U.Village: UNLOCKED!

Maybe it isn't very novel... Maybe it isn't very hipster... Maybe it isn't even very urban of me, but I. Love. University Village.

Yes. It is just a mall, but when I go there, I feel like I'm on a mini-vacation. And it never gets old. Now, U.Village is a great place to go with kids: day old cookie or pastry from Specialty's to go with your coffee, outdoor, covered, heated play area, froggy fountain to get soaked by in Summer, kids computers with games at the Apple Store, Kinect at the MS store, free crafts and events (with discount coupons for you) hosted by a different vendor every Tuesday, free Summer concert series with kids activities, free parking (and it's easy once you learn to just use the Crate and Barrel garage when it's busy), and even free childcare at the QFC grocery store while you shop (never used it but have friends who say it is awesome!). BUT, nothing beats a few hours at U.Village by yourself. I developed the following strategies as I struggled (at first) to know how on earth to spend my time when I first scheduled a few hours of mental-health/self-care babysitting per week. Now, don't get thinking that I have regular babysitting just so I can go to U.Village... but that's fine too! If you do not have the babysitting option, you could go there with a buddy and trade-off: one mom watches kids in play area for a while, then you trade, and the other watches kids eat sack lunches on benches by the fountains while the other goes off for a jaunt.

You can amend the following based on your interests and budget. I generally do about three items each time I go. Here is my IDEAL day at the UV:

1. EAT

Of course, you go for happy hour. My favorite place right now for happy hour is Liam's. Affiliated with classic Seattle cheesemongers, Beecher's, the food is excellent and has been every time. Their burger is phenomenal and the happy hour price is less than half of the dinner menu price. You do not have to purchase alcohol to get HH food.

My second runner up is Boom Noodle. I love their food too, and my favorite drink (when I'm with a friend... I just can't have a drink alone in public, but power to you if you can... responsibly) is the St. Germain Skydive. I'm very picky about cocktails at restaurants (because they are pricey, so they better be REALLY good). I LOVE this not too sweet, oh, so tangy, complex lemonadey drink for adults. I cannot make a perfect one at home... something we pride ourselves on around here.

I have never been a huge fan of Blue C Sushi, but I am a MUCH bigger fan now that I know they have a fun happy hour in the rarely busy bar that goes until 7pm!! Two of my BFFs and I went the other night and got completely stuffed on $3 food specials- including some nigiri, rolls, and fried yummies like generous plates of vegetable tempura. Again, you don't have to purchase alcohol to get the food deals, but they have a surprisingly fun cocktail menu (though I shouldn't be surprised since they are related to Boom whose drinks I like). Cocktails are $5 during HH. That's a great deal considering that they are well-thought and made with quality liquors and mixers. I had a very fun Yuzu Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace (one of my fave bourbons).

Din Tai Fung is ALL it is cracked up to be.

For pizza, Delfino's. Elemental is cool, but Delfino's is cheaper and more filling. A quick story: my children are so beautiful (like all children) that the owner at Elemental once asked if they could film my kids playing with balls of pizza dough (passed out to all kids and baked when the kid has made the shape they like). If you ever see them in marketing materials, let me know! Why, oh, why am I not making money on said, potential marketing!?

I DID love the new place, Eureka, for their delicious, classic American bar food done well and knowledgable bartenders with decent whisky list, BUT I CAN'T STAND THEM NOW because they make the waitresses wear T-shirts that read "whisky makes me frisky." WHAT!? Come on, people.

Kind of the same with Joey Kitchen or whatever it's called. Great food, but they are using sex to sell in a blatant, blatant way that I choose not to support.

Please. OH, Please. Do NOT go to The RAM. It is just not good. I got full-on food poisoning there once, and have had many bad experiences. Not once had a decent meal.

If you don't want to sit down and eat, then Einstein Brothers Bagels is a good choice.


Sure. Comb those sales racks at Anthro all you want. Sometimes we all get lucky. Same at Banana and wherever else you like. I have discovered that I actually really like the clothes at Lucky, and I'm pretty sure I've noticed a pattern that all the sale stuff is 40% extra off on Thursdays... don't quote me on that. If you are at all interested in what is in style, the best thing to do is find a place you like and just use your eyes. Get a feel for what is du jour and how things are styled, and try on the looks that you like. I learned that I do not like how I look in maxi skirts. Ever. Then, you are ready when you finally hit a sale (or Goodwill) to identify what kind of looks work on you and are current.

This same system works for shopping for the home. Go peruse and make your list of what to find on sale, online, on Craigslist, at Goodwill, etc.

If you hate shopping, like I usually do, then skip this step all together!!! There is a Ravenna Goodwill branch a short walk outside of the Village.


You can get a facial, get a makeover, and get your hair done at U.Village for FREE. Here's what you do...
1. Skin. (just learned this one... I have always been intimidated before...) Go into Kiehl's or any of the other skincare places. Sometimes Aveda has free 20 minute facials! Just be kind and respectful to the salesperson. They understand people who don't have a zillion dollars to spend, so just be honest: "I am not very good at pampering myself, and I thought it would just be so fun to come in here and have someone like you show me the best way to care for my skin. I don't have much to spend, but if I found something that is really great I could save for it." Then, let them work their magic. They will do your face. Just let them! It is WAY more fun for them to do free facials on you then be shut down time and time again whenever they ask, "Can I help you?" ASK FOR SAMPLES! You will get hooked up! And, I saw Macklemore in there today. Just sayin'. There are confirmed reports of Sarah McLachlan and Russell Wilson sightings too, so if you care about celebrity sightings (I do not), that's your place.

I have never taken good care of my skin. I go to sleep in my make-up and if I don't take a shower, I just wipe under my eyes and wear the same make-up two days in a row! But, I saved up and bought some skin care products from Kiehl's recently, and I love them. If you want to splurge on a great, long-lasting, multi-tasker, get their BB Cream- a tinted sunscreen/moisturizer that is all the make-up you need. That and one coat of mascara will make you look awake.

2. Makeup. Use the same speech from above at Sephora or MAC. They will help you. It is free. You don't have to buy a thing, but you may want to... Be sure to finish yourself off with a spritz of perfume if you like it. If you don't want anyone to help you, just say "no, thank you; I like to play on my own, but I'll find you if I need to." Then, use the alcohol and swabs everywhere to sanitize things before you use them. I find the Sephora employees very friendly, and they make you feel good about yourself by saying over and over which of your facial features are just "so, so great." They can help you find new colors in high-end brands, and you can go to the Sephora brand section and get it cheap. Though, I'm a big fan of higher quality cosmetics. It's your face and your blood stream. (Though not at U.Village, I love Origins lipsticks. They have beautiful colors from bold to understated and feel like high-quality lip balm.)

*** Special Tip*** If you want to quickly revolutionize the way you do your make-up, have someone show you how to do your eyebrows! It makes a much bigger difference than you'd imagine! If you like lipstick- particularly the bold, fun colors that are in style, having your brows defined enables you to pull off those lips. It balances your face! I also recently fell in love with non-sparkly bronzer. I knew I liked it when my friend's first reaction to seeing it on me was, "You look healthy!" Have someone teach you how to apply it... it's not what you'd think. The Benefit section at Sephora is a great place to go for both of these lessons.

3. Sensing a pattern? Same speech at the Aveda Salon or Headlines (Bumble) with a twist: "I have really frizzy/flat/oily/thin/whatever hair. Can you show me some products that might help and how to use them in my hair?"


U.Village is practically a botanical gardens. Look around. Their landscaping is amazing. Look at the plants you like best. Are they in sun or shade? containers or beds? You can then go to Ravenna gardens and usually find the names of them. Bank the names away for checking clearance racks and hardware and garden stores or the prevalent Seattle plant sales that pop up. Ravenna Gardens is also a great place to get terrarium inspiration... I'm obsessed.

Fireworks and The Art Study are great places for me to steal jewelry design and art project ideas to try to complete on my own. I suppose that if you are into that stuff, Impress, Papyrus, and Paper Source are also great Inspiration Points.


This is the step I rarely skip. This is where I spend that five dollars: Fran's. Do not get coffee at Starbuck's. Get it at Fran's. You get a free piece of their dark chocolate with your drink. If you peruse the truffle bar long enough, you will be offered an additional free sample. They are delicious. I usually buy one truffle and a double, short, decaf Americano. My favorite truffles are the whisky (of course), espresso (duh), or orange, and I very much like the dark chocolate imperials which are like a truffle version of a molten chocolate cake. My 4 year old recommends the caramels.


Take your coffee, truffle, and book or magazine from your purse and go to the bathroom. Yes. The bathroom. Actually, I mean THE bathroom. The new bathroom on the west end of the latest south addition. It has a lovely, large sitting area that is separated from the toilet section. Your phone won't work well in there, but it is so peaceful. I have sat there and had many great conversations with friends.

Get a bra fitting. You can do it at Victoria's Secret, but there you will be bombarded by giant posters of naked ladies. At Zovo across from Blue C and Banana Republic area, you will have a quiet, boutique experience with knowledgable staff. They have excellent sales, and they will tell you when they are. They keep each type of inventory for a long time, so chances are you will be able to get it on sale. I have 3 bras from there now, and they are the most comfortable and longest lasting ones I have. I was very surprised to learn how wrong the size I'd been wearing was, and equally surprised by how much more comfortable I am now. Check the luxurious jammies on the sale rack too. Trust me. Some people will spend $$$ on a dress that they will wear once. Not me. I want dresses to be on major sale. Nightgowns, though, I'll spend a little more on. Why? Because I will wear it 3 out of 7 nights a week! My sleep is an essential part of my care for myself and wearing something super soft and comfortable that fits well helps me to sleep well. Nice jammies make me feel a little better on my frequent, frustrating sick days, and they are worth EVERY PENNY I'm willing to spend. Nicest thing is that no one (but maybe your partner) will ever have to see it, so you can get a LOT of wear out of them.

I know these things are luxuries. I know they are superfluous, maybe even silly things. I for one, though, enjoy them. I can be very, very thankful for them. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with guilt and think, "How can I waste time in a place like this when people around my city and world are struggling? How can I spend money on coffee and chocolate?" These are questions I do still struggle with often. Life can be very, very heavy for lots of people. I have found, though, many opportunities to lighten my own and the burdens of my friends by spending time like this together. Things like facials and chocolate are pleasures God made. We should thank him for them and pray for those who don't have them, always mindful. I consider my U.Village forays to be baby steps towards more advanced, energy-requiring forms of self-care. These are low-commitment, bang-for-your-buck refreshers, and when you are ready to test my tips, you call me ;).

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