Category: Travel

tacoma photo safari.

Remember that evite Mr. Fresh Scratch sent me a couple of weeks ago? In it, he invited me on a “photo safari” date in Tacoma. He knows I religiously check my email dozens of times a day, so he was trying to speak my language with an evite. “Photo Safari?” Also speakin’ my language. Because, you know, in case you haven’t noticed, I kind of take a lot of pictures.

Tacoma Presbyterian Church 1

I don’t usually talk much about marriage here, much less my own marriage. But if you’re a part of one, you know it can be a tough old haul. Especially when you have kids. And when you also have hopes and dreams (which, I hope, you each do) that may be separate from your partner’s.

Mr. Fresh Scratch is a musician. I am a writer. We both are parents to two young, lovely monsters daughters who require a lot of attention. We both are teachers by day.

That doesn’t always leave a lot of time for wearing the hat of “husband” or “wife” in the way it deserves to be worn.

Tacoma Presbyterian Church 2

We each have been working hard on this marriage project in the last year or so. It seems like so many people in our inner circle are splitting up and, naturally, we don’t want that to be us. I mean, we are rapidly approaching nine years since our awesome wedding, and that’s something to be proud of. I realize more and more with each passing year just how proud I should be of each anniversary.

One thing we are very good at is going on a monthly date. We have been trying really hard to get better at the smaller, every-day things, too, to say, “I notice you. I am so glad you are my partner. You pretty much rock.” It boils down to something Will Smith (ahem. I know. I am referencing Will Smith.) said to Oprah about his marriage to Jada Pinkett-Smith; something akin to putting the health of your marriage before everything else in your life together, even before your kids. Because the two of you are the entire reason the rest exists, so if that’s not good, how do you expect the rest to be?

Will Smith: wisdom for all.

So these are images from our big photo safari date in Tacoma last weekend.

Tacoma Presbyterian Church 3

This is the Presbyterian Church in the Stadium District. Tacoma has a ton of awesome architecture. We didn’t get to most of it. I kind of focused heavily on food, so there wasn’t time to oogle at every awesome structure. But this church is where we went first. I loved the old bricks, stained glass, and touches of copper. It’s fun to look at buildings nearby as if you were a tourist in Europe. The mindset gives everything a wonderful quality.

The day gave us the usual,”If you don’t like the weather in western Washington, wait five minutes,” flavor. Watch the clouds change over the entire post of pictures.

King's Books Mural

From the church, we walked to King’s Books.

I am usually the one to plan each date, and plan them I do. To every minute detail. What can I say? I am a planner. It took me a little bit to sit back and just go with it on this day. Mr. had researched some places to go that he thought we’d both enjoy, but he also wanted to keep it loose. This meant that we drove all over and doubled back to a lot of districts. Kind of like an old “Family Circus” comic where they’d show the trail of where the kid walked on the way home, meandering all sorts of weird places.

Inside King's Book Store

King’s Books is supposed to be Tacoma’s answer to Powell’s Books in Portland. Um. I don’t know that it meets that standard. It’s not remotely as large (but that’s fine with me; Powell’s actually overwhelms me to the point of needing to sit down. I have sworn it off.), but it does have an eclectic mix of new and old. It also has a cat named Atticus. I spent a lot of time looking at the cooking section. And the kids’ section; why do I always gravitate toward kid stuff when I am away from them?!

It did not have my book club book. Darn.

Stadium Clock

After the book store, we walked back past the church and down to Stadium High School. Remember 10 Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger? It was filmed at this high school.

Stadium High 1

How’d you like to go to biology class here every day? Or, more applicable to me, how’d you like to teach here every day? Tacoma is very attractive to me, but I think I’ll keep Olympia as my home-base, thanks very much.

Anyway, it reminds me of Hogwarts.

Stadium High 2

It was actually built at the turn of the century (nineteenth to twentieth, people) as a grand hotel on the railroad line. But it didn’t work out. It sat empty for a bit. Then the school district bought it and made it into an amazing school with the best views in Tacoma. Dale Chihuly, glass-blower extraordinaire, graduated from this place.

Stadium High 3

And here’s the stadium. It was actually built for the city, not the school. It first sat 40, 000. However, eventually a lot of seats had to be taken out because the weight of the stadium was pushing it down the gulch toward Puget Sound. Gulp.

It hosted Teddy Roosevelt, Bob Hope, and Babe Ruth. I think, if I taught here, I’d go to every football game.

Me & Mr. in Tacoma

And then it was time for lunch. This is where I had to insert some of my ideas. I had a list of about five restaurants I’d been wanting to try. To be fair and let it be “his date,” he got to choose from my list. Chuckle.

The Red Hot

Naturally, he chose the hot dog place, The Red Hot. I am so glad he did! It’s located on Sixth Avenue, and it has a ton of hot dogs on the menu. It also had a million beers on tap, lots of great wines served in mason jars, and a very friendly staff. Oh, and did I mention it’s super-cheap? Yes. It is. Another reason to love it.

The Red Hot's Menu

I had no idea there were this many ways to dress up a hot dog. I kept it simple with “The Tacoma,” which included fresh tomato, sport peppers (I liked them! They were too hot for Mr., which blew me away. Usually I won’t even eat a jalepeno.), a pickle spear, and celery salt. Celery salt, I have learned, is the key way to top off a hot dog. It just takes it up a notch.

Mr. Fresh Scratch got the Reuben Dog. Lots of saurkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and deli mustard.

Statue in Old Towne Tacoma

From 6th Ave, we walked around the homes in the Procter District, home of my fave grocery store, The Metropolitan Market. Since I had just been there earlier in the week on a date with myself which also included a day at the spa, we kept it short and then headed down the hill to Old Town Tacoma.

Lavender in Old Towne Tacoma

There’s not much there besides a beautiful view of the Sound, some businesses, a couple of coffee shops, and The Spar, a great old bar I haven’t been to in years.

Building & Sky in Old Towne Tacoma

It was such a beautiful day.

Corina Bakery

After Old Town, which didn’t take long at all, we headed back downtown to the Corina Bakery, where we’d gone this past winter. We got a Valhalla brownie and read our books. I finished Truth Like the Sun, a very satisfying read.

Wright Park Conservatory

We strolled up the hill to Wright Park, which is Tacoma’s answer to Central Park, if Central Park were much, much smaller. It has a terrific playground and sprayground, a big pond, over 150 different species of trees, and this lovely conservatory. We sat on a bench by the pond for a long time.

Jalepeno Margarita

We wrapped it up with dinner at another restaurant from my list. This time, we ate at Masa, also on 6th Avenue. I am sorry to tell you we will not be returning. The service was epically slow. But at least it was happy hour, where I decided to test my new-found love of spicy pepper by ordering their Diablo Margarita, which included muddled jalepenos. Let’s just say I don’t think I love peppers as much as I was starting to hope.

If you need a day to connect with your spouse – and, really, who doesn’t? – and you live near Tacoma, I encourage you to check it out. It’s has lots of hidden gems that will keep you busy, and it may be just what you need to keep the home fires burning.

The End.

Vashon Island: the emerald isle

Remember Shara, my BFF since the first day of college, back before we had neither crow’s feet nor stretch marks?

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ve heard about our adventures and misadventures. That’s her on the left, back in September when we had a big night out for our sixth or seventh time seeing our fave band since our college days, The Counting Crows.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, we decided to really get away for a day. Seattle just wouldn’t do. We needed to be….removed. So we drove onto the ferry and took the short ride across a narrow body of Puget Sound to the lovely Vashon Island for a day of exploration.

Get this: it didn’t even rain once!

Vashon: The Emerald Isle

We both enjoyed catching up and just driving rather aimlessly, pointing out cute houses or farms or beaches, not having to stop anywhere for which we really didn’t feel like unfolding ourselves from the car. Being in sync is a lovely thing.

She spotted this gorgeous knoll, right alongside the road. You know I had to get out and snap it up with the camera. Somehow, it still doesn’t capture the magic of it. There were absolutely no Evergreen trees in this one spot; just tall, deciduous beauties whose leaves had recently unfurled, shading the carpet of ferns below. We marveled at the grassy road. It was so mysterious. It went on forever.

Vashon’s only something like 13 miles long and eight miles wide; I know this because Shara was a fountain of interesting information, having read-up the night before. In other words, there was only so much we could do and see.

We saw a lot of farms.

I wondered if I could be happy living on a little island like this. The north end looks on SW Seattle. It’s so weird to be standing on farmland, gazing across the Sound to a towering skyline.

Sigh. I love the Pacific Northwest.

Vason: The Wet Whisker

On the main drag down the center of the island is The Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. This “Wet Whisker” sign is hanging up inside,but I think it’s a relic from a past name of the shop. It’s in an old storefront of a building, and they roast their coffee in the basement. It’s also an organic mom-and-pop shop, so you pay for your beverage and pastry in the same line where people are paying for their organic veggies.

We stopped here to nosh and gab about our respective younger brothers’ weddings, both of which are in September. It took a while to exhaust this topic, but, once we did, we hopped back in the car and drove on into town.

Buddha with Flower

Downtown Vashon Island is thriving with odd little shops. The two other times I’d been, I had had my family in tow and couldn’t really linger. This day was very different.

This Buddha was chillin’ outside of an antique store. You might remember him from my last insta.friday posting. This particular shop had a vintage clothing room in the back, where there was a huge pair of black satin panties with “Gone with the Wind” embroidered on the back.

We giggled. We are still stumped on that one.

We were also on Vashon to celebrate Shara’s birthday a little early. It was our seventeenth time doing this! We’ve come a long way from having her parents visit at college and take us to the local Red Robin, let me tell you. We ate at the always-very-hard-to-get-into Hardware Store. It was hopping. I had made a reservation the afternoon before, and all that I had to choose from were four slots for the entire next day. It is clearly the best place to eat on the island, if the dining room being totally full is any indication, which I think it is.

They have this sign out front:

"Today's Special; So Is Tomorrow" sign

Cute, right?

After lingering over fish and chips, a cheeseburger, and a chocolate dessert, we wandered to a lonely street on the backside of downtown, where we came across the most beautiful vintage garden and this quaint cottage:

Vason: The Little House

I am so glad we found it. It’s called “The Little House,” and it was the sweetest shop. It had stuff for babies, moms, and grads, the coolest toys, huge sticker and candy selections, not to mention kitchenware and quirky gift items. This will be the first place I go on my next visit.

The ferry runs about once an hour on the weekends, so we drove back to the ferry landing, which is truly just the southern-most end of the main drag, where we pulled off to the side of the country road into the line for the ferry a while early, browsing the various “People” and “US Weekly” magazines we’d brought for one another. One sleepy, sunny ferry ride later, we departed at Pt. Defiance, rejuvinated and ready to face our families, once again.

The End.