Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving: First time without family?

This year was the first Thanksgiving that Matthew and I haven't spent with family. For the past four years (including while we were engaged) we spent it with my parents or his. But this year we are too far from home to visit for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We weren't quite sure what we were going to do, but I had a feeling that someone from church would invite us over and sure enough they did. Paul and Katie Johnson invited us to join them, their family and the Hunt family for dinner at the Hunt's home.

I worked a half day on Thanksgiving and then Matthew and I headed to the Hunt's home. We had a great time. We brought my mom's sweet potato casserole and enjoyed talking and stuffing our faces. It is really nice to know that even without family close by we have a ward family who cares about us and is willing to share their homes and hospitality.

The interesting thing about this dinner is, we discovered that Katie Johnson and Matthew are actually related! It goes something like this: her great great great grandmother is the sister of Matthew's great great great grandfather. So it turns out we did have Thanksgiving with family!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hey Mr. DJ

About a month ago my friend Danny (aka DJ), from PT school, called to tell me he was thinking about making a visit to Seattle and wondered if I thought I might have time to hang. I was super excited as we had not yet had a visitor and I was worried that no one would ever really take us up on the "come and visit anytime" offer we extended to so many of our friends and family.

I had to work on Friday, so Matthew took DJ to explore Pioneer Square and Downtown Seattle. They went up the Columbia Tower, the tallest building in Seattle, and got some great pictures of the city. It is amazing how even after only being here a few months, I can describe so many of the landmarks in the pictures and feel perfectly oriented, whereas when we first visited Seattle and looked out over the city from the Space Needle, I couldn't even tell you which direction was North, where Bellevue was in correlation to Seattle or the difference between which body of water was which. It is amazing how perspective changes with experience.

A view of the Space Needle from the Columbia Tower
This is a picture of Lake Washington with the I-90 bridge (in the distance) going from Seattle to Mercer Island and then from Mercer Island to the Eastside, including Bellevue

A close up of downtown Bellevue through the clouds
Puget Sound/Elliot Bay
Another shot of the Space Needle not zoomed in with Puget Sound on L side of screen and Lake Washington on R (Photographer facing North, Puget Sound to West and Lake Washington to East)

Along with the Columbia Tower, Matthew and DJ visited one of the major transit stations in downtown Seattle, the famous Gum Wall and enjoyed a sandwich shop called The Berliner, that Matthew keeps telling me we have to go to again, so I can experience the amazing sandwich creations!

On Saturday, Matthew had an all day training for some volunteer opportunities he has with the Crisis Clinic of King County, so Danny and I decided to explore parts of the Seattle area that even I hadn't had the chance to check out yet.

We planned on visiting several different places, but we only made it Discovery Park and Fremont.  On the way to Fremont I made a wrong turn and ended up on the Alaskan Way Viaduct that runs right up against the buildings of downtown Seattle. The view took my breath away. I wish I had the words to describe it or at least a picture, but I was driving and I'm pretty sure a picture wouldn't have done my memory justice. The viaduct will be replaced with a tunnel and reinforced because it is getting old and isn't up to code for earthquake safety. I know it's to increase safety and traffic flow, but I'm kind of sad that such a beautiful view will be gone.

After getting back on track we made it to Fremont, or as locals like to call it the "Center of the Universe."  In our search of fun things to do we heard about a chocolate factory that gave tours and went in early to get some tickets for the walk-in tour later in the day. It just so happened that right as Danny and I were about to head towards Discovery Park to explore until our tour time that Matt Clarke (old mission buddy of Matthew's) called to see if we were doing anything fun. I told him that he could join us that afternoon for a chocolate tour and then dinner and he asked me to get him a ticket.

Discovery Park was beautiful. DJ and I first stopped at the visitor's center to get an idea of what type of nature adventure we had time for. We were given a long list of directions to "turn this way, then that" and when we got to some building to do "this, but to be careful not to do that." We thought we had a handle on it, but soon realized that we didn't have a clue. Lucky for us, most of the trials eventually lead to each other and we found our way to the West Point Lighthouse. The weather was perfect and the bluffs and beach were beautiful.

The beach and the bluff

The beach and West Point Lighthouse

A view of the beach and lighthouse from the bluff

Danny and I made it back to Fremont and Theo Chocolate with a few minutes to spare. Unfortunately, Matt Clarke was running a bit late because of construction, but our tour guide was great and told us to tell him to come right in when he arrived. Luckily he came in right before the tour actually started. I have to say that the process of making chocolate is amazing and I have a new found appreciation for it.  Everyone who visit's Seattle should go on this tour or at least stop by Theo Chocolate for some free samples!

Above Left: Our fearless, fun, quirky tour guide Above Right: DJ and I outside the Chocolate Factory with a bundle of treats

After the tour it was time to pick Matthew up from his training. Luckily it was close by. We took a few unexpected detours on the way to pick him up, which happens more often here then it ever did in Salt Lake (the streets here swerve a lot more than the ones in Utah). Matthew was a little bummed that he missed out on the chocolate tour (seeing as he typically likes chocolate more than I do) but felt a little better when I surprised him with a little bag of his own chocolate treats.

Before heading towards the troll I decided I needed a bathroom break, so I used the bathroom in the chocolate factory and was amused by the sign above. Meanwhile Matthew enjoyed a few more pieces of chocolate!

We decided that since we were still close to Fremont we should stick around for a little longer and try to sneak a peek of the Fremont Troll, so we headed back to the sweet free 2 hour parking by Theo Chocolate and took a little stroll towards the troll. On our way to the troll we met the Lenin statue (no not John Lennon of the Beatles, but Vladimir Lenin of Russia). We were pretty lucky to survive our encounter with the troll.  We tried to get a picture without waking him, but we accidentally left the flash on. The troll scooped me up and almost squished me like a bug, but luckily Matthew stuck his head in one of the troll's nostrils so I could make my get away. For those of you wondering how Matthew sticking his head up a troll's nose could save someone, ask to smell Matthew after eating red onions! That troll didn't stand a chance!

After our near death experience, we we starving, so we headed back towards Bellevue to eat at Pagliacci Pizza, a pizza joint close to home that Matthew and I love. After filling our bellies, we took Matt Clarke and Danny to the I-90 bridge pedestrian path that crosses over Lake Washington between Mercer Island and Seattle. Again, a description of the view and even the pictures don't hold a candle.

These last two photos are of the same spot on the I-90 bridge, but one is with flash and the other without. I can't decided which one I like best.

After church on Sunday we dropped DJ off at the hotel he was staying at with his sister for the next few days. All in all it was a great visit and we hope that many others will make the trip, so we can share some of our favorite places and discover even more!