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Free Introduction to Square Dancing Offers Fun, Fitness and Friends

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 4:32pm



Submitted by Olympia Area Square Dancers 

Lac-A-Do Hall square Dance 2Olympia Area Square Dancers are sponsoring a Free Introduction to Square Dancing on Thursday September 10 at 6:30 p.m. This is your chance to try a fun evening of square dancing at no cost.  You’ll be dancing right away – no experience necessary.

Square dancing gives you a wonderful physical and mental workout. And you’ll have a great time.

The Intro to Square Dancing is held at Lac-A-Do Hall, 1721 46th Ave NE, Olympia. Couples, singles, and families are welcome, ages 10 and up. Almost everyone can learn to square dance. The only people who may find that lessons are too fast-paced are those with moderate to severe developmental disabilities, or who cannot walk for 10-15 minutes at a time.

You’ll find friendly people and good music at Lac-A-Do Hall. The Olympia area is known throughout the U.S. for its popular and successful square dance program. The seven square and round dance clubs in Olympia all dance at the hall. The Olympia dancers represent all ages and all walks of life. They dance to many different types of music including rock and roll, country and pop.

Olympia Area Square Dancers also sponsor square dance lessons, starting Thursday September 17 at 6:30 p.m. This social, family-friendly class gets your body and mind moving in a fun atmosphere.  By the end of ten weeks you will have learned the basics of modern square dancing – the same moves used in thousands of square dance club dances and dance events you can visit throughout the world. You’ll be dancing at the very first lesson. Members of all the local square dance clubs will join in to help you learn.

We like to say that square dancing is “Fun and friendship set to music.” It’s a great way to get out, get moving, and make new friends.

There will be a few more Free Introductions and 10-week sessions of square dance lessons throughout the year. For more information, visit Or call Ed at 360-352-2662 or Nancy at 360-438-1284.

Walkers Take to the Streets to Fight Suicide

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 2:55pm



Submitted by Eileen Bochsler for the Olympia Out of the Darkness Community Walk

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, yet suicide is preventable. More than 200 people from throughout the Olympia area are expected to participate in the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at 10:0 a.m., Saturday, September 12, 2015 at Marathon Park. This fundraising walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) local and national programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide twenty percent by 2025.

“We walk to support those who suffer from mental health conditions and raise the money for research and prevention programs that will save lives,” said Grace Finch, Washington State Area Director, AFSP.

The Olympia Out of the Darkness Walk is one of more that 350 Out of the Darkness Community Walks being held nationwide this fall. The walks are expected to unite more that 150,000 walkers and raise millions or suicide prevention efforts.

“These walks are about turning hope into action,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “Suicide is a serious problem, but it’s a problem we can solve. The research has shown us how to fight suicide, and if we keep up the fight the science is only going to get better, our culture will get smarter about mental health, and we’ll be able to save more people from dying from depression and other mental health conditions.”

Local AFSP sponsors for the Olympia Out of the Darkness Walk include Providence Health and Services Southwest Washington, Good Therapy and Batdorf & Bronson.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention leads the fights against suicide. We fund research, offer educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has 75 local chapters with programs and events nationwide. Join the national conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Construction Begins on State Avenue Pedestrian Access Improvement Project

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 2:24pm



Submitted by The City of Olypmia

What’s Happening

Beginning August 31, the City’s contractor, KBH Construction Company, will start construction of the State Avenue Pedestrian Access Improvements Project in downtown Olympia. The existing sidewalk is broken and uneven and the access ramp does not meet current safety standards. Making it easier and safer for pedestrians to get where they are going is one of the City’s highest priorities. This project will remove the old sidewalk and construct new sidewalk with a pedestrian access ramp and curb bulbout at the southeast corner of State Avenue at Columbia Street. Construction is expected to be complete by early October 2015.

Tree Impacts

Additional work includes the removal and replacement of the existing trees along the sidewalk on the south side of State Avenue between Capitol Way and Columbia Street. The project team worked with the City’s Urban Forester to determine if it would be better to try to save the existing trees or remove and replace them.  We decided to replace them because it was not certain that the trees would survive construction. The removed trees will be replaced with Paperbark Maple trees.

Parking & Traffic Impacts

Street parking on the south side of State Avenue between Capital Way and Columbia Street will not be available during construction. In addition, some of the parking spots located in the two parking lots adjacent to the sidewalk along State Avenue will also not be available at times during construction.

State Avenue between Capital Way and Columbia Street will be reduced to one lane during construction. Motorists should expect delays. The sidewalk on the south side of State Avenue between Capital Way and Columbia Street will also be closed. Signs will be in place to direct pedestrians to alternate routes. Flaggers will be on site to assist pedestrians that need to cross State Avenue.

For construction updates and traffic alerts follow us on Twitter @OlyProjects

Ballet Northwest Announces Open Auditions for the Nutcracker

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 2:17pm



Submitted by Ballet Northwest 

Ballet Northwest Nutcracker

Ballet Northwest’s Nutcracker is held annually at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

On Saturday, September 26, Ballet Northwest will hold open auditions at the Johansen Olympia Dance Center for roles in the Company’s 31st Anniversary production of the Nutcracker. The auditions are open to the community – boys and girls, men and women. The only requirement is that dancers are eight-years-old by August 31, 2015.

Ballet Northwest is a community-based performance group dedicated to promoting, teaching, and preserving the art of dance in Southwestern Washington. No previous dance experience is necessary to audition, and dancers from all dance studios are welcome to audition for Ballet Northwest’s Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker cast averages two hundred dancers. Performances take place from December 11th through the 20th at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts located in downtown Olympia, and feature professional sets, costumes, and guest artists.

For more information on auditioning for the Nutcracker, please visit


Mud Bay Jugglers – Local Juggling Group Approaching 35 Years of Fun

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 6:00am



By Tobin Fitzthum

thurston first bankDespite their national acclaim, the Mud Bay Jugglers are an inherently local group.

Their name is an homage to space that co-founder Doug Martin looked upon as he rolled loaves at the Blue Heron Bakery. Besides the group’s name, there are many other ties to Thurston County. The Evergreen State College, for example, where Martin and co-founder Mark Jensen went to school and later member Alan Fitzthum worked, served as a focal point for the jugglers’ early history.

Alan met Doug when he was selling felt hats to the other students. Soon they were juggling together in Red Square. Their first performance was at the Trail’s End Circus. Ten years later, in 1989, the group had taken to the road touring throughout the western United States performing at colleges and flea markets, while eating granola and falafels in cold campsites.  Today, the group includes Doug, Alan and Harry Levine.

mud bay jugglers

Mud Bay Jugglers (from left) Tom Gorski, Alan Fitzthum, and Doug Martin appear in a 1987 promotional photograph. Photo courtesy: Mud Bay Jugglers.

Even though the venues got larger and the drives to them longer, the group was always focused on having fun collectively, an activity that includes the audience. This ideology shows in performance. Doug, for example, emphasizes how juggling “makes you do something that I think is very important: work with some other people.” It is this thinking that has motivated the jugglers to stay away from solo routines.

Likewise, the jugglers wanted to avoid the sensationalism that is present in many other street acts. “Usually what people do is shout whatever they can to gather a crowd. We wanted to try something different,” Doug explains.

This idea led to a routine known as slow motion. When performing in the street, the jugglers would start their shows by placing three juggling pins in the center of the area they would use as a stage. Each of the three jugglers would start about 100 feet from the clubs and walk toward them in slow motion. As each member approached the clubs, more and more people would wonder what was going on and fall in line behind to find out. By the time the jugglers united at the stage, they would have gathered a crowd. “And all we did was walk slowly,” says Doug.

“It just seemed like a natural progression,” says Alan discussing the decision to start touring. None of the members spoke of any definite point when they thought they had made it as jugglers, but the transition was undeniable. In 1986 the jugglers began touring with a trip to Arizona. They bought a van, painted their logo on the side, and set off. “I think we drove for 21 hours on the first day,” recalls Alan. The tour took them to colleges across the state where they performed in cafeterias and recreation centers.

mud bay jugglers

For their 25th anniversary show in 2005, the Mud Bay Jugglers include (from left) Larry Levine, Alan Fitzthum, and Doug Martin. Photo credit: Jason Hunter.

Soon they had become staples of events such as First Night Tacoma and the Oregon Country Fair. Their newfound notoriety also manifested itself in opportunities to appear on television. Though the group was never into sensationalism and turned down an invitation to appear on America’s Got Talent, they have appeared on several networks in segments that emphasize their creative process and love of performance.

Though the name speaks truly of the group’s origins, it does not suffice to describe their craft. The Mud Bay Jugglers are more than jugglers. Founded in a time when most jugglers focused on technical proficiency while standing in one place, the Mud Bay Jugglers wanted to do something different. Their style is a unique blend of dance, comedy, and juggling. They fascinate audiences young and old and can hold the viewers’ attention through countless routines with humor and subtle drama that has been polished until it shines.

What would a dance be without music? The jugglers originally performed alongside an ensemble of drummers whose hypnotic rhythms contributed to a spiritual feel at performances. In time, however, the jugglers also adopted other forms of music, choreographing new routines to a truly eclectic soundtrack featuring everything from castanets to didgeridoos. Today the jugglers often perform along with local band The Tune Stranglers. Still, however, the music reflects the rich history of the group.

mud bay jugglers

Harry Levine (left), Alan Fitzthum (center), and Doug Martin (right) juggle fire during the finale of The Mud Bay Jugglers’ 30th Anniversary show in 2010. Photo courtesy: Mud Bay Jugglers.

Why have the Mud Bay Jugglers lasted 35 years? In a 1986 interview, Doug said he would have “quit five years ago if it wasn’t for the people he juggled with.” Today he is of the same mind. Doug says that he quickly got bored of juggling by himself but once he learned to juggle with other people, “it was all over.”

Alan echoes this idea saying simply, “If I juggled by myself I get bored.” Though the Mud Bay Jugglers have seen some turnover over the years, their style and their values have not changed. From the beginning it has been about developing creative ideas and sharing them with the audience. The ensuing joy is mutual.

Now a group founded 35 years ago will perform once again in a tradition started 25 years ago. On November 14, they will hold their 35th year anniversary show at The Washington Center.

Follow along with the Mud Bay Jugglers on their website or via Facebook.

North Thurston’s Lawyer Tillman Making His Own Name at Auburn University

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:00am



By Grant Clark

capital heating and coolingIt was a simple counter. North Thurston was pinned deep in its own territory, beginning the possession on the 6 yard line. The Rams could ill afford anything too complicated or long developing as there was little room for error.

The play, called during the first half of North Thurston’s 2010 football game against cross-town rival Timberline, was designed to give the Rams some much needed breathing room. That was all.

Lawyer Tillman took the hand-off. He got to the 10 before colliding head-on with a Blazer linebacker who appeared to have the senior running back stopped. If the play ended there it would have accomplished what it was set out to achieve. But it didn’t.

First, Tillman’s strength was on display as he plowed through the would-be tackler.

North Thurston alum Lawyer Tillman will graduate from Auburn University in May with a degree in psychology.

North Thurston alum Lawyer Tillman will graduate from Auburn University in May with a degree in psychology.

Next, it was time to show off his speed. He went from a dead stop with defenders closing in, and proceeded to accelerate, pulling away with every stride, resulting in a 95-yard run. He would ultimately step out at the 1 yard line – the only miscue in an otherwise perfectly executed play. He finished the game with a school record 310 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including scoring scampers of 68 and 66 yards, in North Thurston’s 41-28 victory.

Few performances at Lacey’s South Sound Stadium have impressed as much as the one Tillman unleashed that September night, five years ago against the Blazers. This game was the high point of a high school football career filled with highlights.

It’s memorable. It’s a feat worth boasting about.

Tillman’s thoughts looking back on the game?

“Everyone after that game was saying, ‘You, you, you’ to me, but that game was all about the linemen,” Tillman said. “They did all the work.”

Tillman avoids praise more successfully than dodging opposing defenders. Equal parts talent and humbleness, the North Thurston graduate is now on the other side of the country, about to begin his senior season of football at Auburn University. On the academic side, he will graduate in May with a degree in psychology.

His road to Alabama and into the heart of Southeastern Conference football actually started at Southern Oregon University, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) – a far cry from the beast which is SEC football.

Tillman redshirted his freshman year. Had he stayed he would have been a part of SOU’s NAIA National Championship team in 2014, but he didn’t.

Lawyer Tillman carries the football during an Auburn practice . Tillman was named Auburn’s Scout Team Player of the Year in 2014.

Lawyer Tillman carries the football during an Auburn practice . Tillman was named Auburn’s Scout Team Player of the Year in 2014.

“I loved the program at Southern Oregon. It would have been extremely special to stay and win a championship there,” Tillman said, “but at the time it didn’t feel like the right fit. Being a freshman, I was homesick and thought it would be better for me to look elsewhere.”

One of the first places Tillman turned to was Auburn – a university very familiar with Tillman’s name.

Tillman’s father, Lawyer Tillman, Sr., was a former NFL wide receiver and etched his name into Tiger football lore in the mid-1980s. His legendary game-winning touchdown in the closing moments of the 1986 Iron Bowl (between Auburn and University of Alabama Crimson Tide) still resonates with both fan bases. Ask any long-time Alabama fan what they think of the Lawyer Tillman reserve and a cringe will likely follow.

Few knew of Tillman’s bloodlines when he was breaking records at North Thurston. He elected to forge his own path, make a name on his own.

It was the same for him when he decided to walk-on at Auburn.

“I never discussed with (my father) that Auburn was one of the schools I was looking at going to. I actually didn’t tell him I was going there until after I was accepted,” Tillman said. “When I took my visit it just felt like I belonged there. It felt like I was part of a family. Every program says that’s how they are, but for me, that’s exactly what it was from the beginning here.”

Three years into the program, Tillman has yet to see the field during a game, but has provided valuable contributions to a team that won the SEC championship in 2013 and rose as high as No. 2 in the AP poll last year as a member of the scout team.

Despite his college football success, Lawyer Tillman still cites his high school days on the turf of South Sound Stadium as his best memories on the gridiron.

Despite his college football success, Lawyer Tillman still cites his high school days on the turf of South Sound Stadium as his best memories on the gridiron.

“Everyone wants to see playing time,” said Tillman, who was awarded Auburn’s scout team player of the year in 2014, “but you just continue to work hard and do what you can.”

Auburn, which should be in the national title hunt again this year, opens its season September 5 against Louisville before back-to-back conference games against LSU and Mississippi State. Tillman is eyeing the October 3 home game against San Jose State as a chance to make his debut.

“I wanted to try my luck with the big dogs,” Tillman said about enrolling at Auburn. “It ended up being a great choice for me.”

Despite playing in SEC country – the current mecca of college football – Tillman quickly defaults back to his days at North Thurston when asked about his fondest football memory.

Not surprisingly, given his nature, Tillman doesn’t rattle off the record performance against Timberline or any of the other big games he produced. Instead, it’s a simple, subtle story.

“We had just beat Olympic and I remember how happy everyone was. It just felt great being surrounded by that,” Tillman said. “There’s just something about those Friday night lights. You’re going to form a brotherhood at every level of this game, but I don’t think anything will ever match the relationships I had in high school.”


Little School Big Future Founder Kirby Barrantes Brings Relief to Communities in Need

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:00am



By Isabelle Morrison

Heritage bank“I think I’ve always had an organization. I just didn’t realize it,” says Kirby Barrantes. “My organization has always been my heart”.

An Occupational Nurse Consultant for the State of Washington Labor and Industries, Kirby grew up in Alangalang, a small town on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. Kirby has always been driven to help others and give back, but when disaster struck his hometown, he decided to take his charitable acts to the next level.

After a typhoon devastated Kirby Barrantes' hometown, he raised funds to help rebuild the town and nearby Brgy. San Isidro Elementary.

After a typhoon devastated Kirby Barrantes’ hometown, he raised funds to help rebuild the town and nearby Brgy. San Isidro Elementary.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded, hit the Philippines leaving behind death, destruction and even more struggle for its already impoverished residents.

Kirby visited Alangalang just one month after Haiyan hit to see the destruction firsthand. “When I got there, it was like the typhoon had just happened yesterday — they lost everything,” says Kirby.

Kirby was so heavily impacted by the typhoon’s aftermath that he felt compelled to take action. He was able to raise almost $10,000 through a GoFundMe account and a generous donation from Long Prairie Grey Eagle Public Schools in Minnesota.

The funds went toward providing relief items such as pillows, blankets and mosquito nets to the survivors, as well as rebuilding the capital of Leyte, Brgy. San Isidro.

Although Kirby’s donations greatly helped the Alangalang community’s post-typhoon recovery, Kirby knows that there is still work to be done. Backed by his passion for education and the support of his friends, Kirby recently decided to expand the work he began with Brgy. San Isidro back in 2013.

Kirby Barrantes was able to raise nearly $10,000 through a GoFundMe account and a generous donation from Long Prairie Grey Eagle Public Schools in Minnesota.

Kirby Barrantes was able to raise nearly $10,000 to help the people of his hometown.

Kirby is the founder of a new non-profit organization called Little School Big Future, which strives to assist students living in rural Alangalang with their education so that they can one day secure a career.

“For me, education is something that no one can take away from you. If you have it, you own it,” says Kirby. “If you have a lot of money, you can go poor. Someone who has an education will always have wealth”.

Kirby was fortunate enough to have grown up in a middle-class family in Alangalang. His parents were well known in the community and his ambitious mother was able to send him and his four siblings to private school and college.

For as long as Kirby can remember, he dreamt of being a doctor. Thanks to his education, he was able to achieve his dream of working in the medical field. Now Kirby wants to help less fortunate children achieve their educational dreams.

Kirby Barrantes is the founder of nonprofit organization Little School Big Future.

Kirby Barrantes is the founder of nonprofit organization Little School Big Future.

“All of these kids in the Philippines want to go to school but can’t afford it. I’m not saying we have to make it our responsibility here, but if there’s anything we can do to help, we can show them that there’s something greater outside of where they live,” says Kirby.

Kirby is hopeful that one day, a beneficiary from Little School Big Future will empower us all. To those interested, donations are tax deductible.

To learn more about Little School Big Future, visit the non-profit’s website.


Olympia Weekend Event Calendar

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 6:00am



Gray skies and raindrops have returned to Olympia.  We knew it would happen sooner or later and our parched landscape absolutely needs the moisture, hopefully bringing relief to fires burning throughout the state.  I shouldn’t say it (and will regret it come winter, I’m sure) but it’s a welcome change. However, it does change weekend plans a bit for those counting on outdoor recreation.  Never fear.  Our line-up of great things to do throughout the county includes plenty of indoor activities and, for you true north-westerners, some outdoor fun as well.  Enjoy the end of August, Thurston County.

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.


Verizon Donates $5,000 to OSDEF’s Principal’s Emergency Checkbook Fund

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 3:02pm



By Kate Scriven

OSDEF thanks Verizon for their generous donation to the Principal's Checkbook Fund.

OSDEF thanks Verizon for their generous donation to the Principal’s Checkbook Fund.

In a morning ceremony at Marshall Middle School, Verizon Wireless VP Milt Doumit presented the Olympia School District Education Foundation with a check for $5,000 to support the foundation’s Principal’s Emergency Checkbook Fund (PECF).

The Principal’s Emergency Checkbook Fund (PECF), established in 2007, provides Olympia School District principals with immediate access to funds to purchase items for students and families such as eye glasses, car repairs, power bills, prom tickets, graduation gowns and other items. The PECF has been able to give out nearly $200,000 in assistance since its inception.

Representative Denny Heck, from Washington’s 10th Congressional District, was one of the co-founders of the fund along with his wife Paula Heck, former principal at OSD’s Jefferson Middle School.  Representative Heck spoke at the Thursday morning presentation, sharing his deep appreciation for the donation from Verizon and the success of the fund to fill the gaps for local students and their families.

Also on hand were Dick Cvitanich, Olympia School District Superintendent, Condee Wood, principal of Marshall Middle School, Ryan Gerrits, Dean of Students at Olympia High School, Ryan Hall, president of the OSDEF, and Anne Larsen, immediate past president of the OSDEF.

Cvitanich presented Rep. Heck with a “lifegaurd” t-shirt, sharing how his insight in creating the fund has literally been a lifesaver for so many families and kids within the district over the past eight years.

Ryan Hall spoke to the gathered group sharing, “We are incredibly grateful to Verizon Wireless for being the presenting sponsor at our September 17 breakfast fundraiser for the Principal’s Emergency Checkbook Fund.  The annual breakfast is the only funding source for this worthy cause and Verizon’s generous donation of $5,000, secured by Representative Heck, is truly remarkable and meaningful.”

Stories of families who have been positively impacted by the fund were shared by Condee Wood and Ryan Gerrits moving many to tears – stories of temporary housing provided to prevent a night on the street, stories of eye exams and glasses purchased opening a whole new world to a vision impaired student, stories of winter coats and boots, backpacks and lunch boxes, food and gas money – small acts making immense impacts.

To support the mission of the Principal’s Emergency Checkbook Fund, the public is invited to attend the Foundation for Success fundraising breakfast on Thursday, September 17 at the Olympia Center.  The event features OHS basketball coach John Kiley as the MC and former educator and parenting coach Emily McMason as the keynote speaker, presenting a talk on “Removing Barriers to Student Learning.”

The Olympia School District Education Foundation thanks Verizon for its generous donation kicking off this year’s PECF fundraising and hopes to achieve a goal of $35,000 to help principals quickly address student and family needs when they occur.

Click to view slideshow.


Additional Fire Restrictions on the Olympic National Forest

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:42am



Submitted by Olympic National Forest

With the drought and wildfires continuing to tap firefighting resources in the Northwest, managers on the Olympic National Forest have re-visited the need for additional campfire restrictions.

Campfires continue to be prohibited in dispersed back country sites, as well as Lena Lake, Elkhorn, Campbell Tree Grove, and Littleton Horse Camp Campgrounds.

Campfires will, additionally, be prohibited in at the Klahanie Campground and Seal Rock Campground.

The Klahanie Campground is an unstaffed campground on the west side of the Peninsula, east of Forks. It is semi-remote off the beaten path without cell phone coverage. Combined with the existing vegetation, a fire start in this area could quickly spread without prompt notification and action.

The Seal Rock Campground is on the east side of the Peninsula, south of Quilcene. Although accessible from Highway 101, local emergency response could be untimely if a fire start is driven by winds from the Hood Canal. This is a particular concern for the adjacent homeowners. This restriction will also align with that of the neighboring Dosewallips State Park.

Where not prohibited, campfires are only allowed in Forest Service installed metal fire rings within Forest Service campgrounds. Campfire must be kept inside the metal ring with flames not more than 12 inches above the rim of the fire ring.

These restrictions will remain in place until rescinded, after substantial and prolonged moisture.

For more information contact Evelyn Morgan, Prevention, Olympic National Forest, 606-776-0604.

Thrifty Thurston Enjoys an End of Summer Olympia Staycation

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 6:00am



By Katie Doolittle

xeroxSad but true: the word “vacation” disappeared from my vocabulary shortly after having my second child. Call me crazy, but it’s neither relaxing nor particularly fun to pack up my tiny tourists and hit the traffic-laden highway. Sightseeing around a nap schedule is tricky at best, as is enforcing appropriate restaurant manners for an entire weekend away.

Olympia Family Theater is located in downtown Olympia and stages plays appropriate for all ages.

Olympia Family Theater is located in downtown Olympia and stages plays appropriate for all ages.

Staycations have become a lovely alternative—a chance to enjoy time together and make memories while remaining firmly in control of the hassle and expense. Even better, staycations give our family an opportunity to further explore our community and enjoy all those activities that all too often get pushed aside by the daily routine. Ironically, the only difficult part is to actually commit to full-time relaxing. I wouldn’t vacuum and dust my hotel room during a destination vacation, nor should I spoil my staycation with intrusive chores.

With a little pre-planning and permission to relax, Olympia can definitely offer something for everyone. The list of ideas below is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point for planning your next staycation.

Enjoyable Art – The Washington Center for the Performing Arts hosts all manner of performances, from speakers to symphonies and everything in between. It’s an excellent venue for enjoying drama, dance, and music. Theater buffs have additional local options including Harlequin Productions, Olympia Family Theater, and Olympia Little Theatre. Music lovers should check out the concert line-up at Traditions Cafe or Rhythm and Rye.

Olympia's East Bay Plaza, the Hands On Children's Museum and LOTT Wet Center make for a kid friendly day of play.

Olympia’s East Bay Plaza, the Hands On Children’s Museum and LOTT WET Center make for a kid friendly day of play.

Fans of visual art can visit many galleries during a stroll through downtown Olympia. Of course, for a slightly different experience, you can make your own art. Painted Plate offers special packages for date nights and parent-child excursions. Check out the calendar at the Let’s Paint! Studio and sign up to create one of their featured paintings step-by-step.

Family-Friendly Fun – Of course, as part of our Thrifty Thurston series, most of the activities listed in this article can be enjoyed with little ones in tow. Check this list for kid-specific fun, or consult ThurstonTalk’s event calendar to look for specific events for your staycation dates. For retro entertainment, head to the Skyline Drive-In in Shelton. They often have a G or PG rated double feature. Looking for something active and enjoyable? The Hands On Children’s Museum is always a popular adventure and Skateland is budget-friendly and suited for any weather. Or, get a little creative and arrange a shopping scavenger hunt in downtown Olympia. Give everyone $10 and tell them to make a purchase commemorating this summer. After perusing stores like Captain Little and Archibald Sisters, you’re bound to wind up at Grandpa’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream Parlor for a tasty treat while reviewing everyone’s choices.

Budd Bay Cafe's location on Olympia's waterfront make it a perfect spot for a special summer meal.

Budd Bay Cafe’s location on Olympia’s waterfront make it a perfect spot for a special summer meal.

Fantastic Food – If you need a vacation from your kitchen, consider the following inexpensive and kid-friendly restaurants around town. Perhaps your canine companion wants to come along as well? Leave the littles behind and dine out with your beloved during a romantic couples’ night. For those of us with dietary restrictions, there are plenty of local options for gluten-free dining, ranging from casual sandwich shops to fine Italian cuisine. Additionally, many area restaurants are sourcing local ingredients that offer their patrons fresh, farm-to-table deliciousness.

Leisurely Learning – Ease back into the school year with some educational excursions. Enjoy the interactive exhibits at LOTT’s WET Science Center or take advantage of all that the South Sound Estuary Association has to offer. Visit their headquarters on State Avenue, chat with one of their tan-vested naturalists at a local public beach, or sign up for a Pier Peer at Boston Harbor Marina. Visit a park to enjoy the interpretive plaques offering insights into local history and ecology. Take a trip to a local museum or historical house. Find the free Capitol Campus tour that best fits your family’s interests. Through September 25, horticulturalists lead botanical tours on Fridays at 11:00 a.m. Indoor tours occur daily, year round, starting at 10:00 a.m. on weekdays and 11:00 a.m. on weekends.

 Dr. Attila Talaber.

Be a true tourist in your own town and enjoy our best feature: the water. Photo credit: Dr. Attila Talaber.

Outdoor Adventures – Make the most of these long, dry days before wetter weather sets in. Rent some kayaks from Tugboat Annie’s, or pack a picnic to enjoy at Yashiro Japanese Garden. Play at the park or indulge in a summer swim. Enjoy bikes and beaches while the summer warmth holds. Or bring the whole family (and don’t forget the dog) on one of these recommended hikes. Grab your Discover Pass and enjoy one of the many trailheads, day-use areas, and campgrounds managed by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources. Check here for a great primer on diverse delights of Capitol Forest.

Stay home, Olympia.  Enjoy the final days of summer languishing in the beauty of our very own backyard.  Thurston County offers the pleasures of a vacation without all the hassle. And who knows?  You may find out that your favorite destination is just around the block.

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, visit our complete event calendar.


Faces of the Market: Pure Luxe Apothecary’s Leslie McNeilus Crafts Remedies for “Smart, Vibrant Living”

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 6:00am



By Kelli Samson

batdorflogoThe first thing you should know about Pure Luxe Apothecary is that owner Leslie McNeilus does not make spa products.

Yes, among the many things she creates are body scrubs and creams and makeup removers. But, make no mistake. She makes wellness products that just happen to be luxurious.

“Everything we use on our skin and in our homes should invite health, well-being, and joy,” states McNeilus on her gorgeous website.

Leslie McNeilus, proprietress of Pure Luxe Apothecary, loves meeting new customers at the Olympia Farmers Market.

Leslie McNeilus, proprietress of Pure Luxe Apothecary, loves meeting new customers at the Olympia Farmers Market.

Her products aren’t just formulated to smell good or to pamper you. Rather, their purpose is to keep your mind and body functioning at their best.

This is one way Pure Luxe Apothecary sets itself apart from others in the industry, but it’s not the only difference. McNeilus, originally from Iowa, does not just dabble in making her products. She has a degree in Integrated Health: Complementary Therapies from the University of Westminster in England. She knows essential oils, both their medicinal properties and the quantities in which they should be dispensed.

When I sat down with the friendly, ever-smiling McNeilus in the Olympia Farmers Market garden after closing time, I asked her what knowledge she would like to impart to those who have attached themselves to the essential oil craze.

“I could spend a lifetime learning about oils and still just be scratching the surface of all there is to know,” she begins. “There’s a lot of safety to be aware of. These things get absorbed and they do affect you. I would advise others to treat these as therapeutic and medicinal and not just a fun thing to play with. It is fun and amazing and beautiful, but it is like a supplement, in a sense.”

Not only are Pure Luxe Apothecary’s products effective, their packaging and display is classically stunning, making it difficult to pass by McNeilus’ stall at the farmers’ market without stopping for a closer look. With old-fashioned bottles reminiscent of, well, an apothecary (always glass, never plastic), and clean black and white styling, the packaging keeps the focus on what is inside of each bottle, yet offers its own, no-nonsense credibility.

In addition to creating amazing combinations of ingredients to help your body, McNeilus shares her eye for floral design at her market stall each week as part of the display of her apothecary products.

In addition to creating amazing combinations of ingredients to help your body, McNeilus shares her eye for floral design at her market stall each week as part of the display of her apothecary products.

Both the classic design and the fact that McNeilus makes natural remedies can be traced back to her seven years residing in London.

McNeilus’ first career was in higher education, specifically in advising students in study abroad options. “After grad school, I had a choice between a real job and a poorly-paid internship in London, and, of course, I took the opportunity in London,” she laughs.

When her internship was up, McNeilus found herself wanting to stay on in England, so she became a student. She’d always been interested in botany and naturally gravitated toward a program in wellness.

“I love learning, and I always, always, always wanted to study these things, even as a kid. Who knew there was an actual degree in it? I’d never looked into this field to study while I was in the U.S.,” shares McNeilus. “I wanted to help people learn how to take care of themselves. I wanted to create and I didn’t want to sit an office anymore.”

Katrin Fuernschuss, McNeilus’ neighbor while living in London, has gone on to become the graphic designer behind the enticing, elegant look of Pure Luxe Apothecary. “She’s amazing,” gushes McNeilus. “She’s lovely and full of energy and creativity. She’s always offered to help and has been a great source of inspiration and support.”

After her return to the United States, and following her fiancé to Olympia from Iowa, McNeilus found herself making her helpful potions for friends and family as gifts. She opened an Etsy shop a year ago, then took the plunge and secured a space as a guest vendor at the Olympia Farmers Market. She creates from a workshop space at her Olympia home where she also delights in gardening.

You can find Leslie McNeilus at the Olympia Farmers Market on Thursdays.

You can find Leslie McNeilus at the Olympia Farmers Market on Thursdays.

“I’m always in the garden or planning things incessantly in my head,” she laughs. This hobby is evident in the fabulous floral displays at her market stall and makes sense for her, given her interest in the wellness properties of plants and their oils.

McNeilus’ products contain no parabens, synthetics, colorants, gluten, additives, or preservatives. One of her personal favorites is the Neroli Face Mist. “It smells beautiful and is so soothing,” she shares. She also loves the Rich Regeneration Cream. “I love the smell and the feel,” says McNeilus.

She has a few different cleansers in the works, along with cold and flu remedies. “I want to play with smelling salts a little bit, too. I love that old idea,” she says.

When the Pure Luxe Apothecary stall is not at the market, McNeilus and her products can be found at her online shop, Focus Fitness, and at various fairs, festivals, and markets.

McNeilus encourages market-goers to stop by and say hello. “I love being down here at the Olympia Farmers Market, getting to know people and what they’re interested in. That’s been really fun. I really enjoy that aspect of my business. I get a lot of ideas from my conversations with people that I jot down in my notebook. Come chat!”

Pure Luxe Apothecary

Facebook: Pure Luxe Apothecary


Chris Woods: On Learning, Legacy, and Leaving

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 6:00am



By Kelli Samson

color graphicsTumwater, I hope you know how lucky you are.

It’s rare in life to be truly in a moment and to deeply understand that you are witnessing an era. For the last five years, we teachers and students at Capital High School (CHS) have known beyond the shadow of a doubt that we have been fortunate.

Principal Chris Woods, we are going to miss you. And, yes, I write this with all the bias one can imagine. He was our fearless leader, the likes of which one doesn’t see often in the span of a career.

Woods, seen here with Capital High School teacher Jennifer Fabritius at the 2015 graduation ceremonies, says, “I will always be working in some capacity to make a positive impact on kids.”

Woods, seen here with Capital High School teacher Jennifer Fabritius at the 2015 graduation ceremonies, says, “I will always be working in some capacity to make a positive impact on kids.”

When Woods, the son of a recently-retired teacher and the brother of Griffin School District’s superintendent, was first hired as CHS’s principal, many moms in my book club were upset. He was their beloved principal at Pioneer Elementary School at the time, the school where they’d sent their first-borns to learn under Woods’ reassuring smile.

And now I know how they must have felt. I had no comprehension, then, of the jackpot CHS had hit by hiring Woods, an Olympia native who graduated from CHS in 1991.

For the past five years, those two days of back-to-school staff meetings were actually fun.  Woods would play music during breaks and make us laugh, all while simultaneously inspiring us with reminders and YouTube videos of how we positively impact kids.

“We’re more effective at what we do when we’re having fun,” shares Woods, “and the students notice it when we enjoy what we do. It’s contagious.”

Growing up in Olympia, “fun” was sort of Woods’ middle name. With a knack for goofing off and a well-honed stubborn streak, he was, to use his words, “a pretty active kid.”

“In third grade, teachers were always trying to find a way to keep me engaged and behaving. One of my rewards was to go to the self-contained special ed classroom to work with kids,” he recalls.

This was a turning point for Woods. “Betty Kinerk was the teacher in that classroom, and I realized how much I loved it.”

Chris Woods is Tumwater School District’s new Executive Director of Student Learning. He is seen here in his new office with the art-work of former student Emily Hauge.

Chris Woods is Tumwater School District’s new Executive Director of Student Learning. He is seen here in his new office with the art-work of former student Emily Hauge.

Woods went on to work with Mark Grindstaff at Perpetual Motion in middle school, helping with camps. “I knew I wanted to work with kids one day. I just didn’t know what that was going to look like yet.”

After graduating from Central Washington University, Woods took his first teaching position in third grade at Olympia’s Hansen Elementary, working alongside Kinerk. When he would run into his former teachers, they were pleasantly surprised at his career choice. “I think I had some doubters in the beginning,” says Woods, “but I knew I had a lot to offer and could show that anyone can be successful if they work hard.”

The Olympia community watched his ambition and drive get channeled into a career that has affected countless students, parents, teachers, and community members across the span of the Olympia School District.

Woods earned his Master’s degree in school administration and completed his principal’s internship at Reeves Middle School. His first hire was as principal of Pioneer Elementary where  his own children were attending. In 2010 Woods completed his superintendent credentials, knowing he’d use them someday.

Though it was a difficult choice to leave Pioneer and transition to CHS, Woods felt pulled by the words of friend Scott Seaman who asked him, “Have you ever thought about the impact you could have on a community as a high school principal?”

This tipped the scale for Woods, who then accepted the position eagerly, while also asking himself about the impact a community could have on him – the opportunity to go back to where you came from and leave one last footprint.

To raise awareness and money to aid Marysville Pilchuck High School, Mr. Woods challenged the student body to pay $1 each to tape him to a post. When the chair was removed at the end of lunch, enough tape had been wrapped that he stayed.

To raise awareness and money to aid Marysville Pilchuck High School,Woods challenged the student body to pay $1 each to tape him to a post. When the chair was removed at the end of lunch, enough tape had been wrapped that he stayed.

“I never imagined the impact accepting that position would have, or the relationships I would form, or just how hard it would be to leave,” confesses Woods.

During his tenure at CHS, Woods focused on unity among the staff, which trickled down into unity among students. He talked with kids at lunch and ended nearly every email to his staff with: “Please let me know if there’s anything you need that I can help you with.” Woods never feared showing his humanity and was moved to tears on occasion.

He was for the people, by the people, with the people. Think of your high school principal and you will know that this is not always the case. Woods’ brand of fun was fun that got results. Fun that got teachers to dance on the first day of school, and fun that made kids want to make him proud.

Woods gave us a sense of community.

And that is why our hearts broke when we received an unexpected email from Woods saying he would be moving on to the Tumwater School District as Executive Director of Student Learning, the equivalent of an assistant superintendent. It is a goodbye that still produces tears months later.

“When you’re putting everything into what you love, it’s never going to be easy to leave. Those five years were pretty amazing, and I’m very, very thankful,” shares Woods. “I’m so grateful to all the people who supported me in Olympia, who helped me learn along the way and gave me opportunities. So many people have invested in me.”

Why leave now, just when things were getting really good?

Woods taught us we were a team capable of affecting great positive change in our students’ lives. He knew we’d found our ‘we’ mentality – a collective voice and power as a staff. He knew we could successfully sustain that energy alone. We were ready, we just didn’t know it.

Woods’ ultimate goal is to serve as a school district superintendent. The first step, then, is to serve as an assistant superintendent. He knew finding a position in town, avoiding uprooting his family, would be challenging as the specialized positions are tough to find.

Mr. Woods promotes positivity happening at Capital High School on his Twitter page. You can find him at @chris_cwoods. He also uses #ontheroadtoawesome frequently.

Chris Woods’ positive impact on students and staff at Capital High School will be felt forever.

When the position of Executive Director of Student Learning opened up in neighboring Tumwater, Woods saw the unique opportunity to not only advance his career goals, but to learn from the methods, employees, and students of a different school district.

This move, he figures, will make him a better superintendent one day.

“I’m excited about the idea of supporting principals. Having been an administrator at all three levels, I know how hard that job is. I know the greatest impact we can have on student achievement is through our building principals. They’re the ones who are working directly with staff, and staff are working directly with kids. I’m excited about having an even larger impact on instruction and assessment,” he continues, ”as everything on the teaching and learning side falls under my title. I’m learning so much.”

Woods, who often arrived at CHS at 6:00 a.m., is also looking forward to more time with his family. “Even though I am working year-round now for the first time, my evenings are open, and I have more time to be with them.”

So, Tumwater, we from Olympia tip our hats to you. You’ve got a gem on your hands. May you love every minute of your time with the ever-shiny Chris Woods.

We sure did.


The Washington Center Now Collecting Items for Firefighter Supply Drive

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 1:11pm



Submitted by The Washington Center for the Performing Arts 

Our beautiful state is in the midst of one of the worst wild fire seasons in history. Firefighters in Washington state are battling more than a dozen wildfires, and concerns about building destruction and a lack of resources are growing along with the blazes.

Thousands of men and women are out working tirelessly, risking their lives to protect and save our beautiful state and here’s our chance to help.  The following items are being collected:

Trail Mix
Beef Jerky
Granola Bars
Foot powder
Baby Wipes
Socks, t-shirts and underwear (Cotton, No Synthetics)
Tents – needed urgently

Donations are be accepted at:

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts
512 Washington St SE

Call 360-753-8585 if you have questions. Thank you for your support.

Harlequin Productions Partners with Other Local Non-Profits

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:57pm



Submitted by Harlequin Productions 

Harlequin Productions is taking applications now through October 31, 2015 for the company’s Community Partnership Program 2016. Non-profit partners receive 150 tickets to Harlequin Productions’ final dress rehearsals, which they may sell as a fundraiser or give as thank you gifts to donors or volunteers. The program’s intention is to provide a win-win for the non-profit partner and Harlequin Productions.

The non-profit partner receives an opportunity to raise money or to thank their generous donors or dedicated volunteers. In return, Harlequin’s cast and crew will benefit greatly by having a full audience for its final dress rehearsal.

The non-profit pays a minimal fee in the amount of $200 and commits to filling their allotted seats. Five final dress slots will be awarded in Harlequin’s 2016 season:

  • Vanya & Sonia & Masha & Spike on January 20, 2016.
  • Hedda Gabler on March 2, 2016
  • The Language Archive on May 4, 2016
  • The Last Five Years on August 17, 2016
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona on September 28, 2016

For more information or to apply, visit Harlequin Productions online.

Harlequin Productions is a professional not-for-profit theater company in Olympia, WA, dedicated to the creation of stimulating and enriching theatrical experiences by producing an eclectic season of new works, “buried treasures,” and unconventional treatments of classics. Through a dynamic selection of extraordinary material, we explore the human adventure in search of theatrical magic that stretches the mind, nourishes the soul, and inspires human empathy.


Community Christian Academy Receives “Excellence” Rating from Early Achievers Program

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 12:23pm



Submitted by Northwest Christian Private Schools

Kim DeLeon joins the Community Christian Academy as Early Childhood Education Administrator.

Kim DeLeon serves the Community Christian Academy as Early Childhood Education Administrator.

Community Christian Academy Preschool & Childcare is excited to announce the receipt of a quality rating of “Excellence” from the Washington State Early Achievers Program. This rating will allow for further enhancements to the program including technology upgrades and additional leading edge child care education tools.

The Early Achievers Program is a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for licenced child care providers helping them provide the highest quality care possible.  The voluntary program connects families to quality care through an easy to understand rating system.  Additionally, it provides coaching and resources for well-ranked providers supporting every child’s learning and development in the critical early years.

Thanks to consultants Julie Weber and Child Care Action Council staff for their coaching and consulting efforts during the Early Achievers Assessment process. In addition, thanks go to Kim DeLeon and her staff for working hard to achieve a quality rating of excellence.

Educators and parents alike know that a solid foundation is the best way to prepare children for their future.  The Community Christian Academy Preschool and Childcare partners with parents to introduce Christian core values and morals while inspiring spiritual, physical, intellectual, social, and emotional growth. The goal of the CCAPC staff is to ready your child for a smooth transition to Kindergarten.

Community Christian Academy Preschool & Childcare is located at 4706 Park Center Avenue NE in Lacey, Washington. You can reach Early Childhood Administrator Kim Deleon at (360) 493-2223 for more information about Community Christian Academy Preschool & Childcare.

Saint Martin’s University Women’s Basketball Finalizes 2015-16 Schedule

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:51am



Submitted by Saint Martin’s University

saint martins basketballSaint Martin’s University women’s basketball coach Tim Healy finalized the 2015-16 women’s basketball schedule that highlights 15 home games for the Saints.

SMU will open its season with three exhibition games seeing The Evergreen State University on Nov. 2 in Marcus Pavilion and then will travel to Eastern Washington on Nov. 8. The Saints will also host University of Puget Sound on Nov. 10 and open the regular season at home against Warner Pacific on Nov. 17.

Then it is off to Monmouth, Ore., for the WOU Tournament as SMU will face Northwest University on Nov. 21 and Chico State University on Nov. 22.

SMU will play one more tournament and travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the UCCS Tournament and face Fort Lewis College on Nov. 27 and University of Colorado-Colorado Springs on Nov. 28.

The Saints will open the Great Northwest Athletic Conference play on Dec. 3 in Marcus Pavilion and face newcomer Concordia University and see Western Oregon on Dec. 5.

Saint Martin’s will play two more nonconference games before the break in California Baptist on Dec. 11 and Quest University on Dec. 12. Both games will be played in Marcus Pavilion.

After the holiday break, SMU will hit the road and see Northwest Nazarene on Dec. 31 and Central Washington on Jan. 2.

The Saints will play its final two games of the regular season in Marcus Pavilion on Feb. 18 against Alaska Anchorage and Feb. 20 against Alaska before closing out GNAC play on Feb. 25 at WOU and Feb. 27 at Concordia.

Healy begins his 22nd season on the sideline at SMU and is returning seven players from the squad that finished 11-16 overall and 8-10 in conference play and competed at its second consecutive GNAC Tournament.

Click Here for full schedule.


Washington Monthly Names The Evergreen State College Among Best Master’s Institutions

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 11:30am



Submitted by The Evergreen State College

Washington Monthly magazine today released its 2015 College Guide, ranking the nation’s colleges and universities based on three criteria: social mobility, research and civic engagement.

The Evergreen State College ranked number 31 in the nation among 673 master’s universities. Other Washington institutions in the top 100 master’s universities included Whitworth University (12), Pacific Lutheran University (25), Seattle University (26), Western Washington University (27), and Gonzaga University (30).

Washington Monthly also rates colleges that are doing the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. The Evergreen State College is among these “Best Bang for the Buck” institutions as well.

The top 100 Best Bang for the Buck institutions in the West (out of 233 listed) include University of Washington (Seattle – 1, Bothell – 13, Tacoma – 22), The Evergreen State College (29), Western Washington University (30), Eastern Washington University (37), Central Washington University (44), Trinity Lutheran College (47), Whitworth University (52), Seattle Pacific University (53), Washington State University (68), Gonzaga University (76), Seattle University (79), and University of Puget Sound (81).

The complete college rankings are available online.

“While no single ranking provides a complete picture of a college or university,” explained Evergreen spokesman Todd Sprague, “the Washington Monthly approach emphasizes some important considerations, including affordability, value, access and civic engagement. Those align well with Evergreen’s mission as a public institution.”

Founded in 1969, Washington Monthly is a bimonthly nonprofit magazine covering politics, government, culture and the media.


The Spa at Orchard House Offers Peace, Privacy and Fresh Starts

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 6:00am



By Heidi Smith

Ronelle Funk Allstate LogoFrom the moment you pull into the drive of The Spa at Orchard House, you know you’re in for something different. Instead of green-faced women wrapped in terry cloth towels and flocked by attendants, serenity and silence prevail at the rural retreat. Owner Kelli Noonan wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m trying to create a comfortable, safe environment,” she says. “I want people to feel like they’re at home.”

In fact, the spa is an extension of Kelli’s home, intentionally designed to feel like a sanctuary. She believes feeling secure is important, whether a client is enjoying a facial, undergoing electrolysis, or having a long-standing tattoo removed – all services she offers, along with a combination infrared sauna /daylight simulator. Recently, she’s been helping members of the transgender community deal with the changing skin that accompanies hormone treatments. “I’m inspired by the fact that every single client who comes in here one way can leave a different way,” she says. “They can stand a little taller, feel a little better about themselves. It’s really rewarding.”

 Dinea de Photo

Kelli Noonan offers a variety of treatments at the spa, from facials and electrolysis to an infrared sun sauna and tattoo removal.
Photo Credit: Dinea de Photo

The dream of Orchard House began during a period of major challenge. Six years ago, Kelli simultaneously learned her marriage of thirty years was ending and developed a detached retina requiring multiple surgeries.  “When I became visually disabled and got a divorce, I needed a way to make a living,” she says. “I had already been doing electrolysis for 15 years at that point.”

Post-surgery, she was required to lie completely still on her left side for weeks at a time. That’s when she began to visualize how she could turn her home into a sanctuary for others, imagining every level of detail, including the landscaping and the name Orchard House, derived from the family home in Little Women. “When you’re lying there for hours on end trying not to lose hope or go into depression, you have to be really creative,” she says. “I would think about how I would do things, never really realizing that it would manifest itself into reality.”

Today, clients reap the benefits of her vision. “The environment is so different,” says client Charlotte Silva. “It’s private, it’s peaceful, and it’s beautiful. She stages things so that people don’t run into each other. When you pull down the road to her house, you feel like you’re getting away.”

Nita Cook, who schedules regular spa sessions for herself and her daughter, agrees.  “Every thought that she puts into that place is about how to make it better for her clients.”

 Betsy Kelley, Worker Bee Digital Arts

Frequently, Kelli will encourage guests to pick a plum off her tree or take spend time in her flower garden as part of their spa treatment. Photo Credit: Betsy Kelly, Worker Bee Digital Arts

Privacy is especially important for some members of the transgender community, says Kelli. “Some of them want to make a quiet, subtle change that they can blend in with their rest of their lives and not experience ridicule. Every person that is transitioning has felt very safe and comfortable here. I’m really happy about that because I want them to be able to make the changes they want to make. I can be conscientious if they’re on hormone treatments and their skin is changing.” The same applies for clients going through menopause, who may experience related challenges due to fluctuations in hormone levels.

Men also appreciate privacy, says Kelli – especially teenage boys. “They can come in and deal with any skin issues their having without having to worry about sitting in a waiting room. It’s the only way their mothers can get them to come in.”

Other clients are changing their skin in a different way by removing tattoos. The EliminInk Kelli uses can pinpoint and isolate areas in a more precise way than lasers, although she regularly works with laser techs and considers their skills complementary. The dual methods matter for April Henderson, a client in the process of using EliminInk to partially remove a tattoo from her upper chest. “For the past five years, every business owner that I’ve worked with has required that I cover it up,” she says. “This way I can stop covering. I’ve been able to pick and choose.”

Beyond the range of services Kelli offers, Nita Cook appreciates the depth of her expertise. “She’s probably the most knowledgeable person in her field I’ve ever come across,” she says. “With every treatment, I come away with information for myself or my daughter that I use later about taking care of myself. Literally, Kelli is my resource.”

 Dinea de Photo

Spa treatments offer genuine health benefits in addition to a bit of pampering, according to Kelli Noonan.
Photo credit: Dinea de Photo

Kelli sees part of her role as educating people about the choices they make, including the dangers of tanning beds and the value of changing one’s appearance naturally. “There are so many ways to look really healthy and feel really good about yourself without having to chemically change your appearance,” she says. “I try to encourage people to be their personal best and not worry about what anyone else is doing.”

Nita sees this attitude as a key to Kelli’s character. “She’s a great person and a real success story for women,” she says. “Orchard House wasn’t something that was handed to her. She has built this from the ground up.”

Ultimately, Kelli hopes that her business plays a role in changing how people view her profession. “It’s not just a service. Yes, people will feel better about how they look, but there are real health benefits from it,” she says. “It’s not just something for the rich while they’re on vacations. I hope more people will take the time to set aside a little bit of money to invest in themselves, because it can really have a positive impact their physical and mental health.”

For more information, visit or on Facebook.

Kelli can be reached at or by calling 360.956.0574.




High School Teammates Wabinga and Colon Add Chemistry to Saint Martin’s University Volleyball

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 6:00am



By Grant Clark

chehalis sheet metalNorth Thurston High School’s volleyball team has a tradition where each senior selects an incoming freshman to be their “little sister” at the start of every season.

For the duration of the year it is the veteran’s responsibility to look after the rookie, placing them under their wing while providing insight and guidance into both the program and the school.

High school teammates at North Thurston, Julia Wabinga (left) and Elizabeth Colon are back on the court together at Saint Martin's University.

High school teammates at North Thurston, Julia Wabinga (left) and Elizabeth Colon are back on the court together at Saint Martin’s University.

Julia Wabinga had her choice of the lot. For her, however, the selection was rather easy and she chose Elizabeth Colon.

“I remember there was a lot of good things flying around about (Elizabeth),” said Wabinga, a 2012 North Thurston graduate. “I think it was my sophomore year when I first heard people talking about her. When she came in (as a freshman) my senior year, she pretty much already had a spot on the team.”

Four years later, their friendship has strengthen considerably, but their roles haven’t changed that much.

Wabinga, an outside hitter, is entering her senior season as a member of Saint Martin’s University’s volleyball team, while Colon begins her freshman campaign with the Saints.

“I’ve pretty much been following her around,” joked Colon, a defensive specialist/libero who is coming off a high school career as a two-time all-league selection and a scholar athlete all four years. “Before I decided on Saint Martin’s, Julia was the one I turned to when I had questions about the school, mostly about dorms and the academic side of things. She’s always been willing to help me.”

Wabinga and Colon are together again, with the common goal of turning around SMU’s record on the court. The Saints are coming off a 2014 season where they finished 4-26, including a 1-17 mark in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play.

Wabinga is one of only two seniors leading the Saints this season.

Wabinga is one of only two seniors leading the Saints this season.

“The girls have been training hard all summer,” Wabinga said. “You could see in today’s testing how far we’ve improved from just three weeks ago when he had a camp. You can see a fire in everyone’s eyes. That hasn’t always been there before.”

SMU will host a scrimmage at Marcus Pavilion on August 26 against Pacific Lutheran University before holding an exhibition in Lacey on August 28 against visiting Warner Pacific College.

The squad begins the season in Hawaii where they will compete in the Honolulu Invitational on September 4 and 5, while the GNAC portion of their slate kicks off on September 17 in Bellingham against Western Washington University.

Wabinga, an all-state recipient during her senior season of high school in 2012, and middle blocker Kyra Davidson are the only seniors on SMU’s roster.

“I feel a lot has been placed on our shoulders,” Wabinga said about the increased roles she and Davidson will play this upcoming year. “When I got here my first year I was one of nine freshmen. Now we are down to two. Obviously, if that says anything, it shows we’ve had a lot of hardships. We’ve been through all these obstacles. But because of everything we’ve had to overcome, it’s just going to make this season that much more amazing. I’m not saying we are going to go out and get first place. We’re just going to do the best we can and our best will be amazing.”

Colon is one of nine freshman, along with Olympia grad Jona Spiller, entering the program, which welcomes head coach Kara Peterson back for her third season.

Colon actually got her first taste of high school volleyball when she was in eighth grade when serving as a manager for North Thurston. She would go on to help the Rams finish second at the Class 3A state tournament in 2013, but it was during her first year with the program that she gained a better understanding of Wabinga’s importance to the team.

Wabinga (left) and Colon look forward to using their past as teammates to boost the Saints chemistry this year, looking for a winning season.

Wabinga (left) and Colon look forward to using their past as teammates to boost the Saints chemistry this year, looking for a winning season.

“I’d step in whenever they needed a spot to be filled,” said Colon, who was also a member of the South Sound Ohana Volleyball Club with Wabinga. “There was a game they’d play at practice and Julia had the top spot. One day she was gone and I had to step in for her. I had all this pressure to keep her spot at the top and I did it. It felt so good. I thought, ‘She’s going to be so proud of me.’ She was the top dog and I had to fill her shoes for a day.”

The following year, during Wabinga and Colon’s lone high school season together in 2011, the Rams advanced to postseason play before being knocked out by Black Hills, a team coached by Peterson.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t end the way we wanted them to,” Wabinga said. “Coach Kara always brings that up.”

As Wabinga enters her final season of college volleyball and Colon begins her first, things already have a different feel around the program than previous years, according to Wabinga, both in the amount of off-season work the team has put in as well as the closeness of the squad.

“It’s easier to do when you have that chemistry,” Wabinga said. “Togetherness is the biggest part with this group.”

The chemistry part required little work for Wabinga and Colon.

“I’ve always considered her like my little sister,” Wabinga said. “I figured it was just kind of a given she’d go to Saint Martin’s too. It pretty much was already decided.”

Visit the Saint’s full schedule online for the entire 2015 season line-up.