Monthly Archives: April 2011

Community Garden Summit: Tacoma Rocks

Last Saturday I attended the 2nd Annual Community Garden Summit, not knowing what to expect, because I missed the first one. The event made me even prouder to be a Tacomaite than I already was.

First it was totally free – from the workshops to lunch to the vegetable starts we were given at the end of the day. We were welcomed by our mayor, Marilyn Strickland, who told us that the number of community gardens (sometimes called pea patches) per capita in Tacoma has now surpassed those in Seattle.

We had a vast array of workshops to choose from during the day, such as composting, edible flowers, vermiculture, trellising, planting a food bank garden and much more. I chose to attend square foot gardening, container gardening and polycultures and perennial plantings.

The information on polycultures that Kelda Miller of Sustainable Tacoma Pierce gave out sounded really good to me, so I’m going to try it in my raised bed. Basically what polycultures means is that you grow plants together that complement each other in growth habit, nutrient uptake and water harvesting so that they actually care for each other. I’m going to try the four-season polyculture.


We actually planted a garden like this at the event so I got hands-on experience. Other vegetables and flowers can be used, but this is what I’ve chosen to plant. First you broadcast radish seeds in your bed, then daisy seeds which become beneficial insect attractors, next comes bush bean seeds for a nitrogen fix and last is carrot seeds for the carrot roots. Then you cover the whole mix of seeds with soil.

The idea is that all the seeds germinate at different times and grow at different rates, so you have constant crops through the fall. I’ll let you know how it works. It sounds quite easy, but I’m a very novice gardener.


Tip:  I just heard about a new web site today that is a luxury lifestyle magazine for Seattle. The publication is Seattleite. You might enjoy it – I know I did.

Ukulele Teacher Works Out of Consignment Shop

You wouldn’t expect to find ukuleles for sale in a plus-size consignment shop, but that’s exactly what’s going on at Queen’s Closet in Lakewood. Ray Alonzo Sr. gives ukulele lessons and sells instruments as well as any supplies you might need to play it and his wife, Sandy, runs the consignment shop. I sat down with Ray Alonzo to find out more about his thriving business. Here’s what he said.

Ray Alonzo Sr. with one of many ukeleles

What brought you to Tacoma?

Ray:  My wife and I met when we both lived in Hawaii. When I joined the military, I was stationed at Fort Lewis and Sandra found a job with Pierce County. Sandra frequently shopped at Queen’s Closet when it was located on Tacoma Avenue, so when  the owner asked if she wanted to buy the business, she jumped at the chance.

How do you happen to sell ukuleles in the consignment store?

Ray:  I’ve played the ukulele for years now. People began inquiring about learning to play Hawaiian music so I offered my place at Queen’s Closet and it kind of morphed into both teaching and playing the ukulele there.

I needed to stay close to Sandra’s business because I do all the computer tasks and everything on the honey-do list.

What else do you sell besides ukuleles?

Ray:  I give private and group lessons Wednesdays through Saturdays and we sell all the accessories like tuners, music stands and more.

What is Monday Ukulele Ohana?

Ray:  Ukulele players get together and practice every Monday. We started with four or five people and now it’s grown to more than 70. One woman even comes all the way from Spokane, although she comes just once a quarter. I teach the first hour (5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) then we have a potluck, and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. we have a song circle. People bring in music and if we can, we play it. If we can’t, then we learn it.


Is learning to play the ukulele a popular trend right now?

Ray:  I see a lot of teens taking up the ukulele and I’ve also gotten inquiries from school programs who want to buy ukuleles, so yes it is.

How long have you been playing the ukulele?

Ray:  I started when I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and played at church. I continued to pluck away and fell in love with the instrument so my mom bought me one. Learning wasn’t formal then, so I picked it up by ear – I hear the sound and progression of the chords. I’m basically self-taught.

Please tell me a little more about Queen’s Closet.

Ray:  Our store is for the community. We keep items on the floor for 90 days and if they haven’t sold by then we donate them to the Purdy Correctional Facility or Washington Women’s Employment & Education. Nothing ends up in the landfill. We also have consigners who bring items here to be sold and they give all that money to a charity.

Queen’s Closet is located at:  9614 40th Ave. S.W. in Lakewood. You can reach Ray or Sandra at:  253-475-9576.

Sure Signs of Spring

Daffodil Princesses

The weather isn’t always the best indicator of spring in the Pacific Northwest. So I have my own personal signs that the season has begun. The first is when I see a pair of tennis shoes strung of the overhead wires – I wish I could see the teens while they attempt this fete. Second, is the smell of backyard barbecuing and my third tell is the start of neighborhood parades. Parade season, if you will, has officially launched.

Yesterday we watched the Daffodil Parade as more than 100 entries walked, marched, danced and played musical instruments along the parade route on Main Street in Sumner.                             

Kita and Elias taking in the parade

This parade is the only one in the country that travels to four different cities on the same day. First, the parade travels along Pacific Avenue in Tacoma, then it moves to Puyallup, from there to Sumner and the last leg is in Orting.

Clowns, pirates, horses, cars, bagpipers, marching bands and buses filled the streets of the different Pierce County communities to the delight of children of all ages. Parade entries came from as far as Penticton, British Columbia and Astoria, Oregon. Of course, as the name indicates, the floats were adorned with bright yellow daffodils and daffodils were passed out to the parade goers. The festival atmosphere almost has to make you smile. 

A friendly Seafair pirate

Upcoming parades in 2011 include:
May 7: Washington State Apple Blossom in Wenatchee
May 21: Rhododendron Festival in Port Townsend
May 28: Ski to Sea in Bellingham
June 4: Farmer’s Day in Lynden
June 18: Berry Dairy Days in Burlington

July 4: Independence Day celebration parades in Blaine, Everett, Sedro Woolley and Tumwater
July 16: Capital Lakefair Twilight in Olympia

Does your community have a unique parade? I would love to hear about it.

Bed Bug Frenzy

I’m getting ready to take a trip and stay in two different hotels. Bed bugs won’t stop skittering through my mind. What’s a traveler to do?


Did you know there is a Bed Bug Registry? Yes, the little critters sign up for the cool gifts they want for wedding presents. Not really. It lists places where bed bugs have been reported. One of my hotels has a clean bill of health while the other one’s history is a bit murkier.

So, what can I do to make sure my hotel room isn’t infested?, my go-to health advice site, says bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a health hazard, but you still don’t want them around. They do like to take up residence in beds, but they can also be found in picture frames, headboards, upholstered furniture, and baseboards.

The good news is most hotels are not invested and you don’t have anything to worry about. To make sure:

  • Place your suitcase off the ground on the luggage holder provided
  • Leave it zipped unless you are taking an item out or putting one back in
  • Pull back the blankets, sheets and mattress pad, looking for dark spots (bug feces) and if you find something, ask for a new room – if it’s dark, use a flashlight
  • Look for blood spots or live insects in the seams, cracks, and crevices of the mattress, box spring, and other furniture
  • Upon returning home, keep your luggage in an isolated area and wash all your clothes in hot water and a use a hot dryer to avoid bringing the bugs into your home


Here’s an article written by Doug Brown of the Denver Post, which goes into the bed bug problem in depth –

Hopefully, we’ll all sleep tight now and not wake up to any kind of bites.