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Tuesday, December 31, 2013


"Winter in Tahoe" by Adriana Willsie  

Dear Readers,

I've featured many images in my blog during this past year, but none have pleased me more than this one, a painting by my niece, Adriana Willsie. Her work always uplifts and inspires me, but none more so than this image of a fresh, snowy, alpine landscape with blue sky and sunshine. That's why I'm offering it as my New Year gift to you, along with some thoughts about what I see in it.

Doesn't this painting symbolize the kind of year we all want? 

  • Its luminosity cheers me, as do the vivid colors. I can smell the fresh air. May our outlook always be fresh and our visions vivid. May we embrace new ideas and celebrate beauty.
  • We might view that distant horizon as our dreams and goals, and even though a body of water (our challenges) must be crossed to reach that place, we somehow know we will. If we can envision and believe, anything is possible.
  • Life brings both sunshine and shadows, but these shadows are not dark and foreboding. Look closely. They have their own beauty, streaked with cool and restful colors that contrast with the brilliance of sun on snow. The shadows represent our times of stillness, rest, balance, and introspection. 
  • The blue sky is optimism and joy!
  • The trees symbolize continuing life. Rooted in the Earth, they stand tall and reach for their greatest potential heights. Enduring the chill winds and cold, they remain steadfast, sturdy, evergreen.

In February 2013, Good Life Northwest featured a post about Adriana: 

She is a native of Washington, now living in Wisconsin. The Northwest still influences her art work, even though most of her paintings are pet portraits. Here is her own New Year gift, a video slide show of beautiful animals she has painted for clients as custom orders. Just click on the arrow on this dog's nose.

If you love "Winter in Tahoe" as much as I do, you can order prints and note cards of this and other paintings from the artist's website: 


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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"JAZZ AT THE CASTLE" Features "THE ROADSTARS" Plus Stadium High School Students

Castles and magic go together and never more so than this Thursday night, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., when the acclaimed jazz trumpeter Lance Buller and Tacoma's Stadium High School offer some musical magic with “Jazz at the Castle.” This swinging holiday show will be held in the performing arts center at Stadium High School, the city's historic landmark that looks like a castle.
Buller handpicked outstanding musicians Ted Dortch (sax), Chris Spencer (guitar), Chuck Kistler (bass), and Ken French (drums)—with professional credits like his, including movie and TV soundtracks, theater shows, multiple recordings, and live concerts around the world—to join him as the “Roadstars” for this spectacular evening.
“They have spent their careers making other people sound great,” Buller said. “Now it's their turn. In other words, run for cover!”

In addition to the Roadstars, two jazz bands made up of Stadium High School students will also perform. Buller shaped his own professional life through perseverance, focus, and dedication, the same qualities he teaches teenage musicians, with amazing results. 
"It makes getting up at 5 a.m. all worth it when you hear them play, and see the joy in their eyes,” he said. "Having been a professional musician for 40 years allows me to know the little things that can make ‘good’ turn into ‘great.’”

Support these hardworking young musicians by attending this event and treat yourself to a memorable evening with the Roadstars at the same time. It will be a swingin' good time, folks, so don’t miss it! You can also hear the Lance Buller Trio at Maxwell's in Tacoma every Friday night.
Stadium High School is located at 111 North E. St. in Tacoma, WA 98403. Tickets are only $10 at the door.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Kurt Beattie as Scrooge
Photo: Chris Bennion - See more at:

My emotional response to a simple bit of music and a few props embarrassed me. Tears pooled in my eyes before the production of “A Christmas Carol” at ACT—A Contemporary  Theatre in Seattle even began. As I took my seat, traditional English Christmas hymns moved me with the melodies and words I've heard all my life, and I stared at the scene of an street lamp with icicles, swirling snowflakes, and the drab sparseness of Ebenezer Scrooge’s office. Without the actors, it looked as empty and cold as Scrooge's heart seemed to be, yet “A Christmas Carol” is actually about warmth. It is about humanity’s deep well of hope, love, goodness, and even joy, even in the bleakest of times.

“A Christmas Carol” opened at ACT on November 29 in ACT’s Allen Arena and closes on December 29. Although you still have about two weeks left to see it, many shows have already sold out. Hurry to get tickets before you miss your chance. You will love the fine acting, the scenes, the perfect period costumes and most of all, the timeless message that people matter more than money and that the power of love changes everything.
Young cast members
Photo: Chris Bennion - See more at:
For 38 years, the theater at 700 Union Street has presented Charles Dicken’s classic tale of the mean and miserly Scrooge, his employee Bob Cratchit (Justin Alley), and Cratchit’s impoverished but loving family, including his crippled youngest son, Tiny Tim (Anna Ostrem). We have all met the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. I can’t count the number of versions of this story I’ve seen on stage and screen, but I had never actually seen ACT’s production and wondered how Gregory A. Fall’s adaptation of the well-worn tale, directed by John Langs, could prove to be much different. Trust me. It is.
On the night I attended, Artistic Director Kurt Beattie starred as Scrooge, but he is alternating with Peter Crook in this role. Behind Scrooge’s sharp tongue and bitter scowl hid a man who once knew love but did not cherish it. We all sat spellbound and silent. I should say silent except for two young children who for some reason burst into hysterical giggling every time they heard “Bah, humbug!” (By the way, no children under the age of five may attend.)
Dancing photo of the Cast of A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Photo: Chris Bennion - See more at:
An audience made up of several generations shared moments of tenderness, heartache, and humor while some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen on stage gave the ghostly visitations realistic eeriness, using dramatic lighting, mists, and props rising or descending through the stage floor. They caused the little girl next to me to cuddle closer to her adult companion and hide her face in a sleeve.
Beattie’s talent as an actor is equaled by his talent as a writer. His letter in the program, along with the words of Director John Langs, could be two of the most touching and uplifting pieces of writing you might read this season. I also enjoyed learning more about Charles Dickens in an article in the program, such as how he hated many of the same social and economic injustices affecting the present time. The classic story has never felt so relevant.
Dancing photo of the Cast of A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Photo: Chris Bennion - See more at:
Ebenezer Scrooge teaches us a lesson about regret. Don’t cause yourself any by missing “A Christmas Carol” at ACT. I missed it for 37 years, but I won't again. Go expecting to feel uplifted, nostalgic, serene, and reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the importance of kindness toward others. You might even find, in the shadows and mists, your own ghost of some Christmas Past.
For directions, parking, and other information, click here or call (206) 292-7676.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013


We can all relate to the song, "There's No Place Like Home For the Holidays," but to ballerina Katherine Neumann, who grew up in Olympia, Washington, the word "home" means more than her family's loving household.

"Dance Theatre Northwest will always be my first dance studio home," Neumann said in a recent interview for Good Life Northwest. No wonder. She began to learn dance from Artistic Director Melanie Kirk-Stauffer at the studio in University Place, Washington, at the age of four, became a member of the DTNW dance company, and also taught there. She currently lives in New York and studies dance at Steps on Broadway. Kirk-Stauffer is delighted that Neumann could make the trip home to dance the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in studio's annual production of "The Nutcracker" as she has done before.

This DTNW holiday classic returns to the Mount Tahoma High School auditorium for three performances next weekend. The school is located at 4634 S. 74th, Tacoma, WA 98409. Times are 2:20 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14 and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15. Tickets can be purchased online.

"It's been very affirming going there," Neumann said of her experiences at Steps on Broadway. "A lot of the teachers ask me where I got my dance training. They all say I've had excellent training, so that's been nice. It just reaffirms what I already knew about Dance Theatre Northwest; it's a great school and you get great training there."

Oceana Thunder and Maddie Ewer        Photo by Maks Zakharov courtesy of Dance Theatre Northwest

She appreciates the warm homecoming welcome from not only her own very supportive family, but her DTNW family as well.

"It's great to see all the other girls and how much they've improved since I've been gone," said Neumann, whose heartstrings stretch across the nation. "They send me messages in New York and talk about how they're working really hard for when I come home. We inspired each other to keep working hard, even though we're far apart."

Even though Neumann has starred in this ballet many times before, it changes and improves each year. She looks forward to applying the additional skills she has acquired at Steps on Broadway. Kirk-Stauffer, keeps DTNW's "Nutcracker" fresh and exciting with new costumes and choreography. She and Associate Artistic Director Vadne Domeika, and all the dancers have been putting in long hours preparing for this delightful event. If you've seen it before, you haven't seen it like this, so order your tickets right away.

"She's rearranged a lot of the pieces," Neumann said. "Every year it's a little better. It just keeps growing and improving. It's exciting! It's going to be a really good show."

Group and military discounts are available.
For more information, call (253) 778-6534.

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Monday, December 2, 2013


Here in Tacoma, we know how to welcome Santa in style, even if it’s 19th century style. On Thursday, Dec. 5, he arrives at the historic Job Carr Cabin Museum in the city's Old Town neighborhood, for the annual Tree Lighting and Santa Visit event taking place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The cabin is located at 2350 N. 30th Street in Tacoma, on the grounds of Old Town Park. Here are driving directions.
Would kids rather see Santa in a boring shopping mall or a real log cabin, all decorated for the season? It’s a no-brainer! Give them a great experience they will remember. With most families, weekends in December fill up with activities quickly, so this delightful, educational family event on a weeknight evening presents a perfect opportunity for fun or the beginning of a new tradition.

The Tree-Lighting is co-sponsored by Job Carr Cabin Museum and Old Town Business& Professional Association. There are many positive reasons to attend this event.

    Photos with Santa in the cabin are free, and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Numbered tickets will be handed out as people arrive, so be sure to arrive early. You can park on the street.
Donations of non-perishable foods will be accepted at the event, and given to the Food Connection.

Hot chocolate and cookies will be served (while supplies last) free-of-charge. The cookies are purchased by OTBPA as a fundraiser for Toys For Tots.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


As I type this blog post on Thanksgiving evening, some of you might already have blown your holiday gift budget at big box stores, or will before the weekend is over. (Having worked as a retail merchandiser in the past, I know for a fact how phony most of those "sales" really are.) Instead of buying more junk made in China, how about opting for a different sort of Black Friday Sale plus a one-day shopping opportunity that will let you give gifts as unique and special as the recipients?
In a previous post I wrote about Second Use, the retail store that offers shoppers the fun of finding a "second use" for surprising treasures resulting from architectural salvage. Now you can shop from a selection of gifts made by 25 local artisans.
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1
3223 6th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98134
Artist Crystal Moore created this very cool upcycled pipe lamp. I love it!
Here's how Second Use describes this fun event (see it on Facebook too):
"Some people love making things by hand so much that they want to share the things they've made with others.  They perceive the potential in materials, envision what can be done with them, and enjoy the process of making.  We have an opportunity December 1 to experience the creativity and skill of some of these artisans first hand at Second Use's first ever Handmade Market.  When you talk with the artisans and buy their products, you are celebrating the uniqueness of handmade things, the value of doing something with care rather than just quickly and cheaply.  Come and share in the inspiration and gift of community where one person makes something for another."

Part of the fun is the discovery of so many creative crafters in the Puget Sound area. I've listed the vendors below, but take a look at another one-of-a-kind piece, this one made by Hammer Like a Girl.


Gorgeous jewelry by Kurstyn Schober would please someone on your list

Vendors at Handmade Market
Carol Clifford - Orange House Press- Stationary and Posters 
Charles Warinkse - Live Garden Art
Connie Conley - Record Trays & Metal Art 

Crystal Moore - Upcycled Lamps, Wreaths, and Housewares
Cyndi Moring - Embellished Boxes
Dan Kevil - Art
Gay Thrush - Terrariums, Wreaths, Mosaic Art
Hammer Like a Girl - Salvage Made Housewares 

Ivy Cheung - Homegrown Lavender & Lavender Products
Julie Flintoff - Custom Birdhouses
Julie Saul & Amy Dedrickson - Found Object Jewelry
Katherine Podany - Felted Goods & Toys
Ken Okins - Custom Birdhouses
Klaudia Keller - Cashmere Fingerless Gloves
Kurstyn Schober - Jewelry & Housewares
LaDonna Colp & Margie Cook - Jewelry & Knitwear
Linda Morrison - Paper Mache, Garland, & Sculpture
Lindsey Stone - Beaded Jewelry, Ornaments, & Sculpture
Nightshade Rose Studio - Metal & Enamel Jewelry & Art
Patrice Lidgren & Michelle Johnson - Jewelry & Knitwear
Pieced Together Design - Felted Housewares & Cards 

Sarah Eggert- Mason Jar Tumblers - Upcycled Bags, & Trays
Sheena McNeice - Reclaimed & Refinished Housewares
Taj Schade - Gift Wrapping (You can even have your purchases wrapped!)
Tincher Woodworks & Design - Wooden Housewares
Thatch & Hoek - Salvage Sourced Housewares 

Want to see more?
Handmade cards are gifts themselves.

How about a collage hook?
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013



You’ve probably heard the old saying “What goes around comes around.” That sentence perfectly describes the architectural salvage and deconstruction business called Second Use Building Materials, with a retail store at 3223 6th Ave. S. in Seattle. Here’s why:
1.)         The good people at Second Use, along with their customers, prevent perfectly usable building materials, fixtures, furniture, hardware, lighting, and more from ending up in landfills. Instead, these leftovers from demolition or remodeling projects “come around” again as they find new homes and sometimes new uses in the hands of creative people.

2.)         If “What goes around comes around” refers to karma, Second Use can look forward to an increasingly happy future. This business with a conscience understands that the more good we do, the more we give back to society, the more we encourage others to care about the planet, the more positive things will “come around” to us again.
According to Outreach Coordinator Mary Anne Carter, the mission of Second Use is, " ... to make salvage affordable, accessible, and intuitive for the community.” With these goals in mind, the business has planned three exciting events well worth attending. They are:

·         A Salvaged Gift Workshop on November 17—11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

·         A Black Friday Sale on November 29

·         A Handmade Market on December 1

Salvaged Gift Workshop

Here is a way for you to create or buy wonderful holiday gifts without following along with the crowd and spending your hard earned money at a big box store.

Second Use Staff Member Sheena McNeice will teach the coat hook/jewelry holder part of the workshop.
“Although building materials comprise the bulk of our inventory, there is no limit to the resourcefulness of our customers,” Carter said. “Shutters become magazine racks; window sashes become greenhouses; bowling alleys become coffee tables; hardware becomes jewelry, bathtubs become planters and ponds.”

She wants people to realize that greater use of salvage means diverting waste from landfills and increasing the community’s self-sufficiency. It costs nothing to observe the workshops. If you want to make a project, there is a modest $10 fee for materials. Second Use has this notice on their website: Registration will be limited to 45 guests and will fill up quickly! Please register online today. Kit fees will be required prior to the event and can be paid by check, cash, or credit card. To pay with a credit card, please call Second Use at 206-763-6929.
Dirk Wassink, one of three owners at Second Use, says the business not only reclaims materials but also passes along some of their stories. How true. Our house in Tacoma has a beautiful and very unusual vintage glass light fixture in the entry, bought at Second Use for far less than what it would cost in an antique store. Someone remodeling an old house in West Seattle thought it was junk and wanted to get rid of it. Now it has a happy new home where it is appreciated. My husband has used bricks from Seattle’s early streets for garden paths and flower bed edgings. I could tell you plenty of personal Second Use stories.

Do you see the potential in these materials? The staff at Second Use does. See below.

You never know what you’ll see when you visit as it changes all the time. They have everything, including the kitchen sink! That could mean a marble fireplace mantel from a mansion, interior doors from an elegant old hotel, or vintage school desks. You can even conveniently check out the inventory online.

Wassink is amazed by the creativity of the store’s customers when it comes to finding new uses for the vast array of objects and materials in stock. He invites everyone to discover the rewards of repurposing would-be waste for gifts or your own use.
Make candlesticks from recycled turned wood!
“Our Salvaged Gift Workshop on November 17 provides an invitation to those of us who might otherwise hesitate to make something cool from salvaged materials to go ahead and jump in,” Wassink said. “Each one of us has creativity, and this workshop helps nudge that creativity along with just enough guidance and materials."

He believes that when people become involved in making the things they use and give as gifts they take, "... a powerful step to balance out the consumer orientation we encounter so much elsewhere in our lives." He suggests we put a little of ourselves into gift giving this season.
McNeice will guide you through every step.

Stay tuned for another post on Good Life Northwest about the exciting Black Friday Sale on November 29, and the Handmade Market happening on December 1.

Note: If you already produce handmade items to sell, and would like to do so at the Handmade Market event for only $15 per space, you can access the vendor application here. Don't wait too long. They are only accepting twenty vendors.

Doesn’t all of this sound like fun? Thank you, Second Use!

Second Use Building Materials has moved to 3223 6th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98134. Phone (206) 763-6929 Click HERE for a map and directions.

Photos by Mary Anne Carter

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy November - Photo Tour of Point Defiance Park

November knocked on the door this morning and winter lurks only a calendar page away. These days, as many colored leaves litter the ground as glorify the trees. Before nature's colors retreat into drabness, come along with me for one more walk through Tacoma's Point Defiance Park. For this one, you won't even need a sweater.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Musical "ANYTHING GOES" at The 5th Avenue Theatre is Pure Delight— a review

Rachel York and Company in Roundabout Theater Company's Anything Goes.
Credit Joan Marcus
Whenever I start feeling like the world is doomed, nothing yanks me out of a funk faster than the irresistible rhythms of tap shoes, the color, flash, and energy of a fine chorus of dancers on a hot tune, or their swirl and sway on a sentimental ballad. Package all that with fine voices singing Cole Porter’s classics of the Great American Songbook with the backing of an outstanding orchestra, plus some knock out stage sets, and you’ll forget all your cares. Such was my evening at the press opening of Anything Goes at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle last Thursday night.

Rachel York and Company in Roundabout Theater Company's Anything Goes.
Credit Joan Marcus
What a treat it is to have Roundabout Theatre Company’s tour of this Broadway revival come to town.  If you want to spend an afternoon or evening experiencing total escapism, fun, and happiness, get your tickets now while you can. Performances are Tuesdays through Sundays, closing on November 3, 2013. You will quickly see why this musical won the 2011 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who won the 2011 Toney Award for Best Choreography.

Enjoy the crazy shenanigans, mix-ups, and mistaken identities of an interesting mix of folks aboard an ocean liner in the 1930s. It might be the middle of the Great Depression, but no one can be depressed for long on this trip with all the romantic intrigue, humor, historically accurate costumes, and song and dance.  Smile, reminisce, and laugh your head off as the action takes place in gorgeous stage settings. Rediscover tunes so great they’ve withstood the decades. In addition to the theme song, “Anything Goes,” you’ll hear:

I Get a Kick Out of You
It’s De-Lovely
Blow, Gabriel, Blow
Easy to Love
The Gypsy in Me
Erich Bergen and Rachel York in Roundabout Theater Company's Anything Goes.
Credit Joan Marcus
The vivacious Rachel York, as Reno Sweeny, is the sparkling diamond in this setting. Her voice, style, and dancing ability are unsurpassed. Other gems surround her. Josh Franklin in the lead male role of Billy Crocker (even though these press photos show Erich Bergen) was fabulous, contributing his powerful voice, great acting, and dancing skills to the this show's success. Fred Applegate charmed us as the lovable gangster Moonface Martin. Dennis Kelly was hilarious as the Wall Street tycoon Elisha Whitney. Alex Finke made a lovely debutante Hope Harcourt, with the talented Sandra Shipley as her mother,  and Joey Sorge as Hope’s fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh offered laughs and a surprises when his true self emerged.

Alex Finke and Erich Bergen  in Roundabout Theater Company's Anything Goes.
Credit Joan Marcus

While Billy and Hope provide moments of elegance and grace, dancing to “It’s De-Lovely,” Lord Evelyn and Reno heat things up with their rendition of “The Gypsy in Me.” One of my favorites, however, was the tune “Friendship,” where Reno and Moonface Martin, exchange looks, pokes, and hip bumps to the hilarious lyrics.

If I could lump all my praise into the form of a pie, I’d be serving a huge slice to The 5th Avenue’s own amazing orchestra, conducted this time by Jay Alger. The popular music of the 1930s is a big part of my life and they totally nailed it, getting just the right sound, style and authentic period arrangements. Many of great Seattle's finest musicians occupy that orchestra pit and I say, "Congratulations to these hometown heroes!"

I always enjoy myself at The 5th Avenue, but I give this show a rating of five especially bright stars. Go see it!

The 5th Avenue Theatre is located at 1308 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101
Box office phone: (206) 625-1900  Online box office

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