Sunday, February 28, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner XXVIII

Saturday was another big day on the jam-packed Contreras Social Calendar! The day, in order, included a Senior Moment, a.k.a. a Brain Fart, a family lunch and, in the evening, Valentine's Day Dinner XXVIII.

We'll go in reverse, alphabetical order according to height.


For the past 28 years, we have gotten together with three other couples with University of Washington ties that live in Southern California and have been our friends since our 1960's undergraduate days in Seattle.

The concept is simple, each year on a rotating basis, we meet at the home of one of the couples. The designated hosts then prepare the meal and may or may not opt for a theme for the evening. Some years we have even been summoned to the feast in costumes befitting the evening's theme. Thus I have attended as Friar Tuck, a Viking and even as Cuban band leader Ricky Ricardo! Laurie of course was Lucy that last evening, I think you get the idea.

Over the years the make-up of this group has had one major change when original members Jon and Lee Kadletz moved to Seattle about 15 years ago. We've even had a guest when Mark Johnson joined us one year. Last year when I could not attend because I was in Sicily, it was "No Problemo", as Laurie just attended as a solo.

Although it was almost two weeks after the official and date fixed Valentine's Day on February 14th, our dinner is more like Easter, it could happen at any time of the year that the spirit and circumstances dictate. The important thing is that it just keeps happening every year, even if the designated hosts forget that it was their turn to host it which actually happened one year!

This year's theme was "Bavaria" based on our hosts vacation this past year in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. We were promised a night of sausage, sauerkraut, pastry, beer and some real toe-tapping polka music.

We were not disappointed.

Peter and Sherlyn Claridge

Peter, a Wide Receiver by trade back in the day, is better known by all who love him as simply "Spear". He and Sherlyn are warm, good-hearted people. Spear's sense of humor and passion for all things Husky make these annual meetings a real treat!

Joanne and Paul Sabolic

I only know two people who claim to be of Croatian descent. They are both named Paul. Coincidence or conspiracy???

But I digress, Paul was an offensive lineman in college who brings Husky pride to a more intense level than anyone I know except Jon Kadletz of course.

They would later win the Bavarian trivia contest based largely on Paul's encyclopedic knowledge of German beer companies.

Watching Paul and Joanne interact is a treat. Again, great people to have as friends.

What the . . .

Did you really think that a "No Costume" clause on this year's invitation would stop Laurie?

I spared no expense on my T-Shirt that disappeared seconds after this photo was taken.

Susan and Mike D'Antuono
Our Hosts

Fun people and good cooks as it turns out. They are the ones who came up with the idea of the Valentine's Day Dinner all those years ago. They continue to be both the historians and driving forces behind our annual soirees.

I could tell you an epic tale about Mike when he was a wrestler at the UW and he went up against eventual Olympic Medalist Rich Sanders of Portland State . . . but that's another story for another time.

Humble and down to earth are phrases that come to mind for this couple.

These two have become an excellent source of reading material for me over the last few years. Last night they gave me two more books to enjoy.

The first title is "The Final Four of Everything". It is a list of 32 "team" NCAA basketball tournament style brackets paring things down to a highly debatable "winner"on some REALLY funny things like movie gunfights (The Wild Bunch over The Lady from Shanghai in the Finals), Jewish Baseball Players (Sandy Koufax over Hank Greenberg, tough fielding 62 other names here I suspect) and sexually inadequate nicknames (Dennis "The Worm" Rodman more inadequate than "Wee" Willie Keeler) amongst many, many others.

The other tome they gave me was "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Sweden's Stieg Larsson. A great mystery set in Sweden they claimed, surely a natural for me given my impending trip to Hässleholm. When we got home last night I started reading it.

I'm hooked.

Get these four together let the good times begin!

". . . we stand on guard for thee!"

Spear was born in Canada but is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. The dinner talk got around to the Vancouver Winter Olympics that are winding down this weekend. As we discussed how both the USA and Canada were enjoying their best ever medal counts the topic of Sunday's USA vs. Canada Gold Medal Men's Ice Hockey Game came up.

Here Peter starts an impassioned oration that may rank up there with "I had a Dream" and "Ask not what your country". He dazzled us as he told of his love for his new homeland and everything American. He got more emotional as he discussed his pride in our country and its many positive benefits and accomplishments. He built to a deafening crescendo, had us on the edge of our seats and then shocked us all by declaring that he was going to root for Canada on Sunday because he knew how important that Gold Medal was to "The Old Country".

He had us. We spontaneously broke into a rousing chorus of "Oh Canada", the outstanding Canadian National Anthem. We were in a Canadian frenzy, eh?

As we finished probaly the only other National Anthem that any of could sing from start to finish, we gave Peter an "Atta boy!" and then declared our fervent prayer that Team America would win the Gold.

Dinner consisted of all kinds of sausages with a variety of mustards that were out of this world. The food was indeed great but the friendship was even better.

Boob Bib

Each table setting included a bib with a Bavarian theme. The men's bibs were tame while the lady's bibs were of interest.



Earlier in the day we drove to South Pasadena for lunch at "Gus's Barbecue" established in 1946. There we met my two sisters, aunt and mother for a "Farewell Tour" stop.

Linda, Laurie and Marilyn

Is that a palm tree in Linda's Bloody Mary?

Our mom, Chuny Contreras

Marilyn, her hat and our aunt
Katie del Cueto


As we came out of Gus's, it was POURING rain so we decided to duck into the the Fair Oaks Pharmacy which is more eclectic sales and soda fountain than pharmacy.

That's where we found . . .

". . . I do not know"

Back at Casa Contreras in San Marino

We enjoyed a couple of hours of family talk as we said our goodbyes before leaving for Sweden where I plan to pick up a new accent.


Finally, I need to correct an omission on my comments in Saturday's blog post about the beginning of "The George Contreras Farewell Tour, Year III".

This past Thursday night we had dinner with Rod and Helen Fujita and Brian and Koreen FitzGerald at "Lucerne Northern Italian Ristorante".

INCREDIBLE food and another night of fun.

I think that the food coma that I was coming out of was the reason I "brain farted" in momentarily forgetting to post about another fine night of camaraderie.

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