Sunday, July 31, 2016

Travel Essentials: Pressure Reducing Earplugs

I will not fly without a pair of Lewis and Clark Pressure Reducing Earplugs. How's that for a testimonial?

I absolutely love these earplugs because they somehow flex and change and help my ears cope with the pressure in the plane during altitude changes. I used to get ear aches, pain, air sickness and now I don't. 

As I fly, I can actually hear squishing and sucking as these earplugs help my ears cope with the pressure. The occasional sounds let me know that they are working and they are completely comfortable to wear.

I fly cross country (SEA, DTW, PBI, IAH) all the time and these earplugs are part of my travel essentials. This may seem like an unusual post, but if I can improve your travel experience it is indeed delight. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Seattle: Parchment Bakery Pop Up

I am floored that one person can create such diversity with flour, butter and sugar. As I explore life in Seattle, I clip articles about people and places I am interested in and Laura Pyles of Parchment has been on my radar. I am my own Rick Steves.  
I read a lot about Laura Pyles' mad skills with pastry and heard that she had gone the "Pop Up" route to get her product into the public's hands. Her incarnation Parchment (a wonderful name for a bakery!) sells pastries during the Ballard farmers market on Sunday inside the beautifully stocked cooking store, Culinary Essentials, where she also teaches classes.

Earlier this year, we went to the Ballard Farmers Market and tracked down Laura. We chose a rhubarb pinwheel and a blueberry hand pie for our late breakfast and then on impulse, I added one of her famous cannolis when I saw that she had a few left. She was pleased that I had heard about them and said that she's probably the only pastry chef on earth who still fries her own cannoli shells. We could tell - it was delicious. 

Dan and I traded bites of the pastries back and forth and couldn't decide between them. Yum and crunch and tart and yes. That 's how I would describe them.

Good luck to you, Laura! May the life of a Pop Up Baker treat you well.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Flower Arranging: A New Kind of Layering

When I try something new and it is a success, you are the first to know. My blog is a chronicle of my life and the things that I think will bring you delight.

Do you have a clematis vine? My purple clematis (it looks like it could be the Bonanza Clematis??) blooms faithfully every summer and on good days, you can see a few purple blooms wafting on the vine when standing in our family room. I love when a plan comes together. 

Anyhoo, I wanted to use the clematis in an arrangement in the kitchen and in a moment of clarity, I tucked a small rose into the center of the flat clematis bloom. I tucked the stem in between 2 petals and floated it in a beautiful open floral bowl. I added a few clematis leaves and put out placemats in the same color family. I love this arrangement!

Have you ever tried layering blooms?

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Picnic with "Family" at Fort Worden on Olympic Peninsula

We had heard that the Lavender Festival in Sequim, WA was very popular and decided that we would bring a picnic lunch with us, so that we didn't have to rely on a hot dog vendor for lunch. When a town is inundated with tourists, it is hard for the vendors and restaurants to keep up with demand. Our plan was to find a park on the water and eat a nice lunch. 
Our new favorite way to picnic is buy a combo (main dish and 2 sides for $7) at the grocery deli and pack it in my new cold food traveler from Crate and Barrel. We put the grilled chicken breast and cold turkey in a Tupperware container and the rest of the sides (potato salad, pasta salad, brussel sprout salad and beet/orange salad) in the food traveler with ice in the center. Perfect! 
I also brought along tiny oil & balsamic vinegar bottles and a packet of spiced Love olives that I bought at Cost Plus World Market. These items are picnic ready.
We were lucky to find a picnic table in a great spot looking at the water at Fort Worden. A grouping of picnic tables were just outside of a kitchen pavilion. As we were setting up, a women came out to introduce herself and let us know that she had rented the pavilion for a family reunion. We immediately offered to pack up and move when she said, "No, no, I just wanted you to know that more people are coming and that you should play along as a cousin." She was so very nice and ended up giving us maps to the area and encouraged us to return to Fort Worden to explore when we had more time. She works at the park and expounded on all the things there were to explore. There is a marine science center, a gift shop (!) and visitor center. I would love to go back.
As we were finishing lunch, the clouds broke up and we could see the beginnings of some blue sky. A day that was not too hot; just right for an outdoor festival. We packed up and as we left the picnic area, our new relatives waved goodbye and wished us well. We felt like part of the family.

We were expecting to have a long day and looking back now, I can tell you that we left our apartment at 10 am and didn't return until 11 pm - now that's a day trip! A healthy lunch in a peaceful place (and a brand new restroom across the lawn) was just what we needed before we headed into the busy festival traffic. I'll tell you about the lavender festival next.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Packing: A Few Too Many Options

I'm packing for a trip back to Michigan and I thought you would get a kick out of this image: a row of 8 ribbon watches "packed and ready to go" in a Ziploc bag.

I have sold ribbon watches for years at art shows and on Etsy. Initially, I would take one watch face and swap the ribbon bands out as my outfits changed. I've have streamlined that process and declared that as the maker, I was eligible for as many watch faces as I wanted. 

Then I go to pack and I come up with funny pictures like this. When it comes to accessories, I am weak. At least they are not as bulky as shoes...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Spectacular View Near the Dungeness Spit

After visiting the Lavender Festival in Sequim, we drove to the Dungeness County Park at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula. We stopped at an overlook to admire the Strait of Juan de Fuca and noticed 3 cruise ships inching their way across the sea. I can only imagine the photos the passengers were able to get from their vantage point. I romanticize strolling the deck of a cruise ship Love Boat-style, until we all remember how seasick I get. Remember when I almost had to become Canadian?

Dan wanted to hike a bit of the Dungeness Spit and I decided to simply enjoy the view. Can you blame me? I couldn't get over the way that the clouds and the water were each showing patterns of ripples. This is a mediation poster if there ever was one. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pendleton Scraps: A Glorious Pillow Emerges

Remember when I went to the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store in Portland, Oregon? Well I couldn't wait to start sewing with the strips and scrap pieces that I bought. This pillow above isn't finished into a pillow yet, I've got to do a bit of sewing, but I wanted you to see what I came up with from this! The woolen mill store sells the strips, edges and wool worms that are the natural cast offs in blanket production. The strips are sold by the pound and its up to you to pull the colors you're interested in or take a gamble and just grab an armful to experiment with. I had fun selecting the colorful strips that spoke to me. I spent about $3.50 on the strips i used to make this pillow and I have a lot left over for future projects. What a deal.
I am so very pleased. A bit like painting with wool, you have to look at the patterns and imagine them working together. I love that it still has a Native American feel. The pillow is pieced together from 6 or 7 different patterns.

What do you think? Isn't it great on this chair in our apartment?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Portland: Khao San PDX: Eat and Repeat

I have Facebook and Khao San PDX to thank for this awesome evening in Portland. When Dan and I set off on our impromptu trip to Portland, I announced it on my personal Facebook page. Within minutes, our friend Souri from Michigan, wrote a comment insisting that we find her cousin's Thai restaurant. I am so glad she did!

We arrived at Khao San around 8:30 and found Souri's cousin, Bud. He was so full of life and happy to introduce us to his Thai Street Food. I confessed that I didn't handle spicy food well and that I hadn't really eaten at Thai restaurants, so I didn't know what to order. Bud assured us that we were in good hands and to leave it up to him.

We started our meal with an delicious Thai Iced Tea. It's light orange in color, served in a tin cup and tasted of green tea and exotic fruit. I found myself going back to sip the straw over and over again. Points!

In the photo above, you can see Hoy Joh (pork, shrimp, crab meat and water chestnuts wrapped in bean curd skin and fried golden brown; served with homemade sweet & sour sauce) and Kor Mu Yaang (char-grilled pork with smoked chili and tamarind sauce). I loved them both! The Hoy Joh were hot and tender and the sauce brought out the seafood flavors - yes! The Kor Mu Yaang had some heat, but the meat was delicious and paired with a side of Jasmine rice I ate more than my share - Yum!

This plateful of color is Spicy Crispy Chicken Basil (Lightly battered in rice flour and deep fried, then stir fried in their special sauce, bell peppers and Thai basil). It was hotter than I am used to, but I enjoyed it very much and came back to it again and again. Fresh and bright and flavorful. Perfectly delicious.
When the waiter asked if we wanted to order dessert, I didn't hesitate before blurting out "the one with bananas!" You can see now why I did. Fried bananas with coconut ice cream hit the spot after a touch of spice and tasted delicious on a warm evening. We will be back! Get ready, Bud!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lake Washington: I Can Canoe, Canoe?

We finally got out on the water in Lake a canoe! The whole trip was inspired by my love of water lilies. Whenever I drove over the 520 bridge near the University of Washington, I could see them!
This is my favorite bridge because on a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains this clearly. As you drive closer to shore, on the right, you can see the University of Washington football stadium. You can rent canoes close by.
Yes, we were having a good time on a beautiful Saturday morning. Renting a canoe at the University of Washington requires no reservation, costs $12/hr and the only requirement is that you can swim. They provide nice life jackets, paddles and help you in and out of the canoe from the dock. It was great.
What a day! We saw lots of ducks and birds. I was hoping for a turtle, but no luck.
There were water lilies everywhere and it was beautiful. The overall feeling was peaceful. No noise. No talking. Just paddling in a natural area just minutes from downtown Seattle. Isn't that wonderful?
We did see lots of ducks and this one Blue Heron (below) trying to look inconspicuous.
When I told someone I know that we went canoeing on Lake Washington, he seemed almost annoyed. After a minute he said that he had lived here for years and never done anything like that. He felt that his days were routine. I told him all he needed was $12 and some ink on the calendar. As my grandmother used to say, "You've got to make your own fun."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hydrangea Heaven: How Can There Be So Many?

All I can say is that I didn't know what I was missing! If you said hydrangea to me before last week, I'd say Nikko Blue or maybe Endless Summer, that's it. I went on a little walk in my friend's parents' garden and they opened my eyes.
A lifelong passion for plants and gardening has led to a private oasis for plants and gardeners alike. Wouldn't you like to grow in this setting? I know that it would be good for my imagination.
On this visit I concentrated on photography so I can't give you specifics on each photograph but this dear gardener offered me cuttings (and help identifying) next year when I have my own piece of land for a garden in Washington. Isn't that exciting!
I love that this bloom (above) looks like each petal is made of porcelain. Tiny delicate cups that look hand painted. I'm sold.
Think of the flower arrangements I could make with this beauty! Be still my heart.
This variety has a double layer of pointed petals in a deep blue. I wish I could have seen this one open completely.
I will never look at a puff of blue hydrangea the same way again. While I love the classics, I am being wooed by these new varieties.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Columbia River Highway: Wahkeena Waterfall

We had just enough time to pull into a parking spot (lucky!) and walk up to the platform at the base of Wahkeena Falls.  It was interesting to feel the temperature drop what felt like 20 degrees as we approached the falls in the shade.
I know that we will plan another trip to specifically visit this beautiful stretch of the Columbia River Highway. This was just to wet our whistle. Since it was a holiday weekend, there were a lot of people on the road, trails and standing on the platforms, yet it was unexpectedly quiet. It was as if the natural beauty brought out the respectful side of everyone. The crowd was reverent.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Oregon: Historic Columbia River Highway

I swear this is real. I got out of the car in the parking lot of the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and took this photo on my iPhone. That is how beautiful it is, plain and simple. The blue sky and strategically placed clouds didn't hurt, but all the credit goes to Mother Nature.

We had spent 2 great days in Portland and Dan wanted to drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway before we started back toward Seattle.
We must have entered the route on exit 22, because one of the first options was to stop at this lookout. 

It stands out as one of the best views I've seen in a long time and I hope to return and have a picnic in this general area, perhaps at the next turn out called Crown Point (featuring Vista House). I could look at this view for a very long time. And remember, this is a mere 45 minutes outside of Portland.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Portland: Rose Test Garden is a Must See in Summer

I found delight in Portland. I visited the International Rose Test Garden. I know, why haven't I been there before? Clearly I had no idea what I was missing.
I had only been in the garden for a minute when I lost my cool and started taking selfies with the rose bushes taller than me. 
A beauty - full and fragrant!
I recommend that you follow this link and watch a segment about the 
International Test Garden that was broadcast on the PBS television show Oregon Field Guide. The video films the 10,000 rose garden at peak bloom in 2014. The segment interviews Harry Landers, the man in charge of this living masterpiece.
Can you see the happy bee in the photograph above? Buzz buzz...I know that I should have noted which rose I was photographing, but frankly I was having too much fun to be practical. 
These photos were taken on July 3, 2016 and the garden was in full bloom. I haven't seen anything like it since I was at David Austin Rose headquarters in England.
I kept coming back to this regal beauty called Frances Meilland. The soft pink center fades to a candlelight white.
This rose garden has many levels and sections. You can't get through it quickly, nor would you want to. Set aside a good hour to wander and enjoy. This time well spent.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Portland: Pendleton Woolen Mill Store is Exciting for Makers

We had the 4th of July weekend stretching out before us and our families were thousands of miles away. On Saturday morning, Dan asked if I'd like to take the 3.5 hour drive to Portland, Oregon for an overnight trip.

"Can we find the Pendleton Mill Store and get wool scraps?" When he answered yes, I started packing. I used the patriotic approach and packed pants, t-shirts and sweaters all in red, white and blue, figuring that I would match somehow. We were on the road by 10 am, looking for fun. 

A Facebook post stating "An impromptu trip to Portland! First stop, Pendleton Woolen Mill" ened up planning the rest of our trip. One friend Shannon in Seattle invited us to stop and see her at her parents' house to tour their large garden in bloom. My friend Souri in Michigan encouraged us to eat at her family's Thai restaurant in Portland and finally my friend, Marilyn in Tennessee insisted we set aside time to visit the Rose Test Garden that Portland is famous for. Our trip
was planned!
This was what inspired me to get in the car. Wool scraps! My mom said, 'Really?" when I showed her this photo, but I think I can do great things with what I found here. Pendleton makes beautiful wool blankets, clothing and accessories. 

You might remember when I told you about the Native American-inspired Print towels by Pendleton that my mom was collecting. They have stores across the country, but it is the Woolen Mill Store (8550 SE McLoughlin Blvd.that sells Pendleton fabric by the yard, remnants and wool ends.
The store is huge and offers endless inspiration for artists and makers, as well as Pendleton enthusiasts in general. I spent ages choosing the strips of wool that I wanted to experiment with and I can't wait to get started. I promise to show you what I create.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Get Your Goat: An Interesting Way to Mow Tricky Slopes

Vegetation managed by goats. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I hadn't until I moved to east Seattle, Washington. Goat herds are brought in to eat the grass and weeds on steep and difficult to reach public spaces. Isn't that clever?
Right now they are on the hill above our apartment complex and we walked over to say hello. What struck me was how natural and peaceful this project is. I do not like the constant hum of lawn mowers. I've included a short can't hear them talking to one another in this clip, but I could. Very cute. Here is a link to Healing Hooves that describes the grass management program.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hot Stove Society: A Great Educational Luncheon

I was happy to be included in one of the final events of the year; the Junior League of Seattle Sustainer luncheon was a cooking demonstration hosted at the Hot Stove Society, a cooking school in Seattle operated by celebrity chef Tom Douglas. 

The format allowed our group of 40 or so to sit at 2 large butcher block islands and observe Chef and Hot Stove Society Director, Bridget Charters prepare the menu.  She walked us through the fundamental of each dish, while her team of cooked the same menu on a large scale in an adjacent kitchen so that the entire group could be served family style.
I must compliment Chef Charters on her clear and friendly method of teaching culinary skills. She put our group at ease and encouraged us to ask questions and consider variations to the recipes. The overhead camera/tv monitor helped us to see her methods from where we were sitting.
The first course (top) was a Pea Puree on Crostini and a Pea Shooter, accompanied by an Asparagus Bundle with Prosciutto and Parmesan. I especially loved the hint of mint in the pea soup.
I swooned at this bank of ovens! I would love to actually cook in a class like this. It would be fun to work alongside other students.
I walked around the impressive kitchen before the luncheon started and took this beautiful image of the asparagus bundles being prepared. 
The main course was a Shaved Asparagus and Seasonal Greens Salad, Moroccan Style Braised Chicken with Lemon and Fava Beans and a Pilaf of Kale and Fava Beans. There was something too bitter (one of the greens?) in the shaved asparagus salad, though I loved the idea of shaving asparagus into thin strips. That is a preparation I will try at home.

I have never tasted chicken so tender, so braising is also something I intend to try. The spicing was just right and the bright flavor from the preserved lemon pieces was delicious. 
Dessert was a rustic Strawberry Galette and made for a lovely ending to this Spring meal. Thank you, Hot Stove Society for a fun afternoon. Your relaxed environment and happy staff was the prefect venue to make new friends.