Monday, January 8, 2018

Call Your Friends: Plan an Afternoon at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Check your calendar and call your friends. The Northwest Flower & Garden Show will delight attendees from February 7-11 at the Washington State Convention Center. 

To me, it seems almost silly to bill this show as one for gardeners. Its a show for people and I insist you come check it out.
The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is designed to delight every possible kind of gardener. In truth, the show covers such a wide range of interests and skill levels, I can't imagine someone that wouldn't enjoy exploring the show.

Consider these broad interests:
  • full scale examples of how to design a backyard for entertaining
  • a vendor selling every possible dahlia tuber ready to plant
  • a tasting corner dedicated to selling craft food made by local artisans
  • a seminar on how to plant succulents into a vertical art piece
  • a vendor selling in lavender products made in the Pacific Northwest
  • a lecture on how to attract bees and butterflies to your yard
  • a garden center set up to sell books, terrariums and air plants for apartment living.
Visually, you will be astonished by the scale and beauty of the 20 large display gardens. Flowering trees, giant boulders, live moss and spring bulbs are woven together to create themed vignettes all celebrating this year's theme: A Taste of Spring. This portion of the garden show is all for show. Stand and soak it in.

Take pictures and imagine incorporating some of the scale-able elements into your own backyard. The popularity of Northwest Flower and Garden Show goes far beyond these impressive display gardens. There are also living plants of all varieties for sale (succulents, fern, ivy, seeds, bulbs) in the Plant Market. I know, it's a lot.

The selection of garden and flower related products to shop for in the 350-vendor Marketplace is second to none. Need flower arranging tools, garden baskets, bonsai scissors or oilcloth aprons? They've got you covered. 

In my opinion, access to the Marketplace alone is worth the price of admission.

Looking for a concrete ideas and a chance to mull over what you've seen so far? Look at the schedule and take a seat in one of the 100 free how-to presentations.

Ready for lunch? There are great choices this year from salads and pasta, to soups, burgers and cheese platters, in addition to craft beer and regional wine.

There is more to tell, of course. Floral competitions to judge. Garden War competitions to cheer. Landscapers to hire. A garden society to join. I will be attending the show this year and delving in more deeply to be able to give you a tailored look at the show and I promise to post in a timely manner.
 
"Good Times, Great Food" by Nature Perfect Landscape & Design)

Enjoying the show is easy, doing justice to it is the hard part!

Show is open Wednesday, Feb 7 - 10 from 9am- 8pm, and Sunday, Feb 11 from 9 am - 6 pm. #NWFGS #gardenparty #seattle #seattletimes #seattlerefined

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beast PDX: A Look Back at a Perfect Brunch

Chef Naomi Pomeroy was a finalist for the James Beard Award: Best Chef: Pacific Northwest in 2010, 2012 and 2013. In 2014, she was the recipient of this prestigious award.  Dan and I were lucky to snag a reservation at her restaurant Beast in June 2014, but I never had a chance to blog about it and time got away from me. To right this wrong, I am going back in time and putting the spotlight on a lovely brunch in Portland, Oregon. Welcome to Beast.
We were seated in the front window, at a farm table full of happy patrons. Dan and I hit it off with a young couple who had traveled up from California to enjoy Portland and visit Beast. They were foodies too, who had seen Naomi Pomeroy on Top Chef Masters and were excited, as we were, to have a culinary memory. One young man was a teacher and his partner loved gardens, so in addition to oohing and ahhing over each bite, we enjoyed talking about the joy and beauty of living in the Pacific Northwest. 
Brunch started as we all had hoped...with bacon. This is a strawberry clafoutis (a warm baked custard-like cake) served with vanilla bean whipped cream and maple-glazed house bacon. The cake was rich with a brownie-like chew to the edge and the bacon made me wonder why I wasn't experimenting more with maple syrup. This sticky sweet accent was a star.
Next was a plate with crispy pork belly, snap peas, romanesco, sun gold tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, summer squash, confit purple potatoes and a perfectly poached duck egg accented with a whole grain mustard hollandaise.
This dish was rich and fresh and satisfying. And substantial, I was relieved that the portions were hearty enough for Dan.
This taste of summer greens was dressed in a Sauvignon Blanc vinaigrette and was served with cheese from the Cheese Bar and a macerated prune.
The restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can watch as the magic happens.
The sweet bite at the end was a bete noire (chocolate beast) with creme Chantilly. It was dense and the flavor was rich and coffee-like. The cocoa nibs were dusted in gold lustre - an extravagant touch that I loved.

Our brunch at Beast PDX was delicious. I appreciated the time spent on preparation and presentation - it was worth every penny. 

Let me join in the chiming bells: Chef Naomi Pomeroy! 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Bald Eagles: Daytrip to Nooksack River

We had heard several first hand accounts of eagles feasting on fish in the Nooksack River and we finally had a beautiful day for a drive. Dan, my mom and I packed hats, gloves, cameras and snacks in the car and headed on a 2-hour drive north on New Years Day.

We stopped in Mt. Vernon and I was able to locate the farm-to-table restaurant that my friend, Amy and I ate at on our way to the Vintage Spring Market at the Skagit Valley Fairgrounds last year. The restaurant is called 3rd Street Cafe and it is run by the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. We had a delicious burgers (and one breakfast plate - oh the bacon!) and had a nice break from the car before we drove farther north.
For some reason the wind was bitter cold when we arrived around 3 in the afternoon. We learned that most of the eagles had passed through the area in mid-December (so inconvenient for me!) but we were able to see at least 20 eagles in different spots as we observed the area over the course of an hour.
This fellow seemed much closer in person and I think he enjoyed posing for us. There were at least 6 more eagles in the tree far above him. We were on the map at Nooksack River near Mosquito Lake Road (see link). We relied on that "Welcome Grocery Store" for snacks and other necessities. 

While we were out, we saw a boat marked Skagit River Tours in the water, so I'm including a link to their site: Skagit River Eagle Tours. Despite their name, they also take tours on the Nooksack River. I encourage you to watch the video on their site called "Virtual Eagle Tour." You can hear the birds and enjoy seeing the area exactly as I saw it. 
Magnificent Bald Eagles in their natural environment. It's fantastic! 

We left at 10:30 am and arrived back in town around 6 pm. It was a great day looking at the scenery, trying to name mountains and enjoying the s-u-n. If this is January in Washington (clear and 40 degrees), I'm in.

#baldeagles #daytrip #seattle #pacificnorthwest 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The New Me: Lewis N. Clark Aluminum Wallet

I'd like to introduce you to a product that I am wild about, the Lewis N. Clark RFID-Blocking Aluminum Wallet in orange (because it's a great color).

Occasionally a company will send me products to try out and review for my audience. My blog focuses on finding delight in everyday life. Everyone understands that if I don't enjoy the product, no one will ever hear about it. I only share what I feel could be valuable to my readers. Well...have I got a new wallet for you.

I was interested in this product for 2 reasons: 

#1 It offers RFID-blocking, which prevents criminals from scanning and copying credit card and identity information. I feel that this type of security is important in our data driven world.

#2 My cigar box purses are small and it can be a challenge to have a complete wallet fit in a small super cute bag. The dimensions of this wallet (4" x 2.5"!!) looked like a great option.

Okay, so I transferred my ID, credit cards and insurance cards into this sleek new wallet. I like that it clicks shut to close, which confirms the cards are secure. There is no room for cash or coins, but I don't like carrying cash or coins.

I moved it from my day bag to my pocket to just run into the grocery store.
Then at night, I move it to my cigar box purse (it fits!) to go out to dinner. 
The next day, I moved it from my cigar box purse to my coat pocket (my cell phone is in my other pocket) to run errands on the weekend.
And on and on...

I had everything that I needed in a wallet that fit wherever I put it. And my identity was protected from RFID scanners when I was out and about. I love the convenience of having a tiny wallet with me at all times, no matter how I choose to carry it. What I thought would be something I would use under certain circumstances has morphed into the only wallet I want to use. 
So, yea, I guess I like it. 

Happy New Me in the New Year.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Amaryllis: Flowering Bulbs Make Holiday Show

I just wanted to show you this photo I took mid-November at the Squak Mountain Nursery. They had a few amaryllis blooming in pots for sale and this one was my favorite. It was all I could do not to being her home with me.  I did the next best thing and captured her for eternity. That's what I call making the perishable permanent.  This scene, featuring a bright red and white striped amaryllis, could be the December photo in a calendar. Don't you think? 

My amaryllis bulb is doing fine, but I think her timing will be closer to celebrating Martin Luther King Day. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Upcycling: Ornament Storage Solution from Costco

I've been collecting vintage ornaments for a few years now and I want to remind you of my favorite way to store them: in Costco's clear apple boxes and clear organic egg cartons.  Save your clear containers throughout the year and your precious ornaments will have a free place to stay safe and sound. This is upcycling at its best. 

#upcycling #ornaments #storagesolutions #christmasornament #costcototherescue #costco #anappleaday

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Punch: Gorgeous and Delicious

I am sharing a holiday hit: my recipe for 2 Star Christmas Punch

I served this beautiful punch to a crowd twice this year and the ladies drank cup after cup. It is not too sweet and very refreshing. At both parties, people crossed the room to tell me how much they liked the punch. I joked with a neighbor that I had made this recipe years ago and put a "star" next to it. She responded, "Put 2."

Step 1:
Freeze 2 cups of Cranberry Ginger Ale with 2 cups of fresh cranberries in the bottom of a Bundt mold (make sure the width of the mold will fit into your punch bowl). Tuck 5 whole sage leaves around the edge so that some green will show when un-molded.

When this first layer is frozen, pour in the rest of the 2 liter bottle of Cranberry Ginger Ale. My first section un-molded and floated to the top. That is perfect. Allow to freeze. When you place it in your punch bowl, the ice ring will look like this. 

When prepping for the party, pulverize one bag of fresh frozen raspberries (no liquid or sugar added, just berries) in a food processor and place into punch bowl. Add 1 (12 oz) can of defrosted frozen pink lemonade and 1 (12 oz) can of defrosted cranberry juice concentrate

When your guests are about to arrive, add 2 (2 liter) of regular Ginger Ale. Place ice ring into center. Stir and enjoy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Village: A Tiny Town on a Grande Scale

Are you all decorated for the holidays?  Can you imagine having the vision to arrange a village that is this intricate?  Look at how the icy steps lead your eye from the children building a snowman at the bottom right, up past the Christmas carolers, on to the church and its nativity scene and then all the way up to the grand building that overlooks the city.  The display is enormous - this is just one section that I framed and photographed.  I just love it!

My friend's Aunt Pam is the artist extraordinaire that created this masterpiece. She and I see beauty in so many of the same things and when it comes to decorating for Christmas, she is a kindred spirit.  

For more than twenty years, Pam has been collecting buildings, townspeople, trees and ice rinks (many by Department 56) with the sole purpose of delighting the eye.  A display like this is meant to be seen and I am grateful that Pam allowed me to photograph it so that I could show you.  My picture above captures only one tenth of her display, which runs the entire length of her living room and is a multilevel masterpiece.
Now take a moment and study this second picture - the scene from a different angle.  If you look way to the top you will see the same grand building and the church just below it to the right...See?  That is the same area shown in the first photograph, just from farther away.  Now do you get a sense of the scale of her work?  I could stand here for hours and let my mind wander.  This is a different kind of story-telling, don't you think?  Where your mind is allowed to wander through each vignette, gleaning what it can from the visual clues.

In my mind, I walk around this magical little town.  I skate on the frozen pond and then buy hot chocolate in the candy store.  I always climb the steps to the greenhouse and walk inside to smell the humid air scented with potting soil. I always have fun and I never want to leave.  

Sometimes stories are best left in your imagination - you can add to them and change things around every time your mind wanders around a Christmas village. Thank you, Pam, for inspiring us all. 

#gifttoall #holidayinspiration #christmasvillage

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Genius Cheddar Cookie Appetizer Made Easier by Salton

I love to serve dry cheddar cheese cookies at cocktail parties because they are delicious with a glass of wine. Today's post is to rave about my Salton Electric Cookie Press. I've had this appliance for years and it is my faithful friend in the kitchen. While you may not be able to find this exact machine, I have noticed that the Cuisinart model looks exactly the same, so keep your eyes out while shopping.

I wanted to show you the ease with which I make my cheddar Spritz cookie appetizers. Please watch my short, unprofessional one-handed video above to see how easily this machine cranks out perfect Spritz-style cookies.

Cheddar Cheese Spritz Cookies

1/2 cup softened salted butter
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3-5 shakes of Tabasco Sauce
16 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, whirl together cheese, butter, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco until smooth. Mix dry ingredients together. A 1/2 cup at a time, add flour mixture to cheese mixture and blend to smooth. Mix until dough forms into a ball. Turn off food processor, remove dough from bowl and shape it into 3 logs that will fit into your cookie press shaft. Follow directions on your machine and press cookies onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 min until cheddar cookies are dry and lightly brown on edges (be careful not to burn them). Cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy! 

*Note: I like these cookies to be dry and crumbly. I don't advise keeping them in an airtight tin because keeping them "fresh" makes them too soft.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sheets for Christmas: Hallmark Gets Me Again

My mom and I weren't 5 minutes into the Hallmark movie, Switched For Christmas, when we saw these cute sheets and knew we were going to love this movie. We both yelped when we saw this scene and both wondered, "Why don't we have Christmas sheets?" 

I rewound the movie a few frames, took this picture of star Candace Cameron Bure in her darling make believe bed and tweeted out this picture and a comment on how this Hallmark movie is bound to be good if they put that much thought into the sheets.

The movie was darling and another happy December evening in front of the fire was complete.

Fast forward a week or so...I was shopping with my mom and we found the sheets from this movie on an end cap in Target! The exact same sheets (fox, trees, Santa, deer. Repeat) were on sale for less than $22 for a King! They didn't have every size on the shelf, so I opened my Target app on my phone, found the sheets and sent one set to my house (King) and one set to my mom's place (Queen). Poof! We both started smiling as we rolled on with our Christmas shopping.

If that isn't a Hallmark Christmas movie moment, I don't know what is. If you ever see that moment on film, you heard it here first (wink).
#Target #BullseyeIndeed #HallmarkGetsMe #SwitchedAtChristmas #Hallmark

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seattle: Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet

It was a perfect December afternoon. Two new friends and I were in the second row of George Balanchine's Nutcracker and as we settled in our seats, I could hear the strum and squeaks of the orchestra warming up. I heard a quiet tap-tap-tap and the music began. 

After a childhood spent listening to records in my bedroom, I was looking forward to seeing the Nutcracker ballet come to life. At nine or ten, I didn't think too much about the story or the setting, I just loved listening to record in the beautiful white record jacket. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Over the years I have seen excepts of performances on television, but I don't remember ever seeing a live performance. 

The performance was simply wonderful.The costumes were vibrant and charming. The ballerinas were incredible and danced each scene with grace and stamina. Each moment was so vibrant and engaging, I hope the children in the audience are listening to the music at home as well. I want them to learn to appreciate what they were hearing as well. The orchestra was magnificent.

Photographs are not allowed during the performance, of course, so I must direct you to the official website to marvel at the costumes and dance scenes. When the holidays roll around next year, find a friend and treat yourselves to The Nutcracker and a few hours when time stands still.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Vintage Christmas: Pastels Look Festive

If vintage Christmas decorations were edible, I would never have anything to display on my mantle. But I would always be sated, and there's something to be said for satisfying a sugar craving, yes?

My point is that my jumble of vintage Christmas ornaments and pastel paper houses outdid themselves this year and looked downright delicious.

The paper village was made from a kit by K & Company called Swell Noel Paper Village Crafting Pad. My niece and I put this village together one afternoon after school almost 6 years ago. We cooed over the pastel barn and congratulated ourselves when we figured out how to make the bell hang (from sewing thread) in the church bell tower.  It was so much fun.  

I would say our best moment was when, after fumbling with tree construction, we gave in and read the directions (gasp!) and realized that the tree branches were supposed to be held aloft and apart on cinnamon stick trunks.  Thank heaven I have a well-stocked pantry!  

I pulled out a jar of cinnamon sticks and the trees went together quickly.  What I liked about this moment was that it showed my niece that whoever planned this darling paper village was creative and willing to do something ridiculous in the name of making it cute.  A cinnamon stick is the perfect trunk.  It looks like wood, is the right scale and it smells wonderful.
  
I can imagine that the person who designed this village had to stand behind this idea in a corporate office somewhere.  "But cinnamon sticks aren't a household item," they would tell her.  "It's too much to ask of the customer to buy additional items" etc.  But the designer persevered and they were right.
  
If it's cute, it is always worth the effort.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Yulefest: Ballard Hosts the Festivities

I always enjoyed attending the small Swedish Christmas Fair near my home in Southeastern Michigan. It was festive and charming. A few performances, tables of baked goods, a selection of Christmas decorations for sale. The hallways and common rooms of the church were packed with people saying:
I loved it, so I knew I would seek out the same kind of festival when I moved to Seattle. Jackpot! This region has a large Nordic presence and I learned that they are opening a beautiful new Nordic Heritage Museum this Spring (May 5, 2018). 
It was a rainy Seattle Sunday when Dan and I drove to Ballard (an area within Seattle) to check out Yulefest. After 40 years, we arrived in the final hours of the current museum being open. I could hear attendees making sentimental statements about coming to this building as children and wanting to photograph just a few more special places inside. 
The Nordic Heritage Museum was packed. Like turn sideways to cross through the halls packed. It was wonderful to see that so many wanted to take one-last-pass through the halls and honor their heritage. I took this short video (above) to let you hear a traditional folk song and witness the bustling cafe where attendees ate open-faced sandwiches and authentic Christmas cookies.
Vendors were set up in the museum's display rooms and hallways for easy shopping.
In honor of Yulefest, I wore a Dale of Norway sweater, similar to this glorious display (above) and the shop woman smiled at my choice.
I stopped to admire these Norwegian Rosemaling wood carriers. I imagine they are for bringing food to a party, but that might just be me. I love their beauty and craftsmanship. I found a similar piece on Etsy if you are interested.
I felt foolish when I realized that I missed my chance to get in line for a hot ebelskiver. By the time I peeked through this doorway and saw what was going on, the line was even longer. This kind woman showed me how you gently turn these Nordic pancakes with a wooden skewer to keep it from browning too much on one side. Next year, I am getting my hot ebelskiver first!
Whether your ancestors are Nordic or you are just an admirer like me, be sure to attend Yulefest (November 2018) in the brand new Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, Washington.

God Jul! 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Refresh Your Beeswax With Hot Air

I absolutely love to decorate our house for Christmas, especially the trees. I just unpacked our ornaments (25 years worth!) and I'm surprised at how many beeswax ornaments I own and how lovely they look mixed in with my collection of blown glass ornaments and handmade paper baubles. 

Today I wanted to share a quick tip with you on how to remove the dry white bloom on your beeswax ornaments and candles. All they need is a quick burst of air from a hair dryer! I have 2 identical Santa ornaments to showcase the difference: before (left) and after (right) a bit of hot air. 

Be careful not to melt the beeswax - don't hold the hot air source too close to the ornament or for too long. You may see a greasy sheen appear, but relax, the beeswax will firm up once you stop the hot air and your ornament will look fresh and new. 

It's also worth noting that I gave my beeswax ornaments the hot air treatment last week and they still look smooth and honey colored- no bloom has returned.
There aren't any presents under the tree yet and I still need to make and hang my gingerbread men, but our Christmas tree already looks beautiful. All of our decorations have been in storage for the last 2 years and it was a happy reunion when we unwrapped them and found that none of our fragile ornaments broke on the trip cross-country. Hallelujah! Remember when I decided to pack most of my vintage ornaments in Costco apple containers? I added a layer of bubble wrap and it worked perfectly! 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Holly Wreaths: Incredible Old World Christmas Touches

I can't believe I have access to these beautiful handmade, fresh holly wreaths for sale at Squak Mountain Nursery and Greenhouse in Issaquah, Washington. They are a Christmas dream come true. 

I have always loved holly and how a touch of it can suddenly convey Christmas. Holly can transform a tiny Dickensian lamppost in a train set. It can appear in the corner of fine stationary. It just might be a favorite cookie shape with red cinnamon candies conveying a cluster of holly berries.

Holly just might be my favorite Christmas touch. This year I am having fun with our new house and experimenting with how I want to decorate. This week I bought bundles of cut holly from Squak Mt Nursery for just $3 each. That should give me the raw materials I need to enhance a wreath and tuck some Christmas touches here and there.
The time and talent it takes to make a full wreath of holly is incredible. The $50 price tag makes these exquisite holiday touches a bargain. Go to Squak Mountain Nursery right now! 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hostess Gift: Embroidered Flour Sack Towels

I am lucky for so many reasons. I have a wonderful extended family and great friends in Michigan who support our big move out West. But today I wanted to tell you about the generosity of a new friend, someone I met here in Washington.

I met Judie through my husband. When he was consulting in Seattle, I flew out for the month of April, June and September so that we could be together. I lived in his hotel (Remember when I made dinners in my "Easy Bake oven" and canned pickles?) and explored Seattle during the day.

One evening we met up with his co-worker Judie for dinner and I brought my latest project to the table to show off. I had been frequenting a Maker Space (a space that provides creative inspiration and the tools required for an hourly fee) for sewing to work on a souvenir quilt. I bought many 1/2 yards of companion print fabric when we drove to Portland, OR. The resulting quilt would be a souvenir from our trip.

Anyhoo, I was explaining the maker space (I wanted to sew!) and this quilt project as my big distraction during the day while I was in Seattle. Judie told me all about her 4-H projects as a girl and how she used to teach home economics! We had a lot in common and she seemed to like that I had incorporated sewing into our adventure out West.

The next day when Dan came into work, there was a sewing machine on his desk! "Take this to Anne" was his instruction. Judie thought it was silly for me to hike out to a maker space all the time and wanted to loan me her sewing machine for the duration of our trip (2 1/2 weeks!). What a woman. 

Fast forward 3 years and we have a real house with a real craft room. Judie came for dinner and brought us a set of 3 beautiful machine embroidered towels. She knows me well! I just love them and I'm using them too. As any maker knows, we gift you these things we've made because we want you to enjoy them. Get them out of the drawer and let's go!

Thank you, Judie, for being my first kindred spirit in Seattle! You are the best.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Laser Cut Wood: Holiday Inspiration

I bought this collection of laser cut wood decorations at one of my favorite craft resources, the Ben Franklin in Redmond, WA. This store is a "must stop" when I have crafty friends visit, because of their selection, knowledgeable staff and inspiring displays (with related products for sale nearby)...and their selection.

What I'm finding funny is that I love these thin and crispy wood die-cuts just as they are. I could glue them to place cards. I could string them into a garland. I could glue them to gift tags. So far, though, I just move them around my side board imaging their future. Aren't they cool? What do you think I should do with them?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Seattle: Queen Mary Tea Room Triumph

I found a wonderful place to have lunch with my mom in Seattle. We were out and about last week and found ourselves near the U-district (shopping area near University of Washington) when I remembered that I'd read about a tea room in the area. What if I could find it and we could get in? Fingers crossed...

The Queen Mary Tea Room and Restaurant was all that I could have hoped for. The hostess was able to take our coats and seat us right away. The restaurant was cozy and their incredible inventory of tea and tea-related gifts provided a beautiful backdrop for a ladies lunch.
We both ordered the Chicken Pot Pie that is served with an organic green salad. 

I always wince a little in a tea room, because more often than not, the kitchen relies on tarragon to elevate their chicken dishes. It never works. 

Let me say that Queen Mary's Tea Room serves the best Chicken Pot Pie I have ever had. The sauce was delicious, but not too rich. The seasoning was light and flavorful perfect for the white meat chicken, carrots and peas. The puff pastry was pretty, delicate and felt like a luxurious touch on a rainy afternoon. It was worth every penny and we ate every bite.

I look forward to indulging in their afternoon tea service; I feel certain that I will enjoy a long conversation over some beautiful food.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Target: Magnolia Collection Hearth and Hand

I was there and saw the new Hearth & Hand with Magnolia collection at Target within hours of the store opening. I am thankful for the laid back attitude in Seattle. Back in Michigan, there would have been a line outside the store at 7 am and the items would have flown off the shelves before I could get a decent picture for you. I am a huge fan of Joanna and Chip Gaines and their modern farm house world called Magnolia Market thanks to my cousin, Carol, who pointed me to their HGTV show, Fixer Upper.
The collection is available online too, but I wanted to show you how it is displayed in store. The collection is based on black, white, galvanized tin and shades of green. There are greenhouse-like iron frames in the shape of a house (a design echoed throughout the collection) to call attention to the area and the customers were happily picking up pieces and placing them in their carts. It was very quiet, like we realized how lucky we were that we had the place all to ourselves.
There was a tabletop section of stoneware dishes in white, grey and black. Drinking glasses, silverware and wooden serving pedestals. It all looked true to Joanna's design aesthetic and seeing all of the pieces that work together, I felt happy for her. Like "she did it," she scaled her vision in an accessible and affordable way - no easy feat.

The prices are reasonable, the designs are new and interesting (definitely Modern Farmhouse) and the quality is there. You can be proud to buy and give items from this collection.

There were quite a few holiday items in Hearth and Home. Wreaths, ornaments and a cool tin advent calendar that looks like the one I have in my collection - buy it! It looks beautiful tucked full of holly sprigs and treasures.

I bought a candle in a galvanized tin holder, because I love that Joanna always has a candle burning in the Fixer Upper during the reveals. 

I bought a brass bell ornament engraved with 2017 to commemorate when I moved into my hearth and home.

My cousin and I are trying to visit Waco this spring - a weekend getaway where we can talk and laugh and eat cupcakes, just like when we were 12. I can't wait. Thanks, Chip & Joanna Gaines, for creating a destination and Good Job on your partnership with Target! 

#magnolia #hearthandhand #joannagaines #target #holidayshopping 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Making A Home: Flowers Help Add Warmth

I am making a home in the Pacific Northwest. While I used to call our style "Swedish Beach House" (oval back dining chairs, plate racks with dishes, blue & white furniture), our new style is evolving into what I'm calling '"New Nordic" (birch and wood, neutrals, lots of light). I know it might seem silly, but naming  my design aesthetic amuses me.

So far, the furniture from our old house looks great in our new place. Some friends have visited and not even recognized it. The walls are neutral, the floors are dark wood or light carpeting. Slowly but surely, I am getting a handle on where I want the lamps and which decorative touches work. 

My favorite question so far has been "Are those flowers real?" 

Yes, flowers are my oxygen and I try to have some in the house each week. When the farmers markets are rocking from May 1 - Oct 1, its easy. After that, the grocery store will do. This image (a gentle dahlia bouquet) was taken in the end of September. A month has pasted, but somehow my roses still have blooms for me to snip! I'm loving this new climate.

I will show you vignettes around the house as I decorate this holiday season. I have so many bits and bobs I can't wait to see what fits where.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Golden Fig: First Buy Cranberry Spices, Then Branch Out

Every time I reach into my cupboard and pull out one of my beloved Golden Fig enhanced sugars, I ask myself the same two questions:  

  • Why don't more companies make sugar blends like these? 
  • Why haven't more stores/people discovered Golden Fig, the maker of said sugars?
I initially found Golden Fig when I bought their "Cranberry Spices" mix in a cooking store while on vacation in Minnesota.  I can't find this heavenly blend on their website, but when I call, they usually have it and can mail me a few jars.  The "Cranberry Spices" is a blend of maple powder (see it sounds good already, right?), ground ginger, orange peel powder, thyme (totally the secret ingredient - it adds incredible depth), ground nutmeg, anise and cloves.  

The company intends for you to use this spice blend to make a cranberry sauce, which is delicious to be sure.  I want you to sprinkle this heavenly mixture over roasted acorn squash, roasted butternut squash, pureed squash - you get the idea.  It makes all of the harvest vegetables sing.  I joke that I'd sprinkle it in the bathtub if I could - it smells that wonderful.

First buy a jar of the Cranberry Spice, then once you're hooked, branch out to their other specialties.

I bought some of their enhanced sugars and I love them all.  They are a culinary indulgence; certainly not necessary for day-to-day living, but very fun to sprinkle with abandon when the mood strikes.

Making buttered toast? Shake on some "Cinnamon Orange" sugar.

Shortbread hot out of the oven? Sprinkle it with "Lemon Rosebud" and listen to the girls ooh and ahh

Non-fat Greek yogurt with berries for breakfast? Douse it with pink "Hibiscus" sugar 

Baking Christmas rolls?  They will be even better made with "Cardamom Sugar"

Fruit Salad need a little something? Sprinkle it with "Lavender Ginger" sugar
Honestly, you can't go wrong.  

I love my collection of special sugars from the Golden Fig. I reach for them all the time and feel like I am a sweet genius.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Party Season: Cheese Needs A Sidekick Like Roasted Grapes

If Ethel Mertz is the cheese in my anecdote: dry, reliable, comfortable. Then these roasted grapes are all Lucy Ricardo: fun, unexpected, engaging.

It may sound silly, but I've made these roasted grapes on many occasions and they always make a lasting impression. This appetizer gets requested and referred to more than any other I make and I want to encourage you to give this simple and delicious appetizer a try. 

Preheat your oven to 425-450 degrees (you decide how your oven responds). Place non-stick foil on a cookie sheet.
Wash and lightly dry your fresh, seedless grapes. Leave just a small artistic cluster still on the vine, and pluck the rest of them from the stem and scatter on the foil. You'll want the ones on the vine for artistic effect, but know that if you roast them on the vine, most of the flesh clings when you pull it off to eat. That's why we're plucking most from the vine before roasting.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I always use a specialty vinegar by Beekman 1802: Fig & Elderberry Blaak Drizzle

Keeping an eye on them, roast the grapes for 10-20-30 minutes until they split, sizzle, char and collapse. Sometimes it works faster than others, probably based on the sugar content.

Once they have cooled a bit, arrange them on a platter (with toothpicks nearby) with your favorite cheese and cracker bites. We're heading into party season - Enjoy!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Rumba: Tropical Restaurant in Seattle

When I think about Rumba in Seattle, I really have to lead with this image (above). The WHOLE fish really made an impression on us and I must say, Dan was in the right frame of mind and dove right in. It was summer and though the fish was fried, it tasted light and flavorful.
The restaurant has a "on board a pirate ship" feel and it really works with their extensive wall of rums from around the world.
Dan enjoyed a potent rum punch and I had an orchid-adorned pina colada.
I devoured my fish taco and pulled pork taco - they were the perfect size and full of great flavor. I would pop back into Rumba for dinner anytime, it was lively and the food was delicious.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Seattle Refined: I'm the Artist of the Week

 Buy this one-of-a-kind wood cigar box purse.

My favorite local TV show, Seattle Refined, has put me in the spotlight as their Artist of the Week! Isn't that great? The link takes you to a gallery of my cigar box purse designs and an interview about my creative life. 
#PNW #iloveithere #cigarbox #momentsofdelight #finddelight