Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seattle: Fancy Starbucks and Bacon Wrapped Dates

I must say that I love the living-room inspired Starbucks that I have seen out in Washington. This particular location is on NW Gilman Blvd in Issaquah and I call it the fancy Starbucks.

In addition to the drinks you love, they serve wine and small plates appetizers. They have live music on the weekends and an overall family room feel, like having coffee or drinks at Pottery Barn. The floorplan is spacious and I really enjoy stopping in.
Their bacon-wrapped dates are all you will ever need. Yum yum yum. Starbuck's can roll this menu out nationwide any time they want - I'm ready.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Seattle:Drygood Designs: Lunchtime Embroidery Class

This is exactly how I should be spending my time in Seattle. I signed up for a 2-session class to learn the basics of hand embroidery at a darling shop called Drygoods Design, in downtown Seattle.
The shop is gorgeous - a light filled dream sewing studio in a brand new location across from The London Plane, a cafe/specialty food store/floral workshop, that has been receiving a lot of press lately. The increased foot traffic for them can only bring new customers to Drygoods Design. Hip hip hooray!

Another plus? They brought in bread, cheese and spreads for our class to snack on during our Lunchtime Lesson. Isn't that so nice? We were grateful for the sustenance and it was nice to be spoiled with some fresh and healthy choices.
Margaret was the instructor for our 4-person beginning embroidery class as she was as kind and patient as can be. We learned enough for beginners and all felt good about our progress. Drygoods Designs offers far more than embroidery too. They have fabric and notions for sale, and classes on a myriad of sewing subjects. There selection of goods felt like a personal collection of treasures.
We practiced and experimented and were encourage all the while. It was a nice way to spend an hour and I highly recommend it. We were trying the Needle Arts.  Thread. Color. Pattern. Purely creative and very nice. We were discussing whether or not we thought we'd use a hoop and Margaret said her years of needlework were done without a form.  I chimed in that I loved to embroider when the fabric was stretched taut and my seatmate happily agreed. She said that stitching on hooped fabric was satisfying. I was with kindred spirits, there was no doubt about it. I told you that this was exactly what I should be doing on my stay in Seattle.
If you live in Seattle, you're lucky. You have a little piece of maker-heaven right on Occidental Street. Take a class. Make some friends. It's all here for the making.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Heather Bailey Dishtowels

I was so very fortunate to run across some Heather Bailey dishtowels at Homegoods. I had no idea that she had expanded from fabric design into housewares, but I am so glad that she did! The colors of these dishtowels were so beautiful and bright (same pattern in a different colorway) that they fairly leapt off the shelves and into my cart. Can you see that each one has a ruffle trim? I intend to use them as large napkins in my aqua and white kitchen. Can't wait!

Heather is a fabric and embroidery designer, as well as a blogger with an enormous following at HelloMyNameIsHeather. I met her back in 2008 at the Country Living magazine Women Entrepreneur conference in Chicago. She is a delight. Warm, interesting and wholly supportive of women expressing their creativity. I found her blog tips and tricks to be very helpful and thought that she was a great addition to the panel.

I was returning as a Country Living Pitch Your Product winner for my subscription gift service and Heather was on the Women Entrepreneur panel discussing her tips and philosophy for writing a successful blog. You can see Heather on the Country Living stage (below), she is second from the left.
This must be Heather Bailey week. I came across some of her embroidery patterns at another shop here in Seattle. I bought them on the spot - I can't wait to show you.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seattle: University of Washington Medicinal Garden

When I heard that the University of Washington had its own Medicinal Garden managed by the biology department, I couldn't wait to visit. I love the idea of utilizing the properties of plants to aid the human body. Ginger for inflammation. Aloe to soothe the skin. I have quite an herb garden and I started imagining what I could teach the neighbor girls if I did a little more research.
I stopped by the campus on the beautiful spring day and enjoyed wandering the paths, trying to "name the plant" and then check my answer on the plaques that identify each species. 
The university offers tours of the Medicinal Garden and Greenhouse for groups of all ages from school age children to garden clubs. I think this is a wonderful way to welcome the community to campus.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Wilder Side: Small Batch Pickles on the Road:

Sometimes I get a bee in my bonnet and I can't let it go.  Each fall season for the past few years, I've made a small batch of homemade pickles. It's very easy and it helps me to acknowledge my Laura Ingalls Wilder-side.

This year, I was in Seattle living in a hotel with a kitchenette. No pickle making for me, or so it seemed.  Then I was at the farmer's market, saw these beautiful pickle-size cucumbers and thought to myself, "Why exactly am I not making pickles this year?"
I decided that at small batch would make 4 jars. I bought what I thought would be enough cucumbers and the total cost of my bag of cucumbers was a whopping $1.00. I guess I needed .35 cents more worth of cucumbers, because I only came up with enough slices to make 3 jars, which in my case, is even better. How many pickles can one couple eat?

I stood in the vendor's booth at the farmer's market and went through a check list in my head. To make Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles, I would need Ball jars, vinegar, white sugar, pickling spice mix, salt, turmeric and cucumbers. Easy peasy. 

Do you know what was the hardest part of this little endeavor? Finding Pickling Spice. I know!  While there is a Canning Department in every store from Target, Supermarket and Hardware Store, I had a really hard time finding pickling spice here in Seattle.  My husband mentioned this to a co-worker and she said that, Yes, it indeed does sell out around here.  Fascinating.  

Are the stores under buying?  Has all the small batch and home canning articles finally reached a point where pickling has moved to main stream? I think it is a great evolution, though I wish I had known and could have included it in my Spice Stash.

You have a Spice Stash with you in Seattle? Oh yes. Ziploc baggies with a few tablespoons of my go-to spices. Dry Mustard, Dill, Cinnamon etc. Having just enough spices on hand makes cooking in the hotel so much easier.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Floral Storytelling: Let Reinhardt Blooms Craft An Unforgettable Floral Story

Pinch me. Katie Wachowiak of Reinhardt Blooms, gave me a private tour of her family's flower farm. Can you think of anything more wonderful? Rows and rows of my heart's delight.

I tried to be respectful of the time, talent and toll that farming can take on a person during the summer months.  I can't imagine the hours required to tend 30 acres of Michigan farmland, knowing that Katie and her parents grow over 100 different varieties that they provide to florists and farmers markets, as well as creating custom arrangements through their floral design service. I envy the beauty they have at their fingertips each day.
(My version of Where Women Create - this is an inspiring wall inside
 Katie's Floral Design Studio.)

It was my new friend, Karen, that led me to Reinhardt Blooms. Remember when I was driving up north and got caught in a tornado? It was in the basement of Karen's house that she showed me photos of her friend's floral bouquets. Katie's formal floral arrangements were worthy of being painted by the Dutch masters and I asked Karen to tell her I said so.
Fast forward to another trip past Kawkawlin on my way home from the cottage a few weeks ago, when Karen had arranged for me to meet Katie and see Reinhardt Blooms. The photos and arrangements are Katie's, so I insist you click over to her webpage and see some of her work. This is Floral Storytelling at its best.

I know that Reinhardt Blooms designs for clients all over Southeastern Michigan, so please don't hesitate to contact Katie for a consultation. I've seen many photos of her arrangements and love everything that she does.

In other happy news, during the summer months, Reinhardt Blooms sells at the Port Austin, Rochester, Royal Oak, and Birmingham farmers markets on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I can't wait to visit Katie at the Birmingham farmers market on Sundays and buy armloads of flowers from her.

Meet me there?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sno Valley Mushrooms: Beauty Sold 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. A basket of apple 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. 

Color (gray, khaki, stone and cream), Texture (smooth as silk) and Topic (mushrooms grown in a sawdust substrate without fertilizer, pesticides, manure or synthetic chemicals = amazing), rule when I am deciding what to write about. Something this beautiful and interesting, deserves the spotlight. No big farmers market post here, this is all about the mushroom.

I bought a carton of shiitake mushroom and I can't wait to cook them as the mushroom man suggested, sauteed with butter and fresh basil. They don't need to be washed or brushed because they are grown out of a block of sawdust substrate, which means no dirt. He told me to tear them from the middle of the cap down, no need to trim the ends either, it is all prime mushroom. 

Take a moment and look at this picture.  Silky smooth mushrooms that grow in a gorgeous natural palette.  Abby Tabak at House Beautiful magazine creates paint palettes that pull from nature. I couldn't help but think of her piece on mushrooms when I saw these fresh mushrooms at the market. I could decorate my entire living room in these shades. 

#housebeautiful #mushrooms #designideas

Seattle: Tallulah's Neighborhood Cafe in Capitol Hill

Talluhlah's is a great spot for a date. It is on the corner of Mercer and 19th Ave in Capitol Hill, just down from the Hello Robin cookies/Molly Moon ice cream dessert shop. The decor is black and white and has a Pottery Barn-meets-Great Gatsby feel to it. They have a large beautiful bar and an upscale menu, but the mood is relaxed enough to let the fresh air in, with walls that open up to the patio tables and beyond. The white twinkle lights remind you how close you are to dining under the stars.

We enjoyed their Three Dips with Crudités & Lavash Crackers, which includes a castelvetrano olive tapenade, walnut muhammara and a red pepper hummus (above). Nice sharp flavors that could stand up to the fizz of my sparkling water and the bite of Dan's ginger beer.
I ordered the Hanger Steak with fingerling potatoes, with a side of beets and goat yogurt. Dan had the Neah Bay King Salmon with corn and edamame and added a twice baked sweet potato with maple. We shared back and forth and everything was good, but my favorite dish was the sweet potato, which was whipped and almost souffle like. Note to self, this Thanksgiving, figure out how to make a sweet potato souffle! 
After dinner, hold hands and wander a few doors down for a sweet treat. It will be a lovely evening, I promise.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Seattle: Unexpected Farmers Market in Bellevue

There's nothing like driving to Joann Fabrics for inspiration and finding an active farmer's market in the parking lot! I bought  myself a Whidbey Island ice cream bar (butterscotch) and set out to choose a bouquet of dahlias. 

The day was warm, so I decided to take the flowers into Joann's with me, rather than leave them in the car to wither. I received a lot of compliments on the bouquet in my basket and I'm sure that it inspired others to go out outside and choose some flowers for themselves! It's not everyday that fresh flowers are brought to your doorstep. Take advantage of it when it happens. 
Tah-dah! Here they are on display in my room. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tiny Baked Goods: Me and My Toaster Oven

Ok, how do I really use my Hamilton Beach Set and Forget Convection Toaster Oven?  Baking! I was sure that I would be making lots of homemade dinners in our hotel room (with a kitchen, but no oven) and that premise justified buying and shipping this little beauty to our hotel. But in truth, it was my love of baking that kept this little oven busy.

I believe that food is love and that the effort you make in creating sweets for someone speaks volumes.  My husband is working very hard on this project and he needs cookies, I'm sure of it.  

Because I am in a new city, it is tempting to drive all over the area exploring, taking photographs, trying the local ice cream.  Day after day, I am out and about.  So when I specifically plan to be "home" all day in our hotel room, I do a baking blitz.

On this particular day, I made Blueberry Gateau, Baked Washington Peaches (I bought a bag of fresh frozen sliced peaches and they were delicious!) topped with a Granola Crumble and a batch of classic Chocolate Chip cookies. The room smelled heavenly and we had lovely treats to choose from the rest of the week. Win-win.

Can you really bake in a little Toaster Convection Oven? Absolutely. I really didn't see much difference in the baking time either. I kept an eye on things, but the gateau was ready in the expected amount time and the cookies took a minute longer. 

It was easy and it made me oh-so-happy to be mixing flour, sugar, salt again.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tiny Oven, Big Flavor: Salmon with Apricot Mustard Glaze

The key word that was missing was oven.  This year, I was planning on living in Seattle with my husband for the months of April and June, and the Residence Inn we would be staying at sounded perfect: it was clean and comfortable, was in a great location and we'd have a nice room with a kitchen (full refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and a 2-burner cooktop).  Bueller? Bueller?  No one said anything about an oven.  As an enthusiastic home baker, a kitchen without an oven was something I had a hard time imagining.

It was around the planning stages for this trip that a friend got married and I was looking at her registry online.  Hmmm...she wanted a toaster oven. Would a toaster oven do me any good in Seattle? I knew it was used for more than toast, but I wasn't sure for what.

I'd never had even the most basic toaster oven, so when I began researching them online I was surprised to see the features that were possible and the praise they could inspire.  Convection cooking?  Meat Probes? When I saw that this Hamilton Beach "Set and Forget" Toaster Oven with Convection Cooking was $99 and would ship free with Amazon Prime, I couldn't resist. I looked up the address for the hotel and had it sent there, along with a set of toaster oven-size pans. Ha! 

No oven my foot.
And I love it! I call it my Easy Bake Oven in jest, but it works like a dream. In honor of being in the Pacific Northwest, the first thing I cooked in it was:

Broiled Salmon with Apricot Mustard Glaze 

Place salmon skin side down on cookie sheet.  Broil under high heat until fish is partially cooked, then spoon a apricot mustard sauce (1/3 dijon mustard to 2/3 apricot preserves) over the fish and return to broiler. Sauce with warm and bubble, browning slightly. Remove from heat when salmon is cooked to your preference. Serve with boiled new potatoes or sticky rice.

Seattle: The Pink Door is a Hidden Treasure near Pikes Place Market

I love whenever I see "The Pink Door" on a Seattle Favorites list.  I think to myself how lucky we were to find it on our own.

My dinner at The Pink Door was purely by accident. It was my first-ever night in Seattle and while heading to Pikes Place Market right from the airport was what I wanted to do, I also wanted to eat.  We didn't see any sit down restaurants in our jet lag haze and while pizza at DeLaurenti is delicious, it just wasn't going to cut it.

We were in the heart of Pikes Place Market area and my husband walked into a 2-story open mall area (across from the flower stalls) and noticed people dining at tables at a second-story restaurant . We climbed the stairs (indoors) and came in the back door of The Pink Door. Thankfully, they had a table available in the dining room and suddenly we were sitting down to a romantic dinner for two.

It was spring and I ordered a dish that was celebrating the season: Lemon Asparagus risotto with a side of grilled shrimp. It was creamy and rich and citrusy and perfect. Dan loves lasagna and was very happy with their recipe. The ate every bite kind of happy.  The restaurant is cozy, has a wonderful menu and offers a lovely respite from the bustle of the market. We will be back.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Small But Mighty: The Charm of a Teacup Bouquet

With a sudden chill in the air in Michigan, everyone's garden is winding down. Don't forget that you can still coax a few bouquets out of the garden, you just have to think smaller. 

I selected this antique teacup from china hutch. This was my maternal grandmother's and the cup and saucer are candlelight white with lace detail. I only needed a few small roses from the garden to make a lovely teacup bouquet for the front table. It may be small, but it has big impact.

Have you ever made a tiny flower arrangement? I bet your grandmother would approve of a teacup bouquet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dishtowels: Preserving and Canning Jars Print

It was love at first sight when I found these canning and preserving inspired dishtowels.  I was at my home-away-from-home, TJ Maxx, when I spotted them in the kitchen linen department. Each set includes 2 dishtowels for $4.99.  It may seem ridiculous, but I bought 2 packs of each pattern and I intend to give each friend that comes to cans/pickles/preserves with me a commemorative dishtowel.  

Why? Because it is fun, unnecessary and I think if you like to can/preserve/pickle, you need this towel in your kitchen. It's as simple as that. 

This summer I was given the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System and it is awesome. I made peach jam with my friend Liz (she's coming back to make tart cherry jam so she'll get her dishtowel then) and it could not have been easier. Angie is coming over on Friday to make Sweet Bread and Butter Pickles.
Am I having fun? You bet I am.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Townsend Hotel

This is exactly how one should celebrate a birthday...Afternoon Tea at The Townsend Hotel.  My tea-loving friend Kathleen is a kindred spirit and I knew that this would be the perfect spot to celebrate.  We would have hot tea, delicious food and plenty of time to talk.  

The Townsend is a luxury hotel in Birmingham, Michigan and the lobby is beautifully decorated and arranged into small sitting areas, perfect for intimate tea parties.  When I arrived, I noticed a group of women hosting a bridal shower near the fireplace"Tea, sweets, ribbon and friends, do a happy bride make."

Kathleen and I sat together on a loveseat and our tea service was set out in front of us on our own coffee table.  I chose Earl Gray tea and Kathleen decided on a decaffeinated Raspberry Tea.  We began our little party with Orange Cranberry scones served with mascarpone cheese and housemade lemon curd. The Townsend's lemon curd is some of the best I've tried and I ate every last drop. Yum yum yum.
The tea sandwiches were little works of art, each prettier than the last.  We were served (clockwise from bottom left) Shrimp Canape, Asparagus with Boursin Mousse topped with a hard-boiled Quail Egg, Smoked Salmon, Pesto Bruschetta with Marinated Tomatoes and Mascarpone, Smoked Chicken Salad and Cucumber and Watercress. 
I carried one of my cigar box purses to our tea and it was fun to hear so many people compliment it.  I love when someone says "I just have to ask you about your purse." I gave out many cards that day and explained that my purses were available in my Etsy store (an online marketplace for artists). This picture (above) looks like a magazine spread, don't you think? I love it! 
The staff was so very kind and since it was a quiet afternoon, we had fun chatting now and then with them about how much we were enjoying ourselves, how Kathleen and I became friends and how we were feeling a revival in interest surrounding Afternoon Tea. After this beautiful afternoon, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather take my mom than to Tea at The Townsend.

Our dessert plates each arrived with a lit candle, in honor of our birthdays. We enjoyed a tiny Key Lime Tart, a Raspberry Cheesecake Pyramid, Chocolate Mousse in a Chocolate Teacup and a Passion Fruit Mousse Dome. It was perfect.

It was such a fun afternoon, perfect for two old freinds. Kathleen...what else can we celebrate?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flour, Sugar, Salt: A Baker's Gift from the Heart

My good friend, Kathleen has a baking business called Flour Sugar Salt that specialized in handmade scones. Inspired by her Scottish grandmother, Kathleen has adapted her family recipe into 3 delicious varieties that she bakes and sells by the dozen: Blueberry, Cherry or Cranberry.

We met for tea to celebrate our birthdays (a detailed post about that tomorrow!) and she surprised me with a batch of her blueberry scones that she had baked that morning!  It was a beautiful presentation; She arranged her scones in a dish towel-lined serving basket with three beautiful boxes of tea. Are we kindred spirits, or what?

I told her that the tea boxes were so pretty, I might just make one into a clock! Remember when I converted a pancake mix box?

If you live in southeastern Michigan and love traditional baked goods, you must order some scones from Kathleen's Flour Sugar Salt.  And like her Facebook page to see her farmer's market schedule.  

The beauty and tradition of baking is alive and well. Bravo!  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Puzzled: When Food Could Be Art

I can't be the only one that thinks this would make a beautiful puzzle, yes? It would be hard, but what a lovely image to stare at on a rainy afternoon.
I took this photo last week at Cedar Sol Hydro Farm in Cedar, Michigan. I came for the tacos, but I was captivated by the tomatoes. The farm is king this time of year and I am a happy subject.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Piano Forte: Personal Touches Based on Color

I love this vignette on the piano in our living room.  Specific and unexpected touches that make it look like our house.  

First, you must have music on the piano. Just because you have little ones learning Three Blind Mice in a piano book designed in the 60's, doesn't mean that you have to leave it on display. When our church changed hymnals, they offered the old ones to the congregation.  I love having a meaningful piece of music highlighted with a silver page holder. I can't play the piano, but my husband might see this as encouragement to learn O Holy Night.

I pulled together small items from around the house that were black. I wanted to ground the accessories a bit and echo the black table I have between our two off white loveseats in the same room.
What 3 items did I choose for the top of the piano? A black sushi bowl used as a vase for peonies. A black and gold tin tea box that I bought as a memento in Paris at Mariage Freres. And a sheet of dollhouse seed packets, framed in black, looks very much like art to a gardener and dollhouse enthusiast like me. The art on the wall above the piano is a piece of vintage sheet music that I photographed and enlarged.

This collection is more interesting than a set of silver picture frames that I might have out at a different time of year, and are all conversation piece on their own, should anyone ask about the items.  I think the most important part about collecting and arranging items is that the items are believeable. I didn't set out to buy items to go together, I walked around the house pulling from my own stash.  Over time, buy items that speak to you.  When you arrange them later, the history of each time (where you found it; who gave it to you; what it reminds you of) will make your storytelling all the more interesting.

Do you like my design?  Perhaps you'd like to customize the top of your piano this week.  Piano forte, indeed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cherry Republic: The Cherry on Top of Beautiful Northern Michigan

Have you ever been to northern Michigan? The area known as cherry country
I might ruffle a few feathers in my new home-away-from-home, Seattle, but the truth is Michigan and the Pacific Northwest actually share the title. Michigan produces 75% of the nation's tart cherries, while Washington and Oregon produce 60% of our country's sweet cherries. I love them both. In my neck of the woods, the brand-the myth-the legend, Cherry Republic has the final word in all things cherry.
My first visit each summer is to the flagship location in Glen Arbor for lunch under the trees; doesn't this look beautiful? Fresh dried cherry chicken salad on a bed of greens. And when you order a glass of water, it's served in a lidded plastic tumbler with a fresh cherry bobbing among the ice. It's just for fun, but I always hear people commenting about this light-hearted touch. There are 4 Cherry Republic retail locations - 3 are "up north" and one is in Ann Arbor.

Everything on the menu has cherries in it.  Cherry barbecue pork, cherry-studded hot dogs, cherry chili.  I'm not kidding! They also serve slices of cherry pie, cherry pastries and offer a soda fountain filled with cherry-kissed ice cream.  The latest flavor I tried was "cherries in the snow" (vanilla with dried cherry bits) and it was creamy and delicious.
On the property, behind the restaurant/ice cream counter, are two other specialty buildings. My favorite is the shop exclusively selling "cherry food creations" - cherry salsa, dark chocolate-covered cherries, cherry vinaigrette. You can even choose between a packet of dried cherries or a chocolate cherry chunk cookie (the "Boomchunka") and mail it to a friend in a post office friendly box - an edible postcard, of sorts. 

The latest addition is a tasting room where you can sample a variety of Cherry Republic wines, cider and soda pop.  These are unique cherry beverages which range from rich and mellow to bright and heady. Try a little of each and then decide which will remind you of your glorious vacation in northern Michigan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hay Bales and Sweet Peas

Today is the first day of school for those in Michigan. Though we love pumpkins, cider and fall color, its hard to believe are beautiful Summer days are behind us.  I thought I'd share this lovely photo I took of perfect round hay bales on a field edged in Sweet Peas near Harbor Springs.  On this particular day, August stretched ahead of us. Where has the time gone?