Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bits and bobs

I still have some half-finished posts about summer sitting in my inbox, but I might save those for a quiet wintery day. In the mean time...




As you can see, P had to be Elsa - along with about 90% of preschool-aged girls, am I right? In fact, at one point, F also wanted to be Elsa. Things were going to get complicated, but thankfully she changed her mind when she saw this cool witch's costume. Halloween wasn't the lame effort that it was last year, but those outfits were totally store-bought. Maybe next year I'll actually make something... but don't hold your breath.

On a pretty note, we had our first frost of the season the other week, bang on schedule for November. What else? Recently I've been getting in a little more solo time on the weekends - even if it's just in small doses. The girls have Kung Fu lessons in Chinatown, which is very close to downtown Seattle. If J is able to come with us and stay with the girls, I wander and wander and wander. Sometimes I just walk to Pioneer Square, sometimes I jump on a bus through the bus transit tunnel, just a few 'stations' along, and people watch downtown or at the Pike Place Market. Even though it's getting super chilly outside on those afternoons, it's always a much-needed reboot for me.

As for now, it's Thanksgiving tomorrow and we're gearing up for a visit from our mates in Portland. By 'gearing up', I mean 'preparing to eat, eat, eat'. The forecast is for snow in a few days which would be the icing on this little holiday period, but if I learned anything about Seattle winters last year, it's that the snow may only fall for about a fraction of the actual forecasts made. Whatever happens though, I'm really looking forward to the next few days. Bring on the flow of wine!







Plus, how gorgeous are fairy lights at this time of year? Any time of year, actually, but they definitely dress up what is otherwise dreary, gloomy grey coldness. I would still prefer a lengthy, warm sunny Christmas Day, but there is something about having every tree and awning covered in twinkling lights - it just feels so 'right' for the northern hemisphere Christmases.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Autumn and changes












Here we are, halfway through autumn, and I haven't even finished catching up in here about summer. I have drafts sitting, waiting, but for today I'm going to fast forward to the present.

I've never been a fan of autumn. In Australia, my birthday always fell in autumn and I was envious of friends who got to celebrate theirs in the more cheerful summer and spring (which I now get to experience). For the most part, though, I've always viewed autumn as the death of summer. Dramatic and pessimistic, I know. It's just how I'm hardwired though - warmer weather and climates will always be my preferred state of being.

That being said, autumn in Seattle is the prettiest autumn I've experienced anywhere so far in my life. Alright, so I haven't been to New England but the way these trees here change colour is hitting the spot. The multicoloured trees are so spectacular that quite a few people I've met here say that this is their favourite time of year. I'm not quite there yet, but I've changed my tune a little - autumn doesn't quite suck so hard.

Things are pretty good in general now. After struggling with working evening and part of the weekends for close to a year now, I've made some necessary changes. The whole reason I began working those hours was I thought it would be my brilliant solution to child-care - at least until Miss P was in school full-time. No stress of rushing between school drop-offs and work. However, instead of that stress, I had the stress of trying to squeeze in helping with homework, school projects, and cooking/organising dinner for everyone in that window of time between school finishing and me starting work. Together, J and I had the stress of coordinating use of our one car, and getting the girls to their kung fu lessons, soccer training, weekend matches. J was having to leave earlier in the mornings to be back in time for me to get to work. When I'd get home, he'd head to bed while I still needed an hour or so to wind down and have some quiet time to myself. We weren't really spending much time together. As for the weekends, I was missing out on a lot of family time and we haven't been able to plan (or take spontaneous) mini road trips to see more of the Northwest. I was feeling like I could barely catch my breath, and during the summer - without school even being a factor - I even had a nasty anxiety attack.

Things came to a head with J taking on a new role at his work, which will see him needing to travel a few times a month, on weekdays. This will make it difficult to schedule my evening shifts, or change them at a moment's notice, so we thought about it and decided it's just not worth the stress any more. With Miss P now in Pre-K an extra day a week, and the option of booking her in for the lunch programme there, I told my manager that I would only be available during preschool hours, that I'd be happy to come in and work mornings and the lunch rush on those days, and that if they didn't have a place for me during those hours and they needed to replace me, then no hard feelings. Thankfully, they seem to really like me and have been super helpful and accommodating. I'm not sure how long this arrangement will work for (school holidays are going to be tricky or impossible, but I'll cross that bridge later), but for now our little family unit is a much happier one. J and I get to spend more time together again, weekend date nights are doable, we all get to eat dinner together most nights now, and the girls seem to love having me around at bedtimes again.

So for now, I'm breathing better and able to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. Some days are still a bit of a scramble, but nothing like the concentrated way that the afternoons had been. I feel like I've gained back a bit of my life, just from freeing up my evenings and Saturdays.

The way the same types of trees change to different hues, the way the leaves seem to dance and twirl as they fall, the way they lay curled on the ground, the way the sunlight makes the raindrops sparkle on them, and the fact that as I'm walking, it's fun to identify the many leaves: maples, alders, oaks, sycamores and ones I've yet to learn the name for... I'm actually enjoying autumn.

Maybe a leopard can change its spots.






Tuesday, October 14, 2014

August (Part 1)

I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to properly writing about everything we got up to in August, because - like July - it was busy, busy, busy. We had close friends from L.A. stay with us, a bowling birthday party for a newly-minted eight-year-old, a girls' night out (me) to see Chvrches live, multiple beach and splash park play dates, and local neighbourhood festivals. August was wonderful to us, and hopefully my catch-up post for the second half of August will do it more justice than this post. Ahem.













Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chinatown in Seattle

Three years ago, I wrote about Chinatown in Los Angeles, comparing it to the many other Chinatowns I've been to (hint: L.A.'s Chinatown fails miserably).

Lately, I've been spending time in Seattle's Chinatown. The Faery and Miss Pie have been doing weekly Kung Fu classes there, and - happily - it's a part of town that's enjoyable to hang out in. I've had a few people say to me that it's sketchy and unsafe, but nope. I've never felt a dodgy element there. I think there's a preconceived idea that because it's so close to downtown and a couple of major bus/train stations and stadiums, with a large presence of homeless souls, that it's perhaps not safe. I would say that's rubbish. Unlike so many inner-city neighbourhoods, it simply hasn't been gentrified... yet.

It's not a large Chinatown, but definitely bigger than Melbourne's and London's. It's not cramped together, nor is it sprawled and difficult to navigate. It's less colourful and vibrant than San Francisco's, but the colours and patterns are around. There are the requisite restaurant windows with barbecued ducks strung up, signs advertising Chinese herbs, and curb-side trees that have a more Oriental feel to them.

We've settled into a bit of a groove during the girls' Kung Fu lessons, where I go for a wander to take in the streets. I obsessively take snaps of buildings, windows, and fire escapes (that remind me a little of San Francisco in general). At some point, I usually head to Uwajimaya, which is one of my Happy Places. It's a massive Japanese-owned supermarket where I can find various Asian (and other imported) goods that I have trouble finding elsewhere - including real passionfruit for my beloved pavlovas. Uwajimaya also happens to be right next to a Kinokuniya bookstore, which was my Happy Place in Sydney. The last thing I do is grab some bubble tea as a treat for the girls, as they've become quite obsessed with it. I have a feeling that as winter closes in on us, we'll start having dumplings and other staple Chinese food afterwards, to warm our bellies before heading home. I'm not looking forward to winter, but I'm looking forward to a good excuse to eat some hearty Chinese food.

I've yet to bring the proper camera with me, so it's just iPhone shots for now.
(Also, yes. It's no secret that I have a thing for dragons...)