Archive for January, 2011

The best way I discovered last year to spend $30.

I love massages. When I was a student, I’d go to massage schools for the great deals they offer but only as a rare treat. When I got a real job I began sampling Seattle’s spas in earnest.

I eventually settled on Gene Juarez as my favorite place to go for a massage. It’s expensive and corporate, but I consistently had the best experience there. All of the massage therapists I’ve seen there have been great, but beyond that, I think they do the best job of creating a consistent and relaxing overall spa experience. The spa area is always warm and quiet, and I love that they give you a foot soak before the massage. I used to really appreciate this because I would often realize I had really dirty feet in the middle of a massage and feel bad. Problem solved! (My feet are much cleaner these days. I don’t know if it is the result of maturity or that five years in Seattle has drastically cut down on the flip-flop habit I cultivated while living in Austin.)

Gene Juarez also usually has last-minute openings, which is great for me because I hate to commit to a schedule. And, many of their massage treatments include the use of their fabulous steam showers, which is the best way I’ve discovered to  adjust back to the world after a really relaxing massage.

But about a year ago I discovered Chinese foot massage, and I may be done with expensive spa massages.

I tried Beijing Herbal Foot Massage in Kirkland first, at the recommendation of a friend with reliable taste. Not many things get me in my car, much less driving all the way to the Eastside, but the prospect of an hourlong $30 massage worked. I even went back once before I discovered that Two Smiling Feet had opened in Fremont.

Two Smiling Feet has the same deal: $30 for an hour. It’s open late and I’ve never yet had to wait when walking in. I’ve been three or four times and every time has been pretty blissful.

At both places, you sit in a reclining lounge chair during your massage, remaining fully clothed. All of the patrons are in the same room. It’s not just a foot massage, though that is the focus. They start with your head and arms, move on to your feet, and finish with a back massage.

Thank goodness Two Smiling Feet is still a drive away, or I might not be able to keep myself from going once a week. I just learned there is a similar place in the International District called Imperial Foot Massage (or maybe now Sunset Foot Spa?). It’s got lots of good reviews on Yelp, and it is dangerously close to my neighborhood. I’m definitely going to check it out soon.


How I ended up with a $400 dress that feels like a bargain.

I’m getting married in about seven weeks.

I’m also having a wedding. That wasn’t obvious to me at first.

I pushed for the courthouse, but my fiancé wanted “more ceremony,” and I have to admit that it felt more right to me to involve our families in some way.

He pushed for a destination wedding. But a lot of people in our families already had vacations planned for the coming year and I felt uneasy about asking them to fit in another. Once we accounted for paying for the members of our family who couldn’t afford it, it looked more expensive than having a regular wedding. Plus, who wants to spend a week in a resort in Mexico or Hawaii? Okay, probably many people. But not me.

So we decided to get married where we live,  in Seattle. And then, why not invite friends and extended family too?

We are trying to keep it really simple. There will be no wedding parties, no bridesmaid dresses, no photographer, no wedding cake, no walking down the aisle, and no florists. Our engagement will have been less than four months long.

But it’s still expensive. Feeding 100 people just is, unless, I guess, you have some kind of backyard barbecue. But we don’t have a backyard; we live in Seattle, where an outdoor event won’t work for most of the year; and anyway, it really isn’t us. We love the outdoors and camping but we also love living in the city and eating at nice restaurants. We weren’t going to make everyone hike up a mountain or camp or anything–most of our friends and family, especially our parents, would not enjoy that. So the wedding is indoors, in an urban loft-type space, with a nice caterer, and a still-to-be-hired DJ.

And I’m excited about it. It will be great to have so many friends and family in one place, and I’m incredibly touched that people are flying all the way across the country to attend my wedding.

But it’s still a crazy amount of money and time. We’re lucky, because it isn’t a financial hardship for us. But that’s not true for everyone. What if we had to choose between having a wedding and paying off high-interest loans or moving out of a parent’s house?

It’s also confusing. I’m doing things that don’t totally make sense to me despite my best efforts.  For instance, I bought a long white dress. It’s the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever owned and I know I could have found a non-wedding dress I’d like more, feel better in, and get more use out of. But it didn’t seem worth the hassle of bucking expectations and explaining to people why I’m not wearing a long white dress. Especially since I didn’t have a particularly compelling explanation: “I, uh, just liked this better.”

I also made an appointment to get my hair and makeup done. I’m inept at doing it myself and I’ll look better this way. But does it matter if people think I look extra pretty or just regular? Not really.

And I spent $100 on printed invitations last night, even though everyone we are inviting uses a computer daily. I was worried that if I didn’t mail printed invitations people would feel like I didn’t really want them to come. I’m going to address those suckers by hand, even though we are ignoring the vast majority of wedding “etiquette.”

Is there really not a simpler way? How did escaping to another country on a vacation that no one really wants to go on become the simpler alternative to a traditional wedding? Grrr. I’m off to the (digital) library to look for a good book on the wedding industry.

From the prehistoric savanna to my parents’ living room.

Campsites on Mt. Adams

When I was a kid, my sisters and I built tiny dwellings out of any material available to us: leaves, snow, couch cushions, moving boxes.

Then I left my parents’ house and lived in a succession of dorms, houses, and apartments. I moved a couple of times on my own, from city to city and state to state. I lived in a tent.

When I was 23 I had my own apartment, all by myself, for the first time. I entered full of glee because it was all mine. For the six months I lived there, it contained only two pieces of furniture, a futon and a couch rescued from the trash and draped with a black sheet.  I spilled red wine liberally on the carpet, cooked black beans and rice,  and luxuriated in my autonomy.

At some point in my twenties, I decided that the kid’s instinct to build forts was about wanting to be an adult. Wanting that autonomy and control over your life and the space in which you lived it. I thought the fort I built in my parent’s living room from couch cushions and sheets was a mock-up of my first solo apartment in a charmless apartment complex in Austin, Texas.

Now I’m 33, and being an adult is old hat. But I still want to build forts. Not inside my apartment, anymore, but in other ways that feel the same.

I love backpacking, and I think the best part is choosing a place to camp for the night and settling in. The apex of this for me, so far, was on the windy and treeless side of Mt. Adams, in Washington, where people have built a collection of rock windbreaks and shelters resembling the ruins of an ancient city. On trips, I often prefer sleeping in the back of my car–I have a cozy setup involving an air mattress and a double sleeping bag–to staying in a hotel.

So now I wonder where this comes from. Is it from reading fantasy books, which almost as a rule include a quest on foot or horseback and at least three scenes of finding a good place to camp for the night?

Or does it go farther back? I’ve read about a study suggesting that all people, no matter where they are from, prefer depictions of landscapes similar to an African savanna over other landscapes. Maybe my love of building forts is a similar evolutionary artifact, a Pleistocene instinct finding expression in my modern world of gore-tex and high-rise apartments.

Five things I love in the Pike Place Market (and they are either free or cheap).

I live a block away from the Pike Place Market. I don’t spend as much time there as people sometimes expect, because it’s only open from 9-6 and therefore difficult to get to when I’m working full time. But on the weekends or when I’m not working as much (like lately), I like to shop there. I often stop at the market on the way home from a run, weaving my way through the crowds of visitors to pick up dinner supplies.

Here are some of my favorite things in the market:

1. Merguez from Uli’s Famous Sausage. This spicy lamb and beef sausage is addictive. Everything I’ve tried from Uli’s has been great (although I recommend heeding the warnings on the garlic chicken sausage and skipping it if there is a date in your future), but the merguez is my favorite. Just eat it. Seriously.

2. The scent of Piroshky-Piroshky. Piroshky sells traditional Russian pastries with different fillings. I’m on the fence about the pastries themselves. I’ve tried two or three different kinds, both savory and sweet, and while they are fine, they don’t live up to the heavenly smell wafting from the place. Plus, there is usually a long line and I’m impatient. But the smell is amazing–warm, rich, sweet, and savory. I have literally gone out of my way to walk by and get a noseful, and I have made visiting family members do the same.

3. Tulips. The market always has a wide selection of colorful, affordable flowers throughout the spring and summer. But my favorite is tulip season in the spring. Then, I try to pick up a bunch for my apartment every few days.  I waste time picking them out, walking up and down the rows of seller’s tables just to enjoy the rainbow of purples, scarlets, pinks, oranges, yellows, mauves, and golds.

4. Cheesecakes from The Confectional. Like Piroshky, I discovered The Confectional because of the scent. Walking by, I was stopped in my tracks by a smell so delicious that I had to find the source. Happily, I found the Confectional, which sells individual mini-cheesecakes in flavors like Mexican Chocolate (with cayenne!), Triple Berry, and Lemon White Chocolate. The best part is the buttery-sweet biscuit crust. Yum!

5. The Crumpet Shop. This is a tourist favorite so I’m not sharing any secrets, but I honestly think that crumpets from The Crumpet Shop are the perfect bread-type food–just the right combination of doughy, light, and chewy. I usually go for cream cheese and raspberry jam on top, but I also love plain butter and honey, and I’ve enjoyed the more savory offerings such as tomato and cheese. The family-owned shop is small and can be crowded at peak tourist/breakfast times, but it has a charming, relaxed feel and warm, welcoming staff. I fantasize about living, or at least working, there.

The ghost trapped in my bedroom floor.

I like to practice handstands. When the carpet is freshly vacuumed, sometimes I notice this on the bedroom floor. Looks spooky, doesn’t it?

A disturbing household trend.

My fiance hid potato chips from me last night.

Potato chips are obviously delicious, and I have a hard time eating fewer than 50 if I eat one. I sometimes complain when he buys chips, because of my lack of self-control.

But last night he brought some home along with groceries to make dinner. I ate a few and then forgot about them until later in the evening, when I got hungry and decided I needed a snack.

I couldn’t find the potato chips, and, sure enough, he admitted that he hid them from me–in his words, because he thought I would have wanted him to. I still can’t decide if that was thoughtful or insulting.

We also shared part of a chipotle-flavored chocolate bar after dinner. I don’t normally like chocolate, but this had a nice fiery kick to it. Today, I couldn’t find the rest of the chocolate bar when I remembered it. Did he hide that too? I’m not sure what to think about this trend.

I’d like a cup of coffee now, please.

Six days ago, something happened that made me wonder if I had accidentally gotten pregnant.

When I was much younger and having a baby was unthinkable, I regularly convinced myself I was pregnant and spent a few days freaking out. I could do this in the face of steep odds; for example, if I hadn’t, you know, had sex. At one point, in college, I planned to contact the Catholic church and secretly go through the pregnancy and give birth in a convent in Europe. Why Europe, I don’t know–I guess I figured I should get a free vacation out of the deal. But after years of successful baby-avoidance, I rarely gave it a second thought.

But last week I got really suspicious, so much so that I actually changed my habits, something I’ve never done before. I haven’t been drinking and I’ve been limiting myself to one small cup of coffee for the last six days.  I keep encountering things that are normal parts of my life, but suddenly seem fraught with uncertainty and potential danger–skiing, cheese, the sauna, an afternoon latte. I feel unsure of my body.

My world is quite different now than it was in college, when I used to worry about being pregnant. I’m actually planning to try to have a kid soon, so I would probably be happy if I found out I  was pregnant. But this afternoon I’m kind of hoping that I get my period, and I’m pretty sure that the first thing I’m going to do is make a cup of coffee and then crack open the bottle of wine in the fridge and pour myself a glass or two.

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