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! 

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Reclaimed Silver Pieces Shine

I have to write about this silver-plate coffee pot & creamer transformation! I snagged these treasures the end of September at the Faith Church annual rummage sale in Issaquah, WA.

Would you believe the coffee pot was marked $3? I saw the potential and knew that at the very least I could fill it with flowers. The hinge at the lid was bent and Dan is charged with bending/fixing it back. I found the matching creamer on the floor below the table and the church lady "threw it in" because they shouldn't be separated. Score.

Once home, I pulled out a container of Weiman Silver Wipes which I think I bought at the Container Store, but had never used. 

Um...boy do they work! I spent about 20 minutes rubbing, rinsing and buffing dry. Piece of cake! Wear disposable gloves and make your holidays shine!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Seattle Refined: Refined Reads Nancy Pearl's New Book

I had the honor of spending time with author and America's Librarian, Nancy Pearl last week in Seattle. I am a new member of an on-air book club hosted by local television program, Seattle Refined. I have chimed in during two episodes so far and I look forward to many more. 

Nancy Pearl is a gem. She was chosen Librarian of the Year in 2011 and is the person America and NPR turns to when they are looking for a great new read. 

I am still new to Seattle and have been asking people if they knew about/participated in Seattle Reads. A genius concept where the library chooses a book and an entire city is encouraged to read it at the same time. So cool! You know you thought of it and implemented this ground breaking idea? 

Yep, Nancy Pearl.

When it comes to all things reading, she is the king's pajamas. 

Nancy is currently on a book tour for her first book of fiction, George and Lizzie. I found her character-driven fiction to be very realistic and I joked that I wanted to drive to Ann Arbor (where the story is set) to straighten a few people out. I think that is the hallmark of good writing, when you get angry with the characters. Check out Nancy Pearl and all of her books at www.nancypearl.com

Friday, September 29, 2017

DIY: High End Holiday: Gold Leaf Ornament

I wanted the look of high-end, department store ornaments and I got it. My simple 3 item craft project turned out exactly as I had imagined and I am going to make them again this year. We're talking about it today so that you have time to plan. I know you are going to love it!

I must have seen an ornament like this long ago, because when I found the gold leaf paint I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted an extra large glass ball painted solid gold at the top, moving down to brush marks and then onto no paint at all at the bottom, so the tree and lights would show through the glass. Pretty specific, huh?

I was able to find a set of four (4" or larger) clear glass ball ornaments at Micheal's craft store.  I used this brand of gold leaf paint and an inexpensive bristle brush, because I wanted to see the brush strokes.

The only instructions I can give you is that you dip the brush in paint, start at the top and move it across the glass slowly and carefully.  I hung the painted ornaments in my laundry room to give them ample time to dry.  Then I put them on the tree and voila!  A fancy touch you can make yourself.  

I've seen many make-your-own ornament projects online lately and frankly, they look homemade.  This little beauty looks like it is right from an art gallery or high end department store.  

#michaels #DIY #christmasornaments #momentsofdelight #finddelight #makingchristmas #highendholiday

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chanel Loves Cigar Box Purses Too

Did you notice that Chanel's 2017 Cruise Line features a cigar box purse? A dramatic wood clutch in a peach-tone with black, tan and gold accents. Magnifique!

Take a peek that this beautiful online look book for the Chanel collection.
The Chanel version is rare and sells for $12,000. 

I invite you to explore my collection of one-of-a-kind cigar box purses on Etsy. I have 41 cigar box purses available this month. 
I love this photo from a night out in Seattle. I can't tell you how many people inquired about my white & gold hand bag. I will be posting another for sale in this style soon.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pinspiration Market aka Pinology Market in Seattle

While I love to search garage sales and flea markets for treasures, I also enjoy shopping at official shows to see how other creative people take a melange of vintage pieces and display them in their glory. These booths have a "sum is greater than its parts" feel. There is a certain je ne sais quoi about them and it is wonderful to see. 
Last Saturday, I invited my new friend Amy to spend the morning checking out the Pinspiration Market (now known as Pinology) in Seattle. I told her that I thought it would be a blend of items to create with (unusual stencils, paper clay, buttons) and objects that have already been transformed and are ready to use. She found some pillows and I bought a large metal arrow. Yep, the selection was eclectic for sure, and it was great.
I loved the entire booth by Sparrow and Bloom. She had such cute things for sale, especially these PNW camping mugs. Love!
We ordered 2 oh-so-delicious chicken pot pies from the food truck 314 Pie and we ate them tailgate-style out of the back of my car. I call this little moment, pastries in the sun. Quality shredded chicken, lovely creamy sauce, fresh vegetables, tender crust. Homemade goodness that I'd order all over again.

Thank you, Pinology for hosting a fun Saturday morning activity. I feel inspired.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ombre Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes

I did not use a filter. I did not tweak the lighting. What you see is what I saw and I am still stunned by it. Look. At. These. Tomatoes.

This ombre display was offered in a booth at the West Seattle Farmers Market on Sunday, Sept 24. I regret not buying any, but it's almost as if I didn't want to disturb the display. 

If you see heirloom cherry tomatoes, buy them! They are as beautiful as they are delicious. 

And while you are there, pick up a bouquet of dahlias!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Daring Rugs: Style Right Out of the Magazines

I can only pat myself on the back when something I choose for the house ends up in the magazines. I saw this Moroccan Diamond rug online and knew that it would add a colorful/Pacific Northwest/Native American touch to our cream foyer with dark wood floors. 

In my mind, it's perfect and I would recommend it to anyone drawn to it. I felt in sync with the HGTV magazine editors for they have featured a similar diamond print rug in two price points in their Hi/Low List in the October issue.
When the rug arrived, I sprayed it with Scotch Guard fabric and upholstery protector so that I can have a leg up on stain fighting. Dan says it's mean to make people enter the house on an off white rug, but I'm not afraid. I love how this looks and I'll deal with the consequences later. And yes, this is the Pacific NorthWET, I will put down a cotton throw rug to absorb damp feet when the rainy season begins.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Finding Delight: Highlighting Unusual Vases

Not everyone chooses their favorite fruit company because of the packaging, but I do! I simply can't resist Oregon Specialty Fruit and their black cans.

Yes, their produce is lovely but look how fantastic their cans look as vases! Upcycling extraordinaire. I have slipped a small container for water inside the can to stabilize the flowers. 

I have this bouquet by my kitchen sink and it makes me very happy. This is delight!

#oregon #findingdelight #upcycling 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

QuatroStyle Kitchen Tiles: Easy Reasonable Striking Removable

This is the kitchen in my new house! We just put in the backsplash behind the burners. We have stainless steel appliances, so I love how the gray and white of the tile echos the metal finishes.

You should know...my new tile backsplash is made of stickers. I'll let that sink in for a minute. 

Stickers. Adhesive stickers. Removable stickers. Low commitment stickers. I know! I am just thrilled.
I have been pouring over design magazines for months. I watch Chip & Joanna on Fixer Upper. I look at the binder of images I've collected over the years. I have Pinterest boards for my Pinterest boards. It has been great. So I can't tell you exactly what source led me to QuatroStyle on Etsy, but I can tell you that I ordered within days of finding them.

I spent $84 for these 30 sticker tiles. While that may seem like a lot for stickers, it is nothing compared to the price (and permanency) of installing real tile. Nothing.
Look at the same area of the kitchen, just minutes before installation and compared to the first photo, I know you'll agree that the tiles add a lot of visual oomph.
The installation was simple. The only think you have to be conscious of is finding the center of the area you are covering. I chose to start there so that the rows would be centered and even. I took my time peeling and sticking the tiles, but it still couldn't have taken more than 40 min. I have since tacked up 2 pieces of white trim molding to blur the depth between the wall and the stickers. Tiles would have depth, so the molding gives the illusion of depth. When I get a chance, I'll take a picture that includes the molding to show you.

Easy. Reasonable. Striking. Removable.

Thank you, QuatroStyle!

#interiordesign #designonabudget #ididit #kitchen

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mushroom Still Life at the Issaquah Farmers Market

I love going to farmer's markets, don't you? I see beauty everywhere and I take a lot of pictures. Apples are pretty. Sunflowers are commanding. Tiny potatoes are charming. I could go on and on. Yet sometimes I see a display and stop in my tracks. 

This display looks perfect to me. The combination of mushrooms and fabric creates an image that is puzzle-worthy. A mushroom still life where the fabric on the table actually improves the look of what is displayed on top. It is very unusual to see a farm market booth with this much visual strength. Bravo.

Color (gray, khaki, stone and cream) and Texture (smooth as silk or as lumpy as cauliflower) remind us that natural is wonderful. I'm sorry that I didn't catch the name of the vendor, but this product is available at the Issaquah, WA farmers market every Saturday thru October 1.

Now that I think about it, I am decorating my living room in these shades - with touches of plum, light blue and peony during the summer.

#mushrooms #designideas

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Golf Club at Newcastle: Bagpipes and Chills

We had heard that The Golf Club at Newcastle had a wonderful spot high on a hill that featured the city of Seattle in the distance, framed by Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.  

Last year when we drove up to take a look, I took this photo of a Barrat horse being led over to meet the wedding party. With the blue skies and picturesque setting, this scene felt like a magazine shoot
The guests were arriving for the wedding and I hurried out of the way. Near our car, we talked to a groundskeeper who said that we really needed to come back at sunset to hear the bagpipes. Wait, what?


Return we did, on a beautiful summer night in late August. We arrived around 6 o'clock and found a table in the club bar. There is also another pub restaurant called the Wooly Toad on the second floor.
After we ordered hamburgers and a salad, we walked out onto the terrace in time to see the bag piper arrive.

It was too good to be true. A clear night, a beautiful view and the time to enjoy it. Did I mention that it happened to be my birthday? I think I can get used to celebrating in the Pacific Northwest. 
#seattle #golfclubatnewcastle #sunset #myheartsinthehighlands

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cookbook Edition: Our Sorority Book Club Branches Out

My sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, has a pretty active alumnae group in Seattle and I transferred my alumnae membership the moment I moved, with high hopes of making friends out West.

I famously arrived at this Theta book club from the airport the night I moved here and now when we all introduce ourselves, one of the girls invariably remembers meeting me when I first arrived in Seattle...and tells everyone "and I mean when she first arrived!" It's fun and it tells the girls that connecting and showing up when I say I will is important to me. 

It was November 2015 and I had just flown in for my first extended stay in Seattle. The plan was that I'd be in our apartment with Dan from November to April, and then I'd fly back to Michigan with my mom to start packing and selling both of our houses over the summer.

It feels like just yesterday, but now we've built our house, are completely moved in and can start making big plans.

I have always loved to cook and I was particularly excited to hear that the book club was dedicating our August meeting to the love of cookbooks. The leaders suggested we check out fellow Theta and Seattleite, Heather Christo's blog for our recipes. Heather was the guest speaker at our holiday luncheon. We did and had a lovely meal. 

I think it is so interesting that most members went to different colleges in different parts of the country, but we all ended up in Seattle and have our sorority to help us connect. (finger snaps) Making friends as an adult is challenging, but leaning on your affiliations (school, church, volunteer) can really help you get a leg up.
I made Heather's Blueberry Maple Mustard Grilled Shrimp and a bowl of cheddar biscuit nibbles called Cheese Wookies (from a different cookbook). The sauce was simple and flavorful - win/win! and everyone ate their fill.
My friend Clara made this magnificent Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Our hostess, Kristen made this satisfying Grilled Garlic, Rosemary and Mustard Shrimp and some gluten free cupcakes to satisfy our sweet tooth.

It was such a nice night! We were able to try new recipes and eat a lovely meal out on the patio. We even talked about the possibility of making an all cookbook book club, because we all like to cook and really enjoyed having a real meal at our gathering. Who knows, it just might happen! I look forward to whatever these women cook up.

#seattle #cookbookclub #bookclub #heatherchristo #finddelight

Friday, September 1, 2017

How On Earth!: The Blue Angles Thrill Seattle

Speechless! I was downright speechless when I saw my beloved Blue Angels power across the Seattle sky in this formation. 

I had a such great afternoon during the Thursday practice show on August 3rd. Someone had suggested I check out Proctor Landing as a possible vantage point. When I arrived, the police told me that it was one of their temporary headquarters and sent me down the way to Slater Park. Boy am I glad they did!

As I was looking for a parking spot, I started talking to an older gentleman who was leaving his car. We talked about the Blue Angels for a minute and then I started walking toward the beach with my chair and camera. "You're going the wrong way!" he called after me. Huh? "The good beach is that way...put your stuff down next to the U of W chair, that's us." 

And there you have it. Another example of kindness from the strangers I have experienced in Seattle. For the rest of the afternoon, I chatted with Bob, Sue and Vincent. They were all Washington natives and had found this new spot after their old Seafair haunt became inaccessible. We all agreed that Slater Park was perfect. It's a patch of green tucked among the beautiful homes and has a perfect place to let your kids play in Lake Washington. I couldn't have invented a better photo (below) if I tried. Happy days are here again.
Sue asked if I liked living in Washington, as she handed me her sunscreen. Vincent tried to relate by telling me a harrowing story of the time he drove thru Michigan in the winter. And when the air show was over, Bob insisted that I tuck my camping chair into his rolling cart so that I didn't have to haul it up the hill. Kindness, and dare I say a familial warmth, that I find over and over again "out here." 

Yes, living 2,000 miles away is a big adjustment, but the citizens of Seattle have been rewarding me for my effort.
*And the Blue Angels fly over Lake Washington EVERY year! I count myself lucky.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Test Tube Vase Highlights Zinninas

I bought this bunch of zinnias for $7 at the Ballard Farmers Market. The blossom heads are small so the overall scale is perfect for this vase from Pottery Barn that is essentially a dull gold wire circle holding test tubes.

One type of flower in many shades in a circle. Simple but stunning.

#testtubes #potterybarn #flowerarranging