Seattle, Day Three | Fremont Again, and Ballard

There was no workout the third day of our Seattle trip; no, not a chance. Instead, there was chocolate, and lots of it!

But first, predictably, there was some more fighting for parking. I’m convinced that the only reason I didn’t arrive in frustrated tears for our tour of Theo Chocolate was because I had a cup of really excellent coffee in my hand from Caffé Vita, and had eaten more than my fair share of a marionberry and peach muffin with it. (Marionberries! The former D.C. resident in me was amused at the thought of Washington’s infamous former mayor, and the rest of me was just impressed by the PNW’s produce selection.) But the parking gods smiled upon us at the last second, and we arrived at 10:29 a.m. for our 10:30 tour.

Hairnet securely fastened, I was immediately impressed by our theater professional/tour guide Tristan’s ability to make me forget about how much I disliked driving in Seattle; he was armed with good humor and numerous chocolate samples, which may have helped. Between all of the tasting, a thorough explanation of cacao farming practices, and a walk-through of the factory floor and confectionery, the tour was one of the highlights of a trip stuffed full of highlights.

We met my brother for a farewell lunch at Paseo, toting our Caribbean roast pork and caramelized onion sandwiches away from the crowds to Fremont Peak Park. We ate quietly, blissfully distracted by our sandwiches and the view of the city, the water, and the mountains—a view that I can’t imagine would ever get old. We split another chocolate bar, just because.

After hugging Jamie goodbye, we stopped into the Book Larder to peruse their vast selection of cookbooks, buying one for a friend’s birthday and another to keep for ourselves. I was blown away at the breadth and depth of their library, but was glad I hadn’t gone in hungry; flipping through glossy pages plastered with tantalizing photos of grilled meats and ice cream cones wouldn’t have helped the cause.

For the rest of the day, we headed off to Ballard, the last neighborhood we wanted to tour before leaving the city. We started at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, which connect the Puget Sound to inland freshwater lakes, and spent a good long time breathing in the salty air and watching salmon pass through the fish ladder.

I’d promised Dan a belated birthday dinner at The Walrus and the Carpenter, where he could try the first insanely fresh oyster of his young adult life. We lined up right before the doors opened for dinner service, and by the time we had glasses of vinho verde in hand, the place was full, buzzing with the laid-back, lively chatter of a really good dinner party. Icy oysters were followed by a carrot salad with honey and hazelnuts; then buttery, tender scallop tartare with an airy dill mousse; then spicy fried oysters that seared off the roof of my mouth; then steak tartare topped, terrifyingly and deliciously, with a raw egg yolk; then a wedge of cheddar cheese nestled among vinegar-preserved cherries; and finally, a white flag. We walked around the cute little record and poster shops of Market Street and Ballard Avenue for hours while we digested, dangerously near comatose.

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I had some sort of death wish when I made us get a molten chocolate-peanut butter cake from Hot Cakes to eat while we watched the sun set from the beach at Golden Gardens. But I’m glad we ended up there, watching the sun dip behind the mountains, listening to the beats emanating from an amateurish drum circle and spooning warm bites of half-baked cake batter and ice cream into our mouths (until it got too chilly to stay, and we drove on to Chuck’s Hop Shop to buy beer). Because really, is there any better way to watch a sunset?

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film Kodak Portra 400

Seattle, Day Two | Downtown, Queen Anne and Fremont

On our second day in Seattle, we woke up early to the morning sun streaming through our little AirBNB’s skylights. A ten-minute drive later, we were standing on the starting line of the running path around Green Lake; the forested, immaculately-maintained loop around the sparkling water was an even 3.1 miles, making for the perfect celebration of the eight weeks of Couch to 5K training we were completing that morning. Other early-morning joggers shuffled along behind and ahead of us, and the sun was still hanging low in the sky; for the next thirty minutes, I almost forgot about the heat wave that would soon be settling in like a third wheel for the rest of our trip.

Soon, we were tucked in among the towering bookshelves at the flagship Top Pot Doughnuts downtown, tucking into a blueberry fritter, a chocolate doughnut slathered in salted caramel, and a maple-frosted cake doughnut. (The 1.5:1 pastry-to-human ratio is a theme that runs predictably through most vacations I take.) We washed it all down with gulps of coffee, rationalizing every sugary bite with memories of our earlier 5K victory.

Satiated, we took on the busy plaza surrounding the Space Needle, looking up briefly to admire the view before heading into Chihuly Garden and Glass, a museum built to showcase Dale Chihuly’s intricate and inventive blown-glass pieces. The museum was tiny but utterly worth a stop: I’d never seen anything like the backlit installation draped like a canopy across the ceiling, or the greenhouse bursting with floating glass flowers, or the canoes overflowing with Technicolor glass ornaments, or the garden filled with glass sculptures planted alongside lookalike flowers. We walked through once, then backtracked, then wandered through our favorite parts again, marveling at the years’ worth of projects that added up to a life’s work.

My brother met us downtown, where we detoured through the Olympic Sculpture Park before driving to Pioneer Square for lunch. I’d heard amazing things about Il Corvo, a weekday lunch spot that dished out three different plates of fresh pasta every day. Between the three of us, we ordered everything on the menu: maccheroni all’Arrabbiata for Jamie, squid ink gigli with salsa verde, sardines and bread crumbs for Dan, and pappardelle with pancetta, turnips and turnip greens for me. Everything was showered with mountains of Parmesan. And since each meal cost $9 apiece, it was a satisfying lunch on a couple of different levels.

Always thinking about the next meal, we stopped by Rain Shadow Meats and began to assemble the building blocks of dinner. The sandwich we bought there—spicy roast lamb leg held between slices of sourdough, slathered in pesto and topped with cucumbers and pickled fennel—was by far the fanciest thing we’d end up getting. After fighting tooth and nail for parking at Pike Place Market, the rest of the picnic came together in a matter of minutes: raspberries, Rainier cherries, sugar snap peas, Beecher’s cheese curds, and a potato and cheese hand pie from Piroshky Piroshky. Done and done.

We all grabbed blood orange ginger beer from Rachel’s Ginger Beer across the street, and fought tooth and nail for another parking spot on a steep hill near the Seattle Central Library. (Aside from “too many pastries,” the other theme of this trip was “fighting for parking.” Such is life!) I don’t often equate “library” with “must-see tourist attraction,” but this was the coolest, most modern take on a public reading space that I’ve ever seen, and completely worth the stop. We rode the elevator up to the 10th floor to gaze down through the atrium at the countless tiny, tiny readers below, and made our way back down a series of escalators, pausing to gaze over the railings at all the public art and architectural marvels.

As dusk settled in on the city, we checked out a potential picnic spot in Queen Anne; Kerry Park boasted gorgeous skyline views but was a bit too small to share with the high school cheerleaders practicing there. Parting ways with Jamie, we sat down in the grass at Gas Works Park instead, and it was just right. Plus, it was right by the Fremont Troll, whom we called on as the sun was setting. At Fremont Brewery, we finally—finally!—stopped moving, sipping our respective beers and marveling at how ridiculously full the day had been, but how glad we were that we’d made every stop: these were neighborhoods truly worth getting to know.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400

Seattle, Day One | Capitol Hill

For most of my adult life, all I knew about Seattle was that it came recommended by a college roommate with excellent taste, and thus I knew it must be an excellent city. QED. When that same friend got hitched in the Pacific Northwest—conveniently, right after my younger brother moved to Washington—building a Seattle tour around her wedding was an inevitability. I needed to finally see what this PNW fuss was all about.

As the trip approached, my natural tendency to make things more complicated than they need to be had emerged; I’d learned just enough about the city, as they say, to be dangerous. You could accuse me of helicopter-parenting Dan’s and my three-day Seattle itinerary, and you wouldn’t be wrong! Of course, I’ll also use my friends Maggie and Catherine as scapegoats—when prompted, they both provided me with a full summer’s worth of spot-on recommendations—for the ballooning of our itinerary into a full-on logistics briefing.

But what a beautiful logistics briefing it was! We began in Capitol Hill.

Our first day started and ended at Melrose Market—for lunch at Homegrown, and then for the most carefully-prepared dinner I’ve ever eaten at Sitka & Spruce. (It was presented with an equal amount of care, too: by the chef himself! Talk about a full-service establishment.) In between meals, we took advantage of happy hour at the Pine Box, the second stop in what is seemingly a fledgling cross-country tour of funeral homes converted into bars—hey, Brewery Vivant! We’ll be back.

My brother joined just in time to lead us on a walking tour of his intimidatingly cool neighborhood: first along Broadway, the main drag, and then traversing side streets for detours through some Capitol Hill gems. We hit up Molly Moon’s for an instant-gratification sugar fix (balsamic strawberry ice cream? If you insist), and Cupcake Royale for a delayed-gratification one (their Blueberry Brown Betty’s streuseled brown sugar-cream cheese icing would have to wait till after dinner).

The Elliott Bay Book Company provided sustenance for our summer reading lists—it’s a sprawling but really well-edited shop, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to finally find the hilarious memoir I’d been searching for without success. And its travel section was so amply stocked with funny Bill Bryson titles that I couldn’t help buying this one on impulse. But soon, all three of us were back to our old tricks at Montana, for pre-dinner dive-bar cocktails made with Rachel’s Ginger Beer.

That was about all the Capitol Hill we could manage in one day, but we returned on our last night for takeout Marination Station tacos eaten in Cal Anderson Park, plus a couple of Belgians at The Stumbling Monk, where tablefuls of people were busy playing chess and Magic, and I could actually hear myself talk. I liked that very much.

I took these photos in the Japanese Garden at Washington Park Arboretum on that last day. It was here that we paused before heading back into the bustle of Capitol Hill; anyway, after a full day’s drive back from our camping expedition in Olympic National Park, we were too unshowered to interact with much other than carefully-manicured trees and koi. Walking through the gates of the garden, I knew instinctively that it was the kind of place I’d want to revisit often—much like the city itself.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400

A Wine Country Wedding | Walla Walla, WA

Last month, I flew into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, picked up the keys to a white rental sedan, and drove 272 miles southeast to Walla Walla—through the Cascades, burned-out moonlike hillsides, wheat fields and hop farms—to attend the wedding of my wonderful college roommate, Kelsey. (And I took some pictures, too!)

There were many, many high points of this three-day trip, not least of which was finally getting to meet Kelsey’s now-husband Kai, and seeing how blissfully happy they were about the whole celebratory weekend, and about the beginning of their married life together. The lead-up to the wedding was filled with thoughtfully-planned and low-key events, like the wine-tasting extravaganza during which every disparate group of friends and family could meet each other and develop a fun, comfortable rapport. By the time the wedding started, we all felt like old friends.

And of course, there was the reunion with those true old friends. At the Walla Walla Best Western, I shared a room with my other first friends from college, Monica and Emily, and we proceeded to catch up on years of stories over Domino’s and, well, more wine. (I took their memory with me even after I left Walla Walla, since they’d drunkenly crumbled bouquets of dried lavender all over the backseat of my rental car. Love you guys!!) I don’t really have the words to describe how good it was to see them again; for now, suffice to say it was just the absolute best.

And then there were the countless other college friends and roommates we laughed and drank and danced with, from the bachelorette party right on through the wedding reception. I may have missed my five-year college reunion earlier this summer, but Kelsey and Kai’s wedding ended up being the best reunion I could’ve asked for.

To remember the gorgeous, hundred-degree, joy- and love-filled weekend, here are a few photos I took in the quiet moments before the guests arrived. I can’t imagine a better start to a life together.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 160

Granny and Grandpa | Toledo, Ohio

When I shot my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party last September, I was pleased to have captured so many happily expressive portraits of my family members, ranging from the sincere to the downright silly.

My grandparents themselves, however, were so busy hosting and being celebrated that I walked away with fewer shots of their smiling faces than I would’ve liked. I corrected that imbalance on a more recent trip to their home in Toledo, taking a few minutes out of the sunny afternoon to snap a couple of portraits—and I’m so glad I did.

Camera: Mamiya 645AF
Film: Kodak Portra 400