2019 Best and Worst Purchases of the Year, Favorite Restaurants, Favorite Activities

Top Purchases for the year:

 

Ever since learning to make macarons, I have wanted a macaron template silicone baking mat. I use these mats for more than just macarons. They are great to use in place of tinfoil and to protect the cooking sheet. They are easier to wash when food gets caked to them than the pan. I just flip them over to the blank side when I’m not using the circular macaron templates for macarons.

I had heard about people making their own laundry soap, or using castille soap, but then I heard about soap nuts and was intrigued. They are compostable and last for quite some time. They are unscented and natural. I think they work great and will definitely buy them again in 5 years or so when I need more… You only need to use 4-6 of the nuts in each load and I replace them every month (after 3-5 uses). I have lost the little baggie amidst the wet clothes and accidentally let it go through the dryer once or twice and am not sure how that affects the soap nuts…

Upon a recommendation, I bought a high end shower filter, but the filter was supposed to be replaced every 6-12 months and I couldn’t replace just the filter I had to replace the entire unit and it was costly. This filter is much smaller and more cost effective to replace.

My sister gave me two pairs of Thinx last year for my birthday and I love them quite a lot, however; you’re not supposed to put them in the laundry. It’s tedious to wash so much fabric every day, so I invested in a set of reusable pads. Now I use a combination of my Thinx, these reusable pads, and my dwindling supply of panty liners when traveling or for convenience.

When I take my purse, this product is always inside. After chipping my tooth from accidentally biting down hard on a metal fork, this softer bamboo set made me feel better about my silverware choices. Many Zero Wasters say to just toss the silverware you already have into your to-go kit, but I really like having this softer non-metal set and I only own a small set of silverware anyways (we use our housemate’s set in the kitchen). The kid’s bamboo set is much more travel friendly and the utensils themselves are soft and blunt and work perfectly.

After getting the high end Berkey filter for my home (thanks Can!) I really didn’t want to go back to unfiltered water. I saw this product at the local Recology store and loved the concept! I tossed it into my 32oz water bottle and was able to fill up at the airport and while traveling with more peace of mind.

I upped my mouth health game this year and purchased a tongue scraper. Though mine I bought from the local Recology store, this version is very similar to what I have. The first thing I do when I wake up is use it.

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Worst Purchases for the year:

I really wanted to be able to put lids on all the glass jars I’ve been collecting but alas this purchase didn’t fit most of my jars. The only size that works is the smallest, which I’ve used now and then this year, but most of them are really large and don’t stretch that well. I should have bought the beeswax wrap instead but am loathe to throw out this product as waste. It also came with a set in white and a set in blue so I have many more than I need.

I read that sunscreen expires after 6 months so I figured I would need to buy new sunscreen every summer and decided to invest in a reef safe version. Alas, this sunscreen is so thick that it doesn’t rub into the skin and sits on top of it. I’m very texture/touch sensitive and very much dislike anything oily sitting on top of my skin. My partner agrees that this is no fun to use and gross all around for humans, even if it is safer for the environment. I will never again buy sunscreen that I’m not familiar with.

Katchka Restaurant in Portland. 

I love trying new foods and new experiences. When traveling to Portland, I looked up recommended destinations. Katchka was at the top of the list for unique dining experiences. I was intrigued. Authentic Russian foods. With 4.5/5 stars and 800+ reviews on Yelp, how could it not be a hit? We checked out the menu and being unfamiliar with Russian food the three of us were intrigued by the “Ruskie Zakuski Experience’ advertised on the menu. We arrived without a reservation and were told that it would be a couple of hours before a table opened up. Disappointed, we prepared to Uber away when the host was able to squeeze us somehow onto half of a tall and narrow table within 10 minutes. We were very grateful and sat down with excitement, ready for the experience.

“Sit back and let us fill your table with an array of cold zakuski to start your meal off right! $30 per person. Full table participation is required. Don’t forget to order the vodka!
How to eat like a Russian
step 1: cover every square inch of your table with zakuski
step 2: fill everyone’s glasses with their beverage of choice (like vodka, or maybe vodka)
step 3: search your soviet soul for a spirited toast. When in doubt, a toast to friends, life, or simply “boo-dyim”!
step 4: clink. drink. eat. repeat.”

Sounds amazing, right? We ordered a flight of vodka and waited expectantly for our table to be covered with these mysterious zakuski. The table was a bit narrow, so it wouldn’t have been that difficult to cover its entirety for the three of us. The server took our order of the Russian Zakuski Experience with a nod and not much more. The experience that follows was very surprising to me. I can only describe each small dish as cold and odd appetizers dim sum style that were brought one by one with enough food on each plate for each of us to take one bite. None of us much liked any of the 10 or so cold dishes that were brought and by the end we were confused, hungry, and $90+ poorer, wondering where we had gone wrong. Had the food actually tasted amazing, the $30/person for 10 small bites would have maybe been worth it. We paid our bill and left, not wanting to try anything else on the menu and a bit shocked that our server had not warned us what kind of experience we were in for and that it wasn’t going to be enough food for a meal or that we wouldn’t get any more than those 10 plates between us.

Hot Revolution Doughnuts at the Seattle Street Fair

Never have I ever been so mad at donuts. What a waste of good money. I took two bites and threw all of the donuts straight into the trash. My partner agrees that these donuts were not fresh and very stale. I can’t believe they would have the gall to serve old donuts. I paid a lot of money (around $20 for the variety) for these disappointments. Normally I would demand a refund if I were served sub-par food, but we weren’t in the mood and I was so shocked that they would serve old donuts in the first place. I will NEVER eat their donuts again and I will ALWAYS tell people in the area to steer clear. Shame. Wish I hadn’t bothered breaking my diet for them.

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Favorite Restaurants:

Din Tai Fung – My favorite restaurant. I never knew dumplings could taste so delicious!

Stone Lounge – Don’t go for the karaoke. Don’t go for the service. Go for the happy hour Wagyu burger and get it with sweet potato fries. My favorite burger of the year. I also quite enjoyed the Aloha burger.

Marysville Jeff’s Texas BBQ – Arguably one of the best BBQ places in the state. Make sure to try their brisket! Their sides are just okay, but their meat is sublime.

Palace Korean – One of my favorite buffet places!

Smoke and Shine – Never have I ever wanted to eat just the side dishes, but the Jalapeno Cheddar Hush Puppies served with a side of bourbon honey butter are that good! We liked everything that we tried there so far.

Sirena Gelato – I love ice cream and this gelato place has the creamiest gelato I’ve ever tasted. This place is better than Molly Moon’s for a local frozen dessert.

Gyu Kaku – Such a fun dining experience and the food was delicious!

Route 22 Taproom – We only tried two of their dishes, but I was blown away by their nachos. Best bar nachos ever!

Blue Bayou (Disneyland) – Worth every penny for our entrees. This restaurant is unique and the ambiance is fantastic. Forget proposing at the Wishing Well, I think the Blue Bayou is more romantic.

Oga’s Cantina (Disneyland) – Drinks may cost you an arm and a leg but they are definitely worth the price for the atmosphere you get to drink them in. I have never spent so much money at a bar before and I have never had as much fun. I would go back to Disneyland just to go to Oga’s Cantina.

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Favorite Activities:

BodySpec testing – It was very fascinating to get a full body scan and the breakdowns of body fat and muscle mass in each limb of the body.

Zero Waste Workshop at the library – I started getting into the zero-waste movement at the beginning of the year and by the time I went to this workshop, I knew most of what the workshop was about but it was still fascinating regardless. The presenter also brought her entire family’s zero-waste personal care products for everyone to see.

Ludovico Einaudi – It has been years since I saw a musician perform and I loved seeing the pianist’s performance at McCaw Hall.

Star Wars at Benaroya Hall – Everyone should see a movie with a live orchestra at least once in their life.

Seattle Food Festival – I was introduced to the form of corn that is both delicious and amazing. I call it Crack Corn. It is like elote off the cob. It was a bag of fritos with corn kernels, special cheese, hot sauce, and lime juice. We now make this recipe at home all the time.

Beginner’s Massage Workshop – A 7-hour class for just $50! What a bargain. I got a crash course in beginner’s massage and I loved it! We practiced on each other. Half the class were going to enroll at the school for the full course and the other half were just there for fun.

Divine Holiday Party – The yearly holiday party at one of my pole studios is so much fun. I love hanging out with my pole community and watching the demos.

Thrill the World – I’ve participated in the yearly Thrill the World event for years as both a dancer and a volunteer and I love how well-organized this local event is and how many participants they get every year.

Norwescon – Every year that I go to Norwescon I have fun. It’s like our own local Comic Con. I just wish that parking were free/easier and it was closer to me. I have always day tripped down to the event and haven’t stayed in the hotel like others, though. Maybe someday I will shell out for the full experience. This year my writer’s group had a booth and we sold our books.

Maple Valley Days volunteering – I’ve volunteered at this local event for 7 years now and it’s fascinating how much effort and organization goes into this multi-day community event. I learn so much about conflict, resolution, organization, etc. as I volunteer.

PSO volunteering – I love this yearly event and I volunteered as announcer, ticketing booth, and as a pole cleaner this year. I’ve never been an announcer before and it was fun but difficult.

Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina Disneyland – When my partner and I were planning our Disneyland trip this year, we had debated whether $200 was too expensive to build a lightsaber. The reviews said that it was worth the money, more so than building a droid and we made our reservation. Though we had just come from Oga’s Cantina after our two drinks, we had a blast at this ceremony.

Star Wars Marathon – Stay awake all night watching Star Wars? Free blanket and popcorn all night long? I was excited and trepidatious at the same time. I get cranky when I’m tired and I don’t do ‘all nighters.’ We drank coffee like fiends in the evening and settled into our large airplane-sized chairs with our beautiful blankets on our laps and settled in for the marathon. The lady next to me had brought more stuff than could fit in her space and spilled both her popcorn and her drinks throughout the night. The man next to Can only came for Force Awakens. We ate two large tubs of popcorn, two large sprites, and two large waters. I made it a habit of going to the bathroom and putting eye drops in before every movie. I only missed five minutes of the beginning of one movie while waiting in line for my free drink refill. It was neat seeing all the movies continuously and making new connections between them. I really enjoyed the last movie as well.

 

All About the Donuts: Local Donut Shop Review – Daily Dozen Doughnut Company – Seattle, WA

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company

Seattle, WA

93 Pike St #7, Seattle, WA 98101

(206) 467-7769

Review criteria:

Most popular donut at the shop: the mini-donut!
Signature shop donut: maple bacon
Most popular US donut: Not available
2nd most popular US donut: Not available
Donut Hole: No

What I tried:

$5 for the assorted half dozen

What to expect:

A line. The daily dozen is well known and everybody wants a bite! There’s always a line and they only take cash – so come prepared! They are just around the corner from the fish-throwers. They only have plain, powdered sugar, cinnamon, chocolate sprinkles, maple, and maple bacon.

 

My favorite:

The machine that makes the donuts is super cool and you get to watch them getting made as you wait patiently in line for a fresh donut.

Readerfest! Aftermath of my first Seattle event with FVP!

A different setup for a different event! I really liked our featured book area.

Tables and chairs (and tablecloths) were provided. The two food trucks, though they were only around until 3pm or so, were interesting and cool choices. Panels and music entertained people throughout the event. The collection of authors was diverse.

I debuted my semi-finished coloring book (just going to color in more of the cover) for the first time at an event. Sales were on the smaller side, but this first year of Readerfest was well-stocked with vendors and panels and looks to be bigger next year.

Thank goodness parking was a cinch and maps led us straight to the brig! They even had some wonderful helpers and gave us waters! Thanks, Readerfest and hope to see you all next year!

All About the Donuts: Local Donut Shop Review – General Porpoise Doughnuts in Seattle

General Porpoise Doughnuts

Seattle, WA

My Live Video Review on Youtube is HERE

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1020 E. UNION ST., SEATTLE WA 98122

206 – 900 – 8770

gpdoughnuts.com

 

Review criteria:

Most popular donut at the shop: “Vanilla”
Signature shop donut:NA
Most popular US donut: glazed (not available)
2nd most popular US donut: Boston Creme (not available)
Donut Hole: Not Available

 

What I tried:

Vanilla, Chocolate Marshmallow, Lemon, Apple Quince Jam

$3.85/each or $18.41 for 4 including tax

 

What to expect:

This small donut shop is very much like Seattle: hip and young. If you’re looking for one type of donut, then this is your place. They only make the cream filled sugar topped donuts that are very fresh and most are very delicious. I thought some the cream fillings weren’t that great, but the donut itself was very good. They also didn’t put that much cream into the donuts.

 

My favorite:

The vanilla! It tasted like vanilla mousse, light and creamy.

All About the Donuts: Local Donut Shop Review – Mighty-O Donuts in Seattle

Mighty-O Donuts

Seattle, WA

My Live Video Review on Youtube is HERE

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 1400 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

(206) 547-0335

Mightyo.com

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Review criteria:

Most popular donut at the shop: “Maple Bar”
Signature shop donut: Perhaps the French Toast
Most popular US donut: glazed (cake donut)
2nd most popular US donut: Boston Creme (Not Available)
Donut Hole: Not Available

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What I tried:

Glazed, lemon poppy seed, maple bar, French toast, peppermint, chocolate raspberry

~$13.40

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What to expect:

This corner store is next to easy street parking and has high ceilings and a high counter. The donuts are displayed like a fancy catering event’s dessert table. All the donuts are beautifully frosted and not heavy in their cake filling.

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My favorite:

I liked the peppermint the best, but I think I would have liked any donut with their chocolate cake interior. The frosting is perfectly balanced with the amount of cake and isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, but fully flavored.

All About the Donuts: Local Donut Shop Review – Dona Queen Donuts and Deli – Seattle, WA

Dona Queen Donuts and Deli

Seattle, WA

20160825_DonaQueen (1)

View my LIVE review HERE

7018 Bothell Way NE, Kenmore, WA 98028
(206) 496-3670

 20160825_DonaQueen (4)

Review criteria:

Most popular donut at the shop: “All of them”
Signature shop donut: NA
Most popular US donut: glazed
2nd most popular US donut: Boston crème
Donut Hole: Glazed

20160825_DonaQueen (3)

What I tried:

Maple Bar, Glazed, Boston Crème, cake donut

$15.97 total for an assorted dozen

20160825_DonaQueen (2)

What to expect:

This little shop has its own little parking lot – so don’t despair for Seattle parking as there are plenty of compact spots for you to use. It’s an easy turn to get into the lot and easy to spot this little donut place. Dona Queen Donuts isn’t just donuts! They are also a deli so you can get real food there too! This place is your run of the mill donut shop where you can get all the classics, as well as sandwiches and Korean favorites.

 

My favorite:

I liked how you can get Bulgogi and a glazed donut at the same time! You might be able to convince them to make a sandwich out of a donut if you try hard enough.

Call for submissions for a Seattle Anthology: Stories from Seattle (Deadline Extended)

Call for submissions for a Seattle Anthology: Stories from Seattle (working title)

This anthology will feature what Seattle is best known for, the places and the people and the feeling of being here. The purpose of this anthology is to showcase Seattle from an insider’s perspective. The stories should center around the ‘destination’ you choose such that the reader will gain a deep understanding of what it’s like to visit that place. Any person who has never been to Seattle should be able to imagine living here from the stories. The stories do not have to be true and they can be any genre.

Stories should be approximately 200 to 2000 words each. You may submit up to three stories.

Consideration will be given first to submissions received before December 31st, 2015.

You may choose from the below destinations or pick your own that is an iconic Seattle or Seattle area destination.

Please also answer the following questions to include with your submission. We will be using some or all of the answers in the backend matter of the anthology or/and within your ‘about the author’ section at the end of your submission(s). If you would like, you can provide a short (under 100 words) author biography and a black and white author photograph to be included in your ‘about the author’ section.

  1. What do you like most about Seattle?
  2. What do you like least about Seattle?
  3. What is your favorite restaurant/café?
  4. What is your favorite book or movie that features Seattle?
  5. What is your favorite local product?
  6. What makes you a Seattleite?

If you would like to help with copy editing or provide editorial help for this anthology, please let me know.

Send to rachel(dot)author(dot)barnard@gmail.com, the author name you wish to have credited for the story, the Seattle location you chose, answers to the ‘about the author’ questions and any additional about the author information you would like (up to 100 words) as well as your submission (up to three stories). Please also sign and return This anthology-Author Contract.

Possible destinations:

Alaska Way Viaduct Market Ghost Tour
Alki Point Microsoft Campus
Archie McPhee Molly Moon
Argosy Cruise Museum of Flight
Ballard Locks Northwest Trek
Bellevue Strawberry Festival Olympic Sculpture Park
Benaroya Hall Pacific Science Center
Beoing Factory Future of Flight Paramount Theatre
Bill Gates’ House Pike’s Place
CenturyLink Field Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Chihuly Garden and Glass Ride the Ducks
Costco Seattle Aquarium
Dick’s Drive-In Seattle Great Wheel
Discovery Park Seattle Pinball Museum
Elliot Bay Book Company Smith Tower Observation Deck
EMP Snoqualmie Casino
Fremont Troll Snoqualmie Falls
Frye Art Museum Space Needle
Gas Works Park Starbucks Original
Hat N’ Boots Teatro ZinZanni
Jimi Hendrix Grave Site Twin Peaks (North Bend)
Lake View Cemetery Underground Seattle
Lake Washington Unicorn
Lighthouse at the Lime Kiln State Park UW
Lunchbox Laboratory

 

Call for Submissions: Stories of Seattle (an Anthology)

Call for submissions for a Seattle Anthology: Stories of Seattle (working title)

This anthology will feature what Seattle is best known for, the places and the people and the feeling of being here. The purpose of this anthology is to showcase Seattle from an insider’s perspective. The stories should center around the ‘destination’ you choose such that the reader will gain a deep understanding of what it’s like to visit that place. Any person who has never been to Seattle should be able to imagine living here from the stories. The stories do not have to be true and they can be any genre.

Stories should be approximately 200 to 1500 words each. You may submit up to three stories.

Consideration will be given first to submissions received before October 31st, 2015.

You may choose from the below destinations or pick your own that is an iconic Seattle or Seattle area destination.

Please also answer the following questions to include with your submission. We will be using some or all of the answers in the backend matter of the anthology or/and within your ‘about the author’ section at the end of your submission(s). If you would like, you can provide a short (under 100 words) author biography and a black and white author photograph to be included in your ‘about the author’ section.

  1. What do you like most about Seattle?
  2. What do you like least about Seattle?
  3. What is your favorite restaurant/café?
  4. What is your favorite book or movie that features Seattle?
  5. What is your favorite local product?
  6. What makes you a Seattleite?

If you would like to help with copy editing or provide editorial help for this anthology, please let me know.

Send to rachel(dot)author(dot)barnard@gmail.com, the author name you wish to have credited for the story, the Seattle location you chose, answers to the ‘about the author’ questions and any additional about the author information you would like (up to 100 words) as well as your submission (up to three stories). Please also sign and return This anthology-Author Contract.

Possible destinations:

Alaska Way Viaduct Market Ghost Tour
Alki Point Microsoft Campus
Archie McPhee Molly Moon
Argosy Cruise Museum of Flight
Ballard Locks Northwest Trek
Bellevue Strawberry Festival Olympic Sculpture Park
Benaroya Hall Pacific Science Center
Beoing Factory Future of Flight Paramount Theatre
Bill Gates’ House Pike’s Place
CenturyLink Field Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Chihuly Garden and Glass Ride the Ducks
Costco Seattle Aquarium
Dick’s Drive-In Seattle Great Wheel
Discovery Park Seattle Pinball Museum
Elliot Bay Book Company Smith Tower Observation Deck
EMP Snoqualmie Casino
Fremont Troll Snoqualmie Falls
Frye Art Museum Space Needle
Gas Works Park Starbucks Original
Hat N’ Boots Teatro ZinZanni
Jimi Hendrix Grave Site Twin Peaks (North Bend)
Lake View Cemetery Underground Seattle
Lake Washington Unicorn
Lighthouse at the Lime Kiln State Park UW
Lunchbox Laboratory

Submissions received:

  1. Snoqualmie ice cream, Maltby
  2. Costco, Seattle

Call for Submissions: Stories of Seattle (an Anthology)

Call for submissions for a Seattle Anthology: Stories of Seattle (working title)

This anthology will feature what Seattle is best known for, the places and the people and the feeling of being here. The purpose of this anthology is to showcase Seattle from an insider’s perspective. The stories should center around the ‘destination’ you choose such that the reader will gain a deep understanding of what it’s like to visit that place. Any person who has never been to Seattle should be able to imagine living here from the stories. The stories do not have to be true and they can be any genre.

Stories should be approximately 200 to 1500 words each. You may submit up to three stories.

Consideration will be given first to submissions received before October 31st, 2015.

You may choose from the below destinations or pick your own that is an iconic Seattle or Seattle area destination.

Please also answer the following questions to include with your submission. We will be using some or all of the answers in the backend matter of the anthology or/and within your ‘about the author’ section at the end of your submission(s). If you would like, you can provide a short (under 100 words) author biography and a black and white author photograph to be included in your ‘about the author’ section.

  1. What do you like most about Seattle?
  2. What do you like least about Seattle?
  3. What is your favorite restaurant/café?
  4. What is your favorite book or movie that features Seattle?
  5. What is your favorite local product?
  6. What makes you a Seattleite?

If you would like to help with copy editing or provide editorial help for this anthology, please let me know.

Send to rachel(dot)author(dot)barnard@gmail.com, the author name you wish to have credited for the story, the Seattle location you chose, answers to the ‘about the author’ questions and any additional about the author information you would like (up to 100 words) as well as your submission (up to three stories). Please also sign and return This anthology-Author Contract.

Possible destinations:

Alaska Way Viaduct Market Ghost Tour
Alki Point Microsoft Campus
Archie McPhee Molly Moon
Argosy Cruise Museum of Flight
Ballard Locks Northwest Trek
Bellevue Strawberry Festival Olympic Sculpture Park
Benaroya Hall Pacific Science Center
Beoing Factory Future of Flight Paramount Theatre
Bill Gates’ House Pike’s Place
CenturyLink Field Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Chihuly Garden and Glass Ride the Ducks
Costco Seattle Aquarium
Dick’s Drive-In Seattle Great Wheel
Discovery Park Seattle Pinball Museum
Elliot Bay Book Company Smith Tower Observation Deck
EMP Snoqualmie Casino
Fremont Troll Snoqualmie Falls
Frye Art Museum Space Needle
Gas Works Park Starbucks Original
Hat N’ Boots Teatro ZinZanni
Jimi Hendrix Grave Site Twin Peaks (North Bend)
Lake View Cemetery Underground Seattle
Lake Washington Unicorn
Lighthouse at the Lime Kiln State Park UW
Lunchbox Laboratory

Seattle Specific Saturdays: The Tomato Battle

 

 

 

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Should you go to a tomato battle? The short answer: no. The long answer: if you don’t mind getting pelted in the face (ears, nose, cheeks, eyes, hair) and having dried fermenting/rotting tomato pieces all over your skin and hair, then maybe you might like the tomato battle.

Breakdown by:

price – The tomato battle started out around $29 for pre-registering. The price went up from there to end around $52 (day of). Then Groupon swooped in with a reduced price ($35). Even $29 is too much for this event. $29 is better spent at the ipic in Redmond or a live show at Laughs or The Village Theatre in Issaquah.

Time/Day/Date – This Battle fell on a boring Saturday (not much else going on) except for the fact that the weather kicked it up a gear and a full on windstorm was raging in the Seattle area. There were only around 500 people at the event (the website said 5,000 participants). The timing during the day was great, after lunch and before dinner. In the middle of any other thing you would have going on. Event started at 1PM. My buddies pictured above and below and I headed down to Seattle after 1PM and had an excellent meal at Pyramid Ale House (surprisingly no wait time) and meandered around back around 3:30PM in time to grab another beer/wine, check out the costume contest, chill and chat and spectate, and dance to a few songs.

Other entertainment – The music was not loud enough. The costume contest was rather lame (anything voted on by the audience who are somewhat drunk and non-serious is always, always super lame). The “beer” pong was impossible with the wind. I would not suggest showing up more than an hour before the battle as you will be impossibly anxious sitting (no seats so you’re standing) around waiting for the start time of the main event. I was glad that there was wine as well as beer for sale in the battle area.

Location – Pyrmaid Alehouse was a great central location in Seattle. There was plenty of cheap parking nearby (We paid $5). The alehouse was accommodating for our lunch date before the battle.

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Would I do it again? No.

Would I do it had I known all this before? Probably. It’s a one time gotta do it type thing. Like skydiving… Who does that more than once?