Las Margaritas – Haller Lake/Evergreen

Las Margaritas is where I go when I need a sit-down Mexican meal but want to stay close to home. I rarely go out to eat in my own neighborhood because there just isn’t much around here that has impressed me, but this place, right on the border of Seattle and Shoreline, is a go-to for me.

I’m not super picky about my Mexican food, so I can’t guaruntee that someone who has eaten in Mexico City would like it. I don’t know much about what makes something authentic, but I do know what I like: Flavor over heat, fresh ingredients, fast yet not overly-attentive service, strong margaritas, and free chips and salsa. I usually have a chicken enchilada, smothered in red sauce and filled with cheese, surrounded by rice and refried beans, but the last time I went, I tried the vegetarian burrito, and it was really good! I’m trying my best to eat less meat this year, and it is definitely not easy, but it is making me try new things.

Las Margaritas reminds me of El Porton in Yakima, where my family went more than once for special occasions, and we rarely went out to eat due to being low on the list of financial priorities. It’s homey, welcoming, unassuming, and predictable, but in the best way. It’s comfort food and it does its job.

If you’re ever up north and need some hearty, delicious Mexican food or just want a sangria or margarita with me, check out Las Margaritas!

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Witness – Capitol Hill

You guys should recommend me places to eat around Downtown, Pioneer Square, and Bitter Lake, because those are also easy for me to bus to from work or home, but it seems I usually eat out in Fremont or Capitol Hill. But there are so many good eateries and bars in Fremont and Cap Hill! Anyway, I found Witness while searching desperately for a brunch place that didn’t have a wildly long wait, one rainy Sunday in December. There was still a wait, but if I had known that perfect chicken and waffles were waiting for me at the end, I definitely would have waited a lot more patiently.

The crispy, sweet breading stayed on for the most part, and the chicken was hot and tender, without slipping right out of the breading. The waffles were cooked just right as well, sweet and soft without being doughy. We sat in the wooden booths that seem to be standard in hipstery places, though I’m not sure why because they are not comfy. But that’s okay. The food made up for it. We also got pancakes with… Huckleberry jam? Anyway, they were delicious. I should really take notes on what I order so that by the time I bother to blog about it, I still know what I had. Or I could, you know, blog as soon as I get home. I’m going to work on that.

Go check out Witness if you aren’t in a hurry and are in the mood for some perfectly executed, no-nonsense traditional American classics.

Coastal Kitchen – Capitol Hill

Zachary had been talking up Coastal Kitchen ever since we met last summer, and the way he talked about it, I was expecting the most amazing brunch ever. When we finally went, I was not disappointed. The cool thing about this place is that their menu changes throughout the year and is always inspired by coastal cuisines around the world. When we went, it seemed like much of the menu was Mexican-inspired, which I always appreciate. Mexican will always be my comfort food.

I had a decadent mocha with a ton of whipped cream, a dish called the Sonora Scramble (the description of which includes the words “dueling salsas,” I kid you not), and he had pancakes, apple sage field roast (faux) sausage, and eggs benedict (a la carte) with raspberry jelly.

Let’s get a closer look at my food though. This was probably the best brunch I’ve ever had.

Crispy hashbrowns, soft yet solid and savory scrambled eggs and chorizo sausage, two kinds of salsa, ketchup, sour cream, and warm tortillas for piling on the eggs bite by bite. Oh my goodness, I knew I was in for a treat but I was unprepared for this level of “get in my belly!” Normally, when I go out, I have a small appetite and end up only taking a few bites before I’m ready for a box and a nap, but this time I was enjoying my food so much that I ate way more than usual before inevitably asking for a box. That was a lot of food, okay? But this was perfection. Please go check out Coastal Kitchen sometime, but make sure you aren’t in a hurry, because there’s usually quite a wait! The food is worth every minute though.

Can I Take Your Picture?

As far as I can remember, I didn’t get into photography until college, when I received a Sony point-and-shoot for Christmas. My growing love of the art began with one digital photography class, for which I had to join Flickr, a photosharing site. Soon, I was immersed in an online community of photographers and learning more than that class would ever teach me (which was mostly Photoshop). A popular project on Flickr was the 365 project, in which people would take one picture a day for a year. Many projects were focused on self-portraits, and I found that fascinating, so I did that.

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Once that was done, I had graduated and wanted to try out portraits of other people. When Kurt and I moved to Kirkland, finding subjects became a lot harder than when we lived in my college town, so portraits fell by the wayside. I tried another year of self-portraits, but that didn’t last long.

However, in 2016, we had moved to Seattle, I had a job with a regular schedule, and somehow, my first real photoshoot happened. I was already friends with my model and I must have just randomly suggested it because I had the itch. By then, I’d been using Kurt’s Nikon D40 for 4 years or so, and really getting the hang of it. When I delivered the photos, I loved seeing how my friend appreciated being able to see how she looked at her most confident. It’s fun to have semi-professional photos of yourself, at least so your dating app photos aren’t all just selfies, but also so you can look at them and go “I AM cool!”

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Since then, I’ve found many models on my friends list, and people have told me I have a real eye for composition, light, and posing. It helps that I’ve done a little modeling myself, just for fun, so I know how it feels to be nervous in front of a camera. Many of the people I’ve shot have never done a photoshoot before, and my favorite thing about shooting them is showing them a shot on my camera that came out just as I hoped it would. Their eyes light up, their shoulders relax, and you can see the gears turning as they realize that having your picture taken is not that scary after all. And now they have some nice pictures to use however they want. I always tell my subjects to wear whatever makes the feel powerful, confident, and most like themselves, because the shoot is about them, not about my vision. I’m just there to capture their radiance in their element. Since September of 2016, I’ve done 26 shoots, including two couple shoots, a wedding, and a live music event.

Yet, with all this practice, and all the praise my friends were giving me, I still never considered making any money off of it until one friend asked me to do a boudoir shoot for her last fall and asked me what I charged. I looked up rates for amateurs and told her $40 an hour, which I knew was still low, but I wasn’t confident enough in my skills to ask for more. Since then, I’ve started to think, “I could really make money off of this, couldn’t I?”

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Well, last week, I made a website so I could showcase what I think is my best work and for potential clients to have a simple way to contact me. Sure, Facebook messenger may be easier, but this looks way more professional in my opinion. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a business out of it yet. I have 8 shoots coming up in the next few months, but any more I schedule from here on out won’t be free. I think I’ve done enough free shoots to gain practice and skills and a sizeable portfolio that I should be charging for my work. Whether people will want to pay me for it is another question. But it happened once; it can happen again. They say I have a talent. We’ll see what happens.

How Have I Grown in 2018?

Let’s review:

January

I did the most photographing out of the whole year this month, racking up 6 photoshoots, mostly profile photos for my friends.

February

I saw Lights in concert for the fifth time, met her for the third time, and finally got a picture. She is so lovely and I can’t wait to see her again. I also started going to the gym regularly, with my friend Caitlin as my gym buddy.

March

The only thing of note that happened in March is that on the 30th, I celebrated five years of marriage with Kurt, which seems surreal.

April

Went to my first SakuraCon and totally dropped the ball on taking pictures of the Video Game Orchestra, which was the whole reason I had a ticket in the first place, and felt really bad about it. I bought a wig for my Poison Ivy costume that I already had and then resolved to grow my hair long again and officially stopped shaving the side of my head. I saw Hayley Kiyoko in concert for the first time, met up with some friends there, and it was magical. I visited San Francisco for the first time with my in-laws, which I wish I had been able to write an itinerary for, but it was still a fun time.

May

I attended my company, SCI’s party celebrating their acquisition of local patient-engagement software company DatStat, and that was fun. New friends, clash of workplace cultures. It was certainly a transition, but it is much better now.  I went to a Muay Thai competition for the first time. My friend was competing and I figured “why not?” It was pretty cool. I toured the Theo Chocolate Factory in Fremont, which I’d been wanting to do forever. I hosted the first two beach days of the summer and played four kickball games for my office Underdog league team. I played right field because that’s what you play when you aren’t very good at anything.

June

I was the most social this month out of the entire year, at 17 social engagements! I went to a Rocky Horror Picture Show-themed roller derby bout, walked in the Fremont Summer Solstice parade for the first time, and attended a benefit concert for the victims of the Puerto Rico hurricane. Reconnected with an old friend I had lost touch with, who I literally never thought I’d see again. Kurt and I celebrated the engagement of two friends from college.

July

I photographed a wedding for the first time. This wedding was thrown together in a week and, thankfully, I was not the only photographer because I wasn’t super happy with all of my photos, but it was still a fun time and a learning experience. I helped the aforementioned friend I reconnected with move to Seattle from Renton, the second time I have done that for someone.

August

Went to a costume sale at The 5th Avenue Theatre warehouse in Kent and found a school uniform that is now one of my favorite dresses. Went to Wild Waves, a waterpark in the Seattle area, for the first time since I was a kid. Went to a bachelorette party weekend for said engaged college friend, which reminded me of how beautiful and peaceful the coast is. Finally went to a play another college friend was in and it was hilarious and beautiful. Turned 28 and celebrated by hanging out at the beach all day with various friends.

September

Kurt and I attended the wedding of said engaged friend. It was nice to be around vaguely familiar people, dressed to the nines and witnessing all that love. I went to a blues dance party for the first time in probably a year and remembered my love for dancing. Have I gone dancing more regularly since then? No. I attended my company’s boat party, hopefully the first of many. There was an open bar, karaoke, board games, appetizers, and beautiful peaceful views of Lake Union. I gradually stopped going to the gym, as my gym buddy got really busy with work and I am really bad at keeping up healthy habits on my own.

October

October was a busy and a fun month. A friend and I attended my cousin Kevin’s wedding in Yakima. I had a few friends over to watch the Doctor Who premiere with the first female doctor and loved it. I feel like this season’s plots have been a little weak overall, but I love Jodie Whittaker’s portrayal. I visited Portland on a whim, which was a nice break from my busy life in Seattle. I went to my first show for local artist ZKRY (Zachary) at Lo-Fi, and then threw an awesome Halloween party with him at his house, and it was a huge success. He has been teaching me piano, letting me help out at shows (I ran the fog machine once), and asking for my input and contributions on songs he creates on the computer, and it has been a blast.

November

Kurt and I flew to Kansas and surprised our friend Kira at her baby shower in Kansas and I finally met her whole family after being friends for seven years. Zachary and I hosted a Friendsgiving at my house for a few friends when Kurt and I couldn’t make it to see my family because he had to work. Later in the month, Kurt and I flew to Missouri for an early Christmas with his parents and extended family.

December

Helped Zachary host an remix album-release party, which was small but very fun. We sang karaoke before and after he and two other artists who had also made remixes on the album played live sets of their original music. Went to Cowiche to see my family for Christmas, which I didn’t think I’d get to do until the last minute. Today, I saw my family again for my grandma’s 90th birthday party at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Lynnwood.

So what has changed? I feel like I’ve grown in my confidence as a portrait photographer, I have learned a lot about music in a short time and regained my love of being creative, and I am more competent at my job than I was a year ago. I have blogged about Seattle restaurants 12 times, which is better than zero, but that’s about all the creative writing I’ve done. But that’s okay. I’ve grown in other ways, and I’m still proud of myself. And I have the same goals for myself for 2019 as I did for 2018: Make healthy choices, write more, read more, and grow in my photography skills. Be creative. Have fun. Be kind to myself. Cultivate positive relationships and spend less energy on people who don’t have time for me. Live life to the fullest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JuWalked

Ray’s Boathouse – Sunset Hill

This is place I’ve only gone with my in-laws when they visit, until a few weeks ago. I had just finished covering a coworker for a month, and was commended on my hard work and flexibility by all my bosses. I was feeling very appreciated. As soon as my co-worker returned to work, I took 2 days off in order to spend time with Kurt, who never gets weekends off. I had asked him weeks before as soon as his schedule came out what his days off were and immediately requested them off myself. It had been a while since we had a date.

So we went to Ray’s Boathouse for lunch. It’s one of those places you go for superb seafood and a lovely view of the sunset on Shilsole Bay. He drank ice tea as per usual and I drank champagne, we shared a starter of fried calamari, he had crab legs and salmon bisque, and I had rockfish and spinach. Admittedly, the rockfish turned out not to be my favorite, and I decided later that I should have gotten the salmon. But we live and learn! Or maybe I should have gotten the crab legs, because he gave me a few bites of his and it was so soft and buttery. To think I never thought I enjoyed seafood until I was 21. So much wasted time!

Go to Ray’s with your parents or with a date if you want to have a relaxing time indulging in decadent seafood and a view that reminds you what we love about Seattle.

Hi-Life – Ballard

So I may have mentioned SWAF. In case I haven’t, it’s a network of women in Seattle just looking for friends in this big city where everyone is so busy. Well, sometimes, people you’ve met through the group move away, but if they ever come back, they still have the women they’ve connected with to have dinner with and catch up. One day last month, that’s what I did. I got there a little early, and there ended up being only 3 of us, but it was a nice little visit.

(Sidenote, I haven’t been to a SWAF event in a while and I should really get back into that. I think it’s the rain. I need people when it’s this cold and dark.)

I had never been to Hi-Life before, which surprised me, since it has the kind of homey feel of the kinds of restaurants my friends usually recommend to each other, and Ballard is one of the several Seattle neighborhoods that is walkable enough to kill time in and also fairly simple to bus to from downtown and Bitter Lake, where I live.

I just got the mac and cheese instead of a larger meal, because I couldn’t stay long and it’s honestly hard to mess up mac and cheese. Growing up poor, I find it difficult to spend money on anything if I’m not sure it will be worth it, so I tend to stick to things I’m confident I’ll like if it’s more than like $10. I know that makes me less adventurous, but look, I tried oysters last year and I loved them, so my life isn’t completely boring.

Anyway, this mac and cheese was definitely worth it. Bread crumbs on top (is there any other way to do it besides using French fried onions?), at least 3 kinds of gooey cheese, some kind of spice (yeah, I’m just going off of 1 pic I took a month ago; leave me alone). Delicous and hearty. It was actually so rich I couldn’t finish it all, but I ate enough to justify not getting a to-go box. So, like all but two bites. The service was quick and friendly, and the atmosphere reminded me a little of a medieval tavern. Please go check out Hi-Life sometime. I hear the rest of their food is just as good.

Herb and Bitter Public House – Capitol Hill

I came here a few weeks ago, per the suggestion of my friend Sean, who knows a ton of great places to eat and drink in the greater Seattle area due to the nature of his job. My dinner date and I shared a variety of smallish dishes and drank cocktails, and I tried things I had never had before. *pats self on back*  

From their website: “With seasonal small plates and desserts, the overall menu concept is diverse and eclectic with a nod to Spanish style cuisine. Incorporating Mediterranean cuisines and world flavors, our dishes are house-made with as many local, and sustainable ingredients as possible; taking into consideration dietary needs such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan.”

I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves for a minute. I hope you’re not hungry while you’re reading this.

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Arugula salad with roasted grapes, pomegranate molasses vinaigrette and walnuts finished with blue cheese. One of my favorite kinds of salads.
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Cheese platter with homemade crostini, fresh fruit, almonds, compotes, Sawtooth, Sleeping Beauty, Capricho, rotating blue cheese, and honey. My new favorite snack is honey on soft cheese, like goat cheese, on crackers. Try it!
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You can’t eat Mediterranean without hummus
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Fried Halloumi (Greek cheese) with pepper jam and dukka (toasted pistachios and spices). Had never tried this before, but I’m glad I did.

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The service was very quick and maybe a little too attentive. I arrived about 20 minutes before my date, because that’s what happens when you work downtown and live in NORTH Seattle (not Northgate) and are meeting someone at 6:30 on Capitol Hill and have no car. You do a lot of wandering, and then a lot of arriving early because it’s cold outside and who cares? I was seated right away, and the server kept coming up to me and asking if was ready yet even though I said I didn’t want to order until my date got there. I’m perfectly fine just waiting on my phone. It’s not like it was super busy either. So I don’t know what was up with that.

But the food came out fairly quickly, and the food and cocktails were delicious, so I forgot that minor annoyance pretty soon. I never would have thought to check this place out without Sean’s recommendation, and I’m so glad I went, so the moral of the story is share your favorite restaurants with your friends. Try new things. My main motto is “never having done it before is a good enough reason to do anything” and that’s how I live my life. You have a lot of fun that way.

 

Hana Restaurant – Capitol Hill

I came here for sushi in the middle of a day on the hill spent Halloween costume-hunting with Zachary (whose music will be another post, I promise). He’d been here before and suggested it, and I’m always down for sushi. We also got tacos at Poquitos later, but that will be another post.

Service, I felt, was a little slow for how few customers there were, but I’m a bad judge of time when I’m hungry. 10131812436455275712199706432.jpg

The food was delicious, but so rich that we could both only finish half of what we ordered. On the other hand, every single time I get sushi, I order way too much because I forget 1) how big the portions are and 2) how easily it fills me up.

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We got the tempura shrimp roll because I’m predictable and like familiar things, takoyaki (essentally an octopus bun), and a California roll. I wasn’t a huge fan of the takoyaki, but the sushi was delicious. Zachary took the leftovers home and apparently they were still good later. Very important!

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That’s my arm. So photo credit to Zachary. There is so much on this sushi roll that, to be honest, I don’t remember exactly which one it is, because it’s been so long since I ate this. That’s why I need to stay on top of my food blogging. But the important thing is that I remember it being delicious. Come here when it’s not peak hour, because I’ve heard there is a bit of a wait when it’s busy.

Cafe Zum Zum – Downtown

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I love Indian food. Okay, I usually just have butter chicken with naan when I go out for Indian (though let’s be real, I’m usually ordering delivery), but I know what I like, okay? I’m not a fan of very spicy things, but I’ll try most things once, and lamb curry has recently captured my heart. I don’t know why it took me so long to try Cafe Zum Zum, since it’s so close to my office and I have never had Indian food that wasn’t amazing, but now I know how awesome this place in particular is!

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The lamb curry was served with rice with chickpeas and a tortilla, and thick, buttery, fresh naan. I mean I literally saw them put a fresh piece of naan on the grill and cook it up right there as soon as I ordered it. I wanted to get a picture, but I would have had to ask, and the line was moving fast. That’s what I like in food place near my office – a fast line. I only have 30 minutes!

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The lamb was tender and fell apart in my mouth, was easy to chew, and had it’s own moisture and flavor even without the curry saturating it. The curry was just spicy enough to be exciting but mild enough that I literally shoveled all of it into my mouth in my entire lunch break. Okay, I may have saved half for later to save money, because you can’t take the poor out of the girl, and also I’m trying to pay off my debt before even thinking about children. My point is, it was delicious fresh and just as delicious when I re-heated the leftovers the next day, so this is cost-efficient, which is almost as important as the taste (amazing) and service (fast and friendly) when I’m judging restaurants.

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Look at that! Can’t you just smell the spices? This is one of those meals that makes a frustrating day at work just melt away. You eat this on your lunch break, your whole body will fill with love and peace and joy, and you’ll feel like you can take on anything. Do it. Eat at Cafe Zum Zum.