Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tropical Butterfly House: A Warm & Peaceful Escape

I have a suggestion for a great date. Take someone to the Tropical Butterfly House at the Pacific Science Center.  Dan and I were both downtown on Sunday for events and when we met up afterwards, I suggested that we stay downtown and visit the Tropical Butterfly House at the Pacific Science Center

I had seen a spotlight on the butterfly exhibit in Seattle Magazine last year and had told myself that it would be a great way to spend a rainy winter day. 

I was right! It was warm, humid, quiet and inspiring. The number of people allowed in the 4,000 sq ft greenhouse at any one time is closely monitored. I enjoyed hearing the children whisper and react in awe of these delicate flying wonders.
We found it to be very relaxing to sit on a wall and watch the flurry of activity in the air. The yellow bloom is a hibiscus and the cluster of coral is Crown of Thorns. The butterfly looks to be a Scarlet Peacock.
The room is warm, humid and well lit. An environment we could all benefit from in January.
I can't determine the name of this one from the butterfly chart, but look at that beautiful wingspan. 
 This monarch shows off wings that look like stained glass.
I believe this is a Paper Kite butterfly on a Jungle Flame blossom. See if you agree by reviewing this botanical chart.
There is a window displaying chrysalis as they develop. It gives both children and adults a glimpse at the wonder of development. When they are ready, those same butterflies are released into the Butterfly House each week. It is a lovely lesson about patience and metamorphosis. 

We spent about 45 minutes looking around and soaking it up. No rush. No music. It was the kind of educational vacation I needed. I highly recommend it. The Pacific Science Center itself looked wonderful. We were drawn to the replica of Puget Sound, complete with water levels and ink-highlighting currents. Time well spent, I say. Give yourself the gift of wandering a museum; taking time to think and consider will always be well spent.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dollhouse Seed Packets: Whimsical Art

Do you have Spring Fever too? I know that gardeners around the country are pouring over garden catalogs and dreaming of a bountiful season.

Years ago I bought this sheet of dollhouse seed packets. I didn't want it for cute effect in tiny house but as an interesting touch in a real house. The sheet is about 4 x 3 inches and I framed it in a 4 x 6 matte black frame and put it on display on a beverage cart in my living room. 

It was a beautiful touch and one that was interesting too. A teeny-tiny conversation piece on its own that gave a nod to one of my hobbies. What do you think? What unexpected piece of paper could you frame?

#art #artisrelative #dollhouse #seedpackets #gardener #interiordesign #cutetouches

Thursday, January 25, 2018

ANA Designs Inc.: Cigar Box Purses and a World of Delight

After moving across the country, I realize how important it is for me to be able to articulate my brand. I founded ANA in 2003 when I started making and selling purses made from original cigar boxes, lined with fabric, improved with a handle and feet and then signed and numbered. Each purse is finished with my clay ANA logo. They were received well right from the start and I had great success selling them in juried art shows across Michigan. As I started to travel more, I decided to move my store to Etsy (Anne Reeves on Etsy) online in order to reach more people and keep a nice inventory.

Today I wanted to tell you about my "customs stamp." (see above) I use it to signify that something has been stamped with my approval...literally a stamp that from my territory - a world where things have to be "Super Cute."

The cursive "I.K.I" in the center stands for "I'm Keeping It!" That is the yardstick I use to know when a design is ready to sell. When I find myself admiring the design and start thinking about keeping it, I know that it is "ready" and that my customers will love it. 

#etsyseller #maker #womeninbusiness #cigar #cigarboxpurses #conversationpiece #etsy #makersgonnamake #youbeyou #womenbusinessowners #artistsoninstagram #artist #creative #lifeasacreative #momentsofdelight #annereeves

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fortnum & Mason: A Trip to Bountiful

When I put Fortnum & Mason on my Delightful Tour of England itinerary, I really didn't understand how much I would love it inside. Our trip was several years ago, but I remember ever detail. 

The store ia packed with my favorite things: sweets & treats, beautiful packaging, picnic supplies, gorgeous displays. It was marvelous. I remember turning to Dan after I had scanned the first floor, I said, "I can't ever leave." He understood and we ended up strolling every inch of the store by way of this magnificent staircase.
Can you see the fresh fruits on display at the very lowest level - if I had to use one word to describe Fortnum & Mason, it would be bountiful.
The store was handing out samples of their homemade marshmallows and I nibbled a raspberry one while I tried to absorb the store and my options. The entire ground floor is dedicated to tea, jams, honey and sweets. Knowing how I love the use jam jars and biscuit tins as flower vases, my mind was overwhelmed with the potential.
I wandered the entire store (established in 1707) and made mental notes of all the things I wanted to buy. I was conservative and did not buy almost anything. It was a case where I thought we would have time to double back later, but we never did. Honestly, my kitchen had aqua accents, you'd think I would at least have bought an aqua tea tin! 
The good news is that the Fortnum & Mason has a special collection available through Williams Sonoma! They even offer 2 luxury F & M hampers full of their products. That is my heart's desire, to receive a Fortnum & Mason hamper and a chance to taste some of their teas, cookies & jams AND have one of their wicker picnic hampers to keep! I'd use it on adventures for the rest of my life. *Sigh* 

Thank you Williams Sonoma for making the best of England within reach.

#williamssonoma #fortnummason #london #tea #shoppinginlondon #england #aquaismycolor

Friday, January 19, 2018

Russian Pastry Tip: Frosting Flower

I confess that over the holidays I swiped some homemade buttercream off of a cake that I'd made and used it to frost a cookie I was about to eat. Gluttony? Sugar coma? It was a reckless move and one that may have changed my baking forever. 

Plus column: I now know that my grandmother's sugar cookies taste great with buttercream frosting.
Negative column: How am I ever going to go back to her original hot water frosting?

Part of the cute look of this cookie is because I used 2 different colors of frosting and a Russian Pastry Tube Tip. You can buy them at Fancy Flours, my favorite online baking supply store.

I dyed 1/3 of the frosting bright pink and smoothed it around the edges of the disposable pastry bag. I loaded the rest of the white frosting into the center of the bag. When I piped out the frosting, it created this fantastic and distinctly shaded design. I just love it. It reminds me of a lily pad and I think it would look darling in green with lilac, yes?
Nama's Old Fashioned Rolled Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter in mixing bowl. Beat in sugar, egg, milk & vanilla. Add flour, salt & baking powder. Mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap each disc of dough in waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour. Use plenty of flour on board, rolling pin & cookie cutters to prevent sticking. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 375* on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-8 minutes.

My New Favorite Buttercream

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup 2 % milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream softened butter. Slowly add milk. Add vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until blended and delicious.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Call Your Friends: Plan an Afternoon at Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Check your calendar and call your friends. The Northwest Flower & Garden Show will delight attendees from February 7-11 at the Washington State Convention Center. 

To me, it seems almost silly to bill this show as one for gardeners. Its a show for people and I insist you come check it out.
The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is designed to delight every possible kind of gardener. In truth, the show covers such a wide range of interests and skill levels, I can't imagine someone that wouldn't enjoy exploring the show.

Consider these broad interests:
  • full scale examples of how to design a backyard for entertaining
  • a vendor selling every possible dahlia tuber ready to plant
  • a tasting corner dedicated to selling craft food made by local artisans
  • a seminar on how to plant succulents into a vertical art piece
  • a vendor selling in lavender products made in the Pacific Northwest
  • a lecture on how to attract bees and butterflies to your yard
  • a garden center set up to sell books, terrariums and air plants for apartment living.
Visually, you will be astonished by the scale and beauty of the 20 large display gardens. Flowering trees, giant boulders, live moss and spring bulbs are woven together to create themed vignettes all celebrating this year's theme: A Taste of Spring. This portion of the garden show is all for show. Stand and soak it in.

Take pictures and imagine incorporating some of the scale-able elements into your own backyard. The popularity of Northwest Flower and Garden Show goes far beyond these impressive display gardens. There are also living plants of all varieties for sale (succulents, fern, ivy, seeds, bulbs) in the Plant Market. I know, it's a lot.

The selection of garden and flower related products to shop for in the 350-vendor Marketplace is second to none. Need flower arranging tools, garden baskets, bonsai scissors or oilcloth aprons? They've got you covered. 

In my opinion, access to the Marketplace alone is worth the price of admission.

Looking for a concrete ideas and a chance to mull over what you've seen so far? Look at the schedule and take a seat in one of the 100 free how-to presentations.

Ready for lunch? There are great choices this year from salads and pasta, to soups, burgers and cheese platters, in addition to craft beer and regional wine.

There is more to tell, of course. Floral competitions to judge. Garden War competitions to cheer. Landscapers to hire. A garden society to join. I will be attending the show this year and delving in more deeply to be able to give you a tailored look at the show and I promise to post in a timely manner.
"Good Times, Great Food" by Nature Perfect Landscape & Design)

Enjoying the show is easy, doing justice to it is the hard part!

Show is open Wednesday, Feb 7 - 10 from 9am- 8pm, and Sunday, Feb 11 from 9 am - 6 pm. #NWFGS #gardenparty #seattle #seattletimes #seattlerefined

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beast PDX: A Look Back at a Perfect Brunch

Chef Naomi Pomeroy was a finalist for the James Beard Award: Best Chef: Pacific Northwest in 2010, 2012 and 2013. In 2014, she was the recipient of this prestigious award.  Dan and I were lucky to snag a reservation at her restaurant Beast in June 2014, but I never had a chance to blog about it and time got away from me. To right this wrong, I am going back in time and putting the spotlight on a lovely brunch in Portland, Oregon. Welcome to Beast.
We were seated in the front window, at a farm table full of happy patrons. Dan and I hit it off with a young couple who had traveled up from California to enjoy Portland and visit Beast. They were foodies too, who had seen Naomi Pomeroy on Top Chef Masters and were excited, as we were, to have a culinary memory. One young man was a teacher and his partner loved gardens, so in addition to oohing and ahhing over each bite, we enjoyed talking about the joy and beauty of living in the Pacific Northwest. 
Brunch started as we all had hoped...with bacon. This is a strawberry clafoutis (a warm baked custard-like cake) served with vanilla bean whipped cream and maple-glazed house bacon. The cake was rich with a brownie-like chew to the edge and the bacon made me wonder why I wasn't experimenting more with maple syrup. This sticky sweet accent was a star.
Next was a plate with crispy pork belly, snap peas, romanesco, sun gold tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, summer squash, confit purple potatoes and a perfectly poached duck egg accented with a whole grain mustard hollandaise.
This dish was rich and fresh and satisfying. And substantial, I was relieved that the portions were hearty enough for Dan.
This taste of summer greens was dressed in a Sauvignon Blanc vinaigrette and was served with cheese from the Cheese Bar and a macerated prune.
The restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can watch as the magic happens.
The sweet bite at the end was a bete noire (chocolate beast) with creme Chantilly. It was dense and the flavor was rich and coffee-like. The cocoa nibs were dusted in gold lustre - an extravagant touch that I loved.

Our brunch at Beast PDX was delicious. I appreciated the time spent on preparation and presentation - it was worth every penny. 

Let me join in the chiming bells: Chef Naomi Pomeroy! 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Bald Eagles: Daytrip to Nooksack River

We had heard several first hand accounts of eagles feasting on fish in the Nooksack River and we finally had a beautiful day for a drive. Dan, my mom and I packed hats, gloves, cameras and snacks in the car and headed on a 2-hour drive north on New Years Day.

We stopped in Mt. Vernon and I was able to locate the farm-to-table restaurant that my friend, Amy and I ate at on our way to the Vintage Spring Market at the Skagit Valley Fairgrounds last year. The restaurant is called 3rd Street Cafe and it is run by the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. We had a delicious burgers (and one breakfast plate - oh the bacon!) and had a nice break from the car before we drove farther north.
For some reason the wind was bitter cold when we arrived around 3 in the afternoon. We learned that most of the eagles had passed through the area in mid-December (so inconvenient for me!) but we were able to see at least 20 eagles in different spots as we observed the area over the course of an hour.
This fellow seemed much closer in person and I think he enjoyed posing for us. There were at least 6 more eagles in the tree far above him. We were on the map at Nooksack River near Mosquito Lake Road (see link). We relied on that "Welcome Grocery Store" for snacks and other necessities. 

While we were out, we saw a boat marked Skagit River Tours in the water, so I'm including a link to their site: Skagit River Eagle Tours. Despite their name, they also take tours on the Nooksack River. I encourage you to watch the video on their site called "Virtual Eagle Tour." You can hear the birds and enjoy seeing the area exactly as I saw it. 
Magnificent Bald Eagles in their natural environment. It's fantastic! 

We left at 10:30 am and arrived back in town around 6 pm. It was a great day looking at the scenery, trying to name mountains and enjoying the s-u-n. If this is January in Washington (clear and 40 degrees), I'm in.

#baldeagles #daytrip #seattle #pacificnorthwest 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The New Me: Lewis N. Clark Aluminum Wallet

I'd like to introduce you to a product that I am wild about, the Lewis N. Clark RFID-Blocking Aluminum Wallet in orange (because it's a great color).

Occasionally a company will send me products to try out and review for my audience. My blog focuses on finding delight in everyday life. Everyone understands that if I don't enjoy the product, no one will ever hear about it. I only share what I feel could be valuable to my readers. Well...have I got a new wallet for you.

I was interested in this product for 2 reasons: 

#1 It offers RFID-blocking, which prevents criminals from scanning and copying credit card and identity information. I feel that this type of security is important in our data driven world.

#2 My cigar box purses are small and it can be a challenge to have a complete wallet fit in a small super cute bag. The dimensions of this wallet (4" x 2.5"!!) looked like a great option.

Okay, so I transferred my ID, credit cards and insurance cards into this sleek new wallet. I like that it clicks shut to close, which confirms the cards are secure. There is no room for cash or coins, but I don't like carrying cash or coins.

I moved it from my day bag to my pocket to just run into the grocery store.
Then at night, I move it to my cigar box purse (it fits!) to go out to dinner. 
The next day, I moved it from my cigar box purse to my coat pocket (my cell phone is in my other pocket) to run errands on the weekend.
And on and on...

I had everything that I needed in a wallet that fit wherever I put it. And my identity was protected from RFID scanners when I was out and about. I love the convenience of having a tiny wallet with me at all times, no matter how I choose to carry it. What I thought would be something I would use under certain circumstances has morphed into the only wallet I want to use. 
So, yea, I guess I like it. 

Happy New Me in the New Year.