a lovely little stay in Clerkenwell

I visited London a couple years ago and wasn’t the one to book my accommodations, so I ended up in a really boring but affordable room in the sleepy neighborhood of Paddington. While it was convenient for transportation, I knew that this time around I wanted to stay somewhere with a bit more going on. Weighing the pros and cons of different neighborhoods, I really had an interest in exploring Shoreditch. My husband and I love to be walking distance from a lively neighborhood and we both like going to dive bars. That’s how I stumbled across this Airbnb in Clerkenwell. It was central to everything, close to amazing transportation options (the circle line) plus walking distance from so many places!


We had never used Airbnb before, but thought this might be a good opportunity and we truly lucked out! The hosts were both architects and one of them taught Interior Design with a focus on mid-century vintage and hi-fi. The place was gorgeous. Every little detail had an amazing vintage charm that was not lost on us. Filled with books and plants, perfect pops of color, their attention to details and keen taste was very evident.


We plugged our phone right into the receiver and played music on the groovy vintage speakers. Something about the sound of old school speakers just can’t be replicated with modern technology.


The kitchen was stocked with all the amenities and was, of course, designed with organizational perfection. Each corner of the place was utilized to the max and overflowing with carefully selected pieces.


We didn’t even plan on utilizing the kitchen, but our gracious hosts stocked it with yogurt, fresh fruit, croissants, juice, and more. We ended up having convenient breakfast in our pj’s a couple of the days. We also didn’t anticipate watching any tv, but it was nice winding down to South Park and some carry out on Sunday Night.


The bed was comfortable even though our sleep patterns were still wonky. It was even surprisingly quiet for the middle of a big city!

Overall we fell in love with the place and it was a lovely home away from home. We felt like we were able to get a sense of what it would feel like to live in London and would definitely stay there again!

You can check it out for yourself here!

volunteer park conservatory and something fun to do this weekend!

Just now realizing that I should have listed the Volunteer Park Conservatory as one of the options for fending off the winter gloom. A temperature controlled greenhouse always feels tropical and melts away my bad spirits.

If you’re into bromeliads, you’re in for a treat! They have an entire section dedicated to bromeliads and the biggest mo fo air plants you’ll see this far North from the equator! Needless to say, we had a pretty good time on our visit. Here are some highlights and a heads up about an event THIS SATURDAY:

(scroll to the bottom for event info or you’ll have to hear me blabber on about plants)

IMG_7858

The staghorn ferns were insane. I’ve got a pretty good green thumb, but I am no good with these guys and it is definitely something I’m working towards improving. I had to stop and admire the pure mass of these guys. They had them mounted above doorways and in places where we walked under them. Absolutely gorgeous specimens. Clearly, l can work on improving my relationship with these plants.

IMG_7856

Next up we have the spiking tillandsia with pups coming out of the spike. Can you see it? The pup is damn near center to the photo and all the plant clusters are the bottom left. I didn’t even know they *did* that! For those of you that don’t follow, air plants are related to (part of?) the bromeliad family and a noteworthy characteristic of this classification of plants is that they have a lifecycle where they “spike” a flower – just one flower – and then they begin having offshoots or pups. Well… in most of my experience with flowering plants, you typically try and chop off the flowering shoot/spike/whathaveyou so that the plant can put more energy into the pups. This was not the case here in the conservatory! They left the flowering spikes to have their own pups and it. was. magnificent. If you’re lucky enough to have an air plant that flowers, maybe it might make use of that flower spike after all. Makes me reconsider my entire pruning process of my air plants and bromeliads!

 

IMG_7863

Beautiful blooms! Some lovely flowers and hot pink inflorescence! This looks like more of a bromeliad to me, but I’m not sure of what kind. So tropical and beautiful, I can’t help but swoon.

IMG_7865

Last but not least, our prickly cactus friends over here. They had a great display of desert plants of all kinds, but we ran out of time in the bromeliad room and they were trying to close the conservatory. (“for the last time it’s LAST CALL for stalking the succulents!!!”) Will definitely have to visit again! Which brings me to…drum roll….

Vernal-Images

They have an event THIS SATURDAY NIGHT that I am stoked about! The event is the last part of the Sylvan Series and focuses on music and art made through light. It’s called “Efflorescence” and this event is the last of five events in the series. This is definitely how I will begin my Saturday night this weekend! They had me at: “Stop at the Bromeliad House Wine Bar” 

More details about the event:

Coming up on May 6th, 2017 the Friends of the Volunteer Park Conservatory will be hosting the 5th event in The Sylvan Series presented by Lusio – “Efflorescence”.  Since this is the last Lusio event at the Conservatory until fall, we thought perhaps it was time to share a bit of the history and vision of how these wonderful events came into fruition at the Conservatory.

Lusio is the product of a vision Mollie Bryan had this time last year. After 10 ish years working in the arts and music industries with events like Best of the Northwest, Fremont Art Walk and Decibel Festival, Mollie was feeling ready to produce an art event of her own vision and voice.

The goal was to raise awareness through play and exploration for an underdog in the arts community – light art. Light Art is a vast format that can cover anything from live liquid painting on old school projectors, projection mapping, LED kinetic sculptures, performance art, and everything in between. “For some reason in the PNW there seems to be a lack of opportunities for light artists to showcase their work in public settings despite Seattle being a technology driven city.” says Mollie.

Mollie sought to combine some of her passions; art, nature and electronic music, into one short, free, public, family friendly event. Lusio went somewhat viral with approx 10k RSVP within a few months time and over 2,000 people attending the first event last July in Volunteer Park!

The Friends of the Volunteer Park Conservatory found Mollie during Lusio and after a few wonderful meetings, The Sylvan Series was born. This series was created specifically for the Conservatory and every event literally “lights up our lives” (pun intended).
The joy it produces every time is just outstanding. The Sylvan Series has given over 27 local artists the chance to showcase their art over the past 6 months and hundreds of people attend each event. Each artist chosen to participate in The Sylvan Series chooses their installation site in advance with care, and works hard to create an experience to delight and entrance the public. Many of these pieces are created on site, specifically for the event and may never be seen again!

Another important element to the Lusio vision is combining music to the experience, which provides a more well rounded experience. “Both visual beauty and musical beauty lights up the same areas of the brain, the medial orbitofrontal cortex. By providing a soundtrack by way of music (usually live electronic or dj) we are allowing the brain to ignite even more than it would by just a visual or musical performance alone.” says Mollie Bryan. “You might not notice the subtle way it effects your senses and experience, having a musical component to the event, but the over all experience will feel more encompassing and immersive.”

We hope you will join us this Saturday, May 6th at the Volunteer Park Conservatory for the last Sylvan Series event before we break until late next fall.
The Sylvan Series presents “Efflorescence”
Saturday May 6th
7pm-10pm

5 Visual Light Artists
Chris Tower / Julius Brown / Mokedo / Scott Keva James / Killing Frenzy

2 DJ’s
Pezzner / Treehead

$10 Members / $15 Non Members
Kids 12 and under are FREE
Wine Bar 21+ only

This is a walking art tour of the Conservatory
Open to the public
ALL AGES / FAMILY FRIENDLY
(sorry, gotta leave the pets at home this time)
No advance tickets needed!

MORE INFO AND RSVP HERE
You can also help support The Conservatory and your local artists by simply inviting all your friends to this event. We appreciate it!

***************

 

seattle winter survival checklist

I remember thinking to myself that no weather on the planet could be worse than the awful combination of frigid, biting, windy, snowy, wind-chill winter and hot, humid, buggy, swamp-ass summer that I suffered through in Iowa growing up. Having been through this kind of thing, one would think I would have an arsenal of tools to get through the Seattle winter.

Unfortunately, before I moved to Seattle, I spent 8 glorious years being spoilt by the always-cool-never-hot-always-sunny-then-foggy San Francisco. Which basically means this time of the year, I am hissing at people and cursing the day I left my rent control apartment in the Mission.

I’m not going to sugar coat it for you, folks. It’s dark, it’s dreary. Quite frankly it’s hard not to want to stab people, but there are ways to get through it! Here is my survival checklist:

1. Summer Is Right Around the Corner

Seattle has arguably the best summer weather of just about anywhere in the world. There are glorious mountains and lakes everywhere, and all of the rain over the winter makes the flowers and gardens grow overtime in the summer. Enough of that madness though, we have to get there first! (angrily wrings fist in the air)

2. Winter is a Great Time to Craft

Been wanting to try macrame? THIS is the time to do it. This is the time when you won’t feel guilty for missing out on a beautiful day. Make it a social activity and start a book club with your friends or start a “stitch-n-bitch” where you meet up and have wine and crochet (or knit, if that’s your thing). I know some friends that get together at a pub and bust out coloring books. I hear they are all the rage these days!

If you don’t have anything to do, plan your next winter getaway, because that brings me to….

3. You Have That Wonderful Winter Escape Planned Because You Knew This Would Happen

Cancun Fiesta? Bora Bora and French Polynesia? Fuck, how about Vegas if you’re desperate for some quick Vitamin D relief. Plan ahead so you have something to look forward to. You have all those friends in LA, SF, AZ, even Texas! You’ll even go to Texas (ahem…Austin) for a little dose of sunshine in this dreary time of the year.

4. It’s a Great Time to Bake and Roast Things

Winter is a perfect time to pig out on all the savory winter specialties. Slow roasted beef, chickens, soups, you name it. I’m starting to get on a good rotation of roasted chicken, sandwiches and soups as a weekly plan. You’ll miss it in the summer when it’s too blazing hot to use the oven! Bake breads, cakes, cookies, because that swimsuit isn’t coming out of the closet for awhile.

5. Concerts and Music in General

Discover new bands and play their entire albums at length. Scour the internet for obscure podcasts, explore Spotify for playlists, take the time to cultivate a Pandora station. Then come summer, you’ll be the cool one in the know. People will want you to pick the music, and you’ll know all the best concerts to go to. You can thank me later when you’re up to your elbows in game this summer.

6. Hot Beverages

Cozy up to a warm fire with (take your pick!): Hot toddies, chai tea lattes, hemp mochas, green tea, Irish Coffee, Vietnamese Coffee, Market Spice Tea (thank me later for that one, too), hot apple cider, hot buttered rum – they serve it up well at The Athenian! You could even go down to Pike Place Market, sit and watch the boats from The Athenian right after you purchase your Market Spice Tea and have the best time ever.

7. Hot Soaking

If you’re a woman in Seattle, you instantly have better options for this than the guys. Sorry guys, but there are some amazing women’s spas here. When I say “spa”, what I’m referring to is the various hydrotherapy Russian or Japanese-inspired bath houses. There are saunas and steam rooms and cold plunge pools and hot jacuzzis…all there in one place to hop from one to the other and back again until your body feels like jello.

Hothouse is an easy favorite on the hill and actually quite cheap. It’s a small facility, but it certainly does the job. Olympus is a lot bigger and has more rooms and services. If you go there, get the scrub! It’s the best. Honestly, though, my favorite spa is actually the co-ed Banya 5 in South Lake Union. It’s a lot more social and you can meet people and have a great time. For clarity, Banya 5 is a facility that you wear a swimsuit, the other two are naked lady places.

If nothing else, a good soak in the bathtub is always the ticket and something you will not want to do in the summer.

8. Netflix and Chill

That’s right, get cozy next to your super sexy someone. Pro-tip: In a new dating scenario, go for the ridiculous movies. The ones you’ve seen before because you might not finish it. *wink* This is not the time to suffer through some uncomfortable art film. The Princess Bride? Perfect! The Labyrinth? Excellent choice – bonus points for the sexual awakening nostalgia! Vice really nails it with this helpful guide.

9. Play Games

I’m not into sports at all, but for those of you that are, enjoy. For me, I actually like board games, card games, dominoes, that sort of thing. I love a good round of Settlers of Catan! Ever try Texas Hold ’em? It’s actually pretty fun, and someone walks away with some cash money. I have some friends that play Bridge, and I hear it is a blast. Seriously tons to choose from.

10. Drink!

When all else fails, you can always belly yourself up to a bar and knock a couple back.

i made a chocolate cheesecake and i didn’t burn the house down

True story:  I did start a fire in the oven last night. It was unrelated to said chocolate cheesecake, but it did happen. I think it was *probably* related to me knocking over some olive oil over a burner and into the oven while cleaning earlier in the day. Later that night when I went to roast some veggies, there was a bit of a fire. As in real flames. A first for me! Somehow, I’ve managed to make it this far in life without a kitchen fire.

Fortunately, my fast acting husband was right there to save the day. Such a hero. In my best Urkel impression: “Did I do that!?”

Anyway, on to chocolate cheesecake! This was my first time making any kind of cheesecake and it’s crazy I’ve never made it before, because it is literally my favorite desert. I think the main reason is because I never just happen to have that much cream cheese laying around. That would be straight up dangerous because I love cream cheese. I can easily eat it by the spoonful.

IMG_7401.JPG

I originally planned on making a classic cheesecake, so I started off with a classic graham cracker crust. I just hammered my graham crackers in a baggie, but I bet a food processor would have been much easier. Throw the crumbs (about a cup to a cup and a half) in a bowl with the melted butter (1/3 cup) and sugar (1/4 cup) and mix it up real good, pat it down into a springform pan.

At this point, I decided that, because I happened to have some ghiradelli chocolate chips on hand, why not use them. So I decided to use the filling from this recipe with a few modifications, one being the graham cracker crust. I also didn’t bother with the chocolate topping, but only because I didn’t have whipped cream.

IMG_7400

I’m a bit of a kitchen minimalist, so I don’t have a double boiler. This stainless steel bowl that is versatile enough for mixing epic salads as well as heating chocolate. I just put it over a big stock pot. A real kitchen MacGyver over here. I used a 10 oz. bag of Ghiradelli chips, since that is what I had on hand.

IMG_7399

The next step this recipe calls for is to mix the “lukewarm” chocolate with the room temperature cream cheese. I didn’t really see a reason to wait since I was hand mixing, which is hard work and I really don’t recommend! I then added in the sugar and the additional cocoa, also a premium chocolate brand. I think the reason for wanting it to not be hot was for the next step, which was adding in the eggs one at a time. Curdled eggs would have not been good. I had no problem there because it took so long for me to mix it all by hand. Overall, not terribly difficult.

IMG_7398

Throw it in the pre-heated oven at 350 and let it bake for about an hour. When it’s done, the center should be cooked thoroughly. It really reminded me of a flourless chocolate torte I made before.

IMG_7397

The moment of truth. Was it delicious? YES. So rich. So decadent. I’m actually really glad it had a graham cracker crust because it was a nice complimentary flavor to the chocolate. It was similar to a flourless torte, but the FOUR PACKAGES of cream cheese made it, well, cream cheesier. Next time, I might try some sort of sour cream/whip cream/raspberry topping with it. It was really fine without. It is important to use quality chocolate though, as the original recipe says, and now I can see why. Recipe below:

IMG_7396

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 1-1 1/2 Cups of crumbled Graham Crackers (about 20)
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Mix crackers until crumbly, then mix in melted butter and sugar. Pat down in springform pan. You can also make this ahead of time and refrigerate, or use with other recipes!

Filling

  • 1 oz premium chocolate or chocolate chips. I used Ghirardelli 60% chips
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened premium cocoa powder
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat to 350 degrees F. Use a double boiler or other fine fangled contraption to melt down chocolate chips. Set aside and mix in the cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa. Be sure that the mix has cooled down reasonably before adding in the eggs one at a time. Mix well! Pour it all in the springform pan and bake for about an hour, or until the center is all the way cooked. Wait for 4+ hours before cooking or refrigerate overnight.

Let me know how it goes in the comments! Cheers!

furniture porn: highlights of my last six months of furniture photography

It’s challenging to drag furniture into an alley for a flashmob style photo shoot, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing it on the five sunny days we’ve seen since October. This is just a handful of my favorites that I shot at Retrofit Home, where I manage the social media.

IMG_5509IMG_7087IMG_6511IMG_6320IMG_6445IMG_6861