Friday, July 31, 2009


Did you survive the historic heat wave this week? WOW! 103 degrees on Wednesday. That's hawt.

Last night's cool down was so nice. What a pleasant change. Today I'm just dealing with noise. The hydro's racing around the lake can be heard humming from here. And the air show, with the Blue Angels and other screaming stuff overhead starts in just a bit. It's definitely summer.

This weekend is the Coupeville Arts Festival. I am posting the info here in case you're heading over there.

It's downtown Coupeville, in a huge square on the main streets - along Front Streets and Coveland Streets, from Alexander to Main Streets. My usual spot is right in front of the museum at the corner of Front and Alexander. But I lost that space by not being there last year - this time I'm right across the street from there, facing my old spot. I think it's going to be a bit sunnier and hotter, because the afternoon sun goes the other way. But luckily the forecast is for slightly cooler temperatures. And hopefully the island will have a nice breeze.

Hours: August 1 and 2, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm.

There's kid's activities, food booths, an artists in action area - all the usual stuff. It's always cool on the ferries, and there's plenty of beaches on the island to dip a toe in the frigid ocean. Sounds pretty good to me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hot Days

Whew, it's hot and getting hotter. This week is going to be record breaking for us in the Pacific Northwest.

The Bellevue show last weekend was already hot. There was so much hype about how high the temperatures were going to get that I think everyone made plans to go to the beach or something instead of coming over to the show. It was dead and sales were so slow that it turned out truly awful. So disappointing.

And I came back to find that my pumpkins are suffering the dreaded powdery mildew disease now too. They looked great on Friday morning. And Monday morning the entire thing is a goner. There's nothing to be done at this point, it's too far gone to save anything. Total bummer. Now I remember why I decided a few years back to skip the veggie growing and just do flowers. You work so hard, spend so much extra time watering and caring for them, fighting bugs, fighting diseases, mulching etc and then they don't put out. I'm back to thinking I should just save all my time and energy - not to mention water bills - and just shop at the farmer's markets. Let the experts do the farming. I'll just do my picking there instead of the back yard. It usually looks better than what I grow anyway.

The exception is the tomatoes. I love those and they always do well here. They are exploding now in all this sunshine and I'm already giving some away, having more ripe ones than I can eat this week.

And OH MY GOD the plums! I have a plum tree in the front, little green things. Don't know what they are and I've never liked them all that much, even though they are tasty and free and no work at all. The neighbors go crazy for them, and I let them pick as much as they want. But this year? This year is different. I've never seen so many fruits in my whole life. The branches are so low you can hardly get under it. One big branch cracked and split under the weight over the weekend. And I spent Monday morning scrounging every piece of bamboo pole, 2x4, lumber scrap, pvc pipe, garden stake etc to prop up branches. I had to get them off the electrical wires too. It was starting to get really scary. So the front yard looks ridiculous - dozens of poles propping up branches all over the place. It's like a funhouse trying to maneuver around the poles, up the steps, and to the front door. is keeping track of city fruit trees, with a huge list of projects they have in the works - from growing to help with harvesting. We've contacted Seattle Tilth to have volunteers come harvest the fruit this year, donating the plums to food banks etc. But we've got a few weeks before they are fully ripe and it's nuts out there.

The cats are totally crashed out, they are so hot. We keep trying to relocate them to cool spots in the basement or breezy windows - it's cooler inside, but they insist on being outside under the plants, their little fur coats must be so miserable. This week is Seafair - the boat races and the Blue Angels screaming overhead all week. The jets arrive today, which will make the cats even more unhappy. And a bit scary even for us.

And it's Coupeville this weekend. I'm already working on that. Anacortes and Coupeville switched weekends this year and Coupeville comes first in August. I'll get info and link up in a bit. Promise. I'm pickling beets this morning and need to get back to it. Super cute candy striped Chioggia beets in a crazy yummy pickling brine. Just a couple bunches of beets from Bellevue's Sunday market. Not a year's supply. Well, maybe that is a year's supply. I mean I like beets, but a jar of pickled beets can go a long way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bellevue - 6th St Fair

Since I blew it last week, I am definitely not going to forget to post the particulars for this weekend's show. It's usually a really good show, so I'm hoping for the best again this year.

This weekend is the Bellevue Arts Fair extravaganza. It's actually three different shows, all going on simultaneously in downtown Bellevue. The Bellevue Arts Museum ArtsFair, is the fancy pants show in the garage of the Bellevue Square Mall. It's exclusively fine art and is the biggest draw for national artists to travel here. The second show is called Bellevue Festival of the Art and is located in the Cost Plus parking lot across the street from Bell Square. Also only traditional fine art categories and lots of lovely folks there, another 300 artists or more.

And the third show - my show - is the 6th Street Fair. Now, this is not the poor cousin of art shows - it's just an extension of folks who show locally, and they in fact allow some other categories too, like traditional crafts, which are not allowed in the other two shows. Soapmaking is obviously not high end fine art. So the only show that me and others like me can even participate in, is Sixth Street. And believe me, there are some very lovely artists in our show too. All kinds of things, from furniture to glass, pottery, jewelry, woodworking - but also soap, candles, fabric arts etc., gift items that don't require a year's worth of salary to invest in. There are 120 artists, food booths and music stages over our way. If you've oodles of time, it's nice to visit the whole entire hullabaloo and see everything. The weather is supposed to be hot and sunny, hopefully not too hot as has happened in previous years. This particular calendar weekend usually breaks heat records in the summer, but I'll be in my same old spot under the tree in the shade.

Details: 6th Street Fair
downtown Bellevue along 6th Street

Friday, July 24: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday, July 25: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sunday, July 26: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Soapworks Studio Booth Location: I am located in #3, at the corner of 106th & 6th, right in front of the California Pizza Kitchen, facing east towards the Bellevue Galleria complex. Same spot as last few years!

Side note: I made mozarella cheese today! It's messy and sort of weird. I had no idea that a gallon of milk had so little curd and so much whey. But it still made a good amount of cheese. I'll make pizza tonight I think. It's a tad tasteless. I added a bit of salt, but I think I'd add a sprinkle more next time. It's never a super tasty cheese anyway, but it will be fresh and lovely with all my ripening tomatoes and pots of basil, especially after the weekend's heat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Dudes, I totally forgot to post the specifics about Gig Harbor before the show last week. I came down with a snotty little cold over the weekend, and have been a little spaced out. The weather was perfect, and the weekend turned out lovely anyway.

I took it a little slow yesterday, mainly because that was all I could manage. But I've got a full plate this week in order to be ready for the Bellevue show this weekend. It's another 3 day show, and one of my biggest, so there is quite a lot to be done.

In between all this work work, I've made a couple of batches of cheese. Yes, you heard right, cheese. Mascarpone and chevre to be exact. And they turned out quite nicely for the first experiment. I plan to do more. It's easy! In fact, as I was reading through all the instructions for the harder cheeses - the molded ones and the rind ones - it sounded a lot like soap making. I think I might just be able to do this. Where can I find sheep's milk I wonder. Mozzarella is next. There are so many to try. Yum, cheese.

I was reading the other day about the tomato blight on the east coast - it's awful. So disappointing to put in all that hard work and then have the plants die off before you can get any crop. I know, that's what's happened to a bunch of my squash in the front. I'm trying to save 2 little ones off in the corner which still have healthy leaves on them, but the other ones are gone. I have no idea if it came from my soil or came from the plant itself, but it's awful. The pumpkins on the lower terrace are growing like mad, but my treasured little round zukes and yellow summer squash are no more. My tomatoes are incredible - biggest plants ever and they are all starting to turn this week. I've had a few small handfuls of cherry tomatoes, and the romas might be good for dinner. It's going to be so hot the next few days - I'm sure they will all ripen and fall off while I'm working in Bellevue on the weekend. I'll have to get up extra early to harvest.

In case anyone is wondering, business has been down. The shows are ok, some really awful, some just down a bit from last year, some borderline ok, nothing great. It dawned on me about a week ago that this soap business might just be a pot of hot water and I'm the frog. I'm hoping I can hold on this year and wait for the economy to pick up. At the moment, I'm in too deep with summer and fall commitments that I don't have a minute to make new plans or change anything. I just have to hang in there through this bunch of shows and see where I'm at in mid-August.

Favorite quote (at least this week): "It's not about miracles, it's about persistance." Gotta keep plugging away at it, that's all I can do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Beautiful day today. Nice to have a bit of warm sunshine again after a few days of cool and cloudy.

Farmer's Market Day at Columbia City. And we've joined a CSA too, so we are up to our eyeballs in fresh produce. The best thing I've cooked this week: sauteed a summer squash with spring onions, garlic and sugar snap peas - a sprinkling of herbs de Provence tossed in. The peas stayed nice and crunchy but sweetened up even more than raw, the squash got that perfect melty brown - so delicious. There is sweet corn at the markets this week - it tastes terrible. I'll wait a while to try that again. And we're freezing flats of raspberries and blueberries to keep for winter. I got a half flat of the final strawberries of the season on Sunday. Got a few minutes to make jam on Monday evening - with a splash of balsamic and a hint of ginger. It's so yummy. The last bits in the pot that didn't fit in a jar made an amazing salad dressing, just mixed with olive oil and red wine vinegar. The perfect sweet tart for arugula, pecans and goat cheese. Oh and raspberry liqueur - we made just a little and couldn't help drinking it all once, it was that good. There will be more.

My own little garden is having a small crisis. All the squash and zuchini are catching some stupid blight or powdery mildew. I've been picking leaves, spraying with a natural spray and trying whatever I can to save them, but it seems to be moving from one plant over to the next. I'm so bummed. I have a few unusual squash and dark green pumpkins out front that I was really looking forward to. Fingers crossed I can save even a little something.

What I'm reading: Animal, Vegetable. Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and Mollie Wizenberg's new book, A Homemade Life, plus all the gossip on Michael Jackson that comes out daily. What I'm watching: the Tour de France, Wipeout, Superstars, Ghost Hunters, pretty much nothing on tv. Waiting for: Harry Potter at the Imax, ripe tomatoes, a few free days in August. What's percolating in the business: working on fall scents, finishing the fall show schedule, changes to the web site and email marketing, how to survive after a month of super crappy shows.

So that's the nutshell of what's going on here - vegetables and work. I'm buzzing around getting ready for Gig Harbor this weekend. I'll post the details on that tomorrow.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

West Seattle Street Fair

This weekend is the West Seattle Street Fair - Friday through Sunday, July 10-12. It's a great community festival and everyone turns out for it. It's at "The Junction" on California Avenue. So all the restaurants up there set up sidewalk cafes, spilling out onto the streets. The shops bring tables out to the curb and have little sidewalk sales. There are beer gardens, bands and evening street dances. There's a huge kiddie playground area with those big blow up thingies to jump on and in. Fun for everyone. And shopping. Handmade crafts, arts, import stuff, and great goods. Plus a bunch of commercial sales-y stuff like chiropractors, vinyl siding, insurance, and nursing homes - soup to nuts at this one, but in a good way.

Friday and Saturday hours are 10am-8pm. Sunday is 11am to 7pm. I'll be in the north block, about mid-way, facing East (booth #102). Sorta near Matador's, maybe up a few booths or so, if you know where that is. It's the next little bunch of booths up from where I've been the last couple of years in front of Jak's.

So, that's the business bit. I know, right? It's all business and no play around here any more. Boring.

Here at the studio, it's been a holiday weekend of play. My last bit of summer for a while. I've got shows scheduled for the next 5 weeks in a row and I'm feeling a little blue about it. At the moment, the very cusp of the show blitz, I'm regretting that decision. But it's necessary. I have to make hay while the sun shines. And I'm going to need a lot of hay to catch up this year.

July is smack dab in the middle of summer and it's so full. The Tour de France and Bastille Day - I love to sip rose' and celebrate that. Birthdays. Setting up my calendar of fall shows. Starting to make all the fall soaps and plan Christmas. Harvesting scads of tomatoes - all that early hot weather has my tomato plants just loaded with fruits that are a few days away from turning color. The new Harry Potter movie at the Imax. I want to can stuff this year - pickles at least, tomatoes, maybe jam. Picnics. I've got stuff to do man, and all this working 7 days a week for a month and a half just doesn't fit. Phoooey.

What are you guys doing? Having any fun?