Monday, August 23, 2010
Secret Agent Man and I escaped the brutal August heat in Austin with a trip to Seattle. Even though I've been back a week (ish) already, I am still dreaming of the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps that's why I keep comparing the pile of work I've been managing since our return to the insurmountable Mount Rainier?
We enjoyed our trip so much, I am already hoping we go again next August. Really, we plan to win the lottery and buy an August house there. That's right, all summer is too long to live apart from our peeps in ATX, but I think a month would suit us just fine.
Here's how it went down:
We arrived at our hotel, and were hit with a surprise at check in: the room awaiting us had two full-sized beds. Hmmm, we are not small people--our combined height is nearly twelve feet. We simply don't fit into a full-sized bed. Since we'd booked a king (using miles Secret Agent Man had left over from his days on the road), he asked the clerk to check again. She found us a junior suite! Except: the bed was a queen-sized murphy bed. Yes, a bed that folds down out of the wall. I was suspicious, but she assured us that the mattress was still heavenly, and we checked in. Sure enough, we had to pull our bed out of the wall. But it was as comfortable as a regular bed, and our view was fantastic.
As I freshened up, Secret Agent Man decided to do some recon around the hotel. Naturally, this meant he found the pool and hot tub, and then settled into the hotel bar for a beer and a chat up with the bartender. Peter, our very helpful bartender, was wise and knowledgeable about places to go and things to do. We'd already done a lot of research, and had a list of "to do" and "to eat," but Peter was helpful in steering us away from, say, places SA Man had seen on television and wanted to try despite lukewarm reviews online.
First stop: Etta's. We'd made it in time for Crabby Hour, and I'm so glad we did. We ordered several little taste treats, but by far my favorite was the Crab Roll. Secret Agent Man expected something sushi-like from the name, but I thought it would be more like a lobster roll. It was, and it was fantastic. Fantastic like I could've eaten two. I wish we'd made more time to eat at Tom Douglas' other restaurants, as I'd heard excellent reports about Dahlia Lounge in particular. Next time!
We'd made a plan for the evening based on a Living Social coupon that had come up about a month prior. (What, you don't sign up for groupon and LS (etc.) in cities where you'll be vacationing? Do it!) It sounded weird and fun, and lucky for us, it was both. We scored seats and champagne in the VIP Section at the Can Can. The service was terrible--luckily we'd followed Peter the Bartender's advice and not planned to order a meal--but the show was very entertaining. It was part Cirque du Soilel, part comedy, part weird stuff. Our front row seats were good (Secret Agent Man got pulled up on stage to shake his booty, a dude swung out over our table on ropes) and bad (one of the fellas flung sweat on my arm, ewwww!), but worth every discounted penny.
What's a trip to Seattle without a visit to Pike Place Market? Day 2 happened to be a weekday, and even though the market was crowded, it wasn't unmanageable. We walked around and explored for a while, and all the vendors where we stopped were friendly and chatty. Secret Agent Man was delighted by a go cup of crab cocktail (chunks of fresh crab covered in cocktail sauce, sold by one of the fresh fish vendors), and even though we joined the crowd at the famous fish flinger for a while, we never saw a toss. Perhaps one has to actually purchase a fish to get the flying show? In any case, Secret Agent Man was hungry for crab, and the seafood vendors suggested Cutter's. It was close, but I'd rate it just okay. Everything was fresh, and tasty, but of all the great places we dined during the trip, this one would be my least favorite--simply because the others were all so good.
After lunch, we wandered over to the Seattle Aquarium. Honestly, we both thought it was boring. Sure, they had the big weird octopus, and the cute seals and otters, but I think we would've enjoyed the place more if we brought or were kids.
Luckily, our next stop was a lot of fun: Underground Tour. The tour begins with a 20 minute presentation on why there's an underground to tour in the first place, and the gal speaking to the group was funny and informative. From there, our very large group split into four groups of about 30 - 40 people each. I'd hoped for the same tour guide who started us out, but our tour guide was still entertaining. (Just not "hilarious" like the ticket sellers suggested.) I think next time, we might enjoy checking out the Underworld Tour (same company).
Dinner that night was the realization of Secret Agent Man's dream of having a pile of steamed crabs poured on our table for him to eat cave man style. And this is where Peter the Bartender saved the day: he told us that the popular (tourist) choice that Secret Agent Man had seen on tv was not the place for us. Really, he was giving us the one eyebrow of judgement that we even wanted such an option, but whatev. Peter suggested Fisherman's, and it did not disappoint. We ordered the Crab Feast, and we both nearly needed a benedryl at the end to curb the start of an allergic reaction from eating so much seafood. Our dinner started with clam chowder (yum), a bucket of clams and mussles (which I did not try because I prefer not to eat foods that share the same texture as loogies), and the main event: a pile of dungeness, king, and snow crab legs. Here, Secret Agent Man, who in the past has so kindly broken down the crab for me and presented me with lumps of delicious meat, decided it was time for me to learn on my own. Newsflash: breaking apart crab legs isn't difficult. It's just extra nice when someone else does it for you.
This day, we got ambitious. We rented a car (from a convenient location right across the street from the hotel), and drove to Mount Rainier National Park for some nature walking. We were armed with Secret Agent Man's gps and my list of suggested hikes from Frommer's website.
Hey, did you know that national parks often don't have a physical address you can enter into your gps? It's best to find this out before you are on the interstate. Print maps in advance, friends! Still, we made it to the park in time for lunch at the Copper Creek Inn. The menu is mainly burgers, but mine was delicious, and Secret Agent Man declared his a winner as well. Save room for their blackberry pie, for sure--even if you're like me and say you'll only have a bite or two, trust me when I tell you that you'll end up hoovering up at least half a slice. You need energy for the nature walking, right?
We picked an easy trail at Paradise. It turns out, when you are at a higher altitude than normal, and hiking what seems like straight up a mountain, you will be quite happy when you breathlessly reach the scenic falls, even if they're a little crowded. Even if the best view of the falls is down a steep rock staircase that you'll dread climbing back up later. The views were lovely, and the walk back to our car was quite nice (and downhill). Our next stop were the Reflection Lakes. Except, on windy days, the lakes don't exactly reflect. Still, it was a nice walk around the lake, as it was flat and much much less crowded.
From there, we considered checking out Sunrise (yes, we entered the park at the opposite end my handy list of hikes suggested), but decided to try and get the rental car back before the place closed at 7. Our drive back, mostly northwest through the park, was lovely. Except where we were driving alongside a steep cliff and could not look out the windows on that side of the car due to extreeme fear. Good times!
We didn't feel like venturing too far (or too fancy) from the hotel for dinner, so we went with another Peter the Bartender suggestion and headed over to Red Fin. I'm so glad we did! From our table, we could see over to the bar where the sushi. . .uhh. . .roller? chef? maestro? was putting together rolls and nigiri. The menu had lots of creative roll options, and we arranged our own little taste test to determine which crab nigiri we liked best. (Verdict: king for the win!) We also got to confuse our waitress with our cost guessing game. See, we each guess how much the total bill will cost. Whoever is closest gets to pay. That's right, we are both trying to pay for dinner. This game is much more fun than taking turns or something reasonable like that. And I set a record at Red Fin: I was $.05 off the total. It's like I won both showcases! Yay me!
Our last full day in the Emerald City, boo hoo! We water taxi-ed to Alki Point to eat and check out the ocean. Brunch at Salty's turned out to be an excellent choice. I'm not normally a fan of a buffet, but there were so many delicious options that we went for it. Once again, Secret Agent Man ate himself into a stupor on crab legs, so even though brunch was not inexpensive, I'd say we got our money's worth.
Unfortunately, our day went awry after brunch. Allegedly, there is a free shuttle that drives around the penninsula, dropping water taxi-ers off at various points of interest. We had a shuttle schedule, and were waiting at the appointed stop on time, but no shuttle. We could see the beach from the shuttle stop, what if we just started walking and hopped on the shuttle when it went by? Friends, on an unseasonable hot (90 degree) day in Seattle, you do not want to walk 1.5 miles to the Alki Beach. I know, without the oppressive Texas humidity, it will seem like a good idea. After all, the ocean awaits! But shade along the path does not. If you're pasty pale like me, you're going to want sunscreen, and lots of it. Remember, you will sweat off the sunscreen along your hairline: yes, that's the reason for the sunburn you'll find there later. Your new farmer tan is an added bonus.
And then there's the beach. We walked past sand volleyball courts and grassy knolls, all full of beach-goers. We'd read glowing reviews of the fantastic Seattle skyline view from the beach. Nothing prepared us for the actual beach. It was rocks. Rocks the size of my fist and smaller. Rocks! So much for our plan to walk barefoot along the beach, dipping our toes into the Pacific Ocean. Still, we'd come this far. We peeled off our shoes and socks, and gingerly picked our way down to the water line. Guess what? The Pacific Ocean is freakin' freezing. I may have screamed a little bit as the tide came in and covered my feet. Also, as Secret Agent Man observed, the water looked like a mojito. After less than a minute of the Pacific Ocean experience, we hobbled back into our shoes and made for the closest shuttle stop.
Frankly, this was mostly a waste of a day. We can look back and laugh--in fact, we laughed at each other on the "beach"--but we won't go back to Alki on our next visit.
We hoped to redeem ourselves with our dinner options. SA Man had scored a couple of groupons, and we wanted to try and use them both. We went to the first stop for an appetizer. It was fine, noteworthy mainly because our taxi tried to drop us off at a parking garage. Umm, no thanks. (And I don't remember the name of the place, whoops!) But our late dinner at Seastar was a very pleasant surprise. (Also a surprise: the strength of the mandarin orange vodka with fresca cocktails the bartender mixed up for us. I mean, we'd had these before, but Yowza!) Once we were seated, we opted for a starter of crab deviled eggs with bacon. Except allegedly the kitchen was backed up, so they brought us some free crunchy shrimp things (and fresh drinks) that were very tasty while we waited. And then our deviled egg order was mysteriously doubled. I could've eaten my weight in those, so I wasn't too sad when Secret Agent Man could not overcome his dislike of the deviled egg and I ate the remainder of his order. (For the record, he was a good sport about trying the devil egg, in case his love of crab and bacon could overcome his hatred of "the creepy white part" and any use of mustard in the recipe.) For our entree, we split an order of wood-fired (or something or other) king crab legs, and they were not only delicious, but pre-cracked. Did we order dessert? Maybe. Maybe I'd been overserved in the drink department and it's been several days since our return home so I don't recall. I plead the fifth.
We hopped about the light rail train, rode it to the airport, and flew back. The wall of heat and humidity as we walked outside from the baggage claim area, and the interior temperature of the car rivaling the surface of the sun were a friendly reminder that we were home.
Ah, vacation! All I ever wanted.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
And you know even the Grinch's heart grew in the end, right? SpyDaddy had two snow cones, and proclaimed them delicious.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Evidently, I needed to fill my own summer with fun. I stole a few things off their list, and added some of mine. Secret Agent Man is helping contribute to the list (and the fun), so with his help, I think we might just reach 100+ items. We've even started crossing items off the list. . .and it has been a pretty great summer.
Here are some of my Best Summer Ever Project: 2010 objectives:
Take a Cosmic Cowboy Tour
Play skeeball at The Highball
Eat & drink German style at the World Famous Walburg Restaurant
Borrow the niece (his) and nephews (mine) for a Little Lounge Lizards Dance Party
Taste test snow cones around the city
Take a UT Moonlight Prowl
Eat some quality baked goods from Naegelin's Bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas
Attend a Round Rock Express game
Play a round of Peter Pan Mini Golf
Taste test frozen yogurt around the city
Watch a movie at the Paramount, during the Summer Film Series
Cheer for the home team at a Texas Rollergirls match
Free Full Moon Yoga (umm, not exactly what it sounds like)
Eat ice cream and pet goats at Sweet Berry Farm
Rock & roll at the Second Sunday Sock Hop
Try our luck at Drag Queen Bingo
Watch the sun set at Dry Creek Cafe
Cupcake Taste Test (although I think I've already tried enough varieties around town to guess my favorite)
Eat pie at Blue Bonnet Cafe
Tour Blue Bell Creamery
Feel the thunder at Thunderhill Raceway
Watch a movie in Deep Eddy Pool
Bowl & Glow at the UT Union
Eat trailer food (I have a list of places to try)
See a movie at the fancy theatre
Go on vacation someplace cool
Try out new (to me/us) restaurants on the cheap (Dear Groupon & Living Social, thank you for your assistance in this option) Right now, we have plans to check out Zoot, Stone House Vineyard, and Mansion on Judge's Hill.
Twenty-seven items on that list, and there are still more that we crossed off before even putting them on the list. Best Summer Ever! Updates to follow. I just planned your next 20 date nights, didn't I? You're welcome.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
We'd been anticipating our in-town retreat for a couple of weeks. Would we close the curtains, crank down the a/c, hang out the privacy sign, and open the door only for room service deliveries? Would we hot tub until our sunscreen cooked off, leaving us raisin-y and blistered?
Nope. Recent events along the Gulf Coast gave us a better idea: we would eat seafood like it was our job. That's right--a self-guided downtown seafood tour.
We began our work at lunch on Saturday, at the Turf and Surf Po' Boy Trailer. We were their only customers at 1pm, and the gal taking orders was really helpful with suggestions. (Especially since I was so hungry, I could only manage to answer "something delicious" when she asked us what we were in the mood for.) Shrimp Po' Boys with sweet potato fries saved the day! Yum; we're definitely going back there.
Checked in to the hotel. . .and waited for The Sister to show up with her family. Oh, right, we had a pit stop on our seafood tour, and it was The Sister (+ fam) who wanted to swim at the hotel. Who knew I would get to bust out with the out-awesome-ing so soon? Lucky me! How did I get so lucky? Evidently, when Secret Agent Man told his sister of our hotel plan, she suggested they come over for a swim. He was smart enough to chat with me about the idea before telling her yes, but I was not smart enough to straight up tell him I wanted him all to myself for the weekend. Instead I said "Sure! Who wouldn't want to swim on the roof! It will be fun!" Really, I was torn. I want to be awesome, and The Sister fam had a rough week--among other things, they had to say goodbye to their beloved sixteen year-old kitty. I even heard myself saying "Should we get them a special treat to cheer them up?" Shut up, self! Shut up! He decided the special treat was that they were coming to swim at our hotel. My special treat was the news that the rooftop hotel pool had a bar!
The rooftop bar had extra delicious frozen drinks, an entire bachelorette party, and an entire bachelor party unrelated to the bachelorette party. The hot tub was full of dudes passing around a box of Cheez-its and hollering at the sunbathing ladies. Even when Sister hopped in the hot tub with Delightful Niece, the dudes didn't clear out--they just offered to share the Cheez-its. Such nice young men after all!
Secret Agent Man had offered Sister + fam an hour-long visit, and sure enough, they cleared out in a timely manner. It's almost a shame, really, since I was just reaching the height of my awesome-ness. Either that, or I was too full of tasty frosted adult beverages to care. Secret Agent Man and I walked a fine (crooked) line between continuing to hang poolside and actually taking our seafood tour. But a shower and nap later, we hit the streets. We were on a mission!
We hit McCormick & Schmick's first. Did you know that many downtown Austin restaurants offer happy hour specials, even on Saturdays? And that offer includes lower-priced appetizers? Our jumbo shrimp cocktails were very good, even though our waitress did not know if our shrimps came from the Texas coast. (What's the point of eating seafood like it's our job if we're not buying "local"? Oh right, seafood is delicious.) The shrimp ceviche was pretty good, but not remarkable. And, to her credit, the waitress warned us that it wasn't her favorite. My John Daly was very tart, and delicious.
Next stop, Truluck's. Except we walked the wrong way and ended up several more blocks from our intended destination. Secret Agent Man has been (not so) secretly wanting to try out a pedicab ride, so we hopped in one and rode to our desination in (tricycle) style. Since we'd just chowed down on shrimp, we mixed it up with a Super Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, which we split. Friends, that crab cake was a slice of heaven. It was the best in the world. It had barely any filler, and they weren't kidding around about the Super Jumbo Lump business. I will dream about it at night.
After Truluck's, we decided our food to drink ratio needed improving. Cuba Libre was nearby, and also nearly deserted--it was, after all, well before dark. Their sign in front boasted the Best Mojito in Texas, and we needed to find out for ourselves. Except, have I ever had a mojito to compare? No. But I am pleased to report that their mojito tasted exactly like a piece of spearmint gum.
As it turns out, Maria Maria is practially next door to Cuba Libre. Hello, white sangria! Hello fruit salad in a glass! I was delighted to discover that my white sangria would include a surprise combination of fruits, depending on the bartender. I was only able to test my theory during two rounds, but in that time I was also able to consume several cherries, a strawberry, and an orange slice. Yum! The live music started not long after our arrival, and featured a lady member of the P-Funk, who Secret Agent Man had seen the week prior with George Clinton. We found out later that the lady P Funker was also part of the cast of the inaugural season of "Flavor of Love." Too bad she/her band were terrible. Probably from all the ganja.
Somehow we made our way to our (planned) final stop: Eddie V's. Actually, I know how we made our (drunken) way: pedicab! I was ready to be impressed by Eddie. I'd heard stories of seafood towers and celebrity sightings. Yet. . .my crab cake disappointed. Sure, it was tasty, and the sauce was good. But it was no World's Greatest Super Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. Secret Agent Man did love his crab claws, though. It just wasn't the perfect end to a fantastic evening. What to do??
Walk back to Truluck's and order up a slice of heaven, of course! What better way to end the evening than with another Super Jumbo Lump Crab Cake?? Since the kitchen was closing (whoops! time flies when you're having fun!), and we were the last order in, the bartender chatted us up a little bit, and even brought over some free cosmos that someone accidentally left in the freezer. I think they were accidentally left in the freezer because they were awful. Or full of roofies. Either way, we made it back to the hotel (thanks, pedicabber!) and turned in.
We ended our seafood tour with brunch at one of our semi-regular haunts on Sunday: Shuck Shack. Dear Shuck Shack, please cut back on the spicey in the Eggs Etouffee for next time. Is your cook new? Let's go back to the original recipe, which we love and miss. P.S. Your cafe au lait is delicious, and I would like an i.v. of that creamy goodness, so please get on that. XO, Guava.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
So it's not surprising that Sister seems to hate me.
On Easter, Secret Agent Man and I met Sister & family at their church for the children's service. We arrived early, in our Easter finest, and saved seats. Secret Agent Man's mom was visiting Austin--I'd met her a couple of days prior at a family dinner--so we took up pretty much an entire row. After the service, they realized that Niece's little school friend was sitting behind us with her mom, so they all joined us outside for the obligatory photos. As we walked outside, I ended up walking next to Sister in the hallway, a little ways behind the girls, who were busily escorting Secret Agent Man. Sister looked over at me, smiled, and said, "Oh look, you and Little School Friend are wearing the same dress! Ha ha!"
Umm, excuse me? I most certainly was not wearing the same dress as a four year old. Yes, I was wearing a dress. My dress was white, with various shades of blue on it, concentrated around the waist and upper portion of the skirt. I bought it a couple of years ago at Ann Taylor, and if Secret Agent Man is to be believed, I looked great. Little School Friend was wearing a dress that was solid blue with white flowers all over it. She wore a fluffy petticoat underneath. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??
Yet instead of giving Sister the ol' "Why The Face?" I chuckled. Like why should I care that Sister thinks I'm dressed like a four year old? Oh, ha ha, what a funny comparison, sister! You're so clever for noticing we both had white and blue on our Easter dresses! Clearly, I'm totally over the slight. I am certain I was smiling brightly in the photos we took not five minutes later.
Their traditional Easter lunch is P.F. Chang's. Did you know P.F. Chang's is nearly deserted on Easter Sunday? Now I do. Upon arrival, their mom excused herself to the ladies room while we got seated. Secret Agent Man asked his sister where we should sit. Sister directed me to the seat next to the mom, which caused Secret Agent Man to joke "You're making her sit next to Mom? What, do you hate Guava?" Sister looks at me, pauses, and then laughs. LAUGHS.
I laughed too, obviously. The idea of Sister hating me is hiiiilarious.
I've since decided that Sister is no match for me. I've abandoned my plan to kill her with kindness. Instead, I will just out-awesome her. That's right. She will be helpless to resist me. I will be the Ninja of Awesome. My ways will be mysterious, crafty, and secretive. I just need to get Secret Agent Man on board. . .without him realizing it. He has so far foiled my dastardly plot by not buying his niece a pinata and letting me fill it with treats for Cinco de Mayo. (Uhh, exploding confetti eggs in Sister's yard, anyone? That's fun for everyone, right??) But the awesome-ness, it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.
Monday, April 19, 2010
I thought you'd be happy when I cleaned you out on Saturday afternoon. Okay, sure, I left behind a covered bowl of pasta salad that was beyond its best days, but you knew I'd take care of that on trash day, right?
Were you jealous that I went out for a fantastic dinner date at Hudson's on Saturday night, instead of staying in to cook? I know, we went on and on about that delicious cheese sauce. . .err, chipolte beer blanc on the venison and the fish. . .ooooh, the pecan crusted snapper atop corn bread pudding! I dreamt about that corn bread pudding on Saturday night.
That's right, I said it: I dreamt about restaurant food while you compressed your last ice-cold breath. You tried to tell me on Sunday morning, with your little puddle under the ice maker. But I didn't see the signs--I thought I'd just splashed some water on that little shelf, so I dutifully soaked it up and went along my way.
Okay, okay. "Along my way" was out to brunch. I didn't know the Original Pancake House wasn't the original! I mean, if something is an Austin original, and happens to have tasty pancakes, it's kindof my duty as a good citizen and buy local, right?? My helpful Secret Agent Man pointed out that he enjoyed those same tasty cakes all over his old stomping grounds. At least you were spared the post-brunch bragging on how much we once again enjoyed a meal that didn't have home field advantage.
At least I heard your drips later that afternoon! Alas, by then it was too late. My ice-maker ice melted. My frozen foods sweat without your icy embrace. And your fridge side fared no better; my butter softened, my cheese ripened.
Then, finally then, I knew. Your carefree days of crushing ice for margaritas were over. Were we through for good?
I consulted your appliance overlords. They offered to send a repair man as soon as possible! Rejoice! Refreeze! Refrigeration! Except. . ."as soon as possible" in their repair world is Wednesday. Wednesday?! As in, three whole days after your untimely death? Should I be expecting an appliance miracle?
What will be a miracle is if the repair person shows up on time, after actually calling me to tell me he's on the way. And is then able to resuscitate you quickly and easily. Because I am afraid that I may have a few extra days of pioneer-style living in my week, if we get down to any ridiculous parts-ordering nonsense. Do you know I'm getting my milk at Starbucks these days, Refrigerator? My sweet Secret Agent Man is bringing just enough dinner over so we don't have leftovers, Fridge! I'm putting you on notice: get back in the game by Wednesday afternoon, or I'll be chillin' with your brand new (owed to me under warranty, dang it!) replacement.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
One of my dream jobs would be Personal Gift Shopper. Especially if I was employed by the very wealthy for an embarrassingly high salary. But who wouldn't like that job?
My Secret Agent Man has a birthday about two weeks after Valentine's Day, and after he told me my V-Day gift was the best present he'd ever received, I was officially stumped on a birthday present. What could possibly top brass knuckles and a handmade book of 100 of my favorite things about him?
I started brainstorming, and came up with a few so-so ideas. Finally inspiration struck during a rerun of Entourage. (A show I never watched until we started dating.) One of the characters is trying to figure out what to get his girlfriend for her birthday, and he wants to really impress her, since they just started dating. Another character gives him excellent advice that boils down to this: choose a gift that shows the person that you are paying attention to the details of their life.
I decided to give Secret Agent Man one gift for every year he's been alive.
Yes! I could do it! I had two weeks, a set budget, and the internet. What could be so hard about finding not one, but over thirty great gifts?
First, I made a list of "free" things I could give him: a home cooked dinner, secret naughty things, his own drawer in my bedroom, his own key.
Then I thought about places he likes to go, and bought him $5 or $10 giftcards for: a venti soy vanilla latte, a coffee from a place near his place, a coffee and bagel in his 'hood, a slice of cheesecake, his favorite burger, a lunch place near his office, an after-bar treat, and a pint.
Sticking with the food theme, and working with the timing, I also planned an Austin Restaurant Week date, and lucked into a deal for a half price tasting menu date. I picked up some of his favorite snacks (2 different kinds of olives and salty cashew nuts) and a few things to help put together his favorite drink (small bottle of absolut, orange squeezer). I tracked down a delicious version of his other favorite drink, and bought a six-pack of a beer I knew he enjoyed.
And I was over halfway there!
I did have to think of a few random things that I don't remember without looking over my list, but I vaguely recall a small box full of gum (as a joke about date #3, where we spent the end of the evening having a bubble-blowing contest in my driveway) and a firestarter.
I had to get a little bit random with: a luck token, lottery tickets (quick pick + scratch off), bacon chapstick, and soaps shaped like tiny hands.
I went sentimental and: framed a copy of our "prom photo" from New Year's, bought a small photo album and promised to take pictures at his birthday party.
A week before his birthday, he made an off the cuff comment about wishing there was a one day ninja training class in Austin. Oh really? How about a book, nunchucks, and a nunchucks training video?
And finally, something I knew he really wanted but would never buy for himself: the first season of Jersey Shore.
I couldn't wait for his birthday! So I started giving him gifts a couple of days in advance. Each was numbered, but I didn't tell him why, or how many gifts to expect. And the night before his birthday, after I knew he was asleep, I made like Santa and left him a pile of presents. The next morning, I was as excited as if it were my own Christmas morning.
He told me it was his best birthday ever, better than last year when he spent his birthday weekend in Vegas with his family and all his best friends. Success! Except now I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to get him one of these or one of these for Christmas to top the birthday gifts. Better start keeping an eye on craigslist.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I vaguely remember a movie (Sweet Home Alabama, maybe?) where the main fella takes his lady into Tiffany and suggests she pick out her own engagement ring.
That is not my life.
My XH surprised me with an engagement/wedding ring set; one that I had never seen previously, much less picked out. At the time, I hadn't even been ring shopping with girlfriends who wanted to think of options to pass along to their own fellas. Only one of my close friends had married, and she picked out her ring in Chicago's Diamond District. Over the years, I've since shopped with one of my girlfriends for an engagement ring, and been her "go-to guy" to point her fiance in the right direction when the time came. That shopping excursion consisted of one trip to Russell Korman, and an extended conversation with the lady behind the counter, who was wearing the biggest, flashiest engagement ring I had/have ever seen.
So, Secret Agent Man and I spent part of our trip to Vegas walking around the strip to different casinos. The weather wasn't great--a little grey and drizzly--so we spent more time indoors than out. Our last stop one afternoon was the Bellagio. If you haven't been, I definitely recommend checking it out. The Bellagio has beautiful Chihuly Glass installations, a superb Absolut Screwdriver, and a Tiffany & Co store. Until that afternoon, I only knew about the first of those attractions.
Did you know that when you're gambling, a waitress brings you free drinks? If Secret Agent Man is going to gamble, he is most likely to sit down for a game of Pai Gow--another mystery to me pre-Vegas trip. Ever the gentleman, he made sure to include me on his drink order. One for him, one for me.
He's played enough to know when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em (and when to walk away, and when to run), so we didn't spend a lot of time at the table. We walked around the hotel a little bit, looked at more art, and before I knew it, we walked right in to Tiffany & Co.
And he said something to the lady behind the counter.
And she reached underneath the glass and pulled out a very shiny engagement ring.
And I put it on.
To be honest, I'm not really sure what happened next. My brain was too busy shouting "what the. . .WHAT??" and also "OOOOHHH, SHINY!" for me to hear any actual words exchanged in the real world. It soon became clear that the lady had handed me a different ring than Secret Agent Man had asked for, because she handed me another one. And I put it on!
I was so bedazzled by the shiny that it took me a minute or so to notice that they were both looking at me, expectantly. Like they were waiting for me to say something. Since my mind was still blank, I ended up blurting out a really, really romantic "You are so drunk. He's drunk!"
I am all about keepin' it klassy, friends.
He wasn't drunk. The lady had asked me if I preferred the rectangular or the square. Oops.
Now, I'm not the type of person who ever dreamed about a specific "perfect" wedding or even played bride when I was a kid. Even going through wedding planning, and reading magazines, I still didn't get caught up in it. I'm an event planner: I planned my event. I never looked at rings, and didn't imagine myself with anything different than I had. Until I didn't have it anymore. Eventually, I realized that I do want to marry again. (One last time!) I let myself hope a little bit that it could happen for me, and had a few tiny imaginings about what I might want.
Like maybe I might like an emerald cut diamond. Something rectangular.
Imagine my surprise when that's exactly what the lady handed me! Evidently, Secret Agent Man had browsed Tiffany a time or two, had seen the square-stone ring, and liked the look of it. I guess he thought it would be fun to see how it looked on his lady. It was so shiny! I think they put enormous diamonds in the rings out for show behind the counter to lure a fella in to buying something bigger than he might ordinarily. The lady got a little pushy with him about sales tax in LV being less than sales tax in Texas, and she suggested that she would go ahead and write down the details for the ring I liked best, "just in case." I am pretty sure I gave him the crazy eyes right about then. Our 18th date was turning into quite an experience.
After my try-on, we went for gelato and back to the hotel room for a pre-dinner nap. As we were getting ready for dinner, he asked me how much engagement rings cost. I told him they cost what a person can afford. He wondered if that meant they might cost as much as his car, when he bought it new a few years ago. Ummm. . .what??
That's right, apparently the ring I tried on and liked best cost five figures. And the first number of the price was not a 1 or 2. I told him that was insane, and we had a little chat about how stores other than the big T have pretty rings that would probably cost less because they aren't a brand. But then I had to stop myself and tell him that I was not going to have an engagement ring buying discussion with him yet. He laughed, and said "You don't think we were actually shopping for engagement rings today, do you?"
You bet I didn't, mister. I'm going to need to try on many more than two rings on that shopping trip! You know, that trip a long time from now when it wouldn't be so crazy soon for that to happen. Right?
Monday, March 1, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I am in love. . .
with my new bed!
As of a couple of weeks ago, I'd finally saved enough pennies to buy a new mattress set. The bed I've been sleeping on for the past year or so is a mattress set I bought in 1997. Granted, I haven't been sleeping on it continuously since then, but seriously? I was done.
Picking out a new mattress was easy. Go to store, feel silly for laying down on mattresses fully dressed in public, repeat.
But I had a harder time when it came to bedding. I went up a size on my mattress, and needed to replace my old bedding. I still haven't painted my bedroom yet, though, so I was feeling overwhelmed with choices.
Until I was out shopping, and walked by this display. I actually gasped! Love! I can buy accent pillows to coordinate with my eventual wall color, and the charcoal grey with the different patterns just fills me with happy. My new sheets are light grey, and look great with the rest of the set. Another bonus? It's white sale time, and all the various pieces were on sale. Win!
ETA: My lovely new bedding is from Macy's, and it's "Hotel Collection" brand.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Date #4: Afternoon movie date, thought he might not be in to me. Brought a can of whipped cream in my purse to the theatre, and we bought a tiny pie nearby to garnish our whip during the movie. He ate a garlicky dinner afterwards, and joked about ruining his chances of making out with me later. Turns out he wasn't joking; I got a peck at the end of the evening.
Date #5: Operation Take Out & Make Out. Is this guy in to me? Time to find out. I headed over to his place for movies & Mama Fu's. I sat in the middle of the couch. Come hither attempts ignored, perhaps he was too busy working up the courage to ask me out on a NYE date? Time to find more cocktail attire!
Date #6: NYE! Some high points I already shared with the internet:
* Since my date had already seen my best cocktail dress, I shopped around and found a new one for 70% off the day before New Year's Eve. I felt like a million bucks.
* The fancy party we attended had not one, but TWO, cover bands and they seemed to mainly focus on beloved songs of the 80's.
* I think we drank all the gin & tonic in Austin. Whoops!
* There was an area at the party for prom style pictures. For some reason, the photographer took like 30 pics of us. My funny date told the photo organizer lady that we just met that night, and if things work out we're planning to use those photos for next year's Christmas card.
* People watching at the party was a definite highlight. You know, if you ever start to think you've had a lot of drinks, it might make you feel better to note that you're not one of the women who walked into the (public) bathroom barefoot and proceeded to make shoes from paper towels.
One of my best NYE ever. And, uhhh, rendered any scheming for make out time unnecessary. Oh yeah!
Date #7: Vino Vino. Neither of us had been there before. Evidently, we decided to show up on Hipsters with Ironic Moustaches Night. They were everywhere! Either that, or S and I are magnets for good people watching.
Date #8: Watching the National Championship Game at Waterloo. Here's where I realize that I am totally okay and fully on board with S ordering a variety of appetizers for sharing. He's done it before (date #1's sushi selection, date #7's apps) but this time I finally realized he pays attention to what I'm thinking about ordering for myself and plans accordingly. Another reason he's awesome.
Date #9: I'm calling this a date even though we ended up not going anywhere. It was a Saturday night, and I had a book club meeting. He had "plans he made a while back." Except he ended up canceling his plans and I headed his direction after my meeting. We hung out at his house, which smelled deliciously of jambalaya. I don't want to say he cooked me dinner, since he knew around what time I'd show up (10pm), but he did ask if I'd eaten.
Date #10: It was a Tuesday. I'd had a crappy day at work, and was ready to go home, lay on my couch, and groan softly. But then he texted me to see if I was free and wanted to meet for dinner! His regular Tuesday night work out was off. He'd had a crappy day, too. One dinner at Mandola's, a bottle of wine, and good conversation later, we were both in much-improved moods. Did I mention there was gelato?
Date #11: Also known as the three-day weekend date bonanza kick-off date. We'd been talking about Sandra Bullock after seeing her on Jay Leno on date #10, and decided to dine at Bess. We arrived to a 30 - 45 minute wait, and settled at the bar to make good use of our time. Lo and behold, a couple of S's friends were seated at the bar. We said hello; the fella started to try and remind me of the last time I met him. Ummm, nope, that must have been the last blonde. We returned to our seats, and new details emerged. Evidently, not all of S's friends knew that a) he was no longer dating the last gal he dated and b) that he was dating someone new. Surprise! But we invited them to join us for dinner, and I joined the lady half of the couple in the ladies room for a quick pow-wow at her request. A fun time for all, despite the initial awkwardness, and I liked them.
Date #12: Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and can't even begin to imagine what the rest of the day will hold. This date included an Alamo Drafthouse movie (Youth in Revolt), a Thrill Show at the Tattoo Convention, a Roller Derby Bout, and take out chinese food at nearly 9pm. I could never have guessed I'd be leading such a rock n' roll life!
My Secret Agent Man has a sister. A sister who did not know of my existence until Date #11. . .as she is also good friends with the surprise double-date couple. Well, I don't know if the lady half of that couple called the sister the next morning, but S certainly did. He wanted to break the news before he got in trouble for not sharing news. Especially since Sister loved the ex, and wanted her to be The One for S. I almost wish he hadn't told me that piece of information. Don't know exactly how their conversation worked out for him, but I do know that she evidently gave the okay for him to ask me on Date #13: Sister's Birthday Party. And apparently once you go on 12 or so dates with a fella (many of which lasted 6 - 15 hours), it's time for a talk. A status report. Which is how I agreed to give up my amateur status and move in to Girlfriend territory.
Date #13: Sister's birthday party was at a secret sushi place, which has weekly Monday night karaoke. The place is tiny, so if you're bringing a party of 12, you want to show up early and camp out. And eat $600 worth of sushi + drinks. This place is so secret that I doubt I could ever find it again on my own. That much fun tucked away in a strip center? Didn't seem possible, but it was.
Sister wasn't exactly super friendly to me upon arrival, but at the end of the evening she did give me a hug. Of course, she was hammered at the end of the evening. Surely she'll come around, right? My relationship with my own brother's wife suggests otherwise, but we'll see how it goes. Perhaps I need a little lesson in my life about this topic. I get it, I get it!
Did I mention that I have a boyfriend?? A year ago (almost exactly) when the X and I decided to divorce, I often couldn't see past the end of the day I was struggling through. These days, I'm excited to see what my future holds. Good stuff indeed, friends.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
It was in the wee hours, after our third date, and I needed a few minutes to chug some water before retiring for the evening. If I'd been more sober, or less tired, I might have mentioned. . .
When planning the evening, we had to have a talk about who would be buying dinner. I started the discussion by telling S that I wanted to buy him dinner, and he admitted that one of his favorite things is picking up the check. It makes him feel good to be generous. I think that's awesome, and I really appreciate that quality, but as it turns out, I feel the same way. I like to be the one to treat, too. I managed to convince him to let me take him to NoRTH before the hockey game, where I enjoyed some tasty pork chops and he ordered his own pizza. That's right--I avoided a garlic-y dinner in hopes of smooching later.
After dinner, on the way to the car, I started quizzing S about the hockey game. He's from the midwest; I grew up in Austin. The closest I've been to a hockey game was in high school when we played Juniors vs. Seniors broom ball at Northcross Mall. I wondered if the hockey arena would be cold, and he told me not to worry about it because he brought gloves for me. I misunderstood at first, thinking he might be loaning me his own gloves. Nope, he'd brought me my own pair.
The game ended pretty early. What to do at 9:30 on a Saturday night? Neither of us had been to a particular bar near my house, so the choice was made. And that bar? Best! Decision! Ever! Saturday night is karaoke night. Saturday night is also a freak show, thanks to an interesting cast of characters:
The Pink Lady: wore pink "camoflage," head to toe. She seemed to know all the regulars, and greeted one fella by licking the side of his face, from his chin to his temple. She walked past our table in the back several times, and after one pass-by, S leaned over to me and whispered "She keeps winking at us." I was amused to inform him that she wasn't winking at US.
Leather Man: wore leather pants, and a long leather coat. Later in the evening, he sang "Freebird." His mullet was scragglin' down to the middle of his back.
The Missing Link: Two mustached men in their 50's arrived, and sat down at a big table near us. Soon after their arrival, a lady came over and gave them each a hug. She danced with one of them. (Yes, to the karaoke songs.) She came back to the table and kissed the other dude full on the mouth. Then she danced with the dude she kissed. She came back to the table and played a little grab-ass with the second dude. Then they all left together. Someone at our table may have made a "free moustache rides" joke. I'm too much of a lady to name names.
The Dancer: One gal seemed to want to pick up the dude at the table in front of us. She brought him a drink, and talked to him for a while. I realized she'd had more than just the one drink when she decided to start dancing by herself next to his table. Her big move involved bending over to give the floor up close jazz hands. Her big move revealed an expanse of her back. . .and a good few inches of granny panties sticking up above the waistline of her jeans.
The Parisian: An older fella wearing a denim jacket with "Hard Rock Cafe Paris" stamped on the back. His toupee was sightly askew, and he was the recipient of the full face lick from the Pink Lady.
Every time we thought we'd seen all of the strange folks wandering around, someone new arrived. Like people watching? The bar near my house is the place to be on a Saturday night. I'm a little surprised we haven't been back since then.