Saturday, September 29, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night...

...when I emerged from a day-long training course clutching my official Washington State Private Investigator's certification.

But I'm not yet a licensed PI. That will require either starting my own agency or landing a gig with a recognized private investigation agency in the state. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ready for the rain (and snow)

For the past several years, I've been trying to find an attractive, comfortable pair of dressy winter boots.

The results of my unsuccessful experiments are about to be photographed and put on eBay (many have been worn only once or twice) or taken to Classic Consignment. The bottom line is that the ones that look good hurt like hell and the ones that don't hurt look like hell.

How long has this been going on? Well, there's a pair headed for eBay that my father bought me as a birthday gift. And he died three years ago.

This year I've mail ordered and returned three pairs of boots already. I've tried Nordstrom, J. Jill, Eddie Bauer, and Sierra Trading. In desperation, I occasionally pop into trendy little boutiques downtown and try on boots. God knows why. Even if I find a pair that don't have stiletto heels, bizarre elf-like toes, or jangling hardware, they don't fit.

I even wasted an entire Saturday at Bellevue Square Mall looking for boots.

A few weeks ago, on my way to the Seattle Art Museum, I spotted an intriguing boutique with boots on First Avenue next to the Lusty Lady (!). But I was late to meet someone at the museum, and when I got out I was rushing to meeting Zorg at REI. The next time I was downtown I was rushing yet again to get somewhere.

This evening I was downtown with my friend Ellen from D.C., who has the world's most impressive shopping karma. We'd already engaged in major retail therapy at Pike Place Market Tuesday, and this evening we were doing downtown. I told her about the little boutique I'd been wondering about (Nuvo Moda, it's called) and we headed for First Avenue.

When we stepped into Nuvo Moda, my first thought was that I was a bit north of their target demographic. But I went over and looked at the display of designer boots and was impressed to see quite a few that had relatively modest heels. And all of them were made of lovely high-quality leather. Then the saleswoman (wearing a stunning turquoise sundress, despite the fall weather) came over and suggested a pair of boots I hadn't noticed. I tried them on. And they were perfect.

No question, Ellen is going to have to move to Seattle. Or at least come out here and take me shopping with her a few times a year.

The boots, by the way, are made by Corso Como (a Brazilian brand named after a street in Milan). They are also available on the Nordstrom website.

So, now I have a rain-resistant winter coat and some boots. I declare my winter shopping season officially closed.

Dance - Level 70

Michael Flatley. Napoleon Dynamite. MC Hammer. Michael Jackson. Britney Spears. Chubby Checker. John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Now, imagine them dancing with scarily similar-looking World of Warcraft characters. Hilarious. (And, through this, I discovered Daler Mehndi.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tying up loose ends for September

In the past few weeks I've blogged about some unresolved situations; this blog post is devoted solely to updates.

First of all, if you've lost track of Zorg's blog, he's now settled in again at
where he will regale you with tales of biking in Seattle -- or at least, attempting to. ("Another thing I noticed is that pedestrians are all drunk - they never walk in a straight line. Not one of them. Even the attentive ones weave back and forth.")

The pain in my neck is slowly abating, thanks to my new chiropractor. I have had to put an end to doing headstands at yoga for a while; instead, I'm practicing that weird pre-headstand pose where you balance with your shins on your upper arms and all your weight on your hands. It's probably a better workout, anyway. The new chiropractor has the most amazing tables in his office. You start out standing up like Frankenstein and then the table tilts down with you on it!

I am planning to revisit the Austin Cantina tonight with Rae to see how their menu is developing. They've apparently won a big following...some friends who swung by for dessert the other night said there was a line out the door.

We're all missing Betaille, though the household chores sure are a lot simpler now that we don't have a very sick cat to attend to. The other three cats are so low maintenance! Though, of course, we have a neighbor's cat trying to join the household -- she comes in the cat door at night and watches TV with Zorg. Betaille's ashes came back from the vet in a handsome little stone urn. I placed it on the sheepskin she liked to sleep on, and was alarmed when I walked by late that night and saw Zoe asleep the sheepskin and no sign of the urn. It wasn't on the floor, and I eventually spotted it: Zoe was curled around it, holding it in her paws as she slept. Betaille had always been less-than-appreciative of Zoe's cuddling, but now there's not much she can do about it!

My Honda Civic station wagon with the failing clutch is parked in front of the house while I wait (an estimated five weeks) for a Honda Fit automatic to turn up at a Western Washington dealership. Zorg and I have tried sharing his car (he's begun biking to work) and I'm considering trying one of the local Flex cars. Honda Fits are in such short supply that one local Honda dealership refused even to let me test drive the one they had unless I signed a commitment to buy. (So what would the point of a test drive be?) Needless to say, I went to a saner dealership in Edmonds and test drove a Fit there -- though I test drove a manual instead of an automatic.

A label a day...

My usual afternoon snack is an apple with peanut butter or cheese. Half the time I forget to remove the little sticky oval label that says "Fuji" or "organic" and end up chewing on it. Today I was eating the last quarter of the apple and my subconscious began saying "watch out for the label."

Then I realized there was no label. The apple, a bit on the bland side but very nice and crisp, is from our tree.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Geek concert

Jonathan Coulton's concert at the Triple Door Sunday night fell somewhere between a rock concert and a professional seminar.

It took place in the club's main performance hall, which is set up almost exactly like a seminar room, with tiers of long tables at which attendees sit facing the speaker -- er, performer. Of course, at the Triple Door the tables are curvy and black, and the attendees have candles and martinis in front of them instead of notebooks.

Well, actually, some of them had all three.

As Coulton noted from the stage, several people in the audience had game devices and smart phones with them. And I saw at least one woman with a Mac notebook open in front of her. Which might have seemed rude, except that Coulton, and the duo that opened for him and accompanied him on some songs, also had a Mac notebook on the stage. (Was it for the lightshow? a mixing board? not sure.)

I'm crazy over Coulton's online hit "Code Monkey" and all the animated versions it's spawned on You Tube. I had no idea if he could sustain an entire evening of solo entertainment, but it turned out that he could, firmly staking out a position in the pop music continuum somewhere between Warren Zevon ("All We Want to Do Is Eat Your Brains") and Tom Lehrer ("Mandelbrot Set").

The opening duo, Paul and Storm ("professional singing persons"), was screamingly hilarious, though I suspect their songs and performance are better live than on recording. Their opening number was jaw-droppingly funny, and their Borscht-belt stylings (including ad jingles and imitations of imagined Randy Newman film scores) help round out Coulton's solo performance, which can get very, very, very weird. (For a taste of Paul and Storm, scroll down this page and click to listen to "If Aaron Neville Were Waiting for a Parking Spot at the Mall, But Someone Else Snagged It." You'll find "The Opening Band" and "Randy Newman's 'Theme from The Lord of he Rings: The Return of the King'" there, too.)

The audience, 75 percent software engineers, loved it all. So did Zorg. We'll be there when Coulton is next in town, though we haven't decided if we are going to be in the Zombie contingent or the Pirate contingent.

And we'll order the Triple Split for dessert again, too. With rum raisins and brandied cherries, it was almost too entertaining to eat that while listening to Paul and Storm sing "The Easter Song." Come to think of it, it's probably too dangerous to eat anything while they're singing.

Coulton says he had a good time, too.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Patisserie Nilos

The Spies were slightly more interesting than the other apples, and the turnovers fell into three categories: delicious, amazingly delicious, and exquisitely delicious.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Less insanity

Today is my 1-year anniversary of working out with my friend (and Seattle neighbor) Susan Powter.

Here's a video of Susan (from 20 years ago) that will give you an idea of why working out with her is such a hoot.

Here's Susan's updated look (one of her promos for the free web-based fitness program she's experimenting with).

Crewcut or dreadlocks, she's fabulous. Thank you, Susan!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I hate shoes

Go ahead and tease me about all the shoes I have, but if you look at my shoe shelves what you'll find there are sandals and boots.

I love sandals -- strappy little flats, chunky platform sandals, and rustic-looking walking sandals.

I also love boots -- hiking boots, dressy ankle boots (especially those by Naot), lace-up dance boots, cowboy boots, Italian leather riding boots, and big fuzzy cozy Uggs and Merrells.

But I hate shoes. They are too warm in summer, and too complicated (what with bulky socks, uncomfortable pantyhose, etc.) in winter. This year I have nearly eliminated shoes from my wardrobe...just athletic shoes, a pair of dressy pumps, and a pair of Clarke's Privo "Leslie" slip-ons to wear with little toe socks.

Naot "Niagara" sandals, Merrell "Primo Stitch" boots, and Clarke's Privo "Leslie" shoes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Changing gears

This morning I dropped off my 1990 Honda Civic station wagon at High Road Automotive for its routine quarterly oil change and checkup. I wandered home along Ballard Avenue; it was nearly 9 a.m. but only the old industrial buildings were open. Most of the trendy new shops don't wake up until 11.

I headed up 24th Avenue NW and had just stopped in at the java place on the corner of NW 59th Street for a latte when my cell phone rang. It was High Road. They said the car needed a new clutch, but the new clutch, with labor, would be quite a bit more than the book value of the 1990 Civic.

I asked them to give me half an hour to think about it. Then I walked out of the coffee shop, sat down on the curb, and burst into tears. I really like that car. In addition to having it thoroughly pampered at High Road, I get it detailed every spring, touch up scratches in the metallic paint, and, of course, have it decorated with custom bumper stickers.

I can make the case that it's worth installing a new clutch and keeping the car because it's in otherwise excellent condition (only 80,000 miles in 17 years) and likely to keep running to 200,000 miles. But it's also true that the car lacks airbags, and that Zorg dislikes driving it because it has a manual transmission.

For the past two years, I've been looking at the new Honda Fit, a very similar compact station wagon. It has great ratings from Consumer Reports, a more-than-reasonable price tag, all the safety features, and even a connection for my iPod.

So perhaps it's time to move into the 21st century.

But not until I find a good home for the Civic.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Austin comes to Ballard

Zorg and I strolled over to 24th Avenue NW tonight to try out the new Austin Cantina that just opened (in the spot where Dandelion used to be, just across the street and a block north of QFC).

It turns out to be a relaxing, friendly place where the emphasis is on fresh, high-quality ingredients at reasonable prices.

Our orders were taken quickly, and mojitos appeared moments later, followed by Zorg's cup of chili. The main courses took a bit longer (the kitchen is still experiencing some opening-week franticness). We sipped our drinks and listened to a mix of Willie Nelson and Tex-Mex tunes (at a pleasant volume that I hope the Cantina will maintain).

We both liked the rich, meaty, smoky chili (Texas style, no beans) though Zorg commented that it seemed to lack salt. Since he's more of a salt fan than I am, I shrugged this off. But when our main courses arrived -- enchiladas, his filled with a tender pot roast, mine with pulled pork with apples -- I had to agree that salt was definitely not figuring in the otherwise-interesting culinary equations. Zorg employed the salt shaker on the table; I mused about why the food was being cooked this way, because I sometimes cook without salt to try to adjust my palate to more natural tastes.

I was wondering if I'd be able to lure Zorg back the cantina when dessert arrived and completely won us over. The flan was delicate and not too sweet, and the big bowl of banana pudding with meringue was rich and fabulous. Zorg did not leave a molecule of pudding in that bowl. He swears he didn't actually lick the bowl, but I wasn't watching that closely.

Jefe Birkner, the chef and owner, came over to ask us how we liked our meal. I inquired about the salt (or lack of it). He admitted that he is making a concerted effort to serve interesting regional food that people can eat without freaking out about salt, grease, and calories. He said he is definitely using salt, though not much of it and not the usual type -- he brought us a sample of the special flaky sea salt he favors; it's definitely more subtle and complex than your basic shaker salt. He indicated that the banana pudding didn't exactly fall into the healthy food category, but I noticed that much of its richness came from the banana texture; it did not have too much sugar, and the gorgeous topping was a meringue, not whipped cream.

We're definitely going back to try the dishes we missed on the first go-round. According to Metroblogging Seattle, the chicken fried steak, made with a great local organic beef, is "amazing." And I want to check out the grilled-corn-with-lime-butter side dish.