By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


My mother has long been famous for her carrot cake, but now her celebrity status has reached a new level. The Sedalia Democrat ran a story, “An Era and an Aura,” in April about the reopening of the J. Huston Tavern Restaurant in my home town, Arrow Rock, Missouri. The photo is by Sidney Brink. The new manager, Chef Liz Huff, convinced Mother to teach her how to make the cake. Mother was highly amused at the way Liz, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, “threw flour all over the kitchen.” M.K.’s Arrow Rock Carrot Cake is now featured on the menu. Liz is quoted in the story as saying, “It’s the best carrot cake in the whole world…The whole universe revolves around this cake!”

Maybe seventy-five people live in Arrow Rock, but it’s a charming place to visit and to eat a piece of cake if you are ever traveling through central Missouri. The village of Arrow Rock is a National Historic Landmark and on the Dozen Distinctive Destinations list. Besides the 175-year-old tavern, there are other historic buildings, a Missouri State Park and a summer repertory theater, The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre.

Simply known as The Old Tavern when I was growing up, the J. Huston Tavern, a state historic site, has always been used as a community gathering place. My wedding reception and my parents’ fiftieth-wedding anniversary celebration were held there. Now when I go home to visit, I’ll have to decide whether to get my carrot-cake fix at home or at The Old Tavern.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Miss Zukas

I had the great pleasure of hearing author Jo Dereske speak at the Green Lake Library March 13. The photo is of me, admiring my autographed copy of Catalogue of Death, not Ms. Dereske.

Both the Seattle and King County libraries sponsor the most wonderful author lectures/readings/signings. Over the past few weeks, I’ve also seen Laura Lippman and Jodi Picoult. Alice Hoffman will be appearing at Seattle Central April 29 at 7 p.m. and at the Bellevue Library April 30 at 12:30 p.m. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of this great service our library systems offer, I suggest you make the time to attend one of the upcoming author readings. If you love books, you’ll be dazzled.

Jo Dereske is the author of the Miss Zukas librarian mystery series. Miss Zukas is a fascinating character. Dereske said when she began writing she was told no house would publish a mystery about a librarian. She took that with an “Oh, is that so?” attitude and produced Miss Zukas. But Miss Zukas is no ordinary, mundane librarian. Dereske took the clichés and multiplied them to the nth degree to produce both a one-of-a-kind and quintessential librarian who will keep you laughing as you follow her sleuthing.

Miss Zukas, or Helma, short for Wilhelmina, almost always chooses the correct and proper course. She adjusts her blinds just so to keep the furniture from fading; every surface is spotlessly clean; she drives her Buick exactly two miles over the speed limit; when she goes for a walk, she pins her key inside her pocket (no chance of Helma being locked out of her apartment or car); and she wears sensible clothes, shoes and hair. She can answer any question and does regardless of whether anyone has actually posed a query. She never allows misinformation to go uncorrected, much to the irritation of those careless with their facts. But she doesn’t rely only on book information to get at the truth of things. She makes her own observations and comes to her own conclusions. When the manual for her water-powered tooth-cleaning device warns not to use it on intimate areas, Miss Zukas checks the validity of the instructions herself and finds the results quite pleasant. Dereske builds detail upon detail of Miss Zukas’s life until you can practically hear her breathing beside you.

The one area where Helma ignores the sensible choice is in matters of the heart. Her artist friend Ruth provides the perfect foil for Miss Zukas by rarely choosing the appropriate path. In spite of Helma’s dismay at the wear and tear Ruth’s hard-drinking, man-chasing lifestyle takes on her friend, Miss Zukas doesn’t take the self-protective, pragmatic course of abandoning Ruth to own folly; she supports her friend no matter what kind of a scrape Ruth’s bad decisions get her in.

I feel an especial affinity for the Miss Zukas mysteries because they are set in Bellehaven, suspiciously similar to Bellingham, WA, not far from Mount Vernon, the site of my own mysteries. I recently completed Rhubarb Roil, the first in a series featuring a former Post-Intelligencer reporter who gives up journalism to open a fine-dining restaurant and unearth the secrets of her Dutch-emigrant family, who were among the first farmers to introduce tulips to the Skagit Valley, one of the largest bulb-producing regions in the world.

I’ve only read the first few of Miss Zukas’s adventures. Jo Dereske also writes the Ruby Crane mystery series, which I haven’t started yet. I’m so happy to have several more books to enjoy before I catch up to the eleventh Miss Zukas mystery, Index to Murder, which will be available April 29 from Avon/HarperCollins.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Duwamish Cleanup

I was dismayed to realize it’s been over three months since I’ve posted here. Time!! It had also been awhile since I’d worked in a park, but I corrected that March 1 at the Georgetown Riverview Restoration Project at the Duwamish River/Gateway Park North. It was a cold and cloudy day, so the pictures aren’t very good, but luckily, the rain held off until we’d accomplished our goals for the day.
Gateway was a new park for me. I mostly only go through Georgetown to get on I-5, though I have explored the community a little during the summer Georgetown Arts and Garden Tour. Held every July, the tour is now in its twelve year. The neighborhood sports an eclectic mix of artists and industry and is fun to walk through and gape at the odd assortment of items people consider art and the beautiful and the weird gardens.

Georgetown has an interesting history with a claim to being Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. The Duwamish were the first recorded inhabitants. They called their community Tu-kweltid-tid, by the riverbank. Europeans arrived in 1850, and in 1871, Annie and Julius Horton platted their land into a town, naming it after their son George in honor of his graduation from medical school.

The Duwamish River played an important role in the development of Georgetown. The city’s skewed street layout is based on the river’s original path. Regular flooding created fertile soil, and the river valley provided a rich habitat for salmon, trout, clams, oysters and waterfowl. Farmers sold their produce at Pike Place Market. Hops grew particularly well, and in 1883 the Seattle Malting and Brewing Company opened and grew to become the sixth largest brewery in the world. Seattle residents boated down the river to visit waterfront beer gardens. But in the usual way of human history, government leaders couldn’t leave a good thing alone, and in the name of encouraging industry by providing cheap, accessible factory sites, ten of the sixteen bends in the Duwamish were removed by 1917, rerouting the river nearly a mile away from Georgetown. Industry flourished, and the Duwamish is now an ecological catastrophe and a Federal Superfund Cleanup site.

Currently, Gateway Park North, at the end of 8th Avenue South, is the only public access point to the Duwamish River in Georgetown. I learned about the cleanup and restoration project through a Washington Native Plant Society e-mail notice. As a Native Plant Steward, I watch for nearby work opportunities and was delighted to play a part in adding native plants to this tiny pocket park. Earth Day, Saturday, April 19, is the next scheduled work party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Duwamish Alive! is sponsoring this event, which will include eight work sites along the river and an Earth Day Festival at the Cooper School near Pigeon Point Park from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with free food, performances, giveaways, etc. It will be a great way to spend a Saturday. Pick a spot closest to you along the river, and come join us!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Introducing Sonika

My very good friend, Eilis Flynn, announced the release of her third novel December 13. Introducing Sonika is currently available as an e-book from Cerridwen Press.

I bought her latest novel early Thursday morning and started reading immediately. This book is a fantasy with superheroes and dastardly villains. An exciting setup and sympathetic characters hooked me right away. I’m looking forward to finding out how heroine Sonya Penn will use her superpowers. And what course her romance with physicist John Arlen will take.

If you’ve never read an e-book, you should check it out. There’s a long list of advantages of e-books over print books—save forests, money, time and space—to name a few. You can buy e-books online 24/7, usually at a fraction of the cost of the very same print book. I use MS Reader (a free download) on my PC. My Microsoft e-reader shows the pages like a print book so there’s no scrolling, it bookmarks my place, the type is easy on the eyes and you can change the font size. It will even read the book to you if you want. Thus, any e-book can be a large-print or audio book. You can save thousands of books on a computer, hundreds on a CD, and you can buy a handheld reader to take them with you everywhere you go. You’ve probably seen Amazon’s new Kindle reader in the news, and there are many others available, i.e. Franklin E-Bookman, Hiebook, Rocket E-Book, Sony Digital Reader. I don’t own a handheld device, so I can’t give a personal recommendation. My understanding is they all have advantages and quirks, including a wide range of prices, so I’d suggest researching before purchasing.

Naturally, I think e-books are great since my two contemporary romances, Special Delivery and Big Bad Wolfe, are available at Wings ePress as e-books as well as paperbacks. You can also buy them on Amazon (paperback) and at Fictionwise (discounted e-book). Save a tree, read an e-book. Not a bad slogan.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Black & White & Green Allover

I did it again. Forgot my reusable, ever-so-green shopping bags. I bought the black and white striped bags at IKEA months ago, but I’m having a hard time forging the habit of actually getting them inside the supermarket. As the estimable frog said, “It isn’t easy being green.”

According to Scott H. Young on, it only takes three to four weeks to make a habit automatic. Of course, he’s only nineteen, so what does he know? In spite of his extreme youth, he does seem to have some good ideas, though. He says, “Consistency is critical if you want to make a habit stick. ...Activities you do once every few days are trickier to lock in as habits.” I think that’s my problem—I usually only do grocery shopping once a week, so it’s difficult to remember the reusable bags.

A clerk at Fred Meyers gave me a good tip. When I told her I was mad at myself for forgetting my shopping bags, she suggested putting them in the trunk of my car (I suppose I should take the bus if I really want to be green, but that’s another blog.) as soon as I unload the groceries. That way, they’re always with you even if you make an unplanned shopping stop. I’ve adopted this policy, but on my last supermarket excursion I left the bags in the car and didn’t think of them until I had my shopping cart almost full. I could have temporarily abandoned the cart to retrieve the bags from the parking lot, but I was too lazy, plus I was afraid a clerk might start restocking the items it had taken me almost an hour to choose.

The trunk-storage tip was the first time a clerk had seemed somewhat favorably disposed toward shoppers bringing their own bags. My previous experiences with checkers had been slightly to markedly hostile. Initially when I presented my shopping bags to a clerk with a cheery “I’ve brought my own!” greeting, fully expecting to be praised for my commendable environmental consciousness, I received a scowl in return. I soon saw why. The IKEA bags were designed for housewares, not food. They’re too big to fit comfortably in the space the checker has to use while bagging the groceries, and once full, they’re way too heavy for a smallish clerk to easily place in the shopping cart. Thanks to weight lifting, I don’t mind the bags being heavy when I have to unload them when I get home, but watching the clerk struggle made me realize why she wasn’t particularly endeared with my totes.

Since my IKEA purchase, many grocery stores have started selling in-house reusable bags. Recently, Fred Meyer had a coupon for three free bags if you spent $75 on groceries. I generally spend around $100 on a shopping trip, so I asked the clerk to put my purchases into the three bags I expected to receive from the coupon, but I was a few dollars short. You can imagine how happy she was to have to unload the groceries and repack them in my giant IKEA bags. The next time I was at the store the coupon was still in effect, but this time I kept a running tab on a calculator to make sure I spent enough money to get the free bags.

The Fred Meyer bags are smaller than the IKEA totes, so they’re easier for the clerks to use. Now when I present them to a checker, the reaction is usually no more negative than a small sigh. I suspect management has conducted training sessions on staff acceptance of reusable bags. The store gives a five cent rebate for each bag a shopper brings in, so presumably the corporation wants to encourage their use. Company policy is not always enforced, though. Some time ago, I asked a clerk about how they recycle plastic bags. The store provides a large container for plastic with a sign thanking customers for recycling. The clerk responded, “We recycle them into the garbage bin out back.” That’s when I quit returning plastic bags to grocery stores.

But I really do want to stop contributing plastic to landfills, and I’m hoping reusable shopping bags might help. If I can just manage to use them. Dr. Stephanie Burns is another Web source for establishing new habits, but I’m not so sure I want to practice all of her suggestions, one of which is to wear a rubber band on your wrist. Considering how often I’ve forgotten my reusable bags over the past few months, all I can say is, “Ouch!”

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Friday, November 16, 2007


Vandals destroyed some of the beauty in our lovely new White Center Heights Park. In June, Starbucks donated $550,000 and massive amounts of volunteer labor for the seven-day extreme makeover of the small community park. I worked six of the seven days and feel both pride and a sense of ownership. One of the things I love most about the makeover is the inclusion of art. Now part of the art is gone.

The bare posts say it all. Don Haig, Acting Supervisor III of Park Operations for King County, told me at a meeting for Friends of Hicks Lake volunteers that the glue on the post caps didn’t set properly. The vandals pulled the beautiful glass caps off and smashed them. The caps the vandals left in place were removed by King County to prevent them from being broken, too. Ironically, security cameras scheduled to be installed before the vandalism occurred were put in place just a week after the glass caps were destroyed. Not that the cameras would have prevented the destruction, but catching and punishing the culprits might have prevented future problems.

When I volunteered for a Lakewood Park cleanup in September, Geraldine, another King County employee, told me Parks Operations plans to replace the caps with new ones made of some kind of material less likely to be broken, i.e. plastic or metal. I’m guessing the replacements will not be as beautiful as the original glass caps. So sad not everyone shares in the desire to improve our White Center community.

Some time ago, my sister and I rode on the subway during a visit to Hollywood. We sat, outraged but silent, watching a vandal use a knife to scratch a message on a window. We both wanted to stop him but were afraid—after all, he had a knife. Now, I’m asking you to do what I say, not what I did. If you see someone degrading our shared public spaces, do something. You don’t need to put yourself in danger. You probably carry a cell phone; go where you won’t be seen and call the authorities. Everyone who loves parks will thank you.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Llamas Revisited

Recently, I had a chance to visit Blessed Be Ranch and the llamas that served as models for the cover art for my romance, Big Bad Wolfe. Tim and DeAnna Pierick, the owners of the ranch, threw a birthday party for Tim. Tim’s not saying what birthday we were celebrating, but there’s some gray in his ponytail.

The herd has grown. Purchases and births have added several new llamas and alpacas. Babies contribute a cute factor to go along with the elegance of the moms, and pygmy goats provide humor. It was fun to meet the newcomers and greet the old-timers from the original photo session.

Why llamas on the cover of a romance? The hero of the novel is Brandon Wolfe, a sexy llama rancher who is raising his two sons without any outside help since the death of his wife in an auto accident. His strict ideas about childcare are thrown into turmoil when he meets generous, warm-hearted Corey, the owner of a children’s resale clothing store.

See if you can pick out the cover-art stars in the birthday photo above.

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