February 12, 2016
Last weekend was my fourth solo trip with my mom (we did New Orleans in 2000, Boston in 2009 which only sort of counted because I asked her to fly out with me to help find an apartment, and Portland in 2012).
I think both of us agreed that this was our best trip yet. We've gotten better at traveling over the years and know better what we both enjoy doing, plus the Internet makes it much easier to find the best places to eat, stay and visit.
Actually, I was a little nervous about going to Seattle because Bart, Ella and I went in 2012 and spent a full week, and I kind of felt like we'd seen most of the highlights. The main thing I felt like I'd missed was the downtown library which happened to be closed for budget cuts while we were there.
But I shouldn't have worried. Seattle has plenty to offer. I loved that city so much when visited in 2012 and I loved it just as much or more this time. I just need to convince Bart that he'd love living somewhere rainy.
One of the main reasons Seattle was on our list to visit together is that I gave my mom a copy of Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life several years ago for Mother's Day and she loved it as much as I did.
Then, a year and a half ago, I gave her Delancey for Mother's Day and we both really wanted to go visit Delancey ourselves. So this was our big chance.
We flew in Thursday night, arriving within just minutes of each other, and decided we'd go to Delancey right away for dinner.
We were glad we did, because even on a Thursday night in early February, we waited for nearly an hour for a table to come open (we didn't mind much because we were just having such a good time chatting, plus I wasn't worried that my mom would suddenly throw herself on the ground and scream uncontrollably about being starving and overtired. It's really fun to travel without children every once in a while).
We ordered the hot salami pizza and the white pie (ricotta and mozzarella with garlic) and we both agreed the white pie was definitely the better one, although they were both amazing and came out super hot and fresh. I'd been eyeing their dessert menu for more than a year and was determined not to miss out, so we ordered both the citrus olive oil cake with marscapone and the chocolate chip cookie with gray sea salt. Whoa, they were both insanely good. We ate all the cake and took most of the cookie back to our room which as good, because I ate it for breakfast in bed the next morning.
I'd used Priceline's Express Deals (my favorite way to get a great deal on a hotel over the last year - so much easier than Name Your Own Price) and we got a killer rate on a room at the Edgewater. When I told my mom where we were staying she said, "I've heard about that hotel since I was a little girl! You used to be able to fish out the windows."
The fishing is no longer allowed, but it is right on the water, built on the pier, and we loved staying there. It has a lodge feel, with a giant outdoor fire place at the entrance and a lobby that looks over the water, and then our room had a fireplace too, with two arm chairs and an ottoman that looked like a furry bear (we comforted ourselves with the idea that of COURSE they steam clean that fur between every guests). It was the perfect location for us, and really a fun part of our stay.
That first night we stayed up talking until about 1 a.m. which is SO late for me (and it was actually 2 a.m. on my time zone).
The next morning, we got up around eight, got ready and headed out to Pike Place Market for breakfast. I'd asked the night before on Instagram for suggestions and I wasn't disappointed - I referred back to the post dozens of times over the weekend. Several people had suggested Ellenos Greek Yogurt and they were not wrong. It was incredible. We got a container of Marionberry crumble and then stopped in at The Crumpet Shop to get a crumpet to go with our yogurt. We'd intended to get just a plain crumpet with butter, but at the counter my mom suddenly decided to get the Vermont one instead, which had maple frosting on top of the cream cheese/ricotta blend and then was topped with walnuts. The woman at the counter said, "It's life-changing" and indeed it was delicious.
Eventually we finished talking incessantly about how good both items were and stopped in at Metsker Maps which is, apparently, the biggest map store in the U.S.
With Delancey taken care of, it was time to hit the next most important thing on my Seattle checklist which, of course, was the downtown library.
And it didn't disappoint. We spent more than an hour wandering through the children's section, the bookshop, riding the escalators to the highest view point of the atrium, and being shocked by the fact that the red level was, indeed, ALL RED (floor, ceiling, everything - one of the employees told us they used seven different shades of red).
We walked back to our hotel along the waterfront and stopped in at a little French grocery store where my mom bought me a tiny container of smoked bacon chipotle salt. I have no idea what recipe will ever be special enough to warrant using it, but man it smells amazing. We also sent Landen approximately four hundred photos of cookbooks. I'm sure she was thrilled.
Back at the hotel, we sat in the lobby for about half an hour, watching the ocean and warming up (it wasn't super warm especially for two people who live in Phoenix and Las Vegas - Bart was texting me photos of the girls at the park wearing shorts and sandals), then grabbed the car and headed across the bridge to eat lunch at HomeGrown.
Several people had suggested we see the Fremont Troll and I'd googled a picture but hadn't looked up where it actually was. As we walked under the bridge from where we'd parked, I turned around and suddenly there was the troll, a block above us. It was such a funny surprise to see it there and after lunch we walked back up and took photos by it.
The reason we'd opted to come to lunch on this side of the river was to go to the University of Washington and see the Husky Clipper, the boat that the crew team won the 1936 Olympics in (my mom and I both had read The Boys in the Boat and wanted to see it in person). It hangs in the Conibear Shellhouse on campus and the place was deserted. We wandered around looking at the boats and the other memorabilia housed there, and then watched the crew team practicing on the lake through the windows. When Bart and I came in 2012, we'd rented a little boat and paddled around ourselves, but it was much colder and darker this time, so we didn't even entertain the thought.
Instead, we drove over to the library as it started to rain since a few people had mentioned how amazing the reading room was. Well, I'm never one to miss a good library, so while my mom waited in the car (there was no where to park) I dashed in. As you can imagine, on a Friday at 5pm, it wasn't hopping. But it was lovely.
Near campus is the only physical Amazon bookstore so, of course, we wanted to check it out. We spent over an hour there, looking at different books. I loved how every book had the Amazon rating (and number of ratings) on a card below the book, plus a review from a real reader off the site.
Finally, we decided it was probably time to brave the rain and head to dinner at Bengel Tiger where Virginia had recommended we get the Mango Wala (she said we'd cry happy tears). It's something I NEVER would have picked off the menu, but it was absolutely incredible. I'll be watching for something like that at every Indian restaurant I go to from now on.
We'd planned to visit Hot Cakes for dessert but we were both too full to really want dessert at this point, so we headed back to the hotel and ordered some really great hot chocolate at the lounge and drank it in the lobby. My mom suggested we watch an episode of Plain Jane but one we were in our pajamas, we just decided to go to bed at 9:25 instead. A good call.
The next morning, we walked up the hill to Macrina Bakery for breakfast. Just like dinner the night before and our stop at Ellenos on Friday morning, there was nobody in line when we arrived and then two minutes later there was a long long wait. It was the most darling little place and we ordered an amazing goat cheese, fried egg, roasted tomato and bacon sandwich on brioche, and then a cinnamon-apple pull apart and a cinnamon roll. We'd heard the orange pinwheels were to-die-for, but when I looked at them in the case, I realized they had hazelnuts in them and neither my mom nor I like hazelnuts much at all (yes, this means we both will always skip anything Nutella. Yuck).
We walked back through the market, enjoying all the amazing flowers and foods for sale, and then down the hill to the Great Wheel. I'd gotten press tickets and the man at the counter was SO great - he walked us up to the wheel, set up two plastic folding chairs next to a plywood wall and said "Welcome to our VIP lounge." My mom and I died laughing.
I've done the London Eye and the High Roller in Las Vegas, and this was quite different because it goes fast - we circled the whole thing in about five minutes (they send you around three or four times). It really feels more like a carnival ride than an observation wheel and the pods are very small - they seat about 6 people instead of whole crowds like the other two. It was one of the things I'd really wanted to do in Seattle, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, including FaceTiming with my girls while we were up there, which was fun.
Afterward, we walked back to the hotel for the car and then drove up to the Space Needle to do the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. I've loved Chihuly ever since I saw the ceiling installation at the Bellagio when I was a little girl (Bart and I also went to an exhibit in Golden Gate Park in 2008), and I loved seeing this one. It was just spectacular and we spent a good long time going through each room.
In one of the room, where there is a huge ceiling installation (instead of being suspended like the one in the Bellagio, this one has a glass ceiling and then everything is resting on that glass, so you're seeing it through the glass panel). One of the docents suggested we lay down on the floor to get the full effect and it was spectacular. Plus, nothing like a little rest while you're visiting a museum.
My mom had wanted to go to the Queen Anne's neighborhood, and Jessica had recommended The Five Spot as a good place to eat, and so we drove up a very steep hill and arrived just before they stopped serving lunch. Our delightful server helped us pick out a couple of good options (hello artichoke tuna melt!) and then we wandered over to Kerry's Park where Jessica had told us the best views of Seattle were. She was not wrong. It was amazing.
Because I never like to miss a dessert, we walked down many steep blocks to Nielsen's Pastries and as soon as we came around the corner, we could smell the most fabulous scents. But when we found the store front, they'd already closed for the day. So. . .back up six blocks of very steep hills to get our car. There was no complaining though, because I was wearing my mom's FitBit so CREDIT and also, the neighborhood was lovely with so many gorgeous houses.
The only real thing left on our agenda was a Theo Chocolate Factory Tour but when we arrived, they were closing early for an employee party, so we stopped in the lobby for a few minutes, had a couple of samples, and used the restrooms, and then dropped by the darling District Fabrics, where we looked (but did not buy) some very cute Liberty of London fabric since it was $40 a yard.
We'd considered going to The Pink Door for dinner, but neither of us are wild about Italian food, plus when we called on Thursday there were no reservations left for the week. So instead we stopped by Whole Foods, did our good deed for the day by turning in a wallet and phone left in the parking lot, and bought some soup and salad for dinner, plus a few containers of Ellenos yogurt, granola, fruit, and energy bars for our plane flights the next day.
Back at the hotel, we ate our dinner while we watched a charming episode of Plain Jane and then put our shoes back on and headed out to The 5th Avenue theater to end our trip with a performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying which was utterly charming (you never know how racy live theater might be, but this was totally great). Afterward, we walked around the lit-up block and looked in a few store windows before heading back to the hotel. It was the perfect way to finish off the trip, and I was so glad my mom had thought to look up a musical while we were visiting.
The next morning, we got up reasonably early, packed up our things and headed down to SeaTac where my mom had lived as a little girl. We drove through her old neighborhood and by the elementary school she attended, plus stopped at Saltwater state park where her family had picnicked together. It was just a couple of miles from the airport, so it was an easy little trip before we needed to return the rental car and board our planes.
My mom has TSA Pre-Check and got through security in about ten seconds while I stood in the regular (LOOOOONG) line and googled what paperwork I needed to fill out to get Pre-Check status too.
We walked down to our gates, divided up our airplane snacks from the night before, and said goodbye.
And now I'm already counting down until it's my turn again in three years.
February 11, 2016
This post is sponsored by DiscountMags.com
I know a lot about nutrition labels.
This is mainly because, as a kid, I spent many many mornings reading the cereal boxes over breakfast and asking my dad what sodium was (you’re shocked to hear that I was something of a nerdy kid).
As an adult, my breakfast reading material has gotten a little more interesting (more interesting than calcium content? It blows my mind too).
Now my go-to is a stack of magazines. They’re easy to read a little bit at a time, and I get a lot more enjoyment out of it than just scrolling through Facebook in the morning.
Unlike books, which I’m usually happy to check out from the library, I much prefer to have my own subscription because the library doesn’t let you check out the newest issue and I don’t particularly enjoy reading about Valentine’s ideas in April, but maybe that’s just me.
Also, there is just something really delightful about getting something in the mail each month.
And I love magazines for children too (plus, after we checked out a magazine for Ani at the library and she cut out all the game pieces and I paid $5 to replace that single issue, I figured we might as well just subscribe so they could actually do the puzzles, games, and activities in each issue).
I have really happy memories of the various magazine subscriptions my family had over the years as I was growing up. Twenty-five years later, and I still remember the year my grandmother gave us a subscription to Ladybug, which has remained one of my favorite children’s magazines of all time (they also have a younger version called Babybug and a slightly older version called Cricket).
For Ella’s birthday last summer, we got her a magazine subscription and she asks at least twice a week, “Do you think my magazine will have come today?” It was her favorite gift this year – even more so than her Frozen bike.
And if we’re going on a trip, I’ll hide the newest issue of our children’s subscriptions because they keep my girls entertained for so long in the car or on the airplane and I like having them ready to pull out when everyone starts to get bored. Or I’ll store the old ones and then bring them back out after many months and they seem new and exciting again.
And if you’re looking for a Valentine’s gift and you’ve postponed ordering something for too long now (which obviously I would never do except for every single holiday and birthday), a magazine subscription is the perfect solution. It’s super easy to gift a magazine through DiscountMags.com and send a little personalized note along too.
It took me all of 90 seconds to order my girls a subscription to Zoobooks for Valentine’s Day. I’m pretty sure it won’t even rot their teeth, like their other Valentine’s Day presents. If you're also in the market for a gift that isn't going to give anyone cavities, check out the Valentine's Day sale here.
February 10, 2016
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SendSweetness #CollectiveBiasBecause I've been out of town for the last three weekends in a row, I feel like Valentine's Day kind of snuck up on me.
Regardless, I'm trying to squeeze as much pink, chocolate, and Valentine's picture books into this week as possible. It helps that my mom sent a big box of decor, treats, and activities which went a long way to making it festive around here.
I picked up some pink, red and white M&M's® at Walmart this week in the seasonal section (and also a DOVE® Valentine's Day tin and some American Greetings® cards for the little girls in my life who can't get enough of Frozen anything) and when Ella and I were doing cooking lessons, we made this popcorn mix and the Valentine's Day colored M&M's® made it extra festive.
We packaged it up and took it around to some neighbors and it was a quick and easy little gift that looked delightful.
Also, my store didn't have the new M&M's® Strawberry, but if you see them, you should try this recipe with them instead, because it'd be like chocolate-dipped strawberry popcorn, which is basically my favorite combo on earth.
Simple Valentine's Popcorn Mix
10 cups popped popcorn (about 1/3 cup kernels)
1/2 - 1 cup chopped nuts (I used cashews)
6 ounces almond bark
1 cup M&M's®
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Pop your popcorn (I just put half the kernels in a brown lunch sack, fold the top over a few times and microwave for about 90 seconds and then repeat with the other half of the kernels). Get rid of as many of the un-popped kernels as possible - I usually put all the popcorn in a bowl and gently shake it so the kernels fall to the bottom and then scoop the popcorn out onto the cookie sheet, leaving the kernels in the bottom of the bowl.
Line a cookie sheet with foil, parchment paper or a silicone mat and spread the popcorn evenly across it. Sprinkle the cashews over the top.
Melt the almond bark and carefully pour it into a plastic baggie. Snip off one corner and squeeze the bark all over the popcorn. With a spatula, toss it gently to coat.
Scatter the M&M's® all over the popcorn.
Melt the chocolate chips and pour them into a plastic baggie, snip off the corner and drizzle it all over the top of the popcorn.