Jul 092013
 

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 years already. In a way those 5 years have gone by quickly and in a way it hasn’t. I’m talking about my anniversary with Michael. 5 years ago on June 19th, Michael and I had our first “real” date. I say “real” date because we met online as friends and were chat buddies for months before we ever decided to meet in person. Then it was about a month after meeting in person that we went on a real DATE. The rest is history. 5 years of loving, squabbling, traveling, biking, hiking, cooking and eating together. I learned to wear earplugs at night to silence his snoring. He’s learned to recognize the signs of an impending sugar crash in which I become Kool-Aid Guy.

Michael has taught me how to cook, how to enjoy REAL food, and how to ride a bike long distances. I’ve taught him that hiking is fun, the joy of wine tasting, how to snowshoe,  and how much fun volunteering can be. I’d never had the desire to go to Texas, but Michael exposed me to the good things about a place I never considered visiting. We’ve run away to Vegas together, we’ve learned to love beer together, we started (and learned how to have) a veggie garden, and we’ve been remodeling his house together since we met. ;)

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For our anniversary this year we went up to Seattle sort of secretly. One of the reasons we don’t really vacation to Seattle is that I have so much family and we both have friends up there that if we visit, it becomes a “try and see everyone” kind of weekend, which can be stressful. So in order to celebrate our anniversary just us we didn’t tell anyone (well, I told my mom but she understood that we were there to celebrate just us).

We booked a room at the Watertown Hotel in the U District. We got a deal on Expedia and it looked like a really cute place. Since I’m from Seattle, I know the areas pretty well and staying in the U District was perfect. Close enough to downtown, but without having to pay downtown prices. After the not-so-great experience I had with Rachel at the Hotel Deca, I was a bit nervous about our hotel but was happily surprised that it was AWESOME. I would most definitely stay there again and I’d look for more of their properties in other cities, too. The hotel was nice, clean, quiet, perfectly located, our bed was comfy, the pillows were good (which is hard to get in a hotel), there was a Keurig in the room plus a mini fridge and microwave as well as free bottled water. Oh did I mention that there was a free covered, secure garage for guests? Cannot stress enough how awesome this hotel was.

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The first thing we did once we got to Seattle was go to dinner. It was around 6-ish and even though my stomach had been bothering me all day, I was starting to get hungry. Michael suggested a place in Ballard he went to once with his friend Jeremy called Bitterroot.

The place was packed but we got a spot at the bar in the back. The service was attentive and friendly. I ordered a Bloody Mary because we were in a BBQ joint…they had to have good ones, right? Yeah, it was probably in the top 3 of all time for me. I loved it. It came with various pickled things and olives (including a large pickled carrot stick) and there was candied bacon on top. I did not like the candied bacon but I appreciated the attempt and the presentation. The Bloody Mary was delicious–perfectly salty and spicy.

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It was hard to pick what to order. They had a whole page on their menu of the various mac n’ cheese combinations (I was particularly intrigued by the jalapeno one). I ended up getting the brisket (duh, it’s a BBQ place!) with a side of collard greens and cheesy grits. I was not a fan of the collard greens. I’m not sure what they cooked them in (maybe apple juice?) but it wasn’t good. The cheesy grits on the other hand were epic. I seriously need to learn how to make this at home.

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Was the brisket as good as Franklin’s BBQ in Austin? No. But Bitterroot was one of the better places I’ve been and I’d definitely go back the next time I’m in Seattle.

We were stuffed from dinner and it was still nice and warm out. We went to Gas Works Park and walked around. It was kind of fun to show Michael around Seattle. Gas Works Park is a fantastic place to hang out if you visit Seattle. There’s amazing views of downtown and the Space Needle; there’s plenty of space to throw a frisbee or have a picnic; there’s a nice breeze of Lake Union on a hot summer day and it’s just a beautiful place.

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It was getting late and the sun was starting to set. We went back to the room and ended up walking a few blocks to the Ave to get some frozen yogurt. :)

The next morning I got up a little early so I could go work out. The hotel had one of the better gyms I’ve seen in a hotel. It was still rather small but there were two ellipticals, two bikes, one treadmill and a really nice weight set.

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I was expecting it to be super packed and unusable but it was empty at 8am! Sweet! I got in a 25 minute elliptical session and then did my weight lifting routine (modified since I couldn’t do some of the moves). I was happy to get in my workout without the hassle of having to drive somewhere else.

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After my workout we walked about two blocks to the Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast. Michael chose it because they had buckwheat pancakes on the menu. It was very highly rated on Yelp and at 9:30 there was already a 30-45 minute wait for a table. It was definitely worth the wait.

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We got a table on the covered back patio. It was really nice back there because it was secluded and surrounded by trees so it felt like you were tucked away in an oasis instead of the middle of the city. It was also quieter (the restaurant was packed and very loud).

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The service was really good (again, always impressed with good service because Portland can be iffy sometimes). The Portage Bay Cafe had a toppings bar. ‘Nuff said, right? Yeah, they had a bar full of things to top your French toast, pancakes, waffles, etc with. There was tons of fresh fruit, nuts, brown sugar, syrup, and homemade whipped cream.

I got the challah French toast–they wouldn’t let me order the kids’ portion (some restaurants are cool about that) so I got it off the sides. Even ordering a side of French toast the portions were huge! I topped it with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and a little whipped cream. I got a side of the homemade chicken sausage patties but they were just okay.

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I’m a fan of this restaurant! I’d get breakfast there again in a heartbeat. They have other locations in Seattle and I can only vouch for the U District one, but definitely go there!

Okay, I will leave you with the drool-worthy photos of breakfast and the next post will be the highlights of some of the Seattle sites to see. Stay tuned!

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Jul 082013
 

I was filled with a little bit of sadness this 4th of July. I realized that this time last year I went hiking– 9 miles on the 4th of July. A 9 mile hike. It was a glorious hike with perfect weather and I remember feeling so happy I did it. I didn’t know at the time that it might have been one of the last hikes I was going to go on for awhile. And a month later, I started to think about my knees and whether or not I had some issues going on. Funny how that premonition came to fruition only two months later.

This year instead of a 9 mile hike or a 40 mile bike ride like 2 years ago, Michael and I went for a fairly easy, very flat, short bike ride since that’s all that I am allowed to do at this point. It had been almost 2 weeks since my first experiment on the bike and I’d successfully run (only 1/2 a mile so far) and hadn’t had any knee pain of note as a result of that ride. So that was good news! Time to go out again.

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Or so that was the plan. Michael had a flat tire, so he changed it. Then it wouldn’t hold air and he changed it a few more times. He gave up, rightly frustrated, and I said I’d just go to the gym. No big deal. I got to the gym and did a short weights workout–upper body only–and he messaged me saying he got the bike to work. I came home early to go riding and when we got to the parking lot at Johnson Creek, he had another flat. He ended up using another bike instead and we got to ride but it was sure a pain in the ass to get going!

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Once we got going it was good. We headed East on the Springwater and despite being a nice, sunny day and a holiday, the trails weren’t too busy. Maybe it was because we got a late start. At almost 6 miles my right knee started to feel a little irritated. It didn’t hurt but it didn’t feel great. I wasn’t sure what it was so we decided to turn around. The way back is slightly downhill and much easier so there were no issues.

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Woot! Almost 12 miles this time! Yay! I felt great the rest of the day and the knee issues didn’t come back. Here is the calorie burn for the weight session and the bike session:

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Not bad!

We had some friends coming over to BBQ and our street was having a block party so the rest of the afternoon was spent cooking. I made a Southwest Quinoa Salad that was fantastic!! I went off this recipe from My San Francisco Kitchen and kind of made it my own. I used red kidney beans instead of black, used a chili lime mixture of nuts that I got a Trader Joe’s instead of pistachios, and added red, yellow and orange peppers to it. LOVED IT.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 servings

From: http://www.mysanfranciscokitchen.com/southwest-quinoa-salad/

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic white quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chili lime pistachios
  • 1 cup black beans
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ cup corn
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • Chili Lime Vinaigrette
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ? cup lime juice
  • ½ tsp finely chopped jalepeño
  • Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a medium pot.
  2. Add quinoa and cover.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.
  4. In the mean time, add olive oil, lime juice, jalapeño, salt and pepper to a salad dressing cruet or small bowl and shake or whisk together well.
  5. Place the dressing in the refrigerator to chill.
  6. Once done, remove the lid and allow quinoa to cool for about 15 minutes.
  7. Add pistachios, black beans, red bell pepper, corn, red onion and cilantro.
  8. Drizzle with chili lime vinaigrette and toss everything together.
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I have no idea how she only got 2 servings out of this recipe because that’s about 3 or 4 in my house! But I tripled the recipe to make a ton for the party.

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Everyone at the party loved the salad, even the ones not keen on quinoa! I loved it too and it was great as a leftover. I will most definitely make this recipe again–especially for potlucks. Michael grilled up bratwursts and hot dogs cooked in beer, onions and sauerkraut. They were great!

There was tons of food. Our friends brought a green salad made from their veggie garden, Michael made guacamole and I also made a bunch of cheesy kale chips (at the request of several neighbors days before the holiday. Because it was a block party, the neighbors offered us some of their goodies. There was chicken and veggie kabobs, lots of munchies, dips, mixed nuts, etc. There was just too much food and I oddly wasn’t as hungry as I thought I’d be after my two workouts.

I did, however, have a small piece of the oreo ice cream cake that our neighbors had. I mean come on, how could you resist this dessert? It’s been YEARS since I’ve had ice cream cake. Mmmm good.

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Our neighbor across the way put on a big fireworks show once night fell but Michael helped Hans with the kiddie fireworks that our friends brought along with them. They also had their 6 month old baby with them and he slept through the whole show! What a good baby!

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I was so glad our friends joined us this year. It was fun to entertain and just kick back and relax. I ate a little too much, drank a little too much and paid for it a tiny bit the next day. But it wasn’t too bad and Michael and I zipped up to Seattle for the weekend! More on that later; I’m still sifting through pictures. :)

How was your holiday?

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