Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Week - Snow and Food

On Sunday it started snowing. However it was light snow and was supposed to melt Monday morning. If I recall, there was snow on the ground that morning, but the roads were fine. I went to work with no problems. Throughout the morning it would spit snow, but it wasn't sticking. Robb called me later that morning to ask if I thought it would be safe for him to go to work. I said that of course he should go to work! That afternoon there was sunshine and not a drop of snow in sight. I had heard that the snow might start in the afternoon, but it looked fine outside; so I made the executive decision with my vanpool to leave at 5:00, instead of a little early like we had discussed that morning. I kid you not, at 4:45 it started snowing hard and sticking. Our commute home is normally 1.5 hours. That night it ended up being a tense 3 hours. The problem was the ice on the roads, covered by snow. There were car accidents upon car accidents. We sat on I-5 for a solid 30 minutes without moving at one point. We even saw a mini-snowman built in the median of the interstate because we had been sitting there for so long. We never went above 30 miles an hour the whole time. It was a scary, tense night. I feel bad complaining about my 3 hour commute though. Because when I got home and started watching the news I saw that commuters from Seattle were stuck in traffic that was much worse. I have friends who were stuck in buses for 8 hours. Some people got home at 3:00 in the morning. Cars were abandoned on the main roads. Buses got in accidents. It was an outrageous night, which was a combination of ice and snow showing up at rush hour, and Seattle's notorious problems for not being able to deal with snow. That night it took Robb about 3 hours to get home. The on-ramp he normally uses to get on the interstate when he leaves work had a nine-car pile up. He managed to use some side roads to avoid some of the traffic and hills. The next day we stayed home as the road in front of our house was a sheet of ice. In addition, after each of our exhausting commutes the night before, we felt we deserved a day off for relaxation.

The Snow Starts

Icy Neighborhood Road
We both went to work on Wednesday and then had Thursday off for Thanksgiving. It was nice to have a quiet Thanksgiving, just the two of us. We cooked a couple of items from scratch (like the turkey, my fried corn, and my amazing pumpkin pie), but most of the other food was pre-made this year. We decided since it was just us two we wanted to relax and not stress about cooking all day. We watched the Macy's Day Parade and then took a walk through the neighborhood, which still had quite a bit of snow on the ground. We decided to walk to a nearby gas station to pick up cheap beer (we use it to cook shrimp in for shrimp cocktail.) It really was a lovely morning for a stroll! We spent the rest of the day eating, watching Thanksgiving episodes of Friends (we own the whole series), Charlie Brown, and Garfield. And we decided that night to start a new tradition of watching the original Miracle on 34th Street. I love this movie and I think it's a great way to start the holiday season, especially since the movie starts with the Macy's parade! Robb took quite the nap during the movie, along with one of our fat cats - Malibu! It was so cute! And what a great holiday!

We've got a nice short trail through some woods in our neighborhood!

Po Dog, Burke Museum of History, Museum of the Mysteries, and Pumpkins

In keeping with our theme of museums in October (Royal BC Museum, Museum of Flight), we decided to spend another weekend in October at the Burke Museum in the U-District and then the Museum of the Mysteries in Capital Hill. We had a quick stop at Po Dog first. I believe I've told you about this hot-dog restaurant before. I tried a hot dog with BBQ sauce, melted cheddar, and crispy onion straws. Robb's dog had cheese sauce, mustard, ketchup, and crushed potato chips. Both of those were good. The last hot dog that we shared was not! A hot dog, wrapped in bacon, deep-fried, and smothered with raw onions and chili is not good - now that I write it out, I can't imagine why I thought it would be good in the first place. But we're weird like that and like to try "new" things.

The Burke Museum of History, housed at the University of Washington, is a place we'd been wanting to visit for awhile. But maybe because we were so impressed with the last two museums we'd been to, the Burke Museum was a bit disappointing. The natural history part of the museum had lots of fossils and skeletons, but we wished that there was more information about the exhibits. The exhibit about peoples from the Pacific Rim seemed a little forced. There were little displays about culture in China, Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, etc. But it seemed like a lot of the displays were reproductions and pretty generic. The temporary exhibit on display was about weaving. Several woven fabrics from around the world were displayed, but most of them were actually woven in the past 50 years - while beautiful, not exactly historical. No photography was allowed, so you'll just have to imagine our disappointment in the whole museum.

We next went to the Museum of the Mysteries fully expecting the kitsch to overwhelm us. While we didn't have high expectations, we were still a little disappointed in the lack of information. This museum displays foot print castings of Bigfoot, pictures of crop circles, and a discussion of ghosts. And randomly there was also a display about Bruce Lee and artifacts from various World's Fairs. As weird as all this stuff is, I felt the museum could have done a better job of providing more info and pulling everything together. If you're going to have a weird museum, at least do a good job at putting it together!

That night we went to a pumpkin carving party. Our hosts provided those patterns and tools so you could carve cool pumpkins. Although I chose a two star (our of four), it ended up being the most difficult pattern I could have ever chosen. It took me hours to complete this stupid pumpkin! But it did look pretty cool!

Marination and Museum of Flight

The day after Robb's birthday we finally made it to Marination, a food truck in Seattle that has won numerous national awards. We got there right after they opened, but realized they take cash only. So we took about 15 minutes to walk around to find a cash machine. By the time we returned, the line was probably a 20 minute wait! We basically shared one of everything: a pork slider, a Spam slider, a pork taco, a chicken taco, and a beef taco. All of the food had a Pacific Island feel to it (an Asian-inspired slaw) and was absolutely delicious. So, so, so yummy!

Our afternoon was spent at the Museum of Flight. It's a pretty famous museum around here, especially considering the importance of Boeing to this area. While I had heard it was a good museum, I wasn't expecting to be blown away. (I mean, I'm not normally the type of girl that cares about the history of transportation.) This museum was incredible though and we were so sad that we only had 4 hours to explore everything before they closed and kicked us out. We probably could have spent two days there. We learned about the history of flight, about different types of airplanes, about records set, and even rockets. There were a few simulator games and a few planes that you could sit in. While I had a good time, Robb was even more excited. He had read about a lot of the historical planes and was so excited to see them. The Museum of Flight is right next to one of the Boeing airfields, so we were also lucky enough to see a Air Force plane land that has a weird disc on top that takes some type of scientific measurements. All in all, a great museum, even if you think you don't care about planes!

For some reason I loved this plane - it was my favorite!

Tiger Mountain for Robb's Birthday

Robb's 31st birthday in October was low-key and even a bit disappointing. I waited too late to buy tickets for a concert my dear husband really wanted to go to, so they were sold out on the day I planned to buy them. We had planned on going out for a fancy dinner in Seattle, but couldn't get reservations in time. We ended up eating left-overs for dinner. The poor planning on my part started our weekend out on the wrong foot. But we did enjoy our hike at Tiger Mountain and got some great shots of the two of us, thanks to the GorillaPod that Robb got this birthday (it's a small tripod for the camera that can wrap around tree limbs, etc.) 
Birthday Morning, complete with coffee from Starbucks!
We decided to hike up to Poo-Poo Point on Tiger Mountain. Tiger Mountain is a popular mountain for hikers year-round because it's close by and not high enough to be affected by snow. Poo-Poo point is the summit of the small mountain and it's actually an established launching point for paragliders and hang-gliders. The day we went hiking was beautiful, so we were able to see a few people take a leap of the mountain!

Our last stop of the day was the Issaquah Brewery. Rogue (Robb's favorite beer) owns the bar and we were able to get some of my favorite pumpkin ale. Robb tried a new drink - a Snicker's Bar, which consists of half chocolate stout and half hazelnut brown ale. He's a fan!

Victoria, BC - Beyond the Marathon

When choosing where to do my first marathon, I did a little research on which marathons were good for beginners and which marathons were close to Seattle. I decided that I would either need to complete the Portland Marathon in Oregon or the Victoria Marathon in British Columbia. Portland would have been a logistically easier and cheaper trip. But I thought Canada would make for a more memorable trip (as if I needed anything to make my first marathon more special!) Over three years in Washington, and I still hadn't made it to the border. So I thought it was about time to visit Canada, eh, and I had heard nothing but wonderful things about Victoria. (By the way, we heard lots of Canadians actually say "eh" while we were there. It was all we could do to not crack up when we heard it the first time in a real situation.)

This trip required some logistical planning. First, I needed to worry about crossing the border. I have a passport. However, I never updated it after I got married and changed my name, so it was a little out-of-date. Instead of spending a lot of money to get that updated right now, I decided just to get an enhanced Washington driver's license. For a small $15 fee I updated my current driver's license to an enhanced version that allows me to cross the Canadian border. In addition to the driver's license, I also had to plan our travel. Victoria (the capital city of British Columbia) is on Vancouver Island. The easiest way for Washingtonians to get there is through the ferry system. I eventually decided on driving two hours to Port Angeles, parking the car there for the weekend, and then walking on to a clipper ferry. Victoria is known as a walkable city so there was no need for a car. And walking onto a clipper in Port Angeles was the cheapest option of all the ferry choices out there. I was really lucky to find a hotel room, because I waited to make reservations only a few weeks before the big race. That's really not a smart thing to do when a city has thousands of runners converging in one day. But I found a great little hotel that had lots of personality. It was obviously an old inn - it didn't have air conditioning and the heater was a radiator. But the price was right and the location was great. I would definitely stay at the James Bay Inn again.
So on Saturday, October 9, we headed to O' Canada! Our first ferry ride was awesome. I was nervous about the race and crossing the border. But the excitement in the air was palpable - the ferry was filled with runners and their families heading over for the race. We made it through customs and wheeled our suitcases through the rain in Victoria to find our hotel. After dropping off our bags we headed back out to explore the town. We probably walked a little too much that day, considering I was going to run a marathon the next day, but we really did get to see the city. Government Street is the main drag through Victoria, and while it has a touristy vibe to it, it is also lovingly maintained and beautiful to walk along. The Parliament buildings were beyond gorgeous and rivals architecture I've seen in Europe. (By the way, people in the Pacific Northwest are told that if they want to experience Europe, but don't want to spend the money that Victoria is a great alternative. It has a very European/British feel to it.) My big disappointment from the weekend was not being able to tour the Parliament buildings. It was the one thing that I had really cared about doing. But the buildings were closed for the weekend and then closed Monday for Canadian Thanksgiving. I was so sad to miss going inside! We walked to Chinatown so we could see the second oldest Chinatown (after San Francisco) in North America. Also, we wanted to see Fan Tan Alley, which is the narrowest street in Canada. We stopped at the Bard and Banker, a Scottish pub for a snack and a beer. It was a really fun bar/restaurant and we ended up back there for dinner the next night. That night we carbo-loaded with running friends at their timeshare and then went to bed early.
Our ferry!

Riding the ferry
View of Victoria from the water
Fan Tan Alley
On Government Street in Victoria
The next morning was the marathon (which you can read about in a previous post!) While I was running, Robb walked around the city and visited the Victoria Bug Zoo, which he really loved! After the marathon we went back to the hotel, showered, and rested for an hour or so. And even though every muscle in my body was begging me to go to sleep, I knew that it was important to make the most of our long weekend and experience more of Victoria. We made sure to stop to take plenty of pictures of Parliament and also the famed Empress Hotel. We walked to Big Bad John's, a total dive bar that is pretty famous in the area. We went early in the evening so that we could experience the bar without the crowds. I don't really care about bars, but I could tell this one had good atmosphere and Robb loved it! We had dinner that night at the Bard and Banker. While the atmosphere of the Bard and Ballard was great, we decided the food was a bit overpriced. But that's what you get with a tourist joint I suppose!
Back of Parliament
Empress Hotel
Parliament at Night
 On Monday we started out with a visit to John's Place, famed for their breakfast and cream-cheese syrup. Wow! Cream-cheese syrup was awesome and since then Robb found a recipe online and modified it to make it here at home. Our next stop was the Royal British Columbia Museum. It was probably one of the best museums I have ever been to. We're really into history museums, and this one had a little bit of 
everything, from natural history to the history of Victoria, BC. We loved the First People's exhibit and totem poles (the Canadians call Native Americans - First Peoples). That afternoon we wanted to eat a late lunch at Red Fish, Blue Fish - but they were closed early for Canadian Thanksgiving. So in trying to decide where to get a quick meal before catching our ferry that evening, we decided on McDonald's. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but growing up my family made it a point to try McDonald's in every country that we visited. It seems silly and we definitely spent more time at truly local restaurants, but we would sometimes just stop to get french fries and a coke so that we could say that we did. We even drove miles out of the way once to visit Lichtenstein (a very tiny country in Europe) so we could have McDonald's there. I thought it was important that Robb start joining in this tradition. Robb swears that Canadian McDonald's french fries tasted different. But, trust me, they didn't! On our ferry ride home that night Robb bought a beer using the last of our Canadian coins. I'm really glad that I chose Canada for my marathon debut. It really was a perfect race and, beyond that, a memorable weekend in a new country!

Canadian McDonalds!

Candian beer on the ferry!