Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cue Sun and Tucson Botanical Gardens

Washington’s summer was one to remember, but not because of warm temperatures and clear skies. It made the record books when in July we’d only had 4 ½ hours of temperatures above 80 degrees. So we had to go some place where we could not only enjoy the sun, but also refamiliarize ourselves with it. We chose Tucson, Arizona.

Last week everyday the temperature in Tucson rose to the mid-90’s. It was heavenly.

Owl Butterfly

We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Williams Centre and the hotel offered a shuttle to any place within a five-mile radius. We took them up on their offer and traveled to the Tucson Botanical Gardens one day. What an interesting attraction.

To make it even more fun, “Butterfly Magic at the Gardens,” a temporary exhibit, is on tap until April 30, 2012. A vast variety of butterflies can be seen and may even land on you tickling your fancy. The “Owl” was one of my favorites as it has an “eye” on its wing that makes it look just like an owl. You can also watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis and hang until they are dry before being taken into the main butterfly house.

Butterfly exhibits seem to be fairly rare as they have to have specific controls on temperatures and enough personnel to answer questions and monitor the influx and outflow of visitors. If you get a chance to visit this one, you really should do so.


At the Botanical Gardens, five acres of regional plant life with 16 specialty gardens introduces you to the flora common to the Tucson area in a delightful and interesting way. I especially liked the Zen Garden and the Cactus and Succulent Garden.

Art Reigns at the Schack

The newly opened Schack Art Center, in downtown Everett, is a work in progress just like the work of the artist’s there. Artists can work there, display their craft and/or teach classes on the premises. The total space measures 19,000 square feet, but some of that hasn’t been developed yet.

Glass blower artist at work and it's hot in the Hot Shop

What you’ll see when you visit now is 2,700 square feet of exhibit space, the Schack Shop, which serves as a retail art store; studios and a hot shop where you can watch glass artists create their own distinctive pieces.

Art for sale. 

Named after John and Idamae Schack for their support of Everett’s cultural institutions, this art center even displays art in the restrooms. It’s everywhere. And the center offers all kinds of classes – Fine Art for Kids, Creative Expression (also for kids), beadmaking, bookmaking, painting, jewelry and much more.

This week you can join in with the Schack-Toberfest, which happens on October 21, 22 and 23, 2011. Pluck a glass pumpkin from the Pumpkin Patch and you can buy it to take home, watch glass blowers demonstrate how they create this Halloween vegetable or take a gander at some expert pumpkin carvers. On Saturday night treat yourself to the Beer, Brat and Glass Pumpkin Event which includes beer, bratwurst, live music and a competition pitting glass blowers against one another to see who can make the largest pumpkin.


A fun way to experience art!

Treat Yourself at Ciao

With a little help from my friend Sherrye, I discovered a new restaurant in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Mark Laska, the owner and chef at Ciao, likes to use local ingredients and the freshness they impart makes food taste so much better than if it’s shipped to the eatery in a bag or a box.


Laska learned how to cook from his grandmothers and previously used his talents at four star hotels in Los Angeles. Thankfully, he and his wife decided that was not where they wanted to raise children so they moved to Whidbey Island.

Now he blesses islanders and visitors with authentic Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. Staff at the restaurant makes their own mozzarella everyday. Many of the meats used in the dishes come from the nearby Three Sisters Farm.


I’m having trouble describing how tasty this pizza is. It’s not the thick, doughy crust slathered with tomato sauce and covered with tons of cheese to mask the flavor that you might be accustomed to. Instead, the crust is very flakey, with plenty of fresh ingredients and dotted with slivers of the homemade mozzarella. It was two weeks ago when I had that pizza and I still remember how much I enjoyed it and savored it.

For dessert, the gelato is phenomenal. Although it comes from Seattle, that’s still very close to local. Try the coconut or the hazel nut. A dollop of hazel nut in a cup of espresso is phenomenal.


Did you know pizza taste better if it is served unsliced? But if you prefer the convenience of sliced pizza, the staff will gladly accommodate you.

Spectacular food, unparalleled service and a lovely view — you can’t go wrong at Ciao.

Burgerville Does It Right

The Burgerville chain encompasses 39 quick-serve restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. Six cities in South Central and Southwest Washington have at least one. The closest location to the Seattle area is the restaurant in Centralia. We try to always stop and eat a hamburger there when we pass through.

Because the hamburgers are made from vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef, they seem to taste much better than most. Add a slice of Tillamook Cheddar and you have a delicious sandwich.

Burgerville relies on local, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Blackberries for their milkshakes, sweet onions from Walla Walla for onion rings and hazelnuts from Oregon for their Wild Smoked Salmon and Hazelnut Salad.

Not only does this chain serve high-quality, tasty food, but they also use many sustainable business practices. They purchase 100 percent renewable wind power credits equal to the energy use in all 39 locations plus their corporate headquarters. By using wind power of this magnitude, Burgerville eliminates a huge amount of greenhouse gases. This is the equivalent of taking 1,700 cars off the road.

Constantly improving and expanding their composting and recycling programs also makes Burgerville a “green” company.

And this company loves their employees. They provide healthcare insurance, which is very rare at quick-serve restaurants. Burgerville contributes more than 90 percent of the insurance costs for employees and their dependents.

If you’re in the neighborhood, I urge you to sample some of their menu items. They have hamburgers and lots more to choose from.

Jaunt Up to Joe’s Gardens

For the freshest and most delicious produce around, a trip to Joe’s Gardens in the Happy Valley district of Bellingham is in order. They grow tons of different vegetables and more than 300,000 potted plants.


For something very special, try their Romano beans. The flavor is nothing short of amazing.

Joe’s Gardens has been around since 1933, which says a lot about their success.

Fall brings beautiful braids of garlic grown from seed brought to the U.S. from Genoa, Italy. Shallots, apples, pumpkin and Fall squash varieties line the shelves along with fresh fruits and vegetables. All the crops grown on site are grown without pesticides. Quality and flavor prevail instead of prolonged shelf-life in a grocery store.


And everything is affordable, but hurry – Joe’s Gardens closes mid-October.

Come back next year in early March for bedding plants, vegetable starts, potting soil and compost so you can grow your own bounty.