The impromptu outdoor hot-chocolate stand lasted longer than the moms predicted. Constant rain made the lettering run on the signs. By noon the proprietors — six Sammamish...

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The impromptu outdoor hot-chocolate stand lasted longer than the moms predicted.

Constant rain made the lettering run on the signs. By noon the proprietors — six Sammamish youth ranging from elementary to high school — were soaked. One mom expected them to close and stay indoors for the afternoon.

“It’s their school vacation time,” said Janet Berg. “But they didn’t quit.”

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Instead, Kaleb Berg, Stephen McClure, Thomas, Matt, Shannon and Kim Wilson changed into dry clothes. They made new signs. They waved signs at traffic going up to the Sammamish Plateau via Inglewood Road and actually got people to pull off the main road onto 216th Avenue Northeast. And by 4 p.m. yesterday the group had sold $80 worth of hot chocolate.

Credit the signs, simple and effective: “Hot Chocolate for Tidal Wave Relief.”

Toadily rad!

Folks at the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society, the men and women behind the Garden d’Lights holiday show, say Toad’s glowing personality has made him one popular critter.

They’re not talking about Goldiwarts, a toad statue at the garden, or even a toad made out of green lights. This Toad is the garden society’s mascot. A volunteer dresses up in the Toad costume designed and made by society member Betty Kincaid-Boe, and wanders among visitors.

Apparently preschoolers are so smitten that they try to follow him on his rounds through the gardens.

You can still catch Toad and the light show from 5 to 9:30 tonight and tomorrow night. The Bellevue Botanical Garden is at 12001 Main St.

Well-corked

The brightly lit, 35-foot Christmas tree in downtown Kirkland isn’t the only holiday tree by Marina Park. Check out the much shorter Christmas tree — tan, not green — in front of The Grape Choice. It is made of wine corks, glued to a plywood base cut in the shape of an evergreen tree.

“Every Christmas season, cork creativity comes oozing from my wife’s pores,” said Larry Springer, store owner. “Penny (Sweet) made the tree. For a while we hung little cork gingerbread men and rocking-horse ornaments on the tree, but they kept disappearing. We moved the ornaments inside.”

Moving on

Bruce Murdock of Redmond will soon be “of Portland.” He and his wife, Monica, will be moving to Oregon in 2005.

“Our kids will stay up here with their jobs and school and whatnot, so our family will be using the I-5 corridor a lot!” he said.

In mid-January, the former morning-show host on KSLY-FM (92.5) will join the morning team of John Erickson and Dana Jeffries on KKCW-FM (103.3) in Portland. Murdock, who was a mainstay in local radio for more than 20 years, replaces the retiring Craig Walker. It’s also a going-home trip. Murdock grew up in Portland and started his radio career there.

Chef’s delight

Duff Allen, the chef at Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Convention Center, created a seared-tuna appetizer for the 2004 Overlake Hospital Bandage Ball. That dish recently won the Planner’s Choice Award for appetizers in the Convention Industry Council’s Food and Beverage Challenge. Allen was the only Northwest chef honored.

His job as executive chef requires some fancy footwork. He not only develops custom menus for events, he oversees the preparation and serving of meals for 800 or more guests at a time.

Makes holiday dinners sound like a snap, huh?

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com