TNT Taqueria

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One of the things I miss most about my hood living LA days, is the vibrant street food culture.  Though I am sure its varieties pale in comparison to some cities like Mumbai or Bangkok, LA’s plethora of street vendors seemed like an exotic and slightly dangerous way of eating compared to the refrigerated snacking of my youth.  The food on those makeshift carts was real & authentic and though maybe lacking in sit-down restaurant ambience, they made up for it with pure flavor and refreshing simplicity.

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So when I stumbled across TNT Taqueria, a hip walk-up taco shop on 45th street in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle, I was transported back to the streets of Hollywood, with the smell of sizzling tortillas in my nose and shouts of “champurrado” echoing in my ears.

20160716_163010With locally sourced meats and five unique homemade salsas made daily, TNT takes taco truck grubbing up a notch.  It’s street flavor with a not so street feel.  The menu is uncomplicated, as tacos should be, and the bottled Coke is ice-cold. There are a few other items on the menu, from tortas to quesadillas and lets not forgot the pretty killer breakfast menu.  And good news here;  if it takes me 2 hours to leave my house due to my kids playing hide & go seek with my car keys and then another hour and a half to reach the restuarant due to London’s pea sized bladder and the million stops that that requires, TNT Taqueria will still be serving breakfast once I actually arrive. Yes!! Breakfast all day, you heard that right Mamas, you might actually eat a warm egg again in your life!

As London and I clamored up on the outside stools, ready to munch down on my burrito, a breakfast burrito I might add, we were surrounded by festive music, bright colors and delicious smells.

20160716_163311Though he ended up eating pretty much only his cheese quesadilla, he at least tried mine, even hesitantly dipping a corner of it into the creamy avocado dip.  Perhaps someday when he himself is out exploring the world & he comes across unfamiliar culinary terrain, I hope he remembers moments like these and drives right in & tries it. And though his cultural awareness began not on the streets of Hollywood, but in the slightly less diverse Pacific Northwest, I hope it stays with him, evolving year after year, pushing him to seek out those unknown flavors and challange his tastbuds every chance he gets.

 

 

 

 

TNT Taqueria

2114 North 45th Street

Seattle, WA 98103

206-322-0124

Open Daily 8am-10pm

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Samoa Cookhouse

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When I was 9, my grandparents & great grandparents took me on a roadtrip to California. It was just me & the four of them, cozied up in my Grandpa Sugar’s blue minivan.  I had a library copy of “On the Banks of Plum Creek” on the seat beside me, Grandmas’ who had a seemingly endless supply of gum in their purses and Grandpas’ who would let me order steak for dinner.  I was queen of the road for those two weeks and I loved it.

We would stop here & there on our way down south; to play miniature golf or read a historical marker about the Oregon Trail.  Yet no place held my Grandpa Sugar’s attention long enough to veer too far off course from his true destination, the Samoa Cookhouse near Eureka, CA.  For days before we reached it, my Grandpa could talk of nothing else it seemed, until the cookhouse was built up in my mind as this mythical roadhouse full of the fluffiest bread on earth and never ending portions.

When we finally did reach it, I ate so much of that infamous bread that I fell into a brief carb induced coma.  It was some damn good bread indeed.

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Serving up one daily menu, family style, the Samoa Cookhouse is the last operating cookhouse in the West.  Opened in 1890 as the Hammond Lumber Company Cookhouse, it kept the loggers fed with three square meals a day & prided itself on “never sending a man away hungry”.  This philosopy still holds true today, so its always best to arrive with an empty belly & a voracious appetite.

The cookhouse is not for those delicate eaters who boast about their not-so-special dietary restrictions of one kind or another.  You get what’s on the daily menu be it pork chops, pot roast or fried chicken.  Between the soup, salad, bread and side dishes though-one would be hard pressed not to find something to grub down on.  And there’s always dessert.

Adjacent to the dining room is a well stocked logging museum, packed with local logging artifacts and pictures.  It’s a good place to stroll around after gourging on the lumberjack sized meal from next door.  I remember the musuem being my Grandpa Jim’s favorite part of the Cookhouse, though my 9 year old self could only appreciate so much logging history before my eyes started to glass over.

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It was the entire experience though that I think made my grandparents love that place; from the family style comradery & the heaping portions, to the pure history of the place itself.  I’ve never seen someone have a bad time there.  Besides offering road weary travelers a place to eat,  The Cookhouse serves up a chance to be a part of something, to feel what it must have been like to be a logger, a waitress, a cook when life was simpler but by no means easier.  A world which my grandparents were familar with and which they tried to share with me all those years later.

Today, three out of the four of them are gone but whenever I return to the Samoa Cookhouse; whether as a young college student, a newlywed or now as a mom, I remember that trip & I feel the memories of my time with my grandparents flood back to me.  Now it’s my turn to pass on a little bit of history, to show to my sons that era in time which defined my grandparents generation and to share with them some of the fluffiest damn fine bread around.

 Samoa Cookhouse

707-442-1659

908 Vance Ave, Samoa, CA 95564

Open 7 days a week 7AM-8PM

North Creek Park

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My favorite thing about this park is undoubtably the fact that it refers to itself as Earth’s kidneys.  I’ve heard the saying “heart of the Earth” & “soul of the planet” but Earth’s kidney’s?  Not to serve kidneys an injustice; they are an incredibly important and vital organ after all, but what an unglamorous body part to liken something after. Whomever decided to reference the functions of the human body’s built in filtration system to the parks environmental standing was of course referring to the role wetlands play in cleansing surrounding eco systems.  Just as kidneys filter blood, cleaning it of impurities before sending it back out on its pulsating journey, wetlands distill water of all the crap that we people let seep into the environment.  Its a clever little comparison, and if lacking in romantic prestige, it makes up for it in pure nonchalant functionality.

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My second favorite thing about this park is the mile long floating boardwalk which allows for an up close wetland experience without getting all soggy & wet.  These boardwalks literally float atop the grassy marshes, and though smack daub in the middle of suburbia, once out on the path, it feels as if you are miles away from humanity.  Its quiet and full of animal life, with everything from snakes to birds and weasels making an appearance.

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Its perfect for London to cruise around on atop his little ripper of a bike, as long as he doesn’t braff off the edge into the murky water.  So far he hasn’t but I suppose that’s what a helmet and a washing machine are for.

20160609_113920The 81 acre park was once owned by the Bailey family, an early prominent dairy farm family in the Bothell area. Besides the floating boardwalk, North Creek also boasts a pretty killer playground, complete with a climbing wall and triple decker slides.  There are plenty of picnic areas, both covered and uncovered, which can be a welcome respite in our fickle Northwest weather.  Though the entrance is a bit tricky to find; a tiny little numbered road off the bustling Bothell-Everett Highway, it is well worth the trip.  Earth’s kidneys will thank you.

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20160609_1112571011 183rd Street SE

Mill Creek, WA 98012

Open 7 days a week 7am~Dusk

Contact: 425-388-6608

A Tangled Nest

I’ve long held the belief that everybody has at least one physical trait that others find beautiful. It could be the eyes, a finely turned ankle or a dazzlingly white smile, but there is always something. For me, it seems to be my hair. Long, thicker than a horse’s tail, and honey colored; I’ve always been a bit partial towards it. It’s embarrassingly easy to maintain and I suspect that my husband even married me because of it’s golden hue~after all, what true-blooded Latino could ever resist a blond?

All in all, I have been truly blessed by the hair gods. However I realize now that it really was never created for my benefit but rather for my son London’s; for my hair has become his nest, chew toy, blanket, teething ring and worry doll. Not a day or night goes by when he doesn’t burrow himself down in it, entangled in it’s golden tresses, and sooth himself to sleep. This process however, is not as gentle as it sounds, and my scalp as well as any loose strands are ripped and pulled in a most unpleasant way. In the dark of the night, when a violent tug has awoken me from a deep sleep, I often wish I could find a silky haired, lactating doll which I could easily switch places with.

Yet as my baby sister so graciously reminded me, this time is fleeting and it won’t be long before he’s 18 years old and I would give anything to have him small again, wrapped up in my arms, contentedly chomping on my split ends. So I’ll endure the nesting, the aching head and frazzled morning hair for now because I know that she is right.

Petersen Automotive Museum

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LA is the city 0f 1000 freeways, constant traffic and a worship of all things motorized; so its no wonder that it houses one of the best automotive museums in the country as well.  The Petersen Automotive Museum is a metallic monolith, smack in the middle of LA’s museum row, full of cars, motorcycles and other wheeled beasts.  It’s a museum that my husband actually likes, which is an anomaly in itself, and its easy to spend a few hours here basking in all the chrome plated beauty.

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Opened in 1994 by magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen, the museum has everything from concept cars to iconic rides like the Batmobile and Back to the Future’s DeLorean.  My car obsessed 3 year old was briefly struck mute, a rare but beautiful event, when he  came face to face with Lightning McQueen from Disney’s Cars.  As his metallic hero loomed over him, London’s face glowed ever so slightly with pure bliss and I realized then & there that the love affair between humans and motorized things is primal & instinctive.  Driving a car is like flying on wheels and as close to tasting the wind without leaving the ground as we’ll ever get.

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Cars take us to the far ends of the earth, where planes, trains and even boats cannot go.  They make adventure accessible to the masses and allow us escape at the push of a pedal.  So though I don’t share the same level of car mania that my son does, I can appreciate his attraction and in a city where its roads are as iconic as its weather, he is most assuredly not alone.

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Petersen Automotive Museum

6060 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-930-2277

Open Monday-Sunday 10am~6pm

Adults $15 Kids $7 Under 3 FREE

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Deru Market

When I am knee deep in matchbox cars and I’ve forgotten what its like to drink coffee while its actually still hot; I reminiscent about my LA days, where an afternoon sipping lattes would just happen, the natural progression of a lazy brunch sunday.  It didn’t require days of heated negotiations about who was going to watch the kids or a barter system of babysitting favors.  You just went to your favorite cafe, ordered a latte and probably that piece of cake that you knew you shouldn’t eat and sat down.  It was that simple.
shot_1454190430943Now anyone can tell you, myself included, that life after kids will never be that simple again.  The sheer amount of crap you have to bring with you to dine out with children is daunting and if you intend to enjoy that latte hot you better be ready with a little bribery as soon as that porcelain hits the table.  Odds are, you will spill half of it all over yourself on the way to the table anyway but hey.. it will still be hot!

Hence the reason why I immediately fell in love with Deru.  It’s urban, crisp, busy and packed; all those LAish things I miss~yet still completely accommodating to life with the wild ones.  As young families buzzed and ate around us, no one cared that my toddler was performing rare feats of chair gymnastics while simultaneously drinking his entire hot chocolate in one gulp.  We were just part of the chaos.

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I am not sure what was better, the Margarita pizza or the bowl ‘ol cappuccino; though drinking from a basin of hot, frothy milk made me feel rustically Mediterranean, which I liked.  The pizza was everything one wants a Margarita pizza to be~fresh and chewy with tomato sauce that tasted like sunlight.  It was wood fired of course, as all good pizzas are, and we polished it off in no time.

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Deru is a bit of a hybrid; part restaurant, part market.  One could feasibly package up a posse of side dishes, wood fired pizza included, and head out into the big wide world to find a quiet spot to grub down.  Yet doing that would mean missing out on that chaos I love so well; the clang of dishes and loud conversations and the scramble for a seat amid the hustle and bustle of a seemingly big city restaurant tucked inconspicuously into a tiny corner of suburbia.  And missing that would, quite simply, be a shame.

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Deru Market

Open Monday-Saturday 9am~9pm

Closed Sundays

425-298-0268

723 9th Ave Kirkland, WA 98033

Kirkland Arts Center

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I am ashamed to admit it, since my mom is a self taught children’s illustrator and my childhood was infused with imaginative afternoons spent in her studio, but sometimes I need guidance being creative myself.  I often have the motivation and desire to pull off some sweet little craft venture with London but its in the execution of the project where I falter.  By the time I gather up all the supplies, wrangle London to the table and attempt to guide him towards a semblance of creating the actual project at hand, I am worn out.

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That’s the great thing about the Kirkland Arts Center drop-in toddler art class; they provide the materials, a room to contain the disaster that I won’t have to clean up later and a specific project for the day.  Not bad for $10.  All I had to do was throw a painting smock on London, sit him down & watch the creative juices flow!

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The project the day we visited the art center was a self portrait.  All the kids were given a mirror to stare intently into while they tried valiantly to replicate their smiling faces.  London’s was a bit abstract but I think he got the round head shape down! They also made an art folder to take all their masterpieces home in.  Class lasted an hour and there was plenty of free parking around the neighborhood.  

Though I might not have personally pulled off a Pininterest worthy craft day with my toddler, he had fun being creative and I had fun watching him learn from someone else. And though creativity can and should get messy; today it wasn’t in my house which made me smile all the way home.  

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Kirkland Arts Center
620 Market Street
Kirkland, WA 98033
425-822-7161 
Toddler Drop-In Class
Ages 2-4 with Adult
Tuesdays 10am~2nd Floor Mezzanine Studio
Supplies included~$10 per kid/parent