If you live in the Pacific Northwest and haven't been to Edmonds, you are missing a treat. I've been to the Amtrak ticket office there, but nothing near as often as Peg. She's been attending the Letters of Joy calligraphy lecture and classes held at the Edmonds Community College for years. LOJ is sponsored Write On Calligraphers. She returns refreshed and happy. She usually attends with her friend Andi Melquist and other fellow members of the Tacoma Calligraphy Guild. When Andi couldn't join her this year, I stepped in to drive her around and share the fun. In addition I scheduled a tour with the Orca Beverage Company and a new client, John Day of Furnace Doctors. Everything worked out perfectly. Instead of just Letters of Joy, we had a fabulous Weekend of Joy.
We scheduled the tour at 2 pm and this worked out well. Sometimes we can't even get out of Tacoma before three. We left only fifteen minutes late from home at 10:15 am. We had a couple of stops first and arrived in Mukilteo with forty-five minutes to spare before our tour. We drove by the bottling plant first and then stopped in at the Mukilteo Speedway Café.
Mid-America comfort food seems to be their specialty. The restaurant is friendly, clean, and busy. The first sight I was greeted with was the pie display. I think someone knew me well and welcomed me; I was "on point" while looking at the selections. I already knew I wanted pie, but which one? Or two? It didn't look like I could go wrong.
The café offers a Blue Plate Special everyday. A Wikipedia entry tells about the origins of the Blue Plate Special: "Blue-plate special or blue plate special is a term used in the United States by restaurants, particularly (but not only) diners and cafés. It refers to a specially low-priced meal, usually changing daily. . . The term was very common from the 1920s through the 1950s. As of 2007, there are still a few restaurants and diners that offer blue-plate specials under that name, sometimes on blue plates, but it is a vanishing tradition. The phrase itself, however, is still a common American colloquial expression."
I had eaten a Blue Plate Special before, but never served on a real blue plate. This was a first. The Friday special is sliced prime rib sandwich on ciabatta bread with bacon and cheese.
We asked for sweet potato fries with our special - crisp and yummy. The sandwich was good, but a little messy. Even though we split the order, neither Peg nor I finished our sandwich or our fries. There was just too much fat for Peg. Now, the pies were a different matter. There were no left-overs. Peg had the Oregon Berry Pie and I had the Strawberry Rhubarb. I probably would have been happier with just rhubarb. As it was the pie was a little too sweet, but then others might think a regular rhubarb pie too tart.
The crusts were a flaky consistancy with a sugar coating. Any misgivings about the too sweet innards were certainly eliminated by the excellent crust. I would return for more specials; pot roast and meatloaf were two favorites that I spied on the table placard. I saw that whole pies were available for sale, but I quickly turned my head away. I wanted a whole pie, but I certainly didn't need a whole pie. I didn't need a single piece, either but . . .
After our lunch we drove two blocks to Orca Beverage. I became aware of Orca on a previous adventure to Puyallup. Peg and I stopped at a roadside vegetable stand and I bought a bottle of MacFuddy's Pepper Elixir. Two weeks later I stopped in again for a bottle of their Huckleberry Soda. The labels on the soda bottles showed that the pop was bottled in Mukilteo. I wrote and asked for a tour. My request was answered by Charles Funk.
Peg and I entered the small office, which was crowded with racks and displays, desks and people. Charles apologized for the disarray, but they were rearranging to make more room. Personally, I felt right at home. It wasn't that much different from my office and looked more like our old television studio in downtown Tacoma, except for the size.
Our old studio had a sound stage that was about seventy feet square. The Orca office is more like fifteen by twenty. Charles welcomed us warmly.
Orca Beverage was created in the 1980s by owner Mike Bourgeois while he was studying a new and emerging class of beverages called the New Age Beverage Category at the Albers School of Business at Seattle University. This new and exciting extension of the larger Carbonated Soft Drink category was made up of products that were alternatives to the mainstream brands that dominated the industry. After seeing the brands that Orca bottles and distributes I realized that I had come in contact with them before. Don's Market in the little town of Ruston - less than a mile away from our home and between us and Point Defiance Park, has sodas like Bubble Up, Green River, and other selections that use pure cane sugar.
Charles pointed out that pure cane sugar not only tastes great, but has no allergens like corn syrup does. I don't know anything about that, but I know what I like. Other people are the same way. Charles told us a story of a visitor from New Zealand who fell in love the Bulldog Root Beer. When he returned home he called and ordered a twelve pack. Shipping was almost a hundred dollars, but the root beer probably brought a smile to the man's face with a purchase well worth the price.
Orca is licensed by some vendors to bottle and distribute. Except for the Dad's Root Beer, all of my favorite sodas were created by Orca.
It was fun seeing their entire operation. Their equipment is a mixture of the latest equipment designed for their specifications and older machines that do particular jobs. Their old glue labeler was described by Charles as something kept running by rubber bands and paper clips (or something like that). The glue labeler actually reminded me of the African Queen, the little steam boiler powered boat that Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn motored down the wild rivers of Africa in the movie of the same name. Bogart would tend to the boiler by oiling, tightening, and often kicking, but it got them where they wanted to go.
We left Orca with a box of Krazy Kritters (their kid drinks and a favorite of zoo concessions, and a twelve pack of root beer. I think we'll be writing soon about a grandchildren's party with Krazy Kritters and a dinner party of friends with root beer sampling or root beer floats for dessert. Or just the opposite. We enjoyed the tour and the people - Charles and Jan who works in the office with him and their friendly production workers.
After our fun tour, we drove south to Edmonds, which is not that far away. Locationwise Mukilteo is between Edmonds to the south and Everett to the north.
Peg showed me around Edmonds and told me which restaurants she had eaten at before. We had our eye on The Loft, a tapas restaurant and bar, but never made it there. We'll get to it next time, perhaps. The heart of the city is just a few short blocks from the waterfront. The shops downtown are smallish. Parking and walking around was an option, but not one that was at the top of our list. I enjoyed the water fountain on main street, which was the central focus of their round-about. It reminded me of Italy, which usually has a water fountain as the square at the center of older towns and villages. I can imagine sitting in the shade in Edmonds enjoying the passing parade of visitors and townsfolk. There were murals and flowers and interesting views everywhere.
The fountain has actually been a bone of contention over the years and had several different reincarnations after several car crashes. This last one, built in 2006, has steel posts sunk well into the ground to protect it. I wonder if that makes it an underground spring . . .
It was too early for dinner and we hadn't checked in to the hotel yet, so that was at the top of our "to do" list. The Harbor Inn is about two blocks from Puget Sound. The hotel grounds are well kept with rhododendrons and dogwood trees all in bloom in spring. Inside, the lobby was inviting with a stone fireplace, and plenty of places to sit and visit. A library table offered the latest copies of USA Today, Seattle Times, and the Everett Herald. Coffee and tea were available for weary guests and Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookies were bagged up and ready for the hungry. I held out for over twenty-four hours before grabbing a cookie on my way through the lobby.
We checked in and unpacked. Peg hadn't made a decision about attending the Friday night lecture by nationally known calligrapher Barbara Close yet, so while she took a nap, I read emails. When she awoke, she committed to the lecture, but neither one of us were hungry so eventually she left for knowledge and I began reading the latest Lincoln Lawyer novel.
The first Letters of Joy was held in 1981. The name of this regional calligraphy festival was created in honor of Kathleen Joy O’Brien, who was the teacher of many of the founding members of Write On Calligraphers. She was secretary to the dean of Students at Edmonds Community College (thus the long-standing relationship WOC maintains with the college), while she was developing her calligraphy classes in Edmonds. Her enthusiasm for teaching and creating calligraphy, and her dedication to community service inspired many. Kathie died in 1980, but her influence is part of what keeps WOC and Letters of Joy ongoing.
Peg likes the combination of advice and information from lectures, and the marvelous vendors of books, tools, bookmaking supplies, as well as the hands-on projects to work on with others as well as the downtime to continue by herself. Her favorite class for the two previous years and this year were with Maude May, who always has a collage class. Maude's a Seattle specialty commercial book designer and maker for her clients to use as remembrances, invitations or promotional materials. She always brings lots of "junk" to be fodder for creation and to help inspire an "Aha!" moment.
One of the first things I did upon checking in at the hotel was to look around the dining room with its breakfast bar. When I saw the two waffle irons a smile passed my lips.
The Harbor Inn Best Western was a relief after being nickled and dimed to death at the downtown Seattle of our previous adventure. The daily rate was cheaper of course in Edmonds, but it was the no parking fee, the free wi-fi, the free hot beverages and cookies AND the free breakfast that really paid off. It was also nice waiting only seconds for the elevator to make its way up or down the three floors. At the Seattle hotel with twenty-something floors I waited ten minutes for an elevator that only had room for one more person. And, I was only on the 9th floor.
Saturday morning I was up early and had waffles and cantaloupe pieces with an excellent orange juice before returning to the room to wake up Peg. She showered and ate a quick yogurt and granola before we left for the community college.
I dropped Peg off and she set up the time to pick her up: 12:30. I drove on to Everett and visited Bargreen-Ellingson. They are a commercial restaurant supply firm. The have everything from commercial kitchen appliances to chef knives, which I always have to fondle. The Everett facility also has an outlet store, which has plates, creamers, double boilers and everything I kind of drool over at reduced prices. The outlet store is closed on Saturday, but I knew they would open up on request. I requested.
At the top of my shopping list were soup spoons. Peg makes excellent soup, but we've never actually had soup spoons. We went the extra mile and bought a dozen. They are not silver, nor even plated, and they don't match the rest of our flatware, but they are soup spoons and only cost me $3 for a dozen.
Also on my list was a non-stick frying pan. I ended up with two. Both had long handles and some heft to them. Our current eight-inch pan immediately hit met the refuse container (garbage can). The twenty-one inch will follow soon. The new twenty-one has a rubber grip on top of the long handle. Our old glass lid fits perfectly. The heavy aluminum base of the pans conducts the heat more evenly so they allow us to turn the heat down a notch. The commercial grade non-stick surface should last much longer than the older ones we had.
We have a great looking Martha Stewart stainless steel frying pan that is virtually worthless (everything sticks to the bottom of the pan), and of course a couple of cast iron skillets given to us by Peg's parents, which we will most likely die with.
After window shopping up and down the aisles I found a gallon of Margarita Mix for only $4.75. I never make them, but I'm always willing to provide makings to my friends who do since I do drink them. The total for the mix, the soup spoons and the two frying pans? $48 bucks!
I left with my treasures and drove all of a hundred yards to Patty's Eggnest and Turkey House. I was early for my meeting at eleven with my new client, Furnace Doctors. I prefer to be early, specially if I am going to eat AND talk. I hate to wait, but Patty's doesn't take reservations; there is always a line. I checked in about 10:20 and had a seat in a booth about fifteen minutes later.
John Day, the owner of Furnace Doctors called to say he was running about ten minutes late. I was comfortable. When John arrived we had a great conversation about his business and life in general. We talked about our lives and then about business. Furnace Doctors is a full-service HVAC company that operates from Lynnwood to Tacoma. They've been in business since 1986. John was fun to talk with.
I ordered the biscuits and gravy with sausage links and hashbrowns "burnt, burnt, burnt with an onion cut up in them." They were delivered in just minutes. This is something that usually worries me, meaning that the hashbrowns wouldn't be crispy, but the kitchen at Patty's Eggnest must be very well-run. The hashbrowns were perfectly brown and crisp with an onion cut up on top. The gravy was bland and they gave me bacon instead of sausage links, however the bacon was so good that I forgave everything else. I almost ordered another side of bacon after I left 90% of the biscuits on the plate, but good sense intervened. I finished before John arrived.
John ordered the Hawaiian Omelet, which looked wonderful. He said it was. While we talked, Peg called first to tell me to pick her up at 1:30 and then again to tell me to pick her up at 3. In other words she was having a great time.
Peg was creating a "waterfall book." Once the book is finished, the images cascade out like a waterfall. She is still working on the individual page's images. When they are finished they get pasted onto an accordion pleat and then they all fold back inside the book waiting for the final show. Her morning class contained the instructions and she began working on the book. She made it a collage exercise in color and pattern. This means that when you see the entire work, you can see the patterns and colors blending together to form a cohesive piece of art. Next time you see her, ask to see Earth and Sky.
I look forward to seeing the final piece. With the waterfall and accordion connection, the light should play differently each time the book is opened. The more she became involved in the series of individual pieces, the more she wanted to work on it and the more she concentrated and worked on it, the more time it took. That's why she kept calling to push back her pick up time. In the end it wasn't time or the creative juices that stopped her, she just ran out of steam. I've felt like that many times.
I picked up Peg and we headed back to Edmonds. We decided to walk along the waterfront. The Port of Edmonds is one of the largest marine facilities in Snohomish County. The marina is partly artificial, being dredged to a depth of 13 feet, and can house 948 craft (668 in the water, and 280 in dry storage). There is also an underwater park, and that only skims the surface . . .
As I mentioned before, Edmonds has plenty of flowers to see and enjoy. Peg really loved this green striped tulip. She had never seen anything like it before and she knows her flowers. Many Washington towns have hanging flower baskets along their streets, but it's a little bit early for Edmonds' to be hung in downtown. It puts them within reach where they are easier to admire.
The group statue Seeing Whales by Richard Beyer was a gift from the Edmonds Arts Festival. The architects designing the reconstruction of the Edmonds, WA waterfront asked artist Richard Beyer to create a sculpture for the landing. While enjoying a drink with a friend and discussing the project one evening, they saw folks running toward the window, pointing with great enthusiasm. Whales were in the harbor. This is a frequent springtime occurrence in the harbor, and always brought great wonder to the passers-by. The pointing gesture became the focal point for this sculpture. The life sized family figures represent everyone, young and old, forever looking out to sea at the whales. Personally, I like the two seagulls perched atop the heads of the father and mother.
Quite often local residents decorate the statue, just like they do for the more famous Beyer piece Waiting for the Interurban in Seattle. In the years after Waiting for the Interurban, Beyer was commissioned to create 30 public sculptures for cities and towns in Washington State, Oregon, and beyond. When working with municipal commissions, the city fathers often had trouble keeping up with Beyer’s sometimes wild or whimsical ideas.
Beyer imagined detailed stories for each sculpture that gave the designs an inner life to which people immediately respond (hence the decorations and additions). The art is approachable and kid-friendly, but filled with “adult intention.”
Richard Beyer, stated, “Art in Public Places and Public Art are not the same thing - The idea of Art in Public Places sacrifices creativity to technicality. Public Art, in expressing the creativity of the community, risks being technically (and artistically) erratic. That is the bureaucratic fear. The bureaucrat fears that creativity may be uncontrollable."
Creativity is always uncontrollable. That's what makes art interesting, threatening, and a creative jumping off point for other people.
Peg and I stopped in at Arnies for a drink after returning from Letters of Joy. We watched the Kingston ferry and relaxed in the bar watching the Kentucky Derby. We also had a chance to review the dinner menu. I saw that the Maine lobster was only $40.95! We made dinner reservations for 6 o'clock. At 5:45 we took the hotel elevator down and drove to Arnies in about two minutes.
My first question to the waitress was, "Is the lobster eight ounces?" The answer was yes, so I knew what I was having. Peg ordered the scallops along with a side of green beans. We would have loved to have ordered asparagus since it was being served with other entrées, but we were turned down. Apparently, there was only enough for the dinner specials. We consoled ourselves with a promise to order the key lime pie for dessert.
Arnies is huge. It looks out on the marina and the ferry landing. We had turned down the opportunity to dine at Anthony's Home Port; it's a great local restaurant chain, but we chose the very local Arnies. We didn't get a window seat unfortunately, but when the wait staff began pulling the shades down to reduce the glare of the late afternoon sun, we became happier with our table choice. The restaurant must have a great following. Anthony's seemed to have a full parking lot and the Edmonds Yacht Club was having a big fundraiser, so all the people that filled Arnies had to be people who knew a good thing when they saw it.
The bread appetizer was excellent; tasty with "tooth" is a good combination, and I'm always happy to see butter pats in the bread basket as well.
Peg enjoyed her scallops and the green beans, but she only had a bite or two of her potato croquette, not her favorite way to fix potatos. I had a bite of scallop. It was good, but it didn't compare with my lobster. I gave Peg a big chunk to start off the meal and then gave her a large piece near the end. She cut the second piece in half and returned a portion to me. That's the first time I've ever seen her be foolish about food; however I didn't argue.
The lobster was cooked perfectly. Besides being beautiful it was the best lobster I've had since Peg and I stayed a week on Cape Cod about five years ago. Peg said the same, and we both knew what we were referring to. On Cape Cod, my goal was to eat lobster two times a day and I succeeded. It was all wonderful, but the best was the simplest. At a fresh seafood shop, steamed lobster was offered by the pound. I bought several big pieces and then we sat in our car and ate it cold in the parking lot. Arnies lobster was warm and served with melted butter with a hint of sweetness. Arnies does lobster right. I'll be back.
Arnies does key lime pie right, too. Peg and I shared a piece. It was tart with real homemade whipped cream.
We were pleasantly full, but not overly full. We had even passed up the opportunity to indulge in Olympic Ice Cream, a personal favorite. I'm glad I didn't ask about the flavors they had on hand.
We walked around and drove around the water front and even stopped in at the Waterfront Antique Mall where Peg bought some hankies and a beautiful teacup. It was a nice night and we enjoyed the sights of Edmonds before returning to the hotel. It was a night of a super moon.
I offered to join Peg next year in Edmonds for Letters of Joy and she nodded her head . . . and then let me down easily with a comment that she wanted to review her options. Ain't love grand? Peg and her friend Andi shop more at different places than I do and look around more than I do. If Andi can't join Peg for the workshop, perhaps I can travel to Edmonds as second choice. Or maybe I'll just get my own room, several bags of chocolate chip cookies and a take-home package of Maine lobster.