Several times at the Microsoft new hire orientation, we were told, "signup for the company picnic; the food is great." Mention "food" and I’m ready to go.
 
Not wanting to attend by myself, I invited my pseudo-sister from Portland, Wendy, to join me. She came up Saturday morning. She exhibited great patient and enthusiastic as I drove her around Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland to show her some of my favorite places on the "east side."
 
Our first stop was the Bellevue Goodwill, which is brimming with amazing "stuff" at ridiculous prices. I had initially visited Goodwill the day that Rich flew back to Texas. Depressed and wanting to keep busy, I went there to purchase stuffed animals, which I planned to desecrate and give to my co-worker for her birthday. That evening, I made her a Unimingo out of a unicorn head and flamingo body.
 
I also found an amazing, hand-made bowl, which was half-price. I happily shelled out the $2.50 for the bowl and also purchased a pair of pink Gloria Vanderbuilt jean (new with the tag still on) and a pair of beige pants out of Tencel (cellulose) and cotton.
 
Subsequent visits netted a $4.99 covered white bowl with splashes of cobalt blue and red, a sushi plate with a sea turtle, and a reading lamp so I could do sewing and needlework.
 
With Wendy’s help and persistence, I found a pretty purple Norm Thompson rain coat, red SOHO corduroy shirt/jacket… and the coup de grace, a sake set with aquamarine crackle glaze. The latter cost $3.47 without tax! And of course, I bought another stuffed animal to "reinvent."
 
My Unimingo was so popular that my co-worker pointed me to site of a woman who turns stuffed animals inside out then re-stuffs them. My first inside-out animal, a dopey white reindeer, combines the crudeness of the reversed fur with the finished seams of the "original" antlers, tail and scarf. His name is "Duh Deer."
 
My second inside-animal, a longhorn, turned out scary. So scary that I gave it away to one of my co-worker! Now everyone wants an inside-out animal, which just means more trips to the Bellevue Goodwill. Drats!
 
After Wendy and I exhausted ourselves at Goodwill — she bought some plastic glasses and totes — we visited my new apartment. Rich, having grown frustrated with my indecisiveness about finding an apartment several weeks ago, went on line and filled out the lease information for the Archstone Redmond Lakeview apartments on Lake Sammamish in Redmond.
 
That evening, he got a confirmation that his lease had been approved along with the address of the apartment he rented. The next morning, Saturday, I went to the complex to sign some papers and also check out the apartment, which I had only driven by. I search and searched for Building A until I noticed a small footbridge going up a slight hill. My apartment is on the bottom floor of an apartment building with just eight apartments! One side of my apartment is next to the parking lot. The other is by a large walkway so there’s only an apartment behind mine and one above. Best of all, it’s being completed refurbished with Pergo floors throughout, granite countertops, white cabinets, new lights, and appliances, including a little washer and dryer. The door of the apartment was open so I was able to peek inside!
 
Prior to showing Wendy my new apartment, we walked down to the apartment’s dock on Lake Sammamish. Flying low over the lake was a bald eagle with something in its talons. It landed in a tree by the dock and we watched it chomp on its catch, a wiggly fish!
 
Equally interesting was the vast number of water lilies, most with blooms, in Lake Sammamish. They stretched around the perimeter of the lake.
 
After visiting my new apartment, we went to one of my favorite places, downtown Kirkland. Situated on the east-side of Lake Washington (Seattle is on the other side), Kirkland is funky, trendy town with many new and renovated apartments, condominium and houses. It’s proximity to Microsoft has made it a desirable place to live.
 
The downtown area, situation on the water, features several blocks of restaurants, hair and nail salons, art galleries, clothing stores, and other shops. Also in the area is the Island Sailing Club, which Rich wants to join so he can occasionally go sailing.
 
The next Monday, Sunday, Wendy and I took a shuttle bus from the Bellevue Community College to the annual Microsoft picnic at Mountain Meadows Farm located on 200 acres in Snoqualmie Valley (about half an hour from Seattle). The picnic spans three days. EACH day, 11,000 to 19,000 employees and their significant others and children attend. Happily, rain was expected on the Sunday we went so attendance was light – maybe 8,000 – 9,000 adults and giggling kids!
 
The farm specializes in large events and picnics for companies like Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, Honeywell, Alaska Airlines, T-Mobile, and Amazon. It’s a giant meadow that backs up to Mount Si, a dramatic rock-like formation that was named after a local homesteader, Josiah "Uncle Si" Merritt and was featured in the show Twin Peaks.
 
Most of the area was utilized for the picnic. The "Food Village" was designed to quickly feed thousands of people. From a distance, all you see is a tall fence made out of plywood with tents spaced every twenty or thirty feet in front of it. Under each tent is a serving area where you could walk up and grab the featured food, ranging from hamburgers to veggie burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, gyros, bourdon chicken, ribs, corn on the cob, French fries, pot stickers, salmon, pasta, Caesar salad, potato salad, fruit, brownies, shortcake, and assortment of ice cream bars.
 
Under several tents were large flatbed trailers with built-up sides filled with ice and every type of imaginable soda. There were also trailers of water and a beer and wine garden. Supposedly, when the ice melts or the sodas are gone, they simply tow it away and bring in another trailer.
 
Near the food area was one of two stages of entertainment. We listened to several acts, including a memorable quartet called the Baud Boys, which consisted of Microsoft engineers. They sang a combination of songs; the most memorable being one about a man wanting to make love to his wife, but only after his finished his video game. His initial request that he’d be with her in a few minutes stretched into his recommending that she brush her teeth and maybe read a book.
 
At the far end of the site were wagon, pony and train rides, paddle boats and a petting zoo. Along with having a children’s stage, there was an arts and crafts tent and several face painting areas and air brush tattoos. Taking up a large space were 18 of the largest inflatable I’d ever seen. They must have been up to 30 feet in height. My favorite was a huge pirate ship with an enormous octopus climbing up it. There was also Godzilla attacking King Kong, numerous enormous castles and slides. In another area, there were smaller inflatable for toddlers.
 
At the opposite side, were giant chess and checkers, horseshoe pit, giant basketball, putting green, basketball shower stall, golf cage, and another stage. Several volleyball courts were set up for a volleyball tournament. Adults could also visit the casino, bingo, arcade, and massage tents. For those wanting to take out there wallet, there was a tent that sold picnic-themed items like t-shirts, hats, water bottles, chairs, bags, and toys.
 
For the athletic, there was a 24-foot climbing wall and a bungee wall. Throughout the picnic were Dr. Shrinko’s Amazing Shrinking Picnic Puzzles that required nerd (or engineering) ability to solve. I know that Rich is going to relish solving them next year.
 
What did I forget… several small tents with mystics reading palms, table-top cue golf, radio-controlled car races, Frisbee golf, and vendor tent… something for everyone!
 
By the time we walked to the buses, I had consumed an outrageous amount of food, including a lovely dish of macaroni and cheese from a food tent in one of the children’s areas. Wendy must have wondered when I was going to pop!
 
The most extraordinary aspect of the picnic happened within minutes of us getting off the bus. Wendy walked up the picnic entrance and recognized a friend from Lake Oswego (Oregon) High School. Thousands of people at a picnic in Snohomish, Washington and Wendy knew someone! What are the odds?
 
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