Seattle Neighborhoods-Lower Queen Anne

I have lived in many places from Seattle to Shanghai.  I’ve loved them all but if I’m living in Seattle, I will always choose to live in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.  I love everything about this place.  It has beautiful views of the water as you walk the streets and from our home.  The Seattle Center is our backyard where we walk our dogs daily under the Space Needle.  I love the Space Needle silhouetted in the sky, both day and night.  While Seattle has many great neighborhoods, this one is mine.

This is a diverse neighborhood with all levels of income and many homeless.  It can be dangerous here no doubt and you don’t see many families living here.  Awakened at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning recently, a squad of police cars and ambulance were taking care of a belligerent homeless guy fighting arrest.  It was loud. That’s life in the city and it’s heartbreaking at times. Our fellow volunteers and guests at Shared Breakfast, where we volunteer every Sunday morning feeding 300+ homeless, are part of our family now and very dear to us.

I will never, ever take this view for granted or leave if I can help it.  I told Thom the other day that I would even get a second job if I had to in order to afford to continue living here as the rent just keeps going up every year and this view is costly but totally worth it.  Life is short and I want to enjoy what’s left with a view that makes me appreciate life.

One has to eat and there are enough restaurants in Lower Queen Anne that we are still trying out new ones although we have lived here for years-in fact, longer than anywhere else in our life journey.  We tried a new one the other night and it was fantastic-Crow.  Eat the chicken.  Toulouse Petit is always a favorite with long lines on the weekend for brunch-hint: go for happy hour with lots of small bites that are delish and cheap.  Whatever cuisine you want-you can find it in our hood.  We like Agave  for Mexican and Athina Grill  for Greek.  For a colorful experience, try Mecca Café-a dim diner with good food, especially breakfast.  Of course, the most popular place is one block north of our home-as we like to say, nothing beats a big bag of Dick’s!  Line up and get a burger, fries and a shake-now finally accepting c. cards.

Do you know how hard it is to find a good mani/pedi shop AND a place to cut my hair?  While I do have to travel up the hill to Upper Queen Anne to The Shop for my hair, it affords me the opportunity to shop at Trader Joe’s which is right across the street.  Not that we don’t also have a Safeway and Metro Market in Lower Queen Anne but Trader Joe’s just has stuff I crave.  We visit Upper Queen Anne frequently,  which is lovely for families but we prefer our more urbane environment at the bottom of the hill.

Every good neighborhood MUST have a bookstore and a movie theater.  Check and check.  We have the cutest Mercer St. Bookstore with their .50 cent cart out front with used books to browse and my go-to for travel books for our next adventure.  The Uptown is one of the finest small theaters in the city and hosts the SIFF, which we have yet to take advantage of but do love going to those quirky indie films typically shown here.  All in all, Lower Queen Anne is our home and what a lovely place it is.

Toddler Time in Seattle

The joy of my life visited this weekend and we totally rocked it!  Mia, my 2-year old granddaughter, was in awe of all that Seattle had to offer an active toddler. From traversing rope ladders to waterfront walks to water stomping, I savored every moment we had together exploring downtown Seattle from our base in lower Queen Anne.

Our backyard is the Seattle Center.  Lucky us!  Thom and I enjoy it every day when we walk the dogs but it was delightful for visiting Mia.  Between the Space Needle, International Fountain, Children’s Museum, Artists at Play playground, EMP, Pacific Science Center, Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, the Armory filled with yummy restaurants and a  wading pool tucked away by Key Arena, the Seattle Center holds a treasure trove of experiences for kids of ALL ages.

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Mia and her Momma enjoying the International Fountain at the Seattle Center

 

To start the holiday weekend, we strolled downtown and stopped by Westlake Park where they have done an outstanding job adding play equipment, a reading library, and games that everyone from a two-year old to a “seasoned” adult can enjoy.  Mia the Magnificent would highly recommend the geodome climbing experience and the bean bag toss.  Lunch time at Blue Water Taco Grill was delicious with fish tacos, burritos and lots of chips and guacamole to share.  Next up, I had to return some books so the children’s area at the Seattle Library was just the ticket with a friendly librarian offering crayons and encouraging us to take home free books.  Perfect for visiting toddlers!  They must get lots of donations because they had books to spare.  A large puzzle area kept Mia engrossed and provided needed rest time for the adults after our walk.

We saved the Children’s Museum at the Seattle Center for first thing Saturday morning.  Thank goodness we had a big breakfast because we were running our asses off after Mia from one cool area to the next as she played fireman, bus driver, sailor and grocery shopper with gleeful abandon.  Ah to be young!  There were “humongous”, as Mia would describe it, blocks to put together, which Thom couldn’t resist, and a train table where Mia and I had an intense building experience to lay out the tracks for our cars.

Sunday morning we braved the cruise ship crowds as they disembarked along the sidewalk on our waterfront walk past Sculpture Park and then waded through Pike Place Market.  Using the stroller to plow our way through the tourists (yes, I am a jaded “townie” who wants them all to get the #&@! out of my way), we sampled fresh pears, jerky, jams, etc. as we walked and admired the fresh flower bouquets.  Gorgeous but they weigh a ton and you have to haul them home on foot so, alas, no flowers for me.  After a brief stop for Hannah and Mike to get a growler of Rachel’s Ginger Beer for Moscow mules later at home-parents sometimes need a stiff adult beverage-we grabbed a cookie as big as a platter at one of the bakeries across from the market to snack on and made our way to the Monorail.  Always fun, the Monorail is a quick ride from downtown, dropping us off at the Seattle Center.  Again, packed with tourists, but I was nice and not TOO pushy getting on and getting a good seat to show Mia the urban scenery on the ride home.

Later, after much-needed naps (and perhaps a nip or two of wine by the weary adults, okay me), we were back at the Seattle Center again to check out the new humongous playground by the EMP.  With an area for big kids but also one designated for 2-5 year olds equipped with climbing ropes and a slide, Mia kept us busy making sure she wasn’t plunging to the turf and then racing over to try out the super cool swings and musical pipes to bang on.

After wearing us out on the playground, we decided to stroll down to South Lake Union and stomp away the afternoon on the water pad.  What a joyful experience that was with water jets spraying us as we ran through them.  Soaked and tired, we somehow climbed the Mercer hill home to spend a quiet evening watching Cars and having just a few pillow fights.  Sadly, we kissed our Mia good-bye today.  Thom cried just a little bit and is already asleep on the couch.  I’m not too far behind him.  Being a GiGi and NaiNai is hard work!

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GiGi and Mia watching Cars after their pillow fight.  What a great weekend!

Pride and Politics

There was a sharp contrast between the joy of the Seattle Police Department officer kissing her girlfriend with the crowd cheering them on to the families holding hands as they waved rainbow  flags and the smiling faces of every group marching vs. the hateful signs of the anti-gay protestors.  As Lin-Manuel Miranda evangelized at the Tony Awards, love is love is love is love…and why people can’t embrace that love is beyond me.  Love trumps hate and today that showed as the participants kept on smiling despite the horrible messages being displayed along the Seattle Pride Parade route.  Love wins!WP_20160626_12_32_51_Pro

Last year we marched in the Pride Parade with the Seattle Storm contingent and had a great time handing out bam-bams.  This year, after serving 352 people in need a hot meal at the Shared Breakfast at First United Methodist for three hours, we decided to skip walking and instead cheer on the Pride along the route.  First, we hit the Seattle Center and I was glad to see that many major companies have woken up and were supporting the LGBT community with their presence, giving away a huge array of rainbow beads, wristbands, mints, pinwheels, etc.  We signed petitions for gun control and against the I-1515 Washington anti-transgender bathroom initiative.  Thom was wearing his “I’m a gun sense voter” so the anti-gun ladies had him pose for a publicity photo.  Always the model he is!   Hopefully taking advantage of the huge crowds will further these issues that are so vital to protect all people.

There was huge support at Pride by Seattle government agencies and officials from the Seattle Supreme Court to Seattle Metro Transit.  Politicians had booths as well as many religious affiliations but the odd man out (literally) was the Trump booth.  Unable to stop himself, Thom went off on the staffers because they had the gall to show up and represent their candidate who has vowed to stack the Supreme Court with justices who will repeal gay marriage rights.  “How could you sell your souls just because this is the party nominee…that’s DISGUSTING!”  I pulled him away to get a cookie from the church ladies and move on to other less stress-inducing booths.  I did have to love the “Bill for First Lady” t-shirts and just had to pose with “Bill” after trying out sticking pins into the Trump voodoo doll.  Very satisfying indeed.

At the end of the day, Pride 2016 celebrated people.  People who have the right to love who they want and be who they are in peace and without violence and hate.  Simple.  Be kind.  To all.  Oh, and dance like there is no tomorrow. 

My Happy Places in Seattle

Wandering around Seattle over the last two weeks, it struck me that I definitely have my favorite places that I gravitate to now when I want to have a great experience.  Having a bad day?  No problem-just check out these places and life will be good.  Let’s just call these “happy places”.   Honestly, doesn’t everyone need some happy places to get you through the sometimes cold and always rainy Seattle winters?  Not everyone can run off to Hawaii, St. Maarten or Florida for a sunny/warm interlude (you know who you are and I’m damn jealous!) so without further ado, I thought I would share these happy places with you, whether you live here and need some new adventures or if you are crazy enough to plan a visit to Seattle during the long winter months.  Here is the top 10 countdown of  “can’t go wrong happy places” in Seattle:

Happy Place #10-Seattle Sunsets as seen across Elliott Bay.  Check it out from any number of parks, restaurants and Pike Place Market on the waterfront.  I’m lucky to see this nightly show from my balcony.  Blessed!

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Seattle sunsets are striking any time of the year!

Happy Place #9-Seattle sporting events.  We enjoy the Mariners, Seahawks, Storm, and Reign but nothing beats the excitement of a Sounders game.  You must get the start-to-finish experience beginning in Pioneer Square with the March to the Match and then wait after the game is over to see the players applaud their passionate fans.

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Any Seattle sporting event is fun but Sounders game reign supreme!

 

Happy Place #8-Elliott Bay Book Co. on Capital Hill.  From the friendly staff to the huge assortment with lots of staff recommendations pointing you to great reads, nothing beats a book store on a rainy Seattle day.  They even have a great café for a bite to eat and coffee.  Pres. Clinton even visited here recently on his whistle stop through town, taking in the neighborhood ambience.

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Elliott Bay Book Co. on Capital Hill has wall of recommended reads by staff members

 

Happy Place #7-Sculpture Park on Elliott Bay.  Not only is there iconic public art but they have awesome concerts here in the summer.  Not many tourists venture this far north of the market so it’s relatively quiet even on gorgeous summer days.

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Sculpture Park is serene and beautiful.

 

Happy Place #6-Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is a gem with events and new exhibitions coming and going.  We really enjoyed their Remix event, an after hours party with music, events, dancing, etc. that draws a huge crowd.  We just became members so we can come and go frequently whenever we are in the mood.

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Seattle Art Museum’s striking entry has now changed and the cars have been retired.

 

Happy Place #5-Chinatown, of course!  We can’t wait to go celebrate Chinese New Year-Year of the Monkey on February 8th in our own Seattle Chinatown.  There are several dim sum places that are excellent as well as the bakeries where I can get an egg tart.  The Uwajimaya grocery has all our favorite snacks from China and always has cool stuff to buy.

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Chinatown!

 

Happy Place #4-Uptown Movie Theater.  This totally charming old theater is a treasure and shows 3-4 movies, usually independent flicks, and is part of SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival).  Best part-it is a block from our house and it serves lattes and wine.

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The Uptown in Lower Queen Anne is a charmer!

 

Happy Place #3-The Seattle Center is more than the Space Needle.  The lights twinkling in the trees at night while the fountain shoots its water bursts in time to the music make it a wondrous place.  People think it is just for tourists but we walk our dogs there every day multiple times and enjoy it so much.WP_20150525_15_24_18_Pro

Seattle Center is our backyard with the fountain shooting high to the musical playlist.
Seattle Center is our backyard with the fountain shooting high to the musical playlist.

Happy Place #2-Who isn’t happy shopping?  In downtown Seattle, our favorite stores are John Fluevog for handcrafted shoes, Everyday Music (EM) for extensive vinyl assortment, Pike Place Market, of course, for leather slippers, lavender sachets and flowers/flowers/flowers, CostPlus World Market for coffee/tea/wine, and Nordstrom’s Rack for shoes and clothing with an onsite tailor.  We can walk down and then take the fun Monorail home when we buy too much.  Running since the 1962 World Fair, it’s only $2.25 one way for a quick trip from downtown to the Seattle Center.  Super convenient for us!

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

 

Happy Place #1-MUSIC!  I am constantly on the lookout for new and well-loved artists for us to check out in Seattle.  Our favorite venues are The Paramount, The Moore, and the Triple Door though we often have to travel to Ballard to the Tractor Tavern to see folks we like.  Last year we got to enjoy Eilen Jewell (coming again 2/25 to the Tractor Tavern-check her out!), Allen Stone, Glen Hansard, LeRoy Bell, Elvis Costello, David Bromberg, Florence & The Machine and wish we had seen Alabama Shakes live.  I’m sure this year will be an even better year for concerts, though we had to plan a trip in March to LA to see Bruce Springsteen’s final concert on his tour since he snubbed Seattle.  Come on, Bruce!  Seattle IS the music place to be!

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My current fav artist-Glen Hansard serenading us from the balcony at The Moore.

Be Kind-Simple Words to Start the Week

I will start my week with today’s sermon theme in my heart and my head–BE KIND.  Simple yet imagine if everyone in the world would remember to be kind to everyone and then proceed to see what happens…politicians out there take note and quit snipping at each other and be kind to one another and work it out.  Get stuff done that helps those who elected you…just saying.  And not just politicians–I’m constantly surprised in the workplace by people who are blatantly unkind to their peers.  HELLO you people who do that, your unkind behavior doesn’t make anyone feel good, including you, or get anything accomplished.  It’s a lose-lose experience for all involved.  So BE KIND this week and hopefully you and everyone you interact with will have a happy and prosperous week.  I hope to!

Speaking of the sermon, we went back to our local First Church today and got to have “Pizza with the Pastor” to get to know more about their church programs.  Sitting in a small conference room, 10 people and the pastor, the diversity of the groups was interesting to say the least.  The church partners to run a homeless shelter for men as well as provide free breakfasts on Sunday to about 300 people every week.  I’m looking forward to volunteering and helping in any way I can as I truly believe there is no better way to help others than providing food and shelter.  In our group were two of the homeless men who used the shelter.  Hearing their backgrounds and touching on their issues, I was able to get a glimpse into the struggles they faced daily.  As one guy nodded off after eating some pizza and enjoying the warm surroundings, we continued to share our religious paths, with Thom always drawing smiles with his Catholic upbringing stories.  Also getting smiles are the puppies in the pews as our church is “pro pet” and dogs are welcome to attend with their owners.  No one has complained yet so Pastor is going with it until someone does.  I noticed Cowboy, the white cutie in the next pew, really had his tail wagging when we were singing hymns.  So Seattle!  Unfortunately, Izaak and Thor aren’t quite so well behaved so they won’t be attending services anytime soon but we may throw caution to the wind and let them attend the Blessing of the Pets coming up soon…stay tuned for stories on that adventure.

My backyard
My backyard

As far as the rest of my lazy weekend, I got to spend some quality time with the “boys” who need constant walking in our backyard, the Seattle Center.  We love the lights at night, the fountain spouting to music and the vitality of this gem of a park for Seattlites to enjoy.  Blessed we are to live so near to enjoy it daily.

Walking Izaak in the rain to his favorite lawn area by the fountains to do his business, I suddenly reached for the baggies and realized Thom had used the last one the previous night.  Oops….now most people would just forget about it but we actually went back a little later on the next walk and hunted down his business so we could pick it up.  Wish everyone was as conscientious!

On the walk home looking at the debris left over from a busy Saturday night of partying, I think I may have to get one of those metal handheld picker-uppers to keep the streets clean in my neighborhood.  I’m kind of OCD (no laughing please) and can’t stand seeing dirty streets and, unlike China, there are no street sweepers on every block to maintain the appearance.  I do miss many other aspects of Chinese life.  So, maybe I’ll start a trend by pitching in to keep our streets looking good. Think anyone will help me???

Talking with families, friends and going to the gym rounded out a truly relaxing weekend capped off with watching the Grammy’s–who else always loves the unique pairings of music icons that you just don’t see anywhere else??  Hoping this year is no different and we see some truly spectacular performances.  Here’s also hoping that Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj used LOTS of tape on those “cleavage cut to their navel” dresses they have on or there will be nipples galore at the Grammys!  No. Thank. You.