Boys and their toys

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While in Seattle, we bought the dogs a new toy. Now, my dogs are toy assassins so we generally don’t bother buying them things anymore, especially stuffed toys. But a few years ago, we were in San Francisco we found a stuffed octopus that billed itself as “the world’s toughest dog toy.” We’ll just see about that, we said – but lo and behold, that octopus held up very admirably for the last two years, finally meeting it’s demise at the teeth of Lola, Todd’s mom’s demon spawn (err, dog) so it’s more than lived up to it’s billing.

I’ve kept an eye out for other toys by that manufacturer, but since I didn’t know the name I was limited to my infrequent visits to pet stores. But on our stroll around Queen Anne, we popped into a pet shop frequented by M. and they had the mystery octopus, plus several of it’s friends. (For the record, the name of the brand is “Tuffies” – Amazon carries them, click here for link.) We chose an alligator because it seemed like the most durable choice.

So after the day of driving, we presented the dogs with their new toy, which they proceeded to play growly tug of war with – their favorite game with any toy. Afraid it would escalate to a fight, we separated them and let each of them play with it individually. Smokey Joe got first crack at it, while T held onto Wally. (Sorry for the blurry photo and the glowing eyes – too lazy to Photoshop.)

At first he didn’t seem as excited about it without Wally clamoring for it, but he soon got into the groove…

Finally, it was Wally’s turn to play with it. He’s especially enamored of the new gator, which is funny because he’s much gentler with his toys than Smokey Joe and doesn’t really require the uber-tough dog toy (except to have something left to play with after Smokey Joe has finished with it… )

T vs. the air mattress

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Because of his amazing air mattress folding skills, T usually has the honor of putting away M and J’s awesome air mattress. As the photos below illustrate, it’s a highly scientific endeavor that requires careful precision and timing…

Do not attempt this at home. He is a trained professional…

Once that hilarity was done, we hit the road for a day of driving. First down to Portland, then down to Salem to pick up the dogs, then back up to Portland, followed by some grocery shopping because our house is completely devoid of food. At one point in the drive, we came across this charming spectacle:

And here’s a close-up, in case you aren’t quite disgusted enough:

I’m sure it’s probably bad that I posted his license plate number, but I’m sure I can somehow work his appallingly bad taste into my defense…

Another highlight from the trip home was courtesy of the McDonalds bathroom/Diet Coke stop:

What does that even mean? Is the ‘toity’ part bad? Or is it some sort of warning? It is awesome to imagine the advertising agency writers brainstorming this, though. That’s about it as far as amusements go, I was pretty beat. Special thanks to all of my Seattle friends for making the visit so much fun – you guys rock!

Escape from Orcas Island – the actual anniversary

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For all of our big plans of getting up early and do our bike ride and long run went to crap with the comfiness of the bed and the cold drizzliness of the morning weather. So we slept in and headed into Eastsound for breakfast around 10:30, with the intention of catching the 2:00 ferry that afternoon. We found a great little cafe and had a great breakfast, then wandered around town looking at the shops and killing some time.

We came across this shop, which I had to snap a picture of to give T. a hard time. (He made the unfortunate mistake of using the word “fabu” once and I’ve been pretty much teasing him ever since… )

We headed to the ferry around 12:30, only to find that it was already full and that we’d have to wait for the 4:15. It wouldn’t be a big deal to spend more time on the island, but you have to leave your car in the line and the weather was pretty crappy so we were pretty much confined to the immediate area of the ferry terminal.

Luckily, we found a nice little cafe in the lobby of a hotel that had free wireless, good food and excellent coffee, so T. and I settled in with our book/laptop/caffeine addictions and spent an enjoyable few hours hanging out together. Before we knew it, the ferry arrived and we were on our way back to Seattle. Originally, I’d been planning to head back down to Portland that night, but with the lateness of the hour and our general fatigue, we decided to stay an extra night in Seattle with M. and J.

When we arrived at their place around 7:15, it was a delightful surprise that a delicious dinner was in progress, Ms. Cyclone was there and M. had set up a beautiful table for us to eat at together:

Ms. Cyclone works for a winery, so she’d brought over a champagne still in the testing phase:

To the left of the bottle is some of J’s first experiment in cheese making – his initial attempt at mozzerella. While we sipped the champagne (delicious) Ms. Cyclone explained the corking process for champagne:

Soon it was dinner time – Swiss Steak with boiled potatoes and salad and featuring The Barfing Chicken:

But that’s just a pitcher, why would they call it that? Oh wait…

Pure awesome. M & J bought the Barfing Chicken on their honeymoon and he is only used for special occasions, so we were most honored to be one of those occasions. During dinner Ms. Cyclone embarrassed T. by making him come up with nice things to say about me (tee-hee!) and we had a really nice dinner with our friends. Pretty much a million times better than a long drive home in the rain…

Happy anniversary T! I’m really glad to be on this crazy adventure with you.

Anniversary trip

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We awoke this morning after an evening of deflating air mattress and noisy upstairs neighbor to a playful kitten – also known as “nature’s alarm clock.” It’s pretty hard to be aggravated at something that adorable, plus I slept very well on M’s comfy couch, so all was well. M and J had also been subject to Fergus’ playful wakeup call (nothing beats a little pounce on the face for an effective wake up call!) so they were up early as well. J got to work on bagels and coffee while T. put the air mattress away, supervised by M & I on the comfy couch.

I had a difficult scheme I was trying to undertake – a surprise overnight at the hotel we got married. My sister tipped me off to a good rate at the hotel a few months ago, so I’d booked it secretly. T. is nearly impossible to surprise – he guesses gifts and is generally good at picking up on subtle stuff, so I was not sure I’d actually be able to pull it off, but it was fun trying. Our theoretical plan was that we were just going up for a day trip and then heading back on the night ferry and staying the night in Seattle. It had been exhausting thinking of all of the possible questions that T. might ask, so I was really looking forward to unveiling the big surprise.

We hit the road around 9:00, plenty of time to drive up to Anacortes and catch the ferry, but you always worry that you won’t make it into the ferry line in time and end up sitting around for an extra three hours, so there was an undercurrent of stress about that. We made it into the ferry line with about an hour before the ferry left, so there was nothing to do but wait. And take random pictures of the ferry line:

There are an embarrassing amount of pictures from our wait for the ferry, but I’ll spare you. Before long, our ferry was pulling into port and the boarding procedures began. We got onto the ferry with no problem and found ourselves a nice spot near the front of the boat so I could pop out to take pictures from time to time:

T. was a good sport in letting me photograph him, and as you can see the scenery was beautiful. Before we knew it, we were arriving at Orcas Island:

We stopped in the tiny town of Eastsound for coffee and then headed up to Rosario – the hotel we’d gotten married at eleven years ago and where we were staying the night. As we got out of the car, I told T. my surprise, which predictably he’d already guessed. So his REAL anniversary present was the satisfaction of successfully pre-guessing another one of my gifts. Buttface! 🙂

Before we checked in, we walked up to the little outdoor area where we’d gotten married. It was strangely touching to stand in a spot I’d last seen wearing my wedding dress:

We got married under this tree:

This is where our family and friends sat:

Here’s T. still triumphant from his successful foiling of the girl:

Then we went to check into the hotel:

After checking into our room, taking a little nap, watching a little bad t.v. we decided to head over to Moran State park to scope out a spot for T’s long run the following morning and a possible bike ride for me. We drove to top of Mt. Constitution – 2500 feet of elevation gain (yikes) that has this cool old stone tower at the top and an amazing view of the islands below:

Tired of me snapping pictures of him all the time, T. got this one of me:

The stone tower is pretty cool. It looks like something out of the middle ages, except for the fact that it has a big cell phone tower next to it:

It turns out you can climb up to the top, via several flights of old stone stairs At the top there is of course a beautiful view, and some nice old-fashioned signs telling you what you’re looking at. These are some of the lakes in Moran State Park:

And this is Mt. Baker:


Afterward, we climbed to the bottom and I shot a quick picture of this cool door:

We headed back to the hotel, to get ready for dinner. We’d opted to eat at the hotel’s main dining room so that we could get dressed up and not have to drive into town. The hotel made a big deal about reservations being strongly recommended, so we’d complied but when we arrived the dining room was nearly empty and there were four reservations in the book for the whole night. Then they sat us between two people with babies, one of which was screaming it’s head off. How romantic. Luckily the waiter came over and very nicely told us that they wanted to move us to another table (without giving a particular reason) and took us to the section of the restaurant where we’d had our rehearsal dinner, which was a really nice bonus.

The rest of the dinner was delicious and very enjoyable. We had a beautiful view and it was nice to have a nice romantic dinner together. I had the waiter snap a picture, but unfortunately the lens flare on the window makes it not the best picture ever, but you get the gist:

It was surprising how many random memories came up while we were here, but it was very enjoyable taking a little stroll down memory lane and remembering what crazy kids we once were.

3 days at work? I need a vacation!

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Getting back to normal life after such a lovely vacation is always hard, so planning a second vacation the weekend after you get back is a nice way to ease back into things. 🙂 T. and I had planned a trip to Orcas Island for our anniversary before I’d really thought about it’s scheduling proximity to the training camp, so it wasn’t a completely intentional plan, but I must say a very pleasant accident. We headed up to Seattle early so we could have the day to hang out with M. and other friends before heading up to Orcas tomorrow.

Arriving at M’s we got to meet the infamous Fergus (her new kitten) who apparently was being a maniac just prior to our arrival. But all we saw was this:

All together now: “awwwwww… ”

We proceeded to hang out at M’s place for a little while, eating J’s baked goods (delicious banana bread and ‘regular bread’ plus something called ‘Anzac biscuits’ which taste like oatmeal cookies and are addictive… ) and taking photos of the cats being cute:

Hanging out with Martha, you get used to this view of her:


But since it results in amazing photographs, it’s totally worth it…

I didn’t want him to feel left out, so I shot a quick photo of T:

Doesn’t he look thrilled to be photographed?

Since it was a gorgeous day outside, we decided to take a little walk through M’s neighborhood. There were some eating stops (Jamba Juice, Top Pot donuts) and a few little browsing stops at some cute shops and it was a nice little meander through the lovely Queen Anne neighborhood. Along the way, we came across this hilarious customized bike finish in the back of a pickup truck:

(It’s Astroturf, if you can’t tell… )

The last time I was in town, M. had told us a hilarious story about the express line in the Safeway that she’d inadvertently gotten into with a cart full of groceries because it was “confusing” and poorly marked “except for the sign” etc. Since we’d heaped abuse on her, we decided it was time for some photographic evidence of her story. So here’s the incredibly poorly marked express lane at the Queen Anne Safeway:

Hmmm, it does have those confusing balloons blocking the all important second ‘s’. Plus there’s that full-sized conveyor belt…

And here’s M. at the scene of the crime. She’s such a good sport…

When we got back to the house, J. had called to let us know he was leaving work early to come hang out, so he showed up not long after we’d gotten home. Being the good host, he shared with us his newest discovery – an amusingly vile product called Chelada:

Finally, the great taste of Bud Light and Clamato, together at last!

Being the adventurous folks we are, we agreed to try some. (And by some, I mean the tiniest sip known to mankind… )

It smelled far worse than it tasted, which was also pretty bad. Amusement wise, I give it two thumbs up, but taste-wise, there aren’t enough thumbs down in the world…

Meanwhile, Ms. Cyclone was stuck in traffic on her way home from work and would call in with sad little dispatches from the road. Upon hearing about the Chelada, she was less sad about missing out on the pre-dinner beverages. But finally she survived the horrible traffic and made it over for a much needed glass of wine and some photographing by M:

After a little wine and relaxing, we headed over to Via Tribunali – an awesome little pizza place that we’d passed on our walk earlier in the day. It has a great atmosphere and really delicious pizzas. I didn’t take many pictures in the restaurant (because I need my flash when I take pictures inside and I HATE when people take a bunch of flash photography in a restaurant… ) but I couldn’t resist taking this cute shot of M. previewing her photos:

It was a wonderful evening, filled with wine yummy food and lots of laughter. When we got back to M’s house, J started prepping another loaf of banana bread and fresh bagels for our breakfast tomorrow. I love hanging out with my Seattle peeps!

Leaving Los Angeles

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The next morning, Heidi prepped a breakfast casserole made with oatmeal (not the dog) and strawberries baked in the oven. While it baked, we sat around sipping coffee and getting caught up with each other’s lives. We shared photos on our laptops, told long involved stories and generally just had a really great long conversation that lasted well past the yummy breakfast. After a few hours of lounging around, we decided to venture out to tackle the lone item on my agenda: picking up In & Out Burgers for Todd. (Yes, I’m obsessed with that place.)

Now, I’m sure you are wondering why I might be doing such a thing. Todd was joking that I should bring him back some and I remembered that I’ve had leftover In & Out before and it wasn’t bad, so I offered to bring some back. Heidi was willing to join me on my quest, so we headed to In & Out for lunch. (Sorry, arteries!) Naturally, we couldn’t let such an amusing activity go unrecorded, so while I bagged up my burgers, Heidi snapped some pictures:

After the burger follies, we wandered over to IKEA and had a lovely stroll through the store, talking and admiring various pieces of Scandinavian furniture. Heidi got a new tablecloth and dishtowel and I eyed several items that may have to be purchased at my local store. It was a nice way to digest the grease and a good activity to do before having to sit on a plane for a few hours.

Far too soon, it was time to head to the airport and say good-bye to Heidi. We promised that there would not be the same length of time between visits and that we’d both be better at keeping in touch. I checked in for my flight and had a nice uneventful trip home. T. greeted me at the airport, Coffee People milkshake in hand (a local chain that got bought by Starbucks except for their airport branches – they make some seriously awesome milkshakes.) It was great to see him and I jabbered random stories at him while we waited for my bag. He’d brought the dogs with him, so I got to see them and get lots of doggie love. Then on the way home I picked up a slice of pizza, since Todd had his burgers for dinner and we sat around swapping stories and getting caught up on everything. I had an amazing time, but it’s always good to be home.

Passive-aggressover and other adventures…

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After leaving tri-camp, I hit the road to visit my good friend Heidi in L.A. I’ve known Heidi for a long time and she’s one of my closest friends. We’ve shared a great many experiences together and have a freaky amount of stuff in common. She’s currently getting her PhD and has been crazy busy in the past few months, so it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to chat. I was really looking forward to seeing her in person and hanging out.

We’d arranged to meet at the car rental place so I could drop off the minivan and check that task off the list. When I was setting up my trip, I’d checked in with her about staying the night at her place and adding a day to my trip and while we were coordinating all of that she’d invited me along to Passover at her grandparents house. We had a little time before it started, so she drove me back to the apartment she shares with her husband Tom and their very cute little dog named Oatmeal. While we drove, she filled me in on the back-story for the family gathering we were about to attend.Without going into too much of her family business, but in a nutshell the Passover was being held at her grandparents house not at their request and they were not pleased about it.

When we got back to the apartment, I was amazed at the change in Oatmeal. (A little backstory: Oatmeal was rescued from a puppy mill and lived most of her life in a small cage, churning out babies. When I first met her approx. four years ago, she was very timid and terrified of new people and spent a lot of our visit nervously pacing in circles.) Now, she’s this beautiful, bouncy creature – still a little leary of new people, which is very understandable given her past. She hates having her photo taken, but I couldn’t help myself:

She’s got an amazing vertical leap, she can jump from the floor into Heidi’s arms, seemingly effortlessly. It’s pretty impressive.

To get over the trauma of photographs, she had to snuggle up with Heidi alot. And eventually fell asleep tucked into Heidi’s arm:

Soon it was time to head over to Heidi’s grandparent’s for some family fun. I’ve never been to a Passover celebration before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m pretty sure this one was totally unique. Heidi has one niece and three nephews that I’ve heard stories about for longer than a few of them have been alive, so it’s always fun to see them in person. I hadn’t seen some of her family since she got married a few years ago, so it was nice to catch up with everyone. Initially, her grandparents had made themselves scarce (prompting us later to joke that it was a Passive-aggressover, hence the name) but when they did make their appearance they seemed to get more into the spirit of things as we went along.

Heidi’s grandfather is a character (in the very best sense of the word) and led us in the speediest Passover ever. He and Heidi’s older brother gave each other a hard time about the Kugel the brother had made and there were great food and dynamics aplenty (thankfully, I had been given the run down from Heidi so I didn’t accidentally hurt anyone’s feelings or start any new fights… ) but I had a great time. There’s something about family gatherings, when they aren’t your own they are much more fun.

Afterward, we headed back to Heidi and Tom’s place where we chatted for a bit, then took Oatmeal on her customary walk. She has a routine where she jumps up onto little fences and curb cuts along the way, which is really adorable. Toward the end of the walk, there is some terraced landscaping that she can leap up onto and then scamper around on the grass on the top – it was unbelievably cute. We ended the evening with more visiting and a viewing of the season finale of Oprah’s Big Give, which I hadn’t seen before but enjoyed immensely. It was really nice to just relax and veg with good friends after all of the activity of tri camp.