currently crushing on… all things lavender

Lavender bouquets

It is no secret that I love lavender — whether it’s in the garden or in a floral arrangement or in my food and drink. Lavender simply works everywhere!

So somehow, it’s appropriate that I should be living in the Northwest, site of “North America’s lavender capital”. The Olympic peninsula of Washington state, and more particularly the little city of Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”), is famous for its production of lavender. So famous that each year, during the third weekend of July, a three-day festival celebrating “all things lavender” is organized.

Lavender

Historically, growing lavender in this region once dominated by dairy farms was not a natural choice, but it’s now a major agribusiness. The climate around Sequim was a determining factor. It is said to be similar to the one of the Provence region in France and it supposedly gets as little rain as Los Angeles. The Olympic Mountains act as a wall and protect the northeastern Olympic Peninsula from the bulk of the rain that moves into the Pacific Northwest. They call it the rain shadow. Let me express my doubts about that. The first time I visited Sequim, it was pouring. The second time, it was only drizzling. This year the expectations are high: I want to finally see Sequim’s sunny side. The weather has been gorgeous in Seattle, and with any luck it’s the same in Sequim.

Provence

So today, I’ll be harvesting fresh lavender in the farms and will be on a lavender high for the rest of the weekend. I can already smell the intoxicating perfume of fresh lavender.

Lavender in a basket

The Sequim region during the festival weekend would be a perfect getaway if it weren’t for the crowd. Thousands of people are expected during the festival. My advice: If you’re not interested in the festival activities but just in the market for some fresh lavender, come back the next weekend. Many farms welcome visitors and some even offer bed & breakfast accommodations.

Have a great weekend!

Bee

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Currently crushing on… liberté!

eiffel tower

Fireworks in Paris – Photo by Flickr user oleg.ski

It’s that time of the year when streets in France turn into blue, white and red, the champagne flows, military forces parade on the Champs Élysées, the café waiters race with their loaded trays,  and people go dancing at firemen’s balls before watching the fireworks. And flags are on full display. It is as patriotic as France can get.  Le 14 juillet, also known anywhere in the Anglo-Saxon world as Bastille Day, is for sure the ultimate French celebration.

Growing up, I never really cared about it. A holiday in the middle of my two-month summer vacation did not make much of a difference. But now that I’m far from my country, thinking about it makes me sort of nostalgic and longing for some French spirit.

tarte aux pommes

A French classic: the tarte aux pommes (apple tart)

If you want to indulge in French lifestyle and catch a glimpse of this holiday, there is a good chance that something is organized not far from where you live. Major cities will have some kind of event. In Seattle, there will be a Bastille Bash in Madison Valley, a day early, on the 13th, and a pétanque tournament on the 14th. Personally, since I’m always looking for an excuse for a soirée, I’ll be throwing a “down with tyranny party”, a commemoration of both the 4th and the 14th of July, to celebrate the glorious liberation of our respective homelands from oppressive and unjust rule. If there is one thing that France and the United States have in common, it’s their revolutionary spirit!

If you feel like celebrating too, here are some ideas:

We’ll be drinking the Liberté cocktail, a mixture of gin and lillet.

There is no specific food tradition associated with the 14 juillet, but here are 10 French classic recipes that will take you to Paris.

A video of the military procession — it is quite long…

No good 14 juillet without playing pétanque.

How to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris.

blue-white-red flowers

Blue, white, red flowers for Bastille Day

Have a great weekend and Vive la France!

Bee

currently crushing on…

cintli

We hope you had an explosive 4th of July and that the weekend is looking good. And because it’s been a while since we last shared what makes us happy, here is a quick list of what we are currently crushing on:

Cintli: the latest addition to Seattle’s café scene, but it has a Latino theme and you can buy adorable Mexican jewels and trinkets. Try their Mayan mocha made with spicy chocolate or their horchata latte.

Do you say pop or soda? A great infographic shows American’s language peculiarities.  Apparently in the South, when people ask for a coke, you have to ask which kind because coke means soda… So confusing, but how fascinating!

Edible flowers in Em’s P-patch (that’s Seattle’s term for a community garden). Now we want to play with this book.

Because you might have some leftovers from yesterday’s grilling, here are 5 ways to use corn on the cob.

movie that looks cute for a date (versus this movie, which we won’t bother watching, but the book sounds great).

oysters

The perfect continuation of that date night: a plate of fresh oysters at Taylor Shellfish Farms.

Finally, here’s a sneak peek at Monday’s post. We all scream for ice cream!

ice cream

Have a lovely sunny weekend!

Bee & Em.

currently crushing on… the ombré effect

flower bannerI am not a trend setter. In fact, by the time I’ve managed to clamber onto the wagon, everyone else has bailed. I’m left in the dust only to see them ride off, whooshing past me, waving from the newer, sexier wagon. Sigh.

When the ombré trend started I was completely uninterested. I don’t fuss with my hair and when it comes to fashion I’m conservative and wear mostly black. And I certainly don’t wear shades that fade from one color to another. It’s not symmetrical. But slowly ombré has managed to creep it’s way into everything… cakes, nails, shoes… everywhere but into my closet.

Flash back to about a month ago when I was walking with my dog, Lucille, and came face to flower (it’s really tall) with a fire poker or torch lily.

fire poker

It was bright and cheerful so I snapped a picture and for about a week and a half, I specifically routed our daily afternoon walks by the patch of fire pokers. I admired their lovely colors, gently flowing from soft pale yellow to orange to almost a burnt red. I had to admit it to myself: I, naysayer of ombré, was totally agog for this nature produced ombré flower.

So I set out to do what anyone who is passionate about flowers would do. I scouted the local flower shops to create an ombré inspired centerpiece. I bounced between four different flower shops, took pictures and returned home to review the flowers and piece together the ombré effect. Initially, I wanted to transition from the faintest cream to the loveliest spring green but I couldn’t find the right flowers/greenery. The color trends at the local shops were purples and pinks. How typical, right? I was slightly disappointed but reasoned with myself that inspiration can not be forced. Putting my disappointment aside I set off to the market to pick up ingredients for the evening dinner and stumbled across these little gems…

end of hueThey were perfect! Just the right hue of deep purple to complement an ombré of pinks or purples and they were anything but the norm. Feeling renewed joy in my project I practically ran to the flower shops the following day and rounded up a glorious assortment of flowers.

Here is what I ended up with: ranunculus (with the just a flirt of color), fancy liliac, snap dragon, stock, allium globemaster, liliac, alstromeria, and deep purple baby artichokes.

in a row

Prep containers. Start snipping stems. Test height as you go.

Work

Sometimes the pictures say it all…

table ombre

flowers in caddy

Bonus on the containers: They are actually part of a wine cup caddy set. When you are not displaying fabulous flowers you can pack a picnic with a bottle of wine and tote this marvelous drinker set. I bought mine at Butter Home.

ombre in grass

As I write this post my original inspiration is fading away until next season… the patch of fire pokers is drying up and it’s looking a bit blah. I miss it already.fire poker end season

Surprisingly, while I was (shopping but not really shopping) on the J.Crew website, I noticed they have an ombré cashmere sweater that you can pre-order… so maybe the ombré trend isn’t as fleeting as I originally thought.

Does that mean that ombré will soon be in my closet? Likely not. But I’m thrilled to have it on my kitchen table as a centerpiece. So, what’s next for the oh-so-trendy? I hear cropped shirts are all the rage (again). But that is so not happening. Maybe I’ll rock a high-low!

Have a fabulously trendy weekend and keep on crushing on! XXOO, Em

currently crushing on… swan lake

Carla Körbes and Casey Herd in Swan Lake. Photo © Angela Sterling

As far as stereotypical girly-girls go, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it locked down. As a little girl I wore frilly pink dresses, ribbons on pigtails and dreamed of being a prima ballerina. I remember being fitted for my first pair of pointe shoes. I recall stuffing lambswool into the toe box but my toes bleeding anyways, and I loved it. This love affair with ballet has never ended. I don’t dance classical ballet anymore, but I still enjoy the art of it.

Swan Lake, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Op. 20, 1875-1876), is one of the most classic and recognizable ballet scores. Even if you’ve never seen the ballet, you’ve likely heard the music. Something that I find so interesting about the history of Swan Lake is that the ballet was originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger in 1877 for the Imperial Ballet, Moscow and flopped. It wasn’t until 1895, when Swan Lake was restaged for the Imperial Ballet, St. Petersburg, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, that the ballet was well received.

The story of Swan Lake is magical, romantic and tragic. Something for everyone, no?

Act 1 opens to a grand bustling stage. Our “hero,” Siegfried is celebrating his 21st birthday but he quickly spirals into a depressed state after his mother, the Queen announces that he must choose a bride at the grand ball to be held in his honor the following evening. To console his heavy heart, Siegfried gathers his friends to accompany him on a hunting adventure in the forest beyond the castle. Honestly, this is my least favorite scene simply because so much is happening at once and I don’t want to miss any of it!

Ominous fog rolls in for the beginning of Act 2 as Siegfried wanders through the forest. He separates from his friends and finds himself beside the lake of swans. He is about to shoot a swan with his bow but to Siegfried’s shock, the swan transforms into a lovely woman, Odette, the Swan Queen. Odette tells Siegfried that she and her ladies are cursed by the evil sorcerer, von Rothbart, living as swans by day and transforming to human form after dark. I absolutely love Act 2. The swan ladies dance with grace, elongated elegance and true to a flock, in V-formation. They are breathtaking even during rehearsal!

In this short period of time, Odette and Siegfried fall deeply in love and Siegfried vows that he will defeat the evil von Rothbart and break the spell by remaining faithful to her forever.

The following evening at the grand ball (Act 3), Siegfried only has eyes for Odette. He cares not for any of the princesses that his mother has invited. Suddenly, Odette appears – or so Siegfried thinks. We, the audience, are aware that the party crashing guests are actually, the evil von Rathbart and his daughter, Odile, who looks identical to Odette. Siegfried is spell bound and dances the evening away with Odile. And even though we are rooting against Odile, she has the most awesome solo.

The captivated Siegfried declares his love for Odile but soon realizes he has been tricked.

The grand finale, Act 4, starts with a melancholy tune from the orchestra as we return to the lake of the swans. Once serene, the lake is now filled with chaos and flashes of lightening. The swan ladies are fluttering about as von Rathbart appears to gloat over his evil triumph. Siegfried is distraught as he seeks out Odette and begs for her forgiveness. Of course Odette forgives Siegfried but their fate has been sealed. She belongs to von Rathbart and Siegfried will never see her again. They dance a final pas de deux and sadly, Odette slowly fades into the fog while Siegfried collapses from a broken heart.

If you haven’t seen Swan Lake (or you just need a good cry), there are still 4 more performances at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Two performances today (Saturday) and two more tomorrow. I’ve seen Swan Lake a handful of times and the Pacific Northwest Ballet never disappoints.

Have a lovely weekend! XOXO, Em

currently crushing on… preserving lemons

preserved lemons

Can you guess? We’re crazy for Meyer lemons. A bag of Meyer lemons from Costco can do that. After making jars of lemon curd and sunny tartelettes, we thought we would wrap up our lemon week with a quick solution for left over lemons that are too darn good to waste. Because you know that if you let these lovely lemons over ripen – you’ll be kicking yourself for weeks. “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” We firmly believe in that.

lemon wedges

We can’t help but smile when we look at our cute little jars of lemons. They look like sunshine in jam jars. We are looking forward to using them all summer long… in couscous, tajine or chopped up with rosemary and thyme topped on grilled fish. Yum.

spices

Preserved Lemons

Yields 2 small jars of preserved lemon wedges

Ingredients

  • 6 unwaxed, organic lemons (if you have Meyer lemons, even better)
  • sea salt
  • peppercorns
  • cardamom
  • bay leaves
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • any other spices…

1. First wash and dry two small jam jars. Take care to look over the jar and lids, checking for rust on the lids or chips on the glass rim of the jars (if present do not use for jamming/preserving.)

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use tongs to place jars and lids into the hot water bath. Allow jars and lids to sterilize in the boiling water for about 15 minutes. Use the tongs to remove the jars from the water and let cool on a clean towel.

3. Cut 4 lemons into quarters and remove seeds.

4. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt into a sterilized jar and then add a generous layer of lemon wedges. Press wedges down and allow wedges to release juices. Add a teaspoon of salt, a few cardamom pods, a few peppercorns and a dried bay leaf (or a few cloves, peppercorns and a cinnamon stick) or any combination of spices that strike your fancy.

5. Add another layer of lemon wedges and press the wedges down. Add another teaspoon of salt. Continue adding lemon wedges, salt and spices/herbs until you reach the top of the jar but leave a bit of room. Repeat this process with the second jar. If you used a bay leaf in the first jar, why not try a cinnamon stick in the second? Or maybe a jar with just sea salt and pepper? Keep it tame or go wild!

6. Juice the remaining lemons and pour the juice over the lemon wedges, covering the lemon wedges completely.

7. Seal the jars, gently shake and put in the refrigerator. For the next week, gently shake the jars every day and admire your happy little lemons. Let them sit for another 3 weeks in the refrigerator while they preserve.

8. After a month they will be ready to use. We recommend using within 6 months of creation.

preserved lemons

We hope you have a lovely weekend! Even if it’s not sunny in Seattle, it’s sunny in our jars!

XOXO, Bee and Em