What’s Good in Seattle, April 2015

Posted on April 20, 2015, 8:01 pm
19 mins


In contemplating what to write about for my first “What’s Good in Seattle” column, I thought about the month of April and what it means for us. It’s a time to clean house, to tend and nurture the garden, to watch the bulbs that pop up through the ground and the tiny buds about to burst on the trees.

April is also the birth month of my Aunt Ada, a woman whose life is part of what inspires me to write about the experiences in life awaiting us—not as a checklist or bucket list demanding immediate attention, but a world of possibilities that rewards curiosity. Aunt Ada was, bright, funny, interesting, empathetic, an exceptional and magnetic conversationalist who saw the good in everyone. She was a keen listener and loved details. She would hear your problems and try to help you solve them, never looking at her watch. She always gave great advice.

My mother and Ada, were extremely close, born in Italy. The devastation of World War II and the loss of their father in a submarine explosion caused them to leave behind their home and farm to cross the Atlantic on The Saturnia, a 9-day journey to America, where other family members had already settled. They found a small apartment in the Bronx and my grandmother went to work in a clothing factory, sewing garments for Oleg Cassini, Luis Estevez and the french couturier Pauline Trigere. Many of the couture gowns that she worked on were hand-sewn, each stitch aligned perfectly with the next. I remember her fingers being worn down by the pressure of the sewing needles.

She discovered a natural talent for designing and sewing and she constructed the most elegant clothing from the finest couture fabrics and trimmings left over at the shop. Though they were of modest means, my mother and Ada looked like the rich and famous when they walked onto the street, and that fine sense of style never left them.

When she was 63 years old, Aunt Ada was diagnosed with a grave form of lung cancer, just two weeks after we celebrated the birth of my daughter. I spent the year traveling back and forth from Seattle to New York so that I could have as much time with her as possible. She loved babies and my newborn baby girl brought her much joy.

It was heartbreaking to see her declinea once vibrant person lay in bed with a white, knitted cap on her head to keep her warm. When we watched a video of my trip to Italy with her daughter, Elly, I began to complain about the way we looked at the beach, especially our hair. She took her cap off and showed us that her hair was falling out. She tugged on a few strands to show us how easy it came out and how we should be thankful for what we had.

Once, as I sat next to her, she said, Loli, I know that you have asked me many times to come visit you in Seattle. If I get through this, I promise that it will be the first trip that I take.I was optimistic, thinking that she would recover and be able to experience our picturesque city. As the months passed, it was clear that she was not going to get through it.

During my last visit with her, she told me that she had regretted smoking. Watching her suffering caused all of the smokers in the family to quit. She also regretted worrying about money and that she wished she had traveled more. She loved a sense of adventure in life.

I only wish that I had gone to Atlantic City and to Las Vegas again.She loved the sounds and excitement in the casinos. She went on…“I never even got to have an affair!She always took me by surprise, made me laugh until I cried.

They say that there is always a silver lining, too, and this was the silver lining for me: I learned from Ada that each one of us will experience regret, but if were aware of the fragility of life, we can go out and find the good and be happy with what we see in the moment and when we look back on our lives. Because of my experience with my beloved Ada, I choose to say, Yes,to things. In writing Whats Good in Seattle,I hope to pass this inspiration on.

For April, I offer three things to make us feel Young Again.

Rejuvenate the Body: Defying Age with Naturopathy

As we age, it is natural for us to want to look and feel as we did in our youth. Naturopathy has helped me to feel young again, and I truly believe in the anti-aging practices of natural medicine because I experience the positive effects every day.

I first heard the term “naturopathy” several years ago on a return flight from Italy from a woman who had survived breast cancer and taken a trip to celebrate. She emphatically told me that her naturopathic doctor helped to save her life by administering intravenous vitamins to strengthen her immune system before, during and after her treatment. I was inspired to learn about naturopathy and health practices in other countries. I wanted to know why our cancer rate is high in comparison to other cultures. Several—not one, but several—of my close friends were being diagnosed with different forms of cancer. I decided to try to take a preventative approach, which led me to Dr. Marianna Abrams, Medical Director of Waters Edge Natural Medicine.

Dr. Abrams, ND, MSAOM Medical Director, Water’s Edge Clinic

Dr. Marianna Abrams, ND, MSAOM, MD, Water’s Edge Natural Medicine

Dr. Abrams is licensed as a primary care physician (MD), naturopathic physician (ND) and acupuncturist in the state of Washington. She has devoted years to studying and practicing multiple forms of medicine, specializing in health rebuilding. Her goal is to educate patients on food and nutrition, hormone balancing, weight loss and daily exercise in achieving longevity.

Abrams is a highly intuitive, empathetic, natural-born healer with an insatiable curiosityabout life. Getting to know each of her patients is the secret to her success. My first consultation lasted 90 minutes, and was really the beginning of the healing process as I recounted fears and traumas that were at the root of many health problems, including high stress. During my next appointment, she did extensive testing. She looks deep, studying the root causes of a problem to help you become the healthiest that you can be, emotionally, nutritionally and physically. Her health rebuilding program educates individuals on how to stay healthy and prevent disease throughout their life.

Being a highly sought-after speaker, with two additional locations in Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara. I asked Dr. Abrams if she could share some of her wisdom with readers—she will host an informational event on skincare at her Seattle location this month. What goes into one’s skincare products is of utmost importance, therefore Water’s Edge Clinic carries The Gratie Organic Skincare line which combines anti-aging minerals from thermal springs with native flora and cold-pressed organic oils. The result is an elite product that helps to improve skin and restore youth and beauty, and has received publicity on Ellen and The Doctors.

There are many ways to renew the skin and Dr. Abrams will be offering individual, complimentary mini-sessions with the Endy Med Treatment, an FDA-approved, state-of-the-art treatment, that is a safe, fast, and painless way to improve skin elasticity, texture, tone and color.

Come sip champagne, enjoy tasty treats and learn about the products and treatments offered at Waters Edge Natural Medicine!

Water’s Edge Natural Medicine Skincare Informational Event

When: Wednesday, April 29, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM.

Where: Water’s Edge Natural Medicine (150 Nickerson St. #211)

Final appointment to be scheduled at 5 PM. Please call the office at 206-283-1383 to schedule your 30 minute appointment, free of charge. Learn more about Dr. Abrams, her staff and the facilities and treatments at Water’s Edge Natural Medicine at www.naturopathic.com


Rejuvenate the Mind: The Annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Tulip at the Skagit Valley Tulips Festival. Photo by Christopher Reicks

Photo by Christopher Reicks

How fortunate to have the Tulip Festival right in our own backyard! A grass roots community effort with real, old-fashioned appeal, run by volunteers and funded through local businesses—I have made several attempts to get there and have failed. As a tribute to my Aunt Ada, however, I have promised myself to venture out this month to see the Skagit tulip fields in person. I relate them to the vast fields of sunflowers that color the landscape in Italy during the late summer months.

In 2014, visitors from all 50 states and 85 foreign countries made it to witness the expansive beauty of one of Washington States top attractions. With that sort of traffic, taking a day to drive almost two hours from the city to the Tulip Festival deserves proper planning, but it is well worth it. After all, the gardens and events that make this event so memorable requires much more planning from its hosts. Learn why the tulip is the worlds Peace Flower.Enjoy one or more of the scheduled festivals such as the Anacortes Arts Festival: Art in Bloom,Fine Art Exhibition, Tulip Towns Childrens Art Table, the Mount Vernon Street Fair, Kiwanis Salmon Barbeque, 2015 Annual Poster Photo Contest, A Tulip Festival Concert, The Annual Parade, and many more festivities throughout the month. 

There are local artists who exhibit their work in galleries throughout the area. I would like to make special mention of Seattle artist Mark Eckstrand, who has opened a new hot shop in the Mt. Vernon area. Eckstrand is world renowned for his glass wall installations. Locally, his work can be seen at The Seattle Aquarium. He worked with children to create a wall of sea life made entirely of glass. Art should be part of the experience of overwhelming natural beauty. I intend to go on a sunny day and bring some art supplies for my daughter. I would love to have her capture what she sees on canvas.

Tulips at Tulip Town

Photo by Christopher Reicks

Skagit Valley Tulips

Photo by Christopher Reicks

Tips on Touring the Festival:

There are two main fields to visit and there is an entrance fee for both: Roozengaarde and Tulip Town. The organizers meticulously plan beautiful display gardens to take your breath away. Every year over, one million tulips are planted in various designs. There are stops along the way to pick up your Tulip Festival map, but you can look on the Tulip Festival website to plan your trip in advance at www.tulipfestival.org

The website also features a host of information on local restaurants, spas, hotels and casinos, etc. They advise that visitors should try to plan to go as early in the month as possible as Mother Nature is in charge of the schedule and there is a possibility that tulips will bloom early. Please note that a pair of mud resistant boots could come in handy. Hundreds of thousands of people visit each year, so if you can take a day during the week to go, you may avoid some heavy traffic.

Enjoy this adventure that will surely rejuvenate your mind and remember to take photos!


Rejuvenate the Spirit: Live Music at The Funhouse

I work part time in a flower shop and I have met the most interesting people. A few weeks ago, Bobby Kuckelburg walked in to purchase some flowers for his wife. As I wrapped them up, he told me that he was the owner of The Funhouse, a local music venue that once sat across the street from the Seattle Center—the one with the huge, crazy clown skeleton face atop the buildings entrance.

Razing The BarThe club that had rocked the neighborhood was being torn down. Once a home for young, local and traveling artists and an important alternative venue, The Funhouse’s closing has had much publicity, including a recent documentary, Razing the Bar, which screened at the Seattle International Film Festival last year.

The music community lamented its loss, but now there is reason to celebrate again. Kuckelburg, also the owner of the Victory Lounge, and his business partner, Brian Foss, finally found a new home for their music venue. They partnered with Dana Sims of El Corazon, a club and venue on Eastlake in South Lake Union that features hard rock and heavy metal music.

I was getting ready to write my first monthly column, “Whats Good in Seattle” and because I love music—especially live music—I wanted to feature, The Funhouse. On April Fools Day, I drove to seek out the new Funhouse now, occupying the lounge side of the El Corazon building. The band The Crossroads Exchange was playing Americana-style music. Containing deep-rooted elements from the past, The Crossroads Exchange has a contemporary sound that incorporates country, rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B, and blues. Best of all, the band made me feel like dancing.

The energy in the room was intense because this Beloved Seattle Rock and Roll Sanctuary finally has a home again and the community couldn’t be happier. Foss, also a DJ on KEXP, told his family, friends and listeners after losing his lease that he wouldn’t shave his beard until they found a new home—and now he plans to have a beard-shaving party at the venue.

Foss stated, I just love live music. Live music shows should be fun. The idea is to make this pleasurable for everyone. The bands, customers, and staff mean so much!” The Funhouse fan demographic stretches from young to old. Its an all ages venue. However, the venue does also host 21 and over shows. The El Corazon website has a calendar of all featured events now through December 2015 at www.elcorazonseattle.com

Kuckelburg ends with these words: “Its all about the art. Its all about the music, the kids. Cultivating a community is what were trying to do. Thats it.

Lois Castelli-Leff is a Long Island transplant, 28 years in Seattle. She has a degree in fashion merchandising from FIT and BA in textiles and merchandising from SUNY at Oneonta. Her work experience includes fashion sales and styling at Macy's NYC and Nordstrom. She held regional sales executive position at both Perry Ellis and Anne Klein and has an extensive background in showroom sales, trade shows and fashion show production. Her community service includes serving as an art docent through the Frye Art Museum and speech coach at Our Lady of Fatima, choreographer for the Magnolia Theatre, and is a member of the Katie McKay Circle. Lois founded her business, Senti, in 2010 producing glass crosses. She has three beautiful children and a dog, Baci.

7 Responses to: What’s Good in Seattle, April 2015

  1. anthony

    April 21st, 2015

    My mother would be very proud of you Lo :-) +anthony

    • April 22nd, 2015

      Hi Ant,
      Thank you! Aunt Ada had the special gift of seeing the good in everyone. When my daughter Nina was little she would say, “Mommy, you make me feel like queen of the world!” That’s how your mom made me feel! Love you! xo

  2. Peter

    April 22nd, 2015

    Great article.. Very interesting and well written..!!
    Thanks very much for all the insight…

    • Lois Leff

      April 22nd, 2015

      Thank you! Your help meant the world to me!

  3. Steve

    April 23rd, 2015

    I wish I could have met the woman who inspired such elegant prose. Well written…great format.

  4. Amy

    April 24th, 2015

    Your beautiful and intricately woven memories show that life is precious to you. Inspiring!

    • April 29th, 2015

      Hi Amy,
      Thank you to my dear friend! I’m grateful that many of my happy
      memories are ones that we have spent together!
      Hope to see you soon!