Friday, February 25, 2011

A Soul Trip

I'm not a concert person. There are very few artists I care about enough to see live, and Jack Johnson is one of them.

I bought a ticket for Jack Johnson's concert at the Gorge the day they went on sale, back in April 2010. The show was in October. I was that excited.

It was tough to find people who wanted to hang out at the Gorge in October, but a friend finally bought her ticket and agreed to go with me. When it came down to crunch time before the show, someone (eh-hem, Rachael) found out she couldn't get off work, and couldn't go. (It's OK, Slice, I forgive you.)

I wasn't about to go to the Gorge and freeze by myself, so I put my ticket up for sale on the Facebook event page for the concert. Almost immediately, a man messaged me with interest. But not just any man — a man on a soul trip.

I'm always happy to assist someone with their soul trip! I ended up selling him my ticket, and it was a win-win for both of us.

The concept of a soul trip stuck with me as I started looking into the next time I'd be able to see Jack Johnson in concert. I found out he holds something called the Kokua Festival, a weekend of concerts to benefit the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, every year in Honolulu.

Hey, I could make a soul trip out of that! A weekend in Honolulu for the festival, plus a few days to bum around Oahu and have adventures sounded good to me.

Sadly, there is no Kokua Festival this year. It's taking a break after six successful years, and I'll have to wait a little longer to see Jack Johnson play.

I'm still going to Hawaii, though. Flying out tonight, in fact.

This trip wasn't about getting to Hawaii; I just wanted to go somewhere warm for a bit with my best friend. But, coincidentally or not, we decided to spend eight days on Oahu swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, surfing, running, hiking, sightseeing and taking photos all over the island.

Only after we booked the trip did I realize that I'd fulfill my original idea of a soul trip after all.

A soul trip doesn't have one definition. It's whatever adventure you want to have, for whatever reason. Jason's soul trip consisted of driving around the country by himself, which would be more like a nightmare for me. I'd get bored and lonely within two days. But it was what he wanted, and he didn't have to justify it to anyone.

Chris Guillebeau challenged his readers to think of one place they've always wanted to visit. He wrote that wherever you wanted to go, you'd need, at most, $2,500 to get there and back. Using that example, you could take that trip in three years — plus have money left over for meals and shopping — if you saved $2 a day. (My "one place" is not Hawaii, by the way, but Greece.)

Chis wrote:
I use this example to prove that money isn't what prevents many of us from going somewhere we've always wanted to.
Instead, most of us stay where we are because of inertia more than anything else.

Sure, it takes money to travel. But if you decide that something is important to you and you focus your energy on making it happen, it will happen.

As far as money goes, I've decided there are three things that are important to me that I'll spend money on: running, photography and travel/adventures.

Running costs include my gym membership, race entry fees and running clothes and shoes. Photography costs include buying my camera, lens, memory card, camera bag and a laptop that I could upload photos to without crashing it. Travel obviously includes plane tickets and hotel costs, but also any activities I'll do once I'm there.

All these things add up to quite a bit of money, but I'm able to afford them because I've decided the following things are not important to me: wearing new/stylish clothes; driving a nice car; eating out and going to bars frequently; getting manicures and pedicures; buying all the newest gadgets when they come out; and much more.

Sure, I'd love a new car, but I need a car payment like I need a hole in my head. I'll keep my '93 minivan with the cracked windshield and missing hubcap and go to Hawaii instead.

You can have anything you want. You just can't have everything you want. Decide what's really important to you and save your money for that. Screw the rest.

I hope it gets you closer to your soul trip.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cheers to Presidents, beer and cupcakes

Despite my eagerness to move away from Woodinville to Seattle, I really do love that town.

I grew up there, moved away, then moved back and grew up some more. When college rolled around, I moved away again, resisted growing up as much as possible, then moved back and resumed growing up.

I'd like to think I'm done growing up now, but I'm not sure, since I believe adulthood is a myth and we're all just kids forever. Not in a weird, Michael Jackson way, but... you know.

What I do know is that I'm grown-up enough to swing by my hometown and enjoy the local specialty.

The $1/person tour at Redhook Ale Brewery gets you five samples of beer, plus a bonus sample of your choice. It's the best dollar I've ever spent about five or six times.

I love playing tourist in my own 'hood. What better way to honor our nation's presidents than with the enjoyment of fine craft beers?

What's that? Did... somebody say something about cupcakes?

This magical wonderland is New York Cupcakes in Bellevue. Just check out all the cupcake flavors they have and then promptly die of happiness.

Aaron and I went in search of the Cookie Dough Delight, a "classic chocolate cake filled with a moist cookie dough center, frosted with fluffy white buttercream and finished off with freshly baked chocolate chip cookie bits." Alas, this little piece of heaven is only offered on Saturdays.

We consoled ourselves with a Madison Avenue Mint Chocolate Chip and a Royal Red Velvet.

These helped us get over our disappointment pretty quickly. We will be back on a Saturday, though!

Bellevue is the only location of New York Cupcakes, but I'd say it's worth the trip for an occasional special treat. (I say occasional because at $3 a pop, these things make a pretty steep habit.)

If you're gonna have a habit, though, you might as well make it cupcakes. The frosting is the highlight here — it's perfectly light, fluffy and delicious.

And the decor is your quintessential cracked-out explosion of pink. Love!

What a fun three-day weekend that was! The work week brought with it a less-fun sickness, though, which I hope to be rid of in time for my way-fun vacation.

More details on that adventure as embarkation draws nearer...


Trying new things, Part II: Spaghetti squash casserole

I'm just gonna put this out there: I did not believe this squash would turn into spaghetti. Once I cut the darn thing open, I was like, "Where's the spaghetti??"

Turns out you have to bake it first, and then it turns into spaghetti. Who, I wonder, was the first person to figure this out?

I tackled this new (to me) type of squash Sunday night as I made spaghetti squash casserole with ricotta and spinach — here's the recipe from Real Simple.

As the crazy squash baked, I chopped up a bunch of spinach...

...and mixed it with ricotta, minced garlic, nutmeg, salt, pepper and an egg.

Once the squash was done, I scraped the spaghetti strands out (there were a ton!) and added them to the ricotta mixture.

At this point, the recipe called for two cups of grated mozzarella to be "sprinkled" on top. There is no way to "sprinkle" two whole cups of cheese, so I dumped it all on and hoped for the best.

This is a lot of cheese, kids.

But I've never been one to shy away from a lot of cheese.

After the casserole came out of the oven, I dug in (it wasn't pretty)...

...and... hmmm. It tasted pretty much how I thought it would taste, except the spaghetti squash was still a bit firm and crunchy. I expected it to be more like the texture of spaghetti, so I didn't know if I did something wrong or not. Also, the casserole was very cheesy — all that ricotta and all that mozzarella.

I'll say this once, and then we can all forget I ever wrote these words: There was too much cheese.

I wasn't wild about my first serving of this casserole, but I had leftovers for lunch on Monday and I liked it much better. The spaghetti squash became softer and more like the consistency I initially thought it would be, and the mozzarella melted nicely in the microwave and mixed in with the rest of the casserole.

I think this would be much better with the addition of some marinara sauce to make it more lasagna-like, but I'll enjoy eating the rest of these leftovers.

I tend to eat the same things all the time, so I'm trying to make an effort to experiment with unfamiliar foods and new recipes. I have a container of leftover spaghetti squash that wouldn't fit into the casserole, so I'll have some fun figuring out different ways to eat it.

Ideas and suggestions are welcome!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Trying new things, Part I: The batting cage

Happy Presidents Day! Three-day weekends are right up there with dark chocolate and cheese, in my opinion.

This weekend has gone by really quickly so far, but it has not been without adventures. Sunday was a "try something new" kind of day, and it started out with...

...a trip to the local batting cages!

I played on my company's softball team last summer — which was my first time playing softball outside of gym class in school — and it was so much fun. (Related: the push-up challenge/tequila story. I still refuse to drink tequila, by the way.)

I got pretty good at hitting the ball last season, but I could never hit it very far. So the purpose of this batting cage adventure was to: a) brush up on hitting, and b) work on hitting the ball farther than usual.

Yeah... about that. That blue machine is called Iron Mike, and he was shooting balls at about 60 miles per hour.

It. Was. Scary.

The few times I managed to actually hit a ball, the impact made the bat vibrate intensely and hurt my hands. Later, I switched over to a less-scary softball machine and hit a few more balls, but that hurt, too! I learned that there's a big difference between hitting a softball that someone underhand-pitches to you and hitting one that's viciously shot at you by a machine.

Aaron hit tons of balls, of course, because he's much stronger and much less of a wimp.

He also has much better aim.

Despite my wimpyness, this was a fun experience and it really got me excited for softball season (which doesn't even start until May). The North Seattle Batting Cages are available for hourly booking, and it's really easy to book a cage online. Give it a try the next time you're bored on a weekend!

Tomorrow, I'll post Part II of "Trying new things," in which I tackle a new food for dinner...

It's squash... but also spaghetti... but still squash... and definitely the weirdest thing I've ever made!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

For Aaron

One year ago today, you found yourself lying in the intersection of Fairview and Mercer, having just been hit and thrown off your Ducati motorcycle by a car that blew a red light. You immediately knew your leg was broken.

What you didn't know was the full extent of the damage you suffered in that moment of another driver's carelessness: three fractured vertebra in your neck, two fractured vertebra in your lower back, a fractured tibia and fibula, a torn ACL, PCL, MCL and meniscus, a concussion and a lacerated liver.

The nurses weren't joking when they told you to lie still at the hospital. You were extremely lucky that you weren't paralyzed, or worse.

You had just gotten into running, going out for regular five-mile jogs and lifting weights. You were just about to start a new job. You had to trade both for a leg brace, crutches and $150,000 in medical bills.

You spent four months off your feet, letting your devastated leg heal. You crutched, wheelchaired and scootered around everywhere. Sometimes, your roommate carried you to make things easier.

A knee surgery repaired the ligaments in your left knee, but the knee still alternates between aching, hurting and going completely numb on any given day. It will never be the same. You will never be the same.

By the time I met you, you were walking around just fine and starting to ride your bike — as in bicycle — again. Your motorcycle was totaled in the accident, and you thought it best to stay off motorcycles for a while. I had no clue you'd been injured so seriously several months earlier.

I had just run my first 5K, and you told me that you didn't think your knee could handle the impact of running. Again, not knowing the extent of your injuries, I said you wouldn't know until you tried.

So you tried. You ran your first 5K in late October, and you absolutely smoked it in 23:32 (7:35 pace). Your knee hurt, of course, but you ran farther and faster than you thought you could.

So you kept going, joining me on runs around Green Lake and along the Burke-Gilman trail. You started riding your bike to work more often than not, putting in some serious miles thanks to the 15-mile round trip each day. Your legs became strong again — really strong — after so many months of being unable to use them. You put most people with perfectly fine knees to shame.

At Christmas, my mom asked us to go around the table and talk about a few things we were thankful for in 2010. My brother said he was thankful for finding a job; I said I was thankful for paying off my debt and for getting into running. The first thing you said was, "I am thankful to be alive."

Here you are, one year later, alive and well and then some. You just ran a sub 22-minute 5K at a pace that I can't even fathom running. You're planning to ride your bike down the entire Washington-Oregon coast this summer. You even have your eye on a marathon.

You've come a long way from Fairview and Mercer.

I'll never know what it was like for you to wonder if you'd be able to walk, run or ride again. I only know that now, you're seizing every opportunity you have to push yourself, physical obstacles be damned, because you can.

The biggest obstacle I have to overcome before I go running is my natural inclination to lie on the couch and eat cheese all day. You, on the other hand, never hesitate when I ask you to run with me, despite your bad knee.

You didn't even blink before agreeing to run into freezing Lake Washington on New Year's Day. Barely a moment passed between the time that I, on a seven-mile run, asked you if you'd like to run eight miles instead, and you replied, "Sure!"

I was a total wimp on that run, by the way, and you never complained once. You helped me keep going when I thought I couldn't. You inspire me to be a doer, not just a talker, and to make the most of these healthy legs I have because I may not always have them.

It would be so easy for you to sit at home, be inactive and blame it on that terrible accident, but you don't. You know that life is too short and too precious to give it anything less than your all.

It would be so easy for you to spend your days being angry and resentful, wishing things had been different a year ago. There are some things you just can't change, but you are always in control of how you live your life each day.

My hope is that you will keep moving forward, pounding the pavement and pedaling to wherever it is you want to go, and all those things you can't change will fall quietly behind you into the distance.

I am so proud of you, Aaron. This is your life. Keep living the shit out of it.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pizza, three ways

My photo of pizza:

My photo of Aaron taking a photo of pizza:
Aaron's photo of pizza:
Yeah... he wins.
If you haven't checked out Aaron Pass Photography yet, please do so — it's stunning. He's put up some great stuff recently.
I can't decide whether to be super jealous of his skillz, or just feel super lucky that I get to learn from such a talented photographer. I think I'll go with a little bit of both.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Townhouse

For 15 months, I lived in a little nook of my mom's house that was partially blocked off by a bookcase for privacy. I could have had my old bedroom back, but it had been turned into an office and was full of giant furniture — furniture that I would have to pay to keep in heated storage during my stay. Frankly, I'm just lazy and cheap. I chose to move my bed into the nook, and it was fine.

I was pretty ready to move into this townhouse, though.

After living at home for a while, I really wanted to find a nice place to live. A grown-up place. A place I wouldn't be embarrassed to show to my parents. It took a bit of looking, but my two roommates and I found this place and jumped on it.

The TV came with the townhouse, by the way. As much as I'd like to, I won't even pretend that it's mine!

We're still lacking some bar stools. Anybody have any? : )

Couch. Craigslist. $120. It fit perfectly into my minivan (with the seats taken out). It almost didn't fit up the stairs, but after a lot of sweat and frustration, it finally made it into the living room.

My room is far too messy to show here, but it has four walls, a closet and a door — all things that I'd been missing for the past 15 months. I honestly didn't miss them much — I always had a comfortable place to sleep and everything else I needed — but doing without them for a while just made having a room again that much nicer.

I had quite a bit of growing up to do during the time I lived at my mom's house, and now I feel like I have a grown-up place to match.

Also, there's cake here! And cake makes everything even better.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday photography

I spent the morning playing around with my camera at home. Pretty Valentine's Day flowers!
Hmm, looks like my lens cap is bigger than Aaron's lens cap!
Aaron and I went for a walk along the Burke-Gilman trail to the Fremont Sunday Market and took some photos along the way.
All the food at the Fremont Sunday Market smelled amazing! I had a sample of delicious falafel, and a crew from Veraci Pizza was on hand to bake some fresh pies.
And a cute and very talented family band provided entertainment.
Later, I had lunch with my dad at Roxy's Diner in Fremont. I had a salmon sandwich and he went Monte Cristo sandwich at it.
My dad played around with my camera a bit and took this cool picture of his water glass. It's so much fun to do random stuff with it and see how photos turn out!
Just a nice, relaxing day following the race! I feel like I'm getting a little sick, but I'd really like to... not get sick. Hydration, relaxation and Grammy-watching are my exciting plans for the eve! And then, sighhh, on to another week...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Dash! PRs, bags and burgers

The Valentine's Day Dash 5K is in the books! Aaron and I both scored PRs:

Aaron — 21:26 (6:55 pace)
Me — 26:25 (8:32 pace)

I'm proud of my time — sub-27:00, baby! — but holy crap, Aaron runs fast. He killed this race!

We both felt nervous beforehand because we both wanted to improve our PRs. The course around Green Lake is almost entirely flat, so we knew we could do well if we ran smart. Luckily, my nervousness died as soon as we headed to Green Lake. The weather was great — cool, but not cold, and partly cloudy, but not raining — so I was psyched that we wouldn't be running in the rain like I thought.

I always make Aaron drive to races because his classic Mini can squeeze into parking spaces that most cars can't fit into. (I may look like I'm driving here, but the steering wheel is on the right side of his car.)

Once we got to the starting area, Aaron lined up with the super-fast people in the 6:00-7:00 pace group, and I hung out with my 8:00-9:00 homies. I usually start farther back, which is why I tend to have trouble passing slower people, but this time I actually started where I belonged and had a great beginning to the race.

I felt awesome for the first mile! I took it easy at about a 9:15 pace and just enjoyed running. I stayed to the inside of the course (which makes for a shorter run) and didn't weave around people (which wastes energy). I kept looking for the one-mile marker but never saw it, then realized I must have missed it after seeing that more than 10 minutes had gone by on my watch. The two-mile marker came up before I knew it, and I looked down at my watch and realized I was on track to beat my goal!

My stomach started to hurt around this point since I was going a bit faster (trying to stay under 9:00 pace). I really didn't want to take any walking breaks, but I did once I convinced myself that I could walk briefly and still beat my goal time. I walked two or three times to try to relieve my crampy stomach. Finally, I realized the end was so near and just poured on the gas.

I fully sprinted the last 0.1 mile and seemed to be the only person doing that, so I had to weave through other runners. I heard Aaron yell encouragement to me and saw a guy from my work watching for someone at the finish line (hi, Jason!). I finished strong, then promptly found a curb to sit on. The curb of life!

Aaron brought me a bottle of water and all was well. We then pillaged the food booths big time.

And then headed to South Lake Union to do some shopping at Aaron's favorite store ever.

(The parking lot across the street is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. Creepy?)

We each bought this camera bag and perused all the super-nice, expensive lenses. Maybe someday I'll be back for an upgrade?

Next, it was time to satisfy The Hunger with the best burger in Seattle! Don't even talk to me about Red Mill, people — Lunchbox Laboratory is where it's at. They even have a swanky new location in South Lake Union, too!
New location, same great taste. We split a regular Kobe-beef cheeseburger and tots because neither of us was feeling all that ravenous after the race, and Lunchbox Lab does BIG burgers.

Delish! This bun is the greatest thing you've even tasted. Lunchbox Lab gets its buns fresh from a bakery every morning, and they're toasty and buttery and nom nom nom. Seriously.

The last of my favorite race-day moments is very quickly approaching: Giving in to The Tireds. After a very fun first half of the day, it's definitely time for an amazing nap!

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