Friday, February 20, 2009

Birthday Cakes and un-birthday like days

Hi Everyone! Here's a little update on the past couple of days!
I’ll begin with Matthew’s birthday. The poor man had to get up at 5:30 in the morning (which, if you don’t know us, is virtually the earliest imaginable time to get up) and work on his big day. The night before I had asked what kind of cake he wanted. He replied with a nonchalant “Oh you don’t have to make a cake.”
“You have to have a cake! It’s your birthday!” I replied indignantly.
“Well, how about something with coconut?” he said sheepishly.
“You got it birthday boy, coconut it is!”
The next day I emailed him three options of various cakes—coconut, German chocolate, and a modern German chocolate. He chose the plain old coconut which I have to admit I listed first because it looked the yummiest.
One good look at the recipe and I knew it was going to be a challenge. First of all, I had to buy another cake pan and hope to find a double boiler to make the frosting with. Hmm…Fred Meyer here I come! For those of you who live in southern California and don’t know what a Fred Meyer is, it’s like a gargantuan Target with a full grocery store.

First of all, we had dinner reservations at 7:30 and it was 5:30 now. Perfect. Two hours was enough time to make a cake, right? Haha. Well I started the cake batter portion. Nearly an hour later it was in the oven and I began the filling. We called and pushed back our reservations as I placed three cakes on cooling racks.
When we arrived at La Dolce Vita we chose a table by the window. My husband, being the gentleman he is, asked if I wanted to sit closer to the heater since I get cold easier. I declined as he wanted to face in towards the charming little restaurant. This was one of the top rated Italian restaurants in Seattle, and we were ready for a treat.
We perused the menu, but Matt looked uncomfortable. He shifted, he cleared his throat, and he was slowly beginning to turn red. As we waited twenty minutes for our basket of bread, drops of perspiration beaded up on his forehead and he began taking deep breaths. I kept asking if he was ok and finally he said, “Do you want to switch spots? I’m right by the heater and really hot!
We swapped seats and instantly I was enveloped by a wave of burning hot air. The heater was only about 8 inches from the back of my chair and blowing furiously. “I like heat,” I thought, “I can take this.”
It was only a couple of minutes later the lower part of my back began to burn. I touched the back of the chair and could only hold my fingers there a couple of second before pulling them away. A heater blowing on a varnished wood—that’s smart! I had to switch chairs to be away from the furnace’s fiery blast. We finally got the waiter’s attention and he turned the heater off for us.
Phew, time to enjoy our meal.
Matt ordered some gnocchi with foraged mushroom sauce and I ordered a Cesare salad as an appetizer. Matt’s sauce was excellent, but my salad was essentially whole leaves of Romaine lettuce sprinkled with parmesan and warm. Matt took a bite and said, “I’ll tell you what it reminds me of when you’re done.”

At least he didn’t tell me in the middle… When I finished he proclaimed it tasted like the warm lettuce that’s inside a hamburger. Fabulous.
Dinner came, and while the rolled pork with gorgonzola, walnuts and spinach in a reduced apple cider sauce I got was great (oh, with a side of pumpkin gnocchi which was excellent), Matt’s rabbit coulis tasted oddly like beef stroganoff. He proclaimed my chicken cacciatore was better, which of course made my buttons burst! All in all it was a good dinner and a great albeit interesting experience in one of Seattle’ “finest” restaurants.
Back at home the last thing to do was make the frosting. This involved beating the sugar, eggs, etc. for a full seven minutes in a double boiler. Not having a double boiler, we improvised with the pots we had and I had Matt beat the frosting while I prepared the layers.
I wanted to top the cake with toasted coconut so I set the oven on broil and put a layer of foil with the coconut in it on the top rack. As I went to open the oven Matt instinctually moved and let go of the handle of the pot he was mixing in. Frosting proceeded to pour onto the electric stovetop and rapidly to burn and fuse itself to my stove.
Having just cleaned up the frosting mess I checked on my coconut for the 12th time. The 11th time it was still completely white. Now it was pouring smoke like an angry dragon. The thick gray gas filled our kitchen as I turned the fan on and grabbed the baking sheet. Currans never quit so I ripped another sheet of foil and layered more coconut on and popped it in while the oven was still hot. This time I squatted in front of the glass window and watched until the coconut turned a golden brown.
Finally, after many a mishap, the cake was baked, layered and frosted and we dug in. According to Matt, “It was worth the trouble.”
Today was one of those days where nothing goes right. We got a new “gentle leader” collar for Roy, and last night it worked beautifully. He hardly pulled and when he did it didn’t feel like your arm was going to rip from its socket!
This morning we passed his arch nemesis—chihuahuas—and he began pulling backwards on it and wriggling like a fish on a line. I instantly had flashbacks to that awful morning he wriggled out of his collar and ended up in a scraped and broken heap on the asphalt. Taking no chances this time, I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and heaved him inside the apartment.
Once showered I realized I had nothing to wear that 1) fit, 2) was clean or 3) was decently unwrinkled. As I managed to put together something resembling a homeless hippy and neared completion of getting ready my klutzy self managed to knock a glass of water over in our bathroom and it shattered everywhere. As I yelled at myself Roy looked up at me with mild amusement. Mom’s going berserk again, huh?
I vacuumed up the mess and put a blanket on the bed so Roy wouldn’t get hair all over it. We’ve learned no matter how many obstacles we place on the bed Roy has made it his personal fun zone and will move/chew anything on top to make a bed for himself. We’ve figured let’s save our stuff and let him have the bed and voila! Nothing gets shredded.
I give him a bowl of food and close the bedroom door. A minute later he begins whining. Now, this dog has not whined in over a month of us leaving him! It persisted and I began to think what if I didn’t get all the glass? I can’t leave my baby in there with a piece of glass in his paw all day! I open the door and like a bat out of hell bolts a gloriously happy Roy. He bounced and jumped and wriggled as if he hadn’t seen me in weeks.

That stinker was absolutely fine.
Now I had another problem—how to get Roy back into the bedroom and leave! I filled a kong toy with peanut butter. He took three big laps and licked my hand—efficiently covering it with peanut buttery slime. Instinctively I wiped it on my jeans—great—now I smelled like peanut butter. It finally took another bowl of wet dog food to distract him enough from my leaving.
At work (now nearly 30 minutes late) my boss’ voice came in on my phone. “Your husband needs to show a little TLC to your car!” she said laughing. I said, “The bird poop? Oh yeah, that’s pretty bad!” And it was. There’s a tree where we work and if you park under it in a single day your car will be pelted with no less than 100-200 CRAPS. It looked like a bloomin’ leopard! I laughed at my poor car.
“No,” my boss said, “Your rear left tire is basically flat!”
Now, I pride myself on keeping a close eye on my car. It may not be the cleanest but its oil is always changed on time and I can usually detect if something is amiss. When I looked at my car my boss was right—the tire was almost completely flat!
During a trip to the bank I filled it back up, but with my window rolled down I could hear a distinctive phht phht phht with each turn of the tire. By the end of the day the tire didn’t appear to have deflated, but my way home on the freeway has no shoulders and is basically one long overpass called the Alaskan viaduct. If a tire blew on me there it was bad news. So I took side streets home…and the only way from Delta to home on side streets was through the heart of downtown Seattle.
The streets were a mess—construction, steel plates, potholes and poorly filled potholes made a patchwork quilt of the asphalt. With every bump and jolt I held my breath praying my tire didn’t go out on me. I went through Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market, inching along with the taxis and busses and wondering what I would do if my tire did go flat on me.
In some places it was a one lane with nowhere to turn if you broke down. At least it was better than flying off the viaduct, I figured. A torturous hour passed with me watching my tire in my side mirror turned all the way down to keep an eye on the culprit. I began to have a little pity party for myself, and just as I was really getting it going in my head I glanced in my rearview mirror.

A woman in the car behind me was crying. Weeping so hard she drove with one hand and was continually wiping her tears with the other. I couldn’t hear her but I could tell she was heaving gut wrenching sobs. Her face was scrunched with some unknown pain as she poured out her soul to her steering wheel.
And suddenly my life didn’t look so bad.

I have a dog who’s only fault is wanting to be with me all the time, a husband who was on standby should my tire go out, and a God to cast my cares upon. Saying a prayer for the woman, I made it home safely.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Signers and Thai food

Here’s an afternoon shot for you all(oops, I originally mistyped “shat” but hopefully this piece will be more reminiscent of espresso that crap).

Things are beginning to fall into a rhythm here at the Palmer Place. Roy no longer freaks out when we leave for work, I’m getting more used to my job, we haven’t had any major bouts of crazy weather, and we finally made it back to Bethany Community Church last Sunday.

We sat upstairs on the balcony, with a nice view of the stage and large screen and the people below. The main pastor was out of town, and the stand in was not quite what we had hoped. 

He somehow tied faith and boldness to apples and apple juice, and then said we could even be “saucy” as he held up applesauce. Um….hm. When’s the pastor getting back? Other than that, my entertainment was the front row. On the right hand side on stage was a lady who was signing for another lady who was deaf. At the end of the sermon there was worship and the pastor encouraged freedom to lift your hands or come to the front. 

A young man walked towards the front, and out of all forty feet of stage stairs he had to choose from, he headed over to the right and knelt directly inbetween the signer and the deaf lady. 

The deaf lady (sorry if you’re offended I call her that but that’s what she was and I didn’t meet her that night so I don’t have a name) leaned way over to the left and scooted a bit so she could continue watching the signer. The young man was having a difficult time, and soon his wife or girlfriend joined him—on his left side…further blocking deaf lady’s view. She sat straight up and as the couple was kneeling managed to see the signer over their heads. 

Then we were all invited to stand and he view was completely blocked. 

With infinite patience she motioned to one of the prayer volunteers and moved her hands apart and pointed to the couple. The prayer volunteer (who had been standing about two feet to the side the whole time), whispered in the guys ear and he looked behind him, and moved about a foot to his right. This left a gap in between him and his girlfriend who, upon seeing him move over, stepped to the right as well and closed the gap again. 

The deaf lady sighed, and sat down.

Then there was our first visit to our favorite Thai place. It’s called Thai Kitchen and is in an old house right on Queen Anne Avenue. I say first visit because we’ve ordered take out a few times, and it’s always been delish. We walk in the super squeaky door and are kindly seated in between two other couples at small tables so close that by me turning sideways my butt still brushes our neighbor’s table. I sit on the booth side only to find, as further evidenced by the awkward expression on the other two ladies sitting on the booth, that the height of the seat is about 25 inches. For your information, an average comfortable height for sitting is between 18 and 20 inches. I remove one pillow and sit (rather lean) on the seat, then hop/scoot myself back until my feet are dangling like a 5 year old’s. I’m towering over Matt and say something mildly funny like “I don’t really mean to look down my nose at you” when the lady to my left exclaims “I KNOW! These are so high! I can’t touch the floor!” The other lady on the right agreed, and we returned to our awkward silences. The food was as delicious as always, but I think next time we’ll be ordering to go.

Roy’s latest antics have included finding anything tissue, toilet paper or paper towel-like to shred when we’re gone. It’s not that we don’t wear him out—Matt took him on his longest run ever before he proceeded to shred three rolls of paper towels—he just loves the feel of it in his mouth. So we have a living paper shredder and an aspiring dancer. Yes, when I’m seated he now loves to walk his paws until they’re right on my shoulders and look me square in the face. If I stand up he leaves his paws there and we dance a little jig until he loses his balance. Don’t worry—a video will come soon.

Last tidbit of fun is I booked my flights today to come to OC (sorry, just for a day…less, actually) and then my mom and I are headed east to see Ammah and spend a few days with her. We’ve got big plans to eat brownies, watch movies, and maybe take a daytrip to Sedona.

Last but not least we have Skype and would love to say hello to you! Our name is PalmerPack (too cheesy? I don’t care) so drop us a line sometime. ‘till next time—keep boppin!