Monthly Archives: May 2011

Washington Just Named Best for Bicyclists

The League of American Bicyclists has ranked Washington State as the best in the U.S. for bicyclists. There criteria takes in to account biking legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education and encouragement, evaluation and planning and enforcement.

Yes, biking is very popular here. One of the most scenic routes is the 30-mile loop around Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands Archipelago. Board a ferry in Anacortes for a beautiful ride through the San Juans and debark on Lopez.

Probably our most nationally known race is the Group Health Seattle To Portland Bicycle Classic. This year the 200-mile jaunt, better known as the STP, takes place on July 9 and 10, but alas it’s already sold out. Last year 10,000 bikers took on the trek and the oldest was 87 years old.

Since biking has increased substantially here since 2009, the Washington State Department of Transportation has been engaged in keeping our roads safer for them.

The least bike-friendly state:  West Virginia

CamOcean: A Free Festival Celebrating World Oceans Day

Cabins at Cama Beach State Park

What do “The Home Grown Tomatoes,” beachcombing, wooden boats and Smokey Bear have in common?

You will find out at the CamOcean – World Oceans Day Festival on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island. This sounds like a very good, educational and fun day.

Highlights of the event include more than 30 educational booths, live music by “The Home Grown Tomatoes” and the “Cajun Redhots,” guided nature walks, low tide beach walks, discounted boat and kayak rentals from The Center for Wooden Boats, storytelling, raffles and guest speakers like Bill Dewey from Taylor Shellfish.

You’ll want to be on hand to celebrate all that oceans give to us and learn how we can help these bodies of water by making easy changes in our lives.

Captain Fuzzy Beard will teach you how to talk like a pirate, shake hands with Smokey Bear and hear a short story from the U.S. Forest Service. Join W.S.U. Beach Watchers walking the beach at low tide and learn about the plants and animals that make the shoreline their home.

Arts and crafts for everyone and even raffles. The event of the season for families and it runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Kevin O’Brien: A Favorite Author of Mine

For relaxation, I read thrillers, thrillers and more thrillers. But I’m fussy about what I select. I don’t care for stories that have detectives or agents as the main characters and I’ve found legal thrillers, for the most part, a bit tedious. My attention wanes after just a few courtroom scenes. The ones I like the best have ordinary people as the heroes and heroines.

 

One of my all-time favorite authors in my particular genre has to be Kevin O’Brien who lives in Seattle. Because he talks about places I’m familiar with in his books, it’s not hard to visualize where a scene takes place and that makes the book that much more fun for me.

 

I keep track of what I read in a Word document. This is what I said about “Vicious,” which I gave five stars:  A thriller that kept me enthralled, one that I couldn’t wait to get back to reading and one that surprised me.

And “Final Breath,” which I also gave 5 stars and believe me, I’m very stingy with this perfect rating:  I wanted to be reading this all the time and not taking care of my responsibilities. A reporter and her son are stalked and “heroes” from her stories murdered. The body count was a little high, but the story moved right alone. A high octane thriller at its best.

 

Now, I’m ensconced in his latest “Disturbed,” and I’d really like to go read instead of work, just like with the others.

If you like thrillers, give O’Brien a try.

3 Seattle Blocks, 3 Happy Hours

Today I’m happy to have a guest post from Haley Shapley who blogs at Girl About the World. Here’s what she has to say about happy hours in Seattle:

They say there’s a Starbucks on every block in Seattle, and, well, that’s pretty much true. But a jolt of java isn’t the only beverage you’ll find on every corner — if you’re looking for drinks of a stronger kind or just reasonably priced food (or both), downtown Seattle offers a veritable smorgasbord of happy hours.

The options just along 1st Avenue are boundless. An easy walk from the ferry and not far from the train station, these three picks in a three-block radius will hit the happy hour spot:

McCormick & Schmick's

McCormick & Schmick’s

1st and Spring

Renowned for their happy hour prices, this seafood-serving staple offers up ample selection. The menu rotates regularly; right now, you can get garlic bread or nachos for $1.95, the famed half-pound cheeseburger for just $2.95, smoke salmon and chili verde sliders for $3.95, and thin crust pizza and mussels for $4.95, among other choices. Drinks include a $3.95 Coors Light Pilsner, $5.95 red or white wine, and $6.95 fruity cocktails. The service here is consistently strong, and the price/quality ratio with the food can’t be beat.

Happy Hour food at Boka

Boka Kitchen + Bar

1st and Madison

Tucked into the sleek Hotel 1000, this equally fashionable dining venue wins raves for its truffle fries, which are, in a word, addictive. Equally compelling for the carnivores in the room is the $9 Boka Burger, stacked with Beecher’s cheddar cheese, house-made pickles, onion jam, and a side of those delicious fries. All the plates are $3, $6, or $9, and they have a large array of signature cocktails at a discount ($6 to $9). The Red Carpet, with Ciroc Red Berry, black currant puree, house grenadine, and a lime splash, is especially refreshing.

Contour

 

Contour

1st and Marion/Columbia

A dance club by night, happy hour hot spot by early evening, Contour has one of the widest selections of happy hour choices in the downtown area, with more than 20 dishes to decide among. Indulge in tomato honey basil soup for $2, Mediterranean chicken skewers for $3, Northwest oyster stew for $4, or Gruyere macaroni and cheese for $5. But what really sets Contour apart is its hours — happy hour runs until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9 p.m. on Fridays, so you can enjoy the discounted dishes much longer than elsewhere.

Northwest Trek: Where Everyday is Different

One of my favorite outings has got to be Northwest Trek, our 725-acre wildlife park. On any given day you may spot bighorn sheep, deer, Roosevelt elk, caribou, mountain goats, bison or other animals in their natural habitat. This is not a zoo, by any means.                                            

Instead, you hop on a tram that navigates roads through lakes trails and meadows that are home to more than 200 free-roaming North American animals. You’ll only see the animals that feel like being seen that day. But some of them often block the path of the tram to get a closer look at you.

Every season brings a different look to the landscaping as well as to the animals that might be visible. With spring comes lush greenery and baby animal season, in summer the calves and fawns are much more prevalent, come fall and you’ll hear bugling as that’s considered rutting or breeding season and in winter the place is quiet and even muted should snow decide to fall.

 

Besides the wildlife viewable from the tram, grizzlies, black bears, wolves, bobcats, lynx, cougars, owls and more have taken up residence in some very natural exhibits.

Events ‘r us should be the nickname for Northwest Trek, because something is always going on. Next up is Trek Trails Weekend on June 4 and 5 where they open their newly renovated trail system. Along with that, the staff has come up with a Quest-like scavenger hunt. Follow clues to find letters and when done, unscramble the letters to discover a surprise at the end.

My Favorite Miniature Golf Courses

I love miniature golf. It’s the only kind of golf I’m halfway decent at playing. Maybe it’s because of our weather, but we don’t have some of the dynamic and fun creations other places do in their mini-courses. Below I’ve listed my favorites and some of our best.

Mike n’ Terrys Outdoor Fun Park in Puyallup. They also have go-karts and batting cages.

Riverbend’s 18-Hole Course in Kent with bunkers, water hazards and lights for night play.

 

Icicle Junction Activities Center in Leavenworth offers an 18-hole Bavarian-themed course.

Willows Run in Redmond puts challenges in your path like tunnels and rivers.

Enumclaw Holds Some Luscious Secrets

At a conference I attended recently, Julie Johnson who works for Visit Rainier (the mountain) told me about a plethora of things to do in Enumclaw, which is the last major town (on one of the highways) before you head up to the mountain. You can approach the mountain from several sides.

A true spaghetti critic

With my daughter and grandchildren we set out looking for some of those not-well-known places in Enumclaw. In the past the town has been called “Enumscratch,” it smelled of dill pickles through and through until Farman’s moved its operations and it was home to the King County Fair in mid-July. I never thought of this rural community as a place to spa, sip wine or martinis and shop in boutiques.

Today we discovered two of those places that made the 25-mile ride totally worth it. We liked the choices on the menu posted outside Café Panini (1537 Cole St.) so we decided to lunch there. Fantastic pick. Their Italian cuisine rocked. The minestrone soup was brimming with chunks of vegetables, but also a variety of different meat slivers and pasta. If you choose any of the salads, you can add egg, chicken breast or shrimp, so I ordered the House Pasta Salad with chicken and I was not disappointed. Filled with diced roma tomatoes, black olives, toasted pine nuts and creamy pesto, it soothed my hunger. The portions were large so we had boxes to take home.

Café Panini also has a large selection of homemade pies, created and baked right on the premises. I got a taste of the cherry pie and it was mighty fine. Only one of us had room for pie, so we walked up the street and got some dessert to take home.

Julie had told me Sweet Necessities (1215 Griffin St.) makes their own caramels and I’m a caramel fanatic. And then when they come with coarse sea salt and fresh out of the pan – words fail me. Melt in your mouth seems so mundane and overused – these candies flavored your mouth and glided down like water down a slippery slide.

Sweet Necessities also has more than 100 flavors of loose tea, Kookaburra licorice and Snoqualmie Ice Cream.

Enumclaw has become much more than cowboys and biker bars, although they still have those, too.

Camano Island Coffee Roasters Just Keeps On Giving

In the year 2000 Jeff Ericson created Camano Island Coffee Roasters so he could combine his passion with sustainable practices and responsible purchasing.

In simple terms, that means the company makes darn good coffee and also gives back to the growers. Because Ericson wanted to create change in the world he partnered with Agros International. For every 3-lb. bag of coffee a consumer buys, $1 of that goes to Agros International. Agros, was founded in Seattle in 1982, so that rural Central American and Mexican families could leave poverty behind by purchasing and working their own land.

Agros trains people in their country and when that training is completed lends them money to buy land and then teaches them how to work the land so they can pay back the loan. Many of these people grow coffee, which Camano Island Coffee Roasters buys – but only if their beans meet Ericson’s standards. Otherwise the company helps them sell their coffee elsewhere.

Camano Island Coffee Roasters offers not only a delicious cup, but numerous shopping opportunities and even more shopping during the November-December holidays. Leashed dogs are welcome on the premises. This business is located at:  848 N. Sunrise Blvd. on Camano Island.

You Don’t Have to Leave the FireSky Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona

So far this year the velvety gray draping over us has overstayed its welcome.

The approach to the Kimpton Firesky Resort

Without a single day with 70-degree temperatures in almost 200 days, I jetted out of here to my favorite land of sun, Scottsdale. It had been awhile so I wasn’t sure what that huge orange ball in the sky was, but it sure looked beautiful and radiated some much-needed heat.

When I reserved a room at the Kimpton FireSky before I even left, I knew I would be in for a treat. I was asked to register for the In Touch guest loyalty program. Ho-hum, I thought – more forms to fill out and did anyone really care or use them anyway? Well, Kimpton surely does. The questionnaire asked what type of pillow I liked – firm, soft, feather, foam; where I’d like my room – upper floor, lower floor, near the elevator, corner; and which newspaper I’d like delivered to my door each morning – Wall Street Journal, USA Today or the local paper. Such an easy way to make sure guests were taken care of, yet this had never happened to me or to anyone I know before. Rest assured, all my choices appeared when I arrived, so the form was not filled out in vain.

My Kimpton FireSky experience just kept getting better and better. When I stepped inside the entrance, I found myself in their lobby/living room. Designed as a warm welcoming place to gather with comfy couches and chairs, the lobby resembles a gigantic living room. With the bar at one end, you can pick up a drink or appetizer and take it to a cushy chair to enjoy.

At the front desk, you might be greeted with the resident Cocker Spaniel, if he’s not hunting down treats. He oversees the welcoming of canine guests, which receive just as royal a treatment as human guests.

Taggia, the onside restaurant, offers both indoor and outdoor seating. I enjoyed my first meal in Scottsdale on their patio, which was so relaxing and warm, that I wanted to linger.

Anyone could easily stay at FireSky and never want to leave. With a lagoon, two pools (one with a sandy beach), the Jurlique Spa and well appointed guest rooms, why go anywhere else? It’s secluded yet you’re in the center of town, you can make s’mores in the fire pits and I really want to go back.