Daze of Our Lives

Am I Living in a Seinfeld Episode?

There Will Be Light

Two days last week, I worked at Alki Surf Shop while my husband, David, zipped over to Randle, WA, to do some work on our AirBNB house.

Shortly after I opened the store, a woman I didn’t know walked in and said, “I’m not stalking you, but you left your BMW lights on.” It turned out I’d parked in front of her house. She is also an aficionado of vintage BMWs, and didn’t want me to return to find my car with a dead battery. The woman’s name was Megan, and I discovered we both own businesses on Alki Beach.

I locked up the store and walked with Megan back to my car, opened the door and started the engine without a problem. She waved goodbye, I locked up my car and headed back to the shop.

Fast forward to the end of the day…

I walk back to my car and see the lights were still ON! OMG. Earlier, when I checked and saw my battery was in good shape, I forgot to turn off the lights!

But, to my delight, the engine started right up!

Sheesh. Old people. 

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My classic 1976 BMW 2002 is now 40 years old!

Chewing the Digital Fat at Alki Surf Shop

Our visitors are both local and from around the world. Later that day, Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc from Bellingham dropped in, and somehow, we started talking about cell phone service.

Jim and Suzanne told me about their spotty AT&T service, and how they recently switched to Verizon. And yes, this was a spontaneous conversation!

Suzanne said, “We were with AT&T, and just didn’t get a signal anywhere. I mean, at my work there was like zero signal. I had to go outside and it was still sketchy. Jim’s a realtor, so he’s all over the place—and, I mean, he HAS to have a signal.”

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Jim and Suzanne Skerjanc, happy Verizon customers

Jim told me he would be driving down a main road, and bam—his calls would drop. He noticed the bars would go to zero, then a half mile down the road, they would come back. And it happened all over the county.

When they switched to Verizon, it was completely different. They now have cell phone service everywhere they go.

“We have full service now. It’s like being in the middle of Seattle,” Jim told me. “Since we switched to Verizon, we have great, reliable coverage all the time.”

Hearing about their experiences made me proud of my connection to Verizon as a brand influencer. Maybe #BetterMatters, but in their case, #BetterWins! 

AirBNB AirHEADS

By a huge percentage, the guests at our home on AirBNB are nice and responsible people. It’s interesting to see how different age groups behave almost stereotypically. “Grownups” treat our house as their own, and leave things in great shape. Millennials, on the other hand, generally seem to have a different idea of what it means to leave a place neat and tidy, or to treat our home with care.

When we first listed our house, my friend, Reg Saddler said, “Well, you know what people do with AirBNB houses, don’t you?” (And being a newbie, I said, “No!?”) He went on, “Terri, people make pornos in them!”—which kind of freaked me out!

Last year we hosted a boudoir photographer, whom we found to be a respected commercial photographer, and totally legit. Nothing too crazy has happened so far.

Generally, when we hand over the keys, we meet our guests face-to-face, and I believe the personal connection helps ensure a positive experience on both sides. That is, most of the time.

Recently we had a group of guys make a reservation for a bachelor’s weekend. The person who booked the house specifically said to me, “We will be clean and respectful.”

© terri-nakamura-airbnb-bachelor-party

Beside filling huge garbage bags with empty booze and beer bottles, and then ruining and tossing five of our plush, hotel-grade towels into the trash without a word, this group burned through all of our firewood. And they also burned a batch of stripped maple saplings that David was seasoning to make into furniture.

Long pieces of beautiful wood leaning against the wall opposite the wall of split firewood would appear different to sensible people, but they were clueless. I could only think: “Morons.”

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Not the actual doll. The real one wasn’t this nice.

And to top it off, they also deposited a blow-up sex doll in with the rest of their trash. I mean, WHO DOES THAT? EWWWWW!

If we’d known the fiancee, I would’ve been tempted to tell her, “RUN, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!” 

MISSION: Litter-ally Accomplished

Some of you might remember my last new year’s eve and day were crazy. A small part of it had to do with a postcard offering a trial box of OKO cat litter from the Mud Bay Pet Store.

We regularly receive OKO postcards and I usually recycle them. But recently, one arrived, and I decided to give it another shot. So I tossed it into my briefcase in the event I was near Mud Bay in the Capitol Hill neighborhood

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A typical cross walk on Capitol Hill, Seattle

Last Sunday I was near Mud Bay AND I had the postcard with me! So in a deja vu moment, I pulled into the gas station next door to the pet store, walked in, and bought something, then asked if I could leave my car in their lot while I shopped at Mud Bay.

And once again, Mud Bay didn’t have the trial size of OKO cat litter available.

I asked, “Do you guys EVER have the trial size of this product?”

They said, “No.”

Apparently the manufacturer makes no effort to ensure their retail outlets carry the items they’re promoting.

To put an end to my quest, I bought a large size of litter because we were running low. And to my surprise, Mud Bay offered to subtract the value of the trial size. So the box ended up costing only a few dollars

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Ice, the teddy-bear hamster, captured on a Canary home security camera.

I felt guilty spending only three dollars on a large box of litter, so I also bought an interactive cat toy and some hamster treats for our son’s and daughter-in-law’s pet teddy bear hamster.

OKO cat litter is odd. It’s made from paper and sort of tubular in shape. I liked the concept, but it’s difficult to sift. Our Maine Coon, Hunter, is going along with it, but our silver tabby, Grey, is avoiding it. It was good to be able to try it. Now I know. 

Grownup Kids are FUN!

Last week, our oldest son Andrew, and daughter-in-law Diana drove to Seattle from Monterey, CA. Since they were supposed to arrive Sunday night, our family decided to delay celebrating Father’s Day until Monday, so everyone could be here.

But on Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from Andrew saying he and Diana would arrive in Seattle in time for Father’s Day dinner!

I love our oldest son, Andrew. He’s such an amazing kid! He also has a knack for creating minor chaos 🙂

© terri-nakamura-Andrew-and-Diana-June-2016

Andrew and Diana — weary travelers

Hearing his updated ETA, I needed to make sure our youngest son, Charley and his girlfriend, Sheela, were going to be available in a few hours, then cleared it all with David. When it looked like we were all on the same page, I switched into high gear, trying to figure out how we could get a dinner reservation on such short notice. So I called Marée Bistro, a neighboring business on Alki Beach.

Remember Megan, the woman who told me I left my lights on? Well, Marée belongs to Megan and her husband, Andy. They said they’d be happy to save us a table, which was great!

After we closed Alki Surf Shop, our group walked a few blocks to Marée and enjoyed some amazing dinners.

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Frisée salad with house-cured lardon, garlic croutons and soft-cooked egg

We ordered lots of different entrees, including a Galantine de poulet (like a free range chicken roulade), wild boar (tender and delicious!), hangar steak, a savory tart, steak frites; plus some yummy sides including a frisée salad and a tasty assortment of charcuterie.

It was a fun and festive meal and wonderful on every level. After dinner, we walked out, and were greeted by an incredible crimson sunset. It was the perfect end to a great weekend.

All of which started with Megan telling me I’d left my lights on. 

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The sunset as we exited Marée Bistro, Father’s Day 2016

The hamster photo was captured by Diana Horsfall, using the Canary home security system, courtesy of Verizon. The doll photo was sourced on Pixabay. Other photos in this post were shot by me, using the fabulous camera on the Samsung Galaxy 7, courtesy of Verizon Wireless.

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Why “Better” Matters

Especially When it Comes to Creating Memories

Abandoned after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1981, our Randle home sat empty for a decade before we rescued it in 1991. It was a falling-down wreck when we bought it—so decrepit it wasn’t even included in the valuation of the property.

The house as we found it

The porches had fallen down, the foundation had slipped, and only the moss kept the roof intact.

Despite that, our family and friends enjoyed long weekends in this idyllic getaway two hours from Seattle. Some of our best times were when it was still just a “stationary tent,” with no doors, windows, electricity, running water or indoor plumbing.

Porch columns and door on the floor

Looking toward the fireplace; new window; porch supports & door on the floor.

Drilling the well

We hauled water until we hired a water witcher and ended up drilling a 165-foot-deep well.

We cooked on the campfire, used Coleman lanterns, hauled in 5-gallon containers of water, and slept on the floor in sleeping bags. It felt like going to summer camp.

Kids at the rope swing

Our kids with a group of their buddies, gathered at the rope swing.

Horsfalls around the campfire

A family gathering to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. Cooking on an open fire was delicious. Or maybe it was because we were so hungry?

Jaguar at Randle

Crazy, but our only cars were David’s Jaguar and my BMW. Not the greatest cars for camping adventures, but the Jag was a great cruise-mobile. Newly graded land in the background.

The property had a two-hole outhouse built in 1940, which we resurrected and used. Because few things are more “fun” than going outside in the middle of the night, carrying a flashlight, to use a spooky old outhouse! 

The outhouse

Erin and Wendy near the fire pit, with our two-hole outhouse in the distance

We had many adventures, like a death-defying trip to Burley Mountain lookout where, in one sweeping vista, we could see three magnificent mountains—Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier. One time we rescued our kids and a friend as they crossed a field unaware of a bull grazing nearby. We spent long days hanging out at Yellow Jacket Ponds, fishing for trout, playing in the water, then coming back to the house to fry fresh fish for dinner.

Burley Mountain lookout

The lookout at Burley Mountain allowed unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains and forests—important for spotting fires. Christina and Charley rest in the shade.

View from Burley Mountain

Andrew and Erin goofing around, with the crater of Mt. St. Helens in the distance.

Boys Fish Randle

Andrew, Max, Stuart and Charley with the day’s catch; Rusty in the corner.

We captured rubber boas*, and watched bats descend at dusk to feast on insects. We caught frogs, lizards, garter snakes and crickets that occupied our “guest aquarium” until they were released before heading back to Seattle. And we foraged for wild berries, fruit and nuts growing on our land. It was the complete antithesis of life in the city.

Rubber boa

This is the second rubber boa we caught— much smaller than the first. They’re beautiful snakes. 

We spent two decades restoring the house, and eventually furnished it with hand-me-downs from our Seattle home, plus artifacts lovingly collected over the years. It felt very familiar and homey to us. However by 2013, with both boys grown and gone, we weren’t spending as much time at our country home. So I decided to try listing it on AirBNB — and quickly learned we weren’t really prepared.

Randle outside

After righting the foundation, rebuilding the porches and chimney, roofing and painting.

We loved Randle “as is.” We viewed it through the lens of our own memories and experiences—and not through the eyes of strangers.

Our first guest gave us a forgiving review. The next was brutal, and though I was upset by it, she was right: the house wasn’t ready for prime time. Thus began my quest to revamp it to create the “best guest experience” we could offer.

Randle living room

This is the same view as the second image from the top—looking toward the fireplace. We gathered the rocks and had a local stone mason set them. “The Orr House” oar is an homage to “Mrs. Orr,” former occupant and whom we believe to be a benevolent spirit at the house.

I began by replacing the bedding and linens, and expanded from there, doing what we could to make people feel welcomed and help ensure a pleasant stay. I worked hard, along with David and our property manager, Cathy Kane, to achieve “super host” status! It’s an accomplishment that requires continued hard work to retain.

Super host 2

Super-host status is fleeting. You have to work hard to hang on to it!

People naturally shop around for the best deals, and we think they recognize the value in staying in our home. There are nearby rentals that are more or less expensive, but none offer quite the same spaces and experiences. Pet owners love that their dogs can safely romp on 22 acres of land, pretending they are their wild ancestors on the hunt. And looking out across the Big Bottom Valley in the morning to see a herd of elk is an amazing treat.

In terms of recognizing value—we’re grateful to Verizon for being the only proven carrier in Randle. I routinely remind our guests to bring lots of quarters for the pay phone in town if they have AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile.  We put a positive spin on the lack of cell service by positioning it as a “digital detox” experience, but the truth is, we love that Verizon sees value in serving areas like Randle, where none of the other major carriers are to be found. We regard it as our lifeline to the civilized world.

It’s been a 25-year journey so far. For us, we’ve found #BetterMatters—especially when it comes to memories. And chorus frogs singing you to sleep.

Christina on the rope swing

Christina insisted on wearing her velvet dress and patent-leather shoes on the rope swing—even at night!


*Rubber boas are the only North American boa snakes. They have prehensile tails and are very, very cool!

All Photos © Terri Nakamura 1991 through 2016

We’ve been Verizon customers since 2002 when Andrew began as a cadet at West Point. As part of an awesome group of Verizon influencers, I’m grateful to Verizon for giving me the opportunity to use and test some of their awesome devices and tech. No additional compensation is provided, nor are favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.

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UE Boom – 16 hours and counting

View of the beach from Alki Surf Shop, April 2015

View of the beach from Alki Surf Shop, April 2015

My beach bum husband and I agree, there are few things more awesome than hanging out at our store on Alki Beach while the sun is shining.

But one thing that makes it even better is listening to music that puts everyone in a great mood.

We had been using a JBL Flip 2 bluetooth speaker to pipe music out to the sidewalk. The music helps people notice us and entices them to come in. We often see people dancing on the sidewalk before making their way up the steps to our store.

Hand-painted signs on the steps

Hand-painted signs on the steps

Recently, thanks to @TheOnlineMom and #vzwbuzz, I had a chance to try out the UE Boom bluetooth speaker.

The UE Boom is fantastic!

First of all, the 360° design is a cylinder of sound. There is a rich bass and clarity that makes the sound seem almost dimensional. And the capacity for delivering volume is unbelievable. IT. IS. LOUD.

The beauty of a bluetooth speaker is not having to hassle with cables and cords when pairing with a music source.  We had our JBL Flip 2 sitting on an outdoor window shelf, which worked well for its promised 5 hours of battery life.

The plus and minus signs are actual controls for the volume

The plus and minus signs are actual controls for the volume

The UE Boom says its battery lasts for 15 hours.  But, guess what? It’s not really true.

When fully charged, the UE Boom kept playing for 16 HOURS. And would probably have kept going, but I finally needed to go to sleep.

What follows is a look at the endurance test I gave the UE Booms’ battery:

9 AM The UE Boom providing the soundtrack to my work day. There is an impressive spectrum of resonant sound. (I could feel the strings vibrate at the end of “I’m Just a Girl!”)

1 PM In my car, I had to turn off my console because it seemed to interfere with the ability of the iPhone to “speak” to the UE Boom. But once I did, it filled my car with sound. I’d never thought about using a bluetooth speaker in a car before, but it made me think it could be great for people who don’t have bluetooth or USB in their cars.

1:30 PM First stop, Unified Grocers, where I had a chance to meet with Al Burleson. My iPhone and the UE Boom kept playing in my car because I wanted the speaker to be in continuous use.

2:30 PM At Alki Surf Shop, we just started selling some Aloha shirts made in Honolulu by Robert J. Clancy. So we needed a cascading arm for our slat wall as well as some nice hangers. That’s where Grand & Benedict came in. That’s where we buy our store fixtures.

3 PM When I finally arrived at Alki Surf Shop, I swapped out the JBL with the UE Boom for the next 4.5 hours until it was time to head home.

Beside amazing sound quality, the UE Boom has a handy little hanging clip on the top which I used to anchor the speaker to the window frame. That way it couldn’t accidentally fall off and hit someone below. But the clip could effectively allow you to suspend the speaker in the air, emitting sound in all directions. It’s a small but a pretty nice little feature.

The hanging option means it's possible to enjoy 360-degree sound

The hanging option means it’s possible to enjoy 360-degree sound

Another cool option is, you can pair TWO speakers to a single device. That means, if we want to pipe the same music inside the store as outside, we can. And because you can adjust the volume on the individual speakers, you have more music outside than in.

There is a “+” and “-“ on the body, which are graphic elements but also function as the volume controls. They look nice, but they are recessed from the outer surface, and I fear they could become dust collectors. They look like they’d be difficult to clean, so I covered them with a piece of clear packing tape to prevent to keep them free of debris.

7:30 PM I kept the speaker going on my way home, then kept it playing at a low volume throughout the evening.

9 PM The power light apparently turns red when the power is low. By the time I noticed it, it had been going for 12 hours.

The power light turns red when the battery is low

The power light turns red when the battery is low

2 AM I don’t know if the volume made any difference in the battery use, but after 16 hours, I was ready to call it quits. Yes, folks, it continued 16 hours, and maybe would have kept going longer if I’d let it. The UE Boom outlasted my capacity to listen!

The UE Boom is one of the most fun, utilitarian and excellent tech gadgets I’ve had a chance to use. It’s twice as expensive as the JBL, but clearly you get more than three times the speaker. If I’d known about it when I was shopping for a speaker, I would’ve gladly paid the difference. If you’re in the market for a bluetooth speaker, the UE Boom is worth every cent.


Alki Surf Shop: http://alkisurfshop.com/

Terri Nakamura: https://twitter.com/terrinakamura

*vzwbuzz is the social media hashtag used by Verizon Wireless.