These students serve their community

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Wellington students Hailey Ahlstrom, Lily Pell, Ellie Mann, Lauren Pulsipher, Madison Van Avery and Emma Mann work as a team to assemble Christmas ornaments for Friends of Youth shelters. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Meggin Mann and her husband have five children and like many families, they’re constantly on the go doing a variety of kid-centered activities.

Something was missing, though, in their busy lives.

“There was just this piece that wasn’t there,” explains Mann. “We really weren’t involved in any service type projects in the community and I felt the need to show my kids the importance of giving back and how to help others that are less fortunate.”

The Woodinville mom wanted to see if other parents would be interested in finding activities that their kids could do to develop this type of awareness.

She had a sense that the Wellington Elementary community would be supportive of her idea and soon got approval through the PTA to offer a service-oriented club.

The program, Helping Hands, is now in its second year and going strong with an average of 150 to 175 kids, who meet monthly to work on specific projects.

“Our mission,” explains Mann, “is to provide opportunities for Wellington students to become more conscious of the needs of others and to serve our community in positive ways. Simply put, we hope to care for and share with those in need in our local community.”

The club is open to all Wellington students, and their parents are also invited to come and assist Mann.

“It’s a great opportunity for families to participate together,” she adds. “We also get several older kids from the junior high and high school to help us and in return they get credit for service hours.”

In October, the club kicked off the year by making hundreds of cards and masks for patients at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, who had to spend Halloween in a hospital room instead of at parties or out trick-or-treating.

For November, the club’s theme was “Service for Soldiers” and the group created cards and collected Halloween candy for the servicemen and women involved in Operation Iraq-Afghanistan.

This month’s theme was “Winter Warmth” and the club partnered with Friends of Youth to make Christmas decorations and ornaments, and assemble care packages for various youth and family shelters in the area.

“We identify populations that are in need of assistance, such as the homeless, elderly and ill children, and then reach out to different organizations that serve these populations,” says Mann.

“I want to educate kids and their families about these organizations, to bring awareness of what’s being done locally, and then if they want to help these places on their own, at least they’ll know where to start.”

The local woman has a committee of eight women who help her gather and prepare the materials for the projects.

Wellington’s P.T.A. helps with some of the funding and last year the Northshore Schools Foundation gave the club a $900 grant to buy basic supplies.

Mann adds that parents have also been very generous with donations, as well as some local businesses including Red Robin, Rite Aid and Home Depot.

“Helping Hands allows kids to do something positive for others,” says Caroline Ahlstrom, volunteer coordinator for the club. “Sometimes it’s hard to find things to do on your own with your kids, but with the club, it’s easy and convenient, and the projects are always a lot of fun for everyone.”

Mann notes that choosing the appropriate activities for the various developmental levels can be challenging.

She explains that it’s important to select projects that the children can do and that can also be appreciated by the target populations.

She and her committee set up stations for the kids to rotate through and identify specific tables that are geared toward the individual grade levels.

At each meeting, Mann reports back to the children about the responses she receives from the recipients. She reads letters of thanks and shares the comments of gratitude with the group.

“They love hearing from the organizations,” she says. “They realize that although they are children, they still have the ability to make a difference in the lives of those in need.”

Fifth grader Lily Pell was involved in the club last year and was eager to join again this year.

“I love arts and crafts and it’s lots of fun to make the different projects,” she comments.

“It makes me feel good to help others and I like hearing that the people are happy to get the stuff we make for them.”

Lily’s favorite activity was making Christmas wreaths last year for House of Hope.

Nathan Ahlstrom, 10, is also in his second year with the club and looks forward to the monthly meetings and projects. He says, “I like helping people who don’t have enough food and shelter. I think it’s important for every kid to help out once in a while and do a good thing for a good cause.”

At December’s meeting, representatives from Friends of Youth spoke to the members of Helping Hands to explain their work and the populations they serve.

Outreach coordinator Melissa King told the group that the organization relies on outside groups like Helping Hands for support and donations. She told the kids that clubs like theirs are an integral part of the agency’s ability to continue to serve homeless youth. “Youth helping youth,” she adds. “That’s really special.”

Experience the freedom of flight at iFLY

  • Written by Deborah Stone
iFLYGirlBoyI’m all about giving experience-oriented gifts at the holidays. Whether it’s ski lessons, cooking classes, private wine tastings, or a raft trip, I seek potential memory-making activities for my recipients. This year, the adventure lovers and adrenaline junkies in my life are all going to get iFLY Seattle gift certificates. I want them to experience the exhilaration and thrills of human flight. Simply put, iFLY is not a ride or a simulator. It’s a vertical wind tunnel that moves air up within a column, creating an indoor skydiving experience. State-of-the-art technology produces a wall-to-wall airflow that is smooth and controlled.

Originally created for use by professional skydivers and the military, the system is now also designed for the general public to experience the sport of body flight. Children as young as three years of age and up can fly and no previous experience is necessary. It’s a unique opportunity to find out what the world of high adventure skydiving is like without ever having to pack a parachute, pull a ripcord or jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

“It’s taken off like wildfire,” says Lysa Adams, co-owner of iFLY Seattle with her husband Bill. “People of all ages just love it and once they try it, they’re usually hooked on the experience and come back for more.”

Both Lysa and Bill are avid skydivers with a lifelong passion for the sport. They were motivated to open iFLY Seattle after visiting another facility created by parent company SkyVenture.

“The commercial application potential is what drew us,” explains Adams. “We thought it was really unique to be able to offer the public this type of experience, in addition to being a training site for professional skydivers. iFLY Seattle boasts the fastest wind tunnel in the world, reaching a speed of 230 mph, and it also has the only 14 foot recirculating tunnel among all the SkyVenture facilities this side of the Mississippi. “And we are the first to have two airlock chambers,” adds Adams. “Plus, we have the first all-glass chamber.”

Adams says that she gets up to 300 flyers on a weekend day and over 600 spectators. Kids between the ages of six and 13 make up the largest demographic. “We see a lot of moms and pops with their kids,” she comments. “The whole family comes and the kids recognize right away that it’s a sport we offer, not an amusement ride. We are an actual body flight school where we teach people to progress in their skills.”

There are four distinct levels of flight progression, which correspond to body positions: on the belly, on the back, sitting and the most advanced, head down. Everyone progresses at their own rate.

“Progression rate really depends on the type of experience you have with your body,” explains Adams. “Those who have done a lot of sports or who have a real sense of their body will most likely progress at a faster rate than someone who’s less active.”

Beginners fly one at a time and there’s always a certified instructor in the chamber to assist in the process. Beforehand, however, participants must take a brief class to learn what to expect during their experience. At this time, the instructor goes over the hand signals he/she will use in the chamber, as that is the sole form of communication. The next step involves getting the proper attire – jumpsuit, earplugs, goggles and a helmet. “The most important direction the instructor will give you is to relax,” says Adams. “When you relax, you are able to fly stable. Once that happens, you can apply turns via your body. Your arms are wings and your legs are the rotors. You learn that any movement you make has an immediate reaction.”

Adams notes that kids fly the best because they take instruction well. Females also make good flyers for the same reason.  For Adams, the most rewarding part of her job is watching the “aha” moment occur in first time flyers. “You can see it in their bodies,” she explains. “They just get it and know to relax and float on the wind. And when they do, they’ll have this huge smile on their face.”

She’s right. I was grinning ear-to-ear during my session and didn’t want it to end. Initially, I was a bit nervous and apprehensive, but once I got accustomed to the sensation of my body moving with the airflow, I was able to relax and “go with the flow!”

I reveled in the thrills and excitement that came from the freedom of flight and I wanted to share my adventure with everyone. It’s an experience, however, that defies description no matter what words you choose. It’s just something you have to do.

iFLY Seattle is located in Tukwila, adjacent to the Westfield Southcenter Mall: (206) 244-4359 or


  • Written by Woodinville Emergency Preparedness Commission

Generators can provide great benefits for residents and businesses during times of power outages, however, if not used properly they can be very dangerous to you, your family, emergency workers or your business.

Before you purchase a generator, it is important to assess your needs, research and talk to professionals who are knowledgeable in the area of generator installation and safety.

There are three types of generators that are available: a standby generator, which starts automatically; a portable generator or a backup model, which must be manually activated and is generally permanently mounted.

The first step is to determine the size of generator you will need.  To do this, calculate the wattage of items you want to power.

For example, there may be several items that will be on your “must have power” list.

An average refrigerator with top freezer is about 1,000 watts.

A counter top microwave unit will typically require about 1,100 watts.  You will need some sort of a heater,or your furnace, which will use at least 1,500 watts.  Add some lighting and you are to at least a 3,500 watt generator.

If you opt for a portable generator, it must be run outdoors only (never in the garage!) and not near an open door or window.

Also, never plug it into your house wiring without using an approved transfer switch and 12 awg extension cord; otherwise you could electrocute a repairman working on the downed powerlines.

Because of the many safety concerns, rules and regulations associated with purchasing, installing and using a generator, Puget Sound Energy has developed many resources to assist citizens and businesses with this.

PSE Energy Advisor, at 1-800-562-1482, can help you with determining the generator, type, size, installation details or answer additional questions prior to purchasing a generator.  With permanently installed generators, all codes, regulations and laws must be followed.

Customer Construction Services Department at 1-888-321-7779 can provide assistance in determining the supply available from your current meter and servicing size for a standby generator.

Since there are many items to consider when purchasing and installing a generator, it is important to contact professionals who can assist you with your purchase. Professionals can guide you through the purchase, installation and use of your generator.

For more information, visit

Local chef to be featured at legendary James Beard House

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Matt Kelley is pastry chef at The Barking Frog at Willows Lodge. Courtesy photo.
For the seventh consecutive year, chefs from Benchmark Hospitality International have been invited to cook at the famed James Beard House in New York City.

Those selected include Renato de Pirro, executive chef of Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca in Houston; Alan Gould, executive chef of Nine 18 from the Villas at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando; Michael Jackson, executive chef for Deloitte University in Dallas, Francisco (Paco) Aceves, executive chef of Stonewall Resort and Stillwaters Restaurant in Weston, West Virginia; and Woodinville’s own Matt Kelley, pastry chef for The Barking Frog at Willows Lodge.

“It’s great to be asked to do this,” says Kelley. “The Beard House is famous and it’ll be fun to go to New York City and be a part of it all.”

The team of chefs will prepare a seven-course dinner entitled, “A Tour of Italy with Fork, Knife and Glass” on Thursday, December 15th. On the menu will be such specialties as Foie Gras, Sautéed Snails with Saffron sauce, Crudo of Scallops, Adriatic Tuna and Mediterranean Sea Bass, Venetian Risotto in Squid ink, lobster and pomodoro Sorbetto, Piedmont Beef, Roasted Veal and Braised Pork Belly and a hand cured trio of Artisanal cheeses. Dessert is Kelly’s responsibility. He will be preparing something hot, Chocolate Rosemary Bombolino, and something cold, Sgroppino Egg, as well as a Mascarpone Panna Cotta with pistachios and preserved figs.

The local man, who has been at The Barking Frog for the past year and a half, served as pastry chef at Café Juanita in Kirkland, as well as at Rover’s in Seattle, where he earned the Star Chef’s Rising Star Award for 2009. His experience also includes positions as pastry chef at Bin 36 in Chicago, head of the pastry department at A Mano in Chicago and pastry cook at Salish Lodge & Spa in Snoqualmie.

A Seattle native, Kelley attended the Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central Community College.

“I really like being a pastry chef,” comments Kelley. “Desserts are my thing. I like the artistry and the attention to detail involved in creating them.”

He adds, “I like the fact that the plate is your palette and you can create your own painting with each plate.”

As for his favorite sweet to make, Kelley responds, “Anything with chocolate because it’s fun and versatile to work with, and it has lots of texture compared to other things.”

This will be the local chef’s first trip to the storied James Beard House. Once the home of legendary James Beard, America’s first celebrity chef who is revered today as the dean of American Cookery, the residence now houses the James Beard Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates, nurtures and preserves America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.

The organization offers numerous classes, workshops, conferences and dinners, where members can experience the country’s dynamic cuisine prepared by noted chefs.

“We are very proud of Matt and extremely excited having him represent the Willows Lodge and Barking Frog at the Beard House,” comments Shaun Tucker, general manager of Willows Lodge. “His talents as a chef and a person will shine bright.”

America’s Test Kitchens taps local cooking blogger for project

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Bothell resident Megan Pence has been tapped by American’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be-released “Menu Cookbook.”
Megan Pence’s love of cooking and sharing her experiences in the kitchen with others led her to begin blogging about everything from recipes and techniques to cookbooks she finds useful.

She’s been at it for about a year and a half now and currently has close to 1,000 fans and followers. “It’s been such a fun ride,” says Pence, “and I feel like I’m constantly improving the site the longer I do it.”

The Bothell woman was inspired to create her blog after being introduced to a blog written by Ree Drummond or “Pioneer Woman” as she calls herself.

“I spent endless hours reading her posts and trying her recipes,” explains Pence. “I was hooked. She is like the cool aunt, my long distance best friend and someone who lives the life I always dreamed – on a cattle ranch surrounded by beauty and a gorgeous family. I’m a dreamer of white picket fences, horses, vast spaces, a huge kitchen with a country sink and endless counter space.”

She adds, “Ree was my inspiration to jump on the blogging bandwagon.” Pence’s blog is titled “Wanna Be A Country Cleaver,” a name that originated from her college days at WSU.

A friend dubbed her a modern day June Cleaver, commenting that she felt Pence best represented this image due to her love of old fashioned country style living. “I’ve always been a fan of the whole country thing,” says Pence. “And when I lived in Eastern Washington, I rode horses and even became a competitive lumberjack.”

The local woman, who works full time as a document control manager for Brightwater and teaches cake decorating classes part time, makes it a habit to cook almost every other day. She likes taking existing recipes and making them her own or developing new dishes from scratch.

As she cooks, she documents and photographs each step in the process for her blog. Desserts are her forte, as she is a baker at heart.

“I mastered the art of the chocolate chip cookie by the time I was nine,” she says. “Basically, I love anything with chocolate or custard. I’ve branched out to other areas, though I admit I’m still intimidated by cooking specialty meats, like rack of lamb for example. That’s something I’d really like to learn.” Pence is up front and humorous about the happenings in her kitchen, both the good and the bad. She is the first one to acknowledge that not everything goes according to plan.

A few weeks ago, she had a major cooking disaster. “I was making roast chicken,” she explains. “My oven was fluctuating temperature 25 degrees in either direction and though I thought I had fresh chicken, it turned out that the bird was partially frozen inside. I cooked it for an extra forty minutes and between the broken oven and the still frozen bird, it was a mess. I burst into tears and dumped it into the trash in a weepy girl fit. It went from a date night of supposedly roast chicken with my fiancé to a grilled cheese and tomato soup night in a hurry!”

Recently, Pence got word that she was tapped by America’s Test Kitchen as one of six bloggers to host a dinner party to review the company’s soon-to-be released “Menu Cookbook.” Each of the chosen bloggers will give a “Food and Friends” dinner party for eight with a different theme ranging from Provencal bistro to family style Italian. They will share their experiences before, during and after the event via their blogs.

To be selected for the project, bloggers had to explain why they thought they would be the perfect host for an America’s Test Kitchen dinner party. In her response, Pence described how food is the staple of any family or friendly get-together, gathering or celebration.

She wrote, “Food brings people together. It also provides us a link to our pasts when the dishes we grew up with are placed before us, allowing us a chance to reminisce about the ‘good ol’days.’ Good food gives us an opportunity to create new memories that branch off from the ones made around the dinner table.”

Pence explained that she would be a great hostess simply because of the fabulous friends she has who share their time with her and who bond together over their common passion for good food, laughter and adventure.

When she heard the news that she had been selected as one of the hosts, the local woman was thrilled. She views the project as a wonderful opportunity, adding: “It’s monumental for a small-time blogger like me. I’m so excited!”

Pence will be preparing the Family Style Italian Sunday Supper Menu, an array of dishes that includes Homemade Ricotta, One Pot Bolognese, Arugula Salad with Figs and Prosciutto and Chocolate-dipped Pistachio Biscotti with Vin Santo.

Pence will practice making some of the various items before the party and then see what elements she can prepare ahead of the event to take some of the pressure off of the actual day. She is looking forward to learning to cook some new dishes and appreciates the challenge she has been given.

“I like challenging myself in the kitchen,” she adds. “It’s fun trying new things and it makes me feel accomplished when I succeed. Cooking is such a gratifying pursuit for me. And I do love the eating part, especially when in the company of good friends.”

The local woman plans to continue with her blog, as it is a satisfying outlet for her. Her goal is to write a cookbook one day and if she dares to dream big, maybe even have her own show on the Food Network.

“That would be the epitome for me,” she says.

To follow Megan Pence on her blog, go to: