Everything is coming up roses at Molbak’s

  • Written by Submitted by Molbak’s
Golden Celebration is a beautiful golden yellow English rose with an exceptional fragrance.
Spring is on the way and it’s time to think about roses!  Molbak’s is celebrating these stunning beauties with four special, free events over several weekends.

First up is an informal question and answer session featuring members of the Seattle Rose Society on Saturday and Sunday, February 18 and 19, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This is a great opportunity to have your rose questions answered by knowledgeable and enthusiastic experts in an informal setting.  John Harmeling, American Rose Society Rosarian and Molbak’s plant expert will also present a seminar on pruning roses on Saturday,

February 18: 12 – 1 p.m.   Attendees will learn the importance of proper pruning and how to prune a variety of roses to increase flower production and discourage diseases.

Think roses belong in a bed of their own?  Not true!  Nita-Jo Rountree, garden designer and past president of the Northwest Horticultural Society, will present “Welcoming Roses into Your Garden” on Saturday, February 25, 10 – 11 a.m.  Rountree will explain how to apply garden design principles to successfully incorporate a variety of roses into mixed garden beds and landscapes.

The rose celebration is rounded out with a basic care seminar, “Growing Glorious Roses” presented by Harmeling on Sunday, April 1, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Harmeling will cover the basics of planting, pest control and disease prevention and treatment.

Roses are a beautiful addition to any garden and can provide color and fragrance for years to come.

For more information, visit

Local LEGO robotics team brings home awards

  • Written by Deborah Stone
LEGO team
Photo by Jennifer Hagander-Luanava Pictured are Avery Dailidenas, Davis Luanava, Hannah Newland, Isa Luanava, Matthew Newland, Natalie Koch, Nicky McDonald and coaches Paul Hagander and Jennifer Hagander-Luanava.
Though robots were the main focus in a FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, equally important was the research process and presentation, as well as demonstration of FLL’s Core Values.

Each year, teams of middle school students build and program a small robot to accomplish various challenges, investigate a research topic of their choice and work towards being a cohesive group that demonstrates teamwork, respect, cooperation, team spirit, professional and inclusion.

FLL selects a different theme each year, which is drawn from real events in society.

For 2011, it was “Food Factor.”

In Washington state, there are several regional tournaments and two state championships (Eastern and Western).

Team AI, a group of 9 to 14- year-old homeschoolers (Avery Dailidenas, Davis Luanava, Hannah Hewland, Isa Luanava, Matthew Newland, Natalie Koch and Nicky McDonald) had a highly successful season and brought home gold with an award for “Gracious Professionalism” at regionals and one for “Inspiration” at the State level.

At regionals, the kids were up against 25 other teams and at state, over 50 groups competed.

Team AI began working together in September to create and assemble their robot and program it to do various actions within a specific time period.

Each challenge performed successfully during competition earns the team points, whereas if errors are made, penalties are given.

“The kids had to do things like release “bacteria” (small plastic balls in a container), collect plastic fish from an imaginary ocean, raise a thermometer and turn it to cold, deliver plastic grocery items to a miniature kitchen table and more,” explains Laura Koch, parent of Natalie, 12, one of the students on Team AI.

She adds, “Sometimes, teams are able to do the challenges in practice, but then when competition comes, they have difficulty performing them. Nerves, of course, play a part in all of this.”

For its research project, Team AI chose to investigate the problem of blue plastic bands in chicken nuggets as its topic.

“We were really surprised at how many cases of plastic were found in chicken nuggets,” comments Natalie. “Between 2000 and 2011, over 500,000 pounds of chicken nuggets were recalled for plastic contaminants. That’s more cases than salmonella.”

She adds, “Everyone on our team said we’d never eat chicken nuggets again!”

The kids’ solution to this problem was to recommend using food grade edible plastic tags that wouldn’t be a contaminant if accidentally left in the food.

Judges for the competitions are volunteers from the community. Many are professional engineers and programmers. Each team meets with judges three times: for a technical review of its  robot, to present its research and to demonstrate how it learned FLL’s Core Values.

Awards are given in various categories including project research, project presentation, mechanical design, programming, robot performance and Core Values. All groups are assessed on Core Values behavior throughout the competition.

“We were really happy to get awards in the Core Values,” says Natalie. “It’s only the second time in five years that we’ve gotten any awards.”

She adds, “Our team divided up the responsibilities and everyone did what they were supposed to. We had good teamwork and good team spirit and I think we respected each other.”

The local girl enjoyed helping build the robot, which was her favorite part of the project.

Most challenging was programming it to do the specific actions.

“Some of the actions are hard,” she comments, “like having the robot transfer the hoop with the plastic rat to a base and having it retrieve the little trailer.”

Team AI plans to compete again next season and hopes to add to its medal collection, but as Natalie says, “We do it because it’s a lot of fun.”

BAM’s ‘Push Play’ highlights innovators, visionaries working in clay

  • Written by Deborah Stone
“Swan” by Adrian Arleo. Photo courtesy of BAM
Bellevue Arts Museum’s new exhibit, “Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational,” showcases over 30 international artists who explore how the act of play expresses and expands human potential.

Held in conjunction with the 46th National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Conference in Seattle in late March, the exhibit follows previous groundbreaking ceramics exhibitions at BAM including “Robert Sperry: Bright Abyss” in 2009 and the much celebrated BAM Biennial 2010: clay Throwdown!”

Stefano Catalani, BAM’s director of Curatorial Affairs/artistic director and co-curator of “Push Play,” is delighted and honored that the museum is the hosting venue for the Invitational.

He says, “Ceramic art, traditional or experimental, has deep roots in the Northwest. As a museum dedicated to the exploration of art, craft and design, it plays an integral role in our mission.”

Over 200 artists responded to the call for entries to participate in the exhibition, submitting approximately 2,000 works of art. Only 33 artists were selected for the final display, including such visionaries and innovators as Adrian Arleo, Beth Cavener Stichter, Judy Fox, Kiki Smith and Christina West, among others.

The show explores the place of play in society today and views the subject in a myriad of ways. It emphasizes the joy that comes from play and how it teaches us about ourselves, our bodies and the world around us. It also delves into play’s dark, exploitive side and looks at the stories that evolve from the act of playing, which can initiate role playing, fantasy and imagination.

In furthering the concept, the exhibit delves into the open nature of playthings and how they are equipped with the ability to help establish gender roles and identity.

Some pieces appear whimsical at first glance, but with deeper study they become unsettling.

by Sam Scott Photo courtesy of BAM
Margaret Keelan’s “Hopscotch,” for example, depicts a child happily engaged in playing the traditional sidewalk game.

Look closely, however, and notice that the sculpture has the appearance of disintegrating paint over weathered wood.

This gives the impression of a wearing effect, bringing to mind the weight that life’s experiences have on the individual as he/she grows up and ages.

In Kelly Connole’s piece, “Scamper,” a group of very lifelike rabbits appears as if they are leaping out of the wall from their wooded environment. One wonders if they are they running for the sheer joy and freedom of the experience or fleeing from a predator. A description of the work acknowledges that humans’ interactions with wild things are often filled with questions and “contradictory emotions of fear and delight tempered by our desire to personify all that we encounter.”

Rabbits also figure prominently in “Gravitational Pull,” from Rebekah Bogard’s “Twilight” series. Here the creatures are lying on their backs in positions of utter contentment, amid a forest under a starlit sky.

The work evokes nostalgia for warm summer nights and that magical time when day turns into night.

In Clayton Keyes’ “Bougie Putti,” one dead and bloodied rabbit dangles from the hand of a male child, who is naked with the exception of lacy cuffs around his wrists and a powdered wig with a blue ribbon, a la Victorian style. One finger touches his lips staining them red with blood. It’s a disturbing image that explores the nature of play unchecked – without guidance of parents and society – and the possibility of the emergence of primal instincts.

Some of the pieces speak to the perspective of power structure and peer pressure within play, and the scrutiny and judgment that often comes among groups of playmates.

In “Nave,” artist Mark Chatterly writes that he pretended he was a kid again making a snow fort, rolling one ball at a time and stacking them in layers.

Instead of balls, however, he stacks large scale figures that sit one on top of each other in a tight semi-circle. They are all hunched over, leaning in, peering at one another, as if evaluating the individual worth of their teammates.

On the ground in front of them is a small rabbit, perhaps symbolizing the fear and discomfort that comes with being singled out and ostracized.

Anne Drew Potter’s “The Captains Congress” also alludes to this theme. Perched on wooden crates, a group of naked child people sit within a circle of judgment, posed in attitudes of derision and contempt for a passive defendant that is positioned outside of the circle with her back towards the group. The bullies wear silly paper hats which exaggerate their grotesque facial expressions.

Contemplation, another angle on play, is explored within Kiki Smith’s piece, “Sitting and Thinking.” With a pose reminiscent of “The Thinker” by Rodin, a young woman appears to be engaging in the mental process of play, directing the viewer’s attention inward to the realm of imaginative thoughts.

Arthur Gonzalez’s “Service at the Villa” is another contemplative-like work. Here, the Blue Haired Fairy from “Pinocchio” sits quietly, as she muses on her past with the puppet boy.

She is posed against the wall dressed in a long skirt that contains an etching of Pinocchio’s face on it, while holding her light wand. It’s a nostalgic piece that elicits emotional reactions directed towards childhood stories which immerse readers in their fantasy.

“Push Play” is a highly engaging exhibition that shines a light on the use of clay to explore the many perspectives of play and how it helps define us.

“Push Play: The 2012 NCECA Invitational” runs through June 17 at Bellevue Arts Museum.

For more information: (425) 519-0770 or

Chocolate Man is mecca for all things chocolate

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Chocolate Man
Bill Fredericks is the owner of Chocolate Man, now open in Lake Forest Park Town Center. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Chocolatiers and chocolate lovers will be delighted to hear that there’s a new place in town to get their fix. Chocolate Man, now open in Lake Forest Park Town Center, is a mecca for all things chocolate, including 70 different chocolate varieties, a wide array of chocolate-making products, decorations, packaging supplies and even equipment rentals for those who want to experiment with the craft at home.

Owner and chief chocolate maker of the establishment is Bill Fredericks, a local man who has been involved in the business for over 20 years.

“It started as a hobby,” he says. “I made truffles to give as gifts when I was in grad school because I didn’t have much money back then. They were pretty good, but I found that if I used a better grade of chocolate, they tasted even better.”

Fredericks, an oceanographer by profession, decided to begin selling high end bulk chocolate online as a part time avocation. His home-based business grew over the years, along with his inventory.

“The chocolate was taking over my basement,” explains Fredericks. “I was keeping about 4,000 pounds of chocolate in stock at any one time. I just didn’t have enough storage.”

He adds, “I began looking at renting commercial space, but in the process, I found that for the same price I could put a front in and have a store. I decided to take advantage of the economy and the lower rents and when an opportunity at the Lake Forest Park Town Center came about, I took it. It’s a good location because it’s in a shopping mall where there’s lots of traffic, plus it’s close to my house.”

The timing for Fredericks was optimal, as he had reduced the hours of his job as an administrator and researcher in UW’s oceanography program, and now had more time to devote to his chocolate business.

He opened Chocolate Man in mid-November and slowly, but surely, many of his local Internet customers are finding their way to the shop, along with a host of newcomers who stumble upon the business while walking around the mall.

The 1,300-square-foot space has a retail section up front with chocolates made by Fredericks, as well as by other chocolatiers; a number who belong to the Northwest Chocolatiers Guild, of which Fredericks is president.

It’s the first such guild in the country and consists of a coalition of chocolatiers, suppliers, instructors, amateurs and students.

The remainder of the store contains shelves and racks of chocolate-making supplies.

There’s everything from chocolate shells, nut pastes, oils and flavorings to cups, foils and special tools.

In the back is a full professional kitchen where the magic takes place. It’s also where Fredericks holds his chocolate-making classes. He’s been teaching the craft for 15 years at both North and South Seattle Community Colleges and at the Blue Ribbon Cooking School.

“I am trying to offer a variety of classes on a weekly basis,” explains Fredericks. “I’ve only just started doing them at the store since December, but I’m already getting interest because word is spreading.”

Classes emphasize technique and range from learning to create Ganache and basic chocolate truffles to chocolate tempering and working with polycarbonate molding. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, there’s a special “Wine Truffles in a Chocolate Box” session where students will make wine truffles and French truffles and present them in a colorful covered homemade chocolate box.

“I love teaching,” comments Fredericks. “I’m a very hands-on teacher and I give lots of tips. I want students to really learn and leave the class with confidence in their skills.”

The most challenging aspect of working with chocolate, according to Fredericks, lies in the fragility of the material. He says that chocolate is not a structural food so it cannot be treated as such. But, the fact that it can be melted down and used again is definitely an asset. “If you make a mistake with chocolate, you can start over,” he adds. “That’s what’s nice about it.” Fredericks notes that most people when they begin working with chocolate tend to be impatient, especially when it comes to the tempering process. “They want to cut corners and that leads to problems,” he says. “Tempering takes time, temperature and motion – the three critical requirements – to get the chocolate to shine and snap. It’s a simple process, but sounds complicated. The best way to learn is to have someone who’s experienced show you.”

For Fredericks, working with chocolate is an artistic release. He views it as a creative outlet and particularly delights in making chocolate sculptures. As for his favorite chocolate to eat, the local man responds, “That’s like asking what’s your favorite wine? There are thousands of chocolates out there and there are some really good ones, but right now I’d have to say that I really like Madagascar Single Source by Guittard Chocolate Company. I love the floral, fruity tones to it.”

Fredericks eats chocolate almost daily, the darker the better. He says, “It’s the healthiest because it’s got all those antioxidants in it.”

Chocolate Man is located on the second floor of the Lake Forest Park Town Center. For more information: (206) 365-2025 or

Italianissimo owners to open urban-styled pizzeria in Woodinville

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Pizza StationThere’s a new kid on the block in Woodinville’s dining scene.

It’s The Station Pizzeria, brought to you by Kent and Cindy Betts, longtime owners of well-known Italianissimo Restaurant.

Due to open in mid to late February, the urban-styled pizzeria, which is located in the former Chevron Station across from the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse, will serve salads, starters and, naturally, pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven, with both take-away and dine-in options.

According to Caylee Betts, marketing director for The Station, a variety of different types of pizzas will be offered.

She says, “We’re going to have some of the ‘old school’ classic pizzas like pepperoni, and sausage and mushroom, but we’re really going to highlight some ‘new school’ styles that are more on the creative side, like the ‘Thaitalian,’ for example, that’s made with spicy peanut sauce, lobster meat and primavera veggies.”

Betts explains that the pizzas will be fired in a six-foot Woodstone oven heated between 550 and 600 degrees.

One employee will man the oven at all times to make sure the pizzas are rotated properly.

“Wood-fired pizzas take more love and attention,” comments Betts. “The dough and toppings need to be checked properly so someone has to stand constant watch over them.”

Kent Betts, who is Caylee’s father, has tweaked his pizza-making procedures over the years at Italianissimo and has arrived at the ideal pizza dough recipe and cooking process.

“He has very distinct views about pizza,” comments Caylee, “and he’s played with the dough and the temperature of the oven to get it just so.”

And if you don’t want pizza, the restaurant will have plenty of other choices available, including a variety of sandwiches on homemade pita bread, cheese and meat plates and deli-style dishes, unique salads and some featured entrees like steak tips and pulled pork.

The menu will change seasonally.

Due to open in mid to late February, the urban-styled pizzeria, which is located in the former Chevron Station across from the Hollywood Hill Schoolhouse. The Station Pizzeria will serve classic pizzas like pepperoni, and sausage and mushroom, but we’re really going to highlight some ‘new school’ styles that are more creative. Courtesy photo.
In the libations department, The Station plans to offer the complete gamut of beer, wine and liquor, but it will not have a sit-down bar.

“We’re going to have plenty of local craft beers and Washington wines, but we’ll also have other wines from different parts of the country and around the world, too,” explains Betts. “Some of the liquor will come from local distilleries and we’re going to get creative when it comes to some of our cocktails.”

Betts describes the eatery’s interior as contemporary with an industrial edge.

There are cement floors, aluminum chairs and roll-up garage doors that lead to an outside patio for alfresco dining when the weather permits.

The place can seat up to 60 inside in community-style arrangements and 50 on the patio, which will also be shared by two tasting rooms on site: Patterson Cellars and Gorman Winery.

An open kitchen will allow patrons the ability to see the pizza making process and wood fire oven in action.

Betts adds, “There’s a cool vibe to the place. It’s casual, meaning you can come in jeans and shorts, yet it’s still fine dining because the wait staff will be professional and high standards will be set and maintained for service and quality of food.”

Opening a second restaurant has been in the works for Kent and Cindy Betts for a while, but initially the couple didn’t know if they wanted it to be a steak house or a pizzeria.

Staying in Woodinville was their top priority and they hoped to find something in the Tourist District.

As soon as they saw the old Chevron property, they knew it was the perfect location.

“There are wineries nearby, a hotel, the trail and the ball fields,” notes Caylee. “There’s a lot going on in the area, which attracts lots of people.”

She adds, “Actually, about 30 cars go through that roundabout per minute.”

As for deciding between a steak house and a pizzeria, once the Betts set their sights on the space, there was no question in their minds that it was going to be a pizzeria.

Everyone involved in the project has been working hard to prepare the restaurant for its opening and there’s been quite a buzz about it in the community.

“I think people here are really excited about having another place to eat in Woodinville,” says Caylee. “And those who know Italianissimo are especially excited because they know the quality of food and service at The Station will be equally as good. It’s just a different concept.”

In summing up The Station, Caylee emphatically states, “It’s exactly what Woodinville needs.”