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The Push Present

December 8, 2014

The receptionist at Greenlake Jewelry offered us an espresso soon after we arrived. We declined. We also declined the Pellegrino. I peered into the fridge and I saw several bottles sparkling wine. Perhaps it was too early in the morning to ask for that.

From a business perspective, Greenlake Jewelry reminded me of a car dealership. Instead of a showroom filled with cars and new tires, we had glass cases of diamond rings and other forms of bling. A salesperson was immediately assigned to us to help us find our perfect ring.

Alex never wanted an engagement ring. I wanted one for her. When I imagined our ‘Facebook “We’re engaged!” status update,’ I always pictured it with Alex holding her hand out, with a ring on it. She wanted to be practical and save the money (we are saving for a house). Perhaps she thought it was a bit antiquated. We really didn’t talk about it again.

We had a friend over for dinner and this conversation came up again. And I said that I was fine with not having a ring. If Alex didn’t want it, I shouldn’t push.

In the meantime, Alex had shifted her position as well. If having a ring was important to me, than she didn’t want to stop me from having that. Plus, with our actual wedding being a year and half away, she wanted something public to show our commitment together.

And that is how we found ourselves declining espresso at Greenlake Jewelry one Sunday morning in Northgate.

Alex sent me a half of dozen emails of rings from Greenlake Jewelry and she found one that she really liked.

The salesperson and his apprentice told us that they had just sold that ring the other day. But he had another one in back. He comes back with the ring, takes it out of the brown envelope, pops open the ziplock bag and hands the ring to Alex. The ring looked like it came out of a .25-cent machine. It was comically small. Also, it felt weird knowing that our potential engagement ring was stocked in the back like a gallon of milk or a new iPhone.

They slide us a couple of glass cases over. The diamonds grow in size proportionally to the cost. They show us a ring that is outside of our ideal price range. But Alex likes it a lot. I like it lot. And in that moment we both learn that Alex actually wanted bling. They write up the specific details, size her finger, and send us on our way.

Alex’s Great-Grandfather gave her Great-Grandmother a present each time when one of their four children were born. When her Grandmother was born, she received a ring. A turn of the century Push Present, if you will. Alex’s mom had given her this ring many years ago. We decided to pass on the Greenlake Jewelry ring; Using her Great-Grandmother’s ring as our engagement ring would be a great way to honor her family and use a family heirloom.

After slogging through many yelp reviews of jewelers, we settled on Lisa Esztergalyos. Don’t ask me to pronounce her name. She was fast with the re-sizing, the polish, and securing the old diamonds. Her work was perfect on our antique ring. We could not be more pleased.

Lisa asked Alex if she wanted to wear the ring out of the store. Pre-engaged she replied. I have some ideas in changing that status. And I am sure you will all know when that happens.

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Genesis: #peydamewed

November 21, 2014

Over the summer, Alex and I decided that we are going to get married in 2016. It happened rather organically. Basking in the glow of our French vacation in April we were excited for our next trip. And to take that much time off again would require planning.

When thinking about our next trip we realized that in 2016 we will have been together for more than four years. And it was time to make it official. Italy would have to wait, or become our Honeymoon.

In the beginning of our wedding conversations, Alex would have preferred that we get married next year in 2015. But the event planner in me was panicked at that prospect. We don’t have a venue. Or a guest list. Or even a plan. Not to mention the other million other details we need to figure out. And probably the most important detail not completed is the fact that we are not even engaged.

So we agreed, summer 2016.

Months later, we are working on the guest list (it is at 200). We have started to scour yelp reviews on potential venues. And we have agreed on our current top priorities (mine: food and wine; hers: the ceremony and venue). We both don’t give a shit about the cake (it should be good), or flowers (let’s have some, but doesn’t need to break the bank), or invitations (we are going to make them at home).

Much like new parents, we are receiving a lot of unsolicited advice from our friends and family. Everyone has an opinion. And I/we have to remind them that this is not 1970s/80s anymore. The wedding business has changed. And while my parents were married in the sleepy town of Cheney (today population over 10,000), we are getting married in the largest city in the Pacific Northwest. For better or worse, there is more than one caterer, one venue, one florist, etc, etc, etc. This will be unlike anything my parents did when they were married. They are slowly realizing that.

So the last couple of years, I haven’t written much in this blog. Stories about our daily life together is very boring. Take today for example: During breakfast, Alex drops bagel crumbs on Miles. Nick teases her and tells her she doesn’t love the cat. Alex rolls her eyes.

Well at the very least not as exciting as some of my past dating stories like the one about the date told through text messages, or the girl I asked out with my business card, or the girl who told me she was married to my former co-worker.

But our upcoming engagement and wedding provides me an opportunity to write more about our relationship and the craziness of a wedding. And hopefully it will be interesting. And hopefully, you will find it funny.

Next time on #peydamewed: Nick and Alex go ring shopping; offered espresso; Alex realizes that she wants bling.

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Meal Time in France

November 9, 2014

During our trip, I took a two second video of everything I ate. I hope you enjoy.

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Top 10 Dishes of the Trip

June 17, 2014
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Here are my favorite dishes of our trip:

Steak Frites with a marrow boneSteak Frites with Marrow Bone at Aux Tonneaux des Halles in Paris, France. In this David Lebovitz recommended bistro, the steak was perfectly cooked and the fries were the best on the trip. The marrow bone was the perfect amount of added decadence to put this dish as number one. We ate outside and watched as our waiter got into a French-styled argument (angry whispers, finger pointing, and cursing) with a women walking her dog. Alex roughly translated the fight for me:

Waiter: “Don’t bring your dog here, this is where people are eating.”
Woman: “This place is no different than a cafe”
Waiter: “Something in French
Woman: “Something in French,” with finger pointing.
Waiter: “French cursing,”
Woman: “French cursing,” she continued her finger pointing and got right in the waiter’s face, before leaving with her dog.

Steak TartareSteak Tartare with Salad and Homemade Potato Chips at Le Bonheur Suit Son Cours in Vaison-la-Romaine, France. One of the couples at our B & B thought that this restaurant was a little “full of themselves,” because they had a very large wine list. Don’t show them the Canlis 75-page wine book. The tartare was served without egg and shallot. So the beef was the star. I scooped it up with the homemade chips.

FalafelFalafel Sandwich at L’As du Fallafel in Paris, France. Mark Bittman calls this the best falafel anywhere in Europe. Lenny Kravitz has endorsed this place. It has 4 stars through 983 Tripadvisor Reviews. And 4.5 stars through 515 Yelp reviews. It’s just pita, falafel, hummus, pickled red cabbage, salted cucumbers, fried eggplant, and spicy-hot harissa. There is always a line. But it moves fast. The Brits in front of me wanted a Sprite but got a Coke. They were too shy to correct them. I ate this under an eve while people danced in the street. With all of the hype you expect the sandwich to be underwhelming but it was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had.

Foie GrasFoie Gras, Cream, and Eggs at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. Three of the top ten dishes came from Au Lapin qui Fume. I don’t know if it was strictly the food or perhaps it was knowing that this was our first taste of French cuisine or maybe it being the our meal after this day but this place served some of my favorite food on the trip. This rich dish was one of my favorites. It was served with sliver slices of sweet rye bread. And when that was gone, I sopped up the rest with torn pieces of baguettes.

Chocolate BiscuitChocolate Mousse with Sweet Biscuit and Vanilla Meringue Cookies at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. This dessert featured the most intense chocolate that I have ever had. And the crunchy biscuit was the perfect pairing to go with it.

I ordered this dessert on our second time at the Au Lapin qui Fume (the only restaurant we went to twice on the trip). And the waiter/owner had been teasing me about my French the first time we went. So on the second visit, he got up, announced to the entire restaurant that I would be ordering my meal in front of them, in French. The restaurant suddenly silenced. I gulped hard. And ordered. In front of everyone. And every mistake I made he would correct me until I got it right.

CrepeReine Crêpe (ham, cheese, olives, mushrooms) at La Droguerie du Marais, in Paris France. When I got back from my France trip in 2012, I was haunted by one meal. Actually one crêpe. It was a crêpe I ordered at random place in the Marais. I didn’t know the name. Or the address. But it was one of the best crêpes I have ever had. Alex wanted to visit the Marais during our time in Paris. And when we got there, I ordered us to walk street by street in a grid until we found it. The chef lets the overflow cheese hit the crêpe iron and burn slightly. This is the key to a life changing crêpe. Alex almost fainted from hunger while waiting for hers. She admitted later that it was worth every minute she waited.

Beef Egg CrepeTimbre Poste Crêpe (ground beef, onions, potatoes, egg, swiss cheese, and cream) at Le Timbre Poste, in Tours, France. I love savory crêpes. I love runny eggs in my meals. And when I find myself in a new restaurant, I try to order the dish that they put their name on. Check, check, check. We found this place randomly walking toward old town. A group of college students sat a couple of tables over. I cut into the yolk and watched it ooze out over my crêpe. Perfect ending to a day of wine tasting.

RigatoniRigatoni with Eggplant, Sausage at La Voglia in Nice, France. Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage at La Voglia in Nice, France. With Nice so close to Italy, you expect some good Italian. Rick Steves said that this place serves great Italian at great prices. This is exactly what you want to hear toward the end of your trip. We sat outside engulfed in the warm Mediterranean breeze (maybe that was just the heat lamp). Two college aged girls next to us asked if they could smoke after their meal. Of course we said. The crispy bits of cheese and pasta made this dish a winner.

Strawberries Ice Cream Whipped Cream

  • Strawberries, Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, and Shaved Almonds at Au Lapin qui Fume, in Tours France. After several bites of this dish, I claimed it was the best whipped cream I have ever tasted. Completely sober and back in the U.S.A., I still believe it. Such a simple but wonderful dish at a wonderful restaurant.

    Foie Gras ChampagneFoie Gras and Toasted Bread, at André GOUTORBE & Fils, in Damery, France. Aunt Paula asked our host if she made lunch for us. Our host laughed and said she gathered the components from local producers around the area. She did pick each element to pair perfectly with the Champagne. And it paired perfectly. This was a lunch I could do every day.

    There were other amazing dishes but these ten stand out to me.

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    Je Voudrais un Café, S’il Vous Plaît

    June 12, 2014

    I normally drink my 16 ounce, quad shot, Americano from Starbucks every morning. Add a dash of skim milk and a couple of shakes of cinnamon (for health) and I am on my way. But when in France…

    A café at the start and end of the day is perfect when traveling.

    Can you guess which one below was the most expensive? The answer is at the bottom.

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    Most expensive café was 5.50€. Located in the fourth row, the fourth one from the left (it was at the Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris). The second most expensive one was 4.50€. Located in the top right corner of the collage. It was shocking at the time but it did come with a freshly baked mini madeleine.

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    My Relationship Status Over Two Years Told Through Two Photos at the Louvre Museum

    June 11, 2014
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    The Street Art of France

    June 10, 2014

    Sometimes you don’t need a museum pass to find some great art in France. You merely just need to look up, or down, or closely gaze on a random wall.

    Below is a collage of some of the stencils, tile mosaics, and other art we found in France. The Space Invaders and the C-3PO and Chewbacca are done by a secret street artist Invader. Here is more on Vote Darkside.

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    Click to enlarge

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