Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015; Hello 2016

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

This final day of 2015
started out pretty normally. Woke up, fed the cats, put on my make-up, got dressed, then looked at my to-do list. All doable!

I needed to pick up my car from my mechanic of 19 years, and no one was around to drive me there, so I called Uber. Uber was in 50 percent surge-price mode, so I said, forget that! Opened Lyft and put in my location and request...

Lyft did something weird. I watched the Lyft car circle around, then was notified the car had arrived. Scanning all directions—no Lyft. The driver calls and tells me he is in West Seattle. Uh, yeah. I was 20 minutes away in Madrona. Wonder what happened? Obviously I couldn't wait for him, so I called my old standby, Farwest Taxi. They said it would be 15 minutes until a cab would reach me. No thanks. In this age of "I have no time to wait," I called Yellow Cab next. They arrived in 5 minutes.

An older East African gentleman was driving and he wouldn't exceed 25 MPH. Drove me kind of nuts, actually, and eventually I jumped out a few blocks early and sprinted to my mechanic.

Let me just back up by saying my family and I went to Star Wars on Tuesday evening. We were in a hurry (of course), but I wanted to grab my gloves out of my car. When I shut the door, I don't know how it was possible, but I slammed it shut on my Northface jacket. The door would. not. open.  I had to twist around to extricate myself, then left the jacket hanging outside the door, then ran into the house and got another down coat. (It's really cold here right now.)

Weird how the door wouldn't open

My car was scheduled for a tune up at CarTender Wednesday, so I figured I'd ask them to get the door unjammed. I felt pretty lame driving there with my coat partly hanging outside the car.

CarTender always washes and vacuums my car. But this time, I got there and it was still dirty. I asked the car-washing crew what was up, they said, "Well, at least we got your coat out of the door :)" Whoops. I was an ingrate! I paid my bill, wished some of the guys happy new year, drove away and was on to my next errand.

So we got a coupon for a free box of litter from Mud Bay. The coupon expires today. My plan was to pick up the litter after retrieving my car.

After searching 15 minutes for the store, it turned out Mud Bay moved. Guess where? Just a few blocks from my mechanic! Hey, let's drive all around Capitol Hill for no reason! Yay!

I got to the new location for Mud Bay, but of course there was no parking. So I parked next door at the convenience store, ran in, bought a bag of chips and asked the guy if it would be okay to leave my car there a few minutes.

Zipped into Mud Bay, bag of chips in hand. I thought I should buy something since they were going to give me a box of litter, so I grabbed 10 rattle mice. Rattle mice are toys for cats that look like mice—covered with fur, with ears, a nose, eyes and tail. They have something inside that rattle, which somehow makes it more fun for cats.

Got to the checkout and guess what? They were out of the Oko litter and had no idea when they would get some—a supply chain issue or something. So I bought the rattle mice anyway. I now found myself with a bag of chips and 10 rattle mice I didn't need.

Sweet dog at Mud Bay

But what's this? Lyft notifies me they are billing me $5 for a ride cancellation. What a minute. They never showed up. Is that considered a cancellation? Grrrr! 

Next stop: Costco. What do you know? I got a great parking spot just outside the door! Finally, things were looking up!

Costco was a total zoo but I managed to get my stuff and get out within an hour.

As I loaded my car, I walked around to the passenger side, and wow. There was a five-dollar bill on the asphalt! That almost paid for my cab ride!

Seeing that my day was on the upswing, I had to feel better about the way it started. It was riddled with what my friend Reg likes to call, "first-world problems."

So this evening, to celebrate new year's eve, we met two long-time friends for dinner at Cafe Lago, one of our favorites. The food reminds us of Tuscany. 

One friend got very drunk and knocked over a full glass of water onto the table, my phone and into my lap. Nice. 

After dinner we walked out, freezing pant legs from where I was doused with water, and with drunken friend singing loudly (and out of tune), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." I don't know if I'd lost that lovin' feeling, but I was starting to lose feeling in my legs.

Walked in the door to our home. A phone call from our property manager, saying our AirBNB guests lost power on the second floor. Oh, no! 

David told them where to find the circuit breaker. Power restored. All good!

Ready to say goodbye to 2015, I am counting my blessings, I have a wonderful husband, kids, friends and clients. I love our store, Alki Surf Shop, and blessed with many great people in our lives. And I'm also grateful to have my health. Next September 1 will be my 10th anniversary in remission. I'm ready for 2016!

Happy New year to everyone!

If you have any great 2015 stories, I'd love to read them!

Family together for Christmas, including our two dogs, Grey and Hunter


Verizon Wireless has given me the opportunity to use some of their products. Family photo and coat in the door shot with a Motorola Droid Turbo 2. No other compensation has been received for any of the links mentioned.

Special thanks to Jennifer for inspiring me to write this!

More about Terri:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Fall Into a Savory Soup

After traveling in New York for several days to attend a Verizon Summit (#vzsummit), and enjoying meals at fabulous restaurants there, I returned, craving home made comfort food.

Just before the trip, I roasted a pretty sizable pumpkin (uncarved), yielding a two large sheet pans of delicious pieces of roasted pumpkin. 

So before heading into Alki Surf Shop on Saturday, I searched for a pumpkin soup recipe, and found one that looked good, but I didn’t have some of the ingredients.

Never one to let a missing ingredient stop me, I forged on!

The original recipe, Thai Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk, called for lemongrass, fresh coriander, vegetable stock and coconut milk. But I didn’t have any of those things. So here’s what I did:

Terri’s Pantry Pumpkin Soup
  • 2 TB Olive Oil
  • 1.5 medium onions, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic left whole
  • 3.5 lbs. of roasted pumpkin, diced*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander 
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TB fresh minced ginger** (which BTW, was frozen—more below)
  • zest of half a lemon

  • 4 cups water plus 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1/4 tsp onion power
  • 1/4 garlic powder

I’d already roasted the pumpkin and had it on hand, and as anyone who likes roasted vegetables knows, it's the most flavorful way to eat veggies. All you have to do is coat your veggies with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, than place on cookie sheets for about an hour at 450 degrees. OMG.

Soup Directions:
  1. Heat the oil in a large stock pot, dump in the garlic and onions, and sauté until translucent
  2. Add chopped pumpkin, minced ginger, 1 tsp of coriander and 2 tsp of curry, and cook for about 5 minutes. It will look sort of mushy.
  3. Dissolve 4 chicken bouillon cubes in a quart of warm water, then add 1/4 tsp onion powder; 1/4 tsp garlic powder; and 1/4 tsp ground coriander to the stock. (Since I didn’t have vegetable stock (in the original recipe) and had just used the last 4 cans of chicken stock to make pumpkin soup earlier this week, this was a workaround.)
  4. Dump the stock into the pumpkin mixture and bring to a boil.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes, then add the zest of 1/2 lemon 

The cool part!

My adorable sister gave me a immersion stick blender a few years ago. Since then, I bought another, and another and have gifted four of them to family and friends. I LOVE THEM!

Does it Blend? 

You bet! In the stockpot, if you have a stick blender, just BLEND IT.

In a few minutes, you have an amazing, rich soup. And since I skipped adding the coconut milk listed in the original recipe, I have to think it has a whole lot fewer calories.

SIMPLY YUMMY! Give it a try, or give me a shout with any questions and I'll do my best to answer.



*Roasted Pumpkin
  1. Wash, core (save the seeds!) and cut up the pumpkin into chucks. Mine were around 5-6” in size.
  2. Coat the pieces with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper
  3. Single layer on cookie sheet(s) place into a 450 degree oven for about an hour. The fleshy part of the pumpkin with be fork tender.
  4. Peel the skin and chop up. I even eat the pumpkin with a bit of butter as a (sort of bland) side dish.
**Ginger trick!

I always store ginger root in the freezer. It keeps beautifully. For this recipe, I took a chunk that came to about 2 TB, and microwaved  it for 30 seconds, turned it and gave it another 30. The skin just slid off! I then julienned, then minced. 

Roasted pumpkin seeds

The pumpkin seeds were washed and drained. I threw a tablespoon of Johnny’s seasoning salt and mixed around and left it standing for an hour or so. I then spread on a cookie sheet and put into a 450 degrees oven, roasting until golden brown. They’re so good, I eat the entire thing, shell and all.


My mobile lifestyle has been made possible in part through the largesse of Verizon Wireless. Just getting acquainted with my new Droid Turbo 2 and the ultra cool Moto 360 Smart Watch. 

More about Terri:

Monday, August 31, 2015

With a Little Help From My Friends

It’s been a year since my husband, Kahuna Dave, and I opened our store, Alki Surf Shop, in West Seattle. The past 12 months have been filled with lots of laughter and learning, and we’ve met thousands of great people from nearby and all over the world. We’ve made new friends, rekindled past friendships, and love being a part of the Alki Beach community.

It feels like we’ve been on a business “graduate school” crash course. We're smarter store owners now, and continue to evolve. Among some of the things we've learned: How to create a positive experience for people who visit; how to identify products that make sense; and how to work more effectively with suppliers.

My husband's vision of "Hawaii-Beach-California" is fun, and comes through clearly in our store, from the fixtures to the colors and raffia and bamboo trim.

One of the things I made a conscious effort to do is to incorporate my friends in the creation of our unique space. We’re constantly hearing from visitors that they love our store. Maybe one of the reasons is, there is so much love that has gone into making it special.

So, this blog post is dedicated to the people who have been supportive to me in myriad ways, and given me all sorts of wonderful presents that are now part of Alki Surf Shop. I like knowing they are there with us every day. Without them, Alki Surf Shop would be a much less personal and less eclectic place.


My friend, Paula, has great taste. She’s given me a ton of wonderful things over the decades. Two I’ve incorporated into the shop include a narrow Italian dish, now filled with bracelets;

and a palm leaf dish, used to display some of our brass items

While I went through chemo in 2006, Mary, my bestie in the 7th grade and former roommate in college, gave me a basket she’d filled with indulgent lotions, fragrances and soaps. It’s now the home of our custom reversible Tyvek Alki Beach bags, popularized by Martha Stewart.

Suzanne, a close friend since the 1970s and fellow animal lover, gave me this dish a long time ago. We use it to keep change left for/by our new friends.

On our front counter you'll often see a pretty hand-made glass vase from good friend and fellow AirBNB host Jennifer. It works perfectly with a single bloom.

Jennifer also gave me this hand-made ceramic that holds pens for our customers to use. Alongside is an awesome Crane's note book from my friend, Lynne. We're using it as a guest book.

Charmaine, like Jennifer, goes back to what I call the “golden age” in Pioneer Square. Our husbands are close buddies, and she’s one of my favorites. This great  Chinese bowl came from one of her trips.

Three long-time friends are called the “Killer Bs,” and include Sue, MR and Lynne. Together we formed a PR firm that handled the public relations for the Washington State Centennial. In our store: a fused glass dish from Sue;  

a woven basket from Lynne; 

and a basket from MR’s recent trip to Africa.

 My family has also contributed time and treasures to Alki Surf Shop. My sister, Melissa, stocks us with Alki earrings and gave me a stand to display them; 

 Carol, my sister-in-law, bequeathed some Hawaiian things from her mom, Melba (long-time West Seattle resident), including two large Tiki masks that flank the main table legs; 

 a palm-leaf wall hanging;

and a portrait of Melba’s pug, by a Hawaiian artist.

Wendy and I have known each other longer than I’ve known my husband (37+ years). When she moved to Hawaii from 10 years on Alki, she left us her beautiful collection of sea glass.

Linda and I began as work colleagues in 2007, and have remained friends ever since. She's a well-known expert in the field of Internet safety and made it her mission to educate people. The carved Indonesian bowl she gave me is currently the home to our plumeria clips!

Cecile is a fascinating friend and former work colleague. When she moved from a Seattle bungalow to a cool floating home on Lake Union, she let go of some of her furnishings, including this cute table, now home to one of our most popular items — falsa blankets.

My friend Patt gave me this basket. The great shape and design make it perfect for almost anything. Right now it’s a nest for some shell coin purses.

I’ve known Nena for five years. She's a fellow shop owner and has mentored me during the past year. I’m currently using this cigar box as a platform for shark salt and pepper shakers, but it's one of those cool things you can use for anything.

Whether or not they know it, my friends have been with me on this journey. It feels great when I'm in the store surrounded by their presence. If you stop by, you'll get to "meet" them, too!

If you're going to be in the area, give a call at 206.403.1901. If I'm there, it will be fun to see you!



My relationship with Verizon enabled me to acquire some fantastic technology that has supported our store, including a Nokia Lumia 2520 tablet, Nokia Lumia Icon, Belkin Netcam, and Canary. We frequently receive comments about our UE Boom speaker that powers the music for our store, and I wouldn’t be able to shoot such high-quality images for Instagram without the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Photos in this post were shot using the Galaxy Note 4.
Lead image: What you see as you walk into Alki Surf Shop (featuring our #Verizon #Belkin HD Netcam on the top shelf, to the right)

Alki Surf Shop on Twitter:
#vzwbuzz brought to you by The Online Mom

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life's a Beach - on Alki in Seattle

It’s been said, “Life’s a beach,” and in our case, it’s true!

Eleven months ago, my husband, “Kahuna Dave” and I launched our store, Alki Surf Shop. on Alki Beach in West Seattle.

It took extraordinary effort and thinking to create such a unique place. It’s not just the fact that the “physical plant” is fun and adorable, but we go further to make sure our customers have a positive experience in every way we can. As Kahuna Dave says, Alki Beach is Seattle’s playground, and when you’re there, you’re having fun.

It starts with the music we pipe out onto the sidewalk. We actually see people outside on the sidewalk dancing before they enter our store.  We have an incredible UE Boom bluetooth speaker, which acts like a pied piper, drawing them up into our space. And when a customer leaves, we often give them something extra to remember.

Our stock-in-trade is genuine Alki-branded tees, hoodies, and tank tops, but we sell all manner of beach essentials: sunglasses, sunscreen, towels, mats, beach blankets, chairs, umbrellas, flip flops, beach toys and more. 

We carry a variety of beached-themed home and fashion accessories, as well as cards, kites, bags, sarongs, hats and jewelry. We also have snacks and have a glass fridge filled with Seattle’s own Jones Soda, water and other cold and refreshing drinks. 

Earrings made for Alki Surf Shop
 Flags, hats and pirate stuff for our Mateys
What is a beach store without Aloha Shirts flown in from Hawaii?

Some of the most interesting people find their way into our place. Recently we were swarmed with mermaids, pirates, television reporters (as customers!), a brand-new Seattle Seahawk, and players for the Seattle Reign.

The first annual Mermaid Parade took place in May
Craig and Julianne ready for the Pirate Pub Crawl in June
 Kahuna Dave with KING-TV reporter Linda Brill, and James Lalonde
 Mark Glowinski, rookie offensive guard for the Seattle Seahawks and his wife, Lisa!

We meet pilots, realtors, soldiers, students, sailors, doctors, nurses, chemists, software engineers, librarians, bartenders, project managers, artists, business owners, athletes, media people, hairdressers, advertising professionals, friends from social media, photographers, plumbers, surfers, and energetic kids of all ages.

We’ve had customers visit from just about every state of the U.S., and from countries stretching around the world, including Austria, S. Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, S. Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Italy, France, England, Australia, Dominican Republic, Guam, Virgin Islands, Philippines, Holland, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Kuwait, Peru, Iceland and Singapore. I know there are others—but it’s hard to remember them all!

Where else in Seattle can you cross paths with so many varied and fascinating people on a daily basis? 

Alki Surf Shop is located at the center of the universe, and I invite you to join the party when you visit Seattle. I try to work at the store weekend afternoons, but if you're going to be there another day, give me a heads up, I’ll try to meet you there.  

It’s possible people might arrive at Alki Beach in a bad mood, but they most certainly are smiling by the time they leave. The magic continues to amaze and entertain all who enter Alki Surf Shop. 


Huge thanks to Verizon for their support. Our Belkin HD Netcam maintains a watchful eye over our store; we have been fortunate to have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Nokia Lumia Icon to shoot photos of our products, our customers and our amazing beach community; and our UE Boom bluetooth speaker — admired by customers and surrounding businesses for the amazing sound quality. Special thanks to Monica Vila @TheOnlineMom.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Message from My Mom

My sister, Melissa, has been on a mission to clean out our childhood home. During the course of unearthing some truly terrible pottery by yours truly, she came across a variety of artifacts as well as some notes written by our mom.

We lost our mom to cancer eight years ago. She entered Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and about a week later, she died.

It was just like our mom to be selfless, and not trouble us to care for her over the course of a long, drawn-out illness. I think we all expected her to get well. She had celebrated her 88th birthday that year — a special year in Japanese culture. My brother Dave, and his wife Carol, treated everyone to a limousine and dinner at Canlis for a very special celebration. It was truly amazing.

Quite a few years earlier, I had an idea of asking my mom to write a family history. After looking at a number of books on the subject, which made the process look daunting, I found a format (it was the dot-matrix days) printed it out and gave it to her, hoping she would answer the questions, but to my knowledge, she never did. 

Original dot-matrix document 

Having moved to Seattle from Colorado where she and my were dad married, and since we lived far from her parents and siblings and our cousins, we didn’t know very much about her side of the family. 

She didn’t talk very much about her life when she was growing up. So there were huge gaps in our understanding. Finding the notes so many years after her death is like having a conversation and finding out answers to questions we thought would never be answered.

Her notes were filled with wonderful vignettes of her days growing up, and also some sad things we didn't know about. But mostly it was so amazing to have a chance to hear from her, so unexpectedly.

I wish I could thank her for this gift and to say thanks for her many sacrifices. After our parents divorced, she raised my sister, brother and me at a time when being a divorced Japanese woman was almost unheard of. Yet she endured and met all the challenges presented to her and lived a strong, ethical and inspiring life. She provided us with an amazing example to follow.


This post is in honor of our mom’s 97th birthday, with thanks to Melissa for finding the treasures.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Brand Building Versus Customer Service

What's more important? Building a brand, or serving your customers?

Happy buyers are essential to making your business succeed. Without customer service, it doesn’t matter if you’ve created a great brand. Ignoring buyers or potential customers is counter-productive to the ultimate goal of attaining success. 

That being said, a strong brand identity is like a way-finding system for your customers, so it’s very important, too. It signals what you do, how you position yourself and lets your customers understand how you fit into the marketplace, and how it relates to them. Customers encounter your brand and should quickly understand a brand’s personality and position among competitors and decide whether there is a good fit.

That’s how the Graham Cracker Cookie Crumbles

Some of you know, my husband, David Horsfall, and I opened Alki Surf Shop in Seattle seven months ago. It may be February, and so what if Boston is buried in 100 inches of snow (@chillie31512)? The weather in Seattle has been balmy, and Alki Surf Shop is gearing up for spring and summer!

One of the things I’ve learned about retail stores like ours — there is a need to continually integrate new, fun and useful merchandise, as well as give each of our customers as positive an experience as possible. 

We installed a new section of slat wall, which is a display system that will allow us to add food items this summer. One of the things we have been researching is ingredients for S’mores

In the spirit of due diligence, we’ve been reading reviews by consumers concerning their feelings about certain brands of marshmallows and graham crackers. A brand I’ve never heard of landed on my radar, so I sent a query asking about where I might be able to find their goods to try them, and what it would entail to open an account (minimum opening orders, terms, etc.) if it looked like something we want to pursue.

Here is their reply:

Granted, Alki Surf Shop is not going to move the dial even an iota in terms of product orders, but it struck me as a bit lame, similar to when an intern will post something silly on behalf of a national brand on Twitter. 

May I help you?

For whatever reason, this phrase seems to have fallen out of favor. Some companies seem to have erected walls between themselves and their customers. When is the last time you were able to reach someone at Google or Twitter, for example?

Also this week—we ordered a large batch of hoodies to take to our screen printer. When attempting to contact the supplier to confirm the order was ready for us in Will Call, we weren’t able to reach them. My husband, on a leap of faith and using the directions on their web site, drove there to pick them up. But the building wasn’t where it was supposed to be and they weren’t answering their phone. So a 40-minute drive from Seattle to Auburn was wasted.

Eventually I called customer service for their parent company who was able to get through to the facility. The rep told me, “Oh, they are really busy and don’t have any customer service reps, so they don’t answer their phone!”

When a business lists a telephone number, but has absolutely no intention of answering the phone, why bother listing it? 

On the second attempt, David discovered a glitch in the directions  and was able to pick up the hoodies. He asked why they continue to post the wrong directions on their web site, and an employee replied, “One of the guys put it up there, and we heard about the mistake.  I guess he never got around to fixing it.” 

If you build it, will they come?

Without brand development, your customers might never find you in the first place. Good customer service provides your clients with positive experiences that can carry over to continuing relationships and result in word-of-mouth recommendations. Branding and customer service are essentially two sides of the same coin. When one side is missing, the currency is worthless.

Have you had any exceptionally good or bad experiences with a business? What are they and how have they affected your relationship with them? I would love to hear about your experiences.

Follow Alki Surf Shop on Twitter: @alkisurfshop
Follow Terri Nakamura on Twitter: @terrinakamura
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Alki Surf Shop is located on Seattle's best beach. 2622 Alki Avenue SW, Seattle, 98116
Phone: 206.403.1901