Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In a blink of the eye...

Wah BAM...just like that 10 days has past since I last posted.  Golly...where have I been? And more importantly what else have I been doing? **rushes to find her calendar cuz she can't remember**

ahem...

It appears that I've not been overly busy and thus have no reason for not blogging. Unless you figure doing things means blogging. But as we all know, I can make sh*t up for this blog.

Right, so the week following my last post was full of food. No big shock there, I mean I do socialize around food.

First I met my friend KA for breakfast. She had asked if I would take a head shot of her for her business. Of course I was happy to. And as is the case, when the subject is beautiful, the head shot is beautiful.  It was a blast getting caught up with her, as always.

Following that eating adventure, we had the September Dinner Club. Mr. Landlord was on point to pick the restaurant.  He picked Scotty Brown's in Bellevue. It's relatively new and I've gotta say, I wasn't overly impressed.

I was quite excited to taste their Orange Cosmo.  Turns out it tasted just like a Cosmo. I tasted no additional orange in it. It was still delicious, don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't classify it as "orange." 

I had their French dip Sammy and their twice cooked fries. They have some special name for them and when the waitress explained how they make them, I thought they sounded quite good. I would later determine that they were putting a whole lot of effort into making these fries that tasted like every other fry.

At any rate, the conversation was good and we did, as always, have a good time. SB's won't be getting my repeat business though...too many other restaurants to try.

It's my pick next month and my pick is taking us to Ballard - and if you're from Seattle you know that getting to Ballard on a week night is a bit of a struggle, so we're moving it to a Saturday.  And my pick? Oh I'm so glad you asked. I totally picked this restaurant because they have Muffaletta's on their menu.

So after dinner club last week I got a chance to have dinner with another friend to get caught up. R and I have had a heck of a time getting our schedules to sync. Finally we did and while sitting on the deck of The Beach CafĂ© we got all caught up.  I can't wait to get on her calendar again.

This past weekend came and went in a blur. I did almost nothing...and loved every single minute of it.  I like not over planning and it gave me a chance to get started on this month's book for book club.  It's another 400+ pager...we really need to stop picking such large books. 

This coming weekend is the 3Day. All week I will be prepping for the 3 long, glorious days.  The Niece and her wife come on Thursday and I need to get the house in order for them. It's going to be a tough 3 day without BigBro this year, and I'm sure we'll be filled with memories, good and bad, of him.  He lived and breathed the 3Day and all things breast cancer...he'll be with us I suppose.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Smith Tower Photo Stroll

Its been awhile since I've been on a photo stroll. The PhotoGods have tried to get something going, but it seems everyone is ubber busy these days. This stroll was a somewhat unexpected stroll. I had intended on only going to the Smith Tower and instead had some time to kill.

Meg-A-Roonie and BeagleBabe (who's new nickname should probably be the Mad Scientist because she' got this new-ish blog called The Papercraft Lab and sadly no longer has a beagle.) were joining me to see the Smith Tower.  They both are photographers and like the PhotoGods we're all at different levels and all are eager to learn.

So why the Smith Tower? Many reasons the first of which is that it's a historic landmark in Seattle and once loomed over the downtown area. It's long since been dwarfed by other skyscrapers, but at one time it was the tallest building west of Chicago for a long time. It opened July 4, 1014 and is celebrating it's 100 years anniversary.  It reaches 522 feet to the sky and is full of beautiful old craftmanship.




On the 36th floor is the observation deck.  It gives you a 360 view of Seattle and the surrounding mountain ranges.

But before I get to those photos, let's talk about the photo stroll.

I didn't have anything specific I was aiming to shoot per se, but did want to work on taking decent photos in the middle of the day. I know. I know. ALL photography training says not to, but it's been my experience on most of my trips that I don't have a choice. I have to shoot when I can. And the middle of the day, in bright sun is usually the only time.

I had read some articles after our European trip that said, in bright sunlight to drop your f/stop down (make the number higher) to allow for less light to come in. It does mean that you'll have more in focus - so if you're trying for a blurry background, you won't get it. It's a trade off I suppose.

Anyhow, we had about an hour to kill so we strolled through Pioneer Square.

This is Meg-A-Roonie and I.

The Columbia Tower. It's the tallest skyscraper now in Seattle. One day I'll get to it's observation deck.

A practice in using a polarizer lens.  Takes out all the glare and reflections when looking into a window.

The "famous" Pioneer Square Pergula. It's been hit by cars and trucks so many times, I'm surprised it's still standing.

Spooky stair case. At least that was my intent.
 As we were walking through the area, we stumbled onto this alley that was filled with interactive art pieces.  The entire alley had such unique things in. I'm so glad we found it. This is a good example for me to take in for when a plan has to change, sometimes there's good things that comes out of it. Had we not had to wait for the Smith Tower to open, we never would have found this little gem.




Selfies....
 Once we were done with the area, we got back to Smith Tower. In lobby of this building was just beautiful to me. It immediately threw you back in time.




The 36th floor is also what they call the Chinese Room. It's dec'd out in some beautiful Chinese decorations. The ceiling is all teak and there are 776 semi-precious porcelain discs in the ceiling. I'm not sure what "semi-precious" really means, but they were pretty.

Anyhow, on the observation deck you can see the beautiful city of Seattle.

Looking Northwest ish...

Flash came with us to shoot the city. He wasn't very comfortable standing on this little ledge.

 

Eye spy...if you look closely you can see the Space Needle between all those buildings.

This is the "Sunken Ship" parking structure. Its were I park all the time in this area. Sparky is actually not shown here - boo. That tip top corner though is where we stood to get the full length photo of the Smith Tower that is the first one I posted.

Looking South. Quest Field and Safeco Field are right there.

That's the very tip top of the tower. The triangle top is an apartment that someone rents. That little tip top part is a reading nook for them (I saw it on TV - that's how I know). Could you imagine the view from there?
My other two photographer trouble makers...Meg-A-Roonie and The Mad Scientist.
So that's another Seattle touristy thing I got off my "bucket" list. There's an Irish pub at the bottom of the Smith Tower and so after that exhausting day of shooting we had to eat and drink.


Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Decluttering Life

Here's an interesting fact, money, they say, cannot buy happiness. It can buy stuff, and there is some misconception that "stuff" equals happiness. And I suppose for some people it does.  I think I may have been one of those "some people" at different points in my life.

I've recently been introduced to this blog called the minimalists. Their blog is essentially about decluttering your life. That having "stuff" isn't what will make your life fulfilled. That perhaps there's more to it, like adding value to someone else's life, or volunteering, or *gasp* doing a job you love instead of job to earn a pay check.  It's all very interesting to me, and something I think has landed squarely at the forefront of my attention when it's most needed.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a person who hangs on to stuff. Just ask anyone who knows me. I'm constantly getting rid of things.  Sometimes its things I've out grown - either physically or mentally. Other times, its just stuff I no longer feel I need/want. And then sometimes its just stuff that's been replaced with bigger/better/brighter stuff. Either way, I'm constantly donating my unwanted stuff to either a garage sale or a local charity.

And because I am not a keeper of things, I am amused when I can clean out a drawer in the kitchen and still find stuff to get rid of. No lie. I just did it this weekend. I opened my utensil drawer and started pulling everything out.  With each item I thought about when I last used it. (I'm a big fan of 'if you haven't used it/worn it in a year - get rid of it). And then I saw things that didn't make sense. I had three...THREE miniature spatulas. THREE. Who needs three small spatulas (you know, the kind you'd use for getting cookies off a cookie sheet).  So I tossed two.

Today I listened to a TED talk by these two guys who started the blog I mentioned above. There's plenty of interesting tid bits in this talk, but one thing really resonated with me.  They talk about how when you make more money you buy more stuff. More gadgets, more decorations, more furniture, etc. And at the end of it all, you have stuff, but that stuff does not equal happiness. Which, logically I know.  Here's what else I know...

I know that for so many years I made crap for $$ in my career. Then one day I got fired from a job I just sorta liked.  Then I got a contract job that suddenly paid me $30K more  a year than I was making. Within two months I had gone from making $60K to $90K. That's a HUGE influx of cash for me. And suddenly I was able to walk into a book store and buy a book without thinking about a "budget".

I was in debt from making nothing, so I got out of debt. And before I knew it, I was in debt again. I kept asking myself, "How can you be making so much more $$ and be in debt?"  The answer, it turned out, wasn't easy.

Instead, I figured out that the "being able to" is what I was addicted to. I could buy something, so I did. It makes no sense to me now, but I can totally see why it did then.

Fast forward several years, I'm at a good place financially. I have just about everything I want or need, and I spend money on things that may or may not be something I should spend money on.  I save, I have a 401K etc, and I still find $$ to spend. And I'm ok with this.

Here's what I'm not ok with, I'm not ok with spending said $$ on something I may toss out in a year or more. I'm not ok with spending $$ on something that isn't exactly what I want and then NOT returning it.  I'm not ok with accumulating stuff to have stuff.

So how do I get out of this circle of stuff? I toss stuff. I buy stuff. I toss more stuff.

Today I challenged my FB friends to the 30 days of decluttering. I created a FB group for anyone who wanted to join in. I have no rules for this decluttering - I think decluttering will have different meanings for each individual.  If in 30 days any of them get rid of just one box of stuff and feel like their life is better because of it, then I'm ok with that.

I will be working on not only going through my drawers, closets, scrapbook room (gah) etc to really determine what I need.  Furthermore, I am going to really focus on my spending habits. Truly think about the items I may be purchasing. We'll see where this goes.

So I challenge you too.  Think about taking some time to declutter.  Clean out that "junk drawer" in the kitchen.

My list of things to declutter and simplify:
1. My house cleaning supplies
2. My Tupperware drawer
3. My closet
4. My book shelf
5. The scrapbook room
6. The junk drawer in the scrapbook room

I'll be pondering this more.

One last question...are you a keeper of stuff?

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Rest Rest of the Story...Sunday's Adventures

Oh yah, hi. It's me. I totally dropped the ball on finishing the NY adventure stories. But alas, here I am to finish it up...or at least try.

Now that you're up to date with our Friday adventures in NY, I'll catch you up on the Saturday adventures.

One of the things I think people should consider doing in NY is going to the 9-11 Memorial and Museum. We had visited the memorial 2 years ago when we were in NY. The process to get into the memorial was nothing short of secure. There were reservations with your name on it, IDs that had to be checked, security lines etc to see the memorial. This time, none of that existed.

The museum wasn't open last time and was this time. I had made reservations a month or so before.  We got there within plenty of time to view the memorial before we went into the museum.  The memorial itself is moving and we had no idea what to expect from the museum. We all figured it would be a sad, moving, humbling type of day and we would be correct.







After viewing the memorial, we went to get in line for our museum tour. I handed the ticket agent our tickets and she said, "these reservations were for yesterday."

SAY WHAT?

I think I lost all the color in my face. The other travel companions would later say the look on my face was priceless. I was stunned and worried that I had blown our opportunity to see the museum. It was the ONE thing we all wanted to do without a doubt.

So we got directed to the ticket counter and I asked if we could swap them for today's tickets. I was prepared to pay again for the tickets for all of us if they wouldn't transfer our tickets. Thankfully, the agent was very friendly and helpful and she gave us tickets for that day and time.

Phew.

Off we went. The best rule to employ when visiting a museum with multiple people, let everyone go at their own pace and plan to meet at the end. I knew from experience Blueberry and I go through museums at very different paces.

Inside the museum is overwhelming, to say the least. It's such a beautiful tribute and memorial of the events of that day, what led up to them, and stories about the victims. 





Many of the items in the museum were items you'd never think you'd see. There was the spire that was on top of the south tower.  A fire truck that was crushed when the south tower came down.


Images of the "missing".
And so many other wonderful, and tragic things to see. The museum was really done well and I feel honored to have been able to see it. The pain the families have gone through, and the community as a whole, was so traumatic, that it was hard to understand fully from Seattle, until you were standing in the footprint of those towers.

After that experience, we headed off to lunch. I won't bore you with how long we sat outside the museum waiting for Blueberry to get through it, but suffice it to say my stomach thought my throat had been cut...I was THAT hungry.

After lunch, we hopped on the bus again. And as I mentioned yesterday, our "tour guides" - and I use that word lightly - sucked.

We did get off to have dinner in Little Italy. To this day, I'm still thinking about those half moon raviolis I had. Oh ... my... god.

Little Italy is slowly shrinking they say. It's about 2 blocks now. Chinatown is taking over. I hope it  never really fully goes away, cuz I'd miss Angelo's.




And even though we were stuffed beyond believe, I "made" them walk around the corner to Ferrara to get cannoli. Best...cannoli...ever...My nephew who got married had introduced me to Ferrara on my first visit to NY in 2006. Now it seems tradition to me to 1) eat in Little Italy and 2) walk to get cannoli.



Monday we headed home. We had just enough time in the morning to walk over to the Brooklyn Bridge.  It's such an iconic and beautiful bridge, I just love it.



So until next time NY....I say adios! I'll be back, there's no doubt about that.



The Rest of the Story

Apparently I'm a blogging slacker. I just realized I haven't even bothered to fill in the remaining blanks of what else we did in NY.  And I know you all are waiting with baited breath...

This was my 3rd time to the Big Apple and each time I'm there I'm reminded that it's a great place to visit, but not a place I want to live in. So much to see and do. And the people watching...whew...that's worth any trip to NY.

When last I wrote I told you all about the wedding and our drinking.  The plan was to leave early so we could get up early on Saturday to get to the Empire State Building before the crowds.

I'm an early riser almost all the time, so we didn't bother to set an alarm. They relied on me to wake us up. I woke when I heard the MomUnit was up scurrying around the place like she was late. I reached over and looked at the time on my Nook which said 6:47am. I couldn't figure out why the MomUnit was in such a hurry at that time of the morning.

Then I thought maybe the Nook hadn't caught up to East coast time. So I got up and checked the iPhone. "Holy crap," I yelled, "It's a quarter to 10." That got Blueberry and Seattle SIL up quickly.

So much for getting to the Empire State Building early.

We dressed, stopped at Bucky's for coffee and grabbed a cab to the Empire State Building.

The traffic was horrible and I'm convinced the cabbies take certain routes so they will be backed up and we'll sit in a cab and pay to do that. Finally we had had enough. We hopped out of the cab and hoofed it to the building. When we got out of the cab, the driver said, "Good luck" to us and I couldn't figure out why.  Only then did I remember that "objects appear closer than they are."  I think we walked a good 7 or 8 blocks, which was fine.

When we got there, I was thrilled to see the lines were still short.

We got quite a few chuckles when we put on our crab hats.


I love seeing an area from above. Some cities it really isn't that big of a deal, but others it's mind boggling.  Manhattan from above is just that. All you see is concrete and dense, dense, denseness. It's such a beautiful view. It had been recommended to go to the Top of the Rock instead, but the two NY Newbies wanted to do the famous Empire State Building.





After we, and thousands of our closest friends, viewed the city from 86 floors above, we headed to the Time Square area to catch up with the MomUnit and The Gnome Niece and her fam for the hop on hop off upper loop tour.

First we had to get lunch. In Time Square, the food options are all rather vanilla to me. ALL are really chain restaurants and nothing I'm very interested in while traveling.  While in line to get our bus tickets, the worker guy recommended this burger place just a block or so away. I hadn't ever heard of this place, but the guy "swears" it's great food. The MomUnit and I are always down for a good burger.

The place was called Schnipper's and oh my goodness was it good. AND they had Fanta. So naturally, while on vacation, I feel obligated to have Fanta.



Afterwards, we hopped ON the bus.
Me, Blueberry, Seattle SIL, and Great Niece N

Pseudo nephew, The SL Niece, The MomUnit, and Teenage Great Niece
Now let me just say, I'm a big fan of the hop on hop off bus in new cities. I like to do the tour within the first day or so to get a feel for the area and what I may want to see again. And it often works as transportation as well.


I've been on the hop on and hop off in NY twice before. This time I purchased tickets to a line called City Sightseeing. I usually hop on the Greyline tours instead. But this time to save a bit of cash, I chose this other line. What a mistake that was.

First off, the buses had seen better days. This first loop bus the tour guide hopped off and said we'd be picking up our tour guide at the next stop. Which proved to be incorrect. Instead we were given ear plugs and no further instructions. Obviously we had to plug them in, but we weren't told which channel. After adjusting to the right channel we were set...or so we thought. The audio was off. We were behind the audio. It was saying we were looking at one thing, but we were no where near that one thing. So annoying. It bugged the crap out of me the entire time.

Side note: The next day we did the lower loop and had tour guides. The first tour guide appeared to wish he was elsewhere. He was monotone and really didn't seem like he was interested in being on this bus. The second tour guide we couldn't understand. He was an older Asian guy who's English wasn't so great. AND the microphone wasn't working, so anyone sitting past the first couple of seats couldn't hear him. Those of us who could hear him didn't get anything useful. All he did was tell us where the next stop was. And yes, I've sent a complaint to the company. Not too surprising I haven't heard from them.





Anyhow, once the upper loop was done, we had some time to kill. I was ready for a beer and a bathroom. Blueberry and Seattle SIL took off to go walk into Central Park to "see it". The rest of us found a restaurant and had some beer and chips/salsa.

Dinner that night was at Guy Fierie's restaurant American um...what's it called...American Kitchen, I think. Yes, yes that's what it is...Guy's American Kitchen & Bar. We had met Guy Fieri there the last time we were in NY. And by "met" I mean accosted to get photos with.




The food was pretty darn good and frankly decently priced. I had the ribs and Oh my were they delicious. And it was great to spend some more time with the family.

From there we went back to the hotel via Time Square and the subway. And for the record, Time Square is pure and complete chaos.


 More later on our Sunday adventures. Right now I need to go find something to eat cuz the thought of those ribs have made me hungry.