Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Care for a cupcake?

Months ago I attended a Foundation for International Understanding through Students event through the University of Washington. I met a very kind Armenian man who is studying public affairs on a special fellowship.

The man, his wife, and their two children have been in Washington now for nearly a year and this past weekend Dominic and I felt it was high time we show them a little American hospitality. After all the extreme generosity we were shown in Armenia for two years, it seemed like the least we could do to treat the family to a picnic on Alki beach.

The logistics of our American day hindered my enthusiasm as I racked my brain to figure out how I would conjure up a car seat and what we could cook for the Armenians. Fortunately, one of my part time jobs involves caring for 9-12 toddlers at a mom's group in Ballard. The reality of the situation, however, was that we had too many adults and not enough seats in Dominic's two-door Honda. For nearly an hour we went back and forth on what we could make to show the true style of an outdoor lunch and yet not expose our inexperience in the kitchen. Sandwiches--too many options, potato salad--too many steps, fruit skewers--might spoil. Finally, we settled on pigs in a blanket, fresh fruit, chips & salsa, root beer, and cupcakes to compliment the Armenian fried chicken, matsoon, salads and homemade bread. It was quite a spread.

Dominic and I have been huge funfetti advocates for awhile, and made some beautiful spring-like cupcakes for the day. The prized dessert was a huge source of pride and accomplishment. I know, they come out of a box. They were festive.

In an effort to address the car arrangement, I volunteered one of my friends and I to sacrifice the car-ride for the Seattle Metro. The route was easy and I assumed that if I left early we'd arrive in enough time to scope out a table and playing area for the kids. Uncovered cupcake trays in hand, we set out on what I assumed would be a half hour trip.

On the way to the bus, we passed a woman asking for money. Neither of us had much, but I thought it would be harmless to offer her one of our dozen springtime cupcakes. She thankfully accepted. We joked that we were never going to make it to the beach with enough cupcakes to serve as we walked to the bus stop.

As it turns out, the number 15 bus does not always turn into the number 56 bus. This bizzare system had us stumped but we were cold and anxious and got on anway with the hope of finding a different route in downtown Seattle.

Inside the crowded bus we ended up hovering in the aisle trying to balance our weight to preserve the dessert trays. When one man complimented our colorful cakes I quickly offered one out of appreciation. What was one more right?

We arrived on 1st Avenue right by Pike Place Market. This street is a high traffic area in downtown and we certainly stood out. Much to our dismay, we realized that the 56 only comes once an hour and it is the only route that runs to Alki Beach. With a 40 minute wait and 10 cupcakes left, Jessy suggested we go in to a tea store that offers free tea tasting. I've become quite the tea connoisseur since moving to the "land of cafes" six months ago, and I gladly accepted the offer to sit down for awhile.

We placed our trays on the counter and as we sipped blueberry red tea we chatted with the waitress. She was kind and very generous (giving us each a sample of the natural sweetener Stevia to try) so we gave her one of our cupcakes in return. These little things were turning into quite the crowd pleaser!

Upon leaving the cafe, we walked back to the stop and I counted our cupcakes. I knew we needed at least 7 to feed all of our picnic attendees and by this time I was down to 9. I thought that surely we could make it, until a bus (not the 56) pulled up to our stop. A guy ran to catch it, but upon seeing our colorful treats he stopped at the door and asked if they were free. "Of course they are," I replied. "Help yourself." He took one right on that bus! I was worried about the no-food-on-the-Metro policy so I turned my head to see the driver's reaction and sure enough he was motioning to me. I expected to be reprimanded for passing out food to Metro riders, so imagine my shock when he asked for one too! He delicately placed cupcake number 8 in an old coffee cup and drove off.

Uh oh. Now here I was, an hour late to the party and with almost half of my cupcake contribution missing. Poor Jessy was hungry by this point, and it seemed crazy to carry two cupcake trays for just seven cupcakes so she indulged right there. Fortunately, this freed up the empty tray to use as a cover/shield from all the potential cupcake requests between Union Street and Alki Beach.

When we finally got to the beach we were able to serve up a beautiful lunch full of delicious food, soccer, Frisbee and conversation. The kids didn't take to the cupcakes, but we truly impressed my friend's wife, who enjoyed two! Dominic won over the kids with his pigs in a blanket and Jessy cut a beautiful pineapple Cambodia-style. It was a nice day.

I realize that most of my stories come from the Seattle Metro. To be honest, it's experiences like this one that remind me why I wanted to move to a city and why I'm thankful for the 'urban lifestyle'. I'm convinced that public transportation builds communities in a way no other service program can.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you ARE the cupcake lady now. That's a fun story. I might have to go home and make some cupcakes after reading that.

Anonymous said...

If mom makes them I'll eat them since Lent is almost over!!! ;o)

Sarah said...

Sarah, this is exactly the kind of story I expect to come from you! You have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know, and I'm sure the people who enjoyed your beautiful spring cupcakes got a glimpse of that, as well!

Anonymous said...

CUPCAKES sound delicious, my dear!!!!!!!!!
Don't forget to make those when I visit you, i would love them!
What a kind heart there!!!!!!!
I am not surprised, of course:)
Miss you much,

Sarah said...

Oh thank you so much for the kind compliments! It was a fun day.