2018 Germany Trip – Episode 4 – Berlin!

Returning to the high speed train from Munich to Berlin, we whizzed along, and the trip went quickly.  The plan was to reach Berlin around 5:30pm and figure out how many subway stops we needed to get to our hotel.  Unlike in Munich where the central train station connected to most of the U (subway) lines, in the central Berlin train station it only connected to a single limited subway line, whose goal seemed to be to get you somewhere else where you could easily transfer. I looked at the connecting stations so thoroughly during the train trip that I basically had our lines memorized before I got off the train in Berlin. Although I had diligently google’d the Berlin subway system during the train ride from Munich (clearly I believe in over-preparedness!), there was a dotted line connecting the subway line from the train station to the one we wanted that would get us to our hotel.  What does that mean??  All the other subway stations were connected by a solid line; I had no idea what to do with a dotted line.  (Even now, post-trip, I have no idea what a dotted line means!)  Mike and I walked down the train platform, went down an escalator, and took the one subway out of the train station for two stops until it reached the end of its line at the Brandenburg Tor station and then we looked around for another subway to take.  However, the line we needed to get to our hotel didn’t stop there.  So apparently what dotted lines meant for Mike and me was no cigar, no dice, and no way to the hotel without walking.  Basically there was no connection between our subway line and that one. We exited exited the subway station figuring that we could find a taxi above ground to get us to the hotel, and we found ourselves in front of the Brandenburg Gate.  It was gorgeous… all lit up and at the end of a boulevard lined with trees covered in blue Christmas lights. I recognized it from pictures, but hadn’t been prepared to see it just randomly exiting from a subway station. To be fair, I probably should have since the station was called “Brandenburg Tor” which means (you guessed it!), Brandenburg Gate in English.  However, we had all of our luggage with us, had been traveling for 4.5 hours by high speed train from Munich and weren’t really prepared for a Kodak moment.  Instead we grabbed a taxi and made a mental note to come back for pictures. Based on the way the cab driver tore around the curvy, crazy streets, we didn’t regret not renting a car. We entered the hotel around 6pm, tired but still ready to do a little something since we’d been on a train all day and hadn’t really been “doing” anything. We decided to take the subway to Potsdamer Platz, check out the Christmas market there (because every platz had a Christmas market!), and find some dinner.

At Potsdamer Platz!


The market at Potsdamer was in full swing!  Although gluhwine sounded mildly interesting, after a day of train travel and snacking, we wanted dinner!  And we found it in the form of a super crowded and fun Mexican restaurant.

Such a cool vibe!


Selfie time at the restaurant!


The food was amazing!  And so vegan-friendly!

I am not embarrassed in the slightest to say that I annihilated all of these veggies and rice! Yum!


Afterwards, we did a brief walk through a little of the Christmas market, but we were getting tired and it was getting late.

The Potsdamer Christmas market!


We took the subway back to the hotel, and while Mike bought bottled water from the hotel concierge, I looked at all the Berlin tourist brochures in the lobby and grabbed ten or twelve of them that looked interesting.  One especially caught my eye… it had a picture of a panda on the front!  Was it possible that there was a zoo in Berlin that had pandas?  I had never seen a live panda!  Mike looked at me suspiciously while we took the elevator up to our room.

“We aren’t going to go to like ten museums from all those brochures, are we?” he asked.  “I want to spend some time just experiencing the culture too.”

I wasn’t listening.  I was too busy poring over the panda brochure.  “Mike!  There’s a zoo with a panda!  Can we go?  Can we go?  Can we go??”

Mike could see that he wasn’t going to be able to go anywhere in Berlin with me until we had seen the zoo, so we made plans to go to the zoo the following morning.  We figured since it was a Friday, it shouldn’t be too busy.

After a good night’s sleep, during which I realized we had finally adapted to the German timezone, we went to the hotel’s breakfast (very satisfactory although it did not have quite as many options as the one in Munich), and then when we were well-fed and well-coffee’d, we headed to the subway to go to the zoo.  I was unreasonably excited.  In general, I’m not totally sure how I feel about zoos.  I don’t like the idea of animals being caged up, but I really, really do love seeing the animals.  I have seen some zoos which are very good about giving the animals the life they want (and sometimes animals actually end up with better lives in the zoo since they don’t get hunted, die of starvation, etc), and other zoos that don’t seem to care as much.  After reading up on the Berlin zoo the night before, I felt pretty confident that they were a sustainable zoo that was really focused on the well-being of the animals.

As we approached the front gate, I was excited!  The only thing I was a little iffy on was the temperature… it felt cold.  We bought our tickets and then headed in.  (Note: Prepare yourself for pictures, because I took a lot!!  The animals there seemed so content compared to other zoos I’ve been to and really seemed to want to have their pictures taken!  Or maybe they just all liked the cold weather?  No idea!


A beautiful mountain goat! He scampered over the rocks while we watched


We looked at various types of mountain goats for awhile, and then quickly realized that our strategy should be to spend a little time outdoors, then go into an indoor enclosure, then more time outdoors, then another indoor enclosure, etc.  That would be our best bet for staying as warm as possible throughout the day!  Based on that strategy, the ape house was our next stop.


A mandrill monkey… such an interesting face!


This was a gorilla rescue named Fatou!


Fatou has such a crazy story… she is the oldest living gorilla in the world!  She had just gotten her breakfast when we saw her.  She ate the mango right away and put the kale away for later.  Smart lady!

The chimpanzees were crazily active… swinging from rope to rope, chasing each other, and messing with each other.  They also chattered at each other the whole time and eventually ended up throwing poop at each other.  Clearly a nice and refined group!  😉  Interestingly I have heard that chimps are very aggressive.  They didn’t look aggressive with each other, although they were very definitely very active in swinging around with each other and teasing each other!




After we exited the ape house, we saw the panda exhibit just ahead!  The pandas were very active, so Mike and I stayed and watched them for awhile.  Unsurprisingly, they moved very much like grizzly bears… with kind of a lumbering gait.  They were beautiful!  🙂


These were a variation of a yak-type animal of which I forget the name.  Those horns!


The zebras were playful… one seemed to follow the other around everywhere and occasionally nudge her to get some attention


A friendly kookaburra who came right up and seemed like he wanted his photo taken


The Australian exhibit was very cool!  We saw some little kangaroos, a kookaburra, and a wombat (which my friend from Australia says can actually be really mean and charge you, but the one we saw didn’t seem to want to charge anything).


Although we were freezing by this point, the polar bears were not fazed


The polar bears were pretty active and seemed really engaged.  In retrospect, the brisk 38 degree weather was probably ideal for them, although Mike and I would have liked it a little warmer.

Arctic wolves


The arctic wolves were just gorgeous!  They seemed interested in the people going by and watched everyone intently.  Again, I think the temperatures were very arctic wolf-friendly!


We got a huge kick out of this sign!




As the day went by, things warmed up slightly, but we were still pretty cold and looked for every opportunity to go indoors.  After a couple of hours we went into the zoo cafe and warmed up with some coffee.  That felt like it helped a lot, but by the time we went back outdoors again, our bodies felt like they were rebelling against all the cold we had exposed them to over the past week.  We had been consistently spending a lot of time outdoors for almost a week by this point.  At least it wasn’t snowing though!


The rhinos have hides so thick that they hardly seem real!


I was really appreciative to see that the rhinos they had at the zoo were rescue rhinos (notice their messed up horns… poor things!!).  Again, the Berlin Zoo seemed to be making a real effort to take care of animals, which I loved seeing.


Asian elephants!


The elephants had a different look to them, and I realized it was because they are Asian elephants instead of the Indian elephants I have typically seen in zoos.  They looked furrier and very friendly.

By this time we had been at the zoo for about four hours and we were freezing!  Fortunately the zoo and the aquarium were right next to each other.  Going into the aquarium and warming up and seeing sea life for awhile sounded amazing!


The Aquarium entrance


A very poorly taken picture of two sea turtles


They had a beautiful seahorse tank


Gorgeous jellyfish!


They had a lot of jellyfish tanks!  It was mesmerizing watching the jellyfish move… very slowly and rhythmically.


A huge school of jellyfish!


Puffer fish are some of my favorites… they always look like they’re smiling!


A shark!


The shark looked really cool but was very hard to get a good picture of because it moved constantly.  Some types of sharks have to move in order to breathe (as they swim, it forces water past their gills).  I’m not sure whether this shark was one of those varieties, but it definitely moved a lot!


A salt water tank with fish and coral


Mike loved the salt water tank.  The fish and coral in that tank were similar to the ones that he kept when he had a fish tank (although of course his tank was much smaller than this one!)


Mike at the coral tank!


We went back to this tank several times so Mike could get pictures from different angles… it was much bigger than it looks because it wrapped around the end of a wall and had two separate viewing spots!


An alligator-like animal?


I wasn’t sure what this was; it was in a big terrarium kind of exhibit with a lot of ponds, fish, etc, and I didn’t see a label specifically for what this was.  There were several of them, and none of them seemed in a great hurry to move.

When we exited the aquarium we felt nice and warmed up and ready for the next thing.


We saw this old church upon exiting the aquarium


We discovered that it was Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.  The spire was mostly gone from being bombed in 1943, but it hadn’t been repaired and had become a memorial instead.

After a quick lunch, we decided to spend some time in the urban, artsy Kreuzberg area of Berlin for the remainder of the afternoon.  We wandered around Kreuzberg for about an hour getting a sense of the vibe there.  It was full of graffiti, interesting and old buildings, and a very eclectic mix of people.  It was clearly a “happening” place for live music, bars, great restaurants, etc!  When it was getting dark and we were sufficiently cold, we headed into a bar to get some light food and drinks.


Relaxing in a Kreuzberg bar!


There was a jazz band playing in the bar and they sounded absolutely amazing!


Live jazz!


Afterwards, we headed back to the subway and then transferred a couple of times to get back to the subway station near our hotel.  Such a fun and full day!  The only real downside was the cold weather.  (I know I keep mentioning this, but it was a recurring theme in our outdoor activities!)  😉

We tried to sketch out a rough agenda for the following day, but ended up getting tired and falling asleep instead.  Finally we were on the normal German timezone and getting appropriately tired at bedtime like regular people!  🙂



Filed under Animals, Christmas, Germany Trip, Holidays, Pictures, Travel, Weather, Winter

2018 Germany Trip – Episode 3 – Downtown Munich

I woke up with a start on Wednesday morning, and saw that it was completely dark outside and that Mike was next to me in the dark typing on his cell phone.  I instantly assumed we were having a repeat of the previous night where we both woke up at 3am unable to fall back asleep, but it turned out that it was 7:30am.  Mike and I had both slept through the night and were now on a relatively normal German time-zone schedule.  Awesome!!

I talked through some daytime options with Mike as we ate our usual breakfast buffet (having breakfast options every day without having to cook was amazing by the way!  That is definitely something I could get into in my life.).  Of all the activity option I listed, the technology museum sounded the most interesting to Mike so we headed to the subway and took it to FraunhoferstraBe.  We emerged from the subway station in a totally different area of Munich.  It felt just slightly less downtown-city-like than everything we had seen so far… definitely a different vibe!  We were right next to the Isar River, and it was lovely!  There was snow on the sidewalk, we were walking along a quaint German street along a river, and life was so good!  (Very cold, but good!)  The Deutsches Museum (the technology museum) was actually on an island in the middle of the Isar River, so we just walked along the river until we found the bridge to take us across to the museum.  Mike and I normally don’t want to do too many museums per trip because we’re generally more interested in the culture of a place than just the historical remnants of its past, but we are geeky enough to enjoy a couple museums per trip.  And one of my engineering friends at Sonos had given this museum a two thumbs up for any engineer.  Also (I won’t lie) the thought of an entirely indoor activity didn’t sound terrible given that Germany was about ten degrees Fahrenheit colder than Seattle and we were feeling every one of those degrees!

We got there a little before 10am, and as it turned out the museum was closing for a staff meeting at noon so they gave us half price tickets since they were only going to be open for a few more hours.  Score!  Mike and I hadn’t been planning to spend the entire day there anyway.  I still wanted to make it to Englisher Garden (spoiler alert), and Mike wanted to try to get a beer at the Hofbrauhaus again after our failed attempt the day before.  So basically, even if the museum was crazily interesting, we didn’t have the stamina to make a full eight hour day of it with everything else we wanted to do anyway.

We arrived around the same time as several middle school groups (who were apparently also doing an abbreviated tour at a discounted price), and we had to navigate around a little bit before we managed to extricate ourselves from them.  I fully understand that they didn’t find the exhibits as interesting as Mike and I did and I also fully appreciate youth in all of its glorious rambunctiousness, but their tour of the museum seemed to consist mostly of the boys running ahead in the hallways, jumping out and scaring the girls, the girls shrieking as the boys laughed, etc. Ah 13-year-old youth!  Was that ever me?  I can’t remember, but I actually kind of doubt it.  I was entirely too sensible, methodical, and practical as a teenager… sadly I probably missed out on all that fun museum yelling.  I am digressing…

Mike and I perused the map of the museum so we could see our favorite things first since we were on a deadline.  Mike’s chosen areas (which should come as a surprise to exactly no one who knows Mike) were electrical power, machinery, and the history of metals.  Basically most everything in the Materials, Energy, and Production section.

Mike was right at home among early steam-powered machinery

Their mining section was entirely underground, and some of it felt a little too lifelike for me!  My lungs felt like they wanted fresh air by the time we emerged from the coal-smelling mine exhibit.

Mike next to an old mine car


They also had a lot of exhibits around old cars and engines.

Pretty sure this car predates the Model A!


Among my chosen areas were astronomy, cartography, and measuring devices.  Basically I was most interested in the Natural Sciences portion.

A quick, unglamorous pic in the elevator as we moved from machinery and electronics to astronomy and cartography


I absolutely loved the astronomy exhibits especially… old globes, telescopes, sundials, clocks (many of which were based on astronomical phenomenon before quartz crystals were discovered!)… it was all fascinating!


An early globe of the constellations… so cool!


An old sundial clock… love it!


An old prism-like device for splitting white light into its component colors


A 1754 Parisian model of Copernicus’s view of the heavens!


Everything was so cool!  My great sadness of the day was that their planetarium was closed because it was a short day for the museum.  I would have absolutely loved to see a planetarium show there!

We had agreed that if we made it through both of our chosen areas and had any extra time we would go through the Communications section which dealt with computers, mathematics, radio, microelectronics, etc (which was a totally relevant area for both of us).  Fortunately we had about half an hour left, so we headed for a quick trip through the mathematics/computer section.

Old adding and logic machines

When we looked at the computers… wow!  I literally could not believe that people saw the potential of computers when I looked at actual early computers that took up huge amounts of space and were basically made up of a wall of transistors, each of which could hold a binary state value.


Nice friendly home computer? Or hulking behemoth?


Anyone want to troubleshoot this when one solder joint gives out?  For the record, I do not!


We followed the communications exhibits all the way up through punchcard machines, other logic machines, early calculators, and eventually into modern computers. Wow have we ever come a long way!!  We stayed up until the last minute, and when the museum closed we took the subway back to our hotel area and stopped at a Dean & David’s cafe for superfood bowls… it was my favorite food in Germany by far!  Although the healthy superfood bowl cafe would typically be much more my kind of jam than Mike’s, he actually loved it. He had been eating a lot of sausages and rich food and his body was craving some chicken and veggies!


I could literally eat these superfood bowls every day of the week!


It was delicious and just the kind of healthy pick-me-up we needed!  Then we headed out in search of Englisher Garten, which was also along the Isar River, but was farther north than the museum.  Englisher Garten is basically an 18th century English-style garden and park, and has almost 50 miles worth of paths winding throughout it.  Normally I would have absolutely loved running through it, but unfortunately it was pretty cold while we were there.

We saw lots of happy, running dogs!


I got the feeling it was normally a lot busier, but the cold weather and snow we had earlier that morning had kept most people away from outdoor parks!

Everything was quiet and still


As we walked, we found our way to the Monopteros, a small Greek temple erected in 1838.  Very cool looking!

The Monopteros


As we walked up to it, we discovered that it looked a lot bigger up close than it did when you were viewing it from a distance.

Mike taking photos from the deck of the Monopteros


It also afforded gorgeous views of the rest of the park and even hinted at the Munich city skyline in the distance.

Beautiful views!


When we finished wandering around Englisher Garten, we were cold and Mike was ready to try to get a liter from the Hofbrauhaus, so we took the subway back in that direction.  Shockingly after the crazy busy-ness of the previous day, we found it only moderately busy and easily got a table.


We got a seat! And a menu!


I am not a beer drinker, so I got a digestif (about the only thing on the menu that wasn’t beer, giant pretzels, or bratwurst).


Hofbrauhaus… check!


We got a good seat, and Mike worked hard to finish off a liter (!!) of dark beer. Those liter mugs were absolutely enormous!  Yet the people around us didn’t seem to be struggling to finish them.


HB equals Hofbrauhaus!


Mike speculated that the giant mugs made sense because you could basically get one mug for the evening and not require a server to come back repeatedly to bring you more.  That’s possible!  I certainly can’t see the majority of people wanting to drink more than one of those!  We also discovered that the Hofbrauhaus had a gift shop that sold various versions of their giant liter mugs as well as keychains, refrigerator magnets, and everything else you could possibly brand with the Hofbrauhaus logo.  We passed on any souvenirs, even though we enjoyed our evening there.  As we finished up, we realized we were near Marienplatz and I had seen on a flier that there was going to be live choral music in the square at 5:30pm.  We left the Hofbrauhaus and decided to head over and see if we could make it in time for the music.


Completely dark streets… at 5pm!


Marienplatz was very crowded, so clearly we weren’t the only ones who got the memo about live music!  The old city hall looked gorgeous!




The live music was lovely, and was played from a balcony of the old city hall.


Lots of people enjoying the music!


After that, we decided we were exhausted.  Time to head back to the hotel and find dinner!  I searched for restaurants, and we ended up going to L’Osteria, an Italian restaurant nearby.  The food was good, and it was a nice change from a lot of the normal German food.  Back at the hotel, we warmed up from our cold outdoor day and ate some delicious chocolate we had bought from a shop earlier in the day.  It was absolutely awesomely delicious!  I may not rate German food very highly, but we had access to excellent chocolate the entire time we were there!


This chocolate variety pack was absolutely amazing.  And expensive.

The dark chocolate with chili peppers was my favorite, and the milk chocolate with hazelnuts was Mike’s favorite.  Then we watched a little BBC news (because it was one of the only channels in English) and settled in for a good night’s sleep.  We planned to take a train to Berlin the following day.  Time to say Auf Wiedersehen to Munich in the morning!

Sadly, the weird jet-lagged induced insomnia returned that night. I woke up around 3am and fell asleep in fits and starts until around 7:30am when Mike and I gave up and got up. It was a big day!  It was time to pack everything up and leave Munich. Of course we discovered that some of the things we bought at the Munich Christmas market didn’t pack as well as we had hoped, but we eventually got everything into our suitcases and crossed our fingers that nothing delicate would break.  Of particular note, we got a wooden star for our Christmas tree.  It seemed like a great idea to get it at the Christmas market since we have never had anything at the top of our Christmas tree at home, but of course navigating it into the luggage and trying to ensure that the delicate wood pieces didn’t snap required a lot of finesse.  Thank goodness for the new luggage we bought on sale a few months ago… the big roller-bags were key for everything we were trying to tote around!

After packing, we had plenty of time before our 11am train so we had a last leisurely breakfast at the hotel and enjoyed the croissants and tomato-sauce baked beans one more time.  Then we checked out and headed across the street to the Munich Hauptbahnhof (the main Munich train station).  Once there, we bought some Rittersport chocolate for the road (*always* a good idea to travel with chocolate), and headed to our train platform. The train arrived right on schedule, and there was plenty of room to store our luggage.  The luggage areas in the train actually felt spacious… very different from airplane travel!  The train ride itself was nice and fast!  It was definitely a high speed train (we went from Munich to Berlin in 4.5 hours, which if you look at a map is pretty impressive), although apparently there are higher speed trains for 100 Euros more that go even faster and cut a half hour off of that travel time. I looked out the window at the countryside flying by and periodically saw interesting things.  A gorgeous snow-covered hamlet… and then ten miles farther on a giant Ikea store (I guess they have Ikea everywhere!).  I wonder whether they still serve Swedish meatballs at German Ikeas or whether Germans demand Bavarian ones?  Those were the types of questions that kept me awake on the train ride to Berlin!


Filed under Christmas, Germany Trip, Pictures, Travel, Weather, Winter

2018 Germany Trip – Episode 2 – Downtown Munich

Jet lag really caught up with both of us Monday night/Tuesday morning.  We both basically fell asleep immediately, but then we both woke up wide awake around 3am. I had thought we were doing so well adjusting to the timezone switch but apparently not. I was awake and I was starving. Mike was able to fall back asleep for a few hours, but I mostly tossed and turned and did some reading on my phone. I was exhausted, but my body had decided that it was noon in Seattle and there was no need whatsoever for me to be asleep.  We were both completely ready for breakfast and headed down right when they opened at 6:15am.  Once again, the hearty breakfast helped wake us up and stabilize us.  The coffee also helped us feel more like it was morning and that we were ready to go! Our first stop was to find Mike some boots for the remainder of the trip. He had deliberately brought only Nike’s, planning on buying some boots in Germany, but it was really time to do that ASAP.  His feet were cold during the Neuschwanstein trip the day before, and it was snowing off and on in Munich.  The Nike’s really weren’t cutting it.  We stopped at a big department store near our hotel in search of boots, and Mike tried on several different pairs while I sat in a chair in the shoe area and tried not to fall asleep.  Mike found some good walking boots, and then we headed out again.  We stopped at a coffee shop on our way, and I realized that everyone in the coffee house was having a giant pretzel for breakfast.  This seemed to be a really normal breakfast in Bavaria, even though it would never occur to me to eat a giant pretzel for breakfast.  Mike drank coffee while I poured over the subway map I’d gotten from the hotel to figure out how to get us near Marienplatz, where I knew the largest Bavarian Christmas market was located.  We decided to make the Christmas market our last stop, since (although most of them opened around 11am), they really got going later in the evening when you could see all of the Christmas lights better.  And frankly hot, mulled wine sounded like a little much to my morning jetlagged self.  We decided to head in the general Marienplatz direction and visit the Residenz.  The Residenz had been the residence of the royal family of Bavaria for more than 700 years.  I did not realize this prior to our trip, but Bavaria is more than just a state of Germany.  They used to have their own kings and their own government, and interestingly there is apparently still something in their laws that gives them the right to secede from the country of Germany should they ever so desire.  The Bavarians are definitely an independent group!  The Residenz seemed particularly interesting to see since Ludwig II’s parents (the same Ludwig II that built Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace) had lived there (and of course generations of their family before that).  Ludwig, being a “mad king” had opted to live outside of the political center of the city in Munich and build castles for himself up in the mountains, but normally he would have lived in the Residenz.  These days of course, the Residenz is just a tourist area since there is no longer a royal family of Bavaria, and Bavaria is all part of Germany.

Armed with those bits of historical knowledge, we hopped a subway to Odenplatz (lots of ‘platz’s’ in Germany; they are basically just squares or plazas).  Odenplatz, just outside of the Residenz, was gorgeous!

Giant lions in Odenplatz! This lion looks like he’s been through a lot…


We headed into the Residenz planning to just spend an hour there and then get lunch, but we got a little lost in the full opulence that we found there.  I was beginning to find it harder to see Ludwig II as a “mad king” for building castles after seeing the crazy opulence in which his parents lived in the Residenz.

Upon entering the Residenz one of the first things we saw was a giant gorgeous mural made entirely of tiny seashells.  I literally cannot imagine how long it would have taken for craftsmen to make that!

This is probably about a fifth of the giant seashell sculpture


Up close… ALL seashells!

The Queen’s throne room was crazy, but then the King’s was even crazier!  There were throne rooms, waiting rooms before you were ushered into the throne rooms, tea rooms, and in general so many rooms that I lost track of what they were all for.  So much was covered in gold leaf (just like in Ludwig II’s Linderhof Palace; clearly he hadn’t invented the “gold room” idea).


Part of the throne room… an actual room of gold…


A corner of the King’s private throne room… more gold!

They also had a giant hall that contained sculptures, portraits, and reliefs of ancestors of the royal family.

High ceilings covered in paintings!


The hall had a giant, echoey feeling… surprisingly dark as well.


When we got out of the Residenz we were starving.  We were close to the Hofbrauhaus, so we decided to stop there, figuring that it wouldn’t be busy on a random Tuesday for lunch.

The famous Hofbrauhaus!

We were definitely mistaken!  It was packed, and we couldn’t find a seat, despite the fact that it’s huge and there are long wooden benches and tables everywhere.  There was also a live polka band playing, and everyone really seemed to be getting into the music.  I had no idea how to even flag down a waiter or waitress since everyone seemed to be rushing around carrying giant liter (yes I mean LITER) size mugs of beer.  We decided to come back another day and instead went across the courtyard to another restaurant.  They had a burger for Mike and hot chestnut soup for me.  Delicious and warming after coming in out of the cold!

I looked over the to-do list I had assembled earlier at the hotel and realized we were close to St. Peter’s Church.  If you paid a Euro, you could climb up the stairs to the top of the bell tower and get a great view of Munich.  That seemed like an excellent pre-Christmas market activity, so we headed over to the Church a few blocks away.  We paid our Euros, and it sounded like the person who took our money told us that it was 33 flights of stairs to the top.  That frankly sounded like a lot of steps, especially since we’d been on our feet for most of the day and it was now around 3pm.  However, we decided we could always reward ourselves with hot mulled wine afterwards, so we started the climb.

The steps were definitely not new steps…

After the first flight Mike took his coat off.  I was torn.  Definitely climbing stairs was a hot, sweaty activity, and I could see taking my coat off for it.  But the old stone tower was so drafty that as soon as I took my coat off, my sweat chilled and stuck to my body in the drafty stairway, which made me cold and want to put my coat back on again.

Wood and stone! We discovered later that the church was built in 1368. No wonder it was drafty!

We were ready for the long haul of 33 flights, but we actually reached the top after 13 flights.  Apparently we had misheard the man at the bottom!  Kind of a relief!  13 flights wasn’t very much at all.  However, when we went out onto the viewing area encircling the top of the bell tower, it actually felt like we were 33 flights up.  We were *high*.  Munich felt like a long way below!  Normally I don’t have problems with heights, but this felt like a little much.  The experience was heightened because the snow had picked up and the little walkway around the bell tower was slippery from the fresh snow, and the wind was strong which made me feel as though I could be blown off the edge even though of course there was a railing and I couldn’t be blown over it.

Munich from St. Peter’s Church bell tower

Regardless, whether it made sense or not, being out on the viewing platform was an adrenaline-inducing experience, especially when gusts of wind would blow by and make me feel unsteady on my feet.  I was happy to get some pictures and then get back into the bell tower and start our descent!  If you want to see what the 360 degree panoramic view looks like on a nice day, you can take a look here.

By the time we climbed back down the bell tower stairs we were exhausted.  It had been a busy day, and a cold day out in the snow.  Since St. Peter’s Church was right next to the Viktualienmarkt (a daily farmer’s market), we took a look at that too.

Everything looked so fresh!



Mike also decided to get another cup of coffee.  Nothing like hot coffee after wandering the cold, snowy streets!

Ordering coffee at a cozy, warm cafe

Although coffee can be found in Germany, it is definitely not as prevalent there as it is in the U.S., or even in Italy.  There generally just aren’t as many coffee shops, and the coffee is also generally just not great.  However, it still contained caffeine so Mike survived.  🙂

After we browsed the Viktualienmarkt (sp?), we thought about going straight to the Marienplatz Christmas market but ended up deciding that we wanted to rest and warm up before spending more time out in the snow, so we walked back to our hotel. We planned to just have a short rest, but jetlag took over again, and we both completely passed out and woke up three hours later, around 8pm, and decided to head to Marienplatz. This time, though, I figured out how to optimize our subway trip so that instead of taking one subway and walking the rest of the way, we took two subways (i.e. we transferred), and then we basically walked up the stairs from the subway and directly into the heart of the Marienplatz Christmas market!

We were greeted by the old town hall at one end of Marienplatz as we emerged from the subway station!


The festivities were in full force, which woke Mike and me up the rest of the way and got us into the Christmas spirit.

Gluhwein at Marienplatz!

I had heard about gluhwein (hot wine muddled with spices) from Mike since his Berlin trip years ago.  Now I got to experience gluhwein first-hand!  There are so many places selling gluhwein all over Germany during the month of December that you can either pay more to get gluhwein in a ceramic, reusable mug, or you can bring your own mug and pay vendors less for just the gluhwein.  Because every gluhwein vender has mugs with different designs on them, it’s fun to browse all the vendors first to see what kind of mug you’d like.  They come in all shapes and sizes… some mugs were very tall and skinny, some were shaped like a boot, and some were normal mugs.  Mike and I both opted for normal mug-shaped ones.  Mike chose an orange one with King Ludwig II on it, and I chose a navy blue one with an angel and stars on it.  As fun as the whole gluhwein atmosphere is in the market, I have to say that wine isn’t my favorite alcoholic beverage, and spiced wine is pretty strong even as wine goes!  I decided that for the future, either the kid’s version (watered down gluhwein) or grog (white wine and rum) were much more my speed.  Regardless, the gluhwein experience was fun and festive!

One of the gluhwein stands


I couldn’t believe how beautiful Marienplatz was!

The mix of the old and the new (only relatively new… still old compared to most of what we have in the U.S.), even just within the Marienplatz square was striking.  I loved it!  The whole Christmas market had such a fun, family-friendly, festive atmosphere.  We spent some time shopping at the booths and drinking our gluhwein before deciding to call it a night.  Now that we knew the trick to getting between our hotel and Marienplatz basically entirely underground, we had a warm, dry subway ride back to the hotel!

More to come later…


Filed under Christmas, Germany Trip, Holidays, Pictures, Travel, Weather, Winter

2018 Germany Trip – Episode 1 – Neuschwanstein Castle!

It has been such a long time since I’ve written on the blog that it took me a minute to remember what my password was for logging in.  Crazy, but also interesting.  2018 has definitely been a year of doing and learning, but not a year of writing.  It’s interesting the way life divides itself into these natural themes.  Regardless, let’s get to the most important agenda item… Mike’s and my Germany trip!  It is probably no secret to those who know us that 2018 was a very busy, somewhat stressful (in a good way!) year at work for both of us.  Mike has been learning more about software engineering, took a class in data structures and algorithms (which he aced… unsurprisingly!), and officially transitioned to being an embedded software engineer in his org.  I finally fully embraced being a manager of engineers instead of an engineer, and that has come with a huge set of challenges: working with different personality types, learning to influence without always having authority, taking the position that the buck stops with you, and that sometimes you have to deliver hard/unpopular messages that no one wants to hear.

Bottom line: this has been a great, but somewhat exhausting, year for both of us career-wise.  Coupled with the fact that we haven’t had a vacation for more than 5 days since 2014 because of Piper the cat’s health, we were extremely ready to unplug for awhile.  I chose the last two destinations for our big trips (Italy in 2013 and England/Ireland in 2014), so it was Mike’s turn to choose, and he chose Germany.  Mike didn’t particularly want to plan out much of an itinerary.  He didn’t want such a packed schedule that we came home from Germany needing another vacation.  We wanted to see things and do things there, but also just be on a light schedule and not feel the stress of executing to a plan.  Therefore (apart from plane tickets to Frankfurt) the only things I bought prior to the trip were our first two hotel nights in Munich and an all-in-one day tour to Neuschwanstein Castle for Monday (our first full day in Germany) from Munich.  I figured things would look like:

  • Fly to Frankfurt (the primary airport hub in Germany)
  • Take a high speed train from Frankfurt to Munich
  • Spend the first night in Munich
  • See Neuschwanstein Castle all day the next day
  • Have a great time for the rest of the trip
  • Take a train from wherever to Frankfurt
  • Fly back to Seattle

It wasn’t a bad plan, and it did not disappoint.  🙂

I hate flying on planes for anything more than about five hours since I start to get really restless and bored, so I worked out a lot in the week prior to flying out so that my poor tired muscles would be glad of a ten hour rest. Boxing Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, Crossfit with a friend on Thursday morning, power yoga Thursday night, boxing on Friday, and a run on Saturday morning. When Mike and I said goodbye to Piper Saturday morning to head to the airport I felt sufficiently ready to sit for the next 9.5 hours.  🙂


Piper is highly suspicious of packing!

Getting through security and to our gate was uneventful.  I was slightly wary of flight delays because every flight I’ve taken in 2018 has been a mess, with the most recent trip to a convention in Houston resulting in my flight being cancelled, me getting rebooked on a flight two hours earlier that left me scrambling to get to the airport in time, and a re-route through Atlanta that was wildly out of the way. However, our flight boarded on time and departed on time.


Ready for a 9.5 hour flight!

The first leg of the journey was 9.5 hours between the SeaTac Airport and Charles DeGaulle Airport in France. I embraced my 9.5 hours of inactivity by reading for an hour before watching two movies consecutively: Collatoral with Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx (which was great and took place entirely at night… perfect for flying through the night to Paris) and Creed (which I had seen before, but apparently I can watch boxing endlessly without getting bored). Mike watched Collatoral as well and a Ferrari documentary which I had seen on a previous plane trip. It is interesting but definitely not a happy story since most of the early great race car drivers died in explosive car crashes. I was hoping to get a little sleep on the plane, but it turned out that I was not tired in the slightest since the plane departed at 11am Seattle time. We were slated to arrive in Frankfurt, Germany around 6:30am the following day so in theory we should have been getting sleep to prepare for a full day in Germany, but it just didn’t happen. We disembarked 9.5 hours later in Charles DeGaulle Airport pretty exhausted. Although we were getting off of a reasonably big 767, our next flight from Paris to Frankfurt was on a little puddle jumper, and we had to take a tram to a separate part of the airport for that. We discovered that the part of the airport that the little, local planes flew out of was extremely uninteresting and basically consisted of one giant waiting room for all of the gates. Not much of a Paris experience!  It felt like we were in some little holding area no-man’s-land. However, we were tired enough that we took quick naps before our flight to Frankfurt took off. Our flight to Frankfurt was crazily turbulent. Maybe that was just because we were sitting near the back of a puddle jumper, but there was a lot of crazy up-and-down and side-to-side motion. The interesting part is that we were already starting to hear a lot of German; our English was going to be in the minority in the near future! The kids sitting across from us spent most of the flight singing, so between the turbulence and their singing, sleep was not happening. The songs the kids sang were interesting as well; they seemed fairly dark and were a mix of English and German. An hour and a half later, we were in Frankfurt around 6:30am. Our first night’s hotel was booked in Munich, so we had a train ride ahead of us. I was starting to regret planning on a train trip after a 14 hour flight + layover, but fortunately Frankfurt was a power transportation hub so we didn’t even need to leave the airport to catch a train.  Planes, trains, subways, buses, etc, all departed from the same station. We bought train tickets for Frankfurt and bought ourselves a train station lunch in the meantime. We were pretty sick of traveling by that point, but 3.5 hours in a train to Munich was the last leg of the journey. Unfortunately about an hour from Munich, there were train problems (I think they were related to a strike among the train workers, but we weren’t sure because all of the announcements on the train intercom system were in German), so our train stopped for a full hour on the tracks and our 3.5 hour trip ended up being a 4.5 hour trip. We arrived in Munich around 6pm completely exhausted, very tired of traveling, and ready to be done! Fortunately the hotel I booked was right across the street from the train station, so we pretty much rolled our bags off the train, across the street, and into the hotel. Note to self: travels that last more than 12 hours are taxing!

We exited the train station to find the weather windy and cold, probably to be expected in Bavaria, Germany in December!  We were near the German side of the Alps, after all! We had no ambitious plans that first night except to recover from what felt like an eternity of travel. I looked up some good Munich restaurants online, and we ventured out for dinner to a restaurant called Sophia’s.


The cocktails there were excellent, and the food was very good!  They also gave us an appetizer platter of fresh bread, olive tapenade, roasted garlic, and chestnuts.  Mike and I devoured it!  It was nice to actually be on vacation instead of traveling to get to our vacation.


We went to bed relatively early, with the thought that we would get a good night’s sleep and head to our day-trip tour of Neuschwanstein Castle which started at 8:45am.

Of course, our jet lag kicked in, and not only did we have no problem waking up in time for our 8:45am castle tour, we woke up at 5:30am starving.  One of the best parts of traveling (in Mike’s and my humble opinions) is the international breakfasts at the hotels.  That is why I always prioritize booking at hotels with reputable breakfasts.  Particularly with jetlag, Mike and I are often not very hungry later in the afternoon, so breakfast is key to get us up and going and out to see the city on the correct foot.  Breakfast didn’t start until 6:15am, so we got up and dressed and showered and determined what subway we needed to take to the pick-up point for the tour.


The breakfast did not disappoint!!  This was one of three tables of buffet breakfast food!

I helped myself to hard-boiled eggs, baked beans, and fruit, while Mike with more of a classic scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast breakfast.  Regardless it was delicious and we felt very refreshed and ready to go afterwards.  Our hotel was right across the street from München Hauptbahnhof or Munich HBF (the main Munich train station), so we were easily able to catch the subway from there to anywhere we wanted to go in Munich.  We were meeting the tour group near the Hofbräuhaus (more on that in a later post if you aren’t familiar with it).  We were at the pickup point early and used the extra time to take pictures.


Gorgeous architecture!

People started to arrive for the bus tour.  Mike and I had come prepared with our own bottled water and snacks since we knew it was a full day tour, but most people hadn’t, so the tour guide directed them all to a nearby grocery store.  Mike and I just waited around for 10 minutes or so while everyone else went snack-shopping.  Standing around waiting is one of the problems with being over-prepared (i.e. the story of our lives)!

Our tour guide was very engaging and was from Baltimore and had moved to Munich about a decade earlier.  He had a lot of great info about the sights we would be seeing!  Our tour had three stops: the first was the small village of Oberammergau (I think this was mostly an opportunistic stop, because we passed through it on the way to Neuchwanstein anyway), Linderhof Palace (another castle built by the same “mad king” Ludwig II who built Neuschwanstein, and Neuschwanstein itself.

Oberammergau was a cool little village known for its wood-working.  They had so many shops full of crafts for purchase!


ALL the wooden nutcrackers for sale!

While we were there, it started to snow… the first snow of the season in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps!


After Oberammergau, we got back on the tour bus, and headed for Linderhof Palace, our next destination.  “Mad” King Ludwig II who designed both Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle was enamoured of French architecture and Louis XIV.  Linderhof Palace wasn’t huge (by castle standards), but it was extremely opulent.  Almost unbelievably so.  It was dedicated to the Palace of Versailles, and it was clear that Ludwig was trying to get his own little Versailles in the Bavarian Alps.


Linderhof Palace


Clearly opulence was the order of the day!

Pictures weren’t allowed inside Linderhof, which was a pity because every nook was crazily picture-worthy!  For example, the intricately carved woodwork above Ludwig’s bed took wood carvers three years to make!  Three years for something that was not functional and only served to increase the general ornate-ness!  For an idea of how incredibly opulent and gold-covered everything was, here are some pictures of the inside: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/interior-of-linderhof-palace.  Although the castle was very impressive, Ludwig built it as a refuge for himself and didn’t entertain there often.  A highlight of Linderhof Palace was the Venus Grotto (an indoor man-made stalactite cave room complete with a lake and a swan boat to take out on the lake) which was lit with brightly colored lights and powered by the world’s first power plant.  Another highlight was Ludwig’s dining room which had a mechanical apparatus for lowering the dining table down through the floor, closing the floor above it, and then raising the table back up again.  The goal was for the table to be lowered down, set with dishes and food, and then raised up again for dinner.

After Linderhof Palace, we all got back on the bus and headed towards Neuschwanstein Castle.  It was as snowy and dark as you would expect of the Bavarian Black Forest in the foothills of the Alps.



An hour later, we arrived at the lower area of Neuschwanstsein.  We still had a half hour walk ahead of us to get up to the castle itself.  Apparently there are buses that take people up to the castle during nice weather, but since we had arrived on the first day of snowfall, the buses weren’t running.  We had no problem making the half hour hike up since the road was nice and fully paved, but Mike was disappointed that the bridge in front of the castle (from which he had wanted to take a picture of the castle) was closed because of the weather.


Walking up to Neuschwanstein


The weather started to clear as we climbed



Neuschwanstein was massive and impressive.


Interestingly, Neuschwanstein Castle is unfinished on the inside, because Ludwig II died (under highly suspicious circumstances, along with the doctor who officially declared him insane) before it was finished.  The tour guide was full of interesting information on the history of the royal family in Bavaria (of which Ludwig II was part). Interestingly, Bavaria is the wealthiest of the German states, and had a King separate from the general German rulership for centuries.  Even today, Bavaria legally reserves the right to secede from Germany and become their own independent nation.  Very interesting!

Anyway, Ludwig II, the so-called “mad king” who built Neuschwanstein sounded crazy based on the small amount of research I had done prior to the trip, but quite frankly in light of the information from the tour guide on his family and on other royals in general at the time, I started to feel as though Ludwig wasn’t so crazy. He had a brother who was also declared mentally insane, but his brother enjoyed stabbing people (a pretty disturbing past time!), whereas Ludwig’s “craziness” just manifested itself in a desire to recreate the old glory of kingliness a la Louis XIV.  Clearly, from Linderhof Palace, it was clear that King Ludwig had eyes for grandeur, but he seemed only debatably crazy.  We saw his family’s home in Munich on a later day, and it was just as opulent and indescribably over-the-top. Anyway, Mike and I left Linderhof Palace with the feeling that Ludwig II wasn’t any more or less crazy than the rest of his family and his worst fault seemed to be having no concept of the price of things and squandering much of his family’s fortune on three unnecessary castles.

The interior of Neuschwanstein was still highly impressive, although not as opulent as Linderhof Castle, and once again, no pictures were allowed inside.


The outer Neuschwanstein courtyard

The view into the villages below from the castle was breath-taking.


A gorgeous view, but the castle was a little too close to the edge of a mountain cliff for my comfort level!

Between residual jetlag and being outside in the cold a good portion of the day, we were exhausted when we hiked back down the path from Neuschwanstein to the parking lot and got on our bus.  Even though it was only 5pm it was already pretty dark.  Mike and I ate some Rittersport chocolate we had brought with us (which tasted intensely good!!) and then dozed on and off during the two hour drive back to Munich.  We had a late dinner at our hotel which was highly satisfying and very Bavarian (i.e. meat, potatoes, and other root vegetables).  We basically fell into bed that night and had no definite plans for the following day besides hitting up at least one Christmas market.

Time to stop for now… more episodes to follow!  🙂

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Filed under Germany Trip, Pictures, Travel

A race and a suspicious dome light

We are heading into spring… finally!  Just when I had about had it with the cold, rainy, windy weather in Seattle, we got a gorgeous sunny 50 degree day.  I went for a run in the afternoon, and it was perfect.

Two weekends Mike and I had a remarkably social weekend (for us… we really aren’t huge social butterflies and usually prefer a quiet evening with Piper watching Netflix than going out).  However, on Friday night we were just getting back from the gym when I got a text from a friend of mine saying she and her boyfriend were in Fremont and wanted to know if we wanted to meet up with them.  My first thought was that a hot shower, pajamas, and Netflix sounded pretty compelling, but Mike and I decided to take showers and go meet them anyway, and I’m glad we did.  We had a fun time.  Sometimes I think we just need a kick in the pants to get us out the door, and then we can be highly social with the best of them.  😉  That’s the great thing about this friend of mine… she is always one to give a last-minute kick in the pants and text me to come hang out or go to a yoga class, etc.  She sits at the desk next to me, and it’s really fun having a girlfriend at work.  That has (surprisingly?) not really happened to me much in over a decade of working.

On Sunday night we got together with several of my running friends.  We had them over to our house and then went out to a restaurant after an hour or so.  I tried very hard to be a good hostess and got cheese, crackers, hummus, wine, sliced fruit, and nuts, and made sure the house was very tidy.  I think it was a success.  The five of us had a blast and one of the friends is already thinking about turning this into a monthly get-together.  Works for Mike and me!

Despite enjoying our social weekend, it meant that we didn’t get as many errands run as usual, so this past weekend we were ready for a quiet weekend in.  I had a half marathon on Saturday morning, so we didn’t stay up very late.  I got up bright and early Saturday morning, drove across the lake to Redmond where my race was, and proceeded to freeze while I waited for the race to start.  It was projected to be a high of 68 degrees, but at 6:30am it wa 30 degrees.  The half marathon itself was flat and we basically ran south through Redmond along the east side of Lake Sammamish until we hit 13.1 miles, and then they had buses to bring us back to Redmond and our cars.  I knew that a group of friends from my running group were manning the water stop at mile 11, so it almost made it feel like all I had to do was run 11 miles rather than 13… I was almost thinking of that as the finish line and the last two as just the bit at the end.  It ended up being a gorgeous day for running, and when the sun came up the weather started warming up considerably.  I hadn’t run for two days before the race with the idea that I was going to run it fast (even though technically I’m marathon training and this is just another training run, not a race).  I didn’t feel as energetic as I had hoped for the first mile because I was cold and my muscles were stiff and I realized I really should have run a warm-up mile or two beforehand.  Typically I do, but it was just so cold that I wanted to stay in my warm car with the heat blasting until the last second.  After a couple of miles, I settled in and found my pace and targeted a few people that I thought I could stay with during the race.  With a marathon I’ve never had any luck doing that.  At some point in the marathon, either you or the people you’re trying to stay with will get tired and need to drop back.  But for a half it’s more likely both you and they can sustain the pace for the duration of the race.  I was a little frustrated with myself while I was running because at no point did running feel easy.  I keep waiting for that magic day when I go for a run and it feels like I’m flying and the whole process is effortless.  I have felt that, but it’s usually not when it’s 30 degrees out, and it’s usually not when I’m marathon training.  Anyway, I digress.  I just kept plodding along… I was working to hold my pace, but I wasn’t dying.  There’s a very fine line between working and dying.  Basically, working turns into dying if you hit an uphill, but since this was a flat race I didn’t hit any hills so the working didn’t progress to dying.  At the second mile marker, my watch showed that I’d gone 2.25 miles.  Great.  Just what I felt like… running a long course (one that was actually more than 13.1 miles).  However, I just let the miles keep ticking off on my watch, counting down until I hit mile 11 and would see running group friends.  There were water stops about every two miles and since the sun was out I was actually ready for water at most of the stations.  When I ran through the mile 11 water stop I exchanged some high fives with running friends and I saw some inspirational posters the running group had put up by the trail.  One said, “There will be a day when you can’t do this.  Today is not that day.  KEEP GOING!”  I loved it… exactly the motivation I needed to finish up the final 2 miles.  I was not able to give a final kick in the last quarter mile to the finish line, which was probably a sign I was already maxed out.  I was able to hold my pace though and just had to deal with those hotshots who want to blow by you with 100 yards left until the finish line.  My previous fastest half marathon was 1:42:42 (~7:50 min/mile pace).  My dream goal for this race was to break the 1:40 mark, and as I turned the final corner and saw the finish line clock up ahead, it read 1:39!  I held my pace, and ended up with a final time of 1:39:13 (~7:35 min/mile pace).  Although knocking 15 seconds off your per mile pace doesn’t sound huge, it actually is.  That’s something you have to do each mile for the whole race.  And I broke the 1:40 barrier!  I’ll take it!  Afterwards, I got on the bus back to Redmond, got back to the car, turned on the heat full blast, turned on the overhead dome light to locate my ear buds, gel, and other race paraphernalia, and then drove back across Lake Washington to Seattle.  (The dome light will be important later in this story.)  Mike was just waking up when I got home.  He was sleepy, but not too sleepy to have followed my time via the live tracker for the race, and he complimented my speed.  It was a good race.  I’ve had honestly a lot of pretty bad races.  It really makes me appreciate the ones where everything lines up.

For the rest of the day Mike and I ran errands (kitty litter, groceries, etc), and we ended up going to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner.  They accidentally put Mike’s order in wrong and were really apologetic, but honestly we were just enjoying hanging out at the restaurant talking and didn’t have any problem with them taking the time to put in the order a second time.  On Sunday, it was literally the nicest day we’ve had since probably last August!  70 degrees and sunny!  Mike puttered around the house, putting silicone on the bottom of the railings on the deck and things like that.  I did some cooking and laundry and enjoyed laying on the couch in the sun with Piper in my lap.  (I think the half marathon was catching up with me.)  Then in the evening Mike and I watched the first episode of Horatio Hornblower.  Mike’s dad mailed us the DVD’s, so we started watching them.  I remember really liking the shows, but I saw them years and years (maybe 20 years??) ago.  Interestingly, there were still specific parts that I remembered.  Strange what your brain thinks is worth remembering.

I was at work on Monday morning when Mike texted me that our car wouldn’t start.  I instantly remembered turning on the dome light after the race.  I had been very careful to make sure that I turned it off when I got back to Seattle, because I actually have drained a car battery by leaving that dome light on in the past, and it’s not a pleasant experience.  So I wasn’t sure how it could have been me leaving the dome light on… but maybe I somehow thought I saw the light go off, but it didn’t actually??  Regardless, we also had the original battery still in a 10 year old car, so we figured it should be replaced anyway.  Mike was initially worried that it might be the alternator, but the fact that we didn’t drive anywhere on Sunday and then the car wouldn’t start on Monday seemed to indicate that the battery wasn’t capable of holding a charge without the alternator (or I had left the dome light on).  Mike jumped it Monday night after work, and sure enough, the dome light was on inside.  Face palm.  Although it was a little weird, because the passenger dome light was on, and I turned the driver’s side dome light on after the race.  It also seems a little suspicious that we drove around all day on Saturday after the race and apparently neither of us noticed that the dome light right in front of our eyebrows was on.  Or else one of us bumped and turned it on while we were putting groceries in the car or something??  Anyway, very strange.  But the upside is that we replaced the battery, and there’s nothing wrong with replacing a 10 year old battery anyway.

As it turns out, Mike is going to China at the end of March, so we selected some luggage for him.  We were very fortunate and got it extra on sale at Macy’s.  There was also an additional deal that if you bought it but didn’t pick it up until March 18, you got an extra 30% off.  (This seemed like a very strange condition for a sale, but the sales woman told us having these type of “VIP pre-sales” was actually very common in retail.  So there you go.  You learn something new every day!

So anyway, not a lot of very exciting things going on here.  Mike’s work on the house continues, our busy-ness at work continues, my marathon training continues (although I’m over halfway done!), and our hanging out with Piper continues.  Difficult to complain, so I won’t.  🙂

And spring is coming!  Any day now… Mike and I are ready for it!

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Filed under Friends, Life in Seattle, Running, Seattle

Purple Potatoes and Self Checkout Lanes

This past Friday and Saturday I went to an all-day yoga conference.  Basically I need a certain number of continuing education hours to renew my registration with the Yoga Alliance as a yoga teacher.  Some of the sessions I went to were really good, and some were just so-so, but still lots of interesting info.  It totally screwed up my weekend though, because chores that I usually do on Saturday either had to get squeezed into Sunday, or they didn’t get done.  I got to the yoga conference early on Friday morning and stopped by Monorail Espresso.  I was going to get a cup of coffee, but that seemed like a very hyped-up, non-yogic type of beverage.  So instead I got a hot green tea.  As I walked into the front atrium at the convention center, though, I realized I shouldn’t have bothered; almost every yoga was holding a venti coffee cup (large, for non-coffee-speakers).  When I commented on it to one of the fellow attendees, she laughed.  “Yeah, but it’s in Seattle,” she said.  “That pretty much guarantees lots of coffee.”

She had a point.

The conference was downtown Seattle in the convention area.  It’s so pretty!

The couple of blocks holding the convention center

The couple of blocks holding the convention center

In other news, Piper boycotted her prescription kidney food diet from the vet and started just not eating and trying to steal our people food instead.  She was losing weight and literally refusing to eat anything, so Mike and I bought her some food that isn’t kidney food, but has really high quality ingredients.  The result is that meal time is her new favorite time of day and she can’t wait to get cans of her “new” food.

I think she is sticking so close to me because I gave her new food

I think she is sticking so close to me because I gave her new food!

I had a really great moment a week ago.  You know how there are a million times in your life when you feel unappreciated and under-valued?  This was the opposite of one of those times.  First I have to start out by saying that I have serious self-checkout skills at basically any grocery store.  I know you’re thinking, Come on… how hard is it to use the self-checkout lane?  I’ll explain some of the difficulties.  Warning: I honestly have no basis for whether this is interesting to anyone besides engineers.  Mike was interested, but again that tells me nothing about the general population.  So, to start out with, there are different types of self checkout systems at different stores that are running different types of software.  I’m going to talk about the kind at my local organic grocery store, because I don’t have the time (and none of you have the interest) for me to talk about more than one system.  Besides this is the system that figures into my story.

In the Seattle city limits, you can’t get plastic bags in grocery stores at all, and if you want paper bags you have to pay for them.  So most people use reusable bags.  And these reusable bags are where everything falls apart from a self-checkout perspective, because the bags themselves have a weight that the system doesn’t expect since you just set the bag down without scanning anything first.  What this basically means is that 95% of people who go through self checkouts at this grocery store have to have a cashier to help them because the system gets mad that they have more things in the bagging area than they have scanned.

I have discovered that each reusable bag weights 0.17lb.  I have also discovered that when you scan an item and set it in the bagging area, there is a tolerance on the weight of the item based on percentage of the weight of the item.  For instance, if you scan an item that weighs five pounds, and the system allows weight discrepancies of up to 10%, the system will be ok if the item you put in the bagging area weighs anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 lbs.  If you scan an item that weighs one oz (think something like chapstick), there’s a much smaller total amount of error allowed (i.e. 0.1 oz instead of 0.5 lb).  So what does all this mean?  A couple of things.

First, the key is to scan something that weighs two pounds or more as the first item, so that you can set your reusable bag (only 0.17 lb) and the heavy item down in the bagging area at the same time.  Because the weight of the reusable bag is less than the the tolerance of the heavy item, the system is typically fine with this.

Second, it means that when you scan a heavy item, you have a lot of leeway, but if you buy a cart load of chapstick, you’re likely to be in trouble.  For small items you need to make sure they’re actually making contact with the scale (i.e. not at the edge of the scale where readings are sometimes weird).

Third, if you put something small like chapstick on top of other items that don’t have their weight evenly distributed (i.e. like a bag of apples), it’s very likely that the system will get confused, think you didn’t bag your chapstick and get mad at you.  (In case you haven’t noticed yet, there are many things that make the system mad and very few that make it happy.)

There are also a bunch of other tips and tricks, but I have the feeling everyone has already reached their capacity of supermarket geekiness for the day, and I’ve already written enough for everyone to be confident that I have spent a great deal of time understanding these systems and how the code on them works.

So, all the way back to the beginning.  I was in my organic grocery store, and had two reusable bags and a basket full of difficult to handle items (like dental floss, chapstick, bags of vegetables of unevenly distributed weight).  As I stepped up to a self scan register, I noticed the attendant watching me as I scanned my bottle of olive oil and bagged it with the first of my reusable bags.  And then I scanned a bag of yams and bagged it with the second reusable bag.  I continued, keeping small items in the middle of the scale, and touching the bag directly and continued through all of my purchases.  At the end, I still hadn’t had need of the attendant to come and pacify the angry system on my behalf, and the attendant stepped up to me.

Excellently done,” he breathed as he shook his head in disbelief.  “Just excellent.”  I have to say that good performance reviews at my job typically have not felt as satisfying as that bit of praise from an unknown attendant.  I have literally spent the past decade mastering self checkout lanes, and no one has ever recognized my extreme adeptness in this area except this one attendant.  Anyway, that was a really long story.  Maybe if they ever make self-bagging an olympic sport I will be able to compete.  I can almost hear the announcer now.  And Karena is already bagging the tomatoes!  Was it a wise choice to tackle those before scanning the rice cakes?  We will see!  The clock is ticking… she’s just starting her second bag now.  In goes the peanut butter.  Ooh!  Almost a flub with that loaf of bread.  It looks like she just got it on the scale before the system errored out.  That’s my Olympic sport.  I’ll leave skiing and snowboarding (and skeleton’ing!!) to others.

Mike and I went out to an Indian restaurant tonight for dinner and got in an extremely animated conversation about where to put a chair.  It’s a perfectly harmless and unassuming chair, but when we got it two years ago Mike wanted it in the basement and I wanted it in the living room.  Mike won and I lost, so it’s been down there ever since.  And for some reason, Mike started complaining about it down there tonight and wanted to move it into his office.  I took this opportunity to remember that I was still bitter over losing that argument two years ago, and insisted that if the chair was going to be moved it should go upstairs in the living room.  In some ways Mike and I love animated discussions where we both expound on our opinions and try to convince each other of something.  So we basically spent our hour at the restaurant arguing over who deserved to choose the chair’s location, why Mike had gotten his way for two years and still insisted on having his way again, why I wanted a chair in a spot where it clearly didn’t belong, whose idea it was to get the chair in the first place, and what the original intended location of said chair was.  We vaguely noticed that our server was fairly quiet and not very conversational, but we were so involved in our conversation that we didn’t notice too much.  It wasn’t until we were walking out that we realized he thought he was witnessing a heated argument.  We literally started laughing in the parking lot and couldn’t stop.  That server must have wondered why (if we were going to fight) we couldn’t at least find something more meaningful to argue about than a chair!  🙂

Speaking of disagreements, here’s another one Mike and I had recently.  I got some purple potatoes from our weekly Imperfect Produce box (my new replacement for CSA’s… so cool!  Check them out!).  Anyway, I thought they were gorgeous, and made Mike a shepherd’s pie with mashed purple potatoes on top.

I thought it was pretty?  Mike thinks purple is not a valid food color.  I asked him about eggplant, but he doesn't think that's a valid food either.

I thought it was pretty? Mike thinks purple is not a valid food color. I asked him about eggplant, but he doesn’t think that’s a valid food either.

Mike really struggled to eat it.  The potatoes taste the same, but he doesn’t like eating food that is weird colors.  He had the same problem when I got purple green beans and when I got red and yellow carrots.  I cannot relate to this.  I totally understand that white potatoes are the primary ones that have been bred, but purple potatoes are just as valid as white potatoes.  To Mike’s credit, he really tried, but he wasn’t as excited about Shepherd’s Pie as he usually is!  Maybe part of the problem is that I eat purple food all the time so it seems like a normal color (i.e. eggplant, purple cabbage, plums, beets).  I don’t think Mike really eats anything purple.  Any thoughts?  Valid color for potatoes or not?  For food in general?

I feel like now I’ve talked about two disagreements that Mike and I had so I want to talk about something we agreed on.  We saw this Maclaren valet-parked in front of the mall downtown over the weekend, and we both agreed that it was amazing!!


Wow!  WOW!!!

In other news, it SNOWED over the weekend!  And not a dusting.  Snow that actually lasted overnight into the next day.

My bus stop

My bus stop


The view from our window overnight

The view from our window overnight.  Very wintery!


I’m hoping for good weather this weekend as the marathon training is continuing!  Have a good week everyone!  Spring is coming!


Filed under Cats, Cooking, Eggplant, Life in Seattle, Pictures, Seattle, Weather, Winter

The Dilemma of the Dishrag

I have a serious dishrag problem going on over here.  Let me give you the background.  While I was in Boston, Mike did a grand cleaning the night before my return.  He usually does this, and it is appreciated.  The tricky part was that he couldn’t find my normal dishrag to wash the dishes and ended up breaking out a new one that I hadn’t used before.  It is red, and since I’ve been back and started using this new dishrag I’ve discovered that it is bleeding red color over everything.  Whether I wipe down the counters or hand wash dishes in the sink, this dishrag turns everything red.  I’m not entirely sure what to do about this.  I definitely can’t wash the dishrag until I’m confident that it won’t bleed red on everything else that it’s washed with.  But it doesn’t seem to be slowing down on bleeding red.  Even the tag on the dishrag has been dyed a bright red.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to be left with a white dishrag by the time this is all said and done.  So far the dishrag doesn’t appear to have changed in color but everything around it definitely has.  Or maybe it’s a magic dishrag and will proceed to bleed all over everything for years without ever noticeably changing color itself.

As usual, I spent quite a bit of Sunday afternoon cooking.  I chopped all my veggies on Saturday, though, and it was amazing how much faster that made the cooking go on Sunday!  Maybe something to do on future Saturdays (as long as I can motivate myself to do that work on Saturday).

Mike ended up going into work on Sunday afternoon.  Quite frankly there is plenty of work that I could be doing at work too, but there was so much to do around the house (i.e. laundry, cooking, tidying, doing a thorough cleaning of Piper’s litter box, washing dishes, etc), that I felt like I might as well spend the weekend doing work around the house and spend the week doing Sonos work.  I did use the opportunity to listen to a couple of podcasts and some Smashing Pumpkins.  Unfortunately Mike was over Smashing Pumpkins by the end of the 90’s so he doesn’t really appreciate me playing their albums on repeat. I also play Linkin Park on repeat, but Mike doesn’t mind quite as much with them because at least he didn’t listen to them much in high school/college, so while he doesn’t care for most of their music at least he isn’t actively tired of it.  🙂  When I leave Mike to his own devices to listen to music he typically has been listening to classical music.  He is so much more cultured than me.  I would love to be able to say I liked classical music and mean it, but the truth is that most of it sounds the same to me.  Which doesn’t mean that it sounds bad.  It just feels like listening to the same song forever.  At some point in my life I really need to devote some time to learning to appreciate classical music.

Marathon training is continuing to truck along.  Today was my third Sunday in a row running a long run of 18 miles.  Next week I ramp to 20, and then I get a 13 the following week.  That 13 sounds so good right now.  I’m actually at the point with 18 miles where I feel like I’m running massive distances all around the city but usually still seem to be half a mile short and need to tack on a bit extra at the end.  Mike’s lifting at the gym has been going really well too.  He has actually started using chalk to be able to keep his grip on the bar for lifting the really heavy weights he’s doing.  He is lifting weights that seem unimaginable to me, but strangely he says that he enjoys it.

Mike and I almost went to Home Depot today, but instead we went to a couple hardware stores instead.  I’m sure our absence was noted by the Home Depot employees, so hopefully we won’t get a cold greeting the next time we go there.  We also went to the pet store and got Piper some more cans of cat food.  We have started feeding her cat food that isn’t just the vet-prescribed kidney-specific food.  She was so bored of that food that she was starting to just boycott eating.  (As a note, I know dogs don’t typically do this, but this is very typical for cats.  At least for our cat.  If she’s not interested in the food, she would rather eat nothing than it.  Sometimes I worry that she has no survival instinct at all.  Our plan is to feed her some non-vet-prescribed food and some vet food.  That will make sure that she eats something, but still gets good nutrients as well.  The first time I gave her the non-vet food, she went insane and ate the entire can (it was a small can, but still!), and then a few hours later she wanted another can.  It makes me feel terrible… like I’ve been starving her or something when I’ve actually been paying top dollar for vet-prescribed food for her.  #firstworldproblems

Mike and I felt like watching something different on Friday night, so we started watching the old Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo.  I’m a fan of a lot of those old Hitchcock movies, but Mike hasn’t seen many of them so it’s fun to re-watch them while he sees them for the first time.  We only watched the first half of Vertigo on Friday, so we’ll likely watch the second half tonight.

Pearl Jam announced a few special shows they’ll be doing in Seattle in 2018 to combat homeless-ness, and Mike and I are thinking we will go!  The concerts are just a few days away from our dating anniversary (which will be 13 years this year, by the way.  Does time ever fly or what??).  I still can’t believe that I haven’t run into any of the Pearl Jam members in or around Seattle.  They all live here, and when I first moved to Seattle I assumed it would be only a matter of time until I ran into one of them.  Oh, hey, look!  Stone Gossard is in line at the grocery store in front of me buying organic kale and tic tacs!  I mean, Seattle isn’t that big, right?  But now, eight-ish years later I’m thinking I’m just not going to run into them.  We just must not run in the same circles.  Eddie Vedder must not spend much time at yoga studios or at Home Depot.

On a happier note, my parents sent me grapefruit knives and spoons after reading one of my blog posts complaining about how messy it was to eat grapefruit, and those are working out really well.  I still wouldn’t exactly say that it turns grapefruit into a non-messy fruit, but it certainly helps and lowers the messiness level.  Likely a good investment for anyone who enjoys citrus, but doesn’t enjoy the mess.  On other food-related notes, I’ve been drinking giant smoothies for breakfast more often lately.  I always felt like smoothies weren’t filling, but now that I’m adding protein powder, flax seed, and chia seed, they are incredibly filling.  Especially ones as big as the ones that I make.  The only downside to that is that I’m running the (very) loud blender at 6am.  And when I say ‘loud’, I mean LOUD!  Mike helped pick out the blender and it has a motor the size of a lawn mower (and quite frankly is waranteed significantly longer than the typical mower).  I try to close the bedroom door first so I don’t wake Mike, but honestly it’s so loud he can still hear it.  Fortunately it doesn’t seem to disturb his sleep too much, because he hasn’t actually gotten out of bed as a result of me running the blender.  I asked him this morning whether or not he had been hearing the blender in the morning.

“About half of the time,” he said.

Well, given that I’ve only been making smoothies about half of the mornings, it looks like unfortunately he is hearing it every single time.  🙂  I had hoped he would be able to sleep through it at least once!  What I should do is make the smoothies the night before, but I am too busy doing things to clean up from that day to worry about things for the next day.  Thinking about chores and to-do items that affect days farther out than today is a little more than my brain is willing to take on.

Here we are though… ready to start another week!  How is it already mid-February!  Soon it will be time to do taxes.  That sure came fast.  Every year Mike and I do our taxes and it feels like it will be an eternity until the next time we have to do them, but it always comes up again so fast!    Happy almost-tax season everyone!  May you all get awesome refunds!  😉


Filed under Concerts, Cooking, Food, Life in Seattle, Pearl Jam, Running, Seattle, Smoothies

Travel and Working Together

Well, here I am in Boston the night before my flight back to Seattle.  As always with these Boston trips, it’s been a very full week.

My flight out of Seattle was at 6am, which sounded ok when I scheduled it, but then of course I realized that I should get to the airport 90 minutes before my flight, and it would take me 20-30 min to get to the airport.  And, of course, I can’t go from being sound asleep to being in a car to the airport, so I likely needed to budget some time to get up, brush my teeth, and become awake enough to somewhat interact with the world.  Bottom line: I ended up setting my alarm for 3:30am.  Pretty early!  So early that I didn’t even have breakfast, and breakfast is a pretty important part of my mornings.  I asked my Uber driver who took me to the airport whether he always worked so early, and he said it was actually that he worked late.  Wow.  So his day wasn’t over and mine was beginning.  Definitely very early (or late)!

Typically when I’m waiting at airports I just read a book or browse the internet on my phone, but this past Sunday I felt in the mood to people-watch (probably because my brain wasn’t awake enough to read yet).  Such a wide variety of people!  The guy sitting kitty-corner to me in the row in front of me was watching the movie Dunkirk, which Mike and I saw a month or so ago.  About every ten minutes the flashing color of his screen would attract my attention, so I feel like I effectively re-watched the movie.  Speaking of Dunkirk, it was a really good movie, if war movies are interesting to you.  The only thing that bothers me about war movies is that they are all the same.  I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, because I know that people have gone through agonizing and gut-wrenching experiences as a result of very specific wars.  But for those very people, it seems as though the particular reasons for the war and all of the political circumstances associated with it are very far away when it comes to the day-to-day living during war time.  A great example of this is All Quiet on the Western Front.  That was a great book detailing WWI from a soldier’s perspective.  He was not on the winning side, but it really doesn’t matter.  All people from both sides of the war can likely relate to his story.  All this being said, my main point is that Dunkirk is likely not drastically different from other war movies you will see, except for the little navy of civilian ships that come to save the troops at Dunkirk.

Somehow I thought that getting up so early would effectively ensure that I got to bed early Sunday night and got on EST quickly, but I ended up having a hard time falling asleep, and unfortunately that seemed to be the pattern for the week!  Couldn’t get to sleep at night, but morning came early.  At least there was always coffee to keep me going until I got back to Seattle.  🙂

Mike and I had a relaxing evening the night before I left for Boston since it was our last night together for the week.  We went out to dinner and then watched a Nero Wolfe episode (I’m not sure what we’re going to do when we’ve finished those episodes).

Last weekend while I flew to Boston, Mike spent some time re-attaching some parts of the railing on our deck that were removed when we had the new deck put on.  Mike tried very hard to make a single Home Depot trip by buying multiple variants of screws during the first trip, but still ended up having to make one more trip.  I went with him for the first trip, and he went by himself for the second trip while I did laundry.  As an aside, Mike firmly believes that packing for a trip is trivial as long as all the laundry is done.  I tend to agree with him.  It certainly makes the process much faster when you aren’t waiting for key items to come out of the dryer!

My marathon training is continuing to ramp up.  I did an 18 mile run last Saturday, and another one this weekend.  Unfortunately, because my running buddy was out of town last weekend, I did that one alone.  This weekend she was back, so we ran together.  Quite frankly the run this weekend was brutal because we were both sleep-deprived and dehydrated and all of those other fun things that come with traveling.

My marathon training plan is definitely more aggressive this round than it’s been in the past, because I’m trying for a more aggressive finish time.  Normally I wouldn’t already be at 18 miles this early in my training cycle.  I have to say, though, that the 16 and 18 mile runs haven’t been feeling terrible.  i.e. it’s not like I finish them feeling like I’m exhausted and I can’t go any farther.    Of course I’m tired at the end, but not exhausted.  I’m hoping that’s a good sign.  I’ve also been doing a lot of stretching and yoga to let my muscles recover and have been downing lots of protein powder to give my muscles what they need to rebuild.  Last weekend Mike and I looked at the weather the night before my long run so I could decide when to run.  Basically if I ran at 3am, I could have a cold run, but no rain or wind.  If I waited until 6-8am I could have a warmer run with a stronger wind but it would be really rainy.  If I waited till 10am, I could have a warner run with no rain, but the wind was supposed to be gale force.  Choices, choices!  I ended up running at 7:30am and got rained on, but it wasn’t too bad.  Honestly at some point once you’re properly saturated, there’s not much more the rain can do to you.  And of course it’s key to wear clothing that mostly protects you from the wind and elements, even if it’s raining.  One thing I have definitely learned living in Seattle, though, is that there really isn’t “waterproof” clothing.  It’s actually “water resistant”.  The key difference there is that waterproof seems to indicate that you can wear it and not get wet.  The actual truth is that it keeps you dry approximately 12 minutes longer than non-waterproof clothing.

Mike’s work has been busy the past couple of weeks with the public launch of the Amazon Go store.  I’ve seen a lot of articles about it pop up on various news sites, and it’s cool that it’s generating interest.

Because of his busy-ness at work last week and my busy-ness at work and traveling, we were both pretty tired on Saturday.  I went grocery shopping, and that was about as ambitious as I got.  We both got quite a lot done on Sunday afternoon though.  I cooked up a bunch of food: Mediterranean quinoa salad, sweet potato curry, beef stew, chicken rice with veggies, and roasted root veggies.  Mike cleaned out my bathroom sink drain and re-installed some screws in the railing on the deck and hosed down the whole deck.  One thing I love about Mike’s and my relationship is that our strengths tend to be in different areas.  A couple examples just from this weekend:

I told Mike my bathroom sink drain was going slowly and asked him if he could look at it and pour Draino in it or something.

“Hmm,” he said.  “I don’t know that I want corrosive stuff going down our pipes.  That’s more what renters do; not what homeowners do.”

“How else do you clean it out?” I asked.

Two hours later, Mike had disassembled some pipe under the sink, cleaned out a bunch of (apparently pretty disgusting) glob of toothpaste, hair, and soap scum that seemed to be glued together by my mascara.  The water went down the sink so fast that it was gone before I could see it.

Then a couple hours later, I got our kitchen trash by the back door for Mike to take out to the trash bin.  Mike looked at it.

“There’s no room for that,” he said.  “The trash is full.”

“I’m sure it’s not completely full.  There’s always room for one more.  Can’t you just put this one bag in?”

Mike looked at me.  “It’s full.  Nothing else will fit in.”

Having some experience with Mike’s version of “full trash”, I looked at him.  “Is the lid on the trash can closed all the way?”

“Yes, but I could only just barely get it closed.”

“Ok.  Don’t worry about it.  I’ll take care of it.”

“Don’t wreck our trash can trying to get your bag inside!” Mike warned as he headed back to the deck.

I went outside and found that reports of the trash’s full-ness were greatly exaggerated (or else my family just has a lot of experience trying to jam trash into already full trash containers… this is also very plausible).  I got my bag in, packed things down a little with my hands, and easily closed the lid.

Mike came down from the deck 15 minutes later, and noticed the absence of the trash bag.

“Where is the trash?”

“I put it in the bin.”

“Is the lid open?  Is trash spilling all over the sidewalk?”

“No!  And the lid is closed.”

He looked at me suspiciously.  “Is the trash container broken?  What did you do?  Did you stand in the trash can and jump up and down”

“No!!  Of course not!  Go look for yourself.”

He had to admit the trash was all contained in the bin, but it was still packed down more than his usual preference.  🙂

Another example: My luggage zipper and part of the outside case broke during my trip to Boston.  Nothing crazy… it’s just very old luggage, and it’s been well-worn for awhile.  Mike looked at it and decided it was time to find new luggage.  I was ready to buy the first piece of luggage I saw, but Mike insisted on taking time to research the issue.  He asked me all about my preferences.  Was my current piece of luggage too big?  too small?  Was I happy with its type, size, and placement of zippered compartments?  Did I need to travel with clothes that I didn’t want to get wrinkled?  Did I have a color preference?  Did I carry things in that bag that were breakable?  Did I use the luggage as a carry-on or only checked baggage?  If I used it as a carry-on, did I place the luggage in overhead bins or under the seat in front of me?.  Basically I had to fill out a questionnaire on my luggage usage, but now Mike has located the perfect piece of luggage for me, and I literally didn’t have to make any luggage choices myself.  Pretty nice!  🙂

I can’t believe the weekend is already over!  I hope everyone has a really good week!  We got sunshine here in Seattle today which was such a nice change from the clouds and rain!

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Filed under Cooking, Food, Life in Seattle, Running, Travel

I reserve the right to choose all future pillowcases

Super exciting news on Mike’s front!  The Amazon Go store that he has been working on for the past several years is now officially open to the public!  Today was the first day it was open, and there was quite a line of people waiting to get into the line-less store.  🙂  I have been there multiple times since Amazon employees and some family members have been able to go for the past year.  But now it is officially open to all of the public… very exciting times for Mike and his hard-working team!

The line for the Amazon Go store!

The line for the Amazon Go store!


Mike has been talking to me about creating a new header for my blog.  Mine is *slightly* outdated.  And by *slightly*, I mean that it’s been my blog header for over five years.  Definitely time for a new look and feel!  The tricky part is that winter is not the best time for photos in Seattle, so we have to find a time when the weather is nice-ish for outdoor photos.

Now it is time to talk pillowcases.

Mike and I bought queen-sized sheets for our bed several years ago, and Mike said that beds always get too warm when you’ve been under the blankets for awhile, so he suggested getting these special sheets that stay cool.  I don’t get hot at night, but sure, why not?  That was my first mistake, because every night when I put my head on my pillow, I get an instant shock of cold which kind of wakes me up.  Those sheets work entirely too well.  I’m thinking they have liquid nitrogen flowing in the fibers.

Anyway, when we were picking out sheets at the store, I then reached for the king-size pillowcases, and Mike stopped me.  “Those are king-size.  Our bed and pillows are queen-sized.”  He picked up a set of queen-sized pillowcases instead.

Alarm bells started going off in my head.  I am someone who believes in changing sheets like some people believe in changing their underwear; as often as possible.  I wash our sheets at least once a week and love the feeling of getting under clean sheets at night.  I also time it so that I have showered shortly before getting into the newly-sheeted bed so that I am not immediately dirtying the bed by my mere presence.  (Slight dramatization, but unfortunately only slight).  This basically means that I spend a great percentage of my life putting clean sheets back on beds, and I want to streamline that process and make it as easy as possible.  Having pillowcases one size bigger than the pillows literally saves minutes on every bed linen change.

I let the man who has never washed sheets in his life (to my knowledge) choose the size of my pillowcases.  I let the man who has only made the bed once (to my knowledge) choose the size of the pillowcases.  And by the way, the one time he did make the bed, the sheets started coming off in the middle of the second night, because I’m not convinced he knows the difference between the fitted and flat sheets.  Anyway, I let him put back the king-sized pillowcases and pick up the queen-sized pillowcases.  And every weekend since then for the past three years, I get to do the whole ‘shake the life out of the pillow to get it into the pillowcase’ dance.  Every.  Weekend.  You know who doesn’t have to do that dance?  People who buy pillow-cases one size bigger than their pillows.  Those are lucky people.  Mike’s pillow is technically ‘queen-sized’, but I’m not buying it.  That pillow barely fits into the queen pillowcase.  And by barely, I mean that when the pillow is fully in its case, the edge of the pillow is exactly at the edge of the pillowcase… there is no overlap of the pillowcase.  This has the interesting and undesirable consequence that, depending on how Mike’s head is aligned when he sleeps, it’s possible for him to get an imprint of the pillow zipper on his skull because the pillowcase doesn’t fully cover the pillow.  If I buy king-sized pillowcases now, they won’t match the rest of the sheets, since we didn’t go with the norm and buy white sheets.  And they won’t be freezing cold, which Mike loves.  But I’m biding my time.  The next pillowcases on my horizon are definitely king-sized, even if they are of an arctic temperature.  Too bad Mike can’t pick pillowcases as easily and flawlessly as he picks out nails and decking materials.

By the way, we got a new deck put on the roof, overseen by Mike.  Mike spent a lot of time researching decking materials and deck screws and finding a great contracting company to work with, and the result looks great.  We won’t be able to enjoy it up there until spring, but that’s ok.  The deck will be up there waiting for us until then.  🙂

In other news, we finished the Why We Fight series on Netflix that was produced by Ronda Rousey.  We both loved it.  Super informative and particularly interesting to anyone who follows MMA, boxing, Muay Thai, etc.  Now that we are finished with that, it looks like it’s back to the Nero Wolfe episodes which we have been enjoying immensely.  Last week we debated whether or not the show actually gave us the info to figure out the murder beforehand (i.e. if we just had the clues that Nero Wolfe had in the show, could we figure out the mystery?).  So to test it out, we watched an episode closely right up until Nero Wolfe was ready to reveal the killer, and then we stopped it, talked through our theories, and then restarted it again from the beginning.  We arrived at the end for the second time pretty confident of the killer, but it was an anticlimatic ending.  Nero Wolfe was able to get the killer to give themselves away, but actually had no proof.  That’s an extreme aberration for Nero Wolfe.  Usually he’s armed with proof.  We thought about trying the experiment again with another episode, but we kind of lost momentum after that episode, and honestly it takes some of the fun out of enjoying Nero and Archie’s antics if we’re trying to catch every clue.

In other news, my best running buddy was unfortunately out of town over the weekend, and my other running buddy friend was running a shorter distance and faster than I wanted to run, so I did my 16 mile run solo.  Honestly, the time went by fast.  I ran through the Magnolia Bluff area, way above the Puget Sound, and it was beautiful!  Sixteen miles down… marathon here I come (well, here I come in late April… technically I still have several months of training left).

From the Magnolia Bluff....

Magnolia Bluff….

I ran from there down to the waterfront, and the wind was strong so there were even some whitecaps as the water hit the rocky coast.  So gorgeous!

So amazing... this view never gets old

So amazing… this view never gets old

But quite honestly, it was pretty cold and windy, so I was just as glad to turn back east towards downtown and back up around Lake Union towards home.

I also did quite a bit of cooking over the weekend.

Veggie fritattas (before I cooked them)

Veggie fritattas (before I cooked them)


Mediterranean salad

Mediterranean salad


Piper is still doing really well and not enjoying the cold weather… she’s definitely a fan of sitting on laps and warm blankets these days.

Not much better than a fluffy blanket in the winter.  Yes, that is my bare foot in the background.

There is not much better than a fluffy blanket in the winter. Yes, that is my bare foot in the background.


I’m off to Boston next week, and the weather so far is looking like high 30’s/low 40’s.  I’m really hoping it stays in that vicinity and they don’t get hit with a nor’easter (is that spelled correctly??) while I’m there.  I’m definitely learning about a lot about New England from my Boston coworkers.  For instance, TB stands for Tom Brady, who is the best quarterback (and most amazing person?) in the history of the universe.  ‘Wicked’ means ‘exceptionally cool and of rare quality’ (example: Taza chocolate from Boston (which is amazing by the way!! It’s stone ground, and I can’t get enough!).  Also fluffernutter is a very popular treat/snack.  Dunkies (otherwise known as Dunkin Donuts) has the best coffee around.  Coming from Seattle, I can’t quite agree on this one as our coffee selection is extensive, but Bostonians are serious about their Dunkies.  They are also serious about their craft beer, particularly TreeHouse.  I have also heard that ‘if you live west of I-95, you basically need a covered wagon to get there’.  I thought about pointing out exactly how many miles eastern Massachusetts is from the actual Oregon trail, but thought better of it.

Interesting regional differences!  🙂  I hope everyone’s week is off to a great start!

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Filed under Cooking, CSA, Food, Life in Seattle, Momentous Events, Pictures, Running, Seattle

A Record Number of Home Depot trips

Mike and I were planning on having a relaxing evening of watching TV shows on Friday night, but I was at the gym Thursday night and seemed to have some kind of reaction to the bleach solution they were mopping the floors liberally with, and my nasal passages were really inflamed and sore yesterday.  To make matters, I had to move desks at work on Friday, and that involved lots of moving dusty things around, which of course further irritated my (apparently) sensitive nasal passages.  If you’ve never had sore nasal passages, I can tell you it isn’t particularly pleasant.  I found myself massaging my nose on multiple occasions on Saturday.  It basically felt like the inside of my nose had gone twelve rounds in the ring and lost.  Anyway, I was also sneezing and didn’t end up wanting to do much show watching.  So I went to bed early Friday night and woke up feeling much better on Saturday, and better yet on Sunday.  In fact, on Sunday, the only remnant of my swollen nose I noticed is that when I chopped up onions my nose was slightly irritated.  Typically for some (genetic??) reason, I can chop onions all day long and feel nothing, even when Mike is really affected by them and he’s in another room.  I remember years ago, I did some volunteer work with a group of people from work where we cooked a bunch of food, and I was in charge of chopping onions.  I chopped onion after onion after onion, and everyone else in the kitchen was dying from the pungency, and I wasn’t affected at all.  So weird how every person is different!

As usual, I spent a lot of time on Sunday prepping food for the week.  I made a coconut curry dish last week that was so good I made it again this week.  I am hoping it tastes good, but I definitely neglected it while I was watching other dishes, and the kale I added to it got a little too wilted and sad.  Last week I was more on top of that particular dish since I hadn’t made it before, and I got the kale cooked at the perfect point where it was wilted, but still had some shape and body to it.  Live and learn!  Because of an abundance of turnips, I am trying out some mashed turnips because Mike likes mashed potatoes so much.  The trick here is that since turnips are slightly more bitter than potatoes, I’m afraid Mike will notice the difference and not want the turnips.  I tried to cover up the flavor with some seasonings, but we’ll see how well that goes.  I haven’t specifically told him it’s mashed turnips, so we’ll see whether I get away with this or not.  😉

In other exciting news, my parents adopted another rescue dog.

Just when you thought their rescue dogs couldn't get any cuter!

Just when you thought dogs couldn’t get any cuter!

This is Barney, and he is adorable.  He joins their other rescue dog Lady, and already seems to be bonding and fitting in well with their family.  I admit I feel *slightly* envious.  The same day they found out about Barney, I found out about a gorgeous tortoiseshell cat that was looking for a home.  She was extremely mild (necessary to get along with Piper), and I really wanted her.  I talked Mike into going to look at her over the weekend, but of course she was already adopted within a few hours of her picture going up on Facebook.  Although I guess Piper probably wouldn’t have liked another cat, so maybe it’s for the best anyway.

On another note, I’ve started reading a series of books that my grandma and mom have read, but I have not: The Cat Who books.  I have to say that I am loving them so far.  Just the right balance between mystery, intrigue, and wit.  I have also started reading the Stephanie Plum books, which are hilarious.  Mike’s dad turned me on to those when we were in Michigan, and they are pretty funny.  Also on my reading list: The Power of Habit.  It is an amazing book to help us understand how we form habits and to replace bad habits with good ones.  I’m also reading Principles by Ray Dalio, the famous investor.  It’s an interesting book so far, made up of small snippets, or principles, he has used to guide the actions in his life.  I like the way he stresses that everyone will likely have different principles, but it’s important to have principles.  i.e. how are you going to approach work?  family?  life?  Anyway, the past few years I’ve been finding myself reading more, and my books are usually divided down the middle between productivity/business/technical books, and fluffy mysteries.

Mike and I hit a new record on ‘number of Home Depot trips in one day’.  We went to two Home Depots first thing in the morning, one in Seattle, and one up north in Everett because Mike said they had a better screw selection.  Then we came home, and Mike realized he had forgotten two screws.  I’m not sure how that was possible since he bought like 30 screws at Home Depot, but he said he did.  And then after that we had to go to Lowe’s, because apparently they have better paint than Home Depot (or at least the kind of paint that Mike wanted).  Then, Saturday night when we had planned on watching a show together, Mike said he wanted to finish up some work with the light switch in the dining room first.  I said that was fine.  I didn’t realize that was going to involve him turning off the circuit breaker to the dining room/living room so that my Sonos music stopped playing, the power to the TV was pulled, and all of the lamps in the vicinity went off.  After an hour or so of working, I asked him if he was close to being done.

“Well,” he said.  “I have some bad news.”

I leaned back on the couch and prepared myself to take it.

“I want to replace this light switch.  I don’t like it.  I have to go back to Home Depot.”

There was silence for a few moments.

“I’m guessing you don’t want to come with me?”

“That’s correct,” I said.  “I think four trips in one day is crossing a line.”

Then, the following day, the first words he said to me when I returned from my run were “I have to go to Home Depot and get some blocks for my painting.”  Keeping that man away from Home Depot would be a futile attempt, so I don’t attempt it.

Mike and I have been continuing to watch the Nero Wolfe mysteries, and we have also been watching Why We Fight, a season of eight shows produced by Ronda Rousey that details different types of fighters (i.e. Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, MMA, etc).  Super interesting!  And it’s shown on Verizon’s Go90 video streaming service (who knew they were trying to jump into the ‘streaming original content’ game?).  I haven’t quite figured out how Go90 makes money, because all of their shows are free to stream online, and I haven’t seen any commercials or ads yet.  Regardless, this show has been really interesting so far!  It’s only one season of eight episodes, and we are already halfway done with episode 6, so we are almost done.  Hopefully another season gets made.

In other news, I am now officially one week into marathon training mode.  Eugene 2018!  My running buddy and I ran 16 miles this morning.  She is running Boston in mid-April, and I will be running Eugene two weeks later, so we’re pretty close training schedule wise.  Sixteen miles is the longest that either of us have run since we did Ragnar in July of 2017, so it has clearly been awhile.  It was slightly painful, but not as bad as I expected.  I still was able to come home, shower, and then spend three hours in the kitchen food prepping standing up (which quite frankly is sometimes pretty painful after a long run).  I had a great time catching up with her, especially since she’ll be out of town next weekend, and we’ll both be out of town the weekend after that (her in Colorado and me in Boston), so we won’t be running together for another couple of weeks.

Pic from my run this morning

Pic from my morning run

I just feel so amazed that I can run four miles from my house and see this… Mount Rainier past the Puget Sound.  So grateful!!

Tonight Mike and I are planning on relaxing and watching shows, since he has been painting railings and re-installing light switches and I have been cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry.  Time for some relaxation!  🙂  Hope everyone has a wonderful week!


Filed under Cooking, Dogs, Dogs + Cats, Food, Life in Seattle, Running, Seattle