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Yellowstone National Park – Geysers, Artists Point And The Lake

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Besides wildlife, Yellowstone national park is famous for its geysers and hot springs. Some are predictable like the Old Faithful; others bubble and gurgle like the Paint pots. Some howl like monsters and others are still.

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They may be brown and orange or prismatic with blue-green shades. They all smell of Sulphur.

And you don’t want to miss them.

Artists Point in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

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One of the most unusual scenic vistas in Yellowstone is the artist’s point. This is a beautiful canyon with yellow rock that gives the park its name. The falls, the colors of the canyon and the river below are beautiful.

There is a short walk with a vista point for a perfect group shot. We spent some time here before heading to the lake.

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Lake Yellowstone

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After seeing a bunch of hot springs, we headed to Lake Yellowstone. This is where the caldera is – below the lake. Along the lakefront there are more hot springs and geysers. We walked around the boardwalk to take a look at the beautiful colors in the water.

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Old Faithful Geyser

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On day 2 and 3 in the park we saw various geysers and hot springs with Old faithful being the most spectacular one. Every 45 minutes the geysers erupts like clockwork. We all got there early to get a place in the front row and waited for the count down. And when it was time the geyser erupted ferociously and faithfully. Awesome.

It amazed adults and kids alike. One of America’s greatest natural wonders!

Firehole Falls

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While we were in Old faithful area we continued further and saw the Firehole falls. We hiked a bit in the area before we headed out of the park towards the West Entrance.

We stayed overnight outside West Entrance and then started for an all day trip to Seattle the following morning. Pre-kids,we all loved Yellowstone national park. Animals, geysers, hot-springs, lake, camping and telling each other stories of bison attack as we walked back to the campsite in the dark. That night it rained and water entered our tents soaking us. Some of slept in the van scared about bear attacks and carbon dioxide poisoning.

If we were to plan now we would probably stay in one of the motel outside the park or in the historic lodges by Old Faithful. It will be a different experience now nevertheless it will still be equally amazing!

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Spring in Seattle!

cherry Blossom

It was a typical Seattle Spring when we were there last week for couple of days. Sun peeking out between clouds teasing us to come out only to start drizzling moments later.It was cool and refreshing to go outside especially since we were visiting from a hot and dry Hyderabad.

Cherry blossom

We went to checkout the annual Cherry blossom festival in the University of Washington. The recent rains had faded the blooms and it was past its peak. But I managed to relive the past experience when we visited with Varun with a couple of close up photos of the lovely pink blooms. They are a reason to visit the Pacific North West (PNW)  in April first week.

If that’s not inspiring enough, then there are acres and acres of Tulips and Daffodils fields blooming in Skagit valley for the entire month of April -though mid April is better as it is at its peak. Why plan a trip to Holland when you can experience these beauties in PNW?

Tulips

Daffodils

And if the trip to even Skagit valley seems like a long drive from Seattle ( and it can be on a sunny weekend when it seems like everyone wants to visit the blooming tulip farms), then Pike Place Market vendors offer luscious bouquets in every hue possible that you can’t resist to take home. From soft pastels to deep purples, single or double petaled, the prices and the fragrance is heady.

Liriope

Magnolias

Buds

Azaleas

Even along the streets,pops of color brighten up the otherwise rainy day. Liriope, Magnolia, Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Purple rain flower,Cherry blossoms and a lot more. The light green buds unfurling with their copper pink tips, the white flowers of Pieris Japonica set against the deep red new growth reminded me of our own garden and trips to garden centers with my friend Donna who introduced me to the world of gardening!

Lone Orange Tulip

And if you are in the Pike Place Market, don’t miss the fresh fruits – rhubarb and strawberries that are in season! We had lunch at Matt’s in the Market – an old favorite where we literally enjoyed Spring on our plate – Fresh Halibut with wilted pea-shoots and radishes on a pea puree.  Delish with some PNW inspired devilled eggs. Vipul had his standard sandwich on a brioche. Trust me, comfort gourmet doesn’t get better than this!

Spring on a plate - Halibut with radishes and pea shoots

Burger on a Brioche

Gourmet Devilled Eggs

We enjoyed our two day visit to Seattle. Friends, flowers, fun and also shopping. But we missed Varun and couldn’t wait to come back home. After all home is where the heart is and we missed our heart more than he missed us!

SEATTLE!!

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Off to Seattle, Redmond and Bellevue. See you all once we get back.

Things To Do/Try Around Seattle

As I posted a list of places to visit around Hyderabad, how could I resist posting a similar list for Seattle!

I had compiled this for a friend travelling to Seattle during summer. A few locations are not accessible/ as much fun in winter – but nevertheless this is a list dear to my heart. It says Seattle to me.

Hope you enjoy it as well.

Places to Visit

  1. Kerry Park – On a clear evening, go here for panoramic view of the city, Rainier and Space needle
  2. Mt. Rainier – Narada falls, Reflection Lake
  3. Alki beach – Go there one evening and have Tully’s coffee.
  4. Pike Place Market – Oldest farmers market in the city
  5. Kirkland waterfront – Evenings or weekend afternoons are best.
  6. Boeing Factory Tour in Everett
  7. Museum of Flight
  8. Seattle Art Museum and Asian Art Museum
  9. Woodland Park Zoo
  10. Greenlake
  11. Snoqualmie Falls

Restaurants to try

  1.  Toulouse Petit – New Orleans, Creole . http://toulousepetit.com/ ( Beignets (sweet doughy pastry) , gumbo and Po Boy’s – call to see if they have veggie options)
  2. Café Flora – Seasonal menu veggie only place – try anything – loved everything we have tried. http://www.cafeflora.com/
  3. Serious Pie – Thin crust pizza with gourmet toppings – Try rosemary and potato – http://tomdouglas.com/index.php?page=serious-pie
  4. Café Veloce – Italian – Any pasta or pizza – love everything they have here.
  5. That’s Amorehttp://thatsamoreseattle.com/ – Again Italian , but with a view of Mt Rainier
  6. Ohana – Japanese – Try veggie sushi and yakisoba noodles ( ask them not to add fish sauce or oyster sauce) . Tiki bar atmosphere is perfect for Fri and Sat nights. http://ohanabelltown.com/
  7. Pike Place Market – Sandwich @ 3 girls bakery, Falafel @ Mr D’s greek, Spicy Mac and Cheese @ Beechers, Mini cheesecakes @The Confectional Cheesecakes, French chocolate croissants @ Le Panier , Piroshky @ Piroshky – Russian Piroshky (ask if they have veggie) and Turkish coffee @ Turkish Delight.                     Everything but 3 girls bakery is one row starting so you can buy eat and walk to the next place.
  8. Silverspoon or Thai Kitchen or Chantanee – Thai food. First is a smaller gem in Redmond which is cheaper than others but with excellent quality
  9. Matador or Cactus (Kirkland) – Mexican – Great atmosphere, food, music
  10. Pho in Microsoft Commons – MS Campus – must try their veggie pho with tofu. Its better than what you get outside.
  11. Fainting Goat Gelato – try all flavors , handmade unique combinations
  12. Mediterranean Kitchen – Middle eastern ( Mezze platter , Falafel and Fool Moudamas – both veggie), end with Turkish coffee and baklava- http://www.mediterraneankitchens.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=81&Itemid=105
  13. Malay Satay Hut – Malay food (have their roti kanai as starter), very close to Microsoft, can go for lunch!
  14. Wild ginger – Awesome Satay and noodles
  15. PF Changs or Sichuan (in the same complex as Sears , next to the Regents bakery) – Chinese .
  16. Regents bakery as well for pastries (fresh fruit is the best with bubble tea)
  17. If you miss Indian food, then Spice Route( South Indian and excellent rasmalai) , Roti (north indian) , Bamboo Garden (Indo –chinese) and Mayuri Chaat Place
  18. Coffee – Fonte (in front of Seattle art Museum), Victors ( in Redmond near RTC)
  19. Rovers – Special event dining, French food

House Sale Details

I know its long overdue that we share some additional details around the sale of our house.

When we were looking to sell the house, we knew about the high level process and got estimates from different contractors, but we could’nt find information on fair price of any given task, what are surprises that can come up during inspection and appraisal, and mostly, could we do this on our own if we had the time.

Lets dive into details. This is the summary of all costs that we paid out-of-pocket before commissions.

  • Staging for a Crate and Barrel appeal – $2500
  • Painting (all rooms except the loft and entry) – $2050
  • Repairs (Caulk, Seal, Thermostat, – trees, tile repair , light fixing etc) – $650
  • Carpet Cleaning – $375
  • Power washing – Patio and Drive way – $320
  • Inspect Roof/Gutters/ Power wash roof  – $320
  • Replace all Bulbs – $125
  • Extermination – $ 550
  • Furnace servicing – $275
  • Clean trim and window boxes with moss out solution – $130
  • House Cleaning – $200
  • Landscaping ( new sod/mulch and weekly maintenance till closing) – $450

Yes, we did spend a bunch – part of it was ‘deferred maintenance costs’ – like fixing the thermostat, repairing the cabinet door that was cracked, fixing the microwave handle etc. Others were mandatory like adding CO detectors at each level. Yet others were to ensure that the house sparkles and get the online buyers to actually come in and see the house. Also there were surprise elements that we did not account for in our calculations like the extermination – one dead mouse in crawl space cost us $550!

We only fixed things initially that will put off buyers aesthetically – others, we waited for them to point out during inspection before we fixed it. This is standard practise in business. Our microwave was old with a broken handle and peeling interior paint and I was considering replacing it but since the inspection report didn’t ask for it, we saved a few $$ on it.

What were the hiccups?

The ride wasn’t smooth at all. The initial part of coordinating the repairs, paints, landscaping, cleaning and staging was finely orchestrated by our real estate agent, Denise. Although we did put together a schedule, when we were running a day late on the painting, Denise coordinated with everyone to let them know when to come so that the stagers come after the carpets are dry but leave before the cleaners come who had to finish before the photo shoot was arranged.

I digress, but the best part about Denise were the daily updates on progress, and options with recommendations when issues were found – all this when she was already working on a reduced commission for remote sellers!

While our fantastic general contractor, Donn Keith, was cleaning out the roof and gutters, he noticed issues that he thought would come up with inspection and cause costly roof repairs later, he did a fix that would prevent them in the first place. I think it pays to have a great contractor and I can’t recommend him enough! Thanks Aarti for sharing his contact info!!

Denise took care of arranging for the photo shoot – but as luck would have it, it snowed that day and we had to Photoshop some snow out for the e-flyer so that the house really stood out. With that ready, we worked on the marketing content ( 140 word limit!!) on email and we were live on March 15th.

Two very busy open houses later, we received offers and we reached mutual acceptance.

The next step was inspection. They found minor issues other than the extermination which cost us additional $550. BTW, when the buyer submits the inspection report, they pay for the inspection, but think the seller will fix everything. Seller can counter with what they will fix and if they don’t reach mutual acceptance then the deal can fall through. Buyer gets to keep the earnest money at this point.

After inspection, comes appraisal. Given the market, even though we had two really good comps ( neighbor sold for $435K and down the street house sold for $450K), the house didn’t appraise for the asking price. We had option to get another appraisal (we pay for it) , challenge the current appraisal, walk away from the deal and find another buyer (and hope he user another bank/appraiser combo) or bargain with the buyer to still buy for the asking price.Denise spent time trying to convince the appraiser, but to no vail.

As the buyers were really interested in the house and we didn’t want to pay for another appraiser or put the house back on market (and keep paying mortgage), we split the price difference in half. Again a plethora of documents needed to be signed for the new price by both parties.

The house was inspected, repairs completed as indicated, appraisal was in place and we dared to think we were clear. But we rejoiced prematurely. The buyers still had to conduct a walk through to examine repairs from the inspection and they came back with additional items that were not in the inspection report.

Besides asking for receipts for the repairs and extermination, they wanted the patio tiles to be caulked ( as some were loose), they wanted front path tiles to be fixed( they were simply laid out on gravel and not really cemented), another round of house cleaning and get the TV HDMI cable hole covered. The sad part was they threatened to postpone closing by almost 2 weeks at this point. We had so much time and energy vested in getting this to fruition that it was beyond upsetting. And it would have cost us $700 in interest over those 2 weeks. We offered them $100 to fix those issues so that we could close on time, which they declined.

To move things along, we fixed few things and threatened to keep the earnest money if they didn’t close on time  and move to the second buyer who had made an offer. Huge thanks to our contractor Donn for repairing the additional items quickly so that a second walk-through could be completed the morning of closing. The night before the second walk-through, Vipul and I couldn’t sleep. We were relieved when Denise emailed that the walk through was complete and they were no other issues.

Finally onto Closing

The escrow company prepares the closing documents a few days ahead of actual closing. The documents are signed by both parties and the buyer brings in the down payment check at this point. Our buyer completed the document signing on time but conveniently forgot to bring the check. They promised to get the check the next day before noon so we could proceed with closing in the afternoon. Another long night for us while we waited for email updates on the check receipt and completion of closing process from escrow company. Finally at 6 am in the morning – we received the much awaited news – We were sold.

Can you do this on your own?

Totally.  Our excellent contractor was one stop shop for all repair work and extremely reliable but was not the cheapest. If we were around,we could have easily handled some of the painting and repairs on our own or hired cheap labour from outside Home Depot! We would have likely saved 3-4 K in repairs if we were around – but oh well!

Two weeks later, I still can’t believe we sold our house, remotely. The day we closed was not as emotionally disturbing as was the day Lisa from Lisa Lucas Designs Staging company came by to select the neutral colors/furniture etc. She was going to strip off all the things that made that house our home and make it Crate and Barrel like – everything that you covet in a magazine but don’t really have in your own home. I cried that night like a baby.

Here’s hoping that the new owners treat our home just as lovingly as we did.

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