Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stars on Ice

I took my mom to see Stars on Ice in Spokane at the end of January. I'm not a huge ice skating fan, but really enjoyed the energy and skill of the skaters. The last time I saw Stars on Ice (about 10 years ago), the performances were pretty traditional and typical of the late '90's. The show two weeks ago had a fun, modern young edge that was extremly appealing. The cast even did an entire performance dressed as an '80's rock band, complete with some great '80's music. We had really great seats and could even hear Sasha Cohen giving verbal cues to her helpers during one of her performances. She did the entire piece without skates, being carried around the ice by three male skaters. It's hard to explain, but was really cool.
Here are some pictures I captured of the Stars:

Sasha Cohen begins her non-skating scene.
Todd Eldridge leads the cast in rocking out.
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao during on of my favorite performances of the night.

Ilia Kulik does a modern dance performance that reminded me of Napoleon Dynamite, in a good way, of course.

Patrice Lauzon and Marie-France Dubreuil performed many ice dancing numbers.

Michael Wiess struts his stuff, playing right into the hearts of the ladies.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Let it Snow!

It's been snowing at our house for about 30 hours now. Although, I guess it actually turned to rain for a bit over night. I estimate we have about eight inches of accumulation. I measured four inches this afternoon. We had already shoveled off an equivilent amount last night.

Aside from the roads be really terrible, I think it's kind of fun to have a good old fashioned snow storm. I called it a blizzard, but my sister pointed out there has to be wind to make a blizzard. So, I guess it's just a snow storm. A really big snow storm.

One Year of Blogging

I passed my first anniversary of blogging a few days ago. The past year has flown by and it's fun to have a record of what I did and thought!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ringing in the New Year

We rang in the New Year with a party at home. It was a relatively quiet event, a far cry from our pre-child days, but fun none-the-less. It was fun to watch Munchkin and his friends enjoy the celebration and traditions. We ate hors d'Ĺ“uvres, visited with new and old friends and watched the animatronic version of Dick Clark announce the countdown in New York. The kids draped themselves over the back of the couch to view the annual Christmas tree toss. Without a back deck to toss it off, we improvised by launching the tree out of the back of the truck into the front yard. I say it's an improvement because now I can watch the event from the warm comfort of the living room.

New Years' Day found us at Sanders Beach for the Polar Bear plunge. DD and his friends jumped in for a frigid 10 seconds in the lake. Munchkin and I endured a frigid 10 minutes outside, bundled up in our winter wear. That is as close to taking the plunge as I'll get. A delicious prime rib dinner at DD's parents' house rounded out the day and brought a close to the holiday season.

The holiday decorations have all been packed away. All that remains is a handful of Christmas tree pieces and orange flags marking the results of the tree toss. I think all of my Christmas wishes were granted this year. We celebrated with our friends and family, all healthy and home for the holidays. We welcomed a new nephew, born only a few days before Christmas. We received wonderful gifts for Christmas, but the best gift was the time we enjoyed with our families.

I hope your holiday season was as wonderful. Here's to a happy and healthy 2008!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spending my Winnings

On Halloween, JBelle hosted a Mad Lib inspired contest at Huckleberries Online. With DD's help I was able to conjure up one of three winning entries. I had a blast laughing over the silliness and that would have been reward enough, but JBelle was generous in handing out fifty dollar bills to the winners.

When I picked up my prize from DFO at the Spokesman office, I already had plans for it in my mind. I had a list of household supplies I could spend it on, charities I could donate it to and other people I could buy for. DFO put an end to all those plans when he gave me strict instructions to spend the prize money only on something fun for myself and DD.
It didn't take much convincing, but it did take a lot of thought as to what fun thing I would do with my money. The bill sat sealed in it's envelope in my car for about 10 days before I could settle on a plan. I decided the money would best be spent on a spur-of-the-moment, last outing before winter, trip to Seattle.

DD and I love to travel, but it's usually well thought out and planned for weeks in advance. This time I planned the trip in two days and sprung the news on DD 12 hours before our departure. I had the suitcases packed, the car loaded and hotel reservations made. DD was shocked, but game for adventure.
Munchkin's always ready for a vacation with Mom and Dad, so he happily settled in to the car for the drive. From our garage to the time we were sitting in the House of Hong watching the dim sum carts go by was four and a half hours. A temptingly short amount of time in the car to experience the best dim sum I've had so far. The House of Hong was decorated in an upscale version of the expected Chinese/American decor. The dim sum carts were loaded with delicious looking steamed and fried small plates. We sampled the barbecued pork, pork dumplings, vegetable egg rolls, barbecued pork buns and pork egg rolls. The flavors were so fresh and good that my mouth is watering just writing about it.
We spent the afternoon wandering through the tourist shops on the waterfront. We won a plastic shark from the arcade on the pier. We watched container ships pass through the bay with the snow capped Olympic Mountains as a backdrop. Most importantly, we didn't have a schedule or rush around. We took our time and enjoyed being in the city.

After a night in a hotel, we browsed through Pike's Place Market, enjoying the crowd free shopping of late fall. We bought croissants from La Panier and munched them as we walked. Munchkin truly enjoyed his first real French treat, refusing to share a bite. The Space Needle caught the attention of Munchkin and he had to know it's location during our whole visit. We stood underneath and were awed by the space-aged architecture. Tears were shed by our three-year-old as he had to say goodbye to the Seattle icon.

Our final stop in Seattle was Steamers on the waterfront. Munchkin and I dined on clam chowder and fish and chips while DD had chicken strips. I'm not sure I would enjoy a steak while overlooking a cow field, but fish and chips sure taste better while looking at salt water. It must be the fresh sea air.

We all were a little sad to say goodbye to the city as we headed home. We didn't go up in the Space Needle or any major attractions. We didn't rush around cramming all of the sites into one day. We just all enjoyed being away from home and spending time together.

Obviously my prize money didn't cover all the costs for the trip, but what's important is that it inspired the trip. Thanks, JBelle, for the inspiration, the good laugh and the prize.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Daycare Search

Munchkin has been anxious to start school ever since his cousins went back to school this fall. He routinely asks me to take him to school (the closest elementary location) and leave him. He also asks me to take him to his friends' houses, his grandparents and the mall (Drop in & Play) so I can leave him. Yesterday he even told me I could go "goodbye" and he'd stay home by himself.

I guess it's time to face the fact that Munchkin is growing up and wants time away from mom to become more independent. It's also about time for me to have alone time to focus on two different work projects that I've accepted.

So, the search for daycares has begun. I didn't think it would be hard to find a place that I felt comfortable taking Munchkin. I was wrong. I think part of my problem is I have so many "wants" out of a daycare. I only need two days a week. Most places require at least three. I would like somewhere that provides meals. I don't want the extra stress of making sure I get a lunch packed before rushing out the door. Also, I want a preschool program in a school-like setting. This rules out most in-home daycares since I want someplace with a lot of kids for social interaction. Finally, it has to be in Post Falls. I want a convenient location for drop off and pick up for when I'm traveling around the area and working from home.

I've called just about every number in the book for Post Falls. Apparently there's a boom in three-year-olds at the moment and not a lot of openings. What makes it really difficult is the lack of regulations and rules for daycares in Idaho. I ask all the questions about background checks, fingerprinting and teacher certifications, but it would be nice to have state feedback. Or even user feedback about daycares. It's hard to tell whether or not it's a good or bad thing that a Google search doesn't bring up much about a daycare. I would feel more secure with another parent giving a location a good review before I picked one.

Maybe some of you readers have recommendations or "stay away" warnings about daycares in Post Falls. If so, I'd appreciate a comment or email. Thank you!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Review: Tomato Street (Coeur d'Alene)

221 W. Appleway Ave., Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814 (208) 667-5000

Tomato Street offers everything you might expect in an Italian restaurant thousands of miles away from Italy: checkered table clothes, soft lighting and red plastic tumblers. It also offers somethings you might not expect: entertainment for the kids and an extensive menu.

The most surprising thing about Tomato Street for me was their perfect Seafood Fettuccine. Yes, I said perfect. Too often Italian restaurants skimp on the seafood, under cook or charge a fortune for it. None of the above apply to Tomato Street.

I ordered the lunch sized portion of Seafood Fettuccine for $8.99 (which would be a perfectly fine dinner size for me). The menu promised shrimp, clams, calamari and scallops in a wine and cream sauce with fettuccine noodles.

When my order arrived, perched on top of the al dente pasta were two thick prawns. I dove right in to sample a prawn while it was hot and fresh. The meat was pink, firm and cooked just right. It was so good that I saved the second one for the end of my meal. Five baby manila clams surrounded the prawns. They were tender and sweet. Perfect enough I could have eaten a whole bowl of just clams.

The real deal breaker of seafood dishes for me is the calamari. One rubbery bite and the entire dish becomes sub-par. I tasted my first ring of calamari with a bit of hesitation and was not disappointed. It was absolutely tender without being underdone. From that point on, I was in love with my meal.

The creamy sauce was just thick enough to coat the pasta. The flavor of garlic complimented, but didn't overpower the seafood. A few slivers of sun dried tomato added the perfect amount of sweetness. My only complaint could be that the scallops were so small that I almost forgot they were there. But, what the scallops lacked in size, they more then made up for in quantity and flavor.

My meal was accompanied by a basic green salad consisting of romaine and iceberg lettuces, shredded carrot and store bought croutons. The House dressing - creamy garlic - can be overpowering in large quantities. I ordered mine on the side. Baskets of hot, soft garlic bread were kept stocked at our table. It made the perfect utensil with which to scoop up the sauce that remained after my pasta was gone.

The service during my visit was top notch. The children in the party were given balls of Play-Doh and a dried pasta necklace kit to entain themselves during the meal. Both were a big hit with Munchkin and his six-year-old cousin. The children's menu offers such things as pizza, macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers. All are nicer, homemade versions of the kid offerings at most restaurants. Kid's meals include beverages and ice cream for $5.29.

Our server was friendly and prompt in taking care of our needs. She even treated Munchkin to his own soda and ice cream, even though we didn't order a child's meal for him. She didn't want him to feel left out among his cousins. When one member of our party received the wrong meal, a new one was made in record time and a sincere apology was given.

Other items in the Tomato Street repertoire include smashed sandwiches, calzones, pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven and every type of pasta and sauce combination you could imagine. They also have many specialty drink offerings, including Italian Sodas and a lounge with a full bar.

If you hit Tomato Street on a weekend night, I'm sure the place will be packed. The long time Coeur d'Alene restaurant is not a well-kept secret.