|Day 3 and 4 of the Snow|
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
|2008 Snow - The Night Patrol|
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
About two weeks ago I started baking our own bread. Mostly because all of our groceries are delivered by Amazon, but they do not carry any breads from Grand Central bakery (they do sell bread from Macrina, but we don’t like it). First off, I am NOT a baker. Really, I am not. I never make dough and even when I make pizza or pies, I always buy dough from Trader Joe’s. So baking bread from scratch was really venturing into an entirely new territory for me. I finally decided to do it after reading this recipe in NYT. It looked easy enough, so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be very easy, delicious and very successful, even for a beginning baker with zero experience like me. And there’s almost no clean up. This weekend we decided to document the process, so that you’d see that that home-made bread we’ve been telling you about is for real…
Step one, the tools:
Step two: measure all dry ingredients into the bowl (3 cups flower, 2 tsp salt, 0.25 tsp yeast)
Step three: add 1.5 cups of water and mix everything into ‘shaggy’ dough and cover with plastic wrap
Step four: ok, i’m not sure if this qualifies as a “step”, if all one has to do is to wait 12 or so hours… after 12 hours the dough looks like this:
Step five: fold the dough with a spatula 2-3 times, shape it into a ball and put it out on a mat (you can put it on a piece of parchment paper instead, this will make moving it around much easier later on). Oil the dough.
Step six: dust the dough with flower, cover and let rise for another 4+ hours:
Step seven: heat the oven to 450 degrees, with a heavy dutch oven inside. After about 30+ minutes, when the oven is hot, slide the dough into the dutch oven and cover. Bake for 30 minutes.
Step eight: Remove the lid from dutch oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Step nine: Cool on rack. The loaf is not as big as the Como, but it does last us 3 days.
Here’s the final product, served with eggs and bacon:
And a close-up on the texture:
NOTE: this weekend Amazon was out of King Arthur Flour, so I ordered Stone Bur (sp?) brand instead. The bread tastes ok, but NOT as good as the bread made with KA flour. So when Amazon has it back in stock, I plan to buy a few extra packages.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
We recently attended a Seattle council meeting discussing possible rule changes covering townhouse construction in Seattle. The meeting was titled: "Townhomes – Can the Patient be Saved?" Afterwards we felt strong enough about the discussion, we decided to write Councilmember Clark a letter. Here it is:
Dear Councilmember Clark,
My wife and I attended the June 7th PLUNC meeting up on Capitol Hill. I want to start by thanking you for organizing and publicizing this meeting, we found that it was very informative.
Although we are not as informed on the subject of townhouses as many professionals and community activists who were present at the meeting, I felt compelled to write to your office to give my opinion concerning the issue of townhouses in Seattle. I want to make my opinion known because I believe that my wife and I, both 30-something year old working professionals who are starting a family, are fairly representative of the demographic who is interested and is likely to buy a townhouse. I feel that we can express some concerns and interests shared by this demographic. Currently, we are condo owners who live in the Interbay area and we are planning to buy a house one day somewhere in the Seattle area. We had been considering purchasing a townhouse, although not any more. We walked into the meeting on Saturday very open-minded, even with a favorable opinion towards townhouses, and walked out convinced that the patient should not be saved. We believe that with respect to both density and affordability condominiums, as a form of ownership, offer a much better solution.
I will not belabor the much-discussed issue of esthetics here, which has received so much attention in the meeting and the online forums. What really concerns me is that townhouses, as they are now built, are practically designed to be an easy, liability-free money maker for the developers, while leaving a home buyer with all the consequences of poor design and construction. What I find particularly telling is that practically all successful examples of townhouses mentioned in the meeting, like the Comstock street houses on Queen Anne or the projects from the Portland design competition, were actually condominiums, not townhouses. They can be referred to as ‘townhouse style condominiums’, if one so chooses, but it doesn’t change the fact that they sit on a fee simple lot, share a common parking structure, common grounds and have a condominium association which plans and organizes long-term maintenance and upgrades of common elements.
Condominiums, as a form of ownership and organization, are superior to private townhouses on a number of accounts:
Parking and green spaces: the parking mess in the townhouses seems largely due to the lot subdivision and lack of common parking structure – it is simply not possible when lots are subdivided. These lot sizes are far too small to allow for anything meaningful. Same goes for green spaces – the ability to have common or green spaces and flexible positioning of structures can only occur in larger lot sizes. Since it’s obvious that a majority of solutions to dense living issues require the use of common spaces on private property, we believe it is clear that condominium form of ownership is a better answer. Whether it is a shared courtyard space or a joint underground parking area with shared driveway access to the street: you cannot do this in a 4-pack style townhomes owned by individuals. We had no opinion before, but we do believe now that there should be a moratorium on unit lot subdivision, if not an outright ban. Additionally, as plans from Portland’s competition illustrate, truly flexible design of multi-family complexes can be achieved on lots that are at least 8000 sq.ft. lots of larger. We believe that the city of Seattle should require developers to build on such double lots, instead of a single 4000 sq.ft. lot.
Holding the developer accountable: the most telling part of the meeting was when Dan Duffus decried the necessity of having a 7-year liability when building a condominium and how this made it unprofitable for developers to … wait… actually stand by their product! Having no comparable liability for townhouses practically invites and encourages poor construction practices and dishonest builders. Lack of such liability does not serve the needs of the public; it simply increases the ease with which the builders can make a profit. It also further disenfranchises townhouse buyers, most of whom are already on the lower-end of the income spectrum: these people are stuck fixing builder’s short-cuts and outright defects when they become apparent years later, with seemingly no recourse against the builder.
Maintenance and affordability: as trivial as it sounds, there is a safety in numbers. Townhouses are sold as being free of pesky associations, and that’s fine for now. But in 10 to 20 years, what will these townhouse clusters look like? If a home owners association is not setup right away (and they typically aren’t) it becomes much more problematic down the road. Without all parties in a townhouse cluster being required to enter a joint agreement, how do people expect the upkeep on these crowded shared areas to occur? Also, I think that developers love the thought of selling to individual townhome owners instead of condominium association members, because it’s easier to deal with people who do not have the support of others. Again, these buyers are especially vulnerable since they tend to be entry-level buyers. With the issue of long-term maintenance in mind, the much-proclaimed affordability of a townhouse is really not true: a buyer purchases an inferior product, ends up with no organized maintenance plan and, due to the design of the townhouse, is stuck maintaining 3 exterior walls and a roof – all items that would normally be the responsibility of a condominium association.
Stairs (why flats are better): you are probably surprised to see stairs mentioned here, especially since city regulations can’t do anything about the interior design proper. But stairs, the hallmark of townhouse design, in fact spell out “lack of accessibility and efficiency”. We believe that multi-storied flats not skinny townhouses are a more livable option. Let’s face it: townhomes have a large amount of square footage dedicated to stairs. Stairwells are not great living spaces. Stairwells are not great for the disabled or the elderly. Flats give a higher degree of space usage than vertical townhouse layouts. Several flats in a single building mean you can install an elevator, which provides great access for all, including the disabled. Builders can install additional sound proofing between levels to anticipate buyers’ concerns about noises from their upstairs neighbors.
To reiterate: we entered the meeting last Saturday thinking that yes, of course the patient can and should be saved! But after consideration, I have to say we think the patient should be left to die. It is not a good building type for increasing density in Seattle, or for any place. Instead, to increase affordability and density, Seattle should do more to encourage the condominium form of ownership and the construction of multi-storied flats on larger lots.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
I came across a mention of the Swedish Club's pancake breakfast in the Seattle Weekly yesterday, so Anya and I though we'd give it a try. Tourists in our own city. The Swedish Club puts on the breakfast once a month, on the first Sunday of each month... (Hm, one thing the Seattle Weekly really got wrong. In the article, they had June 7th as being the day for the breakfast... how could that ever be true? Hmmm...)
Anyways, the breakfast was a good time. The pancakes are solid. You get two tickets for the $7 per person. One for the first pass, a couple of crepe style pancakes with lingonberries, whipped cream and a slab of ham. The second ticket for another plate of pancakes minus ham. Drip coffee and orange juice are thrown in along with occasional live music and dancing. You'll leave full. Anya didn't go back for seconds. I did and felt just full enough, probably due to the healthy dollop of whipped cream.
If you go, the place will be packed. We had to wait a short bit for a table, joining a family already there. Its a good place to just randomly see people that you wouldn't otherwise. And yes, the nordic presence is strong. I give it a thumbs-up for an old-school community breakfast.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I give it a yes.
Under the glass covered sidewalks of the Convention Center, Le Creperie Voila is a small kiosk outside of the Convention Center, across the street from the Cheesecake Factory. Seating is limited to a few tables anchored to the sidewalk, on the edge of Pike Street. Not the most picturesque place in the world to eat, but not that bad.
The crepes? Good enough for me. We split a Bananas Foster with ice cream, mmmmmmmm good. A lot of people we saw were taking savory crepes to go.
Not really the Parisian tea and crepe experience, but for Seattle, a good place for a solid crepe.
|Le Creperie Voila|
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
And just so that its officially on the blog - the forgotten last day, day 10. A day I didn't have high expectations of, being a travel day essentially, but Nijo Castle during the daytime was very cool. I couldn't take pictures of the inside, but it had some of the most interesting and well preserved interiors of any ancient building we saw.
And let me tell you, Osaka's International Airport (KIX), is a MONSTER! The trip out to the airport was in the rain, but when you are taking a bridge out to an artificial island, and the land disappears from sight... well, that's a big island.
|Japan - Day 10|
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
We're burnt out right now, but more details will follow as we look back and review.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
...Sigh, falling asleep...
Today, Chiba-san came by bullettrain to meet us at the Kyoto train station. We then headed out to Nara, a capital of Japan just before Kyoto. We saw many great things there. I think the top 3 though were the wild deer, the Great Buda, and a cherry tree of epic beauty. We finished Nara off with a healthy lunch, composed of many interesting elements. We returned to the hotel in Kyoto after saying goodbye to Chiba-san. For dinner we stumbled into a small family restaurant just a few blocks from the ANA Hotel. We don't know what its name was, but the grand-daughter's name was Senda. The food, deep-fried, was great.
Time for bed, a few stops in the morning, and then the flight out.
|Japan - Day 8|
|Japan - Day 9|
Thursday, March 27, 2008
First full day in Kyoto. We did a walking tour of the old part of Kyoto. We saw several nice temples and gardens. The funny thing is we barely touched the tip of the iceberg. There are just that many temples and shrines here. One of the more interesting moments is when we went out the back gate of one of the hillside temples... it didn't say we couldn't go out it. Well a little stroll in the forest became a rather interesting hike. Eventually we popped out at the top of a ridge overlooking Kyoto. It was quite a view, and we were very alone on top. We found out that it was another burial site for a Shogun. The trip down was even more exciting because we discovered we had actually taken a goat path up, but there was a nice trail down.. but where it lwould ead to we were not exactly sure. It went in kinda the right direction, and it did. It just got a little dicey because as we started going down the path it went from nice rock to muddy grass. We were afraid the trail would just end and we'd have to turn back up the (steep) hill. But no, we emerged out into a HUGE cemetery. Minutes later we were back on the map, literally. More temples, gardens, amazing mochi desserts and a grilled Unagi dinner summed up the rest of the day. We got back to the hotel after dark and then headed out across the street to Nijo castle for a nighttime walk under the lights. Amazing day. You could spend a year in this town.
More hoofing expected today. Anya is zonked out right now, she had to do some work last night. But shortly we'll get dressed and see if we can get lost, again, in Kyoto.
|Japan - Day 7|
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
So anyways, we're here. Safe and sound. New hotel, the ANA Hotel Kyoto. We just discovered our window opens up to a view of a major castle in the area. Not a bad way to start Kyoto.
Need to figure out dinner now.
|Japan - Day 6|
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
|Japan - Day 5|
Monday, March 24, 2008
Essentially though yesterday start out rainy. We got up late, so we decided to head over to Shinjuku and try some shopping. Its a huge rail hub with several shopping centers attached. We didn't have much luck with shopping. We did have a business lunch though, pretty cool.
We then headed over to the huge city metro building, it had two huge observation decks on top of it. We couldn't see much because of the weather, but it is an impressive structure. Rain started to tail off after that, so we decided to take the JR train to Harajuku and walk down Omotesando. It's really cool. A nice shopping neighborhood with tons of nice, expensive backstreets. We finally made our way back to the Berry restaurant for some "pie" and coffee. After that we walked back over to Shibuya to try more shopping - we had better luck this time but still no awesome purchase yet.
Feet worn off, we headed back to Akasaka and had dinner at a very nice, traditional Japanese restaurant. (First time this trip we've had to take off our shoes. Tofu that melted, MELTED in your mouth.)
Weather is way better today. Let's go see Tokyo!
|Japan - Day 4|
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Day 2 - Went to the most insane fish market in the world. How we came out alive and without fish guts all over us I do not know. We then had a sushi-breakfast to set us up right. Then we ran over and caught a train to Nikko. A long 2-hour affair. Nikko is on the edge of the mountains bordering the Kanto plain I think. Amazing place. Bigger and more elaborate than I was expecting. Then we trained back to Tokyo and walked around Ueno Park at night - the first large collection of Cherry blossoms we've seen here. Then we decided to be really crazy and head over to Shibyua - ground center for crazy Tokyo nightlife... well one of them at least. We collapsed in bed that night.
Day 3 - We met Chiba-san at Tokyo station. It was the first time I've seen him since 1985. It was great. He took us on a local bus tour through the city. The Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, a Harbor Cruise and back to Asakusa (which was way more busy then we went there last.) A great day. And then we headed over to Imato Sando for some walking and dinner.
We're now in a rush to for day #4. Trying to make a plan and get ready. We are dead-beat tired, but push on we must!
|Japan - Day 2|
|Japan - Day 03|
Friday, March 21, 2008
Politeness - Everyone here is so polite, like really polite. Even in Italy, with Anya's italian speaking ability, there were a couple times when you felt that you were an annoyance for asking information from information tasked people. Everyone greets you with a cheer, and you feel as if you can't do much wrong, even without knowing the language. We even had a person come up to us when we were looking at a map and offer to help us out of the blue. (Which we really didn't need at the time, but still nice. Especially with this wacky Ward, block number naming system for addresses. OMG. We'll address that later.)
Rush hour on the Ginza line - We've heard about the rush hour packing of people onto the subway, but now we've actually experienced it. So we've done Termini in Rome. Had to smash our bodies into Moscow trains. What sets Tokyo apart is that people do it, but in a semi-organized manner. Instead of a panicked mess, the police organize people, and check to make sure everyone is in. People actually form up into lines for each door. Once its your turn, you do push, and push fairly hard to get everyone in. Once your in, packed like sardines, it gets really quiet. Not a peep.
Tall Japanese - They've grown in the past twenty years since I was here. Most of the people are shorter than Anya and I, but many people are the same height and even taller... which blew me away. Boys and girls. Lots of tall girls wearing tall heals. So I guess they're finally getting that protein diet.
Smoking - I assumed there would be a lot of smokers, but not as much as I remember. Especially not as many as Paris or Seoul. There was only one restaurant in which someone was smoking and we saw only two other places where smokers clustered together outside train stations.
Street Addresses - Oh my lord, the single biggest pain in the butt for finding things in Tokyo is the lack of street names, street addresses and decent maps... and crappy travel guide maps and instructions. Case in point - Asakusa Manos. So its in our Lonely Planet travel book, listed as a Russian style restaurant in Tokyo. We thought it would be fun to see Russian food interpreted in Japan and we were "nearby." But the street listed in the address is not the street you'll find it on. The street listed borders the ward (mini-neighborhood) in which it is in. An area might have several wards. Each ward then might have about twenty blocks. And then each block might have several buildings or fronts. There really is no order to the block numbering. If your lucky, there will be a neighborhood map with each block number listed out. And to make even more fun, its easy to loose track of how many streets you've past when trying to locate a block because insanely small streets, barely an alley, qualify as a street, thus a new "block." Some blocks are barely 20 feet wide and maybe fit 3 buildings. Anyways - it took us forever to find the place. Luckily we located a neighborhood map. But the kicker - the address was 2-7-14. We assume Ward #2, Block 7, Entrance 14. But no, after going in circles we went to block 14 and found Manos, Entrance 10... So the address was totally wrong. It should have been 2-14-10. And to top it off, the hours were wrong in the book. It was closed. Thanks Lonely Planet!! Wankers.
Fashion - Well Anya was really impressed with how made up women in Rome were. In Paris, even more so by a huge leap. Tokyo is another jump past Paris. Especially in Ginza, the shopping is crazy. Huge buildings for places like Cartier, De Beers and other jewelry and fashion designers.
Food servings - How are these people all not overweight? My god, each bowl of noodles I eat just hits me like a brick. Its all good and stuff, but wow - its not like they serve tiny portions here. Starving has not been a problem.
So we're exhausted. We started the day by taking the subway through the heart of rush hour to get to Asakusa's temple and neighborhood. We walked around a bit. They have what seems a cherry blossom festival, even though they haven't bloomed yet. But it was fun to see the area and all the people. We had a good solid lunch before diving back into the subway for Ginza and the shopping district. The food court in the shopping center we came to first was awesome - we have to go back there. We were still full. We roamed Ginza for a while and then trekked over to the Hama Rikyu-Onshi-teien, a park that use to be the sport hunting park for the Shogun it seems. It was a nice place but under construction all over the place - they were preparing to drain many of the lakes, so not the placid zen experience. We crawled around the new sky-walkways surrounding the Shiodome and tried to find something to eat, but alas nothing caught our fancy. So we headed back to a dessert bar back in Ginza and called it a day.
We wanted to take a nap and head back out that night, but we were dog tired.
Next on the plate should be heading over to the fish market first thing this morning, and then hopefully taking a day trip to Nikko.
|Japan - Day01|
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The end of the flight was a roller coaster. I almost lost it. The immigration line in Narita took forever - over an hour. So our faith in Japanese organization took a slight dip.
Anya's faith that a lot of people in Japan speak english has been crushed, but most of the signs have english. Enough to make it work for us. So we bought all our train stuff with little trouble. The total travel time by train and subway was about 2 hours.
After arriving at the hotel we walked the back streets for some cheap eats, which we got in the style of a ramen shop... looked like the Denny's of Japan. And yes, we did see a McDonalds, Starbucks and Denny's. We'll probably save the Denny's for later. So on to Day 1!
|Japan - Day0|
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
So far so good.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Next stop - Vancouver. Stop after that, JAPAN!