Tag Archives: Seattle

Changing cities

15 Aug

In July we took a trip to Seattle for a mix of family and business. First family, then business. We spent a few days on the Eastside visiting my family in surprisingly hot summer weather. We had happy hour among blackberry bushes slowly trying to reclaim my mother’s backyard. We watched hummingbirds in her flowers and got chased inside every night by giant mosquitos. The area around my childhood home is still wild and undeveloped, it is deeply green and in such contrast from parched San Francisco right now. We drove a few miles down the road to visit a new-ish local farm in the pasture of a former dairy. As kids and then later as teenagers we’d drive by this dairy on our way to the river or the falls, and had to hold our breath as we passed this stretch of country road. Now the cows are gone, the dairy has been converted to another use and that farm-y smell is long gone.

We spent a few days north of Seattle visiting Intern’s family for a big family reunion and got caught up with all the aunties, cousins, new babies and family friends we haven’t seen or met in a long time. Our usual cooking lessons with Intern’s ammi were brief, the weather was hot and there was a big party to prep for. Our free mornings and evenings were spent digging through old family photo albums, hearing stories, and finally getting a good laugh and a hearty dose of some awkward photos of those uncomfortable teenage years that have until this trip, been hidden away with purpose. Other people’s teenage years are really endearing to look at, I felt so much love for my young lanky Intern and his sweet sister, during the baggy clothes years of the 90s. SO. MUCH. LOVE. I don’t think Intern enjoyed it quite as much as I did.

I spent some time at my mom’s house looking for two Rome books I wanted to bring home, and in the course of searching, found a few old boxes of mine full of high school and college photo albums and journals. I flipped through a couple sort of hastily, it brought up a mixture of nostalgia and uncomfortable embarrassment for me. I was suddenly feeling old but also feeling like all of that feeling was still recent in my mind. Reading old journal entries was just too much for me, I stopped rereading after a few very earnest entries, one about my first time voting in a general election, and another about an apparently very drunken college party… that was SO FUN. Hopefully older, older Kate will appreciate how much younger Kate documented her life in journals, cause right now it just causes me to cringe. I stacked all those journals down at the bottom of the boxes and repacked them again– I think it will be a few more years before I feel ready for a good trip into the past.

We said our goodbyes to family and spent some time in Seattle working and visiting shops before taking the train down to Portland for a few days of the same. Our conversation kept rotating around the same subjects: could we live here? Does this city have what we want and need? The purpose of our trip wasn’t to evaluate Seattle and Portland for possible livability– we have no moving plans, yet we couldn’t stop. Portland has always been the city that we’ve pondered and put in the maybe category. It seems to be some of Seattle, some of San Francisco, and a lot of other things too. Seattle has changed since our last visit, and even more since we left it 5 years ago. Portland has evolved too, as it will continue to do. San Francisco is racing in different directions of course, in good, bad and strange ways. Instead of accepting this, Intern and I have been busy dissecting it, like we are searching for something specific.

Cities aren’t the same once we leave them, and they don’t stay the same, even if we stay put. Our wise Portland friend Kanna reminded us so expertly, “That’s the thing about cities, they change, that is what they are supposed to do”… or something like that. What she said was succinct and so perfectly simple, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. We love where we live, and can’t imagine life in the suburbs or the country, because we believe life there moves too slowly. We crave change and movement, but at the same time we’re living in our chosen city and constantly questioning and critiquing the changes around us.  Why is it that we can’t come to terms with the very thing that we love about cities?



Washington Summer

24 Jul

We moved away from Washington 4 years ago and nearly every trip back I find myself surprised at the green. It is really, really green. I spent 10 days on the Eastside at my mom’s house, where nature is slowly and surely trying to reclaim its place around her house and yard. All those “natives” as we like to call the creeping weeds, are tall and dense and the trees have grown considerably in the last few years. The not-so-native blackberry bushes stand taller than me in some places, and are particularly nasty and not fun to tangle with. We spent some time clipping back vines that had begun to cover mom’s stone walkways and wood arbor, finally resorting to the electric hedge trimmer to get the meaner and thicker bushes back into some state of control. Yard work in that part of the world feels like a futile fight against nature, the weeds and volunteer trees will just grow  back, as big as ever.

We learned a good, and probably not-so-secret trick for cutting the notoriously fickle hydrangea blooms. Immediately after cutting the blossoms we dipped each stem in Alum, and the flowers stayed fresh for days and days.


Going home, part 2

9 Jan

After spending a few days with Intern’s family, we spent the rest of our trip home to Washington with my family on the eastside. Christmas is not a religious holiday at my house, but for us tends to be a time to get together to connect, play games (bananagrams of course) and try to force each other to stop working and spend time relaxing, together. We cook for my grandparents, we eat elaborate brunches in our pajamas, and anyone, at any point is allowed to sneak off for a little nap with a cat, or read a book by the fire. That is the goal every year, anyway.

My mom and I carry the same frenzy-productive-project gene, where neither of us can seem to slow down to relax during the holidays (or ever). Coming home to my mom’s house and seeing her rushing around refreshing drinks, baking strudel, or finding slippers for every cold pair of feet in the house makes me reflect on how alike we are. And Intern loves to point out this fact, and laugh at how alike we are with our busy frenzy of ideas!plans!goals! Slow down mom! (I know you’re reading) We can each remind the other to take a break, but can’t seem to break the habit ourselves. I feel like we did a pretty good job this year of simplifying and relaxing, so we’ll be in good shape for the next holiday.

Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandparent’s house, where for the last several years Intern and I have been in charge of the meal. Things tend to be a little fancier (fussier) at Grandma’s, but also a little boozier and a little loopier as the day wears on. My Grandparents are nothing if not particular about everything, but they seem to enjoy a houseful of people doing things for them (and sometimes at their bidding).

We spent Christmas day at my mom’s house with a good fire going in the fireplace, sharing some gifts for each other (many weirdly, with a polka-dot theme). Sparkling cocktails over brunch blended into a relaxing afternoon, before a crab feast in the evening. As per tradition, we finish every Christmas by the fire, with popcorn and bananagrams.


Going home, part 1

8 Jan

This year we split our December trip to Washington between our two families.  The first half of our trip was spent in the wild suburbs north of Seattle with Intern’s family, before we crossed the floating bridge to spend the last several days with my family on the wilder, more rural-y eastside. Our families get along well, and even like each other a whole lot- but blending two families takes time and energy. With some language barriers, cultural gaps and eager mom-nervousness on both sides, we’re helping our families get to know one another. Everyone is eager to connect with eager smiles, recipe sharing that general nervousness that comes with bringing two families together. Slowly but surely, our family is growing with the help of some jokes, some shared meals, and time together.

Our days spent with Intern’s family were punctuated by many many cups of chai, lots of cooking (and cooking lessons), roti-making and pajama-clad afternoons. Intern’s genius Ph.D-seeking sister Sahar was home visiting from Oxford, so we were happy to catch up and hear her stories: fieldwork in India, dissertation writing in Oxford, and seemingly Harry-Potter style school life at Oxford.


Happy Very Merry

24 Dec

Happy holidays to all my friends, readers, visitors and anyone else who pops in from time to time. We’re spending starting the day off with coffee and croissants by the fire, before we join our family for an early dinner. We’re in Seattle for the holiday, but will be back in San Francisco soon enough!

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