Monday, May 31, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away; or, "Where did my year of eternal summer go?"

Does anyone not from Seattle remember asking me at some point if it rains all the time? Does anyone remember my dismissive reaction to this question? "Nah, it doesn't rain that much." Friends, I am eating my words.

It has been rainy and cold for two solid weeks. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun -- even a tiny sunbreak -- and I find myself wandering around the house in double layers muttering, "is it the apocalypse?" It's a far cry from last May when we had a record number of sunny days with no rain.

Next week's forecast is even more depressing than the last two, since before they at least attempted to make us feel better by hiding a sun behind the rain clouds. All such optimism is gone for the week of June 1-7: rainy and 61-64 degrees all the way. It's like Groundhog Day. This is the view I wake up to every morning. Not that I'm complaining; it's a gorgeous view. I just wish it were a little sunnier.

I find myself in a weird mood since I worked from home on Thursday and Friday and stayed more or less in with a cold all weekend, another factor adding to the Groundhog Day-esque sensation. I am going into the office today specifically because it is a holiday - nothing like an empty space to be seriously productive.

Anyone who works in publishing knows that there is always plenty of time in the workweek except for the days/weeks/months before a deadline (depending on how big the deadline). Right now all any of us can think about is the glorious freedom we will feel after July 1; until then I'm dedicating many extra hours to one part of the project or another, secretly happy I became an hourly employee when I went abroad. And, at this rate, the weather might be perfectly conducive to long evenings slaving over my computer; at least the longing to be out in the early summer sunshine won't be there. So, if I've been remiss in blogging or communication with you, that's why.

Yesterday K and I spent some time in the garden between rain showers. We ripped up some broccoli and broccoli rabe that did nothing but bolt two years in a row (won't be planting that again next year) and some other things that needed to go (bolted arugula, bitter lettuce) to make room for tomato and cucumber starts from some cold frames in the back.

The peas have gone wild and are covered in flowers which I hope means the peas aren't far behind, even though they're probably wondering if it's the apocalypse, too. The strawberries are also doing well and the radishes have been abundant and delicious. Also, K's ornamentals have filled out beautifully since last year. Here are the edible beds in front:

On Saturday I had to engage in a carrot holocaust because the seeds are so tiny it's very hard not to overplant which results in the need for serious thinning down the road. I felt pretty bad surveying all the tiny bodies I'd ripped out of the ground but the nice, evenly spaced rows left behind were worth it. (Side note: the other night I took a trip through the past with my sister Tessa's terrifyingly detailed memory of our childhood, during which she informed me that I used to make her play a game called "Holocaust." This apparently consisted of us standing in our small walk-in closet pretending it was 1) a cattle car or 2) concentration camp bunk beds. She told me that she used to say things like, "but I don't want to play" in her 6-year-old innocence and I'd stare her down and say in my 10-year-old demented authority, "Too bad, it's World War II and you're in Nazi Germany." I always knew I was a brat, but I had no idea I was disturbed. Can anyone top that for creepy childhood games?)

In other news:

We threw Baby J his first birthday party last weekend! His actual birthday was Wednesday and on that day he also had a momentus milestone: his first steps. They were short and unsteady but decisive. Since then he's mostly stuck to crawling but not too long from now he'll be tearing up the house. Here he is at MacPherson's the day before his party:

I started aerial silks again and am trying several places on for size before I choose where to take classes. The three days after the first class reminded me what the initial first three days were like, and now, 6 days later, I'm still a wee bit sore. But my upper body is going to be absolutely ripped inside of 2 months, so that's something to look forward to.

My car is still running great! I got the license plate and have named him Al after the first three letters: AAL.

Seattle Film Festival goes until June 13. I've identified a bunch of movies I'd like to see and am even volunteering as an usher a few times. Let me know if you want to see something!

Finally, I'd like to end with a special shout-out to Amber, currently residing in Gunsan, Korea. Amber knows I adore her so I hope she takes this as the utmost compliment: I always think I lead a pretty cool life until I read your blog. What the hell, Amber? Why you gotta do so many COOL THINGS? You seriously make me -- and everybody -- look bad. (Te echo de menos.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Updates and a Suggestion: De-Spokeo Yourself

Car update: Turns out I needed about $600 worth of mechanical work to fix the horn, replace the brakes, and get new spark plugs, but our friendly family mechanic told me I wouldn't have to see him again for a long time and that it was a good car, so I'm still feeling great about the purchase and the novelty of driving has not worn off. (More good news: the keyless entry issue was a simple battery replacement.)

Life update: I moved into my new house this weekend! I'm back with my friends K and M and their baby J. More on that later.

General warning: If you don't know about, you should check it out. It lists all the crazy personal information it can get its hands on and sells details to anyone who wants to buy them on the cheap.

Good news: you can remove yourself from it quickly and easily. Just click on the privacy link in the bottom right-hand corner, paste in the URL you want removed, and they will email you a link you have to click on to finalize the deletion.

It's funny how much information they list and even funnier how much is wrong. For instance, I was a woman in my late 30s with children, but the address and some other weird information like my zodiac sign was definitely right.

Almost everyone I searched showed up. So, remove yourself ASAP!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I bought a car!

I'm the proud new owner of a 2003 white Toyota Matrix, all-wheel drive, power everything, decent stereo with a CD AND tape player, and my first car with air conditioning. Interestingly it was the first car I looked at on Craigslist four weeks ago and the dealership just couldn’t move it (since they seem to open only when it pleases them and don’t return calls, go figure) so I was able to get a great price on it and so far it runs smooth as butter. I had made an offer on a 2005 at another dealership but they didn’t come down low enough and I’m grateful because the 2003 actually drives a lot tighter and I like it more in general.

When I got in the car for the first time as its owner and turned it on, Kube 93 was playing. The song “Shot Caller” by L’il Troy started immediately and its first line I found very appropriate: “Wanna be a baller.” That’s me. Then I switched to 101.5 and “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics came on, also appropriate! It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had what could be considered a “nice” car and it’s overall exciting to just have a car at all after several years without one. Here's the super-clean interior:

The first snafus include a horn that doesn’t honk and a keyless entry that doesn’t work, but I’m hoping they are simple fuse and battery replacements and all will be well and it won’t need anything else, except new tires in a few months which I’m already anticipating. Here's my dad trying to fix the horn:

Confidential to anyone who needs car insurance: Geico is the absolute BEST. I had them before and their customer service is second to none. Even after a minor accident (my only one ever, knock on wood) my rate didn’t go up. This time I have full coverage of everything you can think of and I’m paying just $417 for 6 months. Doesn’t get better than that, and if it does I’d question the policy!

In other news, it's after midnight so today is my sister Tessa's birthday. In her honor, here is Cali, our prized family Westie who gave us a bit of a health scare this week but is back to her happy, barky, jumpy self. (How do we know? She comes running at the sound of Redi-whip.) Happy birthday Tess!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Philadelphia, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

I’m back in Seattle with some exciting updates, but first a wrap-up of my incredible five weeks on the east coast.

As most of you know, I used to live on and off in Philadelphia and try to spend about a month each spring there because I love it so much.

When I breeze into Philadelphia I cause a lot of disruption in people’s lives -- and pocketbooks. I have been very lucky to keep so many connections and it’s sort of like an extended party each time I show up, filled with happy hours and dinners and sporting events and festivals and anything else that catches my eye. My Phila friends are eternally accommodating of my event planning.

Thursday, April 29 was an event called Dining out for Life which benefits local AIDS organizations. I lunched with a co-worker at Parc, a French bistro on Rittenhouse square. That night I supped with Ben, Katharine, Mike, Erica, and Dan at Mixto, a Colombian/Cuban spot that was fantastic. In a single day I consumed more creatures than probably ever before, including:

  • Escargot
  • Shrimp
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Calamari
  • Mussels
  • Tuna
  • Tilapia
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef

I'll do anything for a good cause, especially anything delicious. Sadly no one brought a camera.

Saturday, May 1 was my friend Mike’s birthday, so we went to a Phillies vs. Mets game with other friends Matt and Dory. Mike is a Mets fan and for his birthday they got slaughtered, 11 to 0. We had seats in the direct sun and it was blazing hot but so much fun. After the game we went back to his house for ping pong and cake, then they went out while I went to bed to prepare for our Big Day on Sunday.

Early on in my trip, Mike threw out the idea of a Six Flags trip. Believe it or not I’ve never been to one! So we planned and planned and Sunday, May 2nd finally arrived. Many invites were extended but I was pleased in the end that the group ended up being 5 since we all fit into one car and it was an easy size to wrangle.

With Erica at the wheel and Ben, Mike, Dan and me as co-pilots, we slowly made our way out of the city due to traffic blocks from the Broad Street run. Once out it was a breezy 45-minute drive to Jackson, New Jersey and Six Flags Great Adventure, one of their most impressive parks with the tallest/fasted roller coaster in the world, one of the biggest, fastest wooden coasters in the world, and a few other ‘most’ claims to fame. Here we are just before going into the park. Did I mention it was 90 degrees? They made fun of me all day because I would find any patch of shade and stand in it.

There was a general worry that we’d show up late and be stuck waiting in crazy long lines so that by the end of the day, our $50 tickets wouldn’t have much payout. We were pleased to be wrong and it paid off to go on an early season day (they aren’t even open midweek yet). The longest we waited for any ride was about 20 minutes and we walked right onto most of them. Here Erica and I are, just minutes into the park.

We got on our first coaster at 1 pm and by 6 pm we’d been on 11 of ‘em! It was by far my biggest coaster day ever and I was saturated by day's end. I got gradually woozier after each ride and that night I couldn’t even close my eyes because I got dizzy each time. (I ended up sleeping at a 45 degree angle with pillows propped up behind me.)

Happily we were a very cohesive group with identical goals: roller coasters and food. No one wanted to play arcade games or waste time on piddly carnival-style rides. We went straight for the big-ticket rides like Superman, El Toro, and Kingda Ka. I have to admit, Kingda Ka was my least favorite. It’s the world’s tallest, fastest coaster and shoots you from 0 to 128 MPH in a mere 3 seconds on a JET LAUNCHER. That part was definitely cool, but then you go straight up 456 feet (a 45-story building!) and right back down and you’re done a mere 24 seconds later. If I’d waited more than 15 minutes I probably would have been mad. It doesn't look that tall here but trust me, it feels tall when you're on top of it.

Confidential to anyone going to Great Adventure: do not waste your time on the Dark Knight! It was the worst ride by far and not worth even a 5 minute wait, let alone the 2 hour line they have during peak season.

The Monday after Six Flags started my last full workweek, a struggle of concentration with a zillion distractions and looming deadlines every day. Wednesday was my last official happy hour and, since it was Cinco de Mayo, most people were down for a few drinks. Thursday Adam and Lydia and I went to my favorite BYOB, Melograno, with two bottles of wine I brought back from Argentina. The food and the wine were amazing and couldn’t be overshadowed by our presumptuous waiter who thought we were BFF or the random group of meowing diners behind us. Here we are getting gelato afterward:
Friday was my last day in the office and I treated myself with my favorite tourist activity: Reading Terminal. It was hard because I wanted to eat at so many places but decided on my first love, the Dutch Dining place and their famous turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes. (It will surprise no one that I gained weight in Philadelphia. Don’t hassle me; I’m already working on getting it off.)

Friday was also my last night and a great excuse to throw a party. We called it “Siete de Mayo” and offered some Mexican-inspired snacks, plus the World’s Biggest Pizza. Seriously. I don’t think the picture fully communicates just how ridiculously large it was, but this is the box it came in:

We also got a keg which transported us all back to college parties full of beer pong, flip cup, living room dance parties, silly snafus that drunk people couldn’t stop talking about, and a late-night off-color joke session. Unlike college the house wasn’t trashed and people pitched in without being asked so that we had fully cleaned everything by the time we went to bed.

Saturday was my last day and started with the pleasant chance to sleep in, followed by La Colombe coffee, pancakes, and bacon that Lydia lovingly prepared. I packed my bags and then Adam and I headed down to Passyunk square to drink margaritas before my flight. US Airways charged me $120 for my one-way, non-stop ticket. Once at the airport I had to pay $27 for my first bag, $37 for my second bag… and $50 for being 8 pounds over the weight limit. D’oh! Almost as much on luggage as the ticket itself. I spoke too soon since not two days before I was bragging about how being nice had kept me from ever having to pay overage fees before. It was still cheaper than shipping it, though, and I was pleased to pay it knowing it is the last time that I will ever have to travel with that much baggage EVER AGAIN.

I am so relieved at the thought of staying put, and when I decide to travel, packing a small suitcase and leaving for short(er) periods of time like a normal person. I move into my digs on Saturday so just a few more days of living out my giant suitcases at my parents’ house left, but it’s so great to be able to spend this time with them so the suitcases aren’t phasing me (too much). The mere thought of having all my worldly belongings in one space for the first time in my adult life makes me giddy, and it’s going to be a reality inside of a week. I can’t wait to unpack.

Seattle updates soon… but first, a special shout-out to my favorite east coast pet and roommate, Clarence. This is the sweetest dog and I miss his antics already.