Fun, Flowers, Food…and Free Music

by on May 27, 2014

If you haven’t been to a Lunchtime Live concert in downtown Yakima, you’re missing out.

I grabbed my camera on Friday and walked the few blocks from the Herald to Performance Park (right next to the courthouse). It was warm and windy–but cloudy–a perfect day late spring day, as you can see by the photos.

I think sometimes when people hear the word “downtown,” they picture a forest of gray buildings. Downtown Yakima is actually quite a beautiful place.


Windows at the Vineyard Church


Iris in front of the Shaw & Sons Funeral Home


Clematis at the Shaw & Sons Funeral Home

Flowers in front of city hall

Flowers in front of city hall

Street scene

Trees lining Second Street

I had a lot of fun listening to Sam Watts from Ghosts I’ve Met playing with Jennifer Dagdagan and Navid Eliot from Planes on Paper. Jenn’s taken my picture before for Yakima Magazine (she’s one of our freelance photographers) so it was fun to catch up with her when they took a break from playing with Sam.

Sam’s family was there as well…Easton “played” his trumpet along with his father on stage, and brand-new baby Cypress was in the audience, although fast asleep.

The band

Jenn, Easton, and Sam


Sam Watt’s brand-new son Cypress catching a snooze on his grandma during the concert

Lunchtime Live is a lovely low-key event–you can grab a nice big slice of pizza from Rusillio’s, or strawberry lemonade from the Carousel tent, and you might even have a chance to meet the artists who are playing.

Dog looking at pizza

Someone would really like his owner to buy him a slice.


Carousel staff kept busy serving up strawberry lemonade–and food fresh off their grill.

The next Lunchtime Live event will feature Shoot Jake, a blues trio, this Friday (May 30th) at 11:45 a.m. Bring a blanket or chairs to sit on (although I found a comfortable rock, and there are a couple of picnic tables as well). Oh, and make sure to like the Downtown Yakima Facebook page so you receive a reminder of the concerts in your feed.

See you downtown!


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Yakima Scan and the Power of the Internet

by on May 21, 2014

If you’re on Facebook and you live in the Yakima area, chances are you’ve heard of a page called “Yakima Scan.”

Yakima Scan has become a community posting forum for real-time accidents and crimes. The gentleman who runs the page—who has declined to be identified by news media (and yes, we asked)—listens to a police/fire scanner during the week. He posts updates about accidents and other incidents that come up on the scanner.

Thanks to the thousands of folks who  have befriended Yakima Scan (and the hundreds more who likely follow the page on Facebook), you’ll often see posts on the page by regular people who have just driven past an accident or heard of a school lockdown and want to share the information. Sometimes people who’ve seen emergency responders in their neighborhood will post on the Yakima Scan page to see if anyone is listening to a scanner and knows what’s going on.

Following the Scan’s feed is handy, it’s fast and it’s a great example of the way the internet and citizen journalists have transformed the way news can be “broadcast.”

But Yakima Scan has shown signs of growing pains. The page has maxed out on 5,000 friends, so the administrator is trying to move the page to a “news and broadcasting media” Facebook format that’s less convenient than a personal page. Sometimes Scan fans get cranky when a big incident happens over the weekend and the administrator doesn’t post information about it (he’s tried to make it plain that he only listens to the scanner during working hours, even though other people who are friends of the page often post information on the weekend).

This made me start thinking of the news when I was growing up, and how much things have changed. It wasn’t that long ago that broadcasting information to large numbers of people required considerable investment in expensive equipment (like a printing press or a radio station).

In the old broadcast model, news was in the hands of a few—and those were folks who had extensive training and experience in journalism. Those people worked in an industry that had a set of ethics, expectations and standards.  Reporters were respected for their bravery and the role they’ve played in our democracy (hey, it’s no accident that Peter Parker and Clark Kent are journalists).

But rules and attitudes are changing, thanks to the internet. People no longer even need an expensive desktop computer to access the web–all they need is a smartphone. And suddenly everyone is a reporter, and everyone has access to a large audience—no training or expensive equipment required.

Since I’ve worked in the print news industry for most of my career, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for reporters. Powerful people often try to control, limit or “reframe” information to suit their own agenda, and it’s a reporter’s job to untangle spin from the facts and to write plainly about complicated and controversial issues. It’s a job that requires a lot of skill, insight and detective work.

But journalists operate under a completely different set of standards than the average person using Facebook. We often wait until we have all the information before we move forward with a story, and we’re also often slowed down by the process of locating prime sources of information (like an eyewitness or a police official). 

Yakima Scan has had to repeatedly warn posters about putting up potentially damaging information (like actual names of folks who haven’t been charged with crimes, specific addresses, people guessing the name of someone involved in a crime, etc.). I’ve also noticed that there’s also often a subtle (or not-so-subtle) vigilantism evident when people discuss crimes online. I am as unhappy as the next person when I read about crime in Yakima, but the “string ‘em up” kinds of comments bother me, too. Do people have a right to be angry about crime? Sure. It’s natural to want justice, and to be disgusted by people who prey on their neighbors.But a virtual mob is still a mob—ask anyone who’s been a victim of the web’s “trial by viral.”

I used to have my media students watch a video of a Connell basketball game and discuss the aftermath of the video going viral on YouTube. Ten years ago, the players accused of flagrant fouls shown in the video might have had a dressing-down by a coach. Maybe they’d have to sit out a game. Today, after millions of people watched an edited slow-motion video of the game fouls on the web, the two members on the Connell team were touted as “the most hated players in Washington State.” That 15 minutes of ugly fame—stemming from pretty typical teenaged mistakes at a high school ball game—turned the whole town upside down. I’m sure the person who posted the video intended the shame the team, but I very much doubt he anticipated the nationwide attention the video received. It’s a pretty good example of the way information can take on a life of its own once it’s posted on the web…it reminds me of that scene from Fantasia when Mickey Mouse’s magicked brooms inexorably fill the castle.

However, numerous folks continue to express their gratitude to Yakima Scan, and rightly so. They’ll post comments about how they feel more secure because they feel like they know what’s going on, and thank the page administrator for his dedication to the community. It looks like the page has inspired a lot of people to listen to scanners themselves now (which is easy to do these days, thanks to internet feeds).

All of this is fabulous—it’s like all the Scan fans have become a giant neighborhood watch group. From the comments I’ve read on the page, Yakima Scan has really made people feel safer. That’s a very good thing, given the apparent emotional climate here.

And Yakima Scan isn’t the only one using social media to bring people together here. Safe Yakima Valley is hosting an open forum on community safety on May 28th that’s been widely shared on Facebook. We’ve got organizations like I Heart Yakima and Yakima Maker Space , who have beautifully harnessed social media and the internet to promote positive change.

But I think it’s interesting that people don’t seem to have as much gratitude for our local professional journalists these days, even though it’s our job to cover community news (both positive and negative) every day. I’ve heard many complaints about how the news media is “too negative” here in Yakima, and that makes me stop and wonder. Why does an anonymous Facebook page that posts information about crime and accidents apparently make people feel safer…but news stories about crime and accidents seem to make people feel less safe? I’d really like to know the answer to that one.

“Word of mouth” used to be a slow process, limited to one’s neighborhood. Now, it’s a global, instantaneous phenomenon. We’ve all started to develop the expectation that all information is public, we’re all connected, and that everything will be available in real time. Thanks to the massive upheaval in the old broadcast model, we all face a completely different landscape of information that we must learn how to negotiate. Often we have no idea who generated the information we see online—or for what purpose it was generated (when was the last time you watched a funny video online and knew–or cared–who filmed or posted it?).

I’m confident that the good things about the internet outweigh the bad, and that humanity will “catch up” to the web the same way we’ve learned to deal with other forms of technology we’ve invented. It’s clear that all of us need to learn how to take responsibility for the information we consume and broadcast online. The internet is an ethereal Pandora’s Box, and each of us has a key.










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A Day in the Life of a Reporter

by on May 15, 2014

When I was six years old, the secretary at my elementary school told me I was nosy. I thought it was a compliment–I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my mom that Mrs. Peterson thought I was nosy.

Naturally my mom was slightly horrified, and set me straight. But little did Mom know how useful my innate nosiness would be for my job. (I actually prefer to call it “curiosity,” thank you very much.)

One of the things I love the most about being a reporter is that you get to learn new things all the time…whether it’s about sewer treatment plants, well-drilling geology, or how to raise pigs. And one of the best parts of working at Yakima Magazine is that it’s a little like working in an emergency room—you never really know what you’re going to be doing when you get to work.

This week here at the Herald we’re getting ready for a big party—the annual Indulge event for women that we’ve hosted for fifteen years. So one morning this week I wound up working with hundreds of fresh gladiolas that needed to be trimmed and stripped for event centerpieces. Today I’m going to be wrangling umbrellas. 

 Some people might balk at doing things that seem a little…well…outside the normal scope of a writer’s job. But me? I love it all.

The job of reporting offers the luxury of daily fascination: learning about all kinds of cool things, meeting all kinds of people. It’s a job that keeps me young, and reminds me that the world is a very big place filled with all kinds of wonder.

See you at Indulge on Friday! We’re really looking forward to it.

Elly with umbrella

Let’s just say the glads and I have developed a close personal relationship. (Photo by the very patient and talented Trisha Henning.)

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Spend Time Rather Than Money on Mom

by on May 9, 2014

I remember my dad waking me up early one morning when I was five years old and trying to teach me how to draw a heart so I could sketch one on the Mother’s Day card he’d bought for mom. The only thing I had to practice on in my bedroom was the sleeve of a Dr. Doolittle record album, and since Dad’s red ballpoint pen didn’t write very well on the slick record cover, I don’t think Dad was all that pleased with my efforts.  Naturally, though, Mom loved the wobbly, clubby-looking heart I managed to draw on the inside of her card.  

That’s the thing about your mom–she treasures you more than anything else. So instead of panicking about picking out the perfect Mother’s Day gift this year, perhaps you should plan on actually doing something with your mom? You know she’d love it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of things going on that a mom would love!

The Yakima Area Arboretum’s Annual Plant Sale will be held Fri., May 9 from 3-7 p.m. and Sat. from 9 a.m.- 1 p.m.  (Memberships will be also available for purchase at the sale, and hey, an arboretum membership for Mom wouldn’t be a bad gift idea, since a membership gets you special discounts on classes, and will get you into the annual plant sale early–like the happy folks below on Thursday night).  They’ve got a fabulous variety of plants, trees, and shrubs for sale. The arboretum is located at 1401 Arboretum Drive.  More information is located on their web page.

If you’d really like to spoil your mom, consider tucking an Indulge ticket into her card this year. The Yakima Herald-Republic is throwing a Parisian party featuring dancing, fashion, drinks and shopping…and incredible French-themed food on Fri., May 16.  It’s truly a girl’s night out to remember, and those of us here at the Herald who will be working at the event are really looking forward to it. More information and tickets here.  

Stop by Cascade Gardens for a day full of entertainment on Mother’s Day…the Mother’s Day Spring Faire will be held rain or shine from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. on May 11. There will be live music, wine tasting, gourmet food, flower baskets for sale…and every mom gets a free flower! Admission is by donation, and it’s all for a great cause–proceeds benefit the Voices for Children Foundation. Cascade Gardens is located at 5704 W. Washington Ave.

Spring Faire 2014

Or take your mom downtown to the first opening of the Yakima Farmer’s Market this season…they’ll be open on Sun., May 11th from 9-2 p.m. in front of the Capitol Theater on Third St. Fresh fruit, produce, all kinds of snacks, and live music!

A special Mother’s Day wine tasting will be held at Airfield Estates Winery. They’ll be featuring some of their favorite spring wines, and offering complimentary wine tasting to all mothers. Wine flights and cheese platters will be available for purchase. For more information call 509-786-7401. They’re located at 560 Merlot Dr. in Prosser.

Another special wine event this weekend will be held Saturday at the Steppe Cellars tasting room at 1991 Chaffee Road in Sunnyside. Join them for an early morning hike through the shrub steppe, and be on the lookout for shrub-steppe spring wildflowers and basalt formations.  Meet at the tasting room at 9 a.m.   No fee – but reservations are required. For more information call 509-837-8281 or click here. 

If mom’s a wine drinker and an animal lover, why not take her to the “Paws for a Cause” event in Zillah? “Take your dog on a walk through the vineyards, sip some wine, have a great time for a great cause (proceeds benefit Yakima Valley Pet Rescue). For more information click here.

Canine and Wine Walk Poster 2014

Or if mom’s not into wine, you can take her to Family Field Day at Sarg Hubbard Park in Yakima on Sat. May 10th. It’s a free community event sponsored by Memorial Hospital that features soccer, kayaking, tennis, obstacle courses, gardening (fruit and veggie tasting), jump rope and hula hoop activities, martial arts, basketball, ZUMBA, and more.  Click here for more information.

Plan a fun outing picking your own local asparagus for a special dinner with mom this weekend at Imperial’s Gardens in Wapato. The farm is open for u-pick between 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. No appointment is necessary; families are welcome.  4817 Lateral A Rd.  in Wapato. 509-877-2766.

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Out to Lunch – Abby’s Legendary Pizza

by on May 7, 2014

Pizza was one of the items our lunch bunch thought we’d have to give up once my beau R. figured out that he’s gluten-intolerant. Since pizza and burgers top R’s list of favorite foods, it was heartbreaking to watch him struggle with abstinence at first. (Like many people who find out they have to give up a beloved food, there were some “slips”–including an impulsive order of delivery pizza and breadsticks once during a heated Seahawks game. Let’s just say that was a mistake he didn’t make twice.)

But since I like pizza too, I made several attempts to make gluten-free pizza at home with various crust mixes. The huge problem with gluten-free doughs is that they resemble thick pancake batter, which makes them incredibly irritating to handle. The only way to spread the stuff in a pan is to use a wet spatula and wet hands, or you’ll wind up with dough all over your hands (and everything else in the kitchen). Since the best gluten-free crusts often don’t taste “right” anyway, the only saving grace is to try to get the crust as thin as possible (so there is at least some crunch and texture there). Good luck getting that accomplished with sticky batter.

But then we found out we could get a beautiful thin gluten-free pizza crust at a couple of restaurants in town, and life went back to normal again. The four of us (R’s business partner and his wife and I) were overjoyed to go back to Abby’s here in Yakima for their lunch special, which includes a mini pizza, drink and salad bar (not a bad deal for just under $9). It’s a lot of food, it’s fast, and it’s especially cozy in the restaurant if it’s chilly outside and they have the fireplace on.

For some reason I’ve never been a huge fan of iceberg lettuce, so my salad bar plate usually looks something like this (below). I always include beets, if possible–not just because I love beets, but because it bothers R. to have beets anywhere within a 10′ radius. (Hey, being irritating is an important part of keeping the zing in any romantic relationship.)

Salad bar

Heavy on the beets, peas and potato salad please…

Fortunately, Abby’s thin gluten-free dough paired with their hot pizza oven makes for a much tastier gluten-free pizza crust than anything we can cook at home. And I don’t have to mess with trying to shape gloppy thick batter  into a pizza crust. I call this a win-win.

So grab your gluten-free and beet-loving pals, and try out the lunch special at Abby’s.  They’re located at 4804 Tieton Drive. Happy lunching.

Yummy Abby's Pizza

This was my pie at our last visit…just looking at the photo makes me almost drool. Need I add that R. also hates sliced tomatoes?





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