Tuesday, May 23, 2017

U-District Farmers' Market

Hama Hama Oysters and their oyster sliders.

It was a beautiful morning to stock up on supplies at the U-District farmers' market and grab a few bites at the stalls. There's always a stall selling hot soups. I like to start with a cup of whatever-soup and stroll around the market. Warms my cold fingers. For whatever else we needed, there was a Safeway on the next street. And good coffee at Slate on 45th.

Had to stop by Hama Hama Oysters. The man couldn't resist eating those oyster sliders. LOL. I'm not a fan of oysters cooked or raw, but since the man ordered three sliders, I took two bites. Battered, grilled and packed between those toasted buns, they were delicious.

Bought loaves of bread and requested for them to be sliced. Wasn't going to do that ourselves and leave crumbs all over the hotel room. There aren't any early Rainier cherries this year. 😞 It's been too wet and too cold. This bottle of blueberry-basil preserves we got at the market is not overly sweet, and I didn't mind having some of that with bread. Bought Greek-style cheeses from Samish Bay. Those spicy queso jalapeño and queso diablo (with added habanero and jalapeño peppers) were so unforgettable. Had to put them in the shopping bag.

Purple-everything is in season. Every market has them purple broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes and all that. What a pity we couldn't really buy many vegetables, except those that could be blanched. That's the downside to not staying in an apartment with a kitchenette. But we have a fridge big enough to store a few items, and those that we want to transport home in a cooler bag. 😄

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bookstores Come and Go

I didn't keep up with the news and merrily hopped out to one of my favorite utilitarian (and slightly academic) bookstores in Bellevue- University Book Store. To my horror, the store was shuttered. After 30 years in operation at this location! 😱 It closed two and half months ago, and is currently seeking a smaller space Eastside.

There's a Barnes and Noble that's a five-minute walk away. Better than nothing I suppose. I should be one to talk. I don't even buy many books in hard copies anymore. I'm buying a whole lot more digital books, like in the ratio of 95% to 5% hard copies. There's no better storage solution than the cloud. Borrowing books from the library is always in vogue. However, my dilemma arises when I want to own the book at read at will. And I want loads of books. Haizzzz. Now I buy e-books exclusively on Amazon's Kindle platform.

The irony. Or maybe not, since this is where Amazon is founded and headquartered. Just a few blocks down at the swanky Bellevue Square, Amazon Books is opening a physical store this fall. Had to stop and take a photo. The shop's hoarding is up while renovations go on inside, and they're hiring. At least they put easy information on the boards for fun reading.

Stared at the list of 'frequently looked up words in Kindle Books set in Seattle and Eastside'. Ha! It's the books I'm interested in. Well, I've only read two! I shall go find out about the rest. There is one book on this list of which I gave up a quarter way through because I really disliked the plot, the narrative style and the entire concept of it—that will be E.L. James' 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Riiiight.

Then something occurred to me. People actually turn on the wifi while reading? While internet access on a Kindle is convenient, its processor is so darned slow that I never bother to link and surf. It also saps the battery. I mostly read with the wifi turned off. Wifi is enabled when I need to buy books and sync stuff across devices. With wifi mostly disabled, and in sleep mode half the time, my Kindle battery lasts almost eight days on one charge with say, two hours of reading a day. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

On the Discovery Park Loop

Of course I went to Discovery Park, repeatedly. It's my favorite park in Seattle. As far as city parks go, this is a really good one that makes you think you're out in the wild. Except it's smack in the middle of the city, away from the downtown whir. Woodlands and water. You get the trees and little trails on the hills and then the beach. This season sees temperatures averaging between 12℃ to 21℃ (and getting hotter, yayy) and with the longer daylight, evening runs are very pleasurable too.

I'm cool to go there alone too, in the daylight (although it's just a psychological thing) and especially on weekends. Week days are quieter, but it sees people. Located in the residential neighborhood of Magnolia, Discovery Park is literally in the friends' backyard. There's full cellular reception. As always, I just keep alert and go about my day. Of course, do run fast. That helps.

There's so much flora and fauna, and birds. It's a wonderful walk. Pause along the way to linger over something splendid. A pity I'm not very good with identifying them. Everything is just "Oh flower! Pretty pink flower! Pretty white flower!" or "Leaves! Green leaves! Brown leaves! Big trees! Small trees! Bush." or "Bird! Big bird! Small bird!" And hawks. I can spot a hawk. But I wouldn't know if it's a Cooper's hawk or another species. My vocabulary is extremely limited and not very impressive.

Often, to get the most out of a trip to the park and a bit more exercise, we begin at the beach (where the lighthouse is) and run up the steps to the little hill (only 140ft), then sprint to the carparks to hail an Uber/Lyft. Luckily we aren't driving and don't need to do another loop to retrieve the car. Heh.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Vegetarian Pizzas Rock

You know I hate pizzas right? I can't repeat that enough because people keep telling me "Who hates pizzas?!" ME. It's the one singular suggestion for a meal that will make me reject it outright. Pizza is mostly unsatisfactory, sad and dreary. I'll eat some, especially if they land on my plate in vegan or vegetarian options. I just don't often eat them in Singapore because it's a bad city for this sort of pizzas.

Found a good pizza place last year, and I'm not disappointed on this trip either. Sizzle Pie!!! 🍕🤘🏻Rocked up to the eatery a few times and grabbed takeouts too. I think... the continuous dislike of pizza generally stems from the combination of a tomato base with melted cheese. Yeah, I love tomatoes and cheese, but somehow, the combination on a pizza base isn't attractive to me. So a pizza margherita is yucks, and something with mushrooms, garlic and olives will be just unimaginative and tasteless. It's worse if the chilli flakes are wimpy and have no heat, which is what is provided by majority of the pizzerias in Singapore.

At Sizzle Pie, I love their vegan and vegetarian options. The 'White Walker' was sooo good. Hahah, well, love the reference. It's got an olive oil base with spinach, roasted garlic, feta and a light dusting of herbs and spices. This season, I like its vegan 'Drugs Benedict'- white bean spread, tofu cheese, baco bits, hash brown and fresh green onions. Now, that's a slice of pizza I could eat any day. It was delicious! Make pizzas like these, Singapore.

The awesome slice of 'Drugs Benedict'

Looping the TRX Over the Door

The man has been hitting the gym daily. He likes the standard machines in the gym better than I do. Yeah, I have scheduled classes with the trainers and at the studios. But I still need to do deep stretches in the room.

A vacation can't just be all about eating and drinking and piling on the calories without output riiiight? Exercising is part of the daily routine, and it will remain so no matter where we are. Our rooms are spacious and come with yoga mats. That's also my workout space. The TRX travel kit comes along on many trips. It's so portable.

I'm making full use of the TRX on this trip. It's been crazy rainy and tough to catch the sunshine. Anyway, the hotel room doors are perfect for it. They're strong and won't come down unless it's a purposeful couple of kicks. 😉 Pull-ups, mountain climbers, planks and pikes, push-ups and lunges, Russian twists and roll-ups. That's 20 minutes easy. Not a full cardio pump, but it gets the heart rate up and warms up the core and muscles.  I hate them mountain climbers, but they get the job done quickly.

Then get onto the mat and do those roll-ups slow to wake the muscles in the abs and obliques. These are considered a cool-down too. Much more enjoyable than puffing through burpees. These take another 10 minutes. There, a 30-minute burning of calories in the room regardless of the weather.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Soundgarden 💔

Soundgarden is on tour, and from all the reviews, videos and chatter, going strong. To the public and fans, there isn't a hint of what's to come. I'm completely stunned to read that Chris Cornell committed suicide. This happened only hours after his Detroit show, where he covered Led Zeppelin's 'In My Time of Dying'. 😢

Let's be very clear. I'm celebrating the talent and music, not giving tacit approval to the alcohol-fueled and drug-ridden lifestyles of these musicians, or any musician, or anyone. Dabbling in cocaine and heroin, and reliance on any sort of substance is a painful path. They will become your lifelong demons. Music wise, this is my second shock of 2017. We had tickets to Grandaddy two weeks back. They had a new album and they were coming to Seattle. But Kevin Garcia had a sudden stroke and passed away. That was so sad.

When it comes to music, grunge is my first love. It was the only rebellious expression I had to counter the classical nonsense forced onto my childhood. The angst ridden music that came out of Seattle in the 90s spoke to my teenage heart, sang my emotions and soothed my soul. I don't know many new bands now with this sort of grunge sounds. Their music holds these influences, yes, but not quite 90s grunge. Soundgarden is the very first band I fell in love with. I was thrilled when they got back together in 2010 and released 'King Animal' in 2012. In an article today, NPR's Charles R. Cross wrote,

If there was one Seattle band of the "grunge" era that seemed more "Seattle" than any other, it was Soundgarden. Nirvana was actually from Aberdeen, and not a single member lived in Seattle until 1992; Pearl Jam didn't become a band until Eddie Vedder arrived from San Diego. But Soundgarden was truly Seattle. Chris Cornell went to high school ten blocks from my house, though for accuracy, that's just outside the Seattle city limits (and, for accuracy, he dropped out of that high school).

Here we have it, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland, and in an untimely sad fashion, Chris Cornell. Thank you for the music, gentlemen. Arguably, there're still Mark LaneganTad Doyle, and uhhh Dave Grohl. And of course, Eddie Vedder. Seattle's Space Needle went dark for an hour tonight, to honor her brilliant and tormented son of grunge. Rest in peace, Chris Cornell. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wann Yen (ร้านหวานเย็น)

I crave for spices and chilli on longer trips when I don't have easy access to a kitchen. Mexican peppers won't do. I need Southeast Asian spices. Thai food will do fine too. Found a super decent Thai eatery that serves home-cooked food the way I like! Wann Yen at 1313 NE 43rd St, just round the corner from the U-District outlet of Slate Coffee!

This isn't the weird American Thai food where you get 'Swimming Rama', sweet tom yam clear soup, and larb gai with rice, and the strange curry powder over fried rice a la 'Singapore Noodles'. WTF. I hate those. There're plenty of good Thai restaurants tucked away in the small streets. I just need to ferret them out.

Opened by Mark and Picha Pinkaow of Thai Curry Simple, Wann Yen (ร้านหวานเย็น) focuses on traditional Thai desserts (shaved ice), and recently started serving up hot savory food on a limited menu. The owners were warm and affable, and have been running restaurants for two decades, in New York, then now in Seattle. Thai Curry Simple has been around since 2010. I don't know if they update their website often, but Wann Yen's current hours are: Tuesdays to Fridays 11.30am to 8pm; kitchen closes at 7pm. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Wann Yen serves proper Thai food. I was so so pleased. Chuckled at the title of the dessert menu. It says 'น้ำแข็งใส' (น้ำแข็งใส ใส = clear (ไส = crushed)), which is like what the street dessert stalls in Thailand do. It's a common but accepted localized happy word error, replicated here almost as though in an effort to state the authenticity of their food and desserts. Quite fun! 🙃

When we went for a quick dinner, there were only four items on the menu. The best sort to cook well. This eatery is supposed to focus on dessert anyway. There were Thai basil chicken with rice (ผัดกระเพราไก่), Hainanese chicken rice (Thai style, khao mun gai ข้าวมันไก่), sour spicy catfish curry (like a gaeng som แกงส้ม), and red curry chicken. A lot of chicken man! But okay, at least the chicken here is tasty, and even though portions are smaller than what one usually expects in the US, the ingredients are followed faithfully, and every dish hits a spot. The man's phad kra pow gai arrived exactly the way he loves it- with holy basil (dried, though), an egg with runny yolk, and properly spicy. The Thai-style Hainanese chicken rice was very good! Definitely tasted like it came out of your friends' mother's competent kitchen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Upstream Music Festival + Summit

The inaugural Upstream Music Festival + Summit was held over three days last week. It was really well organized. The website and app were detailed and easy to navigate.

We skipped the Summit portion (keynotes, discussions and workshops). That'd feel too much like work when we are interested, but not invested in the content. The man came out of a grueling work conference in this exact model, and didn't feel like sitting through another, although this would be way more fun. This is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's baby. He has a vision to have a Northwest version to South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. He pushed this with the intention to have Upstream succeed as a self-sustaining event to support local artists. Musicians are paid to perform at Upstream. In a May 11 article, GeekWire noted,

With more than 25 stages at a variety of venues and 300 artists representing diverse musical genres, Jeff Vetting, executive director of Upstream, called it “a snapshot of Pacific Northwest music in 2017.”

We had the three-day Festival pass to the many many gigs. Much happiness. There was an Amazon-branded Main Stage outdoors at CenturyLink Field; the other shows were held at various indoor venues dotted around Pioneer Square, and one free public stage at Occidental Park. Everything is within easy walking distance.

Getting the RFID bracelet and activating it (only for entry purposes) was a breeze. Queues to enter venues move fast, and for those that had hit capacity, people were properly told, and given the option to continue queuing, as they would only be let in if someone came out. There were plenty of options for food and drinks. The venues offered a limited but sufficient festival menu, and there were five food trucks too. It was just a bit of a pain having to lug the passport out to wave it at each venue, because alcohol. Grrrrr.

What fun to randomly stroll by Occidental Park and heard The Thermals from Portland. Didn't catch that on the line-up. Hopped in at the pub for singer-songwriter Louise Burns from Canada. I was thrilled to discover new-to-me Seattle band Dust Moth (whose current members are musicians from bands I do know), and The Long Winters who just released their first new song since 2006, with an unsurprising title and content 'Make America Great Again'.

The man was most thrilled to catch Helms Alee, pop-jazz ensemble Snarky Puppy which had superb musicians, and of course, his darling Dinosaur Jr. as the final show of the festival. (I asked the man, "Isn't this a band for old people and indie rock fans?" And I asked with affection and a tinge of sadness.) By the time Dinosaur Jr. came on, it was raining. But it wasn't exactly pouring. So up the ponchos and raincoats went, and people came out in the rain for the band. I had to miss Jeremy Enigk's (Sunny Day Real Estate) show for this. Grrrrrr. Overlapping sets. 😞😖

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Comfort Eats in the Hotel Room

I'm not lacking in good food in Seattle. But when I'm hanging out in a city for a bit, I'd like to stock the room fridge with the standard rations of bread, eggs, milk, butter, yoghurt, granola, fruits, cherry tomatoes and dark bitter chocolate. My stomach likes its comfort food, regardless of the seasons.

Instant noodles are my guilty pleasure. NEVER COOK INSTANT NOODLES IN THE ELECTRIC KETTLE. That's friggin unhygienic! Use cup noodles lah. My preferred ones are the Nissin Donbei mini cups (kitsune udon, kamodashi soba, tensoba) that are lower in salt content. Add an egg and you're all set for a half decent meal.

You can buy these noodles at Uwajimaya in downtown Seattle, Bellevue and Renton. But I bring them over from Singapore. Uwajimaya isn't convenient to get to when I have a schedule to keep to. Also, I'm not paying USD4 for a cup when I can pay SGD4. Yes, I also bring my own chopsticks and spoons and all.

In the mornings when I need a quick bite before burning calories, or as a light dinner, I do eggs. Hardboiled eggs are glorious and they're easily done in the hotel room. Housekeeping will always provide an electric kettle. When the water is boiled, rinse and sink 'em eggs in to sit for 15 minutes. Works like a charm. Don't use eggs straight out from the fridge. Let them sit and warm up before you drop them into the hot water. The man has breakfast provided for at work but he still wanted egg sandwiches in the morning! Fine. He gets an egg sandwich too.

Eh, don't call me Aunty ah. Don't tell me you don't do this too, at some point on a trip?