Monday, March 31, 2008

Quarter of a Century

Robb and I took this past weekend to ensure that my 25th birthday was an extravaganza of local activity. I normally don't make a big deal out of my birthdays, but I feel turning a quarter of a century old warrents a weekend full of birthday fun.

Friday night we headed to Pike Place Market to eat dinner at The Pink Door, which I heard good things about for months. This Italian restaurant had some pretty good food. I ate gnocchi with yellow bell pepper sauce and Robb had wild boar. Mmm. Dessert was a phenomenal chocolate martini. After The Pink Door we headed to Unexpected Comedy, a comedy club also in the Pike Place Market neighborhood. We went to an improv show called Theatersports. It was a blast! And, they take audience suggestions and I won a prize (tickets to come back, a book of fake tattoos, and a mini-rubber chicken) for the suggestion that led to the best sketch of the night!

Saturday was a Federal Way day. We saw two movies at the $2.00 theater, one right after the other. (Enchanted was fun and pretty darn good. National Treasure 2 is exactly what you think it's going to be like.) We also enjoyed my delicious German chocolate cake from Metropolitan Market.

Sunday was gorgeous, so we headed to Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma. This zoo is in a beautiful setting, in the middle of Point Defiance Park, overlooking Puget Sound. It was a beautiful layout and really neat to see aquarium animals and zoo animals at the same time. Beluga whales, super-cute sea otters, tigers, gibbons, reindeer, elephants, etc. were all represented. It seemed like a small zoo, but we were able to go around to the exhibits and catch presentations by the employees. We learned a lot about belugas, tigers, and elephants.

After the zoo, we drove around Point Defiance Park. There is a five mile drive around the park through beautiful trees and along gorgeous cliffs. Hiking trails were everywhere. We hope to go back soon to try the hiking trails. We like hiking in the summer, but sometimes Mt. Rainier is just too far to drive. So now we have good hiking a little closer to home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skiing in Oregon

Being in the Northwest means being very close to ample skiing opportunities. And I have been itching to ski all winter. While I have several ski resorts close to me here in Washington, Robb does not ski and I believe that skiing by yourself is really boring. So, this weekend I headed to Oregon for the first time to meet up with my friend Angela to hit the slopes. Angela and her husband, Will, are transplants from Florida. They moved to Oregon a few months before I got to Washington and have become pretty darn good snowboarders. They visit the slopes EVERY Saturday, so they invited me to join them.

On Friday I left directly from work to head to the Portland suburb they live in. (It's a 3-hour drive from Federal Way, and only a 2-hour drive from Lacey where I work.) We relaxed that evening with a little wine and conversation and got up early Saturday so we could get to Timberline Ski Resort on Mt. Hood to get a full-day of skiing in. It was raining when we started our drive towards the mountain, but as our elevation increased, the rain turned into lots and lots of snow. We were psyched that we were going to have good fresh powder. We got to Timberline and I bought my day pass (a little cheaper because it's already the 'spring season') and rented my ski's/ski boots/poles for a really incredible price.

We then zipped up our coats and sped down the mountain. It's been about 3 years since I last skied, and let me tell you, it is just like riding a bike for me. I just got right back into it and, at one point, even though I started with long skis, I exchanged them for even longer ski's to provide me a little bit of a challenge. I only wiped out once, but man, was it spectacular. Even though I haven't done any ballet for a couple of years, I can still do some mid-air splits apparently. We took a lunch break for pizza in the lodge, and then spent several more hours on the slopes. I'm still a little sore from my adventure two days ago, but it hurts so good! I just wish I could afford this expensive hobby more regularly. But I'm very glad to at least get one trip in before the season ended. And I had a really great time visiting with Angela.

An interesting tidbit: While I was gone Robb decided to celebrate St. Patrick's Day (this year officially moved by the Pope to Mar. 15 so as not to coincide with Holy Week) by visiting a casino for the first time. Apparently my husband is now hooked. He spent several hours there and, although he ended up loosing money, he had a blast. So, I need to keep an eye on him so he doesn't turn into one of these casino-crazed Washingtonians!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Northwest Trek

A couple of weekends ago Robb and I utilized a "buy one admission, get one free" to visit Northwest Trek. Northwest Trek is a 723 acre wildlife park, containing both a free-roaming area and traditional 'zoo exhibits'. What makes Northwest Trek special is the free-roaming area that is accessible by tram ride, and that it also only has animals that are specific to the Northwest United States.

The tram ride was really interesting. About 435 acres are fenced in for a variety of animals to roam around in at their whim. The tram ride is an hour long tour throughout the fenced area, all the while searching for one of the many species that are allowed to roam free. We spotted mountain goats, elk, bison, big horn sheep, moose, and even caribou. (The moose were elusive, and you could hardly spot them through the trees. The caribou was interesting because they are so endangered in the United States). We even spotted a wild bald eagle eating something delicious in the woods.

As for the traditional zoo exhibits, we saw bald eagles, a variety of owls, black bears, grizzly bears, raccoons, otters, fishers, wolves, cougars, bobcats, wolverines, etc. The bobcat was really active when we were there and was running around, up and down trees, and even meowing. The cougar was really neat too. But our all time favorite animal exhibit was the wolverines. There were two wolverine kits (almost a year old) that were fascinating. I didn't know that wolverines could be so fast. And while I know that they are vicious animals, I had no idea that they could be so mean to each other. Sure, they're siblings, and they were just play-fighting, but man those are some scary animals. So they were chasing each other around forever! Really fun to watch. We probably watched them for a good half hour.

Pictures are posted below. We really had a great time. The animals were really active and fun, and every time we do something Northwest-specific, I feel happy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Travel and Washington's Casino Obsession

I've been extremely busy lately with work. Two weeks ago I flew to Yakima and back in one day. Last week I spent 4 days in Spokane. And tomorrow I go back to Yakima for two days. Nothing extremely important to report from my various work trips; I keep busy working during the day. I'm helping to revise several policies and procedures so that the new unit I'm a part of is incorporated into various state entities. I'm also spending my days interviewing people for 8 new positions across the state. (That's quite an education, you would not BELIEVE some of the things people wear and what comes out of their mouths in an interview!)

In Spokane I went to a restaurant called Tomato Street. I ditched my diet and decided to try their famous dish - lasagna wrapped in pizza dough and baked, with alfredo and marinara sauce topping it all. Delicious! My colleagues and I also visited the Davenport Hotel (I've mentioned this historic hotel in a previous post) and had drinks in the luxurious lobby. I tried a sip of a very nice scotch, and I think I'd like to try it again with a twist. We also visited a casino (mostly because of a drunken desire on one of my counterpart's to play Texas Hold'em.) I lost $20 on roulette and ended up smelling like cigarette smoke, but otherwise had a good time.

Now let me explain casinos in Washington. They are everywhere. I'm not sure if this is true, but I was told that casinos in Washington don't have to be on Indian reservations. The space can just be owned by Indians, and then they can create a casino. So there are little Mom and Pop casinos in basically every town; even here in Federal Way there's a little casino in a strip mall. Of course there are two bigger destination casinos within 15 minutes of us. So, with this being said, people in Washington like to gamble. It is a topic of conversation frequently in my vanpool. My boss's wife goes to the casino 2-3 times a week to play blackjack. It is a regular choice of recreation for several of my coworkers. Some of Robb's employees spend their time off in the casinos playing penny slots for hours. It's really odd for me to understand because I always thought of gambling as a special occasion type of activity (a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City or a cruise). But here in Washington it is an everyday thing. It's not really my thing, but I guess some people really dig it. So, if you're a gambler, you may want to move to Washington to enjoy our recreation with like-minded people (or you may want to avoid Washington to ensure that your gambling doesn't turn into an addiction!)