Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Damn Fine Cup of Coffee

In addition to gritty downtowns, I love small towns- the kind with one main street and a Bingo night at the Nights of Columbus Hall.

During our trip to Snoqualmie Falls, we explored Twin Peaks Country. In the nearby town of North Bend, the first stop was lunch at the classic Twede's Cafe famous for coffee and cherry pie.
The interior was- shall we say- colorful? The entire ceiling was lined with Twede birds.
If I'm honest, the coffee was not all that damn fine, but the cherry pie sure was.

Afterwards, we explored main street looking for entertainment. Usually small towns have great nightlife- not in the way of cocktails or music, but the chance for anthropological observation.

We asked a few locals for ideas, but had no real luck. The senior citizen play had stopped running just the week before and there were no chili cook offs anywhere. Having found no attractive prospects, we browsed a gift shop.

Imagine our surprise when Elvis himself walked in. Seizing the moment, I asked him where we could watch him entertain.
"Come to my Chiropractic office. I have an opening at 3:00, " was his answer.

Tempting, but we decided against letting Elvis realign our spines. Instead, we spent the rest of the afternoon imagining what it would be like to jump from a train.

What's your favorite memory of a small town?

A "Tuesdays With Morrie" Moment on Tuesday

Yesterday, I flipped open my copy of Tuesdays with Morrie.

I highly recommend this inspirational read. It's about a dying professor who holds a weekly meeting with his former student and teaches him lessons of life.

I like to do this. Open books up now and again and just take a message from whatever that random page offers.

I opened the section "We talk about a perfect day."

In Morrie's case, it starts off with exercises and sweet rolls. No rushing around doing chores or fretting about calories or fat content. At that point, he was bedridden and limited in what he could eat.

From there, he'd invite his friends over and spend the afternoon chatting and laughing. Then he'd take a walk, admiring the colors and sounds of nature. Hard to do when you're strapped to machines and confined inside a room.

Finally, he'd have a fabulous restaurant dinner of his favorite food with friends, specifically pasta and duck. He'd dance the rest of the night away.

I love Morrie's perfect day.

Exercise, food, friends, nature, more food and friends, and dancing. There's absolutely no reason why I can't live this day every day.

A perfectly healthy day. What would that mean to you?
Hi Friends!

Remember that experiment I created to do something new every single day?
Check out my latest publication on Matador Network- My Month of Living Adventurously

As soon as life settles down again, I'm embarking on a new month of challenges. Care to join in?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Escape Seattle at the Twin Peaks Lodge

Where do you go when you need a little break?

After the eating frenzy and pace of downtown Seattle, we found respite at the Salish Lodge in Snoqualmie Falls, WA. Originally built in 1919 as a rest area for Seattle residents enjoying an outing at the falls, it was so cozy on that chilly May day we visited.

You may recognize this hotel as the "Great Northern Lodge" in the TV show, Twin Peaks.

Our room was really peaceful and had a beautiful views of the greenery outdoors.
We loved that our jacuzzi tub had shutters opening to the room and large window.
The hotel had a cozy a library. We popped in before dinner for a game of pinball on an ancient wooden pinball machine and browsed the book selection.
Then we got our fancy threads on and drank our dinner in the bar. Yes, I'm sitting next to a fire in May- and I loved it.
The next day, can you believe I was the only person in this amazingly serene spa?
The breakfast dining room was especially gorgeous with giant windows overlooking the tumbling falls.
I recommend staying at the Salish on a weekday for a considerably reduced rate. Flashing a military ID also affords an extra discount.

What's your favorite escape hotel?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mt Rainier

There were no wildflowers. No towering mountain peaks. No reflections of glaciers on lakes. But it was still a great day on Mount Rainier.

Making the day trip from Seattle a few weeks back, we had high hopes of experiencing this majestic National Park. But let's face it. Despite best intentions, Mother Nature has ultimate control.

We had planned to make a circular trip, hitting top spots and hiking a few trails. Except the mountain witnessed an unusually long winter this year, rendering much of it too treacherous for visitors. Unfortunately, many passes were closed due to poor road and weather conditions.

But we adapted. We found ourselves at the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail and loved every minute of it.

We wanted towering snow-capped peaks. Instead we got birds flapping wings, fresh green scented air, lacy green moss, trees bending and croaking, rocks in streams, and animals tapping out sounds all around us.
The Grove of the Patriarchs is situated near the Ohanapecosh area of Mt. Rainier Park. Here we stood in awe of a family of 1,000 year old colossal trees including red cedar, Douglas Fir, and western hemlock. Some of trees have a circumference up to 30 feet.
I love seasons in transition.

Mt. Rainier Travel Tip: Sometimes your schedule puts you in the vicinity of a national park during an odd time of year. Rather than abandoning the trip altogether, research which spots should be open. Go with the best intentions, and if you encounter limitations, find pleasure in wherever you end up.

How are you enjoying nature wherever you are in the world?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Perfect Day (Part 2) in ...

Call me strange, but I love gritty downtowns.

And Seattle's Pike Place area is just that. Everywhere you look are characters, both colorful and seedy. What's more, they are bold. Of late, there has been legislation tossed around aimed at curbing aggressive panhandler behavior towards tourists, who often feel harassed or intimidated.

In my case, the riff raff didn't phase me at all. I suppose I'll always just be an Ocean Beach, CA girl at heart.

One such homeless gentleman was even friendly. Observing me taking a picture of this alley, he politely asked to be in my photograph and then posed with his cigarette.

Some of the sights of the day included...
and this Great Wall of Gum, which is not only one of the most germ-laden places on the planet, but also a popular wedding photography spot.

Do couples really have this conversation? "Honey, instead of Mt Rainier or the Space Needle as our backdrop, let's pose in front of the gum wall."

I'm surprised these children were allowed such close proximity. Their mom did eventually shoo them away, but only after the little girl curiously picked at one of the globs.
Another fun phenomenon occurring in Seattle is this roving pulled pork lunch truck, Maximus Minimus. They have set locations some days, but other times locals never know where it will pop up. How cool is a trailer with sunglasses on it?

Finally, the city will soon no longer be home to the famous landmark Lusty Lady Show. After 27 years of entertaining verbiage on the pink marquee, the business is closing. Some of the famous puns have included "The Loin King" and "Happy Spanksgiving." Oh, how I wish I could read the marquees in Japan!
As you might imagine, we don't have sights like these in Okinawa.

Oh, wait a minute, we do. Gate 2 Street.

What's your favorite thing about downtowns?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Perfect Day in...

When you live on a subtropical island like Okinawa, sometimes you just crave different.

Chilly brisk air. Urban cafes. Bookstores. Street entertainment. Cheese.

All of them, I'll never take for granted again.

That's why we jumped at the chance to visit Seattle when an opportunity arose. Arriving a day prior to Sean, I spent the time happily browsing through one of the famous landmarks, Pike Street Market.

In my jet-lagged euphoric state, I discovered the market is all about...

Upon arrival, I met a friend for lunch at Matt's in the Market. For me, it was 4:00 in the morning so it felt like one of those late night munchie attacks after a night out on the town- the kind where you chow down on a short stack and bacon. Only this day, it was lovely brisket sandwich with lots of horseradish.

My next stop was a little donut shop that my friend Kelly recommend to me.
It was here that I had a cultural epiphany. Living in another country with a foreign language, there's heaps that gets lost in translation. You can't understand conversations happening next to you on the bus. What's more, you don't pick up on nuances, jokes, or sarcasm in your basic interactions with locals.

Hence, I was reminded of all that in Seattle. Man, those Pike's Market vendors have ATTITUDE!

So, I mentioned I was seeking a particular donut shop. Well, the market has so many bakeries and sweet shops, I couldn't be sure which was the ONE. I spied the donuts and approached the men behind the counter.

"So, are these the famous Pike's Market donuts that everyone raves about?" I asked. Okay, awkward attempt, but it was sincere.

The men looked at me with bored expressions. "Yeah lady, these are the most famous donuts in the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD."

Well then. Half a dozen.

With donuts in hand and powdered sugar all over the my face and camera case, I browsed and enjoyed some of this...
I so wished I could buy a bouquet. Tulips in Okinawa? Hah!

I also marveled at the abundance of the fresh fruits and vegetables. I had never in my life seen baby avocado or cauliflower. And you know what? There was not a goya (bitter melon) anywhere in sight.

So much more than sarcasm, flowers, and perfect vegetables, the market is also a place of ...
I spied this little boy carefully casing the joint before stealthily reaching for a tomato. Just a second within grasp, his mother scolded him and pushed the stroller away.

Do you enjoy Farmer's Markets? What do you buy at yours?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hello, My Name is Mary...

...and I'm a Chocoholic.
I'm officially in detox.

Not only am I coming down from jet-lag due to an overseas trip to Seattle, but a massive sugar high brought on by this Chocolate Indulgence Tour.

If you're heading there any time soon, I highly recommend this spirited tour of downtown's Pike Street Market area. For two hours, my fellow enablers and I learned about new confection trends and sampled to our heart's delight. As you've no doubt noticed from the pictures, we enjoyed so many incarnations.

One of our stops let us contemplate chocolate in three distinct ways:

Similar flavors/Similar textures: Fudgey brownie enrobed in chocolate glaze
Similar flavors/Different textures: Chocolate cupcake with bittersweet frosting and ganache in the center
Opposite flavors: Chocolate gelato and lemon sorbet

Which do you think you'd prefer?

In my case, similar flavors/textures was much too rich for my palate. Also try as I did, I couldn't quite marry chocolate and lemon together in my mind. But as for that chocolate cupcake, it was heavenly.

These are links to the major stops on the tour, if you'd like to seek them on your own. Some of the items we sampled are not pictured here, as I couldn't get them in my mouth or have the camera ready fast enough...

1. Chocolate martini at Mayflower Park Hotel
2. Coconut cream pie at Dahlia Bakery
3. Chocolate ganache cupcake at The Chocolate Box
4. Chocolate and lemon gelato at The Chocolate Box
5. Animal truffles at The Chocolate Box
6. White Chocolate and raspberry cheesecake at The Confectional
7. Cinnamon and cloves drinking chocolate at The Confectional
8. Gray salted chocolate caramel at Fran's Chocolates

Are you wondering what my absolute favorite was?

Everything was good, but I have to say the salted chocolate caramel from Fran's Chocolates was pretty special.

How do you take your chocolate?


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