That's a Wrap. Thank you, Kirkland.

Some of you have been asking, so I wanted to make it official...

The time has come to wind down the Kirkland Blog and leave you alone to explore our amazing little community.  I started this idea about 18 years ago, and it's been an awesome ride of trying fabulous foods, exploring new shops, attending action-packed events, and meeting so many citizens and business owners who love Kirkland just as much as I do.  It feels like we've grown up together (heck, we even survived a pandemic together!) and I appreciate you.  You always kept it classy with your comments and curiosity.  I think I just lost my blogging mojo.  And honestly, it's 2024, who blogs anymore?! Now that I'm officially an empty-nester, you'll more easily find me on a pickleball court or chasing sunshine rather than sitting at my desk attempting to wordsmith some local humor.  I'll keep the URL since it's a fun walk down memory lane ( go scroll, it's amazing to see the changes in Kirkland over the years).  And you can still email me at [email protected] if you need anything since we are now forever friends.

Thanks for the great run, Kirkland.  You guys have fun..... I'm sure I will see you around town. 



Meet our Totem Lake "Litter Lady"


Totem Lake resident, Francine Deymonaz-Taylor, has recently reached local celebrity status for her obsession with cleaning up trash and keeping her neighborhood tidy.  Maybe you've seen her out working or read about her on Be Neighborly Kirkland? It all started this past spring when she noticed random trash collecting on roadsides, sidewalks, and around local businesses near 124th and 116th and thought, "someone should do something about this."  She couldn't 'un-see' the litter, and quickly came to realize she couldn't wait for SOMEONE and decided to be part of the solution herself.  And that's how the "Totem Lake Litter Lady" was born.  In addition to her 2-hour-a-day addiction to cleaning up Totem Lake trash. 

Francine is a nurse, so she had some gloves on hand, grabbed a garbage bag, and got to work.  She filled that bag in less than 3 minutes and quickly realized she needed to bolster her arsenal of litter-fighting supplies.  She has graduated to heavy-duty gloves, a gripper for picking things up, plenty of bags, a pushcart for the bags, and earbuds (good music is a "must" she says!).  When I was sitting at coffee chatting with her, a helpful and appreciative citizen gifted her an orange reflective vest that she wears now too.   She uses nearby dumpsters to dispose of her bags. Francine says, "I hate litter, have OCD, and love to organize.  It's a beautiful thing when your passion and disease are aligned."   Now she picks up trash every day after work for two hours, which makes her feel good because she's getting outside, doing something physical, helping her community, and receiving the visual reward of a cleaner neighborhood.  But this work will never end, the job is never complete.  We need to stop littering, Kirkland.  Teach your kids not to litter.  If you see litter, pick it up.


Our litter probably tells a lot about us, and Francine sees it all and nothing surprises her anymore.  The grossest discoveries are rotten food, jugs of pee (c'mon people!?), and dead animals (not a fun cleanup).  Apparently, the drug and alcohol of choice in the greater Totem Lake area are whippets, Modelo beer, and 5-hour energy drinks. 

Here are some of the items she finds most often:

  • Fast food/candy wrappers- hey little piggies, use a trash can, please  
  • Starbucks cups  - people drink their $7 Grande and then toss the cup out the window?! 
  • Alcohol- creates waste and makes you do dumb litter!
  • Retail theft- found way too often, and Francine feels bad for the retailers in the area
  • Clothes- lots of clothes and underwear. This is worrisome. Or maybe there are more naked people running around than we realized?
  • Signs- politicians/realtors, we're looking at you! These turn into wet/sharp trash when you don't come back to pick them up.
  • Plastic water bottles and straws/their paper wrappers- if only we could use these things less.

Francine was recently informed she will be awarded the "Heart of Kirkland" award by the Chamber of Commerce in December. This is amazing and well-deserved.  But it's not enough. We can't expect one, albeit amazing, lady to tend to our litter in Kirkland.  We need less littering, and more folks on pick-up patrol.  

Reach out to Francine directly at [email protected] if you want to join her or learn how to get some folks started in your neighborhood for some added pride in your community.  She has some group events she is working on putting together soon! (weather permitting ;-)

Dave Fox: The Journey from Pedaling to Painting

DaveFox1      DaveFox3      DaveFox4

You probably remember Dave Fox and his wife Angela from their years as owners of Bassline Fitness in downtown Kirkland.  You could often find Dave sweating and pedaling his spin bike on stage while motivating large groups of fitness junkies in their signature "Mash-Up" classes. This dynamic duo opened their first gym, Gorilla Sports, in 1995 and then continued to open 13 more gyms all over the US (and sold some along the way).  This magical formula of challenging classes with great music and an upbeat, high-energy vibe created quite a local following. But things changed for Dave one day in 2017 when he suffered from a blood clot in his right leg that had gone to his lung.  He stopped teaching to focus on his recovery and then, you guessed it, a pandemic shut us all down.  Bassline included.

  DaveFox2      DaveFox5 

Covid did have a few upsides, one being the self-discovery and emergence of talents and exploration many of us never had time for before (you'd think I would be a better cook by now?) Dave always had an interest in art, but never before did he have the time to let this creative side of him unfold.  Years used to go by between his art projects, so when he stepped away from the gyms, he was excited to give oil painting a go.  He said, "the only way to learn how to paint is to paint."  He started out doing YouTube and art instructional videos and is enjoying the evolution of his artistic style. Oil is a slow-drying medium and typically a piece takes him 3-4 weeks to complete.  Dave starts with a photo that he edits digitally before using that as a reference for the final piece that he will layer and create with his brush.  A spare bedroom in their home has been transformed into his studio where he puts on some music and can quickly lose himself in 3-4 hours of painting.  His dogs, Kai and Kula (photo), seem quite content in this space also.


When Dave takes or finds a photo to paint he just asked himself, "can I see myself painting this?" It's whatever strikes his fancy.  Then when it feels right, he builds his plan, starting from the back, then the forefront, and then refining everything at the end. Many of his works are from around Kirkland in familiar settings we all know and love such as  T-dock, the stairs on Central, and the blow-up floaties at Via Lago.  Some take more time than others, like the big bear (photo above, not a Kirkland bear, LOL) that has the detail of hairlike brush strokes to make him pop off the canvas. Dave also does commission pieces and lots of his art can be put in different formats such as bags, phone cases, etc.  Check out his website at  I was lucky enough to score a pack of Kirkland-themed blank greeting cards (final photo above, cards are $6/ea, and various seasons!), a great gift for a fellow Kirklander.  You can follow Dave on Facebook here.  

Spud's New Mural with a Purpose

I was lucky enough to meet a talented local teen named Austin Picinich last summer when he had his own booth at Kirkland's Summerfest.  This young man is unstoppable with his amazing art that he pairs with community-focused and sustainability-centric messages.  Austin's next project is painting a 62-foot exterior wall mural on the side of SPUD Fish & Chips in Juanita to raise awareness for salmon in Juanita Creek. Austin is working with Urban Artworks to host a Community Paint Day this spring.  And, yes, that means you will be able to volunteer and get involved to help make his magic happen.  There will also be a plaque about salmon and the history of Juanita Creek.

In case your inner elf self would like to help support this project, Austin is also raising funds to help cover the cost of paint, permits, brushes, and other associated material costs.  He's a little more than halfway to his goal! Check out his pictures of the upcoming mural we will soon all be able to enjoy.  I'll let you know when they need volunteers this spring!

AustinPicinich (where the creativity begins)



 (digital mock-up)

Eating Enchanted with Marla Groves


Meet fellow Kirklander, incredible cook, world traveler, avid entertainer (pre-COVID), and now The Eating Enchanted Cookbook author, Marla Groves.  What better way to re-launch into your stay-at-home time than with some new recipes!  Especially healthy ones. Marla's philosophy is that people should give themselves the gift of healthy eating while recognizing that everyone's path is unique. All of her recipes are naturally gluten-free and focus on unprocessed ingredients that are both flavorful and nutritious. She says, "you should never feel restricted or locked down but work towards a balanced and sustainable healthy lifestyle. "

Marlacookbook Marlathaicurrysoup <--Khao Soi (Northern Thai Curry), which would hit the spot on a rainy day like today

Many of the recipes found in Marla's cookbook have a flair of flavors from Italy or Thailand, both places she has lived before, and that have continued to ignite her love of fresh seasonal and local ingredients.  In her cookbook, you'll find breakfast, soup, salad, fish/poultry/vegetarian modifications, snacks, cocktails, and desserts which are all dishes she shares from her own family's table. Some are simple 10-minute ideas to whip up, and others are more elaborate creations, but all have her voice woven in the stories behind the recipes and how they came to be.  There are great tips, photos, and -bonus- each lists out whether it has gluten, dairy, veg, lectins, low carb, vegan, pescatarian, or even if it is a 'healthy comfort food.' Marla grew up cooking with her mom and baking with her grandma and was clearly inspired from a young age.   Her career has spanned from the finance industry to trained pastry chef, but her discoveries around sustainable healthy eating and how it can make you feel have certainly been culminating for years.  The result is her Eating Enchanted cookbook that she's excited to share with you, her Kirkland community.  You can find it on Amazon now ($40 paperback or $9.99 Kindle version). 

The Queen of the KDA Steps Down

Special thanks to Barbie and all she has done for our community!

If you don't already know this lady, she is kind of a rock star for all things Kirkland.  After five years as the Executive Director of the Kirkland Downtown Association, Barbie Collins Young has stepped down to pursue other interests.  The Kirkland Downtown Association works with the community and businesses on events such as the Kirkland Wednesday Market, Wine Walks, Art Walk, Celebrate Kirkland, Summer Concert Series, Classic Car Show, Winterfest, and Santa’s Mailbox.  I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of her!  The KDA will be led by Board President, Jim Kress, from BECU and Tessa Hansen has accepted the role of a full-time events manager.  

I think in honor of Barbie we should all book our ubers and plan to attend the next Kirkland Wine Walk on Feb 8th from 6-9pm.  Details and tickets for purchase available here.  It could even be a Happy almost Valentine's Day outing! (that's your reminder, nudge nudge..) ~j


Some of my Favorite Local Faces

  IMG_7008   IMG_7011 <--Harrie Kessler & A

This guy just radiates pure goodness.  Many of you already know "A" or Asuraphong Liengboonlertchai (if you're fancy with your Thai) as the friendly and community-focused owner of Simplicity Decor (since 2006) and Simplicity ABC (since 2012).  A is the kind of guy that knows his customers by name.  And remembers who they are and what they like.  As I sat chatting with him, people kept popping in for a congratulatory hug and farewell (like customer Harrie in the photo).  It kind of felt like a rock star was leaving the band.  I love that A is always thoughtful and generous and prides himself on not just being here to sell stuff, but embracing the community, getting involved and creating memories.  When he sent out his recent note announcing his departure from Simplicity Decor, it made me smile to read it in his own words, I felt like I could almost hear him speaking.  He says he always knew he wouldn't retire as a retail store owner and finally felt like he's ready to do something different.  So A took a real estate class, invested in a house and flipped it. Then he got his real estate license.   Next he will be working for Hallmark Realty, and as of June 1st he has sold Simplicity Decor to his employee, Lisa.  He will also be working at Simplicity ABC until it sells (want to buy a toy store?). It's not the last time you'll see A, that's for sure. Check out his new website and keep in touch!  206-355-9502 or [email protected] 


IMG_7157   IMG_6959  IMG_7156 

And in other local celebrity business owner news..... Stavros is back!  Our entire family did the happy dance as we left to have dinner at Santorini (106 Central Way) this evening.  I didn't know I could miss lamb meat and my Greek friend so much.  He was really touched that so many people wrote messages on the sign out front - way to show the love Kirkland!  Welcome back, Stavros!

Pooor Easter Bunny

  IMG_6356          IMG_6355  <--at least the lonely guy has some flowers

A friend of mine was visiting from Atlanta last weekend and commented on the fun Easter decorations adorning our infamous Cow & Coyote in downtown Kirkland. Adorable! Then, as we were sitting at the intersection of Central/Lake she turned her head the other way and says, "but how come the poor bunny doesn't have any? It's Easter!"  Touchè my friend, touchè.

Happy Easter, cheers to spring! Hug the bunny when you see her. :-)

Can You Feel It?

IMG_5512  <butt-kickers

Happy 2018.  Are you dieting? ARGH. Starting a new fitness routine?  Or torturing yourself by cutting out wine for a bit like I am?  9 days in and I'm still alive, yet perhaps a bit grumpy.

On a happier more endorphin-filled note.....I'm a girl that's been comfortable in the free weight room of a gym since (cough, cough) the late 80's.  I think it started when my high school softball team used to workout on the clunky nautilus set, crackled old benches and rusty dumbells in the training room. I was hooked.  Through living in different cities and visiting many gyms it's just always a place that I'm comfortable, despite the fact that I was often the only woman in there.  I like the variety it offers and the creativity I can add to a workout and call it my own.  And truthfully, if I try to follow along in a fitness class I'm always five seconds behind looking like a complete buffoon in the back of the room.  Over the years, ladies have shared with me their fears of the free weight room and I've tried to offer encouragement.  Usually either they didn't know what to do with the equipment, felt like everyone was looking at them or the number of sweaty men in the room just made them uncomfortable.  

Enter 2018.  I looked up from my workout on Monday and who do I see in the free weight room?  SIX women.  Two men.  YESSSSSSSS!  All in their own zone working their butts off.    The symbolism in that moment forced me to round everyone up for a photo. Maybe it was Oprah's speech the night before?  Who knows.  So I punched one of the guys and made him take the pic of the rest of us.  I love these chicks and I don't even know them ( they did approve the photo).  I'm excited to see more examples like this one in 2018, as the free weight room phenomenon foreshadows the representation of women in the workplace, politics and leadership roles everywhere.  Let's get 'em ladies! ~j

The Final Countdown to Summer

All3NealSmiles<--too cool for school (and yes, that is a vest in June)

It's the last week of school for Lake Washington School District, and at my house, you can certainly feel the excitement in the air.  Parents, try not to have a panic attack (and keep the wine on the ready). Every day my kids come home telling me they had a carnival or are signing yearbooks or going on a picnic or watching a movie.  They are officially CHECKED OUT.  And so am I. But I was pretty excited to notice a little side benefit of this week.  It appears that my house has been cleaned- yet it has not!  It's just the fact that my kids' text books are gone from the counter and the reams of paper that clutter my kitchen island and dining table have been recycled.  Backpacks are back to being an acceptable weight and nestle neatly into mudroom cubbies where before they did not fit.

I thought it would be fun to pepper my kids with some questions about the end of the school-year.  This not only serves the purpose of my entertainment, it was also a way to let their anxious smiles unfold into the open.  These would likely be way funnier if we asked little kids instead of snarky teenagers, but here goes:

Are you glad it's the last week of school? Why/why not? 

B-Yes, there won't be as much stress

R-Yes b/c I can be free. But I will miss my teachers and algebra  (<---this can't be my child??)

S- Yes & No.  No homework/freetime/good weather, but I won't get to see my teachers.

What is top on your list to accomplish this summer?

B- Get stronger.

R-Be prepared for high school and make $1000 so I can buy a car. And I want to walk big dogs.

S-Run every day and be more active  (um...hello, you do 7.5 hours of gymnastics a week??!)

What is the worst memory from middle school this year?

B-I got in trouble for fast-walking.  I wasn't even running.  (I'll betcha $10  he was running)

R-Nothing. I've been a good kid.

S-I ate at the cafeteria! And one time I got in trouble for putting a tissue in the wrong trash can.

When is the awesome weather coming?

B-this weekend

R-never? ugh. July 16 is my guess

S- this weekend

Do you have any advice for teachers for next year?

B- Be kind.

R-When someone asks a question, answer it. Don't repeat it or re-phrase it or get mad.

S-Please at least pretend you like your job    (snarky, told ya..)

What time will you wake up this summer and what's the first thing you plan to do?

B-10:30 or 11.  Beach with my friends.

R-9:30. Sleep in or waterski   (these two things do not happen on the same day, obviously)

S-8:30 and I have no idea.


Here's to a safe and happy summer!