Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Sorority Luncheon: Heather Christo and a Charming Party Favor

I attended my sorority alumnae holiday luncheon this year and wanted to share with you a glimpse at the guest speaker and the darling touch that was placed at each place setting. 

The event speaker was allergen-free chef, cookbook author and fellow Theta, Heather ChristoShe gave an engaging and thought provoking speech about how she has taken her training as a chef and her mama bear instincts to create beautiful and delicious allergen free meals for her family. Her children are thriving without allergens and the world has taken notice. Her blog, Heather Christos is gorgeous and her followers rave about the recipes

Heather was thrilled to share her beautiful new cookbook, Pure Delicious at our luncheon and sign copies for attendees. What a terrific gift for someone who follows or is interested in an allergen-free diet. Heather's recipes are free from gluten, dairy, egg, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish and cane sugar. She is a delightful woman and I was so happy to chat with her over lunch.

The cute touch that was at each place setting was Heather Christo's gluten free gingerbread cookie recipe and a star-shaped cookie cutter. My sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, has Twin Stars as our symbol and I thought it was a darling way to remind us of our connection. Plus it's December and we're all in the cookie-baking mood. It was wonderful to see how easy it is to put an allergen-free recipe into practice.

I encourage you to click around on Heather Christo's website. I guarantee you will be impressed and tempted to alter your diet. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Beautyberry Makes A Show outside a Show

Remember when I decided that of the 5 types of winter berries on display at the Washington Park Arboretum, that the purple Beautyberry was my favorite? 

Well just days after seeing the cuttings and explanations at the arboretum, I saw a magnificent example of a Beautyberry in real horticultural life! 

It is December in Seattle and there is a magnificent Beautyberry tree in full "berry" outside the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. I noticed it as I was entering the Urban Craft Uprising holiday gift show. What luck. And I answered my own question - yes, the berries are noticeable enough to make a show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Seattle: Urban Craft Uprising Holiday Gift Show

The Urban Craft Uprising holiday craft show at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall is a creative tease. And I mean that in the best possible way. As a maker myself, I want to jump in each booth and quiz the artists. "How did you do that? Oh, that was a wonderful use of color! What made you try that technique?" I get lost in the design and production of it all and stop shopping all together. Not great for business, but at least I can give you a glimpse into the heart of the show.

The vendors are original and the quality of their products is very high. The show offers "small batch" goods made by individuals who have creativity, skills and access to unusual equipment to create their wares.

What does that mean?

Well at a typical holiday gift show you might find items that are handmade (sewn, crocheted, knit) which means artist + medium; at this event the items are more likely to be made by an artist + medium + a tool requiring skill. 

A loom, a leather tool, a screen print. Laser cut wood and paper items were also popular items for sale.

Where a typical holiday gift show would have a vendor selling cookies, at the Urban Craft Uprising you are more likely to see someone selling French-style macaroons. They require skill to create and the colors and flavors will make you swoon.

There is also an upbeat but cartoon-ish quality to a lot of the items for sale. I saw irreverent phrases on screen printed t-shirts.  Designers used wacky fabrics to add levity to mundane items like eyeglass or pencil cases. 
I took this photo at the Belly of a Whale booth to showcase their work. They had backpacks, lunch totes and a whole host of darling items sewn for everyday use. I highlight them because their sewing (seams, welting, zippers etc) was impeccable.

The Urban Craft Uprising is a large holiday gift show full of terrific products. Put the first weekend in December on your calendar and take note that they also hold a Summer show the last weekend in June! Viva la Makers!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Potluck Potatoes to Wow a Crowd

Are you looking for a potluck dish to feed a crowd during football Bowl Game season? Stripe a pan of mashed potatoes and see what happens. I recently joined a local neighborhood book club and we were invited to their annual holiday potluck dinner. I brought this dish to pass and it was a great addition to the buffet.

This is my semi-homemade version of a striped mashed potato dish I saw in a magazine years ago. I rely on Ore-Ida's Steam n Mash Cut Russet Potatoes to do the lion's share of the work for me. I buy 3 bags and follow the directions (cook in microwave, mash with fork, stir in milk and butter). Around the holidays, you can also buy the "homemade" mashed potatoes in the prepared food section of Costco. They are made with real potatoes, butter and cream and are delicious. I spread the cooked mashed potatoes into a large 13 x 9 glass baking dish.

Cook a lot of bacon, snip it into pieces with scissors and sprinkle it in stripes across the mashed potatoes. Add stripes of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stripes of sliced green onion. Put the dish back into the oven just long enough to let the cheese melt. 

This dish is delicious, easy, beautiful and on my must-make list for crowds. 

Go Team!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sugarfina: My Color and Sugar Spirit Animal

Did I stand a chance against this wall of candy? Nope.

In a city where no one really knows me, I often give in and summarize my life as being driven by "color and sugar." Knowing that, you would expect that I would stop and marvel at this boutique candy wall inside the flagship Nordstrom in Seattle, WA.

The company is called Sugarfina and they sell clear plastic boxes of color and sugar known as candy. The idea is that you build your own bento box with the colors and flavors you love. This is the kind of gift I would have given my bridesmaids. Fun, memorable and delicious.

I chose a box of Sassy Strawberries, which are flat strawberry replicas dusted in sugar. I told myself that they would be beautiful as a garnish on a strawberry cheesecake (you know, topping each puff of whipped cream) but I had eaten the entire box of 10 (?) by morning. You'll notice that I can't provide a picture of them. My tastebuds were too demanding. The candies were very chewy (like) and extremely cute (love) and came in a reusable plastic box for $7.50.
I also bought a try-me pack of gummy Apricot Hearts for $2.50. Why is nothing ever flavored apricot? I thought these were delicious and enjoyed chain-chewing these bubble-bath lookalikes until they were gone.
I was offered a sample of their "Martini Olive Almonds" and if I had a party planned, they would be my first unnecessary purchase. Roasted California almonds are dipped in white chocolate and then painted to look like olives. Someone hand me a crystal dish - these are fantastic. 

I am all for this new way of mixing and matching beautiful candy. Keep your eye out for Sugarfina and tell them Anne sent you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jetta Froelich: A Laser Visonary

I would like to call your attention to Danish designer, Jetta Froelich. I am an instant fan and have become a collector already. Some of her Christmas pieces are available at Homegoods this year and if you are lucky enough to find one, snap it up.

Isn't it interesting that this 3-D Christmas tree is made of whisper light tin? It seems to actually catch the light and glow when I have a light on in the apartment. It was designed to hold votive candles, but it doesn't need it! I made room for it on the shelf in our little apartment and she is stealing the show. 

It is hard to believe that something 18 inches tall could be magnificent, but it is. Bravo, Jetta and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Gifts and Greens Galore at Washington Park Arboretum

Have you heard about the Washington Park Arboretum's Gifts and Greens Galore? I'm realizing that I'm going to have to live in Seattle a while, see each season's activities and note what I want to attend next year. I keep stumbling upon things a little late.

This really neat one-day event at the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop sells pre-bundled greens from the arboretum and members' gardens. Pricing is $5, $10 or $15 per bundle and is marked with colored zip ties. There wasn't much left when I arrived just before the sale closed, but I could get an idea of what they offered and I love it. I can see myself fashioning a wreath from these fresh greens or even a circle centerpiece to ring a large candle.
The arboretum has a terrific gift shop year-round. This event showcased a selection of nature-inspired jewelry, laser cut wood candle holders, felted ornaments, bird seed balls and packets as well the item that got my attention: honey!
This is honey collected from hives inside the Washington Park Arboretum! Isn't that interesting? 

The countless blooms and blossoms of the season distilled into a natural wonder. I had to have a jar. I am so pleased that they use hexagonal jars in a nod to the honeycomb shape and I was interested to notice that the honey came in a variety of shades. No doubt due to when and where it was collected. I chose one that was darker, as most of my honey is pale amber in color.

Make note on your calendar that the Washington Park Arboretum's Gift and Greens Galore event will be early December next year - check their website next fall. I'll see you there! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Winter Berries at Washington Park Arboretum

3 = Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa
4 = Ilex Rubra
5 = Sorbus Forrestii

I was driving past the Washington Park Arboretum entrance on Saturday, Dec 3rd when I saw small signs promoting "Gifts and Greens." I parked and walked into the gift shop lobby to find out what it was all about. I will tell you more about Gifts and Greens tomorrow, but I want to show you what I came upon in that very lobby. Winter Berries!
Nothing is as helpful as a real world example and a detailed description. A blogger who wants to share such things with you doesn't hurt either (wink).
Japanese Box Leaf Holly

The Washington Park Arboretum had 5 cuttings from winter berries that thrive in the Seattle area and a description about each plant. 

It was titled "Have a Berry Thanksgiving." 

I'd like to thank the staff for posting this helpful winter berry display. 
"Boyce Thompson Xanthocarpa"

I loved this purple Beautyberry the most and wondered if I planted one at my new house, if it would make a show and how quickly. I have black raspberries on my formal china and I would love to be able to snip a bit of beautyberry to add to my centerpieces. I should be planting raspberries too, for that matter. My new yard will cram jam with beautiful plants. I can't wait.
1 = Beautyberry

Monday, December 5, 2016

My First Seattle Sounders FC Soccer Game: Western Conference Champs

I am not a real soccer fan, not yet anyways. But I have certainly have the framework to build upon. I've enjoyed casually watching World Cup games and I watched quite a bit of last years Copa games, cheering on Clint Dempsey, who is a Seattle Sounder and I didn't even know it!

I will start by saying the Seattle Sounders are fantastic! Dan and I were invited at the spur of the moment to attend the Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids game on Nov 22 at 7 pm at Century Link Field. A win would mean that the Sounders were Western Conference Champions.
I was reminded about spirit and attitude when I was at the supermarket the day of the game. I stopped at my local Safeway because that grocery store is known for having a spirit department for all things Seahawks & Sounders and I wanted to buy a blue/green scarf. 

I had just found out that the forecast was 100% rain and that Century Link stadium had no roof. Apparently my expression said it all because the salesgirl asked what was wrong. I told her that I just found out that the Sounders game I was invited to was going to be outside, in the rain, in 40 degree weather.

To me, it seemed crazy to sit outside in the rain on purpose. I'm all for team spirit, but I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Maybe no one would attend the game. Maybe it would "called" due to rain. I was bouncing around these ideas when the shop girl snapped me back to reality. 

She said, "I think it sounds pretty great to be invited to a big Sounders game during Thanksgiving week." 

Her tone said turn your frown upside down ya big baby, and she was right. 

I came prepared with a poncho over my winter jacket. I put Press n Seal kitchen wrap over my socks to keep my feet dry inside my shoes (it worked great and kept them warm!) and I had gloves and a hat. 

The game was exciting. The concession food was delicious (the best pulled pork sandwich on a soft bun I've ever had!) and mercifully, our seats were a few rows under the overhang so we were not directly rained upon. Look at my photo above. An entire section decked out in ponchos cheering on their team. It rains here in Seattle and it hasn't stopped them yet. 

And we won!

There are lots of songs, chants and traditions to learn. A very spirited group of fans, unlike anything I've ever seen. At one point the giant screen says "scarves up!" and everyone holds their scarves up between two raised arms. Every scarf sold is designed with a phrase knit into it. It becomes a banner that reads "Sounders" or "Come on Seattle Fight and Win." Click on this link to see a great photo of scarves up. I didn't know the songs or the chants (or frankly, most of the rules of the game) but I had a scarf and held it up!

Congratulations, Seattle Sounders on being 2016 Western Conference Champions. On December 10, I will be in the warmth of my apartment rooting for you as you play in your first ever MLS Cup! Come on Seattle, Fight and Win!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Glassybaby: A Bright Light for Charity

I have known about the beautiful blown glass votives of Glassybaby since 2010, when the company was featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Seattle felt otherworldly compared to suburban Michigan and I never dreamed that I would be able to visit Glassybaby and see the craft in action. I am driven by color and a company that sells a color-based product is not one that I could forget.
Glassybaby is a glass studio with an emphasis on giving - financially to charity as well as emotionally to the receiver, with named messages like "hope" "believe" "prosper." Each color votive is named and therefore the gift of a Glassybaby votive comes with a constant message. 

Some names are appropriate (a deep orange red called Seattle Sunset), some are inspiring (an opaque votive called Faith) and some are symbolic (a deep blue called Forever). When you give a Glassybaby, the name is certainly as important as the color.  It is a sentiment that you can light and remember. 

The Glassybaby website states that "10% from the sale of every glassybaby is donated to the glassybaby white light fund to help people, animals, and the planet heal." Bravo.

Here is a YouTube video of founder Lee Rhodes when she appeared on the Martha show.
I was so very happy to here that the Junior League of Seattle, a volunteer organization that I belong to, was partnering with Glassybaby for a shopping night at the Madrona location. We were invited to have a social experience with sweet treats and conversation, while we watched the professionals blow glassybaby votives.
As members shopped, they felt great knowing that 10% of that evenings sales would be donated back to the Junior League community programs. 
It was really interesting to see the molten glass transform before our eyes. 
The color of the glass changes as it cools. 
Every craftsman needs their tools. Adjacent to the kilns on the wall is this rack of tools. I bet the go-to tools for glass blowing haven't changed in hundreds of years. This display looks like it would be at home in a step-into-the-past frontier town, doesn't it?

It was a fun night and a great way to do a little Christmas shopping and give back to the community. My first Glassybaby is called a pretty blue called Aquamarine. I am waiting until we move into our new home to light it.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Upcycling A Collection

Hello! It's December 1st and time to decorate for the holidays! Last year, I was smart enough to pack my tin, paper and felt ornaments (ones wouldn't break) and mailed them out to our apartment in Seattle. In the coming days, I will show you how I have decorated our little nest this year. 

I love this photo I took (above) of my rummage sale score. I bought an entire gallon Ziploc bag of these sweet wooden ornaments for $2. It wasn't long before I got my glue gun out and created this tree by gluing them to a foam cone and then gluing the foam cone to a simple white gift box. I wish I could let the person that donated this collection know that it went to a good home. This is holiday upcycling and I love it. 

I also miss it.  It's "in a box" with the rest of my life. Next Christmas we will be in our new house and I am going to create all new vignettes with my treasures. 
Remember when you are out scouring tag sales, a melange of small holiday items can be re imagined into something wonderful. Keep your eye out!