Why I love watching HGTV (and why I don’t blame you if you don’t)

PB

Love-It-or-List-It-David-and-Hillary

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year, I visited an old friend in LA – not that she is old – she is my age and we are certainly not old – we have just known each other for a long time.  She loves HGTV and she had it on in the background throughout much of the time I was there – pretty much whenever we weren’t at Target (but that’s another blog post). Over the three-day weekend I discovered Property Brothers, I discovered House Hunters (including the international variety) and I discovered Love it, or List it. When I returned to Seattle after only a short time away, I surely baffled Ben who had always known me as a Food Network junkie. Sure, I still watched Chopped from the DVR, but any moment I needed to chillax for a spell, I tuned to HGTV instead.

So, what’s the appeal for me?

One: Makeovers!

As Oprah knows, makeovers make television gold. Take someone who has let themself go – or who never really had themself in hand in the first place – and hand them over to the experts for a coat of spit and polish. Voila! Fascinating, heart-warming, inspiring television. HGTV is like that but for homes. I cannot believe what can be accomplished by a television personality and their crew of 40 people in 5 weeks with a budget of $50000! Incredible, beautiful makeovers of previously uninhabitable properties. Amazing! And all edited together in an easily digested package for my viewing pleasure. If I am on a time budget, I will skip the actual making over, and just cringe in horror at the ‘before’ and then exclaim delight in the ‘after’. It is the extremeness of the contrast that tickles me.

Two: Assholes intrigue me

I always wonder what it must be like to be an asshole and then go on TV and show the world how much of an asshole you are. I don’t know why these people intrigue me so much, but perhaps in some odd way I vicariously live through their public assholery. Assholes on HGTV include 20-somethings who stand in cavernous en suite bathrooms with two sinks, enough storage for all their asshole products, a spa bath and a separate shower and say things like, “This isn’t very big, I definitely need a bathroom bigger than this.”

Or, the people who insist that if the house doesn’t have crown molding then they can’t possibly be expected to live there. I hadn’t even heard of crown molding until I started watching HGTV regularly – and I would hazard a guess that the assholes hadn’t either. Assholes also include young-ish people who see a perfectly good kitchen – one less than a decade old – and sigh in disappointment because it doesn’t have a commercial stove or granite counter tops. My uncle has a commercial stove, which he finally got when he was about 55, because he wanted to invest in his culinary pursuits – and it is something he uses every day (he is an awesome amateur chef, by the way).

Three: I learn stuff

I like seeing how people in other parts of the country – and other parts of the world – live. HGTV provides anthropological tutelage; one could even say that they are providing a valuable community service.

Also, I get so many ideas from HGTV. I am not talking about DIY projects. I hate DIY as much as I hate gardening. I am talking about tips on how to style your home. I take pride in having a nicely put-together home and I learn new stuff all the time on HGTV. #1 tip for having a beautiful home? Put your sh*t away. There’s a difference between your stuff – which can be displayed stylishly to make your place feel like a home – and your sh*t. No one wants to see your sh*t – not even your spouse, so put it away.

Sidebar: My dad taught me this one: he and my step-mum each have a drawer where they can put their miscellaneous sh*t. Ben and I have adopted this tip and it works really well for keeping clutter (i.e. each others’ sh*t) out of sight. Items that go in the drawer may include sunglasses, opened mail, unopened mail, coupons, spare keys, an address book, post-its, lip balm, a pocket knife, a silly plastic toy that I won from an arcade game, and so on. Feel free to steal this idea. HGTV should steal this idea. But I digress…

Four: It’s harmless (and often mindless) fun

Our move across the world takes up a considerable amount of brain power. We are dealing with logistics and paperwork and job hunting and price comparisons, so a little bit of mindless entertainment is good these days. Ben has ‘The Big Bang Theory’. I have HGTV.

Disclaimer: Yes I know that a lot of it is faked, or rather,  ‘reconstructed’ for television

I know that the couples featured on House Hunters are not really house-hunting – they have already chosen their property and are simply recreating the search for a television audience. I tend to skip the loosely-scripted discussions and skip right to the tours of the three properties. The show gives a great overview of the lifestyle in that location. Again, anthropological = interesting.

I am also sure that Drew (or Jonathon – I don’t know which one is which) on Property Brothers doesn’t really broker a sale as quickly or easily as he seems to on television. I don’t care. The rest of their show is cool.

So, judge me or don’t; it is my (not-so) guilty pleasure.

Gap Year

There is an Aussie rite of passage that is not really part of American culture. This rite is also shared by the Kiwis, Brits, Irish and even the South Africans.

It is the ‘gap year’, where young adults leave their home country and go on grand adventures. They almost always end by moving back home with their parents, because the are spent – financially, often physically, and sometimes emotionally. For many (myself included) the only thing better than the gap year, is coming home from the gap year.

So, what are the Americans doing when the English, Irish, Kiwi and Aussie youth are gallivanting around the globe, tending bars in London, backpacking through Scandinavia, volunteering at refugee camps in Haiti or getting blindingly drunk with other intrepid gap yearers? Many of them go to college – an American rite of passage, some join the workforce, and some do take advantage of their youth, their savings account and the best wishes of their loved ones, and go on a gap year adventure.

When I left high school, I did not go to college – or uni, as we call it – right away. I had blown my final exams, because at seventeen I was essentially burnt out from 2 years of 4-6 hours a night of study. When I announced about 3 weeks before the final exams that I wouldn’t be sitting them, my parents informed me that I would. Fine, I thought, but I won’t study. And in a rare act of defiance, I didn’t. I did okay on these exams, and was accepted into the University of Western Australia. But I didn’t go. Instead, I lounged around on my dad’s couch with my unemployed best friend, cashing fortnightly dole checks.

My dad’s tolerance for this behavior wore thin after a surprising 8 months (I would have kicked me off the couch in 8 weeks!), and I went out and got a job. At a grocery store. As a ‘checkout chick’. I do not know how my parents felt about that at the time. I was a bright girl, and working in a supermarket wasn’t exactly my dream job, but, I was only 18. I didn’t know what my dream job was, and so I settled for something easy and close to home. I quickly rose through the ranks, and by my 19th birthday, I was the manager of the checkout chicks (and guys). It went to my head a little, but the power put shine on a job that was otherwise quite dull.  By that time I had also locked onto the dream of going to college in the U.S. so, I was saving frantically to move there.

By the end of that year I was living in LA – with my aunt and uncle.  And so began my gap year.

My aunt and uncle are only 10 years older, so the living situation was actually much cooler than it first sounds. Even though I was under-aged, we would have fun nights out at bars and pubs. I never got carded like I do now; people cared less, or the laws were less stringent, but for whatever reason my 19-year old butt sat on many a bar-stool that year.

I got a job at the local AMC cinema, where I met my boyfriend and a gang of best friends. I added two other jobs to the mix, as I needed to save cash for tuition. I worked in an auto parts store and a Blockbuster. The worst of my jobs was Blockbuster. My manager was the same age as me and a complete tool. Had I known anything about karma at the time, I may have understood the irony of the situation.

My best job was at AMC – all the free movies, popcorn and diet Coke a girl could want! Plus, my boyfriend and best friends were there.

The auto parts store was kind of smelly and often boring, but I learned a shitload about cars. Men can be real assholes to a pretty girl who works behind the parts counter, so I learned my stuff fast. “You do not need new jets for your carburetor because your car is fuel injected. You’re just being a jerk and trying to trick me. Next!” Booyah!

I worked seven days a week, and took little time off. Amongst all the shifts – some of them back-to-back, I found time to go to Rosarito Beach, Mexico, Big Bear, and to Palm Springs. I was only 19 so I thought that these were exotic locations. Life was seriously fun.

I did eventually get to college after a year of working three jobs, and having fun with my friends and boyfriend. I did a semester at BYU (yes, that BYU) which was both amazingly great and completely depressing.

Amazingly great:

  • My oldest friend, Jules, was also at BYU, and we have a lot of fun – even now
  • I lived in the dorms and adored my roommate
  • My girlfriends and I went dancing two or three times a week. (Provo is not like the town in Footloose, even though the original film was shot there.)
  • I had French class 5 days a week and j’aime Francais!
  • I got good grades with little effort

Completely depressing:

  • My boyfriend lived in California
  • I was very poor, so would accept dates just to go to a movie (see point #1)
  • After three dates, most guys would propose
  • It was cold and snowy (winter semester)
  • I was so poor I would do my roommate’s laundry if she paid and I could throw my clothes in with hers
  • My non-French classes were ridiculously boring
  • Did I mention that I was poor?

The semester came to a close, and I was destitute. My time in the dorms had come to an end, I had no money and no job, and my boy in California broke things off. If I’d had a dog, he would have been hit by a car. Things were grim. I talked my way into a job – and an advance on my paycheck, and crashed at a friend’s place for about 6 weeks.  Aside from the dancing, which continued 3 nights a week (the Ivy Tower: Wednesday, ladies night, free entry, Friday, free entry before 8, and Saturday, $1 entry), I was miserable.

It was time to admit to myself that my little adventure was over. Jules was heading home to Perth, Australia, and so would I.

I called my mum. Collect. “Hi mum!” “Hello, sweetheart.” “I want to come home.” “Oh that’s wonderful!” and then because she knew me well, “How much money do you have?” “$5.” There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Okay, well I will call your dad and we will work something out.”

And she did, and we did, and Jules and I flew home together in August 1990. She moved back in with her parents, and I moved back in with mine (my dad and step-mum’s place). And so ended my gap year.

Perhaps I was not as intrepid as today’s 19 year-olds. But in mine I went to two countries, learned French, lost the 30 pounds I had gained sitting on my dad’s couch, lost my virginity, learned to drive on the LA freeways, found out the difference between an alternator and a starter motor, refused several proposals, and survived being homeless and unemployed.

I did okay. ; )

In fact, I am proud of my 19-year-old self. She was gutsy and passionate. I remind myself to tap into her when I am feeling scared or indifferent.

And just because they make me giggle, have a look at this series of videos entitled “Gap Yah“.

Heatwave in Seattle

by bangladeshihindu

I have a confession to make.  I am one of those women you see at the gym who reads magazines on the cardio equipment.  I have another confession.  I feel superior to other women who read magazines on the cardio equipment, because I am working on level 20 while they are usually on level 4 or 7.

I don’t necessarily think that I am a better person, just that I am getting a better workout.  And something I have discovered about reading while working out, is that once in a while I am endowed with a true ‘ah-hah’ moment.

These are rare while I am reading Hollywood gossip, and really I only read those magazines for the pictures, not the articles.  Sometimes, though, someone leaves an Oprah, or a MORE magazine at the gym and I end up reading something that actually changes me a little.  I return home with a renewed sense of purpose, an inspiration or a fresh perspective.

It was one of these moments that led me to hot yoga.  I was deep in the heart of an Oprah magazine.  “’Adventure’ doesn’t have to mean trekking through the jungle or bungee-jumping.  Being adventurous is to deliberately move outside of your comfort zone,” I read, heart-pounding, face red, and sweat pouring.

That night my girlfriend, Carlie, sent me a text.  The week before we had talked about how she did hot yoga, and how I wanted to try it.  This was the moment of truth, my moment to be adventurous.  “6 tomorrow morning.  Meet you there?”  I replied, “Sure!” before I could talk myself out of it.

So, I took my nearly 41-year-old tight hamstrings to hot yoga.

I loved it.  I loved being hot. I loved stretching myself – both literally and figuratively.  I enjoyed the low candle light and the relaxing, but very hip music (nary a whale call or a raindrop to be heard).  I thoroughly enjoyed a rhythmic and strengthening hour of Vinyasa.

Allow me to interject with the brief (and sporadic) history of “Sandy and Yoga”.

  • I can’t remember when I did my first class.  It was the 90s.
  • I had a crush on a beautiful, sexually-ambiguous Eurasian yoga instructor in Sydney, so I attended his classes each week for a whole month.
  • I do a series of sun salutations before I fly.
  • I lived with a yoga instructor, who chided me about doing weights and running, until I did a perfect jump-back from Crow to Plank, which finally shut her up.
  • I fell in love with ‘Body Balance’ classes, which combined yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates choreographed to music.  Those fed my body and my attention-span-of-a-two-year-old mind, but I moved to America where there are no Body Balance classes.
  • I did no yoga for 18 months, and became stiff and sore more frequently than stretching at the gym could combat.
  • I tried hot yoga and signed up for two months unlimited attendance.
  • I go here three times a week and I feel great.

Thank you, Carlie, for leading me on a new adventure.

I do sometimes question if I love the yoga, or the fact that it is hot in the studio.  Living in Seattle, I am rarely hot.  Showers are hot, of course, but I mean with my clothes on.  Most of the time I am focusing on ‘not being cold’, so the yoga studio offers welcome relief. Still, hot yoga is something I have always wanted to try, but never did ‘til now.

That makes it my adventure du jour.  Next is participating in a flash mob…

Excess packaging

I have a somewhat minor frustration that comes up on a daily basis.  Packaging.

I realized the other day when I was unsuccessfully trying to open a cheese stick, that U.S. manufacturers do not seem to discriminate between things that can poison us if ingested, and actual food.

Trying to extrapolate the highly delicious and somewhat nutritious cheese stick from its extremely excessive packaging (a tough plastic bag that won’t open without scissors, and a shrunk-wrapped plastic ‘easy-to-peel’ tomb) resulted in so much contortion, a co-worker thought I was trying on a girdle.

My eye cream comes in an even more ridiculous array of packaging: inside a jar, inside a plastic shell, inside a box, inside shrunk-wrapped plastic.  By the time I get the eye-cream out of its packaging, I have three more frown lines on which to put it.

My favorite example of excess packaging is anything that comes in a plastic bottle.  From vitamins to ketchup, I must first contend with the shrunk-wrapped hard plastic seal that surrounds the lid.  It has perforations so that I can do this easily, but for some reason (perhaps because they suck), these perforations do nothing.  I have to get out the scissors.

At this point I can twist off the lid, but underneath the lid will be a foil covering stuck so tightly to the neck of the bottle, I have to dig under its edge with a fingernail.  Even the ones with the handy pull tab cannot be pulled off.  I invariably resort again to the scissors, which I wield with an agitated stabbing motion.  I have missed a few times and stabbed myself, but this only provides another reason for expletives to pour from my mouth.

Once the foil lid is removed, I can usually access what is inside the bottle.  If it is vitamins, I have one more gauntlet task: a wad of uncooperative cotton wool.  Imagine the clown car at the circus.  Pulling the wad of cotton wool out of a 5cm vitamin bottle is like watching the clowns get out of the car in a never-ending stream.

When I can finally reach the vitamins, I check the ‘use by” date to ensure that they haven’t expired while I was trying to open the bottle.

All of this may seem exaggerated, and as I tend towards the hyperbole, you will be forgiven for thinking so.  However, long-suffering boyfriend can attest that these exact enactments are real.

This brings me (the very long way) to our giant clean out a few weeks back.

Our home is spacious for a one bedroom apartment, but it does have its spacial limitations and we were not optimizing the space that we do have.

It did not look like this

but it felt like it did.

I felt tightly bound by too much stuff, too much clutter, too much useless junk, too much excess packaging. I was starting to feel claustrophobic in my own home. I was freaking out.

I mentioned in passing to Ben that we should have a big clean out.  He looked a little less than enthused.  I tried talking it up.

“Yeah, it’ll be great.  We’ll go through the whole house and open everything up, pull everything out and then throw away what we don’t need.  Then we can organize all the cupboards and drawers!”  The Virgo that rose in my Taurean chart when I was born was rising to the challenge.  The Scorpio I live with was not.

I tried a different tack.  “I hate my closet!  I hate it.  I hate that I can’t find anything and everything falls all over me and I hate it!”  This tantrum went on for another 45 seconds until strong arms went around me, and I calmed down.  I looked up at the owner of the arms (Ben).  “I want to clean out our place and make it feel like home again.”

He responded in the only way a man can when he is faced with big hazel puppy dog eyes, “Okay, Babe.”

And that is how it came to pass that one Saturday we opened every cupboard, drawer and box in our apartment.  We pulled out everything and only put back what we wanted and needed.  The crap was thrown out, recycled, donated and given away.  (It is only crap to those who don’t want it).  I bought tubs and baskets to organize all our stuff.

We took a trip to the tip and visited Goodwill.  We filled 8 bags for the garbage and recycling.  It took 6 hours, including the time to thoroughly clean our apartment.

We stripped bare and reconstructed our home, ridding our selves of all the excess packaging.  At the end of a long day, we sat sipping a much-deserved glass of wine and admired our handiwork.

Devoid of clutter, our apartment felt like home again I no longer felt suffocated.

I still have my daily battle with actual excess packaging, but I am slowly becoming more skilled with my scissors.

No excuses

Three months and five days.

That’s how long it has been since I last blogged.

Now, as millions of people world-wide are setting (and already breaking) New Year’s resolutions, I find I have no plausible excuses left.  And so I blog.

Since I last wrote, I started working at Groundspeak, the days have turned dark and cold, and I no longer have to give myself pep talks to get out of bed in the morning.  These are all big changes for me.

Groundspeak has been all that I thought it would be when I went to the first interview back in July.  I walked out knowing that I wanted to work for these people, even if they only wanted me to make coffee and empty trash cans.  Fortunately, they want far more from and for me.

There is an incredible atmosphere at Groundspeak and it comes from the people who work there.  It is a positive, creative, clever, engaging, and supportive atmosphere which makes working there a pleasure.  Every day is different, and my boss, Jenn, frequently asks, “When you signed on to work for us, did you think you’d be doing this?”  The truthful answer is frequently, “No”.

Amongst the administrative tasks and responding to emails, I have worked on a project with the Geological Society of America, I am planning a three-day event for 100 in the UK, I am learning German, and I know how to simulate a generously proportioned chest with two stuffed frogs.

I am truly enjoying my work.

The weather on the other hand…

It is winter again.  I feel like there wasn’t really a summer, so it is sometimes hard for me to see the light at the end of the Winter tunnel.  Summer 2009 consisted of some Spring weather, some Autumn weather, and about a week of Summer when the mercury hit 95+ for 7 days in a row.

Seattle-ites moaned and stores ran out of fans, but I loved it.  And then it was gone.  Before I knew it the days got shorter and the temperature dropped in increments.  I have summer clothes that I never had a chance to wear, and most of them are currently vacationing with a friend in Columbia.  I thought I owed it to them.

I should say, though, that the Winter Solstice was marked with as much celebration at work as Christmas was.  “Hooray!!!  It is the shortest day of the year!  Longer, brighter and warmer from this point on!”  I had to agree that this is something worth noting, if not celebrating.  Especially as Solstice fell during one of the coldest weeks of the year: -8C daily maximums = “Brrrrrrrr”.

The last big change is that I no longer need to have a chat with myself each morning about getting out of bed and facing the day.  In August of last year I feared I was dropping into a deep funk.  I had landed my dream job, but wasn’t able to start.  Red tape was choking me and I feared that my new employers would give up the long wait to secure my work visa.  Two months later, the only thing standing between me and a new place of work was a stamp in my passport.

I should have been thrilled that the company was flying me back to Australia to finalize the paper work.  I would get to see family and friends (and the sun), and I could start working the day after I arrived back in Seattle.

I should have been ecstatic, but I was too terrified to feel anything but all-consuming fear.  “What if they say no and I can’t come back to my home (Seattle)?” became my mantra.  Friends were reassuring, the company was reassuring, Ben was reassuring.  “It will be fine.”  “It is a formality.”  “You’ll be back here and working before you know it.”

I wanted to believe them.

Then I talked to my dad.  “Darling, what will you do if they don’t give you the visa?”  Finally.  Someone actually said it aloud: my greatest fear.  Once he said it, he immediately dismissed the thought, “Don’t even think about that.  It will be fine, Darling.”  He was right, and so was everyone else.  I flew back to Sydney, had a (worry-filled) weekend with my family, attended the visa interview and walked out 15 minutes later with the visa.

Then I was on vacation in one of my favorite cities in the world.

And you know what happened then.  I flew home home to Seattle, started work, and lived out the rest of the year.

We celebrated Ben’s 30th with a huge party at our place.  We had a Thanksgiving dinner with 5 other couples, all close friends of ours, and then took off for a weekend away in a mountain cabin.

We enjoyed my first Seattle Christmas with my mom visiting from Las Vegas, and Ben’s Seattle family, and we saw in the New Year with dear friends, Nicole and Josh.

It was an extraordinary end to 2009, but I am very happy to start 2010.

I am healthy, I have love in my life, I have a great job and even greater friends, and soon we will be traveling to Europe.  I have much to be grateful for.  I can even spin the weather: how nice it is that I get to wear winter clothes, knee-high boots and my new (extremely cute) earmuffs.

So, here they are, my resolutions (it has to be done).

1. I will blog more frequently than once every three months and five days.  In fact, I will spend more time writing for myself than I have in the past few months.

2. I will continue to volunteer my time.

3. I will do flexibility training (yoga, Pilates) once a week.

4. I will learn something new (um, not quite sure what that will be yet).

Happy New Year to you all.  May it be prosperous, filled with adventure and spirited pursuits, and peaceful.

Leaving home and homeward bound

Sand1

I have been home in Sydney for the past week to finalize a work visa for my new job in Seattle.  The trip, while being ‘immigrationally necessary’, has been the greatest gift. 

When I landed the position at Groundspeak two months ago, I was thrilled – and then a little sad.  I realized that it meant I would not see Australia, my home, for at least a year and a half. 

Hence, the reason I have treated this week as a gift.  The work visa was approved on Monday morning, and while I awaited the return of my passport, I enjoyed every moment of being home.

I have hugged old friends and chatted excitedly on the phone to others.  I have swapped stories, gossip, concerns and triumphs, catching up on nearly a year of absense.  I have talked at length with my dad, and spent an evening of laughter and tears at my aunt and uncle’s dining table.

I have indulged in many cups of coffee made by top-notch baristas, and stocked up on Jaffas and BONDS undies.  I have taken dozens of photos of the most beautiful coastline in the world, filled a ziplock bag with sand from Bronte beach, and raided my storage boxes for much-loved books I want to take back to Seattle.  I brought one suitcase, and I am taking two back.  I have a tan. 

And after just a week on Aussie soil, and my accent is as thick as ever (Ben calls it my Aussie accent ‘reboot’).

Sand3

In a few hours I will be jetting across the Pacific Ocean on my way home.  When I get there it will be one hour after I left, which I love, because it feels like ‘time travel’.  I lost a Thursday on the way over, but am happily swapping it for two Saturdays. 

On arrival, after hugs and kisses, and unpacking and showering (is there anything that feels better after a long-haul flight?), Ben and I will head over to our friend’s place for their housewarming party.

I will get to hug my new friends, and swap stories about our escapades over the past week, and plans for our upcoming holiday season.  I will spend the rest of the weekend trying to get on Seattle time as quickly as possible, for on Monday morning I (finally) start my new job.  I cannot wait.

So, I leave home to fly home, just as I did a week ago.  When you have two places you call home, you are prone to twinges of homesickness, you will always miss loved ones, and you will sometimes slip into the annoying habit of comparing the two places – even if only to yourself. 

But you will also have more love in your life, more joy, more nostalgia, and more hope for the future than you can possibly imagine. 

I do.  And I am very grateful.  For all of it.

Heatwave

Seattle 2008 027_edited

The thermometer in the northwest of the U.S. has nudged (and sometimes tipped over) the 100F mark for the past few days now.

As an Aussie girl yearning for a ‘real’ summer’s day, I was equally thrilled (It’s hot!) and amused (Will the people here please stop freaking out?) when I saw the forecast.

But you see, Seattle is equipped for the cold, not the heat.  Our apartment, with its two tiny windows in the living room, has central heating, but no air-conditioning.

We are on the bottom floor and face north, so our place cooler than most other apartments in this building, but there is no air movement.  If I cook for more than a few minutes, it gets very hot in here.

“We are eating only raw food for the next few days,” I informed Ben.  He rarely complains about anything, and this revelation was no exception.  I think he is just thrilled that I am willing to prepare dinner at all – cooked or raw.

Sleeping has presented its own problems.  Two nights ago was the hottest night on record in Seattle – 71F/21C, which is very warm when you’re trying to sleep.

In my last apartment in Sydney, I had many windows.  On a night like that I would have thrown them all open, and enjoyed a cooling sea breeze throughout the night.  Not here.

Here we sleep under only a sheet, with a giant fan blowing on us.  We sleep perfectly still to avoid the chance of touching or generating any superfluous body heat.

And you cannot buy a fan or air-conditioner in the entire north-west at the moment.  Sold out!

Yesterday Ben and I were out in search of a salad spinner (so my life would be complete).  We got our salad spinner (and my life IS complete), but as we left the store, a man pulled up in a car, leaned  out the window and asked a staff member, “Do you have any fans?”  “Nope,” was the heart-breaking reply.

“Really?” an incredulous Ben asked me.  “I know this is unusually hot weather, but it gets warm here.  Don’t people have fans anyway?”  It’s a good point.  We have been sleeping with a fan on all summer.

“You know, we have two fans,” he continued.  “I bet we could sell one for $100 right now.”   When we got back to the car, the thermometer read ‘104’.  “I think we should keep the fan,” I countered.

Forecasters predicted that yesterday would be the hottest day in Seattle’s recorded history.  They were right.  While we were buying a salad spinner, the city of Seattle was suffering.  It is not used to the heat, it is not built for heat, and it is ill-equipped when a wave of it hits.

Malls, cinemas, and parks with wading pools are bursting at the seams.  Restaurant takings have gone through the roof in recent days.  People are showing up to work early and staying late, because most people here do not have air-conditioning at home.

Having said all that, I write this from the coolness of our apartment while outside it is 91F/33C.  If we keep the blinds closed, the fans on, and the cooking to a minimum, we can keep it cool in here so sleep comes easier.  A salad for dinner tonight, methinks.

So, the cynic is silenced.

Yes, it is hot, even for an Aussie girl.

Finally, I am reminded of a favorite poem by Shel Silverstein.  Enjoy.

It’s Hot!
It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade,
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

Pwerhouse Museum collection

A big bite

I live with an amazing person. Yesterday morning, despite a niggling cold, he jumps out of bed and says, “Let’s have tea on the roof.” So, we made mugs of tea, grabbed our books, and headed to the roof of our building to enjoy the morning sun, and our incredible view.

Looking back to the city
Looking back to the city
The Port
The Port

Yes, it is a little gray today (it was sunny yesterday), but we are so close to the city and the water that I love the view no matter the weather. That said, the next time the sun shines – more and more as we head towards Summer – I will take more pics.

Back to the person I live with: yesterday afternoon, suffering a little from cabin fever and too many video games, he says, “Let’s head up to that park we haven’t been to yet.” It is about three blocks from home, and is less like a park and more like a series of paths and trails that traverse the giant Queen Anne hill. The canopy of trees is thick, and the air smells earthy and clean. Walking the trails I could just imagine fairies and princesses doing the same. We climbed the paths to see where they went, and headed back home. The Spring blossoms have spread a carpet of pink over the neighborhood. I stood under a huge tree and jumped up to touch the branches. A rain of petals showered down, “It’s snowing pink stuff!”

Just a little excursion shook off the cabin fever, and the post-flu blues.

This is such a beautiful city, with many wonders – big and small – that we get to encounter every day.

This is on the drive home from Ben’s aunt and uncle’s house.

Woodinville, Washington
Woodinville, Washington

Woodinville is about 30 minutes from the city, and is a semi-rural neighborhood, with white fences, rolling green hills and dozens of types of trees.

Woodinville Christmas Tree Farm
Woodinville Christmas Tree Farm

On the way back from Woodinville, we make this crossing of Lake Washington on the 520 bridge. This was a day when the wind was whipping along the lake, and because the bridge is floating, the water can be rough on one side and calm on the other.

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And sometimes we get to share this city with visitors. My mom was here recently, and we took her to Bainbridge Island. We crossed Puget Sound on the ferry on a beautiful Spring day.

Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge
Seattle from the ferry to Bainbridge

The main streets of Bainbridge Island are filled with cafes, stores and this church:

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And the shores are lined with trees and houses.

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For $6 dollar ferry ride, which is spectacular in itself, Bainbridge is a little treasure close to home.

More and more we are enjoying the company of new friends. Last weekend, our lovely friends Matt and Crystal invited us out on their boat, along with Monica and Brian.

Lake Washington
Lake Washington

It was still and peaceful out on the lake, and for some reason we were the only people who thought to get out there. We had the whole lake to ourselves. This blew us away:

Sunset over Lake Washington
Sunset over Lake Washington

Ben and I had our king and queen of the world moment as we headed back to the marina.

On Lake Union
On Lake Union

These are some snippets from our life here in a beautiful city. We are not sure how long we will be here – another year, or maybe more. We just want to be able to say we took a big bite out of this city. Oh, and to our friends here: keep the invitations to those parties coming!

At Gerry's 30th Birthday Party
At Gerry's 30th Birthday Party

3 days ’til Spring

Spring is three days away, and this is what we woke to:

In disguise

and this:

3 days 'til Spring

and this:

A dusting of confectionery sugar

It is a pretty sight, I must admit, but it is noon and 2 Celsius (36F). Brrrr. We were warned. We’d been told that February teases with bouts of warm weather, like we had last week when it hit the teens (54F), and then digresses into wintry weather once again. On days of warm, sunny weather I ran outside without gloves and a hat, and I got hot! Imagine!

Today is the digression. It is still novel enough to inspire me to take photographs, but I imagine that if I had to drive to work today – like Ben did – on slippery roads, the novelty would wear thin pretty quickly.

Oh, yes, and I am mindful that I am beginning to think of 13 Celsius as ‘warm’.

Footnote:

As I have discovered, the Americans do not consider the 1st of the month to mark the first day of the season.  Apparently, March 20th is the first day of Spring here.  I stand corrected.  These little differences are getting curiouser and curiouser.

4 degrees of separation

Yesterday morning, Ben and I got up and went to the gym. This is not that unusual – he goes most mornings, and I often join him rather than going later in the day. Yesterday, however, it was 0 degrees Celcius when we left the house at 6:30, AND there was snow on the ground. It is a four block walk. We both kept our heads down and our shoulders hunched as the icy wind whipped around us.

“This is not the right jacket for this weather,” Ben said through chattering teeth. I was trying to ignore how the cold bit through my sweatshirt – or ‘windcheater’ as they are called in Australia. It was neither warming me enough to induce sweat OR cheating the wind.

There is a traffic light where we cross a busy intersection, and the wait can be minutes. We were lucky that it changed just as we approached, and we crossed for the final block of our journey. The beacon of the gym lights glowed ahead of us, and we quickened our pace. As we stepped through the double doors into the brightly lit entry, the heat washed over us and we both sighed, relieved.

I headed to the cardio equipment, and climbed on ready to take my body temperature from one extreme to the other. The long bay of windows overlooks Puget Sound, and interestingly, the path that runs alongside the water. I watched incredulous as runners, covered neck to ankle, made their way along the path in the 0 degree weather. “Crazy buggers,” I thought to myself smugly from the warmth of the gym.

Later in the day the sun broke through the dense cloud. I had walked up to the supermarket, as much to relieve the effects of cabin fever as to shop, and the fresh air combined with the milky sunlight seduced me into going for a run. When I got home I suited up – neck to ankle – with running pants, gloves, hat, and fleece, and headed out to the path alongside the Sound.
View of Sound

It was chilly, but it felt good to breathe the crisp air, and to watch the sun slip below the mountains in a fiery haze.
Last Glimpses
Sunset over Puget Sound

I did a 3 mile (5 km) circuit and returned home, feeling energized. After a quick restorative shower, I sat down to write some emails. I looked at my desktop, where a widget proclaims the temperature in Celcius. 4 degrees. 4! Four little degrees are what separate me from the ‘crazy buggers’ on their morning run.

I feel that I MAY just be acclimating to the cold. Just a bit.

This morning when we left the house, it was -1C and snowing. Although we dressed better for it than yesterday, and I am getting somewhat used to the cold, I still say, “Roll on summer!”