Some-one asked if I was missing working the other day. I can’t remember how I had time for a full-on professional life! I guess at some point I will want to re-engage with it, I did rather like most of it after all, but at the moment it is such a luxury to have time to get to know this city and state. Whilst life here is slowly starting to find a pattern each week still seems full of surprises and new experiences. Here is a quick overview of last week as an example:
Monday – meeting a president:
The 39th President of the USA, Jimmy Carter, decided to pop along to see us on Monday. He is promoting his most recent book A Call to Action, which focusses on the suffering inflicted on women, across the globe including within the USA, by men who justify their behaviour through false interpretations of religious texts. A truly contemporary and topical issue. It was disappointing that the event was limited to a book signing as it would have been wonderful to hear him talk. This was saved for media interviews, which importantly meant more people heard overall I guess. At 89 years delivering a comprehensive book tour is quite an undertaking in itself (his west coast visit being Friday San Francisco, Saturday Los Angeles, Sunday Portland, Monday Seattle) yet many commented on how well President Carter looked.
Elliot Bay Book Company was the location of his Seattle signing, and it was fantastically handled. There were a serious number of people attending and a great atmosphere. This was helped by Carter being one of the fastest signers I have ever seen – yet still making sure he looked and smiled at each person offering him their book.
Elliot Bay is an amazing bookstore; vibrant, independent, with a host of book clubs plus over 40 events with authors a month most of which are free. It is the kind a place a bookish teenager would dream up as the ideal place to work when adult (well this one anyway). Astonishingly it isn’t the only really active bookstore in Seattle, with a host of independents around. Seattle is considered the 2nd most literate city in the USA (after Washington D.C.), well done to its booksellers and residents for keeping reading so alive and visible.
Tuesday – my first ever cross-country skiing trip:
I had thought winter sports would have to wait until next season, there has just been so much else to sort here since we arrived that getting organised for the snow was too much to think about. However whilst the season started with poor snow, it is running on as the snow came – just later than usual. A friend suggested a cross country ski trip, she hadn’t done much, I hadn’t done any – she knew of a flat location with a groomed track, how hard could it be? She called Monday night, Tuesday was going to be great weather…
So the next morning there we were at REI (a rather fantastic outdoor store, a consumer co-operative, with its home and flagship shop in Seattle which includes a 65ft tall rock climbing pinnacle!) with $30 (£18) to exchange for boots, poles and shoe hire – 2 minutes of tips from the staff and we were off. You effectively have the skis for 3 days (pickup one day, rental day, return day) so this is great value – seemed a shame we we only had Tuesday available, but great to know for the future.
It was really great fun. The drive out was beautiful, and only about an hour from downtown. The trail was fabulous for us, so quiet and a brilliant place to try things out. We came back via North Bend – which has a cafe which is famous for being central in Twin Peaks and next to it a really really good bakery (with the a display of old food mixers – some of which they were still using). Perfect for apres ski delights.
We came back so enthusiastic our husbands have decided they want to learn with us next winter – hooray. Although hopefully we will get some girls only days in too. And a lesson or two – sure that wouldn’t do any harm!
Wednesday – hiking in Tiger Mountain:
Whilst the urban hikes have been fun I am pleased to have been able to walk outside of the city too. In winter a popular destination is the Issaquah ‘Alps’ – foothills easily accessed from Seattle which stay hike-able through the winter when weather makes many of the higher routes out of reach. I have walked there four times now, and twice been able to go meet the group traveling from Seattle on the bus – then car shared for a very short journey to the trailhead. Three of the walks have been through The Mountaineers, this was one of them.
The plan was 8 miles with 2,500ft elevation in a loop covering two of the three West Tiger Peaks. Unfortunately one of the group had significantly over estimated their fitness (no, it wasn’t me – thankfully) so the hike leader understandably had to adapt the route, so we didn’t get up to the tops, but still climbed just under 2000 feet and it was great to be out of the city. He is going to reschedule the walk for those who wanted to do the whole thing. Meet-up groups are popular here, including for hiking, and whilst I have had some good experiences the walk leaders often aren’t as experienced, or sensible, as The Mountaineer guides. This experience was a reminder that things don’t always go to plan, and whilst it was simple to re-route this isn’t always the case, I am grateful for quality hike leaders who generously volunteer their time for us all to have a enjoyable trip out.
Thursday – walking through West Seattle & the new experience of eating fiddlehead ferns:
A morning with Sound Striders in West Seattle. West Seattle is a part of Seattle but it feels quite different. The geography means it is a little cut off – as from downtown you need to get across a road bridge to it, or travel via the rather exciting water taxi, which is a lot of fun and on a sunny day gives fantastic views.
Although there are no shortage of fantastic views from West Seattle, it has a long waterfront and lots of hills to climb for great vistas. Alki Beach here is apparently, and understandably, packed on a sunny summers day – I came over on a bright but cold day in February and there were hardy souls playing beach volleyball in shorts even then!
Our 6 mile walk took us up to a great view point, along a ridge then back down to the waterfront which we walked along back to the starting cafe. This was just by a mini Statue of Liberty look alike described as ‘our Little Sister of Liberty’ which local Sea Scouts and Boy Scouts erected in 1952 in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Jack Whittaker, a Kansas City scout leader encouraged troops across the country to erect these statutes, which are 1/18th size replicas, as symbols of liberty and freedom and 200 were put up – in 39 states and 4 American territories. She definitely gets a good view here.
On the way home I went via Pike Place Market and was delighted to spot Fiddlehead Ferns for sale. Such a reminder that spring and foraging opportunities are just starting. I am not sure that this year I have enough sense of where to go for what, but it is certainly time to start taking note and learning about foraging potential. And exciting to remember different things will be available here, like the fern heads which I hadn’t had before just heard about. We ate the ferns with some lovely spinach ravioli filled with walnut and gorgonzola cheese from the wonderful Italian store in Pike Place DeLaurenti – a Europe/USA fusion dish???
Friday – waiting in for the new dishwasher:
See – it isn’t all fun! Actually it was a bit frustrating as it was a beautiful sunny day with blue skies and white fluffy clouds. But it is excellent that we don’t have a broken dishwasher anymore, and we are relieved the landlord didn’t go for a dodgy repair. And it did mean I was in to receive a rather exciting wine package from Sunset Wine Club – 2 very promising Californian reds. We are especially looking forward to a very delicious pinot noir from Schug Winnery.
Saturday – becoming a sailor:
We have been taking The Center for Wooden Boat Learn to Sail programme, of which I will write more another time. But last Saturday was our final lesson and wonderfully we both passed our livery check-out. So now we are able to pop down and hire a boat to take out on Lake Union without there being an instructor with us. My Dad suggested the ocean liners be warned, he has a point… I would leave it a month or so before coming out with us, but hopefully by the time our summer visitors arrive we will be well able to give them a smooth sail.
We celebrated with grapefruit margaritas at Brave Horse Tavern then headed over to Seattle International Film Festival‘s uptown cinema for a screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel and much laughter. You see it isn’t just me that gets all the fun – occasionally I let the bloke join in too…
Sunday – taxes:
hmm – well not the most fun day, but can hardly complain. Paperwork gathering and form filling.
I know we are lucky to have enough financial security to enable me this time – even if it means living a little more frugally than at some points in our life. If you notice much of what I do has relatively little or no cost, with the occasional splurge. It is amazing just how much is available here on low resources. Heck, this rate I will never be convinced back to earning – well until I look at the property prices…