*Sorry in advance for the over-detailed post, but I don’t want to forget a moment of this week.
Chinese New Year (CNY) break was very early this year, and just three short weeks after our Christmas break, another break was here! This year, instead of a beach vacation, we were on a special mission to Seattle for a secret wedding. My sister had asked me when my break was and had graciously planned to have her “engagement party” during the CNY break. She had always told me that if I was invited to her engagement party, which I had better go because it would be her wedding. She didn’t want to fuss with all of the rules of a wedding, so she and Ben planned a low key, beautiful evening for family and friends.
We left Shenzhen on Friday afternoon, after a nice hotel stay closer to the airport (to assuage my travel nerves) and arrived in Seattle at 9am on Friday morning. Immigration was a mess, and my opinion of Seatac Airport remains poor; it took us over 2 hours to get through immigration, then we had to go pick up our car. I was buzzing with excitement, too much to be tired, so after some coffee and a shower, I rushed to meet up with my mom, sister, and her closest gals to get ready for the party. We were having our hair and makeup done at a hotel near the venue. It was a great afternoon, filled with champagne, laughter and love. With my hair and makeup done, you could barely see my jetlag, although I was feeling it a bit by then.
I left the wedding preparations with Matt and Alayna, and we made the short trip down to the venue, which was a party room attached to Purple, a really nice restaurant in Seattle. My two best friends were already there enjoying happy hour with their significant others, so I joined them for a bit before we made our way to the party.
Family trickled in, my grandparents, Mom, Dad and Susan, Grace, Nate and Jesse, Matt and Alayna, Donnie and Paul, it was so wonderful to have so many loved ones so close. After about an hour, Andie pulled me into the bathroom with her and I helped her put on her wedding dress. After that, Alayna led Andie and Ben through their vows in a beautiful ceremony. I was definitely more than just misty eyed. My heart was bursting with happiness for witnessing two wonderful people make the choice to make a beautiful life together. I was so grateful for the opportunity to be present and surrounded by so much love at that moment.
The rest of the party was kind of a blur, jetlag, happiness, alcohol all combined to make a very tired Jessica and I was happy to get back to my comfy hotel bed after the party.
We woke up LATE the next day, which was a welcome surprise, but it meant we had to rush to grab breakfast before they put it away. We grabbed some food for Paul to have his breakfast in bed because he was still asleep. We cleaned up, packed again, then made our way to Queen Anne to meet up with the family again at the Queen Anne Beer Hall.
It was a pleasant, albeit large, gathering of friends and family again. It was a little strange to have Mom and Dad in the same vicinity again after so many years (I think it had been like 8 years since they’d shared the same space). After our afternoon meal, we walked over to the Sculpture Park and wandered in the afternoon sunshine for a while, even kicking around a soccer ball for fun. After a visit to Matt’s apartment, we all parted ways for some much needed down time. Andie and Ben had graciously offered their place to us while they stayed out at a house that Andie was housesitting.
Sunday morning we were up early and ready to make the walk down to Local 360 for brunch with the family, again! You might think I was growing tired of all the family time, but really I couldn’t get enough of it. We met up with Dad and Susan, Matt and Alayna, the newlyweds and settled in for a feast that included PB & J bonbons, awesome apple waffles and yummy eggs. I seem to end up at Local 360 each time I’m in Seattle, and it doesn’t disappoint. After saying our goodbyes to Dad and Susan, we made our way back to Andie’s place to figure out what to do with the rest of the day. It ended up being a lazy day, all of us parting ways again until the evening. Mom came over to stay with us for the remainder of her days in Seattle a little later in the day, and Paul was so happy to soak up the time with Nana. That evening, we invited everybody back over and ordered a feast of Indian food and then settled in to watch my terrible indulgence, The Bachelor. It was great fun having everybody make comments and collectively hate to love the show. I was again reminded of how lucky I am to have such a tolerant family who would stand watching the show with us (not many people do).
Monday we were up early and out the door on a snow-seeking trip. We had wanted to go to an epic tubing area, but it was closed Mondays, so we opted for a national park which had a sledding hill. We made a pit-stop on the way out of town to get some coffee and buy some sleds, and after securing them we were on our way. It ended up being located in Snoqualmie Pass, about an hour outside of Seattle. We donned our coats, and made our way to the hill, which had a fair amount of sledders, but wasn’t too crowded. We took turns going down the lanes, then hiking back up again. On my second run, I got some air, but landed hard on my tail bone, so I opted just to watch the rest of the time. I was bummed, but I didn’t want to risk hurting myself worse with another 13 hour flight looming ahead. After about 90 minutes of sledding, we had all had our fill (except Paul of course)! We were all in need of some lunch, so we stopped at a brewery called DruBru’s and ordered a pizza while we sipped their beers. They had an in-house rootbeer, so Paul’s spirits were lifted and he drank 2 of them! It was a short ride back into the city, and we decided some naps and workouts were in order before the next activity. That evening, we all came back together for another episode of The Bachelor, this time we watched it in the clubhouse of the apartment complex. It was just as fun, and after a fulfilling day, we went to bed!
On Tuesday, most people had to be back at work, and Mom had to be at the airport early-ish, so we opted to make it our shopping day. We had our customary list of things we wanted from the US, and were ready to tackle it head on. We said goodbye to mom, which was hard, but hopefully we’ll see her soon, I want her to come visit at the end of the summer. After the airport, we hit Panera for breakfast while we waited for stores to open. From there we did Nordstrom’s, REI, Target, an awesome brew shop and planned to hit Safeway before we called it quits. It was quite a haul, but all things we mostly needed, plus a few fun purchases. We called it quits in the afternoon, and headed back home to relax/workout before the evening activities. V came over and we decided to try out a new brewery called Urban Family Brewing, which appealed to us because so few places are family friendly. It was picnic-German beer garden style, so we stopped at whole foods for some snacks before heading out there for dinner. Andie and Ben met up with us, but didn’t stay too long because Andie was starting her new job the next day! It was a lot of fun, great beer and good company. We even got to try their ice cream flavored beer! But my fav was a sour called Sour Bog. I brought some back with me to China and really enjoyed it again here.
Wednesday morning we started packing up our purchases and doing some cleaning around Andie and Ben’s place. They were coming back to stay the next day, so we wanted to make sure it was in good condition. Donnie and Paul hung out for the rest of the day while I went to meet up with Mal and V. Mal wanted to take us to one of her favorite lunch spots, which is located at a nursery near her house. She picked us up and after a quick tour of her house (which is super nice!) we arrived at the restaurant. Lunch was perfect, and so was sitting in a garden catching up with my two best friends. Life is good for all of us, and we are lucky to get to see each other as often as we do, but I don’t take for granted moments like those. Our day-date wasn’t done yet though, we stopped at a coffee roaster to pick up some coffee for a coworker of mine and have a quick latte, and then headed over to a really awesome bottle and fill shop called Chuck’s Hop Head. We indulged in a small beer each, and I got some bottles to bring to Donnie. It was a superbly pleasant day. Mal took us back downtown and I was sad to see the day end. Donnie and Paul were ready to go on an adventure when I came home, so we hopped in the car and drove out to Ballard. We hit up Safeway for the rest of our US goodies and then went to another brewery called Stoup. It was crowded, and noisy, but the beer was tasty, and they had a taco truck out front. The chef was from Oaxaca, and I ate way more than was needed. 😉
Thursday was our last full day of Seattle, and I had promised Paul I would take him to see his friend Puffy the Pufferfish at the Seattle Aquarium. So we rose with the sun and walked the mile down the road to visit. The aquarium was empty (so much better than the summer crowds) so we visited the octopus, jellyfish and even touched a sea urchin before making our way to Puffy’s tank. And there he was, Paul was so happy. We watched him for a bit and then wandered through the rest of the exhibits rather quickly because it was very cold outside. On our walk back, we stopped for some coffee and hot chocolate and then met up with Donnie for some snacks before our next errand. Our last afternoon in Seattle was spent in Fremont touring the Theo chocolate factory. They are supposed to do a children’s tour once a month, and it was available, so I booked me, Paul and V to go Thursday afternoon. Donnie went across the street to a brewery that didn’t allow kids (we tried to go the last time and were turned away). We ended up being the only people on the tour so the guide was super friendly and Paul got all his questions answered. We also ate a ton of chocolate. After the tour was done, we met up with Donnie and his friend Jeff and went off in search of food. Unfortunately, Fremont is not very kid friendly, we were turned away from 2 more places before we settled in for more Mexican food at a cantina. We were not disappointed though! The food was good and it was happy hour, and most of all it was warm inside (this day was particularly cold in my memory). After a very satisfying meal, we said our goodbyes to V and hopped in the car back to Urban Family Brewing. Matt, Alayna, his friend James, Andie and Ben all met us there for one last night of fun. I soaked up the time with my bro and sis, and then said goodbye to them that evening, handing off the keys to Andie’s place. From there we drove out to an airport hotel where we spent our last hours in Seattle sleeping and staying warm. It was raining when we woke, the only rain we’d seen all trip, and it seemed fitting that Seattle was sad to see us go.
SeaTac was no hassle this time and we were home with just a 13 hour uneventful flight back to Shenzhen. It only took us 90 minutes from walking off the plane to walking in our door, which has to be a record.
Thank you to all the friends and family who were a part of this wonderful week. I was in a weird funk for part of the trip, but my heart left the US as full as it’s ever been. Until I see you all again. Love to all.