• Written by Echo Falls Consulting

( of Snohomish has announced that it has formed a partnership with the #1 Intuit Premier reseller in the country — AQB Inc. of Austin Texas. Echo Falls Consulting is a QuickBooks consulting provider for the construction and trade industries.

For the second consecutive year, Synthetic Turf Northwest has been selected for the 2013 Best of Puget Sound Region Award in the Artificial Turf Lawn and Putting Green Installation Contractors category by the Puget Sound Region Award Program.

Crossroad SIGN & Graphics makes move, hosts open house

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Crossroad SignCourtesy Photo. Crossroad SIGN & Graphics has moved its sales showroom to the iconic Woodinville A-frame shown above.

Crossroad SIGN & Graphics will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 26. The event will be a special joint gathering of the Greater Woodinville Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Bothell Chamber of Commerce and will take place at the new showroom of Crossroad SIGN at 19201 Woodinville-Snohomish Road NE.

Woodinville’s Brickyard Brewing will provide beer tasting, while Russell’s of Bothell will provide gourmet munchies. Members of the local Rotary, the Professional Networking Association and friends of Crossroad SIGN & Graphics are also expected.

The local electric sign and business graphics company has moved into a new design and production studio off Highway 9 just north of Brightwater, but maintains a sales showroom in the iconic little A-frame building near NE 195th St exit from 522. 

Many in the Woodinville area know the A-frame well since it was first re-located here in 1978 by owner Mal Anderson.

Modest improvements are being made as Crossroad SIGN & Graphics takes root in its new sales home.

Local school for deaf children prepares students for success

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

Hearing Impaired SchoolCourtesy Photo. To encourage students to speak in grammatically correct sentences, all communication from teachers to children at Northwest School for Hearing Impaired Children in Shoreline is spoken and signed concurrently.Not many schools can tout numbers like these about their students: 100 percent high school graduation rate, more than 66 percent alumni college graduation rate, and 85 percent employment and independent living rate.

Northwest School for Hearing-Impaired Children (NWSFHIC), located in Shoreline, is proud of those statistics, which are well ahead of national averages, considering a 2001 study which found only 30 percent of all young adults who were deaf or hard of hearing received college degrees, 63 percent were employed, and 42 percent lived on their own.

NWSFHIC contracts with 22 school districts throughout the greater Puget Sound area to provide free education and transportation to 40 qualifying students with educationally significant hearing loss in preschool through eighth grade.

"Our school is the only school in the country at which teachers and students, preschool through eighth grade, communicate with speech and Signing Exact English," Dr. Barbara Luetke, Outreach and Literacy Coordinator at NWFHIC, wrote in an email interview.

Why do students at NWSFHIC overachieve?

From its beginning in 1982, the school’s curriculum has been based on the textbook Teaching the Hearing-Impaired Through Total Communication, authored by the school’s co-founders Karen Appelman and Judy Callahan, teachers of the deaf who met while working in the public school system.

The program focuses on spoken communication paired with simultaneous Signing Exact English (S.E.E.), in which the speaker signs every important part of each word (known as the morphemes), using grammatically correct English.

To encourage students to speak in complete sentences, all communication from teachers to children at NWSFHIC is spoken and signed concurrently.

"S.E.E. helps children make sense of the auditory input provided by their cochlear implants or hearing aids. If they can’t hear certain words or parts of words, we supply them with S.E.E. signs so that grammatically correct English is developed for academics and social communication," explained Dr. Luetke, who is the mother of two grown deaf daughters who were raised on the S.E.E. method.

One daughter is a senior at the University of North Texas; the other holds a master’s degree and recently started her first job.

The school’s staff works with parents and school district teams to create Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) and monitors each student to determine when he/she no longer requires the school’s intensive specially designed instruction and is prepared to return to their home school general education program.

When students graduate at the end of eighth grade, they have several options for the remainder of their K-12 education.

They can return to their local public school, attend a private school, or enter Edmonds Woodway High School’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.

The high school currently serves 60 students from 18 different school districts in the region.

Woodinville sisters Erika and Alicia Teasley can attest to NWSFHIC’s impact. Both sisters graduated from the school and moved on to the Edmonds Woodway program where Erika graduated last year and Alicia is currently attending.

"Being a student at NWSFHIC has impacted my life in so many ways. The biggest impact I would say would be the ability to read, speak and write proper English," Alicia wrote in an email interview.

She gives them credit for giving her a passion and drive for education. The 16-year-old wants to study medicine and become an ER doctor.

"There are many skills I take with me as I continue the journey of life but the most important skills the teachers gave me were to never give up, to always challenge myself, to advocate for myself, to have confidence in myself, and probably the most important, to pursue any dream I ever dreamed of and will dream of," she wrote.

Like her younger sister, Erika has set high goals for herself.

She is a freshman at the University of Washington in Seattle where she plans to study biomedical engineering and possibly pursue a minor or double major in computer science.

She credits NWSFHIC for instilling within her the capability to take mainstream classes and to challenge herself however she wants.

"NWSFHIC sent me off with three most important skills that I have succeeded so far which are to always seek the best possible education, advocate for myself, and challenge myself in a confident way," Erika wrote in an email.

She took advanced courses throughout high school, and she even took French.

"I took French because I have always wanted to take it and I saw it as a double challenge as I am deaf and would have a harder time speaking the language and learning the written part," she wrote, adding, "I have taken various classes because in some way, they (NWSFHIC) have shown me that it doesn’t matter if I am deaf, it only matters if I am willing to take on the challenge and face it with hard work and determination."

Approximately 15 percent of U.S. children six to 19 years of age have hearing loss of at least 16 decibels in one or both ears according to a 1998 study published in Journal of the American Medical Association.

Call the school at (206) 364-4605 to schedule a personal tour and receive an information packet available in English or Spanish.

Parents with infants, toddlers or preschoolers with hearing loss are encouraged to meet each other and school staff at the monthly Friday night movie/game nights and Saturday playgroups.

To sign up for these events, please contact Barbara Luetke at (206) 364-4605 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

More information about NWSFHIC is available on the school website at

Salmon watchers track changes in environment

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The peak of eco fashionCourtesy Photo. Some of the Salmon Watchers make fashion statements with their eyewear.One reminder of nature passes among, under, and through the landscape of human developments: salmon.

"It is very exciting and inspiring that nature can persist in some places despite human beings developing so much of their habitat," Staci Adman, a Kenmore resident who observes local creeks as part of the Salmon Watchers program, wrote in an email interview.

"If you see some salmon in the midst of a city/suburbia it can be awesome and awe-inspiring."

Salmon Watchers will hold a training meeting for prospective volunteers at the Woodinville City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. — but Jennifer Vanderhoof, an ecologist with King County who organizes the program, recommends getting there early since the Woodinville training session usually fills up.

This is the 18th year of Salmon Watchers, a program that trains volunteers to identify different species of salmon in the Lake Washington watershed. The watershed, which consists of all the land and streams that drain into Lake Washington, contains chinook, coho, sockeye and kokanee salmon, Vanderhoof said.

Volunteers visit a local stream for 15 minutes several times per week and collect data about the numbers and types of salmon, then report their data to King County. The county uses that information to tell if salmon are using streams that have been restored and note any changes in the streams’ habitat.

Vanderhoof said the training meetings will teach people how to help salmon on a daily basis, even if people don’t choose to become volunteers.

Salmon thrive in cool, clean water, with deep pools, cover from shrubs and fallen trees, and clean gravel for salmon nests, called redds, according to Laurie Devereaux, Bellevue Stream Team program administrator.

"Shade, fallen logs, and diverse plants are all things that support healthy salmon habitat,"

Devereaux wrote in an email interview. "What might look a mess to us is perfect habitat."

But human activities can damage the habitat that salmon need. Stormwater picks up pollutants from hard surfaces such as streets and parking lots and carries these pollutants to lakes, rivers and eventually the Puget Sound.

Bernice Schick, another salmon watcher, enjoys gathering data that not only helps salmon, but also reveals the overall health of the stream and the environment. Over the past three years, she’s observed creeks in several spots in Woodinville — at Rotary Park, at the start of Little Bear Creek, and near Homeward Pet.

"It’s always fun when a big run comes in and to see these awesome fish that have been swimming thousands of miles to get back to the stream they were born in," she wrote in an email interview. "It’s amazing to watch them jump over places where you would think they couldn’t cross, but they do."

Depending on the day and the place, Schick said that in her 15-minute viewing period, she might see more than 100 salmon where a stream starts, 10 to 30 further downstream, or, occasionally, none.

"Living in the Pacific Northwest, salmon is part of our culture, whether eating it, catching it or counting them," she wrote. "It’s a part of the seasons and for me a sign that fall is coming."

More information about salmon watching and additional training meetings is available at

What can you do to help salmon?

Even if you don’t become a salmon watcher, here are some ways to help salmon by keeping pollutants out of the watershed.

• Scoop, bag and throw away animal waste, which contains harmful microorganisms.

• Wash your car at a commercial car wash, where the dirty, soapy water will be sent to a sewage treatment center. Otherwise, soap dissolves the protective mucous layer on the fish and the natural oils in their gills.

• Practice natural yard care —  avoid using pesticides and fertilizers that contaminate our streams and lakes.

• Fix vehicle leaks, which drip oil and chemicals into storm drains that eventually flow to water sources.

Plants, art, architecture restore abandoned home to full beauty

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

Garden 2872Dozens of potted dahlias surround just one of the nine garden rooms found throughout Ron Alessandrini and Mike Osterling’s two-acre property. The garden was recently featured in Garden Design magazine. He couldn’t even see the house from the road. That’s how overgrown the yard was when Ron Alessandrini first saw his dream home in 2003, five months after moving to the Seattle area. The abandoned house was in complete shambles, but he turned to his realtor on the spot and said, "I’ll buy it."

Ten years later, Alessandrini and his partner of five years, Mike Osterling, have turned two acres of land and an eyesore house that neighbors just wanted torn down into a stunning gem nestled into the rolling hills east of downtown Woodinville.

To understand the turnaround of the property, a little history is needed for perspective.

Charles Jr. and Mary Clise, descendants of the pioneer family instrumental in developing large swaths of downtown Seattle and the mansion and property that is now Marymoor Park, designed the home to be their family’s summer home in the late 1960s.

It stood on 40 acres of land looking east towards the Cascade Mountains.

In 1979, Mr. Clise passed away.

His wife soon sold the home.

Through the years, the home went through several owners, eventually falling into disrepair until finally it was uninhabitable by the time Alessandrini stepped into it.

Alessandrini, a vice president for a company that imported consumer products from Asia at the time, became the general contractor as he slowly resurrected the home from the ground up.

Making it livable and cleaning up and designing the front yard were his first priorities — not only to himself but also to his neighbors.

The property’s list of projects needing to be done was so large, they were divided up by seasons.

"Winter time was spent working on the house, while summertime was spent in the yard," said Alessandrini.

The work has paid off. The unique 3,300-square- foot home, with its blend of Asian and Northwest modern influences, has been masterfully restored to its original design with just a few modern updates for rooms like the kitchen.

Garden 2898When Ron Alessandrini first bought his home in 2003 the front courtyard entrance was completely covered by overgrown plants and debris. Now, it’s a tranquil entry to the home and features art installations as visitors approach the front door.Updating the home also included careful consideration of the couple’s large collection of eclectic art, including Warhol, Picasso, and even an original Dr. Seuss given to Alessandrini by the author’s wife, a personal friend, to dozens of Asian statues including a whimsical one of the Chinese communist leader Mao that Alessandrini recently discovered on a trip to Asia and had shipped home.

When Alessandrini and Osterling talked about all the work that went into restoring the home, they both mentioned several times, "We healed it."

It is clear from walking throughout the house and gardens that indeed they did.

All of the work the couple has done on the house and yard is purely a labor of love.

A love of a house with great bone structure. A love of discovering the joy of gardening.

A love of showcasing their art collection both in the home and out in the garden.

It’s understandable when you see the gardens surrounding their home that the couple knows what they’re doing.

However, when Alessandrini first moved there he knew nothing about gardening.

"Ron has done an amazing job visually putting things together," said Osterling.

Using inspirations from Asia, employing the concept of feng shui, installing art all over the property, and their own concept of "architectural gardening" through the use of over 200 pots of varying sizes to create height and drama throughout the garden, has resulted in one of the most eclectic gardens around the region.

With the help of local nurseries like Molbak’s, Flowerworld and McLendon’s, combined with the generosity of other gardeners sharing cuttings of their favorite plants, they have slowly turned a jungle of weeds and overgrown plants into a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

"We’ve purposely planned our garden to bloom from early spring into winter. And, our sculptures provide visual detail even in winter," Osterling said.

Neighbors and friends began to really take notice of the garden’s unique characteristics, including nine areas called garden rooms — areas with chairs for sitting to read a book, drink a morning cup of coffee or converse with friends.

Finally, in 2012 one neighbor suggested their garden might be a good candidate for the annual Woodinville Garden Club’s tour of gardens.

The couple applied, and they were thrilled to have their home added to the 2012 tour.

"We were taken with their enthusiasm and the unique sense of design and use of color in the garden," said Lisa Brennan, co-president of the Woodinville Garden Club, which is now accepting applications for the 2014 tour. 

"We had 900 people come through our garden," Alessandrini said, adding, "It was the most gratifying experience we’ve had. It was validation for all the work we’ve done."

That tour of their garden created buzz in the gardening world. Since the tour, regional garden clubs have come for private tours with their members.

Garden designers have visited and helped spread the word. And, this summer their garden was featured in Garden Design Magazine.

Since the magazine’s publication, they’ve received calls from across the country asking to tour their garden.

When asked what lessons they’ve learned in the gardening process along the way, Alessandrini said, "My biggest lesson was to try it. Don’t be restricted by what the plant label says."

Osterling added, "You don’t know if something will work in a spot unless you try it."

They’ve also appreciated the advice and ideas they’ve received from area garden clubs and garden designers who’ve visited.

"Our garden will always be changing. It’s an evolution," Osterling said, adding that sometimes they get tired of how one section looks so they change it.

"The best compliment we’ve received is ‘This is different!’" Alessandrini said.

Different is right, if you include the plant that’s Osterling’s favorite when hard-pressed to choose just one.

Torn between several choices, he finally settled on the gunnera, a kind of prehistoric plant that grows to about 10 feet tall and wide with giant leaves.

For Alessandrini his favorite is the hosta.

They conservatively estimate over 300 hostas of all different colors are planted around their property.

He also cites a yellow flowering corn plant that came from his father’s garden in North Carolina.

Maintaining their garden in the summertime takes hours each day, with watering consuming the most time. With all the pots in use throughout the garden, an automatic watering system isn’t as effective as hand-watering, so it takes up to four hours each day to make sure each potted plant is adequately watered.

While that may seem like a chore to some people, Alessandrini and Osterling love it so much they never leave town during the summer. And, to share the fruits of their gardening labor, they host an annual summer garden party in late July right when their garden is at its stunning best.

The party, which always has a theme, has become so popular the guest list now hovers at 350.

Next year, the couple wants to turn the experience into an opportunity to give back to their local community, so they plan to make their party a fundraiser for two local nonprofits and ask party attendees to make a small donation.

For now, though, they are focused on preparing their garden for fall.

Even with all the plants they have in pots, it is only the dahlias that they move into storage for winter.

Until that time comes, don’t be surprised if you drive by their home and see one or both of the men outside, a pair of clippers or hose in hand, tending to their labor of love.

For more information about arranging a tour of the garden, please contact Ron Alessandrini at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..