Confessions of a Traveler

Dear Emerald City,

You’re a gorgeous city. You are green and urban and chic and hip and everything I could ever ask for in a city. You know that when C and I had to choose a place to honeymoon, we chose an urban staycation in the lap of your luxury; stayed in Belltown, dinner at SkyCity, toured the Sound, the whole nine-yards.  But even so, I have to confess something:

I cheated on you.

I cheated on you with Hawaii.

I’ve never been one of those girls who yearned for the tropics to work on her tan. To be honest, “tan” is a bit of a dirty word to those of us who need extra Vitamin D more than melanin. Pale is Pretty after all, Seattle. That’s what you taught me. Even so, when you are offered an opportunity to spend a week basking away in the Hawaiian sun with some of your awesome family, you just dont say no. You just buy a Costco-sized multipack of sunscreen and reapply every 2 hours religiously.

So I left you in the rain, dear city. I took a plane to the island of Hawaii, a place that alternately looks like a lush rainforest, a dry brush cattle ranch, and the lava-flow encrusted surface of the moon. And beaches. Gorgeous beaches that frankly do not compare to the wind swept Washington coast.

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This is not Ocean Shores

And I gotta say, it was an incredible week. I mean, where else in the world can you see a gorgeous black sand beach covered in sunbathing seaturtles?

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They’re just chillin’

Even more so, where can you find a gorgeous black sand beach with sunbathing turtles and then turn around and see a gorgeous fresh water lagoon covered in lilypads and banyan trees?

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Unexpected: everything in this photo

It might be good to note, dear city, that the black sand didn’t really love us back. Somehow, tiny pieces of lava rock are like the pumice stone that would end you to your feet. Getting shiny baby-skinned feet wasn’t really part of the plan, nor was stepping on rusty metal outcroppings, but sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

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Enjoy our hilariously pained expressions.

Turns out that Hawaii grows lovely caffeinated crops of our local drink of choice. Visiting a shade-grown coffee farm in Kona is a bit of a Holy Pilgrimage for a barista. So is impressing the crap out of the coffee tour guide with your coffee knowledge and passion.

So score one for you, Seattle. You don’t grow coffee, but you sure as hell drink it with the kind of religious fervor that even coffee-growing locals can be impressed by.

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STILL – this is coffee growing on a tree!

Speaking of plant life – I know we have incredibly large trees here in your native forests. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most incredible old-growth forests a girl could ask for. But you know what you don’t have? Banyan trees. These trees are so big that C and I approached one in the city of Hilo in completely silence because it felt like we might disturb the tree if we didn’t. And in hushed whispers, we noted that the two clumps of trunks about 20 feet away from each other were indeed starting to grow together in the sky, branches intersecting branches until each tree, though separate in structure, seemed to become one giant entity.

The marriage analogy was not lost on us.

Absolutely nothing will give scale to the enormity of this experience, but this comes close:

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The Deku Tree IRL

Of course, you do share an ocean with the Hawaiian Islands, dear city. And in these waters there were wonders to behold. Honestly, seeing an angelfish right in your face while snorkeling is a bit disconcerting. You find yourself thinking “Shouldn’t you be in a dentist’s office somewhere?” But after the initial shock wears off – the crystal clear water, the schools of fish right beneath you, and doing it right beside those who you care about – it’s pretty incredible to explore the reefs in Hawaii. (Sorry, mom, I know these pictures will freak you out).

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Underwater cameras are pretty cool

Now, Seattle. you definitely take the cake as far as dormant volcanoes go. We all know that if you wanted to blow up a four state area with the powerfully majestic Mt Rainier, you sure as hell would do it (please don’t). All I’m saying is that the slow ooze of Kilauea was pretty cool. Especially at night. Especially after the crust caved into the caldera, creating a bright fiery lake of lava that light up the whole sky.

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C looks cool in a ring of fire

You know what’s not cool, though? Belching out tons of very very toxic sulphur dioxide. We don’t need any of that. Hawaii can go ahead and keep allllll of that.

It seems that there’s no end of the wild adventures you can have in Hawaii, but you know the best pastimes are sometimes? Just hanging out with the people you came there to be with. Cracking open local craft beer.Trying out a Lava Flow frozen cocktail down at the resort. Buying fresh local ingredients at the Waimea Farmer’s Market and then figuring out what to do with all the amazing stuff the bought (The answer was Hawaiian bruschetta with local bread, grilled street corn, and macadamia nut crusted chicken. That’s a post for another day.) Searching for just the right Koa wood item to send home to mom and dad. Waking up before seven am to enjoy local Kona coffee on the beach. Laying in a hammock and watching the sun set through the palm trees.

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These are some awesome people

We’re back now, Seattle. You welcomed us back with a sunrise that rivaled anything we saw on the islands. We slept off the red eye and woke to a beautiful (if not slightly bluer than I remembered) sunny day. The first thing we did was walk to Old Ballard and treat ourselves to craft cocktails and pork dips at the local gastropub, because you know what? Hawaii has nothing on you in the food department, Seattle. You keep doing that delicious, affordable food thing.

My vacation in pealing off slowly and painfully, like the sunburn I (almost) avoided. What’s left is this:

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It’s always good to come home to you, Seattle.

Always Love,

(Slightly-less Pale) Bonnie

Ampersands in the Emerald City: First Edition

Hello, blogland! Let me update you on the last month of my life:

– Opened my Etsy shop! Please come visit, browse through my items, follow my shop, take a gander at my treasuries!
– Created both bridal shower and bachelorette extravaganzas
– Finished my first ever bridal gown and saw it worn to perfection
– Netflixed binged “Say Yes to the Dress” so hard that I had to take the lateral move over to “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta”
– Watched my Seattle Sounders go into the playoffs and proceed to the Western Conference Semi-Finals! (We see you Portland, and we are coming to take you down)
– Became the proud owner of a lovely new case of bronchitis. It’s reallllllly cute.

All that happened. It was a lot. I didn’t cook very much, and when I did, it just wasn’t pretty.

However, C and I recently brainstormed ideas for the ol ‘E&A blog, and I think we came up with a winner.

Here’s the premise – once weekly, alongside my regularly scheduled lifestyle content, I present a “quickfix”-style article. These posts will outline an “Emerald” – a Seattle jewel, a place I love, something fun and local – and an “Ampersand” – a fun and frivolous activity that a person could do anywhere. I will pair them together like a sommelier pairs a fine wine with a meal. It’s gonna be classy, guys.

It may be worth mentioning that I do not run a sponsored blog. None of my recommendations are coming from the  brand, organization, or businesses (at least not yet, and I will tell you if they do).

So here it comes:

Read “Nylon” Magazine…

Okay, it’s only the quintessential fashion and style mag for the hipster elite. If you could overdose on quirky chic, Nylon would be the catalyst.

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If anybody could pull off orange bangs, everyone would have them

Hayley Williams is God’s gift to the urban street fashion movement, and Good Lord, does her interview make for an entertaining read. 

I read quite a few of my roommate’s Nylon mags back in college. Every page was an adventure in fashion, art, design, and culture told in a quirky, youthful way. Perfect for reading closely or flipping through casually.

Which leads me to my next point:

… In Rudy’s Barbershop.

Rudy’s is the King of the hipster hair world. Located in ultra-trendy cities like Seattle, Portland, and New York, Rudy’s has created a culture of no nonsense walk-in appointments. You walk in and get your hair cut by a guy with tattoos that uses the F-Word a lot. It’s pretty great.

They cut heads

They cut heads

Rudy’s specializes in men’s cuts, though they are happy to do kids and ladies as well.. This is not a frilly salon with paraffin wax dips and two-week deep appointment books. It’s an anything goes environment, and it’s pretty darn liberating.

It surprises a lot of people that I go to Rudys to have my own hair done. I LOVE my colorist, which is pretty important when you’re in for the three-hour bleach and tone long haul (platinum is pain, friends).  She is a chatty paleo enthusiast with a septum piercing who was tired of the  upscale princesses she encountered at typical hair salons. It’s reasonably priced and a damn good finished product.

So sit back with a Nylon mag under the hairdryer, and  read why grunge is the new look for fall.

It’s gonna look great on you.

Five Reasons You Should Be Watching Major League Soccer

C’s birthday is the Fourth of July. As I work at a coffee shop within walking distance of Gasworks Park, i.e. Ground Zero for fireworks celebrations in Seattle, I haven’t been able to celebrate his special day properly for a couple of years. Nevertheless, in an effort to be the BEST WIFE EVER I purchased C a Match Pack of Sounders tickets as his birthday gift.

Match Packs are an awesome deal – you buy 4 tickets for $15 each (regular tickets start at about $35). The tickets are extra cheap because they open up the third tier seating for games that are anticipated to be very fun and competitive, such as the rivalry game between the Sounders and the Portland Timbers.

When I bought the tickets, I expected to just sort of tag along with C at the games, feigning interest politely while C screamed enthusiastically in an adorable way.

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Enthusiasm personified

What I ended up doing is screaming, blue and green chalked hair streaming wildly, waving my “Seattle ‘til I Die” emblazoned scarf, because Goddamit, Ref,  DID YOU NOT SEE THAT HANDBALL???

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THIS IS WAR PAINT

In other words, after learning a few simple rules, you too can become a part of the amazing world of major league soccer, even if you don’t see yourself as a sports fan.

Rules are pretty simple – get the ball in the net, without using your hands, aggressively roughing up other players, or kicking the ball out of bounds. It can’t just be a long-distance kicking match between goalies, because it’s against the rules to pass to a player that is past the last defender. You have to kick it past them and run to it or dribble it around them.

There, that’s all you need to know to begin your enjoyment of a game that is central in pretty much every country in the world except this one.

“But,” you ask me skeptically, “why should I care? That’s some crazy fringe sport that only lunatics enjoy. And Good Lord, nothing even happens. Why?”

Let me tell you.

5. Two Words: Handsome. Players.

Okay, so this is mostly for my ladies. But seriously, look at this guy and tell me that you don’t want to watch him run around for 90 minutes or so until he gets sweaty and his (gorgeous) hair flops charmingly over his forehead.

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Beautiful, Perfect Brad Evans

Unlike American football players, soccer players don’t wear helmets or pads, so you get to see eleven sexy, wiry dudes play in charming knee socks unimpeded by fiberglass.

Full disclosure – sometimes soccer players have really amazing hair

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So… Beautiful…

and sometimes they have EXTRA STUPID  hair.

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Why??

Watch at your own risk.

4. Traditions

The fans at soccer events are amazing. They make enormous banners called tifos that cover the entire endzone section. They are fan sponsored. They are clever. Gaze upon the glory:

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We Shall Defeat Thee, Portland

Also a cool and charming part of the game is the fan scarves. Cheaper than a jersey, scarves are a fun spirit-laden accessory that also serves as a celebration tool. There’s basically nothing quite as satisfying as celebrating a particularly impressive goal than by whipping your scarf around in the air with 45,000 other fans.

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Perfect Scarf for this Seattle girl

There’s other great stuff too – World Cup qualifying and tournament play evokes the same nationalism and sentimentality as the Olympics, except it’s not a forgone conclusion that the US will qualify so every game is incredibly high stakes. I hugged a stranger at a bar when we qualified for Brazil 2014 and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Soccer is part of an international tradition of crazy, enthusiastic fans, but really, there’s no better place to see that happen than here in our beautiful Emerald City.

3. Low Score ≠ boring

One of the biggest objections I hear to soccer is that it must be BORING to watch a bunch of guys run around and never make anything happen, for a draw or a 1-0 result. Low scoring games are just DULL, right?

Wrong. Soccer has incredibly fast-paced, athletic games. Because each goal is so hard to get, every goal can sway to tide of the game. I’ve seen good teams find their way out of trailing by two points, but it is hard to do. Really hard. Every single goal or even goal scoring opportunity is incredibly important.

Soccer is so fun to watch because there is always something happening. All respect to good ol’ American Football (in fact, Seahawks’ star quarterback Russell Wilson is a soccer fan as well!), but I get kind of tired of watching you set up for plays, running into each other, moving forward a couple yards, and doing the same thing again. Baseball is the absolute master class in dull sports, and yet there is a baseball game playing in every divey sports bar on the planet.

Soccer is the kind of game that makes me nervous to get up to get a beer because I could miss seeing the game-changing header. It’s pure unaltered suspense. The game constantly hangs on the edge of a knife – you never know when the right player will be in the right place to make a break away. In football, once a team gets in the Red Zone, you know it’s time to pay attention. In baseball, it’s bases loaded and two outs.

In soccer, it’s every gaddanm moment.

Just like that.

2. Be an Ambassador of Awesome

Recently, C and I were jonesing for some hot wings, so we drove up to Lynwood to snarf down Buffalo Wild Wings and watch the Bosnia-Herzegovinia vs US game (at 11 in the morning). When we made our first goal in that game, C and I screamed for joy and high-fived each other – while everyone else in the sports bar looked at us like we were nuts. Hooooo Boy, they thought, look at those insane soccer fans. But after it became clear that our boys were out there fighting hard and they might actually win, two tables leaned over to us and asked us about the game. They joined right in with us to celebrate the winning goal and high-fived us on the way out.

That’s one of the coolest parts of being a soccer fan – you get to be an ambassador of the sport, just by loving something you love.

Admittedly, being a soccer fan in Seattle makes you part of one of the biggest soccer fan bases in the world. The Seattle v Portland game sold out Century Link Field. Almost 68,000 fans cheered on the Sounders as they fought in the Cascadia Cup Rivalry.  Seattle’s fan presence would make them the fifth highest attended team in the English Premier League, which is pretty darn impressive, since EPL is roughly analogous to the NFL over there.

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Seattle ’til We Die

Of course, the Sounders play in a bigger stadium than most MLS teams  – Portland sells out their stadium on the regular at about 25,000 and would probably sell a ton more if they could.

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RAVE ON

However, in the US, soccer is still relegated to a “fringe sport,” for hipsters to look down their noses at mainstream sports raking in the dolla-dolla bills. I for one, think it’s become more than that, even in just the last few years. For example, MLS attendance is roughly comparable to NHL attendance. In fact, Sounders average attendance (43,180) nearly doubles the average attendance of the highest attended NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks (21,776).

So why is it so bloody hard to watch soccer on TV? Why on earth should you have to have Fox Soccer channel or ESPN  3 or go to a very specific bar  to be able to see two teams with play-off potential duke it out for a first-place placement in front of a crowd of 50,000 plus fans?

Because the television contracts for sporting events were drawn up several years ago, and they definitely place soccer on the fringes of airtime. The good news? Those contracts are being renegotiated next year, so we may see quite a bit more airtime for MLS, especially on the West Coast.

1.    The Players love you back

Say what you will about Sounders fans (and believe me, the rest of the league has something to say about us), we just LOVE the sport. The Emerald City Supporters stand the whole game in the south end zone, beat drums and chant, leading the entire stadium in cheers that can be heard even on television.

We have an awesome pep rally called March to the Match in Occidental Park, complete with Pep band and normally a well-known local artist. Sometimes, majority shareholder Drew Carey makes an appearance. Then, a sea of fans march up to the stadium, singing and waving flags the whole time. It’s an amazing spectacle. You can tell, these are fans that love the team.

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But the players love us too. At the end of every home game, win lose or draw, the whole team gives a salute to the fans. Half of them walk off the field stripped to the waist because they gave away their jersey to a fan.

I was fortunate enough to meet our keeper Michael Gspurning, in my coffee shop. He was awesome. I thanked him for playing a shut-out. He thanked me for coming out to the match. We took a picture. He could probably tell that I fangirl shook the entire time, but he didn’t say anything. C tweeted him, and he tweeted back.

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These are the players we have. They love playing soccer, and they love playing it here in Seattle.

In Conclusion

Soccer is so fun. It really really is. Go to a game. The energy is infectious. This is a game that still needs you support.

SEATTLE ‘TIL I DIE!

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