Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Best in Show, or Devil Dog

This is my dog, Windy, aka Devil Dog and Spaz. She responds to all these names as well as the popular moniker of No-Windy-No.

Today she went to the vet's and got a grooming session (note the pretty bandanna), a check-up (gained six pounds since last year so we'll have to cut down on treats) and shots. The vet tried to take her temperature rectally but realized quickly that it wasn't going to happen. I could have told him.

For an Australian Shepard, Windy is not the sharpest twig in the woodpile. She's too distracted to play fetch. She runs up to dogs and people and then can't remember why she's there. When we first got her several years ago, she cowered in fear over a neighbor's lawn ornament. In her defense, it was the holidays and the ornament was one of those lighted deer structures with the moving heads. Those are kind of scary.

Despite all these aggravations (and many others on a long list), we love her because she loves us. Desperately. You can leave the house for 10 minutes and when you return she'll practically knock you over to welcome you home. After a hard day, though, it's good to have someone be that happy to see you. Right now, she's parked on the office floor next to me, just in case I need help typing or need someone to scratch. She's loyal and kind and tries to help, just like a Scout, but without the fundraising obligations.

And if you're wondering why her front legs are dirty despite having gotten groomed: After we left the vet's, we went straight to an off-leash dog park, where Windy proceeded to play grab-ass with a Black Lab, roll in the dirt and drool all over herself. Gotta love that Devil Dog.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Birthday time in Ballard

Actually, my birthday is not until next week, but there's no law stating that you can't start celebrating early.

Ballard is a busy, fun neighborhood in north Seattle. A former haven for working-class Scandanavian immigrants, it has, like most areas, become gentrified and beautified. Whenever this happens (and it happens a lot in Seattle), I do miss the old neighborhood flavors and characters. In the case of Ballard, however, I do not miss walking into a store that reeks of pickled herring and having some 100-year-old Scandanavian lady behind the counter glaring at me because I don't hail from the land of lutefisk.

So with two of my girlfriends, we started off at the awesome Laura Bee Designs (6418 20th Ave. NW) a cute corner storefront just a few blocks north of downtown Ballard. They sell the coolest looking handbags, wallets and other accessories and can create a custom bag for you. You just pick from a wide variety of bag styles, fabrics, colors, trims, etc. It was a bit overwhelming but I ended up ordering a paprika-colored microsuede "Veronica" shoulder bag. It looks a lot like the one in the photo here except that mine will be a little darker red with a perky oval pattern and the strap will be an adjustable dark mesh one so I can sling my bag across my shoulder. (Also, I don't have the kicky yellow boots.) It'll be ready in three weeks and I can't wait! This will be a change from my usual utilitarian black or dark brown bags. I sure am getting wild in my old age.

After all our exertions, we were ready for lunch and headed over to one of my new favorites, La Isla (2320 NW Market St.), for some Puerto Rican comfort food. Garlic and plantains -- Need I say more? We shared the Carne Guisada bowl (beef stew over rice), the Pez Gato Bowl (breaded catfish strips served over arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas) and Pollo Guisado Bowl (tender pulled chicken over rice). The chicken from the latter dish was indeed tender but lacked flavor, something the accompanying garlic sauce was able to remedy. The beef stew was very tender and comforting. The breaded catfish is my favorite: The light coating of seasoned breading enhances the thick chunks of moist fish, and the nutty texture of the accompanying rice went beautifully with it. If I lived near La Isla, I'd probably eat catfish every day. The Jarritos Mexican soda, in a variety of fruit flavors, are pretty tasty, too. They were out of the tamarind flavor that day (sadness) but the pineapple flavor I ordered was light and bubbly and went well with the food.

We finished our outing by going down the street to the very friendly Verite Coffee (2052 NW Market St.) for some seriously good caffeine and a few fresh gourmet cupcakes made by its in-house bakery, Cupcake Royale. I recommend the Lemon Drop and chocolate Peppermint Party flavors. The Lavender cupcakes were gone by the time we ordered but I spotted some freshly frosted ones in the display case upon leaving. Alas, we were all sugared out at that point and decided to save that for another day.

And then we ran out of time so we didn't get to visit some other neat places in Ballard such as the independently owned Secret Garden bookstore, a whole lotta funky little boutiques and my favorite gags/novelty shop, Archie McPhee.

The only thing better than hanging out in Ballard for your birthday is hanging out with good friends, as I did. Their company alone would have been more than enough, but they also bought me lunch, caffeine and cupcakes. They gave me little gifts. They made me laugh. And they gave me tulips!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

XOXOXO, Mother Earth

Happy Earth Day! Frankly, I think every day should be Earth Day, but if we have to designate a special day to raise environmental awareness and make retailers go nuts marketing their green-ness, so be it.

I think the following Earth-related video is pretty cool. If the singing drives you nuts, just turn down the volume.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Snow. In. April

Mother Nature likes to keep us on our toes in the Northwest. How else to explain a week in which we had one day of sunny, shorts-wearing weather; a day of rain; several days of cloudy skies with occasional "sun break" and now snow?

By the way, "sun break" is an actual term here. It means exactly how it sounds: The sun shows up and plays peekaboo with us. Then the sun gets bored and finds other things to do and tells us to go play quietly by ourselves.

Despite the unpredictability, I don't mind the weather here. I enjoy variety and and I'm too lazy to put away seasonal clothes anyway, so I'm always prepared.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bruddah Iz / Over the Rainbow

This afternoon I was driving to Costco, in the rain, thinking of all the things that I needed to get done and how little time I had to do it all. What I needed was a little pick-me-up, perhaps some caffeine, a trip to a spa or the appearance of a magic genie granting extra hours in the day. What I got instead was Bruddah Iz on the radio, playing his version of Over the Rainbow.

The world was suddenly a better place. I didn't care that the parking spot I snagged at Costco was far from the store. And I must have been smiling a little because a few people smiled back at me. I just hope I wasn't humming aloud.

If you find the idea of a large Hawaiian guy playing a song from The Wizard of Oz on a ukulele to be a little odd, well, I would, too, if I didn't already know about him. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was born and raised in Hawai'i. He died in 1997 at the age of 38. He left too soon.

You've heard his song before in a variety of media, including a Kellogg's commercial and during the closing credits of the movie Meet Joe Black.

Listen to this song and tell me it doesn't stay with you.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Haiku and Gesundheit!

Yes, anyone can wax poetic about love, waterfalls and dogs with big eyes. But I'd like to pay romantic homage to the overlooked. So away we go:

Ode to T.P.
How strong and yet soft
Your two-ply glides just like silk
Cushiony goodness

A Plea
My yard is barren
My heart an empty desert
Please return my gnome

Why, Spam? *
You're no good for me
Why can't you leave me in peace?
Forbidden love sucks

* P.S. Spam is a registered trademark of the Hormel company. And yes, I meant Spam, the meat-like product, not spam, the crap that shows up in my inbox.

P.S.S. If any of my three blog readers would like to share their own haikus in the Comments section, I'd love to read them!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bookworm Lounge: Fragile Things

Right now I'm hungrily feasting on Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (2006 HarperCollins Publishers). It's a delicious multi-course meal of previously published short stories and poems.

How to describe it? Take a large bowl of Ray Bradbury's otherworldly characters. Add several heaping tablespoons of pathos from Edgar Allen Poe. Season with dashes of Alice Walker's profound human observations. Serve with beautifully written prose and liquid-flowing poetry. Now you have Fragile Things.

His writing is both terrifyingly dark and humorous. Fans of classic literature will probably recognize his take on Sherlock Holmes and Susan from the Narnia series. I really love the variety of plots: Among the tales, you'll follow a man's miserable introduction to the devil; tour a bizarre circus that results in a mysterious disappearance; and follow a mischievous harlequin who teases a new love, only to find the tables turned on him.

Nothing follows the path as you expect. Reading Fragile Things makes me feel like Alice staring at that weird smoking caterpillar. It's one big mind-fuck, and I like that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Frozen in Grand Central Station

How would you react if you were walking through one of the world's most crowded stations and this happened?

And if you were part of the prank, do you think you would have been able keep a straight face? Knowing me, I would have suffered the giggles, especially if I heard someone fart while it happened. I'm not really crude; I'm just married with children.