Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer Renaissance Events

Summer is in full swing and there is no better way to soak in the sun than through some lace bodices and reenactment armor! Strap on your faerie wings and holster your cutlass then check out some of these great Renaissance Faire events in the Puget Sound area.

Camlann Medieval Village- Carnation, WA, weekends May- Sept
I had the distinct pleasure of visiting this quaint reenactment village in late spring. It was a quiet, rainy day with no festival activities, but I had a great time perusing the grounds with my girlfriends, talking to the interpreters, and having a bite and some meade at the Bors Heade Inn. The festival days are much more exciting, but for the $5 admission, the non-festival visit is also a nice way to escape the city and slip into another time period. 

The day we visited, there was a woman dying wool from a sheep using traditional natural dyes, and she was kind enough to share her process with us.

This faire goes for 3 weekends each summer, and each weekend has a different theme. There are lots of vendors and activities, and the site offers camping as well. I attended on a weekend when there was a jousting competition that was quite a spectacle. Themes include Pirate Weekend, Fairies, and a Royal Masquerade.

Scottish Highland Games- Enumclaw, WA, July 25th & 26th
This festival features traditional Scottish music, athletic competitions, and canine agility & herding competitions. There are several pubs on site but not as many food options as some other events of this nature. The day we attended this year was a bit hazy, which was a nice break from the hot weather we have been experiencing this summer.
My favorite part was definitely the dogs- there was an agility course and many breeds originating from the UK on display that you could pet. The human athletics were fascinating- I had no idea how many heavy objects could be thrown in different ways.

The bagpipe music was pretty much constant at this event, so I couldn't help feeling like we were crashing a funeral. We also saw a Celtic rock band which was fun. Word is that the real music gets going at night and everyone parties hard. Don't forget you kilt!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hammock Tent Hangout

Discovery Park in Seattle is a great place to escape city life any day of the year, but this past weekend was especially beautiful so I called my friends, bought some beer, and headed to Magnolia to do some serious hanging. We had a sample tent at work that I had been hoping to check out, from a UK tent company and tree enthusiast organization called Tentsile. This style is called the Stingray, and it was a real blast to set it up and kick back for a few hours with friends, kids, and the dog.

Setup was really easy. We strolled around the park a bit until we found three nice bunches of trees to anchor the ratchet straps that connect to the three corners. It is like a personal, portable, temporary treehouse, and it is perfect for keeping our butts off of the cold muddy ground. For those of you who prefer to scope things out before the adventure, check out the Seattle Tree Map to find your own perfect hangout.

The shape reminded me more of a manta ray than a stingray, but then I watched this video and understood. I am the crab.

Our pup, Ransom, liked to hop up through the zippered hatch when it was open. We set up the tent with the straps about 4.5" up the tree trunk, but once there were a few people in there, it sagged closer to the ground. The tent holds up to 880 lbs and sleeps 3 adults.

 My little buddy Ro was scared at first. The motion is kind of like a trampoline. Once he chilled out, Ro seemed to enjoy the tent as long as he was on someone's lap. Later, some older kids came by to try it out and they had a great time rolling around and going in and out of the hatch.

We tried on the rain fly for kicks. It wraps all the way around the tent, and you get in and out through the hatch, which is the easiest entry point anyway. I want to set this up on a stormy day and see how it does in the rain and wind.

The Stingray was easy to fold up and comes with a nice bag. The hatch in the center made it simple to brush out the sticks and leaves that were tracked in over the course of the day. I rolled it up on top of broken blackberry sticks by accident, but the thorns did not rip or scuff the durable floor fabric. The whole setup with the ratchet straps is pretty heavy (almost 20 lbs), but it packs up nicely in the bag so it is easy to carry it back to the van. Fortunately, I brought my own sherpa:

We didn't sleep in the tent this time, but I plan bring it along to try the next time we go car camping. It will definitely make a comfy hangout for reading a book while keeping the bugs out, or playing a card game while keeping dry on a rainy day. 

This tent, and a smaller version called the Connect, is available through REI.

If you see me hanging out in a sunny park in Seattle this spring, come on over and say hello.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Gold Rush Museum

Yesterday was the Lunar New Year Celebration in Seattle's International District. It felt more like a spring fair, with temps in the 50's and beautiful clear skies. Once the festivities started to wind down and we found ourselves full of dumplings, a friend and I decided to stroll towards Pioneer Square in search of a refreshing beverage.

On our quest for a watering hole, we noticed a window with a stack of gold ingots and a large, sepia-toned photo of some gigantic sled dogs. We were surprised to discover a National Historic Park right here in Seattle- dedicated to the Klondike Gold Rush.

This little museum was free to explore and full of artifacts and informative displays relating to old-time Seattle and the brave souls who ventured north to the Yukon and surrounding areas in search of gold. The museum is presently located in the historic Cadillac Hotel, which has it own haunted history. There are park rangers on duty to answer questions, and they do activities with kids during the day as well. There are many interactive features within the displays that are meant to reconstruct the lifestyle on the trail to Alaska.

Perusing the sundries
A sepia "sougherdough" prospector 
A nugget of knowledge!

There was no singular feature as a "big draw" at this museum (the ingots were fake, upon closer inspection) but the photos, artifacts, and text displays explored many connections between the gold rush economy and today's Seattle. The founder of Nordstrom financed his first shoe store with his gold rush gains. One of my favorite Seattle clothing companies, Filson, was established as a rugged outfitter for the prospectors on their way north. Picture a person today, buying a suit at Nordstrom and a briefcase at Filson to take to work at Boeing, Microsoft, or Amazon, and not even realizing the connection to the past, as I almost didn't notice this great little museum on the way to a bar.

There is no doubt that Seattle is currently experiencing a population boom, but this is certainly not the first time. Between 1890 and 1900, the population of Seattle doubled to around 80,000. Between 2012 and 2013, the population increased 2.8%, to about 652,000. Things change, but then again, things stay the same.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Etsy Store is live!

One of the best parts of traveling around the Puget Sound area is all the little treasures I seem to stumble upon! To avoid ending up on Hoarders, and to make a little extra scratch to put gas in the van, I've started an etsy shop to share my finds with the world.

Right now, the shop features small knick knacks and jewelry that I've found at thrift stores, flea markets and estate sales. In the future, I will be selling some of my own crafts and other handmade goodies. Check it out!

Here's some of the current inventory:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cascadian Mountain Dancing

Here is Seattle, we are seeing a influx not of wintery weather (in fact, it was a bit balmy today) but of traditional mountain dancing, otherwise known as clogging.

The mountain dancing tradition originated in the Appalachians as a modified folk dancing tradition drawn from the Scotch-Irish immigrant population, and incorporating nuances of many styles of dance in the early american melting pot. This style was popularized most notably by D. Ray White and his son, Jesco, the Dancing Outlaw. The White family is portrayed in several documentaries- the most outrageous being the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, which is an film that is sure to entertain anyone who appreciates wild drunken dancing and debauchery. Here's a taste of Jesco from one of the earlier movies:

But not all mountain dancing enthusiast are wild glue sniffing nihilists. Some of them are very nice people who live right here in the Puget Sound area!

In Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood, we have the Eclectic Cloggers, who run a class sponsored through UW Experimental College and Country Dance & Song Society.

The Emerald City Cloggers hold classes in Seattle Center. Apparently there is quite a variety of old-timey dancing to be done in Seattle and even an Old Time Festival coming up in Olympia in February.

Get some heavy soled shoes and a jug of white lightening then get out there to clog those winter blues away!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

All Aboard the Orient Express- Karaoke night in Sodo

I am no stranger to dining in a stationary, nostalgic train car. Growing up in somewhat rural NJ, every other diner has a "dining car" that will transport you back to a simpler time while you enjoy your soup of the day. However, this visit to the Orient Express was my first experience with seven train cars welded together to create a labrythine structure which absolutely transported me to another realm of reality.

The Orient Express is a Chinese restaurant/ karaoke dream train just south of the stadiums on 4th Ave S in the Sodo neighborhood of Seattle. The building is made from seven refurbished train cars, and for many years was operated as the iconic Andy's Diner. When you enter, you are greeted by a strange fish with a bulbous head, a toy train set, and what I'm certain is a perennial Christmas tree. There is a bar car, a dining car with tall, lovely booths, and a presidential car that hosts larger parties and has a museum-like feel with framed photos and plaques. This last car is said to have been used by FDR on his 1944 presidential campaign, so this is a great place to get drunk and appreciate some American history. But I didn't come to the Orient Express to learn about former presidents, or even to eat their delicious food. I came to sing 90's pop hits.

Some work mates joined me here on a Friday evening in search of a private karaoke room. We were making an early evening, gathering right after work and before some of our other plans for the night. Upon arrival, we were lead through a maze of corridors to a dark padded room that smelled vaguely of cigarettes and hairspray. There was a large flat screen TV with the karaoke machine attached, and a nice long couch along the opposite wall. We ordered beers and finger foods, and the hostess showed us how to operate the karaoke machine. Most of the song selections were in Chinese, Korean or Thai, but we made do, belting out the hits and pondering the strange videos that accompanied the songs. As the night went on, the beer bottles added up and the surrounding rooms filled with enthusiastic singers. By the time we left, every room was full and the whole train was bustling.

I was truly enchanted by this visit to the Orient Express, and plan to return the next time a group of my peers agrees to the traditional humiliation ritual which is known as karaoke. I also found out that there is a monthly dance party hosted in one of the private cars, which might be the topic of a future post!

The FDR car

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Hello! Welcome to my blog, Cascadian Curiosities. Here I will be writing about history, travel and event experiences in and around the Puget Sound area, as well as some odds and ends that peak my personal interest. I hope that you enjoy reading about my adventures!