Monday, January 31, 2011

Fiamma Burger

Fiamma Burger, on Railroad Avenue, bills itself as Bellingham's premier burger joint. Being vegetarian, I can't necessarily vouch for that-- but they do get points with me for making their own veggie patties instead of just slapping a Gardenburger patty on a bun like almost everywhere else in town. Plus they've got wicked awesome wood paneling. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Reflections: Beer

More of a weekend refraction than a weekend reflection,
this shot was taken during happy hour at Archer Ale House in Fairhaven.
And a happy hour it was indeed.

Click to see the rules and to take a badge for yourself.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Barn in the Meadow

(It's not a meadow, but my lovely 5-year-old daughter came up with the title)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Birdsong Changes with the Landscape

I don't know where I'm going,
but I fling myself there.
Feet crusted and dirty,
my body so tired
if I stand still I will melt
softly into the dead grass.
I'm terrified of transition--
but the glistening teeth
of the stagnant beast
slice lazily at listless feet.
Faced with the impossible task
of standing still
I bare my fragile heart
and fly.

This is my entry for One Shot Wednesday. Click here to see others.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Three Ways Bellingham's Been in the News Lately

(There's some color for you, Magpie!)

1) In Sunset magazine's February issue, Bellingham is one of their ten "2011 Best Towns-- Places to Make You Happy". Each town in the feature was chosen for a different reason, and Bellingham, with 65 miles of multi-use trails within the city limits, was chosen as the best place to "play year-round":

To get a sense of the adrenaline-pumping possibilities around Bellingham, a seaside haven 90 miles north of Seattle, you need look only at the annual Memorial Day weekend Ski to Sea Race. The seven-sport relay draws nearly 500 teams of competitors-- some with Olympic pedigrees, some wearing tutus-- for a mettle-tester bookended by cross-country skiing on Mt. Baker and sea kayaking on Bellingham Bay.

"Geographically, we're in the right spot," says Ted Wang, president of the Whatcom Association of Kayak Enthusiasts. He's referring to the county's 143 miles of Puget Sound shoreline and 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, the San Juan Islands just across the bay, and the North Cascades National Park to the east. "There's more here than any of us will ever get to in our lifetime."

Worst-kept secret: It rains. Local consensus: So what?

2) In the New York Times article "10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride" featuring Willows Inn on Lummi Island, just outside Bellingham.

Willows Inn, on the tiny San Juan island of Lummi, is about two hours from Seattle by car and ferry. Yet it is about to become a destination restaurant, thanks to its new chef, Blaine Wetzel. The 24-year-old, formerly the protégé of Rene Redzepi at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant that was ranked the “best restaurant in the world” for 2010 by S. Pellegrino, took over the kitchen at Willows last year. The restaurant itself reopens in February; expect a menu with an obsessive focus on local ingredients, in the style ofNoma. Since he was hired, Mr. Wetzel has been working with a farmer and an urchin diver who work solely for him.

3) Whatcom County ranked #2 in the United States in the "Indie City Index," which compiled information on the vitality of independent businesses. The Bellingham Herald article:

Whatcom County residents have a reputation for supporting local, independent businesses. Now it is being noticed nationally.

A new report about the vitality of independent retailers ranks the Bellingham metro area - which includes all of Whatcom County - second highest out of 363 metro areas studied. The top spot went to Ocean City, N.J.; followed by Bellingham, Medford, Ore.; Carson City, Nev.; and San Jose, Calif.
Metro areas at the bottom of the list include Kankakee, Ill.; Topeka, Kan.; and Auburn, Ala. The Indie City Index 2011 was put together by the American Booksellers Association and the strategic planning firm Civic Economics.

The methodology involved taking a metro area and calculating the amount of sales from major chain stores to determine market saturation. The less chain store saturation for the area, the higher the ranking in the Indie City Index.

Whatcom County's high ranking doesn't come as a surprise to Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books in Fairhaven. He said the support of local, independent businesses was good when he and Dee Robinson opened the bookstore in 1980 and it's continued to strengthen, particularly in the past seven or eight years with the growth of the Sustainable Connections organization and its "Buy "Local" campaigns.

"Many more people we see say they've changed their buying behavior because they want to support local businesses, and I think a lot of it has to do with increased public awareness," said Robinson, who has previously been a board member for Sustainable Connections.

Many advocates of independent businesses believe there's an economic benefit to shopping local and keeping the money within the community. Robinson notes there are also cultural benefits to having a robust independent retail community.

"Not many towns have something like Hardware Sales or two great local brew pubs like we have here," Robinson said. "Having these unique businesses are important to the community."

Strong independent businesses in a community also benefit the local tourism industry, as people look for authentic places, said Derek Long, executive director for Sustainable Connections. He's also impressed by the amount of business Whatcom County companies do with each other, keeping the money circulating within this area.

"This area is relatively healthy," said Long, referring to the vibrancy of the independent business community. "The population here thinks carefully about how they spend money, and we're fortunate to have that here."

The tourism and business-to-business benefits are alive and well at Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen, said co-owner Mari Kemper. While the brewery has a regular customer base, it receives quite a few out-of-area visitors wanting to try out the latest beer. In turn, Kemper said they try to buy their products locally, including from Bellingham Pasta Company and Barlean's Organic Oils.

"We have a lot of talented, creative people here and we want to do what we can to support them," Kemper said.

It's still a challenge, however, given the current economic problems and competition.
"The recession continues to be challenging and we still need to get the message out there about the importance of supporting local businesses," Kemper said.

The Indie City Index was released at the Advocates for Independent Retail National Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Jan. 20. To see the full report, visit

So what are you waiting for? Come check us out!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Road Trip to Cannon Beach

I took a road trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon last weekend to scope out the area with a friend who plans to move there. We had planned on getting out to take some pictures of the area but northern Oregon was deluged with rain that weekend. The rain stopped briefly Saturday morning and we ran down to the beach to snap a couple of shots. By the time we drove out Sunday we were fording minor flood waters over the highway to Portland.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Skywatch Friday: Vicissitude

The vicissitude
as sun set and storm brewed
flooded the sky with chromaticity--
hues of great intensity.

(I just love the word vicissitude--
but you have to say it with attitude!)

Skywatch Friday

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Old Oak Tree

Walking down Knox Avenue in Fairhaven the other day, we saw this sign. It touched my heart-- in a world that generally can't tear down old things and put up new stuff fast enough, here was a sweet family who cherished their old oak tree, and recognized that their neighbors did, too. Goodbye, old oak tree! You will be missed, but I suspect not many oak trees are as loved as you are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Little Girl

Years from now she won't phone,
and I won't have met her latest boyfriend--
the one
who might be "the one."
She'll sleep in a bed that I don't tend,
and have a job I don't quite understand--
but I'll be happy
it makes her happy.

Years from now she'll choose her own hats,
and wear a chic red beret from France,
or a yellow cloche
or saucily angled fedora.
I'll embrace her when she's home for the holidays,
elated with this lady, my little girl--
and she'll be happy
she's made me happy.

This was taken at Eclipse Bookstore in Fairhaven.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Marine Park at Dusk

A steady stream of silhouettes
parade up and down the railroad tracks--
color leaching away as the sun sets
turning reds and blues and greens to black.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Before the Storm

Bellinghamsters are like cats-- if there's a sunny spot, we'll find it and relish it until it's gone.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wardner's Castle

One of a pair of statues guarding the gate to Wardner's Castle

Wardner's Castle today, and...

(Wardner castle)
over a century ago.

If you do a Google search for Wardner's Castle in Bellingham, WA, the top results will be: as a bed-and-breakfast, as a major historical home, and as a widely-believed-haunted house. 

Wardner's Castle was designed by architect Kirtland Cutter and built in 1889 for Jim Wardner, who lived in Fairhaven for only two years but during that time invested in the Bloedel-Donovan coal mine, founded a waterworks, an electric company, the Samish Lake Logging and Milling Company, Fairhaven National Bank, and-- rumor has it-- the infamous Eliza Island Consolidated Black Cat Company. Busy guy.

The web search on this home is downright comical in the abundance of information, and I could spend all day researching and writing about it, but I already have a five-year-old pestering me-- I mean um, cheerfully asking me-- for her breakfast, so that project is doubtful. Instead, here are some interesting links I've found which, should you have no pestering five-year-olds of your own, you should check out.

Click here to read a blog post by Taylor, a local ghost-hunting girl, about the creepy side of Wardner's Castle. Please note that I don't know her sources. However, as far as local-legend stuff goes, everything she writes about is widely believed to be true. I remember my high school paper (Sehome High School, and the paper was called The Rising Tide, but who knows what it's called now) did an article on the house in the mid-90's and had many of the same pictures of the murals.

Click here for a blog post by Brandon Nelson, a local real estate agent who showed the home to prospective buyers in March 2010. He has some pictures of the interior included. I don't know if it was sold to these buyers or some others, but it was recently purchased by somebody who is now doing a lot of work-- when I walked by last week it was empty and there was a lot of plaster and drywall lying around.

Click here for a short "official" history of the home on the City of Bellingham website.

Click here for a longer history of James F. Wardner himself from the Skagit Journal. This article has several more interesting relevant links included. See why you could spend all day on this?

Lastly, click here for an article, also from the Skagit Journal, about the legendary Consolidated Black Cat Company. It's a fun read.

All right, you guys have fun. I've got breakfast to get on the table! 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Haiku #8

sunlight's last pink gleam
the splash of kayaks, the smell
of coming snow

Monday One Stop Poetry Form: Haiku

I couldn't stop thinking in haiku, so I posted another at my other blog:
Lizziviggi and the Life Worth Living

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cathedrals in Conflict

Church of the Assumption on Cornwall Avenue

The beauty of the two Catholic churches in Bellingham belies the feuding history between them. The Church of the Assumption, in what used to be the north end of Bellingham, was formed in 1889. From the beginning, however, the southside community clamored for their own parish. (Those darn Fairhavenites, always wanting to go their own way!) Their requests went unheeded until 1903. Ironically, as the towns of Whatcom, Fairhaven, Sehome, and Bellingham were consolidating into one, the Fairhaven Catholic community was granted their request to divide the local parish into two. About one-third of the Assumption parishioners left to form Sacred Heart, and they hopped around from place to place until the church was built in 1913. Supposedly the rivalry between the churches was so intense that parents from one church would actually forbid their children to go to the other church, and parishioners claimed they would rather go to a Protestant church than attend the other Catholic church.

They both are lovely though, aren't they?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Skywatch Friday: Teddy Bear Cove

Teddy Bear Cove

I discovered a new beach near town when a friend and I hiked down to get some sunset photos. Instead of sand, the beach is covered with crushed white shells giving it a rather Hawaiian feel. Once [notorious/popular] as a clothing optional beach, Teddy Bear cove was [cleaned up/ruined] by the long arm of the law several years back and is now a popular family destination.

Skywatch Friday

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wishing There Was a Prettier Word for Culvert

Even concrete can't withstand the persistent green fingers of nature in the Pacific Northwest.

This was taken under the Interurban Trail under the bridge between Fairhaven Park and Marine Park.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Haiku #7

my bored cat gazes
at a thin dog by the fence
the heater ticks

I missed out on Monday's haiku lesson at One Stop Poetry,
but it inspired me to write a haiku for today's post.

Chuckanut Sandstone

The only area where the Cascade mountain range meets the sea are the Chuckanut Mountains. The mountains that comprise these are a geologist's dream, with everything from the sandstone pictured here to shale, conglomerate, phyllite, and stilpnomelane chunks unusual for their size. Probably the most interesting geologic items in the Chuckanut area are the number of leaf fossils from the Tertiary Period. Just take a drive down Chuckanut Road and look out your window; if you look carefully, you will see fossils of large, tropical fern-like leaves from a time when the Pacific Northwest was much warmer than it is today.

Someday I will get pictures of those. But for today, I present a picture of chuckanut sandstone-- a familiar sight to anyone who frequents Larrabee, Clayton Beach, or Teddy Bear Cove, where this was taken. Even though I've grown up around this rock, it never fails to delight me with its patterns of holes and waves. Through exposure to wind, rain, and salt water, the sandstone is carved into intricate designs. Like with clouds, it's easy to find pictures within the abstract designs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lake Padden Polar Bear Plunge 2011

A discarded bottle lay serenely on the thin layer of ice covering Lake Padden the morning of January 1, 2011. The calm of the morning, and the ice, was shattered by what came next.


My brother-in-law and I, and a couple hundred other crazy people, discarded our clothes in the 28-degree air and plunged into the ice-covered lake on New Year's Day. An exhilarating way to kick off 2011!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Eve Aftermath

No, this isn't a hotel room recently vacated by the likes of Keith Moon or Howard Hughes. This is our living room floor the morning after our New Year's Eve party. Looks like that hippo sure had a good time.

We weren't sure how late our girls would be able to stay up, so we celebrated the New Year on East Coast time... then Central time... then Mountain time... and finally Pacific time. Yes, they made it to midnight, and our living room ended up with the aftermath of not one but FOUR New Year's celebrations all over it.

Happy New Year! 2011 is apparently going to be very, very messy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Theme Day: 2010 Photo of the Year

"The Deer's Ears"

After several hours of reviewing, discussing, and haggling we settled on this shot for Bellingham Daily Photo's photo of the year. This guy was resting in a field outside Everson (my hometown) when we happened to drive by. We must not have looked too threatening so he hung around to let us snap a couple of pictures.

And the runner-up:
We know it's cheating a little to post two, but we loved them both!

Happy New Year to all of our CDP friends!