A Long Weekend in Seattle: Good Food, Good Hiking

I’m back from my long weekend trip to Seattle, where I was a speaker at the International Food Blogger Conference. The conference was great — good food and good company — but I also really enjoyed  the teensy bits of sightseeing and brief moments hanging out with old friends. There’s nothing like getting caught up with a Texan friend you haven’t seen in a decade, over drinks at a swanky Seattle hotel bar. I was so tired by the time I hung out with Christina, I forgot to take photos! After doing a lot of East Coast-West Coast flights this year, I’m learning travel across time zones tucker me out. All my years flying back and forth between Mexico and Texas were like a cakewalk compared to 6-hour, three time zone flights. (And yeah, I know, that’s nothing. I’d be a miserable trans-ocean traveler…)

Anyway, I’m now caught up on sleep and back to work tomorrow. In the meantime, a few purty photos.

I played the good tourist and visited the Pike Market. Go early if you want breathing room.

Cheap fresh flowers for sale, much like the Mercado de Jamaica in Mexico City, but smaller.

The food table for the Urbanspoon after-party. I ate well this weekend.

Seattle is one of those bike-friendly sorta places. We need stands like this outside every subway station in NYC.

I took the 24 bus from downtown to Discover Park, a 534-acre park in the Magnolia area. I think there are enough wild blackberries in Discovery Park to feed a whole army. So. Many. Blackberries.

For a relatively small area, Discovery Park has grasslands, beaches, alpine forest and sandy pits.

This was a small lighthouse, but scenic nonetheless.

The polished driftwood was a nice touch. Makes great impromptu benches.

Did I mention there were almost as many wild orchids as blackberries?

Not-At-All-Sleepless in Seattle

Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington.

Image via Wikipedia

¡Hola amigos! El Blog de Joy is in Seattle this weekend for the fabulous International Food Blogger Conference. I’m speaking on Saturday morning, on the thrilling topic of blog traffic and search engine optimization.

I left New York at 8 a.m. this morning, and it’s currently 10:20 p.m. in my homeland right now, but a still sunny 7:20 p.m. in Seattle. I’m forcibly staying awake so I can be on a semi-normal schedule by Saturday. Sleep is basically my favorite hobby, so I’m feeling a lot like the people on Locked Up Abroad (which, OT: if you have never watched YOU MUST WATCH) except I’m in a hotel-provided terry-cloth robe watching Rick Steeves travel to Barcelona I while blog on my MacBook.

Initial thoughts on Seattle? Glad you asked.

– Diversity! I took the light rail from the airport to my hotel. Immediately I noticed all the Cambodian and authentic looking Mexican restaurants. For some reason, I had it in my head that the whole population of Seattle would be white internet geeks who looked and dressed like Bill Gates.

– Tourists! Wow, that Pike Street Market would be a lovely experience if all the fast-as-slugs, oversized windbreaker-and-Velcro-sandal-wearing tourists would get the f out of my way. But I loved all the cheap flowers.

– Homeless people! It’s as bad as San Francisco, sadly.

– Lunch: Vietnamese food! Specifically, medium-rare beef pho soup with watermelon bubble tea. Man, I love New York City, but it’s hard to find good Vietnamese food in Queens. (Note to self: Must find good Vietnamese in Queens.) I also had watermelon bubble tea. Wait, did I already say that? Did I mention I’m sleepy?

– Dinner: Cashew-and-caramel coated popcorn, picked up at KuKuRuZa. I’ll be tearing into it after I finish this post.

– Friends. I somehow didn’t realize I actually know close to a dozen people in Seattle, who I’ve either worked with or currently work with. And a high school friend who lives in Dallas is randomly here this weekend, too. It (fortunately) means my little schedule is packed right up until I get on the plane home.

– Stereotypical weather! It’s cold, windy and rainy. Surprise, surprise. Guess who left her North Face raincoat at home? #fail

– Smiles! People are friendly, it must be the Canadian influence? I had  several chats with total strangers today, and that never happens to me. One woman asked me what her dress size was, as she was from France and didn’t understand U.S. sizing (um, no, dear husband, I wasn’t shopping today. Merely passing through…).

– “Sleepless in Seattle” is the main logo I see on tourist t-shirts. Who in goddess’ name would buy this?

Bet You Can’t Guess Where This Is in NYC!

This past Sunday, my friends Dora and Gene took me (and Brendan) on another excellent tour of a far-flung New York City neighborhood. While New York City can be a far-from-perfect place to live, one under-rated benefit is that there are always random places to discover, and so with the right attitude (and the right friends), a rainy Sunday night can lead you to places like this.

Three hints:

  • It’s (obviously) not Manhattan.
  • Very cute cottages here are surprisingly affordable.
  • Two residents of this neighborhood must write you letters of recommendation in order for the board to approve you to buy a home here.

Correct guessers will get my undying love and adoration…

The cottages that face the waterfront of this neighborhood are all linked by a pedestrian path.

Many homes have views of a bridge and the water. (But *which* bridge and *which* body of water, dear reader?)

The street signs of this neighborhood all look like this. Seriously. (Sorry for blur-- a rain drop got on my lens.)

Q&A with Joy Victory, editorial czar at WordPress.com (via The Editor’s Desk)

Andy Bechtel, a journalism instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill interviewed me about my job today.

Joy Victory is “editorial czar” at WordPress. She previously worked as an editor at About.com, and prior to that she worked at ABCNEWS.com, and several newspapers, including the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and The Journal-News in White Plains, N.Y. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Victory talks about her job, social media and journalism education. Q. Describe your job. What does an “editorial czar” do on a typical day? A. My job is half ed … Read More

via The Editor’s Desk

Eat, Pray, Love: Why A Woman Seeking Solo Joy Pisses Everyone Off (via Broadside)

I read the book Eat, Pray, Love, a couple of years ago, and while I found Gilbert a tad on the whiny side, I also found her to be an excellent, funny writer. It was a “quick read” and I loooove quick reads — to me, that’s the sign of awesome writing. After I finished the book, I didn’t forge a deep spiritual connection to the book (like Oprah did), instead I found it to be an engaging memoir and basically moved on to my next read.

Now, as the movie hits theaters, I’m surprised to keep stumbling upon criticism of the book and the movie that feel a little unfair and spiteful, as if the reviewers think women 1) shouldn’t travel the world on their own, at any age, especially middle age, nor 2) discuss their secret desires to experience things beyond what American society provides. I’m a libertarian at heart — if a woman wants to leave her husband, visit an Indian ashram, study Italian and enjoy the weather in Indonesia, so be it. But these reviewers, wow — ouch. Definitely some deep-seated sexism out there, and it often comes from fellow women.

Anyway, before I blab on forever, read this. I couldn’t agree more!

Eat, Pray, Love: Why A Woman Seeking Solo Joy Pisses Everyone Off Image by elycefeliz via Flickr I haven’t yet seen the film, but I did read and enjoy the book, a true story of a middle-class white woman who leaves her marriage and wanders the world to find happiness. You’d think she’d killed and eaten a few babies along the way, so vicious are some of the reviews and commentaries. Now the film is out, starring Julia Roberts as author Elizabeth Gilbert, so are the haters. Selfish! Self-indulgent! Whiny! All thi … Read More

via Broadside

Why I Sometimes Miss Commuting

My husband emailed me from the subway this morning: “There’s a shih-tzu on the train today.”

And I wrote back “well, they commute, too. To Shihtzulandia. It’s very cute there.”

Then he sent me this photo, to rub it in.

Does this little guy's haircut rock or what?

Michelada Lesson Sends Me Down (Beer-Fueled) Memory Lane

Enjoying two of my favorite things in Mexico: Micheladas and chiles en nogada.

Last week, after reading a T Magazine article, friend and fellow Astoria blogger Meg asked me if I had ever tasted michelada-style beer when I lived in Mexico. Tasted them?! Not only had I tasted them, I drank probably hundreds of them — a fact that OK maybe I shouldn’t exactly be proud of, but it does make me a bit of a michelada expert.

So, what the heck is it? “Chela” is Mexican slang for beer, and “michelada” usually means you’ve spiced up your chela in some way. Yeah, that’s a vague description because no two bars in Mexico serve it exactly the same way. Yet somehow they’re all incredibly refreshing and highly effective at cooling you off while, say, sunbathing on a Oaxacan beach or touring the canals of Xochimilco. It was a rough life, living in Mexico.

At its simplest, a michelada means you’ve gotten yourself a cold glass mug, added ice, the juice of a key lime or two, and kosher salt around the rim. Then you pour in a cold beer and presto! Deliciousness. More complicated iterations (<– a word I’ve started using infinitely more often now that I work for an internet company that loves to iterate) include adding Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, chili powder(s), Clamato juice…you get the idea – anything that turns a regular ole beer into something more closely resembling a margarita or Bloody Mary.

So, to relive some of my great michelada memories, I had Meg over for a tasting. I pulled out all the stops and procured chamoy liquid candy, which makes an excellent vehicle for getting the salt to the stick to the rim. I heated it up in el horno de microonda for a few seconds, dipped the rim of a pint glass in the gooey mess, and then poured some salt on top of that. I squeezed in the juice of one whole key lime, added a few cubes of ice, and poured in my favorite Mexican dark beer, Negra Modelo. This meant we had a great Mexican flavor combination of salty, spicy, sweet and tart. All in one drink:

Our chamoy-rimmed micheladas. Photo by Meg.

Meg wasn’t as impressed with our second round of drinks, during which I added Clamato (tomato and clam juice — a big favorite in Mexico) along with a splash of the ubiquitous Mexican flavor enhancer Valentina. Still, we managed to finish them off while snacking on chips and guacamole and popcorn laced with, well, Valentina.

Since then, our little mixer made me remember so many good michelada memories, and I started trolling our photo folders for said moments. There was no shortage. I’ll spare you the drunken details, but here are two of my faves:

My michelada on the beach in Ixtapa came in a Styrofoam cup with a straw. Which is a common way to drink chelas in Mexico. If you see people walking around a plaza drinking out of Styrofoam, there's a good chance they got their michelada to go.

My darling husband enjoys a michelada on the balcony of a restaurant in the Gulf city of Campeche. I am not sure why I chose to photograph the extra tables, perhaps it was the effect of too many micheladas?

Reason Eleventy Billion I Love Astoria, New York

Reason Eleventy Billion: The free outdoor summer cinema at Socrates Sculpture Park, which is located on the East River and has a phenomenal view of Manhattan. Each Wednesday they show a film from a different country. Tonight’s film was the lusciously animated “Sita Sings the Blues,” a film based on Indian Ramayana. (Because the artist is cool like that, you can watch the whole thing online in HD, for free.) They also hire a local restaurant to cater food, serving up whatever national cuisine the movie is about. So, tonight, under the stars and surrounded by fireflies, me and my friend Diana chowed on samosas while watching a great movie, with a 1,000 or so other Astoria residents. Also, Charlie and other canine amigos are welcome, so how could I leave him at home?

Tonight’s film was brought to you by:


And enjoyed by Joy and Charlie…

and hundreds of others…

My Brother Rescues Animals, Meets Pamela Anderson

A photo from the days when my brother worked at the Austin Humane Society. The kittehs clearly love him.

My brother now has a long history of working in animal rescue, and recently took a great coordinator job with one of the country’s major animal welfare groups. He’s been training in Virginia, and so was able to help out with a recent rescue of dogs abandoned or neglected in the Gulf Coast region.

Many Louisiana animal shelters are (once again) at capacity, and so the overflow pups must be transferred to shelters with extra room. The event got a fair bit of local press coverage and he has now appeared in at least two news videos.

Video: Oil spill dogs arrive in Norfolk

In the video, you can see him handing off the first puppy to a tattooed girl, and he makes an appearance later, wearing a black t-shirt. Baywatch celeb Pam Anderson helped out, and my brother even got to meet her. 🙂

Words can’t express how proud I am of him for doing such a heart-wrenching job. Man’s relationship with animals and nature is a direct reflection of our society’s mental health, and so my brother knows first-hand that we have a very long way to go before we’re anywhere near Zen.

It’s a job I couldn’t do, but I am so thankful there are people like him who can.