Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wedding Venues #4 and #5

One good and one bad this time, but neither one will work. The good one was The Edgewater hotel on the waterfront in Seattle. This is the hotel where the Beatles famously fished out of a window, and it has kept up its glamorous patina. The rooms are decorated in a funky Pacific NW meet just a hint of industrial, and the restaurant, 6/7, serves some incredible food. The actual wedding venue is a dedicated suite with one large room looking out over incredible water views. Ferries pass regularly and you can just make out the Olympics in the distance. Several smaller rooms offer space for buffet tables, a bar, and there is even a terrace for outdoor lounging. The reason we didn't sign a contract then and there?

Whoa baby did it cost a lot. The catering manager was very bright and cheerful, and she informed us that we were in luck because they had no facility fee. However, the catering minimums killed the deal. For a wedding of our size, we would need to spend a whopping $150 per head to reach the minimum, and that did not include cake, flowers, or gratuities. We had fun imagining how a person spends that kind of money on a largely vegetarian meal. Gold-plated salad anyone?

Directly after leaving The Edgewater, we hoofed it up to the ferry at Anacortes, and caught the evening sailing to Orcas Island. On the ride, we were treated to the most vibrant orange/pink/purple sunset, and it made me wish we were getting married that evening, when the weather was so perfect. We arrived on Orcas after dark, and make our way along the winding roads (I was feeling green by the time we arrived) to Rosario Resort.

We were under-whelmed by the service of the front desk, the dining room (she told us she didn't have a table available when we could see this was not the case at all), or the bar. Everyone working there just seems sort of bored and perhaps faintly annoyed at having to look after you. After a lovely dinner of salad and ginger ale (It was the road and nothing more. Don't get any ideas) for me and oysters, fish, and chips for M, we made the five minute drive up to our rooms. That's right, very few people actually stay in the historical lodge. Most rooms are located in apartment-style blocks a few minutes up the hill. When we got to our room we found it reasonably clean, but also incredibly ugly. The decor was a mishmash of rainbow striped curtains, India print bedspreads, and distressed yellow furniture. Not the sort of place you want to spend the night, let alone your wedding night!

On the whole, Rosario is just kind of a sad place. The people don't care, the buildings are sort of shabby and worn down, and it all has this air of faded grandeur. The setting and scenery are truly amazing, and if someone would just put some money into rehab (and kick the staff in their collective behind) it would be a wonderful place for vacations or even a wedding. However, as things stand now, there is no way I would even consider it as our wedding venue.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wedding Venue #3

Okay, the first odd part about this place was that the wedding coordinator double booked herself and had two couples arriving at the same time to look at the space. All four of us were clearly confused about this, and it created an odd, stilted atmosphere. Were we competing with each other for dates? Could we ask specific questions about OUR event when the other couple was waiting to do the next part of the tour? Not a good start to things. That said:

Columbia Winery is set in a beautiful spot near Woodinville. It boasts impressive architecture, thoughtful landscaping, and an overall feel of subtle opulence. It also has a nicely appointed reception room and reasonable changing rooms for the bridal party. However, it also has a patio for ceremonies that backs onto a major road. You can't see the cars, but you can sure as heck hear them. Going there would be like getting married at a raceway. Also, they have awful acoustic ceiling tiles. I'm starting to develop an odd list of no-no items.

1. No stinky venues
2. No busy roads within hearing distance
3. No ugly ceiling tiles
4. No wedding planners who can't manage their own schedules
5. No rooms without windows

More to come I'm sure.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Women and Books

NPR had an fascinating and disturbing story about reading this morning. It seems that women read far more than men. (No surprises there!) You can read the specifics in the actual piece, but the basic questions are about why women should choose to read more than men. Some suggest it's because women are more able to empathize with the characters, while others seem to think it has more to do with the simple ability to sit still.

Who knows the actual reason, but in my personal experience, it is true. Many of the intelligent, educated men I know do not read for pleasure. Of those who do, only a handful are willing to read fiction. One of the many things I love about M is that he has a stack of novels next to his bed, and he actually moves through it at a reasonable pace. Why should we care about the fiction vs. non-fiction question? Educational research suggests that our brains process fiction as if it were actually happening to us. Therefore, my reading a moving story, and caring about the characters, is a form of emotional practice. Perhaps if more people were good fiction readers there would be a better sense of empathy in general.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I MUST Have My Frap!

No real wedding news to report except that we are continuing to search for a good venue. This weekend should be quite busy with the hunt. However, in other news...

One of my immediate co-workers (we'll call him Mr. Smith) was informed last week that a student in his class wanted to transfer out. Mr. Smith was surprised by this because he feels that he hardly knows the students yet, and they hardly know him. It took some time, but he was finally able to learn the reason for the transfer request.

It seems that last year, when the student was a 6th grader, Mr. Smith told her she was not allowed to drink her frappuccino in the hallway. This made her feel sad at the time, and, therefore, she now needs to have a different teacher for 7th grade. OBVIOUSLY she can't be expected to put up with Mr. Smith who made her feel sad before. This would be a funny story except that the parents are in complete support of the transfer request. I am delighted to say that, in spite of much parental fussing, the request was denied.

I love, love, love my school which is full of mostly great kids and mostly wonderful teachers. However, I do have just the occasional twinge of "Sheesh!" in these sorts of situations. At least the right won out in this round.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wedding Venues 1 & 2

The search is on! The wedding advice ladies at school tell me that if we want to get married in 2008, we must quickly find a venue. It seems that we are coming late to the party already because many venues fill their summer reservations more than a year in advance. Therefore, while we can wait on many things, we must get this first detail nailed down ASAP. Over the weekend, with my mother along for moral support (and because she's fun to have around), we went out and looked at the first two potential locations.

The two venues happened to be fairly close to one another, so we were able to see them one right after the other. The first was The Plateau Club, a golf and country club in Sammamish. Driving up, it looked like most country clubs with perfectly manicured greens, imposing front doors, and special parking for golf carts. We knew going in that it wasn't likely to be a very "us," but we thought we would give it a try. Walking through those imposing front doors, I knew immediately that it was a no-go. It smelled. In fact, it reeked like a diner with a deep-fat fryer that hasn't been cleaned in decades. It did not matter the decor or the prices or the menus, we were not going to use this location. We all dutifully went on the tour and received the brochure, but when we got to the car we all agreed that it was not going to happen. We went off to a Starbucks to recover our sense of smell before the next appointment.

The next place was just about as different as you can get from the first. Located in a city park, this small lodge was just about as quaint as they come. In a beautiful wooded setting, with log finish on walls and ceiling, and windows looking out at the lake, it was a perfect picture of pacific NW aesthetic from about 1940. There were many things to love about it (including the low rental fee) but there were also some drawbacks. First, it had no AC, and the only summer date available was July 26th. Second, it had no truly private bathrooms. The lodge's bathrooms all included doors to the outside because they serve as the bathroom facilities for everyone in the park as well as wedding guests. Last, it's just not that big a space. It could be tough fitting a dance floor, buffet tables, and seating in the one room. This venue stays on the list, but we are not finished looking.

And so, the search continues. M and I would really like to find a place that feels just right. Of course, we may dither so long that nothing is left, but in that case we can just change our date to an off-peak time. Wedding in April anyone?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Ring Pic at Last

Thanks very much for all the good wishes, flowers, treats, and wedding magazines we've received over the last ten days. It was such fun to tell all our family and friends; the looks on people's faces were wonderful. The part where my mom cried, and my friend, C, screamed and jumped in my lap were priceless.

Many of you have already seen the ring, but I wanted to post pictures for those who live far away. The center stone is a ruby, the side stones are diamond, and the setting is platinum (was that crass to tell? People do ask). I look down at it way too often just to enjoy the fact that it's there on my finger.

We still don't have any idea of dates or locations for the wedding, but I believe it will be some time in the next year. I am starting to collect ideas from various sources for how we can go about this whole thing. Two of my aides at school AND the librarian are just about to marry off their daughters, so they are most excited to share tips and ideas. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but they do mean the absolute best. As Big Niece says "all you really need for a wedding is flowers, a cake, and dancing." Now that's some serious wisdom from someone just starting the third grade.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Goodness Gracious! We're Engaged!

Note: I'm typing this post on the day (September 2nd, 2007) that we got engaged. However, I won't be posting it until most of our friends and family have been told. I really wanted to tell people in person or at least over the phone if they live far away. I'm writing this post today, though, so nothing fades from memory in the excitement that is sure to follow.

On Saturday, we went to Bumbershoot as we'd planned to do for several months. It was our first time to the festival, and we planned to stay all day to see shows, and then stay at a hotel in Seattle. The first shows of the day were standing room only and the sun was hot, hot, hot. I must confess that I was fairly grumpy through the first act (Crowded House) because of the heat and the jostling of the crowd. For the next show (The Shins) I was very happy to move into the bleachers and also into the shade. Luckily, my mood improved very much once I had my own seat.

After The Shins were finished, we wandered the festival, found some food, and took in a Can Can dance review that was a lot of fun. There is so much to see and do at Bumbershoot that you can't possibly get to it all. We saw snippets of several more shows, marveled at the length of the line for the Greg Proops show, and then finished our evening with Gabriel Y Rodrigo. They play incredible Latin guitar, and it was a shame to leave just before they finished (but I insisted because I did not want to leave with the other 79,998 people). We took the monorail back towards our hotel, and then took a short walk to one of our favorite restaurants, Lola. By this time, it was at least 10pm, but the place was still hopping.

Our meal at Lola was probably the best we've ever had there (and that's saying something). First we shared a Greek salad with the most perfectly ripe tomatoes in red, yellow, and green. Next were zucchini fritters with creamy dills sauce. Finally, I got my entree of roasted eggplant tagine with bread, onions, pickled tomatoes, and a yogurt-garlic sauce. Normally I'm not a huge fan of eggplant, but this entire dish was perfect, fragrant, and delicious. I can't speak for M's food because it was fishy, but he made happy sounds throughout. Finally, we shared a fruit tart with brown sugar ice-cream for dessert. We left around midnight, full, and very happy.

After dinner, we walked the few blocks back to the Hotel Alexis. We always seem to stay in Kympton hotels, and this was no exception. We like them because their rooms don't look like hotel rooms (hipper? less plastic? more comfortable? I'm not exactly sure what it is), they have good service, and they are a comparatively good deal. Our room was on the third floor, and we practically fell into bed after such a busy day.

The next morning, just as we were waking up, M put a box in my hand and said "I have a present for you." I didn't have my glasses on, so I really wasn't sure what it might be. It was a double box, so bigger than the traditional ring box, and it took me a few minutes to figure out how it opened. When I finally got to the ring, I looked at it, and I looked at him in complete surprise. He said "will you marry me?" and I was so amazed that all I could do was squeak "really?!" and he said "yes" so I squeaked "yes!" and then I just kept saying "really" over and over until he finally said "yes! really!" I truly could not believe it was actually happening.

But it did. It really did happen. We are engaged, my ring is absolutely beautiful (that's another post), and I'm wearing it right now. I have no idea any of the details about how or when or where, but none of that matters very much right now. In fact, it could have been a candy ring and I would still be completely over the moon right now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to School 2007

Sorry for the radio silence. Life seems to have filled right up to the top again. We did finally agree to a contract with the district, so that is a very good thing. There are a few compromises, but, overall, I think it will be a workable arrangement for most of us. Also, we are still scheduled to get our 4.3% COLA in the next paycheck, so I'm really looking forward to that. Even a little bit more money is a very nice thing indeed.

School started again without a hitch. One of the truly wonderful things about being a seventh year veteran is that you just don't get so anxious any more. I slept just fine the night before school started, and I did not get any butterflies before going down to meet the kids. A co-worker and I were just discussing the amazing power of just letting go. At some point, you realize that the world will not end if something goes wrong. You can pretty much always come up with a solution.

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and invigorating time, and this year seems to be especially good.