Monthly Archives: April 2012

Fran’s Chocolates, So Tasty

Some astonishing flavors have originated here in Washington and chocolates made by Fran are one of my all-time favorites. She sold salted caramels before anyone else here and possibly in the nation. Hers remain the best overall with sea salt sprinkled on the top of the chocolate by hand.

Fran's Bellevue store

I’m not the only one who prefers Fran’s salted caramels. In 2003 her Gray Salt Caramels won the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) Outstanding Confection Award.

In 2005 her Smoked Salt Caramels won the same award.

Fran’s Chocolates have won numerous awards over the years.

On Food Network, Iron Chef Bobby Flay claimed the creamy Coconut Gold Bar his favorite confection on the show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” The list goes on.

Fran’s Chocolates have been featured on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” in People Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Savvy Magazine Japan, Martha Stewart and many more publications.

What makes these confections so newsworthy?

Fran Bigelow, herself.  She is dedicated to preserving the pure, clean flavor of chocolate. By building layers of flavor, she teases out the depth and complexity of chocolate. She uses small batch production and selects all natural and when possible organic ingredients, including sugar and almonds. Many ingredients she uses come from local Washington and Oregon farms including organic cream and butter. Only the finest cacao available from Venezuela, Madagascar and Ecuador is used in her chocolates.

Fran also makes truffles, chocolate-dipped fruits and a few flavors of chocolate bars. The coconut gold bar is her rendition of an Almond Joy candy bar. Boy did she hit that one out of the ballpark, but the sweet, buttery flavors of chocolate and caramel enhanced with a pop of salt will always be my first choice at Fran’s.

Stores are located in downtown Seattle, University Village and Bellevue.

2012 Easter display in Bellevue store

Bellevue’s KidsQuest Children’s Museum Fun for Adults

When I visited KidsQuest, I had to wear a sticker that said, “Unaccompanied Adult…and wishing I were a kid again!

How true. I just wanted to dig right in and play alongside the kids.

Water play is fun at any age

 

The first area you come to contains “Waterways.” Our guide reminded us, “There is no wrong way to play with water.” The kids there at the time seemed to agree as they splashed and guided boats through the channels. Then I was distracted by a staff member playing with green slime.

Don't you want to get your hands on that green slime?

The museum staff makes their own slime, which takes on some very elastic properties.

So many play areas, so little time. I ventured into the Hard Hats Area without a hard hat, where I became mesmerized by this special green sand called Moon Sand that stuck together so you could make balls out of it. On to fiddling with nuts and bolts.

Unfortunately I couldn’t drive the semi-truck in the Large Science area as the driver’s seat was occupied. But I heard the driver turn the key and the sound the truck made.

When you go, don’t forget to try the scarf shooter. The scarf wends its way through all kinds of tubes and comes back to you, usually behind where you’re standing.

Currently the museum is located in the Factoria Square Mall, but it has outgrown the space and will soon be moving to downtown Bellevue.

KidsQuest is free the first Friday of the month between 5 p.m.-8 p.m.

I can’t wait to take my granddaughter there so I don’t have to wear the “unaccompanied adult” sticker and can play to my heart’s content.

Bellevue Hilton Highly Recommended

Little things mean a lot — like when the hotel staff remembers your name and uses it or offers you a bottle of water while you’re waiting for someone. Excellent customer service will keep me coming back to any business.

That’s what I got at the Bellevue Hilton last week. A newspaper was at my door each morning, I was offered turn down service and everyday when I got back to my room it was clean and tidy.

This hotel offers the largest guest rooms in Bellevue and my suite was surely an example of that. The living room contained a sofa, chair, desk and widescreen TV and another TV was in the bedroom which was more than ample. A huge tub dominated the dressing room and the smaller bath revealed a shower and toilet.

 

Amenities included a fitness center with chilled towels and fresh fruit, an outdoor swimming pool and a complimentary shuttle that drove you anywhere within a mile of the hotel. A beauty salon, coin laundry for guests and 700 parking spaces also graced the property.

Tully’s Coffee Shop was located in the lobby as was a bar and Basil’s Restaurant, which serves a yummy breakfast buffet.

Although, I didn’t get to see him, I was told an otter lived in the pond outside. I’ll have to go back in warmer weather and see if he’s sunning himself.

To top it all off, the Bellevue Hilton is pet-friendly. What more could you ask for?

Travel and Words: An Excellent Conference

I’ve gone to the Travel & Words Conference for the past two years. Not only is it set in an appealing Northwest location every time, but the opportunities to speak with local Convention & Visitor Bureau representatives, other writers and editors makes it so worthwhile. Writers need to leave their desks once in awhile and socialize. If you’re already a travel writer or would like to dip your toe into this genre, I urge you to consider attending.

Some friendly faces you may see at Travel and Words

Here are the details:  Pacific Northwest Travel Writers Conference runs from April 29-30, at Fort Worden State Park Conference Center in historic Port Townsend, Washington. This year’s theme is “Go! Pitch. Write. Publish.” Some of my colleagues will be speaking on topics that will help all of us with our travel writing.

 

JASON BRICK, of Portland, Oregon, will share his strategies for writing full time as well as being a house-dad and using his experience from the business world as a springboard for gaining paying gigs online and in print

MICHAEL FAGIN, from Redmond, Wash., writes, blogs and forecast the weather. He will disclose tips on how to cast a wider net with your freelancing endeavors.

SUE FRAUSE, who lives on Whidbey Island, writes, blogs, posts on Facebook and Twitter, hosts a culinary theatre show and also is on the road constantly. You must ask her what her time management secrets are. She reveals what the travel writing lifestyle entails.

KAREN GILB, of Vancouver, Wash., writes fiction as well as travel and blogs. She’ll share her new strategy for expanding her Northwest writer’s brand in 2012-13.

MARTY WINGATE, from Seattle, writes mysteries (“The Garden Plot” and the “Potting Shed Mystery” series) and about gardens plus develops garden tours.  Her topic for the conference will be how she’s marketing her writing and traveling interests.

CARRIE UFFINDELL, who lives in Portland, blogs, writes fiction and specializes in writing about family travel in the Northwest and in the country of Wales.

See the Event Schedule, Travel and Tourism Exhibitors, and Registration details. I hope to see you April 29-30 in Port Townsend!