One Day in Taipei

Jet lag be damned!  With only one day off, I needed to make it count.  So, I set out on Sunday to explore Taipei and found a delightful city filled with temples, art, shopping, easy transportation and friendly folks.  What’s not to like?


I always love to just walk a city to get a feel for the people and culture.  Taipei 101 is THE building in downtown so off I went to get a view of this famous building.  Along the way,  many shops had opened and the shoppers were out in force.  As in many China cities, there are little clothing boutiques and drugstores (no OTC meds just beauty items) everywhere along with the high-end luxury brands like Gucci, etc.

I was first struck by several differences between Taipei and Shanghai, where I lived a few years ago:  drivers of cars and scooters seemed to actually obey traffic signals and stay on the roads vs. driving on the sidewalks as they often did in Shanghai.  Crazy! I felt a little safer in Taipei though I still was cautious crossing streets.  The streets were clean yet I didn’t see the street sweepers that you would on mainland China who cleaned up after everybody.  I’m thinking the Taiwan citizens seem to be very tidy and I’ve yet to see the many smokers or public spitting/urinating that I got used to after living in China.  Not knocking my former home in Shanghai because it was awesome but the differences were noticeable.

After seeing Taipei 101 in the distance and it is a lovely unique skyscraper, I jumped on the blue line subway and off I went to Longshan Temple.  The subway was clean, staffed and signed in English.  For less than 50 cents, I arrived across town and walked through a lovely park where groups of men were playing games and socializing, very similar to Shanghai life on a Sunday.  Packed with locals burning incense and praying at the Temple, I was one of the few Laowai’s enjoying the experience.

A fellow traveler from Warsaw, Poland was nice enough to snap my pic at the koi pond, where a cat stalked from the roof above.  I love meeting new people on my adventures.  On the subway, a mature lady smiled as I sat next to her and, though not an English-speaker, she gestured at my map and seemed excited when I got off at the Temple stop.  Another lovely gal in the subway was toting her pup in a front-facing backpack.  I need to get one of these for Thor!  He would love to be carried around to see the sights.

After taking in the Temple, I was off on the subway again-first the blue line, then transferring to the red line and finally taking a cab the rest of the way to the National Palace Museum which was on the outskirts of Taipei by the mountains.  Tour groups of China tourists dominated the galleries where for only about $12.50 US, you can view three floors of treasures from jewelry to vases to calligraphy, all ancient and beautiful.  The only gallery not packed with people was the Tibet exhibit.  Hmmm…  Every item was behind glass to protect from the hordes taking it all in.

The jet lag finally kicking in, I jumped in a cab to get to the red line, then the green line and arrived back at the Westin ready for room service and a good night’s sleep.  Wish I had more time in Taiwan to explore-a vacation with Thom is definitely now a necessity!  Monday we start meetings and then off to Hong Kong on Tuesday-the journey is just beginning!


Back Home Again in Asia

I didn’t realize how much I missed the Asian culture until I landed in Taipei last night.  The sounds, the smells, the friendly people!  Waking up to a cloudy view of the mountains and the local neighborhood after a 20+ hour journey to get here from Boise to Seattle to Tokyo to Taipei, I couldn’t wait to get out on the streets and explore!


Hat courtesy of caution cone/vest?  Staying safe on the crowded streets of Taipei!


This is a business trip, hopping to a new city every 2-3 days for meetings, so hubby Thom is not along for the adventure.  I’m on my own and, after lengthy conversations with the Westin staff and maps in hand, I started to just wander.  Of course, the hotel team tried to talk me out of walking around “too far!” but I like to walk and they aren’t used to visitors wanting to do that.  I get it and just smile and keep on walking.

Originally, I had planned to book straight to the National Palace Museum via the subway but a combination of uncertainty and self awareness that I get lost easily plus a desire to absorb the local culture vs. art, I decided instead to try and find a temple nearby.

First, though, I noticed a Alice in Wonderland theme in the Westin lobby bar and checked out the adjacent gardens where it looked like a wedding might be taking place today with decorations everywhere.  How fun!  Wonder if the bride had an “Alice” dress to walk down the aisle?  She will definitely need a parasol as it is quite wet here today.

Instead of a temple, I found a delightful street market where I was the only Laowai, aka foreigner, in sight.  Fish, fruit, meat, pigs feet, dry goods and handmade noodles in stalls lining the narrow alleyway-it was packed with shoppers and very reminiscent of my old neighborhood where we lived in Shanghai.  I thought of my friend Patti when I saw the cherry tomatoes merchandised in the fruit stalls next to the apples and oranges.  Yes, Patti, tomatoes are considered fruit.

As I reviewed my map, still hopeful I could find the temple, a 20-something young man walked by me, stopped and considered, and then came back to offer his assistance.  How kind and friendly he was to help me plus he spoke English!  Even with his guidance though, after a few more blocks, I gave up and just enjoyed the journey.  Glad I did too or I wouldn’t have seen the quiet neighborhoods or the lovely lady in the “cautionary” hat displaying her lovely fruit or the antique noodle maker cranking out the sheets of pasta.


Making noodles


Ahh, to be back again in Asia is indeed a beautiful thing.  After a few business meetings, I’m off to Hong Kong (TurboJet to Macau at night for fun!), Shenzhen, Shanghai (home!) and Beijing.  Two weeks of work and fun!

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a scooter!


Our China adventure published. A dream realized.

Cross that off the bucket list-publish book.  When we moved to Shanghai in 2013, I started a blog to stay in touch with family and record our adventures.  It grew into a daily rhythm to capture the craziness that was our daily life in China.  Soon, people from around the world started reaching out to me for advice:  Where can I get dog food?  Should I bring my own mattress or buy one there? Where should I live if I have kids?  Is the pollution really bad?  Why yes, it is.  Now you know.  The lungs don’t lie.  Buy a mask and wear it.

When my transfer details were finally worked out and I accepted the offer, I immediately went online and looked for blogs or books to get a feel for what our new normal would feel like.  I would be a female executive navigating through the Chinese business world while Thom adjusted to being a trailing spouse.  I was disappointed to only find guide books primarily aimed at tourists.  I was going to become a local expat and needed a source of truth to turn to that would help guide me through all the unexpected challenges from walking down the street without getting run over (truly a challenge daily!) to opening a bank account and being surprised they still used an abacus to conduct transactions.  WTF.

We relied on our Chinese tutor, Fiona, to guide us through many obstacles and just explored through fearless curiosity daily in our quest to not live in the typical expat bubble and instead venture out into the real China.  Daily we learned and as our confidence grew, Thom took off on a bike to explore and take beautiful photos and I jumped on the bullet train to commute to Beijing and Nanjing for work on a regular basis.

As a result, our blog posts and photos chronicled a journey that few folks get to take.  Those that are lucky enough to live in China can use our lessons learned to adjust quickly and with less pain than we went through at times.  Not that we didn’t love living there because we did.  We would walk down the Bund, climb the Great Wall (4x) and pinch ourselves.  “We live in China!”  It never got old and we miss our life and the people there.  The pollution, not so much.

Pulling these stories all together after we returned home to Seattle was Thom’s year-long journey.  Who knew it was so hard to edit a book?  I swear every time we thought we had all the spacing, spelling and template formatting just the way we wanted it, we found more opportunities to improve and had to change it.  FINALLY, we hit the button and made my frustrated inner writer very, very happy when Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again:  Our Year as Expats in China became a reality.

Will anyone read it?  Maybe.  My mom will.  The aunt of a guy I met at a friend’s party who just moved to Shanghai to work for Intel will.  Who knows, maybe other people?  Making money and world publishing dominance was never the impetus for writing this book.  Sharing our adventures, recounting our tales so our granddaughter, Mia, will know that her GiGi and NaiNai were crazy world travelers while she was just being born as well as helping other expats adjust to life in China were the main objectives so we are happy.  Back in Seattle, we are always looking for the next adventure.  A vacation to Ireland is coming up soon and then possible work travel to India and Europe.  Would we move abroad again?  You never know.  Life is short.


Our Ayi, Pink, and our Chinese tutor, Fiona


Excercise in the Park-2
My new friend and I exercising in the park.
Sweet Potato-7071
Sweet Potato Lady

Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again: Our Year as Expats in China”  is available here-looks best in color versions vs. Kindle b/w due to photos:

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Amazon Kindle: Seattle to Shanghai and Back Again: Our Year as Expats in China

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Here’s to 2016-expect nothing and appreciate everything!

2013 Times Square-2014 Shanghai-2015 Seattle-2016 Boise…it was never my intent to celebrate New Year’s Eve in different cities/countries but that’s just how my life rolled and I enjoyed every second of it.  So what’s ahead in 2016?  No idea but I’m excited to find out.  Reflecting today on 2015, I am so thankful for all the experiences I’ve been so blessed to enjoy.  Life is truly wonderful and amazing in so many ways.

Cheers! Here's to 2016!
Cheers! Here’s to 2016!

2015 for us was all about transition and travel.  We moved back from China in late 2014 and settled into our new place in lower Queen Anne.  Oh, how I love that water view and our urban neighborhood.  Being able to walk everywhere you need to be is liberating and so healthy if you don’t count being a convenient block away from the greasy bliss that is Dick’s.  Having decorated our apartment last year to make it cozy, we can now enjoy entertaining more in 2016.  Bring on the cocktail cart and amazing sunsets!  Having James move back in with us while he attends Seattle U. Law is an added bonus as well.  I appreciate being closer to family but we do miss living in China so much-a unique adventure I will never forget.

Last year was also a travelling time with my old job taking me to exotic locations like Detroit in February, San Antonio during the torrential rain storms, Durham, Orlando in the brutal summer heat, Vancouver and NYC-my favorite that never disappoints.  I may not travel with my new job for awhile but then it will become a global odyssey.  Cannot wait.  Oh the places we will go!

Amsterdam/Bruges/The Hague dazzled us on our autumn trip and was a highlight for sure and just as charming as I thought it would be.  We definitely need to explore more of Europe SOON.  Nothing beats a family vacation, though, and we got to all be together on the lovely Big Island as Baby Mia was learning to walk while on the beaches in Hawaii!  That was priceless and appreciated so much.  That Mia makes me smile.

Zip lining on Big Island with the kids was a joy!
Zip lining on Big Island with the kids was a joy!
Enjoying the dive diner experience with Patti & Larry in Vancouver


Flying through the trees and across the valleys in Hawaii on the zip line with the kids was breathtaking.  Travelling with friends is also fun so when Patti and Larry drove across America on their road trip, we joined them to enjoy an Amtrak trip up to Vancouver where we took walking tours and found the best dive restaurant in town, serving milk shakes AND martinis right next to the triple XXX shop.  Yummy and crazy at the same time!

I was lucky enough to enjoy lots of great musical moments in 2015 and got to experience the great artistic stylings of Glen Hansard, Florence & The Machine, Allen Stone x2, Eilen Jewell, Griffin House, Elvis Costello, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson, Dave Brumbeck plus interesting talks by David Sedaris, John Oliver, Jesse Eisenberg, David Axelrod, Ira Glass and Joe Klein.  Such smart and talented people!  Looking forward to seeing Lewis Black soon in Seattle.  He always brings me to tears of laughter with his passionate rants.  Need to seek out some women speakers this year.  Here’s to diversity and hoping Hillary comes to town!  Best concert of 2015-Glen Hansard with Allen Stone as a close second.  I would go see them anytime, anywhere.  GO SEE THEM!

Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!
Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!

We also got to go to many Seattle Storm basketball games at nearby Key Arena and see Jewell Lloyd win Rookie of the Year. It was a rebuilding year so they should win more in 2016.  The Sounders were inconsistently frustrating but always a fun game to go to with awesome fan support.  Throw in a few Mariners games and the Seattle Reign too and we have begun to truly immerse ourselves in the Seattle sports scene.  Of course, Thom and Mike got to see their beloved Mets play in NYC in the World Series.  Epic moment for those two-here’s hoping the Mets come back swinging again this year so I don’t have to listen to Thom cry and whine.

2015 WTF Moments

Trump-if by some horrible chance he wins, we would have to leave.  Are you with me?  Belize perhaps?  That he is even in the race, let alone leading, is embarrassing for the U.S.

Guns & Violence-something must be done.  Hopefully Obama will look at his Fu*&it List and take action.  I’m looking forward to seeing Hannah make a difference with her work for Moms Demand Action, an organization funded by Bloomberg.  People, we need to take a stand and say NO MORE.

My shoulder froze and my local gym closed so health and fitness were challenging for me this year.  Frozen shoulder, mainly affecting women of a “certain age”, made moving painful and awkward but it’s getting better now with the aid of my masseuse’s cruel and painful sessions and it certainly could have been worse.  Going to try out a new gym next week and start the new year off right.  Hoping 2016 is a healthy one for all of us.

2016 Highlights to look forward to

Have fun in 2016 and be silly at least once a day!
Have fun in 2016 and be silly at least once a day!

*watching Mia turn 2-she grows more enchanting and smart every day.  Definitely want to spend more time in Boise if we can carve out some time in between renters of our cute cottage there.  It’s popular!

*publishing a book on our adventures in China-Thom will explore consulting opportunities around our expat experiences as well and we even have our own YouTube Channel now to bring the book to life:

*discovering Dublin and seeing Glen Hansard sing in his natural environment and a NYC trip to see old friends and old haunts once it warms up some and the Mets are playing again.

*back home again to Indiana to see Mom, Sis and corn waving in the fields.  Once Hoosier, always a Hoosier!

*an art-filled year.  We just became Seattle Art Museum members so our weekly dates will probably be including art as well as going to their incredible Remix events.  If you live in Seattle, check out these after hour events with music.  Fun.

*learning a new job-again but trying for better work/life balance.  Finally!

Here’s to 2016 and savoring the wonder of each and every day.  Expect nothing & appreciate everything.

Home Sweet Home Seattle
Home Sweet Home Seattle




What goes around, comes around….

Is anyone else feeling groovy?  Come on, get happy!  The wave of nostalgia for all things 70’s, 80’s and 90’s is slapping me in the face anytime I go into a store or turn on the television.  Whether it’s the really bad Partridge Family song for a Geico commercial or the Coneheads from SNL hawking insurance for State Farm, those marketing execs must either be oldsters that are trying to relive their younger days or hipsters who think those actually were better days.  Embrace 2015 and get a new idea-what goes around does NOT have to come around… really!

The retro felt hat trend I can embrace but no fringe!
The retro felt hat trend I can embrace but NO FRINGE!

I don’t get it but what’s really got me thinking WTF is that fringe is the “it” fashion for fall.  Fringe on bags, on shoes, on skirts, on dresses–you name it and they put fringe on it this year.  Fashion folks, what’s so hot about fringe?  Couldn’t think up any other hot trend to force fashionistas to buy new stuff so you were watching binge-watching Retro TV shows and WHAM it hit you-bring back the fringe???

But, as they would say on infomercials, THAT’S NOT ALL!  You can strap on a fanny pack with your fringe vest and look totally “in”.  Yes, that’s right, not only did the Sunday NY Times have an article on the comeback of the fanny pack, I actually saw a tattooed hipster in Seattle rocking a fanny recently.  Convenient, yes.  Fashionable, no way.

Fanny featured in the NY Times 9.6.2015...they're BACK!
Fanny Packs…as featured in the NY Times 9.6.2015…they’re BACK!

Now, one retro trend we have embraced in our household is the vinyl comeback.  Armed with the a new turntable for his birthday, Thom has managed to acquire a new vinyl collection that expands daily… thanks to the multitude of vinyl shops in Seattle and convenient web browsing.  Enough so that, armed with our rental car for the holiday weekend, we were brave (or stupid) enough to tackle Ikea on a super busy day to buy stylish storage units just to house his new, ever-expanding collection.  On a side note, we had to chuckle as we observed an elder Chinese shopper take out her lunch and proceed to commandeer the model living area in Ikea to have a Labor Day picnic while shoppers swarmed around her-just like back in our Shanghai Ikea where people would make themselves at home at Ikea for the day and take naps, have family meals, etc. taking advantage of the nicely furnished showroom.  Got to love Ikea!

So, marketing and fashion people out there… get off your lazy butts off those comfy couches and put on your creative hats and come up with something better than Partridge Family redux and fringe galore…. there’s got to be a better way to inspire folks to part with their hard-earned dollar than reliving bad fashion and worse music.  I’ll be waiting to see what you come up with…

Oh the places we’ll go….

Yesterday, an awesome person I hired four years ago sent me a picture of herself in that happy moment along with some kind words-she has gone on to quite a career since that time.  It made my day.  That got me all nostalgic and reminiscing about everything Thom and I have experienced since then and how it has shaped who I have become.  Fearless I am after all that we have faced from Seattle to Shanghai and back again!

Patti & I hanging on for dear life in the boat in Beijing
Patti & I hanging on for dear life in the boat in Beijing

After living apart for a year so I could join a great company when the opportunity presented itself,  the family finally joined me here with James going off to Seattle U. and us selling the house we designed in Coeur d’Alene where the kids spent the majority of their childhood years.  I still miss that hot tub with a view of the mountains and fireplace in the master–we built a great house. Damn!

Great sadness came when my Dad passed over Labor Day and I still miss him so much.  I’m happy that Mom is doing so well living in South Bend and still looking good and playing bridge at 90.  They live long in my family! Grandma Hannah made it all the way to 99 still living by herself.

Four generations of Hoyt women
Four generations of Hoyt women

Soon after, I had the great privilege of opening my store and introducing the Black Keys and One Republic at my store concerts-what fun that was to dance backstage.  Since then, I’ve seen One Republic play in Shanghai and Orlando and they still rock it.  Big perk of my job is seeing great talent over the years at many concerts–Lady Gaga, John Legend, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Allen Stone and the list goes on…and on…such talent to enjoy!  I have no musical gifts so I appreciate those who are able to entertain us all.

Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company.  Cool dude!
Allen Stone and I hanging out at his private concert for my company. Cool dude!



While we enjoyed Seattle, we embraced our NYC adventure with great enthusiasm.  Oh what fun we had while there for the brief six month assignment!  Times Square every day for work and LOTS of Broadway plays with weekly trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Christmas in the city took my breath away and the kids came to share it all.  I still get to go back occasionally for business and always fill up on the carbs I love so much-$1 bagels and $1 pizza are my guilty pleasures.   We still visit the Madison Square Park dog park every time we go to NYC-Izaak spent many happy hours there playing with the other urban pooches.  I hope some day to live there again-you never know.

Izaak's favorite place in NYC-Madison Square Dog Park
Izaak’s favorite place in NYC-Madison Square Dog Park

Then, of course, China was the best experience ever.  I still stay in touch with my China team and wish I could be there to support them.  At times, it seems like a dream that we lived there but I remember the little details so well–our smiling doorman, the fruit lady on the corner, the dancing groups on every corner every evening, our dvd store with the best looking dog in Shanghai hanging out front always.  Our jaunts to Vietnam and Hong Kong were so fun and always filled with quirky wonderful moments.  My best friend, Patti and her husband got to visit as well as James spending his holidays there.  Thom is working on our book that will combine our blog posts and his amazing pictures.  Goal is to have ready by end of the year and I encourage (nag!) him daily to finish so we can share with family & friends.  We’ll publish on Amazon to help other expats going to China.

Golden retriever that was the house dog at our DVD store in Shanghai
Golden retriever that was the house dog at our DVD store in Shanghai

Now, we are back to Seattle as we are meant to be, supporting James while he goes to law school and being in Boise often to see Hannah and Mike and watch our granddaughter, Mia, grow up.  As I gaze upon Elliott Bay from our lower Queen Anne home, I am realistic that this is just a temporary stop in our worldwide adventure and that’s okay.  I am appreciative and loving it for now.   In a few weeks, we will take off to explore Amsterdam.  FUN!  Our dream one day is to live in 12 different countries in 12 months…don’t know when that will happen but as I look back on the incredible journey the last four years, I know anything is possible if you allow yourself to take risks and I’m all over that!  Here’s to the next four years (raising my glass of vino)–may they be filled with great appreciation for all that life can offer.  Carpe Diem all!

Shoes and Tattoos-Let the Anniversary Celebration Begin!

“Delightfully strange” is how we were described by one of Thom’s friends today when he explained on his social media that we were about to celebrate our 27th Anniversary with our “shoes and tattoos” tradition.  What–doesn’t everyone inject their body with ink and buy ridiculously expensive and fabulous shoes on their wedding anniversary?  If not, I am so sad for all of you.  Start living the delightfully strange life like us–it’s never too late to start!  An anniversary dinner might taste good but a tattoo and quality shoes last forever.

Yes, green boots for Thom.  He is Irish after all.
Yes, green boots for Thom. He is Irish after all.

We started our tattoo tradition just before leaving on our adventure to live in China.  I got the Chinese symbol for happiness and Thom got a Dr. Who time machine, more commonly called a Tardis, on his arm… that’s not strange, right?  In China, we had to pause on the inking due to health concerns and wanting to live another day but we did get amazing handmade, custom shoes to celebrate.

Notice the details that make this booties the best-stitching, wood soles in two colors, silver heel and the list goes on and on...
Notice the details that make these booties unique–bold-stitching, wood soles in two colors, silver heel and the list goes on and on…

This year, we stumbled upon a charity event at the John Fluevog store in Vancouver and enjoyed a lovely evening of music, booze and shoes when they kindly invited us in to partake.  Walking out, we agreed that we just had to have our own Fluevog shoes to celebrate this year’s anniversary.  When I saw the yearly sale ad for their local store here in Seattle, off we went to find a deal, not that those quality quirky shoes aren’t worth $300+ but I at least have to imagine I am on a budget and care about my credit card balance.  We scored some awesome boots, black with silver highlights for me and green for Thom because he is Irish after all.  Tucked away in their burlap bags with the company mantra on it, they will stay in their boxes until anniversary day.  Now on to the tattoos!

Peace... simple with very little ink needed to convey the message.
Peace… simple with very little ink needed to convey the message.

Thom is thinking of a horse theme for his tattoo to commemorate 2014 spent  in China during the Year of the Horse.  We brought back a lovely heavy-as-hell stone horse statue but I guess he wants that “on body” constant reminder of our expat experience.  I’ve decided to stay with my Chinese theme as well and have the symbol for Peace stenciled onto my body opposite the Happiness symbol in a place that will remain nameless.  Some things are better left unshared. It is a simple design with a strong message that no one but Thom will see, except a stranger who will hopefully be quick and talented.  DAMN that inking hurts.

So, 27 years after we “officially” started our adventure by the pool in Key West when we eloped (at my mother’s suggestion to avoid a wedding at their house and after my lawyer sister got Thom his divorce right before the wedding), we will ink up and wear our snazzy boots and continue our great adventure!  It’s off to Italy next for us with a fall trip being planned now. Can’t wait to explore the Cinque Terre with my best friend and the love of my life!  Together forever with lots more shoes and tattoos in our future-OH MY THE FUN WE WILL HAVE!

John Fluevog--specialty retailing at it's best!
John Fluevog–specialty retailing at it’s best!
The John Fluevog mantra..not a bad one to live by
The John Fluevog mantra..not a bad one to live by

My Love Affair with Lower Queen Anne

Today Thom and I walked the pups, Thor and Izaak, under the Space Needle and past the Seattle Center Fountain, then I went on a quick grocery run, ambled over to Palm Sunday services at First Methodist and that was all before noon and all in Lower Queen Anne, the wonderful place I call home now.  Yep, I’m definitely in love.

Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day
Thor loves walking around Seattle Center every day

When we moved back to Seattle from Shanghai, we considered living closer to my work across the Great Divide-Lake Washington-so that I could reduce my one hour (at least) commute in clusterf*#k Seattle traffic. Giving up the rental car after our 30 days upon repatriating was an easy decision after the infamous $410 traffic ticket I got after accidentally crossing a solid white line while merging into lanes. I vowed then to stop the commuting madness and either live closer to work or take the Connector work bus and leave the liability to someone else. Even thinking about NOT living in an urban environment was crazy. What was I thinking??? Thank God we realized we are city people now and forever and chose to live in our old neighborhood, Lower Queen Anne, hereafter referred to as LQA to lessen my word count.

Even better than our last spot, the condo we were lucky enough to get is right in the heart of the LQA action and Seattle Center is truly our backyard, being only one block away. The dogs are so happy going on their multiple walks around Key Arena with Izaak able to stalk squirrels aplenty. Fascinating study in animal memory behavior because, while Izaak always remembers exactly where he has seen squirrels on past walks, he seemingly can’t recall the millions of “NO’s” we yell at him when he eats the trash in the bathroom. This bad behavior has caused us to now keep the trash can in the shower when not in use to keep it safe, which didn’t work well when I forgot it was there, turned it on and ended up with a very watery trashy mess. IZAAK!!! NO!!!!

But back to LQA, as I sit on my red Ikea loveseat hauled all the way back from Shanghai, instead of gazing upon the Huangpu River which I do miss greatly, I gaze down the Avenue at the busy Starbucks, which opens at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m. and the Mediterranean Inn above it. A few weeks ago we had company over and while Skyping with baby Mia, I glanced over at the Inn and saw a pole extend slowly out of one of the hotel windows, at least 16 feet or so long with duct tape holding several pieces together and a small bale of hay hooked on the end. WTF????  Where do you even buy straw in LQA?   The pole dangled over to the rooftop adjacent to the Inn and shook, dropping the load into the alleyway and missing the rooftop. WHY???

Two more times it came poking out, both times dropping it’s straw load but these times, dropping it’s load onto the roof. Curious, we ran across the street to examine the alleyway only to see straw bundled with cord and nothing more. We’ll never know who, what, when or why this mysterious prank happened but it was fun to watch it unfold. Think you could see something like this in suburbia? I don’t think so and so, for us, the adventure continues in urban Seattle after our wonderful journey in Shanghai, China.

Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!
Walking by the water and seeing the sea lions play is so fun!

So, with five months into my new job and settling down a little, I’ll start writing again, we’ll enjoy going to the Uptown Cinema and seeing cool, happening documentaries and shop for vinyl records at Pike Place Market, a long walk but close enough. I’ll cherish the charming used book store, clothing boutique, nail parlors galore and Mud Bay Pet Shop, where Izaak can get free treats from the doting team members–all within blocks of our hip, urban nest that I hope to get to enjoy for a long, long time.  LQA, I’m loving you.

But where are the dancing ladies?

Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather
Walking with my Thor enjoying the mild weather

Where are the dancing ladies/couples and the families with their tents camping out for a day in the park???  Seattleites, take a cue from the Chinese who know how to have fun in their parks and get to socializing.  Wake up and smell the coffee (preferably Stumptown) and realize that life is short so stop and enjoy this fine, fine weather, aka Global Warming.  Whatever, it’s warm and sunny in February in Seattle.

Enjoying El Nino to the max, Thom and I spent the weekend wandering about and walking around town, usually with the puppies.  Yet, I couldn’t help but compare the park culture here and Shanghai as we traversed downtown Seattle.  In February in Shanghai, if the sun came out with temps way above average, every park would be filled with families socializing, flying kites, dancing, drawing calligraphy on the sidewalks, and celebrating the good fortune of being able to be outside during the winter instead of being shut inside their typically small homes with no heat.  Here, while you do see folks out and about, it’s definitely more of a “get to where I’m going” vibe as people move through the parks  with purpose on their way to something vs. just being in the park with friends & family to enjoy being together.  While we have the dogs as the main reason to walk around, we are also guilty of moving with purpose as well.  On a typical weekend in Shanghai, we would go to Fuxing or Century Park just to soak up the culture, always seeing interesting people enjoying the outdoors.  I miss it.  Lots.   Don’t miss the foul pollution though.   Wearing masks are no fun and neither is chronic bronchitis.

So, we enjoyed the sermon today from Rev. Moe-so relevant with social media references to “liking” comments on Facebook and tying in the scripture with a movie quote from one of my fav movies, You’ve Got Mail–encouraging parishioners to ” Go to the mattress” from The Godfather to parallel Jesus telling the disciples not to give up in their religious journey.  Funny.  After meeting Cowboy, the dog who enjoys church services with his owner, we ran home to get the pups and take them to the dog park near our home.  Izaak used to go there all the time but Thor is new to the dog park culture and doesn’t quite get it, though he made a friend and started to learn to chase the tennis ball he couldn’t quite fit in his mouth.

Puppy cuddles during nap time
Puppy cuddles during nap time

After all that fresh air and sunshine (sorry friends in the Midwest/Northwest enduring snowpocalypse), it was nap time.  Izaak threw his long arm over tiny Thor and they spooned together like the Brothers from a Different Mother that they are.  Cuteness x2..seriously.  It’s just like having kids–you take them to the park and run them ragged to wear them out so they will give you some rest when you get home.  Only difference–you can throw them some bones to chew on to get added peace and quiet.  Dog park fun:

At the end of the day, Lord I pray for more wonderful weekends like this to enjoy life as good as it gets.  Thank you, God!

Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset
Gorgeous weekend capped off by a spectacular sunset

Fashion Challenge Ends So Let The Shopping Begin!

Polka dots galore!
Polka dots galore!

If that Banana Republic package filled with 50% off bargains doesn’t show up until next week, then I will have done a decent job not buying any more clothes in January for my challenge.  Damn those seductive emails tempting me with great deals!

Go Seahawks!
Go Seahawks!

How can one resist??  Having gone through 30 days and not worn all the clothes in my closet is a wake up call.  First, I have too many clothes.  Not too many shoes, of course, because there is no limit to how many shoes a person should have in my world at least.  Second, my daughter needs to come and visit me soon to edit my wardrobe and take some outfits home to Boise with her so I can shop again.  It’s all about sustainability and recycling–I’m so “green” I could be Kermit.  Come see me Hannah and, oh, bring along Mia too!!!  Nai Nai needs some Mia time.

This week was all about Super Bowl prep and so I broke my fashion rule not to wear football jerseys to work.   Yes, I caved to peer pressure.  Sue me!   Friday was the company tailgate party complete with Seahawk face painting, fried chicken/potato salad and 12th man dress up contests so, in order to retain my employment, I bit the bullet and wore my China version of Wilson’s jersey to fit in.  I even decorated my boss’s office with Seahawks themed party goods–it looked like a green and blue acid trip.  She loved it!  Score points for me!

Travelling woman-all you need is a scarf and necklace and pretty overnight bag!
Travelling woman-all you need is a scarf and necklace and pretty overnight bag!



I also got to travel to Dallas and enjoy 80 degree sunny weather (for the few minutes I wasn’t working inside a stuffy conference room).  Not that I would ever live in Texas but, hey, at least it’s not cold and rainy.  Not that I don’t love you Seattle but the winter here is gloomy.  Working fourteen hour days and travelling calls for my comfy Toms wedges and size 2 black pants-yep, I’m not delusional and totally realize they must have been labeled wrong but it still feels good.  Still, somehow I’ve lost a little weight not living on carbs like I did in China (didn’t have to worry if it was rat or cat if it was a bakery product there–or at least you hoped)– lots of fruits and veggies here in the good old USofA.    I am loving the huge salad bar at work when I actually take a lunch break.  Chopping up all those veggies is too much work at home so I appreciate it being done for me to enjoy.

This weekend it’s all about the Seahawks hopefully showing that the team that has good karma wins because they don’t cheat.  Yes, I’m calling out the Patriots for their lying, cheating and other bad karma-deserving behaviors.  Seattle will pull together as a team, never stop trying and believing in each other and rally around Russell Wilson.  I BELIEVE!  Go Hawks!