Pacific Northwest Ballet & George Balanchine’s Nutcracker

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I’ll be the first to admit that I am not always the biggest fan of ballet.  I like words too much to fall in love with an art form that often uses none at all.  However, ballet does  convey a story thru movement and artistry & can be enchanting in its own way, so I feel that a well-rounded culturally rich upbringing should include an occasional ballet or two.  It also helps that I happen to work at McCaw Hall, home of the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Seattle Opera, and dress rehearsal tickets are a periodic perk to my working woman grind.

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Of course, no ballet is better known than the Nutcracker and the Pacific Northwest Ballet does it better than most.  From the costumes to the infamous “growing” tree, everything about the PNB Nutcracker is colorful & enchanting.  It launches the beginning of the Christmas season for many in the Seattle area and Seattleites would be hard pressed to find a more dazzling tradition elsewhere.  Though I risked the wrath of my fellow ballet goers by taking my nearly 3-year-old as my date, aside from his plethora of loudly whispered questions, he actually did surprisingly well. The scenery & sets from the Nutcracker are designed by Ian Falconer, the notable children’s author & illustrator of  Olivia the Pig series, so the entire production has a very whimsical feel to it.

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The lobby of McCaw Hall is fittingly decked out during the Nutcracker season, with plenty of Instagram worthy scenes around and mouse cookies in the concession stands. With the ballet clocking in at just over two hours long with a 25 minute intermission, getting to the theater early to let the little wild ones explore and get some energy out is always a good idea.  Plus, seeing some of the props and costumes will hopefully get them excited about the show they are about to see.  I know Huck certainly couldn’t get enough of being center stage in my photo shoots as well as sneaking in to photobomb perfect strangers shots as well.  The kid likes attention I guess.

 

 

Though I may not attend the ballet every year, I do and will continue to drag my boys to see The Nutcracker in hopes that they will learn at least a little to appreciate art in all its’ forms and to marvel at the athleticism of the dancers.  Maybe someday, far away down the line, when their wives suggest a date night out at the ballet, they won’t scoff or roll their eyes but dutifully put on their best garb for a night out on the town.  For that is what going to the ballet is all about; witnessing ethereal beauty through the story of dance and conveying emotions & themes through the movement of silent bodies.  And I can rest easy knowing that their appreciation of art & beauty & passion, no matter where it takes them; it all started with those job perk dress rehearsal tickets.

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Pacific Northwest Ballet & George Balanchine’s Nutcracker

Runs from the day after Thanksgiving thru the end of December

Tickets run between $25-$178

McCaw Hall

321 Mercer Street

Seattle, WA 98109

206-441-2424

 

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Christa’s Sandwichboard

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My second job back in high school was at a gourmet deli & wine shop on the edge of downtown.  We had the most delicious bread, delivered from a local bakery and nearly everyday I would walk home with the day-old loaves tucked under my arm; the taste of grilled cheese sandwiches dancing on my tongue.  It was the summer of bread, and though evidence of my daily carb smorgasbord slowly began to take its toll on my waistline, for those short glorious months I had money to spend on whatever I chose and a seemingly endless supply of potato rosemary bread to go with it.

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After I went away to college and my high school bread baby quickly gave way to a much sleeker starving college physic, the deli shuttered its doors taking those yeast infused temptations with them.  Over the years, bakeries came and went all along 1st street but the quintessential deli seemed to be ever elusive until Christa’s Sandwichboard set up shop.

Christa’s is bigger than it looks from the outside and like all good deli’s, comes stocked with a cold case full of cakes and salads. The decor is vintage cottage quaintness at it’s best with a bit of Victorian flavor thrown in to match the surrounding antique stores.  It’s the perfect place to tuck in and catch up, which is just what my sister Sammi and I did on a sunny day a few weeks back.  It was a celebration of her finally passing her investment banker test or financial test or whatever it was and which I still don’t understand a thing about, and so we took our respective babies out for sandwiches, soup & cake.

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We both ordered the mushroom soup, and I don’t say this lightly, but honestly, it was one of the better soups I’ve ever had.  Creamy, yet brothy, with bits of mushroom floating blissfully throughout, it was surprisingly decadent.  My sandwich, a Basil Mozzarella & Tomato concoction, made for some messy eating, with balsamic oozing  deliciously thru my fingers.  By the time I was halfway thru eating it, I was a hot mess and Huck; despite a table with ample empty chairs which he had rejected in favor of my lap, was gladly licking off all the tangy sauce which fell onto his arms.

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We ordered a celebratory piece of cake, which in true trendy fashion, was ombre purple with silver sugar balls which Huck couldn’t get enough off.  After properly destroying the cake, the evidence of which could be found all over the table and ourselves after the babies got ahold of it, we left Christa’s Sandwichboard with full bellies and happy memories; a true deli-licious afternoon indeed.

 

Christa’s Sandwichboard

1206 1st Street Snohomish, WA 98290

 360-568-9866

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:30AM~5PM

The Farm at Swan’s Trail

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There is something so productive about Fall.  It’s full of firewood chopping, apple harvesting, leaf raking; in short, it’s a time to get shit done.  This is probably the big reason why Fall is my favorite season.  I love the busyness of it, the subtle urgency before winter truly sets in.  And then there’s the pumpkins right? I mean, who doesn’t love pumpkin themed shit? There’s pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin air freshener, pumpkin creamer; it seems as if the flavor combos are never-ending.  My sister Sammi is the exception to this pumpkin loving rule, she doesn’t even like pumpkin scones shockingly enough, but I believe she is some sort of freakish anomaly.  I mean..she dips her broccoli in mayo, so maybe she’s not the best judge of taste…just saying.

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Anyway, one of my favorite places to experience Fall in all it’s glory is at The Farm at Swan’s Trail in Snohomish.  It has everything you could ask for in a fall centric farm; wagon rides, endless fields of pumpkins, corn mazes, good food, tractors to sit on for those Instagram worthy shots, and a petting zoo.

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The boys and I happened to go on the busiest day ever, which in hindsight, might not have been the best idea on my part and I apologize again to all those parents who heard the screeches of Huck and thought for a brief moment that I was waterboarding him in the car.

Prior to that epic meltdown though, we had a great time navigating ourselves through the Washington State corn maze, ate some tasty, farm-fresh corn chowder and wandered thru the seemingly endless pumpkin patch searching for the elusive perfect pumpkin.  Miraculously, we found four of them, and had it been up to London and Huck, we would have come home with closer to four thousand of them.  Who knew there were so many perfect pumpkins in just one little patch of earth?

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Once we made it back to our car and after I had finally managed to wrestle Huck into his car seat, we drove away, laden down with pumpkins and smelling like dirt & corn.  The carving would take place later that evening after said toddler had got some much-needed sleep, but for the moment, Fall had been savored, searched for and enjoyed. Memories had been made, at least one of the kids had a good time and no one got lost in the corn maze.  That’s a pretty perfect day in my book.

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The Farm At Swan’s Trail

7301 Rivershore Road

Snohomish, WA 98290

425-334-4124

*Free Parking*

Open Fall Season~ Weekdays open 12-6 and Weekends 10-6

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Grateful

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A few days ago, I forced myself to do something which I rather dislike. Not because the task was unpleasant, which it was in the sense that all things associated with death are, but because I was terrified of that look I would see in my father’s eyes. That look of mortality, of fleeting time, of disbelief, of instant heartache. For a friend of my dad’s had passed away quite unexpectedly and being the good daughter that I am, I bought a bottle of whiskey and drove over the mountain pass to commiserate at his house.

Once I arrived there however, my solidarity faltered as I remembered that summer day, not too many years ago, when I had spontaneously driven over that same mountain pass and up my Dad’s gravel driveway into a memory of sadness and shame. As I pulled up to a stop & jumped carelessly out of my car as only a young girl can do, my Dad lurched forward out of his office and onto the porch in a way which immediately told me something was wrong. At first I thought he was in the throes of a heart attack but as he choked out the words while I rushed towards him, I understood that it was my Uncle Brian who he was talking about, not himself. And in that moment I experienced my first sense of shame, because I was grateful it wasn’t him. Whether it was right or wrong, that emotion was the first thing I remember about my Uncle Brian’s death. As a world wholly new and painfully sharp sprang up around us that day, that day of sudden and young death, my first thoughts were still, at least it wasn’t you Dad. Thank God, it wasn’t you.

And that is why it took me a few hours after driving that mountain pass to finally muster up the courage to go and find my dad.  I stood there, alone, with the bottle of whiskey tucked under my arm, and braced myself.  I knew that same look was coming and that once again, I would feel that guilty sense of gratitude that it wasn’t him. For the thought of a world without my Dad breaks my heart, it’s something that I fear I simply could not bear. So when I look my father in the eyes, his grief makes me sad, sad because his friend was a good man and the world is a little less bright without him, sad because his own mortality is something I cannot stop. Yet he is still here, we still have time, and for that, I am unashamedly grateful.

Mercer Slough Nature Park

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Anyone who has ever driven over I-90 near Mercer Island has probably caught a glimmer of the Mercer Slough far below the tangled ribbons of concrete freeway. As motorized humanity hums above it, the Mercer Slough Nature Park meanders its’ way thru 320 green acres and serenely offers visitors a peaceful escape just mere steps away from the urban hub of Bellevue.  It always amazes me that places like this still exist in the march of constant urbanization, yet some still do and Mercer Slough is one of the better ones.

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With over seven miles of trails and a 2.4 mile long canoe route, the Slough is the largest of Lake Washington’s remaining fresh water wetlands.  There is also an Environmental Education Center that focuses primary on freshwater wetland ecology and which offers classes for both adults and children throughout the year.  On the day that my buddy Jillian and I went, we had the park pretty much to ourselves which was ideal since we had four wild children in tow.  Being a wetland, the trails traverse mostly flat terrain which makes it nice for those wobbling toddler legs and letting them run free without fear of a nearby cliff edge was an added bonus.

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After London and Lucia discovered an abandoned pump house leftover from the park’s bygone agricultural days, I attempted to convince them that we were indeed spending the night inside.  Seeing as they are observant little things, they quickly pointed out all the reasons that just wasn’t true from our lack of proper sleepover material to the two feet of algae covered sludge which carpeted the floor of the building.  I decided then that should I want to trick my children with a lie in the future, I had better bring my A game.

Leaving the floating pump house behind us, we stumbled into the Slough’s picturesque Blueberry Farm.  Established in the 1940’s, the farm is run by Bellevue Parks and provides an inexpensive & tasty place to pick local blueberries.  The children, of course, could not be contained and I am almost certain that they nearly ate their weight in berries.  Jillian and I cautiously looked around for lurking farm police, but none appeared and the kids joyously went on stuffing themselves.  Unbeknownst to us at the time, it turns out that the blueberry farm is actually currently closed due to the nearby sound transit construction, so all our harried, sideways glances were unneeded.

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Feeling buoyed by the fact that, should a natural disaster occur, our children would be excellent foragers, we headed back towards the car with full bellies and late summer tans.  The Mercer Slough had been explored, harvested and enjoyed & since it is so close to all things urban, I could still hit up Whole Foods on our way home.  Does a Seattle summer day get much better than that? I’d be hard pressed to say yes.

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Mercer Slough Nature Park

2102 Bellevue Way SE

Bellevue, WA 98005

425-452-6885

Open everyday 7am-4pm

 

Next Step Archery

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There was a brief time in my childhood where I was obsessed with the Kevin Costner Robinhood movie.  Actually obsessed might be putting it mildly; I literally watched it everyday, even if it was only for five minutes.  Sometimes it took me days to get thru the movie and my poor mother probably rued the day that that VHS ever made it into our house.  My cinematic choices aside, Robinhood was the ultimate badass.  He lived off the land, had a band of loyal friends and stuck it to the Man everyday.  He was the superhero I wanted to be.

His weapon of choice was of course the arrow, a sleek & slender apparatus which brought swift, whistling repercussions to those who crossed him.  Wielding a bow & arrow was sexy, skillful, wild & brave and so I thought; what better way to spice up a date night than with a few potentially lethal weapons and some healthy competition?

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Next Step Archery is the real deal and they take their job of teaching you proper archery skills pretty seriously.  Walking in, I had a bit of a leg up on Edgar due to my long ago camp days where I had rained as archery queen but even so I gained a few pointers on basic posture and bow selection.  Our class lasted about an hour and when we eventually sauntered out, I left with 3 bullseye shots and a new-found sense of gloating; Edgar hadn’t gotten a single bullseye.

 

Puffed up with my date night victory win and feeling like I could survive in the remote Alaskan wilderness with only my trusty bow by my side; we vowed to sign up for more lessons and perfect our ass-kicking skills.  After all, it’s not everyday one gets to relieve a childhood fantasy and knock a husband’s ego down a notch or two.  Two birds with one arrow; now that’s a superhero move.

 

Next Step Archery

22313 70th Ave West   20180603_184717

Suite U1A

Mountalke Terrace, WA 98043

425-977-2770

Hours:

Monday-9am-5pm

Tuesday-Thursday 9am-9pm

Saturday-9am-9pm

Sunday-11am-6pm

*Closed Fridays*

 

 

 

Jaded

PICT2742A few years ago, while I was living smack in the middle of Hollywood, I came home from work for a brief bite of something before rushing off again to go catch those LA dreams.  I most likely changed my clothes, since working with coffee all day tended to permeate everything with its blackened aroma and I know I watched a little TV.  During that limited time, that brief half hour lapse, someone or something was shanked, stabbed or seriously maimed right underneath my living room window. I did not realize this however, till I went to leave and found a rather large pool of fresh, sticky blood soaking into the sidewalk. I didn’t hear a scuffle, a yell, a shriek, or even a murmur. Nothing.

And as shocking as it was to emerge from my idyllic apartment and stumble into a potential crime scene; having already been properly jaded by city life, I tiptoed my way around the blood stained sidewalk & wearily peered into the bushes for a corpse. I made it to my car and drove off. I called my sister to warn her about the biohazard at the foot of our stairs and that was about it.

I did wonder how someone could lose that much blood so quietly and then simply vanish into the summer night even more stealthily. Yet it wasn’t until months later, when the great blood stain was brought up during a conversation with our downstairs neighbor, that I realized that maybe I should get out of the city for a bit. Apparently, he had recently been regaling his sister back in Wisconsin with hard-edged LA stories and had mentioned the giant puddle of blood. “What did the police say?” she had shrieked and I looked at my neighbor knowingly.  Cause he knew what I knew and that was this; that neither of us had bothered to call the police.  In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to us. For we were city dwellers, in one of the biggest centers of humanity on the planet and well, people bled every day down here.