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

Advertisements

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… 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… alt-j at the neptune

Sometimes you hear music that makes your heart stop and beat stronger, all at once. An Awesome Wave, the debut album from the British quartet Alt-J, will confuse and lose you before finally pulling you in and holding you captive.

Alt-J

Alt-J, Photo from Flickr user n8ofthemill.

Winners of the prestigious Mercury Award — which has also honored PJ Harvey, the XX and Arctic Monkeys — they’ve been playing on repeat in my iPod for months. I had missed them last December when they were at the Crocodile, but they’re back this Saturday at the Neptune, and I made sure to book tickets months ago.

From the origin of their name to the sound of their music, nothing is simple with Alt-J. Have you ever tried to press “Alt” and “J” on the keyboard of a Mac? It’s the shortcut for ∆, the band’s initial name. Judging it too complicated for their audience — should it be pronounced triangle? Delta? — they changed their name to the computer shortcut. But the symbol has a deeper meaning for the band, as the guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury explains: “In mathematical equations it’s used to show change.”

Change is the key approach to their music, and every one of their songs is like a series of equations with multiple variables. Be ready to embark on an unexpected trip, at odds with all kind of logic. To tell the truth, I felt very disoriented after the first listening. The band seems to take pleasure in composing counterintuitive songs, breaking rhythms when the alternative would sound too natural, and covering multiple musical genres — from indie rock to trip-hop, folk and dubstep. From the beautiful a capella “First Interlude” (aka, “Ripe and Ruin”), to the big earworms of “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure”, so much is going on that you never know what’s coming next or how their songs will evolve. But far from being overwhelming, it is mesmerizing and transcendent.

These complex melodies are matched by clever and iconographic lyrics which draw from multiple literary and movie influences, whether it’s in transforming the children’s book Where The Wild Things Are into a “love song turned murder ballad” (“Breezeblocks”), or referencing Luc Besson’s Léon (“Mathilda”) and Tralala, the prostitute from Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit To Brooklyn (“Fitzpleasure”). I was personally touched by their take on the love story between the photographers Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, finally reunited after death when the former hit a landmine during the First Indochina War (“Taro”).

Rarely has an album had such a fitting name, and once you give it a chance, you won’t be able to stop surfing that awesome wave!

Neptune

Neptune Theater, photo from Flickr user aturkus.

The other reason why I’m excited about this concert is that it will take place at the Neptune, one of Seattle’s coolest concert halls. This former movie theater in the heart of the University District dates back from the early 1920s. It was restored in 2011 and turned into a multi-use facility by the non-profit Seattle Theater Group, keeping this historic landmark alive and vibrant. Although it’s not small, it feels intimate, allowing a great connection between the performer and the audience.

If you want to give Alt-J a chance to change your life, here is a link to a private concert organized by KEXP last September. It’s 42 minutes of pure awesomeness.

We’ll be back next week with some zesty surprises (hint, hint). In the meantime, have a great weekend!

Bee.

currently crushing on… swoon worthy cherry blossoms

UW QuadIt’s no secret that spring has sprung in Seattle, thanks to the explosion of cherry blossoms around the city. And what better place to see them than the University of Washington’s campus? Something so spectacular should be enjoyed by all before it starts snowing petals! For the next few weeks, the Quad is picture perfect, attracting young and old, locals and tourists alike.

pic1

Such a stunning vision has of course drawn both professional and amateur photographers to snap pictures of children gathering fallen cherry blossoms or climbing the gnarled limbs of the trees, dogs frolicking in the grass, couples celebrating their love, and expecting parents announcing babies “coming soon…” With a backdrop of architectural perfection and soft petals in bloom, it’s impossible to take a bad picture. Yes, spring is here and Seattle is rejoicing.  And why shouldn’t we?

blossom branch with charm

Of course, such an impressive scene makes me think there must be a romantic history linked to these trees. I made a few inquiries and discovered that the Yoshino Cherry Trees were originally planted in the Washington Park Arboretum around 1939 and replanted on the UW campus in the ’60s. Their relocation to the UW campus was due to the construction of the 520 highway. I supposed the romance of the trees must be in the memories that have been made since their planting…

yoshino and window

Me? I’m going back. I want to wander the path, hand in hand with my hubby while we are cloaked by the sweet perfume of the Yoshinos. I’ll ask him about his day and tell him all about mine. Maybe we’ll pack a blanket and share a little tea or picnic. We’ll bring books but leave the cell phones at home and just swoon over “us” time. All this, with a romantically pink canopy that is so intoxicating, it’s almost boozy. I want to drink it up!

classic yoshinos

Sure, there are plenty of cherry trees to be seen around Seattle, but the Quad is truly breathtaking. Life is too short to not stop and smell the flowers. Go. Soak it in and enjoy your weekend.

XOXO, Bee & Em

Cherry Blossoms UW