Laughing all the way

July 2, 2014

CSI: Newcastle

I’ve said it here before: If The Sainted One ever tried to build a house, he would bleed to death from unintentional stabs and slices.

He is the Official Family Chef, but has knives that can’t cut through gelatin without effort because I won’t let him have anything sharper. There’s a secret spot in the garage where I’ve hidden a  Japanese hand hoe that will chop the most stubborn greenery into submission, and although I could use help in the garden battling the weeds, I love him too much to let him near it.

Even the simple act of checking out a bed frame …

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Safe, but not secure

June 6, 2014

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My sisters and I are a cautious lot. My mother was a careful, self-reliant German Midwesterner, and my father — German as well — was an insurance adjustor, cleaning up after accidents, tornadoes and fires. We heard all of the horrific possibilities that life could serve up while we were at the dinner table. Read more

A mighty wind

May 1, 2014

In September, we rented a large houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with my sister Susie and her husband. After taking possession, we cruised up the lake and found a perfect spot for the night: a protected little bay, embraced by wooded peninsulas. The Sainted One ran the boat on shore and we tied up.

That was the night the Seahawks game was delayed due to a freak windstorm, and to get to Qwest Field, it had to get across Eastern Washington — and Lake Roosevelt — first.

It was hot and still when we retired early, so I was pleased when a breeze blew through the open stateroom window until that breeze grew into something less appealing. Staggering out of our staterooms, we had to hold onto the walls to keep from hitting the deck. We turned on our phones and they began simultaneously ringing: High wind warning, the messages from the marina said. Batten down the hatches, because something wicked this way comes.

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Not a very pretty picture

April 3, 2014

You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.

This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.

For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.

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At last

March 5, 2014

I don’t consider myself to be unlucky, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who wins a lot. In fact the only thing that I can remember winning was in grade school: an Easter bunny cake that the nuns raffled off to benefit poor people in China. I was thrilled when my name was chosen, but less thrilled when I realized what a month on display in the sunshine atop the radiator does to a bunny cake. The coconut fur was the consistency of steel wool, and you needed a circular saw to carve yourself a piece.

In time I became familiar with defeat, and always attempted to be gracious and magnanimous, so I feel especially comfortable in Seattle, the bridesmaid but never the bride, close but no cigar, loud but no Lombardi. The Sonics left, the Mariners disappoint and the Seahawks … well, the Seahawks …

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Dog gone

February 6, 2014

When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.

Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.

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Laughing all the way – Life of Pie

January 2, 2014

During the holidays, I make pies. When my mother — an excellent baker — passed away, I inherited Christmas Eve and pies. I don’t how that happened, but my sisters are nearly as useless as I am when it comes to food and domesticity, so it may be that as the eldest I felt a misplaced sense of responsibility.

Knowing that we all sucked at it, 20 years ago we videotaped Mother in the kitchen making pies. I transcribed the session after the fact so that we would have 3×5 recipe cards for reference. In doing so, I literally wrote out exactly what Mom said as she did her demo, thinking it funny and assuming that we would remember what it meant. “After adding the water,” she said (and I carefully hand-printed on the cards) “Go like this.” The videotape has long been lost, and so whatever “this” is has been lost as well.

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Giving a spit

November 12, 2013

Long ago, our fraternal grandmother told us that our great-great-great-grandfather was the famous Cherokee Yellow Bird. Of course she also told us that my grandfather discovered radar but that his secrets were stolen, which explained why there were no statues of him in the town square.

That should have put me on my guard, but I craved a more exciting background than the one provided by our known German/English heritage, which was filled with brewery workers and pattern-makers and was as boring as sturdy shoes and white bread.

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Lemonade, Inc.

June 6, 2013

I am a sucker for a lemonade stand. If I spot one, I’ll buy a glass. Rarely do I drink it all. I’m generally not a fan of lemonade unless there’s alcohol involved, but I stop anyway because I know that in doing so I’m aiding a budding sales representative or a nascent entrepreneur, and I also know that someone in the house behind the stand was brave enough to suggest it and to allow a sticky mess in the kitchen, much like my mother did when we were young.

Had my mother been born in a different time, she might have been the CEO of a corporation. She was a natural, and she taught us much of what we know today about sales and marketing. She continued those lessons with my nephew Zack, now in his early 20s. He had his first lemonade stand at her house when he was 4 years old, and she put him through her patented Lemonade Stand Boot Camp.

She gave Zack the same instructions that we had been given in our youth: Be polite. Smile. Look people in the eye. Speak distinctly. Take care with sanitation.

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Weeds & Trails

May 1, 2013

It’s now legal if you only have an ounce of it, but if you ask Grace Stiller, there’s weed everywhere: noxious and invasive English ivy and Himalayan blackberries and Japanese knotweed, to name just a few that you might recognize. Grace and her group — The Newcastle Weed Warriors — have been taking a stand against these nuisances in the local woods for years. If you’ve visited the Newcastle Cemetery when they’ve had the gates open, you can thank them for clearing it of ivy and restoring the natural habitat.

DetmerColumn 20130500I noticed a knotweed patch in our backyard greenbelt last year and contacted Grace for help. She pointed me in the right direction, and King County personnel came out and killed it. It’s hardy stuff, though, and she’s urged me to keep my eyes peeled for shoots. If you think you have a knotweed infestation but aren’t sure, go to, where you can view pictures of patches and see what her group is up to. It’s not the ugliest plant that you’ll ever see, but it’s one of the most insidious. Don’t let its heart-shaped leaves, sprays of white flowers and bobbing habit seduce you. This plant is not our friend.

I didn’t spot any stands of weeds on a recent hike that The Sainted One and I took, trying out the soon-to-be-completed May Creek Trail extension. We’d hiked the western part of the trail before (or “run” it, if you want to include the amble that we did at the back of the Newcastle 5K pack last year.) The new segments were charming, with bubbling streams, a footbridge and supporting rockwork. Going East to West, the first part is all downhill, but the uphill was made manageable by gentle switchbacks and well-placed viewpoints.

Through the Newcastle Trails organization, Peggy Price and the members and volunteers have carved out this trail and many others that we all enjoy. Or should enjoy. If you’ve not muddied up your tennis shoes lately, I suggest that you go to, print out a map and put some local miles on.

After Dennis Yarnell passed away, I wrote an article about what makes a place. Peggy and Grace and their members and volunteers make this place as well. When you pass a weed-free open space or walk to downtown Newcastle on a trail, think of Grace and Peggy and the people who work with them.

And please note that I once spent a morning with Peggy working on the northern terminus of the Olympus Trail, so you can think of me as well when you walk on that, but only for a nanosecond.


You can reach Pat Detmer — who hates a bad weed and loves a good trail — at


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