Category Archives: Personalities

Kevin O’Brien’s Unspeakable

One of my favorite thriller writers has a new book out titled “Unspeakable.” In it, a child actor (Collin) realizes that when he’s hypnotized another person emerges, a very dark, sinister and dangerous boy who lived 50 years before. While Collin sleeps, his friends become murder victims. Could he have done it unknowingly? That lays the foundation for fires, stabbings and untold unpleasantries.


Once again O’Brien, who lives in Seattle, has made me sleep with the light on. And this book contains more than 500 pages so the bulb burnt out a couple of times. A silhouette was lurking in the shadows on many of these pages. And I heard creaks around the house long after everyone, including the dogs, were deep into their slumber.

kevin obrien's unspeakable

But that’s what makes the suspense real and why I’m such a thriller fan and especially an O’Brien devotee. My friend wants him to write faster so we’ll have more to read. I don’t know if faster would be better, because now he pens some terrific stuff.

What I also found appealing about this book was the author’s accurate portrayal of the atmosphere in Seattle during the days of the World’s Fair in 1962. How could someone who isn’t old enough to remember Century 21 write such precise details of the culture we experienced then? I worked at the Fair and my coworker’s daughter had a date with Elvis Presley when he filmed his movie here. I may have dated “Wade” from Unspeakable, but escaped before I became a liability. You’ll have to read the book to find out about that reference.

I highly recommend you pick up this paperback original or put it on your Kindle or Nook. Feel the tension for yourself.

What One Seahawk Does On His Day Off

Tomorrow the Seattle Seahawk’s football team plays one of the most important games in its history against the Washington (DC) Redskins. It’s a wildcard NFL playoff game where the winner moves one step closer to being a contender for Super Bowl fame. Okay, I know almost nothing about football, but I love to root for a home team, especially when they are playing well. Everyone here gets excited – the 12th man flag is currently flying off the top of the space needle, people with tickets to tomorrows game in DC are looked upon as heroes and yesterday a parade of people lined up to give the team a big sendoff as they boarded their plane. You can feel the fever wherever you go.

What I’m most interested in is the story of what one of the players, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, does on his day off. He doesn’t sleep in – he says there’s plenty of time for that in the off-season. Instead every Tuesday, Russell and his wife Ashton go to Children’s Hospital in Seattle to talk and play with the children there. Many of these kids are very seriously ill — waiting for a liver transplant or dealing with leukemia – and spend very long periods of time in the hospital. When they see the Wilson’s, their smiles are electric.

Ashton says that she wants their visits to build up the spirits of the children and their parents. From what she can tell, it looks like they do.

Sportscasters say Wilson has poise beyond his years (he’s 24) on the football field. I think he shows a great deal of maturity by helping others on his only day off.

Rookie Seahawk’s quarterback Russell Wilson

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.

Envy, A Thriller for Young Adults

Several renowned thriller authors have taken their first step into the young adult genre recently. One of those lives right here in Washington and is one of my favorite writers, Gregg Olsen.

Gregg signed my copy of Envy in Maple Valley. Check his web site for other places he is signing books.

The time this New York Times best selling author spent writing true crime has paid off in his fiction work because you realize that the plots could have happened. Olsen’s first YA Envy is the first in a series of “Empty Coffin” novels. Since working with children in a school setting, I’ve always said that you have to keep kids attention with every paragraph of a book. They won’t settle for long descriptions, careless plots or flawed character profiles. When their interest wanes, they put the book down and never pick it up again. In my opinion, an author has to be the best kind of writer to appeal to the YA readers.

Olsen does this superbly in Envy. It’s the story of what can happen when cyberbullying goes way too far. It’s about twin girls with unusual powers. Coincidentally, Olsen has twin girls. It’s set in the very lovely town of Port Gamble, Washington. Maybe the town will hold “Empty Coffin” tours like Forks does “Twilight” tours. Coincidentally, Olsen lives in a small rural town in Washington, just not Port Gamble.

I love reading good YA’s because I have the attention span of a gnat. And this one, kept me turning pages well after midnight, but also checking to make sure the doors were securely locked.

Good for reluctant teen and tween readers and also great for adults who won’t tolerated slow-moving plots.

Do you read young adult novels?

Heather Larson writes about the Pacific Northwest from her office in Tacoma, Washington hoping she can entice you to visit or share your own memories of the region and read books by Washington authors, who are some of the very best.

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.

Eccentric Inventor First Lived at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars

Arbor Crest Wines not only taste good and satisfy the connoisseur, but their place of origin is stunning. The grounds have a panoramic view of the Spokane River, Liberty Lake, downtown Spokane and the Spokane Valley.

The Cliff House, rebuilt after a fire in 2009

The Cliff House Estate, a three-story Florentine mansion located on the property, was built in 1924 by Royal Newton Riblet, an inventor and mechanical genius. His patents included a pattern sprinkler system, a mechanical parking garage and the square wheel tractor.

Riblet and his seventh wife entertained many guests while they lived here. Their beautiful home plus the lush grounds made entertaining ideal with over four acres of terraced gardens, a life-sized checkerboard and a 6,000 gallon swimming pool.

In 1984 Arbor Crest purchased the estate which had been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

In 2009 the historic mansion was heavily damaged by fire and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Many antiques were destroyed.

But now the renovation has been completed and Arbor Crest is back in business in a big way. One of this summer’s concerts boasted the largest attendance ever.

Life-sized checkerboard, you can actually play with


Close to 35,000 people visit Arbor Crest each year either for an event or for wine tasting. With its manicured gardens, the enchanted forest, the gorgeous three-story Cliff House and a separate wine tasting building, it makes an ideal venue for any event or just as a place to come and relax an sip some tasty wine.

The Cinnamon Roll Lady

The North Cascades Highway or State Route 20 is the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington. It affords travelers a wide array of beautiful vistas and is part of the Cascade Loop, a 400-mile driving tour through the Cascades. This highway is only open from April through November, because of the intense avalanche danger the rest of the year.

Tootsie Clark, who is well into her 90’s now, has for many years performed the same ritual every year on opening day of the North Cascades Highway. She gets up at 2 a.m. and sets to making her famous cinnamon rolls. When she has enough ready she packs them into her car and travels to the beginning of the highway where she passes them out to all the drivers waiting for the road to open.  

Tootsie's cinnamon rolls with whiskey sauce and frosting

These cinnamon rolls can be ordered by the rest of us at The Eatery restaurant in Rockport, where Tootsie still helps out in the kitchen. But don’t go for breakfast thinking you can order a roll off the menu and have it delivered to your table. No, you must reserve these sweet treats the night before for breakfast the next day, due to their extreme popularity.

Besides serving good, tasty food, The Eatery houses many items indicative of the history of the area. That was Tootsie’s idea – to make it a museum and a restaurant.

Getting Cherry-ed

Everyone knows we grow apples here and then there’s the espresso stands – with one on every corner, you’d think they were mating. But did you know we’re one of the nation’s largest producers of cherries?

Actually we are the number one producer of cherries with California running second.

This past weekend I was privileged to go on a tour of a packing plant, an orchard and to savor some very delicious foods made with cherries. My favorite, of course – biting into a dark, red sweet cherry and savoring that first squirt of juice on my tongue. The cherry pies tasted mighty good, too.

Kate McDermott teaching cherry pie making.

Kate McDermott gave us a most informative and clever pie making lesson to launch our tour.

“Chill all your ingredients prior to creating the dough and putting the pie together, and you chill out, too,” says McDermott.

She also places a personal intention into every crust she makes and then lets the dough know she’s in charge. That may be why my pie dough never turned out before.

“Making a pie is like a meditation for me,” says McDermott, whose pie making tools all have a story behind them.

After a delectable and delightful dessert of cherry pie and ripe cherries, our group dined at Blueacre Seafood in Seattle.

I have never seen a Dungeness Crab as large as the one they served. Someone else ordered it and made our entire table jealous.

Dugeness Crab to die for

Ukulele Teacher Works Out of Consignment Shop

You wouldn’t expect to find ukuleles for sale in a plus-size consignment shop, but that’s exactly what’s going on at Queen’s Closet in Lakewood. Ray Alonzo Sr. gives ukulele lessons and sells instruments as well as any supplies you might need to play it and his wife, Sandy, runs the consignment shop. I sat down with Ray Alonzo to find out more about his thriving business. Here’s what he said.

Ray Alonzo Sr. with one of many ukeleles

What brought you to Tacoma?

Ray:  My wife and I met when we both lived in Hawaii. When I joined the military, I was stationed at Fort Lewis and Sandra found a job with Pierce County. Sandra frequently shopped at Queen’s Closet when it was located on Tacoma Avenue, so when  the owner asked if she wanted to buy the business, she jumped at the chance.

How do you happen to sell ukuleles in the consignment store?

Ray:  I’ve played the ukulele for years now. People began inquiring about learning to play Hawaiian music so I offered my place at Queen’s Closet and it kind of morphed into both teaching and playing the ukulele there.

I needed to stay close to Sandra’s business because I do all the computer tasks and everything on the honey-do list.

What else do you sell besides ukuleles?

Ray:  I give private and group lessons Wednesdays through Saturdays and we sell all the accessories like tuners, music stands and more.

What is Monday Ukulele Ohana?

Ray:  Ukulele players get together and practice every Monday. We started with four or five people and now it’s grown to more than 70. One woman even comes all the way from Spokane, although she comes just once a quarter. I teach the first hour (5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) then we have a potluck, and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. we have a song circle. People bring in music and if we can, we play it. If we can’t, then we learn it.


Is learning to play the ukulele a popular trend right now?

Ray:  I see a lot of teens taking up the ukulele and I’ve also gotten inquiries from school programs who want to buy ukuleles, so yes it is.

How long have you been playing the ukulele?

Ray:  I started when I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii and played at church. I continued to pluck away and fell in love with the instrument so my mom bought me one. Learning wasn’t formal then, so I picked it up by ear – I hear the sound and progression of the chords. I’m basically self-taught.

Please tell me a little more about Queen’s Closet.

Ray:  Our store is for the community. We keep items on the floor for 90 days and if they haven’t sold by then we donate them to the Purdy Correctional Facility or Washington Women’s Employment & Education. Nothing ends up in the landfill. We also have consigners who bring items here to be sold and they give all that money to a charity.

Queen’s Closet is located at:  9614 40th Ave. S.W. in Lakewood. You can reach Ray or Sandra at:  253-475-9576.