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UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic Opens Its Doors

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:00am


UW Medicine is very excited to announce the opening of our first clinic in Thurston County. The UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic is now open at 3525 Ensign Road N.E., Suite B, in Olympia.  Appointments can be made by calling 360-507-9100.

A variety of primary care services are available at the new clinic, including family medicine, acute illness and injury care, women’s healthcare, preventive medicine, medical screening and chronic disease management. Convenient same-day primary care appointments, even on Saturdays, are available as well as an on-site lab and x-ray services. Urgent care clinic services will be available in the spring.

Meet our clinic team uw medicineDr. Eunice Chen is one of the three providers at the new UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic. The practice is now open at 3525 Ensign Road NW.

Three seasoned providers are on our clinical staff: Dr. Eunice Chen comes to our Olympia clinic via Stanford where she was in practice at the Stanford School of Medicine. Dr. Hollie Matthews grew up in southwest Washington and is looking forward to practicing near family and friends after several years at Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake, Washington. And Theresa Duggan, ARNP, joins our Olympia clinic via Rochester, Washington, near Centralia, where she was seeing patients at the Providence Rochester Family Medicine Clinic.

“I’m very excited to be moving back to the South Sound area,” says Dr. Matthews. “I grew up in Winlock, graduated from Winlock High School, and now I have an opportunity to give back to a community that has given me so much. Joining the UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic gives me the opportunity to provide quality care and expanded services into the South Sound, as well as help my friends and neighbors navigate a larger system when needed. Plus I get to continue to work with medical students from the UW School of Medicine, which is one of my passions.”

Get to know UW Medicine

You are most likely familiar with UW Medicine’s patient care, teaching and research mission to improve the help of the public. However, you may not realize we are comprised of eight entities including four hospitals: Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Valley Medical Center, and UW Medical Center, 12 UW Neighborhood Clinics, a physician practice called UW Physicians, UW School of Medicine and Airlift Northwest.

We are a partner in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and we have a strong relationship with Seattle Children’s. The majority of the physicians practicing at Children’s have faculty appointments at the UW. Our comprehensive system gives you access to healthcare services across a broad spectrum of care—from primary care to care for more complex medical needs including trauma and burn care, cancer care, cardiac care, neonatal intensive care and much more.

uw medicineDr. Hollie Matthews is thrilled to be back in the South Sound. The Winlock High School graduate is now seeing patients at the new UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic.

Locally, we have a strategic collaboration with Capital Medical Center, which means we are working together to ensure our patients have seamless access to specialty care. Capital Medical Center has provided the space for our new clinic.

Discover coordinated care

As a healthcare system, our philosophy behind primary care is “comprehensive coordinated care.” Our healthcare professionals and staff work as a team to ensure our patients have the information they need to receive the care that best meets their needs, regardless of where that care is delivered.

We look forward to being a part of the greater Olympia community, getting to know you and your family, and providing you with compassionate care at all stages of your life.

Help us celebrate our new home

Please join us for an Open House celebration at the new clinic on Saturday, January 9, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. It will be a great opportunity to meet our providers and tour the clinic. Members of the Husky Marching Band and Harry the Husky will be there. We’ll be offering activities for your whole family.

For more information, visit the UW Neighborhood Olympia Clinic online.

Top 5 Sports Stories Published on ThurstonTalk in 2015

Sun, 01/03/2016 - 4:08pm


With just a quick glance at ThurstonTalk’s sports section, you can see that we cover athletics “differently.”  In our opinion, high school athletes, weekend warriors and local competitors become champions not with a winning score but with their attitude and perseverance.  That’s why our sports stories skip the box scores and last night’s game recap and focus instead on the individuals that make teams special.

sunset airHere are our top 5 sports stories published in 2015.

5.  With Rubadue as their New Coach and with a Talented Lineup, Timberline Baseball Has Reasons to be Optimistic
4.  Peter Kesting – Olympia Teen to Ride 13,000 Miles Across Eurasia
3.  North Thurston’s Lawyer Tillman Making His Own Name at Auburn University
2.  Kim Hille Makes Sure Tumwater High School’s Dance Team Includes Fun and Winning
1.  Timberline’s Jamin Rader Turns Tragedy Into Triumph

If you know a local high school athlete or sports star that deserves recognition, send us an email at

Top 10 Stories from Thurston County in 2015

Sun, 01/03/2016 - 3:48pm


In 2015, the ThurstonTalk team celebrated our 5th birthday by rolling out a completely revised website making it easier for you to find positive stories about your community.  Throughout the year, our team of professional writers published more than 1,750 stories that capture what it’s like to live, work, and play in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Thurston County.

capital medical centerHere are the top 10 stories, as selected by YOU, our readers.

10.  Garden to Gourmet Brings ‘Wow’ Factor to Yelm Dining
9.  Thrifty Thurston Travels on 10 Winter Weather Walks
8.  5 Happy Hour Spots in Olympia for Any Occasion
7.  Rise and Shine: Exploring Thurston County’s Breakfast Options
6.  Tiny Homes Built in Community Youth Program Up For Sale
5.  Obsidian: Olympia Locals Chris Beug and Nathan Weaver Bring Us a Music Venue and Cafe
4.  Graceful Healing for Moms Behind Raise for Rowyn
3.  2015 Thurston County “Bucket List” – 25 Ways to Explore Olympia
2.  Why are the Orcas Visiting Olympia?
1.  Thrifty Thurston Lists the 2015 Festivals and Major Events around Olympia

Want to read more of our favorite 2015 stories?  Click here to see what our writers selected as their favorite articles.

If you have a story idea for our writers to consider, drop us a note at

Planning a Wedding? Turn to South Sound Wedding & Event Magazine

Sun, 01/03/2016 - 6:00am


See the latest wedding trends south sound weddingSee the latest styles at the fashion shows. Photo credit: Firstlight Photography.

Trending in South Sound weddings are barn weddings with burlap décor and baby’s breath, according to Paula Lowe, publisher, South Sound Wedding & Event magazine. “We are also seeing couples using vintage décor such as handcarts or old wheelbarrows to hold gifts and covering hay bales with old quilts for seating during the wedding ceremony,” says Paula Lowe. “Also, this year many of our wedding couples featured in the magazine had live music at their wedding receptions.”

Another wedding trend is a nod to the fashionable 1920s era. The trend, inspired by the Great Gatsby movie and the TV program Downton Abbey, features stylish apparel such as dropped-waist dresses and flapper dresses. To complete the outfits, women wear sparkly headbands and long pearl necklaces. Men wear three-piece suits with a colorful tie.

If vintage weddings aren’t your choice, design your own theme to match your style and budget. “Today’s weddings are varied and are a personal reflection of the couple’s interests and personalities,” explains Lowe. “Weddings range from a casual outdoor barbecue to an elegant formal wedding.” Today most couples hold their wedding and reception in one location, which saves on decoration costs, travel expenses, logistics and more.

See the latest styles south sound weddingFashion show models showcase trendy hairstyles for weddings. Photo credit: Firstlight Photography.

To see some of today’s trends, visit the South Sound Wedding Show on Saturday, January 23 at Marcus Pavilion at Saint Martin’s University. You will see creative displays by 70 highly-skilled wedding professionals. The latest styles in wedding dresses, tuxedos, bouquets, jewelry, and hairstyles will be on display during the fashion shows at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. This show is a local resource for engaged couples to find what they need for their wedding. Discounted tickets and details can be found at

After you say “yes” what is next? south sound weddingFashion show stage décor and design by is PJ Hummel & Co. Photo credit: Firstlight Photography.

Once you have celebrated your engagement, it’s time to begin planning your wedding. You will need to determine your budget, what time of year you want to get married, the location of your wedding (county or city), your theme, and the size of your wedding. Once those key decisions are made, you can start researching wedding and reception locations, also called venues, and wedding professionals: florist, caterer, photographer, and others.

The peak season for South Sound weddings runs May through October. If you are getting married on a weekend during those months, book your wedding venues and professionals at least 12 months in advance. To find local wedding resources, visit 

Learn wedding planning tips       south sound weddingMeet more than 70 wedding professionals at the South Sound Wedding Show on January 23. Photo credit: Firstlight Photography.

Once you have determined your wedding date, it’s time to find wedding professionals to help. We suggest planning your logistics and wedding timing early in the process. Where to begin? South Sound Wedding & Event magazine presents a free South Sound Wedding Workshop on the evening of Thursday, Febuary 25 at Indian Summer Golf & Country Club in Olympia. You will learn wedding planning insider tips from a photographer, DJ and others – all designed to help you make your wedding and reception run smoothly. For complete details and to register visit


Thriving at Home: A Valuable Resource for Family Caregivers

Sat, 01/02/2016 - 9:50pm


Submitted by Sarah Lane for FirstLight Home Care

The challenge of “family caregiving” – providing care for a spouse, parent, child or friend with a chronic, disabling or serious health condition – is becoming nearly universal.  A report issued last year by the Public Policy Institute of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimated that there are now 40 million family caregivers in the United States who provide 37 billion hours of care to aging loved ones with limitations in daily activities.

Family Learning Center 2Serving as the primary caregiver for loved ones is a challenging new position for many. FirstLight Home Care’s online tools help support and guide those starting out in this important role.

Being a family caregiver for a loved one takes time, effort and work, and is both rewarding and demanding. In fact, the AARP report observed that “family caregiving today is more complex, costly, stressful, and demanding than at any time in human history.”  The biggest source of stress? “Millions of people who take on this caregiving role have no idea what to do, how to do it, or where to get help.”

As a family caregiver, you will face many challenges and have many questions. And you may not always have the answers, know what to expect or how to react.  That’s why FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound, the premiere provider of in-home care in Thurston, Mason and Lewis counties, is delighted to offer training and support resources for family caregivers, to help you better care for the needs of your loved one…and yourself.

The FirstLight HomeCare Family Learning Center is free for family caregivers who provide home care for friends or loved ones who are homebound, suffer from a debilitating disease or who are simply aging and need companion care. Available online, the site includes over 50 training topics created just for family caregivers that cover everything from basic caregiver training to Alzheimer’s disease and memory care.  You’ll find interactive and engaging courses, videos and tip sheets that will help you understand the multiple perspectives and challenges that go along with providing care.

By taking caregivers step-by-step through a specific topic with engaging and interactive video, the courses are narrated, but can also be read onscreen, allowing caregivers to learn through the method most comfortable to them.  Just some of the topics family caregivers can learn about in the Family Learning Center include:

  • Becoming a Caregiver

    FirstLight Family Learning Center 1The FirstLight HomeCare Family Learning Center is free for family caregivers who provide home care for friends or loved ones.

  • Care Planning
  • Challenging Behaviors
  • Daily Care Skills
  • Elimination and Toileting
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Promoting and Maintaining Good Mobility
  • Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Family Learning Center courses focus on multi-generational family caregiving and are designed to be immediately available to families who need help, but don’t always know where to turn for information or support. The Family Learning Center makes it easy for family caregivers to always have a caregiving resource to turn to whenever they need it because it’s available online 24/7, accessed directly from the FirstLight HomeCare – South Sound website.

There aren’t a lot of resources available to family caregivers to make their challenges easier. We hope the Family Learning Center answers a lot of questions, provides some much-needed training and support and helps caregivers keep their loved ones more comfortable and remaining at home.

Sarah LaneSarah Lane


Sarah Lane is a certified Home Care Aide and owner of FirstLight HomeCare — South Sound.  To learn more about home care, respite care, dementia care, or any of the non-medical home care services offered by FirstLight HomeCare, give Sarah a call at 360-489-1621 or go to

High-Scoring Hawks Show Their Depth on the Court

Sat, 01/02/2016 - 6:00am


In the world of basketball 3 isn’t a magic number. It’s downright deadly – capable of trimming any deficit to a manageable figure or possessing the power to swing momentum from one team to the next. It can turn a tight game into a rout in a matter of moments.

steadman propertiesThe River Ridge High School boys basketball team knows this. The Hawks have thrived on it for years now.

If basketball was a religion, River Ridge’s squad would have converted to three-ism a long time ago. Their deity would be the divine Larry Bird or the sacred Stephen Curry.

Their cathedrals would reside approximately 20 feet away from any basket.

“I don’t want to say we live and die by the 3,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said, “but the 3 ball has definitely been there for us.”

river ridge basketballIssiah Scott (33), Kobe Key (11), Tre’vonne Dorfner (5) and LaBrandon Price (1) have the Hawks off to an 8-1 start this season.

That statement is perhaps more accurate this year than ever.

The Hawks go nine deep this year – and everyone seems to be capable of lighting it up from long range.

“I think we are all at that level,” said senior Issiah Scott. “You can’t really tell who the best (on the team) is because we can all shoot. Anyone on this team can go off for 20 (points) in a game.”

Scott is joined in the rotation with fellow seniors LaBrandon Price, Kobe Key, Mac Armstrong and Jaden White.

Throw in sharp-shooting junior guards Alex Coleman and Tre’vonne Dorfner and gifted forwards Kelle Sanders and Jordan Skipper-Brown and Barbee can pretty much mix-and-match any combination and regardless of which Hawks are out on the court, plenty of points will be put up on the scoreboard.

“I think 1 through 9 there’s not much of a drop off,” Barbee said. “It’s a nice problem to have. There’s not a lot of difference between our bench and our starters.”

Opening the season with an 8-1 record, River Ridge, the defending 2A South Puget Sound League champions, have scored 71 or more points in all eight victories and have surpassed 80 points twice.

river ridge basketballKelle Sanders (32) battles for a rebound.

The squad’s lone defeat came to 3A Auburn Riverside, 54-50, in a game the Hawks led after three quarters.

“One of the thing we try to do is be flexible to our personnel,” said Barbee, who guided River Ridge to a third-place finish at last year’s Class 2A state tournament. “We’ve been lucky with guys who are athletic and quick and use that to our advantage. The 3, transition steals and creating turnovers – that’s what we want – controlled chaos. That’s been our way of doing it and its fun for the kids to be a part of.”

Another aspect the players seem to enjoy is the fact Barbee provides each player the green light when it comes to offense.

“We want you to play defense because that’s what wins games, but if you’re an offensive-minded guy, catch that ball, spot up and shoot,” Barbee said. “Take a player like Jaden White, all we tell him to do is catch and shoot the ball and when you have a coach saying that, how can you not like it?”

Barbee certainly received no resistance from Scott on the offensive approach.

“I just went with it because I liked it so much,” said Scott, who scored a season-high 16 points in a season-opening 78-28 rout of Shelton. “I love it because that’s what I do best, catch and shoot.”

river ridge basketballIssiah Scott (33) hits a field goal during River Ridge’s 72-65 victory over Centralia.

And if you miss?

“Good shooters will keep shooting,” Barbee said. “They have short-term memories and they will come back and hit that next one. That’s what we try to tell our guys. Do what you do best.”

For this year’s Hawks, that list has a few items on it as it also includes an opportunistic swarming defense which can turn turnovers into points in no time.

“We have to go hard on defense and we have to finish,” Price said. “Defense will lead to easy offense.”

River Ridge equaled its best state placing in school history last year, ending the 2015 season by besting Squalicum, 72-50, for the third-place trophy – the program’s first state placing since 2009.

“I think we’re more together than we were last year,” said Price, whose 25 points helped the Hawks knock off league rival White River, 77-71 on December 15. “We’re more like a family this year.”

However, that does not mean there are any breaks given at practices.

“It’s real intense,” Price said. “Everybody is always going after each other because everyone wants to play better. Nobody really has that fixed spot (in the rotation) because everyone wants to play more.”

Ice Storm Proves No Match for Acme Fuel

Sat, 01/02/2016 - 6:00am


In January 2012 an arctic blast hit the Pacific Northwest, bringing freezing rain and record snowfalls followed by ice. Over 200,000 people lost power, everyone tried to stay off the roads and even Sea-Tac Airport shut down for a brief period.

Around the South Sound it was a good time to stay indoors and crank up the heat, if you were fortunate enough to still have power. For most of us it was inconvenient but not life-threatening, a chance to gather with neighbors for a candlelit game of cards or board games by the fire. But at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, the situation was more serious.

acme fuelThe staff of Acme Fuel didn’t let the ice storm of January 2012 keep them from providing propane to everyone who needed it, including Providence St. Peter Hospital.

On its main campus, the hospital had enough fuel stored for its backup generators. However, not all of its facilities are in the same place.  “Where we get into trouble is our outpatient surgery buildings and rehab building clinics. They have smaller generators and don’t have enough fuel to last for six days,” says Larry Wright, an electrician at the hospital. “Without power, we would have to call for support to evacuate the patients from the rehab clinic to the main hospital.”

Additionally, all of the outlying clinics would lose the medications that are stored in their pharmaceutical refrigerators. “The next day, we would have been turning away patients,” says Wright.

Fortunately, it never came to that as Acme Fuel kept Providence supplied with diesel throughout the storm.  “We were bringing loads of fuel to Providence St. Peter Hospital,” says Acme Vice President and General Manager Christophe Allen. Local Fred Meyer, Safeway and Lowe’s stores were also running off generators and Acme kept them going as well, along with regular private and commercial clients and plenty of customers they had never seen before.

acme fuelA new Acme Fuel truck has recently been put into service.

“We figured we couldn’t let these people be stranded. We had to take care of them,” says Allen. His team worked fifteen hour days, came in on a Saturday and stayed open for anyone who needed them.  “It was incredibly hectic but we did it,” he says. “I even hand delivered fuel to some of our auto refill customers that we couldn’t reach by truck. I went out there with ten gallons to dump in their tank to at least keep them going for a little while.”

At the office itself, lines of people waited to fill their smaller propane canisters to keep their barbecues and generators going. There were lines of cars at their Fast Fuel gas stations buying non-ethanol gas for home generators. Acme picked up many new customers during that storm, ones who had been unable to reach their regular fuel provider or told that they couldn’t be helped. “It was a good bump of business but I don’t want that to happen again,” says Allen, shaking his head.

Many of those emergency clients converted into regular customers, he says. “Usually when people give us a chance and we establish a relationship, they stick with us because they see that we’re fair in our pricing and we treat them well and take care of them. I just talked to a guy today who’s been with us since 1965. We have a ton of long-time customers.”

Beyond exceptional customer service, Acme supports the community in other ways. “We have a special fund here in the office. We call it Rick’s Fund for a driver who passed away in a house fire several years ago,” says Allen. “If there’s a customer who can’t afford to pay their bill and for whatever reason they can’t or won’t go to Community Action Council or Salvation Army, we’ll buy their fuel out of that account.”

acme fuelLocally owned, Acme Fuel has adopted a practice of reaching customers, no matter how tough the weather conditions may be.

At the company’s annual Christmas party, the staff brings food for the Thurston County Food Bank and toys for Toys for Tots. “On Monday after the party, I load up my vehicle with all the stuff and bring it to Salvation Army,” he says. “Every year they’re so happy.” Acme also supports other local organizations including the Providence St. Peter Foundation, South Puget Sound Community College, Community Youth Services, Olympia Downtown Association, and Olympia High School sports.

More recently, our community experienced another storm and again, Providence St. Peter Hospital faced the challenge of losing power. “We had a 12-hour power outage from a wind storm on a Sunday,” says Wright. “By 6:00 p.m. on Sunday night, Puget Sound Energy couldn’t tell us when the power would come back on. We didn’t have enough fuel to make it through the night.”

So he picked up the phone and called Acme. “Within 35 minutes, they were there,” he says. “I’ve always gotten that kind of support from them, whether it’s during ice storms or wind storms. I’ve been here for 16 years and dealing with Acme Fuel the whole time. You don’t leave a company that gives you that kind of support.”

For more information about Acme Fuel/Fast Fuel, visit or call 360-943-1133.


Low Temperatures Don’t Deter Polar Bear Plunge Participants

Fri, 01/01/2016 - 3:52pm


Crisp sunshine made the frost twinkle at Long Lake Park today.  Hundreds of people came out to participate in the City of Lacey Polar Bear Plunge, an annual tradition of jumping in the frosty waters on New Year’s Day.

Click to view slideshow.

16 Things To Do Around Thurston County in 2016

Fri, 01/01/2016 - 6:00am


It’s predicted that 2016 will be a strong year. The U.S. will elect a new president, a space hotel is slated to begin orbit, and if we have our way, the Seahawks will win another Super Bowl.

red lionIn Thurston County, 2016 can prove to be just as dynamic. Think of this list of 16 things to do in the New Year less as a list of resolutions and more as a source for inspiration. And if you have any ideas to add, please drop us a note at

  1. Treasure hunt – Geocaching is becoming a national pastime. There are nearly 300 geocaches in the Olympia area alone. Find and leave weird stuff like Pokémon cards and pacifiers, and get to know Thurston County that much better as you follow clues and look in never-before-seen places.
  2. Geocaching is a great family activity, anytime of the year.Geocaching is a great family activity, anytime of the year.

    Kayak the sound – Gliding across Budd Inlet is an event everyone should do at least once. Even the thought of kayaking is rejuvenating and inspiring. Case in point, I shall write a kayaking haiku: A breath of fresh air. Where old and young are the same. We float without fins.

  3. Volunteer – There are more than 1,800 nonprofit organizations in Thurston County. From planting trees to helping kittens, there are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand. Browse our archive of nonprofit stories to learn more about your local organizations and choose the one that’s right for you.
  4. Take in an aerialist performance – Flying ladies and gents, unfurling fabric, and always a moment of surprise, The Brotherhood Takes Flight is a free show the first Wednesday of every month. Get there early for a good seat, and take a friend; they’ll want to witness it too.
  5. Float (or paddleboard or tube) the Deschutes River – No matter your vessel, enjoy a 2-hour cruise from Pioneer Park to Tumwater Falls Park and discover the splendor of scenic trees, river bends, and the occasional trout angler.
  6. olympia food-copGet to know your veggies through a cooking class at Olympia Food Co-op.

    Take a cooking class – Understand edible weeds, brew a winter soup, perfect a pie crust, create a sourdough starter, brew kombucha, and upgrade your vegetable recipes with classes at the Olympia Food Co-op.

  7. Take a nap – Seriously, carve out some time to lie around. Especially when it’s summer and there are dozens of nearby parks to spread out a quilt. Pack a picnic and a solo cup of wine, and just chillax.
  8. Tour the Capitol – This activity is not just for tourists. Did you know the Legislative Building is comprised of more than 173 million pounds of stone, brick, concrete and steel, is the fifth-tallest masonry dome in the world, and has the largest array of solar panels on a capitol in the United States? Free guided public tours of are offered seven days a week.
  9. Get diggy with it – Check out this list of public shellfishing beaches in Thurston County and harvest fresh clams, oysters, or even seaweed from your own backyard. There are approximately 144 tides each year that produce water levels of two feet or lower, the ideal time to dig. Check with Washington State Fish and Wildlife website for updates and tips.
  10. Brew your own beer – The next beer brewing class at Cascadia Homebrew is January 16. Mmm, and it’s Belgian. Classes are great for the experienced or novice brewer, and of course, you get to take home the goods. It’s also a fun idea for groups and special occasions.
  11. winter bird watchingA Great Horned Owl and Owlet perch on a tree. Photo credit: Michael Schramm.

    Bird watch – Print out this checklist of Thurston County birds if you really want to get into it, otherwise, a quiet walk Wednesday mornings at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge with area experts can be all you need to scope out our feathered friends.

  12. Party in the street – Arts Walk, the quintessential Olympia event happens twice a year, where the streets, shops, galleries, and venues of downtown swell with people enjoying the creativity of our residents.
  13. Join a gun club – Located inside T Brothers Liquor Lodge, Glacier Gun Club is the area’s newest shooting range. Liquor discounts and a swanky lounge are part of the perks. It’s members only though, so only avid shooters need apply.
  14. Hit the trails – Specifically, try your hand at mountain biking. I’d suggest following Friends of Capitol Forest on Facebook to get the scoop on the best trails and group activities. There are trails from beginner to expert, and the lush terrain and stellar views are some of the best around.
  15. The historic Capitol Theater hosts many shows throughout the year.The historic Capitol Theater hosts many shows throughout the year.

    Watch Star Wars the Force Awakens or any movie for that matter – Thurston County has three theaters to choose from – Regal, Capitol, and Century. Go on, use the force and expand your cinematic horizons.

  16. Flex and sweat – Finding time for yoga is always a good idea. How about kick it up a notch and get into hot yoga? 100 degrees is the average temp, guaranteeing a healthy sweat and more pliable muscles.  Find information on local yoga studios.

As the old year sheds its well-worn skin and 2016 brings promises of new beginnings, strengthened traditions, and infinite possibilities, we hope these 16 activities inspire you to explore our big and beautiful Thurston County.

Sweet Sixteen: 16 Outdoor Adventures for 2016 Around The South Sound

Fri, 01/01/2016 - 6:00am


Living in the Pacific Northwest, we have an opportunity in 2016 to have the greatest wilderness and nature experiences, all just a short drive around the South Puget Sound.

oly ortho logoEach year, we look ahead, hoping that the New Year will bring us good fortune and amazing adventures. Instead of waiting for something good to happen, make 2016 the year of wilderness, the year of nature and the year of exploring outside. With thousands of miles of trails, numerous state and national park, wildlife refuges and natural wonders to explore, you and your family have endless possibilities to head outdoors every weekend this year.

As a local outdoor expert, I can confirm that these 16 awesome family-friendly adventures are sure to make 2016 one of the greatest years in Nature.

Travel to Paradise for Snow and Sun  Kim Merriman.Photo credit: Kim Merriman.

Paradise is only two hours from downtown Olympia is a must-see experience in every season. In the summer, the Paradise region of Mount Rainier National Park is a hiker’s daydream location. With stunning views of the mountain, including access to waterfalls, lakes and glaciers, a trip to paradise is always worth the trip. In the snowy months, Paradise is perfect for witnessing feet of snow from snowshoes or on your sleds. Just make sure to check the conditions before you head up.

Hike the Family-Friendly Ohanapecosh Trails Photo Credit Chris Hamilton Photo Credit Chris Hamilton

Another overlooked gem in Mount Rainier National Park is the Ohanapecosh region. Greeting visitors with a suspension bridge, a loop hike and access to one of the prettiest drives in the state of Washington, this seasonally open region is sure to become a family favorite after just one visit. A visit on hot summer days will let you cool off in groves of ancient timber along a stunning, glacier-fed river; not bad for a short drive. Be aware that the area is only open during the snow-free months.

Hike and Climb Around Olympic’s Staircase olympia hikingHead into the Olympics to experience the Staircase Loop. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Olympic National Park is the most visited National Park in the Pacific Northwest, and the Staircase Region is the fastest growing. Staircase is the perfect local getaway in the wilderness of Olympic, and is only 90 minutes from Olympia. Once at Staircase, you can choose between easy, yet stunning loop hikes, remote and gorgeous mountain climbing, jaw-dropping overnight trips and access to hundreds of miles of wilderness all around Olympic National Park. You do not want to skip this Hood Canal masterpiece. Looking for something more difficult or remote? Discover everything there is to know about Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula.

Adventure Around Hood Canal’s Waterfalls hood canal hikesFamily-friendly and dog-friendly, Murhut Falls gives impressive views to Hood Canal hikers.

Water is what makes life so amazing in the Pacific Northwest, and nowhere is that more evident than on the Olympic Peninsula. Up and down the Hood Canal, which is just a few hours drive from Olympia, waterfalls pour off cliffs along every stream and river. There are dozens of beautiful falls around, but nine waterfalls are so stunning, they should be seen monthly. While best after heavy rains, the waterfalls of Hood Canal also serves as great places to cool off in the summer heat.

Enjoy the Dizzying Heights of the High Steel Bridge high steel bridge sheltonVisitors take in the view from the High Steel Bridge, located 420 feet up in the air.

Mason County has many attractions, but one of the easiest to get to is the High Steel Bridge along the South Fork of the Skokomish River. Standing 420 feet above the river, the High Steel Bridge is amazing for pictures, and to take in the splendor of the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. With other areas close-by to explore, the High Steel bridge can be the first stop to an amazing day along the Hood Canal.

Watch Salmon Migrate Through Olympia olympia salmon migrationPhoto credit: Douglas Scott.

Every fall, Olympia becomes one of the best spots in the Pacific Northwest to watch salmon returning to spawn. As the salmon wait to return to the Deschutes River, they congregate by the dam that forms Capitol Lake, giving an excellent vantage point to see thousands of salmon swimming amongst jellyfish and seals. In October, visit Tumwater Falls and see them swimming up the fish ladder.

Paddle to Hope Island The beauty of the Puget Sound, as seen from Hope Island State Park. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Parks Foundation.The beauty of the Puget Sound, as seen from Hope Island State Park. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Parks Foundation.

For those looking for the ultimate kayaking adventure, look no farther than a kayaking camping trip to Hope Island State Park in the South Puget Sound. Accessible only by boat, Hope Island State Park is a short paddle from either Boston Harbor or the Arcadia Point Boat Launch. Once you arrive at Hope Island, enjoy one of the eight campsites and 3.5 miles of beach and forest hiking.

Kayak at Boston Harbor burfoot parkYear round, the views of the Olympic Mountains are stunning from Burfoot Park. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

If you haven’t paddled the waters of the Puget Sound, make 2016 the year you check that off your list. Just north of Olympia, Boston Harbor is waiting for you to explore in canoes or kayaks. With boat rentals available from the Boston Harbor Marina, you can quickly be out with the seals under the shadow of the snowy Olympic Mountains. Paddle to Burfoot, Hope Island or all the way to Priest Point Park for amazing views.

Climb Mount Ellinor Climbing Mount Ellinor is a great adventure with expansive views.Climbing Mount Ellinor is a great adventure with expansive views.

Everyone should climb Mount Ellinor. Sure it is steep and a bit tiring, but the panoramic views in every direction are worth every drop of sweat and labored breath. Just 90 minutes from Olympia, Mount Ellinor offers the best views of any easy to a access mountain in the Pacific Northwest. While Ellinor can be climbed in the winter, it is best to wait until August to summit this spectacular Olympic Mountain peak.

Watch Wildlife at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge nisqually wildlife refugeThe Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge hosts weekly walks at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings. Photo credit: Douglas Scott

Along the Nisqually Estuary, just a few miles north of Lacey, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is one of the greatest places to birdwatch and explore the marshlands of the Puget Sound. With over five miles of trails, each offering unique and stunning views, you should visit Nisqually a few times in 2016. Pro tip: If you want to see amazing wildlife with the experts, participate in a Wednesday Morning Walk and see all the migratory and local birds.

Spend a Day at Burfoot Park burfoot parkBurfoot is home to a fantastic view of Puget Sound. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Just a few miles north of olympia, Burfoot County Park is the perfect place to find solitude during the rain, or enjoy the beaches of Budd Inlet on a toasty summer day. Giving fantastic views of Olympia and the Olympic Mountains, Burfoot Park also lets you hike miles of trails through fern-filled forests and shell-clad beaches. Perfect for families, dogs, and a day on the Puget Sound, Burfoot Park has been part of the Olympia experience for 40 years.

Hike and View Wildlife at McLane Creek Kids of all ages love to explore the McLane Creek Nature Trail.Kids of all ages love to explore the McLane Creek Nature Trail.

Ten miles from Olympia’s core, McLane Creek provides an amazing getaway any month of the year. With salmon in the fall, migrating geese and ducks in the winter and spring, and salamanders and frogs in the summer months, nature and wildlife is around every corner. The absolute best time to explore McLane Creek is during late October and November, as the spawning salmon return to this small creek. Watch them jump, spawn and slowly rot, all from boardwalks and well-maintained trails.

Walk the Loop at Tumwater Falls After a Storm tumwater fallsTumwater Falls rages during flood stage. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

After heavy spring and fall rainstorms, the normally peaceful Tumwater Falls Park becomes a raging torrent of water. As the Deschutes River floods, the torrential pace of the river picks up along the narrow, rocky canyons of Tumwater Falls Park. The river swells, creating a stunning display of force along the entire pathway. Make sure you check out both the upper and lower falls for an amazing experience!

Road Trip to Olympic’s Wilderness Coast murhut fallsEnjoy Murhut Falls near the Duckabush River. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

You may see friends, family and coworkers planning trips to the Oregon Coast for 2016, but resist the urge. Instead of heading south, head northwest and explore the best stretches of wilderness coast in America. With seven stunning beaches to choose from, the coastal region of the Olympic National Park can be a perfect day trip or weeklong camping extravaganza.

Become a Spelunker in The Ape Caves ape cavesTrekkers visit the trails inside the Ape Caves near Mount Saint Helens. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Two hours southeast of Olympia, in the southern cascades, one of the coolest and most unique experiences in the Pacific Northwest is waiting for your adventurous spirit. In the shadow of the Mount Saint Helens crater, the Ape Caves are the longest lava tubes in the continental United States, at over two miles in length. During a hot summer day, there is no better place to be, as the temperature remains at a chilly 42 degrees.

Explore Millersylvania State Park washington state parksAlong with many other amenities, 8.6 miles of hiking trails travel through Millersylvania State Park.

Just a few miles south of Olympia, Millersylvania State Park offers hiking, camping and swimming experiences unlike anywhere else in Thurston County. Offering 7.6 miles of bike trails and 8.6 miles of hiking trails, Millersylvania should be your go to destination when you need to escape the city and work week. With 168 camping spots, enjoy a staycation in the natural beauty of our state parks.

Olympia New Year’s Weekend Event Calendar

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 7:40am


Goodbye 2015.  Hello 2016.
ThurstonTalk wishes our readers a happy, prosperous, and exceptional New Year.

infernos pizzaHere’s what is going on around town this weekend.

Submit an event for our calendar here.

ThurstonTalk aims to be your source for positive information and events happening in Olympia. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, visit our events calendar.

*Photo credit: Lance Slosson.

Kids Improve Reading Skills with a Visit from Shelby

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 6:00am


Loren Kattenbraker is eight and has just landed her first assistant position. Today, she is visiting the Olympia branch of the Timberland Library with her father Steve Kattenbraker. The third grader is planning to read to Shelby, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever who is part of a volunteer team called PAWS to R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs). The program gives local children a chance to read out loud to a very attentive and nonjudgmental listener. Avid and beginning readers are attracted to attending these events.

greene realtyPAWS to R.E.A.D. was co-founded by Brenda Wendler and Cheryl King in 2004. It is a community outreach program that provides children with a motivational, educational, and fun literary experience. Volunteers, dogs and their owners are certified by The Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs Inc. program. This human and dog certification program focuses on the dog’s temperament, response to distractions, and their interaction with people. The result is a relaxed and fun environment where children look forward to reading to the dogs.

dog readingOwner Cherly King and Shelby wear matching vests at reading events.

Cheryl her husband, Dennis, started volunteering in the community 20 years ago, first with their dog Snarf, and for the last 10 years with Shelby.

“Loren asked us if she could help out with our program,” says Cheryl. “She is a great assistant.”

“After attending two or three PAWS to R.E.A.D. events at different libraries, I wanted to help,” Loren explains. “The last time was my first time as a helper. I bring the kids to the dogs. The kids are about the same age as I am.”

Loren’s father helps as well and adds, “We also talk to the dogs, pet the dogs, and keep them occupied in between children. Loren and I also volunteer together at a local food bank.”

reading dog libraryLoren Kattenbraker reads to Shelby.

Loren attended her first PAWS to R.E.A.D. program about two years ago. When asked if she reads to her own dogs, Loren says, “I’ve got a terrier mix and a border collie. Sometimes I read to them, but sometimes the collie is annoying. She kind of like falls asleep, but that is not a big problem, but she snores in her sleep. I was trying to read to her once and she closed the book.” Loren likes to read a series called The Puppy Place, by Ellen Miles.

”The main thing about this program is the kids love it,” says Mary Rulewiez, Senior Youth Services Librarian at Olympia Timberland Library. “We always have a packed room. King and her group are completely organized. They do everything. We just provide the books for the kids to read to the dogs.”

“The dogs are the most loveable, adorable, well-behaved dogs,” continues Mary. “The children are completely enraptured by them and they really feel like they are reading to the dogs, and that the dogs are listening and enjoying the story.”

“We often have them come for one of our district wide events during the month which celebrates reading aloud together. We have been doing this for many, many years, and PAWS to R.E.A.D. has never waned in popularity. The kids love it,” adds Mary.

dog reading libraryLoren Kattenbraker pets Shelby while PAWS to Read program coordinator Cherly King explains the program.

“Children find reading to an animal less intimidating,” says Cheryl. “It is a special time for them that is helpful and fun. There was a student who could read well, every word, but he wasn’t able to tell you what he had just read about. His mother told us she had tried everything to get him to slow down. When he started to read to Shelby, he began explaining the story to the dog. He told Shelby what different words in the book meant. His mother told us this was very helpful.

“The PAWs to R.E.A.D. events are especially helpful for children who are uncomfortable reading out loud in front of others. One mother told us that her daughter would not read out loud. After attending our program, her daughter does,” explains Cheryl.

“There was one little boy who followed us from place to place. His mother recognized how much her son was improving and drove him around the area from library to library to attend our events,” says Cheryl. “She told us that he was the most improved reader at his school.”

“Shelby used to perform on a stage in front of an audience of 75 or so children,” offers Dennis. “She can answer questions with her barks. For example, I ask her, ‘How many Great Lakes are there, Shelby?’ Shelby will bark five times. ‘How many legs do you have?’ Shelby will bark four times.”

Dennis turns to Shelby and asks, “Can you say Merry Christmas?”

“Bark bark, Bark bark.” answers Shelby

There are 17 teams in the local organization. Events are held in libraries of the Timberland Regional Library system, North Thurston Public Schools, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and at the Hands On Children’s Museum

Thrifty Thurston Watches Winter Bird Action at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 6:00am


Winter in the Pacific Northwest isn’t traditionally viewed as a time when we go out into nature and explore, nor is it associated with the resurgence of life and the hustle of activity. The grey skies and downpours give us an excuse to grab a book, put on a movie and relax during the short, cold days.

Capitol City Honda sponsorWhile we retreat indoors, however, the estuary of the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge comes alive. Once the seasons change and the wind blows away all the leaves from the trees, thousands of birds migrate to the refuge, and dozens of bald eagles line the shores of the river, feasting on salmon. If you haven’t seen Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in the winter, you really haven’t see the refuge at its best.

Michael Schramm is the Visitor Service Specialist and a Ranger at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Chances are, if you follow Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on Facebook, you have seen his stunning and gorgeous pictures from around the areas. He is often at the refuge, either alone or with his children, watching the wonders of nature and wilderness through their eyes. Ranger Michael was nice enough to talk to us about winter at Nisqually and offered a few tips to best enjoy one of Washington’s most gorgeous wildlife refuges. 

winter bird watchingRed-tailed hawks are commonly seen at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Michael Schramm.

“Winter is arguably the best time to come to Nisqually,” explains Schramm. “There are no crowds and the leaves are off the trees; you will have great visibility and you will see more wildlife like eagles, owls and waterfowl.”

No matter what the season or how many times you have been there, the best place to get started when visiting the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is at the visitor center. Staffed with volunteers, the visitor center staff can typically answer any question, as well as provide you with updates on where to view your favorite animals and birds. While they can get really busy during the more crowded summer months, a visit in the off-season will make you a birding expert in no time at all.

If you want the best experience birding and watching wildlife during the winter, attend one of the Wednesday Morning Bird Walks put on by the Refuge. If you’d rather go solo, arrive an hour or so before high tide. As the tide waters rise over the mud, the birds will become more active and continue their activity until an hour or so after high tide. With the influx of birds and salmon, you won’t want to miss it.

winter bird watchingA Great Horned Owl and Owlet perch on a tree. Photo credit: Michael Schramm.

In the winter months, approximately 4,000 – 6,000 wintering geese and waterfowl can be seen in wetlands, pastures, and estuary habitats that make up the Nisqually Refuge. During the winter months, the presence of waterfowl is impossible to miss. As the returning wetlands become flooded by high tides and heavy rains, wildlife is around every corner. Winter also happens to be the peak of chum salmon in Nisqually River, which can be seen all over the refuge, including the Estuary Boardwalk Trail that re-opens at the end of January.

With huge flocks of geese and ducks in the ponds and flying overhead, and eagles chattering and soaring, it is hard to think winter at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge could get much better. On top of the peregrine falcons that soar and swoop to catch smaller shorebirds, Nisqually attracts visitors for yet another avian beauty. Each winter, birders across the region are drawn to Nisqually, not just to see the eagles and waterfowl, but to see the newest great horned owls. Normally, the owls aren’t spotted in their nesting areas until January or so, but as of December 2015 they are nesting and visible.

winter bird watchingA beautiful reflection greats winter visitors at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Michael Schramm.

“The nest site is already found and visible for the great-horned owls,” tells Ranger Schramm. “The owls typically lay eggs at Thanksgiving and this year have nested in a tree that they have used three of the last five years. During one of the storms, the tree half broke away, completely exposing the nesting site.”

Because the owls will be so visible, the refuge is expecting a lot of photographers and possible crowds to all try and take a look at the baby owls. This is as good of time as any to remind everyone about how best to visit Nisqually. Remember, this isn’t a park; it is a refuge. The trails at Nisqually are not recreation-based, and the focus is and always will be about nature and wildlife. The unofficial goal of the refuge, as Ranger Michael Schramm told us, is to create a “Noah’s Ark for Wildlife.” With proper behavior, quiet voices and an appreciation of wilderness, we can ensure that Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the wildlife that visit and live here will always call the place home.

winter bird watchingA Great Horned Owl mother looks over its nest. Photo credit: Michael Schramm.

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in any season is gorgeous and worth the trip. With owls, geese, ducks and eagles to be seen, as well as stunning views of Mount Rainier, the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains, there is something special about visiting in the winter. This year, enjoy sharing Nisqually with your friends and family; there is nothing as amazing as seeing someone enjoy wildlife for the first time, right in our own backyard refuge.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia and the surrounding area, click here.

Take a Vacation, Courtesy of Evergreen Direct Credit Union

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 6:00am


“A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking,” said journalist Earl Wilson. When finances get you down, try visiting Olympia’s Evergreen Direct Credit Union for some sound advice…and a free trip.

evergreen direct credit unionMascot Rocky and Evergreen Direct team members Renee and Windi love sponsoring community events and meeting friends and neighbors. Photo courtesy: Evergreen Direct Credit Union.

Open to members who live, work, study, or worship in Washington State (or are related to a current member), Evergreen Direct has been a vital part of our community for more than 60 years. As such, they want to give you the gift of the Evergreen State when you sign up for a personal, home equity, auto loan, or line of credit.

With every new $10,000 loan, borrowers receive a $300 Vacation Certificate good for trips booked through Get Away Today. Buying a new (or new-to-you) car? Use it to tour all our region has to offer. Opening a home equity line of credit to re-do your kitchen? Let the contractors work while you ski, hike, or surf away the construction mess.

The application process is quick and easy; apply for loans in person, by phone, or even online. Web-based financial calculators can make confusing decisions much simpler. Unsure whether to buy versus lease your next car or how much personal loan payments vary by the loan’s length? Use these tools to break down costs or adjust specifics to see how your monthly payment shifts.

evergreen direct credit unionA sea of bright Evergreen Direct tote bags can be found at the Lacey Spring Fun Fair, Capital Food and Wine Festival, and Cabela’s Military Family Appreciation Day.

While discussing your loan options, ask about Evergreen Direct’s TAKE 2 plan. This allows borrowers to skip two monthly payments each year by averaging that amount into the remaining 10 payments. There is no fee for this program and the interest rate is the same as traditional loans.

Washingtonian’s can join Evergreen Direct online or by calling 360-943-7676. Evergreen Direct Credit Union is owned by each and every member that we serve. It’s no surprise our sole focus is to provide quality, flexible services to our members at a reasonable price. Something we call ‘Banking. At your speed.’”

EDCU strives to educate consumers about programs, offerings, and market research on their Facebook page by posting up to four times each day. Their Refer a Friend program rewards new and existing members and their Visa PERKS rewards cardholders.

evergreen direct credit unionEvergreen Direct staffer Travis hands out freebies and helps answer questions at events across town. Photo courtesy: Evergreen Direct Credit Union.

Coming in the spring, the credit union will launch a bike loan program and new youth banking options. The youth package is geared towards students from junior high through college and includes checking accounts and small loans to cover the costs of music or sports camps. explains that “people all over the world belong to credit unions, including over 98 million members in the United States. Because credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, their focus is serving the financial needs of their members and not making a profit. On the whole, credit unions typically offer higher rates on savings, fewer fees, and lower rates on loans.”

Evergreen Direct exemplifies this as part of the nationwide shared branching network. This allows members to use more than 4,000 credit union facilities across the country. Locally, their offices are located at 1018 E. Union in Olympia and 6101 Capitol Boulevard in Tumwater.

No matter your lending needs, reach out to the team at Evergreen Direct first. Their experience and community focus mean you and your money are in good hands.

Teri Simpson – Yelm Disaster Volunteer Wins New Roof

Thu, 12/31/2015 - 5:59am


Teri Simpson was volunteering as a Washington State Disaster Reservist, helping the victims of the Oso mudslide get assistance from FEMA, when she got a call from her hometown of Yelm. “The lady watching my cat said that the globe around my kitchen ceiling light was full of water and she was afraid to touch it,” says Simpson. “A friend came over and caulked the skylight on the roof to stop the leak.”

Ronelle Funk Allstate LogoAfter 25 years, Simpson’s roof was falling apart. “It was put on in 1990 and the shingles were just plain shot,” she says. The biggest problem was leaks around her five skylights, with water running down, damaging and staining the sheetrock. “I just desperately needed a new roof and I didn’t have the money for one,” she says.

After returning from working as a Disaster Reservist for four months, she continued to watch her roof deteriorate without any plan in place for how to fund a new one. “I could see going to the Red Wind Casino and maybe getting really lucky or buying a scratch ticket, but never in my wildest dreams did I think you could win a new roof in a contest,” she says.

teri simpsonTeri Simpson volunteers as a Washington State Disaster Reservist for catastrophes like the Oso Landslide.

Then on October 12, Teri happened upon Evening Magazine after her regular television show was replaced by Monday Night Football. “There was nothing on except Evening Magazine and I decided to watch because it covers upbeat, positive stories about the Pacific Northwest,” she says.

To her amazement, one of the stories featured a couple in Wenatchee who had been in a situation similar to her own. “They have these cute little cabins they rent where you can get away from it all, and there’s not even cell phone reception,” she says. “The cabins were kept in tip top shape, but the problem was they had no money left to fix the roof of their own home. They had won last year’s ‘Home for the Holidays’ contest, which meant a free, water-tight, brand new roof.”

Simpson found the contest rules for this year’s contest on KING 5’s website and discovered that the deadline to enter was two days away, on October 14. “I didn’t talk to anyone about the contest, but I was really focused on being one of the three finalists”, she says.

king 5 roof contestBefore winning a new roof, Teri Simpson did the best she could to keep water out of her house.

On October 30, she got an email identifying her as one of the finalists. The next day she began emailing all of her friends, encouraging them to vote for her throughout November. “Friends with large mailing lists sent the message out to everybody,” she says. “Halfway through the month I sent out another message to say ‘please keep voting.’ The response was nothing short of amazing.”

By 11:00 p.m. on November 30, Simpson was 501 votes ahead of the nearest finalist. She waited eagerly by the phone on December 1, certain that she was the winner. “They were specific that if you didn’t take their call they would go to the second person,” she says. “I waited, but they didn’t call me all day. Finally I called them on December 2. Apparently the person who was supposed to call me had been in a training for two days but when he returned my call, he confirmed that yes, I was the official winner.”

king 5 roof contestAfter 25 years, Teri Simpson’s roof was leaking in multiple locations, particularly around skylights.

Still, none of it seemed real until the roofing crew actually showed up at her home.  “When I was sitting in the house and there were all manner of men tromping and stomping around up on my roof, that’s when I knew it was really happening,” she says.

The team that worked on her roof was happy to help someone who had done so much to support others. “I thought that was pretty amazing, actually, somebody that could take time from their lives and go out and help somebody like that,” says Rainier View Construction and Roofing project manager Chris Rocco. “Rainier View feels the same way. When we can help people out like that it makes us feel really good.”

As a Disaster Reservist, Simpson spent two months living in a hotel in Everett, working eleven hours a day, six days a week. She then spent another two months commuting up to the Washington State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray. “I helped with doing the case processing for the victims of the disaster who had registered with FEMA for assistance. I was one of several Disaster Reservists who spoke with each of the victims of the disaster, helping them with the paperwork so that they could get as much assistance as possible,” she says. “Almost everyone had either lost someone or knew someone who perished in the slide. Everybody knew everybody up there. Normally in these situations we work seven days a week, but because of the catastrophic nature of this disaster, they made us take one day off a week.”

king 5 roof contestIn December Rainier View Construction and Roofing installed a brand new roof on Teri’s house.

Simpson volunteers as both an Initial Damage Assessment Coordinator when reports come in immediately after a disaster and as a case processor. “Everyone who is affected in a disaster registers with FEMA for assistance. And as you would expect, there are rules and procedures which have to be followed. But when you’ve just survived a disaster it can be a bit confusing, so we call all of these people and make sure they’ve done all the steps and all the necessary paperwork so they can get as much assistance as possible,” she says.

Back home in Yelm, she contends that the roof experience has taught her about acceptance. “Help, or what you need, can come from completely unimaginable places,” she says. “Whatever you ask God for, God gives you better than what you asked for. We just have to ask for what we need, and then let God figure out the details.”

11 Thurston County Teens Graduate from Washington Youth Academy

Wed, 12/30/2015 - 12:28pm


Submitted by Washington Youth Academy

Eleven students from Thurston County were among the record 152 cadets, who graduated from the Washington Youth Academy on December 19 – more cadets than any previous class in the history of the Academy, established in Bremerton in 2009.

Eleven Thurston County teens graduated from Washington Youth Academy on December 19, including Brandon Manley of Yelm High School.Eleven Thurston County teens graduated from Washington Youth Academy on December 19, including Brandon Manley of Yelm High School.

Cadets from each corner of the state attend the free residential school, geared at teaching teens discipline and helping them recover credits so they can go back to high school and earn a diploma or seek an alternative path to finish their high school education, such as a GED or by joining Running Start.

Cadets include: From Rochester, Alec Frazier and Nathan Jones of Rochester High School; from Yelm, Chase Capoeman of Insight School of Washington and Brandon Manley of Yelm High School; from Lacey, David Gaston, Omar Hok, Dalton Oliver, Dalton Penberthy, all of River Ridge High School; from Olympia, Dominic Petrozzi of Olympia High School and Tyler Roberts of River Ridge High School; and from Tumwater, Treshon White-Hayes of Timberline High School.

There were actually more cadets that went through the commencement ceremonies than actual beds in the bunkers with 50 beds in each of the three platoons, prompting cots to be setup in the hallway for the entire 5-and-a-half-month cycle.

Cadet David Gaston of Lacey marches during a drill ceremony at the Washington Youth Academy in Bremerton.Cadet David Gaston of Lacey marches during a drill ceremony at the Washington Youth Academy in Bremerton.

Youth Academy Director Larry Pierce credited the high retention rate to a robust application and interview process helping find strong candidates for the program, as well as a healthy, two-week acclimation period, where candidates can get more of a feel for the strict discipline needed for the voluntary program and decides it’s not for them.

“This is our 14th class and our largest one to date,” Pierce said, adding that the Washington Youth Academy has achieved “one of the top graduating rates in the nation.”

“The cadets became teammates and they changed together and prevailed together and they’re here today and as proof of that, they’ll walk across the stage and commence from the youth academy back to their home lives.”

The highest number of credits possible for the 22-week session is 8 credits. Comparatively, a full year of high school is 6 credits. Remarkably, 133 students earned all 8 credits. Before students entered the Academy, the test of Adult Basic Education put the students’ grade level at 6.7 – not quite 7th Grade. Near the end, a new test showed the average grade level for students at 9.2 for a gain of 2.5 grade in just 22 weeks. Only seven cadets began the program with enough credits to be classified as Seniors but 102 completed the program with Senior classification.

Students had an average GPA for Academy courses of 3.4, which is B+.

All of the cadets also received Community Emergency Response Training, which will help them and their communities help during disasters. Cadets also donated 7,992 hours of community service to the local area.

Alec Frazier of Rochester shakes the hand of Major General Bret D. Daugherty of the Washington National Guard during commencement proceedings on December 19.Alec Frazier of Rochester shakes the hand of Major General Bret D. Daugherty of the Washington National Guard during commencement proceedings on December 19.

“I’d offer you a challenge: Take the lessons you’ve learned here and apply them back in your community,” Congressman Derek Kilmer told the cadets at commencement. “Take the leadership skills you’ve learned and be a positive influence in the lives of your friends, your family, your school and your community.”

The mission of the Washington Youth Academy is to provide a highly disciplined, safe and professional learning environment that empowers at-risk youth to improve their educational levels and employment potential and become responsible and productive citizens of the State of Washington. The Washington Youth Academy is a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Established under authority of both federal and state law, the WYA is a state-run residential and post-residential intervention program for youth who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out.

The next class starts on January 16, 2016. Applications are still being accepted for female candidates. Applications for male candidates will likely be wait listed until the cycle after that starts in July. Learn more about the program online and watch a four-part documentary on YouTube.

Saint Martin’s University to Hold “Red Out” for Annual #PackThePavilion Night

Wed, 12/30/2015 - 7:04am


Red is the color of choice when Saint Martin’s University’s women’s basketball team hosts Great Northwest Athletic Conference rival Western Washington University on Wednesday, January 13.

“Our fans, students and staff look forward to this game each year as it provides the opportunity for us to showcase our team and the enthusiasm of our student body,” said SMU Director of Athletics Bob Grisham who encourages all fans to wear red to show support for the university’s annual “Pack the Pavilion.”

saint martins basketballFill the Marcus Pavilion with red during Saint Martin’s University #PackThePavilion on January 13.

Saint Martin’s University alumni are invited to attend a pre-game reception with appetizers and drinks. The event will also have a student pep rally before the game and a pre-game tailgate for both adults and students.

“It’s a great opportunity for the institution and the program to get some exposure,” said head women’s basketball coach Tim Healy, who is in his 23rd season with the Saints. “I think it’s fun for our players and our fans.”

The family friendly atmosphere creates a great opportunity for area high school and middle school students to watch college-level basketball. To add to the atmosphere, the Tenino High School marching band is scheduled to play.

SMU Women’s Basketball

saint martins basketballThe Saints, who are led by senior Krista Stabler (10), will have their January 13 game against Western Washington University broadcast on ROOT SPORTS. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University.

The young Saints team features just two seniors – guard Krista Stabler and forward Megan Wiedeman – on this year’s roster and eight underclassmen (five freshman and three sophomores).

Through the first nine games this season, Stabler, who scored a career-high 38 points in a 75-71 victory over Western Oregon on December 5, is averaging a GNAC-best 18.6 points per contest, while Wiedeman is leading the conference in rebounding with a 10.9 boards per game average.

SMU is off to a 3-6 start to the season with a 1-1 mark in GNAC play. The team closes out 2015 with a road game in Nampa, Idaho against Northwest Nazarene University on December 31.

The Saints will then travel to Ellensburg to open 2016 against Central Washington University on January 2.

A home date against Seattle Pacific University on January 5 and a road game at Montana State University – Billings on January 7 follow, before SMU welcomes Western.

The Vikings have won 16 consecutive games in the series and hold a 64-10 advantage all-time over the Saint. SMU’s last victory over Western came on January 26, 2008 when the Saints held the Vikings to their lowest point total in 31 years. The Saints routed Western in a 54-37 triumph in Lacey.

Televised SMU Basketball

The women’s game against WWU is one of five GNAC games televised on ROOT SPORTS. The five-game series begins with the Saint Martin’s University men’s team against Western Oregon at 9:00 p.m. on January 9 in Monmouth, Oregon.

An additional three GNAC games will be broadcast on January 23, February 11 and February 20.

saint martins universitySaint Martin’s University students and alumni are invited to attend pre-game receptions. Photo courtesy: Saint Martin’s University.

The #PackthePavilion game, hosted at Marcus Pavilion on January 13, starts at 8:00 p.m. and will be televised live on ROOT SPORTS. Fans are also being asked to help get the word out on social media by using the hashtags #PackThePavilion and #SaintsAlive on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Tickets are available by calling 360-438-4305. General admission tickets can be purchased at the door in a 2-for-1 deal or you can purchase a reserved seat.

Visit and click on ‘Channel Finder’ for channel listings on all television service providers.

The GNAC postseason basketball tournament, which will be held March 3-5 at Saint Martin’s University, will have both the men and women’s championship games televised live national as part of the Division II Basketball National Showcase on the American Sports Network. Tip offs are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. for the men’s game and 7:30 p.m. for the women’s championship.

For more information about #PackThePavilion, please visit the Saints Athletics website.

ThurstonTalk Writers Pick Favorite Stories From 2015

Wed, 12/30/2015 - 6:00am


At the end of each year, ThurstonTalk writers have formed a tradition of looking back on the stories that we have published.  Each writer picks a favorite article and shares a few sentences about why the article was impactful.  Over the past 12 months, has published more than 1,750 positive stories about what it’s like to live, work, and play in Thurston County.  Thank you, readers, for being a vital part of our success.

Grant Clark

My favorite article in 2015 was on North Thurston football player Michael Crook. The story isn’t about championships or statistics, it’s just about an extremely likable individual finding a place within a team, and pushing himself to compete while inspiring his teammates through his dedication.

Katie Doolittle

Lizzi Jackson is an amazing young woman and is actually a former student of mine. Staying involved in her life, supporting her success, and telling this chapter of her story meant so much to me. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Doris Faltys

None of the descriptions of a bee swarm prepared me for witnessing the real thing! It was an amazing experience seeing so many bees seemingly stuck together in one big buzzing mass. Watching beekeeper Rich Kalman pluck the swam from the tree and maneuver it into a bee box was surprising. Leaning about queen bees was very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview.

Katie Hurley

My favorite story this year is Leslie Merchant’s story about Nancy Miller. It is inspiring to see such a positive impact come from one family’s tragedy and another family’s expression of gratitude.

Barb Lally My favorite story this year was Bill Lenker: Creating Sanctuaries with Classic Stonework. Bill’s work is a unique, history-based craft and is so genuinely an art. He is fulfilling his drive to be creative, while preserving natural spaces that encourage people and human interaction. We are fortunate to have him in the area. Nikki McCoy

This story about Joy Johnston and a healing garden at Providence St. Peter Hospital was such an honor to share. From the beginning, Joy’s energy was just so comforting and inspiring that I will always remember our interview day together. Her smile and passion was fueled by the dozens of caring employees and nurses at the hospital. The work they did together will provide many years of solace for the oncology patients, their families, and the care providers that are fighting each and every day just to see another smile. And to know that the Healing Garden is now open is a testament to our amazing community members who supported the Foundation’s mission to make the Healing Garden a reality. Olympia, you rock! And I am so very grateful to be a part of it all.

Leslie Merchant

My article about Nancy Miller and an anonymous donation to South Puget Sound Community College has by far been my favorite story this year. It comes at a time when there seems to be so much hardship and heartache. It is a reminder that life is good so look for the silver lining in every moment. It is always there.

Laurie O’Brien

My favorite story of the year is actually a follow up to one I wrote in 2012 about the K9 unit in the Thurston County Sheriff’s office. I know that Rex is fully retired as of December 31, 2015, and he should have a couple of really good years left with Ditrich and his family.

Mary Ellen Psaltis

I pick Danielle Hale and her business Pieces to Peaces as my favorite article in 2015. Danielle contributes to her family, her community and the world. I am inspired by people making choices to create lives with meaning. And it’s bonus that she is a young adult who lives in Olympia.

Alyssa Ramsfield

The story about two friends connected by a liver transplant had such an impact on my life. I’ve always considered my friends family, but these friends prove that strong relationships define family. It’s not blood, but instead love, understanding, and encouragement. I have enjoyed updates from these two during their recovery. Both Jaime and Kailyn are doing well and their lives are changed for the better.

Melanie Kallas Ricklefs

My interview with Bob Kramer had a profound impact on the way I view the need for higher education.  Bob reminded me that by promoting a college education as the only way to succeed, we lose the craftspeople and tradespeople that carry forth arts and skills into each new generation.  There are many paths to success in life, and some lead to excellence.

Kelli Samson My favorite article was about Browsers Book Shop. This article was easily my favorite because Andrea is now a dear friend of mine. Her book shop has become an important place to my family and me. I love the connections that these stories create. Douglas Scott

My favorite post is probably the article about five mountains to climb in a day.  I have enjoyed writing stories that stretch a bit outside Thurston County and into Mason County, along Hood Canal.

Kate Scriven

Chris Hamilton is a friend and neighbor.  He’s also one of the most humble and generous men you’ll meet. Convincing him to allow me to write a story about him, and not just share his beautiful photography, was the hard part.  Once he agreed, it was an pleasant afternoon spent getting to know the amazing person behind the amazing photos.  Chris is a friend and I was honored to share his story with ThurstonTalk readers this year.

Lynn West I enjoyed many of the articles I wrote this year, but my favorite was Never Ending Scales Are No More.  I learned so much about the music schools in the area and chatted with such passionate and interesting musicians.  My sons-in-laws and their lessons inspired the story and now more young members of the extended family are students at the various schools.  I feel like I know more about their experiences after writing the story. Gail Wood

In my 30-plus years as a sportswriter, I’ve listened to a lot athletes talk about their comebacks. I’ve listen to Matt Hasselbeck talk about coming back from an injury, Trent Dilfer facing his child’s illness and John Olerude needing emergency surgery. But nothing compares to the challenge and the triumph of Jamin Rader. His story will make you cry and then he’ll bring you to your feet, cheering.

The Dreaded Facial A’s: Acne and Aging Treated at Saving Face SkinSpa

Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:00am


Acne and aging are two of the most troublesome skin conditions. And both of these conditions can be exaggerated by improper care, inappropriate products and misinformation.

Wendy Christman, Licensed Master Esthetician and owner of Saving Face Skinspa and Acne Clinic felt compelled to draw upon her 15 years of experience as an esthetician to specialize in the products and treatments to combat acne and slow the skin’s aging process. She recently opened her private skin care studio in West Olympia.

olympia agingA beautiful, mature woman does not have to show signs of aging. Chat with Wendy Christmas at Saving Face SkinSpa. Photo courtesy: Saving Face SkinSpa.

Christman is one of the most highly trained and experienced skin care professionals in the area. As a Licensed Master Esthetician, she has received the industry’s most stringent certification. Combined with her extensive background in the esthetics field, Christman offers a unique blend of skin care expertise and savvy product knowledge. She has a solid reputation in the industry, evidenced by being certified and carrying the physician-only product line, Epionce. Additionally, Christman was one of the inaugural providers in Olympia of the highly effective Micro-Needling/Collagen Induction Therapy (CIT), which is an advanced treatment that helps with fine lines and wrinkles, sagging and thin skin, scarring form acne, chicken pox marks, enlarged pores, evens out discoloration to give a more youthful appearance and achieve more flawless skin.

At the foundation of Christman’s impressive training, credentials and specialized services is a woman who is intuitive, values the personal attention she is able to give her clients, and thoughtfully assesses her clients skin as well as mood for each treatment. Saving Face Skin Spa and Acne Clinic is intentionally designed to be private, personal and results oriented. Distinguished from larger spas offering a variety of relaxation services, Saving Face Skinspa and Acne Clinic is expertly focused on providing results to improve acne and slow the aging process. Christman welcomes each client to her studio with a personalized message on her door.

olympia skin careSaving Face SkinSpa carries the physician-only product line, Epionce.

Specializing in slowing the skin’s aging process, Christman’s treatments are designed to achieve results so that there is an improvement with the look and feel of clients’ skin with every service. Christman thoughtfully recommends treatments whether it be chemical peels for exfoliation, revightalight treatment to help diminish fine lines, wrinkles and age spots, or microdermabrasion resulting in smoother looking skin or one of her many other anti-aging services.

Diane Walker, a client of Saving Face Skinspa and Acne Clinic shares, “Wendy (Christman) is the only esthetician I see and would recommend in Olympia. She is highly professional and has an abundant wealth of information about skin and numerous skin issues. Wendy has a keen knack of being able to share her skin care knowledge with her clients. She takes the time to listen to you and your concerns, and works together with you to help solve and give you the best outcome and experience. I adore seeing her now at her new spa, which is very welcoming, warm and lovely, and carries all the Epionce products I love! The spa setting is calm, quiet and very relaxing. She loves what she does, and it shows in everything she does and every service she provides.”

In addition to anti-aging services, Christman offers one of the most effective acne treatments available in Olympia without a prescription. Christman confirms that her acne program gets everything under control in as soon as 90 days, depending on severity. She creates a home care plan individualized for each client with products and bi-weekly treatments resulting in a 95% success rate.

saving face skin spaTreatment at Saving Face SkinSpa can be effective as getting acne under control in as little as 90 days, depending on severity.

A recent teenage client shared, “Wendy has an incredibly caring personality. She loves what she does and her performance and thoroughness definitely shows through her quality care. As a teenager, I do not feel self-conscious about my acne when I’m at the clinic because I could feel a kind of connection from her since she understands what having acne can do to a person mentally and physically since she dealt with it herself. I am only a month into my treatments and my skin is already starting to clear up. My mom was surprised on how cost effective her program is. We both highly recommend Wendy for any of your acne needs.”

You can learn more about Saving Face SkinSpa and Acne Clinic on their website or Facebook page. Call 360-943-1700 to schedule an appointment or book online.

Saving Face SkinSpa and Acne Clinic
2938 Limited Lane NW, Suite A2
Olympia, WA 98502


Spring Arts Walk Registration Now Open

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:54pm


Submitted by The City of Olympia

Registration forms for artists and downtown businesses participating in Arts Walk XLIX are now available:

  • In person at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW,
  • Online at
  • Or by calling Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation at 360.753.8380

Early Bird registration deadline is Saturday, February 6th, and the standard registration deadline is Saturday, February 13, 2016. Sponsored by Olympia Parks, Arts & Recreation and the Olympia Arts Commission, Arts Walk attracts over 15,000 visitors to celebrate the arts in downtown Olympia. Spring Arts Walk dates are Friday, April 22, 5-10pm, and Saturday, April 23, 12-8pm.

The spring event includes the Procession of the Species Celebration, more information at