Archive for September, 2011

All our friends here love to throw a good party.  Preferably with cocktails.  And good food.  And a theme.  So when we started talking about how to wish Jordan and Belinda a bon voyage as they begin their year abroad, it wasn’t entirely surprising that what began as a nice little farewell get-together turned into a Mad Men-themed murder mystery cocktail dinner party.  We all dressed in our finest 60’s get-up and gathered at Emily and Daniel’s last night for an evening of eating, drinking, and intrigue.  We were each given character descriptions and clues when we walked in the door, and spent the much of the night trying to figure out who-dunnit.  Was it a crime of passion, carried out by reckless James Bean?  Or was the insanely jealous Angel Pier hiding a knife in her purse?

Lava Gardner and Franklin Vinatra were far too classy to arouse even the slightest suspicion…

But maybe it had something to do with Gene Martin’s shady mob connections?

And what was up with Grant Cary and Lauren Sophia sneaking upstairs when no one was looking?  My lips are sealed (although don’t let Jordan’s aka Marlo Brandon’s kind eyes fool you for a second…).

Once the mystery was solved, we were free to transition back into our naturally nutty selves.  The rest of the night was spent eating, drinking, laughing, and toasting to Jordan and Bees, whose absence from the gang will be strongly felt as they’re off romping though Europe and Asia.

It was certainly a night to remember.  I won’t deny that we’re kind of an odd bunch, but damn, we know how to throw a party.

(photo by Daniel)

I’ve been feeling the travel itch for awhile now, dreaming of places to go, things to see, food to eat, leisure to live…  Shane and I went back and forth over what we thought our Fall vacation should look like, wanting to go for the gusto, but not knowing if the timing was right for an ultimate vay-cay.  After monitoring ticket prices and checking our work schedules, we threw caution to the wind and decided this was the year to make a European voyage happen.  After doing my routine Expedia search at lunchtime a couple of months ago, I found a killer deal on flights, grabbed the phone and called Shane with a ‘Buy NOW!’ directive, and within a matter of minutes, we were booked!  One week in Holland and Belgium, and one glorious week in Paris.  This weekend we put the finishing touches on our itinerary, confirming our train tickets and reserving the last of our accommodations.  Four nights in Amsterdam, two nights in Bruges, two nights in Lyon, and seven whole nights in the City of Light.  And with our departure just over two weeks away, I have officially become crazy with excitement.  I’ve been spending my evenings making my eat/see/do list – looking forward to taking in both the modern and funky, and the old and beautiful.  We’re going to stay up late and drink wine and walk along the sparkly Seine, then get up late and eat pain au chocolate paired with tiny cups of espresso.  I am going to stand in front of my favorite Dubuffet painting at the Pompidou, and speak French (God willing) with waiters and those lovely-but-so-unhelpful people at the Metro ticket window.  We’re going to explore places we’ve never been, and return to places that rank as our all-time favorite spots on the face of the earth.  I’m going to eat everything on this list and not feel bad about it.  And we are going to bask in the simple-but-too-often-forgotten fact that la vie est belle…

The past few weekends have been full of so much sunshine and warmth and afternoons spent outside, swimming, or sun-soaking, or drinking white wine while snacking on on ripe, juicy berries.  Our Northwestern sun-shiny fantasy skidded to a screeching halt on Monday, with the arrival of gray skies and sweater weather. This weekend was full of clouds and drizzle and rain – I believe we’ve officially bid adieu to summer in Seattle. Part of me wants to cry over the shorter days and the chilly temps and my oncoming Vitamin D deficiency.  But another part of me is really looking forward to Fall and all its goodness.  Our crock pot is full of simmering beef stew tonight, I busted out my favorite pair of boots today, and it’s actually really convenient when Mother Nature waters the yard for me.  And really, more than anything, I’m looking forward to slowing down a bit – our calendar has felt kind of full lately, and right now settling into the couch with my favorite blanket and a steaming cup of tea while we watch the Emmys (go, Coach!) feels really, really good.  There is a slight (ok, more-than-likely) chance that I’ll be singing a different tune come November, but for now, consider me cozy and content.

We summer-ed to the max this weekend, spending lots of time soaking in the afternoon rays and eating nearly all of our meals outdoors.  The highlights:

We spent Saturday evening out on Vashon Island, eating ourselves silly at Jack and La Verne’s garden dinner party, hosted by Michelle’s grandparents.  I could not have picked a better spot to enjoy a meal on one of the warmest days of the season – island living is so, so good.

The boys played on the lawn, chasing each other in circles and making me question our ‘urban dream’ – these wide open spaces are feelin’ pretty, pretty dreamy…

And seriously, is there anything that screams summertime more than an adorable dirt-caked face?

And the food, oooooohhhh, the food.  We always know we’re in for a treat when Jack and LaV are planning the menu, and they brought their A+ game to the table that night.  We started with perfect little cups of spicy gazpacho, and then feasted on prosciutto-wrapped figs, corn fresh from the garden, grilled steaks topped with fig-bacon marmalade, and rich chocolate cake for dessert (notice there are no photos of food after the gazpacho rolled out, since I was too busy stuffing my face with all that summery goodness to pick up my camera…).

We sat around the table in the middle of the yard and ate, and laughed, and drank wine, and soaked in the bliss that is a summer evening with good friends.  La Verne made the comment as we were driving home that evening that no matter how much time we all spend together, she never seems to get sick of any of us.  Ditto, girl…

Far too soon, it was time to catch our ferry back to Seattle.  As sad as I was to bid farewell to the island, I still left with a smile on my face, knowing that meal would go down in the books as the ultimate summer-time feast of 2011.

We were up early on Sunday morning to cheer on Jack, Jason, and Ben at the Mercer Island triathlon.  Again, more sunshine, more lounging on the grass, and, as a post-race treat, brunch out on the patio at Bennett’s (if I keep eating like this, I’m going to have to actually sign up for one of these races…).

(photo from la verne)

I set up camp on our back porch on Sunday afternoon with my book, knowing I won’t have many more chances to keep up the slight tan I’ve worked so hard for.  I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, I will already have forgotten what it feels like to actually be hot.  So when I do forget, I can look back and remind myself:  it feels dang good.

I tagged along with Shane and Jason as they played a round of frisbee golf later in the afternoon and then, determined to maximize our outdoor-hours, Shane and I grabbed dinner on the patio of a little Mexican restaurant in West Seattle.  Jumbo margaritas, anyone?

And with that, our weekend summer-fest came to a close.  Today I awoke to gray skies and didn’t once reach for my sunglasses or even think about taking off my long-sleeved cardigan.  Ah, well, it was a heck of a ride while it lasted…

When Jack sent out an invite a couple of months ago for the Oregon Wine Country Half-Marathon, I knew that several of our friends would be up for the run; I knew that even more of our friends would be up for the wine (I’ll give you one guess as to which category Shane fell into and which category I fell into). Runners were registered, an awesome house on the Willamette River was booked, and we were off! We arrived at the house on Friday night to join the Rust clan, who had set up camp there earlier in the week. And from the moment I set foot on the wide open wooden deck, I knew we were in for an epic weekend. When I said that the house was on the river, I wasn’t kidding – our party pad was literally floating on the waters of the quiet Willamette, with a big deck (complete with a firepit) and a shed stocked with numerous floatation devices. Even though it was well past sundown, I was already thinking about where exactly I’d spread our my towel the next day for an afternoon of sun-soaking.  And I knew that the firepit held some definite s’more-making potential.

We were up early on Saturday to grab breakfast in Lake Oswego and then head to Portland, to hit the famous Saturday Farmers Market that fills the Park Blocks.   Agenda: check out the food stands, lay on the grass, and grab a weekend supply of fresh fruit.

The nectarines were ripe and juicy – like summer wrapped up in a pretty, round, red-orange package.  And the raspberries…O.M.G.

The market’s entertainment offerings weren’t bad either – the Rust boys were entranced by a man playing the didgeridoo – if only I had a video of the way little G was stomping along to the music…

After the farmers market (and a quick stop at Barista – so, so good), we headed back to the house and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming, sunning, and making sure our runners were hydrating and carbo-loading with cold beer and home-made pizza.  The daredevils decided to use the second story porch as a launch pad into the river – Jack takes the prize for ‘best kung-fu dive’.

And Nancy easily won ‘smallest splash’.

As we all gathered on the deck to watch the sun go down, I was struck by how much I have to be thankful for – good friends, good food, and such a good, good life in the Pacific Northwest…

And good God, 10 hours later, I was up to see the runners off and watch the sun come up!  5:30 is way earlier than I’d ever choose to wake up on a Sunday morning, but this sky almost made it worth it.

A couple hours after our seven half-marathoners hit the road, the cheering squad set out for the finish line, ready with signs and grins and plenty of ‘wooooo-woooooo’s!”.  The runners had registered together for the race under the team name, ‘tuna kambia’, which means ‘we are running’ in Swahili.

And indeed, they were running.  Ten minutes before we expected to greet any of our friends at the finish line, Jason appeared on the horizon.  This man has a gift – he’ll swear he’s never been a long-distance runner, and yet he ran 13.2 miles in 1 hour and 35 minutes.  Insane!

Chris finished just a few minutes behind Jason, and then Shane trotted by, a tired-but-proud smile on his face.

Jack, Megan, Brian, and Nicole weren’t far behind.  Everyone ran a really stellar race, and there were high-fives and sweaty hugs all around.  It’s not entirely surprising that while most of the runners rejoined the rest of us with a water bottle in hand, Jack appeared out of nowhere carrying a glass of Rose.  He’s been telling Shane for years that studies have shown that the best way to re-hydrate after a run is with a pint of beer, and so I don’t doubt he’ll soon be be singing the praises of wine’s post-exercise restorative properties.

So proud of them all!

After a few visits to the wine-tasting booths that had set up shop near the finish line, we decided to head back toward the house.  But first, one short-but-essential pit-stop:

We had been wanting to checkout Winderlea Winery for awhile – we tried to visit this place when we visited Oregon wine country with Jack and La Verne last summer and were bummed to find that it was closed for a private event.  But this time, we made sure we were the first ones in the door – we gathered around the big table and began to watch the Pinot flow.

The wines were tasty, the setting was gorgeous, and everyone was just so…merry.

Although I could have spent all day sipping and sunning on the winery’s patio, the runners were tired and hungry (and in need of showers…), and so we headed back to the house for an afternoon of swimming, lounging, eating, drinking, swimming, lounging, eating, drinking, and so on.  That day will go down as one of my favorite days of this summer.

And just when the day felt like it couldn’t have gotten any better, Jack busted out this:

Yes, that’s a 3-liter bottle of wine.  When Jack uncorked it, I thought, ‘There’s no way we’ll finish that thing.’  I was wrong.  The rest of the night was spent stuffing ourselves on homemade chili verde, followed by roasted marshmallows for dessert.  We were one tired, fat, happy group by the time bedtime rolled around.

On Monday morning it was time to bid a sad farewell to our riverside home.  We ate a killer home-cooked breakfast together (seriously, our friends don’t mess around when it comes to eating), I soaked in the view from the deck one last time, Shane enjoyed a few more minutes of quality time with little Zebo.

And then we said our good-byes, not wanting to believe that the weekend was really over.  Life on the water was so good while it lasted…