Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Local Teen Magician Sterling Dietz

Everyone knows that October 31st is the day we celebrate Halloween, but did you know that the last day of October is also National Magic Day? Celebrated on the anniversary of Harry Houdini’s death, Magic Day is a time for magicians to share their talents and inspire future generations of magicians.

For this occasion, was delighted to interview Whatcom County magician Sterling Dietz. A 2009 graduate of Lynden High School, Sterling has already achieved renown in the magical community. What first sparked your interest in magic?

Sterling Dietz Sterling Dietz
Courtesy Photo

Sterling Dietz: I became interested after I saw Las Vegas magician Jeff McBride perform at the Mt. Baker Theatre in Bellingham. To this day, I can hardly remember what he did on that stage, but I do remember the emotions and feelings that were coursing through me. After the show, I turned to my Dad and said, “This is what I was born to do.”

NK: When did you do to start your training in magic and how did you prepare?

SD: I’ve been performing the art of magic for almost five years. To start my training, I bought every single item that Jeff McBride was selling after his show. I went home and read magic books from the library, found tricks online, and practiced. Three days later, I performed my first show for my Mom’s friend’s son’s birthday party. I got paid five dollars for my first gig.

NK: What other magicians have influenced your act?

SD: Magicians who have instructed me and helped me on my path are also some of my friends in magic, like Jeff McBride. I studied under him for a little while.

Another influence is local magician John Walton. He was my first friend in magic and also one of my mentors. We have spent many hours in his studio “jamming” and critiquing each other’s illusions.

But my favorite magician of all time is David Copperfield. The way he uses stories and choreography makes his magic more than just tricks. It’s an experience.

NK: What have been some of your career highlights so far?

SD: Winning the World Teen Champion of Magic in 2006 was a highlight, and traveling to other countries for magic as well.

NK: What’s your favorite trick to perform?

SD: My favorite illusion to perform is definitely the “Card Manipulation” portion. It’s done to music, and cards appear and disappear at my fingertips.

NK: What’s the most challenging illusion in your repertoire?

SD: The most challenging illusion I do is my show’s Finale. It is another type of manipulation with billiard balls. Performing this type of sleight of hand takes many years of practice.

NK: You graduated from Lynden High School in 2009; what’s next for your education and/or your career?

SD: Magic is truly an education in itself. With magic, I am learning business, human relations, and finances. I don’t think college is the right road for me at this time, but I may take some classes online.

NK: What are some lifelong goals that you have for your career?

SD: My goal is to have my own theatre, which is currently being negotiated in several possible places.

NK: What advice would you give to other kids in Bellingham and Whatcom County that have an interest in performing magic?

SD: Whether it is magic or something else, find your passion in life and then commit the time and energy to pursue it. Find as many resources as you can—from the library, Internet, friends, and family—and then go to work to be the best you can be.

Visit Magician Sterling Dietz to find out more about Sterling’s act, upcoming performances, and booking.

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Visit Cupcake Heaven in Fairhaven

When another mom friend told me how much she liked the cupcakes at Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven, my first response was “Let’s take the girls.” My daughter loves sweets, cake especially, and what could be more perfect, really, than a well-made cupcake?

Exterior of Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven. Exterior of Katie’s Cupcakes in Fairhaven.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

We met on a grey Saturday with our two twelve-year-olds. On any day this bakery will feel friendly, but on a grey Northwest day, it feels downright cozy. The walls are painted in butter yellow and bright green, and pastel-colored chairs are scattered among the small white tables, while pastel polka-dotted mugs hang in a row behind the bakery counter. A couple of armchairs hug the large, light window space, and artwork adds to the palette of color. The kid-friendly color scheme—pink, green, yellow, and white—feels just so right for cupcakes. My daughter was enchanted. So was I.

Owner Katie Swanson opened the bakery on March 17, 2009, adding Bellingham to the list of cupcake lovin’ cities. In New York, cupcake bakeries have around been since 1988, but on the West Coast, the cupcake craze is much more recent, with bakeries popping up post-2003 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Some say the popularity is in the cupcake’s perfect portion size. Cupcakes are also individual, each with their own decorative topping. I think the best part—and I’ll bet any child would agree—is that no one needs to share. Go ahead, lick off the frosting first.

For me, my choice was easy—Lemon Lovin’, my favorite flavor and, conveniently, one of the Saturday specials. My daughter opted for Cookies & Cream, also a Saturday special. Katie’s offers regular dailies in chocolate, vanilla, and red velvet, as well as special flavors on a rotating schedule, such as banana, piña colada, coconut, and more.

Various flavors of cupcakes at Katie's Cupcakes. Various flavors of cupcakes at Katie’s Cupcakes.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

The cupcakes are baked fresh every day, and the bakery uses healthy ingredients, including organic milk and butter, and eggs from cage-free chickens. And unlike those generic cupcakes with greasy toppings that leave you feeling a little ill afterwards, the old-fashioned buttercream frosting— the most important part of a cake in my opinion—is truly delicious.

For those with diet restrictions, gluten-free cupcakes can be found on Fridays, as well as a vegan variety on Wednesdays. Come summer, cupcakes with fresh fruit will be available. The bakery also accepts orders for custom cupcakes and cakes for special occasions, like birthdays and weddings.

Cupcakes come in two sizes, regular and mini, and at $2.25 and $1.50 respectively, they make for an affordable afternoon out with your kids. Katie’s is the perfect destination for a little one-on-one time with your child or for a group of friends. Or come solo for your own inner child.

A Cookies & Cream cupcake from Katie's Cupcakes. Try a yummy Cookies & Cream cupcake from Katie’s Cupcakes.
Photo by Joanna Nesbit

If you’re looking for a new party venue, Katie’s offers birthday party packages and girls’ tea parties. The birthday party package includes drinks and decorating your own cupcake and two sugar cookies. Swanson includes face painting or beading as additional activities (activity ideas are still in progress), but is happy to let parents provide their own craft. Cost is $9 per child on weekends, and $7 on weekdays. Weekend timeslots are limited to 11am-12:30pm and 3:30-5pm, while weekday timeslots are open. For girls’ tea parties, simply call head to book a couple of tables—there’s no special package. The bakery can accommodate a maximum of 8 children for either kind of party.

Katie’s Cupcakes is located at 1005 Harris Avenue, next to Rebecca’s Flower Shoppe. Hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 11 AM to 7 PM, Friday to Saturday from 11 AM to 9 PM, and Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM.

For more information, call (360) 393-4632.

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Book Review: “The Composer is Dead”

"The Composer is Dead" cover. The Composer is Dead

Written By: Dave Wheeler

Master of unfortunate events and morosely hilarious storyteller Lemony Snicket is at it again. In The Composer is Dead, a picture book released in March by HarperCollins, Snicket, alongside San Francisco composer Nathaniel Stookey and Portland illustrator Carson Ellis, detail, in stereo, the untimely demise of an unnamed symphonic composer.

The book, which is designed to introduce children to the instruments in the orchestra and includes an audio CD of Stookey’s original music, follows a bumbling Inspector as he investigates the whereabouts of each musician on the murderous night in question. But the woodwinds, the violins, reeds, and percussion all have air-tight alibis. The plot thickens with each turn of the page as, one by one, the Inspector eliminates his virtuoso suspects. Even the conductor seems to be off the hook!

Originally, The Composer is Dead achieved renown in 2006 as Nathaniel Stookey’s brainchild; commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, it premiered at Davies Symphony Hall. The performance featured Snicket’s live narration, which is included on the audio disc that accompanies the book. Since its debut, Snicket and Stookey’s literary symphony has been taken up by the likes of the Toronto, Chicago, and Philadelphia symphonies as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, just to name a few.

With the book version now available, everyone can figure out whodunit from the comfort of their own homes and CD changers. In addition, readers will be charmed by the subtle, nostalgic, and whimsical illustrations characteristic to all of Carson Ellis’s art, evoking bygone days you can’t quite put your finger on. Her other work includes illustrations for Trenton Lee Stewart’s children’s novel The Mysterious Benedict Society; but, perhaps most notably, she is cover-artist-in-chief for the Portland troubadours known as The Decemberists and bride of band front man Colin Meloy (but you indie music connoisseurs probably already knew that).

What you may not realize is that author Snicket—known to his family and the courts as Daniel Handler—is also a musician; he played accordion on several tracks for The Magnetic Fields’ 1999 album 69 Love Songs. He has also contributed lyrics to Brooklyn indie rock band One Ring Zero, which has commissioned lyrics from notable authors like Neil Gaiman (Coraline, The Graveyard Book) and Myla Goldberg (Catching the Moon).

A smart composition of music and humor, combined with a playful bit of murder, The Composer is Dead invites the whole family to an evening of classical music with the orchestra, and a fair share off-beat interrogation from the Inspector. This multimedia project, elegant and intriguing, is sure to spark an interest, or revive a passion, for music and symphonic arrangements for anyone intently listening.

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