Whale Watching >> San Juan Islands

The highlight of my little blogging hiatus was definitely the trip we took out to the San Juan Islands a few weeks back. I had gotten a gift certificate for my birthday from my sister in law that needed using, so even though it wasn't the most ideal time calendar-wise, we got up at the craaaaaack of dawn and headed up to Anacortes to catch the ferry. This was the ferry terminal as the sun was coming up. It was SUPER foggy as we drove north and west from Seattle, but we got lucky and had postcard-perfect weather all day after the fog cleared.
We had a couple of hours to kill before our tour, so we spent it in the town of Friday Harbor, which is right where the ferry drops you off. I kind of thought there'd be more to do there than there was, so it was actually a little boring. Although, we did stop at an awesome gem for lunch, a cheese and wine shop that also did small plates and paninis. They had a beautiful little back patio where we enjoyed a glass of wine and some food before we headed down to the boat (I didn't get any pics so you'll have to use your imagination).

We got on the boat, which had super knowledgeable guides, and headed out.

Although it was bordering on hot on land, once we were on the moving boat it was pretty chilly. I was glad I had brought a hat and a couple of sweaters! The tour company had lots of blankets on board that you could use, as well as binoculars. After about an hour of cruising and spotting lots of seals and birds, we came upon a huge pod of Orcas.

You can see the tips of their fins in the pic above. I didn't really take any pictures while we watched the Orcas, because the guides had huge telephoto lenses that they were taking photos with, and they said they would email us the pics after our trip so we could focus on just watching. Although, I'm still waiting on that email...

The whales were "resting" here, so we didn't see much more than you can see in the photo, but they moved up and down a lot. I cannot begin to express just how beautiful and awe-inspiring being out there was. Seeing these amazing creatures out in the wild was a truly special experience. We saw Blackfish a couple of months ago, and it really brought close to home the stories of the Orcas that were taken from this area in the 1970s, and how unbelievable it is that we keep them in captivity. Have any of you seen this movie? I really recommend it.

I thought this last picture was pretty funny. It's another boat out watching the whales, and you can see how lopsided it is from everyone standing on one side to see them. I'm sure ours looked the same!

On the way back, the sun was setting as we took the ferry back to the mainland, and I took about a bajillion photos which I'll share in another post. The whole day was just about as good as it gets, and was so very "PNW." We're hoping to head back up to the San Juans and do more exploring soon. Ah, so much fun looking back at this! Especially since it's cold and rainy here today. It feels like we skipped Fall and headed straight for winter here in Seattle. Hopefully we get a few more days of sunshine and crunchy leaves before the gloom settles in for good! I'm trying not to fight it though, and I'm making a big pot of veggie chili this afternoon.

shanti >> sondra



Crickets >> And Other Noises of Silence

Crickets. You hear 'em, too?

I apologize for the radio silence these past few weeks. It wasn't planned, and I don't have much to account for it. It's kind of like when you haven't talked to an old friend for awhile, and then you start to feel guilty, and then more time passes, and by that time it feels like too much time has passed for it not to be awkward.
But then eventually you pick up the phone or make a coffee date and when you get together it seems silly that you ever felt that way, because everything is just the same as it always is. So, yeah...like that.

Anyhow, I guess my quietude here is a reflection of a general un-inspired-ness, and un-focused-ness that has been prevailing my world since the end of Summer. No worries, it happens to us all, but the effect here is evident. I've also been settling back into a regular work week again, plus I've also started working a few hours a week at the yoga studio I practice at.

Other than that, life has actually been quite busy, with lots of fun little excursions and nights out. One of the highlights was a day trip out to the San Juan Islands to go whale watching, which was super amazing, and I'll share more from that adventure in a day or so here (maybe don't hold your breath? ha. :)). I also went to Vancouver, BC for a little overnight, harvested wine grapes out on Whidbey Island, went to a wine tasting party with friends, learned how to can and made my own jam, and have had more cups of tea in the last month than in the last six. The cool, rainy days have descended upon us here in the PNW. I've already made homemade soup a couple of times and right now I'm nursing a hot mug of apple cider.
Aren't these embroidered postcards the bomb dot com? They're by artist Shaun Kardinal, and they're another thing that's been rocking my world lately. Check out his website for more like this, plus lots of other cool embroidery art.

shanti >> sondra



What to Wear >> To a Baby Shower

It's been awhile since I posted an outfit around these parts! And posting two days in a row, what am I, trying to win an award or something? But when I got an email with a gentle nudge from Nicole to get back in the game so to speak, I couldn't help but oblige. I meant to do more What to Wear posts, but haven't for whatever reason, so it was just the push I needed. Anyway, I got this rad dress recently and I wanted to show it off to the internets. :)
 You might be thinking, "well that's a nice abstract print." GET CLOSER.
BAM. Upside down cats. Why are they upside down? I don't know. Maybe because I found this at the Salvation Army for $10 as part of Target's sample cast off lot? Maybe. But it kinda just makes me heart it even more.
So would I wear this to a baby shower? Yes, yes I would. Although I actually wore this to work yesterday. I thought a good dose of black would be good to keep the super sweet feel of the dress down, and also because, ahem, I am a 30 year old woman in a dress covered in cats. So on went the cardigan, leggings, and my new favorite boots. Oh, and can we talk about these boots from Teva for a minute? They're rad. Real rad. I know I didn't really take a pic of them here, but they look like this up close. Cute, right? Plus, besides looking good, they're secretly waterproof (perfect for Fall/winter) without looking like they are, and are all ergonomic and what not...cuz they're Tevas. I looked at a LOT of lack booties before settling on these, and am so happy with my purchase.

This is a link up with Gypsy in Jasper, so you should head over there to see what she's going to wear to a baby shower...it's um, unconventional to say the least. ;) Get ready!

shanti >> sondra



Exxopolis >> A Luminarium

Happy Wednesday! Today I thought I'd share a few pictures from something that is kind of hard to describe. One of my favorite summer things to do is to visit the Minnesota State Fair, which is always in late August/early September and ends on Labor Day. We made the usual rounds this year, but one thing that I had never seen or even heard of was this thing called Exxopolis.

My sister had seen a picture on Facebook and insisted we go. I was only half listening as she said something about colors and light, but she said she'd buy my ticket and that we were going. I didn't get a pic from the outside, but you can see it set up somewhere else above. Essentially it looks like a bouncy house for kids (which I would have been pretty stoked for, too!). But, as the guide firmly pointed out before we entered, NO BOUNCING.

You take off your shoes, and once you enter, it's pretty amazing and like nothing I've ever seen before.
It's basically tubes and "rooms" made of this really soft, plastic-y material of all different colors (actually, I just learned from their website that all of the colors are created from just four colors of plastic. Nuts!). It's zipped into all these crazy shapes, and then the sun shines through the outside of the plastic walls and it lights up into all of these dreamy colors. The whole thing is inflated with air to stand upright. The structures are described as interactive sculptures by the creators, Architects of Air, who describe them this way: "Each luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument to the beauty of light and colour."

The picture just above was of the "tree," which was an intricate system of branches and holes in the middle. It sort of looked like something from Avatar (which I hated, but did look pretty cool).
These last ones were of the Cupola, a room which featured stained glass-like Penrose tiling in the windows, and this crazy ceiling. Even though is was about a billion degrees out and humid the day we went, and there were tons of people inside this thing, it was still awesome. It would be a completely crazy awesome experience if you could have this thing to yourself, or at least just a few tranquil people. It was so calm and peaceful, I can imagine it would be pretty much the best place ever to meditate, get a massage, do some yoga, or just to drift away in.

Apparently the company that makes these has several, and they tour them around the world. Has anyone else ever been in one of these? If you ever see one, definitely go in! Now that I think about it, it sort of was like going to the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit that I went to last month, but if you could actually go inside the glass sculptures. Trippy!

shanti >> sondra



Lake Superior >> In Colors and Textures

Well, hello there, you. How've you been? I feel like I've fallen off the face of the earth, and am now finding my footing again. Actually, I didn't fall anywhere, I was supported quite surely by all of the ground we covered between Washington and Minnesota and back again on our visit home.

Home is a funny word. I'll say that I'm going "home" for a visit, and mean Minnesota, but I'll also use that word when I'm there, referring to "back home" and mean Seattle. But actually, we've only lived here for 1 year and 1 day, and before that, "home" was another state (California) and another life. One year ago today, I was sitting amongst boxes and trying to figure out where the nearest grocery store and gas station were; getting ready to start another new job in another new city. But it is home. I can feel my body relax when I come in the door, and the barista at our neighborhood cafe knows my by name. But the place where I spent my first 27 years, is also home, and it's so much more complicated now.

It's no longer a place where I hang my hat or kick off my shoes at the end of a long day. Going there is not relaxing in the slightest. It is trying to maintain relationships and connections, trying to make enough memories in 10 days to last 6 months. It is catching up and never quite feeling caught up. It is contentment and excitement, and also guilt and frustration. It is knowing all the backroads and shortcuts through the city like second nature, the best place to get ice cream and take a walk in the cool evening. It is gratifying and satisfying, and it is exhausting and hard. It's seeing newborns turn into little people in leaps and bounds, one visit crawling, the next walking and talking. It's a reminder of missing out while at the same time feeling distant from your actual daily life: what your commute looks like, how the afternoon sun shines through your own windows, the new friends you've made.

I don't mean to sound so melancholy, but I think that's what Labor Day does to me. It's always been a day marking transition - the end of summer and back to school. Like a lot of you probably, I still feel the tug of a new beginning around this time of year, a time to start fresh and move forward. I also go back to work tomorrow after having the summer off, and that feels right. This last visit home was kind of a hard one for no particular reason, although I saw almost all of my favorite people there and did almost all of my favorite things. Maintaining long distance relationships is hard as everyone knows, and sometimes that's just the way it is. The alternative is worse and I don't wish for it, but I think it's okay to just acknowledge hard things sometimes, without ruminating or dwelling on them too much.

The pictures with this post don't have much to do with anything, except that they are from my most favorite-ist place on the Earth, the North Shore of Lake Superior which was part of our trip. I kept finding myself drawn to the colors and textures, to the way the water met the sky way out in the horizon, seamlessly blending from liquid to ether.

shanti >> sondra