Super fun Saturday


Susan is in town visiting, so we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and our limited time left in Seattle to do some fun stuff. We started at Skillet for breakfast, then headed into the city to ride the Great Wheel, the only touristy activity that was on my list to do before we left. We were having one of those glorious “last gasp of summer” sunny days, so we opted to park a little farther away and walk through the sculpture garden.

SFS_WheelWe arrived at the perfect time, with a minimal amount of line/crowds. As you might imagine, it’s quite an impressive piece of machinery:


The car itself is really nice, with big floor to ceiling windows to take in the view. (There’s a VIP car with a glass floor, that we all agreed might be a little bit much… ) It goes up really high, so you get a gorgeous view of the whole area. Say hi to my office building (weird angly striped one with taller black skyscraper right behind it):

SFS_WheelView1Industrial area and stadiums:

SFS_WheelView2Even the gigantic cruise ships look minuscule from up here:


We all geeked out pretty hardcore on the shadow in the water:


It was a very enjoyable excursion and I was happy we’d done it. Then we headed south to do a little furniture shopping with Susan, followed by some whiskey tasting for the boy. He and I had tried to go the previous weekend, but they were closed for a private party. So, it was with great relief that we saw the open sign:


Neither Susan nor I were particularly excited by whiskey and scotch tasting, so we hung out in the very beautiful tasting room, while T chatted with his fellow imbibers. It’s a gorgeous space:


The barrel room:


At some point the guy doing the tastings invited T back to see the stills, so he had us come back to see them also. Not only was the scale very impressive, I loved that they looked like something out of a Wes Anderson movie:


T in his element. Look how cute he is!


He bought a special whiskey that you can only get at the distillery. They really make the most of the experience. You get to fill the bottle yourself:


It had a nice sense of ceremony. They have you sign a little ledger and fill out your label and everything. It’s pretty awesome. T was in heaven.

We then headed back to the house, where T hung out with the dogs while Susan and I went for pedicures:

SFS_Pedicure1I chose a fun bright red, which is a big departure from my usual burgundy or more subtle shades.


Afterward, we had a little time to relax in the backyard, before getting dressed up to go to an early birthday dinner for T at Terra Plata. They seated us on their beautiful rooftop deck:


We had a fantastic time. The food was both lovely and delicious. We shared many fantastic things, including fresh garbanzo beans, (pictured on the right):


We followed dinner with a few cocktails at Sun Liquor. It was an action-packed day, but, we all agreed, pretty much perfect. Since there are a limited number of days before T starts his new job, it felt like we’d really maximized our fun time.

Holy cow!


So, I was all set to write another rambling blog post about canning projects and races canceled by wildfires when a fairly exciting development occurred. A fantastic job opportunity with T’s current company popped up in Northern California. It has been our plan to move back there at some point, but apparently the universe has decided that time has come, because I’m pleased to announce that T got the job and we are moving to California! (!!!!!!!!)

T’s been traveling a ton lately, so I’d decided to work down at my parent’s house in Oregon for a few days, so I was there when he got the good news. I’d already taken the day off to go to the State Fair with my mom, which was good because lord knows, no work was going to happen! Susan was kind enough to watch the dogs for me, since the fair is in the same town she lives in, so we met her for lunch beforehand. Margaritas with the moms:


I love the Oregon State Fair. It’s just a rad, old-fashioned state fair, that’s been around for quite some time:


We always spend the bulk of our time looking at the animals. It’s fun to get a glimpse into a whole other world. Like this dude talking on a cell phone while walking his cow:


(Shortly after I took this picture, a lady came up to him and asked to take a close-up picture of the cow. He sort of stopped and let her, while continuing his phone conversation. The combination of her delight at the cuteness of the cow and his total lack of interest or enthusiasm in the transaction was comedy gold. My mom and I could not stop laughing… )

Of course, we had to check out the horses. They were getting ready to show draft horse two-teams, so some of them were all dolled up, while others got to lounge in the stalls. It was fun to watch which horses were mad about that. Sometimes it was the ones in the stalls and sometimes the opposite:


Goats are super hot right now:


Our very favorite was this Boer’s goat who was a total love bug/ham:


Here he is snuggling with one of his owners:

HC_SnugglyGoatWe were completely charmed by him.

One of the other highlights was walking through the quilts section with my mom. They used to have them high up on the walls of the exhibit hall, but they’ve changed to more of a quilt labyrinth with the quilts at eye-level. It was cool to be able to see the details and my mom would explain how they were done. It was really interesting.

The next day, I headed back up to Seattle, picking the boy up at the airport on my way. We met up with Jenn & Bryan for drinks/dinner at Essex/Delancey to celebrate the boy’s new job.


I’m going to miss seeing them as often as we do now, but we’ve sworn that there will be visits and future adventures. Plus we know have the magic of social media, so I know we’ll be able to keep in touch. I’ve gotta say, 2015 has been one crazy year.

Highs and lows


I’ve started to write posts for this blog five different times. So, this post is going to be, shall we say… meandering. A random sampling of things that have been happening, interspersed with cute dog pictures. Part of this is as I mentioned earlier, because this summer has been a bit tumultuous and some of it is because my life is just not that interesting. ;-P

My work life has been particularly dramatic. My boss just gave his notice so that’s definitely shaken everything up. But prior to that, I came very close to getting a new job (or at least thought I did), only to have the process end in a very abrupt and bewildering way. Luckily, I have AWESOME friends:

PersonalCandyWallAnd, of course, these bozos:

CouchDogWallyFaceLoveDogsI’ve been really lazy with my training lately, for no good reason really. I’ve had spurts of busyness, but mostly, I just haven’t felt like getting up early and hauling my ass up a mountain in the hot weather. Finally, I bit the bullet and joined a really awesome group for a field trip to Pacific Coast trail.

PCTrunThe view was a little obscured, but it was still beautiful:

PCT-viewPlus, there was this interesting little sight:

PCT-I90I am super out of shape, but it was fun to get out there. It even inspired me to drag the boy and Mr. Austin out for a Cougar Mountain outing the following weekend:


It was toasty out, even in the shade. Here’s poor little frog dog recovering in the parking lot post-run:


The boy has been working on a big home improvement project – refinishing our 15-year old bookcases. Here’s a little before and after sneak peak:


He’s been cranking through them, so I’ll share a shot of the final product soon. I can’t wait! Otherwise, there isn’t much to write about. We started getting our veggie box, so it’s been fun to have beautiful veggies to play with. Like these technocolor beets!

BeetsHopefully, I’ll have some new fun adventures to write about soon…



It’s been quite the summer so far, (more on that in another blog post), so I’ve been excited to have a 4th of July visit from Erik & Nerissa on the calendar. Erik’s birthday is at the very end of June, a few days earlier than their arrival, so we prepared a little mini-birthday celebration – cupcakes and Goldschläger (long story). We opted to divide the cupcakes into quarters, so we had Erik hold his candle while we sang Happy Birthday…


It may have been Erik’s birthday, but Nerissa brought us a present from her recent business trip to Japan – exotic KitKat bars. (Green tea and red bean flavors, in case you can’t tell.) I actually wish they sold these in the states, they were delicious.


I’d originally worried that we were going to have our typical gray and rainy 4th of July weather, but we actually had the opposite extreme – temps in the 90’s. Here the dogs demonstrate our primary coping mechanisms… Option one, hang out in front of the fan:


Or Option Two, hang out under the shady tree in the backyard:

FrogDogVoila, Option Two!

LawnGroupWe finally got to take them to Essex/Delancey:

CocktailEssexWhat a nice-looking group:

EssexGroupErik showing off his fruity cocktail:

ErikCocktailOn the night of the fourth, we opted to stay home. It was lovely. We grilled, drank wine, watched the fireworks from our back porch and stayed up late playing Mexican Dominos. #murica


We stayed up way too late, but it was lots of fun!

MexicanDominos1We wrapped up the visit with a delicious dim sum brunch at Din Tai Fung. (Pro tip, if you go mid-morning on a holiday Sunday, there’s no wait!) We stuffed ourselves with dumplings and then wandered around Capitol Hill. It was the perfect end to a lovely visit.

18 years…


Today marks my 18th anniversary. (In my tradition of anthropomorphizing my marriage, it’s allowed to vote! And is about to head off to college… It’s a little mind-blowing.) This year, the boy was planning some big surprise celebration. I both love and hate surprises. I worry about being disappointed, but still having to fake enthusiasm because the other person went to so much trouble. I have issues. I do love the thoughtfulness factor, so I was very touched that he was taking the initiative and planning something.

All I knew was that it was an overnight expedition and to dress up. So, I went and got a pedicure while he dropped the dogs off at their boarding place, then we packed a bag and checked into our first stop on the Surprise Anniversary Tour – The Hotel Max:

18yr_HotelMaxInside was much too hip for the likes of us:

18yr_MaxLobbyOur room was tiny, but very nicely designed. I’m standing in the opposite corner of the room to take this photo:

18yr_MaxRoomWe dropped our bags and headed off to the second stop on the Surprise Anniversary Tour – Smash Putt:


Smash Putt is part mini-golf, part art installation. There were all of these really cool contraptions, such as the “Scratch & Sniff” hole:


Or the “Skeebawl”…


We did the loop-de-loop one a couple of times:


This one was brutal:


I loved the “Homage to Frogger” one (Not it’s real name… )


Of course there was a bar:


And it was pretty close, but I managed the victory:


I particularly loved the pencils:

18yr_SmashPuttPencilsThen we had a little relaxing time, which we spent being extra-classy:


Then it was time to get all gussied up…


and go to the third and final stop on the Surprise Anniversary Tour – Canlis! For those not from Seattle, Canlis is a venerable restaurant that’s been around since 1950. Unlike most restaurants of that age, it provides modern cuisine while retaining old-school ambience and excellent service. I’ve wanted to go for a while, since I’ve heard nothing but great things, so I was pretty excited.

The whole restaurant looks out over Lake Union. We were seated in a lovely banquette, with this view (I waited until the table in front of us was cleared, since that seemed awkward… )


We started our evening off with these extraordinary cocktails. I can’t remember the name of mine, but it was AMAZING.

We ordered the tasting menu, which was a modern take on some of their classic dishes. While I’d like to do a WD-50 style write up of each and every course, I’m going to refrain. (For reasons that will become clear later on… #foreshadowing)

But I will start with a little description of their first course, the pupu platter. Here’s a before and after:


You basically cooked the meat on that round stone, there was teriyaki sauce in the little capsule that you added and you sprinkled it with the micro greens. It was both fun and delicious. Here’s a snapshot of the other dishes we enjoyed (the blank square is the Waygu beef that I forgot to photograph. Oops!) As you can see, very modern presentation and everything was so delicious:


We’d also brought a really nice bottle of wine that we’d bought when we were visiting the Cyclones in Napa:


I don’t know if the good stuff is stronger than it’s 7-dollar counterparts, but the wine hit me like a sledgehammer toward the latter half of the meal. To the point where I don’t really remember some of the later courses as much as I’d like, (I still got pictures of them though. Such a committed blogger… ) and I ended up getting sick in the car on the ride home. So, poor T’s night ended in a decidedly less romantic fashion than he’d probably been hoping for. 😦

It was such a bummer. And a bit of a mystery, since I have a pretty good idea of what my tolerance is like. I’ve gone out and had an equivalent amount of wine and cocktails, maybe a glass or two less wine, and been able to drive home. Heck, WD-50 we had a similar amount of alcohol and navigated the subway back to our hotel. But the boy was a good sport about it and I suppose it’s a more accurate way to celebrate marriage: the good, the bad and the ugly!

Happy Anniversary, T. I am so very grateful to have you in my life, for all of the reasons!

Return to the Hot Chocolate 15k


It’s been two years since I’ve done this race. (That pesky Hawaii trip interfered last year… ) I wanted to get a little “race practice” in before Catalina and this race landed perfectly on the schedule. In order to keep my training on track, I opted to do a 2-hour trail run yesterday. Unfortunately, I was meeting a group of folks, so I couldn’t bring Mr. Austin. He was not impressed:

0215_PoorAustinGiven my Saturday exploits, I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. My goals were to get a final test of some of my planned race attire and get some good, steady, hilly mileage.

I’d forgotten what a cluster it is to get to races at the Seattle Center, especially when the course is on one of the major roads to get there. Poor T had to drop me off half a mile away and then wrangle traffic to find someplace to hang out for a couple of hours. (He’s a good boy.) Bonus, I got a bit of a warm-up before the race and happened upon the totally empty and pristine row of porta-potties by the finisher area.

They’ve improved their process and I was in the fifth corral. They sent groups off at three minute intervals, so it didn’t take long to be able to see the start line.

0215_HC15k-startI lined up at the front of my corral, so was able to run right from the start. I wasn’t feeling 100%, but was able to keep a nice steady pace going up the hills and enjoy recovering by bombing the downhills. The weather was perfect and I had plenty of company:

0215_HC15k-midwayAfter the finish, I picked up my GIANT finisher’s medal and bowl of sugar. Then walked over to meet up with T and spare him having to drive closer to the circus. Seriously, look at this thing, it looks like Mr. T designed it:

0215_MrTmedalNow that taper has officially begun, I pity the fool who has to deal with me!


Lighting up the holidays


Now that the big race is over, it suddenly feels like Christmas is coming way too soon. We had a LOT of work to do, so we got up on the early side and headed out. (Going to bed at 9:30 has it’s benefits!) After a nice breakfast at Portage Bay, we did some holiday shopping and crossed a few names off of the gift list.

Then it was home to clean and put up some holiday decorations. And prepare for an impromptu 5k sponsored by The Oatmeal – The Blerch Green Lake Fun Run. I’d picked up some battery powered Christmas lights and some fun Santa hats, so we were looking pretty festive:


We didn’t really see anyone else when we walked over, but there were a ton of people at the meeting place:


Given that this race was announced on Monday, it was pretty impressive how many people showed up. The mood at the start was fun, even though it was VERY chilly out:


I tried to get a picture of the action, but this was the best I could do:


Luckily, they posted a video (shot with a little helicopter drone) that is WAY better. (In fact, at 1:40 you can see yours truly veer off the path to take the above picture. I’m on the far right side of the frame. Look for the red light necklace and white lights around my hips.)

Oatmeal Greenlake Fun Run from Mel Gray on Vimeo.

It was such a fun event and put me fully in the Christmas spirit. Afterward, we went to a local Italian place for dinner. (I love Seattle where you can go to a decent restaurant in silly running clothes and no one looks twice.) Then it was a super brisk walk home because it was FREEZING!

Once there we finished decorating the tree and relaxed. It was very festive and enjoyable. A great end to a fabulous weekend.

Playing catch up


Hello, lovely readers!

Life has been ticking along. T and I started another Whole30 to get back to some semblance of healthy eating before the holiday temptations roll in. (I was feeling like things were going off the rails a little too much, even before the excesses of the New York trip.) It was a little challenging at first, but I’ve been feeling really good the last few weeks. It helps when you get to eat awesome food, such as this SB&J Burger:


I’d been most concerned with fueling my longer runs with the Whole30’s “no sugar” rules, but that’s been surprisingly easy. I’ve been taking homemade applesauce and a winter squash/apple soup instead of gels/bars/whatnot. I got myself a fancy new toy to carry around all of the crazy:


It’s way too fancy, but I LOVE it. It fits me really well and has a million pockets. I took it out for a long test drive on Sunday and was blown away.

Speaking of Sunday, my training group has been a god-send. Every Sunday, when the alarm goes off at 0:dark:thirty, I actually get out of my warm bed and go meet a fantastic group of women for some quality miles on the trails. I sometimes am treated to scenery like this – a crystal clear view of Mount Rainier:

RainierSunriseI’ve been meaning to take some pictures of our exploits, so here are a few shots from our run on Sunday. It was chilly (in the mid-30’s/low 40’s) but clear and sunny. As you can see, the scenery is hideous:


A little before the turnaround point, there was this super cool wooden path through the woods. I had to stop and photograph it on the way back. How rad is that?

GrandRidge2I’m pleased to report that I’ve been making real progress. We ran for three hours, (and approximately 13-14 miles, depending on who’s GPS you looked at) and I felt great! The difference between trail mileage and road mileage is crazy. The few times I’ve run that long on the road, I felt like a truck had run me over, but I felt surprisingly good after this run. Plus, it was a huge confidence booster for Deception Pass.

Aside from cooking and running in the woods, it’s been business as usual. My co-workers and I took a field trip to City Target to look at Christmas decorations:

TargetHijinksAnd of course, some quality couch time with my boys:


Austin continues to find new and innovative ways to lay on the new couch:

SpecialDogWhile Wally makes the best of his dog bed covers being laundered…


I have a few new adventures on the horizon that I’m pretty excited about. So, hopefully more exciting blog posts are coming your way…

Adventures afoot


Now that we’re back from our jet-setting adventure, it’s time for a good old-fashioned training post! My Deception Pass training has taken a real beating lately. Between a bout of illness and my New York trip, I hadn’t run in… *cough*… two weeks. Yikes! I joined a training group and my runs with them have been humbling to say the least. It’s a testament to how awesome trail running is that I don’t sit in my car and cry afterwards. Last weekend’s group run was at Discovery Park, which is in Seattle and very cool. I cut the group workout short, but vowed to come back the following day to do another loop.

I roped T into joining me and we brought this little troublemaker:

TR-PuppyI ran with Austin most of the way, but I made T take him down the stairs:

TR-BoyThe trails were beautiful. It’s so hard to believe we’re in the city:


And the company was excellent:

TR-BoysWe lucked out on the weather, because it was pouring rain later that day. As it did for the remainder of the week. On Tuesday, I headed out in the drizzle for a lunchtime run. I’ll confess that I was not psyched. The weather was blah. My legs felt heavy. I felt like I was running in place, even though my heart-rate monitor alert was chiming like I was sprinting. Sigh. I really wanted to cut the run short, but I forced myself to do the full time.

And I’m really glad I did, because just minutes after I would have turned around, I saw a sea otter bobbing around in the Sound. I’ve never seen one, so I stopped to try and get a picture and just enjoy him. This is right before he dove back under the water:

OtterIt reminded me of how many cool things I’ve seen while out training and how fundamentally lucky I am to be able to do these things. It completely recharged my attitude and allowed me to go out with Mr. Austin in a torrential downpour for Thursday’s run. I decided to try a new route and found a new park to run through. I felt like I might get axe-murdered, but it was actually totally fine. And very pretty:

ThursdayTrailAll in all, it’s been a pretty good week. Austin’s eye is healing up and he was able to go to daycare this week, so all is well in the Dragonfire household.

Halloween hijinks


Last year, my boss hosted a little team-building shin-dig at his place. Since it was October, there was a Halloween theme. This year, we decided to take things up a notch. There were signature cocktails (including my sparkling apple sangria). This is Reed’s pumpkin spice latte martini:

CocktailsAs with last year, he also had a fantastic spread of food and snacks. This year, we even had a craft project:

ShrinkyDinksThat’s right, Shrinky Dinks! I didn’t know they still made them. God bless Amazon!


They came out pretty cool:

ShrinkyDinks3As tradition dictates, Mel brought accessories and we took pictures on the roof:

RoofPortrait1 RoofPortrait2I couldn’t resist getting a shot of our photographer:

PhotoBunnyAnd, of course, there had to be a silly selfie:

SillySelfieAnd some behind the scenes footage:


OuttakesAfter some more adult beverages, the night got a even more entertaining:

BunnyEarsLoren ReedClownNose


At some point, T joined us and I may or may not have ended up in a gay bar wearing bunny ears at 1 in the morning. (I swear, my life is usually not this entertaining!) Poor T had to deal with getting me home. Let’s just say he’s a rockstar and I owe him big time!