It’s always sunny in Seattle

Hello Wisconsin.

Yesterday as I got out of my car in the cool, drizzly rain my neighbor welcomed me to Seattle. Ironically, I told him, I just got back from Seattle and it was warm and sunny every day. Not to brag. Our conversation ended in solidarity signs and promises to keep fighting the good fight. Before I left for Seattle I kept catching myself holding my breath. While driving, doing the dishes, sitting at my computer. I noticed that I was doing it again yesterday and it occurred to me that this did not happen to me once while I was visiting my sister in the Pacific Northwest. I believe that it has gotten hard to breath here in Wisconsin the last few months. My state, my values and my current chosen profession are under attack. For one magical week I got to forget about all of this and simply indulge. I got to see old friends and make new ones. I am a very lucky woman. As I write this my sister is riding a ferry to the location where she will be working for the day. I can’t help but feel a tad bit jealous. This summer when I am sitting at the Union terrace drinking a beer or eating dinner out on our screen porch listening to the crickets I know that she will feel a tad bit jealous of me. Should we explore and expand our life experiences by moving to a new place or should we stay home and cultivate our roots? This is what I’m thinking about this morning. After last week, don’t be surprised if the new title of this blog becomes “Seattle fun next exit.” I’m just kidding… sort of. While I loved being in Seattle last week, I’m home now and I’ve got a line on a used canoe for this summer. I will keep fighting the good fight and wait for the sun to come out. I will feel happy to be home.

In the meantime, I bring you my picks for the Best of Seattle, April 18-23, 2011:

Favorite Coffee Shop: Makeda Coffee, Phinney Ridge

I thought that it would be appropriate to start with coffee, considering that this is Seattle. My sister’s favorite (and now mine) hangout is Makeda Coffee. I loved the relaxed environment and friendly owner. They have delicious coffee, lattes and treats, including squash bread and gluten-free, organic doughnuts (I love Seattle). There are excellent tables for playing cribbage and I love that they will give you a dollar off wine or beer on Friday evenings if you play a board game. They also have live entertainment, and Dan could have played over the weekend, but we had to hit the road… Next time.

Oh delicious 2% latte
Makeda Coffee

Favorite Cupcake Stand: Those two girls sitting in their driveway, Phinney Ridge

When Dan and I had finished our cribbage game at Makeda Coffee we decided to leave my sister alone for a few minutes so that she could get some work done. It was a beautiful day so we took a walk around the ‘hood. We were playing the game that I invented while babysitting, Cats versus Dogs (you count the cats, you count the dogs), when we spotted the bake sale. Dan said, “Whatever those girls are selling, I’m buying one.” It turns out the girls were selling homeade and home-awesomely-decorated cupcakes and donating half of the proceeds to Japan. Dan bought one and donated a little extra. We chatted with them for a little while and they gave us some information on the neighborhood cats. We said our goodbyes, but as you will read later, this was not the last time we had the chance to see these sweet two girls who give you faith in humanity.

Bake sale
Cupcakes!

Favorite Cocktail Bar: Oliver’s Twist, Phinney Ridge

Not only does this bar have the widest selection of bitters that we have ever seen (lavender bitters?!), they also make the most sinful and rich garlic truffle popcorn that tastes like heaven during happy hour. And although I do not drink a lot of cocktails (I like beer), I think that if I lived near Oliver’s Twist, I might. My sister recommended the Bullseye- tequila, mint, lemon, ginger beer, and a couple of other things that I had to look up in the menu’s glossary. It was refreshing and oh so good. Dan tried the Presbyterian- bourbon, soda and ginger ale. Yum. We went back the next night like old regulars.

Bullseye
The Presbyterian
Upon our obvious intrigue, the bartender pulled out all of her bitters for us to see

Stay tuned for more of my favorites, including my favorite Major League Ballpark in Seattle, favorite bar to avoid getting into a brawl over ping pong and my most serendipitous moment of the trip.

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I don’t think we’re in Wisconsin anymore, Toto

Hello from the Emerald City!

Too much to write right now, but this has been a magical trip to the Northwest. From everything from the beautiful (and tasty) lattes at my sister’s favorite coffee shop, Makeda Coffee, to getting to babble incoherently to my inspiration outside of Delancey last night (not to mention the mouth-watering pizza pies), I love everything Seattle this week. I’d love to tell you more, but for now I’m off for coffee and more Washington adventures.

Vintage

Don’t you just love that word? Vintage? Vintage.

This morning I am drinking an almond milk, kale, blueberry, strawberry and banana smoothie, thinking about words that I love and listening to two new songs that I discovered in the last week (due to my attempt at a new freelance career) and cannot stop playing on repeat. I’m daydreaming of asparagus at the Farmer’s Market that starts this Saturday and long train rides to Seattle….

Happy Thursday.

Wisconsin Film Festival

I love the Wisconsin Film Festival.

This year I saw seven films: Five documentaries, one mockumentary and one fictional story about a messed-up road trip. I saw one film in Norwegian, one in German and one in Russian. I attended films in four different theaters and collected three buttons. Two movies made me cry, six had me laughing out loud, and only one made me fall asleep (but it wasn’t the movie’s fault- it was near midnight and had been a long day.)

Over the course of the weekend I learned that during times of political turmoil in the former USSR they used to broadcast “Swan Lake” on all of the television stations, that there was an all-Black punk rock band emerging out of L.A. at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and that there are people in a small coastal village in Ireland right now fighting to save their way of life against a Shell Oil project to build a pipeline through their community.

Although the seven films that I saw this past weekend covered a vast part of the world and a variety of topics, I started to sense an underlying theme: In a world that seems to be dominated by money and greed, you have to follow your dreams and figure out what makes you happy. It’s all you’ve got.

And it’s something that I have been wondering about more since all of these protests started happening in Wisconsin… When you have more money than you know what to do with, what really makes you tick? What inspires you? When all you think about is how to get more money, does anything small ever make you happy? Like seeing a corgi riding around in a bike basket? Or opening a fresh bag of coffee beans? I guess what I’m really wondering is, have either of the Koch brothers ever squealed at the sight of a dog in a bright yellow rain slicker and chased after it to take its photo? And with that, I present to you my review of the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.

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        Bill Cunningham New York

          There is a 10-second clip in Bill Cunningham New York that probably would have gone unnoticed at the Wisconsin Film Festival a few months ago: Photographing an event for The New York Times‘ Style section, Bill Cunningham is seen snapping a photo of one of the now infamous Koch brothers. The audience at the Wisconsin Union Theatre Thursday evening let out a collective groan. It was the perfect juxtaposition: The billionaire Koch brother versus Cunningham, a photographer in his 80s who at one point in the film playfully curses New Yorkers for being so “extravagant and wasteful” while he fixes his rain poncho with tape.

          Full of moments that make you grin ear-to-ear, laugh out loud or try to hold back the tears; Bill Cunningham New York is a delightful and moving documentary chronicling the life of the notoriously private, bike-riding New York Times fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham, who lived in Carnegie Hall in a tiny studio apartment for over 50 years (until he was kicked out and unwillingly moved into an apartment with a view of Central Park). Some of the best scenes in the film are the ones of Cunningham taking photos for the ‘On the Street’ feature in the Sunday Times. Standing on a street corner, or biking down a busy New York boulevard, Cunningham looks unassuming until he deftly whips up his camera strung around his neck and furiously snaps one or two photos when he sees something that catches his eye. His subject could be a bright red purse or a woman in a multi-colored rain slicker; a young man with his pants hung low or a group of women wearing black high heels. According to Cunningham, he takes to the streets to discover new trends because, “The street is the best fashion show… You stay on the street and let the street tell you.”

          Don’t doubt that the Wisconsin Film Festival can change your life. A few months after seeing Food, Inc. at the festival two years ago, I became a vegetarian. Finding myself in a bit of a clothes rut, I was hoping for the same sort of results from seeing this film. I even had a headline for this review going in to the film: ‘Bill Cunningham New York or Why I Will Never Wear Dansko Clogs Again.’ And while the film is about fashion, it is more about following your obsession and finding what makes you truly happy. During one especially poignant part of the film we learn that Cunningham used to ceremoniously rip up his paychecks in the office of the magazine where he worked. Cunningham explains his actions: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do. Don’t touch the stuff. Money is the cheapest thing; freedom… liberty, is the most expensive.” And that is the real message in Bill Cunningham New York: We should not envy people with money; we should aspire to be lucky enough to be passionate about what we do and seek beauty in our everyday lives.

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Here’s to something small making you smile today. Cheers.