A Quiet Retreat in Off-Season Friday Harbor

by Daytona Strong
( March 6th, 2014 )

View from Friday Harbor Ferry

As still as the air in the moments following the rain, the town of Friday Harbor proved an ideal place to find rest and to rejuvenate during a recent retreat with a dear friend. Located in the picturesque San Juan Islands in northwest Washington, the town draws tourists in the summer months, though I’ve always experienced it in the fall and winter, when cars roll only sporadically along the streets and the sparse ferry traffic appears to consist merely of locals making their way between the islands or to and from the mainland. It’s peaceful that way, I think, the sort of place where gray skies and crisp wind make you want to bundle up in your coziest coat and scarf and then warm up in a hot bath or in front of the fireplace when you return to your lodging.

I visited Friday Harbor for the first time while still a newlywed eight years ago. Working nights in media at the time, I apparently needed a break more than I realized, and I spent much of the weekend sleeping. Returning to the Friday Harbor House—the same hotel, located within walking distance to the ferry—this past autumn, I found the same cozy accommodations—warm wooden furniture and decor reflecting a Pacific Northwest aesthetic, peaceful waterfront views of sailboats moored in the harbor, and a fireplace in the room inviting guests to pull up a chair and open an enticing book.

As a Seattleite, every once in a while I find it helpful to get out of the city and experience one of the other gems of the Pacific Northwest. Whether it’s wine tasting in Walla Walla, exploring the breweries of Bend, or letting the snow-capped mountains of Lake Chelan in the winter surround me with their tranquility, the Northwest has plenty to offer, and Friday Harbor is no exception.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Friday Harbor Ferry Docking

 View of the ferry from Friday Harbor House

Friday Harbor House Sign

Friday Harbor House Exterior

Friday Harbor House Cooking Class

 Chef Aaron Rock leading a cooking demonstration at Friday Harbor House

Griffin Bay Bookstore

Friday Harbor Roses

Spring Street Landing

Cask and Schooner

Cask & Schooner

Cask and Schooner Bar

Friday Harbor House Meeting Room

Friday Harbor Ferry Line

Departing Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor Ferry

Orcas in San Juan IslandsOrca whales seen from the ferry on the return home

Disclosure: Friday Harbor House hosted us for one of the nights, including a dinner and a cooking demonstration.

From our partners

The Sleeping Beauty shines at Pacific Northwest Ballet

by Elizabeth Griffin
( February 3rd, 2014 )

Everything about the production of The Sleeping Beauty at Pacific Northwest Ballet is glorious—from the exquisitely detailed scenery and costumes (by Peter Docherty) to the choreography (by Ronald Hynd, after Petipa) to Tchaikovsky’s score. First performed in 1890 in Russia, with Marius Petipa as the choreographer, it is based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. (There is a lot of history and symbolism in it, and I suggest you attend a pre-ballet lecture by Doug Fullington if possible—he is very knowledgeable and interesting, and it really adds to the experience.)

Act One of the ballet begins with a soiree to celebrate the christening of Princess Aurora. The king and queen have invited lots of guests including the local fairies who have come to bless the baby. Unfortunately, one rather scary fairy was left off the guest list – Carabosse. That doesn’t go over very well, and she flies into the middle of the party and curses the baby.

Carabosse web

The curse basically says the girl will prick her finger on a spindle and die. This is mitigated by The Lilac Fairy who says the girl will not die, she will only sleep for 100 years—at that point true love will awaken her with a kiss. Despite doing all they can to avoid this, the king and queen cannot prevent it and Princess Aurora does prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday and she falls asleep. In fact, they all fall asleep with her.

asleep web

The good news is that there is a prince coming—and at the end of those 100 years he will discover Aurora and fall in love with her. His kiss will awaken her and all with be perfect once again! However, as he is approaching her raised sleeping chamber, who should appear again but Carabosse! The prince takes his sword, which he has put to good use by cutting through all the branches and brambles surrounding Aurora, and he kills Carabosse, kisses Aurora, and the couple sails away. Then they get married and everyone lives happily ever after.

The Kiss web

It’s a simple story, but the ballet is quite complex – four acts in three hours (including three 15-minute intermissions). There is a lot to oooh and aaaah over, believe me, from the incredible endurance and balance that the ballerina who plays the part of Aurora demonstrates to the highly entertaining characters that make up the cast to the layered colors and sheen of the tutus and curtains … wow, it is just eye candy to be honest—there is so much to take in!

Cruz and Rausch web

The Sleeping Beauty is one of those classic ballets that you really should see. It’s amazing and Seattle’s wonderful PNB does it more than justice, as usual. The company uses many different casts because of the demanding roles, so seeing it more than once just means you enjoy a new experience and are able to absorb a bit more of the majesty.



The photos in this post are explained in the order they are seen (below):

The king and queen (Otto Neubert and Maria Chapman) plead with the wicked fairy Carabosse (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta) in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping BeautyPNB presents the classic story ballet January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.

After pricking her finger on a spindle, Princess Aurora (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch, with Maria Chapman and Otto Neubert) falls into a deep sleep in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping BeautyPNB presents the classic story ballet January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping BeautyPNB presents the classic ballet January 31 – February 9, 2014.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lesley Rausch and Karel Cruz in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Rausch and Cruz are one of four couples performing the lead roles in PNB’s presentation of the classic story ballet, running January 31 – February 9, 2014.  Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping BeautyPNB presents the classic story ballet January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.


For more information or to get tickets, visit www.pnb.org or call 206-441-2424.


From our partners

I believe I can fly — at iFly Seattle!

by Elizabeth Griffin
( January 14th, 2014 )

iFly Seattle

I look really excited in this picture, but the truth is I was scared! All I could think was, “Thank goodness I’m not jumping out of a plane!” A few years ago I had that impulse—kind of like a mid-life I’ve never done that! type of feeling.

I still haven’t. But today I went to iFly Seattle and took a lesson that would … if I choose to eventually jump … help prepare me for that moment. In fact, now that I’ve been in a wind tunnel, I totally recommend that anyone who wants to sky dive do this first. You will be so much more prepared and able to enjoy it.

But that’s not the only reason to learn to fly. This was seriously thrilling—what you cannot hear when you look at these photos is that I am whoop-whooping with glee the entire time! But not only thrilling, it was empowering. I really did not think I could do it well—and I did. And if I can do it—you can too.

 Indoor Skydiving Seattle

So this is how it goes—after driving to iFly, which is next to South Center in Seattle, you say your prayers and go inside the red building that you cannot miss once you get off the freeway. You sign your life away—and say a few more prayers—and then you meet the nicest instructor in the world (if his name happens to be Willo) and you relax. He’s got you. You don’t have to go into that wind tunnel alone. In fact, he holds on—unless you’re just naturally gifted at holding your body still like I am (hee hee), in which case he lets you go for literally moments at a time so you can fly solo!

I went with a group of two women and four kids. We watched an instruction video and then Willo went over it again. We learned to swing our hips forward and tip our head to the ceiling with our hands over our heads—easy peasy. And we learned four signals that Willo would give us in the tunnel to help us maintain the proper body position.

Then we suited up—huge jumpsuits that catch the wind, ear plugs, goggles and helmets. Note: they have a Superman and a Spider Man suit for small children to use. Yes, ages 3 and up can do this.

Then we went into the outer part of the wind tunnel to wait our turn. I was last, so I got to learn from what everyone else did. The kids were all wiggly when they were flying and Willo had to hold onto them—even the slightest movement in high wind causes you to go all over the place, which was my chief concern. solo flying at iFly SeattleThe woman right before me was still as can be and she did beautifully, so I took my cue from her. When it was my turn I leaned into the tunnel and Willo caught me—the air pressure was extreme and the skin on my face felt like it was flapping all over the place. I felt buffeted a bit, but I held the position and adjusted slowly as directed, and I was hovering in air.

going up in the iFly tunnel

You have to experience this to know what it’s like :)

On my second time in the tunnel (the introductory session consists of two one-minute long flights) Willo directed me to tip my hands slightly to the right and I did a 360-degree turn. Wow—how fun to control where I was going in air!

In the last 20 seconds, Willo took hold of me and we spun quickly to the top of the tunnel and back down—twice!  It was like taking a ride with Superman!

Now I know I can fly at iFly Seattle!



Photos courtesy of iFly Seattle and Jay Griffin

This session was courtesy of iFly Seattle


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