A Guide to Staycations

For two and a half years since we’ve said the words “I do”, we’ve spent every holiday getting away to see the world. This Labor Day, we’ve decided to slow it down from the traveling and relish in the beauty of our home. We had just returned from three back-to-back travel destinations (Seattle, Juneau, and Santa Rosa) and I was feeling a bit like I was missing out on the joys of being home. Perhaps that’s a sign of aging? We thought it’d be great to try and re-create vacation vibes in our own city… and our own living room. While everyone is fighting for limited space on highways tonight, higher hotel and flight prices over the weekend, and surely every last little bit of summer sun, maybe you could turn your home into a vacay oasis too, without opening your wallets or car doors (too often).

We always took off whenever we had a bit of freedom from work, which was in essence every holiday that has ever been granted, because we felt that time was precious and tough to come by. So when it finally did, we seized the opportunity. But that’s exactly it! Time IS tough to come by, even in the comforts of our own home. Actually, ESPECIALLY in the comforts of my own home, where I do multiple jobs as a home baker and home writer after long shifts at the dental office. And now that we are homeowners, I have finally come to feel that there can be more time spent valuing this sanctuary, in a city that we so love.

Yet staycations are a tricky thing. The trick lies in re-creating the feeling that you are actually on vacation. There are a few things we feel when we are away – relaxed as we are freed from our daily responsibilities, excited as we explore to see something new, and warm as we connect with others whether that be friends and family that we are traveling with, newly met locals, or fellow wanderers. Sometimes, traveling is a way for us to simply escape from our norm. Whatever it is that you seek when you travel, you must also seek in a staycation. Your mind must be in its own wonderland and you must be focused on establishing that feeling of “elsewhere”, lest you return to work after the long weekend feeling like you’ve wasted your staycation cleaning up around the house.

To focus on creating a REAL staycation, you have to clearly know in your mind what you want to achieve. What is this staycation meant to be?

This is for all those times you had to spend balancing work and life, getting home after a long day only to complete a list full of chores. This is for the days you wished you could wake up late, and lounge in bed all morning long like a teenager on a Saturday, contemplating which would draw you out of bed first – the beating rays from a high sun or the smell of bacon and eggs. This is a time for sitting down and reading an entire book from beginning to end, undisturbed. This is for staring out of a window instead of at a screen, for playing with your cat and not giving up when he wins. This is for having breakfast in bed, and possibly never leaving the bed at all.

Here, a few guidelines for creating the perfect staycation.

Break Routine

The secret to feeling like you’re on vacation when you’re actually where you were yesterday is to distance yourself from as many daily occurrences as possible. Avoid doing the laundry, sweeping the floors, organizing your shelves, if only for one weekend. If anyone could understand how hard this first step is, it would be me. But it is essential to creating success. A way in which we’ve prepped for this at Casa Debtist is by doing all the laundry on the weekdays prior. Now we have a full closet, freshly steamed. We’ve cleaned our home as well, so our floors are looking polished, our bathroom sparkling. The sheets are newly washed, without any cat hair (for now) and the bed will be made when our staycation starts. I’ve finished my organizing in the kitchen, a project that I was hoping to tackle for some time, and the counters are finally bare, the appliances wiped down, and the dishware beautifully displayed behind closed cabinet doors, just the way I like them. Last week, we purchased enough groceries to last us through the holiday weekend, plus a bottle of wine, our attempt at feigning luxury for under $10. Usually, the cat wakes us up at 6am on the dot every morning and we get up and go about our day, but perhaps we’ll crawl back into bed and banish the sun for a few more hours. If you typically prefer showers, maybe soak in a bath with a bath bomb? Color the tub pink! I don’t normally have scented things around the house, but for this weekend I’ve situated PF candles of in each room, for lighting during the most mundane tasks of showering, lying in bed, and reading a book. In essence, we are trying to act as if we are waking up to a buffet breakfast on the resort of an island or awaiting a foot massage at a spa. In fact, I would be first to admit that part of the allure of travel time is the beautiful AirBNB homes that we get to live in, which goes hand-in-hand with the façade that we were living some other life. So I guess staycationing requires also that nostalgic façade, but in the comforts of our own home.

Avoid Screens

This is a rule that was important to establish in our home. Mike is a frequent Redditor and avid gamer (especially after the release of World of Warcraft this past Monday) and I am a workaholic who types words onto a digital page all day long. But when we travel, we don’t have access to computers. My minimalist self abhors at the idea of lugging around a heavy laptop, so I never do. Which means, more times off screens and looking at each other in the eye. This weekend, we’ve decided on a zero-computer policy. I’ve got a few blog posts with publish dates on queue, and the rest can wait. Which gets doing other things, or better yet, nothing at all.

Connect with People

Traveling has always been about connecting with people. At first, we were trying to connect with locals and other expats, probing their minds for other world views. Lately though, we’ve been traveling with friends and family, and relishing in the moments that can steal from the everyday, moments that we once shared more frequently when we were young. This weekend, we wanted to re-create the Santa Rosa trip we had only two weeks ago. On Saturday, our friends are invited to our abode for a gathering of sorts. We plan to go out to dinner as a group, then come home and drink leisurely with a game of beer pong as a few Switches are streaming multi-player games on our projector screen. In essence, re-creating our college days when none of us had jobs, we were all poor still figuring things out, and life was at its prime. On Sunday, we have a gathering at an Aunt’s beach house with Mike’s whole side of the family. Lounging on their patios overlooking the ocean, eating veggies and dip and having dinner outdoors under twinkling lights as the sun sets over glasses of wine.  Lastly, Monday is dedicated to Mike and I, discovering new coffee shops and restaurants, lounging in bed and in the sand, and watching movies in the theatres regardless of whether there’s a movie worth spending our free movie tickets on.

Act Like A Tourist In Your Own City

Aside from getting away from the daily grind and connecting with people, the final perk of traveling is having excitement in discovering something new. Mike and I live in a city but due to our frugality and my love for cooking meals, we recommend the same three restaurants when friends come over to eat. This weekend, we’ve decided to get to know our neighborhood more. We wish to try a new coffee shop, dine at a new restaurant (with friends), and act like a tourist in our own town. There are so many spaces to discover yet and we want to learn everything we can about our surrounding area. Plus, part of our plan to avoid daily habits is to cook as minimally as possible, for less clean up! So, making the city our symbolic kitchen and living room will help with that.

If you’ve actually read through this whole post, I’d wager that you haven’t made plans for the holiday yet. Or perhaps you’re considering bailing on those plans. If so, I hope this helps with creating an alternative to travel. And if you ARE getting away, maybe this will inspire you to stay next time. Maybe your home (and your wallet) will thank you for it. Either way, we wish you a happy holiday.

Travel: City Guide to Seattle, Washington

Seattle has been on our radar for a very long time, so it was nice to finally get away for Memorial Day Weekend after experiencing an unintentional traveling hiatus the last few months. As usual, we were able to get plane tickets for free, and if you’d like to do the same, here’s how! If you frequently fly Southwest, learn how to fly for free AND take someone with you (also free). The getaway consisted of only two days and to save on travel expenses, we’ve decided not to get a car. This meant that we got a lot of walking in (steep hills in the city resulted in sore (STILL!) calf muscles … but great exercise!) and this also meant that we were stuck in Downtown Seattle proper. For the length of our stay, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this trip IS a bit different from our other ones which are usually filled with nature and outdoor hikes. This trip was mostly about eating, and drinking, and mild site-seeing. If we were to return, I think that a trip to Mount Rainier would be the thing to do, seeing as how we pretty much saw and ate our way through Seattle. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this city guide, and may you go to Seattle hungry!


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

♦♦◊◊
Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Starbucks Reserve

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♦♦♦♦
1124 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

I take the liberty in speaking for Mr. Debtist when I say that this was by far our favorite experience on our trip to Seattle. Before coffee snobs start to turn their noses up at the name Starbucks, may I just mention that Starbucks was historically the company that paved the way for third generation coffee roasters and allowed them to exist. They made it socially acceptable to pay $5 for a cup of coffee. Additionally, to this day, they source only coffee beans that are scored with 80 points or higher. I cannot say the same of other third wave coffee shops. As much as you’d like to look down on Starbucks as being heavily diluted, mass-produced coffee, you cannot fault them in the actual quality of the bean, from which everything starts. As I finish up that rant, I want to say that the experience at Starbucks Reserve was definitely not the same as the experience in a regular Starbucks shop. I would skip visiting the original Starbucks which is reminiscent of any Starbucks you’ll see around the world, and I would even suggest you visit this twice if you had the choice. My favorite part about this place was the bar that serves cocktails mixed with coffee and tea. Our first ever experience in drinking a cold-brew coffee martini was at a five course dinner at a restaurant called Roots in New Zealand. The taste was so clean and the drink went down so smoothly, it was like a moment of clarity. Until this past weekend, no alcohol paralleled that drink. At Starbucks Reserve, there were two that compared. The first was the Boulevardier, which is made up of barrel-aged vanilla syrup, Campari, sweet vermouth and bourbon poured over freshly ground Starbucks Reserve coffee, finished with lavender bitters. The second was a shot of whiskey barrel-aged cold-brew coffee. At $80 a pound, we only brought back 1 pound of beans to experiment with at home. The cold brew was reminiscent of root beer, without the carbonation, and with a hint of a caramel-y, vanilla-esque whiskey coffee. Obviously, it’s enough to inspire word invention. It has no alcohol content, since what little is obtained from the barrels goes up in smoke when the green bean is roasted and cracks open. Two other mixology drinks that we tried included the Whiskey Cloud (Pressed Starbucks Reserve coffee, Amaro Averna, orange-piloncillo syrup, local single malt whiskey and chocolate bitters. Served hot with shaken cream and nutmeg) and Cold Brew Spiced Rum (Teavana Dosha Chai rooibos tea, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cold brew coffee, white rum and black lemon bitters. Shaken and finished with fresh cinnamon). In the hot afternoon heat, the affogato (espresso with a generous scoop of Mora’s locally made ice cream) was a delight! However, I prefer the affogato being served at Patricia’s in Melbourne. Either way, this isn’t a stop to be missed. I would skip the trinkets (famous last words of a minimalist), and head straight to the counter. Also, be prepared for the crowds.

Pike Place Market

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♦♦♦♦
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101
$-$$

This is definitely a must-see, even if you do not buy anything from here. They have many stalls that showcase a number of products with samples. Walking around and tasting everything was a lot of fun – most samples use wooden sticks to taste. It helped that the weather was lovely. The market is by the water and you can walk along it down to the pier. There are also many eateries and restaurants, as well as vintage shops and artisan crafts. It took us about two hours to walk around, three if you include the pitstops we made. See below!

Ellenos Greek Yogurt

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♦♦
1500 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101
$

I would love to give this more stars, but unfortunately, I think this place is over-hyped. I am not even docking it for the fact that everything comes in plastic. While I would agree that the yogurt has a unique, creamy taste, I think that it was short of anything memorable. We split a marionberry pie yogurt, and it was really OH-KAY. Not worth the plastic waste, though.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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♦♦♦♦
1600 Pike Place, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

Get the World’s Best Mac and Cheese! The grilled cheese sandwich was a bit sub-par (unfortunately, I judge most sandwiches by the bread, and it made the taste of the sandwich a bit less than), but the mac and cheese was deemed BEST by Mr. Debtist. And he is a true mac and cheese fan! You can also sample a few cheeses, and buy any of their pre-packaged flavors. The line may be long, but the mac and cheese is worth the wait. Meanwhile, you can watch through the window the cheese being made, or in our case, listen to the two toddlers behind you driving their parents a little insane.

Daily Dozen Doughnuts

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♦♦♦♦
93 Pike St #7, Seattle, WA 98101
$

If one thing surprised me, it was these doughnuts. When you walk up to the stand, it seems like a dingy little thing. A green pushcart was all it was, and a small machine was making doughnuts behind a sneeze guard window. As someone who just recently delved into the making of doughnuts using a brioche dough at my bakery, I honestly was not expecting much. There were only six flavors to choose from, all mini-sized doughnuts, including the special for the day which was bacon topped maple. Since we were feeling full from lunch, we ordered six mini doughnuts with some repeats. We skipped the chocolate sprinkle doughnuts and instead ordered 2 powdered sugar, two cinnamon, one maple and one maple bacon. They were delicious! I liked the maple bacon least, followed by the maple and then the powdered sugar, with the cinnamon doughnut being the best. Reason being? The cinnamon and plain doughnuts were freshly made, and still warm! They grab fresh doughnuts and toss in a bag with cinnamon and sugar. The other doughnuts were already pre-made and have cooled slightly. If I could have a do-over? 4 cinnamon and 2 powdered sugar. But that’s just me. This doughnut cart totally took me by surprise, but it was one of my favorite stops during our trip!

Rachel’s Ginger Beer

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1530 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101
$$

As much as I’d like to say this place was great, I think it was another case of being over-hyped. Firstly, may I clarify that neither of us drink soda. And while Mr. Debtist can appreciate ginger beer once in a while, these flavored drinks were similar to Fanta flavors. We just couldn’t be appreciative of it, especially for the cost. If we got the boozed version, maybe it would have been different. Joking aside, this is the only place on this trip that I gave such a low rating for.

Pinball Museum

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♦♦
508 Maynard Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$$

I love pinball. If I was born in another decade, I would probably become one of those pinball addicts. The type who stands by the machine so as not to lose one’s spot and refuse to eat or drink for as long as my body stays upright? Yeah, that’s me. So making this pit stop was definitely in the books for us. I did dock it in rating because it’s fairly pricey ($15 per person)  and unless you are planning to spend your entire day there, I am not sure it is worth it. There are about 30 machines, a few of which were broken. There are two levels, and plenty of people, so sometimes you’ll have to wait patiently for a pinball machine that you’d like to try if someone is continually using it. The plus side is, after the entry fee, all machines are free (except one). So if you played more than 60 times, then it was worth your fee. Since we got there a bit late, I doubt we reached 60 plays. But! If you are a pinball fan, it was absolutely cool to see the difference in handling of the machines. Some were very old and only had two plastic flippers that lagged when you pressed the buttons. Playing pinball back then must have been extremely frustrating! Others were seizure inducing. Overall, though, I had a great time and would go again. PS: There’s a sweet labrador who walks around and greets you right when you walk in. Make sure to say hi to him!

Ramen Danbo

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♦♦♦
1222 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

Not one of my top five ramen, but still, really good! We got the white sesame seed oil ramen, and it had a lot of flavor. What we liked most about this place was how customizable the ramen is. You can choose from noodle thickness, noodle firmness, thickness of broth, richness, and the level of umami spicy sauce. As customary, I ordered Kaedama (extra noodle) and a side of egg. Also, the service was fast, but the wait time was pretty long since it’s a popular place. Our wait time was thirty minutes at around 7pm on a Sunday night.

Molly Moon’s Ice Cream

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♦♦♦
917 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

It’s not Salt and Straw from our Portland City Guide, but it was still good ice cream. I got the Earl Grey ice cream, which the guy behind the counter very accurately described as tasting like the left-over-milk in a Froot Loops bowl. I would say it is worth swinging by just to try, but then again, I am heavily biased towards ice cream consumption.

Elysian Brewery

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♦♦♦
1221 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122
$$

On the way home from an extremely long day of walking and eating and drinking, we stopped by this brewery and ordered a flight. They showcased a number of different types of beers. I ended up liking a Gose that Mr. Debtist ordered, as well as an Elderflower IPA. They also had pub food which looked very good, but we were not able to try after all the ramen and ice cream! I would go back to this brewery though! Very lively, a great place to meet up with friends.

Elm Coffee Roasters

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♦♦♦
240 2nd Ave S #103, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Our second day began with coffee from Elm Coffee Roasters. The decor of the shop was just my style. Located in an assuming part of town, the inside was bright, and there were surprisingly not many people. Those who did stay seemed to be enjoying their Memorial Day off, reading newspapers and typing on laptops. The crowd seemed to be slow livers who preferred enjoying their coffee, rather than quick passer-bys taking their drinks to-go. They roast their coffee in the back three days a week. My favorite part of the menu is the flight version of coffee. You can order One & One (espresso and machiato), One of Each (espresso and brewed coffee), and One of Everything (espresso, brewed coffee, and a machiato). Plus they house pastries from Macrina Bakery and Cafe, so it’s a one stop shop if you also were trying to try their pastries!

Salumi

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♦♦
404 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104
$$

Another sandwich place, getting another mediocre review from a baker. I am judging the entire sandwich as a whole, but the salami was mediocre. I got the Salumi Salami which is a cold sandwich with peppers and cheese, and Mr. Debtist got a hot sandwich with pork belly, which looked too greasy. The upsides? The servings were pretty big (we should have split!) and the cold sandwich kept well until the next day (refrigerated) and I was able to eat it for breakfast. But I wouldn’t say I’d rave about this place after the trip.

The Elliot Bay Book Company

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♦♦
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
$

This is the Seattle version of Powell’s Bookstore, or so they say. It’s much smaller and resembles the size of a Barnes and Nobles, but with a better book selection and book features. We enjoyed perusing the shelves and even sat down to read. We spent probably an hour and a half here. I ended up finishing this book, and collected a long list of ones to read. This would be a good stop for book lovers, or if you are trying to kill time. Not exactly a must-see.

The Pink Door

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♦♦♦
10662 Garden Grove Blvd, Garden Grove, CA 92843
$$

We ended our trip with a dinner at The Pink Door. Close to the Pike Place Market, this restaurant repeatedly showed up in all the reviews. The food and drink was better than average, but not outstanding. There was an aerial performer and we stuck around for her first show. If you come for the show, do ask to sit at the bar rather than on the patio. It happened to be a very sunny weekend in Seattle (which the locals never failed to comment on) and so sitting on their rooftop patio would have been lovely too. I would likely come back, for the food more than the vibes. We ordered the Tajarin (prosciutto cotto, asparagus, sugar snaps, green garlic, organic egg), the Linguine Alle Vongole (baby clams in the shell, pancetta, garlic, chilis and white wine), and doughnuts which reminded us of the Ableskivers in Portland.


For those who are interested, what I packed:

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Travel: Brekkies in Melbourne

When you go to Melbourne, you don’t just go for the coffee and the graffiti. You also go for the brekkies.  Plates that turn dishes of norm into elevated versions, bursting with fresh ingredients and well-balanced flavors. It seems the coffee shops take as much pride in serving delicious brunch menu items as they do their high quality brews. This we already knew. So each day, we focused on visiting the best places to join the brunching crowd – university students, businessmen catching a lunch break, creative artists trying to nourish souls – with a cup of decent brew on the side. Here are some of our top spots!


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

♦♦◊◊
Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Proud Mary

♦♦♦♦
172 Oxford St.
Collingwood VIC 3066, Australia
$$

The Potato hashrusset potato hash, poached eggs, thick cut bacon, kale salad, bagna cauda (garlic, cream +anchovy sauce)
Avocado + Kim chi Toastsmashed avo, wombock + daikon kim chi, kohlrabi, fermented sago, sesame vinaigrette, sourdough

Seven Seeds

♦♦♦♦
114 Berkeley St.
Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
$$

Lavender Brioche French Toast with Honeycomb
Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Almonds, Tofu, Yogurt Sauce, and Herbs

Top Paddock

♦♦♦♦
658 Church St.
Richmond VIC 3121, Australia
$$


Western Australian Kingfish Sashimi – Soba Noodles, Seasonal Greens, Daikon, Fresh Lime, Toasted Kombu

Flinders Island Pressed Lamb Shoulder – Flatbread, House Made Pickles, Farm Greens, Garlic and Mint Labne

St. Ali

♦♦♦♦
12-18 Yarra Place
South Melbourne VIC 3205, Australia
$$

Koo Koo Ka ChooCrispy potato hash, roasted mushrooms, porcini puree, poached eggs, 1000 day aged gouda cheese, shitake mushroom & charcoal vinaigrette
My Mexican CousinSecret recipe corn fritters, poached eggs, halloumi, sweetcorn salsa, kasundi, dressed leaves

La Lune Bakery

♦♦♦♦
119 Rose St.
Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia
$$

CroissantTraditional French croissant, prepared over 3 days
Twice Baked Almond Croissant The original Croissant aux Amandes, prepared with almond frangipane & garnished with a healthy amount of flaked almonds
Ham + Gruyere A croissant baked fresh with a filling of shaved ham, Swiss Gruyere & seeded mustard

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