It’s fiesta time with Cinco de Mayo!

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Spring brings flowers, baseball, farmers markets, longer days and maybe if we’re lucky, a bit more sunshine.

Holidays are plentiful, from Mother’s Day to Memorial Day. And don’t forget Cinco de Mayo (the “fifth of May”), which is right around the corner.

The date is significant to Hispanics, as it is a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, commemorating the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Contrary to widespread belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day, the most important national patriotic holiday in the country, which is actually observed on September 16.

When Cinco de Mayo rolls around, Mexicans get out their party clothes and head to a fiesta.

They may first watch a parade, usually a military spectacle that pays tribute to all who gave their lives for their country.

Or if they happen to be in Mexico City, they may head to Peñón de los Baños to observe a reenactment of the actual battle, a tradition that the people of this barrio have kept alive for many years.

In every town square, there will be festivities with music, dancing and food.

It’s a joyous time and young and old come together to mark the occasion.

In the U.S., where the Hispanic population is close to 50 million and comprises over 16 percent of the country’s population, Cinco de Mayo is recognized as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry in much the same way as St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest and the Chinese New Year are used to signify those of Irish, German and Chinese ancestry respectively.

And as is often the case, many Americans, regardless of their ethnic background, join in the festivities.

There are special events and activities highlighting Mexican culture in cities and towns across the U.S.

Locally, there will be several races including the Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon and 8K and the Seattle 5K Olé and Taco Challenge.

At the Children’s Museum in Seattle Center, kids can join in on the fun and learn about the holiday through various games, crafts and cooking projects.

They can also take part in the activities at El Centro de la Raza, which is putting on a family-friendly street party.

For the late night crowd, the Seattle International Foundation will host a Cinco de Mayo party with some of the city’s best DJs.

There’ll be salsa dancing lessons at the Century Ballroom and over at Teatro ZinZanni, the “Tres Amigos” will put on an extra spicy, extra loco show of comedy, music and saucy entertainment.

Out on the water, passengers on the Queen of Seattle Paddle Wheel Cruises will be cruising to the sounds of mariachi music and chowing down on an Olé! buffet.

And as always, plenty of area restaurants and watering holes are planning on offering tasty deals on food and beverages.

New preschool offers positive outdoor experiences for children

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Outdoor Preschool one
Photo by Deborah Stone Children at the Field & Forest Outdoor Preschool are immersed in nature, the ideal developmental playground.
Preschools abound in every community, each with its own philosophy on early childhood development.

Approaches vary, with some focusing more on individualized learning and others favoring group projects.

One program may emphasize play as the primary learning activity, while another may include more traditional academic learning.

There are schools that revolve around set routines and those that prefer more of an unstructured environment.

At the Field & Forest Outdoor Preschool in Woodinville, a newly established program created by The Attic Learning Community in collaboration with Quiet Heart Wilderness School, children are immersed in nature.

They spend their time outdoors participating in motivating tasks and activities as they explore the natural setting.

Based on the German Forest Garden model, the program offers a balance of routine and structure while following the interests of the children.

“Children are so natural in the world, so joyful outside,” comments Alan “Hawkeye” Sande, founder of Quietheart Wilderness School. “It’s the perfect environment for them to develop a sense of self, build confidence and competency, as well as become more independent from adults.”

Hawkeye, who founded Quietheart, a wilderness education program designed to enhance kids’ understanding of the natural world and instill in them a sense of environmental stewardship, worked with Pat Orrell, executive director of The Attic Learning Community to develop the preschool.

“We have a long history with Quietheart and have offered its classes to our students for many years,” explains Orrell. “We had been thinking about adding a preschool program to The Attic for a while and then about three years ago, Hawkeye came to me with an idea about starting an outdoor preschool. We eventually bought a five-acre parcel and last September, we opened the school.”

The site is a lovely pastoral setting with large trees, and a grassy field that runs down into a forested ravine and at the bottom is a tributary of Little Bear Creek, called Rowland Creek.

A newly created trail allows children to have access to the tiny creek to explore the water and the plants and creatures that make their home in the ravine environment.

There’s also an authentic 18-foot tipi that serves as a base for some group activities or as shelter during extreme weather conditions.

Currently, the program has 10 students and two teachers, who meet Monday mornings.

Come next fall, Orrell hopes to expand.

“We would love to have two-day and three-day sessions in the future,” she says. “And we’ll be able to take up to 12 students per session.”

A typical day at the preschool begins with a welcoming circle or activity and then the group embarks on a shared adventure guided by the instructors.

Mid-morning, they have a snack along with story and song time before participating in a second lesson or group exploration.

The children wrap up their day by having lunch together, sometimes cooking it over a small fire pit.

“The teachers come up with themes and ideas to use with the kids,” comments Hawkeye, “but they are very flexible and they follow the kids’ lead, based on their curiosity and energy.”

He adds, “There’s lots of imaginary play, building and creating with things they find in nature. The outdoors is their classroom and there’s so much to observe, examine and study using all of their senses. They are constantly learning and they’re getting the learning they need in a very natural and organic way.”

Orrell notes that the program’s goals are aimed at helping children develop a sense of who they are in the world. She says, “We want them to be autonomous, to be intrinsically motivated and to take responsibility for themselves, while developing connections with the earth and with others.”

Parent Diane VandenBrook, who has a son at The Attic, jumped at the chance to enroll her daughter in the preschool. For her, the outdoors was the big attraction.

She comments, “My daughter loves being outside and as we were already familiar with the Attic’s philosophy, we knew this would be a good fit.” VandenBrook has noticed several positive changes in her daughter, which she attributes to the program.

“She is much more respectful of the natural world,” she remarks. “And at home, she is much more expressive of her feelings and thoughts. She verbalizes them more clearly now.”

VandenBrook says the best way she can tell if her daughter is having fun at the preschool is when she goes to pick her up and sees her covered in mud.

“That tells me she’s enjoyed her time here freely,” she adds.

Orrell chimes in, “The kids don’t want to leave at the end of the morning because they’re having a great time. The outdoors is their playground and they are stimulated by everything around them in nature.”

Registration is now open for 2012-13 for the Field & Forest Outdoor Preschool.

Those interested in learning more about the program are invited to attend an open house to be held Sunday, June 3, 2-3:30 p.m.

For more information and directions, visit:

Classic Corner - April 30, 2012

  • Written by Tom Berg

fordOur Classic Car Collector of the month is one of those guys that ran out of room for his cars which seems to happen to all of us. He couldn’t bear to part with any so I was able to help him sell his housing development home in Woodinville and buy a really nice, smaller, vintage home in Clearview with a four car garage and room for a big shop.

The shop is now built and has room for at least eight cars and a lift.  The existing garage also has room for his two  Ford pickups, a paint booth and storage.

One of his daily drivers is a rare 2008 supercharged Ford Saleen pickup with over 500 horsepower that is one of only 40 produced that year. The other truck is his wife’s 2003 supercharged 100th anniversary Harley Davidson edition Ford with over 400 horsepower. Gasoline mileage is not too important for Lance.

Many car collectors are attracted to cars of their youth and that might be why Lance has THREE 1966 Fords, all of which look new. He first bought his 1966 Galaxie 500 2-door hardtop because he had one in college. It has the original interior, 390 engine and only 60,000 miles.  Interestingly, it was made in Canada.

Lance is an engineer and this car, like his other cars, looks just like it did on day one and the engine bay is especially clean and correct.

Lance then found a 1966 Galaxie convertible with a 7 litre (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) engine and four speed stick. This was the only year Ford used the term “litre” –  it’s actually the 428-cubic-inch engine. It’s had a frame-off restoration and a new interior that’s identical to the original.   They only made 428 of these cars and it’s the only 7 litre Lance has ever seen. It also has air conditioning which is quite rare for that time since most people figured “who needs air conditioning in a convertible?”

It’s interesting that this car is slightly less than perfect in that the convertible top is not in great shape, but then he never puts it up!

To complete his trio, Lance found a 66 Country Squire wagon “Woodie.” The sides look like they are covered with wood like the classics of the late 40s. The wood is actually a vinyl with dark wood-looking grain, and the trim pieces are a lighter applied wood look.

He’s got the 390-cubic-inch engine with an automatic.

He’s redone the interior door panels exactly as original using the original materials.   The rear license plate on this one is “66WOODY” and the front plate is the traditional black and yellow California plate that also says “66WOODY.”

Oh, I forgot to mention that this car has a surfboard on the roof rack and a big trophy in the back seat. This car is so cool that the game developers at Microsoft took a few hundred pictures of it, digitized them and put this car in their new Xbox360 Forza 4 Motorsport game (see photo).

Just to keep things interesting, in Lance’s new shop there is a 2003 all black Mustang Cobra with over 500 horsepower, a 6-speed transmission and only 23,000 miles and one last vehicle that is much to my liking, a 1932 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster (convertible) with the rumble seat.   He recently took this car to a Saturday afternoon get- together at the Clearview Albertson’s, and it was quite a hit. This car looks and runs great but is Lance’s next project. He’s going to pull the body off the frame, strip it and re-paint it in a stock color. When he’s done, it’s going to be spectacular.

In case you haven’t noticed, Lance is a dedicated FORD guy. He’s even been to the home of Ford, Dearborn Michigan, for the grand tour and just ordered a 2013 Ford Explorer (28 miles per gallon). It looks like he may have to part with the Harley Edition pickup but Lance is one of those car collectors who buys what he wants, gets it perfect and holds on to it forever, so I’ll believe it when I see it.

With some decent weather I’m looking forward to driving my cars and seeing your cars out and about.

Grace Vineyards produce wine, future viticulturists

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Grace wine executives
From left: Max Zellweger (chief viticulturalist of Grace Town Vineyards); Erv DeSmet (grand exalted appreciator of Greater Grace Wine Appreciation Society); John Hughes (Grace grand marshal and GTV flack); Eric Greenwood (associate appreciator and cellar manager) Courtesy photo
On May Day 2001, a group of local men planted 12 vines off of Highway 9 in the heart of Grace. The participants, members of Woodinville Rotary and the Grace Provisional Rotary Club and various civic dignitaries, were planting for the future in more ways than one.

“We wanted to grow grapes and eventually make wine,” explains John Hughes, current president of the Woodinville Rotary Club. “And then we wanted to use that wine to help fund scholarships for students interested in studying viticulture and enology.”

The idea for the project was the brainchild of Hughes and his cohorts, Terry Jarvis, Grace’s mayor for life, and Max Zellweger, the town’s viticulturist.

“We were looking for a way to support the wineries in the area,” says Hughes. “And we thought what better way to do that then to help support students who planned to work in the industry.”

The project, which is led by Woodinville Rotary past president Erv DeSmet and sponsored by the Greater Grace Wine Appreciation Society, gives up to $3,000 annually in scholarship money to students at WSU and Walla Walla Community College.

Hughes notes that these institutions have strong viticulture programs and many of their graduates go on to work in wine-related careers around the state.

“We had our first graduate,” he says. “Catherine Jones, who was from Inglemoor High School and went to WSU, graduated about a year ago and she has a job in Prosser running the wine extension program there. We’re proud that we were able to help support her education.”

Grace Wine Bottles
Ready to open, breathe and pour
The program has been running since 2003, the year of the first vintage of the grapes and production of the initial bottles of the group’s wine, a Pinot Noir. In 2008, another 24 vines were planted at a new site located on Molbaks’ plant farm.

“We only make a few cases a year,” comments Hughes, “and we don’t sell it. We’re not a commercial winery. The way it works is when someone donates to the scholarship fund, they get a bottle of our wine in return.”

The wine that comes from the original vineyard is called Grace Town Vineyards’ “Reckonyard Gold Pinot Noir,” named in recognition of the type of business that used to occupy the site — an auto dismantling yard.

Chief winemaker is Zellweger, a past president of Columbia Winery and wine industry veteran.

“Max knows so much about wine,” says Hughes. “He supervises the process from start to finish and so far, the wine that’s been produced has been very drinkable.” He adds, “Recently, we had a wine tasting session of our 03, 07, 08 and 09 vintages and the scores were in the mid to high 80s, which was pretty good. The panel was unanimous that all four vintages were wines of character, each with its own true personality. They felt that the wines showed evidence that each would be well served in terms of ability to age gracefully for many years.”

Desoto Gardens at Grqace
DeSoto Gardens Block of Grace Town Vineyards, pruned and ready to produce 2012 harvest of Pinot Noir for Reckonyard Gold label.
Hughes notes that experts agree it is an unusually delicate task to produce Pinot Noir in Puget Sound’s climate, but adds that this challenge was met with considerable, well-deserved confidence by the Gracean vineyard team.

“It was a challenge we took on and it’s been rewarding to see the success we’ve had,” he remarks. “

The vines are really sturdy now and we’ve been able to produce decent wine each year with the exception of 2011 when the grapes didn’t mature because it was too cold.”

The true satisfaction for the group, however, has been in its ability to help numerous students achieve their educational goals, which in turn is helping to provide a trained workforce for the many Washington wineries and wine-related businesses.

Abundancia aim: grow, preserve good food

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Gardeners of all ages took part in the Abundancia work party March 25 at the Sharecroppers Garden. Courtesy photo.
Cynthia Swenson is the daughter of a sharecropper who was raised in rural Louisiana with the understanding that her family’s survival was tied to the land.

“I grew up knowing the importance of small farms and growing good food,” she says, “and for most of my life, having good food was not a challenge.

“But, after my husband passed away, I struggled to provide food for my young sons. It was then that I began to depend on my local parish community and friends to help me to get through those difficult times.”

Swenson, now a Woodinville resident, wants to give back to others by using her life’s experience and education as a way to support families that want greater access to organically grown food.

To this aim, she founded Abundancia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and learning how to grow and preserve good food.

“Our mission,” explains the local woman, “is to tackle today’s challenges with optimism, to create the new structure for local community resilience, one garden at a time.”

Swenson, who is an admissions counselor for the School of Education at Antioch University and a graduate student in environmental and community permaculture, began to research avenues that would allow for greater access to local food sources.

This past summer, she received a fourth of an acre of land at the Sammamish Valley Grange and $1,000 start-up money for Abundancia’s Sharecroppers Garden.

“We’re going to grow all sorts of organic produce,” says Swenson, “and all of the product will be free to anyone who comes and helps at the farm or who participates in any of our events.”

She adds: “My plan is to create an active outdoor lab for the community and the goal is to grow good food and give it away.”

Swenson explains that she is not interested in the demographics of who comes to the garden, as it is open to anyone. What does interest her, however, is what people do with the food. She wants to know how they use it or if they trade it, or take it to the farmer’s market.

“I’m interested in this whole idea of how communities create systems to survive,” she comments.

At present, the organization is getting the word out about its activities through Facebook, attracting folks from all sectors of society.

At its first event, a free community feast with produce donated by the Root Connection and prepared by participants, nearly 40 people attended. There were students from Cascadia Community College, UW Bothell, Antioch and Simon Fraser University, along with employees of Boeing, Microsoft and Google and a number of local residents.

“We’re slowly getting the word out and the response has been extremely positive” says Swenson. “We’re getting kids involved, too. A sixth grade class came out several months ago on a field trip to help spread ground cover for the winter, using the opportunity to work on math skills as they plotted the spread and the yield.”

Every two weeks, the organization holds a work party at the garden and once a month there’s a special event such as a movie night, workshop or presentation.

Swenson chose the Woodinville area as the location for the Sharecroppers Garden because of her strong feelings for the Sammamish Valley.

“I love the valley,” she comments. “It’s like my home in Louisiana. I feel connected to it and I am dedicated to this community.”

She adds, “I see the Sharecroppers Garden develop as an informal education site and community development model that can be duplicated in multiple locations.

“Although, we are in the start-up phase, I hope for years and years to come that families and individuals will come to the garden and learn, create and teach each other sustainable life skills.”

For more information about Abundancia, call (425) 419-4443 or visit