Strawberries & Banana

Spring makes my project side kick into full gear. I want to clean and redecorate and freshen everything up! That urge has played out in a few ways recently. Two weeks ago we took a FULL (mini cooper) car load of donations to the local thrift store, which gave us the space to move ALL our furniture out of the living room in preparation for a ceiling drywall resurfacing. Our 1925 house has seen a lot of wear over the years, and so before painting we decided to take care of the minor cosmetic cracks and peeling in the living room.

Project 1: We are in the final stages of prep, and should have a new and freshly refinished and painted ceiling by the end of the month!

Project #2: the garden! It is still too wet to dig into the veggie garden that we redid last fall. We need to add compost and redesign the planting spaces and then bring on the growing season! We have leeks, celery and lettuce started in the house, and stacks of seed packets to start in the actual garden once it is a tad bit warmer. Our goal: grow enough so that we can significantly cut back on grocery costs. To make even more space productive we started ripping out a very overgrown flower garden. Sunday was rainy but it did not stop us! We brought out the broadfork for it’s inaugural use and boy was it worth it! That tool is amazing! Even better, they are make on the island. We dug through and pulled out at least 10 years’ worth of growth to reveal a garden that will be great for raspberries and potatoes.

This past weekend we went to the farmer’s market to buy some very unique strawberry plants: the Marshall strawberry. What is the Marshall strawberry you ask? Well here is a short story:

What is described by James Beard as “the tastiest berry ever grown?” Why, the delicate and delicious Marshall strawberry, of course! You mean “the” Marshall strawberry? That’s right! This humble little gem is an heirloom variety that a great part of Vashon and Maury Island history was laid upon.  Discovered in Massachusetts in 1880 and brought here by Japanese farmers, the yummy Marshall was once the dominant strawberry grown in this area. In the early 1900s forests had been cut and berry farms flourished for many decades. Marshall strawberries were sugared and sent in wooden barrels throughout the country for people to enjoy and Vashon celebrated this wonderful harvest with an annual Strawberry Festival. Sadly, over time the berry farms were phased out due to out-of-state competition, transportation costs and the spread of disease. The sweet Marshall all but disappeared and in 2004 was listed as one of the ten most endangered foods in the United States by RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions). Only a hint of these plants existed and a few carefully protected ones were being maintained at the USDA’s Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon.

When Patty Hieb and her husband Hooper Havekotte bought part of what used to be a previous berry farm on Maury Island last year, they were delighted to learn of the Marshall’s history there. They purchased their place from octogenarian Helen Brocard, whose Croation family (the Kranjcevichs) homesteaded in Dockton and had a large berry farm that included Marshall strawberries. So loved were the berries that decades after they had been lost to the island, Helen obtained some from the Corvallis Repository to grow again. The plants in Dockton are considered to be the only virus-free Marshalls back on the island. Happily this rare little berry is slowly experiencing a resurgence among foodies across the country, providing a delicious alternative to the hard, white strawberries with hollow centers and little flavor that we often receive from California. Chances are you’ve never been lucky enough to eat these sweet little morsels. However Patty thought it would be fun to share their Marshall wealth and thus lucky visitors to the Vashon Farmers Market this month and in May will be able to purchase Marshall plants that Helen so lovingly kept growing on her family property. 

So this past weekend we brought home three of the adorable little plants to start our own patch of heritage berries, preserving Vashon history and hopefully giving new life to the delectable little fruit.

Project 3: wardrobe makeover! As I approach graduation I am realizing that I need a more professional wardrobe. I started with a few StitchFix pieces and then decided to try out Nordstrom’s personal styling service. Honestly I was not that thrilled with what they found for me and walked out empty handed, but on the way home I stopped by Banana Republic and found a whole bunch of great new wardrobe staples. Banana is great. All their clothes just fit me well and are styles I like. With two new blazers, some basic t-shirts and a pair of fun pants I am set to have a whole new level of grown-upness in my wardrobe! Fun!

 

 

Family Ties

One intensive weekend down, only two more to go. Then I am DONE with my MBA! Crazy how quickly these past two years has gone.

It was a beautiful weekend out on Bainbridge Island. Classes were so much more motivating with sunshine! To make things even better: I am taking one fewer classes this quarter. That means more free time, more conversations, more absorption and reflection as this adventure wraps up. Such a good choice.

Another bonus this weekend: my brother Troy came up to BGI and to visit us! He is working on some projects in San Francisco that connected back to BGI (super small world) and so our paths came to cross in a very cool way. When he was on campus we took a long walk and enjoyed some good meals. It was fun to share my community with him and introduce him to so many people. It still cracks me up that our very different lives have still brought us to the same people and same values in our work and communities.

With no class on Sunday (woohoo!) we were able to come back to Vashon mid morning and spend the whole afternoon in the sun. We lounged in the back yard and took a drive around the island to show Troy our place. Dinner was a picnic on the deck to soak in more brilliant sunshine.

Monday I choose to work from home, and pounded through tons of work both for school and work-work. When Matt got home we went for a beach walk adventure and then came home to another picnic dinner. Everything is blooming and bright green!

It was a great visit, and so fun to connect with Troy. It is fun to share our special place with him and compare notes on Todos Santos (another place we both feel a strong connection to) and just catch up as friends.

Transitions

As part of my MBA program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (59 days till graduation!!!), we have a two year track in leadership and personal development (LPD). The course has been amazing. Right now we are working through a book on life transitions. Now I am not one that gravitates towards self-help books, but this one has really been awesome. I recommend it for EVERYONE…at any stage of life.

Check it out. Seriously.

It has helped illustrate some of the stressors in my life that are related to bigger things happening at work, with Matt, with the past, and with how I think about the future. Very helpful, easy read.

And you can get a used copy for $0.73 on Amazon. Do it.

Happy Monday

The sun is shining. Our house is clean. Fridge stocked for the week. It feels good to be home!

Our weekend was spent tying up loose ends, and planning for the spring/summer projects ahead. We tackled everything from the mundane dishes and laundry to exciting things like getting contractor quotes for living room drywall repair. The weather was fairer than expected, and we celebrated with chocolate cake from the farmer’s market.

On Sunday we also took an adventure to run errands and visit with Grandpo for dinner. We dug some starts of Matt’s Grandma’s raspberry and red currant plants, and inherited an old dutch oven that was her go-to red sauce making pot. Many more kitchen memories to come for that piece!

We are also in major plan-making mode. Planning for house projects. Dinners to come – crock pot focus. Planning for a work transition for Matt. Planning for grad school to be over. Planning a Baja retirement dream. Planning, planning, planning.

For planning, doing it with laughter and fun and sunshine sure helps. The week is off to a good start.

Stitch Fix Box Two

Few months back I tried Stitch Fix for the first time. It was fun but the pieces have not made their way into my totally mainstream wardrobe. Regardless, I figured good, detailed reviews (and sending them to my blog post review) would help them hone their picks for my style and body.

Enter: box #2.

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It arrived Wednesday but I waited till Thursday to open it on a night when I did not have class. On top: a great blue patterned casual dress. The fabric felt great and I immediately slipped it on. It is not what I would usually pick, the these pics do not really do it justice, but I really liked the way it felt on! Perfect dress for a summer event or baby shower etc. It looks better with my hair up too. One con: the hemline pattern was not cut quite straight, but it is so small it will probably not even be noticed. I would have like it to be “right” though. KEEP! (Emily Geo Print Drawstring Dress)

Good start!

Item #2 was a bold lavender flowy shirt. I have tried on tons of flowy tops and, well, they have never been that flattering or well fitting. This one fit though! I really liked it…almost wish I had another one in another color! Keep! (Colibri Solid Tab Sleeve Blouse)

To go with the lavender top….JEANS! Super dark skinnies (I am in desperate need of new jeans) that slipped right on, were high enough rise to flatter, and did not gap at the waist! Score! They were LONG too…enough for a cuff. KEEP! (Adorra Skinny Jean)

Man, I was on a ROLL! I also decided to keep the price sheet unopened so that I was looking at the pieces un-swayed by the price tags.

Item #4 was a dress. The first thing I noticed was the bright bold colors, and then the great feel of the crepe-ish fabric. It felt cool to touch, like it would feel awesome in the summer. I slipped on the dress and liked the way it fit and felt, but was concerned it was a bit “young” looking. I was not sure I could picture it as an office outfit, which is really my goal with these fixes. On the fence on this one. (Daphne Scalloped Colorblock Dress)

The final piece was another dress! (I love dresses and wear them 4-5 days a week) This one was also a bright salmon color (lots of pink and springy colors in this box) and had a really cool neckline. I was excited to put it on, especially since the fabric was a very soft flowy silk. Cons: exposed zipper (apparently this is a thing…I am not a fan) and it is a dry clean dress. Fit: a tad big on the top. Verdict…I still loved it. It felt professional and feminine and really quite “me”. I decided that the seams were easy to alter, so it was a keep. The zipper was ok too . KEEP! (Kellyn V-Neck Shift Dress)
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Humm, so now the decision. I was still on the fence about the scallop edge dress, but after re-trying it on with a cardigan and heels decided to keep it. You get 25% off if you keep all five pieces so really it was “free” if I did that. So yep, this fix was a total win! All 5 pieces are going to get great mileage in my closet, and give me some more feminine pieces to play with. And new jeans! Woohoo!!!

Next fix: June 11.

Want to give it a try? I highly recommend it! If you do, please use my referral link :)

https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/3354856

Vashon Island’s Baja Twin: Todos Santos

While the PNW is our true home, and Vashon Island our specific perfect “place”, we have found our sunnier, tropical “place twin” in the Baja town of Todos Santos. Last year Matt and I ventured down to Baja on a last minute trip with the goal of learning to surf. What we found was a place that we immediately knew we needed to come back to. This year (for my FINAL spring break EVER!) we trekked back, this time for a 10 day stay in our artsy, foodieetreat.

We left Seattle on a Friday morning, and by 4:30 had picked up our first rental car. Our first turn out of the lot revealed a broken turn signal so back again for a new car. New car? Yep, as in NEW car. Eek! Not ideal for rough Baja dirt roads! It ended up working out really well, and we actually appreciated the good shocks. We pulled out of the airport and cruised (ahem…perhaps a bit over the speed limit) across the peninsula to Cabo San Lucas to our first stop: MEGA supermercado. This place is our first point of call to stock up on groceries for the week. A highlight: the massive bakery. Since this was our second trip we were much quicker at navigating the isles, and picked up a tray and tongs for bakery goodies like old pros. Oh it feels good to be back! Sun was not on our side, so most of the drive was spent in the dark. Thank goodness we knew where we were going! We navigated across dirt roads and back alleys to arrive at Casa Rancho…our home for the next nine nights.

Dinner was yummy dishes from the MEGA hot line…some of the best chille rellenos I have ever had. It is so fun to try all the local food! We slept well that first night, especially since the next day was surfing!

We decided to alternate days of surfing and down time/adventures to other beaches. The approach saved our hands/knees/bodies from the wreckage of being beginner surf bums. Our first day at Cerritos we grabbed a board, two wet suits and hit the water. Matt had a good long session and then I went out. And lasted a whole 20 mins. Remember when I fell down the stairs carrying wine a few weeks back? Well that bruised?/sore? tailbone hit the sand once and I was out. Ouch. Not fun for surfing. I spent the rest of the day watching the waves and soaking up sun.

The rest of the trip was full of sun, sand and new adventures. Since this was our second trip, and longer than the first, we were a little worried that this small town would become too boring. How wrong we were! We discovered new beaches, new places to eat (La Casita, Café El Triunfo), world’s best flan, jugo de naranja, amazing refried beans from the tortilla lady’s husband, a new side town to visit and totally fell in love with the place all over again. There were old favorites too: the ice cream place, day trip to La Paz (more about that coming) and of course cooking and hanging out at the Casa.

 

One of our favorite day trips was a drive to La Paz. About 40 minutes across Baja we shot down on Hwy 1 to an old mostly abandoned silver mining town called El Triunfo that was recommended as a good place to stop. We wandered the cute streets, took photos of brightly blighted buildings and stumbled upon the place we were looking for (and apparently the only place in town!): Café El Triunfo! In the center of town is a beautifully restored brick building that has a stunning garden seating patio area for the café. We ordered a pizza and some fresh squeezed orange juice and escaped the hot morning sun under a big umbrella. The pizza was good, but the JUICE! Oh my that jugo de naranja! I was in heaven! It was hand pressed from fresh oranges and I had to order two. I must have drunk nearly a half gallon that morning. Such a great morning side trip. In the afternoon we headed to La Paz to visit some beaches. We started with one we went to last year, ___ and then found the real gem: _____. This beach had crystal clear water that was just over knee deep all the way across the bay. We walked in the warm, calm water (Sea of Cortez is MUCH warmer than the Pacific in Todos Santos where you surf) and just soaked in the beautiful scenery. It was truly one of the most stunning and enjoyable beaches I have ever been too. Great day crossing Baja!

We found three more new beaches in Todos Santos…one for buying fish off the boat (100 pesos for a whole tuna! That is like $8!), one for big waves and a cool hilltop hike, and the surf break further North up the coast. It was fun exploring new places, and these were great rest day adventures when we did not surf.

But surf we did! Four days at Cerritos was not enough…especially since the tides were not being cooperative. The tide was WAY WAY out for most of the day meaning if you wipe out (very likely) you do it in about 6-12 inches of water. Sand + wipeout = not fun…so we walked the beach instead. And ate ice cream bars. And flan. And found sand dollars. And got sun. And swam. So clearly it was not a real loss, but we would have like more time in the waves on a surfboard. The final day waves picked up late afternoon and we surfed until the board shop guys called us in. We could have kept going for hours though. The waves were perfect, the water crystal clear, and the sun was stunning in the evening beach glow.

 

Summary: great trip. We are going back. We have found our sunny warm twin to Vashon island. As Matt put it, Vashon and Todos Santos are twins that were separated at birth and grew up with different parents but share the same spirit. Both our totally our kind of place.

 

Feng Shui-ness

Or as I prefer to spell it (prior to a google search): fung schwayness. That is our beautiful little house after a weekend of projects.

We never fully moved in. There are still rooms to paint and two whole spaces are just catch-all areas for stuff we don’t know where to put. For now it is ok…we have space, and not really any time to deal with it anyway.

This past weekend we made a dent. Not in the boxes or paint, but the never ending list of little projects. You know, hang a towel bar and picture, replace light switches so they match the wall plate, clean light fixtures, replace burnt out bulbs. The super tedious stuff that just takes hands and time.

On Friday night we had a super fun dinner with ALL the parents. Matt made salmon two ways, and the mamas brought sides. Topped off with wine and fresh strawberries and cream the evening went far faster than anyone wanted.

My parents spent the night and on Saturday helped us tackle all those little to-dos. It made such.a.difference. Our living room in particular feels 1000x more complete. We put down the new rug, hung a painting, cleaned scuffs on the walls (reminds us how much the room needs fresh paint), cleaned a shelf with ¼ of dirt on it (ick!), and finally, added our antique china cabinet to the room. The furniture has always felt “off” in the room. To heavy on one end, not enough walls to balance it out. And we love all the pieces. Plus we had a gorgeous antique curved glass china cabinet that was just hanging out in the guest room. Not really a long term spot. We decided to try it out in the living room and, BOOM!, amazingness! The whole room just came together! Matt and I cannot stop dragging each other in there and exclaiming how good it feels! It’s got it’s fung schwayness! (ok ok I know that is not how it is spelled…)

Our little house is such a joy. Crocus and daffodils are blooming, and our water logged yard is just begging for spring to pop. We are ready too. 10 days till Mexico. 89 days till schools is out. We cannot wait to paint our house, enjoy our island and just BE with a little extra time.