Monthly Archives: October 2010

Washington Boasts Fantastic Children’s Book Authors

Our state seems to attract artists of all kinds, but especially writers or at least that’s the art I know the most about. Last night 18 authors and illustrators gathered at Park Place Books in Kirkland to present “The Inside Story” on their newest releases. Each presenter was give 2 ½ minutes to tell the story behind the story of what they’d written and had published. This event was presented by the Western Washington chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Below I’ve revealed some of their insights in case you want to buy and read these books. Some haven’t been released yet, but most have.

I overheard two members of the audience talking about how they would rather read children’s books than some of the books for adults out there because the children’s authors do a better job of engaging the reader. I heartily agree.

Picture Books

A Bedtime for Bear by Bonnie Becker continues the saga of a grumpy bear and a cheerful mouse and the series now comes with a cuddling stuffed toy.

New to Seattle, Maggie Smith has penned Christmas with the Mousekins just in time for the holidays – how does a mouse family prepare for Christmas?

Illustrator Kevan J. Atteberry said drawing monsters in Frankie Stein Starts School by Lola M. Schaefer, makes his job fun and though friends and relatives don’t find Frankie frightening enough, he is his own kind of scary.

Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson gives some much-needed realism to the Haitian earthquake disaster so it doesn’t get relegated to a news item that’s forgotten after a couple of days.

While J. Elizabeth Mills was riding a Metro bus in Seattle, the idea for The Spooky Wheels on the Bus was conceived. It started with, “what if the bus was haunted?”

Kathryn Thurman’s sister once brought home a pig for a pet and that sparked the initial idea for A Garden for Pig, which took more than five years to become a published book.

Every time Erik Brooks saw wrapping paper or greeting cards with polar bears and penguins together, he marveled at how inaccurate that was – they didn’t live together. So this Winthrop author finally used the topic as fodder for Polar Opposites.

Early Readers & Chapter Books

When her contractor quit in the middle of building her dream home, illustrator Liz Callen took solace from and immersed herself in the pictures in Wolf Pie – a story about the three Pygg brothers.

While explaining the back story for Zelda and Ivy: The Big Picture, Laura McGee Kvasnosky strummed the ukulele and sang about her own family.

Stay tuned for Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels by local authors.

Spending Time at the Pacific Science Center, Eating at the Crab Pot

Butterflies indulging at the Tropical Butterfly House in the Pacific Science Center

Dinner at the Crab Pot on Seattle's waterfront

I worked at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the one Elvis Presley visited and President John F. Kennedy opened. If I told you more about how young I was then, those that are good at math might figure out my age. Just know, I was there and that event marked a lot of history for Seattle.

Century 21, as the Fair was called, created several new venues that still stand today. The most iconic is the Space Needle, but what was then called the Science Pavilion also stands and is now the Pacific Science Center. The Bubbleator, a see through elevator, sits in a residential yard in Des Moines, or at least it did a few years ago. We are totally into recycling here.

But this post is about the Science Center, which until last week-end, I hadn’t visited for several years. In that time it has blossomed into a very hip and cool place for the entire family. Was I impressed? Yes, as were all the other members in our party from my two-year-old granddaughter and 11-year-old grandson to my daughter and husband. Everyone found a particular activity or two or three that he or she just couldn’t get enough of.

For Kita, the two year old, Tot Town held her interest for more than an hour, which is unheard of in her little world of moving from one toy to another to the TV to running around all day. She was mesmerized by the water play opportunities and when we did talk her into moving, she drove a car, tried different sized slides and then wanted to repeat the water play.

One of the first words Kita learned was “butterfly” so our main intention for this trip was to visit the Tropical Butterfly House. This exhibit maintains a temperature in the low 80’s, which feels wonderful on a brisk, fall day. My daughter thought she’d move in with her hammock and a Mai Tai.


Butterflies of all sizes and colors fill the room, so much so, that you must be very careful where you step. If you’re one of the chosen ones, a butterfly or two will land on you and you can strut around showing your “adornment” to others. You can view new butterflies emerging in the chrysalis viewing window – these new butterflies are released into the exhibit each morning. What a wonderful hands-on learning opportunity for the entire family.

Also noteworthy, the Mindbender Mansion, a temporary exhibit on site until January 2011, attracts teens and pre-teens, asking them to solve puzzles. Dads might enjoy playing chess with the bigger-than-life-size chess pieces. Then there’s a Harry Potter Exhibit, insects, dinosaurs, sounds and so much more.

A perfect end to a day at the Science Center means a meal on Seattle’s stunning waterfront. At the Crab Pot, your meal is tossed onto white butcher paper and then you select your seafood of choice and attack it with a mallet or gently remove it from the shell. No silverware required. You’re given a bib so as not to tarnish your clothes with fish juice.

Although several Crab Pot restaurants exist, I can’t imagine one with a better view or fresher seafood than the one on Seattle’s Pier 57.

Haunted Happenings in Yakima

I love free, fun activities and here’s one that shouldn’t be missed this month.

Shorty, a stage hand has been caught haunting the Capitol Theatre. Hear all about his handiwork on this tour.

Yakima's Capitol Theatre courtesy of the Yakima Valley Visitors Bureau

The P.A.S.T. is Present Paranormal Investigation Team is offering free guided, narrated walking ghost tours in downtown Yakima. Are the rumors of ghost-like activity on the third and fourth floors of Yakima City Hall actually true? Find out on this tour. Confirmed paranormal activity has been detected in the Yakima Valley Sports Center and The Depot Restaurant.

The Depot Restaurant courtesy of Karl Corpron

Recently published and written by Heather Caro for Yakima Magazine:  “The Depot was built in 1910 by the Northern Pacific Railway to be a focal point for the growing city of Yakima. Over the years, an untold number of people have passed beneath its signature white tiled dome (including a famous traveling hobo who used the pseudonym “A#1” to escape capture by the authorities … his signature is carved into the marble of what is now the ladies bathroom).”

The paranormal investigators who host this tour seek out the truth of spiritual claims by using commonly practiced scientific methods. They rule out all naturally occurring phenomenon, human influence, environmental factors and scientific based processes so what’s left is either inexplicable or paranormal in nature. Since the Yakima-based group formed in August of 2008, they have conducted investigations at private residences, businesses and historic outdoor locations throughout Washington State.

Tours take place each Friday in October at 6 p.m., and Saturdays at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Reservations are requested, but not required. However, a minimum of five people are needed to conduct a tour. To make a reservation, call 509.945.9830.

While you’re in Yakima, visit the Rattlesnake Hills Wine Trail, have a spa treatment, shop or engage in any of the many outdoor activities like fishing, hiking or golfing. Find out more about what’s happening in Yakima at

Val Mallinson, Author of Dog Lover’s Companion Books

Cooper and Isis told Val Mallinson what to put in her books

Today we welcome the premier Northwest dog writer, Val Mallinson, to the blog. If it’s in Washington, Oregon or parts of British Columbia and you can take your dog there, she knows about it. Her books are very handy guides for discovering new and different places to take your furry friends.

How many dogs do you have, what are their names and breeds?

Val:  I have two smooth coat, miniature dachshunds, Cooper and Isis. Both are rescues and collectively known as “The Wonder Wieners.” But, I like to tell people I wrote the book from the perspective of a large, sloppy chocolate Lab, which I’m convinced I was in a former life.

How many Dog Lover Companion books have you written?

Val:  There are three: The Dog Lover’s Companion to the Pacific Northwest, which covers Washington and Oregon from the mountains to the coast and a little bit of British Columbia; The Dog Lover’s Companion to Seattle, which extends from Everett to Olympia and the islands to Issaquah; and The Dog Lover’s Companion to Oregon, which covers, um, Oregon.

The books are so thorough. How long does it take you to write one?

Val:  The first book took two years, full time and then some, from contract to cover. The latest edition, updated in 2009, took about nine months, like a birth – sometimes as uncomfortable as a pregnancy, almost as rewarding.

Do you actually visit all the places you talk about in the book?

Val:  Yes, M’am. Our collective 10 legs, six eyes, and three bodies (sometimes four bodies, if the husband came) have visited every single spot we wrote about.

In Washington State, what are your favorite places to take dogs?

Val:  Our favorite place is always the most recent one we’ve visited! One thing I like about the books is that there’s a “Pick of the Litter” at the beginning of each chapter, giving you the highlights of each region. If forced to choose, I’d have to start with water: Whidbey Island. The dog parks and beaches are great (Double Bluff Beach!!!), the people are so friendly, the picnic food is superb, and it’s so close to Seattle, yet seems a world apart. Second on the list would be mountains: Bellingham/Mt. Baker. Cooper loves a good hike in the woods or around Lake Whatcom on the Hertz Trail. Old Fairhaven has charm, delicious food and great shops and you can take well-behaved pets into most of the boutiques along the four blocks. Finally, Lake Chelan has really captured our interest lately, for the water, mountains, sunny blue skies and (slurp) up-and-coming wine scene. Page 357 of The Dog Lover’s Companion to the Pacific Northwest (TDLCPN) lists seven fabulous wineries where pets are welcome to hang out with you on patios while you wine and dine.

Which lodging facilities in Washington are the most accommodating to dogs?

Val:  Some wonderful spots go out of their way to be as friendly as a Golden Retriever. To name a few, Willows Lodge in Woodinville is the tops; they even have a dog greeter in the lobby. In Seattle, the W Hotel puts the “W” in tail-wagging; they often host Mutt Mixer parties along with CityDog Magazine, and they have a pet package at check-in.

For upscale hotels, try Starwood Hotels . I tell you what, on the cheap, you can’t beat Motel 6—they are reliably dog-friendly, conveniently located, and their website lists all the locations that have recently been updated and overhauled to look quite nice.

What is Washington’s best-kept dog-secret?

Val:  If I told you, I’d have to ki—no wait, different job. Okay, if I’m a dog, I’m going to recommend the ends of the earth at Cape Disappointment State Park on Long Beach Peninsula. The beaches are endless, the hikes are wooded, you often have the place to yourself, and the food and lodging are constantly improving. Hint: Try the Inn at Discovery Coast. Or Guemes Island, page 48 in TDLCPN, but you really have to want to get away from it all.

Visit Fort Worden for a Host of Fun

An appetizer courtesy of Bon Appetit

Fort Worden, in Port Townsend, along with Fort Flagler and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, once guarded the nautical entrance to Puget Sound. Established in the late 1890s, these posts became the first line of defense designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching targets like Bremerton and Seattle. As an aside, I remember my dad talking about Fort Worden where he was stationed for awhile during WWII.

But these forts were never challenged and Fort Worden closed down in 1953. Eventually all three became state parks. The dedication for Fort Worden State Park took place in 1973.

Fort Worden, a 434-acre state park has 80 campsites, 60 picnic sites and holds a place on the list of State and National Register of Historic Places. The old barracks now serve as dorms and the hospital offers meeting space.

Besides offering public recreation, conference facilities, performing arts venues, vacation housing and historic and educational interpretive programs, it’s a darn cool place to visit.

The old Guardhouse has become a Gift Shop and Information Center filled with mementos like shirts, caps, coffee mugs, key chains, magnets, tasteful lighthouse gifts and of course, friendly volunteers. All proceeds from the gift shop go to improve the Park.

If you’re coming to the Fort for a conference or taking a class through Centrum, opt for the meals at Fort Worden Commons. Besides being a bargain at $34 for three meals, you’ll have numerous choices and from the sampling I tasted, the food is off the charts. You can thank Bon Appétit and Chef Jay Payne for the quality and freshness of the food.

Touch tank at Marine Science Center

Visitors can begin at the Guardhouse Gift Shop and navigate a walking trail with interpretive signs through the Fort’s history, which includes bunkers, tunnels and gun emplacements. Kids love to take flashlights inside the bunkers and tunnels and play.

On the beach, you won’t want to miss the Port Townsend Marine Science Center with its large touch tanks and creative geologic history and coastal wildlife displays. You can get up close and personal with a live octopus and an endangered pinto abalone. Hydrophones allow you to hear the sounds Orca Whales emit underwater. The Marine Science Center offers bird migration cruises, summer science camps for kids, nature walks, public programs and lectures. To check for days and times for events, visit

Alexander's Castle is a one-bedroom vacation rental and the oldest buiding at Fort Worden

You can rent the Officer Row homes for your vacation or even as a place to have Thanksgiving dinner if your family is large. Two of the units have been designated pet-friendly.

Enjoy your visit.

Dining on San Juan Island

I am always discovering new places to eat on San Juan Island and on my last trip Public Relations Manager and Film Liaison for the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, Robin Jacobson, introduced me to two I’d never tried before.

Curried egg salad at Market Chef


We lunched at Market Chef, just two blocks from the Friday Harbor ferry terminal. This deli/café and catering company uses local meat and seafood, plus local and seasonal produce from the San Juan Islands. My dining companions both enjoyed salmon chowder, while I savored the curried egg salad. Although the food was extremely high quality, I think it tastes even better when you can sit outside and enjoy the view of the Salish Sea while eating.

Market Chef is located at 225 A Street in Friday Harbor and specialty sandwiches, soups and salad in addition to a variety of baked goods.

Pasta from Hell remains the signature entrée at Vinny’s Ristorante,, even though new owners have taken it over. Because of the change, the recipe might have been altered a little, too, but the dish contains pine nuts, raisins, mushrooms, peppers, habanera and a curry cream sauce and many locals can’t resist ordering it.

I chose the Chicken Napoli, a chicken breast marinated in lemon and rosemary, baked and served with a lemon risotto cake. It was heavenly as was the salmon with berry salsa which included fresh strawberries.

Vinny's Ristorante salmon with berry salsa

Vinny’s is only open for dinner, which begins at 4 p.m.

Looking for a restaurant that offers breakfast on the weekends, lunch and dinner? You’ll see lots of locals at Downriggers, located on the waterfront. Famous for their Northwest cuisine, you can order steaks, seafood, chicken, entrée salads and soup. Lots to choose from.

For the wee ones, there are fish and chips, pasta, a cheese plate and more, plus kids can color on the table cloth because it’s made of paper.

I still have to return to San Juan Island and try the Duck Soup Inn, The Doctor’s Office and many more restaurants as the islands have a reputation for attracting some of the best chefs in the nation.

For more information about dining in the San Juans, visit

This month (October) the islands are hosting “Savor the San Juans,” their third annual movable feast complete with autumn festivals, dining out specials, farm tours and classes.

Tacoma’s Luscious and Laid-back Hotel Murano

Courtesy Hotel Murano, Dante Vases

You’ll notice the glass art Hotel Murano is named for first. Then the luxurious and spacious lobby with a coffee bar that morphs into a cocktail bar in the evening.

Murano, a tiny island situated near Venice, became famous as the glass center where the technique of blowing glass was perfected. Tessa Papas, art curator and an art consultant, helped choose the name of the hotel as well as select the more than $2 million worth of glass art that graces every floor of Hotel Murano. So when the elevator opens, a display case filled with the work of the featured artist for that floor appears.

“I wanted to dedicate each floor to one artist,” says Papas. The public areas feature multiple artists.”

At the hotel entrance, you’re welcomed with a 104-foot glass masterpiece titled “Orizon,” which was created by Costas Varotsos of Greece. Other artists represented throughout the hotel include Dale Chihuly, William Morris, Miriam Di Fiore, Steve Klein, Tobias Mohl, Jessica Townsend and Toots Zynsky. Glass aficionados will want to see all the art and probably take a trip to the nearby Museum of Glass, also.

Exterior of Hotel Murano in Tacoma, courtesy of Hotel Murano

In order to fully enjoy the artistic offerings, spending at night or two at the hotel will give you that opportunity. Guest room amenity’s include IPod docking stations, spiritual menus, a menu of pillow choices in addition to beds with pillow-top mattresses, valet parking, concierge services and 24-hour room service.

Bite restaurant serves delectable Northwest cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve never experienced a bad dish here from the Barcelona omelet for breakfast filled with chorizo and olives to the appetizers served on Thursday evenings. I do need to return and try the bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme donuts.

Savi Day Spa, onsite at the Murano has been voted best day spa by King 5 Evening Magazine viewers two years in a row. Their services include massage therapy, body treatments, foot and hand therapies and waxing.

Designated sixth best hotel in the country by Condé Nast in 2009, Hotel Murano, a Provenance property, is located in downtown Tacoma, close to the museum district, the theatre district, boutique and antique shopping and near the Convention Center.

Did I mention they are also dog-friendly? Their amenities include the right-size pet bed, food and water bowls, treats, a new toy and disposable bags for you-know-what.

Market’s Grisly Ghost Tour

We met at the Gum Wall. I’d heard about the Gum Wall, seen photos of it and thought it sounded cool – until I saw it. The brick wall filled with chewed gum truly is disgusting and ranks as the second most germy place in the world, topped only by the Blarney Stone. However, the Gum Wall draws a lot of tourists – ones who pose close to the wall with their tongues hanging out. I just hope they have other remembrances of Seattle, too.

Penny, our tour guide, introduced herself to the five of us, and gave us a short history of the Gum Wall.  It began in the early 1990’s when people waiting in line to attend productions at the Market Theatre began placing their gum on the wall. They used it to anchor coins to the wall, but the coins were stolen leaving only the gum. No matter how many times it was power washed, people continued to stick gum there, so now they only power wash in front of it.

The Gum Wall is located below Pike Place Market in Seattle, next to the Market Theatre.


Then we were off to hear the details of the hauntings in and around the Pike Place Market which gave me a whole different view of what goes on there. I’m used to buying ultra fresh produce, seafood and other food items, but at night the market gives off other vibes.

In the Market Theatre, they reserve chairs for their ghosts. “Down Under” in the lower level of the Pike Place Market, we were told about the large woman who owned the barber shop there many years ago. She would sing operatic arias to her customers until they fell asleep and then pick their pockets – made a great deal of extra money that way. Then, her health failed, she had a heart attack after closing and the next day, the owner of the store beneath her barber shop found her legs had sticking through his ceiling.

The owner of Grandma’s Attic, a store from the market’s past, used to come to open up in the morning, find the front glass broken and a tea set configured on the floor for a little girl’s tea party.

That’s just a taste of what you can learn on the Market Ghost Tours, which run year round. Voted second best ghost tour in the nation by Trip Advisor, the guided tours are reasonably priced at $15.

By the way, while we were on Post Alley hearing tales of drunken soldiers, my grandson told me he felt heat, a sure sign spirits were present – or is that cold? He also said to call him right away if my photos revealed any orbs. They did not. Maybe I’m too much of a skeptic, but I loved the rich history divulged during the tour – whether the ghosts revealed their presence to me or not.

For more information, visit