Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spring Training: Robins Learn to Catch Worms

I was lucky to see this mother robin (center) teaching her 2 kids to catch worms.  I noticed them right away because these 3 birds were within a few inches of each other for several minutes straight. If birds can step on each other's feet, these kids were surely stepping on their mother's.

She would cock her head and listen for worms, then peck one out of the ground.  The kids would look at her with their mouths open - nope.  She didn't give them any.  This was when they would learn to feed themselves.  They stuck close in case she changed her mind, but she was determined. It was time for these cuties to leave the nest!

Remember my favorite robin picture? My own little Muppet baby.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Poppytalk for Target: A Cake Stand After My Own Heart

I stood mesmerized in front of an endcap in Target.  It was June and the limited edition entertaining collection called Poppytalk was now on the shelves.  

I was in Seattle at the time and tried to figure out how much I could fit in my luggage. I decided that I could manage the 3-tier paper cake stands and gave it priority because I LOVED it.

Poppytalk is described on Target's website:

 Poppytalk is an internationally lauded design blog with an indie sensibility. Jan Halvarson, co-founder of Poppytalk, along with partner and husband, Earl Einarson, mine the beautiful, the decayed and the handmade, pinning inspirational DIYs, home designs and ideas for entertaining. Jan lives, works and pins from Vancouver.

I have been moving around so much, it was only recently that I put the cake stands together and took this photograph.  Isn't it perfect for my design style? Jan Halvarson is kindred spirit, that's for sure! 

Since Poppytalk for Target is limited edition, I'm sorry to say that the items are now on clearance (view it here) and the cake stands aren't available online anymore.  But that doesn't mean that you can't find them in store.

If this collection speaks to you, get yourself to Target and see what you can find.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Evening on Lake Washington

I can't think of a gesture more kind than inviting someone from out of town, over for dinner.  You can find every type of restaurant under the sun in the Seattle area, but none can rival a casual dinner on someone's deck.  When the deck overlooks Lake Washington, even better.
Hotel living is fine in doses, but the square footage you have access to is "small x small."  Going to a home for dinner and moving in and out onto the deck felt wonderful. 

We could really breathe here.  Fresh air. No hurry. A delicious meal of grilled teriyaki beef, asparagus with lemon and a big bowl of fresh fruit. An Angel Food cake was the perfect ending to a very peaceful meal.
Bill Gates lives on Lake Washington, so I gave a little wave when this large boat when by, just in case. I owe a lot to Bill in terms of technology and I am interested and proud of the work he and Melinda are doing at The Gates Foundation
Look at the tip of Mount Rainier (above) glowing from the sun.  It turned colors as the sun set and we stayed until the last bit of light was gone. We are so thankful for the generous spirits in Seattle. I will always remember this lovely evening on Lake Washington.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Maker Spaces: My Patchwork Quilt Takes Shape in Seattle

I had so much fun Sewing in Seattle.  I like to make things (sew, bake, knit, buy, try) and when I knew that I would be spending a month in a hotel in Seattle, I wondered how I would adjust to having no sewing machine, serger or any of my crafting tools.  I could pack my knitting needles, but how many scarves can a girl wear? (Read my post about why I only knit scarves.)

When I had been on location about 2 weeks, I bought some beautiful stretch knit fabric and started hand-sewing it into a scarf one morning while I had coffee in the hotel lobby/dining room. 

My husband saw me making little to no progress over the course of breakfast and said, "This is ridiculous. There has to be a place where you can borrow a sewing machine."  He started Googling on his phone and sure enough, he found several places for me to contact.  Maker Spaces. Have you heard of them?

A maker space a workshop-style location filled with the machines and supplies needed for specialized creating.  In this case, I needed a maker space for sewing. I paid $10/hr to use the iron, measuring grids, rotary cutters and sewing machines.

I haven't found the perfect sewing maker space for me just yet, but I did visit a couple and was able to start making myself what I call a Reading Quilt (you can see the beginnings of it above). 

I wanted something that was: beautiful, portable, cozy and offered warmth when relaxing.  My favorite thing about a large patch quilt is that the fabrics have a chance to speak for themselves.  It isn't the tiny pieces and intricate stitches that capture your interest, it's the colors and patterns. I bought these gorgeous fabrics (from many different collections) at the Fabric Depot in Portland.  My quilt will be my souvenir from Portland, one that will last a lifetime.
As I worked on my quilt, I talked about it, and one of my new friends stepped in and loaned me her sewing machine! Can you believe it? The nicest thing a girl can do is lend her sewing machine to a friend who wants to sew. I designed this quilt to be patchwork on both sides and I will insert a blanket-style batting and finish it when I am back in Michigan.

When I return to Seattle this fall, I'll explore some other maker spaces I found. I want to take some basic sewing classes for fun and camaraderie, as well as create something unique at a high skill maker space.

I found one called Metrix Create that offers 3-D printing, heavy duty sewing machines (sturdy enough for leather and vinyl projects), large-scale knitting machines, lamination and grommeting tools, plus so much more. If you don't have the skills required to operate the machines, you can pay skilled labor by the hour to create your design. I was given a tour and it was so exciting. I have been trying to think of the perfect project to undertake. My mind whirls when I am in such a creative space. This was meant to be!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Juice Can Bouquets: Upcycling is Beautiful

I love this bouquet every time I walk through the family room.  My master plan is all coming together in the form of beautiful flower arrangements.

Remember when I visited Uwajimaya in Seattle and shopped for interesting Japanese juice cans? This can is a yellow and purple Sugar Cane drink marked Puli Specialty product of Taiwan. I absolutely love it and the flowers I found in bloom were just what I had in mind for it. Success!
Instead of a traditional glass vase, I love having texture, pattern and color as the foundation for my small flower arrangements.  If I had my own flower shop, I know that these would fly off the shelves.

I am home and able to pull from my own garden to make juice can bouquets. This arrangement has Honey Dijon roses, purple verbena and a sprig of mint.

If I do one thing this summer, it should be to convince you to put flowers in soda or juice cans.  Will you?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Little Bee's Italian Ice in Suttons Bay

How can I have missed sharing this little gem with you?  I have loved Little Bee's Italian Ice in Suttons Bay for years, yet somehow I missed writing a blog post about it.  When I went to congratulate them today on making the cover of Edible Grand Traverse, I realized my oversight.

Jennifer and Tony are the artists and icy engineers that make Little Bee's incredible desserts.  Gelato, Sorbet and Italian Ices are made in housein small batches daily.  I once walked into the shop when Jennifer was squeezing lemons and I thought, "Wow, they aren't kidding around. Fresh lemon juice, indeed."

And of course, the lemon ice was cold and tart and perfectly refreshing. Each summer I stop in as often as possible and I'm always greeted with a smile. 

The Suttons Bay shop also serves as an art gallery for Jennifer's landscapes and Tony's figurative sculptures. They have fashioned a creative life for themselves that I can appreciate. 

The couple concentrates on their frozen desserts in the spring and summer when Michigan fruit is fresh and the town is busy, and then they teach and work on their artistic endeavors (that will ultimately be displayed in the shop the next Spring!) during the quiet Winter months from November to May.
This is their vibrant all-natural sorbet on the cover of the Summer 2014 Edible Grand Traverse magazine. You can read the entire article online here - page 23 & 24.  Congratulations, Tony and Jennifer!

Friday, July 18, 2014

OMG it's Ommegang!

I have had "find Ommegang fruit beer" on my to do list for ages. Yesterday I found a selection of it by accident. I was in Costco and noticed a display of wooden crates tipped on an angle, full of medium size bottles with wire cork caps. Hmmm...

I couldn't believe my eyes. There were 3 varieties of Ommegang (Hennepin, Three Philosophers, Abbey Ale) available by the bottle, each around $7.  I bought 4 to try and this is how pretty they look on the shelf in my refrigerator. The beauty of everyday moments, right? I really don't drink, but I know that Dan will think its fun to try these and remember our first taste back at the Beekman Boys farm.

Josh Kilmer Purcell and I are old friends from college and his husband, Brent Ridge and Dan and I have tried our best to see each other whenever we can. I am hoping to see them again soon on a book signing tour for their latest masterpiece, The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook

Anyhoo, last summer we took a vacation in upstate New York and were able to visit Josh at home on the farm.  We caught up around the kitchen table and ate some of their delicious Beekman 1802 cheeses and drank Ommegang fruit beer, which paired perfectly. Ever since that trip, Dan occasionally mentions that fruit beer and I have been meaning to track it down.  Thank you, Costco!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Seattle: Southern Comfort Food at the Kingfish Cafe

I couldn't wait to sit down and have dinner at a restaurant that cooks in a traditional southern recipes.  My friends had raved about the cooking at the Kingfish Cafe in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle and had brought me along on one of their frequent visits. I loved this charming restaurant and I will be back!
You know how I love to take pictures.  I can usually wait until I get to the table, but not here! The candlelit hostess area was too beautiful to pass up.
I ordered the buttermilk fried chicken and it was delicious - juicy, tender, flavorful.  Paired with mashed potatoes and collard greens, it was comforting and crave-worthy.  My friend had shrimp and grits (pictured, right) and I wanted that too! Every item on the menu sounded wonderful and I know that I'll have fun returning to try more their special dishes, especially the gumbo.
It was the beginning of strawberry season when we dined at the Kingfish Cafe. We knew that splurging on the homemade Strawberry Shortcake was the right thing to do; what we didn't know was that it would be as large as our head! 

We really should have put something in the picture to show scale - this dessert was enormous! And perfect.  Super sweet fresh berries, homemade whipped cream, fresh tender biscuits. Wow. This dish tasted like summer.
I ducked my head in their adjoining bluesy bar which boasts live music and a bevy of bourbon-based drinks.   Mint Julep, anyone?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blue Angels Air Show: Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, indeed! My all time favorite July 4th activity is watching The Blue Angels air show in Traverse City.  The Blue Angels come to the Traverse City National Cherry Festival every other year (although they didn't come in 2012 due to federal budget cuts) and they never cease to amaze.
They center their show over Grand Traverse Bay (above).
They fly in a 6-plane formation against the bright blue summer sky.
How is this formation possible?  The formations and proximity to each other blow my mind.  I love it. Love it. Love it. Love it.
Look at this awesome drive by (above) where you can see the pilots!
Look how close the 4 planes are to each other. I don't even want them to fly that close. 
When I went onto the Blue Angel website to give you a link, I noticed that they now have videos that you can watch to see 3 views of each special maneuver: inside the cockpit, from the ground and the pilot saying the verbal cues.
You really must go to one of their air shows if you can.  And wear ear plugs, it will be louder than you think.  But you'll love it. Love it. Love it. Love it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Martha Stewart highlights Japanese Glass Buoys Just Like Mine

I was so happy to see my antique glass fishing floats featured as a collectable in the July/August 2014 issue of Martha Stewart Living.  I took a picture to show you my glass buoys on a plate next to the magazine article. 

Remember when I blogged about finding them in Leland's Fishtown?  Some people call them glass buoys, others say fishing floats, but lately everyone agrees that they are a wonderful way to add a nautical touch to your home.  

You can get some of your own by contacting Sporck Tile on the Leelanau Peninsula.  They have a large box of them for sale each summer.

Monday, July 14, 2014

9 Bean Rows Pastries are a 10

It was the right thing to do.  When my dad and I stopped into the new 9 Bean Rows location in Lake Leelanau and saw their bakery case full of homemade French pastries, he said he thought that we should sit at a table and enjoy one right then. Amen.  
I had an apricot pinwheel and this sticky-chewy-buttery masterpiece got us talking about how it would be easier to turn down other pastries in the future, now that we have had the best

Did you notice the green magazine cover called "Edible Grand Traverse" in my photo (above)? I love this free foodie magazine that is printed by region (I found Edible Seattle in Washington) and spotlights the best and brightest in food and farms. Look for one in your area.
There are a lot of croissants and pastries in the world and I give you my word, the pastries at 9 Bean Rows rival the best I have ever had.
I also wanted you to see baker Jen's beloved baking books.  This is the well worn library of a master.  The most tattered cover belongs to The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.  If you want to learn the craft, I would start here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Portland Farmer's Market: A Foodie's Happy Place

Take everything you've heard about the Portland Farmer's Market, dial it up a few notches, add some goat cheese and you will be close to imagining how great this farmer's market is.

This is the market for every kind of food lover. 10 kinds of fresh mushrooms - check. Organic beef - check. Fresh squash blossoms, ready to stuff - check.

We thought that it would be a fun place to meet up with Dan's cousin and family who live in the area and we ended up spending 3 hours walking around the market, eating, talking and catching up.  What a great way to spend a Saturday in June.
I took a million pictures and I'll highlight a few of my favorite ones together in this post.  The only photo I didn't get? A selfie with Martha Stewart.  No joke! She was in this farmer's market at the same time I was and I never saw her. I just kept hearing people talking about seeing her and showing me their pictures of her. When I tweeted that Martha was at the market too, my followers thought I was kidding. Nope, Martha and I run in the same circles. Ha!
It was the height of peony season and it was all I could do to walk past these pink puffs of delight.  I admired them for a while and got a dose of visual vitamins.  I wanted to buy a wagonful and pull them around all weekend - look at the shades of raspberry and pink!
Then I happened upon Verde Cocina's massive burners loaded with chickens, bacon and vegetables from the market.
I was lured their booth by the sight and scent of this gorgeous pile of fresh vegetables cooking on a giant griddle! I ordered the Buenos Dias breakfast for $10.  It has "Two eggs scrambled with veggies over white bean garbanzo mash, topped with more veggies, ranchero salsa and locally grown and smoked bacon with a homemade tortilla on the side." Un-be-lievable!  

My husband was one happy guy when I handed him our plate.  We shared it and then I realized that I hadn't snapped a photo to show you.  A kind patron let me photograph her plate - mine was similar, except imagine lots of browned pork belly bacon chunks instead of the braised pork. 
It was fresh, loaded with flavor and absolutely wonderful.  I kept thinking "how did they do this?" as I devoured spoonfuls.  The ingredients are simple and the effect is steller. Plus everything tastes better outside!

The Portland Farmer's Market is a great blend of farmers (vegetables), specialty food producers (goat cheese, charcuterie) and bakers/cooks (pies, salad dressings). I love how more and more markets are expanding to include ready-to-eat food.

You could buy a beautiful pies...
Or stock up on organic duck breast, chicken eggs or salami from the Deck Family Farm.
My posse spent so much time sampling and admiring the pate at Chop's booth, I was relieved when we each bought a container of their fresh pate. We bought the Chicken Liver Bourbon Mousse and it was divine.
Somebody make some pickles! Look at these beautiful cucumbers!
Yes, we ate again. Do me a favor and pretend that more time passed than it really did.  We sat on a bench and enjoyed shredded chicken tamales from Salvador Molly.  This is food made with care. Delicious!
When I saw this wagon, loaded with products from the market, I asked the owner if I could take a picture. "That's quite a haul!" She was proud of the bounty she had accumulated and couldn't wait to get home and cook.  Such fun! I look forward to doing this at my own farmer's market when I get home. This year I want to can peaches.
Dan's cousin insisted we try the delicious cookies at Two Tarts Bakery and she was raving about their selection as we walked up to the bakery counter. The baker just looked at me and smiled.  She didn't blow my cover, but she could have. You see, I'd already stopped at her booth when I was wandering the market and eaten one of her lemon bars in the bottom left of this picture. A butter crumb topped lemon bar that really tasted like lemon. Oh yes, I this was a display that I couldn't pass by. 
It isn't hard to take great photos at this market, everything is bright and fresh and ready to eat! If you are ever in Portland on a weekend, you must wander this farmer's market. It really is a good thing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Milk Bottle bouquet

Okay, they are very small milk bottles, but the idea is the same. Identical glass bottles in a wire basket are a wonderful jumping off point for a casual flower arrangement. My mom found this set at Pottery Barn a few years ago and we keep it full of flowers all summer.

The narrow opening of the bottles help to keep blooms upright and clustered together. Flowers can't help but look beautiful: this grouping is made of roses, lacecap hydrangeas, lupine and lavender. 

If you have blooms in your yard, cut some and make your own beautiful cluster. You'll love it every time you see it.