Rockin guitars shared in Olympia

I had two tickets tonight to the Los Lobos acoustic concert as the Performing Arts Center in Olympia. Each year I get a pair of season tickets and then get various of my friends to come along to the shows. This time, I just couldn’t find anyone that was free. While I was really looking forward to this concert, it was seeming a lot less fun on my own, but I figured I would have a good time anyway, so I headed downtown.

I had an hour to kill before the show and had not had dinner, so I stopped in at a local coffee bar to get a bite. That extra ticket was really burning a hole in my pocket – 3rd row seats to a really hot, sold out show. And sitting in this cafe, a bunch of college students who probably couldn’t afford the relatively steep $40 price. Finishing up my dinner, I gave the ticket to the barrista and told her to choose someone to give it to – I didn’t want to choose and I wanted it to be a surprise, I figured it would be just too awkward to try to do it myself. She thought that would be fun and agreed, and I took off and headed for the theater.

For a while I watched the door, wondering who they’d given it to and hoping they had followed through. It was an interesting crowd, the arts patrons in Olympia are all white-haired and such, but you just know they were Deadheads and rocked out once upon a time :D I bumped into a few people I know professionally, which always seems to happen. I saw lots of young men with their fathers too, and more earringed guys in leather and jeans than usual. But no-one who seemed like the right person.

I headed to my seat, and there I found a young man with a guitar and backpack – one of the many young musicians in Olympia. His guitar was beautiful and obviously his prized possession. He turned out to be from a family of musicians, knew a lot about the band, and had always wanted to see them. He was homeless and had just spent the last of his money, which was not at all obvious given the well-cared-for guitar case, his clean clothes, sketchbooks (he was an artist too) and overall niceness. He had left his wallet in the cafe, and when he went back to get it, they gave him the ticket – it’s hard for me to imagine a better choice.

He was totally excited about the concert and so was I. On the stage were rows and rows of guitars of all imaginable types. The band was truly hot and talented, one of those bands that can morph from sweet Latin ballads with romantic voice, classical guitar, and tenor sax/accordian duets, to hard-driving southwestern rock, to fairly spacy Grateful Dead-inspired transitions. They spent a good part of the concert playing acoustic, but as the night went on, trended toward Latin rock, finally getting the sold-out concert hall to stand up and dance (one of my few quibbles with this venue is that they have tons of great dance bands but no way to really dance). They got all the ladies up on the stage, and the white-haired one in front was putting the teenage kids to shame :)

A great night. I really had a good time, and am thanking the inspiration that brought me good company for the concert and no doubt a totally unexpected surprise for him. Something about Olympia – where things like that seem normal. I’ve had more good times with strangers since I moved here than in the last 5 years put together :)

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My mouth is filled with flavors… yum!

mmmm …. I’ve been cooking decadent goodies for friends’ parties this weekend, since everyone knows you should save those for when OTHER people will be eating most of them :D

I made Pamela’s Brownies (yes, it’s a mix) for the barbecue today, which have to be the best brownies ever invented. I use the version of the recipe with no – yes, that’s no – oil or butter whatsoever. They are also gluten-free and vegetarian (and you can make a vegan version if you want). We originally bought these brownies to make for my sister-in-law, who has a gluten-free diet, and they were so good that it’s basically not worth making any other kind. Especially considering they take about 5 minutes to make and with no fats are actually healthy, and taste incredible.

On the other end of the health spectrum, tonight I made flavored butters for a Waffle Brunch tomorrow that another friend is giving. There’s no way to make butter healthy, but I’ve been wanting to try this idea and everyone puts butter on waffles, right? It just wouldn’t be a waffle party without it :) So, I made four kinds – cinnamon, honey-vanilla, ginger-lime, and blackberry. And tried my best not to taste them too much (but I can tell you in confidence the cinnamon one is divine!).

Then, feeling like I should eat just a bit of real food after making butter :) and a mid-afternoon barbecue, I ate one slice of what has to be the best bread I have eaten in a long time. It’s not something fancy, “just” herb bread, made by Stone Ground Bakery, a local bakery here in Olympia. Just opening the bag releases a wonderful herbal, buttery smell. The bread smells wonderful, has the perfect texture (not too airy, not too dense), and tastes as good as it smells. I’m sitting here just savoring the excellence of this bread. More food should be like this.

Vignettes from a new life

So today, I am really, truly moved to Olympia. Even if it’s to a temporary furnished apartment with the rest of my belongings crammed into every square inch of a 10×20 storage unit :) Our first few days here (this being myself and my cat, Sophie), we’ve been a little off-kilter, not sleeping well, jumpy at all the new noises. The heaters turn on at random times, and every time they do, I can still feel Sophie start next to me. There’s a little neurotic dog who will get used to us and bark less eventually. Other than that, the apartment and the property are pretty much perfect.

I haven’t had a second to relax, really, between getting back from Mexico and packing the house, getting the utilities and mail transferred, moving, trying to work, etc. I think the day and night that I can finally relax I will start to feel at home here. Sophie was feeling better yesterday after she got to stretch out on the ledge in the sun and explore the front porch a little. She is no longer meowing loudly and plaintively at me, like “when are we going HOME??”

The famed Olympia Farmer’s Market is opening in two weeks, and I can’t wait. It’s open Th – Sun, so I should be able to go every week and get fresh and locally-produced food. Yay!

Seen today on a bumper sticker: “B.A.D.D. Bicyclists Against Dumb Drivers” :P Very Olympia.

Yesterday was like a mini-amalgamation of all the different things I am trying to do with my work life, with five different income streams converging. First, I spent the morning in conference calls on environmental consulting issues. Then, I had a noon training session on the new technology for InstantAssist, an online conflict counseling start-up I am involved with (more on that in a later blog). I managed to fit in some quick editing that I do freelance on Guru.com, and then it was off to meet a new mediation client and introduce them to the process they will be going through as they mediate their separation and parenting plan. Finally, I did a tarot reading :)

All paid except the InstantAssist training, which is still in start-up mode. I had some issues with my headset that I hopefully solved tonight (by buying a better one… for $29.99). It’s interesting to look at the breakdown of income for the day:

Environmental consulting $240
Editing $60
InstantAssist -$30
Mediation $250
Tarot $35

Of course, the rest of this week I’ve hardly had time to work. But all in all, it seemed like an interesting and worthwhile day. Mexico was also interesting from the standpoint of my eventual hoped-for lifestyle. I worked about 3 hours a day, slept a LOT to the sound of soothing waves, read books, talked and played games with my family, walked, and just generally had a very nice and relaxing time. And still made enough money to support myself, especially in the local economy. So I came back feeling like my plans are not entirely ridiculous.

And tomorrow I am going out to look at houses that have been on my “to-see” list for a while, but which I’ve been too busy to visit. On the week-end I may fit in a little relaxation :)

Jazz and Spices

Last night I went to the Wynton Marsalis concert in Olympia … oooh yeah. It was great. That band is awesome – hot hot jazz in a very intense style. An amazing piano player and bassist. If you have a chance to see them, don’t miss it. The more time I spend in Olympia, the better I like it – who woulda thunk our state capital would be so interesting. Last time I was there (for a Bo Diddley concert – also very cool), my friend Martha and I wandered around and went shopping :)

We found the most amazing store of exotic spices – like an apothecary shop of old only filled with strange spices, truffle oils, hard-to-find ethnic spice concoctions from far-flung lands, mortars and pestles, tiny little tins of multi-colored salts and peppers with tiny little spoons, dried and powdered mushrooms of every variety, you name it, it was there. Stuff that I normally don’t cook with because it’s an incredible pain to make from scratch, like garum masala or mole. I couldn’t resist the white truffle oil or African curry powder with cashews. You end up walking out with little bags of spicy treasures – and to top it all off, if they don’t carry it or combine it just the way you want, you can send them the recipe and they’ll get it or make it for you. If you’d like to try mail-order, you can find it here: Buck’s Culinary Exotica.

Just down the street, we found an entire independent bookstore selling only mysteries. Not too many towns where such a store could thrive in this day and age. And last night I finally got to enjoy my (usually-sold-out) fave Italian restaurant there, Trinacria. Simple, perfect, olive oil and garlic pasta. Hot crusty little breadlings, perfect salad following the pasta. When asked for Parmesan, the waitress recommends Pecorino to go with that specific pasta instead. Not too much of anything, nothing extra needed. Just right :)