Sunday, August 28, 2011


For the past week I have been helping my daughter pack her belongings for a move to another location. Of course the best weather is now upon us after a dreary spring and summer, and we are forced to slave away while watching other people enjoy the many activities a Seattle summer has to offer. All around us folks are boating, dining out on sunlit restaurant terraces, having backyard picnics, soaking up the rays at the beach, and of course, cruising from one garage sale to another, in hopes of finding a million dollar treasure in all the trash. Even the lady across the street, is having one. Luckily my daughter is too busy packing to hit the neighborhood sales or we would have that much more to do. I think it might be safe to say that she has never seen a sign or thrift store she could pass up without a twinge of regret.

Moving takes garage sales and thrift shopping off the table for her and it is a real sacrifice. She is the ultimate collector, buying with an eye to reselling on Etsy. Actually, she really needs her own warehouse/apartment if there is such a thing, in order to display what she has artistically, and get her hands on said items for a quick turnaround. If you were to peek into her window you probably would have one of two reactions. Minimalists would most likely throw up their hands in horror and see only clutter. Collectors, on the other hand would be impressed, finding a tempting array of unusual low brow or objects d’art.

She has a “good eye” and I didn’t realize how special some of her Value Village and garage sale “finds” were until I started packing them. Tiki items of all kinds adorn walls, and fill every nook and cranny. Painted metal angels, statues and unusual religious lighted pictures and statues are tucked here and there. I particularly love her Asian hot air balloon lanterns which float gently in a corner window area, above a fascinating green lamp topped by a red shade. Somehow it works.

Her own photography and paintings of tiki masks take up other wall space providing a peek at the artist she is. The dining table does not see food, but instead houses boxes and boxes of jewelry pieces, old clock parts and other broken bits and pieces that find new life in uniquely designed necklaces and earrings. For example, I am the proud owner of a formerly ordinary locket, antiqued and embellished with a clock face, crystals and a small honeybee which, in terms of jewelry, is a work of art. A side interest is vintage clothing, purses and shoes which fill closets and await a later sale at her store, Remote Luxury, on Etsy. Sadly, like many artists, her day job does not allow for much design time except in the evening, but she is ever hopeful that one day she will turn her hobby into a money making venture.

As I spent the past few days packing, and driving back and forth to a storage unit, passing dozens of garage sale signs on my way, I begin to realize how important these weekend events are to our culture. They are truly the best representation of that old saying, What is one man’s white elephant is another man’s prize. They also have their place in our economy as goods change hands, money is made, and customers leave satisfied. Some folks don’t want to bother with the sale part, but simply donate to charitable institutions like Good Will or Salvation Army. That works too, but somehow the sale on the street seems more exciting and unpredictable. You just have no idea what you will find. This is truly a great recycling adventure that was made in America!

P.S. It's the next day and I noticed that the leftovers from the garage sale across the street were being readied for pick up by a group that will somehow find a use for them. I have lived in this house for seventeen years and just met my neighbor Barb for the first time. It took a garage sale for us to get acquainted! She made some money, had some fun, and pointed out that only a few items had not been sold. Two were tables, and I suggested that she put a sign marked "free" on them and they would probably be snatched up by a passerby. I had just gotten rid of an enormous cat climbing structure that way earlier. But wait, I think I can use that white rolling table with leaves that fold down for our beach place up north. It would be perfect for serving food on the patio yet easy to store. Hmmmm! Maybe with respect to my daughter the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The Northwest Washington State Fair in Lynden attracts thousands annually, rain or shine, and this year was no exception. Four of those visitors were my step son, his wife, and two friends from the Tri-Cities. Roger had been looking forward to taking in the fair again for one important reason....the homemade peach and blueberry pie made by the "little church ladies" who sold them there every year. My mouth watered just hearing his description. Imagine my surprise then, when he returned instead with a strawberry-rhubarb and a marion berry pie - made by a pastry company and sold at the fair. The little church ladies small money making booth had been ambushed by the health department.

There is definitely something wrong with this picture, and what is wrong can, in a way, be extrapolated to what is wrong with society's trends today. It boils down to a lack of common sense by those in charge of legislating our lives. I suppose the rationale is that the church lady pies might contain some dastardly food poisoning from which someone somewhere is trying to protect us. Spare me. I will take my chances that those pies will be carefully prepared and free of germs.

The story recently about the kids' lemonade stand being shut down because there was no permit was perhaps worse. It's bad enough that parents can no longer bring homemade cupcakes to school for a child's birthday without reprisal.

These are only a few examples of the actions of well intentioned people in power controlling our lives for our own good. Stop the nonsense. If you don't want to eat pie at the fair, buy lemonade from a kid's sidewalk stand, or eat birthday cupcakes, then don't. Just don't interfere with my rights to such enjoyment. These simple pleasures are a small part of what makes America be America, and we need to rethink our motivation whenever we enact legislation that curtails simple freedoms.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


To keep your marriage brimming with love in the loving cup

Whenever you're wrong, admit it: whenever you're right, shut up.

A few months ago my daughter asked if we would be willing to have a garden wedding at our Edmonds home for one of her friends. Without hesitation we said “of course”, setting in motion plans for yesterday’s ceremony at 4:00.

We do have a beautiful yard thanks to a love of gardening by my husband’s now deceased stepmother and a team of gardeners who work weekly magic. The partially wooded half acre features northwest flora, ponds in both front and back yards and a wonderful view of Puget Sound. Now add a couple in love, their families and a few close friends, sunshine, good food, drinks, and a live band, and one has a winner for “small wedding of the year.” Guests came from Florida, South Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, and California, as well as those who lived locally. Many family members were conscripted into duty on the big day to decorate, set up the bar, and later, to help clean up.

The happy couple, thirty somethings, planned a “do it yourself” wedding with a budget of $5,000. Here was their approximate financial recipe.

$l,300 for a catered buffet and servers
$l,500 for an awesome local band of five
$ 600 champagne, mixed drinks, beer, soft drinks, juices and punch
$ 120 pies
$1,100 dance stage, covered area, tables, chairs, table cloths, dishes, silverware, etc.
$ 200 flowers
$ 100 favors
$ 400 invitation, minister, photography and other miscellaneous expenses

Note: The wedding dress was made by a friend at minimal cost. The veil was designed and made by the bride and my daughter.

Not seeing a three tiered cake? That’s because they decided they liked pie better. Seven different pies, including such favorites as apple, key lime, pecan, strawberry rhubarb, lemon meringue, cherry almond and peach were decorated with wedding photo cutouts of family members , and which listed the various fillings. The "to die for" pies came from High 5 Pie on Capital Hill.

The bride and groom met at the Shake the Shack Rockabilly Ball sponsored by KEXP 90.3 FM's Leon Berman, so they decided on a rockabilly theme. Flowers were red and white roses placed in canning jars. Miniature glass cowboy boots, filled with “red hots”, were table favors along with other tiny cowboy boots filled with bubble solution. Small jars of raspberry jam suggested the users “spread the love.” Red gingham napkins provided additional table color along with candy also wrapped in gingham which was scattered on the table tops.

Guests happily mingled on the terrace awaiting the moment the bride would appear, enjoying each other and the view on this mild northwest day. Two members of the band, one on a steel guitar and the other on an accordion, provided background music composed by them. When a signal was given the minister, groom and “best woman” along with the guests moved to a seating area in front of a pond, and waited for the bridal party to process. The non-traditional music was soft and dreamy as my daughter, the only bridesmaid and dressed in vintage red, appeared. She was followed by a young flower girl scattering rose petals. Finally the bride and her father appeared. She was dressed in a simple off-white gown and small veil, and carried red and white roses.

The ceremony itself was traditional and moving, and when completed, all present were treated to an outstanding buffet, while listening and dancing to Jo Miller and her Burly Roughnecks. It was fitting that one of the largest expenditures was the band. If you click on Jo Miller you will hear a youtube song performed by these musicians called “Let’s talk about love.” This performance will give you a taste of what the wedding guests enjoyed into the evening yesterday. The event was even sweeter because as a finale the band played an intimate acoustic set by candlelight for any remaining guests. Their professionalism and talent made every penny of their expense worthwhile. After hearing the music selection above, and you are interested in booking this band, go to

Basking in the afterglow we told ourselves over and over how wonderful the day and evening had been, and how glad we were to be part of giving such a romantic send off to this newly married young couple. Consider this: They are just as married and have as wonderful a wedding memory at $5,000 as do other couples who have incurred considerable debt. Online articles tell us that the average wedding price tag ranges from $l5,000 to $30,000.

This morning they returned to oversee the rental returns and clean up. I am not sure what the rest of their honeymoon will be like, but they had the look of love today, and I am thinking they will be in it for the long haul. Congratulations and have a wonderful life!


Planning a wedding yourself? Here are some on-line resources:

To find out the average costs of nearly every aspect of a wedding try this site:

If you are overwhelmed by the cost of a wedding, check out this site to find ways to reduce the average cost.

Want a step-by-step plan for having an affordable wedding? Try these sites:

"How to get dazzling wedding decor on a budget" by David Tutera

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Looking for something fun to do that's mostly free? Try your local summer street fairs. These fairs and other larger county fairs abound around Northwest Washington, offering a chance to check out the latest designs in ceramics, glass, wood furniture, metal sculpture, yard art, jewelry and more. The list goes on and on, as artisans sell their wares to those of us who happily open our wallets in support of talented entrepreneurs. I am always fascinated to see what new creations are made. Music and sidewalk actors like jugglers and magicians usually add to the fun and pleasure.

For the fourth year in a row, we attended the 50th Annual Anacortes Art Festival to see what was new, eat hot dogs, ears of corn, and squares of curly fries, and listen to the many musicians scattered along Commercial Street, the main drag in town. The unusual item that stood out for me this year was an ordinary one-gallon paint can, decorated with cut out designs and filled with wax. I liked this oversize luminaria, and marveled that someone had the imagination to make it. One of my past festival purchases was a simple wooden sign that adorns our hot tub. "We don't skinny dip. We chunky dunk." I still get a kick out of the saying (and its truth), and will always remember the magical day in Anacortes when I bought it.

As we sauntered along, I realized that this is one of the activities that makes our country special. In spite of our dismal economy we can have fun soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of a street fair, and help to support our fellow citizens in the process. And if you don't have any extra cash, where else can you park, people watch, and listen to good music for free?

Our true destination was the Main Stage where my son and his buddy were in charge of the sound system for the headliner groups scheduled to perform. Today the Mach One Jazz Orchestra at 12:00, followed by the Mark Dufresne Band, featuring blues, vocals and harmonica. The afternoon would end with Bump Kitchen R & B funk and soul music. All music groups on the Main Stage have to be approved by a festival committee, and as a result, they are all worth hearing. But Mach One, with its big band swing music was the one we were most eager to hear, and it didn't disappoint. Couples caught up in the rhythm and beat danced in front of the stage, while the rest of us less extroverted folks in the audience smiled, nodded our heads and tapped our feet in time to the music.

Although the crowd was mostly over fifty, several kids stood out. They were swing dancing their hearts out and looked like they could be on a junior version of Dancing With the Stars. Later I learned that the boy was seventeen, and one of his partners was his 13-year old sister. They belong to a swing dance group in a Seattle suburb, and just love dancing, taking advantage of every opportunity to perfect their skills. I enjoyed watching them later on the sidelines as the boy was patiently showing his little sister some of the more complicated moves. I doubt that their parents are overly worried about some of the pitfalls kids face these days. These young people are expending their excess energy on really wholesome fun! Seeing their love of the big band music and their zest in dancing I decided to tell my grandchildren about it. You can too. Check out Seattle Swing Dancers, a club that provides lessons for all ages starting at l3 years old. Maybe I'll take lessons myself. If you aren't lucky enough to live in the Seattle area, look for similar clubs near you.

Although the Anacortes Festival is now just a memory, there is still time to catch a fair in your area. Click on the following site and find one near you that will give you an emotional boost, AND help the vendors make their ends meet. While you're at it, check your local calendar for Saturday markets. Add locally grown fruits and vegetables to booths filled with trinkets and treasures, and you have a recipe for a fun filled day. It's a win-win experience.