an “international destination,” crossroads mall

Saw friends Sylvia and Jim at Crossroads Mall last night, a favorite hang-out for ethnicities of all creeds and colors. Weekend entertainment draws crowds. A Big Bands group brought back reminiscences of bygone days, not only for our friends, but for many other retirees sitting on metal, folding chairs. They seemed to be smiling, as though deep in thought and a million miles away.

Over the years, the mall has evolved into a true “melting pot” of cultures, including dialects, and products. The food court says it all. There are counters serving up Greek, Italian, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, BBQ, American, Mexican, and Russian. My choices when dining there are the won ton soup at the Vietnamese stand, the spaghetti with Bolognese sauce and Mediterranean chop salad at the Italian stand, and the bento box with teriyaki salmon and tempura at the Japanese stand. There are other outstanding dishes, but these are my favorites. I’ve gotten my friend Cindy hooked on the won ton soup. We both love the broth, especially on a cold, rainy day, which is most days, here in the Pacific Northwest.

The stores I frequent are Half-Price Books, where I can buy out-of-print books, and Silver  Platters, which has a great inventory of old movies. The mall welcomed a new restaurant recently, Crossroads Bar and Grill. The food is delicious and the service is quite good. When sharing meals, the wait staff will halve the portions, plating them up in  the kitchen before bringing them out. I’ve shared the Western burger and Mediterranean salad with my daughter on one occasion, and friend Sylvia, on another. Both times the extra service of splitting dishes beforehand made a huge impression. I’ve never experienced this anywhere, especially in view of the fact that the waiters seem only too happy to accommodate. It’s so much better than dealing with the mess, when attempting to split the dishes ourselves.

Anchoring Crossroads Mall are large stores like Sports Authority, Barnes and Noble, PetcoQFC Supermarket, Pier OneBed, Bath and Beyond, and Old Navy. Of course there’s a Starbucks, not a surprise since it’s headquartered here in Seattle. Rounding out the shopping options are Hallmark’s, Party Center, JoAnn Fabrics and Michael’s crafts. A variety of smaller stores fill in the mall’s nooks and crannies.

Bordering the mall’s perimeter is a very special gift shop, Common Folk. It sports a vintage feel, selling both antiques and reproductions. The owner, Kathryn, artfully melds both for a seamless blend of shabby chic, industrial, and pretty, pretty princess! More shops should follow suit. Next door is New York Cupcakes which sells  “fantasy,” and “sin” in  paper cups. And they’re worth the calories, any time of day. I know, I’ve sinned! When I do, I bask in the immorality of a red velvet, or strawberry cream, or key lime pie cupcake. Yummy! Yummy! They’re irresistible. Good thing the store was closed when we left the mall. I’ll have to make a special trip soon. By the way, I tried cupcakes from QFC’s bakery recently and couldn’t eat more than a few bites. More often than not, I’ve been disappointed by desserts that look like they’re “to die for,” only to find out that, in fact, appearances are not always what they seem. Funny, I’ve not learned that lesson yet. I continue to make the same mistake.

Across the parking lot on the other side of the mall is Crossroads Theatre, where the seats are huge, soft, comfy, and they rock, literally. If the show is boring, the seat will help lull you to sleep. Just don’t snore, and remember to wake up when everyone’s leaving. 

Crossroads Mall offers comfort food for one’s physical being, as well as one’s inner spirit.

 

i smile every time i walk through the doors…hugmamma.

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christmas 2011???

Not quite! More like Christmas 2010 is still liking our “digs,” and has decided to stay put a little longer. Truth be told, it’s not like the holiday decor has had a choice. It’s more that I’ve been slow to pack it away. So here come the excuses.

You know I was ill for awhile. I’m better now. Thank you very much. But as a result we weren’t able to entertain friends who wanted to see our decorations. Now that it’s February I think most of them will have to wait until it really is Christmas 2011, except for my good friend Cindy. She’ll be over Friday for lunch. She so enjoys how I intermix antiques, collectibles and holiday items to create a vintage wonderland. Another reason for her visit is to peruse my Venice travel guides. She’s hoping her family will make the trip there sometime this year.

Speaking of Christmas past, and being ill, my husband and daughter were fabulous to prepare the entire holiday meal, from appetizers to dessert. As one who is totally anal about details, I resisted at first. But while the brain might have been up for the challenge, my body dug in its heels and said “No way! Uh, uh. Can’t do it.” So I sat back, more like laid on the sofa, and let husband and daughter “have at it,” as the Brits like to say. Well, they knocked my gourmet socks off…way off! I had chosen the recipes, but they came up with masterpieces. I decided on the spot, that I wasn’t the only cook allowed in my kitchen. Someday I might even relinquish my chef’s hat altogether. Now when’s my hubby retiring? Hmmm…I’ll gain a cook, a gardener, maybe even a housecleaner…

Since this post is a Christmas hodgepodge of sorts, I wanted to include photos of nearby homes which exploded with holiday spirit. Our family’s favorite is the window that displays the fish-net stockinged, woman’s leg, lamp and shade, from the 60s “The Christmas Story.” Until recently it was only a favorite of my husband’s. In years past I’d grimace whenever he spoke of watching it replayed on TV. This year, however, my daughter and me purchased the DVD as a present for him. I MUST be getting older, and mellower, because I did find the movie endearing. It reminded me of the good days. Old folks are always a sucker for reminiscing about the past. I’m no different it seems.

So now you know my Christmas secrets. We’re still celebrating the holidays. Yes, I still light all 5 trees. However, I refrain from flipping the switch on the outdoor lights. The neighbors might think we’re loony. I didn’t cook the annual holiday meal. And I’ve been won over by a movie I use to think was so corny. But you know what? Extending the season just means we continue to have lots of “good will toward men,” and God knows we on earth could use several mountains worth, especially now.

ho, ho, ho…and a merry christmas to all…and to all a good night…hugmamma. (good morning, actually, since it’s 10:19 a.m. where i am.)

ride with strangers

Eagerly anticipating a visit with my daughter, I took a connecting flight to where she lives on the east coast. Rather than fly into a major hub, I chose to connect at a smaller airport closer to my destination. From there it was only another hour until I saw that beautiful face, which always brings a huge grin to mine.

Relaxing into the first leg of my trip I drifted in and out of sleep. Finally the plane touched down on the tarmac. Scurrying through the exit door, I hurriedly made my way into the airport. At the nearest flight schedule board, I searched for the gate number of my continuing flight. I could feel my blood pressure rise when I soon realized that it was not listed. Panicked, I found an agent who directed me to the nearby ticket counter.  Walking towards it I noticed a short line of customers waiting.

When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter and inquired about my flight. To my dismay I was told that all flights had been cancelled. The next available wasn’t until 9 a.m. the next day. Not accustomed to finding myself in such a situation without my husband who usually manages such dilemmas, my heart sank. All I could think was that my daughter was so close, but yet so far.

As is my custom when I’m flummoxed, I phoned my husband who still happened to be at work. My words came tumbling out faster than he could comprehend. But finally he understood my situation. Stepping away from the counter to speak with him, I soon realized that I’d have to figure this one out myself. While still half-listening to him, I overheard a conversation between a man and a woman. Drawing closer to hear what they said, it became clear that she was traveling with him to the city where I was also headed. The gentleman had rented a car beforehand.

I quickly jumped in to ask if I could also hitch a ride. Just as I was told that I could, a younger man joined us to confirm that he would be our fourth traveling companion. Needless to say my husband overheard my maneuvering and was flabbergasted when I said “Bye. I’m riding with Larry. Call you when I get there.” Without waiting for his reply, I hung up.

Lucky move on my part. Seconds later a woman asked if she could join our group. Unfortunately, the car could only sit 4 comfortably on the 5 hour drive.  I felt badly but knew she had the option of staying the night on the airline’s “dime,” and catching a flight out the next day. If I felt any reluctance about the trip, a ticket agent acquainted with Larry reassured the other woman and I that we were in good hands. As a frequent flier for business he was a regular customer.

The journey was nothing short of amazing. My fellow travelers and I established an easy camaraderie. We spoke of family, work, ourselves, our interests. The two men were natives of the area to which we were headed. Larry was returning home from business; John was visiting family. Jane was joining her husband who had gone a day ahead to attend a conference.  At times it was a four-way conversation; other times the 2 men talked, while Jane and I murmured quietly together in the back seat. We all agreed that Larry could pick the time and place for our one and only rest stop. We were all in a hurry to get where we were headed.

As we drew nearer our destination, I was sad to part with newfound friends. I become attached easily. After dropping Jane off at her hotel, we drove to the airport where Larry would return the car, John would rent one to continue driving another 2 hours, and I would meet my daughter. Getting out of the car I hugged Larry, pressing a $20 bill into his hand. Without pause he pushed my hand away refusing any compensation. It was enough, he said, to have pleasant company on what would otherwise have been a long, lonely drive home. Choking back tears, I thanked him profusely and gave John a big hug as well.

Once I saw my daughter, it made little difference that I arrived at midnight instead of 7 p.m.  She always “makes my day”, no matter the hour. I couldn’t ask for more, especially after being bestowed with the gift of a Good Samaritan who came to the rescue of strangers who became friends.

forever grateful to Larry…hugmamma.