The Little Chinatown Pizza Shop

Our neighborhood pizza shop isn’t even in our neighborhood, but it’s as close to something we’d consider our go-to neighborhood hangout spot in Seattle as it gets.  World Pizza has one of the best happy hours in town, sells nothing but vegetarian pizza, plays hip hop as part of its music rotation, is a small space loaded with flavor and personality, and is located smack dab in the middle of Chinatown. Although we’d love for World Pizza to be on our street, the fact that it’s in Chinatown only adds to its charm. Here’s one of World Pizza’s owners selling gigantic $1 chocolate chip cookies during the Chow-Down in Chinatown event.

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Chow-Down in Chinatown

Last weekend was a weekend of food festivals in Seattle. We loved the food and street jazz music performed by young teenagers at the Bastille Bash, but the energy and lion dances at the Chow-Down in Chinatown were amazing.

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Magus Books

If you love books and charming book shops, Seattle is the place for you.  The options are endless. On this particular day, we passed our time slowly walking up and down the small aisles of Magus Book, the oldest independent used book storefront in Seattle. Magus Book has a fantastic selection of used books, vintage books, and academic books due to its close proximity to the University of Washington.

This is the kind of bookstore that doesn’t overwhelm or underwhelm you with selections, and where you can walk in not knowing what you’re looking for and walk out with a few surprise finds. Here, you might find the kinds of scholarly books you remember from your college days (except now you can actually enjoy them since the books aren’t a source of cramming stress but rather a leisurely read) more than the kind of books you’d find on the current best seller lists in larger shops. The staff is friendly, there to help you when you need it, but gives you a nice space to look around as long as you want.

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The Mysterious Japanese Confectionary

Although July has started off a bit rocky for us, June despite the gloom was a month of wonderful treats, like meeting Mr. Jimmy Mirikitani and finding new treasures. On June 30th we stumbled upon a Japanese confectionary called Tokara.

When we walked in, we saw two women sitting on tatami in a small room sipping tea. We felt like we intruded into someone’s living room. At first we didn’t really understand where we were or what we were looking for because it didn’t seem like a restaurant or cafe yet it wasn’t a retail space either. Probably because we looked perplexed, the owner explained that she makes Kyoto-style confections (known as wagashi) to match the season, which she opens up her space only once a month to offer, usually on the third Sunday of the month.

The confections she was selling on that particular day was a set of three Minazuki:  wheat flour dumplings shaped in triangles with adzuki beans sprinkled on top. The triangle shape is supposed to represent ice stemming from the tradition of people keeping natural ice in an underground storage in Kyoto called Himuro and on June 3oth, the ice was taken out of the storage and offered to the emperor and his family. Common people could not have ice during the summer, so they made sweets with wheat in a triangle shape to symbolize ice. The adzuki is also supposed to symbolize good health and luck. Every year on June 30th, people in Kyoto still practice this ancient tradition of eating minazuki with appreciation for the half year past peacefully and praying for good health and luck for the rest of the year.

We weren’t planning on purchasing anything when we walked through Tokara’s doors, but we felt like we were in the presence of something special and unique so we purchased one baby blue package containing the three triangles without even knowing what we were buying looked like. There was only four packages left so we felt lucky to get something that’s offered only once a year. And there was something really delightful in a childlike way about leaving this Japanese confectionary with a hidden, mysterious treat with such an interesting story, history, and tradition contained within a charming packaging.

I couldn’t wait until after dinner so as soon as we got home, I unwrapped our present and we ate our “ice.” They tasted just like something you’d find carefully crafted in Kyoto. They were barely sweet, the texture was perfect, and each triangle had its own unique, light taste. My favorite was the green (matcha) one, Grant favored the white one (the most delicately flavored one of them all), and we both loved the beans on the brown one. Tokara will next be opening their doors on July 15th, and you might just find us there again.

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The Cats of Mirikitani at Wing Luke Museum

A few years ago when we saw the film The Cats of Mirikitani, my husband and I didn’t imagine we’d ever get to meet the artist Jimmy Mirikitani featured in the film, although we wanted to. Well, thanks to a film screening of The Cats of Mirikitani at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience on June 28th, we had the honor of finally meeting Mr. Mirikitani who recently turned 92 years old. Jimmy flashed his signature peace sign to remind us to “make art, not war,” serenaded us with a song in Japanese, and captured our hearts with his gentle smile and kind eyes.

We were also able to thank The Cats of Mirikitani director Linda Hattendorf and producer Masa Yoshikawa and hear their personal stories (like that Ms. Hattendorf still resides in the same apartment shown in the film – who isn’t curious about New York apartment stories, right?). During the Q&A, my husband shared with the audience members that his father was born in Manzanar and was therefore deeply moved by this film, and in turn artist Roger Shimomura also opened up to us about his family’s internment camp story.

The Cats of Mirikitani is important on so many levels. It’s important for the Asian American community to have not just a presence in films but a strong voice and point-of-view. It’s important for people to support lower-budget films and the independent spirit. It’s important for those of us who grew up in Asian families where our parents and grandparents didn’t want to speak about their painful pasts to see and hear stories that help us to better understand the complicated layers behind our family stories from their perspective.

And most of all, to me, The Cats of Mirkitani is a powerful example of human connection. Director Linda Hattendorf changed Jimmy Mirikitani and his family’s lives; he in turn changed hers. But what if she had just walked past him thinking he was just another homeless New York street artist? His story is so rich, yet we would never have been enriched by it if she just went about her business like most people do. This film gives me the hope and desire for us to all connect with each other more, to help each other more without expectations, to facilitate positive change in each others’ lives, to be less exclusionary, to be less disparaging, to not look down on homelessness, to find empowerment and give each other strength stemming from hurtful events, and to be more open, loving and connected.

Thank you Jimmy, Linda, Masa, and film crew for sharing this important story. Thank you Wing Luke Museum for giving us a place where we can come together to share, celebrate, learn, and connect. For more photos of Jimmy Mirikitani at Wing Luke Museum (non-amateur like mine), see these from PhotoMura Images.

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Farewell Travelers

It’s been a challenging week at the hands of one individual so my husband and I have been preoccupied and as much as we wanted to share the happier times we experienced pre-Monday, it’s been hard. And it’s still far from resolved, but I can’t allow a negative person to keep consuming us like this. So life continues and so will the journaling of our lives and more positive memories. Here goes . . .

A few weeks ago we went to Travelers Tea Company in Capitol Hill to say goodbye to the warm and inviting Indian cafe and chai bar that also sells spices, herbs, ayurvedic supplies, candles, groceries, and more. We had ourselves a wonderful and affordable lunch, which we ended with their delicious signature masala chai. I think the term “food for the soul” could be used here. Their standout food is the hearty samosa.

Like so many independent small businesses either getting priced out by high rent or to make room for newer, modern businesses in our neighborhood (and beyond), Traveler’s Tea Company was also recently given its notice to leave. Their last day at this location will be tomorrow, July 8th. In a sea of so many similar looking restaurants in Capitol Hill, they stood out to offer something a bit more different, unique, and affordable, but it wasn’t enough. When we were at the restaurant we heard their rent was raised by 50% and the number was insane. We thought, “how could any restaurant survive with that kind of rent price when they are serving $2.50 samoas and $6 lunch plates?”

We hope to make it to their Beacon Hill location. Best of luck and future success to them.

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Wedding Bell Blues

I feel compelled to post here what I’ve been experiencing the last two days (and 9 months). Our wedding videographer who still has not completed our wedding film for us 9 months after our wedding date, just informed us she will be taking time off from work for 18 months so will not be able to finish our wedding video. That’s very bad news to receive after 9 months of waiting.

It took her two months to just respond to one email, and six months from our wedding date to inform us that she had corrupted important wedding footage, like our first dance, that cannot be recovered. The reason my husband and I wanted to do a video in the first place was to help our family and friends who were not there feel like they were – to see and feel our wedding in motion. It’s disappointing to learn that some people don’t have the capacity to realize how they hurt other people. Mistakes happen and life circumstances can change, but I’ve always felt that people should do their best to right a wrong, rather than only thinking of themselves. We want a peaceful and just resolution; she wants an easy way out. Life is not always fair, but we know there’s always healing and more important things to turn your energy toward. This I remind myself today.

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