We had the home field advantage. Peg and I had stayed at the Paradise Château before and while we were there we had a chance to look at all of their rooms. I noted a queen bedroom and a king bedroom with an adjoining bathroom between them. I thought that arrangement would work nicely with another adventure involving grandchildren. The suite was available at the same time our granddaughters Caitlin and Daron were out of school for the winter holidays. The girls had never been to a bed & breakfast and the room set-up gave us a feeling of closeness and yet independence for them.
Our adventure started off with a movie, War Horse. I looked forward to the film because it was produced by Steven Spielberg. It's the story of a boy who enlists in the army after his horse has been sold to the cavalry.
The World War I era tale is beautifully photographed and skillfully told. It was only as I watched the credits that I understood its depth and charm. Richard Curtis was one of the screenplay writers. Curtis was a writer of many of my favorite British TV shows (Black Adder, The Vicar of Dibley, French and Saunders, Mr Bean, and the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency) as well as some of my favorite films (Notting Hill, Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Bernard and the Genie).
The film was a heartbreaker. Daron, who really, really, really loves horses cried four times. Everyone thought that I cried, but I merely had the sniffles from a winter cold . . . yeah, right.
After the movie, we went to dinner at The Jade Palace, which is located in the Green Firs Shopping Center in downtown University Place. Peg and I ordered a couple of family style menu items and let the girls order what they wanted. Daron ordered her favorite, chowmein, while Caitlin ordered her's, walnut prawns.
The food is always good at The Jade Palace, although I was disappointed with the soup. The won ton was the thickest noodle I've ever eaten. A really good won ton soup usually has a noodle that almost melts in your mouth. This one needed to be well chewed. It seemed to be about three times the normal thickness and consistency.
Although, the restaurant is usually busy, for a holiday Wednesday evening it was crammed. The parking lot was full and the dining room was crowded. I think there were a couple of banquets going on as well as casual diners.
The girls were happy with their selections. My favorite is almost always the almond chicken, although the sweet and sour prawns were a close second.
One of the nice features at The Jade Palace is the warm washcloths they bring to your table after dining. They are a nice refreshing way to end a meal. I took individual photos of the girls with the washcloths on top of their heads . . . they looked like crowns and bows. I won't share the photos in this story, but may use the photos later to embarrass the teenagers. (They were soooooo cute.)
We had been pressured all day for time, so we had not been able to check in at the B&B. On the way there, Peg and I explained why we like the comfort and attention at a bed and breakfast. Owner Dorinda met us at the front door and made us all welcome.
The girls had a short tour and Dorinda asked about our breakfast preferences for the next morning. I think Caitlin was a little worried about what would be served. Dorinda wanted the girls to be happy. I wasn't worried, there is always so much to eat . . . and any breakfast that contains bacon will almost certainly gain a favorable nod from a member of the Doman clan.
"I don't like French toast," warned Caitlin. She repeated this several times on the way home and after she arrived back at her house. However, she added, "But I loved it." Dorinda soaks the bread overnight, so it is moist as well as flavorable. The French toast is served with her wonderful raspberry syrup, butter, fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee, and bacon.
We were the only guests for our two nights lodging and so Dorinda chatted with us each morning to make sure everyone was pleased with the meals. From her conversation with Caitlin, she chose a bagel, Jimmy Dean sausage, and egg casserole for the next morning's breakfast. Normally, in addition to load of food, she also has freshly baked muffins available day or night. For the holiday season she had a tin of fudge . . . just what I needed. It was too good.
When Steven Spielberg came up with Raiders of the Lost Ark he was accused of copying the non-stop action of cartoon The Adventures of Tintin. He had never heard of it, but for this holiday season in addition to Hugo, and War Horse, he has produced his own version of Tintin. I was never a fan of Tintin, but really enjoyed this new film.
We took the girls to their second movie of the week. It was filled with humor and daring-do. When we discussed the film afterward, we each had our favorite parts, but almost everyone loved the part where drunken Captain Haddock burped into the empty gas tank and propelled their small airplane a little further into the desert on their search for treasure. The film, itself was pure gold.
After Tintin at the Galaxy we drove across the street to Indochine, which is Caitlin's favorite Thai restaurant. We dine there quite frequently. Caitlin was happy with one of the lunch specials, while Daron was able to order her favorite, pot stickers. I was the only one to order three stars of heat . . . there were no other stars from our table, although we each enjoyed the offerings. There are several Indochine restaurants in the south sound region. We've dined at them all . . . repeatedly.
Following our late lunch, we returned to the Paradise Château. Our plans were set for the evening. Peg attended a poorly planned scrapbook/crafting class (the girls had pronounced the teacher: "snippy."), while Daron and Caitlin had a ball playing hide-and-seek . . . don't ask.
I invited my buddy, Bill Kaufmann over to watch the Alamo Bowl (University of Washington vs. Baylor). We had a great time eating Clover Leaf pizza, and talking. It was a record setting bowl game football performance (most points and most yardage). Neither team had a stellar defense. The Huskies were more cellar than stellar. Two days later the defensive coach, Nick Holt and his entire coaching crew were fired. It was years past due.
During the night as I read a Kellerman mystery loaned to me by Dorinda, the view outside my window lit up like a flash photo had been taken of the roof. Seconds later came the roll and peal of thunder . . . followed a bit later by heavy rain. There was no more lightning. The morning began a little gray, but dry. I went out onto one of the balconies and took a photograph of the view from my bedroom window.
I went downstairs for coffee. Paradise has one of those Keurig coffee machines than make one cup of coffee at a time. You choose a little package of your favorite beverage (coffee, tea, apple cider, etc.), insert it into the machine, and place your cup under the dispenser and in seconds you have a hot, and good tasting cup of Joe . . . or whatever. With a cup of coffee in hand blue skies began to emerge.
In addition to the casserole I mentioned above, Dorinda also had a jar of bread served for breakfast. The bread is prepared and put into jars. As the jars are heated, the bread is cooked and the jars self-seal. Supposedly the jar of bread will last a year on the shelf. It wouldn't last that long in our house.
Kirstie, Daron's mom similarly bakes a can of bread. I like any bread that can be eaten with butter.
Once again we had a great breakfast. After we finished the girls went upstairs to pack.
Breakfast is always a good time to gather and talk. The day before, Dorinda and I were joined by her son-in-law, Dan right after breakfast. He and his wife are headed to the Big Island in Hawaii in January. Peg and I had just returned from two weeks there in November, where I discovered pasteles, a new favorite food.
Knowing that Dorinda is a member of Saturn Barter I mentioned that there is a resort on the Kona Coast that accepts Saturn Barter for payment. Her ears perked up and on Thursday, she announced that she and her husband, Dr. Vincent, would be going there in April. They've been to the Big Island several times. We're so happy for them. Our two weeks in Hawaii went too quickly.
I gave the Vincent family several clues on where to buy pasteles. Dan especially seemed interested.
We packed up the car and said our good-byes. We drove the girls home. We were greeted there by two of our younger grandchildren. "Do you know what today is," asked a jubilant Sophia. It was her seventh birthday. She was exited to say the least. We of course knew what the day was.
We dropped off the older sisters in time for them all to prepare and leave for game day at Odyssey, where their other grandmother was treating them to a loud afternoon. Better them than me. Being in the midst of little kids running around a shrieking would have been an adventure, but one that would have driven me crazy fairly soon. They had a great time and I was happy for them.
The "official" birthday party was that evening. I've been visiting the Old Spaghetti Factory for decades. The food is consistently delicious and service is generally quick. The Old Spaghetti Factory is my oldest son's and daughter-in-law's birthday celebration headquarters.
The restaurant is located in downtown Tacoma on Jefferson Avenue. There is a large parking lot across the street and it is usually full. They only take reservations for large groups. I think our party of eight just scraped by. Peg and I parked illegally and crossed the street and entered the full waiting room.
I had seen Sophia's smiling face through the window, so knew we were already waiting.
In addition to Sophia's smiling face, I saw Izzy's leopard hat. It has that spark of whimsy I appreciate. Son Del, daughter-in-law Johanna, and our four granddaughters Caitlin, Daron, Isabella, and Sophia were all there . . . ready to eat and celebrate.
One thing I hate about OSF is their lack of sitting arrangements in the waiting room. I hate to wait, anyway. But standing AND waiting do not appeal to me at all. Nothing has changed in the many years we've been going there so I doubt they will change anytime soon. Generally, Peg and I simply vote with our feet and never go to the restaurant unless it is for a special family gathering. This is a shame because I still like their food.
I always order the same thing, the Manager's Special, which gives me a half portion of spaghetti with meat sauce and half with mizithra cheese and brown butter. I inhale the aroma as soon as it's delivered in front of me.
While waiting for our main courses, I ate their fresh bread and butter along with minestrone. The soup was nondescript. I should have ordered the Cesar salad, oh, well, it's been a while.
All four girls ordered macaroni and cheese. It's a tradition. The two little girls had the kiddie meal. Daron had a hearty child's plate, and Caitlin ordered the hearty adult plate. "Hearty" means an extra portion. I had ordered the hearty manager's special. Each of the girls had "mac and cheese" for home. I cleaned my plate.
The wait staff at OSF is kid and family friendly. Everyone is so kind to the children. Dessert is included with dinner, a cup of spumoni ice cream. For birthday celebrants they include a candle for best wishes. In addition, three waiters sang a happy birthday song to Sophia. We joined in.
The food is good, it's delivered quickly, the orders were mostly correct, refills for beverages were done without having to flag someone down, everyone was friendly, and we were in and out in record time. They make it almost effortless . . . if they would just do something about the waiting room.
Back home Peg and I relaxed. It had been a busy week and it wasn't over yet. There was still a trip to the airport to drop off friends, movies to see, and a new year's eve and new year's day to cavort through. I went to bed early . . . even on a Friday night.