Jennifer was an award winning reporter, features writer and editor for the Peninsula Gateway Newspaper, then the highest rated community newspaper in the country. Early in her career, Jennifer won more awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishing Association than any other reporter in the state.
Sunshine, Rolling Hills & Free Wine Make an Easy Summer Road Trip
Lifting the Spirits
The hills of Yakima County stretch like a lazy orange tabby. The highway leading in gives the distinct view of desert land – rolling hills, sandy gorges, the occasional snake sunning itself on the side of Highway 82.
In this golden-hot desert, the Yakima Valley is an ironic oasis. Eastern Washington has never sprung to the mind of the culturally adventurous, unless your idea of adventure involves an empty strip mall or Washingtonians with Texas drawls.
Strangely, this rural backland is home to some of the best wine country in the states. And about 20 years ago, people started to figure that out.
The Yakima Valley Wine Growers Association boasts 23 member wineries. Some, like the Hogue Cellars in Prosser, have made a name for themselves in fancy restaurants and wine galleries west of the mountains. Others, such as Hyatt Vineyards or Teft Cellars, are hidden gems waiting to be discovered by the adventurous.
Touring the 23 wineries will take only as long as the wine takes to process through your system. All samples are free, except for a few premium varieties of sherry or the rare ice wine that is a Yakima specialty. Almost every winery is a family-run business, and visitors tend to be treated as long-lost friends. In each, variety abounds, waiting to be sampled.
Tasting is not limited to the wine connoisseur. All you need is a good set of taste buds and a little bit of tolerance (or a few days to space out the tour). The various wineries span about 60 miles, an easy drive on a near-empty highway during a warm summer day. But opt for air conditioning during the summer months. Temperatures easily reached 90 degrees over Memorial Day weekend.
Of the nine wineries my husband and I visited over two days, the best by far was Bonair.
The small, family-owned winery calls itself “the little hobby that got out of hand,” but you’d never notice by a visit. When asked by a staff member at the nearby Hyatt Cellars where we were going next, we said we were leaving the area.
“Don’t miss Bonair,” the friendly staffer insisted. So we didn’t.
The winery’s tasting room easily measures up to the charm of the grounds, which include two koi ponds, a small waterfall and Bung, the resident dog. On the wall behind the seemingly endless wine bottles is what may be the owner’s mantra: “The only thing more overrated than childbirth is the joy of owning your own business.”
But his cynicism didn’t get into the wine. Or the Mead.
One of the only mead makers in the state, Bonair offers three varieties of this traditional European honey wine, the only alcoholic beverage found in nature. Owner Gail Puryera explained that the beverage was used after a medieval wedding, to ensure that the bride became pregnant.
“That’s why we’ve got this surgeon general warning,” he said with a smile. He pointed to the standard government warning, claiming it was one of the dangers of pregnancy.
The cheerful hospitality and beautiful grounds characterized most of those we visited. Make sure to get to Horizon’s Edge, Hyatt Vineyards and Teft Cellars as well. Seer clear of Eaton Hill. It’s not bad, but in a valley full of really good, why bother?
For more information on the tour, visit www.yakimavalleywine.com or call 800.258.7270. The association can recommend places to stay, to eat or even to picnic under a grape arbor. There are a few places within a two hour drive of Tacoma that will offer such unlimited access to locally-grown and processed wines. All that, and sunshine is almost a guarantee most of the year.
Gig Harbor City Park becomes a haven for families on a cloudy day
A Day in the Life of a Park
It was the first cool, cloudy July day after a short spurt of hot weather. The parking lot of the Gig Harbor City Park sat empty, save one lonely minivan.
Just the day before, the same parking loot was packed with visitors. Toddling toddlers, infants in arms and energetic, screaming school-aged children celebrating the sun and the fact that school was out at last.
It was 10 a.m., July 8. The delighted play noises from the day before were not even an echo now under the cloud cover.
One family of three was in the playground. In the middle of their activity, a lost dog named Tipsy wandered up to them. The family called the number on Tipsy’s tag, locked her in the play are, and went on their way, off to catch a plane home to San Diego. As their van pulled out of the park’s lot, silence filled the Gig Harbor City Park once more.
The silence lasted about ten minutes.
On the playground
It seems that where there is one child, more are on their way.
The next to arrive in the park that morning were Janna Gosser and her 9-month-old daughter Melinda. They were waiting for family and friends coming down from Port Orchard.
“The toys here are pretty neat for the kids,” Gosser said as she hoisted Melinda into her stroller. “It doesn’t seem too crowded every time we come.”
Cousins and friends soon joined the Gossers, and the playground began to take on the lively atmosphere it had during the past few sunny days. Suddenly, action was everywhere.
On one side, a brightly-colored big toy ship was overrun with children of all ages. They climbed the rope ladder carefully to reach their goal – a shiny metal slide.
Moms gathered along the sidelines laughing and talking to each other, supping their Starbucks’s lattes.
Far on the other end of the playground, dads held trembling little hands, coaxing their sons and daughters over the monkey bars. Parents watch, listened, and took time to talk about who hit who and which kid is the playground bully.
The park had the atmosphere of a family reunion. Everyone seemed to know each other.
“We come to get the kids out, to get some excitement, and let them be with their friends,” said Steve Bass. We always run into someone from class at school or the neighbors will be around.”
Bass wasn’t kidding. As he helped his 2-year-old daughter Sally cautiously move down one of the many slides, his older son Sam was busy talking excitedly with classmates.
They were found crunching through the gravel around the toys. Next week, he’ll celebrate his 7th birthday, and he wanted everyone to know they were invited.
There were a lot of people to invite.
The parking lot by now, was almost full. The park toys were filled. Some kids swung from the swings. Others hung from the monkey bars. What they had in common was a sense of youthful energy.
“Mommy Mommy! I want a push!” yelled a young girl with long blond hair.
Mommy responded immediately with a series of light shoves for the swinging child.
Across from the swings, a young boy sat down and dropped a series of small pebbles from his shoe.
How many were there?
“At least 10,” he said before running away.
It was 11 a.m. on the cloudy July day.
So much to do …
The children’s escapades weren’t limited to the playground for long. After all, at the city park there is so much to see and do.
There’s the playground, of course, but that was getting pretty full. There is the grassy field, the creek, the barbecue pit, and even a stone sculpture perfect for climbing.
The Bass children didn’t take long to discover what else their park had to offer.
“Where do you think this water comes from?” Sam Bass asked his father as they bent over Crescent Creek.
“It’s a stream,” Steve Bass said. “It comes from a long way up.”
Are there fish? The family bent down close, checking out the possibilities. Their careful consideration of fish didn’t last long. Sam found more friends and Sally wanted to explore.
“There is so much for them to do,” Steve Bass emphasized. “There’s the big toy, we can walk down to the water, there’s a grassy area to play in …
“It’s fun to watch them having fun. But it’s a chore when you have a little one. There’s lots of traps they can fall into – like that one!”
Immediately he was off. Little Sally had wandered too close to the creek for comfort. She’d lowered her small hand down to touch the water and looked as if she could lose her balance. Dad caught her with plenty of time to spare.
“It gets to be a little bit of work, depending on how old your kids are,” Bass said, slightly out of breath. “But it’s worth it to let them burn off some energy and have a little fun.”
Even the barbecue pit was a temporary jungle gym as children climbed its rocky walls an tested the structure’s acoustics with their powerful lungs.
Perfect place for a picnic
Lunchtime brought picnic blankets and baskets, crackers and cheese and a series of paper bags from nearby fast food restaurants.
One group of moms with young children parked their group on the lawn as older children ran by in a furious game of tag.
“It’s a fake picnic with no good food,” one mom joked as she passed around Gerber oatmeal and grapes.
At the playground, a series of picnic tables began to fill. Maureen Whitaker and her daughter Aislinn arrived just in time to grab the last empty table.
Aislinn and her best friend Lizzie Brinkman, 3, couldn’t choke down their Burger King burgers and chicken strips fast enough.
They were at the park. It was time to play.
“We like the city park the most,” said 4-year-old Aislinn. “We think it’s really fun to come here – but we only like to go on the big girl swings.”
Whitaker laughed. The girls had just graduated from the smaller swings with leg holes to the regular swings. They were pretty excited, she explained.
The assistant Public Works Assistant said the park has a special meaning to her family.
“This is our stomping ground,” she said. “City park is something we love to come to. Today, we thought we’d pick up Lizzie and head to the park.”
As hamburgers were finished, fries were left for later. Lizzie and Aislinn began to outline their playtime strategies. They agreed that they were too little for the monkey bars.
“When you get taller, Lizzie, you can do the monkey bars, remember?” Aislinn asked.
Lizzie nodded, not looking too sure. Aislinn continued: “Have you ever hung upside down on the monkey bars?” she asked.
Lizzie shook her head emphatically. “It scares me,” she said.
“It scares me too,” Aislinn agreed, and took the last bite of her hamburger.
As the friends ran off to try their luck at the playground, Whitaker explained it was one of their favorites things to do.
“It’s a really good park,” she said. “It’s different because it has all the elements. It has something for everybody.”
As she finished her thought, Aislinn and Lizzie were blending into the mad frenzy of happily shrieking children.
The clouds didn’t part. The temperatures didn’t rise.
But for the Whitaker family, the Bass family and the others who enjoyed the day, it was the perfect time to be at the park.
Judge’s hepatitis led to liver cancer, he needs new liver to survive
Farrow Family Stays Positive With Help From Their Friends
Everyone who knows Pierce County Judge Tom Farrow considers him a friend.
He is so active in his son’s third grade class that children gather around when he walks in the door. In his spare time, he coaches for the Peninsula Athletic Association, builds a pond in his family’s front yard, and pets the family’s five kittens.
Farorw, 45, describes himself as an energetic person. But seven years ago, his wife Lori noticed he was more tired than usual. Now he’s on medical leave, looking forward to going back to work.
Doctors told him there was nothing wrong at first. A few years later he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which progressed to liver cancer. Now at its end stages, Farrow needs a new liver to survive.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Farrow.
“I just refused to believe it. It was just unacceptable to me that I could be sick.”
And for the many people in the community who call Farrow friend, it is unacceptable that he stay sick. After coming forward a few weeks ago, Farrow has seen his community rally behind him.
“I’m just blown away,” Farrow said.
“People are calling and offering … I’m just overwhelmed. Amazed. I wish I had a better word for it.”
After some organization by parents at Voyager Elementary School, where Farrow’s older two sons attend, many have stepped forward. The family has been given frequent flier miles, more than $1,000 and at least three round-trip airline tickets to Colorado, where the surgery will take place.
The community support, Tom and Lori Farrow said, goes much deeper than the money.
“I think someone from every church in Gig Harbor has me on a prayer list,” Farrow said. “I think that’s part of the reason I’m still as healthy as I am.”
Because of his blood type and medical status, doctors have said it’s not likely Farrow will get a liver from the donation list. But a new surgery makes it possible for a living person to give another part of his or her liver.
It seems that livers are like fingernails. If you cut them, they grow back. And people are lining up to give Farrow part of their own livers so he may live.
What surprised Farrow is people don’t care about the risks involved. They just want to help.
“Don’t think I’m corny, but I can feel the love,” he said. “The outpouring of love is overwhelming.
“Every time I feel like I’m going to fall down, there’s this incredible net that picks me back up.”
A community of prayers
Voyager Elementary School teacher Connie Prynne asked her class to stay a little late into recess. She asked the group of 8- and 9-year-olds if they wanted to say something nice about Tom Farrow.
Every hand in the room shot up.
“He comes here and gives us quizzes,” said 9-year-old Alena Noson. “One time, if we got 10 palindromes, we got a pizza party.
One of the excited class members was 9-year-old Tommy Farrow. He said he likes it when his dad comes into class, especially when he brings his digital camera.
Tommy said things have gotten a lot better lately for his father. His dad has less energy than he used to, but Tommy understands.
“He’s looked a lot better since he came back from Colorado,” he said. “I’m pretty optimistic and I’m usually a pessimist.”
Farrow’s volunteerism has meant a lot not only to Prynne and her students, but the steady group of volunteers who help out at the school.
To give a little bit of extra help back, they set up an espresso stand in front of the school on the last day of the school year.
“He’s a wonderful man,” said parent Julie Miller. “This is awareness-raising for the school.”
The parent group knows that without a new liver, Farrow’s time is limited. That’s a reality that’s been hard to accept for the Farrow family.
“They (doctors) said, ‘we don’t think you’ll live long enough to see your name come up on that list,” Farrow said. “It’s a long wait on that list.”
With the partial liver transplant surgery in Colorado, Farrow has a better chance. But already his three brothers and a good friend have been disqualified as donors. Each time it was for medical reasons.
With more people stepping up every day, the Farrows are hopeful. They hope to raise awareness not only for their family but for other people on that list who might not make it.
“Someday I hope people talk about a liver donation the way they talk about giving blood,” Lori Farrow said.
Regardless of what the future holds, Tom Farrow has learned something about people in general.
“I don’t think I’ve ever lost faith. I’m not cynical,” he said. “But this makes me think the world is a much better place than I ever thought it was.”