I have always wanted to visit Italy. And, on that trip, I thought it would be great to attend a cooking class.
My dream become a realty this winter when my husband and I were able to go to Europe to visit my daughter, Sarah, who was studying in Brussels, Belgium at the time. The first stop was meeting her in Florence, Italy. There we would see the sites and go to one of the original cooking schools in the Tuscany region, the Accidental Tourist.
I chose Accidental Tourist after checking out reviews on Trip Advisor…everyone raved about the hosts, the setting, and the food. The trip included a tour at a nearby winery so how could I go wrong.
Come to find out that the Accidental Tourist is one of the oldest cooking schools in the region and now there are close to 100. The owners, Marco and Majla are involved in every aspect of the operation.
I asked Majla what sets them apart from the other schools.
“I think the key is staying unique. While other cooking classes come and go, we represent a combination of what the other schools offer.” She continued “We have the expertise of a Culinary Academy, without the coldness of steel counters, high hats and big numbers of students; we offer the authentic atmosphere as well as the tradition of generations (like an Italian Nonna’s hearth), with added teaching skills, and without the language barrier; we afford the privilege of very intimate classes (maximum eight people down to just one single traveler), and the very highest quality ingredients available in the country and in the world, without the extra-cost of luxury.”
Having experienced this firsthand, I’d say she hit the nail on the head. We met our van driver (who happened to be Majla this day as her regular girl had the day off) in Florence at an easy to find location just a short walk from our Airbnb. Sarah and I were joined by another American who happened to be on an extended six-month trip in Italy. Together we headed up into the Tuscan hills.
About 20 minutes later we approached this amazing villa on the highest hill complete with a watchtower. The villa is 900 years old and has been in Majla’s family for six generations. It was an orphanage before becoming the farmhouse it is today. During WWII, Rodolfo Paoli (Majla’s grandfather) provided shelter to and saved the lives of many hiding from the Nazis. Majla said “The square in our town is named after my heroic grandfather, as he risked his life during WWII to help others.”
We were escorted into the lower level of the home where there was a comfortable dining area with seating for up to 10 people, along with a small kitchen off to the side where Marco was busy preparing delicious courses for dinner. We were led to the back room there was a large work area with a huge butcher block table. Majla served Chianti and shared stories of the villa, her family, and the area, while we followed instructions and made homemade pasta.
While the pasta was resting, she took us on a tour of the home and up to the top of the watchtower. The views were simply breathtaking.
I could tell early on that creating pasta and enjoying a meal together was only one component of the day. I asked Majla about a favorite experience with a group. She said, “Something really special seems to happen when people spend a few hours preparing together and then sharing food and wine around an old table, where you can FEEL so many other people have sat and shared before! Total strangers to me and to one-another truly open up. At the end of each class and dinner, there are so many hugs and kisses!”
She continued, “We have had three marriage proposals in our kitchen! One was planned, so I knew about it ahead of time but the other two proposals were impromptu. You can imagine the surprise, and cheers, and tears, and oooohs and ahhhhhhs!
“And the fact that a human being in love who plans to spend the rest of his life with another,
walks into my home, and in a matter of hours decides that it is good enough to get on his knee and open a jewelry box by the end of the evening, is the biggest certification of HOME I could ever hope for!”
Philanthropy runs deep in Majla and Marco’s family.
She explains their involvement in Fondazione Progetto ARCA:
“With the premises that you and we are the “upper case Accidental Tourists” the lucky ones who can choose the destination and duration of their wandering, and can set the date of their return home; lower case accidental tourists are the less fortunate, who leave without luggage, itinerary, a return ticket, or a home to return to.
“Over 2 decades of making a privileged living, made it consequential to extend some of that warmth to those who can’t afford it, by supporting Fondazione Progetto ARCA, an organization that assists homeless and people in extreme need.
“For every meal we serve a paying guest, one is donated to the organization. Simple as that: one to one.”
They have also continued her grandfather’s legacy by creating a special space called “The Emergency Room” in the villa. It is a large cozy room that sleeps four and is available for anyone who is - indeed - in an emergency situation including: a missed or cancelled flight; stranded with nowhere to stay; medical staff on temporary duty at the nearby hospital (due to COVID19); and even a solo traveler with a case of loneliness.
Spending the day with Marco and Majla with my daughter ended up being the highlight of my visit to Europe. As their website says “As heirs of this abode, we want to honor its vocation: to treat strangers as guests, turn guests into friends.” I can say they succeeded with us.
The only thing I would change is to have my husband go with us next time. He would have loved it as much as we did!
Addio per ora!
San Donato in Collina, Italy
WhatsApp +39 3486020257
The Accidental Tourist is a cultural association, not a business enterprise. 100% of the profit after paying workers is used for projects such as the Emergency Room, supporting the Foundation, the Barter program, etc. Every year we come up with new projects. The yearly membership fee is 15 Euro.
At this time of emergency we would like to ask those who have enjoyed an Accidental Tourist experience, those who would like to in the future, or those who simply like our philosophy, to support us by becoming an Accidental Tourist for 2020.
Megan Apple accomplished an amazing fete last summer…she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in its entirety. The trail gained notoriety in the 2014 film “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. The PCT’s southern terminus is just south of Campo, California (about an hour south of San Diego on the US-Mexican border) and ends 2,653 miles later in Manning Park, British Columbia (on the US-Canada border). Apple started in April and traversed California, Oregon, and Washington State on her adventure. She turned 28 years old just before she reached the end of the PCT in September.
I’ve known Megan her entire life and although very impressed, I’m not surprised that this determined young woman did exactly what she planned and set out to do.
Her parents, Holly & Andy Apple, have always supported Megan and her adventurous ways. She graduated from Whitefish High School then attended Idaho State University and earned her degree in Outdoor Education. As a youngster, she spent many weekends with her family at their cabin north of Polebridge, MT just a few miles from the Canada border. She was always venturing off into the woods there exploring nature. She recalls, “When I was in 5th grade I had the thought to do a Maine to Washington border walk.”
When asked what her motivation was for wanting to hike the PCT she said, “It is just a cool adventure. One of the biggest that you can do in the U.S.”
Megan hiked for a month on the PCT two years before her 2019 completion. She had the time off work and thought it would be fun, so she wanted to try it out. She really enjoyed her time on the trail and decided to do the whole PCT in the future.
She started preparations months before she took her first step. She gathered gear from her previous trip and did an inventory of what might be needed for her voyage.
Megan said, “I did some hikes, but you can’t really prepare for hiking 20 miles a day for days on end.”
It wasn’t just the supplies she’d need on the journey as there is no way she could start out with the full load. She had to coordinate the delivery of supplies at trail angel houses and post offices along the way. It was just Megan and her pack, so she had to meticulously plan her entire trip.
“Finding the right shoes was my biggest issue,” she said. She explained that trail runners are great, but they rip up easily. Hiking boots are good, but they are heavy. Ultimately, she used five pair of trail runners plus a sturdier boot that she ended up getting rid of on the trail.
When she arrived at the start, she overnighted with a trail angel where she was fed and spent the night.
Trail angels are a significant part of the PCT. They provide numerous forms of assistance to hikers including offering their yards and homes for camping or bunking, rides to and from the trailhead, food, shelter, receiving resupply boxes, stocking water caches in the desert, allowing you to fill up on water at their homes, and so much more.
“The Trail angel community is amazing,” said Megan. She continued, “They take you in, provide food and shelter, and so much more to help you achieve your goal. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
The first 300 miles through the California desert is “really easy” according to Megan. That jaunt took 15 days. The mind-boggling part is that at this point she still has 2,353 miles to go. For the entire PCF, it took Megan 5 months and 3 days. I should also note that although she certainly wasn’t trying, she lost 22 pounds in that period of time.
She has so many incredible memories that she’ll be able to share for a lifetime. She recalled a time in the Sierras at Muir Pass (11,969 feet) with a friend, Lefty. It was a long tough trail in the snow, but the sun was shining, and they ran into some fellow hikers and found a hut to hang out in together.
Like Lefty, Megan received a trail nickname as well…she became known as Sprout. I’m guessing in this circle she will always be known as Sprout.
As you can imagine, Megan said that there was a lot more traffic on the south part of the trail. At that time, she’d pass a couple people each day. As she ventured north there would be longer gaps of seeing civilization, but typically, there would be a town every 3 or 4 days.
Climbing Mather Pass (12,100 feet) was the scariest part of the PCT for Megan. “It was very challenging with a heavy pack,” she said. Then she encountered a stream and added, “I was scooting across a log to cross the stream and if I slipped, I’d be swept up by the current,” she said.
In addition to the trail angels, Megan said she couldn’t have done it without her family including her parents, grandparents, and her aunt. They supplied both moral and supply support throughout the journey.
When asked if she had any advice to pass along to someone considering hiking the PCT, she said, “You don’t have to do the whole thing to experience the PCT. Just a week is enough to experience the culture. Doing any section is totally worth it.”
Is there another hike like the PCT in her future? She said that she is interested in the more remote trails that require more planning like the Idaho Centennial Trail at 900 miles. “If I do 5 months again, I would go to another country that isn’t necessarily in a place that is so familiar,” she added.
How did Megan follow up her PCT fete? This winter the adventures continued when she managed a Heli-ski lodge about 2 ½ hours from Anchorage, AK. She’ll be back in Whitefish for a bit then this summer she’s planning to work at an organic vegetable farm outside of Seattle.
I personally love hearing about her travels and realize she just may be someone that has figured out the key to happiness is living life to its fullest.
Interested in learning more about the Pacific Crest Trail, visit pcta.org.
Most people pay their respects to our military veterans on Veteran’s Day with good reason…our freedom, our liberty, and for some our lives. There are a few individuals that have made it their mission to go out of their way to thank and treat veterans throughout the year. One of those people is local resident Drea Huck. She does it by sending coffee care packages from home to our troops with inspirational notes and messages. Huck currently supports eight active military personnel groups weekly.
Huck’s ties to the military are not by chance. She is from Slovakia, and her father was in the military there. Her father rose to the rank of Major although he is now retired. She said her connection to the military is “in my blood.” She described herself as a “child of the world,” and her first trip to America was with an exchange program to California over 15 years ago.
Now she is a permanent resident and like many in this area, she has a career with Starbucks. She started as a barista, then she managed her own store for a few years where she said, “you see it all.” In her current position as a Facilities Representative at the SSC (Starbucks Support Center), she handles orders from the field with suppliers and vendors. Although she misses seeing her regular customers day in and day out and the great connections she made with them, her new position allows her to make an impact in a different way.
Huck has embraced the “Adopt a Unit” program. She personally packages up about 125 pounds of coffee, and often other treats, for shipment and travels to the post office weekly to ship to deployed troops. She noted that Starbucks donates the coffee for the packages.
You can hear the emotion in Huck’s voice when she speaks of the program and how she cares for the troops she supports. She wants them to know that they have not been forgotten. “I always tell them to be safe,” she said. Huck receives notes, emails and even gifts from soldiers. One recently sent an email that said, “You have no idea how much it means to us to have you support us.”
Huck also shared her pleasure with the fact that her employer’s support of the military goes far beyond the Adopt a Unit program. Starbucks is committed to veterans and military spouses and in the past five years have hired over 17,000 to work in many different capacities for the company. Huck said that this Armed Forces Network program helps soldiers transition from the military to the corporate world. Soldiers most often make terrific employees as “they are disciplined and make great leaders,” she added.
She is also very proud of her involvement in the Marine Raider Foundation. The foundation was established to provide benevolent support to active duty and medically retired Marine Raiders and their families, as well as to the families of Raiders who have lost their lives in service. Huck stressed that many members of the special forces at times are forgotten because “technically they don’t exist.” She wants to be sure they aren’t forgotten. The foundation aims to meet needs unmet by the government with an emphasis on building resiliency and supporting the full reintegration of Raiders and their families to civilian life.
Huck has become a Miles for Marsoc community athlete raising money for the foundation in memory of a fallen soldier Staff Sgt. Sky Mote and others. Mote was awarded the military’s highest honor, the Navy Cross, following his heroic death in Afghanistan in August of 2012. She says of her involvement, “It is the most incredible thing I have ever done.”
As we wrapped up, I asked what her message was to our readers about soldiers with Veteran’s Day approaching. She said, “We can truly live our lives because of them. Don’t forget about them.”
Marine Raider Foundation, https://marineraiderfoundation.org/
Drea Huck’s page, https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/drea-huck/milesformarsoc
Starbucks Veterans Programs, https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/community/veterans
I had a vision of the “Dynamic Duo” when I sat down with Melaine and Chris Thompson recently to chat about their new partnership and how they got to this point.
“It has been a 25 year evolution,” Chris said. “This business is the natural next step.”
The business he is referring to is Thompson Design + Build. A culmination of their talents pooled into a business that is reminiscent of Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame.
Melaine was described to me as “a blogger, home designer (self taught), creative genius…” by Leigh Henderson from Alexa’s Café. After that introduction, I knew I’d better meet her.
Melaine’s blog “My Sweet Savannah” (mysweetsavannahblog.com) started over 15 years ago with primarily hand painted furniture and signs that she was selling to supplement her income and hobby. It has evolved since then to include home design, recipes, DIY projects and more. She also has a very popular Instagram page (also mysweetsavannah) with over 58,900 followers at press time. Country Living Magazine named her one of the Best Design Blogs and her work has been featured in numerous other design sites.
It’s clear that Melaine has a real eye for design but its more than that. She shares the look and the DIY steps for those wanting to give it a try. “You can learn to get a high end look without spending a lot of money,” she said.
To stay relevant and on top of things takes a lot of work. Following our morning coffee at the end of September, she was heading home to bake Christmas cookies for some upcoming blogs for holiday preparations.
Just recently Melaine partnered with Molbak’s Garden + Homes on a front door display. “Molbak’s wanted to make it easy for customers to have a beautiful entryway,” she said. Melaine’s design was featured on Molbak’s website and the store as well as her own blog. Customers could go in and purchase all or part of the display or they could even have it delivered. Many of the pieces of the display sold out in a couple weeks. Melaine plans to continue to work with Molbak’s in the future on projects like this and possible workshops.
Chris has been a contractor and builder his entire adult life. He had been considering branching off on his own for quite a while and he said, “I continued to ask myself, can you do this?” He would be leaving a comfortable corporate job and that prospect was scary.
They knew they had the components of design with Melaine and build with Chris so they decided the (natural) next step was working together. He said, “We want it to be fun. A place where we can showcase our work.” That is how Thompson Design + Build was formed.
Before they even got to this step, they already had a great success “Design + Build” story…their own house.
The Thompson’s were high school sweethearts at Woodinville High School and married 22 years ago. They had a daughter, Savannah, namesake of course of Melaine’s blog and a son, Cody. They loved the Crystal Lake area were Chris’s family lived and knew they wanted to be in that neighborhood but also knew it would be difficult to afford.
They opted for a small affordable 900 sq. ft. fixer upper home and went to work. “The house is a cool story of evolution,” Chris said. I saw the before and after photos of their home renovation and what they did is simply amazing. Melaine added, “We want to inspire people. There are still [affordable] places out there.” Referencing projects in the Eastside that they can definitely help with.
They love the aspect of the business that they can make decisions that are right for them and their family. The challenge to get creative and not spend a fortune (within a clients budget) feeds them both.
When asked about their passions, Melaine said, “Family first.” Then added, “I love inspiring people.” Chris said, “That we’ve always been part of the community.”
Thompson Design + Build
To say I was only a little amazed after stopping by the property of Ron Alessandrini and Mike Osterling would be a huge understatement.
The RAM (Ron & Mike) studio/shop, yard/gardens, and home in Woodinville has so many wonderful features I hardly know where to begin.
But instead of beginning with the place, I should start with my gracious hosts, Ron and Mike. They both can be described as truly the “hosts with the most.” The positive aura and energy that you feel around them is present from the minute you are acquainted. I felt as if I had known them both for years. Genuine, sincere, and caring are just a few of the attributes that come to mind to describe them. (Thanks for the introduction Larry!)
Ron is the Vice President of an import company with an office in Monroe. He visits China often, which is reflected in much of the art I viewed during my tour. Mike is a Realtor. They both are caregivers to the property, artwork and home where they live.
John Clise whose family developed Marymoor Park built the home in 1965. The home was surrounded by 15 acres and “was praised by architects nationwide and recognized for its unique design,” according to Ron. When John Clise passed away his wife Mary sold the property and it went through many hands before Ron bought it. It had been subdivided to the current (close to) two acres and had fallen into almost complete disrepair. Ron said, “[The house was] two weeks away from being tore down.” Ron visited the house with the Realtor. He walked into the living room, with its’ floor to ceiling windows covered in boards, and said he’d take it. Many neighbors, and likely the Realtor, thought he was crazy, but he wanted a place that he could sink “sweat equity” into.
That was 15 years ago, and Ron and Mike have sunk a ton of sweat equity into every area of the (RAM) homestead.
We started our tour in the shop/studio, which has become quite the gathering place for the neighborhood and friends since a snowstorm in 2012 according to Mike.
The studio side is a place where creativity is encouraged. There are antiques and collectibles everywhere and a large counter/table graces the middle to use for work projects. I would call it “art projects” as everything I saw was a unique work of art. There are chandeliers varying in size and design covering the ceiling and wood disks from tree stumps ready to form tables. “We are big on repurposing,” said Ron.
They are not sure as to when it began, but people started bringing stuff in and it has snowballed from there. One thing is certain; they both agreed that it is a lot of fun working on the projects. I asked if they had an outlet to sell their (RAM) art. Ron admitted that they have thought about it but hasn’t happened. For now, they enjoy giving items as gifts or donating them to local auctions that support area schools.
Just off the studio is a big shop area that is more for storage at this time to house the future projects. There are plenty of back up supplies housed here to keep them busy for years!
We next ventured out and around the yard and gardens.
There are so many wonderful sites and hidden gems in their yard. It is really amazing! From monk guardian statues from the Ming dynasty (1,110 years old), to a koi pond, to a graffiti wall (that Ron commissioned to have painted), to sculptures (glass, metal, and wood), to secret sitting areas, a monkey paw tree, and flowers, flowers, flowers, there is much to behold and ponder. Ron and Mike do all of the yard work themselves. “It is a stress release,” Mike said. “It is a ritual and fun to work in the garden,” he added. They said start every morning and end every evening with a walk in the gardens – I would too! I must add that they presented me with a beautiful bouquet to bring home that I enjoyed as I wrote this story.
Ron mentioned that it’s not unusual for them to arrive home to find a yoga class or a bible study-taking place on the lawn or a neighbor picking flowers in the garden. There have been weddings of friends on the property as well. They encourage it all and are happy to share their blessings.
It is not surprising that the gardens/yard have been a favorite on the Woodinville Garden Tour in the past. Next year, they are slated to be a stop again.
We ventured into the house next where I admired a private art collection that rivals many galleries. Artists featured include Picasso, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Dr. Seuss, and the list goes on. “All art has a story,” Ron said. It’s important for him to be sure the art is on display for all to see and enjoy.
The house has definitely been “saved” and looks terrific. A big testament to that would be the kudos they received from Joslyn (JC) Clise, John Clise’s daughter, when she visited some 40 years after she lived there with her family. She drove up and introduced herself after the house appeared in a magazine article.
Ron says he is “very blessed.” He continues, “Look what life has given us…so much.” I would return that sentiment as these two gentlemen give so much back. The law of attraction is at work in a big way at the RAM homestead.
From her favorite production at Woodinville High School, Noises Off, to her current role as the young Darlene Snell on the critically acclaimed original Netflix series, Ozark, Brooke Butler is paying her dues and getting noticed.
I caught up with Butler recently to see how she’s faring with her new role and living the Hollywood dream so to speak.
When I mentioned that things seem to be going really well and asked if she feels like she’s paid her dues, she said, “Never. I never stop working to improve. You never think you are good enough. I’m always in class, writing or performing.”
“It [acting] is extremely cut throat,” Butler said. She is grateful to have found a group of wonderfully supportive friends and colleagues but that has taken time and it isn’t easily found in the industry. They are genuinely happy for each other when someone lands a role. “It is a big enough industry and there is a place for everyone if they are willing to work hard,” she added.
Butler knew from a young age that she wanted to be an actor. She said growing up in a smaller town with a “sheltered childhood” with Christian values has given her the foundation to fall back on when things got crazy. She credits her parents for instilling strong values and letting her know that you have choices in life and the path you take will determine the end result. She also praised others in her life that have been her support system and said, “I am grateful for my upbringing.”
Part of that hard work growing up in Woodinville involved drama classes, voice lessons, and dance classes.
She complimented Hjalmer Anderson from Woodinville Repertory Theater as her first acting coach. “He always believed in me,” she said. Butler went on to say that he taught “the method” and that is how she prepares to this day.
Butler fondly remembers Larry Bridges as her first vocal coach. She had to sing Ave Maria during a recent audition and said that Larry would be so proud as to how far she’d come.
Since I wrote a story about Larry this summer, I reached out to him about Butler and he said, “I loved teaching Brooke. She was always open to growing as a singer and actor. She had the drive and discipline. I never doubted she would do something special with her life. I am so proud of her success and expect even greater things from her.”
At WHS, she remembered the play Princess and the Pea and that she was initially disappointed for being cast as the Evil Queen thinking she was more the princess type. Now in hindsight she said, “It really helped in my future
career and is making things more interesting.”
Following high school, Butler attended University of Southern California (USC) where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Dramatic Arts and graduated with honors.
You might recognize her for her breakout role as the flesh-eating cheerleader, Tracy Bingham, in All Cheerleaders Die that premiered at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and is currently a Top 5 on Netflix. The role was especially fitting since Butler was nominated as a Top 20 cheerleader in the nation while at USC.
She went on to gain attention in theaters starring opposite Todd Lowe (True Blood) in the haunted house tale, The Remains. Butler has also acted in several television movies and is currently filming the pilot Queen Fur for Showtime.
The role of Young Darlene Snell in Ozark is has been great for Butler. “I love taking someone who is misunderstood and make them relatable. I like playing those characters.”
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked her if she had any advice for others wanting to become an actor and she said, “Be ready to work really hard. Believe in yourself. Be willing to give up everything for your dream.” Then she chuckled when she added, “Take back streets on the way to auditions to avoid traffic.”
For more about Brooke Butler visit www.BrookeSereneButler.com
When we met at a nearby coffee shop, I instantly knew that Alie Renee Byland was an old soul, despite her youthfulness, with a heart of gold.
Alie (Martinez) grew up with her four siblings in rural New Mexico. They were homeschooled, and she told me how her mom would sneak money from the grocery budget to pay for piano lessons. To this day, music is still a very big part of all of their lives.
When Alie was 11 years old, her dad moved the family to Albuquerque where they settled into what she describes as “the ghetto.” It was there that her father, a Pastor, started renovations on a large duplex that was always open to visitors and those in need. “He was an amazing man,” Alie said of her father.
“There were always a lot of different people around—a lot of opportunities to play music.” By age 13, Alie was part of a band and played music in church. She was raised with a strong faith base, but it was “more towards and based on serving,” she added.
To reinforce my comments of the serving and giving nature of her family, in 2008 the Martinez family received an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition complete with Ty Pennington spending a week in Albuquerque. For those unfamiliar with the popular program that was on the air for almost 10 years, families are nominated for the “makeover” oftentimes based on what they have given back to that community. The show’s staff and volunteers in droves come forward to help and together they completely rebuild the family’s home in a week. All the materials and labor are donated.
Alie left home at 18 to attend a Christian college in Seattle, and that is where she met Jake Byland. Jake was raised in Woodinville in very different surroundings than Alie, but that didn’t matter. Alie loves where she comes from and maintains, “we are who we are, and there is no sense in changing.”
Alie recalled a conversation during her second year in college that Jake and her dad had. Her Dad ended the call to Jake with, “Give my baby girl a hug.” Her dad died two weeks later, and she returned to New Mexico to be with her mom and her family. For the next 14 months, Jake was her friend and sent many prayers her way. As time went on, Jake asked Alie’s mom for her daughter’s hand in marriage and on the third request, she finally said yes.
Alie returned to Washington, and to Woodinville, to marry Jake. They lived on his family’s property in a cottage he built.
It was there that Byland (the band) was formed, and they started to perform at wineries in the area.
After her father died, it was different to play music. She was (and still is) grieving. “I don’t believe that time heals. I believe you need to go through the process.” She thanks The Healing Center (in the Ravenna neighborhood of Seattle) for helping her in that process. “It is an amazing organization. When I walked in, I felt comfortable and loved,” she said.
Part of the healing process was creating music. Together Alie and Jake made the melodies, wrote the lyrics and eventually recorded Byland’s first album called Desert Days. They did it all themselves including building the studio that they recorded the album in to Jake mixing & mastering the entire album. Although Alie is quick to point out though that many people, especially Jake’s family, stepped up to help raise money to support the album. “It is a great community of people and I am really thankful,” she said.
Desert Days memorializes her childhood in Albuquerque and her late father. The song “What a Man” is an amazing tribute to her dad and when I listened to it later that afternoon tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought of my own father. She told me the last song on the album “Lying on the Couch” includes an actual voicemail that her father left her so many years ago.
After listening to Desert Days, I can attest to the emotion that went into the entire album. Alie sings beautifully and the wisdom she shares through her lyrics are a gift to us all.
The Byland band has an upcoming performance on October 20th, and proceeds from both ticket sales and merchandise will go to The Healing Center. Merchandise for sale includes beautiful jewelry that her uncle made. (He used to make jewelry with Alie’s dad.) The money raised will go towards scholarships to help others dealing with grief.
The show will be at the High Dive (513 N 36th St, Ste G, Seattle) and opens with local bands Hallstrom, Temple Canyon, and Skylar Mitchell Raye Band.
Byland will have a seven piece band including Maggiejean Martinez, Alie’s little sister and the drummer in the band; Chris Hanson, bassist; Torry Anderson, keyboards; Bri Bloemendaal, electric guitar; Cameron & Jodi Reed, strings; and of course Alie.
Alie and Jake are already working on another album, and she is continually honing her craft and collaborating with other musicians. She said that she has met so many people that have inspired her and have helped her. “Music should bring people together,” she said.
Visit www.bylandmusic.com for a sneak peak of Desert Days, purchase the album, or learn more about the upcoming show. Music is also available on iTunes and Spotify under Byland.
Mike Connolly is proud of his wife Kathy Price and for good reason. Kathy is the Owner and Coach at Agoge CrossFit in Woodinville and at 65 years old she looks amazing. Not only does she look 20 years younger than she is but according to Mike she can outperform most women of any age.
Mike speaks the truth, as Kathy placed 2nd in the Northwest and 26th in the World CrossFit Games Masters Division just a few years ago.
I met up with Kathy and Mike at Agoge CrossFit off 144th Avenue NE just a few doors down from Triplehorn Brewing Company. The location is perfectly suited for those wanting easy access and the warehouse space is large and really awesome as a gym.
Health and fitness have always been a part of Kathy’s life. Prior to becoming one of the first CrossFit Level 1 Trainers in 2008 (along with a ton of additional certifications), she earned her BA in Psychology and BS in Nursing and worked as a Registered Nurse.
When she moved to the Seattle area in 2006, she started working with a trainer at a gym in Sand Point and as she says, “It was killing me but I loved it.”
The difference? CrossFit.
CrossFit was new and that location was the only one at that time. “My whole life changed,” said Kathy. She explained that CrossFit is different because you are doing circuits that feature functional movement. “It’s back to basics,” she said. The exercises mimic what you do in everyday life and help you build strength. Like the twisting you may do to get a child out of a car seat or reaching for an item on a top shelf in the kitchen.
Not long after she started with that gym the two owners there, Dave Werner and Nick Nibler, were splitting up and Nick asked Kathy to become a partner. “I never thought I’d be a gym owner but it made me feel so great.”
With her nursing background the answer was definitely yes as she was always interested in the preventative side of medicine. Now she could help people by teaching proper nutrition and exercise to help them stay healthy for their whole life.
Fast forward to present day and Agoge is the oldest CrossFit affiliate in the world. That is pretty impressive considering there are 15,000 now.
Although Mike works outside the gym in his own business they are both very active at the gym and shared that CrossFit is great for couples as you do the same workouts by scaling based on strength and ability. They also stressed the community and supportive nature of the gym. “The community of CrossFit is supporting, fun, and just incredible,” Kathy said.
According to Kathy, it’s really for everyone. She encourages people to just come and talk with her about their concerns and goals for getting fit. They’ve watched shy high school students blossom with their newfound strength and marvel at their oldest member at 77 years old who excels with every workout. They love to hear how healthy and strong their members feel.
When Kathy and Mike aren’t working they enjoy our area by hiking, swimming, and just getting outdoors.
I continue to be inspired by the young adults in our community especially after chatting with Sarah Raza last week. At only 17 years old, she is really making a difference and has the makings to be a leader in the future.
Sarah lives with her family in Woodinville and just started her senior year at Redmond High School (school district boundaries dictated that).
She said she has always enjoyed history classes and attributes that to her love of reading. “With History what you read is true and about our past,” Sarah said. She chuckled when she added that she is enjoying math now as well and that stemmed from taking a Calculus class. I chuckled as well saying that is when many people likely start to dislike math!
Puget Sound area Student Leaders at the Washington D.C. summit from left to right: Sarah Raza, Madeleine Brown, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Winter Holmgren and Youri Babakoff. (Courtesy photo)At school she’s active with the Debate team and is the president for this upcoming school year. In Debate she focuses on the individual events and has attended state in the past for her Oratory, Impromptu, and IR (Interpretive Reading) categories.
Sarah is also Senior Class Treasurer this year and has been part of student government throughout her high school years.
And if those accolades weren’t enough for this bright young lady, in March of 2017 she started a nonprofit organization called Aware. Aware’s mission is to embrace students with special needs. By that she hopes to remove the stigma against students with special needs and include them in day-to-day activities in school that may be taken for granted. She wants the entire student population to be able to participate in activities as simple as eating lunch amongst friends to attending prom.
Sarah’s personal story for creating Aware stemmed from helping a friend babysit her sister who suffered from severe autism. What started out as a one day experiment turned into a full summer of fun spending time with the two girls and coming away with a completely different mindset and new understanding of the numerous obstacles that kids with special needs have to overcome.
Aware is branching out to other schools as well and there is a chapter in both Bothell and Newport at this time. She’s hopeful to get other schools involved with chapters of their own in the future. To help that along, Aware was recently awarded one of the top six T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge Winners and will receive a financial contribution as well as valuable advice from T-Mobile’s legal, marketing, and financial teams.
I asked Sarah about her motivation to give back and get involved. She said, “I have always been a very active volunteer.” She credits her Muslim faith and being involved in the mosque for that foundation. “Helping the community is something that has always been done,” she added. It should be noted that Sarah has also volunteered at the Pacific Science Center, Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation, and at the Autism Resource Center in Rawalpindi Pakistan.
I was introduced to Sarah by the management team at Bank of America following her internship this summer.
According to Bank of America Market Executive, Kim Vu, Sarah was part of the “dream team” chosen for Bank of America’s Student Leaders eight-week, paid internship program, which helps develop the next generation of local leaders by recognizing community-minded high school students and connecting them to employment, professional development and service opportunities.
This summer she worked with Special Olympics Washington on a number of different projects from helping put on this year’s USA Games to research and writing to learning the general operations of a nonprofit. During the USA Games she said, “I interviewed some amazing athletes then we posted their stories on social media.”
Sarah Raza (Courtesy photo)Sarah is so proud that she had the chance to be involved in the Bank of America Student Leadership internship. “It was by far the best summer program I have ever done,” she said. She felt it was a great experience with real life work and the networking was tremendous.
She learned about the internship through her school’s website on the career center page. Sarah emphasized that it was a perfect fit for her since it involved community service and nonprofit involvement plus getting paid was a bonus.
In the future, college is definitely on the horizon but she’s not sure where she’ll end up yet. She thinks UW is fantastic and her sister is a student there. She’s also applying at Occidental College in LA along with all the Ivy League schools. Acceptance and financial aid will help make the final decision. When the time comes, she’ll pass the reigns for Aware to another student but will stay on as an advisor.
I asked if she had any final thoughts to give to other students that wanted to get involved and she said “Remember that every little bit helps.”
Sarah has done more than a little bit and I’m grateful for students like her that are getting involved every day in making our schools and the community a little better.
For more information:
Aware – visit awarenonprofit.org
Internship – visit Bankofamerica.com/StudentLeadership
Applications will be due this fall and are open to students in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
After 28 years of service, Mike Millman retired from his position as Station Captain at Everett Fire Department in February of this year. He is far from done serving the public, however, having recently been appointed as a new Woodinville Fire & Rescue Board of Fire Commissioner.
As a member of the Board of Fire Commissioners, he’ll meet with fellow commissioners at Headquarters Fire Station 31. This board oversees all budget and policy decisions for the District.
Each member of the Board of Fire Commissioners is typically elected by the citizens and serves a 6-year term although Millman was appointed to the board after a member resigned when he moved from the district. Members receive a minimal stipend for their services. Other Board of Fire Commissioner Members include: Roger Collins, Derek van Veen, Jim Dorney, and Tim Osgood.
The appointment is so new that prior to press time Mike hadn’t yet attended his first meeting but will do so on September 11th. He has already participated in his first “official duty” however when he volunteered to flip pancakes at the recent Woodinville Fire & Rescue Pancake Breakfast during the Celebrate Woodinville events in August.
I met with Mike and his lovely wife of 21 years last week at their beautiful home in Woodinville. From the accompanying photo, you’ll probably recognize Mike’s wife Michelle as an anchor for KIRO 7 news.
Mike became interested in a career as a firefighter when he was in high school, and his dad was dating a female firefighter in Seattle. He was attracted to the job aspect of helping people, the bonding he witnessed among the firefighters, and the physical aspect of the job. A few years later, he had a neighbor that had just become a firefighter, and his interest was reignited. That neighbor became his mentor in the process to become a firefighter, and the rest they say is history.
“I loved the camaraderie of the fire department,” said Millman. He added that he loved helping people and making a difference. That is what attracted him to the job so many years ago.
He admitted that their station was very busy though and that a fair amount of stress accompanied the job. Millman said, “I don’t miss the sleep deprivation.”
Following retirement, Mike took some much needed time off “to decompress” as Michelle noted. But when the opportunity to join the Fire Board presented itself, he jumped at it. He’s happy to give back to the Woodinville community that has been so good to his family. “I think they [Board of Fire Commissioners] are doing a fantastic job,” he said.
He’s already been working with the staff and is looking forward to getting involved in the meetings and workshops.
The Fire Chief from the Everett Fire Department, David DeMarco, said of Millman, “He was a great employee, and we have all wished him well in his retirement years. I’m happy to hear he is still leading a life of service in his own community. He brings years of expertise and will be a valuable member of your Fire Board.”
Mike bought his home in Woodinville in 1992, and Michelle joined him when they married. He loves the location and that it is close to the mountains, water, work, and town. Plus he said, “the people are great.” Michelle added, “It is not a big city, and we are really part of a community.”
Together the couple have two boys. Jake will be beginning his sophomore year at the University of Washington while Luke will be a senior at Ingelmoor High School. Mike and Michelle both praised the Northshore School District, and they are grateful for the opportunities it has provided.
Michelle wrapped things up by saying how proud she was of Mike. By continuing to serve the community and giving back. “He’s one of the smartest people I know,” she added.
I think Woodinville is lucky to have Mike along with his passion and experience serving the community as a new member of the Board of Fire Commissioners.
For more information about the Woodinville Fire & Rescue and the Fire Commissioners, visit http://wf-r.org/
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