Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Elk: Charming Charlie

We were driving back from Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, Washington (post to follow) when I saw my first elk! We were on a side road near Suncadia resort when a small herd of elk meandered across the road. The cars stopped and let them pass, which gave me a chance to notice the elk and open my camera phone.

I bought an elk charm years ago when I was in Montana and I never felt good about it...until now. 

Now I've seen an elk and I qualify for an elk charm. Thank you, Washington.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sugar Management: Fill Test Tubes with Sprinkles

I love sugar and color...and being organized. This simple project ticks all the boxes and makes me very happy every time I see it in my kitchen. I see no reason the grocery store sprinkles have to reside in those ugly plastic tubs.

Show them off in your kitchen and you'll find more occasions to add a little something-something to your baked apples, yogurt or brownies. I know I do!

I mention it today because as Halloween approaches, these perfectly-sized glass test tubes with cork stoppers from Martha Stewart Crafts are available at Michaels, often on sale.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Great British Bake Off: Sugar Driven Television At Its Best

Knowing that my dining room table looks like this in December, you won't be surprised to learn that my new favorite television show is The Great British Bake Off

The show was already on Season 6 (!) when I found it and I have watched most of the episodes, season by season, on YouTube. I have found that you can watch some of the seasons on PBS, so check your local listings.

The premise of the show is that 12 amateur bakers compete each week for the chance to be crowned Britain's Best Home Baker. The show is filmed in the summer, in a large white party tent on the grounds of a British estate. Each baker's station is painted a different pastel color (blue, pink, yellow or mint green) equipped with an oven and appliances match. The entire setting is a wonderland of color and sugar - my kind of place!

What I love about it is that there seems to be enough time for them to complete each task, so they aren't cutting corners. You get to see the real process they use with parchment paper, different kinds of pans etc. I just love it. The contestants are kind and help each other, give supportive glances if someone gets a harsh critique and are always there to consult on the proper oven temperature. 

There are two hosts, Mel and Sue, who add lighthearted commentary and always seem to know the right thing to say if a cake is listing to the left. The hosts take turns announcing the "Star Baker" of the week and who has unfortunately been eliminated.

The judges are cookbook author, Mary Berry and renowned baker, Paul Hollywood - both famous on that side of the pond and its fun to see the bakers nervous to have the duo taste their creations.

Have I convinced you? This is sugar-driven television (for a girl like me) at its best. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Embroidery with Whimsy: Have Your Cake

A work in progress from this summer: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too embroidered dishtowel. A great project for a hazy day by the lake. Stay tuned. I'm in Seattle now and I forgot the finished product in Michigan! It'll be back with me next month and I'll show it (and how I did it) to you then.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

World Record: Most People Participating in a Paint-By-Numbers Project

We did it! 2,852 people painted a fish at the Issaquah, Washington Salmon Days festival and by doing so, set the new Guinness Book record for people participating in a Paint-by-Number project. 

I believe the town is still waiting for the of(fish)al declaration by Guinness, but the Issaquah Press has made the announcement.
A few of the 2,852 artists at work.
You can see a portion of the "Great Migration" masterpiece, above. My work was in blue. Ha! If you ever get a chance to have a little fun and set a world record, do it! My new friend and I had a great time chatting in line and being a part of the master plan for the festival.

Eating Festival Food: check
Shopping for Arts and Crafts: check
Enjoying the Fall Weather while Walking the Streets of Issaquah: check
Setting a World Record: check

I declare the 2015 Salmon Days in FISH-aquah, Washington to be a success!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Salmon Days: Issaquah, Washington

Autumn has arrived in Washington and the salmon have returned. Can you imagine that when the smolts (I call them salmonlets) are released into Issaquah Creek outside the hatchery, they swim up Issaquah Creek and through Lake Sammamish, the Sammamish River, Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Lake Washington Ship Canal, Puget Sound, the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into the Pacific Ocean. Are you kidding me? That is incredible. They are expected to live 3-5 years out in the ocean until their DNA tells them it is time to return home to spawn and they travel that exact same path in reverse. I am not a scientist, but I think that is fascinating. Can you see the salmon jumping (above) in Issaquah Creek?
This is the open air salmon ladder that the fish jump up on their way into the hatchery. The salmon are back and its cause for celebration indeed.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Salmon Days in Issaquah, Washington: Part 2

What a weekend! This was my first experience with Salmon Days in Issaquah, Washington...excuse me, "FISH-aquah, Washington" and it was a delight.
The weekend celebration is timed with the return of the salmon to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to spawn. In this nature-centered region, salmon are celebrated. Nothing says it more than this larger than life kite making its way through the crowd.
Festivals mean food, and the choices were endless. I regret not having salmon fresh off the grill at the Kiwanis Salmon Bake in Gibson Park. I didn't realize it was an option until we were ready to leave - next year!
I did, however, make the genius move of ordering an apple dumpling with ice cream and caramel sauce. It was as if the apple was peeled, cored and steamed before being baked in a satisfying crust. It was so delicious I would do it all again. In my mind, that is the sign of a good festival treat. Not too rich, not sickeningly sweet, not outrageous, just delicious.  Apple season is here and I love it.

More tomorrow on other aspects of Salmon Days.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Belle Epicurean: Afternoon Treat

A pear almond brioche, an apricot pastry and lots caffeine. Sometimes this is all you need to save an afternoon. Thank you, Belle Epicurean.

Pacific Northwest African American Quilters (PNWAAQ): An Exhibit in Issaquah

It was a love of fabric, design and quilts themselves that brought us to the "I Am: Pacific Northwest African American Quilters" exhibit and lecture at Blakely Hall in the Issaquah Highlands on September 12th.  

The Pacific Northwest African American Quilters exhibit showcased how in the right hands, fabric becomes art. Many of quilts were self-portraits that harnessed the power of computers to determine the light and shadow of the human face. That information allows the quilters to chose the color and pattern in fabrics to create their likeness.
The founder of the Pacific Northwest African American Quilters, Gwen Maxwell-Williams, shown in her self-portrait (above) addressed the group, thanked them for their support and spoke about her many years of quilting, connecting and expressing herself through the fabric arts.
Members of the group offered quilts for sale (above) and had a row of sewing machines set up and humming along, ready to give demonstrations.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Seattle Symphony: Piano Competition

I brought my mom back with me to Seattle and we had only been here 5 days when she asked if we had plans for September 15th. I told her that the world was our oyster and wondered what she was thinking.

She had been going through the stack of Seattle/Seattle Met magazines in the apartment and read that the Seattle Symphony was holding its first-ever piano competition, in partnership with the Young Concert Artists and the Washington Piano Arts. My mom said that she had listened to broadcasts of piano competitions on the radio for years but had never had the chance to attend one in person. That was it, we were going to the Seattle Symphony Piano Competition at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle.

The process began last Spring when a panel of reviewers started listening to audio recordings submitted by applicants worldwide. The panel selected 8 pianists from the submissions and the live competition began on September 15th with a Recital Round. Those who made the cut proceeded to the Semi-Final Round on September 16th. At last, three finalists (Kevin Ahfat, Kenny Broberg and Vijay Venkatesh) performed on Friday night for a ticketed Final Round.

My mom and I attended the afternoon Recital Round on September 15th and heard Peng-Chian Chen, Peter Chuang-Chuang Fang, Vijay Venkatesh and Sean Yeh perform. It was a fabulous experience and it was interesting to see (and hear) the vast differences between the pianists and their interpretations of the same piece of music. 

Vijay Venkatesh was our favorite and I commented to my mom during intermission that I felt like I had actually seen him move out of reality and into the music while I watched. He was completely absorbed and it was moving.

Kevin Ahfat won the competition (congratulations!) and we were happy to hear that Vijay Venkatesh tied with Kenny Broberg for second place - Bravo! The Grand Prize was a $10,000 cash prize, many future opportunities and a performance on the Seattle Symphony's Opening Night concert on September 19th. What a week Kevin had! 

Second Prize was a $5,000 cash prize and a consultation with Young Concert Artists and First Chair Promotion. The competition also awarded a $1,000 cash prize to Audience Favorite, Kenny Broberg.

Once upstairs, we admired the magnificent almost candy-like chandelier "Crystal Cascade" by Dale Chihuly, from the second story overlook outside the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall where the piano competition took place. 
I know that over the next decade I will spend many nights in this magnificent building and attending a piano competition makes for a fun first memory.