Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Sorority Luncheon: Heather Christo and a Charming Party Favor

I attended my sorority alumnae holiday luncheon this year and wanted to share with you a glimpse at the guest speaker and the darling touch that was placed at each place setting. 

The event speaker was allergen-free chef, cookbook author and fellow Theta, Heather ChristoShe gave an engaging and thought provoking speech about how she has taken her training as a chef and her mama bear instincts to create beautiful and delicious allergen free meals for her family. Her children are thriving without allergens and the world has taken notice. Her blog, Heather Christos is gorgeous and her followers rave about the recipes

Heather was thrilled to share her beautiful new cookbook, Pure Delicious at our luncheon and sign copies for attendees. What a terrific gift for someone who follows or is interested in an allergen-free diet. Heather's recipes are free from gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and cane sugar. She is a delightful woman and I was so happy to chat with her over lunch.

The cute touch that was at each place setting was Heather Christo's gluten free gingerbread cookie recipe and a star-shaped cookie cutter. My sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, has Twin Stars as our symbol and I thought it was a darling way to remind us of our connection. Plus it's December and we're all in the cookie-baking mood. It was wonderful to see how easy it is to put an allergen-free recipe into practice.

I encourage you to click around on Heather Christo's website. I guarantee you will be impressed and tempted to alter your diet. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Beautyberry Makes A Show outside a Show

Remember when I decided that of the 5 types of winter berries on display at the Washington Park Arboretum, that the purple Beautyberry was my favorite? 

Well just days after seeing the cuttings and explanations at the arboretum, I saw a magnificent example of a Beautyberry in real horticultural life! 

It is December in Seattle and there is a magnificent Beautyberry tree in full "berry" outside the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. I noticed it as I was entering the Urban Craft Uprising holiday gift show. What luck. And I answered my own question - yes, the berries are noticeable enough to make a show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seattle: Urban Craft Uprising Holiday Gift Show

The Urban Craft Uprising holiday craft show at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall is a creative tease. And I mean that in the best possible way. As a maker myself, I want to jump in each booth and quiz the artists. "How did you do that? Oh, that was a wonderful use of color! What made you try that technique?" I get lost in the design and production of it all and stop shopping all together. Not great for business, but at least I can give you a glimpse into the heart of the show.

The vendors are original and the quality of their products is very high. The show offers "small batch" goods made by individuals who have creativity, skills and access to unusual equipment to create their wares.

What does that mean?

Well at a typical holiday gift show you might find items that are handmade (sewn, crocheted, knit) which means artist + medium; at this event the items are more likely to be made by an artist + medium + a tool requiring skill. 

A loom, a leather tool, a screen print. Laser cut wood and paper items were also popular items for sale.

Where a typical holiday gift show would have a vendor selling cookies, at the Urban Craft Uprising you are more likely to see someone selling French-style macaroons. They require skill to create and the colors and flavors will make you swoon.

There is also an upbeat but cartoon-ish quality to a lot of the items for sale. I saw irreverent phrases on screen printed t-shirts.  Designers used wacky fabrics to add levity to mundane items like eyeglass or pencil cases. 
I took this photo at the Belly of a Whale booth to showcase their work. They had backpacks, lunch totes and a whole host of darling items sewn for everyday use. I highlight them because their sewing (seams, welting, zippers etc) was impeccable.

The Urban Craft Uprising is a large holiday gift show full of terrific products. Put the first weekend in December on your calendar and take note that they also hold a Summer show the last weekend in June! Viva la Makers!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Potluck Potatoes to Wow a Crowd

Are you looking for a potluck dish to feed a crowd during football Bowl Game season? Stripe a pan of mashed potatoes and see what happens. I recently joined a local neighborhood book club and we were invited to their annual holiday potluck dinner. I brought this dish to pass and it was a great addition to the buffet.

This is my semi-homemade version of a striped mashed potato dish I saw in a magazine years ago. I rely on Ore-Ida's Steam n Mash Cut Russet Potatoes to do the lion's share of the work for me. I buy 3 bags and follow the directions (cook in microwave, mash with fork, stir in milk and butter). I spread the mashed potatoes into a large 13 x 9 glass baking dish.

Cook a lot of bacon, snip it into pieces with scissors and sprinkle it in stripes across the mashed potatoes. Add stripes of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stripes of sliced green onion. Put the dish back into the oven just long enough to let the cheese melt. 

This dish is delicious, easy, beautiful and on my must-make list for crowds. 

Go Team!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sugarfina: My Color and Sugar Spirit Animal

Did I stand a chance against this wall of candy? Nope.

In a city where no one really knows me, I often give in and summarize my life as being driven by "color and sugar." Knowing that, you would expect that I would stop and marvel at this boutique candy wall inside the flagship Nordstrom in Seattle, WA.

The company is called Sugarfina and they sell clear plastic boxes of color and sugar known as candy. The idea is that you build your own bento box with the colors and flavors you love. This is the kind of gift I would have given my bridesmaids. Fun, memorable and delicious.

I chose a box of Sassy Strawberries, which are flat strawberry replicas dusted in sugar. I told myself that they would be beautiful as a garnish on a strawberry cheesecake (you know, topping each puff of whipped cream) but I had eaten the entire box of 10 (?) by morning. You'll notice that I can't provide a picture of them. My tastebuds were too demanding. The candies were very chewy (like) and extremely cute (love) and came in a reusable plastic box for $7.50.
I also bought a try-me pack of gummy Apricot Hearts for $2.50. Why is nothing ever flavored apricot? I thought these were delicious and enjoyed chain-chewing these bubble-bath lookalikes until they were gone.
I was offered a sample of their "Martini Olive Almonds" and if I had a party planned, they would be my first unnecessary purchase. Roasted California almonds are dipped in white chocolate and then painted to look like olives. Someone hand me a crystal dish - these are fantastic. 

I am all for this new way of mixing and matching beautiful candy. Keep your eye out for Sugarfina and tell them Anne sent you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jetta Froelich: A Laser Visonary

I would like to call your attention to Danish designer, Jetta Froelich. I am an instant fan and have become a collector already. Some of her Christmas pieces are available at Homegoods this year and if you are lucky enough to find one, snap it up.

Isn't it interesting that this 3-D Christmas tree is made of whisper light tin? It seems to actually catch the light and glow when I have a light on in the apartment. It was designed to hold votive candles, but it doesn't need it! I made room for it on the shelf in our little apartment and she is stealing the show. 

It is hard to believe that something 18 inches tall could be magnificent, but it is. Bravo, Jetta and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gifts and Greens Galore at Washington Park Arboretum

Have you heard about the Washington Park Arboretum's Gifts and Greens Galore? I'm realizing that I'm going to have to live in Seattle a while, see each season's activities and note what I want to attend next year. I keep stumbling upon things a little late.

This really neat one-day event at the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop sells pre-bundled greens from the arboretum and members' gardens. Pricing is $5, $10 or $15 per bundle and is marked with colored zip ties. There wasn't much left when I arrived just before the sale closed, but I could get an idea of what they offered and I love it. I can see myself fashioning a wreath from these fresh greens or even a circle centerpiece to ring a large candle.
The arboretum has a terrific gift shop year-round. This event showcased a selection of nature-inspired jewelry, laser cut wood candle holders, felted ornaments, bird seed balls and packets as well the item that got my attention: honey!
This is honey collected from hives inside the Washington Park Arboretum! Isn't that interesting? 

The countless blooms and blossoms of the season distilled into a natural wonder. I had to have a jar. I am so pleased that they use hexagonal jars in a nod to the honeycomb shape and I was interested to notice that the honey came in a variety of shades. No doubt due to when and where it was collected. I chose one that was darker, as most of my honey is pale amber in color.

Make note on your calendar that the Washington Park Arboretum's Gift and Greens Galore event will be early December next year - check their website next fall. I'll see you there! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winter Berries at Washington Park Arboretum

3 = Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa
4 = Ilex Rubra
5 = Sorbus Forrestii

I was driving past the Washington Park Arboretum entrance on Saturday, Dec 3rd when I saw small signs promoting "Gifts and Greens." I parked and walked into the gift shop lobby to find out what it was all about. I will tell you more about Gifts and Greens tomorrow, but I want to show you what I came upon in that very lobby. Winter Berries!
Nothing is as helpful as a real world example and a detailed description. A blogger who wants to share such things with you doesn't hurt either (wink).
Japanese Box Leaf Holly

The Washington Park Arboretum had 5 cuttings from winter berries that thrive in the Seattle area and a description about each plant. 

It was titled "Have a Berry Thanksgiving." 

I'd like to thank the staff for posting this helpful winter berry display. 
"Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa"

I loved this purple Beautyberry the most and wondered if I planted one at my new house, if it would make a show and how quickly. I have black raspberries on my formal china and I would love to be able to snip a bit of beautyberry to add to my centerpieces. I should be planting raspberries too, for that matter. My new yard will cram jam with beautiful plants. I can't wait.
1 = Beautyberry


Monday, December 5, 2016

My First Seattle Sounders FC Soccer Game: Western Conference Champs

I am not a real soccer fan, not yet anyways. But I have certainly have the framework to build upon. I've enjoyed casually watching World Cup games and I watched quite a bit of last years Copa games, cheering on Clint Dempsey, who is a Seattle Sounder and I didn't even know it!

I will start by saying the Seattle Sounders are fantastic! Dan and I were invited at the spur of the moment to attend the Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids game on Nov 22 at 7 pm at Century Link Field. A win would mean that the Sounders were Western Conference Champions.
I was reminded about spirit and attitude when I was at the supermarket the day of the game. I stopped at my local Safeway because that grocery store is known for having a spirit department for all things Seahawks & Sounders and I wanted to buy a blue/green scarf. 

I had just found out that the forecast was 100% rain and that Century Link stadium had no roof. Apparently my expression said it all because the salesgirl asked what was wrong. I told her that I just found out that the Sounders game I was invited to was going to be outside, in the rain, in 40 degree weather.

To me, it seemed crazy to sit outside in the rain on purpose. I'm all for team spirit, but I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Maybe no one would attend the game. Maybe it would "called" due to rain. I was bouncing around these ideas when the shop girl snapped me back to reality. 

She said, "I think it sounds pretty great to be invited to a big Sounders game during Thanksgiving week." 

Her tone said turn your frown upside down ya big baby, and she was right. 

I came prepared with a poncho over my winter jacket. I put Press n Seal kitchen wrap over my socks to keep my feet dry inside my shoes (it worked great and kept them warm!) and I had gloves and a hat. 

The game was exciting. The concession food was delicious (the best pulled pork sandwich on a soft bun I've ever had!) and mercifully, our seats were a few rows under the overhang so we were not directly rained upon. Look at my photo above. An entire section decked out in ponchos cheering on their team. It rains here in Seattle and it hasn't stopped them yet. 

And we won!

There are lots of songs, chants and traditions to learn. A very spirited group of fans, unlike anything I've ever seen. At one point the giant screen says "scarves up!" and everyone holds their scarves up between two raised arms. Every scarf sold is designed with a phrase knit into it. It becomes a banner that reads "Sounders" or "Come on Seattle Fight and Win." Click on this link to see a great photo of scarves up. I didn't know the songs or the chants (or frankly, most of the rules of the game) but I had a scarf and held it up!

Congratulations, Seattle Sounders on being 2016 Western Conference Champions. On December 10, I will be in the warmth of my apartment rooting for you as you play in your first ever MLS Cup! Come on Seattle, Fight and Win!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Glassybaby: A Bright Light for Charity

I have known about the beautiful blown glass votives of Glassybaby since 2010, when the company was featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Seattle felt otherworldly compared to suburban Michigan and I never dreamed that I would be able to visit Glassybaby and see the craft in action. I am driven by color and a company that sells a color-based product is not one that I could forget.
Glassybaby is a glass studio with an emphasis on giving - financially to charity as well as emotionally to the receiver, with named messages like "hope" "believe" "prosper." Each color votive is named and therefore the gift of a Glassybaby votive comes with a constant message. 

Some names are appropriate (a deep orange red called Seattle Sunset), some are inspiring (an opaque votive called Faith) and some are symbolic (a deep blue called Forever). When you give a Glassybaby, the name is certainly as important as the color.  It is a sentiment that you can light and remember. 

The Glassybaby website states that "10% from the sale of every glassybaby is donated to the glassybaby white light fund to help people, animals, and the planet heal." Bravo.

Here is a YouTube video of founder Lee Rhodes when she appeared on the Martha show.
I was so very happy to here that the Junior League of Seattle, a volunteer organization that I belong to, was partnering with Glassybaby for a shopping night at the Madrona location. We were invited to have a social experience with sweet treats and conversation, while we watched the professionals blow glassybaby votives.
As members shopped, they felt great knowing that 10% of that evenings sales would be donated back to the Junior League community programs. 
It was really interesting to see the molten glass transform before our eyes. 
The color of the glass changes as it cools. 
Every craftsman needs their tools. Adjacent to the kilns on the wall is this rack of tools. I bet the go-to tools for glass blowing haven't changed in hundreds of years. This display looks like it would be at home in a step-into-the-past frontier town, doesn't it?

It was a fun night and a great way to do a little Christmas shopping and give back to the community. My first Glassybaby is called a pretty blue called Aquamarine. I am waiting until we move into our new home to light it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Upcycling A Collection

Hello! It's December 1st and time to decorate for the holidays! Last year, I was smart enough to pack my tin, paper and felt ornaments (ones wouldn't break) and mailed them out to our apartment in Seattle. In the coming days, I will show you how I have decorated our little nest this year. 

I love this photo I took (above) of my rummage sale score. I bought an entire gallon Ziploc bag of these sweet wooden ornaments for $2. It wasn't long before I got my glue gun out and created this tree by gluing them to a foam cone and then gluing the foam cone to a simple white gift box. I wish I could let the person that donated this collection know that it went to a good home. This is holiday upcycling and I love it. 

I also miss it.  It's "in a box" with the rest of my life. Next Christmas we will be in our new house and I am going to create all new vignettes with my treasures. 
Remember when you are out scouring tag sales, a melange of small holiday items can be re imagined into something wonderful. Keep your eye out!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Neighborly: The Kindness Overwhelmed Me

I have been wrestling with how exactly to tell this story. We experienced a gesture so sweet, it simply has to go in the chronicles of "moving to Seattle."

We haven't lived in an apartment in 23 years. We are used to our wonderful cul-de-sac, where we've been neighbors with almost exactly the same people for ages. We had years of chatting at the mailbox, waving as we drove in, planning activities kind of neighborhood and now we find ourselves living where people in their 20's come and go at all hours with almost no connection or acknowledgement of each other. Ants in an ant farm. Everyone that we speak to is friendly, but we probably won't run into each other again on the property. The number of tenants is large and everyone is on their own schedule.

Which brings me to this story. We had a medical emergency very early one Saturday morning and I needed help. I ran to the apartment where I knew a young couple lived - I had occasionally chatted with the girl when we were both getting out of our cars. All I had to say was "I need help" and this darling couple in pajamas ran out of their apartment after me. Long story short, they were a tremendous help to me and we were grateful. 

The young wife stopped by the next day with cookies to ask how things were. So nice! Then we snuck a thank you note with a restaurant gift card under their door. I wrote that I knew it was unnecessary to send them out to dinner, but that was part of the fun. That night, they texted us a selfie from the restaurant. A millennial thank you of the cutest proportion.

Two days later, we came home to find this wreath on our door. The girl we hardly knew had jazzed up our temporary home with a wreath she made - including an "R" for Reeves. Her note said that she tried to match the colors in our doormat. If that isn't the epitome of neighborly and wonderful, I don't know what is.

Their help and kindness is another reason I feel great about this epic move across the country. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Meeting Ina Garten: Cooking for Jeffrey

Would you believe it? I accidentally met Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa! I say accidentally because I had no idea that Costco was hosting her for a book signing at the Issaquah location. I walked into the store on a Friday afternoon and there she was signing her new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. I had the chance to tell her that we had a mutual friend, Patricia Wells. I had taken Patricia's week long cooking class in Paris and after finding we had so much in common (she called us Midwestern Girls), Patricia wrote an excerpt for my book on Paris.

I have been a fan for years (love her shortbread and roasted shrimp recipes) and I have had her show on in the background in my kitchen for hours as a cooking companion. We weren't making different meals, but we were kindred spirits just the same.

Thank you, Costco, for bringing Ina to the Pacific Northwest. Just next time, could you give a girl the heads up? I would've been crushed if I had missed her!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Apartment Nesting: Grateful for Furniture

When Dan took a job in Seattle, we were challenged with setting up another place to call home. We were so very lucky that my parents had extra furniture they could spare. When we told them we were setting up an apartment, they suggested we put this couch, these 2 chairs and the print chair/ottoman set on the truck. 

Our plan was to keep our house in Michigan for a year or so and I would travel back and forth. Their furniture allowed us to skip the futon and make a nice little home for ourselves as we transitioned. It has been a year and 9 months since Dan moved in and a lot has changed. We've sold our house in Michigan and are building in a neighborhood on the East-side of Seattle.  The funny thing is that my mom now has her own place out here in Seattle and plans on spending the winters here with us. When she comes to our apartment for dinner, sits on her couch and says "I like what we've done with the place." I usually counter with something along the lines of, "Feeling nostaglic?" It is familiar for both of us and that's wonderful.

We made the place our own by hanging a favorite pair of prints called Silver Birches by Nell Revel Smith over the couch. She paints the area in northern Michigan where we've always spent the summer and her work always makes us feel relaxed.

My mom and I scoured Homegoods and TJ Maxx for pillows with blues and greens to pull color from the art. I added a teal angora throw on one chair and placed a large circle melamine platter of a succulent (it looks a bit like this) on the butterscotch suede footrests. Doesn't it look pretty? We have since hung floor to ceiling off white drapes to soften the windows, but the room looks essentially like this. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beekman 1802 Cherry Pie Filling

Today was the day that I opened my jar of Beekman 1802 cherry pie filling from Target and made a beautiful dessert.

I had been looking forward to trying this product from my friends' (Josh & Brent, the fabulous Beekman Boys) line at Target, but it was when I came across my "slice of pie" cookie cutter that I knew I would be baking a pie soon. Sometimes I make things just for the embellishment!

The pie baked up beautifully and Dan just said that he's looking forward to tomorrow, when he can have another slice. I highly recommend it!

#beekman1802 #finddelight

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall Baking: Kitchen Aid and Pyrex Make Me Happy

There are a lot of things that I love in this picture.  It is important for me to "look at what I love" and my apartment counter is pretty crowded lately. When we scoured our house in Michigan, looking for duplicate items to set up an apartment in Washington, I knew it was time for my vintage Pyrex collection to step up. I needed my beloved pieces to transition out of the treasured decorative items category and back to their status as an everyday kitchen workhorse. 

I use them daily, now and they are fantastic. The white bowl in front holds the batter for some quick blueberry muffins. I like how the Pyrex looks, so I keep it stacked on the counter.

When the holidays (and my 6-month stint living in an apartment in Washington) began last October, I got really nervous about holiday baking. I love making muffins, cakes, cookies repeat. When I say I am a big holiday baker, I mean that I bake almost every day. It's relaxing. It makes the house smell good. I can give these treats away. It is a big part of my October November December.

How would I bake without a mixer? Should I buy a hand mixer? I don't want a hand mixer. Should I buy a stand mixer? I don't want a stand mixer, I want my white Kitchen Aid mixer that is on the counter in Michigan. Dan saw me start to twitch and suggested my Christmas present could be a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer that just happened to arrive in October. *sigh* I love this man.

We scoured the internet for colors and options and decided, who were we kidding, I was an aqua girl, through and through. I had the Pyrex to prove it. 

Some bakers store their stand mixer because counter space is too valuable. I can't. I like to see this beauty and get inspired to bake and mix and stir. It's part of the fun of being in the kitchen. And it looks perfect with the Pyrex. Our apartment is small, but my holiday plans are big. As for my Michigan mixer, it's in a box in storage awaiting my next move.

Do you feel this way about your mixer? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Balcony Rose Update

Tah-dah! I wanted to reassure you that you can indeed grow roses in a pot on a balcony in Seattle. I have had this beauty since March 2015 and she is as happy as ever right now (Oct 2016)! 

Remember when she first started to sprout again in January? Dan has been in charge of her from April until now, since I was in Michigan most of this year, and boy did he do a good job!

I have only grown roses in Michigan in a garden with a soaker hose, so attempting to nurture a rose in a pot over a long stretch of time seemed like a 50/50 proposition. This Apricot Candy hybrid tea has been a gorgeous addition to our balcony garden.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Wood Veneer Tray Brings Warmth to the Table

I wanted you to see my latest find from Michaels Craft Store - a beautiful wood veneer tray. It has soft scalloped lines, beautiful real wood color and texture and is as light as a feather.

The wood veneer has been sealed to a sturdy plastic base, so this tray offers great strength if you wanted to use it to carry cups of cider and a plate of doughnuts.

Would you like to hear the best part? These trays and their companion plate chargers are 50% off right now. On sale, this tray cost $6.50. Now that is an economical way to add a beautiful touch of fall to the table. 

I have "buy apples" on my to do list, because I am in the mood to bake apples as a side dish for dinner, but I keep putting it off because I don't want to give up this pretty arrangement. These beauties are Honey Crisp, which are probably better for caramel apples, anyway. I need to find some Macintosh or Jonagolds to core, put in a baking dish and let 350 degrees work its magic. I love this time of year!

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Charmed Life of Neighbors: Our Major Sources of Fun

Last week it became official, my husband and I sold our house and moved from the street where we have lived for 19 years. We are not retiring, far from it. In fact, the possibilities seem endless in our new turf on the east side of Seattle.

Yet having to pack up and move away from our next door neighbors has been hard on everyone. They are the family that we have watched grow from ages 5, 3, 0 to 18, 16, 12.  They welcomed me into their lives and invited me to attend everything from school plays and art shows, to the new school year Open House (You should have seen the principal's puzzled face when I introduced myself as "the neighbor," as if all neighbors come to meet the children's teachers.) 

We baked apple pies on Halloween (Trick or Pie) and one year I taught a jewelry making badge for the Girl Scouts. We invented an annual one-house Garden Walk and I helped with early morning French Braids and craft projects whenever I could. We had fun together every chance we got and they were always curious to come in the house and see what new art project I was working on. Their mother felt like a sister to me, sharing honest moments and coming to my rescue when I needed it most. Their father was always willing to stand on the street and chat. No hurry, no rush; offering help as I methodically packed up our entire life.

We have spent a lot of time together over the years and they gave me the incredibly thoughtful gift of a charm bracelet to represent our major sources of fun. A cupcake for all of the baking, a flower pot for the Garden Walk and time spent in the garden, a pumpkin for spending so many Halloweens together, a slice of pie for our Trick or Pie tradition and a teapot for the impromptu parties we held.

I told them that we will see each other again and for now, their job is to teach the new neighbors moving in (with children ages 7, 10 and 12) what I taught them. I said, "Show them just how much fun it is to live on Roseglen Court." 

And then I hugged them too many times and cried a little too. Because even though it is not goodbye, I will miss the little moments that you can only have when you are a neighbor. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My First Speaking Engagement in Washington!

My first public speaking engagement in Washington is just 2 weeks after I arrive as a new resident!

The Mt. Si Artist Guild presents local author Anne Reeves for a delightful journey into the small everyday inspirations that fuel our creativity. Anne is an accomplished speaker and author that can guide you on your own personal creative journey and perhaps publish your own book!

Saturday, October 15, 2016 starting at noon.
$12 for MSAG members and $15 for non members
Art Gallery of SnoValley 8130 Railroad Ave in downtown Snoqualmie, WA

Friday, August 26, 2016

It's Mostly Honey: A Journey Through the Airport TSA

A day in the life of our move: 

When Dan was home, I gave him a postal priority box packed tight with treasures marked "suitcase." I told him, "It's mostly honey." 

He forgot and put it in his carry on. He called later to say he's now known at TSA as the honey whisperer. They couldn't believe that the box was full of jar after jar of honey (from Paris' La Maison du Miel and the Paris Opera House, from the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria B.C. and from Beekman 1802). 

When they got to the beautiful jar of lavender buds mixed in white sugar, they relented and told him he could check it. Do you remember my Honey Bar
Sometimes it's hard to move delight.

#TSA #moving

Sunday, August 21, 2016

All is Well

I haven't blogged in a bit, but I want you to know that everything is fine. I am in the basement of the house I've lived in for 19 years, packing away my treasures for the big move to Seattle. 

What have I found? Cigar box purse handles just waiting to be made into an ANA Design. Nordic Ware pans in every shape imaginable. And photos, photos, photos, like this beauty from our stop at La Fromagerie in London. I will resurface as soon as possible, I promise!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sequim: Lavender Festival and Blackberry Forest Farm

We went to our first lavender festival in Washington and it did not disappoint. Though as I read through the handful of pamphlets I picked up, I realize that it is far larger than I thought and we barely scratched the surface.
There is a large and popular Lavender Festival each year in Sequim, Washington (Save the date: July 21-23, 2017). We arrived in the heart of lavender country around 3 o'clock after a late picnic at Fort Worden. There is a lavender farm tour driving guide (click the link) that I found very helpful. Would you believe there are 7 lavender farms in Sequim!
We arrived at Blackberry Forrest Farm and it was everything we had hoped for. Beautifully tended lavender mounds in full bloom, dried lavender buds and products for sale under a tent and the chance to cut fresh lavender ourselves  - $5 to fill a purple grocery-size plastic bag. What a great price. I bought enough to make 3 large bundles, which I tied together and have drying in Seattle. They will be ribbon ready when I get back and I can hang one on the wall and give 2 away. I was so happy to be able to capture the photo (above) without any people in it, as there were families taking selfies in every direction.
After our farm visit, we drove over to downtown Sequim so that we could spend some time at the outdoor arts & crafts street fair. It was a gorgeous day and I love to see what local artists are up to. I saw some interesting jewelry where the jeweler had trapped lavender buds inside a glass pendant. I was hoping to see even more artistic innovation at other booths, but it was not to be. There were many lavender-related products (culinary lavender, bath products, bulk lavender buds for sachet-making and even lavender-inspired print fabrics) and the attendees were happy to be out and about on a summer day. Did you take time to marvel at the small lavender bundles arranged in a circle in one of the photos above? A great option for those who aren't stopping at a U-Cut farm. 

Do you remember when I used flower petals to enhance my own watercolor painting? I should do more of that! 
My favorite photo of the day was this beautiful antique cart loaded with large fresh lavender bundles. Needless to say, the whole experience in Sequim was fragrant and lovely.

Upon reading the brochures, I realized later that there are 2 other destinations that host pay-to-get-in events the same weekend - Purple Haze Daze and a 2-farm event Olympic Lavender/Jardin de Soleil festival.

What I was missing in the street fair/farm visit (cooking demonstrations, make a lavender wand lesson etc.) seem to be offered at these other two events. 

I love a Lavender Festival and I am sure that we will find ourselves back in Sequim during lavender season before long. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sunset on Lake Michigan

The sky was so interesting for this sunset! It had every shade from purple and denim blue to apricot, lemon yellow and black.  

This is a late July sky on the 45th parallel overlooking Lake Michigan. We are the Great Lakes state and we aren't kidding. This is just about the same view during the daytime. Magnifique!
Yes, the state of Washington is beautiful, but Michigan is pretty darn gorgeous too. I am lucky that I can spend time in both.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Travel Essentials: Pressure Reducing Earplugs

I will not fly without a pair of Lewis and Clark Pressure Reducing Earplugs. How's that for a testimonial?

I absolutely love these earplugs because they somehow flex and change and help my ears cope with the pressure in the plane during altitude changes. I used to get ear aches, pain, air sickness and now I don't. 

As I fly, I can actually hear squishing and sucking as these earplugs help my ears cope with the pressure. The occasional sounds let me know that they are working and they are completely comfortable to wear.

I fly cross country (SEA, DTW, PBI, IAH) all the time and these earplugs are part of my travel essentials. This may seem like an unusual post, but if I can improve your travel experience it is indeed delight. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Seattle: Parchment Bakery Pop Up

I am floored that one person can create such diversity with flour, butter and sugar. As I explore life in Seattle, I clip articles about people and places I am interested in and Laura Pyles of Parchment has been on my radar. I am my own Rick Steves.  
I read a lot about Laura Pyles' mad skills with pastry and heard that she had gone the "Pop Up" route to get her product into the public's hands. Her incarnation Parchment (a wonderful name for a bakery!) sells pastries during the Ballard farmers market on Sunday inside the beautifully stocked cooking store, Culinary Essentials, where she also teaches classes.

Earlier this year, we went to the Ballard Farmers Market and tracked down Laura. We chose a rhubarb pinwheel and a blueberry hand pie for our late breakfast and then on impulse, I added one of her famous cannolis when I saw that she had a few left. She was pleased that I had heard about them and said that she's probably the only pastry chef on earth who still fries her own cannoli shells. We could tell - it was delicious. 


Dan and I traded bites of the pastries back and forth and couldn't decide between them. Yum and crunch and tart and yes. That 's how I would describe them.

Good luck to you, Laura! May the life of a Pop Up Baker treat you well.