Monday, October 20, 2008

New Neighborhood Restaurant

I finally got something that I have been wanting for a VERY long time: A neighborhood restaurant that I can easily walk to from my house. Yes, I know, living in Ballard, I have tons of options for restaurants that I can walk to in 20 minutes. This place, however, is just a few blocks down the street from my house!

After seemingly endless remodeling (seriously it seemed to go on for YEARS), Picolinos finally opened this last Tuesday. So in a move that was driven more by blind eagerness to try something new than intelligence, Kathy and I took the girls to the new restaurant yesterday (Friday). Although Picolinos was pretty kid friendly, my daughters (at least the little one) are not always restaurant friendly.

The menu has pizza, pasta, and a few Italian entrees and a nice beer and wine list. We got there shortly after they opened for the day at 5PM, and quickly ordered the girls some pasta with the idea that they would be occupied eating right away, then a little later we ordered our food and a bottle of Chianti. By the time the food arrived Nadia was pretty much covered in butter and pasta and had made the decision that she was not at a restaurant but instead a playground. Siena was only slightly better, but that had to do with me making desperate empty promises of candy when she got home.

Kathy and I made the decision to have our meals boxed, but unfortunately that wasn’t going to work for the bottle of wine. So in true Gorohoff fashion, we pounded the bottle of Chianti (something that I highly discourage ever trying if you have never done it), and returned home to enjoy our meal where our girls could run free.

The boxed food was very good, and while we were there the service was great. The reason for me writing all this up: I want everyone to try this place out. I want it to succeed, I really want a neighborhood restaurant that stays the test of time.

So if you’re in Ballard for dinner, check out Picolinos!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I like shiny new things

I did it, I went out and got an iPhone. I couldn't help myself; it's what all the cool kids were doing! So I had to have one too! The funny thing is that everyone else was just talking about getting an iPhone (my boss had actually ordered one from AT&T), but I end up being the first one to actually own one. All Apple stores appeared to be either hopelessly sold out, so I opted for ordering one from AT&T and I had the phone 2 days later.

I had always said I would never get an iPhone. My cellphone plan was obscenely cheap and I was getting a free Windows Mobile device with free data plan from work. The problem was I had a cellphone, a Windows Mobile device, and an iPod that Iwas carrying around everwhere, and I was usally forgetting one of the 3 devices either at home or at work.

Now everthing will be handled in one device. Granted, the iPhone plan will be more expensive, but because of where I work I do get a nice discount. Most important, it's shiny and new (until the next shiny new thing comes out...)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Family Vacations and Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines had always been my favorite airlines to fly with my kids. They are often the most affordable airlines, they allowed people with small children board first, they are always friendly, and the fact that they didn’t feed you didn’t matter because you always bring tons of food when travelling with small children. For all these reasons I told everyone, the only airlines to fly with kids is Southwest. However, since my last family vacation Southwest had changed their policy about families with small children getting to board first. The new policy was that if you were travelling with small children you board between group A and group B. This might mean 50+ people boarding before you.

So why does this matter? Why should people with small children be entitled to early boarding? The reason is that it takes us a lot longer to get settled with squirming kids, and our maximum allowed number of carry-on bags, a stroller, and multiple car seats to set up on the plane. This completely blocks everyone else from getting past you until you’re settled. Also, since Southwest has a first come first serve seating policy you might have to break a large family group up rather than having them all together (yes, I admit that getting to go between group A and group B you will almost always find 3 seats together, but you won’t necessarily find 3 rows of 3 seats together which is nice when you are traveling with a family group of 8 or more people).

I just finished a family vacation where we flew Southwest (mostly because it was the only airlines that flew direct to our location). So while I was waiting for boarding to begin I asked someone from Southwest why the change in policy? Her response was that she wasn’t entirely sure, but she did know that a lot of people were abusing the family-with-small-children-board-first thing, and a lot more people without kids were complaining about family-with-small-children-board-first thing. I know that I for one definitely did abuse the policy: I would use my then 2 year old daughter as a first class board first ticket for me and 8 or 9 other adult family members. I had also seen other people trying to convince the airlines that they needed extra time to board with their 13 year old son. As for people complaining, one of the most vocal critics was my own father, he would rant and rave about how unfair it was that family with small kids was boarding before. He would cause a scene loudly asking why he showed up 2 hours early so he could be up front in the line and still these families are boarding before him (my dad has never traveled with either of my young daughters). Seriously, my father gets more flustered talking about the Southwest family boarding policy than he does talking about politics.

Although the old policy seemed very unfair, what ultimately would happen is all the people traveling with small crying noisy children would all group together at the front of the plane and everyone else toward the back. Ultimately the families with the yelling noisy bothersome kids would be somewhat separated from the rest of the adult business traveler passengers. With the new policy we were forced in amongst a number of business travelers who didn’t seem delighted about my screaming 18 month old daughter of my chair kicking 4 year old daughter (if it wasn’t a 7 AM flight I would have offered to buy everyone around us drinks).

We all survived the flight, and we all got to sit together. However I no longer recommend Southwest as the only airlines to fly when traveling with children, and I will definitely investigate other options for flying with children in the future. Southwest falls to the position of all other airlines for me now, whoever has the cheapest ticket or the only direct flight gets my business.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Legend of Blue Ribbon Expeditions (Part 3)

Yah, I know, I skipped part 2. I'm working on it. There seems to be some gaps in my memory of that particular trip.

However, to avoid the same problem for part 3, I decided to just video tape the event...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Last Ski Day

Last weekend we decided to take my daughter up for one last day of skiing in 2008 (for her at least). We were going to visit our regular ski area Alpental but as we exited the freeway we were greated by a "parking lot all full" sign for Alpental; the parking lot was all full for a ski area on April 19th!??!!

So instead we headed down the road to Ski Acres (a.k.a. Summit Central) and enjoyed a ski day there. Here is our day...

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Legend of Blue Ribbon Expeditions (Part 1)

Twelve years ago my good buddy Doug and I were at Northwest Folklife festival sitting in a beer garden contemplating our larger plans for the weekend. As fun as the folk life festival can be, we decided we needed to kick things up a notch. It was Friday after a long work week, and another weekend drinking beer just wouldn’t cut it. In those days Doug and I would often embark on ill-planned unsafe crazy adventures with the single goal of having stories to tell people on Monday (Doug still does this). Our plan: see if we could drive to the California border and still be back in time for work on Monday. ROAD TRIP! (Gas prices weren’t so high in 1996).

By 10 PM we had packed Doug’s tiny 88 Subaru hatchback, filled it up with gas, and we were off.

Sixty miles later as we were passing though Olympia and becoming terribly aware of how unrealistic our original goal was. Mid trip we changed our plans to something that seemed much more sensible: climb Mount Hood. A slight change in route and we were headed to Mount Hood.

By 2 AM we were hopeless lost on a very foggy road somewhere on what we believed to be the side of Mount Hood. The fog was so thick that Doug and I had the car doors open so that we could confirm where the stripes were on the road. We were also quickly getting to the point of not-awake-enough-to-be-driving head bob. Before something really bad happened Doug found a place that looked safe to pull off of the road, he pulled over to sleep (did I mention how small his Subaru was?). I opted to sleep in a sleeping bag inside a bivvy sack near the car. Doug was happy sleeping in the car (or just too tired to get out of it).

At 8 AM the next morning I awoke to find that it had rained a fair bit and I was now sleeping in a large puddle; while Doug on the other hand was in severe pain from managing to sleep in positions that would make any yoga master impressed. The spot we had picked to stop was not more than 100 yards from the Timberline Lodge parking lot. Despite wetness and extreme bodily discomfort the need for food was our highest priority so we headed off and eventually found a small convenience store where we loaded up on junk food. Then it was off to Timberline lodge (the starting point for our climb up the south route up Mount Hood). At 9 AM, with no crampons, no rope, no safety gear, and completely neglecting to register our summit attempt, we start up the mountain along Palmer glacier. As we headed up we notice that the only other climbers we see are coming down; actually they’re all just about down at the bottom of the hill. This would be a quick climb we thought; it didn’t dawn on us that most climbers had started up at 4 AM!

Mount Hood is known for very unpredictable weather, but we were lucky. The sun was shining, it was warm and so we hiked on. The hiking trail took us along the perimeter of the ski area and it was depressing watching all the people taking the chair lift up half the distance that we had to hike; but we opted not to use the chairlift. It wasn’t that Doug and I were trying to be purist and avoid mechanical aid in climbing the mountain; rather we were too cheap to buy a lift ticket for just one ride.

Half way up the ski area is the Silcox Hut which was a nice stopping point for lunch. We pathetically hiked across the ski area into the hut and got a couple of bowls of chili and continued on. After a long slog we reached Crater Rock and eventually found ourselves crossing Hogsback; the ridge that must be crossed to reach the summit. Hogsback is verry narrow and stretches a fair distance dropping on either side into two of the volcanoes fumaroles. At the end of Hogsback is the infamous bergschrund that swallowed up and killed three climbers on May 30, 2002 (and led to a dramatic televised crash of the rescue helicopter). The real danger of the bergschrund was unknown to us, since it was snow covered. But to be safe I had Doug go first. (I remember back to my mocking of the climbers we had seen earlier in the day who had been roped up).

We eventually reached the summit around 3 PM, enjoyed the view. We were completely spent nothing left to give, and we still had to go back down the mountain. Then suddenly Doug thought it necessary to get naked, something about being on top of a mountain and the feeling of freedom. The view suddenly became a lot less attractive; enough so to get me back on to my feet and begin my descent.

As I headed down I could see Timberline Lodge was off in the distance, the size of a pin point. I started to realize the first reason that everyone else had started up at 4 AM. All the other climbers we had seen returning were able to gently glissade down the mountain in still frozen snow. The retuning climbers had formed a toboggan like path. However, by the time we were got around to descending the snow was complete mush from the day’s warm sun. Attempting to use the glissade path only succeeded in getting by butt wet. I tried to use my arms to get my body to slide, but it didn't help, so I walked. With most every step, my legs sunk knee deep in soft wet snow. Post holing our way down the slope we reached the top of the chair lift only to witness it get shut down for the day.

Eventually Doug and I did reach the car at about 8 PM. We packed up and began the drive home. We made it all of 15 minutes out of the parking lot before we decide we needed to find a place to sleep for the night and there was no way I was going to sleep on the ground or in Doug’s car again (ever!).

We found relatively affordable lodging in the nearby town of Government camp. After dinner, and a good night of sleeping on an actual bed I awoke to find the other reason that hikers start up the mountain at 4 AM. My face was stuck to my pillow. It turns out that a single application of SPF 8 suntan lotion is not enough sun protection when you spend 11 hours in the sun hiking on glacier, between 6,000 and 11,245 feet elevation. My face was beyond burnt, it was actually purple and oozing something.

Despite a week of suffering from painful radiation burns, we did have fun on that trip, but it would be nearly eight years before an attempt was made to repeat the trip…

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Push-Up

On Friday I was sitting at work listening to the National Public Radio show Day to Day, and they were talking about an article in the New York Times, "An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up". The idea behind the article is that the ability to do a push-up is actual a good test of overall fitness. The idea is that the pushup doesn't just test arm strength, but the back, chest, hips, legs. The article goes on to say that a 40 year old man should be able to do 27 push-ups.

"Twenty seven push-ups for a 40 year old", I thought, "I'm not quite 40 yet, so my number should be more like 30 push-ups. I should be able to easily do that". However I resisted the urge to drop to the floor in my office and start doing push-ups beside my new office mate (she's pretty easy going, but that might have been a bit much). Besides, for the past several years my test of fitness has been the ability to survive a guided back country ski trip that my brother arranges for me annually. Every year that I live through the trip, I figure I am at least somewhat fit, so 30 push-ups should be easy.

I didn't think about the article again until this morning. As I told my wife about the article she said that she did 25 push-ups just the other day (turns out she did the push-ups where she was on her knees and not toes). So I got down on the floor and started to prove to myself I could do 30 push-ups. One, two, three..., four... (ugh) ... five...(gasp)...eight...(err)...ten. Sadly I was only able to do (um) ten push ups. In all fairness to me, I did have two little girls that thought daddy was playing a fun game and immediately jumped on my back. So for the time being I am giving up on push-ups (at least while my daughters are around), and instead I grabbed my 15 month old (who is surprisingly heavy) and did a few curls with her.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ski Lessons

This year is my four year old daughter's first year of ski lessons and it didn’t start off too well. During the first 3 weeks of lessons she got more and more apprehensive about lessons (“I don’t want to go skiing daddy! Can we just sit in the car daddy?”). With my love of skiing, this was really breaking my heart to hear her say this. However, it was easy to understand my daughter's attitude; her classes were made up of six of more 4 year olds who had never been on skis and one 16 year old instructor. The instructor was doing her very best, but ultimately the kids spent most of their time sitting in the snow interrupted by an occasional horrific few moments that involved grabbing onto a fast moving rope, ultimately falling over then being dragged up the hill as a lift operator ran behind yelling “Let go! Let go of the rope tow!”

When the scheduled date of the fourth week of lessons rolled around, a huge snow storm hit Cascades. Due to too much snow(!!!), lessons were canceled for several weeks. When the ski area was finally reopened for lessons I wasn’t tooWhen the scheduled date of the fourth week of lessons rolled around, a huge snow storm hit the optimistic about what would happen with my daughter in her lessons; she did not want to go. So I spent the first half of that fourth week of lessons skiing with just her, and the second half skiing with her and her class. It took a lot of bribing with gummy bears, but by the end of that fourth week of classes she was skiing down the chair on her own (even as I write this a tear comes to my eye due to my extreme pride in my daughter right now who now tells me, “Can we go skiing every day daddy?”).

At the end of that fourth day of lessons I had two thoughts: 1)the words of my supervisor back when I was a ski instructor, “No matter how terrible your kids are in classes, the fourth week is a magic week and everyone skis on the chair lift.” 2) I really wish I had brought my camera.

For week number five I did bring my camera, and I wanted to share one of the images of what wife says put the biggest smile she has ever seen on my face. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The grease incident

As a student at Washington State University I worked several different part time jobs. One regular job I held around 1992/93 was for the student union building (the CUB) shipping and receiving. The job mostly involved making sure that the kitchen had everything it needed. For the most part, the daily work required putting away the fresh produce that arrived every morning. This meant that I had to be at work around 5:30 AM (I drank a lot of coffee). However there would occasionally be odd jobs that needed to be run.

There were a few others who worked there and we all traded off on different shifts and various jobs. However the most dreaded job was to deal with the grease from the kitchen.

The kitchen would produce large amounts of grease from cooking. That grease would be kept in large 5 gallon plastic buckets. Once a week the grease needed to be dumped in a recycling bin (yes they recycle grease and make things with it...seriously those bins behind your favorite fast food restaurant that are full of grease are recycling in will be used again). After a week of sitting around the grease (which contained bits of meat, french fries and other food matter) became rather rancid. Luckily a loose lid on the plastic bucket and and a couple inches of coagulated grease held in the worst of it down.

One particular Friday, my boss told me I had to go dump the grease. We had all managed to avoiding the job for almost a month, so the collection of grease buckets had grown very large and extremely nasty. I made a hopeless attempt a protesting, but I knew there was no getting out of it.

Because the bin where the grease was recycled was not near the CUB, we would load the buckets of grease into an old panel van we used. The van was not in the best of shape; the back didn't close, the passenger door wouldn't open, and the driver door wouldn't close. It was a rather pathetic vehicle.

From past experience with dumping grease I knew enough to where a tyvek suit. We each had our own suit for this job, because the grease had a tendency to splatter when you dumped it and you did not want to get that stuff on your clothes. On this particular run I was the more senior person dumping the grease, so I got to claim the job of driving the van. My coworker got the job of sitting in back and making sure none of the grease fell out the back of then van.

The drive to the grease dumpster was short, maybe a half mile, but it looped through part of WSU's greek row. I tried to drive the van as slowly and carefully as I could get away with, because I didn't want to be responsible for a spill in the middle of the road. This was of special concern because (as you remember) the back of the van wouldn't close.

Unfortunately the time we had chosen for the dumping was between classes and so people were walking everywhere. A mere block from the dumpster, a group of girls steped out right in front of the van (and not at a cross walk mind you). I slammed on the brakes as hard as I could to avoid hitting them. Despite my slow speed there was enough momentum in the unsecured grease buckets to send them all flying to the front of the van. The grease had been stacked two and three buckets tall and this fact allowed the grease to be launched over the entirety of the front of the panel van. I was soaked, the dash board was soaked, and the inside of the the van's windshield was dripping. However, my coworker in back had managed to completely avoid the spill, only rolling forward slightly.

We continued on and made our way to the dumpster, with the 5 remaining full buckets. It was a challenge keeping my foot from slipping off of the grease soaked gas and break. Eventually we managed to dump the remaining grease and return to the CUB. As I walked into my bosses office he was barely able to stop laughing long enough to choke out the words "Go home, and please change your clothes and shower". Turns out Tyvek doesn't do well when completely soaked in grease.

After bathing in dish washing detergent and putting on clean clothes I returned to work to help clean out the van. We took the van to one of those coin operated car wash locations and began hosing out the inside of the van with the hose and dish washing detergent. I can only imagine what people were thinking as they saw this van with the a hose going into it and suds pouring out of the back and the doors.
Tonight is a full moon and a full eclipse of that moon. So I thought I would start this tonight.

I've got a few stories, nothing spectacular, just some stories about some of the crazy things that have happened to me in my life so far. Everyone has stories like this, but I think most people either choose to forget them or not to tell them; maybe because these stories are generally embarrassing.

For me these are the stories that get told during lunch when no one else has anything to talk about. For some reason the people I have lunch with think these stories are particularly funny and a friend at work told me to write them down.

So here goes...