Author Archives: Heather Larson

Ride a Washington State Ferry

Until I’d read enough articles telling me I should be more businesslike with my email names, mine started with ferryprincess@. I love ferries and feel privileged to live in the state with the largest ferry system in the US. Besides collecting anything ferry-related, we even said our wedding vows on the Seattle-to-Bremerton run. Getting married on a ferry is free, if you’re interested.

The Point Defiance to Vashon Island ferry.

The Point Defiance to Vashon Island ferry.

Given a choice, I always choose riding a ferry over “driving around.” That’s what natives here call it when you opt for the highway system that takes much longer than the vessel transportation system. But alas, costs less.

Here’s why I prefer a boat ride:

  • Once you’ve parked your car, bike or motorcycle on the lower deck or walked onto an upper deck, you no longer have to worry about traffic congestion or road rage. You can enjoy the sailing, no matter how long it takes. I prefer the longer crossings like Anacortes to Friday Harbor or Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Many first-time ferry riders say they can feel their blood pressure lower when they spot the vessel approaching the dock.
  • On the busiest of all the runs, the one between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands, you can now make reservations. That’s also true for Port Townsend to Coupeville (on Whidbey Island) and international service between Anacortes and Sidney B.C. Here’s what you need to know about making reservations.
  • The scenery can’t be beat. No matter which town or city you leave from, you’ll have a view like no other once you leave the dock. Look for whales, dolphins, sea lions or other marine life, stunning skylines, beautiful yachts and nature at work.
View of the ferry while dining at Anthony's on Point Defiance.

View of the ferry while dining at Anthony’s on Point Defiance.

My favorite ferry destinations are: Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island, Anacortes to any of the San Juan Islands, Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Tacoma to Vashon Island (this route is short, but very scenic). Many folks that live in Washington commute to their jobs by ferry, so you’ll be wise to plan your trip outside of regular commuting hours which are typically from 6 am-8 am and from 4 pm-6 pm.

Happy sailing. Anyone want to share a ferry story here?

A ferry mailbox on Day Island.

A ferry mailbox on Day Island.

Somewhere Out There, by Amy Hatvany

Somewhere Out There

By Amy Hatvany

DSCF1861Not only does Hatvany hail from Seattle, but she set her latest novel, “Somewhere Out There” in the Emerald City. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it “uplifting and heartwarming” and they’re a hard nut to crack. A positive blurb from them is the gold standard for any author.

Personally, I loved the story, the characters, the plot line and of course, the scenery. The story follows the lives of two girls, given up by their mother because of her dire circumstances. One is quickly adopted, while the other jumps from one foster home to another until the people in charge finally give up on placing her. Each grows up under very different circumstances but distance-wise they’re quite close.

Hatvany peppers her plot with phrases and place names like “a gray and drizzly late September afternoon,”  “Capitol Hill,” “Hiawatha Park,” “Pioneer Square,” and “Georgetown, an industrial area in South Seattle” to orient you. You’ll find other familiar settings amidst some made-up ones.

Once the sisters find each other, the thoughts of why their mother gave them up haunts them both. Until finally, they go visit. I’m not giving away the plot, but the book puts forth some endearing messages. It’s about family in all its forms, even dysfunctional.

If you’ve not read a novel by Hatvany before, I highly recommend this one as a good start. You’ll quickly lose yourself in the story, because her words flow naturally, and she keeps you guessing.

 

 

 

 

Dine Out Vancouver Festival

On January 16, 2015, Canada’s Largest Food and Drink Festival began and lasts for 17 days. If you’re looking for someplace to visit, definitely put Vancouver, British Columbia on your radar. Special “Dine and Stay” packages are available starting at $78 Canadian a night. You can’t beat that for quality lodging and entertainment.

 

Soup Experiment

 

Dine Out by the numbers:

277 participating restaurants (more than any other year)

29 hotels offering discount rates and special packages

84 culinary events taking place during the fest

17 days of food, fun and drink

80,000 meals will be served

$18, $28, $38 menu prices

 

What else will draw you across the border?

Film Feast gives you gourmet popcorn while you watch a screening of “Big Night,” a story of a failing Italian restaurant and a gamble the owners take. This is followed by a four-course dinner inspired by the meal in the film. Includes a welcoming cocktail.

 

Here’s a course I could use:  Food-tography, where you learn the correct way to take pictures of your food. You also get to eat the food and sip the beverages after you photograph them.

 

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For you spirit lovers, try the Cognac Masterclass with Lauren Mote. You will be given a welcome cocktail, followed by two additional tastings paired with just the right small plates and recipes to take home.

 

The food trucks that have been a standard in this city also have their own event. Returning for a fourth year, Street Food City, Vancouver’s original street food pod, is your opportunity to sample from a collection of Vancouver’s Street Food carts all in one, convenient location.

 

Most of the events repeat several times, so you won’t miss the ones you really want to experience.

 

So much food and drink, so little time. This is a not-to-be-missed event.

 

 

Are You Half of the “Missing” Couple?

WPGBarnWedding431[1]Eighteen sponsors have banded together so that one lucky bride and groom can say their wedding vows on beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington State for free.

Some of the details have been prearranged. The wedding will take place on Saturday, January 17, 2015. The invitations, a venue that accommodates 48 guests, a cake, flowers, a photographer and a musician are all set and ready to make your day a memorable one. Gloria Mickunas, a professional wedding planner, promises to work with you on the rest of the elements you want.

This prize has a value of more than $15,000.

Would you like to get married on this picturesque island just 25 miles north of Seattle and 70 miles from the Canadian border?

If so, you can nominate yourself by writing what this wedding would mean to you and your significant other and submitting a photo of the two of you before the entry deadline of October 31, 2014 at midnight Pacific Daylight Time. Then get your friends and family to vote for you, maybe even the grocery clerk. The public’s votes will narrow the contestants to 10. Then one lucky couple or the “discovered” couple will be selected in a random drawing.

Voters won’t be left out either. They have a chance to win a two-night getaway on Whidbey Island in a random drawing.

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Mickunas says the date is rapidly approaching and might seem a little crazy. But there’s always some drama leading up to weddings. “We’ve made most of the tough decisions for you and now you can personalize the details.”

To find out more about winning a fairy tale wedding in a dreamy destination, visit WinAWhidbeyWedding

Please come forward if you’re part of the “missing” couple.

 

Hillier Ups the Creepy Factor in The Butcher

Jennifer Hillier, author of Freak, Creep and her latest, The Butcher; splits her time between Seattle and Toronto. That qualifies her for space on my blog about discovering Washington State. I read thrillers almost exclusively and hers have been some of my favorite.

The Butcher definitely has to be her best work to date. The most notorious killer in Seattle history, according to the book jacket, was the Beacon Hill Butcher. But he has been shot and killed. Or has he?

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Recent murders show signs of the same modus operandi as the Butcher. Maybe it’s a copy cat? Or maybe the sheriff, who has now retired, got the wrong guy.

Sam is researching a book about the Butcher. She has an unsettling suspicion that he may have killed her mother. Her boyfriend, Matt, a chef entrepreneur and grandson of the sheriff, makes a very disturbing discovery when he moves into his grandfather’s (the sheriff) house.

I won’t reveal anymore because I want you to read the book. Hillier draws brilliant, life-like characters with everyday flaws. I can only imagine what her plotting diagram looks like during the writing process. Because she makes some swift turns with her plots, ones that keep you guessing. The story reads smoothly without excess back story and without unnecessary description.

And I absolutely love her descriptions of real places in Seattle.

I highly recommend all her books, but The Butcher has to be her best.

You can follow her on www.jenniferhillier.org.

 

 

 

Family Fun Center Rocks

Outdoor play for kids is kind of limited by our weather in Western Washington. We do have the Wild Waves theme park, but it’s only open during the summer.

Family Fun Center in Tukwila

In the last few years, a Family Fun Center opened in Tukwila, and it looks to be doing a roaring business. At least it was on the when we visited on a school holiday.

There are attractions that appeal to the very young on up to teens. Kidopolis offers four stories of soft play with cushioned “rock” walls, slides, rotating barrels, balls, a horse and a ride with Mr. Potato Head. After going through the gate, the toddler generation eagerly whisks off their socks and gets right down to serious play. My three-year-old granddaughter loved climbing up to the top of the “big” slides and then sitting there until we asked a bigger child to give her a gentle push down.

 

For bigger kids, Laser Tag, Max Flight and Bumper Cars have their appeal. When the outdoor attractions are available, they also have their choice of Go Karts, Sling Shot, Miniature Golf, Bumper Boats, Batting Cages, Traffic School and more. Of course, the wide array of video games inside interest almost any child.

If you or the gang are hungry, there’s a snack bar available plus Bullwinkle’s Restaurant which offers the usual fun center fare like pizza, burgers, salads, fries and my favorite – a “Build-your-own Sundae” for $2.

I spied one mom with older children who was studying in the restaurant. Others sat and watched the tots from the metal benches.

Safety regulations seem to be enough to keep the children from getting hurt, but not too much to stifle their play creativity. There are minimum and maximum heights for some of the play areas and rides plus lots of employees milling around.

Everything, except the food, runs on a point system. For example, you buy a 100-point card for $25 and that can be used for Bumper Cars (22 points), Bumper Boats (22 points), Laser X-Treme (28 points) and Miniature Golf (28 points).

For more information, visit www.fun-center.com.

The Tacoma Waterfront Beckons

Tacoma waterfront from Ruston Way

Yesterday we got a break from the grayness and a tiny taste of spring. Boy was it ever yummy – kind of like a big dollop of plain hot fudge or a juicy Dungeness crab leg. We grabbed the chance to take advantage of the sun shining down on us Tacomans and walked the waterfront along Ruston Way. Mother Nature made a mighty beautiful landscape there and others have helped it along with parks, sidewalks, restaurants and a hotel.

The Silver Cloud Inn, the hotel at one end of the popular walk, offers 90 waterfront rooms. Talk about a perfect place for a Staycation. Rooms come with breakfast, high-speed internet and complimentary parking. No more than three miles from most of Tacoma’s attractions, the Inn is definitely centrally located. But you wouldn’t have to leave the waterfront if you didn’t want to.

Silver Cloud Inn

If you’re not able to spend the night on the waterfront, at least eat. Restaurants about along Ruston Way and there’s not a bad one in the bunch. The Lobster Shop, Duke’s, Katy Downs, The Ram, Shenanigan’s and Harbor Lights all serve lunch or dinner or both.

If you’re walking along the waterfront with a dog or two, you’ll fit right in. Joggers, roller bladders and bicyclists also share the path with pedestrians.

The weather didn’t last, but the sunlit waters of yesterday still shine vividly in my memory. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait long for another sunny day and a walk along the shore of Commencement Bay.

C.I. Shenanigans on Ruston Way.

W. W. Seymour Conservatory Saved the Day

In an attempt to recover from the perpetual grayness that seems to have enveloped Western Washington for the past few months, I visited a garden in Tacoma – the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park in downtown Tacoma to be exact.

It worked. The beautiful, bountiful colors and textures of the flowers blooming in this indoor fantasy served to boost my mood dramatically. Surrounded by the yellows, oranges, apricot shades, pinks and magentas amidst lots of lush greenery, I wanted to stay all day and continue to drink it all in.

 

More than 200 species of exotic tropical plants make their home at the Conservatory, including the bird of paradise, ornamental figs, tropical fruit trees, orchids, ferns and bromeliads. Azaleas, Easter lilies, hydrangeas, begonias, tulips, cyclamen and chrysanthemums make the perfect backdrop for photo opps. or just for personal enjoyment. You, too, can escape into this soothing, fragrant exhibit any day, but Monday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and it’s totally free, although the suggested donation is $5. We do want to keep it going.

The Conservatory and nearby Gazebo can be rented for small weddings or other events.

On the second Sunday of each month, you’ll be treated to live music – so not only will the experience be a treat for your eyes and nose, but also your ears.

 

You may not be alone when you go because the readers of the Tacoma Weekly voted the Conservatory ad the “best place to relax.”

For more information, visit www.metroparkstacoma.org and click on “Parks & Facilities.”

Book Winner and Roundup of Events

Congratulations to Bahiya S. who won a brand new copy of “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle” by David Volk.

Bahiya – please send your mailing address to my e-mail, writemix@harbornet.com, and I’ll get the book mailed right out.

Thank you for all who entered and stay tuned for another book giveaway soon.

Events in and around Seattle you won’t want to miss:                       

Craving a Pick-Quick burger? You’re in luck, the Fife location at 4306 Pacific Highway East, has reopened after their winter hiatus.        

                        

What goes better with wine than the right food? You guessed it – chocolate. The 2011 Enumclaw Chocolate Festival, with a host of chocolatiers and wineries represented, runs this Friday (February 4) and Saturday (February 5). Visit www.enumclawchocolatefestival.com for the location and times.

Although a bit on the last minute side, you might want to cancel tonight’s plans for this:

The Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador, Mitch Bechard, is holding a preview tasting of the new limited Snow Phoenix tonight at 7:30 at El Gaucho (2505 First Ave., Seattle).

This 15 year-old malt Scotch whiskey will be featured in signature cocktails along with tasty appetizers.

Win a Book: The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle

Hot off the press, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle by David Volk reveals all kinds of secrets for living the good life – for less – in Seattle.

 

Did you know you can get free passes to advance movie screenings by signing up for the JW Film Club, www.janetwainwright.com/filmclub.htm?

Or that selected appetizers are free at Oliver’s at Mayflower Park, www.mayflowerpark.com/olivers.asp, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday?

Or you can take a free beginning yoga class on Saturdays at Samadhi Yoga, www.samadhi-yoga.com?

Okay, that’s all the info I’m giving away. The book’s pages are packed with deals and discounts, plus it’s an entertaining read because David is a very funny guy.

David says, “Even though the book is all about free and cheap stuff you can do in Seattle, it isn’t about badgering merchants to save 5 or 10 cents on a purchase. Instead, it’s all about quality of life and finding ways to do things you would already do, for less.”

If you win the book, David will be happy to sign it at his next reading at Third Place Books in Ravenna, 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 15th.

At his readings he always offers a prize to the person who brings in the best cheap bastard deal (as determined by the audience). You could be the proud owner of a screaming monkey doll, a carabener calculator, a mooing cow flashlight/key ring or something else.

Lastly he mentions deals almost daily on his Facebook fan page, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle. You can also subscribe to a daily deal e-mail list at david@davidvolk.com or go to his blog at cheapbastardseattle.com. If there’s more than one good deal a day, you’ll find the additional deals only on his blog.

To win a copy of The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle, make a comment on this post and the winner will be announced on Thursday, February 3, 2011.