Sunday, September 4, 2016

Life in Seattle

It has been a long time since I've written here.  I honestly wasn't sure if I would come back to this blog for a while because writing has always been a personal thing for me, and the very nature of blogging is that you have an open audience.  But the truth is, writing is huge part of my mental processing and the way that I de-stress, and I missed posting here.

Life has changed so very much in the past 14 months.  The biggest change of all has been that I now live on the West Coast!  After five years of dreaming of Seattle, I finally finished school and found a job just outside of the city.  It would be an understatement to say that I am happy.
I had not imagined that I would find so much joy in my job or that it would be so easy for me - the girl who has always hated waking up early - to embrace this life of 6am alarms.  But I love what I do, and I have been wholeheartedly enjoying the process of getting to know my new home.  I didn't realize how much I craved a little bit of suburbia until I found my apartment here, tucked into a quiet neighborhood.  I drive with the windows down now (even sometimes when it rains), I walk to the grocery store, I pick and eat wild blackberries along the sidewalks when I go to the library, and I have fallen in love with a beach along Lake Washington where I swim as often as I can.

Madison Beach is a good 30 minutes drive from my apartment, which sometimes even I think is a bit far to go just for a swim, but after exploring a few other beaches closer to me, I've found that none compare.  Madison Beach is crowded enough that I never feel like anything truly bad could happen to me without at least some witnesses noticing (yes, this is how my mind works), but not so crowded that I feel like I ever have to vie for space to set down my towel.  It's also safe enough that I feel perfectly fine leaving all my things unattended on the shore while I swim for an hour.  There are lifeguards present during the day till 7pm, and there is a floating dock out further in the lake with both a high and low diving board.  The beach is long enough to make swimming laps back and forth along the stretch of it a good work out, and there are few enough swimmers with so much space that I rarely ever need to dodge around other people.  I can easily flip over onto my back and leisurely float without fear of bumping into anyone.  The biggest selling point for me, though, is the lack of seaweed.  At 5'3, I can can easily swim out to where I can barely stand and from there to the shore, all along the length of the beach, there are no green slimy monsters floating in the water or trying to wrap themselves around my legs or arms.  A huge plus.

And, truly embracing my new identity as a Pacific Northwesterner (can I call myself that yet?  Does anyone here call themselves that?), I am also now ready to hike at a moment's notice.  I always enjoyed trails when I'd go running with my dad or my sister when I was growing up, or when we went on family vacations, but I suppose hiking wasn't ever really a large part of my life until more recently.  But now suddenly I am the girl whose hiking shoes are always in her car, who has a change of clothes ready, a backpack with water, snack bars, first aid supplies, fire starting materials, and a towel (thanks for all the fish!), just in case.  This area is just so beautiful, it begs to be explored.  I have a list of hikes that I want to check off, and I have been trying to take advantage of any time I have away from work to go dive into some state parks.  Being the creature of water that I am, at the top of my list of trails were any and all that led to waterfalls.  Two of my favorites have been Twin Falls in North Bend and Cherry Creek Falls in Duvall.

Twin Falls (pictured above, top left) was breathtaking.  The falls themselves are gorgeous, but what really made the hike worth it for me was the limpid, shockingly crystal clear South Fork Snoqualmie River.  I loved swimming in it.  This hike (like many in the area) was dotted with wild raspberry bushes.  There are plenty of beautiful spots along the shore of the river where you can set down your things and swim or rest.  There were little rocky islands in the middle of the Snoqualmie that the child in me simply had to explore.  I could easily come back here, as there are multiple trails in the area.

Cherry Creek Falls  (pictured above, top right) was charming and I would love to return and maybe picnic or read there.  There is no official parking lot since these falls are essentially just in the vast backyards of some private property, so people simply park along the road.  The hike is beautiful, but somewhat confusing, as there is a serious lack of trail markers.  My friend and I got lost two or three times although I had taken care to note directions online and we tried to use my GPS.  Thankfully, some other hikers along the trail pointed us in the right direction.  We crossed a couple little streams and many wild raspberry bushes.  The falls can be easily enjoyed from above or below, and the pool of water around them is refreshingly cool but not too chilly and not too deep.  You can easily wade across the water picking only spots with depths about thigh high (for someone 5'3) to stand beneath the falls.

Some other honorable mentions are Rodney Falls (Pool of the Winds), down by the Columbia River Gorge and Franklin Falls.  Rodney Falls  (pictured above, bottom right) also has some great trails which will take you up into the hills/mountains to look down into the gorge, and much of the length of the falls is easily rock scramble-able if you don't mind getting a little wet.  A friend of mine and I both enjoyed leaving our things on some rocks, taking off our shoes (and some of our outer layers of clothes) and scrambling from rock to rock all the way up to the top of the falls.  There were little pools to dip into and while the water was cold, it wasn't freezing.  Rodney Falls was the first hike I did that required the Discover Pass (or a $10 fee), and I thought it was totally worth it.  Franklin Falls is a very short and easy 1 mile walk - I won't even call it a hike because you could probably do this in sandals - with minimal views along the way  (pictured above, bottom left), but the falls are dramatic.  You can also swim here if you don't mind extremely chilly water and crowds (as it seems to be a popular spot for families).  Franklin Falls requires the Northwest Forest Pass (or a $5 fee).

As easily as it did over five years, Seattle has stolen my heart.  I adore the farmer's markets - the $6 bouquets and the smell of roasted corn in the air, the incredible berries and slightly overpriced cookies, the vendors who insist that you try all the varieties of their peaches.  I am in love with the park on the hill, where I've driven countless times to watch the sun set, yet never actually seen it disappear into the horizon because it is always cloudy when I go and I never remember to check the forecast beforehand.  I have become enamored with the used bookstores, and am also, for the first time in years, getting back to reading for pleasure.  I have my Asian grocery stores where I can buy canned grass jelly drinks and truong vit lon, and banh trung thu.  And as always, I have my kitchen.

While I continue to find joy in cooking and baking, I'm not sure that I will keep using this blog as a way to share recipes, as part of the reason for my lack of posts was the fact that I never wanted to post a recipe without pictures, and I often forget to take pictures while I am in the kitchen.  For whoever reads this, my stream-of-consciousness rambling will still be about food and love, but also life in Seattle.

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