Let me catch you up . . .

(warning: long post)

I had a (literally) perfect birthday. I took Wed & Th off which meant that my birthday vacation was six days long (Monday being a holiday), and I had plenty of time to do the various chores we normally do on the weekend. Laundry, cleaning, food prep, etc. Of particular interest to me was getting the guest room set up. We were going to have our first guest!

My Dad had flow down to CA and was spending a few days with my sister and her family before driving a (rented) motorcycle up the coast. Because of various scheduling issues, he was going to miss my actual birthday and arrive Saturday morning. Now, he was leaving Sunday morning so he’d be here for less than 24 hours. I couldn’t believe it. He likes short visits, but this was a record! Nonetheless, I love my Dad and was glad he’d be here ’round my birthday.

Thursday afternoon J. arranged for me to go swimming with Sasha. I’d had a bit of a fantasy about paddling around with her but the water here is TOO DAMN COLD . .. so I altered my fantasy to swimming with her in a pool. Now, the PNW is dog-friendly, but not that dog-friendly. But J. found a place that does water therapy for dogs and booked us an hour of swim time. The therapist was a bit amused that Sasha was clearly a healthy dog, but quickly got our point and gave us a run down of rules and things to be careful. Then she helped me get Sasha into the water.

Picture a long hot tub/spa, one big enough for 12 people to sit in. One side has steps going into the water and the other has an underwater jet providing a current to swim against. I got in the pool and held my arms out and called to Sasha, who got to the edge and then stopped dead. She tried to walk around the side, but when we prevented her, she just got stubborn. You know dogs, they don’t actually say ‘no’, they just RESIST. She was resisting with all her might and my 55-lb dog suddenly seemed to weigh a ton.

Finally I had to reach around her and pick up her back end and place her on the top step which was under the water. She looked less uncertain, but not really happy. I backed up and held up her water toy. With a look and physicality of “all right, but its a bad idea” she kind of hopped forward and — to her surprise! — found herself swimming.

Well that was just fine with her. Aside from trying to climb out of the side occasionally we then had a good time. J and I would throw her toy back and forth so she swam up and down. The place got very wet and we didn’t really swim so much as hang out in the water. It was fun.

On Thurs night we went out to Miyabi, a Japanese restaurant down in Tukwila. YUM. I love good sushi (the only kind to have) and had eaten at Miyabi years ago. But every time J & I had stopped by hoping for a meal, they’d been closed. Apparently we just had bad luck. Fresh (fresh) and tasty sushi. A nice selection of cooked food for J. Yummy sake and good friends.

Friday morning I slept in a bit. Then we went and had lunch at Wild Wheat — a favorite breakfast place that does a great lunch, but only M-F, so we usually miss it. Then I went and had an absolutely fantastic back, neck & shoulder massage along with a scalp and neck massage at Lemondrop in downtown Kent. It was an hour of heaven. Then it was home again and a quiet afternoon.  We had dinner plans . . . of some kind or another so it took me longer than usual to prepare.

This was J’s triumph. I knew only that we were doing dinner  . . . and that clowns were NOT involved. That’s it.

We left about 6:30 and as we drove across the valley, I ventured a guess. “It looks like we’re headed towards the water.” J. looked down at my shoes and said “Yeah, I’m glad you didn’t wear heels.” “Oh?” I cleverly replied. “We’re having dinner on a boat.” “Oh neat!” A few minutes later we turned away from the road to the Marina and headed back South. “Yeah, I lied.” “what!?” “Yeah baby, it’s dinner at Burger King for you, the one next to Blockbuster. And after you’ve had all you want, we’ll go to next door and any movie you want — even the first runs — it’s on me baby.”

I knew he was kidding, so he didn’t press that any further. We drove all up and down the Kent Valley for the next 20 mins. I was amused and absolutely bewildered — where were we going?

All was resolved as we turned toward SeaTac and ended up in the parking lot of Copperleaf, at the Cedarbrook Lodge. This is a lovely place to stay, less than a mile from SeaTac. It used to be WaMu’s corporate retreat . . . and the luxury details show how they spent their money. After they went bankrupt a group of local investors bought the place in the asset sale from JP Morgan and brought in a hotel management group to run it for them.

In the parking lot J. suddenly stopped and started patting down his pockets. Worriedly I watched him, then he smiled and apologized. “Sorry, hon, just thought I’d left the camera in the car.” We walked a few steps and then he turned me and kissed me. Very romantic, despite the setting. Also, a little weird.

The lobby opens onto the 2nd floor — a room full of golden wood and skylights letting in the golden light of the setting sun. It is stunning. We stepped to the edge of the stairs and I looked down — to see my father standing next to our friends Steve and Jen. I was overcome. J. said later that I turned 8. :-) I ran down the stairs and gave Dad a hug “You devil!” Everyone was laughing and I was just thrilled.

“Lorena and Graham are out on the deck” Jen told me. “There are two more coming,” J said ruefully. “Two more?” I said, “that would be Dan and Cori — he’s always late.”

My surprise was a lovely dinner with all of the Seattle people who have stuck by me when the chips were down. Everyone who didn’t just say ‘tell me if I can do anything’ but called and emailed and gave advice and came to see me when I was feeling up to it. Steve even gave me tips on how to go bald and helped me face it with equanimity. We shared all of the appetizers, and tried most of the entrees. The wine flowed and desserts was — of all things — a cake! (Yes, the chef had made a cake for my birthday, complete with candles to blow out.  He even came out to shake my hand and wish me a Happy Birthday.)

J. knocked this one out of the ballpark.

(But, now I know he can lie with a straight face! :-) )

Dad’s visit was (as always) nice. We went to the Ram for burgers and beer, then saw Inception. (WOW.) He left early Sunday morning and we had the gift of that day, and the next to just hang out and do what we wanted. Apparently we wanted to play XBox for two solid days.

It was a blast!

I had, in all seriousness, an absolutely perfect birthday.

John’s Birthday

For John’s birthday I gave him dinner and two tickets to see Candide at the 5th Avenue Theater in Seattle. We parked at our office and took the monorail into downtown. (Good thing, too, as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was taking place and everything was crowded with women in various stages of pink obsession.)

The 5th Ave is a gorgeous jewel box of a theater. Built in 1926, it’s modeled after Imperial China’s Forbidden City, Temple of Heavenly Peace, and the Summer Palace. There are coffered ceilings, intricately carved balconies, and detailed grill work.

One of the most stunning features is the auditorium’s center dome, a replica of the one from the palace’s throne room (only twice the size). The “Pearl of Perfection” chandelier is held in the teeth of a great coiling dragon, which has five toes—each toe representing an evil spirit that must be vanquished. The elaborate proscenium arch that frames the stage features a myriad of Chinese design motifs, including bas-reliefs of the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The theatre’s constant residents are a pair of Fu Dogs, which have traditionally stood guard in front of China’s imperial palaces (from http://www.5thavenue.org/about/ourhistorictheater.aspx).

Even the exit signs have an oriental cast to them.

Candide was fun. I’m not a musical theater fan, but even I appreciated the humor in this witty, satirical tale of a young man’s journey from innocent naivete to rational exuberance. The signing was excellent and the acting even better.

For dinner we went to Tilikum Place Cafe, which is right around the corner from our office. This was a VERY good idea as we had an absolutely delightful dinner.

We began with appetizers of handcut pasta in brown butter-sage sauce (John) and a savory tart of duck, sour cherries and onions in a delicious pastry (me).  We then had yummy green salads, which were perfect.  For dinner John had the special of true cod over beet-infused Israeli couscous and I had ricotta gnocchi with spring vegetables. His fish was done perfectly, with the couscous bringing out the delicate flavor rather than overwhelming it. My gnocchi was delightful — especially since it wasn’t mushy but fried gently.

For dessert we split a dish of vanilla ice cream-stuffed profiteroles with a delicate caramel sauce. All in all, a very good birthday present.

Puppy Update + John’s Birthday

Hi,

So in the last post Lisa mentioned that Sasha wasn’t behaving normally at her graduation class and we rescheduled for the next day – we got away with that because the other student in the class hadn’t shown up, so it worked for everybody. Anyway, we went back and our poochie kicked tail. She nailed essentially everything on the first try; it’s funny, there are some things she does better in the aisles of PetSmart than anywhere else. I felt bad for the woman with the other dog, who was very frisky and not so obedient. Seriously though, Otis (the dog) is still a total puppy so it’s not surprising, he knew all the commands he was just terribly wound up. Anyway, Sasha is now certified for Intermediate class, and we’re looking at the right time to take Advanced training. The eventual goal is to take her to agility training at a place here in Kent; not like competitively or anything, just as a thing to exercise her mind. in the meantime, she’s become a proficient frisbee catcher so long as Daddy throws it right and swims as much as we’ll let her in the lake at the park. Basically we have an awesome dog.

*please tell me you aren't putting this on the internet*My birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and Lisa made me feel like the cock of the walk; why that’s a good thing I’ve never known, but technically that’s an accurate statement. Buck-aw! The actual day of joy was Thursday, but the days leading up to it all contained little treats, some accidental. For example, one day I got the notice that my work computer was being replaced – the glee this caused only makes sense if you’d ever seen me sit through a five-minute boot-up. I literally had a book at work ( literally? UNINTENDED PUN! :D ) to read during the most soul-crushing of delays. There was cake on my birthday, and cake again on Saturday with my gaming friends along with a neat book of short stories by both local and national authors (it was a fund-raiser for a local artist’s outstanding medical bills). The big treat was that Lisa booked a room at a lovely (pet friendly!) hotel on the water for Thursday and Friday. We checked in and hung out for a bit, then went to the other part of the treat – an early showing of Star Trek at the Cinerama! :) For those not in the know, this is Seattle’s big, old-timey movie palace that also features state-of-the-art picture and sound. It’s nice when a Microsoft billionaire (in this case Paul Allen) takes an interest in the arts. . .

Anyhoo, one lovely weekend later I was one grandly feted 37-year-old. Yes mom, that’s the correct age. :p