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The first day of May, Rich’s daughter, Stacey, arrived in Seattle from Long Beach, California, setting in motion a week of celebration, including Rich’s 60th birthday on Sunday, May 6th.

Wednesday afternoon, Rich and Stacey went to Mount Vernon to garden and hook up the trailer to purchase dirt for a landscape project we’re doing in Kirkland. Ceasing the opportunity, after work, I whooshed to the Bellevue Goodwill, convinced something “wonderful” was waiting to be purchased for Rich’s birthday.

After searching through the store and coming up empty-handed, I decided to investigate the glasses cases in the front. Sure enough, looking back at me was an antique barometer, a bit tarnished, but still in good shape. It was similar to the one on eBay. On another shelf, was an even better find, a Semca Travel clock! In a dainty, red leather case was a wind-up alarm clock, small thermometer, and barometer. With hardly any thought, I said I’d purchase both.

With my finds safely in my basket, I shifted through the rack of men’s outerwear and found a fleece shirt, which was probably new or darn close. I also chose a flouncy pink dress with white polka-dots for Lila, and a little Hawaiian shirt for Jujube. Check out the photos below of the felines in their snazzy birthday outfits.

Thursday, was rainy, but Stacey and Rich forged ahead, purchasing soil and bringing it to Kirkland where we’re extending a flower bed in the front yard to balance out the landscaping, and also create a better environment for the plantings. Currently, little rainfall reaches the plants under the front window. By making the planting area bigger, and removing the grass and brick border, the rainwater should be able to better reach the plants.

In addition, we have giant rhododendron bushes in front of our house, which look unbalanced. By incorporating them into a larger flower garden, they’ll look less awkward. Stay tuned for pictures and details in the coming weeks as we start to create our new flower beds.

Rich’s birthday festivities heated up on Friday morning with Stacey baking a decadent chocolate cake with German chocolate filling, and a whipped chocolate ganache icing. That afternoon, Rich’s son, Chris, and his wife, Shawnie, arrived from Camas, Washington to spend the weekend.

Earlier in the week, I’d made a rich tomato sauce with spicy turkey meatballs. I also pickled some cauliflower, carrots, and celery to serve with olives, cheese and pepperoni as an antipasto. We had a pleasant meal, completed with Brussels spouts, and garlic bread, made from kalamata olive bread, crushed garlic, olive oil, and margarine… lightly browned under the broiler.

Following dinner, Stacey said she wanted coffee with her cake. It was a ploy to use the mug Chris and Shawnie had brought, which said “Grandpa” on it. When presented with the mug, Rich was confused. Even though he was prompted with hints ranging from “what do married couples produce,” and “what constitutes a grandfather,” it took him five to ten minutes to guess that Shawnie is pregnant. She’s due in December.

After learning he’s going to be a grandfather, Rich opened his gifts, including tickets from Stacey, Chris, and Shawnie to see Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers and Emmylou Harris at Chateau St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville in late July.

Full from dinner, grandpa charades, cake, and coffee, five of us squeezed onto the futon in my hobby room – the location of the only TV we have in Kirkland – to watch Hop, a super cute live-action/animated flick about E.B., a rabbit who does not want to succeed his father and become the Easter Bunny. Voiced by Russell Brand, Hop poops jelly beans, has a snarky sense-of-humor, and wants to be a drummer.

Burke Museum to Improv

Saturday morning began with my making a vegetable frittata with sliced potatoes as the crust, and layers of garlic, onions, carrots, broccoli, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and scallions, all held together with beaten eggs, milk, and jack cheese!

Tummies full, we drove to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on the University of Washington campus. I’d never been to this museum so I was excited about checking out the exhibits and seeing their special exhibit, “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” which examines what ten families, from around the world, eat in a week. The families – in Mexico, India, Japan, United States, Peru, Germany, Greenland, three other countries – were photographed with a week’s worth of groceries around them, and the cost of the foods.

It was extremely engaging. For instance, the Japanese family ate lots of packaged goods; even their produce was packaged. The Mexican family spent a large chunk of their weekly grocery money on colas, sweets, and starches. The family in India were vegetarians, eating vegetables, legumes, and other healthy, but spicy foods. The Peruvian family barely ate. The family in Greenland dined on seal, polar bear and whale meat, and other animals and birds that they hunted.

Coinciding with this exhibit was one on the Salish Bounty: Traditional Native American Foods of Puget Sound. It’s astonishing how ordinary plants in the Pacific Northwest like ferns, skunk cabbage, tiger lily bulbs, nettles, clover root, yellow pond lily, and a hundred or so other bulbs, berries, nuts, roots, and vegetables sprouts are edible.

Also part of the series on food was cooking demonstrations by chefs with PCC Natural Markets. We watched a chef, who’d worked at The Herbfarm, and written several books about local cuisines, prepare wild mushroom risotto. The resulting dish was nauseatingly rich, with as she pointed out, four types of fats: Prosciutto, olive oil, butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The texture was creamy with undertones of wine, salt, savory mushrooms, and goo.

We spent another hour going through the museum, visiting the dinosaurs, and meandering through the Pacific Voices exhibit, depicting the cultural artifacts from seventeen Pacific Rim countries and regions, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Korea, Japan, Pacific Northwest Native Americans, Lao, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and Micronesia.

With weather nothing less than splendid, we decided to wander through the University of Washington campus, and look for a geocache. The buildings on the campus are spectacular… ranging from huge brick Tudors to dramatic, glass buildings and concrete atrocities like McMahon Hall, a dormitory.

By the time we got back to the car, it was close to 3 o’clock and everyone was starving. We’d brought some hearty snacks. All we needed was a place to ear. We headed to Green Lake Park. The lake was formed over 50,000 years ago by the Vashon Glacial Ice Sheet, which also formed Puget Sound and other area lakes. Today, the lake is a popular place for rowing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing… and in the surrounding park, walking, running, biking, skating, picnicking, and day dreaming.

Our next stop was Fremont, considered the “Center of the Universe,” and undoubtedly an eclectic neighborhood with a huge troll clutching a VW bug under a bridge, status of Lenin, circa 1950 rocket fuselage, two life-size dinosaur topiaries, and a multitude of other strange landmark and funky shops.

Fremont, which is located along the Fremont Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, is also the home to Adobe Systems’ and Google’s Seattle offices, and other trendy companies, including, Theo’s Chocolate!

We didn’t have time for a tour of their factory of magical smells and delectable treats, but visited the retail store next door, sampling many types of chocolates, including slightly bitter cocoa nibs. I can’t believe how many types of chocolate bars they offer, including toasted coconut, salted almond, cherry almond, orange, mint, spicy chili, 70% and 85% dark chocolate, and varieties of milk chocolate, along with honey saffron caramel, pink salted vanilla caramel, and ghost chili salted caramel. We bought six chocolate bars from their fantasy flavor collection: Coconut curry, hazelnut crunch, and of course, coffee. Also in the collection is chai tea (awful), bread and chocolate (why), and fig, fennel & almond (gasp).

Satiated with chocolate, with headed to Northgate Mall to Rich’s favorite food emporium, Red Robin. Because we it was still early afternoon, we wandered around the mall for a bit, and then settled into a booth at Red Robin for gluttony, capped with a birthday sundae and really bad singing by Red Robin waiters.

Our final stop of the evening was Jet City Improv to see their 8 o’clock show. I’ve been several times to Comedy Sportz in Portland, Oregon, and was expecting the same level of improv, but was disappointed. Certain aspects of the show were good, but others fell very flat.

The best part was when they invited the people celebrating their birthdays onto the stage. Rich begrudgingly went up, but had an enjoyable time shouting out recommendations like “oysters.” I snapped a bunch of pictures of him on stage.

A Warm-Up to Dim Sum

Sunday morning, we had a light breakfast of fruit and yoghurt because we were heading downtown to have dim sum in Chinatown at noon. Even though it was sunny outside, the morning was brisk. We parked in Chinatown, and then meander down to the water front; stopped a few times to look for geocaches near the Smith Tower and Ivar’s on the waterfront.

We also zipped into the train station, which is still being refurbished and will be gorgeous when returned to its original splendor. A sunny Sunday morning in Seattle, weaving between the new and historical buildings can be so rewarding. The only negative was seeing the long line of homeless and indigent people lining up in anticipation of a soup kitchen opening at noon.

We met Randy, Stacey and Chris’ cousin and a dentist in Bellevue, and professor of dentistry at University of Washington, at Jade Garden in Chinatown. Also joining us was Randy’s friend Mike, who is a super exuberant, fun person. We spent several hours nibbling on dim sum, telling stories, and laughing. It was a glorious visit!

We then did popped into couple of shops in Chinatown before Chris and Shawnie headed back to Camas, and Stacey, Rich and I zipped back to Kirkland to do a little yard work before washing up and attending a choral performance at Temple B’Nai Torah in Bellevue.

The music was very uplifting, and nice conclusion to a very busy weekend.

The Celebrations Continued

Monday I went to work while Rich and Stacey cruised around Lake Union and through the Fremont Cut in the P/V Goldfish — our yellow Hobby Cat two-person, kayak, which is propelled by pedals making it a “pedal vessel.”

Stacey stayed in downtown Seattle, where she spent the rest of the day, along with Tuesday and Wednesday, visiting with friends. Wednesday evening, we met her downtown, and ate at the Pike Place Bar & Grill, and then went to the Can Can.

Rich and I have eaten at Pike Place Bar & Grill before. I relished my macaroni & cheese with garlic bread, and Rich and Stacey had fish (halibut) and chips. Nothing to write home about, but certainly convenient with a great view of Pike’s Market and the surrounding area.

The Can Can is a fun, affordable, cleansing get-away. Being so close to the stage it’s easy to get immersed in the show, forgetting about work, chores, and other anxieties, which tiptoe into one’s mind, becoming pests and disrupting one’s ability to simply “chill.”

The performers in the Can Can might get a bit chilly, scantily dresses, but they’re hot and sassy on staging, dancing, lip-syncing, and parodying. All of them are outstanding dancers. One of my favorite was a slender man who came out in black slacks with an orange, long-sleeved shirt, wearing a huge horse head. He was lyrical to watch. His hands and movements were elegant, controlled, and mesmerizing.

Fuschia Foxx, a woman of breathtaking beauty, came out in roller skates, wearing a traditional can-can outfit. Her movements and doll-like appearance reminded me of the ballet Coppelia. Later, she did two belly-dancing routines, which were enchanting from the costumes to her facial movements and rhythmic dancing. Here’s another video of her.

I’m glad Rich was able to spend his birthday weekend and week with Stacey, Chris, and Shawnie, and also enjoyed outside weather, entertainment, and his favorite foods.

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