Sunday, April 29, 2012

Company picnic, 2012-style

Yesterday I participated in my first 5K run! Except it was more like a brisk walk -- partly because I haven't actually run since high school (possibly junior high), and partly because I was hemmed in by toddlers, strollers, and many, many, many Microsoft employees and their families. We all showed up on Saturday morning for the first Campus Jam activity of the day, the Family Fun Run! The route took us around and through the Microsoft campus. There was a giant balloon arch and marching band at the end, which was playing Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" as I crossed the finish line. Even though I'm sure I routinely walk that distance around the neighborhood, it felt glorious!

After the run, we ate box lunches outside by one of the fountains, checked out exhibitor booths, and I took an invigorating and challenging zumba class while Chris and Oscar played Frisbee. There were yoga classes too, but I missed out on that. In fact, we really experienced only a tiny fraction of the activities available. There were player appearances from the Seattle Seahawks, Sea Gals, Seattle Storm, Sounders FC, and the Seattle Mariners. There were kids' sports clinics for cheering, football, baseball, soccer, and basketball; cooking demonstrations; crafts; a scavenger hunt; 3-on-3 basketball; a climbing wall; trampoline; Kinect games; and yes, even a competitive 5K race.

Microsoft, obviously, is incredibly huge, and this event was packed with thousands and thousands of people. The number of box lunches they had on hand -- at four distribution stations over the campus -- was staggering. It was crowded! Not horribly so, but they did run out of cups for the water during the race, and certain flavors of the free smoothies they were giving out. Obviously a fitness-centered event like this is designed to encourage employees and their families to be healthy. The cynical part of me thinks MS probably gets a big discount on insurance rates for promoting a healthy lifestyle. It would've been cool to have some old-timey sack races or tug-of-war competitions, but it was a great spring event even so.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Next 50 at Seattle Center

Seattle hosted the World's Fair in 1962, so this year marks the 50th anniversary. It would be so awesome if Seattle would host a 2012 World's Fair, but instead the city is marking the anniversary of the 1962 event with a six-month celebration called "The Next Fifty." Yesterday was the opening celebration. Hoping for some cool retro nostalgia, we headed to Seattle Center -- where the Space Needle is. The Space Needle was of course constructed for the 1962 World's Fair, and the "saucer" part was recently painted orange because that's how it looked back then -- when it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Seattle Center is a huge area -- home to Key Arena, Memorial Stadium, Pacific Science Center, Experience Music Project, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle Repertory Theatre, SIFF Cinema, Seattle Children's Theater, the new Chihuly Garden and Glass museum (opening soon!), the International Fountain Pavilion, a Poetry Garden... and lawns for lounging and picnicking.

The weather this weekend could not have been better, warm and sunny and perfect for enjoying an day outside watching school marching bands, drill teams, and skateboarders at the skatepark, and sampling fare from the many assembled food trucks. There wasn't much in the way of 1962 artifacts, but there are some cool vintage tchotchkes for sale in the gift shop, and 1962 TV shows were playing the pavillion. ("The Beverly Hillbillies" was onscreen when I popped in.)

The Next Fifty celebration is going on until October 21 (to coincide with the 1962 World's Fair dates), so it's a great time to visit Seattle Center!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rock Band Camp

Oscar spent much of his spring break brushing up on guitar at Rock Band Camp. He's been taking piano lessons at Off the Wall School of Music since last fall, but his guitar has been sadly neglected in Seattle -- until now!

At camp, the kids were able to try new instruments and play together as a group, which Oscar's never done before in a rock setting, though he's played in orchestral bands at school. Oscar's band named themselves "The Mustache Brigade," and wore adhesive mustaches from nearby Archie McPhee. They also made a music video with crazy props, which I'm dying to see (if I get a link, I'll post an update!). On the last day of camp the kids gave a performance to show off the songs they'd learned. Check it out (and apologies for the crazy iPhone camerawork)!

All Along the Watchtower
Sunshine of My Life
Seven Nation Army

Off the Wall is holding more Rock Band Camps this summer, so hopefully Oscar will get more experience as a rock god. I highly recommend Off the Wall's staff: They're playful and fun, extremely patient, and of course all talented musicians!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Teacher love at Kidd Valley

It's hard to be a non-meat-eater in a meat-loving family, so I'm always looking for options that we'll all like. Since I also try not to eat fried foods (i.e., the fish sandwich is usually not a good option for me), it can be difficult in an on-the-run situation to find anything that I want to eat. My favorite fast-food place in Wallingford is Kidd Valley for one reason: It serves genuine, original-style Garden Burger-brand garden burgers, which I find infinitely superior to the dreaded Boca burgers, and most other veggie or black bean burgers. Kidd Valley's hamburgers, fries, and onion rings are also Oscar- and Chris-approved, and their shakes -- hand-mixed with seasonal fruit, chocolate, or vanilla -- are reknowned.

Since it's spring break week here in Seattle, it's an excellent time to visit Kidd Valley with the kids, and while you're there, make sure you have them nominate their favorite Washington teacher for Kidd Valley Teacher of the Year. (Entries must be received by May 20, and you can also enter online, mail them in, or submit them at any Kidd Valley restaurant.) The winning teacher will get a $500 gift card for school supplies, and the student who nominated him or her will get a Kidd Valley Burger Party. My kid hates to write, and especially hates essays, but evidently he really loves his Japanese teacher because he immediately took an entry form -- unprompted -- and filled it out, including specific examples of why his teacher is the best. Good luck, Ms. McDonald!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring flowers

While Seattle doesn't get much of what I think of as true wintery weather, the transition to spring is much more dramatic than the Bay Area. Now, everything is blooming! It's so beautiful and welcome after a gray rainy season. We've had some nice warm sunny days -- including the last two weekends. I've been busy weeding, planting, and trimming stuff -- and since I know nothing about gardening it's all very experimental. (We have a lot of worms in the yard, but also a lot of slugs -- do those cancel each other out?) I can't wait to see if any of my seeds actually grow into plants!

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Nook -- on scrubby University Way & 50th in the U District -- mostly serves one thing: biscuits. Fluffy, buttery, delicious biscuits. Biscuits with sausage gravy; biscuits with mushroom gravy; biscuits with bacon, egg, cheddar and tomato jam; biscuits with ham, egg, and cheese (with dijon or jalapenos optional); biscuits with goat cheese spread, tomato jam, and egg; biscuits with ham, brie, and arugula-pesto. You can even get a plain buttermilk biscuit with jam. There's also homemade soup and chili if you don't like biscuits (i.e., if you're crazy!).

The biscuits alone are basically irresistible, but Nook itself is as well. From its owl logo to the cheerful aqua wainscoting and jam jar light fixtures and snug booths, it's the epitome of hipster chic.

Unfortunately, all this irresistibility has a price. As in, you better get there early (I suggest arriving when it opens at 9, Wednesday through Sunday). And the competition for the four booths and four counter stools is pretty fierce as well. Nook closes when it sells out of biscuits (and from what I hear, it always sells out). Get there before noon on a weekend, or you're probably out of luck.