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Friday, March 26, 2010

Catch Local History Fever - Western Washington Authors Featured in Article

I live in Tacoma in the year 2010, but lately I've been obsessed with a particular day here, from over a century ago. It was May 22, 1903, the day President Theodore Roosevelt's private train pulled into the station and the sound of a 21 gun salute thundered over the waters of Commencement Bay, just as he stepped down from his rail car. Shortly after that moment, Roosevelt's lavishly decorated carriage rolled through town toward Wright Park and it seemed everyone was determined to get a glimpse of the president. A reporter for The Daily Ledger, described in exactly these words, the sight of "spanking northwesterners above the housetops, or dipping from every window." Back then you would only have to spend a nickel on the newspaper, in order to read about the event if you missed it.

I'm aware of the details of this day in history because I'm editing a book written by local author Michele Bryant. This gorgeous volume filled with photos, including many rare ones, will be published soon to benefit the Theodore Roosevelt Association. It documents Roosevelt's several visits to Washington State beginning with his first in 1903. Bryant is one of many Puget Sound writers we'll be especially grateful for in the future, because they are preserving our local history.

Did you ever feel the urge to do the same, to write down what you know, or the stories told by your parents and grandparents? Maybe your family is lucky enough to own artifacts with great stories behind them, like this modest example of Northwest Native American basket weaving from the Makah tribe. My grandfather bought it at the Pike Place Market in the 1920s, from the Makah woman who made it, and I grew up with this basket in our home.

Do you have your own special family stories, or want to record the events and life experiences that took place in your community long ago, before they're lost forever? If so, please read on. It's easier than you think to preserve and share your local history, and you don't even need to write a book. There are other, less time-consuming ways to publish and disseminate this information.

I interviewed writers from Everett to Olympia for an article published just this week, on a website called
Neighborhood Life, the second of two I've had published there, on the topic of local history. The first featured Pierce County historian Andy Anderson, and his book "In the Shadow of the Mountain." This second article focuses on other ways to see your writing in print, through museums, historical societies, brochures and newsletters, on the web, and places you've never thought of. It contains useful insights and advice offered by authorities such as,

Drew Crooks, historian and author from Thurston County,

David Dilgard Everett Public Library, who is the author of books, articles, and more,

Priscilla Long, widely published writer, teacher, and Senior Editor of, and

Joe Follansbee, local journalist and Senior Editor of Fyddeye, a website about maritime history. He's also the author of "
Ship Builders, Sea Captains, and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona."

If you do decide to do this kind of writing, please do so responsibly. Carefully check and document what you represent as fact. Be exact with the details, dates, the spelling of names. It matters. There is nothing more upsetting than seeing published material concerning your own family or community that you know to be incorrect. Remember your obligation to future generations, and especially to the truth.

Now go call your Grandma and ask her to tell those stories again. Better yet, ask her about things she's never discussed before.

Watch out though. If you catch "local history fever" it can last a lifetime.

To read the article "Writing Local History - Options for Publication and Dissemination" please click here.

Makah basket photos courtesy of Robert Dickhoff.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Fun Way to Irritate People in the Midwest

I'm normally a nice person, but I just had to rub it in: the pinks, the yellows, the fragrance in the air. My cousin who lives so far north in Minnesota she could whisper and be heard in Canada, is one of my favorite people, but I couldn't help emailing her some photos last week, of all the things in bloom here in Tacoma, saying "These should make you good and jealous."

"Oh yeah, I'm way jealous of all that color," she said. "I'm sending you two pics of what we have to look at." It was lovely, for Minnesota; the morning sun "reflecting through three inches of solid ice over completely frozen ground." There was another one, of the lake with its ice cap two feet thick. My cousin is not a native of Minnesota. She's from Seattle. In her household, especially by the time winter has worn out its welcome, the landscape is sarcastically referred to as "a (blankety blank) Winter Wonderland!" She labeled the photos "GDWW1" and "GDWW2."

It isn't officially spring here in the Pacific Northwest but it might as well be. My yard is coming alive with color, a crayon box full of primroses and more. It's fragrant too, with the perfume of pink trees lining the street, Daphne odora, and Royal Star Magnolia. Our most eager rhododendron stands out among its peers, covered with delicate cotton candy trusses. Around the neighborhood you can find heather, forsythia, flowers from spring-blooming bulbs, and more, to say nothing of the green leaves emerging from shrubs and trees. Yesterday I took a walk in the park at Point Defiance where the patches of bright yellow daffodils can make even a cloudy day seem sunny. Why do you think I call this blog "Good Life Northwest?" Aren't we lucky?

Don't feel too sorry for my cousin because Spring is coming, even there. They just had a big thaw. Now it's mud.

Text and photos copyright 2010 Candace Brown

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sorci's - the Best Pizza Ever, and so much more

It was the pizza that did it. Every time I've eaten at Sorci's Italian Cafe' and Enoteca in Sumner, Washington, I knew I should write a blog post about this place, but it was the pizza I had for lunch yesterday that finally sent me to my laptop to spread the word. I'd feel, well, selfish, if I didn't. Now I'm curious about all the things on the menu I haven't tried yet, things I might like even better than the pizza, if that's possible.

Owned by father and son, George and Jeremy Annillo, the cafe' is in the same building as the Vanlierop Garden Market, a block off Main Street, and I mean the quintessential "Main Street, U.S.A," running through a small town business district still so charming and vital it seems like an endangered species. My husband and I brought a friend along on the short drive from Tacoma, to shop for antiques and especially to have lunch at Sorci's. There's a reason they call it "your Rome away from Rome."

Our friend ordered a grilled panini filled with imported Italian rosemary-infused ham and buffalo mozzarella cheese. He sincerely loved it for the excellent choice it was, perfectly golden brown, seductive through and through. But when the pizza my husband and I ordered came to the table, he looked like a man at the altar about to marry his bride, but falling in love with a bridesmaid. It's so hard to be loyal at Sorci's. Don't worry. We shared, a little.

We'd ordered the Pizza Tutta, described in their menu as "mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, white cheddar, prosciutto, hot capicola, mushrooms and mama lil's hot goat peppers," all melted and delicately browned on an herb crust, not too thin or too crisp, but just the right degree of both aspects. I always wanted to try the pizza at Sorci's and it exceeded all expectations.

Now, of course, I want to try everything on the menu, so when Jeremy Annillo came over to our table to greet us I asked him, "If someone could only eat here once, what would you recommend to them?"

He didn't even hesitate. "The hand rolled gnocchi. We do a very different twist on it, no potatoes. We make it with fresh ricotta and Parmesan cheese and spinach," he said. I saw on the menu that it's served with a vodka sauce, one of my favorites.

Jeremy's smile and personality reflect the warmth and graciousness of the whole place and everyone who works there. "The reason we got into this business is because we love good food and good friends, everybody enjoying themselves. A meal should be more like an experience and not just something to be hurried through. And when we do private events here, that's when it's really fun. We feel like we're celebrating right along with the people." I suspect his graciousness and love of food came down through the family from his Italian grandparents.

Even Sorci's web site is an experience, where you can learn about those grandparents, the cafe's history, their catering, take-out including full family meals, the wine bar, special events like movie night, and the full menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is served until 4 pm. For an even more special "experience," the kind Jeremy loves to offer, you might want to let Sorci's plan a full course dinner for you and even pair it with the perfect wine.

Our simple lunch still felt like a special experience, one you can have too, any time. You could close your eyes, point a finger at the menu, choose anything and be happy. But in my mind, no matter how many delicious foods an Italian restaurant offers, if I keep coming back, "It was the pizza." Enjoy!