Seattle Summer: The best activities and events of the season

It’s another gray day in Seattle. Even though I’ve lived here for over almost 4 years, I’m still not used to the consistent gloomy weather. No wonder people in this city love their local beer and wine – it’s a survival mechanism to get through the drizzle and cold we typically see November-May/June.  I’ve actually become Vitamin-D deficient. It’s no surprise that I spend the entire rainy season dreaming about Seattle’s perfect summer weather and all its glory.

This summer, I hope my husband and I can take every weekend to catch up on our Vitamin D. If you’ll be in the Seattle area this summer, check out my list of what I’m looking forward to most:

Rattlesnake Lake:  We discovered Rattlesnake Lake through a local hiking guidebook. The hike up to the rocky ledge (Rattlesnake Ledge) overlooking the lake wasn’t too long or intense (be warned if you’re afraid of heights…or falling off a cliff) and the view of the bright blue water and surrounding green mountains is amazing. This year, we hope to make this one of our prime picnic spots but we’ll have to get there early – parking near this North Bend, Wash. lake is limited, overflow cars have to park on the side of the road. We’ll be investing in a rolling cooler so we can easily get our picnic gear the quarter-mile or so from the car to the lake shore.

Seattle summer activities Rattlesnake Lake

View from Rattlesnake Ledge (don’t fall!). Look at that blue water!

Snoqualmie Falls: Another awesome site nearby is Snoqualmie Falls. The Falls can be seen from the upper viewing deck (who doesn’t love a great misty waterfall?). Ever since we moved out to Seattle, the main trail leading to base of the falls has been closed for renovation however it’s just recently reopened and I can’t wait to finally get the chance to take on this easy hike. You can take a virtual tour of the updated trail on the Falls website.

Seattle summer activities Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls: So cool and so close by!

Whitewater rafting: Every year, my husband and I drive a couple hours east to ride the “rapids” of the Wenatchee River. I say “rapids” because we typically wait until late July or early August when only a few big rapids remain (I’m not hardcore enough to go in June when you still have to wear a wetsuit). For someone who is not overly adventurous outdoors, our whitewater rafting experiences have been a blast. We raft with Blue Sky Outfitters and have never had any issues and always a lot of fun. The guides are skilled, passionate about rafting and full of stories about crazy times on the river. Without too many wild rapids, you can spend more time enjoying the scenery around you – bald eagles, beautiful riverside homes, and the occasional modern-day bearded gold miner

Washington Brewer’s Festival: Held Father’s Day weekend each June, the Washington Brewer’s Festival marks my official start of summer. Over 150 breweries from across the state keep a booth at this outdoor beer fest where a token gets you a 3 oz. pour (or a 5 oz. pour if you upgrade – we do every year!). This is a chance to not only taste the beers that are the pride and joy of local breweries but also to try those weird beers with flavors like sour cherry or spicy habanero. Whatever your beer fancy (there’s some wine and cider on hand, too), you’ll definitely find it here. The festival’s annual keg toss competition is really just the manly icing on the cake.

Seattle summer activities beer festival

WA Brewer’s Festival: It’s definitely worth it to upgrade.

Whidbey Island: Accessible by both car and ferry, Whidbey Island is a fun day trip for a couple good hikes and walks along stoney beaches in Deception Pass State Park, followed by lunch with a view further down the island in Coupeville.  For dessert, stop at Whidbey Pies Cafe for a sweet slice, and before the ferry ride home, try some of the wineries found mostly at the far south end of the island.

Seattle summer activities Deception Pass

Deception Pass State Park makes for an amazing day trip!

River tubing: If you miss the rafting boat…er…raft, you can always grab a tube down the river once the rapids die out in August. There’s two types of tubing experiences – a wet one, and a dry one. The first time we went tubing, we went with River Riders just outside of Leavenworth. That tubing course was pretty exciting but you had to be alert since low water meant a few small rapids with made big splashes, large rocks to circumnavigate, and frankly, some bumps on your butt if you weren’t paying attention. Our second tubing experience was much dryer (and less painful on the tush) with the Leavenworth Outdoor Center, where the entire course is flat water with just a couple swift points. Flat water means more opportunities to get out of the river along the way, or simply, just more opportunity to relax. Choose the course that is most comfortable for you – we had fun on both!

Chateau Ste. Michelle:  If you like Rieslings, you might already know Chateau Ste. Michelle. Even though it’s Washington state’s largest and most famous winery, the winery’s main campus and concert grounds in Woodinville, Wash. make this huge company seem much more down to earth. The grounds feature tall trees, a fountain, duck pond, and a few vines actually growing on the property – a perfect picnic setting with a chilled bottle of wine you can purchase, along with picnic supplies and snacks, from the tasting room shop – BYOG (bring your own glass). If you’re lucky, you might even see one of the winery’s wandering peacocks. My most favorite part of the Chateau experience is the summer concert series, where the winery transforms into a rocking outdoor concert venue with plenty of lawn seats. Most of the acts are the “oldies” but oh man, they are the goodies. Next up this year: a return of Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band. I can’t wait!

Seattle summer activities Chateau Ste. Michelle

Nothing like an outdoor evening with good music and good wine..

Home DIY: What’s a summer without a little DIY around the house? I’d much rather be working out in the yard on a sunny day than a rainy one, that’s for sure. This summer, I hope we can tackle a few outdoor projects to make our front porch and small backyard seem more like “outdoor living” than “outdoor avoiding.” Our front porch is great, a good size – except for the sun beating down on you in the afternoon until you’re burnt to a crisp. To fix this problem, we’ll install a pull-down sun shade to give us a little more privacy and a little less risk of skin cancer. In the backyard, I hope to use some simple planter boxes and maybe even some creative lighting to make our postage stamp-size backyard feel cozy instead of  dingy. The fence is getting re-stained, too. Basically, stay away from my house this summer or I’ll find something for you to do. You can follow my backyard idea board on Pinterest.

Just 5 more months of the rainy season before these dreams can become a reality. Until then…I’ll be waiting.

How to enjoy wine: It’s not just for snobs!

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
― Paulo CoelhoBrida

I love wine. There is nothing better than enjoying a glass with my hubby at the end of the day. It’s hard to believe that in college, the girls drank Barefoot, Franzia and Yellow Tail and thought, well at least it’s not Natty Lite. We thought we were so fancy then, drinking wine out of red solo cups, maybe even a wine cooler if we were feeling wild. Little did we know there is a whole world of wine that exists outside of the jug and box.

Before: Nothing said “Let’s party!” like a fresh box of wine.

I discovered this world when we moved from Maryland to Seattle after college. Turns out, Washington state is the largest producer of premium wines (a.k.a. non-jug or box wines, that glamorous title goes to California) in the U.S. and despite the notorious Seattle rain, the weather east of the Cascade Mountains is pretty perfect for growing grapes. There’s a number of growing regions east of Seattle in the central and southern portions of the state that are on close to the same latitude line as some of the best grape growing regions in the world, France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy regions. Because of this, a lot of the common French grape varietals grow well in WA (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) and they’re all worth trying.

Everyone has a “gateway” wine and most people will admit they started out sweet and white (insert probably inappropriate joke here).  Some are introduced first to sweet or sparkling Rieslings or Moscats (Moscato). Mine was Pinot Grigio, which is typically pretty fruity. So how do you go from “No reds for me, please” to “Bring me something dark, bold, and beautiful?” It definitely takes an adventurous and dedicated palette.

After: Keeping it classy. No more boxed wine for me!

My tips for how to drink wine:

Go wine tasting.

Did you know wine is produced in all 50 states. That means, maybe even unbeknownst to you, there’s probably a winery tasting room near you! Not all of these wineries grow their own grapes, and some might not even be using grapes at all, but it’s an opportunity you should not pass up. Visiting a winery not only supports a local business, but you’ll probably learn a lot as well. For a small tasting fee (commonly waived with purchase), you have the opportunity to try several wines without the pressure of downing a whole glass. Read the tasting notes and ask questions. Remember, this is not a shot of wine to drink in one gulp – you should take a few small sips to make sure you’ve thoroughly tasted the wine. Swish the wine around in your glass and in your mouth, and smell the wine – I mean seriously, get your nose in there. Treat this as a real experiment in expanding your palette and take your time.

Know how to describe what you do or don’t like. 

Do you like a wine that is sweet, or do you prefer one that is dry (opposite of sweet)? Does it taste crisp, almost refreshing? Or is not crisp, but soft? Many people say they do not like wines that are bitter or give the feeling of dry-mouth – these wines are fairly tannic. If you can put into words what you like about certain wines, and what you really don’t like, this can help you navigate (or allow someone else to help you) to find other wine types that might better fit your taste buds.

Visit you local wine shop. 

If a winery is too far out of the way, try your local wine shop. In WA, wine can be sold outside of state-run stores so wine shops are often run by passionate (and often incredibly knowledgeable) winos who pick the wines they carry like they’re picking out a ring. They will be more than happy to help you find a bottle you’d like to try, and many even do their own tastings. No local wine shop? Try your local big box wine/beer stores like Total Wine & More or BevMo! where you can often taste some of their specials or chat with wine-trained personnel. Even some grocery stores like Safeway have beefed up their wine selection and offer tastings on occasion.

Pair wine with food. 

Why not wine and dine? Food can be a huge complement to wine and certain wines taste far better with certain foods. A cold, crisp Chenin Blanc can be the perfect way to wash down a spicy Asian dish, just like a bold Cabernet can warm you up alongside a hearty beef stew. You can often find food pairing info online, or you can check with your local wine shop for suggestions. The perfect time to pair wine with food is at a restaurant, where the waiter or sommelier can often suggest which of their wines to pair with your upcoming meal.

Drink wines as they are meant to be drank. 

This might go without saying, but not all wines are enjoyed at the same temperature and drinking a wine well outside of its intended temp will definitely skew the taste. Unless you have a wine fridge (I don’t), you’ll rely on your own refrigerator. Assuming you’re storing your wine at about room temperature (let the wine snobs gasp, but I do), white wines should typically go in the fridge at least an hour or two before you plan to enjoy it. I serve my red wines at room temperature, however I’ve heard some people will put them in the fridge for a quick 20 minutes before serving as well. Don’t drink wine right after you open the bottle. Let it sit out for at least a few minutes to “open up.” You’ll find that a little waiting can really go a long way.

Drink wine with friends. 

Opening a bottle for all to try is kind of like hosting your own personal wine tasting experience. Also, there is just something intimate and fun in catching up with friends with a glass of wine in hand. If you don’t have friends (or at least ones that drink wine), try seeking out a local wine club or see if lists any in your area.

Never pass up an opportunity to try something new.

 Trying new wines is the only way to expand your taste preferences. There are over 1,000 different grape varietals out there – gotta catch ’em all! Even let your palette travel internationally through wines from across the world. When you sit down at a restaurant with a wine list, or walk into an aisle that is wine as far as the eye can see – don’t be overwhelmed! You’re a figurative kid in a candy store! Enjoy!

Ultimately, drink what you like!

Without judgement. Seriously, wine snobs, be damned! Wine should be something  you enjoy, not something you feel like you have to muster through, like compound fractions or a root canal. If you only like Pinots, then Pinot it up! If you only like dessert wines, then have your cake and drink it, too! Hell, if you find you really can’t stand wine at all, then enjoy your beer. The important thing is that you don’t automatically write off wine, in general, as something too frou-frou, too dry, or too sweet for you. Try to keep an open mind, and always a curious palette.


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My least favorite interview question is “What are you passionate about?”

If asked himself, my husband can easily spend at least 20 minutes going into why he is passionate about computers and technology. How, when he was a kid, he played on his family’s old PC computer and think, how does it work? Now, he goes to work and spends at least 8 hours programming, bug-fixing and hacking, then he comes home to do it all again on personal projects.

Sometimes I’m jealous of him and people like him. People who, from a young age, know they love something so much that it drives them through life to achieve personal or career goals. Children who are passionate about animals and grow up to be veterinarians. People who can’t wait to spend every winter weekend on the slopes with their skis or their snowboard. Even my dad who can spend endless hours working on his car or putzing around the yard, not because it needs to be done, but because he enjoys it. People who have a passion.

I can honestly say I have never had a particular passion or specific hobby. I can rattle off all of the activities I’ve tried throughout my life: ballet, gymnastics, baton, horseback riding, piano, theater, Girl Scouts. None of them stuck enough to keep me motivated. Now, four years out of college, I still haven’t found that one thing I love just for me. I like things fine: cooking, reading, writing, traveling, hiking. Do I love any of these things enough to do it all day, every day? Not really.

Simply, I don’t have a passion. Only until recently could I admit to that. I spent so much time envying others who have that one concrete thing to drive them and make them happy that I, myself, became unhappy. I thought, why should I feel pressure to limit myself to one thing? I like all kinds of things, and I’m good at many things. I should not be ashamed of wanting to have my fingers in a lot of different pies (mmm, pie). On the bright side, perhaps not having a clear focus will encourage me to try new things and live a more adventurous life.

That is what this blog is about. It’s not a blog about that one thing. Instead, I hope to write about the many things I try, like and enjoy, while trying to stay informative rather than overly personal. I’m keeping it flexible and unpredictable, kind of like my taste in wine. I used to be one of those winos who agonized over which wine went with which food pairing. Then a couple of years ago, a waiter at a nice restaurant, where you would expect people to fuss, said “You know what, it’s 2012, you can drink whatever you want.” Talk about an epiphany! So this year, 2014, let’s keep it interesting, shall we?