Friday, August 31, 2007

Spikes of Blue

"ladies fair, I bring to you
lavender spikes of blue;
sweeter plant was never found
growing on our english ground."

Caryl Battersby
early-20th century lavender brochure

The Gathering Place

In addition to Pelindaba's farm on San Juan Island, they have a beautiful shop right near the wharf in Friday Harbor (the only town on the island). It's not a regular 'shop', but called a gathering place, refreshment hall, and product gallery. One section of the store features all their lavender products (made right there on the island). The cafe & bakery has two eating areas (inside and out) with WiFi, lavender coffee or tea, pastries and ice creams, sandwiches and more. Lavender is a featured ingredient in all they make. Another area is their gallery where they have displays and share the history of the farm and their mission statement and philosophy. It's a very interesting place.

Waves of Purple

Oil of Lavender

In the gallery, a copper still is displayed along with information about making lavender oils and hydrosols. It takes a lot of lavender to make a little oil!

Dad visits with Linda, one of my friends who is so fortunate to live on the island. I tell her that she lives in paradise! Such beauty she's able to enjoy! From her home she can see Victoria, BC a short distance across the sound. Three pods of Orcas whales live in the San Juan area and are frequently sighted from a spot near her home. Within the past couple weeks another baby whale was seen (and duly documented; the population is well-protected and observed by marine biologists). Island living is as romantic as it sounds (until it's time for some power shopping at Walmart and Costco, then it's a trip by ferry to the mainland for supplies). Linda is always sharing stories of the 'rich and famous' who visit the islands, thinking it's a nice place to get away from the rest of the world. Linda was a gracious hostess and tour guide. Thanks, Linda!

Chocolate and Lavender

A picture speaks a thousand words.
Chocolate and lavender.
How much better can it get?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Alma's Rhubarb Pie

I have really enjoyed Lovella's warmth and friendly manner. It comes through her computer so sweetly! She's been featuring recipes of non-bloggers who read What Matters Most? I've enjoyed the recipes shared and the way that Lovella has reached out to others in this way. I thought it would be fun to do something similar on Gracious Hospitality. I hope Lovella doesn't mind that I am duplicating her great idea!

Dad and Alma are wonderful hosts and I shared a great time with them recently. We enjoyed doing fun things together, including reading my blog (and some of yours as well!). When I got home, Dad sent me this picture of the pie Alma had baked for him. Of course I requested the recipe (doesn't it look good?). Alma graciously shared and said I could share with blog readers as well. So, thank you, Alma, for the recipe. Happy baking, everyone!

Alma's Rhubarb Pie


1 – egg
3 c. – flour
1 tsp. – vinegar
1 1/4 c. – vegetable shortening
5 Tbsp. – water
1 tsp. – salt

Mix together egg, vinegar and water. Sift together dry ingredients. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Stir with fork until flour particles are moistened. Let stand for 20 minutes. Roll out on floured board. Makes 2 2-crust pies.

Pie Filling

Prepare pastry for 2-crust 9-inch pie.

Combine 4 cups fresh rhubarb cut in 1-inch pieces (about 1 pound), 1 2/3 cups sugar, 1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour, and a dash of salt. Let stand 15 minutes. Turn into pastry-lined 9-inch pie plate. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter or margarine. Adjust top crust, cutting slits for escape of steam; seal. Bake at 400ยบ for 50 minutes.

If baking pie shells, bake at 450° F. for 10-12 minutes; otherwise bake as specified for a particular type of pie, e.g. rhubarb, etc.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

San Juan Sunrise

You know you are loved when your dad is willing to traipse along with you, visiting lavender farms and online friends. I think he would draw the line with quilting shops, though. Since Dad lives in the San Juan Islands, a recent visit was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Puget Sound, to chat with people, and to enjoy a relaxed time together. The ferry to Friday Harbor left Anacortes early, so we were up to meet the sunrise as we waited in line for a day trip to San Juan Island.
Since summer is tourist season and the ferry can fill quickly, we arrived early for a two hour wait. Although I could hardly keep my eyes open, Dad was cheerful and energetic. Here he is, waving at you!

Red Hat Sailors

The hour ride on the ferry took us past many beautiful islands. Homes dotted their shoreline and boats their water's edge. Sailboats and yachts were a common sight as we sailed to Friday Harbor. Everyone seemed to enjoy the journey, including a group of lively and friendly "Red Hat" ladies who were off for a day of island adventure. Don't they look like they are having fun?

Pelindaba Lavender

Pelindaba Lavender Farm is ideal in every way. Set on twenty-acres in the center of the island, it's name means "Place of Great Gatherings". It's been featured as a cover article in "Better Homes & Gardens" and was listed as one of 50 top places to visit in the USA by "In Style" magazine. They pride themselves in being a premier grower of lavender plants, distiller of lavender essential oils, and handcrafter of lavender-based products. Environmental standards and aesthetic beauty are important to them. From growing to product development and sales, they have created a vertically integrated model of sustainable agriculture that enables them to preserve farmland from further development, to protect it from pollution, to create employment for fellow islanders, and to provide a lovely destination for islanders and visitors. They are truly welcoming and this is one of the nicest lavender farms I have ever visited. Their products are of excellent quality and are elegantly presented in beautiful packaging.
Dad poses by a field of lavender. Although he enjoyed the fields and shop, I think he had the most fun talking with all the visitors to the farm. Conversations with islanders and tourists alike kept him happily entertained. I think that "friendly" is his middle name. Hmmm, not really. It's Louis, but his name should have been Friendly Al!

Lavender Bud

A bucket of pure, cleaned, and fragrant lavender bud. There's no better way to purchase it than to scoop it and package it yourself. The fragrance draws you in and you just want more, more, and more! Sweet tranquility.

Lavender Treats

Lavender tea, lavender lemonade, and chocolate-lavender ice cream sandwiches. So refreshing on a hot day!
Lavender Ice Cream
4 cups soy milk*
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
8 whole fresh lavender tops
fresh raspberries
fresh lavender buds
In a medium saucepan cook milk over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup sugar, honey, and lavender tops (each about 5 inches long, or 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender). Cover and steep until mixture has cooled to room temperature (45 - 60 minutes). Strain milk mixture; discard lavender. Freeze mixture according to ice cream maker manufacturers directions. Serve with fresh raspberries and sprinkle with lavender buds.
*May substitute whole dairy milk if desired.

Lavender Keeper

The shop keeper was friendly and charming in her long dress and apron. Originally from California, she says she loves the quiet of island life. And what a tranquil place to work --- rooms filled with everything lavender!
Lavender products galore. The painting is of the Pelindaba Lavender Farm --- most exquisite and beautiful!

Mussie Tussies

Handmade mussie-tussies, so fragrant and pretty. A Battenburg doily cradles bundles of lavender and other dried flowers and is tied with a pretty bow. Simple but sweet.

Shop Shelves

The shop is filled with beautiful wreaths of every size and shape. Additionally, lavender essential oils, lotions, potions, and hydrosols fill shop shelves. I splurged on a little jar of lavender scented and purple colored glitter cream. It will sit on my dresser, reminding me of a wonderful day --- but where does one wear fragrant, purple glitter? Especially if you are no longer a teen-ager!

Plants of Lavender

Tiny lavender plants in many varities were for sale for a great price. Isn't the presentation beautiful on the white painted electrical wire spools? Could this be a way to make a spool "Shabby Chic"?

Walking the Fields

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Grilled Eggplant

During their late elementary and early teen years, both boys took Suzuki Method piano lessons from a wonderful teacher named Renee. Suzuki Method requires that the parent be involved in all aspects of lessons and practice, so I got to know Renee well. What a pleasure that was. She has since moved away, but her influence will always remain with me. Renee was a home economist with a degree in Foods and Nutrition. Her kitchen frequently smelled of wonderful, healthy foods. During the eight or nine years that the boys took lessons, I can never recall a time that there were not fresh cut flowers in a pretty vase in several rooms of her house. The guest bathroom always had a bouquet, as did the studio/living room area. Her garden was her pleasure, and she had everything from raspberries, eggplant, lavender, and other pretty flowers growing in it. Her gentle spirit and excellence in ability to teach endeared her to the hearts of Brandon and Rylan. And, besides all the other benefits, they learned to play the piano!
This recipe for grilled eggplant is Renee's and I never make it without thinking of her. Although simple, it is very delicious and the fact that it is low-calorie just adds to the joy of this delightful dish. To make it:
Peel 1 or 2 Japanese eggplants
Slice lengthwise at about 1/4" thickness
Place in a hot, dry griddle or skillet. Do not add oil.
Sprinkle with mineral salt and sweet basil flakes.
When browned, turn over and add more salt and sweet basil.
When browned and tender, remove from heat.
Delicious plain or with a little catsup.

Lavender Seattle

No matter where you are,
if you love lavender,
it's important to check out the local sources!

All Things Lavender

Pike Place Market have two vendors who sell fragrant products made from lavender, although disappointment in lack of fresh bouquets was evident. Seattle may be a little too wet and damp for lavender to thrive, as it doesn't like wet feet, and everyone knows that Seattle loves its rain! (To be fair, Seattle dwellers also have their fair share of magnificently beautiful and sunny days). Lavender in the city must be best achieved by enjoying the dried bud, wands, and fragrance products.
All Things Lavender was a popular booth, as people kept dropping by to purchase lotion or oil or fragrant lavender bud.
Sachets, bulk lavender bud, purple teddy bears, lavender dryer sacks, lavender honey, lavender jams, lavender herbal seasoning blends. . .
. . .essential oil of lavender, lavender scented rice packs, wands, cards and art. The booth truly was "All Things Lavender".

Lavender Luvies

Lavender Luvies was a smaller booth with less product, but popular just the same.
The lavender products at Lavender Luvies were colorful, utilitarian, and very fragrant! Candles, theraputic lavender pillows, and bath salts were their most abundant items.

Artistic Needlework

Artisans and local craftsmen bring variety and excellence to the open marketplace. Bxing cheerfully displayed a variety of needlework stitched by her mother and herself. Their speciality? Tiny cross-stitch and reverse applique. She is happy to explain the meaning of each piece and to share about the stitcher (her mother's stitches were extremely tiny; hers were a little larger but still extremely well done).

Bxing and her mother created a wide variety of reverse applique panels that they were selling for $10.00 each. What a deal for the hundred's of tiny stitches in each one. Reverse applique is a technique where the background fabric is placed on top with the design pieces below. The upper fabric is cut through in a design that reveals the colored fabric underneath. This is the reverse of traditional applique. I've never tried reverse applique, but my mother made a beautiful 'stained glass' reverse applique wall hanging, and once it was completed said "never again". It was a difficult process. Bxing's designs each have a special meaning. The curves represent embracing those you love, encircling and protecting children and family.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Market Place

Most communities have a "farmer's market" in town where local farmers can sell their produce. In my community, the market is open twice a week and vendors rent small spaces that they fill with fruit, vegetables, local honey, fresh flowers, and handmade crafts. During the rest of the week, the market space becomes a covered parking lot. It's simple but very effective. But a city like Seattle functions on a much grander scale! The Pike Place Market is a bustling public market center that draws vendors and customers from all over. Year around, much action can be seen and bargains found. From art to produce, Pike Place Market has it all!

Starbucks Coffee was founded near Pike Place Market in 1971. The original store relocated to the market place in 1976 and is still in operation. The logo for this store is the original, unabridged version of the bare-breasted siren that was illustrative of a 15th century Norse woodcut. The mermaid logo that is now used at most Starbucks Coffee shops is the altered and politically correct version. Isn't this original store front unassuming?

Seattle's market is unique, in that it is the oldest continually-operating public farmer's market in the United States. It opened officially on August 17, 1907 and celebrated it's 100th birthday ten days ago with much fanfare. Although the Space Needle is a visual icon of Seattle, it's actually the Pike Place Market that is it's most popular tourist destination. The market is located downtown, next to Elliott Bay where ships and sea planes can be observed. The market is named after the central street that runs through it: Pike Street.
Local arts and crafts are abundant and unique. Very interesting to observe, the themes of coffee, the Space Needle, and the market itself are very evident.
Pastries anyone?
A beautiful bundle of fresh cut flowers can be purchased for as little as $5.00. All are beautiful, but my traditional favorite are the bundles of statice. Technically called Limonium sinuatum, statice comes in the bright colors blue, pink, purple, white, and yellows. The flat flower clusters are sought after for use as a dried material for floral design. The flowers have a papery texture and hold their color well. It seems that no matter what the occasion, if I am at Pike Place Market, a bundle of statice is my first choice for purchase. I suppose by now it's a sentimental tradition, but one that I carry on just the same. From the excitement of my high school senior trip, to the stress of long weeks at Virginia Mason Medical Center as we dealt with mom's cancer and related issues, the little bundle of statice has been a part of the scene. This little bundle travels well, dries completely, retains it's color, and makes lovely arrangements or crafts for months to come.
Colorful, vibrant, and beautiful --- produce is abundant! Little shops line the walk-way amongst the famous fishmongers and crowds of people who gather to watch employees throwing fish rather than passing them by hand. Believe me, those fish really fly!

Pike Street
The Armchair Tour!

Comfort Food ~ Creamed Potatoes

Each family has their own version of 'comfort food'. When I married Brent I discovered that their family was no exception. One of his family's favorite comfort foods was something I had never heard of before; creamed potatoes. This really is a good recipe. Simple, savory, and filling; it's a stand-by for those days you want something white and creamy for a meal.

To make:

Dice cold, cooked potatoes. Be sure peelings are removed. Place in a large mixing bowl.

In a saucepan, make a white sauce. Mom's original recipe used milk and wheat flour. I've been able to adapt it successfully to vegan and gluten-free. In blender, whiz together plain soy milk, cornstarch, and a dash of mineral salt. Pour into saucepan containing olive oil. Stir over medium heat until thick. It should be 'pourable' rather than thick like pudding. Add dried leaves of sweet basil to the creamy sauce.

Pour sauce over diced potatoes and stir gently. The sauce will heat the potatoes, but if you would like them piping hot, place in microwave briefly to heat through.

Serve and enjoy!

Old-Fashioned Romance

I'm still enjoying exchanging tea towels monthly in the swap group I belong to. For August's swap I attempted my first work using black threads to stitch faces. The 20's vintage pattern added just a touch of red and yellow for color, but designed the pattern for the rest to be stitched using black. I was a little nervous about getting the facial features stitched without creating a harsh look, but was happy with the results. I sent this linen tea towel off to Florida for Vicki to enjoy. I do hope it will add a little old-fashioned romance to her tea table.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'm a Little Teapot

A quaint little gas station called Teapot Dome sits along the freeway in eastern Washington. The tiny teapot station has always fascinated me! I can remember driving past it on trips with my family as a child and always wondered about it's history. Sometimes my dad would stop so we could look around, but in those days the gas station was in full operation, making exploring difficult. Abandoned in recent years, this tiny teapot still sits beside the roadway, adding interest and unusual scenery amongst pastures and fields of hops.
The teapot dome was built in 1922 by a man named Jack Ainsworth. He was making a political statement documenting the Teapot Dome scandals that rocked President Harding's administration in 1921 - 1923. At that time the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall, had leased government oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, and Elk Hills, California to private producers. His illegal choice was dealt with, resulting in a term in prison. It took awhile to rectify his dealings and bring the situation under control again.
The building has a circular frame with a conical roof, a sheet-metal 'handle' and a concrete 'spout'. Some consider this an example of roadside architectural follies built during the expansion of the national highway system in the 1920's and 1930's, although it's value as a historical point of interest was recognized in 1985 when it was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Washington state has placed the building on their 'most endangered historic properties' list and efforts are being made to raise money to purchase the property and move it to a site nearby. A group called 'Friends of the Teapot' are actively involved in this endeavor.
Always interesting, I sometimes wonder if this, as one of my earliest memories, has anything to do with my love of 'afternoon tea'.