The Sweet Sixteen Trip to Seattle


It was an epic birthday trip. I mean it had to be, right? What else could follow The Great Pink Kitty 1st birthday party, (No 2nd birthday party. We were worried about overstimulation that year.) the Great Green Puppet Show 3rd birthday party, the Rainbow Seed 4th birthday party, the Royal Pink Princess 5th birthday party, The Six-in-the-Sticks Fairy birthday party, The Meowy Cat 7th birthday party, Eight somehow didn’t get blogged but I know we went to Disneyland and she drew on her own fondant cake that Bethany made her. The Skatery Funness 9th birthday party, The Minecraft 10th birthday, The Amazing Galaxy 11th birthday party, The Great Limo Ride 12th birthday party, The 13 Doesn’t Suck Succulent birthday party, then covid hit and we started doing trip birthdays instead so there was the 14th birthday Trip to Eureka and the 15th birthday Trip to Nowhere

People used to give me a hard time when I would throw these over-the-top birthday parties. What are you going to do when she turns sixteen or twenty-one? they’d ask. I always said I’d take her to Paris when she turned 16 and I turned 50. I wasn’t joking at all. Twenty twenty-two is a huge year for both of us. But that’s this year and travel overseas is just not really an option, germ-wise and funds-wise. Maybe on her 17th, we’ll go there as a family. It’s a goal and I’m saving up for it but it’s not anywhere near realization at this point.

Birthdays have always been a really really big deal to me. Maybe it’s because of the way I was raised. We always went big on birthdays because we didn’t celebrate other holidays like Christmas or Easter or even Halloween. We celebrated each person and there were always big family get-togethers. My grandma on my mom’s side was very creative at throwing theme parties and that made a huge impression on me. It’s been an integral part of who I am creatively. I get a vision and then I execute it.

I’m sad to say that the party-planner in me is struggling. I still have grand visions but I’m starting to learn that my vision (while great, popular on this blog, and a ton of fun) isn’t always the best way to celebrate for everyone else. I’ve had to take a beat and really examine the chaos that is my obsession with big birthday parties. It’s been hard. I’m still in the thick of it. It’s a part of my identity and I’m clinging to it like a cat hanging from its claws stuck in the curtains. But I’m getting older, my family is blended and complicated. Not everyone is on the same page as I am and when my visions don’t work out how I expect them to I tend to get crushed. It’s not a pretty picture. I am like a spoiled child throwing an internal temper tantrum. I need to learn and grow from my mistakes. I need to adapt.


So Seattle it was! Bug begged me to take her to Eureka again but I just couldn’t justify spending so much money on travel (there’s no way around it with flights and hotels) to go to the exact same place we’ve been already. I need to explore and I knew she would love it too, she just didn’t know it yet because she only knows what she knows. In the end, she agreed to go to Seattle on the contingent that I took her to Aberdeen, the childhood home of Kurt Cobain. Deal, I said.


I found the cutest boutique hotel, The Palihotel of Seatle. I love a boutique hotel. They do everything better. The decor, the details, the location, the food, the staff, the photo opportunities.  I know travel isn’t supposed to be about the “instagrammable moments”, and it’s not like we are influencers or anything but as an artist, I appreciate aesthetics in ways that non-artists can’t understand. Aesthetics are EVERYTHING and thankfully Bug always agrees with me. We are two artistic peas in a pod squeeing over every little adorable detail and I love that.


It was really great. Not the most comfortable bed, not the thickest walls. But photogenically… they had my number.


After we checked into our hotel we headed off to the original Starbucks. When in Rome, right? My ex (Bug’s dad) and I went to Seattle on our honeymoon and I remember him telling me I could have three mochas a day if I wanted. That stuck with me and I told Bug the same thing.


Then we were hungry so we hit Beecher’s for homemade macaroni and cheese. It was cold and drizzly and the mac and cheese hit the spot like a bowling ball falling into a bean bag. Bug was in heaven. The pictures above are from a day later because we went back again it was so good. It’s the coolest spot where you can watch them stir vats of cheese from the outside window while you wait in line for your cup of cheesy cheer.


We explored Pikes Place Market and the gum wall of course. The gum wall is totally gross but Bug thought it was cool. I have a picture somewhere but apparently not here.


We tried some gingerbeer and that was a hit. We pretty much ate and drank our way through Seattle.


More lattes at another Starbucks on a different corner where you didn’t have to wait in line.


Of course we had to see the fishmongers throwing fish.


And pigeons and graffiti…


Bug and I both love a big city adventure.



Bug fit right into Seattle like a local.


We checked out the hood, notice the same water drainage pipe that I have a photo of Toby standing by?  Funny how things come full circle.


Then back home to our sweet hotel.


The next day I rented a car and we drove to Aberdeen. I’m glad we did because it felt sort of wrong to fly all this way and not have some kind of outdoor nature experience. Of course, we were walking all around downtown Seattle by the market but we weren’t out visiting the rainforests like I knew her dad would want us to. But we did get outside in Aberdeen and it was beautiful.


It was really grounding to walk around the humble town and imagine what it was like to grow up there. It was very poor and most of the houses were falling down and decrepit. The weather is relentlessly wet there and everything is damp and molding. It kind of put together some puzzle pieces in my head about Kurt Cobain and his lyrics, who he was, and how he grew up. He touched so many people with his music and the sad ending of his life. I can see how this part of Washington created the artist that he was.

That green house is next to the memorial park they have for him and the residents are sick and tired of all the fans who visit and think he grew up there.


We didn’t see anybody. It was deserted. It was nice having the whole place to ourselves so we could imagine what it was like being a teenager getting up to no good under the bridge next to the muddy banks of the Wishkah.



We sat on a bench and had a picnic lunch of our leftovers from the day before. We played a few Nirvana tunes quietly on Bug’s phone and thought about Kurt Cobain.


Like so many others…how do you tell someone who’s dead how much they meant to you? Don’t get me wrong I’m not a huge Nirvana fan or anything but Bug is and she knows all the songs by heart. It was really special for her to go here.


This is Kurt Cobain’s actual house. Nothing special. Just a humble little house guarded by cameras and a sturdy chain link fence.


Then we headed back in the golden hour sun.


The next day was Bug’s actual birthday so, after breakfast, we went to Cupcake Royale, across the street from our hotel, and got two cupcakes. How perfect was it that there was a bakery across the street from our hotel? I didn’t plan it that way. But there it was.


Of course, we had to do a little photoshoot. I mean, she did turn sixteen and I am a photographer.. how could we not take advantage of the low light and the pretty green walls of our hotel?




Even the Smeg got in on the action.



After photos, we stuffed our faces, a theme of this trip.




Then out and about for more mac and cheese and shopping for souvenirs.


Crepes, and coffee and… fog?


The funny thing about Seattle is that it’s so cold and gray and depressing but the market is warm and glowing, it draws you to it like a moth to a flame.


We loved the market. The colors, the glow, the many many things to look at and admire. It wasn’t very crowded either so that was nice.


Shop owners are very aware of this juxtaposition of cold against the warm inviting glow of the inside so they paint their shops brightly. It’s the opposite of where we live where it’s hot on the regular. Our shops are painted cool colors and offer blasting air conditioning to draw in customers. But not here. Warm and glowing was the ticket.


Incandescent lighting and bright happy colors called to us like sirens. A favorite was this cute all-over-pink stuffed animal store called Marnin Saylor. The artist makes hand-sewn felt cat doughnuts that are so cute I was getting a toothache from the sweetness.


I loved that you picked them up with tongs as you do in the Asian bakeries where we live. We bought adopted several.

One of the things I love about the Pikes Place Market is that there are no big chain businesses. Every vendor is small and local. I love buying souvenirs that aren’t made in China but actually from the place you are visiting.


We shopped and shopped, buying small trinkets here and there, and then we walked along the water admiring the lights.


That night we missed dinner because most of the shops close early due to pandemic-related understaffing.  Thankfully there was an Indian food restaurant that sold us Tiki Masala in takeout containers. It was divine. We took it back to the hotel and watched Netflix on the bed with a big towel spread under us picnic style.  One of the perks of the pandemic: way more picnics!

we like-to-eat

The next day we were back at it. More food! More cute shops! Chilaquiles for breakfast, tiny doughnuts for dessert…


Is butter a carb? I think I seriously put on ten pounds.


This plant store, the Jungle Bean, was so cute. Just like the other shops we loved, it was very well lit, warm and inviting. We especially loved the dog in the window though he could not care less about us.


After that, we were pretty shopped out but we still wanted to see some local sights. So we ubered across the bay to Fremont to see the troll under the bridge. It was so funny because our Uber driver wasn’t that familiar with Seattle and he had no idea where we were going. He just followed the directions on his GPS and spoke to us in broken English. You can imagine his surprise when he pulled up next to this giant sculpture. He loved it and asked us to take his picture next to it too.


Then because we had shown an interest in sculptures he took us around the corner to a Stalin statue. We weren’t particularly keen on a giant Russian statue but we got out and took pictures anyway like good tourists.


Then we headed to the Gasworks nearby to get a good shot of the skyline. Nothing like a bunch of pipes to stand on and take pictures next to.


This is a close-up shot so it’s kind of blurry but you get the jest. Gray, gray Seattle, and a GIANT Brenda squishing its space needle head. We didn’t actually go up in the space needle. Bug had been to the Strat in Las Vegas and dismissed the Space Needle with a “You’ve seen one needle, you’ve seen ’em all.” toss of her head. That was fine with me since inside spaces give me the heebie-jeebies these days. I had really wanted to go on the underground tour but I just chalked that one up as a no-go during a pandemic, not enough clean outside air for me these days.

But overall it was a successful trip. I love that Bug and I love to do the same things. I treasure these moments with her as a teenager like they are precious rare experiences, even though we do hang out together a lot. I know she’s growing up and getting more and more independent. Every day is another day closer to her leaving me and even though I know we’ll always be close, it’s not ever going to be the same. So I suck up every memory and savor it.


I love you, Bug. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.

The Snowstorm and the Cabin



Before I can blog about the amazing sweet-sixteen trip to Seattle, I must blog about the incredible but sadly truncated adventure to a cabin in the snow. It was a doozy. Not all bad but definitely one for the books.


The thing about booking a cabin for a winter holiday is that you need to reserve it well in advance. Summer is best. August at the latest because all the cabins that allow dogs get booked up pretty quick and for me, going with dogs is the WHOLE REASON I go to the snow. Have you seen my dogs in the snow? It’s a sight of pure joy. When I booked this cabin I had no idea it would be in the middle of a storm. How could I? I mean, I know it’s always a possibility, I’ve just been lucky before.

We watched the weather patterns feverishly as our trip drew near. It was the talk of the table during our Christmas dinner. Providently there was a break in the weather in the early hours of the day of our trip.  We weren’t supposed to show up until afternoon but we figured we better get there early to avoid slipping off the side of the mountain in the middle of a storm.


We made it! Well, technically we made it to the road below our cabin. The driveway to our cabin was not plowed and there was no driving up it because it was super steep, even for a 4×4 with chains.  That meant we had to park on the road below our cabin and hoof it up a steep hill through the snow for about five hot sweaty minutes. It was not for the faint of heart!  I however have been working out regularly for the last three months and it was just a *mere challenge* for me. (humblebragpfbltkjsklt…) My family on the other hand was a bit winded and not too pleased. I shrugged off their complaints and told them they needed to toughen up and enjoy “the snow experience.”  Yeah, everybody loves Vacation Brenda, obviously.


Finally, we stumbled into our cabin stamping snow off our feet and shedding layers like they were going out of style. Payam built a roaring fire, I mixed up some hot chocolate and we cuddled up in our cozy pajamas and pretended we were bears about to hibernate. It was all very charming.


That night it snowed and snowed. At first, I loved it.  There is nothing like looking up from your cozy bed and seeing snow flurries flying sideways past your window. I’ve never really done that before and it felt magical. Except in the back of my head, I was starting to have this nagging worry about what we were going to do over the next couple of days as the storm continued and we didn’t really have an exit strategy let alone a three days snowed-in strategy.

In the past, I’ve always over-packed and everyone hated me for having to heft boxes of food up and down hills for meals we never cooked because we ended up going into town for pizza or something so I thought I’d be smart this time and pack super light. We packed snacks for the road and leftovers for dinner but that wasn’t going to last us for days and days.

I had noticed that our Airbnb hosts had some frozen vegetables in the freezer so we wouldn’t starve to death or anything but it wasn’t looking good for my picky eaters. But my big fear was how would we get down the mountain if it was really storming? Would we skid off the road on black ice? What about Payam and the fall he had last time? What if we needed to get to the hospital and we were snowed in? You know how anxiety-brain works. I couldn’t get the worries out of my brain.


The next morning I called the Airbnb hosts and asked if we could stay longer in order to wait out the storm. They were reluctant because they had more guests coming right on the heels of our departure. It was a tough spot to be in.  Stay and risk being snowed in or go early and sacrifice the fun trip we had planned so many months ago.

I discussed my fears with Payam and sadly he agreed. We better leave early and be safe instead of sorry. Payam and I are true Southern Californians with thin blood and a healthy fear of actual weather. Neither of us had ever put chains on before. We didn’t even have any before this year. I’m so lucky that my dad hunted some down for us just days before we left because sure enough, we needed them.


During a break in the storm Bug and I tracked down the hill and shoveled out our truck from the night’s storm and what the snowplow pushed up against it when they plowed.  The truck was buried under a good two or three feet of chunky frozen snow. We hammered and shoveled and dug ourselves out like *super troopers*. It only took a few minutes and then we went back up the hill to start carrying our suitcases and many layers of coats and blankets and dog gear down the hill. We used our host’s sled and it was pretty quick work. Payam rested because he tweaked his knee on a near fall on some black ice. Yes, he did fall again but he’s okay.

Do I feel like an idiot for continuing to try to take my family to the snow? Yes, I do. I do feel defeated. Maybe it’s just not meant to be.


But it wasn’t all sad. We let the dogs out and they loved it like I knew they would.


I made a TikTok or two about the beauty of it all.


The kids took their photos and bragged on their social media. It wasn’t a total loss.


The snow was so pretty and we did really love it. It just wasn’t the trip I had planned. If 2020 and 2021 have taught me anything it’s how to deal with disappointment. I’m still not an expert at handling disappointment but I know it when I see it and this was a good old-fashioned helping of pandemic style disappointment.

We fit in a few more snowball fight photos and then packed it in.



Goodbye snowy mountains.


We weren’t winners at who-gets-to-have-the-best-winter-vacation but we got home safe and alive and nobody slipped off the side of the mountain or drove their truck like a boat into the cars in front of them. We got home safe and sound and just a little bit sad.