Shopping in Lisbon!

While Lisbon is so impossibly picturesque that you feel compelled to take pictures of everything, it is also heaven for shopping.  Not even in London did I find so many unique items for gifts and myself, of course. 

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Where to begin?  Well, there is the LX Factory under the bridge that looks like the Golden Gate.  Filled with shops and cafes, it also houses the coolest bookstore I have seen and I LOVE bookstores.  Obolodamarta not only had multiple levels filled with books, it also had a temporary exhibit of Kinetic Art.  The inventor himself walked us around and told us stories about each of his creations.  From a miniature printing press to a Charlie Chaplin story machine, it was so fun and interesting.  I love just stumbling into these experiences as we often do as we wander.

Thom was tempted to get a tattoo at the local artist shop at LX Factory but I veered him away and took some great pics of street art instead.  Who knows if he will leave Portugal with new ink but maybe another day.  Tattoos are not a decision to be made in the moment but after careful reflection.

The next day we left our Alfama district and meandered up and down the cobblestone streets.  Definitely need to have sturdy shoes with grip to hike these streets in Lisbon especially as they get slippery in the rain that was off and on all day.  Finding a store that made bags out of recycled signs and garbage as well as bicycle tires, I was tempted but held off buying.  Pricey but worthy. 

Ducking out of the rain into the Cork Store by the fort proved to be an expensive interlude as we bought multiple gifts for folks who read this blog so I will say no more.  Let’s just say I bought so much I asked for a quantity discount and got it.  Always the bargainer I am!  Just expect Christmas present from Portugal my family and friends.  Thom is obsessed with man jewelry and got yet another bracelet for his already full wrist.  Seriously, that man wears way more bangles than I do. 

Thom also loves shoes so when we found a store with the unique concept of buy a pair of awesome shoes, get a bottle of wine, we both considered it but wisely remembered how full our closets are back home.  We also passed on the sardine shop knowing that while they look cute, they aren’t our cup of tea.

At Typographia, we could have gone wild but restrained ourselves to buy only 2 t-shirts. Very similar to our favorite store in Shanghai that had original creative designs on quality t’s, this little shop had so many cool t’s to choose from that it was hard to narrow it down but the one we choose for James was the best.  In chatting with the shop clerk as she rang us out, she asked if I had really read the words spelled out on the typewriter keys.  I had and it was hilarious but irreverent, just like our son, who will be the recipient.  We laughed and then the conversation somehow turned to weed.  In Portugal, the legal limit of pot is one gram but it’s still not legal though they won’t arrest you with that amount or less we were told. Sharing that we didn’t smell it all the time like we did in Seattle walking the streets, she said we just weren’t walking the right streets.  Point taken.  Shirts bought.

When visiting Portugal, I would suggest packing an empty suitcase and LOTS of Euros.  Whether you go for cork or sardines (they are obsessed with this salty little feller) or Port wine, etc. you will enjoy engaging with the locals as you find treasures to bring home.  Here’s hoping our luggage isn’t over the weight limit going home!

 

 

 

London Shopping-Vintage to Vinyl

Eleven miles and 25,000 steps later, we had walked ALL over London.  Literally.  We embraced “shop till you drop” and had fun doing it.  Starting at our historic boutique hotel, St. Ermin’s, at noon after sleeping in (jet lag sucks) we walked to Notting Hill.  Yes, that Notting Hill but, alas, we didn’t run into Hugh Grant.  Buggers!BC655D29-FC10-4252-920C-07883DB7450F

This terribly charming area has shops galore including Portobello Market, a street filled with stalls featuring furs, teapots and more.  But first, it was National Record Store Day and we were looking for vinyl and lucky enough to stumble upon the Music & Goods Exchange.  Searching for treasures among the used vinyl, I found “Stompin’ at the Savoy”, a compilation of 19 classic cuts from the archives of the Savoy featuring pioneer jazz, be-bop, rhythm and blues.  Dedicated to and featuring Charlie Parker, the tracks are from 1940-1960.  Thom picked up singles from Elvis Costello as much for the covers, which we will frame, as for the music. Can’t wait to spin some tunes when we get home!

I love bookstores second to none so imagine my excitement to not only find the original bookstore featured in the movie, Notting Hill, but we also found a great sale at another bookstore.  Picking up a “Royal Snap” very British card game, I now have a plan to play cards with Mia next time we go to Boise.  “Albie and the Space Rocket” was another purchase.  “It seems like just another ordinary night to Albie until he wakes up to find…penguins stealing the furniture, moose tangoing in the toilet and zebras asleep in the kitchen cupboard.  But who has left a trail of baked beans?”  Can’t wait to read this silly tale of adventure to Mia!  Of course, I’ll have to explain what a “bloke” is and so on.  Love those British terms especially “cheeky”.   I got Thom “From Churchill’s War Rooms” as he plans to visit the actual war rooms while I am working this week.  Booorrring! He knows that would not be at the top of my “go do” list so off he goes by himself.   Yet another bookstore we stumbled on wasn’t open but we read the sign by the door which shared that this shop was the inspiration for the travel bookshop featured in the movie.WP_20170422_19_16_40_Pro

Finally reaching Portobello Market, we navigated the crowds to find Mary’s Living and Giving, a thrift store that benefits Save The Children.  I had read about this amazing shop and it did not disappoint.  From Kate Spade to DVF, there were bargains galore and a friendly clerk to assist.  I’ve decided to start a new tradition and get Hannah vintage fashion wherever I travel and this time she’ll be gaining a black sheath with fringe and zipper treatment.  Super cheeky and all proceeds to a worthy cause!

Around the corner, we found another vinyl store, Rough Trade, where we browsed until we were informed that closing time was upon us so basically, “GET OUT!” Now dark, we started our long journey home.  Walking in front of a group of millennials at one point, we chuckled at their conversation discussing a game they like to play in the pubs called, “Daddy or Sugar Daddy?” asking women with older companions to share the truth.  Wonder how many cocktails they get thrown in their faces while playing this cute game.  I’m betting quite a few.

At one point along a lonely, creepy stretch of road, I was ready to try to hail a cab.  My back hurt, my feet ached and I was a little bit scared.  “Princess Snowflake get your ass moving” was my compassionate husband’s response to that idea.  Hitting 11 miles on my overworked Fitbit, we finally arrived back at St. Ermin’s.  Time for an adult beverage.  Cheers!

David Sedaris Delights

“This will be the last decent day we’re going to have.” David Sedaris reflecting on the day before the Inauguration.  Glad Thom and I got to share a fun evening with this smart, diverse, witty guy instead of watching that narcissistic, lying, cheating racist prepare to destroy our democracy.   But enough about the rosy future of our nation…

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Waiting for David Sedaris

 

Billed as a chance to help David Sedaris edit his next book, we quickly bought tickets and looked forward to time with this genius writer and keen observer of life.  Used to seeing David in a large venue like Benroya Hall, it was nice to get cozy with David and about 200 other hard core fans at The Broadway Performance Hall at Seattle Community College.

“Theft by Finding” will end up being 2 books based on David’s 156 volumes of diaries from 1997-2002.  Because “books get ugly when too fat”,  David was editing the 630 pages he currently had for volume 1 before sending it off to his publishers next week with an anticipated May release.  His next book will be coming out a year after that and will be a collection of short essays, a few of which he shared, giving us all a much needed laugh to the point of tears streaming down our faces.  Much to look forward to, at least in books.

David opened his presentation by introducing two locals looking for jobs:  Aaron and Julia.  Peppering them with questions that HR could never ask like “are you gay?”  “how old are you?”, he encouraged the audience to consider helping these fine folks out, including a recommendation that Julia appreciated sexual harassment and would never sue.  Oh, David.

He has broken down his diary entries into categories:  animal, people, drugs, assholes, travel, hard luck, asking for $, IHOP (a place he goes to observe people), etc. Needing to edit clumsy passages if “There’s no music to it”, the book will be a culmination of the best that the diaries have to offer and thus the enormous size of the books as they stand now. More pages are good for me, David, so don’t edit too much!

Looking back on many dairy entries of his travels including his forced visit to a Johnny Rocket diner where the waitresses put smiley faces on your hamburgers with ketchup but David requested a swastika instead and the reaction that elicited, his tales of his family really stand out as both relatable and hysterical.  With a dad who is mostly angry and ridiculing, David related that when he recently fell off a ladder and hurt himself, he was amazed that his dad instantly turned caring after just having an argument prior to the incident.  Family is family.  Or his dad’s aversion to candlelight at the dinner table that his mom favored and his own aversion to the harshness of overhead lighting.  Even a 15-year old David appreciated the softness of afternoon light and favored lamps covered with scarves to reduce the glare.  Doesn’t every 15-year old boy?

Hugh is David’s partner and is featured in many of his diary entries.  Relating when, after many years together, they finally had THE discussion of how many people they had each slept with, Hugh just kept counting, “moving on to a population of a small town”.  David reflected that it was a miracle that they both didn’t get AIDS and when Hugh finally got around to sharing his “total slept with” number, David couldn’t help but state the obvious:  “Whore!”

Always a fashion statement, David favors culottes and modelled a smock from Japan that had snaps up the front AND the back, though he couldn’t fathom why the snaps were needed in the back.  I always look forward to his unique outfits befitting his personality.

In the Q&A, David was asked about his writing process and if he would ever write a book about it.  Writer’s write and the only way to improve is to keep on writing but as far as writing a book about it:  “No, it’s boring.  Writing seems so dull to me” but David takes his observations of the world and shares them with us so we can laugh even in the darkest of times.  Thank you, David.

 

 

Hangin’ with Bruce…Truly The Boss!

“This will be the best 4 seconds of my life.”  Really???  My husband made this pronouncement this morning in advance of the upcoming meet and greet with Bruce.  What about…hmmm…the birth of your children, marrying me, etc.?  “Okay, the fourth best 4 seconds of my life.”  Better.  “What AM I going to wear?”  Oh, Thom, settle down.  Bruce is just a normal guy.  “No.  He.  Is.  Not.  He is THE BOSS.”  Okay, I get it and so the day began.

Social media is powerful and Thom and I are wired almost every hour of the day so we found out quickly that Bruce Springsteen was going to make Seattle one of the few stops on his book tour to promote his new autobiography, Born to Run. WOW.  At exactly 10 a.m. several weeks ago, we both were logged in to Elliott Bay Book Company with fingers poised and pounced on tickets (cost of the book) to get a ticket to meet Bruce, get a photo and a pre-signed book.  Sold out in several minutes, tickets were later going for up to $600 on StubHub and wannabes were circling the lines today to meet Bruce begging to buy tickets or be the “plus one” for a ticket holder to meet Bruce.  No way!

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Thom making friends in line

I have to say that Elliott Bay Book Company had a big challenge and they did an awesome job communicating the rules often and in advance of the big event, as well as being staffed well, organized and friendly on the big day.  We arrived at 10 a.m., 2 hours prior to the start time of the event and promptly got into a line with hundreds of others already lined up.  We promptly fell into conversation with a lovely couple, Ollie and Fletcher, who had come up from Northern California and Tacoma.  Fletcher told us stories of her dad’s love for Bruce and how, though her car had just been stolen and she was busy finishing up her degree, they had made time for this experience. Their dream is for Ollie to retire from her job and stay home to raise the kids they hope to have.  They were lovely and I hope their dreams come true.

Finally, as the line moved forward, we got our blue wristbands and hands stamped in the bookstore and moved to another line, the “blue” line.  By this time, we were two hours in and nature called. so off I ran to the nearest coffee shop while Thom held our place in line and made new friends, some old rockers who knew every Bruce song.  Making it back in time to continue our journey towards Bruce, Thom was still in an altered state, so excited to meet his rock hero.  We debated what to say in our 4 seconds with Bruce.   Thom settled on thanking him for writing the songs that made up the soundtrack of his life-from the heart and meaningful.

As we gained entry to the bookstore and out of the rain that had started, we saw signs proclaiming “180 more steps to Bruce” and so forth and posters where you could share your favorite song, where you were from, your favorite Seattle sight/restaurant, etc. to keep you engaged while inching closer to The Boss.  They even provided a “Spruce for Bruce” mirror to make sure you were still looking good for your photo opp.  Great job, Elliott Bay, you pulled off a wonderful experience for everyone.

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The bookstore staff quickly checked belongings and took your camera/phone from you so you were unencumbered and they could take the picture.  Bruce was warm and friendly just like I thought he would be.  Instead of a heartfelt comment, I chose to be honest but made him laugh with a sincere compliment, “You are TOO CUTE!” and then followed with a plea to keep the pressure on Trump.  Seriously, HRC needs all the help she can get.  He chuckled and hugged me tight and then we were done.  It was truly a great 4 seconds.  Afterward, we hopped over to EDM to get his new album that is the musical companion to his book that features 5 previously unreleased songs called, Chapter and Verse.

Bruce, it was great meeting you.  You are a spectacular talent and inspiration to generations of fans, including me.  Thom loves you too.  Well done.

Exploring the NYC Public Library

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View from our room at The Andaz-perfect hotel and perfect location!

SHHHHHH….the librarian tour guide at the NYC Public Library glared at Thom and I as we quietly discussed a salient point to what she was elaborating on.  DO. NOT. TALK.  The message was clear and, properly chastised, we tried to remain silent for the rest of the one hour tour.  Damn, it’s hard to be silent.  Ranging in age from super old to ridiculously youthful, our tour group cohorts smirked at us including giving us the “oh no you didn’t” shameful sign.  Being quiet did allow us to learn ALOT about the NYC library along the way on our recent stay in NYC.   Silence is golden.  Well, to most people.

Opened in 1911,  the unofficial “People’s Palace” was built on the site of a former reservoir that featured a promenade around it for the ladies with hats and gents could stroll back in the day.  NYC Public Library is a library of record that has many collection rooms scattered throughout featuring the good, bad and truthful record of people over time.  We saw rooms for ancestory, the top 10 map collections in the world, historical records including an archive of menus from NYC to record our appetite timeline for posterity.

As you first enter, the grand Astor Hall was made out of marble, 65% of which was rejected because only the best would do for this magnificent structure.  The intricate carved ceilings in the outer hallways was created in plaster to look like wood and it does.  Why aren’t modern buildings built with more interesting ceiling features?  Look up at the NYC PL because there are stunning murals in many of the main halls.  Other fun things to check out:

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Lions are everywhere from the huge statutes out front to the small heads by what were the water fountains before they discovered the pipes were lead and not safe-now just for show.  They used to put wreaths at the holidays around the lion heads until some idiot set them on fire so no more holiday decorations for these lions.  Damn fools.

Pooh lives here.  Who knew?  You can see the real stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

In Room 328 Rare Books, you can see letters from Columbus, who thought he was by the New China Sea when he was checking out the US.  I guess people were disappointed that he didn’t discover human monstrosities on his tour.  Of course, Trump hadn’t been born yet.

Also in Room 328 is Thomas Jefferson’s original declaration of independence before the Continental Congress took it over and revised it.  Also kept here is the world’s most valuable baseball card.  What ball player you may ask??  Honus Wagner.  Never heard of him.  That’s probably blasphemous but just true.  Our trusty tour guide told us that baseball cards used to come with cigarettes purchases.  Yep, encourage the kids to light up and collect cards.

Of course, we had to check out the famous Gutenberg bible on display-one of 2 copies that are rotated to keep them in top shape, changing the pages open regularly.  The black ink is typeset but the red letters were hand written.  While the Rose Main reading room (iconic site used in Ghostbusters movie) was closed for renovation after parts of the aging ceiling fell down, there were so many other areas to check out that I didn’t miss it.  On previous visits, that is usually all we saw.  Well, besides the convenient public bathroom on the 2nd floor that we knew was there and used when in the neighborhood touring and needed a facility.

There is a quite extensive collection exhibited on Alexander Hamilton who is now a rock star thanks to the Broadway hit.  Seeing the letters he wrote to his wife and all the official work he did for this country was very interesting, being the scholar and scoundrel that he was most definitely in real life.

As the tour wound down, our tour guide shared that the NYC PL was really all about inspiring life long learning and a passion for the community–one of the last bastion of civilizations–and sternly told us that libraries will never be obsolete. I hope not.  My fondest childhood memories are of the Noblesville Public Library, a downtown brick multi-level joy that is no longer used as a library, but where I could escape and become immersed in a different world with my beloved books.  A Wrinkle in Time was my all-time favorite book.  I’ve shared my love of reading with my family who all think that the best present you can give is a book and the best place you can spend your day is immersed in a great library.

Random Irish Observations

On our vacation from Dublin to Galway, there were daily observations made by Thom and I on the uniqueness of Irish culture that I thought I would share:

AS SEEN DRIVING

Barak Obama car plaza near Tipperary, between Dublin and Limerick on motorway.  I guess he has relatives here and has been honored with a gas station named after him.  I am sure he is thrilled to celebrate his Irish heritage with this useful store vs. a museum or other nonsense.

Seen as we entered the motorway on big reader board:  “Project Edward Day” sign, which is acronym that means European Day Without A Road Death, with current tally at “0”, which will hopefully stay that way with us driving on the wrong side of the road, I mean:  Left, left, left.

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No fancy cars, no trucks, no SUV’s or mini vans.  Just standard manual transportation to get you where you need to be.  Lots of dents and scrapes on cars and no wonder because everywhere but the motorway, the roads are just too damn narrow.

SOS boxes on the side of the road.  What?  Not everybody has global cell coverage??

AS SEEN SHOPPING

Shoe repair/locksmiths everywhere as well as tailors, signaling a culture that repairs vs. disposes of their wardrobe.

Bookstores-small independents-also on every street but not big chains and mostly featuring Irish authors vs. worldwide blockbusters.day-1

Newspapers, they are still relevant here with multiple different papers offered in all the grocery and book stores for your reading enjoyment.  Love it as we still enjoy a daily newspaper delivered to our door in the States but we are the only ones in our building to do so probably because we are also the oldest residents as well.  Blah.

 

Resale/consignment/vintage stores are plentiful.  Thrifty and trendy at the same time.  We stopped by the Salvation Army one and browsed the wide selection of clothes, housewares and some vinyl.  One small gallery of shops had not only a great vinyl shop but a vintage clothing store and a variety of stalls selling everything from nuts to posters.  Love places like this!

Gyms are few and far between with the main sport being lifting a pint.  Irish excel at that sport.  True-I’ve been to many a pub on this trip and witnessed this sport first hand.

Knobs and Knockers was one of the best titled stores, selling, you guessed it, just door knockers and door knobs.  The doors of Ireland are beautiful and a subject of many photographs.  Thom told me a red door means the house is paid off.  Now when I see a red door, I’m thinking to myself, “well done” to the occupants and enjoy no more mortgage payments.

Travel agencies are still around and, based on the number of them, I would say fairly popular.  Thinking the “seasoned” generation is not tech savvy and needs assistance scoring a ticket or reservation.

Grocery shopping with the locals is always a great way to understand a culture.  At Aldi’s, there were literally bulk stacks of meringue circles.  In the bread aisle, always a huge focus here where carbs rule, there were packages of pancakes and waffles in with all the other items we would normally see.  The cakes/buns/jelly roll selection was wide and varied.  Tea time!  Beside a stack of goose fat jars, you could also find baked beans in ready-to-go single service packs.  Yum.  Irish yogurt is tasty and comes in tiny glass jars.  Cute.

In many groceries, there are loaves of bread, scones, etc. heaped in open air baskets.  Kind of yucky to us uptight Americans who are used to everything being covered up or behind the counter vs. everyone can touch and feel and explore the pastries with their grubby, germ-infested hands.  No thank you.

MISC. STUFF

Smoking restrictions inside pubs are more of a “guideline” with many drinkers huddled outside around barrels and on adjacent outdoor patios enjoying a pint and a puff.  No restrictions here about staying 25 feet away from the building to inhale carcinogens.  That would be very inconvenient for the pub staff to service the refills.

300,000 people attending the Ploughman Competition outside Dublin where they do farm games.  Headlines daily in the newspapers-big deal here.

Sheep are sometimes spray painted blue or green or yellow.  What.  The.  Hell.

Hen Parties for bridal parties and Stag Parties for the guys are HUGE in Galway.

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There is a two day bus/rail strike planned for Thursday/Friday.  Thank goodness we have a car and aren’t reliant on public transportation as we usually are when we travel.  Then on Saturday there is a huge “Repeal” protest in Dublin to protest the strict abortion laws.  Thom usually attracts protests so surprised we won’t be there for it.  In this very Catholic country, they are fighting with the church which never goes well.

My Happy Places in Seattle

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

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

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Seattle sunsets are striking any time of the year!

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Sculpture Park is serene and beautiful.

 

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

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

 

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

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Chinatown!

 

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

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The Uptown in Lower Queen Anne is a charmer!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fun Friday Happenings in Seattle!

Despite a busy work day on Friday, I managed to squeeze in some shopping at the new and “only one in the world”  Amazon Bookstore at University Village that just opened up and then joined the “IT” crowd at the Seattle Art Museum REMIX event in the evening.  Fun in Seattle despite a dreary day!

Seattle Art Museum Remix Event on Friday night-dancing, art and music!

Seattle Art Museum REMIX Event on Friday night-dancing, art and music! What’s not to like?

While working at UV, my team and I tried to get into Din Tai Fung for lunch but to no avail–still widely popular (also in China!) this dumpling superstar restaurant had a one hour wait time at 11:30 a.m. just after opening.  WTF!!!  They’re good but they’re just pork dumplings people!  Okay for tourists and leisure shoppers to wait it out but, on a work lunch hour, not so much for us.  So we traipsed across the street to another place that probably loves being so close to Din Tai Fung because it gets people like us who can’t wait.  After some lovely fish tacos, I just had to check out the Amazon Bookstore that was all the rage in recent national headlines.  Thom shared with me some source that quipped, “first they killed the bookstore and now they’re wearing their dead skin”– pretty graphic but true.  As most online retailers are learning, you can make a lot of money online but it doesn’t replace the experience of being able to serve customers face-to-face and hear their feedback.

Each book has a sign with reader review and upc code

Each book has a sign with reader review and upc code

Amazon Book Store at University Village was hopping on Friday

Amazon Book Store at University Village was hopping on Friday

The Amazon bookstore is not a comfortable place-no overstuffed chairs or cafés like Elliott Bay Bookstore, my favorite on Capital Hill, though they do have ledges by the window to perch on uncomfortably while checking out the merchandise.  Message here is:  stay but not too long-buy our stuff and get the hell out for the next customer.  Their hardware takes up the center of the store, Kindles and such, but the true star of the store is the authentic, not electronic, books that beg to be bought and curled up with on a rainy Seattle day. I actually liked how the signs for each book feature a customer review and their endcaps have delightful curated selections like “if you like George R.R. Martin, try these” or “if you enjoy series, try these” which helps guide voracious readers like me who are always looking for new material to consume.  I finally had to put a halt to my Amazon Kindle book habit as it was costing $100ish a month.  I turned to the Seattle online library lending of Kindle books which, while not a huge assortment, still helps feed my reading habit for free.  Reading is one of life’s pleasure however you enjoy it but there is nothing better than a cozy bookstore–just don’t go to the Amazon bookstore if that is what you want.  Try Elliott Bay or Third Place Books!

Elvis Costello would not be happy that his book is categorized by Amazon next to Donald

Elvis Costello would not be happy that his book is categorized by Amazon next to the Donald

On to the evening’s entertainment!  After work I trotted home and changed into my evening attire to check out the Seattle Art Museum REMIX scene.  I found out about it through a Meetup group I joined, Seattle Arts & Culture Events, that lets you know about cool stuff happening around town.  We got a $5 discount on the $25 tickets for the 8 p.m.-midnight event “after hours” at the museum.  We showed up around 8ish and there was line stretched down the block to get in-what a crowd!   This is definitely a place to go not only with a date but also to meet and greet new people, i.e. pick up someone.  The crowd (about 2500 people, mainly 20-30ish crowd) was dressed to the nines-we even saw a stylish guy with the whole pirate ruffled shirt thing going on paired with a jacked and jeans.  Somehow he pulled it off!  Kudos to him! While the majority of the guys were still rocking jeans and major plaid, the ladies were going all out with dresses and fierce heels.  Very rarely have I seen such a display of fashion in Seattle.  Loved the people watching!

Renoir's portrait of Monet, my favorite artist.

Renoir’s portrait of Monet, my favorite artist.

What is REMIX?  A packed house for the quarterly event enjoying adult arts & crafts, bands, drinking (on the lower level only away from the masterpieces) and celebrity-led tours.  We joined Lorrie Cardoso, founder of our meetup group, as she led us around sharing her favorite and least favorite pieces of art.  She was not a huge fan of the golden urinal in the Modern section of the museum.  Agreed.

Our tour guide shows us her "least favorite" piece at the SAM-the gold urinal

Our tour guide shows us her “least favorite” piece at the SAM-the gold urinal

We had planned to enjoy the Impressionist exhibit anyway so this gave us new perspective with her guidance.  Since most of the pieces in this collection are from the National Museum of Art in DC, we had already seen them but Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, etc. never disappoint no matter how many times you are lucky enough to view them.

We were probably the first to leave around 10 p.m. just as the dancing was getting going but it had been a long week and we had a long walk home on a beautiful fall evening.  So thankful, as always, that we live in a great town and are able to enjoy wonderful experiences.

Amsterdam Shopping-Boutiques and Books and Vinyl, oh my!

Amsterdam is filled with quaint specialty boutiques in all the alleys and cobblestone streets…a shoppers paradise!  We love to wander in and out and soak up the quirkiness of it all.  So different from the grand, oversized stores in the US, these teeny tiny storefronts are hardly over 100-200 sq. feet–a closet really-but a closet filled with very specialized and focused wares to tempt and delight shoppers. From bead shops to teeth shops to bow ties, they have it all for you in Amsterdam.

The “all things teeth” shop featured every kind of toothbrush, floss, etc. you could imagine with a ferris wheel display in the window.   How cool is that???  Next door, a gorgeous house cat calmly watched over the huge assortment of bow ties in every color and pattern, all tied up and ready to be worn.

Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.

Boutiques specialize-bow ties, of course, with a house cat guarding at the shop.

Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.

Toothbrush boutique with a ferris wheel in the window to showcase the goods.

Moving on to the Toms Store, which was slightly larger and featured a coffee bar as well, I saw a few items for my Christmas list and Thom’s.  We love their shoes and can feel good buying from them as they give a pair of shoes for every one that is bought.  Great story if you haven’t already read the book that the Toms creator has written about his idea to give back and still run a successful retail business.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did this?

American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited

American Bookstore had multiple floors and an author signing going on when we visited

Toms...love them and their retail concept.  Give back and provide quality goods.  Sold!

Toms…love them and their retail concept. Give back and provide quality goods. Sold!

Along with the many boutiques, I have never seen so many bookstores–little and big ones–some Dutch only and others, like the American Bookstore, featuring English titles.  Rarely have I seen such an immense and impressive collection of books other than perhaps the Strand in NYC.  Multiple levels with deep stock in each topic, we were lucky enough to happen upon (as we always seem to do) an author event with a writer by the name of Charles Stross, a British writer of science fiction, Lovecraftian (?) horror and fantasy.  He was very articulate and funny–hoping he swings by Elliot Bay Books in Seattle soon!  Alas, the luggage will not accommodate one more item so no books were bought unfortunately.

Books galore at the American Bookstore!

Books galore at the American Bookstore!

Today we visited the vinyl stores in our neighborhood of Jordaan.  There are many in Amsterdam-such a variety that a local magazine had a double spread article detailing the music havens where you can buy vinyl, new and used for $3 to $40 euros.  Quite the large assortment to pick from at places like Second Life Music across from our hotel and VelvetMusic and InDeep’n’Dance both on Rozengracht.  It hurt to watch Thom thumb through the vast crates of music and know he couldn’t buy any to bring home.  Oh well-he has quite collection already so he will live. Harsh but true!

Just make sure you leave enough room in your luggage when you come to Amsterdam so that you can buy some cool jazz or soul vinyl or a stack of books to bring back with you.  Of course, if you are needing a unique toothbrush or bow tie, that doesn’t take up quite as much room so shop away I say!  There is something for everyone here in Amsterdam.