We needed a quiet, comforting, easy-going adventure with time for sleeping-in and naps. We found it on a Valentine Weekend.
Peg and I joined up with family in Auburn for a dinner and play production of Aladdin, Jr. at the Mesiah Lutheran Church in Auburn. Our granddaughter Laci was part of the Gateway School ensemble. It all started with dinner.
The cast were all in costume as they waited tables and delivered green salad, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, and cake. Service was a little spotty until we happened upon one eager young man. He asked which cake we would like from a list of three. I said, "All three." He darted around chairs and tables and soon appeared with the first two pieces. In the blink of an eye he was back with more. That kid has a future in customer service. The full stage production was hilarious. You could tell that the kids were enjoying themselves. There were songs, dance numbers and lots of over-acting. We left with smiles on our faces.
We left the church at 8:15 and expected to arrive at our hotel in Bellevue by 8:45. We walked into our hotel room at 9:30 after using a Google map, which placed the hotel about a mile and a half northwest of the actual location. Then when we arrived at the downtown hotel we found that we were actually at the wrong Bellevue Silver Cloud. Our reservations were for the Silver Cloud near Factoria. We had to backtrack a few miles towards Renton for the Bellevue Eastgate Silver Cloud. Our hotel was located just off I-90, so the view was less than wonderful, but accessibility was perfect . . . and the staff were all friendly and helpful.
I've videotaped all over Bellevue for the Excellence in Concrete Awards all through the '90s and taped for Group Health, which was just a couple hundred yards away from our actual hotel. Oh, well. We adjusted. This is the third Silver Cloud we've stayed at. The one I want to visit is the one in old town Tacoma . . . maybe next year.
Our bedroom was comfortable and nicely laid out. I only briefly watched TV on the 42-inch screen. We kept our Diet Pepsi cold in the fridge and added our own pillows to the collection on the bed. Peg slept in each day on the firm king mattress. I mostly read, worked on my laptop, and was the first one in the door for breakfast both days.
I absolutely love fresh waffles and hotel waffle machines turn out perfect waffles almost every single time. I hate to stand in line and wait, so being first in the door and first at the waffle machine is a standing order for me. Actually, it's not a hardship. I usually wake up about five anyway, however this morning I read and napped for over an hour. Yes, I was a slacker. The breakfast room opens at seven. Since I was first in and was alone for a few minutes . . . and since there were two waffle machines . . . well, I didn't want the second machine to feel left out, so I cooked a waffle on each machine. I am kind and considerate, after all.
With my waffles done to perfection I sat down with orange juice, coffee, three boiled eggs, my laptop and the Seattle Times. I read much that morning about the regime change in Egypt. After a third glass of juice and a second cup of coffee I cleaned up my breakfast dishes, gathered up my paper/computer and headed back up to our room.
While Peg continued sleeping I visited my own website and clicked on my link for restaurants. Peg and I were changing our original plans after finalizing play tickets. Our day had two plays on the schedule. Vanities at ACT and The Drowsy Chaperone at Seattle Musical Theatre. ACT is located in downtown Seattle, and Seattle Musical Theatre is north of the U District. By accessing a database of Seattle restaurants we were able to find one in the U District AND we were able to purchase a $10 gift certificate. We should have bought the $25 gift certificate, but next time we'll know.
The Bellevue Eastgate Silver Cloud is undergoing some remodeling. We were there a couple of days before the grand opening of their restaurant Nine O. After the grand opening their breakfast (I'm guessing they'll perhaps add bacon!) will be served there instead of the conference room where I ate.
Since Peg had missed breakfast, we stopped in at the Nine O to get her something to eat before driving to Seattle for the first musical. There was a bonus. Our waiter/bartender gave us the good news. In honor of their grand opening, Happy Hour prices were good all day long. Peg ordered the meatloaf sliders (excellent) and the Nine O Fries, which were soooooo yummy. In addition to Parmesan cheese sprinkled over fries, a twig of Rosemary and Basil leaves were deep fried along with the potatoes and sprinkled with cheese. The crispy Basil leaves were exceptional. We could have sat there and nibbled and drank beer and wine for hours, especially at Happy Hour prices . . . but Vanities was calling. Before leaving we took the time to fill out a survey. Great service.
We hit the freeway which is a straight shot to downtown Seattle over the I-90 bridge. I kept a steady hand on the steering wheel. There was a steady wind that whipped up plenty of whitecaps on Lake Washington south of the bridge. For our return trip from the north we took the 520 Floating Bridge.
Vanities is a collaboration between the Fifth Avenue Theatre and ACT Theatre. Three excellent local actresses played friends. We've seen all three of them in other quality productions. We first saw Jennifer Sue Johnson at ACT in Eurydice, Cayman Ilika at the 5th Avenue in Candide, and have followed Billie Wildrick from the Harlequin in Olympia, to Tacoma Actors Guild in Tacoma, and the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in a ton of starring roles. I understand she will be playing Adelaide in the 5th Avenue's production of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls. We love that musical. I think we're going to be getting tickets for two nights in a row.
In Vanities we follow the three friends from their teens as Austin, Texas high school cheerleaders who are the trendsetters and social and moral arbitrators throughout their high school days through stages into thirty-somethings. Produced at ACT, where I always expect innovative productions, I was not disappointed. The sets move forward and backwards and up and down. The background lights up and is the perfect backdrop from high school to the big city. The orchestra was outstanding and the intimate seating was just right for the songs and production numbers.
We walked out of the theater into a driving rain. After retrieving our car we headed for I-5 North and took the 45th Street N.E. exit into the U District (The "U" stands for the University of Washington). The Bilbao Spanish Restaurant & Tapas Bar was only a few blocks off the freeway. The Tapas menu contained cold and hot appetizers. Peg and I were made for Tapas. We like to sample.
We settled on five selections. Mushrooms with Serrano Ham, braised ox tails, scallops with saffron cream sauce, Bacalao (salt cod), and lamb chops. We should have started with the more subtle taste of the scallops, but the mushrooms came first to the table. "Oh, my god," Peg said as she took her first bite. "Oh, my god," Peg said as she took her second bite. "Oh, my god," Peg said as she took her third bite. I was ready. I took up religion on my first bite. Usually, I eat mushrooms with something else, each bite of mushrooms stood alone. We both agreed that the mushrooms were our favorite item. From there our field of personal choices had a little variation.
There were no losers in our tapas selection. My second favorite was Ox Tails. It was like eating a great pot roast - falling off the bone with little prompting. The gravy was succulent. I ordered extra bread to make sure we were able to sop up every drop. Peg's second favorite was lamb chops. I admit they were perfect. The mushrooms and onions in the sauce were excellent . . . we used the bread there, also. The salt cod I thought needed a little extra kick for the fish itself, but the pepper and onions were a delight. The scallops were good, but to give them their due, I really think with their delicate flavors, we should have tried them first. The eating order should have been: scallops, lamb chops, cod, ox tails, and then the mushrooms. Although, several helpings of ox tails and mushrooms . . . and bread would have been meal to die for.
Although we ordered dessert, we didn't need dessert. We tried the turron ice cream, a Spanish combination of vanilla and almond flavorings with chocolate sauce poured over and the chocolate cake. Somehow the cake disappeared, but we had ice cream left over. We will return at another time with friends in tow, so we can sample more tapas. We have another couple in mind to share the ice cream with. I think we will all have a good time.
After dinner, we had a little time to kill so we visited the UW Book Store. Since Tacoma's only independent art store which stocked printing paper closed in December, Peg must make a pilgrimage to Seattle for the "correct" paper.
With new art supplies in the backseat we drove to Sand Point for The Drowsy Chaperone. Not having been there before we wanted to arrive early to get our bearings. We found the theater inside and near the entrance to Magnuson Park. Peg read a short detective story out loud as we waited for the doors to open.
Sand Point is a peninsula that juts into Lake Washington between Wolf Bay and Pontiac Bay. The former military base is now mostly public park with a portion occupied by NOAA and by city housing. The address of the theater was a little confusing especially in the dark. Once inside I was thrilled with their good luck in securing this location.
Seattle Musical Theatre is the only local theater that produces strictly musicals. The company has gone beyond the standard repertoire to present Northwest premieres. The company also seeks to produce shows that are not often seen by musical theatre audiences. While not a Northwest premier, The Drowsy Chaperone was a local company Seattle premier.
As I walked into the theater I was blown away. The one time Naval auditorium features a deep stage AND seating for four hundred people. The bright red seats look like candy. Most often theater seats are decorated in more somber tones. If the production company's goal was to stand out and make a statement, then they succeeded.
The Drowsy Chaperone is absurd, silly, and contains no social value. I love it. There are spit-takes, bad jokes, tap dancing, and mayhem. My two favorite songs are I Don't Want to Show Off No More and Adolpho. Peg's favorite is Monkey on a Pedestal.
We recognized two of the actors and from production credits two others in the cast are probably known personally by my cousin (Lavinia Moyer-Hart who used to appear at Seattle's Empty Space and now teaches acting at Wayne State University, and her daughter (Jaime Moyer of the L.A. Second City improvisational comedy troop). Vince Wingerter who played the part of "Best Friend" George did an quite skillful tap dance number. Vince is the son of my friend Jack Wingerter of Security Lock & Safe and a fellow member of Tacoma Executives Association.
This was our first time seeing a production of Seattle Musical Theatre and it won't be our last. We've found a bed and breakfast nearby, but even if we don't take advantage of the B&B, the location is easy to get to from both downtown and the eastside. As we drove from I-5 to 520 and then to 405 and I-90 Peg and I talked about the production. We discussed how it differed from The Drowsy Chaperone at Tacoma Musical Playhouse and what we liked about both of them. Within minutes we were back at our hotel and slipped into bed exhausted with visions of tap dancing and songs in our heads.
Sunday morning I was up early as usual reading. Again, I was first into the dining room, but this time only made myself one perfect waffle. I had orange juice and coffee as well as granola and yogurt. I added a spoon of strawberries, but they were way too, too sweet. I read the Sunday Seattle Times and then retreated back up stairs to my computer and then read. Peg woke up within time for the free Sunday breakfast, so I accompanied her back downstairs.
I made Peg a waffle and served her it to her with orange juice and coffee as part of our Valentine weekend, probably something I would have done anyway, however. Waffles are not at the top of her breakfast list, but she was pleasantly surprised. The waffles come on off the waffle grill press toasty on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Although the deep waffle pockets are hard to get butter into I have developed the "Doman Method" of waffle preparation. I put pats of butter on the plate before placing the just cooked hot waffle onto the plate. This melts the butter and makes it pliable and easy to spread on either side. Of course, I also add a few pats of butter on to the top for taste.
After breakfast we returned to our room and packed our bags. We left the hotel at 11:25 and flew south. From I-90 we quickly exited to 405 buzzed through the dreaded Renton "S" curves and slid off onto 167 before shuffling onto 512 before entering the mainline traffic life-line of Washington and the West Coast Interstate 5. We by-passed whatever Sunday traffic there was and arrived in Lacey a half an hour early. We took our time and drove through the campus of St. Martin's College looking for Marcus Pavilion.
We were attending Operation Baby Shower. This event was organized by The Ranger and NW Airlifter newspapers along with GET (Guaranteed Education Tuition). Businesses and organizations created booths to greet parents and prospective parents with information and free gifts to show people involved with JBLM how much they are appreciated. Registered visitors with military ID (active, Reserve, retired) were given a "passport" and were able to fill their bags with goodies.
We arrived early and found the doors already open. The line to enter stretched around the block and then some. I've never seen so many strollers in one place before. Inside I saw familiar organizations like Lindquist Dental Clinic For Children and Washington PAVE.
The Lindquist Dental Clinic is run by my friend Carolyn McDougal the current president of Tacoma Rotary #8. Washington PAVE is a client. They work with parents of children who have disabilities. They have many programs that benefit families and children, including the 360 Military Family Center, which is aimed directly at military households.
Peg and I wandered through the hall and the people constantly streamed in. Everyone seemed happy. Parents and children had hundreds of things to look at and do. I felt sorry for the people manning the booths. I knew they would be tired little puppies by the end of the show. Been there . . . done that.
From health care to education there was help and assistance for everyone. What a great show. I shot video while Peg took photographs. As she looked at a display with a beautiful framed photograph of a child curled up asleep on a couch, a proud father told her, "That's my son."
What a relaxing weekend adventure. It brought home the meaning and thoughts of family. We started off with an event run by children to entertain their families and our weekend ended with an event run by a community family to entertain and assist children and their parents. Aladdin, Jr. was so sweet with the children serving food and then acting and singing for us. Operation Baby Shower was a wonderful community event that showed appreciation and concern for our friends and neighbors serving in the military.
As we drove away Peg and I held hands. We'll remember this Valentine Weekend for a lifetime.