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Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Finnish-American Folk Festival Is A Hit!

Although my spouse and I are of Japanese and Japanese-America ancestry, we had made plans this last weekend to attend the 2008 Finnish-American Folk Festival in Naselle, WA July 25-27.

Left: Swede Finnish author Agnes Rands Warren. Photo by Mizu Sugimura.

Agnes Rands Warren
, author of Where The Huckleberries Grow (2000), Linden Press, a dramatized family history relating the experience of her immigrant parents in the Pacific Northwest, and its sequel Even Seagulls Cry (2005) Linden Press, covering life on the Home Front from 1939-1946, was just one of the interesting speakers during cultural programming at the bi-annual event.

During the short break in the vendors room Warren was asked to share a little about her books. She said it became increasingly important as the years went by to honor the legacy of her Finnish and Swede Finnish parents and their generation by preserving and passing-on some of the events and stories associated with their respective experiences in the United States as a gift to the young people in her family and the community at large.

As researching and recording what is available of my own family and ethnic roots has been a lifelong interest since grade school days when I asked for the history of my own grandparents journey to the United States as a child, only to be told my folks, aunts and uncles didn't know the details because "No one thought to ask" during the days they were coming up, Warren is a woman after my own heart.

Hubby and I had a lovely time during our visit to the festival in Naselle and highly recommend it when it returns to the Southwest Washington event again in 2010. For more 2008 festival pictures and more detailed information about the events in Naselle, this link will take you to my personal blog.

Below: Fresh festival floral decor colorfully echoes the clever theme the 2008 festival which was "Knee Deep In Finns" and a darling illustration of just that - by local artist Debbi Littlefield was featured prominently on festival posters, t-shirts and other publicity for the past two years. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

A Good Contractor is Hard to Find

And the View from My Porch

After 127 years a lady can need attention. After two hundred-year storms, two years in a row thus making them at least seem annual, our 127 year old home in Ilwaco, WA at the mouth of the Columbia River is in need of attention. Actually, we started looking for contractors a year ago after we’d secured funds to make repairs, but on the Long Beach Peninsula it can be problematic just to get contractors to return calls much less do bids and show up to do the work. The Hanukkah storm of 2006 left them with plenty of work, particularly roofs. Fortunately the 100 mile an hour shingles my husband had put on our place had held, but the South side of the house, the side from which most storms pummel structures here, had problems let go too long.

Following the early December storm in 2007, which did not much disturb Pierce County, but hammered the coast with gusts up to 147 miles per hour, my husband and I drove down to Ilwaco to check on my elderly mother who had sat in the dark for three days with no long distance telephone service. The devastation we drove past looked as though a giant had stepped through the Willapa and Black Hills, squashing massive Douglas Firs in his path. “You know of course,” I said to my husband, “we’ll never find someone to work on the house next summer. All the contractors will be busier than…well, a one-armed paper hanger.”

This business of checking on houses on the Long Beach Peninsula has a history in our family. My grandparents had a summer home in Seaview and after every storm my mother would say, “Well, we’d better see if the house is still there.” It always was. Except for our fence which we have finally replaced, we’ve been lucky with storms.

Many people on the Long Beach Peninsula were not so fortunate last December. Many had roof damage. One restaurant in the Black Hills was swept away in a landslide from the record rain that accompanied that storm. My mother’s lights had never been out for more than a few hours because her apartment building is across the street from the hospital. This time the power lines between the Peninsula and Longview had gone down and the roads were blocked by trees making it difficult for PUD to get to places where the lines had been damaged. Basically the Long Beach Peninsula had become an island for three days, cut off from the world by blocked highways and downed power and telephone lines.

My mother’s lights and heat had come back on the day the roads opened. After going to Sid’s Grocery store and stocking up on the basics and some canned food for her we drove back home convinced that our old lady (the house, not my mother although perhaps her as well)would have to keep her chin up for whatever storms 2008 bring us. We’ve focused on replacing the rotten fence and landscaping the front yard with an eye to our being here full time eventually.

This week we had two pleasant surprises. Two contractors showed up on our door step two mornings in a row! These men are not just contractors; they specialize in old homes (one of them will not work on anything but old houses and buildings).

Our neighbor, Kevin Palo is a master craftsman who has worked on houses and buildings all over the country. We had been after him for an estimate for the South side of our house, but between the demands of his restoration business and his work on his own Victorian, he had not had the time to estimate the cost of doing what we needed. So when Dean Halverson showed up on our porch saying that another neighbor who is a retired contractor had sent him we were delighted. We were even more thrilled when he told us he could start as soon as he could get the materials. We have a little family gathering planned for late in August and to have the work done before then seemed too good to be true.

Twenty-four hours after securing Dean to do the job, Kevin showed up on our porch. We had to tell this talented man that we’d already secured someone to do this first project, but we chatted about other things that need doing. I mentioned that we need a better looking and more functional front door. The old door that was here when we bought the place is tall and thin. Buying a readymade door was not going to be in keeping with the character of the house and would not fit. More over a tiny two-paned window over the door was something I want to keep. Kevin said no problem. He would look for a door to make fit and would even make the transom functional so that we could have it open on warm days.

Dean was supposed to start work today, but showed up on my porch this morning to say that he’d had to order the shingles and would start on Monday. I’m not discouraged. Dean is from Portland where contractors make more of an effort to show up on time and get the job done. I love the Long Beach Peninsula and the whole “beach time” thing may be quaint, but it can be frustrating to anyone working on a schedule.

Within twenty-four hours we had two gentlemen who understand old houses secured to improve our old lady. The work was going to force me to stay on longer in Ilwaco this trip, but being here seldom hurts my feelings although I am sorry to be away from my grandchildren. They will be coming here in August and perhaps by then we will have new shakes on the south side of the house and windows that don’t leak! Check back and see our progress.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Steilacoom photography contest winners and non-winners

The Steilacoom Historical Museum Association hosted a photography contest this summer for pictures that capture each of the four seasons around town. Nearly 300 photos were submitted for consideration. There is some spectacular photography that will inspire each of us to continue to strive for that perfect shot. The public cast their votes for the favorites at the Salmon Bake at Sunnyside Beach, in Steilacoom. The winners have been announced and you can see the twelve finalists that were selected; each one will appear on a different page of the full-color calendar that will be published for 2009. To see the winners, visit or to review all of the photo entries including the non-winners I submitted, one of which is included above (image from July 8, 2007) visit

Stephanie Frieze Knows Her Pizza Pies!

Above: My hungry relative peruses the menu with great anticipation at Bluto's Pizza as another restaurant fan and customer (background) waits to pick up their order. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

"In Your Neighborhood" blogger Stephanie Frieze has my vote for her timely recommedation (A Review From My Porch, Saturday, July 19) to stop by Bluto's Pizza when visiting the Long Beach peninsula.

My husband and I were in the area last weekend in connection with our first visit to the Finnish American Festival in Naselle, WA over the weekend of July 25-27.

Cheerful black and white checkboard floor
decorates the section of the restaurant where
we were seated at Bluto's Pizza last Friday afternoon.

Thanks to friends who have a home in Nahcotta where I have stayed and blogged about before, my spouse and I could enjoy both venues during a quick three day, two night getaway in our gas-friendly Toyota Prius. Thank you Stephanie - for posting this very excellent and welcome recommendation about Bluto's just days before week this trip!

I couldn't be more pleased! We got to Bluto's on Friday afternoon after a full-day of traveling beginning with a drive down to Costco in Warrenton, OR; a brief stop at Seaside, OR (where we had celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary twenty one years ago) and back to Washington State and Friday afternoon's festivities at the Finnish Festival!

While we ate a quick snack of chicken teriyaki, noodles and sour cream cake at the Finnish Festival, after a full day of driving Hubby was more than ready to dive into a hearty pizza which was more than fulfilled by his decision to split a tasty medium sized pizza (one half taco/one half chicken garlic) with his wife.

The pizza at Bluto's Pizza is definitely well-worth a stop as Stephanie recommends if you are staying in the Long Beach area. However, should you choose to eat-in the restaurant as we did, bringing your own heavier weight Chinet-type paper plate is well advised - as the quality of paper plates we were given to hold our pizza slices was unfortunately extremely thin. The moisture from just one single piping hot slice of pizza fresh from the oven was more than enough to put a good sized hole in the bottom of my serving plate even before I could finish off the first delicious slice.

Below: Yes, the spouse looks skeptical - but this picture was taken before he took the first bite of the yummy taco/chicken garlic pizza we ordered at Bluto's. By the time we left the restaurant he was all smiles! Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Thoroughly Modern Gritizen

I’ve taken several adult basic ballet lessons at the Jo Emery Ballet School this summer and looked forward to last week’s lesson. But alas, I messed up my ankle a bit after running. So, after taking the week off, it was back to the dance last night with a healed ankle and something new. This Gritizen went full on mod squad.

Well, modern dance that is. Jo Emery, my savvy ballet teacher, encouraged me to try it. Taught by Amity Sloboda and frequented by dancers of all kinds, I was interested. But what was more interesting is after talking with Amity before class, we made the realization that she was well acquainted with my younger brother and his friends at Wilson High School. That’s the small town Tacoma stuff that you just can’t make up. After class I asked my regularly "memory challenged” brother if he remembered Amity. He remembered her readily. I can see why.

Pretty and smart as a whip, Amity achieved a perfect pitch of charming and laid back, but also had that ability to give us participants a push when we needed it. The dance warm-up was cool. I love the barre in ballet, but this warm up infused ballet, yoga techniques, balance, flexibility, and ab work and I dug it. And I was pleased I could do some of it, considering I was amongst many long time, advanced dancers and I was on the seriously older end of the age scale. Oddly, I wasn’t intimidated with my super beginner status amongst the advanced and the youthful; perhaps it’s derived from bravery, ignorance, or lunacy; I don’t know. But what I know for sure is that I liked the other dancers because they were amazing to watch, kind, helpful, and smiled a lot. They had fun and made it fun, so I had fun, too, even though my moves were like a water buffalo compared to their gazelles.

And speaking of my moves, there were a couple of moves that were “oh, hell no!” movements for me. However, I did have a spectacular “hell yeah!” moment. During warm up, there were crunches and push-ups, totally old school. I know I sound like a complete freak for applauding those classic drills, but I was reminded of my Wilson High School cross-country and track days, when I was a young, spirited, capable sporty risk-taker. What a truly delicious feeling.

And the music and floor work were also positively delicious and oh so “me.” With renditions of Pink Floyd to The Beatles, and stuff in-between, the dancing was a meld of everything—ballet, jazz, free form, and hip-hop. I learned this class has been working on a routine for weeks, and I could join as I was comfortable. When the steps were broken down into smaller bits and segments, I joined in to give it a go; it was fun. However, putting it all together, I just couldn’t remember all the steps, so I stepped back and observed. While I love the refinement, history, and clean lines of ballet, I was mesmerized by the energy and athleticism of modern. What a treat to see.

And when I got home from dance class, a treat awaited for me from my six year old daughter who wanted to hear about my dance class. She created an elaborate collage of dancers of all kinds, flowers, stars, hearts, and glitter. In the middle it read: “I love you even if you do bad.” After melting into puddle of love over that one, I realized, too, that I LOVE dance. Even if I do bad, but with the hope that maybe someday, I will be okay at it. Maybe even a little good.

It’s with that love, I am eager for the next journey!

Beyond The Borders

If you feel a slight shift under your feet this coming Saturday (Aug. 2nd.) don't's just the crossroads of the world pulling down the Key Peninsula to Longbranch. We have that kind of magic in this neighbourhood!

Yes my friends, it's the second annual "Beyond The Borders" Music and Arts Festival, founded by our own Mark Runions, sponsored and supported by the Angel Guild, Two Waters Arts Alliance, the Geneva Foundation, the Longbranch Improvement Club and a host of great volunteers.

The musical line-up goes like this:

12:30pm Mooncoyne: Traditional Irish music.
2:00pm Leof Totusek & Lora Chiorah: Zimbabwe song and dance.
3:30pm Ancient Sounds: World Music on ethnic instruments.
5:00pm Abrace: Multilingual vocals with percussion.

Ali'i & Sumo's Hawaiian Grill: Grilled chicken and pork.
On The Way Deli: Salads and wraps.
Longbranch Improvement Club: Specialty ethnic desserts.
Beer and Wine Garden.

There will be arts, crafts and free trade world goods for sale, not to mention a juried art show with a People's Choice Award. This is a free, family-friendly event...the world "Beyond The Borders" comes to Longbranch. Namaste neighbours...see you there!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Under Our Skin

Last Thursday my family went to the Seattle screening of the Lyme documentary "Under Our Skin" at the Harvard exit Landmark Theatre. We arrived early to help Emma set up a table of informative pamphlets. Emma is the prime mover behind the event, having contracted Lyme in her urban Seattle garden.

It's very hard to explain my feelings as the lobby became crowded. It hit me square in the gut to realize there were nearly two hundred local Lyme patients in the room. Knowing that each one represented ten more, it was chilling to think of nearly two thousand people possibly affected by this disease in the Puget Sound area, so many unaware.

Accompanying patients were family, caregivers, advocates, doctors, U.W. medical students and reps. from the offices of both Adam Smith and Larry Seaquist. There was both joy and sorrow in the company...but also strength of purpose. We had been waiting for over three years to be able to watch this movie and the night was here.

Memories of the ten years of struggle for my daughter interplayed with the patients' stories in the movie so she and I held hands to help us through. We both wept during the scene where a young girl who had been confined to a wheelchair (after being a ballerina) got out of the chair to walk to her doctor for the first time, after being treated correctly. My daughter's doctors reached over to touch her, remembering the day in their office that she first rose from her wheelchair.

Under Our Skin wasn't just emotional stories of different people's struggle for answers. I really appreciated how it dove into the Lyme Wars and let doctors from each side speak. It was extremely interesting to see how none on the panel of fourteen (they insist there is no such thing as chronic Lyme) who made the Lyme Guidelines for North America...I repeat...none are untainted. It was a lesson in medicine as business and money made atop the graves of Lyme patients. This panel of fourteen now has to do a review of their guidelines as part of a plea-bargain agreement with the Connecticut State Attorney General's Office, to avoid a criminal investigation. Let me show you how the panel breaks down:

Six out of the fourteen, or their universities, hold patents associated with Lyme disease or its co-infections. That's right, patents on diseases. This is where medicine took a really wrong turn, back in the '80's.

Four of the fourteen have received funding from Lyme test-kit manufacturers. Testing is woefully inadequate.

Four of the fourteen have been paid by insurance companies to write Lyme guidelines or serve as consultants in legal cases.

Nine of the fourteen, or their universities, have received money from the manufacturers of Lyme vaccines. Not much is said about one vaccine that actually gave study participants Lyme disease.

We have the DVD now and plan on as many local showings as we can manage. Larry Seaquist and I had a brief brainstorming session and plan more. I don't care if I have to bang on every door in every neighbourhood and say, "Put on the popcorn, we're going to watch a movie!" Stay tuned folks...we're on a mission here to stop the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the world today. It's about education. First-Stage Lyme is an easy fix...Third-Stage (chronic) Lyme is a Hell you don't want to get to...but we must get through.

My family has been in a foxhole, fighting, for ten years. This movie is our my daughter says, "For all those who come after."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Better Living Through Chemicals?

Or the View From My Porch

Our neighbors to the North in Seattle are attempting to make an impact on the environment by adding a tax to the ubiquitous plastic bags consumers get from stores. If the Seattle City Council passes the measure it will go into effect January 1, 2009 and Seattle will join San Francisco and Boston in attempting to reduce landfill, hazards to nature and encourage the use of consumer owned cloth bags. In addition, the measure seeks to ban the use of plastic fast food containers at the same time and plastic meat trays in the future.

The Seattle P-I laments that the twenty cent tax on a bag will add $2.00-$4.00 to a grocery bill and put an unbearable burden on consumers. As one who regularly shops for a family that varies between six and seven in number, the thought of ten to twenty bags in my grocery cart is a bit overwhelming. Of course, for some long time we have used cloth bags for which grocers give a five cent credit. The bags soon pay for themselves and help the environment.

So who is behind the fear mongering against this measure? The American Chemistry Council, which is sponsoring commercials opposing the measure. Care to hazard a guess as to this council’s members? Familiar names such as Mobil, Exxon, and Dow. Many of the same folks who also have a vested interest in keeping us embroiled in the Middle East. And these folks are interested in seeing that grocers continue to buy huge amounts of plastic bags and plastic food containers from them as though the consumption of oil and plastic was likely to end anytime soon.

Hopefully Tacoma and Pierce County are paying attention to what Seattle is attempting to do and that in the not-too-distant future; Grit City can be a plastic bag-free city.

There are folks who believe that receiving a free plastic bag or container with a purchase is somehow tied to the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, but no such right exists. To those of you who rile against change, spend eighty-nine cents on a reusable cloth bag and feel the smugness of having it quickly pay for itself or else be willing to pony up the twenty cents for the privilege—not right—of carrying your purchase home in a plastic bag. Using a cloth bag is an easy way for each and every American to fight the War on Terror on the home-front. When we keep money out of the hands of the oil industry we also keep it out of the hands of those who would destroy us. When you use a plastic bag, Bin Laden carries your groceries.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miss Go-Go 1966 versus Miss Tri-Cities 2008

When I was a teenager, our local Top-40 radio station in the Tri-Cities sponsored a Miss Go-Go contest at the end of the summer. Back then, being Miss Go-Go didn't have a lurid connotation; it simply meant that we wore go-go boots and short skirts.

All summer long I exercised frantically, even wrapping myself in Saran Wrap to help sweat/burn off pounds, and maintained a minimalist diet so that I could be as slim as possible in hopes of winning the title of Miss Go-Go.

The evening of the competition finally came. "Bouncing" Bobby Keith was the radio personality who swooped in on his motorcycle and up onto the stage wearing a mysterious cape at the drive-in movie theatre to announce the finalists and the winner.

Despite my best and most diligent efforts all summer long, I won not first place, but Runner-up Miss Go-Go. My friends teased me mercilessly. But worse than being Runner-up Miss Go-Go was the prize I won.

The prize for Runner-up Miss Go-Go was 100 McDonald's hamburgers! They were 15-cents back then. Whoopee!!! All my dieting and then to be rewarded with 100 McDonald's hamburgers for my efforts.

One young woman from Pasco, Dacia Ramirez, 19, took a stand for modesty this week in the Miss Tri-Cities Pageant. She declined to participate in the swimsuit competition, because she felt that the swimwear was too revealing and she would not be comfortable with herself to parade around in front of other people wearing it. She also questioned what role the swimsuit competition has in a so-called scholarship pageant. Good for her!

As a consequence of Dacia's decision, she was asked by pageant officials to sign a waiver acknowledging that she would not be given any consideration as a potential finalist. Despite having to forfeit the potential top prize, she won Miss Congeniality, $850 in gifts, and the admiration and respect of many of the other young women, which is worth a lot more than 100 McDonald's 15-cent hamburgers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Get in the Swim, South Sound!

Summertime is swimmin’ time! My kiddos and I are frequently these three great South Sound swimming venues:

1.The Fife Swim Center. This is a terrific, indoor saltwater pool. There are lots of opportunities for swimming, whether it’s just for fun (open/family swims or how about swim and a movie night!) or for learning how to swim. My kids are frequent participants of swim lessons through the Fife Swim School. The school is taught using the Swim America philosophy and children work on specific skills. Once they’ve mastered the particular skill at their own pace, they move on to work on the next skill. The instructors, directors, and office team are positively fantastic. And for you adults who want to learn how to swim or brush up, ADULT swim lessons are available, too! Click HERE to check it all out.

2.The Federal Way Community Center has a GEM of an indoor Aquatic Center. The Leisure Pool has fun for every age and ability. They have a “lazy river” that you can float down, big and small water slides, water “basketball,” cool float toys, an in-water jungle gym, and perfect depths for little kids. For the adults, there’s a diving platform, a couple of lap pool opportunities, and a nice large hot tub. You have to see this place to believe it. Click HERE to learn more. Also, your price of admission gives you access to the entire community center for a day. It looks like there’s a lot to offer besides pool fun. I can’t wait to check it out further.

3.The Fircrest Swimming Pool is our favorite for outdoor fun. Warm water and with lots of chairs to lounge around post swim, it makes fun and sun come alive on a great summer day. Fircrest residents benefit from a lower rate to swim; out-of-towners pay a little more. Click HERE to read more.

All of the above pools have a large staff of lifeguards to keep swimmers safe. Children age six and under must be accompanied in the water at all times by an adult over the age of 18 at all of these venues.

Splish, Splash, South Sound and have fun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cancellation of the Washington Renaissance & Fantasy Faire

The Washington Renaissance and Fantasy Faire has been canceled for this year. Formerly held on the Purdy Peninsula, the faire was slated to move to a new location in Belfair. Due to an inability to obtain permits from the Mason County Department of Natural Resources, the faire will not be held this year.

The Washington Renaissance Faire has long been a source of enchanted entertainment for the Northwest in August. It will be missed this year and the Lords and Ladies of the Northwest will have to find diversion elsewhere this summer.

Seattle Bon Odori Continues To Make Memories

Above center: Crowds of all ages gather on both sides of the street by the Seattle Buddhist Church to get good views of the dancers at the 2oo8 Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Like many residents of the greater Seattle area, my family and I mark the arrival of mid-summer with the arrival of a handful of our most favorite area festivals, one of them being the Seattle Bon Odori.

My father, Frank Aoyama, was a native of the Emerald City having arrived as the last of four children born to my immigrant grandparents, Koichi and Chiyo Aoyama, when they were living in a rental home at 10th Avenue S. and S. Main Street above Seattle's International District about fourteen years prior to the beginning of World War II.
Left: My dad, Frank Aoyama, as a boy.

This house was located across the street from the Seattle Buddhist Temple where the Seattle Bon Odori became a custom in the local Nikkei (Japanese-American) community since August 15, 1932, according to an article by Shihou Sasaki writing for The North American Post (Summer Memories of the Seattle Bon Odori, July 9, 2008.) In 1934, the festival moved four blocks away to what was then the heart of pre-war Nihonmachi or Japantown where it continued to attract yet more attention, but still in very close proximity to my father's house for the rest of his formative years. And while his family was not of the Buddhist faith, memories of the Bon Odori were among those Dad was most fond.
Left: Seattle rental house where my dad was born on 10th Avenue S. and Main Street.

I have been attending the Bon Odori off and on since my parents owned a home on Beacon Hill in the mid-fifties to late sixties, just a few blocks south of Holly Park. After my son was born in the mid-eighties, my husband and I would always consider a possible trip to the Seattle Bon Odori, now a part of Seafair (or one of two others in nearby Auburn or Tacoma) when booking our summer family plans.

Left: Taiko drummers lend their skills at the 2008 Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Now that our son has become an adult, it has been a few years since my husband and I made the trip to town to visit the Seattle Bon Odori. The pictures included with this blog were taken during at this year's festivities held Saturday and Sunday, July 19 and 20th.

For those who may be interested The North American Post, is no newcomer to the ethnic community newspaper scene having served as its masthead declares proudly as "your voice of the Nikkei community since 1902."

Below center: Colorfully dressed dancers from the community carrying fans participated in one group number at the Seattle Bon Odori. Photo copyright 2008 by Mizu Sugimura.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Preserving Memories

And the View Through My Father's Lense
My father was creative. Besides being an aeronautical engineer, a licensed pilot, and an artist, he liked taking photographs and making home movies. Had he been a bit younger when video and computer technology came along he would have really enjoyed chronicling the life of our little family. As it was he used 16 mm cameras, the first of which was a windup camera, an 8 mm camera later in life, and to a limited extent a video camera, one of the huge clunky ones which my youngest used to tape his sister’s 30th birthday several years ago.

My inheritance is reels and reels of film. Twelve of them are home movies on 16 mm film. In the 1980s I had two reels he turned loose of put on video tape. It was lovely to see the old movies again, but the music the company inserted into the old silent home movies was cheesy. Actually, it is so tacky that it is beginning to become a bit campy now, but when discussion of putting the rest onto DVD came up my son had the bright idea of skipping the music and simply adding the sound of a movie projector. I liked the idea.

Enter Almost immediately Jean Marcotte emailed me that there would be no problem. They’d actually done it before. She acted like it was the most natural thing in the world. Not wanting to risk these old movies to my own packing skills I carted them to Mail Plus for professional packing and giving over to Brown for the trip to Florida Home Movies. Jean Marcotte told me that the turnaround time is between two and three weeks and not to be nervous as they would be careful with my memories.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What Is Your News IQ?

You may have seen this Pew News Quiz floating around the web. I decided to take it and I did pretty good. I only missed one and that one was dependent on when they wrote the quiz. It had to do with the Dow Index. Admittedly, I don't follow the Dow all that close. I won't give it away, so you'll have to figure it out yourself.

They say that puts me in the 91st percentile of all Americans taking the quiz.

Go ahead, test yourself, and don't have a Google News tab up in your browser to research the answers!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

I Saw You Dancing

I saw you dancing today. You are a member of the greatest generation and yet you can still dance as you did 64 years ago. You quickly left the stage as your younger progeny followed you out to dance. Your progeny is faster and sleeker, but it is you that gave her life a generation or two removed. You were the starlet back then, the best in the world. Your granddaughter now rules the stage, but she knows her roots.

After she danced her solo dance, rising and diving, twirling and spinning for the crowd, you joined her for the finale. Yes, she slowed down for you. As you danced across the stage, side by side, you showed us what made you great back then. It looked as if she was holding you close in case you tripped, but you never missed a move.

Your finish was spectacular; taking one last twist and spin. And after you gave us your final bow, your granddaughter copied your finale.

During your time, you helped save the world. Your beautiful descendant ensures it stays safe for us.

The P-51 Mustang and the F-15 Eagle dance in the sky

Your grace and beauty in peace belies your deadly and powerful abilities to defend what is yours.

We are grateful to you both.


Bluto's Pizza

A Review From My Porch

Some folks eat fish on Friday. Our family eats pizza. When we are on the Long Beach Peninsula we eat Bluto’s Pizza. We should be so lucky as to have Bluto’s in Gig Harbor. Bluto’s Philly-style pizza and calzone blows all other pizzas out of the water.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in Astoria shopping. I’d intended to stop at a chain take-and-bake pizza shop and pick up pizzas to take back to Ilwaco with me. The thought of standing around while they put together my order, driving home, firing up the oven and cooking the pizzas one at a time sounded like more energy than I had left. “I’m calling Bluto’s when we get home,” I told my mother. You’ll never get an argument out of my mother when it comes to Bluto’s. And that’s what I did. In the time it took me to unload and put away the groceries and drive the three miles to Long Beach we had three hot-from-the-oven pizzas made to our specifications.

For years another pizza joint, which shall remain nameless, was about the only game in town when it came to pizza. The crust tasted like cardboard, the sauce was bland, and they used too much cheddar cheese. In the 1960s when pizza was still somewhat a novelty out here in the Wild West, we teenagers were just grateful to have something besides frozen pizza and a place to hang out and look at each other after basketball games. Other pizza places have come and gone, but the Long Beach Peninsula got a gem when Bluto’s opened.

Bluto’s pizza is so good that when the local Health Department held a dinner meeting guess whose food they asked for? Recommendations don’t come much higher than that. Bluto’s is an unpretentious restaurant where families can eat with the children and where everyone comes away full and happy. Tuckered out from a day playing or clamming on the beach? No problem. For a little extra, Bluto’s delivers. One Friday I was busy mowing the lawn before dinner. I had my granddaughter with me and the thought of stopping what I was doing, loading her into her carseat (which takes a college education to get all the straps properly fastened), driving to Long Beach, getting her out of the car, picking up the pizza and getting her back into the car made me more tired than I already was. Remedy? Simple, I called Bluto’s. Our pizza was at the front door in 30 minutes and I was done with the lawn.

Obviously many people come to the beach expecting to eat seafood and there’s plenty of it to be had, but if good Italian pizza or calzone, followed by cannoli, sounds good to the family, Bluto’s on the main drag of Long Beach can’t be beat. Besides, it’s only a short walk from there to the amusement rides or Marsh’s Free Museum to see Jake the Alligator Man.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Or the View From the Beach

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood,In your neighborhood, in your neighborhood.Say who are the people in your neighborhood--The people that you meet each day? ~Jeffery Moss

It was my understanding that when the In Your Neighborhood blog spot was conceived of by the TNT its purpose was to inform readers of what was happening in the various neighborhoods that make up the South Puget Sound Area. Very quickly it became something greater than that. It became a neighborhood itself. This e-neighborhood has become a venue for the sharing of ideas and stories, some frivolous and fun, some of grave importance not only to our neighborhood, but to the nation as well.

A good neighborhood is a collection of diverse individuals and families who care about the community as a whole. Not everyone in a neighborhood always agrees all of the time, but good neighbors support each other with respect and tolerance for the diversity of ideas that make up the world. The In Your Neighborhood blog spot is just such a neighborhood. We laugh, argue, and rejoice with one another.

I feel privileged to be a part of a neighborhood inhabited by so many talented and caring people. More than once I’ve called on the Neighborhood to turn on the mojo and I’ve felt the power surging through the ether. Through the magic of this little contraption called a computer my neighborhood has been increased many fold and enriched.

Kim, young and energetic, reminds us of how amazing Tacoma is and keeps us dancing to a Gritty tune. Patty’s enthusiasm for life shows in her writing and her emails reminding us that she cares. Jaynie shines a light on stories great and small that might otherwise escape our notice. VW’s whit and point of view alternately has me rolling on the floor in gales of laughter and pulling out my hair, adding texture and layers to the conversation and he’s been too long absent from the ‘hood. Tracy keeps us informed of what’s happening in the hinterland out there toward our beloved mountain. Mizu enriches our lives with her art and family stories and her thoughtful quiet way brings a special grace to our neighborhood. Lorraine, sweet Lorraine (this is where you have to imagine I can insert a YouTube of Frank Sinatra), brings us music, balance, keeps us safe from the wee buggies and occasionally shares glimpses of her remarkable life. And Joseph. Joseph keeps us real, reminding us that love is all we need, that "we all need someone to lean on."

Today I reached out to Joseph via cyber space and he did me a huge favor. At ten thirty last night my phone rang here in Ilwaco. It was a dear friend in Gig Harbor phoning to say that in a few hours she was going to have a triple by-pass. A life-long diabetic who is losing her sight, she also has difficulty tolerating anesthesia and nearly died from a previous surgery. She was calling to say goodbye, just in case. She told me she felt lucky to have lived with her disease for forty-plus years and that regardless what happened everything would be fine. This amazing little woman wanted a family and so against doctors advice had two sons who are nearly grown. When her sister died she took in her niece to keep her out of the foster care system. I felt like she still has work to do.

I went to bed praying that she’d survive the surgery and see her children to adulthood. Being 150 miles away when someone you love is ill is hard although I know my being there would not make anything any better. Then I remembered where my friend was. St. Joseph’s. I emailed Joseph, St. Joseph's chaplin and Blog Squad member, and asked him if he had time to look in on my friend. It was a long surgery. Beginning at 8 AM, she did not come out of surgery until 3 PM. Joseph was not able to see her because she was still unconscious, but he emailed me and that was all I needed—to know that she survived the surgery. That simple act of finding out that she survived the surgery sent relief surging through my body.

Whatever the TNT envisioned for the In Your Neighborhood blog, it has become a neighborhood unto itself. A place where we share ideas and stories, are listened to and validated and, yes, sometimes disagreed with. We are a palette of colors that paint the South Sound.


QUNU, South Africa - Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday Friday
In an interview at his home in rural southeastern South Africa, the anti-apartheid icon was asked if he had a message for the world.

"There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate who have not been able to conquer poverty," Mandela said.

Mandela said he was fortunate to have reached 90, but in the countryside and in the towns "poverty has gripped our people.

"If you are poor, you are not likely to live long," he said.

Mandela was imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against apartheid.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Old Songs, New Dogs, Old Tricks, and New Obsessions

I ended my fourth adult basic ballet lesson at Tacoma’s Jo Emery Ballet School with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. That wasn’t so when I drove to the dance studio. The top of my left foot hurt, my right ankle hurt, and I had a sore back from getting accidentally whacked with a plastic light saber in a faux Star Wars backyard battle earlier that day (don’t ask). I felt sleepy and worn thin.

However, once the music started and I grasped the barre, those aches, pains, and weariness flew out the window. And for the first time, I felt (gulp) a little confidence!

This new ballet dog learned some old tricks this week before class.

Trick #1: Practice. I invested in a ballet conditioning DVD to do at home. The music was perfectly awful (like I’d rather have elevator music pumped into my brain 24/7), the instructor's voice was too breathy, goofy, and too many sugar-coated “you can do its." Though difficult, the exercises did help. And one of the instructor’s mantras helped too: “Smile.” When I got worn out, I smiled and my body bled out all of its tension and strain.

Trick #2: Look like a dancer. My six-year-old daughter wanted to do the DVD practice with me, but she said she had to go to her room and get “ready.” I was a little impatient, because she took forever. She came downstairs in her pink ballet tutu, glitter on her arms, lip gloss, jewels, and her pink ballet slippers. She looked over at me (wearing a ratty t-shirt and shorts) and said, “I look like a dancer. You don’t.” And I tell you, that child watched the DVD focused, eager, and interested. I don’t have much of a dancer’s wardrobe, but I can have a dancer’s attitude. Confidence! Pride! Grace! Feeling Beautiful!

Trick #3: Get obsessed! My fellow dancer Fay told me that when she started dancing, she got obsessed FAST and that’s what made it so fun. I didn’t realize that I got obsessed until I received my “Ballet for Dummies” guide from Amazon. While I hate the moniker of the Dummy and Idiot’s Guide series, the book is actually easy, clear, and pretty cool. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it to learn and practice with. You know, isn’t it true when you find something new you really like, it’s so much fun to immerse yourself. That’s the best part!

Trick #4: Be a child. My spunky teacher Jo played some classic children’s songs to try out with our class (she is coming up with a new repertoire for the young dancers). I loved it. I was humming and singing along, the beats and melodies were easier to follow when I danced and moved, and by the time “Farmer in the Dell” starting playing, I felt like a little kid goofing around on a midsummer’s night in the backyard. This kind of magic should get bottled and doled out as prescription medicine for us adults.

Trick #5: Yeah, I fouled up a bunch of steps, spun too much, too hard, and without focus and crashed into a fellow dancer. But you know, I got some stuff right though. So, when I came home I demonstrated some “moves” for my husband (he put on The Who for background music and inspiration). He applauded wildly and said I was really “good.” I smiled, did a curtsy, and we celebrated with gin and tonics.

Could it be? Could it really be? A teeny tiny hint of improvement? Growth?

Whatever it is, it's cool.

Stay tuned at Gritty City Woman ( In The Neighborhood for more to come.

"Game On" opens in September on 6th Avenue

A new sports bar is soon to join the mix on 6th Avenue. The former location of El Jimador, 6409 6th Avenue, will be home to a restaurant and bar called "Game On" featuring big screen TVs and interior decor with a sports theme. New owners are updating the exterior with new signage and a fresh coat of paint. "Game On" will open in September.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Northwest Ravens

Friday night my friend Gigi took me to the Northwest Ravens' drum circle practice, held at Bremerton High School. If you have not heard of this wonderful group, I strongly urge you to check them out at
Sharon Byerly, an Alaskan Aleut and leader of the troupe, welcomed me so warmly, as did all the women in this delightful and diverse circle. Their goal is to open doors between world cultures through entertainment and education. They drum, sing and dance, knowing this weaves throughout generations and the world, knowing their repertoire of songs, legends and drumming are a vital part of the Native American Culture. In February of this year, they went to Taiwan to perform, were well-received and hope to go again next year. The Raven Sisters each handcrafted their drums in the traditional NW style, through drum-making workshops led by Sharon and her father, Larry Gifford. If you've ever wanted to build your own drum, contact Sharon at

Ooh-la...there's a reason we've been bangin' out rhythms since the first noise was made. My hand-drum was made for me by a young man years ago, with animals silhouetted around the edge in blue, and a coyote paw-print in red. It has a deeper tone than a lot of the smaller hand drums. I like that...the chest rhythm instead of cerebral higher tones. You begin to beat the basic time...and a vibration begins, first in the hand that holds the drum....then up the arm, through the shoulder and into the heart...which begins to match the rhythm....then it fills your head and body, as if you truly become the vibrating, pulsing drum itself. This is prayer for petitioning...just entering the space between the atoms...connecting us and creation with an acceptance of the dance, of the One-ness of All.

Have you ever danced as if the earth was a drum? Have you circled and pounded your heels...said to hell with your knees and bent low with the rhythm...rushing other dancers for a primal encounter, recognizing wide-eyed each other's separate sameness as you danced through one another's heartbeat? Woven within is the entire story of our rise from the earth, though our feet pound to be let back in. For nearly three hours we drummed, danced, sang and shared with each other.

One absolutely breath-taking surprise was an impromptu performance of a ribbon dance by Natacha Sesko. Natacha is a petite Chinese grandmother of boundless energy and connection. As she began, with her long pink ribbon bunched-up into a bouquet of fabric flowers, the grandmother left and she suddenly became this enchanting, coquettish and fluid young maiden. Next thing I knew, ribbons were dancing around her like light beings and I was in tears watching her beauty and grace.

I was honoured to teach the circle a new song...taught to me by a wonderful Creek man, Jim Pepper, who fused his childhood tribal songs with his love for jazz and his mistress, the saxophone. In turn, I began to learn new songs...always like chocolate in my mouth. So many times in the evening, I looked over and connected with Gigi, my dear friend, hoping my face was as shining a beacon as hers.

There is no more complete a tiredness than when you have beaten, sung, danced, sweated and shed the toxins and trials of everyday living. I slept soundly that night, with sweet dreams of the Grey Wolf and the lodge of women. I am deeply grateful to the Northwest Ravens, now my sisters too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I (Heart) 6th Ave.!

6th Ave., Tacoma icon, purveyor of cool, pretty gritty city jewel, I am madly in love with you. I mean, I’ve SUPER liked you for awhile, but now I am IN love with you.

My fave restaurants in the whole city live there. I like the shops, the vibe, the energy, the mixture of our Gritizens.

This Sunday’s “Art on Ave.” festival was groovy. I liked the booths, the weirdness, and the energy of this festival. It was hot times in the city and I swear, every district, every ‘burb, every bit of South Sound goodness walked your streets. I strolled back today to take in the 6th Ave. Farmer’s Market. Bravo! You can literally buy your entire meal and your meal experience (veggies, fruits, cheeses, hummus, meats, seafood, flowers, and desserts). I liked the turnout and the buzz. My only concern, Dear Avenue is that the fact that folks were crossing against the light on 6th and Pine to get to the market (ala Las Vegas style at times, where the peds think they rule) and car drivers were running the red light at that same intersection. Fix this, my love. You don’t want anyone hurt. Safe and fun, right, Baby?

So safely across Pine Street, my daughter and I picked up fresh raspberries, zucs, and shaved ice treats and wandered through your home like welcomed guests. We popped over to the Primo Grill for a little mother-daughter early dinner time. Primo is your heart, 6th Ave. This is the restaurant that kicked it all off, in my gritty opinion. This long time 6th Ave. staple, with their rockin’ kids menu, their “dinner before dusk” extravaganza, and cool artwork, proved to be affordable, fun, and totally delicious. AGAIN.

So, sweetheart, how about date next week, hmm? Let’s meet at the Farmer’s Market and hoof it up to Posh Home for me to oogle the framed South American butterflies, sweet lamps, and slick jewelry.

I promise to wear something great and bring a smile.


I was waiting for my ride to Portland last weekend, and all of a sudden, the beauty around me stopped me and invited me to let go of my concerns and attend to the beauty of:

The plants

Mount Rainier

The birds singing, Rainier splendidly decked out, and cars and trucks moving quickly along at the beginning of the day... All so very, very wonderful

Monday, July 14, 2008

Escape to the Long Beach Peninsula

A Review from My Porch
If Hawaii and Mexico are not on your program this summer, but you’d still like to get out of town, consider the Long Beach Peninsula. This long finger of land that runs parallel to the Washington coast is located where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean with Willapa Bay on its eastern side. Approximately 25 miles long (21 of which can be walked) and about 3 miles across at its widest point, the Long Beach Peninsula has a rich history as a haven from city life in Portland and Seattle and the home of a once thriving fishing and oyster industry. Even Lewis and Clark slept here.

The Victorian and Cape Cod architecture of many of the old homes in the little towns that make up the Peninsula make it more picturesque than Ocean Shores. It takes a little longer to get here, but it’s worth the drive so if you can afford a tank of gas this summer and the sea calls to you, consider a trip to the edge of the world, or as a friend of mine likes to say, “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.”

From the fishing town of Ilwaco at the Southern end of the Peninsula to historic Oysterville at the Northern tip, there are plenty of activities on the Long Beach Peninsula from sandcastle building to kite flying. There are museums and interpretive centers, two lighthouses (although I believe Cape Disappointment is now closed to the public), historic Ft. Columbia where there is a hostel and museums and old gun emplacements to enchant history buffs and children and a terrific view. There’s charter boat fishing and horseback riding and, of course, miles and miles of beach to play on.

A visitor’s accommodations will be effected by who all will be in the party, what activities are of interest, and how luxurious the accommodations need to be. Are you coming to be part of the throng or do you seek an escape that includes solitude? A check of the Long Beach Peninsula website will give you some ideas of whether a hotel, motel, or cottage will best suit you. Do you want to be in the thick of things in Long Beach, the Peninsula’s largest town, or do you seek some peace and quiet away from the crowd? Ocean Park or Kilpsan might better suit you. There are also a few privately own vacation cottages which are rented out by the night and week.

Our family has been associated with the Long Beach Peninsula part and fulltime since the 1800s. Here are some of my tips:

If you’re traveling with children that will want to swim pick a place with a pool. Please don’t let them swim in the ocean. If they want to wade in the ocean take them to Ft. Canby State Park. There is a cove there that offers some protection from the serious undertow, but even at that I have seen the Coast Guard come into shore with a bullhorn telling people to not swim past the breakers. If the tide is going out you’ll be on your way to Japan.

If you want to save some money find a place with some sort of cooking facilities. Eating three meals in a restaurant will quickly make a dent in your pocket book. If you want to eat breakfast out I have two recommendations: the Castaways in Long Beach and Laurie’s Homestead in Seaview. Both have excellent service. Laurie’s has the most extensive menu imaginable for breakfast, but sometimes the lines are long and they don’t take reservations. Castaways is relatively new and my own little secret when it comes to getting seated for breakfast. If you like a little more upscale breakfast try the 42nd Street Café in Seaview. It’s across the street from Laurie’s, has excellent food (more pricey than Laurie’s) and somewhere inside to wait which is a decided advantage if it’s raining.

If you want the best view while dining eat at the Light Ship on top of the Edgewater in Long Beach. It is on the beach and the food is good, especially the chowder. Best gourmet dining, is the 42nd Street Café in Seaview. The best deal is Chen’s Chinese in Long Beach. The Cottage Bakery in Long Beach makes killer sandwiches, pastries and clam chowder.

Things you need to see: North Head Lighthouse (my personal favorite spot in my limited exposure to the universe), Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, Ft. Columbia, Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum, and all the houses in Seaview.

Word of caution: if you have a heavy left foot (which is hard on the pocketbook these days) when you get near to Raymond, ease up on the accelerator. “Give the tourist a ticket” is a favorite sport of not only the WA State Patrol, but the Pacific County Sheriff. The South Bend Police Department has made it an art form and while the Pacific County Courthouse has a really cool dome, you may not want to have to appear to fight a ticket. Don’t even try. The new variation on the game is “pay us now, don’t get any more tickets in Pacific County for 6 months and the ticket drops off your record; fight the ticket and all bets are off.” Play it safe by driving safe. Don’t speed.

Latitudes of Lavender and a Labyrinth

The View from the Top of a Meadow

For two days my dearest friend and I spent long hot hours going from farm to farm in the Oregon Lavender Festival. We saw some farms which were spectacular, some which were little mom & pop affairs, some with animals such as rabbits, llamas, alpacas or chickens (I was very interested in the chickens, but the big brown eyes of the llamas tugged at my heart). We bought lavender, we ate lavender, we lived lavender and logged something near 400 miles.

I comfort my conscious regarding the energy spent going to half of the farms considered part of the tour in the knowledge that my friend would have gone with or without me and that neither of us are driving elsewhere for an extended vacation this year. It was not exactly a staycation, but considering that we came back to Mt. Angel each night for her it was not a vacation and for both of us it was soul refreshing—especially our last stop on this lavender journey.

In a sense we unwittingly saved the best for last. My tour director and driver had debated the wisdom of going to Latitudes of Lavender since it was halfway to the beach in Forest Grove. We were hot and weary from some wrong turns (which included a nude beach on Sauvie Island) and the necessity of availing ourselves of some decrepit port-a-potties. Although the weatherman had promised cooler temperatures for Sunday, he must have had his head in the port-a-potty because it was every bit as hot as Saturday, but without the benefit of the breeze of that day.

Not only was Latitudes of Lavender located in the opposite direction of home, once we found the turn off it was five miles up a one lane winding gravel road. It was 4:30 and the tour was to end at 5. What would be there when we arrived? We speculated on how anyone could grow lavender in the midst of so many trees. Finally we reached our destination and pulled into a pasture through a pole fence. We obviously were the last to arrive for the day…for this year’s festival.

The first striking thing about the place was the silence. Being so far from town and traffic there was only the sound of nature and the forest that surrounds two meadows of lavender. We walked down the slope to an awning where three people sat in the shade quietly talking.

There are those moments when one recognizes kindred spirits. Ann and Greg McKernan are two lovely welcoming souls who consider themselves the stewards of their eleven acres of forest and lavender. They do not have a shop with lavender products or ambitions to earn a living from their place—just to make the place pay for itself. What they have is peace.

Immediately Ann handed us a sheet about their labyrinth which lies at the bottom of their meadow near the trees and Greg invited us to walk around the lavender fields, the meadow and the trails through the woods, telling us that when we returned he’d have bundles of lavender for us. Because of the heat the woods are what called us so we walked down the hill to look at the large labyrinth and then to walk in the shade of the Doug Firs whose lower branches have been cut away to make for easy wandering. “This would make a wonderful place for a retreat house,” my friend commented.

Had the day not been in the 90s both of us would have enjoyed spending a long time walking the labyrinth. Instead we enjoyed the shade of the forest and drank in the silence. When we hiked back up the hill, true to his word, Greg had two huge bundles of lavender, free of charge, waiting for us. We chatted with the couple for several minutes and mentioned the idea of using the place as a spiritual retreat. They both brightened at the idea and said that although they’ve had some weddings there, they were taking ideas for expanding the use of the place.

Latitudes is located at 1,300 feet which coupled with the cold Spring this year meant that the lavender was only just coming into bloom, about a week behind the farms we’d been to lower down. The McKernans assured us that in another week their meadows would be purple and urged us to return, but our celebration of lavender was drawing to a close.

As we drove back down the dusty gravel road, ending our lavender weekend, we took some of the peace we’d found at Latitudes of Lavender. We were to need it since we managed to get caught on I-5 in the back-up of a serious accident as we headed toward Mt. Angel. Fortunately there was still lemonade and cookies in the cooler so we put down the windows and shut off the car and said silent prayers for the injured who was Life Flighted away from the scene to Portland. We were only stuck for about half an hour and were grateful to return to Mt. Angel, food and a shower.

Our weekend of lavender had been full of adventure, surprises, and laughter. If you love lavender or just want to spend time in a pretty part of the world, Oregon’s Lavender Festival could take you on a lovely tour.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eric Coody welcomes guests like friends and family at Puyallup Skipper's

Most of the Skipper’s locations around the region closed following the corporation’s bankruptcy; however, restaurants owned by franchisees were not affected. In the waning months before the closures at Westgate, Pacific Avenue, and Bridgeport Way staffing, food service, and overall conditions in the restaurants were in marked decline.

We recently marked my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary (same day). His mother, who is disabled, 75 years old, and on dialysis, wanted to celebrate the occasion(s) by treating us to lunch at Skipper’s following a nearby medical appointment, in Puyallup. The Puyallup restaurant is owned by a franchisee.

Skipper’s in Puyallup was a uniquely wonderful and remarkable dining experience. Instead of a standardized, disinterested, robot-like, rote greeting at the ordering counter, literally the moment we stepped through the door into the restaurant, the man behind the counter called out to us, welcoming and greeting us in the friendliest, genuine, inviting manner. It made us feel like we were family. His name is Eric Coody. Eric manages the Puyallup Skipper’s at 1420 East Main. What a treasure he is as a manager!

The hospitality and graciousness Eric lavishes on each guest makes each person feel as if they are at home, dining among friends and family. He is the quintessential host. He made his way around to visit with the people at each table and booth, chatting about their families, the last time they were in, et cetera.

The fish fillets were gigantic, cooked to absolute perfection with a nice light breading, and hot, hot, hot. The fries were real potatoes, long, thick, fresh-cut, and almost on fire they were so hot! Wow! What a difference from so many other places where they serve fries at room temperature at best. These were amazing! What a treat! The clam chowder was out-of-this-world! I like extra crackers with mine and Eric loaded up the tray with a mile-high pile of saltines. (When I asked for a second bowl of the yummy chowder, he asked me right away if I’d like more crackers! I’m embarrassed to admit that I said ‘yes’ and he gave me twice as many as the first time! Over the top!) Even the coleslaw was as fresh as can be.

Eric Coody worked the whole restaurant as if it were the dining room and family room in his own home with extended family gathered for a meal on a summer day. He was good natured about even letting me snap his picture as he chatted with one of the guests. He should write a book or teach a course on how to provide the ultimate in customer service, making each person feel important, welcome, and oh so special. I thanked him profusely for creating such a special, welcoming experience for us that day. It was a pleasure just to watch him work as he made his way around the dining room visiting with each guest.

If each of the Skipper’s locations had had someone like Eric Coody as a manager, I think they’d all still not only be in business, but their business would be thriving. This young man / young manager has a tremendous future and I wish him abundant success. He is a blessing to the community he serves. When you’re in Puyallup, stop by Skipper’s on East Main and experience what the ultimate in customer service can really be.

Lavender Escape

The View from the Fields

If you’re trying one of the new “staycations” this year and next year feel flush enough to go a bit further afield you might want to try the Oregon Lavender Festival. The thirty-odd lavender farms are located south and east of Portland and while it would be difficult to see them all even in two days time, a leisurely drive through the Oregon countryside and walks amongst the lavender can certainly be a balm to the spirit provided one has brought plenty of liquid refreshment, a hat, and sun screen. The temperatures down here in Oregon got to as high as 102.

Having a friend who lives in the area is certainly a boon so Friday I arrived in Mt. Angel, Oregon to begin our lavender weekend with dinner at Mt. Angel’s Glockenspiel Restaurant. Since she is providing the bed and doing the driving, the least I can do is provide for our food so after a wonderful German repast we got plenty of sleep to begin our lavender adventure.

If you're in downtown Mt. Angel at 7 PM you can be treated to the music and action of the glockenspiel from which the restaurant gets its name.

On Saturday we visited five farms. Some we gave points to as to cuteness, beauty, and difficulty to find. One was up a one lane gravel road and proved not to be worth the drive. It will be crossed off the list for future tours, but hey, you can’t know if you don’t give it a go, right?

We started out at the actual festival at Yamhill as well as the Wayward Wind Lavender Farm store which is located in Yamhill. The sniffing and cooking had begun. The farms offer lavender products and lavender food. We had cookies made with lavender, lavender lemonade, and lavender sorbet. Finally I was sugared out and we dined on a picnic lunch we’d brought from home at a table provided by the farm.

We arrived back in Mt. Angel tired from the heat and dirty from our days adventure and very, very relaxed from all the lavender. And the fun is not over. The tour of lavender farms runs though Sunday.

Friday, July 11, 2008


Let me take you through a brief review of what I thought I needed in different phases of my life. I offer this to you to stimulate your own thinking about what you need today to support you in serenely and joyfully living each moment of every day.

As a child I needed
1. to be held lovingly and kept safe by the adults in my life
2. to tear things apart and put them back together
3. to win in the games I played with my friends

As a teenager I needed
1. to get through every class without failing
2. to spend time with my buddies
3. to hold the hand of the girl with whom I had fallen in love

As a young adult I needed
1. to find a way I liked to provide food, shelter, and affirmation in the world
for myself
2. to find someone whom I love and who would love me
3. to find a reason for living

As a middle age adult I needed
1. to spend time with people who would support me in sharing my gifts and myself
2. to learn how to let go of my fear, guilt, anger, frustrations, resentments, and failures
3. to accept my limits, my aging, my dying

I now think that this is what I need now:
1. to listen to, understand, and accept each person who comes into my life
2. to support other people in leading meaningful and healthy lives
3. to accept that I and all I care about will, soon, no longer be alive

In my work as a hospital chaplain I have come to admire deeply family members and friends who support their loved ones who are sick or dying. I have found that without my family and friends I doubt that I could face serious illnesses or my own death.

This afternoon I stopped by one of the waiting rooms where family members and friends wait for their loved ones who are, for a few hours, being treated for some sickness. I focused in on a few items in the waiting room that had been provided to help friends and family get through those hours. Here are some of them:

Small tokens that welcomed them

Refreshing drinks

Tasty tidbits

Just a few simple things set aside by caring volunteers people to support families and friends who were waiting to see their loved ones after their treatments had been completed...
Isn't what we really need is to love and be loved...

Movie Memories

The View through My Father’s Lens and a Sentimental Yearning

Nostalgia is defined as "a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time."

I have already owned here to being a pack rat from a line of pack rats who can get maudlin over old telephone numbers. So getting family 16 mm home movies transferred to DVD is a no brainer for me. I’ve got seven inch reels of film. Many American families following WWII engaged in various methods of preserving the growth of children and family fun either in 8 or 16 mm movies or 35 mm slides.

When my father died in 2002 my step-mother gave me the twelve cans of 1950s film. I took them to Ritz here in Gig Harbor, but there was one thing I wanted that they couldn’t do. Back in the 1980s I’d had two reels of home movies put on VHS and they’d included a geeky sound track. My oldest son came up with the idea of having the sound track be the sound of an old 16 mm projector. I loved the idea. To be able to sit and watch those old movies and hear the sound of the projector would be divine. Talk about memory lane. So the cans went back into the box and my husband stowed them next to my armoire in the bedroom for six years. He would like to have put them in the garage, but I wouldn’t let him.

Last night the bug bit me again and I started snooping around the Internet trying to find someone who could do what I want. I emailed the first site I visited and came up empty handed. Over dinner I told my husband that I wasn’t going to give up so I started emailing other likely looking website and got someone who actually sounds excited about what I want.

So now I’m waiting for the damage estimate, but I’ve decided that it’s not going to get any cheaper so I will bite the bullet and do it. I will keep the Neighborhood posted on my success. I’m sure there are other Baby Boomers out there with home movies that are deteriorating as I write. If you’ve got those slides or home movies sitting in a closet, consider getting them put on DVD before they disintegrate.

Film at eleven.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Silence Is Golden

I sat out on the back deck of the Aerie very early the other morning, silent and still in the dewy dawn. The only man-made sounds were the cars that wind up the Key Peninsula Highway towards the city, work, and the bustle of the two-legged world. I let that sound and thought go while opening myself to the beginning of this natural day.

I love the early hours, after my husband leaves for Tacoma and before my daughter wakes up. I'm a lone wolf by nature and crave the sweet solitude to balance my inner Medicine Wheel. As I sipped my tea, I thought of Stephanie's post on silence...and the truth of her statement about the encroachment of loneliness for many within quiet reflection. Cut off from other people, they feel separate and abandoned...quickly reaching to pull company in through the radio, television, computer, or telephone.

Violet-green swallows began to quickly pen long and graceful prose on the golden haze above me, finches and sparrows the entering and exiting punctuation. A wee Anna's Hummingbird breakfasted on the butterfly bush not two feet from my left shoulder, a little colour-commentary. The sunlight began to pour into Joe's Bay like the tide, painting its oro aura around a Great Blue Heron that perched in the bare top branches of a giant maple. I'm often more lonely in a crowd of people than I am here, in the company of my wild relations and my self.

Our place in nature...and the silence...holds so much communication beyond stilted words, beyond the static of electronic waves. Here, the forgotten language of intent and connection opens doors to neglected rooms of the heart, mind and spirit. In this silence the wild ones come. In this silence I greet my wild self as a small but integral part of a bigger whole.

My eyes had closed with these last thoughts but now, heightened senses told me of a new presence in the garden. Slowly I opened my eyes and stared straight into the amber eyes of a beautiful buck. His four-point, velvety antlers shone olive and gold as a crown upon his head. A few feet from him stood a doe, chestnut in the coating sunlight. Relaxing, they resumed their tango around the garden, he with his stiff-legged approach, she with flirtatious high kicks.

In solitude I am gifted with sunlit company. In my own silence I am gifted with the symphony of a new turning of the earth. In the blue-lit pyramid of my heart, mind and spirit are all these connections that save me from the noise of Mankind's fears, that call me from my sleeping self into another day's dance.