Shame on the NFL – and Shame on Us

by on Sep 18, 2014

This past week at my house has been interesting, since my beau R. has been unable to contain himself about the NFL’s shenanigans as the teams and the league scramble to mete out punishments to players.

Let me first state for the record that I grew up watching football. I was raised in a suburb of Denver, so by default I’m a football fan (go Broncos!). I own a Seahawks t-shirt and was just as caught up in the hoopla around the Superbowl last year as anyone else…I was the one who taped the “12” flag to our front door.

But there are certain things about sports that make me queasy.

I used to publish a small community weekly in central Washington, which means that I’ve spent an unholy number of hours at high school sporting events, laying out teensy-tiny track and field stats in 5-point font, and keeping heaps of AA batteries on hand for our Nikon’s big speedlight.

One year, in May, our small high school happened to be sending quite a few kids to state to compete in track, softball and golf. But three of our star athletes who were expected to compete at state sports had been observed drinking during prom.

Even though I was the owner of the local paper, I was probably the last person in town to find out that the kids had been drinking. According to my source—a high-school employee of ours who had personally observed the goings-on–her three classmates had also been observed by at least a dozen other students and adults, including a school board member chaperoning the dance. Two of the drunk kids had been acting so obnoxiously that they’d been asked to leave a pre-prom party hosted at the home of a county commissioner.

So by the time all the scuttlebutt got to me two weeks later, I assumed our high school had already disciplined the kids. After all, it sounded like at least several high profile adults had observed what happened. And last, but not least, I knew that everyone knew the same three kids had been caught with booze before (most memorably the boy involved, who had escaped unscathed from an alcohol-related auto accident that had paralyzed a classmate a few months earlier).

I was working on an unrelated story at the time, and when I emailed our school district’s athletic director a question about test scores, I took the opportunity to ask about the three students and whether they were going to be able to play at state.

The AD immediately shot back an email saying he was starting an investigation. I was more than a little taken aback. An investigation? Didn’t the school already know what had happened?

As a result of my question, the three kids involved were suspended from state play. The AD made absolutely sure that everyone knew that “the newspaper” had been the one to bring the issue up with school administration. The softball coach (who wound up losing at state, probably in part to the benching of two of his star players), announced in front of all the players and parents at the final game that he was never going to provide the newspaper with sports stats again thanks to my “vindictive” actions.

Although I had a few parents quietly thank me for “speaking out” (including the football coach’s wife—who had known, along with her husband, about the kids drinking) nobody stood up for me in public. It was very difficult for me to graciously accept compliments from people who had known about the kids but had chosen to stay silent, since I had been made into the scapegoat. I even heard that one of the students involved blamed me personally for the loss of her college scholarship.

So, to recap: even though all three kids had been caught red-handed, even though all three kids were at-risk students who’d been in trouble before, none of the adults spoke up. I can’t even call what I did “speaking up” because I had assumed that it was old news and the situation had already been resolved.

Remind you of the situation with the NFL and the waffling about how to punish the Ray Rices and Adrian Petersons?

So I just can’t muster much surprise about the NFL’s hand-wringing over their crime-committing superstars. I’ve seen the exact same attitude in a small town, where the stakes were much, much lower. Of course no public school district would ever be able to throw millions of dollars around on advisory panels and attorneys to protect their athletes like the NFL does. But in the case of the three high school students I’m talking about, that wasn’t even necessary. After all, the entire town was willing to look the other way.

So yes, the NFL has a problem. But is it a problem limited to football? Baseball players are willing to poison themselves with steroids. Racehorse owners inject injured equines with painkillers before races. Cyclists like Lance Armstrong are so anxious to keep their doping a secret that they’ll throw everyone they know to the wolves before they admit it.

Those of us who’ve played and watched sports know how thrilling it can be to win. But that thrill must be tempered, no matter what the sport.

So before we vilify the NFL for slapping the wrists of the athletes who abuse women and children, we’d do well to take a closer look at the engine that drives this troubled bus.

We can wear the names of star players on our backs, hang their photos in our cubicles at work, and get swept up in team spirit all we want to. But athletes are just people, people who are just as flawed as the rest of us. They’re not special creatures who reside on another plane of existence, no matter how much money they make, how talented they are, or how many games they win.

There’s an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to do just about anything, whether we’re talking about lowering the boom on some misbehaving kids, taking care of our parks, or building a school.

So maybe this is a good time for the village to examine our own attitude about sports, and about winning. Pro sports don’t exist in a vacuum; the games happen in front of an audience.

And that audience is us.

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Achieving Grapeness

by on Sep 17, 2014

One of the best things about our house is our back deck, which features two vigorous Concord grapevines. This time of year, when the grapes are getting ripe, the whole backyard smells like a giant popsicle.

There are some downsides to grapevine ownership, however, particularly when they hang over an entrance to your home and Concord grape juice gets tracked in onto the carpeting by the resident barbecue chef and felines alike.
Last year I had the bright idea of thinning the grape clusters early, when the “grapes” were just tiny green florets. This year, I forgot all about my bright idea. Now, I have a veritable Niagra Falls of grapes on the trellis above said deck. A grape drape, if you will.

Grape curtain

You have to admit it does look like a drape.

So I suggested making some grape juice this year, and enlisted one of my sons (fortunately, the one who likes to cook) to help me thin the herd. I didn’t want to can the juice or save gallons of it…I just wanted to enjoy some grapes without the seeds. (No matter how good Concords smell, they’re very difficult to eat “around” the seeds inside.)

So N. and I spent a very sticky half-hour picking about 20 pounds of grapes. Unlike my 6’5 kid, I had to stand on a kitchen chair, which was shortly covered with juice from falling/dropped (and stepped-on) grapes. Picking grapes (at least a lot of grapes) is a fairly disagreeable project, thanks in part to the numerous earwigs and spiders that make their home in grapevines and the complete lack of pruning/training on our vines (my idea of “training” the vines is to stuff them back up through the overhead trellis all summer long).


Lest you think I was exaggerating about the spider part.

N. pointed out that I should take my shoes off and pick barefoot (like he was doing) and just rinse my feet off afterward. I was reluctant (thanks to the aforementioned spiders and earwigs) but eventually gave in. After all, grape stompers do it barefoot, right?

N picking

This handsome devil is well-equipped for overhead grape-picking.

So eventually we culled our sticky, insect-laden box of grapes down to a large, sticky insect-laden mixing bowl of the best-looking grapes.

Rinsing in bowl

Washing the grapes…otherwise known as “drowning the earwigs.”

Next came the mashing. I wanted to use my wand blender, but I guessed it would pulverize the pesky seeds… Plus I could tell N. was totally up for the mashing. He had looked up two grape juice recipes and determined that the “mash” was supposed to cook for about ten minutes.

On the stove

“Why the cooking?” I asked. “To make sure all the earwigs are dead?”

“I think it’s supposed to pasteurize it,” N. said.

“Because pasteurized earwigs taste better than non-pasteurized earwigs,” I muttered.

“Mom, I rinsed these off. No earwigs.”

Using a bowl

N. figured out a bowl worked a lot better for pushing the mash through the strainer than the wooden spoon I’d picked out. On the plus side, my blah-looking wooden spoon has now been dyed an exciting purple color.

We noticed during the cooking process that the mash became much purpler as the skins broke down and lent their pigment to the juice. So maybe that’s why the recipes require cooking.

Next came the straining part. N. wound up using a clean bowl to press the mash through a fine sieve. As N had suspected, we didn’t wind up with much juice.

But what juice we got was beautiful and full-bodied, although the tannins from the skins (and the seeds, and probably a few stems) gave the juice a surprisingly dry mouth-feel, even after we added a little sugar. I was expecting the juice to taste like a stronger version of the Welches brand concentrate stuff I drank growing up, but our homemade juice tastes a lot more like virgin red wine than a kids’ drink.

Grape drink

Virgin wine” with a little “virgin” mint sprig. Professional food photographers don’t eat and drink what they’re taking pictures of. Good thing I’m not a professional. (The glass was originally a little fuller than this at the start of the shoot.)

My guess is that “real” grape juice makers may strain some of the seeds and skins out before they cook their mash. Winemakers often talk about the astringency of wine, which stems (ha ha, no pun intended) directly from the tannins…which bind to your saliva and “precipitate” it out. Mmmm. Pucker up.

So there you have it…if you’re the lucky owner of a grape drape, you might try making a little “virgin vino” this fall yourself.

N holding grapes

This may look like an artful photo, but what I was really trying to capture were the 17,000 or so earwigs living inside this one grape cluster. (There is a reason why this is N.’s hand and not the *ahem* more squeamish photographer’s.)

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The things we do for a good picture

by on Sep 12, 2014


Photos by Jenny Dagdagan

The photos Jenny Dagdagan took of apple crumble for this edition are incredible. But once again, I’m reminded of how a finished product — whether it’s a photo, a story or an entire magazine — leaves the story of its making unsaid. So every once in a while, we like to give readers a peek “behind the scenes.”

The last time I wrote about a photo shoot, the subject was a death-defying (read: slightly steep) hike to capture images of rock climbers. Food shoots like this one, while not dangerous, can be just as nerve-wracking.

When friends learn I’m doing a food shoot, they usually talk about how lucky I am to be able to cook “on the job.” Let me tell you folks: the novelty wears off. First of all, food photography is a highly specialized field; photographers and stylists can spend thousands of dollars on courses that teach tricks on how to use lighting, textiles and raw ingredients to achieve that perfect shot. National magazines have national-sized budgets that can buy all manner of props and labor in the form of professional stylists. Yakima Magazine has me and Elly: cooks, stylists, buyers and cleaner-uppers. I’m thankful for my very able and talented photographers, who capture amazing photos of food with natural talent. What they do is exceptional.

Now for the cobbler. It looks pretty good, huh? Although the photos appear in the Sept/Oct edition of the magazine, they were taken on one of the hottest days in a ridiculously hot July (remember all the complaining we did six weeks ago?). We had postponed the shoot two weeks, hoping for a relief from those constant 100+ degree days, but relief didn’t come. To make things worse, the air conditioning in our “test kitchen” (my kitchen) had been running at half-mast, which when combined with ovens baking and a stove top on high, made for a nice balmy environment. Bring on the ice cream!

We started at 7 p.m., so the lighting would be slightly dim, but the cooking started much earlier, about 2 p.m. Now cooking a cobbler for a potluck or a dinner party — no problem. Cooking a cobbler (plus another, plus cobbler ice cream) for a photo shoot is an entirely different process. I don’t have the budget or the time for a do-over, so it needs to look pretty darn good the first time through. And if it doesn’t — then you just have to deal. We call it “make it pretty.” Often our photographers make something that’s so-so look incredible.

And sometimes they make it look magical. Like this shot that, due to the layout of the magazine as a whole, didn’t make it into the final product.

cobbler on the head

See how those lights sparkle in the background? Gorgeous, huh? What you can’t see is that the little Mason jar is actually balanced on top of a huge coffee table book … which is balanced on my head. And I am half kneeling, trying to keep perfectly still, sweating buckets, just so we could get those d&$! lights at the right level.

And then we didn’t use it.

After the work that goes into many of these photo shoots, I often wish the magazine could be triple its size to fit them all in. Chad Bremerman, a contributing photographer who’s been with the magazine since its inception, often jokes that he takes 200 pictures so I can use five. But no matter who’s taking the pictures, those five … man they’re good.


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Fashion Front Lights Up Downtown on Friday

by on Sep 11, 2014

The Junior League of Yakima is hosting Fashion Front for the third year this Friday, and this year’s fundraiser promises to be the best yet.

Fashion Front was started in 2008 by Yakima native Carly Holtzinger for her high school senior project, and former JLY board member Jennifer Reisbeck said that in 2009 and 2010 community volunteers put on the event. “After nobody did the event in 2011, in 2012 JLY brought it back,” she said.

Fashion Front Junior LeagueFashion Front transforms Yakima’s historic North Front Street into an outdoor fashion showcase. Clothes modeled from local boutiques and local food and spirits are featured at the event. Last year the group sold about 250 tickets, and featured 75-100 models and store personnel.

Coinciding with New York Fashion Week, Fashion Front will be held starting at 5 p.m. at the Historic North Front Street in Yakima. “Preview this year’s fall fashions from local boutiques while enjoying local wines and beer from AntoLin, Gilbert Cellars, and Bale Breaker Brewing Company,” said Sarah Frenzel, this year’s PR chair. Food from local vendors Imogene’s, Russillo’s, and Northtown will be available.

All proceeds benefit the Junior League of Yakima’s programs supporting women and children in the Yakima Valley. The organization is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year (click here to see our article celebrating 80 years of volunteerism).

Tickets for this year’s Sept. 12th event will be $35 in advance–you can purchase online from the Junior League website listed above, or from the following stores: Gretchen, Fiddlesticks, Garden Dance, Over The Hedge, Priscilla’s Chic Boutique, Belu Salon, Saol, Studio 16 Aveda Salon Spa, Onyx Salon & Spa. (The tickets will be $40 at the door.)

You must be at least 21 to attend this event. Organizers of the event this year are Julie Kohl and Jennifer Bush, and you can check the event’s Facebook page or email for more information.

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A Vision for the Future

by on Sep 5, 2014

Thomas Copeland gingerly goes for a sip of wine while being blindfolded.

Thomas Copeland gingerly goes for a sip of wine while being blindfolded.


SEVEN YEARS AGO, Marsha Lance experienced what she calls a “lifechanging health event,” and her subsequent treatment caused cataracts and other eye problems. What she couldn’t know, however, is that this crisis would lead her to her current position — and passion — as clinic director for Yakima’s Vision for Independence Center. The clinic, called VIC for short, helps people with already-diagnosed “low vision” (severe vision impairment) maximize their remaining vision with the aid of special tools, agency referrals and recommendations on how to best accomplish daily tasks.
Lance’s condition forced her retirement from her job as business manager and dental assistant at a dental clinic, but she remained active
in her Lions club. It was during a club meeting that a VIC representative made a presentation about the clinic, and Lance was moved to volunteer.
The non-profit clinic, currently located in a shared office space on D Street, is open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Lance is its only employee, working part-time, but four doctors volunteer on their days off, seeing clients who are often referred by area eye doctors as well.
The VIC clinic includes a room that’s been converted into a small retail space, housing a multitude of gadgets designed to help people with low vision navigate their daily life. The shelves are lined with inventory, including hand-held and electronic magnifiers, reading glasses with built-in task lighting, rainbow-colored measuring spoons (the color denotes the measurement) and even a liquid level indicator that beeps when one’s coffee has reached the top of the cup. “Every task needs a different item,” says Lance. “I’m here to help them, to guide them.”
Vance adds that folks with major vision loss often feel helpless. “They don’t feel like anything can be done,” she says.
Selah Vision Clinic’s Dr. Dale Graf has volunteered one day a month since 2009. A lifelong resident of the Valley, he says he just wants to give something back. Graf remembers a gentleman who was no longer able to perform his duties at work due to low vision — he couldn’t read signs at a warehouse. After fitting him with a telescopic device, the man was not only able to continue at his job, but he could regain his driver’s license.
Thanks to aging baby boomers, Lance says they are serving more clients all the time. Between walk-ins and clinic days, VIC sees over 200 people annually. And there are young patients, too. In fact, VIC works with the local Educational Service District 105 to help students in both the Upper and Lower valleys who have already been identified as vision impaired. The clinic’s clientele has grown so much that they’re currently looking for a larger office space.
The Vision for Independence Center receives funds and revenues from grants, its small store, medical reimbursements and from its major fundraiser, “Dinner in the Dark.” The fundraiser is unusual in that attendees are blindfolded and then led to their tables to eat dinner “in the dark.” Last year’s event raised $26,000.
Lance’s face lights up when asked about clinic success stories. She recently saw a patient who is an artist, but had lost the ability to paint — and even read — due to her vision impairment. With the help of two different magnifiers (one that’s a magnifying lamp) she can paint again. Lance says that’s the goal: to help folks retain as much of their independence as possible. “She’s back to being able to enjoy life, you know?”

Vision for Independence Center’s 6th annual “Dinner in the Dark” fundraiser will be held on Sat., Oct. 18 at the Harman Center. The event includes dinner and drinks — while blindfolded — a silent auction and live entertainment. Tickets are $45 in advance. For more information, call 509- 452-8301. To learn more about the Vision for Independence Center, go to




Tom Berndt blindfolds Sue Olson.

Tom Berndt blindfolds Sue Olson.


David Heath leads Erika Wilburn to dinner.

David Heath leads Erika Wilburn to dinner.

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