Here's to a shimmering '08

For some sad reason, right as a year is close to screeching to a halt, I can’t help but utter the phrase “good riddens.” It rolls off my tongue almost perfunctorily. Each year has its highs and lows, and this year was no exception. 2007 kicked off in morbid fashion when my mother was almost killed in a head-on collision (thanks to an ignorant driver) in the leafy Chicago suburbs. Luckily, she survived relatively unscathed, at least physically. On the plus side, I moved to Seattle and made headway on some new goals, established new routines and dived into graduate school and volunteer projects. But besides mourning our own unpleasant experiences, it’s easy to be sullen over the year our own nation has endured: We continue to heartbreakingly lose too many American soldiers as tension swells in the Middle East; the housing market continues to look grim; scandal riddled the sports worlds; and the most recent blows – floods battered Seattle and the senseless slayings in Carnation. At times, it’s difficult to not want to disencumber yourself from the fetters of all that plagues our world, and just pretend it’s not happening.

However, there’s a sort of dis-ease that comes with a new year as well and as I’ve grown older have tried to ask myself, how am I going to make this year a step up from the previous? Even slight tweaks in one facet of one’s life can undoubtly make the new year more resplendent. But that’s always easier said than done. If your 2008 starts murky, here’s a web site that might quell your moroseness and prompt you to unleash chuckle or two.

Let’s hope 2008 is great! Cheers!


Sweet Home Chicago!

Going home to Chicago for the holidays was more than enjoyable. It had been a year since I had seen one of my brothers and sister-in-law and months since I had seen my parents and other siblings. Presents, food, laughter and fun brimmed my empty-nester parents’ home. What was most surprising was how maneuvering the airports during the holidays was quite a cakewalk. Though my redeye flight leaving Seattle was delayed two hours (mechanical aircraft problems really ease my mind, j/k), which meant we took off from the Emerald City at the ungodly time of 2 a.m., leaving me zombie-like for the first few days of my trip while my friends and I braved the malls for holiday gifts and indulged in a Chinese massage.

One thing that was apparent was that returning to the Midwest had me reverting to the fast-paced way of talking, going-about-things that I have somewhat left behind since I’ve lived in Seattle. It’s interesting to hear if others observe differences in a person that hasn’t been back in months. My mom (jokingly, I hope) repeatedly called me detached, which made me ornery and react with a slight cringe. Though I attributed any disconnectedness to the redder than red redeye flight and time change. Five days in Chicagoland was plenty, especially with the bitter cold that is inevitable there, but I treasured mingling and going to church with my numerous friends and family there. One of my hobbies is writing novellas, so I was also tempted to start a yearly book club with the family since books became a hot topic at the dinner table at certain points, or whip out the Scrabble board, but my geeky self resisted!

As a sort of news junkie, I couldn’t help but inquire into how the Chicago burbs have handled the intense media scrutiny that has swirled around Bolingbrook, IL (neighboring town of my hometown) and embattled ex-cop Drew Peterson, who is under the glare in regards to his missing wife. Some of my friends mentioned the onslaught of Fox News trucks around and others just cited an eeriness to the areas amid the hubbub.

And go figure, we didn’t have a white Christmas in Chicago, but I heard Seattle sure did. And how about the last two gorgeous sunny days we’ve had here in Seattle – just an anomaly? Perhaps yes.

Happy New Year to you all!

Rantings on volunteering, wigs parties, de-icing

Although I’ve just recently become accustomed to Seattle and its nuances, and my schedule has fallen into a rhythm of some sort, I’m looking to somewhat overhaul my routine. I enjoy being busy to a large degree and too much free time definitely breeds indolence. Therefore, outside of work, one class and freelancing I’m beginning to familiarize myself with some of the local food banks by performing service work for a few through Seattle University and my church.

There was a time when, after volunteering during several college spring breaks at a Franciscan soup kitchen in the heart of Philadelphia’s most destitute neighborhood, that I was going to be a live-in volunteer there for one or two years after college before starting my career. But as perhaps anyone would, I had grave concerns regarding how I would jump into my career after a two-year hiatus and little professional experience under my belt. Luckily, the bevy of opportunities to help the less fortunate in Seattle have stymied any regrets I may have had in not welcoming the amazing opportunity that the friars in Philadelphia offered me. Within a year, I do hope to voyage back to my volunteer roots for several days and assist the needy there once again. 

Wigs n’ Wine 

On a lighter note, last weekend my roommate along with friends and myself donned wigs and slurped libations for a Wigs n’ Wine Party commemorating my upcoming birthday. We kicked off the notable occasion with dinner at Peso’s Kitchen & Lounge in Queen Anne. Having resided in Seattle now nearly five months, it was neat to get out and poke around the nuts and bolts of Queen Anne a bit. It’s probably by far the Seattle neighborhood I have frequented the least. Our evening out was a far cry from my birthday outing last year, which took place at a sleepy pizza parlor nestled in a leafy Illinois suburb. Despite the mundanity of last year’s evening, it was a pleaseant time nonetheless; this year was just understandably extremely new and different.

Am I back in Chicago?

Sure, it rains here plenty, and, of course, no shock there, but I am a bit perplexed at how much the sun has poked it’s head out from the clouds the past couple weeks. On the other hand, must say I was surprised at how much the temperatures have fluctuated lately; the thin coat of frost that blanketed my car windows the other day reminded me of my numerous years in Chicagoland and the frequency in which I had to de-ice my windshield. Oh well, I’m not complaining, guess it’s just an unseasonable cold October for Seattle standards. 

Autumn season always one to savor

As we stride into October, I’ve found myself wondering where the year has gone (like we all do). It was a year ago this weekend that I journeyed to Seattle from Chicago and was spontaneously whisking my way through Seattle with a friend and touring the gargantuan Mt. Rainier. And though the temperatures are quite brisker this year than when I visited last year, longtime residents have insisted this year’s September weather is an anomaly. But there’s nothing like watching the lush greenery morph into bright reds and oranges and leaves dance from trees. Autumn has always been my favorite season, so, in spite of my sometimes overwelming schedule, I’ve been taking advantage of some of the local events. With Fremont just a stone’s throw away from my home, enjoying Oktoberfest was a given, though it seemed slightly overhyped.

Both the Fremont and Ballard farmers markets have become mainstays when it comes to my Sunday routine. When I first dropped by Ballard’s market, I could not believe the breadth of the vibrant vendors and just the vast amount of fresh fruit, fish, dairy etc. all centered in one dwelling. The Pacific Northwest and the Midwest versions of farmers markets, not surprisingly, are just not comparable.
Recently, I managed to take a jaunt via the Victoria Clipper to Victoria, B.C., with my Mother while she was visiting from Chicago. Our weather could have been a smidge better during the morning portion of our trip, but the afternoon sun that poked its head through the ominous clouds more than made up for the initial gloom. The absolute pure beauty of Victoria is just breathtaking; it melds modernity with antiquity in a dynamic that gives it a cozy and classy, yet hip feel. If you have never been there, you must try High Tea at the picturesque Empress Hotel (pictured), which is nestled amid much grand beauty. Replete with tea sandwiches, petit fours and other delicacies, the overall afternoon tea experience is something analogous to what you would enjoy in London, and you should not skip it if you plan to spend time there.

Now that fall is upon us and the full-fledged rainy season is soon to set in, I am quickly warming up to Rihanna’s hot last-summer song, “Umbrella.” It seems it will be a good IPod song now that I am riding the bus to work and grad school – yes, I barely drive my car anymore and I can’t stress enough how much it thrills me. Banished from my mind are the days of braving brutal Naperville, IL traffic. It always seemed no matter how prematurely I left for work there was always a snag (usually random, unannounced lane closures, courtesy of seemingly construction) that would prevent me from being punctual.

Although I have some trepidation about Seattle’s impending winter, when I think about trudging through Chicagoland’s cumbersome snow and the street salt and muck that constantly encapsulated my car, and often my clothes, I’m hardly fazed. The tepid temperatures here have been a welcome change and as long as we don’t have to cope with negative figures, frequent clouds and snow, it will be a breeze to endure.

The newbie's assessment: SEA v. CHI summers!

It’s amazing how when you move thousands of miles away from your comfort zone your life inevitably takes a 360 degree spin. This summer has been breezier and more brisk than I’ve ever experienced, primarily because it was my first Seattle summer and first (of many) away from Chicagoland.

My top 10 list of why Seattle summers significantly trump the Windy City summers (augment the list if you wish!!!):

1. That’s easy – no humidity, stickiness or blazing heat that makes you feel like your feet will sink right through the molten-like ground.

2. No need to wear tank tops or shorts everyday, if at all.

3. If you live in Seattle you’ll barely, if ever, clamor for an air conditioner (every Chicago-area resident knows that the air conditioner is a summer mainstay if you are to survive).

4. You can haphazardly cross the summer streets without worrying about getting plowed over by erratic cabbies. Shortly after my arrival here, I could not help but be shocked when I realized the immense respect Seattleites have for crosswalks.

5. The constant picturesque views that the amalgamation of the sun, Space Needle, Puget Sound and surrounding lakes provide.

6. No bugs – or barely any. Ever live in Chicago? Pesky mosquitoes are summer bullies that relentless chew you up with no respite. Bugs love the muggy Chicago summers, and they are a constant companion to the blistering heat.

7. Wearing outerwear at night; you definitely won’t require a jacket on a summer evening in Chicago.

8. Coffee chillers are not necessary. Not a big fan of coffee chillers, always like mine piping hot and during summers in Seattle it doesn’t get fiery enough to yearn for a chiller instead of a cappuccino or drip.

9. The seafood is wondrous, though this is not exactly summer specific since this is the Pacific Northwest.

10. The Cabernet Sauvignon tastes so much sweeter when you are not dripping sweat.