Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Madsen Family Cellars: Our second stop

From left to right:  Tara Fuller, Dana Madsen and @kirklandwinegal
 "It takes a while to get wines ready to sell!" wrote Dana Madsen, winemaker and co-owner of Madsen Family Cellars, LLC in an e-mail regarding their award-winning wines.

Madsen Family Cellars received federal and state licenses in 2005; and shortly thereafter, the first crush.  But the tasting room wouldn't debut for three more years, finally opening Labor Day weekend, 2008.

But all good things come to those who wait because Madsen Family Cellars wines has placed 14 medals at national, state and local wine competitions over the past two years; certainly no small feat! 

Located just north of Yelm in Olympia, Wash., Madsen Family Cellars offer a variety of these award-winning wines in their tasting room.  Partial to reds, my favorites included:  2007 Merlot, 91 points for $26, 2006 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 92 points and 2007 Horse Heaven Cabernet Sauvignon, 93 point; both $30 a bottle.

Don't like reds?  Have no fear!  Several award-winning dry and off-dry whites are available to taste in addition to a pink and a dessert wine that placed Bronze at 2010 Northwest Wine Summit, 2010 National Women's Wine Competition and 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, 2008 Orange Muscat, $13.

What makes these wines so great?  The grapes of course!  You can't have great wine without great grapes and these grapes are trucked over from Eastern Wash. where they are made into wines. "We are indeed a winery" explained Mr. Madsen; the entire making process is done on-site. 
Photo by: @kirklandwinegal
 Dana and  his wife Sandi own Madsen Family Cellars, LLC. and are the primary winemakers but are assisted by their older son Bjorn. Leif, their younger son manages marketing.  And because no winery is quite complete without a dog or two, Baci, a black tricolor Australian Shepard (pictured above) and Smokey, a gray Merle Australian Shepard complete this six-member family owned and run winery.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Medicine Creek Winery: First stop of three

Photo by James Myers: Top: Jim and Liz Myers; Bottom: Tara Fuller and @kirklandwinegal

Eastern Washington is known for great local wines but lately, Western Washington wines are all the rage.  This past weekend, my friend and local wine enthusiast, @kirklandwinegal and I set out to visit a few of the West's best.

Just after noon we kick-off our wine tour at a small family-owned "boutique" winery located on a farm in historic Nisqually Valley near Olympia.  As it turned out, Medicine Creek Winery was a perfect start of an amazing day!  

Right away we knew we were in for a treat!  Winery co-owner and winemaker Jim Myers, accompanied by his dog Jack, greeted us with a big smile and wave before we even had a chance to get out of the car!  He explained they had just returned from Richland, Wash. and were a little behind schedule but that we would find his wife inside the barn setting up the tasting room.

Yup, that's right, he said barn.  Except this barn is unlike any other!  Here, you will find a tasting room, wine processing area, barrel room and dance floor. The barn's previous use as a pumpkin farm destination for Autumn-loving locals is now revamped to inspire a 1800s vintage New Orleans brothel; it's so authentic you truly feel you've stepped back in time!

True to his word, we found Liz Myers in the tasting room where she too apologized for not being more prepared.  But other than bottles of reds that didn't have time to fully breathe, we were none the wiser.  Mrs. Myers talked with us like we were long-lost friends catching up.  She told us about the wines we tasted, the history behind the barn and their thrill of winning not one but four medals from international wine competitions; quite an accomplishment for this 2-year-old winery!

About an hour later, we stepped back into 2010 with a bottle of our favorite.  I couldn't resist their two medal winner, 2006 Stage Coach Red for $33; its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot earned Gold at 2010 Riverside International Wine Competition (RIWC) and Silver from the United State's most prestigious international wine competition, San Francisco 2010 International Wine Competition (SFIWC).  @Kirklandwinegal bought a bottle of SFIWC Bronze medal winner, 2006 Cabernet Franc; a complex wine that's described as both delicate and fruitful with notes of cherry, raspberry currant and cranberry and darker notes of cedar and leather. At $37.50, this is Medicine Creek's most expensive bottle.

Although a tad too tart for my liking, their 2006 Syrah for $33 won Bronze at RIWC. 

Photo by, Tara Fuller:  Tasting Bar

Photo by, Tara Fuller: Area off to right of Tasting Bar

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Groupon Rocks!

Just cashed in my first Groupon for a dozen "mix & match" doughnuts!  The whole process from buying to using was easy breezy.  The Groupon was good for a dozen Frost Doughnuts located in Mill Creek, Wa.  A dozen donuts normally costs $24 but with Groupon it cost $8.  Frost Doughnuts are so expensive that without the special I probably wouldn't have driven out of my way for these small sophisticated indulgences, but boy would we have missed out!  Gourmet treats such as Maple-Bacon bars and Chocolate-Cayenne are just a few of Frost Doughnut's culinary creations.  You were allowed to buy one Groupon for yourself and an additional three as gifts, but as far as I can tell there's no way for Frost Doughnuts to know who is using what.  In the end, I don't think they care too much.  Groupon has provided a lot of exposure for this three-friend business adventure turned upscale bakery.

Friday, September 17, 2010

1O, Inc...local company lies about client list

Recently I went on a job interview for an entry level marketing manager position that from all outward appearances seemed promising.  And why not?   Shannon Long, 10 Inc. Human Resource manager boasted in an e-mail that "10, Inc. is a sales & management and new customer acquisition for Qwest’s Business Consumers. Due to our success with Qwest we also acquired Quill as a client; a subsidiary of Staples."

After a follow-up phone conversation with Long, my interview was set for the following morning; I was told to dress in business professional.  That seemed odd since presumably a qualified candidate should know how to dress for an interview but I shrugged it off.  However, despite my year interning at television news stations, I had not one suit suitable for a "business professional" interview, which meant a trip to Nordstrom.  Shopping, especially at Nordstrom, is normally something I enjoy, but money's tight right now and spending a pretty penny on a black stuffy suit when I have to pass on the latest shoe trends, isn't exactly my idea of fun.  I share this with you because it irks me this all turned out to be a scam!

The following morning I dress taking care to follow the rigid guidelines of  "business professional."  I drive 30 miles to Bellevue, Wa through a torrential downpour in painstakingly slow traffic to my interview.  After a quick look-see in the rear-view mirror, I made a mad dash into a virtually empty business building center where I find loud music blaring from a boom box from 10 Inc.'s receptionist counter.  I knew right away something was askew.

I'm greeted by Long, the HR manger that scheduled my interview, who I guess is also the receptionist.  She hands me an application and tells me to fill out the marked sections.  As I and three or four other black-suited individuals wait for our respective interviews, we pass looks at one another as we hear cheers, loud voices and clapping going on from somewhere within 10 Inc.  We also watch people leave from their interviews as others arrive; some had no idea what business professional meant.

My name is called.  I stand up, shake hands with Jason (no last name given) and walk past two sparsely furnished  offices with very little activity. He leads me to an office with a surprisingly clean desk where four chairs are lined in front.  While making a show to read my resume (there's no way he read anything while he asked questions and listened to answers) he asked me what I had thought were warm-up questions:  "What would you say your strengths are? What's your greatest weakness? What are your interests?" That was it.  These were my interview questions!!!

Having conducted interviews for nearly 18 years, I was dumbfounded. Jason tells me about the company and what they're looking for in an employee.  He doesn't really tell me anything except the job is a commission only position but I can expect to earn a minimum of 32k to begin.  He asked me if I was okay with that and I respond yes, but asked, "Since your company doesn't sell a product, what exactly am I earning commission from and what is the commission scale?"  He responded, "This is something we'll discuss on a second interview, which will require you to be here all day: 8 hours."  Not satisfied I asked, "Alright, could you walk me through a typical workday?" He then stood up, obviously signaling the end of the interview, and while guiding me out the door he lets me know, "Again, that's something we'll discuss on a second interview.  We'll be calling people back for second interviews at four today, if you don't get a call it's because someone else was more qualified."  I didn't get a call back.

Everything just seemed wrong.  As soon as I got home the laptop went on and didn't go off again until late that night!

The Better Business Bureau rates companies on a scale from A+ to F; 10 Inc. is given a C-.  Quill in an e-mail wrote, "we are not associated with 10, Inc. in any way" and Chris Des Marais, Qwest Customer Relations Manger wrote, "[our] company is not familiar with the company 10, Inc. and what they provide." 

Unfortunately, 10 Inc. has refused to comment or clarify what service their company provides.  My best guess is either employees work off-site at a boiler room or they telecommute, neither of which are wrong in themselves but the company's tactics are dishonest nonetheless.  It's difficult to say exactly what their game is without talking with them but in our tough economic times, many companies are having difficulties affording a workforce.  10 Inc. are probably scouting unemployed individuals desperate for work.  They promise big rewards with hard work but by the time employees figure things out, 10 Inc. got a few months of free labor.  According to 10 Inc. as stated on their Web site:  "Our philosophy of 100% internal, merit based promotions guarantees that we are able to offer career opportunities and the growth potential to realize career goals to people of all backgrounds."

I must admit, 10 Inc.'s Web site sent red flags my way but excited about prospects of learning new skills and to be apart of something exciting, "Journalism 101" went out the door.  This includes how to identify credible Web sites.  In retrospect, 10 Inc. failed on every level.  First, the site lists no physical or mailing address; no e-mail or phone numbers. It's void of photos of the organization's members and there's no means of customer support.  Although the site provides a "Links/Press" tab it doesn't provide links to outside material and sources; and all press is internal. Finally and probably most important, for a company that brags about their high-profile client list and uses the site presumably to attract new business, it fails to list any clients or client testimonials or adequately state what services their company provides.

Shady business practices are nothing new but in tough economic times, they are abundant.  The best ways to protect yourself are to research the company you're interested in, ask lots of questions at the interview, pay attention to your gut and share what you learn so others won't make the same mistake.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Power of Friendship

Author, Unknown

One day, when I was a freshman in high school,
I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school.

His name was Kyle.
It looked like he was carrying all of his books.
I thought to myself, 'Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday?
He must really be a nerd.'
I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends
tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.
As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him.
They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so
he landed in the dirt.
His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from
He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes
My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him as he crawled around looking
for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.
As I handed him his glasses, I said, 'Those guys are jerks.'
They really should get lives.
He looked at me and said, 'Hey thanks!'
There was a big smile on his face.
It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude.

I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived.
As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never
seen him before..
He said he had gone to private school before now.
I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.
We talked all the way home, and I carried some of his books.
He turned out to be a pretty cool kid.

I asked him if he wanted to play a little football
with my friends
He said yes.
We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him,
and my friends thought the same of him.
Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.
I stopped him and said, 'Boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles
with this pile of books everyday!
He just laughed and handed me half the books...
Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends..
When we were seniors we began to think about college.
Kyle decided on Georgetown and I was going to Duke.

I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never
be a problem..
He was going to be a doctor and I was going for business on a football
Kyle was valedictorian of our class.
I teased him all the time about being a nerd..

He had to prepare a speech for graduation.
I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak

Graduation day, I saw Kyle.
He looked great.
He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school.
He filled out and actually looked good in glasses.

He had more dates than I had and all the girls loved him.
Boy, sometimes I was jealous!
Today was one of those days.
I could see that he was nervous about his speech.
So, I smacked him on the back and said, 'Hey, big guy, you'll be great!'

He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled.
' Thanks,' he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began:
"Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those
tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach...but mostly your
friends...I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift
you can give them. I am going to tell you a story."

I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the
first day we met.

He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.

He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have
to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.

He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.
Thankfully, I was saved.
My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable..'

I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us
all about his weakest moment.
I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.
Not until that moment did I realize its depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions..
With one small gesture you can change a person's life.
For better or for worse....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Swedish SummeRun to help ovarian cancer research

by:  Tara Fuller
Jul 26 2008

Maggie Blomberg was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 59. The Bellevue woman received the news after a second visit to her family doctor with complaints of feeling bloated.
She was immediately sent for an ultrasound and then a CT scan that led to her diagnosis in April of 2004, and surgery at Swedish in May. She has been hospitalized several times over the past years as well as many chemotherapy treatments.
To help others combat the disease, Blomberg has organized a 12-person team named LILAC to support the Swedish SummeRun, which will take place Sunday, July 27.
The event, a 5k walk or run and 10k run, begins at 8 a.m. at Swedish Medical Center First Hill, Seattle. Pre-registration is $25 and includes a race T-shirt. All proceeds will aid the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research’s mission “to save lives and reduce suffering through improved treatment, early detection, and prevention.”
Blomberg said she “became excited to participate [in the Swedish SummeRun] for the first time this year” after learning about it in June, where she learned how other survivors built their teams.
Their team has raised almost $1,700 so far, and hopes to raise more.
“The love and support I receive from my two daughters and my high school girlfriends fuels my strength and determination to survive,” she wrote in summary of her story.
Ovarian cancer is the fourth-leading cause of death among women in the United States and “the leading cause of death among gynecologic cancers,” said ovarian cancer expert, Dr. Saul Rivkin, MD.
Washington state is the third highest for ovarian cancer incidents in the country, as well as the highest ovarian cancer mortality rate. But if diagnosed early, “in stages 1 and 2, the outlook is extremely good,” said Rivkin.
It is estimated that about 22,430 women in Washington will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Unfortunately, “most women don’t discover it until stages 3 and 4,” Rivkin said.
Rivkin, an oncologist at Swedish Medical Center, also lost his wife to ovarian cancer in 1993. In her memory, he founded the Marsha Rivkin Center, and said there are many new and promising clinical trials and research studies.
“There are several new trials out there in hope for people with ovarian cancer,” he said.
Jocelyn Moore, Director of Programs and Management at the Rivkin Center, said that “5 to 10 percent of ovarian cancer is hereditary. So, if women have a history of ovary or breast cancer, they could be at risk for ovarian cancer.”
Maggie Angle, who works on the SummeRun, said that last year a study came out (partly funded by the Rivkin Center) “that for the first time documented the symptoms of ovarian cancer.” What’s remarkable about the study,she said, is that “ovarian cancer is very difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be easily confused with other medical issues.”
The study concluded that bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency are symptoms of ovarian cancer. Women experiencing one or more of these symptoms, and if they are new and persist for 2 or 3 weeks, should see a physician.
The annual Swedish SummeRun was organized by Rivkin’s five daughters who wanted to create something in their mother’s memory; to raise awareness of the disease as well as money to fund critical ovarian cancer research.
The event is unique, Angle said, “in that Swedish actually puts it on and pays all the expenses. So 100 percent of every dollar that comes into this event goes to the Marsha Rivkin Center for ovarian cancer research.”
SummeRun has raised “more than $3 million for ovarian cancer research,” Angle added.

Learning chess — champion style

by:  Tara Fuller
Aug 02 2008

World chess champion gets kids excited about the game
More and more schools across the U.S. are incorporating chess as a way to increase their students’ academic performance.
Redmond resident Elena Donaldson is a big part of that movement.
Donaldson is a three-time U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, two-time Russian Women’s Champion and World Women Olympic Champion. And if that’s not enough, she was also a 1986 runner-up for the World Championship title.
Now she runs a chess school at the Bellevue Boys and Girls Club.
Donaldson’s passion for chess and her desire to see children succeed academically prompted her to develop a method she calls “Chess Academy.” This method, she said, when applied to 5- and 6-year-olds, develops skills that will benefit them throughout their life.
“Five- and 6-year-olds need it [chess] for education,” Donaldson said.
It is important to get kids involved with chess before grade three if they are to have any long-lasting change in their brain, Donaldson added. After grade three, “You don’t see the same results because their brain is already developed.”
Chess is a way for older kids to have self-confidence, inspiration and a means of personal expression in a social activity — not everyone is good at music or athletics, she said, and every student in school needs to have some activity they’re good at.
Donaldson said there are only three rules to be a talented chess player: “Parental involvement, passion for the game and effort.”
Donaldson believes all students should be involved in a chess program, but emphasized that it is critical between ages of 5 to 7. But she said it can’t be just any chess program.
“It has to be an intensive chess program — it has to be academic,” she said.
“If you put your 5- to 7-year-old in chess for one or two years, they will all be good at math,” she said.
Archana, 11, one of the school participants, said that “chess rocks!” She started playing just a couple of months ago and said she really likes it.
Sasikala Einstein, Archana’s mother, said this was Archana’s second camp with Donaldson; the first was a couple of months ago at Woodinville Montessori, Bothell campus. Einstein said they had heard about Donaldson’s chess program through friends and was impressed by Donaldson’s World Class Champion status.
Randy Wilkens, senior athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club that Donaldson’s reputation as a World Champion draws kids from all over Washington state to participate in her chess camps and classes.
Alice Chang, mother of camp participant Roger, 9, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., said the chess camps at the Boys and Girls Club are a “big attraction because of the teacher.”
Donaldson’s assistant teacher, Seattle Pacific University sophomore Curtis Thillips, said he found the position on SPU’s job board and “thought it would be a great opportunity” to work alongside Donaldson.
“I’ve played chess since elementary school, but only recreationally. They [school] didn’t emphasize chess as much then. It seems like it’s really grown in popularity,” he said.
Chess camps at the main Bellevue Boys and Girls Club are offered during Bellevue School District breaks and cost $220 a week or $75 a day; although, Main said, children are never turned away if they can’t afford to pay.
She also offers private lessons for $80, which take place twice a month at her home.

Women give hockey a try — and Seattle Women's Hockey Club is born

by:  Tara Fuller
Aug 09 2008
Women of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences have been coming together for generations to discuss their book club’s latest selection. But just as book clubs are no longer just for women, hockey clubs are no longer just for men.
Many women like Bellevue resident Daniella Moreano, 23, have opted out of book clubs for a more lively and interactive clubs such as the Seattle Women’s Hockey Club.
Moreano, who grew up in Bellevue, said she played hockey for a year in high school when she lived in Pennsylvania. She said she hadn’t played again until about a year ago when she returned home after college. She is a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Colorado.
Moreano had a family friend who had played in a league, years ago; and “thought it would be fun to do in the afternoons.”
Moreano learned about the hockey club and its annual Give Hockey a Try event after typing Seattle Hockey into Google. She said she went to last year’s event and then joined the league.
The hockey club is a nonprofit organization that encourages women 18 and older, with or without skating experience, to give ice hockey a try at their annual GHAT event. Club members bring in gear and provide basic ice training, so women interested in the sport can try it out before spending any money.
And for those who love it, SWHC strives to make membership costs attainable by holding an annual fundraiser in February and offers three different membership levels.
Joan Morgan, 48, a lawyer from West Seattle and SWHC board member, said that what’s really great about GHAT is you get to try it [ice hockey] all out for free.
“We’ll have everything you will need to try it out,” Morgan said. In addition to all the loaner gear, there will be an experienced coach to teach everyone some hockey basics.
Morgan said she couldn’t think of any other league, or sport for that matter, that allows a person to borrow everything you’ll need, and an hour of coaching, just to try the sport out. “All at no charge!” she added.
In a 2005 essay contest for USA Hockey Magazine, Morgan wrote that she had decided to give ice hockey a try after losing more than 80 pounds and establishing an exercise routine.
“I just wanted some kind of sport that would keep me occupied for a long time,” she said. “All I knew is it was way out of my comfort zone. I had no clue what it was going to be like. I had negative ideas about what it was.
“It turned out to be so cool!” she added.
Christine R. Hatcher of Seattle, a 34-year-old architect, is president of the club’s board. She said the focus of SWHC is to educate women about ice hockey.
“Our season involves coach-run practices as well as games and tournaments. Most other leagues in the area only offer the opportunity to play in games, which may be very daunting for a woman with absolutely no experience,” she added.
Hatcher said that SWHC teams range anywhere from newbie to seasoned skater.
“Everyone helps out the new skaters,” she said.
Hatcher said a co-worker talked her into trying ice hockey.
“The first year she asked me if I wanted to come out and give hockey a try — I thought she was nuts!” Hatcher said and laughed. Hatcher said she asked her again the following year, but she was still on the fence.
“The third year I decided ‘OK, I’ll try it.’ So I went out to GHAT and I had a blast!”
Shoreline resident and occupational therapist Shelly Appleton, 44, said she had never ice skated before GHAT.
She said her friend who played ice hockey invited her out to watch one of their games and she “thought it just looked like so much fun.”
Appleton, who is about to begin her second season with the club, said she didn’t know how to stop, so she had to use the wall during her first practice, but said once she had learned to stop, “it’s all been good.”
Appleton said that although winning is nice, it’s not mandatory.
“So even though it’s competitive, it’s not competitive. No one makes you feel bad if you make a mistake. It’s a real easy group of women to play, it’s fun,” and added, “it’s not a fight-league.”
Appleton said she’s a pre-Title IX adult so competitive sports wasn’t available to her growing up.
“Little League just barely opened up for girls when I was Little League age, so there just wasn’t any organized sports for girls when I was a kid — so for me, it’s like ‘hey, I can play organized sports as an adult and I can learn a new sport;’ it’s like being a kid again,” said Appleton.
Morgan said the club shouldn’t be thought of like a Seattle Women’s Hockey Team. There aren’t tryouts or maximum number of players. She said there are always the same core players year after year, but new people join and team members are always shuffled into new and more balanced teams.
“Women of any experience level who want to play hockey join without having to pass any skill or physical fitness tests,” Morgan added. She encourages all women to come to GHAT because it’s a lot of fun and everyone gets a digital photo of themselves in hockey gear and a certificate of accomplishment.
Although Moreano said she’ll probably be very busy over the next few years, she is committed to making time for SWHC “because it’s so much fun!”

Get involved
This year’s Give Hockey a Try event will be today at Castle Ice Arena in Renton from 10:15-11:15 a.m. Parking is free. Participants should arrive 30 minutes early. The address is 12620 164th Ave. S.E.; 425-254-8750 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              425-254-8750      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
For questions regarding GHAT or SWHC, call Joan Morgan at 206-839-4704 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              206-839-4704      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or e-mail and leave your phone number.
For those not able to make the GHAT event, SWHC offers one free practice in which you can skate with a team. The 2008-09 hockey season runs from September to March.
Full club membership costs $650 and includes all full-club practices and team practices; all home and away game ice and all tournament registration fees. Practice-only membership is about half the price of full membership and includes any three practice sessions every two weeks. Practice members may play in a game for $15 and $35 per tournament as bench space permits. A goalie membership costs about $50 and except for voting privileges, it offers the same perks as does a full-club membership. In addition to membership dues, there is a non-refundable SWHC registration fee of $75.

The juice on enhanced water products

by:  Tara Fuller

Enhanced waters — they’re everywhere, and according to Dr. Donald Shifrin of Pediatric Associates in Bellevue and member of the American Pediatrics Association, kids don’t know how to drink water anymore.

“We find kids don’t like to drink water because they’re not use to it” Shifrin said, adding that there’s just so many juice boxes and drinks, Kool-Aid and POG to name a few — and “they’re all sugar.”
Bottled water enhanced with vitamins, herbs, antioxidants and fiber are responsible for 30 percent of beverage sales last year, according to Nutrition Action Health letter this past June. “No wonder Coca-Cola bought VitaminWater, PepsiCo acquired SoBe and Cadbury Schweppes snapped up Snapple,” it wrote.
The problem, said Shifrin, is kids just don’t like any other drinks, so when you go to any Little League game, lacrosse, soccer, etc., “what you see is Propel, Gatorade — all the stuff filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because it’s supposed to be good for you.”
Trans fats are bad, and because labels are now required to list them, just about everybody knows they are not good for you. But because HFCS hasn’t received the same notoriety, people are still confused about it — some may hear the word corn and actually think it’s natural or even good for you.
But according to health professionals such as nutritionist and college professor Jean McCurry, “It’s nasty stuff.”
The problem with HFCS, she said, is that unlike glucose (sugar) which is broken down by the entire body’s cells for energy, HFCS is only broken down by the liver. So in addition to sugar spikes that are shown to be linked with diabetes II, the largest organ in the body is required to work harder than it should — aging an organ that is vital for life.
Some drinks such as VitaminWater now uses an ingredient called crystalline fructose to replace HFCS. But don’t be fooled, McCurry added. Crystalline fructose contains near 99 percent fructose compared to only 50 to 80 percent in HFCS—making your liver work even harder.
Shifrin said if you’re thinking you’re doing your body any good by drinking water enhanced with vitamins, think again, because it has at most only 25 percent of your RDA and is essentially “the same as spraying your cereal with vitamins.”
“It’s basically flavored water,” said Shifrin. He suggested that those who want flavored water should mix water with cranberry or orange juice because it’s much healthier.
Another ingredient parents should keep an eye out for, said Shifrin, is guarana.
Guarana is advertised as a natural source of caffeine as well as having health benefits. But throughout the U.S. it has been linked with reports of nausea, abnormal heart rhythms and ADHD, according to health professionals.
Although makers of drinks enhanced with guarana argue that a serving of their drinks is no more harmful than a cup of coffee, the problem is these drinks are bottled with a lot more than single-serving size.
In addition to larger-than-life bottle sizes, they are typically consumed cold which may increase serving consumption — so for all those nighttime gym goers who can’t seem to go to sleep at night, you might want to check out your water label — you just might being juiced-up on sugar, HFCS and guarana.


Pride in money

Pride in money

Sep 3, 2008, Vol: 15, No: 37
By Tara Fuller 

The Pride Foundation wants you to nominate your favorite not-for-profit organization in their “Raffle With a Twist,” where it will randomly draw and award $2,500 to one lucky nonprofit. An additional $1,000 will go to the most nominated not-for-profit orgs.
Zan McColloch-Lussier, communication director of the Pride Foundation, says they are a “community foundation” to which 3,500 people give money each year. Then, he says, “We pool it and turn it into grants and educational scholarships.”
The Pride Foundation’s mission, according to its web site, is to connect, inspire and strengthen the Pacific Northwest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in pursuit of equality.
This is accomplished, says McColloch-Lussier, by awarding grants to not-for-profit organizations and educational scholarships in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
The Pride Foundation has given away about $8 million over the past 20 years, says McColloch-Lussier.
All raffle entries must be received by Sept. 22, 2008. One nonprofit will be randomly drawn to win the $2,500 grant from a pool of all five Pacific Northwest states. Thereafter, five of the most nominated organizations will be awarded $1,000 each.
“The group that gets nominated the most and did not win the $2,500 random drawing, from each of the five states, wins $1,000 each,” he says.
Last year’s winners included two Washington not-for-profit organizations.
Seattle International District Housing Alliance, an organization that works to improve the quality of life for International District residents, Asian and Pacific Islanders of greater Seattle, won the $2,500 random drawing.
The most nominated organization and winners of the $1,000 prize in Washington was the Lambert House. The organization provides support to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and questioning youth (GLBTQ).
Four additional $1,000 grants were awarded to Alaska Identity Ink, Idaho Women’s Network, Montana’s Yellowstone AIDS Project and Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette in Oregon.
Raffle winners are free to use the money as they see fit. There isn’t a stipulation in the rules as to how the money is to be used, says McColloch-Lussier. The group must have an official policy “that they do not discriminate on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Elaine Simons, Executive Director and co-founder, Peace on the Streets by Kids on the Streets, says if their organization were to win, they would use the money to “create a dialogue between the kids of my agency that identified under GLBTQ, and the kids who are not gay so they get along better and understand each other better.”
The raffle is “a way to get people excited about giving away money and thinking about what groups they care about—and really good for organizations like Elaine’s [PSKS], because it gives them a chance to get their people excited about something,” says McColloch-Lussier. “It’s just one of the ways we give out money—a big part of our mission is to inspire people to just give.”
To nominate your favorite not-for-profit organization, go to, follow the “Raffle With a Twist” link and name your organization. The process takes less than a minute.

Insurance says NO to backyard trampolines

by:  Tara Fuller
Aug 20 2008

It seems that just about every family these days has a large trampoline in their backyard. So it was quite a surprise for Mercer Island residents Tim and Lori Stone to learn that their insurance company, CHUBB, wouldn’t insure them if they purchased one.
“We were going to get one for the kids for Christmas because it seemed a lot of their friends had them,” said Lori Stone. “My husband decided to call the insurance company just to double check, and they said ‘no way.’ They said it would be a big liability.”
The Stones’ broker, Doug Akiyoshi, CEO and broker of Quality Risk Management Service of Mercer Island, said he was amazed at how many trampolines he could see from the air during a flight over Tacoma last year.
“Probably every third house had a trampoline,” he said. “It blew me away. It’s a huge liability — most insurance companies won’t allow trampolines because it’s something they’ve had horrible experiences with.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 278,000 people, of whom 248,000 were children under age 20, were treated in 2004 due to trampoline-related injuries.
Mercer Island resident Dr. Donald Shifrin, who is with Pediatric Associates in Bellevue and is affiliated with the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that although newer trampolines with the mesh claim to be safer, the AAP recommends trampoline usage only under direct supervision by a trampoline or gym professional.
“We don’t recommend backyard trampolines at all,” said Shifrin. He said the reason is that it’s just too tempting for two children to go on at once.
“When two kids are on the trampoline, it’s not twice the injury potential, it’s probably 10 times,” he said.
Backyard trampolines are not recommended by either the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; both warn against recreational use of them.
“The potential for injury is higher than the potential for fun,” said Shifrin. “The amount of fun you’re going to have is going to be tempered by the fact that you will indeed at some point be injured.”
Shifrin said the fact that insurance companies will not cover homeowners with trampolines should “tell you something.” He said that he will not allow his two teenage children to play on trampolines.
Akiyoshi, whose firm represents a number of insurance companies including CHUBB, Progressive, Safeco and Allied, said once a carrier receives a claim involving the increased liability exposure (i.e. trampoline, pit bull, diving board, etc.), “They may or may not cover it. If they do pay it, they’re going to cancel you and you will have that black mark on your record.”
Many people think if they get dropped from their insurance company, they can just go somewhere else. “Good luck!” Akiyoshi said, adding that once you have a liability claim on your record, it stays there for three years.
Many insurance carriers won’t insure trampolines, but some will. Michael Erickson, Farmers Insurance agent, said the only rule they have is the trampoline must be set up in a fenced backyard with a locking gate to prevent uninvited guests.
Similarly, a PEMCO customer service agent, Lanae McDermott, said that although her company evaluates each claim separately by an adjuster, a new homeowner’s policy must meet trampoline requirements. The trampoline needs to be completely enclosed with a fence that is at least six feet tall and has a self-locking fence.
Woodinville resident Ben Hess said it never crossed his mind to call his insurance agent after he inherited a trampoline from a neighbor when they moved away. He said he figured health insurance would cover them if anything should happen.
According to Akiyoshi, this is a common misconception.
“Health insurance will pay up to a certain extent — until the limits are exhausted.”
He said in some cases you get a child with a broken neck or another very serious injury that is permanent. “Now you’ve got a lawsuit. Now you’ve got to hope you have enough liability coverage because you had two kids bouncing up and down and they’ve collided, and now they have got a compression fracture and have reached a growth plate,” Akiyoshi said.
“How do you put a monetary amount on that?” He said.
Akiyoshi suggests that homeowners call their agent whenever they make a big purchase or obtain something that could adversely affect their liability. “If you’re not sure,” he said, “go directly to your company.”

Editorial: H1N1 Vaccines

Editorial: H1N1 Vaccines
by: Tara Fuller
First published: Oct. 26, 2009 at 3:30pm

Fox News posed the question, “Do you think H1N1 is a National Emergency?” on their Web site Friday after President Obama declared the outbreak of H1N1 as a national emergency. So far, 423 comments have been posted. The vast majority have posted their belief that the so called swine flu is nothing more than media hype and governmental fear tactics to push the President’s healthcare reform package.

Over 4,000 Americans have died from flu-related complications since the virus was uncovered earlier this year; and over1000 of those were confirmed to be H1N1. Unlike the seasonal flu that afflicts mostly the elderly and those with weak immune systems, H1N1 has sickened the young and healthy.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology on the nation’s readiness for the possible pandemic of the virus noted that half of the U.S. population could become infected. And though the 2009-H1N1 virus doesn’t seem to show the virulence attributed with the pandemic of 1918-19, an upward of 1.8 million people could be hospitalized; 90,000 could die.

With numbers that more than double the average of those who die of the seasonal flu, it seems atrocious that only about 40 percent Americans said they plan to get vaccinated. Reasons commonly cited for not vaccinating are doubts H1N1 is as serious as the media is playing it out to be; and the onslaught of recent concerns of the use of thimerosal, despite years of rigorous medical studies that have not found a link between this mercury-based preservative and autism. However, those still leery do have a single-dose preservative-free vaccine option that can be ordered by their physician.

H1N1 is functionally the same as the seasonal flu vaccine, which has been proven safe in hundreds of millions of people over multiple decades. The only reason H1N1 wasn’t added to this year’s seasonal flu vaccine was because by the time it was discovered to be a concern, it was too late. So for those worried H1N1 production was too quick, rest assured it’s the same production as all seasonal flu vaccines. The only difference this year is the need for two shots instead of one.

Choosing against vaccination doesn’t just put yourself and your family at risk, but you may be a carrier that spreads the virus to individuals that may result in their death.

    • Rachel M. Lusby No worries! I was vaccinated almost a week ago =)
      October 26, 2009 at 4:25pm · ·

    • Amber Martin Nicely written. Great to have all the facts incorporated.
      October 26, 2009 at 6:19pm · ·

    • Rachel Stevenson Westfall Seeing your opinion about the issue just makes me feel even better in my decision of having my kids vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine.
      October 26, 2009 at 6:42pm · ·

    • Tonya Borman We are not getting vaccinated...
      October 27, 2009 at 5:38am · ·

    • Tim Brown I shot an interview last week with a husband who is watching his 30 year old wife, in critical condition, slowly inch away from life. Her chances of survival are slim to none. She was not in any of the high risk groups...she though she was battling allergies, but now she is on 100 percent oxygen and not breathing on her own. The shot might not be a bad idea.
      October 27, 2009 at 11:12am · ·

    • Tonya Borman OK, I'll think about it...
      October 27, 2009 at 8:32pm · ·