Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tulips in the Valley: A Day Trip for Everyone

I want you to think of a day trip to see the tulips in the Skagit Valley as a perk. If you are within driving distance, you should see it.
It is a wonder of the world - one that happens once a year and gets everyone talking. How could you be within driving distance and not go? It's worth it for the Christmas card photo opportunities alone! In a nutshell, the day consists of driving on paved roads admiring the fields (see the yellow and red rows above) and stopping to take photographs - selfie sticks encouraged.
When you are ready to see the tulips up close and in arranged gardens, head to RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town. Before you leave home, be sure to visit the Skagit Tulip Festival website and print the bloom map so that you know which turns to take through the farmland.
After driving around the area, we parked at RoozenGaarde and had a picnic in our car before heading into the formal gardens. The area does have a snack bar, visitor tent with picnic tables (for shade, cover or warmth, depending on the weather) and porta-pottys. Their gift shop is wonderful and I know that you'll want a memento. Of course, they also have a tulip tent where the bulbs you have admired are available for order.
Could we have had a prettier day? Dan had a vacation day on Good Friday and there was sun in the forecast. Everybody get in the car! My mom has spent the winter out in Washington and she has been talking about seeing the tulip fields in bloom for months. I was so very happy that we had a beautiful day to show off our new part of the country. See my post featuring the daffodils here.
RooseGaarde has formal areas planted around their property (most labelled with the variety) and you can bring camping chairs or a picnic blanket to sit on the open lawn and just soak up the beauty of Spring.
There are beautiful plantings everywhere you look and as you can see, the bulbs are in full swing right now. This is a parrot tulip (below). I love the curled edges and touches of green on the apricot petals.
Grab some friends and insist on a road trip to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington. It will give you the Visual Vitamins TM that you need after a long rainy Winter. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

SnoValley Art Gallery: Art + Friends

"I'll be there!" That was my response when my new friend, Patti Bondi invited me to an art gallery opening - one in which she was showing her work! I had admired Patti's fine paintings in her home and was excited that she would have an opportunity to showcase her work in a permanent space with other local artists. 

A group of 12 women from the Mount Si Artist Guild banded together to open their own art gallery in historic Snoqualmie, Washington. Isn't that wonderful? 

The Art Gallery of SnoValley is located at 8130 Railroad Avenue, just across from the Northwest Railroad Museum. I feel so very happy for these artists, because their gallery is exactly 3 minutes from Snoqualmie Falls, a famous destination that draws 1.5 million visitors a year. If those same visitors feel inclined to stretch their legs and explore Snoqualmie, the gallery will have a steady stream of customers.
The artists of the Art Gallery of the SnoValley at the grand opening (above).
From where I stood, this gallery opening was a big success. In spite of the rain, there were art lovers of all ages streaming in the door. This is a supportive climate, for sure and it seems to me that the artists and residents have a mutual admiration society going on. Snoqualmie is one lucky town.
In terms of the art itself, I think the gallery will thrive because of the wide variety of artistic styles represented (still life, abstract, landscape,animals,sculpture) - that kind of selection, coupled with local landscapes, will certainly add to the gallery's draw. It was exciting to see a red dot next to some of the artwork, indicating that the piece had been sold that night. 
I was also really happy to see that some of the artists offered small prints of their larger paintings, which allows even those with a limited pocketbook to participate in the world of art

As a collective, each member takes a shift in the gallery. When you stop in, be sure to meet the artist and ask about their work. My friend, Patti Bondi is shown below with her lovely painting of hydrangeas, "Moonlight Becomes You." 
My favorite painting of Patti's is called "Make Lemonade." It is a still life of fresh lemons near a blue and white porcelain box. Click the link in the sentence above to take a peek.

Thank you, Patti, for inviting me to celebrate your new venture. 
Art + Friends = A Bright and Colorful Future in Snoqualmie.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Field of Yellow Daffodils: A Day Trip to Skagit Valley

How did we luck out? Not only did the rain hold off, but the sun came out and the daffodils were in FULL bloom on Good Friday! Dan had the day off and we brought my mom along with us on a day trip to the Skagit Valley.

The last time we drove to the tulip festival, the tulips were in full swing, but most of the daffodils had faded. This time the field behind RoozenGaarde was vibrant yellow. 
We left Issaquah around 10:15 in the morning and arrived at RoosenGaarde by noon. Before heading over to the visitor area, we had a picnic lunch in the car (Turkey & Swiss sandwiches, pickles, lemonade, coffee and oatmeal raisin cookies). By then the sun was out, and we bought our $5 tickets to get into the visitor area to admire the extensive tulip plantings. The 2016 fields should be blooming until the 3rd week of April - go see it for yourself!

Note: We always bring a picnic on a road trip; it has saved us many times when restaurants were too few and far between. Also bring 2 cameras, a trash bag, antibacterial wet wipes, extra water bottles, a blanket and collapsible camping chairs.

I will be writing more about details of our visit in a few days. You have most of April to visit the tulips in the Skagit Valley - start planning!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sewing and Stitchery Expo 2016

I was so happy that I could attend the famed Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington this year. I vividly remember standing in my living room in Michigan, half watching an episode of Sewing with Nancy when a segment started from the middle of a huge sewing convention. 

I was just starting to wonder where a big event like that would be held, when Nancy said that she was south of Seattle! Dan had just started travelling there for work and I couldn't believe my luck. Fast forward 18 months and now I'm living in Seattle and able to attend the show. 

You just don't know where life will take you.
I have to open my description of the show by stating that is the vendors and classes are primarily for those that make quilts and sew apparel. I do neither, so I am not necessarily the target demographic for the show. I had a great time just the same! I was so impressed with the skill and intricacies of the quilts on display.
Can you believe what you're seeing? This is a dollhouse made completely of fabric and embroidery! The artist at My Fair Lady sells the pattern to make this entire house on a sewing machine embroidery hoop. That kind of vision should be applauded.

The most exciting part of the show for me was the color. For example, look that this magnificent selection of embroidery thread from Floriani. I could see myself asking Santa for this, can't you?
I attended the show with two new friends from Seattle (they can sew...for real!) and I let them decide how we spent our time. One lecture was about using different types of stabilizer in machine embroidery. The lecture was given by a rep for Floriani out of Boston and though the talk could have been as dull as stabilizer itself, she held our attention completely. Good job!
I want to call attention to American Made Brand, a Seattle-based company that produces solid cotton fabrics "sourced and manufactured in the United States." In what I think is a terrific marketing move, they handed out small sample stacks of their cotton colors to interested attendees. It puts their color and quality right in the public's hands and I am sure that it helped to attract new customers. 
I spread out the sample pieces so that you could see for yourself. I think I might sew these into something wonderful for a dollhouse - I love small squares of fabric and it would be fun to make a lasting memory from my first sewing expo. I won't get to it until I've moved from our apartment, but someday...
I couldn't resist buying some fabric - a print of houses (7th from left) by Brandon Mably called "Shanty Town." I bought the color way you see here (Bright) and the same print in more of a seashell pastel. Someday they will be placemats in my house. Do you have a stack of fabric and a someday list too?
My heart skipped a beat when I saw these interesting fabric flowers in the Terial Arts booth. This is the kind of project I would make - absolutely! I was hoping to see even more items/projects like this at the sewing expo. Using beautiful fabrics in an unexpected way intrigues me.
If you put aside the shopping, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo has enough lectures, free classes and paid seminars that it could stand alone as a teaching event. The number of classes offered is staggering. The breadth of topics is impressive. I read the entire course offering in the pre-released catalog (available online and in Seattle-area sewing shops) weeks before the expo and determined that I needed to learn more before about basic construction before I could benefit from the classes. I also need to spend more time with my serger (which is currently in Michigan) before a lot of the tips and tricks will make sense.

That being said, my friend Judy and I did attend one paid seminar. Michelle Paganini of Paganoonoo offered an hour long explanation called Upcycle Sewing on how to convert multiple tag sale shirts into a funky shirt-dress for a woman.
Michelle had a booth at the show and sold her patterns to walk skilled home sewers through the deconstruction and revitalization of thrift store finds. Her enthusiasm for upcycling was contagious.
The Sewing and Stitchery Expo was a great show. If you are within reach of Seattle next February and you love quilting and/or garment construction, this is the show for you.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Inspired by Royalty: Wood Beads and Faux Pearls are Glamorous

I am not a thin gold chain kind of girl. I like a statement necklace that turns a simple t-shirt into something worthy of an evening out.

My best friend is very supportive of my jewelry making binges, but she had to lay down the law last year. "No more wearing a new necklace, until you have 2 more of the same thing at home that you can sell!"

You see, she has been with me time and again when someone loves the necklace I'm wearing, but I have to disappoint them with, "Yes, I sell the jewelry I make online...just not this one." 

I get inspired, make a one-of-a-kind piece and then show it off with no inventory behind it. Great for my outfit, not great for business.

It happened again last month with this simple wood bead and faux pearl necklace. I wore it before I made more and had to tell people that it would be available on my Etsy site soon.

Problem solved. I have posted it online and I have 2 to sell. Are you interested?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Flower Power: Pike Place Market in Seattle is Ready

These are the glory days of spring! My best friend is visiting me and checking out where we are starting to make our new life. We have had so much fun talking face-to-face and in between I've been showing her the sights.
Pound, pound, pound. Can you hear my heart beating?
#seattle #pikeplace 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Soup & Soulmates: Kindness at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I am a story teller at heart. Big or small. Funny or poignant. I love to convey my personal experiences. I have been letting my time at the Northwest Flower and Garden show percolate and one experience stands out.

Table for 1: Eating lunch alone in a sea of people. It was lunchtime and the crowds were as hungry as I was. I had met a few magnificent people who work in garden writing (yea!) but the number of people I know in Seattle can be counted on two hands. Lunch alone was a foregone conclusion.

I bought a beautiful bowl of chicken ramen soup and searched for an empty seat. The table area was completely full of people and packages. I noticed 3 adults at a table for four and asked if I could join them. They graciously rearranged their food and packages to make room for me.
At my table was an adult woman and her husband who had come with her father on their annual trip to the garden show. I gave my animated summary of moving to Seattle for my husband's job, the fact that I still had to sell my house in Michigan and that I loved roses (and herbs and flower arranging and color) more than anything and that I couldn't wait to have my own garden in this new climate which has a far longer growing season than southeastern Michigan. And then I ate my soup. 

They noticed my show badge and I told them a little about that morning's Tweet Up (a pre-show gathering of writers to load social media with #NWFGS content). 

I learned that all three of them were specialists in various aspects of botany, garden landscape and horticulture. It was then that the mostly silent father slid a piece of paper over to me. He had written his contact information in detail onto a piece of paper and said that I was welcome to come see his garden this summer. He would tell me about all about everything on his land and show off his garden, one that had been photographed for magazines featuring the Pacific Northwest. 

I couldn't believe it. It was so very kind and completely unexpected. Then I remembered the rambling I had done about roses and flowers and more and realized that he probably felt the very same way. Kindred spirits come in all shapes and sizes and he could tell we were cut form the same cloth, just 40 years apart.

It is mid March now, but you can be sure that I will drive over to Tacoma this summer to get a very special garden tour. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Garden Art: Hudson Valley Seed Library and Beekman 1802

The first time I came across the Hudson Valley Seed Library was this year at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. I was taken with their idea of blending art with gardening. They commission artists to create images as diverse as the heirloom seeds they sell and turn the seed packets into paper collectibles in their own right. As a matter of fact, I have their Breadseed Poppy Mix hanging on my memo board right now! 

My friends, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge (aka Beekman Boys), have an ever expanding effect on the home, garden and how we see country life in general. This year they have partnered with the Hudson Valley Seed Library to create a limited edition series of non-GMO heirloom seeds from their own vegetable garden at their farm and sold through their store, Beekman 1802

The artwork on each Beekman seed packet features a goat, naturally, as their brand began with a simple goat milk soap. Remember when my photograph of the Beekman mansion was featured on their honey & oats soap? 

Heirloom vegetables are key component of the Beekman 1802 business. Josh and Brent have written an Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook and continue to trumpet the importance of growing and preserving our vegetable heritage.  

Now order some seeds and get out to the garden! It's March and I can't wait.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Renegade Craft Fair: Seattle

The Renegade Craft Fair in Seattle last December filled me with optimism. This type of high end maker show (especially at this scale) only happens a few select cities that are a magnet for a craft show of what I call "upscale small batch creativity."  

The products for sale range from organic tea blends, printing press stationary, and handmade candles to leather accessories and the like. My overall impression was that these are the type of items I see spotlighted in the Gift Guides of Martha Stewart, Real Simple and Oprah.  

Simple lines and soft colors, with a nod to the natural or well made. This is not kitch, those some have an irreverent feel. I felt right at home and hope that when I finally settle into a house, I can participate in this show with my ANA cigar box purses.
For now, I am just a customer and I found wonderful Christmas gifts. My favorites were screen print linen dishtowels printed with pine cones and whimsical thick paper dollhouse. Never fear, I'll connect you to the brands when I locate my stash of business cards.
My high end lunch was a rich and hearty shrimp and grits from the food truck, Kiss My Grits! It was not too spicy and full of flavor. The grits were creamy and soaked up the flavor of the mushrooms, bacon and onions. I couldn't believe that I could eat this well on a chilly day outside of Hanger 30.

The Renegade Craft Fair comes to Seattle in the winter and summer, loaded with hand crafted wares and loads of style. See you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Burke: Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture

I have been doing my best to participate in social events hosted by organizations that I belong to. I can think of no better way to make friends and learn about my new turf. The Junior League of Seattle hosted a private evening for sustainers (alumnae) at The Burke, the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture one evening this winter.
We were honored to have Dr. Julie Stein, Executive Director of The Burke give us a tour of some exhibits and an overview of the big plans for building a New Burke museum over the next five years. She is incredibly personable and clearly passionate about bringing education and inspiration to the public. I am looking forward to many more experiences at The Burke. I couldn't resist including this photo (above) where the dinosaur seems to be gabbing along with the girls.
The Burke is a research and collections-based museum loaded with thousands of examples from our natural world. One exciting benefit of the new Burke is that the building has been designed to make far more of their massive collection of artifacts accessible to the public. My favorite piece on display was this 50 million year old fossil flower. Delight goes waaaay back.
The evening included wine and appetizers and was a really wonderful venue to meet others volunteer-focused women and be inspired. Notice that most of the serving platters and utensils are made of bamboo: sustainable and very Seattle.

Museums are traditionally quiet and after these women had busy work days and a dash of Seattle traffic, standing among the flora and fauna of yesteryear gave the gathering a relaxing feel.
I really enjoyed exploring The Burke and channeling my inner Wilma Flintstone. Some exhibits are replicas to give us a sense of scale, while other are actual artifacts discovered in the Pacific Northwest. Don't wait for the New Burke, I recommend you take time to visit The Burke now and enjoy a quiet glimpse into the past.