Category Archives: Free

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.

 

Celebrating Daffodils

Every spring Tacoma and Pierce County pay tribute to the buttery yellow flower. Last week marked the beginning of the 81st Annual Daffodil Festival (wow, something older than me).

Sea Scout's Entry

The highlight of the event has to be the parade that goes through not just one town, but four separate towns. The traveling parade had more than 170 entries including floats, bands and mounted unit. Thousands of fresh-cut daffodils adorn the floats. As sometimes happens in the Pacific Northwest, it rained.

On Sunday, April 13, Tacoma celebrated boats and our waterways with a Marine Parade. More than 40 boats cruised in formation from the Tacoma Yacht Club to the Thea Foss Waterway.

Those are authentic mermaids on the front of the boat.

Unlike last weekend, the sun made a day-long appearance. The blue skies and white clouds framed the Olympic Mountains and Mt. Rainier. All were postcard crisp and clear.

People's Choice Winner - the pink octopus revolves and they played the Beatle's song about an octupus garden on the boat.

Explore More Holiday Activities

All the gifts have been unwrapped, the tree is starting to shed and too much fattening food calls to us from the kitchen. It’s time to get out and enjoy some holiday offerings in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s a list to get you started.


Stroll down Celebration Lane at The Bellevue Collection, where live toy soldiers rove streets, music fills the air and a dazzling light show illuminates the lane, until December 31.

While in Bellevue, explore Bellevue Botanical Garden’s Garden d’Lights, a nationally recognized holiday display with more than half a million lights illuminating a winter wonderland, until January 4.

For an educational experience outside the school setting, an 1860s sewing machine is featured at a new Fort Nisqually exhibit highlighting its revolutionary impact on the daily lives of women in those times.

“Turning Drudgery into a Pastime” is on display through April 5, 2014 and is included in the price of admission to the fort. For more information, call (253) 591-5339 or go online to FortNisqually.org.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound located in Point Defiance Park, Tacoma. Visitors experience life in Washington Territory during the Fur Trade era of the 1850s. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factors House, both National Historic Landmarks, and a Visitor Center with Museum Store. Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma.

How About Some Snow Play?
Squeals and laughter fill the air as people of all ages have a blast on snow trails.
Join a park ranger to learn the art of snowshoeing and discover how plants, animals, and people adapt to the challenging winter conditions at Mount Rainier.
When: Update 12/20/13. First-come, first-served guided snowshoe walks will begin on December 24, 2013. Snow conditions permitting, the walks are generally offered on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, and daily during winter break from December 24 to January 1. After early January, walks are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays, and holidays. Walks start at 11:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. and meet inside the Jackson Visitor Center (near the information desk) in Paradise. Sign-ups begin 1 hour in advance of scheduled time.
Distance & Time: Snowshoe walks cover approximately 1.5 miles in 2 hours.
Group size: Snowshoe walks are limited to 25 people, eight years old or older, on a first-come, first-served basis. A sign-up sheet is available at the Jackson Visitor Center information desk one hour before each walk. All snowshoe walk participants must be present at sign-up.

Skiers, riders and foot passengers can all take a ride to the Crystal Mountain summit for captivating mountain views, a delectable meal at the Summit House and a great run down the slopes. Dogs allowed on the gondola, but not in the Summit House.

Don’t want to venture out just yet, then download the free interactive eCookbook from Visit Seattle, that highlights a range of talented chefs and signature Pacific Northwest cuisine. Fresh From Seattle features 26 recipes from 12 noteworthy local chefs, including acclaimed hotel chefs and award winners such as Tom Douglas, Maria Hines and Thierry Rautureau.

For more family fun check with my two favorite sites: Rubyslipperguide.com for the Eastside and SoundsFunMom.com for the South Sound.

Farm Tour On Tap

Farm fresh produce and fall just seem to go together like
comfortable shoes. On October 5 and 6 thirteen Skagit Valley Farms invite you
to visit and discover where your food comes from. The Skagit Valley Festival of
Farms
runs from 10 a.m.-4p.m. each day with opportunities to  visit educational exhibits, take farm tours, view gardening demonstrations, taste mouth-watering samples, let your kids try farm activities and everyone can navigate corn mazes.
Best of all, the basic tour is FREE. Each stop may also have
prepared food or the produce, meat, dairy products, etc. that they are known
for available for purchase.

Here’s a brief preview of what you’ll discover on this tour.

At Taylor Shellfish on Chuckanut Drive in Bow, Wash.,
you’ll meet shellfish farmers, watch oyster shucking demonstrations, urge crabs
along in their own races, build a fairy house on the beach, see the world’s
only lighthouse made of oyster shells and taste steamed Manila clams or
barbequed Pacific oysters.

Stop by Samish Bay Cheese in Bow and taste the phenomenal Arugula Ladysmith cheese that Roger makes.

At Sakuma Bros. Farms in Burlington, take a tractor-pulled
wagon ride, find out what a raspberry machine is, take part in a pie eating
contest and sample fresh berries, chips and salsa made with locally grown
produce and honey from Belleville Honey Company.

Although the Tulip Festival has come and gone for this year, you can still find out all
about this beautiful flower at RoozenGaarde in Mount Vernon. Gather ideas from the experts on layouts and plantings that you can do in your own landscape. Let the
children try the scavenger hunt and before you leave, shop for bulbs and gardening tools.

Wineries, dairies, cattle ranches, produce farms and more complete the tour.

There’s so much to see you might want to spend the weekend.
I highly recommend Candlewood Suites in Burlington
as a comfortable option. Rooms have full kitchens so you can bring back your
bounty and eat it freshly cooked or store it in a full-size refrigerator.

 

You’ll Never Get Closer to Elk: Oak Creek Feeding Station

At the beginning of March, two other travel writers, a VisitRainier employee and I experienced the feeding of the elk at Oak Creek Feeding Station, off Highway 12 near Naches in Eastern Washington (yes, it was a press trip). We got close enough to these four-legged giants to make eye contact.

 

This supplemental feeding program, began in 1945. It was adopted so that the elk wouldn’t venture into any of the agricultural areas nearby looking for food in the winter. Depending on the weather, feedings begin sometime in December and continue until March. If you visit in January or February, you’ll have the best chance of participating.

Everything is free – you just have to sign up and put your John Henry on a disclaimer. Then you can ride out into the field in a U.S. Army truck and witness the feeding of as many as 700 elk at a time. While you patiently wait your driver dispenses facts and figures about the program and cows and bulls snuffle and shift positions anticipating the upcoming buffet of hay. Then two other vehicles roll out and automatically start dispensing the bales while the regal animals jockey for position.

 

A bull can weigh up to 600 pounds, but they have no interest in the humans staring at them. They only want the food so you’re safe.

I have never witnessed anything like this and highly recommend it as a family outing.

Here’s a story my friend Carrie Uffindall wrote about it: 

Arrive before 1 p.m. to check in, visit the small museum and watch the elk head down the hill for lunch.

White Pass Stages a Winter Carnival

This should fall under the heading, “Did you know?” Every year on the first weekend of March, at the summit of White Pass a Winter Carnival beckons snow lovers. I just experienced the 27th annual carnival and found the wealth of activities a delight.     

 

White Pass is located on US Highway 12 on the White Pass Scenic Byway. Many Washingtonians haven’t even visited this ski area and are surprised learn about what goes on there. It offers 1,500 acres of Alpine terrain, Nordic trails and lodging. Snow enthusiasts can downhill and cross country ski, snowboard and snowshoe. The lodge handles equipment rental, has child care, serves food and beverages and houses a well-stocked pro shop.

But back to the carnival. Several volunteers, many who work in the construction business, build a snow castle that becomes the showcase sculpture for the event. More than 15 people helped to create the castle this year. It is made with forms packed with snow. Each element of the structure contains a number of forms, so it’s a slow process, but it’s done that way to make it safe. Throngs of folks walk through the castle at the event, something the kids especially treasure.

    

A safe, snow structure is subject to a most unpredictable Mother Nature.

“It’s crucial that it stays cold for the castle. Rain and wind beat it up,” said David Ruby, a Packwood resident and lead volunteer.

The normal time frame to complete the castle is two weeks; that’s without any unexpected weather fronts.

Touring the castle and using the slide inside is free for everyone. Other activities may involve a fee.

During daylight hours on Saturday and Sunday, skiers and boarders race, take lessons or just tackle some runs for fun. On Saturday evening, a dinner of prime rib or spaghetti is available for purchase. As the night draws to a close, the entire ski patrol carries torches and crisscrosses on skis down the main hill. That signals the beginning of the fireworks show and the end of the evening. Sunday sees more of the same.

I urge you to mark your calendars for the first weekend in March, 2014, so you too can take part in the festivities at White Pass. Or visit anytime to play in the snow.

 For other winter activities available now, look at Visit Rainier.

Free Help for Tax Time

And a Giveaway

Although this post doesn’t have much to do with Washington State besides all of us have to file taxes by April 15, too, there’s something here for everyone. Julie, my tax preparer, was kind enough to send me a checklist of what I need to collect before I dump three shoeboxes worth of receipts on her doorstep this year.

 

Here are some of her suggestions:

Do you have an in-home business? If so, you may be able to write off the costs of maintaining that home office and even indirect expenses such as utilities and garbage pick-up fees. The area you use must be exclusively for your business and you must conduct business on a regular basis. Here’s how to start:

  • Measure the area used for your business and then the total area of your home, then determine what percentage of the whole you use for your business.
  • Have you done repairs to the whole house this past year? If so, you can allocate or write off the business portion of your home.
  • Maintenance and repairs to the office remain deductible
  • You can deduct a portion of your homeowner’s insurance
  • If you spent money on landscaping and clients come to your home, then a percentage of that expense may be deductible

 

Did you know that tax preparation fees and expenses from last year are deductible? Gifts to charity, including donations of household goods need to be included in your tax papers. Did you keep track of job hunting expenses? What about gambling earnings?

The IRS wants to hear about it all. If your tax return is the least bit complicated, you need to find a qualified preparer (sorry Julie is taken) or read up on the current tax requirements and rules.

To help you with your taxes, I have the current, hot off the press, edition of J. K. Lasser’s “Your Income Tax 2013” to give away to one of my lucky readers. All you need to do is comment on this blog, include your email address in your comment, by February 15, 2013, and you’ll be placed in the drawing to win the book. You will be notified by February 17, if you’re the winner.

Explore the Recycled Spirits of Iron Sculpture Park

When I visited the place where Dan Klennert creates and displays his artwork, I had no idea that my husband had been there a number of times before and had taken several of his friends and a brother to see this amazing art. It turns out we even had taken some of the very same photos.

Guess who this native Northwesterner is.

Klennert recycles in the broadest definition of the word and what he makes from what most of us would think is junk turns out to be beautiful. He keeps a room full of driftwood and another with 60 tons of horseshoes in it. A larger-than-life thoroughbred he made was created almost entirely out of horseshoes. In another room, he has several piles of “stuff” and he can tell you just what each pile is going to become as soon as he has the right part to complete it or has the time to get to it. A motorcycle, a bird, a sea creature…

His love of art began when he was practicing welding for a job. That welding morphed into artworks and he’s been creating art from recyclables for the past 40 years. He’s shown them around the U.S.

Daniel Klennert, artist extraordinaire.

This amazing four-acre sculpture park is located in Ashford, Washington, on the way to Mount Rainier. Klennert is happy to have you look around, take photos and ask him questions. And he hopes his art will put a smile on your face. It did mine.

While visiting, you're welcome to use this award-winning outhouse.

I Found Sasquatch

At the City Park in North Bonneville, I spotted a family of five Bigfeet and Littlefeet plus more Littlefeet frolicking in the trees.

 

Maybe it’s because Bigfoot hunting is prohibited in Skamania County. Or because the residents of North Bonneville were welcoming and friendly. But this family of Sasquatch (or is it Sasquatches?) has moved from the Cascade Forests to this small town that was built for the workers on the Bonneville Dam project in 1934.

Large footprints guide you to the various Littlefeet who seem to be hiding in the trees at the park. But if you look closely you’ll see them and the Littlefeet are very curious about humans and hardly shy at all unlike their Bigfeet parents, so you may find yourself talking to them.

 

Birds, squirrels, owls and rabbits live in perfect harmony with the Bigfeet and Littlefeet in this park.

Skamania County is the only sanctioned “Sasquatch Refuge” in the world due to the large number of Bigfoot sightings in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, so if you’re a fan you should put this place on your visit list. You won’t regret it.

Have any of you spotted Bigfoot?

Wet and Wonderful Water

“Do you want to know what’s in your poop?” my daughter called to me from an interactive display at the WET Science Center in Olympia. “It’s very interesting.”

My daughter, three-year-old granddaughter Kita and I were all mesmerized by the wealth of exhibits, games and information dispensed at WET.

Even dragons need their teeth brushed.

Kita liked brushing the stuffed dragon’s teeth so much, she did it several times, and then she bathed the stuffed dog. I flushed the toilet so I could see what fact would come up in the bottom. How do they do that anyway?

My daughter reveled in what she learned about “sinkers” and “floaters.”

We all liked using the gigantic calculator to determine how much water we used in a day. Plastic gallon bottles, next to the calculator, filled when you pushed the “equals” button so you got a visual picture of just exactly how much water you used and wasted. That’s a real wake up call.

An interactive display lets you select a water treatment job and solve a problem that job handler might encounter. I did really well there so maybe I’ve missed my calling.

You can also participate in a water conservation scavenger hunt, which I know from past experience kids really love.

Besides the permanent exhibits and displays, WET also frequently hosts specific activities like making a nature journal, learning about aquatic insects in a pond life safari and playing a giant floor game titled “The Drip Stops Here.”

Entrance to WET Science Center

WET is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The very best part is that it is totally Free.