Sunday, December 03, 2006
Here's the same bridge as we crossed over. It was pretty cold the entire trip. Although the rain washed away most of the snow that hit Seattle last week, there was still snow lining the streets in Vancouver and making the side streets dicey. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s all day.
So I voiced my reservations, which Jason nodded at as his stomach rumbled, but then shut my pie hole as we headed to our seat: in for a dime, in for a dollar, right? My resolve to enjoy the view and sip hot water evaporated when Jason returned with the first of two stacked plates: scrambled eggs, bacon, smoked salmon and oysters, peel & eat shrimp, hash browns, and sausage. Well, one small plate couldn't hurt, could it? ;-) Oh but it could, I'd soon discover.
"Do you know how much brunch is?" I asked Jason, as I got up to hit the buffet tables. "No," he mumbled through a mouthful of sausage and seafood as he reached for his mimosa. Oh well. I snagged a plate and loaded up myself: bacon, smoked salmon & oysters, three kinds of melon, rice salad with raisins and curry flavoring of some sort, mozzarella and sliced tomatoes, and shrimp. As J. looked on derisively ("You ragged on this place all the way in!" "I changed my mind."), I grudgingly acknowledged it was pretty tasty and better than the last time. Not quite full from my serving of crow, I munched away as we lingered over our plates, reading the paper and e-mail.
Finally, the servers discretely placed our bill on the table. Okay, let's see, two brunches and a mimosa comes to... $83.37 cdn?! J. blinked and called the server over. "Uh, how much is brunch?" "$34.95?" he answered in that statement-with-question-inflection common to Canadians. Add the $8 mimosa and tax and there you have it: $83.97, plus tip to come. Aaaaargh. "Look at it this way," I said to J. after doing currency conversion on my Treo. "It's only $73.35 USD. " :-) He looked only mildly amused.
"And that's the regular price?" J. asked. "Oh sure," said the server. "They don't really jack it up until the holidays? You know: Christmas day, New Year's Day, Mother's Day? That's when it's $69 or $79 per person?" Oh. Well of course.
As we walked back to the car (quick walk with so much less money weighing us down!), J. admitted, "Well now we know why you had that weird feeling when we walked in." Yeah, and now I knew what it was: a feeling that somehow we were about to be screwed. Oh Canada. :-P
We just came up to Vancouver, BC for the day and J decided he wants brunch. So we pulled into the Westin Bayshore Vancouver where the staff seated us @ this wonderful corner table in the dining room with a view of the pool and the snow-dusted mountains in the background. Very relaxing.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Rejuvenated by the mango iced tea and lotus root salad with shrimp, I hoofed it over to the Embassy Hotel for the Portland Pen Show. This was my second time at the event and organizer Carla Mortensen once again did a great job with planning, layout, and registration.
We were so busy chatting and filling out a name badge, she forgot to charge me! As I turned to walk in with my Pen World goody bag, I paused and said, "Uh, isn't there an entry fee?" "My goodness, you're right!" she said. "I'm so excited to see everyone showing up for the show I'd practically pay them!" :-) So I'm not the only one who frets about throwing a party and no one showing up. Not to worry Carla: you did a great job and made the show interesting and well worth the $5 entry. I'm sure the 260-280 people who attended over the two days would agree. :-)
Heading into the ballroom, I saw the usual layout of tables filled with exhibitors, pens and tons of pen-related products. Handwriting guides? Check. A rainbow of inks? Check. Fountain pen-friendly paper? Check. Ink remover? Absolutely! One attendee joked, "I haven't handled any ink but somehow I've managed to get some on my hands!" "It's in the air," I quipped.
Brother and sister pen super duo Sherrell Tyree and Joel Hamilton were set up just inside the door with their wares (Parkers for Joel, Sheaffers for Sherrell). I met them last year at the Portland show, then had the pleasure of attending one of their pen collecting and repair seminars (below) at the LA show in February.
Their online site http://www.ink-pen.com/ offers vintage pens, as well as search, repair and sales services.
Back at the Portland show, I continued my trek around the room, taking in all the folks, pens, and product displays. While there were several vendors with new pens, including a representive from national chain Paradise Pen's Portland store, and a representative from Conway Stewart with several achingly beautiful, handcrafted pens, a lot of the exhibitors had vintage pens to buy, trade and sell.
I'm relatively new to fountain pens and find that I prefer the look and feel of a shiny new pen sliding across the page. I don't consider myself a collector, who I view as folks who acquire pens but keep them under glass for display, not for use. And really, what is that about?! It's like: "Here's my Porsche. It's not for driving. I just like to look at it and know that I could drive it if I wanted to, and it would be amazing." Uh, okay.
In contrast to that, I use my small cache of fountain pens every day at home and at work, refilling the converters about once per week. It's great for all the employers I've had: I hate using cheap office supply pens and paper so I bring my own. :-)
So as I wandered the aisles at the Portland Pen Show, wouldn't you know the pen that caught my eye was an older, refurbished model from the folks at Pendemonium? The owners Sam and Frank Fiorella made the trip out to the show from Fort Madison, Iowa where they have a full time writing equipment shop. Having seen pictures of the shop online, it's probably a good thing that it's so far away because I would spend an inordinate amount of time and money in a place like that, so filled to brim with amazing pens, paper and writing paraphernalia.
Compared to their trek, my little jaunt from Seattle seemed pretty rudimentary. They were nice as pie, answered my myriad questions, and didn't mind the 45 minutes or so it took me to decide on a Parker with a modified .9mm italic nib. They even changed the body on the spot because I chose based on the nib, which I've been looking for since the LA show, but wasn't crazy about the boring burgandy body. Frank Fiorella said, "No problem. The nice thing about Parkers is that the bodies can be swapped." So I found a blue and black swirled number that was much more aesthetically pleasing and he popped the nib out and my preferred nib in and voila! Now that's service. :-)
I'm trying to de-clutter my life so my relatively new approach to spending is that I have to love whatever I'm buying. I used to feel bad when I couldn't decide on something in a store and I'd feel like I was letting the sales person down, especially if they'd spent time assisting me. Silly, I know. But now, I just say, "I have to love it and nothing here is speaking to me." I think most folks can understand that, and I don't feel pressured to spend money just because I've spent time looking. I'd rather have something I will love every time I use it, than something I sort of like but won't truly enjoy. Life is too short to not love the things around you, right? :-)
I had to catch a ride back to Seattle, so I didn't stay at the show very long, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, seeing the various pens, and seeing familiar faces. I plan to make my trek an annual event and since Sundays usually have bigger turnouts and more exhibitors, next year I may plan an overnight stay so I can attend both days.
So here's my alliteration overload wrap up paragraph: all in all, with the 80-degree, wondrous weather (can one have a favorite temperature? If so, 80 is mine!), the pleasant perambulation of the Pearl District, the stirring sightseeing, the beckoning Bastille Day festivities, the savory sustenance, the plethora of pens, and genial gathering of pen pros, it was a perfect way to spend a Saturday. :-)
Saturday, July 15, 2006
It was a nice place to start because I don't think you can ever have enough nice notecards and paper, and it was the perfect spot to whet my appetite for the coming pen buffet.
The only things distinctly french about it at that slightly early hour were a cheese booth, a french bakery booth, booths of artists with paintings of french things (the Eiffel Tower, sidewalk cafes, etc.), and a few people with French accents setting up a stage for a band.
Oh, and a petanque game! I always think of it as the more refined ancestor of lawn darts. It was definitely shaping up to be a fun event. Lots of people were already out enjoying the weather, which was quickly creeping up into the upper 70s.
Here's a shot from outside as I headed towards the Pearl District.
I was startled initially by all the people lined up to board the train to Portland on a weekend morning, until I saw several in Lance Armstrong-esque regalia: it's STP weekend - the big Seattle to Portland bike race. I'm not sure if they were headed down to meet other racers midway or just following a misguided belief that "riding" in the event includes trains as well as bikes. But there were quite a few of them, plus the rest us.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
A view from the treadmill in downtown Seattle. I've started working out semi-consistently after years of getting by on a high metabolism and decent eating habits.
But with summer weather here, some body parts looking and feeling a bit more jiggly than I'd like, and a general feeling of being out of shape and out of breath with moderate exertion, I had to hit the gym.
I've never loved working out so it helps that I found a gym close by with decent rates and a discount for my employer. Thanks to the new regimen and some unexpected life stress, I've dropped eight pounds in the past three weeks. Now that the stress is reduced, I've leveled off at five pounds less.
I didn't NEED to lose weight, but it's a nice side effect, along with the firmer muscles and general feeling of wellness that comes from exercising more than you thought possible just a couple months ago. I hate to admit it, but I think I've actually started to enjoy working out. And I don't beat myself up if I miss a day. I just get back on the treadmill at the next opportunity. Who'd a thunk it? Only a mile and a half to go. :-)
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Actually, as the agency predicted, the property bought for the line is selling for more than it cost to buy, so the tax will end for everyone after the June license tab notifications go out and all bills are paid.
We saw this as we returned our rental car in Dallas. Whenever I see this sign, it cracks me up because if you have made some major error by driving into the area where it's posted, by the time you see it, you're screwed.
If we're out and about and my husband pulls into a driveway to make a 3-point turn, I always act as if I'm reading a sign like this out my window. He's really good at making the sound of two tires puncturing. Guaranteed yucks all around. :-D
Sunday, April 30, 2006
We found one of the bustling shopping areas in East Dallas that the fashionable store clerk told us about. True to her word, there were lots of shops, restaurants and folks wandering the seemingly freshly-laid sidewalks of Dallas' West Village shopping area.
It's one of those developments known as 'mixed use' in the Northwest: retail on the bottom, apartments, townhouses, condos, etc., up top, with the occasional boutique hotel and upscale supermarket thrown in for good measure.
After a couple hours of window and actual shopping, we'd worked up enough of an appetite to hit one of the many restaurants in the area. We chose Tom Tom, an asian grill and sushi bar that was pretty average.
No matter where you travel, shrimp salad rolls are pretty hard to screw up: rice noodles, lettuce, sometimes cucumbers, and shrimp all neatly wrapped up in a rice paper wrapper with peanut or some sweet dipping sauce. Pretty basic, right? Well, I had to send the shrimp rolls back twice because they'd apparently rolled them up using a paper towel, leaving quarter-sized patches of white fiber on the underside of each roll. The replacements weren't much better. This time they apparently used a lint-covered cotton towel to roll them.
Having skipped breakfast, I was willing to ignore this second gaffe and just pick the lint off (hey, cotton counts as fiber in your diet, right?). But, I discovered the small, white lint balls were actually rolled up in the rice wrappers. Apparently their kitchen staff hasn't heard about using bamboo mats to make sushi rolls. We were really hungry, so that was a big let down. But at least they took them off our bill. It was still a nice area and outing and we'd head back for dinner later that night, but the experience would turn out to be much better.
Friday, April 28, 2006
Actually, we're in Irving, Texas, next to Dallas. We're in town to visit with my aunt, uncle and my grandmother, who is turning 100 (!) next week. Amazing. We found a hotel deal (see basic business park view from our hotel balcony) not far from their place, and my uncle from LA arrived last night too. It's a mini-reunion! :-) I can't wait to see my grandmother. It's been a couple years.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
The weather in Seattle has decided to revert to its pre-spring incarnation with dark grey skies, winds, and major downpours. So we're feeling a little bit of cabin fever and have opted to head up to Vancouver for the day. So far, the weather is still a crap-a-thon on the way up, but at least we'll soon be rained on in another country. :-) We plan to hit Robson Street, maybe Chinatown, and wrap up with our customary dinner at Gotham Steakhouse in downtown with their awesome onion bread. We're 18 miles from the border crossing at Blaine. Oh Canada, here we come!
Update - Sunday morning
We did hit Gotham, twice. Once for beverages while we waited for alterations next door at Holt Renfrew, and later for dinner. I had the slab of salmon with a butter sauce, which actually was just so-so. I prefer a little more seasoning.
Jason, who makes awesome salmon and has basically spoiled me for any other kind but his, opted for lobster tails. We shared the sauteed button mushrooms and sauteed sugar snap peas, which were both delicious! The peas were crisp, just-sauteed, sweet, and flavorful. The service and atmosphere were great as usual. The waitstaff is nice and professional, but not stuffy. I had a great seat on the comfy couch by the front windows, with Jason across from me on their overstuffed chair. I had cheesecake with berry sauce for dessert (sorry, no picture), which basically filled me to the bursting point before we hit the road for home.
I slept (as usual) until the border, where we just missed the Nexus line closing by 7 minutes: it closes at 9pm. So we had to do something we haven't done since getting Nexus cards a couple years ago: wait in line at the border! Horrors! :-) It took about 15 minutes, which wasn't too bad, but that's an eternity compared to our usual 2-4 question session and quick wave through. For some reason, traffic on the other side heading into Canada was packed. It looked like at least an hour wait. I joked that maybe the administration had done something else idiotic while we'd been gone and we were seeing the front edge of a mass exodus from the U.S.
I took over driving duties at a gas station on the other side where we had the choice of paying $3.15, $3.08 or $2.98 per gallon for premium. What the hell?! A war, thousands dead and injured, billions spent, no foreseeable end to it all, neglected domestic issues, a prescription drug benefit program that stinks, AND $3/gallon gas?! Who okayed this moron?! But I digress.
Filling up cost $50 exactly. I almost felt bad until I looked over at the guy at the next pump gassing up his motor home to the tune of $100.01. Sheesh! I also noticed he had Veteran plates. Wonder what he thinks of Bush and all this. Wanted to ask but that's a bit personal for the pumps.
We made it home about 11:25pm. All in all, it was a great day trip.