG_7076
^Kai isn’t sure what to think of the water. He loves the sand and snacking on seaweed (and seashells…and driftwood…), but he growls at the waves.

IMG_7082

IMG_7814

IMG_7088
^It rained all night (thank goodness for the rainfly on our tent!) but it was dry enough at dinnertime on Friday to build a campfire.

IMG_7796
^We stopped in the lovely little town of Langley and got takeout from the Braeburn Restaurant, which I found via this article—a huge reason for the reason I want to head back sometime—and for starters I would love to linger in Langley a little more.

IMG_7053

Our short trip gave us just a tiny taste of the island…wish we’d had another day or two to explore!

YellowElmsignature

Bike Commuting

August 26th, 2014

IMG_5516

“She’d never ridden a bicycle before and was experiencing, for the very first time, that rare and wonderful sensation of soaring that can occur—especially on a cool, sunny day, and especially when no pedaling is required. . . . It was impossible not to smile.” —The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Trenton Lee Stewart

When I was little, I would ride my bike in circles around our driveway. Big circles, little circles, figure-eights; change directions and ride around in more circles.

I wanted to go further but I was too small to ride away by myself, so I rode in big circles, little circles, figure-eights. Big circles, little circles, figure-eights.

I think my childhood self would be happy to know I finally made it somewhere on my bike.

For Christmas last year, Ben and I got each other new bikes for riding around the city. (Well, the holidays being crazy like they always are, we actually bought them in March.) Since then, I’ve been riding on and off to work. Trucks, trains, cars, crowds—there’s so much to navigate and it’s a million times more fun than driving.

There’s nothing like that feeling of soaring, the wind in my face.

The calmness of the waterfront in the morning. The chaos of the shipping terminals and construction zones.

I love being up close and personal with the city.

Just like when I was riding in endless circles in suburbia, riding a bike is still one of the most refreshing and reflective experiences. I let my thoughts swirl but don’t make any decisions except the ones immediately at hand, like when to change gears and when to cross the street. I face the day or leave the day behind with every push of the pedal; it’s exhaustion and renewal at the same time.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Biking in the city is completely different than biking around the neighborhoods where I used to live. I’ve never done this kind of riding before so there has been so much to learn, and I have so much more to still figure out, from bike safety and maintenance to how to handle helmet hair at the office.

I’ve made two goals going into next month:

  1. Bike to work every day.  
  2. Create artwork inspired by my bike commute. 

I’ve been slowly working up to biking every day, and as September rolls around next week I think I’m ready to take the plunge and commit to riding my bike to work every single day. I already know I’ll have two cheat days when I need to have a car at work, plus a vacation that Ben and I have planned in the middle of the month. So I think it’s doable.

I should mention I haven’t ridden in the rain yet. (And next week is supposed to be rainy. And I live in Seattle.) Plus I’m not a “sporty” or athletic kind of person; helmet hair is truly something that I’ve devoted energy to tackling—I might have to revive my hair tutorial series once I get that mess figured out!

Part two of my bike-to-work challenge involves artwork. I’ve felt such a desire to create lately but have wrestled with what exactly I want to make. I’ve decided to tie these goals together and make little art pieces based on things I see during my bike commute each day. I mean for this month-long art project to be completely experimental so it might be as awful as my helmet hair and as pointless as biking in circles around the driveway, but I’m excited to dive in and see what happens.

I hope you’ll follow along on this journey of health and creativity with me. It should prove to be an interesting month!

Inspiration photos from my commute can be found on instagram with the #bestofmybikecommute hashtag. If you have a bike commute please feel free to jump in and share the best of your bike commute (and tips for helmet hair, if you care about that). 

YellowElmsignature

Gas Works & Ballard Locks

August 21st, 2014

IMG_6966

IMG_6993

I know we’ve covered Gas Works Park and the Ballard Locks around here before, but they are both worth a second mention. We took Ben’s brother and our puppy Kai to both spots recently. Gas Works is a really fun place to hang out and kinda unique as far as parks go. It’s a really big hill overlooking Lake Union with city skyline views and an old factory as a backdrop to the park—a great spot for skyline views, boat watching, and flying a kite.

IMG_6984

IMG_7011

IMG_6982^our happy little park explorer!^

If you are visiting and don’t have a ton of time, I do recommend putting Gas Works Park on your list.

IMG_6999^the locks opening up^

IMG_7003^boats coming through the locks^

IMG_7010

I was really excited to see some salmon swimming through the fish ladder at the Ballard Locks on this visit too, for the first time. This website explains the locks and the fish ladder pretty well, if you’re interested.

On another note, thanks for indulging me on this little blog. Ever since Ben and I moved to Seattle I’ve enjoyed documenting and photographing the spots in and around the city that we’ve explored. I know I’m getting to a lot of places twice at this point but I’m still having fun sharing, so thanks for following along, and for the sweet comments many of you share in person.

Our first visit to Gas Works is here, where I pretty much said all the same stuff about it, but bonus: that post includes the Fremont Troll (which is not at the park but is in the neighborhood). Our first visit to the Ballard Locks is here, where you’ll find I don’t include any photos of the actual locks, because that makes sense, right?! So maybe it is good I’m posting some of these spots twice!

YellowElmsignature

Pike Place Market

August 15th, 2014

IMG_7491

Ben’s brother was in town last week, and of course we put Pike Place Market on our list of places to take him. I still love going to the market. It’s always full of color and flavor and I can never resist pulling out my camera. I just have to pack some patience for weaving through the summer crowds.

IMG_6750

IMG_6753

IMG_6754

IMG_6760

Besides having fun watching the fish throwers, checking out the gum wall, and looking at all the in-season options for flowers and vegetables with Ben’s brother, we discovered a new restaurant—the Market Grill—that I’d definitely recommend. Super yummy! The Stranger says, “Eating a salmon sandwich in the Pike Place Market sounds like a descent into tourist hell. It’s telling, then, that the Market Grill–an unassuming little eatery just a few flower stands north of the market’s brass pig–has a loyal following of locals who keep returning for its excellent salmon and halibut sandwiches.” (Stranger review found here.)

IMG_6759

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

IMG_6749

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Not pictured: us and the dog. We had Kai along for his first visit to the market. Oh.My. He was good but it took extra patience to have a puppy along on a weekend afternoon at Pike Place. Over stimulation for all involved (but I’d do it again).

YellowElmsignature

Chichicastenango Market

August 9th, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

In July I traveled with 17 people from First United Methodist Church of Seattle (where I work) to work with Project Salud y Paz, a medical and dental mission in Guatemala.

It always takes awhile after returning from a trip to sort through your experience—and alllll the photos you snapped along the way (if you’re a “shutterbug” like me). As I contemplate my time in Guatemala, converse with others that joined me on the trip, and look through photos and videos that I took and my teammates have shared, I’ve slowly been working on sharing a few of my own photos and memories from Guatemala here on the blog.

We spent a week in the city of Chichicastenango, traveling from there each morning to Project Salud y Paz in Camanchaj. Chichi is a vibrant and colorful Mayan town in the mountains. The famous Chichi market is one of the biggest markets in Guatemala and was my favorite part of our touring.

Sunday and Thursday are the market days, and we first visited on Sunday, which was very busy and brimming with tourists. Since we were in the city all week we got to see quieter non-market days in Chichi, which I loved. We also got to see the set-up for the Thursday market on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning—that was a lot of fun to watch.

IMG_6242

IMG_6231

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

The group that I explored the market with on Sunday wandered into some less-touristy areas where locals buy shoes, electronics, food, and everything else you can imagine. To me that was the most interesting part.

IMG_6236

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

YellowElmsignature

Guide to Uptown

August 7th, 2014

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Ben’s brother is visiting us from Atlanta this week. It’s his first time in Seattle, and in preparation for his trip we’ve spent some time thinking over what Seattle spots to introduce him to. I’d hate for all the lists and itineraries of “Seattle favorites” we’ve made for ourselves and visitors over the past year and a half to go to waste, so I want to share some of that here on the blog — for my own reference as much as anything! :)

Ben and I spent our first year in Seattle living in an apartment in the Lower Queen Anne (aka Uptown) neighborhood of Seattle. Home of the Space Needle and Seattle Center, Uptown/LQA has plenty of fun tourist attractions that pretty much guarantee you’ll find yourself in this neighborhood while visiting the city. Here are a few suggestions of where to go when you’re ready for an afternoon coffee break or a meal in between sightseeing activities.

Coffee

IMG_5872

Caffe Ladro (600 Queen Anne Ave N)

Caffe Zingaro (127 Mercer St.): I like their monthly specials.

Uptown Espresso (525 Queen Anne Ave N): “Home of the Velvet Foam”…it’s supposed to be the best in Seattle. They have several locations throughout the city.

Citizen (706 Taylor Ave N): Great coffee shop vibe and has a good food menu for breakfast, lunch, or happy hour.

Food

Toulouse Petit (601 Queen Anne Ave N): I’m going to go ahead and say this is one of my favorite restaurants in Seattle, and if you need a memorable date make a reservation here. It doesn’t have the classic tourist feel, but is definitely a gem. They have “One of the Ten Best Happy Hours in the Nation”–I can personally vouch for happy hour breakfast and late night happy hour. Cajun cuisine.

Pesos (605 Queen Anne Ave N): Right next door to Toulouse Petit, run by the same people, and also delicious.

Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar (124 Republican St): A new spot that opened up underneath the apartment building where we used to live after we moved out, which is probably good so we don’t spend too much money on oysters! We went back to eat here before seeing a play at the Seattle Repertory Theater (which I also recommend if you have time for a play) and I tried my first oyster here. I was thankful that it turns out I like oysters because we have so much access to great seafood in Seattle. Eating a meal here is a fairly expensive treat, so if you want to taste local oysters and not spend tons of money visit during happy hour from 4-6 pm M-F. If you have lots of time during your trip, visit the Taylor Shellfish Farm Store along the beautiful Chuckanut Drive and you can have an oyster feast right by the water.

IMG_5873

Dick’s Drive-In (500 Queen Anne Ave N): Got kids? Want local fast food? Need a cheap, quick meal, or craving a milkshake? This is your place. Open 24 hours. If you are looking for the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis music video location, go to Capitol Hill.

Tin Lizzie Lounge (600 Queen Anne Ave N): A cozy and swanky spot for a break from the rain.

Athina Grill (528 Queen Anne Ave. N): For a good, quick Greek meal

The Seattle Center Armory: Food court with lots of options. I like Skillet Counter and Pie the best.

Other

SIFF Cinema (511 Queen Anne Ave N and Seattle Center): A really great local movie theater that shows a lot of indie films and documentaries. 2 theaters located in Uptown and Seattle Center.

Metropolitan Market (100 Mercer St.): This local grocery store has several locations; if you’re in the neighborhood and you need to grab some Seattle-related gifts to take home, their “Northwest Gifts” section is a great spot.

______________________

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it will give you a few ideas of places to eat a meal or get some coffee. I’ve left boutiques and most other shopping off this list; when I’m exploring a new city with limited time I generally pick the food spots and tourist attractions first and then add shops if there’s time. (Though don’t get me wrong, I love a good local boutique.) Since the tourist attractions in Uptown/Seattle Center are obvious–Space Needle, Chihuly Museum, etc.–I’ve limited this guide to (mostly) food and coffee.

FYI—the Belltown neighborhood is nestled in between Uptown and Downtown, so anything on my guide to Belltown would be a good place to stop if you decide to walk from the Space Needle/Seattle Center to Pike Place Market. This walk is doable and especially nice on a sunny day. (In my experience these were the kind of tips I find especially helpful when trying to maximize time in a city—so there you go!)

Are you a Seattleite? Share your favorite LQA spots in the comments!

YellowElmsignature

Snapshots from July

July 31st, 2014

photo-1

Has July really come to an end?

I like to think the Seattle summer landscape is like a collective gathering of our feelings in the wintertime: all the rainy day “blues” we feel get bottled up and released in a massive burst of energy.

So many feelings, so many shades of blue, reflecting in the sky and the water, glistening in the sun.

photo^Sunset bike ride along Alki Beach^

IMG_6619^Paddle-boarding on Lake Union with friends. I’m putting this very high up on the “when people come to visit” list.^

IMG_6604

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

IMG_6162^Jack Block Park, a sleepy little park with stellar views. You would never know this existed from reading the sign on the road.^

IMG_6185

IMG_6140

IMG_6120^Just in case you forgot  how cute our little puppy is, and bonus that he’s been VERY well behaved this month!^

We live in such a beautiful city, and the summertime is the chance for everyone to get out and enjoy it. I spent my free time this month on bike rides, long walks with the puppy, trips to the park, and hikes.

I hope to repeat more of the same in August, which promises just as much warmth and sunshine.

Three cheers for summer in Seattle!

YellowElmsignature

Hiking at Mount Rainier

July 30th, 2014

IMG_7228

IMG_7242

On Saturday Ben and I went hiking at Mount Rainier with some friends. The scenery was like a postcard: wildflowers in bloom, the snow melting but ever present; the sky a clear, intense blue.

I learned a lot from my hiking buddies about the wildflowers, and the Paradise Visitor’s Center has a nice flyer to help identify them. I think it gave me a little taste of what John Muir meant when he referred to Mount Rainier’s meadows as “the most luxurious and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens [he] ever beheld in all [his] mountain-top ramblings.”

IMG_6624

IMG_6675

IMG_6648^This color of paintbrush wildflower only grows at Mount Rainier^

IMG_6670

IMG_6680^Our group looking ahead to Camp Muir, which Ben and I really hope to hike to sometime soon! Camp Muir is the “base camp” for summitting Mount Rainier.^

IMG_6694

IMG_7244

IMG_7260

You know it’s a good weather day in Seattle when “the mountain is out,” meaning Mount Rainier is visible in the skyline. The fact that you can only see the mountain from the city a handful of days in the year adds to the enchantment of being at the base of this hide-and-seek giant landmark; when you can see the mountain from Seattle it’s large and looming in the sky, dominating the skyline.

The beauty of the mountain and the surrounding scenery kind of wraps itself around your heart—it’s impossible to visit and not be in awe.

YellowElmsignature

P.S. Last time we had a chance to drive up to Mount Rainier it looked like this. We were at the same spot as the photos in this summertime post, if you can believe the change in the weather :)