Beautify Your Surroundings with Garden Art in Bellingham

July 8th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

Every summer, I try to do at least one garden tour in Whatcom County. Traipsing through the gardens that reflect both artistic talent and green thumbs, I feel inspired – and more than a little envious.

Most of these living canvasses of master gardeners/artists feature more than just plants. Tucked between the shrubs and trees, or at the end of a path, they’ll place a piece of garden art that draws the eye or makes a statement. We can all learn from the masters and add art to our own gardens to punch up the color or create the perfect focal point.

Whatcom County gardeners are lucky to have several outlets for art to beautify outdoor spaces, whether your style is classic, modern or whimsical. Let’s take a tour of Bellingham garden art shops, just in time for the Whatcom Horticultural Society’s 28th annual Tour of Private Gardens, taking place July 12 – 13. Learn more about the tour here.

In Fairhaven: A Lot of Flowers and The Garden Room

The first stop on our tour is Fairhaven, where A Lot of Flowers and The Garden Room sit across the street from each other on Harris Street. These two businesses offer a variety of garden art.

A Lot of Flowers occupies a space adjacent to the Village Green, across the walkway from Jalepeños and one door down from Fat Pie Pizza. The shop’s courtyard entrance resembles an outdoor room, and features an all-weather rug, hand-crafted furniture and lots of plants.

A Lot of Flowers, Fairhaven, Statuary, Garden Art

Inside, you’ll find cut flowers and arrangements, signs and gifts, and the start of the garden art.

A Lot of Flowers, Fairhaven, Statuary, Garden Art

Though the door to the small gravel-floored outdoor space, there is even more. Buddhas and bunnies share space with turtles, roosters and woodland fairies. Willow branch benches and shelves are filled with still more flowers, plants, statues and figurines.

A Lot of Flowers, Fairhaven, Statuary, Garden Art

Owned by landscape designers, The Garden Room combines garden tools, books and art with interior décor and gifts.

The Garden Room, Fairhaven, Statuary, Garden Art

If you’re into adorable animals, you’ll find plenty: frost-proof stoneware pigeons, pigs, bunnies, doves and owls can be found relaxing on the stairs, tucked under plants and gracing shelves all around the shop.

Classic details and shapes abound in a wide assortment of planters and brass watering cans.

The Garden Room, Fairhaven, Statuary, Garden Art

South of Fairhaven: Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Gifts

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Gifts is just south of Fairhaven at the start of Chuckanut Drive, our designated Scenic Byway. It’s well worth a stop at Chuckanut Gallery to wander through the amazing garden with an espresso.

Chuckanut Gallery, Chuckanut Drive, Garden Art

Here, you’ll find larger garden sculptures and structures displayed among the well-established beds of hosta, sedum, grasses and trees. Colorful glass art and metal garden stakes are sprinkled here and there.

Chuckanut Gallery, Chuckanut Drive, Garden Art

On the deck, you can peruse the selection of lanterns, bird feeders, wind chimes, smaller sculptures and wall art.

Chuckanut Gallery, Chuckanut Drive, Garden Art

Central Bellingham: Garden Spot Nursery

Garden Spot Nursery is located in the Sunnyland neighborhood, and it’s as bright and colorful as the surounding neighborhood is known to be. The nursery also happens to be on the back (King St.) side of Sunnyland Square, home to Trader Joe’s, so you’ve probably driven by while looking for parking. Next time, stop in!

The Garden Spot is known for its selection of bedding plants, perennials, herbs and veggie starts, as well as seeds, tools and planters. But wander around inside and out, and you’ll see all kinds of garden art, too.

There’s lots of statuary, from dozing puppies to laughing Buddhas. Brightly colored pots are just waiting for you to take them home and plop them on your porch or patio.

Garden Spot Nursery, Statuary, Garden Art

You’ll also find garden benches, wall pockets, metal whirligigs and wind chimes. (So many wind chimes!)

Garden Spot Nursery, Statuary, Garden Art

And if you have a large wall or fence to decorate, you’ll find just the right metal sculptures or art piece here.

Garden Spot Nursery, Statuary, Garden Art

When you’re on the prowl for treasures for your own garden or a gift for a gardener in your life, check out Bellingham’s many garden centers, especially The Garden Room and A Lot of Flowers in Fairhaven, Chuckanut Galley and Gifts south of Fairhaven on Chuckanut Drive, and the Garden Spot in central Bellingham’s Sunnyland neighborhood!

A Lot of Flowers    1011 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225     360-647-0728

The Garden Room    1006 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225     360-734-9949

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Gifts   700 Chuckanut Drive N., Bellingham, WA 98229  360-734-4885

Garden Spot Nursery   900 Alabama Street, Bellingham, WA 98225  360-676-5480

Learn more about the Whatcom Horticultural Society’s 28th annual Tour of Private Gardens.

For more ideas about fun activities in Bellingham and Whatcom County see the many links on our home page.

Great Food and a Stellar Wine Selection at Bellingham’s Old World Deli

June 24th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

A sandwich, a salad, a bottle of rose and a sidewalk table for two in the sunshine. What could be better on a beautiful Friday afternoon? This perfection was made possible by everyone’s favorite deli in Bellingham—Old World Deli, which also happens to have a stellar wine selection.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

Old World sets you up for the quintessential deli experience with pastrami, roast beef and ham-on-rye sandwiches, then adds a twist with grilled paninis, muffalettas and creative special sammies. Their daily soups and several salads nicely round things out.

And even though Old World deserves its yearly “Best Deli in Bellingham” award, we’re here to talk about . . . what else—wine! Old World will bowl you over with its large (and impressive) wine selection, which seems to consume more and more floor space every time I visit.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

Great wine and super-nice staffers.

Wines are arranged by region, and there is a special section of Value Wines, all under twelve bucks. Summer time is rosé time, and Old World Deli has tons of it, from all over the world: Washington, Spain, Oregon, France, Austria. Stacked in boxes and chillin’ in the cooler, each one is just waiting for you to tuck it into your picnic basket.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

So many rosés!

Christos, wine buyer and Old World co-owner with his wife, Anna, likes to bring in wines that he likes, that his clientele will also like—and perhaps will expand their palates a bit. He eschews big alcohol and oaky flavors for high acid, lighter body wines. Of course, he also brings in wines he doesn’t particularly love, but his customers will.

“I just pick interesting things, and I get to know people’s palates,” says Chris. “I remember palates more than I remember names. I’ll move them from one side or the other of what they usually drink.” He especially likes smaller producers from Europe, who offer terrific wines for not a ton of money. Since the land in Europe has been owned for generations, winemakers don’t have to cover a big mortgage payment with every bottle. “You can find tons of great French wines for $9.00 or $10.00—not so easy to do with Washington wines,” he said.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

Chris helped us choose a nice rosé to go with our Chicago beef sandwich and candied pecan salad. We were also munching on spicy dill potato chips, and the crisp, slightly sweet (but mostly dry) rose cut the spice really nicely. It only made sense to buy a bottle, with no corkage fee from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. We even managed to take some home!

Old World’s bright, flowered tablecloths and polished wooden floors make the setting cozy and casual, and super-high ceilings let in plenty of light to brighten up the space. But our goal on this last day of spring was to soak up some sun, so we headed out to the sidewalk and plunked our food and wine on one of the charming red tables. With pots of flowers and greenery surrounding us, and the city moving by, we felt very “Old World,” indeed.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

Once we finished our amazing lunch, we browsed around Old World’s foodie section. If you’re into house-cured meats, house-made sausages, specialty foods like pastas, olive oils, salts and drinking vinegars (yes, they are delish!), you’ve got to check it out. And home bartenders will love the selection of bitters, vermouths, tonics and olives.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

Old World Deli does a Food and Wine Club, too. Each month, members get three bottles of wines, an artisan cured meat, a housemade sausage or pate, a specialty cheese, and food items, like pickled onions or olive spread, that go especially with the wines chosen for that month. Themes are set around the wine region or varietal: Rhone wines, South African wines, or Grenache from all over. Chris picks the wine and then puts together foods that make it even better.

Old World Deli, Bellingham, Wine, Artisan, Cheese, Meat, Sausage, Specialty, Gourmet

They also offer special wine dinners every month. And my favorite time of day—happy hour—is from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. every Thursday and Friday. Get a glass of wine for three dollars (THREE DOLLARS!), and discounts on sandwiches and bottled beer, too. All day on Thursdays, you can buy a bottle off the shelf and enjoy it onsite for no corkage fee. Saturday nights are also live music nights. So. Much. Going. On!

Make Old World Deli a stop when you’re in downtown Bellingham, whether it’s for a delicious sandwich or a case of wine. You’ll be so glad you did.

Old World Deli, 1228 North State Street (between Holly & Chestnut)         Bellingham, WA 98225              360.738.2090
Hours: Monday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Tuesday – Wednesday, 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.

Old World Deli on Facebook 

Wine, Beer and Spirits Topics by Teresa

For more ideas visit about fun things to do and where to stay in Bellingham visit our home page.

Exploring Peace Arch Park – an International Experience

June 24th, 2014 by Todd Elsworth

To my surprise, I learned that you can walk freely between US and Canadian borders at Peace Arch Park in Blaine, WA. I’ve always been curious as to where you can go around the park, so we set out to explore for ourselves. My daughter and I ventured out with bug net in hand to see what we could find in this unique international park.


“The Peace Arch stands on the international boundary between Blaine, Washington, and Douglas, British Columbia. The Arch was constructed to commemorate the centennial (1814-1914) of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, a conflict that was waged in North America and involved Canadians, as well as Americans and British.” –

Walking around the park, you’ll be on a scavenger hunt of sorts finding numerous interesting historical markers, each with their own story and relative significance.  On the US-side is a classic commemorative of the National Garden Club’s Blue Star Memorial Highway- A tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the USA.


An obelisk marks the location of the border and another is seen in the distance, set in the foreground of the railroad’s border sign. There’s no mistaking where you are when you look around.


“In 1914, the international fund-raising efforts for the Arch were spearheaded by Samuel Hill, famed Washington State lawyer, financier, road builder and humanitarian,who later dedicated it on September 6, 1921.” – An aging sign on the Canadian side adds: Through their donations of pennies, nickels and dimes, the school children of Washington State and British Columbia helped to purchase the lands surrounding the Peace Arch for an International Park. Today 16 hectares (39 acres) of gardens are jointly managed by Washington State Parks and British Columbia Provincial Parks.


As we explored the Canadian side, we found a humorous sign with historical significance. First were listed the Basic Ingredients and then recipe laid out on how it was assembled. Creatively Canadian.

Basic Ingredients
76 piles
45 tones (50 tons) tension steel
3500 bags of cement
2 iron gates
2 spruce flagpoles
inspirational messages

The grounds of provincial park are well planned and maintained. Open lawns with sturdy picnic benches, a decorative drinking fountain and a life size checkerboard are some of the amenities you’ll find onsite. Both sides have flowers arranged to create the symbolic national flag.


It took us awhile to go from flag to flag. There’s so much to see along the way. The border becomes invisible (even though there are plenty of markers) when you’re enjoying the park. We were free to run in the open space, sharing our time with other families as we explored the floral, artistic and historical wonders of the park.

Each year, the International Sculpture Exhibition is hosted from May to October. This is one example piece titled Harmony- Friends, acquaintances and colleagues unite in cooperation, blending and shining in fruitful expression of endeavors of Joy and Peace.


Back home on the US side, we had to pose for a picture in front of our own floral flag. You’ll notice yet another marker with more significance of the place and the people who have worked to make it all possible, beautiful and accessible.


I can’t imagine a more peaceful border crossing. Make a run for the border, then stop and explore.

For reference, the three messages and their sources:

1814 – Open One Hundred Years – 1914” – Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1814, marking the end of the war between US and Great Britain

Brethern Dwelling Together in Unity” – From the 133rd Psalm/Mayflower Compact.

Children of a Common Mother”- Referring to our common British/French stock.

For more ideas about fun things to do in Bellingham and Whatcom County visit our home page.

The Berry Best of Whatcom County

June 20th, 2014 by Hilary Parker

Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale, Wa

The sweet satisfaction of picking berries is woven into the fabric of my summer memories. As a kid, I would head off into the blackberry brambles to pick berries with my family, which we’d later turn into an amazing pie. On summer mornings I would walk out our back door to pick strawberries that went right on top of my cereal.

Now I’m making new berry-flavored memories with my kids. We usually harvest huckleberries and blackberries in the wilds around Sudden Valley (near Bellingham, WA) where we live, and my children have grown to love it as much as I do. Boxx Berry Farm, Ferndale, Wa

One thing I didn’t do as a kid was pick berries in a u-pick field. I didn’t discover u-picks until adulthood when I had children of my own. And fortunately for us, and you, Whatcom County is filled with u-pick fields for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Our family favorite is Boxx Berry Farm at 6211 Northwest Rd., in Ferndale. Along with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, the farm offers u-pick flowers and the fall brings pumpkin picking.

The Boxxes make the berry picking easy: the fields are well marked and both buckets for picking and boxes to take home your sweet spoils are provided.

After you’ve picked your fill of berries, the fun isn’t over. The kids will want to make a stop at the playground. I’ve found we spend as much time at the playground as we do berry picking because the kids are having so much fun!

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on one of the many picnic tables, or head inside to the Shortcake Shack for all sorts of strawberry delights, including heavenly strawberry sundaes.

The adults will want to check out the Market Store, which offers fruits and vegetables grown on the farm as well as from other growers, plus wonderful pickled vegetables, sauces and dressings.

Farm festivals throughout the summer celebrate the crops in the height of their harvest season. Kids can ride the tractor “train” and hay rides let the whole family get in on the fun. Check the Boxx Berry Farm website for dates.

Some of the other best bets for berries around Whatcom County include:
Barbie’s Berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries
7655 Melody Lane, Ferndale

Bjornstad Farms – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
6799 Old Guide Road, Lynden

Blue Heron Lake Farm – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
2136 E. Hemmi Road, Bellingham

Fun Fact:
Did you know that more than 65% of the nation’s red raspberry crop is grown in Whatcom County?

Bellingham Groups offer Weekly Activities for Fun and Fitness

June 17th, 2014 by Todd Elsworth

To complement the full race calendar in Bellingham/Whatcom County, there are a host of groups that help locals and visitors connect with others on a weekly basis for fun and fitness. Opportunities include walking, running and hiking. The organizers are welcoming and excited to see new people join their ranks.

Fairhaven Runners

Located in the heart of historic Fairhaven, Fairhaven Runners offers weekly Fun Runs and Walks, special events and is best known for the Fairhaven Runners 15K. Their Drop in Runs and Walks are free and offer options to choose from.

All Paces Run |Tuesdays, 6pm – weekly

Get fit, get inspired and have fun! Led by staffers and volunteers, runs are 20 minutes out and back on two key routes, by the water or through the woods. Participants are divided into groups ranging from run/walk to seven minute pace. Meets at the store.

Tuesdays | Workout 5:30pm – weekly

Join the fun for a planned workout (or one of your own) on the track. Meet at Sehome High School parking lot.

Wednesdays | Evening Epic Run 6pm -weekly

Strenuous runs of 1.5-2 hours on hilly terrain with experienced trail runners. Often epic.

Select Saturdays | Fairhaven Walking Club 8 AM

Join in the fun and good exercise at a Welcoming Walk or Pick Up the Pace Walk that occur once or more a month at a variety of locations. Well attended. Plan on good exercise and camaraderie, versus casual strolling. Monthly walks will be posted on the Community Walking and Hiking page. You can also call the store at (360) 676-4955 to find out where the group will be walking.

Mt. Baker Hiking Club

Weekend hikes.
Contact: Mt. Baker Hiking Club or e-mail

Description: Organization provides regular opportunities for hiking on the weekend.  Also biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, canoeing, kayaking, and monthly social activities. Promotes conservation of recreational areas. A great way to meet new friends and explore the area.

Newcomers Club Men’s Hiking Group

Wednesdays & Fridays, 8:30 AM
Contact:, website –

Description: Club’s mission is to bridge the transition of new residents by providing a forum for friendships, information and activities.

Boomers Hiking Club

Wednesdays usually
Contact info: or 360-921-2615

Description: A local Bellingham group of Boomers that LOVE hiking the North Cascades. They usually make day trips to the Mt Baker area in both Whatcom & Skagit Counties.

Northwest Singles Club Walk Group

Mondays, 10am,
Contact info: Mary Lu at 733-0139 or

Description: Meeting at the top of Taylor Street Dock, 4.6 mile roundtrip walk along waterfront, various paces welcome. Open to walkers 21 and older, do not have to be single for walks, drop-ins welcome.

NW Tulip Trekkers Volkssport Club

Scheduled group walks and self guided walk route maps available at various locations
Contact: NW Tulip Trekkers, American Volkssport Association, or e-mail or call Curt or Martha Myron at 360-679-3638.

Description: NW Tulip Trekkers is an outdoor walking club, based in the coastal counties between Seattle and Canada.  Group promotes recreational walking for all ages, through scheduled group walks, American Volkssport Association-sanctioned volksmarches, monthly meetings and a monthly newsletter. Club provides information about local and out-of-town AVA events. The Trekkers Club is designed for AVA-member-walkers and for individuals and families who want to walk for fun and fitness.

Bellingham Senior Center-  The Button Walkabouts & Senior Trailblazers

Walks and hikes throughout the week
Contact: Info. and walk calendar available at (360) 733-4030, Whatcom County Parks/Seniors/Bellingham or Patti at 752-1619.

The Button Walkabouts

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning group leaving center at 9:45am, either walking from center or carpooling to designated location.

Senior Trailblazers

Thursdays 9am, two different choices of hikes each week at various locations. All walkers must be members of the Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Whatcom County Senior Centers

Weekly walks may be available at different centers throughout Whatcom County
Contact: Whatcom County Parks

Bellingham Mountaineers

Contact: Bellingham Mountaineers

Description:The Bellingham Mountaineers is one of six regional branches of The Mountaineers, an outdoor and conservation club based in Seattle, WA. The Bellingham branch offers programs in climbing, hiking, snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. Our branch is run entirely by volunteer members who lead trips, teach courses and provide trail maintenance

Greater Bellingham Running Club

Check out the full calendar of events with the GBRC

For more ideas about fun things to do and where to stay in Bellingham visit our home page.

An Authentic British Pub and Sunset Drinks in Birch Bay

June 9th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

Now that the weather is behaving, it’s time to set our sights on all the great spots for outdoor imbibing, which is one of my favorite pastimes. This week, we headed a few miles north of Bellingham to Birch Bay, where we stopped by two beachfront bars, the Will’O Pub and Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro.

The Will’O Pub

Are you pining for a Wychwood King Goblin? A Paulaner Hefeweizen? A Smithwick’s Ale or a Belhaven Scottish Stout? Have you been longing for a place where they know the difference between football and American football, and you can eat bangers and mash every day?

Search no longer! Head to the Will’O Pub in charming, beautiful and tiny Birch Bay, Washington to enjoy the best bits of a British pub without hopping across the pond.

If you’re fond of saying things like “good on ya,” “daft” or “bloody,” you’ll fit right in here. And if not, you’ll still find plenty of good reasons to hang out at the Will’O.

Will'O Pub, Birch Bay, English Pub, British Pub, UK Beer, British Food

Clockwise from upper left: Hand-carved bar imported from Essex, England; tiny phone booth; pub mirror; flags from all UK countries (and the good ‘ol USA).

For one, the Will’O has the largest selection of UK beers in the state. I named some above and (thanks to my generous mates) sampled a few others: Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA (Scotland), Fuller’s London Pride (England), Murphy’s Irish Stout (Ireland) and Samuel Smith Organic Pale Ale (England). Also available were unusual ales like Old Engine Oil, Irish Death, Skull Splitter and Wexford Irish Crème Ale.

The Will’O Pub boasts somewhere around 70 UK ales, in bottles, cans and on draught, so they can most likely fulfill your needs, whatever they may be. They can also offer you a cider or a glass of wine if you’re not into the whole beer thing.

The Will’O patio gives us yet another place to drink beer outside. Yay! You don’t want to miss the views of the water or Birch Bay’s famous sunsets. It was so warm and sunny when we visited that I can think of only one thing that would have brought us back inside: karaoke!

Clockwise from upper left: Pretend these are palm trees; Karaoke singer; enjoying the sunshine; football club scarves.

Clockwise, from upper left: Pretend these are palm trees; Karaoke singer; enjoying the sunshine; football club scarves.

Yes, Tuesday night karaoke is another reason the Will’O should be on your drinking bucket list. We didn’t participate (this time), but totally enjoyed the song stylings of the senior set. Their joie de vive was contagious and they were so fun to listen to.

Need a few more reasons to visit? The menu boasts authentic eats like shepherd’s pie, beans on toast, Irish beef stew, and eggs and bacon butty. And if you’re into pain, you can order the Diabolical Burger, which comes with a free t-shirt if you can eat the entire thing in less than 20 minutes. Many have tried. Few have succeeded.

The Will’O is a lively place, with a very popular Trivia Night on Thursdays, and regular live music, too. After all, the pub was named after owner Andrew Weightman’s great-grandmother, who ran a pub and nightclub in Liverpool in the 50s, where acts you may have heard of (Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Beatles) played. In Will’O’s honor, Andrew and wife Stacy opened their British pub; they chose Birch Bay because he’s been visiting here since he was a child.

Will'O Pub, Birch Bay, English Pub, British Pub, UK Beer, British Food


Will’O Pub, 7714 Birch Bay Dr., Birch Bay, WA 98230           360-778-2852
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
The Will’O Pub on Facebook


Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro

Up Birch Bay Drive a few blocks is Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro, located in a 1940s-era building that was once a bathhouse. Both the café and its Skinny Dog lounge offer plenty of libations to choose from in a right-on-the-beach setting.

The café’s long-and-narrow setup gives every table an expansive view of the water. If you’re more focused on beverages, you can take a seat at the bar, also with bay views. And when weather permits, head upstairs to the rooftop deck, take in the cool sea breeze and feel the sun on your face.

Via Birch Bay Cafe & Bistro, Birch Bay, Restaurant, Bar, Beachfront, Waterfront, Seafood, View

Clockwise, from upper left: Via entrance, salt & pepper enjoying the view, antique windows, main restaurant.

The deck was closed when we visited, but we were perfectly happy to sit at a beachfront window while we sipped and nibbled. Among the four of us, we sampled the seasonal on tap (Iron Horse IPA), the Tequila Sunrise and a rosé from local winery GLM. Via’s specialty cocktails include:

  • The Grape Nehi: Grey Goose, Chambord, fresh lime, sweet ‘n sour, soda.
  • Slippery Rocks: Vanilla vodka, butterscotch schnapps, milk.
  • Pink Lemonade: Vodka, gin, sweet ‘n sour, grenadine, lemon.
  • Birch Bay Tea: Rum, vodka, gin, tequila, Blue Curacao, pineapple juice, coconut milk. (Yowza!)

As for food, we ordered the fish ‘n chips, a veggie burger and a Portobello mushroom sandwich. Our food didn’t last long enough for a photo opp. (Can you say, “crinkle fries?”) Each dish got at least one thumb’s up—which is good, because no matter how great a view may be, the drinks and eats need to match it.

Like the Will’O, Via Birch Bay has a great backstory (doesn’t every bar?). This one began when Yoon Oh decided to retire in Birch Bay to relax and do some sailing. He saw that the building was for sale and decided to buy it. Yoon and his brother, Jefferson, opened the restaurant in December of 2012 (so much for retirement). Sadly the restaurant was nearly destroyed three months later by a huge tide and strong winds that crashed through the windows and flooded the building. The waves reached the second floor, which seemed hard to believe on this tranquil evening, with nary a whitecap in sight.

Via Birch Bay Cafe & Bistro, Birch Bay, Restaurant, Bar, Beachfront, Waterfront, Seafood, View

With a lot of hard work by employees and the support of the community, Via Birch Bay reopened two months later. When you visit, you’ll notice wooden structures put in place to protect the windows. You’ll also see the co-owner’s artwork sprinkled throughout the building, including a portrait of his daughter that was saved from the ravages of the storm.

Via Birch Bay Cafe & Bistro, Birch Bay, Restaurant, Bar, Beachfront, Waterfront, Seafood, View

Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro is a lovely place to catch up with friends, have a drink, eat some good food and stare through the window at the sea, the rocky shore and the sinking sun.


Via Birch Bay Café & Bistro 7829 Birch Bay Dr. Birch Bay, WA 98230            360-778-2570
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.     Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Via Birch Bay Café and Bistro on Facebook

For more ideas about things to do and where to stay in Whatcom County visit our home page.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden: A Feast for the Senses on Scenic Chuckanut Drive

June 2nd, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

Shopping at the Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Bellingham is awe-inspiring. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see a display of beautiful works of art, thoughtfully arranged to showcase the care that went into crafting each one. In one corner, pottery shares space with art glass. In another, an unkindness of ravens (yes, that’s the name for a bunch of ravens) nearly come to life in metal sculptures and grace the wall in paintings of many styles.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Here, the art is wearable, usable or just show off-able. There’s jewelry made with stones, pearls and precious metals; mugs, plates, bowls, lamps and post toppers from the potter’s wheel; wooden bowls, trays and spoons; art glass for your beer, your bouquets or your bread; loads of framed photographs, prints and paintings; and clocks, textiles and much more to grace your home.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

And that’s just on the inside! Chuckanut Bay Gallery is also renowned for its beautiful garden, with winding paths leading to garden sculptures, wind chimes, art pieces, and accents made of metal, stone and glass.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Since 1986, Don and Carol Salisbury have operated the gallery, first as a showcase for Don’s pottery, and then adding the handcrafts of hundreds of American and Canadian artists. Their emphasis on “art and garden” is evident, as themes of nature pop up throughout the gallery. If you’re into birds (like me), you’ll find plenty to love here.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Fun, letter-pressed greeting cards.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden is the perfect place to choose a special gift for someone you love or to treat yourself. Add to your collection of wooden spoons, Craftsman-style clocks, nature-inspired pottery or fine jewelry.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art, Children's Books

Children’s books, finger and hand puppets and more!

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art, Candles

Lovely soaps and lotions, hats and scarves, candles, garden supplies and books.

Every piece featured in the gallery is selected for its quality and uniqueness. Don and Carol strive to offer things you can’t find elsewhere—and the prices are surprisingly reasonable! You can spend as little as $10 on something handcrafted, and they’ll even giftwrap your new treasure for free!

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

If you’re like me, you’ve driven past Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden a hundred times while traveling up and down scenic Chuckanut Drive, and always planned on stopping in. Do yourself a favor next time and slow down, park the car, and spend an some time perusing the art, wandering in the garden or relaxing on the deck with an espresso. Whether you spend a few minutes or a couple of hours, you’ll enjoy every moment.

Chuckanut Bay Gallery, Bellingham, Chuckanut Drive, Art Gallery, Sculpture Garden, Pottery, Garden Art

Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden, 700 Chuckanut Drive North, Bellingham, WA 98229 360-734-4885 Gallery Hours: Monday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Sunday Noon – 5:30 pm Chuckanut Bay Gallery and Sculpture Garden on Facebook

Two New Bellingham Breweries: Wander Brewing and Aslan Brewing Co.

May 26th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

When it comes to craft beer, everybody has his or her favorite. Everyone’s tastes are different, too. That’s why it’s so exciting that our selection of breweries in Bellingham just got a lot more interesting, with the launch of not one, but two new microbreweries: Wander Brewing and Aslan Brewing Company.

I recently checked out both breweries, tasted their beers and visited with the owners. While their beers couldn’t be more different, the brewers all share the pursuit of brewing high-quality beers their patrons will love. And lucky for us, they are upping the diversity of Bellingham’s brewery scene, so just about every beer lover’s needs can be met.

Here’s the lowdown on our two new breweries:

Wander Brewing

Wander is owned by husband-and-wife team Chad and Colleen Kuehl (looks like “cool,” pronounced “keel”), two Midwest kids who set out for the West Coast and fell in love with craft beer and home brewing while living in San Francisco. During a long overseas adventure, they decided that opening a brewery was their long-term goal. So, they started writing their business plan in Africa—I mean, doesn’t everyone?

Once back stateside, they settled in Seattle. Chad went to brewing school and worked at Hilliard’s Beer, and then they set out to find “their” town. Where would they and their brewery thrive? In Bellingham, of course!

Next step was finding their location, which proved to be quite the undertaking. It took them months to find the perfect building, a 1920s-era shipbuilding space, with big wooden beams, lifts and pulleys, steel trusses, very high ceilings, and tons of natural light. They’ve transformed it into an industrial, yet warm environment—perfect for hanging out with friends.

Wander Brewing, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Food Truck, Taproom, Brew Hall

Clockwise from upper left: Colleen working in the brewery; whiskey barrels waiting for Baltic Porter; what’s on tap; the Wander logo on a table leg.

Wander is a true taproom: you enjoy your pint in the low-key Brew Hall, right where the beer is made. Or, you can fill a 32 oz. barker or 64 oz. growler to go. You won’t find a kitchen at Wander, but you’ll always find a food truck parked outside, rotating between waffles, barbecue, tapas, pizza and more. There is plenty of inside and outside seating, including beautiful, live-edge tables that feature the Wander logo at the base.

“So, why Wander Brewing?” I asked. Colleen said, “We spent our whole life wandering, traveling and moving all over. It’s a spirit that encompasses us and lots of others—everybody has a different reason for why they wander in life. It’s about finding what makes you happy.”

I like that philosophy! And now, for the philosophy behind the beer: Chad and Colleen’s approach was to add to Bellingham’s beer culture by brewing styles that weren’t being explored as much as others. They’re doing a couple of Belgian beers, and plan to add many more. Their other offerings represent styles that Bellingham imbibers don’t often see, such as the California Common, which sports the lengthy moniker Washington Uncommon California Common. Oh, and it’s my favorite.

Wander Brewing, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Food Truck, Taproom, Brew Hall

Wander Brewing has a 20-barrel brewing capacity—so lots of room for growth, but they plan to steer away from the hop-filled beers that are readily available in Bellingham. When I asked Chad who influenced his brewing style, he said John Maier at Rogue, for his style and background; Ryan Hilliard, who taught him how to do a startup brewery successfully; and Adam Robbings from Reuben’s Brews, for his diversity and creativity.

The Kuehls sourced as much equipment as possible from as close to home as possible, and many of the wood and metal furnishings in the tasting room are crafted locally, as well. After all, says Colleen, “You can’t ask people to support your local brewery if you’re not supporting the people around you.” Much of the wood is reclaimed from barns, Birchwood Elementary School and Chad’s grandfather’s bar in Iowa. The table legs were made by Black Fin Design and Fabrication in Bellingham.

Wander Brewing, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Food Truck, Taproom, Brew Hall

Clockwise from top left: A sample flight, the gorgeous bar, the brewery and Brew Hall, brewing equipment.

Wander’s biggest sellers so far are the Shoe Toss Rye IPA (this is Bellingham, after all), followed by the Wanderale Belgian Blonde and the Common. Also on tap are the Bellingham Wee Heavy (a strong Scotch Ale), the Global Mutt Coffee Baltic Porter, a Belgian Brown and an Extra Stout. Chad and Colleen look forward to making a wide range of styles that are creative but not too far “out there” for the everyday craft beer drinker.

Bellingham craft beer drinkers are definitely showing their love for Wander. Each time I’ve been in, a nice crowd is filling the space. Chad and Colleen love being able to work together in their small business and supporting the community. Wander, they say, is about sharing their love of craft beer with the community and creating happiness. Stop by the Brew Hall soon, or check out the Wander Brewing/Aslan Brewing Co. Brewer’s Night at The Local in Bellingham on May 26th.

Wander Brewing   1807 Dean Ave Bellingham, WA 98225
Brew Hall hours: Tuesday – Thursday 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., Friday 3:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Saturday noon – 10:00 p.m., Sunday, noon – 7:00 p.m.
Outdoor and indoor bike parking. All ages in the Brew Hall.
Wander Brewing on Facebook



Aslan Brewing Company

Another brewing team with an interesting backstory, Aslan Brewing Company is co-owned by Jack Lamb, Pat Haynes and Frank Trosset. Like so many great businesses, this one started over a pint, when the three were having one at Bellingham’s Green Frog. Soon they declared, “We’re going to open a brewery!” And with that, they started brewing at home, then built a pilot brewery in a downtown warehouse. There, they brewed batch after batch of beer until they decided they had some they could actually sell.

Once they reached that magic moment, all they needed was a space. And, like Wander, they had a difficult time finding one. A downtown Bellingham location was important, along with the right square footage and some fairly high ceilings. Finally, after nine months’ of trials and tribulations, they scored the perfect building. Then, it took another nine months of hard work to bring the brewery and restaurant to fruition.

And it’s gorgeous. Walls of windows offer views of passing people and traffic, while skylights keep the space bright. Plenty of wood, open ceilings with hanging bare-bulb lights, stone and metal are softened by green plants to make it an inviting space to hang out.

Aslan Brewing Co, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Restaurant, Brewpub

Clockwise from top left: A random satisfied customer, what’s on tap, the Aslan space, a schooner of Pilsner.

Aslan is Bellingham’s first all-organic brewery, with a 15-barrel capacity. They’re aiming to brew filtered, sessionable beers, along with some herb brews and beers with other fun ingredients not typically found in Bellingham. The owners love to describe Aslan’s beers as “dank,” which to them means delicious, high quality beers. (It means something else in the urban vernacular.)

But first, they wanted to get the standards out. On tap when I visited were the Flagship IPA, Irie Eyes Red Ale, Oatmeal Pale Ale, Pilsner, Cascadian Dark Lager, Stout-ly Man Ale, Bellingham Brown and Ginger Rye Ale. Aslan’s brewers were influenced by Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, along with Will Kemper, from Chuckanut Brewery, right here in Bellingham. “Chuckanut has been a massive influence. We have much appreciation for their standards and quality,” said Jack.

Aslan Brewing Co, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Restaurant, Brewpub

Clockwise from upper left: brewing equipment; Pilsner, Ginger Rye and IPA; food and cute napkins; the Lion says “Welcome.”

My companion and I decided to each get two-ounce samples of three beers. For me: the Red Ale, the CDL and OPA. For him, the Pilsner, Ginger Rye and IPA, each of which they’ll be canning, starting in July.

Aslan is also a full-service restaurant. Between the two of us, we tried the yam tacos, the Carne brat with house-made sauerkraut and waffle fries. The food was tasty, especially the fries, which are served in little steel buckets. I also loved the chipotle lime cashew cream on the tacos.

Aslan Brewing Co, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Brewery, Restaurant, Brewpub

In case you were wondering, Aslan is Turkish for “lion,” and it’s pronounced AZ-lan. Jack, Frank and Pat chose the name because they wanted the lion as their brewery symbol. And you’ll see it everywhere—on their signs, glasses and t-shirts, for starters.

Since opening day, the Aslan boys are keeping super busy. The lunch, after-work and dinner crowds are flocking into the space, indulging in bison burgers and sampling all the beers. As busy as the brewery and restaurant are, Aslan will also be appearing at a few upcoming brewer’s nights:

May 26: Brewer’s Night at The Local (with Wander Brewing) in Bellingham

May 29: Brewer’s Night at H2O in Anacortes

May 29: Release Party for the Buffalale (a session IPA) at The Wild Buffalo in Bellingham

June 3: Brewer’s Night at Kulshan Brewing Coin Bellingham

Aslan Brewing  Co. 1330 N. Forest St.  Bellingham, WA 98225
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m., Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Outdoor bike parking. All ages.
Aslan Brewing Co. on Facebook

As Bellingham’s craft beer scene continues to grow, we beer enthusiasts will continue to have reason to celebrate! Whether you’re fortunate to live here or are visiting our fair city, be sure to check out all of our breweries. Each offers something distinctly different, but all serve their products with tons of love.

For more about things to do and where to stay in Bellingham visit our home page.

Visiting Western Washington University with kids

May 24th, 2014 by Hilary Parker
WWU Bellingham with kids

Western Washington University’s Outdoor Sculpture collection is a great way for kids to interact with art. Pictured here is part of the “Feats of Strength” installation (L) and the “Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings” (R).

Bellingham is fortunate to have a university in its midst. Being a college town gives this small city access to intellectual and cultural resources we wouldn’t otherwise have as well as providing a vast campus that in itself offers a wealth of things to see and do.

Whether you’re a local, or visiting Bellingham and Whatcom County, Western Washington University’s campus can be a great place for families to explore and experience. Who knows, it may even inspire your children to think about becoming a college student themselves one day. When I recently visited the campus with my 7-year-old son, he told me just that: “Mom, one day I want to go to school here.” That’s music to a mom’s ears.

Ready to explore? Here are just a few of the many ways you and your children can connect with Western.

Out & About

WWU Bellingham with kids

On top of the world, the “Log Ramps” sculpture is a kid favorite.

Outdoor Sculpture Collection – Western’s renowned Outdoor Sculpture Collection brings world-class art to

campus. What’s so neat about sculpture is that it is so accessible – kids to0 can interact with many of the sculptures – and multiple generations can find something of interest when viewing the art.

My kids’ favorite is “Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings,” a labyrinth-like sculpture located on the lawn between the Communication Facility and Fairhaven College. Other favorites include “Log Ramps,” which are great for climbing on or under, and the engaging little turtle-esque people of “Feats of Strength.” Families could easily spend a couple of hours exploring the collection, and when campus eateries are open, you can grab a snack after your adventure.

Sehome Hill Arboretum Trail – Managed cooperatively between Western and the City of Bellingham, the Sehome Hill trails above Western traverse 100 acres that once were home to mining and logging operations. Points of interest along the trails include a tunnel chiseled through sandstone, an old quarry site, and an observation tower. Paved trail and dirt trails and paths allow accessibility for many. Lushly forested, the trails make for a cool and shady place to walk on warm summer days and a great place for collecting gigantic maple leaves for art projects in the fall.

WWU Bellingham with kids

The old tunnel at the Sehome Hill Arboretum is an eye-catching point of interest along the trail.

Learning & Exploring

Planetarium – The Spanel Planetarium recently installed a Digistar projection system. Peer into the “stars” under the full domed theater. Check the Planetarium schedule for show dates and times. Stargaze under the real night sky with members of the Physics & Astronomy Department every Wednesday night when class is in session and weather permits.

Grandparents U – Grandparents and kids ages 7-14 have a unique opportunity to explore topics such as chemistry, book making and fossils during at day and a half at Western each summer with Grandparents U.  Along with diving in to some fun hands-on projects, participants get a chance to tour the campus, swim at the rec center and picnic on the lawn. Get the full university experience by eating in the dining hall and staying overnight in student housing.

For more information about Western Washington University, visit

For more about things to do and where to stay in Bellingham, visit our home page.

Bellingham’s Downtown and Fairhaven Shopping Districts Welcome Canadian Visitors

May 17th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

This weekend, my Canadian friends, why not break out of the routine when you travel to our fair city of Bellingham for shopping? You are probably accustomed to leaving the freeway and heading left toward Bellis Fair Mall and Costco. Or you might head straight down James Street to everyone’s favorite, Trader Joe’s (dark chocolate peanut butter cups, anyone?).

All of these are fine destinations for shopping in Bellingham. But next time you’re heading south on I-5, take a right! If you venture a little off that beaten path to check out the treasures that await you in Downtown Bellingham and Fairhaven, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Downtown Bellingham, Shopping, Bookstores, Whatcom Museum, Lightcatcher Building

Kyle Fuller of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership agrees: “Downtown Bellingham loves having its neighbors to the north visit. We have such eclectic and unique shops in our downtown district, and we would love to show another side of Bellingham shopping to our Canadian friends! Shoes and clothing stores, cute gift and stationary shops, and even housewares stores–everything you need is in our historical setting by the water.”

Downtown Bellingham Shopping Guide

Getting Here is Easy!

From I-5: Head south to exit 253 Lakeway Drive, turn right onto Lakeway Drive and continue onto East Holly Street, which will take you to the heart of Downtown Bellingham. Find street parking everywhere, or turn right onto Commercial Street to enter the Parkade. Parking is free on weekends and after 5:00 p.m., except for commercial and private paid lots, which are indicated.

From Trader Joe’s: Head south on James Street. Turn right onto State Street and continue for .8 mile (or 1.28 km), then turn right on Holly Street.

Shopping in Bellingham, Downtown Bellingham

Once you’ve parked, you can walk everywhere. Wide sidewalks and corner ramps make it suitable for walkers and wheelchairs, too. Downtown Bellingham offers a wide variety of shops, and plenty of places to rest and refuel with a bakery treat and a freshly roasted espresso, bubble tea, glass of wine or a craft beer and sandwich.

Downtown Bellingham, Shopping, Greenhouse, Bob's Burgers, Garys'


  • Gary’s Men’s and Women’s Wear
  • Lulu Wonderful Tings
  • Naked Clothing
  • Downtown Emporium
  • Kids Northwest
  • Sojourn
  • Texture Clothing
  • The Mad Hatter
  • Buffalo Exchange
  • Third Planet

Home and Kitchen:

  • Greenhouse
  • Ideal
  • Bella Flora

Downtown Bellingham, Shopping, Lulu, Mi Shoes, Mod Sock

Stationery and Gifts:


  • Michael’s Books
  • Henderson Books
  • Ideal (Children’s books)

Downtown Bellingham, Shopping, Pickford, Starbucks, Mural, Rocket Donuts


  • Everything in Sight

Food and Wine Shops:

  • Mount Bakery
  • Icing on the Cake
  • Gypsies & Ginger Snaps
  • Seifert & Jones Wines


  • A New Leaf Flower Shoppe


  • Mi Shoes
  • Hilton’s Shoes
  • Backcountry Essentials


  • Kids Northwest


  • NW Handspun Yarns

Downtown Bellingham Summer events:

Downtown Sounds Concert Series
All ages, family friendly, and free!
Wednesday nights, July 9 – August 6, 2014
Doors at 5:30 p.m., music from 6:00 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.
1300 Block of Bay Street

Sidewalk Sale
Saturday, July 26
All over Downtown Bellingham


Shopping in the Historic Fairhaven District of Bellingham

Fairhaven, Bellingham, Shopping, Village Books, Purple Smile Wines

Shopping in Fairhaven is a delight for the whole family, whether you’re seeking souvenirs, toys, fine foods, clothing, books, or handcrafted goods. Food options range from cupcakes, pizza, Mexican and Italian, to fish ‘n chips and fine dining. And for the adults, there’s wine tasting, an underground pub and fine cocktails available a block or two away!

Getting Here is Easy!

From I-5: Head south to exit 250, Old Fairhaven Parkway. Turn right and follow Old Fairhaven Parkway for 1.3 miles (2 km). Turn right on to 12th Street. Find free parking everywhere.

From Trader Joe’s: Head south on James Street. Turn right onto State Street and continue for 1.2 miles (2 km). The road becomes Boulevard and then 11th Street. Enter Fairhaven on 11th or 12th Street and park for free anywhere.

Shopping in Fairhaven

Once you’ve parked, it’s easy to get around on foot. Fairhaven is a bit hilly in places, so take care with walkers and wheelchairs.


  • Serendipity
  • Blue Horizon
  • Wild Blueberries
  • Bay to Baker Trading Company
  • Southside Trends
  • 4 Starrs

Jewelry and Gifts:

  • Whimsey
  • Bay to Baker Trading Company
  • A Lot of Flowers
  • Silver Moon
  • Paper Dreams
  • Paws Awhile

Fairhaven, Bellingham, Shopping, Village Green, Fish n' Chips

Home and Garden:

  • The Garden Room


  • Fairhaven Antique Mall
  • Fairhaven Rug Gallery

Handcrafted Goods:

  • Artwood
  • Good Earth Pottery
  • Renaissance Celebration
  • Whatcom Art Market
  • Gallery West

Fairhaven, Bellingham, Shopping, Avenue Bread, A Lot of Flowers, Culinary Creations


  • Eclipse Bookstore
  • Village Books

Sporting Goods:

  • Fairhaven Bike and Ski
  • Fairhaven Runners


  • Fairhaven Toy Garden


  • Bead Bazaar
  • Mrs. Hudson’s Yarns and Teas

Fairhaven, Bellingham, Shopping, Good Earth Pottery

Food and Wine Shops:

  • Drizzle
  • Papa’s Sweets
  • Haggen
  • Avenue Bread
  • Purple Smile Wines
  • Katie’s Cupcakes
  • Perfectly Paired Gourmet Specialty Shop
  • Culinary Creations


  • 12th Street Shoes


  • Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe
  • A Lot of Flowers

Fairhaven Summer events:

Historic Fairhaven Festival
All ages, family friendly, and free!
Sunday May 25, 2014
10:00 a.m.- 7:00 p.m.
All-day party to celebrate the famous Ski to Sea Race!

Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema
Saturdays Starting June 21
Village Green

Girls’ Night Out In Fairhaven
Saturday, June 21
Shopping specials throughout Fairhaven and auction event at Bellingham Cruise Terminal

Fairhaven Sidewalk Sale
Saturday, September 21
All over Fairhaven

Fairhaven, Bellingham, Shopping, Alley, Mural, Fairhaven Runners, Colophon Cafe


Bellingham’s hotels also have great deals. Spend a night or two and give yourself extra time for exploring and shopping.

Enjoy Western’s Back2Bellingham Celebration May 16-18, 2014

May 14th, 2014 by Annette

Curious what’s new at Western Washington University?  Join the fun and get your blue on at the 5th Annual Back2Bellingham reunion celebration for alumni, families, students, faculty/staff and community members this weekend.

“It’s been very exciting to see Back2Bellingham become an annual highlight for Western alumni, students, parents, and the community at large over the last five years,” said WWU President Bruce Shepard. “We’re proud to once again showcase the best of what Western’s engaging, inviting and adventurous community of students and faculty have to offer over the course of this packed weekend. And of course, Western’s distinctive approach to higher education put to higher purposes will be part of the mix, with programs like Relay for Life, EndFair and an environmental cleanup project among others.”

Back2Bellingham offers an opportunity for all WWU colleges, departments, clubs and organizations to bring potential and current students, parents and staff together to network with alumni and former faculty.

“Back2Bellingham is not only for alums; we invite anyone with a connection to Western to come experience campus, classes without quizzes and a variety of events available to create an entertaining weekend,” Chris Roselli, director of young alumni and student programs at the Western Alumni Association, said. “The list of activities extends to the entire Bellingham community and Whatcom County, including local businesses that will sponsor events and offer special discounts for that weekend.”

Back2Bellingham’s fifth year features more than 100 reunions, tours, educational discussions, athletic events, recreational and entertainment opportunities, with live music on four stages. Guest speakers for 2014 include environmentalist and founder of, Bill McKibben, as well as YouTube sensation and inspirational speaker “Dancing Matt” Harding.

The $13 registration includes a BBQ lunch on Old Main Lawn with live music by the Prime Time Band, the Red Square Carnival with a 250-foot zip line through campus, Party in the Library, Classes without Quizzes, Junior Viking Blast Pass and kids athletic camps, Downtown Bellingham Bash at Boundary Bay Brewery and campus tours. Some theatrical events and reunions require additional tickets, which can be purchased at and at the WWU Box Office throughout the weekend.

Potential students and parents will also have an opportunity to see the outstanding work of current Western students with the 15th Annual Scholars Week Showcase. Additionally, Western’s Office of Admissions invites high school students interested in attending WWU to attend “Spring into Western.”

Back2Bellingham fun extends beyond Saturday’s big events in Red Square and into the community. Beginning Friday, participants can enjoy guided tours of Bellingham, Lakewood and Bellingham Bay via bicycle, kayak or whale-watching boat.

“Spring is a great time for families to connect with their student and visit campus.  With great student-sponsored events, engaging presentations and the recently remodeled planetarium, there are always new things to see and learn about,” said Anna Carey, director for New Student Services/Family Outreach. “We’re especially pleased to feature Bill McKibben as the culminating speaker for this year’s programming with Western Reads.”

In addition, WWU is partnering with Whatcom County Tourism to include special coupon discount from businesses on the Bellingham Experience mobile app through the weekend. Download the Bellingham Experience App at itunes or Google Play, and enjoy special deals throughout the Bellingham community.

Register and see all details for the weekend at:

For Lodging Information, click here.

For Dining Information, click here.


Get OUT THERE and Paddle or Row on Lake Whatcom

May 12th, 2014 by Todd Elsworth

Lake Whatcom in Bellingham offers an immense waterscape for you to get OUT THERE and have some fun- in all kinds of watercraft. We went out in our kayak on a Wednesday to see what all the local hype was about. Before we get into the fun side of getting on the water, there’s something you must know:

New Rules – Be Prepared: Before you head out to the lake, you need to be prepared for the new Whatcom Boat Inspections in place to help control Aquatic Invasive Species in our water supply (and playground). Boat inspections and permits are required for boaters using boat ramps at Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish. Boat owners can choose either a 3-day pass or annual permit. See Inspection Fees & Locations. All kinds of watercraft can transport invasive species, even kayaks, canoes, and rowboats. See Preparing your boat and Take the Certification Training. Where zebra and quagga mussels have become established, they’ve done billions of dollars in damage and estimated annual control costs are at least $1 billion nationwide. See Aquatic Invasive Species 101.


We chose a sunny Wednesday to join the regulars who come out weekly for the camaraderie and friendly competition of racing.  This free, open gathering began over 30 years ago and has evolved over the years- mainly due to the advancement of technology employed in today’s competition watercraft. The 3.5 mile loop takes about 30-45 min. Just show up, get in the water and make it happen. Everybody lines up, there’s a countdown…then GO! Those with slower craft or newer to the sport are encouraged to give themselves a head start so they can finish with the pack at the end.


Bellingham/Whatcom County has many options of organizations/clubs to choose from to get involved with to get out on the water- see the list at the bottom of the page. At the start line you’ll see a couple traditional sea kayaks, but it is largely racing surf-skis and a handful of outrigger canoes.


While all in good fun, there are also the elite athletes who are part of the mix. Local legend, Brandon Nelson, is usually found leading the pack around the lake. Nelson’s most recent claim to fame comes from setting the World Record for traveling 151.3 miles around Lake Padden in August 2013. You will find Nelson, his wife Heather, out every Wednesday enjoying the competition and companionship that the paddling community provides.


It’s not only the racers who come out to enjoy the open-water of Lake Whatcom. There are so many types of crafts that are appropriate (and fun) for paddling around on a sunny day it’s hard to pick the right one, some days.


Back to the world of competition. The lake also provides training space for local youth athletes in rowing shells with the Whatcom Rowing Association. Join them on June 7th on National Learn to Row Day from 9am – 2 pm. I like their motto- Row happy. Race hard. They offer local programs for both Juniors and Masters.


Paddling has a long tradition in the area. Below is a youngster from one of the local tribes warming up in a racing canoe. The local tribes support their youth, providing them with the opportunity to get out on the water while enjoying activities their ancestors have over the centuries.


The more common sight is to see larger tribal canoes, filled with teenagers, chanting and paddling together in unison as they make their way across the water.


Below is a group of young men just getting started as they head out for a lap around the lake. While I didn’t talk with them about their endeavors, I imagine that they are preparing for the “Week of the Warrior”- Lummi Stommish Water Festival on June 12-22.


Being on the water with your friends and family is a relaxing and fun way to spend the day, the afternoon or just a short spell after a long day at work. Get OUT THERE and enjoy it- however you choose.

Bellingham Paddle/Row Resources:

Community Boating Center

Wake Kayak Club

Bellingham Bay Outrigger Paddlers

Whatcom Rowing Association

Bellingham Canoe and Kayak Sprint Team

Kite, Paddle Surf

Salish Sea Kayak School


Make Any Celebration More Beautiful with Spruce Stationery Store in Downtown Bellingham

May 5th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

Weddings. Parties. Baby showers. Life is about celebrating the events—both milestone and mundane—that mark the passing of the years. Our celebrations bring together family and friends for an afternoon or evening that usually passes by much too quickly, while creating memories that are truly essential to a life well lived.

Spruce Stationary and Design, Brittany O'Brien, Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Spruce entrance, cake stand, stationary galore, banner makings.

Making our memorable celebrations more special is the mission of Brittany O’Brien and her lovely little shop, Spruce Stationery and Design. Brittany has been designing custom wedding invitations and event stationary for years, and last summer decided to extend her passion into her retail space, which is located on Cornwall Avenue in downtown Bellingham, next door to Pure Bliss Desserts.

Spruce Stationary and Design, Brittany O'Brien, Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Horsey cake stand, Spruce owner Brittany O’Brien, fun greeting cards, moss-covered chandelier.

The shop’s high ceilings, dark blue and creamy white color scheme, and moss-covered chandelier set a dramatic scene—but all is not frilly-fancy and formal here. Not when the brightly colored, polka-dotted and striped party supplies, confetti and wrapping paper share space with vintage-looking cocktail coasters and greeting cards saying, “Aw shucks, that sucks.”

Spruce Stationary and Design, Brittany O'Brien, Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Chalkboard sign, confetti, “Hello” window display, party supplies.

No matter what the occasion, Spruce has you covered—beautifully. Upcoming nuptials? Have a seat at the bar and take a gander at the invitation books, or discuss your ideas with Brittany. Somebody’s birthday? Make a custom banner, with pom poms in their favorite color. Need a gift wrapped? Bring it by and choose from wrapping paper festooned with dogs, prams, macarons or robots. Brittany will take it from there, and you’ll have a professionally wrapped package in no time. In fact, you can buy a special someone a box of macarons from Pure Bliss next door, and then have them gift-wrapped in macaron paper. Cool! (Or not. Brittany probably has much better ideas.)

Spruce Stationary and Design, Brittany O'Brien, Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: wrapping paper, booze bags, more wrapping paper, fun coasters.

Spruce’s party supplies, greeting cards and accessories will elevate your celebration from middle-of-the-road to truly memorable. And you can feel good that many of the designs carried in the shop are from independent designers and producers who follow environmentally sustainable practices.

Spruce Stationary and Design, Brittany O'Brien, Bellingham

Cards, cards and more cards!

Stop into Spruce before or after enjoying some fine chocolates at Chocolate Necessities or a slice of heaven at Pure Bliss. Pick up that unique card you know you’ll need one day, along with some bright orange, yellow or fuchsia stationary, or a booze bag to carry a bottle of wine to your next gathering with friends. After all, there’s something wonderful about making life’s celebrations more fun, more festive or just more beautiful!

Spruce Stationery & Design, 1422 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham WA  98225  360-366-8069
Open 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.  Tuesday through Saturday
Spruce on Facebook      Spruce on Instagram

Spring and Summer 2014 Outdoor Recreation Events and Races around Bellingham and Whatcom County

April 28th, 2014 by Todd Elsworth

We like to play outside around Bellingham and Whatcom County. We like it so much that we fill up our calendar with events and races of all different kinds. If you’re looking to try Trail Running, Paddling, Mountain Biking, 5Ks, Marathons or just a fun run- it’s all offered this spring and summer. The locals come out for these events and people travel from near and far to participate and enjoy what our corner of the world has to offer- spectacular venues, friendly people and great food & drink to celebrate with after it’s all over.

Thursday, May 1st – Saturday, May 3th
MOB Roll Bellingham
MOB Roll BellinghamBicycles, Music, Film and art. Kicking off Thursday night with Bike Polo and winding through the weekend with Bike Polo, Spoke & Word Ride & House Party; Alleycat Race & After Party.

Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday, May 4th
Enduro of Subdued Excitement
Enduro of Subdued Excitement - Racers can expect 4 stages with approximately 4,000 feet of descending and overall times should be in the 25-35 minute range.  The overall course is about 20 miles long with lots of pedaling and climbing between stages. Riders should plan for 4 to 6 hours of saddle time. Watch the Enduro of Subdued Excitement Video

Saturday, May 10th
Lost Lake 50K
Lost Lake 50 K- “Lost Lake delivered everything that makes Northwest ultrarunning rewarding. Race Director Alvin Crain gave us miles of gorgeous single track, impeccable course marking, friendly competent volunteers and a semi-sadistic scenic detour for a close up view of the Lost Lake waterfall. The course and the logistics were stellar. Lost Lake is challenging (34 miles and > 8K of climb), very pretty and very well organized. Put it on your calendar for next year. You won’t regret it.” Charlie Crissman,  Race Director of the Cascade Crest Classic 100 Mile Endurance

Saturday, May 17th
Junior Ski to Sea
The Junior Ski to Sea Race is an annual community event organized and hosted by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.  It has been held at Lake Padden since 1991 for participants who are in 3rd grade or older.

Each year, six-member teams register to participate in a five-leg race consisting of running, three-legged race, biking, soccer and an obstacle course.


Sunday, May 18th
Haulin Axe 5K Run/Walk
The Haulin’ Axe is either (roughly) a 5K run, or a 2 mile walk. It begins near Barkley Haggen and follows along the Railroad Trail, through Whatcom Falls Park, and ends at Bloedel Donovan Park. The path is a gentle grade, gravel trail with views of Bellingham Bay from the Alabama Street Overpass.

Sunday, May 25th
Ski to Sea
The Ski to Sea Race is a multi-sport relay race open to all persons 15 years or older. The relay consists of cross-country skiing, downhill skiing or snowboarding, running, biking, canoeing, mountain biking and sea kayaking. A team will consist of one person for each leg of the race, except for the canoe leg (2 paddlers per canoe).

Saturday, June 7th
Girls on the Run Spring 5K
Girls on the Run encourages positive emotional, social, mental and physical development. Participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age. Designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength, the Girls on the Run curriculum inspires girls to define their lives on their own terms.

Saturday, June 21st
Kulshan Quest Adventure Race
Kulshan Quest Adventure Race will challenge people paddling on the waters of Bellingham Bay and trail running and mountain biking in the forests of Chuckanut Mountains and Fairhaven. Using sea kayaks, mt. bikes, and your trusty old feet, you will navigate a series of checkpoints using only map and compass to make your way from start to finish.


Saturday, June 21st
Bellingham Canoe and Kayak Sprint Races

Bellingham Canoe and Kayak Sprint Races – Bellingham Regatta is open to sprint canoe and kayak, surfski, OC, and SUP. There will be 200m, 500m, 1000m, 2K and 5K races.The Regatta is open to all ages.

Saturday, June 28th
Bellingham BMX State Qualifiers
Bellingham BMX State Qualifiers will be held on the ABA sanctioned BMX Track.

Lake Padden Triathlon
The Padden Triathlon is an excellent first, second or twenty-second triathlon. Our course is simple, beautiful and well staffed. In an effort to make this a race you’ll enjoy year after year, we’ve made everything as simple as possible, so on race day you can focus on the event. Our goal is to make the Padden Triathlon the best organized, most affordable, chip timed event you’ll do all summer.

Sunday, June 29th
Bellingham KIDS Traverse
Starting and finishing in Civic Stadium, the Bellingham KIDS Traverse course offers a 1 mi. Run through Salmon Woods; 1.5 mi. Mountain Bike around Civic and Geri Fields; .5 mi. Obstacle Course inside Civic Stadium; .25 mi Team TREK to Mallard Ice Cream Finish Line.KIDSTraverse

Saturday, July 12th
Chuckanut Footrace
Chuckanut Footrace- This point-to-point, seven-mile trail race starts at Marine Park in south Bellingham and finishes at Larrabee State Park, the oldest state park in Washington. The course follows the legendary Interurban Trail, which threads through the Chuckanut Mountains and features gorgeous views of Chuckanut Bay and the San Juan Islands. View the course map here. Buses will take runners back to the finish line and will leave with regularity. The finish-line party at Larrabee State Park will include live music, food, and drink. Age-group awards will be given, three deep in each five-year category. Top three male and female finishers will also be recognized.

Friday, July 18th – Saturday, July 19th
RAGNAR – Northwest Passage
RAGNAR – Northwest Passage- For centuries, explorers, Vikings, and adventurers sought to navigate the illusive Northwest Passage. Today, a similarly daunting journey takes place for participants of the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage! You’ll begin your journey in the city of Blaine, then run relay style from point to point along a course designed by runners for runners. The gently rolling countryside will offer spectacular views, charming shops and quaint villages, and a peaceful starry night sky above. Runners traverse all the way to the coast where they will cross Deception Pass and finish in Langely, WA where the festivities of the Ragnar Finish Line await your team. This course is designed for runners who love to take it all in, and we are limiting the number of teams allowed to 500. This late summer adventure Will Sell Out, so get in and secure your team’s spot today!

Saturday, July 26th
Tour de Whatcom
Tour de Whatcom- The rides are awesome. You get to see everything: Mt Baker, Lake Whatcom, valleys, rivers, lush farmland, beaches and Puget Sound all in one fairly level ride.

Sunday, July 27th
Chuckanut Mountain Marathon
Chuckanut Mountain Marathon- This race marks the end of the 2014 Bellingham Trail Running Series!  Which means we will have a rollicking good time before, during, and especially after the race!  We will have live music from The Blackberry Bushes Stringband and excellent adult beverages.

Saturday, August 2nd
Lake Whatcom Run
Lake Whatcom Run – This race is run on the beautiful Lake Whatcom Northshore trail. The race is 10K. The course, entirely on trail, is out and back with views of Lake Whatcom throughout. Age group, overall and random prizes will be awarded.

Sunday, August 3rd
Bellingham Youth Triathlon
Bellingham Youth Triathlon has been initiating kids to the sport of triathlon since 1999. We work hard to create an environment of accomplishment for everyone involved. Each participant is awarded a medal as they cross the finish line, we encourage everyone to stay for the prize drawing at the finish where pretty much everyone wins something fun.

Saturday, August 16th – Sunday, August 17th
Ride from Seattle to Vancouver BC & Party 2- Enjoy 188 miles of scenic back roads (106 miles/3500′ on day one and 82 miles/2400′ on day two). RSVP2 starts on Saturday, Aug. 16 (one day after RSVP1) at the north end of the University of Washington’s E1 parking lot and finishes in downtown Vancouver, Canada, on Sunday. The finish line festival includes a no-host bar, barbecue and music. The RSVP 1 is sold out so they had to make a second one the following day! Stay the night in Bellingham. (Here’s a link to lodging options.)

Saturday, August 16th
Hamster Endurance Runs
Hamster Endurance Runs- Once again, runners will be able to choose a 6, 12 , or 24 hr option, and run laps around beautiful Lake Padden during that time period.​

Saturday, August 16th
Muds to Suds

Muds to Suds- 22 Dirty Obstacles, including 8 mud pits that combine athletic stamina and your child hood fantasy of playing in the mud.  You will need endurance to complete the approximately 2.5 mile course, humility to wallow in the mud and a smile to show off at the finish line!


Sunday, August 24th
Dog Days of Summer 10K & 2.6 mile Run/Walk
Whatcom Humane Society’s Dog Days of Summer 10K & 2.6 mile Run/Walk- Our popular all day festival for dogs and the people who love them. Fun Run/Walk and 10k Run around Lake Padden. Games, contests, exhibitions, food and fun for everyone!

The Classic Combination: Pizza and Beer at McKay’s Taphouse

April 28th, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

You know the feeling you get after a long workday, when you come home, put on some flannels and pour yourself a fine craft brew? It’s called “completely relaxed,” which is how you’ll feel when you walk through the door at McKay’s Taphouse and Pizzeria, located on East Maple Street  between downtown Bellingham and Sehome Village shopping center.

I’m not suggesting you wear your jammies to McKay’s, but I’m not sure anyone would notice (or care) if you did. The pub, established in 2008, has a distinct neighborly feel, with its obvious regulars and a welcoming vibe for we who aspire to that goal. The décor is—you guessed it—beer-centric, with stained glass, a fireplace and Tiffany-style lamps for that pubby ambiance. Throw in an authentic-looking jukebox and several pinball machines, and you have all the ingredients for a fun evening.

McKay's Taphouse, Bellingham, Craft Beer, Pizza

But wait! We haven’t even begun to talk about the beer. Or the pizza. Or the live, homegrown music. Or the special events. All of which combine to make McKay’s the happening, hopping place it is, every night of the week.

First, the Beer

McKay’s Taphouse has 50 available taps, plus a cask engine, dispensing beer and hard cider. The selection changes practically daily. On my latest visit, our choices included brews from Bellingham, up and down the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains and across the pond. Whether you are a certified hophead, a Belgian devotee, a lambic lover or just an average beer-drinking Joe or Jane, you are sure to find something to your liking.

McKay's Taphouse, Bellingham, Craft Beer

Clockwise from top left: Jukebox, Island Hoppin’ Lager and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, the McKay’s crowd, Marvin J and Thomas Harris.

I recently sampled three beers:

  • Island Hoppin’ Lime Kiln Lager – Darker than I’m used to for a lager, with a nice malty flavor. It finished a bit thin, I must say.
  • Ninkasi Belgian Single Ale – Ninkasi’s ode to the session Tripel. This one had a lot going on! Kind of funky on the nose, it actually reminded me of an oaky Chardonnay. But it tasted completely different than the aroma. Slightly spicy and very drinkable.
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA – Stone’s IPA made with Belgian yeast and dry-hopped with Chinook hops makes for a very interesting combination of floral aroma, apricot and bitter lemon flavors, and nice hoppiness. Another lovely, quaffable brew.

Also available on draught were a selection of IPAs, ales, stouts, barleywines and ciders from Boundary Bay, Elysian, New Belgium, Stone, ASLAN, Great Divide, Fremont, Stone, Finnriver, Sierra Nevada and Strongbow. Oh, and PBR.

If that’s not enough selection for you or your mates, fear not: McKay’s has about 100 bottled beers in stock, including Lagunitas, Dogfish Head, Deschutes, Firestone, gluten-free Harvester and Widmer Omission, and lots more.

McKay’s Taphouse is big on brewer’s nights, too. Twice a month on Tuesdays, they invite breweries in to show off their special brews, give away swag and make some new fans. Recent brewer’s nights include Bellingham’s new Aslan Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada (which did a 49-tap takeover of the place), Stone Brewing Co. and Iron Horse Brewery. Rogue Week happens April 28 – May 4.

McKay's Taphouse, pizza, Bellingham, Craft Beer

Clockwise from top left: Another Stone Cali-Belgique, a view of the crowd, cheesy pizza goodness, Rogue Nation Week.

Next, the Pizza

McKay’s is also a pizzeria, so we ordered a super-cheesy pie to soak up the brew. Like McKay’s, it wasn’t fancy or pretentious—rather, it was total comfort food. With about a half-dozen cheeses on top of the soft and chewy crust, it paired very well with our beer selections. My companion also ordered the Greek Salad, which he topped with bacon and pesto dressing. I didn’t know what to make of that combination, but according to him, it worked. His exact words: “This is the weirdest, most delicious salad ever.” Other McKay’s nibbles include sandwiches, chicken wings and appetizers.

Music, Too

Music is regularly on the menu at McKay’s. During our visit, like every Tuesday, it was supplied by Marvin Johnson on piano, this week joined by Thomas Harris on saxophone and Mitzi Moore on vocals. The trio kept everyone’s toes tapping to a wide variety of both well-known and more obscure tunes. There’s live music on Thursday nights, too, ranging from acoustic blues to funk, jazz and bluegrass.

McKay's Taphouse, pizza, Bellingham, Craft Beer

Clockwise from top left: Owner Dave McKay, Bar Manager Paul Christiansen and other assorted beer guys; a few tap handles; Marvin J, Thomas and Mitzi; detail on upright piano.

McKay’s is run by really nice folks, from owners Dave and Lydia McKay to bar manager Paul Christiansen and assistant manager Hope Rietzen. Together, they’ve hosted countless brewer’s nights, tap takeovers, fundraisers and Trivia Nights. With happy hour from 11:00 a.m. until
6:00 p.m. every day, and plenty to drink, do, listen to and eat while you’re here, McKay’s Taphouse is a must-try destination for any beer aficionado.

McKay’s Taphouse is just like home—that is, if your house is warm, fun, comfortable and filled with hundreds of delicious beers.

McKay’s Taphouse and Pizzeria, 1118 E. Maple St. Bellingham, WA 98225   360-647-3600
Hours: Sunday – Wednesday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Thursday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 a.m.
Trivia Night every Wednesday
McKay’s on Facebook


Oso Landslide Fundraiser

On another note, I’d like to cordially invite all of you to join me for a special fundraiser for Oso Landslide families, hosted by the organizers of Bellingham Beer Week and taking place Friday, May 2 at Chuckanut Brewery & Kitchen. You can enjoy beer from each of Bellingham’s breweries (of course), food, raffle prizes (wait ’til you see the list of donated prizes!) and a silent auction (ditto). Plus music and fun all evening long. All proceeds go to Oso relief, through the Red Cross. I’ll be there selling raffle tickets, so be sure to bring some cash–you might win something awesome, and it’s for a very good cause.

Oso, Washington, Landslide, Fundraiser, Bellingham, Beer Week, Chuckanut Brewery

My day with Casey at Grandview Golf Course

April 28th, 2014 by Marcus Yearout


IMG_2384Overlooking one of the many wetlands at Grandview Golf Course.

In 2014, I have decided to play all of the courses in Whatcom County in alphabetical order. Not being a member of the Bellingham Golf & Country Club (or even knowing one who will invite me), I started out at Dakota Creek a couple weeks ago.

This week I headed north to the dandy little track called Grandview Golf Course and played with a member of Whatcom County’s first family of sports, Casey Locker, the hard-hitting WSU safety and probably a future NFL player. Well… OK… he was with a foursome of his buddies teeing off on the 10th hole when I pulled in, so does playing at the same time on the same course count as playing “with?” If so, I also played “with” Bill Russell a couple years ago at Jefferson Park in Seattle, but I digress.

I like the Grandview course. What you see from the freeway—between the Grandview Road (266) and Birch-Bay Lynden Road (270) exits—is pretty much what you get. It is flat and very walkable; the narrow fairways are lined with tall poplar, alder and pine trees. There are no doglegs or anything tricky like that; just hit it straight, find your ball and hit it again. At least that’s the theory.

Here’s the reality. Mr. Mudd often makes a point of telling anyone who will listen how straight I hit the ball; no draw, no fade, no hook or slice; the ball just flies directly where ever I aim it. That means a course like Grandview should be really easy for me, right? Well the word “aim” came into play yesterday… a lot!

The ball did fly straight as Mr. Mudd would represent, but quite often got pulled “straight” into the trees on the left, or pushed “straight” into the trees on the right, so nearly every second shot I hit was either a punch out (the smart shot) or a really stupid attempt to be the “Bubba,” which of course always resulted in the ultimate penalty of an even worse lie or a plop into one of the many streams and ponds that dot the course. Suffice to say that on this day, fairways hit and greens in regulation were in high, but seldom realized, demand.

But so what? The weather was dry, the temp in the mid-50s, the fairways only had a couple of soggy spots and the greens were fair. One green—I think it was the 13th—was pretty beat up, but just as I was making a mental note to complain about it, my off-line putt bounced off one of the bumps and directly into the hole for a one-putt birdie. Gotta love this game!

While every course presents challenges for golfers of all levels (no matter how straight they hit the ball) at 6,109 yards from the whites, this is a very good course for families and beginners. There are several short Par-4s and just enough hazards to keep your attention. I did have to wait to hit my approach to #9 while four Canadian Geese strolled casually across the green to a pond on the other side; kind of distracting but in a good way.

There is a friendly, small café in the clubhouse to grab a hotdog and a beverage and they have installed a new chipping green and some warm up nets since the last time I was out there. All and all I’d have to say that Casey and I shared a great day on the links.

Go. Play. Golf.

P.S. My next post will be from Homestead in Lynden… Casey, you in?

Ideal Means Approachable, Functional Design in Downtown Bellingham

April 21st, 2014 by Teresa Schmidt

Downtown Bellingham is a vibrant, happening place every day of the week. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the bustle and cruise by some of its most charming little secret spots, without even knowing what we’re missing. Of course, we do not want that to happen (do we?), so I’m here to point out a few places that totally deserve our attention. If you’re like me, you always appreciate a new reason to venture out of the everyday routine and discover something special—and perhaps even unexpected.

Tucked into a space on Cornwall Avenue (just past Greenhouse) is one such special and unexpected little shop: Ideal. The name won’t tell you much about what you’ll find inside, but worry not—I will! Ideal is a visual feast of well designed and highly functional items to use, to wear, to give (pick me!) and to play with in your home, office, playroom or kitchen. They call their selection “carefully curated goods,” and the description really fits.

Ideal, Shopping, Marimekko, Downtown Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Co-owner Lisa behind the counter, Marimekko textiles, wood candlesticks, Marimekko totes.

It’s clear that owners Lisa Van Doren and Kathleen Iwersen have taken great care in choosing the items that fill their bright space with pops of color, texture and shine. It is the perfect stop if you or a friend are a design aficionado, lover of classic children’s books, fan of the handmade object or simply hard to buy for.

Ideal, Shopping, Eames, Downtown Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Kobenstyle cookware, Eames tray, hand-blown Japanese vases, bicycle tumblers.

Ideal’s artsy-looking displays are filled with items from around the world, as well as just down the road. Marimekko’s distinctive textiles from Finland are displayed next to ceramics designed by Masahiro Mori from Japan; an Eames-designed tray made in Germany hugs one brick wall, while an Alchemy Goods bag from Seattle graces another.

Ideal, Shopping, Marimekko, Downtown Bellingham

Clockwise from top left: Stoneware jar, ceramic moth servingware, scarves, Mori soy sauce bottle and pocket vase.

If there is a creative or curious young person (or nostalgic grownup!) on your gift list, head to the back of Ideal, where amazing children’s books are waiting for new homes. Filled with beautifully detailed  illustrations, any of these classics will keep kids of all ages occupied for hours.

Ideal, Shopping, Children's Books, Downtown Bellingham

Unique children’s books for curious minds.

In addition to books, Ideal has a section of toys, chairs, puzzles and games for the younger set. And I found several fun items that some of the larger people in my life would love, too.

Ideal, Shopping, Marimekko, Downtown Bellingham

Cool kids’ chairs, toys, games and Marimekko bibs.

Whether you’re shopping for yourself, a friend, a kid or a particularly picky person, you can probably start and finish right at Ideal. No matter what your price range, this little shop of functional, approachable, and of course—very well designed—objects will probably have just the perfect thing. Pop into Ideal and have a look. The super-friendly and knowledgeable owners and staff will take  good care of you.

Ideal-carefully curated goods   1227 Cornwall Avenue     Bellingham WA 98225     360-752-5522    Monday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.   Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Top 5 Parks for Kids in Bellingham and Whatcom County

April 21st, 2014 by Hilary Parker
Boulevard Park, Bellingham

The new play toy at Boulevard Park has a pirate theme – perfect for a park on the water.

My family and I have done some serious hibernating this winter, and now that the sun has decided to make an appearance we’re ready to head outside and celebrate spring. Whether it’s still a little soggy thanks to spring showers or one of those magical warm, sunny days in Bellingham/Whatcom County, you’ll likely find us at one of the many city or county parks.

With kids ranging in age from 3 to 10, I am fond of parks that offer play toys for the littles and plenty of places to run and explore for the bigger kids. The kids have their favorites, too, and I asked my daughter Helena and her friend Ella for advice on the area’s top parks. As 10-year-olds, I consider them park “experts.”

1. Boulevard Park

Boulevard Park, Bellingham

The newly restored beach front at Boulevard Park encourages kids, and adults, to stay and play.

Boulevard Park has always been the gathering spot for sun worshippers, Frisbee players, picnicking families and dog walkers. It became even more of a community hub once The Woods Coffee opened a location. (“It’s convenient to have a Woods Coffee for when you get hungry,” notes Ella.) Last fall even more improvements to Boulevard have made it tops for kids and grownups alike. The well-loved play toy was replaced with a new model, keeping the pirate ship theme of the original toy. The beach was also restored, now providing a gentle slope down to the water instead of the rough, rocky and brick-strewn beachfront of the past. The shore still is covered by rocks, but still easy for even toddlers to navigate. And above, there’s a tract of sand just calling for buckets and shovels. A boardwalk extends from the south end of the park to the nearby Taylor Dock and the trail continues a short way right into the heart of Fairhaven. From the north, the South Bay Trail extends to downtown Bellingham.

2. City Park, Lynden

Also known as Million Smiles Park, it’s cheerfully decorated with colorful handprints of local kids. My Helena and Ella vote it unequivocally the “best playground ever.” North of downtown Lynden, this park is hidden among tall evergreens along Fish Trap Creek, which makes it a perfect place to escape to when it gets hot. It features a three-story tree house with a slide connected to a castle by a series of platforms and bridges.  A cute “tot town” full of storefronts is big fun for the little ones, too. The City of Lynden website notes that Million Smiles Park has tennis courts, basketball court, pickle ball court and group shelters. The park is also the start to the Jim Kaemingk Sr. City Trail, which travels to nearby Bender Fields, making a nice loop to walk or bike.

3. Hovander Homestead Park

Hovander Park, Ferndale

Hanging out with one of the scarecrows at Hovander Homestead Park.

Full of history, Hovander Homestead Park in Ferndale is educational along with being a hoot to explore. The Hovander family’s original home, with period décor, is on display weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day; I can remember being fascinated with this step back in time when I was a kid. My children are just as fascinated with the 110-year-old home. “I love the gardens and going to the old house,” my daughter says. The original barns are also available to explore along with farm animals to commune with, an old water tower to climb and open space perfect for running and playing.  A new forest-themed playground, with toys for both tots and bigger kids, was installed in 2012. Trails follow the Nooksack River that borders the west side of the park as well as trails stretching east to the nearby Tennant Lake with more natural areas to explore.

4. Fairhaven Park

Fairhaven Park, Bellingham

Cooling off is easy at the Fairhaven Park spray park.

Just south of Fairhaven proper on Chuckanut Drive, this expansive park offers a playground toy, spray park (mid-June through Labor Day, 1-7 p.m.), tennis courts and plenty of trails to explore. “It has a really big field to play in,” adds my young friend Ella. But the best part of Fairhaven Park is the spray park. Kids of all ages have been known to cool off in the mist and dodge the alternating water jets that pop up around the spray zone. There are bathrooms nearby if you need to change the soaking wet kids into dry clothes before heading home, or dry off with help from the sun while seeking out the park’s labyrinth. Located on the top of the hill next to the picnic shelter, it’s not visible from the playground below but worth the short walk to get there. You can continue to explore further by hooking up with the Interurban Trail.

5. Whatcom Falls Park

Whatcom Falls Park is a favorite for all ages, and always impresses the out-of-town guests with the Depression-era bridge spanning the falls. The littles love the lower half of the park where the play toy is made especially their size, the restroom is handy, and the hatchery ponds where Steelhead are raised are a hop, skip and a jump away. The upper playground is appropriate for older kids but it’s really the large boulder next to the play toy that the kids will tell you about. Trails throughout the park take you a past an old train trestle left over from logging days and then on to nearby Blodel Donovan Park next to Lake Whatcom (another great place for the kids). Trails also stretch west beyond the falls and all around the hills, which makes for cool, shady walks in the summer. For an added treat, stop by LaFeens Donuts and Ice Cream right across the street from the park on Electric Avenue (the upper parking lot entrance) for an after-park snack.


Explore the new Rock Trail in the Chuckanut Mountains

April 21st, 2014 by Todd Elsworth

There is a fresh trail in the Chuckanut Mountains of Larrabee State park. The best feature about both the trail and the park is that they are both just south of Bellingham on Chuckanut Drive. This new trail is aptly named, the Rock Trail. Not because it is a trail made of rocks, however. It is because of the immense rock faces and building-size boulders that occupy the slope it passes through.


As you descend one of the 20 ladders that have been installed on the trail, you will pass through thick forests with glimpses out into Samish Bay to the south and then Mount Baker and the Twin Sisters to the east. The couple on the stairs below, Nate and Jen, from Seattle, paused to see what I was up to as I positioned myself for a birds-eye view of the recent construction. Like many people, Nate is a graduate of Western Washington University, who likes to come up from Seattle for a jaunt in the woods. His humor echoed through the woods as he remarked about the scent of the air- “it has that NEW TRAIL smell”. I lol’d.


Back on the trail, the stairs descend steeply before leveling out to wrap around the backside of the “hill”. It’s fun to leapfrog people on the trail when you’re out on a walk. They stop and find something interesting, while you pass them on the trail. Then, they in turn, pass you as you pause to take in what nature has to offer. Always an interesting way to meet new people- even if it’s only for an instance.


The first rock exposure you pass under is just at the base of the stairs. For a detailed account of the trail and for more insight into the geologic history of the Rock Trail go to local geologist, Dave Tucker’s Northwest Geology Field Trips – Rock Trail webpage.


The trail traverses through the forest and brings you to a large rock face, known as Tafoni Wall. Tucker puts the name of the wall in perspective- “The cliffs reveal some fine stratigraphic detail; a contact between conglomerate and sandstone, thin sandstone beds highlighted by mineral concentrations, and solution pockets (tafoni)”


Above, a couple inspect the tafoni on the wall of it’s namesake. These large holes are quite deep and also nice and cool on a hot day- see below. I’m too big to fit myself in one (but when I bring my 5 year old back, we may just have to see if she fits in there). I am used to seeing these types of impressions in the Chuckanut Sandstone on the shores of Bellingham Bay and around the Salish Sea, but to have them on the eastern facing slopes of the Chuckanut Range, seemed a little strange.


I made my way to the end of the trail and decided to head back up. There are options once you get to that junction.  “Consult a trail map to know what to do from there; a left turn takes you to the Lost Lake Trail 1.5 miles from the start of the Rock Trail. A right takes you on a long sweep to the Fragrance Lake area” Again, for a detailed description of the Rock Trail go to Dave Tucker’s Northwest Geology Field Trips website.

On my way back up the trail I noticed the sign for the bridge I had crossed earlier- “Bogaards Bridge”. I imagine it was named after Arlen Bogaards, Northwest Regional Manager with the Washington Trails Association who both put in an amazing amount of work, both as an individual and as an organization and their volunteers.


This is a shining new light in our chandelier of trails that connect the natural wonders of the Chuckanut Mountain Range and the surrounding area.

If you’d like to have a tour and meet some great folks, don’t miss the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, April 26, 2014 @ 10:00 am. Details below:

“A ceremony for the new 1.2-mile Rock Trail in Larrabee State Park is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 26, in the parking lot at Cyrus Gates Overlook, which is at the end of Cleator Road off Chuckanut Drive.

Bellingham geologist Dave Tucker, who writes the “Northwest Geology Field Trips” blog, is writing a field guide for the Rock Trail and will post it in April. Find his blog, which features write-ups of the geology of northwest Washington and southwest British Columbia, at Tucker will lead a geology field trip for the public as part of the dedication.” ~Read more here: Bellingham

For additional reference: Larrabee’s New Rock Trail: Grand Views, Loop Options  by Washington Trails Association.