A quick trip to Portland a few weeks back. Breakfast at Tasty n Sons. A visit to Schoolhouse Electric.
When we were tossing around ideas for our day in Portland, our friend Jen got a laugh when Mia suggested we “drink coffee and complain about how much our backs hurt”. Because from her perspective that’s the only thing adults ever seemed to do, but it was all in the delivery that made it so funny. Somebody is starting to understand sarcasm, I see. Later that morning, Jen let her sneak some sips from her iced coffee. She’s like the aunt who says yes to all the nos that we dish out (total tangent: what the hell is the plural of no? Nos? Noes?? No’s???).
We discussed childhood schoolyard games over breakfast the next morning and was sort of flabbergasted when Mia told us that in gym they played dodgeball with bean bags. WHUT?! Not only that but you’re only allowed to toss them at your opponent’s feet, not anywhere else. Oh man, that made us laugh so hard. Somehow a little part of me couldn’t help but feel a little cheated that kids these days didn’t have to go through the ritual of childhood gym torture like we did. I mean I hated dodgeball with a passion when I was a kid and always dreaded hearing that game called during gym (I did like Steal the Bacon and SPUD though). What a stupid game. So maybe a part of me wasn’t really that surprised at this wussified version of the game that the kids play nowadays (at least at their school), but sheesh. I mean, bean bags. We obviously had to tell her how dodgeball was properly played, with balls that hurt so bad because you could basically throw them as hard as you could and no body parts were off limits.
And this, of course, reminded me of one of the greatest scenes to ever air on television – the dodgeball scene on the pilot episode of Freaks and Greeks. The girls weren’t so amused when I showed them the clip; they didn’t think it was all that funny (how?!) I guess nostalgia really does play a huge part here because personally, I think this episode is one of the funniest things ever. But I guess you had to be there.
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Our days in Victoria right after the stormy weather on the coast were all sunshine and warmth. Leaving the country for the first time to Canada might not be so much of a culture shock, but the excitement for the kids as they handed over their passports at the border was no less a milestone, and the adults in our travel party got to trade all our less than pleasant border crossing stories.
We only had three days in Victoria and one of the things we wanted to do was go to Butchart Gardens and do the afternoon tea service. It isn’t as fancy or formal as the tea service at the Empress Hotel, but it’s half the price which actually nudges it towards the realm of “reasonable”, relatively speaking. The kid’s tea menu was better too, for the record, for pickier eaters as it had a bit more kid friendly sandwiches, like grilled cheese. Afternoon tea was a splurge, but who doesn’t love towering platters of food?? And it’s a lot more food than you think. The sandwich platters alone consisted of 6-7 varieties per person, along with cookies, cakes and scones. Nobody in our party could finish it all except for Mark (as usual), and his consistently fast metabolism, despite age, remains one of the biggest mysteries (mine used to be fast and I also used to be able to eat embarrassing amounts of food, but no longer. wah.)
The garden grounds itself are quite beautiful, but since it’s about an hour away by bus from the city, it’s pretty much a whole day activity. We boarded a city bus, though you can charter cushier tour buses for the ride, but given our short stay it was a nice way to see some of Victoria outside the city. On a related note, we chose not to bring our cars on board the ferry to Victoria from our departure point in Port Angeles. We didn’t want the hassle of driving and parking and the city is totally walkable, particularly if you’re only there a few days.
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On our last few days out in Washington, I really thought I’d come home and suffer from post-vacation depression. I used to get it really bad years ago, pre-kids, and I sort of felt that familiar feeling build up again. It’s a feeling that is hard to explain in words, but it’s like the Sunday blues, but bigger and it makes you lethargic and want to do nothing but mope around the house and eat chocolate. It’s interesting, however, that when we finally did come home after nearly 3 weeks, it felt fine to be back (oh, and a Depeche Mode concert in Brooklyn with my friend Anna the night after we landed helped kick me back to life on the East Coast). The girls agree. Brooklyn, you’re alright. Oh, and September…you’re ok too, even if you are almost half over at this point.
We have this ritual on our trips to the NW of bringing back bags of coffee beans from roasters that we like and some from new places that we discover. We bring back 8 or so 12 oz bags, enough to hopefully last us until a family member comes to visit with more bags of coffee. There’s better coffee to be had in NY now, but I guess the bean buying is just habit and I actually like opening up our suitcases to the aroma of coffee when we get home. It’s comforting to look inside the fridge, see all those kraft bags of coffee lined up in a row and reach for one of those bags every morning. It’s like keeping this connection to the Northwest long after we’ve left. Completely cheesy, I know.
But let me talk a little more about coffee. As much as we New Yorkers like to drink coffee and think we’re the center of the universe of pretty much everything, it’s curious that there really isn’t a big coffee culture here in terms of micro roasters, particularly since food and drinks have exploded with small independent businesses. We’re starting to see some new roasters, like the Brooklyn Roasting Company (who we do like and buy when our NW stash gets low) over the past few years and I know there’s some action quietly brewing where we might see more (and the only reason why I know this is because one of my design clients is in the coffee industry). I think it will eventually happen and we’ll see a really great local micro roaster emerge, but right now New Yorkers are still really captivated by ouside roasters like Stumptown and Intelligentsia.
We made a visit to Slate coffee in Ballard out in Seattle and the whole visit was an experience unlike I’ve had ordering coffee. To say that they take their coffee seriously is an understatement. I mean they serve it in wine glasses and cocktail tumblers and the whole experience does in fact feel like you’re at a wine tasting. A visit here means you’re going to spend some time because pour over coffee takes awhile (oh hey. Maybe that’s why pour over isn’t flying big time in New York just yet. We don’t have the patience to wait around). But we were sold and we bought 2 bags to take home.
Speaking of coffee at home, our 10 year old coffee maker finally met its final fate during a brief electrical brownout over the summer. Mark and I would always joke that we were so picky about our beans, only to run it through a $50 Mr. Coffee machine which worked fine (it really did), but when that thing croaked, we were excited to get something a little nicer. We ended up buying a Bonavita which in one sense is actually the antithesis of a fancy kitchen gadget because it has only one switch – the on/off button. But it is actually fancy because of the way it brews coffee at an ideal water temperature. Yeah, we’re pretty happy with it. Considering it’s probably the most used appliance in the kitchen and we rarely buy coffee out (unless we’re in Seattle), it was money well spent.
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Walked around Ballard yesterday on a warm, sunny day, drinking coffee and eating Mexican food at Senor Moose. Pretty much the agenda every day so far, a different neighborhood a day. We sure are on a vacation diet, indulging in things we don’t normally get at home.
“Oh look, more coffee…do we need to drink more coffee? YES. YES we do.”
“A fruit croissant! And cake! We haven’t had cake in ages. Let’s throw in that key lime pie. Oh, and a strawberry cream puff!”
Yup, vacation food.
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I think we might be all festivaled out from the past few weekends. We didn’t set out to spend Father’s Day weekend at 2 festivals. Actually, I was looking to recreate the tradition that we started last year – spending a peaceful day strawberry picking at a farm. We did decide to go to a strawberry festival on the North Fork, but we didn’t realize what a carnival-type scene it would be, crowds and all. I thought it would be more of a quaint, relaxed country type affair – you know, where people judge the best pie and race little piglets or something, but it ended up being more like Coney Island, but in the middle of farm land. We ate lots of fried stuff and a huge strawberry shortcake big enough to feed an entire family for $5. That was pretty much the only strawberry themed item at the Strawberry Festival, but eh…like I said about Disney World, I can embrace the cheese and have fun pretty much anywhere (that’s a good skill to have, by the way. Comes in handy when doing unpredictable, family outings). Besides, I think Mark secretly enjoyed chasing after Mia with his bumper car and repeatedly slamming into her.
Saturday was spent with my dad at a Korean block party somewhere in Queens. There were performances up on stage, ping pong tables, and oddly enough, a sand pit where Korean wrestling was supposed to take place later on in the afternoon (don’t ask…I don’t know), but as it is at most street fairs, it’s usually all about the food. I think what my dad really wanted though was a bowl of noodles at some restaurant down the block because he kept dropping hints even though there was food around us everywhere. Even after finishing off a plate of rice, beef and kimchi, he kept mentioning noodles (uh…dad…do you want to go get some noodles??). Finally about an hour later, he steered us towards the restaurant he wanted to try out, giving as an excuse the fact that Miss C hadn’t eaten anything yet. When we sat down, we realized that it was a Vietnamese Pho place run by Koreans (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and not a typical Korean noodle shop like he thought. It was ok though; my dad had spent a week in Vietnam last year and had eaten plenty of Pho, but he kept asking us and the waitress if it came with “hove”. Huh? Interestingly enough, the waitress knew what he was talking about, but Mark and I were completely perplexed. What the hell is “hove”? My dad kept insisting that he didn’t want any “hove” on his noodles and told us that in Vietnam, he liked the food as long as they didn’t put any “hove” in it.
Um, ok. “Dad, I don’t what you’re saying. Hove is not a word.”
And then it hit me about 15 minutes later. He meant herb . “Hove” was herb, but he couldn’t pronounce it correctly because, well you know, it’s hard for Koreans to pronounce an ‘r’, no matter how long they’ve lived in the states. He didn’t want any cilantro on his pho. “No hove, no hove!”
I told you Koreans didn’t like cilantro.
ps. I know Michelle Obama’s name is spelled wrong in that last photo. It amuses me endlessly that Koreans still get amazed every single time they see a non-Korean person eating and enjoying kimchi. It’s the same reason why Mark gets the white person treatment at Korean restaurants, which my parents then have to correct with the waitress. Oh, you know, getting cold water instead of hot barley tea, a fork instead of chopsticks, not getting certain individual appetizers when the rest of us do. It makes him so mad.
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