Friday, November 30, 2012

Bicycling in Seattle

Despite all this hills and mountains, bicycling is hugely popular here in Seattle.

This is a typical intersection during rush hour - there are six cyclists lined up waiting for the light to change, and a few more pulled up after I snapped this photo.  I don't think I ever saw this many bikes in one intersection in NYC, except during the New York Century Bike Tour. But this wasn't a bike tour or a group, just the regular morning commute.

I also notice that many of the bicyclists wear neon yellow or green for increased visibility. I guess with frequent fog, rain and cloudiness this is even more important here than it would be elsewhere.

Bicycle parking is abundant.  This nice covered bike parking lot was at University of Washington, near the law school, where I went today for a CLE. 

It even had a "bike repair" station, with a raised area to hold the bike and lots of tools. It looked like there was supposed to be an air pump there, but it was missing.

So, nothing is perfect. Maybe it was being repaired or something.

Either way, I can't wait until we get our bikes out of storage next week, I look forward to seeing a lot more of the city when I can bike around it. 

How would I look in one of these snazzy neon green jackets?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Take That, Rachael Ray!

Yesterday was sunny and somewhat clear (the mountains were out, as they say) so I tried to run a few errands while the weather was decent. I went a different way leaving our house in Capitol Hill (up the hill, instead of down the hill) and found another street full of shops and restaurants. And I caught this view of the space needle and the mountains (it looked more impressive in person.)  I keep finding cool little pockets and blocks in this city.

I decided to try taking a page out of my mother's playbook. My mother is an expert couponer, and I figure now that I'm not working I've got plenty of time to put in the required effort. So I went to Safeway and stocked up on things we needed - mostly soda (when we get unpacked in our apartment we'll make our own using the SodaStream) and snacks for lunches. Combining sales and coupons, I saved 36% and got a coupon for $10 off my next purchase! My mom would be proud!

I didn't need to buy anything to make dinner, I already had everything I needed at home. 
But, first, the inspiration:

Over five years ago, when we went to Alaska, we had the most amazing salmon while on an excursion to a native village. The best part was the delicious brown sugar glaze they served on the salmon. It was so good that people were asking for the glaze over their dessert. Ever since then, we have tried to replicate the recipe. For example, we tried a mix of brown sugar and butter but it caramelized and got hard. We tried brown sugar and olive oil, but it was too oily.

We've been getting great wild salmon at the farmers market in Seattle, so I decided to take another stab at making the glaze. I started by searching for "brown sugar salmon" on, one of my favorite sites. I found this easy and delicious Salmon with Brown Sugar Glaze recipe. Basically, you mix up two parts brown sugar to one part mustard. I used four tablespoons of brown sugar and two tablespoons of mustard for four fillets. I only had a cheap store-brand yellow mustard that I bought last week for the meatloaf, but it worked fine. I poured it over the top of the salmon before broiling it for 10-15 minutes. So easy! I made four salmon filets so we can have leftovers later in the week. 

Was it the same as the salmon at the Alaskan native village? I guess I would need to go back to refresh my memory, but it was definitely as delicious! It will be part of my regular dinner rotation.

Even after a great meal, I always ask myself what I might do differently the next time to try to improve it. This recipe was great, I don't think it really needs any change, but I think I could improve upon the dish by using a nicer dijon mustard. My other idea is that I might try adding a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg to the mix next time to add more depth of the flavor.

I also braised some "braising greens" in a little bacon grease, with garlic and green onion, all from the farmers market. Those are some healthy & tasty greens! Just to have a little starch, I reheated some potato hash browns from our breakfast over the weekend.  It was a really yummy and quick meal in under 30 minutes. Take that, Rachael Ray! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Earthquake (Simulation)

When we took the tour of our soon-to-be apartment, the woman giving the tour mentioned, offhandedly, something about an earthquake.  To be honest, I can't remember how it came up, maybe I mentioned something about hurricanes at home, or something. And I think I replied, cavalierly, something like "Yeah, we had earthquakes in New Jersey too."

She pointed to a nearby highway, that runs about two blocks from our building and said something like "I always drive a little bit faster when I go through that part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Because if there's an earthquake, the top level will fall down onto the bottom level..."  Honestly, I didn't think much of it. Lots of things could happen, right?

One night since then, Jon was on his laptop and commented something about how he had found the earthquake information she was talking about. In 2001, during the Nisqually earthquake (you know it's big when it has a name), the viaduct was damaged. Building has begun on a safer tunnel, and inspections of the existing damage continue to find ongoing settlement. I don't know why I didn't get alarmed by this, but, again, I didn't think much of it. But, obviously, Jon thought enough of it to look into it.

Yesterday, coming home from Ballard Market, I missed the exit of Route 99 and found myself on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Jon commented, "This is the highway that she was talking about, for the earthquake."  I asked, "What? We'll fall off into the ocean? That could happen anywhere."  Jon said "No, the top level will fall down onto this level and we'll be sandwiched between." Oh.

This morning I called to set up renters insurance, which we have to have when we pick up our keys on Saturday. At the end of the fifty minute call, the man asked "Is there any other kind of coverage I can interest you in? Flood? Earthquake?"  Remembering the earlier comments about the earthquake, and knowing that sometimes adding more insurance coverage only costs a few extra dollars, I replied, "Sure, tell me about earthquake insurance. What does it cover and how much does it cost?"

"Alright, let me plug in your address... Oh... Hmm... Well, I apologize, I should not have offered you earthquake coverage. That address is in a "do not cover" zone."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that address is in an area of very high risk of costly damage in the event of an earthquake."

"So, our renters insurance wouldn't cover that? Would anything be covered?"

"We don't offer anything to cover that. What you want is, maybe, life insurance."

Oh. Um. Hmm. That's a little pessimistic, isn't it?

That led me to do my own googling.  Apparently, the waterfront area is perfect for views, not so perfect for earthquakes.

In 2006, Washington State DOT predicted a 1-in-20 chance that the viaduct would be closed by an earthquake within the next ten years. There are systems in place that can close the entire viaduct within two minutes if ground movement is detected. I'm not sure where those cars go (probably onto my street), but it sounds like they're being proactive about this thing.

In 2005, a group of University of Washington faculty asked the Mayor of Seattle to "close the sinking structure within a suggested two-year timeframe."   Source:  Seattle Times Opinion: Shut Down the Viaduct

And if you're a visual learner, there's this helpful video, from the Washington State DOT, showing what will happen to the viaduct in the event of another Nisqually-like earthquake.

(Turn your volume down because the music is really annoying.) 

The bottom line, for those who skipped this whole post?  Things are not looking so good here in the event of an earthquake. 

But at least we don't get hurricanes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Weekend Update

One week until we get the keys to our new home!  I really can't wait. I've been spending waaay too much time looking on Pinterest and imagining how I might organize, furnish, and decorate. I know once I'm in the apartment with hundreds of boxes waiting to be unpacked, the prospect of organizing won't seem so fun. But it really feels like our lives are in limbo with everything in storage.

Saturday night we went to a meetup for couples. There were five couples, all newly transplanted to Seattle. The newest couple has been here 1.5 weeks, in fact, one member of the couple is still in California finishing up his job there. Compared to them, we are Seattle old timers!

"Why, back when I was in Seattle for only 1.5 weeks, I hadn't even been to the Ballard Farmers Market yet..." 

The longest-established couple has been here two months. Like I said, all newly transplanted. We met up at a Thai restaurant and had a nice dinner. We got to know the three people we were sitting closest to quite well, and there were two people we didn't get a chance to talk to at all. Jon has the advantage of being at work and around other people all week, but for me it was a good chance to get out of the house and talk to people. The restaurant was also near our soon-to-be-home, so it was nice to scope out a place in the new neighborhood. I wouldn't rank it as my new favorite Thai place, but I did notice a cupcake place next door that I might need to investigate further!

Today, Sunday, we woke up to a very foggy morning.  By midmorning, the fog had burnt off and it was even sunny. I even had to put on my sunglasses for a little while!

We went back to the Ballard Farmers Market. So far, at least while we're in Capitol Hill, our routine seems to be to go to the Broadway Market in Capitol Hill one weekend, then the Ballard Market the next.

This was before the sun came out. Today, disappointingly, our ravioli man wasn't there.  We did get some fruits (pears and plums) and vegetables (green onions, salad mix, and parsnips), yogurt, eggs and the wonderful challah I love. We also got some of those fresh, hot doughnuts we noticed last time, with cinnamon sugar. Yum!

Jon and I came home, put away the items we had just bought, I threw some clothes in the washer, and we settled in to watch football.  Around 3 p.m. I announced, "It's time!" and ran to the bedroom.

"Time for what?" Jon asked, following me. "You taking a nap? What are you doing? Time for what?"

Time for this:
Around 3 p.m. everyday our bedroom gets super sunny. Today was pretty sunny overall, but even on cloudy days, the sun seems to break through at 3 p.m.  I've made it my habit to stop what I'm doing and read in the sun everyday during that magic hour.  Can you blame me?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seattle Sarcasm

How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was pretty good.  This was my first Thanksgiving not with at least some of my family, so it was quite a bit of a change for me, but I would say that it was a good Thanksgiving.

Instead of cooking for just the two of us, we went to Ruth's Chris steakhouse in downtown Seattle. They had a Thanksgiving special, you got a starter of soup or salad (I got seafood gumbo, Jon got Caesar salad), then a plate of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, each person could choose side dish served family style with enough to share (I got creamed spinach, Jon got sweet potato casserole) and then a dessert of pumpkin cheesecake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The best part?  With the purchase of a Thanksgiving special, you got a box of leftovers, which was a whole second serving of the turkey dinner. Because leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving! We also didn't finish our turkey dinner plates or side dishes (saving room for dessert) so we ended up with a lot of leftovers! I already ate a leftover turkey and stuffing sandwich today and see a few more in my future this weekend.

One thing we've noticed is that our sarcasm or jokes doesn't really seem to be fully understood here in Seattle. Again and again, we've had moments of misunderstanding when Jon or I have said something jokingly that totally flopped. Or maybe we're just not as funny as we think.

For example, at the Thanksgiving dinner, after we had finished the main course, the server came by to ask if we were finished and ready for dessert.  Jon joked, "Yeah, I might just need to lie down and take a nap here before dessert..." gesturing to the booth he was sitting on.  The server just looked at him and looked at me and stood there awkwardly.  Jon tried to clarify, "You know, on Thanksgiving, you nap on the couch? Watch a little football?" The server just stood there confused until I finally said "Yes, we're ready for dessert!"  Errm... awkward.

This has happened a few times and I guess it's going to take a while before we lose our habit of trying to joke with everyone.

On the other hand, we had a different experience with a server when we went out to a pizza restaurant last week. While we were ordering, the waitress appeared to be texting on her iPhone. After she took our order, she showed us the phone and said "Just so you know, this isn't my iPhone, this is our ordering system, the kitchen already has your order now and is getting started on them." I said "Oh wow, I thought you were texting, I was going to be amazed if you were able to remember our orders at the same time."

A little while later, we were sitting there when the waitress came back, looked at our empty table confused, and asked "You didn't get your appetizer yet? I got an alert that your appetizer was up, but when I looked for it, it was gone, I thought someone had brought it to you. Let me go check on it."  She walked away and a minute later, someone else came by our table with our stromboli appetizer. The waitress came back a couple of minutes later, saw us eating, and said "Oh, good, you got your appetizer." I replied "Yeah, I used the 'Find My Stomboli app' on my iPhone."  She laughed.

After we finished our appetizer, the waitress came by again, and Jon and I were both playing on our iPhones. The waitress joked, "Ordering more food?"  It took me a second to get it, and then I asked "You're not from Seattle, are you?" She said "No, I'm from San Francisco, why?" I said "Because you made the joke about ordering food on the iPhone, I don't think someone from Seattle would make a joke like that." She replied, "I thought twice about it, but since you had already joked about the 'Find My Stromboli app' I knew you weren't from Seattle either."

If you know either of us, you know that Jon & I love to joke around. We're either going to have to get serious to fit in, or maybe we'll bring some humor to this rainy city!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meatloaf Recipe

Jon declared this meatloaf to be the best he's ever eaten.  He even ate leftovers (he hates leftovers!) and asked me to make it again. I'm going to call it a success. Here's the recipe, and I'll even try writing it up in a traditional way, with a list of tools and ingredients.

Here's the recipe.  You need two bowls and one large rectangle pan (13x9?).  (I recommend not using a loaf pan, using a larger pan leaves a little room for the grease to run off so you don't eat it.)

1.5 lbs "meatloaf blend"  - Just ask the butcher to make a meatloaf mix for you, they'll grind a blend of beef, pork and veal.  If you don't eat pork, you could ask them to substitute turkey into the mix.
1 onion - chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic (1 large or 3 small are fine) - crushed
1 egg
1 cup of crushed Ritz crackers - this is my secret ingredient.  Some recipes call for bread crumbs, and in an episode of Roseanne she said she uses corn flakes cereal, but Ritz crackers are the secret to my success.
black pepper to taste - no additional salt needed if you're using Ritz crackers. If you're using bread crumbs, add some salt too.


1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard

Preheat the oven to 350.
In one bowl, mix together the ingredients listed above the line.  Just get your hands right in there and squish it all up.  There's no avoiding it.
Form it into a "loaf" shape in the pan.  Leave some room on all the sides.
Use a spatula or spoon to make an indentation along the top of the loaf,  running lengthwise. This way, when you put on the glaze, it doesn't all run off. I also think this helps it cook on the inside.
In the other bowl, mix together the 3 ingredients below the line. You don't need to put your hands in there.  Use a whisk or a spoon.
Pour the mustard glaze along the top, into the indentation.
Cook at 350 for 75 minutes.

Next time I might try sautéing the garlic and onions first. An extra step, but I think it might be worth it.
Of course you could try adding mushroom or bell peppers or any other veggies too.  Worcestershire sauce in the meat could also be good. Think of this as a starter recipe that you can enhance.

Try it and let me know what you add and how it comes out!

And, now, keeping with the title of this blog, 
here's a picture of the Seattle sun shining through my window...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gloomy Monday

Remember the other day when I mentioned that people were photographing the sunset as if "it was not, literally, an everyday occurrence"? I guess I have to eat those words, I learned that actually seeing the sun is certainly not an everyday occurrence.

Yesterday, there was no sun at all. It was rainy and miserable. I was told that Seattle has a lot of grey, misty, drizzly days but rarely has downpours and storms. Yesterday, it poured.  

Seattleites say that only tourists use umbrellas. I decided to make a trek out to the post office, library and grocery store and I thought "There is no way I'm going out without an umbrella!"  

I'll eat those words too. I tried to use my umbrella, but because it was so windy, my umbrella was inside out within a moment of leaving the house. I battled with the umbrella, turning it right-side-out every few seconds, before finally deciding to take the umbrella down and just use my hood.

Of course, then, the rain tapered off and actually stopped for a little while. Go figure.

Bummed that this might be what everyday will hold this winter, I was relieved to see that this was actually news-worthy and record-breaking:

Seattle Times: Record rainfall in season's first big storm

Ok, that makes me feel a little bit better.  So does this:

"Maybe some sun" is a good thing.  I mean, it sounds kind of remote, like "maybe, possibly, a teeny-weensy bit of sun wouldn't be completely out of the question?" but it's better than "You're not seeing sun again until June!" right? 

That's the other thing. Aside from raining, it was really cloudy and sun-less. Turns out, that was news worthy and almost-record-breaking too:

Apparently, at the University of Washington, they actually measure sunshine.  Who knew?

UW Research Meteorologist Mark Albright found that Nov. 19 registered just 0.46 MJ/m2 of sun energy on daylight-sensing equipment at the University of Washington . . . The only day to register a darker day in the past three years was Jan. 5, 2011 -- when Seattle registered 0.45 . . . But Albright points out that Monday should be considered worse since we are almost 20 days further from the winter solstice than we are on Jan. 5. (In other words, the day is shorter on Jan. 5, so Nov. 19 had more "daylight" to shut out.) So if it felt extra gloomy Monday -- you would be right! 
It did feel extra gloomy.  I got sad news from home that a good friend's younger sister had passed away after battling illness for almost two years. It's hard being so far away, I can't just jump in a car and be there with her in an hour or easily travel to the memorials. I'm going to try my best to be a good friend from far away, at least I can offer that I'm up late for late-night talks.

As I wrote, I did pull myself together to go to the post office and mail a few things.  Mostly loose ends I had to tie up from back home, like mailing in the remote that opens my parking lot back, so that I could get the deposit back on it. We didn't think of getting it out of my car until my car was fully loaded onto the moving truck. Oops.

I also went to the library (which is very nice) and got myself a library card. I'm mostly eager to borrow ebooks using my Kindle.

I guess this makes me an official Seattleite? I guess I should stop trying to use an umbrella!

I looked for books about glassblowing but didn't really find any for adults. I did find two great children's books about glassblowing. They're actually pretty informative for a beginner adult like me too.

The first one, Glassigator by Dan Dailey & Allison Dailey, is more of a story book set in a glass studio. It is interesting because the character's father goes through the process of making a glass alligator head (interesting to me that it's an art piece rather than something functional) and details the process. I also like that it highlights of some of the shop tools and their uses. I found the story a little complicated, with too many characters, but considering I never had a book about glassblowing when I was a kid, I definitely think this is an improvement. 

The second one, Looking at Glass Through the Ages, by Bruce Koscielniak, discusses how glassmaking started and how it developed through different eras and parts of the world, such as how color evolved, how stained glass was created, and how the Venetians perfected the art of glassblowing in many ways. Even though this is a children's book, I found it educational.

If you're an adult glass artist and want to share the experience with a child, or if you're an adult who just wants to read a nicely illustrated and simply written explanation of the art, I would recommend both of these books.

Then I went to the grocery store and got ingredients for meatloaf.  I think it came out great, so I'll post a recipe later in the week.  (Sorry, no pictures, maybe I can photo the leftovers.)  I also roasted the rest of those tiny potatoes and brussel sprouts. Dinner came out great and we'll have leftovers later in the week.

I also got Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale that I thought might pair well with meatloaf and looked really cool in a pink bottle, but we didn't like it very much, unfortunately.

Finally, in our household, we're very excited about the news that Rutgers is joining the Big Ten Conference. This will be a really good thing for our alma mater as a university and for us as Rutgers sports fans.

This morning I woke up to sun streaming through the blinds, which certainly helped me get out of bed. I'm glad I sat by the window to enjoy it for a little while, because it's grey and raining again.  I guess I've got to take it when I can get it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Food Post

Here's our Friday night dinner.  Smoked salmon ravioli with pesto sauce, fresh salad with yellow and cherry tomatoes, and garlic challah bread.

One of the things I love most about living here is the farmers markets.  We've been to two so far - the Broadway Market near our temporary quarters in Capitol Hill and the Ballard Market in the Ballard neighborhood.  

I like the Ballard Market better, because it's a bit bigger and offers more variety, but it's nice that we can walk to the Broadway Market pretty quickly.  

At the Ballard Market last week, I saw a man selling pasta.  I was really excited to try the pumpkin ravioli.  However, the pumpkin ravioli was sold out, so I got the smoked salmon ravioli.  The man, who had a nice Italian accent, felt bad that we missed out on the pumpkin ravioli, so he threw in a delicious large salted caramel brownie.  Talk about knowing the way to a woman's heart.  

We also got, from another stand, delicious muesli.  And beautifully braided Challah bread that we used for sandwiches all week, garlic bread with Friday night dinner and french toast on Saturday morning. 

There was also this stand, selling fresh mini doughnuts.  We didn't try any (we had just eaten lunch), but they smelled heavenly.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We Signed a Lease!

Yay!  I am so excited!  We signed a lease!

We get the keys December 1, and our movers will probably drop off our stuff on December 3 or 4. We have our temporary quarters through December 19, so that will give me at least two weeks to go over during the day, unpack, sort through things, set up, and then come back to the temporary quarters to sleep.  So December 19 when we "move in" it should be all set up!

When we moved, we really didn't have time to sort through things we didn't want and sell or donate them, partly because we had just one week between our honeymoon and moving, and partly because of the hurricane and blackout that week. So, I'll be doing that in Seattle and have plenty of time to do it.

Ok, about our new place:

It's in a large apartment building. The neighborhood is pretty close to the "downtown" area, we're walking distance to Pike Place Market and my glassblowing school.  We're about a block from the waterfront and in a very walkable area with lots of restaurants, bars, stores, and, of course, coffee shops. We're really excited to still be in the heart of the city, and not out on the outskirts or suburbs.  (All those sunny pictures from the waterfront I posted yesterday were just a short walk from our new home!)

The apartment building has a lot of the amenities that I liked in that fancy-but-too-expensive building last week.

We have a heated outdoor pool (open all year but heated Memorial Day to Labor Day only, I think you'd have to be crazy to go in the rest of the year), an outdoor hot tub that is heated and open year round, a beautiful roof deck with a grill and wi-fi and amazing views, two community lounges with TVs and full kitchens, one has a fireplace and a billiards table, an outdoor patio with a fire pit, an outdoor fenced in area for a dog walk... and I'm sure I'm forgetting something... oh, like the fitness center and tanning bed?  Yeah, like that.  

The only thing the fancier building had that we don't have is an indoor pool, but I think our roof deck makes up for it. When we were up there on a clear afternoon, we could see Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and great views of the Space Needle - perfect for the New Year's Eve fireworks.

Our actual apartment is a corner unit, which means more (potential) sun exposure.  It's actually a "one bedroom plus den," which saves us a lot of money and is fine for us since the second bedroom will be an office/den/guest room anyway. It has a full washer and dryer, a big bathroom, and a bedroom big enough for us to get a big bed!  We're really excited about that.  And a little balcony.  (Probably too little for anything but some plants, and maybe a small grill, but still.)

All that, and a covered parking spot too!  And dog friendly! And larger and cheaper than our place in Jersey City by quite a bit.

I'm really glad we got it and it all worked out. The leasing agent at the building was really nice and got us a good deal. The funnest part was filling out the forms for the background check with Jon. We both almost checked the box for "single" and then realized it was our first time checking the "married" box!  For occupation, I left it blank, and the leasing agent entered it into the computer as "homemaker" rather than list me as unemployed.

Now I can't wait until summer, when I can take my homemaking talents poolside!  Yes, there is a grill by the pool too. I just need to bring my blender downstairs for margaritas!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Green Curry Salmon and Seattle Sunshine

As a "stay at home wife" I've decided to take on the majority of cooking, at least when I'm not out apartment hunting until late in the afternoon.  It's fun and I feel like it's the least I can do.  Don't worry, I still let Jon help me (i.e. cut the onions).  

It drives Jon crazy that I don't ever stick to a recipe.  I like to look at recipes, to get ideas, and then do it my own way.  At some point, I'll ask Jon "Does this look right?  Should I let it cook a few more minutes?"  To which Jon will always reply, "What does the recipe say?"  
Umm... I wasn't exactly following a recipe.

We got some local wild salmon at the farmer's market last weekend, and I have been craving green curry, so after glassblowing class on Wednesday, I decided to try making a green curry salmon.  I stopped at Whole Foods and bought a jar of green curry paste, one can of light coconut milk and a little hand of fresh ginger.  I already had the onion and garlic from the previous week's farmers' market. 

I learned a few things while cooking it, so I'm going to write this the way I should have done it, in hindsight.  This way it will be more of a useful recipe to refer to later.

Start by chopping the onion.  We went with a whole onion, because I love onion.  If you don't love onion, maybe you'd want to use half or one small onion.  Crush two cloves of garlic.  Saute them in a larger sauce pot with a little olive oil or butter.  By the way, this is pretty much how I start every recipe. You can't beat it. 

Add in a little bit of peeled and grated ginger.  How much?  If the ginger is a "hand" you could start by adding a "finger" off the hand.  If you love ginger, of course you could add more.  The easiest way to peel ginger, they say, is by scraping it with a spoon, rather than with a vegetable peeler.

Once the onions brown a little bit and the garlic gets all warmed up and fragrant, dump in the can of coconut milk and about two teaspoons of green curry paste. Whisk the curry paste in. Remember that the green curry paste is a strong flavor, it's always easier to add more later than to try to mellow the flavor later.  

Chop up the salmon into about one inch pieces.  This may not be very necessary, as my salmon fell apart quite quickly, but it might help it to cook faster.  Throw the salmon in the pot.

Bring it up to a steamy simmer, and simmer for at least ten minutes.  At this point, I took a taste and decided to add a little more curry paste, because I wanted it to be spicy.  You could also maybe add a little hot sauce or hot peppers for spice.

I decided then that I wanted to add some vegetables, rather than making vegetables or rice on the side.  I think coconut rice would have been perfect, though.  I had half of a large yellow tomato from the farmers' market that we had sliced for B.L.T.s earlier in the week, so I chopped that and threw it in there.  We also had some awesome little potatoes, the size of small stones, so I decided to wash them and throw them in.  The point is, you could probably throw in almost any vegetable, something green like snow peas would be great, and keep it a little more "Thai" in flavor or style.  Just keep in mind that some vegetables like potatoes take longer to cook.  And if you're adding quite a bit of extra stuff, you might need another can of coconut milk.

So, in this case, I simmered another 20 minutes until the potatoes were tender.  If you're skipping the vegetables or using a vegetable that cooks more quickly, you can cut down on time. 

Season with salt and pepper.  You could add other spices, hot sauce, etc. but our temporary quarters doesn't have much of a spice rack!  

It came out delicious.  Very filling and perfectly spicy for a chilly night. And we had a little bit left over for lunch! 

Thursday was gloriously sunny and I spent my day apartment hunting.  I took a few pictures of the sun, like this:

Yes, that is a totem pole.  I took this near Pike Place Market. 
One of the interesting things was how many people were just standing out by the waterfront just watching the sunset or photographing it. Tripods and everything. You would think it was not, literally, an everyday occurrence.

This one is a little harder to see, but please click on it and check it out. Those two white arches are CenturyLink Field (where the Seahawks play).  Between them, and above the second arch, faintly, you can see Mount Rainier! The largest and most dangerous volcano in the United States!  
 I think the correct phrase for being able to see Mt. Rainier is "the mountain is out."  

I don't want to jinx anything and say we found an apartment, so I'll say we may have possibly found a great place.  We already did the background check and we go back to sign the lease tomorrow.  Once it's official, I'll tell you more about it.  But I will give you a hint that it is not one of the places I posted about the other day.  It's a whole new place, and it's even better than the other three! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Glass Class

I am an eager and excited glassblowing student. I've taken a lot of classes in my life, and I always want to be a good student and learn a lot. The teacher recommended a book, Beginning Glassblowing by Edward T. Schmid, I bought it.  (Well, Jon bought it for me.)  The teacher recommended that we start a sketch book.  I started one, even though I'm terrible at drawing.  (In Beginning Glassblowing, Ed Schmidt also recommends keeping a sketch book and assures bad drawers that they will get better with practice.)  I made some sketches, and my teacher complimented them and showed them to the rest of the class. 

I haven't actually blown any glass yet.  I have made glass, but we're still working with solids so there has been no "blowing" involved, yet.  Next week we have the week off because of Thanksgiving but in two weeks, I'm assured we'll actually be glassblowing.

My classes are four hours long, once per week, which means that I get a big chunk of time to practice each week, but still, I could do it more! I wish I could be in the hot shop (the glass studio) every day! 

My class is great and my teachers are fabulous and the studio is amazing.

How amazing is the studio? 

This is the bathroom! 

Seriously, the bathroom!

I guess I should have gotten a shot of the toilet for perspective. I think those are dichromatic glass plates embedded into concrete on the walls, floor to ceiling.  I can't imagine how long that took. You can sort of see me in the mirror reflection in the second photo. 

I don't have any photos of the rest of the studio yet.  Just the bathroom.  I keep meaning to take some photos during class, but once I get into it, I get into it! The four hours fly by.

Here's my first project, the paperweight I made last week:
The photo isn't great (I took it on my iPhone).  I was trying to get it in natural light to show the true colors, but instead you get a good reflection of the neighboring building.

Maybe I'll try to take it out into nature to photograph it, I know that's what Dale Chihuly would do. 
Maybe my next step should be a photography class so that I can do my work some justice. 

I've never really done anything before that forced me to try to be artistically creative and to use a non-literal or non-scientific part of my brain, and I find it both challenging and stimulating at the same time.  I knit, but I usually stick to following patterns, or modifying patterns only slightly.

In glassblowing class, I try to be a perfect student, take a lot of notes and pay close attention but when it's my turn to try a technique, many times I'll ask the instructor "Am I doing this right?"  Sometimes, when there's an issue of safety, for example, she'll correct me or other students, but most of the time her answer is, "It's your piece, what do you think is right? How do you want it to look?"

How refreshing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

House Hunters Seattle

Out of the ten or so apartments we've looked at, three have risen to the top as contenders.  They each have their pros and cons, and I'm starting to feel like I'm on an episode of the HGTV show "House Hunters."  I guess it's nice to have options, and if one of those three were to call today and say that they're already taken, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Coming from Jersey City, space was very tight.  We had a 600 square foot apartment that was packed to the ceiling with stuff.  I felt like we could never really clean up and put everything away so that our apartment looked really tidy because we just didn't have enough space. I think this added to a feeling of unhappiness in our home. It was frustrating and we always talked about moving to a bigger apartment. I hoped the move to Seattle would satisfy that desire. We definitely need either more space or less stuff (or both!).

Another concern I have, that I didn't have in Jersey City, is having enough space to allow guests to stay over. Being far from "home" and our friends, I think it would be nice to be able to say to any of our friends "Come any time! We've got plenty of space!" and mean it.  Maybe this is something I shouldn't be so concerned about. Even if we had one guest per month, for three nights, is it worth, for example, $300-400 per month to have a spare bedroom?  For the same cost, we could put our friends up in a nearby hotel and the months we don't have visitors we could use that money on something else.  I don't know.

One nice thing is that all of the places we've looked at have their own laundry in the actual unit. I feel like this will make it so much more convenient to do laundry and save us money.

One thing that no Seattle apartments or homes seem to have is air conditioning. I'm curious to see how it is in the summer, but we've asked about it, and the answer we usually get is that it's not worth installing air conditioning for the one or two hot weeks per year.  We've also been told that there's always a nice breeze in the summer, so I guess if you live somewhere quiet enough and safe enough to sleep with your window open, you should be ok.

They would all allow a dog.  (I don't have a dog yet but I'd like to adopt one once we find a place to live.) They all have size or breed restrictions (I'm amazed that no place here allows pit bulls whatsoever) and additional deposits.

Here are the three contenders along with what I see as the pros and cons.

1.  Condo in Columbia City - 2 bedroom, 1 bath
This is an individual owner of a condo (not a management company) looking to rent out his place because he's buying a house nearby.  It's a little under our budget which means, yay, a little extra discretionary funds.  The location is pretty cool - it's just a little off a main street that has cool shops, bars and restaurants and there would be a lot to walk to and do. Columbia City is definitely an up-and-coming neighborhood that has been highly ranked as a "best neighborhood" for a few years now.  The condo is very nicely maintained. And I think the owner would be easy to get along with and he cares about the condo a lot.  It has a washer/dryer in the unit and it has a separate large storage unit which could be nice for storing bikes and off-season stuff.  It has a nice little balcony (overlooking the parking lot) that you could have some outdoor furniture and a grill on.  The landlord said that all of the other tenants are really friendly, they all know each other, so that could be nice for helping us make friends and meet people.  It's on a top floor, so there's no one over you.  The landlord said he never really hears his neighbors.  The utilities are really low.  There is a parking spot included.
The downside is that it's kind of small.   I think that once all our stuff is in this place, space is going to be tight.  And I'd like to have more space.  That's probably the only downside.  That, and I think the neighborhood is a little sketchy a few blocks in either direction, but you're going to get that in a city I guess.

2.  House in Ballard - 2 bedroom, 1 bath
This is a whole free standing house!  With a backyard! And a fireplace! And a full basement!  And we like Ballard, it's one of the key neighborhoods we're interested in.  I like that it's an individual house, no stomping coming from the ceiling or hearing the neighbors.
It's on a residential block, but there were a couple of little cafes a block or two away.
The house itself is older, maybe a little outdated, I would guess that there are 50 coats of paint in the kitchen, but I think that once you move everything in and decorate, that will be less noticeable.
It uses oil heat - which I think is going to cost us more in the long run.  That is something I have to look into more.
As for the price, it's a little over our target price, but not by much.  The main floor of the house isn't particularly huge, but we'd have a lot of extra storage space in the basement, which I think would make up for it.  There is a bus line right in front of the house, the commute is about 30-40 minutes on one bus directly downtown.  There's a little driveway that maybe we could park in, but the woman who was showing the place seemed confused as to whether it was for us to use or for the neighbor to use. Either way, it was very easy to park on the street in front of the house.

3.  Fancy building in Belltown - 2 bedroom, 2 bath
This is an apartment in a fancy building. When I say fancy, I mean that the building has a pool, a fitness center, and a hot tub, and a resident lounge with a 90 inch flat screen TV.
The apartment is huge, with two large bedrooms and a walk in closet.  I would definitely feel like we have plenty of room to entertain and to have overnight guests.
It's great. The front office will sign for packages and it seemed like a lot of people there were having their groceries delivered by Amazon Fresh.
Belltown is kind of a downtown neighborhood in Seattle.  We could walk to a lot of cool things, including Pike Place Market, and my glassblowing studio.  There are a lot of cool restaurants and bars, but there's also a few homeless guys hanging out on the corner.  My best guess is that they're harmless but it might be an issue walking a dog late at night.
Another potential issue is that the side of building this unit is on faces a large firehouse. So far, Seattle has seemed pretty quiet to me, I haven't heard many sirens or anything, but I can definitely imagine that being an issue.
The final con with this place is the price. It's really over our budget, but we could make it work if we gave up a lot of other fun things.

By nature, I'm someone who would rather spend the least and have the extra money leftover to save toward buying a home or to have in case of an emergency.  I'm not one to splurge.  So it would be really against my nature to choose the fancy building and really in my nature to choose the condo. I also feel like we're pretty good at making a small space work, and that over the next year or so, that extra few hundred dollars per month could go pretty far in allowing us to pay for other fun out-of-the-home things like sightseeing within Washington and the surrounding areas. I definitely want to do some of the touristy Seattle things like museums and I know Jon loves to go to sporting events. We've talked about doing a weekend in the wine region, maybe going to Vancouver or Portland, and checking out some national parks this summer.  I'll feel better doing that knowing we're not breaking the budget.

So, condo it is?  Maybe. We've got a few more place to look at this week, but that is the way I'm leaning right now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday is College Football Day

Even in Seattle, we are college football fanatics.  We woke up and got ready for a 9 a.m. Rutgers football game.  It was kind of fun to watch a game in our sweats (ok, that's not so unusual) while eating bacon and eggs and drinking coffee.  

After the game, I took Jon to a bookstore I had passed a few times on the bus - Half Price Books. The reviews on Yelp were great, and Half Price Books did not disappoint. As a point of comparison, one of the things that disappointed us the most in Jersey City was that there were no bookstores.  Some opened, some closed, but overall, there were no bookstores except the college bookstores at the local colleges. In Seattle, we've seen quite a few bookstores, including independent bookstores and chains.  We're very excited to live in a city with good bookstores. Half Price Books is cool because they have new and used books, as well as movies and music.  The selection is huge. 

I got two older magazines.  I find that in certain hobby areas, an old magazine is just as good as a new one. Unlike a fashion magazine, for instance, an older issue is not outdated. So, I got older issues of a knitting magazine and a magazine called Glass Line which is about glass making.   

I also bought a really cool knitting kit - it's called the "American Red Cross Knit Kit" and it's a tin containing a skein of olive colored wool, a sock pattern, a set of size 3 plastic needles, thread and a darning needle.  It's supposed to be a replica of what women might have used to knit socks for the troops during World War I (although I'm guessing that they did not use plastic needles). Kind of apropos for Veteran's Day! I think the kit was maybe $4-5.  I thought the skein of wool on it's own or the needles might cost $4 and, more importantly to me, I can use those needles with the wool I got at Goodwill earlier in the week.

We also had a good lunch out at Teriyaki & Wok - and sat in front of a sunny window while we ate our chicken teriyaki.  Then we came home to rest for a little bit (I rested, Jon watched more college football)... before going out to the University of Washington Huskies game! 

That's right, more college football!  The UW games are played at CenturyLink Field, where the Seattle Seahawks play, while the UW stadium is being renovated.  We got to the stadium easily by bus and got there early enough to see some pre-game activities.  

We got to meet Dubs, the mascot of the UW Huskies.  It was actually Dubs' birthday, but we didn't find that out until later, so we didn't get to wish him a happy birthday. 

And we watched the marching band put on a pre-game performance, including the hottest song, Gangnam Style!

It was cold, so I got a hot chocolate. I appreciate that they served it piping hot. Jon got chowder in a bread bowl. I tasted it and Yum!  It was delicious! Hot and packed with clams. I wish we had that at High Point Solutions Stadium for some snowy Rutgers games! 

The game itself was not that exciting. I don't know why, it just didn't seem as fun as the many Rutgers games we've been to. Was it because we're not as familiar with the team or as invested in the results?  Maybe.  But it also seemed like the fans were more spread out throughout the large stadium, and, possibly for that reason, there was less energy. Our section had maybe one or two people per row.   It was also very cold (in the low 30s), which makes you focus more on staying warm than enjoying the game. And our seats were very high up. We talked about leaving by half time, but I was glad we stayed through half time, because we got to see...

the half time show!  USA! USA!

They had cheerleaders from all over the state spell out "USA" in honor of Veteran's Day.  The music was "Proud to be an American" and then there were either big sparklers or small fireworks at the end.  It was a little cheesy, but in a cute way.  We left in the third quarter, our toes frozen numb, the Huskies up 27-15, and hopped in a cab to our warm home! 

It was almost exactly a week since we had taken a cab from the airport to our home, and I have to say, it's been a great week.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Family (Re?)union

When I first announced that we were moving to Seattle, my mother mentioned "I think I've got a cousin somewhere near Seattle.  Well, somewhere in Washington."

I'll admit, that I disregarded it. Washington is a big state! I friended the person she recommended on Facebook, but I thought, what are the odds I'll ever meet them? And how are they related to me again?

Well, Wednesday night, I got a Facebook message from my unknown cousin mentioning that she and her mother would be in the Seattle area for lunch on Friday, and asking did I want to get together?  Of course I did!  

As a side story, about two years ago, Jon & I went to Pittsburgh and my parents mentioned to me that my father's first cousin lived near Pittsburgh. We met up with my father's cousin, her husband and their son for breakfast and really hit it off!  It was a great experience, we even had them at our wedding last month.  So, I was hoping to replicate that experience.

Friday, we met up at a restaurant called Claim Jumpers near the South Center Mall, about a 20 minute drive for me.  I had never heard of it before, but it had kind of a log cabin style that included big fireplaces, so it was warm and cozy.  

At lunch was my mother's first cousin Carol, Carol's daughter Michelle, and Michelle's husband Steve. They were great! 

We really hit it off and had a ton to talk about.  They had a lot of great tips for life in Washington and even brought us some welcome gifts - a wall calendar with photos of Washington State, a bottle of Merlot made in Washington State, and a tourism guide book!  And a reusable bag - more on that later!

Lunch was great, and it was so nice to meet wonderful people!  Afterwards we even went to Macy's and did a little shopping!  That mall area is huge and has every store you could think of, I'll definitely have to keep that in mind.  

Thanks, Mom, for remembering this family connection and Michelle for reaching out to me!  I feel so blessed to (surprise!) have some family in the Seattle area and I look forward to going to visit Carol's home up on Whidbey Island!  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Apartment Hunting Sucks

It's true, apartment hunting sucks.  I've looked at countless places online but only three places in person so far.  The first place was small.  They had a second apartment to show us that was bigger, but it was on the highway side of the building and the traffic was loud.  The third place I looked at was a nice size but the apartment was very dirty. The manager assured me they would be cleaning it, but that didn't make me feel better about the brown rodent droppings in the kitchen.

After apartment shopping, I decided to stop in a Goodwill store I passed on my way back to the bus.  There are a few things I need that I already own in storage, so I'd rather not pay a lot of money for them. For example, our glass studio recommends a refillable water bottle and a sketch book for glassblowing class. The water bottle is because it gets very hot in the studio and our teacher said it's very easy to get dehydrated in class. The studio has a water filter, so we just need our own bottle to fill.  The sketch book is so that we can draw out our ideas and think about the structure of a piece before we start the glassblowing process

I got the water bottle for .99 and the sketch book for $2.00 - all pink tags were half priced.

As I looked at it in the store, I could tell the sketch book was used because it looked like a few pages had been ripped out of the front. That isn't a big deal to me. When I got home I flipped through it and found this note in the middle of it. I wonder if "Aug" ever found this creepy note from Heather. I think I'll leave it in there.

I bought a few more things too. The yarn caught my eye right away. I normally wouldn't even consider yarn in a resale setting because (1) it's often cheap yarn like acrylic which wouldn't cost much more brand new or (2) it's often hard to know what kind of yarn you're getting if the tags are off of it, which makes it much harder to use it.  But this is clearly four brand-new balls of KnitPicks Palette, which sells for over $3 per ball. I think the four colors look nice together, I can imagine them in some kind of fair isle pattern.  Maybe I should buy some needles rather than waiting for them to come when we move!  The four balls, bagged together, cost $2.99. I think that was a great deal. 

I also bought the 4x6 photo paper.  I figured that once I get my printer set up, I would like to print some wedding photos.  $3 for 200 sheets seemed like a great deal, even if it means I'm just holding onto it for a month.

And finally, I also bought a rabbit wine opener.  I wasn't sure whether our temporary quarters had a corkscrew, and I have wanted to buy the rabbit, I figured I couldn't beat $2.50. It turns out that our temp quarters does have a corkscrew, but I think the rabbit will be cool to have. And it's in Rutgers Red!  (Perfect for tailgating?) I haven't tried it yet, so I'm hoping all the parts are there and it works.  

Maybe I should give it a try and open some wine while I get into my knitting project!  Oh wait, I'm supposed to be apartment hunting...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day.  I woke up early and got going because I was so excited for my first glassblowing class.  I got to the Belltown neighborhood about a half-hour early and found the studio was still closed.  Luckily, I remembered that Top Pot Doughnuts (one of my favorite things about Seattle when we visited in 2007!) was just across the street.

When I walked in there was no line. I got a salted caramel doughnut and a big mug of coffee.  Delicious! I sat by the window to people-watch and found that, seconds later, there was a long line in the shop.  I guess I got there just in time.  I saw a lot of people buying dozens of doughnuts.  As it was almost 9 a.m., I imagined that their co-workers were going to be very happy at work that morning.

 Then I walked over to Seattle Glassblowing Studio for my first class.  It was great!  My teacher's name is Amy and there are only 4 students in our class.  Since we will also have a T.A. starting next week, it will be almost like private or semi-private lessons with lots of great one-on-one interaction with our instructors.  Amy was great, she explains things very clearly, is very calm and patient and is an excellent instructor.  She's also from Rochester, so maybe that explains it.  Class was 6 hours long and I wish I had taken some photos during the class.  Next time!

For the first class we got a tour of the studio, learned lots of terminology, safety instructions and then we got to playing with glass!  I'll admit that I was a little nervous - if anyone is going to be the one to burn their hand off, it would be me.  But, so far so good, I've got all my fingers!  And no burns!

We gathered glass, which means taking it from the furnace and practiced shaping solid glass (no glass "blowing" yet - that's next week!).  I was kind of sad to throw my first couple of attempts into the recycling bin.  Even though they were just practice pieces, globs of clear glass, I wanted to see what they looked like when they cooled.  But they were not destined to make it into the annealer, the oven used to harden the glass.   Then we got to play with color - we used frit which is colored glass powder that we pushed our glass into before twisting and shaping the glass.  Then our instructed dipped the projects into clear glass that we smoothed out (harder than it looks!) to make a paperweight.  I can't wait to pick up my paperweight and see how my first finished item came out!  It takes "at least 24 hours" in the annealer so maybe I'll make another trip to Belltown tomorrow!

After class I decided to take the bus to Trader Joe's in the Queen Anne to pick up some groceries.  It was probably not my best idea - it's not easy for me to shop light at TJ's and yesterday was no exception.  I ended up lugging two large bags of groceries back on the bus when I probably could have waited and drove over there.  But it was ok.  At least the bus wasn't crowded.  As I waited for the bus, it was sunny and bright, and I snapped this quick pic of the Space Needle.  

Meanwhile, back at home they were getting hit by a nor'easter, just a week or so after Hurricane Sandy.  Many people had just gotten their power back while others still hadn't gotten their power back.  The Jersey Shore especially got hit hard, twice.  I'm thinking of everyone back home, but I'm not afraid to admit, I'm glad I'm not there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Welcome to Seattle

Jon & I landed in Seattle late Saturday night.  We're so excited to start our West Coast adventure together!

We have temporary quarters - a furnished apartment we will live in for six weeks while we look for our next home.  The apartment is beautiful, it has a lot of space for us to unpack and get comfortable, and feel "at home" - much better than staying in a hotel!

I am making some efforts to meet some people in Seattle.  Tonight we're going to a wine tasting and to the Democratic election night party.

And, most importantly for me, tomorrow I start school!  Jon got me glassblowing classes as a wedding gift and I can't wait to get started!  I am so excited to learn about glassblowing, I've been interested in it for as long as I can remember.