Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seattle Road Trip: an exodus in three feet of snow

What do you do when you have planned a weekend road trip with your best friend and it snows three feet in your city?

Go anyway!

That wasn’t the advice I would give. That’s more of the chance I would take.
My friend and I had been planning a girls’ trip up to Seattle for months and when we finally nailed down the date and booked our airbnb, we were stoked. Only one little thing got in our way: Portland was hit by it’s biggest winter storm yet and we were buried in three feet of snow.

After much deliberation we decided to rent an SUV with 4-wheel drive and try to tough it out. This was not an easy task.

Step 1: To get to the car rental location, I had to walk one mile in the ice.

Step 2: I boarded the MAX (light rail) and road it for one hour to the rental location. MAX service had previously been suspended for days due to the weather, and they had only just started running the trains the day before. I had no guarantee that my train would not be derailed en route. Fortunately I made it.

light rail station

Step 3: The car rental agency came to pick me up in a vehicle with chains and drove me to the center.

Step 4: I get the most bad-ass car on the lot, and load up on insurance.

one of the better roads that was plowed

Step 5: I creep along the icy roads and pick my friend up at her place. After a scary could of miles on the war-torn freeway, we made it out of snow-country and it was smooth sailing for the rest of the trip.

at a rest stop on the way to Seattle

In Seattle we checked into an awesome airbnb in Capital Hill. Perfect for walking to the restaurants in the international district, and the bar in Capital Hill. Almost as soon as we arrived we treated ourselves to a spa experience at The Hot House, an all-women nude spa in the basement of a lesbian bar. I love Seattle.

our bad-ass airbnb

we made it!

For dinner, we ate the best meal of my life at a Syrian restaurant called Mamnoon.  We ordered:

Moushakal: muhammara, hummus, shamandar bi tahini, baba ganoush
Dolmeh: stuffed vine leaves, sweet and sour rice, parsley, shallots, labneh

arnabeit makli: fried cauliflower, tarrator, parsley

kefta: minced beef and lamb, pistachio, baharat, cherry tomatoes, laban bi khiar

And two desserts, one a tangy custard with pomegranate and homemade marshmellows, and the other an icecream with chocolate and meringue.

The next day, we had a food feast: Chinese hot pot, Hawaiian guava cake, Taiwanese bubble tea. Then walked through downtown, stopping off at Seattle awesome public library and sculpture garden, before visiting the highlight of the day: Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. This was a very special museum for my friend who is a professional florist, and love’s Chihuly’s glass renderings of flowers.

The day we drove back to Portland, we prepared ourselves for another long icey drive in the snow by stopping off at Olympus Spa on the way. What was supposed to be a two-hour detour at the spa (again, another all-women nude space) ended up being 5+ hours with lunch. This spa was really incredible and you could easily spend the entire day here. One of the best parts was the Korean restaurant in the spa, which made delicious chijimi pancakes and soondobu. I took a photo of us  in the restaurant wearing our spa uniform: a robe and silly pink hair net.

After a long and scary drive, we made it back to snow-laden Portland a little warmer and happier than before we left.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Good friends are hard to find

When you find 'em, you keep 'em.

I made my peace with LA on December, 6th of 2015. That was the day I returned after moving away six years ago. I swore I would never go back to the city, but cheap airfare tempted me and I am glad it did. Over the past few years I have grown to love LA, and now it has become my routine to go there at least twice a year.

When I go there now, I never relive old memories from my teenage years; I make new memories. I never visit the many friends and acquaintances I know still live there; I do my own thing instead. I never eat at the same restaurants I frequented in my youth; better ones exist now. I spend almost all my time at new cafes and art exhibits which I never saw in the mid-2000s.

Pretty much all my trips have been like this, with one exception. There was one friend from my life in LA who pretty much defined my existence there. That was Emma. We met at work in Orange County and spent pretty much every single weekend shopping at the Goodwill in Huntington Beach, eating Japanese food in Costa Mesa, or bouncing from one house party to the next all over the OC. After she moved back to Osaka, and I left LA for Portland, we kept in touch over the years and had many more adventures together, in Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, and Seoul. But we had yet to re-live our adventures in California….

2007: Emma and I, connoisseurs of fine fur


Even though the LA I knew has changes so much over the years and I am no longer nostalgic for it, I still dreamed about seeing Emma again in LA and going experiencing this whole new city with her. Finally, in May of 2017, we had just that chance.

2007: Emma and I, amazing by the selection at Vietnamese grocery stores

I made a point to only show her places in LA she had never seen. I knew that many of the places we had experienced nine years ago were obsolete, and I wanted her to see the new city I had fallen in love with.

I made a point to stay in Koreatown, not just because I personally love that place, but it was in a very convenient relative to our itinerary and I knew she had never been there. We reserved this awesome airbnb which matched our style and was in a perfectly walkable location.

Day 1 was spent in downtown LA, where Emma had only passed through during the five years she lived in OC. We visited Verve Coffee, The Broad museum, Grand Central Market, Bottega Louie, and Hauser and Wirth Gallery – all of which opened up after we both moved out of California.

Verve Coffee

The Broad

Mexican food at Grand Central Market

French patisserie at Bottega Louie

Hauser and Wirth Gallery

Day 2 was spent exploring Silver Lake with friends from Japan. Neither of us knew them in California, so even hanging out with them in this setting was new and original. We shopped for clothes at a farmers market, various thrift stores, and my favorite Squaresville store in Los Feliz. We also had coffee at Bia Café, brunch at Bowery Bungalow, and an amazing dinner at Perch in downtown.

Hanging around town

Brunch at the Bowery Bungalow

Sunset at Perch Restaurant, best view in DTLA

Day 3 was spent at the Pasadena Rose bowl, then for a delicious lunch at Senior Fish, and saying some final goodbyes before I left for LAX. Emma stayed one more day after I departed, and while I was at the airport she sent me this photo from Redondo Beach with a message: “I'm so thankful I got to live here.” It seems to capture the essence of our trip: gratitude.

Redondo Beach, the last photo Emma sent me before I left LA

Thanks LA, for making us who we are today.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Summer Wedding

At an outdoor wedding in late summer, I wore a breezy vintage dress I bought in Japan five or so years ago. One sentimental thing I do at every wedding I attend is wear one piece of jewelry I got from my mother-in-law for my wedding. With this outfit I am wearing a gold necklace.

Dress: vintage, from Japan
Belt: vintage
Shoes: thrifted via Goodwill
Bag: Delfonics
Necklace: from my mother-in-law

Friday, September 29, 2017

Photo Diary: Best of Reykjavik

I was going through my posts from Reykjavik in 2011, and noticed that although I had multiple photo diaries for the colorful front doors and the sunset, I never did a proper “Best of” post. So I thought about doing a compilation post, but when I looked through the two albums they were so incredibly different. Reykjavik in the summer of 2011 was bright and sunny, whereas the Reykjavik in winter of 2016 was cloudy and dark 20 hours a day. They are two complete different stories, and I can't tell them in the same post. So here is the dark Reykjavik of 2016:

It has become more hip over the years, and has changed a lot to accommodate the deluge of tourists. I tried to select photos from my recent  that portray some of the charm it has retained, while adapting to its changing place on their world’s cool barometer.  

Sometimes I think, maybe it’s not just Reykjavik that’s changed so much over the last five years….maybe it’s me.

Greece Instagram Diary