Who could have predicted that the official arrival date of spring would be the official arrival date of spring? Our last adventure saw us driving around Auburn in the rain under gray skies. This adventure just two weeks later and only a few miles further south in the same valley gave us blue skies and green explosions of buds everywhere.
Our granddaughter Talia and her co-worker and friend, Rachel, drove down from Bellingham (actually the site of our next adventure) to stay a few days at our home in Tacoma. They arrived Wednesday evening and then Thursday morning Talia sweet-talked me until I took the four of us out to breakfast. The last time down here Peg and I took them to The Spar for breakfast, but The Spar is only open for breakfast on the weekends. We chose Knapps Restaurant in Tacoma's Proctor District.
Knapp's serves middle America food: meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, and so on. We wouldn't normally go there for dinner, but breakfast is a different story. They are one of the few restaurants that will listen to me when I asked for hashbrowns, "Burnt, burnt, burnt . . . with an onion cut up in them." Talia and Rachel ordered biscuits and gravy with hashbrowns. I ordered biscuits and gravy with sourdough toast substituted for the biscuits. There were several side orders of bacon and sausage links as well. Peg had perfectly cooked chicken fried steak. My hashbrowns were delivered just as I asked. We had a wonderful breakfast.
Rachel is from the Bellingham area. Talia moved up there to go to work her way through college. She and Rachel have a similar sense of humor. Like Talia, Rachel loves good food. This trip to Tacoma was a chance for Talia to show Rachel Northwest Trek, Pt. Defiance Park and Zoo . . . and dine at Pacific Grill.
When we parted after breakfast, the two tourists were trying to decide on where to start first: Trek or the zoo. Happy Hour at Pacific Grill was planned for Friday. No one was sure if the rest of the day would be as beautiful as the morning. Forecasts were mixed for the afternoon. In the end they decided to hit Point Defiance.
Talia loves Five Mile Drive, which always promises eagles and delivers wild raccoons. She also loves the zoo and aquarium. The zoo has grand plans to change and expand the aquarium, so that may have been the deciding factor to visit it first while the weather was good AND just in case they didn't get a chance to see it before it's changed.
Peg and I returned home to get some work done and pack for our local trip to Puyallup. Although Puyallup is only fifteen miles away, it still takes us a lot of effort to get there. I had some website pages to build for clients. Peg had invoices to complete for other clients. We also had to stop at King's Bookstore to pick up my book, which I had recommended to my book club just weeks before.
We wanted to mix new places to visit in amongst our favorites. That afternoon before checking into the hotel, we went to early dinner to beat the rush hour traffic on Puyallup's South Hill. We chose Sushi Town/Trapper Sushi. It was our first time dining there. What a good choice. We sat at the bar and talked with Luke as he helped us with our All You Can Eat Sushi order for $26.95 per person.
We chose miso soup and pot stickers to start off with. The soup was excellent with seaweed and green onions in the cloudy-brown elixir. The pot stickers were fried perfectly and the dipping sauce was excellent (for me, anyway) and I dipped my pieces of sushi into it on occasion.
I liked the Trapper Sushi, which is one of their most popular sushi items. It has roe mixed in with little bay scallops that cover the sliced sushi roll of cucumber and tempura prawn. I thought first the tiny popping in my mouth was from sesame seeds, but no; it was the roe.
Our favorite sushi roll was vegetarian with tempura asparagus and then wrapped in seaweed and sliced. Dipped in the pot sticker sauce, it was heaven. Peg liked it without the sauce, but it was her favorite, also.
After dinner we drove back down into Puyallup. We were booked at the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel is brand new. A month ago we donated a few nights there to our oldest son and his family to help them in their move into a new house, where there was still some work going on.
Our room was a queen/queen suite on the top floor. Our sixth floor view looked out over the Western Washington Fairgrounds and the Puyallup Valley. If I were an exhibitor at the fairgrounds this is the hotel I would stay in. It's just a few blocks away and freeway access is close by.
Looking down from our window I saw a little creek flowing alongside the road and driveway. A few more weeks into spring and this will be a spectacular view. As it was I enjoyed seeing the stream and the little patches of skunk cabbage in the creekside mud.
I would have preferred a king/king suite, but the double queen is the largest they have. Three young granddaughters would be joining us on Friday, and king beds would have made our stay just a little bit more comfortable.
As it was the room has a nice layout offering a sitting room complete with sofa and chair, coffee table, desk with office chair, and credenza and a 37 inch TV and DVD player.
The bedroom had the two queens, another easy chair, the view, and a chest of drawers with its own 37 inch TV and DVD player. A nightstand separated the beds. On the night stand was a phone AND a light with individual bulbs to brighten each bed.
Peg and I unpacked and then made ourselves comfortable. She took a book and laid down on the sofa. I plugged in my tablet and smartphone to charge and then layed down on a bed with Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. At my book club meeting in February one of our members had suggested her latest book, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. It didn't turn me on, but on reading the dust jacket I remembered sitting in the bathroom and reading sections of Stiffs: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook caught my attention. I proposed it and it took the vote.
Roach uses humor and well researched science to lead us through her subject. One chapter is about mediums of the 1920s and '30s, who could supposedly communicate with departed souls. "Ectoplasm" was supposedly material from beyond that represented the presence of those who had departed this earth. It turned out that ectoplasm was more like material you could purchase at Joann's. Mediums would swallow and regurgitate the material or . . . force it from their vagina or rectum where it had been inserted. It wasn't so much from beyond as it was from within.
One of our biggest complaints about hotels and bed and breakfast inns is the lack of adequate lighting for reading. The Fairfield, a Marriott hotel, scores an A+ in the lighting category. The sitting room lighting is well placed and the bedroom lighting is even better. The easy chair in the bedroom has a floor lamp directly behind it. The nightstand light worked well for either bed, but the kicker was the recessed lighting.
Running the length of the bedroom above the head of the beds was a series of recessed lights. They operate on a dimmer switch, so you can control the amount of light you want or need. Even though the bedroom is great for lighting, it's not perfect, however. The closet door is beside one of the queen beds and only allows about fifteen inches between the bed and the door. That makes it a tight squeeze, but a small trade-off for excellent lighting.
The only mix-up for the Fairfield came during my first breakfast. When I entered the dining room early Friday morning, breakfast was not ready to be served.
A young man in a Fairfield uniform was trying to figure out where things were and how to make them work. In my opinion he should have spent time explaining what was going on. I overheard him tell another patron that "The breakfast lady didn't show up for work." He kept doing what he could until the breakfast lady showed up. He placed salt and pepper shakers on my table without saying anything and moved on.
Later when I returned to the dining room with Peg, I asked the Breakfast Lady about the miscue. She explained that the person who replaces her on her days off had an emergency with her daughter and the communication didn't flow as well as it should have. I didn't get my freshly made waffle on Friday morning, but I wasn't upset about it. Of course, I think one of the reasons I wasn't upset, was because the Fairfield has 24-hour chocolate chip cookie service. My wants are simple and I am easy to satisfy. I had three with my morning coffee . . . okay, okay . . . it might have been six.
After breakfast Peg wanted to visit her favorite Puyallup used book store, A Novel Idea, and her favorite antique store. I dropped her off and took several photographs along Meridian, the main street in downtown Puyallup. What I enjoy about Puyallup are the little stores on and off Meridian as well as the public art which can be found on most street corners.
I get a kick out the full-size statue of an old man holding a bird. At least, I hope it's a bird. And I hope he's kind to it. The man has swept back hair, a mustache and a beard along with a worried or wrinkled brow. Not everything is to scale, which is what makes it so interesting to me. It's a lovely addition to downtown Puyallup. It reminds me of a farmer . . . I just hope the bird wasn't eating the seeds the farmer's planting. If so, then perhaps the farmer will be planting the bird, next.
At her book store, Peg bought a book of illuminations from the Koran from an exhibit at the Sackler Museum in Washington D.C. Peg and her good friend Kathryn, while in the D.C. area for an International Calligraphy Convention, went to the Sackler and Freer and she thinks that may have been the exbition that they saw that wowed her so much. In addition, Peg bought two plates at the antique store on the corner across the street. She has several plates handpainted by Maude Ledbetter, a local artist and always stops in at the antique store to see what she didn't buy before.
The hand-painted pear plate, by Maude Ledbetter, has a watercolor feel to it. The pears are well rounded and succulent. The farmer and the pears are so Puyallup, one of the most fertile places in the world. The rich earth deposited over thousands of years by the Puyallup River can grow some of the most fantastic fruits and vegetables in the world. The problem is that warehouses and business parks are growing more than corn, raspberries, and squash now.
At one time fruit and vegetables stands dotted the roads of Puyallup and Sumner. Now, local fresh produce is the mainstay of our local farmers markets; however, Duris Farms stand is still open on River Road, home of wonderful strawberries and pickling cucumbers. My aunt Virginia and her family lived across the field from Duris' and cousin Lindy worked for them selling fruit and veggies when not in school.
In the late afternoon it was time to fetch our granddaughters as they came home from school. One lives on the Puyallup's North Hill and the other two live between South Hill and Spanaway. Just as Peg and I had on Thursday, we raced against rush hour traffic. We picked the girls up and went to dinner before taking them to the hotel.
We chose Cattins, a family style restaurant located on Meridian on the north side of the fairgrounds. Cattins is ranked #23 out of 87 restaurants in Puyallup. Like Knapps it's middle America food. The girls all found items they liked for dinner. Unfortunately, each kid's dinner was "something" and fries. The waitress was excellent and was Johnny-on-the-spot with a welcome, menus, drinks, and food delivery. Peg's trout was a little over-cooked (fish is so delicate and needs a light hand), but my steak and prawns were good. I think each of the kids had a prawn or two from me; I gave a large piece of steak to Peg as well as a few prawns. Like Knapps, I'm willing to bet that Cattins does really good breakfasts, too.
Talia and Rachel had a great time at Point Defiance. They explored everything and didn't make it to Northwest Trek after all. I think they had so much fun that it didn't matter. They got to see the polar bear underwater, the roaming peacocks, a walrus up close and personal, reindeer and even got to step through a shark's jaws.
The two of them must have shot well over a hundred photographs . . . well, some were taken by others of the two of them. TIn the ones that I saw, they were like little children playing, experimenting and creating visual jokes . . . much like Peg and I do. Forget the "children" comment. I meant to convey a sense of joy and wonderment, oh, what the heck . . . with a little bit of playing the fool thrown in for good measure.
Although they didn't make it to Northwest Trek, they did manage to visit Pacific Grill. The last time Talia was in town, we took her to Pacific Grill. The three of us sat at the bar and enjoyed all day happy hour prices. The food was excellent and the prices were very affordable.
Talia and Rachel occupied the same stools that Peg and I had during our last lunch there. From other photographs I saw that the two of them ordered virtually the same items we had last month: Cubano sandwich with those darned little tasty deep-fried potato chips, onions rings with a cranberry dipping sauce, fried oysters and garlic fries. It looks like they may have had froo froo drinks, but I'm willing to bet they had lots of fun . . . lots of fun.
One of the main reasons for traveling to downtown Puyallup is a visit to the Pioneer Bakery. Bread, cookies, donuts, fritters, and other specialty baked goods are always there calling to me.
We let each of the girls choose a donut for themselves and then we finished out a baker's dozen ($7.95) for the rest of their individual family members. Both families also received an apple fritter "as big as your head" for each of our sons. In addition, Peg chose a marionberry kuchen. Those are so good. I decided to not buy anything for myself this time. Don't think that this was because I am strong willed. Not so. My mouth was set on a rhubarb kuchen, but when I looked in the display case, there was an empty row where the card read "rhubarb kuchen." Heart broken, I sulked and vowed to never eaten rhubarb kuchen again . . . until the next time it's available at Pioneer.
All three of the girls were advised to bring swimsuits. They had the hotel pool all to themselves. I read Spook, while they cavorted and screamed . . . screamed and cavorted . . . jumped in, got out, waded into the hot tub, jumped back into the pool and shrieked. The hotel provides good sound proofing in addition to the pool towels to dry off with afterward.
There were lounge chairs as well as an umbrella table with no umbrella, but with poolside chairs. I think Peg and I will return to the hotel by ourselves and return again with the kids, too. The exercise room is adjacent to the pool and the glass wall allows people to use the elliptical machines as they stare at the pool. I'm not saying I would exercise for a long period of time, but I would be happy to exercise in-between chapters . . . and perhaps, cookies.
The hotel was well run, the rooms were clean, the staff helpful, and the lighting superb. We definitely will return for another adventure or two. As we left the hotel property I noticed that trees along the creek that were barren two days ago were already beginning to green up. What a nice way to end our trip to Puyallup.