“I learned all about life with a ball at my feet.” ~ Ronaldinho

It’s that time of year again.danny

I like to think I keep fairly busy: work, extra baby-sitting gigs, writing group, GSRWA and of course the basics like sleeping, eating and doing laundry. But from March through October, a full eight months out of the year soccer seems to squeeze out an extraordinary amount of time. 

Soccer (or football for my annoying European friends who will point out that it’s what the cool kids call it – you know who you are). 

For eight months there are home games, away game. Injury reports, interviews. New socks, old USL era shirts. MLS live, FS1. Western Conference, Eastern Conference. CONCACAF, Open Cup. Cascadia Cup.Supporter’s shield. MLS Cup. ECS. 

Although MLS is still rather new in Seattle (this is our 8th season), this Sounder schedule is nothing new for me. Since 1994 my schedule has revolved around this team. Clipping news paper articles (I only stopped a few years ago), road trips to Vancouver and collecting autographs like trophies of my dedication to the team. 

Now, on the morning of our season opener, I think of all the things I wanted to get done over the off-season – 90% didn’t happen, oops. But hey, there is always next off season, right?

Oh, and if you need me? You can find me at the stadium. Or call me in November.

C’mon boys, take ’em all!

“That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up.” – Walt Disney

Two words encompass Disney World: Mickey. Magic.

castle - night

It has been twenty years since my last visit to Disney World. I had been to Disneyland a few times (three between 2002 and 2010, I think), but the comparison between the two is non-existant. When I was offered the chance to go along with the family I work with, I jumped at the chance. I was excited, of course, but I think I had really forgotten the magic that goes into a Disney trip. Until I got there.

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The doors to our building at the hotel.

We stayed at the Art of Animation, one of the Disney resorts. And from the moment I stepped off the Magical Express shuttle, I felt the Disney magic. Granted, I didn’t get a room for several hours after a red-eye, but they did all they could to make up for the room confusion (balloons for the kiddos, extra fast-passes and a $150 credit to the room).

We spent a whole week at the parks (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom), but there is SO much to see and do, I need another week (or two) to really take it all in.

The weather was perfect. A little chilly on one day, up around 80 and humid another day, but otherwise the low 70’s most the time which is perfect for my fair-weather skin (I wore a sweatshirt half the time which ruined some fun disney-inspired outfits, but whatever).

I was also pleasantly surprised with the quality of food. While they have your standard theme park snacks: popcorn, pretzels, etc. Each of the sit down dinners we had offered a wide selection (both for those with adventurous palates and those who preferred a more basic choice). Chicken with goat cheese polenta, Norwegian meatballs with lingonberry – I never felt like I was getting the same thing at every restaurant.

It’s funny though, stepping into the park, I felt instantly like a kid again. I wanted mickeyeverything – all the fun toys, the over-priced clothes. I wanted to get my hair done like a princess (legit though, you had to be under twelve or I would have had it done). I had my picture taken with all the characters and I think I was in awe of the castle lit up at night, just like the boys.

I’ve been home for 6 weeks and I find myself thinking back to the trip frequently. Reflecting back on my favorite rides (space mountain was far less jerk-y on my neck than I remember), goofing around with Buzz Lightyear and Woody and cruising gift-shops like it’s my job. As well as the things we didn’t have time for, like the rest of Animal Kingdom.

The staff cast members are 100% on point. From the ride attendants to the restaurant hosts to the the street cleaners, everyone was *on* at all times. Friendly, helpful each person I encountered didn’t hesitate to help with whatever was needed, or start up a friendly conversation about my disney manicure, the family reunion pins we wore, or just about the magic of Disney.

Can go back yet?

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“The legs are the wheels of creativity.” – Einstein

When the writing gets personal…

I was given the writing prompt to ‘write about something you’ve yet to finish’, in hopes of sparking some inspiration to get it done.

I have a long list of works-in-progress, but one of my favorite things is likely something I will never truly finish or aim to publish. From Aug-December 2003, fresh out of high school, I spent probably the best worst time of my life at a small school, located in the middle of nowhere, Denmark. In fact to get to any store, restaurant (I use the term ‘restaurant’ lightly here), any place with other people, it was a 3.3km (2mile) walk through the woods. The bus came once an hour during the day and you had to cab back or walk the woods at night if it got too late.

Those months at Kalø were probably *the* most formative years of my life. In a previous post I mentioned being painfully shy as a child, but moving halfway around the world meant I had to move past that and advocate for myself without anyone familiar around to help me out. I do have family in Denmark, but at a few hours away, I only saw them once on a school trip to CPH. Hey, I was busy.

But back to the point, I think there are some things that are so personal and close to the heart, they don’t need to be shared. The life experiences I went through, the people I met. I think this was one experience that is for me and the people I shared this time with and that’s okay.

Because sometimes you dress like sporty barbie and that just needs to stay in the past.

“We rise by lifting others.” – Robert Ingersoll

(This is a horrible jumbled mess as I can’t seem to really pull my thoughts together).

I am absolutely heartbroken over the terrorist attacks in Paris. I was just there, and I met some wonderful people who are no-doubt living in fear after what happened as they try to go about their daily lives.

give-me-your-tired-your-poor-your-huddled-masses-yearning-to-breathe-freeBut I’m also so very heartbroken on the response I have seen. The bitterness of people who feel certain attacks haven’t received enough attention (they haven’t, but it doesn’t mean that Paris deserves less). Heartbroken over the knee-jerk reaction that Muslims = Terrorists. And I’m heartbroken that some people seem to think that we should close our borders and not let anyone in, despite what this country is supposed to represent.

 

Paris. And those other places.

It’s all over the media that Beirut feels forgotten, but they aren’t the only one. How about the bombing targeting Shiites in Baghdad (ISIS claims that one too)? Or the 14 year old GIRL suicide bomber in Cameroon? Suicide bombers in Chad a few days before that? There were TWENTY (20) events considered terrorist attacks between the 1st and the 13th of November. I’ve seen so many posts blaming the media, but really… based on the comments I’ve seen on various news articles, even if the news did report the other attacks, would you really care?

When did we stop caring? And why? These are real people dying all over the world. Moms and babies. Teens and grandpas. I recently shared an article about Washington State receiving refugees from Syria and as I scrolled down the comments, almost every. single. one was cruel and hateful and basically stuff I refuse to copy to my blog. I get that so many people are keyboard warriors and likely wouldn’t really voice these horrible opinions in real life, but until I find a way to revoke internet/facebook licenses, I will weep internally at the truly disgusting comments I have seen.

I spent much of the day wondering why it bothered me so much, but other people seem to want to fence them out. Then I got to thinking. I lived with these people during my stay at Kalø. Iraqi, Kurdish, Afghani. Sudanese. They are my friends, people I have shared meals with. I’ve seen the physical scars, I’ve heard the mental ones. They aren’t scary. Or mean. They didn’t try to convert me or push their beliefs or traditions on me. With all this horrible backlash, I think of my friends and the good times we had together. They aren’t any different than my friends from Roskilde or from Juanita.

Are there bad people in Syria? Yes. Are there bad people who are muslim? Absolutely. But we have bad people here too. How many people have been shot on our streets? How many are locked up for life for horrible crimes? Keeping the refugees out won’t make you any more safe. It won’t secure your warm bubble. The only reason that I can find for this horrible backlash is fear. And that is what the terrorists are after. Fear.

Let’s just try to remember that hate only spreads hate.

 

Dear Santa, I’ve been good for the last week or so. Let’s just focus on that.

November and December are probably my most favorite part of the year. Yes, the actual holidays are nice, but there is something about the coziness of this time of year. Yes it gets dark early, yes it’s cold and dreary.

But the dark evenings make candles glow brighter.

The cold nights make hot cider taste sweeter.

The dreary days made better by the endless supply of Hallmark Christmas movies.

4b8a9cf0bdd81e5ebd3aeaba2a29363631c156c88b37f065c35e1eebbdab62eeHonestly, I don’t know what I’d do without two months of the most predictable holiday movies that cycle through the same actors and storylines. But it’s like I can’t look away. Will Lacey Chabert live happily ever after in the small town she happens to get stuck in just before Christmas? Will a Christmas card bring together two miserable people in time for some Christmas cheer?** Obviously we all know the answer, but I find myself watching anyway because you never know, right?

Aside from the Hallmark Channel, what are some of your go-to holiday films? The Grinch (the original cartoon, for me please)? The Santa Claus? It’s a Wonderful Life?

Even just thinking of these movies gives me a warm and happy feeling in my heart. I know what I’m doing this weekend.

** Probably the worst Christmas film I’ve ever seen. The acting so painful, I hope the magic of Christmas passes them by and they end the movie miserable and alone. 

“Soccer isn’t the same as Bach or Buddhism. But it is often more deeply felt than religion, and just as much a part of the community’s fabric, a repository of traditions” – Franklin Foer

Sounder love.

The Sounders have been part of my life since 1994. Twenty-one years spent laughing, crying, cheering, angry, elated, frustrated, thrilled, disappointed, overjoyed and well, fucking pissed (I mean, losing to Portland in the playoffs? For the love of…).

I was a shy kid growing up. Like, painfully shy. So when I saw kids getting autographs from my favorite players, the ones I wrote about in my 3rd grade journal in Mrs. Rivas’ class, I wanted autographs too. Only I wasn’t brave enough to ask. I remember my parents sending me over, but I would hang back and as things started to feel too chaotic, I would turn back and shrug. I could get an autograph the next time. Or the next time.

In 1997, I started saving everything Sounders. Programs, ticket stubs, newspaper articles. I would search every page of the sports section until I found the tiny article, usually on the back page and cut them out. I remember going to Denmark that summer and asking the petsitter to save the sports page every day so that I didn’t miss anything. A few articles with pictures went on my wall, the way other girls has posters of JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas – the other JT wasn’t famous yet). My favorite was an action shot of Wade Webber and his bleach blonde hair.

meandcraigIn 2002 my dad and I saw Coach Schmetzer at Quest during the very first game at the new stadium. My dad suggested we say hello. I was too nervous, but my dad marched up and said hello and told him all about my scrapbook full of old Sounders stuff. The whole thing was a blur to me, but ended with an invite to the team practice at Memorial Stadium to have it signed by the guys. Thinking back on it, I can still feel the excitement radiating through my body. Coach Schmetzer waved us over and said I could go right out onto the field. I took half a step onto the turf and froze. I was terrified. I remember he eventually walked me around to the different groups of guys, starting the conversation for me and the players took it from there. They asked about me, about being a fan of the sport/team, they looked through my stuff and were really kind to me.

I hugged my scrapbook to my chest the entire ride home.

I arrived early before the next game, waiting by the entrance with a carnation forzs1each of the guys, thanking them for signing my stuff. When they approached, they remembered my name, would chat for a minute, take a picture with me and suddenly I didn’t feel so invisible anymore.

After the game I would wait with the rest of the fans wanting an autograph and I remember Scott Jenkins taking the time to talk instead of signing my program and moving on to the next. Viet once ran to the locker room and grabbed a game worn jersey and an autographed ball. And Craig always had the biggest smile and a hug for me (and still does today, 13 years later).

zs2This is why I support not only this team, but these guys (playing or not) so many years later. None of this was required by the team, the coach. This was never about being a publicity stunt or trying to gain more fans. This was about being nice. They did something nice for someone just because. And it taught me that you never know how much your kindness can effect another person. Today. Tomorrow. Or 13 years from now.

Sports fans come and go, but when you’re ‘Sounders Til I Die’, there is no end. Not the end of the game. Not the end of the season. And certainly not the end of any one players career. #EBFG

Craigandschmetzer

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Wyland

Two weeks ago we took an extended weekend down to Newport, Oregon. Newport and the surrounding area has long been a happy place for the family. Camping, Mo’s, salt water taffy, Beverly Beach State Park, kites, whales, Depot Bay, barking sea lions, salty sea air, Oregon Coast Aquarium, crabbing, gift shops, the beach.

IMG_6755Oh, and the smell of campfire.

While it’s been a long time since we’ve camped, instead moving to the dog friendly Best Western at Agate Beach.  That said, it doesn’t mean we’ve given up on the campground 100%.

We had a combination of credits and gift cards for 3 free nights, so we headed down IMG_6747 Thursday afternoon to stay through mid-day Sunday. Because the hotel is dog friendly, the Boo got to come along and be a ‘beach dog’ – she was thrilled. We played in the tide pool, chased the waves (well, she did), searched for shells and played with seaweed (and then passed out later on).

IMG_6741Friday we spent most the day in Downtown Newport. We ate at Mo’s, wandered the shops and watched the Sea Lions fight for space on their designated dock.

Saturday had a slow start, but we spent the afternoon on the beach and then headed to our camping site for a fire. We roasted hotdogs for dinner and made s’mores for dessert. The campground was full, and we felt slightly guilty about holding a campsite from someone who would’ve spent the night, but for $28 bucks, it was worth the campfire and cheap (but delicious) dinner.

In all, it was a great, albeit short weekend away.


 

Best Western Agate Beach Inn review: 3.5/5 stars.

I love this hotel. We’ve stayed here numerous times over the years and for the most part, it’s fantastic.

The beach: You walk out the back door, and down a little hill and you are on the beach. If you’re lucky enough to have a beach view, there is nothing in your way.

The rooms: Clean, but dated. For the price, I’d expect it to be a little more updated. On one hand, maybe because we’ve always stayed in a dog-friendly room (certain ones are designated for the pooches), perhaps they just aren’t updated..? Spruce it up, and this would be a top place on the coast to stay.

Restaurant: Decent for breakfast. The Banana fosters french toast was a little soggy and overly sweet when it arrived. Then I realized they made it with banana bread. Stick to regular french toast for this dish, Best Western. You’d win an award.

The cost: CHECK YOUR CREDIT CARD ACTIVITY AFTERWARD. Ok, so they made things right immediately when I called, but I was frustrated to see that they double charged me for the pet fee ($40, instead of $20 per stay) despite the fact that they shouldn’t have charged it at all – we paid it in cash when checking out.

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“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” —Philip Roth

I have commitment issues.

I guess admitting it is the first step, right? I can hear you already, “oh, Hanne is going to talk about relationships…” except I’m not.

I’m here to talk about my ‘work-in-progress’ folder on my computer. I have three pieces that I have started, have a decent amount – both plotted out and written – and I just can’t commit to one and finish the fucker.

I have two huge writing conferences coming up, and while I don’t need to show up with a finish manuscript, I should be able to say that I’ve got a finished novel – here are the details and my contact information, let’s connect.

Part of my problem is my schedule. Summer has been all over the place. Vacation. Time off from work. Extra hours at work. You name it. You’d think the extra time off would be helpful, but I end up sleeping more and getting more done outside of my writing life. Granted I have a million other things that I’m working on as well, but I guess I just need to sit down and focus.

And it’s not always that I can’t focus, but I get bored. Oh this is shit, start something fresh or Meh, this is boring. No one wants to read this. And sometimes I just get a spark of an idea and want to play with that instead.

Do any of my fellow writers have any tips for sitting down to focus? Do you schedule specific writing time or just go with the flow? And is scrivener really worth the money? I mean, I’ve seen the basics, but it also looks complicated. But Lord knows I need to keep focused.

“Oh salted sea, how much of your salt are Portuguese tears?” – Fernando Pessoa

Getting to Portugal was a bit of a shit-show. Originally we were going to arrive in Lisbon in the morning on Sunday and then renting a car (or taking the train) down to Faro. But unfortunately my dad booked his ticket to arrive at 11pm instead of 11am. So we were forced to spend a night in Lisbon. Not horrible, except my mom and I had a 7am flight and so we were catching a cab at 4am leaving the rest of the day pretty shot with only a few hours of sleep. We arrived to a towering skyscraper of a hotel (we were on the 17th floor) and promptly crashed. Because it was Sunday and most everything is closed Sundays, we pretty much spent the day reading, napping and watching TV. Dad arrived closer to midnight and we were up bright and early to get a rental car. I had suggested multiple times to order a car ahead of time, but no one seemed overly concerned about it. That meant that getting a car was a bit more difficult, but we were on the road just before lunch time. IMG_7492 It was a three hour drive south to Faro and eventually to Moncarapacho where my dad’s friend lives (where we were staying). It was a bit of an adventure to find her house. Actually, we didn’t find it. We found close and then she came to meet us and we followed her up the hill to her house.IMG_7500 IMG_7514 What an amazing place, though a bit out in the middle of nowhere and too isolated for me to live all the time. Great for a get-away though. It was warm, but not too bad when in the shade. We spent one day in Faro, downtown and then to the coast for a walk on the beach and to dip our toes in the water. Portugal is a bit sad in a way. Very poor from what I saw in the south, with many old buildings abandoned and falling apart. Graffiti covers most everything, but with a little imagination, you can imagine the town in all it’s glory. IMG_7540 IMG_7537 Our second full day in Faro was a Portuguese holiday which meant much of the city was closed down. So we took a little drive across a river and into Spain. It was like night and day compared to Faro. Clean, bright and pretty well maintained. It seemed to be more of a vacation town as there were many properties listed for sale, many were condos near the water and most posts were in English despite everyone we encountered speaking very limited English (unlike Portugal where most people had a pretty good command of the language). IMG_6226 Portugal is very high on my list of places to return to. I would love to go and spend some time relaxing and maybe touring a few more historical places in Lisbon. The fresh seafood was delicious and the sangria was on par with my own sangria recipe. The orange juice was to die for (seriously, I don’t even really like orange juice but I drank so much in three days). Oranges grow all over the place and it was so sad to see oranges rotting on the ground in the orchards. IMG_7535

“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn

IMG_5935With my parents off to Frankfurt for a couple days, I wanted to go somewhere on my own. I looked into returning to a couple of previous favorites (Greece, Croatia or Italy) as well as branching out somewhere new (Bulgaria or Albania). But since I was meeting my parents in Portugal, the cost of travel and ease of connecting flights played a big part in my decision. I ended up picking Paris for a couple of reasons. I had been once before nearly 8 years ago and thought it would be a great place to chill for a couple of days. The city center is fairly familiar, so there would be less of a learning curve and as I researched new things to do/experience, I came up with the idea for a cooking class. Best. Choice. Ever.

It was great to get away for a few days and be on my own. So many people wonder about traveling solo and for me there is something so freeing about being on your own in a new place.

Although my time in Paris neared perfection, it wasn’t without a bit of drama. I booked a hotel back in March. It was near the city center, away from any religious buildings (my mom’s request after recent violence) and had an elevator as my mom would be joining me for two nights and with her knee problems, no elevator was a deal breaker.

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The Friday before I was to fly to Paris I was double checking the price of the hotel. I tend to book through hotels.com and with the ‘best price guaranteed’ I keep an eye on the price in case the price drops. I searched my hotel and it said that the selected hotel was closed! I had been emailing back and forth with the hotel to confirm my stay and request a bathtub, so I shot off a quick email asking ‘whats up?’ and on Saturday I got an email from hotels.com saying my hotel was closed, please call. It turns out they had re-booked me elsewhere, but it was further away from the center, no elevator, etc. excusezmoi? So I cancelled the replacement hotel and booked one of my choice (for an extra $250* because 3 days before arrival, the pickins were slim).

The new hotel was absolutely perfect though. Across a quiet street from a metro station (with grocery shops, a starbucks, etc), had A/C (because Paris was #$%& hot), super friendly and helpful staff and of course an elevator. I would absolutely stay there again. They had breakfast available for a charge, but hello… you’re in Paris. Why would you have a standard breakfast when just down the street you can pop into a bakery with fresh pastries. Yum! My most favorite part of my stay in Paris was the Market tour/Cooking class at La Cuisine Paris. We met at 9am just out side of the Metro station Place Monge. Just outside is the Place Monge Market, a market open every Wednesday and Saturday. Diane was our chef/instructor and she took us around the market, talked about picking fresh fruit and veg as well as how to tell when fish is fresh and talked about various types of cheeses. Because she frequents the same stalls, they were vary generous, sending us with extra cheese to try, offering a free sample of cherries, etc. She then took us to a bakery where they make fresh bread twice a day. Once we had what we needed we hopped the metro and two stops later we got off and walked a few blocks to the kitchen.

There were ten of us in the class – the perfect size. Everyone had something to do, often IMG_5978pairing with someone else. That way, we weren’t super busy and had the chance to watch what others were doing, but there was no standing around wondering what to do next. We made a fantastic lunch of roast duck breast with roast fennel, red onion and garlic and fingerling potatoes. We made a delicious cream soy sauce gravy to drizzle over top and then sprinkled with crushed pistachios. We made a nectarine and goat cheese salad with a nectarine-lemon dressing with olive oil and chervil. Dessert was creme caramel, moelleux au chocolat (molten chocolate cake) and Tuile au Amandes.Once everything was done, we all sat down for a hearty lunch and a glass of wine. Worth every euro. If you’re headed to Paris, please be sure to check them out. They have a variety of classes to fit any schedule and budget.

IMG_6033One of my other favorite places to visit was the Shakespeare And Company, an old bookstore. To this day, they offer a free place for writers to stay in exchange for a few hours work in the bookstore (all English books). There is a resident cat named Kitty and can often be found curled up on a chair in the reading room. The original book store was opened in 1919 and was a popular hangout for famous writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway. The store closed in 1940 during the German occupation. The current store was opened in 1951 in a new location and named after the original. Such a joy to explore.

Another fascinating stop was Victor Hugo’s house. If you know me, you know I absolutely IMG_5995adore Les Miserables, so getting to tour his amazing home was a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, there was some sort of school field trip or something and it was packed with middle school/high school age kids who didn’t want to be there. It was loud and obnoxious and I was already hot,sweaty and cranky from however many miles in the hot sun (I was doing between 8-10 miles a day).

My mom arrived midday Friday and we made good use of the day and a half she had in Paris. I hauled her up and down all the stairs of the Paris metro, hopping all over town to see the Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Louvre (pretty much just the Mona Lisa), the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe – any and all of the major attractions. We lucked out in that her crutches mean we were able to skip many of the lines (honestly, we saved so much time this way). We were both exhausted already from such a busy trip, but Paris just added to the exhaustion. The heat didn’t help and I feel like we hopped between cafe and tourist site and back to a cafe for a drink and to rest our feet.

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But overall, Paris was lovely. I would love to return and be able to relax. While the summer crowds hadn’t truly arrived yet, it was busy as the weather warmed up.

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*I contacted hotels.com to complain about what happened and they sent me a $250 credit to use on the site, so we’re headed to the Oregon coast in September for some beach time.