Friday, December 14, 2012

Too Analytical

As I was surfing Facebook the other day, I came across a gal who I used to know back in elementary school and was good friends with her sister. Of course, over time, we have all drifted very far apart, but what struck me was the photographs of her paintings.

They were absolutely amazing, yet they had no structure to them, no distinct image. These paintings were able to form so much emotion inside me, yet they didn't have a particular image, like a lot of paintings do.

I never used to be able to understand why someone would paint or draw something that didn't imitate life, but as I grow older, it's becoming more clear to me that art doesn't need to look exactly as it does in life.

I have a very analytical mind, and it shows in any photos I've taken or any pictures I've tried to paint. I get frustrated when what I'm "creating" doesn't exactly mimic what I saw in real life. It's slowly sinking in that I can create it and make it look however I want. That's the beauty of art. But it's also my downfall.

In order to feel satisfied, I need to try every variation of everything possible to see which I like best. It's just how my brain works. To give me the freedom to make whatever I choose would cause my brain to freeze or explode. That's just too many options. I need guidelines.

And I find those guidelines in life. An apple is supposed to look like an apple, in my brain. But when creating art, an apple can look like whatever you want it to look like. That creates too many permutations, and I can't handle that.

I find I get so frustrated when I try to draw that apple and it doesn't look right. Maybe I should give up trying to make the apple look life like and focus on what I feel it should be like. Maybe instead of a round shape, it's more of a blur.

So my new goal for winter break is the break out my old painting supplies and just paint whatever I feel. It doens't have to resemble anything, it can just be whatever.

I'm just hoping it doesn't cause my brain to explode!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Worth It

 I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately. I’ve been blaming it on the weather, but I really think it’s something more. 

I’ve been feeling tired, unmotivated, exhausted. I’m getting to the point where I just want to shut myself in my apartment for a week and just sleep. Ok, maybe not a week, but a few days.

I think it’s mostly been because my schedule is out of whack. It’s not the same every day, and it’s been messing me up. These 6 am-5:30pm work days with two hours of school are really dragging me down. The going home and being too tired to cook or clean is driving me insane. Feeling too tired to do much other than sit on the couch is really a drag. 

The crazy part is, I could so easily give up. I could say, nope, this is too hard, I can’t do this. I can’t make this huge change in my life and I should just stick to where I’m at.

But those words aren’t even part of my vocabulary. I see the end of the road I’m taking, and it just makes me want to push through even harder. The fact that I’m exhausted now doesn’t matter. The fact that all I have time for is working, studying and sleeping doesn’t matter. What matters is that I see the place I want to be, and I am not going to let anything sway me. 

I have never felt so motivated to do anything in my life. I have never felt like I was on the right path for me before, and it feels so good that I am. I used to be ok that I was just average, now I want to be the best. I have to be the best to do what I want to do. There is no other option. 

Well, there is another option, but I don’t want it. It is so not for me. So, I’m going to push forward and continue being tired and exhausted because in the end, it will be worth it. So worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spray Park

The first time I had heard about Spray Park was when my friend Valerie went there on a cloudy day a few months ago. I had no idea what to expect, but my mind was definitely blown away.

A friend and I had planned to go on a hike somewhere off of Chinook Pass, but when we got to Enumclaw, there were hoardes of people talking about going to the same place. So we enacted plan B: head to Mowich Lake.
The road to Mowich Lake is not too bad, for the first few miles after the town of Carbonado. Then you hit dirt. Literally. It's about 13 miles of gravel road, filled with potholes. Not as bad as Middle Fork Road, mind you, but not exactly fun.

After getting a nice coating of dust on the car, we arrived at Mowich Lake, packed up our gear, then headed to Spray Park. The trail was nice and cool in the trees and it felt great to stretch my legs after that bumpy ride. We stopped at an overlook and I was blown away!

After the overlook, we continued on to Spray Falls. I loved how the falls weren't one big stream of water, but many small streams. I snapped a few pictures, then we headed on our way to the main attraction.

I had been so busy chatting and paying attention to the trail that I hadn't noticed where we ended up. I turned around, and WHAM! Mt. Rainier right in your face!

Look at those pictures! Isn't is so gorgeous!??!

After a quick snack and getting eaten alive by mosquitos, we headed up to the Hessong Rock - Mt. Pleasant Saddle. That trail was steep! It looked so long, but didn't take us that long to get up there.

Mount Pleasant
The view from up there was spectacular! You could see most of Spray Park with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Hessong Rock
We then hiked back down and headed back to the car. I was so tired but I still wanted to grab some shots of Mowich Lake before we left. It was super late when we got back, but I still had lots of fun.

Total time: 6 hours 
Distance: 7.5 miles, 1600 ft elevation gain (including side trip to Hessong-Pleasant Saddle)
Passes: Mt. Rainier entrance fee required
Location: Mowich Lake Trail head, GPS: N 46 55.978, W 121 51.833

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to Stay Active in Winter in Seattle

AKA How to not go stir crazy during the gloomy months. I thought I would post this now that the rain has arrived here.

Since starting my meetup group and because I'm a Seattle native, I get lots of questions from transplants. "Does it really rain as much as they say?" "Why does everyone refer to Mt. Rainier as 'The Mountain'?" And my personal favorite: "How do you keep from going stir crazy during fall and winter?"

It's fairly easy to stay active during the fall and winter months if you are an active person in the first place. I mean, there are tons of things to do here! If you go up to the mountains, there's skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and tubing, which are all tons of fun!

I do understand that most people won't want to go to the mountains nearly as often as I do, so here's a stay busy (and active) plan for those who like to stay at lower elevations.

1. Take a walk on one of the many rail trails around the Puget Sound. The Burke-Gilman is one of the more popular routes, but if you are willing to venture further out, the Soos Creek Trail in Kent is secluded and isn't as busy. The White River Trail in Auburn is a short trail, but it's very peaceful and quiet.

2. Take a walk around a park. Seattle offers many green spaces to go walking. My personal favorites are Discovery Park and Magnuson Park. Gas Works Park is also a nice place to visit, but it can get rather crowded if it's a sunny day.

3. Take up a new hobby. Last winter, even though I'm stayed busy by staying active, I made time to learn how to make beaded jewelry. It kept me occupied on those days where the weather would not cooperate and it's better to stay inside. Knitting, baking, cooking, paper crafts. Take your pick.

4. Go out to eat. Yes, you will have to eat inside, but Seattle offers a great variety of restaurants. Almost any cuisine you can think of will be within walking or driving distance.

5. Explore a new part of the city or venture to a new area outside the city. Even if it's raining, you can spend most of your time ducking in and out of shops, so you can stay fairly dry. Wallingford and the U-district are my favorite places to go explore in Seattle. Pike Place is always a fascinating place to explore, too.

6. Go ice skating! The Kent Valley Ice Centre has public skating sessions almost everyday if you are willing to make the drive. They play a variety of music and it can be a blast! Bring a group of friends if you are so inclined.

7. Don't be afraid of the rain. Yes, it does get chilly in the winter months, but you either will learn to love the rain or will go crazy from staying inside all the time. I love the rain now and don't mind being out in it.

Hope you can have a delightfully active winter here in Seattle!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weekend at Rainier: Part 2

So in my previous trip report, I went exploring on the east side of Rainier on a Saturday, and now in this post, I am going to tell you about my hike on the west side of Rainier that occurred the next day.

Driving out to Rainier is no easy feat if you are coming from downtown Seattle. To get to either Sunrise or Paradise, it will take about 2.5 hours. Luckily for me, I live about an hour south of Seattle, so I shaved an hour off my time for both days!

Tina, Crystal and Dasha all met at my place early in the morning so we could meet the rest of our group at 9 in Puyallup (try saying that!). We stopped at Starbucks in South Hill while waiting for the others. I eventually got a call that they were at the Starbucks in the Fred Meyer while we were at the other Starbucks across the parking lot! Doh!

We met up, did introductions, then got on our way. The driving instructions to Paradise from where we were were pretty simple: turn right out of the parking lot, turn left when you get to the stop sign in Eatonville, turn left when you get to the stop sign at Alder, then follow the road into the park until you hit the parking lot! The only problem was it was about 20-30 minutes between each turn!

We got up to Paradise with no issues, other than a short wait at the gate to the park. The mountain looked gorgeous and the sun was out! I was really hoping to see a marmot snoozing on the snow. They are so cute!!!

The Skyline trail is a really popular trail, as we found out on our way up. The first two miles are up and up! (About 1400 ft in elevation) The last four miles are all down hill through gorgeous meadows.

There was still quite a bit of snow on the trail, but the flowers were blooming and it was just so gorgeous! The two guys in our group decided to slide down on their stomachs on some of the snow, with only t-shirts and shorts on! Ouch! (And no one got a video of it either!)

The snow slide. You can see their tracks!
 We hiked up to Panorama Point, which gives you a fantastic lunch spot, with views of the Tatoosh mountain range. We soaked in the views before making our long descent. I was surprised at how crowded it was up there!

Tina and I

As we followed the trail back down to the parking lot, we watched people practicing an ice axe arrest and other climbing skills. We also saw quite a few marmots! I was really hoping to see a marmot do this:

Photo by Ingunn from Trail Snail
The only marmot I got a picture of. Still pretty cute!

We passed waterfalls and more meadows and more marmots. I was so happy to see three of those cute, fat, fluffy animals! I think I love them so much because they remind me of my cat, George, who is cute, fat and fluffy! And now here are lots of pretty pictures of  the meadows!

As we got back to the paved trail, there were more people, so we booked back to the cars. I really enjoyed this trail (except for the massive amounts of people at the end) because the views of Mt. Rainier were truly fantastic!

Back at Longmire, we stopped to take a look at this bridge over the Nisqually because it's just so cool looking! Overall, this was definitely one of my favorite hikes. Next time, I think I want to make it up to Pebble Creek, and eventually Camp Muir!

Total time: 4 hours 
Distance: 6 miles, 1400 ft
Passes: Mt. Rainier Entrance Fee or Annual Pass
Location: Paradise, Mt. Rainier

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Weekend at Rainier: Part 1

A few weekends ago, I spent the weekend exploring Mt. Rainier. On Saturday, I took a group of gals up to Sunrise to see Mt. Rainier up and close and personal! Then on Sunday, I went hiking out of Paradise on the popular Skyline Trail. I'll talk about Saturday first.

I was so excited to take a group of gals from my meetup group up to Mt. Rainier. I knew a lot of them had recently moved here and hadn't had the time to see Mt. Rainier up close. Unfortunately, by the time the date of the day trip rolled around, it was only me, Crystal, Laura and Samantha.

L to R: Laura, Crystal and Samantha

We met in Enumclaw and then carpooled up to Sunrise. It was a crisp, cool morning and I had hoped the clouds would part and give us a great view of the mountain. We got up to Sunrise, parked, and then walked around and chatted. We stopped in the visitor center and perused the gift shop. I bought myself a Mt. Rainier complete trail map with climbing guide! It was my only souvenir and it made me happy!

L to R: Laura, Me, Samantha

After taking lots of pictures (at which my camera died so I couldn't take any pictures and therefore all are from Laura and Crystal!), we got back into the car and headed to Crystal Mountain, one of my favorite ski areas.

Crystal at Crystal Mountain!

There was a beerfest going on that same day, but they didnt have many local breweries, and I'm all about the local beer. We decided to head up the gondola before we had lunch. I love riding the gondola, but since I had done it tons of times before, it was nothing new to me. Crystal and Laura were not so sure about the gondola, but got the hang of it on the way back down.

View from the gondola towards the base of Crystal Mountain

(Side note: there are advertisements everywhere for the gondola at Crystal Mountain, and one of my favorites is: An adrenaline rush even grandma will enjoy. hehe!)

Crystal and Laura on the gondola

We walked around, took lots more pictures and enjoyed looking at Mt. Rainier. I was sad because all of the snow was gone and I couldn't play on it :(

Me on the gondola ride down

After we had our fill of looking at the mountain, we headed back down for lunch. I brought my own lunch, while the gals had burgers, which looked mighty delicious! We finished our lunch and went to check out one of my favorite bars, the Snorting Elk. Unfortunately, they were closed, so we headed to our final stop, the Suntop lookout.

Suntop Lookout
The drive to Suntop wasn't too terrible until we got to the last part. It was a one-lane dirt road with a drop off on the passenger side. Normally, it wouldn't have been a problem, but there was another car coming down the road! That car was nice enough to pull up on the hill so we had enough room to get by. I noticed on the way up there was a small parking lot at the base of the hill with a half mile trail leading up to the lookout. I think next time, I'm going to do the hike instead of the drive!

View from Suntop

The view from the lookout was amazing! There were two volunteers up there who were watching for fires and two forest rangers just visiting. We chatted with them for a while and heard lots of stories. They pointed out the top of Crystal Mountain, so next time I'm up there, I'm going to look for Suntop!

They also told us the story of how during WWII, women were stationed in these lookouts all through the Cascades to keep an eye out of enemy planes. They would have supplies dropped to them from planes and the women would gossip with each other during the night over the radio. I couldnt even imagine what that would be like!

After we had our fill of the lookout, we headed back to Enumclaw and then headed home. It was a great day at the mountain, but I was not done with Rainier yet. I had a hike planned for Sunday on the other side of the mountain at Paradise. That trip report is in part 2!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wilderness Peak and De Leo Wall

I'm way behind on my hiking posts, so I'm going to combine these two together, since they are both on Cougar Mountain! (Sorry, all pictures are from De Leo Wall hike and all taken by Tina. I can't find my pictures!)

Wilderness Peak and De Leo Wall are both popular trails on Cougar Mountain. Wilderness Peak is located off SR 900 between Renton and Issaquah. The trail head is rather easy to miss, and I had passed by it a lot of times so luckily I knew where it was.

Old mine shaft

There are no views from the top of Wilderness Peak, but it was still a lovely hike. That went straight up, up and up! There were a few creeks to cross, and lots of bugs out, but it was still a nice after work workout. When we got up to the top, there was a register were we all signed our names and then shared some caramel waffles that Christa brought. They were delicious!

De Leo Wall was also a fun, but much easier, hike on the other side of Cougar Mountain, from the Red Town Trailhead. There was not as much elevation gain as Wilderness Peak, but the De Leo Wall trail had a lot more ups and downs. There were a few parts that were pretty steep!

Tina and a coal car!

The De Leo Wall is this rock formation that you end up standing on at an overlook. We were all expecting to see this large rock wall, when instead we ended up on top of it! The views were not that spectacular (just a bunch of houses and a water tower), but it was an easy after work hike. On the way back, I convinced the gals to stop by a waterfall that was on my map. Unfortunately, the waterfall was tiny and wasn't worth the extra trek out to it.

View from De Leo Wall

I think I would like to do both hikes again. I think running the De Leo Wall trail would be fun, but walking up Wilderness Peak is about all I would want to do!

Wilderness Peak:
Total time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 4 miles, 1200 ft 
Passes: none required
Location: 2.5 miles from I-90 on SR 900 near Issaquah, GPS: N 47 30.612, W 122 05.223
De Leo Wall:
Total time: 2 hours
Distance: 4 miles, 350 ft 
Passes: none required
Location: Redtown Trail Head, Cougar Mountain, GPS: N 47 32.096, W 122 07.722
Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Hey there!

You all still there? Maybe? I'm sorry I disappeared without notice. You see, I just started school this week.

Wait, what? School? Yes, School. Even after all those times I've said I will never ever go back to school to get another degree.

Me at GRCC graduation in 2007

Ok, are you confused now? Probably. Anyways, long story short, after I graduated with my Bachelor's degree, I swore up and down and sideways I would never go back to school to get a Masters or Ph.D. In the past few months, I've been exploring other options besides chemistry and I've found a few different tracks I'm interested in. And so now I'm going back to school to see which direction I want to take my career in.

I'm currently taking a biology class while still working full time. This means waking up at 5 am and spending lots of time at work and at school. It's funny, though, that I don't find it that bad. I'm tired and all, but it's like, so what? I feel like I'm actually heading in the right direction for once, instead of wandering aimlessly.

It feels so great to have a goal in mind!

Anyways, I really want to keep up my blog for my readers (yes, all 3 of you!), but please bear with me as I start my new adventure. I will try to post when I can, but sometimes I'm just too dang tired!

I have so many new recipes in mind and I've been hiking like crazy! (Except now my Wednesday hikes are over with, and that makes me sad, but it's getting too dark out too early to hike!)

I finally have a full day to myself tomorrow and I plan on writing up some posts, along with cleaning and studying. Then on Sunday, I'm hiking Mailbox peak (yikes!) and so I probably won't have the energy to do much but veg. But I do promise to try!!

Thanks for sticking around and being patient with me :)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quick Noodle and Veggie Stir Fry

Sometimes I have my days where I am tempted to get dinner from the Chinese deli at my grocery store. They have all sorts of delicious things there and it would be so easy to stand in line and say, “Beef and broccoli please!” As I stand there, looking like an idiot, drooling over the Chinese food, I remember that there is a salad bar right behind me. I then snap back to normal Rachel and gather the ingredients for a noodle stir fry. 

I fill up a container with as many veggies as I can fit. Onions, bell peppers, edamame, broccoli. I make my way to the meat department to get some steak or chicken (or sometimes, shrimp!). My final stop is in the refrigerated section, where I pick up some pre-cooked yakisoba noodles in order to save some time in the kitchen.

My noodle stir fry takes me less than 15 minutes to make when I get home. I chop the meat, stir fry it, then stir fry the veggies, and finally add the sauce and noodles. Voila! Dinner in a flash!

If you are craving some Chinese (or teriyaki), give this meal a try tonight. It’s quicker than calling for take out!

Quick Noodle Stir Fry

Serves 4
Pre-cut veggies from the salad bar, your choice (at least 3 c.)
1 lb skirt steak, chicken breasts or shrimp
1 package yakisoba noodles
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tbsp sesame oil
½ tbsp mirin (rice wine)
1 tbsp hoisin
¼ tsp Sriracha, optional

1. For meat, slice steak into thin slices, cut chicken into 1” cubes, or peel and devein shrimp.
2. Mix together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. Open noodle package and puncture plastic with scissors. Put in microwave for 30 seconds.  
3. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over med-high heat. Add meat and stir fry until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside. Add veggies and stir fry for 1-2 minutes to soften. Add meat and noodles back into pan and add sauce. Bring to a boil, then toss to coat.


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