Friday, March 28, 2008

How to Spend a Snowy Seattle Spring Day

Apparently, Mother Nature did not get the memo that spring has sprung, and so this morning we had pretty heavy snowfall. Fortunately, it wasn't cold enough to make the roads anything but wet, so I could still venture out without much worry. And I had a lot of plans today, so that was a good thing.

Around 2:00 or so, my friend Ruby and I went to Waxen Art, because we thought it would be interesting to make our own candles.

It was a lot of fun. First you pick out a candle shape and size that you like (they range in price from $12-$52). I chose a small oval - one of the cheapest options. Then you choose a scent. They have everything from Peony (my pick) to Washington Apple (Ruby's choice) to Monkey Farts (which smells like bananas).

Then they prepare your mold and give you a sharp implement (looks like a scraper) that you use to cut the wax into chunks. You pick out the colors of wax that you want. I decided to go for earthy, neutral colors, so I picked a tan, which I wanted to accent with some green.

Then you start putting your candle together, putting the various wax pieces in whatever arrangement you like at the top, bottom and sides of the candle.

Once you have filled the mold, they pour in more wax, scented as you request. It holds together all the wax bits that you put in the mold, and you end up with a customized candle that is almost too pretty to light.


This is my Grandma's birthday present. Nobody tell her!

Anyway, on a busy day, it takes about 3 hours for your candle to be ready. Since we were the only ones insane enough to be out in the crappy weather, we were the only ones there making candles at the time, and we were told we could pick them up in an hour.

(By the way, on weekdays they have make one candle, make the second at half price, so we paid for ours together and got a good deal!) kill time while awaiting our candles, we went to happy hour at Duke's Chowder House (it had stopped snowing by this time, but turned to pouring rain while we were inside), where Ruby and her husband are frequent customers. We ordered cucumber mojitos, named "most refreshing cocktail in Seattle"...and while I can't verify that, I suppose there is some truth to it. It was very refreshing, although more of a hot weather drink. And I didn't take a picture of it. It was a pretty cocktail. We shared an appetizer - dungeness crab dip with crackers. It was a wonderful afternoon pick-me-up.

So that killed an hour...and then some. Our candles were ready and we picked those up and walked around Kent Station and the surrounding area, going to Bella and Chair & Trellis, two stores that sell very lovely things.

Around 5-ish, we headed to Pizzeria Fondi, which I have mentioned previously. It's definitely my favorite pizza place here. We ordered the vegetarian pizza, which is a work of art. Behold...

Fantastic. I have never eaten anything there that wasn't absolutely delicious.

Anyway, we had around 2 hours to kill after dinner, as we had tickets to see Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago at 7:30. We went to Target and then I had to stop by my house for a few minutes and Ruby went back to her house to let her dogs out. We met up again at the Auburn Performing Arts Center.

The performance was wonderful. Our seats were very good, considering I just got the tickets yesterday. I wasn't as fond of the first act. The first act was basically a lecture on the history and influences of jazz, using dance to illustrate how jazz has evolved over the decades. It was entertaining, but I would prefer just to see dance and hear the music without any commentary. But still, it was nice to see all the various styles of dance and how they are incorporated into jazz. And they did a very nice improvisational dance to Chicago blues music, probably my favorite part of that act.

After intermission, they did 3 numbers: Entropy, The Man That Got Away (performed to a song sung by Judy Garland, and very comic!), and Pyrokinesis, which I think was my favorite. That was done to piano music, which I recognized as George Winston, who is one of my favorite artists.

Since Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago travels around, try and catch them if they come near you. It really is worth it. They were given a standing ovation at the end.

Anyway, that concluded our evening. It's been a great day and a wonderful way to chase away the post-winter blahs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Another Local Restaurant Recommendation

Last Friday, I attended a dinner to welcome the wing commander of my husband's unit, who isn't stationed here.

We had this dinner at a beautiful restaurant on the Des Moines marina. Huge picture windows gave us a wonderful view of Puget Sound. I only wish the sunset had been more spectacular.

Anyway, this building actually houses two restaurants. The upper floor is Anthony's Home Port, which is a bit more upscale with the menu to match. The more casual eatery - where we were - was on the lower floor, called The Oyster Bar & Grill. Same ownership, same chef. It's just a different atmosphere depending on which floor you prefer.

As you may have guessed, these restaurants (as with so many in the area) specialize mostly in seafood, but there are chicken and burgers for those who aren't into fish.

I shared a bottle of Washington State (Columbia Valley) Riesling with two of my dinner companions. Very very nice. And for dinner, I had Mahi Mahi tacos with tortilla chips and fresh salsa. Very mild and delicious. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable too. My entree, which was one of the cheaper ones, was about $10 or so. The bottle of wine that I shared was around $25, which doesn't seem so bad when split 3 ways (hey, I got very cheap wine in Europe...I guess I'm spoiled, so I had to balk just slightly at the price).

Most entrees on the menu were between $10-$20 range. So if you're more of an Applebees/TGI Friday's type when it comes to restaurant prices, this may be a place you only want to visit occasionally. But trust me, it's worth it. The service was impeccable as well.

For large groups however, the seating can be tricky. We were separated over 2 tables and it didn't make it easy for us to all talk together. You could really only talk to the people sitting around you.

Oyster Bar & Grill/Anthony's Home Port is part of a larger chain of restaurants scattered around the Pacific Northwest.

You can click here for their website.


In other news, I have started my memoirs of my four years living in Germany. I brought the prologue and part of the first chapter to my writers' group today, and I got very positive feedback on it (and a few laughs, which is precisely what I was going for).

There is a writers' conference here in July where some nonfiction editors will be present, so that would be a good opportunity for me to hawk my manuscript and see if I can get any takers.

I'm very excited! My writers' group seems eager for me to bring in other parts of it while I'm writing it, so I would only be too happy to oblige.


Upcoming posts: Friday night, I have plans to attend a performance of Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago in Auburn. So I will write a review of that, since they travel around and there's a chance they could come somewhere near you.

Also, in May, I will be going to Rochester, NY for 2 weeks for training for my new job. I don't know how much sightseeing time I'll get, since I'll be kept pretty busy, but I'll try to get out and see some of the local attractions. I'll have one weekend while I'm there, and I had thought about driving to Niagara Falls, but something has come up in my family where they will be in New York City around that time, so I may end up going to NYC that weekend instead. It won't be a sightseeing trip though, which is unfortunate, because I have never been to NYC except to pass through JFK Airport. But I'll try to have some content to put up here regardless.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Getting Your Irish On in Tacoma

I was invited out by some friends this evening to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. I wasn't sure what exactly was in store, but I knew it involved a pub somewhere.

So we ended up at Doyle's Public House, near the waterfront, which looked like a perfectly delightful pub, when not completely stuffed full of people. Apparently, they sponsor Tacoma's largest St. Patrick's Day party. They were expecting so many people that they had to set up a beer tent. Everyone looked to be having a great time, but it was really too crowded for us. We all had one drink and then decided to go elsewhere, especially since we were in need of sustenance. We also wanted live entertainment, but they weren't planning to have any until 9 pm, and we were there sometime between 6-7 pm.

Doyle's seems to have a pretty decent menu, but I don't think the focus was on food this evening. Still, I would like to go back on a night that's nowhere near an Irish holiday. It looked like a cozy little place to kick back and have a pint or two, with some yummy pub food like bangers and mash.

So search of dinner...

We made a dash for Katie Downs, an Irish-themed tavern and eatery that's right on the water. I've been past the restaurant before and it's in a beautiful area, with walking trails that give you a nice view of the sound and both of the nearby mountain ranges (including a stunning view of Rainier on clear days).

Surprisingly, Katie Downs still had tables available, and they had some Irish specials this evening: corned beef and cabbage, lamb stew, and reuben sandwiches. By the time we got there, they were out of everything but the reuben sandwiches, and they still had their regular menu.

Supposedly, they have the best pizza in Washington state, but I didn't test this claim. Instead, I ordered fish and chips, and ate them the British way, with copious amounts of malt vinegar. Very good, but huge portions. We also split appetizers: onion rings, calamari, and spicy shrimp diavolo. All very good (and I'm not a huge fan of calamari, so I don't say this lightly).

The atmosphere was fun. The best part - NOBODY UNDER 21 ALLOWED! So if you want a laidback, adults-only evening, this is the place to go.

Just for this evening, they had a couple of musicians playing drums and bagpipes, and they gave free raffle tickets to everyone because they were giving away all kinds of prizes. But they were just t-shirts and ball caps and stuff like that with beer logos on them.

Anyway, I really liked this place and I would love to come back again with Lance, especially on a warm day when we can sit out on the deck over the water.

Overall, I had a really enjoyable evening. It was much better than sitting at home. And the more I get to know of Tacoma, the more I like it. I feel it's highly underrated and often overlooked in favor of Seattle, when Tacoma has so much going for it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I know some GK-area folks still read this. And this is why I am passing this information along. If you've always been interested in breaking into travel writing, this could be your chance! Proximity to Aachen and Maastrict probably count, I think.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone you think might be interested. (Tiffany, if you see this, you might want to post this on your blog.)

Do you know people in Europe who would like to write about their city?
We are a new city-blog network ( For expansion in Europe we're looking for a lot of locals that like to write about their city!

Who are we looking for?
As a Spotter you do not have to be a professional journalist. English will probably not be your mother tongue. That’s OK! Most important of all is that you:
> Live in a large city in Europe;
> Consider yourself a local (you don’t have to be a native);
> Love your city, and you would like to share your enthusiasm by writing about it;
> Have a bit of spare time (a couple of hours per month).

What’s in it for you?
An opportunity to promote yourself online. Also, we will compensate you financially by a share of advertising income.

Are you interested? Do you know anybody that may be interested? Please let me know!

(I got this notice through LinkedIn -

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some Advice I'm Passing Along

I'm sure most people are not avid readers of travel blogs and websites like I am, but I came across this post on Notes From a Cafe, and it's certainly worth sharing. For those of you who have trouble planning itineraries, or for those of you (and I've dealt with this enough myself) who get guests coming to visit who have no idea what they want to do and expect you to do the travel planning for them, here is some great advice.

Making A List, Checking It Twice

I've done this before when planning trips, although I always keep the list filed away in my brain instead of on paper. Or I get a guidebook and either highlight what I especially want to see (I advise against doing this if the book doesn't actually belong to you) or getting those little Post-It flags to mark the pages.

I will add to this that if you have one of those situations where people are coming to visit you and expect you to plan what they are going to do, at least try and get some sense of what they might enjoy (if you don't know that already). If they're not into art, it won't be fun for them (or you) if you drag them to art museum after art museum. If they're not outdoorsy types, a hike through a national forest is going to be more torture than vacation.

But the link above at least tells you of a good way to start your planning.