Friday, July 21, 2017

Even a side yard can be stunning and filled with purpose

Too often, I see side yards as unplanned and under utilized, even though this valuable area offers so much possibility. Hopefully, these tips inspire you to turn your side yard into a gorgeous slice of serenity, if it's not already!

Mark the entrance to your side yard with a gate, arbor or planted containers. The most charming entrances are ones that tell the passerby that something special can be found beyond, but also says that entrance is "by invitation only".

This charming gate is painted in one of
my favorite Farrow & Ball colors.

Urns and pots filled with plants easily
mark the entrance to your side yard
First and foremost, start with a solid foundation. Unless you want to haul out the lawn mower for this little strip of green, I suggest laying down brick pavers, flagstones, decking, rocks or pea gravel - all work well. The idea is to create a level and easily walkable area from the front of the house to the back. 

Charming leaf shaped stepping stones add personality

Organic flat topped rocks add much needed
weight to compliment this solid historic home
Brick pavers set in a classic herringbone
pattern match the tradition of this home
I love how the lumber runs lengthwise,
calling you to the back
Adding a walkway can be outsourced, or
depending on your skills, a DIY project
Here's a great link to get you started.

Start by adding ground cover around your pavers. Use plants that work well in your growing region. I have used moss and thyme between mine. This softens the look of the pavers considerably.

Side yards are usually very narrow. The key is to keep your plantings close to the walls, allowing easy flow down the middle. Using the vertical space is a brilliant way to add green and texture, without encroaching into the walkway.

Pots and containers can also help, especially if your ground is hardscaped from wall to wall, providing no soil for planting.

Because your side yard will act as a pass through, I recommend keeping the plantings simple. I love white blooming flowers in side yards as the light is typically shaded and the white blossoms add pops of light during the day and glow at night.

Even though this is often a pass through from the front of the house, the public side, to the back of the house, the private side, you can still add details that will enhance the charm and one's experience in the space. Think of it as a transition area, e.g., a soothing wall fountain can soften road noise and whispers to all who walk by that they are leaving one place to enter a new one.

Think of the different ways you can use your side yard. Mine is a staging point from the kitchen to the back yard where we entertain a lot. Adding a table allows me a place to lay out cocktails and appetizers to greet guests, it becomes an ideal gathering place for dirty dishes and anything else I need to tuck away throughout the party, and, because it is the last spot guests walk by on their way out, it becomes a great staging spot for parting gifts bathed in candle light.

For many, the side yard is as big as it gets. Transforming this space into a gathering spot can be so much fun. Keep your seating and tables petite and foldable, keep trays at the ready, and add in softness with cushions and throws.

Such a sweet little talking area
Finally, light up your space with overhead café lights, lanterns, lamps, or integrate permanent exterior lights into your space.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, July 14, 2017

My love of Scotch

It seems like just yesterday that I was on the whisky trail in Scotland. A trip forever embedded in my soul. There's something wildly romantic about Scotland - from the rugged countryside dotted with limestone crofts to the heartwarming pubs filled with friendly people. And the tartan, oh my! - it's everywhere and in every color. Made from the finest local fabrics, these tartans are soft and durable and can be found in throws, pillows, bedspreads, curtains, capes, hats, tableware and more! Mixed and matched, they are stunning, like the country!

But let's get back to the Scotch whisky. I became a Scotch drinker in my twenties. I found it was the only alcohol I could drink in a corporate setting and keep my head on straight. I know many think it's an acquired taste, but for me, it was 'instant love'! So much so, that I travelled to Scotland to learn more about this golden drink.

When a friend suggested a Scotch tasting this summer, I jumped at the chance to host one in my back yard. It was loads of fun (and, I think we got a few converts out of it)!

The key to an effective tasting, is to offer Scotch from the four main regions of Scotland - the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside and Islay. I started us off with a blend just to show the difference between a blend and a single malt.

I listed our Scotch on a menu board. Others in the group brought their favorite bottles as well - we had plenty of Scotch for sure!

We walked through the tasting steps to fully experience the complex compounds of each bottle. We chatted about adding a drop or two of still water to unravel the compounds, and just had fun exploring the flavors from the different regions.

We had fun determining our favorite and ranking them as we went along. 

We reveled in the warm glow of friendship and good cheer!

And to no one's surprise, we laughed well into the night!

There are some great online sites that will walk you through hosting your own Scotch tasting event. Remember to start with the right glass, a varying selection of Scotch whisky, some nibbles and good friends! Cheers!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

designing a potager

A potager is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden. The historical design precedent is from the Gardens of the French Renaissance and Baroque Garden à la française eras.

The traditional kitchen garden, also known as a potager is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden and typically located just outside the kitchen door. They are a source of herbs, vegetables and fruits, but are often also a structured garden space with a design based on repetitive geometric patterns.

Plants are chosen as much for their functionality as for their color and form. Often flowers (edible and non-edible) and herbs are planted with the vegetables to enhance the garden's beauty. Many are trained to grow upward. The goal is to make the function of providing food aesthetically joyful!

Potagers can disguise their function of providing for a home in a wide array of forms—from the carefree style of the cottage garden to the formality of a knot garden.

the carefree style of the cottage garden
the formal knot jardin potager

If you're ready to start designing, keep these ideas in mind -

Choose a plot close to the kitchen, taking into consideration the sun and direction. Most herbs, veggies, and fruits require six to eight hours of sun a day.

Consider the overall design. Any pattern is possible—spiral, checkerboard, wagon wheel, you get the idea.

Arrange beds around a central focal point; I love the idea of a fountain in the center, but a large urn, planted container or bench would be lovely.

As the season progresses and plants grow, the outlines of your beds will evolve.

Plant species you use in your cooking, but be sure to mix in some new choices.

Potagers are essentially tapestries of colors, shapes and texture. The interspersing of herbs, flowers, and fruits with vegetables requires careful placement of perennials so that they do not interfere with the growth of seasonal crops.

Plant small fruit trees at the edge of the potager, along paths and walls, with strawberries, annual herbs, or flowers planted at their feet.

Underplant with chamomiles, thymes, sweet woodruff, and ground creepers to discourage weeds from growing and, well, yum!

Border beds with chives, alpine strawberries, nasturtiums, sweet woodruff, or mini basils, making certain to contain aggressive herbs like mint or tansy.

A good design includes vertical accents. These can be temporary (a stand of corn, tomato towers, bean tepees), or permanent (berry bushes or a small apple tree).

Add pots of edible flowers -- viola, borage, calendula, and Johnny-jump-ups.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Seattle Farmers Markets

As May showers come to an end it's time to get outside and enjoy that Seattle sunshine. Farmers Markets are perfect ways to enjoy the Summer season. Be sure to visit your neighborhood market for fresh and locally grown produce!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, April 7, 2017

Windermere Cup

The University of Washington and Windermere Real Estate are excited to host the 31st annual Windermere Cup races to be held on Saturday, May 6, on Lake Washington.

The races are held as part of the celebration of Seattle's Opening Day of Boating Season and are followed by the Seattle Yacht Club's Opening Day Boat Parade. More than 800 rowers compete in this prestigious event, which culminates with the women's and men's Windermere Cup races.

Following the races, fans are invited to join the regatta champions for an awards ceremony and presentation of the Windermere Cup Trophy on the stage located near the video board on the NW side of the Montlake Cut, near the finish line.

Admission to the event is free. Viewing is available on the shores of the Montlake Cut, or by boats anchored to a log boom in Lake Washington.


The Montlake Bridge will be closed to traffic from 9:20 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Day of Event Public Parking:

E-12:   $15.00             Public and Disability Parking
S-1:     $15.00             Public Parking
E-1:     $10.00             Public Parking

No public parking in TG/IMA, E8, E9, E6

Overnight Parking (E-18 only, Begins Friday):

Single Day: $10
Two Days: $20


To E1 via I-5

From I-5, take the NE 45th St. exit (#169). Turn right unto NE 45th St. Continue east on NE 45th St. until you reach Mary Gates Memorial Drive. Take a right onto Mary Gates Memorial Drive. Take the first right onto Clark Road and proceed west to reach the NE entrance of the E1 parking lot.


From I-5 northbound, take the NE 45th Street exit (#169). Turn right onto NE 45th Street. Continue east about 4/10 mile to 15th Avenue NE and turn right. Head south on 15th Avenue approximately 6 blocks to NE Pacific Street. Turn left onto NE Pacific Street, staying in the left-hand lane. Continue east to the first left turn option; the road makes a "Y" at that traffic-lighted intersection. Turn left onto NE Pacific Place. Continue a short distance to Montlake Boulevard and turn left and continue north on Montlake Blvd. When the road makes a "Y", bear right staying on Montlake Blvd. At Walla Walla Road turn right. Straight ahead you will see the multi-lane northern entrance to the E1 parking lot. When you enter the lot, Parking Services staff will collect the parking fee and direct you to a parking space

To E12 via I-5 Northbound

From I-5 northbound, take the NE 45th St. exit (#169). Turn right unto NE 45th St. Continue east about 4/10 mile to 15th Avenue NE and turn right. Head south on 15th Ave NE approximately 6 blocks to NE Pacific Street and turn left. Drive east to the first left turn option; the road makes a "Y" at that traffic-lighted intersection. Turn left onto NE Pacific Place. Move into right hand lane and cross Montlake Blvd. at the traffic light to enter in front of Husky Stadium. Veer right toward gatehouse.

Log Boom

The University of Washington manages the 3,000-foot log boom that lines the course for the Windermere Cup. 

Tie up for the log boom begins on Thursday, May 5th at noon. Those that donate in advance will be assured a place on the boom if they arrive before 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 6th. Location along the boom is on a first-come, first-served basis within the reservation area. Staff will assure your boat is tied up in a safe location based on its size. Boats wanting to be next to specific boats MUST arrive together - no exceptions.

All dinghies need to avoid the warm-up area (just north of the log boom) and have zero wake when traveling on either side of the log boom. Pick-ups and drop-offs on the dock are prohibited 30 minutes prior to the start of the races.

If you have any questions about the log boom, please contact John Terry, Assistant Director of Events/Waterfront Manager, at 206-685-8442 or 

Because of the growing popularity of the log boom, the process to reserve a section on the boom will be different in 2017. In order to reserve a section on the boom, the following requirement will exist:

Section must have at least 180 feet reserved (full donation needed)
Section will be responsible to assist tie up boats and monitoring reserved section
Boats may still have a reserved spot without section affiliation.

History of the Windermere Cup

The University of Washington has participated in a regatta as part of the Seattle Yacht Club's opening day of boating season since 1970. In 1987, John Jacobi, founder of Windermere Real Estate, was inspired by a Seattle Times article written by Blaine Newnham, that called out a need to increase the level of competition for the event. Jacobi called a meeting with UW coaches Dick Erickson (men's crew), and Bob Ernst (women's crew), and asked the questions "who are the best rowers in the world?" and "what will it take to get them here for this event?"

Bob Ernst, who was also the national team coach at the time, suggested the Soviet Union, whose men and women's teams were the defending world champions. Jacobi and Windermere, agreed to sponsor the cost of bringing the teams to the US for occasion. Ernst worked his connections to make it happen, and the Windermere Cup, which has since become a Pacific Northwest tradition, was born.

Opening Day Parade
2017 Opening Day Trio (L-R):
Admiral Bruce Campbell, Admiralette Sandy Bell,

Vice Admiral Randy Holbrook
Opening Day, the official opening of Seattle's boating season sponsored by the Seattle Yacht Club, includes a celebration of many kinds of water activities. This year's festivities will include a morning of crew races, a sailboat race, and, of course, the grand Opening Day boat parade on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

I hope to see you on land or water opening day!

Until then,

la chasse au bonheur

Thursday, April 6, 2017

home inspections - when do they make sense?

For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that has to be overcome during the process of buying or selling a home. But, in fact, it can be a useful tool for buyers, sellers or anyone who plans to get the greatest possible value from their home.

In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner:

·         When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.

·         Get to know a house before you buy it. A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest.

·         Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.

·         Are you an older homeowner who plans to stay in your home?  If so, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.

·         Do you have a baby on the way or small children? An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.

·         Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.

If you're looking for a great home inspector, check out these two companies. I have found these inspectors to be knowledgeable, thorough and friendly.

Western Home Inspections, Greg Coats, 206-499-0292

Applecore Home Inspections, Ben Strehle, 206-390-0384

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, March 20, 2017

spring cleaning au naturel

On the back of Spring, comes my desire to totally, all-out, no holds barred, clean my home. Yep, that means scrubbing every corner and hidden crevice, washing and rewashing the floors and walls - cleaning the house from top to bottom.

I mentioned in a previous blog how addicted I am to homemade, all natural cleaning remedies.

If you're getting ready for your own cleaning party then you might enjoy using some of my favorite homemade recipes -

1) ALL PURPOSE CLEANER (I rarely use anything else)
In a spray bottle combine 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent (I use a natural soap like Meyers or Method) with 6 oz. tap water.

Add three drops of Lemon Tea Tree Oil with warm water. Spray counters to disinfect naturally.

Mix equal parts Distilled White Vinegar with tap water, add 6 drops of Olive Oil. Soak cotton rags in solution. Wring the rags until damp. Lay out and add a few lemon rind peels. Fold/roll and store in a clean jam jar until ready to use.

Combine 2 cups water with 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon dish soap in a spray bottle.

5) HARDWOOD FLOOR CLEANER (be sure to dry the floors after)
Combine in a spray bottle one cup tap water with 3/4 cup Distilled White Vinegar, 3/4 cup Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol) then top off with two-three drops of a natural Dish Soap (my preference is Meyers). Screw on the lid and shake well.

Mix one part Rubbing Alcohol with four parts tap water.

Combine 20 drops of Tea Tree Oil with Borax

8) BATHTUB/SINK SCRUB (toss rag in washer to freshen it up)
Mix 1/2 cup Baking Soda and 1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar with 5 drops of Bergamot.

9) CLEANER FOR PAINTED WALLS (I like this but it isn't perfect)
In a spray bottle mix 1 part tap water and 1 part Distilled White Vinegar with 1/4 part Lysol Cleaner.

10) CLEANER FOR THE DISHWASHER (use once a month)
Spray the inside floor of your dishwasher with Distilled White Vinegar and wipe away with rag. Pour one cup of Distilled White Vinegar in the inside bottom of your dishwasher, then place one cup of Baking Powder in the bottom of your dishwasher, add three drops of Lemon Oil and run an empty dishwasher through a normal cycle.

Place a Cotton Ball with two drops each of Lemon Oil and Tea Tree Oil at the bottom of the trashcan - helps clear odors and detoxify the can.

Add Tea Tree Oil to a Diffuser to kill mold and other pathogens in the air.

Add a few drops of Lemon Oil to the dishwasher before starting.

Mix one cup of Liquid Fabric Softener with one quart of warm water - gently wash the glass in circular motion then rinse with warm water.

Well, I am off to do a little cleaning....until next time.

la chasse au bonheur