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! asuraphong.com  206-355-9502 or suraphonga.lieng@gmail.com 


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!



The Free Little Pantry in Rose Hill

  FreeLittlePantrybins  FreeLittlePantryOriginal   FreeLittlePantryfirstsign<--the original "Little Pantry" that started out by the street

In Sept of 2016, Radonna Nelson started out placing a small enclosed cabinet that she bought for $10 from Value Village out in front of her house (10745 126th Ave NE) with some extra pantry items inside of it.   The concept is similar to that of the "free little library" that is based on the honor system- take what you need, and if you can, put in something to share with others.  She started a Facebook Page called “The Free Little Pantry in Rose Hill” whose membership quickly exploded to what is now over 500 members.  Radonna bought another cabinet and friends started bringing over refrigerators to store lunch meat, milk, cheese, eggs, butter. Her pantry was quickly expanding to include fruits/veggies, socks/gloves, toiletries and freezers full of meat.  She goes grocery shopping every Mon/Weds/Fri and knows every sale in town.  The pantry was no longer just a box by the street, it has graduated to an enclosed space built onto the front to her family's home.

FreeLittlePantryFridge<---Radonna exclaims “This big fridge is my baby!”

Needless to say, feeding the hungry of Kirkland and beyond has turned into a full-time job for Radonna, but she is willing to let her “Little Pantry” go wherever it takes her.  She knows this was meant to be.  Formerly a woman that would sleep all day and hadn't any friends, she feels like her passion for helping others has given her a newfound purpose.  She grew up in a family of six where she was often hungry and endured an abusive home, so it has great meaning to give people an outlet that she didn’t have.  Radonna’s only requirement to use her pantry is that you are hungry (it’s not a grocery store) and you sign a waiver form. She wants those in need to take food with an open heart and without shame. There is no cap on the number of visits and she doesn’t turn anyone away. The Free Little Pantry of Rose Hill is open 24/7/365.  Yes, you read that correctly. Anytime.  She says, “At the end of the month, when I look at how much food has gone out, it’s clear I’m making a difference. When you fill people’s bellies, they are receptive to talk and I want them to know I’ve been there and I understand.”   Radonna remembers, “my husband sold plasma to pay for milk when our kids were young.... and we survived!  I want people to know that someone believes in them.”  She even sometimes assists in finding shelters and jobs.  Radonna will occasionally do special orders- making sure she purchases soap or detergent next time at the store if she knows someone needs it.


Radonna is not only a student at Cascadia College with a goal of being a therapist, she has been learning a lot as her pantry grows. She’s got her food handler’s permit and is waiting for her 501 (c)3 designation so donations will be tax-deductible soon.  Her vision is to eventually start a garden so her clients can understand how food grows and where it comes from.  Another perk of her mentoring role is changing how people eat.  “Someone told me their kids will eat apples now since they have tried them here.  And that means a lot,” Radonna beams.

Now you are likely realizing what an incredibly amazing and generous woman Radonna is to be giving her own money, time, energy, home and heart to the hungry people of our community.   “How can I help?” was top of mind for me.  There are  a couple ways:

1-The pantry needs a 3 drawer fridge for produce  (do you have one of these hanging around?)

2-Donations- Things such as frozen fruits/veggies, canned food, pastas, cheese, etc.  She also offers books for children and coats.  Toiletries and cleaning supplies are also helpful. Reusable bags are great for people to take their items in. Or if you prefer, you can also donate funds via Paypal.  


Special thanks to Radonna for being yet another fiber in the fabric that makes Kirkland so darn special.

Being Thankful, Then Shop Local

Happy Thanksgiving, Kirkland!!

After the turkey coma has worn off and the last slice of pumpkin pie is gone,it's time to get to shopping. We know you'll be clicking away on Black Friday while watching the Apple Cup, but then on Saturday, THAT's the day.  The one where you re-emerge from your house, breathe in some fresh PNW winter air and head to your favorite little shops for "Small Business Saturday' on 11/26.  This is how you keep your credit card warm...the downtown merchants will all be open until 8pm or later.  So show the locals your love and enjoy great customer service while giving back to your community.  Some shops will have giving trees and also offer special promotions throughout the season. 

Also on Sat 11/26 you can preview the Kirkland Art Center's Holiday Art Market 11am-6pm. Shop for unique handmade gifts created by local artists.  This fabulous market will run from 11/26- 12/24, Tues-Sat 11-6 and Sun 12-5.

Don't forget about WINTERFEST!  The same Sat 11/26 (I told you to rest up for this day!) there will be holiday caroling, shopping, family activities and Santa in Peter Kirk Park from 3-6:30.  Watch the tree-lighting at 5pm. Then on Sunday you can rest again.....

......Until Google does their holiday lighting on 12/2 from 4:30-6 (lights on at 5:30). Arrive early to check out the life-sized people snow globe.


Clap   Kudos Korner--

Congrats to Barbie Collins Young! She was recently promoted to Executive Director of the Kirkland Downtown Association, which 'magically' puts together many of these amazing local events in partnership with our businesses and citizens/volunteers.  We appreciate you Barbie! 

Kirkland's Oktoberfest Planning Committee just announced they are donating $17K in proceeds to local charities.  Not only is this a super fun event but it also gives back to the community in which it lives.  Here are the charities doing a happy dance right now: American Cancer Society, Eastside Timebank, Imagine Housing, Kirkland Downtown Association, MEOW Cat Rescue, Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown, and Sibling House.

Policey Things

New Police Chief Announced

Congratulations to our former Kirkland Police Dept Operations Captain, Cherie Harris,  who was recently announced as our new Police Chief.  It makes me smile to have a woman at the helm.  Harris has 23 years of law enforcement experience and  was chosen through a national selection process that included interview panels with key city and police department staff, police chiefs from neighboring cities, the City Council, and the community.  As Chief, Harris will oversee the 99 sworn and 36 support personnel who serve in the  Administrative, Operations, and Professional Standards divisions.  Kudos to your Chief Harris, thanks for keeping us safe and organized.  


Teach Your Kids to Dial 9-1-1: Kirkland Library 4/12 at 11:30am

Every day 5,000 calls are made locally to 9-1-1. Many residents, especially kids, don’t know how and when to call.

King County 911 is bringing these skills to Kirkland kids with Emery the Emergency Penguin storybook tour, a new program aimed at teaching local preschoolers the how, when and where of dialing 9-1-1.  This FREE tour will be making its way to 13 libraries across King County throughout the month of April, and the next stop will be at King County Library System’s Kirkland Branch Tuesday, April 12th    from 11:30-12.  They should have me teaching this class.  I call 911 all the time.  Well not ALL the time, but let's just say I'm not scared to call if I see something that doesn't look right and I dial those numbers a couple times a year. They tell me they appreciate it, although they may roll their eyes when they see my number pop up on caller ID. 

Here are some examples I've had....  Just witnessed a car accident. CALL. Crazy guy strung out on drugs riding his bike down the street and yelling obscenities at everyone he passes. CALL.   A truck carrying open cargo is spilling all over a major roadway. CALL.  Car full of teenagers without seat belts speeding down the 405 in a convertible while sitting on the top of the back seats w beer cans in hand.  CALL (you're welcome parents).  Neighbors house alarm going off and I can't reach them. CALL.  Solicitors that give me the creeps/make me uncomfortable and don't have a permit. CALL. I also discuss with my kids what does or doesn't warrant a call- when in doubt, CALL.  They can help you decide the severity of your situation and how to remedy it.