Seattle YMCA

So I’ve been going to the YMCA for the past 5 months, since I first signed up for a membership in October. To be honest, I really love the YMCA! I had a few co-workers at back in Dallas who would go to the YMCA (affectionately referred to as the ‘Y’) during lunch breaks to get their exercise in for the day, so since then I’d been curious about what programs and group classes offered at the Y.

The specific Y that I am a regular member at is the one in downtown Seattle, which is conveniently located right across the street from the Central Library, an awesome convenience for me since I also happen to really love going to the library too XD.

My favorite part about the YMCA is that it really fosters a sense of community. I haven’t been to many other gyms before but the few times I have been to classes at other places, my experience generally has been more of an in-and-out kind of thing where I go to a class, exercise really hard (or sometimes just listen to the instructor say supportive things while lying on my back lol), and then go home.

The experience I’ve been having at the Y has been pretty different though; the front-desk people always are ready to greet people as they come in to the gym, and periodically ask you how you’re workouts/classes are going and if you have questions or comments. They even sent me a welcome postcard when I first joined the gym with the picture of all the YMCA staff as the cover of the postcard, which I thought was a very personalized touch ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Aside from the sense of community at the Y, I also have been really enjoying taking the group classes at the center. One of the main reasons I joined a gym was to take group classes and have an instructor tell me what exercises I should be doing, and the Y definitely has not disappointed me in this area :D! The group class schedule also changes a bit each month, which creates a bit of variety and interest every month.

If you’re somebody who’s more interested in just going to the gym and doing workouts on your own or want to play pick-up sports games, the Y also has those available as well as a swimming pool for people who like to swim as their workout ๐Ÿ™‚

 

The YMCA’s membership might be slightly more expensive then usual gyms like 24 Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym, but I think the number of facilities and the friendly staff really make it worth it. The YMCA also offers sliding scale payments/financial assistance if that is an option that you are interested in.

 

If you’re interested in giving the Y a try, the Seattle branches offer 3-day guest passes that you can use while deciding if the YMCA is the gym for you! : )

Spain Travel Tips!

If you’re planning a trip to Spain, here’s some stuff I would’ve found useful if I had known before my trip to Spain for Thanksgiving ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Water

I didn’t know this but water is not free at restaurants like it is in the US. If you ask for water, the waiter will usually give you an opened glass bottle of water with a cup to pour it into. You also have the option of asking for itย con gas o sin gas, whereย con gas is sparkling water andย sin gas is just normal mineral water (if you get sparkling water they’ll also put in a lemon slice in your cup! :D).

The typical price for water was around 1~2 euros, which was pretty similar to the price of other beverages such as sangria or beer, so it’s your choice on if you want a drink or just plain water ๐Ÿ™‚ !

 

Car Rentals

In Europe, manual drive cars are more common than automatic, which you’ll see reflected in car rental companies. We made a mistake of accidentally booking a manual car and my poor dad had to do most of the driving during our trip because he was the only one who could drive a stick shift, but even when we tried to switch to an automatic car there just weren’t that many options available in the rental parking lot.

If you’re someone who can only drive an automatic (or going in a group of people who can only drive an automatic) then definitely double-check your car rental reservation to make sure that’s what you’re getting!

 

Menu del Dia

A lot of restaurants had this thing calledย Menu del Dia, which is essentially a course meal that usually includes 1 drink, a choice out of first course options, a choice out of second course options, and a dessert or coffee. These were really good ways for us to try a bunch of different kinds of foods because the options for the courses are usually pretty solid (around 4~5 options for each course). The best part was that they were really affordable too, usually within the range of 9~12 euros/pax.

 

Restaurant Hours

A lot of restaurants, especially in less touristy cities, have some hours that might not be familiar to some people. The typical hours of operation would look like this:

Lunch Time: 1pm – 4:30pmย 

Closed for Break

Dinner Time: 8pm – 11pm

If you’re in a place that mostly has restaurants that operate on a schedule such as this, try to plan accordingly; it took us quite a bit of time to get used to the different schedules!

 

Cost of Traveling

Overall, the cost of things in Spain seemed a lot lower than they did here in the US. At grocery stores, the prices of produce, especially fruit, were significantly lower (ex. 1.5 euro for one pomegranate, 1 euro/lb of really really yummy oranges). Seafood was also super affordable; we bought 1kg of mussel clams for 2.5 euros and whole lobsters for 8.5 euros each, both total steals!

Eating at restaurants was also pretty cheap; the typical meal for our family of 4 would be in the range of 40~60 euros. The only thing that can get kind of expensive is if you’re at aย tapas place – theย tapas serving sizes are pretty small and difficult to get really full on unless you order a lot, which can add up pretty quickly. It is also not customary to tip at restaurants, but if you really enjoyed someone’s service then I believe it’s not an offensive thing to tip somebody :).

 

ยกBuen viaje!

 

Spain Family Trip!

Happy post-Thanksgiving holidays everyone!

My family doesn’t usually celebrate Thanksgiving, but this year we used it as an opportunity to not only all get together at the same place but also to visit a place we haven’t been to before. This year we decided to travel together to Spain!

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I had a layover at Toronto Airport and saw the first snow of the year! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Madrid

To start the trip, we all met in Madrid and were there for a few days.

Madrid is such a crowded and busy city! There were lots of people everywhere, even during the weekday afternoons, and during the nights all the restaurants and bars would be super full. It was kind of funny to see my parents being super paranoid about pickpockets, but in all seriousness it would suck to have things like a passport or credit card stolen o _ o .

The city was an interesting blend of historical architecture and modern brands/stores, and there were plenty of fashionably dressed people walking the streets.

To be honest, my family and I found the city to be a little too hectic for us, especially when we were out and about on a weekend night, but it’s the right place to be if you’re interested in shopping and enjoy Spanish-brand products and stores (ex. Zara, Mango).

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I tried some churros from San Gines, it’s customary to eat it with a cup of drinking chocolate ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Toledo

Our next stop after Madrid was Toledo, a city that has a mix of medieval Jewish, Arab, and Christian influences (which, apparently, is very common in Spain since it’s had a long history of many different groups taking over different parts :0).

The city was reallllly amazing with all of its old old OLD roads (which, by the way, made it a huge headache to drive around the city since all the streets are cobblestone and infuriatingly narrow) and preserved buildings, but sadly we were only in Toledo for a few hours because we had to get to Sevilla in time to check in to our Airbnb :(.

We went to a restaurant for lunch and tried a dish called cochifrito, which is fried part of a piglet (I think it was the ribs? I can’t remember and there was a bit of a language barrier – _ – ). It was pretty good but I felt bad thinking about eating a piglet so I didn’t have too much of it :(. What my parents actually wanted to try was cochinillo, which is entire roasted piglet, but they’d run out of that which is why we had to settle for the cochifrito.

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Old streets in Toledo!

Sevilla/Seville

Sevilla was my favorite city out of all of the places we visited in Southern Spain ๐Ÿ™‚ ! It is so full of history and culture (ex. flamenco, bull fighting) while also being large enough that I didn’t feel suffocated at all like I did in Toledo.

There were so many things to do in Sevilla, such as revel in the beauty of the monuments and gardens of the Real Alcazar, marvel at the grandiose nature of the Cathedral,ย or enjoy the vibrance of a traditional Flamenco show.

Our Airbnb host in Sevilla was also super friendly and one of the nicest hosts I’ve ever met, which enhanced our overall Sevilla experience ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Granada

Granada is actually the Spanish word for pomegranate, which I didn’t know until we went to Valencia and were buying pomegranates and the store clerk called themย granadas, lol.

The focal point of our time in Granada was the Alhambra Palace, which was initially built as a fortress and later renovated to serve as a palace for the emirs during the Nasrid Dynasty. If you want to visit the Alhambra you can either book tickets in advance online or buy them at the ticket counter in person. We bought our tickets online because we’d heard that tickets usually run out pretty quickly, but I also saw a lot of people buying them at the ticketing windows the day of so it seems more of a personal decision :0.

The palace is a very VERY nice place and the typical visit is said to take around 3 hours; we were there for almost four and a half (and by the end of our visit were also super hungry)! There are 4 major parts to the palace, but the 3 people mainly visit are the Nasrid Gardens (which you can only enter within the hour of the time printed on your ticket), the Alcazaba (the fortress), and the Generalife (the summer palace for the rulers).

After our tour around the Alhambra, we went down to the city proper of Granada and tried some Moroccan food (lots of couscous and a tajin), which was a nice wrap to our time in Granada :).

 

Valencia

The two main things I remember from Valencia are the beach and all the seafood we bought for super low prices at the supermarket and cooked for dinner back at the Airbnb, hahaha XD.

Valencia is a very relaxed city, and the vibe I got here was that it was mainly a holiday destination for actual Spanish people. There weren’t many tourists in the area and we mostly spent our day in Valencia walking around, window-shopping, and enjoying the nice weather.

My dad was initially pretty skeptical about going to Valencia because he hadn’t seen many Korean people write about it online on Naver, the Korean equivalent of Google, but after eating all of the seafood he could possibly want I believe he left Valencia with a very positive impression XD.

There was one very interesting thing about Valencia, and it’s their horchata. There was a pamphlet about Valencia’s horchata in our Airbnb, which I thought was funny, but the main gist of it is that Valencia puts in something calledย chufa in its horchata to produceย horchata de chufa.ย Chufa is some sort of tuber that’s only grown in Valencia (at least, according to the pamphlet) and it’s supposed to add a nutty flavor to the horchata. I personally didn’t like it as much as normal horchata because it kind of tasted like a blend of vegetable juice and horchata :/, but fortunately my mom liked it and drank the rest of the bottle we’d bought from the grocery store, yay.

 

Cuenca

Cuenca was an interesting town; we stopped here on our way back to Madrid from Valencia, but a lot of people seem to visit it as a day trip from Madrid since it’s only an hour and a half’s drive away.

The town is separated into two main parts: the new town which is at the base of the cliffs and where the majority of residents live now, and the old town which is the remnants of historical town founded by the Moors. The old town is famous for its well-preserved casas colgadasย (hanging houses), which are houses that are built directly on top of the cliffside and have the appearance of “hanging” off the cliff.

Aside from that, you can also enjoy just strolling through the streets and imagining what it would have been like to live in Cuenca during older times. Personally, I was mostly interested in how the current residents who live in old town spend their days because life in the old town seems like it would be pretty plain and difficult since there didn’t seem to be a lot of modern amenities that I take for granted such as supermarkets or spacious living space.

One of the highlights of our time in Cuenca was the restaurant we went for lunch, calledย Raff. They were listed in the Michelin Guide for multiple years in a row, but the thing that initially drew us in was its super cool-looking interior. If you’re ever in Cuenca, I would highly recommend this place! : )

 

Northwest Chocolate Festival 2018

Yesterday I went to the Northwest Chocolate Festival! I’m a pretty big fan of chocolate, and I was really looking forward to trying a bunch of different samples of chocolates from all the attending chocolatiers – I definitely wasn’t disappointed!

 

It was interesting to see that some of the vendors that I’d seen at the tea expoย were also at the chocolate festival, which made sense because some of these tea vendors also had chocolate-related products ๐Ÿ™‚

 

My favorite part about the festival were all the different samples, but similar to the tea expo there were also speakers who were there to teach audiences about a bunch of different topics or do cooking demos ๐Ÿ˜€ !

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Cooking demo of chocolate meringue snowmen!

 

By the end of the day I was pretty full from eating chocolate and craving some other kinds of food options, and as I was exiting the venue I noticed that there were lots of food trucks that were parked outside, probably exactly for that reason ๐Ÿ˜€

 

Overall, I had another fun festival experience and would consider coming again next year ๐Ÿ™‚ !

Leavenworth, Washington’s Bavarian Town

My sister is in town for the weekend from Boston, so today I took a day off of work and we took a daytrip to Leavenworth!

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Most of the buildings in Leavenworth were of this style of architecture

Leavenworth is a town in Washington that historically was a settlement town that existed through the railroad boom, but after a while the town started dwindling in terms of residents and economy. Eventually the town leaders decided to re-brand the town as a tourist destination by developing it into a Bavarian town, complete with really cute looking signs and tons of beer/German food options! They have festivals year round and although there weren’t any taking place today when we went, we did get to see them putting up the Christmas lights for the tree-lighting ceremony which was cool!

 

 

 

The first thing we did on our trip was go to the Reindeer Farm for an informational tour about the farm! The staff there were super friendly and from what I could tell, it’s a family-owned business that’s pretty new.

Aside from reindeer, they also had some other animals around the farm, such as chickens, turkeys, horses, a rabbit, and a cat! So many animals โค

 

The tour starts off with an informational session around the campfire given by one of the owners of the farm, who you can tell knows a lot about the reindeer and is very passionate about keeping the species going. After the info session, they let you enter the pen with all the reindeer and you’re pretty much free to pet them and feed them, and afterwards take pictures with them too!

 

 

After the Reindeer Farm tour, we went into the actual heart of Leavenworth, which was only a few minutes drive from the farm, and mostly did some eye shopping and eating yummy food ๐Ÿ˜€

 

It was a pretty full day and we really enjoyed the fall weather while strolling around the town : ), definitely a great destination for a daytrip from Seattle!

A Trip to Thomas Family Farm

Over the weekend I visited Thomas Family Farm up in Snohomish County ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a really great family-friendly farm that has a big pumpkin patch and corn maze among other things, and it was a really festive way to spend a cool fall day!

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There were many different colored pumpkins in the pumpkin patch ๐Ÿ˜€ย 

The farm is essentially divided up into two parts – the daytime activities and nighttime activities. Daytime activities include the corn maze, a kiddie playground section, and shopping for pumpkins on the pumpkin patch :D. Nighttime activities include a flashlight corn maze, a zombie paintball game, and a haunted house and hayride!

There were also several food stands both outdoors and indoors, and I definitely went for the roasted corn stand โค I love roasted corn!

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Roasted corn, pizza, and donuts!

The weather was pretty cold that day so we left relatively soon after the sun went down, but it could’ve been cool to stay for the nighttime activities too, especially for the zombie paintball game ๐Ÿ˜€

Guinea Pig Facts!

The past week I’ve been petsitting my coworker’s guinea pigs named Ginger and Pumpkin while he’s away on his honeymoon.

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Ginger (on the left) and Pumpkin (on the right)

They generally get along pretty well except when Ginger exerts her dominance over Pumpkin to get to food first or push Pumpkin out of a spot Ginger wants to be in ๐Ÿ˜€

Here are some interesting facts about guinea pigs!

 

They get lonely when they’re kept alone.

In the wild, guinea pigs usually travel in large herds and are very social creatures. When you only have one guinea pig as a pet, unless you have a ton of time to socialize with your pet (or even if you do), your guinea pig may become lonely because they are missing the companionship of other guinea pig friends! I used to have a single guinea named Spuddy, who I adopted from the local shelter but eventually had to return because he became depressed being alone and I wasn’t at home often enough to really keep him company :(.

 

They eat a lot.ย 

Guinea pigs loooove to eat. The most active Ginger and Pumpkin will get is when they hear the sound of rustling bags or the fridge opening, both sounds that indicate food might be on its way. When they hear these kinds of sounds they start squeaking really loudly and run around their cage, which is fun to watch but also kind of lame because I wish they would get excited to just spend time with me – ~ – .

Guinea pigs really like eating hay (suggested amount is an “endless supply”), leafy greens such as lettuce or cabbage, and the occasional sweet treat such as sweet potato or a small piece of fruit. Watching them eat is quite cute and gives me a sense of satisfaction, hahaha.

 

They are considered good first pets for kids or people new to small animals.ย 

Guinea pigs don’t usually bite, unless they feel super threatened or are uncomfortable and uses biting as a last resort, so they’re generally considered good first pets for people new to small animals. They are also relatively low maintenance compared to a dog or a cat, and I don’t think allergies to guinea pigs are as common as allergies to dogs or cats, which might be an important factor for some people when considering alternative options for pets.

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Pumpkin and Ginger love lettuce!ย 

My coworker gets back from his honeymoon in a week, so he’ll be picking Ginger and Pumpkin up soon, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy watching them eat their bodyweight in food and feeding them little fruit treats ๐Ÿ™‚ !

 

 

 

2018 Northwest Tea Expo

 

Over the weekend I attended the 2018 Northwest Tea Expo that took place in the Seattle Center!

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A gigantic teapot that welcomes visitors at the entrance ๐Ÿ™‚

 

This year’s admission fee was $15, and with the admissions ticket you also get a tote bag to carry any products you purchase during the festival, as well as a small teacup that you can use to sample the different tea flavors from different vendors! The admissions ticket is also valid for both Saturday and Sunday, which is super neat ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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You can try any of the tea samples you’re interested in ๐Ÿ™‚
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I really loved the steam punk theme of this stall!

 

There were a ton of vendors that were selling tea products and handing out samples of their wares, but I noticed that there were some vendors who didn’t necessarily sell tea themselves but sold products that were related to tea, such as teacups or honey, which was really nice to see!

 

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Some pottery being sold at a stall

 

There were also lots of workshops and tastings going on here and there, and unfortunately I didn’t have the time to browse through all the stallsย and attend the workshops, but I did get a glimpse of some of them as I was walking around and they seemed like a very cool experience ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

The tea festival was a very cool event and I enjoyed every moment of the experience! ๐Ÿ™‚

Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm

I went blueberry picking with some of my friends today! The farm’s called Larsen Lake Blueberry Farm, and it’s a quick 10 minute drive from downtown Bellevue ๐Ÿ™‚

I think the farm is owned and run by the City of Bellevue, which would explain the low prices and huge acreage of the park :0

 

The farm also sold had a shed where it some other produce, such as peaches and tomatoes ๐Ÿ˜€

The weather was drizzling a bit and it was a bit colder than I had anticipated, but it was great weather for spending some time outdoors and I even got to see some banana slugs out and about!

With the blueberries we picked (which I think was around 1.20$/lb), we made some lemon pound cake with blueberries, which was delicious and great โค

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Our lemon pound cake stuffed with blueberries!

NEKO: A Cat Cafe in Seattle

Today my coworkers and I paid a visit to NEKO, an awesome cat cafe in Capitol Hill! Most of us on the team love cats so it was a real treat for us to be able to hang out together with cats (and each other, I guess, haha – just kidding!).

When you enter the cafe, you’ll see the room with the cats to the left of the entrance, while straight ahead is the cafe/bar area where you can order snacks or drinks.

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Some of the cookies on display – check out the Totoro and cat cookies!

If you do decide to get something from the cafe, you can take it in with you to the cat room; just make sure that the cats don’t drink or eat your stuff!

People can enter the cat room at the beginning of every hour, and you can spend up to an hour with the cats at a time. The staff like to let the cats take a break between every hour so that they have some time to rest and relax – I’m sure having strangers come in and out of their space so often can be a stressful experience :0.

One interesting thing about this cafe is that all the cats that live there are adoptable, but more importantly they are all FelV positive, which basically means that they are all affected by the cat equivalent of HIV/leukemia. Fortunately, it’s not a lethal disease or anything; the cats just have to be kept indoors because being outside might cause them to get into contact with germs that might get them sick.

I would definitely recommend going here if you’re a fan of cats and would like to hang out with some of them; my only regret is that people are only allowed to be in the room for an hour at a time and you have to pay for every hour you want to stay : (

Overall, NEKO is a pretty awesome place and I’ll recommend other people to check it out! If you want more information about NEKO, visit their website here!